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Division 2 4NCL Third Weekend, Sunningdale Park, 11th-12th Feb 2012 by John Carleton

 

 

De Vere Sunningdale Park in February

 

We arrived at the southernmost venue in the 4NCL panoply determined, as promised, to show what we could do to ignite our season and begin in earnest the big battle against relegation. The snow cover gave the grounds of Sunningdale Park a Christmas-card feel on the crisp sunny Saturday morning that awaited us but provided an extra worry for the captains and management of teams such as ours.

 

Thus concerns about travel conditions from the North added to pressure on the captain already feeling the heat about his lack of IT skills in general, specifically the apparent lack of skill of texting ability [here, unlike one slightly more high profile manager, I can categorically state that I have sent a text and quite often notice when I receive one], lack of a cat, let alone a bank account in the cat's name, poor results, mounting criticism of the Martin Johnsonesque policy of trusting the players, not to mention general concerns over recent hand-shaking fiascos.

 

All-in-all it was another 4NCL weekend and the team were looking forward to keen competition.

 

 

 

Christmas card scenery awaited us

South Wales Dragons were missing some of their big guns so surprisingly perhaps, we were the higher rated team. The match started brightly for us with all our whites [on the even boards] generating play. As to be expected our black boards were experiencing some pressure too but, it seemed, not to the same degree. Dave Latham on board 3 was first to down tools agreeing the draw in a level but not totally flat position. Andy Smith on board 5 was playing one of his offbeat lines but had run into an opponent bent on knocking him off the board and looking quite capable of doing it. Top board saw Nick mixing matters with John Cooper who could claim an edge but was not having matters all his own way. Steve on board 7 had turned down a draw after ambivalent advice from his captain ["please yourself" as I recall]. Thereafter his instincts to play on were proved correct by Rybka which demonstrated gain of material, but his analysis did not match his instincts and Steve soon found himself defending an awkward ending.

 

 

Captain: John Carleton

Peter on board 6 delivered us a win to gain the lead, firstly he forced his opponent to sacrifice, then leaving his king to keep out the first wave of the attack, finally launched unstoppable counter play on the long diagonal. Andy Mort's advantage on board 8 by now seemed to be only minimal. Sheila's control appeared to spread across the board but opponent Jeff Smith, showing tenacity and skill, managed to dig in and engineer enough exchanges to reduce that control and a draw was agreed.

 

I reached a draw by, having finally found a way to break into my opponent's position, joining him in a time-scramble, not startling inaccurate for that genre but typically leading to great changes in the nature of the position, but then repeated moves once too often [past the time limit of course] allowing him to claim the draw in a position in which I would otherwise have been entitled to play on. Andy Mort too produced a surprise, managing to a reach a difficult but probably won ending which proved a quick win when his opponent went astray.

 

 

 

Jades Fountain Sunninghill

So we were two up with three games in play, varying through difficult to very difficult to hopeless. Nick on board 1 was in "very difficult", an ending with rook, bishop and 3 pawns against rook, knight and 4 pawns all the pawns on the kingside. Despite Nick's careful defence John converted the victory in fine style, an excellent game not least because of the quality of the resistance shown by the Atticus player. In the "difficult" Steve finally scrambled a draw after having hovered on the brink for a few moves. Andy Smith had been totally lost for many moves and so resigned the "hopeless" with a clear conscience and the team headed for Sunningdale town centre and sustenance.

 

 

We started with a toast with the wine provided by Dave Robertson, recuperating after illness and therefore unavoidably missing, for the first time ever, a Spirit of Atticus weekend. Whereas it was admitted that substitute wine taster Nick did an adequate job it was noticed that the bouquet was not perhaps given the attention it deserved [and would certainly have got from Robbo] and the waiter was not kept waiting nearly long enough before being told that the wine was fine. The toast was to Dave himself and his unsuppressable optimism, spirit and love of chess. Thereafter, over the next four hours we enjoyed a pleasant banquet, interspersed with long gaps inducing pangs of acute hunger. The management of the restaurant were shamed into providing free wine in recompense for the delays and this, it was generally agreed, added to the quality of discussion, particularly on the topic of diplomacy in modern Britain, in which area it transpired that we had several experts.

 

Next morning saw us start play bottom of our section of Division 2 because the only team previously below us, Rhyfelwyr Essyllwg, albeit only on game points scored, had landed a fine victory against our opponents of the day, Brown Jack, and had thus overtaken us. These erstwhile opponents might justifiably be called 'boing boing' Brown Jack because of their yo-yo antics between Divisions 2 and 3 in recent years, but in our brief experience of the 4NCL we had also found them perfect exemplars of the great competitive yet sporting and friendly ethos which is a hallmark of the league.

 

The match was tense from the start with our odd numbered boards demonstrating early pressure with the white pieces and our even boards likewise less comfortable. Thus on board 1, Nick was setting up gentle long-term pressure and on board 2 I had unnecessarily allowed a slight weakening of my pawn formation and as a result was facing long range discomfort. Board 3 was brewing nicely with Andy Smith lining up Paul Girdlestone's king position but Paul countering classically with central pressure. Board 4 saw Sheila take a small space disadvantage in return for simplifying exchanges and on board 5 Dave Latham was starting to eye the black king position, his advantage in space granting some room to manoeuvre. Peter on board 6 had accepted a slightly inferior French ending but his game terminated abruptly when he demonstrated the old adage that "the mistakes are all there just waiting to be made" when a blunder dropped the exchange, resignation soon following. Steve on board 7 had the more comfortable position but stage by stage his opponent became more active and a level ending justified the draw. Andy Mort on board 8 came out of the opening phase well gradually, it seemed, taking control. However as her position became critical Megan Owens struck back and guided matters into a flat drawn ending, peace terms quickly being concluded.

 

The well appointed and spacious playing room for the Division 2 players at Sunningdale

 

With the approach of the first time control matters cleared up. Dave won impressively on board 5 having systematically stripped the black king of defenders. Nick's pressure was neatly broken up by Peter Richmond and a position which neither side could attempt to win saw the draw agreed on board 1. Andy and Paul on board 3 gave great entertainment in a time scramble which saw Andy's aggressive and optimistic play justifiably rewarded by the full point. Thus we had just two games in progress. I had a slice of luck when my opponent left a pawn en prise but thereafter he blocked virtually the whole board and I had no winning chances and thus Sheila was left in play against Mike Truran who was clearly determined to give this blocked position with 3 minor pieces and 5 pawns each where he had a space advantage and potential targets his best shot to try and draw the match. Gradually the drama unfolded with plenty of support from team mates for the gladiators and the tension mounting as it became clear that Mike had some dangerous possibilities based on his various knight tours. The game reached its climax with the 50 move rule imminent and Mike setting up his most dangerous possibility, a deadly zugswang following if Sheila got it wrong. Sheila didn't get it wrong and the draw was agreed; Atticus hugs all round after finally winning a match in this tough season.

 

The long and belated journey North was thus bearable and we look forward to continuing our fight against the drop back to the Northern League in the upcoming 4NCL matches. On my return I was greeted by congratulations to the team from Dave Robertson who had watched the action from the gradually emptying tournament room via the webcam. The pictures he watched doubtless recalled the days of his youth when the equally dashingly handsome actors and beautiful actresses adorned the silver screen to provide tension, but never more than for this production.

 

 

Rd5 results Rd6 results

Spirit of Atticus team page

Division 2b Table Games in PGN

This report is also available here 

 

 

 

4NCL

 

Four Nations Chess League

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