End of season report, 1c by Jonathan Rogers

 

Guildford 1

The records keep on being broken. This was their best season yet, which is saying something. As with last year there was just one defeat in 88 games and this time at the entirely plausible hands of Jonathan Hawkins playing White.

 

 
   

Roger Emerson will have been delighted to recruit both Adams and McShane over the season and to have played three English GMs on the top three boards, as if to make a point against the challengers from Manx Liberty, and to have trounced Manx so comprehensively in their first encounter.

 

1c, Weekend 5, 2019

Next year they will likely not be able to call upon Hou Yifan but much more than would seem to be needed for Manx to make up the difference.

 

Chess.com Manx Liberty 1

Everyone expected them to challenge for the title; few expected them to succeed. That came to pass but nonetheless, like Cheddleton in previous years, they finished much closer to third than to first. The gap between them and Guildford seems wide, because as well as needing to be close to full strength every weekend (this year everything went pear shaped when a sub standard team lost to White Rose) they will also want to win their matches by higher scores.

 

The best way to finish above Guildford, they should surely be reflecting, would be not to have win their individual match and to be able to draw it on account of better game points - as did Wood Green in 2005 and 2006.

 

 

   

For all of that, to finish second in their first season is an achievement of sorts, even if six 2600+ players were available at the end. It should also be said that their players were willing to conduct post mortems and to do what they can to integrate into their new league.

 

Cheddleton 1

This is going to sound like an end of term report on the top teams in the football premier league, but Cheddleton actually impressed a lot too - ironically, more this year than in the years when they finished second.

 

They were out of the running for first when they lost to Manx in round five, but carried on and only finished third behind Manx by one gamepoint, after Manx lost to White Rose. This meant that Cheddleton themselves beat all of White Rose, Wood Green, and Guildford 2 for the first time in the same season.

 

Had they managed to do that in any of the recent previous years they would have played a "real" title decider against Guildford in the last round. They also managed to win a game against Guildford 1 for the first time in memory (see above) and handed Barbican 1 their heaviest defeat since they entered the 4NCL in 1996. It will be interesting too to see what the English team selectors will make of the marvellous form of Jonathan Hawkins - will they feel pressure to diverge from the recent practice of playing a regular top four in every match?

 

White Rose 1

Similarly you could expect White Rose to achieve plaudits for their season; they certainly could not have realistically finished any higher. White Rose seem accustomed to not getting the credit they think they deserve though, and this may prove to be the case again since their cause was undoubtedly aided by catching Manx Liberty at the right moment; their fourth place would could easily have been seventh had they played Manx in the last weekend - and they only played Manx at the right moment because they finished fourth in their starting pool.

 

James Adair remains their most enigmatic player; he started the season with a loss with White against Wood Green and was literally absent for some weekends, but frighteningly strong and seemingly closing in on the GM title again towards the end of the season. They may find life easier again next season when their second team rejoins them at the same venues.

   

Division 1c Final placings

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 GP Pts
1 Guildford 1 6-2 6-1 7-1 7- 5-3 7-1 6-1 45 14
2 Chess.com Manx Liberty 1 2-6 4-3 3-4 5-3 6-1 6-1 6-2 34 10
3 Cheddleton 1 1-6 3-4 5-2 5-2 4-3 7- 5-3 33 10
4 White Rose 1 1-7 4-3 2-5 3-4 4-3 2-6 5-2 23 6
5 Guildford 2 -7 3-5 2-5 4-3 4-4 4-3 4-4 23 6
6 Wood Green 3-5 1-6 3-4 3-4 4-4 5-2 5-2 26 5
7 Barbican 4NCL 1 1-7 1-6 -7 6-2 3-4 2-5 6-2 21 4
8 Blackthorne Russia 1-6 2-6 3-5 2-5 4-4 2-5 2-6 17 1
 
   

Guildford 2

The most impressive team against all the other non-title contenders: 3/4 against White Rose, Wood Green, Barbican and Blackthorne, albeit that they had the advantage of playing the first three of these all on the final weekend when they are traditionally at their very best; and still they proved highly reliant on winning board eight in every case. Board eight is, after all, no problem for Guildford 2. Their women players in the final weekend included Antoaneta Stefanova (2464), Elizabeth Paehtz (2456) and Sophie Milliet (2394). Yes, just like all the other second teams, then. Roger was delighted with Matthew Wadsworth clinching the IM title in March, winning with the Reti no less, and got to relive it all in May when he - Matthew, that is - went on to clinch his first GM norm, winning with the Reti again. Roger sees his second team as a vehicle for promoting young English players, and so this success is not just a happy accident.

 

Wood Green 1

 

 

The Dunworth Trophy awarded

annually to the winners of Division 1.

Perhaps the only team in the top eight to have real reason to disappointed with their final standing. Loz Cooper recruited Daniel Fernandez and Justin Tan over the summer, to add to a squad already containing Ravi Haria, Marcus Harvey and Adam C Taylor, who made his final IM norm, and the title, this season, and so it is a squad brimming with youthful talent. In addition to Jon Speelman at the top, and the ability to play a 2400 player on board eight (because Jovanka is their woman player) they certainly had enough to put up the toughest fight against Guildford 1, and sixth would not have been the pre-season target.

 

Mainly, it came about because for the third year in a row, they messed up against White Rose against whom they have now lost the majority of their White games over the last three encounters, an oddity which is starting to look more than merely unfortunate. But fourth was still possible had they just drawn with Cheddleton in the last round, instead of losing 3-4, and one cannot help noting that Jon Speelman settled for a draw with David Howell after apparently quite outplaying him from one of his home-made systems with Black. Something like that might happen again when there is more at stake, Loz is bound also to wonder.

 

Barbican 4NCL 1

Much the expected position from Barbican (sixth in the last two years), who finished behind exactly the same teams as last year (plus Manx) and again ahead of everyone else. Arguably some improvement could be observed in their 6-2 demolition of White Rose, definitely their best result of the last three seasons and in the closeness of the match against the full strength Guildford 2, but there was some disappointment at the one-sided nature of their battles against the top three teams. In 2012-13, 2014-15 and even in 2016-17, they would give the closest or second closest fights to Guildford, but in these days of continual difficulty in fielding anything approaching their best first team, their real fights are seemingly now with the teams bigger than, but closer to, their own size.

 

Blackthorne Russia

Finishing in the championship pool is by definition a success for Blackthorne, this being (I believe) only their fourth such placing in the eleven years since the pool system was introduced. Nowadays they seem less susceptible to upsets than between 2011-14, and although they suffered another at the start of this season (against the promoted Celtic Tigers) they had scope to bounce back, and took full advantage of it. With seven "likely" championship pool teams, it follows that one pool was only going to have three such teams, and Blackthorne found themselves in that pool - and with the huge help that the five other teams were all capable of beating each other, and did so.

 

The Celtic challenge faded after the second weekend, and Blackthorne Russianwere able to qualify as the fourth team with a record low score of 5/14 matchpoints, ahead of two other teams purely on gamepoints. Their critical result, a draw with Guildford 2 in round seven, was, astonishingly, the only points - or point, rather - dropped by any of the top seven teams against any of the bottom nine throughout the whole season.

 


 

 


4NCL

Four Nations Chess League

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