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Division 2 4NCL First Weekend, Staverton Park, 12th-13th Nov 2011 by John Carleton



Captain: John Carleton


De Vere Staverton Park

The memories of a year earlier when the 4NCL adventure began for the Spirit of Atticus came flooding back when we were greeted this year, as then, by a beautiful sunny November morning. The butterflies in the stomach that were in place in anticipation of the unknown last year were active this time with the prospect of upgrading ourselves from medium sized fish in a small pond to life in the big pool. And what opponents were likely to be more fearsome than our first round opponents, the Sharks?


At this point I should emphasise that Spirit of Atticus for this campaign, like the England Rugby Union team in the recent World Cup, explored new levels of preparation unanticipated by their rivals. Some matters cannot be revealed because of their revolutionary impact, but let me ask,"does your team have target setting?" Atticus did. "Does your team gather round their computers to sing along with video clips [The Jet song from West Side Story; the Jets, of course, sworn enemies of the Sharks] thoughtfully provided by their support staff?" Atticus did.


To return to the weekend itself and the first match; after welcoming new recruits, Andrew Smith and Dave Latham, the team were soon locked in battle. The early stages seemed fairly level which we took as a good sign as there was a chance we could be swept away if we started badly. There was a flurry of activity around the 3-3 hour mark; Dave L had drummed up some initiative as black on board 4, turned down a draw but having initiated play in the wrong sector of the board, resigned when prohibitive material in arrears with no activity. This was balanced by Andy M on board 7 who had had his draw offer turned down by an opponent who could sense long term attacking options. Unfortunately for him this was not backed up by suitable short term choices; a simple sequence netted the exchange and a straightforward win for Andy. Sheila on board 3 had emerged from a dodgy opening with some activity for a pawn and when her opponent moved in for the kill with what was anticipated as a pseudo-sacrifice but succinctly demonstrated to be a real one by Sheila, the point that gave us the lead was not long delayed. Steve on board 6 put in a measured display to hold the half point as black in a game that never varied significantly from level.



Rd1: Spirit of Atticus v Sambuca Sharks

This left four games in play: Dave R on board 8 had equalised comfortably with the black pieces but in trying to break into his youthful opponent's position walked into a sucker punch and selected playing on with rook and pawn for a queen as his best practical chance: this was not, as you will anticipate, a great chance and in due course Dave succumbed leaving three of us playing, with Sambuca Sharks better in each game. Andy S on board 2 had gradually moved to neutralise the slight but nagging pressure he had been under throughout when a time trouble blunder lost a piece and ended his resistance. Peter and his opponent on board 5 had constructed a position where Peter had acquired a bad bishop; however the pawn formation had become blocked and after extreme care and some suffering Peter was able to complete the exchanges that made a draw inevitable. Last to finish was my game against Thomas Rendle: a sharp skirmish in the opening saw us progress to an ending where Thomas had two pawns for the exchange. When this extended to three pawns a loss for me seemed inevitable, but a couple of small errors on his part were enough for me to generate activity sufficient to wriggle into a straightforward theoretical draw. Thus we set off somewhat belatedly for our traditional post match celebration, following a match of many ifs and buts but one where we had contributed fully to the tension in the narrow defeat.


This time we ate English style in Northampton, close to our hotel. Steve's assiduous research was applauded by one and all, for it was he who had found the Brabenec Restaurant some months before, and he has immediately been installed as assistant to the deputy Entertainment Secretary.



Brabenecs in Northampton


The food was much appreciated and, hard though it will be to comprehend by those who know us, I got the impression that the drink was appreciated even more than the food. The conversation was as ever, varied, inspiring and lucid. We were graced by Jeannie Latham's presence and look forward to welcoming her on a regular basis even if Dave should be unavailable for a particular match. It was Sunday morning when we retired, looking forward to the challenges of the new day.


We were higher rated than our opponents 3Cs and we settled down with confidence for we felt that they would have been unsettled by their defeat to the impressive, largely North Wales based opponents, called South Wales Dragons. As a team who has regularly beaten higher rated opponents we should have expected that one day the tables would be turned, and, after two and a half hours or so it might have dawned on us that this was the day. The games where we were making the running seemed few and far between: on board 3, Sheila had ventured into the home ground of well-known Trompowsky aficionado Alan Walton and an interesting and rather obscure position arose. On board 2 Andy S appeared to be on the verge of breaking through into his opponent's rather undeveloped position.


The rest of the match did not look promising: my game on board 1 was set for long term action on opposite sides of the board and my position looked reasonable; this changed when I rashly opened up lines in the centre meaning that the pawn cover round my king was extremely scant. Dave L on board 4 was, as white, struggling to get play. Peter on board 5 set up what appeared to be a fairly balanced position with maybe an edge for his opponent Graham Burton. Only after the draw was agreed did the players establish that Peter's situation was in fact extremely dicey and we were fortunate to get the draw. Over the bottom three boards, the Spirit of Atticus team had between them something in the region of one hundred and fifty years extra chess experience over their opponents. This did not show with Dave R on board 8 and Steve on board 6 in very poor positions and Andy between them struggling to equalise.



Rd2: 3C's 1 v Spirit of Atticus

Our destruction was complete approaching the first time control: Dave L duly obtained enough to draw on board 4 and Sheila also agreed a draw in a position where maybe most would have preferred her opponent.


Dale James against me did not rush into matters, calmly playing defensive moves before launching his cavalry against my king. Where his knights led the heavy artillery soon followed and I was blown away. Andy's opponent on board 2 played some clever defensive/counter attacking ideas with both sides short of time: those watching from our side could only admire this intense battle whilst feeling, on Andy's forced resignation that this may have been the one that got away. There is no criticism of our player here nor complaint concerning the match result, since the bottom three boards proved the three that got away for 3C's, experience having the last word and three of our elder statesmen managing to capture three difficult draws. We thus lie equal bottom of our section, and, like the Rugby Union Board before us we will not stand idle for a moment faced with this grave situation. Extracts from the first report of the management committee include the following:

  1. We have no comment regarding the unsubstantiated dwarf throwing allegations in Northampton on Saturday night.

  2. A moratorium on target setting is now in place whilst we consider the whole matter; we will in the meantime hope for the best like we always have.

  3. We will ensure that the new song [to a tune by a band called the Village People, we believe] ♪ "It's fun to play 'gainst the AMCA" will be ready for distribution in good time for the second round of matches. 

  4. In brief we intend to enjoy this season's competition and camaraderie every bit as much as we did last season.


Rd1 results Rd2 results

Spirit of Atticus team page

Division 2b Table Games in PGN

This report is also available here






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