4NCL 2023-24 Rounds 3-4: Division 3B, 4 results

The lower three teams ventured forth to Telford for the second weekend of 4NCL OTB. Hold it, did skip say “three” teams? No, it was only two, as player availability (for many reasons!) meant only Oxford 2 and 3 braved the floods. Skip may be over-dramatic there, as the Friday rain had stopped by the Saturday.

  • Oxford 2 lost 1½-4½ to ex-Oxford skip Aidan’s team Greater Woodpushers* and ½-5½ to Warwickshire Select 2;
  • Oxford 3 lost 0-5½ to Crowthorne B and ½-5 to Ashfield 2;
  • Oxford 4 were not present.

* Skip hasn’t asked Aidan, but he suspects “Woodpushers” is a nod to Oxford 4NCL’s original founder Pete Harrison (d. 2005) who went by his nickname “Woody Woodpusher”.

So when will Oxford 4 appear? Skip has made it his objective to make sure the fourths appear in Weekend 3 at Warwick by hook or crook.

There was not much delight for our troops on Saturday, though David W scored a good win. It looked like he might be in the clubhouse by move 20 as Black’s king sallied out to f6 early doors, but David was last to finish in a technical Q, c7, h2 v Q endgame. Skip contributed our other half-point while feeling that he should have doubled said contribution after his opponent dropped a pawn near the time control. He’d missed 39. … Rf4. So had skip, he was banking on 39. … Rg3+ to collect Pg4 but had forgotten that 39. Be2 protected it, so 40. Kh2 was winning material. Luckily for skip he realised this in time in some mild time-trouble, 5 minutes to move 40. Phew. A lot of promoted-pawn ghosts appeared in the knight endgame and skip navigated safely to a draw rather than blow it completely.

Sunday wasn’t much better, but Phil N makes a strong case for Oxford “player of the weekend” by making his personal total 1½ and keeping the thirds in non-negative equity on his own. Mind you his win was assisted by White’s clock, for his opponent lost on time in a strong position. Oops. So instead of giving you that one as “top game”, skip will give David’s Saturday game. Sorry, Phil, but I’m sure you understand!

4NCL 2023-24 Rounds 1-2: Division 3B, 4 results

We were at Telford for this weekend – the first time for this season, and the first time for a few seasons. Distance meant we could only field the second and third teams, who posted these results:

  • Oxford 2 beat MASCeteers 4½-1 (default-related scoreline) and Sussex Martlets 3 4-2.
  • Oxford 3 were trounced 0-6 by Desert Penguins then defeated War & Piece B 4½-1½.
  • Oxford 4 were not present.

On Saturday, MASCeteers were a player short so Shambavi was left at home to claim a free point. Edgar was ready to play Mark Drugan but an emergency in Oxford 3 meant I dropped him to board 1 in that team and replaced him on board 5. Stefanus and Roman engaged in pin-related trickery that ended in one movebound opponent and another mated opponent. Jan reached a position where a perpetual was all that was available; sadly he tried to improve further and this did not work out. On top board Szymon was occupied for more than six hours holding a two-pawn down position. He managed it, impressively.

Not content with six hours’ Saturday play, Szymon doubled his board time on Sunday, being last to finish in the whole room for the second day running. Twelve hours in total, begor, and 172 moves. He may have overpressed a smidge, but Oxford 2 had already won by the time he was mated at move 99. Roman (2/2 for the weekend!), Edgar and Alex had already sewn up the points on the bottom three boards to go with Jan‘s Berlin draw on 2. Alex calmly defused a premature White attack; it seems to skip that White had to retreat the queen with 19. Qd1 but her Maj hadn’t charged out to g4 last move only to meekly return to base. No, she went boldly (rashly?) forward, hanging not only the c2 pawn but also the b2 bishop which could not be defended.

Stefanus‘s king worked tirelessly to save his half-point after his big passed b-pawn mysteriously went missing, going all the way to f7 and back while his counterpart dozed on h8.

What positive spin can skip put on a 0-6 Saturday start for the thirds? Edgar battled well against his IM opponent, Steve looked like he was stomping his opponent in a Closed Sicilian but skip forgot to count the rooks, for Steve was one light. Still, Steve’s attack looked promising. Had he inserted Bd5 at some point to prevent the deadly bishop being shut off on a2 with … c4, he might now be basking in “top game” status?

The thirds bounced back on Sunday. Richard won on the White side of a Panov Caro-Kann, several tactics netting Q v R. Phil got his centre pawns running and one quickly touched down. Barry took control of the centre and collected a free piece.

Neil tried to emulate Szymon’s stamina, being one of the last in the room to finish on both days. He declined three(!) draw offers pushing for a Sunday win, and perhaps missed Black’s move 43 when the pendulum swung. Skip makes it Neil occupied ten hours of board time over the weekend, sadly for zero return.

What was going on in Steve‘s game? His opponent contrived to bury his knight on h7 by move 25 (see picture); but then that same knight trapped the black King for a future endgame. We never got to one, for many (mis)adventures with pieces dropping off everywhere ended with the White king being mated in mid-board.

“How do we get out of this pickle, sire?”

Top game. Having contemplated both of Steve‘s entertaining games, skip’s mind concentrated on other Black wins. Stefanus‘s Saturday win on 3 was a candidate, as was Alex‘s Sunday win. Phil‘s marching centre pawns were worthy of consideration. Skip gives the nod to Roman, as the only Oxford player with two wins. His Sunday effort was well-controlled.

4NCL 2023-24 Rounds 1-2: Division 1 results

The first team ventured out into Division One for the first time in the new season. Looking over oppo teams we ranked tenth on average ratings (2249), but only seven rating points behind Alba (2256) and one behind Barnet Knights A (2250). The bad news was that we ran into the No. 1 team Sharks 1 who boasted 2480, and even “rested” IM Peter Roberson in their second team!

It was a thumping loss to Sharks 1 on Saturday. But was it? Our four White games against Sharks 1 resulted in three losses and one win. The three losses can be categorised as “swindles” of various complexity triggered by the oppo. The most evil was Makkar’s 37. … c3 against David, that was a tough one to meet in time-trouble. Those three games, if re-scored in our favour, would have been enough for a narrow match win. Ho hum.

On the upside debutant Donald controlled his White game well against IM Rendle, scoring what proved to our only win of the weekend – an easy choice for “top game” in our playthrough..

Only Will got on the board with Black, holding off White-specialist IM Grieve in what was a topical Sicilian Taimanov (or is it Kan?) line of the 1990s where White happily develops his king to f3.

[so what have Sharks 1 just done on Sunday? Right, turned over Manx Liberty!]

Tashika was last to finish on Saturday after a six-hour marathon against FM Moreby. She was involved in another long game on Sunday at board 5 against experienced FM Webb, spending most of it defending doggedly as Black’s dark-squared bishop ruled the roost. Eventually she managed to get shot of it and Webb conceded a well-earned half after 4¾ hours – it was a long weekend of nearly eleven hours for Tashika.

No-one else was close to racking up a win over Blackthorne’s IMs though Jon had a small chance late on: would Black fall for 45. … Kg5 46. h4+ Kh5 47. Kh3 Rxg2 48. Qf3+ Kh6 49. Qxg2, and a super-long queen endgame? No, Nelson carefully chose 45. … Kh5 and a perpetual was all that was there.

Oxford 4NCL 2022-23: statistics

Forty-eight of you took to the board at various times this season (including Mr D Fault who was unfortunately pressed into action in Rounds 9 & 10). Skip has compiled these stats that show players in descending score, then games, then alphabetical order.

Player G + = Sc %
Anand, Batsukh 9 7 1 1 83.33%
Zakarian, David 9 5 3 1 72.22%
Cole, Graham 11 3 6 2 6 54.55%
Rumsby, Stephen 11 5 2 4 6 54.55%
Pozimski, Szymon 9 5 2 2 6 66.67%
Claridge-Hansen, William 11 5 1 5 50.00%
Neatherway, A Philip 11 4 3 4 50.00%
Arora, Tashika 11 3 4 4 5 45.45%
Wilson, Edgar 8 4 2 2 5 62.50%
Terry, Sean 9 4 1 4 50.00%
Kocan, Barry A 8 4 1 3 56.25%
Staples, Neil 8 2 5 1 56.25%
Hobson, Kenneth 7 4 1 2 64.29%
Gerlagh, Joris 6 3 3 0 75.00%
Gurner, Jem 5 4 1 0 90.00%
Murawski, Jan 10 3 2 5 4 40.00%
Wedge, David C 8 4 0 4 4 50.00%
Hansen, Hans-Peter 6 3 2 1 4 66.67%
Manley, Jon P 6 3 2 1 4 66.67%
Blinov, Roman 5 3 2 0 4 80.00%
Zakarian, Dimitrios Levon 10 2 3 5 35.00%
Hariharan, Shambavi 6 2 3 1 58.33%
Phan, Stefanus Kf 6 3 1 2 58.33%
Powierski, Emil 6 2 3 1 58.33%
Curran, David P 7 2 2 3 3 42.86%
Beckett, Richard 5 2 2 1 3 60.00%
Dickinson, Tim R 3 3 0 0 3 100.00%
Brackmann, Hendrik 4 2 1 1 62.50%
Sivakumar, Ashvin 3 2 1 0 83.33%
Tringali, Alessandro 6 1 2 3 2 33.33%
Davis, Cameron 4 1 2 1 2 50.00%
Kovalyova, Taisiya 3 1 2 0 2 66.67%
Liu, Justin 2 2 0 0 2 100.00%
Foster, Cyril 5 1 1 3 30.00%
Jackson, Gary C 5 1 1 3 30.00%
Foster, Timothy 2 1 1 0 75.00%
Richardson, Ewan 3 1 0 2 1 33.33%
Bush, Ian 2 1 0 1 1 50.00%
Stephens, Graeme 2 1 0 1 1 50.00%
Dhoot, Rishit 1 1 0 0 1 100.00%
Hertog, Alexander 2 0 1 1 ½ 25.00%
Rudny, Tomasz 1 0 1 0 ½ 50.00%
Matilal, Tamal 4 0 0 4 0 0.00%
Cole, James 2 0 0 2 0 0.00%
Evans, Christopher J 2 0 0 2 0 0.00%
Manawadu, Dilhan 1 0 0 1 0 0.00%
Nayberg, Simona 1 0 0 1 0 0.00%
default 2 0 0 0 0 0.00%
268 110 71 85 69 54.29%

It turns out that Anand was an inspired mid-season signing, he leads the pack by score and number of wins. David Z had a good season on boards 2-4, only losing once.

Of players involved in 5 or more games, Joris, Jem and Roman were unbeaten all season, Jem posting 90%.

Juniors had quite a successful season, headed up by Anand of course but Tashika & Kenneth also did well in the firsts. 9 juniors played, 63 games split as +25 =19 -19 for a haul of 34½ points.

University players were well-represented. If we count Exeter man Cameron as a honorary Uni player, we had eight such players this season, 25 games, +13 =7 -5 for 16½ points. Two Uni players posted 100% scores: Justin & Rishit, albeit from only two / one games.

Drawmeisters were Graham (six) and Neil (five). David W was at the other end of that spectrum: when he lost a tricky B + 2 v oppB + N + 1 endgame in Round 11 he maintained his perfection in that regard. Will with five wins and five defeats to go with his one draw was the next-most cut-throat player.

Finally, five players were ever-present: Tashika, Will, Graham, Phil N, Steve; Jan & Dima each missed only one game.

4NCL 2022-23 Rounds 10-11: results

Oxford’s four teams recorded these results in the last two rounds of the final 4NCL weekend of 2022-23:

  • Oxford 1 beat The Rookies & SchachAttack 4½-3½;
  • Oxford 2 beat Barnet Knights B & MK Phoenix 2 4-2;
  • Oxford 3 lost 2½-3½ to Sussex Martlets 3 and 1-5 to Ashfield 2;
  • Oxford 4‘s 5-man team repeated Saturday’s 2½-2½ draw, this time with Cambridge University Y1, before a default penalty kicked in. We did not appear in Round 11.

Sunday saw Oxford 1 pull clear in 3rd place, one point ahead of Barbican and two up on fifth-placed SchachAttack, our Monday opponents. It became apparent that promotion would hang on not losing that match. 4-4 would be absolutely hunky-dory. Meanwhile Oxford 2 made sure of staying in Division 3, our eight match points being safe from teams mired on 5.

Monday saw Oxford 1 give your skip some palpitations. Having told the team “don’t lose 1-7, that will let SchachAttack pinch promotion if Barbican also lose“, he was alarmed to see us go 1-3 down by 2pm. Fortunately the next update was wins for Kenneth & Jon to make it 3-3 with Barbican also at 3-3, needing to win. Gulp. It was not until 16:15 that news filtered through that Hans had won and Tashika drawn, rendering the Barbican result academic. Hello again, Division 1, we’ve missed you. In fact with Alba losing to title-winners Barnet Knights A, Oxford 1 even overhauled them and finished proudly in second – a good outcome, considering that we lost both matches in Weekend One! (v Barnet & Barbican).

Hans adds “I was very concerned after a couple of hours as Will, Dima and Jan were all in difficulties but Kenneth and Jon (and of course Anand – he was very impressive all season!) played some great chess to win their games. It was actually rather pleasant for Tashika and me to try and win our endgames as we knew 4-4 would be enough to go up. I would have been a lot more nervous if this had been a must-win game!

Looking at the PGN it is clear that at 3-3 it was all over in reality, for both Hans and Tashika had no-lose positions and Tashika was confident enough in her position to decline a draw offer. In fact even at 1-3 we were not in any trouble at all, so skip need not have worried.

Oxford 2 and Oxford 3 both finished on ten points, mid-table respectability. Ashfield 2 took out some measure of revenge on Oxford 3 for their third team’s Saturday disaster against same oppo.

Top point-scorers over the weekend: Szymon 3/3, Anand 2½/3 (including being the “right side” of a 125-move draw!), Emil, Joris, Hans, skip (ahem), Jem, Justin all 2/2. Barry , Phil, Graham & Sean scored 2/3.

Now, top game? (part 2, because we’ve had part 1 on Saturday). Skip liked Hans‘s finish on Monday, Joris had a smooth French Winawer … err, win on Sunday in his last-ever (for now) outing for Oxford, and new Canadian recruit Justin again impressed, exploiting a sudden pin. Jem refuted his opponent’s enterprising … Ng3 sacrifice.

But top game goes to Oxford 4’s Richard who had an excellent attacking game in the style of the Danish / Goring Gambit. The bishops on c4 and b2 wreaked havoc in the vicinity of Black’s His Maj without moving from there, having arrived at move 10. Skip suspects it was regnal suicide to castle kingside at that point. Having won brilliantly, Richard then went home with the scoresheets!! (luxuriating in the game he’d just played, no doubt). Your skip had to grovel to the arbiters “but he won so spectacularly …” to reinstate his point.