2018-19 Rounds 1+2 (Div 1): report

Ox1 had a disastrous weekend, losing both matches to Wood Green 1 1-7 and North East England 3½-4½. Ouch!

Despite the setback, skip was pleased with our new-look team although he would rather like to see us field a completely different team in rounds 3 & 4!

Game of the weekend was undoubtedly Jon‘s fine win over IM Ravi Haria with the Black bits, averting the team whitewash in some style. Wood Green’s two GMs, one of whom is mighty familiar to us, put Oliver and Filip to the sword on boards 1 & 2: both our young players went very slightly wrong in the opening and didn’t get a second chance. If you play through Filip‘s loss (all games are online here) and wonder, like skip did, “why did he play 10. Nxd4 instead of a pawn recapture?”, listen to the explanation he got from GM Justin: “9. Qe2 was an error, he can’t recapture with a pawn because of 10. … b5 and 11. … Q(x)c3+. 10. Nxd4 covers 10. … b5. Perhaps he could play 10. 0-0 instead and sac a pawn or two”. Filip of course realised all this too late and was on the back foot thereafter. Curiously, he offloaded his g2 pawn on both days in almost exactly the same manner with the Black bishop dashing back to e4 and g6 both times. Must be a Filip thing.

On Sunday, the match against NE England was a nail-biter. We went 1-0 down quickly (Francesca’s Sicilian hacked by h4-h5), recovered to lead 3-2 with wins from Szymon & Joris [who admitted to being a tad fortunate that his opp missed a Bxh7+ tactic after 21. … Ne7 when “it’s the same as the game, minus the h7 pawn”]. After Matt drew on top board – it’s a while since he was last there – we needed to avoid defeat on boards 3 and 6 and both looked dodgy. Oliver‘s will-to-win attitude almost cost him the point as he turned down a perpetual and found his attack rebuffed. Fortunately Black didn’t find the right moves and took a perpetual himself in the final position. That left Dugg‘s game on 6, a real roller-coaster of a game if you switch on the evaluation functions. I am not going to comment further on that one – I’m just glad Dugg was there, playing both days and he surely must have been exhausted after playing 12+ hours in total. And then driving back to Middlesborough.  Even Fabi & Magnus didn’t match that in their first two games! I owe him a beer.

Summer News III

Several of our troops have been busy over the last couple of months.

Pardubice

Will scored a very respectable 5½ in the top section of this tough event at the end of July – I lost count of the number of GMs, IMs and other titled players therein.

Hampstead U2200

Eldar, Zoe & Ross all tried their luck at Adam Raoof’s monthly event. Eldar was close to taking home first prize, being on top board with White in the last round, but sadly lost and finished joint-fourth. Zoe scored three, Ross two.

Zoe has been our busiest player, I believe: after 2½ in the Atkins at the British Championships [Tom  S scored 2½ for +38 FIDE] and that Hampstead event, she scored 3/6 at Berks & Bucks, 3/5 at the English Women’s Championships and 3/6 at the TeraFinal. Elizaveta scored 2½ at both the last two events. That’s consistency from both players!

Dimitrios was also at that TeraFinal and finished clear second in the under-10 on 5 points, a full point behind the 193-rated winner. Yes, 193. I wonder if his round 5 draw was “tactical” to get the right round-six pairing?! [Edit: David tells me it was one of those “roller-coaster” draws, Dimitrios salvaged it in the endgame.] A month earlier, he had come joint-third at the under-10 in the British Championships and joint-fourth in the under-11.

Father David tackled the main event, scoring 5 – I thought he made an excellent start, drawing with two 2500+ numbers in rounds 2 & 5 before defeats in rounds 6 & 7 ended his challenge. Justin was super-solid, going through the event unbeaten for 5½/9.

Phil N made his annual pilgrimage to France – avoiding the UK heatwave –  taking in the Creon Open and scoring 3½. No wine prize this year!

Ian scored one of his best-ever tournament results at the pre-British Golders Green event of August, co-winning the under-170 section with an unbeaten 5/6.

4NCL 2017-18 Rounds 9-11: skip report

The final weekend of 4NCL concluded yesterday at Telford & Wokefield Park. Our three teams (sadly not 4 due to insufficient first-team numbers) recorded these results:

  • Oxford 1 were whitewashed 0-8 by Cheddleton 1, then lost 3-5 to Guildford 2 and 1-7 to Barbican 1;
  • Oxford 2 lost 2 ½-3½ to Wessex A before bouncing back to beat both Rhyfelwyr Essyllwg & Cambridge Uni 2 by that same scoreline;
  • Oxford 3 were the real victims of our Div 1 shortage of players and dropped out of the promotion race with 2-4 losses to Throw In The Tal & eventual champions Surbiton, followed by a 1-4 loss to KJCA Kestrels (default-related scoreline).

There is a separate report by Sean on the Wokefield Park proceedings, mainly focussing on Ox2.

At Telford, Ox1 found themselves heavily outgunned by Cheddleton 1, giving away nearly 400 FIDE per board. It was remarkable that we fielded a team at all – thanks to Jason, Eldar, Nick and Maria for filling in lower down the order. We did get massacred but I thought Maria was a smidge better in the middlegame until allowing … Rd2 swinging the game Cheddleton skip Fiona’s way, while Will on top board kept super-GM David Howell occupied past the time control before going down.

Will was by far our best Ox1 player of the weekend, following that loss with a fine win over GM Mark Hebden on Sunday and salvaging what looked like a lost R+P endgame on Monday to avert a second whitewash. He goes to Exeter University next season; skip very much hopes to see him at the board for us while he’s reading up everything he can about history (cue Rudge in The History Boys: “History? It’s just one ****** thing after another.” Hector: “Hit that boy!”).

Skip managed to score a draw in the Barbican match as well, but he got lucky: his 39. … Kh6?? was an utter howler, as opp Martin Taylor in time pressure promptly played the critical 40. Qb8!. Chess24 says “no problem, it’s always 0.00 from there” but it doesn’t mention 41. Qg8 g5 42. Qe6 Kg6 43. Qxg4 after which White is doing quite well. 42. … Qxe6 43. dxe6 Kg6 44. hxg5 Kg7 draws, but 44. h5+! wins – both of us had spotted this trick during the game.

Justin T “popped in” to Telford briefly to pick up a quick draw with Yang-Fan Zhou on the Sunday to wrap up his third GM norm and (virtually) the GM title – he just needs to gain ~15 more FIDE to get here. Congratulations to him! Doubtless he’ll be watching the “live” ratings in his next tournament, for it is possible to claim a title with a rating achieved in mid-event.

In Ox2/3, Phil H scored three straight wins to take his winning streak to … now, skip has lost count. Is it five? Justin H, like his namesake Justin T, completed an unbeaten season with 2/3 having – again, like his namesake – spent most of the season on board 1. This weekend, though, he was on top board of the seconds rather than the thirds.

4NCL 2017-18 Rounds 9-11: Div 3c, 4s report (Sean)

Sean writes:

A shame we couldn’t challenge for a promotion for Oxford 3 at the weekend, but we had a good enough time playing in Div 3, as Oxford 2.

In fact had myself and Justin tried a little harder on top boards on Saturday (Wessex A) we could have won that match also, as each of us were held to a draw after having dominated proceedings against our 2100 FIDE opposition, while I’m sure also that James Cole was winning but couldn’t find a way after adjournment. On bottom board Nigel was offered a draw on move 3(!) – you can imagine his reaction [skip: yes, especially in his first-ever game for us!!] – and typically he recovered from a poor position to win when his impatient opponent overpressed.

My losing on Sunday (Rhyfelwyr Essyllwg) didn’t affect our team winning as Justin took down a 2100 player who was apparently out of book after 1. d4 Nf6 – he’d expected a Dutch, after a brief examination of the database, and wasn’t prepared for a Nimzo. Eldar ground through his opponent who resigned after 5.5 hours when the position had completely stabilised, and he found himself 3 pawns adrift.

Monday saw us re-enact ancient rivalries (Cambridge University 2) and a close and quite exciting encounter emerged. With a quick draw from Justin ensuring an undefeated season at the chessboard in competitive outings, allied to a smooth conversion on board 2 Jason, I managed a draw in an exciting game where hindsight suggested I was slightly behind on initiative throughout. A loss on board 4 (Tomasz) meant that after 4 hours Phil Hayward and Neil were carrying the flag for the darker blues. By then Phil was looking good (not many pawns left but about to win a minor piece), while Neil was 2 pawns down in a rook & pawn ending. Phil reduced the board to BN and wrong h pawn v N, and managed to convert elegantly. During this time Neil had reduced his pawn deficit to one, and was then able to secure the draw in R+bc pawns v R + c.

I don’t have much info on Oxford 3, as my games were upstairs and I was engaged for most of each first session… but we missed out on Rod’s presence on Monday. After Hugo blundered on board 6 against much weaker opposition, we were -1 v 2 down, and so couldn’t complete the season with another point. This meant that we ended up joint 8th when clear 7th would have sounded so much better! [skip adds: yes, but Rod would have had to beat the rising mega-star Shreyas Royal to accomplish that.].

4NCL 2017-18 Rounds 7+8 [2]: results

The second half of the “split” weekend has just been and gone. Oxford’s three teams recorded these results:

  • Oxford 2 lost both matches 2-4 to MK Phoenix 2 and Barnet Knights 1;
  • Oxford 3 lost 2-4 to Crowthorne but then defeated All Anands On Deck 4-2;
  • Oxford 4, handicapped in part by two late dropouts on Saturday, lost both matches and we’ll draw a veil over the scorelines!

Oxford 2’s defeat on Saturday left us reliant on results elsewhere to make the Promotion Pool. Fortunately for us, both The Rookies and Sussex Martlets 2 lost, so we made it there by one match-point. If you think that was close, look what happened over in Pool A where Anglian Avengers 2 were edged out on the same score of 7 match points purely by Cambridge’s board 2 holding a worse opposite bishop endgame. Anyway, Oxford 2 started the Pool with one point – one more than Oxford 1! – and still have said one point after Sunday’s loss. Oxford 2 are safe from relegation but promotion? Er, no chance.

Oxford 3 continue their amazing season. When we established a fourth team, skip was not planning to mount a promotion charge at all! But here we are, second going into the final weekend a point behind Iceni 2 who you may recall we defeated in the Triangle in Weekend One. Safe to say neither team was foreseen pre-season as likely to win the division by the arbiters! Ox3 have already played all of the top five teams and #7, so will reach down to #6 or #8 for round 9. On top table, Iceni 2 will face their own first team. That should be entertaining.

Stars of the weekend:

  • Alan, our only winner in Ox4 who helped us to a plus score in one of the matches;
  • Sean, drawing with an FM on Saturday and scoring an important win on Sunday;
  • Phil N, scoring 1½/2 despite not feeling 100%;
  • Szymon, overturning a “minus-mate-in-seven” position to mate his opponent on Saturday.

I was pleased to welcome juniors Tom, Dimitrios and Hugo to 4NCL this weekend and doubly-pleased that Tom contributed a point to Oxford 3’s Sunday match win. I hope to see more of them!