2018-19 Rounds 7+8 (Div 3s, 4s): report

Oxford scored these results in the second half of the 4NCL (split) weekend:

  • Ox2 lost both matches by the same score, 2½-3 ½ to The Rookies and Kings Head;
  • Ox3 drew 3-3 with Throw In The Tal and beat Shropshire 2 by 3 ½-2 ½;
  • Ox4, like Ox2, lost both matches: 1 ½-4 ½ to Ashfield 2 and 2 ½-3 ½ to West Is Best 4.

The results leave Ox2 placed 5th in the Div 3s Championship Pool, a ridiculously tight affair. We’re two points off the lead shared by Check InnMates 1 (our next oppo) and Kings Head (our last oppo). As in Division One, I predict that eight points [ie: 4/6 in rounds 9-11] will be enough for promotion. Curiously, no match between Championship Pool teams have ended wider than 4-2.

Ox3 are joint-third in Division 4s but have yet to play both first- and second-placed teams Crowthorne 1, Ashfield 1. Skip’s crystal ball forecasts Ashfield 1 as our next opponents in Round Nine. The Saturday draw was our third straight 3-3 result, appropriately enough confirmed with a successful 3-fold repetition claim in the last game to finish.

Kudos are due to Sean and debutant Stuart for their 2/2 weekends achieved in wildly contrasting fashions. We need to watch out for Sean’s “Caro-Kann Attack” (his words!) from Sunday in the PGN file. As a dedicated Caro-Kanner himself, skip definitely needs to watch for it. Who plays 27. … 0-0 with a mate threat in the Caro-Kann? Kev, on his return to 4NCL action, scored 1 ½/2.

Other games to watch out for in the PGN: Panicker 0-1 Goodwin from Ox3 on Saturday, a wild game where White had a lot of pawns for a piece at one stage but Black mated him before they could count; Ralphs 0-1 Graham [RHY v SSX, not an Oxford game but skip wandered by and noticed Graham’s kingside had vanished early doors]; and another non-Oxford game, Weersing (A) 1-0 Ingram, a thirteen-year-old duffing up an eighty-year-old. I kept popping back to that one and was impressed by White’s control. She has an excellent score for the season in Poisoned Pawns Next Generation who are also joint-third in Division 4s, so this is a heads-up for Ox3 mid-board players!

2018-19 Rounds 7+8 (Div 1): report

Oxford 1 were our only team in action last weekend (16-17 March). We lost 3-4½ to Barbican 1 in Round 7, then beat Celtic Tigers 1 4½-3½ in Round 8, the first of the four Relegation Pool rounds.

The much-needed win over Celtic Tigers 1 puts us in an unexpected second place in the Division One Relegation Pool on 5 – leaders Wood Green Monarchs have six. However the Pool is very dog-eat-dog and the bottom team have three points, so there is nothing we can take for granted. Rounds 9-11 will be tough. Skip says “8 points is always enough, 7 might be enough” so three match points in May will do it.

Although the match against Barbican 1 was a dead rubber, we almost nicked the points: after Calin‘s solid draw with GM Turner, we reached the time control slightly behind at 2-2½ with three to play [Barbican had defaulted board 8, so took a -½ penalty]. I had hopes that both David Z and Oliver would draw, and that Jon would find a way to beat Peter Sowray in a very blocked position. Fortunately for us, it went differently: Oliver wangled his draw but David lost and Jon’s game ended in a bizarre perpetual.

Why do I say “Fortunately”? Because, if we’d beaten Barbican 1, we’d have run into Grantham Sharks 1 in Round 8 instead of Celtic Tigers 1. The latter have put out strong teams in past rounds but were missing the Cornettes this time. Translation: Round 8 was a very good time to meet them. Joris had this worked out on Saturday evening and felt mighty confident of our chances. He led the way with an emphatic drubbing of the oppo skip, scoring a mate in a middlegame/ending.

Francesca was equally emphatic: her opponent found his rook stranded after it grabbed a hot pawn on g2, and he was soon a whole rook down. Francesca later found time to finish with a rook sacrifice for mate. Skip considers this her third-best ever game for Oxford 4NCL; to be fair, Matta 1-0 Lees in 2016-17 and GM Flear ½-½ Matta in 2014-15(?) will take some beating. After draws for Jon, Hans & skip on 5, 6 and 7, Calin wrapped up the match with a smooth win on top board.

It was mildly satisfying to beat the Tigers, for they wanted to remind us of the earlier Tigers v Oxford meeting in Division 4s this season:

Humph. Still, skip did manage to avoid his opponent’s deadly John Smiths Gambit. This had occurred in Arkell v Evans on Saturday:

And, hey, did we get a compliment off them post-match? Apparently we are “Division One giants”, begor?!

2018-19 Rounds 5+6 report

Oxford scored these results at the February 2019 4NCL:

  • Oxford 1 lost 1-5 to White Rose 1 but then beat West Is Best 1 4½-3½;
  • Oxford 2 won both matches: 4-2 v Rhyfelwyr Essyllwg and
    3½-2½ v Surbiton 1;
  • Oxford 3 scored two 3-3 draws v Wessex B and Milton Keynes Phoenix 2;
  • Oxford 4 scored two wins: 5½-½ v Barnet Knights 3 and 3½-2½ v Shropshire 3.

Start at the top. Ox1‘s chances of overturning White Rose 1 were dealt a harsh blow before the start when British Rail not-so-kindly cancelled Calin & Chris’s train from Edinburgh. Grr. We therefore started -2 v 2 down, despite best efforts to get our chaps there. If we exclude those boards, the remaining six players scored a 3-3 match draw – and it could have been better, for our debutant Tena had the misfortune to lose on time in a great position.

On Sunday, we scored the must-win win that we needed against West Is Best 1 with Calin and Chris impressing greatly on boards 1 & 3. Sandwiched between them, Will made it a 1½/2 weekend as the top three boards scored 3-0. Hans & Misha also had 1½/2 weekends, Misha pushing very hard indeed for 2/2 before conceding a draw.

Ox2 charged into the Division 3s Promotion Pool with important wins over 1st & 3rd in Pool B. Both of those wins will carry forward and the only question now is: do we carry forward the loss v CSC1 or the win over Poisoned Pawns 1? Arya & Nigel were our key performers scoring 2/2. Round Seven is a dead rubber against The Rookies, which will make no difference at all to anyone and we wait to see who we are up against in Round 8. The other Pool looks mighty close.

Ox3 kept their season ticking over with draws against likely promotion candidates. Nick was to the fore with 2/2, on Sunday turning down draws in a worse position to end up saving the match. New man Rafal scored 1½/2 as our thirds end the weekend just off the pace in sixth spot. Next up are likely to be fifth-placed West Is Best 3.

Ox4 enjoyed a tremendous weekend, firstly despatching the juniors of Barnet emphatically on Saturday before overturning the higher-rated Shropshire 3. OxUni’s George scored 2/2, he’s on 3/3 for us now and I’m sure he can extend his winning run in April!

2018-19 Rounds 3+4 report

Oxford scored these results in the 4NCL just completed (12-13 January):

  • Oxford 1 were hammered by Guildford 1 ½-7½ and drew 4-4 with Alba;
  • Oxford 2 lost 2½-3½ to CSC 1 and beat Iceni 2 3½-2½;
  • Oxford 3 won both matches, 4-2 v Rook’n’Roll and 3½-2½ v Ashfield 2;
  • Oxford 4 lost 2½-3½ to Wessex C, beat Barnet Knights 2 4½-1½ and lost -2-6 to Celtic Knights 2.

Start at the bottom: yes, that’s three results for Oxford 4, it’s not a typo! Oxford 4 had a half-Triangle in Round Two and, given Div 4s had an odd number of teams on the Saturday, the arbiters decided to simply complete that half-Triangle. We carried forward 1-2 v Wessex C and drew 1½-1½ on the day, losing the match overall; while we carried forward 1½-1½ v Barnet Knights 2 and Phil N, Alan and Hugo all won (3-0!) to make the overall score 4½-1½. On the Sunday we had a disaster when skip, quietly watching a Div 1 game at Daventry, was surprised to see Richard and Tony. “Oh ****” he thought. Wrong venue, chaps! Thus we started four down (-2 v 2) and lost the other four games. Ho hum.

Oxford 3 had a terrific weekend, scoring +3 =9 -0 in total – well done, everybody! Especially Cyril on board 2 Sunday, who was roped into emergency action at around 9pm on Saturday evening and (from what skip hears) was on the “right” side of a draw to wrap up our Sunday match. Phil N completed a 2/2 weekend being the half-point difference on Sunday, while Tomasz and OxUni debutant Jacob were Saturday’s winners. Skip admits to a double-take on Saturday when he saw Jacob, thinking he was Andrew Rogozinski in disguise! Note to self: try to park them on adjacent boards ASAP for maximum opp confusion :).

Moving up, Oxford 2 had a tricky weekend and finished it in second place (on goal-difference) in the division – well-placed for now, but the next weekend will be the big one as we play the teams in first and third. Fourth-to-sixth are only one match point behind. Skip hasn’t seen any of the games and the PGN is not yet online, but he can say that Szymon did well with 1½/2 being held in Q+3 v Q+1 on the Sunday (must have been a perpetual of some sort). James was also well to the fore with 1½/2 while Jason held the wrong side of R+a+h v R+a to gain overall victory on the Sunday.

Finally, Oxford 1 had their annual drubbing by Guildford 1 on Saturday. For the second Saturday match running, Jon was the man to save us from the whitewash – other team members liked his position and thought he might have made the score 1-7 instead of ½-7½. Always difficult to do that when Mark Hebden is sitting opposite you, as skip well knows! Matt on 3 might well have scored something against Gawain Jones: the Guildford skip is currently panning his board 3 on Facebook for his Sunday game against Daniel Fernandez (“-128.35 at one point”), and I expect to see more of the same soon for his Saturday game! Similarly JP LeRoux is likely to get flak, for skip wrote off Oliver at many stages of his game against the GM but he kept a small flame flickering for a long long time and was last to finish at c. 20:15, more than six hours in. Skip felt for him when he blundered right at the end with the draw in sight while playing on increments.

Tom grumbled at dinner that he’d “taken Black in his last four meetings with Guildford 1”. He enumerated them all to skip: Jones, Edouard, some other GM skip can’t remember and now Sadler. Pure coincidence, probably because skip didn’t want to waste Tom’s White magic on a top GM!

Jon extended his current excellent Ox1 run with a draw against IM McKay on Sunday – 2/3 for the season, (unofficial) TPR 2513. He’s played the requisite number of IM+ players so is well on track for an IM norm if he wants to pursue one. He just needs to play nine games in total, score well and play a couple more FM+ in the process.

Almost everyone else drew, though that was not for the want of trying: Misha scored an early comfortable 3-fold draw against FM Gourlay on 3; Tom put pieces en-prise almost at will but ended up salvaging a draw in the ending; Oliver looked worse in the early middlegame but swung the game his way before everything was abruptly hoovered; debutant Aga was a pawn up before going into a promising-looking opposite-B endgame that turned out to be drawn. It was not until after the Sunday time control that we scored our only win of the weekend, Filip eventually converting a great position (doubled rooks on the 8th at move 25!). There was a minor scare, skip thinks, when White played 47. Bxa4 nabbing a pawn back but Filip calmly worked out the pawn endgame resulting before playing 47. … bxa4. It appears to skip that pretty much anything was a winner from there: he liked 48. … g5 giving White his other pawn back, but what Filip played was more than adequate.

[note: skip was watching Ox1 games without benefit of computer evaluations, he hates being told what the machine thinks. If he’s way off the mark with his assessments for Ox1, that’s because he’s hopeless at chess rather than anything sinister. It gives him more enjoyment when watching games such as Maroroa 0-1 Lauterbach from White Rose 1 v Barbican 1, an entertaining game that looked great for White at the outset but swung violently Black’s way later on.]

[All Div 1 games are online at the 4NCL website, www.4ncl.co.uk, head to “PGNs & Replays”. Other divisions will be online in due course.].

2018-19 Rounds 1+2 (Div 3s/4s): report

After the first team’s woes the previous weekend, Oxford’s lower teams enjoyed better success in the second half of the “split” weekend:

  • Oxford 2 beat Poisoned Pawns 1 4-2 and drew with Sussex Martlets 2 3-3;
  • Oxford 3 beat Wood Green Youth 4-2 before losing by 2½-3½ to Fischer’s Catch;
  • Oxford 4 lost narrowly to Throw In The Tal 2½-3½ and then scored 2½ in the Triangle against Wessex C & Barnet Knights 2.

We’ll start with Oxford 4. I wasn’t really expecting a repeat of last season’s round 1 where we lost 2½-3½ to the same oppo, but lo and behold, we managed it! Well done to Phil N and especially Tamal who scored convincing wins, and to Alan who scored a draw in a Q+P ending a pawn down – after earlier starting a game against someone different!

On Sunday, Oxford 4 were unexpectedly placed in a Triangle. Normally Triangles are two-day affairs, so I was as bemused as the rest of you as to why/how this came about. Enquiries to 4NCL top brass produced: “There was an odd number on Saturday. We knew Camberley Juniors could only do one day. Thus we had a one-day Triangle on Saturday. What threw us was Cambridge 3’s withdrawal after Saturday’s -3 v 6 reverse in that Triangle. We were therefore back to an odd number and had to choose three new teams for it”. Capisce?

Thus Neil, Phil N and Tony squared up against half of Barnet Knights 2, while Ross, Graham W and Tamal faced half of Wessex C. Ross’s win [much-admired by Neil next door, and skip was impressed] matched Tamal’s loss for 1½-1½ in the latter match, while Neil’s loss left us at 1-2 in the former.  That means Ox4 earned half a match point. Are you all keeping up? We haven’t got nul point but equally haven’t got a full win yet.

Ox3 scored the expected Saturday win over WG Youth; the next day that same oppo overturned Div 4 perennials Full Ponty so our win [secured by Nick & Uni bods Andrew & Tim F] now looks like a very decent result! On Sunday, Fischer’s Catch dominated us 3-0 on the top boards but were bashed on the lower boards, Tim F making it a 2/2 weekend on 4 and Graham C having a most enjoyable Evans Gambit on 6. The draw on board 5 was the ultimate difference. I didn’t see the latter stages but Tomasz reckons he blew a winning position. Skip can’t possibly give him flak for that, for the words “stones” & “greenhouses” would come to mind: see below.

Ox2 had a tremendous day on Saturday, despatching one of the potential favourites for promotion without losing on any board. I was especially pleased with Raj’s convincing win on board 6 in his first outing for us at that level. Jason was equally impressive on top board in his new “post-Healey” role there, he’s following the master well! Of the others, only skip disappointed: he enjoyed an excellent middlegame before bottling it in the run-up to the time control.

Sunday‘s Ox2 match v Sussex Martlets 2 was, on paper, much easier but we very nearly lost it. After James’s second draw of the weekend, Nigel and Tom lost with Black to leave us in trouble at ½-2½ and I thought Jason was in some doo-doo* [22.11 maybe not?- see edit] after his opp’s enterprising knight sac in a Winawer. Happily Eldar and skip on 5 & 6 had excellent positions – skip was in full “world-domination” mode – so we only needed Jason to hold. Or did we? In the run-up to the time control, skip made a complete pigs’ breakfast of his position and, incredibly, was losing at move 41. It didn’t help his mood much to look at Jason’s position on board 1 and see that he’d navigated the complications down to the right side of R+B+2 v R+1 {2/2 for the weekend!}. Eldar had by then made it 1½-2½. Skip knuckled down, was relieved his young opponent didn’t find the killer moves (perhaps ’twas difficult switching from “waiting-for-the-axe-to-fall” mentality to “winning” mentality?) and salvaged R+1 v R+B. Phew. We should have won. We should have lost. In the end, 3-3 seems fair. Nick, looking on the bright side: “hey, we’ll drop this 3-3 draw when we get into the Promotion Pool”. Skip looks on the black side: “hey, we’ll drop the PP1 4-2 win when we get into the Relegation Pool”. Unlike Division 1, it’s hard to say at this early stage which matches will be the “must-win” matches.

Still, Ox2 are in a good place, one off the 4/4 pace set by Iceni 2, the Welsh and Surbiton. Next up in January are CSC 1 and Iceni 2 – that will be a challenging weekend, CSC 1 were the highest-rated team in Div 3s Pool B last weekend but experienced two disasters this time out, while Iceni 2 are flying high with confidence despite being the lowest-rated team in the pool.

EDIT 22.11.2018 – Jason writes: “When you thought I was in (doo-doo) I was actually still in my home preparation and all those moves have been played before. It was my opponent who was feeling his way through uncharted waters (for him), which is why I was about ¾h up on the clock. The knight sac was enterprising but not unexpected. He had one chance later on to muddy the waters, which I had seen and had covered but he missed it completely. After that the game was effectively over. Skip awaits the full PGN!