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!

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.


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.].