Final tables – 2004-5

Division 3

Team Won Drawn Lost Points
OXFORD 1 9 1 1 19
GUILDFORD-ADC 3 8 2 1 18
CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY 1 6 3 2 15
POISONED PAWNS 1 7 1 3 15
S WALES DRAGONS 2 5 4 2 14
POISONED PAWNS 2 4 3 4 11
FCA SOLUTIONS 1 4 3 4 11
WESSEX 2 4 2 5 10
ATHENAEUM 3 2 6 8
SCS 1 3 1 7 7
THE ADS 2 1 2 8 4
NUMERICA 3CS 2 0 0 11 0

Division 4

Team Won Drawn Lost Points
SLOUGH SHARKS 2 8 2 1 18
HILSMMARK COVENTRY 8 1 2 17
NOTTINGHAMSHIRE 7 1 3 15
CHEDDLETON 7 1 3 15
GLOS. GAMBITS 5 4 2 14
SLOUGH SHARKS 4 5 3 3 13
CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY 2 6 1 4 13
GUILDFORD-ADC 4 5 1 5 11
THE CONQUISTADORS 5 3 3 11 *
OXFORD 2 3 4 4 10
SUSSEX MINDSPORTS 3 1 7 7
RICHMOND B 2 1 8 4 *
H’MARK KINGFISHER 3 1 1 9 3
THE ADS 3 0 0 11 0

Weekend 5 – 2004-5

Round 9

ATHENAEUM 3½-4½ OXFORD 1
1 w Mannion, Stephen R 2329 1 – 0 Bilalic, Merim 2292
2 b Orr, Mark J L 2305 ½ – ½ Savage, Ben D 2300
3 w Roberts, Paul 2184 ½ – ½ Ozeren, Kemal 2292
4 b Johansson, Toni 2143 0 – 1 Madsen, Dag 2292
5 w Dalmau, Anneli 2074 0 – 1 Smallbone, Kieran 2170
6 b Gruettner, Ralf 2044 0 – 1 Milovanovic, Aleksander 2155
7 w McKeown, Paul 2095 ½ – ½ Rawlinson, Aidan 2173
8 b Stevenson, James A B 2092 1 – 0 Smith, Katherine
THE ADS 3 0 – 6 OXFORD 2
1 w Leary, Peter 1845 0 – 1 Ludbrook, Matt 2039
2 b Jones, Simon A 1725 0 – 1 Morris, Graham 2050
3 w Moore, Kevin J 1655 0 – 1 Bruce, Dave 2075
4 b Meakin, Anthony 1690 0 – 1 Smith, Jonathan 1925
5 w McIntosh, Doreen 1690 0 – 1 Hadi, Justin 1845
6 b Gavin, Peter 1630 0 – 1 Harrison, Pete R 1875

Round 10

OXFORD 1 4½-3½ POISONED PAWNS 2
1 w Bilalic, Merim 2292 0 – 1 Goodger, Martyn 2161
2 b Ozeren, Kemal 2292 1 – 0 Gregory, Stephen J 2167
3 w Madsen, Dag 2292 ½ – ½ Winfridsson, Ola 2080
4 b Savage, Ben D 2300 ½ – ½ Retallick, Lloyd 2115
5 w Shaw, David A 2197 1 – 0 Bailey, Kevin 2135
6 b Starkie, Ray 2090 ½ – ½ Sirisena, Chantal 1927
7 w Milovanovic, Aleksander 2155 1 – 0 Donaghay, Richard H 1970
8 b Smith, Katherine 1750 0 – 1 Ribbands, Patrick C 1945
OXFORD 2 1½-4½ SLOUGH SHARKS 2
1 w Webster, Ian 2116 1 – 0 Rudolf, Anna 2210
2 b Ludbrook, Matt 2039 0 – 1 Smith, Andrew P 2204
3 w Bruce, Dave 2075 0 – 1 Richmond, Robert J 2257
4 b Morris, Graham 2050 0 – 1 Hersvik, Daniel 2243
5 w Smith, Jonathan 1925 0 – 1 Roberson, Peter T 2139
6 b Hadi, Justin 1845 ½ – ½ Linford, Charles 2142

Round 11

S WALES DRAGONS 2 2½-5½ OXFORD 1
1 w Spice, Alan 2182 0 – 1 Bilalic, Merim 2292
2 b May, Frank 2144 0 – 1 Ozeren, Kemal 2292
3 w Powell, Lloyd 2155 1 – 0 Savage, Ben D 2300
4 b Sully, David 2130 0 – 1 Shaw, David A 2197
5 w Brown, Alan M 2136 ½ – ½ Smallbone, Kieran 2170
6 b Trevelyan, John 2200 0 – 1 Milovanovic, Aleksander 2155
7 w van Kemenade, Rudy 2087 0 – 1 Rawlinson, Aidan 2173
8 b Wilson, Julie 1944 1 – 0 Smith, Katherine 1750
H’MARK KINGFISHER 3 1-5 OXFORD 2
1 w Giles, Benjamin 2058 0 – 1 Webster, Ian 2116
2 b James, Stephen B 2046 0 – 1 Ludbrook, Matt 2039
3 w Spearman, David 2030 1 – 0 Terry, Sean 2015
4 b Parmar, Amisha 1946 0 – 1 Morris, Graham 2050
5 w Parmar, Jyoti 1565 0 – 1 Smith, Jonathan 1925
6 b Fowler, Keith 1625 0 – 1 Hadi, Justin 1845

Oxford Go Top With Classy Display

Weekend 4 of the season saw Oxford 1 pitted against two of division 3’s relegation candidates. SCS 1 and Numerica 3Cs may not be as strong as some teams in the division, but both still possess talented players who were not to be underestimated. Oxford 2 meanwhile faced the up-and-coming juniors of Richmond B and the powerful outfit from Nottinghamshire.

Oxford were missing some of their big stars, notably Merim Bilalic and Dave Shaw, but the main selection headache surrounded the non-availability of our trio of strong female players. Fortunately we were able to take advantage of the rule which allows an U16 junior to substitute for a female player for three matches in the season and recruited Witney’s rising star Guanqun Gai.

The highlight of Saturday’s play always looked likely to be Kemal’s game on top board against Oxford exile Tim Dickinson. But the early action took place elsewhere as Ben quickly halved out for a solid draw on board 2 and James’ unfortunate 4NCL season continued with defeat on board 6. Ray, however, continued his superb season with a smooth and comprehensive win on board 7. Things were not going so well on the remaining boards as Kieran had much the worst of it against his young opponent and Alex’s game against another Oxford exile, Nigel Moyse, looked far from clear – Oxford seemed to be staring down the barrel. The story was only just starting… Matters got worse before they got better as good performances from Aidan and debutant Gai were only rewarded with draws. Then two vital turning points – first a series of complex tactics resulted in Kemal picking up a crucial central pawn. And then Kieran managed to trap his opponent with a time trouble related swindle to turn what had seemed a likely defeat into victory. One had to feel sorry for his opponent, but the point gained set us firmly on the road to victory. The result was soon settled as Tim had to give best to Kemal’s precise endgame technique and Alex’s extra knight proved more than enough to counter-balance Nigel’s marauding pawn mass. So a final score of 5.5-2.5, though the victory was nowhere near as comfortable as the scoreline suggests. As a footnote to this game it’s worth noting Tim’s superb win against a much higher rated opponent the next day. We can only be glad that he saved his best for Sunday…

Oxford 2’s game against Richmond B never threatened to be as easy as the opposition’s position at the bottom of the table suggested. And the situation wasn’t helped by Matt and Ian’s late arrival caused by a train cancellation. This didn’t seem to affect Matt unduly as he found his way neatly through a tactical maelstrom to rack up the full point. Jon on board 6 also proved too strong for his inexperienced opponent. All seemed set fair with Graham outplaying the Richmond skipper and other games remaining in the balance. Then a series of setbacks as Will’s sacrificial play proved unsound and Dave had to settle for a half. The cruellest blow was on board 3 where Graham once again fell foul of his time trouble demons. As so often it was to be Ian’s game on board 1 which would settle the match. For some time it remained unclear whether his extra pawns were sufficient compensation for the exchange. When the situation finally resolved itself, the knight and pawn v two pawns ending was always destined to be a draw. A slightly disappointing 3-3 draw, but doubtless Richmond’s youngsters have a bright future ahead of them.

A fully booked Moat House forced us to once again explore the Telford suburb of Ketley on Saturday evening. It is a matter of some debate whether the cheap rooms and excellent breakfast provided by the Westbrook House compensate for its inconvenient location and the dubious merits of the local hostelry, the Elephant and Castle. In any case, our broadly successful day ensured a lively atmosphere and a good time was had by all. The morning brought an extraordinary record turn-out for breakfast of 8 hungry punters. We then hopped into the cars and made our way to the venue for the day’s challenge. The seconds faced a stiff test against a Nottinghamshire outfit who, while not at full strength, were still one of the more powerful teams in the division. It was not until about 15 minutes into the game that I realised that we were trying to win the match with only 5 men. It was a few seconds before I could remember who was meant to be filling the vacant slot on board 2. Only then did I realise that Sean did not seem to be in attendance. Now those who know Sean will know that a late arrival at the board is nothing unusual. More worrying was the fact that none of our drivers had brought him from the guest house, all assuming that someone else had done so. A swift phone call revealed that Sean had just set out on foot for the venue having watched the end of the London marathon. Given the distances involved, it was somewhat surprising when Sean took his place at the board only a few minutes later. It transpired that the luck of the Irish had done its work and Sean had managed to hitch a lift from a lady he met in a petrol station. Before we knew it, 1 h3 was on the board and all was well with the world again.

It soon became clear that it was not to be a happy day at the office for the seconds. First your scribe went down to a sharp performance from yet another of 4NCL’s many talented youngsters. After his earlier adventures, Sean did well to secure a solid half and Kevin played very well indeed before a few slight inaccuracies in the endgame left him with only a draw. Performance of the day came from Jon who produced a fine attacking display to see off his board 4 opponent. But another unfortunate defeat for Graham and a narrow reverse for Matt, both somewhat influenced by time trouble sealed our fate. A 4-2 loss against a strong side was no disgrace, but the seconds will certainly hope for better at the final weekend of the season.

The firsts meanwhile were tackling Numerica 3Cs 2 with a point headstart due to the opposition’s default on board 8. The match itself was not the most eventful of the season. Ben produced another solid display for the half point on board 2 while James had a slight edge for much of the game before halving with ex-University stalwart Alex Hickman. Ian went at it in typically attacking fashion on board 7, but ultimately his daring sacrifice proved in vain and he was forced to admit defeat. There were further draws for Kemal on board 1 whose opponent found sufficient counterplay to win back a pawn lost in the early stages and Aidan on board 5. It was left to Kieran whose superb season continued with an easy win and the ever impressive Alex to make the final score 5-3 to Oxford. Though the match was no walkover, for once we never really looked like losing.

While Oxford 2 are having a tough season, Oxford 1 now find themselves top of division 3 and look set for promotion. Three more wins at the last weekend would secure the title as well, the prize money for which would prove most welcome. As ever there were performances to savour from the Oxford boys this weekend. Notable amongst them were Kieran’s 2/2, albeit with a little good fortune, Ray’s by now familiar smooth display and Jon’s 2 wins, especially his clinical attacking display on Sunday. But my man of the weekend has to be Alex whose two wins, including one against a player of the quality of Nigel Moyse, were really most impressive. The Bank Holiday weekend at the end of May can’t come soon enough. We’ll keep the champagne on ice until then…

Pete Harrison

Stretched Resources and Brave Efforts

After the massive over-subscription of players which characterised the first two weekends of the season, weekend 3 was a rather different story as mumps, hockey matches and various prior commitments wiped out a selection of players who would, by themselves, have made up a very respectable first team.

The team manager’s job is never a straightforward one and on this occasion Pete was still hard at it deep into the eleventh hour, recruiting players and negotiating complicated wildcard issues with the league organisers. Eventually, and against all the odds, we were able to field some very respectable teams with a combination of old stalwarts and invaluable new squad members Anna Partington, Marco Zhang and Hervé Hansen. Without the enthusiasm of these three to step into the breach, the weekend could have been a disaster. As it was, however, things didn’t go at all badly…

Oxford 1 were to face two of their main rivals at the top of the league and kicked off against this season’s surprise package FCA Solutions 1. It seems to be an Oxford trait to perform at their best when backs seem to be very much against the wall, so it was no great surprise that the firsts came out fighting for every point. The top boards were as strong as ever as Ben, Kemal and James stepped up to the plate. Kemal finally broke this season’s amazing run of draws with a comprehensive victory, while James suffered a rare lapse in his massive theoretical knowledge and was given no second chance. Ben meanwhile was finally persuaded to accept a draw and was later glad to have done so as it turned out that he was probably losing the final position. The team’s engine room chose an ideal day to shine and both Kieran and Aidan notched up emphatic victories – in Kieran’s case continuing an amazing 100% record for the season to date. All of which left the bottom 3 boards, all making their season’s debut in the first team, needing a point between them to complete victory. All three put in tremendous battling performances. Graham Morris was always somewhat on the defensive, but didn’t give up till the very last when time pressure finally told. Chris Duggan on board 6 as usual performed his best against strong opposition and eventually converted to a full point. And Anna always had the edge on board 8, but despite giving it everything couldn’t quite find enough for more than a half point. So a 5-3 win and a great team effort.

Oxford 2, playing high-flying Hilsmark Coventry, were always going to be up against it – you always know you’re in trouble when you see Woody elevated to the heady heights of board 3. He duly obliged with a disastrous early blunder and could never quite find enough play to recover. Elsewhere the troops were battling valiantly but in vain. Sean tried to baffle his talented young opponent with the spectacular 1 … Nh6, an idea which had come to him during his pre-game shower. It actually gave him a decent game, but he was eventually ground down. Hervé Hansen on board 4 played a solid game until time pressure got the better of him, while Marco Zhang on 5 was slowly crushed by his opponent’s advancing pawns. Marco is a man who finds unusual ways to win chess games and this time had tried the cunning technique of waiting for his opponent to lose his mobile phone before the game. Sadly he found the missing telecommunications device just in time to finish Marco off. Kevin gave his all as ever on board 6 but couldn’t quite stave off ultimate defeat. It was left to Matt Ludbrook on board 2 to salvage some pride for the Oxford boys with a solid half point.

Sunday brought the division 3 top of the table clash against Guilford-ADC 3. This was always going to be the weekend’s toughest challenge, but the team knew that a win would set them well on the way to promotion. The early excitement centred around Ben on board 2 who out-witted his opponent in the opening, but then found himself with the thorny problem of how to convert his two extra rooks with his king dangerously exposed in the centre. Ultimately, resourceful play from his opponent meant that Ben had to settle for a perpetual. Nonetheless, this was certainly one of the season’s most exciting games to date. Kemal returned to his drawing ways with a solid board 1 performance, while Aidan on 3 was always on the wrong end of a particularly tricky variation of the French. Kieran’s winning run had to end somewhere and he had to settle for the half on board 4, while on board 5 James’ tough 4NCL season continued when his opponent found just too much counterplay for some extra material. It was down to the bottom 3 to save the day. Chris, who seems to get more than his share of rook endings, was this time struggling to hold a rook ending from a pawn down. All that practice must have paid off because he finally secured a vital half. Anna had drawn the short straw of playing local Oxford starlet Claire Morris. She made light of the task, however, with a commanding performance based on superior opening knowledge and some exquisitely sharp tactics. The pivotal performance of the day came on board 6 where Ray Starkie was making his seasonal debut in the first team. He has shown fine form in the local leagues this season and carried in into 4NCL as he wasted no time at all in thoroughly outplaying a strong opponent. So an honourable 4-4 draw and the promotion challenge still very much on track.

The seconds, strengthened by the much-needed arrival of Will Burt and Dave Bruce and by Graham Morris dropping down from the firsts took on a powerful Slough Sharks 4 outfit. Sadly, the Cowley connection didn’t quite make the desired impact as Dave and Will both went down despite brave attacking performances. Graham played a fine game on top board but was unlucky to fall victim to his opponent’s lucky swindle and have to settle for a draw. Herve scored his first 4NCL point with a nice win while Marco was somewhat unfortunate only to halve when landed in an opposite colour bishop ending. Which left Matt to complete a superb personal weekend with a win which secured a 3-3 draw for the team. A much needed boost for what had been a rather beleaguered second team. They’ll be back harder and stronger next weekend.

To sum up the weekend, a win and a draw can be regarded as a great return for the slightly under-strength firsts, while the seconds enjoyed their chess and certainly deserved the reward of that Sunday draw. Above all it was one of the best ever Oxford 4NCL weekends from a social point of view as the new players blended with the old and brought a fresh feel to the much-vaunted Oxford team spirit. There were, as ever, many great individual performances, including 1.5/2 scores from Kemal, Kieran, Chris, Anna and Matt. But my man of the weekend has to be Ray. The way he dispatched his opponent was most impressive and come the end of the season, his win might just make all the difference to the first team’s ultimate fate. I, for one, can’t wait for weekend 4 and the chance for Oxford 1 to stamp it’s authority on division 3 and for Oxford 2 to take some notable scalps.

Pete Harrison