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!

4NCL 2017-18 Rounds 7+8 [1]: results

It was a tough weekend for Oxford’s first team in the first half of the March “split” weekend at a slightly snowy Wokefield Park. Skip was glad all of our players got there safely, and hopes they all returned home safely.

The results: Oxford lost both matches, 3-5 to White Rose 1 and 1½-6½ to Wood Green Hilsmark Kingfisher.

On Saturday, there was a moment when skip thought we might beat White Rose 1 and Grantham might fail to qualify for the Championship Pool. That would have given us 4 points to start with in the Pool. Unfortunately neither eventuality came to pass and we start with nul point. We still have nul point but, as I said to the troops, there’s no relegation pressure on us.

Oxford players of the weekend:

(1) Matt, who produced what skip considers to be one of his best-ever efforts in beating Sam Chow on Saturday. That proved to be our only win of the weekend.

(2) Zoe. She scored a mere ½/2 but was tasked with Black twice against a WIM-seconded by a super-GM and a GM. If we believe Botvinnik in Fischer’s My 60 Memorable Games #39, her endgame today (Sunday) could have been a theoretical draw. In that, Botvinnik says “… is left with two rook’s pawns and the draw becomes a question of theory” [yes, Botters had a spare f-pawn, but believed drawn without it]. Neil told skip about that game on the train home, recalling that it had been a Gruenfeld where Botvinnik blundered a pawn in his home analysis (17. … Qxf4!). He (Neil) knew Fischer had fallen for a Botvinnik trap in an endgame with two rook’s pawns and made sure of avoiding that. Still, skip thought Zoe played very well indeed and deserved 2 draws.

We also appreciated Jon‘s Saturday efforts. He went for broke in the last stages of his game trying to salvage the team a 4-4 draw. Skip is sure Jon didn’t really believe his Nxg6 sacrifice worked, but went for it anyway in his opponent’s time-trouble.

Justin scored two quick draws in his two encounters with GMs, playing a total of 20 moves – two fewer than Saturday opp Peter Wells. He needs another draw from his next game for a GM norm.

4NCL 2017-18 Rounds 5+6: results

It was a good weekend for our odd-numbered teams, but a disaster for our even-numbered troops. We recorded these results over the weekend:

  • Oxford 1 lost 1-7 to Guildford 1, then defeated Barbican 2 5½- 2½;
  • Oxford 2 lost to The Rookies 2-4 and CSC 1 1-5;
  • Oxford 3 drew 3-3 with CSC 2 before defeating Iceni 1 3½-2½;
  • Oxford 4 lost to both Fischer’s Catch and Milton Keynes Phoenix 2 by 1½-4½.

By defeating Barbican 2 comfortably on Sunday, Oxford 1 qualify for the Division One Championship Pool for only the second time ever (our first visit there was in 2014-15). Justin & Chris were the men to hold draws against Guildford’s GMs – very comfortably in Justin’s case, very sweatily in Chris’s! – and they are still unbeaten this season on 5½ & 4½ from six games respectively. Skip’s rudimentary calculator has them at TPRs of 2744(!) & 2463, so there are well-deserved title norm opportunities for both. They need titled oppo in the run-in: with a likely sequence of 7. White Rose 1, 8. Barbican 1, 9. Guildford 2, 10. Cheddleton 1, 11. WGHK, that’s pretty much guaranteed.

Oxford 2 dropped off the pace in Division 3sB and find themselves in danger of dropping into the Relegation Pool.  Our destiny is still in our hands, for a win over Milton Keynes Phoenix 1 would put us into the Promotion Pool.  If we lose and are overtaken by The Rookies, it’s not all bad news: we’d start the lesser Pool with the maximum 6 match points.

Oxford 3 maintained their top-of-the-tree status with their excellent Sunday victory thanks to wins by Justin H & Phil H on the top two boards and a solid draw from debutant Tomasz. Despite the 4NCL strategy of avoiding “top” pairings in rounds 1-4, Ox3 find themselves to have already played #2, 3 and 4 so will face #5 Crowthorne in round 7 with Black on odds.

Oxford 4 were given two tough assignments, the second coming as a by-product of MKP2’s disastrous second weekend meaning they’re playing catch-up. We’re still respectably-placed in mid-table and have hopes of getting more points on the board in round 7, perhaps at the expense of the auld enemy’s third team?

We had no 2/2 players, but four players did score 1½: both Justins, Chris W & Sean T. Honourable mention for Graham’s two draws on board 3 of Ox3 & board 1 of Ox4: he did better on Saturday than skip did on Sunday against the same opponent with the same colour. Skip obviously needs to study Graham’s games!

4NCL 2017-18 Rounds 3+4: results

Ridiculous. Utterly ridiculous.

Oxford 1 sit second in Pool A of Division 1 after four matches, Oxford 2 top their pool, Oxford 3 top Division 4s.

OK, all three of these are on “goal difference”, but hey. This could easily be our most successful season ever – however, caution is advised. We have only played four matches of eleven, Oxford 1 have yet to play the big guns Guildford 1 (round 5) and White Rose (round 7) while Oxford 2 could yet drop into the Div 3s relegation pool. For now, though, skip basks in the status of our top three teams and very much hopes they can maintain their fine form. Still, to paraphrase the Ox2 board 1 after his “miracle save” today v Fermented Sharks [watch out for that one in the PGN]: ridiculous.

The results for Weekend Two were:

  • Oxford 1 defeated both 3Cs 1 4½-3½ and Spirit of Atticus A 5-3;
  • Oxford 2 defeated both Sussex Martlets 2 4½-1½ and Fermented Sharks 3½-2½;
  • Oxford 3 defeated both The Pitstop 5-1 and Barnet Knights 3 4-2;
  • Oxford 4 defeated Iceni 3 5½-½ but lost (gasp) to Watford 1-4 (default-related scoreline).

We’ll start at the top. That match win over 3Cs 1 is massive and means Oxford 1 have one foot in the Championship Pool. We might have two feet in it already if other results fall perfectly in rounds 5 & 6; for example, a 4-4 draw with Barbican 4NCL 2 in round 6 should suffice. Even if we don’t make it, pessimistic skip reckons we’re likely to have 6/6 match points going into the Relegation Pool.. Always a good position to start from.

Similarly, Ox2 are almost in the Div 3s Promotion Pool: a win over the Rookies in round 5 would be enough to get us over that particular line, and we’d then start that Pool in earnest with round 6 v CSC 1.

On Saturday, events at Wokefield Park could not have gone better. No-one lost and Ox2, 3 and 4 recorded a total score of +12, =6, -0. To quote the Ox2 board 1 again: “ridiculous”. Skip particularly enjoyed Jason’s partial re-enactment of Karpov v Korchnoi 1974 game 2; Jason clearly knew it backwards (confirmed postmortem), but his young opponent wasn’t as well versed in the old classics as we were. In the bar afterwards, we admired Jason’s subtle Qd5 move – Qh6+ was so tempting but leads nowhere. Watch out for that in the PGN.

Oxford 4 were very close indeed to achieving a perfect 6-0 on Saturday; in theory, they could have done so, but Tony turned down the chance to go into Q+2 v Q. To be fair to him, (a) it wasn’t that obvious how to get there – we only worked it out in the bar later with silicon assistance – and (b) Q+2 v Q might still have ended in a draw anyway.

Justin T, Asif and both Coles were our top performers with 2/2 over the weekend, with Chris W, Tom, Pavel, Jason, Eldar, Phil N, Justin H, Dugg, Rod and Kev (ten players!) all managing 1½. Justin has 4/4 for the season; skip makes a mental note to get him some titled oppo so that he can push for a GM norm. Oh look, there’s one coming up in round 5. Heck, there are eight of them. Ooo-er.

4NCL 2017-18 Rounds 1+2: results

For the first time ever, Oxford fielded four teams. We started out as two teams in the 2003-04 season, when Pete Harrison & Kieran Smallbone took the plunge with a band of University cohorts including Matt Ludbrook & Kev Henbest, and entered us into Division Four (yes, Oxford 1 in Division Four).  Ox1 finished second that season, gallingly one point behind Cambridge University who entered Division Four at the same time. Immediate promotion to Division Two followed in 2004-05 as champions of Division Three, a satisfying four points ahead of Cambridge, and we celebrated by expanding to three teams in 2005-06 with more Town players joining in. The ethos was to give Uni & Town players challenging games at a sensible time control, and to give lower-rated players FIDE-rated chess without results pressure.

Fast-forward to 2017-18 and, with the break-up of county chess, we find ourselves able to expand further to four teams despite losing a couple of key players: Marcus Harvey to Wood Green in an IM quest, and Mike Truran returning to the Brown Jack fold to help their promotion chances. This weekend just passed was the acid test: would we be able to find 26 players for the teams? As it transpired, the answer was “yes and then some” – I had 30 players for the Saturday games and could have pushed for an Oxford 5 if we had entered it! No, I don’t want to try that yet, four teams is plenty enough for now, thank-you-very-much.

To the results, then.

  • Oxford 1 lost 3½-4½ to Grantham Sharks 1, and beat The ADs 6½-1½;
  • Oxford 2 beat West Is Best 3 4½-1½, and drew 3-3 with Brown Jack 1;
  • Oxford 3 won both their matches in the Triangle, 5½-½ v Brown Jack 3 and 4-2 v Iceni 2;
  • Oxford 4 lost 2½-3½ to Throw In The Tal, and won 4-2 against Sussex Martlets 3.

I’m very pleased with Ox4‘s debut in Division Four – though we never looked like levelling the match aganist TitT on Saturday, Sean & Alan both rescued bad/lost positions. That said, skip couldn’t convert White’s position against Sean in the hasty post-mortem, so perhaps it was always OK?

Richard & Tony both won well on their Sunday debuts (admire Richard’s opponent’s early Na1 in a Sicilian when you see it) while Phil’s junior opponent lost on time in a likely lost position to make it 4-2.

Ox1 were a whisker away from securing a 4-4 draw with Grantham, which would have been quite useful.  Debutant FM Chris Wu ran into a sneaky defensive trick at the very end of his game and the very end of the match. Justin & I were musing beforehand over whether Chris would be an adequate replacement for Marcus; two long games a la Marcus (67 + 50 moves) says he is!

Justin won both his games as we rolled over ADs today; at Wokefield Park, several of us enjoyed kibitzing that match online and predicting (often wrongly) the moves that would be played. Skip thinks Dugg is still stunned by 44. … Be5 in Justin’s game (“that’s shocking, letting the queen in with check”). Justin proved him right!

Ox2 have started well in Div 3B, co-leading on 3 match points from 4, but it’s early days and hard to say who will take the four Promotion Pool places. We may have got lucky to face WiB3 when we did on Sat: according to Mike, his opponent Andrew Gregory was originally on board 6, but late withdrawals catapulted him all the way to board 1.

We were grateful for Eldar’s persistence today v Brown Jack 1 in bagging a very hot pawn on d4, turning down a draw and saving the match with his win. It was the second time in the weekend that Brown Jack 1 failed to convert a 3-2 match lead, Ian Thompson (CSC 1) playing the Eldar role for them on the Saturday.

Ox3 never looked in trouble in the Triangle, scoring a healthy 5½ points on the Saturday to take 3-0 & 2½-½ leads over our compatriots in that Triangle. Skip noticed our rating average that day was the second-highest in the division, though some other teams (eg Crowthorne, Brown Jack 2) beefed up their teams on Sunday. What happened to Ox3 being the Div 4 bunnies?! Were they ever thus?

Despite plenty of wins abounding, we only had two 2/2 performers in Wokefield Park: Ian (despite missing mate in one!) and the returning Dugg. Several of you scored 1½/2, though. Division One games are all available for playthrough at the 4NCL website; you may have to wait for the Div 3 & 4 games.

Some of you were unaware that you were participating in the informal Longest Distance Travelled By Ox Player To 4NCL In November competition. Skip’s short-hop of ~130 miles (Brighton to Wokefield Park) was dwarfed by Dugg’s 250 miles (N Yorkshire to Wokefield Park) and Justin & Chris’s 290 miles (Edinburgh to Telford). But the clear winner in this category was Szymon:  technically, Brussels to Wokefield Park is “only” 280 miles but it involves showing one’s passport at least twice, changing trains at least five times and walking one mile from Mortimer Station to the venue. Sir, we salute you!