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:
Tigers 2 beat @Oxford4NCL by a margin of 8 points earlier in the season.— Celtic Tigers 4NCL (@CelticTigersCC) March 17, 2019
Time to see if the first team can equal that result.#4ncl #chess #division1 #demotiongroup pic.twitter.com/NKDQZPjYKP
Humph. Still, skip did manage to avoid his opponent’s deadly John Smiths Gambit. This had occurred in Arkell v Evans on Saturday:
Absolute chaos at the start of @4NCL round seven as @CelticTigersCC Craig Evans knocks over his pint of John Smiths, leading to a big tidy up and at least six boards disrupted ?— Peter Kitchen (@pkitchen_Star) March 16, 2019
And, hey, did we get a compliment off them post-match? Apparently we are “Division One giants”, begor?!
Close match, but the cards didn't fall our way this match. As underdogs yet again, we keep doing our best, and are proving that team spirit makes a big difference against division 1 giants. ??? pic.twitter.com/bE77IprbeB— Celtic Tigers 4NCL (@CelticTigersCC) March 17, 2019