In the final three rounds of the season, Oxford scored these results:
- Oxford 1 lost 1½-6 to 3Cs 1 & 2-6 to Grantham Sharks 1 before turning over demotion pool leaders Wood Green Monarchs 5½-2½;
- Oxford 2 lost 2½-3½ & 2-4 to Check InnMates 1 & Fermented Sharks, those losses sandwiching a 4½-1½ win over Iceni 1;
- Oxford 3 lost 2½-3½ to Ashfield 1, then boosted their goal difference (crucially!) by hammering Poisoned Pawns Next Generation 5½- ½ and West Is Best 3 4½-1½;
- Oxford 4 were beefed up by the strength of the higher teams on Sat + Sun and enjoyed a 5-1 win over Iceni 3 & 4½-1½ over Banbury Bulldogs, before going down 1-5 to a strong Milton Keynes Phoenix 2 side.
The headline news: Oxford 1 are relegated from Division 1, ending one point behind the Celtic Tigers team that we had duffed up in Round 8 at the end. We are fifth and skip always says: if going down, always go down in fifth if possible, just in case (for example, Manx Liberty’s cash might run out causing their withdrawal?). On the upside, Oxford 3 took advantage of two HUGE slices of luck (see below) to finish in third place in Division 4s and gain promotion to Division 3s.
Let’s start with the really-good news, and Oxford 3. Yes, we lost on Saturday to Ashfield 1, who finished second behind Div 4s champions Crowthorne 1. But this loss meant we avoided said Crowthorne 1 on Sunday and we took full advantage by wiping out the highly-promising juniors of Poisoned Pawns NG. Skip noted Sean defeated their star player Abigail Weersing. That young girl has had an excellent season for them and skip was impressed with her controlled win in Round 8.
That win put us joint-fourth with Fischer’s Catch going into Monday and skip was sure Round 11 would pit Ox3 against CRO 1. No, skip was wrong: the problem, he reckons, was finding oppo for West Is Best 3 who were on 12 and had already played everyone else in the top five bar Oxford 3 & Celtic Tigers 2, the latter being needed as oppo for Wessex B. Stroke of luck #1: Ox3 met WiB3 in Round 11 instead of CRO 1. Stroke of luck #2: like Oxford, WiB are a four-team squad. They had been unable to fill all four teams for the final weekend. Thus WiB3 were a mix of WiB3 and WiB4, making them weaker than normal. We took advantage of the fact, put out the best side we could legally muster, and got exactly the minimum result needed to pinch third spot from Wessex B on board-count arising from our round 5 3-3 draw. Congratulations to everyone who was involved in Ox3 this season; particularly to Phil N, who (skip is told) went unbeaten in his 10 games split between Ox3 and Ox4 and scored the maximum 3/3 in the final weekend.
Then the bad news: Oxford 1 wangled the win we needed on Monday against Wood Green Monarchs, wiping out their bottom 4 boards even though disaster-prone skip was in the middle of those 4 boards. But we’d left it too late to avoid the drop, for Celtic Tigers 1 scored the two wins and a draw that they needed to finish ahead of us on 8 points. Skip felt CEL 1 got lucky on the Sunday when the last two boards 5 & 8 in CEL v ALB, with CEL 1 up, appeared to be in Alba’s favour. Neither of the Alba players converted their positions and CEL nicked the match by the minimum margin: had Alba done the business on both boards, we’d now be talking about Ox1 staying up miraculously. Ho hum. To be fair to the Alba players involved, neither position was trivial and skip knows he’d have blown the board 8 position in similar manner to the Alba lady. Both players were playing on the increment at that point.
Oxford 2‘s promotion chances vanished on the Saturday with a narrow loss to Check InnMates 1, so from that point on we were simply seeing out the season. It’s a tough ask to get out of Division 3s via the upper trap-door with only two sides being promoted, the other two coming from Division 3n. Skip was pleased that our two juniors Arya & Nakul, having both lost on Saturday, got onto the scoreboard on Sunday with a win and a draw.
Oxford 4 became a victim of their own Round 9+10 success on Monday, running into a strong team rated nearly 300 points higher per board and being rather wiped out – well done to Richard for averting the whitewash. Pre-weekend, skip had exhorted his Ox4 troops thus: “if you score five game-points, you’ll improve on Ox4’s debut season in 2017-18 and Ox3’s result in 2016-17” [we were three teams in ’16-17]. Skip is surprised that you listened! Five game-points on Saturday comfortably set a new Ox4 record for both match points and game points, and a further match win on Sunday [Graham C making it 2/2 for his weekend] boosted that team record. It will be a new challenge to break ten match points & 31 game points in 2019-20!
Finally … some brief stats.
- Ever-presents were Eldar, Jason, Nigel and Oliver, with Nick, Graham C, Jon, Tamal, Phil N and Sean doing ten of the eleven rounds. James, Hans, Filip, Tomasz and Misha played eight games. Thanks to all fifteen of you chaps – makes skip’s job easier with so many reliable people to call upon.
- Number of players to play at least one game for us? 58. Yep, fifty-eight. If you all were to play all eleven rounds, we could field … let skip calculate … ah yes, nine teams. No, skip says four is plenty enough!
- Number of female players to play at least one game: five [Francesca, Tena, Zoe, Aga, Liza]. I’d like you all to play more often, ladies!
One last stat: Tomasz may have set a new team record, participating in each of Ox2, Ox3 and Ox4 this weekend. Has anyone else done one game in three different teams for us before? I can’t recall anyone ever having done so in the three-team days pre-2017.