The headline: Oxford 5 put in an appearance at the 4NCL for the first time ever. Three seasons ago we had only three teams, Ox2 were in Division 4s and Ox3 didn’t fulfil all their fixtures. This season, both Ox2 and Ox3 have wangled places in Div 3s and Ox4 (new for 2017-18) & Ox5 have taken their places in Div 4s. Skip is delighted that we put out full teams on both days on this historic occasion. Many thanks to all 30 players involved, and to our drivers who helped ferry many many players to the venue.
To the results.
- Oxford 2 lost 2½-3½ to Fermented Sharks and beat MK Phoenix 1 4½-1½;
- Oxford 3 lost 2½-3½ to Rhyfelwyr Essyllwg and beat Poisoned Pawns 1 3½-2½;
- Oxford 4 were in the Triangle, winding up with a loss to War & Piece 2½-3½ and a win over Banbury Bulldogs 4½-1½;
- Oxford 5 lost both matches, 1½-4½ to West Is Best 3 and 2-4 to Celtic Tigers 2.
Oxford 2‘s round 1 loss is likely to be important later in the season, for Fermented Sharks look odds-on to go into the Promotion Pool. If we are to do the same, we need to beat the “minnows” – a start was made in round 2 by duffing up MKP 1 with no losses. Hats off to James for his 2/2 start to the season, including a Saturday brilliancy, while Arya looked equally impressive, winning on Saturday and pushing hard on Sunday before conceding a draw. Grudgingly. His Saturday opening produced one of those how on earth did they get there? positions, this contrivance being attained after twelve moves and nearly two hours’ play:
Yes, it does look like Black has made seven moves, not twelve. The discrepancy is explained by his five, FIVE, wasted tempi: Nb8-c6-b8, Bf8(x)d6-b4+-f8. And what is he doing with a knight on g5 so early? Nakul was another who impressed but for different reasons: he scored two draws in endgames a pawn down, the Sunday ending looking rather bleaker than the Saturday one.
Oxford 3 came close to pinching a 3-3 draw off The Welsh on Saturday in their first-ever Division 3 match. Debutant Otto turned over veteran Trevelyan on board 5 to open the scoring. After Justin‘s loss had evened the match and Edgar had drawn, we had one decent-ish position (Stuart) and two ropey positions (Nick, Nigel) – curiously the White players on 2 and 3 both had big passers on d6. Stuart perhaps lost his way in time-trouble, but it was never easy to convert his position – if indeed conversion was possible at all – so he drew. That left Nigel and Nick to hang on, and the latter lost. However, we bounced back on Sunday led by Justin‘s surprisingly comfortable win on the Black side of a Closed Sicilian – his opponent never got going and saw his Q-side wiped out. Edgar appended another win on board 6 – 1½/2 for him – and when the top three boards all drew, that secured the match. That win is important for the end-of-season: if, as we tentatively expect, Ox3 finish in the Relegation Pool, we will carry it forward.
Oxford 4 spent their weekend in Triangular company with War & Piece and Banbury Bulldogs. At half-time on Saturday evening, we were 1-2 down to the former and 3-0 up on the latter. On Sunday, Ian completed a 2/2 weekend quickly (for him) / slowly (for his W+P opp, who took his whole 1h40m base time allocation over the 15 moves played, leaving only his 7m30 increment). Graham made it 1½/2 by drawing with the W+P bottom board, but Otto lost a very very chaotic game. Skip wants to see that PGN! Meanwhile, the Banbury match was wrapped up by Raj on 1 with his draw, and Sean scored 1½/2 by beating ex-Oxford man Rod Langham in a K+P endgame that one of our number called “drawn” on first sight of it. See if you agree.
Oxford 5 were always going to have a tough time of it. but skip was pleased with the efforts of our two new juniors Tashika (0/2) and Amaan (1/2) who both went three, four hours plus on both days. Hugo did well to draw comfortably with his higher-rated opponent on Saturday. A total game-point haul of 3½ is a good start for the team, who have positioned themselves at “their level” near the bottom of the table.
Finally, with all these teams in play, we may have an identity crisis. Late on Sunday, Kev to skip: “how are University 5 doing?”. Just ten minutes later, Sean to skip: “how did City 4 do?”.