2019-20 Rounds 3+4: report

Firstly, if you’re reading this and wondering “where’s the rounds 1 & 2 report for Oxford 1?”: no, we haven’t yet played those rounds. The Guildford skip playfully set a mathematical puzzle on Facebook today: “What comes next in this sequence – 3(11), 4(12), 5(8), 6(9)?”. Answer, obviously, “1(29), 2(1)” being the days of the next rounds in Divisions 1 & 2 following rounds 5 and 6. He was actually grumbling about Guildford 1’s “easiest” two rounds being so late in the season!!

Well, back to Oxford and to our results last weekend:

  • Oxford 1 beat KJCA Kings 7½-½ and lost to Kings Head 2½-5½;
  • Oxford 2 lost to both West Is Best 2 2½-3½ and Crowthorne 1 1½-4½;
  • Oxford 3 lost to both Surbiton 1 2-4 and The Rookies 1½-4½;
  • Oxford 4 lost to Wessex C 2-4, but beat Barnet Knights 2 4-2;
  • Oxford 5 did not appear.

There were various circumstances for Ox5’s non-appearance which we won’t go into, but skip is quite sure they will be back for rounds 5 and 6 in February. Their “representative” team participated as Oxford 4 instead, and did quite well in skip’s opinion. Amaan again impressed with two solid draws, while fellow junior Tashika defended a blocked endgame competently on Saturday and followed with – in the words of her board 1 – “a really well played and mature win, deserving of a mention in dispatches”. Consider it done, Ian!

Oxford 3 were more representative of Oxford 4 (Justin, Robin & Otto excepted), but a division higher, and the difference in level told on both days. It was a pleasure to see Robin return to duty: he told skip that he’d taken a flight from Newcastle to be at the venue. Skip wondered, and is still wondering, when the last time an Oxford player flew to 4NCL. Justin and Sean did well to beat considerably higher-rated oppo on Saturday, Sean’s Facebook commentary being worthy of mention here:

4NCL chess , Round 3, Division 3, playing for Oxford 3 on board 3, on table 333… reaching a plausibly won position with 33 mins left…. And won on time just one move before move 33…. All the stars were aligned with a Dublin accent, clearly.

Oxford 2 had also lost a few players to higher causes but they were mighty close to turning over West Is Best 2. It appeared to skip that Koichi was doing well throughout, albeit minus a piece for two / three pawns; Nakul (1½/2 for the weekend) delivered a KiD win where he promoted with an excess a-pawn; Nick sacrificed a knight speculatively and apparently had a mate, even though over on Twitter skip was tweeting that he didn’t believe his attack for a second. [hey, skip was right, except for one, just one, fleeting moment in the attack.] You’ll have to look at that one when the PGN comes out and see if you can work out a finish during Nick’s attack. No, I’m not going to tell you where it was. Like Nick had to, try to spot it move by move! Sadly his attack petered out, and an accident happened a couple of boards down, so the match went awry.

On Sunday, James drew with FM Cooksey on top board – skip had him placed on this board a good month out because he’d been told “James can draw with anyone”, and was glad he didn’t have to change his plans. Skip doesn’t know much about what happened elsewhere, but we went down and are in the Relegation half of the division. It is time to forget about “winning the winnable matches”, and just to concentrate on trying to get in the top half of the division by any means possible. If only to avoid the dreaded Ox2 v Ox3 in Round Eight.

Oxford 1 enjoyed a surprisingly-easy Saturday match against KJCA Kings, who have many worryingly-strong juniors to hand. Happily most of said juniors were not to be seen and they had clearly scraped down to the bottom of their barrel, fielding 1200 numbers on boards seven and eight. Skip sympathises. Robin in Ox3 didn’t: “why on earth are Oxford 3 playing a stronger team than Oxford 1 are?”. Our team didn’t sympathise over the board either, wiping out all of their boards 2-8, only Freddie Hand getting a draw on top board with David – and he repeated the feat next day in another ½-7½ wipeout.

The match against Kings Head was very close on paper, 2088 average v 2099. Francesca led off with an utter stomping of her opp’s French defence, but Black did rather faff around with …. Qa5. … Qa4, … Qh4; he then walked into a pin with … Rc8 and was promptly punished. The news was not good from there; the only points we scored were Eldar‘s draw on six and Hans‘s win on 2 after his opponent had a blind spot. Nigel felt he could have done better after an enterprising 2-pawn sacrifice in the opening, but his game went pear-shaped somewhere in the middlegame. That’s maximum points for the season so far for Hans, the only Oxford player this weekend to manage that feat.