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!