The season continues to stutter along spasmodically, one weekend then another forming up a full pair of rounds. This particular weekend saw Oxford 2, 3 and 4 line up in Daventry for more exciting chess. Except that Oxford 4 didn’t. The clash with the annual Kidlington Congress – itself returning to OTB for the first time post-pandemic – saw at least ten “regulars” choosing the latter over the former. Skip didn’t mind in the least, he had it in mind to “drop” the fourths this time but if we miraculously had enough players …
So Oxford 2 and Oxford 3 it was, with the latter really masquerading as “Oxford 3 + 4”. We registered these results:
- Oxford 2 beat both White Rose 3 5-1 and Manchester Manticores 5½-(-½);
- Oxford 3 (4?) beat SPTW Young Stars 4-2, then lost narrowly to Guildford Young Guns 2½-3½.
2/2 was recorded by Hendrik & Stefanus, 1½ from Edgar, Cameron (Ox2), Alessandro, Steve (Ox3) – those last two, Ox4 regulars but moved up for the weekend, can be expected to apply to skip for a permanent promotion? Jan, Roman & Richard all scored wins in their only game of the weekend.
In Division 3W, the first set of six fixtures are now complete. Oxford 2 have only just “started the season”, moving from nul point after four rounds to four from six, and the cross-table has a quirky look arising from the first half of fixtures pitting “top half” v “bottom half”:
Spooky, n’est-ce-pas? The only outlier is Oxford 2 v Ashfield 1, a fixture in Round 1 caused by the need to pair “top-half” teams Warks 1 v Warks 2 as early as possible. MKP 2 & BK B are both credited with 2 points following the R1+2 shambles of the non-appearance of Wessex A, replaced by CSC 1 – who have one point against each of MKP2 & BK B. I am told those potential matches will not be played.
Anyway, remaining fixtures for Ox2 are against teams 9-12 plus Warks 2, so it will be interesting to see if either Ashfield 1 or Ox2 can charge up the table while the leaders pick each other off. Those remaining fixtures are expected to be published in the next couple of weeks. (Hey, skip, enough already, get back to the chess – Ed)
Ox2’s Saturday demolition of White Rose 3 was unexpected for skip. WR3 had won all matches to date but seemed all at sea this time, as evidenced by their use of three(!) wildcards including a 1100 board six. Hendrik and Kenneth reached K+P endgames of differing complexity: here it’s White to play and draw.
The position on the right is easy: 69. Ke2 Ke4 70. Kd2 … sigh … groan … Ke5 ½-½. But the one on the left needs post-four-hour calculation even if only two moves are in the frame. One loses. One draws. The wrong poison was chosen, lucky for Hendrik – he may suggest this compensates for his Round 1 misfortune. Elsewhere Edgar’s excellent win earns him “top game” in our playthrough.
On Sunday there were Saturday hints that Manchester would also be “all at sea” as their board 6 was AWOL. He hadn’t arrived by Sunday, so Sean had the day to himself. Cameron quickly flattened his opp, though the computer – zero style points – prefers 23. Nd5+ “mate in six” to his infinitely-nicer 23. Ng8+ “silly human, that’s mate in eleven” (also skip’s choice, for what it’s worth). On board 1 the Black queen lacked a sense of danger, decamping to g3 at move 24 and being trapped beyond enemy lines seven moves later. To be fair 24. … Qh7 didn’t look appealing but her Maj’s safe exit route to Q-side had just been blocked by her own c-pawn.
Lower down, Oxford 3 (or was it Ox4?) dealt efficiently with the youngest of the three She Plays To Win teams on Saturday. The match was reduced to a four-board affair after Phil & Graham took quick draws on 1 & 2; rook endgames on 3 & 6 were drawn later, though Dave had to sweat for several hours and 101 moves before getting his half.
The two wins were secured by Alessandro – whose opponent naively swapped rooks at move 34 into a hopeless K+P endgame, likely earning her a rocket from team coach IM Lorin d’Costa – and Roman making his second appearance, by chance against a different SPTW to the one he debuted against. Blinov v Ashton was quite interesting and I thought Alannah Ashton – daughter of the very-strong FM Adam Ashton – had a good position with her pressure against d3. A tactical phase ensued with blow meeting blow. Roman kept control, just, though he might have had to tackle a tricky R v N+2 material imbalance if the complications subsided. Alannah missed the only move at #29 and Roman took the point with a queen sac. Well played, Roman, but unlucky, Alannah.
On Sunday, our boards 4-6 cleared up the lower Guns while on 1, Dave’s bishop was excommunicated. After Phil’s attack foundered, it came down to Sachdeva v Cole – finishing last again on board 2, as they had done in the Round 2 Ox4 v GYG match. A level-looking bishop endgame swung at some point in White’s favour and Ox3 lost by the narrowest of margins.