The second phase of 4NCL February is done and dusted. Oxford 1 demolished KJCA Kings 6½-1½ and lost 3-5 to ADs (our third loss by that score – coincidence?)
We were at a brand-new venue, Delta Hotels Warwick just off M40 J15. 4NCL had one (large!) room allocated for the event plus one side room for bookstall. Division 1 on DGTs appeared somewhat cramped. The tables really needed to be bigger to accommodate those DGTs, but that would have reduced space between matches which was already at the minimum – a trade-off. And what was the barrier below the tables? A new anti-cheating measure (no “footsie” in play)? Little Bodhana Sivanandan (Cambridge Uni 1) wasn’t affected, at 7 years old and seated in a “booster chair” her feet were nowhere near reaching. In short, a second medium playing room would have been handy, but maybe the current arrangements will suffice when Divs 3W / 4 arrive for Rounds 9-11?
An excellent positive was that 4NCL had negotiated free parking with the hotel, for players would otherwise have balked at the hefty charges normally levied by the hosts. “£8 if I have a six-hour game? Would you like a draw ASAP?”.
Oxford 1 finish the weekend in joint fourth with … now, let skip count … four other teams. Ox1 are fourth on “goal difference”, the next three teams are ordered by alphabetical order being on 6 MP / 22½ GP, and Sussex Martlets 1 are eighth on 21 GP.
Despite six of us winning on Saturday, it was only Will who registered 2/2 over the weekend, Joris posting 1½/2.
It was a successful Saturday bookended by our two longest games, one finishing first, the other last. Tashika neatly trapped the White knight on e4 at move 22; although White battled as long as move 65 he had effectively resigned with 26. Qe4. The last-finishing game was Dima who lost at move 77 in a technical K+B v K+oppB+2P endgame. One of two possible fortresses (viz: bishop attacking the pawns from the front) needed to be established prontissimo, but neither materialised and the last fortress chance went at move 63.
Batsukh extended his winning run to 3/3, receiving a free rook. Joris won an exchange + pawn, stranding his knight on h8. While Black was corralling it several enemy pawns dropped and at one point Joris had R+6P v N+B+2P. Will shoved his a-pawn to coronation, sneaking it past the watchful b3 pawn at move 34. David had one of these (to your skip) incomprehensible games where strategy is paramount. Suddenly White’s e4 pawn dropped and complete collapse was imminent.
On Sunday. debutant FM Ashvin found an elegant double-exchange sacrifice on the same square f5. Will‘s game looked a bit chaotic at one point until a tactic presented itself to harvest a free rook. Elsewhere there was a smidge of overpressing on 3 and 8, skip reckons. Decide for yourself from the playthrough, in which skip chooses Ashvin’s win for “top game” edging out Joris (Sat) / Will (Sun). He suspects he should really give David’s Saturday win more credit in this mix, but he still doesn’t understand it!