Oxford 4NCL 2022-23: statistics

Forty-eight of you took to the board at various times this season (including Mr D Fault who was unfortunately pressed into action in Rounds 9 & 10). Skip has compiled these stats that show players in descending score, then games, then alphabetical order.

Player G + = Sc %
Anand, Batsukh 9 7 1 1 83.33%
Zakarian, David 9 5 3 1 72.22%
Cole, Graham 11 3 6 2 6 54.55%
Rumsby, Stephen 11 5 2 4 6 54.55%
Pozimski, Szymon 9 5 2 2 6 66.67%
Claridge-Hansen, William 11 5 1 5 50.00%
Neatherway, A Philip 11 4 3 4 50.00%
Arora, Tashika 11 3 4 4 5 45.45%
Wilson, Edgar 8 4 2 2 5 62.50%
Terry, Sean 9 4 1 4 50.00%
Kocan, Barry A 8 4 1 3 56.25%
Staples, Neil 8 2 5 1 56.25%
Hobson, Kenneth 7 4 1 2 64.29%
Gerlagh, Joris 6 3 3 0 75.00%
Gurner, Jem 5 4 1 0 90.00%
Murawski, Jan 10 3 2 5 4 40.00%
Wedge, David C 8 4 0 4 4 50.00%
Hansen, Hans-Peter 6 3 2 1 4 66.67%
Manley, Jon P 6 3 2 1 4 66.67%
Blinov, Roman 5 3 2 0 4 80.00%
Zakarian, Dimitrios Levon 10 2 3 5 35.00%
Hariharan, Shambavi 6 2 3 1 58.33%
Phan, Stefanus Kf 6 3 1 2 58.33%
Powierski, Emil 6 2 3 1 58.33%
Curran, David P 7 2 2 3 3 42.86%
Beckett, Richard 5 2 2 1 3 60.00%
Dickinson, Tim R 3 3 0 0 3 100.00%
Brackmann, Hendrik 4 2 1 1 62.50%
Sivakumar, Ashvin 3 2 1 0 83.33%
Tringali, Alessandro 6 1 2 3 2 33.33%
Davis, Cameron 4 1 2 1 2 50.00%
Kovalyova, Taisiya 3 1 2 0 2 66.67%
Liu, Justin 2 2 0 0 2 100.00%
Foster, Cyril 5 1 1 3 30.00%
Jackson, Gary C 5 1 1 3 30.00%
Foster, Timothy 2 1 1 0 75.00%
Richardson, Ewan 3 1 0 2 1 33.33%
Bush, Ian 2 1 0 1 1 50.00%
Stephens, Graeme 2 1 0 1 1 50.00%
Dhoot, Rishit 1 1 0 0 1 100.00%
Hertog, Alexander 2 0 1 1 ½ 25.00%
Rudny, Tomasz 1 0 1 0 ½ 50.00%
Matilal, Tamal 4 0 0 4 0 0.00%
Cole, James 2 0 0 2 0 0.00%
Evans, Christopher J 2 0 0 2 0 0.00%
Manawadu, Dilhan 1 0 0 1 0 0.00%
Nayberg, Simona 1 0 0 1 0 0.00%
default 2 0 0 0 0 0.00%
268 110 71 85 69 54.29%

It turns out that Anand was an inspired mid-season signing, he leads the pack by score and number of wins. David Z had a good season on boards 2-4, only losing once.

Of players involved in 5 or more games, Joris, Jem and Roman were unbeaten all season, Jem posting 90%.

Juniors had quite a successful season, headed up by Anand of course but Tashika & Kenneth also did well in the firsts. 9 juniors played, 63 games split as +25 =19 -19 for a haul of 34½ points.

University players were well-represented. If we count Exeter man Cameron as a honorary Uni player, we had eight such players this season, 25 games, +13 =7 -5 for 16½ points. Two Uni players posted 100% scores: Justin & Rishit, albeit from only two / one games.

Drawmeisters were Graham (six) and Neil (five). David W was at the other end of that spectrum: when he lost a tricky B + 2 v oppB + N + 1 endgame in Round 11 he maintained his perfection in that regard. Will with five wins and five defeats to go with his one draw was the next-most cut-throat player.

Finally, five players were ever-present: Tashika, Will, Graham, Phil N, Steve; Jan & Dima each missed only one game.

4NCL 2022-23 Rounds 10-11: results

Oxford’s four teams recorded these results in the last two rounds of the final 4NCL weekend of 2022-23:

  • Oxford 1 beat The Rookies & SchachAttack 4½-3½;
  • Oxford 2 beat Barnet Knights B & MK Phoenix 2 4-2;
  • Oxford 3 lost 2½-3½ to Sussex Martlets 3 and 1-5 to Ashfield 2;
  • Oxford 4‘s 5-man team repeated Saturday’s 2½-2½ draw, this time with Cambridge University Y1, before a default penalty kicked in. We did not appear in Round 11.

Sunday saw Oxford 1 pull clear in 3rd place, one point ahead of Barbican and two up on fifth-placed SchachAttack, our Monday opponents. It became apparent that promotion would hang on not losing that match. 4-4 would be absolutely hunky-dory. Meanwhile Oxford 2 made sure of staying in Division 3, our eight match points being safe from teams mired on 5.

Monday saw Oxford 1 give your skip some palpitations. Having told the team “don’t lose 1-7, that will let SchachAttack pinch promotion if Barbican also lose“, he was alarmed to see us go 1-3 down by 2pm. Fortunately the next update was wins for Kenneth & Jon to make it 3-3 with Barbican also at 3-3, needing to win. Gulp. It was not until 16:15 that news filtered through that Hans had won and Tashika drawn, rendering the Barbican result academic. Hello again, Division 1, we’ve missed you. In fact with Alba losing to title-winners Barnet Knights A, Oxford 1 even overhauled them and finished proudly in second – a good outcome, considering that we lost both matches in Weekend One! (v Barnet & Barbican).

Hans adds “I was very concerned after a couple of hours as Will, Dima and Jan were all in difficulties but Kenneth and Jon (and of course Anand – he was very impressive all season!) played some great chess to win their games. It was actually rather pleasant for Tashika and me to try and win our endgames as we knew 4-4 would be enough to go up. I would have been a lot more nervous if this had been a must-win game!

Looking at the PGN it is clear that at 3-3 it was all over in reality, for both Hans and Tashika had no-lose positions and Tashika was confident enough in her position to decline a draw offer. In fact even at 1-3 we were not in any trouble at all, so skip need not have worried.

Oxford 2 and Oxford 3 both finished on ten points, mid-table respectability. Ashfield 2 took out some measure of revenge on Oxford 3 for their third team’s Saturday disaster against same oppo.

Top point-scorers over the weekend: Szymon 3/3, Anand 2½/3 (including being the “right side” of a 125-move draw!), Emil, Joris, Hans, skip (ahem), Jem, Justin all 2/2. Barry , Phil, Graham & Sean scored 2/3.

Now, top game? (part 2, because we’ve had part 1 on Saturday). Skip liked Hans‘s finish on Monday, Joris had a smooth French Winawer … err, win on Sunday in his last-ever (for now) outing for Oxford, and new Canadian recruit Justin again impressed, exploiting a sudden pin. Jem refuted his opponent’s enterprising … Ng3 sacrifice.

But top game goes to Oxford 4’s Richard who had an excellent attacking game in the style of the Danish / Goring Gambit. The bishops on c4 and b2 wreaked havoc in the vicinity of Black’s His Maj without moving from there, having arrived at move 10. Skip suspects it was regnal suicide to castle kingside at that point. Having won brilliantly, Richard then went home with the scoresheets!! (luxuriating in the game he’d just played, no doubt). Your skip had to grovel to the arbiters “but he won so spectacularly …” to reinstate his point.

4NCL 2022-23 Round 9: results

It was such a good Saturday that skip decided to make a separate post of it.

  • Oxford 1 beat Spirit of Atticus 7-1;
  • Oxford 2 whupped Shropshire 6-0;
  • Oxford 3 went even further, trouncing Ashfield 3 6 v -1 (default-related)
  • Oxford 4 were a board down on Saturday, drawing 2½-2½ over the board with SPTW Young Stars but losing via the board 6 loss/penalty.

If we add the results for the top three teams, that’s 19-1 over the board, 19-0 if you count Ashfield 3’s default penalty. Have we ever had such a good day? The net result was to move Oxford 1 closer to promotion, ending the day in a 3-way tie for 3rd place (three go up) while Oxford 2 pulled away from the relegation area.

There was plenty of choice (20* wins!) on offer for skip when it came to picking a “top game”. Honourable mentions for Joris & Roman, and Jem‘s snap finish, but Gary‘s spectacular defeat of David Levens’ Dragon takes the plaudits. Admire the way the White bishop and h-pawn combine to utterly demolish the Black kingside.

* (including the two Oxford 4 wins, but not including Shambavi’s win by default. Her opponent appeared on Sunday, so one wonders if he mistakenly went to Milton Keynes? Certainly it is known that half the Watford B team did exactly that and found themselves in the wrong place. Oops.)

Hidden Resource

Cyril’s pawn endgame of last Sunday has got a few of you (ok, one) thinking. Here is the PGN, with the important variations added for playthrough.

The critical position arose after White played a4 and we replied … h4, missing a fleeting chance. At this point the White king can no longer catch the Black pawns, for we can arrange to promote on h1 if necessary. The Black king is within spitting distance of a8, though.

Key Position

This means Black has a hidden winning option: … Ke5 headed for c7 / b7 stopping the pawns. We can afford to do this because White can’t do likewise.

But you may say “White can block our king”. He can, but how? Moving to c5 steps into the firing line of g1 and we promote first with check. Moving to b5 allows … Kd6 and again White is in a quandary. He must go to b6 if he wants to promote, and we switch to running the pawns scoring a promotion at g1 with check.

Would we have spotted this? Skip: no. He was distracted by being mildly annoyed our king was on f4, meaning h2xg3 was check and we couldn’t then go h4-h3 as we would like.

4NCL 2023-24: Announcement from HQ

Skip presents a lengthy email from 4NCL HQ that outlines the future direction for next season. It’s an “existential” problem.

Although venue contracts for 2023-2024 are still being finalised, we thought it was important to let you have as early an update as possible on how things are shaping up for the forthcoming 2023-2024 season – in particular so that you know before the final weekend of this season what we expect next season’s format to be.

To start with, a little context. As we have started to emerge from the worst of the pandemic, so the hotel industry has it seems decided pretty much ‘en masse’ that it’s a good idea not only to reflect current inflationary trends in their pricing but also to try to recoup losses incurred during Covid as fast as they can. As a result bedroom rates in general have rocketed and playing space at discounted rates is no longer on the table as an option in return for high bedroom occupation. Leisure and special interest groups generally are now it seems seen by the hotel industry as undesirable business compared with the higher-margin business they are presumably hoping to attract instead (although quite how hotels expect to fill their boots with, for example, wedding and conference business on a longer term basis once wedding backlogs are cleared and businesses decide to stay with Team/Zooms etc rather than having face-to-face meetings rather escapes us).

Anyway… we have, along with other chess organisations specifically and leisure/special interest groups generally, struggled to locate venues at acceptable venue hire and bedroom rates, and although it’s to Guaranteed Event’s credit that we have any venues at all, the difficulties are illustrated by the fact that only two venues have been willing to provide anything like competitive terms for more than a single weekend – and: (a) the terms on offer are still much less favourable than previously; (b) we have only been offered a limited number of weekends (on the basis that the hotels would rather hold out for higher margin business than take more of ours – see above).

This has had the following consequences:

  1. Charges for venue hire have increased significantly vs 2022-2023 (with the expectation on the part of hotels that significant numbers of bedrooms will still be booked regardless). Guaranteed Events will continue to absorb these as they have done in past seasons, but the hire charge increases have inevitably further eroded their margins (which were already fairly thin compared with, for example, their bridge holidays business).
  2. The net bedroom rates quoted to Guaranteed Events (the rates used as the basis for the bedroom block allocations that Guaranteed Events commit to and pay the hotels for) have increased by close to 30%  (with many other venues quoting net rate increases in excess of 50%). Had these increases been passed on in full to our chess players we would have been looking at gross bedroom rates of around £90. Guaranteed Events are willing to absorb a large part of the increase so as to keep the headline rate at £79, but again that means that their own margins have been reduced.
  3. As a result of 1 and 2 above Guaranteed Events are no longer in a position to give us commission on bedroom bookings.
  4. One of the hotels that has offered us terms has a maximum playing space of 510 sq m. As a result we are going to be limited as regards the number of teams we can cater for next season – in practice 24 teams in Divisions 1 and 2 and 40 teams in what we expect will be a single Division 3, so a total of 64 teams.
  5. The financial effect of 3 and 4 above amounts to around £16,000 lost revenue to the 4NCL (£11,000 lost bedroom commission and £5,000 lost entry fees). The only way to cover these losses is by increasing entry fees.
  6. In calculating the expected level of entry fees (expected to be in the region of £600-625 for Divs 1 and 2 and £450-475 for Div 3) we’ve applied the principle that all divisions should contribute equally to the league’s running costs. As usual, our costings are based on achieving break-even and not making any surplus. The cost per game works out at around £7 or so – so not dissimilar to the cost per game of a weekend congress, although we accept that that’s small consolation for entry fee increases of this scale.
  7. Dates and venues for next season are, subject contract, expected to be as follows:
Division 1 & 2VenueDivision 3Venue
3-5 NovemberMilton Keynes17-19 NovemberTelford
12-14 JanuaryWarwick5-7 JanuaryTelford
9-11 FebruaryTelford9-11 FebruaryWarwick
15-17 MarchTelford8-10 MarchWarwick
3-6 MayTelford3-6 MayWarwick

The allocation of divisions to venues is still provisional at this stage and may be reviewed.

  • Divisions 1 and 2 will continue as 12 team all-play-alls. Division 3 will be played as a Swiss, combining the present Divs 3 East and West and, we expect, 16 teams from the present Division 4 to make a total of 40 teams. Promotion and relegation arrangements as at the end of the present season will remain unchanged.
  • We envisage that invitations to play next season will be a staged process: (a) firstly, Div 1, Div 2, Div 3 East and Div 3 West teams (as adjusted for promotion/relegation arrangements as at the end of the season) will be given two or three weeks to enter; (b) the top 16 teams from Division 4 (again, adjusted for promotion/relegation as above), or as many teams are required above 16 to take account of any teams not renewing their entries from (a) above, will then be given a further two or three weeks to enter; (c) if any places remain unfilled they will be offered to teams on a first come first served basis.

We can only apologise for next season’s limit on team numbers and increased costs. We’ve taken the view that a smaller 4NCL costing more to enter is still a better thing than no 4NCL at all, and we hope that captains and players will take that view as well and continue to support the 4NCL – support that has been such an impressive feature of the league over the years. We hope that if we can survive these difficult times in reasonably good shape we will be in a decent position to expand again in the future (and reduce entry fees) as the economic position in the UK improves and the hotel industry takes a more realistic view of things.

Kind regards