2018-19 Rounds 9-11 report

In the final three rounds of the season, Oxford scored these results:

  • Oxford 1 lost 1½-6 to 3Cs 1 & 2-6 to Grantham Sharks 1 before turning over demotion pool leaders Wood Green Monarchs 5½-2½;
  • Oxford 2 lost 2½-3½ & 2-4 to Check InnMates 1 & Fermented Sharks, those losses sandwiching a 4½-1½ win over Iceni 1;
  • Oxford 3 lost 2½-3½ to Ashfield 1, then boosted their goal difference (crucially!) by hammering Poisoned Pawns Next Generation 5½- ½ and West Is Best 3 4½-1½;
  • Oxford 4 were beefed up by the strength of the higher teams on Sat + Sun and enjoyed a 5-1 win over Iceni 3 & 4½-1½ over Banbury Bulldogs, before going down 1-5 to a strong Milton Keynes Phoenix 2 side.

The headline news: Oxford 1 are relegated from Division 1, ending one point behind the Celtic Tigers team that we had duffed up in Round 8 at the end. We are fifth and skip always says: if going down, always go down in fifth if possible, just in case (for example, Manx Liberty’s cash might run out causing their withdrawal?). On the upside, Oxford 3 took advantage of two HUGE slices of luck (see below) to finish in third place in Division 4s and gain promotion to Division 3s.

Let’s start with the really-good news, and Oxford 3. Yes, we lost on Saturday to Ashfield 1, who finished second behind Div 4s champions Crowthorne 1. But this loss meant we avoided said Crowthorne 1 on Sunday and we took full advantage by wiping out the highly-promising juniors of Poisoned Pawns NG. Skip noted Sean defeated their star player Abigail Weersing. That young girl has had an excellent season for them and skip was impressed with her controlled win in Round 8.

That win put us joint-fourth with Fischer’s Catch going into Monday and skip was sure Round 11 would pit Ox3 against CRO 1. No, skip was wrong: the problem, he reckons, was finding oppo for West Is Best 3 who were on 12 and had already played everyone else in the top five bar Oxford 3 & Celtic Tigers 2, the latter being needed as oppo for Wessex B. Stroke of luck #1: Ox3 met WiB3 in Round 11 instead of CRO 1. Stroke of luck #2: like Oxford, WiB are a four-team squad. They had been unable to fill all four teams for the final weekend. Thus WiB3 were a mix of WiB3 and WiB4, making them weaker than normal. We took advantage of the fact, put out the best side we could legally muster, and got exactly the minimum result needed to pinch third spot from Wessex B on board-count arising from our round 5 3-3 draw. Congratulations to everyone who was involved in Ox3 this season; particularly to Phil N, who (skip is told) went unbeaten in his 10 games split between Ox3 and Ox4 and scored the maximum 3/3 in the final weekend.

Then the bad news: Oxford 1 wangled the win we needed on Monday against Wood Green Monarchs, wiping out their bottom 4 boards even though disaster-prone skip was in the middle of those 4 boards. But we’d left it too late to avoid the drop, for Celtic Tigers 1 scored the two wins and a draw that they needed to finish ahead of us on 8 points. Skip felt CEL 1 got lucky on the Sunday when the last two boards 5 & 8 in CEL v ALB, with CEL 1 up, appeared to be in Alba’s favour. Neither of the Alba players converted their positions and CEL nicked the match by the minimum margin: had Alba done the business on both boards, we’d now be talking about Ox1 staying up miraculously. Ho hum. To be fair to the Alba players involved, neither position was trivial and skip knows he’d have blown the board 8 position in similar manner to the Alba lady. Both players were playing on the increment at that point.

Oxford 2‘s promotion chances vanished on the Saturday with a narrow loss to Check InnMates 1, so from that point on we were simply seeing out the season. It’s a tough ask to get out of Division 3s via the upper trap-door with only two sides being promoted, the other two coming from Division 3n. Skip was pleased that our two juniors Arya & Nakul, having both lost on Saturday, got onto the scoreboard on Sunday with a win and a draw.

Oxford 4 became a victim of their own Round 9+10 success on Monday, running into a strong team rated nearly 300 points higher per board and being rather wiped out – well done to Richard for averting the whitewash. Pre-weekend, skip had exhorted his Ox4 troops thus: “if you score five game-points, you’ll improve on Ox4’s debut season in 2017-18 and Ox3’s result in 2016-17” [we were three teams in ’16-17]. Skip is surprised that you listened! Five game-points on Saturday comfortably set a new Ox4 record for both match points and game points, and a further match win on Sunday [Graham C making it 2/2 for his weekend] boosted that team record. It will be a new challenge to break ten match points & 31 game points in 2019-20!

Finally … some brief stats.

  • Ever-presents were Eldar, Jason, Nigel and Oliver, with Nick, Graham C, Jon, Tamal, Phil N and Sean doing ten of the eleven rounds. James, Hans, Filip, Tomasz and Misha played eight games. Thanks to all fifteen of you chaps – makes skip’s job easier with so many reliable people to call upon.
  • Number of players to play at least one game for us? 58. Yep, fifty-eight. If you all were to play all eleven rounds, we could field … let skip calculate … ah yes, nine teams. No, skip says four is plenty enough!
  • Number of female players to play at least one game: five [Francesca, Tena, Zoe, Aga, Liza]. I’d like you all to play more often, ladies!

One last stat: Tomasz may have set a new team record, participating in each of Ox2, Ox3 and Ox4 this weekend. Has anyone else done one game in three different teams for us before? I can’t recall anyone ever having done so in the three-team days pre-2017.

2018-19 Rounds 7+8 (Div 3s, 4s): report

Oxford scored these results in the second half of the 4NCL (split) weekend:

  • Ox2 lost both matches by the same score, 2½-3 ½ to The Rookies and Kings Head;
  • Ox3 drew 3-3 with Throw In The Tal and beat Shropshire 2 by 3 ½-2 ½;
  • Ox4, like Ox2, lost both matches: 1 ½-4 ½ to Ashfield 2 and 2 ½-3 ½ to West Is Best 4.

The results leave Ox2 placed 5th in the Div 3s Championship Pool, a ridiculously tight affair. We’re two points off the lead shared by Check InnMates 1 (our next oppo) and Kings Head (our last oppo). As in Division One, I predict that eight points [ie: 4/6 in rounds 9-11] will be enough for promotion. Curiously, no match between Championship Pool teams have ended wider than 4-2.

Ox3 are joint-third in Division 4s but have yet to play both first- and second-placed teams Crowthorne 1, Ashfield 1. Skip’s crystal ball forecasts Ashfield 1 as our next opponents in Round Nine. The Saturday draw was our third straight 3-3 result, appropriately enough confirmed with a successful 3-fold repetition claim in the last game to finish.

Kudos are due to Sean and debutant Stuart for their 2/2 weekends achieved in wildly contrasting fashions. We need to watch out for Sean’s “Caro-Kann Attack” (his words!) from Sunday in the PGN file. As a dedicated Caro-Kanner himself, skip definitely needs to watch for it. Who plays 27. … 0-0 with a mate threat in the Caro-Kann? Kev, on his return to 4NCL action, scored 1 ½/2.

Other games to watch out for in the PGN: Panicker 0-1 Goodwin from Ox3 on Saturday, a wild game where White had a lot of pawns for a piece at one stage but Black mated him before they could count; Ralphs 0-1 Graham [RHY v SSX, not an Oxford game but skip wandered by and noticed Graham’s kingside had vanished early doors]; and another non-Oxford game, Weersing (A) 1-0 Ingram, a thirteen-year-old duffing up an eighty-year-old. I kept popping back to that one and was impressed by White’s control. She has an excellent score for the season in Poisoned Pawns Next Generation who are also joint-third in Division 4s, so this is a heads-up for Ox3 mid-board players!

2018-19 Rounds 7+8 (Div 1): report

Oxford 1 were our only team in action last weekend (16-17 March). We lost 3-4½ to Barbican 1 in Round 7, then beat Celtic Tigers 1 4½-3½ in Round 8, the first of the four Relegation Pool rounds.

The much-needed win over Celtic Tigers 1 puts us in an unexpected second place in the Division One Relegation Pool on 5 – leaders Wood Green Monarchs have six. However the Pool is very dog-eat-dog and the bottom team have three points, so there is nothing we can take for granted. Rounds 9-11 will be tough. Skip says “8 points is always enough, 7 might be enough” so three match points in May will do it.

Although the match against Barbican 1 was a dead rubber, we almost nicked the points: after Calin‘s solid draw with GM Turner, we reached the time control slightly behind at 2-2½ with three to play [Barbican had defaulted board 8, so took a -½ penalty]. I had hopes that both David Z and Oliver would draw, and that Jon would find a way to beat Peter Sowray in a very blocked position. Fortunately for us, it went differently: Oliver wangled his draw but David lost and Jon’s game ended in a bizarre perpetual.

Why do I say “Fortunately”? Because, if we’d beaten Barbican 1, we’d have run into Grantham Sharks 1 in Round 8 instead of Celtic Tigers 1. The latter have put out strong teams in past rounds but were missing the Cornettes this time. Translation: Round 8 was a very good time to meet them. Joris had this worked out on Saturday evening and felt mighty confident of our chances. He led the way with an emphatic drubbing of the oppo skip, scoring a mate in a middlegame/ending.

Francesca was equally emphatic: her opponent found his rook stranded after it grabbed a hot pawn on g2, and he was soon a whole rook down. Francesca later found time to finish with a rook sacrifice for mate. Skip considers this her third-best ever game for Oxford 4NCL; to be fair, Matta 1-0 Lees in 2016-17 and GM Flear ½-½ Matta in 2014-15(?) will take some beating. After draws for Jon, Hans & skip on 5, 6 and 7, Calin wrapped up the match with a smooth win on top board.

It was mildly satisfying to beat the Tigers, for they wanted to remind us of the earlier Tigers v Oxford meeting in Division 4s this season:

Humph. Still, skip did manage to avoid his opponent’s deadly John Smiths Gambit. This had occurred in Arkell v Evans on Saturday:

And, hey, did we get a compliment off them post-match? Apparently we are “Division One giants”, begor?!

2018-19 Rounds 5+6 report

Oxford scored these results at the February 2019 4NCL:

  • Oxford 1 lost 1-5 to White Rose 1 but then beat West Is Best 1 4½-3½;
  • Oxford 2 won both matches: 4-2 v Rhyfelwyr Essyllwg and
    3½-2½ v Surbiton 1;
  • Oxford 3 scored two 3-3 draws v Wessex B and Milton Keynes Phoenix 2;
  • Oxford 4 scored two wins: 5½-½ v Barnet Knights 3 and 3½-2½ v Shropshire 3.

Start at the top. Ox1‘s chances of overturning White Rose 1 were dealt a harsh blow before the start when British Rail not-so-kindly cancelled Calin & Chris’s train from Edinburgh. Grr. We therefore started -2 v 2 down, despite best efforts to get our chaps there. If we exclude those boards, the remaining six players scored a 3-3 match draw – and it could have been better, for our debutant Tena had the misfortune to lose on time in a great position.

On Sunday, we scored the must-win win that we needed against West Is Best 1 with Calin and Chris impressing greatly on boards 1 & 3. Sandwiched between them, Will made it a 1½/2 weekend as the top three boards scored 3-0. Hans & Misha also had 1½/2 weekends, Misha pushing very hard indeed for 2/2 before conceding a draw.

Ox2 charged into the Division 3s Promotion Pool with important wins over 1st & 3rd in Pool B. Both of those wins will carry forward and the only question now is: do we carry forward the loss v CSC1 or the win over Poisoned Pawns 1? Arya & Nigel were our key performers scoring 2/2. Round Seven is a dead rubber against The Rookies, which will make no difference at all to anyone and we wait to see who we are up against in Round 8. The other Pool looks mighty close.

Ox3 kept their season ticking over with draws against likely promotion candidates. Nick was to the fore with 2/2, on Sunday turning down draws in a worse position to end up saving the match. New man Rafal scored 1½/2 as our thirds end the weekend just off the pace in sixth spot. Next up are likely to be fifth-placed West Is Best 3.

Ox4 enjoyed a tremendous weekend, firstly despatching the juniors of Barnet emphatically on Saturday before overturning the higher-rated Shropshire 3. OxUni’s George scored 2/2, he’s on 3/3 for us now and I’m sure he can extend his winning run in April!

2018-19 Rounds 3+4 report

Oxford scored these results in the 4NCL just completed (12-13 January):

  • Oxford 1 were hammered by Guildford 1 ½-7½ and drew 4-4 with Alba;
  • Oxford 2 lost 2½-3½ to CSC 1 and beat Iceni 2 3½-2½;
  • Oxford 3 won both matches, 4-2 v Rook’n’Roll and 3½-2½ v Ashfield 2;
  • Oxford 4 lost 2½-3½ to Wessex C, beat Barnet Knights 2 4½-1½ and lost -2-6 to Celtic Knights 2.

Start at the bottom: yes, that’s three results for Oxford 4, it’s not a typo! Oxford 4 had a half-Triangle in Round Two and, given Div 4s had an odd number of teams on the Saturday, the arbiters decided to simply complete that half-Triangle. We carried forward 1-2 v Wessex C and drew 1½-1½ on the day, losing the match overall; while we carried forward 1½-1½ v Barnet Knights 2 and Phil N, Alan and Hugo all won (3-0!) to make the overall score 4½-1½. On the Sunday we had a disaster when skip, quietly watching a Div 1 game at Daventry, was surprised to see Richard and Tony. “Oh ****” he thought. Wrong venue, chaps! Thus we started four down (-2 v 2) and lost the other four games. Ho hum.

Oxford 3 had a terrific weekend, scoring +3 =9 -0 in total – well done, everybody! Especially Cyril on board 2 Sunday, who was roped into emergency action at around 9pm on Saturday evening and (from what skip hears) was on the “right” side of a draw to wrap up our Sunday match. Phil N completed a 2/2 weekend being the half-point difference on Sunday, while Tomasz and OxUni debutant Jacob were Saturday’s winners. Skip admits to a double-take on Saturday when he saw Jacob, thinking he was Andrew Rogozinski in disguise! Note to self: try to park them on adjacent boards ASAP for maximum opp confusion :).

Moving up, Oxford 2 had a tricky weekend and finished it in second place (on goal-difference) in the division – well-placed for now, but the next weekend will be the big one as we play the teams in first and third. Fourth-to-sixth are only one match point behind. Skip hasn’t seen any of the games and the PGN is not yet online, but he can say that Szymon did well with 1½/2 being held in Q+3 v Q+1 on the Sunday (must have been a perpetual of some sort). James was also well to the fore with 1½/2 while Jason held the wrong side of R+a+h v R+a to gain overall victory on the Sunday.

Finally, Oxford 1 had their annual drubbing by Guildford 1 on Saturday. For the second Saturday match running, Jon was the man to save us from the whitewash – other team members liked his position and thought he might have made the score 1-7 instead of ½-7½. Always difficult to do that when Mark Hebden is sitting opposite you, as skip well knows! Matt on 3 might well have scored something against Gawain Jones: the Guildford skip is currently panning his board 3 on Facebook for his Sunday game against Daniel Fernandez (“-128.35 at one point”), and I expect to see more of the same soon for his Saturday game! Similarly JP LeRoux is likely to get flak, for skip wrote off Oliver at many stages of his game against the GM but he kept a small flame flickering for a long long time and was last to finish at c. 20:15, more than six hours in. Skip felt for him when he blundered right at the end with the draw in sight while playing on increments.

Tom grumbled at dinner that he’d “taken Black in his last four meetings with Guildford 1”. He enumerated them all to skip: Jones, Edouard, some other GM skip can’t remember and now Sadler. Pure coincidence, probably because skip didn’t want to waste Tom’s White magic on a top GM!

Jon extended his current excellent Ox1 run with a draw against IM McKay on Sunday – 2/3 for the season, (unofficial) TPR 2513. He’s played the requisite number of IM+ players so is well on track for an IM norm if he wants to pursue one. He just needs to play nine games in total, score well and play a couple more FM+ in the process.

Almost everyone else drew, though that was not for the want of trying: Misha scored an early comfortable 3-fold draw against FM Gourlay on 3; Tom put pieces en-prise almost at will but ended up salvaging a draw in the ending; Oliver looked worse in the early middlegame but swung the game his way before everything was abruptly hoovered; debutant Aga was a pawn up before going into a promising-looking opposite-B endgame that turned out to be drawn. It was not until after the Sunday time control that we scored our only win of the weekend, Filip eventually converting a great position (doubled rooks on the 8th at move 25!). There was a minor scare, skip thinks, when White played 47. Bxa4 nabbing a pawn back but Filip calmly worked out the pawn endgame resulting before playing 47. … bxa4. It appears to skip that pretty much anything was a winner from there: he liked 48. … g5 giving White his other pawn back, but what Filip played was more than adequate.

[note: skip was watching Ox1 games without benefit of computer evaluations, he hates being told what the machine thinks. If he’s way off the mark with his assessments for Ox1, that’s because he’s hopeless at chess rather than anything sinister. It gives him more enjoyment when watching games such as Maroroa 0-1 Lauterbach from White Rose 1 v Barbican 1, an entertaining game that looked great for White at the outset but swung violently Black’s way later on.]

[All Div 1 games are online at the 4NCL website, www.4ncl.co.uk, head to “PGNs & Replays”. Other divisions will be online in due course.].