2018-19 Rounds 1+2 (Div 3s/4s): report

After the first team’s woes the previous weekend, Oxford’s lower teams enjoyed better success in the second half of the “split” weekend:

  • Oxford 2 beat Poisoned Pawns 1 4-2 and drew with Sussex Martlets 2 3-3;
  • Oxford 3 beat Wood Green Youth 4-2 before losing by 2½-3½ to Fischer’s Catch;
  • Oxford 4 lost narrowly to Throw In The Tal 2½-3½ and then scored 2½ in the Triangle against Wessex C & Barnet Knights 2.

We’ll start with Oxford 4. I wasn’t really expecting a repeat of last season’s round 1 where we lost 2½-3½ to the same oppo, but lo and behold, we managed it! Well done to Phil N and especially Tamal who scored convincing wins, and to Alan who scored a draw in a Q+P ending a pawn down – after earlier starting a game against someone different!

On Sunday, Oxford 4 were unexpectedly placed in a Triangle. Normally Triangles are two-day affairs, so I was as bemused as the rest of you as to why/how this came about. Enquiries to 4NCL top brass produced: “There was an odd number on Saturday. We knew Camberley Juniors could only do one day. Thus we had a one-day Triangle on Saturday. What threw us was Cambridge 3’s withdrawal after Saturday’s -3 v 6 reverse in that Triangle. We were therefore back to an odd number and had to choose three new teams for it”. Capisce?

Thus Neil, Phil N and Tony squared up against half of Barnet Knights 2, while Ross, Graham W and Tamal faced half of Wessex C. Ross’s win [much-admired by Neil next door, and skip was impressed] matched Tamal’s loss for 1½-1½ in the latter match, while Neil’s loss left us at 1-2 in the former.  That means Ox4 earned half a match point. Are you all keeping up? We haven’t got nul point but equally haven’t got a full win yet.

Ox3 scored the expected Saturday win over WG Youth; the next day that same oppo overturned Div 4 perennials Full Ponty so our win [secured by Nick & Uni bods Andrew & Tim F] now looks like a very decent result! On Sunday, Fischer’s Catch dominated us 3-0 on the top boards but were bashed on the lower boards, Tim F making it a 2/2 weekend on 4 and Graham C having a most enjoyable Evans Gambit on 6. The draw on board 5 was the ultimate difference. I didn’t see the latter stages but Tomasz reckons he blew a winning position. Skip can’t possibly give him flak for that, for the words “stones” & “greenhouses” would come to mind: see below.

Ox2 had a tremendous day on Saturday, despatching one of the potential favourites for promotion without losing on any board. I was especially pleased with Raj’s convincing win on board 6 in his first outing for us at that level. Jason was equally impressive on top board in his new “post-Healey” role there, he’s following the master well! Of the others, only skip disappointed: he enjoyed an excellent middlegame before bottling it in the run-up to the time control.

Sunday‘s Ox2 match v Sussex Martlets 2 was, on paper, much easier but we very nearly lost it. After James’s second draw of the weekend, Nigel and Tom lost with Black to leave us in trouble at ½-2½ and I thought Jason was in some doo-doo* [22.11 maybe not?- see edit] after his opp’s enterprising knight sac in a Winawer. Happily Eldar and skip on 5 & 6 had excellent positions – skip was in full “world-domination” mode – so we only needed Jason to hold. Or did we? In the run-up to the time control, skip made a complete pigs’ breakfast of his position and, incredibly, was losing at move 41. It didn’t help his mood much to look at Jason’s position on board 1 and see that he’d navigated the complications down to the right side of R+B+2 v R+1 {2/2 for the weekend!}. Eldar had by then made it 1½-2½. Skip knuckled down, was relieved his young opponent didn’t find the killer moves (perhaps ’twas difficult switching from “waiting-for-the-axe-to-fall” mentality to “winning” mentality?) and salvaged R+1 v R+B. Phew. We should have won. We should have lost. In the end, 3-3 seems fair. Nick, looking on the bright side: “hey, we’ll drop this 3-3 draw when we get into the Promotion Pool”. Skip looks on the black side: “hey, we’ll drop the PP1 4-2 win when we get into the Relegation Pool”. Unlike Division 1, it’s hard to say at this early stage which matches will be the “must-win” matches.

Still, Ox2 are in a good place, one off the 4/4 pace set by Iceni 2, the Welsh and Surbiton. Next up in January are CSC 1 and Iceni 2 – that will be a challenging weekend, CSC 1 were the highest-rated team in Div 3s Pool B last weekend but experienced two disasters this time out, while Iceni 2 are flying high with confidence despite being the lowest-rated team in the pool.

EDIT 22.11.2018 – Jason writes: “When you thought I was in (doo-doo) I was actually still in my home preparation and all those moves have been played before. It was my opponent who was feeling his way through uncharted waters (for him), which is why I was about ¾h up on the clock. The knight sac was enterprising but not unexpected. He had one chance later on to muddy the waters, which I had seen and had covered but he missed it completely. After that the game was effectively over. Skip awaits the full PGN!

2018-19 Rounds 1+2 (Div 1): report

Ox1 had a disastrous weekend, losing both matches to Wood Green 1 1-7 and North East England 3½-4½. Ouch!

Despite the setback, skip was pleased with our new-look team although he would rather like to see us field a completely different team in rounds 3 & 4!

Game of the weekend was undoubtedly Jon‘s fine win over IM Ravi Haria with the Black bits, averting the team whitewash in some style. Wood Green’s two GMs, one of whom is mighty familiar to us, put Oliver and Filip to the sword on boards 1 & 2: both our young players went very slightly wrong in the opening and didn’t get a second chance. If you play through Filip‘s loss (all games are online here) and wonder, like skip did, “why did he play 10. Nxd4 instead of a pawn recapture?”, listen to the explanation he got from GM Justin: “9. Qe2 was an error, he can’t recapture with a pawn because of 10. … b5 and 11. … Q(x)c3+. 10. Nxd4 covers 10. … b5. Perhaps he could play 10. 0-0 instead and sac a pawn or two”. Filip of course realised all this too late and was on the back foot thereafter. Curiously, he offloaded his g2 pawn on both days in almost exactly the same manner with the Black bishop dashing back to e4 and g6 both times. Must be a Filip thing.

On Sunday, the match against NE England was a nail-biter. We went 1-0 down quickly (Francesca’s Sicilian hacked by h4-h5), recovered to lead 3-2 with wins from Szymon & Joris [who admitted to being a tad fortunate that his opp missed a Bxh7+ tactic after 21. … Ne7 when “it’s the same as the game, minus the h7 pawn”]. After Matt drew on top board – it’s a while since he was last there – we needed to avoid defeat on boards 3 and 6 and both looked dodgy. Oliver‘s will-to-win attitude almost cost him the point as he turned down a perpetual and found his attack rebuffed. Fortunately Black didn’t find the right moves and took a perpetual himself in the final position. That left Dugg‘s game on 6, a real roller-coaster of a game if you switch on the evaluation functions. I am not going to comment further on that one – I’m just glad Dugg was there, playing both days and he surely must have been exhausted after playing 12+ hours in total. And then driving back to Middlesborough.  Even Fabi & Magnus didn’t match that in their first two games! I owe him a beer.