It’s been a long time coming but the Oxford 1 season has started. Finally. AFTER rounds 3-6 were played. As a well-known GM put it after winning in the first round: “Great, I’ve started the season with a win. I wonder what the next rounds will bring!”.
Oxford 1 drew 4-4 with Alba and lost 2½-5½ to Grantham Sharks 2.
Our Saturday draw with Alba matched last season’s result exactly, but we flipped number of decisive results and draws: from 2 decisive and 6 draws in ’18-19 to 6 decisive and 2 draws. Ox1 debutant Dimitrios kicked off his first-team career with a win; his father David told me pre-game he’s gone up 122 FIDE in the last month, so he will have acquired a few more points with that win. That put us 1-0 up but three losses pegged us back to two down with two to play. Hans and Szymon both had favourable Q+P endgames and both converted to save the match.
Sunday’s match with Grantham 2 favoured us on paper, and Joris fancied our chances if we could “convert our top-5 board advantage”. It was not to be, for we lost those five boards by 3-2 and Grantham exploited their rating advantage on 6-8 to win those 2½-½ although I felt Dimitrios on board 8 might have turned over his opponent in the endgame. Unfortunately he went for a tactic that had a hole in it, and his 2100-rated opponent poked said hole open over the board. Matt had another great win on board 3 but we suffered elsewhere, most notably on Flip‘s board 5 where he looked like defending the honour of Fort Knox but ran into a very evil cross-pin in the run-up to move 40. Yuting looked like drawing for a long time and sadly went down at the beginning of the seventh hour with only one other game in play in the whole room. As last Ox1 player to finish, this was her second straight heroic effort for zero reward. Skip well knows that pain (his personal record is 6′ 55″ for a loss, losing that match in the process) and very much hopes her next game brings more joy for her and us.
The Div 2 Pool B table looks mighty odd now: FIVE teams are in the hunt for the Championship Pool on seven points or more. Only top-of-the-table Kings’ Head are assured of their spot. Grantham Sharks play Barnet Knights 1 next, so both we and Alba can secure our Championship Pool spot by winning in round 7. If that comes to pass the fourth spot goes to the winners of that Sharks/Knights match. Heck, normally eight points is enough to get there, seven is usually plenty, six rarely suffices, but this season nine will be necessary.