4NCL 2013/14 Weekend 4 – Division 3
Daventry is famous for the broadcasting station set up by the BBC in the 1930’s as the original base of the World Service. The radio announcement “Daventry calling” made the location one of the best known place names in Britain, for those living abroad at least.
This weekend it was the 4NCL calling all the teams from Division 3 North and South together for rounds 7 & 8. For the Yorkshire teams it was a first visit to the Daventry Court, which is conveniently located and very pleasant, even if it lacks the wow factor of some of the Northern League venues.
The main playing area is not quite large enough to accommodate all the matches and with the side rooms being used for the remainder, analysis was carried out in the bar. This meant that the whole of the hotel foyer and bar area was permanently taken over by chess activity and the only surprise was that the big screen was showing the ICC T20 Cricket rather than the ICC live commentary on the Candidates tournament currently in progress in Khanty-Mansiysk.
In round 7 Bradford DCA B (7pts/12) faced Oxford 2, Jorvik (6pts) were playing e2e4.org.uk 4 while Bradford DCA C (2pts) were paired against Sussex Smart Survivors 2.
Bradford B’s confidence was given a boost when Roger Jennings went an exchange and a pawn up quite early on against Robin Nandi. Although extensive rook manoeuvres were then necessary to convert the advantage, the result was never really in doubt.
Unfortunately on board six Dave Patrick lost an exchange to Sean Terry and he was faced with a protracted defence which ultimately proved fruitless.
All the other games looked too close to call for a long time until on board 4, Hendrik Brackmann managed to establish a very strong central majority which he proceeded to advance. Jim Nicholson tried to escape via threats of perpetual check but had to give up all kinds of material along the way and once the checks ran out he was forced to throw in the towel.Richard Allis has been in fine form and promoted to top board he managed to get a small edge in an exchange French, thanks to control of the semi-open e-file. It wasn’t clear how he would make further progress until his opponent Matthew Ludbrook decided to transfer his major pieces to try to exploit open files on the queenside, and Richard found a way to pick off material and generate a decisive attack on the king.
Eric Gardiner’s position had appeared to be slightly tricky with his opponent Nick Burrows enjoying a space advantage. But things never got out of hand and near the time control Nick probably went wrong by pushing ahead too far on the queenside, losing a pawn. The position resolved to a queen and pawn ending which Eric converted very impressively.
This left Bradford 3-2 up with Tony Slinger still in action on board 5 against Philip Neatherway. His position had always looked quite promising with advanced outposts for his pieces on the queenside out of a Queen’s gambit accepted. He also had the advantage of the 2 bishops which he decided to cash in to create two weak pawns. Once one these had fallen Tony was left with a passed d pawn which was enough for a winning advantage and was duly converted after careful manoeuvres.
At the business end of Jorvik’s match with e2e4 the scores were even with Richard Mounce’s win on board one for Jorvik cancelled out by Arne Eilers on board 4, while both Paul Anderson and Norman Andrews had secured draws for Jorvik on 5 & 6.
This left both Richard Cowan and Anastasios Nezis pushing for wins to secure a match victory and both had seemed to have promising positions. Richard in particular had been advancing central passed pawns but it was very difficult to see how best to proceed, with the time control looming and his king far from safe against counter attacks. In the end both games were drawn and the match finished 3-3.
Bradford C faced Sussex Smart Survivors B, a team mainly comprised of very promising juniors. As were again one man down on Saturday, we couldn’t afford any mistakes.
I was first to finish after my opponent William Graham went wrong defending a gambit line in a French Tarrasch. His king got stuck in the centre and he never got fully developed, giving me every opportunity to find some decisive tactical shots.
Dave Grobler and his opponent Timothy Woods then agreed a draw in a level position although in the post mortem we found that Dave could probably have grabbed what appeared to be a hot pawn just before that with a clear advantage due to back rank tactics stalling Timothy’s counterplay.
At this point I was a little concerned about our prospects as the other three games were all in the balance. Nick Mahoney had given the Ponziani another 4NCL outing and like last time all looked well until his opponent got safely castled. His advanced e pawn was then lost and he entered a rook and pawn ending a pawn down.
His opponent Nikolai Hinterreither came up with an extremely creative plan, sacrificing his rook just for a few tempi to try to promote his passed h pawn. Happily for us this didn’t quite work and Nick was able to get his rook back into play just in time to force a draw. Subsequent analysis suggests that young Nikolai’s scheme was unnecessary as there were better ways to exploit his material advantage but it was great to see such an enterprising effort from a youngster.
Both the other games also finished in difficult endings. Chris Bak managed to convert the smallest of edges from a Grand Prix attack into a bishop and pawn ending where one of his opponent’s pawns was isolated and slightly weak. When the bishops came off Chris’s king was better placed and this proved decisive although even right at the end both players (and this spectator) missed instructive details in the resulting king and pawn ending:
50. Kg5 looks natural and was played, but this could have failed after 50. Kf2, 51 g4 h4!, after which the black h pawn is sufficiently far advanced to hold the draw. Instead, 50. h4! was the right way to force the win.
All this meant that a draw for Robert Dean would seal the match for us. As he was playing an ending with 4 pawns against a rook, the outcome seemed quite unclear for the next hour or so. In fact it appears that a draw was the correct result all along, and so it ended. Taking the default into account the final score was 3-2.5 to Bradford C.
With quite a few games running late into Saturday evening we were pleased with the decision taken earlier to opt for the buffet supper arranged by the hotel. This was served in the bar area because the main restaurant was fully taken up by a black tie dinner. Who knows what the diners made of the jumble of chess players eating, drinking and analysing all around as they strolled up the red carpet to the restaurant? All in all the arrangements were very convenient and reasonably priced. On a previous weekend I’ve noted that quality came before quantity in our dining experience, here the “all you can eat” concept had the opposite emphasis and seemed to be well received by most.
In round 8 Bradford DCA B (9pts/14) were drawn against Sussex Smart Survivors 1, Jorvik (7pts) faced were playing Cambridge University 3 while Bradford DCA C (4pts) were paired against “Throw in the Tal.”
With Damian McCarthy kindly making a day trip to reinforce us Bradford had enough players for both teams. Damian came in on board 5 for Bradford B, with Dave Patrick joining the C team.
From the word go The B team knew they were in for a tough match with Leeds University student David Grant, who also plays for Bradford in the Woodhouse Cup, “only” on board 3 for Sussex. It was David who got Sussex off to a fast start, putting maximum pressure on Roger Jennings’ Pirc with an Austrian Attack set up. Roger was already in serious trouble when the game finished abruptly with a smothered mate.
On top board Richard Allis seemed to get a decent position out of the opening but Zhou Ren Lim obtained the 2 bishops and control of the d file and this was sufficient to create some problems. He temporarily gave up an exchange to win a pawn and open up the king. Although Richard avoided the worst by immediately returning the exchange the extra pawn would eventually prove decisive.
On 2 Eric seemed to be comfortable and there seemed to be some prospects of making something of the queenside pawn majority which arose from his Trompovsky. As more pieces were exchanged the opportunities for making progress diminished and a draw was agreed.
Likewise on 4 Jim had a small space advantage on the queenside and a hint of a good knight versus a bad bishop, but the only open file was firmly under Rhys Cumming’s control and a draw was all that could be expected.
Damian’s position at first seemed to offer more scope with the major pieces exerting pressure on an open f-file. Once rooks were exchanged things didn’t look so good, with a knight rather out of play on a6. It seems that his opponent Anthony Higgs was probably slightly better when a draw was agreed.
This left Tony Slinger playing on with the match already lost but he managed his second win of the weekend by carefully nurturing a small advantage into the endgame after winning 2 pieces for a rook.
Jorvik faced tough opposition on Sunday in the form of Cambridge University 3 and had a good start when Norman Andrews took the full point by organising a strong attack on Elizabeth Ivanov’s king which was castled queenside, then calmly fending off kingside counterplay before delivering mate.
On board 4 Martina Flint’s king took an early stroll to c2, which seemed odd to my untrained eye but my engine remains more than happy with her position well into the middle game. Almost inevitably things got very messy in the middle game however and Mark Lim won found some wining tactics as the time control approached.
On 2 Anastasios had thrown the kitchen sink at Mark Campbell’s Najdorf after a lengthy theoretical sequence which I suspect finished somewhere around move 20. This one will bear further analysis but my impression was that there must have been something better out there before white ran out of material with which to create new threats.
Richard Mounce was an exchange down after taking a tempting pawn on g2 in the early middle game and always looked to be in trouble after that, while Richard Cowan reached an interesting minor piece and pawns endgame against Christopher Kreuzer with competing pawn majorities on opposite sides of the board. In the end Richard’s remaining extra pawn wasn’t enough to force a win.
Finally Paul Anderson secured another draw when Greg Breed opted to repeat the position after a tough struggle. Final score: 4-2 to Cambridge University 3.
Meanwhile back in the side room, Bradford C were huge favourites on paper against “Throw in the Tal.” I like a good pun as much as the next man so I was keen to learn how this team got their name. It turns out that they are a group of players from the local Coventry league, and none of them have ever been to Latvia. They are a cheerful bunch and my opponent John McCann ruefully admitted regretting his captain’s choice of team name after writing it in abbreviated form at the top of his score-sheet in round 1.
Nevertheless team T.i.t.T. put up a great showing and very nearly turned us over.
I was again first to finish, but this time for all the wrong reasons as my automatic Blitz response to the King’s gambit was found very much wanting in this more serious arena. I had just about enough play for a pawn deficit to justify an early draw offer and I was very happy when it was accepted.
The good news was that Dave Grobler was already a clear pawn to the good on board six and though he was made to work hard, that point was in the bag.
On the flip side, on board 2 Dave had lost an exchange for not too much and only Robert of the others seemed to have any discernible edge.
Nick Mahoney then agreed a draw, rightly fearing that the complicated alternatives could have easily worked out in his opponents favour. Dave Patrick then managed to generate enough play to persuade Ed Goodwin that he couldn’t do any better than a draw.
The critical game was on board 4 where Robert had been pressing out of the opening and had generated threats on the queenside, where John Harris had manually castled. Perhaps John though his position was worse that it was, or perhaps he miscalculated, but he then a launched a huge sacrificial attack on Robert’s king, which happily for us was simply never working.
This was a big relief because Chris Bak’s position was still difficult. Joshua Pink continued to press but an extra pawn was not enough to win the rook and pawn ending and the draw meant the score was 4- 2 to Bradford C. With 6 pts in the bag we might have done enough to earn promotion to the main playing hall for the final weekend.
Although none of are really in position to push for the real promotion, to Division 2, we are all looking forward to returning to Daventry Court to face the judgement of the last three rounds in May.
Report by Mike Bramson