Oxford 2&3 – Weekend 4

ROUND 7: Saturday 18 March 2006

And after the heady heights of Nottingham in January, it was soon time to return to the Park Inn, West Bromwich - the hotel chain which continues to defies all expectation by having something new not work for each weekend. Once, a door fell off its hinges; other times, the heating was uncontrolled. this weekend's speciality was the Bar, which was closed to cater for a regional meeting of Funeral Directors. Much and all as I like the north, and the pleasant accents of the staff, I'm looking forward to the rest that will be the change of venue in 2006-07… details of which can be found at: //www.4ncl.co.uk/hotel2006.htm

Oxford 2 (av. 2069)

Rd 7 Metropolitan (2072) WIN 4 ½ - 1 ½

Oxford 3 (av. 1833)

Rd 7 Guildford ADC5 (1923) LOSS 2 - 4

With Oxford 2 well in the hunt for promotion this year (top four teams go up), a strong-enough team started off breezily against Metropolitan, with only top board Aidan Rawlinson struggling... to make sense of his decision to encase his Bb7 in a specially constructed pawn bunker. An early draw by Ray Starkie on Board 2 aside, the other four boards were set fair: even Sean seemed to have got over the shock of having arrived early for his A&G pickup and seemingly justifying his inclusion in the "must-win" board 6 position.

Fogarasi (2174) - Bruce (2015)
White to play.

A minor setback on board 3 when Dave found himself a piece to the good after a speculative sacrifice. Play continued: 25.Rdh1 at which point it seems sensible to put a piece on h8 to prevent any promotion tactics, but which one? 25...Rh8? The King was needed here, after which White has nothing, and Black's counterattack starts to build with ...Qf5, etc. Dave was probably influenced by an earlier tactic which prevented the King going to h8. 26.Qg5 Nc6 27.R6h3 e5 28.Qh6+ Kf6 ½-½

A nervous draw, with Black still in the driving seat, but the route to victory isn't that clear-cut, and the road is speckled with speed traps.

By now, Graham Morris had completed an impressive technical grind on board 5, relentlessly chewing opposition pawns without offering a glimmer of counterplay or even time trouble, while Matt Ludbrook was completing a textbook conversion in a Closed / King's Indian Vs Pirc:

Ludbrook (2039) - Fegan (2065)
Black to play.

The sort of position that plagued my youth when featuring in the "How good is your chess" monthly feature. Although White's position is analogous to the closed Sicilian, his king has committed itself a bit early; by way of compensation he has control of the f-file.

13…0-0-0 14.Bh3 dxe5 overlooking White's principal threat. 15.Rxf7 ...nice. Nec6 16.Nf3 Bxh3 17.Qxh3+ Kb8 18.Ne1 b5 Black, though strategically busted still has some visual tactical stuff to try against the white king. Matt calmly deals with each sally… 19.Kb1 b4 20.Nd5 Ne2 21.Qe6 Ned4 22.Qf6 Rhg8 23.Nf3 b3 24.axb3 Qa6 25.Nxe5 Rc8 26.Ne7 Rgd8 27.Nxc8 Nb4 28.Qxa6 1-0

This left the team 3-1 to the good, which became a "match win" when Aidan blithely sacrificed his 'castled' bishop as follows

Noden (2209) - Rawlinson (2173)

30…Rc7? Actually it's debatable if this is really a blunder, as Fritz suggests that Black ditch the c6 pawn with ...Rf8. 31.Qd8+ Qxd8 32.Rxd8+ Kg7 33.Rxa8 Bxb4 at which point it's high time to walk out for some fresh air and leave the opponent some time trouble in which to find a saving continuation. 34.Bc2 ...and if this isn't the US Cavalry, I'm going tone deaf. 34.Ra6 Bxc5 35.Rxc6 clarifies the winning task. But now Black can rid imself of the c5 pawn,and his queen-side pawns are pretty good compensation. So. 34. ...Bxc5 35.Nb3 Ba7 ½-½ a decision that Fritz seems to endorse in some part.

One game remained, and with every point counting to promotion prospects, it seemed that Dave Bruce's gamble in selecting Sean for Board 6 had failed, since your correspondent was presiding over a sizeable plus wasting away to a palpably poor position. Rather than suffer death by grinding, White jettisoned the exchange but he'd picked up some positional dry rot as a pair of rooks pecked away at the position

Terry (2000) - Cooke (1880)

White looks completely busted, but in the age of Fritz (and the time of trouble) nothing is entirely certain.

36…Rhg2+ 37.Rxg2 Rxg2+ 38.Kh5 I thought this was forced, as a move to the f-file allowed the h-pawn to promote without interference. As it happens, Fritz thinks this is equal after 38.Kf4 since if 38…h5 39.c5 one of White's central pawn mass is threatening to get queened… 38…Rxa2 39.Kh6 Rb2 40.Kg7 40.Kxh7 Rxb3 41.Kg6 Rg3+ 42.Kh5 is too slow, and with White's king trapped and Black's a-pawn about to run, it's hard to think of a swindle. 40…Rg2+ 40…h5 41.f6+ Kd7 42.Ne6 Rg2+ 43.Kh6 Rf2 44.Kg6 is still ok for white; 40…Rxb3 41.f6+ Kd7 42.Ne6 Rf3 43.c5 which I thought was good for Black, is rated as winning for White! 41.Kxh7 Kf7 42.Kh6 Re2 43.c5 desperation - but Ne6 or Kg5 was better. 43…Kf6?? 44.Ne8+ Ke7 45.Nxd6 Re3 46.Kg5 Rg3+ 47.Kf4 Rxb3 48.e5 and White won

Meanwhile, upstairs the third team were going astray, having started the game with a player too many (Jeffrey Levicky having turned up), against a team that had one too few, our initial extra point was swamped by a team stronger to the tune of c. 100 points / board, and with games where none of the top four seemed to get a foothold in their positions for long enough to give their higher-graded opponents the opportunity to go astray. Larissa Cooke, playing on board 5 after Kevin Henbest swapped boards with her so as not to waste her day's travel, was an exception and before returning to Oxford put a gloss to the scoreline:

Mills (1705) - Cooke L (1550)

22.b4 Bf2 23.Nd4 Although White has succeeded in losing an exchange, he doesn't find the best way. 23.Bf7+ Kh8 24.Re2 Bxe2 25.Qxe2 Rxf7 26.Qxf2 Rff8 27.Nh4 restores material equality and keep White on top, thanks to the advanced e-pawn. 23…Rb6 and now White miscalculates the exchanges that follow, leaving Black well on top - an advantage that Larissa doesn't let slip. 24.Nxc6? Rxc6 25.b5 Bxb5 26.Rxb5 Bxe1 27.Qxe1 Rd8 28.Bh5 g5 29.Qe3 Rb6 30.Rxb6 axb6 31.h4 Ra8 32.Qd2 Ra5 33.Bf3 Qd6 34.hxg5 hxg5 35.e7 Qxe7 36.Bxd5+ Kg7 37.Be6 Rb5 38.Qe2 Rxf5 decent 39.Qc4 Re5 40.Bf5 Rxf5 encore 0-1

Chai (1955) - Hadi (1895)

afterthought : my comments on the top board performances by Oxford 3 were no doubt influenced by the plethora of Pelicans on boards 1 & 3 - something which usually has me reaching for my alarm clock. Fritz now finds that Justin's position provided a resource which Black didn't notice during the game. Play continued 23…fxe4 24.Nxd6 Bxd6 25.Qxd6 Qf5 26.Rf1 Rf6 and white's pawn structure won out at the end of the day. Instead 25. ...Qf7! eyes mate via f2 while spearing the rook on a2: after 26. Rf1 Qxa2; 27. Qxc6 Rxb2 the white position collapses.

ROUND 8: Sunday 19 March 2006

Oxford 2 (av. 2101)

Rd 8 Guildford ADC 4 (2117) DRAW 3 - 3

Most of us woke on Sunday to the sound of bat on ball, as England strove to make headway against India in the Third Test at Mumbai; some (traditionalist) others preferred to watch the affair develop on Ceefax rather than sprawl in the lobby in front of the TV. Breakfast showed (unusually) that Saturday night hadn't been unkind to the Oxford contingent. Only your correspondent seemed sheepish, having finally lost patience in the Chinese restaurant the night before: a one-hour hour wait, followed by another 40 minutes with no sign of a waiter-with-ordering-pad adds up to one thing nowadays to a medium-aged buffer: mini-strop followed by hasty exit. Breakfast was a pleasant affair, even with a long queue for the coffee machine.

(Seriously, though: what is this craze with the fancy coffee makers? - and what's wrong with a filter coffee maker or caffeine tureen? At Nottingham, I offered my Sunday opponent a cup of coffee after 6 hours, and trundled off to the counter. The first cup arrives in about a minute; the second cup is delayed while the machine goes into 'automatic self-cleaning cycle'. After eight minutes, I had to resign myself to a caffeine-free last session and rush back to the board after about 10 minutes..)

Oxford 2 were strengthened by the return of Ray Starkie, the arrival of Dave Hackett, and the relegation of Sean to the upper reaches of the thirds. Dave found himself up against Justin Horton on board 3, Justin playing his last game as a resident of London prior to his departure for Spain , and a draw was on the cards after the fourth move of an Exchange Ruy appeared on the board. Ten more moves elapsed while Justin wondered what carrot could induce a Chelsea fan this Sunday to agree an early draw (=, 14).

Another early draw on four saw Matt Ludbrook mumbling about cowardly play in the Exchange French, and it seemed that everybody had something better to do than play for a win this particular Sunday when a 40-move draw resulted from this highly-unbalanced position in Graham's game.

Morris (2025) - Stimpson (2135)
10…Nxa4 11.Qxa4+ Qd7 12.Qxd7+ Kxd7

But, after Ray had lost courtesy of an uncharacteristic tactical blunder in a difficult queen-less middle game, we needed something from either Aidan (white on 1) or Dave (black on 4), each of them playing their own brand of French Defence, which involves plenty of risk and no rest for the spectators.

I had with characteristic Sunday-morning gloom written off Aidan's position here as better for Black:

Rawlinson (2173) - Punnett (2173)
18.Bb4 Qb6 19.Bd6 Qa5 20.Qxa5 Nxa5

but Fritz airily takes White's side from here to the end of the game (drawn, 54).

This left the team relying on Captain Bruce to spin something from the Winawer web.

Dekker,Alain S (2116) - Bruce,Dave J (2015) [C18]

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.Qg4 Qc7 8.Qxg7 Rg8 9.Qxh7 cxd4 10.Kd1

The starting point for many of Dave's games; having picked up a concession with White's last move, Black has good chances providing he (a) weaves his way through the tactical morass; and (b) remembers and distinguishes between the various theoretical lines open to both sides.

10…dxc3 11.Nf3 Nbc6 12.Ng5 Rf8 A curious move, but Dave reasons that since … Nd8 is seen in GM play that this has to be worth a twirl. 13.f4? Qb6! 14.Bd3 This is a bit slow and thoughtless. Fritz recommends 14.Qh3 with the idea of Nh7-f6+, and sees White as +0.78, albeit that the position is simply double-edged. 14…Bd7 15.Qh5 0-0-0 and by now the position is technically equal. White has made no troubling advances with any king-side pawns (g4, h4) while his black squares are troublingly weak. 16.Nh7? (too late!) 16…Rh8 17.Qf3 Nf5 18.Ng5

18…Rxh2! 19.Rxh2 Qg1+ 20.Qf1 if 20.Ke2 Ncd4#! 20…Qxh2 21.Bxf5 exf5 22.Nxf7? Qh5+ 23.Qf3 Qxf7 This will do, but 23…Qh1+ 24.Ke2 Nd4+ was more emphatic. 24.Qxc3 Qh5+ 0-1

Oxford 3 (av. 1911)

Rd 8 Halesowen (1890) WIN 4 ½ - 1 ½

Meanwhile, upstairs and considerably closer to the cricket coverage, City 3 - playing against one of the lowest performing sides of the Division - were looking decidedly ropey after the first half-hour. On top board, Sean was being attacked in a King's Gambit Muzio - a little strange, given he was shepherding the White pieces at the time, while next door Jon Smith was barely awake when this happened: (1.e4 c5 2.b4 cxb4 3.a3 d5 4.exd5 Qxd5 5.Nf3 e5 6.axb4 Bxb4 7.Na3 Nc6 8.Nb5)

Cooper (2065) - Smith (1935)
8…Ba5?? 9.Rxa5 1-0

With a killer check to follow on c7 - or d6 if Black plays an intermediate .Qe4+. Given these setbacks on the top boards, the gloom was palpable - and other positions worsened accordingly. Fortunately, Philip Bull wasn't paying any attention to the nearby disasters and rolled out this brevity on board 3:

Bull,Philip (1865) - Ambrose,Andy (1920) [A03] 19.03.2006

1.d4 Nf6 2.e3 g6 3.Bd3 Bg7 4.f4 d5 5.Nf3 c5 6.c3 Bg4 7.Nbd2 cxd4 8.exd4 Nc6 9.0-0 Qc7 10.Qb3 0-0 11.Ne5

Philip clearly likes this opening set up, having entertained readers of Disinformator 34 with his adventures in an earlier round of 4NCL (Bull-Dixon), which ended in a dubious draw in about 40 moves. Here though he's got a better grip on the centre, and accordingly a clearer basis for hacking his way through to the black king.

11…Rad8 12.Ndf3 Bxf3 13.Rxf3 e6 14.Qc2 Unless my eyes deceive me here (and this prepares a queen-side push), here's a far sighted hacker's move preparing the sacrifice on g6 after a bit of weakening (… h6 or … f6) 14…Nd7 15.Be3 Ndxe5 15…f6 is probably preferable: although it allows aforementioned hack, Black does have a defence available. Now Black's king side gets further weakened after... 16.fxe5 f6 17.exf6 Rxf6 18.Rh3 Rdf8

19.Bg5 R6f7 20.Bxg6 attaboy… 20…hxg6 21.Qxg6 Now Fritz reckons that (say) 21…Rb8 with the sample follow-up 22.Re1 e5 23.Qh7+ Kf8 24.Bh6 Bxh6 25.Qxh6+ Ke7 26.dxe5 is good enough for a draw. Yeah, right... This being a Sunday in Division 4, a Black blunder or a white overstretch is more likely; and the former wins out here. 21. ...Rf6? 22.Qh7+ Kf7 23.Bxf6 Kxf6 24.Rf1+ 1-0

This early equaliser cheered us all immensely, so that - looking once more at the remaining games, it was clear that some sort of editorial apology was called for, because the weather forecast had improved considerably. On top board, Sean's king was out walking the dog in the empty king-side pastures of a near-equal ending; Marco's position had ceased to announce "dodgy" to all that would look, and Kevin was defying Fritz to reduce to an ending only marginally worse:

Hendrickson,Jason (1625) - Henbest,Kevin B (1855) [E67] 19.03.2006

1.d4 Nf6 2.g3 g6 3.Bg2 Bg7 4.Nf3 0-0 5.0-0 d6 6.c4 Nbd7 7.Nc3 e5 8.d5 a5 9.a4 Nc5 10.Nd2 Bf5 11.f3 Bd7 12.Qc2 c6 13.e4 cxd5 14.cxd5 Qb6 15.Nc4 Qc7 16.Be3 Rfc8 17.Rfd1 Ne8 18.Bf1 Qd8 19.Rd2 Rab8 20.Na3 Nxa4 21.Qb3 Nc5 22.Bxc5 Rxc5 23.Na4 Bh6 24.Nxc5 Bxd2 25.Nxd7 Qxd7 26.Nc4 Bb4 27.Nxa5 Bc5+ 28.Kg2 Ra8 29.Bb5 Qe7 30.Bxe8 Qxe8 31.Ra2 Qe7 32.Qc4 Qc7

for reasons best known to its innards, Fritz prefers White to the tune of 0.56; my at-the-board instincts were to favour Black in a straight contest, but certainly Kevin's a lot more comfortable now than a few more previously!

33.b4 Bb6 34.Rc2 Perhaps frightened by the prospect of pins on the a-file, White gets an attack of caution, thereby chucking a bit of advantage overboard. Instead, after 34.Qxc7 Bxc7 35.Ra3 (clever move) 35…Bxa5 36.Rxa5 Rc8 White's b-pawn is a lot healthier than its counterpart. 34…Qxc4 35.Nxc4 Rc8 36.Na3 Rxc2+ 37.Nxc2 Kf8 and once Black gets his king to e7, the longer range of the now-free bishop will begin to tell (White to offer a draw). 38.b5 Ke7 39.Kf1 Bc5 40.Ke2 Kd7 41.Kd3 White needs to be careful here: (a) 41.Ne3 Bxe3 leads to a lost K+P ending; but either (b) 41.g4 Kc7 42.Kd3 (putting all pawns on white squares) or (c) 41.Na1 Kc7 42.Kd3 f5 43.Nb3 seem to hold 41…Kc7

around about here is where a firm draw offer is required for the lesser-graded White; but usually a gap of 200 points is sufficiently daunting to prevent such overtures unless the drawing mechanism is known. 42.Ne1? Kb6 43.Kc4 Bg1 and now one of the black-squared pawns is lost and 0-1 in 55. 44.h3 Bf2 45.Ng2 Bxg3 46.Ne3 h5 47.Kb4 Be1+ 48.Ka4 Kc5 49.Nc2 Bd2 50.Na3 f5 51.b6 fxe4 52.fxe4 g5 53.Kb3 g4 54.hxg4 hxg4 55.Nc4 Bf4 0-1

Terry,Sean (2000) - Pugh,Glyn D (2080) [C37] 19.03.2006

This game produced an entertaining post-mortem not only for followers of the Rook & Pawn ending, but those who enjoy watching cultured players blanch at unusual moves in bog-standard opening positions. Here, it was fun to play over this the first 10 moves in the company of Matt Ludbrook, whose eventual silences we now attribute less to cowed admiration than stunned surprise, as the King's Gambit Muzio was the victim of my ignorance.

Oddly enough, I'm sure I played this rubbish once also from the Black side, in a Long Hanborough game about 8 years ago, and found the endgame resulting at move 10 not half as promising as I'd imagined it would be. It seems only fair to point out, however, that had Black found 9…g3 10.Nf4 f2 11.Qa5 (11.Qc3 Qxh2) 11…Ng4 12.Qxc7 Nd7 13.h3 Nh2+ 14.Ke2 (etc) that the post-mortem might have been shorter and sweeter . and this brief report (and endgame) non existent!

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Bc4 g4 5.Ne5 Qh4+ 6.Kf1 Nh6 7.d4 d6 8.Nd3 f3 9.Qe1 fxg2+10.Kxg2 Qxe1 11.Rxe1 c6 12.Nf4 Ng8 13.Nh5 b5 14.Bd3 Nd7 15.Bf4 Bb7 16.Kg3 Ngf6 17.Nxf6+ Nxf6 18.e5 Nh5+ 19.Kxg4 Nxf4 20.Kxf4 0-0-0 21.Nc3 dxe5+ 22.dxe5 Bh6+ 23.Kf3 Bd2 24.Re2 Bxc3 25.bxc3 c5+ 26.Kf4 c4 27.Bf5+ Kc7 28.a4 a6 29.axb5 axb5 30.Rg1 White has just refused a draw to reach this ending where he has a continuing edge, but no definite win. This counts as a lucky return for someone who could have been wiped out at move 9 had Glyn played like Fritz:

30…Bd5 31.Rg7 Rde8 32.Rxh7 Having gotten to here, I gave up on playing 32.e6 thinking that after 32…Kd6 (or Rhf8) White's rooks became too active. As it happens 33.Rxf7 is a clear pawn plus as 33…Bxe6 loses outright to 34.Rf6 32…Rxh7 33.Bxh7 Be6 34.Bf5 Rh8 35.Bxe6 fxe6

"… and the endgame is won". Fritz agrees on everything except the methods chosen - and in the end doesn't help find a winning scheme of things. 36.Rd2 "cutting the king off" - well, it works in the books huh? [instead, 36.Kg5 Kd7 37.h4 Ke7 38.h5 Rg8+ is the Fritz method] 36…Rh3 37.Kg4 Rxc3 38.h4 Re3 38…b4 39.h5 b3 40.cxb3 cxb3 41.Rb2 Rc4+ 42.Kg5 Rc3 43.h6 Rh3 was what we examined afterwards, and couldn't get White to win it. 39.h5 c3?? a final blunder after some solid defence made the draw likely: Black loses a tempo (… Rxe5) while allowing White gain another with his next. 40.Rh2 Rxe5 41.h6 Rd5 42.h7 1-0

RESULTS to date:

Oxford 2 Oxford 3
05 Nov 05 Rd 1 Celtic Tigers WIN 4 ½ - 1 ½ Gloucester Gambits LOSS 1 - 5
06 Nov 05 Rd 2 Cheddleton LOSS 2 - 4 Nottingham LOSS 2 ½ - 3 ½
03 Dec 05 Rd 3 Gloucester Gambits LOSS 2 ½ - 3 ½ King Takes Pawn WIN 5 - 1
04 Dec 05 Rd 4 Braille CA WIN 4 ½ - 1 ½ SCS LOSS 2 ½ - 3 ½
11 Feb 06 Rd 5 The Conquistadors WIN 5 - 1 Richmond B DRAW 3 - 3
12 Feb 06 Rd 6 Pride & Prejudice LOSS 1 - 5 Celtic Tigers LOSS 2 ½ - 3 ½
18 Mar 06 Rd 7 Metropolitan WIN 4 ½ - 1 ½ Guildford ADC 5 LOSS 2 - 4
19 Mar 06 Rd 8 Guildford 4 DRAW 3 - 3 Halesowen WIN 4 ½ - 1 ½

FIXTURES to come:

Round 9 draw ( 27 May 2006 )

Glos Gambits Vs Pride & Prejudice
Brown Jack Vs Cheddleton
Guildford-ADC 4 Vs Nottinghamshire 1
Athenaeum 1 Vs Oxford 2
Metropolitan Vs SCS
Monmouth Vs Cavendish
Warwicks Select 2 Vs 3Cs Oldham 2
Grendel's Mother Vs Suffolk Punches
Slough Sharks 4 Vs Sussex Mindsports
Braille CA Vs The Conquistadors
FCA Solutions 2 Vs Cambridge Uni 2
Oxford 3 Vs Pontypridd
King takes Pawn Vs Richmond B
Halesowen Vs Celtic Tigers
Addlestone Vs Nottinghamshire 2
Guildford-ADC 5 Vs Athenaeum 2

With three rounds to play in late May, all to play for. Oxford 2 can still achieve promotion but it needs to improve on its results against its fellow competitors; that said, we seem to have played most of our near rivals - and more than all except Athenaeum (our next opponents). With 41 points probably guaranteeing a place in the top four, that shows the way to a points tally of 14 from the next 18 games.

Oxford 3's ambitions, though more modest, should nonetheless be stated: mid-table obscurity. As this involves basically winning all our matches (or scoring 11 points), this represents an exciting challenge for a team that has been "otherwise challenged" too often this year.