March 2009 – Rounds 7 & 8 – Hinckley

[photos, games, pgn]


Team Round 8 FIDE Won Drawn Lost Points
OXFORD 1 2213 2 2 0 6
KINGS HEAD 2184 2 1 1 5
JUTES OF KENT 2222 2 1 1 5
GUILDFORD-A&DC 3 2148 2 0 2 4
POISONED PAWNS 1 2132 1 1 2 3
WESSEX 1 2137 1 0 3 2
Teams Oxford have played
  • Oxford 1 win both matches, and are currently joint top of the promotion / Championship pool, with a triple heading May bank holiday weekend to follow
  • Oxford 2 and 3consolidate their respective positions in Division 3 with a good-time charley May weekend in prospect
  • Top stat: of the 35 games recorded for compiling this report, 9 of them feature a castling sequence “0-0 0-0” – a fact-stat that threatens to enter the history books while simultaneously lowering the status of chess statistician to that usually occupied by a TV baseball commentator. Our thanks to Mssrs Hadi, Levicki, and Henbest (Oxford 3); Dickinson & Starkie (Oxford 2) and Smallbone for their efforts on the Saturday, and Mssrs Rose, Shaw and Terry on the Sunday.
  • The Poor Show award is shared between all those playing 1. Nf3, the many exponents of both sides of the duller variations of the French, and Sean Terry (for services against the interests of chivalry)
  • Game of the Weekend goes to Gary Corcoran for showing on the Sunday how the French is meant to be played
  • The Major Brewing Scandal scenario is shared between
    1. Sean and Sue Terry

      Cheers for the arrangement, skip…
    2. “Tom” Eckersley-Waites – who has suddenly switched from 1. e4 to 1. d4; is failing regularly to sacrifice pieces until they actually give winning advantages, while all the time his identical twin is “missing” or, alternatively “on the other side of the world”, while in this position “Tom” plays 11. b3

      “T” Eckersley-Waites – Pleasants
      11. b3

      yeah right, whatever you say, son…

Division 2

A balmy sunshine-filled weekend in March saw the 4NCL caravan escape the snowdrifts of winter and into the county of Warwickshire, where after some expert navigation on all sides some 500 or so chessplayers descended on the Barcelo hotel outlet in Hinckley. For the Oxford contingent, the Saturday games marked a rare opportunity to “simply play chess” – ah, if only we could do that, would we bother?! - as little turned on the match outcomes for any of the sides in action.

But what sort of action was in store? The morning papers gave some indication of the wide fare on offer in modern chess. At the one end, we have some quality reportage (The Guardian), where Peter Wells finishes in style:

Wells – Fitzpatrick
New Zealand, 2009
1.Rxg4 hxg4 2.Rh8+ Kxh8 3.Qxf8+ Kh7 4.Ng5# 1–0

while in the Telegraph we read of the following debacle in the European Championships (speed) playoff:

Tomashevsky - Malakhov

Black playing the lame 48...Re1 49.Qxe1 Bg6 50.Qa1 1–0, thus receiving a share of second place, where the gold medal and mate in about 6 were on offer – a task we offer our Oxford 4NCL web readership.

So where would the massed ranks of Oxford 1, 2 and 3 place their bets this weekend?

Oxford 1 had already managed to qualify for what the website refers to as the “Championship Pool” – where, after 7 rounds the top four sides from each of the 2 divisions go through for another 4-round play off, carrying results from their individual encounters with them – or, if you’re as lost by now as my grammatical sense has contrived to become, they’d qualified for what World Cup cricket equivalent of the “Super 6” stage. Their Saturday opponents, Wessex 2, were doomed to a similar fate in the less attractively entitled “Demotion Pool”, and so the outcome of this particular match was of little significance.

Meanwhile, Oxford 2 and 3 having failed over the course of the first 6 rounds of the current season to convince the crowd that they had anything other than a Good Time in mind, an exciting weekend’s chess, and entertainment, loomed. And so it transpired, with all 3 teams conspiring to provide some copy for what would otherwise be a dismal procession of FIDE-related rating movements.

Oxford 1 4½ - 3½ Wessex 2
1 w Savage, Ben 2307 1 - 0 Neil, David R 2161
2 b White, Mike 2252 0 - 1 de Coverly, Roger 2078
3 w Eckersley-Waites, Tom 2227 1 -0 Pleasants, Allan J 2080
4 b Smallbone, Kieran 2237 1 - 0 Taylor-Bowd, Phil 2037
5 w Rawlinson, Aidan 2236 ½ - ½ Gregory, Keith D 2060
6 b Shaw, Dave 2240 1 - 0 Krawczuk, Michael J 2045
7 w Bruce, Dave 2091 0 - 1 Tunks, Dominic 1989
8 b Harvey, Marcus 1905 0 - 1 Daley, Eugene 1689

Although outgraded by 160 FIDE points / board, Wessex 2 hadn’t turned up to pick up an early Easter Egg as a consolation prize, and the match was a lot closer than the ratings gap suggested, thanks mainly to some French defence madness on the bottom boards, where notwithstanding strong positions with both colours our lads managed to bring home what the Luxembourg jury so evocatively but here so accurately calls ‘nul points’ from these positions:

Bruce – Tuncs (W)

Daley – Harvey (B)

On board 7 Dave Bruce had managed – against his favourite opening – to achieve a position of some dominance, with Black having had to misplace his king and queen in the opening 12 moves to the diagram position. But with no clear win in sight Black held his position together grittily for some time until Dave found himself on the defensive and unable to save the ending which ensued.

Meanwhile and after a couple of misadventures in the classical French, young Marcus found himself with a slightly better position above – the White knight’s tenuous grasp on reality is the e5 pawn, which itself seems doomed to the early bath indicated by … Nc6/g6 at some stage – but Marcus decides instead on 31...dxc4 32.bxc4 Nf5? 33.Rd3 Kc7?

Here Black – along with some of the crowd – fails to evaluate what’s going on here. In the ensuing pure pawn endgame his opposite side pawn majorities are generally winning, but the two white passers are far enough advanced to win the game, once the king shows nimble feet in its journey to the 6th rank. 34.Nxf5 Rxd3+ 35.Kxd3 exf5 36.c5 Kc6 37.e6 a5 38.Kd4 f4 39.h4 g5 40.hxg5 hxg5 41.Ke5 g4 42.e7 Kd7 43.Kf6 f3 44.c6+ Kxc6 45.e8Q+ 1–0

[thanks to Michael Yeo for pointing out the erroneous diagram position in the original report on Daley - Harvey.]

So these two losses left the team with some making up to do. Two wins (Dave Shaw & Ben) made it 2-2 near enough to time control, with Ben combining nicely to finish off his game:

Savage – Neil (W)

21.Bxc5 bxc3 22.Rxg7+! Kxg7 23.Qg5+ Kh7 24.Qxh5+ Kg7 25.Qg5+ Kh7 26.Qe7+ Kg8 27.0–0–0 cxb2+ 28.Kb1 1–0

and Tom Eckersley-Waites followed on shortly with his opponent being a little cavalier about the defence of his 2nd rank:

Eckersley-Waites – Pleasants
27.Rxf7 Rb1+ 28.Kh2 Qc1 29.Qxc1 Rxc1 30.Rdd7 Rc2 31.Ne4 1–0

and, not to be outdone, Kieran who had earlier in his game concertina-ed his pawns into a f7-e6-f5-e4 formation, broke into combinative song to conclude matters:

Taylor-Bowd – Smallbone (B)
43...Nd3 44.f3+ Kxf3 45.Rxd3 Ra2 46.Nd4+ Ke4 47.Rd1 Rd2 48.Rxd2 0–1

and the team win was secured by a solid draw by Aidan Rawlinson, contrasting starkly with the hyperactive time scramble by Mike White on board 2, losing ultimately to Roger deCoverley after leaving himself with about 3 minutes to play 15 moves without any king cover.

This left the crowd with plenty of time to repair to hotel rooms, check Fritz and lose scoresheets while seeing which of Wales or Ireland would throw away their decisive advantages in the rugby.

Round 8 – Championship Pool

Awaking next morning to a mild headache and the sound of motorway cocks-a-crowing, the Division 2 table had settled, to look a bit like this:

Team Round 8 FIDE Won Drawn Lost Points
KINGS HEAD 2184 2 1 0 5
GUILDFORD-A&DC 3 2148 2 0 1 4
OXFORD 1 2213 1 2 0 4
JUTES OF KENT 2222 1 1 1 3
WESSEX 1 2137 1 0 2 2
POISONED PAWNS 1 2132 0 1 2 1

Where the same-shaded teams had already played each other, and the remaining four rounds of the 2008-09 season had become a yellows Vs blues all-play all affair. Oxfordshire had drawn the Warwickshire Select straw for starters.

Oxford 1 6 - 2 Warwickshire Select
1 w Savage, Ben 2307 1 - 0 Thomas, Nicholas 2313
2 b Rose, Matt 2261 1 - 0 Hynes, Anthony 2243
3 w White, Mike 2252 ½ - ½ Mason, Don 2255
4 b Rawlinson, Aidan 2236 ½ - ½ Page, Mark 2140
5 w Shaw, Dave 2240 1 - 0 Pitcher, John 2183
6 b Smallbone, Kieran 2237 1 - 0 Hunt, Malcolm A 2080
7 w Eckersley-Waites, Tom 2227 1 - 0 Baruch, Andrew J D 2081
8 b Foster, James 1945 0 - 1 Clarke, Brandon 2001

With the reporter generally stranded at the other end of the county (almost) playing out against the prettier end of the Wales Old Boy contingent, visibility was poor for a lot of the time, but a quick chat with Tom E-W in the corridor after about 2 hours suggested that all boards were tight enough, except that we had an edge on board 8. True enough, although applying Sod’s Law at this stage things were starting to unravel there… … but earlier on, this battle of the juniors was going the way of our Good Guy Playing the French Defence:

Clarke – Foster

Here, playing against a marginally higher-rated opponent, James continues 17...Nd4 threatening any amount of family-sized cutlery incidents on b3 and f3 18.Qe3 Qxe5 (anyway – a neat stratagem to trade queens at the same time) 19.Qxe5 Nf3+ 20.Ke2 Nxe5 21.Nxd5 exd5 22.Bxe5 Be6 which concluded the tactical fireworks for the moment and led to an ending a pawn up for Black, but with slightly more space and activity for White. James’s attempts to simplify the ending still further led to a double-rook ending where the white beasts terrorised the black king along the 8th rank, and shortly after the first adjournment it was clear that the Good Guy (playing against the French Defence) was in the box seat – and a bad weekend on balance for the Oxford team with this opening…

By the time the handshakes had been countersigned on board 8, Kieran had equalised team scores after a tactical nuance brought a touch of soporific calm to White’s hopes:

Hunt – Smallbone (W)

25.Nh4 fxg3 26.fxg3 Rxh4 27.gxh4 Bf4 (nice) 28.Rf1 Bxd2 29.Bg6 Ne7 30.h5 Nf5 31.Rh1 Bh6 after which the h-pawn is stopped and Black is free to chisel his way towards b2 with king and cleric – and the likely became the inevitable 0-1 just after the first time control.

On the top boards, the games had that Paul Collingwood ‘nuggety’ quality about them – which in all fairness is fine most days but not on a Sunday after the Saturday night before – but before the flamboyant bat could be put to some ageing red leather, the two games had been wrapped up. First was Matt,

Hynes - Rose

Black’s position has improved a bit in the last few moves, although earlier on Matt had the upper hand before spending too long over his 16th move, and opting in the end to keep the position open (dxe4). White’s last few moves (c4-c5 and Bb2-a3) have an air of mystery attached to them – the pawn move freed the Nb6, while the bishop move seems a bit contrived. Play and the game concluded abruptly however: 24...Nf4 25.Qc4+ Kh8 26.g3?? Nh3 0–1 as still more family kitchen utensils descend on f2 in most variations to scoop up material.

Meanwhile Ben’s position – which frankly looked ugly to the naked hangover for long periods – started to look a lot better by the time this position was reached.

Savage – Nicholas

With his pieces either at home or stuck on a limb on a5 and h4, Black punted away with 20...g5 21.fxg5 hxg5 22.Qe1 Qh6 23.Qc1 when the g-pawn became a goner, so … Bxh3 24.gxh3 Nh5 25.Nf5 Rxf5 26.Bxf5 when the end could only now only be delayed until such time as it took for Black to realise that he was a rook adrift tin addition to the development deficit (1-0, 31).

While Tom E-W’s King’s Indian was materially even most of the way through, to the point where the crowd was wondering how many pawns would be left to convert any positional advantage accrued, when things came to a rather abrupt head:

Eckersley-Waites (T) - Lloyd
28…. cxd5 29.Nxd5 Nxd5 30.Qf7 Ndf6 31.Qxe7 Qd7 32.Qxd7 1-0

And with the match score now virtually assured in our favour, Aidan took the draw he had in hand for some time since, Mike White bundled out of a poor position with a time-affected draw, and Dave Shaw completed a convincing day for the Oxford team with a grind typical of … well, frankly, Liverpool playing away in mid-winter in the 1980s….

All of which leaves the Oxford 1 team handily near the top of the promotion clash.

Division 3


Oxford 2 6 - 0 Littlethorpe 3
1 w Dickinson, Tim 2160 1 - 0 Farrall, David J 1812
2 b Starkie, Ray 2125 1 - 0 Jones, Michael 1835
3 w Stembridge, Ed 2062 1 - 0 Harrison, Peter K 1680
4 b Duggan, Chris 2044 1 - 0 Ricketts, David 1570
5 w Rawlinson, Chris 2047 1 - 0
6 b Ludbrook, Matt 2011 1 - 0

Early morning calls from Dave had clarified Littlethorpe’s inability to field a full side against Oxford 2, and this gave early afternoon friendlies to both Chris Rawlinson and Matt Ludbrook. The other four boards rattled along in good style, and with the match being conducted close by the arbiter’s desk and by the wall, Tim Dickinson once again provided some early afternoon entertainment to the passing trade. His early Na3 in the Sicilian (move 2 early, actually) rarely seems to be going anywhere exciting, but it doesn’t take long for both sides to ratchet through the gears:

Dickinson – Farrell (B)

White has an entrenched pawn on e6, and the promise of nurdling an advantage in the long term, but Black unfortunately sees something that isn’t there – or maybe it was, it just wasn’t very good: 21. … Rd4 22.cxd4 Bxd4 23.Be5+ 1-0

On board 2, Ray Starkie’s Dragon-like defence to the 2. c3 Sicilian saw him accept an exchange sacrifice and steer a way through the middle-to-endgame simplifications, and Chris Duggan was able on board 4 to hammer away along the c-file to win another black-side-of-the Sicilian effort. Sandwiched between them was Ed, whose unpretentious opening lulled his opponent into the falsest of sense securities, so that as early as move 10:

Stembridge – Harrison (B)

Black is staring at a board where the loss of a piece on b4 is unavoidable – leading to a clean sweep for the seconds.

Oxford 3 5½ - ½ Conquistadors
1 w Hadi, Justin 2015 1 - 0 Foster, James C 1995
2 b Neatherway, Phil 1960 ½ - ½ Gibbs, Dominic 1995
3 w Jeffries, Majid 1997 1 - 0 Holland, James 1920
4 b Levicki, Jeffrey 1924 1 - 0 Paul, Barnaby 1750
5 w Terry, Sean 1870 1 - 0 Foster, Caroline 1610
6 b Henbest, Kevin 1795 1 - 0 Foster, Ray Ryan 1680

An equally decisive win for Oxford 3 was started by a top board blunder similar to that featuring Tim Dickinson’s game for the seconds:

Hadi – Foster (B)

Black has just forced Bc4-e2, and with the following exchanges removes the last direct defender from the straggling pawn on d5: 12…. Nxf3+ 13.Bxf3 Bxf3 14.Qxf3 Qxd5 15.Nf6+ Ah. Indirect defence is quite offensive, really. 1-0

On board 6, there was an equally curious end to proceedings:

Foster – Henbest (W)

23.h3 Qxf5 0-1

Clearly Oxford 3’s capacity to pull a draw or worse from the jaws of victory haven’t become the stuff of wider 4NCL legend, and even if in fairness Black has achieved a substantial plus, this is usually the moment when the reporter reaches for his online-dictionary of synonyms and types “self-implode button”.

Other victories were recorded by the energy and efficiency of Jeffrey Levicki, while your reporter concluded part I of a Bad Form weekend by defeating a youthful opponent who was doubly deceived by the late arrival of her opponent, and a suspiciously low FIDE rendition of my current BCF grade. This left Majid’s game, which had reached this position from an unpromising (journalistic) start [1. Nf3]

Jeffreys – Holland (B)

At which point things are looking interesting – and, as Majid’s solid performances have to date this season coincided with games more readily susceptible to the journalistic ‘treatment’ – we took up guard and awaited action. That pawn on a4 defending c5 seemed weak – or was it the bulwark of White’s grand strategy?! That pawn on d3 – weak runt, or Tal-like rapier? And so on. Soon enough Majid’s youthful opponent played 12. … Nxd4 and offered a draw. Groan.

Fortunately, play recovered and continued: 13.exd4 Qxd4? 14.Bxe4 Qxe4 15.Re1 … which speared a piece for White, but not quite the game: … Qd5 16.Rxe7 Bh3 17.f3 d2? (loses fairly quickly. Instead Rfe8 will win the piece back in due course (18. Re3 Qd4 etc) leaving White with some but no decisive advantage. After 18.Bxd2 Rad8 19.Re2 Qxf3 20.Rf2 Qd5 21.Qb3 White had unscrambled his position while keeping his extra piece intact (1-0, 40).


Oxford 2 1½ - 4½ Hackney
1 b Bruce, Dave 2091 0 - 1 Chin, Francis 2236
2 w Chapman, Graham 2080 0 - 1 Reid, John 2230
3 b Hadi, Justin 2015 0 - 1 Lee, Martin 2050
4 w Duggan, Chris 2044 ½ - ½ Donnelly, Terence 2000
5 b Rawlinson, Chris 2047 0 - 1 Shaw, Dashiell L 1940
6 w Ludbrook, Matt 2011 1 - 0 Vives, Pepe 1840

A match played between two teams separated by an average of 1 FIDE point per board turned out a lot less well than promised, with Dave B losing on top board against 2200 strength opposition, and Graham finding himself in this position as early as move 18 of a 1. Nf3 opening.

Chapman – Reid (B)

Our game score peters out here, but it seems clear that Black can now play 18. … Bf5 with impunity and either win an exchange or the e pawn. When last seen Graham had a hopeless task against a mass of black pawns with uneven piece material (R Vs 2 pieces?).

Justin on board 3 played his first-ever Benko, to reach this position where his draw offer after 19. … Nd7-f6 wasn’t agreed to:

Martin – Hadi (B)

One gets the feeling that Black has played all the right moves to get to this position but reaped none of the benefits expounded in the many books on the Benko…

The most entertainment came from Chris Rawlinson’s loss on board 5, which involved an ending which saw him win his opponent’s queen quite agains the run of his expectations, only for White to find a mate waiting to be delivered at the end of the tunnel. We will await the full game score from the website…

This left Matt our only winner on board 6, yet another Nd2 against the French routine. (At least it wasn’t a 2. Nc3 against the Sicilian…)

Ludbrook – Vives (B)

A cursory Fritz through this position suggests White needs to be cautious (18. Qb3) – certainly more cautious than 18.Bxe5? Qh3+ 19.Kf3 (forced, otherwise … Ng4 mates) … Qh5+ Here, 19...Ng4+ seems a bit more to the point here for meat eaters, though it doesn't guarantee a definite return of the sacrificed bishop - it does take the White king for a walk in the the wilds. An exciting if poor variation is 20.Bf4 Re8 which results in sudden death (21.Rh1 Nxh2+ 22.Rxh2 Bg4#), while 20...Nxe5+ 21.Ke3 must be where the fun is to be had. Instead White gets to retreat to relative safety 20.Kg2 Bh3+ 21.Kg1 Qxe5 22.Re1 Ne4? before jumping in when the opportunity presents itself: 23.Nf4 Rxf4 24.gxf4 Qxf4 25.Bxe4 Qg5+ 26.Kh1 dxe4 27.Qb3+ Be6 28.Qxe6+ Kh8 29.Rc8+ 1-0

Oxford 3 2½ - 3½ Wales Old Boys
1 b Jeffries, Majid 1997 ½ - ½ Harley-Yeo, Gareth 2044
2 w Neatherway, Phil 1960 0 - 1 Kanike, Ude Kumar 2050
3 b Terry, Sean 1870 1 - 0 Zhu, Yao Yao 1997
4 w Corcoran, Gary 1840 0 - 1 Davies, Matthew 1943
5 b Henbest, Kevin 1795 ½ - ½ Jones, Jeremy J 1635
6 w Foster, Chantelle 1600 ½ - ½ Smith, Steve 1638

Here the grading difference was about 40 points / board, and though the match score was close the Welsh OB seemed to have the upper hand, two closely fought games on boards 3 and 6 notwithstanding. The top three boards gave 50%; after Majid’s solid draw on top board, Phil lost his way in a Benoni where Black oddly gave a tempo as early as move 6 (6. … Bf5; 7. e4 Bd7) without a noticeable disimprovement in position; while a blunder on Board 3 allowed Sean to pick up a scarcely merited full point in an Alekhine ending where the knights ran (or threatened to run) rampant.

This focused interest in the bottom three boards, where Kevin managed to rescue a draw from this position:

Jones – Henbest (W)

Having repeated an error from a previous 4NCL match in the opening – in fairness, a man who is worrying about the whereabouts of his wallet can be excused the need to remember the wrinkles of an opening. On board 6, Chantelle Foster held her own, and the balance of space advantage, in a Guioco Piano throughout her game, which was solidly defended by her opponent, while on board 4 full credit to Gary Corcoran for his enterprising effort against the French defence, which segues seamlessly through the Caro Kann (3. c4), to pick up shades of the Keres attack (5. g4) to reach this position:

Corcoran – Davies (W)

Here (Black has just played … Qg5) the simple Kf1 is in order when White retains the advantage in a wild position. Instead, and with both sides down to medium scale time trouble at this stage (perhaps 20 minutes each to get to time control) Gary opts for 18.Rg1 Rxh2 19.Bf3? [Here 19.d6 would keep things going as 19...Rxg2 20.Qxe5+ Kd8 21.Qe7+ Qxe7 22.dxe7+ Kxe7 23.Rxg2 is good, while 19 … cxd6 20.Bxb7 Qf4 21. Rf1 leaves Black struggling] now 19...Qh4 20.Ng3 0-0-0 21.d6 White’s advantage and control have evaporated.



Some pics by Dave …

… and some pics by Sean.