Weekend 4


Well it all seemed a bit too good to be true – a fair Saturday in March, the bookies giving even odds on a leisurely pasting for Oxford 1 in the May Championship pool, and the only possible blot on the horizon was this missing animal report in Oxford:

In short, it was soon time to tie up one editing’s boots and settle down for an easy May bank holiday weekend, with nothing more than an occasional sideways glance from the bar to proceedings at the board, or indeed taking time out to check on the new arrival in the Savage household (viz. Joshua, b. 6 March) - and congrats to Ben and Liv.

All this had changed by late afternoon Sunday, after two poor results including a loss on Saturday against a Guildford team graded average 2028 left the demotion rat-race looking like this:

Demotion race 2009-10 Rd 7 Rd 8
Pool A BARBICAN 4NCL 2 4 6
Pool A OXFORD 1 4 4

and with Blunderama including this:

Rose – Stimpson (W, 34)
White to play and lose on time

It’s time to hunker back and wait for the pgn file…

Meantime, the 2nd team managed to keep up its late-season charge which in past seasons has seen it just fail to get to the promotion slots, by winning both of its games at the weekend, including a win on Saturday against a team average grading 2055:

Team Won Drawn Lost Points
KJCA KINGS 5 2 1 12
FCA SOLUTIONS 2 5 1 2 11
3CS 5 0 3 10
WESSEX 2 5 0 3 10
E2E4.ORG.UK 2 4 2 2 10
OXFORD 2 4 1 3 9

with a special prize to Marco Zhang for quote of the day, on Sunday after this minor debacle on board 6:

Zhang – Willoughby (10, W)

White to play and Marco decides he needs to move a rook, and which of the open files is the only question: “I could move it to d1 but … in the end I decide this is a Morra and it has to be c1”.

Play continues 10. Rac1 Nd4 … after which it’s time for a short, sharp exit.

Still, “it’s a beautiful day … and I’ve got a convertible”.

Expect some serious questions about motivation in committee, MZ.

And what of Oxford 3? Well, we made the mistake of trying to emulate the firsts, and succeeded on both days, so while we look like we’re in the middle of this table:

Team Won Drawn Lost Points
BRISTOL 2 2 2 4 6
BRISTOL 3 2 1 5 5
OXFORD 3 2 0 6 4
E2E4.ORG.UK 3 2 0 6 4
GUILDFORD-A&DC 4 1 1 6 3
SCS 1 0 7 2

that particular view has taken a bit of editing to achieve.

Still, that doesn’t mean we haven’t played well, and this sharp piece of tactic-ery from Rod Langham on Saturday merits a place in some book or other… (Black to play and win):

Mitchell – Langham (B)
21… Rf3 22.exf3 exf3 23.Rg1 fxg2+ 24.Rxg2 Qxh3+ 25.Rh2 Qf3+ 0-1

Round 7

1 w Rose, Matthew 2282 0 - 1 Stimpson, Philip M 2085
2 b White, Michael JR 2239 0 - 1 Eckloff, Colin 2097
3 w Shaw, David A 2241 1 - 0 Taylor, Dale C 2122
4 b Rawlinson, Aidan M 2207 0 - 1 Punnett, Alan K 2094
5 w Eckersley-Waites, Tom 2247 ½ - ½ Roset, Christophe 2056
6 b Smallbone, Kieran D 2218 ½ - ½ Hill, David F 2048
7 w Tidman, Sophie E 2110 ½ - ½ Shepley, Julien M 2022
8 b Nitz, Tomos 2090 ½ - ½ Shepherd, Katherine M 1698

The 1st team’s problems on the Saturday were suffered in relative silence, as the other they were playing at the Staverton, with the other two teams hacking it out at the Daventry branch of the Barcelo empire. The feeling though was that Matt’s loss on top board in a totally won position was a critical turning point.

Rose – Stimpson (34, B)

Well, it certainly entertained the crowd : here Black picked up his bishop with a view to completing the short trip to g2, before noticing that the Qg7 could capture backwards. Accordingly, he decided on the only other feasible journey 34. … Bc6. Baby Fritz suggests that 34. … f3 is the better bet, forcing White to calculate that the ending after 35. Qc7+ is winning (which it is, providing it doesn’t immediately lose). An easy calculation but not when you have only 25 seconds to reach move 40.

So after a long pause to refocus, play then scrambles for another few moves: 35.Qg4 Qd2 36.Qd1 (pin and win)

36...Bxg2+ 37.Kg1 Qxd1+ 38.Rxd1+ when Matt’s flag falls and the reconstruction shows that he’s lost on time: 0-1

And, of course, these things happen – though one interesting point to reflect on is how White allowed himself get into such time pressure. Let’s look at the position at move 20:

(Black to move, #20)

where it does look like White has a comfortable enough position to be able to play moves which retain the advantage he has while picking up time on the clock. So maybe White was already in serious time trouble by this stage. Moral 1: It’s not enough to get a winning position – you have to get it with time to spare

All of which reminds me of Moral 2: that pin and win quote 2 diagrams back should have read: White pins, but Black now wins. And not on time, if he plays correctly.

And Moral 3 might be:

Clocks also go forward during play

Matt Rose adds:

I was winning easily after 20. Nc5+ and earlier after f4 I thought. He found some good moves including ...Bc6 by accident - but my time management was abysmal. I experimented in the opening so wasted time there. Then after c4 dc Bxc4 Bd6 (diagram) it became a position where he had no weaknesses except lack of development and so without accuracy on my part it would be equal.

14.Bxd6 Qxd6 15.d5 e5 16.f4 exf4 17.Bb5+

So I had to find the Bxd6,d5 and f4 trio which took time. Almost anything won after that but I managed to find the only continuation which gave him counterplay and so caused me to have to think. In fact I steered the whole game along a pretty narrow path towards a win for him!

In other news from this round, Tom Eckersley-Waites registered his first draw after 45 consecutive decisive games at the 4NCL. Here we join him (W, to play) wondering what the best try is to win. Or los… get a result.

Eckersley-Waites (T) – Roset (W)

37.Ra7 seems a good enough start, which Baby Fritz sees as +1.44 but this computer optimism usually hides a lot of conversion issues in opposite bishop endings so after 37 … h5 Tom decides that winning the a-pawn won’t suffice so he trundles his king into play. 38.Kf2 g4 39.f4 g5 40.Ke3 gxf4+ 41.Ke4 f3 42.Ra8+ Be8

when it looks like the Rook ending after 43. Rxe8+ Kf7; 44. gxf3 gxf3; 45 Bf2 f2; 46. Bxf2 is drawn. So Tom looks at the other option:

43.Kxf5 f2 44.Ke6 f1Q 45.Rxe8+ Kh7 46.Rh8+ Kg6 47.Rg8+ Kh7 48.Rh8+ Kg6 49.Rg8+ Kh6 ½-½

This draw confirmed the match loss, so it was time for some beer and “championship” pool in the bar.

1 w Dickinson, Tim R 2151 1 - 0 Richmond, Robert J 2200
2 b Burt, William 2162 0 - 1 Walker, Andrew N 2087
3 w Scott, David A 2058 ½ - ½ Coates, David H 2043
4 b Rawlinson, Christopher JA 2048 1 - 0 Levens, David G 1986
5 w Jackson, Gary 2034 ½ - ½ Truman, Richard G 2015
6 b Ludbrook, Matthew 2011 ½ - ½ Kingston, Ian 1999

A cut-throat match against Nottinghamshire 1 ended with a narrow win for Oxford 2. It’s curious that both sides have average ratings that would put them in the top 5, but getting a consistent performance from a regular set of players is the hard thing in 4NCL chess.

Tim Dickinson looked like he was going for a kingside post-h-pawn hack in his game on top board:

Dickinson – Richmond (W)

and his 18.Rh3 confirms the trend but allows Black to liquidate to an ending … Bxe5 19.Rxe5 Qxe5 20.dxe5 Rxd2 21.Bxd2 Ba6 22.b3 Rd8

where in theory the opposite bishops give some hope for complication – but Black’s bishop is hopelessly compromised by the pawns of both colour on white squares. Tim finished things off quickly:

23.Ke2 Kf8 24.Be3 Ra8 25.Bc5+ Ke8 26.Rd3 Bb7 27.Ke3 a6 28.Kf4 a5 29.a4 Ba6 30.Kg5 Rb8 31.Kf6 The rook now invades on f7. 1-0

Tim Dickinson writes:

The alert reader will have noticed that 18. … Bxe5 doesn’t in fact force a liquidation to the endgame, as suggested above, but fortunately Tim had predicted this editorial maladroitism and provided this copy below.

Dickinson – Richmond (B, 18)

“(after 18. … Bxe5) I fully intended 19. Bxd8 potting an exchange, but then saw 19. Rxe5 Qb1+ 20. Re1 Qxa2 21. Bxd8 Qxc4+ 22. Kg1, rook up for two pawns. I also saw 19. Rxe5 Qxe5 20. dxe5 Rxd2 21. Bxd2 and reasoned, if the first line is a rook up, so is the second. After 21. Bxd2 was played, there was egg on face, but it soon cleared up when world domination was achieved ten moves later.”

Will on board 2 got into a familiar looking Schliemann with an odd looking exchange of knight moves:

Walker – Burt (B)

12. … Ne4 13.Nf5 when curiously enough there is no obvious way of taking advantage of the pinned Nf5 – as Will’s … Nxf2 doesn’t work. Fritz does think that Black is better though and this is a sampling of the analytical fare on offer:

13...Nc5 14.b4 Na4 when

  1. 15.Qg4 Qf6 16.Bh6 Rf7 17.Nxg7 Kh8 18.Qh5 Qxf2+ seems strong
  2. 15. b5 Qd7 16.g4 g6 17.Nh6+ Kg7 18.bxc6 Qxc6 when Black is getting big pressure on c2 and f2

Back on the board, play continued 14.Qxf2 Kh8 15.g4 g6 16.Bh6 Rf7 17.Bg7+ wins the exchange and secured a win for White on move 40.

With Gary Jackson and Matt Ludbrook halving out on the bottom boards, the match result hinged on two tight games. Chris Rawlinson seemed to have a plus in an equal position for long stretches, but offered a draw in an endgame when the evaluation seemed to have been reversed. As can happen, the refusal proved fatal as White duly provided the drop of poison to the wrong cup and was obliged to resign shortly afterwards.

This left Dave Scott with this sort of position and looking for a draw:

Scott – Coates -ish (B or W to move)

Dave having established this sort of position, and made it plain that he wasn’t going to allow his king drift to a position where the Ra1 could move with profit, Black was forced to swap his a-pawn for the f-pawn – and the draw was easy to establish.

1 w McLaughlin, Noel S 2022 ½ - ½ Vikanis, Georgs 1930
2 b Stille, Alexander M 2054 1 - 0 Neatherway, A Philip 1922
3 w Tunstall, George S 1947 0 - 1 Terry, Sean 1867
4 b Zhu, Yao Yao 1954 1 - 0 Zhang, Marco 1938
5 w Mitchell, Stephen R 2017 0 - 1 Langham, Rod E 1786
6 b Marley, Andrew 1928 1 - 0 Wang, Anna 1698

An odd match finished with 5 wins by the black pieces and a solitary draw on top board deciding the result. Poor Anna Wang found herself in a late-evening endgame on board 6 and a position not dissimilar to Scott – Coates above, but against a determined opponent she fell into one of the traps of that position and lost.

First to finish was Georgs on top board, after squirming out of a difficult position:

McLaughlin – Vikanis (B)

Black has lost a pawn somewhere in the last while and the outlook is uncertain, even if here he has the chance to mucky the waters a little with 19...Nxb3 after which something like equal chances can be achieved with 20.Qxa8 Rxa8 21.axb3 Bxb4. Instead after his quiet 19. … Nce4 White takes the even quieter road to a result: 20.d3 Bxb4 21.dxe4 Qxe4 22.a3 Be7 23.Rac1 ½-½

Losses on either side of me saw Phil Neatherway get ground down by good defence in the Ruy Lopez, while Marco’s early pawn sacrifice against Crystal Zhu seemed a little optimistic, but not as bluff as his subsequent offer of the exchange – although maybe Fritz will in due course force an errata slip to be issued from HQ on this one, whether on the evaluation, or the exact position of the pieces in this position:

Zhang – Zhu (B)

Black steadied the ship with … Qc8! – c5+

Fortunately two other sets of Blacks were working in our favour. Rod’s spectacular game finish made it to the front page, so here’s the man himself waiting to loose the final bullet:

while I managed to avoid both a winning finish and an ignominious defeat from this position:

Tunstall – Terry (B)

The winning combo is not that difficult to spot (25 … Nc2 etc, as the b-file crashes open) unless you’re in fact looking at a losing combo (25 … Nc4+ 26. Bxc4 Ra2+), but I managed to settle for what I imagined was a plus continuation

25.Be3 Nc4+ 26.Bxc4 Qxc4 27.Rxa8 Rxa8 28.Qxb3 and, although I hadn’t figured on losing the b-pawn quite this easily – what’s the Fritz symbol for d’oh! ? – Black’s position was comfortably better enough to induce a blunder in time trouble on move 35.


The early evening was spent brushing up on some pool techniques…

(here the crowd averages 2560 FIDE)

The team works on the look-away shooting technique

The long taxi wait… before the delights of Daventry

and a not-bad Chinese meal, where the night was whiled away with beer and food (Guest: Thomas Rendle (Sambuca Sharks) who had been chucked to the goldfish for his continued attempts to win his game against Shaun Munson).

Topics for the summer examination will be:

  • the disappearance of the bees
  • coaching and beer in Austria and elsewhere
  • developing GM practice
  • can you count a win against a 5-year old during the school break when computing Kasparov numbers when you were in fact about 12!? (of course!)
  • is MCO the best openings book ever?
  • Sexual tension between Frodo and Sam Gamgee in the film version of Lord of the Rings

Round 8

1 w Slavin,Alexei 2368 1 - 0 Rawlinson, Aidan M 2207
2 b Cumbers, Paul 2218 1 - 0 Shaw, David A 2241
3 w Birtwistle, Nigel 2179 1 - 0 White, Michael JR 2239
4 b Walton, Alan J 2137 ½ - ½ Eckersley-Waites, Tom 2247
5 w McCarthy, Kevin C 2106 0 - 1 Smallbone, Kieran D 2218
6 b Burrows, Martin P 2186 ½ - ½ Tidman, Sophie E 2110
7 w Milson, Samuel A 1994 ½ - ½ Nitz, Tomos 2090
8 b Milson, Amy F 1602 0 - 1 Rawlinson, Christopher JA 2048

Pending the scoresheet analysis, this match looks like it reads on the website – pummelled on the top boards, not enough compensation down the order where, with the exception of the mismatch on bottom board Pandora’s ratings exceeded Oxford narrowly by : 2170 – 2048.

McCarthy – Smallbone (B)

Kieran did provide a smart win from this position which seemed to have a lot longer left in it.

27. … d4 28.Bc1 [Fritz suggests the only way out is to press the panic button: 28.Kc2 Bg4 29.Rg1 dxe3 30.Rxg4 Rxg4 31.Bf5+ Ke7 32.Re6+ Kf7 33.Bxg4] 28...Bb3 29.Bf5+ Ke7 30.Re6+ Kf7 0-1 as mate in 5 awaits.

1 w Combie, Alexander 1975 0 - 1 Scott, David A 2058
2 b Burke, Steven J 1954 ½ - ½ Ludbrook, Matthew 2011
3 w Taylor, Robert P 1978 0 - 1 Jackson, Gary 2034
4 b Morgan, Phil 1914 0 - 1 Wedge, David C 1954
5 w Hill, Maurice J 1802 0 - 1 Neatherway, A Philip 1922
6 b Willoughby, Robert H 1754 1 - 0 Zhang, Marco 1938

Meanwhile back in Daventry, the seconds were making light of Marco’s early loss and were making a stirring comeback. First up then to David Wedge who finds he’s got one rook too many for mating purposes:

Wedge – Morgan

20.Nxf6+ Nxf6 21.Rxg7+ Kxg7 22.Qg5+ Kh7 23.Qxf6 Rg8 24.f5 Rxg2+ (… Rg7 offers more resistance here) 25.Kxg2 exf5 26.Qh6+ Kg8 27.Rg1 1-0

while Gary Jackson’s siege mentality wore down his opponent who blundered with:

Taylor - Jackson (B)

29.Rd4? (b3) bxc3 30.Rxc3 Rxc3 31.bxc3 Qb1+ 32.Qd1 Qxd1+ 33.Rxd1 Rxc3 34.Kf1 Rc2 35.a4 Ra2 36.Rd4 Kf7 37.g3 Ke7 38.e4 Kd6 39.exd5 exd5 40.h4 f5 41.Kg2 Ke5 42.Rf4 g5 0-1

The win was secured by a solid draw by Matt Ludbrook, and a (for me) curiously quick win by Phil Neatherway in what seemed an intricate rook and pawn ending. This rendered the result of the top board struggle irrelevant to the match result, but with Dave Scott a pawn adrift in a R+P ending that looked likely to segue into a Q+P ending a draw seemed the best on offer - … but Dave won anyway, to keep our interest alive pending pgn file publication.

1 w Vikanis, Georgs 1930 0 - 1 Clanchy, Nicholas 1858
2 b Parsons, Matthew 1818 0 - 1 Murphy, Conor 1794
3 w Terry, Sean 1867 1 - 0 Kalid, Raphael 1786
4 b Wedge-Roberts, Matthew 1722 ½ - ½ Reddiar, Gautham 1746
5 w Langham, Rod E 1786 0 - 1 Davis, Alexei 1730
6 b Vikanis, Egils 1762 0 - 1 Paul, Barnaby J 1610

At more or less the same time that the benefits of youth, good weather and an open-top convertible were beginning to enter the mind of Marco Zhang, the dreaded Qh2# theme was being cooked up on the top board of this match, against the largely junior KJCA knights.

(Incidentally, some of whose members have produced a bumper round-up of the first 4 rounds of the 4NCL, including an inglorious loss by this writer in round 3 which has yet to be given the treatment in this series.)

But, back in the thick of the present action, let’s see if you can (like Rolf Harris) see it all come out.

Vikanis G – Clanchy (13, B)
"Black to play and mate with 17. … Qh2#

And here’s your starter for nothing: 13. … g5? 14. Bxg5 Nxe5 - and nothing like a speculative Sunday morning start to proceedings. Meantime, let’s go look for other stuff.

On board 2, Matthew Parsons got to an ending after an event-free Caro Kann and attempted to use the minority attack to open up the c-file – but this backfired somewhere and he found himself defending his by-now largely indefensible king-side pawns. Meantime, I seemed to be doing well against an opponent so young that I thought his “Cowes 2004” T-shirt was in fact a present bought by his proud parents at the time of his birth.

Terry – Kalid (W)

Already we’ve seen a lot of repetitive strain action, with the Bf4 having gotten there via g5, and Black’s knight having already done the Nf6-e4-f6 tour. We aren’t to know at this stage, but during the course of a pleasant post-mortem it turns out that neither side has clear ideas about (a) how they are doing and (b) what they should be doing next. Fortunately for Black, it’s White to move, and he deploys his king’s bishop cravenly: 9.Bd3? after which the clever … e5! forces white to rethink his idea of a rolling central pawn advance. The retreat from Moscow begins: 10.Be3 f4 11.Bf2 Nh5 at which point I figured Black was somewhat better (though Fritz agrees, the suggestion from cyberland is that … Nh5, while thematic, is perhaps a bit on the luxury side of things).

Play continues 12.Ne2 Be6 13.Bc4 Bxc4 14.Nxc4 b5 15. Na3 the position began to feel more balanced in terms of chances.

Here I expected 15. … a6 when after 16. Qb3 it wasn’t clear where either king was going to go for the rest of the game. But after 15. … c6 16.Qb3 Qe7? the cheapo 17.Nxb5 sprung the position (… cxb5, 18. Qd5) in white’s favour, and after … Na6 18.Qa4 Nc7 19.Nxc7+ Qxc7 20.Qc4 the Black king was condemned to a long time in the centre.

Meanwhile, back on Board 1:

15. Qg3 Nfg4, 16. h3
Rolf: can you see it yet?!

Board 4 was a junior trade pieces slugfest draw for our newcomer Matthew Wedge-Roberts, while our hopes for better things on the bottom boards seemed mixed for a while, with Egils Vikanis struggling from far out, but Rod seeming more in control of things … at least for the moment …

Langham – Davis (W)

Here as time control approaches Rod’s position is probably still better, but Black has improved his position quite a lot since the early middle game, when White had a strong spatial advantage. Fritz here suggests 40. Nb4 which will round up the d-pawn – admittedly at the likely expense of the g-pawn – with a lot of tactics to follow.

Rod chooses to nudge the g-pawn towards safety, but this in turn nods the black pieces towards the business end of the White king position. 40.g4 Nf4 41.Nb8 Rf6 now it’s more or less forced to exchange minor pieces on e4, but Rod doesn’t see the coming mate 42.Nbd7? Ne2+ 0-1 as 43. Kh2 Re2 is #


Let’s leave the last word with Rolf … “16. … Nf3+; 17. Qxf3 Qh2#” at which time it was a little too late to tie his kangaroo down, mate.

29 March 2010


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