Weekend 5

[games, pgn]

The Last Weekend ... for so long it was touch and go, like so much of the play off season that featured on the box – would we or would we not make it back to Div 1? In the end, the headline news was easy to announce: Oxford 1 are promoted to Division 1, and no change for the other two teams.

Those of you following @Oxford4NCL on Twitter will know that we cut it mighty fine! We salvaged a 4-4 draw with White Rose on Saturday only thanks to David's determination: he won a tricky ending with 50 sec v 40 sec left. It is fitting that he secured us promotion in round 11 with another fine win to complete a 3/3 weekend - he played fabulously well, and his extra determination helped to push us over the line, ... just.

Thanks to all those who turned out for the weekend, especially to:

  • Jen Ehr who filled in at the very last minute in the third team on Monday and now goes on a gap year before taking up a place at Oxford University;
  • Hendrik Brackmann, joining us at almost the eleventh hour and scoring a fine win on his debut in the seconds;
  • Daniel Varney, playing for us on Sunday despite not feeling 100%;
  • Kelly Riley, who joined us for the full weekend and scored two draws and a win;
  • Karl Biswas, making his debut and scoring a win on Monday.

Match highlights are covered in Sean’s report... but watch out for some brilliance from Tom EW (Saturday), Chantelle and the Oxford 2 top order (Monday) and queen sacs on adjacent boards by Ed & Dave on Sunday. A committee will meet to award a special prize to Kev’s effort on Sunday...

Before plunging into the details of the weekend, here’s an overview of the results over the season. The full file is attached...

Top % performance – Qualification: 4 games

rating P W D L %
Howard Chiu 2042 4 3 1 0 87.5
David Zakarian 2374 10 7 3 0 85.0
David Scott 2017 7 4 2 1 71.4
Kieran Smallbone 2211 8 4 3 1 68.8
Matt Rose 2303 9 5 2 2 66.7

Top rating performance – Qualification: 4 games

rating P W D L % performance
David Zakarian 2374 10 7 3 0 85.0 2577
Matt Rose 2303 9 5 2 2 66.7 2333
Howard Chiu 2042 4 3 1 0 87.5 2305
Kieran Smallbone 2211 8 4 3 1 68.8 2257
Jan-Peter Schmidt 2269 9 4 2 3 55.6 2244
Mike Healey 2088 11 4 6 1 63.6 2183
Chris Duggan 2025 10 5 2 3 60.0 2158
Marcus Harvey 2150 4 0 3 1 37.5 2130
David Scott 2017 7 4 2 1 71.4 2120

Top Rating-to-Performance 2012-13 – Qualification: 4 games

rating P W D L % performance ±
Jen Ehr 1595 6 0 4 2 33.3 1887 292
Howard Chiu 2042 4 3 1 0 87.5 2305 263
David Zakarian 2374 10 7 3 0 85.0 2577 203
Chris Duggan 2025 10 5 2 3 60.0 2158 133
David Scott 2017 7 4 2 1 71.4 2120 103
Mike Healey 2088 11 4 6 1 63.6 2183 95
Sean Terry 1881 8 4 4 2 62.5 1943 62
Matt Ludbrook 1996 7 2 3 2 50 2043 47
Kieran Smallbone 2211 8 4 3 1 68.8 2257 46

Top Organisational Performer 2012-13 – Qualification: 1 year’s hard labour

Only one candidate here - the ever present and effervescent Tim Dickinson, who ran and managed and selected three Oxford teams, liaised with the 4NCL arbiters, transported people to and from venues, and restaurants, on all days of the weekend, scouted on mid-week chess matches, tweeted, cajoled, persuaded, paid attention to what needed tending, and still found time to play chess. Phenomenal.

All primed for 4NCL battle by Captain Tim, we headed off to Hinckley at the beginning of May in search of a victory (from 3 matches) that could secure promotion to Division 1 – any more and we might even win some cash. We ended up without a victory, but two draws either side of a 3½ - 4½ loss, each featuring some technique defying tricks from David Zakarian, turned out to be just enough to secure promotion... on the Saturday, we walked a tightrope, and the slugfest between two teams fit for a win led to some toe-to-toe battles. One wonders how White Rose might have recorded their side of events – no doubt pondering their wins at the expense of ours – but the match had a combative symmetry so the reader can choose which to prefer and which to ditch.

Oxford 1


White Rose 2 2166 Oxford 1 2204
w Gayson, Peter M 2215 0 - 1 Zakarian, David fm 2374
b Adams, David M 2216 0 - 1 Eckersley-Waites, Tom 2261
w Weller, Jean-Luc 2176 1 - 0 Schmidt, Jan-Peter fm 2269
b Weller, Pierre 2124 0 - 1 Rose, Matthew 2303
w Burnett, Jim 2143 0 - 1 Smallbone, Kieran D 2211
b Shaw, Peter 2151 1 - 0 Nitz, Tomos 2122
w O'Driscoll, Kieran 2120 1 - 0 Rawlinson, Aidan M 2171
b Arnott, Jonathan W cm 2188 1 - 0 Ehr, Jennifer 1922
4 – 4

A. Battles in the Tarrasch

So, let’s kick off on bottom board where Jen has found herself up against ... g5 in the Tarrasch French, and responded with an immediate g4 – not quite what the Doctor would have ordered, but certainly enterprising. (Fritz suggests the more modest h3, which will prevent g4 as long as the rooks face each other along the h-file). Black quickly achieves equality, then a plus, to reach this position where Nc2+ is only the tip of the Iceberg of Threat:

Ehr – Arnott (W)
4NCL Div 2c Hinckley

Looking at it with the eyes of a grandparent (one that doesn’t need to take this baby home) there’s clearly a case for castling short and seeing what happens next – and justifying it on the grounds that neither king will be truly safe in the middle game. Jen goes for the equally sensible 13.Bd1 but after ... b6! the threat of Ba6 is deadly. 14.Ba4 Ba6 and this Fritz assesses at –4ish, a remarkable feat for a position that is equal in material. 15.Qxd7+ Qxd7 16.Bxd7+ Kxd7 17.Kd1 Nd3 18.Rg1 Rac8 19.Rg2 Nf4 20.Rg1 Rc7 21.Nb3 Be2+ 0–1

Further up the match on Board 4, Matt has been playing against a similar style ... g5 system in the Tarrasch.

Rose – Weller (B)
4NCL Div 2c Hinckley

He has responded by allowing his centre to be wiped out after g4, and at the expense of this pawn he has better piece placements, the Black king really has nowhere safe to hide. In the space of the next 5 half moves, White’s advantage goes from +1.5 to +9: 23. Ra3 Bf8 24.Bg5 e5 25.Rb3 1–0. The threat is Rxb7, and otherwise Rb6 and Rxg6 with Nxe5 is savage.

Verdict: I’d give this to the Oxford team – with a disparity ratings, and both winners expertly murderous, but a little more sophistication in the technique on board 3.

B. Book, or Blunderama?

This part of the review starts with Aidan’s game on board 7 – where Black has built up one of those impressive positions in the Kings’ Indian, which any ageing Batsford chess junkie from the 1970s would recognise. The result (on a personal note) was many an exciting game, many a slip twixt cup and lip, and not all that many points for the Black pieces. In short, this could easily have been played in the 1975 Leinster Schools Championships:

O'Driscoll - Rawlinson
4NCL Div 2c Hinckley

It’s not hard to see that Black has an advantage – all those pawns, the more coordinated piece placements, the prospect of a war zone in the g1-h1 area – but equally, there is that pawn on c6, the passed pawn on a4 and the fact that it’s next to impossible to articulate the way of winning this for Black without considering variations which encompass a myriad of plans, and a modicum of unknowable risk. All of which is a shorthand introduction to the denouement ... or debacle, which was the continuation:

18. ... fxe4 19.fxe4 Kh7 20.exd5 cxd5 21.Qb6 d4 22.Nb5 d3 23.Bd2 Ra6 24.Qxd8 Rxd8 25.Bf3 e4 26.Ra3 Bxh3 27.gxh3 Rc6 28.Bxe4 Nxe4 29.Rxe4 Nf5 30.Rc4 Rd5 31.Kg2 Rcxc5 32.Rxc5 Rxc5 33.Rxd3 Rc2 34.Kf3 Ra2 35.a5 Rb2 36.a6 Ra2 37.a7 Ra4 38.Rc3 Nd4+ 39.Kg2 0–1

Meantime, if Kieran’s opponent had been doing any book preparation, maybe it was a chapter in a Palliser publication (“how to beat the Smallbone variation”) – alas, to no avail, as by the diagram position Kieran (to move) has amassed a series of small positional plusses but as yet no demonstrable inroad into the minor cracks in the White facade:

Burnett - Smallbone
4NCL Div 2c Hinckley

It’s just passed time control and it’s also reaching the point in the match where we need a win to have any chance of a point, so it was somewhat disconcerting to lipread the muttered epithet which emerged as he left the board after uncorking: 48. ... Rd6? Ouch. An age seemed to follow while waiting for White’s next move in the corridor outside, and wondering if clanger had been noticed by someone other than the crowd. Fortunately not, as the continuation was 49.Qf3 [Bc4! – a backwards empty square sacrifice perhaps not that noticeable after 5 hours at the board] Qc1 (whew) 50.Qe3? a self-pin with immediate sui-effects. Rf6 51.c4 Qf1 and now 52.f3 is forced ... Nxh3 53.Kxh3 Qh1+ 54.Kg4 Rf4+ (... Qh2! would have mated in less) 55.Qxf4 exf4 56.Kxf4 Qe1 57.Ra2 Kf6 0–1

Verdict: too close to call.

C. The Brilliancy Prize, or Battle of the Toms

Two games stood out as flowing in a different river to the others, and the first was this sprightly effort on board 6. Tom is a pawn to the good and needs some time to shore up his king position. His last move (Na4) aimed to do just that. Unfortunately for the Oxford team Black got his toe in the door, and didn’t let go until the bull was running amok in the china shop::

Nitz – Shaw (B)
4NCL Div 2c Hinckley

19. ... Nxd4 Black harries and hassles and prizes open the White king’s position: 20.Qe3 Qc6 21.Nxd4 Qxa4 22.f5 Bc5 23.Bc3 exf5 24.Qf3 f4 25.Bxd7 Qxd7 26.Qxf4 Qa4 27.Rh2 Qxa2 28.Nb3 Rxb3 29.cxb3 Qb1+ 30.Kd2 Qc2+ 31.Ke1 Re8+ 32.Be5 Bb4+ 33.Rhd2 Bxd2+ 34.Rxd2 Qc1+ 35.Ke2 Qc5 36.Kf1 Qc1+ 37.Ke2 Qc5 38.Kf1 Qb5+ 39.Kf2 Qxb3 40.Bc3 Qb6+ 41.Bd4 the last chance was for some miracle in the ending after Qd4 ... Qe6 42.Qe3 Qd7 43.Qc3 Re4 44.Re2 Rxh4 45.Bxg7 d4 46.Qg3 Qf5+ 0–1

On Board 2, the other Tom showed what happens when he gets into position A. Here, in a Philidor, he’s already by move 10 punted a pawn to g4 (all the rage in GM chess, by all accounts) and this was only the prelude to some real fireworks:

Eckersley-Waites,T - Adams
4NCL Div 2c Hinckley (9.12)

Though the Bc4 hangs, that didn’t seem all that material: 11.0–0–0 bxc4 12.Nxe5 Ba6 13.Nxc6 Qc7 14.e5 Qxc6 15.exf6 gxf6 16.Bf4+ Qe6 17.Qf3 Rc8 18.Rge1 Ne5 19.Qg3 Be7 20.Qg7 Rf8

21.Bxe5 fxe5 22.Rxe5 Qg6 23.Rxe7+ Kxe7 24.Nd5+ Ke8 25.Qe5+ Kd7 26.Nf6+ Kc6 27.Rd6+ Kb7 28.Qd5+ Kb8 29.Nd7+ Kc7 30.Qc6+ 1–0

Verdict: Well, you can read Matt’s Oxford Times piece here – while most of the lads at the curry house provided annotations like this to some of Tom’s moves.

D. Fight to the Death [Wanted: 1 point]

To end off, we had Jan and David looking for one point (for a match draw) with positions like this in view.

Weller – Schmidt (B,to play)

Gayson – Zakarian (B, to play)

So it’s essentially 3-3 (K’s game is about to finish soon) and our guys (both Black) need a point...

Jan’s position is hardly promising, and that e5 pawn looks terminal. No points for resigning, but in truth it seemed hard to imagine counterplay here – so Jan punted ... Rc2 just after time control. Meanwhile David’s position was equal on material, better on piece positioning but no clear win. It’s move 62 and play continues 62. ... Ke4! in the hope of decisive infiltration. Most of the crowd is in the bar, waiting on the Twitter Feed, or the call to the Chinese restaurant.

Jan finishes first, but not before reaching this position:

Weller – Schmidt (W)

And all of a sudden there’s some chances of a result: it’s not easy to stop that h-pawn queening: 54.Rf6 Rg6 55.Rxg6 Kxg6 56.Kd7 h3 57.e6 h2 58.e7 h1Q 59.e8Q+ unfortunately that is a check – and since the K+P ending is not good for us, the end is nigh: ... Kg5 60.Qe5+ Kg6 61.Qe6+ Kg7 62.Qxh6+ Qxh6 63.Rxh6 Kxh6 64.Kc6 1–0

So it was down to David, and while we went in search of the elusive Chinese restaurant that was allegedly “nearby”, the top board struggle turned into a clock scramble as both sides matched each other until, at a position not unadjacent to this, White – with 40 seconds to David’s luxurious 80 – blinked:

Gayson – Zakarian (W, to play)

95.Ra8? (Kf2 is drawing – it’s not possible to queen the d-pawn without allowing the b-pawn to do likewise) ... Rxb7 96.Ra1+ Kc2 97.Ra2+ Kc3 98.Ra3+ Kb2 99.Rd3 Kc1 100.Rc3+ Kd1 and 0-1

Verdict: match drawn


Oxford 1 2193 3Cs 1 2159
w Zakarian, David fm 2374 1 - 0 Ashton, Adam G fm 2367
b Eckersley-Waites, Tom 2261 ½ - ½ Longson, Alexander 2273
w Schmidt, Jan-Peter fm 2269 ½ - ½ Bentley, John L 2212
b Smallbone, Kieran D 2211 0 - 1 House, Glenn L fm 2228
w Rawlinson, Aidan M 2171 0 - 1 Walton, Alan J cm 2142
b Nitz, Tomos 2122 ½ - ½ Burton, Graham P 2052
w Dickinson, Tim R 2134 ½ - ½ Horton, Andrew P 2015
b Miranda Gonzalez, Nicole 2009 ½ - ½ Horton, Jamie A 1983
3½ – 4½

Try as hard as I have, it’s not easy to fall in love with the chess on this particular Sabbath. Was it the late Sunday start, the beer from the night before, the plethora of fianchettoed kings bishops?? For whatever reason, if Round 9 was walking a tightrope, the Sunday was more like tracing on treacle, as nothing seemed to work out, and the Oxford engine spluttered for 5 hours without noticeable clarity emerging on the board.

Except on top board where David Z had clearly slept well and prepped better, finding a position that wasn’t in his repertoire (but figured somewhere in the opponent’s). This led to this position where White looks better but not immediately winning:

Zakarian – Ashton (W)
4NCL Division 2c (10.11)

Some smart timing and calculation soon fixed this: 18.Qc2 g6 19.Rfd1 Qb6 20.Nc5 a5 21.Qc3 axb4 22.axb4 Nxb4 looks like a good way out of trouble, but the weakness along a1-h8 is deadly: 23.Qxb4 Rxc5 24.Rxc5 Bxc5 25.Qf4 1–0

That finishes off the clear-cut good news for the round, so let’s look at these misfiring fianchettoes, starting with K on 4, where his position seems a little parlous, while his clock teetering close to zero hour around move 30 was a bigger problem:

House – Smallbone
4NCL Division 2c (10.14)

29.Bh3 g5 30.Nf3 h5 31.Bg2 Qa7 32.Qd2 Qg7 33.Be3 and now it’s clear that Black’s role is purely defensive, and those pawn pushes were simply more and more weakening. ... Rf5 34.Nd4 Rxf1+ 35.Rxf1 Qxe5 36.Nxc6 Qg7 37.Nxd8 1–0

Next door almost, and a lot earlier, Aidan looked like something was cooking in a classical Dutch:

Rawlinson,A - Walton
4NCL Division 2c (10.15)

13. ... Nxe4 14.Bxe4 Bxg5 and now although it seems two bishops will look good on the board, that knight will plonk itself on d4 and White will struggle: 15.Bxg5 Nd4 16.Rxd4 (practically forced) exd4 17.Bxh7+ Kh8 18.Bg6 (Be4) Qe6 19.f4 Qe3+ 20.Kg2 Bg4 21.Bd3 Rae8 22.Rf1 Be2 23.Bxe2 Qxe2+ 24.Rf2 d3 0–1

Meantime, on the bottom boards, Nicole lost a pawn in what must be a seasonal record 6 moves in a Petrov, but recovered sufficiently to draw out last to finish. Another earlier draw resulted on board 3 where Jan-Peter won a pawn, but in the sort of position where it was safer to return it quickly to avoid a death-by-non-development disappointment. Tim D was having his own problems on board 7:

Dickinson - Horton
4NCL Division 2c (10.17)

Another fianchetto disaster-area as Tim has spent a long time getting no noticeable advantage – unless you count that a-pawn as a plus, which even the most blue-eyed spectator was finding hard to credit. Still, spectators cling to slender reeds sometimes... but play continued 30. ... Qe4+ 31.Kg1 Rdd2 which looks entirely natural but in fact 31. ...Rd3 (threatening Rxg3+) 32.Kh2 Rdd2 would win very prettily. Now Tim can escape to rough equality with 32.Ra3 (or Rad1) Qf5 33.Qa8+ Kh7 34.Qf3 Qxe5 35.Qxf7 Ra2 36.Rxa2 Rxa2 37.Qd7 Qe4 38.Rd1 Rxa4 39.Qd3 ½–½

So one down with two to play... and Tom E-W was heading in his own way towards a draw with the black pieces here

Longson - Eckersley-Waites,T
4NCL Division 2c (10.12)

38 ... Nd6 39.Be3 (one suspects that if Black can get rid of a pair of minor pieces he will have solved many problems: Fritz prefers Bf4 here) Kf7 40.Kf1 Nc4 41.Kg1 Nxe3 42.fxe3 Kg6 43.Kf2 Be4 44.Ke2 Kxg5 45.Kd2 Kf5 46.c4 Ke5 47.Kc3 Bg2 48.b5 Ke4 49.Kb4 Kxe3 50.Kc5 Kd3 51.b6 Bb7 52.Kb4 Bc6 53.Kc5 Bb7 54.Kb5 Kd4 ½–½

This leaves Tom N’s game which was full of incident for the alco-laden crowd:

Burton – Nitz (W)
4NCL Division 2c (10.16)

A critical point early in a Ponziani. I felt at the time that Black could be getting somewhere as Bxc6 would result in an easy game, while the immediate Bxa6 was long-term dodgy. However, White doesn’t have to move the bishop... 14.Nb3 which suggests ... Nb8 as a response – winning a piece and protecting the Black king in an unclear position. Instead ... Nxd4 15.Nxd4 Nf5? (... Qg5+ and Qc5) 16.Ne6 and now White has an easy initiative ... Rxd1+ 17.Rxd1 Bd6 18.Bxa6 bxa6 19.c5 Re8 20.Qxa6+ Kd7 21.cxd6 Nxd6 22.Nxc7 Kxc7 23.Qxd6+ Kb7 24.Qd7+ Kb8 25.Qb5+ Ka8 26.Qa6+ Kb8 27.Qb6+ Ka8

White now misses an easy win and opts for a Queen ending 28.Rd8+ (Qc6+ and Rd7 wins) Rxd8 29.Qxd8+ Kb7 30.Qd7+ Kb8 31.Qb5+ Kc7 32.Qa4 Kb8 33.Qf4+ Ka7 34.Qg4 Qh6+ 35.Kb1 Qxh2 36.Qxg7+ Ka8 37.Qf8+ Ka7 38.Qc5+ Ka8 39.Qd5+ Ka7 40.Qd4+ Ka8 41.Qe4+ Ka7 42.Qe7+ Ka8 43.Qf8+ Ka7 44.Qa3+ Kb8 45.Qb4+ Ka7 46.Qd4+ Ka8 47.Qe4+ Ka7 48.a4 h5 49.Qd4+ Ka8 50.Qd8+ Ka7 51.Qd7+ Ka8 52.Qc6+ Ka7 53.Qc5+ Ka8 54.Qd5+ Ka7 55.Ka2 ½–½

A curious outcome but Black’s h-pawn, along with the match score, has had the intended effect on White’s will to win.


Kings Head 2201 Oxford 1 2220
w Snuverink, Jochem 2350 1 - 0 Rose, Matthew 2303
b McMichael, Richard J cm 2248 0 - 1 Zakarian, David fm 2374
w Kwiatkowski, Feliks J cm 2209 ½ - ½ Schmidt, Jan-Peter fm 2269
b Okike, David C 2160 0 - 1 Eckersley-Waites, Tom 2261
w Haria, Ravi 2114 ½ - ½ Smallbone, Kieran D 2211
b Thomas, Rik H 2183 ½ - ½ Dickinson, Tim R 2134
w Guthrie, David W 2170 1 - 0 Rawlinson, Aidan M 2171
b Wittmann, Jochen cm 2176 ½ - ½ Foster, Chantelle L 2042
4 – 4

Starting with the top & bottom, a tale of Jochem & Jochen – and a draw on board 8 was a great result for Chantelle against Jochen who was heard to wonder whether some dark forces in the opposition’s networks had done some prepping in the Schliemann. Search me, guv – although the game score shows considerable evidence of White preparation, as Jochen is quickly busted and a clear 3 pawns adrift when we reach this position ...

Foster - Wittmann
4NCL Division 2c (11.18)

... and this denouement, the draw offer clearly the result of having taken too long to reach this position:

21.Nd6+ Kb8 22.Nb5+ Kc8 23.Nd6+ Kb8 24.c5 h6 25.Nb5+ Kc8 26.Nd6+ ½–½

Meanwhile at the other end of the match, Matt had lost his way against Jochem Snuverink in a game too theoretical for comment! Tim and Kieran drifted into draws for one reason or another, while Aidan completed a miserable weekend at the board when the exchange sac in the Bayonet KID proved too much.

At which point we were 1½ - 3½, and a quick look at the other match (White Rose 2 – Anglian Avengers) showed that the Anglians were winning 5½ - 1½ and so likely to move to 7 points with a superior game point score. Which meant we needed to draw the match to reach the promotion with 8 points.

Three boards remained, and this rapidly became two (match score: 2½ - 3½) when Tom EW quickly converted this tricky looking pawn ending:

Eckersley-Waites,T - Okike
4NCL Division 2c (11.14)

In point of fact it’s only visually tricky. The protected passed e-pawn, with the weakness of the White h-pawn suggests Black has an advantage. In point of fact, it doesn’t take long to make that pawn on a3 into a complete menace, so Black will ultimately be threatened by a- and h- pawns which are passed and mean.

48.Ke3 Kf7 49.Kd3 Kg6 50.c4 bxc4+ 51.Kxc4 Kf5 52.b4 axb3 53.Kxb3 Kf4 54.Kc2 Ke3 55.g4 e4 56.g5 Kf2 57.g6 e3 58.gxh7 e2 59.h8Q e1Q 60.Qd4+ Kg3 61.Qc3+ 1–0

2½ - 3½

Zakarian – McMichael

Kwiatkowski – Schmidt

And now we’re down to Jan & David Z, as on Saturday evening, needing 1½ points for promotion. Jan’s position (right) is basically equal, and there may have been a draw offer from Felix. If so, it’s been refused but all eyes are on the board next door and moves are being played in a desultory fashion. Can White win that Q+P ending? We know it’s winnable (well, we know that Botvinnik could win such endings) but... ... and so:

53. ... a5 54.bxa6 Qxa6 55.g4 Kg7 56.Qe7+ Kg8 57.Kh5 Qc6 58.g5

And it was about here that I felt it was a matter of technique, and probably tweeted as much: those pawns are properly protected, the Black king’s a mess and there must be a win. Which naturally means - using some law that negatively correlates journalistic truth aphorisms to Fritz analysis - that g5 was a mistake as an alert Black could have reduced this to a very-near draw with ... b6! Fortunately Black misses this and angles for a series of checks which seem, at first sight, equally compelling: 58 ... Qf3+ 59.Kg6 Qd3+ 60.Kf6 Qf3+ 61.Kg6 Qd3+ 62.Kf6 Qf3+ and after 63.Ke5 it’s clear that the king is headed towards b7: ... Qe3+ 64.Kd6 Qf4+ 65.Kd7 Qd4+ 66.Kc7 Qd5 67.Qd8+ 1–0

Oxford 2


Oxford 2 2025 3Cs 2 1956
w Healey, Michael W 2088 1 - 0 Adams, Philip 2072
b Ludbrook, Matthew 1996 1 - 0 Burke, Mitchell R 1966
w Chiu, Howard cm 2048 1 - 0 Abbas, Daniel 1949
b Colburn, Paul J 1978 0 - 1 Manton, Jacob 1978
w Duggan, Christopher 2025 1 - 0 Lau, Jason 1914
b Scott, David A 2017 1 - 0 Gittens, Nathan L 1859
5 – 1

A match that looked closer on ratings paper was turned in our favour by two quick wins on the bottom boards, and top board wins that emerged from tense middle games with Howard’s win delayed well late into the 6th hour.

Healey - Adams
4NCL Division 3 (9.175)

34.Bd4 and now if ... Bxd4; 35. Rg3+ nabs the Black queen, and Rg3 is threatened, so ... 34. ... Rxd4 35.cxd4 Qxd4 36.b4 Safety first but this allows Black a measure of activity with ... Qd1!, which would threaten Bd4 after the Qh5 moves, which would be awkward. Fritz suggests an immediate 36.Qh4 e.g. Qxb2 37.Qd8+ Kh7 38.Qc8 b4 39.Qxa6 bxa3 40.Qxa3 which still leaves some technical conversion by White in the endgame.... 36. ... Qe4 37.Qh4 e5 38.Qd8+ Kh7 39.Qd7 Qc4 40.Qxf5+ Kg8 when the game is as good as over 41.fxe5 Qd5 42.Re3 Kh8 43.Qc8+ Kh7 44.Qc5 Qe6 45.Qd6 Qf5 46.e6 fxe6 47.Qxe6 Qf4+ 48.Rg3 1–0

Board 2 was more even, and more evenly matched – but also decided by a blunder:

Burke - Ludbrook
4NCL Division 3 (9.176)

24.Ra1? Bxe4 25.Rxe4 (otherwise Qf2+) Nc5 26.bxc5 Rxa1+ and 0-1 on 39.

Howard won this nice ending with the White pieces into the 6th hour – and a bit of a shame that we’d forgotten to keep a driver back to take him to Oxford ... d’oh!

Chiu - Abbas
4NCL Division 3 (9.177)

51. ... Nxc3 52.Nxh5 f5 53.Nf6 fxe4 54.fxe4 Ne2 55.h5 Nf4 56.h6 Kc5 57.Nd7+ Kd6 58.Nf8 Ke7 1–0

Our only loss was in fact the most pleasing effort of the lot (sorry, Paul).

Manton - Colburn
4NCL Division 3 (9.178)

Black does seem to have cordoned off the threats to the a-pawn, and with time control arriving the ratings differential (-100) and the match score looking poor a draw might be on the cards. Or not, as White impressively rolls his troops over to the weaknesses on the other side: 37.Bf6 Kd7 38.Nc2 Ne8 39.g5 Nc7 40.Ne3 Ne8 41.Ng4 Nc7 42.Bb2 Ne8 43.Ba1 Kd8 44.Bf6+ Kd7 45.Nh6 Nc8 46.Nxf7 Ne7 47.Bxe7 Kxe7 48.Nh6 Nc7 49.h4 Kd7 50.Ng8 Kc8 51.Nf6 Kb7 52.Nxh7 Ka6 53.Nf8 Kxa5 54.Nxg6 Na8 55.Ne7 Nb6+ 56.Kc3 Na4+ 57.Kb3 Kb5 58.g6 c4+ 59.Kc2 1–0


Bradford DCA Knights B 1932 Oxford 2 2005
w Jennings, Roger W 1946 ½ - ½ Healey, Michael W 2088
b Bramson, Mike 1978 ½ - ½ Duggan, Christopher 2025
w Nicholson, Jim WR 2005 1 - 0 Ludbrook, Matthew 1996
b McCarthy, Damian 1885 0 - 1 Scott, David A 2017
w Patrick, David A 1914 0 - 1 Stembridge, Ed 2050
b Dean, Robert A 1866 ½ - ½ Neatherway, A Philip 1859
2½ – 3½

A gritty match against the lads from Bradford, with 3 draws and some canny manoeuvring on boards 1, 6 and this board, which saw Dave double all on the g-file, and then the h-file, in search of advantage. He took this time to force the pace:

Scott - McCarthy
4NCL Division 3 (10.148)

... and was rewarded after 45.Bxf6 gxf6 46.Qg4+ Rg7 47.Qxg7+ 1–0 as mate follows on the h-file. After 46. ...Kh8 47.Rh6 Rdf7 it’s not clear how the game will be won – although White is still better.

Ed had earlier won his game (which negated a loss by Matt L) after an exchange sacrifice laid low any ideas that White was attacking:

Patrick – Stembridge
4NCL Division 3 (10.149)

25. ... Nxf3 26.Be2 Ng5 27.Qh8 d4 28.Bh5+ g6 29.Rg3 gxh5 30.Qa8 Bc6+ 31.f3 Qxf3+ 32.Rxf3 Bxf3+ 0–1

This allowed us to win the match as games on the top boards were both drawn – as both Mike and Phil N achieved blockades, of different types, a pawn down in each ...


Oxford 2 2008 Fermented Sharks 2080
w Healey, Michael W 2088 ½ - ½ Maleki, Manuel 2297
b Duggan, Christopher 2025 1 - 0 Thorarinsson, Pall A 2245
w Miranda Gonzalez, Nicole 2009 ½ - ½ Farkas, Daniel 2108
b Scott, David A 2017 0 - 1 Agnew, Alan 2081
w Ludbrook, Matthew 1996 1 - 0 Kay, Jonathan 1958
b Brackmann, Hendrik 1914 1 - 0 McAleenan, Charles T 1793
4 – 2

Last year the Fermented Sharks started the rot (as it were) on our promotion hopes in a tight match; this time around an excellent result which saw our top 3 score 2/3 against significantly higher opposition, with some high quality chess. The pre-time control sparkle was though provided by Hendrik, who had been poached from the Univ – City match the previous Thursday.

After some languorous sparring in an English v K.I.D set-up, the scene was set for some heavy piece activity in which White seemed better – barring the small matter of his king-side.

McAleenan – Brackmann (W)
4NCL Division 3 (11.130)

Black has just played the excellent ... Bd7-f5 leaving White in a quandary. Can that g-pawn be saved? Perhaps not, so it was time to continue the ‘attack’ with 34.d6 Rd7 35.Rb7 Rcd8 36.Bc6 hxg4 37.Bxd7 [even the computer suggestion of 37.h4 Qxh4 38.Bxd7 Qg3+ 39.Kh1 Bxd7 is hopeless, and this leads quickly to mate] 37. ...gxh3+ 38.Kf1 Bxd3+ 39.Ke1 Qg1+ 40.Kd2 when after ... Qe3+ (not given in the pgn) it was time for 0–1

On the top boards, Chris had finished off his 2200 strength opponent long since, as his defence-to-Bb5 Sicilian led to an unusual set up – and after White refused an early tentative offer of a repetition, his position steadily got worse. The end was pretty:

Thorarinsson – Duggan (W)
4NCL Division 3 (11.126)

30.Nxd4 this looks like a blunder but there’s a whiff of “What else” about the position, with a lock-down zugzwang binding most of the white Army to their current position. ... Qxf2+ 31.Qxf2 Rfxf2 32.Nxc6 Rg2+ 33.Kh1 Rh2+ 0–1

Nicole also found a lock-down on board 3, closing up an English v Dutch position to something like this:

Miranda Gonzalez - Farkas
4NCL Division 3 (11.127)

... as early as move 26, after which both sides continued to look at the game in search of something other to do than repeat the position. As it happens, a draw was agreed after 42.Rh2 – a cruel breaking up of the colour coding symmetry that was beginning to appear on the board. ½–½

On top board, White was looking quids in for a win for some time before this position, where he’s a knight for pawns to the good – a 2300 scalp was being prepared at the eleventh hour of the 2012-13 campaign for Mike’s polished Victim CV:

Healey – Maleki (W)
4NCL Division 3 (11.125)

Black has, however, improved his position from the complexity chaos that was on the board before time control, into a position where the advantage of that extra knight isn’t converted without effort. Exchanging rooks (Rxd4) unifies those pawns into a tidy wedge, undermining the pawns (f4) reduces the dwindling stockpile of embryonic queen material, while the rook moves (Re1, Rb1) so favoured by Fritz run into the problem that White has just played Ra1-d1.

Play continues 45.f4 exf4 46.gxf4 Ke6 effectively forcing off the rooks 47.Rxd4 cxd4 48.Nd1 h6 and more exchanges to follow 49.Nf2 g5 50.Kf3 Kd5 and now neither side can exchange pawns on the king side, and the game ends in a standoff: 51.Nd3 Kc4 52.Ke2 Kc3 53.Nf2 ½–½

Dave Scott had a rare bad day at the races, as his Scotch gets holed early and diluted soon after:

Agnew - Scott
4NCL Division 3 (11.128)

Watching at the time I had thought this might be defensible, but White quickly cut through:

15.e5 dxe5 16.Ne4 Rd8 17.Neg5+ Ke7 [this loses immediately but after 17. ...Bxg5 18.Bxg5 Nf6 19.Nxe5+ Kg8 20.Qxc6 Black is stranded] 18.Qc5+ Ke8 19.Qxf8+ 1–0

Matt Ludbrook’s position was quite an interesting one near time control:

Ludbrook - Kay
4NCL Division 3 (11.129)

It’s White to move, but even if it were Black’s move he’d be stuffed – what an unusual position! and you’d wonder how it came about. But let’s look at the mopping up stage first, which went

35.Qxb7 Kf7 36.Qxc6 Qd8 37.Qb5 Qh8 38.Qd5+ e6 39.Qd7+ Kf8 40.Qxe6 Re8 41.Qd6+ Kf7 42.Rf1 Re6 43.Qd7+ Re7 44.Qf5 Re5 45.Qxe5 1–0

Retracing the game back to the middle-game, we find this juicy position (White to move), where Matt has sacrificed and/or Black has scoffed two pawns

23.c3! Nxe4 [after a long think on a slow machine, Fritz suggests the retreat away to b6 as better: 23. ...Qb6 24.Nxf6 exf6 25.Rgxh5 Rg1+ 26.Kc2, after which it’s still a game] 24.fxe4 once again ... Qb6 seems better with the idea of checking on b1 24. ...Qf6 25.Rgxh5 Rg7 26.Qh2 Stockpile City 26. ...Qg6 27.Rh6 Qg5+ 28.Kb1 Kg8 29.Rxh7 Rxh7 30.Qxh7+ Kf8 31.Qh8+ Qg8 32.Qh2 Ke8 33.Rg1 Qf8 34.Qc7 f6 and we’re back to the previous position.

Anyone wanting to see how the opening developed to the above position is directed to the PGN file at the end of this report...

Oxford 3


Oxford 3 Aigburth
w Terry, Sean 1908 ½ - ½ Williamson, Roger G 2148
b Henbest, Kevin B 1771 1 - 0 Frith, Robert J 2002
w Riley, Adrian K 1658 ½ - ½ Bernhard, Julia 1829
2 – 1
Oxford 3 BCM Eagles (4)
b Neatherway, A Philip 1859 1 - 0 Jones, Jeremy J 1622
w Dickinson, Tim R 2134 1 - d
b Rawlinson, Melanie 1666 1 - d
3 – 0

A match which was split by a partly-absent opposition, with the triangular match-up featuring a 2450 player on the board next to me. What with this, the occasional visit of a 2600 GM from next door and Kelly on bottom board, it was a heady atmosphere in the Aviary at Hinckley. Some highlights:

Frith - Henbest
4NCL Division 3 (9.93)

Kev got a squeeze on and finished off neatly: 31 ... Qd5 32.Qd2 a5 33.c3 bxc3 34.bxc3 a4 35.c4 Qf7 36.Qe2 axb3 37.axb3 Qb7 38.Qb2 Qb4 39.Qb1 Qd2 0–1

Other games saw a blunder giving Phil N a quick win, a fortuitous draw offer on my board in a position where my opponent was just about to make inroads, and an arbiter intervention involving Kelly but not amounting to anything serious.


Sons of Anarchy 2021 Oxford 3 1694
w Varnam, Liam D 2118 1 - 0 Biswas, Karl 1842
b Willis, Rupert 2090 1 - 0 Varney, Andrew 1794
w Kafka, Graeme 2065 1 - 0 Henbest, Kevin B 1771
b Cairns, Stephen 2041 0 - 1 Riley, Adrian K 1658
w James, Stephen B 2030 1 - 0 Varney, Zoe 1562
b Kourtseva, Julie 1784 1 - 0 Varney, Daniel 1538
5 – 1

Sunday saw the arrival of fresh blood, and a debutant appearance by Karl and a host of Varneys lined up against a very strong Sons of Anarchy set up. Any score would count as a good match result.

In a difficult position, Andrew allowed a liquidation to the rook and pawn ending...

Varney,A - Willis
4NCL Division 3

28.Nd4? Nxd3+ 29.Nxd3 Bxe4 30.fxe4 Bxd4+ 31.cxd4 Rxc1 32.Nxc1 Rxc1 33.Rd3 Rh1 34.Kg3 Rg1+ 35.Kh3 Re1 and 0-1, 45.

Pride of place in any anecdotal account of the 4NCL would be this position.

Kafka - Henbest
4NCL Division 3

Kev has just played the sprightly and thematic ... e5 in response to the fianchetto response to the Najdorf. White, perhaps unaware of the red arrow that hovers above the board, quickly played 7. Bg2 and went off to the bar to buy an early afternoon cappuccino. It must have been a large one, because an age passes while Kev looks at the board, wondering what fiendishly fiendish plan is hidden in the variations... ... eventually White returns to find 7. ... Be7 and plays 8.Nde2 with an implied whew, as it turns out that his plan on the previous move, if there was one, was of the cunning Baldrick variety. Right proper kafka-esque... ... and so it goes: (1-0, 34)

So, one way or another, it was looking like 6-0: heavily outgraded on all boards, where even the blunders look like TNs. On top board, Karl’s king and queen got caught in the headlight examination of fianchettoed bishops and doubled rooks:

Varnam – Biswas (B)
4NCL Division 3

20. ... Qf5 escape seems impossible... 21.Qc3 Bd7 22.f4 Ng6 23.g4 Qe6 24.f5 Qe5 25.Rxd7 Bxc5+ 26.Kh1 Nf4 27.Qxe5 Rxe5 28.Bxe5 1–0

Despite not feeling well, Daniel played robustly on bottom board, but found himself hampered by some indecision early on after Julie nabbed a pawn on c4 and attempted to keep it for herself. Except for Board 4, where Kelly stood (or sat) alone for most of the last 20 moves of his game in this position:

Riley - Cairns
4NCL Division 3

A pawn to the good, but here it’s quite easy to blunder into allowing the a-pawn be liquidated while the Black king hunts down the remaining pawns on the other side. But today Kelly wasn't for sweating the small stuff, and he finished in some style:

48.g4 Nb2 49.gxh5 gxh5 50.Nf6 Ke3 51.Nxh5 Kxf3 52.Nf6 (Ng3 seems a bit more to the point, but Fritz doesn’t mind either way) Kf4 53.Kc5 Kf5 54.Nd5 Nd3+ 55.Kb6 Ke5 56.Nc7 Kf5 57.Nxa6 Ne5 and now Black does threaten to liquidate that a-pawn so from here to the end it’s hell for the crowd – but if Kelly walks not quite on water, he certainly tiptoes elegantly through the dodgy tulips to come out smelling of roses in this ending 58.Kc5 Kg4 59.Kd5 Nd3 60.Nc5 Nb4+ 61.Kc4 Nc6 62.a6 Kxh4 63.Kb5 Na7+ 64.Kb6 Nc8+ 65.Kc7 Na7 66.Nb3 Kg5 67.Nd4 Kf6 68.Kb7 1–0

Applause, maestro.


Oxford 3 1781 Manchester Manticores 1914
w Ehr, Jennifer 1922 ½ - ½ Hamer, Martyn 2030
b Terry, Sean 1908 ½ - ½ Mulleady, Peter J 1905
w Biswas, Karl 1842 1 - 0 Lonsdale, Jon I 1938
b Varney, Andrew 1794 ½ - ½ Norris, Michael J 1969
w Riley, Adrian K 1658 ½ - ½ Pardoe, David 1866
b Varney, Zoe 1562 0 - 1 Pollard, Matthew B 1778
3 – 3

Oxford 3 finished their campaign once again with a fixture against the Manchester Manticores, an evenly matched bout that ended about even once Andrew Varney held out for a well-earned draw on board 4. On top board, Jen once more played patiently against an Alekhine which is intended to grind out a result:

Ehr – Hamer
4NCL Division 3 (11.255)

25.Bxe5 Nc6 26.Bxg7 Kxg7 27.Rxe8 Rxe8 28.Re1 Re6 [28. ...Rxe1+ 29.Qxe1 h5 is suggested] 29.Re3 Qe7 30.Kg2 f5 31.Rxe6 Qxe6 32.f3 h6 ½–½

On the next board I had bitten off more than my hangover could chew that particular Monday, so ended up exchanging slight pluses for slight minuses, before agreeing a draw near time control. This meant I had missed Karl’s entertaining game in a Blumenfeld, which never looked that good for Black and ended quickly from here:

Biswas,Karl - Lonsdale,Jon I
4NCL Division 3 (11.1)

17. ... Re8+ 18.Be2 Ne5? 19.Nxe5+ Bxe5 all of which unpins the bishop on e2 20.Bh5+ 1–0

With Kelly drawing yet another ending (R+B plus pawns) from a Reti, and Zoe dropping a piece early in her game, this meant that we were all square with the last match left to decide:

Norris - Varney, A
4NCL Division 3 (11.2), 06.05.2013

37.Rc5 At the board I was more interested (or worried) about what would happen after f5 at various stages of the game. However, 37. Rc7+ Rd7 d6 might have been interesting. 37. ...Qe7 38.b4 Black misses a chance to get queens off with ... Re1 with ... Qe4 (e2) to follow. 38. ...Rdb6 39.Kf2 Qf6 40.Qc3 Qxc3 41.Rxc3 Kg7 42.Ke2 Kf6 43.Kd3 Rd8 44.Kd4 after which it's time to prepare for the handshakes 44. ...Rd7 45.Ra3 Rc7 46.Ra1 Rc8 47.Rd1 ½–½

28 May 2013