Tim writes:

I fear there is not much good news to impart from the March 4NCL just concluded.

Oxford 1lost to WGHK 2½ -5½ and Cambridge Uni 3-5 (sorry, Uni chaps!);Oxford 2lost to Rhyfelwyr Essyllwg 2½-3½ and to Surbiton 1 2-4;Oxford 3lost 0-6 (ouch!) to Barnet Knights 1 and drew (hooray!) 3-3 with Shropshire 3.Looking for positives within the wreckage, skip notes that Justin was our top performer with 1½ from his two games. No-one else managed that, not surprisingly given our results, but skip - at Telford all weekend - particularly enjoyed watching Oscar's games on board 3 of Ox2, his highest board placing to date. He despatched a 2074 on Saturday - our only win that day in 20 games(!) - by forcing his opp to offload B+N in the late middlegame, and had a chaotic game against his 2125 Sunday opp which sadly went the wrong way approaching move 40. I think he will gain 30-35 FIDE for his efforts. I can recommend playing through Riley v Mehmood in Ox3 from today. That game had virtually everything: Blunderama, rook sacs (x2), mating attacks and technical endgame.

Ox3 may have lost 0-6 on Saturday but three of our team had chances. Alan's 2200-rated opponent was very complimentary of his play [especially Bh3!]. Kaushy probably should have held a draw in R+1 v R+2; Hendrik reckoned she was doing well earlier. Ross looked good until he gambled everything on his d-pawn promoting. [It didn't.]

Skip worked out while driving home that Ox1 probably survive in Div 1 with victory over Sussex Martlets, but needs to calculate that properly. He hasn't yet figured out Ox2's chances in the Div 3s Relegation Pool, but reckons we need three match wins in Rounds 9-11 - and we have yet to score one this season. Ooo-er.

# Oxford 1

## Saturday

Wood Green HK | 2340 | Oxford 1 | 2286 | |||||

w | Speelman, Jon S | g | 2520 | ½ - ½ | Tan, Justin | i | 2441 | |

b | Shaw, John | g | 2452 | ½ - ½ | Zakarian, David | f | 2392 | |

w | Greet, Andrew N | i | 2452 | 1 - 0 | Harvey, Marcus R | f | 2336 | |

b | McDonald, Neil | g | 2409 | 1 - 0 | Eckersley-Waites, Tom | 2312 | ||

w | Fitzsimons, David | f | 2388 | 1 - 0 | Claridge-Hansen, William | f | 2295 | |

b | Pein, Malcolm | i | 2357 | ½ - ½ | Hansen, Hans-Peter | 2259 | ||

w | Longson, Sarah N | wf | 2109 | ½ - ½ | Rose, Matthew | 2285 | ||

b | Craft, Isaac | 2037 | ½ - ½ | Matta, Francesca | 1975 | |||

5½ - 2½ |

Board 1 was a peaceful 22 mover in the 2500-o-Sphere, followed by a less charitable affair on board 2. DZ had secured an endgame plus pawn, but resourceful play from Black secured the point on move 29, thanks in part to two overload combinations:

**Zakarian - Shaw** (W)

4NCL Division 1a Birmingham, 19.03.2016

**28.Nc1? 28...Rd1+ 29.Ke2 Nxb2 …**

[Fritz says 28.Nf4 Rb3 29.Rc1 with the justification that if Rxb2 30.Rc8+ Kg7 31.Nh5+ Kg6 32.Rg8+ Kxh5 33.g4#.]]

And later:

**55...f6 56.Re6+ Kc5 57.Rxf6 Bxe5+ 58.Kxe5 Rxe3+ 59.Kf4 Ra3 ½–½**

On board 3, Marcus got hit by a nice combo:

**Greet – Harvey** (W)

4NCL Division 1a Birmingham), 19.03.2016

**13.Nxd5 Nc5 14.Qg4 Bxd5** [14...Kh8 is the way to escape with only a pawn light; or … c6.] **15.Bh6 Ne6 16.Rfd1 Bxg2** decides to give up the queen for bits but alas… **17.Rxd8 Rfxd8 18.Kxg2 Rd4 19.Qf3** ah **19...Rad8 20.Be3 Rb4 21.b3 Rb5 22.Qe4 g6 23.Rc1 a5 24.h4 h5 25.f4 a4 26.f5 Rb4 27.Rc4 gxf5 28.Qxf5 axb3 29.Rxb4 Bxb4 30.axb3 Ng7 31.Qe4 Bd2 32.Bf4 c5 33.Qc2 Bxf4 34.gxf4 Rc8 35.Qd3 Ne6 36.e3 Rd8 37.Qb5 Rd2+ 38.Kf3 Rb2 39.f5 Nf8 40.Qe8 Kg7 41.f6+ Kg8 42.e6 1–0**

Tom EW had an off-day at the combinatorial factory:

**Eckersley-Waites,T – McDonald** (W)

4NCL Division 1a Birmingham, 19.03.2016

**18.Kb1 Qxd4 19.Rhe1** [more direct is… 19.Bd6 Re8 20.Nc5 Qc4 21.Rxd5] **19...Be6 20.Bd6 Rfc8 21.Nc5 Qc4 22.b3 Qb4 23.Nxe6 Qxd6 24.Rxd5?? Qe7** ouch** 0–1**

William CH finds himself in a no-pawns centre where his pieces free-float without adequate protection:

**Fitzsimons - Claridge-Hansen,W**

4NCL Division 1a Birmingham, 19.03.2016

**26.Bd5!** nice** Ndc6 27.f4 Nd3 28.Rxd3 Nb4 29.Rdd1 Bxc3 30.bxc3 Nxd5 31.c4 1–0**

While Hans-Peter found himself in R+4 v R+3, of a sort that awaits Tablebase (11), but which gives a lot of visual confidence to the defender:

**Hansen,H-P - Pein**

4NCL Division 1a Birmingham 19.03.2016

**55. … Ra3 56.g5 fxg5+ 57.hxg5 hxg5+ 58.Rxg5+ Kf6 59.Rf5+ Ke6** Around here you get the feeling that you don’t need Tablebase 7 to tell you the result **60.Rb5 Rc3 61.Rb6+ Ke7** … ½–½, 110.

Matt’s attempts to infiltrate were neatly parried:

**Longson,S – Rose** (B)

4NCL Division 1a Birmingham19.03.2016

and it looks like Black is on the charge ... **48...Rh5 49.Nc4 Nf2 50.Nd2+ Kf4 51.Nf1** but the vital h-pawn is rescued by the knight. **51...Nd3+ 52.Kc3 Nb4 53.Rf2+ Ke5 54.Ng3 Rh4 55.Re2+ Kd5 56.a3 Na6** and with the Knight gloriously re-routed (pronounce that how you will…) to this square it's time to think of handshaking. **57.Nf5 Rh3+ 58.Ne3+ Ke4 59.Kd2 Nc7 60.Nc4+ Kd5 61.Ne3+ Kd6 ½–½**

On Board 8 Francesca turned around the minor discomfort of some positional pressure in a double-rook and bishop ending to entertain even some hopes of winning:

**Matta,Francesca (1975) - Craft,Isaac (2037)**

4NCL Division 1a Birmingham19.03.2016

**55. … Bg4 56.Bf7 Bf3 57.e4 Bxe4** oh yeah **58.Kxe4 Ke7 59.Bc4 Kf6 60.Kf4 Kg7 61.Kf5 Kh8 62.Kf6 Kh7 63.Bd3+ Kg8 64.Kg6 Kh8 65.Kxh6 Kg8 ½–½**

## Sunday

Cambridge University 1 | 2194 | Oxford 1 | 2239 | |||||

w | Haria, Ravi | f | 2398 | ½ - ½ | Zakarian, David | f | 2392 | |

b | Bisby, Daniel L | f | 2286 | 0 - 1 | Tan, Justin | i | 2441 | |

w | Bukojemski, Adam | 2250 | 0 - 1 | Eckersley-Waites, Tom | 2312 | |||

b | Churm, Rohan M | 2127 | ½ - ½ | Harvey, Marcus R | f | 2336 | ||

w | Hill, Alistair | 2191 | 1 - 0 | Foo, Zhi Rong Benjamin | 2244 | |||

b | Robertson, J Stuart | 2111 | 1 - 0 | Coleman, James | c | 2207 | ||

w | Spencer, Carl J | 2107 | 1 - 0 | Matta, Francesca | 1975 | |||

b | Kueh, Audrey | 2085 | 1 - 0 | Varney, Zoe | 2012 | |||

5 - 3 |

Another match v Cambridge, another close enough run thing… and this time, another loss. Justin started things off well, though, with this bright win on top board:

**Tan - Bisby**

4NCL, 20.03.2016

**22.Bxg6** [22.Nxe6 is also suggested by the Beast] **22...Nf8 23.Bh5 bxa2+ 24.Ka1 Bxe5?** [24...Bh8] **25.dxe5 Rxg5 26.Nxd5 Bxd5 27.Qxg5 Na4 28.Ne4 Bxe4 29.fxe4 Qb7 30.Rh2 Nc5 31.Rf2 1–0**

A curious end (*zeitnot, anyone?*) to this game, albeit that White was in difficulties by now:

**Bukojemski - Eckersley-Waites,T**

4NCL Division 1d Birmingham, 20.03.2016

**29.Rdb1** If 29.Nxb3 Qxd1+ 30.Rxd1 Rxd1+ 31.Kh2 Rb1 **29...Nc4 30.Nxb3 Qxb5 31.Ba3 Nxa3 32.Rxa3 Rd3 33.Qg4 Rxc3 34.Qa4 Qe2 0–1**

Marcus (or Rohan) (or both) spent 48 more moves attempting to win this:

**Harvey - Churm**

4NCL Division 1d Birmingham, 20.03.2016

60.Rxf5 h4 61.Kf1 Ra2 62.Rbb5 h3 63.Kg1 Kg7 64.Rg5+ Kf8 65.Rh5 Ke7 66.Kh1 Kf8 67.Rbf5 Rf2 68.Rh8+ Ke7 69.Re5+ Kd7 70.Rxh3 b6 71.Kg1 Rb2 72.Rh7 Rxa5 73.Rxf7+ Kd6 74.Rf6+ Kd7 75.Re1 Raa2 76.Rg6 Rf2 77.Rg3 Rfe2 78.Rg7+ Ke6 79.Rb1 Rab2 80.Ra1 Kf6 81.Rg5 Ra2 82.Rxa2 Rxa2 83.Rb5 Ra4 84.Kf2 Rxf4 85.Kg3 Ra4 86.f4 Ra6 87.Kg4 Kg6 88.Rg5+ Kf7 89.Rf5+ Kg6 90.Rb5 Kf6 91.Rh5 Kg7 92.Rd5 b5 93.Rxb5 Kg6 94.Rg5+ Kf6 95.Rh5 Kg6 96.f5+ Kg7 97.Kg5 Kf7 98.Rh1 Rb6 99.Ra1 Rc6 100.Ra7+ Kf8 101.Rh7 Ra6 102.Rh8+ Kg7 103.Re8 Kf7 104.Rb8 Rc6 105.Rb7+ Kf8 106.Rb5 Kf7 107.f6 Rc1 108.Rb7+ Kf8 ½–½

For the record, that’s 13 moves less than my R+P draw in Telford…

What’s happening here then? With both sides being unable to castle it’s possible to think it’s equal (if not drawn) but it turns out that Benjamin’s king is much more vulnerable, thanks to the Ne6 and the radial effect of its Q & B supports.

**Hill – Foo** (B)

4NCL Division 1d Birmingham, 20.03.2016

**16. … c4** [16...Rb8 17.Qd5 Rb6 18.a4 Ke7 19.Nxg7 Qxg7 20.Qxf3] **17.Qxc4 Qe5 18.Nxg7+ Qxg7 19.Qd5 Nxh2+** [19...Rd8 20.Qxf3 Ne5 isn't an immediate loss] **20.Rxh2 Bxh2 21.Bg5 Be5 22.Qe6+ Kf8 23.Bh6 Rg8 24.Bxg7+ Rxg7 25.Qd5 Rd8 26.Bxd7 Bh2 27.Qf3+ Kg8 28.Be6+ Kh8 29.Qf6 Re8 30.Rc1 d3 31.Rc8 Rxc8 32.Bxc8 d2 33.Ke2 Bc7 34.Be6 1–0**

To complete the picture we had this instructive game, where Zoe finds it impossible to defend the h4 pawn – which had been thrust forward with energy and enterprise earlier. After its fall, like the proverbial ripe apple, the R+P ending isn’t drawn…

**Varney, Z- Kueh,A** (W)

4NCL Division 1d Birmingham, 20.03.2016

28.Kd2 Nf4 29.a3 Rd8+ 30.Kc2 Bc5 31.Rh1 Bd4 32.Bf1 Bxc3 33.Kxc3 Rh8 34.c5 g5 35.Bc4+ Ke7 36.b4 Rxh4 37.Rf1 Ne6 38.Bxe6 Kxe6 39.Rd1 Rf4 40.Rd3 g4 41.fxg4 Rxe4 42.Rg3 Kd5 43.g5 fxg5 44.Rxg5 Re3+ 45.Kb2 Kc4 46.Rg7 Re2+ 47.Kc1 Ra2 48.Rxb7 Rxa3 49.Kd2 a5 50.Rc7 axb4 51.Rxc6 Ra5 52.Rh6 Rxc5 53.Rh4+ Kb3 54.Rh3+ Ka2 55.Rh8 b3 56.Ra8+ Kb1 57.Rb8 b2 58.Ra8 Rd5+ 59.Ke2 Rd4 60.Ke1 Kc2 61.Rc8+ Kb3 62.Rb8+ Rb4 0–1

# Oxford 2

## Saturday

Oxford 2 | 1894 | Rhyfelwyr Essyllwg | 2031 | |||||

w | Brackmann, Hendrik | 2049 | ½ - ½ | Brown, Thomas | 2093 | |||

b | Foster, Timothy | 1967 | ½ - ½ | Hewitt, William | 2033 | |||

w | Idle, Oscar | 1840 | 1 - 0 | Trevelyan, John | 2074 | |||

b | Neatherway, A Philip | 1822 | 0 - 1 | Heaven, Peter | 2033 | |||

w | Rowan, Daniel | 1877 | 0 - 1 | Van Kemenade, Rudy | 1968 | |||

b | Cole, Graham | 1809 | ½ - ½ | Hatchett, Paul | 1987 | |||

2½ - 3½ |

Two draws on the top boards, with an element of reductive attrition about each – exchanges went down to the drawn-looking ending, hence to the drawn endgame, and the inevitable handshake. On top board this was the *denouement*:

**Brackmann – Brown** (B)

4NCL 3 Telford, 19.03.2016

**29. … Be8 30.Bxe8 Kxe8 31.Nxb6! Kd8 32.Na4 Nxa6 ½–½**

A possibility for White on his last move was 32.Ba5 which forces Black’s king to reconsider its position. Clearly … axb6 is still not possible, while … Nc6 is met with exf6 which leads to a much better position. So, a backward step is called for: … Ke8 33.Nc8 Nxa6 34.Nxa7] with a sound extra pawn.

Oscar had another great performance and result on board 3, where White has more space and an advantage which is more than a slight plus and a deal less than a plus-minus. With Oscar on move, the machine prefers g5, with an exchange of queens on f5 conferring an advantage, but the move chosen is a good choice for humans:

**Idle – Trevelyan** (W)

4NCL 3 Telford, 19.03.2016

**18.f5 gxf5** already Fritz is bailing out into its tactical playbook: it prefers 18...Ne4! when 19.Na4 N4c5 might head in the way of a perpetual. **19.gxf5 Nd8** ... Nc5-e4 was still an option. This leaves to a lost game: **20.Bg5 Qe5 21.f4 Qe3+ 22.Qxe3 Rxe3 23.f6 h6 24.fxg7 Kxg7 25.Bxd8 Rxd8 26.Rg1+** and 1–0, 50

## Sunday

Surbiton | 2067 | Oxford 2 | 1868 | |||||

w | Briscoe, Chris | c | 2195 | 1 - 0 | Brackmann, Hendrik | 2049 | ||

b | Jones, Steven A | 2173 | 1 - 0 | Foster, Timothy | 1967 | |||

w | Singleton, Michael P F | 2125 | 1 - 0 | Idle, Oscar | 1840 | |||

b | Seymour, Timothy P | 2065 | ½ - ½ | Neatherway, A Philip | 1822 | |||

w | Crombleholme, Alan K | 2053 | ½ - ½ | Rowan, Daniel | 1877 | |||

b | Alcock, Graham P | 1792 | d - 1 | Bentham, Sam | 1657 | |||

4 - 2 |

A good performance against the backdrop of a significant FIDE points difference.

Tim on Board 2 held his own for a while, and in this diagram position his pressure against d4 counteracts any black threat to take the h4 pawn.

**Foster, T - Jones**

4NCL 3 Telford, 20.03.2016

**21.f4** Played to avoid Bxh4, but Fritz isn’t that concerned and suggests 21.Qc2. The d4 pawn is weak, but it’s also the linch-pin of the cramp on the White position. Now e3 is weakened. **21...Bf5 22.Qd1 Re3 23.Bf3 Rae8 24.Qa1 Qe7 25.Bc1** (or Bxd4) **25...Re6 26.Bb2** ouch - Bd2 protecting e1 was forced. **26...Bxd3 27.Bxd4 Bxd4 28.Qxd4 Bxe2 29.Bg2 Bxf1 0–1**

Oscar’s game illustrates how quickly a closed opening can lead to open warfare. In this position, already the danger signals are there: Bb1 on the long diagonal, Rg3. Mayhem is threatened.

**Singleton- Idle**

4NCL 3 Telford, 20.03.2016

**12. … b5** There wasn’t any time for this (and no immediate need). Instead 12...cxd4 13.exd4 Bb7 competing for the e4 square was essential. Now, after **13.Ne4** the threat is simply to exchange on f6 and play Qc2, and Nxe4 loses an exchange**. …Bb7 14.Nxf6+ Qxf6 15.Qc2** 15.Qh5 leaves Black with hardly a move that doesn't lose on the spot, e.g. 15...Kh8 16.Ng4 **15...Re8 16.Qh7+ Kf8 17.Ng4 Qd8 18.Qh8+ Ke7 19.Qxg7** but this is good enough for a sustained plus (1–0, 46)

# Oxford 3

## Saturday

Oxford 3 | 1561 | Barnet Knights 1 | 2043 | |||||

w | Gentry, Alan E | 1746 | 0 - 1 | Willmoth, Robert F | c | 2230 | ||

b | Bentham, Sam | 1657 | 0 - 1 | Villiers, Thomas | 2117 | |||

w | Kularatnam, Kaushalya | 1592 | 0 - 1 | Chauhan, Pranay | 2027 | |||

b | Riley, Adrian K | 1619 | 0 - 1 | Rocco, Federico | 1982 | |||

w | Arutyunyan, Arutyun | 1350 | 0 - 1 | Pollack, Oscar | 1967 | |||

b | Tselos, Ross | 1403 | 0 - 1 | Karia, Rishul | 1937 | |||

0 - 6 |

An entirely predictable result and scoreline, against a handy top-of-div-3 strength team. Many played well, and fought to the end – any rook and pawn ending is worth pursuing to the last.

Ross played very well and in the diagram position he has a couple of extra pawns but the position is balanced.

**Karia – Tselos** (B)

4NCL Division 4, 19.03.2016

**16…. f4** The computer suggests 16...Kg6 17.Ncxd6 cxd6 18.Bc1 Rd8 is a clear pawn ahead **17.Ncxd6+ cxd6 18.Nxd6+ Ke6 19.f3 Nd4 20.Ne4 b6 21.Kf2** very crafty

**21...h6** better was ...Bb7, because now **22.Bxf4** is possible: a ... Nxf3 desperado isn't check. **22...Bb7 23.Be3 Bxe4 24.Bxd4 exd4 25.Re1 Rac8 26.Rxe4+ Kd5 27.Re2 Rge8 28.Rd2 Red8 29.Re1 Kc4** [29...Rc4 30.Re4 Kc5] **30.Re7 d3** and 1–0 (45)

Kelly has 2 ways of playing the Caro: (a) quite well, stubbornly; and (b) throwing all mistakes possible into a bad day at the office. See if you can spot which version turned up. White has just played Ne4, and …

**Rocco – Riley** (B)

4NCL Division 4, 19.03.2016

**13…. Nd7** ouch **14.Nd6+ Ke7 15.Nxb7 Qc7 16.Nc5 Nxc5 17.Rc1 Rac8 18.Rxc5 Qa5** ouch **19.Rxd5** ouch **Qxa2 20.Rde5 Rhd8 21.Qb1 Qb3 22.R5e3 Qb4 23.Bf5 Kf8 24.Bxe6 fxe6 25.Qxh7 Re8 26.Qh8+ Kf7 27.Qh5+ Kg8 28.Ng5 Qxd4 29.Qf7+ Kh8** 1–0

## Sunday

Shropshire 3 | 1657 | Oxford 3 | 1512 | |||||

w | Szwajkun, Richard | 1765 | ½ - ½ | Biswas, Karl | 1701 | |||

b | Mehmood, Athar | 1742 | ½ - ½ | Riley, Adrian K | 1619 | |||

w | Kitchen, Peter J | 1655 | 1 - 0 | Kularatnam, Kaushalya | 1592 | |||

b | Tennant, Stefan H | 1652 | 0 - 1 | Tselos, Ross | 1403 | |||

w | Peck, Windsor W A | 1532 | 0 - 1 | Arutyunyan, Arutyun | 1350 | |||

b | Paul, Christopher | 1600 | 1 - 0 | Matilal, Tamal | 1412 | |||

3 - 3 |

A good result for the troops in a more balanced competitive set-up. Karl showed good technique on board 1 to shepherd a pawn minus to a shaken hand (**½–½, 70**) in a rook and pawn ending. Meanwhile I can imagine this to be the game I saw mentioned on Twitr, featuring Kelly on fire: let’s skip straight to move 39, with Kelly White and the initial battle is of the rooks and which is the stronger.

**Riley – Mehmood** (W)

4NCL Division 4, 20.03.2016

**39.Rxe6** coo, way to go, Kelly … **39...fxe6 40.Qxe6+ Kg7 41.Qe7+ Kg8 42.Qe6+ Kg7 43.Qe5+ Kh7 44.Qe7+ Kg8 45.Qe6+ Kg7 46.Qd7+ Kh6?? 47.g5+! Kxg5 48.Re5+** not bad but Qg4+... **48...Kh6 49.Qh3+** still mate in 8 ... **49...Kg7 50.Re7+ Kf6 51.Qe6+** and mate in two now .... **51...Kg5 52.Qe5+**

When White gets to play, it’s mate in 3: **52...Kh6 53.f4** aargh. Qh2+, and a staircase mate with Qg3-Qh4 to follow would have been quite the finish. Black now pulls on his tactical wellies: **53...Rg1+ 54.Kxg1 Qd1+ 55.Kh2 Qh5+ 56.Qxh5+** Kg3 might be better **56...gxh5**, and although White is still somewhat better, Black has enough momentum to hold on to the draw (½–½, 75)

Oh Kelly … so close!

Tamal was also heading towards a draw after a gritty performance, until … :

**Matilal – Paul** (W)

4NCL Division 4 Telford, 20.03.2016

**32.Bc4** yikes **Bh2+** sigh 0–1