Division 1(a), Weekend 1, Holiday Inn, Birmingham, 14-15 Nov 2015 by John Carleton




Holiday Inn, Birmingham Airport

And so, after all the waiting, the 'proper' chess season started and Spirit of Atticus A arrived in Birmingham to claim our prize: a seat at the top table of British chess competing in Division 1 of the 4NCL. It has to be admitted that there was more than a little trepidation amongst some of the older hands [and that means very old hands] in the squad but the group was determined to make the most of our opportunities and to enjoy our year in the sun.


Our first piece of luck was that Cheddleton 1, our opponents in the first round were fielding only 5 titled players [3 GM's and 2 IM's due to commitments to the European Team Championships.


Nonetheless as captain I had a distinct sense of us soon being lambs to the slaughter. Then, straight off at the start of play, the whitewash was saved by circumstances we would definitely have preferred to have managed without, Cheddleton's scheduled board 8 was stuck in France following the terrorist attacks in Paris and so they were forced to default: Slaughterers 0 Lambs 1.



Captain: John Carleton

After about two and a half hours play we had cause for some optimism looking at the positions on the boards. Gary Quillan, one of our new recruits on top board appeared to have achieved equal chances or if not was very close to it. Brett on board 2 was essaying one of his characteristic attacks against Tamas Fodor. On board 3 Glenn House, the second of our new personnel, was somewhat cramped but defending what seemed a solid enough set-up with black against Vladimir Hamitecivici.



Spirit of Atticus A (Round 1)


I had a pleasant edge against David Eggleston on board 4. Nick Ivell on board 5 seemed to have walked a tightrope but was getting close to the haven of a comfortable ending. Martin Mitchell on 6 had an unclear position with the positive and negative aspects that this implies. Sheila had a very cramped position, but ever alert had won a pawn with a quick combination apparently missed by opponent Jovica Radovanovic.


Unfortunately this material gain was not stemming the flow of her opponent's attack and we feared the worse. The match unfolded with the class of our opponents gradually showing. Jonathan Hawkins on top board, may have been brought back to equal prospects by Gary but showed that this for him was just the start of the game and impressed with his control and vision to score the full point. Glenn broke out strongly and convinced me on the next board, if no-one else, that this was not a lost cause but he was forced in the end to give way.


Sheila did have to bow to the inevitable and Martin fell to a neat combination from opponent Ezra Kirk who utilised several positive aspects of his position. Brett, who had surely been winning when his piece sacrifice had brought the black king into the middle, could not thread his way through the complications and also ended up losing.


On brighter fronts Nick obtained his draw easily enough against Aleksander Colovic. Thus I was left in play; despite having thrown away the win with a false combination in mutual time pressure, I had it presented straight back to me. What I assumed would be a straightforward technical process to deliver a win turned out to be something of a marathon as I met stiff resistance. Eventually after over six and a half hour's play I won to complete our record equalling defeat; Lambs 2 Slaughterers 5. It is not inconceivable that this record could go in the next 5 rounds.


The duration of this game led to a dislocated meal with half the team arriving on time and the other half arriving getting on for an hour late. Gradually the re-acquaintance process got under way and the relaxation continued in the hotel bar on our return to base. A new day brought new challenges and a new collective determination to fight and fight again. Peter Ackley who is equal first on the Spirit of Atticus all time appearance list proved most adroit at organising himself another day off as our next opponents, 3Cs, also had a player stranded in Paris. Thus once again we began with a point start.


Round 2, Spirit of Atticus A v 3C's. Foreground WGM Sheila Jackson v Daniel Abbas

I have not heard it irrefutably confirmed but the early reports suggest that there was a significant rise in online viewing once it was realised that we were on the live stream [for only the second time in our history]. This time the match again appeared to be in the balance but unlike the day before the balance remained very delicate throughout.




Everbright Restaurant

The early play saw Nick on board 1 taking the battle to his opponent but Christian Bauer proved slippery and Nick found it difficult to line up any targets. On board 2 I was trying to demonstrate, which a couple of my team-mates had failed to show in the previous round , that a space disadvantage need not be a serious impediment.



Spirit of Atticus A (Round 2)


Glenn on board 3 played an unpretentious opening but got his pieces onto active squares and was eyeing his opponent's king with unfriendly intent. Brett, undaunted by his set-back from the day before, met fire with fire despite playing the black pieces and quickly put us 2 points ahead when opponent Alexander Longson blundered. Gary on board 5 settled into the white side of a closed Ruy Lopez and looked content in his labours.


On board 6 Martin played the opening solidly and gradually was taking control; this culminated in the winning of a pawn for our man. Sheila threatened to run amok in the early middlegame in her match with Daniel Abbas on board 7 but she was pushed back and left to seek survival in a difficult ending.


Around the first time control the results flowed in: Nick was gradually pushed back, went for the swindling counter-attack but that too was repulsed and board 1 had fallen. Stephen Gordon on board 2 won a pawn as I tried to break away from my cramp and the technical aspects although troubling at a quick glance were easily within Stephen's compass; board 2 fell.



Adam Ashton met Glenn's flank action in time honoured fashion by counter attack in the centre and the position hung on a knife edge; Glenn could not land a knock out blow on the black king and the resulting ending proved easy for the 3C's player. In the meantime Gary, attacking on both flanks before breaking through in the centre, had completed the Spanish torture on opponent Andrew Horton.


The match slipped out of our reach when 3C's Alan Walton, spurred on by desperation, added the exchange to his losses to whip up a dangerous attack which netted him victory in the time scramble.


The final hour of the contest saw Sheila continue her resilient defiance to hold the minor piece ending a pawn down. So defeat again, this time by 3-4. Nor could we begrudge our opponents the victory for they had slipped to defeat by the same margin in the first round again having had to default bottom board. We cannot guarantee any positive outcomes but in January we will return with gusto and we will battle.



4NCL | Steve Connor


Four Nations Chess League

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