Team A: Division 2, Second Weekend, Hinckley Island Hotel, 10-11 Jan 2015 by John Carleton



Hinckley Island Hotel in January


As is our wont, we travelled in good spirits looking forward to the battles ahead. Like many an unfancied football team at this stage of the season we had quiet hopes of qualifying for the champions' league [OK, the championship pool in our case].


After winning our opening two matches and like said football teams we were not too keen to discuss these matters before the event for fear of jinxing our prospects. Such superstitions obviously have to be observed and further we were fully aware of the prospective challenges of the weekend. First up was the tough match against Grantham Sharks 2 who had graced Division 1 last season. Before the game we felt this encounter was too close to call and the prospect of a tight match was confirmed as the play unfolded.



Captain: John Carleton

Gradually the draws rolled in: newcomer to the Atticus colours, David Phillips on board 6 had time to turn down a draw with the black pieces before agreeing peace with Grantham captain Ben Purton. Peter Ackley on board 7 was downed tools early having become alarmed by the perceived increase in activity of opponent Graeme Kafka's position; that said this appeared pretty level to most observers. Gradually the top four boards joined the peaceful throng: Brett Lund on board 1 never managed to unbalance his position; Nick Ivell on board 2 and I on board 3 produced positions that seemed to offer prospects of lively play but each game flattened out fairly rapidly. Martin Mitchell on board 4 strove manfully to unbalance his game but this too ended in a draw.



Spirit of Atticus A (Round 3)


This left two games in progress: Sheila Jackson on board 5 was up against Paul Cumbers and he had a pleasant version of the thematic French Defence exchange sacrifice against the Tarrasch with two extra pawns and lively bishops to boot. Sheila was fighting hard so we had not given up hope. The other game saw Dave Robertson on board 8 in play in a wild Winawer French which was hard to evaluate. His opponent, Amisha Parmar, was also the exchange down but this time she was three pawns to the good. We were certainly hoping our man would deliver the point and as is often the case the spectators had loads of ideas as to how this might happen, but as is also always the case, we did not face the acid test of actually having to play the position. Paul unleashed a snap finish to limit Sheila's suffering, the light squared black bishop played the starring role in the finish. Thus we were one down with one in play; Dave gave up the fluctuating struggle when it was rook and king versus rook and king and we retired for our evening meal well into the 6th hour of play with perfect timing for our reservation.




At the evening meal we were reflective but not totally despondent. We had to hand it to Grantham who had, in a style much admired by us when we did it the previous weekend, squeezed home with 7 draws and 1 win. We also had to admire their selection policy : their two wildcards were left to play a decisive role at the business end of the match. As skipper I felt I had been outmanoeuvred but my credibility was restored a little when I unveiled my 'new phone' to gasps of admiration and amazement from the assembled company. I can safely say that I am at the cutting edge of technology and have arrived in the 21st century, or at least I will have when I learn how to use it. Thereafter the meal followed our traditional path of thoughtful discussion accompanied by an appropriate amount of drink which was suitably topped up in the hotel bar [despite threats to the contrary Grantham's Graeme Kafka thoughtfully did not drink the bar dry before our return] and then on to bed.






Spirit of Atticus A (Round 4)


Sunday saw us paired against Wessex and we were favourites on ratings, however the historical score of 1-1 between the teams meant we were fully aware that this was not likely to be anything other than a very tight encounter. The match, as on the previous day, started with no clear plusses for either side. Gradually the draws began to arrive. David Phillips on board 6 did not find Oliver Gill's pet 1/...Nc6 an easy option and had to play carefully to level the position out. This proved a solid introduction and a successful weekend for David on debut.



I had more or less equalised against Keith Gregory when I wandered blindly into and luckily out of a dire position; a draw was agreed in the symmetrical ending that arose. Brett on board 1 against Allan Pleasants had to endure sustained discomfort as an imaginative sequence left Allan with a bishop and two pawns [part of a massive centre] against two passive knights. The draw seemed a fair result. The next draw to roll in was Peter on board 7 who had grabbed a pawn but the passivity of his position made a draw the realistic limit of his ambition. This left half the team in play and Dave on board 8 was next to finish, landing our first [and alas our last] win of the weekend following original play and tactical agility in the complications. Nick and opponent Gavin Lock on board 2 produced a top class encounter with a tense opening leading to a big collision. A queen, rook and bishop of opposite colour ending saw Gavin on top with a rampant pawn tying Nick down. As in the previous match a traditionally "bad" French light squared bishop made a big positive contribution to black's [Gavin's] win. Martin on board 4 had emerged from the opening with a small edge and decided it was time for attack as he threw material at the black king's defences.


Alas this attack was flawed and his opponent Dominic Tunks found the flaw and eventually repulsed the attack to put Wessex into the lead. This left Sheila in play against Roger de Coverly but with a balanced position she had no way to try to make progress that was not suicidal. Another defeat by the narrowest margin was hard to take but we had to admire our opponents' verve and fighting spirit.











We are not standing still; already plans are being drawn up to introduce a dietician, fitness experts, a motivational guru and theoretical trainers into the squad. Obviously there will be financial implications so if there should be a Russian oligarch out there who would like to start the process of rebuilding trust between our countries we would welcome his or her involvement.


Our Grub Meister knows many restaurants with excellent wine menus and would be happy to talk through the detail over a meal [other nationalities may apply]. In the meantime we will return to the fray, definitely not dreaming of the championship pool, but, in time honoured fashion, taking one match at a time.




Team B: Division 3n, Second Weekend, Shrigley Hall, 10-11 Jan 2015 by Andy Mort



Shrigley Hall originally built in 1825, is now an impressive hotel.


The composition of the B team was quite different from that of the one which succumbed to two narrow defeats in the triangular match at Redworth Hall, but the team did have a distinctive character, being mainly composed of northern university players from the 60’s. Think balding pensioners with minimal current opening knowledge rather than long-haired hippies.


Having slumped to the bottom of the Swiss draw, we hoped for two convincing wins against other lowly placed opponents, and in this we were successful, in the process achieving a handsome number of game points and without any player losing a single game.


In the third round, our opponents, whom we substantially out-graded, were Bradford Knights C, and we got off to a good start by equalising quickly in the 3 games in which we had black. After experiencing a few uncomfortable moments towards the ends of their games, Lloyd Powell and John Cooper both drew. Richard won fairly quickly, but in somewhat unusual circumstances. After some cat-and- mouse manoeuvring in a Dutch opening, white won a pawn and developed a clearly winning position before black, not apparently aware of the rules, lost on time with 20(!) moves to make.


I had established a very good opening with active play against weak black squares and my opponent’s over-extended centre, but went slightly astray before eventually winning a rook and 3 on the kingside v rook and 3 on the queenside race as a result of extra tempi and a commanding rook position.



Spirit of Atticus B (Rounds 3 & 4)

As white in a Slav, John Hall closed the queen side early and his opponent attacked vigorously on the king side, though with insufficient pieces to do too much damage since his king was stuck in the centre. John was able to double rooks on the f file and see home his counter-attack. And so the score was 4-1, with one game to go, predictably that of Mike ‘Grinder’ Johnson.



After only 2 weekends, it has become clear that booking meals and taxis at the appropriate times is one of the most challenging aspects of the captain’s role. I had correctly identified the most likely suspects to delay our evening’s revelry at Darlington, but, having dispatched Robbo to Hinckley, thought we had more chance of eating before midnight this weekend. However, Mike decided to ‘go for gold’ this time, only narrowly missing out when his game was the second last in the room to finish.







Seriously, Mike showed why his stamina and determination are such assets in long games where extra half points can be squeezed out. He had queen v rook, bishop and a menacing passed pawn, and a position which spectators were unsure he could win. However, Mike played the position skilfully, advancing his two remaining pawns to control crucial white squares, and finally breaking his opponent’s stout resistance by advancing his king on a totally open queenside from b1 to d8 where it could be shielded by his queen.


The meal at The Swan, a pub of considerable character, lived up to expectations. The real ale (Merlin) and wine (Cotes du Rhone) were very good, the food excellent – notably the guinea fowl and (monstrous) game pie – and the service was prompt and friendly. A pity we will not be able to return next year.


No damage was done by the Saturday revelry, and, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, we prepared to engage in battle with Manchester Manticores C on Sunday. Lloyd won quickly, his opponent dropping a piece to a tactic on the long white diagonal within 15 moves. Richard also won quickly as black, partly because his opponent played so quickly, though perhaps not with a very coherent strategy. After winning a pawn, Richard was able to utilise his opponent’s vulnerable king position to pressurise white’s remaining pawns in the queen and knight ending.


'The meal at The Swan, a pub of considerable character, lived up to expectations' - Andy Mort.


My opponent offered an early queen exchange which I was happy to accept to double rooks on the d file and pressurise a backward pawn, but my opponent defended doggedly, and I wasn’t too unhappy to shake hands knowing that we were two games up. Mike’s opponent announced his intentions early by playing the Exchange Variation against his French, even mimicking Mike’s moves for some time thereafter. Despite his best efforts, Mike was ultimately unable to win the resulting knight ending.





We were now comfortably placed at 3-1, but the further necessary half-point did not look to be assured at this juncture. John Cooper gradually increased the space advantage he had developed in the opening as white, and looked to be clearly winning, but despite having an advanced passed pawn on h6, wisely chose to ‘sac’ the exchange to eliminate a hostile knight which was menacing his draughty king. A draw was then agreed, enabling us to win the match.


John Hall faced a Four Pawns Attack against his King’s Indian, though the position later resembled one typical of a Czech Benoni, with black controlling e5 and white having a bad bishop on d3. After complications which I hadn’t the opportunity to follow, the game resolved into an ending in which John used his isolated double pawn to cramp white’s king position, and, in the subsequent knight ending, the infiltration of his king into the vulnerable black squares on e5 and d4 was decisive.


In the end, another convincing win to crown a successful and thoroughly enjoyable weekend. And so to Buxton, brimful of confidence, where we expect to meet some of the more highly placed teams. The search for eating-places begins, but in the meantime, does anyone have a book on sharp gambits which could be passed on to Mike?



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