Division 1(a), Weekend 2, Holiday Inn, Birmingham, 23-24 Jan 2016 by John Carleton


[Brief reference will also be made to Weekend 2, Wychwood Park Hotel, Crewe 16-17 January 2016]




Holiday Inn, Birmingham Airport

For the superstitious amongst the assorted ranks of the Spirit of Atticus there are many reasons to be wary of the second weekend of competition. Our biggest defeats have happened in the second weekend. And even last year the A team, although on the way to promotion to their current lofty first divisional status, contrived to lose both matches.


To intensify the sense of nervousness within the A team was the awareness that the first half of the second weekend, the weekend before [if you understand the principle of the 2nd weekend being spread over 2 weekends it does make sense] had seen the Atticus 3rd division captain Andy Mort waiting in agony in his local A&E rather than assembling in Crewe with his fellow team members.




Captain: John Carleton

The squad rallied to provide replacements for Andy on each day and a reasonable return of 1 win, 2 losses and 1 draw was obtained by the B and C teams in their 4 matches.







Spirit of Atticus A (Rounds 3 & 4, 23-24 January)


A few highlights spring to my mind but others will doubtless have different recollections: On the Saturday Rokas Valantinas won his debut match in style and late substitute David Hulme did likewise in his first match of the season. The Sunday saw the first ever junior in Atticus colours, Daniel Savidge winning with aplomb on top board for the C team, well done indeed! The B team's Sunday match saw 5 draws and one decisive result. In that game, around move 20, Tom Bimpson was the exchange and 2 pawns up when he put a bishop en prise; this extended the game by about 50 moves but fortunately for us did not affect the match result. Other players over the weekend with plus scores were John Hall and Mike McDonagh. [Editor's note Mr. Mort's injury was NOT alcohol related].


When the individual pairings were published for round 3 our expectations of a searching weekend were confirmed with opponents Barbican 1's top 7 boards all outranking all our players. Those with a sensitive disposition are advised to skip the rest of this paragraph and the one marked * and concentrate on the other two paragraphs which describe Saturday evening and how well we are going to do next weekend. The match started brightly enough for us with Brett Lund on board 1 seemingly holding a dangerous edge with black against Matthew Turner and I equalised on board 3 against Ryan Griffiths who allowed a weakening of his king-side pawn formation in an interesting bid for activity. Sheila Jackson on board 5 seemed to be coping with the pressure applied by John Cox on 5 and of those with the black pieces only David Latham seemed uncomfortable having employed the recommendation of a well known English GM which just left him a pawn down without real prospects. With white we seemed to have the edge in Nick Ivell's game against Sam Collins on board 2, Peter Ackley's game against James Jackson on 6 and Dave Robertson's match against Ingrid Lauterbach on 8.


Alan Merry equalised against Martin Mitchell's early break and so overall we had hope. And then reality kicked in: Brett was gradually driven backwards, Ryan Griffiths played a visually attractive piece sacrifice which in "truth" was unclear but proved too much for me as I fell to a nicely co-ordinated finish. Martin lost a pawn and despite a sustained rearguard action could not hold. John Cox found a crushing advance to end Sheila's hopes. Dave Robertson's position collapsed when he slipped and Ingrid was quick to take advantage. Dave Latham's game went as anticipated and Peter Ackley was gradually ground down as his rook and two pawns proved insufficient against James Jackson's two minor pieces. In the meantime Nick had given us something to cheer with a fine win on the white side of a Lopez. The nature of his advantage moved through various phases and culminated in an ending where his bishop dominated his opponent's knight. Final result 1-7; a record defeat for us against our fine opponents.


Round 6, Spirit of Atticus A v White Rose 2. Foreground IM Gary Quillan alongside FM Glenn House

Photo John Saunders


The evening meal at a local restaurant [here "local" falls within the Grubmaster's definition which can lead to a fair bit of travel] and the atmosphere was convivial and relaxed with the food spot on and the wine flowing freely. The return to the hotel bar for a night cap saw an extended stay as periodically the staff, responsive to needs of the gathered chess players, advised of extensions to the serving arrangements. The team retired relaxed and determined to meet the new day positively.



Spirit of Atticus B&C (Rounds 3 & 4, 16-17 January)


* Sunday started similarly to Saturday; on this occasion too opponents Wood Green HK had a top 7 all of whom's ratings were greater than all of ours. The Grubmeister, Dave Robertson was quick to notice that the top 4 boards of our opponents' team had a fine array of chess books to their credit [which is not to say that the books of Sam Collins and John Cox, two of our opponents of the previous day, are not appreciated: they are]. Additionally, Wood Green's top board, Jon Speelman, has something of a mini fan club within our squads both for his historic achievements over the board and his current chess columns. In fact Andy Mort recently felt compelled to write to The Independent admiring Jon's column but concerned about the bellicose tone of some recent articles. The great man sent a reassuring email in reply [Editor's Note: The Decision by Mr. Mort to send his letter was NOT alcohol related]. Given the quality of the opposition it was no surprise to see keen battles from the outset. On board 1 with me white against Jon the game rather meandered along with some fluctuations in advantage. With the game eventually heading towards an ending with my having two pawns but endemic passivity for the exchange, Jon sprang properly to life and gradually squeezed me off the board.



On board 2 Nick was black against John Shaw and as anticipated John took the opportunity to attack when it arose and fearlessly sacrificed thematically to open lines towards the black king. The gradual bringing up of reserves drove Nick's king into the centre where it duly perished. Brett on board 3 played a long game of probe and counter probe against Andrew Greet and a draw was eventually agreed, the penultimate game of the match to finish. Board 4 saw Martin choosing to mix it against Neil McDonald by advancing the pawns in front of his king to open lines. The grand master showed that he was able to use the lines more efficiently and soon Martin's defences were stripped away. Board 5 saw Dave Latham locking horns with David Fitzsimons; many interesting positions arose with a draw apparently a fair result, this wording in place because of the complexity of the battle and the uncertainty of this commentator's judgement. On board 6 Dave Robertson dropped a pawn to a neat tactic in the early middlegame and try as he might he could not revive his chances against Benjamin Arvola. Board 8 saw another draw for us with Peter Ackley grabbing a pawn but experiencing some problems of cramp under time shortage and thus content to negotiate peace with Sarah Hegarty.


The last game in play in the match and indeed on all of the live boards concluded after six and a half hours' play with Sheila on board 7 resisting the inventive probing and indefatigable determination of Jesper Lauridsen to calmly earn the well deserved draw. Another big reverse, 2-6, but we are not down-hearted since we did not expect that living the dream would be easy.


Rounds 5 and 6 are soon to be upon us and we feel a change in fortune coming. The team is together, positive and ready to fight on. The season is just starting following the warm-up phase.


Team A

| Rd3 results | Rd4 results | Division 1a Crosstable | All Division 1 games in PGN |


4NCL | Steve Connor



Four Nations Chess League

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