Team A: Division 2(b), Third Weekend, Holiday Inn, Birmingham, 14-15 Feb 2015 by John Carleton




Holiday Inn, Birmingham Airport


The team set off with stirring words from an unclear combination of Dave Robertson, William Shakespeare, King Henry V and several others ringing in our ears and urging us into ferocious action. We felt we had not given it our best shot over the previous weekend and were determined that would not be the case this weekend even if that proved insufficient for victory.


In the event traffic chaos left this new venue almost inaccessible from the South following two horrendous pile-ups and the consequent clogging up of the motorways. The normal default time of 1 hour was suspended and many was the phone call from Birmingham to try to establish the whereabouts of missing team members.


Our main concern was regarding the progress of Andy Smith who had delayed his start but was desperately trying to plan a route around the mayhem. For our opponents, Kings Head, already having had to give us a default on board 8 because of a late illness in their team, things were far worse.



Captain: John Carleton

At the scheduled start of play none of their players had arrived at the board. Play was not delayed too long and when Jochen Wittmann arrived, he and Sheila on board 6 settled to the struggle. It has to be stressed that although a number of teams, including us, were a player or two short in these early stages, Kings Head were by far the worst affected over both divisions 1 and 2. Any belief that things could not get any worse for them were expunged when Jochen was defaulted because his phone went off.



Spirit of Atticus A (Rounds 5)


Gradually, play got underway on another 4 boards with the Kings Head players down on time. One of these finished quickly when Daniel the 8 year old son of captain Colin Mackenzie, in the team to conform with the requirement to play a female or junior, played, and lost his first ever serious game to Dave Robertson. Well done to Daniel and Kings Head for the never say die spirit.


On board 2 Nick Ivell equalised against Richard McMichael and a draw was agreed in a position which, in a more normal match situation, would surely have been continued. Brett Lund on board 1 could claim some advantage but, again within the match situation, was content to draw and thus halt the 100% start to the season of the dangerous Jochem Snuverink. My opponent was the worst off for time of any player and this was the reason for his below par performance.



The last contest to start was the game between Andy Smith and Andrew Gilfillan; it would have been a double default but with the blessing of the control team a new fast time rate was fixed and the clocks started when the first of them arrived. This proved to be the shortest game as the players evaluated the match context and voted for peace.



There was thus one game in play with Colin Mackenzie under pressure from time shortage, his captaincy duties and a sharp Martin Mitchell. Martin served up the win to see us reach six and a half points. Thus play finished early and the bar proved a comfortable resting place both for us and our opponents who impressed with their calm dignity in face of insuperable obstacles.


There was a certain mellow quality to the gathering for the evening meal maybe brought about by the afternoon's activities, maybe brought about by the flowing wine carefully selected and provided by the Grub Meister [GM] or maybe even the Valentine's Day decorations adorning our chosen Italian Restaurant. In short it was an enjoyable evening, and being close, as we were, to the birth place of GM Dave the assembled group gained many an insight into the unique romantic outlook, lyrical accent and eternal optimism of the modern day Brummie. The evening nightcap in the bar saw a smaller turnout than usual but the new day was soon to be upon us.



Spirit of Atticus A (Rounds 6)


I as skipper did have a few worries as the squad emerged for breakfast but was content as the well known nerve-calming qualities of the full English set in, and, as we set off to play opponents Barbican Youth, was confident that we were in good shape for the coming action.




Old friends Dave Robertson and John

Hall in good spirits after their games

photo | Brett Lund

There was no sign of diminution of the intensity of battle on any board until the first result came on board 4. This saw Guy Moss equalise against Andy Smith and then uncork a snap finish as Andy unwisely avoided simplification by not contesting the only open file.


Next to finish was Sheila on board 6 against the splendidly named Thomas Goldie. After messy complications Thomas had apparently conquered the seventh rank but equally Sheila had strong counter-chances and the draw was agreed. Thus we were one down with six games in play; we appeared better in two matches whereas it was Barbican for choice in the other four.


Gradually matters crystallised - Nick Ivell after hours of patient defence held a most uncomfortable position on board 2, John Hall, having sat round 5 out because of the default, carefully nurtured his advantage of an extra doubled pawn to bring a levelling victory on board 8 and Brett drew on board 1 after having been in serious danger of being swept away in the opening.













Martin briefly gave us the lead with an impressive win on board 5 for his second point of the weekend with the black pieces. It was back to all square when Dave Robertson on board 7 eventually had it proved to him by opponent Ashley Stewart that his bad bishop could not cope with Ashley's good knight. That left me in play against Conor O'Donnell and after a fluctuating struggle had finally settled to an approximate balance the draw was agreed and with it the match at 4-4 and the play for round 6 was completed with play into the seventh hour.


We had been impressed with Barbican Youth when we played them for the first time a few years ago. Now we are even more impressed and will watch with interest the continuing progress of these fine young players; we were equally pleased with our resilience under pressure and move on to the crunch fixture of round 7 in good spirit.




Team B: Division 3n, Third Weekend, Buxton, 14-15 Feb 2015 by Andy Mort


The 122-room Palace Hotel, built in 1868, is a prominent

feature of the Buxton skyline on the hill above the railway station.


The Palace Hotel in Buxton, our venue for Weekend 3, towers majestically above the town. Its interior is no less impressive as you enter the foyer to be confronted by its grand staircase. Not being a suburban island, it is an excellent venue for accompanying WAGS – and the breakfast is damned good. A pity, then, that there are no prospects of the 4NCL being able to stage chess weekends here in the foreseeable future.


Having won our two matches the previous weekend, we expected to meet strong opposition, and were not disappointed when we were drawn against Cheddleton 2 on the Saturday. Three of our team and three of theirs play in the Derby and District League and are on friendly terms, but we were under no illusions about how competitive the match would be. We were out-graded by our opponents, though not significantly, but having recruited a couple of ‘big beasts’ from the A team, we were confident of success. Moreover, our youth policy seemed finally to be coming to fruition, four of the team being juniors (‘juniors’ in our parlance being ‘under 60’). Peter, in particular, was buoyed up by his bracing Derbyshire walks rather than jaded by the social experiences that followed them. We were also pleased to be supported by David Hulme, acting as reserve for the weekend’s games whilst availing himself of retail therapy opportunities.



Selection from Spirit of Atticus B (Rounds 5 & 6)

The match proved to be extremely close, looking for a long time as if it might result in six drawn games.



Essentially the match was a story of our Black players fighting hard to equalise and our White players failing to achieve perceptible advantages from their openings. John was able to play an early d5 in his Sicilian defence at the expense of cohesive development. Having defended with great resilience, he accepted a draw, no doubt with some relief, to discover that he was probably better in the final position. I, as often, got nothing out of my white opening, sacrificed a pawn to activate my two bishops and created some threats which my opponent defended ingeniously, but, when offered a draw in his time-trouble, accepted, having failed to find any convincing continuation. Dave withstood some pressure in the middle-game, but, typically, kept active, and reached a rook and pawn ending a pawn ahead, which, however, he was not winning. So, three draws, and the remaining positions looking pretty even.


Mike Johnson found himself an hour behind on the clock, but with a position that was not strategically complex, with two rooks each and knight v bishop. After losing the game, Mike said that he regretted missing an opportunity to trade his knight for his opponent’s bishop, which became very powerful after the pairs of rooks had been exchanged. Using his recent research on the French (and yes, I have seen him reading the book!), Peter managed eventually to reach what seemed to be an even knight and pawn ending, but his opponent played with greater accuracy to convert the king and pawn ending. A really good effort from Peter, described as ’unlucky’ by more than one of his team-mates. Newcomer Mike McDonagh’s game was the last in the room to finish, thus partly salvaging the reputation of the other Mike. Neither side seemed to have a very marked advantage at any point in the game, though at one point Mike’s opponent had a strong bishop outpost on d4. In the subsequent rook, knight and pawn ending, it was Mike, if anyone who was pressing, but to push too hard looked risky, the match was lost, and a draw was agreed, leaving the result 2-4.



The award-winning Royal Oak in Hurdlow, Derbyshire

For all its old-world charm, Buxton town centre seems devoid of reputable eating places, the most highly recommended being The Royal Oak, several miles out of town, but I had little hesitation in plumping for a pub whose food and service had impressed the teams last year, and decided to book a table well in advance in view of the fact that it was Valentine’s day. Thanks to John, David and Angela for offering to drive.



The journey would have been uneventful but for the vagaries of Dave’s satnav, which decided that, when in The Peak District, a tour of picturesque nearby villages is a must. Owing to a free meal which resulted from a waitress error, and in the absence of any assertive request for the purchase of wine (absolutely a first), the total bill was undoubtedly the cheapest ever - possibly less than Robbo’s wine bill at Giovanni’s. The food was adjudged excellent, though one pudding-lover paid the price for not heeding the advice of his captain that if you have a Royal Oak pie, you don’t have a starter – especially a hearty bowl of soup.


There is no truth in the rumour that we had deliberately lost to Cheddleton 2 in order to avoid playing North East England in the last round. Accurate Swiss pairings have been impossible in the latter rounds because of the necessary triangular tournaments, and we were surprised to find that we had been drawn against Cheddleton 3, who were propping up the table, on Sunday. The match went the way of many such potentially one-sided encounters, many of our opponents choosing potentially drawish opening lines and maintaining equilibrium for most of the first session, only to succumb to greater experience eventually.





Peter suffered one of the least exciting games I have seen for a long time, setting up a Stonewall formation which was then mimicked by his opponent, leaving a locked and inflexible centre. In the subsequent sterile position he agreed an early draw. Ultimately, we won all the remaining games.


John was well on top from the opening, his opponent making too many pawn moves and failing to develop his kingside until his position was seriously compromised. Mike Johnson, as Black in an Exchange French, eventually won an equal knight and pawn ending against his less experienced opponent.



Dave overcame his opponent’s Sicilian Dragon Defence in impressive style, manoeuvring his opponent’s queen into an offside position and shattering any illusions that the opposite coloured bishops might be a drawing factor by, with typically energetic play, sacrificing the exchange for a couple of pawns, both passed and connected and one well advanced. As white, my opponent emerged with an equal position from the opening, but played passively and was slowly ‘strangled’ before shedding pawns, initially as a result of an unusual combination. On Board 2, newcomer Roy Ellames patiently increased small advantages from a middle-game with a symmetrical pawn structure before emerging from complications into a rook and pawn endgame two pawns up which he won with ease.


All credit to the Cheddleton team for fighting with such spirit. Their three juniors (yes, they have juniors!) will have gained, and will continue to gain invaluable experience from their encounters with more highly rated and experienced opposition this season; we will watch their progress with interest. The next two weekends take place at Daventry, where we will be ‘married’ with the Division 3 South. There, the greater number of teams should enable the Swiss system to operate more effectively, and we can expect encounters with more evenly matched teams.


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