Division 1[d] Weekend 5, HIBA, Rounds 9-11, 30 Apr-2 May 2016 by John Carleton




The final weekend of the 4NCL brings a particular sense of anticipation; the unfinished business was awaiting us all and we knew we had 6 months to live with the results of our labours over this weekend before the resumption of hostilities next season. We were [and we had no doubt our upcoming opponents felt the same way] determined to give our all in the cause. First up on the Saturday were South Wales Dragons who have assembled a strong new-look squad over the last year. We felt we would have a good chance of retaining our first division status with two wins from the three matches and this game appeared crucial. [We were hopeful against round 10 opponents Sussex Martlets and doubtful against Cambridge University, in round 11].


Talking to South Wales Dragon team members after the match, their analysis was not dissimilar to ours. At the start of play they had harder fixtures left than we did in the form of 3Cs and Oxford, widely regarded as the best in our mini-league, and they also had 2 points more than us in the demotion pool.



John Carleton

They thus felt that one win would see them safe and this game represented their best chance of that win. There was one surprise to the outside world in our line-up: normally the first name on the captain's team sheet is our fighting female player Sheila Jackson who is strong enough to play in the team, not just on gender but on merit too, never having played on bottom board for us and present for every single first and second division fixture over the history of the team. Sheila has recently undergone surgery to combat breast cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy. We wish her a swift recovery and look forward to welcoming her back into the team next season. In her place we welcomed Alina L'Ami who had just completed a tournament in Cairo from where she flew to join us, via Amsterdam, on Saturday morning. Her signing up came as a somewhat last minute affair after painstaking work by Grub Meister Dave Robertson using his links forged at the big Liverpool Tournaments he organised from 2006-08.



(Rounds 9 & 10, 30 Apr-1 May)


And so to the match; the early phases saw a balanced picture overall but once the results started to come in the Dragons built up a commanding 3- lead. Nick Ivell on board 4, Dave Latham on board 7 and myself on board 2 had been wiped out by Timothy Kett, Sven Zeidler and Katarzyna Toma respectively. I was most impressed by my opponent 's calm control and then attention to detail as she dispatched my desperate attempts to break out. Board 6 saw a brief flurry of activity after a solid opening and Martin Mitchell and opponent John Redmond were fully justified in negotiating peace in the resulting position. Despite the big deficit we could still imagine a draw in this match: we had hopes of wins for Alina on board 1 [the natural place for a ringer of course] against Sam Chow, for Glenn House on board 5 against Roger Williamson and for Peter Ackley on board 8 against David Jameson.


All had theoretical won games but all had great hurdles to overcome. Eventually Alina did land the win after most original play by both combatants and stubborn resistance from Sam. The other two games saw Peter denied by David when he ran out of pawns and Glenn thwarted by Roger in a bishop ending where he was a pawn up : this last game was completed approaching the 8th hour of play. Meanwhile our hoped-for draw on board 3 had evaporated when Brett Lund was ground down by John Cooper. Thus a 2-5 defeat which left South Wales Dragons confident and us a long way from survival.


The long last game meant a scramble to the leafy Warwickshire village of Barston to the highly rated Gastropub, The Bull's Head. Just in time for last meal orders of the day, the real ale was much enjoyed and the simple menu well received and consumed. Wine was of course not squeezed out of the picture. Our one concern for future possible customers would be the extremely limited understanding by the establishment of the possibilities with vegetarian cuisine. The return to the hotel saw a quiet bar and a very limited uptake of the facilities by our squad perhaps reflecting the concerns of the team to do better on the morrow.


The morrow duly arrived and we joined battle with our fellow travellers Sussex Martlets having played them in each of the previous two years and having, like them, had successive promotions. We knew we would be in for a tough match against their young and talented squad. Once we got into the match none of the outcomes seemed easy to predict. On board 1, Alina playing 14 year old Brian Tarhon faced a difficult opening but counterattacked dangerously; Brian countered with a series of "only moves" before launching the well coordinated winning counter- offensive. This was our first view close up of this young player and we were impressed. On board 2 I turned a good position into a level one to an awful one in a few careless moves. I suffered long and painfully before, in the last game to finish, I resigned prematurely in what was nonetheless almost certainly a lost position.



Photos John Saunders


I could have no complaints about my inadequate play having been the beneficiary of two swindles in the previous two Sussex Martlets encounters. On board 3 Brett faced dangerous discomfort against Rhys Cumming for a long time but eventually simplified to a fortress position and a draw. On board 4 Nick ,against Grant Bucher, had a potential edge on both wings but put his eggs in the kingside basket and although still somewhat better in a simplified position he decided, looking at the remaining games, that a draw should seal the match in our favour. This turned out to be a correct decision as board 5 saw the last of the decisive results in our favour; Glenn with the black pieces was trying to grind down George Salimbeni's queen bishop and knight combination with his queen and two bishops and space advantage.


When George inadvisedly allowed the exchange of queens Glenn's king had freedom to roam and put decisive pressure on the white pawns. Board 6 was an early win for us, Martin with his king apparently wide open, whipped up a big attack down the centre. This seemed touch and go but with delicate timing and checks all the way Martin picked up two rooks and organised cover for his king in a forcing sequence. Board 7 saw an interesting drawn battle which was unbalanced all the way , full of unusual positions and still not totally clear at the end, at least to this observer, between Peter and Callum Brewer. Dave against Cassie Grant on board 8 also scored a relatively early win. If Dave's opening and middlegame had caused some worries they were forgotten as he sailed to a win in a rook and pawn ending. So victory by 4-3.



(Round 11, 2 May)


As we enjoyed our food and drink in one of our favourite restaurants in the locality we discussed the possibility of upsetting the odds against Cambridge University. We were up for the challenge of course but the framework of the demotion pool had changed dramatically over the last two rounds: Grantham Sharks had beefed up their team and for their match against 3Cs fielded the highest rated team to play in the demotion pool; by winning this match Grantham established themselves in front of us and Cambridge University. From our perspective Grantham seemed likely to win their last game and even if [quite a big if] we won it would be likely that the game points we had let slip in the last two rounds would cost us in a tie break with South Wales Dragons. In the more likely outcome of a Cambridge win it was felt that they might just squeeze to safety on tie-break. So, reflective and determined we returned to the hotel and rest, again scarcely pausing at the bar.




The evacuation of the hotel at 4:15 in the morning of Monday did not appear to have dampened the enthusiasm of the chess community too much and there was palpable tension in the air as play got under-way in our section. As with round 9 we were to fall into an early deficit with Nick on board 4 seeing his defences stripped away by Daniel Bisby. [Lifestyle coach's tip: if ever you are feeling under the weather play over some of Daniel's games; your mood will be lifted]. Martin on board 6, our current big hitter, fought fire with fire , as his wont, against Alistair Hill but on this occasion met his match in an entertaining contest. In contrast the first game to finish saw Peter on board 7 play a draw with Audrey Kueh. [Lifestyle coach's tip: Do you suffer from sleepless nights? Just play through this game whilst sipping your cocoa, sleep will follow].


Brett on board 3, who looked as though he may have been move-ordered in the early stages of his game against Adam Eckersley-Waites, regrouped and launched a ferocious queenless assault on the black defences. An elegant mating net was the end result and we were back in the match. Things got even better when Alina, on board 1 against John Paul Wallace, somehow salvaged something of a ship-wreck of a position to end with rook, f and h pawns against a lone rook. This is a well known theoretical draw but it was clear that the method of drawing is not well known and Alina brought in the full point without discomfort. This left the match all square with 3 in play and we could claim an edge but no win in all three. Dave on board 8 after some enterprising play in the early middlegame had emerged from complications with queen and two pawns against two rooks. Opponent Rohan Churm coordinated his rooks and a level ending was agreed drawn. Next to finish was Glenn on board 5 playing Chris Beckett; remarkably after hours of patient probing, Glenn put us into the lead outdoing even Alina by winning with rook f and h pawn against rook and a pawn. I was still in play against Ravi Haria and by now had a winning position; however just to prove our team is human [and my opponent very resilient] I failed to convert the win and we settled for victory by the single point.


Final Division 1 Demotion Table

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 GP Pts
1 3Cs 1   3-4 3-4 5-3 4-3 5-3 7-1 6-1 35 10
2 Oxford 1 4-3   3-5 4-3 5-3 3-5 6-2 6-2 32 10
3 Grantham Sharks 1 4-3 5-3   4-4 3-4 6-2 3-4 6-1 33 9
4 South Wales Dragons 3-5 3-4 4-4   5-2 5-3 4-4 4-3 29 8
5 Spirit of Atticus A 3-4 3-5 4-3 2-5   4-3 4-3 5-3 27 8
6 Cambridge University 1 3-5 5-3 2-6 3-5 3-4   6-2 6-1 29 6
7 Sussex Martlets 1 1-7 2-6 4-3 4-4 3-4 2-6   3-5 20 3
8 White Rose 2 1-6 2-6 1-6 3-4 3-5 1-6 5-3   18 2


This result saw 3Cs, Oxford, Grantham and South Wales Dragons retain their first division status. We missed out through an inferior game point total after finishing level with South Wales Dragons and are joined in division 2 next season by Cambridge University 1, Sussex Martlets 1 and White Rose 2. White Rose 2 after 10 defeats finished the season on a high with victory over Sussex Martlets; bravo! Congratulations too to North East England who ensured that they were the second Northern League team to reach the first division after a storming last round win; bravo! Looking back to our roots, congratulations too to Bradford DCA who return to the 2nd division by finishing second in division 3 North; bravo!


The season saw major problems for the 4NCL in many areas, notably in dealing with hotels to confirm present arrangements and thereafter for the future. Many thanks to Mike Truran for his continuing vision, his robust consultative processes and his unstinting work on our behalf. Clearly Mike is the head of a team and the continuing hard work and helpfulness of this team has contributed to the 4NCL's unchallenged status as the best team tournament around. For us our visit to the first division saw tough matches, a long losing sequence to start with, several real thumpings, two matches by 7-1 and negative scores over the season for many players who had never scored under 50% in our history. Overall though we feel we have gone down fighting, that next season will not be all doom and gloom and that we will aim to fight as hard as we can to experience the first division again. We relish this fight which we know will be difficult.



Team A

| Rd9 results | Rd10 results | Rd11 results | All Division 1 games in PGN |



4NCL | Steve Connor



Four Nations Chess League

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