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Weekend 1 round-up, 16-17 Nov 2013 - John Saunders


The 21st season of the 4NCL (British Team Chess League) got underway over the weekend of 16-17 November at Hinckley Island, Daventry and Darlington, with 16 teams doing battle in each of Divisions 1 and 2, and 60 clubs playing in Divisions 3 South and North.





One significant big change to the format this year has been to the time control. The traditional classical time limit (40 moves in 120 minutes, 20 in 60 minutes, then all remaining moves in 30 minutes) has been discarded in favour of 40 moves in 100 minutes, then all the moves in 50 minutes, with 30-second increments from the start of the game. Some quick mental arithmetic reveals that both time controls are effectively the same until move 60, at which point those incontinent in their use of time (and, ahem, other ways) might find themselves having to get a wiggle on until they’ve stocked up their time allotment with a few increments.



Where did we leave things last year? Actually, it was a bit like the English Football Premier League, with a Dutchman called Robin van something scoring the winning game point to enable Guildford 1 to draw their final match with Wood Green 1 to finish ahead of them on match points and take the championship.




Unsurprisingly, Guildford 1 and Wood Green 1 are likely to be the main contenders again in 2013/14. Guildford 1 started in Pool A with a match against newly-promoted Grantham Sharks. Only one Guildford player suffered a shark bite, namely Eric Hansen, a young GM from Canada, who lost to untitled (but 2426-rated) Holger Grund of Germany in a tactical mêlée. German bite... where I have heard that term before? Ah, I know, on the BBC Shipping Forecast: they probably don’t get that in Canada. (Just in case you think I know Rockall about spelling, yes, I am aware that in a shipping context I should spell it ‘bight’.)


 Matthew Sadler


It was good to see Guildford top board Matthew Sadler playing again. I chatted to him briefly before the second round and he tells me he has played only a handful of games in the Netherlands since his three games in last year’s 4NCL. And of course he will be one of the six English players to take part in the London Chess Classic next month. Matthew made a pretty good start, beating IM Ameet Ghasi on the top board. Ameet seemed to be OK in the early middlegame, though it was hard to judge from Matthew’s face – he nearly always wears a deep frown as he concentrates at the board. Ameet tried to round up Matthew’s vulnerable c-pawn, but Matthew replied by unleashing a multiplicity of pins, most of them spearing Ameet’s pieces.


4NCL Division 1a, Round 1, 2013

M.Sadler (Guildford 1) - A.Ghasi (Grantham Sharks 1)

Slav Defence

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 d5 4.e3 a6 5.Nf3 b5 6.b3 Bg4 7.Bd2 Nbd7 8.h3 Bxf3 9.Qxf3 b4 10.Na4 e5 11.Qd1 In 2009 Magnus Carlsen played 11.Rc1 here against Wang Yue at Linares – and lost. Maybe that surprise result is why most subsequent players have given it a miss and played the text move, although 11.Qd1 has fared quite poorly as well. 11...exd4 12.exd4 Ne4 13.g3 Qf6 13...Bd6 14.Bg2 Ndf6 15.0-0 was played in Aronian-Svidler, Nalchik GP 2009, and drawn a few moves later. 14.Be3 Qe6 Obliging White to overprotect the bishop on e3 as 14...Nxg3 is threatened. 15.Qf3 Bd6 16.Bg2 0-0 17.0-0 f5 18.cxd5 cxd5 19.Rac1 Rac8 20.Rfe1 Be7 21.Qd1 The second time the queen has retreated to its original square. 21...Qf6 22.Nc5 Ndxc5 23.dxc5 Rfd8 24.Bd4 Qf7 25.c6



White’s advanced c-pawn looks in some danger of dropping off but the unfortunate way Black goes about rounding it up only seems to strengthen White’s game. 25...Bg5?! Black should probably settle for something like 25...Rd6 26.c7 Bf6 27.Bc5 Rc6 28.Bxb4 Rxc1 29.Qxc1 Qxc7, which looks roughly equal. 26.Rc2 Rd6 27.c7 Rd7 28.h4 Be7 29.Be5 Qe6 30.Bf4 Bd6 The best bet looks like 30...h6!? when White still has a good game after 31.f3 g5 32.fxe4 gxf4 33.exf5 Qxf5 34.Rc6!, according to Hiarcs, but the tactics might be harder for a human player to work out. 31.Rc6! The two pins of minor pieces against the queen prove difficult to meet. 31.f3? would be a disaster area after 31...Bxf4 32.gxf4 Qb6+, etc. 31...Rcxc7 32.Rxa6 h6?! The best an analysis engine can come up with is 32...Ra7!? 33.Bxe4 fxe4 34.Rxa7 Rxa7 35.Bxd6 Qxd6 36.Rxe4 Rxa2, which brings about material equality, but Black has much the more exposed king after 37.Re8+ Kf7 38.Rc8, etc. 33.Rxd6! Rxd6 34.f3 Black can’t really hope to escape the various pins less than a piece for pawns down but he now makes matters worse. 34...Rc3? 35.fxe4 fxe4



36.Bxe4! Creating a new pin and vastly better than 36.Bxd6? Qxd6 when White’s weakness on g3 means he still has work to do. 36...Qf6 Black has to dodge the bullet of Bh7+, winning his queen. 37.Bxd5+! Again, better than taking on d6, and this time creating a self-pin. 37...Kh8 38.Re8+ 1-0 38...Kh7 and now the mundane 39.Bxd6 is probably best.


Guildford 1 ran out 5½-2½ winners against Grantham, as did Wood Green 1 against 3Cs in an adjacent (shark) pool. They too sustained severe damage in the process. They fielded three former British champions, with no fewer than seven national titles between them, but these three gentlemen could only manage ½/3 between them. The rest of the team provided an emphatic 5/5, however. Gordon-Rowson was a game of some complexity and difficult material imbalances but eventually came down to a drawn endgame. Jon Speelman seemed to be winning against a young Chinese player, Qiu Tong, but then drifted and blundered, while Jacob Aagaard also lost to Alex Longson, after what looked like an innocuous opening for the 31-year-old Mancunian FM suddenly turned nasty for his Danish GM opponent.


 Jacob Aagaard, Jonathan Speelman, Alex Longson  


Unsurprisingly, Guildford 1 and Wood Green 1 are likely to be the main contenders again in 2013/14. Guildford 1 started in Pool A with a match against newly-promoted Grantham Sharks. Only one Guildford player suffered a shark bite, namely Eric Hansen, a young GM from Canada, who lost to untitled (but 2426-rated) Holger Grund of Germany in a tactical mêlée. German bite... where I have heard that term before? Ah, I know, on the BBC Shipping Forecast: they probably don’t get that in Canada. (Just in case you think I know Rockall about spelling, yes, I am aware that in a shipping context I should spell it ‘bight’.)


Pool 1a featured three other heavy scores. Cheddleton look to be Guildford’s main rivals in the preliminary section and they dished out a 7-1 hammering to Oxford. It featured an amusing tactical sequence in which Black played a cheapo, White unleashed a counter-cheapo... but Black then played a counter-counter-cheapo to resolve the matter.


4NCL Division 1a, Round 1, 2013

B.Savage (Oxford) - S.Williams (Cheddleton)



28...Nxh2 That’s cheapo no.1. 29.Nf2 If 29.Qxh2 Qe3+, regaining the piece and staying a pawn up with an overwhelming game. But White’s text move is cheapo no.2 – how can Black extricate his knight from h2? At first sight it looks as if he will be tied to the defence of the knight forever... 29...Qd2! ... but this move, cheapo no.3, solves the problem. 30.dxc6 Qxc3 31.Kxh2 bxc6 32.Ng4 Nd7 33.Qd1 Qb2+ 34.Kh3 h5 35.Nh2 Qd4 36.Qxd4 exd4 37.Nf3 c5 38.Kg2 Ne5 39.Ne1 Kf6 40.Kf2 g5 41.Ke2 h4 42.gxh4 gxh4 43.Kf2 Kg5 0-1


 Simon Williams


Wood Green 2 also filled their boots, beating King’s Head 6-2. Their only casualty was Malcolm Pein, who came a cropper at the hands of his former pupil Ravi Haria. The final result of the pool was something of a surprise, with Barbican 2, with one IM, overcoming Blackthorne Russia, with one GM and four IMs. Barbican 2 scored three wins where the rating differential was less marked, but arguably did rather better in holding on some of the other boards where the higher rated opposition might have been expected to ‘walk it’. 14-year-old Cosima Keen’s performance in drawing with the highly-experienced Dave Ledger was particularly meritorious.


Turning to the other three matches of Pool 1b, Guildford 2 were even more effective than their first team, blowing away Cambridge University by 7-0. This is going to sound confusing, but Cambridge’s zero points did contain one stellar success, with Daniel Bisby beating Yang-Fan Zhou, but this single game point was forfeited because of a default elsewhere.


4NCL Division 1b, Round 1, 2013

D.Bisby (Cambridge University) - Zhou,Yang-Fan (Guildford 2)

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 Qc7 6.Be3 a6 7.Be2 Nf6 8.a3 Be7 9.f4 d6 10.g4 Nd7 11.g5 b5 12.Nxc6 Qxc6 13.Qd2 0-0 14.0-0-0 Nc5 14...Nb6 15.Qd4 Rb8 16.h4 was played in a GM game a couple of years ago, although only in a blitz competition. 15.h4!? Rb8 One wonders if White’s last move was a bluff. If 15...Nxe4 16.Bf3 Qxc3 17.bxc3 Nxd2 18.Bxa8 Nc4 19.Bf2 d5 and the light-squared bishop is entombed in the corner. Of course, White didn’t have to play 16.Bf3 - 16.Nxe4 is safe enough - but Black has an extra pawn. 16.f5 exf5 17.h5 White decides to continue with his gung-ho kingside attack. 17...b4 Again, 17...Nxe4 is the obvious option, though perhaps White has some compensation for his pawns. 18.axb4 Rxb4 19.h6 Be6 Permitting White to unlock the door to the black king. 19...g6 seems to be the right move, though the possibility of being mated on g7 must have been a worry for Black. For example, 20.Nd5 wins against all but one Black reply. Unfortunately, that one (rather obvious) move is 20...Nb3+, winning White’s queen and the game. 20.hxg7 Rfb8



As so often in such Sicilian lines, with both sides poised to strike down a semi-open file, it’s all about buying some time to ensure your attack gets home first. 21.Bb5!! Clearing a path for the white queen to come to h2, threatening Qxh7 mate, whilst at the same time attacking the queen and obstructing the force of the doubled black rooks on the b-file. It’s delicious, multi-purpose moves like this which make chess worthwhile. 21...Nd3+ 22.Bxd3 fxe4 22...Rxb2 is simply a bluff as 23.Qh2 and Black has nothing on the b-file. 23.Rxh7! 23.Qh2 now would be a mistake as the simple 23...Bf5 is a stubborn defence. 23...Bf5 24.Qh2 f6 25.Rh8+ Kf7 26.Rxb8 Your computer may find other fancy finishes but this will do very nicely. 26...Rxb8 27.Qh8 Rg8 28.Be2 Qc8 29.Rh1 d5 30.Nxd5 Bd6 31.Nxf6 1-0


 Yang-Fan Zhou


White Rose overcame quite comfortably, with the losing team’s endgame play letting them down somewhat. This game had an attractive finish.


4NCL Division 1b, Round 1, 2013

M.Gantner (White Rose) - R.Norinkeviciute (



Black’s last move, 21...Rd8-c8 was an error. 22.Bxc5! dxc5 23.Nxb7! Ka7 23...Qxb7 24.Rb3 wins the queen. Best is 23...c4 but after 24.Nd6 Black would lose a second pawn anyway. 24.Qc4! Qxb7 25.Rd7! Qxd7 26.Qxa6+ Kb8 27.Rb3+ Kc7 28.Qb6 mate 1-0


Barbican 1 had rather too much firepower for Grantham Sharks 2. Actually, 2½ game points wasn’t a bad result for a team that was so heavily down on rating, and Barbican 1 might yet rue a missed opportunity to gain more game points.




The Sunday round saw the first encounter between the two big fleets, when the Guildford heavy battleship exchanged salvoes with Wood Green’s light cruiser. Guildford’s first team scored six hits to Wood Green second team’s two, with only John Emms managing to sink an opponent, French GM Jean-Pierre Le Roux, with a stray torpedo just before the time control. Quite the Nelson touch...


4NCL Division 1a, Round 2, 2013

J.Emms (Wood Green 2) - J-P.Le Roux (Guildford 1)



The game had been fairly well balanced to this point but now the Frenchman, who had just snaffled a pawn on a4, comes unstuck... 39...g6?? 40.g5!! gxh5 Whatever Black plays, White is going to get an unstoppable pawn on h6, e.g. 40...hxg5 41.h6, etc. 41.gxh6 1-0 Come what may, the h-pawn is going to advance, and the white bishop will ensure a touch-down on h8.


Cheddleton versus Barbican 2 also ended 6-2, in line with ratings. But it might have been close had Barbican taken their chances. Grantham Sharks 1 also piled up an impressive 6-2 scoreline against King’s Head. Oxford took another beating, this time from Blackthorne Russia.


In Pool 1b, Wood Green 1 scored a 6½-1½ win against Cambridge University. This match featured the game of the weekend between Jonathan Rowson and Daniel Bisby. It ended in a draw, though the computer thinks Bisby might have been winning after Rowson’s final move, which was accompanied by a draw offer. I confess I spent almost the entire afternoon watching this game, at times on my computer (using an engine), and also in the playing room, watching the players’ expressions as they tried to figure out all the tactics of this complicated King’s Indian Defence game. I give it below but without annotations, since all I would be able to do would be to quote long, mind-bending computer suggestions, many of which I don’t fully understand. Readers can play through it on their own computers. It remains only to salute the two players for their imagination and courage.


4NCL Division 1b, Round 2, 2013

J.Rowson (Guildford 1) - D.Bisby (Cambridge University)

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Be2 e5 7.d5 a5 8.Be3 Ng4 9.Bg5 f6 10.Bh4 Na6 11.Nd2 h5 12.a3 Bd7 13.Rb1 Nc5 14.b3 Qc8 15.h3 Nh6 16.f3 f5 17.Qc2 f4 18.Bd1 Nf7 19.Ke2 g5 20.Bf2 g4 21.hxg4 hxg4 22.Qb2 b6 23.b4 Nb7 24.Bb3 g3 25.Bg1 Bf6 26.c5 axb4 27.axb4 bxc5 28.bxc5 Na5 29.Bc2 Qd8 30.c6



The line of locked pawns running diagonally across the board is a familiar sight in King’s Indian games. Equally familiar is the theme of heavy piece attacks in pursuit of each other’s king, moving around the board in a vaguely clockwise direction, reminding me (and my vivid imagination) of the Ben Hur chariot race. 30...Bc8 31.Bd3 Kg7 32.Nb5 Ba6 33.Ra1 Bxb5 34.Qxb5 Rh8 35.Rxh8 Qxh8 36.Rxa5 Qh1 37.Kf1 Rh8 38.Ra2 Rh2 39.Nc4 Ng5 40.Qb8 Nxf3 41.Qxc7+ Kg6 42.Qa7 Rh7 43.Qb6 Nh2+ 44.Ke1 f3 45.Bf1 f2+ 46.Rxf2 gxf2+ 47.Kxf2 Bh4+ 48.Ke2 Nxf1 49.c7 ½-½


 Stephen Gordon, Jonathan Rowson, Nick Pert, Adam Ashton


Barbican 1 would have been pleased to win their match with White Rose as the two sides are likely to be rivals for high places in the league come the end of the season. They might have won rather more comfortably but I expect they would have been happy enough with 4½-3½ and the two match points.


Guildford 2 might have expected more than another 4½-3½ win against 3Cs but, again, it was good enough for match purposes. Yang-Fan Zhou scored a fine win against GM Stephen Gordon, but Adam Ashton’s attack against the king in an open game caught my decidedly old-fashioned eye. Glenn Flear had almost a walk-over win in the first round but he seemed to be caught cold here.


4NCL Division 1b, Round 2, 2013

A.Ashton (3Cs) - G.Flear (Guildford 2)

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.d3 Nf6 5.c3 a6 6.Bb3 Ba7 7.h3 d6 8.Nbd2 0-0 9.Nf1 h6 10.g4 Nh7 11.Rg1 We’re still in known territory. 11.Ng3 has been played a few times. 11...Na5 12.Bc2 d5 13.Qe2 dxe4 14.dxe4 Qd6 Seems a bit slow and it also causes Black to lose a tempo. Maybe 14...Ng5 or 14...Be6 is better. 15.Ne3 Ng5?! 15...Be6 16.Nf5 Bc4 looks reasonable for Black. This exchange of knights leaves Black very short of defenders on the kingside. 16.Nxg5 hxg5 17.Nf5 Qd8 17...Bxf5 18.gxf5 f6 19.h4 also looks grim for Black. 18.h4!



It’s difficult to know what to suggest for Black now. He’s probably a goner. 18...gxh4 19.g5 Re8 20.Qh5! Bxf5 After 20...g6 simply 21.Qxh4! is the end, e.g. 21...gxf5 22.exf5 with f6 and Qh7+ to follow. 21.exf5 Qd5 22.f6 e4 23.fxg7 f5 23...Kxg7 24.Qh6+ Kg8 25.g6 wins. 24.g6 1-0 24...Kxg7 25.Qh7+ Kf6 26.Bg5+ Ke6 27.Qf7+ Kd6 28.Bf4+ Re5 29.Rd1 is a sample winning sequence.


Grantham Sharks 2 came close to a match point against but it was not to be.




Pool 2a scores after round 2: KJCA Kings 4 (10½), Warwickshire 4(9½), Bristol 1 4 (8½), Anglian Avengers 2 (10), Rhyfelwyr Essyllwg 2 (8), Wessex 0 (6½), Cambridge University 2 0 (5½), Poisoned Pawns 0 (4). Bristol appear to have much the strongest squad, with Anglian Avengers having strength in depth and one or two other squads looking useful.


Pool 2b scores after round 2: The ADs 4(10), BCM Dragons 3 (9), Brown Jack 3 (8½), South Wales Dragons 2 (8), Bradford DCA Knights 2 (8), Barbican Youth 1 (7½), White Rose 2 1 (7), Hackney 0 (5½). The ADs look favourites to top this pool, but ratings may not be a good indicator as highly-rated Hackney have made a poor start.


Photos © John Saunders



Annotated games from the above report | Download in PGN |





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