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Weekend 1 round-up, 15-16 November 2014 - John Saunders





The 22nd season of the 4NCL (British Team League) got underway on 15 November 2014. Running one’s eye down the squads for this season, it rather looks as if Guildford are the stand-out favourites to win their third successive title, and their sixth in total (which, if achieved, would equal Wood Green’s tally of championships). Once again the Surrey team enjoy the generous patronage of Roger Emerson, whom readers of these reports will recall twirling his samurai sword at a team pep talk before last year’s decider. The sword, I should add, had a blunt edge and was just for show, but his team the next day was razor-sharp: Guildford beat Wood Green HK by 6-2. To find the last time Guildford’s first team didn’t win a match you have to go back to the final match of the 2012/13 season when a 4-4 draw with the same team was still good enough to win them the title.


I suppose the simplest way to assess a squad’s potential strength would be to play a quick game of ‘count the grandmaster’. Guildford’s GM count is 11, and most of them were present for the first round of matches (six in the first team and two in the second). Wood Green HK (who field just the one team) have eight but only two of them played at this weekend. Cheddleton have a healthy six. Barbican, White Rose and Blackthorne Russia have two each, and one. 3Cs also have one GM but they currently languish in the second division. So, on the face of it, Cheddleton look to be the nearest thing Guildford 1 have to rivals for the championship (with the possible exception of the Surrey club’s own second team). Guildford 1 and Cheddleton are both in the same preliminary group and are fated to meet in the sixth round in February.


Round 1 - Division 1a


 Andrew Greet, Jon Speelman, Geoff Lawton


But enough of looking into the future: let’s see how the teams performed in their November matches. Wood Green HK, with their reduced patronage, were some way short of their traditional strength against Warwickshire Select, newly promoted from Division 2. The Midlands side fully capitalised on the boards lacking titled players at the lower end of the Wood Green team but this wasn’t enough to make up for some hefty disparities in strength higher up the board order. Jon Speelman got his 4NCL season off to a good start against Geoff Lawton.


4NCL 2014/15, Division 1a, Round 1

Jon Speelman (Wood Green HK)

Geoff Lawton (Warwickshire Select)



25.Re6! A familiar exchange sacrifice, cutting Black’s position in half and ramping up the pressure on the f5–pawn. 25...Bxe6 26.dxe6 Rf6 27.Nh5 Necessary precision: it would be all too easy for we lesser mortals to proceed with something like 27.Bxf5?! Rb8 when Black can generate a bit of queenside counterplay with ...b7–b5, and it would be hard to move the bishop from f5 because of the weak f4–pawn. 27...Kh8 28.g3 Qg8 29.Nxf6 Bxf6 30.Bxf5 Qg7 31.Re2 Rg8 32.Rg2 Bd4 33.Qe2 Qf6 34.Bd3 Rb8 35.Qe4 1-0 I suppose Black could soldier on with 35...Qg7 36.b3 but the white kingside pawns soon roll forward and the long-term prospect of an opposite-coloured bishop endgame is just a pipe-dream.


The ADs, with an average rating of 2187, could be in for some relegation problems this season unless they strengthen their squad, and they were well beaten by Barbican 1. Incidentally, though the team’s abbreviated moniker stands for ‘The Antediluvians’, the club follows the refreshing 4NCL tradition for disregarding the team name completely. Just as Barbican Youth has been known to field pensioners, The ADs sport teenagers in their team. A pretty good one, too: 17-year-old Alan Merry recently achieved a remarkable GM norm in the PokerStars Isle of Man International, even before qualifying as an IM, but he was brought back to earth in Hinckley by Irish IM Sam Collins, who played some forceful, imaginative chess.


 Sam Collins


4NCL 2014/15, Division 1a, Round 1

Sam Collins (Barbican 1)

Alan Merry (The ADs)

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e6 6.Be2 Bb4 7.0‑0 Known simply as the Sicilian Gambit, White gives up the e-pawn (and possibly a second pawn) for a lead in development and a possible kingside attack. 7...Bxc3 8.bxc3 Nxe4 9.Bd3 Nf6 9...Nxc3!? 10.Qg4 0‑0 11.Bb2 f5 12.Nxf5 exf5 13.Qc4+ d5 14.Qxc3 d4 may give White a little something for the gambit pawn. 9...d5!? 10.Ba3 Qa5 11.Qc1 has been aired in some GM games. 10.Bg5!? This seems to be new. After 10.Nb5 0‑0 11.Ba3, Black has the option of giving up the exchange or playing 11...Ne7. 10...Qa5 11.f4!? White decides to switch to a poker game, raising the stakes by one pawn. 11...Qxc3 12.Nb5 Qc5+ 13.Kh1 Nd4 14.a4 Nxb5 15.axb5 d6 At first sight 15...d5 looks better, so that after 16.Qf3 Black can play 16...b6 and 17...Bb7, but instead he might have to reckon with 16.f5 when 16...e5 17.Qe2 leaves his position looking slightly vulnerable. 16.Qf3 Nd7 17.Rae1 0‑0 Very committal, but Black has to do something and other moves are arguably as tricky, e.g. this Houdini line: 17...h6 18.Qh3 Nb6 19.Bh4 0‑0 and now the engine suggests 20.Bf6!? Nd5! (20...gxf6? 21.Qxh6 f5 22.Rf3 leads to mate) 21.Bxg7!? although it may only be good enough for a draw. 18.Qg3



18...Qc7? Black probably thought he was jettisoning an exchange for his two extra pawns but it turns out to be far more serious than that. Instead, 18...f5! was probably necessary. Then 19.Rxe6 Ne5! 20.Bh6 Ng4! 21.Re7 Rf7 leads to a perpetual or a level position. 19.Bh6 g6 20.f5!! The killer move. Move order is important: not 20.Bxf8? Nxf8 21.f5 exf5 22.Re8 Rb8 and Black has reasonable prospects of survival. 20...exf5 There is nothing else. If 20...Ne5 21.fxg6 Nxg6 22.Bxg6 hxg6 23.Qg5! when 23...Qd8 loses to 24.Rxf7!!, etc. 21.Re7! Pinning Black’s only truly active piece and preparing to smash through with Bxf5 and Bxg6. 21...Qc5 21...Qd8 22.Qxd6 Qb6 23.Qa3 wins. 22.Rxf5 22.Bxf5 Ne5 23.Qh4 should also win, if slightly less forcefully. 22...Qd4 22...Ne5 23.Qg5 wins. 23.Bxf8 Nxf8 24.Rfxf7 Be6 25.Rxf8+ Rxf8 26.Rxe6 a5 27.h3 a4 28.Rxd6 Qa1+ 29.Kh2 a3 30.Bc4+ Kh8 31.c3 1-0


Guildford 2 and Blackthorne Russia were quite well matched but it was the slightly higher-rated Guildford team which triumphed, to the tune of 5-3. Dave Smerdon returned to the scene of his recent 4NCL Rapidplay Individual success and won again, beating Danny Gormally in a c3 Sicilian. It was another case of someone castling into trouble but White needed to see quite a long and tricky tactical sequence to figure out why his position was so good.


4NCL 2014/15, Division 1a, Round 1

Dave Smerdon (Guildford 2)

Danny Gormally (Blackthorne Russia)

1.e4 c5 2.c3 Nf6 3.e5 Nd5 4.Nf3 e6 5.d4 cxd4 6.cxd4 b6 7.Nc3 Bb7 7...Nxc3 8.bxc3 Qc7 9.Bd2 Bb7 10.Bd3 d6 11.0‑0 Nd7 is seen rather more often. 8.Bd3 Na6 9.a3 9.Nxd5 Bxd5 doesn’t hang a piece with 10.Bxa6 as Black can now play 10...b5 and win it back at the price of a pawn, if need be. But White doesn’t usually take the bait with 11.Bxb5?! because after 11...Qa5+ 12.Bd2 Qxb5, the white king can’t castle and Black is probably better. Instead, 11.0‑0 Qb6 is probably about equal. 9...Be7 9...Nac7 10.Ne4 is quite good for White as he can play Nd6 and gain a tempo on the c7 knight after the recapture exd6. 10.Ne4 0‑0 Tricky. Black might have to think about 10...f5 instead. 11.Nfg5! h6



11...g6 gives White a natural target for 12.h4!, not to mention some weak dark squares. 12.Nh7! Kxh7 Not much option, otherwise 12...Re8 13.Qg4! and White’s attack will crash through. 13.Nd6+ Kg8 14.Nxb7 Qc8? A story of two pins. It turns out that the pin of the knight given by the black queen is less significant that the one which the white rook makes along the c-file in a few moves’ time. 14...Qb8! 15.Bxa6 Nc7 and now 16.Bxh6? gxh6 and White only has a perpetual at best. However, 16.Bd3 or 16.Qg4 might still be quite good for White. 15.Bxa6 Nc7 16.Bxh6! gxh6 16...Nxa6 17.Qg4 g6 18.Bxf8 Bxf8 19.Nd6 Bxd6 20.exd6 Qc4 21.h4 leaves White the exchange and a pawn up, with a powerful kingside attack into the bargain. Black just cannot mobilise his forces quickly enough to generate a counter. 17.Rc1 Qb8 18.Qg4+ Kh8 19.Rc3 Rg8 20.Qh5 Rg7 20...Bf8 21.Nd6 wins. 21.Rh3 Bg5 22.f4 Bxf4 23.0‑0 Good enough, though 23.Rf1 appears to be a bit quicker. 23...Qg8 24.Rxf4 Rxg2+ 25.Kf1 Rg1+ 26.Ke2 Qg2+ 27.Kd3 Rd1+ 28.Qxd1 Qxh3+ 29.Rf3 Qxh2 30.Bc4 f5 31.exf6 d5 32.Bb3 Qxb2 33.Rh3 Kh7 34.Bc2 e5 35.dxe5 Ne6 36.Kd2+ Kg8 37.Qg4+ 1-0


 Matthew Webb (White Rose) v Dave Smerdon (Guildford 2)


South Wales Dragons, my own former team, have done well to win promotion from Division Two but they have a tough season ahead of them. They took a 2-6 beating from White Rose but at least John Cooper had a good day, beating GM Colin McNab. I would annotate the game but I’d probably get accused of favouritism towards the Land of my Fathers – in fact, the real reason is that I’m half-Scots and didn’t enjoy someone from the Land of my Mothers get so horribly mangled on the White side of an English Opening (he would have had to find another opening if the referendum had gone the other way). Defeat might have been heavier for the Dragons but for James Cobb managing to grab a perpetual check in a position where Peter Wells’s passed pawns were threatening to push him off the board.


4NCL 2014/15, Division 1a, Round 1

James Cobb (South Wales Dragons)

Peter Wells (White Rose)



Black to play and (miss a) win


38...Qf7? The right way to win is 38...Qh6! when White can’t do much about the inevitable threat of ...a3–a2. If he tries 39.Rh1 simply 39...Qxh1+! 40.Kxh1 b1Q+ 41.Bxb1 Rxb1+ 42.Kg2 a2 and White is a dead man walking. 39.Rh1! Setting up a perpetual check tactic. Occupation of the h-file proves to be the decisive factor. 39...Rb7? Interestingly, there was a still a chance for Black to win with 39...Re7! since 40.Bxg6? now fails to 40...Qxg6 41.Qxg6+ hxg6 42.Rh8+ Kf7 and the perpetual check opportunity has evaporated. Instead White has to try 40.Bb1 but Black can probably eke out a win. 40.Bxg6! Qxg6 41.Qxg6+ hxg6 42.Rh8+ Kf7 43.Rh7+ Kf8 44.Rh8+ Not 44.Rxb7?? a2 and Black still wins. 44...Kf7 45.Rh7+ ½-½


 John Cooper, James Cobb, Adam Ashton


Round 1 - Division 1b


Guildford 1 got underway with a comfortable 6½-1½ win against Hackney. Curiously, both teams had a player called Suárez in the side but they didn’t play each other. Had they done so, it might have been a case of the biter bit. But actually both lost a rather toothless encounter. Sorry... that was a purely gratuitous bite-joke, actually they (Carlos Suárez García and Alberto Suárez Real, that is) were the victims of some deftly applied pressure from Matthew Sadler and Rubén Cenal Gutiérrez respectively. Bob Eames did well to hold French super-GM Romain Edouard, rated more than 400 points above him.


4NCL 2014/15, Division 1b, Round 1

Nick Pert (Guildford 1)

Tomer Eden (Hackney)



34.Ra5? 34.Ra7 Nxd5 35.exd5 Rcd8 36.Rfa1 Kc8 37.Rc1+ forces 37...Kd7 38.Rxb7+ Kd6 39.Rbc7 and White should win. 34...Rcd8?? 34...Nxd5! 35.exd5 Rcd8! and White doesn’t have anything very convincing, e.g. 36.Rfa1 Kc8 37.Ra7 f5 38.Rc1+ Kb8 39.Rc7 Rxd5 40.Rcxb7+ Kc8 41.Rg7 Kb8 42.Rxg6 Rd1+ 43.Kh2 Rd2 44.Rxg5 f4, etc. 35.Ne7! 1-0 Black cannot avoid mate or heavy material loss: 35...Rd6 36.Rfa1 Rxb6 37.Ra8+ Kc7 38.Rxf8, etc.




Jovanka Houska


Kanwal Bhatia


Sue Maroroa Jones versus Cambridge University (another team whose players’ connections with the institution they purported to represent was for the most part fictional) was a closely-fought match, with the Uni beating the URL by the odd point. The match to some extent turned on an existential moment in the game Camus-Longson, where Black (the website man) briefly had his opponent at his mercy but blew a winning chance when choosing between pushing a passed pawn or exchanging a couple of pieces first. Few of us are a stranger to this phenomenon – I know I was plagued by it. Black fought back gamely to create a second winning chance but, having pushed the rock up the mountain, it fell down again. The myth of Sisyphus. (That’s it, I’m out of Camus references. If you can think of any more, email me.)


4NCL 2014/15, Division 1b, Round 1

Guillaume Camus (Cambridge University)

Alex Longson (



36.Rf4!? Rather than playing 36.Rc2 and losing the slow way, White tries a spin of the dice. Apparently, the French for ‘bluff’ is ‘bluff’. That figures... 36...Rxf4? Understandable but a mistake. Black doesn’t want to have to figure out 36...c4 37.Rxf7 c3 38.Rbb7 c2 39.Rxg7+ Kh8 and then calculate all those checks, but actually there’s nothing to calculate - White’s got ‘rien de rien’. The black king simply strolls along the Bois de Boulogne with an independent air, all the way to c8, and the checks come to an end. C’est fini. 37.exf4 c4 Now it’s time for the white king’s promenade... 38.Ke2 c3 39.Kd1 c2+ 40.Kc1 Kg6 41.g4 Kf6 42.Rb7 g5 43.f5 Kg7 44.Rb8 Rc4 45.Rxb6 Rxa4 46.Rb3 Rc4 47.Ra3 Rc5 48.Rd3 h5 49.f3? Endangering his drawing chances by opening up an oblique path for the black king to penetrate the kingside. 49...h4 50.Rb3 Rc4 51.Ra3 Kf6 52.Rd3 Rc7 53.Ra3 Ke5! 54.Rxa5+ Kf4 55.f6 Kg3? 55...Rc3! was the right way to proceed, when 56.Rf5+ Kg3 57.Rxg5 Rxf3 58.Kxc2 Kxh3 59.Rg7 Rxf6 60.g5 Rg6 61.Rxf7 Kg2 is quite a straightforward win. 56.Rxg5 Kxh3 57.Rg7 Kg2 58.g5 h3 59.g6 h2 60.gxf7+ Kf2 61.Rh7 Rxf7 62.Rxh2+ ½-½


 Guillaume Camus


This was not the only frustration for the of the afternoon, with a couple of other results going against them in time pressure or the endgame. This one came to a gruesome finale.


4NCL 2014/15, Division 1b, Round 1

Alan Byron (

Carl Spencer (Cambridge University)



38.Rb3?? In trying to save the b-pawn, White loses a piece. Instead he could have tried 38.Rfc3 Rxb6 39.Nd3 which costs a pawn, but he still stands a decent chance of holding the endgame. 38...Re1+ 39.Kf2 Rxc1! 40.Rxc1 Rxb3 41.Rc7 Nd6 0‑1


Barbican 2 versus Grantham Sharks was a close match in which four lower-rated players overcame higher-rated opposition, with Grantham winning with a better score on the lower boards. Isaac Sanders soon had Thomas Rendle in a terrible tangle.


4NCL 2014/15, Division 1b, Round 1

Isaac Sanders (Barbican 2)

Thomas Rendle (Grantham Sharks)

1.d4 e6 2.c4 f5 3.g3 Nf6 4.Bg2 c6 5.Nh3 d6 6.Nc3 e5 A bit risky, maybe. 7.dxe5 dxe5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8 9.Ng5 Ke8 10.e4 Na6 11.0‑0 Nc5 12.exf5 Bxf5 13.Be3 Nd3 Given the predicament the knight gets into on d3, it’s tempting to look for something better here. Maybe 13...h6 14.Bxc5 Bxc5 15.Rae1!? Nd7, though the e4–pawn looks a bit vulnerable. 14.b3 Bb4 15.Nge4 Ke7?! 16.a3! Black’s last move deprived him of a potentially useful retreat square for the bishop. 16...Bxc3 16...Ba5 17.b4 Bc7 might not be as bad as it looks, though the black knight still looks a bit lonely on d3. 17.Nxc3 Kd6 18.Rfd1 Kc7 19.Rd2 Rhd8 20.Rad1 h6 After 20...Rd7 21.Bf1 Rad8, 22.Bxa7 becomes possible but perhaps it is the lesser of two evils: 22...Bg4 23.Ra1 Nc5!? 24.Rb2 Nce4 might offer a glimmer of compensation for the pawn. 21.Bf1 e4



22.Nxe4! This pulls the rug out from under Black’s defence. 22...Bxe4 23.Bxd3 White now has a full-value extra pawn. 23...Bf3? A blunder probably born of desperation. 24.Bf4+ Kb6 25.c5+! Kxc5 26.Be3+ Kd6 27.Be4+ 1-0


 Divisions 1 and 2


Graham Morrison gave Holger Grund an even bigger sharracking on the second board but thereafter the Sharks were in the ascendant, winning 5-3. Barbican 2 were a bit unfortunate. Their captain Jonathan Rogers had a particularly bleak afternoon, playing what can only be described as a self-cheapo – practically forcing his opponent to find a move winning a piece. David Coleman lost after missing a fleeting chance at a brilliant win. But he shouldn’t beat himself over it – this one looks to be “engines only”.


4NCL 2014/15, Division 1b, Round 1

David Coleman (Barbican 2)

Veronica Foisor (Grantham Sharks)



Black has a choice of three moves. One is obviously bad but the other two have to be weighed carefully. 32...Kh6!? It is easy to see why 32...Kh8? is wrong - White wins with 33.Be7, threatening mate in one and a rook. Black has to play 33...Rf8 but 34.Bxf8 Rxf8 35.Rd7 is a pretty easy win. 32...Kf7!? is objectively best, though 33.Be2 Rg8 34.Bh5+ forces the win of the exchange after 34...Rg6 35.Bxg6+ hxg6, etc. However, Black has a modicum of compensation. The text move, however, may be judged subjectively best because... 33.Re1? ... it is so hard to find the right continuation for White. 33.Bf8+!! Rxf8 34.Rd7! and the black king is caught in a trap, although there are some tricky variations: 34...Rg8 (34...Bf3!? just holds up the process by a couple of moves; 34...Bxg2! is more tricky but White has simply 35.Bxg2 Rg8 36.Rh3+ Kg6 37.Bf3 Rcd8 38.Re7! and wins; 34...Rcd8 35.Rh3+ Kg6 36.Rdxh7 and mate next move) 35.Rh3+ Kg6 36.Be2 and it is mate in three with Bh5+ and Be8 mate to follow. 33...Rg8 34.Ree3 Rg6 35.Rh3+ Kg7 36.Reg3 Nb3 37.Be2 Nxc5 38.Bh5 Rxg3 39.Rxg3+ Kh6 40.Bf7 Bd5 41.c4 Ne4 42.Rg8 Rxg8 43.Bxg8 Bxc4 44.Bf8+ Kg6 45.g3 b5 46.Kg2 a5 47.Kf3 Nd2+ 48.Kf2 h6 49.h3 h5 50.Ke3 Nb1 51.a4 bxa4 52.g4 hxg4 53.hxg4 Bb3 54.gxf5+ exf5 55.Bxb3 axb3 56.Kd3 a4 57.Kc4 b2 58.Kd4 0‑1


Cheddleton versus Oxford was an entertaining match, won 4½-3½ by the Staffordshire villagers. (In name only, of course, in keeping with the aforementioned 4NCL tradition: a great pity they don’t name themselves after the nearby town of Leek as I’m sure I could have much more wordplay fun with that name.) David Howell won a frantic finish against Justin Tan, while soon-to-be-confirmed GM Jonathan Hawkins won in more sedate fashion. I particularly enjoyed some of the nuances of Keith Arkell’s game, which I discussed with him later on Facebook (with the benefit of Houdini on my part). If you are skim-reading this report and only have time to look at one chess position, do have a look at the remarkable zugzwang that might have occurred in the variation starting 35...Nc6 – it’s a cracker.


4NCL 2014/15, Division 1b, Round 1

Keith Arkell (Cheddleton)

David Zakarian (Oxford)



34.Bf3! This temporary pawn sac is the only way to play for an advantage. Now the pressure starts to get to Keith’s Armenian opponent. 34...Rxf5? 34...Rd6! prevents White from establishing base camp on b6. But White could continue with 35.e4 dxe4 36.Bxe4 b6 and still have plenty of scope for a long grind. 35.Rb6! Nb3 After this it’s more or less a mopping up exercise. 35...Nc6 seems best when Keith had provisionally intended to play 36.e4 but he expressed the hope to me that he would have spotted Black’s brilliant reply 36...Rxf3! 37.Kxf3 and now 37...Nxd4+! 38.cxd4 c3 deflecting the b2 rook. Instead, after 35...Nc6, White can create a remarkable zugzwang with 36.Rb1!! - despite the plethora of legal moves available to Black, it turns out that every one of them cedes material in one way or another (e.g. knight moves lose the h6–pawn, while rook moves lose the d or b-pawns). Perhaps the least obvious is 36...a5 but then Keith’s idea of 37.e4! works like a treat because Black’s c4–c3 idea would no longer deflect the black rook because it has moved to a safer square. 36.Rxh6 Not just a pawn: White also threatens Bg4, picking off the stranded rook. So Black’s next move is forced. 36...g4 37.hxg4 Rg5 37...Rg8 38.Kg3 Rg7 39.Bd1 Rfg5 40.f4 R5g6 41.Rxg6 winning a second pawn and, eventually, the game. 38.Rf6 b5 39.axb5 axb5 40.Ra2 Rg7 41.Ra7+ Kd8 42.Bxd5 Rxg4+ 43.Kf3 Rg7 44.Bxf7 Nd2+ 45.Kf4 b4 46.Rd6+ 1-0


Tom Eckersley-Waites and Marcus Harvey had two very creditable wins for Oxford on the middle boards, against David Eggleston and Simon Williams respectively, but it wasn’t enough to change the destination of the match points. The Ginger GM played an interesting new idea in the Queen’s Indian and seemed to be doing well but his attempt to finish with a sacrificial flourish backfired. I won’t annotate the game but it’s worth playing through from the download. Where things really fell apart for Oxford was on board six, where Neil Dickenson seemed to be winning but inexplicably subsided into an endgame disaster.


Round 2 - Division 1a


This report seems to be getting inordinately long, perhaps because the Saturday games struck me as so entertaining. Rather more so, it strikes me, than the rarefied games played in world championships and super-tournaments. Not a tedious Berlin Defence in sight, thankfully.


But now forward to Sunday: Division 1a featured three very tight matches which may have a significant bearing on the teams to qualify for the Championship pool and those who will have to play their games in the departure lounge (a.k.a. the Relegation Pool) later on in the season.


Barbican 1 and Wood Green have had a good many close matches over the years but at this moment in time Barbican 1 have slightly the stronger squad, albeit with only the one GM to Wood Green’s two. There were just three decisive results, with two female players, Jovanka Houska and Kanwal Bhatia supplying full points for their respective teams, and Lorin D’Costa beating Scottish GM John Shaw to give Barbican 1 the points. John Shaw gave up a couple of pawns for an initiative on the black side of an English opening but never got quite enough for it.


 Don Mason


White Rose versus Guildford 2 was another tight match, with the Yorkshire side winning by the minimum margin. The heavyweight battles on the higher boards were hard fought but drawn, so the lower boards were left to produce decisive results. Nigel Povah won for Guildford on bottom board, but James Adair and Iain Gourlay replied in kind for White Rose. Guildford 2’s hopes of a match point were dashed when Sophie Milliet lost on time against James Adair, one move short of the time control, while a fraught game between Colin McNab and Yang Fan-Zhou might have gone either way before ending as a draw.


Warwickshire Select had a tough time on the top boards against The ADs, with Geoff Lawton opening with the uninspiring 1.e4 d5 2.d3 and being ground down, and Don Mason being given Merry hell in a tactical mêlée on board two. To be fair, the loser deserves equal billing with the winner for his part in this hugely entertaining game, kicking off a spirited and imaginative counter with 17...e5! which so nearly saved him.


4NCL 2014/15, Division 1a, Round 2

Alan Merry (The ADs)

Don Mason (Warwickshire Select)

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.Qg4 Qc7 8.Bd3 cxd4 9.Ne2 dxc3 10.Qxg7 Rg8 11.Qxh7 Qxe5 12.h4 Rxg2 12...Nd7 13.Bf4 Qh8 (13...Qf6 14.Bg5 Qh8 gets us back into familiar Winawer territory. In fact, the game J.Jackson-N.Pert proceeded along that path elsewhere at Hinckley on the same day, and ended in a draw.) 14.Qxh8 Rxh8 15.Nxc3 a6 16.Bd6 f6 17.0‑0‑0 Kf7 18.Rde1 was played in Merry-Harika, PokerStars Isle of Man International 2014, and won by White in 69 moves. 13.Bg5 Ensuring that the pawn-grabbing black rook will not have an easy road back to safety. 13...Nbc6 13...Nd7, planning to travel to g6 via f8, looks a safer option. 14.Kf1 Rh2 14...Rxg5!? 15.hxg5 Qxg5 16.Qh8+ Kd7 17.Rh5 Qg4 is probably a better option, though White still has an initiative for his slight material deficiency. 15.Rg1 Rh3 16.Re1 Qd6 17.Nf4



17...e5! Black, in big trouble, tries to stir up a tactical mess and, although it’s objectively unsound, it’s a highly imaginative practical try since 17...Rf3 18.Qh8+ Kd7 19.Qf6! e5 20.Qxf7 looks as though it would lose without much of a fight. 18.Qh8+ Here Houdini sees about a gazillion moves ahead and finds 18.Bxe7!, which wins for reasons which only become apparent in a few moves’ time. For the time being, let’s just enjoy some human chess... 18...Kd7 19.Nxh3 Has Black simply hung a rook? No, he’s still in the game... 19...Kc7! Black has a mega-threat: Bxh3+ followed by Rxh8. Despite White’s big material advantage, it’s not so easy to find a way to capitalise. 20.Rg2! 20.Qf6 Bxh3+ 21.Ke2 Be6 gives Black a reasonable chance of survival, though the h5–pawn is a worry. 20...Bxh3 An ingenious double rook sacrifice but Houdini comes up with a more refined version of this - 20...f6! - and good moves for White are hard to find (particularly if you’re not equipped with a dual core brain). Maybe 21.Be3!? when Houdini adjudges White to be a bit better after 21...Bxh3 22.Qxa8 e4, etc. 21.Qxa8 e4 21...f6! is still good, though now White has 22.Qh8 fxg5 23.hxg5 Bxg2+ 24.Kxg2 and is a fair bit better. Now White has a couple of precise moves to find. 22.Bxe7! Qh2 Not 22...Nxe7 as White switches focus with 23.Rb1! and Black never gets the chance to deploy his counterplay with Qh2. 23.Bxe4! 23.Qg8? comes close to winning as well but there is a sting in the tail: 23...Qh1+ 24.Ke2 exd3+ 25.cxd3 Nd4+! 26.Ke3 Qxe1+ 27.Kxd4 Qxe7 28.Qg3+ Kc6 29.Qxh3 Qc5+ and it’s perpetual. 23...dxe4 24.Qg8!



Now, finally, we get to see why 20...f6 was so important to Black, and get an idea why 18.Bxe7 was good for White previous to that. Black needed a knight on e7 to stop the white queen reaching its important defensive post on g8. Of course, most humans can be forgiven for missing such nuances, but it is always instructive to work out what the machine’s idea was. 24...Qh1+ Maddeningly for Black, after 24...Nxe7 White has just the one good move, but that’s all you need: 25.Qg3+! and it’s all over. 25.Ke2 Qxg2 Another heart-breaker for Black. If 25...Nd4+ 26.Kd1 Qxg2, White only has one really one convincing line, but unfortunately it’s mate: 27.Qd8+ Kc6 28.Qd6+, etc. 26.Qxg2 Bxg2 27.Bf6 1-0


South Wales Dragons succumbed 1½-6½ to Blackthorne Russia, losing on the top five boards in various different ways. James Cobb seemed to forget the en passant rule at a critical juncture.


4NCL 2014/15, Division 1a, Round 2

Danny Gormally (Blackthorne Russia)

James Cobb (South Wales Dragons)



30.b4 Nb3?? Hard to understand. 30...cxb3 31.Qxc6 Nxc6 32.Rb1 Nd4 33.Bd1 Rc8 34.Bxb3 Rc5 gives Black a perfectly reasonable chance of drawing. Black must have perpetrated a major miscalculation of the following tactics. 31.Bxc4! Creating two pins (along the file and diagonal) for the price of a self-pin (along the c-file). It also threatens to unpin immediately with Bd5+ so Black has to move his king off the a2–g8 diagonal. 31...Kg7 Unfortunately for Black, 31...Kf8 is ruled out because of the simple 32.Qxb3 dxc4 33.Rxd8+ Ke7 34.Qd1, etc. At least now the knight is indirectly defended but the black king is not yet safe from checks. 32.e6+ Kh6 33.f5 Rf8 A glimmer of counterplay down the f-file? Perhaps this is where Black’s calculations went wrong as White has a decisive pair of intermezzo moves. 34.Qe3+ 1-0 34...Kg7 35.Qe5+ Rf6 36.Bxb3 is one winning line.


 Danny Gormally


Round 2 - Division 1b


Guildford 1 were untroubled by, winning five games and drawing three. Board three featured a French GM and, appropriately enough, a moment of déjà vu for his English opponent. Do the French also say “un moment senior”... ?


4NCL 2014/15, Division 1b, Round 2

Romain Edouard (Guildford 2)

Peter Sowray (

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.Qg4 cxd4 8.Qxg7 Rg8 9.Qxh7 Qc7 10.Ne2 Nbc6 11.f4 Bd7 12.Qd3 dxc3 This has all been seen before. White’s forthcoming plan (shunting the h-pawn forward at full speed) has also been seen before. 13.h4 0‑0‑0 14.h5 d4 15.h6 Rg6 16.h7 Rh8 17.Nxd4 Nxd4 18.Qxd4 Nf5 19.Qxa7 Qc6? Setting a cheapo but simultaneously ruining his chances. 20.Be3! Not falling for 20.Qa8+? Kc7 21.Qxh8?? and you don’t have to be a genius to find a way to mate after 21...Qe4+, etc. 20...Qe4 21.Rh3



Now, the curious thing about this position is that Black had been here before. Thirty six years ago (yes, Peter Sowray is really ancient - almost as old as me, in fact) Peter had this position against John Carleton (who also found the nifty 20.Be3 move). Sadly, the rules of the game haven’t changed in the mean time and Black’s position is still as atrocious as it was in 1978. His next move can’t be considered an improvement as there isn’t one. 21...Qxc2 At the Aaronson Masters in 1978, Peter played 21...Rh6 against John Carleton, and the game continued 22.0‑0‑0 Rxh3 23.Bb6! Qxf4+ 24.Kb1 Qa4 25.Qxa4 Bxa4 26.gxh3 Bc6 27.Rd8+ and Black resigned. If 21...Qa4 22.0‑0‑0! Qxa7 23.Bxa7, White has two extra pawns plus the monster h-pawn, which is unlikely to drop off. 22.Rc1 Qb2 23.Qa8+ Kc7 24.Qa5+ Kc8 25.Rxc3+ Bc6 26.Bc1 Qb1 27.Rhd3 Ne7 28.Qa8+ Kc7 29.Qxh8 Nd5 30.Qf8 1-0


 Nick Pert and Romain Eduoard


Grantham Sharks versus Cheddleton was a pretty close run thing, with the latter just getting home by the odd point. What nearly scuppered their chances was an uncharacteristic endgame loss by Keith Arkell on board five against 18-year-old Peter Batchelor.


4NCL 2014/15, Division 1b, Round 2

Peter Batchelor (Grantham Sharks)

Keith Arkell (Cheddleton)



Black has two passed pawns to White’s one but they are both ideally blockaded by knights, just like the textbooks tell us. White now provokes a resolution of the kingside pawn situation. 38.h4 g4 I wonder if it might have been better to play 38...gxh4 39.gxh4 when the f5–pawn helps keep an eye on White’s e4 advance. But it’s hard to be sure. 39.fxg4 fxg4 Perhaps underestimating White’s coming plan. 39...hxg4 has the visual disadvantage of creating another white passer but it is more important to retain the f5–pawn to restrain White’s central pawn advance. 40.d5! White’s plan of advancing his central pawns in order to infiltrate on the dark squares with his king is simple and strong. Whether it should actually win is another matter. 40...Kf6 41.e4 Ke5 42.Ke3 Ba8 The only move not to cede material or give ground with the king (which would be equally disastrous). But White is almost as immobile - how is he to make progress? 43.Na6! Bb7 43...Bxd5!? is very hard to break down after 44.exd5 Nf5+ 45.Kf2 Nd6!, when White has great difficulty penetrating with his king. 44.Nb8 Threatening mate in one with 45.Nd7. 44...Nxe4? There doesn’t seem to be a win for White after 44...Kf6! 45.Kd4 b4 46.e5+ Kf7 47.exd6 bxc3 48.Kxc3 Bxd5 49.Kd4 Be6 50.Nc6 Kf6, etc. White seems to get knight plus the two kingside pawns versus bishop and one (g) pawn, but the white king can’t penetrate the black camp. 45.Nxe4 Bxd5 45...Kxd5 46.Nd7! weaves a web round the black pieces and I’m pretty sure there is no defence. The queenside pawns are effectively immobilised: if 46...b4 47.Nb6+ and the c-pawn drops. 46.Nd7+ Kf5 47.Nc3 Bc6 48.Nb8 Be8 49.Na6 Bd7 50.Kd4 Kf6 51.Nc7 1-0


A half match point went begging on board seven when White missed a fleeting chance to win the game. The sort of soul-destroying tactic the computer shows you when you key your game in when you get home after a match.


4NCL 2014/15, Division 1b, Round 2

Sam Williams (Grantham Sharks)

David Oswald (Cheddleton)



The game went 39.Rc6? Rxc6 40.dxc6 Nf6 41.Qa6 Qe6 42.Qxa5 b3 and a draw was agreed on move 65. What White missed was 39.Rxc7! Rxc7 40.Rc6!! is decisive: 40...Rxc6 41.dxc6 Nf6 (or 41...Nf8 42.Qd5+! Qxd5 43.exd5 and a pawn queens) 42.Qc4+! Kh8 43.c7 wins.


Only now do I notice... I made all those existentialist word plays around Guillaume Camus’s name in the round one section of the report and completely overlooked the fact that his team’s board one was called John-Paul. An open goal and I missed it. Oh well, I’ll leave you to make up your own jokes this time and stick to the chess. Cambridge University brought off a handsome win against Hackney thanks to three decisive wins and no losses. However, at least one of the wins might have gone the other way but for a diabolical trick.


4NCL 2014/15, Division 1b, Round 2

Tomer Eden (Hackney)

Daniel Bisby (Cambridge University)



White has three extra pawns but things start going wrong very quickly. 42.Qb4? Giving back one pawn with 42.d4!? exd4 to be able to secure the f2–pawn with 43.Nd3 is one prudent line. 42...Rhf6! 43.d4 There is no good way to defend the f2–pawn as 43.f3 allows tricks such as 43...Nc6!? 44.bxc6 Rxc6, regaining some material and reaching a probably drawn position. 43...Rxf2 44.Nd3 Simultaneously attacking the queen and the rook, but Black has a useful counter. 44...Rxg2+!? 45.Kxg2 Qg4! 46.Nc5?? 46.Qxe7 allows a draw with 46...Qf3+ 47.Kh3 Qh5+, etc, but if White but knew it, it is in fact the only line not to lose. He thinks he only has to worry about the black queen and rook, but Black can bring a third piece to bear on the kingside, with deadly effect. 46...Nd5! 47.Qd2 47.exd5 Bxd5+ 48.Kg1 Qf3 wins. 47...Nf4+ 48.Kf2 48.Kg1 Nh3+ 49.Kh1 Nf2+ 50.Kg1 Qf3 wins. 48...Ne2+ 0-1 49.Ke1 Nxd4 soon wins.


This game, by a genuine Cambridge undergraduate, had a delicious finish.


 Andrew McClement


4NCL 2014/15, Division 1b, Round 2

Nicholas Walker (Hackney)

Andrew McClement (Cambridge University)



Black is a comfortable pawn up and now finds a clever tactical justification for snatching a second one. 24...Nxf4! 25.g3 Rd4!! 26.Bb7 If 26.Qxd4 Ne2+ 27.Kh1 Nxd4 28.Rxf6 Kxf6 and Black emerges with his two extra pawns intact, and actually a useful positional plus to boot. 26.Rxf4 Qxe5 also leaves Black with a comfortable +2 advantage. 26...Qxe5! 27.gxf4 27.Bxc8 Rd1+! wins, much as in the game. If 28.Kf2 Nh3+ 29.Kg2 Qxb2+ 30.Rxb2 Rg1 mate. 27...Rd1+! 28.Kf2 Rc2+! 0‑1 Not the only winning move but the most aesthetically pleasing (having previously put the other rook en prise to the queen). The idea is to break the pin and deliver mate, thus 29.Qxc2 Qe1+ 30.Kg2 Qg1 mate.


Oxford scored a useful 5-3 victory over Barbican 2. The board seven game was rather fun, and a good way to finish this rather long report.


4NCL 2014/15, Division 1b, Round 2

Jonathan Manley (Oxford)

Terry Chapman (Barbican 2)

1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 e5 4.Nf3 Nbd7 5.Bc4 Be7 6.0‑0 Nb6 To give you an idea of how respectable this line of Philidor’s Defence is, the game Carlsen-Caruana from the 2014 World Rapidplay Championship reached this position before diverging with 6...exd4, etc. 7.Be2 exd4 8.Nxd4 0‑0 9.a4 a5 10.f4 d5!? A new move and maybe not bad, though it needs to be followed up with care as the white e and f-pawns are menacing marching up the board together. 11.e5 Ne4 12.f5 Nxc3 12...Bc5!? looks interesting, though White still might plunge on with 13.f6 g6 14.Kh1 Re8 15.Bf4, etc. 13.bxc3 c5 13...f6 14.e6 14.f6!



A good, old-fashioned attack on the king, and very hard to defend. 14...gxf6 Loses quickly. So Black probably has to play 14...cxd4 15.fxe7 Qxe7 16.cxd4 though that too looks promising for White as he’s threatening Ba3, and maybe a rook lift and an assault on the king. 15.Bd3! 15.exf6 first also seems to win. 15...fxe5 15...cxd4 16.Qh5 f5 17.Rxf5! soon leads to mate. 16.Bxh7+! Our old friend, the Greek gift. 16...Kxh7 17.Qh5+ Kg8 18.Rf3 18.Nf5 Bxf5 19.Rxf5 Qd6 20.Rf3 wins the queen a bit quicker but comes to the same thing. 18...Bh4 19.Nf5 Bxf5 20.Rxf5 1-0 There’s no mate as such but only a masochist would want to prolong the agony with 20...Qd6 21.Qxh4 f6 22.Qh5 Rf7 23.Bh6 Qe7 24.Raf1 Nd7 25.R1f3, etc, etc.


 Wood Green v Warwicks, The ADs v Barbican 1


Scores after Round 2


Division 1a: 1 White Rose 4(10½), 2 Barbican 1 4(10), 3 Blackthorne  Russia 2(9½), 4 Guildford 2 2(8½), 5 Wood Green HK 2(8), 6 The ADs 2(7½), 7 Warwickshire Select 0(6½), 8 South Wales Dragons 0(3½).


Division 1b: 1 Guildford 1 4(13), 2 Cambridge University 4(10), 3 Cheddleton 4(9), 4 Grantham Sharks 2(8½), 5 Oxford 2(8½), 6 Barbican 2 0(6), 7 0(5), 8 Hackney 0(4).


Division 2a: 1 Cambridge University 2 4(12½), 2 3Cs 4(11½), 3 Anglian Avengers 2(7), 4 Rhyfelwyr Essyllwg 2(7), 5 Brown Jack Witney 2(6½), 6 Sussex Martlets 2(6½), 7 Guildford 3 0(7), 8 KJCA Kings 0(6).


Division 2b: 1 Barbican Youth 4(10), 2 Spirit of Atticus 4(9½), 3 White Rose 2 2(8½), 4 MK Phoenix 2(8), 5 BCM Dragons 2(7½), 6 Grantham Sharks 2 1(7½), 7 Wessex 1(7), 8 Kings Head 0(6).



Annotated games from the above report | Download in PGN |



Photos © John Saunders



© 4NCL


Four Nations Chess League

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