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Weekend 2 round-up, 11-12 Jan 2014 - John Saunders







The second weekend of the 4NCL (British Team) League Season took place over the weekend of 11-12 January 2014. As all Brits reading this will know only too well, the new year brought, not snow, but rain, by the bucket-load, and I guess all those of us who had to travel to the misleadingly-named Hinckley Island in Leicestershire must have half-expected to make the last part of the journey on a car ferry. But not so: the weather on the morning of the Saturday was quite glorious and my car journey from London was one of the least problematic I can ever remember on my way to a chess event. Thankfully, there was no water anywhere on the road or the windscreen. I’m still slightly bemused as to why they call the hotel an island as it is not surrounded by water. There’s a pond there but not what you would call a moat. The place is a peninsula at best. (Or do I mean an isthmus?) Could do them under the Trades Descriptions Act, except that I can’t think of a material detriment to the customer in it not being an island.



No matter: of course, I am just putting off the evil hour when you will expect me to start writing about chess. Fair enough. I’ve got more of this stuff up my sleeve, but I’ll witter on about the hotel being built on the site of a former transport café another day. (Ah... so maybe Hinckley was a traffic island.)




We didn’t have to wait long for the first blunder of the afternoon. I made it myself. A quick look at the team sheets for round three indicated that Guildford meant business. The first name that jumped off the page at me was that of former world championship challenger Nigel Short on board three. And they fielded a 2600+ player, Robin van Kampen, on board four. Not mucking about, then. I happened to be scanning this list in the company of Chris Duncan, who was on board five for Guildford’s Saturday opponents, Blackthorne Russia, whose average rating was some 230 points less than Guildford’s. Making a mental note of this, I said to Chris, “hmm, Guildford must be playing someone monstrous on Sunday”... instantly followed by the horrified realisation that I had said this aloud and that it didn’t constitute the most tactful comment I had ever made. “You don’t think we’re worth putting out a team against, then, John,” said Chris, with a broad grin. Not my finest hour. As they used to say in the News of the World, “I made my apologies and left.”


Despite this unforgivable tactlessness, things did turn out as brutally as I had envisaged. Guildford won 6½-1½. However, the ‘one’ part of Blackthorne’s score was a notable success, with Danny Gormally beating former British Champion Gawain Jones. By way of expiating my sins, I feel constrained to give at least part of this game.


   Adam Hunt, Danny Gormally, Romain Edouard, Gawain Jones


4NCL Division 1a, Round 3, 2014

D.Gormally (Blackthorne Russia)

G.Jones (Guildford 1)

Sicilian c3

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.c3 d5 4.exd5 Qxd5 5.d4 Bf5 This move seems not to have been played much until 2009, and was then given the seal of approval at the highest level by Nigel Short in 2012. It should perhaps be dubbed the Hinckley Island line (not to be confused with the Rock Island Line) as Nigel played it at the same venue. 6.Be3 cxd4 In the game referred to above Nigel Short continued 6...Nf6 7.Na3 cxd4 8.Nb5 0-0-0 9.Nfxd4 Ng4 10.Qe2 Nxe3 11.Qxe3 Nxd4 12.Nxd4 e6 13.Nb3 Bc2 14.Be2 Bxb3 and now Elisabeth Paehtz blundered with 15.Bf3?? and had to resign when her opponent played 15...Qa5, retaining his extra piece. 7.Nxd4 e6 The move 7...Bg6 looks a bit slow; Black urgently needs to get on with his development. 8.Nd2 8.Nxf5 Qxd1+ 9.Kxd1 exf5 was played in Roberson-Maroroa, Bedford 2013. A family variation? 8...Nge7 It’s tempting to suggest 8...Bc5 is better, but that may be ‘annotation by result’ – or rather, by foresight of the dark-square problem that occurs in the game. 9.Qb3 Nxd4 10.Bxd4 a6 11.Be2 Nc6 After this, Black has a long-term problem defending his isolated d-pawn. Hiarcs suggests 11...0-0!? but that doesn’t look entirely convincing either. 12.Qxd5 exd5 13.Bb6 A very decent square for the bishop, where it keeps out of the way of the c6 knight, stops the black bishop developing to c5, and stops a black rook supporting the d5 pawn from d8. 13...Bd6 14.0-0 15.Rfd1 Bc2 16.Rdc1 Bf5 17.Nf1! A quiet but potent move, getting ready to attack the d5 pawn from e3, as well as overprotect the e3 square. 17...Bf4 18.Rd1 Rfe8 19.Be3



19...Rad8? A very serious miscalculation. Black probably has to settle for 19...Bxe3 20.Nxe3 Rad8 21.Bf3 Be4 22.Nxd5 Bxf3 23.gxf3 Re2 when Black is a pawn down but with an active rook as compensation. 20.Bxf4 Rxe2 21.Ng3 Black has to lose the exchange. 21...Re4 22.Nxe4 Bxe4 23.Rd2 f6 24.Rad1 g5 25.Bg3 d4 26.f3 Bd5 27.Bf2 Bxa2 28.Bxd4 Kf7 29.Bb6 Rxd2 30.Rxd2 “And the rest was a matter of technique.” Or perhaps should have been. Life’s never quite so simple as in old textbooks. 30...Ke6 31.Bc5 Bd5 32.Re2+ Kf7 33.b3 Be6 34.c4 h5 35.h4 gxh4 36.Kh2 Bf5 37.Bf2 h3 38.gxh3 Ne5 39.Kg3 Bd7 40.h4 Kg6 41.Bd4 Nc6 42.Bc3 Kf7 43.Rd2 Be6 44.Kf4 Ke7 45.Ke4 Kf7 46.f4 Ne7 47.Rd8 Nf5 48.Be1 Ne7 49.Bc3 Nf5 50.Rb8 Bd7 51.Be1 Ne7 It still looks like a win but Gawain has defended stoutly and Danny starts to play sub-optimal moves. 52.Kd3 Bc6 53.Kd4 Ng6 54.Bg3 Ke6 55.Kc5 Kf5 56.Kb6 Kg4 57.Bf2 57.f5!? is a computer suggestion but the ideas behind it don’t immediately occur to an organic brain. 57...Kf3 58.Bd4 Nxh4 59.Bxf6 Nf5 Winning ideas are becoming more opaque so White spins the wheel. 60.Rxb7!? Bxb7 61.Kxb7 Kxf4 62.Kxa6



62...Ke4? Black had to strike immediately with 62...h4!, after which White’s win has evaporated, e.g. 63.Bxh4 Nxh4 64.c5 Ke5 65.b4 Kd5 66.c6 Kxc6 67.b5+ Kc7 68.Ka7 Nf5 69.b6+ Kd7 70.b7 Nd4 and the knight is just (if unjustly) in time. 63.b4! Ne3 If 63...h4 64.Bxh4 Nxh4 65.b5 and this time the b-pawn touches down in time to win. 64.Kb5 Your computer might find something quicker but this is a straightforward way to finish the game. 64...Kf5 65.Bh4 Ke6 66.Bf2 Ng4 67.Bg3 Nf6 68.Kc6 Ne4 69.b5! Nxg3 70.b6 h4 71.b7 h3 72.b8Q h2 73.Qg8+ Kf5 74.Qh7+ Ke6 75.Qxh2 1-0


Barbican 2 versus Grantham Sharks 1 was a better-matched encounter and was won by the odd point by the latter. Ameet Ghasi won a nail-biting endgame against Graham Morrison to clinch the match.


   Justin Tan and Andrew Greet


There was a surprise as a strong Wood Green 2 side, with one GM and three IMs lost to Oxford, with three FMs and a lower average rating by some 80 points. I suppose it helps when you have an Armenian player on top board. If Olympiads and other team events are anything to go by, Armenians play about 100 points above their rating when playing team chess. In this case it was FM David Zakarian on board one doing a very effective job in beating GM Alexander Cherniaev, although David’s rating is not too far short of his opponent. Justin Tan also did well to beat IM Andrew Greet on board two. Tan was losing at the time control but manage to bamboozle his opponent with an outlandish knight manoeuvre. It shouldn’t have been good enough to win but a disheartened White went on to lose a drawn endgame.


4NCL Division 1a, Round 3, 2014

A.Greet (Wood Green 2)

J.Tan (Oxford)



Black is a pawn down, with only a glimmer of play for it against White’s king. 40...Nc3!? 41.Rd2 Only the second best move. 41.Qe1! is a powerful pin. Now if 41...N7b5 42.Kc2! and White’s h4 rook covers threats on the fourth rank. White will follow up with a3-a4 and win material. 41...Rg8 42.Qe5 Looks good but Black has another weird knight move lined up... 42...Nb1! 43.Rd1 Nxa3 44.Rd4 44.bxa3 Qxa3+ 45.Qb2 Rxd3 leaves Black a pawn up. 44...Rxd4 45.Qxd4 Nab5 46.Bxb5? Perhaps shocked by the unexpected turn of events, White goes wrong. It’s better to leave the two knights getting in each other’s way, as Mark Dvoretsky recommended in one of his more memorable chapters (I say ‘memorable’ - I can’t remember which book it appears in). 46.Qe4 retains an edge for White. 46...Qxb5 47.Qd7+ Kb7 48.Bh2 White hasn’t got used to the changed circumstances and is still trying to win. 48...Qxc5+ 49.Kb1 Qf5+ 50.Kc1? Qg5+ 51.Rd2 Rg7 52.Qd4 Nb5 The tables have turned and Black now has a slight edge. 53.Qe4 Rd7 54.Qf4 Qxf4 55.Bxf4 Nd4! 56.Kd1 c5 57.b4? Rf7! 58.g3 e5 Now White’s in big trouble. Bishop moves leave mate in one on f1. 59.bxc5 Kc6 60.Rd3 exf4 61.Rxd4 f3? Black slips up. 61...fxg3! would lead to a winning endgame, e.g. 62.Rg4 Rf3 63.Ke2 Ra3 64.Rg5 a5, etc. 62.Ke1 Kxc5 63.Re4 a5 64.Kf2 Kb5 65.Re5+ Kb4 66.Re4+ Kb3 67.Re3+ Kb2 68.Re4 Ra7 69.Kxf3 a4 70.Rb4+ Kc3 71.Rb1 a3 72.g4? Only one move draws for certain here: 72.Ke4! White wants to advance his g-pawn but ‘shouldering off’ with the king is vitally important too. 72...a2 73.Ra1 Kb2? Here 73...Ra4! is Black’s only winning move, cutting off the king from supporting the advance of the g-pawn. 74.Rxa2+ Rxa2 75.Ke4! The only move to draw. 75...Kc3 76.Kf5? White still needed a few more precise moves: 76.g5! Ra5 77.Kf4! Kd4 78.g6 Ra1 79.Kf5! Kd5 80.g7 76...Kd4 77.g5 Kd5! 78.Kf6 Kd6 79.g6 Rf2+ 80.Kg7 Ke7 0-1


Cheddleton have a well-stocked team of title-holders, with their two GMs lurking well down the order on boards five and seven, and they were too strong for Kings Head.


Pool B is mostly about Wood Green 1, and their all-GM side emphasised that point by dishing out an 8-0 hammering to a team that might have considered renaming themselves for the afternoon. Tomer Eden might have rescued a half-point but for an unfortunate blunder against John Shaw.


4NCL Division 1b, Round 3, 2014

T.Eden (

J.Shaw (Wood Green 1)



Definitely tricky but it should prove quite hard for Black to win if White keeps his rooks reasonably free for action. 49.Kf2?? Qb6 0-1 It must now have dawned on White that all he could do was shuffle the e2 rook to e1 and back whilst awaiting the arrival of a black pawn on g3, giving check and undermining the defence of the e3 rook. So he resigned.


There was an all-Northern clash between 3Cs and White Rose. The Yorkshire-based team had an average rating that was precisely 100 points higher than their red rose rivals, with a particular preponderance of strength on the bottom four boards. However, the Lancastrians won a famous ‘Roses match’ victory by winning just one game, on board five, and drawing the others.


4NCL Division 1b, Round 3, 2014

A.Horton (3Cs)

N.Croad (White Rose)

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 d5 4.Bg2 Be7 5.0-0 0-0 6.b3 a5 7.Nc3 c6 8.d4 b6 9.Nd2 Ba6 10.e4 dxc4 11.Nxc4 Ra7 12.Ne2 a4 13.Qc2 Bb5 14.Bb2 Nbd7 15.Rfd1 Qb8 16.Ne3 Rc8 17.Nc3 a3 18.Bc1 Ba6 19.Qd2 Bb7 20.Qe1 Bf8 21.Bd2 Re8 22.Rac1



Cagey stuff to here, but now the game opens up. 22...e5 23.d5 Nc5 24.Bf1 This allows Black some play along the h1-a8 diagonal but White is not without counterplay. 24...cxd5 25.Nexd5 Nfxe4! 26.Nxb6 Nxc3 27.Rxc3 Ne4? Black missed a difficult chance here: 27...Qd6! and Black is on the attack. For example, if 28.Nc4 Qc6 29.f3 e4! and White is in real trouble. 28.Nd7 Qd6? Black should be OK after 28...Qa8 but perhaps, as the higher-rated player, he didn’t fancy giving White a repetition with 29.Nb6 Qb8, etc. 29.Be3! Qg6?? A disastrous move. Black was still in the game after 29...Qb4 30.Rc4 Qxe1 31.Rxe1 Raa8, though White looks a fair bit better. 30.Nxf8 Rxf8 31.Bxa7 f5 Maybe Black had hallucinated and thought he had something after 31...Nxc3 32.Qxc3 Qe4 but of course 33.f3 shuts Black out and wins. 32.Bg2 Ra8 33.Rc7 Ba6 34.Rdd7 1-0


Cambridge University 1 were a fair bit stronger on paper than Grantham Sharks 2 and this translated into a 5½-2½ success. It looked pretty comfortable and unremarkable.


The final match of the pool was Guildford 2 versus Barbican 1. Despite this being Guildford’s second team, and Barbican 1 being a traditionally powerful side, there was very little difference in strength between the sides in terms of rating. However, Guildford 2 won at a canter, by 6-2.




The Guildford 1 steamroller carried on its serene way over the unfortunate Barbican 2 on the Sunday morning, winning 6-2. It wasn’t a bloodless victory, with a surprise result between two England women internationals on the bottom board. Kanwal Bhatia defeated Dagne Ciuksyte via a rather horrid blunder by the latter.


Wood Green 2 completed rather a miserable weekend, losing 3-5 to the pretty useful Cheddleton team, a result which was good enough to take Cheddleton ahead of Guildford 1 by half a game point. David Eggleston was a casualty for the winning team, getting outplayed by Jovanka Houska and finally allowing a mate in two tactic, but the Cheddleton engine room, the bottom three boards, ground out three wins to convert the result. Fiona Steil-Antoni has started the season with four straight wins, and this was the game of a confident player in form.


   Keith Arkell alongside Fiona Steil-Antoni


4NCL Division 1a, Round 4, 2014

F.Steil-Antoni (Cheddleton)

C.Maduekwe (Wood Green 2)

1.e4 e6 2.Nf3 d5 3.e5 c5 4.b4 I remember having this sprung on me by Ray Keene when he was giving a simul back in 1969. It leads to some lively chess. 4...cxb4 5.a3 Nc6 6.axb4 Bxb4 7.c3 Be7 8.d4 f6 9.Bd3 fxe5 10.dxe5 One of the points here is that Black has to develop the knight via h6. Other ways of untangling the kingside leave various weaknesses. 10...Nh6 11.Bxh6 gxh6 12.0-0 This has all been played before. Black has the extra pawn but his king position looks a bit draughty. 13.Na3 Bd7 14.Nb5 a6 15.Nbd4 Kh8 16.Qb1 Qc7 17.Re1 Rf7 18.Nb5 Qb8 19.Nbd4 Qa7 20.Qc1 Bf8? Black plays passively where he could have gone for an initiative with 20...Nxd4 21.Nxd4 Bc5, followed by 22...Raf8. 21.Qe3 Rc8 22.Reb1 Bc5? It’s now a bit too late for this change of plan. 23.Qxh6 Nxd4



24.Ng5! There’s no time like the present: 24.cxd4 Be7 would put a dampener on White’s attack. 24...Nf3+ The only move. 24...Rg7 and White finishes with 25.Nxh7, etc. 25.gxf3 Rg8 26.Kh1 Rxg5 27.Qxg5 Be7? Black needed to swing his queen across to the kingside with 27...Qb8, though 28.Rg1 Qf8 29.Rg2 leaves Black with insoluble long-term problems. 28.Qh5 28.Qh5 After 28...Rg7 29.Rg1 and White’s mating attack soon breaks through. 1-0


Grantham Sharks 1 completed a 100% weekend by beating Blackthorne Russia. Tom Rendle beat top English woman player Harriet Hunt’s Caro-Kann, with some steady positional play, while Clement Sreeves and Veronica Foisor added two more wins.


      Tom Rendle vs. Harriet Hunt


Kings Head slightly outrated Oxford on average but they suffered their second heavy defeat of the weekend. One small consolation was Jochem Snuverink’s intriguing win against David Zakarian.


4NCL Division 1a, Round 4, 2014

J.Snuverink (Kings Head)

D.Zakarian (Oxford)

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 d6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 e5 6.Nf5 This has been played before, notably by Karjakin and the late, great Vugar Gashimov a couple of years ago, but it represents a fairly unorthodox approach to the Sicilian. 6...Bxf5 7.exf5 Qd7 8.g4 h5 9.g5 White gambits a pawn but gets some compensation in terms of development and play on the light squares. 9...Qxf5 10.h4!? Previously White has interpolated 10.Be3 here. 10...Nd4 11.Be3!?



Looks like a beginner’s move, allowing a family fork on c2, but there’s a powerful point to it. 11...Be7 Black tries to throw White off balance but he should perhaps bite the bullet: 11...Nxc2+ 12.Kd2 Nxe3 13.Qa4+ Kd8 14.fxe3 gives White good compensation for the two pawns but Black would still be in the game. 12.Bxd4 exd4 13.Qxd4 Qe5+ 14.Qxe5 dxe5 15.0-0-0 White is ahead in development and is going to dominate on the light squares. 15...a6 16.Bg2 Rb8 17.Rhe1 f6 18.Nd5 Black’s immovable knight on g8 renders his position as good as lost. 18...Bc5 19.gxf6 gxf6 20.f4! Bf2 21.Re2 Bxh4 22.fxe5 Bg5+ 23.Kb1 f5 24.Rf1 Nh6 25.Bh3 Rf8 25...0-0 26.Nc7 and the e-pawn advances. 26.e6 Rc8 27.Rd1 Be7 28.Bg2 f4 29.Be4 Rf6 29...Nf5 30.Nxf4 is equally hopeless. 30.Nxf6+ Bxf6 31.Bg6+ Kf8 32.Bxh5 Rc5 33.Bf3 Rb5 34.c4 Rb4 35.b3 Nf5 36.Rd7 Be7 37.Re4 Bd6 38.Rf7+ 1-0


Turning to Pool B, Wood Green 1 carried on their triumphant way with a 6-2 win against the unfortunate White Rose, with four wins and four draws. The Yorkshire didn’t have the rub of the green on a few of the boards. Jean-Luc Weller looked a bit unlucky against John Emms, gradually getting outplayed from what looked like a solid edge to an endgame loss, but that is what GMs do to you.


Barbican 1 came roaring back after their Saturday debacle, beating Cambridge University 6-2. It featured a very attractive win by Sam Franklin.


4NCL Division 1b, Round 4, 2014

S.Franklin (Barbican 1)

A.Eckersley-Waites (Cambridge University)

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 Nc6 8.Qd2 0-0 9.Bc4 Bd7 10.0-0-0 Rc8 11.Bb3 Ne5 12.Kb1 a6 13.h4 h5 14.g4 hxg4 15.h5 Nxh5 16.Rdg1 Qa5 17.Bh6 Bf6 18.fxg4 Bxg4 19.Bf4 e6 New territory at last. 19...Kh7 20.Qg2 e6 21.Nd5 exd5 22.Bxe5 Bxe5 23.Qxg4 Bxd4 24.Qxh5+ led to a win for Gopal against Javakhadze a few years ago. 20.Bxe5 Qxe5 21.Rxg4 Qxd4 22.Qh6 Bg7



23.Rxg6! In truth, White has to go for it or Black will smash through first (after, say 23.Qg5 ), with 23...Rxc3! 23...fxg6 24.Bxe6+ Rf7 25.Qxg6 Rcc7 25...Qf6 is Black’s best chance of survival: 26.Qxf6 Bxf6 27.Bxc8 and he’s only a pawn down. 26.Rxh5 Kf8 27.Bxf7 Rxf7 28.Rf5 Bf6? 28...Rxf5 29.Qxf5+ Ke7 is not as bad as it looks. 29.a3 b5 30.e5! 1-0


There was another reversal of fortunes in the ‘Alphanumeric Derby’ (e2e4 v 3Cs), with the former side gaining 5½ more game points than they had on Saturday. Peter Sowray suffered a senior moment against Adam Ashton but otherwise things went swimmingly for


Finally, Grantham Sharks 2 found Guildford 2 a little hot to handle, losing 1½-6½. As so often, there was just the one surprise result, with Claudio Mangione of Italy beating Aman Hambleton of Canada, rated 300 points higher. It just goes to show, you should think twice before playing an intermezzo against an Italian as they know what the word really means.


4NCL Division 1b, Round 4, 2014

C.Mangione (Grantham Sharks 2)

A.Hambleton (Guildford 2)



30...gxf4? Black tries to slip in a pawn capture but he should probably have played 30...Bxg2 31.Kxg2 and then given up the exchange for a pawn with 31...Rxd6 32.cxd6 Qxd6, which gives him some sort of chance. 31.Nef7! Now the two knights cooperate effectively in the midst of Black’s position. 31...f3 32.Bxf3! Bxf3 32...Rf8 33.Bxd5 exd5 34.Qe6 is hopeless. 33.Nxd8 e5 34.Ne6 Qb8 35.Qf2 e4 36.dxe4 fxe4 Momentarily the black pawn centre looks menacing, but White can dismantle it easily. 37.Nxe4! Nxe4 38.Qxf3 Qe5 39.Nf4 Nc3 40.Ra8+ Kf7 41.Qxb7+ Be7 42.Qf3 1-0


Positions after Round 4


Division 1, Pool A: Cheddleton 8(24½), Guildford 1 8(24), Grantham Sharks 1 6(18), Oxford 4(14), Wood Green 2 2 (14½), Barbican 2 2(12½), Kings Head 0(7½).


Division 1, Pool B: Wood Green 1 8(26), Guildford 2 8(24), Barbican 1 6(18), 4(12½), 3Cs 2(13), Cambridge University 2(9), Grantham Sharks 2 0(10).


Division 2, Pool A: Warwickshire Select 8(21½), Anglian Avengers 6(21), KJCA Kings 6(17), Cambridge University 2 4(17), Bristol 4(13½), Rhyfelwyr Essyllwg 2(10½), Wessex 1(13½), Poisoned Pawns 1(12½).


Division 2, Pool B: The ADs 8(20), BCM Dragons 4(16½), Bradford DCA 4(16½), South Wales Dragons 4(16), Barbican Youth 3(16), Hackney 3(14½), White Rose 2 3(14), Brown Jack 3(14).


Photos © John Saunders



Annotated games from the above report | Download in PGN |





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