Weekend 3 round-up, 14-15 February 2015 by John Saunders


Foggy Foggy Dew



New 4NCL league venue, Holiday Inn, Birmingham Airport


February, and the third 4NCL weekend: a new venue beckoned, the Holiday Inn, near Birmingham Airport, roughly equidistant to the former Hinckley Island location for those travelling from north and south, but, on the day, practically inaccessible for the latter. Triskaidekaphobes might suspect the influence of the previous day, Friday the 13th, which was a particularly foggy one for those travelling to the venue overnight. Anyway, the fog continued into the morning of Saturday the 14th, and was the cause of two major road accidents on motorways headed north, leading to the closure of the northbound M40 and M1 at key points. Yours truly learnt of this via the car radio about ten minutes into my own journey and decided that, with two such important open files duly blocked, the hour's contingency I had built into my journey plan would be wholly insufficient. The best strategy would be to stay on the back rank (or rather, in my back bedroom) and follow play from afar.



Those due to play had to carry on regardless, of course, but whatever contingency they had left for travel on the day could never have been enough in the circumstances and many players arrived very late. Monitoring play on the 32 live boards, there were still about 12 games where at least one of the players had not started the game after around 40-45 minutes. The Hackney team's moves only started appearing on the board after around 45 minutes had elapsed. The arbiters had long since ruled that the normal default time of one hour should be waived, and left it to captains to negotiate with each other and do the decent thing in the circumstances. Which they did: my understanding is that, amongst others, e2e4.org.uk, relatively unaffected by the traffic chaos, graciously offered fellow relegation strugglers Hackney an equal time deal to start their match. Good on them: in Britain we're not at home to Mr Zero Tolerance, which we see as a thinly-disguised euphemism for intolerance, which is something we find intolerable. A bit self-contradictory, perhaps, but there you are...


Round 5 - Division 1a


Wood Green HK 4˝-3 The ADs; Blackthorne Russia 4˝-3˝ White Rose; Guildford 2 5˝-2˝ South Wales Dragons; Warwickshire Select 2˝-5˝ Barbican 1


 Anna York-Andersen (Hackney)


Wood Green, once again labouring under the handicap of being a player short, nevertheless won rather comfortably, with their top boards performing well. Neil McDonald was one casualty, coming unstuck against Darren Wheeler's French Defence, and Sarah Hegarty another, with a Giuoco which was a bit too Pianissimo for comfort against Jonathan Swindells. Malcolm Pein played a sprightly Benoni.


4NCL 2014/15, Division 1a, Round 5

David Anderton (The ADs)

Malcolm Pein (Wood Green)

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 d6 4.Nc3 g6 5.g3 Bg7 6.Bg2 0‑0 7.Nf3 Na6 8.0‑0 Nc7 9.a4 Rb8 10.h3 e6 11.e4 exd5 12.cxd5 Re8 13.Re1 a6 14.a5 14.Bf4 may be a bit more accurate here. 14...Nb5 Undermining the defence of e4. 15.e5 dxe5 16.Rxe5?! 16.Nxe5 keeps the ship steady, although Black has equalised after 16...Nd6 16...Nxc3 17.bxc3



17...Ne4! This wins the c3–pawn, though White can maybe hope to get a tiny bit of play for it. 18.Rxe8+ Qxe8 19.Bd2? 19.Bf4! Nxc3 20.Qe1! is tricky, e.g. 20...Ne2+ 21.Kf1 Bd7 22.Bxb8 Bb5 23.Bc7 Nc1+ 24.Kg1 Qxe1+ 25.Nxe1 Bxa1 26.d6 and, rather unjustly, White seems to be escaping the consequences of his previous sins. I wouldn't fancy having to calculate all that at the board, however. 19...Nxc3 20.Bxc3 Bxc3 21.Ra3 Bf6 22.Nd2 Bd7 23.Ne4 Bd4 24.Qf3? White's last outside chance was 24.Qxd4!? cxd4 25.Nf6+ Kf8 26.Nxe8 Rxe8 27.Rd3 when he's a pawn down but not completely dead. 24...f5 25.Nd6 Qe1+ 26.Bf1 b5! 27.Ra2 Black's last move cuts off the knight's only safe retreat, but if 27.axb6 Rxb6 28.Nc4 Rb1 he's being mullered on the back rank. 27...Qe5 28.Qf4 Qxf4 29.gxf4 c4 0‑1 Getting ready to perform the last rites on the knight with Bc5.


Blackthorne Russia beat White Rose by the odd point, which was a major set-back for the Yorkshire side, who had led the pool at the end of the second weekend. This match featured some very good-looking chess on boards one and two, where Adam Hunt beat Peter Wells, and James Adair beat Danny Gormally, and a couple of rollicking tactical encounters in which Richard Bates beat Ian Gourlay and Laurence Webb overcame Colin McNab. I recommend playing through all four of these games but I shall only feature one here. The chess analysis engine makes fools of us all so I hope the two gentlemen who played this game will forgive me for pointing out their human failings.


4NCL 2014/15, Division 1a, Round 5

Richard Bates (Blackthorne Russia)

Iain Gourlay (White Rose)



After many adventures, in which the advantage had swung wildly first one way and then the other, the players arrived here with White to play. 47.Qb3+? The important thing for White to do here is to make sure Black can't play Qd1+ or Qf3+ followed by Bd4+. One good move is 47.Qd3! since he doesn't have to bother about 47...Bxe7 48.dxe7 Rxd3 as 49.exf8 is mate. Also, the attempt at deflection with 47...c2 fails to 48.Qd5+ Kh8 49.Bxc2 and everything is nicely covered. Alternatively, 47.Kg2 is not so fancy but wins just as effectively. But White is under the illusion that he has a direct way to finish the game... 47...Kh8 48.Qxc3? Rxd6! Putting a stop to White's fantasy, which was no doubt 48...Bxc3?? 49.Bxc3+ Kg8 50.Rg7+ Kh8 51.Rxg5 mate. 49.g4 Qh6 50.Qe3? Bxe7? This should be good enough to draw, but Black has a probable win after 50...Rd1+ 51.Kg2 Bd4! when 52.Bc3 fails to 52...Qc6+, etc. 51.Qxe7 Rd1+ 52.Kg2 Rc1?? 52...Kg8! holds, though it's not quite as obvious as it looks. Black probably feared the consequence of 53.Bc2 but Black has 53...Qc6+ 54.Be4 and now 54...Qc8! when White can't quite conjure up a killer move with his light-squared bishop, and 55.Qxg5+ Ng6 keeps White at bay. 53.Qxf8+ Qxf8 54.Bxf8 and now White won uninterestingly... 54...Rd1 55.Be7 h6 56.Bf8 Rd2+ 57.Kg3 Rxa2 58.Bxh6 Ra3+ 59.Kg2 Ra2+ 60.Kf3 Rxh2 61.Bxg5 a5 62.Bf6+ Kg8 63.g5 1‑0


 John Cooper, James Cobb (South Wales Dragons)


Guildford 2 won comfortably enough against South Wales Dragons but the only game of interest was the one which their top board Nick Pert lost to James Cobb. A Nick Pert loss with White is a very unusual occurrence, as acknowledged by Guildford supremo Roger Emerson after the match. Actually, board two was also quite interesting, with John Cooper having a markedly superior position when Aussie GM David Smerdon offered him a draw. No doubt John was in time trouble, however, so a half point in the hand might have been better than a full one in the Australian bush. Let's look at James Cobb's win.


4NCL 2014/15, Division 1a, Round 5

Nick Pert (Guildford 2)

James Cobb (South Wales Dragons)

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.c4 d5 4.Nc3 Nbd7 5.cxd5 The exchange rate in the Queen's Gambit is much higher than it was in the old days (when you could get more for your pounds, shillings and pence, too). Perhaps players these days seem to think they can obtain a significant edge by an early exchange on d5. 5...exd5 6.Bf4 c6 7.e3 Nh5 8.Be5 Not the main line, which is 8.Bg5 Be7 9.Bxe7 Qxe7 10.Qc2, etc. 8...Nxe5 9.Nxe5 Nf6 10.Bd3 Bd6 11.f4 My database has precisely two games with this line. One, a game between Vadim Alekseev and Gennadi Kuzmin in 1999 (draw) and, two, Alekhine against somebody in a simul in Cleveland in 1924, which the future world champion lost. 11...0‑0 12.0‑0 c5 13.Qf3 cxd4 14.exd4 Qb6 15.Qf2 Bb4 16.Rae1 Qa5 17.Re3 Bxc3 18.bxc3 Ne4



19.Qh4? White goes all out for the attack, but it turns out badly. 19.Qe1! is Houdini's suggestion and it looks useful. If 19...f5!? (All three pawn grabs are disastrous: 19...Qxc3?? 20.Rxe4 wins; 19...Nxc3?? 20.Bc2 wins a piece; 19...Qxa2? 20.f5! and White's attack looks unstoppable.) 20.c4! Qxe1 21.Rfxe1 Be6 22.c5 White has the edge. 19...Qxc3 20.f5 20.Qxh7+!? Kxh7 21.Bxe4+ dxe4 22.Rxc3 looks OK at first sight but 22...f6! 23.Nc4 Rd8! is a bit tricky, e.g. 24.Rd1 Bg4 25.Rd2 Rac8 and Black is definitely better. 20...Qxd4 21.Ng4 f6 22.Kh1 Qc5 Typically, the engine finds something clever: 22...Kh8! when 23.Bxe4 dxe4 24.Rh3 is answered by 24...Bxf5! The usual stricture applies: most humans would be reluctant to trust their calculations to risk this. 23.Qh5 Ng5 24.h4 Kicking the knight with the h-pawn is all very well but it means that a future Rh3 will no longer support a queen attack on h7. Instead, 24.Rg3!? Qe7 25.Ne3 keeps the tactical pot bubbling a bit longer. 24...Ne4 25.Bxe4 dxe4 26.Rg3 Kh8 27.Ne3 Bd7 28.Qg4 Rf7 29.h5 29.Qxe4 Re7 30.Qg4 Bc6 doesn't look any better. 29...h6 30.Qf4 Qe5 Black decides to cash in one of his extra pawns to liquidate. It turns out well for him. 31.Qxe5 31.Qg4 keeps the queens on but impedes White still further. 31...fxe5 32.Rg4 Raf8 33.Rxe4 Bxf5 34.Rxe5 Bd7 35.Rd1 Better to exchange off a pair of rooks with 35.Rxf7 Rxf7 36.Kg1 but after 36...Rf4 37.Re7 Bc6 things still look pretty grim for White. 35...Bc6 36.Kg1 Rf2 37.a3 Re2 38.Rf1 Rxf1+ 39.Kxf1 Ra2 40.Re7 Rxa3 41.g4 41.Nf5 Ra1+ 42.Kf2 Ra2+ 43.Ke3 Rxg2 is hopeless. 41...Ra4 42.Ke2 Rf4 43.Rc7 a5 44.Kd3 a4 45.Nf5 Rxg4 46.Ne7 Be4+ 47.Ke3 Kh7 48.Rc8 a3 49.Ra8 Bc2 50.Kd2 Ra4 51.Rf8 a2 52.Ng6 Not the subtlest of last-try cheapos... 52...Bxg6 0‑1


Warwickshire Select aren't having the easiest of seasons and they only came away with a couple of points against Barbican 1. Geoff Lawton is having a nightmare season. This was his fifth straight loss in this year's 4NCL (and it became 0/6 after his Sunday game). The Ruy Lopez is often nicknamed ‘the Spanish Torture' but I'm pretty sure White is supposed to be Torquemada and Black the Inquisition victim. Not here...


 Richard Weaving, Geoff Lawton (Warwickshire Select)


4NCL 2014/15, Division 1a, Round 5

Geoff Lawton (Warwickshire Select)

Sam Collins (Barbican 1)

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0‑0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0‑0 8.d3 d6 9.c3 Na5 10.Bc2 c5 11.d4 Taking two moves to reach d4. The loss of a tempo doesn't always matter quite as much as it seems to here. 11...Qc7 12.Nbd2 This was White's last chance to close the queenside with 12.d5 and he's made to regret the omission. 12...cxd4 13.cxd4 Nc6 14.d5 Nb4 15.Bb1 a5 16.a3 Weakening the b3 square. Maybe 16.Nf1 Bd7 17.Bd2 Na6 18.h3 Rfc8 19.Ng3 Nc5 is preferable, but White remains very passive. 16...Na6 17.Nf1 Nc5 18.Bd2 a4 19.Bb4 Qa7 20.N3d2 Bg4! 21.Qc1 Chucking in 21.Bxc5 Qxc5 and then playing 22.Nf3 isn't great but could be better than having the queen forced to the uncomfortable c-file. 21...Rac8 22.Bc3 Bd8 23.Ne3 Ba5 24.Bc2 Rc7 25.Qb1 Rfc8 26.Bd1 Bd7 27.Be2 27.Bf3 is the best grovel Houdini can come up with, when 27...Bxc3 28.bxc3 Na6 29.Nd1 is not as bad as it looks. 27...g6 28.Nd1 Bb6 29.Ne3? Worn down by the incessant pressure, White blunders. 29...Nb3! 0‑1



Having spent the best part of twenty years of my chess career grovelling around on the back two ranks in positions like this, I feel I can truly empathise with White's plight here. I'd imagine myself thinking, thus: “I could play 30.Nxb3 (or maybe 30.Bd3, oh, but Black's got 30...Rxc3!) but then he's got 30...Bxe3 31.fxe3 Qxe3+ 32.Kh1 Nxe4 ... you know what? To hell with it: why don't I just resign and go to the bar?”


Round 5 - Division 1b


Cambridge University ˝-7˝ Guildford 1; Cheddleton 6-2 Barbican 2; Oxford 5-3 Grantham Sharks; e2e4.org.uk 4-4 Hackney


Cambridge University received a fearful tonking from a full strength Guildford 1 team, but the Light Blues could count themselves just a tad unfortunate. For one thing, one of their number was absent, presumably in a traffic jam, leaving Matthew Sadler with nothing to do but watch his absent opponent's time tick away. For another, even their loyal manager/sponsor Roger Emerson admitted that the final score was “incredibly flattering”. The Guildford's various opening sequences didn't look all that convincing, apart from Romain Edouard, who indulged in a theoretical duel with Ravi Haria. Romain does this sort of thing regularly: only a few days ago in Gibraltar I saw him play a surreal line in the Queen's Gambit where Black holds onto the gambit pawn like grim death and then gives up the exchange very early. That game brought him the Tradewise Gibraltar best game prize, and incidentally the same line was used by tournament winner Hikaru Nakamura to win an early game in the same event. Here Romain is on the White side of a QGD and breathing fresh life into the Ragozin line.


4NCL 2014/15, Division 1b, Round 5

Romain Edouard (Guildford 1)

Ravi Haria (Cambridge University)

1.d4 e6 2.c4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 Bb4 5.cxd5 exd5 6.Bg5 Nbd7 7.Rc1 7.e3 and 7.Qc2 have been played more often but this is becoming trendy, having been played by Carlsen amongst others. 7...0‑0 8.e3 c5 9.dxc5 Qa5 10.a3!? A bold move, entailing an exchange sacrifice. 10.Nd2 is answered by 10...b6, but has scored poorly in practice. 10...Bxc3+ 11.Rxc3 Ne4 12.b4 Nxc3 13.Qa1 Qa4 14.Qxc3 a5 15.b5



White has a pawn for the exchange, the black queen is caught behind enemy lines and the black pieces are struggling to develop. However, White has a few problems, too: his king badly needs to escape the scene as he is vulnerable to a knight sac on c5, followed by a heavy piece invasion via the opened c-file. In practice, however, Black has yet to make this idea work and White has scored overwhelmingly. 15...h6 Carlsen tried the immediate 15...Nxc5 against Topalov at Wijk aan Zee in 2007, but after 16.Qxc5 Be6? (16...Bd7, keeping pressure on b5, was identified by Topalov as a better move) 17.Qc1! Rfc8 18.Qa1 Qc2 19.Be2 Qc1+ 20.Qxc1 Rxc1+ 21.Bd1 Ra1 22.a4 Rc8 23.Nd4 Rc4 24.0‑0 f6 25.Bf4 Bf7 26.h4, Black decided he didn't have enough for his material and resigned. 16.Bf4 Nf6 17.Nd4 Ne4 18.Qc1 Bd7 19.f3 Nxc5!? Houdini rejects this out of hand, suggesting 19...Ng5 is best, but after 20.Bxg5 hxg5 21.Bd3 Rfe8 22.Kf2, Black is being systematically shut out of the game, with little realistic chance of counterplay. 20.Qxc5 Rfc8 21.Bc7 21.Qxd5 Rc1+ 22.Kf2 Qd1 23.g4 g5! would be a very tricky line to calculate, with any slight mistake being fatal. 21...b6 22.Qxd5 22.Qxb6? allows 22...Qxa3, threatening Qc3+/Qxc7, and Qxe3+. Houdini analyses 22.Qd6 Ra7 23.Bxb6 Rc1+ 24.Kf2 Qd1 out to a win for White but the text is perhaps more sensible, requiring slightly less rigorous calculation. 22...Qxa3 23.Kf2 Qc1? White wraps things up quickly after this. 23...Qc5! 24.Qxd7 (24.Qxc5 bxc5 25.b6 Rxc7 26.bxc7 cxd4 is not so clear) 24...Rxc7 25.Qg4 is by no means completely winning but probably offers enough advantage to satisfy a GM playing a much lower-rated player. 24.Bc4 Qxh1 After 24...Qd2+ White goes into reverse with 25.Be2, content simply to menace the d7–bishop and then swing his rook into play. 25.Qxf7+ Kh8 26.Be5 Rg8 27.Qg6 1‑0


 Ravi Haria (Cambridge University)


John-Paul Wallace's opening didn't look too bad but then his minor pieces got into a tangle and that was pretty much all Gawain Jones needed to take over the initiative and barge him off the board. Reminded me a bit of a rugby match. That may not be a coincidence as I think Gawain did used to play rugby, and only a month or two back he partnered former England rugby manager Sir Clive Woodward in a pro-am chess event at the London Classic. And his wife Sue is a Kiwi and a rugby player herself. Just checking my facts on this, I headed over to Gawain's blog (gawainjones.co.uk) and discovered that the last post there was entitled ‘Rugby Mania'. My case rests... well, it will do as soon as I can think of a suitable pun to go with it (as Gawain really likes my puns. Or really hates them. Can't remember which but it was definitely one or the other.) White starts well enough, but it's not long before All Black's pieces push him off the board (good enough? Please yourselves).


4NCL 2014/15, Division 1b, Round 5

John-Paul Wallace (Cambridge University)

Gawain Jones (Guildford 1)

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e3 0‑0 5.Bd3 d5 6.cxd5 exd5 7.Nge2 Bd6 7...Re8 is the routine move but the text is quite trendy. If White chases the bishop with the knight, it retreats and Black then chases the knight with a pawn - or ‘knock for knock', as car insurers like to say. 8.Bd2 Re8 9.Rc1 Na6 New, I think. Black supports the c7–c5 push and is not bothered about getting doubled a-pawns since White's resultant light squares will be weakened if the bishop disappears. 10.a3 c5 11.Nb5 Bf8 12.dxc5 Nxc5 13.Bb4 b6! After 13...Nxd3+ 14.Qxd3 Bxb4+ 15.axb4, White has a slight edge based on good control of the dark squares, but the text keeps things more edgy. 14.Ned4? White gets into trouble after this. Instead 14.0‑0 leaves him slightly worse but perhaps not seriously so. 14...a6 15.Nc3 a5 16.Bxc5 bxc5 17.Nde2 He has to go back here otherwise ...d5–d4 is even more unpleasant. 17...Bb7 18.0‑0 Rc8 Black now has a reasonable advantage with his two bishops, secure centre and active piece play. 19.Bf5 Rc6 20.Qa4 Rb6!



21.Qc2? I expect many of us would have taken our chances with 21.Qxa5 Rxb2 22.Qxd8 Rxd8 23.Rb1 Rxb1 24.Rxb1 Ba6 but it's the sort of position with a strong initiative which super-GMs tend to win at a canter. That said, it's better than the game line, where Black has a more or less forced sequence leading to a win. 21...g6! 22.Bh3 22.Bd3 c4 traps the bishop. 22.Na4!? is the best of a bad job but 22...gxf5 23.Nxb6 Qxb6 24.Qxf5 Ba6 25.Rfe1 Qxb2 leaves Black with two bishops for a rook. 22...d4! The start of a powerful loose ruck. The threat to the knight and the fork with d3 are pretty obvious, but it goes further than that. 23.Rfd1 Rd6 24.Qb3 dxc3 25.Rxd6 Qxd6 26.Qxb7 Rb8 26...Qd2 also scores a try but the text makes sure of a conversion. 27.Qa7 cxb2 28.Rb1 Qd3 0‑1


On other boards, the lesser lights seemed to be doing well, particularly Sabrina Chevannes, who at one stage looked to be in with a very good chance of downing former women's world champion Antoaneta Stefanova. But eventually the dead hand of the rating list came to bear on all boards, except on board five where Adam Bukojemski had the better of a draw, having forced GM Maxime Lagarde to give up the exchange so as not to be mated. Might be worth playing through that game if there isn't enough chess for you here already.


 Gawain Jones (Guildford 1)


Cheddleton warmed up for their big match with the favourites on the Sunday by dispatching Barbican 2. Four white wins and four black draws made it look like a well-ordered plan but it was hardly that. John Pitcher scored a consolation point for the underdogs, beating IM Lorin D'Costa. Jonathan Rogers and Keith Arkell had an eventful game featuring some spectacular oversights. I am very grateful to Keith Arkell for explaining how he came to miss a crunching winner in this game, and for being typically affable in discussing it with me and other players on Facebook (not for nothing is he the current English Player of the Year). I've built Keith's comments into my annotation. It's a fascinating deconstruction of what goes on in a GM's mind when planning several moves ahead in a complicated position, and also a cautionary tale highlighting the importance of re-evaluating a position which you had previously envisaged in your mind when it eventually appears on the board.


4NCL 2014/15, Division 1b, Round 5

Jonathan Rogers (Barbican 2)

Keith Arkell (Cheddleton)

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c4 e6 5.Nf3 cxd4 6.Nxd4 Bb4+!? Databases are peppered with games where Keith has played 6...Nc6 but perhaps he wanted to keep his opponent guessing. 7.Nc3 Ne7 8.h4 Nbc6 9.a3!? Jonathan, perhaps with the far-sighted plan of not being strangled slowly in a rook and pawn endgame, wants to provoke something sharp. 9...Bxc3+ 10.bxc3 Nxe5 11.Bf4 N5g6 11...Nxc4 12.Bxc4 dxc4 is tempting but maybe 13.Nb5 0‑0 14.Qxd8 Rxd8 15.Nc7 Nd5 16.0‑0‑0!? gives White a bit of compensation. Instead, Black gives back material to get some pressure on the e-file. 12.Bg3 e5 13.h5 exd4 14.hxg6 Nxg6 15.Qxd4 0‑0 16.cxd5 Re8+ 17.Be2 Ne7 18.Rd1 Nf5 19.Qd3



19...Qg5 We haven't quite got there yet, but we're coming up to a spectacular mutual oversight which needs explaining. Seeking enlightenment (and also wanting to be sure that the moves were correctly recorded – mix-ups do happen), I got in touch with Keith on Facebook to ask what happened. Keith responded at some length, centring on his thoughts as he planned the move 19...Qg5. What followed are his own words, lightly edited by me:


“It's impossible to fully explain how such a thing can happen, but let me try anyway.”


“So, I'm sitting there analysing the move I want to play in principle - which at the time was 19...Qd8–g5. I know that my advantage increases if I can make the move, but obviously I am concerned about his possible reply 20.Qb5 So I analyse 20...Re4 (other moves didn't look very good to me) 21.d6 - the only move that could give me any problem, as it threatens to win a piece. Visualising the position, I then hoped that 21...Be6 would be strong, as it threatened the winning 22...Bc4. Of course, the main potential drawback to this is that he can then fork my rooks with 22.Qxb7 I would then need 22...Rxe2+ to work or I would be lost! So - and don't forget, all this is before playing 19...Qg5 - I set about analysing 22...Rxe2+ as I (wrongly!) believed that 19...Qg5 hinged on this. So, 22...Rxe2+ 23.Kxe2 Bc4+ 24.Kf3 (obviously forced) and then, I thought, ‘‘please let 24...Re8 be a winning move''! It certainly looked winning. It was obvious he had to either put a rook on e1 or his bishop on e5 to stop ...Be2 mate. I didn't look beyond 24...Re8 ...



“25.Rde1 (I saw a pretty mate against 25.Rhe1 which was 25...Qh5+ 26.Kf4 g5+ (my favourite move!) 27.Kxf5 Qg6+ 28.Kg4 f5+ 29.Kh3 Qh5+ 30.Bh4 Qxh4 mate, so that just left the irritating 25.Be5 to deal with. Find a good move there and I could play 19...Qg5. I decided that 25...h5 must be winning and anyway certainly left him in trouble.) 25...Bd5+ 26.Qxd5 Nh4+ winning.”


“So I analysed no more and plunged in with 19...Qg5. He quickly replied 20 Qb5 and, after briefly running through all those nice lines again, I confidently played 20...Re4. He continued following my analysis, with 21 d6?? and I had 21...Be6?? ready for him.”


“So there you have it. The explanation is that we were playing out a variation I had analysed way ahead, and I didn't stop properly to check if there might be something else going on!”


20.Qb5 Re4 21.d6?? 21.0‑0 Nxg3 22.fxg3 Re5!? seems to be broadly equal. 21...Be6?? What Keith had missed in his move 19 analysis, and what Jonathan also missed when playing 21.d6, was the bone-crushing 21...Nxg3!!, which is game over as 22.Qxg5 allows 22...Rxe2 mate, while a capture on g3 loses the queen to 22...Qxb5 as the e2 bishop is pinned. 22.Qd3?? 22.0‑0! Rd8 23.Bd3 and White is well in the game. 22...Nxg3 This time Black doesn't fluff his lines. 23.fxg3 Qe5! 24.Rh4 24.d7 Rd8 makes no material difference, while a king move such as 24.Kf1 loses to 24...Bc4. 24...Bg4 25.Qxe4! A much better bet than 25.Rxg4 Rxg4, which looks pretty hopeless for White. 25...Qxe4 26.Rxg4 Qe5?! There seems to be no reason not to snatch a pawn with 26...Qxg2 27.d7 Rd8, with very reasonable winning chances. 27.d7 Qxc3+? After this, Black's winning chances evaporate. 27...Rd8 keeps the Black flag flying, though it's by no means obvious how he can go about winning. 28.Kf1 Rd8 29.Re4! White's firm control of the e-file is his salvation. 29...Qc6 Possibly another oversight, but it turns out to be non-critical as the following tactical sequence doesn't leave Black too much to do to save the game. After 29...Kf8 30.Bb5 Qf6+ 31.Ke1 g6 32.Re8+ Kg7 33.Rxd8 Qxd8 34.Rc1, the game peters out to a draw. 30.Re8+ Rxe8 31.d8Q g6 32.Qd5 Qc3 33.Bc4 Qf6+ 34.Kg1 Re7 35.Rf1 Qb6+ 36.Kh1 Qc7 The zenith of White's game - Houdini scores it at +2.13 - but it is hard to see how White can bring any more pressure to bear on Black's position or make meaningful progress. Maybe Magnus Carlsen would have found a way. 37.Qd4 a6 38.Rd1 b5 39.Bf1 Re8 40.Kh2 Qc2 41.Qd3 Qc5 ˝‑˝


 Neil Dickenson, Matthew Rose (Oxford)


Oxford and Grantham Sharks are the main rivals for third spot in the pool behind Guildford 1 and Cheddleton, so Oxford did themselves a big favour by winning this match. They needed a slice or two of luck along the way, although it wasn't apparent in this game.


4NCL 2014/15, Division 1b, Round 5

Peter Roberson (Grantham Sharks)

Matthew Rose (Oxford)

1.e4 c5 2.c3 Nf6 3.e5 Nd5 4.Nf3 I always used to punt 4.d4 in my c3 Sicilian days but this alternative has quite a lot going for it. 4...Nc6 5.Bc4 Nb6 6.Bb3 d6 6...c4 7.Bc2 Qc7 8.Qe2 g5!? is one reason I shied away from 4.Nf3. As Corporal Jones might have said, had he been a chess player: “c3 Sicilian players don't like it up ‘em - the cold steel of ...g7–g5!” 7.exd6 e6 7...Qxd6 8.0‑0 Be6 gets a fair bit of traffic, but Black decides to steer down a side road. 8.d4 cxd4 9.cxd4 Bxd6 10.0‑0 0‑0 11.Nc3 Nd5 12.Re1 Be7 13.Bc2 g6?! There doesn't seem to be any need to weaken the kingside in this way, or at least not yet. 14.Bh6 Re8 15.Qe2 Qb6 16.Bb3! Nxc3 16...Nxd4 17.Nxd4 Qxd4 18.Bxd5 exd5 19.Rad1 looks risky but 19...Qh4 20.Nxd5 Be6!? might be playable. 17.bxc3 Bd7 18.d5 exd5 19.Bxd5



With all White's pieces now poised to strike, Black can't afford an inaccuracy. 19...Qc5? 19...Bf6! was the last chance: 20.Qc4 Rxe1+ 21.Rxe1 Nd8 clings on, though 22.Qf4 Bg7 23.Ne5 Bxh6 24.Qxh6 Qd6 25.c4 is still very promising for White. 20.Rad1 Rad8 20...Bf5 21.c4 gives White the choice of Ne5 and Qb2 as winning moves on the next turn. 20...Bd6!? at least forces White to find some precise moves: 21.Be3! Qxc3 22.Bb3 Qf6 23.Qc4! Re7 (Otherwise Rxd6 wins) 24.Qd5! and something has to give. 21.Bxf7+! Kxf7 22.Rxd7! 1‑0 Capturing the rook allows mate in one, while 22...Rf8 23.Qe6+ Ke8 24.Red1 is the simplest way to win.


The 17-year-old Portuguese FM David Pires Tavares Martins gave his team a big morale booster with this win against Ameet Ghasi, who must have been ruing his makeshift opening play.


4NCL 2014/15, Division 1b, Round 5

David Martins (Oxford)

Ameet Ghasi (Grantham Sharks)

1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 Ne4 3.Bf4 d6 4.Nd2 Bf5 5.Nxe4 Bxe4 6.f3 Bg6 7.e4 e6 8.Qd2 d5 9.Bd3 c5?! Curiously, though Houdini places this as fourth choice after Nc6, Qd7 and Be7, it is not too critical of this move. Personally I'd hate having to play Ke7, blocking the f8 bishop and exposing the king to possible risk so early in the game. 10.Bxb8 Rxb8 10...Qxb8 11.Bb5+ Kd8 12.exd5 is visibly worse along the d-file. 11.Bb5+ Ke7 12.dxc5



12...dxe4? This is the definitive error. Instead, 12...a6! and now if 13.Ba4 (13.Bd3 might be better) 13...dxe4 14.Qc3 Qc7 15.0‑0‑0, Black has time for 15...b5! and Black is in no immediate danger. Indeed, after 16.Bb3 Ke8! 17.fxe4 Qxc5 18.Qd2 Be7 Black may even be a bit better. 13.Qc3 Qc7 14.0‑0‑0 Rd8 No time for 14...Qf4+ 15.Kb1 Rd8 as after 16.Rxd8 Kxd8 17.Qd4+ the black king will be driven out into the centre via f6 and has no chance of survival. 15.Ne2 a6 16.Ba4 f6 Black is desperate to find a square for his king but it's already too late. 17.c6! The computer has still more diabolical tricks up its sleeve but this will do nicely. 17...bxc6 17...b5 18.Bb3 Be8 19.Rxd8 Kxd8 20.Nd4 Kc8 21.Rd1 is an easy win. 18.Bxc6 exf3 19.Qc5+ Kf7 19...Rd6 20.Rxd6 Qxd6 21.Qa7+ Kd8 22.Rd1 is curtains. 20.Be8+ Rxe8 21.Qxc7+ and Black could have saved himself further pain by resigning now instead of playing on to move 39... 1‑0


Hackney, if you recall, arrived very late for their match with e2e4.org.uk but they were graciously allowed to share the residual time with their opponents and the result was an honourable 4-4 draw. There were the usual swings and roundabouts, with e2e4's Jack Rudd's overlooking a pawn en prise while the same team's Alan Byron getting let off with a draw in what looks like a horribly lost position. Maybe the weekend came too soon after a gruelling Gibraltar tournament for both of them. Then again, maybe not: Martin Burrows was in Gibraltar too but he managed to save his team a match point with the following well-played finish to a tricky endgame.


4NCL 2014/15, Division 1b, Round 5

Nicholas Walker (Hackney)

Martin Burrows (e2e4.org.uk)



49.Nf4?? If White had wanted a draw, he might have tried 49.Nf6+ Bxf6 50.Rxf6 where he is only marginally worse, but the text allows Black to exchange the rooks and improve his chances. 49...Rf8! 50.Nh3 Definitely not 50.Ke4?? Rxf4+ 51.Rxf4 Bxf4 52.Kxf4 g5+ 53.Kf3 Kf7 with a clearly won king and pawn endgame for Black. 50...Rxf2 51.Nxf2 Bg3! And now it transpires it's going to be a lot worse than just an exchange of rooks. Black's bishop will come to e1 and pick off a pawn. If not two... 52.Nh3 52.Ne4 Be1 is equally hopeless. 52...Be1 53.b5 Bxa5 54.Ke4 Kf7 55.Kd5 55.Nf4 Bd8 56.Nd3 a5 57.Nc5 h3 58.Kf3 Bc7 59.Na4 (59.Nxb7 a4 and the pawn is too fast) 59...b6 60.c5 bxc5 61.Nxc5 Ke7 62.Na4 Bb8 also wins. 55...Bc7 56.Ng5+ Ke7 57.Nh3 Kd7 58.Ng5 Bf4 59.Nh3 Be3 60.Ke4 Bc1 61.Nf2 Ba3 62.Kf4 Bd6+ Black is going around the houses a bit with his bishop but it doesn't spoil the win. 63.Kf3 a5 Two passed rook pawns, safe from capture, and a bishop commanding operations from a central post: it doesn't get any better than this. 64.Nd3 b6 65.g5 a4 66.Kg4 a3 67.Nc1 Bg3 68.Nb3 Kd6 69.Kh3 a2 0‑1


Round 6 - Division 1a


White Rose 4-4 Wood Green HK; Barbican 1 3-5 Guildford 2; The ADs 3˝-4˝ Blackthorne Russia; South Wales Dragons 5-2˝ Warwickshire Select


At least with the Sunday matches, people don't have to worry about travelling or getting to the board on time. At least, assuming they've not been overindulging in the bar too long on Saturday night. Being a hundred miles away at the time, I wouldn't know. Perhaps it's just as well...


 John Shaw and Neil McDonald (Wood Green HK)


Division 1a was all but decided on the Saturday, at least as regards which teams were destined for which final pool. Wood Green could still technically displace White Rose but only if they beat them on the Sunday (feasible) and then see them fail to win their final match next month against Warwickshire (with all due respect to the latter, much less feasible). White Rose did their best to help the Wood Green cause with a couple of Sunday horror shows but it wasn't enough. Don't miss the final couple of moves in the following game – the finish is a collector's piece.


4NCL 2014/15, Division 1a, Round 6

Richard Palliser (White Rose)

John Shaw (Wood Green HK)

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.Nc3 Nc6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Nf6 6.Be2 d6 7.Be3 Be7 8.0‑0 Bd7 9.f4 Nxd4 10.Qxd4 Bc6 11.b4 A move apparently first played by James Tarjan in 1980. Curiously, the aforementioned player has also made a reappearance recently after some decades' absence from the game. 11...b6 12.Bf3 0‑0 13.Rad1 Rc8 14.Bf2 Qc7 15.a3 Rfd8 16.Qe3 Bb7 Perhaps White was now regretting his overly bold 11th move as it has noticeably weakened the c-file. 17.Nb5 Qxc2 18.e5 Life gets difficult after this. 18.Nxa7 Rc3 19.Rc1!? Rxe3 20.Rxc2 Rxa3 21.Nb5 Raa8 22.e5 is suggested by Houdini. 18...Nd5 19.Bxd5 Bxd5 20.exd6 Bf8 21.Nxa7 It was a tough choice between this and 21.Rc1 Qg6 22.Qg3 Rxc1 23.Rxc1 Qe4, which looks pretty good for Black. 21...Rc3 22.Qxb6 The alternative was to grovel with 22.Qe1 Rxa3 23.Nb5 Ra2 when 24.Nc3 may be answered by 24...Bb7! since 25.Nxa2?? allows mate with 25...Qc6, etc. 22...Rxd6 23.Qb8 Rd3 Houdini suggests 23...Qe4, forcing 24.Rxd5 Rxd5. Though this does not appear wholly convincing to the human eye, the computer thinks it's game, set and match. 24.Rc1? This meets with a scintillating refutation. The alternative was 24.Rxd3! Qxd3 25.Re1 (To cover Qe4) 25...Qg6 26.Bg3! when Black still has work to do, e.g. 26...Rd7 27.Qb6 h5 28.f5! Qxf5 29.Qf2 Qg6 30.Nb5, etc.



24...Rg3!! Lawrence Cooper, with an eye to the g3 square, the location of a famous Frank Marshall sacrifice back in 1912, asked if the board was showered with gold coins after this move. 25.hxg3 25.Rxc2 Rxg2+ 26.Kh1 Rg3 mate. 25...Qe4 0‑1 White has a choice between being mated in one move, or in 13 moves after 26.Qxf8+ - I'll leave readers to amuse themselves working out how White can keep the game going that long.


4NCL 2014/15, Division 1a, Round 6

Andrew Greet (Wood Green)

Matthew Webb (White Rose)



The advantage in this game had already gone back and forth a couple of times - and is going to do so twice more. 38.Bf3? 38.Kh2!? Bxf2 39.Rf1 remains balanced, so the engine tells me. White has the threat of 40.Ne4 forking quuen and bishop but it's decidedly complex after 39...Rc2!? 38...Rc2! Now Black is in dire trouble. 39.Rf1 Ra2 40.Kg2 Qf5! Not 40...Rxa4?? when 41.Bd5! turns the tables. 41.Qc6 Bc5 42.Qa8+ Kg7 43.Qb7 Bxf3+ Black could have played 43...Rxa4! this time if he had spotted that, after 44.Bd5 comes 44...Be2! and Black gets his retaliation in first. But the text is pretty good too. 44.Qxf3 Qxf3+ 45.Kxf3 Ra3+? Best not to chase the white king up the board, where it finds a new purpose, and rather play 45...Rxa4 immediately. 46.Ke4 Rxa4+ 47.Kd5 Rd4+ 48.Kc6 Rd6+ 49.Kc7 Rd2?? Disastrous, turning a likely win into a loss: instead 49...Rd3 and Black can then let the a-pawn off the leash, with a probable win. 50.Ne4 Rb2 50...Rc2 51.Nxc5 Rxc5+ 52.Kxb6 is worse. 51.Nxc5 Rxb5 52.Na4 1‑0 Black could play on but his long-term chances of survival are minimal.


 Yang-Fan Zhou, Glenn Flear (Guildford 2)


Guildford 2 vaulted over Barbican 1 with their 5-3 win. Yang-Fan Zhou's game against Matthew Turner revolved round one long, forcing sequence which seemed to span the passage from opening to endgame.


4NCL 2014/15, Division 1a, Round 6

Yang-Fan Zhou (Guildford 2)

Matthew Turner (Barbican 1)

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 d6 4.Bb5 Bd7 5.0‑0 Nf6 6.Nc3 We've transposed into an old-fashioned Steinitz defence of the Ruy Lopez. 6...exd4 7.Nxd4 Be7 8.Re1 0‑0 9.a4 Re8 10.a5 Nxd4 11.Qxd4 Bxb5 12.Nxb5 d5 12...c6 seems more natural and then 13.Nc3 d5 14.e5 Nd7 15.Qg4, etc. 13.Bf4



13...Nxe4? This requires a lot of calculation and it rather looks as if White saw further than Black. 13...dxe4 looks safe enough for Black, though his extra pawn won't be worth much. 14.Nxc7 Bc5 15.Qxc5 Nxc5 16.Rxe8+ Qxe8 17.Nxe8 Rxe8 18.Be3! Black has problems on the g1‑a7 diagonal. He can avoid material loss but not a positional disadvantage. 18...Rc8 18...b6 19.b4 Nd7 20.Rd1 Re5 21.c4 leaves Black with considerable problems. 19.Rd1 Na4 20.Rxd5 Nxb2 21.Rb5 Rxc2 Though it means putting up with being a pawn down, 21...Nc4 is better, e.g. 22.Bxa7 f6 23.g4 Nd6 24.Rd5 Nc4 25.Kg2 Ne5 and it's not over. 22.Rxb7 h5 23.Rxa7 Nd1 24.Bb6 Nxf2 25.h3 Not 25.Bxf2? Rc1+, regaining the piece with a probable draw in prospect. 25...Ne4 26.Re7 Rc1+ 27.Kh2 Nd2? After this Black is not going to be able to give up his knight for the pawn. Instead 27...Nd6 28.a6 Nc8 29.Be3 Rc3 30.a7 Nxa7 31.Bxa7 and it looks like we could be headed for the hungry arbiter's nightmare - a rook and bishop versus rook endgame. 28.a6 Nf1+ 29.Kg1 Ne3+ 30.Kf2 Nd5 31.Re8+ Kh7 32.Bd4! Nc7 32...Rc2+ 33.Kf3 Ra2 34.a7 Nc7 35.Rb8!, preparing Be3 and then Rc8, to chase away the knight before promoting the pawn in order to win the rook. 33.a7 Rd1 33...Rc2+ 34.Kf3 Rc4 35.Be3 Ra4 36.Rc8 wins. 34.Bb6 Nxe8 35.a8Q Nf6 36.Be3 Rd5 37.Qa4 Rf5+ 38.Ke2 Nd5 39.Bd2 g6 40.Qd4 f6 41.Qa7+ Kg8 42.Bh6 Re5+ 43.Kf2 Ne7 44.Qa2+ Rd5 45.Qa8+ Kf7 46.Qf8+ Ke6 47.Qe8 1‑0


The ADs suffered a narrow defeat to Blackthorne Russia. Given that the two teams were headed into different final pools anyway, it was a dead rubber. It consisted of seven draws plus a win for Rita Atkins on bottom board against Jana Bellin.


Warwickshire Select lost again, by virtue of a default on bottom board and a loss by Geoff Lawton on top board, to James Cobb, in a position where he was losing the exchange but not demonstrably lost (at least, I didn't think so - if you're interested, look it up). The result will of course matter when it comes to the relegation issue, where it doesn't need Private Fraser to predict that the Midlands side are probably ‘doomed, I tell ye', whilst my former Welsh colleagues will be glad of the two match points, and having scored all four of their match points so far against fellow strugglers (which means they will be carried forward and count towards their final pool tally).


Round 6 - Division 1b


Guildford 1 4˝-3˝ Cheddleton; Grantham Sharks 6-2 e2e4.org.uk; Barbican 2 4-4 Cambridge University; Hackney 3˝-4˝ Oxford


Now we come to probably the key match of the season so far: Guildford 1 versus Cheddleton. At the start of play the two teams were still on 100% match points, although Guildford were way ahead on game points. But it turned out to be a very close match and could have gone either way in several games, in particular the only decisive game, where for a fleeting moment Mark Hebden was at the mercy of Fiona Steil-Antoni.


4NCL 2014/15, Division 1b, Round 6

Fiona Steil-Antoni (Cheddleton)

Mark Hebden (Guildford 1)

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.g3 d5 5.exd5 Nxd5 6.Bg2 Nxc3 7.bxc3 Bc5 8.0‑0 0‑0 9.d3 Bb6 10.Re1 Simon Ansell played 10.Qe2 here against Mark Hebden in 1997. 10...Qf6 11.Bd2 Re8 12.Qe2 h6 13.h3 Bd7 14.Nh2 Rad8 15.Ng4 Qg6 16.Kh2 h5 17.Be4? This intermezzo move only helps Black to improve his position. 17.Ne3 is OK, though 17...Be6, followed by ...f7–f5 or ...h5–h4 gives Black the better chances. 17...Qe6 18.Nh6+!? 18.Ne3 allows 18...Qxh3+ and the prospect of a miserbale grind a pawn down, so White decides to go all-in. It's not sound but it nearly paid off. 18...gxh6 19.Qxh5 Kg7 20.g4 Rh8 21.f4 Ne7? Mark Hebden described this as “a clanger”, preferring 21...Be8 22.fxe5 Objectively, White still has insufficient counterplay but it is difficult to get his pieces organised. 22...Bc6 23.Bf5 Qd5 Understandably, the GM doesn't fancy risking a pile of rating points on 23...Nxf5 24.gxf5 Qd5 25.Qg4+ Kh7 26.Bxh6! which might be easy for a computer but is too messy for a human to contemplate. 24.Be4



24...Qxe4? Not sure which permutation of exclamation marks and question marks to give to Black's 24th move. It worked well but the computer finds a whopping big flaw in the analysis. Instead 24...Qe6 and the game goes on. 25.dxe4? The refutation of Black's faulty queen sacrifice lay in 25.Rxe4! Bxe4 followed up by 26.Qh4!. The point is that, even though Black would then have rook and two minor pieces for the queen, White's various threats to recapture a minor piece, invade on f6 and then h6 give her overwhelming compensation. For example, if 26...Ng6 (26...Nc6 27.Qf6+ Kg8 28.Bxh6 Rxh6 29.Qxh6 Bg6 30.d4 is an easy win for White) 27.Qf6+ when either the d8 rook drops off or White gives mate with Qxf7 if the king goes to h7. As played, White's all-important bishop disappears and the Black pieces swarm in to attack the king. A tragedy for White, though the Rxe4/Qh4 idea is by no means a simple pattern to identify, as exemplified by the fact that so experienced a player as Mark Hebden should have overlooked it. 25...Rxd2+ 26.Kh1 Ng6 Putting the queen under close arrest. There is nothing to be done. 27.Qf5 Rf2 28.Qh5 Rd8 29.g5 Rdd2 0‑1


 Antoaneta Stefanova (Guildford 1)


Antoaneta Stefanova's position looked shaky as she lost a pawn coming up to the control, but her opponent allowed her to win it back a few moves later. Another Guildford player, Maxime Lagarde, didn't look too comfortable against Simon Williams, but it simplified down to a drawn endgame. David Eggleston against Jean-Pierre Le Roux was a highly eventful draw, suddenly exploding into tactical fireworks around move 19 but fizzling out to a perpetual check only a handful of moves later.


4NCL 2014/15, Division 1b, Round 6

David Eggleston (Cheddleton)

Jean-Pierre Le Roux (Guildford 1)

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6 5.Nxf6+ gxf6 The Caro-Kann line for players who like a walk on the wild side. I think it might have been Julian Hodgson who started playing this regularly with a view to roughing up the opposition. I can't find any of his games on the database so maybe that was only in weekenders. Or it's my faulty memory. 6.c3 h5 Nigel Short is another fan of this line. 7.Bc4 h4!? A but unusual. 8.Qb3 e6 9.Nf3 Nd7 10.0‑0 If Black thought to put White off castling kingside by thrusting his h-pawn through to h4, his plan hasn't worked. 10...Nb6 11.Be2 Qc7 12.c4 e5 13.dxe5 13.Qc2, to keep control of the b1‑h7 diagonal, or 13.Re1 also look pretty good for White. King safety is a major issue for Black. 13...fxe5 14.a4 h3 15.g3 Bg4 16.Bg5 Stopping queenside castling. 16.Re1 is again a very strong alternative, e.g. 16...0‑0‑0 17.Nxe5!?, with a solid edge for White. 16...Rh5 17.Qe3 Nd7 18.Rad1 f6



19.Rxd7!? Pretty good but the computer finds the still more powerful 19.Nxe5! Nxe5 20.Bxf6 Bxe2 21.Qxe2 Rf5 22.Rfe1! when 22...Rxf6 is answered by 23.Qh5+ Qf7 24.Rxe5+ Be7 25.Qxh3 and the tactics favour White. 19...Qxd7 20.Nxe5? 20.Bxf6 still seems to favour White. 20...fxe5 21.Qxe5+ Qe7! The only try, and it's very good: 21...Kf7 22.Qf4+ picks off the bishop and should win; 21...Be7 22.Bxg4 is hopeless. 22.Bxg4 Qxe5? This leads to a very unusual and attractive perpetual check pattern. Instead 22...Rxg5! 23.Bh5+ Kd7 24.Rd1+ Kc8 allows Black to escape the checks and win with his extra material, e.g. 25.Qf4 Re5 26.Bg4+ Kb8 27.Bxh3 a5 28.Rd7 Qc5!,etc, when Black can eventually wriggle his way out of the bind and win. 23.Bxh5+ Kd7 24.Bg4+ Ke8 24...Kd6 25.Bf4 Qxf4 26.gxf4 Kc5 probably doesn't lose for Black but is certainly no way to try for a win. 25.Bh5+ ˝‑˝


Matthew Sadler and Gawain Jones both pressed for a win for a while longer than others but by then the match points were in the bag and there was little incentive to go on. After winning this match, Guildford 1 may feel they have at least one hand on the championship trophy. Perhaps only their own second team can now give them a fright in the matches that remain.


 Ruben Cenal Gutierrez (Hackney) v Tom Rendle (Grantham Sharks)


Grantham Sharks aren't yet mathematically sure of a place in the Championship pool but they dipped a toe in it by beating e2e4.org.uk. The following game featured a tricky opposite-bishop endgame.


4NCL 2014/15, Division 1b, Round 6

Thomas Rendle (Grantham Sharks)

James Jackson (e2e4.org.uk)



White is two pawns up but the bishop are of opposite colours. A couple of moves before Black had played ...b5–b4, sacrificing the second of the two pawns, perhaps to allow him to play ...Bb5 in order to tie the white king to the defence of the d3–pawn. White now has the choice of staying close to that pawn, or simply to hurl the h-pawn down the board in order to outmanoeuvre the opposing king and win the d4–pawn. 48.Kf3? It's logical in many ways, and White comes tantalisingly close to a win, but it turns out to be the wrong choice. Instead, 48.h5! Bb5!? is the key position. (48...Ke6 49.h6 Kf6 50.h7 Kg7 51.Ke5 is a very simple win). However, though it is far from obvious at first sight, White can simply march up the board with 49.Kf5! and take control of the position. He still has to find a couple of good moves, e.g. 49...Bxd3+ (The fact that White's move allows his opponent to capture with check is perhaps one reason why it is hard to see.) 50.Kf6 Kc4 51.h6 Be4 and now 52.Be1! is probably the clearest winner. The d-pawn can achieve nothing unsupported, while 52...Kb3 53.b5 Kxb2 54.b6 and the white pawn is too quick. 48...Ke5+ 49.Ke2 Be8 50.Bh6 Kf5 51.Bg7 Kg4 52.Bxd4 Kxh4 53.Ke3 Kg4 54.Ke4 This plan seems pretty good too, on the face of it, but it doesn't quite get the job in the face of accurate defence. 54...Bc6+! 55.Ke5 Bb5! 56.Bg1 Back-pedalling with 56.Ke4 Bc6+ 57.Ke3 Kf5 doesn't help as the black pieces can easily hold off the two unconnected columns of pawns. 56...Bxd3 57.Kd4 Bf1 58.Kc5 Again, it looks to be going well for White with the black king seemingly too far away, but it's an optical illusion. 58...Kf5 59.b5 Ke6 60.Kc6 Bg2+ 61.Kc7 Kd5! The king switches direction towards the b2–pawn, leaving the bishop to give itself up for the b5–pawn. 62.b6 Kc4 63.b7 Bxb7 64.Kxb7 Kb3 65.Bd4 a3 66.bxa3 Kxa3 ˝‑˝


Barbican 2 drew their match with Cambridge University. For Barbican 2 that result means life in the relegation pool, while for the Cantab team it means they will have to overcome Grantham Sharks in their final preliminary match if they are to swim with the even more dangerous predators of the Championship pool come round eight.


 Bob Eames (Hackney)


Meanwhile Oxford edged Hackney by a single point. Oxford have been the dark (blue) horses of this year's 4NCL and deserve their place in the Championship pool. Hackney are condemned to the relegation pool. Did they miss any chances in this match? Well, Michael Tasker did aim Alekhine's gun at Ben Savage at one point (you know that motif where a player lines up two rooks along a file with a queen behind them) but he turned out not to have any ammo. Meanwhile Bob Eames had a torrid time against Justin Tan.


4NCL 2014/15, Division 1b, Round 6

Bob Eames (Hackney)

Justin Tan (Oxford)

1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.Nxd4 The Scotch Game. I wonder if this is a clue to what the players were doing on the previous evening. Pure speculation... 4...Bb4+ 5.c3 Bc5 6.Bc4 6.Be3 is more frequently seen, and a bit more solid. 6...Nf6 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5 Qe7 9.Qe2 Nd5 10.b4!? Bb6! Provocative. Black could reply 10...Nxb4!? since 11.cxb4 allows 11...Bd4 12.Bb2 Qxb4+ and a recapture on b2. Perhaps White intended 11.0‑0!?, giving up a pawn for development and initiative. But Black doesn't take the bait at all, settling for a healthy set-up on the queenside, with his bishops radiating pressure along their diagonals. 11.a4 a5 12.b5 Bb7 13.0‑0 0‑0 14.Kh1 To be able to support the e5–pawn with f2–f4 in due course. Nevertheless, the king being on the same diagonal as the b7 bishop could prove to be uncomfortable later. 14...Kh8 15.Bd3 Qh4! Black steps up the pressure. White's lack of development on the queenside is getting embarrassing. 16.f4 f6



17.Rf3? Really optimistic but White is struggling to find a decent move. Maybe 17.c4 Nb4 18.Be4 but 18...fxe5 is hard to meet. 17...cxb5 18.Be4 When Black unfurled his long-diagonal warhead, he was no doubt hoping for 18.Rh3?? Qxh3! 19.gxh3 Nxf4+ which is lethal. But there is no need for anything fancy since White is simply lost here. 18...fxe5! 19.g3 This time 19.Rh3 meets with 19...Nxf4! 20.Bxf4 Qxf4! 21.Nd2 (21.Rxh7+ Kg8 achieves nothing) 21...Bxe4 22.Nxe4 d5 and the three extra pawns will do the job. 19...Qh5 20.axb5 exf4 21.c4 Rae8 22.cxd5 Rxe4! 23.Rxf4 Rexf4 Simplest. Houdini finds a more spectacular win - 23...Rf5 24.Qxh5 Bxd5!! - but nobody would believe a human being (ahem) unenhanced with silicon could find a move like that. 24.Qxh5 R4f5 25.Qxf5 Rxf5



Resignation here, with the three queenside pieces still on their original squares, would have been more aesthetically pleasing but also more embarrassing for White. Just one more move, then... 26.Nc3 Rxd5 0‑1


Scores after Round 6


  Division 1a 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 GP Pts

Guildford 2

  5-3 5-3 3˝-4˝ 4˝-3 5˝-2˝   6-2 29˝ 10

Blackthorne Russia

3-5     4˝-3˝ 4˝-2 6˝-1˝ 4˝-3˝ 5-3 28 10

Barbican 4NCL 1

3-5     4-4 4˝-3˝ 6˝-1˝ 5˝-2˝ 5˝-2˝ 29 9

White Rose 1

4˝-3˝ 3˝-4˝ 4-4   4-4 6-2 6˝-1˝   28˝ 8

Wood Green HK

3-4˝ 2-4˝ 3˝-4˝ 4-4     4˝-3 4˝-3˝ 21˝ 5

South Wales Dragons

2˝-5˝ 1˝-6˝ 1˝-6˝ 2-6     5-3 5-2˝ 17˝ 4

The AD's

  3˝-4˝ 2˝-5˝ 1˝-6˝ 3-4˝ 3-5   5-3 18˝ 2

Warwickshire Select 1

2-6 3-5 2˝-5˝   3˝-4˝ 2˝-5 3-5   16˝ 0



  Division 1b 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 GP Pts

Guildford 1

  4˝-3˝   6-2 7˝-˝ 6˝-1˝ 7-1 6˝-1˝ 38 12

Cheddleton 1

3˝-4˝   4˝-3˝ 4˝-3˝ 6-2 5-3 6-2   29˝ 10

Oxford 1

  3˝-4˝   5-3 4˝-3˝ 3-5 5-3 4˝-3˝ 25˝ 8

Grantham Sharks 1

2-6 3˝-4˝ 3-5     6-2 5-3 6˝-1˝ 26 6

Cambridge University 1

˝-7˝ 2-6 3˝-4˝     4˝-3˝ 4-4 5˝-2˝ 20 5

e2e4.org.uk 1

1˝-6˝ 3-5 5-3 2-6 3˝-4˝     4-4 19 3

Barbican 4NCL 2

1-7 2-6 3-5 3-5 4-4     5-3 18 3

Hackney 1

1˝-6˝   3˝-4˝ 1˝-6˝ 2˝-5˝ 4-4 3-5   16 1


  Division 2a 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 GP Pts


  4-4 6-2 6-2   4˝-3˝ 5˝-2˝ 3˝-4˝ 29˝ 9

Cambridge University 2

4-4     2˝-5˝ 6˝-1˝ 6-2 4˝-3˝ 4˝-3˝ 28 9

Sussex Martlets 1

2-6     4˝-3˝ 2˝-5˝ 4˝-3˝ 4˝-3˝ 5-3 23 8

Guildford 3

2-6 5˝-2˝ 3˝-4˝   7-1   3˝-4˝ 6-2 27˝ 6

Brown Jack Witney

  1˝-6˝ 5˝-2˝ 1-7   3˝-4˝ 5-3 5-3 21˝ 6

Anglian Avengers 1

3˝-4˝ 2-6 3˝-4˝   4˝-3˝   4-4 5-3 22˝ 5

Rhyfelwyr Essyllwg 1

2˝-5˝ 3˝-4˝ 3˝-4˝ 4˝-3˝ 3-5 4-4     21 3

KJCA Kings

4˝-3˝ 3˝-4˝ 3-5 2-6 3-5 3-5     19 2



  Division 2b 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 GP Pts
1 White Rose 2     3˝-4˝ 4-4 4˝-3˝ 5˝-2˝ 5-3 5-3 27˝ 9
2 Barbican 4NCL Youth     4-4 5-3 5-3 5-3 2-6 5˝-2˝ 26˝ 9
3 Spirit of Atticus A 4˝-3˝ 4-4     3˝-4˝ 3˝-4˝ 6˝-1 5-3 27 7
4 BCM Dragons [1] 4-4 3-5     4˝-3˝ 4-4 3˝-4˝ 4˝-3˝ 23˝ 6
5 Grantham Sharks 2 3˝-4˝ 3-5 4˝-3˝ 3˝-4˝   4-4 4˝-3˝   23 5
6 Wessex 2˝-5˝ 3-5 4˝-3˝ 4-4 4-4     4-4 22 5
7 Kings Head 3-5 6-2 1-6˝ 4˝-3˝ 3˝-4˝     3-5 21 4
8 MK Phoenix 1 3-5 2˝-5˝ 3-5 3˝-4˝   4-4 5-3   21 3




Annotated games from the above report | Download in PGN |



Player photos (from weekend 2) © John Saunders

© 4NCL

Four Nations Chess League

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