Division 2b, Weekend 1, Wokefield Park, 19-20 Nov 2016 by John Carleton




De Vere Wokefield Park

The new 4NCL season finally arrived; having been a distant wish it was suddenly upon us and the wish factor was replaced by an agonising mixture of joyful anticipation and naked fear.


After our year in the brutal spotlight of the top flight we were back to the second division and a hoped for quieter life. First up on Saturday were KJCA Kings and the 5 "j"s by our opponents names when the team lists were published confirmed the worst fears of some of our squad somewhat older than our opposition: we faced a stiff trial by the talented juniors of Kent.


The match started quietly with no severe imbalances down the boards. Early draws followed for two of our players of the black pieces. Martin Mitchell on board 2 reached a lifeless ending where it was his opponent who had some options and our man sensibly accepted the draw offer. Dave Latham on board 4 had a more unbalanced situation but most would agree that it was white for choice here too when peace was agreed. With the white pieces we saw more lively positions but Nick Ivell on board 3 accepted the draw when matters had become rather quiet. Sheila Jackson, making a most welcome return to our ranks, reached a position against opponent Girinath Haridas where violence seemed imminent but the players were cagey about their prospects and agreed the draw after constructing a repetition.




Round 1, Weekend 1, 2016-17


Fifth to finish was Tom Bimpson on board 6 who obtained our best black piece opening of the weekend and with it hopes of a win. However Tom gave up a pawn unnecessarily and suddenly the tide turned and opponent Aditya Verma did not need a further invitation, the Kent junior seizing the full point in style.



Captain: John Carleton

At this point I should mention the burdens of captaincy. I was delighted that we had got our whole team to the distant [from the North] playing venue in good time and was turned off from team responsibilities except to be engrossed in my game against Freddie Hand which featured a somewhat speculative exchange sacrifice on my behalf. This game yielded victory shortly after the completion of Tom's game and, perhaps relaxing, I thought Tom had drawn.


So I believed that we were one up with boards 7 and 8 still in play. I was worried that we looked like losing both of these games; John Hall on board 7 had been involved in a fluctuating opening and had to scramble to reach an ending with 2 bishops and pawn against 1 bishop and 5 pawns. On board 8 Mike Johnson had survived a big assault on his king's position surviving only at the cost of giving up his queen. The rook knight and pawn he obtained did not look sufficient at first glance but Mike obtained very dangerous counter-play in a wild position and was rightly content to take a draw by perpetual.


The final game in play saw John's opponent Alexander Selway boldly go for the win by activating his king. The price proved to be too high however as John was able to grab a pawn and then hold the 3 connected past pawns bearing down on his queenside. Slowly but surely John eliminated the pawns, won the opposing bishop by promoting his own pawn and then proved fully capable of mating with the 2 bishops. So it was victory for the team after a real battle. It was only in the pub that the hapless skipper was disabused by his colleagues and found that we had not won by 5-3 but merely by the single point.


The aforementioned pub, The Red Lion, proved a very good venue for a variety of drinks and excellent Italian cuisine. Once again the Grubmeister Dave Robertson had come up trumps and with the passage of time the contented players retired to the hotel bar nicely wined and dined to take the opportunity for more convivial company and indeed some study of positions from the match.



Round 2, Weekend 1, 2016-17



Sunday morning brought a new challenge: we were to take on Alba the Scottish team playing only their second year of 4NCL competition. We knew we had another tough albeit different challenge from round 1 on our hands. Our opponents had not only won Division Three North last season [regarded as the highest possible Division Three honour in informed circles] but had bolstered their team with fine [Scottish, of course] players.


Nonetheless we settled down to give of our best and trust to fate. There was early action when one of our heroes of round one, Mike Johnson on board 8, walked into an unusual but deadly pin by opponent and Alba captain Elaine Bamber. More encouraging was a quick draw on board 5 by Sheila with the black pieces against the experienced and highly rated [well, higher rated than all of our team] Neil Berry. The shock of the tie occurred on board 2 where Martin had arrived in a level but comfortable ending against GM John Shaw. John, striving for play to unbalance matters, blundered the exchange and resigned immediately.


All in all this was an interesting weekend for Martin who had plenty of time to take in the atmosphere since he didn't quite manage a total of 40 moves in his two games which yielded one and a half points. For probably our best game of the weekend and certainly our best move look at board 6 Tom against David Findlay with Tom about to play his 22nd move. His silent but impressed opponent was seen to sportingly mime applause for this move during the game. David did not last a lot longer. Thus we had a slender lead but all the other positions gradually began to look more and more difficult. John Hall on board 7 seemed to equalise fairly easily with the black pieces but a couple of slips allowed opponent Duncan Grassie to win material and the game.


Nick on board 3 ran into a man in form, in a game of opposite side castling Clement Sreeves' attack arrived quickly and Nicks defences were speedily stripped away to leave Nick suffering catastrophic loss. Dave Latham on board 4 found in opponent Roddy McKay someone who was prepared to start solidly but able to take tactical opportunities when they arose. This saw Dave fighting hard but finishing in a lost queen and pawn ending nicely converted by the Scotsman.



Round 2, Alba v Spirit of Atticus A. Foreground Elaine Bamber v Michael Johnson

Photo by Steve Hughes


In my game against Andrew Greet I thought I had started soundly and felt I was equal when I retreated a little too readily and then faced bleak prospects. I have in the last year read an entertaining and instructive book, "Chess for Old Codgers" or some such by Matthew Sadler and Natasha Regan [Editor's note: "Chess for Life"].


I particularly enjoyed Natasha's statistical analyses and can report in this spirit that I felt I was 90% likely to lose this game. Most fortunately for me this turned out to be a case for the 10% to happen so I escaped with a draw and our match was over 3-5.


We have fallen back into the rhythm of life in the 4NCL and eagerly await rounds 3 and 4 in January.


4NCL | Steve Connor


Engine Analysis

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