Division 3n, Weekend 2, Mercure Bolton Georgian House Hotel, 14-15 Jan 2017 by Andy Mort






Our first visit to this venue – a Georgian hotel at that, though our movements were mainly confined to the more modern section. Our stay was trouble-free and enjoyable, though our Board 2 was deprived of sleep by youths (and therefore unlikely to be chess players) repeatedly knocking on his door and ringing his phone.


Given the way Mike played on Sunday, I am considering using similar tactics on future weekends. We tend to be suspicious of the cost and quality of hotel meals, but the less cynical amongst our fraternity reported that the buffet provided on Saturday night was of excellent quality and good value. It must be true, because Lara said so, and she’s now a Chief Arbiter, for which achievement many congratulations.




New ECF Chief Arbiter,

Lara Barnes


After a disappointing first weekend we were keen to improve, and were rewarded by two wins, the first stuttering, but the second convincing against a team with highly-rated top boards.


We got off to a flying start on Saturday against Bradford C with two black wins when Lloyd analysed a long combination more accurately than his opponent to win a piece, and when Colm sacrificed a knight to destroy his opponent’s king protection and net five pawns, then a piece. The balance of the match see-sawed when John lost the exchange defending a vulnerable centre without much help from an awkwardly placed white-squared bishop, and when I, having deployed pieces in advanced positions to deliver the coup de grace, couldn’t find a forced mate in time-trouble and my own denuded king was mated on the rebound. 2-2, and then Richard agreed a draw after lots of slow manoeuvring by both sides had led to nothing decisive.


This left, on Board 2, Mike, renowned ‘grinder’, renowned delayer of meals, to squeeze a point out of a bishop v knight ending which looked theoretically drawn, and which had done so from the early middle game. Despite having a bad back, Mike soldiered on and skilfully eked out small space advantages to force his a pawn home, achieving heroic status by winning the match for us and - just - meeting his taxi deadline. Endgame students might like to look at Mike’s game and analyse the outcome of the ending had minor pieces had been exchanged towards the end; many subtleties were discovered in the post-mortem (though it was a post-alcohol post-mortem).



Rounds 3 & 4, Weekend 2, 2017


Our meal was at Sokrates, a busy Greek restaurant whose fare did not disappoint us, and, despite our Grubmeister’s dire warning, the red wine was very palatable, if not premier cru.




In an attempt to justify his place in the team on grounds other than chess prowess, the captain had, the night before, requisitioned a free ‘taxi’ and researched the beer in the two microbrewery ‘taps’ that Horwich boasts. As a result, though hanging by a thread, his place may yet be secure.


On the Sunday, Hounds and Bears looked to be more formidable opponents, though in terms of gradings, it looked like a ‘game of two halves’. As Black in an unusual Two Knights Defence, Mike Mc Donagh redeployed his bishop to g7 with great effect and achieved considerable pressure down the a file. Although standing better, Mike could not have his expected his luck when his opponent missed an immediate mate threat – a great start to the match. Also as Black, I agreed a draw in a soporific game following my opponent’s bizarre opening 1. e4 c6 2. d3 d5 3. ed. The match score was levelled when Richard lost a very sharp English Opening, difficult to assess until Black won queen for rook and bishop - and then a rook in his time-trouble.


At that point, on Board 1, Lloyd had had to sacrifice the exchange for a pawn to stop an advanced a pawn, following a complex Slav middle-game – but he had two bishops, and all the pawns were on the kingside. On Board 5, after an opening in which Colm had comfortably repulsed his opponent’s Albin Counter Attack to secure the two bishops, free development and a better pawn structure, the resultant bishop and rook early endgame didn’t look easy to convert, despite Colm’s extra pawn. On Board two, Mike Johnson, Black in a Catalan with queen and rooks exchanged, had a probably defensible but definitely passive middle-game position and, using his time advantage, White was pressing hard.


On the top two boards our prospects then changed dramatically when Lloyd’s opponent moved his rook to h1 only to have it trapped, after which he had no option but to return the exchange and round up a pawn, and hands were shaken. On Board 2, a flurry of moves saw the blocked centre transformed into a position in which Black had two passed central pawns and white two passed queenside pawns, but with Black’s king more advanced and his knight better placed. After winning a pawn following a blunder, Mike duly converted, leaving Colm to secure the necessary half point. Though there were only two games remaining by this time, Colm ground on to exploit his advantage and secure the full point long after the rest of us had departed - another performance of great character by our man.


Now established in the top half of the table ready for the beginning of the transition to the Swiss System draw, we look forward to challenging matches during Weekend 3 - and a further opportunity to explore Horwich hostelries and eateries.


© 4NCL | Steve Connor



Engine Analysis

In the above games you can activate the engine analysis board by clicking the E8 (assuming White on bottom, D1 otherwise) shortcut square on the main chessboard.


User commands for the engine analysis board:

  • explore variations by clicking the from and to squares for the intended move

  • click the arrow buttons to move back/forth through the variation being analyzed

  • click the plus button at the right of the arrow buttons to force the engine analysis board to auto update following the position of the main chessboard; this is useful for instance when following a live broadcast; limitations: some pages might not offer this functionality and some browsers do not support this functionality

  • click on the side to move indicator to switch the side to move; this is useful to check for threats in the given position

  • click on the principal variation to execute its first move on the engine analysis board

  • click on the evaluation mark to activate/deactivate the engine


© 4NCL

Four Nations Chess League

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