Division 2b, Weekend 3, Park inn Northampton, 11-12 Feb 2017 by John Carleton




The approach of the halfway point of this year's competition had appeared so far away but seemed to speed towards us in the last few weeks. This particular weekend had been earmarked by us as make or break time with regards to our target of reaching the promotion/championship pool of division 2 [unless we had already messed things up in one of the first two weekends].


We had to play two tough teams very close in strength to ourselves and it would all come down to performance "on the day". Saturday saw us paired to play Cambridge University 1 in a repeat of what turned out to be the final first division fixture for each team last season. Cambridge were not as strong as the previous weekend but were practically identical on ratings [particularly ECF] to us and it was no surprise to see aggressive intent from both sides of the table throughout the match right from the off.



Captain: John Carleton

There was a flurry of results not too long after the three hour mark; we went two down on boards seeing white bishops deployed on f4. On board 6 Dave Latham fell into passive defence against harmonious development by opponent Patrick Stanisz and when the dark squared bishops were exchanged white used the resulting outpost on d6 to devastate the black position. Board 7 saw Tom's agile bishop met by the counter-deployment of Robert Starley's bishop on f5. As the game unfolded Tom gradually took control, but on the point of landing a victory [and still requiring some trickery], the Atticus man blundered and it was another full point to Cambridge.



Round 5, Weekend 3, 2016-17


Equality was re-established when board 8 Peter Ackley knocked out Sabrina Chevannes by dominating the long dark squared diagonal leading to the Cambridge player's king: this game featured the fewest number of moves in the contest and was the most brutal. I scored our second point on board 1 against Daniel Bisby who sacrificed a pawn in search of freedom as the pressure mounted. His respite proved short-lived and the second wave of pressure broke through. Alas, from our point of view 2-2 soon became 2-3 when Stuart Robertson on board 5 managed to free his position against Sheila Jackson's promising opening. The weaknesses in the Atticus player's position could not be shielded and Sheila was forced to resign the lost ending. The three games remaining meant all three results were still possible : on board 2 Martin Mitchell with the black pieces had struggled against Cambridge's Alistair Hill's opening pressure. When Martin escaped into a bishop v knight ending with symmetrical pawns few doubted that this game would be drawn but Martin appeared to be enjoying matters...


Glenn House's game on board 3 against master of the dark arts, Richard Lee [Editor's note: The Cambridge player seems to play black in every game for the University], saw Glenn's more effective piece placement seem irresistible as the 40 move control arrived and passed. Somehow Richard survived and the players arrived in a tense knight and bishops of opposite colour ending with Glenn a passed pawn ahead. The trio of games in play was completed by Nick Ivell against Carl Spencer. The unusual position saw Nick with two rooks against queen with a better pawn structure. On the downside Nick's king was lacking pawn cover and bishops of opposite colour completed a puzzling position. All in all, we felt Nick's position was better but Carl's was easier to play. Gradually the results came in; Martin and Alistair agreed the draw. Carl forced a repetition against Nick and now we were left with Glenn in play and only two match results possible. The majority of the team vacated the playing room to honour our booking at the local Thai restaurant and awaited Glenn as we enjoyed a glass of wine. Glenn duly arrived and had delivered, in slightly over 6 hours play, the win and thus the 4-4 result by transposing into a pure but winning bishops of opposite colour ending.




By winning Glenn equalled Tom's record for the Spirit of Atticus of 5 consecutive wins in the 4NCL and rightly received the plaudits of the team. This may not seem so great to a team like Alba, the erstwhile leaders of our division, who currently have captain Elaine Bamber on a 6 game winning streak, Clement Sreeves on a 7 game winning streak and Andrew Greet who once won about 40 games in a row [Editor's note: Are you sure about that last one?]. However we will continue to celebrate our successes. The meal proceeded smoothly and the team retired to the bar of our hotel which by a strange thread of circumstances happened to be the Ibis. Thereafter the particular pressures on a captain came into place. In the interests of networking, I, after the Ibis bar closed at 11:00p.m., had to adjourn to the Park inn loyally supported by team member Dave Latham and no.1 supporter Jeannie. Eventually bed beckoned and we awoke to the challenges of round 6.



Round 6, Weekend 3, 2016-17


These challenges were not slight and took the form of opponents Warwickshire Select 1. This team is very experienced and like the England Rugby Union team possesses a very strong "bench" which this season has appeared on the second game of the weekend [as opposed to during the second half of a rugby game.


This weekend proved no exception to that pattern and their headline grade moved up 40 points from the previous round. Nonetheless we were aware that of the four opponents we had in common so far this year three saw identical scores from our two teams and the fourth the same match result. Thus it was everything to play for. There were two early results which offered us hope for the final outcome since both were with the black pieces; Sheila on board 5 equalised swiftly against the experienced Don Mason and in a relatively flat position the draw was agreed. On board 3 Glenn faced the equally experienced John Pitcher and both players were content to half the point in an equal but complex position. For Glenn this was surely a wise decision given his exertions of the day before.


The other black games saw me on board 1 having equalised into a complex middlegame but Tom on board 7 had run into a whirlwind in the form of Phil Brooks. The Warwickshire player unleashed a white square strategy which led to dangerous [for Tom] domination, only slightly diminished by Tom shedding a pawn.



The white games though were showing promise and soon brought us wins. Firstly board 4 left Nick with the better structure and weaknesses to attack in the black ranks. A desperate exchange sacrifice by opponent Henrik Stepanyan brought the Warwickshire player some activity but this proved short-lived and Nick gradually kept control to force resignation.


On board 8, Peter Ackley, one of the two players in our team still with Warwickshire connections, [I am the other, we both dabble in their correspondence chess activities] was playing the junior David Phillips who had helped create an interesting imbalance [queen and two pawns against rook and two bishops] in his drawn game in the previous round. The young player brought out the best in Peter and in this game Peter, after mutual tactics, arrived at a position with three minor pieces against two rooks. There is no hard and fast rule about endgames featuring this balance of power but here Peter was able to harvest pawns until his position was overwhelming.



Photos by Steve Hughes


These two wins were offset by Tom losing his game after having to accept a rook ending material down. This was an impressive game by Phil Brooks. On board 2 Martin and opponent Nicholas Thomas agreed a draw in a rook and bishops of opposite colour ending after interesting play that rarely seemed to veer far from level. In the next game to finish Dave Latham on board 6, playing Jeremy Fallowfield, belatedly constructed an IPC [Editor's note: Irish Pawn Centre], the advance of which gradually stripped away the black defences and in due course won a most attractive game and secured the match victory. That left just my game in progress; on the arrival in a minor piece ending I drifted into passivity and was outplayed as Irvin established and expanded a space advantage into victory. We had thus won the match by a single point.


Division 2b after round 6













1 Alba     5-3 5-3 5-2 5-2 6-2 6-1 33 12
2 Cambridge University 1     4-4 4-4 5-2 5-2 5-2 6-1 31 10
3 Spirit of Atticus A 3-5 4-4   4-3 6-2 5-2 4-3   27 9
4 Warwickshire Select 1 3-5 4-4 3-4   5-3   4-3 6-0 26 7
5 Guildford 3 2-5 2-5 2-6 3-5   4-3   6-1 20 4
6 White Rose 2 2-5 2-5 2-5   3-4   4-3 4-4 19 3
7 KJCA Kings 2-6 2-5 3-4 3-4   3-4   4-3 19 2
8 Bradford DCA Knights A 1-6 1-6   0-6 1-6 4-4 3-4   11 1


When the smoke of battle had cleared, the four teams heading into the promotion pool were settled a round early: Alba, Cambridge University 1, ourselves and Warwickshire 1. The final pool games in our section will feature two matches that will carry into the new pools, viz, Cambridge University 1 v Alba in the championship pool and KJCA Kings v Guildford 3 in the demotion pool. For those four teams the final countdown begins a little earlier than for the rest of us. Naturally there is a great sense of anticipation and with only three weeks between weekends we won't have too long to wait.


4NCL | Steve Connor



Engine Analysis

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