Division 2c, Weekend 5, Park inn Telford, 29 Apr -1 May 2017 by John Carleton




And so when Saturday 29th April arrived, the long wait, the best part of 8 weeks since weekend 4, was over, and we were in determined mood to settle positively the unfinished business over rounds 9, 10 and 11 of this season.


The 2nd division championship pool seemed inevitably to be unfolding in favour of Alba, the powerful team of Scots, who had been widely predicted to win the 2nd division before a pawn was pushed. In only their second season they had posted a 100% record for this year to date [in pool 2b] and in the first round of the 2c. The other thee promotion slots seemed to lie between the other closely matched qualifiers from pool 2b namely Cambridge University 1, Warwicks Select 1 and ourselves plus the AD's from pool 2a.


Round 9 saw us pitched against the AD's who had come within a whisker of holding Alba in the previous round and fielded a team of quality and experience for our encounter. Inside two and a half hours we were three points down and facing a massacre with 4 games left in play. Tom Bimpson on board 8 had been swept away by Marcus Walsh, Sheila on board 6 had never quite achieved one of the thematic breaks of the QGD and David Anderton capitalised in style. Brett on board 1 fell to a sustained attack from John Richardson and in the meantime Dave Latham on board 7 against Jana Bellin had acquiesced in the draw which appeared his only reasonable target.



Round 9, Weekend 5, 2016-17


Captain: John Carleton

It was past the four hour mark when our rearguard action brought some reward.  Firstly Nick Ivell, firmly in all or nothing territory, headed for mayhem and landed the point when his piece sacrifice followed by the further investment of the exchange enabled him to weave a mating net round Kevin Bailey's king. In my game with Ian Snape I had lost a pawn in the early middlegame and headed into the endgame with weak pawns and no real prospects. Somehow that game got within reach again and I scrambled a most fortuitous draw.


On board 3 Martin Mitchell and opponent Jonathan Swindells created a game of great and sustained complexity which provided entertainment for the spectators with the already chaotic play being further enlivened by a time scramble up to move 40 before Martin brought us our second victory of the match after 5 hours play.


This left Glenn House in play for us against Darren Wheeler in a complex rook and bishop of opposite colour ending in which Glenn emerged two pawns to the good but with great complexities to negotiate before victory could be contemplated. We were content that we had the best man for the job from our ranks but got the impression that The AD's had the same feeling about their man. In the end Darren, with an obdurate but active defence gave The ADs the match winning half point after well over 6 hours play.


The evening meal saw us put our disappointments behind us and resolved to do better on the morrow: we were aware that wins in both rounds 10 and 11 would see us promoted just as we had been aware at the beginning of the weekend that 2 wins from rounds 9, 10 and 11 would suffice. After the meal we promised to enjoy a whole team nightcap on the following evening as on this night, half of our players headed to Telford and half went to Stafford [its a long story as well as a long drive!].


The Stafford group enjoyed a final scoop in the hotel bar catching up on the big sporting events of the day before turning in. The skipper silently vowed on behalf of the team to emulate Anthony Joshua who, that very evening, had got up from the canvas to win his battle against Vladimir Klitschko. Which is just another example to show that chess players tend to inhabit a fantasy world.


Division 2c before round 9

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 GP Pts
1 Alba   5-3 4-3 6-2 5-3       20 8
2 Spirit of Atticus A 3-5     4-4 4-3     5-2 17 5
3 The ADs 3-4         4-3 4-3 4-4 16 5
4 Cambridge University 1 2-6 4-4     4-4   6-1   16 4
5 Warwickshire Select 1 3-5 3-4   4-4   5-2     16 3
6 West is Best 1     3-4   2-5   4-3 4-4 14 3
7 Sussex Martlets 1     3-4 1-6   3-4   5-2 14 2
8 Grantham Sharks 2   2-5 4-4     4-4 2-5   13 2


Round 10 is rather special in the 4NCL calendar with a leisurely morning before the commencement of hostilities. We faced West is Best starting at 1.00 pm and the early stages of the match bore too much of a similarity to the previous day for any of us to feel confident. On this occasion there was a major difference in that we did not crack. David Latham experienced some real discomfort against Justin Hadi on board 7 and was happy to take the draw offered when he had simplified his problems to "slightly worse". Glenn met solid resistance against Ben Edgell on board 4 and was also content to take the draw on offer in what seemed to be a position where it was his opponent's position that would be slightly preferred by most people.



Round 10, Weekend 5, 2016-17


Sheila playing David Littlejohns on board 6 had varied from but not improved an opening variation from a previous round and was forced to scramble to earn her draw offer after temporarily going a pawn down. This left us all square with 5 games in progress; boards 1 and 3 were creating real concern board and 2 seemed to promise our best prospects; the remaining two games appeared approximately balanced. However it was board 5 which started us on our way when Alex Bullen, who had given Nick a rough ride in the opening stages, fell to a cunning tactic when he overestimated his prospects.




Our lead was doubled when I was able to show that the ending of my queen versus Jack Rudd's bishop, knight and pawns, which had arisen after adventures arising from Jack's sacrifice of queen for 2 bishops in the early stages, was winning. Tom, having questioned his opponent carefully before his board 8 encounter to establish that his young opponent , Oliver Howell was not related to GM David, met great resistance to his attacking aspirations. A queen and pawn ending looked promising for the younger player but when this went to a king and pawn ending a new queen ending was forced and Tom although queening second queened with check and had the initiative. This finally headed to an ending with each side heading for a 3rd queen and Tom was again queening second but with check and that overwhelming potential advantage was enough to bring resignation. Meanwhile Martin on board 3 managed to draw with John Stephens after allowing his king to be caught in the centre and the crossfire of the white pieces.


This was a big escape for us but Brett was not so lucky on board 1 against Ioan Rees whose opening forced Brett into passivity. Slowly but surely the pressure mounted and the attacking front expanded; Brett fell to an attractive finish but the match had finished in victory by 5-3.


At the evening meal we were able to reflect on the afternoon: a close run thing for us to be sure. Elsewhere the ADs had secured promotion alongside Alba buy rushing into an early 3 point lead against Cambridge University and then, as against us on the previous day, hanging on to win 4-3. Warwickshire Select 1 had achieved a big win against Grantham Sharks 2 and so we were down to two from ourselves, Warwickshire and Cambridge University to be promoted and one to remain in division 2. The evening finished with a nightcap in the Parkinn with the team aware that victory on the morrow would put us in the third promotion slot as we would in that case overtake either Warwickshire Select or the ADs who were in opposition in the final round. Anything less than victory would probably see us squeezed out of the promotion places.



Round 11, Weekend 5, 2016-17


Optimism if wariness was the mood as we prepared to play Sussex Martlets. This was the 4th year in succession that our two teams had met in 4NCL competition accompanying each other on an exciting journey from 3rd division to 2nd to 1st and back to the 2nd division. We hoped this would be a parting of the ways since the Sussex side were staying in the 2nd division next season and we were still living the dream. The opening skirmishes saw Glenn on board 4 caught in a theoretical line by the latest young talent off the Sussex youth production line, Dominic Miller, in which our player had no safe way to battle for advantage. An early draw was the result. A decent interval followed before Brett on board 1 agreed peace with the ever dangerous David Graham; this had looked distinctly tricky for our player for a while. Then we struck through David Latham on board 7 who showed the defects that can be inherent in the Dutch Stonewall against Howard Tebbs. Dave dominated the board in the queenless middlegame; his winning final flourish was vintage Dave and illustrated just how helpless black's position had become. Nick on board 5 against Ollie Wilson, went onto the attack after an opening of gentle manoeuvring.



The decisive breakthrough was not long in arriving and with it Nick scored a record 6th consecutive win for The Spirit of Atticus overhauling the record previously held jointly by Tom and Glenn. Bravo Nick! Tom added a draw to our total when he dropped a pawn in a favourable knight and pawn ending against another very promising Sussex junior, Cassie Graham, and decided to call it a day to avoid the risk of further mishaps.


Fittingly, Sheila scored the win, against Rasa Norinkeviciute, that ensured our promotion back to the 1st division. Sheila had unavoidably missed our final weekend at the highest level just a year ago. She had obtained an edge after the early exchanges and pushed on until she was overwhelmingly ahead on material; a smooth finish to her season. My game against David Grant was a slow burner with both of us absorbed in the complications which never quite made it onto the board during the opening stages. The result was something of a time-scramble leading up to move 40 which changed the nature of the game and luckily enough saw me with a technical win. Gradually, I crawled over the line. Martin on board 3 against Grant Bucher had turned down a draw early on despite having speculated in a rook and pawn for two minor pieces exchange. Grant kept his head and gradually took control of the board and Martin was forced to resign when faced with a trivial loss with pawn against knight and pawn imminent. This defeat was Martin's first of a very successful season which saw him establish himself as high in the order and a real "go to" man for the team with the black or white pieces.



Division 2c after round 11

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 GP Pts
1 Alba   4-3 5-3 6-2 5-3 5-2 5-2 7-1 38 14
2 The ADs 3-4   4-3 4-3 4-3 4-3 4-3 4-4 30 11
3 Spirit of Atticus A 3-5 3-4   4-4 4-3 5-3 5-2 5-2 31 9
4 Cambridge University 1 2-6 3-4 4-4   4-4 6-1 6-1 4-3 31 8
5 Warwickshire Select 1 3-5 3-4 3-4 4-4   5-2 4-3 6-1 30 7
6 West is Best 1 2-5 3-4 3-5 1-6 2-5   4-3 4-4 21 3
7 Sussex Martlets 1 2-5 3-4 2-5 1-6 3-4 3-4   5-2 22 2
8 Grantham Sharks 2 1-7 4-4 2-5 3-4 1-6 4-4 2-5   19 2


And so victory by 5-2 and the third position promotion place for the team. The other results in the Championship pool saw new champions Alba complete their 100% season with victory against West is Best. Additionally, The ADs beat Warwickshire Select 1 by [you guessed it] 4-3 and Cambridge University 1 beat Grantham Sharks 2 by the same score. Cambridge University 1 thus claimed the final promotion spot; had Warwickshire Select 1 gained a half point more or the University a half point less the two teams would have been level on match and game points and the tie break process would have been initiated. In short an extremely nervy last round for the players in those two teams. We were of course delighted with the outcome of our season especially as our original target was to survive in division 2. We have no illusions about the challenges ahead but will take time to enjoy our achievements too. For the first time we have 2 graduates of the Northern League in division 1 [Alba and ourselves] and had hopes of a third, North-East England, being there to greet us but they were squeezed out by the great survivors, South Wales Dragons.


The usual thank-you's are needed at this stage but are just as heartfelt for all their repetition: Thanks to Mike Truran at the helm battling on our behalf in these difficult times, thanks to the retiring chief arbiter David Welch and to the many worker ants in the background: particular thanks to Dave Thomas, Priscilla Morris and Matt Carr in the South/ Midlands and Alex McFarlane and Lara Barnes in the North for their help to me personally and to our team.


This is also the my traditional time to encourage anyone with a team thinking of giving the 4NCL a whirl to do it, you will not be disappointed. If you have a choice of location, the unique hospitality and multi-nation line up of the Northern League cannot be bettered. See you next season.


4NCL | Steve Connor



Engine Analysis

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