Division 1a, Weekend 1, Park inn Telford, 11-12 Nov 2017 by John Carleton




Following Andy Mort's in-depth analysis of the nutritional requirements of top class chess players, the Editor requested that I cover some of the psychological aspects of chess playing at the highest level in the U.K., the 4NCL division 1. Unfortunately we do not have access to the top players in this competition; however....


It would be easy to feel that Spirit of Atticus A would be a depressed bunch when firmly labelled as 8th seed in their 8 team pool. That impression might well have been confirmed by the final score against our first round opponents 3Cs 1, a drubbing by 1- 6. [Editor's note: this is not as depressing as a complete drubbing which is 0-8, a comprehensive drubbing -7 or a severe drubbing 1-7].


Nonetheless we had started optimistically against our opponents, who although not completely at full strength, were still rated 100 points a board higher over the 8 boards. Thus Martin Mitchell on board 3 against Adam Ashton grabbed an early exchange at the cost of some dislocation to his pawn structure and Glenn House seemed to be building a strong attack against Alexander Longson on board 5.



Captain: John Carleton

Nick Ivell on board 6 and Sheila Jackson on board 7 seemed at least equal and hopefully more. On the flip side for my game on board 1 against Stephen Gordon there was recognition as early as move 19 [earlier for Stephen I'm sure] that this game would not yield anything for us and similarly with regards to Dave Latham, who, although fighting hard, had walked into a severely inferior opening variation against Jamie Horton on board 8. The other two games with Brett Lund on 4 and Gary Quillan on 2 looked difficult but not without prospects.


Rounds 1 & 2, Weekend 1, 2017

Then the results started to flow in: birthday girl Sheila agreed a quick draw against 3Cs captain Alan Walton but whist it was good to get on the scoreboard for the season it proved to be a harbinger of 5 defeats, which just kept rolling in. Dave and I lost at the top and bottom of the team as anticipated. Gary had offered a pawn which opponent Andrew Horton grabbed after a big think; thereafter Andrew quickly activated the pieces which appeared to be misplaced on the a file; he then switched to attack to complete an impressive and ultimately brutal victory.


This was probably the game of the match. Birthday boy Martin struggled to gain active play whilst Adam was able to gain material and strip away Martin's king's cover; defeat was unavoidable for the Atticus man. Finally, it transpired that Nick had tried to go too active against Mathilde Congiu when interesting play had led to Nick with Rook and 2 pawns against two bishops. The French player harnessed the raw power of those bishops to unleash a powerful attack which cut Nick's defences to ribbons.




The final stages of the match saw our points tally treble: firstly Glenn acceded to the draw in the still very complex position which had arisen from this game which had yielded a torrent of interesting possibilities throughout. Brett held his half point by resolute but active defence against Daniel Abbas' nagging edge.


The rather shambolic progress of the team to the restaurant delayed the commencement of the meal and may well have conveyed the impression to a casual observer of a dispirited group who would never recover in time to launch a cohesive effort on the morrow. However, perhaps encouraged by the plentiful supply of wine and tasty fayre, the mood lifted, our hopes were re-evaluated and the team resolved to take the fight to Barbican 2, our opponents in round 2. There was a decent turn-out, but not overly long stay, for the nightcap in the busy hotel bar before retiring.


Sunday saw us and the rest of pool 1[a] on the Live boards and this has been a fairly uncommon occurrence for our team of minnows over the previous 7 seasons of our participation. The early play saw little deviation from level over the match as a whole and at the three hour mark the first result was agreed between Issac Sanders and myself on board 1 when a very flat ending was reached. There was a slight lull before Dave Latham completed a vibrant win on board 8 against Natasha Regan for our first victory of the season. Boards 6 and 7 finished all square after two draws but these were not tame affairs. Board 6 saw sacrifice and counter sacrifice and ended in a repetition and a murky position between Nick and Dominic Klinger, one of the leading juniors on the Barbican production line. Board 7 was equally ferocious with Sheila defending like a lioness again George O'Toole's sacrificial attack.


A return of material led to simplification and a level ending when the battle-weary players made peace. I had the feeling watching that both teams had hoped to steal an advantage over these two boards but both teams recognised that justice had been done in this slice of the match. Barbican 2 scored their first win of this campaign via Peter Sowray in his game against Brett on board 4. A game of heavy manoeuvres saw Peter gradually gain control and break through to level the match. On board 5 Glenn had entered a queen and pawn ending the equivalent of two pawns ahead after seizing the initiative from the opening. He was, after careful play, avoiding some nasty snares, able to restore our one point advantage against Guy Moss who has proved a thorn in our flesh in previous encounters. An enterprising game between Gary and Graham Morrison on board 2 produced positions that were unusual to me.


Division 1a after round 2

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 GP Pts
1 Guildford 1         7-   8-0 15 4
2 White Rose 1     5-2     6-2   11 4
3 Oxford 1         3-4   6-1 10 2
4 3Cs 1   2-5   6-1       9 2
5 Spirit of Atticus A       1-6   4-3   6 2
6 Grantham Sharks 1 -7   4-3         5 2
7 Barbican 4NCL 2   2-6     3-4     5 0
8 The ADs 0-8   1-6         1 0


We had hopes of a victory up to the first time control but such advantage as he obtained was not enormous and Gary was able to acquiesce in the draw because Martin's game against the Barbican chief strategist Jonathan Rogers was sure, by this time, to give us a match-winning draw at least. And so for the game that held the nation in its thrall and set the chess chat lines buzzing for the next day or two: the early stages saw an echo of round 1 in that Martin won/his opponent was forced to sacrifice the exchange. This time Jonathan gained a full pawn and some pressure for his investment.


Eventually, after his position seemed to be creaking somewhat, Martin slipped into a winning ending. There were easier endings than the won ending of rook and h pawn for black against the white dark squared bishop, but won this one was. This win is not easy and no-one I spoke to at the venue had much idea beyond not advancing the pawn beyond its 4th rank. One person I spoke with had spent hours studying the position recently but could not recollect how to force the win. I have to come clean; I can recollect studying the winning process in Fine's Basic Chess Endings as a youth and could remember only not to advance the pawn beyond the 4th rank. Our chief researcher Dave Robertson recommends "100 Endgames You Must Know" by Jesus de la Villa as the clearest explanation. If you don't know the ending you will not win it over the board without help from your opponent. Jonathan Rogers did not help Martin! And the rest is 149 moves of chess history.


This victory, by the slenderest of margins, was much appreciated in the Spirit of Atticus camp and we felt deserved on the day [well we would wouldn't we]. As for the in-depth psychological explanations you were offered; well maybe next time. Suffice it to say that we can hardly wait for rounds 3 and 4 in January.


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




Four Nations Chess League

top ^