Division 1d, Weekend 5, Park inn Telford, 5-7 May 2018 by John Carleton




Over the past 6 seasons we have not played in the same division in consecutive years and the smart money was betting that we would continue that trend with a season in division 2 in prospect in 2018-19.


However if there was pessimism in the Spirit of Atticus ranks no-one was showing it as we awaited the start of round 9 against fellow strugglers Cambridge University 1 on the Saturday of the long holiday weekend. At the beginning of the season our two teams were seeded 15th [us] and the 16th [Cambridge University] and we were also the 15th and 16th 1st division in terms of grading for this round. These sorts of statistics could easily be used to confirm that we had little chance of survival but where there was life there was hope and we were determined to show that our matches meant something.


The match saw us off to a flying start with Nick Ivell on board 5 forcing mate or enormous gain of material in just 17 moves against the University black piece specialist Richard Lee. This took Nick's team-mates by surprise and over dinner later in the evening he faced questions regarding his apparent use of cutting edge opening theory. Nick said we were close with our suspicions; in fact the what he used was newspaper cutting theory and he was able to produce the cutting from a recent Malcolm Pein Telegraph chess column to prove it. The line was laid out carefully right down to the move 9/... Qxg2 after which black is lost. Shortly after this Craig Hanley on board 1 against Daniel Bisby landed another quick KO to put us 2-0 up; this was another example of modern opening theory this time from Larsen's opening with their own slant from the two creative players involved.



Captain: John Carleton

At this juncture my game was hardly underway as my opponent Carl Spencer had arrived over 50 minutes late for the start of play. Thus I had nearly an hour more than my opponent to consider my options. In round 11 when facing Jack Rudd, I could not help thinking back to this occasion when I, after a normal start to the round 11 game, found myself with an hour and ten minutes less thinking time at my disposal than Jack.


Rounds 9-11, Weekend 5, 2018

The next three results came on the lower boards of the match, wins for Robert Starley against Dave Latham on board 7 and Stuart Robertson on board 6 against Sheila Jackson for the University being countered by Peter Ackley on board 8 for us against Anna York-Anderson. Each game was something of a slow burner but with the final results seeming predictable from some distance from the finish. I won my game after Carl had launched a ferocious looking attack which was contained and he succumbed to a counter-attack as his position proved over-stretched. Our Silicon friend confirmed after the match that this result too was predictable from some way out, but humans were entitled to have doubts. Thus we were two up with two games in play.




The match was settled when the board 3 encounter between Glenn House and Adam Bukojemski which was combative with, it appeared, fluctuations in the prospects of each player throughout, finished in a draw by perpetual check.


Shortly afterwards, Brett who had the option of probing at his leisure having a good Knight v bad bishop ending agreed a draw to finalise the match score at 5-3. Thus one good knight being abandoned led to a good night at the restaurant on the banks of the River Severn commencing unusually promptly with the full team plus two wags. The wine and conversation flowed in direct correlation and a relaxed party headed hotel-wards with only a hitch in taxi arrangements delaying our safe return.




The Sunday of the final weekend is widely regarded as the best day of the 4NCL season with a morning's relaxation before the fray commences at 1:00pm and this season was no exception amongst the squad. Suitably refreshed we faced a much higher ranked team in the form of Blackthorne Russia with Craig's ranking only being within 100 points of his opponent [GM Danny Gormally]. The early phases of play saw us shape up pretty well with the team fighting all the way down the order.


Gradually the superior class of the opposition began to tell. Chris Duncan on board 7 got an edge in the opening against Dave which led to increasing pressure on the Atticus player's structure and a smooth transfer into a winning ending. There were a couple of early but eventful draws; Craig held Danny Gormally after a strangely unbalanced [at least to this observer] game. Danny sacrificed the exchange and when Craig was obliged to sacrifice it back to reach a rook, knight and five pawns aside ending you could be forgiven for thinking that the Blackthorne player's structure would carry the day. You would have been mistaken along with many observers as Craig's active pieces held the balance.



Nick on board 5 faced a dangerous sacrificial attack by Simon Ansell. Nick, however, returned the material to reach a two rooks against queen and pawn ending where Simon was content to implement a perpetual check. Peter Ackley was the next to draw on board 8 against Dave Ledger following a neat tactical sequence which left Peter a pawn up in a rook and bishops of opposite colour ending; when Dave forced the rooks off the draw was inevitable. We fell further behind when Glenn succumbed to Richard Bates on board 3. Glenn missed a chance to advance his a-pawn which seems to hold and thereafter Richard combined attack and defence neatly to bring home the full point. Sheila, on board 6 went down to Lawrence Webb after seemingly being close to having the draw in hand.


On board 4 against Andrew Ledger I gave away a pawn for very little in the early middlegame and was extremely fortunate to be able to establish and maintain pressure enough to be able to win that pawn back some twenty-odd moves later; with the match decided this provoked a draw offer which I gratefully accepted. The last game to finish was a titanic struggle on board 2 between Brett and Harriet Hunt. There were many unusual features to this contest: a selection: 2 bishops v 2 knights [not that unusual], Brett castled on move 34 [not totally unusual]; at that point Harriet's light squared bishop was her only piece [including pawns] to have crossed the half-way line [unusual]. Further, only one of Brett's six pawns was still in his half of the board [unusual with the big guns still on the board]. Brett castled on to an open file with no pawns of either colour in the vicinity [ditto]. Harriet seemed utterly doomed when her king was drawn into the centre with no defensive cover in its vicinity. Somehow Harriet survived and the result was a draw: well played to both players! Thus it finished 5 draws to us and 3 wins to them or 2-5 in conventional scoring.


r to l: All smiles from John Carleton (Captain), Nick Ivell, WGM Sheila Jackson and Dave Latham before the start of round 10

photo: Fran Carleton


The meal saw us return to the riverside and the Severn and we set about examining our target for our last round game against West is Best 1. We had quite a big shock to find that our upcoming opponents had reached safety for the season by completing a win against 3Cs by a single point including wins on the bottom 3 boards. This, incidentally, did not augur well for our bottom 3 boards which saw us draft in Chester junior Daniel Savidge for his first 1st division game. Furthermore, this win ensured that West is Best would survive and could not be caught by us whereas at the start of the weekend we had expected that a win in the last round, however unlikely would keep us in division 1. Closer study of our hastily drawn up league table indicated that there was one set of circumstances that would see us survive: [1] we would need to beat West is Best by 6-1 or better [2] The Barbican 2 v Alba match would have to be a draw. Once you see the requirement [1] there is no need to worry! The situation had been identified as out of our reach and we were able to relax. Alas the service for the meal was frustratingly slow as the restaurant found themselves hopelessly over-run by hot weather and bank holiday crowds but we eventually returned to the Park Inn determined to give it our best shot in the morning.


Our need for a replacement had arisen because Craig was required to work so for this round only we were the 16th rated team in the 1st division. With the tension out of the situation Peter was content to agree, as was his opponent Alex Bullen, a quick draw in an uneventful and short game on board 7. Daniel on debut with the black pieces on board 8 introduced a tactical nuance to keep the balance against Roy Phillips who had seen enough to offer the draw which was readily accepted. The first decisive result came on board 6 where Dave found his set-up rather cumbersome against Ioan Rees; a forced exchange sacrifice brought only temporary respite for our man. I was next to finish; after a reasonable opening I had had been rather out-played by Jack Rudd and arrived in an ending of Rook, bishop and 3 pans against rook, bishop and 4 pawns all on the king-side. The attempt to draw this ending promised a good deal of discomfort but luckily for me Jack missed a tactical shot which enabled me to force the draw. By now Nick on board 4 against Steven Jones was into an advantageous double rook ending, which unsurprisingly Nick, our endgame guru, converted to the full point. Sheila played 4/ Ng5 against Tim Kett's Two Knight's Defence on board 5 and Tim rose to the challenge by playing the Traxler. The game was agreed drawn after 30 moves with each side [justifiably] concerned about the safety of their king.


Division 1d after round 11

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 GP Pts
1 3Cs 1 4-3 3-4 6-2 6-2 6-1 6-1 5-3 38 12
2 Blackthorne Russia 3-4 6-2 5-3 5-2 5-2 4-4 5-2 35 11
3 West is Best 1 4-3 2-6 5-3 3-4 4-3 5-2 5-3 30 10
4 Alba 2-6 3-5 3-5 4-3 5-3 5-3 5-3 27 8
5 Barbican 4NCL 2 2-6 2-5 4-3 3-4 3-4 5-2 4-2 26 6
6 Spirit of Atticus A 1-6 2-5 3-4 3-5 4-3 4-4 5-3 24 5
7 The ADs 1-6 4-4 2-5 3-5 2-5 4-4 5-2 23 4
8 Cambridge University 1 3-5 2-5 3-5 3-5 2-4 3-5 2-5 19 0


Our hopes of getting a [token] draw in the match rather vanished when John Cooper won on board 2 after provocative play with the black pieces in the opening by Brett. John met Brett's aggression full on and established the advantage after some interesting inter-play. This advantage translated to an easily won ending. This left Glenn in play on board 3 against Katarzyna Toma. The players had arrived at a rook and bishops of opposite colour ending and the struggle moved on with a draw always seeming the likely result. The delay in the conclusion of our match gave us the chance to enjoy the 5 boards still in play in the survival match between Barbican 2 and Alba. The scores were level coming into the match and in the three games completed with complications in each remaining game. My favourite tussles were on boards 1, 2 and 8 but others will have different choices for their top 3. Our match was completed around the 5 hour mark, the expected draw giving West is Best their 3rd win of the weekend and their second by the score of 4-3. and we headed home. It was only later that we got the result of the "big match", Alba had prevailed 4-3 to win the toughest battle of their three year existence. Well played indeed against formidable opponents!


Thus another season is completed and a time for mature reflection. We will return to competition keener than ever next season. You may feel that this immediate reaction does not represent mature reflection but the problem is that we are hopeless addicts to the camaraderie, competition and atmosphere of the 4NCL. We are ever grateful for the founding fathers and mothers some 25 years ago and to the current great team led by Mike Truran. Particular thanks are due to Alex Holowczak, Matt Carr and Dave Thomas of divisions 1 and 2 and Lara Barnes and Alex McFarlane from the Northern League with whom we have most contact. We do realise that these hard workers on our behalf are merely the top of the pyramid of diligent workers in the cause.


Thanks to one and all. Congratulations to our oldest rivals from the North, Bradford DCA A who are promoted to division 2 from the Northern League; we look forward to renewing competition with them and with Northern League champions Gonzaga. Congratulations too to former Northern League rivals North East England whom we will not meet next season since they have continued their yo-yo run with a return to the 1st division. We look forward to seeing you all in November ready for our next fix.


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 ^