The 4NCL had a typically topsy-turvy night across our five league teams during the week, which has ended with only three of our 19 regulars – and none of our teams – on 100% winning records.
We’ll start with the As for a change, who had lost to the weakest team in the group in the first round and now had to take on the strongest team, Celtic Tigers. With almost 300 points per board of a headstart, our opponents duly turned the screw for the evening, though Joe R avoided the whitewash when taking an excellent draw with the black pieces off their 2500-rated IM board 1, who settled for a repetition of moves. Kavin and Stephen both reached endings slightly the worse for wear but were ground down by two more IMs, while Kevin wound up with a nasty pin on his c3 knight, and while he got out of that, his opponent used the time to turn his a-pawn into an unstoppable passer. Next week is a tie against one of the two other teams to have lost both their opening matches, Exeter Honey Badgers. They lost 3-1 last week to the team who beat us 2½-1½ on the opening day, so we have a chance at least! Joe R is top scorer on an unbeaten 1/2.
The Bs had a particularly topsy-turvy night which seems to typify the nature of shorter time-control online games. John wasted three tempi in the early middlegame, and soon found himself under big pressure down an open f-file, at which point he needlessly hung a rook and resigned, which probably just sped up the inevitable anyway. Fortunately, Ben’s opponent also needlessly hung a rook and immediately resigned, which was all the better because Ben had lost an exchange early on after a disaster of an opening, though his opponent had already contrived to let Ben back into the game by the ending. Dylan’s opponent sacced a piece for an attack, missed mate in 3, and escaped into a queen and pawn ending a pawn down, which he was able to hold. Lara, meanwhile, outplayed her opponent and reached the ending a piece up, but with various knight forks being threatened in time trouble, she missed the best continuation and wound up with a knight on a1 holding up a pawn on a2. Both sides queened, Lara had the first check, but then ran out of checks and a draw was agreed in a position of Q+P v Q+N. So a 2-2 draw in a match where probably nobody came away feeling overly happy with how they played, but it still has the side on 3 match points after the first two rounds, and both our opponents won their other matches. Struggling Manchester Juniors are next up; Ben is top scorer on 2/2.
It was a wonky 2-2 draw for the Cs as well, albeit this time against a side 200 points per board higher-rated. Brendan lost on 1 after hanging an exchange having had the better of things up until then. William had an excellent win v 2000+ capped off by a nice rook sac for mate, while Slavko also won, but in more unusual circumstances. In this position –
– white has just played Na4+, winning the bishop, at which point black let his remaining three minutes run down and lost on time. The computer actually scores the position after 1… KxP 2. NxB+ as slightly better for black though, as the queenside pawns are about to run. Black’s pawn on h2, meanwhile, which looks like a retrograde analysis position, got there by taking pieces on both g3 and h2. Dave, finally, outplayed his opponent through to the late middlegame, but then started a swap of pieces which led to a lost king and pawn ending. Fortunately, his opponent didn’t spot that and left a set of rooks on, which meant the position was drawn – though it went to lost and back to drawn again twice more before finally settling on lost, like the Winning Streak ball jumping around the €50k mark and ending up on €10k. Still, the draw means the Cs are also nicely placed on 3 match points, and a nominally easier tie against Enfield 1 – average rating 100 points per board less than us – next week. Top scorer is Slavko on 2/2.
The Ds also had online troubles – Thomas picked up a rook to move it, then decided to put it back where it was, only to not put it back where it was and realise he’d unintentionally made a move which was a huge blunder, hanging a key pawn, after which things didn’t last too much longer. Karel lost an exchange, but his opponent sacced back a piece for no apparent reason and the game reached an opposite-colour bishop ending, which Karel lost after hanging a key pawn to give his opponent passed pawns on both outside files. Fearghal was in huge trouble and threw in a cheapo check – and was presumably rather relieved when his opponent moved his king to allow mate rather than just taking the checking piece, which would have quickly led to a won ending. Danny drew his game, having built up a decent attack but in the end, frustration at being unable to break through maybe told. One opportunity presented itself in this position –
Here, 1… RxB! is very strong – 2. PxR Ng4 3. RxN (otherwise Bxd4, when f2 is a serious weakness, and the rook on a1 is trapped) PxR 4. QxP Qf6 and now f2, d4 and a1 are all huge weaknesses and white is going to lose decisive material.
Danny later sacced a piece, which didn’t work, but his relieved opponent immediately settled for an unnecessary repetition of moves. So the team went down to a 2½-1½ defeat to leave them on just 1 match point, although this is one of the tightest divisions in the whole competition, as it’s one of only two groups where no team has won both their opening games – in fact, barring the two games involving the bottom side, every match has finished 2-2 or 2½-1½. Next up is a winnable game against Crewe BOL. Top scorer is Fearghal on 2/2.
Finally, to the Es, who had a local derby match against RCSI 2. Dimitri had a facile win to start things off, though he did at least end in style with a nice knight mate. Wenle added a second with little fuss, while Max’s game, where he was black, went from a computer score of +8.6 to -6.0 in one move, and later Max reached an ending a clear piece up only to hang the piece and end up hanging on for a draw which was enough to secure the match win. Joe H was last to finish, having lost a decent position by pushing his pawns just a little bit too early. Still, 2½-1½ is a first win of the season and a solid result, lifting the side up to 44th of 69. The round 3 fixture list will be published at the end of the week to allow time for any new clubs to join in. Top scorers are Wenle and Dimitri on 1/2.
Elsewhere, yesterday’s team blitz ended with us one point short of winners Malahide. Stephen was top scorer on 33, while we welcomed Joe R into the team for the first time.