4NCL: 4,5 & 6 May 2002

Saturday 4 May

1 w Short, Nigel 2673 1 - 0 Poulton, James 2409
2 b Speelman, Jonathan S. 2596 - Webb, Richard M. 2361
3 w Baburin, Alexander 2565 1 - 0 Corkett, Anthony R. 2326
4 b Emms, John M. 2537 1 - 0 Simons, Martin J. 2230
5 w Turner, Matthew J. 2505 1 - 0 Yeo, Michael J. 2206
6 b Ward, Christopher 2500 - Neil, David R. 2222
7 w Hunt, Harriet (F) 2415 1 - 0 Pleasants, Allan J. 1944
8 b Levitt, Jonathan P. 2412 1 - 0 Howard, Emily (F) 2017
        7 - 1    

On seeing the team lists, I realised that my calculations of the odds of avoiding relegation had been too optimistic, since instead of the average outrating of 250 points a board, we were actually ourated by an average of over 300 points a board! Philip had failed a late fitness test for the second time this season and Ian and Rob were by then unavailable, which meant that Allan was called up for the first time in two years.

Our weakened team meant that the odds on an 8-0 defeat had improved to something shorter than 10-1, but the combination of Richard "Draw?" Webb and the FA Cup Final persuaded Jon Speelman that he "didn't like his position much", so this ignominy was avoided early on. Emily never looked like regaining the pawn she lost on move 4. Allan got an unpleasant position and was never in the hunt from about move 10. James got yet another Winawer sideline and not enough counterplay. I was the only one to reach move 40 but foolishly swapped off into a lost ending, when keeping the bits on was perfectly playable. Martin drifted into a worse position and left a mate in one en prise. Tony had very good compensation for his Benko pawn, but went the wrong way about winning it back and lost in time-trouble. The one bright spot was Dave's game. Having had an earlier draw offer declined, he managed to improve his position and relative clock time to such an extent that his second offer was gratefully accepted.

Sunday 5 May

1 w Nunn, John D.M. 2595 - Poulton, James 2409
2 b Rogers, Ian 2559 1 - 0 Webb, Richard M. 2361
3 w Chandler, Murray G. 2543 1 - 0 Corkett, Anthony R. 2326
4 b Hebden, Mark L. 2537 1 - 0 Yeo, Michael J. 2206
5 w McShane, Luke J. 2538 - Simons, Martin J. 2230
6 b Summerscale, Aaron 2503 1 - 0 Neil, David R. 2222
7 w Gallagher, Joseph G. 2498 1 - 0 Pleasants, Allan J. 1944
8 b Richards, Heather S. (F) 2252 1 - 0 Howard, Emily (F) 2017
        7 - 1    

Strangely, given the result, this was probably our best performance of the season. All the games were hard fought, and we were still in with a chance in all of them for a long time. Unlike the previous day, six games reached the time control and Tony didn't lose until nearly nine o'clock. However, I did notice that after 1 hours play we were behind on the clock on all boards, in some cases substantially, and eventually most of us were ground down.

Emily's game was the first to finish. She was doing quite well until she lost her queen, after which she missed a chance to do even better!

Howard,E (2017) - Richards,H (2252)

18.f4 Bd6 19.f5? Rxe3 20.Bxf7+ Kf8?

[20...Kxf7 21.fxg6+ Kg8 22.gxh7+ Kxh7 is a lot better, and 20....Kg7 is also a lot safer]

21.Qxe3 Bc5 22.Qxc5+ bxc5 23.fxg6 hxg6 24.Bxg6+ Kg8 25.Bf7+ Kh8


[Missing a great chance: 26.Rd5! Qg4 27.Rh5+ Kg7 28.Rh3! (28.Bd5 also wins)

28...Qg5 29.Nh5+ Kf8 30.Rg3 Qe5 31.Bc4+ Ke8 32.Nf6+ Kd8 33.Rg8+ Ke7 34.Nd5+ Kd6 35.Rf6+ Qxf6 36.Nxf6 wins]

26...Qg4 27.Rdf1 [27.Rdd5 is level] 27...Ne7 28.Bh5? [28.Rxc5 is still a bit better for white]

28...Qg7 29.Rf7 Qe5 30.Bg4 Rd8 31.Nh5 Bd5 32.R7f6 Qe3+ 33.Kh1 Rg8 34.h3 Rxg4 35.hxg4 Qh3+ 0-1

James was next to finish. Wisely perhaps, he gave up his beloved Winawer in favour of 3....dxe4. Despite getting his king stuck in the centre, he managed to survive and was a bit better when he agreed a draw with 2 minutes left for 12 moves. Dave was quite a bit better before swapping his good bishop for control of the d file, which didn't count for a lot against his opponent's h pawn. I managed to produce one of my more unusual openings, with both kings going for an early walk. I too was a bit better before making some errors in time-trouble. Allan had another dodgy opening, but this time fought back well, despite the 500 point rating gap. Tony blundered a pawn on move 41 and Richard on move 40, thereby losing his chance of an IM norm. Martin produced the defense of the day:

McShane,L (2538) - Simons,M (2230)


[I did wonder about 51...Be1+ but 52.Kxe1 Rd1+ 53.Ke2 c1Q 54.Rxc1 Rxc1 55.Kf3 wins quite easily]

52.Bxc2 Rd2+ 53.Kf3 Rxc2 54.h5 Rc1


[I think 55.h6 is a better try e.g. 55....Bb2 56.Rb7

(56.Rxc1 Bxc1 draws e.g. 57.g4 Bb2 58.Ke4 Kf6 59.g5+ Kg6 60.Kf3 Kf5=)

56...Ba1 (56...Bf6 57.h7 Rh1 58.Kg2 Rh6 59.g4 wins) 57.Kg4 Kf6 58.Rb6+ Kf7 59.Kg5 looks good]

55...Bb2 56.Ra7 Bd4 57.Ra6+ Kf7 58.Ra5 Rg1 59.Ra2 Bc3 60.Ra3 Bb4 61.Rb3 Be1

Now it must be drawn, since if necessary, Black could just play Bxg3 with a drawn R+P ending

62.Rf3 [62.f5 Bxg3 63.Rxg3 Ra1=] 62...Kg7 63.Rd3 Kh6 64.f5 Rxg3+ 65.Rxg3 Bxg3 66.Kxg3


From the look on Luke's face, I'm not convinced that he had seen this. 66....Kxh5 loses of course.

67.h6 Kxh6 68.Kf4 Kg7 69.Ke5 Kf7 70.f6 Kf8 71.Ke6 Ke8 72.f7+ Kf8 73.Kf6 1/2-1/2


Monday 6 May

1 w Poulton, James 2409 - McDonald, Neil R. 2389
2 b Webb, Richard M. 2361 - Richardson, John R. 2308
3 w Corkett, Anthony R. 2326 - Moskovic, David M. 2250
4 b Simons, Martin J. 2230 1 - 0 Shaw, David A. 2211
5 w Yeo, Michael J. 2206 1 - 0 Friedgood, David 2224
6 b Neil, David R. 2222 0 - 1 Snape, Ian * 2185
7 w Pleasants, Allan J. 1944 0 - 1 Bellin, Jana (F) 2203
8 b Howard, Emily (F) 2017 0 - 1 Howell, Christopher I. 2160

By contrast with the previous day, this was perhaps our worst display of the season.

The top two boards didn't last very long. I could tell things weren't going well when on the next board to me, Dave went through his usual routine of writing his move down and then staring at the board for over a minute before playing his move. I had always thought that the whole purpose behind this ritual was to provide a last chance to check that one hadn't made a blunder, like, for example, leaving a mate in one available.......

Snape,I (2185) - Neil,D (2222)

33...Ke7?? 34.Re8# 1-0

Emily always looked to be under pressure. Allan sacrificed a pawn for no discernable compensation. Tony looked and felt a bit worse when he agreed a draw. Martin's opponent helpfully sacrificed a piece for two pawns in a less than ideal position and only lasted 19 moves. I managed to produce a TN on move 6:

Yeo,M (2206) - Friedgood,D (2224)

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Qb6 5.Nc3 a6

I couldn't remember seeing this position before. Nigel Short against Judith Polgar in 1996 played 6.a3 which is quite sensible since it then threatens 7.Be3 Qxb2?? 8.Na4, but after some thought I decided to save a move:

6.Be3!? Qxb2 7.Na4 Qb4+

[At the time I was more worried about 7...Qa3 8.Nxe6 (8.c3 is also playable)8...dxe6 9.Nb6 unclear (I still haven't a clue what is happening)]

8.c3 Qa5 9.Ne2 Nc6 10.Nb6 Rb8 11.Nc4


[In my think on move 6 I rejected 11...Qd8 because of 12.Bb6

but after 12....Qh4 13.Bc7 Qxe4 Black might be OK]

12.Qd2 [12.a4 may be better]

12...f6?! [12...b5 13.Ng3 Qg6 14.Nd6+ Bxd6 15.Qxd6 Nf6 is better for Black] 13.Bb6 Ne5


[My opponent thought I should have played 14.Nd6+ Bxd6 15.Qxd6 Nc6 16.c4 which probably is best

I also considered 14.Ng3 Nxc4 15.Bxc4 Qh6 16.f4 with good compensation]

The game lurched on. My opponent offered a draw just as I won my pawn back, but by then I was sure I had an edge. I was a bit fortunate to win on time with two moves to go, although I was still rather better.


I guess relegation was what everyone expected of us, but it was a bit disappointing to finish last. As I feared at the time, the critical matches were the losses to Thistle White Rose and Barbican 2. Winning them would have been enough to stay up. I will do a performance table for the season as usual in due course, but only Martin will derive much pleasure from it. Division 2 looks worryingly stronger than when we were last there.

Last modified: May 13th, 2002

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