4NCL: 30 April - 2 May 2005

Saturday 30 April

    WESSEX 1   v BRISTOL 1  
1 w Upton, Ian J 2242 0 - 1 Werle, Jan * 2457
2 b Allicock, Rawle A 2292 0 - 1 Cobb, Charles 2405
3 w Simons, Martin J 2293 1 - 0 Rudd, Jack 2296
4 b Webb, Richard M 2313 - Buckley, Simon T 2332
5 w Corkett, Anthony R 2321 - Beaumont, Chris 2329
6 b Evans-Quek, Suan-Shiau 2295 - Sherwin, James T 2302
7 w Yeo, Michael J 2222 0 - 1 Buckley, David E 2223
8 b Evans-Quek, Debbie (F) 1995 0 - 1 Ashby, Ann-Marie (F) 2079
        2-5    

This was a crucial relegation battle. We maintained our amateur status and stuck by the same squad as for our previous four matches. Unfortunately, Bristol did not and produced a useful young Dutch player on Board 1 which thus ensured we were outrated on every board. Playing in a separate room added to the tense atmosphere although conditions were rather marred by a perpetually slamming door and the difficulty Debbie had in reaching any pieces in her opponent's half of the board!

Martin was the first to finish, despite his opponent taking rather longer than usual over his moves. By the time they reached move 40, his opponent only had 90 minutes left compared to Martin's 4 seconds. I then spoiled things by messing up a perfectly playable position. Richard reached a very blocked position. Tony's mind went a blank but he was still able to offer the draw that clinched his IM norm. Suan also called a halt just as time-trouble was looming, thus avoiding a visit from the RSPCC (Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Clocks) for two of the biggest clock-bangers! Debbie and Rawle subsided soon afterwards.

The biggest tragedy was on top board. Needing a win to keep his norm chances alive, Ian had a very good opening, but then overlooked a rook invasion. However, he preserved chances into the time scramble to reach the following positon:

Here, instead of the sneaky 38....Ne5, which would also have won on any of the previous 3 moves, Black played 38....f5?. Ian responded with 39.Qe7 which allowed 39....Qd6+ and a won ending. Instead, 39.Bh6+ doesn't work because of Nxh6, but inserting 39.Re6 does the trick since when the queen moves, White has 40.Bh6+ followed by 41.Qxb1 winning. Ian spent the rest of the weekend cursing his missed opportunity as this would have given him a realistic shot at an IM norm.

Dinner was a rather sombre affair.

Sunday 1 May

    WOOD GREEN 2   v WESSEX 1  
1 w Emms, John M 2505 - Upton, Ian J 2242
2 b Ward, Christopher 2485 - Simons, Martin J 2293
3 w Arakhamia-Grant,Ketevan(F) 2452 0 - 1 Corkett, Anthony R 2321
4 b Littlewood, Paul E 2365 - Webb, Richard M 2313
5 w Levitt, Jonathan P 2441 1 - 0 Allicock, Rawle A 2292
6 b Pert, Richard G 2407 1 - 0 Evans-Quek, Suan-Shiau 2295
7 w Sowray, Peter J 2342 1 - 0 Yeo, Michael J 2222
8 b Tiller, Bjorn 2382 1 - 0 Evans-Quek, Debbie (F) 1995
        5-2    

We weren't expecting anything from this match, particularly since the opposition bore a passing resemblance to a team that had already beaten us 6-2 earlier in the season. In the end we were not disappointed, but with a bit more luck matters might have been even closer.

My personal nightmare continued by blundering a rook in a level position. Debbie was playing her opponent for the second time this season and always looked to be struggling, although she lasted into the 5th hour. Ian managed to play a move his opponent hadn't considered. Richard revelled in playing against the Dragon for once and missed a good continuation towards the end.

The remaining four games all reached time scrambles which were so severe that they all required reconstruction. As Debbie was still playing, there weren't enough boards to go around to achieve this simultaneously which caused some amusing squabbling. Tony had been a pawn down, but managed to conjure up a mate from nowhere. Martin had been a bit better, but temporarily sacrificed a piece that he was probably lucky to win back. Suan's position never looked particularly promising. Rawle created a lot of chances and was unlucky not to draw:

Here his opponent characteristically wrote on his scoresheet 43.Qg7 (incidentally, a habit I assume he will be kicking after 1st July 2005?!) presumably thinking he was winning the black queen, but then spent a quarter of an hour in deep thought before playing.......43.Qc7+ instead. This won the knight and the game after 43....Kd4 44.Rd1+ Kc3 45.Qxg3+ Kb4 46.Qxg6. What Rawle had seen, and had gradually dawned on his opponent was that after 43.Qg7+ Kd6 44.Qxb2 (44.Qd7+ would still win) Black has 44....Rf1+ 45.Kg2 Rf2+ 46.Qxf2 gxf2 47.h5 Nf4+ with a draw.

Monday 2 May

    WESSEX 1   v N.W. EAGLES 1  
1 w Corkett, Anthony R 2321 0 - 1 Trent, Lawrence 2387
2 b Evans-Quek, Suan-Shiau 2295 0 - 1 Jackova, Jana (F) 2406
3 w Upton, Ian J 2242 - Hanley, Craig A 2397
4 b Webb, Richard M 2313 - Morrison, Graham 2305
5 w Simons, Martin J 2293 0 - 1 Littlewood, John E 2308
6 b Yeo, Michael J 2222 0 - 1 Hulmes, David I 2206
7 w Allicock, Rawle A 2292 1 - 0 Hughes, Howard R 2216
8 b Evans-Quek, Debbie (F) 1995 0 - 1 Spence, David 2240
        2 - 6    

North West Eagles v Wessex (photo courtesy of John Saunders BCM).

As it turned out, we needed to win this match 6-2 to stay up. While that never looked likely, we could and should have won the match. Martin and I both self-destructed our winning positions and Suan's game was very random.

Debbie's king was forced on an unpleasant march to h3 where it perished. The impartial observer might have thought that Rawle was losing by counting the pawns he had lost, but he claims to have always had the initiative (which I think translates as he thought he might be losing too!) Richard and Ian both had games where all the pieces had deserted the a,b and c files. Neither seemed in serious danger of winning or losing. Tony was the last to finish with his first loss of the season, but having probably done enough for an 11 round norm.

The tragedy had one final twist when, a few days later, it was discovered that Martin had resigned in a position that he could have drawn:

Martin confesses to having only considered 62.Kc3 Ba4 63.Kb4 which loses to 63....f4. However, after 62.Kc3 Ba4 63.Kc4!, 63.....f4 can be answered with (amongst others) 64.Kd3 drawing, so Black has to wait: 63....Kb8 64.c6 Kc8 65.Kc5 Kc7 66.b6+ Kb8:

Now, if White continues to push his pawns 67.c7+ Kb7! 68.Kd5 Bd7 69.Kc5 Ka6 70.Kd6 Bc8 71.Kc5 Bb7 72.a4 Ka5 wins for Black. However, in the diagram, White can play 67.Kd5 (or 67.Kd4) since after 67....Bxc6 68.Ke5 Bd7 (or 68....Be4) 69.a4 Kb7 70.a5 Ka6 71.Kf4 draws.

I guess relegation wasn't a complete surprise given past seasons and the strength of our squad, but it was frustrating to have come so close to salvation on this occasion. The high point was the win over Guildford 2; the low point the loss to Richmond, although even an extra point in that match would have been insufficient as things turned out.

In due course, I will produce the usual performance table, although in my case, non-performance might be more appropriate!


Last modified: May 17, 2005

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