The Northern 4NCL 1st Weekend, 6th-7th Nov 2010 by John Carleton
The first weekend of the newly formed northern branch of
Britain's most prestigious team tournament got under way at Barcelo Redworth
Hotel, beautifully appointed albeit bewildering in its internal geography, on
the outskirts of Darlington.
With only the lists of registered players to guide us we
anticipated a possible rough ride from Manchester Manticores in our Saturday
match and perhaps a more straightforward task on Sunday facing Bradford DCA
Knights B team. As is frequently the case in such matters the actuality proved
Manchester Manticores were without their two most
highly rated registered players and because of a late cry-off were doomed to
scoring the only defaults of the weekend [one in each round]. Thus Spirit of
Atticus scored the first point in the history of this branch of the competition
and approached the task of adding to this score with relish. At the outset Dave
Robertson on board 4 seemed most likely to notch our first "genuine" win quickly
setting up a mobile centre which soon converted to a bone in Black's throat in
the form of a big passed pawn on d6. This likelihood soon vanished as Steve
Connor had settled into a very smooth rhythm on board 3 with the black pieces,
Steve boldly favoured two knights against two bishops, set up a bind that netted
a pawn and left his opponent facing only further discomfort and material loss.
The resignation appeared early at first glance but a little study showed it to
be totally justified.
Peter Ackley on board 2 agreed a draw in a somewhat stodgy
position each side facing a strongly placed opposition knight severely
restricting their options. As [true for both sides] the "cure" of removing the
knight was even worse than the original illness, and correctly judging that the
match was progressing rather well, Peter agreed a draw.
My match reached the outcome that seemed inevitable fairly
soon after my opponent unsoundly sacrificed a piece in the opening. Then, after
a rather sketchy opening [as ever, understatement is one of my strengths], Mike
on board 5 sprung into action. Firstly a pawn was shed to obtain some elbow
room. An exchange sacrifice soon followed and White was defenceless; Mike
clinically delivered the full point.
Meanwhile Andy Mort our scheduled board 6, did not have the
afternoon off. Instead he played against Bradford's reserve and the extremely
tough battle that resulted saw Andy victorious approaching 4 hours play. In
completing this match Andy set a record for a gap between successive Atticus
games of approximately 35 years [If any Atticus old-timers fancy a pop at this
record we will be glad to accommodate their attempt]. This left Dave alone still
in play against his opponent who many felt showed a commendable if somewhat
surprisingly long-lasting interest in the ending of king, two knights and two
pawns [Dave] versus king and bishop [Himself]. Dave was in due course
Preparations for Round 2
With scarcely a backward glance at Yorvik
and Cheddleton 2 still locked in battle and the splattering
of games in the other matches round the room, we hurried to
the bar to gather our strength. After a couple of drinks we
had a couple of drinks more and then boarded our taxi headed
for what Dave's assiduous research had revealed is one of
the finest curry houses in England outside of Bradford. In
fact, the length of the journey was such that we thought we
might actually arrive in Bradford.
Before we could get amongst the food we had of course to
stock up on drinks, and at this point came the most tense phase of the entire
weekend: the waiters gathered round the table, five of the Atticus team fidgeted
nervously and the sixth, Dave submerged into a trance. He sniffed the wine
before him, his face inscrutable. Then, furrowing his brow and looking skywards
Dave seemed to be summoning divine help to fathom some mystery before suddenly
awakening to announce to the assembly that this was a very fine wine. The relief
was palpable; waiters returned to their duties, the team threw the wine down
their throats with gusto and the excellent food was enjoyed by one and all.
And so, the match against Bradford B got underway, and it
quickly became apparent that our youthful opponents were ready for battle. They
had lost the day before to their senior team, [containing the highest rated
players on view for the weekend] but the margin of 4-2 was not undeserved and
hinted at their potential.
The Surtees Conference Room, where
conditions were of the usual 4NCL high standard
photo © Pat
Bennett (Holmes Chapel)
Nonetheless, Steve was once again the man in a hurry,
opening the scoring for us by the simple expedient of grabbing a pawn and
exchanging down to a won ending which he duly won avoiding his opponent's
attempts to cause confusion.
Robbo meanwhile was involved in a tactical melee
which saw him emerge with 4 pawns for a piece; alas by then all routes for the
white pieces were heading for Dave's king and he was helpless as the Bradford
player levelled the match scores with an all round impressive performance.
2 was next to finish; despite playing the black side of an exchange French Peter
soon found himself in a lively position. He quickly adapted to the changing face
of the game and assumed almost total control. It is possible Peter's opponent
missed some tactical chances to extend the fight but the result was a reward for
Peter's controlled aggression. My game was next to conclude doubling our
advantage; the position suddenly went from somewhat advantageous for me to
overwhelming as my opponent tried to attack more quickly than was warranted by
the position. We thus needed one draw from the bottom two boards to clinch the
match and for a good while Andy on board 6 seemed to offer Atticus the better
prospects for this happy outcome; we were soon disabused of the notion that
matters would be easy when his opponent stoked up a sustained attack to break
through decisively for another impressive Bradford victory.
By this time Mike
had gradually worked his way back into the game [from a position arising from an
extremely sketchy opening on this occasion] and had exchanged to an ending where
he had even gained a not very valuable pawn. The draw was his for the asking and
in making the request Mike ensured a happy start for the Spirit of Atticus who
now lie 2nd in the newly formed league [on alphabetical order!].
On the evidence
of this first weekend, the competition promises many close matches and
interesting chess over the coming months.
Spirit of Atticus team page
league Table •
Games in PGN
photos from the weekend