Spirit of Atticus


Liverpool European Capital of Culture 2008

Dedicated to the 'Spirit of Atticus'

4NCL Report from Staverton Park, 23rd-24th Feb 2013



Division 2, Third Weekend 2012/13 (Rounds 5 & 6) by John Carleton



De Vere Staverton Park

The 4NCL at Staverton Park continued the progress through the season with rounds 5 and 6 of divisions 1 and 2 and the corresponding rounds for division three North at Wychwood Park [near Crewe] and division 3 South at Daventry Court Hotel. This extra information should be viewed in the context of public service provision and not as a result of another tough weekend in pool A of division 2 that saw the Spirit of Atticus team propelled into another second half of the season in the relegation pool of division 2.



John Carleton

Saturday saw us paired against an Anglian Avengers team who can rightly boast a team of experience blended with youthful talent. We, as ever, leaned heavily towards the experienced end of the market. The action was not slow in warming up particularly from where I was seated. My game was relatively quiet but each side of me the action was ferocious as the two Lancashire players in the Atticus squad charged into battle with the white pieces. Because of their residency and solid styles Martin Mitchell and Nick Ivell are known as the Blackpool Rocks [Blackpool Rockers when they let their hair down] but they were certainly quick out of the blocks in round 5. Nick on board 1 obtained a slight edge in a very open position and his young opponent was soon feeling the heat.


Martin's game was a reminder that we are fortunate to still have a number of excellent chess columns in our daily press, none better, I would suggest, than Jon Speelman's in the Independent. Only the day before this match Jon had written [with reference to the game Grischuk v Kamsky, won by Grischuk, at the 2013 Aeroflot Open], "The Exchange Slav is often far from harmless. Having played 5...Qb6 [after 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.cxd5 cxd5 5.Bf4] perhaps 7.... Qxb2 [after a further 6.e3 Nc6 7.Bd3] ... was consistent". On board 3 Martin and opponent Shaun Munson briskly played the Exchange Slav until Shaun played 10...Qxb2, perhaps determined not to make the same mistake as Kamsky, but after Martin's reply, plunged into an hour's thought since the loss of a rook seemed inevitable.



The Moorings, Crick, Northamptonshire


It was not all good news for Atticus: Steve Connor on board 7 had dropped a pawn and his prospects looked bleak; Dave Latham on board 4 had slipped into a passive position and soon he too shed material. Sheila on board 5 had got caught in a dangerous opening variation and her position became very loose as she strove to stay in the game. Andy on board 6 emerged with a slight disadvantage from the opening; his opponent Philip Tozer eventually engineered a break in the centre which threatened a decisive incursion as his bishops came to life. Board 8 saw Peter Ackley equalise with the black pieces and when he made a thematic exchange sacrifice only a victory or a draw seemed plausible results.


And so the battles came to a head: Martin duly won, a rook up in the semi-ending with mate coming next move, some 25 moves having been played since the rook's doom was apparent and 19 moves after the exchange of queens. Nick won in good style keeping control as the the tactics flowed. Steve, Andy and Sheila battled gamely but fell to defeat. Having equalised from the opening I drifted and was roundly outplayed by Edmund Player; with both of us ending extremely short of time there was, from where I was sitting, more than an element of farce about the decision to declare that I had forfeited on time. Nonetheless, on chess merits I have no complaints that the result was the right one. Dave Latham was the last to throw in the towel after a tough struggle. Peter played well, kept control and made it eight decisive games in the match with Anglian Avengers winners 5-3.



The vagaries of the Atticus squad rotation system saw Entertainment Secretary Dave Robertson at home in Liverpool whilst the team, taking advantage of his customary in-depth planning, set out to The Moorings in Crick. This was a return visit where we had enjoyed a very well received evening meal from 3rd division days. The journey proved eventful, but sustained by Kendall Mint Cake and other such Northern delights, the throng duly arrived. The reports passed to the skipper [excused to attend a family reunion bash in Warwickshire] regarding the qualities of the restaurant were more mixed than on our previous visit, but sustained by the beverages on offer, the team returned to Staverton Park mentally refreshed and ready to rest before the challenges of the Sunday game.



Round 6 saw us paired with Rhyfelwyr Essyllwg and this promised to be a close encounter. We had welcomed back one of our leading supporters, Jeannie Latham, for this weekend after her leave the previous 4NCL weekend to improve her Welsh language skills [with a view to helping us pronounce our opponents' team name amongst other things]. She was joined by Andy Smith so we were geared up to put on a good show for our followers.


There was one relatively quick draw: Peter on board 8 had won a pawn with some nimble knight manoeuvring but was unduly pessimistic, or so it appears with the advantage of hindsight, about his ability to hold his pawn formation intact so made early peace. All the other games were hard fought with some extremely interesting positions arising. Nick on board 1 against Richard Jones swapped queens but stood toe to toe and seemed to be gaining the upper hand. On board 2 I gained a "nibble" from the opening with the two bishops and an unbalanced pawn formation but opponent Timothy Kett was patient and seemed on the verge of equality. Board 3 found Martin under great pressure but just about standing firm faced with an impressive assault all arising from 1.Nc3! [exclamation for the move not the sentiment of the sentence].


On board 4 Dave Latham went for a bind but a sensational break in the centre by opponent Tom Brown set the ball rolling for the game of the match. Tom emerged from the first phase with an extra "half pawn" but consistently exploited the hollow-chested white structure to emerge two pawns ahead and the win was something of a formality. Sheila on board 5 had taken on an apparent weakness in her pawn structure but soon obtained balanced chances. She unwisely headed for an endgame where her pawns linked up a little better but also where opponent John Trevelyan's pawns took on devastating power. The win for John was never in doubt thereafter. Andy on board 6 played a forcing game but was met by opponent Olivia Smith prepared to meet fire with fire. Andy won on time in a much superior position but black still fighting hard. On board 7 Steve's opponent, junior Alexander Freeland, played an impressive positional opening which he was able to convert into a direct attack on Steve's king. This in turn saw a queen ending with extra pawns for white. Steve fought back however and Alexander did well to maintain his composure as the extra pawns dropped off and was able to force a won king and pawn ending.


Division 2a

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 GP Pts
1 Oxford 1   5½-2½   4-4 4½-3½ 5-3 6½-1½ 2½-5½ 28 9
2 Pandora's Box Grantham 2½-5½   4½-3½ 4½-3½ 3-5   5-3 7-1 26½ 8
3 Wessex   3½-4½   4½-3½ 5½-2½ 2½-5½ 5-3 4½-3½ 25½ 8
4 Anglian Avengers 1 4-4 3½-4½ 3½-4½   7-1 5-3 5-3   28 7
5 Poisoned Pawns 3½-4½ 5-3 2½-5½ 1-7   4½-3½   5-3 21½ 6
6 Rhyfelwyr Essyllwg 1 3-5   5½-2½ 3-5 3½-4½   4-4 5½-2½ 24½ 5
7 Spirit of Atticus 1½-6½ 3-5 3-5 3-5   4-4   5-3 19½ 3
8 e2e4.org.uk 2 5½-2½ 1-7 3½-4½   3-5 2½-5½ 3-5   18½ 2


The top boards had gradually unfolded to our advantage. Martin, after his opening discomfort found himself in a long game of manoeuvres with little direct contact and approximately equal prospects but this changed when opponent Alan Spice maintaining his creative approach tried to unbalance matters with an exchange sacrifice. This turned out to be a bad error of judgement; Martin remain cool, swapped queens and the resulting ending was a trivial win. Your computer may tell you that Nick was winning easily when he agreed the draw. This is not true; his opponent had muddied the waters by creating a pawn wedge ready to roll on the queenside at the cost of a piece. Nick, although materially up was in time trouble and acquiesced in a repetition; even with time it is difficult to keep control of such a position. My advantage had endured into a rook and pawn ending and when the position broke up it transpired that the simplified position was a relatively straightforward win for me thus confirming the result as a 4-4 draw. At times during the match we hoped for more but have to concede that justice was probably done on the day.


And so we go on to Hinckley Island for rounds 7 and 8. Although there is still a round of qualifying to go we are not destined for the promotion pool [yes you can almost hear Mickey, Nigel, Gawain et al breath a collective sigh of relief]. It is instead the demotion pool that beckons, but fear not, we will be up for the fight.



Rd5 resultsRd5 results

Spirit of Atticus team page

Division 2a TableGames in PGN

This report is also available here

Previous Spirit of Atticus reports

Chess Photos © Steve Connor, Spirit of Atticus


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