|De Vere Sunningdale Park in February|
Thus concerns about travel conditions from the North added to pressure on the captain already feeling the heat about his lack of IT skills in general, specifically the apparent lack of skill of texting ability [here, unlike one slightly more high profile manager, I can categorically state that I have sent a text and quite often notice when I receive one], lack of a cat, let alone a bank account in the cat's name, poor results, mounting criticism of the Martin Johnsonesque policy of trusting the players, not to mention general concerns over recent hand-shaking fiascos.
All-in-all it was another 4NCL weekend and the team were looking forward to keen competition.
Christmas card scenery awaited us
Peter on board 6 delivered us a win to gain the lead, firstly he forced his opponent to sacrifice, then leaving his king to keep out the first wave of the attack, finally launched unstoppable counter play on the long diagonal. Andy Mort's advantage on board 8 by now seemed to be only minimal. Sheila's control appeared to spread across the board but opponent Jeff Smith, showing tenacity and skill, managed to dig in and engineer enough exchanges to reduce that control and a draw was agreed.
I reached a draw by, having finally found a way to break into my opponent's position, joining him in a time-scramble, not startling inaccurate for that genre but typically leading to great changes in the nature of the position, but then repeated moves once too often [past the time limit of course] allowing him to claim the draw in a position in which I would otherwise have been entitled to play on. Andy Mort too produced a surprise, managing to a reach a difficult but probably won ending which proved a quick win when his opponent went astray.
Jades Fountain Sunninghill
Next morning saw us start play bottom of our section of Division 2 because the only team previously below us, Rhyfelwyr Essyllwg, albeit only on game points scored, had landed a fine victory against our opponents of the day, Brown Jack, and had thus overtaken us. These erstwhile opponents might justifiably be called 'boing boing' Brown Jack because of their yo-yo antics between Divisions 2 and 3 in recent years, but in our brief experience of the 4NCL we had also found them perfect exemplars of the great competitive yet sporting and friendly ethos which is a hallmark of the league.
The match was tense from the start with our odd numbered boards demonstrating early pressure with the white pieces and our even boards likewise less comfortable. Thus on board 1, Nick was setting up gentle long-term pressure and on board 2 I had unnecessarily allowed a slight weakening of my pawn formation and as a result was facing long range discomfort. Board 3 was brewing nicely with Andy Smith lining up Paul Girdlestone's king position but Paul countering classically with central pressure. Board 4 saw Sheila take a small space disadvantage in return for simplifying exchanges and on board 5 Dave Latham was starting to eye the black king position, his advantage in space granting some room to manoeuvre. Peter on board 6 had accepted a slightly inferior French ending but his game terminated abruptly when he demonstrated the old adage that "the mistakes are all there just waiting to be made" when a blunder dropped the exchange, resignation soon following. Steve on board 7 had the more comfortable position but stage by stage his opponent became more active and a level ending justified the draw. Andy Mort on board 8 came out of the opening phase well gradually, it seemed, taking control. However as her position became critical Megan Owens struck back and guided matters into a flat drawn ending, peace terms quickly being concluded.
With the approach of the first time control matters cleared up. Dave won impressively on board 5 having systematically stripped the black king of defenders. Nick's pressure was neatly broken up by Peter Richmond and a position which neither side could attempt to win saw the draw agreed on board 1. Andy and Paul on board 3 gave great entertainment in a time scramble which saw Andy's aggressive and optimistic play justifiably rewarded by the full point. Thus we had just two games in progress. I had a slice of luck when my opponent left a pawn en prise but thereafter he blocked virtually the whole board and I had no winning chances and thus Sheila was left in play against Mike Truran who was clearly determined to give this blocked position with 3 minor pieces and 5 pawns each where he had a space advantage and potential targets his best shot to try and draw the match. Gradually the drama unfolded with plenty of support from team mates for the gladiators and the tension mounting as it became clear that Mike had some dangerous possibilities based on his various knight tours. The game reached its climax with the 50 move rule imminent and Mike setting up his most dangerous possibility, a deadly zugswang following if Sheila got it wrong. Sheila didn't get it wrong and the draw was agreed; Atticus hugs all round after finally winning a match in this tough season.
|The well appointed and spacious playing room for the Division 2 players at Sunningdale|
The long and belated journey North was thus bearable and we look forward to continuing our fight against the drop back to the Northern League in the upcoming 4NCL matches. On my return I was greeted by congratulations to the team from Dave Robertson who had watched the action from the gradually emptying tournament room via the webcam. The pictures he watched doubtless recalled the days of his youth when the equally dashingly handsome actors and beautiful actresses adorned the silver screen to provide tension, but never more than for this production.