Four Nations Chess League - Final Weekend

May 7, 2012, 9:35 AM |
You might wonder why I have spent the bank holiday weekend putting myself through the mill (yet again) in the Four Nations Chess League. The simple answer is that I did a "Danny" and stated to friends that I would "guarantee" a win! (If you have watched danny's excellent videos on here, one of his live sessions videos has "a guarnateed win" in the title. So, plagiarism admitted to, I am, afterall, an honest chap...... this might or might not be construed as a side swipe at my opponent in the final game on this blog so if you want to know "the truth" then keep reading!
So, the final weekend comprised rounds 9,10 and 11. The format is as usual; One game per day with time controls at 40 moves in 2 hours, then 20 moves in one hour with a 30 minute extension for a "rapidplay" finish! - That's potentially a 7 hour match each day. Not for the faint hearted!
The mighty Banbury Bulldogs were drawn against Warwickshire Select 2 in round 9. We were, as seems the norm with most of the teams I play in, outgraded; by 101 points per board on average this time. We lost the match which, on balance, we actually played some good chess (myself not included!). A 4-2 loss being quite respectable given the difference in ratings.

Warwickshire Select 2
2014   Banbury Bulldogs 1913
401 w Agnew, Alan   2049 ½ - ½ Chapman, Graham W   1994 c
402 b Cooper, David M   2066 ½ - ½ Bruce, David J   2069
403 w Page, Mark E   2023 1 - 0 Lawson, Timothy D   1890 c
404 b Cundy, Mark A   2042 c 0 - 1 Willetts, Stephen J   1954 c
405 w Webster, Paul   2015 1 - 0 Walker, Adrian N   1786 c
406 b Ali, Golam S   1890 1 - 0 Graff, Ben   1786 c
  4 - 2  
My own game saw me up against a very strong player who's FIDE rating is probably lower than it should be - calculating from his ECF rating, he should be 2130! I got in to a bit of a mess, trying out an "Alekhine" and the line my opponent played against me is something I will have to go and look at for sure! Mark plays for Kenilworth in the Leamington League and so, now we have been promoted, I may be playing him next season. There were lessons to be learned from this game and I spent a part of it just trying to avoid checkmate.
Mark misplayed the attack and I should have found the defensive resource 24... Kg7! which would have been much better than simply going into an endgame two pawns down.
So, here's my round 9 effort... yet another loss and I felt a million miles away from my "guaranteed win" scenario!
The game on Sunday saw us drawn against the Fermented Sharks (cool name or what!?) and was interrupted by the small matter of the Newcastle Utd - Manchester City football match, which was being beamed directly to the hotel bar courtest of Sky Television. Being a City supporter for the last 33 odd years, those of you in the know will realise that this was an important game.
Obviously, kick off in the footie match was about the same time as kick off in my chess game. I stuck at it though and despite sneaking out for a couple of updates from the bar, I managed to get a good position in my game against another tough opponent. Both  myself and my comrade in arms, Neil Staples, got honorable draws. The rest of the team crashed and burned. Captain Nick Martin, on bottom board, had a very interesting game and despite our pre-arrangement with Neil as well, to go out for a meal, Nick stuck stubbornly to his guns in a hopelessly lost position. He did finally resign and happily, this left us time to look over some games, have a chat and a drink in the bar (no alcohol for me though, I'm currently abstaining....) before going out for an excellent meal at a local Chinese restuarant. Good food, great company, and we went our separate ways!

Fermented Sharks
2090   Banbury Bulldogs 1957
421 w Maleki, Emanuel   2284 1 - 0 Bruce, David J   2069
422 b Thorarinsson, Pall A   2229 1 - 0 McNally, Richard JE * 2066 c
423 w Farkas, Daniel   2120 ½ - ½ Staples, Neil   1954 c
424 b Kay, Jonathan   1977 ½ - ½ Lawson, Timothy D   1890 c
425 w Hermes, Geoff R   1965 n 1 - 0 Willetts, Stephen J   1954 c
426 b Millward, Kevin P   1969 1 - 0 Martin, Nick   1810 c
  5 - 1  
My own game started well but I had gone wrong somewhere - a draw being a good result against a strong opponent. Still no "guaranteed win" though.... I am pleased that I offered the draw when I did, realising that I had contrived to get myself into an inferior position; it's only good to offer a draw when you stand worse. I think my opponent was quite happy with the result too.
So, onwards to round 11 - my LAST chance to get a win in this my debut season. We were drawn against AMCA Cheetah's.

Banbury Bulldogs 1881   AMCA Cheetahs 1563
451 w Bruce, David J   2069 1 - 0 Wadsworth, James MF   1642 c
452 b Staples, Neil   1954 c ½ - ½ Jones, Jeremy J   1598
453 w Lawson, Timothy D   1890 c 1 - 0 Coates, Christine   1450 c
454 b Walker, Adrian N   1786 c 1 - d default   None e
455 w Jackson, Gary C   1994 c 1 - d default   None e
456 b Rowan, Daniel * 1594 c 1 - d default   None e
  5½ - 1½  
The Cheetah's defaulted on three boards which meant that (having been selected for board 4) I wouldn't get a game. Could I possibly justify counting a default win as a property win? Not if I'm being honest with myself, and honesty is always the best policy if you ask me!
Luckily, some of our other players stepped aside and I was on board three, with Dave Bruce on board one and Neil Staples on board two. Dave won his game and Neil drew, leaving me playing against a lower rated opponent.
Now, there is a lesson to be learned from my game.... Throughout the game, I had been doing my usual, play a move, get a cup of water, go for a comfort break, walk around a bit, come back to the board, look at the position, get up again, wander around... lots of nervous energy you see!!
I'd got a position that I was happy with and had the bishop pair against bishop and knight. The position also settled into me having an outside passed pawn with the potential to push on. I was quite happy though material was level. The my opponent made what I thought was a mistake and I capitalised on it, the end result being my rook forking a Knight and Bishop with no way for the Knight to defend the bishop and vice versa. At last, I thought, a win!
Having got back to the board form yet another one of my walkabouts, my opponent picked up her knight which was sat on the d8 square and played the move Nd8-e6 which defended the bishop on f8! I looked at the position and couldn't believe it! How had I missed that the Knight could defend the Bishop?? I thought I was winning the game and now my idea of winning a whole piece was in tatters. More to the point, my position just didn't look very good at all. I couldn't believe that even I could lose concentration like that and be so stupid as to think the Knight was on c8 and not d8. Within a couple of moves, my opponent was threatening to win one of MY pieces and my whole weekend was about to take a very nasty turn for the worse!
I settled down as best I could and play continued for another 45 minutes before I eventually won a King and Pawn endgame after finding some accurate moves to get myself out of jail. Delighted with the win (my first in the 4NCL despite having lots of excellent positions), I went with my opponent to have a look at our game.
Something wasn't right during the analysis since, when it came to move 42... Ne6! we found that my opponents Knight had NOT started out on d8, but was still on c8! Had I lost the game, since the scoresheets had been returned to the controller, signed off by both players, there would have been NO going back. I'd had to win the game twice. I remember going back to the board and my opponent playing Nd8-e6 (the Knight was definitely on d8 and I pointed this out to my opponent saying that she hadn't played an illegal move at the board). All too quickly (in my opinion anyway) my opponent stated that she "must have knocked the Knight".
I would say that you can draw your own conclusions here - I deal with people who sometimes tell slight untruths (and sometimes dirty great whoppers!) as part of some of my surveying work (as well as other surveys, I act as an insurance loss adjuster) and I like to think I'm quite good at asking the right questions. In this case, I didn't need to ask any questions....
My opponent neatly backed herself into a corner all on her own with her claim that she "must have knocked the piece". Whether this was a genuine mistake or not you would surely remember either picking a piece up and putting it down on a different square or you would surely have felt a "knock".
My opponent at no stage during the game whilst I was at the board (bear in mind my walkabouts here!) was anywhere near the pieces unless she was making her move. It seems unlikely to me that a piece could be knocked NEATLY from one square to the next square along (which just so happens to be a square where it can move from to save a rather embarassing rook fork) by a player without them noticing.
As I say, draw your own conclusions - I am not and have not accused my opponent of cheating. However, there is a lesson to be learned here - If in ANY doubt, CHECK YOUR SCORESHEET and if necessary, get the attention of an arbiter BEFORE making your move. The game can then be reconstructed.
Had I not been so stupid as to trust that my opponent had made a perfectly legal move and had I not failed to trust myself, I would have wrapped the game up a lot quicker and with a lot more ease than I did.
I am just glad that it didn't cost me my "guaranteed win". Actually, I'm now saying that this game is TWO WINS, because I had to win the thing twice!
So, we won our final match of the season 5.5 - 0.5 (there scoresheet says 1.5 to the Cheetahs though I am not sure why!) and this win concluded a fine season for the team as a whole (even though for me, personally, my results were disappointing considering some of the good positions I found myself in).
My record in this competition finished: Won 1, Drew 6, Lost 4.
Incidentally, games (from ALL games played) can be downloaded as PGN files from the 4NCL website. You can also find all the scorecards and final tables. The link you need...
So, ending on a positive note, a win from me. I finished the game on my personal database just prior to the illegal move being made (difficult to enter illegal moves onto Fritz) but I have entered the position from the illegal move onwards and included that at the bottom of this blog.
Here is the rest of the game from the illegal position. I actually thought after my move Rb8, that the position was lost but it is, in fact, quite level according to Fritz?! My colleague, Neil Staples, thought the ending might also have been drawn but after 51. Bxe6, it is a forced win for white!
So, thanks for bearing with me through the blog - next season I will hopefully be blogging more games. There's still a few more blogs to go this season though, so thanks for reading and keep winning!
Tim Lawson