4NCL Season 3, Match Day 5
Division 5 Guilford Castles First Team v Harborough Cuatro First Team
Division 7 MHJ Bishops v Harborough Cuatro Second Team
Slightly before 9pm Harborough Cuatro were staring at two 4-0 losses as both the First and Second teams had been beaten on three boards.
Nothing to be ashamed of in either case, the First Team were up against Guilford Castles 1, a side whose top board is just shy of FIDE 2300, ECF equivalent of 211 – and formerly ECF 220. Guilford’s bottom board is a mere FIDE 2095, ECF 186. To put this into context, the First Team players were out graded by between 44 and 60 ECF points.
The Second Team were mis-matched too, though it was only with the birth certificate dates where this was immediately obvious. Muswell Hill Junior Bishops, another young side with understated grades were our opponents. No shame being defeated by them either, so it transpired.
A 4-0 scoreline would have occurred in both instances had it not been for the First Team’s Mike Garland on Board Four and Mick Garland on Board Two for the Second Team. Both Garlands left it late, but a draw for Mike and a win for Mick meant tangible pride was salvaged beyond a few reasonable performances.
Mike and The First Team
Apparently, Magnus Carlsen plays a decent version of the London System. Whether it’s as good as Guildford Castles’ top board is debatable. It was a set-up which saw our front runner Dave Walker, with the Black pieces, go a Pawn down on move 21. At this level, a Pawn advantage is practically a won game. And so, it proved.
The story was similar for Jon Redding on Board Two; it’s worth reiterating, Jon had never even played tournament chess seven months ago, only the occasional over the board friendly and rarely did he play online. Yet here Jon is going toe-to-toe with a top end player. Jon’s London System (another London, world’s full of this D4 opening) suffered a Pawn deficit, again, fine margins at this level. Another loss.
Mark Waterfield, on Board Three, was defeated too. This time the Cuatro player faced a Queen’s Gambit from White. Mark declined, his opponent morphed into a London System! Mark resigned on move 23 following a couple of unfavourable exchanges.
Last to complete, Mike Garland on Board Four with the White Pieces opened with E4 and had the Cuatro spectators worried early on, yet given Mike’s form, anything is possible.
John Oliver commented: “All credit to Mike Garland in getting a draw. Mike played with such confidence, sacrificing a Knight for two Pawns in the centre – very impressive.” Indeed, it was impressive, but unsurprising. A 3 ½ v ½ loss isn’t so bad given the circumstances.
Mick and The Second Team
Muswell Hill is possibly the most non-London part of London. There’s no underground station. They have an old-school Odeon cinema, perhaps where a station might be. People say hello. The only give away you’re in London is that a cup of tea costs £4. Many ageing popstars can still be found there, from The Kinks to Spandau Ballet. The area and its surrounds are also stocked with useful young chess players, so there was no shame in succumbing to Muswell Hill Junior Bishops.
On Board Two Mick Garland with username BlueFox52 met a player with username MHFox. At a glance, one could be forgiven for thinking MHFox was associated with our part of the world. The player was in fact the only non-junior among our opponents, having coached chess to the others at school. The battle of the foxes was intense, thankfully, our fox, BlueFox52 aka Mick Garland sweated out a victory – he had no right to.
Mick with the White pieces set up with the Italian Game. Defending his King’s side where he’d castled, Mick tried to kick away Black’s Bishop on G4 by playing H3, but it was a blunder that allowed Black to dominate.
With no choice but to try and hang on for a return blunder, Mick waited. His patience paid off once the Queens were exchanged. Black made two iffy Rook moves at the start of the end game. Mick was able to seize a hanging Pawn and Bishop, Black capitulated. After the game Mick said he was shaking [with pumped adrenaline], the rest of us were relieved at being spared a 4-0 hammering.
Our Second Team losses deserve some commentary, if for no other reason than to describe the excellent play of Muswell Hill’s juniors. MHFox has clearly taught his apprentices well, regardless of his own play here.
On Top Board with the Black pieces, Robert Gibbison faced an assertive Queen’s Pawn opening. Not the London System! Hooray. Robert’s young opponent is a strong over the board rapid player from a family of chess enthusiasts.
Robert was lured into a h-file trap by a Knight which was left for Robert’s dark squared Bishop. Rather than recapturing, White’s light squared Bishop steamrolled in nabbing Robert’s h-Pawn, Robert’s King took the offending Bishop, only for White’s h-Pawn to seize Robert’s Bishop, the very one which had begun the melee. With h-file opened Queen and Rook did their thing. Game over. Well worked combination play young man.
Bob Collins’s on Board Three set up with his customary Sicilian in response to White’s Giuoco Piano.
The game’s pivotal moment came when Bob castled Queenside on move 18. Facing a Queen and Knight attack it is clear why danger needed averting, however, the position allowed a Knight fork of Bob’s two Rooks. Bob then faced a meticulously planned double Rook and Queen attack which caused the fleeing of his King towards the a-file, culminating in the deftest of sacrifices by White…Queen for Pawn on the a-file, Pawn captures Queen, Rook takes Pawn, King is paralysed because White’s other Rook was fixed solid on the b-file. Checkmate. A Cuatro loss, but at least it was aesthetically pleasing.
On Board Four Rene Butler (me) had the White Pieces and played The London System, a route taken by 50 per cent of the evening’s games.
Following an early exchange of Queens and light squared Bishops all critical activity took place on a-and-b files. The game was evenly poised by move 24, then Black errored, playing Knight to B8. With foresight, Rene could have engineered an attack with a Knight, Rook and the a-Pawn, Black’s static pieces looked vulnerable. Rather than pressing the tempo button, Rene opted for a redundant exchange on the f-file which allowed Black to recuperate and ease to victory with a Pawn advantage. Oh the joys of retrospective analysis. A 3-1 reverse for the Second Team.