Our first team continued their impressive run in the second division of the 4NCL with two victories this weekend whilst our second team are feeling the heat.
The Four Nations Chess League (4NCL) third weekend took place on 10th/11th February 2024 over two locations. Our first team CSC/Kingston 1 played at the Mercure in Telford whereas the second and third teams played at the Delta Marriot Hotel in Warwick. Our top team won both their matches and now sit atop the Second Division. There are only two weekends to go and bookies have stopped taking bets on whether we will get promoted to the first division. Team manager Kate Cooke played down the prospect, wisely taking one weekend at a time, especially as we have yet to play our main competitors.
For those unfamiliar with 4NCL, it is the national chess teams conducted over four divisions. It is played to the highest international standards with strict rules about mobile phones. Players are randomly scanned for electronic devices as they enter the playing hall. Players are not permitted to visit the book stall nor their car for which the penalty is a default. The time control is 40 moves in 100 minutes followed by 50 minutes for the rest of the game. For each move there is an increment of 30 seconds which means that players must always write down their moves, even if there is less than 5 minutes left.
Saturday 10 February
The first team line-up was strengthened by the addition of IM Graeme Buckley on board 1. In Saturday’s key game against rivals The Sharks 2, Graeme had a convincing victory over IM Peter Roberson. The match was won 5.5-2.5.
Although CSC/Kingston 1 are riding high, a print of which should be framed, it should be noted that we have yet to play the teams in 2nd, 3rd and 4th place. Hence, the rigorous training sessions for the team conducted at our secret base in Surrey will be even more intensive.
Meanwhile on Saturday over at Warwick, another recent recruit to the team, 15-year-old Luca Buanne, was top board for CSC/Kingston 2. The opponents were the hardy Hull and East Riding team strengthened by some Ukrainian players. Luca made short work of his opponent in a sharp Pirc. The match was drawn 3-3.
Our third team played She Plays to Win, a training team for girls run by Lorin d’Costa. Although the girls were heavily outrated, they fought hard and drew the match. Nick Grey rued that he had lost to a 13-year-old, a common lament from the older generation.
Sunday 11 February
Our first team continued their winning ways beating the dangerous Anglian Avengers in the 6th round. The match was in the balance until going home time when Tom Farrand obtained a draw to secure victory. Plaudits to two first-team players who led the way with two wins each for the weekend: Peter Lalić and Clive Frostick. David Maycock launched a powerful attack against the Classical Caro-Kann.
Over at Warwick, our second team were facing the Wessex A team. The teams were evenly matched and the match score was level until the last game in which Wessex’s Allan Pleasants beat Julian Way with a tactical flourish.
CSC/Kingston 2 is now struggling not to be relegated from Division 3. We lost three matches by the smallest of margins 3.5- 2.5. There are still five rounds to go conducted over a weekend in March and a long weekend in May. Unfortunately in March both the first team and the second team are playing in Telford and we have found it difficult to get our best teams together for the cross country trip. We face the dissonant prospect of having one team in the first division and two teams in the fourth division next season.
Meanwhile, our third team battled The Full Ponty which included in-form Tony Hughes on board 5, winner of the recent All Saints Blitz. We were outrated by an average of 200 Elo points per player. However the team played out of their socks with wins for Petr Vachtfeidl on board 1, the newcomer Fabio Buanne (father of Luca) on board 6 and, at well past going home time, Nick Grey on board 4. Nick’s position did not look convincing but he played the endgame well and pulled a victory out of the hat against a player he first faced in 1979. The drawn match means that CSC/Kingston 3 remains mid-table with little prospect of promotion unless we do exceptionally well in the next two weekends.