Adventures in a new jungle (1st team)
With the previous season being scrapped, the organisers of 4NCL decided to combine divisions 1&2 into a Swiss format for this season. Is has a number of benefits:
If the season ends short due to Covid changes, they can take final placings for next year's round robins.
They were not sure who would be coming back - and they were right, it appears a number of teams have weakened or disappeared.
It would allow them to change the following season to 12 teams per division, with an all-play-all, instead of 2 groups, then a winner/demotion pool. (it's much more understandable).
With the 2nd's and 3rds playing a week earlier - all eyes were on the first team, who were playing on live boards, allowing their games broadcast live over the internet the world to see. #NoPressure
With Covid ravaging the world, a number of key players moved away from the UK - weakening the team while we were in our prime, lucky for us we have had a few new names come join the ranks curtesy of Hammersmith Chess Club, and it just means we will have to fight harder to retain our place in the top Divisions of 4NCL.
It was a tough match, and all credit to Guildford who held us to a draw, to be fair they nearly won it too. The team had a lot of challenges trying to work out if they had to play for wins or draws at various moments. Sometimes it worked out (Gaston), other times it didn't (Marios), but you need to give it a go for what you think is best for the team. Ah, to be playing 4NCL again, Love it!!!
Results below, and I'll share a few notable games of the round:
* Marco played a very solid game, slowly taking control and converting like the true professional he is!
* Jim played a very well controlled game, converting to a winning endgame at the right time.
* Gaston went for the exchange sacrifice, to try and complicate the game, it worked, and he saved the match for us!
After seeing the photo's from the 2nd's and 3rd's the previous weekend, we had to head to the Swan Inn, and it wasn't a disappointment. (well, once we worked out how to get there....only getting lost 4 times). Amazing food, amazing service, and good ales, what more can you want?
Unfortunately we were down-floated to play Gonzaga, a very challenging match, though being underdogs has never been something to scare us. As the history of our club is Celtic based, we felt like it was a match against our brothers. - Which means, don't hold back!
Though we were close (and a very unlucky time scramble on board 1) meant we had to accept defeat, they played well and we salute them.
Some interesting games below.
* Marco - was unlucky in time trouble having to try and navigate a very complicated position. So close yet so far.
* Fedja - A very interesting opening choice, sacrificing a piece for initiative, which he converted well.
* Chris - Was doing ok, then dead lost, then probably a draw, but some pressing from his opponent allowed him to take the initiative in time trouble, and convert a win.
* John - A tactical melee, for much of the middle game. John kept the pressure on and ultimately found a win.
Not the weekend we were planning for finishing on 0.5/2 match points, but it was always going to be hard the first weekend back playing national league after so long away from the board.
We will use this experience to make us stronger, and come back harder in Weekend 2 of the 4NCL.
- Chris Skulte