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  • Writer's pictureGastón Franco

Tenacious Tigers test top teams

  • Weekend 4 of 4NCL Division 1 saw the Tigers facing co-leaders White Rose and Manx Liberty, who have won all their matches this season.

  • With a considerably lower rated line up than our opponents, the team made a fantastic effort but could not avoid defeat on both days.

  • Inspiring individual performances on both ends, with Board 1 Marco (2 draws) and Board 8 Ryszard (a win and a draw) remaining undefeated.

L to R, standing: Bajrush, Michael, Gaston, Marco, Carsten, Ryszard, Diana. Captain and Chairman: Chris Skulte

Division 1 – Rounds 7 & 8

The Celtic Tigers got together once again in Daventry on the weekend of 18-19 March for rounds 7-8 of Division 1. After having played the ‘weaker’ half of the fixtures, collecting 2 wins and a draw, it was time to start facing the tougher teams and it’s hard to find anything tougher than Chessable White Rose 1 and last year’s champions Manx Liberty. Both teams have won all their matches so far and even if they were missing their top players (none other than Gawain Jones and Alexei Shirov, respectively) they still presented impressive lineups full of GMs and IMs, but if they were expecting to get any easy points from us, they soon realized our motivation was very high as the underdogs and we were more than ready to give them a run for their money!

Round 7: Chessable White Rose 5-3 Celtic Tigers

Saturday’s round was an incredibly thrilling fight that could’ve even gone either way but after a rather unlucky turn of events we narrowly lost 5-3. Carsten brought home our only win of the match on Board 6 with a fantastic game against IM James Adair, ended with a lovely checkmating combination:

Carsten finished it off with 42. Rxc3! Qxc3 43. Qxf7+ Kh8 44. Qf8+ Kh7 45. Rf7+ Kg6 46. Qg8+, followed by Qh7#

Board 1 saw Marco showing great opening preparation to neutralize GM Jonathan Rowson, while Gaston did the same on Board 5 against GM Peter Wells, but not without facing some trouble in the middlegame. Our newest member Michael also drew on Board 2 against GM John Emms, in a game where both players had their chances. The fourth draw of the match came on Board 8 where an unfortunate move in time scramble prevented Ryszard from getting what would’ve been a well-deserved win against WGM Andreea Navrotescu.

GM Peter Wells kindly complimented the Tigers on their Saturday performance

Losses for Chris (Board 3), Diana (4) and Bajrush (7) tipped the score on White Rose’s favour, although they also had great chances in their games. A few small details could’ve meant a draw or maybe even a match win but still an amazing display by the team, performing at an average rating of 2336.

Chris and Marco getting ready for their Sunday games

Round 8: Celtic Tigers 1.5-6.5 Manx Liberty

After having dinner at the “Queen of Hearts” pub (which was noticeably full of chess players for the evening) and a restoring night of sleep, our Sunday match was against top seeds Manx Liberty, who had the strongest team in Division 1 this weekend with 5 GMs and an average rating of 2490. This time it was Ryszard who got a full point for us, defeating WIM Julianna Terbe with the black pieces and proving the captain's decision to field him on Board 8 was the correct one.

White resigned after 44... c3+ as either capture is met with Ne4

As for the rest of the team, we suffered losses on boards 2-7 although with many good fights, and only Marco was able to hold on Board 1 against strong GM Viktor Erdos, who kept pushing for a win until only the Kings were left on the board. Marco remains at his best after outperforming at the European Individual Championship earlier this month.


League Table after 8 rounds

Even though we would have hoped to avoid defeat on either match, we were aware of the high likelihood of being outclassed by our strong opponents. We can be proud knowing we gave it our all and our overall average rating performance across both rounds was an impressive 2276, 200 points above our actual FIDE ratings! Getting 4.5 game points could still prove very useful at the end of the season, with the consolation being that the other teams fighting to stay in Division 1 have only scored an average of 3.4 game points against White Rose and Manx Liberty.

While we wait until the early May Bank Holiday and the last 3 matches of the season (Wood Green, Sharks and Cheddleton await), our attention now turns to Division 4 next weekend, where our Second team will be looking to get a few steps closer to our promotion goal.

Report by Gastón Franco

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