Celtic Tigers’ two division four sides enjoyed a hugely successful final weekend of the Four Nations Chess League season – winning five matches out of six.
Three wins out of three helped Celtic Tigers 2 record a record high finish of fifth in the final table, while Celtic Tigers 3 won two of their three matches to finish 30th out of 34 – a decent achievement given that their six points were secured from playing just seven rounds across three of the five weekends.
It means that CT2 have secured their place in next season’s slimmed down 4NCL – having started the weekend 17th they knew a top 16 finish was needed to confirm a place in the 40-team division 3 for 2023/24.
John Quinn was the star of the show – following up a superb win against a 2400-rated player on first team duty on the Saturday with two wins for CT2 on Sunday and Monday to end the weekend with a perfect 3/3.
Other standout performers in Warwick over the May bank holiday weekend were Gaston Franco, Jim Stevenson and Charlie Sturt, who all scored 2.5/3 for CT2. Matthew Perchard top-scored for CT3 with 2/3 while captain Adam Cranston scored an impressive 1.5/2 on top board.
The lobby at Delta Hotels Warwick - a place ripe for analysis of games!
Saturday: A stroll for the seconds but mixed fortunes in thirds’ triangular
Anglian Avengers 2 0.5-5.5 Celtic Tigers 2
Celtic Tigers 3 1-2 War & Piece B (triangular match)
Wessex Some Stars 3-0 Celtic Tigers 3 (triangular match)
CT2 came into the weekend knowing they had work to do to make sure of their continued involvement in the 4NCL next season.
What had initially been a target of three wins out of three to fight for any hope of a top four finish changed somewhat to needing two wins to make absolutely sure of ending the season in the top 16.
Nevertheless, the Tigers put out their strongest second team of the season, featuring many players who don’t look out of place playing in the top flight for CT1.
Charlie Sturt was the only survivor from the March weekend – Ryszard Maciol, Carsten Pedersen, Gaston Franco, Jim Stevenson and Peter Kitchen replaced Stefanie Duessler and John White while Matthew Perchard, Peter Rose and Charlie Rigby all dropped down into the third team.
This all meant CT2 heavily ougraded their Saturday opponents Anglian Avengers 2 – and it didn’t take long for the gulf in quality to tell.
Less than 90 minutes into the round, CT2 were ahead. Stevenson overwhelmed teenager Oliver Ferris, winning a piece as early as move nine in a King’s Gambit and delivering checkmate on move 29.
After Kitchen drew a quiet game in 20 moves as black against the lower-rated Nigel Collins on board five, the Tigers cleaned up on the remaining boards. Having won a pawn on move seven, Sturt saw off spirited resistance from junior Sharvari Saharkar before winning a second pawn and then a piece en route to bringing home the full point on bottom board.
Gaston Franco produced probably the best performance of the day, combining tactical awareness with skillful positional play to defeat Pawel Slonczuk on the black side of a Semi-Slav (via transposition) on board three. He won a pawn early in the middlegame before coming up with a nice tactical operation to win an exchange on move 32, with resignation coming on move 42.
Maciol also enjoyed a good afternoon, winning a knight versus bishop ending Egor Latypov on top board, while Pedersen outplayed Alan Llewellyn on board two.
Matters were less straightforward for CT3. Playing a triangular match at the bottom of the division, they found themselves playing a weaker-than-expected War & Piece B but a strengtheded Wessex Some Stars B side.
Cranston and Frank Valle both secured creditable draws against War & Piece B, while Rigby went down to defeat against Leszek Nawalaniec to leave CT3 facing a narrow deficit going into Sunday.
But the other half of the team were outgunned by Wessex – Perchard, Rose and Iana Luntc were all beaten to leave the side 3-0 down overnight.
Sunday: Another big CT2 victory and a comeback win for CT3
CT2 5-1 Guildford Young Guns
CT3 4-2 War & Piece B (triangular match)
Wessex Some Stars B 3-2 CT3
CT2 found themselves up against tougher opposition in the form of a Guildford Young Guns side packed with promising junior players.
But ultimately they ground out four wins and remained undefeated to win a match that in truth was perhaps a little closer than the final 5-1 scoreline suggested.
They made one change, with Quinn – fresh from a superb victory on first team duty the previous day – coming into the side on board four. Stevenson moved down a board while Kitchen dropped into the thirds.
After Pedersen drew quickly with Ronit Sachdeva on board two, Maciol won a piece on the way to a 25-move win over Adam Sefton on board three. Sturt banished the demons of a recent loss in a king and awn ending in a league match by winning one himself against Nathaniel Butcher on bottom board, while Stevenson entombed Sebastian Twisk’s bishop on h7 before coming out of a situation involving multiple mutually pinned pieces by winning a piece and the game.
Franco was promoted to board one but did well to hold firm for a draw in a difficult position with the white pieces against Jai Kothari, before Quinn added the gloss with a 60-move win with black over Zac Welling on board four.
CT3 enjoyed a successful day, managing to overturn their overnight 2-1 deficit to defeat War & Piece B 4-2. Perchard overcame a tricky opening to defat Jimmy Blair, before teenage debutant Archie Flavell – who had made a four-hour, train strike-affected journey from Shrewsbury on the day of the match – played maturely to defeat Eric Bradley.
Richard Cranston, who replaced Valle in the side, made sure of the win with a triumph over David Ross. He let a superior position slip and lost an exchange, but managed to turn things around in the ending when his opponent missed a knight fork of his king and rook.
However, even with a default win and penalty point for Wessex Some Stars B, trailing 3-0 overnight proved too much for the other half of the team to overcome. Rigby launched an attack against Larissa Cuthbert’s king but the Wessex player stood firm and a draw was agreed on move 23.
Believing the match was now beyond salvaging, Kitchen then drew a tense struggle on the black side of a Catalan with David Deacon in 31 moves. But it later transpired that Wessex had been penalised a full game point for their default, rather than the half point they lost the previous day – meaning it might have been worth Kitchen chancing his arm by playing on in the endgame.
Monday: Both sides finish with a flourish
War & Piece A 2.5-3.5 CT2
CT3 4.5-1.5 Watford B
Both Tigers sides ended the campaign with victories on Bank Holiday Monday to cap a fine weekend in Warwick.
The seconds were outrated for their match against War & Piece A but prevailed in a tight encounter thanks to wins for Quinn and Franco to secure that record-high league finish. Despite a disappointing campaign up until March, CT2 only missed out on the top four – the pre-season target – on game points.
It was an unchanged side in personnel for CT2, but again the board order changed. Maciol and Franco swapped places on boards one and three, as did Quinn and Pedersen on boards two and four.
After quick draws with the white pieces for Sturt against Carl Portman on bottom board and Pedersen versus Kevin Thurlow on board four, Quinn completed his personal hat trick with a convincing victory over Aleksander Tenin on board two.
The Tigers were able to hold on to their slender lead with their three games with the black pieces. Maciol lost to David Onley on top board but Franco defeated Adam Nawalaniec in a same-coloured bishop ending on board three and Stevenson drew a long rook ending on board five against David Tucker.
CT3 went into their match with Watford B and favourites on grading alone, despite making three changes from the previous day. Dina Ladnyuk, Anastasija Royce and Rose replaced Kitchen, Richard Cranston and Flavell.
Although Ladnyuk lost on top board against Ramsey Dairi, four victories followed to help the thirds end the season in style. Adam Cranston won material early on to win against Tomy Joseph on board two, while Perchard overcame the loss of an exchange to defeat Jake Tomy on board three. Royce gradually pushed Mahmoud Dairi back to claim victory on board five, and Peter Rose won a piece early on to beat Daniella Dairi on bottom board.
Rigby was able to bail out for a draw on board four, forcing perpetual check as Judith Tomy waited in vain to deliver checkmate on f8.
We would like to thank everyone who has turned out for the Tigers this season in what has been a successful campaign.
We will certainly look to field two sides in next season’s 4NCL – and if the opportunity arises we would love to field a third team to continue to give opportunities to up and coming players.
Report by Peter Kitchen