The Four Nations Chess League season has just come to an end, with Guildford claiming a fifth consecutive title in the first division, winning every match on the way. A couple of divisions down, my team Wood Green Midland Monarchs managed a similar feat, storming to victory in division 3 South with a perfect match record.
Last season ended in heartache, as despite an excellent final weekend the team finished in third place, just short of the promotion places. It was with particular determination that we set out this season to make up for that near miss. The first three weekends went fairly smoothly; our victories over MK Phoenix 1 and Brown Jack 1 were narrow 3.5-2.5 affairs, but we held on in the critical games to take the full number of match points.
Learning from last season, our captain, Lawrence Cooper, was taking nothing for granted, and managed to persuade his friend GM Aaron Summerscale to head up our team in the final two weekends. A win in the first match of weekend 4 saw us through to the promotion pool, and we won the next day as well, ensuring that our destiny was very much in our own hands in the final weekend.
We arrived for weekend 5 with the team strengthened further, and confirmed our status as favourites with a crushing 6-0 win on the first day. However, things are rarely as straightforward in practice as they are on paper, and we wobbled slightly on the second day. I had been nursing a pawn advantage in an opposite-coloured bishop and rook ending for some hours, and finally looked close to arranging a breakthrough. The lengthy manoeuvring had taken its toll on nerves and my clock though, and I went astray at the critical moment, dropping a full point. Fortunately the team had managed to eke out a 3.5-2.5 win by this point anyway.
Losses in chess are inevitable; what matters is how you react to them. There is little worse than blowing a better position after hours of play, but with the right self-talk and a good atmosphere at the event, even this can be overcome. The 4NCL is a sociable event, with good food and good company, and I am lucky to have a great team. Of course, not all events have such good conditions, but it is very important that you arrange everything that you can in order to allow yourself to play well. An evening with my team helped me recover, and the following day I bounced back with the win I show below. The team won 5-1, becoming deserved champions, and I look forward to taking on division 2 next season!
(1) Manelidou,Maria (2109) - Niccoli,Tony (2037) [C45]
4NCL Division 3 (11), 01.05.2017
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 [The Scotch Game]
4...Bc5 5.Nb3 Bb6 6.Nc3 d6 7.Qe2 Nge7 8.Be3 0–0 9.0–0–0 f5 10.f4 [10.exf5!? Bxf5 11.g3 Qd7 12.Bg2 Bxe3+ 13.Qxe3 Rae8 14.Rhe1=]
10...fxe4 11.Bxb6 axb6 12.Qxe4 Bf5 13.Bc4+ Kh8 14.Qe2 Bg6 [14...Nb4!? 15.Nd4 c5 (15...Bd7 16.g3‚)16.Ne6 Bxe6 17.Qxe6 Nec6 18.Qxd6 Qxd6 19.Rxd6 Rxf4÷]
15.Rhf1 Nf5 16.Qf2 [16.Qd2 Qh4 17.g3 Qh5 18.Rfe1 Bf7 19.Bxf7 Qxf7 20.a3 Rfe8 21.Qd3²]
16...Nb4? 17.g4 [17.a3 Nxc2 18.Qxc2 Ne3 19.Qe2 Nxf1 20.Rxf1±]
17...Ne7 18.Nd4 Bf7 19.Bxf7 Rxf7 20.a3 Nbc6 21.Ne6 Qd7 22.Ng5 [22.Rfe1 Ra5 23.Qe2 Ng6 24.Nd5 Rxd5 (24...Nce5 25.f5 Nf8 26.Ng5+–) 25.Rxd5 Re7 26.Qe4 Qe8 27.f5 Nf8+–]
22...Rff8 23.Qh4 h6 24.f5 Ng8 25.Ne6 Rf7 26.Nd5 Nce7 27.Ndf4! [27.Ndxc7 Rc8 28.Ng5 Rf6 29.Nce6 Qa4 30.c3+–]
27...Ra4 28.Qh5 Rf6 29.g5!! Rxf5 30.Ng6+ [30.Qg6 Rxg5 31.Nxg5 hxg5 32.Qxg5 Rxf4 33.Rxf4 Nh6 34.Rf8++–]
30...Nxg6 31.Qxg6 Rxg5 32.Nxg5 hxg5 33.Rf7