4NCL Online

The regular season for the first 4NCL Online tournament finished earlier this week, so alongside the previous instalment, this report will cover Bristol University’s exploits in the second half. Over the season, the University had at least 12 players competing showing there is still a call for long-play chess despite being under lockdown. Some of it was even of high quality.

Starting with B team it would be remiss not to speak of the quality performance by Asha Jina scoring an incredibly strong 8.0/9 (Thanks, Alice). This return certainly helped the team finish safely mid-table, 24th out of a massive 56 teams with 4 wins, 2 draws and 4 losses. While many of the wins were one-sided, a few of the losses were incredibly close and a few extra draws could have had a huge effect but still a performance worth celebrating.

Hopefully, the players of the B team won’t mind too much that we spend a bit more space talking about the exciting finish to the A team’s season. After the excellent start given by Alex Vaughan, who scored 6.5/7, we had Philipp Prasse join us for the latter half of the season to try see us through to the end. After working down a long list of tie breakers, in the final round Bristol University A just had to match the result of Gonzaga C to qualify to the playoffs as second in the group. Win the match and we were promoted to Division 1, something the A team has had plenty of experience from the Bristol League.

To simulate the exciting finish of Round 10, here are the four close finishes from each of the games as they happened. First to finish was Daniel Savidge, who played every single round of the competition on top board.

Board 1

Dan as Black had sacrificed/lost an exchange after being out of his preparation by move 2 and getting away with a huge blunder on move 6 that everyone missed at the time. White is certainly better although converting this position will take a bit of work. However, I imagine Dan was very happy when his opponent took the easy way out after 26. Qe4 Re5 27. Qf3 Rf5 28. Qe4 Re5 29. Qf3 allowing the draw.

Board 3

The second game featured Ethan with Black sacrificing/losing an exchange although this time, after some inaccuracies by his opponent, he had full compensation for the material. White had managed to parry the main threats to their king but after the obvious check 27… Qc5+ allowed another repetition with 28. Kg2 Qc2+ 29. Kg1 Qc5+ 30. Kg2 Qc2+ 31. Kg1 Qc5+. A strange decision from White with so much time on the clock to consider moves like 28. Kh1 avoiding all the checks but we weren’t complaining. 1-1 with the University having two Whites.

Board 4

Despite the extra Whites, things were not looking too rosy for Alice. After very sportingly allowing her opponent to outdo a mouse slip, a queenside passed pawn forced White to sacrifice a piece and hope a mass of pawns would give drawing chances. Once again, Alice was rewarded for her persistence after 45… Rd1? allowing the nice tactic 46. Nxh6+! gxh6 47. Rc6 forking the minor pieces. After 47… Kg7 48. Rxa6 Rxd4 49. g4, Black decided not to test White in the RN vs R ending and a draw was agreed shortly. Score: 1.5-1.5.

Board 2

I was last to finish and before this point I had assumed the worst in Alice’s game so had been playing to win without thinking too much if introducing new unbalances would lose. Luckily, pressing forward seemed to be the best plan objectively too. 48. g5 Nf4? 49. Bc2? The last two moves were mutual blunders when Black had given away the draw and White very kindly returned the favour. 49… b5 50. f6 This would have been winning on the previous move as the knight wasn’t actually threatening the bishop. Anyway, sacrificing a pawn to create two passed pawns seemed like the best try for confusion in mutual time trouble. 50… gxf6 51. g6 Ne6? 52. h5 f5 53. h6 Kf6 54. g7 Kf7 55. Bxf5? Giving Black another chance for a draw. I had seen Black’s possible reply but didn’t see things through to the end. Spotting the winning move 55. Kf2! is possible once you see Black’s defence, but Bristol can be thankful for the next move 55… Nxg7? Drawing was 55… Nd4+! 56. Kf4 Nxf4 57. Kxf4 b4! when the pawns on the opposite sides of the board hold up both kings.

56. h7! The knight gets in the king’s way and the pawn and Bristol University A gets promotion winning the match 2.5-1.5 and the Gonzaga C result no longer mattered! Below is the final table showing the closeness of the finish. Next week start their bid for the overall Division 2 title with a quarterfinal match against Chessable White Rose 2.