4NCL Online: Season 6
Last night saw the first round of fixtures for the latest season of the 4NCL Online get underway. Now in its sixth edition, the competition still boasts over 100 teams of four players despite a significant reduction in participation since the return of over the board chess. The format continues to remain popular for our members too as we have once again fielded three teams in this competition.
Hebden Bridge 1 won the Division 3 title last season while Hebden Bridge 2 and Hebden Bridge 3 both performed creditably in Division 4. With the reduction in number all three teams could reasonably have expected to have moved up a division but the organisers have re-formatted the competition to maintain 5 divisions despite the reduction of teams. They way they have done this is by halving the number of teams in divisions 1 to 4. In season 5 there were 32 teams in each division and these were split into four groups of eight. The winners of each group then qualified for divisional play-offs. This time around the top four divisions consist of 16 teams in two groups of eight and the winners and runners up in each group will go forward to the play offs.
Hebden Bridge 1 look like the highest seeds in Group B of Division 3. At least on paper. However, as we’ve discovered time and time again in this competition, the ratings of the players involved can significantly under represent their true strength. Such was the case in Hebden’s first round fixture against Braunstone last night. Their average team rating was 1990 compared to their opponent’s 1681 but the course of play illustrated only too well that the two teams were much more closely matched than that.
Early on in the evening Hebden seemed to be slightly worse on boards 2, 3 and 4 whilst board 1 was equal right the way through the evening. However, whilst Phil Cook was ultimately compelled to settle for a draw on board 1, Andrew Clarkson, Dave Shapland and Pete Leonard all managed to turn their games around eventually to score full points. Time and time again in this competition Hebden 1 have shown themselves to be truly obdurate opponents capable of grinding out results from unfavourable positions and outlasting their opponents by maintaining their focus all the way to the end of the playing session. Perhaps this is a mark of their superior average rating after all. You can view all four games from the round in the game viewer below. The final match score card looked like this:
Hebden Bridge 1 vs Braunstone
(w) Phil Cook ½ – ½ David Bray
(b) Andrew Clarkson 1 – 0 Julian Tang
(w) Dave Shapland 1 – 0 Gavin Hart
(b) Pete Leonard 1 – 0 Hatle Mehta
3½ – ½
By sharp contrast to the first team, Hebden 2 and Hebden 3 both suffered chastening defeats in their first matches of the season, though both were outgunned by their opponents in terms of average rating. Hebden 2 were probably a little bit weaker than they might ordinarily be due to a couple of absences from the stronger cohort in our squad. Never the less, thought they fought hard against a strong Sheffield University Graduates side, they ultimately got whitewashed. John Allan on board 1 and new member Talal Ezzo on board 2 both fought to the bitter end but were ground down by Phil Beckett and Robert Taylor respectively.
Hebden Bridge 3 did at least manage a consolation point against Ashfield Anonymous D as Chris Marsden scored a fine win on board 1 against Daniel Hardman. As he pointed out himself afterwards, it’s the first time in three seasons that he’s managed to win his opening match so let’s hope this is a good sign of things to come for him this season! Terry Sullivan was engaged in what looked like a very finely balanced struggle on board 2 and he was the last to finish in this tie, but he faltered at the end of the evenings play. Two of our newer members, ‘Hutch’ on board 3 and Matthew Nolan on board 4 were both victims of blunders which curtailed their resistance. Again, all games are in the game viewer at the bottom of this post and the match score cards are below.
Sheffield University Graduates vs Hebden Bridge 2
(w) Phil Beckett 1 – 0 John Allan
(b) Robert Taylor 1 – 0 Talal Ezzo
(w) Chris McSheehy 1 – 0 John Kerrane
(b) Brian Moore 1 – 0 Ollie Hill
4 – 0
Ashfield Anonymous D vs Hebden Bridge 3
(w) Daniel Hardman 0 – 1 Chris Marsden
(b) Chris Fraser 1 – 0 Terry Sullivan
(w) Eldars Gulijevs 1 – 0 Scott Hutchinson
(b) Daniel Pitts 1 – 0 Matthew Nolan
3 – 1
Instructions for using the PGN Viewer
For the benefit of those who are uninitiated, the game viewer above contains all of the games played on Tuesday night. It will automatically scroll through all of them one after the other unless you tell it to stop by clicking on the ‘=’ button below the board. To select the game you want to view click on the ‘…’ symbol in the white box above the board. This will reveal a dropdown menu for you to choose from and when you select your game will appear. You can navigate forwards and backwards using the arrow buttons beneath the board or click on the moves in the text box on the right.