4NCL OTB Weekend 2 – Wessex Report

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Keith Gregory has kindly sent in the following entertaining and informative report on the Wessex teams at the OTB 4NCL.

Round 3

Round 3 of “4NCL Division 3 South” saw us congregate at the Holiday Inn, Maidenhead. It was a great chance for me to catch up with people such as Bill Adaway, Annie Adaway (our new captain) & Allan Pleasants who I have not seen for 2 years! Wessex A, riding high, with 4 points from 4, faced a “”winnable” match on paper although in practice things didn’t go our way – we started well with a very quick win from Allan with white and a solid draw from myself with black. At this point I was optimistic we were on track with what seemed 4 x reasonable positions to play – my optimism was misplaced and when the dust settled our opponents had fought back to level the match 3-3.

Our B team, led by Tim “Terminator” Spanton, who retained his 100% record this season with another fine win, edged a tight match 3.5–2.5.

Meanwhile our heavily out-gunned C team started with a 1 v -1 score line after Larissa unfortunately got a default win on Board 6.  Luckily, she was re-paired so got to play a competitive friendly which I believe she also won! I didn’t get to see much of these games, although I did see Steve Smith triumph over their 2119 on board 1 via a long and hard-fought endgame – a cracking result, in what was surely our best individual performance of the weekend grade-wise.

Saturday Night

So Saturday evening loomed – many of the Wessex squad cautiously (and in retrospect wisely) opted for a meal in the hotel whilst a small yet ambitious group of 5 players – Allan P, Graham S, Chris B, Joe C & myself decided to seek out the delights of a highly rated and “walk-able” Indian restaurant, the Emperor Of India, allegedly a 21 minute walk according to Waze…

Armed with my mobile map app we confidently set off in the wrong direction and, luckily, realising this, when the ETA went to 22 minutes smoothly turned through 180 degrees and set off down a well-lit residential road for an easy stroll.

5 minutes later…. any attempt at street lighting had vanished, together with the pavements. Undaunted, in total darkness, we followed the highway code of walking in single file towards oncoming traffic armed with my mobile torch app! This, in retrospect, could be considered a major Health & Safety failure. Allan initially led the way torchless and then promoted me to top board as at least I had a small light (v no light)!

The road twisted and turned and we regularly found ourselves stationary and pinned against bushes on the side of the road as we tried to avoid the fast-moving cars which came hurtling round the corners, many of which clearly didn’t see us or were content to knock us over. There was one slapstick comedy moment when I stopped, paralysed by fear of the oncoming vehicle aiming straight at me (luckily it swerved at the last moment so I still got to write this report) and Allan promptly stopped behind me until Joe C strode onwards, straight into a stationary Allan who was bumped forwards into myself. We quickly developed a protocol of me calling out “Car –Stop!” to stop this happening.

After what seemed like hours, although it was pretty much the promised 21 minutes we found ourselves back in a world of street lights and pavements and the restaurant came into sight.

After a few celebratory Cobra beers we enjoyed an excellent meal (well done Tripadvisor) and marvelled that we had survived the walk far better than our earlier chess exploits – the 5 of us had notched up a fairly measly 1.5 /5  …

Nobody was keen to walk back (!) so we took the taxi option and we were safely back at the hotel by 21:30, ready to start prep-ing for Sunday Round 4.

Round 4

This time the A team were out-graded and lost narrowly – I got some glimpses of some interesting games, particularly some great battles on boards 1 & 2, and I look forward to seeing them once they get published.

After my 3 game run for the A team I was switched to the B team where I found myself facing the 2119 Steve Smith had beaten. He was clearly determined to get his “Wessex revenge” and played out a very long endgame down to King v King before finally conceding the draw. By this time there were only 5 games left playing in the building, although I did have an attentive audience for the last hour of Joe & Gillian who were waiting for a lift, having both finished their games hours ago…sorry ☹

On other boards…Tim the Terminator took his impressive run to 4 from 4 with a very neat endgame tactic to finish off his opponent – this was not enough to save the match and we gently drifted to a 4-2 loss.

The C team were heavily out-gunned and duly lost, although all credit to Steve S, David D and Larissa C who held much higher rated opponents to draws for a respectable 4.5 –1.5 team loss.

So, in hindsight, a great weekend, with hopefully 3 more to come – 4NCL are looking to run the “missing 2nd weekend” in June. Our A team has dropped to 10th in the table although with 5 (perhaps even 7) rounds left have plenty of chances to fight their back to the top.

Keith Gregory , February 15th, 2022

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