Penultimate round of 4NCL season number 3

There were mixed fortunes for the 3 Horsham teams in the latest round of the 4NCL season.

Horsham 1 tied 2-2 although until very late on it could have gone either way. Mark’s Reti on board 1 always seemed under pressure but he found the correct defence and a truce was called with opposite-coloured bishops. In glancing at Dix’s Sicilian from time to time my superficial assessment was pessimistic but subsequent analysis suggested there was never much in it until he smoothly converted his advanced queenside pawns.

Alex employed the Polish opening (b4) with limited success and mutual blunders in time trouble led to move repetition when his opponent had a win for the taking. In turn I faced b3 (apparently the Nimzo Larsen attack) which seemed to take some time to burst into life and by move 60 we had emerged into a drawn endgame of rook and pawns. Unfortunately and not for the first time, clock induced panic put paid to my half point.

The team result nevertheless guaranteed a division 2 mid table finish, a good performance having been promoted last season. Note that division 1 has a significant number of very strong players, including several grandmasters and the like whilst also boasting of some Horsham club players turning out for other teams, including Gavin Lock and Lucy Bennet-Stevens. Indeed, the former was most recently paired against the well-known English GM, Mark Hebden, with predictable result but not without a tough fight.

In division 6, Horsham 2 had a good win against one of their close rivals. John faced the normally aggressive Scotch game but he was the one doing the pressing and a battery of heavy artillery lined up against the white king led to the win of a minor piece and ultimately the game. Meanwhile Chris's assault on his opponents Slav soon led to a very nice sacrificial check mate.

Richard's Caro Kann achieved early equality and the end game of rooks and pawns looked destined for a draw until a miscalculation shed a pawn which eventually cost him the game. Conversely, Marian facing the Pirc ended up a pawn ahead but with bishops of opposite colours could make no further progress.

As such a 2.5-1.5 win, following which they are tied for second place in their division. As fate would have it, their opponents in the final round are indeed that other second placed team and with two for promotion it will be winner takes all, albeit with advantage to Horsham in the event of a draw.

Meanwhile Horsham 3 faced a tough evening but nevertheless are holding their own in a large and very mixed division 7 which includes all teams entering the competition for the first time, whatever their respective strengths.