I’ve been playing in the 4NCL for more or less twenty years now. At the moment I represent Blackthorne Russia, we play in the first division, and I play on board one which ensures I get to test my skills against a number of very strong players.
Surely I should be satisfied with such a scenario? Well, apparently not.
In fact my team mates and anyone within hailing distance are probably rather bored to death with my explaining how “I am going to give up playing in the 4NCL” And how “This is my final ever weekend, I’m not coming to the 4NCL ever again”.
Why captain misery guts should be so negative about playing in the 4NCL is difficult to explain. I guess it’s partly the familiarity of the competition. You end up seeing the same set of people you’ve seen for the last twenty years and having the same conversations. The 4NCL used to be a great social event, where you stay up till 4 in the morning playing cards and generally get progressively more drunk, but lately I realized that I’m too old to do this and even play a half reasonable game on the Sunday morning.
The 4NCL just gone I had a disappointing draw on the saturday and then woke up at 3am on the Sunday morning. Even though I didn’t have that much to drink, it disrupted my night to the point where I couldn’t get back to sleep again. Which is not a great scenario when you have one of the strongest players in the UK in David Howell to play in the next round.
In the same match, Simon Williams was able to use his newly acquired knowledge of the London system to defeat Andy Ledger:
Clearly 0.5/2 just wasn’t good enough. I think one of the problems I’ve found at the 4NCL is that I’ve been rusty whenever i’ve played. Normally at a tournament even if I start poorly I’ll find my feet at some point, but in the 4NCL you’re often pitched in off a break. Yes there are some people who play equally well whatever the situation but I’m not one of them. I need to get my “eye” in.
Such was the trouble at this 4NCL just gone as apart from one rapidplay I haven’t played chess since the British in August. Another issue is the time it takes to get there. I got a lift with Kurt Moreby and his son James, as the cost of the train is too expensive. The train would have been quicker but it costs something ridiculous like ÂQ140. Funnily enough when we finally got to Reading, after seven and a half hours of driving, we ran into these Scottish players who said they had flown down from Glasgow. It seems to me a bit extreme that you have to fly to reach a team event which is supposed to be nationally representative. Anything wrong with having it in the Midlands?
James did well even if it slightly annoyed me that he was complaining about how long Neil McDonald was playing on in their Sunday game, in a dead drawn position. When I was 14 I would have been delighted to get any kind of a draw with a gm, but I guess junior players have a different level of expectation now…
Another junior going places is Akshaya Kalaiyalahan. Against John Cox she got into some strategic trouble but fought back with sharp use of tactics.
Meanwhile the winning machine that is Matthew Sadler rolled on relentlessly. Sadler has achieved the highest ECF grade of anyone, somewhere in the scary 280s, and in recent years has racked up huge scores in both the 4NCL and in any weekender he chooses to play in. Against Andrew Lewis he gave a lesson in how to convert an extra pawn from the opening.
Peter Wells is one of the best tactical players in the UK and has been hired in the past by Adams and other top players to be a second. Although he lost a horrible game on the Saturday against Speelman he managed to bounce back in the Sunday game against Justin Tan:
Perhaps the most impressive game on the Saturday seemed to be played by Fernandez against Peter Poobalasingam.
Danny Gormally is a talented English Grandmaster. He lives in the bustling market town of Alnwick, somewhere near Scotland.