An Excellent Weekend For Cumnor At Kidlington


The weekend of the 4-5th February 2023 saw the return of the Kidlington Chess Tournament after a Covid-19 enforced break; the last time I visited Exeter Hall it was for my vaccinations.

Exeter Hall, Kidlington

Six members of the club participated, and between them managed to bring home FOUR prizes! Pride of place must go to Gareth Stevens who managed to share first prize in the Under 1800 section, so retaining that title from when the competition was last run in 2020.

He achieved this unbeaten with a score of 4/5. His second round game in particular had a nice finish, and has been covered in a video by Simon Terrington. Here’s the finale, Gareth is White and on move – how does he win?

Gareth has now 5/6 in the last few games, I expect he’ll be back above 1800 soon, and quite rightly so.

Robin Carr also scored 4/5, this time in the Under 1600 section. This was enough for a share of fourth; Robin lost in the first round and then had 4 straight wins. This was enough for him to win the Veteran’s Prize.

Robin in round 2 at the start of his unbeaten run. Picture courtesy of Carl Portman (

I particularly enjoyed watching his Sunday morning game, a complicated Kings Indian where Robin as black nicely thwarted his opponent’s Neanderthal plans on the king side, won a piece, and then cleanly won the endgame.

The third prize that Cumnor players won was the Team Prize. Gareth and Robin’s excellent scores combined with those of Callum Brewerton and Mark Sayers took them to 13.5, 1/2 a point ahead of  Epsom. Callum made the excellent result of 3.5/5 in the Under 1800 section, a fantastic score in a strong section and what I think is only Callum’s second tournament – he had to overcome much more seasoned competitors to achieve it, and in doing so won the rating prize in the Under 1800 Section. Well done Callum!

Mark and I were in the Under 2000 and both scored 2/5, but had fun on the way. Mark managed to sac his queen in the last round looking for a win, unfortunately unlike another player’s it wasn’t sound and he went down fighting. I particularly enjoyed my second round game, winning helps but I managed to convert after just one poor move from my opponent in the opening ( 6 … Be6?) – but after that accurate defence made me work hard, the knights in particular got a good work out:

Lastly Nigel Moyse was in the Open, scoring a fantastic 50% in a section that contained a number of players with International titles, at least 3 International and one FIDE masters. You might think such games are often heavyweight positional battles where it’s tiny differences that contribute to the final result. But not always – here is Nigel’s last round win which he described as feeling like “a Blitz gone wrong”

So a very successful weekend for the club. And as always a very enjoyable and well organised tournament – thanks to Gerard O’Reilly and his team, Matthew Carr, Keith Freshwater, Raj, Jon d’Souza-Eva and all the others for a great weekend of chess!


The Cowley Blitz is Back!

On Thursday 15 December, after a hiatus of three years, the Cowley Blitz as an over-the-board event is returning!

You are invited to our 2022 Christmas Blitz at Cowley Chess Club (at Rose Hill Methodist Church in the Main Hall downstairs). Round 1 starts at 7.15 pm. We look forward to seeing you.

Five double-rounds (ten games in all) with a time allowance per player per game of 3 minutes plus a 2 seconds increment per move added from move 1.

The tournament winner may choose either a prize from the prizes table or a cash prize of 10% of the entry fees. There will be lots of other prizes of books, etc., on the prizes table, including rating prizes, prizes for juniors in various age groups, for the best slow starter, etc.

Entry fee: £5 for adults, £3 for juniors (i.e., players under 18), to be paid in cash when you arrive on the night. For full details, and to enter, click the here


A Grand Night Out: Cumnor Goes To Witney


So on Monday 14th Nov both Cumnor 1 and Cumnor 2 found themselves playing teams from Witney, so half the club decamped to Ducklington for the evening

Cumnor 1 was playing Witney 1, and we were close to full strength, including guest superstar Tom Shepherd. About the only regular missing was me due to poor health, but in Liam we had a more than capable substitute, and, importantly, acting captain.

From a Cumnor viewpoint the interesting games were where we had black, Nigel on board 2, Simon on board 4 and Liam on board 6. Nigel was a bit slow out of the blocks dropping a pawn fairly early, but then playing energetically and effectively to win it back, and then playing the knight endgame really nicely to win the game.

Here’s the first phase of the game, up to where Nigel regains his pawn

Adam spots the tactics around move 18 to win the e5 pawn, but Nigel responds well, and after a king side advance nicely combines threats against the weak pawn on d3 and checkmate on g2 (the queen coming in via h3) to win the pawn back. That said Adam’s last move, 27 Qc1 ?!, is a bit passive, a better try for white is 27 Qb3 and a typical line is

Here Black has failed to regain his pawn, but Stockfish still puts it equal – it’s not just about material! In the final position of this line black has a much better knight, a more active and more centralised king, and a pawn on g4 that is doing a reasonable job of containing white’s king side all by itself. All of this adequately compensates for the pawn minus; in endgames often activity is paramount.

The actual game continued

Just compare the white and black pieces! Black has a huge advantage all because of the superior position and activity of his knight and king. In fact in the final position Nigel managed to force resignation in two moves – so for our first tactical quiz in the position below what did he play?

A little later on Liam had a decision to make.

After a quiet start the game had exploded, and the resulting position is above.  There is clearly a perpetual for black if he wants to take it. The match is very close, I believe 2-2 at that point. Is a draw enough? Well being a good captain Liam looks at the other board in play, Simon on board 4, and calls it as a win for Cumnor so he takes the draw ensuring the match win, rather than risking a loss and so the match. In my opinion in a match very much the right decision, but in fact there is a win, so for tactical quiz 2 can you find it?

So what was going on on board 4 that caused Liam to take the draw? Well Simon was finishing off a wonderful King’s Indian game with a victory for Cumnor, and so a victory in the match! Simon has made a very nice video about this game, so rather than just poorly go over the ground he has covered so well I suggest you go to “Chess Game for Cumnor 1 Kings Indian Defence Classical” It’s well worth a watch! Here is the game, which is a great thematic example of the opening – keep your eyes on the white squared bishops, understand them and you understand this game:

So 2.5-3.5 to Cumnor 1!

which with other results left us equal on points with the top team (University 1), third on goal difference:

Cumnor 2 were playing Witney 3, and carrying on their good form from last season to win 5-1 without losing a game – a fine win for Mark Crittenden on board 6 is notable. The good shape of the club is shown by two relative newcomers on the top two boards, Jeff on board 2 and Alex on board 1.  This in fact was Alex’s debut and he won it very nicely, reading the tactics better than his experienced opponent, and then converting very methodically:

So the final result was

and Cumnor 2 are doing very nicely in Division 3 again:

So a great night out for the club with two excellent results! Many thanks to Witney for I’m sure being excellent hosts for the night [and the solutions to the tactical quizzes will go up when I have a little more energy]

Match Reports: University 2 v. Cumnor 1 and University 1 v. Cumnor 1

Well a new season is upon us, and Cumnor 1 kicked off with two visits to the University in very quick succession; we played the newly promoted University 2 on Thursday 27th Oct, and then University 1 on the following Monday, 31st Oct.

University 2 play their home games at University college on the High Street.

We fielded a pretty strong side. Nalin, our close season signing, turned out for his first match for the club, and we also had Simon returning and Eldar on top board; of our superstars we were only missing Nigel. And as such we turned out a very efficient win 4-2 against the new guys, not losing a single game, and having chances to make it a bigger score.

Nalin finished first. Out of a symmetrical English a symmetrical game resulted which ended in a symmetrical result. Next was Mark on the white side of an Alekhine. Here Mark had chances despite having a bishop and knight against his opponents two bishops, but it ended in a draw.

Next was Simon, scoring the first win for the season. In fact it was quite a tactical fest early on, Simon playing 1 e4!, which was a bit of a surprise, and then he eschewed his normally more positional style playing a very aggressive line against the Scandinavian:

The key period of the game is moves 16-19.

Black spots that Simon is trying to set up the Noah’s Ark trap, which would happen if he could get in a3 Ba5 b5 so winning the bishop. Hence c6 giving it an escape square, but black has missed Simon’s secondary plan, setting up a queen fork by opening the a2-g8 diagonal. It all looks very straightforward – in fact it’s quite a lot more complicated than it looks! It’s worth playing through the lines. But anyway Simon won a piece and that was enough for the game.

Next were two more draws, myself in a Pirc where I was better for much of the game but failed to convert, and Liam in a slightly strange Caro-Kann exchange variation which eventually became something like a Panov-Botvinnik attack. Liam’s game had many swings back and forth and ended in a fascinating Knight v. Bishop endgame which if I had more time and energy I would cover. But pride of place goes to the last to finish, Eldar who won very cleanly in nice classical style, exploiting his space advantage to slowly crush his opponent:

So a good solid win to kick off the season:

Just 4 days later we faced University 1 at Corpus Christi College.

Uni 1 have won everything for the last few years, but this season they have looked somewhat weaker, and indeed when we arrived while it was clear that it would be tough it would not be impossible.

When I say “we” the team had changed somewhat. On the plus side we did have Nigel, but had lost Eldar. And we had a disadvantage the students would be unlikely to have to deal with – It being Halloween Liam and Simon were unavailable due to having to run the local toddler protection racket, sorry I mean having to take their little ones out Trick or Treating. But in John and Andrey we had a couple of very capable substitutes.

And then the University team had a bit of bad luck – just after the match started their Captain was called away and had to resign his game. Not the nicest way to get a point, but that meant Andrey finished early with a win to his name.

After that it started to look like usual business for Uni 1. Nalin lost a piece and resigned, soon followed by John doing the same. 2-1 to the University, but not without hope, I was better on my board, as was Mark, and on top board Nigel was almost holding his own against the very useful Nicholas Clanchy.

Nigel’s game is a good example of never give up. Or maybe it is a good example of Nigel’s amazing ability to pull results out of nowhere. Let’s look at the crucial move:

Nigel has struggled hard against his appreciably higher rated opponent, but at move 41 the simple truth is he is lost; the pawns are just marching through. But then Black manages to lose a vital tempo allowing Nigel to get his own pawn through, and it’s a draw! I wouldn’t dwell on this if this was a one off, but Nigel has an incredibly ability to do this sort of thing, I wish he could teach it to the rest of us … As an exercise try and work out what Black’s best continuation is at move 41.

So it’s Uni 1 2 1/2 Cumnor 1 1 1/2. Mark finishes next, a win!

I’ve said before I really don’t understand the Dutch. To me black always seems to have no room and the pieces aren’t working, and then black crashes through on the king side. As supporting evidence the game above is exhibit 1, at least as far as I am concerned. I can sort of see Mark working his “bad” white squared bishop around to the king side to make it “good”, and his opponent does seem to help a bit by swapping off pieces which removes Black’s cramp a bit, but, but, but … well I just don’t get it! Well played Mark, maybe you can explain how all this works to me one day? Uni 1 2 1/2 Cumnor 1 2 1/2 !

So I am the last to finish. I’ve been better for much of the game, but while I am still better at the end the tide has been against me for a while and the honest truth is my brain just felt fried and I was seeing nothing. So I accepted my opponent’s draw offer – should I have gone for the win and risked the match result? Not sure, I took a Captain’s view at the time that we had expected nothing out of this match so even a draw was an excellent result, so let’s grab that. Here’s the game, you can draw your own conclusions.

So a 3-3 draw – on one hand somewhat lucky, but on the other we could have won, but maybe with the unfortunate loss for the University on board 6 that would not have been really fair. So, looking on the bright side a point we never expected, and an excellent result whatever view you take:

After all this we’re currently third in the table:

Next up Witney on the 14th!

Oxfordshire Needs You!


Nigel Moyse is urgently looking for players for the county team!

Oxfordshire play in the Chiltern League along with Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Hampshire. We thus have 6 games a year, 3 at home (played at Cumnor) and 3 away, which are played on Saturday afternoons with teams of 20 on each side, and a time control of 2 hours for all moves. If you are interested in playing please contact Nigel , and especially if you are free this Saturday (29th Oct 2022) as time is getting short and we still need players!

One Plays Chess In Cornwall

Over the weekend of 14th-16th October Cumnor players were busy in tournaments on opposite sides of the country. Nigel was playing in the open section at Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, while I was in the Under 1975 “Major” section in Penzance. This was played at the Queens Hotel, right on the Cornish seafront

Not a bad view – and not far from how it actually was!

and to cut to the chase I managed  4 out of 5 which was good enough for a two way share of first place!

You can find all of my games here. I had to ride my luck at times, especially in the draws in round 3 (against my co-winner) where I was caught in a nasty line in the Alekhine by a well prepared opponent, and in round 4 where a draw by mutual exhaustion was agreed, but in the final position I am almost certainly losing were it not for the clock and mental state of the two players. But the groundwork for the result was in the first two rounds which allowed me to reach top board and stay there until the end of the competition, so let’s have a look at those.

I was white in Round 1, and as usual played the Smith-Morra Gambit against the Sicilian Defence.

6… Bb4 is a slightly unusual line which is by no means bad, but 7 … Bxc3 immediately swapping off looks unconvincing to me. 7 … Ne7 is better, and the game continuation shows why; after swapping off Black loses control of his black squares, and further opens up a3 to the white bishop which will make it difficult to castle. Things get worse as Black swaps off his developed pieces leaving white with a huge space and development advantage, and 14 f5! and 15 e5! open the lines into the Black position, with 20 Rf7! finishing things off nicely.

The Lichess analysis engine rates round 1 as my most accurate game. On the other hand I think round 2 is my best game, a thematic Pirc as Black played against the section’s top seed:

We’ve seen this line before when I played Graham Cole in the league match against Cowley last season. The games differ at move 7, Graham played Re1, William played a4. This is a logical move to stop black gaining space on the queen side with b5, but it does have a downside in that it weakens b4 as that square can no longer be attacked by the a pawn. In fact provoking 7 a4 to cause this weakness is part of the point of 6 … a6; black is expecting white to kick any knight on c6 with the pawn advance d5, and after white plays a4 the b4 square is a possible escape route for the knight, as opposed to the apparently more passive b8 as in the game against Graham. That’s not to say 7 Re1 is any better than 7 a4, they just have different pros and cons.

After 7 a4 the game developed in hypermodern fashion, with White trying to prove that the black knight on b4 is a liability due to the few squares it has to run to when attacked, due to the big white centre, while Black claims the knight is worth its weight through pressurizing a number of crucial squares in the white camp, namely c2, d3 and especially d5, occupied by the advanced white pawn. It was an interesting exchange of ideas on moves 8 to 14, both sides moving logically to support their plans. White attacks the knight first by stopping black playing a5 to support the knight (and provide an escape square on a6) by playing his own pawn to that square, and then attacks the knight directly with the rook lift 10 Ra4. Unfortunately for white black has just enough time to start pressurising the white centre, with e6 (better than c6 to avoid a weakness on b6), and he can then support the knight with c5.

At the end of this phase it is clear that Black has won the ideological battle, and after Bf5 is clearly better. White has to start playing some slightly unnatural moves to continue his plan, while Black has taken full control of the open e-file. This also acts as an indirect defense of the knight on b5 since white finds it difficult to play Ne2, a necessary part of his plan as he wants to play c3 to attack the black knight. However as the game shows this is tactically flawed and drops the d pawn precisely due to the pressure down the e-file.

William told me after the game that he had seen 15 … Nbxd5 but miscalculated the end; he thought he was getting has pawn back. But really it is a miscalculation in a difficult position caused by White choosing a slightly wrong plan, and I can’t deny I was pleased how well I exploited it! Maybe better for White is 11 dxc5 taking the position into something like a Sicilian Dragon, or 12 Nxd5 Nxd5 exd5 accepting that the black knight really was a strength and not a weakness, and taking us into Symmetric Benoni land (pawn structures rool!)

Anyway after the pawn is won it becomes easy for Black. My pieces were working, William’s were not, and despite a small tactical flourish at the end it was all wrapped up fairly quickly.

Game 5 was a French defence. I played the opening somewhat indifferently, but once we got into the game I started playing well, and tied my opponent up so much that he resigned in a bind while but a pawn down. In fact the game is a nice example of how I think about knights. Here is the position just before White’s 17th move:

So where does the knight want to be? What is “the promised land”? Well d6 or f6 would be wonderful squares – I think g6 in particular by my opponent was a very tired move in the last round of the tournament, it opens up those lovely dark squares for me to exploit. So how do I get to d6 or f6? Well the only route is via e4, which means the knight came from d2 or g5, which in turn means the knight came from f3. Hence 17. Nf3! To be honest in this case the plan has a flaw as black can always swap the knight off for his bishop when it reaches e4, but at least I get a bishop for a knight as the positional threat of an “octopus” on d6 or f6 is just too much. However as played I got an additional route via c4 which he could not stop, and once the knight was in d6 I just had to establish and maintain control of the open b file (note I do not take the free pawn on move 26), and then march my king over to eat the queen side pawns – despite the reduced material the knight and the rook just completely tie Black down. Presumably at the end he is trying to support his weak c pawn with Rook c7, but then Rb8+ Kg8 Ne8+ wins the black rook. I think Black has to try f6 at some point, but it is pretty miserable.

However it was not only my opponent who made tired moves in the last round – one of my worst moves in the tournament was 24 Qb6. So as a fairly easy tactical quiz what do I have in the position below that is a marked improvement?

So a good tournament full of interesting games, in a beautiful location. And I won!

A New Term Begins …

Well it’s the start of a new season, the  (almost) final fixture list is out, and at least two of us (Gareth and I) have already played our first competitive game, for the county away at Buckinghamshire last weekend. And it’s reflected at the club which has been very busy since the return from the summer break; yesterday evening saw almost 20 people playing. In fact we were so busy Steve was pondering which second room we should commandeer, our usual venue being so packed.

It was a mixture of club tournament games and more casual ones. In the Player’s Cup, for members of the first team squad, Nigel played Liam and I (Ian) played Gareth. In both white won, though in both games it wasn’t easy. Against Nigel Liam established early on a queen side majority with pawns on a6, b5 and c4 against a2 and b2, but could never quite get them rolling and eventually succumbed to Nigel’s king side attack. My win was a much longer grind, I won a pawn in the middle game and simplified to an ending where we both had a rook and bishop, and I thought I had good winning chances, but had underestimated Gareth’s idea of swapping off rooks to leave a drawn opposite coloured bishop position. Anyway Nigel’s win all but guarantees him the Player’s Cup this year, he is mathematically catchable but even if one of us does on any sensible tiebreak he will win. Here is the top of the table which you can find on the ECF LMS web site:

The Bill Laar Trophy, locally known as the BLT, is for all other members of the club. Unlike the Player’s cup this year it is incredibly tight with maybe half a dozen players in with a chance of winning it, and Jeff beating Andrey, one of the 4 matches last night, has made it even closer. In fact it was a good night for the Bryant family with Otto getting his first win in the competition against Allan, a great result. In the other games Steven beat Pedro to go top, and the defending holder Robin beat Richard to go into a tie for second. Anyway the top of the table, again from the ECF LMS, now looks like

All incredibly close, I can’t call it!

But it wasn’t just cup matches, casual games were going on – and the game of the evening was between two promising new comers, Alex and Rio. Unfortunately I don’t have the score, but whenever I went over to have a look Alex was throwing the kitchen sink at Rio, who was calmly holding on and just grabbing the material Alex offered despite the attack looking very dangerous. I don’t even know the final result! I was tied down in time pressure in my game against Gareth. Anybody? In the comments maybe?

So busy and interesting times at the club with a lot of fun chess being played. All welcome!



Cowley Summer Blitz: Online on Monday 4th July


Cowley Chess club has announced that the regular Cowley Blitz tournament will be held online at Lichess on Monday 4th July. Details are below, and also on the OCA web site :

This year’s Cowley Summer Blitz will be played online on Lichess on Monday 4th July at 7:30 p.m. It will consist of as many blitz games as you want to play between 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. To play, you must have a Lichess account. You must also be a member of the Cowley Blitz Lichess team. If you aren’t already a member, you can visit and click the “Join” meeting. When the admins notice, they can then admit you. Please also email and tell me the name of your Lichess account, and also your real name, so I know who is playing. Also if you would like to be considered for an age or gender related prize, please send me the details. As there are no admission fees, the awards are for the prestige only. Finally, if you are signed up, all you have to do is to visit the tournament link on the night at

Four Play Chess in Somerset

Selwood Academy

Oxfordshire is blessed at the moment with a rich crop of talented juniors. Many of you will know that two of them, Jan Murawski and Kenneth Hobson, won their respective sections in the British Junior Chess Championships, and Kenneth was in action again recently at the Frome Congress, held at Selwood Academy. He was joined by Dimitrios Zakarian and Alex Hertog, all playing in the highest rated Open section, an excellent illustration of the strength of junior chess in the county at the moment

All had good individual results, Kenneth and Dimitrios both finishing on 3.5/5 and winning grading prizes , and Alex playing well above his rating to finish on 1.5. Further it was proposed that a team to represent Oxfordshire was formed, but more about that later … First all three have been kind enough to send me what they think is their best game, so let’s have a look:

Kenneth Hobson

Kenneth chose his second round victory against Allan Pleasants

Kenneth nowadays is a much better player than I, so I’ll leave you with his comments, save to say that as a Pirc/Modern player I agree 8… c6 is not a good decision, 8… c5 screams out to be played, and that the tactics at the end are very pretty; sacrifices on empty squares are often difficult to see, and line closing ideas doubly so.


Dimitrios Zakarian

Dimitirios also provided some analysis for his round 4 game against John Waterfield, and talking of tactics move 27 is a stunner!

Obviously the son has inherited something from the father … The sacrifice leaves white’s minor pieces miserably bottled up in the corner and the lone rook is totally ineffective against Black’s Queen and Knight. The computer confirms it all as sound, one pretty line with distant echoes of Kenneth’s idea above:

Superb stuff! It’s one thing to see these things, but it it takes confidence (of youth?) to play them.


Alex Hertog

Alex chose his 2nd round draw against George Hollands as his best game. Outrated by around 150 points Alex nevertheless almost grinds out a long positional win in a very mature game:

I’m usually on the white side of these structures, and if I can get a knight into d6 I am normally very happy. However Alex nicely defuses it here, and in the process wins a pawn to go into a Rook + 3 pawn against R + 2 ending. Now to me this looks very difficult to win, but on the plus side there are only 2 possible results; white is in for a long and miserable defence. The key to winning is to somehow eventually get the king in front of the pawns aiming for the Lucena position, while avoiding black’s main drawing possibility, the Philidor position. Easily said, very difficult to achieve here with the white pawns connected and on the same files as Blacks, and a well placed White king. Alex slowly and patiently makes progress but in the end white manages to set up essentially the Philidor drawing method – to be honest I suspect with best play the ending was drawn from the start, but Alex made a fine stab at it.

Dimitrios in action

So three juniors in the Open, all doing pretty well. As a result after round 3 it was suggested that an Oxfordshire team was put together, which required a fourth player. So which shining star of Oxford youth chess could they chose?

Dazed and Confused

Yes, weighing in at over 55 years and more than 50% the age of the other 3 players combined it was me! I was playing in the Major, restricted to players rated under 1950, and was doing pretty well. I ended on 3.5/5, enough for a share of third.

My best game was probably round 1, but that was a Benoni and I’ve shown a lot of them recently. So here is my round 4 effort:

Pretty, but my opponent was the architect of his own (k)nightmare with 15… Qe7. That said I was pleased with getting the tactics around 13 exd6 right (threat dxe7), and Kb1 to kill off counter play is the kind of move I easily miss.

Me in the fourth round, looking elegant as ever

So the weekend resulted in good performances all round, and prizes for 3 of us, not a bad haul at all! So what did that mean for the team? Well … unfortunately it was decided we tried to enter the team too late, so my career as an Oxfordshire Junior was cut cruelly short :( To add insult to injury part of the reason for the rejection was that we were doing too well individually to enter a team that late!

Thus a good weekend for Oxfordshire chess at an enjoyable and well run congress – if you can get to Frome next year I strongly recommend it. I’ve been going since 2018, and I really feel I ought to mention in previous years I went with Ian Brooke, a stalwart of Oxford Chess that we sadly lost earlier this year. I am sure he would be overjoyed to see such young talents doing so well in such a tough competition.

Ian Brooke playing at Frome in 2019

Many thanks to Brendan O’Gorman and Chris Lamming for permission to use their photographs; follow the links for more of their excellent photos of the congress.

Match Report – Witney 1 v. Cumnor 1

On May 9th the first team had its last match of the season, away at Witney

This was actually a rearranged match, Witney were missing a few of their players for the original date, and as it was more or less a dead rubber we agreed to move it to the very last day of the season so we could face their full strength – maybe we are too nice …

So on a sunny early summer evening, far removed from the dark of the reverse fixture in the Old School with broken heating, we found ourselves to be out-rated on every board. Despite that there were a lot of interesting games, but I’ll keep things short so the main focus can be on Nigel’s extremely fine game on top board.

On board 6 Andrey faced a newcomer who does look fairly useful …  Darryl certainly knew how to play against the Chigorin defense to the Queen’s gambit, winning material in the late middle game and converting fairly easily. Witney 1 Cumnor 0.

On board 5 John faced Howard Searle, meeting the Modern Defence with an Austrian attack which looked promising for a while but ended in a fairly early draw. Witney  1 1/2 – Cumnor 1/2.

Liam was on board 4 against Adam Sieczkowski, a junior that I know to my own cost is very useful.  An extremely complicated game resulted, with Adam pressing on the Queen side, and in the end his better coordinated pieces pushed through. Witney 2 1/2 – Cumnor 1/2.

Mark’s game against Francis Parker was the first of a couple of games to feature heavy material sacrifices. It all started with a Two Knight’s Defence, Francis playing the Ulvestad variation , a line which Mark said after the game he had never seen before. Madness soon ensued, Mark going a rook down but with the black king in the centre and mating threats based on an advanced pawn on c6. I have to say whenever I saw it I never really believed Mark had enough, and while he won back some of his material the game went into an R+B v. R endgame that Mark couldn’t hold. Witney 3 1/2 – Cumnor 1/2.

On my board, 2, I face Mike Truran. As the one time we have played before we went into a Modern Benoni, Mike this time playing the Taimanov Variation, aka the Flick-Knife Attack . Once considered almost a refutation of the Benoni, Black is now considered OK, but it is certainly good to know the theory if you are going to go down this line. And indeed Mike and I followed book lines until move 15 when I deviated saccing a pawn to get a chance an the initiative. This proved to be just the warning tremors, two moves later I sacced a knight to open up Mike’s king and many round the table thought I had a winning attack. Unfortunately Mike found the only defence, a line I hadn’t deeply looked as it involved moving his king to a square where I could check and apparently gain tempo, and then I failed to follow up properly – repeated sacrifices followed but in the end I resigned because, as Liam put it, I “had run out of things to sacrifice”. And to add insult to injury even if I had found the correct follow up the semi-conducting monster shows that the initial knight sacrifice was unsound, though the refutation is not that easy to see. Oh well, such things never bothered Tal … the only difference being he tended to get away with it! Witney 4 1/2 – Cumnor 1/2

I would normally have filled out some of the details above, but pride of place must go to Nigel’s excellent win on top board against Dave Hackett – one which Matt Rose judged of such high quality as to win the Ray Starkie prize for the best game played in the OCA this year! The turning point of the game was a fine line closing combination which netted Nigel the exchange, a plan he must have seen some moves before actually playing it. Here it is, watch out for 21 d5!:

Nigel had now won material, but Dave has a definite initiative, and he proceeded to throw what he had at the White king – which Nigel calmly refuted with nerves of steel, just taking whatever gifts Dave offered until there was nothing left despite the alarming concentration of black pieces near his king. I was particularly impressed by 32. Ne2, I thought while watching 32. Nf3 was obvious, but as Nigel explained on f3 there is always the chance of Rxf3 opening up the white king’s position, and also from e2 the knight gives useful cover to g3. Anyway here’s the whole game:

In the final position b8=Q+ will defuse all Black’s remaining threats, and leave the win trivial. And so quite possibly the last game to finish in the whole of the OCA season wins the best game prize – Well played Nigel! Simon Terrington has published a YouTube video discussing the game.

So the final result in a match filled with exciting games was 4 1/2 – 1 1/2 to Witney

We finish the table second from bottom, but in reality part of the mid-table pack that represented how closely many of the matches have been fought this season, a result we can be proud of given the loss of some of our stronger players at vital points in the season.