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25 Apr 2012

So in the end a match which threatened to be our second default of the season in the absence of a number of the usual Witney 1 players finished up as our eleventh win out of eleven played matches - thanks in small no part to the sterling efforts of the Witney 3 players, who came to the rescue just when it was needed and acquitted themselves nobly against their Division 1 opposition.


Cowley 1


Witney 1

1 Starkie, Ray J (188) ½ -


Truran, Michael (189)
2 Nixon, Rod (178) 0 - 1 Richmond, Peter (194)
3 Cichy, Pawel (152) 0 - 1 Headlong, Timothy (187)
4 Robson, David W (143) 1 - 0 Turner, Roger N (138)
5 Keeling, David (137) ½ -


Kennedy, Alan (128)
6 Baker, Jonathan AE ( ) 0 - 1 Kilbride-Newman, Bob (124)
2 - 4
Match played on 23 Apr 2012.

In the circumstances, overcoming an admittedly weakened Cowley team and, more importantly, the absence of a functioning heating system at the Cowley venue was no mean feat.


The usual strategy on the top boards of giving Peter the black pieces worked like a dream. Although I faffed around to little effect in the opening and was glad when Ray accepted my hopeful offer of a draw in a Semi-Slav that went seriously awry, Peter played his customary razor-sharp chess in the Albin Counter-Gambit and soon had the advantage in an opening that Rod seemed not to be too conversant with. Although Rod's resignation looked a tad premature, at that stage Peter was two pawns up and had every expectation of a successful outcome in due course. Tim meanwhile displayed some of his best form to tie Pavel up in knots in a Catalan and finish sharply with a kings side attack.


Although Roger seemed to survive the opening (a Vienna) in reasonable shape, he seemed to get himself in a bit of a tangle in the middle game and dropped a piece to a timely (well, untimely from his point of view) pawn push attacking a knight on f6 and opening up an attack on his queen on g6 from the white bishop on d3. Alan sacrificed a pawn nicely (although he tells me it was accidental, I'm sure that's not true) to establish a dominating knight on e4 and complete control over the white squares, but then seemed to run out of ideas and allowed the blockade on e4 to be broken. Dave offered him a draw in a much superior position (although neither side seemed to realise that black was better at the time), but by that stage the match was safe anyway. Finally, Bob played a very sound and controlled game to outplay Jonathan - so between them the Witney 3 players secured a very respectable 50% result from their three games.


So it's on to the Frank Wood Shield final next Monday in our attempt to complete the double for the first time in many years. Wish us luck!



Commiserations to Witney 2, whose fine win against Oxford 2 on Monday proved just insufficient as Wantage 1 and MCS 1 played out the draw that Wantage 1 needed to gain the second promotion spot. Witney 2 fell victim to the arcane tie-break rules that the OCA seems to love so much whereby even if a team scores more game points over the course of a season than another team on the same number of match points (as was the case here), it's the head to head results between the two teams that count - and although Witney 2 beat Wantage 1 4-2 early in the season they lost 4.5-1.5 in the return match. I would have thought, and have made the point repeatedly, that looking at overall performance over the course of a season would be a better indicator of relative performance than using a basis under which an entire season's effort can be undone by what might have happened in an individual game in an individual match - but what do I know?


Finally, please diarise Friday 18 May at Hacketts for the annual club dinner and awards ceremony - menus to follow shortly. Spouses, partners, children welcome as always!


- Mike

28 Feb 2012

A hard match against a resilient Cowley 2 team yesterday evening saw us move to 'dormie 3'. The position remains that we have to lose all our remaining matches and that Banbury 1 have to win all their remaining matches as well as beat us 5-1 for us not to be Division 1 champions - so our fate remains firmly in our own hands and we're feeling reasonably confident (touch wood).


  Witney 1


Cowley 2
1 Wells, Peter (236) 1 -


O'Reilly, Gerard (202)
2 Girdlestone, Paul (204) ½ -


Burt, William (176)
3 Richmond, Peter (194) 1 -


Lang, Heather LE (167)
4 Truran, Michael (189) ½ -


Rasell, Geoff C (161)
5 Headlong, Timothy (187) 1 -


Marsden, Ruby (154)
6 Hackett, Dave G (181) 1 -


Stanley, William (Bill) (145)
    5 -


Match played on 27 Feb 2012.

Peter W with Black played a fine game against Gerard which I hope to have a copy of soon to post on the website, breaking through in the centre and the kings side with some nice tactical touches.


Paul outplayed Will for most of the game in another of the 19 century style games he seems to like, but unfortunately time trouble meant that he lost the thread despite being a clear exchange up in a fairly simple ending.


Will sportingly offered the draw when Paul was down to his last 17 seconds. Heather went wrong early on against Peter's trademark Snipe Variation and Peter converted confidently.


I faffed around to such a degree in a Semi Slav that I lost control both of the queens side and the centre, and was relieved when Geoff offered the draw in a position which Fritz evaluated as clearly advantageous for black. Happily the state of the rest of games gave me sufficient confidence to accept without feeling obligated to mess my position up any further in an attempt to make something out of nothing. Tim and Ruby reached a fairly level middlegame in which Ruby proceeded to shed a pawn; faced with the loss of another pawn or checkmate she chose not to put Tim's technique to the test. Dave continued his successful return to the team with a solid win against Bill, who tried to fish in troubled waters by sacrificing a piece for two pawns. Unfortunately for him his extra pawns were well blockaded, and Dave eventually liquidated down to a won bishops ending.


So onwards (and hopefully upwards) to the Frank Wood Shield semi-final against Cumnor 1, a match we need to win by 4½-1½ because of the handicapping system. If we survive that, it's University 1 in the final!


By the way, I see that IM Adam Hunt played his first match this season for Cowley 1 yesterday evening. His surprise return helped them beat University 1, a very useful couple of match points in their continuing battle against relegation.


- Mike

14 Feb 2012

Monday evening saw a packed village hall, with three Witney teams in action. Stung by Banbury's comments about the poor catering provided by most OCA teams, Alan wheeled out tea and coffee for the assembled masses - this seemed to go down very well with all concerned, so thank you very much Alan.


  Witney 1


Oxford Univ 1
1 Wells, Peter (232) 1 - 0 Shanmugam, Ravindran (206)
2 Girdlestone, Paul (201) 0 - 1 Foord, Dominic (188)
3 Richmond, Peter (198) ½ - ½ Smith, Chris (177)
4 Truran, Michael (191) 1 - 0 Rabbitte, Michael (183)
5 Headlong, Timothy (187) ½ - ½ Jackson, Mark (168)
6 Hackett, Dave G (181) 1 - 0 Miranda, Nicole (-)
    4 - 2  
Match played on 13 Feb 2012.

Our own match was against the team placed second in the league, so a win would see us with a six match point advantage going in to the final four matches of the season. The match was very hard fought on most boards, and the final 4-2 scoreline felt about right on the balance of play.


Peter W was a little disappointed with his play after the opening (a Spanish Breyer variation), but to the rest of us plebs he seemed to be playing fine, and the spectators enjoyed the way he finished off with a mating flourish to seal the match. Paul was unfortunately not in his best form - he seemed to get little out of the opening, and in chasing down an adventurous rook he won the exchange but shed two pawns and the cohesion of his position in the process; a later blunder finished the game, but by that time Paul's position had pretty much disintegrated anyway. Peter R and Chris played out a mutually respectful draw in which not much seemed to happen.


I had an exciting game on the white side of a Benoni; it's never easy to play against one's own favourite defence, but for once I seemed to play quite well, breaking through in the centre before Mike's queens side counterplay really got going; after mopping up his queens side pawns my a pawn slipped through to queen while my pair of bishops held my somewhat leaky kings side together. Tim seemed to have a slight advantage against Mark for most of the game, but there never seemed to be anything concrete and the game petered out to a draw in a rook ending. On bottom board we welcomed Dave back to the team in Mark's absence for his first league match of the season; he didn't seem to get too much out of the opening, but when I looked next he was in an ending the exchange up and with a monster passed pawn, which proved more than sufficient.


So we look foward to our next league match at home to Cowley 2 on 27 February. If my reckoning is correct, if we win we would need to lose and Banbury 1 win all our/their remaining matches, and Banbury 1 would also need to beat us 5-1 in our own match for us not to win the Division 1 title. So it's looking fairly good (touch wood).


- Mike

06 Feb 2012

Our match against City 1 was always going to be tough, and so it proved. City 1 were at near full strength for a match which was doubling up as our first league meeting of the season and the quarter-final of the Frank Wood Shield, missing only Wei Sin Tan (ECF grade 213), who hasn't played for them so far this season.


  Oxford City 1


Witney 1
1 Rose, Matthew (218) 0 - 1 Wells, Peter (232)
2 Manley, Jon P (196) ½ - ½ Girdlestone, Paul (201)
3 Brown, Matthew (180) 0 - 1 Richmond, Peter (198)
4 Terry, Sean (174) 0 - 1 Truran, Michael (191)
5 Woolacott, Sam (-) ½ - ½ Headlong, Timothy (187)
6 Hayward, Philip (169) 1 - 0 Hannon, Mark (189)
    2 - 4  
Match played on 06 Feb 2012.

Peter W tells me he was somewhat worse out of the opening (a Centre Counter) but that Matt sacrificed the exchange unnecessarily. A tough battle ensued, with Peter maintaining sustained pressure and finally simplifiying to a won endgame the exchange up and with a flying passed a pawn which Matt had no hope of stopping.


Peter still had around four minutes on his clock at the end as well! Paul had a dour positional battle with John in a Four Knights (traditionally not the sharpest and exciting of openings) - each side seemed to have a small advantage at various points, but nothing substantial emerged and a draw seemed a fair result. Peter R played very soundly in a Sicilian to refute Matthew's exuberant piece sacrifice; Black's attack looked momentarily dangerous, but Peter calmly picked his way through the complications and emerged a clear piece up.


I reverted to my youth (centuries ago) with a Hedgehog Defence (Sean, I thought you were an e4 player?); Sean threw his king's side pawns forward against my king, but a timely break in the centre simplified things nicely, and after Sean missed a Zwischenzug (I've been wanting to say that in a report for a while now) I was able to mop up a few pawns on his weakened king's side. Tim gained a massive positional advantage in a Classical King's Indian, but rather mishandled the middlegame and was forced to jettison two minor pieces for a rook. Sam should have cleaned up relatively simply but misplayed it badly; Tim wriggled ingeniously and managed to whip up sufficient threats against Sam's king to force a drawn queen ending. Mark's Leningrad Dutch left White with what looked to me like a small but annoying edge for most of the game (although Mark tells me he thought he was equal in the middlegame), and as both sides drifted into time trouble Mark's king's side threats proved insufficient to compensate for a missing exchange.


So we remain clear at the top of Division 1, but with some tough matches still to come. Next up are University 1, our nearest rivals. If we can see them off we should hopefully, as they say, be home and hosed.


- Mike

23 Jan 2012

It was nice to start the new calendar year off with a convincing win. Peter W was very unlucky, outplaying Marcus on the black side of a Caro Kann but running out of time just before he was able to capture his last pawn.


  Witney 1


Bicester 1
1 Wells, Peter (232) 0 - 1 Harvey, Marcus R (212)
2 Girdlestone, Paul (201) 1 - 0 Marlow, Mike (163)
3 Hannon, Mark (189) ½ - ½ Beckett, Richard (162)
4 Truran, Michael (191) 1 - 0 Morton, Iain (153)
5 Richmond, Peter (198) 1 - 0 Poderico, Francesco (157)
6 Headlong, Timothy (187) 1 - 0 Burcham, Anthony (115)
Match played on 23 Jan 2012.

Evening league chess is unforgiving in this regard, and I for one would be a fan of incremental time controls (say all moves in 75 minutes + 15 seconds a move increment from move 1) to reduce the risk of the travesties of justice that seem to happen so often in the Oxfordshire League.


That said, I suppose that until the analogue clocks owned by the various OCA clubs finally fall apart and they finally decide to move into the 21st century it's not going to happen. On board 2 Paul played a controlled game to nurse a positional advantage through to a win. Board 3 featured another time scramble lottery; Mark dropped the exchange in a complex middlegame and Richard ran out of time trying to deliver mate and take off all Mark's pieces at the same time.


In this case, however, although he failed in the former objective he succeeded in the latter, so a draw resulted. I played a relatively untroubled game for once, converting a big centre on the white side of a Grunfeld into an ending a couple of pawns up, which was enough to do the trick. Peter R, playing down the order because of recent illness, converted without difficulty, as did Tim on board 6. Our post mortem analysis considered various exciting ways in which Tim could have sacrificed most of his pieces for crushing attacks, nebulous compensation or outright losses as the case might be; during the game Tim heroically resisted such temptation and just ground his opponent down.


My next job is to fire off an email to the OCA Chairman (our very own Mr Kennedy) proposing 75 minutes per game + 15 seconds/move increment as the preferred time control for Division 1 for next season. I probably won't get anywhere, but if you don't ask you don't get. If people have any comments on the matter I would be glad to receive them.


- Mike

13 Dec 2011

In the absence of over half the first team's regular squad for various reasons, a tight match was expected, and so it proved. Happily the second team rode to the rescue for us, with Jon, Alan and Derek scoring 2/3 between them. Many thanks to them for helping out so effectively. Welcome also to Paul Girdlestone (like Tim and Peter R a member of the Brown Jack club in Swindon), who played in the first of what will hopefully be a lot of matches for us.


  Witney 1


Cowley 1
1 Girdlestone, Paul (201) ½ - ½ Starkie, Ray J (184)
2 Truran, Michael (191) ½ - ½ Nixon, Rod (178)
3 Hannon, Mark (189) 1 - 0 Cichy, Pawel (152)
4 Kennedy, Jonathan (172) 1 - 0 Robson, David W (148)
5 Gentry, Alan (155) ½ - ½ Keeling, David (143)
6 Edwards, Derek F (146) ½ - ½ Stanley, William (Bill) (138)
    4 - 2  
Match played on 12 Dec 2011.

1. Paul's game against Ray featured a lot of heavy duty manoeuvring until, as so often, things went somewhat haywire in time trouble. Paul was winning, but hung a piece and bailed out with a draw with seven seconds left on his clock.


2. I played an exuberant king's side attack against Rod's Czech Benoni which was regrettably several tempi short of where it needed to be by the time Rod's own counterplay against my king (stranded rather forlornly on the queen's side) crashed through. I managed to confine the damage to a couple of pawns (Rod probably missing a few wins on the way), and with two minutes left in a fairly simple ending against Rod's half an hour or so I thought that was it. Much desperate wriggling, however, led to the creation of a dangerous passed pawn which confused Rod to such a degree (although by that time I was a piece and a pawn down) that he suddenly found he had to give up his rook to stop the pawn. Giving up my own rook for Rod's last pawn with six seconds left on the clock left him with insufficient mating material. A narrow escape, which I have to say Rod took in a very gentlemanly way.


3. Mark 'The Rock' Hannon did his usual fine job in bringing home the full point. He always seemed to have a slight edge against Pawel, and he competently did the business in Pawel's time trouble.


4. Jon also had a good game, although for much of the time Dave seemed to have whatever advantage there was. In the end, however, Jon's higher grade told as Dave weakened towards the end.


5. Alan almost eked out a win against Dave, getting down to a double rook ending in which he had both the more active rooks and a dangerous looking passed pawn. The win wasn't quite there, though, and Dave managed to cling on a hard-fought half point.


6. Derek's habitual English Opening led to a dangerous looking king's side attack, with what looked like a very angry looking set of pawns marching down on Bill's king. Again, however, the win wasn't quite there and Billl managed to find sufficient counterplay to share the point.


So a match which could easily have left us on the wrong end of the result finished up with us still on maximum points after five matches going into the Christmas break, and four points clear at the top of the table. Many thanks to everyone who has played their part in what will hopefully be a repeat of last year's Division 1 title - although there is a long way to go!


- Mike

15 Nov 2011

A fighting victory against a Cowley 2 team who, although weakened by the absence of the formidable Wang sisters, gave a good account of themselves. Division 1 does seem to be seeing a slightly disquieting trend of teams being unable to field their strongest players, and indeed of players stopping playing altogether (in which latter regard Witney itself has of course been affected this season). It's probably too early to say whether this represents a longer term trend in local league chess, but there may be some warning signs.


  Cowley 2


Witney 1
1 O'Reilly, Gerard (213) 0 - 1 Wells, Peter (232)
2 Burt, William (171) 1 - 0 Richmond, Peter (198)
3 Lang, Heather LE (161) 1 - 0 Hannon, Mark (189)
4 Rasell, Geoff C (158) 0 - 1 Truran, Michael (191)
5 Keeling, David (143) 0 - 1 Headlong, Timothy (187)
6 Morris, Priscilla (77) 0 - 1 Searle, Howard AJ (155)
    2 - 4  
Match played on 14 Nov 2011.

A fighting victory against a Cowley 2 team who, although weakened by the absence of the formidable Wang sisters, gave a good account of themselves. Division 1 does seem to be seeing a slightly disquieting trend of teams being unable to field their strongest players, and indeed of players stopping playing altogether (in which latter regard Witney itself has of course been affected this season). It's probably too early to say whether this represents a longer term trend in local league chess, but there may be some warning signs.


Anyway, to the match. Peter W played a nice controlled game and always seemed to have Gerard under pressure, finishing off with a king's side attack after Gerard injudiciously advanced his king's side pawns. Peter R's game was a real rollercoaster, with Will having the last word. I think there was another exchange sac in this game, although sadly not on the part of a Witney player. Peter afterwards was very complimentary about Will's play.


Mark was unlucky; he outplayed Heather and looked to have a clearly winning position, but in time trouble Heather (being an excellent time trouble player, as I know to my cost) found some good moves and finally won with both sides having only a minute or so on their clocks. Geoff outplayed me in the opening, but hesitated over a central break which would have given him good chances; I eventually stopped fiddling about and remembered what you're supposed to do in the Benoni (generate lots of cheapos and hope your opponent falls into one of them before you get crushed positionally) - Geoff did indeed walk into one, lost the exchange and I was able to simplify into a rook ending a couple of pawns up before he lost on time. Tim, like Peter W, always seemed to be in control and gradually crushed the life out of David's position; black never seemed to get going with any serious counter-play. Howard also played a nice game against Priscilla; what started as a Kings Indian developed into a Leningrad Dutch look-alike in which Priscilla's queen's side play never got going as Howard marched down the f file towards thw white king. Although Howard missed a nice tactic to sacrifice a rook on f2 for a nasty knight fork to win white's queen, the pressure on f2 was always going to be enough. Then off to the pub for a couple of drinks and the usual post-mortem.


So we move on to eight match points out of eight, but with tough battles still to come. I suspect that much will depend on the ability of the various Division 1 teams to get their full squads out for matches without needing to call on reserves.


- Mike

11 Nov 2011

A narrow win against fellow title contenders Oxford University 1. Howard and I continued our recent run of appalling form. Howard blundered a pawn in the early opening for no compensation and never recovered.


  Oxford Univ. 1


Witney 1
1 Yu, Jeffrey (183) 0 - 1 Wells, Peter (232)
2 Schaper, Steffen (180) ½ - ½ Richmond, Peter (198)
3 Smith, Chris (177) 1 - 0 Truran, Michael (191)
4 Panayotov, Ivo (-) 0 - 1 Hannon, Mark (189)
5 Pozimski, Szymon ( ) 0 - 1 Headlong, Timothy (187)
6 Jackson, Mark (168) 1 - 0 Searle, Howard AJ (155)
Match played on 10 Nov 2011.

I rather flashily sacrificed the exchange in a line containing at least two holes in it, instead of playing a simple two move combination that would have won a piece. Even then I had a perfectly playable position, but fell apart in time trouble.


The rest of the team however came to our rescue; Peter W played a controlled game against Jeffrey, continuing the theme of his recent lecture by sacrificing the exchange (happily somewhat more soundly than me). Tim and Mark also placed good smooth games (the former sacrificing another exchange) leaving it to Peter R to play what seemed to me from the little I saw of it to be a rather chaotic game which remarkably featured a fourth exchange sacrifice in the same match. Clearly Peter's talk has had an inspirational effect!


Next Monday sees us playing away at Cowley. With a number of the team playing scratchy chess at the moment, this is going to be another tough match!


- Mike

02 Nov 2011

A hard-fought match against a tough Bicester 1 side which showed why they cleaned up in Division 2 last season. Even without their 190+ player Simon Lazarus in their team they gave us a good run for our money and the match went down to the wire.


  Bicester 1


Witney 1
1 Harvey, Marcus R (212) ½ - ½ Wells, Peter (232)
2 Heide, Gerhard ( ) ½ - ½ Richmond, Peter (198)
3 Marlow, Mike (163) ½ - ½ Truran, Michael (191)
4 Beckett, Richard (162) 0 - 1 Hannon, Mark (189)
5 Poderico, Francesco (157) ½ - ½ Headlong, Timothy (187)
6 Earl, Chris (124) 0 - 1 Gentry, Alan (155)
    2 - 4  
Match played on 01 Nov 2011.

1. Peter always had pressure against Marcus and seemed to be a lot better towards the end, but Marcus wriggled ingeniously, time-trouble took its toll and the win slipped away. A good result for one of the top juniors in the country.


2. Peter grabbed a hot pawn in the opening, but Gerhard had a lot of activity and Peter had to defend accurately before being able to liquidate down to a drawn rook ending.


3. I had a slight pull for much of the game (although Mike and Tim disagreed with my assessment in the post-mortem, no doubt out of simple contrariness and to kick a man with a heavy cold when he's down), but blundered horribly to drop the exchange. Even then I had some play, and Mike graciously accepted my draw offer as we were both starting to drift into time trouble and the match was already looking bad from the Bicester side of the table.


4. Mark played a heavy duty positional game and was gradually getting on top when Richard lashed out in time trouble, finishing up in a lost pawn ending once his passer on d7 was rounded up. Whether Mark would have been able to engineer a breakthrough if Richard had just sat tight is a moot point.


5. Tim obtained a big plus against Francesco's Dutch Defence, but the net result of his endeavours was a pawn plus in the ending when at one point a middle game crush looked more likely. Tim offered the draw in a position in which he was running short of time and his winning chances were problematic.


6. Alan's game looked very level until Chris inexplicably recaptured a bishop on f3 with his g pawn instead of a piece. The resulting shattered white king side was all the invitation Alan needed to swarm in with his queen and knight and deliver a quick knockout. He has rather unsportingly refused to share the game with the avid readers of the Witney website on the grounds that 'my opponent just made a mistake'. My counter-argument that it's actually quite difficult to win a game unless your opponent makes a mistake seemingly cut no ice.


So two wins out of two, and we have a couple of weeks off before tackling fellow title challengers Oxford University 1 in the league and Banbury 1 again in the second round of the Frank Wood Shield (not on the same evening I hasten to add).


- Mike

18 Oct 2011

Witney 1's first league outing of the season resulted in a reasonably comfortable win over Banbury 1, who unfortunately already look as if they may be the Division 1 whipping boys.


  Witney 1


Banbury 1
1 Richmond, Peter (198) 1 - 0 Vikanis, Georgs (173)
2 Truran, Michael (191) 1 - 0 Bruce, Dave (159)
3 Hannon, Mark (189) 1 - 0 Manley, Nathan J (157)
4 Headlong, Timothy (187) ½ - ½ Evans, Chris ( )
5 Searle, Howard AJ (155) ½ - ½ Staples, Neil (150)
6 Gentry, Alan (155) ½ - ½ Waddell, Mal (145)
Match played on 17 Oct 2011.

Witney 1's first league outing of the season resulted in a reasonably comfortable win over Banbury 1, who unfortunately already look as if they may be the Division 1 whipping boys.


1. Georgs with white played uncharacteristically passively in the opening, and seemed to miscalculate a combinational sequence in the middlegame which left him a piece down for no compensation.



Mike Truran vs. David Bruce


2. I played quite a nice game (though I say so myself) against Dave in a Kings Indian Samisch in which white's plan of advancing his pawns in front of his own king on the queen's side, although a fairly standard one, seemed to catch him by surprise (see right).


3. Mark won the exchange, but when I looked at the game for the last time before my own time trouble his opponent seemed to have a huge pawn embedded in his (Mark's, not his own) vitals (metaphorically, that is). Of course Mark won.


4. Tim had most of the pressure throughout, but (although having another metaphorical pawn embedded in his opponent's metaphorical vitals) the game petered out into a draw.


5. Howard played solidly and got the draw without too many alarms.


6. Alan played inventively to win a couple of pawns and when I last looked seemed to be winning comfortably, but the win seemed to slip away in a rook ending.












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