Last night brought more action for our chess stars, with all three Chessable White Rose teams in action at the Four Nations Chess League (‘4NCL‘) semi-finals.

Two weeks ago, our teams had secured their respective places at the knockout stage with a series of excellent performances. Now they were focused on reaching the final part of the competition, but they were up against very tough opposition. Teams One and Two were playing for a place in the Division One final and Team Three was in the mix for a crack at the final of Division Five.

Team One

A team featuring Gawain Jones, Christof Sielecki, James Adair and Kamil Plichta makes for a formidable line up. Our team started as favourites against Guildford Young Guns, although the rating difference was relatively small (an average of 2491 against 2430).

James Adair’s win against veteran Grandmaster Mark Hebden levelled the match after Christof lost to Alberto Suarez Real, which left boards one and four looking for glory.

It was close! Gawain drew with Matthew Wadsworth and Kamil’s game was also a draw, against Harry Grieve. Kamil’s game was the last one to finish. Needing a win, he played on for a short while king and two knights against king and one knight, but there were no winning chances left.

This left the teams level at 2-2, but unfortunately for us the tiebreak method turned out well for Guildford Young Guns (a win on board two is more valuable than a win on board three). Missing out on the tiebreak brings back memories of the previous season.

4NCL Semi-finals
Image from the 4NCL website

There were plenty of interesting moments in the match.

Adair - Hebden

James Adair – Mark Hebden

White to Play

James played 34.d6 and converted his advantage in the endgame (1-0, 60) but there was a tactical chance here.

34.Rxg7! Kxg7

35.Ne6+ Kg8

36.Nxf8

36…Rxf8

Unfortunately for Black, he cannot keep the rook in an active position because 36…Kxf8 37.Bb4+ followed by 38.Rxf1 is an easy win for White.

37.d6 Rd8

38.d7 Ne5

39.Rd5

Adair against Hebden Winning Passed Pawn

…and Black will lose material after 39…Nc6 40.Bh4 or 39…Nxd7 40.Ba5. It is interesting how the sleeping bishop on e1 decides the game with potential moves on both sides of the board. Note how having a bishop controlling the queening square makes all of the difference; Black simply cannot hold the blockade on the dark squares.

The match was a very close call and we congratulate Guildford Young Guns on their hard-earned success. There are no easy matches at the 4NCL semi-finals!

Team Two

Team Two were really up against it. Celtic Tigers & Sharks is a name which leaves nothing of their intentions to the imagination. Despite our team’s best efforts, they were ultimately outgunned by the four strong International Masters.

Maaike Keetman and Peter Gayson both earned fine draws, but Tim Wall and Graeme Oswald just couldn’t hold back their opponents with the black pieces.

4NCL Semi-finals
Image from the 4NCL Website

Maaike played particularly well and her game was the closest we came to a victory.

Chessable White Rose Maaike In Action

Maaike Keetman – Ritvars Reimanis

White to Play

Maaike played 29.Nf6+ Kg6 30.Nxd7 Rxb7 31.Rxc6, winning the pawn, but Black struck back with 31…Nxh3+ 32.Kh2 Nf4 and the black knight remained a pest. The game was drawn after 56 moves.

It is possible that removing the knight was the best way to proceed.

29.Nxf4 gxf4 30.Rcd1 when there are more targets in Black’s position and White’s two vs. one pawn majority on the kingside may of use later on, although it would not be easy to grow the advantage against such a strong opponent.

Maaike Alternative Ending

It has been an excellent season for Team Two and they have something to build on next season. Meanwhile, is is congratulations to Celtic Tigers & Sharks; a powerful team who deserved their victory.

Team Three

It was smoother ride for Team Three, who dominated Forest Hall Juniors in both ratings and results. David Mooney, Jonathan Arnott and Connor Clarke all won their games and Alexandra Busuioc drew, as our team powered its way through to the final.

4NCL Semi-finals
Image from the 4NCL website

David Mooney has been a major influence on the success of Team Three. His game last night was similar to so many others I have witnessed over the years. He obtained an advantage against the French Defense, accepted weaknesses which couldn’t be exploited (i.e. the doubled a-pawns), moved his pieces into strong positions and finished with a tactic. David should be at least an International Master.

Chessable White Rose 4NCL Semi-final

David Mooney – Zheming Zhang

White to Play

Black has just played 25…g5 in a bid to break the shackles, but there will be no respite for the defender.

26.Nd3 Re7

27.Ne5 Bh5

28.g4 Bf7

David Mooney Chessable White Rose

29.R1c7 Rxc7

30.Rxc7 h5

31.Nd7 1-0.

David Mooney Winning Chess Tactic at the 4NCL Semi-final

Final Position

31…Re8 32.Nf6+ will follow, winning the exchange. All in all, this was an excellent 4NCL semi-final victory for Team Three.

The Final

Team Three will play Charlton Cobras A in the Division 5 final, which is scheduled for Tuesday May 18. We will present a report here shortly afterwards.

For further information on our teams, follow Chessable White Rose on Twitter.

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