Last Thursday, Season 8 (S8) of the online Junior 4NCL (Four Nations Chess League) concluded with a finals night.
During this season’s campaign, Suffolk fielded two teams in division 3 and division 4.
The division 4 team squad consisted of many new members. Despite being newbies to competitive chess, Suffolk Juniors 2 managed to finish a very respectable 12th place out of 34 registered teams.
The Suffolk Juniors 1 squad played excellently as well, and managed to finish top of Group A in division 3, sealing promotion to division 2 next season.
The top two teams from Group A and Group B then went onto play in the division 3 finals. Team Manager, Jon Ferris, gave the following personal account on how the finals went:
“Congratulations SJC for finishing second in division 3. I’m exhausted after just watching the matches tonight. And it was a real team effort, we even had 3 players listed as board 4 on the zoom at one point. Firstly, thanks to Max for stepping in to play in the semi, and winning both matches in a 7-1 win. Or 6.5-1.5, I’m not quite sure which 2 of Rowan’s 3 games count.
Unfortunately, Harry’s camera was blocked from the zoom, which was a problem for the arbiter, and a disappointment for Harry who waited around for his decision. As Max had a commitment which prevented him from playing the final, it was Amy to the rescue, although I wasn’t sure if the arbiter would even accept her setup until about 30s before the start.
Rowan saved his best for the final, winning the first match and putting us into the lead. Unfortunately, that was the high point, and although Rogue Rooks are rated more than 200 points higher than us, this was their most challenging match of the season. Thanks also to Arthur and Oliver, who also won both matches in the semi and pushed their opponents in the final, although Amy was the last to finish, making her opponent work for the win.”
It was both fun and nail-biting watching some of the games live on Lichess. Suffolk’s fighting spirit, comradery, and etiquette throughout the entire season was wonderful, and there were many chess highlights. Two such examples from the finals typify how much progress Suffolk juniors have made over the past few years.
Example 1: RaptorWill v MaximRalph
Despite one slip-up early on in the opening, which went unpunished, MaximRalph played a very solid game where he continually put pressure on his opponent. The crucial moment in the game can be seen below. Here White blundered by exchanging rooks on e5 (31. Rxc4 would have kept the game well-balanced). Exchanging pieces can be an easy option, but not always the best one. MaximRalph very quickly won a pawn allowing their d-pawn to promote to a Queen. Checkmate shortly followed.
Example 2: RowanKent v EvenUltraPawn
In this game, RowanKent (1862) played the Greco Gambit against a much higher-rated opponent, EvenUltraPawn (2114). Despite being equal on material out-of-the-opening, White’s extra space and well-placed pieces very quickly lead to a decisive advantage. On move one, the e-pawn ventured forward to e4, which is the most common first move. However, it’s not so common for the e-pawn to continue marching forward, with the support of White’s troops, all the way to the seventh rank. The position below shows the beginning of the end of a very smooth game from Suffolk’s board number 2.
Congratulations to all squad members who took part this season and special thanks to captain/manager, Jon Ferris, for doing a superb job at organising the teams for each set of fixtures.
Everyone can now enjoy a thoroughly-deserved Christmas break and look forward to Season 9 (S9), which begins on 18th January 2024. More details can be found on the 4NCL website.