Dundee City A Champions Report: Scottish National Chess League, Season 2022-2023

With the pandemic hopefully behind us, there was a sense of excitement as Scotland’s chess players returned to the Carnegie Conference Centre in Dunfermline to commence a new season of the Scottish National Chess League. With a start slightly later than usual, the tournament dates had been adjusted to begin Rounds 1 and 2 on the 29th January and conclude with Round 7 on the 7th May 2023. Dundee City A set out to defend their title, knowing that a challenging task awaited them.

As it turned out, the achievements of the A team formed part of an incredible season of chess success for players from Dundee City. Not only was Ed Spencer crowned Scottish Champion, but David Findlay led an online Dundee City team to remarkable success in winning the 4NCL online championship. One of the outstanding players for the Dundee City A-team in the SNCL 2022-23 season was Andrew Wright, who scored a remarkable 6.5/7. We will highlight two of his games here. The first is his game as Black versus Ian MacDonald in the crucial Round 6 match against Bon Accord A. The second is a recent, swashbuckling attack with White against GM Pantoja in the World Online Chess League.

In Round 1 of the 2022-23 SNCL, Dundee City shot out of the blocks with a victory in Round 1 against Dunfermline. Wins on Boards 3, 4, and 5 from Ed Spencer, Andrew Wright, and Stephen Hogg, respectively, and a draw from Helge Magnussen on Board 2 were enough to secure a 3.5-1.5 victory.

In the afternoon of Round 2, there was another strong performance with a 3.5-1.5 win over Wandering Dragons. Here, the wins came from Helge Magnussen, Andrew Wright, and Stephen Hogg, with the last two players both scoring impressively with 2 wins out of 2 on the day. A draw by Ed Spencer meant that our A team ran out as easy winners.

On Day 2, the team for Round 3 faced strong Edinburgh West opponents with IM Craig Pritchett on top board. After a tough contest, Dundee City came out on top by 3-2. On this occasion, the points were brought home after wins from Stephen Hogg and Ed Spencer, plus draws from Andrew Wright and David Findlay – a very commendable result indeed.

In the afternoon of Round 4, a significant battle took place between our A team and another of the title contenders, Bon Accord. The result, after several hours of tough chess, was a 2.5-2.5 draw. On this occasion, Andrew Wright and Stephen Hogg were the points winners, supplemented by a draw from David Findlay on Board 1. The magnitude of the competition was illustrated by Andrew Wright’s game, which was the last to finish in the tournament venue sometime after dark, around 6.45 pm.

On Day 3, Rounds 5 and 6 coincided with Mothers’ Day. This meant that various teams experienced call-offs. Fortunately, our A team was unaffected. In the morning, they ground out a 3-2 win against Stepps, with wins from Andrew Wright and Ed Spencer, supplemented with draws from David Findlay and Helge Magnussen. This run of fine form continued into the afternoon when the team convincingly beat Hamilton A by 3.5-1.5. This time, the wins came from Helge Magnussen and Ed Spencer, supported by draws from the remaining three boards. In terms of overall performance, the star player was Andrew Wright, who led the way for the A team with 5/6 – simply excellent!

And so, in the final round of the tournament, Dundee City A faced Edinburgh 1 with FM Craig Thomson on Board 1 and CM Adam Bremner on Board 2. The task for David Findlay on Board 1 was thus a challenging one, but, as White, he played accurately, resulting in a draw. Helge’s match against Adam was much tougher, and eventually, Adam, with the White pieces, prevailed. On Board 3, Ed Spencer, with White, faced Raj Bhopal. Although they did not know it at the time, both were to meet again later in the Scottish Championship, with Ed coming out on top – but on this occasion, the game was drawn. On Board 4, the in-form Andrew Wright got the better of Willie Rutherford, while on the bottom board, Stephen Hogg beat Mike Ridge. So, the final result was 3-2 in favor of Dundee City A, securing them the title of Champions.

At the time of writing, the 2023-24 SNCL chess season is about to commence. This season, the playing format is slightly different, with 9 Rounds of play instead of 7. In addition, the League Divisions will each consist of 10 teams. Dundee City is likely to have essentially the same team and, if form is anything to go by, will be challenging to beat.

Alastair Dawson