Scottish National Chess League, February 2nd, 2020 Rounds 3 & 4, Carnegie Conference Centre, Dunfermline.
Dundee City had 20 players on hand to compete in Rounds 3 and 4 of this year’s SNCL. Competition was extremely tough as usual. When silence descended in the hall except for the shuffling of chess pieces, our A team embarked on a bruising encounter against Edinburgh West who were led by IM Craig Pritchett on Board 1 down to George Neave (2116) on Board 5. It was a great debut for Jacque Ophoff on Board 1 who defeated Craig Pritchett. This was followed by fine draws by David Findlay (vs Joe Redpath), Stephen Hogg (vs Neil Farrell) and Ed Spencer (vs George Neave). So a 2.5/2.5 draw against arguably the strongest Division 1 team. In Division 2, Dundee City B had on the face of it not too hard a match against Dumfries but the match ended up drawn. Full points were collected by Ben Volland and Robert Jackson on Boards 4 and 5, Alastair drew against Nikos Argyroudis to secure the draw. In reality, it was not so good however, since he (this author) inexplicably threw away a simple win in time trouble. In Division 3, Dundee City C lost 2-3 against a strong Perth team. The highlight of this match was a superb win on Board 1 by debut Michael Dugdale over Martin Gourlay. But a win on bottom board by Ed Walton was not enough to prevent the loss. In Division 5, Dundee City were up against it in an encounter against Edinburgh and Fife Red Bulls. The latter team was hugely strong and led by WFM Rhian Hughes ably supported on Board 2 by Lloyd Hughes. So out-gunned and out-manoeuvred the team went down 0-5.
And so to the afternoon. Nothing is easy in the SNCL and nowhere was this more the case than in Division 1 where the Dundee City A team were up against Bon Accord A. With FMs Murad Abdulla and Hamish Olsen on the top two boards and Daniel Maxwell, Euan Gray and Duncan Harwood on boards 3,4 and 5 this was not going to be easy. In a tense encounter between Murad and Jacques Ophoff and with both players having no more than a minute each left on their clocks it was Murad who came out on top. But this was countered by fine wins from Stephen Hogg and Ed Spencer and draws from Andrew Wright and David Findlay. Ed, in particular, starred in a difficult position where he pulled off a magical Q sacrifice with a smothered mate threat to win the game. So the A team ended up winning by 3-2. In Division 2 there was some trepidation since Dundee City B were up against a very strong Kilmarnock team with Jamie Malkin, Eliot Frew and Kenny Malkin on the top 3 boards. In the end Kilmarnock proved too strong with the only points on the team sheet coming from Alastair with a win over Kenny Malkin and a draw by Ben Volland against Douglas Hamilton. So the final result was 1.5-3.5 to Kilmarnock. In Division 3, Dundee City played well against Pentland Hills but suffered a 2-3 loss. Here, the top performance was a very good win by Keith Rose over Andrew Clark supported by draws from Jan Barron-Majerik and Ray Flood. In Division 5 things turned out well for Dundee City D against Hamilton B. Here, Marten Kats gained a convincing win on Board 2. And there were wins also for Max Whisson and our young talent Rishi Vijaykumar – so a great 3-2 win.
To sum up – after 4 rounds in Division 1, Edinburgh West are marginally ahead on 6 points with 3 chasing teams on 5 points – Dundee City A, Stepps and Bon Accord A. In Division 2 Dundee City B are sitting mid-table on 3 points. The clear leaders here are Thistles and Kilmarnock –each on 8 points. In Division 3, things are looking not so good for Dundee City C who presently sit bottom of the Division. But some good performances in Rounds 5 and 6 will help considerably. In Division 5, Dundee City D are presently in 6th place with 4 points. Our Juniors are doing well and gaining priceless experience with every match played. Next up is the 3rd match day on March 1st – good luck to all. Star performance of the day in this case needs to be shared between Michael Dugdale’s win over Martin Gourlay and Jacques Ophoff’s win over IM Craig Pritchett.