Scottish National Chess League (SNCL): Season 2023-2024
The early rounds (1-4)
The new season of the SNCL started with a slight change in format with Divisions 1 and 2 having 10 teams each with the matches played over 9 rounds. On this occasion Division 3 consisted of all the remaining 16 teams. As the day of the first 2 rounds approached, everything seemed to be going to plan. Dundee City A were trying to defend their national title, but it was going to be a tough task with a host of strong teams from across Scotland also challenging for the top honour. New teams choosing to join the SNCL competition in any year always have to start in the lowest Division. Therefore, it was guaranteed that there would be a handful of potentially strong teams entering the competition in Division 3.
Division 1 got off to a bumpy start. This was because the first Sunday coincided with one of numerous severe winter storms that disrupted transport across the country. NE Scotland was particularly badly hit, meaning that it was impossible for Bon Accord to travel to the Dunfermline venue. This meant that their opponents in the first 2 rounds (Forth Valley A in Round 1 and Hamilton A in Round 2) were left to sit it out. Although this was no-one’s fault, it has left the tournament organisers with a headache in respect of how to resolve the issue of two matches not having been played.
In the morning round, Dundee A faced CS BOS1. It was a tough match to start the season with – but wins from Andrew Wright and Helge Magnussen plus draws from Stephen Hogg and Ed Spencer gave Dundee City A a 3-2 win. In Division 2, all of the teams managed to make it to Dunfermline. Dundee City B started their campaign against Corstorphine with a thumping 4-1 win, with full points coming from Kam Wan, Tom Wardlaw and Ray Noble plus draws from Matthew Deighan and Alisdair McLeod. In Division 3, Dundee City C were up against a much stronger Inverclyde Phoenix and lost 1-4, our only point coming from a default on bottom board.
The afternoon round saw Dundee City A overwhelm a much weaker Forth Valley A by 4.5-0.5. In Division 2, Dundee City B were up against Forth Valley B but some nice wins from Matthew Deighan, Alisdair McLeod and Tom Wardlaw saw them scrape through by 3-2. In Division 3, the Dundee City C team was heavily outgraded by a Paisley team who completed a whitewash over their Tayside counterparts.
And so we move forward into 2024 and January 28th with Rounds 3 and 4 to be played. Fortunately, this time a day of calm weather separated the many winter storms and all teams managed to make it to the venue. In Division 1 in the morning session, Dundee City A continued their winning ways with a heavy defeat of Edinburgh 1 by 4.5-0.5. In Division 2 Dundee City B were up against league favourites, Lenzie Basilisks. It was a tough match as one might imagine. Joshua Crofts gained a good draw on Board 4- and Alisdair McLeod won on Board 5. But it was not enough, and Lenzie ran out winners by3.5-1.5. In Division 3, the C team put in a much stronger performance running out clear winners over Stonehaven by 3.5-1.5. In this match full points were gained by Adam Clark on Board 2, Subhayu Banerjee on Board 3 and Ana Seijas Otero on Board 5. It was Adam’s first match in the SNCL and it was great to see him coming out of a tough rook and pawn ending with the full point.
In the afternoon, things were much tougher for Dundee City A against a strong Wandering Dragons team led by FM Andrew Burnett. There were wins for Andrew Wright and Helge Magnussen and a draw Ed Spencer against Alan Minnican. But masterly play by Andrew Burnett against David Findlay together with a win for Walter Burnett over Stephen Hogg meant that the match was drawn. It remains to be seen how costly this dropped point will be. In Division 2, the B team regrouped and came out winners over Edinburgh 2. This time, wins from Andre Babin and Alastair Dawson plus draws from Matthew Deighan and Joshua Crofts were enough to secure a 3-2 victory. In Division 3, our C team was up against Edinburgh West C. This time wins from Adam Clark, Jonathan Kinnell and Ana Seijas Otero plus a draw from Subhayu Banerjee were sufficient to win by 3.5-1.5. Special mention should go to Adam and Jonathan who both played exceptionally well in their first SNCL outing.
With Round 4 finished there is still a long way to go for the Dundee City teams. In Division 1, only a single point at the top of the table separates Dundee City A, Dunfermline Knights, Stepps and Wandering Dragons. In Division 2, Dundee City B sit in 3rd place, two points behind Lenzie and Dumfries. In Division 3, Dundee City C have now moved up the table after a shaky start in October to lie in 10th place out of 16 teams. We all look forward now to Rounds 5 and 6 that are due to take place on February 25th 2024 – weather permitting!