Scottish National Chess League, Rounds 5 and 6, February 18th 2018
The penultimate Sunday of this season’s SNCL started off for the three Dundee City with a range of expectations. For the A team it was all about maintaining top spot and being able to reach the last Round in good shape for the final match against favourites Edinburgh 1. The team also had an important change. Andrew Greet was down in Newcastle playing in the prestigious Northumbria Masters. In his place came Andrew Wright, a very strong player in the Dundee chess scene from years past. In the morning the opponents were Steppes. On Board 1, David lost against IM Douglas Bryson, both Ed and Andrew Wright drew on Boards 2 and 4. But wins from Declan over Alex Gillies and Stephen Hogg over Jim Small were enough to secure a 3-2 win. In the afternoon, Dundee A were up against a substantially weakened Hamilton team. The top Boards were fiercely contested: David was beaten by Joe Redpath, Ed had a nice win against Tom Donohue but Declan lost to Stephen McQuillan. Then Boards 4 and 5 came to the rescue with straightforward wins for Andrew and Stephen giving a 3-2 win.
In Division 2 the expectation was to keep challenging for promotion. With Bon Accord runaway leaders there was a chance to push towards the 2nd place promotion slot. On the face of it the morning match against lower graded Perth was the easier match and the afternoon pairing against Giffnock much more difficult. But things did not go to plan. Against Perth, Carey Groves was beaten on Board 1 by Martin Gourlay, on Board 2 Alastair could get no more than a draw out of David Hall. But with young guns Euan Dawson and Ben Volland both winning on Boards 3 and 4 and Keith Rose losing on Board 5 the match ended up tied 2.5-2.5. So on to the afternoon. Carey had her work cut out against FM Phil Giulian and lost. Then Euan took a hard-fought draw against Rosie Giulian. He was followed by wins from both Ben and Keith. Last to finish was Alastair who overcame Antonios Floros giving us a 3-2 win!
In Division 4, our C team had a different look about it – Robert Burnett was on Board 1, Ray Flood on 2, Subhayu on 3, Josh Cargill-Brown was making his team debut on Board 4 as was Jack Gibson on Board 5. Leaders in this group were Oban and Musselburgh. So the plan was to continue picking up points and keep in touch with 2nd place. But Musselburgh were the opponents and it proved a daunting task. Robert was beaten on Board 1 but Ray Flood continued his good form with a win on Board 2. With Subhayu drawing on Board 3 the match outcome was going to be determined by what happened on Boards 4 and 5. But after superhuman efforts neither Josh nor Jack were able to hold their positions and the team lost 1.5-3.5. Things were better in the afternoon against CS BOS 2. Draws from Robert, Ray and Jack (especially well-played) plus a nice win by Josh earned the team a 2.5-2.5 draw.
So where do these results leave the teams? In Division 1, the A team lead Edinburgh 1 by half a game point. Thus in the final match at the end of March a draw would be enough to secure the title – easier said than done, however, given the strength of Edinburgh 1. In Division 2 the B team are tied in second place with Kilmarnock – who they play in the final round. Dundee, however, have a better game point score and so here also a draw would secure promotion to Division 1. In Division 4, the C team are sitting in 3rd place and only a 4-0 score in the final might be enough to catch the top two team, but even then only if some other matches go in Dundee’s favour. So, overall, Rounds 5 and 6 went well for the Dundee City teams. Certainly, no other teams in Scotland are in the position going into Round 7 of both playing for the Championship and also for promotion to Division 1. Special mention should go to Andrew Wright, Jack Gibson and Josh Cargill-Brown who all had their debuts and who all put in fine performances.