Nottinghamshire County Championship 2007

Ian Kingston

10–11 November 2007
Lenton Community Centre
Willoughby Street

Let’s get the negative issue out of the way first: where were all the strong players? There are more than 40 players graded over 150 eligible to play in the Championship section, yet only one actually entered. The 140s were largely missing as well. I know some of the individual reasons for not playing, and they’re all perfectly reasonable. But it does raise the question of what needs to be done to have a competition representative of the strength of players in the county.

So, to the tournament itself. Because of the shortage of entries in the top two sections, the Championship, U150 and U125 sections were merged, but with all prizes still up for grabs. The total entry was a respectable 37 people – down from last year’s 56, but still well up on recent years.


The Championship section began with the grading favourite, David Levens, taking a half-point bye. This allowed several players to get a head start, and raised the prospect of a very tight contest. Most players were also eligible for the U150 title, and about half of the field were also competing for the U125 championship, which meant that it was sometimes hard to see what was going on – with no one able to win more than one title there was much feverish calculation going on.

Things started to clarify a little in Round 2. Alex Combie, fresh from his fine performance at Scarborough, George Murfet and Maurice Hill all reached 2/2. Neil Graham was on course to join them when he blundered away material in time trouble against Phil Court.

Maurice Hill took a half-point bye in Round 3, which proved to be a wise choice, as only George Murfet among the leading contenders was able to take advantage. In a level position, Alex Combie snatched a pawn, only to find that George had a tactical resouce that won at least a piece. David Levens tried to win until the final seconds of his game against Phil Court (missing at least one clear opportunity), but when Phil’s slightly generous draw offer came David had little option but to take it.

Thus at the end of the first day George Murfet was the surprise leader on 3 points, with Maurice Hill on 2½ and a pack of five players behind him on 2.

Sunday morning saw the obvious top board pairing. Maurice pressed hard and won a pawn, but George was able to hold on in a difficult rook ending to maintain his half-point lead. David won cleanly against Bob Taylor to join Maurice in second place, but none of the other contenders was able to win.

The last round began with George needing just a draw with the white pieces against David to secure the title because of his superior tie-break score compared with Maurice. Both Maurice and David needed wins, but the former had the better tie-break. Maurice duly won his game against Phil Court after Phil dropped a pawn, which left all eyes on the top game. Approaching the first time control, David found a way to win a pawn, but with both kings exposed and queens still on the board the game could have swung either way – and both players were very short of time. In a complex and difficult position, the players reached move 36 with a double blunder, and then settled in for a tense half hour.

After 43 moves, this position was reached (White to move):

Murfet-Levens 2b3k1/p5q1/3B4/3p1p2/2p5/7Q/PP6/5K2 w - - 0 44

This was the last recorded position on the scoresheets. David had picked up a second pawn, but winning is highly problematic because George’s pieces are very active and a queen exchange could easily leave a drawn opposite-coloured bishops ending. White could try 44.Qh4 because 44... Qxb2 45.Qe7 forces a draw (easily shown by computer, although not so obvious with only a couple of minutes left on the clock). Also, 44.Qg3, forcing off the queens, seems to draw. A sample variation might be: 44. Qg3 Qxg3 45. Bxg3 Kf7 46. Ke2 d4 47. Bf2 d3+ 48. Kd2 a6 49. b3 Be6 50. bxc4 Bxc4 51.Be1! (51. a3 f4) 51... Bxa2 52. Kxd3 Ke6 53. Bd2, with a simple draw. The white king heads to a1 and stays there, and if the f-pawn advances White just sacrifices the bishop for the pawn leaving an elementary draw.

After that, many more moves were played. David made a series of queen checks to try to provoke an error, but with George threatening mate in one David had to abandon that approach. He then tried to bring the bishop into play, but that gave George the chance for some checks. However, at about that time George’s flag fell. David didn’t see it at first, as the flag only partially dropped, but a few moves later it slipped far enough to be clear to David and the game was over.

Maurice Hill was therefore declared the winner after a very solid performance.

George’s consolation was the Under 150 title (sponsored by Kirk Hallam and Grangewood Dental Practices) (Alex Combie second), while the Under 125 championship (sponsored by Jaysons Pharmacy (Wollaton and Long Eaton)) went to James Thomson (Nick London and John Collins shared second place).

1Maurice HillNomads4
2David LevensWest Nottingham4
3George MurfetRadcliffe & Bingham
4Alexander CombieNewark
5James Thomson3
6Phil Court
7Oliver ExtonNomads
8Brian ThompsonWest Bridgford
9Nick LondonRadcliffe & Bingham
10Daniel LinWest Nottingham
11Robert TaylorAshfield
12John CollinsWest Nottingham
13Benny LimNavigation
14Richard MyersNewark2
15Daniel Broughton2
16Neil GrahamAshfield2
17Robert WilloughbyWest Nottingham2
18John ButteryRadcliffe & Bingham
19Peter Gorecka-MarshallGambit
20Janos Wagenbach*Mansfield1

*Withdrew after Round 3

Under 100

The Under 100 Championship was a more straightforward affair. The early leaders, with 2/2 were Tony Thorsen, Eamonn Lim and Tracey Clegg, with newcomers Chris Sargeant and Andrew Sutton half a point behind. Chris beat Tracey in Round 3, while Eamonn and Tony took half-point byes. Round 4 saw Tony beat Eamonn Lim, while Tracey and Chris both won. There was also a late run from David Ash, who joined Tracey on 3 points, half a point behind the two leaders.

Because of the tie break situation, only Chris or Tony could win the title in the last round, with Tony needing just a draw. A hard fought battle ensued, but Chris was able to make no impression on Tony’s position and a draw was agreed, giving Tony the title. Meanwhile, Tracey won to join them on 4 points.

1Anthony ThorsenNomads4
2Christopher Sargeant4
3Tracey CleggWest Nottingham4
4Eamonn LimWest Nottingham
5Michael ZhangWest Nottingham
6Stephen HambyUniversity3
7David Ash3
8Paul ToddAshfield3
9Mike FalgateRadcliffe & Bingham3
10Sohum DhirNomads
11Arun MainiWest Nottingham
12Andrew Sutton2
13Tim Ash2
14Saaras MehanWest Nottingham
15Daniel ThurgoodNomads
16Michael GathercoleWest Nottingham½
17Shaun GathercoleWest Nottingham½

Other prizes

The County Junior Championship (sponsored by Specsavers (Long Eaton and Ilkeston)) was rolled into the main Championship event, with Oliver Exton pipping Daniel Lin to title. Mike Falgate won the Senior Championship, and slow starter prizes (for players with no more than 1 point at the end of the first day) went to Neil Graham (U150), Benny Lim (U125) and Tim Ash (U100).

The Saturday game of the day prize was awarded to Alex Combie for his win against John Collins – it’s not often you see passed d-, e- and f-pawns in the middlegame.

Alexander Combie – John Collins
Nottinghamshire County Championship, Round 1, 10.11.2007

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Be3 Qc7 7.Qd2 Nf6 8.f3 d6 9.g4 Be7 10.g5 Nd7 11.0–0–0 b5 12.a3 Nce5 13.f4 Nc4 14.Bxc4 Qxc4 15.h4 Rb8 16.h5 Nb6 17.g6 fxg6 18.hxg6 h6 19.b3 Qc7 20.f5 e5 21.Ne6 Bxe6 22.fxe6 d5 23.Nxd5 Bxa3+ 24.Kb1 Nxd5 25.exd5 Rc8 26.Rhf1 Rf8 27.Rf7 Rxf7 28.gxf7+

Combie-Collins 2r1k3/2q2Pp1/p3P2p/1p1Pp3/8/bP2B3/2PQ4/1K1R4 b - - 0 28

28... Ke7 29.b4 Qd6 30.Bc5 Rxc5 31.bxc5 Bxc5 32.Qd3 Bf2 33.Qf3 1–0

Sunday’s winner was Eamonn Lim for his last round game against Andrew Sutton. The win was somewhat fortunate, but the reversal of fortunes at the end of a very good game was what caught my eye. Black appears to be winning a queen, but turns out to be losing his king.

Eamonn Lim – Andrew Sutton
Nottinghamshire U100 Championship, Round 5, 11.11.2007

1.e4 d6 2.d4 g6 3.Nf3 Bg7 4.Bc4 Bg4 5.h3 Bxf3 6.Qxf3 e6 7.d5 e5 8.Nc3 Nf6 9.Bg5 Nbd7 10.Qe2 0–0 11.0–0 h6 12.Bh4 g5 13.Bg3 Qe7 14.Nd1 Nc5 15.f3 Nh5 16.Bh2 Nf4 17.Bxf4 gxf4 18.b4 Nd7 19.Qf2 Bf6 20.g3 Kh7 21.g4 Bh4 22.Qg2 Rg8 23.Be2 Rg6 24.Nf2 Rag8 25.a4 Nf6 26.c4 Qd7 27.c5 h5 28.cxd6 Bxf2+ 29.Kxf2 Qxd6 30.Rfb1 Qb6+ 31.Kf1 hxg4 32.hxg4 Qe3 33.Rd1 Kg7 34.d6 cxd6 35.Rxd6 Rh8 36.Qg1 Qc3 37.Rad1 Rgh6?? 37...Rh3 should win for Black

Lim-Sutton 7r/pp3pk1/3R1n1r/4p3/PP2PpP1/2q2P2/4B3/3R1KQ1 w - - 0 38

38.g5! Rh1 39.gxf6+ Kh7 Suddenly Black sees that 39...Kf8 loses instantly: 40.Rd8# So the king has no choice but to interfere with his own rooks and the game is lost 40.Qxh1+ Kg6 41.Qg2+ Kh5 42.Qh3+ Kg6 43.Qg4+ Kh6 44.Kg2 Rg8 45.Rh1# 1–0