09/06/20 4NCL Round 10
HERTFORD beat TEMPLE SUTTON 2½ - 1½ in final round to finish winners of division 5
Borman, Phil 2190 1 - 0 Bensoussane, Riyad 1720
Cheal, Barry 2193 ½ - ½ Modhura, Urbi 1682
Buswell, Mark 1810 0 - 1 Audhora, Purba 1577
Judkins, Brian 1697 1 - 0 Pool, Melvin 1585
There is a soothing effect from the rhythmic ticking. A quiet regularity that speaks of certainty and order.
And, although the room is not as well-lit as he might like, the watchmaker is comfortable here. The workshop is his domain.
Sadly, his eyes are no longer as sharp and as bright as they once were. But he can cope well enough. Fingers not quite so nimble, but nimble enough. And his patience? Oh, that remains undimmed.
So, the watchmaker continues his delicate work. He studies the intricate parts, and manipulates the precious pieces and hopes to fashion a thing of beauty.
It’s not easy, of course. Only the right parts will do. Perfectly engineered … robust … strong, yet with grace … flexible, yet reliable. And working together as one. That, of course, is the most important thing.
Oh, he has made many clocks and watches over the years … but on this occasion it will be different. This will be a special clock. No-one has made a clock like this before … there are no plans, there is no blueprint … so the watchmaker knows that he will need to use all his skill.
Others might spend many hours at first, trying to find the best design. They might find that things work well enough … but perfect? Not quite. A change here, a change there. Hmm. No better perhaps.
The watchmaker laughs silently to himself. He knows what others do not know … that there is no perfect clock … unless you regard imperfection as an essential part of that perfection.
He steps back to admire his work.
The spring is powerful. The mechanism depends on its certainty … the never-failing heart that allows the whole to work. When you have true reliability, you can sometimes forget that it is even there … only realising when it is missing … but the watchmaker never forgets.
To the unenlightened, the whirr of the wheels and balances is a thing of mystery. The rhythmic ticking may be regular, but that constancy comes from the ebb and flow and the swing and the sway working as one. As one part falls, another rises … and regularity is maintained.
The watchmaker looks up. It is that time.
He shuffles out of his chair and pushes back his greying hair.
The clocks in the room, perfectly synchronised, provide the perfect salute. A roaring crescendo of sound as the hour arrives. It would be deafening to some, but to him it is joy.
And above all of that joyous noise, he hears one clock in particular. The newest clock … his youngest child. And, because of its newness, perhaps he loves that child more than all the others.
02/06/20 4NCL Round 9
RUGELEY v HERTFORD
Whatmore, Steve 1817 0 - 1 Borman, Phil 2190
Carr, Matthew 1692 0 - 1 Cheal, Barry 2193
Sullivan, Luke 1585 0 - 1 Judkins, Brian 1697
Wood, Ryan 1322 1 - 0 Wooster, Nick 1690
Hertford win 3 - 1
The heavily-laden wagon creaked and groaned as it made its way slowly … oh so slowly … along the dusty, inclined track. Oppressive heat is one thing … but the flies … the damned flies, “Go away, foul pest!”
More hours passed. Stones in worn-out shoes. No water remains. And there are scorpions and vipers among the sharp rocks.
It takes a special kind of courage … and faith perhaps … to go, with conviction, where others have not gone before. To trust that, despite the hardship, and despite the adversity, better times lie ahead.
Better places too … where the air is pure, and where birdsong fills that pure air, and cool streams flow, taking the dust and heat away with them.
The creaking wagon struggles on and finally … almost unexpectedly … it reaches the brow of a steep hill. The leader stops … and smiles. For a moment, there is nothing. The mosquito wings beat in silence and the hum of the desert is paused.
And then … eruption … a joyous singing and a-dancing and a flurry of hats in the air. All know … but listen anyway … when the leader says … “This is the place”.
We have a new beginning, Hertford. We claim the New Land for our own. Oh yes, others will join us … and they will prosper too … but you were the first. You believed, and you outran the snakes and flies. And more is the history for that.
Was it easy, Hertford? Of course not. Nothing worth having was ever gained easily. A fresh horse for the final miles perhaps … and Phil is a thoroughbred. Answer me this? Why are his games so easy to follow … so … obvious? It is clarity of mind, I think. Clarity of plan … and execution to perfection. We will let the thoroughbred graze in lush fields tonight.
Barry is the most brave. If there are scorpions, Barry will pick them by the tail, such is his belief. Tricks and traps, pitfalls, potholes … Barry dances around them all. If there is a spider in your bed … well … unlucky spider.
But … it would be foolish to think that everything is perfect now. On such a journey, there will be casualties, of course. Loved ones will fall by the wayside … and we lost Nick this time. A loose rock, a careless step, a twisted ankle. “Go on without me” was his selfless plea. Don’t worry, Nick. We will come back for you.
And there is Brian … plunging headlong down into the green valley. “Wait for us, Brian” … but he doesn’t hear. Brian sees the Promised Land and wants it all and wants it now. And who would deny him the first taste of the sweet waters? He didn’t need to come all this way, but he chose to do so … and we are glad that he did.
Life will be different now, Hertford. Now more wagons and water. It will be fast cars. Luxury yachts. Champagne … and more champagne. This is the lifestyle now that we have reached the untold riches of the Promised Land.
There may be monuments in years to come. And the inscription will read:
2020 Borman, Buswell, Cheal, Judkins, Marshall, Rudd and Wooster – They lead so that others may follow.
Very well done, Gentlemen. Now enjoy this place.
26/05/20 4NCL Round 8
HERTFORD v NOTTINGHAM UNIVERSITY 2
Cheal, Barry 2193 ½ - ½ Dabner, Tom 1690
Buswell, Mark 1810 0 - 1 Kuralla, Kaushik 1585
Judkins, Brian 1697 1 - 0 Finn, Elizabeth 1357
Wooster, Nick 1690 1 - 0 Litherland, Jack 1300
Hertford win 2½ - 1½
For me, it is one of Life’s curiosities that Chess, so obviously an individual pursuit, is actually the ultimate team game.
Who among us has not agreed a draw in a won position ‘for the good of the team’? Why, we even refer to that as the ‘Hertford manoeuvre’ so often has it appeared in our match play.
But what makes a good team player? What characteristics must he/she have? And how does a Captain know what lies among his rough collection of diamonds and coal?
Here is my tale of events. And I will share my views. We have diamonds of different cuts … and here’s why:
The Outlaws of Sherwood Forest came to Hertford this week, all swagger and plucking of lutes. Folk heroes maybe, but robbers nonetheless … crime is crime … and with such crime, bad behaviour follows.
The Four of Herts stood back-to-back … encircled by the swarthy band of bandits. There was hissing and spitting, and a not so merrie taunt. It would have been easy to capitulate … but now our diamonds shone.
Barry blunted the first attack. Sometimes not losing is all that’s needed and ‘Robbing’ Dabner was sent scurrying back to Sherwood Forest with his bow all battered and his arrows bent.
Our unpolished diamond is Mark. What confusion. A mess. But he invokes ‘recovery mode’, and things look brighter. Very bright. A few more blows and the Outlaws are undone … but he tinkered briefly, and his jewels are snatched. Water to the eyes.
Now the team resolves that such unkindness will not go unpunished. Brian and Nick … these names will be sung in Hertford hostelries … spurred on by the indignity of iniquity did what team players must. They looked around and asked “Who will do it?”.
And both chose to avenge their wronged teammates. A little Fortune here and there … of course … but simple reward for the brave and the bold.
This is how it works, Hertford. Heroes all … at different times … but heroes all. Diamonds shine when diamonds have to shine.
Sherwood Forest is a damp and soulless place today. The ancient oak droops under a grey sky and there is no singing through the green green trees.
But mead flows in merrie Hertforde Town. We have diamonds a-plenty.
Follow up to position, from a round 8 game, given on the Home page
19/05/20 4NCL Round 7
WESSEX SOME STARS C V HERTFORD
Krawczuk, Michael 1828 0 - 1 Cheal, Barry 2193
Chilton, James 1725 0 - 1 Buswell, Mark 1810
Pankaj, Tomar 1525 1 - 0 Judkins, Brian 1697
Cuthbert, Larissa 1010 0 - 1 Wooster, Nick 1690
Hertford win 3 - 1
Wessex … according to Hardy, a land of tolling bells, wronged milkmaids and Mayors. But, historically, Wessex is much more than that. It was Alfred’s ‘last kingdom’, the seat of defence against the marauding Danes. The Anglo-Saxons’ last hope.
Hwaet! Hwaet! The Hertford Vikings re-wrote the history books last night as the rampage continued across the Dorset plains. And, while the milkmaids and Mayors provided stern resistance, the inevitable outcome saw the charge for the crown continue.
Barry the Bald … no berserker, but ice-cold in mind … he threw no warrior’s axe. No bright blade shone. He gripped and hauled the head of his foe into the rocky canyon. The raven sits across his shoulder … eager, but content. The raven knows that he will feed, and feed again.
Mark Bluetooth … tormented by the Wolf. Self-doubt. A wringing of hands. But then … resolve. A stirring in the deep. Swift cuts and blows. The Wolf is undone … heartless. No pity. Begone, foul Ulf.
Elsewhere, the milkmaids and Mayors had one special trick. All fear Grendel … so Grendel they became. False robes perhaps. Foul breath. Brian HalfHert was chewed by that thing of unnatural birth.
And what fate for Nick of the NorseWest? Wessex threw a child his way. Nick threw all at the child. The child spat. Unsure, and kind, Nick relented. The child spat. In mercy, Nick relented. The child spat. Now enraged, Nick dispatched the child to bed.
Now you have heard of those heroic deeds. Recounted by fireside and in great halls. You have heard how the great bird soars towards the Sun. And how the great bird circles … and waits.
There may be dragons this way … but the great bird knows that, where there are dragons, there is gold.
12/05/20 4NCL Round 6
HERTFORD v MANCHESTER JUNIORS B
Cheal, Barry 2193 1 - 0 Jackson, Edward 1712
Buswell, Mark 1810 1 - 0 Jayawarna, Tarini 1520
Judkins, Brian 1697 1 - 0 Fairclough, William 1412
Wooster, Nick 1690 1 - 0 Jayawarna, Thisumi 1316
Hertford win 4 - 0
What is Man’s greatest invention?
You will all have your views. The wheel, perhaps? The Internet? Some might say the bottle opener. But I can tell you this … Man’s greatest invention is still to come.
It is the Experience stick. A USB (or later) device which allows the downloading of all the algorithms and neural nets which constitute human experience. No longer would we have to ‘learn things the hard way’. At a stroke, all the wisdom and knowledge of our forefathers could be absorbed by the truly young.
And how young Manchester United could have used such a stick last night. Oh yes, Football and Chess overlap in so many ways … but not in terms of youth and experience. Running around quickly gets you nowhere in Chess.
Let’s see how the evening unfolded.
The Skipper has worked out that it is good form to have a three-part mantra (thank you, Boris … thank you, Donald), so he counselled “Patience … blunt the (inevitable) attack and capitalise on the impetuosity of youth”. He would have added “Save the NHS”, but that breaks the agreed format.
And Barry played it to perfection. A better opening, but a middle game which produced a drawn Rook + Pawns ending. Did I say ‘drawn’? Forgive me. This is Barry we are talking about. I swear he could win a King versus King ending. The impetuous youth played an impetuous move and our hero capitalised brutally.
Mark was less ‘textbook’. At 5.20pm, he is asking “Do we have a game tonight?” And under-prepared Mark has such a different style to me. He shifts the mists and alters the waters and things take shape. He is the long-haired midfield maverick who trains with a fag on the go. And we are better as a team for that.
Board 3 saw the rabbit hunt and Brian equipped himself with all the latest high-tech gear. Bait laid, in truth the beleaguered bunny was heading for the pot from quite early on. Brian trained his Kalashnikov on f7 and, although the cowering coney hopped around for a bit, there was only ever one outcome … rabbit stew for all. Hurrah!
I enjoyed Nick’s game the most. Opposite side castling always brings a unique dynamic, and Nick was patient. He blunted the (inevitable) attack and then … well … you know the rest. He even tried to snatch Mark’s crown by spurning the odd forced mate, but who cares about that? I think he could have saved the NHS too.
Young Manchester United will have learned from this, and they will be better for it. But we should also learn.
Four rounds to go, Hertford, and I learned this … I learned that we can win this League.
05/05/20 4NCL Round 5
WIRRAL LEAGUE WANDERERS v HERTFORD
Bailey, Adrian 1772 0 - 1 Cheal, Barry 2193
Beckett, Phil ½ - ½ Judkins, Brian 1690
Ray, Hiya 1586 1 - 0 Wooster, Nick
Sainbayar, Anuurai 1584 1 - 0 Marshall, Duncan 1652
Hertford lose 2½ - ½
The pale and solitary figure sits by the still pool. A light mist rises eerily from the unspoiled surface, filling the blue light.
The tranquillity is broken … only momentarily … as the pale figure flicks a flat stone across the water. This is a time for reflection. And so, the pale figure reflects.
“Perhaps I ask too much?” he considers. And yet, when he lists what he saw … well, you can be the judge.
He saw a horribly pinned Knight become a powerhouse without moving. He reflects … identify your weaknesses and try to eliminate them. This way, My Lord … for this way lies the game.
He saw balance. He saw equality. No disruption to the Universe here then. Perhaps a glimmer? A minor tremor? Not this time. He reflects … when does the benefit outweigh the risk? He decides to ask the gambler and the surgeon.
He saw St Nick stamp on the dragon’s neck, but then fatally let it breathe … only momentarily … and fire ensued. He reflects … Chess is a 90-minute game, and it only takes a second to score a goal.
He saw … oh yes, he saw … all the pieces of a pre-match plan delightfully engineered … then put back in the box because the picture was lost. He reflects … when the bullets are flying all around, sometimes you can forget that you have a gun too.
So, the pale and solitary figure rises and considers his own actions.
This time he flings a huge stone into the unsuspecting pool.
From far away, some thought that they heard a pitiful howl of anguish. Perhaps it was just the wind.
28/04/20 4NCL Round 4
BISHOP TROJANS v HERTFORD
Robinson, Brian 1750 0 - 1 Cheal, Barry 2193
Smith, Peter 1667 0 - 1 Buswell, Mark 1810
Bainbridge, Brian 1570 0 - 1 Judkins, Brian 1697
Berry, Robert 1562 ½ - ½ Rudd, Dave 1712
How did the team perform in Bishop Auckland on a cold Tuesday night in April? This is where a Captain learns about his team.
Well, up North, the hinnies weren’t singin’ and the whippets lacked whip at the end of the evening. Perhaps over-awed by the spats and monocles of the Hertford Fancy Dans, the cloth-capped locals were forced to sup on stale beer down at the CIU while your heroes dined on truffles and quail in elegant surrounds.
We prepared well for our trip to quaint parts, and our boy Mark … all clean and crisp … punched his way to a quick kill (and, yes, the mate in one was spotted!) after his opponent’s leaden footwork. Elsewhere Barry swaggered and yawned and waved his ivory-handled cane to pick up a routine win. Yes, yes … tiresome, we know … but these oiks have to be dispatched.
Brian, local boy made good, was inspired by the ghosts of his forefathers watching with pride. He danced and dazzled and left the crowd with jaws agape. So, that’s what they teach you down London way” mused the gawking gallery.
The Captain has pride a-plenty in his tightly-coiffured contingent.
The powdered wigs are back on their stands now, while the parlours of Auckland no longer ring with tales of the Lambton Worm, but of the Hertford finery and fops.
Hertford win ½ - 3½ and are now 2nd out of 50 teams in division 5.
21/04/20 4NCL Round 3
HERTFORD v CSC 5
Cheal, Barry 2193 1 - 0 McGettigan, Andrew 1723
Buswell, Mark 1810 0 - 1 Mason, Ian 1548
Judkins, Brian 1697 ½ - ½ Wenninger, Maxim 1540
Wooster, Nick 1690 ½ - ½ Khoury, Theo 1465
Match drawn 2 - 2
The dust has settled now … and what a night! It was a night in a haunted mansion … terrors lurked in every dark corner, and weird howls came from long-abandoned rooms. I do not want to spend another night in such a place. Madness lurks here.
Of course, the day began brightly enough. Two well-matched teams if ECF grades were to be believed. “We will need to be at our best” said the Skipper. Little did he suspect.
Mark was first to tread the creaking stair. Perhaps better not to go that way? The basement? Yes, the basement. Let’s look down there.
But foul things lurk in the darkness, and Mark’s brief candle was soon extinguished. The pitiful cry of anguish … the low moan and fearful sobbing. Never go into such basements.
Elsewhere I saw a thing that I had never seen. I call it now the Poor Man’s Sokolsky … Barry’s attempt to take the unwitting beast into foreign lands. 1 b3 … and a game so much like many of my own, but without the luxury of a pawn on b4 or b5. Oh yes, Barry played it well enough (I would have recaptured on c4 with the Knight, of course, but hey ho), but let things slip and … I think the ending was lost. But active Rooks, and our hero claws it back ... and more than back. The beast is dispatched.
There was panic elsewhere in the party. Brian and Nick had picked up flesh wounds from a broken mirror. The things of the Night smell blood. We are undone, Hertford.
But wait! Is that Dawn breaking? Do we glimpse pale light through a chink in the dust-laden curtains? Time is of the essence. Time heals all. Time is on our side.
Brian escapes the clutches, bloodied but unbeaten. And Nick … why Nick is poised with his stake held high. He swings the hammer … and hits his thumb.
Outside in the sunlight, the bleary-eyed Skipper reflects. It has been a harrowing night. Little rest for anyone.
But the band is intact. A little fresh air and birdsong and we will be brave again.
14/04/20 Round 2
BUDE SURFERS v HERTFORD
Lingard, Geoffrey 1765 ½ - ½ Cheal, Barry 2193
Constable, Christine 1577 0 - 1 Buswell, Mark 1810
Constable, John 1562 0 - 1 Judkins, Brian 1697
Russell, Lloyd 1210 0 - 1 Marshall, Duncan 1652
Hertford win ½ - 3½
Mid-April … and a trip to the seaside may not be high on many lists, but the buffed and bronzed Hertford beach boys set off for Bude with the Captain’s expectations laid out clearly. “In grade terms, I’m expecting a 4-0 win, Gentlemen … but, in truth, any win will do.”
Hmm, nice idea, Skip … but with golden sand comes the occasional rough sea, complete with jellyfish and seaweed. It was Barry who caught the first crab … a curious opening (not good), an odd middle game (not good) and a strange ending (not good) … but somehow, in the midst of all of this, a draw ensued such is the charisma of the Hertford No.1
Mark was much more comfortable out in the breakers and would have done a backdoor bottom turn, dude (whatever that means) were it not for one simple thing … the habitual spurning of mate in x (where x=1 this time) … and twice, at that. But no matter … his opponent was swamped and, drowned-ratlike, drifted away on the ebbing tide.
Brian, all bleached blond and hanging loose, established a R+3P v R ending … then almost fell off his surfboard before steadying himself.
And all the while this was going on, Duncan taught himself to swim, donned a Hawaiian shirt and rode a wave across the village pond. This is how it’s done, Gentlemen ... no fuss, no frills, no Speedos.
Back at the clambake, we were home and dry before the sharks assembled for their evening meal. The Hertford beach bandwagon rolls on.
07/04/20 Round 1
HERTFORD v WIMBLEDON 3
Cheal, Barry, 2193 1 - d Williams, Michael 1765
Buswell, Mark 1810 ½ - ½ Slonczuk, Pawel 1660
Wooster, Nick 1690 0 - 1 Selim, Omar 1262
Rudd, David 1712 1 - 0 Sood, Kamaljit 1090
Hertford win 2½ - ½
You are a child, dear Reader. Five or six years old. And you are at the toyshop. And this toyshop is the centre of the World for you. A place of magic. A place of Dreams.
This is how it was for the Men of Hertford as we set off into the adventure of 4NCL Online … a competition born of hope amid despair, of triumph over adversity, of action over inactivity. And all the top players will be there in the chess toyshop ... although maybe not in Division 5.
In truth, our pre-season was not the best. A hastily scrambled together squad after one or two … ahem … ‘administrative difficulties’ early doors, but no matter … Hertford’s silver-haired Svengali, Dave Rudd, assembled a glittering array of stars to fly the Club flag and the talk turned to Round 1 … Wimbledon 3 (at home).
The jewel in our crown is the lightly-balding Ronaldo of Hertford Chess … Barry (Bazza) Cheal. Barry is a big gun down in Division 5 so, naturally, we expect great things from him. But Round 1 proved a test of patience and resourcefulness as his opponent struggled with the IT side of things (you know, logging on and remembering passwords … that kind of thing). So, 1-0 by default. Get in!
Mark Buswell (Buzza) on 2. Mark’s chess is of the ‘unpredictable’ variety. I note that he often eschews the best move for one that he considers ‘prettier’. Nothing wrong with that from the artistic perspective, of course but it can mean that he misses the odd mate in four. Game drawn.
Our Board 3 was Nick Wooster (Wooza). Burnley fan, as we know. Northern upbringing, as we know. No nonsense, no fuss … Nick has brought the word ‘dour’ into our team and relishes that notion with a hint (but only the merest hint) of a grim smile around his coal-stained face. Nick’s game was all at once a delight and a debacle. But, at the final whistle, his opponent sneaked the winner … and it was a sad and lonely trek home through the ice and snow for our Pennine Penitent.
But what of the Captain? All glitz and glamour down on Board 4 … and up against a player with a negative grade or something like that. “Let him make the mistake” was the Captain’s mantra. “Don’t overforce the issue”. A pawn up after two moves … the same pawn up after 52 moves. And now a free Rook. The net billows as the Captain knee-slides towards the gallery ... and Hertford are home and hosed.
“We will face tougher tests” warned the Skipper as his weary troops basked in the late night afterglow, “but you can only beat what is in front of you (and other clichés).”
The toyshop is closed for a week now, but it will re-open … and we will visit again, fresh with extra pocket money and a sparkle in the eye.