NCA Best Game Prize 2016-17

Report by Steve Burke

As my best “Notts” game ended in a “winning draw” this year, and there were no entries from anyone that I have a particularly close association with, I invited myself (with the help of my mate Komodo 10) to judge the competitions!

In both competitions I found it difficult. In most seasons there are one or maybe two “obvious” choices. This year there were many good efforts with a similar claim in my view. However, I have resisted the temptation to split the prizes.

Oddly two players, Daniel Jazdzewski and Chris Fraser, featured as both winners and losers in the games submitted. In fact Daniel featured in three – obviously worth keeping an eye on his games for fireworks!

U140 Prize

Simon Scott built up a nice advantage after his opponent’s opening inaccuracies, but then let this slip, before taking advantage of his opponent’s later blunder to produce a nice finishing sequence.

Robert Willoughby played out a long theoretical line in the Dragon and executed a thematic exchange sacrifice, bringing an attack and equal chances. Unfortunately his opponent blundered a piece to a simple fork and denied a more interesting conclusion to the game.

Derek Padvis had two games. The first ended in a draw against a much stronger opponent. This would have been a serious contender if he had spotted the winning move available on the last move where he offered the draw! The second was a good refutation of an unsound sacrifice, but the sacrifice was perhaps a little too unsound.

Chris Fraser had an up and down game, where both sides missed chances early and then he dropped a piece. But not panicking, he fought back and under this pressure his opponent blundered twice in three moves, first losing his advantage and then the game.

Michael Milford played a solid game, taking advantage of his opponent’s inaccuracies (and correctly calculating the tactical options) to first inflict an isolated pawn and then go a pawn up. Then building up logically he took over the board and finished the game off cleanly.

Taking all this into account, I have decided that (because he built up a winning position without his opponent giving up a piece) the prize should go to Michael Milford.

Open Prize

Paul Cumbers sacrificed two pawns in the opening for compensation. In a wild position both players missed the best moves, but white maintained the initiative and finished off the game with an excellent exchange sacrifice that depended on spotting and calculating a long winning line.

Jonah Willow rook advantage of white over pressing in the early stages to build up a big advantage but missed the move to maintain this, though his opponent didn’t take full advantage and was still worse. Later, with his king trapped in the corner under threat of mate, he gave up two knights for a rook unsoundly, leaving Jonah with two bishops for a rook. He didn’t last long against Jonah’s accurate play.

Aditya Munshi played an accurate opening against a strong opponent and built up a nice advantage in development. He then spotted a surprising tactic and set a trap that his opponent fell into. At first he missed the clearest win, but given a second change he played an attractive winning combination.

Daniel Jazdzewski’s Bird was met with a very unorthodox response and black soon went wrong in the tactics that ensued. When black didn’t take the chance to simplify in a worse position, Daniel took advantage in decisive fashion to produce a spectacular mating attack.

David Levens took advantage of an opening inaccuracy to enter a queenless middle-game with a good space advantage. Black apparently didn’t realise the danger and gradually David increased his control over the position. Too late black gave up a pawn in a bid to break free, but this didn’t help and David clinically simplified the ending to win the game.

Nick London found himself facing Daniel’s Bird and after solid opening play spotted a weakness. This developed into an attack on the king. Objectively this was unsound, but difficult to meet over the board. After the dust settled he was up a queen for a rook. Then he gave up a rook for a mating attack to finish the game.

Hambel Willow caught out her opponent with a Budapest Gambit but didn’t find the difficult way in the complications to take a winning advantage. After white sacrificed an exchange, the game swung back and forth until white was completely winning. However the path to victory was very narrow and he slipped off allowing Hambel a vicious winning counterattack.

It really is hard to choose between the various games in any logical way, so I have to fall back on a “gut reaction”. Whatever the reason, when first playing through the games, one of them impressed me more than the others. In view of this the winner is Paul Cumbers.

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