Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Anglia Avengers: Withdrawal From 4NCL Semi-Final - Press Release

An Open Letter to 4NCL Captains: 24th June 2020

You may have been surprised to learn today that Anglia Avengers has withdrawn from the eagerly awaited 1st Division Semi-Final clash against Guildford Young Guns.

This is the first time in my chess-playing career that I have taken such an extraordinary step.  I felt that I owed you all the courtesy of an explanation.

As you are all doubtless aware, the LiChess platform uses a proprietary and undisclosed algorithm to identify players using “engine assistance”.  The 4NCL online rules (for the 1st season) regard such a designation as veridical evidence of cheating, and imposes a mandatory ban.  A number of player have been banned from the competition in consequence.   Some captains have accepted the ban. Others have vigorously challenged it, including Tim Wall (Northumbria Vikings) and Tim Seymour (Surbiton) who have withdrawn their squads in protest.

One of our players was banned in such a fashion after a few rounds. I examined his games in detail but found no conclusive evidence of engine assistance.  A senior member of the Essex Chess Association (unconnected with Anglia Avengers) reviewed the games and confirmed my findings. 

I tested the LiChess appeal process for removing the “engine assistance” flag, but the appeal process was slow, opaque and ultimately unsuccessful.  Nothing in my (limited) observation of how this process operates gives me confidence that it is feasible to rectify an incorrect allegation of engine assistance.

In consequence, I am sceptical as to the reliability of both the LiChess methodology for identifying engine assistance and their appeal process.  LiChess regard both the above as commercially sensitive and release only minimal details into the public domain.  It is simply impractical for a 3rd party to reach an informed, balanced and objective view of this aspect of the LiChess service.

However, I accepted the fact of the ban and continued to run 2 teams in the competition.  I wanted to support the 4NCL efforts to run a novel type of chess tournament against the background of extremely unsettling world events.  Indeed, the controversial “Anti-Cheating” rules aside, the 4NCL Online has seemed an enjoyable and noticeably well-run competition.

This Monday afternoon (22nd June) just 3 hours before the team-lists were due for finalization for the semi-final, the 4NCL Chief Arbiter let me know that he had banned another of my players, also for “engine assistance”.  This player was a pivotal member of our squad, and, of course, included in our team-list.  An appeal was impractical due to the late timing of the ban (and in any case, based upon my earlier experience, hardly likely to lead to a satisfactory outcome).

I discussed this unfortunate development with the 1st team members.  We all had the same perspective. The idea that our player had systemically cheated throughout all of our matches was just ludicrous.  To persist with the match in the face of the ban would be tantamount to accepting the justice of this allegation.   We therefore refused to play the Semi-Final under these egregious conditions. 

This was disappointing for us because we were very much looking forward to a challenging encounter with the excellent Guildford Young Guns team.  Nonetheless, I hope you understand our situation, and can respect our decision.

Those who have read thus far may conclude that the 4NCL Online has been a negative experience for Anglia Avengers.  Far from it.  Almost all squad members have told me that they have found the tournament rewarding and enjoyable.    My own overall impression is that the 4NCL has done a remarkable job in establish a novel type of tournament in record time, getting very little wrong and much right. 

Equally, I continue to hold a general high regard for the LiChess service, which proved its value as a robust, user-friendly and flexible platform throughout the tournament.  LiChess remains my platform of choice for on-line Chess.

I hope and trust that both 4NCL & LiChess are willing to learn from the controversy sparked by the “Anti-Cheating” rules.  I am encouraged by the fact that these have already been revised for season 2.  I have reviewed these, and can indeed confirm that these are superior (although I still see room for further improvements).

Anglia Avengers considers itself a firm member of the 4NCL community and is more than open to taking part in future 4NCL online tournaments.  We hope that other squads will continue to support this tournament.

Andy Lewis
(Anglia Avengers Online Captain)

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Anglia Avengers: Championship Semi-Finalists

In the Quarter-Finals of the First Division Championship, the Avengers defeated Watford by a convincing 3-1 margin.

  Anglian Avengers 1 2240   Watford 1 2220
141 w Walker, Martin G f 2275 e ½ - ½ Venkataramanan, T.S. f 2335 e
142 b Kanellopoulos, Panayotis 2265 1 - 0 Holland, Edward N 2237 e
143 w Lewis, Andrew P f 2243 1 - 0 Stone, Andrew M 2192 e
144 b Talsma, Paul 2177 e ½ - ½ Karamazondo, Ernest 2117 e
             
  3 - 1  

Watford's best hopes of a win were provided by internet blitz specialist, Ernest Karamazondo.  In a Bishop's Opening, Ernest sacrificed a couple of pawns for the initiative.  Paul seized the material, but Ernest's active queen, rook, and bishop against Paul's exposed king provided a sack full of compensation.  Paul defended robustly, but Ernest could have made more of his chances, and was perhaps disappointed with the draw that was agreed in a level position on move 38.

Andrew Stone never achieved equality against Andy's trademark English Opening.  Behind on the clock, Andrew initiated messy complications in the late middle game.  This only made matters worse, allowing Andy to finish-off with a nice mating attack.

The match was decided by the B2 encounter.  Ed Holland initiated a deeply theoretical line with 7 Be3 against Panagiotis's Najdorf Sicilian.  However, Ed appeared ill-prepared for the challenges of this line, almost sleep-walking into Panagiotis's deftly executed queens-side attack.

FM Venkataraman looked under pressure after Martin's enterprising queen-sacrifice disturbed the tranquillity of a seemingly uneventful Giuoco Piano.  The FM gave up the exchange to rid himself of Martin's dangerous passed-pawn on a6.  This left Martin with the slight material plus of 2Rs v Q.  But Martin could see way of making progress and ceded the draw on move 49.

A strong all-round team performance has taken Anglia Avengers to the Semi-Finals of an International competition. We are paired against 8th seed, Guildford Young Guns, the joint winners of Group A with an impressive haul of 15 pts, who in the quarter finals defeated Warwick University by a menacing 3½ - ½.

For the next enthralling episode, tune in 7:30 PM, tuesday 23rd June on this channel:

 4NCL Online: Pairings


Friday, 12 June 2020

Avengers 2: Division 2 Mid-Table Final Position

In R10, a heavily out graded Avengers 2 were roundly defeated 0.5-3.5 by Rhyfelwyr Essyllwg.

Anglian Avengers 2 1807 Rhyfelwyr Essyllwg 1986
211 w Hampton, Christopher 1982 e 0 - 1 Brown, Thomas 2129
212 b Marshall, Michael 1840 e 0 - 1 Hewitt, William 1997
213 w Kerr, Rowland 1802 c 0 - 1 May, Adam J 1950
214 b Paez, Alonso 1607 c ½ - ½ McGregor, John 1868
         
½ - 3½

But, not all matches have equal significance for both sides.  Avengers 2 had already secured a respectable mid-table position in Group A.  For us, this match was nothing more than an end-of-season warm-down.

However, for the least pronounceable team in the league, this was a life-or-death relegation struggle.  To their credit, the Welshmen put up a gallant fight, and were the worthy winners on the night.  We should be grateful to Alonso, scoring his first result in this competition, for avoiding an Avengers white-wash.

Much good did it do Rhyfelwyr.  Mushrooms won their final round against Plymouth, leaving Rhyfelwyr flailing in 7th position in Group C and relegated to Division 3.

See: 4NCL Online: Division 2 Tables

Many thanks to everyone who played for the 2nd team in first 4NCL Online season.  Double thanks to everyone who also emailed me to say how much they enjoyed participating in this new tournament.

It is too soon to say whether this novel type of tournament will persist.  However, at present it seems likely that there will be a season 2, possibly commencing in September.  If this comes off, you can be sure that Anglia Avengers will compete!

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Avengers 1: Championship Play-Off Qualification

In R10, the concluding round of the group phase, Avengers 1 scored a comfortable 3-1 victory over an uninspired King's Head.

Anglian Avengers 1 2236 King's Head 2128
111 w Plueg, Andreas f 2260 e ½ - ½ McMichael, Richard J c 2252 e
112 b Kanellopoulos, Panayotis 2265 ½ - ½ Ward, Julian T 2169
113 w Talsma, Paul 2177 e 1 - 0 Mackenzie, Colin 2050 e
114 b Lewis, Andrew P f 2243 1 - 0 O'Shaughnessy, Conor 2042 e
         
3 - 1

Richard McMichael went for a solid Classical Dutch formation against Andreas's equally solid London System.  Both players seemed content with a draw, which was achieved on move 34 after 3-fold repetition.

There are a number of ways to play an Exchange Variation against the King's Indian.  However, the one that Julian Ward choose was scarcely likely to trouble Panagiotis, with a second draw by repetition reached on move 19.

Against a Nimzo-Indian Saemisch, Colin Mackenzie was comfortable consuming several tempi to remove Paul's c-pawn.  But, he was decidedly less comfortable in dealing with Paul's ensuing king-side initiative, his position dissolving by move 22.  An astounding nine out of nine wins to "The Panzer"!

Conor O'Shaugnessy appeared to get some chances against Andy's IQP, but was in full retreat by move 23.  A nice rook sacrifice on move 27 demolished Conor's king-side, and King's Head's remaining hopes in the match.

This was a critical encounter for both sides.  The Avengers win made sure of their qualifying place in the 1st Division Championship play-offs.  Contrastingly, King's Head's loss confirmed their bottom spot in Group D and earns them relegation to the 2nd Division.




Friday, 5 June 2020

Avengers 2: Defeat By White Rose Dashes Promotion Hopes

In a critical R9 encounter, Avengers 2 were narrowly defeated by Chessable White Rose 2: one of the strongest 2nd Division sides.

Chessable White Rose 2 2029 Anglian Avengers 2 2038
241 w Keetman, Maaike 2169 0 - 1 Talsma, Paul 2177 e
242 b Gayson, Peter M 2150 1 - 0 White, Russell P 2117 c
243 w Wills, Tom 1967 c ½ - ½ Bui, Kyan 2057 e
244 b Parkhouse, Max 1832 c 1 - 0 Kerr, Rowland 1802 c
         
2½ - 1½

Rowland obtained a promising position in a Queens Gambit Exchange Variation.  But opened up the position prematurely allowing Max Parkhouse a winning tactic.

Kyan equalized rather easily against Tom Wills in a Four Knights, and accepted a draw in a level 2Rs + opposite bishop endgame on move 26.

Russell didn't get much for his pawn in a Mora Gambit, and so threw in the exchange, and then a further piece.  Peter Gayson kept all of the offerings and forced Russell's resignation on move 54.

The bright point of the evening was once again provided by "The Tank" Talsma.  In his debut game for the 2nd team, Paul slowly but surely outplayed Maaike Keetman in a Closed Lopez, finally ending resistance in an opposite bishops endgame on move 72.

A consolation point for the 2nd team, taking Paul's personal score to an amazing 8 out of 8!

For practical purposes, this ends the 2nd team's chances of qualifying for the Championship phase, and earning promotion to the 1st Division.  This is still mathematically possible, but we would need to win in R10 and for 3 other results to go our way: only the England football team manager would think this a realistic path to qualification!

Enjoy the final game of the season!

See: 4NCL Online: 2nd Division Tables