Paul Johnson at 4NCL Congress

25 April 2021

Photo of Paul A Johnson

Paul Johnson excelled in the Open section of the 4NCL 7th Online Congress held this weekend.

To set things in context, Paul (ECF rated 1729) was 24th player in starting rank – he finished 6th with a performance rating of 2097. His only loss was to FIDE Master Terry Chapman , the eventual winner of the event.

Paul was invited to write for us about his experience in the congress and here is his account.

My performance at the 4NCL Open tournament for the weekend 23-25 April.

This performance was by far the best one I have ever played in an Open tournament.

My first game was with White against Hugo Fowler (ECF rating 1952, Lichess ID: Fowlerdog101) where I played my usual 1. D4 start and the opening was the Grunfeld Defence by Black. I managed to hold my own, swapping off pieces until we each had a Queen, Knight and Bishop with Pawns left. Then the position reached a draw after a three-fold repetition of moves. My main strategy was simply to put my pieces into what I considered to be their best positions so that my opponent could not forge any advantage, and it worked well.
(I was really pleased just to get a draw against someone much higher graded than me).

My second game was with Black against Richard Truman (ECF rating 1972, Lichess ID: Kingrich3) where he started with the English opening 1. C4 and I countered with 1…e5 which I feel is the best way to start against the English.

After many piece exchanges, the game went to a double rook and pawn ending, and I managed to get the upper hand with my two rooks on the seventh rank (a2-h2) from me. There was one point where my opponent could have won by sacrificing a Rook to Queen a Pawn, but he did not see it (although if I had then had my two Rooks on the seventh rank I would checkmate). In the end I was able to get a Pawn Queened before he could, thereby winning the game.

My third game was White against FIDE Master Terry PD Chapman (ECF rating 2188, Lichess ID: Tpdchapman) and it started with the Kings Indian Defence for which I have what I consider to be the best strategy against it by playing the Saemisch style, delaying the development of the g1 Knight and castling queenside well into the middle game. This is designed to at least psychologically “turn the tables” on Black who assumes that he will get a Kingside attack with his Kings Indian Defence. The game was very level right up till around move 35 at least, with two Rooks and a light square Bishop each, after which I fell short of time and blundered a couple of Pawns, having to move fast but I was still smiling at the way I held my own for such a long time in the game.

My fourth game was Black against Alexander Littlehales (ECF rating 1932, Lichess ID: Rochetta) and it stated with my favourite defence against 1. E4 which is the Closed Spanish Opening in which Black can develop his pieces behind the lines as it were, thereby getting equal chances. My opponent tried a Kingside attack by sacrificing a Knight for two Pawns, to get his Queen on my Kingside, but I beat off the attack and eventually I managed to double my Rooks on the h-file and win material. I gained the upper hand getting an advanced pawn which I Queened and stopped White’s advancing c- and h-file Pawns with my last Rook.

My fifth game was White against Spencer Lawrence (ECG rating 1697, Lichess ID: Adversityisgood) and after my 1. D4 opening the game started a bit shakily for me, where I might have lost a pawn after Black could break my pin on his f6 Knight by counterattacking my Queen. Eventually, after I saved myself from a threatened mating attack, by a Queen exchange, the game was left with my two Rooks and light square Bishop against his two Rooks and Knight well placed on the queenside. I pushed my Kingside Pawns and was able to get a Kingside attack with my Rooks and Bishop where Black had to sacrifice a Rook for my Bishop to stop my mating attack. I exchanged off a pair of Rooks and when being a Rook for a Knight up, my opponent tried to sacrifice his Knight for two of my pawns, but I was left with a King, Rook and a-file pawn against his King and Pawns and was able to clear up his remaining Pawns.

Yes! It was an absolutely fantastic weekend of chess for me and I will definitely be taking part in future 4NCL Open congresses and hope very much to repeat or even better my latest performance in time to come. I will always be hooked on Chess for the rest of my life and I am still hoping to make it to GrandMaster level even if it takes me until I am in my nineties.

I want to say a huge Thank You to all who have make the Internet Chess competitions possible for the rest of us to enjoy. Since the start of the first lockdown in March 2020 I have played a lot of games on the Internet and I have immensely enjoyed it all.

Paul Johnson
(Lichess ID: ChristianLearner)

All 5 games can be viewed (without analysis) on the Chess-Results website:
or with analysis on Lichess.