After a fairly disastrous start to the season both for myself and the teams I have managed to drag down with me, the B team headed to Solihull last night with me in particular in need of a good result. The pressure was also raised by the fact that, amongst the 21 games of league chess taking place in the room, were two with average player grades over 200. Clearly, this was not an evening for my usual level of incompetence.
We were also welcoming a new player to competitive chess for Kenilworth, David O’Neill, who we appear to have successfully poached from Warwick University, and his game was in fact the first to finish. After a fairly normal London System opening (1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Bf4 c5 4. e3 Nc6 5. c3 Qb6 6. Qb3 c4) white went badly wrong, playing Qc2 and allowing the very nice tactical shot Bf5! Objectively, the nest move after this is probably to retreat the queen to c1 and accept being slightly worse, this isn’t something easy to do with white on move 7, so David’s opponent plunged in with 8. Qxf5 Qxb2. Black soon emerged the exchange and a pawn up without white having anything like adequate compensation. Some imprecise play from David allowed his opponent to generate some counterplay with the two bishops, but after the game transformed to a mating race, the superiority of the rook became clear and the win was wrapped up before the time control.
Not long after I managed to scrape to a win in my game as well, my first of the season. Since this game is slightly less awful than my previous efforts this season, I think it might just about be acceptable to share it for the contempt of the group:
Now 2-0 up and feeling considerably better, I went to check on the other boards, and was pleasantly surprised. Dave had played the standard IQP position he seems to commonly get with white, and although he was slightly worse in the endgame (2 bishops vs. bishop and knight) his knight was on an excellent square and a draw seemed the most likely result. Phil had also recovered magnificently from a very dodgy opening, where he had played e6 and g6, then allowed a white bishop to get to h6, and both white knights to point at the f6 square. Somehow, he managed to tactically squirm out of the bind, and was now a pawn up in a pure queen endgame where, as the books will tell you, he was playing for two results.
Unfortunately, they turned out to be the wrong two. His opponent was trying to bring his queen around the back to force a perpetual check, and Phil carefully moved his king to avoid all the perpetual threats. He did indeed succeed in avoiding any possible perpetual checks, but at the cost of creating a very elegant helpmate in 3, which his opponent duly played for an unexpected and rather unpleasant turnaround. By this point Dave was now playing a same coloured bishop endgame with equal numbers of pawns, but all his pawns had managed to become fixed on the wrong colour. Probably a draw with accurate defence, but a horrible position to play when short on time, and he was unfortunately not able to hold the draw.
Final score: Solihull B 2 – Kenilworth B 2