After the first three Coventry League fixtures of the season things looked pretty bleak for our plucky squad. Three matches and three defeats. Three defeats by 3.5-0.5, in fact. Three defeats by 3.5-0.5, with just a solitary draw on Board 1, actually. In each and every match. We badly needed to escape from this recurring nightmare. Thankfully, just like in our debut season last year, Nuneaton B came to our rescue!
Not that it was easy. They (slightly) outgraded us on every board for a start, and they came in to the match with a 100% league record from their first two fixtures. But even so, it was such a relief to be in a reasonably balanced encounter and not to be facing one of the University juggernauts.
Mike D was first to finish on Board 3, readily holding a draw with Black against Dave Kearney. It was a strange sort of Pirc where both sides got some good squares, but didn't seem to have any obvious ways to improve. Mike assures me it was strategically tense and subtle, and that he might have tried a promising pawn sac, but in truth it didn't score high on spectator appeal.
Carl followed soon after with a more exciting draw on Board 2 against Tony Green. A balanced middle game erupted into some nasty tactics when Tony gave up two minor pieces for a rook and two pawns. Carl's king was open, and his two bishops didn't have any good diagonals, but Tony likewise had problems getting his rooks into the White position, and a draw by repetition seemed a fair result.
Then things moved decisively in our favour. In a complex position, originally arising from an Owen's Defence - but looking for all the world like a French - Dave and Mike Maher had a complex Board 4 encounter, that I didn't see too much of. Dave was pressing against the Black king, but Mike seemed to be infiltrating down the b file to get at the White king. I have no idea who, if anyone was winning, but Mike managed to lose on time with one move to make. Dave had become the first Kenilworth player to win a Coventry League Division 1 game this season, and we were at least sure of our first match point. It just needed me not to mess up for it to become two match points.
My game had been very tense and exciting almost from the beginning. White (Phil Briggs) went for a big kingside pawn push in a Closed Sicilian and I tried to break open the centre with my own pawn advances. It was mighty difficult and I was not sure whether I was better or worse for almost the entire game. (Fritz tells me it was generally level-ish, but it was well beyond my non-silicon brain to appreciate this.) But then right before the time control I found a couple of good moves to win a pawn and break up the White pawn mass, and in hastening to win his pawn back, Phil overlooked a sneaky bishop pin, which led to a forced win of the exchange for me. I then hastened to swap the queens off and found a slow but inevitable way to win, with Rook and 4 against Bishop and 4, which secured a 3-1 victory for us.
And not only did we kick start our League points total, but we also managed to climb off the bottom of the table as Coventry A remain pointless, albeit with a game in hand on us. We would be facing a relegation 6 pointer against them in a few weeks time, if it weren't for the fact that there is no relegation!