These were Mark’s words on hearing the task that faced the B team in the season run in. Owing to some sort of glitch on the part of the fixtures computer, Olton competed their program earlier in the week, leaving the destiny of the title in our own hands. The more challenging news being that we would need to win our four remaining fixtures against Solihull, Stratford, Shirley and Leamington to take the prize. There was to be no celebrating on the streets of Olton last night, as we completed the first leg of our mission with a 2.5-1.5 win away to Solihull. And it should have been more!
Early on it was clear that me, Phil and Dave were all in strong positions. Regular followers will be stunned to learn that Mike’s game looked pretty drawish. (Albeit of course his contribution ultimately ended up being much more useful than mine was…) Mike takes up the story of his match with Geoffrey Stokes: “ I played complex chess but he met my Dragon in a very solid/sensible way with an early c3 thus retaining a knight on d4. Instead of heading for a solid and level position with little chances of a win I devised a tricky pawn sacrifice for some tactical chances against his king. He did take the pawn but still playing quick sensible moves for the next 10-12 moves I was then forced to allow several exchanges to recover the pawn and then potentially win another. This would however have allowed his rooks to double on the 7th with a perpetual. As Phil’s and Dave’s games as well as Ben’s looked good at this point I agreed a draw.”
So Mike was back in the club house when Phil notched the first blow. He looked to have all the pressure in a relatively closed position and it wasn’t a surprise to see him break through on the kingside to land the full point and to put us in the lead.
Then heartbreak struck for me. Having completely dominated Nigel Bryne for the whole game, I was within a whisker of victory, when disaster struck. Deep in time trouble, just before the time control I blundered badly and that was that. Nigel has done the same against me in the past in a very similar situation and I guess what goes around comes around. It’s definitely easier to be philosophical about the games you win that you should have lost, than vice-versa. It was a very painful one for me, that’s for sure.
However, the key was of course the team and it was all down to Dave, who played really well, to get us home against John Green. As Dave described it: “My opponent played the English opening. The lack of urgency in his moves meant that I had an almost free hand to develop as I pleased and I built up quite an aggressive position. Unfortunately I was unable to find the correct forcing sequence in the time that I had left and ended up having to play the last 15 moves in about 18 minutes. This enabled white to free up his position during the time scramble where both sides had less than three minutes towards the time control. Luckily for me, white's 35th move allowed me to centralize my queen giving me control of the center. Unfortunately white response to this was to leave a piece en-prise and the game concluded.” I think Dave undersells himself, I don’t think John could have saved the piece and Dave well and truly ground him down.
So job done. Stratford next. I’ll try and avoid any Hamlet style introspection re my own game last night. Monday promises to be a Tempest, that’s for sure! As the Bard himself might have said, uneasy is the head that nearly wears the crown, for so long as Kenilworth can keep winning!