For the third week in a row our top team was in action in each of our two leagues on consecutive nights. And this week it was even more of a struggle for me to get enthusiastic after a heavy weekend of 4NCL chess on the previous two days. But when the club takes to the field, at least a little bit of adrenaline always starts pumping, and so it was when the A team took on Rugby A on Monday night. Rugby seemed to be suffering a bit of chess fatigue themselves, and were not at full strength, while we had - for an unprecedented third match in a row - managed to wheel out ageing maestro Andy to lead us into battle.
And for the third week in a row he duly annexed the full point on top board - but never had he managed this so quickly. The game was over before 8.30 after he just started taking the White pawns one by one, as Ganesh Vishwanath tried in vain to generate an attack down the a and b files against Andy's long castled king. The pawn count was up to three when White made a terminal blunder allowing Qxf2+ (a 4th pawn) with Qxf3+ (a free bishop) set to follow.
Lionel was making his A team debut on Board 4, as Mike took an evening off to save his energies for his own 2 games in a row on Tuesday and Wednesday. And it turned out to be a pretty memorable one, as he uncorked a sparkling sacrificial attack against Dave Riley, giving first a bishop and then a rook to force mate. Sacre bleu! What a way to make your debut!
Joshua was not going to be outdone by this though, and insisted on sacrificing two pieces right out of the opening - bizarrely in exactly the same variation he had played the day before and which we had been discussing before the match started. Spooky! Unluckily for him, Simon Turner played the engine's top choice and a very difficult game ensued where Joshua got one piece back and eventually amassed 3 pawns as compensation. Eventually it came down to an ending of knight and 3 against 6 pawns, and our man engineered too many passed pawns on too many files for the knight to be able to stop them all.
I eventually made it 4-0 by beating Jonathan Cox in a slightly crazy game. From a pretty level position, I started to get a big advantage on the queenside, and when I was able to open a file on the kingside I should have been winning easily. But I missed a couple of tactical wins, and - with Jon playing on the 10 second increment - gambled with a piece sac. It was unsound but with no time to work out why, Jon counter-sacked a rook but only got a couple of checks for it before he lost on time. So we ended with a much healthier score than the 2.5-1.5 wins we have been chalking up recently. And for now at least, we sit on top of Division 1 in the Leamington League.
The next night it was home against Coventry B in the Coventry League. Our opponents have the unwelcome record of losing every league game this season, and thankfully we didn't find a way to end that sequence. But we hardly covered ourselves in glory. Mike was the star with a comprehensive win over Kate Donegan on Board 2. Kate left her king in the centre, and while it was quite some time coming, Mike eventually jumped in with a torrent of pieces winning decisive material.
Then we entered a dodgy phase. Dave had a rotten position to my eyes against Nigel Morris on Board 4, and should have lost a whole exchange. But he didn't and, after a highly exciting moment when Nigel spilt his drink all over the board, a draw was agreed. And it was only a draw on Board 3, too, as Ben spoilt all his hard work in building up pressure and winning a pawn by simply blundering the exchange against Mike Johnson. For some reason Mike did not bother trying to win and another draw was agreed.
So the match was not yet won, and my long struggle against Sam Cotterill carried on for almost the full 3 hour session. I had a very hard job working up any advantage at all, but eventually the position got more tactical and while I only managed to score about 5/10 in converting the opportunities, Sam scored even less, and I was very relieved to be able to swap off into a king and pawn ending where, despite equal material, I had a clear win. Phew! A match win by 3-1, and temporarily we were in joint first place in Division 1 of the Coventry League as well. Though that only lasted for as long as it took University A and Coventry A to post their results the next morning!
I think I have a whole two weeks now until my next match. Bliss! Which means I might even have time to finally write up the latest iteration of the ECF Grading List where - you will not be surprised to learn - one of our pesky juniors (no names, but its you I'm talking about, Jude Shearsby!) has again shown up the club's more senior members with yet another substantial rating increase. So we know who's likely to be Top of the Class when I produce the latest 6 monthly report card, but who will be collecting the wooden spoon, I wonder?