Thursday, 6 August 2020

KCC Online and On Song!

After two friendlies, KCC made it's online competitive debut this week, in the first round of fixtures in the Coventry Online Trial League. Six teams came under starter's orders -  one each from ourselves, Coventry, Nuneaton, Rugby and Warwick University, with a University Alumni team rounding things up to an even number.

First up we faced Nuneaton, who had also been our first ever online opponents when we beat them 6-4 in a friendly on June 26th. That had been a double round 15m + 10s match, and the format stayed the same for this League encounter, except that now we played over 7 boards compared to 5 previously. However, only the top 4 boards counted for League purposes.

On paper the match looked reasonably equal on the League boards, but we had a big rating advantage on 5, 6 and 7. The KCC engine room here duly delivered a 6-0 whitewash, with double victories for Bernard C, Ben and Billy. Bernard had to overcome some stiff resistance from John Rayner for his victories, whereas Ben was always in control against Jiri Stepan, and was masses of material up when he delivered mate in both games.

But the most remarkable encounter came on Board 7, where Billy was up against another of Paul's Academy students, Henry Wood - though they may not have known they were facing each other while playing the match. In Round 1, it took Billy 69 moves to reel in the point after a very tough game - though at the end his clock showed more time (15 mins 51 secs) than he started with and his average time per move was under 10 seconds! But this was positively pedestrian compared to the second game, where Billy again had to really dig in to secure the win in 73 moves from an initially unpromising position. At the end of this game Billy's clock read 18 minutes and 52 seconds, so that his average move time was under 7 seconds! (For comparison, in the quicker of my two games I averaged 38 seconds per move!) Billy's reward for these two very hard fought victories was a measly 4 point chess.com rating gain - I think we can safely say Henry is somewhat under graded.

The top 4 boards couldn't match the pace set lower down, but we still ended up with a convincing 5.5-2.5 triumph in the League match. It should have been 6.5-1.5, but we'll come to that later!

Board order is decided automatically according to players' chess.com rapid-play ratings, which meant that Andy W, making his online debut for us, was on top board, where he was up against Tony Green. There was a rather chaotic and entertaining clash in Round 1, which ended when Andy bamboozled Tony into losing a piece. This was a really good scrap. The Round 2 encounter was not, as the players drew after just 19 moves - albeit that Tony was down below a minute by then, which more than offset his better position.

On Board 2, I had a couple of very enjoyable games against Paul Davies. I dropped (sacked?) a pawn in the early middle game, but had plenty of play thanks to active pieces and a slightly weak White king. But Paul defended well, and reached a position where he could have swapped off queens and gone into a double rook ending which it would have been impossible to lose. Luckily for me, though, he kept the queens on and fell for a cheapo next move which won back the pawn and totally opened up his king. I then surprisingly managed to calculate a 4 move sequence involving the sacrifice of a bishop and the march of my own king to g6. Here it threatened to take a white rook, while I simultaneously had all 3 heavy pieces attacking f2. Paul could have prolonged the game if he had given up the rook, but in trying to save it he walked into mate. Game 2 was rather one sided, as Paul went wrong in the opening and couldn't develop his kingside pieces. With his king stuck in the centre, I got in Ra8+ on one side of the board, followed next move by Qh5 on the other - a one-two, left-right combination that won lots of material.

Honours were even on the other two boards. On 3, Mike and Colin Green had two draws, but really there should have been two decisive games. Mike was pushing for the entirety of the first game, before missing a win in a complex minor piece ending, while Colin was well on top in the return game but missed a strong f2-f4 and then f5 pawn push which would have won material, and instead the game ended relatively quickly with a repetition.

Which leaves Board 4, where Joshua was paired against another Nuneaton junior, Thomas Glenn, who had split the points with Ben in our earlier match. Round 1 went well for us, though Joshua was made to work very hard for the point, which was only secured by a one move cheapo at the end! I tuned into their second game after mine was over, to find Joshua a clear exchange up, though the position was complicated. However, as soon as I started watching our man seemed to lose the plot, first giving up a bishop for a useless Black knight which was doing nothing on a5, then needlessly returning the exchange and eventually being forced to give up another exchange to stave off mate. The resulting ending was hopeless. A fine performance by Thomas, but I think Joshua will be a bit disappointed with that effort!

So an 11.5-2.5 overall win for us in the end, but our 5.5-2.5 league win was only good enough for third place in the inaugural table, as Coventry beat Rugby 7-1, and Warwick Uni beat the Alumni 6.5-1.5.

All the games can be viewed online - but only by members of the KCC chess.com club!

We have League fixtures on the next four Tuesday evenings, so the results will come thick and fast. And added to that we have our friendly v Stockport coming up next week, though regrettably our scheduled match against the Isle of Wight has had to be postponed. Busy times, indeed!

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