Oh well, second place is nothing to be ashamed of. Which is where a 5-3 defeat in the final round of the Coventry Trial Online League left us. And with honours even on the extra boards 5 and 6, the overall match was lost 7-5, with no KCC player managing anything better than 50% over the two rounds. And some of us not even managing that!
The vagaries of the chess.com platform put the University's 6 players in the following order by ECF grade:- 159, 142, 221, 111, 99, 76. It's probably fair to say that none of their team played to their grade - which was a shame, as if they had we should have won with our team lining up 195, 163, 174, 184, 164, 115! Apart from Lionel, making his debut on Board 3 and drawing a very short straw, you would have thought that we should have no difficulty annexing the 4.5 pts needed to win the league encounter, or indeed the 6.5 pts needed to win the overall match. But if last night taught us all anything, it's that online chess is a beast of a very different colour. And that you should be very, very wary of intelligent and energetic students sporting improbably low grades!
I should probably have been winning out of the opening in Rd 1 with White against Jonathan Fowler, but within a few moves my position started to collapse, and even when I thought I had landed a cheapo at the end, it turned out I was the one being cheapoed and a piece fell off. Round 2 was marginally better, but after matching my opponent's slightly dodgy opening set-up with an equally dodgy one of my own, I was momentarily in big trouble, before winning a piece, though at the cost of 3 pawns. In attempting to break up a big pawn mass all I succeeded in doing was to give White connected passed f and e pawns, and when a 4th pawn dropped off, I feared the worst. Somehow I finally got my extra piece to do something, though, and in mutual time trouble I was able to sac this knight for enough pawns to reach a drawn rook and pawn ending. But I must have been dead lost for quite a few moves.
Much better stuff was played on the next two boards. On Board 2, Andy W delivered a quick win in Round 1 against Arjun Pyda, but Game 2 saw him on the receiving end of a similar direct attack on the White king. It seems that Adorjan was quite right - Black is definitely OK!
Lionel played an excellent game with White against Andi Dicu on Board 3 and finally won in a rook and pawn ending, but the return game did not go so well. The opening went wrong for Lionel, but he seemed to have come through the worst of it when he suddenly lost a lot of material, presumably in time pressure. Still, sharing the points against such a strong opponent was an excellent debut performance.
The match basically swung against us on Board 4, where Joshua played a good game against Chun Chui to reach a winning ending. Which he then not only didn't win, but even managed to lose when he self-cheapoed himself out of a rook. Tragedy! The return encounter was rather tame by comparison and a fairly boring draw was the logical and inevitable outcome.
And talking of tame, Mike had two short draws of under 50 moves combined against Vincenz Bill on Board 5. A quick time-limit and a computer screen are clearly not Mike's ideal conditions, and at least he has given me the idea for this week's song! As the excellent Steve Forbert so shrewdly observed, all those years ago, "you cannot win, if you do not play!"
When Billy turns up he definitely comes to play/win, and draws are clearly anathema to him. There was no danger of any of them against Ziad Fakhoury in this match. Game 1 was characterised by an unfortunate mouse slip in the opening by Billy, when Kf8 appeared on the board instead of 0-0! This seemed to completely discombobulate him, and he lost rather a lot of pieces rather quickly. Which is also exactly what happened in the return encounter, though this time Billy was in his "force of nature" mode and just demolished the Black position for a convincing win.
So congratulations to Warwick University for a comprehensive win - and for a similarly convincing victory in the League itself, where they clocked up a 100% match record. And thanks to League Chairman Colin Green for proposing, developing and administering the competition, which has been good fun. A bigger and better event should be starting in October, probably with a few more rules and constraints, and I'll be in touch with everyone to try and round up enough players for at least one KCC team, as soon as I know details of format, dates etc. So watch this space. In the meantime, we have our international friendly against Castlehill Dundee (September 15th) to look forward to, so if you haven't signed up for that, please get in touch and do so now! I am hoping/trying for a record KCC turnout in this match.