The C&DCL Online Autumn/Winter (take your pick, I don't know what it's officially called!) League kicked off last night with our two teams clashing in the first ever KCC online derby. There is an interesting mix of teams playing, since as well as the usual suspects of Warwick Uni (2 teams), Coventry and Nuneaton, we also have Shirley from the Leamington League, plus Sutton Coldfield and Birmingham University from the Birmingham League, making up a nine team Division 1.
While our A team squad is slightly higher rated than the B team, there is not much between the two to be honest, so the result of last night's match was anything but a foregone conclusion, though in the end, the club hierarchy was maintained as the A team won 5.5-2.5 to secure early bragging rights.
I played Bernard C on Board 1, and we kicked off with a total mess of a game. I was better from the opening, then I was clearly worse. Then it was level. Then I was winning, and then it was a queen ending where Bernard had an extra pawn. It may well have been a draw, but as I soon put my queen en prise, endgame theory missed out on the opportunity to be enriched by the subtle manoeuvrings of the two players. Game 2 was less eventful. Bernard sacrificed a pawn for activity, but I battened down the hatches and was seemingly getting on top when he grabbed his pawn back, which walked into the loss of a piece or, as played in the game, mate.
So honours even there, but the A team took a decisive grip on the match on Board 2, where Mike scored 2-0 against Ben. Game 1 was a very brief encounter, where Mike won a pawn and then a whole rook after Ben walked into a discovered check tactic. The return was a long game where Mike won a couple of pawns early on and eventually converted in an opposite bishops ending. Two impressively convincing games by Mike, with little of the randomness on show elsewhere.
The match may have swung on the Round 1 Board 3 encounter between Jude and Tom (who has joined our Coventry League online squad on a season long loan from Leamington!), where Jude's White opening did not go entirely to plan and he was rather short of squares for his pieces. However, at a crucial moment Jude uncorked the move Qg4 which simultaneously attacked a loose bishop on h4 and a loose rook on c8 and brought the game to an instant end. Game 2 was drawn, though Jude seemed to be a solid pawn up in the final position.
Board 4 saw two hammer and tongs games between Billy and Solomon, which ended up with one Black victory each. Solomon struck first, winning an exchange and repelling Billy's kingside attack before winning with a bucket load of extra material. Billy bounced back in Game 2 with some excellent tactics that first won two pieces for a rook, and then an exchange, leaving him a piece up. Solomon managed to grab a couple of pawns along the way, but Billy gradually marched his king into the White position to secure the win.
So both teams are up and running, and the early evidence suggests they should each be reasonably competitive, though we are yet to see what strength Warwick University unleash. It will be fun watching the Shirley team sort out its board order, since they started with Don Mason on Board 4, sporting a chess.com rating of under 1000, so it could be some time before he makes it to his natural habitat on Board 1! Good to see Coventry fielding Joshua and Lionel on the top two boards - which is where they would have been if they had elected to play for us! So thank goodness they opted out, or I would have been pushed down to Board 3. I would never have been able to live down the shame!