Tuesday, 7 October 2014

How The Mighty Have Fallen!

Two games into the defence of our first league title in 26 years and its still like watching Norway in the Eurovision Song Contest for the A Team this season - Kenilworth, Nil Points! Not only did we allow Banbury B to follow in their A team's footsteps and record a 2.5-1.5 win, but it couldn't even be classed as a big surprise, as they managed to field a team that out-graded us (and their own A team)!

In Paul's absence, I had a really interesting game against Fide Master James Jackson on Board 1, after he uncorked a major opening surprise by leaving a knight undefended on d4. I resisted temptation for one move and then took it, and even though I had to give up my rook on a8, I got a very playable position with a pawn for the exchange. After I removed his dark square bishop I may even have been very slightly better, but in severe time trouble I started to go wrong and despite some inaccuracies by White which should have left me with a dead equal position (according to Fritz) as late as move 46, I had neither the brain power nor the time to find the right moves, and was eventually overrun by 2 connected queen side pawns - about ten seconds before I would have lost on time.

Joshua had a typically crazy game on Board 2 against Paul Rowan which eventually yielded our only win of the night. In a mutant KIA type position he feinted to sacrifice on the king side, and then rushed over to the queen side to grab a pawn at the cost of his centre. Black had a big phalanx of pawns but neglected to push them at the crucial moment and when he went passive to stop Joshua's passed a pawn, they fell off.

Carl played a solid - some (not me I hasten to add) might say boring - game on Board 3 to draw against Dan Rowan with 2 rooks and a bishop against his opponent's two rooks and a knight. There were divergent opinion's afterwards as to whether the bishop was better or worse than the knight, which probably means that a draw was a fair result.

So once again Phil found himself occupying centre stage with the match outcome in his hands. After various vicissitudes, a seemingly level rook and knight ending was reached, but then all hell broke loose. Nick Martin went horribly wrong and lost a queening race by several tempi. But Unfortunately, Phil went horribly wrong by having less time, and despite being a queen up in the final position, he lost on time while his opponent had the grand total of 3 seconds on his clock. A very unlucky break for us and for Phil, but in a perverse sort of way it is becoming quite exciting to see the new ways Phil keeps coming up with to lose winning positions.

I don't want to be unduly alarmist after just 2 matches, but history does sound a word of warning for us. In 1937-38 Manchester City got relegated from Division 1, the season after winning the title. Could lightning strike twice, I wonder?

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