Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Off the mark at last

The A team, at our fourth attempt, finally managed a win yesterday, with a reasonably comfortable 3-1 triumph over Shirley. I’ll go over the less interesting matches quickly, before we get to the main event.

The first game to finish was Dave’s, who had black against Jonathan Dale. In a Qc2 Nimzo-Indian white played rather passively, and hence Dave seemed to get a very equal position without too much difficulty. When white then left his kingside rather exposed, Dave turned down the opportunity to win a couple of pawns (which may have in turn given his opponent an attack), and instead found a tactical way to win a queen for a rook and knight. I thought perhaps he could have played on a little here, but his opponent’s position was solid and a draw with black can hardly be considered a bad result.

Mark then put us into the lead, courtesy of a win over Keith Ingram. In a Najdorf Sicilian, White chose what looked to me a slightly strange mix of plans, retreating his knights to b3, but then choosing to castle kingside and play f4. Mark was left with an isolated pawn on d6, but as compensation had excellent squares for his pieces, and was able to simplify into a double rook endgame a pawn up. He was soon able to put both his rooks on the seventh rank, and even someone whose endgame technique is as rudimentary as mine knows that such a position should be winning sooner rather than later.

The first half of my own game, with white against Matthew Long, went well, as we played into a relatively main line of the Winawer French (e4 e6 d4 d5 Nc3 Bb4) where white plays an early Qg4. I carefully pointed all my pieces towards the black kingside, then realised he hadn’t actually castled yet and if he did so queenside they would all turn out to be on the wrong side of the board. However, much to my surprise and relief, he did castle kingside and soon I had a very strong attack, and a position rated +3 by the computer. However, here my own incompetence as an attacking player took over, so that rather than delivering mate, I smoothly managed to transition into an endgame a pawn down. Fortunately for me, the opposite coloured bishops meant I was able to hold on relatively easily, leaving us 2-1 ahead.

Moving on to our feature presentation. I think it is fair to say that Phil has been somewhat out of form over the last few months, and has been subjected to a fair amount of gentle abuse as a consequence (and at least some genuine rage after last season’s game in Stratford.) Therefore, by way of balance, it seems only right to present his crushing victory over a 160 graded player on board 4 that sealed the win. I’m sure we all hope this means the real Phil is now back for league chess, and the piece blundering one only shows up in future for Thursdays at The Royal Oak. I haven’t had time to put the game through a computer so there will be a lack of good analysis to go with it, but I think the ease of the win speaks for itself.

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