A draw against Olton B wouldn't normally be any cause for massive celebration, but such have been the woeful results of the A team in the first half of the season that any point is very gratefully received. And if you had forecast a drawn match last night at any time other than about 10.29 pm you would have been laughed out of town.
For a start, the normal selection problems meant that we were missing Paul Lam yet again, and for reasons both diverse and improbable, nearly all possible substitutes. (Does anyone know if Andy Baruch still exists?) But cometh the hour, cometh the man, and reigning Clubman of the Year Stuart Blaiklock bravely stepped up to the plate and answered an 11th hour call to duty - and took a giant step towards retaining his trophy in the process. Then we had to contend with the fact that Carl had returned from Bangalore only the day before, while I had got back from Germany only a few hours before the match. And then we learned that Olton B were fresh from an excellent 2-2 draw against a Solihull team with an average grade of 182. Oh yes, and then it emerged that Alan Lloyd was making a very rare appearance for Olton B.
Finally the match started and it got even worse! Stuart opened with the Philidor Defence, and when White played 3 d4 we waited with bated breath to see whether he would remember not to repeat the 3 ... Bg4 blunder of Count Isouard and the Duke of Brunswick against Morphy at the Paris Opera. Thankfully, those nights at the Royal Oak have not been wasted, and the game proceeded along more acceptable lines. However, Carl was clearly still in another time zone and keen to get home asap, since his Board 3 game with Rob Reynolds lasted no time at all before ending in a not entirely unexpected draw. But by then, we were already in serious trouble, as Josh had suffered a complete mental aberration and dropped a piece for virtually nothing against Gary Hope. For some strange reason, he is keen that I present the opening phase of the game for all to see:-
Guess the result competition!
Back to that game shortly......
As the evening progressed, I was getting nowhere against Alan Lloyd, and when I realised my plan to win a pawn was completely unplayable, I had to go into full scale retreat mode and try to hang on. By this stage Stuart had shed a queen side pawn, but reached the time control with some chances of a draw in a queen and minor piece ending. Sadly, shortly afterwards White won another queen side pawn and Stuart had to resign against Rob Wallman after a brave fight against the 51 grading points difference.That's what's called taking one for the team.
Josh had been playing on and on a piece down, and even though a white pawn got to h7, he somehow managed to confuse the issue so much that he won back his piece and swapped off into a rook ending where he had the only remaining pawn. It was a stone cold draw, but unbelievably, as the moves were bashed out at blitz speed, I happened to look across and see the black pawn not only queen, but also not even get taken by the white rook. A miracle had occurred and he had won a game that will encourage generations of players never to resign, no matter how lost they may be. After this complete turnaround, Alan decided to offer me a draw as despite being a pawn up in a bishop v knight ending, he had no way of ever getting his king in.
So amazingly it finished as a 2-2 draw - and very much a "Glass Half Full" evening as far as we were concerned!