Tuesday, 17 February 2015

End of the dream

Sadly, last night has confirmed what I think we all realistically knew anyway, that we were not going to be retaining any of the trophies won last year. With Olton still romping away at the top of the league table, the cup was our last chance of silverware for the season. Sadly, with both teams somewhat depleted from full strength, Banbury still had more than enough to cruise their way into the final.

The first two games to finish were both interesting in different ways. Phil, after playing a handful of standard Queen's gambit moves with white, was momentarily possessed by the spirit of Alexei Shirov, and lashed out with an unprovoked g4. Unfortunately, rather than follow up with a traditional Shirov attack, he then proceeded to play Bf1-e2-f3, thus completing one of the strangest fianchettos of all time. A mass of pawn exchanges in the centre seemed to herald oncoming equality, when unfortunately a forcing sequence of moves ended up with Phil’s queen skewered to a rook, and the exchange disappeared. Any hopes of a stiff defence ended when I noticed that, at this point, Phil’s pawns were on a4, b2, d4, f2, g4 and h2, providing perhaps six more targets than you can afford to playing against a rook.

This loss was, however, cancelled out by Carl’s excellent tactical win on the black side of an exchange Caro-Kann. As both sides set up for the standard kingside attacks that can result from this line, an unexpected rook lift by Carl cut his opponents queen off from defending the king. Rather than face a dangerous attack, he gave up the queen for a rook and a piece but, with Carl’s attack still on-going, I chalked this up as an easy win. Returning later, I was surprised to find not only was the game still going, but his opponent had managed to confuse matters, as there were now pieces randomly strewn across the board with no co-ordination for either player. Fortunately, the power of the queen in such open positions eventually tolled, and the match was level.

By this point both Roy and myself were somewhat concerned by Mark’s position on board 1, as for the umpteenth time this season he appeared to be the exchange down with not obviously sufficient compensation. A loss on board 1 would have left us needing to win 3-2 to take the match, so both Roy and myself turned down draws (an offer in my case, a forced repetition in his) to try and win. Unfortunately, despite two nice positions (computer confirmed) we both managed to over press as time ran short, and managed to collapse to losses.

By this point of course, due to his opponent’s faffing around, both on the board and on the clock, Mark had managed to advance a pawn, force his opponent to give up a rook for it, and was trying to win the win an endgame of rook and bishop versus rook. Whilst this is normally a theoretical draw, it is very difficult to hold with one minute on your clock. Despite some slightly shady antics by his opponent (which this blog is of course too polite to report in detail), Mark sealed the win with a check which was very nearly mate.

All this of course meant that if Roy and myself had only taken the earlier draws, we would have been in the final. One way to view this would be that it is our fault for not having sufficient faith in our teammate. I however, wishing as ever to pass the buck, prefer to think that if Mark is going to keep winning these games, it would be nice if he managed to look like that was a possibility at a slightly earlier juncture.

Final score: Kenilworth 2 – 3 Banbury

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