Tuesday, 28 April 2015

That's All, Folks

Kenilworth A 2.5 Daventry 1.5

A rather low key conclusion to the season last night saw the A Team notch its 6th consecutive win. This guarantees us at least third place, and we may yet be second if Solihull fail to win their last match. Such was the air of ennui surrounding this largely meaningless match, though, that even our ever enthusiastic captain decided to take the night off.

For once I was first to finish, eventually nullifying Tim Lawson's dangerous early initiative (h5-h4-h3!) by plonking a massive knight on b6 and then invading the wide open black position with my queen to deliver mate. On Board 3, Carl seemed to be doing well in a rook and minor pieces ending against Andrew Foulds' two sets of doubled pawns, but shortly after my game concluded, and while my back was turned, hostilities ceased and a draw was agreed.

Mike D played a very measured game on 4 against Kevin Bowman, dominating the centre and the c file while Black tried to confuse the issue with a knight sacrifice on g3. Mike ignored it and just hoovered up the Black position, eventually emerging with rook and two connected passed pawns against a lone rook to clinch the match for us.

This was just as well, as Paul was engaged in a heavyweight struggle on Board 1 against Chris Ross. He played a very original opening and was soon a pawn up. He just survived the inevitable ferocious time trouble (6 moves in 20 seconds!), but by then was 2 pawns up with what should have been a winning position - except that his king was rather exposed and White's two bishops were waiting for a chance to break loose as soon as Paul started to advance his extra pawns. Unfortunately, in yet more time trouble for Paul, the bishops did indeed spring to life, and in company with a suddenly unshackled white queen, jumped into the Black position to deliver mate.  A rather unlucky end to the season for Paul, to leave the match result closer than had looked likely for most of the evening.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

An almost perfect match

Writing this match report gives me considerably more pleasure than they often do, as this particularly performance was only two minor quibbles away from perfection. The first is the absurd incompetence of the man charged with writing it, who is only managing to publish it now, nine days after the match took place. The second we shall come to later on.
So, casting our minds back to our trip to Shirley on the 13th, I recall that my game was the first to finish, after barely more than an hour. My opponent played the Dutch defence but appeared not to know any of the theory, as he managed to obtain a lost position after 4 moves of a Staunton gambit. Specifically, after the standard sequence 1. d4 f5 2. e4 fxe4 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 he played d5, a well known blunder. After 5. Bxf6 exf6 6. Qh5+, white not only wins the pawn on d5, but also the f6 and e4 pawns as well, ending up two pawns up for absolutely nothing, not a bad result from a slightly dodgy gambit. Nothing very exciting happened after that, as we just swapped pieces off until I reached a completely winning endgame.
I then retired to the bar for half an hour or so to recover from my exertions, during which my opponent filled me in on all the developments in the Solihull car industry, not a topic I can claim to have been particularly well versed in previously. When I returned, we appeared to be completely winning in all three other games. Andy, after playing an English against his opponent’s King’s Indian set up, had managed to gain a massive amount of space on the queenside, and his opponent had no active counterplay. Mark had lured Dave Thomas into playing the four pawns attack against the King’s Indian, and had subsequently broken down the centre and won the exchange. Finally Mike, after his opponent played a particularly limp line against the Pirc had, after some manoeuvring and last minute panic to reach the time control, emerged a whole piece up.
Andy and Mark duly converted their games, but Mike’s just kept going and going. He remained a whole piece up for nothing, but couldn’t seem to make progress as the time ticked away. Finally, with about a minute or so left, he found the correct winning plan, but ran out of time just 3 or 4 moves away from mate, meaning a possible 4-0 victory only ended up as 3-1. Nevertheless, an encouraging performance where I don’t think we were ever worse, at any point, on any board.
Unfortunately, I don’t have access to the games played by the other three, and mine wasn’t interesting enough to be both showing the whole of. Therefore, I thought I would continue my demonstrations of how not to play the opening, form a game I played in Coventry yesterday. Although I eventually won the game, it is fair to say the position I reached is not one I am anxious to repeat. I hope you enjoy: “How not to play the Scandinavian defence”

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Life in the Old Dog Yet!

Olton A v Kenilworth A - Tuesday March 31st
The A team has not put up much of a defence of its title this season, but the last three matches have shown that rumours of its demise are much exaggerated. Fresh from wins over the teams currently in 2nd and 4th places in the table, it was now the turn of champions elect Olton A - sporting a record of Won 12, Drawn 1, Lost 0 - to face the revived Kenilworth juggernaut.

Deprived of our Captain by the call of a Cup Semi-Final for Coventry, we nevertheless managed to field one of our strongest teams of the season, and arrived to discover that Phil Holt had decided to take the night off for Olton. It looked for a long time that Alan Lloyd, deputising on Board 1 for Olton, had also decided to take the night off, but he finally rolled in around 8.15 after a bad travel experience. This prompted a quick hunt for a copy of the league rules, as no-one was sure whether he had lost or not. (Where is the LDCL Chairman when you need him?) In fact, default time is 8.30pm, so it was game on.

First to finish was Andy, against Mark Cundy, on Board 2. He had seemed to be under the impression that this was a blitz game, so quickly was he moving, but this didn't prevent him from reaching a winning position. Continuing to move at the speed of light, though, he missed the one move win of the exchange and suddenly the position was no longer winning. A draw was agreed, and a very annoyed team driver had to quietly seethe for the next hour or more while he waited for the rest of us to finish.

I had a big advantage out of the opening against Richard Smith on 3, but failing to find a good plan my position went steadily downhill. (I suspect I've written that sentence before.) I was pleasantly surprised when he offered me a draw, but after taking a quick look at the other 2 remaining games I decided I'd better play on as it looked like we were getting a point at best from them. I sacced a pawn to free my position, but luckily for me, Richard declined it and then gave up his strong bishop for my useless knight. This left a double rook ending, but after one pair of rooks came off, the resultant ending was winning for me as the Black kingside pawns were too weak. I missed mate in two at one point, but it wasn't critical as resignation followed a couple of moves later with me 3 pawns up.

By that time, Paul - fresh from a brilliant 4NCL win over IM Richard Palliser at the weekend - had duly delivered a win on Board 1, though not before overtaking Alan on time, despite his 30 minute head start! Alan chose a dubious opening variation that exchanged queens but left his king on d7 on move 8. A bit later it went back to e8, and then a lot later it castled king side! Luckily, Paul noticed this attempt to "do a Phil" as its known in Leamington League circles, but by then he had jumped all over the black position and was winning comfortably.

This left Mike D. on board 4. He had been forced to give up his b7 pawn in the opening, and soon after the a7 pawn went west too. He got one pawn back and had a clear middle game initiative but his opponent defended well and it eventually came down to a bishops of the same colour ending, where white had 4 v 3 with a passed c pawn. The clock situation for both players was truly horrendous, and although the position looked lost for Mike, he defended like a demon and managed to force all the pawns off fractionally before both players lost on time.

So the match ended in a 3-1 victory for us, and the end of Olton's unbeaten league season, as well as taking our aggregate score in the last 3 matches against the strongest teams in the league to 9.5-2.5. What a shame that the season is ending, just as we have finally got started!