Tuesday October 6th was an historic day for Kenilworth Chess Club, as we made our debut in the Coventry League, with an away match against Rugby A. Having been fast tracked straight into Division 1, there are going to be no easy matches for us this season. Sure enough, although our first match saw us only slightly outgraded on average, we were heavily outrated on Boards 3 and 4, and indeed only on Board 1 did we have any rating advantage. But the team rose splendidly to the challenge and, right at the death, secured a dramatic draw in a match which had been too close to call all evening. Gentlemen a-bed in Kenilworth shall think themselves accursed they were not there!
The new campaign has its first hero, and his name is Ben! He played a really excellent game against Nalin Kadodwala's Alekhine, and after getting all his pieces onto very strong squares jumped in with a Bxg6 sac and some nice tactics which won material. This was a massive boost for the team. And it looked likely to get even better as Roy recovered from a very ropey opening to get a crushing attack against Jamie Kearney's long castled king. With a nice bishop sac on d6 (which should never have been accepted) he ripped open the a, b and c files and had the White king at his mercy with queen and two rooks threatening mayhem. But he rushed to win his piece back instead of playing directly for mate and the position eventually stabilised into Q+R+2 for Roy against Q+R+1. I expected a draw (though the White king was floating about in the middle of the board so Roy still had an edge) when I was alerted by a heartfelt cry of "Bollocks!" from across the room. My heart sank. Roy had made a bone-head blunder and lost a rook. What a disaster, after such an enterprising game.
And then Mike went down to Bob Wildig on Board 2 after a very tense struggle. He played a very enterprising opening as Black which ended with a Black pawn getting to e3. It stayed there for many moves, but it always looked like a sitting duck. Eventually the tactics which were keeping it alive ran out, and once it fell off the game went downhill, putting us 2-1 down.
And so to a position I have been in a few times before, where I had to win to save the match. I guess this is what happens when you play stodgy chess, and are nearly always the last to finish. Anyway, I got nothing from an insipid opening against Jonathan Cox, and had to play quite carefully to avoid being worse. We got into a double rook and knight ending where I thought I was pushing for an edge, but then things started to go wrong. I made an inexplicable knight tour from d2 to c4 to e5 to d7 to c5 only to find that when he played b6 the only square I could go to was a4. Meanwhile the Black knight jumped right into my position and I was grovelling. Luckily time trouble intervened and Jon started to go wrong. We got down to a rook ending with level material, but he pushed a pawn to e3 and I rounded it up. But then I played a stupid move which left a pawn en prise but very luckily he didn't take it. Then he mistakenly swapped off the rooks thinking he was invading with his king down the h file, but I had an easy way to generate a passed d pawn which he couldn't stop.
So a drawn, and highly exciting, match where the team performed above expectations - although the bad news is that most of the other teams in the league are likely to be stronger - and some considerably stronger at that. Nevertheless, our intrepid squad (we few, we happy few, we band of brothers!) is up and running, and we at least have our first point on the board.