Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Chugging along

This week presented us with a potentially tough fixture, against previously unbeaten Shirley (admittedly, they had only played 2 games thus far). We were therefore delighted when this match was marked by a rare sighting of the lesser-spotted Baruch, a rare and delicate creature that often goes into hiding when spooked by, for example, being asked to play in a chess match. Nevertheless, on this occasion Andy was present and seemed to equalise very easily as black against Matthew Long. It was a symmetrical English, and Andy was either completely equal or perhaps even slightly better when, out of nowhere, he simply blundered a pawn. Fortunately, as so often happens on these occasions, the two tempi it took for his opponent to capture the pawn and then retreat his piece gave Andy time to create at least some compensation in the form of more actively placed pieces. His blunder thus converted itself into a sound positional sacrifice as his opponent was forced first to give back then pawn, and then convert into a worse rook and knight endgame. A slow grinding win was probably achievable but Andy decided to go for something more comprehensive when, after an exchange of rooks, he sacrificed his knight to end up with 4 extra pawns. A knight would usually struggle against that many pawns, even if they were isolated and a long way back, and in this case they were connected and quite a way forward. Thus, they simply steamrollered home and the transformation for pawn blundering incompetence to smooth victory was fully achieved.

Andy Paterson, on board 2, once again opened with the slightly limp variation of the English which he seems to have taken up recently, which his opponent responded to with a King's Indian Defence set-up. Andy's more aggressive instincts then took over and he began pushing all his pawns forward, ending up with pawns no c4, e4, f5 and g4 whilst none of his opponents pawns had passed the third rank. The key in such positions is usually whether black can undermine and ultimately collapse the white pawn centre with a well timed break, but on this occasion Andy's opponent opted for passive defence instead. Whilst this gave him an optically sound position, it meant that Andy's advantage in space was never challenged, and consequently he found it much easier to manoeuvre his pieces to better squares, whilst black was more or less paralysed, and eventually found the optimum configuration to push through his advantage to victory.

Mark, as always seems to happen when we play Shirley, found himself up against Keith Ingram, this time with the black pieces. A Najdorf Sicilian duly resulted, in which Keith went for an early Bh3 threatening both f5 and various potential sacrifices on 36 against Mark's uncastled king. For a number of moves there seemed the possibility of both attempting pawn storms and trying various piece sacrifices. However, as so often happens when this many attacking options are available, white kept waiting for the optimal possible moment to attack, and consequently never did so, allowing back to create the usual Sicilian counterplay on the queenside. By means of a queen infiltration, Mark was eventually able to grab some material, which ultimately proved sufficient to decide the game. Notably, for all the possible attacking chances white had towards the start, by the time he resigned the white kingside attack had progressed no further than the position around move 12. A salutary lesson in the dangers of waiting too long for the perfect moment to strike.

Finally, in my game, my opponent blundered a pawn on move 3. I am aware that some people might consider what he played a sacrifice, but my very solid results in this position have led me to conclude that is really is pretty much just a pawn. Fortunately for me as well, my opponent repeated a line which I very recently lost in (I believe my only classical chess loss in this variation) during a county championship game, and hence is one of the very few positions I have actually bothered to look up and check. My usual brief and incoherent notes are presented below:

Final score: Kenilworth A 4-0 Shirley A

A very fine result, an almost competent performance, and I believe if you scroll down Mark will have more good news to report to you from the Coventry League.

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