It was a wild and windswept night as our intrepid Coventry League squad set out for North Warwickshire to take on pre-season favourites, but apparent under-performers, Nuneaton A. We had our strongest team of the season in action, and we certainly needed it as our opponents fielded their strongest side and enjoyed large rating advantages on boards two and four, where they played the White pieces.
Strange events began to occur very early on. I strolled over to look at Ben's position on Board 4, and had trouble assessing the material situation. He seemed to be down a bishop and a pawn. But then I looked closer and while he had a queen, Colin Green did not! Yes, the Nuneaton man had got his queen trapped right out of the opening on a4. Maybe because he had nothing better to do, he played on for the best part of another 2 hours before resigning, after the position slowly evolved via exchange after exchange into queen versus bishop.
But because of this delaying tactic, we were actually one down, as Mike had succumbed to a vicious early attack from Phil Briggs, from what I guess was a Blackmar-Diemer Gambit. The game did not make pretty viewing and Mike was rather depressed by the standard of his play. Time to gird those loins for the fights ahead, Mike. We need you!
The other two games were rather more conventional. On 3, Carl played a variation of his rather turgid QP opening against Tony Green's Chigorin style set up. Nothing much happened until an ending arose in which Carl had a bad bishop and Tony had a good knight. The Black king was also more active and it looked as though the position could be difficult to hold. Surprisingly, though, no sooner had the clocks been put back than a draw was agreed. Possibly a lucky escape for us, though maybe it was difficult to actually make progress for Black.
Which left me, again, as the last man standing. I played a highly enterprising (ie unsound) opening, but Andrew Paterson (yes, it was another inter-necine battle!) didn't try to refute my play, but just made sensible moves instead. He then spiced things up with an interesting pawn sac, which left me with doubled isolated c pawns. The position was very complex, and just before the time control, I made what I thought was a winning lurch with a knight jump to b5 and a pawn push to e5, which had twin threats to win either an exchange or a piece. However, Andy had calculated better and he was able to take both my c pawns so that at the time control I was a pawn down in a rook ending, and possibly losing. But he immediately went wrong and I was able to reach a drawn position as my active rook blockaded his passed a pawn and simultaneously attacked his shattered king side pawn structure, so that he couldn't make any progress.
So an excellent 2-2 draw for us, and while our winning run stopped at 2 matches, we extended our unbeaten run to 3. Quite galling, therefore, to discover that we actually dropped a position to 6th as a consequence of other results. One more league game to go for us in the first half of the season, with next week's local derby against Coventry A.