Last night we entertained league leaders Solihull, who were 6 points clear having played 1 game more. Somehow Mark managed to persuade Andy to give the cello a miss and we fielded our strongest possible side.
1. Paul Lam (b) (201) vs Russel James (197)
2. Andy Baruch (w) (193) vs Olivia Smith (180)
3. Andrew Paterson (b) (186) vs Paul Roper (164)
4. Mark Page (w) (190) vs Ray Carpenter (163)
First to finish was Andy on board 2. He opened with 1.g3 and attacked Olivia’s centre with c4. Both players played quickly and Andy got the better of the opening, managing to treble Olivia’s c pawns and take away her right to castle. The game ended abruptly with a nice tactic from Andy and Kenilworth went one up.
Mark opened with his customary 1.e4 and we had a Sicilian. Mark kept it closed and played Bb5. Ray didn’t allow the knight capture on c6 and posted his knight to d4. With the opening looking pretty even Mark launched a very convincing attack on the kingside. Mark broke though and it looked like the win was imminent then from nowhere came the words ‘Checkmate’. Yes, Ray had hidden a bishop on b8 (dressed in a camouflaged jacket), had a queen on c7, the pawns that were on d6 and e5 had mysteriously vanished in the attack and Mark’s horse that was en prise on g3 last move had decided it was time to vacate the protection of the king and look for greener pastures. Mark nearly fell off his chair and the score was one all.
I played a Sicilian on 3 and allowed Paul’s early Bxc6. A couple of moves later I found a tactic that sacrificed a pawn and gave up my strong fianchettoed kingside bishop but managed to destroy Paul’s pawn structure (trebling his c pawns) and gained a nasty initiative. 2 hours later Paul’s weaknesses started to fall and Kenilworth were two one up. So Andy and Andy managed to treble their opponents’ c pawns at the same time. I think I might take up the cello.
On one, Paul was aghast to see Russel open with 1.b4. 10 hours of meticulous prep wasted and he would have to start using his brain instead. The game settled down quickly with Paul playing very classically claiming central space with Russel having queenside space (behind that pawn on b4). The position looked closed and stodgy and both players had used a lot of time. I next caught up with the game as time pressure approached, Paul was an exchange up but his king as a little loose. Both players had about 10 moves to make in next to no time and an exciting melee ensued. At the time control both players could take stock. Queens were off Paul had 2 rooks, a bishop and 6 pawns, Russel had 1 rook, 2 bishops, a knight and 4 pawns. Paul’s pawn structure looked like a cheese grater, Russel’s was solid as a rock. If Russel could activate his minor pieces and find outposts for them, the position would have technically winning for white, but this seemed extremely difficult. The game continued and before we knew it both players had 4 minutes left. Paul offered a draw and Russel bravely refused because of the match position. The game quickly turned frantic with pawns being pushed and taken everywhere. I thought Russel had a completely winning position several times during the maelstrom but alas, when both players have only 10 seconds left on the clock the actual merits of the position on the board can be secondary. With 2 seconds left on the clock a draw was offered and accepted in a genuinely drawn position. Both gladiators gave it their all and the point was halved.
So Kenilworth won 2.5 – 1.5. Solihull need to get 3 points from their remaining 2 games to secure the title. We’ve done what we can to put the pressure on.