These Coventry League KO Cup matches are really getting to me. In the first two rounds we have been drawn against Division 3 sides, starting with a 2.5 point handicap deficit. Over 4 boards that means we have to win by a minimum of 3.5-0.5. That does not leave much margin for error. One slip and we are toast.
And in last night's quarter final against runaway (unbeaten, 8 points clear!) Div 3 champions, Nuneaton D, it looked like this handicap might do for us. But then we got lucky, as our visitors arrived without their regular top board, Peter Gibbs, who I'm sure many of you will remember as one of the Midlands' leading players for many years. With our weakened line up previously looking rather vulnerable, we suddenly became hot favourites again.
And so it proved, as we chalked up a 4-0 win to sail into the Semi-Finals where, as the only Division 1 team left standing, we will face Rugby B from Division 2, who we will "only" need to beat 3-1.
On Boards 3 and 4, Dave and Roy seemed to be in a race to see who could chalk up the first win. Despite having the Black pieces Dave clinched the honour. Almost from nowhere, a hurricane blew through White's position which left Dave 3 pawns up with a mating attack. Game of the night for sure. Roy exploited his opponent's mistakes to win two exchanges and a couple of pawns as well. Eventually it came down to two rooks against two bishops, but with the Black king cut off and facing inevitable mate from the rampant rooks.
Ben's game on Board 2 started less spectacularly with his opponent playing very sensibly on the Black side of a c3 Sicilian. Until he blundered a bishop. After that it was plain sailing for Ben, and eventually the White bishop that had captured the Black one on f6 allowed a rook to get to h8 to deliver mate.
Which left me. Having dodged the Peter Gibbs bullet, I was still made to work rather hard by Howard Phillips to generate any advantage with the Black pieces. I had more space, and at a crucial point in the middle game I was able to swap off White's active pieces, take over the d file and pile up on a weak backward pawn on e3. White might have been able to reach a queen ending a pawn down (thank goodness he didn't!) but in very bad time trouble he overlooked a bishop sacrifice that won his queen.
So that makes it 9-0 to us in my last two Kenilworth matches. Somehow, I don't think that sequence will last much longer!