Wednesday, 13 April 2016

We are the National Champions! (Well Almost)


While I was away sunning myself in Eastbourne for the weekend, we only went and won a National Trophy. Of sorts. I should go away more often. (Especially after last night, for news of which see the next post.) Our intrepid Captain and Roving Reporter Ben Graff now takes up the story. And one of these days, quite soon even, the Webmaster may enable him to post his own reports. Take it away, Ben .....


A somewhat bemused Joshua Pink and John Harris being presented with Kenilworth’s latest piece of silverware by Alex Holowczak. The National Club, Intermediate Plate, no less! Roy and I had already gone home, not seeing the prospect of any sort of prize as being likely. It just goes to show.

Day 1

On day 1 the team consisted of Joshua, me, Mike and John. After the usual team hugs, singing of the club song and saluting of the Kenilworth flag, we were in high spirits. (OK, strictly speaking we didn’t do any of these things. But after some cups of tea and a catch up, we took to our Boards for the first round in high spirits.) This was the point at which things started to go wrong.

We were involved in triangular matches on both the Saturday and the Sunday. This meant that by the end of each day, we had played two teams in full (Newport and Sutton Coldfield on the Saturday, Braille 1 and Warley Quinborne on the Sunday.) However, it was only at the end of the second and fourth rounds that the full scores against each opponent were known. Sounds complicated? Add in the fact that the Boards were wrongly set up so that we almost started round 1 with four blacks and in the wrong part of the playing hall and I guess you could say that it was! Anyways, that’s our excuse for a seriously below par first day.

An hour into round one, slight alarm bells began to ring for me. Both Mike and I were very passive with Black and appeared to have limited winning chances. (So it proved. Mike was the first to finish, expertly defending accurately in an opposite Bishop ending. I finished next when we got down to Queen and six v Queen and six, in a completely static position. One of the most boring draws I’ve had all season.) In contrast it is fair to say Joshua and John’s games were a lot more “dynamic,” but that was probably the best that could be said for them. Chris Lewis got his Queen in behind Joshua’s pawns, causing all sorts of problems. He ultimately broke through in the ending to win. John also went down after a really tough fight, so not a great start.

Round 2 saw me up against Nathanael Paul. Triangulation meant that despite being our Board 2 I had to play Newport’s Board 1. Given he was 177 I steadied myself for a long game and fuelled up on Pizza at lunchtime. A series of events unfolded that should give hope to all of us when we sit down opposite a higher rated player. With my Queen on e2 and Nathanial’s Bishop on f5, I attacked it by placing a knight on g3. Nathanial’s enterprising attempt to defend it with e6 was somewhat thwarted as after I took the Bishop with said knight his e6 pawn could not take back as it was pinned to the King. The game lasted six moves and ten minutes… I doubt there have been many easier ways to get a 227 ECF for a game! However, after that it was all downhill. Joshua incredibly was up the exchange and cruising to victory when things went terribly wrong. He’d declined several draw offers and saw the chance to grab a second exchange. However, this was a disaster as it then transpired he couldn’t stop his opponent’s pawns from rolling down the board. Ouch. John was also winning before he lost and Mike went down too, so it was a somewhat dispirited team that ended day 1…


Kenilworth
143

Newport
148
721
w
Pink, Joshua
178
0 - 1
Lewis, Christopher D
159
722
w
Graff, Ben
145
1 - 0
Paul, Nathanael
177
723
b
Johnson, Mike
126
½ - ½
Paul, Christopher
120
724
b
Harris, John
125
0 - 1
Ansari, Athar
139

         


1½ - 2½




Sutton Coldfield 2
131

Kenilworth
143
711
W
Brown, Noel A
127
1 - 0
Pink, Joshua
178
712
W
Lawrence, Roy
137
½ - ½
Graff, Ben
145
713
B
Marks, Robert
136
1 - 0
Johnson, Mike
126
714
B
Brown, Noel A
127
1 - 0
Harris, John
125

         


3½ - ½




Day 2

We told ourselves that tomorrow was another day and so it proved. Roy came into the team for Mike (as planned) and we got down to business. As the expletive free minutes ticked by, it was becoming clear that Roy was on good form. He finished round three first with a good draw, bringing us some much needed stability. How many times have we said that this season? [Ed – not many.] John also very comfortably held the draw. Indeed he stood better at the end, but it seemed like a sensible decision to get us another half point in the bank. Fears were beginning to circulate that Joshua’s non-Chess playing twin brother had turned up in his place for the weekend, when he began the round by “sacrificing,” a pawn for very little. However, by mid-way through the game, he’d been exposed to enough Southern air to begin thinking clearly again and normal business was resumed. He regained the pawn, capitalised on his better pawn structure and eventually won a Rook whilst his opponent was trying to hold his structure together. The win soon followed. I was last to finish. Up against someone who had bored me into a draw a few years ago, we reached the same result via a more interesting game (to a point.) I pressed hard and had the better chances, but he defended very solidly. It’s fair to say that I gave his treatment of opposite coloured Bishop’s more scrutiny than was strictly warranted, you can but try… A better round and we knew we were in the hunt to win both our matches.

The afternoon saw Joshua fully back on form race to a comfortable victory. Roy got caught by a threatened horrendous fork/ mating attack and had to give up a piece to survive. Unfortunately there was no way back and he eventually went down. John again held his own easily for a comfortable draw, which left me against recent Warwickshire Captain Simon Smith (another 170.) It was a case of so close. I was much better out of the opening and won a pawn. I defended well in the middle game and was clearly winning the ending. However, both his technique and the clock began to tell. He created some threats I didn’t expect and basically playing off ten second increments I countered them, but surely not with the best line. To my horror what I thought was going to be an easy win ended up with me with Rook and two vs Rook (but the pawns were fragmented on the h and f files.) Hoh hum... I didn’t find the right approach and after 90+ moves we agreed a draw. Some future learning for me but an interesting game. [Ben is being rather hard on himself here - as long as the defending king is able to block the pawns, this ending is a theoretical draw - Mark]


Braille 1
129

Kenilworth
142
w
Pennington, Graham
138
0 - 1
Pink, Joshua
178
w
Blencowe, Ian P
133
½ - ½
Graff, Ben
145
b
Lovell, Stan E
124
½ - ½
Harris, John
125
b
Gordon, Philip
121
½ - ½
Watson, Roy
121

         


1½ - 2½




Kenilworth
142

Warley Quinborne
136
w
Pink, Joshua
178
1 - 0
Holowczak, Alex R
145
w
Graff, Ben
145
½ - ½
Smith, Simon C
171
b
Harris, John
125
½ - ½
Pakenham, John H
103
b
Watson, Roy
121
0 - 1
Hussain, Adrian
126

         


2 - 2




Final thoughts

A very enjoyable weekend. On another day we might have got closer to the real prizes, but it wasn’t to be on this occasion. The reality was that winning the Plate somewhat masked the fact that we were lower in the overall standings than we would have hoped. That said, it was great to have Kenilworth in the competition and I’m sure we’ll give it another go next season. Next year we definitely will kick off with some team hugs, singing and flag saluting – surely if we’d done that this time things would have been very different! J


A terrific Report from Ben, and many congratulations to him for an excellent individual performance and for getting our team together. Great to see Joshua in the Kenilworth colours again, too. (A suit in his case of course.) You can take the man out of Kenilworth, but you can't take Kenilworth out of the man! Although it seems that we won this trophy despite not winning many games, it does at least mean that we now have a cast iron reason to organise an end of season celebration, irrespective of what happens in our two Cup Finals. Which is just as well, considering what happened in the first of these.

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