Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Cup Final Triumph!

Last night Kenilworth won the Leamington League Open KO Cup for the second time in three years, defeating Banbury 3.5-1.5 in the final at Olton. So the season ends in Cup glory after the disappointment of finishing runners up again (three times in four years) in the League.

The victorious Kenilworth team with the Cup.
Left to Right; Paul Lam, Ben Graff, Andy Baruch, Mark Page, Carl Pickering

Both teams went into the match missing key players, but its fair to say that Banbury's loss was the greater, as without the very strong (224 grade) James Jackson on Board 1 they were up against it on ratings against our top 3 boards. For us, Andrew Paterson unfortunately got sent to Glasgow on work, and consequently had to miss his first A team match of the season - a phenomenal show of commitment to the KCC cause in his debut season with us, and a great shame that he was not there to contribute to and share in our victory.

Kenilworth went into an early lead. On Board 2, Chris Evans and Andy Baruch set off like whirling dervishes, but it was clear from early on that Andy was playing all the good moves. He more than equalised with Black in about 5 moves and then just about took over the whole board, while White had  a rook stuck on a1. He won a pawn, and in the process set up a cheapo - which White fell for - that cost a piece. A few pointless moves were made before we had our first win of the night.

By which stage I had played 13 moves, and Paul had played 10. But an hour or more later we both won at virtually the same time, downing Banbury's Rowan combo. Paul played a very nice controlled game on top board against Paul Rowan, which culminated in a vicious attack on the Black king, that had castled queenside. I missed the last few moves, but I gather it was a very nice finish by Paul. My game on Board 3 against Dan Rowan seemed very one sided, but there was a major flaw in my play, as I basically blundered a pawn in the opening, but instead of taking it, Dan kindly gave me one of his instead. Thereafter it was one way traffic and the game finished around the time control with a mating attack. My second victory of the night after the equally important job of winning the toss for colours!

With the Cup won, I rather lost track of proceedings, and when my brain switched back on the match was over.  Carl drew on Board 4 against Nathan Manley after a rather unexciting encounter. Carl had doubled b pawns in a double rook ending, but White couldn't get at them and the position was very equal when a draw was agreed. We suffered our only loss of the evening (and of the whole Cup campaign, in fact) when Ben went down to Neil Staples on Board 5. This was a game Ben should probably have won, as he set himself up for a big kingside attack, but he prevaricated for a couple of moves and Black got too much activity on the other side of the board. A shame for Ben, but he can take consolation from the fact that his semi-final win over Neil Clarke still stands as the Kenilworth game of the season.

So a fourth trophy in three seasons for the club - twice Open KO Cup winners, and League Division 1 (A team) and Division 3 (C team) titles. I think this calls for another celebratory meal, and the Social Secretary will doubtless be in touch with everyone shortly to make the necessary arrangements. (For my part, you can never go wrong with a curry, Paul!)

There can be no doubt that we deserved this latest triumph, as we had to beat the 1st, 3rd and 4th placed teams from the league en route to our success - and by a combined score of 12.5-2.5. Thanks and congratulations to everyone who contributed to the Cup run, which in addition to last night's players brings in Joshua (sob, sob), Andrew and Mike D. And thanks also to Richard and Rob Reynolds of Olton for hosting our Final (and the U-700 and U-120 events) in excellent playing conditions - and to Richard for taking the above photo (even though it makes me look a bit simple!)