We had a Leamington/Coventry League double whammy on successive nights this week, and it was very much a case of contrasting fortunes for our plucky lads.
On Monday we chalked up a 3-1 win (not entirely convincing!) against Leamington to return to the top of the Division 1 table, in a match which showed our strength in depth. With 3 of our A team squad missing (including "the Big Two") we were lucky to have very useful substitutes in the shape of Bernard C and Ben. Ben won efficiently on Board 4, and I followed with a less efficient draw on Board 2, where I made a pig's ear of a good position - but at least this time I didn't actually contrive to lose. However, the match was very much in the balance until Andrew claimed a miraculous win on Board 1 after a massively unsound, but highly exciting and inventive, game! A major blunder that allowed forced mate decided it in his favour when he was a piece and a big passed pawn down. Phew! Bernard took this as a cue to offer a draw to wrap up the match. He had been better for most of the game but lost his extra pawn in trying to trap an errant white knight on c7, after which the position was more or less level.
It wouldn't have mattered what team we put out the following night in our Cov League match against University A, such was the blitzkrieg we encountered. As it happened, though, we were, just like the previous evening, decimated by unavailability with Carl, Ben and Dave all away. Rod and Roy manfully answered the call to arms - and walked into a monster of a match. I knew we were up against it when our opponents turned up with 5 players - what is the world coming to when a bunch of students turn out to be better organised than us?? And when the non-playing reserve turned out to be Morgan Blake, who had played Board 1 for Leamington against us the night before!!
There must be every chance that we faced the strongest team ever to play in the Coventry League. Certainly nothing comes close in recent years. On the top 3 boards they fielded players graded 224, 217 (converted from 2332 ELO) and 215, relenting slightly with a 184 on Board 4 - albeit one who had been on Board 1 for them in the corresponding fixture last season, and who had scored 6/11 in this year's British Championships! This meant that we faced grading deficits of respectively, 37; 64; 89; and 67!! Talk about shock and awe. And there's a saying about sledgehammers and nuts that also comes to mind!
We don't need to go into the gory details, except to say that Mike D came within a whisker of a draw on Board 2, and I did indeed earn half a point on Board 1 to prevent the whitewash. I was borderline losing from the opening, but staged a fight back and was +2 around the time control before my incompetence took over and the position became equal. Still, our lads were heroes one and all for commendable bravery in the face of overwhelming enemy force!
We face the only slightly weaker Uni B team next week, which doesn't bode well after 3.5-0.5 defeats in our first two matches. Still, it's only a game. And there's no compulsory relegation in the Cov League. It would be nice to win a match, though ...... or even a game!