Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Chess is a Cruel Mistress

A gripping encounter at the Abbey Club last night saw Leamington League heavyweights Kenilworth and Olton battle to a dramatic 2-2 draw - a result which leaves our visitors in pole position for league honours, as they remain just two points behind us but with two games in hand. But it could, and should, have been very different.

We got off to a fantastic start when Carl continued his superb recent form by despatching the ever dangerous Mark Cundy in clinical fashion on Board 3. After a Scandinavian where the queens came off before move 6, Carl netted a pawn with a nice Bxb2 sac having a knight fork follow up. In a rook and opposite bishops endgame he then won a second pawn, and although Mark then managed to trade rooks, the win of a third pawn by Carl was enough to force resignation.

Ben followed up with a solid draw on the white side of a Ruy Lopez against Richard Smith on Board 4. Ben seemed to have a very slight edge for most of the game, but with only one open file, it seemed inevitable all the heavy pieces would get traded off to leave a level bishop ending.

Things took a turn for the worse, though, when Andrew went down on Board 1. Black against Phil Holt is not the easiest pairing in the Leamington League, and yet I had high hopes of a result for us for much of the evening. Andrew defended solidly against a c3 Sicilian, and seemed to be close to equality. But then the position opened up and White's pieces started to threaten the black king. Our man pooh-poohed such crudities and simply snaffled a queenside pawn. Unfortunately, Phil then played Qh6 and Rh3 with forced mate on h7. Scores level at 1.5-1.5.

So it was all down to the captain. Yours truly. Me. I seem to have been in this position before. And it doesn't often end well.

I was white against Alan Lloyd, a player I have never beaten. As Paul has largely given up playing for us, I decided to appropriate one of his old opening systems and we quickly entered a very difficult queenless middle-game, where Black had two bishops against my two knights (with a pair of rooks each), but also two sets of doubled pawns (one of them isolated). The bishops were pretty ropey, but the Black rooks got very active. However, I had been lining up a knight sacrifice on d5, followed by a pawn sac to try and win the pathetic black bishop on f8. There were two adequate defences - neither of which Alan or I noticed - and instead the prelate made a dash for freedom to d6 and c7, where it promptly got pinned and fell off. I was a whole piece up, but the position was rather random and Black's rooks and king were active. Still, it was a whole piece. I thought I was weaving a mating net, but Alan put up an inspired defence and kept making it very difficult for me to co-ordinate my forces. My time ebbed away. I faffed around and could hardly make any progress, even though it was now rook, knight and two against rook and two. Then with 40 seconds left I blundered my knight. I offered a draw and Alan did the sporting thing and accepted, though the final position of rook and pawn v rook and pawn may even have been winning for him, and he also had an extra 2 minutes on the clock. So while I could curse my luck and berate myself for throwing away a famous match victory, I have to remember that it could have been even worse.

Sorry team/club, I blew it. Mea Culpa. Flagellation is too good for me. I am already Secretary, Treasurer and double match captain, but I think I probably now also have a new KCC job title. And it can best be illustrated by a classic painting that resides in the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight. Its not just those well known KCC aesthetes Bernard C and Roy that have artistic reference points, you know!

The Scapegoat (1854-55)
William Holman Hunt

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