Friday, 20 January 2017

To Be Or Not to Be

Could Kenilworth B beat Stratford A, to go back to the top of Division 2, was certainly the question last night. In the end it couldn’t have gone much better, had it been a Midsummer Night’s Dream, as we ran out 3.5 – 0.5 winners. So that’s (nearly) enough of the terrible Shakespeare references for one report, back to the Chess…

Stratford A have had a tough couple of years, going from Division 1 Champions in 2011-12, through to relegation and failing to win promotion back into Division 1 by a whisker last season. This season hasn’t gone well for them either and despite being one of the strongest teams on paper in the Division (and winning earlier in the week) they were still in the lower reaches of the table. That said, any team that can field Mcnally, Doedue, Albeniz and Henderson are always going to be competitive and the average grade difference between them and us was a mere two points. We knew it could be tough…

Certainly an hour and half in, all the games looked very tight, but things seemed to swing our way and we landed three wins on the top three Boards, in a ten minute period around the time control.

I was the first to finish against Richard McNally. My game plan had been to avoid sharp theoretical lines and opportunities for Richard to employ any wild gambits that he was booked up on. Amazingly the plan seemed to work and a quiet opening ensued. For the second time in a week, my game centred on one of my pawns – this time an isolated Queen pawn. Was it strong or weak? Richard certainly seemed to be building up some pressure on it and I sensed I was starting to be ground down. I declined a Queen exchange, which would have tied my remaining pieces to little more than passive defence and put my Queen on g3, attacking Richard’s c7 pawn and setting up a few other more dynamic possibilities. Richard chose to sacrifice the pawn (which I took) but when he followed up by attacking my Queen with his Rook, he told me afterwards that he’d missed my next (and best) move which was to ignore the attack on my Queen and to attack his Queen with my Knight. What had been a quiet position a couple of moves earlier was now on fire, with threats and counter threats all over the Board. I had been behind on the Clock, but Richard began consuming a lot of time and was down to four minutes against my six with the time control still 12 moves off. I offered to give back the pawn to transition into an endgame where material would be level, but my Rook would be fixed on the 7th rank and it was difficult to see how Richard could do anything other than passively defend, whilst I worked out how to pick off his pawns. I doubt it was the best line for Richard, but everything was so muddy and time so short, I can see why he went down it.  My position was very strong, and Richard unfortunately then blundered his Knight and resigned. So 1 – 0.

On Board 2 Mike was determined to get a win over the line, given how close he had come on Tuesday and he did a great job. Facing a reverse Dutch, Richard Dobedue failed to get his attack going and Mike broke through on the Queenside. Mike told me that he was well up on the lines from his work on Chess Base (DVDs still available at a good price from Mike for anyone who is interested I think!) and this definitely paid off. Another game that seemed to go from being relatively quiet to Mike suddenly being won.

Phil was also flying and I think had the most brutal ending of the three. He’d landed a fork earlier in the game and picked up a pawn and his pieces absolutely seemed to be massing around Alberto Albeniz’s King when I looked. Defence just seemed impossible and so it proved as Phil stormed through to make it 3-0.

On Board 4, Dave had the better of his draw with Steve Henderson. A 35 move closed Sicilian culminated in a complex endgame, where Dave was a pawn up, but Steve had quite a lot of compensation via the pressure he was exerting on the e-file. Dave felt it was probably even and agreed a draw.

So another great night for the B team. We’re not in action again until later in February. Will we win the League? Still some way to go, but it’s shaping up to be one hell of a Winter’s Tale..

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