Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Deja Vu, All Over Again

Another Tuesday; another Cov League Div 1 match against Nuneaton (their B team this time); and another 2-2 draw. On the upside this means that we secured at least a 4th place finish (two higher than last season), but on the downside, it means we won't finish any higher than 4th, either.

Things didn't go too well to start with, as the first decisive result saw Dave lose on board 4 against Mike Maher. Dave seemed to be fine after a quiet London System (booooo!), with a seemingly powerful pawn front, but things were not so straightforward. Mike cleverly sneaked a pawn to a6 and then deflected one of Dave's rooks from the defence of a key pawn. A white rook got to the seventh and nabbed the black pawn on a7, and a weak back rank meant Dave could not stop the white a pawn from queening.

In the absence of Ben (in Italy) and Carl (in Trumperica), Nick F made his Coventry League debut on Board 3, and confronted Dave Kearney with his patent Bird's Opening. Nick got into quite a mess on the queenside, and then mistimed his e4 break, so things weren't looking great. But when Dave snatched a white pawn on f4, Nick's position sprang to life. Pessure down the e file won the pawn back and after Dave had made the time control by the skin of his teeth a draw was agreed. My very superficial assessment was that by this time, Nick's rook and bishop were better than Dave's rook and knight, but it wasn't clear and there was certainly nothing decisive happening in the short term. So a solid debut result for Nick.

Mike was engaged in a really complex Modern Benoni against Tony Green on Board 2. He always seemed to be holding against white's kingside pawn squeeze, though the normal black queenside counter-play seemed to be somewhat slow in developing. A lot happened while my attention was elsewhere (ie on my own game!), and when the players finally agreed a draw the position had exploded. Both sides had a passed pawn, and both had potential entry squares that needed perpetual guarding, so a draw seemed a fair result after a heavyweight encounter.

Which left me. Again. Trying to save the match. Again. But the good news is that this time I managed to secure the win that earned us a point. Phil Briggs played a very strange line in the Petroff that is a speciality of his. But surprisingly he almost instantly played a terrible move which allowed me to play 8 Nxf7. He had to take with his king, and 9 Qh5+ then won the Black knight on d5. I could have swapped queens, but I decided I should play against his weak king instead. This was a mistake, as my queen was driven back and it seemed to take me an age to get my pieces out. He had compensation, but two pawns are two pawns, and around the time control I started to get a grip on the position. Queens came off and I won more material, ending up with a veritable avalanche of pawns in the centre/kingside that bludgeoned their way decisively to the end zone.

So, a fair result in a tough match against a team of virtual identical strength to us. This latest draw took our unbeaten league run to six games, and if we avoid defeat in our final match next week against University A, we will have achieved the remarkable feat of going unbeaten in the second half of the season. By the way, on that point, did I mention that Uni A have won all 11 matches so far this season? Scoring 3-1 or better in 9 of them? Or that they have lost only two individual games out of 44? Wish us luck as you wave us goodbye! We may not all come back in one piece!!

Wednesday, 15 February 2017


A 2-2 draw at home to second placed Nuneaton A last night, saw us remain one point adrift of them in Division 1 of the Coventry League in third place. A win would have put us in with a chance of finishing second, but as we have the inevitable pasting from University A yet to come, it means that one win from two will definitely see Nuneaton finishing ahead of us. As things stand, we have it all still to do to even finish third.

Showing himself to be a Kenilworth man at heart, Andrew Paterson kindly decided to give this game a miss, rather than take up his normal Coventry League position as board 1 for Nuneaton A. This should have given us a chance, but Nuneaton still fielded a more than useful team and we were ultimately more than a little fortunate to escape defeat.

Mike was first to finish with a draw, defending an inferior position tenaciously for some time against Bob Buckler, who looked to have played a rather good Czech Benoni as Black. Then Carl went down the gurgler against Paul Davies. When Carl's pet hack-attack variation goes wrong it really goes wrong. He sacked/lost a piece and the pawns he received in compensation gradually disappeared, leaving him just a piece down. Paul avoided a few cheapos and Nuneaton were in the lead.

Which is where I thought they were going to stay, until Ben delivered a full point for us in most unexpected fashion. He had been grovelling on the Black side of a Closed Sicilian all night against Colin Green, when Colin somehow contrived to walk into a fork from Ben's almost useless knight, that was simply defending  from the less than active square c8. And then to compound the loss of the exchange, Colin immediately dropped a piece leaving him a whole rook down.

I had earlier turned down a draw against Maurice Staples - even though I stood slightly worse - thinking I probably needed to win to save the match. Thankfully, Ben's fortuitous win relieved me of that burden, since when Maurice started to repeat moves attacking my rook with a bishop, I had no realistic alternative but to fall in with his plan.

This was our last home match of the Cov League season, and brought our home record to four wins, one draw and only one loss against the unstoppable University A behemoth. The Abbey Club has become as unforgiving to visiting teams as Turf Moor in the Premier League. Regrettably, though, we have also proved as flaky as Burnley on our travels - like them picking up just one point all season so far. I just hope the similarities end there, though, and I don't have to start talking like Burnley manager Sean Dyche. I can feel a sore throat coming on just thinking about it.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

High Five

For the fifth time since Christmas we were in action in a Coventry League competition and for the fifth time we were undefeated. (Four wins and a draw.) The dream continues!

Last night saw us in action away to Nuneaton C in the Divisional Cup. Starting a three week spell for us against Nuneaton teams as our next two League games are against Nuneaton A and B. Who says there are no glamour fixtures?

So on paper, this was the easiest match of the three. Albeit, Nuneaton C as a Division 2 team started with a 1.25  lead (meaning we needed to win 3-1). Mark also doesn’t play in this competition and they were above us in the table before we started. So reasons to be nervous… As it was on the night our average grade was 154 to their 113, so the 4-0 end result was probably what would be expected. I did advise the team earlier in the day not to agree quick draws. If only we’d issued this edict earlier in the season, who knows where we might be now?

Thanks to everyone for notes on their games, as I’d left before anything much actually happened. My opponent walked into an opening trap on move 7, which netted me the exchange and a pawn. I picked up another pawn a few moves later and he decided to call it a night. So 1 – 0.  

On Board four Dave’s game saw a London system. Inaccurate opening play from his opponent allowed him to equalize without too many problems. However Dave allowed White some queen side expansion which meant that the resulting ending was favourable for White who had a central passed d pawn. Dave’s superior technique then began to tell. Dave utilised back rank threats to make more of his pawns than his opponent could and ultimately snagged a Rook to win.

Board three looked like it was on something of a different level from Mike’s description. Mike said his game “saw a resumption, after 13 years, of a 16 year debate over about 15 games and from both players of different variations of the Dutch Defence. Oliver Cosham played the opening exceptionally well and by a series of clever transpositions reached a satisfactory tabyia as played by some of the world’s elite. However a plan to then hold the centre, Thermopyle-like, was foiled when the intended queens-side counter-attack was prevented by temporarily blocking that side of the board. With no counter-play Oliver began to run short of time. A 7 move tricky to envisage re-organisation of pieces plan was then carried out to bring additional pressure on the centre. Just as the time control approached a break through there occurred to win a piece as Oliver exceeded the time limit with 2 moves still to play.  The sort of game I imagine Tarrasch would have played effortlessly.” Sounds like one to remember!

I haven’t heard much about Carl’s game. However, I noticed that castling took place on different sides of the Board (Carl queenside). Carl seemed to have an open g file and well positioned Rooks to take advantage of that. Given his amazing form and the difference in grade between him and his opponent I wasn’t too surprised to hear that he won too!

So a good night. You can only beat the team that is in front of you and we did a good professional job. I just wish the Coventry competitions had started after Christmas!

Thursday, 2 February 2017

If This is a Dream, Don't Wake Me Up

Amazing! 2017 has seen three games and three wins for our Coventry League team, as we held on to our recently acquired fourth place with a convincing 3-1 win over Coventry A this week. In fact we are only 1 point away from second place, though I think that we may have to concede first place to University A - which is not so much magnanimity on my part as recognition of the fact that they have a 100% record, are 10 points clear and have already clinched the title with oodles of matches to spare. Nevertheless, we're not too proud to fight it out amongst the also-rans for minor honours!

The squad rotation system came into effect this week, as Carl sat out our latest match (at home with his man flu symptoms and a cup of cocoa I expect!), and Dave came into the team. As he has the best percentage score of any of us, this wasn't too much of a problem! We started off with a quick win by Ben on Board 2 over our very own Bernard C after a somewhat offbeat variation of the Dutch. Bernard has been in excellent form since Christmas (we won't mention the few months before that!), so this was a good win for Ben who took advantage of some exposed Black pieces to snare a whole piece.

We cemented our position soon after when Mike drew on Board 3 against Ed Goodwin. A Modern Benoni was met by an early g4 and a capture on e5 which gave White a passed d pawn. Mike hurried to get a knight to d6 and to blockade it. The position was still very complicated when the players decided to share the point.

Dave had been pressing all night on Board 4 after a 2 c3 Sicilian, and he was the one who clinched the win. He got a space advantage, a grip on the c file and good squares for his pieces. Black seemingly had none of these things. Eventually he broke through in the centre and his queen and a powerful passed pawn won the day.

It was just left to me to close the match by drawing with Dave Ireland on Board 1. I played one of several basically unsound variations of the Sicilian that I now try once in a while and it got me a good game. We went into a rook, bishop and knight ending which was still tactical, but where my pieces were much more active and I also had a space advantage. Then Dave started to defend extremely well and gradually freed his position as I failed to find the right plan to exploit my edge. White's rook jumped out and started causing me much aggro. With time running out I called off my winning efforts and offered a draw. Dave initially declined, but a few moves later returned the offer and I accepted.

We still have to play both Nuneaton teams, who are vying with us for the silver and bronze medal positions, so its all to play for. We also have to play the monstrously strong University A team, but we won't think about that until we have to!