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!!

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