No joy for plucky little Kenilworth (population 22,413 in the 2011 census) against giant Banbury (46,853) as Division 1 of the Leamington League spluttered into life in Oxfordshire last night. While Banbury A were relegated last season, their B team was not, and suitably rebranded as Banbury A they wheeled out their strongest possible team against us. Despite that, and some fairly serious absentees on our side, the two teams sported almost identical average grades though, this hid big discrepancies on the top two boards.
Andrew strove manfully to defy a 30 point disadvantage against James Jackson on Board 1, he ultimately went down in an ending where black's 2 bishops were too much for Andrew's 2 knights. Crucially, the white king was incarcerated on h2 and could never get out. I had a 20 point edge over Gary Jackson on Board 2, where we continued our "debate" in a variation of the Najdorf. I tried something slightly different and it worked a treat, though only after Gary missed a chance to trade queens in the early middle game. From then on his king, which had castled queenside, was in big trouble. Once the a-file was opened it was inevitable mate, and the score in the "debate" went to 4-0 in my/Najdorf's favour!
Mike took the fight to Georgs Vikanis on Board 3 - at least to a certain point. Unfortunately he then made a relatively early draw at a moment when this virtually sealed our match fate. Because while not as bad as the terminal accident that befell Bernard C on Board 4 at Banbury at the end of last season, Ben had unfortunately also made a complete Horlicks of the opening against Carl Portman. He was basically losing from a very early stage as he could hardly move. One pawn was shed to try and get some activity, but it hardly improved matters. He eventually made it to a king and pawn ending, but as Carl had two connected passed pawns on the sixth rank supported by his king, the result was inevitable.
So not a great start to the Division 1 season, but with 60% of the first team squad spending the evening in somewhere other than Banbury such results can hardly be thought surprising. As the largely forgotten American singer/songwriter Steve Forbert once wrote, "You cannot win if you do not play."