Wednesday, 18 October 2017

A Pair of Draws

Now, now - no tittering at the back, thank you. This article is nothing to do with Roy's underwear, but rather a summary of the two A team matches played on Monday and Tuesday of this week.

In the Leamington League, we went to Shirley to kick off the week's activity and found ourselves embroiled in a heavyweight encounter. For the first time this season, we were able to call on the services of Carl, fresh from his world tour to single handedly save the British (or do I mean Indian?) automotive industry. And he rose to the occasion splendidly by notching up our first (and only) win of the night against Keith Ingram on Board 3. Keith played the Dutch Defence but somehow contrived to fall for the age old trick of allowing White to play Ng5 attacking an undefended and undefendable pawn on e6. And worse, he had to lose an exchange as well. A spirited resistance followed, but Carl remorselessly exploited the extra material and duly scored the win.

The scores were soon balanced, though, as Ben's rocky start to the season continued on Board 4 when he contrived to get his rook virtually trapped on a4 in a level material rook and pawn ending against Jonathan Dale. The only way to extricate it was to sac a pawn, but this gave White two connected passers and they proved impossible to fight against.

The top two boards featured crazy games. Andrew played his speciality Makeitupasyougo Attack as White against Jeremy Fallowfield. At a very early stage of the game Black instigated a sequence starting Qx(p)g2, met by Qx(p)e4+ Kf7 Rh2 (luckily Andrew had earlier played h3!) Qg1+ Nf1. The game was manic, but our man played rather well. He won a pawn, and successfully negotiated a lot of tactics before arriving at an opposite bishops ending where he could burp a second pawn at any time and win by advancing his queenside pawns, as Black was tied down by a White pawn that could have got (safely) to g7. But something disastrous happened and White's g pawn fell off, so it was unfortunately only a draw, when he/we deserved the full point.

I also drew on Board 2 against Phil Purcell. I played a line I last played in 1986 - but, showing the effect of the ravages of time, I failed to find the good move I played then, and instead headed into a totally lost position. And I mean totally lost. At one point Phil had a crushing Rxf7+ tactic that won on the spot, but as he had so many other ways to turn the screw he didn't notice it (nor did I!). But in time trouble he mistakenly abandoned the attack and bailed out into an ending where only Black could be better. I pushed a bit and could perhaps have won in a rook and pawn ending, but very short of time I couldn't calculate the critical line and only drew.

So a match that could have gone either way ended in a share of the spoils - perhaps the inevitable outcome with both teams averaging a reasonably meaty 177.

On to the Coventry League, and a home match against University B. Its always a bit of a mystery who'll turn out for the top University sides, and last night was no exception. They kindly left Peter Batchelor (222) and Peter Williams (199) at home this week, but with Ioannis Lentzos (192) and new English women's champion Louise Head (186) stepping in, they still packed quite a punch, with a team averaging 181 to our 170.

I don't know if Carl is a Bob Dylan fan, but he must be aware of Bob's lyric from The Times They Are A-Changin' - "And the first one now will later be last". Because after being the previous night's hero, he was Tuesday night's scapegoat, again finishing first, but with a very different result. He seemed to play a pretty ropey version of the Scandinavian against Tom Thorpe and was getting pushed back when he lost/sacked a piece for virtually nothing. He could have spared himself the last twenty moves or so, as it was White who had both the material and the compensation.

The other three games were all right in the mixer, though, and any match outcome was still possible. Ben righted his capsized ship by steering it into the safe waters of a draw against Louise Head. A strange variation of the Caro Kan saw White threatening to attack on the kingside with a g4-g5 push opening up the Black king, while Black was doing something similar against White's king which had castled into a distinctly draughty queen side. I didn't see the conclusion, but a draw seemed a fair result.

I had hopes that Mike would bring home a full point on Board 4 against Uni debutante Victoria Sit, but Black seemed to play pretty well in a QGD Slav position about which I understand nothing. Mike slowly built up in the centre and then pushed his king side pawns, but Black had the c file and a long diagonal against Mike's king. It still looked exciting when a draw was agreed, though Mike tells me that Black was the one who should have played on as she had a winning rook sac available.

So that just left me in play against Ioannis Lentzos, needing to win to save the match. For a long time I was very slightly worse, but as we both ran short of time, the position got more and more difficult and increasingly tactical. I grabbed the White a pawn and he grabbed my h pawn, but at a crucial moment he miscalculated and I snaffled his e pawn to go up on material. But he had two bishops and then created a very dangerous looking passed h pawn. However, by this stage I had engineered a passed a pawn and it was soon clear that this was going to win a whole rook as it could not be stopped from reaching a1. White's attempt to force his h pawn home was just stopped in time by me, and Ioannis had to resign. Phew, that was tense, but the valuable match point saved was worth all the angst.

We now have a two week break in both the Leamington and Coventry League Division 1 fixtures, giving us a chance to draw breath. The games have certainly been coming thick and fast lately - and by that I'm not referring to Roy's play on a Thursday night at The Gauntlet!

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