As I sit here typing this report, Kenilworth are tied for first place in Division 1 of the Coventry League after a 3-1 win away against Coventry Chess Academy last night. Well, OK, a pedant might say that we are actually second. Warwick University A do have two games in hand on us, and they do have a slight game point difference (+13 compared to our zero!), but then we have alphabetical order advantage, so it's a bit of a toss up as to who is leading really. Wouldn't you agree?! Anyway, I'm pretty sure we've never risen to such a dizzy height before, so let's enjoy it while it lasts. (Probably not very long.)
Last night's match was almost a Kenilworth love-in, given that six of the eight players are KCC members and another has also played for us - albeit only once, a couple of seasons ago. It was very good of Paul to field his weakest team of the season to make our lives easier, but I'm sure that was an unavoidable coincidence rather than a show of favouritism towards us.
Ben finished first on Board 2, drawing easily against David Phillip's London System. I am coming to the conclusion that this opening should be banned at club level for being too boring and formulaic. if I had played this as a junior, I reckon I would have lost interest in chess in double quick time. God put an e pawn on the board so that White could push it two squares on the first move. Anything else is simply wrong! Bobby Fischer agreed, and his character and judgment were completely irreproachable after all. (Rant over - until Stuart plays this opening against me again on a Thursday evening at The Gauntlet!)
And then the Board 4 game between double agent Roy Watson and KCC loyalist Nick Fesenko finished, with victory going to our man (that's Nick in case you are confused) even though he was a very, very lucky boy! Before the game I gave him strict instructions not to lose to Roy under any circumstances, but for most of the game it seemed he had decided not to listen to me. Straight from the opening the Black position looked to be in ruins. The Black king had to run to d6 and all the queenside pieces were still on their original squares, whereas Roy had developed virtually every piece and shattered the Black kingside structure, at the cost of a measly (doubled) pawn. Even Red Adair (any relation to GM elect James Adair - who beat Paul at the recent 4NCL Coventry Open - I wonder?) would have been hard pressed to troubleshoot this position. A bit later I looked again - amazed to discover that Nick was still alive and now two pawns ahead with queens off the board - just as Nick made a horrendous blunder that allowed Roy a very elementary combination to win a piece. I had to look away, but when I made my next trip to view the "game" it was to discover that Roy had missed the winning move and Nick was now the small matter of 5 (count them, five!) pawns up. We had the point (in fact the decisive point) - but I think chess was the real loser here!
I finished next after a tense but ultimately uninspiring game against Paul. Luckily the crowds had not flocked in to see this heavyweight encounter, as not a lot happened. Opposite side castling and pawn advances occurred, but this was largely posturing, as neither king came under anything that could be called an attack. We reached a position with RRBN v RRNN in which Paul had doubled e pawns, while I had a backward f2 pawn on an open file. Fritz says it was dead level, and the two players agreed. I am ashamed to say, though, that I was 15 minutes down on the clock - against Paul!! And he was additionally distracted by also having to oversee his two other teams (comprising 8 juniors!) as well. I really need to speed up.
I think Paul's draw offer may have occurred because it was obvious all evening that we were eventually going to win on Board 3, and after the complete turnaround in the Roy v Nick encounter, our match victory was basically never in doubt. With Black, Andy Ward sacrificed a piece against Mike on move 5 (Nxe4), and after 6 fxe4 came Qh4+ 7 Ke2 Qxe4+ when Black had two pawns for the missing knight. The White king had to dance around a bit, but it soon became clear that Black's attack simply wasn't happening. The White pieces gradually emerged and swapped off, leaving an ending of BN v B in which the two pawns had no chance. With Mike's knight about to start a demolition tour of the board to annex Black's pawns, Andy resigned.
So a rather flattering 3-1 score-line in our favour, entirely due to the outrageous reversal of fortunes on Board 4. Thanks Roy! (You can take the man out of Kenilworth, but you can't take Kenilworth out of the man.) Meanwhile, looking at the bigger picture, massive congratulations to Paul for his amazing achievements at CCA. In the Div 2 and Div 3 matches, two of his juniors notched up excellent wins against much higher rated adults, and the sight of 9 juniors (some of them very junior indeed!) playing on a single night for one club in the Coventry League is something I never thought I would see. If Kenilworth's recent entry to the Coventry League was a slight boost to a rather moribund competition, then the arrival of 3 CCA teams has been like a blast of fresh air, and we all owe Paul a massive vote of thanks for bringing a new and wholly unexpected vibrancy to the local chess scene. (And also for remembering his roots and letting us have the 2 points!)