The Coventry League fixture list gave us Division 1 encounters with Nuneaton A and B on successive Tuesdays, and with a certain symmetry we went down to successive 2.5-1.5 defeats. Any aspirations we may have had for a top three finish have been well and truly blown out of the water. Last night's defeat to Nuneaton B was particularly galling, as for a long time a draw looked like the minimum we could hope for.
But I get ahead of myself, as the previous week we had lost against their A team, on our first visit to Attleborough Liberal Club. I don't know how many Liberals were actually on the premises, but a conservative guess, and I don't want to labour the point, would be not many.
Nuneaton A managed to wheel out their top four against us, which probably made them slight favourites. There were not very exciting draws on Boards 1, 3 and 4 for me (against double agent Andrew Paterson); Carl (against Paul Davies) and Mike D (against Colin Green) where we never seemed to have any advantage at any stage of the evening, so the match was decided on Board 2 where Ben went down to Maurice Staples with black. White seemed to play a very controlled game, slowly building a kingside attack, while Black's queenside play against a long-castled king never got off the ground. Something horrible eventually happened in Ben's time trouble and a piece fell off.
The Nuneaton B encounter was a lot more exciting, though the end result was unfortunately the same. Carl finished first, but not in a good way. Facing an exceedingly tepid Exchange Slav, Carl spiced things up with a kingside pawn advance. However, when he pushed with g4 this was met, unexpectedly I imagine, with a piece sacrifice and after fxg4 the reply Qxg4+ forced Carl's king onto the middle of the board where it perished in surprisingly quick order. Either this was a crushing attack and a very good game by Dave Kearney, or Carl defended dreadfully. I couldn't possibly comment. (No really, I couldn't, as I didn't see what happened!)
This loss on Board 3 was quickly balanced on Board 1 where I was essentially gifted the full point by Phil Briggs. After a somewhat unusual Sicilian that was probably misplayed by both sides, we quickly reached a position where Black was going to be slightly better in a double rook and minor pieces ending due to two bishops and pressure along the c-file. At least if White had swapped queens that would have been the outcome. But in trying to keep my king on the centre, Phil put his queen offside and let me grab his c2 pawn with my queen. He had been relying on the move Rc1 in response, spearing my queen against a loose rook on c8, but only when I took the pawn did he notice that I was threatening Qg2 mate. Phil could have bailed out into a queen-less position a pawn down, but in trying to keep the queens on, he walked into another tactic that won a whole rook.
Ben was not getting anywhere against Tony Green on Board 2, and indeed Tony started taking over as he advanced on the queenside to gain space while Ben didn't seem to be doing anything much at all. Things then went seriously wrong when Ben had to trade off a Black rook which had got to d2, and allow a Black pawn onto that square. With White's queen stuck on d1 to blockade the pawn, his knight struggling to find any squares, and his king wide open, Tony's queen and bishop jumped into the kingside dark squares and forced the win of Ben's knight in exchange for the d2 pawn. The outcome of the resultant ending of bishop v no bishop was as predictable as you would expect.
But not to worry, as we were two pawns up on Board 4 in the battle of the 2 Mikes (Donnelly v Maher). Well, we had been two pawns up, but then it became one, and then we were in a rook and pawn ending. Our Mike went all in by pushing his passed e pawn to e6 and then creating another passer on the a line. But his king was miles away from the action and Black was able to block the e pawn with his king and get behind the a pawn with his rook. Eventually all the pawns came off and Black was able to secure a draw with about 30 seconds left on his clock. This was definitely one that got away, as Mike was winning on the board and on the clock for most of the evening.
So there you have it. Refined Kenilworth (population 22,000) proves no match for Warwickshire's largest town, gritty Nuneaton (population 86,000). I guess that means you can stick your gentrification in your pipe and smoke it!