Last night at Solihull we had a double header. The A team against Solihull A, and the D team against Solihull E. So prepare for a special bonus "twofer" report.
The D team match was over first. Tony drew on Board 3 against one of Paul's mighty microbes, and Mike J drew on top board against Penny Wood. which left Matt to decide the match against a 104 graded opponent on Board 2. I'm pleased to report that the Thursday evening school of hard knocks at The Gauntlet has served Matt well, and after more than matching his opponent he won a pawn and established a winning position. But instead of taking a second pawn and keeping decisive threats against the White back rank, he tragically undid all his good work in trying to win instantly and dropped a rook to a queen check. Most unfortunate and most undeserved, but the D team thus went down to a 2-1 defeat.
I'm able to recount all this in detail as my game against Tom Thorpe had ended quite early in a draw after what was a very boring game, despite him playing the "interesting" move 1 e3, and I was in the unusual role of spectator for much of the evening. And it wasn't making pleasant viewing, since in addition to the sad demise of the D team, I was having to watch the A team struggle in each of the three remaining games.
On Board 4, Ben had taken a hot pawn in a 2 c3 Sicilian after an enterprising sacrifice by Paul Roper, I imagine this is well known, but it didn't seem to be to Ben or his opponent (and certainly not to me!) as they both consumed lots of time in a very tense position. Ben suffered the tortures of the damned to hang on to his extra pawn and gradually get his pieces out, but just when he seemed to have achieved this he dropped a key pawn on e6. If Paul had captured with a rook, I wouldn't have been enthusiastic about Ben's survival chances, but instead he took with a bishop. The crisis had passed and a draw was swiftly agreed.
It was equal purgatory for me on Board 1, where Andrew P started off by building up a big attack on the f file against Olivia Smith's king, but when this failed to break through he found Black's counterplay on the queenside coming rather fast. A pawn fell off on c4 and the White pieces lost all co-ordination, essentially looking as though they had landed on random squares when someone had emptied a set onto the board. When you have a loose rook on h5 that isn't threatening the Black king, you do kind of wonder what it's doing there! Around the time control, though, there was a flurry of activity and when I next looked most of the pieces had come off and Andrew had somehow won his pawn back. So another draw from a game where we could very easily have slipped to defeat.
(BTW, with the two games at Solihull on Wednesday, plus the Cov League game on Tuesday, Kenilworth faced female top boards in three successive matches. This must be a first!? And we ended up with one defeat and two draws. Memo to Club Recruitment Officer - sign up some women players!)
But I have saved the worst to last. Since on Board 3 Carl was simply horribly lost against Ray Carpenter. As White he mislaid (or sacrificed, who knows?) a pawn fairly early on in a Closed Sicilian. Try as he might, he couldn't get good squares for his pieces, while Ray established a monster knight on d4. Eventually the crisis came. Carl tried to activate his queen at the cost of giving Black a massive passed pawn on c3. Ray picked up a second pawn and parried Carl's queen incursion. Almost any move would have won. Instead he needlessly captured a third pawn with his queen, and this allowed Carl to get his own queen to a7. His bishop was already on h6 and his rook on f1. All of a sudden he was threatening both Qg7 mate and Qf7 check followed by Qf8+ and after Rxf8, Rxf8 mate. Ray's clock was declining rapidly towards zero and under this sudden pressure he blundered. A draw was still to be had with Nd4-e6 which would have guarded both g7 and f8, leaving Carl with a perpetual after Qf7+/Kh8/Qf6+Kg8/Qf7+. This would have been a major success given the position he had two moves earlier, but instead Ray defended with Nf5 only to find that after Rxf5 he was completely lost. A recapture would allow Qg7 mate, and after a queen check the White rook retreated to f2 and Carl was just a piece up and the mate threats were all still there. Incredibly Carl had won, and instead of losing the match we had not merely saved it but actually won. An amazing turnaround.
So there you have it. Karma in Solihull. Matt lost undeservedly to lose the match for the D team, and to balance things out the cosmic forces decided to let Carl win undeservedly and win the match for the A team. Its good to know there is a harmony of sorts in the universe. The gods take with one hand and give back with the other! Though I doubt that's much consolation for the victims of this cruel reversal of fortune.