Wednesday, 21 February 2018

And in Third Place, Winning the Bronze Medals ........

I'm jumping the gun a bit, but as far as I can see, there is no-way in which we can now be stopped from finishing (at least) third in Division 1 of the Coventry League this season, even though there is one round of fixtures to go. This will be our best result yet, improving from the 6th place in our debut season (12 points from 14 matches), via 4th place last season (11 points from 12 matches), to 3rd in 2017-18 (15 points from 14 matches). Even if we lose our last match against University A by 0-4 (which we probably will), we can't be overtaken - even if Nuneaton B win their last match against Coventry Academy A by 4-0 (which they probably won't).

We have reached these lofty heights thanks to last night's less than convincing 2.5-1.5 win over luckless Coventry A, who were going down by the minimum margin for the fifth time this season. For us it was a fourth win by this score - on such fine margins do a season's fortunes turn!

It was a highly competitive match, as our encounters always are. Dave notched our first point, beating Bava Manickam on Board 4 after a very exciting encounter. In a typical opposite castling Sicilian, with both sides hurling themselves at the other's king, Dave faltered in a good position and seemed to have thrown away his advantage (in his opponent's time trouble!). Thankfully, though, there was a further twist to come, and Dave annexed the full point thanks to some crucial assistance.

In what has become a depressingly familiar experience this season, though, Ben was going down the gurgler against our very own Bernard C on Board 2. For some reason Ben steadfastly refused to castle on the Black side of a KIA, but in avoiding any nasty accidents to his king he managed to drop a key queenside pawn, which eventually gave Bernard two connected passed pawns (a + b) plus bishop v knight, plus active rook v passive rook. There was no escaping the inevitable.

Then we were back in front again as I managed to beat Dave Ireland for the first time ever (at the 8th attempt). Black never quite equalised from a side variation of the Sicilian, and although my play was not as precise as I would have liked, I kept an edge through the early middle game. When I threatened to put a knight into b6 with ruinous effect, Dave went wrong (in time trouble) and found himself dropping two queenside pawns for minimal compensation. Going one better than Bernard, I ended up with three passed pawns on the a and b files, and it only needed one of these to force resignation when it was about to queen on a8.

While Dave and I were going over our game, Mike was busy saving an ending a pawn down against Ed Goodwin to clinch the match, though seemingly neither player was aware that this was the case. Earlier Mike seemed to be winning the strategic battle against yet another Dutch Defence when he arranged his e4 push. Ed conjured up counterplay down the g file, though, and Mike was just not able to consolidate his advantage. In the quick play finish Ed apparently missed several (tricky) wins and Mike eventually navigated his way to a draw which sealed the match for us.

Next week we are in KO Cup Quarter Final action against Coventry F, before we conclude our league season against the all conquering University A. I am predicting one win and one loss from these two matches. No prizes for guessing which is which!

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