Strange goings on at Olton on Tuesday night, as the home team's all conquering A team, already confirmed as this season's league champions, went down 0.5-3.5 to a by no means full strength Shirley A, while the now relegated Olton B were losing by the same score to a strong Kenilworth A team.
In fact we very nearly racked up the first 4-0 score of the season in Division 1, as Carl was winning for most of the evening against Richard Reynolds on Board 4, but somehow let Richard survive to a rook ending where he was only one pawn down. Endgame doyen Andy Baruch pronounced the position won for Carl, but, despite trying for what seemed like a hundred moves (involving multiple repetitions!), he went for the wrong pawn push and it was only a draw.
Earlier there had been wins for Andy, Andrew and myself to secure the match victory. Andy finished first on Board 1 against Gary Hope. I didn't see much of the action, but he assured me it was a good game which featured a well judged piece sac. Certainly the final position was nice, as despite still being a piece down, he pushed a pawn to the seventh rank and next move it was going to the eighth to win the game.
I should have been first to finish, but after arriving at a completely won position by move 15, I was continually thwarted by Rob Wallman's sturdy defence when it looked for all the world as though I was winning at least an exchange. My advantage had all but disappeared when he blundered a pawn in my time trouble, and he then compounded the problem by saddling himself with a weak pawn on e6. In a heavy piece and opposite bishops position, I was able to work my way into his kingside along the dark squares while his bishop was tied down to defending the e6 weakness. Although I missed a couple of quicker wins at the end, the position was too overwhelming to mess up and Rob resigned when faced with unstoppable mate.
Then Andrew clinched the match with a hard fought victory with the Black pieces over Rob Reynolds on Board 2. Despite it happening inches away from me, I still missed most of the game, only being aware that after a careful opening Andrew was starting to turn the screw and pressurise the White position. When my game finally finished it was clear that Andrew was completely winning, having a rook against a knight and - even more importantly - an unstoppable h pawn.
Our win removed any chance Olton B had of avoiding the drop in their first season back in Division 1. It appears as though they will be replaced by Rugby A, who should buy our B team a drink or two for their terrific win over Banbury C on the very same night, which has put Rugby in pole position. And they also owe our C team a few drinks for a recent shock win over Banbury B, who were also strong promotion candidates.
The A team now quickly moves on to our final match of the season next week against Shirley, which will decide whether we finish third or fourth (big deal!). Stay tuned for a match report which, I can already assure you, will reveal a Kenilworth team selection bombshell!