Mark Twain wrote that history does not repeat itself, but it often rhymes... How right he was, if the start of our campaign to defend the Coventry KO Cup, is anything to go by.
Back in the spring, when we approached the final against Rugby, the omens were not good. Mark was overseas. (Page that is. Mark Twain's chess playing days, if there ever were any, are now sadly behind him.) The Rugby team out-graded us on every board. Yet somehow, against all odds and thanks to a win from Dave we won! A night that will live long in the memory. Well my memory anyway. Celebrations on the streets of Kenilworth (and one street in Leamington) and all that.
This season in round 1 against Nuneaton A, pretty much the same thing happened. Mark was overseas. We were conceding an average of 15 grading points a board... Oh, and we had lost 4 - 0 at Nuneaton in the League only two weeks ago. The only positive I could think of as stand in captain was we might have lulled them into a false sense of security...
Yep, you've guessed it - we won! 2.5 - 1.5, with the only decisive game coming from Dave as in last years final. Astonishingly, for most of the night, this really looked like the most likely score. (Bar 3-1 to us, more of which later..)
On Board 1 Mike Donnelly was up against Phil Briggs. As ever, Phil's opening choices were "unorthodox" and Mike faced a position he had never seen before after just three moves. However, Mike's experience of related defences meant that he knew to move a knight to the ideal c4 square, threatening a central e5 break and putting Phil under strong pressure. To prevent this, Phil felt obliged to weaken his pawn cover around his king, which gave Mike attacking opportunities. However, Phil appeared to be holding and with both players short of time a draw was agreed. I think Mike definitely had the better of this one, a nice game...
On Board 3, Dave Shurrock was playing out the only direct re-match from the League debacle, against Colin Green. Up against a Pirc, the opening was essentially level. However, Dave was able to establish a knight on d6 which exerted increasing control over the position. A kingside break with h4 and h5 followed and Colin's defences crumbled. With material falling off, Colin resigned. I have to say, this one always looked like a win for us, from fairly early in the proceedings.
On Board 4, Rod Webb playing Dave Kearney faced a Reti and played an f5 setup against it. With an early e4 from white, Rod opened up the f file and looked to build a kingside attack. After a number of exchanges though, the initiative was gone and the game fizzled out. Another good result for us and Rod always looked very comfortable.
I was the last to finish on Board 2 against Paul Davies (the only Nuneaton player involved I had not faced before.) If I tell you we agreed a draw when I had 50 seconds left on my clock and he had 30 seconds, it probably gives you some idea as to the absolutely brutal nature of the encounter. I have no idea what should have happened... We needed the draw to win the match, but I was pressing for the win, or at least I thought I was... After a wild opening and quite strong attacks from both of us, Simon blundered and I picked up the exchange just before the time control. (Which we had both reached on vapors.) However, Paul's two bishops and Queen on an open board were very powerful. My own attempts to unravel and mobilise always a little slower. I felt sure the win was there, but Paul proceeded to sac his second rook for my knight, to create a bizarre position of queen + 2 bishops (him) vs queen + 2 rooks (me.) My king was chased around the board, mating threats and perpetual check threats abounded (actually for both of us) but Paul just held the tempo and forced the draw. I will be looking at this one on Fritz closely. I'm sure I could have won, but equally when we analysed the game afterwards, there was plenty of scope for me also to lose. It was certainly a lot more complex than I thought. All in all a draw was a fair result. And enough to take us forward.
Bring on round 2, when hopefully I will be able to quote some other famous writer, in order to illustrate another triumph! Fingers crossed and happy Christmas.