You can never have too much Milton in your match reports, can you? Anyway, we'll get back to the title of this piece at the end, but for the moment let's concentrate on last night's Open KO Cup First Round tie away at Shirley, where we began the defence of our Trophy. (Which currently resides on my mantelpiece and is in need of a good polish!)
Given that we had already chalked up a 4-0 league win against our opponents this season, and that they were missing their board one from that match, it won't be a massive surprise that we secured a semi-final place (against Leamington) with a 4.5-0.5 victory.
But there were one or two anxious moments at the start, when it looked as though the debut appearance in our Open team of Jude was going to go horribly wrong when he got his (white) queen trapped on e6 after a crafty Bc8 retreat by John Freeman. Oops! But Jude made the best of a bad job and got a rook in return, and when Black tragically returned the favour a bit later and walked into a knight fork, he was suddenly the exchange and several pawns to the good, and the win came soon after.
After that stroke of extreme good fortune, the match was never in doubt. Andy, making his seasonal debut and playing his first game of chess for almost 6 months, simply sped out of the blocks (drug test?) on top board against Jonathan Dale and had Black on the ropes in no time at all. He won a pawn with much the better position, but it seemed scant reward for a totally dominant position, and I suspect he may have missed a quick win. Still, he kept the advantage and finally secured the point in a rook and opposite bishops ending when his a pawn lurched down the board and couldn't be stopped.
I finished next, after unleashing a thunderbolt against Keith Ingram on Board 2 that won a piece from a clear blue sky. Only a couple of moves earlier the position had been totally level and heading for a rather boring draw, but my 22nd move set up a big threat and Keith thankfully walked right into it. See if you can guess Black's idea with a big Boom! moment on move 24.
With the match won, I adjourned to the bar, and our little group was soon joined by Joshua who surprisingly had failed to keep up his 100% A team record and dropped our only half point on the night to Dave Thomas. (OK, it was a Cup match, not the A team, but if he's relying on technicalities like that to keep his status, its clear he's rattled!) Even for Josh, the opening was slightly unusual, as he uncorked Na3 on move one. I suppose he knows what he's doing. Although our man pushed and pushed all the way to a 3v2 rook ending, Dave defended stoutly and held the draw.
Which left Mike in play against Gordon Christie on Board 4, and this seemed by some way the richest and deepest game of the evening. From the bits I saw, it looked as though Mike played a really good game. sacrificing an exchange for a pawn and masses of activity, which threatened to overwhelm White's defences. While Gordon tried to hold back the torrent of Black pieces, it was in vain and Mike won material and the game. Excellent, dynamic chess.
So what was all that stuff in the title about, I hear you say? Well, the match last night was graced by a spectator who comfortably out-graded everyone else in the room, since none other than our number one (non-) player Paul dropped in on his way home from Birmingham to see Jude in action and lend his support to the team. Judging from the score, his presence certainly didn't do our morale any harm, and if we can't have him in the team, then having him there, silently intimidating the opposition ("we're so strong we don't even need Paul!") is the next best thing!
BTW I go away on holiday for seven days, and in that time no less than 4 match reports appear on the blog, none of them written by me! What on earth is going on?? I'm not at all sure I like sharing this platform with anybody else. I shall have to up my blogging game!