Friday, 29 November 2019

A Coventry League Match ..... on a Wednesday????

I guess this must have happened before, but it was a new one on me. When Warwick University asked to change the date of our match away against Uni A, a Wednesday night turned out to be the best solution. Or at least it did when I agreed the switch, but then Dave decided to go to Belgium to drink the local bars dry, and Drago found himself in London playing for Barclay's Bank, and we suddenly had only 3 players. And with the A and B teams having played on Monday, and the C team in action on Thursday, it looked like we might not even have a full team. Cometh the hour, though, cometh the man - and that man is called Phil. Serendipitously Phil couldn't play in the C team match as his brother was arriving from Germany to visit that very day, so he was instead available (and willing!) to be drafted in to our Cov League team a day earlier.

Having just drawn 2-2 against Uni B the previous week, our chances against Uni A were obviously not too good. But you never know what team they will field, and in the end they left more 190+ players out of their side than we have in our entire club (2 - and neither of them has played a game for us this season!) Even so, the odds were stacked against us when we finally found Room B2.05 in the Science Building. But in what has otherwise been a sobering week for the club (except in Dave's case, I presume) we rose manfully to the challenge and somehow came away with an excellent 2-2 draw despite being out-graded on every board.

And things didn't start off too well when Mike got unceremoniously rolled over by a very aggressive Romanian student on Board 2. The Black king found itself stuck in the centre, and even though White had a fianchettoed knight on b2 for the whole game, the remaining forces honed in on the Black monarch and eventually forced the win of Black's queen.

Ben finished next, on Board 3, and it was more disappointment for us, as he had played an excellent game and was better the whole way ... and then suddenly it was a draw! I have no idea what happened at the end, but it looked like without a full point in that game we were doomed.

However, Lady Luck then turned in our favour, as my game went from dead level to completely winning almost without me realising such a dramatic swing was happening. I had been trying to develop a very slow kingside attack while my strong Serbian opponent was playing on the queenside. But in the blink of an eye, the whole picture flipped and abandoning the kingside attack - which was going nowhere - I won a key queenside pawn which put me in complete control. Rather than suffer a protracted defence against my now mighty passed b pawn, Black sacked two more pawns in the centre to set up a fork of a rook on a4 and a knight on e4 by a queen on e8 - but, thankfully for me, there was a tactical escape from the double attack, and when I forced the last pair of rooks off to leave me two pawns and position up, Black resigned.

Which left Phil needing a draw to save the match. For most of the night I had been fearing the worst, as every time I looked at his game, his position seemed more and more depressing. But Phil dug in for the long haul, First World War style, and adopted the Verdun-inspired mindset of "Ils ne passeront pas!" And they absolutely didn't passeront - right down to a king and pawn ending, where Phil was able to keep the White king at bay and secure the required match saving draw and an unexpected point.

So a small ray of light in an otherwise disappointing week. Thank heavens for small mercies!

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