For the second successive week the A team came up short in a crunch match at the top of the table, this time going down conclusively 1-3 against Banbury A. And for the second successive week, our conquerors catapulted themselves to the top of the table.
The match featured the divisions two biggest hitters, Banbury's International Master James Jackson, and our very own points machine Joshua, and they didn't let their adoring publics down, as both added another win to their season's tally to maintain a 100% performance for their respective teams - 5/5 for James and 6/6 for Josh.
Joshua was first to finish - of course! - with a surprisingly one sided win over Paul Rowan on Board 2. Black decided to give up a piece for reasons which completely escaped me, and after that it was plain sailing for Josh all the way into a simple bishop ending. Where he was the only one with a bishop - simple!
But already the writing was on the wall for the match result. Bernard C was consuming large amounts of time to get into a terrible position against Carl Portman on Board 3. He rather neglected his kingside development and pretty soon found himself obliged to recapture a piece on e7 with his king. Not surprisingly a tactical refutation followed almost immediately and Bernard crashed and burned in gruesome fashion. But at least it was quick and suffering was kept to a minimum.
Which was not the case for Mike and I in the remaining two games. Regrettably Mike's calm demeanour was disrupted very early on when he got his pieces in a terrible log jam on the queenside, and when his queen was attacked on b3 it only had the c2 square to go to, upon which Gary Jackson played b4 winning Mike's knight on c3, as there was a rook pinning it from c8. The only surprise thereafter was that the game actually continued for quite a long time. Mike somehow claimed a second pawn for his lost knight and even managed to break up the Black king's position to give some vague hopes of turning the game around, but a piece is a piece after all, and the inevitable eventually came to pass.
Of course, the secret of beating (or at least not losing to) Banbury A, is to win over the bottom three boards, because you are probably going to lose on Board 1 - especially if you are giving away a 40 grading point deficit. And having failed to implement part 1 of that strategy, the fact that part 2 duly happened was of no great significance for the result - it just emphasised the margin of Banbury's victory.
I improved on last season's game against James Jackson, but once I had reached the point where the engine had said I was equal and I had to think for myself, things started to go downhill. I felt I had no choice but to go into a double rook and minor piece ending, where White's knight on e4 dominated my woeful bishop on e7. I found it very hard to get in the freeing pawn break f7-f5, as James put the squeeze on the Black position. When it eventually happened it cost me a pawn, but at least my bishop sprang to life and so did my two rooks. The White king started getting checked around the board and for a few moves all three results seemed possible. But the White king ran to safety, while a White passed pawn on h6 was a monster. With best play its possible I might have reached the drawn position of rook and knight against rook, but best play didn't come into it, and in big trouble on the clock and on the board I was put out of my misery by a knight fork which won on the spot. Yes, even after my wretched bishop got out into the open, that cursed White knight was still bossing the board! Why are strong player's pieces always so much better than your own, I wonder?
So we reach the Christmas break with one of our players on 100%, myself on 58% ……… and no-one else above 50%! Not exactly the stuff of champions. Maybe we can turn it round in 2020, he said optimistically/self-deludedly!!