Yet again, this week saw two matches on consecutive nights for our top team in each of the two leagues. And if truth be told, these matches are all starting to merge into one, but while the memories are still reasonably fresh in my head, here are a few thoughts on the latest two encounters.
On Monday the A team was away to Shirley in the Leamington League. Now Shirley are not doing well this season, but with Dave Thomas on bottom board they are no pushovers. So although we had already beaten them 4-0 in the league and 4.5-0.5 in the KO Cup this season, this was no foregone conclusion and in Phil Purcell, Shirley had comfortably the highest graded player in the match.
We were out of the blocks quite fast, and Andy built up a very strong position on Board 1 against Phil with a massive pawn advance in the centre. Black gave up a piece for a couple of pawns, but Andy's pieces then jumped into many strong squares and it was soon 1-0 to us. I followed up on Board 2 with another win over Jonathan Dale after he blundered an exchange in the middle game. In fact an intermediate check would have made the exchange a whole rook, but my oversight didn't prove too costly as my outside passed a pawn proved an easy game winner.
But then things went a bit pear shaped. Unbelievably Joshua fell to his first loss of the season when blundering a piece against Keith Ingram on Board 3. He had tried an unusual opening line against the Petroff, and although things weren't going too well to begin with, he seemed to be at least equal when the calamity occurred. Keith had no trouble proving that rook and knight are much stronger than a lone rook - as long as their are still some pawns on the board, of course! So momentarily the match was in the balance, but thankfully Mike was never in danger of losing against Dave Thomas on Board 4 and for all I know he could have been better. But the truth is I never really saw what was going on!. Anyway, a third 2.5-1.5 victory in a row for the A team since Christmas. The stuff of champions? Not really, I'm afraid!
So on to Tuesday, and a home tie in the Quarter Final (otherwise known as the second round!) of the Coventry League KO Cup, against Nuneaton D. And this was a night when a 2.5-1.5 win would definitely not do, as our opponents started with a 2.25 points handicap advantage. Which meant a minimum 3.5-0.5 win was needed. Well, our Division 3 opponents certainly rose to the occasion. Sporting grades of just 44-118 they put up a great fight against our Division 1 titans. Who at one point in the evening threatened to be too titanic and sink calamitously! As late as 10.00pm the score was still 0-0, but finally the match turned decisively in our favour and we started to rack up the points.
Mike won first on Board 2 when initially 3 extra pawns - and subsequently about 5 extra pawns - proved enough in an opposite bishops ending. Then Dave won a piece and the game on Board 4 thanks to a knight fork and I delivered mate after an excellent effort by my young opponent on Board 1. She played the opening absolutely excellently and had me seriously concerned that I might have stood worse after a dozen or more moves, but thankfully it all came good in the end! Which leaves Ben, who subsequently won on time in a winning position to seal the match victory…… but not before he had overlooked a tactic and been a pawn (and possibly position!) down for some time. Eventually, though, he whipped up an attack along the h file with his rooks which ultimately proved decisive.
The Semi Final draw now pairs us against Nuneaton B from Division 2, who knocked out Division 1 side Coventry B this week, and will start with a 1.25 points advantage over us. We will need to win 3-1 to beat the handicap, and that will not be a walk in the park for sure!
Meanwhile, in the other QF matches, Rugby A comfortably overcame Coventry F but - in probably the biggest shock since we lost the final to Chelmsley Wood! - the mighty Coventry A, comprising 4 KCC members, failed to beat the handicap against Division 2 Rugby B and left the competition with their tails between their legs. Joshua's sudden change of form continued as he could only draw with Martin Wilson on top board, while Ed achieved the same result against John Hall. Lionel showed that some KCC members still know how to win, but unfortunately for Coventry, Roy - thrust onto Board 2 to prevent a default when Dave Ireland failed to show up in time - was also only able to draw and the holders were out. Was this a case of the Coventry players showing their real allegiance and deliberately scuppering one of our main rivals? Or did they just play ****? I think we all know the answer to that!