With the A team finishing its campaign last week, the B team took centre stage on Monday as it brought its season to a conclusion with a match against Warwick University A. Although - as usual! - it made for agonising viewing, the team somehow made it across the line for a 5-3 win, which ultimately delivered a highly respectable 6th place finish.
Tom had a tough night against Joe Varley on Board 1. Game 1 was a disaster, as Tom's King's Gambit failed to lead to even a single aggressive move, but just lost several pawns. The return was a different kettle of fish as Tom nicely won a pawn, to end up in a double rook and minor piece ending still with his extra pawn. Crucially, though, the White knight was better than Tom's bishop and it was difficult to find a clear plan. After much manoeuvring, when not much happened, and in severe time trouble, Tom tragically overlooked a pawn thrust which won heaps of material.
To counterbalance this, Dave was having a very enjoyable time on Board 3 against Rowan Warner. In Game 1, Black correctly refrained from capturing an undefended pawn on e4 for two moves, having apparently seen that a piece would drop off after a queen check on a4, but inexplicably fell for the cheapo at the third time of asking. Dave then wrapped up a very quick win, and was equally decisive in Game 2 where he won a pawn or two, and then the exchange, before his passer on the a file proved unstoppable.
Solomon also scored 2-0 on Board 4 against Thomas Parmenter, but it was probably his least impressive outing of an excellent season. Game 1 was semi-decent and he eventually won in a bishops of the same colour ending, which was not trivial despite an extra pawn and connected passers. But Game 2???? Oh dear, oh dear! After needlessly sacking a pawn he got into terrible trouble and lost an exchange as well. Black could then have simplified into a position a piece and two pawns up, but chose another path which was also totally winning (+7!). However, Solomon then sparked into life and started playing some tricky moves. Black collapsed and from nowhere White won the Black queen, and immediately followed up with an exchange sac to deliver mate. Phew!! As this was the last game to finish, with the score at 4-3 to us, a certain draw had been transformed into a match win by some fiendishly devious Hayes magic!
Now you might have noticed that I have avoided any mention of Board 2 so far, but not without good reason, I assure you! Game 1, with Ben Black against Jonathan Fowler, was very, very messy. White took a rook on h8 with a knight, and Ben took a rook on h1 with a bishop. But while the bishop got out of the corner easily enough, the White knight couldn't. But just when Ben looked like he was about to trap it, he went wrong and an ending ensued with Ben a pawn down in a bishop and knight ending. Thankfully, he immediately found a way to get the pawn back, and a draw was instantly agreed. But this was just an hors d'oeuvre before the main course was served in Game 2. Ben played a great opening and was all over Black in no time at all. He first won an exchange, and a bit later added a piece, so he was now actually a whole rook up. Black had a few pawns, but Ben took most of them, at the cost of an exchange and reached an ending of RN+3 against R+2. Then Jonathan left mate in one on. Rook to the back rank, checkmate, end of game. But Ben missed it. I screamed at the screen, but surely it wouldn't matter, as we were still a whole piece and two connected passed pawns up? Wrong! Ben rather needlessly stalemated the Black king, which Jonathan noticed instantly and started trying to sac his remaining rook to get the draw. Ben wriggled as best he could to avoid capturing it, but he had to let his knight go to avoid perpetual or stalemate. He still had connected g and h pawns, but a thoughtless rook check suddenly put him in a position where his rook was forever stuck on the g file to defend a pawn, while neither his g or h pawns could move either. And his king could not get out of the checks So it was a draw. Unbelievable! A true online immortal game. But for all the wrong reasons! And while it was happening, I was under the impression it was costing us match victory, adding to the agony of the experience. Until Solomon came along to save the day at the 11th hour.
Nuneaton A ran out convincing Division 1 winners with 14 points from their 8 games - losing only their final match against Shirley A. So Kenilworth A finished only two points off top spot after 6 wins and 2 defeats yielded 12 pts. Third place went to Kenilworth C, sorry that should be Coventry A. Kenilworth B ended up in 6th position on 6 points, edging out Warwick Uni B on game points. Well played the B team, who also finished clear of Warwick University A and Birmingham University in the 9 strong league. Who said chess is a young person's game? Probably me. And it is usually, of course, as our own performances prove!
Because our star performer in the season was - who else? - the amazing mighty atom that is Jude, who scored an unbeaten 8.5 from his 10 games, all but two of which were on Board 1. An absolutely tremendous performance. A close second was the rather less youthful Mike, who - in an ever present campaign - notched up 13/16 for an 81.3% score, with only 1 defeat. Not bad for someone who often seems to be very uncomfortable with online chess! Honourable mentions also to Solomon (7/10; 70% - very impressive for a free transfer signing!); Dave (7.5/12; 62.5%); and Andy W (5/8; 62.5%); myself (9.5/16; 59.4%) and Billy (3/6; 50%). The only dishonourable mention goes to Bernard R, whose woes with disconnections were very frustrating, and if he can sort this out he will be a big asset to the team in future online contests (from a misleadingly low rating!).
Thanks to all 12 players who, despite often causing me major stress by joining the match very late (I learned to stop caring eventually!), did not default a single board. And thanks to the 13th man, Roy, who was there waiting in the wings and hoping not to be called to action. Glad to meet your wishes, Roy!