The new online season - now branded as a joint Coventry & Leamington League event - got underway last night, with the now mandatory week 1 pairing of Kenilworth A v Kenilworth B. For once again, and despite operating with a smaller pool of players than in the pre-Xmas season, little Kenilworth (population c 25,000) has managed to field two Division 1 teams to take on our considerably bigger neighbours' A teams.
While I decided, Achilles style, to stay in my tent for this match (hope you appreciate the classical reference, Mike!) two highly combative teams still took to the field, and they produced a stirring encounter that managed to encompass every dramatic genre known, from high speed slapstick to gut-wrenching tragedy. At the end, the A team had won by 4.5-3.5, but there wasn't a dry eye in the house after a heart stopping, emotional roller-coaster of a match. To the action!
Billy took on ex-Capitalist Bernard (though I suspect he will always be a Capitalist at heart!) on Board 4, and seemed to have an edge in Game 1. He got a White knight to d6, but Bernard defended well and liquidated down to a draw. Game 2 passed me by in a blur, but when I finally checked in they had reached a king and pawn ending, and the chess.com engine immediately told me Billy was winning. Until Billy's next move, which turned it into a draw. And his next but one move, which turned it into a win for Bernard. At the end of the game, after 50+ moves, both clocks showed more than 18 minutes, making the average time per move for each player somewhere around 6 seconds. Ah, the impetuosity of youth! But at least they gave me the idea for this week's song .......
So with Bernard really making his height and weight advantage count, it was 1.5-0.5 to the B team, but the pendulum swung back to the A team on Board 3, where Artistic Bernard proved too strong for Will. Game 1 was headed for a draw, after Bernard made no impression with White, and even after he finally managed to win a pawn the resultant rook ending looked for all the world a draw. Bernard had 4v3 on the queenside, but this included a doubled pawn, so his winning prospects looked supermodel slim. But after a very strong game Will suddenly collapsed, and after first damaging his pawn formation, he then swapped off rooks to leave Bernard with a winning K&P ending. Perhaps unsettled by this, Will self-destructed in Game 2, mis-calculating after a pawn grab and losing lots of material. So 2.5-1.5 to the A team, and it had been a good night for the Bernards!
On Board 3, Mike and Dave had two relatively swift draws. Mike's best move in each game seems to have been to offer a draw, as the chess.com engine gave Dave plus one point something in both! Not sure if both players were affected, by Mike at least experienced strange chess.com happenings, including a complete outage of several seconds when the game and board disappeared completely! Anyway, honours even, so 3.5-2.5 to the A team.
And so to Board 1, where Jude took on Ben, who immediately showed that its better to be on the Black side of London System set ups than the White one. Perhaps he will apply this message to his own games?! Ben neutralised Jude's pawn storm on the kingside, and then started to develop some counter play on the queenside. But immediately after Ben offered a draw, Jude went wrong and got into big trouble as Ben's pieces started hopping into the White half of the board and taking things. 0-1 and a big scalp for Ben. And the match score is now 3.5-3.5 if you are counting!
Game 2, and Jude came out fighting and clearly after revenge. He got a very promising position after breaking up the White kingside, but then took me totally by surprise when he exchanged queens rather than continuing to attack the White king. He won a pawn, but immediately had to give it back, and it took some co-operation from Ben for Black to get back any advantage. But after breaking through with a rook to the seventh, Jude failed to grab an extra pawn and Ben countered to get a passed f pawn. It didn't look as though White was worse and then .......... nothing happened. And suddenly I spotted the connection indicator for Ben had gone red! He had disconnected, and the wi-fi didn't come back on until he had been timed out by chess.com. A tragedy for Ben. So 1-1 in the Board 1 mini-match, and 4.5-3.5 to the A team. Bernard R seemingly cures his connection issues, and Ben inherits the problem. As I told him afterwards - he either needs more bandwidth or fewer kids on-line while he's playing!
So what an exciting (make that agonising!) evening, especially as the actual chronology of the games meant that the B team were 3.5-2.5 up, with just the Board 1 and Board 3 games remaining. They really should give spectators a warning before starting these matches. Because after all ........ anything can happen in the next half hour!!
(I used to love this programme. They don't make 'em like this anymore!)