Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Missing In Action

Week 3 of the Coventry/Leamington Online League, and our two teams maintained their contrasting records, with the A team stuck on 100% and the B team on 0%. But it was so nearly smiles all round. Let's deal with the good news first.

The A team had an excellent 6.5-1.5 win over Leamington, which will - at least - keep us in a tie for the Division 1 lead. Jude and I both managed 2-0 wins on the top boards. I won against a new Leamington player, Paolo Turrini - from Luxembourg, no less, and the strongest Turrini in the world, ahead of two Italians and a Frenchman! (And 2-0 victor over double agent Pink last week.) I was dead lost very quickly as White in the first game, but then my opponent made a truly dreadful move that turned out to be a self-mate. In Game 2, I sacked a piece for 2 pawns, but the resultant "attack" was quickly defused when White gave back an exchange. I was temporarily pushed back, before jumping out to win another pawn, and the game ended when my opponent resigned rather prematurely. (Especially when judged against some other standards - see last week's rant and below!) Jude was up against Ola Olaleye and somehow fashioned a win from what looked like a hopelessly blocked position in Game 1 - talk about making something out of nothing - chessboard magic! Game 2 looked a far more convincing performance from what I could see, and Jude won Ola's queen in a time scramble to cap another excellent evening's work. I think we are in danger of getting rather blasé about Jude's performances - they are truly remarkable!

Mike drew both games against Tom Darling on Board 3. Nothing was blundered in either game as far as I could see - by either player! Quite remarkable for online chess! Mike got nowhere as White against Tom's Dutch Defence, but Game 2, while relatively brief, was more exciting as Mike tried to spice things up. Bernard C added another 1.5 points to our already healthy score on Board 4. He tried everything to win as Black in Game 1 against Omar Khemoudj, doubtless feeing under pressure to make a large rating advantage count. But Omar defended very well, and no doubt to his horror Bernard eventually found himself in a rook and pawn ending 2 pawns down! Thankfully his king came to the rescue and all the pawns were liquidated. Game 2 was another spirited encounter, but Bernard made no mistake this time, and found some nice tactics at the end to clinch the win by a direct mating attack from two rooks and a knight.

And so to the bad news, as the B team lost out by the narrowest margin and in most unfortunate circumstances, to Shirley A. When the A team match finished, I checked the B team score and was delighted to find that we had seemingly won, 3.5-2.5, over just three boards. But then Ben broke the bad news that Will had gone missing in action and failed to show for the match! And we had actually defaulted on one board and lost the match. I felt as deflated as the US basketball team at the 1972 Olympics, when they thought they had won, only for an extra three seconds to be played  ........  and then this happened!

So Will is now on the naughty step for having simply forgotten the match - which I find amazing, as it clearly suggests he has other things to do during the week. I am unlikely to forget any of my current appointments, as I have so few of them. I'm also very surprised that Will should have become the first KCC player to default in an online match - in my mind I had many other candidates ahead of him for that achievement! 

On the boards actually played we had plenty to be proud of. Dave, promoted to Board 1 for the first time, scored two splendid draws against Don Mason. As White he lost a pawn in Game 1, but hoovered all the key pieces off and then ensured the draw by winning back his pawn to leave an opposite bishops ending. In Game 2 he looked to be coming under a serious attack on his king, but he kept his cool and had enough counterplay to force Don to repeat the position. Ben had a terrific evening on Board 2, scoring a 2-0 win over Jonathan Dale. Readers of last week's report will not be surprised to learn that both games ended in mate. Ben was under pressure in Game 1, and lost a pawn, but when White took a second it turned out to be a blunder as it cost a rook to a neat tactic. Game 2 saw a veritable explosion of middle game tactics as Ben found a terrific sequence to win a piece. And later a queen. Unfortunately, the match slipped away on Board 3 (or was it 4? difficult to tell in the circumstances!) where Bernard R's 0.5-1.5 reverse against Chun Chui saw the club's only playing loss across both matches. Game 1 was heading towards a draw, when Bernard dropped a pawn and immediately threw in the towel, which seemed a bit premature. (The chess.com engine gave it as -3.3. Maybe he took my words last week too much to heart?!)  In Game 2, Bernard was pretty solid all the way into a rook and pawn ending, which he drew quite comfortably.

So high marks to both teams for excellent efforts last night, and it will surely not be long before the B team gets off the mark - maybe next week against Leamington? The A team take on Sutton Coldfield A, in what is likely to be a very close match. 

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