Saturday, 9 October 2021

Unilateral Nuclear Disarmament

It seems wrong to play league matches on a Thursday night, as that should be club night at the Gauntlet for some of us. But last Thursday there was nothing for it, but to make the trip to Banbury for the A team's second league match of the season. And it turned out to be a journey worth making, as we came away with a 3.5-0.5 win that should have been 4-0, were it not for massive incompetence on my part.

This was my first visit to Banbury's latest venue, which is certainly quiet and spacious, but rather lacking in facilities - ie anywhere to get a drink (of any kind)! I must remember that for future visits and go prepared.

The great unknown before any match against Banbury A, is whether they will be deploying their advanced nuclear weapon, IM James Jackson, who does make rather a difference to the balance of power! Having been absent from the B team's recent splendid victory over Banbury, it transpired that he would be absent again - unilateral nuclear disarmament at its finest! And indeed for nearly half an hour it looked as though Banbury had decided to dispense with a Board 1 at all, but with his clock already down to 46 minutes Georgs Vikanis did eventually appear to take up the fight.

The first decisive result of the evening came on Board 3, where Joshua played what I thought was a brilliancy to win against Arran Gundry. Those who had been watching more closely, including the victorious protagonist himself, put me right later, when it transpired that the brilliancy was rather superfluous, as Joshua had missed a very elementary win just before. But never mind. A win is a win, and who doesn't like playing a flashy move or two?

Jude, fresh from his latest B team outing on Board 1, was in the less choppy waters of Board 4 and soon assumed the initiative with Black against Paul Rowan. His two bishops were raking across the board towards the White king, and with the h1-a8 diagonal completely open, there was no escape for Paul. A very impressive and forceful win for Jude.

Things were not going quite so well on the other two boards, but we still seemingly had the match under control. I had got no advantage, either on the board or the clock, against Georgs, and in fact was slightly worse for a few moves. But then he sort of lost the thread and we traded to down to a queen and rook ending where I had some slight pressure. It was pretty equal, but when the queens got swapped off, my rook took up a powerful position on the seventh rank. Then Georgs made a terrible mistake and gave me the chance to trade the rooks for a completely winning king and pawn ending ........ which I failed to take, preferring to win a pawn instead. But Black's newly liberated rook then took two of my pawns, and I was quite relieved to discover that the resultant rook and 3 v rook and 4 was a dead draw. A massive missed opportunity, though on the balance of play I can't say that I deserved to win this game.

And much the same could have been said about the  Board 2 encounter between Andrew P and Gary Jackson. It wasn't at all clear who - if anyone - was better, but both players were up for the fight and there was a lot of toing and froing. With time getting very short Andrew won a pawn, then immediately fell into a knight fork losing an exchange .... but Gary missed it. Then Andrew zoomed in on the queenside with a rook and bishop to win another two pawns, but lost a piece in the process! White only had one pawn left, but once Andrew managed to swap off the rooks, he was able to eliminate this, so that it came down to three pawns (h, c and a) against a dark squared bishop. It should have been a draw but Gary went the wrong way with his king, and suddenly Andrew was able to force the bishop from the key square where it controlled both of the outside passed pawns. In desperate time trouble, Gary blundered allowing Andrew to queen his pawn which had reached a2, but ....... Andrew failed to push it one square further. Luckily, his alternative move c4-c3, prevented the White king from coming from c1 to b2 to take the pawn anyway, so Gary had to resign.

So 2/2 for the A team, and a cup victory too. But let's stay alert and focussed. After all, accidents can happen - and if they involve nuclear weapons they can be very nasty indeed - except when they are very funny instead!

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