We headed to Shirley in good spirits, after our fantastic victory against Banbury A. Yet from the get-go, it seemed like it was not going to be our night. I managed to get completely soaked walking into the club from the car and spent most of the evening nursing cups of tea and shivering, while drips of rain ran down the back of my neck. Who says chess does not require physical toughness?
My game was the quietest for the four. Playing black against Darren Whitmore, the Queens came off early. I managed to neutralise Darren's initiative and set a few tactical traps which he neatly avoided. We ended up in a level King and pawn ending and I had little option but to agree to split the point.
Mike was next to finish on two. If anything he probably had the best position of any of us, against Iain Galloway, but Iain defended well and it was very theoretical. Things looked to have levelled out and both were short of time when peace ensued.
Jude and Bernard had the livelier games. Jude is continuing to take his online lockdown form into the three-dimensional world, and proving that he is more than ready to be a Division 1 Board 1. He had a real battle with Phillip Purcell. Jude looked to me to be better out of the opening, but Phillip fought back and I feared the worst. Yet Jude is such a competitor that he was not phased, digging in and holding out for a well earned draw against a very strong player. High stakes chess and great (if a little nerve-wracking) to watch. Well done Jude - definitely our player of the night!
So it all came down to board three, where Bernard C was up against Dave Thomas. Dave just seemed to continually set Bernard problems. While Bernard expertly navigated most of them, it took a toll on his clock and the challenges kept coming. In the end, Bernard succumbed to the pressure, but it was an impressive effort on Dave's part.
You could not really say we were robbed. But it would be fair to say it was very close. On another night and all that...
Driving home, the heavens opened once again and I was reduced to 40mph by an inability to see very far in front of me. The effects of my last cup of tea had worn off and I shivered in the gloom of an unlit stretch of motorway. Of course we had also lost... Still, my overring thought was how much I have missed nights like this during lockdown! What else can feel as real as League chess? Bring on Olton! We will be back...