Thursday, 28 April 2022

Oh, What a Night!

Oh, what a night.
Late April, twenty twenty two

Yes indeed - Leamington League Cup Finals night at Olton. Let history remember the date - Tuesday, April 26th - and the venue - Tyseley Working Men''s Club (the Wembley of the local chess world). For on that date, and in that place, KCC picked up two of the three trophies on offer (the Open KO Cup and the Under 8750 Cup) and went down narrowly in the third (the Under 1600 Cup). Bringing the total number of KCC triumphs for the season to four, as the Leamington League Division 1 and Coventry League KO Cup titles had already been annexed. And if anyone has forgotten how close we went to also winning the Coventry League Division 1 trophy, just refresh your memories by reading the Blog post of March 18th!

Where to start? How about with a pictorial record of the 14 valiant KCC men who were in action on this epic night.

From left to right: Andrew, Phil, Rod, Mark, Bernard (partially obscured - for the first time in his life, I expect!), Jude, Andy, Billy, Joshua, Roy, Chris, Hector, Patrick, Ben.
(With Andrew a clear winner of the Best Turned Out prize!)

Naturally, my attention was mainly focussed on my own game against Alan Lloyd, against whom I have a dreadful record (played 9, drawn 4, lost 5!). But I did notice that Andrew had scored a convincing win over Bruce Baer on the next board to me; that Jude was winning against Gary Hope and Andy had drawn early against Richard Reynolds. So, from a position of slight advantage I was able to offer a draw secure that we were winning the Open KO Cup match against Olton comfortably. Little did I know, though, that Jude had had a brainstorm and momentarily transformed his winning position into a lost position ..... but thankfully the chess gods were smiling on us and he turned the tables again to secure the win - in the process, surely becoming the youngest ever winner in the League's premier knock-out tournament. This left Joshua able to finish the match with no pressure. He was an exchange down against Mark Cundy but had a wide open White king to attack. However, Mark had a dangerous passed pawn, and in the end Joshua had to take a perpetual check. Nevertheless, an unbeaten 3.5-1.5 win for us, with two White victories and three Black draws (yes, I lost the toss - mea culpa!)

The next match to conclude was the Under 1600 final against Solihull.  Things got off to a great start when Hector continued his remarkable form by notching up a point for us on Board 2, but then things fell apart as both Roy and Patrick went down to defeat (the latter to Kenilworth resident and long time KCC member, Mike Johnson.) Even if Chris had been able to even the scores on Board 4, we would have lost the tie break on the board elimination rule, but the game ended in a draw anyway, and we had lost by 2.5-1.5. A great shame that the team fell at the final hurdle, but Chris and his lads have done the club proud by reaching the final of a competition where we have traditionally only been able to win a tie if we got given the bye. There's also no doubt in my mind that we would have won this match, and the Cup, if we hadn't also reached the U-8750 final which deprived the U-1600 side of Billy, who was eligible for both teams.

But I can finish on a positive note, as at the end of the evening we emerged victorious from a titanic struggle against Banbury in the Under 8750 final. It was a strange match. Ben drew very early against Danut Joian, and team supremo Bernard added another draw into the mix soon after when halving out with Chris Evans. The Banbury strategy for the match was very interesting, with a low rated player on Board 5 and much higher rated players on the other 4 boards to keep under the 8750 total limit. Our strength was much more evenly spread, but it meant we were out-graded on 4 of the 5 boards. Banbury were in effect accepting they would probably lose on Board 5, but if they could score 2.5/4 on the other boards, they would win any tie on board elimination. Rod duly delivered our much needed win against Michael Campling on Board 5, but this was balanced by Mal Waddell beating Billy on Board 4 to level the scores. How Billy lost I don't know, as at one point it looked like he had driven a threshing machine through Mal's position, forcing the White king to c3 and getting a pawn to f2. So the scores were consequently tied, and Banbury just needed a draw on top board to vindicate their strategy and win the match on tie break............

But I must break off the narrative at this point for an important message.

I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw Phil's position in the decisive game against Nathan Manley. He was, I kid you not, about 5 pawns up so I naturally assumed he had sacked a piece and that the game was in the balance. Then I counted the pieces and they were level! So he was just 5 pawns up. Oh yes, and he had a virtual forced mate on the board, as well - or at least the win of humungous amounts of material. Of course, Phil being Phil, it was never going to be that simple, but he did indeed soon add an extra rook to his material advantage, and eventually this proved sufficient to force resignation and win another trophy for Kenilworth. What a hero!!

And so ends a truly momentous season for KCC - surely one of the best in the club's history. 4 trophies; splendid efforts by all our teams; well attended club nights; enthusiastic new members; some fearsomely strong juniors; and a group of solid old timers as well. Enjoy the summer, and when the new season rolls around, just like Jackson, let's "get up and do it again!"