Thursday 10th Feb saw us travel to far end of old Oxford town, to Rose Hill Church to play Cowley 1
A win for either team would see them go second in the league, but it would be a tough one for us, missing a few of our top players we were giving away over 100 rating points per board (about 15 in old money). But try we must, and try we did, and in the end the match was close on almost all the boards, and could have gone either way.
“Almost” I stress. The exception was mine. Advice to anybody playing a wunderkind: Don’t get your queen trapped on move 14. This turned out to be a very poor strategical decision on my behalf when playing Kenneth Hobson, rated 2090 at a very tender age, and I only carried on after losing it for a rook to avoid losing a miniature. The less said about it the better, apart from me apologizing to Kenneth for playing on; I should have resigned on the spot – and probably would have done if I wasn’t off the beer at the moment.
All the other boards were keenly fought. On board 4 Tony got a fine result drawing with Graham Cole. In a classical French Defense early on Graham established a knight on d6, but as time went by it was clear it was more impressive than effective. The queens came off, then the knight, and a draw was agreed in a position where it was far from clear how either player could make any progress.
On board 6 Andrey was facing Bob Waugh, a tough one indeed for him. Early on Bob seemed to have pressure, but Andrey fought it off and then came up with an pawn sac to open the g file against Bob’s king which was sitting on g1 – when I saw it I have to admit I didn’t really believe it but it certainly showed imagination, and did offer practical chances. But Bob is an experienced warrior, grabbed the pawn, and survived to tell the tale ending up material up in an endgame which he did in the end convert but not without a fair bit of excitement along the way – well done Bob, and bad luck Andrey, one slip and it could have gone the other way.
On the other 3 boards we had real winning chances. Going in increasing order of those chances Gareth was white against Rich Weston on board 5. All was going fairly routinely until, in a slightly better position, Gareth offered the Greek Gift:
Any chess player above the very casual should know this idea, sacrificing the bishop on h7 (or h2) to draw the king out, which will get attacked with Ng5+ and then the queen coming into the attack, on h5 or g4. And all my ex-colleagues at MCS are probably smiling now as I was well known for offering dodgy Greek-gift type sacs at any opportunity – a game against Liam contains a fine example of the rubbish I can come up with, and that has even made it as a Lichess Puzzle. Anyway the game continued with Rich finding what is often the best continuation
The king is out in the open, and the queen ready to come into g4. Is it enough for the bishop? To be honest Stockfish thinks not, and given my vast experience of bad Greek Gifts I have to in principle agree. As a rule of thumb the attacking side tends to need one more attacking piece over and the the above the queen and knight, often it is a rook coming in via the third rank. However I stress “in principle”, certainly at most club players level white has real chances. Rolling forward a few more moves comes to the crunch moment
Here Gareth played the obvious Nh7+ picking up the exchange, but removing his best placed piece and dissipating his initiative, which is everything in this position. Now it is very easy to play other people’s positions when material down, but the cool Be3 leaves the position about equal according to Mr Stockfish, white having compensation for the material sacrificed due to the open position of the black king and better development. But very easy for me to find with an engine, very hard to find while a rook is on offer at the board with the clock ticking. Anyway Rich gained the initiative from that point, and carried on to win very effectively, his two bishops dominating the white rook:
Board 3 was closer – Mark Sayers was facing his bunny, Will Burt (Will’s words, not mine!) I can’t deny this possibility was in my mind when I chose the board order – Mark has had two very nice wins in his last games against Will. And for a long time it looked as though it might be 3 out of 3, Mark going two pawns up in the opening. Will had pressure in compensation but it certainly didn’t look enough, and on its own Mr Stockfish agrees. But Mr Stockfish doesn’t look at the clock, and dealing with Will’s pressure ate a lot of Mark’s time, so while Mark did sort his position out time was running short, and in the scramble it eventually went pear shaped – well played Will:
Oh dear! Well at least we had Nigel on Board 1 showing us all how to play. Against Mike Handley’s Dutch he managed to obtain a very nice position where Mike’s bishops in particular seemed to be very ineffective – and play against weak e and f pawns bagged the both of them. Now I’ve made clear how little I understand the Dutch before, so I’ll quote Nigel on some of his thoughts and then show the game:
Where he seemed to go wrong most was in not developing the Nb8, which should have been ready to retake on f6 (which is why I chopped off the Nf6 as soon as it looked like he was about to play Nbd7). Then Dutch players aim to get in Nf6-e4 at some point and as soon as I pinned the f6 N I felt my control of e4 was good.
I think I was most pleased by the move by which I returned my N from b3 back to d2. I vaguely remember reading that strong players can admit to themselves that they got it wrong and can go back to square one. My N should probably have gone to c3 in the first place, but having gone to d2 it should have stayed there to support e4.
As can be seen Mike’s bishops didn’t get into the game until right near the end, and by then, like Mark, he was another victim of the clock after sorting out his troubles – he lost on time.
So I have to say I think Cowley deserved to win, but the score line doesn’t quite do us justice, and given the rating difference we can’t be too displeased.
Down to fourth, I’ll still take that!
Next off to Wantage in the cup.