Well a new season is upon us, and Cumnor 1 kicked off with two visits to the University in very quick succession; we played the newly promoted University 2 on Thursday 27th Oct, and then University 1 on the following Monday, 31st Oct.
University 2 play their home games at University college on the High Street.
We fielded a pretty strong side. Nalin, our close season signing, turned out for his first match for the club, and we also had Simon returning and Eldar on top board; of our superstars we were only missing Nigel. And as such we turned out a very efficient win 4-2 against the new guys, not losing a single game, and having chances to make it a bigger score.
Nalin finished first. Out of a symmetrical English a symmetrical game resulted which ended in a symmetrical result. Next was Mark on the white side of an Alekhine. Here Mark had chances despite having a bishop and knight against his opponents two bishops, but it ended in a draw.
Next was Simon, scoring the first win for the season. In fact it was quite a tactical fest early on, Simon playing 1 e4!, which was a bit of a surprise, and then he eschewed his normally more positional style playing a very aggressive line against the Scandinavian:
The key period of the game is moves 16-19.
Black spots that Simon is trying to set up the Noah’s Ark trap, which would happen if he could get in a3 Ba5 b5 so winning the bishop. Hence c6 giving it an escape square, but black has missed Simon’s secondary plan, setting up a queen fork by opening the a2-g8 diagonal. It all looks very straightforward – in fact it’s quite a lot more complicated than it looks! It’s worth playing through the lines. But anyway Simon won a piece and that was enough for the game.
Next were two more draws, myself in a Pirc where I was better for much of the game but failed to convert, and Liam in a slightly strange Caro-Kann exchange variation which eventually became something like a Panov-Botvinnik attack. Liam’s game had many swings back and forth and ended in a fascinating Knight v. Bishop endgame which if I had more time and energy I would cover. But pride of place goes to the last to finish, Eldar who won very cleanly in nice classical style, exploiting his space advantage to slowly crush his opponent:
So a good solid win to kick off the season:
Just 4 days later we faced University 1 at Corpus Christi College.
Uni 1 have won everything for the last few years, but this season they have looked somewhat weaker, and indeed when we arrived while it was clear that it would be tough it would not be impossible.
When I say “we” the team had changed somewhat. On the plus side we did have Nigel, but had lost Eldar. And we had a disadvantage the students would be unlikely to have to deal with – It being Halloween Liam and Simon were unavailable due to having to run the local toddler protection racket, sorry I mean having to take their little ones out Trick or Treating. But in John and Andrey we had a couple of very capable substitutes.
And then the University team had a bit of bad luck – just after the match started their Captain was called away and had to resign his game. Not the nicest way to get a point, but that meant Andrey finished early with a win to his name.
After that it started to look like usual business for Uni 1. Nalin lost a piece and resigned, soon followed by John doing the same. 2-1 to the University, but not without hope, I was better on my board, as was Mark, and on top board Nigel was almost holding his own against the very useful Nicholas Clanchy.
Nigel’s game is a good example of never give up. Or maybe it is a good example of Nigel’s amazing ability to pull results out of nowhere. Let’s look at the crucial move:
Nigel has struggled hard against his appreciably higher rated opponent, but at move 41 the simple truth is he is lost; the pawns are just marching through. But then Black manages to lose a vital tempo allowing Nigel to get his own pawn through, and it’s a draw! I wouldn’t dwell on this if this was a one off, but Nigel has an incredibly ability to do this sort of thing, I wish he could teach it to the rest of us … As an exercise try and work out what Black’s best continuation is at move 41.
So it’s Uni 1 2 1/2 Cumnor 1 1 1/2. Mark finishes next, a win!
I’ve said before I really don’t understand the Dutch. To me black always seems to have no room and the pieces aren’t working, and then black crashes through on the king side. As supporting evidence the game above is exhibit 1, at least as far as I am concerned. I can sort of see Mark working his “bad” white squared bishop around to the king side to make it “good”, and his opponent does seem to help a bit by swapping off pieces which removes Black’s cramp a bit, but, but, but … well I just don’t get it! Well played Mark, maybe you can explain how all this works to me one day? Uni 1 2 1/2 Cumnor 1 2 1/2 !
So I am the last to finish. I’ve been better for much of the game, but while I am still better at the end the tide has been against me for a while and the honest truth is my brain just felt fried and I was seeing nothing. So I accepted my opponent’s draw offer – should I have gone for the win and risked the match result? Not sure, I took a Captain’s view at the time that we had expected nothing out of this match so even a draw was an excellent result, so let’s grab that. Here’s the game, you can draw your own conclusions.
So a 3-3 draw – on one hand somewhat lucky, but on the other we could have won, but maybe with the unfortunate loss for the University on board 6 that would not have been really fair. So, looking on the bright side a point we never expected, and an excellent result whatever view you take:
After all this we’re currently third in the table:
Next up Witney on the 14th!