|Nomads A||5½ – 2½||Woodseats A|
|Jonathan Nelson W||1 – 0||Alan W Potts|
|Chris C W Shephard||1 – 0||Nigel Carpino|
|Samuel Milson||1 – 0||Andy W Lee|
|Andrew Hards||1/2 – 1/2||Peter Hulse|
|Henry Withington||0 – 1||David Toft|
|Steve Withington||1 – 0||Shane Frith|
|Peter John Morton||1 – 0||Michael Mullin|
|Selamet Soxsal||0 – 1||Dave L Cook|
Our first match at our new venue featured a Nomads A debut for Peter, a return for Pasha, and Henry playing on his highest board in the top flight. Our opponents turned up with only one of their four registered players, a debutant on board seven, and Shane making a return after missing virtually all of last season. No sign of Bill returning to the fold just yet, but I do believe he may have had to be *persuaded* not to turn out just yet as he recovers from his recent health scare.
The match itself was made more interesting by the presence of the local darts league across the room (our guests will have been used to that, having spent a season sharing a room with a darts team a few years ago), the gentle thud of the arrows into the board offering a contrast to the low level hum of 16 brains musing over our chess pieces. Speaking of which… to the match. Alan opted for the black pieces against Jon and a French defence that, oddly enough, was quite sharp after a handful of moves. After only a dozen moves in total, the game was over – I assumed at first a theoretical draw, but actually Alan had blundered a piece and against Jon, even that early in the game, there’s no way back. Not quite a ‘one hunnnerd and EIGHTY’ but not far off for our first point of the season.
There was, at this point, a significant lull in proceedings. Our top boards looked generally pretty good (Sam’s first league match in over a year was very sharp, mine was developing into ‘who can land the first blow’ and Chris and Nigel seemed to have an open queenside to play with that was making for some interesting positions and veiled attacks). Lower down the story wasn’t overly dissimilar, Henry seemed to be gaining an advantage in space, Steve was quietly bettering his side of the board, Peter was under a fair amount of central pressure, and Pasha’s attack looked like it could be problematic. But… Pasha dropped a couple of pawns in complications and his kingside attack was going nowhere fast – Dave’s passed pawn on the 6th was strong and perhaps resignation was slightly premature. A couple of treble twenties from the visitors and things had leveled up.
At this juncture, the top order took over and boards three, two and four were next to conclude. Sam was first – a complex middle-game with multiple pieces attacked and attacking on both sides and some interesting combinations that concluded with Sam a piece up and Andy conceding. Chris’ pressure on Nigel’s back rank then told – his extra pawn on the 7th and mating/piece-winning threats were just too strong. At this point, I was feeling pretty confident that we should see out the match and so after my attack fizzled out and Peter offered first a queen exchange, then his hand, I took the half point and we were suddenly within sight of the finishing line – who would seal the deal with a bullseye?
That honour fell to Peter. Michael had concocted a strong attack but Peter defended staunchly and (I suspect – I didn’t actually see!) when Michael’s sacrificial attack didn’t carry enough weight, the eventual simplification left Peter a whole rook up and able to neutralise any residual mating threats quickly and easily. Game, set…and the match. All of which left the Withingtons playing out two dead rubbers at this point – a point apiece with the father turning a tricky endgame his way as Steve wielded a piece-winning tactic to spoil Shane’s return to competitive action, and the son eventually going down in an ending as Henry’s attempts to force a pawn over the line were deftly defended by Dave until his material advantage told.
A good start to the season against opponents who will likely be significantly stronger in the return match. We’ll take the win, hope to avoid the darts next time around, and look forward to winter with the hope that this season we can compete once again at the top of the table.