I woke up on the morning of this match with 6 players and the fear that we were going to turn up for the second season in the past 3 or 4 with only 3/4 of a team. Miraculously we had managed to win with 6 players the last time that happened, but I didn’t foresee that happening again so it was with a pretty big sigh of relief I secured the Woollards (yes, John too!) around mid-day and knew we wouldn’t be defaulting any boards. Barnsley had sportingly moved the fixture back a week when I realised I’d be defaulted 5 boards the previous Tuesday – this time around we were still missing most of our middle order with Jamie, Ian, Mike, Geoff, Henry, Arjun and Stuart all otherwise indisposed but we had a side, with B team captain Keith filling in to free Ian up for a vital match for the Bs on the same evening. Oven-related difficulties meant I was late turning up (with Nick in tow) and by the time I was settled at the board John and Neil were already into a queenless middlegame which was agreed drawn around about 8.15pm; Jo’s game finished maybe 15 minutes later when Anthony blundered his queen – after being the last to join the team, the Woollards were the first to leave, out the door well before 9.00pm with 1.5/2 pts in the bag. It wasn’t a whole lot later that Keith managed to turn his game around – Paul had had a good opening and was pressing on the queenside but Keith’s black-squared bishop and queen combined nicely for a mating attack, giving us a healthy lead. Nick and Ken drew shortly afterwards in what looked to be a fairly even and quite blocked-up position. That left the top three boards and Simon on 6 still playing. Jon had opted for complications in what had looked a pretty quiet middlegame – his king was dangerously exposed to mating threats but interposing his spare bishop to prevent Andy landing a knockout blow meant they eventually exchanged queens and were left with a rooks and pawns ending – all of which are drawn, right?
Speaking of draws, Pete and I have a habit of playing those out and this time around we had a slightly different game but the same outcome – once the queens were off there didn’t seem to be a huge amount left in the position for either of us and that’s now P3 D3 in our head-to-heads. Simon, on the other hand, was making headway in his game on the queenside – with Richard having castled long his king was gradually coming under sustained assault and although I missed the ending, it did seem likely that either Simon would crash through and win quickly or Richard would spend a significant time grovelling before possibly escaping into an ending. Judging by how soon the game finished, I would assume the former outcome. That took us over the line, with a 5-2 lead unassailable and only Chris left to finish. It wouldn’t be Chris without a little bit of time pressure, but once he had successfully reached 30 moves, and once Martin had generously adjusted the clocks by giving Chris 15 mins back and himself only 10 (which Chris realised and corrected not long after, for the record!), a draw offer followed shortly afterwards. A nice win, with all top five boards drawing and the bottom three winning, was done and dusted around 9.45 for what must have been our earliest finish of the season. Fair play to Barnsley, for letting us move the match, and whilst the title has already been decided, we move on now to a back-to-back matches against Woodseats to round off the season.