|Barnsley A||4||4||Nomads A|
|Andy Butterworth (b)||0||1||Jon Nelson|
|Martin Sheard||0.5||0.5||Andrew Hards|
|Richard Desmedt||0.5||0.5||Geoff Frost|
|Ken Hunter||0.5||0.5||Ian Barwick|
|Tony Pogson||0||1||Mike Newett|
|Pete Micklethwaite||1||0||Wilson Banda|
|Neil Todd||0.5||0.5||Steve Withington|
We’ve struggled at Barnsley more than once in the past, and today was no exception. A default on the bottom board was not a good start. I spent most of the evening outside coughing or in the bathroom so didn’t see a great deal of the games. A draw after 25 or so minutes on board three wasn’t ideal in the circumstances – Geoff and Richard sheathing their swords early on – but Martin and I weren’t too far behind (I’ve yet to beat him in several attempts so a draw was a bit of a bonus personally in the circumstances!). Mike’s game also finished prematurely – Tony managed to get his queen trapped early on and resigned soon after. So even-Stevens after a very quick first half… the second half was not quite so fast though. Steve, Wilson and Jon all seemed under varying degrees of pressure whilst Ian seemed to have an attack brewing. Wilson eventually found Pete’s passed pawns too much, and even a piece sacrifice was not enough to stop them rolling through his position. Steve held on in his game and Neil agreed a draw in a position that may or may not have had more play in it – so we were 3.5 – 2.5 down; Ian’s draw with Ken, under some pressure, was well timed and though we couldn’t win the match, we could still draw it so everything came down to Jon. Andy repeated a combination he had recently played but crucially a piece was not on the same square as it had been before and when Jon’s counter-attack came, it picked up a loose rook and sealed a win which earned us a hard-fought, barely-scraped draw. PHEW! At least we go into the Xmas break still unbeaten… although it was a close one and no mistake.
|Darnall & Handsworth A||2.5||5.5||Nomads A|
|Rob Woodford (b)||0.5||0.5||Jon Nelson|
|Aram Ter-Gevorkian||0||1||Chris Shephard|
|Marek Gajdosz||0||1||Andrew Hards|
|Geoff Brown||1||0||Mike Newett|
|Danny Dawson||1||0||Ian Barwick|
|Craig Chatterton||0||1||Nick Mahoney|
|Joanna Kromka||0||1||Wilson Banda|
|Mick Turnidge||0||1||Rahul Kumar|
Our second match of 2018 and a trip to dark horses, Darnall and Handsworth. They were missing a number of their top boards from this season, which undoubtedly helped us albeit we were also not at our strongest and indeed, I only managed to scrape together a full team on the morning of the match.
The games got underway at around 7.40, with the throbbing rhythm of the KeepFit class reverberating under our feet for the first 20 minutes or so. As per usual, some games moved at a much faster rate than others and it wasn’t long before Wilson was into an endgame with Joanna, a pawn up. When I next checked, he was a bishop up as well and her resistance did not last too much longer with him picking up her remaining pawns. The overall match position looked quite good at this point – Jon wasn’t more than 10 or so moves into his game, Chris was into a queenless middle-game, my position was…complicated, Mike seemed to be on the front foot, Ian didn’t appear to have any issues, Nick was on top with a queenside attack and Rahul seemed to have more space in which to muster an assault.
Rahul finished next and we were 2-0 up. An ending that was advantageous became entirely crushing when Mick dropped an entire rook. Jon’s game wasn’t too far behind. Rob seemed to have a bit of pressure on the a1-h8 diagonal but it ultimately fizzled out into a draw and we were 2 points away from the win. However… there was no sign of this happening any time soon as most of the remaining games carried on long into the evening. Ian was eventually next to finish, but unfortunately for us Danny got revenge for a defeat last season by turning the tables as Ian dropped the exchange and became passive, to be eventually checkmated on the 7th rank as his clock ran down. The gap was soon back up to two points, however, as Nick’s pressure on the queenside eventually told, giving him a material advantage with Craig unable to avoid further exchanges and extremely short on time.
3.5 – 1.5 with myself, Chris and Mike left playing. All eyes seemed to be on boards 3 and 4 (two games for the price of one, spectator-wise I guess!). I had thrown my pieces at Marek’s kingside, but couldn’t find a sacrificial win and eventually went for a speculative sac on d6 (two pawns for a piece, with a guaranteed win of the exchange as well). It probably wasn’t quite good enough, and the computer slightly prefers Black once the dust settled. Fortunately for me, however, Marek immediately blundered allowing me to win a whole piece, and the ending, Rook + Bishop vs Knight + Bishop, was just winning provided I avoided any nasty forks. I did, and when my pawn reached the seventh I found a neat little tactic to force an immediate win and get us over the finishing line. I glanced at Mike’s position and it looked, on the face of it, as if Geoff had blundered a piece away and with only a queen and rook would struggle to finish Mike off – but I must have missed something as whilst Marek and I were replaying our game, Geoff informed me that he had won so the rook, queen and pawn on the 6th must have been more threatening than I had thought with my quick look.
It had looked like Chris’ game would be hard to win – a pawn up but in a rook and pawn ending and I couldn’t see how he could hold all his pawns without being constantly checked by Aram’s rook. But this is Chris we’re talking about and he expertly nursed his pawns to eventually emerge successful, putting a nice gloss on the result. So overall a pleasing result considering the scramble I had on to get a team together. We move up to second, behind Chesterfield, and with our clash against them postponed, we face Ecclesall next later in February.
|Hillsborough A||3½ – 4½||Nomads A|
|Sue Maroroa||1/2 – 1/2||Jon Nelson|
|Paul Fletcher||1/2 – 1/2||Chris Shephard|
|Carl Walker||0 – 1||Andrew Hards|
|Khaled Muflehi||0 – 1||Geoff Frost|
|Bryan Wood||1 – 0||Wilson Banda|
|John Mercy||1/2 – 1/2||Ian Barwick|
|Gerry Fletcher||0 – 1||Stuart Crosthwaite|
|Mike Grimsley||1 – 0||Nick Mahoney|
Match day two… Jon was back… and so was Sue for the hosts which wasn’t unexpected, but of course made our task just that extra bit trickier. Our opponents have had a name change over the summer but they still bat very deep and on paper this looked like a very closely matched contest. Over the board it would prove to be even closer. Last time around, our lower order had bailed us out but this time we would need the top boards to step up. Given that the corresponding fixture last season had seen us lose heavily (blowing up our title chances in the process) the stage was set for an almighty tussle and a chance at some form of revenge. The first result was positive – Geoff’s four pawn attack looked like some heavy duty theory for virtually every move and when Khaled didn’t find the right response, one queen sacrifice later it was mate in two over the board and a healthy start for us. Jon and Sue then took a relatively early draw in a queenless middlegame after what looked like a pretty cautious opening; 50% over the remaining boards would suffice but that was no means certain. Chris seemed slightly better, perhaps, whilst I was trying to demonstrate that Carl’s pawn sacrifice was not sound by grimly holding onto the extra pawn. Wilson seemed to be having the worst of it against Bryan, positionally not as strong and a pawn down. Ian was also a pawn down – possibly sacrificed as he was looking to build an attack on John’s queenside. Stuart was two pawns up in a French defence for seemingly nothing so I felt reasonably confident there, but Nick was also a pawn down and Mike’s pieces all seemed to be pointing in the right direction.
So it wasn’t a big shock when Wilson was next to finish – he dropped a piece in the endgame and that was more than enough to see Bryan smoothly convert. Back to level pegging and still down materially at least in a couple of the games – a tense situation but one that for once, I didn’t seem to be struggling too much with. Carl offered a second pawn sac as he tried to find a way through to my king, but that was also snaffled and followed up by my c- and d- pawns advancing up the board and sealing the win (although naturally I missed the best, last move in favour of something more pragmatic). Back in the lead…I thought. But at some point either just prior or just after my game had concluded, Nick’s position had caved in. To paraphrase his words afterwards, ‘Mike kept playing threatening moves’. It certainly looked that way from what I saw as both sides of the board came under concerted pressure for a large proportion of the middlegame. So were were actually level again with 3 left. Chris had got down to a rook and pawns ending a pawn up but the pawns were split and after much to-ing and fro-ing Paul found a way to eliminate all the remaining pawns and leave a dead drawn ending the result. 3-3 and all eyes on boards 6 and 7. Stuart was the exchange up, and then finally a whole rook up as Gerry’s bishop ended up pinned to his king and dropping off the board as both players entered the last 2-3 minutes of their time. Stuart kept a cool head (as I was losing mine thinking he had missed a mate) and eventually forced off a rook pair to leave him with a won position. 4-3 to us, Ian an exchange down after a sac on c6 to try to get at John’s king. With both players approaching the final few seconds of their time, Ian chased John’s king across the board and tied up his rook to defence; with Ian’s king solidly placed behind bishop, knight and pawns there wasn’t going to be a winner in mutual time trouble and when John offered a draw, Ian duly accepted and the match was won. Hooray! This felt much more like a victory earned than one handed to us by good fortune, with some valiant defence on the part of Hillsborough only really collapsing at the last. What is also positive is that we appear to be sharing contributions this season as well with no one on 100% after two games; a good sign as regards team strength and team performance. Now we take a break before the next fixture falls on Halloween…
Two matches, two 4.5 – 3.5 wins. We apparently want to make this season as nerve-wracking as possible for the captain. Thanks team!