Taken by surprise

22nd September 2016 - South Bristol A vs Downend B

As soon as the nights start drawing in, traffic around Bristol gets noticeably worse. Personally I blame the thousands of new and returning students that will no doubt ruin plenty of title challengers' days. Somewhat surprisingly everyone arrived almost on time (even if it took over an hour for some players to arrive!), though Andrew could be excused for having not been the Whitchurch Folk House before. Five boards started and Richard graciously waited for his opponent.

Stephen's game started normally enough and after a flurry of exchanges soon found itself in a rather level looking position with symmetrical pawns on both sides of the board. Humphrey had gone for an aggressive option in a sharp Najdorf against Lewis and followed his attack with an ambitious gambit with, in my humble opinion, very little hope of actual compensation. Javier was having a spectacular thematic game with opposite wing expansion where the pawns storming forward were sent from in front of their own kings. Despite this, neither player wanted to relieve the tension and seemed to spend an eternity shuffling their pieces ready for a grand breakthrough.

Javier's game

Javier's game. Despite a peaceable appearance, there were some wild complications available.

In my game I punted an idea that I had by coincidence learnt about earlier in the day mixing a Richter-Rauzer and an English attack. I thought I would gain play against an h6 weakness but instead wasted enough time that Tony was able to launch a queenside attack without my g and h-pawns ever passing the fourth rank. Mike's game against Gerry appeared to start in the endgame after the quick succession of exchanges, though clearly with some interesting play to be had.

After arriving Andrew went for an aggressive Austrian attack against something that wasn't a Pirc, but looked like a lot of fun for white nonetheless. After a while those pawns were met by black's in the centre and the position became locked.

Having survived the early attack and finding myself in a level endgame ready for some actual chess, I received a draw offer. Naturally I took a leaf out of Chris' book and accepted. Despite some attempts at attacking the few exposed pawns on the kingside, no reckless sacrifices could be found and Andrew and Richard decided to split the point.

Having achieved that compensation for his gambit Humphrey proceeded to gobble up pawns on the kingside but allowed Lewis to consolidate his connected passed f and e-pawns, which would soon start rolling up the board. After sinking into a long think about how to free a troublesome pinned knight, Humphrey perhaps missed the full extent of the danger and was soon compelled to give up his piece for the pawns. It didn't take long for Lewis to finish the position off. Mike's endgame had also become fantastically complicated after snatching a pawn but finding himself under immense pressure in the centre of the board, while his pieces were running out of squares.

Stephen appeared to be on the defensive side of a level position with both sides only possessing a dark-squared bishop. Patryk spurned the draw offer and set about fixing Stephen's pawns to the dark squares. Despite Stephen's defensive resources, Patryk managed to burst a pawn through which eventually decided the game. Clearly it's called a bishop's pawn for more than one reason.

The remaining games were now well into time scramble territory, Javier particularly low on time. He had gone for a surprise breakthrough on the queenside where he had much less space, but appeared to have made progress. Under the time pressure Iain left a skewer that cost him a rook and Javier took only thirty seconds of his remaining minute to convert the rest. Mike was pressing for a win even though his position was heading rather south (think "penguins"), but luck was clearly on his side as Gerry's flag was first to fall.

For South Bristol, this surprise loss will surely be seen as something of a stumble in their title bid (though I believe many A-teams have already suffered defeat so far and it may not prove that serious). Far worse however, is that Downend B are already guaranteed Division 1 winners. Place your 5000/1 bets now.

P.S. I've just noticed that Downend & Fishponds B are actually top of the league (half a game point above the A-team). Long may it last.

Michael Meadows