Too Close for Comfort at Thornbury
Thornbury have a very strong squad and managed to put out their strongest five players to face us in only their second match of the Season, out-grading us on the top three boards, yet we hoped that they might be a bit rusty. Another match in a row where the opponent's team captain opted not to select himself, which may just have affected the result. Thornbury have a 'new' room - their old one, in fact - and after a while it became apparent that the heating needed some adjustment in the downward direction, as did the occasional booming music from downstairs.
The first half of the match saw us with inferior positions on boards 2, 5 and 6 and apparently equal on the others. Robert had unintentionally sacrificed a piece for two pawns, having hoped for a third which failed due to tactics, and his position really did look sad. Richard followed suit, for the same reason, although maybe he had some minor compensation - that is until he left his rook en prise. After my opening disaster last week, I decided to be more defensive - yet this allowed my opponent to gain space and leave me rather cramped, as well as leaving me behind on the clock.
Then things swung in our favour. Firstly, a pawn advance by Ian on my castled position, before he had himself moved his King, gave me the opportunity for a counter-punch, resulting in the gain of the forward pawn plus a huge bind on the position and Ian's King looking unsafe. He didn't have an opportunity to recover as I pressed, then gained queen for rook and swiftly won. Richard shook hands - I assumed to resign - but no, he had incredibly managed to recover his lost piece and arrive at a drawn ending! By now, Dave and Andrew had arrived at a pretty much blocked position with just rooks and a piece each remaining and agreed to share the point.
Dominique enjoyed a good quality drawn game where he had to keep a cold-blooded viewpoint of his position so as to not fall for any illusionary threats on his King side. Short of time although in a good position, and as we looked to be near winning the match, he in effect forced his opponent to sacrifice her remaining knight to give what he had foreseen was a perpetual check, to bring the game to a peaceful conclusion. The match score 2½-1½ with Martin now an exchange up, after a cute middle game tactic, in a pawn ending. Martin secured the two points by giving back the exchange to gain a pawn whilst creating his own unstoppable passed pawn.
That left Robert in a vain attempt to recover something from his game, yet David was having none of it and brought the match to a swift conclusion with a skewer of Queen and threatened discovered check. Nevertheless, another close match and an excellent team performance against a former Division one club. The result leaves us very comfortably placed in the table although no doubt South Bristol will bring a strong team combination when we meet in our next match.