Another Escape and Time for a Well-Earned Rest
South Bristol brought their expected strong squad combination, out-grading us on the top three boards but perhaps slightly surprisingly weaker than us on the bottom three, for what was bound to be a very closely contested match between teams eyeing two of the top four positions in Division 2.
Early signs of our battle saw our opponents looking very comfortable, with definite pluses on several boards. Martin had been given the dubious honour of contending top board against Iain and looked to be a clear pawn down with little compensation. Richard had achieved an early gain of central space, yet an exchange of pieces left his King looking extremely vulnerable to a king side Queen sortie combined with two advanced knights on secure outposts: a loss of an exchange was certain although I feared worse. Andy always seems to do well against me and certainly had the better out of his favourite opening, with a space advantage and an opportunity to trap one of my pieces.
On the positive side, a solid opening by Robert gave him the better looking position and no signs of his recent uncharacteristic struggles. Similarly, Dave played his opening well and had an easy space advantage although there were some possibilities of the position becoming blocked. Following an exchange of many pieces, Robert's game quickly petered out to a draw: a very good result against South Bristol's currently top performing A team player. Melvyn was pressing for an attack although I could not spot any obvious weaknesses in one of Dominique's typically solid positions. With Dominique's defences standing firm and exchanges of pieces leaving a very drawn looking position, the natural result quickly transpired.
Then the match remarkably swung in our favour. My opponent surprised me by sacrificing two of his central pawns for an attack, hoping to find a combination of best moves to exploit my weak King position, though thankfully didn't discover them all. I critically forced the exchange of pieces to nullify his offensive whilst pushing three central supported pawns. Andy graciously resigned when my time shortage may just have become a factor. I then glanced over at Richard's game, astonished to see that he had yet again managed to recover from what must have been a lost position and arrive a bishop for pawn up. In the end, Dorota's flag was to fall in a hopeless position for possibly the surprise result of the night, leaving the score 3-1.
With 5 minutes left, the "two Dave's" game was becoming more and more a question of when they would agree on a draw. First refusal was by Dave N but then with his time running out faster than Dave T, his renewed offer brought about a surprisingly long think for our Dave before a final acceptance to claim the match. By this stage, Martin was very short of time, had lost more than just a pawn and was trying to find a perpetual check to prevent Iain delivering imminent checkmate. With no escape available, Martin's resignation was forced to leave another close 3½-2½ result, which seems to be our trademark score this Season and reflects how close this and the majority of our matches have been so far.
After another escape, and now sitting in the top half of the table, the result leaves us able to take a well-earned break until our next match against Keynsham at their new venue next month.