Following our great result on Saturday, we were feeling optimistic ahead of Sunday's match. We took on Barbican Youth, who for once lived up to their name by fielding four juniors. With a healthy rating advantage concentrated on the lower boards, the plan was simple: win at the bottom, hold at the top. After trekking across several continents to get from our rooms to breakfast, back to our rooms to prepare, and then back again to the main block to reach the playing hall, the team arrived in suspiciously good order and they were off.
With your humble scribe watching this one from the subs bench to make way for Nigel, leadership of the theoreticians' guild passed to, of all people, Captain Jerry. He looked as bemused as everyone else when preparation led him straight into a won position by move 10, but it looked like our half of the scoreboard would be ticking over soon.
Meanwhile, the top boards had started to settle down. David, to the dismay of the spectators, uncharacteristically went for an early queen swap and settled down for the long haul. Chris had had a promising if messy opening, a thought which delighted him as much as ever, Phil had a standard Sicilian bind, and Charlie's game was no more than clock brinksmanship at this stage.
The lower order looked more interesting. Super-sub Nigel was playing a strategic King's Indian, and after swapping off Black's light-squared bishop he seemed to be doing well. Max looked like he knew he what he was doing in a mainline Caro-Kann, and Jerry was by now recounting his 11-year-old opponent's death throes. That just left Michael. With an uninspiring game at best after 10 moves, he would have to eke out his 98-point grading advantage the slow, painful and embarrassing way.
Feeling quite happy at this stage, I went down to the main playing hall to watch the Division 1 games for a while. Apparently this was the turning point, for things had soured somewhat by the time I got back. Nigel's queenside play had ground to a halt, and in the end it took some sangfroid on the kingside to get a useful draw. Michael had finally managed to untangle and win a pawn, but around them it looked dicier. David's opponent had started to take over the initiative, Charlie had finally emerged from the opening but a pawn short, and Max's attack looked a bit too slow. There was still hope though, with Michael likely to win despite his best efforts, Chris's position at least looking less ragged than his opponent's, and Phil now a pawn up after his opponent had turned down a draw.
Disaster was about to strike though, as Chris stepped on a classic 4NCL Sunday landmine, forgetting that a move he'd analysed 10 minutes earlier lost on the spot. Although Michael had converted by now, Max had given up the exchange and didn't look like getting enough counterplay, so we suddenly needed everything to go right. And it did - for Barbican. David's position was unclear but seemed to be turning against him when he blundered a rook in time trouble. Phil's opponent had given up a second pawn and then a piece for an attack which proved stronger than expected, forcing him to throw material overboard.
So once the remaining games had reached the time control the score was 2½-2½, but it was effectively all over. Max's opponent gradually dampened down his counterplay and made the exchange tell. Phil's attempts to defend rook and knight against queen were in vain, and although Charlie had got his pawn back he reached a difficult rook ending that was eventually lost as well, leaving the final score at 2½-5½.
A disappointing day then, but with one win in the bank it was still a successful weekend on the whole. In January we go up to Northampton for two tough fixtures, but as long as there isn't another room for me to wander into part-way through I think we should be fine.