A Foggy Night and a Slip Up That Wasn't Seen
A murky trip to Keynsham and their new venue in the fog: luckily the green lights of the local Co-Op shone out to guide us near to the location. With Keynsham perhaps surprisingly at the base of the table, and ourselves near the top, surely the result should have been a foregone conclusion? Not so: we have been in the same situation before and struggled. The writing was on the wall (or at least the fluorescent sign was).
Early indications were encouraging, with only Richard (who not only had black but was out-graded) looking to be in an inferior position out of the opening. With white, Martin, Dominique and myself built up centres and gained space for comfortable edges. Both Robert and Dave had equalised with black, although perhaps Dave missed an early opportunity to apply more pressure to his opponent.
Two hours into the match, Martin was clearly better and was the first to finish after dominating play and gaining two exchanges. Robert had picked up a pawn or two in a minor piece endgame and whilst tricky I was hopeful that he would achieve the full point. Dominique also looked to be doing well in a complex game. Richard was still struggling, with Ben having what looked like a winning positional advantage and we would have to pray for another miracle. Further bad news in that Dave had dropped a pawn and whilst he was trying to create pressure with rooks looked like he might be subject to some nasty knight forks.
I was doing my best not to pick up free pawns and trying to get my pieces trapped, yet managed to land knights on very useful advanced squares creating pressure, whilst also harassing my opponent's queen. A last desperate attempt by Duncan to confuse matters only handed me a rook and the game with a double knight mate. Meanwhile Dave had succumbed to a dreaded fork which picked up a rook and Richard finally threw in the towel to leave the match all square at 2-2. If we could pick up a win on board 2 and a draw on 3 as I hoped, we would win the match.
Then under time pressure, Dominique seemed to miscalculate an exchange of pieces and allowed his opponent to pick up one for free - which being under even more time pressure he luckily missed. However, by this stage we were the exchange down and with time rapidly running out a draw was agreed. With a few minutes remaining, Robert lost one of his isolated passed pawns to leave at worst a drawn position, although with his clock running out I was concerned that his flag would fall. Fortunately, a draw was agreed in the nick of time to level the scores. After looking as if we might lose the match, we will certainly settle for a point. A slight slip up and then a further one followed on the ice caused by the freezing fog.
We now have one more match before the Christmas break, against North Bristol, who are also near the foot of the table. Based on tonight's result, we won't be counting on winning that one just yet.