Eight ways to Sunday
Although term hasn't technically finished at the University of Bristol, mid-December and onwards tends to be a difficult time for organising a full-strength team. This was the case here, as University A were only able to muster five players. Gallant Jerry decided not to offer the default board to either of the busy teachers or Dr Fry, or Henry, whatever he's currently doing and instead claimed it for himself. His ruthless lack of compassion backfired as Richard had decided to settle in for a few pints at the Student Union bar despite it being a home match and Jerry was back in the game and this time on a higher board.
Henry had chosen to experiment with a new opening move because if board one in division one isn't the place to punt a new opening, where is? As is so often the way with new openings, Henry was soon in unfamiliar territory and winging it on his own. Chris had reached his familiar white pawn centre with a pawn on c3 and nothing to show on the d or e-files so probably had an edge, though perhaps only in familiarity. Jerry was striking back against Alice with a queenside invasion, aiming to improve his position enough to offer the draw.
Having soon amassed a whopping time advantage Nigel snatched a pawn, offering bishop for three pawns and an unclear attack but Ilias settled for the marginal material deficit and potential kingside counter-play. Ravi had played the less sharp variation of the Sveshnikov (I imagine blame lies with Daniel Young) but solid play paradoxically led to a wilder position. Board six was my favourite, as it was the only one that looked a clear win for Downend A.
Henry was finding himself in a passive double rook and pawn endgame with Bogdan's king racing to the centre like a politician before an election. Unfortunately for the university, Henry was able to activate his awful, awful rooks and managed to save the draw. Charlie appeared to be in a strong position ready to scoop up a pawn, improving his pieces before finally snapping off the material just like a strong player would. Jerry had exchanged off pieces and was hoping to make the most of his connected and passed a and b-pawns, while Alice was aiming to generate her own pair by exchanging pawns on the f-file.
After white's kingside was blown wide open, Ravi played my favourite defensive move of the night: Bc8 (as white). Admittedly it wasn't necessarily correct or accurate as was agreed later but it was spectacular and in that sort of a position, that's all you can really hope for. Charlie cooly ignored the implied f-file threats and won the game. Nigel declined a few draw offers and despite a hairy moment where black's charging passed pawns looked scary, was then able to prove white's advantage by taking home the point.
Having finally reached what looked to be a winning endgame Jerry aimed to seal the match (despite already having 3½) by offering a draw, but it was rejected and suddenly white's pawns looked to be causing real threats of their own. Chris had won himself an extra pawn which also resulted in two connected passed pawns but then swapped off all the pawns on the kingside which allowed Philipp to sacrifice a piece for Chris' passers. The resulting three vs two minor piece endgame was agreed as a draw before the real time scramble began. In Jerry's game after the final knights were exchanged off the kings nestled in the crooks of the passed pawns and a draw was sensibly agreed.
This final unconvincing and barely deserved win means that Downend A finish the first half of the season with a fantastic eight wins from eight games, four points ahead of nearest rival Horfield A. We're all going to have to up our games to bring this fourteen win streak to a close.