Happy New Year

3rd January 2017 - Horfield D vs Downend D

Apparently they have a tradition at Horfield for the first match of the new year called the Ceremony of the Keys where we all stand around in the snow while they figure out how to unlock the church rooms. Fortunately seasonal good humour prevailed and we eventually settled down for some chess, having turned down the kind offer of six quick draws so that we could all have an early night.

Oli was the first to thaw out and, although I couldn't see why his opponent resigned, he explained to me that he was in fact a rook up. I must remember to count the rooks when assessing a position. Nigel was not long behind Oli, so 2-0 up fairly early on but the other games were tougher.

If anything we had pluses on the White boards, 1 & 3. I liked the look of James's attack against Robert and I had better development than Alex. But Dave was rather tied down against Graham and Neil was probably even against Howard.

Next to finish was James, who obtained a monster knight (supported by a pawn) on the seventh and rooks controlling key files. He forced the win of material and Robert resigned when faced with impossible threats to his King. Meanwhile Alex had reduced pressure by forcing the Queens off but at the cost of stranding his Knight. It was tricky for a few moves but it turned out that the Knight could not be extricated, except for snaffling a pawn.

Neil and Howard each had Q, R, B, B and about four pawns and it looked level until Neil found a most unseasonable check, also forking a Bishop. Resignation soon followed and, when my extra piece finally told, that was 5-0, with at least half an hour still to go.

Some of us adjourned to the other room for a chat about the funny things that can happen in league chess and, when we remembered to check on Dave and Graham, we found Graham was the exchange up but with only two minutes against fifteen or so. With R and K well placed and Dave's Bishop tied down, Graham naturally wanted to press for a win and Dave, equally naturally, saw that the win was not straightforward with seconds ticking away. Dave had an extra pawn on the Q-side and, when it became passed, Graham gave up his Rook for it. He played on with no chance of winning now but then unfortunately his time ran out. In the final position Dave (Black) had just his h pawn and a dark squared Bishop. We reckoned afterwards that if Graham had claimed a draw under the two minute rule we would have agreed on the spot, even if the match had depended on it, since the White King could never have been budged from the h1 corner.

So, we were lucky to win 6-0 in the end but it should be added that Dave had fought valiantly in a very dodgy position and, not for the first time this season, managed to turn the tables. The big question was, could the A team do the double over Horfield B back at the ranch and make it a truly happy start to the year?

Ian Pickup