Ever since I single-handedly won the league title for the A-team last week, coming back to the B-team has felt like something of a come down. Nevertheless our own challenge to be the top placing second team in the division has its own merit. It's a good challenge for two reasons; we set it for ourselves whilst leading the pack and because there are only two other B-teams in the league.
South Bristol A have a very strong squad registered, though they have struggled to get everyone out in a single team this season, which was highlighted by their 3 substitutes. Tyson was also in attendance but chose to offer some coaching rather than play. Either way, they were still a strong team. We were also without our strongest lineup as Lewis had betrayed us in favour of a Oxfordshire league match and the last encounter had been very close. In any case, two early finishes went to show that opening principles are far from hard and fast rules.
Stephen and Patryk went for a sideline where black had both bishops fianchettoed and white took the centre. Javier also chose to avoid main lines against the Sicilian on board 2 aiming for rapid kingside expansion. Andrew went hypermodern against Shane but in striking back at the centre lost a pawn. Mike's game looked interesting as both sides lodged knights on invading outposts on b4 and b5 though most of the action was happening on the kingside.
I chanced my arm again thinking that I wouldn't be so unlucky as to face two English opening players who'd be happy to play an early e4 in two weeks. With 3.e4 again on the board I was again compelled to play another early f5 and launch my queen. Martin found himself with every club player's nightmare; an isolated queen's pawn, but with all the pieces still in play and no exchanges available to black in the immediate future, white had an edge.
On board 2 Tony allowed the opening of both kingsides but it was Javier that was able to capitalise quickest and thanks to a sneaky bishop tactic the game was over before the a1-rook or the b1-knight ever got going, which just goes to show that development isn't everything.
I soon followed having nabbed a few pawns after some inaccurate play from both sides. In a bid to drum up counter play Andy sacrificed a piece to leave my king at least three squares away from any other black piece and surrounded by white bishops and rooks. Unfortunately the subsequent checks forced my king to hide on c6 after which black's mating threats were too strong. This game just goes to show that early f-pawn moves, early queen sorties and wide open king vulnerability never get punished. (I have quite brazenly included this game, mostly for a few of the nice tactical motifs hidden in the variations.)
Stephen had achieved a good position in his game, white's loose pawn was never quite weak enough to be captured, after which Patryk would still have had excellent drawing chances so a draw was sensibly agreed.
Martin, who had achieved a comfortable position then let it slip by (I believe) overlooking an intermezzo that cost him a piece. Dorota then continued her quest to become South Bristol board 1 by converting the position without much difficulty. Andrew had locked the position up quite nicely consigning Shane's extra pawn to a reserve role as part of a doubled a-pawn pair. Despite the invading knight, white was unable to make any further progress as there were just too many pawns in the way. With Shane getting very low on time a draw was agreed.
The score now at 3-2, Mike had to score at least a draw but he was comfortably able to press. Black was able to force white to shuffle some pieces but before white's attack could come crashing through Dave's flag fell.
This turned out to be smoother win than expected, helped by two quick wins in our favour. Thankfully it also ends our losing streak! Let's hope South Bristol can muster a few of their top boards in their remaining fixtures