I'm not sure how the monkeys got on but the B team did fine!

17th January 2017 - Clifton B vs Downend B

We only heard on Sunday that Lewis was under the weather and I was asked to stand in on the understanding that I would not play my "usual sacrificial rubbish" or some such comment.

I had known for a while that one other regular was unavailable on account of attending some broadcasting recording. When I realised it was Mike M, I assumed it must be "I'm sorry I haven't a clue" but it turned out to be "Teenage Mutant Infinite Monkeys" or some such. Apparently it's a sort of cartoon science programme for under fives and I can't for the life of me think why Mike would go to that rather than play for the Bs. I can only assume he took a leaf out of his catalogue of favourite A team flimsy excuses.

So you're stuck with me for a report and there we were with four regulars anyway, which turned out to be one more than Clifton had. And we found ourselves sharing the room with our F team. (Thomas Carter had a very smooth win but the other three only managed one draw.)

In the main event Martin was first to finish, playing his pet variation against the Sicilian. I don't pretend to understand it as it seems far too risk-free for my taste but it has served Martin well and he built a small positional plus with various probing threats. But Mark was able to fend them all off and they soon shook hands.

My Sicilian was fairly standard except that I pushed my KRP to h5 and h4 by move 13 against Anthony's castled King. It meant that when I later also castled K-side my pawn "fortress" was on g6, f5 and e4. It looked dodgy enough to offer a draw, which was firmly rejected and Dave later confirmed that I stood worse (he thought!). But when Anthony tried to open the g file, I was able to pseudo-sacrifice an exchange to relieve some of the pressure and then, lo and behold, I had an embarrassingly flukey sequence which caused immediate resignation.

A quick scan of the top four boards suggested we were doing fine on all of them. Most noticeably, Javier was having great fun tormenting Dominic with provocative knight moves. He won three pawns for it plus all sorts of pressure and was soon able to simplify down to rook and six pawns, all well coordinated and protected, against rook and two. Even my grannie could have won that one! Very nicely played and maybe we shall all be allowed to see it.

Andrew also built a dominant position with his rooks and bishops much better placed than Manuel's. This led to the gain of a pawn or two but, somehow there was simplification and, to quote Andrew, he had to win it all over again, this time a rook ending with 3 K-side pawns against 2. Fortunately his endgame technique was up to the task. First he won a second pawn and in the end he was able to let one of his own drop when his King could shepherd the other one home. So that clinched the match with 3½ points in the bag.

Mike had a solid but very complex position, no weaknesses that I could see and nasty threats building against Anton's g2 square. Possibly even more crucial was the fact that Mike had at least a 20 minute time advantage as they went in to the final half hour. When Mike won an exchange there was really no hope for Anton and when another piece fell he conceded.

While all this was going on, Steve was tussling with IM Chris. He played extremely well through a complex middle game to reach a knight ending a pawn up. He had a, c, f, g, and h pawns against e,f,g,h. There was possibly a win there but these endings are notoriously tricky with time running lower. By the time it came down to two clear pawns up, they were the f and h pawns and Chris got his pieces near enough to force the draw. Nevertheless a great personal result for Steve to cement a fine team performance.

That win puts the B team up to third in division one. Can the challenge for the title still be on? Only the webmaster knows for certain.

Ian Pickup