Back to the drawing board
The university is always a bit of a hit or miss team. At the start of the season you have no way of knowing what new stars they'll have discovered (though the surprises aren't always confined to the start of the season. Worse, the hectic life of a student means their teams are always unpredictable. This season the University team has struggled against some of the top teams, which has left them just above the relegation zone. We however, were without Lewis and Stephen so a good contest was in prospect.
Despite some preliminary concerns about the M32 everyone managed to get to the venue and even park on time. In even better news the match room was probably the best the University has had in years.
Andrew started with an offbeat Najdorf variation against Mark that immediately slowed the game down. The care taken black by black resulted in an almost instantly dropped a pawn to avoid an exchange of queens. Javier found himself without any development but with the centre reasonably closed it wasn't too worrying. I had tried to trick Philipp with some move order shenanigans in the opening, the result of which was a very comfortable position for white, though neither of us knew what we should be doing.
Mike managed to inflict a weaker pawn structure on Arpit as he won the the bishop pair, but did have to contend with a lack of space and the difficult development of his light-squared bishop. Martin had established his usual advantage in a Maroczy bind and appeared to be pressing for more space. Dave was having all sorts of fun following a Hebden game with plenty of tricks in the opening. On the whole, things looked good for the team.
After what must've been an exhausting 13 moves, Andrew punted a draw offer while Mark contemplated grabbing a potentially poisoned pawn to regain material equality. Naturally it was accepted Though it looked like he had gained a solid pawn centre, the changes that ensued left a dry endgame to look forward to and Dave offered Evangelos a draw. What looked like two opening advantages had slipped to two draws. Jerry then arrived to hurl abuse at the boards and the finished games. Worse still, I had stubbornly refused to turn my attention from a kingside hack to sensible queenside pressing and my advantage had also withered to a third draw (though in fairness, I did manage to breach the 20-move barrier unlike my economical teammates).
Though those three small advantages had led to three draws there was still hope; Mike had freed his position and Martin had established a nice positional advantage all across the board. Javier was slowly freeing his position but it was costing him a lot of time.
As time ran low Mike found one of his bishops trapped by pawns and white's two knights. For the material he had only two pawns but as Arpit had under two minutes left on his clock he offered the draw. 2-2.
Despite all the quiet games, there were two time scrambles brewing. Martin let his several pawn advantage slip when Alice found a way to win a piece and then the final rook (it was a wild scramble). Martin's extra pawns were unable to hold back the onslaught and he lost on time by what must've been a second. Javier had also gone from a worse to superior position in the time scramble, which he'd been playing for longer than Bogdan (at one point it was over 10 minutes against just over 1). Fortunately for us, the flag fell on the University side this time and the match was saved.
As disappointing as it may feel to come away with anything less than the full two points given the earlier circumstances, full credit should go to the University team for holding on and at one point looking like they may even snatch the match.