4 draws and several games to go
Perhaps it was because our B-team had, on average, increased their grades by nearly 2 points each, but we felt we had a reasonable chance against the ever-mighty Clifton A. But then their team turned up. They were at full-strength for the first time since the start of October; our reputation clearly precedes us.
Lewis began by grabbing all the space in his game against James, in what must have been a very ambitious plan. Gareth appeared to be playing for a Scholar's Mate against Stephen's Caro-Kann and queens were quickly swapped off after mutual pins along the e-file. From there it appeared to be an endgame and I lost interest. White probably had a tiny edge thanks to a better pawn structure, but it was going to be mostly shuffling for a while. Javier pushed hard against John's 'solid' opening and by move 9 his e-pawn was checking on f7, but a few exchanges (including the queens) ensued which as everyone knows, means a draw.
I found myself moving into an opening of which I knew nothing and was required to spend plenty of time trying to untangle myself while protecting loose pawns in the centre and on the queenside. Mike, who according to his FIDE profile will soon be celebrating his 376th birthday, quickly saddled Dave with a backwards c-pawn. Dominique appeared to have survived the opening and a level middlegame was in progress.
After John and Javier had inadvertently found themselves in an endgame that had nothing of note for either side, they agreed a draw. Meanwhile I was discovering that the 'mega-fianchetto' isn't as powerful as the neologism suggests.
Thanks do a surprising intermezzo check Mike had won not only the backward c-pawn, but also the d-pawn and was now in a much better endgame. After feeling the pressure of time trouble I was lucky enough to equalise and reach a drawn ending after which Duncan offered to split the point. In further good news for the B-team, Gareth was attempting some trickery in an effort to push his c-pawn but an oversight cost him a rook and Stephen made short work of the rest of the game. Dominique had also reached a rook and pawn endgame where the rooks would be trying to take advantage of a well-protected pawn on their respective semi-open files, so he and Igor also split the point.
Having untangled his passive rooks from their defensive duties, Mike was able to simplify and convert the remaining endgame with relative ease.
On the top board, Lewis appeared to have made significant progress with his space though James was finding excellent defensive resources. With time scramble territory approaching the spectators may have been expecting some fireworks, but they were left disappointed. Unfortunately there was a problem with the clock and James sportingly offered a draw (though it should be noted that by the time the error was addressed black had done enough to draw the game).
And with that surprising win, Downend B find themselves (albeit with more games played) back up to second in the league!