Unfounded Defeat After Conclusive Losses
You never know what to expect and who you might play against University. Our problems weren't helped when I was unexpectedly one short and had to call on Michael who had played a difficult game away at Bath the night before: not the best preparation. We all knew that the match was going to be close, having small grading advantages on the middle four boards with a distinct disadvantage for Martin on board one.
First to finish was Richard, who after his recent struggles with his form was happy to take a comfortable draw about half way through the evening. Martin was entering 'his' version of the Sicilian and doing well. Michael had won a pawn and was slightly better, but not with a winning advantage. Robert looked to be enjoying his game by controlling space and having the more active pieces - plus well ahead on time as Ilias was having to ponder over many of his moves. Dave was a sacrificed pawn down although with plenty of activity and more on the clock. Unfortunately, I gave up a pawn in the opening hoping for activity but then missed winning tactics whilst allowing Ravi to pick up a second pawn. Early indications, therefore, that we wouldn't have any problems except on my board.
In Martin's game, pieces were swapped off to reach a favourable knight versus bad bishop ending which Martin then proceeded to demonstrate how to win, forcing Mark's resignation. Around the same time, Robert's game had also liquidated into an ending which, although Robert might have been better and certainly had more time, with the match looking safe he agreed a draw. Dave's pawn sacrifice was fully justified although it turned out that he was given just one opportunity to capitalise when, unfortunately, he chose another variation. This led to more trading of pieces and another sharing of the point to bring us to 2½-1½.
Nearing the end of the evening, Michael was still a pawn up although short of time. My game had become even more complicated after I had picked up the exchange but was still down two pawns, with two threatening central connected pawns just about to pick up one of my pieces. Then Michael's game finished and I assumed that we had at least done enough to draw the match. Not so, it turned out that the pawn advantage was minimal and that Alice had back rank threats which were just too difficult to meet under time pressure. So unexpectedly all square and all to play for.
I tempted my opponent into picking up a poisoned rook to allow an attack. Ravi took it but it was only poisoned if I remembered that he was threatening mate in one after a discovery. This I completely forgot and instead of activating a bishop into my attack, which would have been winning, I took a piece and was hitting his rook which I thought I could just take after the discovery - but no, that would have given mate in one to Ravi. I desperately tried to salvage something with us both down to under a minute, but failed and the match was theirs.
After losses for all four of the top teams in recent weeks, this result leaves things very close at the top. Clevedon A are now looking strong favourites, although they will need to beat South Bristol B in a few weeks. We must beat both Horfield C and South Bristol B to finish second, whilst our other remaining fixture against Keynsham won't be an easy one as they are fighting to stay in the Division. Still, with our strong B team getting crushed 0-6 this week, Division One isn't that appealing at present!