September 2017 Hampstead U2200
Despite Chris "legend with the white bits" Russell (19+ 15= 1-) only recently leaving us to live with pseudo-club-member Phil Makepeace in London, I've been missing their berations and decided to take up the offer of a couch to play in the Hampstead Under 2200. Naturally as soon as I arrived we began intensive preparation for round 1 the next day and certainly didn't spend the night watching (and trying to figure out the rules of) kabaddi.
As it happens, time-trouble maestro and club traitor Humphrey Andolo was also in attendance, ready to dazzle everyone by uncorking spectacular tactics in the 30 second increment. The four of us were all in the top half of the seedings and, on paper at least, expected to cruise into round 2. While Phil and Humphrey managed this without any difficulty, Chris was unable to convert his pawn advantage after blundering a piece for a second pawn and held on for a draw. Worse, I had become overconfident in my position allowing my opponent to stir up wild and probably unsound complications that didn't work until two moves before I resigned. Having now experienced this from the other side of the board, I must say that it really is quite a sting.
Round 2 was a triumph for everyone as Phil and Humphrey continued on 100% and Chris demonstrated his skills with the black pieces and won. Hoping for a wild game I tried my first Evans gambit, which gained me nothing more than a Spanish-esque position down a b-pawn. The solid black defence took its toll on the clock and relying largely on the increment the position swung back in white's favour but the win came early when my opponent's flag fell.
With an undeserved 1 point from 2 games, I was determined to press in the last round of the day. This turned out to be against the only titled player in the field, but also the lowest seed. Obviously it was time to break out the Nimzowitsch Defence. Having move-ordered myself into a dodgy position (mostly by playing the Nimzowitsch) I found myself pressing in an endgame with a tiny advantage. After shuffling the bits aimlessly, white was suddenly in a grim zuzwang and threw in the towel.
Chris had once again won a pawn but was unable to convert the resulting rook and pawn ending and Phil also took a draw, as far as I can tell, because it was the third round of the day. Humphrey slipped in his game and lost to one of the eventual joint winners of the section.
The chaps made some spectacular chilli (which involved marmite and beer but no normal spices) and we began hearty preparations for round 4 the next morning.
Despite my earlier allusion to Chris' legendary form as white for the club, this was to be a tournament for his black pieces and he gained a decisive advantage very quickly against one of the obviously under-rated juniors (all sections were infested with them). Phil, now sitting on board 2, continued to show why he's such an in-demand chess coach by winning his game keeping him well within range of a prize. Humphrey had made great strides with a sacrificial attack on his opponent's king but when the momentum started to fade he chose to refuse a draw offer (his opponent was moving on only the increment for a considerable period) and it eventually cost him the game. I had risked a tactic in the midgame that won a pawn at the cost of a tragic endgame and then went straight into the endgame. Despite some scary moments and a beautiful missed win for black, I was able to refuse a draw offer and march my king (or have it chased) from g1 to g6 to win the point.
After skipping the lunchtime chess lecture (it was about endgames, after all) Phil's last round saw him with a slight disadvantage early on but he was able to provoke some weaknesses in the white position for a draw, which saw him win a share of the five-way tie and well done to him! However, in my opinion, the real star game of the round was the wild intra-club fight between Chris and me. Having caught him sneakily preparing for me (a shame that he shall bear for the rest of his life), I decided in turn to have a sneaky look at some of his games, but couldn't decide which gaping hole in his repertoire to exploit. I present this game without further comment.
Russell, Chris (2101) vs Meadows, Michael (1967)
I think you'll agree, it was a game with as much life as the guys' only houseplant.
Full results are available on chess-results.com.
(The solution to the puzzle is 1... Be3+ 2. Kh1 Rxf3! freeing the black king from the mate threat and winning my knight as the recapture is mate.)