So near and yet so far!
Here we were at last at Clifton's refurbished club room. It doesn't seem to have changed too much, although they have installed banks of temporary spectator seating, presumably for cup ties or internationals. Was this the place where Ben Stokes got into a bit of bother a month or so ago?
I had half expected them to have put some money behind the bar to welcome their guests to the Grand Opening but apparently not. So we found ourselves facing their full registered team for only the second time this season - a compliment, I suppose.
It meant that while we were pretty evenly matched on the top three boards, they had a twenty or so plus lower down the order. So nobody was more bemused than me when Duncan held out his hand to resign on move 18. I had played a move which looked like it won a piece but really only won a pawn. And with our Dave comfortably holding David C thanks to some excellent preparation, we found ourselves shocked but very pleased to be 1½ - ½ up.
The next phase of the match revolved around boards two and three, where, in both cases, White had reached a queenless middle game with more space, better piece play and maybe a pawn or two, to boot. Steve had White against Gareth and was about to liquidate into an endgame with three passed Q-side pawns when Gareth pre-emptied, sorry pre-empted, by liquidating his beer glass. Steve mopped up.
But Mike had the short straw with a dodgy position against John and the reciprocal resignation soon followed. It had been two classic cases of calmly exploiting the advantage of the White pieces while Black never really got going.
The last two games took us well into extra time. Attila versus James was always going to be a thriller and they reached a middle game that was far too complicated for the layman to call. Meanwhile Oli had got himself into a right old tangle against Igor and looked as though one weakness or another would lead to a very unhappy outcome. Then, as the increments started to clock in, Oli, with five or six minutes against one or two, started finding all the right moves and did very well to reach an ending that looked to be level at worst.
But Attila was on the wrong end of the time shortage and the complications were such that any advantage he had previously held disappeared. After a number of missed opportunities on both sides, he became a piece down but had some serious mating threats; however, when he opted to regain the piece instead of maintaining the threats, his time shortage kicked in and he drifted into an untenable ending. Oli had a slight plus by move 45 but went astray when faced with a dangerous pawn thrust and ended up losing the exchange. It took Igor another 40 moves but, with the benefit of the increment, the writing was on the wall.
So, once again, just like the C team, the curse of being ahead at half time cost the club dear. Another day Attila and Oli would both have at least drawn to bring off a real coup against one of the top sides. But evidently it was not to be and you have you hand it to Clifton for hanging in there to the bitter end.