Well, we are getting used to clubs pulling out all the stops against us, aren't we? Chris Jones's slightly apologetic remark when my jaw dropped a smidgen at seeing Peter Kirby walk into the room (only very slightly, mind you!) underlined that he was well aware that we had been having a run of facing teams at maximum strength.
The other common denominator between the sides (if opposites can be common, that is) was that, according to their match reports, they had been having a run of good luck to reach above mid-table while we had felt a tad unfortunate to take five game points from our last two outings against really stiff opposition but no match points. Could it be time for a turnaround?
A solid start was what we needed and what could be better for that than a clash between two of the drawmeisters of the league, Andrew and Chris. I had mentally marked down half a point long before they shook hands.
The other boards seemed quite reasonable. All three White boards looked promising and the Black ones were fairly even. And so it transpired that Steve, Mike and I were next to finish, with a gratifying 2 1/2 out of 3 for White. Steve was first. He won a piece against Mike H and converted nicely to put a stop to Mike's excellent run, which had included the scalps of Henry Duncanson and Alex Easton, no less!
Our Mike seemed to have the better of his game but perhaps missed the most direct approach, after which Peter defended stoutly and their draw meant we had an early 2-1 lead. Save the wins for when we really need them!
Curiously, my game with John, a Dragon with opposite side castling, closely resembled the one from two weeks previously against the Mighty Passmore. But Mike had played a canny 13th move which left me with no more than a draw, while John pushed his queenside attack possibly a move too soon. I was able to remember the earlier analysis well enough to gain control of the board, win a pawn, and exploit a weak Black King position. So, at 3-1 up, we were all set for the usual anti-climax!
Dave had exactly what we have come to expect - an exciting position with many threats and much less time than Brent! Oli had a rather mucky game against Jon with two rooks and a knight each and pawn weaknesses on both sides. Then everything seemed to be going the way we feared as first Dave's time shortage took its toll and, from being a bishop up, he gradually shed pieces until he lost on time in a by now hopeless position. Really unlucky not to be able to cash in on some very enterprising play.
Meanwhile Jon was able to shepherd his a pawn nearly home and Oli had no alternative to giving up a whole rook to stop it. The only saving grace was that Jon's pieces were sufficiently remote from Oli's only hope - his g and h pawns - to allow some chances. Oli was relying on the increment by now and Jon must have gone horribly wrong somewhere. I missed it while I was looking at Dave's game but finally the h pawn became unstoppable, even at the cost of giving back the extra rook and we all (well, the visitors, anyway!) breathed a huge sigh of relief. After recent disappointments this had been an excellent fightback by Oli to clinch the match for us.
So, the battle of the B teams had gone in our favour in the end and if there had been any luck around, it had for once come down on our side. Now we can settle down to a tussle to see who can be the leader of the mid-table pack.