Best laid plans

6th February 2018 - Horfield A vs Downend B

Horfield A are on a bit of a roll but every dog has his day, so we had a plan to try to slow their progress. But the best laid plans are sometimes confounded by the unexpected and this time a recurrence of Andrew's lurgy less than 24 hours before the kickoff necessitated a re-think. Rather than re-jig the whole thing a suitable sacrifice was thrown into the lion's den.

Steve found himself with Black against his namesake and it was our man who came out of the opening better...his knight and rooks were piling up on an isolated pawn and Stephen's bishop was reduced to doing the work of a pawn. Buth neither Steve (nor later the engine) could see how to force the position so they shook hands after 26 moves.

I would say the top three boards were drawish for at least an hour and a half, maybe longer, while the bottom two had more happening. Dave, like Steve, emerged from the opening with a half point advantage, a better minor piece, a pawn up, but with time running lower and no obvious breakthrough visible, he also agreed a draw. Oli came under pressure from Phil's pawn advances towards his castled king and the defence became harder when the h file was opened. When Phil castled queenside there were still possibilities to block the K-side attack but suddenly all the chances to go wrong were on Oli's side and one missed tactic brought a sudden end.

I am not sure who finished next, probably Attila, who had a complex game where he went a pawn down although he probably knew he would eventually win it back. It came down to what should have been a fairly boring rook and knight ending, although after the rooks came off Aaron may have missed a winning trick near the end.

'Twas I who had the unexpected pleasure of playing Alex while he is on top form and, even if I say it myself, I was doing OK. Unfortunately I spent a bit too long finding the best moves to reach a drawn minor piece ending and eventually, trying to save precious seconds on the increment, allowed my better piece to be swapped. After that my remaining bishop proved not to be up to the task of holding the fort.

Mike, seeing me with good chances of a draw, threw caution to the wind in an attempt to pull off a match-drawing win against Derek. A lot of very good moves were played on both sides but Derek just managed to maintain his edge, while Mike spurned safer moves in order to retain possibilities of conjuring more than a draw. But it was not to be on this occasion and another hard-fought game ended the wrong way.

A loss by 4½ to 1½ sounds like a bit of a hammering but I think it's fair to say that all the small edges went in Horfield's favour and they certainly knew they had been in a proper fight.

Ian Pickup