Vital point secured in tough clash

27th February 2018 - Downend C vs North Bristol A

The visit of North Bristol posed more problems than usual because Dominique was otherwise engaged, Robert and the Duffer were playing away and Richard P preferred to attend a frozen pitch at the Memorial Ground. Missing four regulars, and with the D team playing on another frozen pitch the previous evening (that's Clevedon, by the way) and with possible calls by the KO team on other replacements, it was not obvious how we could find a team capable of standing up to one of the promotion candidates.

So, it was with a huge sigh of relief that we fielded Oli and Dave from the B team and James and Nigel from the Ds. We knew somebody was going to have to have Black against North Bristol's new top board and for quite a while Andrew had been casting around for some bright spark to be the patsy for the evening. The plan was that at least the other five would have a fighting chance of gathering a match point.

It was yours truly who won the prize and, considering I didn't really know the opening, I was doing OK against Chris and still level after 20 moves. Unfortunately, that was as good as it got. Meanwhile boards 2, 3 & 4 (that's Oli v Graham, Andrew v Steve and James v Michael) had all settled for rather turgid draws, or so they seemed to me. Oli had played well to achieve pressure but it came to nothing in the end. Andrew had played less well to reach one of those positions where the engine says "White is better" but fortunately not better enough to clinch a serious advantage. And James seemed to be in "let's swap everything off" mode, which led to a dead rook and pawn ending. It may be sour grapes but I thought my play was far more enterprising than theirs but it has to be admitted that between them they contributed one and half points more than me.

Which meant it was all down to the bottom two boards to salvage something. Happily, Nigel had emerged from his gambit opening with lasting threats and, when he managed to land his knight on c7, the win of the exchange was assured. However, it was still tricky and it took well into the last ten minutes of normal time before the pressure finally told and he levelled the score. Dave was low on time against Richard (no surprise there, then!) but in a blocked position arising from a well-rehearsed opening where there was really not much chance of either side conjuring anything. For maybe ten or twenty moves they footled around using the increment and the only serious possibility of a result was if one of them had a quick snooze.

And so we have to hand it to our captain for masterminding probably the best result we could have hoped for in the circumstances. Definitely a point won in our ongoing struggle to stay in division two. Well played, the Famous Five!

Ian Pickup