Horfield A - 2018 Division 1 Champions
The title match was supposed to be a close one. Our A-team were without a few players (fortunately including me) while Horfield A had their new over 200 player and despite a slight grading difference a great match was to be expected. A win for Horfield would guarantee them the title, while a win for Downend would ensure the A-team at least second place.
Aaron opened with a classical approach against Richard's Sicilian. As far as I can tell, they followed theory for a million moves. Board 2 was completely different and Stephen and Derek had an absurd opening with pieces going on their own little adventures before development was completed. The bookies had stopped taking bets on board 3's result due to their solid and accurate styles and an English position was set up.
Andrew very boldly offered Horfield's new star a 13-move draw, but it was turned down after 10 minutes. The next move white played an interesting tactic that failed to a sneaky intermezzo and the game was over. Stephen's absurd game finished with a split point once the remaining pieces came back to their sides of the board. Kajetan was able to develop his pieces very quickly with a system opening and Martin offered an exchange sacrifice to stay in the game. Mike tried something whacky against Jerry but he attempted to maintain a classical position.
Nigel then offered an unexpected draw but it was declined. Stephen was in the mood for his particular brand of scintillating chess! Jerry then fell victim to a running central pawn fork and resigned. While most of the boards were also starting to get into difficulties, Martin's time pressure and difficult position soon proved to be too much and Horfield were 3½-½ and division champions. Surely now they could relent? Apparently not.
Aaron was able to win an extra pawn in his rook and pawns ending. Pushing two passers up the queenside proved easier than the lone kingside black pawn and soon the point was theirs. Not holding back with one board left to finish, Nigel was also down to a rook and pawn ending but down a pawn. With excellent technique Stephen was able to convert it to a simple Lucena position, which I'm sure all of our club members know is a win for the extra pawn.
All in all, a disappointing and thorough loss, but full credit must go to Horfield who have won the top division so convincingly this year, for the first time since 2001!
Thanks also go to Ian for sending blow-by-blow updates of this match and Dave for grabbing all of the PGNs so they could all go over my head.