Rousing finale to the season
The B team are finishing the season early this year and welcomed Clifton A to a packed room with three matches in play. They were minus their top board, James Cobb, but still fielded four of their regular stalwarts from the last decade or longer, so we knew we were in for a tough fight.
First to finish was Andrew who soon reached a queenless middle game against John without any noticeable chances for either side to make progress. Meanwhile Mike conjured an opposite coloured bishop ending against Duncan and, although he was a pawn down, after another fifteen or so moves it became clear that the extra pawn was never going anywhere and they also split the point.
Steve was under some pressure with Black against Gareth, a reversal of colour and fortune from when they played last November. A pawn was shed and the pressure told in the end making the score 2-1 to the visitors. However, we clearly had some chances on the bottom three boards.
Oli had started with better piece play and the win of a pawn against Dave. Then he gave us another demonstration of his skills in rook and pawn endings when he converted very nicely to bank another fine scalp, one which brought his points scored for the team to an excellent 9½ out of 15 in his debut season in division one.
Anton preferred to improve his development at the cost of a pawn against me and, once both Kings were safely tucked away on the K-side, I was able to snaffle a second one, albeit while leaving my Queen open to some harrying. His time shortage led to the loss of the exchange and I was able to repel any remaining threats and reach a won ending.
The match score was now 3-2 and Dave had probably the most crushing advantage of all the games with pieces piling up against Anthony's K-side. It was plus 9 on the engine at one stage, I think he said. But, in time-honoured fashion, he used too much time trying to find perfect moves and, although the attack had garnered two pawns and the exchange, he still found ways of keeping us all entertained to the bitter end with a rousing finale on the increment. It was quite a relief when he finally forced the queens off to reach a simple win with a pawn bound to promote. To be fair, if he had offered a draw at any time when he was down to his last minute, I think Anthony would have snapped his hand off.
So, 4-2 in the end, making it three wins in succession, to round off a fairly comfortable mid-table finish with 17 points from 18 matches - just about what we could reasonably have hoped for considering the exodus of players at the end of last season.