Anything but a whitewash
Many moons ago (in 2015), in the final match of the season, the A-team were tasked with achieving a result no worse than 2½-3½ against Horfield B to guarantee us the division title. We managed. Although this season the title has well truly been stolen by Horfield A, the A-team were once again facing Horfield B in the final match of the season, knowing that a result no worse than ½-5½ could seal second place for us.
Considering that one of the three second place contenders were Horfield B themselves we expected a strong team, but the grading advantage fell slightly to us. Richard was facing in-form Brent and while the opening looked to have some exciting, sharp potential, their played so slowly that I'll ignore it until the other games have finished. Stephen and Mike had a relatively normal-looking Caro-Kann, though Mike did find an unusual variation later on. Nigel and Chris were cracking on with a wild Dutch position with plenty of open files and soon white sacrificed an exchange for a pawn, an imposing pawn centre, and sustained pressure.
Mike and John were enjoying some mainline theory with play revolving around pressure on the d4-square. Very Nimzowitsch. I was attempting to round off my wildly unsuccessful season with a cheeky Veresov, and Jon didn't disappoint in responding with something equally fun. While I seemed to get some pressure, there was a looming danger that if black could untangle, my endgame might be poor. I don't know what went wrong for Jerry, but Prakesh managed to start a kingside rush before black could organise any response.
John offered Mike a relatively early draw but Mike opted to play on, possibly considering the danger of a 0-6 to be a little remote. After a couple more moves though, Mike decided that it was better to keep the A-team safe and a draw was agreed. My position had improved little by little and although a sneaky mate threat was thwarted, an active endgame appeared to be on the cards when a knight blunder gave us our first point (and my first since the first match of the season!). While Jon and I went to find huge improvements for both sides, Nigel also split the point. I'm told their final position had plenty of play, with an interesting material imbalance, so naturally Nigel fancied the solid draw. Jerry found a cheeky draw opportunity and grabbed it as quickly as he could.
Then we had to wait for the other two to finish.
Stephen and Mike had reached a level double rooks and pawns endgame, and although Stephen offered a draw, Mike fancied his chances. Both sides applied pressure to weak pawns and eventually black was able to snap off some more pawns. Mike, on the other hand had an h-pawn that was storming up the board and likely to cost black his rook. In the time scramble I think black's king should have been able to shepherd a pair of connected passed pawns up the board, but the result was settled a little earlier as Mike lost on time.
By this point I think Richard and Brent had reached move 18. Even though it was early days it and white hadn't fully completed developing, I think black had been pushed into undeveloping pieces back onto the 8th rank. As time was starting to tell, Richard found a surprising forking move, which appeared to leave his bishop unattended but capturing it would win the black's queen. After winning the exchange, black's position fell apart in a few moves.
Overall it was a comfortable win for the A-team, but it was a satisfying result to round off the season. We can only wait to see if Bath can win their remaining two matches against Clifton A to storm into second place at the last moment.
As we've not got many games from this season, I've cheekily added mine to our Games page.