The captain goes down with the ship
At least that's what they say. This time they were without Stephen "scintillating" Dilleigh, but it cost them only 6 points on that board with super-sub Peter Kirby. We were without Andrew Cooper and Dominque thanks to a combination of highly justifiable excuses and wussing out. Fortunately, Michael Brigden and Andrew Munn were easily press-ganged into the team.
Although Mike Harris was left to set up on his own, most of the Horfield team managed to arrive with plenty of seconds to spare.
Richard and Derek played the slowest game of the night and fittingly were last to finish. It appeared to be some offbeat line in an open game, where white takes space in lieu of development and black piles on plenty of pressure (and a few mating threats). Both sides castled long and had a little rest. It was about 10:15 before they made it past move 20. Nigel hunkered down in a more recognisable manner, but then his Hedgehog quickly struck back in the centre and pieces were swapped. Mike Brigden and Peter played a King's Indian Defence where white set up a great pawn point and the position looked to be getting blocked.
I had it easier as Mike Levene appeared to be playing similar-ish moves to Mike Brigden and who would I be to doubt Peter's responses? White launched a quick and hyper-aggressive attack, which I can only admire. Unfortunately, it was probably a little too soon and my kingside became bogged down with locked pawns, so I had safety in exchange for space. Ian appeared to get confused in his opening and lost a pawn, with an opposite-coloured bishop ending being the best case scenario in my assessment. This is because I can't see more than 2 moves ahead.
Harvey was playing standard d4-looking moves and Andrew was having trouble coordinating his Hedgehog, which cost him a c-pawn.
Nigel appeared to be exchanging down but white managed to squeak an extra pawn out of the position. The next time I looked at Mike Brigden's position, he had gone down an exchange in what was either a spectacular blunder or a less-spectacular blunder. In response the position was being stodged up as much as possible but unfortunately it looked inevitable that pawns could be swapped and a double rook invasion may be on the cards. Richard, admittedly had a reasonable position, but a significant time deficit. In short, things were not looking optimistic. I knew what I had to do.
Then the rotters only went and turned the match around. Ian's pawn gambit (as I then realised it was) appeared to be keeping him easily in the game. There were plenty of tricks for Phil to keep an eye on. The compensation was quite reasonable. Admittedly, when Andrew got back into the game he was still down two pawns and the endgame was too close for more brilliant play, but it was a sign of things to come. Nigel snaffled a pawn back and both sides forced the other's king back. The position looked drawn but Alex wanted to see it to the bitter end. Richard appeared to be winning material although he was now relying quite heavily on the increment.
Ian, whose brilliant pawn sacrifice (as I then realised it was) then won a bishop. Phil set some tough challenges but nothing fazed GM Pickup. Once the rooks were forced off, Phil had to concede the point. 1½-1½ for a brief moment.
Peter's double rook invasion happened and was as painful as expected, but there was still hope on the remaining boards. Nigel's excellent endgame play held the position to a repetition (after avoiding a mate threat, which even in my book was a little on the nose). This piled the pressure on Richard but despite the material advantage, Derek had enough left in the tank to cause problems and the game was lost in the white time-scramble haze.
The juggernaut that is Horfield A rumbles on. Downend A? Well...