Chess is hard
In fairness to the A-team, we've had a tough start. Our first match was against Downend B, a team that is supposed to be roughly equal strength to the A-team, so a draw there was probably a fair result. Next we faced two incarnations of the amorphous mass of Horfield players that show up under the guise of a lettered team. Despite some close scores, we weren't necessarily in the running in either match and came away with 2-4 scores. We were hopeful we could now start to get some points. Of course, Clevedon are no pushovers. Despite seemingly always being out-graded they never seem to be in real danger of relegation and as far as I can tell, they consistently perform above their grades. I have come to the conclusion there's a grading bug in the system that applies only to Somerset. Andrew, who double booked himself to avoid a scathing match report mention, was replaced by Steve, and Dominique, who claimed to be away on business was replaced by Mike Passmore. (Thank you to both for stepping in for such a distant match!) Unfortunately, it was not a great night for Downend players, past or present.
Richard began with a theoretical response to the Caro-Kann that merged into a French with the light-squared bishop outside the pawn chain. White took all the space across the board but pawns of both colours were clogging the position up. Paul tried an offbeat line against Nigel, and he gained a lot of space but at the cost of some vulnerabilities on the queenside. Steve's position got better with every move from the get-go and despite Matt's attempts to stodge the position up, white's king's defences were more than willing to rip open the kingside.
It became apparent in my game on move 8 that no result other than a draw was on the cards. We drew by about 9 o'clock when the pieces were almost all gone. Ian and Chris were once again in a theoretical Dragon line where Ian deviated early which led to the queens coming off and a difficult question of what to do against the black bishop pair aimed at white's king. Mike and Nicholas had an early sortie from which both sides had to spend time recovering before starting again, but it looked like white was getting organised more quickly.
After some exchanges, Paul offered Nigel a draw, but it wasn't taken!
Steve, having ensured a winning edge on the kingside, set about ensuring a winning edge on the queenside and centre before black chucked in the towel. (Keep an eye out for this game appearing in the October Game of the Month vote!) 1½-½!
Unfortunately, it looked like Ian's position was getting more difficult and after missing what may have been a tactical resource, he was playing rooks and knight against rooks and bishop pair. Mike also seemed to be in trouble, but I fancy that there were more attacking options open to black than were found (including by me).
As predicted, the bottom two boards didn't last much longer and Clevedon were looking good. Nigel had an a-pawn that could run down the queenside, but Paul was finding good defensive resources and looked to be causing problems of his own in the centre. Richard had unquestionably pressed hard, but the blocked position wasn't offering much, and nothing that could be found in the limited time he had left. Agreeing the draw, Paul just had to hang on to win Clevedon the match. Full credit should go to Nigel who tried valiantly to cause enough trouble to draw the match, but once there were only two kings left on the even he had to admit the game might be drawn.
Another early draw for me, another lost match. Since I don't seem to be a captain willing to go down with the ship, I think I'm starting to discover my captaining style: