Clifton A vs Downend B
Both teams were at full strength for the match, and although out-graded overall we had hopes of a good result as we have had a win against Clifton A in each of the last two seasons.
Oli was first to finish. A Tarrasch French had created a level position with all knights exchanged and all bishops and both queens pointing at the enemy kings. Oli advanced his pawn to e4 and after much thought Duncan decided to bring matters to an end with a Bxh6, gh6, Qg6+ Kh8, Qxh6+ perpetual. A most satisfactory result for Oli after a bit of a break recently.
We have a young star in Chirag, and quite understandably his father asks for an early finish by playing the newly introduced shorter time limit for juniors. I have to inform the opposing captain in advance and it is noticeable that in every match the opposing team seemed to have changed their board order in order to accommodate this. The volunteer (or victim?) in this case was Igor and he chose a provocative b6 line in the Nimzo Indian in which white gets in an early e4. Chirag played with great energy forcing weaknesses. Eventually central pawns were won and white's pawn advance in the centre brought resignation.
On board 1 we had another Tarrasch French in which black played the slightly unusual 4... Ne4. An equal position resulted but James pushed hard for active play sacrificing his d pawn and getting a rook to c2. This should have rebounded as Stephen didn't play 20. d5, a move based on threatening to trap the rook, that he saw and would have given a significant advantage. Matters resolved into solid equality and a draw was agreed.
On board 3 John played his usual Philidor but with a surprise in the superficially anti-positional 7...c5 through which he was able to get strong squares on the queenside. Martin fought back and a complex position arose in which both sides had weaknesses and the black queen looked in danger of being trapped. Eventually John weakened his K field by g6 and Martin missed the chance of gaining a big advantage by playing Ne4 embarrassing John's black square bishop and entering the black squares around the black king. In a double edged position it was suddenly black pieces instead that dominated the kingside and the game was over.
I played an equalising line against Gareth's QGD Exchange variation. Both sides tried for an advantage but things stayed quite level. As is his custom, Gareth didn't want a draw until the very end. This happened in a balanced double rook ending with both sides having around 2 mins.
With the scores level everything depended on the last game to finish between Andrew and Dave. Andrew had been defending a difficult position for some time with great resourcefulness, but now with the crowd watching and time short for both players a drama followed. First Dave sacrificed a N on g6 to open up the black king. Andrew made an error in what could have been a good defence and was forced to give up Q for R. Dave immediately sacrificed a bishop to open the king further and a series of checks drove the monarch to h3 behind white pawns. With his adversary on h1 there were even possibilities of black giving mate. Dave then made a “crooked” queen move! Andrew correctly claimed an extra 2 mins but nobody at Clifton knew how to add the extra time. Under some mild protest, play continued. Dave decided to queen a pawn and in this endeavour gave up Q for R, but the pawn did queen and the game was over.
A bit disappointing but we have to be satisfied with our three match points from playing the three teams that were champions in the last three years.