Chess is easy
Clifton B were almost at full-strength for our match, and considering our recent form, that was not a happy sight. Dominique continues to arrange his work schedule over our fixtures so Mike Brigden was stepping in and playing board 4, which had the happy bonus of helping with colour distribution. With almost everyone arriving with moments to spare, set up looked like a whirlwind of chaos á la Thing 1 and Thing 2. Nigel was a bit later than the rest, but he didn't let that put him off.
Richard and Chris were slowly blocking the board in a closed Sicilian, but as they were the penultimate finish and managed a total of 25 moves, I really do mean slowly. Nigel was racing through his game with Manuel, the theme of which appeared to be 'ugly pawn structures'. Andrew and John opened their position early and queens came off on move 6. In a bid to outdo the pace of board 2 they were almost immediately in an endgame. Once the rooks and minor pieces started coming off, the symmetrical pawn structure suggested only one result. Normally I like to have my fun with Andrew's quick draws, but for the record, in my opinion their position was drawn with very little play left to be had. An impressive feat in 19 moves.
Mike was playing his line in the French that leaves me feeling that white hasn't achieved all they could have regardless of the outcome. Anton, however, has given me some new ideas after looking over his treatment of it. Bishops pointing at a castled black king and a menacing queen on h5, while the guarding knight that should be on f6 was holidaying on d5. It looked hairy but without an immediate knockout blow. I thought I'd fallen for an Accelerated Dragon trap in a regular Dragon (and the database thinks I may have) but some tactical jiggery pokery won me a pair of pawns and a good position. Ian appeared on the back foot after some early plans were cancelled after spotting a flaw in them, but by no means significantly worse.
I went straight to the endgame, and black's defence meant awkward pieces and virtual zugzwang. After nearly allowing a mating net, Tomas retreated only to blunder a knight in a difficult position. The pawn structures in Nigel's game took their toll on white to the tune of a pawn. Nigel then showed more excellent endgame technique to minimise his weaknesses on b7 while invading in the centre and kingside to make short work of white. 2½-½! Could it finally be!?
Mike's position was deteriorating and he was soon compelled to give up an exchange, but he still had 40 minutes to Anton's 4. The time difference played its part and soon Mike had won two pawns back levelling material in the points system (the only way to assess positions as far as I'm concerned). Worse for white, Anton's bishop which had been so menacing earlier in the game was stuck out of the game and even in danger of dropping off due to a cheeky pin. Unfortunately for Clifton, the board that had been one of the better opportunities for points, soon paid a bigger price for the time trouble when white blundered a rook and immediately resigned. 3½!
Richard and Chris continued to plod along, but it was becoming clearer that heavy pieces were all going to be swapped off on the e-file and the same colour bishop ending (that may technically having favoured white) would be drawn. Ian had been defending solidly and felt that it was now time to round off the undefeated evening with a draw offer. Unfortunately for him, Peter felt he could squeeze a little more juice out of the position. In the ensuing time trouble, both sides may have missed winning opportunities but the drawn result was probably the right one.
We're finally off the mark, and to paraphrase Vitas Gerulaitis, "Let that be a lesson to you all. Nobody beats Downend & Fishponds A five times in a row."