Chess is confusing
Coming into this match, Bath had only once this season not won with 5 points. That was against Clifton A where they managed a paltry 4½. They beat current league champions Horfield A 5-1 away. Expectations were not high for us. We were without Dominique for the fourth time in a row, but rising star Keith was willing to step in and have a bash.
It was a busy night with 10 other boards also having at it and the Champions League was stirring the sort of responses in the locals that you can normally only elicit from me with Great British Bakeoff. Nevertheless, we were able to start on time and within moments it was clear my game was going to be taking most of my attention for the evening as Chris punted the Latvian Gambit for his Bristol debut. As such, I'm largely relying on the PGNs, which makes for a more objective assessment of the night, and coincidentally, makes it more complimentary of my team-mates/minions.
David and Richard began with a sharp line in an anti-Sicilian, but Richard, by his own admission, promptly forgot all theory, how the pieces move, and how good Buckers is, and so decided to wing it. Though not as bad as a Wing Gambit, this was not a good idea. Buckers attacked c7 hard and fast and a cheeky exchange sacrifice on move 12 ended the game. The compliments start soon.
Nigel was facing a strange opening that seemed to vacillate between a d4 and an e4-opening and once again left him with more doubled pawns across the board. Despite the ugly pawns, Nigel's king was safer, while the rest of white's pieces had more space and applied more pressure. Andrew quickly equalised with a nice pawn structure, and when Horia declined the grandmasterly draw, he pressed and gained a slight edge, which persuaded Horia to accept the subsequent offer. As the only player with the black pieces to score at all, taking the expeditious draw was a shrewd plan. Clearly Andrew saw what was coming. Since my opponent was apparently game for some shenanigans I decided to grab all the material I could and hang on for grim death, but within five minutes I was down twenty minutes on the clock. I don't know how it happened.
Keith was soaking up some pressure as black but without ever really facing any danger and very soon white's wayward pieces were beaten back. Ian was playing the mainest of main line lines in the Najdorf and a classic race for the opponent's king was in action. White was presumably helped by the king to which he was racing was still stuck in the centre and without much cover.
In my game, black pushed my queen around (which moved 8 times in the first 15 moves), but once I got my f-pawn rolling I was slowly able to consolidate my extra pawns by returning the exchange. Nigel had managed to snatch a pawn and was pressing for more. Keith was shoving Andrew around, coordinating his own pieces and making great use of a bishop pair, while Andrew's pieces were retreating and unable to defend once another. It wasn't long until Keith had won a piece. Ian was surviving tactically but they were convincing tactics and his position seemed to be improving too.
Three games then ended in a burst. Though it took black far too long to get his queen back into the game, it was promptly won for a rook thanks to a skewering check and Roy called it quits. A win for Nigel. Ian, after draw offers were eschewed, was compelled to just go and win his game, which he did with a cracking simplifying win of an exchange and a nice little trick to keep the endgame trivial. A win for Ian. Finally out of danger I was able to threaten mate or snaffle the rest of black's pieces, which guaranteed us the win.
It looked quite like it was going to be a complete rout with Keith about to either win another piece, or better yet, promote a pawn, or better yet, mate. On the downside, black was playing on only increment. Then Andrew uncorked a swindle that I've never seen work outside of online bullet chess. He moved his queen to be en prise to black's queen, and when Keith didn't take it, white won the queen for himself. Fortunately, the cheekiest of wins that we're likely to see this year wasn't enough to save the match and we came away with narror 3½-2½ win.
After the excellent play from the team, could it be our shaky start is finally over?