No more "If Onlys"
If only I hadn't messed up a won game against University; if only we could have taken at least one match point from South Bristol; the list goes on. But the fact remains that we dug ourselves into an almighty hole and it would take some magnificent resilience to clamber out of it in the last match, away to the very tough Horfield B.
And so to Redland Park, where this time last year the A-team just needed to lose by no worse than 2½-3½ to secure the Championship. (By the way, they did precisely that!) We needed to go one better as even a narrow loss here would have left us vulnerable to being overtaken by Clevedon in their last match at Grendel. A drawn match would be enough for us, even if Clevedon won 6-0.
I was mightily troubled at the start because Lewis was delayed and in the worst case scenario I would have to stand in against Alex Easton. Happily he was spared this torment and I was free to hop on a bus to see how Grendel were doing. Not at all bad, in fact...four draws already and two promising positions. If Clevedon only drew it wouldn't matter what we did.
By the time I returned our strongest line-up of the season was in a very tense situation. Andrew had efficiently neutralised the dangerous Peter, fresh from his escapades for Guernsey. But Javier had run low on time and fell into a line that cost him the exchange to Kaj. Lewis also was struggling somewhat against Alex, having shed a-pawn. No worries on the other three boards but clearly we were desperate for something good to happen in the closing fifteen minutes or so.
Cue Nigel! He guided the play to an endgame where his knight was superior to Mike L's bishop. After a couple of-pawn thrusts by Nigel to open up possibilities, a wild position arose with potential passed-pawns all over the place. They were both getting low on the clock when Mike tried a cunning plan to give up his bishop for an unstoppable-pawn. Happily for us this didn't work because Nigel had an intermediate check which brought the knight back just in time to cover the promotion. 1½ points in the bag. Just 1½ to go!
Cue Mike! Another very pleasing game as White, with mounting pressure adding to the fact that Mike H started to run low on time. Pressure indeed told in the end to bring Mike his second excellent win in the space of less than a week, just when they were most needed. 2½ points in the bag! Although Javier now conceded, this meant we only needed one more draw to secure First Division status.
Cue Martin! He had also built steady pressure with doubled rooks on an open file and found a tactic which won two minor pieces for a rook. A pawn followed and a second one was coming when, alert to the match situation, he selflessly offered a draw which Harvey could hardly refuse.
There was now a quick exodus to the other room, where shouts of "Yippee" and suchlike were less likely to be audible to Lewis and Alex. In fact Lewis had hung in brilliantly to secure his draw and the match was won 3½-2½ after all. Finally we had shown we can achieve success in this hugely challenging league.
So, after all those match reports of opportunities missed (and, to be perfectly honest, some rank bad play on occasion!) we had come through in the end. I hope I can be forgiven for mentioning the report on the University match last November when I ventured that, despite a string of poor results, we would indeed stay up.
But also spare a thought for Clevedon. They did beat Grendel in the end last night and finished just one point behind us. They lost a key player while we managed to strengthen our squad and must have gone through exactly the same traumas and "If Onlys" that we suffered all season.
Very well done, team, even if it was too nail-biting to be enjoyable at times. A deserved result in the end and I am just glad that it is finally all over and no more "If Onlys" will be required.