Win some, lose none
After our quarter final "final" with Horfield, it was of course no relief at all to have this season's league behemoths Bath. If our quarter final could have been a final in standard, surely our semi final has to qualify too? In fact, this pairing has been the final for the last two years. It's finals all the way down. Our only change from the previous match was an unavailable Nigel, but a newly available Oscar, plus some jiggling to be unpredictable and swap colours. This time there was a slight grading advantage for us, around 8 points per board, but it was spread quite unevenly around.
Buckers decided that the Nimzo-Indian is so good, he wanted it with white. There was a flurry of exchanges and although black's pawn structure looked like it may be slightly worse, Steve was able to make his bishop look really good and put a blockading bind on white's position. For all that David had apparently wanted the black pieces the endgame really was the black side of things, with black having a little more space and white struggling to free their pieces. There was some improving of piece positions and then a shuffling repetition that ended the game with a half point each.
I'm not really sure what happened in Tyson's game. The rearrangement of pieces behind the semi-locked-pawns appeared to be arbitrary and time-wasting to me. Fortunately, from my perspective, Tyson appeared to be wasting slightly less time than Roy who found himself in time pressure for a good portion of the game. As it turns out, there'd been ideas going on that required more than my cursory glance. The pressure had been building and when black tried a kingside expansion, white was able to counter first on the queenside and then with a delightful intermezzo tactic on the kingside that sealed the game.
I'm not down on the Smith-Morra by any means, but in my experience, if you play it against Lewis you're simply a-pawn down. Joseph never really saw any of its claimed compensation and although there was a surprising queen sacrifice, it didn't do much other than to speed up the final result.
Although Adam managed to lodge a dark-square bishop inside white's territory, no pieces were able to back it up and with the-pawns locking up a quick draw seems like it was the fair result.
Horia played a risky gambit which Oscar obligingly took. It seemed that there was no significant compensation here either and after a further exchange sacrifice, white had the option of running connected and passed a and b-pawns up the board. With a knight willing to sacrifice itself to guard the promotion square Oscar earnt out first point of the night.
I thought I was playing aggressively against a dry French, but it seems like I was rushing black towards equality. Some active moves from black simplified the position and gained at least equality after which Andrew offered a draw.
The centre of board 7 was a real mess of pieces and no space as both sides decided where they were going to attack. Since Oli had castled long Barry decided to expand on the queenside. Unfortunately, the tangle meant there was no attacking follow up and since white's eye had been taken off the centre it crumbled. Oli used the sudden space and development advantage to lodge a protected passed-pawn on e2 and white was relegated to waiting for black to then follow through and finish the game off. It didn't take Oli long who arranged his rooks immediately to win the point.
Mike faced a tricky Budapest, but fortunately didn't fall for the very quick mating trap. With that obstacle overcome, he proceeded to snaffle off black's kingside protection and produce a weakness in the center to target. Despite looking like he may be only a few moves away from finding a checkmate for much of the game, black was able to invade with a rook and due to some offside white pieces, a cheeky checking repetition ended the game.
So we record another excellent knockout win. Let's hope we can carry that on in the final in April against Clevedon!