Best by Test
There weren't many changes to the teams this week, but we saw the return of Daniel Young, which means everyone else will get great theoretical battles, while something odd will happen in his game. Regardless, he will continue to be the lucky talisman of the teams.
White went for an aggressive g-pawn push to open black's king, but it never seemed to achieve what it set out to do. It left white's king exposed, though. Exchanges came later in the game after some black queenside expansion and a menacing bishop on the long diagonal combined with pins to score the point.
I was lucky enough to get the only theoretical Sveshnikov line I know, which seems to come up surprisingly regularly. It's level enough, but usually harder for black to play. This time it was difficult for both sides. Fortunately, I escaped to an endgame with an extra piece.
Daniel's forest of theoretical knowledge was not to be needed, when white played an inaccuracy early in a Sicilian as both sides tried to move order each other. Black was equal immediately, and then blasted open the centre to win two pieces and eventually (using almost the entire clock) the game.
Black was on the back foot early on in Dominique's Scotch. Slow manoeuvring improved white's position while black had little to do. Threats loomed and there was a final flash of fun with a rook sacrifice to earn us our fourth point.
Max was back for his third top board game and the result was really never in doubt. White maintained a small plus with a huge space advantage, with black never quite finding the break to get back into the game. The point was won with a royal knight fork, but the position was crumbling as it was.
Ian went in for a trappy line in the Sicilian, though it was one were he had to navigate the bulk of the traps. Presumably that was white's take on it, until they went for an extremely sacrificial attack that didn't quite have enough punch to land the knockout blow. Ian was able to scoop up the material and defend.
Aron went for the latest finish of the night, but it was worth it. A theoretical and slow Spanish jumped to life with a tactical flurry gave white a lasting edge which translated to an extra piece in the endgame. When there was only that one piece and pawns remaining the point was won.
Finn was pushing himself with the grading difference and managed the opening with likely equality. A risky kingside expansion looked good, but white was able to jump in with a bold attack after which black came unstuck.
I've no idea what happened in this game, but it looked wild and fun. Though it looked to be heading for locked pawns territory, tactics emerged out of the blue and it was a wild ride. Unfortunately, Steve ended up losing a piece, which in the endgame cost pawns too.
Dave went for an early attack and it very nearly landed early on. The key as we discovered after was a bizarre move that would appear to trap his own bishop but actually be of little consequence. Despite white maintaining the edge, it was black that clawed their way into the game and a sharp endgame finished it off.
Though one shouldn't pick favourites, this is certainly my game of note for the evening. Black wasn't in dream shape after the opening, but two exchange sacrifices meant that centipawn quibbles were neither here nor there. The first was a tactical one that would win material and leave white flailing, and the second was a great example of endgame technique, trapping a rook with a bishop and leaving white no options at all.
Excellent positional play seemed to net Samy more pawns than it actually had, but it was enough to go straight for a rook and pawn endgame with some nice tactics. After that, it was a straightforward task to promote a pawn and finish off the game.
Since there was only one proper 1.d4 opening, I trust the teams will take note of the successes of abandoning the strategic struggles of the closed game in favour of the tactical cheapos to be found in the open ones.