A Gracious Plenty
I will no doubt regret saying this, but we had so many players available that people were actually offered a night off. Sure, Ian's night off was rescinded at the last minute, but still, we're doing very well.
The theory came pouring out as you may expect, with black invading quickly and menacingly. Complications arose with a Greek Gift sacrifice and it took nearly all of Attila's time to survive, but the white's extra pawn in the middle of the board couldn't do anything against a more active king and a rook ending.
Once the pieces were developed in this one, there was some intricate knight shuffling, but it was the black bishop on h7 that needed some attention as it was without options until, at last, it was able to retreat to g8, blocked by an f7-pawn. Despite Rob's wide open king, black's bits were too cramped to do anything but hamper their own defence.
Steve's debut in the 4NCLO was a great feature. Having experienced the off-beat line against Bristol's James Cobb, black had no trouble fending off the quirks and it was white that lost a piece after a knight ran out of squares. Despite this, white mounted a lot of pressure but black's extra piece was all that mattered in the endgame.
It's not everyday that we see Oli on board 4! Nevertheless, his opponent was still strong and it took a mighty tactical combination to earn an exchange (and a few pawns). The rest Oli made look easy and mate finished the game.
The joy of the 4NCL Online, with its huge pool of players around the world, is that you could be playing someone anywhere in the world, and Chirag got to play Clifton regular John Waterfield. Exchanges came thick and fast and not only was an endgame quickly reached, it was an opposite coloured-bishops ending. Both players gave it a go, but a draw was the only result.
Ian came under heavy pressure early on and white was relentless in their attack and tricksy moves. As often happens in those cases, one tends to overlook their opponent's mounting counterattack and Ian didn't need to be asked twice to pounce on a back-rank opportunity.
Aron was facing a Petrov, which as the regular reader will know, meant exciting tactics and a win for white. There isn't a great deal to this one other than that. Aron took a material lead and forced every last piece off, leaving an extra pair of hanging pawns ready to win the pawn endgame.
As he'd given me the night off, the pressure was off or on Finn, depending on your point of view. The crucial middlegame point appears to be whether white can hold on to a d6 pawn in a French. This time they could not. Black then put a stranglehold on white's position, marching the king across the board to assist in the finishing touches.
Dominique was under pressure with a wide-open king, but it wasn't clear how white could launch a satisfying attack. At least a strong pawn centre was reasonable compensation for black. There were some simplifying tactics looming and possibly in a bid to maintain the perceived momentum, white blundered into a relieving back rank mate.
Robbed of his night off at the last minute, Ian went in for an extremely aggressive Belgrade Gambit. Black's king's defences were shattered immediately and the position looked to be taking on a Dragon-style situation with white attacking on the kingside and black attacking on the queenside, except without a g7 bishop. Things were going well but an unfortunate skewer lost white a rook.
It was a positional opening, but white went in for a snatching a b-pawn using a fianchettoed bishop. This time it appears the game was close enough to an ending for it not to have cost too much tempo and white was able to convert the pawn advantage expertly.
Elliott handled his opening very nicely and appeared to be looking at a middle or end-game with a slight pull, but an unfortunate skewer cost an exchange and ultimately the game.
Two excellent results for Downend 1 and The Rook1Es, and another tough one for Downend 2. Let's see who gets the night off in March!