War and Peace
OTB chess can't return quick enough! Four teams is a lot of match report and there's plenty to say about each. Downend 1 scored another upset, which puts them in the top half of their Division 1 group, The Rook1Es win confirm their all but guaranteed promotion spot, and our new Downend 3 wasted no time in earning their first point.
There was an imbalanced start to this one and white was able to snag a pawn and something of a material invasion, but Attila held the position together nicely. There were very reasonable hopes for a draw as the pawns were exchanged and the minor pieces looked concerned about having the responsibility of finding a mate, but time trouble plays its part and white ran a pawn through.
As white, Rob also snagged an early pawn, but gave it back for a change at hacking at the black king. With black's pieces recovering the pawn on a2, there wasn't much defence and a material was thrown to save the day. Nevertheless, the mate threat never disappeared and Rob was crushingly up before the point was conceded.
No board gets an easy game in Division 1. Black was saddled with an isolani, and white attempted to expose its weakness by exchanging pieces, but the material was never in doubt as Steve was able to return to a symmetrical pawn structure in a level endgame and a draw was eventually agreed.
Oli was forced out of opening familiarity early on, but it didn't achieve the gains black must've hoped for. Black went in for the aggressive attack but there was always a defence that improved white's position until suddenly white had an extra piece, an invasion, and as if that wasn't enough, a crushing attack.
Mine was an English Attack Najdorf, and I know objectively white is ok without trying to get h4-h5 in as well as the g4-g5 push, but black offered me half a chance to do so. Unfortunately, I didn't really know what I should be doing and while the black king was stuck in the centre, black managed equality with ease. The endgame was heading for a draw, but a passive rook move allowed me to convert the point.
Ian's game was confusing. All the knights appeared to be tangled, but exchanges came and once the dust had settled black was up a pawn and a pair of minor pieces for a rook. The endgame was naturally slow to see progress as white has a lot of options with a rook pair, but the king was able to march up the board. The final position was level, but for black's three exchange connected pawns.
Aron's win stems from a dodgy tactic in the opening (I think). A flurry of exchanges looked to be harassing white's pieces but the surprise move was a fork that netted white an exchange. Rather than go in for that material deficit and heading to an endgame, black tried a swindle move in exchange for a queen. Unfortunately for black, Aron wasn't fooled and took the queen without significant repercussion.
Finn's game was entertaining but always contained the glimmer of a draw. Early on the position nearly became locked, but some exchanges loosened that draw worry. More exchanges meant the position had a drawn aura as the material left little imbalance. The final exchanges resulted in a level rook and pawn endgame and after some shuffling, a draw was agreed.
Steve had an excellent attack down the g and h-files against black's Pirc. Black never gained a moment of counterplay. There was even the potential of a queen sacrifice finish. Unfortunately, the attack faded slightly and black was able to snag some counterplay with a dangerous pawn.
This may be the first game in the legendary D&F database that starts 1.h3. It made some sense later when the game transposed to an English. What made less sense was white blocking a rook check with their queen, but Ian made short work of converting the rest of the game.
Samy was playing very nicely. Black gambitted a pawn but white managed to consolidate the advantage and looked to be cruising to a win. That is, until, a bishop from the blue was sacrificed against the king's defences and white had no chance for the rest of the game.
Shaun played a tricky opening and was caught out in a long tactical sequence which lost a piece for a pawn. Black hunkered down and when the position opened was able to try some tactics against the back rank and some excellent fight in the endgame, but it wasn't quite enough.
New recruit Nicholas got his first competitive chess outing (and on the top board, no less). There were good opening fundamentals but the king defences were the issue in this one, as happens to us all, and black was able to create a queen-for-rook winning threat.
Due to technical issues Elliott had to restart his game, but there was no deterring Elliott. A pawn was won quickly and an attack was drummed up quickly against the weak white king. More material was won and instead of converting the endgame, Elliott decided to was better to go straight for the mate. An excellent first win for one of the club's youngest squad members!
Catherine seemed to gain textbook initiative when black tried to win and hold a gambit pawn on c4. There was a quick sequence of tactics that left white up a rook for a pawn, and once a plan was found to open some files for the rooks, the point was never in doubt.
Fresh from her first outing in the J4NCL, Bella was giving it a go in the slower time control. I was naturally very excited to see a From's Gambit appear on the board and it was unfortunate when the queen was dropped, after which white was able to take full advantage.
Phew! Only one more 4-team match report required this season!