University A vs Downend D

The university went into this game knowing that a win would be enough for promotion back into Division 1. However, we were also informed by our opponents, Downend D, that their C team had done us a favour by beating Bath B, meaning that a win would actually be enough to win the league. After foregoing the handshakes (or declining the Corona Gambit), the games begun with the university keen to win in style.

Alex Vaughan very quickly won his game after his opponent blundered a bishop to a simple queen fork straight out of the opening. She tried to put up some resistance, but the result has largely in the bag. Sadly, another example of not giving the opening moves enough attention and losing before you’ve even begun.

Dorian was next to finish playing a dangerous looking attack, while putting his opponent in serious time pressure throughout. Below is the game with notes from the victor, who I definitely trust more than Stockfish.

Ethan suffered slightly in the opening although his position was nowhere near lost at any point. However, some quick play turned up the pressure and his opponent blundered a piece and then a queen. Dan Varney was not there in person, but he was definitely there in spirit.

After some adventures in the middlegame, Alice managed to take home the match-winning point after a mistake from her opponent. Having not been able to play much this season due to intense studies, it was really good for her to have the honour of clinching the title for us.

Understandably, Black wanted to rebalance material but after 29… Rxa4? he has left his back-rank vulnerable. 30. Rd8 Kg7 Wanting to get out of the pin but this makes things easier for White. 31. Bb2+ f6 32. Rxf6 Black loses material due to the discovered attack.

However, the main test of this variation is fascinating. 30… c3!? 31. Rbb8 Ra1 trapping the White bishop in return for his own. 32. Rxf8+ Kg7 33. g4!

Black’s king is getting trapped in a mating net, for example, 33… Rxc1 34. g5 Rc2+ 35. Kg3 Rxe3+ 36. Kh4. White’s king is safe, Black’s is not.

Alex Belsley had stepped into the team after another player had double booked themselves with the B team and was probably hoping for a more straightforward game. His opponent felt the need to sacrifice the exchange to stop White’s queenside pressure and hold the ending. After some probing and tickling, Alex had made a lot of progress and finished instructively.  

Black had pinned his hopes on the bishop on f3 guarding both pawns, but White has managed to restrict the king with his remaining pieces. Black quickly runs out of options. 51. Kf7 Kh6 52. Rg6+ Kh7 53. Rg7+ Kh6 If 53… Kh8 then 54. Rg7 places Black in zugzwang. 54. Kf6 Here Black lost on time with the horrible choice of either moving the b pawn, which gets quickly rounded up, or allowing 54… Kh5 55. Rh7#.

The last game to finish was my own and, in my opponent’s time pressure, I had a very good chance to record the first 6-0 for University A this season. My opponent played an interesting pawn sacrifice to give good compensation but eventually time got the better of him and the blunders came. However, the game need not have lasted so long as Black had a chance to get a great position from another cheeky Scandi.

I need to write an article on the Scandi now so I can use this image again.

White had wasted time with an early a3, and Black played the thematic 8… e5 to counter in the centre. However, can you find the way to win a key pawn in the position? I had stopped my analysis one move too early, so see if you can outplay me! Solution at the bottom of the article.

A great way for University A to win promotion immediately back into the topflight. Let’s have a quick look at that beautiful result.

University A 6-0 Downend D

Ian Gallagher 1-0 James Butler
Alex Belsley 1-0 Mike Passmore
Ethan Luc 1-0 Grant Daly
Alice Lampard 1-0 Tom Carter
Alex Vaughan 1-0 Elmira Walker
Dorian Schiefer 1-0 Rowan Barua

Thank you to everyone that played for University A this season to make this possible. From the usual names that you’ve seen in pretty much every report, to the often last-minute stand ins that has meant we have not defaulted a single board all season. A great achievement that we can all take pride in. I’m sure we will do something to celebrate in the near-future, hopefully when the B and C teams have something to celebrate too.

Puzzle solution: 8… Bxf3 9. Bxf3 Nxd4! wins a central pawn thanks to the pin on the d file. 10. Bxd4 In my mind’s eye, I had seen that 10… e5? doesn’t work due to 11. Qb3 escaping the pin with big threats towards my king. However, I had missed 10… c6! when Black simply takes his time to regain the piece. Black will finish the tactics a simple pawn up. 

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