The third match in as many weeks for University A, and the toughest yet against top of the league Downend A. Players were evenly matched on every board setting up a match that really could go either way. We couldn’t ask for a more perfect start after a lovely opening win.
Dan Varney then made it two for the University, this time winning from the Black side of a Pirc Defence, making him 3/3 from the opening this season! Less explosive than the previous two mating attacks, but after winning a couple of pawns he was able to convert the knight ending.
With such an evenly balanced teams, it was Downend’s turn to have the momentum swing their way. Dan Savidge kept a lost position interesting for a long time, although resigned when his opponent underpromoted to a rook to avoid stalemate tricks. You have to keep trying and eventually one of those swindles will work! Tom Shepherd also tried to create chaos a pawn down in an ending, but his opponent converted it well to tie the match up 2-2.
To the untrained eye, by which I mean most of the finished players of University A, Alex Belsley looked to be too ambitious with a piece sacrifice.
31… Bxg4 32. Rc8+ Kg7 33. Qxg4 Qxa2+ Black is forced to make the sacrifice real. If 33… hxg5? 34. Qc8! mates for White. 34. Kf3 Qa1 35. Ne4 White had the chance to bail out with a nice perpetual with 35. Ne6+! fxe6 36. Rg8+ Kxg8 37. Qxg6+ 35… Qh1+ 36 Kf4 Time pressure was a factor here for both sides but running the king up the board is brave to say the least. 36… Qf1+ 37. Qf3 g5+ 38. Nxg5 hxg5+ 39. Kg4 Qg1+ 40. Kh5 Rxe3 White resigned.
This left just one game to go and a draw enough to win the match. James Clarke, who once lost to a 1300 player on chess.com (he’s also beaten an IM over the board, but who hasn’t done that?), had been slightly worse from the opening after a slight inaccuracy. However, he kept fighting well and at one stage was even for choice by the computer, despite being a pawn down. With the pressure on, his excellent defence was rewarded (although some may say “lucky”), and a draw was agreed in a rook and outside pawn versus a rook endgame winning the match, University A 3.5-2.5 Downend A.