After starting perfect at home, could University A perform on a cold, dark night away in Clevedon? With an unchanged team, no one was put off by the bus journey, although it may be that the newer players don’t know any better yet. After a slight delay in the bus and correctly finding our way in the dark, Clevedon A were kind enough to not immediately starting our clocks. Next time, we might make a day of it and go see the pier beforehand.
Somewhat unusually, the top two boards were the first to finish. The captain delivered, taking a pawn in the opening, and ultimately quashing the compensation that Black initially had. Sadly for Alex Belsley, he had one of those days where he was slightly off his game and a final mistake tied the match 1-1. Tom Shepherd was the exchange up in the ending, but his opponent put up a sturdy defensive with a cemented bishop in the centre of the board. He tempted his opponent into a rook trade by dangling some extra pawns into the deal but saw further with a neat sacrifice to promote a pawn with the king offside. White had to change plan, but Tom was able to finish up in time to get the last bus back to Bristol!
For the rest of the team, time trouble was approaching. After an unfortunate start, Dan Varney fought hard for the team to find a way to bail out into an ending that went even better than expected.
34.Bxg7! White ignores the attack on the queen to get his material back. 34…Rxe3 35.Nxh6+ Kxg7 A natural move, but it’s quite counterintuitive to delay the capture, 35…Kh7! 36.Nxf5 Re6 37.Nd4 Kxg7 38.Nxe6 fxe6 gives Black the better, but not completely winning, ending. 36.Nxf5+ gxf5 37.fxe3 White is over the worst of it, and some good play from Dan managed to turn Black’s weak pawns into a win.
The remaining two games descended into blitz game. Spending 60 minutes for 14 moves is never my aim, but my opponent had already gone under 10 minutes himself. Worryingly, my advantage somehow disappeared in my opponent’s time trouble, but eventually the pressure told, and a blunder came. James Clarke had a very sharp position with both players under a minute, where the queen was better at creating threats than the two rooks.
The final 5-1 score flattered the University somewhat, but a fourth win moved us to top of Division 1. Quite the turnaround after getting relegated two seasons ago. Many thanks to the Clevedon player who saw us walking to try get a taxi and gave us a lift to Nailsea train station. a 30-minute wait but certainly better than watching Uber drivers refusing to pick us up! Next up, a trip to Bath.