Having already guaranteeing ourselves the lead in Division 1 over the holiday break, University A made their first trip to Downend to try get 100% match wins. Don’t let the B fool you, as this was no foregone conclusion after narrowly defeating their A team 3.5-2.5 at home, especially with two very strong opponents on the top two board.
Things started badly as Alex Belsley when the two pieces beat the rook and pawn after they eventually untangling from a difficult arrangement on the back rank. This was quickly cancelled out by Dan Savidge, whose gambit intuitive powered through in a game I don’t understand, only because I can’t read your handwriting! Dan Varney swung the match in the University’s favour after another one of his typical games. He says I’ve got a habit of winning drawn positions, so I want to return the compliment by saying he has a habit of winning lost positions.
Sadly, Fergus Skillen couldn’t continue his strong form and lost on Board 6, despite his best efforts to stir up trouble after losing an early exchange (like Dan Varney). James Clarke lost his rematch against Oli Stubbs after his draw against their A team won the match for us last time. I’m sure there will be many chances for him to get his revenge in the second half of the season.
Once again, I was last to finish, this time needing to win to tie the match. After successfully defending a tough position for a long time, my opponent lashed out in time trouble, but I missed a nice swindle idea aiming to sacrifice both his remaining minor pieces for all my pawns leaving me unable to mate with two knights. I managed to save one of the pawns and, with neither player keeping score in time trouble, we’ll have to assume that I played perfectly preventing the knight reaching my last pawn. I thought that my opponent had lost on time after I was finally starting to make progress:
It wasn’t until five minutes after the game when Dan Varney said the final position was very nice, that the penny dropped that the final position was checkmate!
A 3-3 draw was probably a fair result on the night, the University making it count on Boards 3-5 where the grading difference was largest, Downend winning the closer battles. A great start to the season and let’s carry it into 2022!