by Julien Astier
Thornbury hosted matches are somewhat dreaded. A phenomenal 50 minutes by public transportation to and from the City Centre makes one hope their games will finish on time to catch the last bus, lest they resort to a taxi. Two of the players had gone the previous day to The Beer Emporium (a pub welcoming chess players every Wednesday at 7:30), to their own detriment. Dubious hand and brain as well as bughouse games were had there, whose embarrassing moments are, thankfully, lost in the ether of time. We had a disappointing final tally of 1-3, though an interesting selection of games to look at.
Sam’s game ended peacefully in a draw, though born out of a tactical Sicilian hyper accelerated dragon, where White was for choice, thanks to questionable pawn pushes around Black’s kingside and White ‘taming’ black’s fianchettoed Bishop. Black was able to swing back by generating threats of his own on White’s King side, leading to necessary concessions which ultimately saw a crucial central Pawn drop, equalizing the game.
Can you find Stockfish’s recommended solidifying move?
Julien’s Game featured sharp and double-edged play. Attempts were made to desperately capture a lacking initiative, leaving Black’s King wide open, and despite a pair of beautiful central Knights on c4 and e4, no tactics were to be found. White executed a powerful mating attack by delaying castling, pushing along the h file, and controlling the centre. Black, thinking he could get a shot at attacking White’s king by opening up the centre, unleashed White’s own Bishop and Queen, previously imprisoned behind Pawns on the light squares.
Can you spot the mate in 2?
Jonas and his opponent felt Black had the initiative throughout the game, pushing for a decisive result, in the exchange variation of the French defence. “The fish (sic) would call ‘blunders’ (my refusal) to exchange queens”, says Jonas, citing 4 consecutive draws leading up to his match as the reasoning behind wanting to keep Queens on the board. His opponent reportedly made four draw offers, to which Jonas reluctantly accepted to keep his streak alive, now at an impressive 5 draws in a row. The game featured a(n unexpected) tripled Pawn structure in front of White’s kingside, spurring efforts to attack on the open h file.
Finlay and his opponent entered a closed middle game with both pairs of bishops traded early in a Giuoco pianissimo, followed shortly by a Queen trade. The resulting position saw two knights and two rooks for both sides, with the first pawn traded on move 19! Ultimately, a seemingly equal position was anything but, as the last pawns remaining were to be picked up by Black’s King first.
A winning endgame for Black, as his King will be able to capture both of White’s pawns and defend his own.