With a clear lead in the League our team faced Horfield and Redland B – a strong team that were flawless thus far and would prove to be our most challenging opponents yet!
Before you continue a quick disclaimer: apart from Board 1, none of the games had particularly interesting positions or tactical sequence. Hence, what follows is a quick summary of the outcomes of Boards 3-6, a more detailed look at my own game on Board 2 and finally the gem of the match – the game on Board 1.
With Freddie executing another quick win for the team on Board 5, we were feeling more motivated than ever. A great game where Freddie made only one inaccuracy! Unfortunately for his opponent there is not much one can do when facing perfect play. I am looking forward to seeing Freddie get an official rating at the start of November and be able to play on the top boards for a change.
As it turns out though, we were not the only ones to demonstrate perfect play as Conor would find out on Board 4… One mistake was all it took for White to deliver a swift and devastating attack which led to mate.
It was now even and with Llewellyn getting slowly outplayed in the opening he was trying his best to get rid of the advantage White had procured, in the middlegame. Sadly, after having successfully equalised, the clustering of pieces led to a blunder of a Bishop and shortly after – the game.
On Board 2 I finally got to debut my Sicilian for the first time in a classical setting. My opponent went for a very interesting blend of an Alapin and a Nyezhmetdinov-Rossolimo Variations, which resulted in me opting for a Queen-less middlegame, where I retained my Bishop pair, with the intention to play against an IQP which I had hoped would prove to be a LTPW.
11. … Bxd1 12. Nxc6 Ba4 13. Ne5 cxd4 14. cxd4, however Stockfish prefers to get rid of the Knight at the cost of the Bishop pair and a damaged structure of two isolated pawns with 12. … bxc6 13. Rxd1 cxd4 14. cxd4. But as the whole idea was to go for a positional imbalance after the Queen trade, the isolated pawns were the main deterrent for me. A rather Karpovian decision some might say.
Being a principled 1950 ECF rated player, my opponent decided to offer a draw two moves after having got the IQP. I politely declined and we played on reaching this position, where white seemingly wins a free pawn:
As it turns out 18. … Rb8 19. Rxe7 Rfc8!! and white is forced to give up the exchange as the Rook is trapped after 20. … Kf8. Admittedly, I did not see this and decided to continue with the positional imbalance where for the cost of a pawn, I would leave White with doubled isolated pawns: 18. … Nd5 19. Rxb7 Nxe3 20. fxe3 Bxe5 21. dxe5 Rd2. This time, a rather Magnesian idea dare I say.
The problem was – I am neither Karpov nor Magnus (a shocking revelation), and so I ended up allowing a Rook trade at which point the two-on-one on the Queen-side mean the advantage could only go in White’s favour:
After 26. Rb8+ Kg7 27. Rb7 Kf8 28. Rb8+ Kg7 29. Rb7 my opponent offered another draw, which if I were to go 29. … Kf8 would be three-fold repetition anyways. Objectively, taking the draw was the correct decision, but I have PTSD from last season’s drawing streak, and I decided to take a risk: 29. … a5.
This soon became a Rook endgame and as Stan always says: “All Rook endgames are drawn”. This became apparent to my opponent after I offered him a draw on move 43., which he declined and after I made move 44. he said – “Yeah, fair enough” – as he extended the hand for a draw.
Having seen that I drew, both Fergus and Asha knew that a loss in their game would mean a loss of the match – the pressure was higher than ever.
Even though it was the last one to conclude, I will mention Asha’s game on Board 3 first, before I get to Fergus’ masterpiece,
The game itself was nothing special except for a line that both players missed. I will only include one of the top engine lines, however I would suggest to explore the side-lines yourself as they are crazy and not at all obvious.
15. Rad1?? is a blunder due to 15. … Ne4. The top engine line wants White to sacrifice the Queen with 16. Qe1 Ng3 17. Bxg3 (again, go explore the side-lines to see why any other move is not best) Rxe1. However, the line I want to share with you is 16. Qc2 Nxd4 17. Nxd4 Bxd4 18. Bxd7 Bxf2+ 19. Rxf2 Nxf2 20. Bxe8 Nxd1 21. Bxf7+ Kxf7 22. Qxd1 and Black is in a winning endgame. Honestly, who can blame the players for getting lost in the complexities of that position, as this is only one line that needed to be calculated.
At the end the players agreed to a call it a day after all the other games were finished in what was a – you guessed it – another drawn Rook endgame.
Finally, as promised, Fergus’ game on Board 1 with white. It must be said that the way Fergus played was not accurate, but if anyone said it wasn’t beautiful, they just objectively have poor taste. And if I try to put this game into words, I would be doing it injustice. So without further ado let the Chess speak for itself:
The win on Board 1 and draw on Board 3 led to our first draw of the season. But we are still undefeated and we will try to keep it that way at least until victory is assured and promotion is secured!