The final match before the Christmas break and it was a toughie against division rivals Downend A. Neither side fielded a player below a rating of 2000 showing just how important both teams considered the match. Things didn’t look great for the University with Aron Saunders wheeling out one of the more dangerous lines against Dan’s Pirc defence and winning an exchange. Dan did well to put up a decent fight and was nearly rewarded for his tenacity.
This loss was followed by Tom’s first draw of the season breaking his 100% record, but a well-played game after an interesting piece sacrifice/blunder. I managed to win my game to level the match with a tidy tactical finish.
Black had pushed the pawns on the kingside to give the knight a lovely outpost on d4. The next move is very natural, but I was pleased to analyse the position to the end of the game. 24…Qh4 25.g3 Qh3 26.f3 White must do something to prevent Black playing f3 and mating. One key tactic is that 26.gxf4 loses material to 26…Qxc3 27.Qxc3 Ne2+ winning a rook. 26…fxg3 27.Nxg4 Nxf3+! The crescendo of the previous moves. The kingside is opened and the weakness on the back rank is exploited. 28.Rcxf3 Rxf3 29.Rb1 Qxg4 and Black won soon after.
James kept the match level with a draw in the Petroff that he totally plays all the time. A small wobble along the way, but his opponent started to flounder in time trouble allowing James to escape. This left the two new additions to the team, Zachary and Kevin, left to finish and both had seemingly promising positions. In particular, Zachary had a good position from the opening, but it was complicated and the balance swung back and forth in a messy game. Eventually the needle landed in the middle and the game was drawn.
This left the match down to Kevin who had picked up a couple of pawns from an unusual opening but had spent a lot of time as a result. The position once again got messy and, sadly for the University, blunders reared their head resulting in a loss of game and match. A difficult way for the year to end and heart-breaking for Kevin, but a well-fought match and well done to Downend A for winning. This result puts them top of the league over Christmas, but still plenty to play for in the second half of the season.