On the home straight of the season, and the prospects of a second title win just about in our control, University A had a tough pairing to navigate against, on paper, one of the strongest teams in the division. Our preparations were somewhat hampered by James’ unavailability, although perhaps his existence was already terrifying enough for our opponents. After some board order shuffling and a welcome return of Dan Varney and Jonas to the A team, we fielded a more than capable side.
As a last-minute step up to the first team, Jonas had the “perfect” game, winning by default as he watched his position after 1.e4 improves for the allotted time. A shame that he didn’t get to play but thank you for filling in the spot. You did your job perfectly. Being 1-0 up so soon helped settle any nerves and Dan Varney finished next, accepting a draw when surrounding positions were looking promising. The computer was not at all impressed by his gambit play, but what do they know about the Varney factor?
My game was the next to finish. After being technically lost from the opening (even more so than the usual amount of Dutch lost), my opponent and I misevaluated a dangerous sacrifice when other sacrifices looked more promising. After this fortune, I was able to generate a dangerous attack after getting two minor pieces for a rook and two pawns.
After the rook check, White felt obligated to play 20.Kf3 when Black goes a full piece up after 20…Bd5+. The important continuation is how does Black finish if White tries to keep the material with 20.Kh3? You didn’t need to see the finish before arriving at this position, it’s enough to know that Black is clearing mating, but it’s good visualisation to get to the final mate. Answer at the bottom of the report.
This gave the university a nice lead and, while I don’t know the exact order of the games finishing, Dan Savidge finished with some sharp play of his own.
White played the forceful 17.e6 to weaken the Black king position after it had not used the time in the opening to find safety. This takes courage to play as you need to realise that Black doesn’t really have time to take the “free” pawn with check on d4. 17…fxe6 18.Bxb5 Bxb5 19.Nxe6 Bxd4+ 20.Kh1 Qd7. This is a natural response maintain some guard on b5 and d4 but Black had the stronger possibility of 20…Bxf1! 21.Nxd8 Ng4 with some messy compensation for the queen, and the reason why 19.Nxb5 was slightly preferable. 21.Nxb5 Rxb5 22.Bxh6 Re5 Black can’t reasonably prevent an invasion down the a file, which White exploits immediately with 23.Rxa5 Qxe6 24.Qb4 Rxa5 25.Qxa5. The smoke has cleared and Black still has huge problems with his king despite the exchanges and equal material. Dan was able to win the exchange and convert to a win.
Tom also managed to draw in another Slav, while Zachary on his promotion to board one held an uncomfortable looking position for some time against strong opposition. Overall, a great result for University not losing a game which helps the points for column in case of a tie at the top. A bit of a break now for Easter before the final push, although plenty of time to stay sharp with the upcoming Bristol congress.
Answer: Black mates with checks after 20.Kh3 Be6+ 21.Kh4 Be7+ 22.Kh5 Bg4+ 23.Kh6 Bg5+ 24.Kxh7 Bf5#.