With the season slowly coming to an end, every match is important if we want the promotion or, better yet, to win the League! After the eventful last match against Bristol Cabot, which had got adjourned due to a fire alarm, we were once again stressed out, this time because of organising travels for the away game against South Bristol A. This was amplified by the fact that half our team comprised of new players or a last minute replacement from the Bristol University C team. Nonetheless, we managed to get to the venue and for once, we were quite early, which to be honest, was rather nice for a change.
The match began with our bottom boards finishing first. Dan on Board 5 had a fantastic debut with a win with the White pieces. The opening was one of the most boring openings that exists in chess and so I will not share it out of principle. However, Dan managed to make it interesting by baiting his opponent into taking his b-pawn with the Queen. This put her out of play and allowed for development with tempo in the future. The game proceeded with White trying to create a big attack and ended up going for a Greek Gift Sacrifice!
Unfortunately, Black had a defence with 17. … Kxh7 18. Ng5+ Kg8 19. Qh5 Nf6, and the sacrifice was just a blunder of a perfectly good Bishop… Fortunately, Black got spooked and did not find the defence instead taking their King out for a little walk down the h-file. This, unsurprisingly, ended in a quick win for White.
As a quick side-note before moving on. A more testing line in the event where Black defends with 18. … Kg8 would be to play 19. Qc2 as this forces Black to find a couple of critical moves. In particular, 19. … Nf6 is forced giving up the pawn on c7, since if 19. … g6 is played, White has 20. Nxe6 fxe6 21. Qxg6+ Qg7 22. Qxe6+ Rf7 23. Rxd5 and White is completely winning.
A huge thanks to our Bristol University C player Samson, who bravely stepped up to the challenge to play for us in Division 2 so that we would not default, as getting players for this one proved to be harder than usual… Indeed, Samson on Board 6 did not disappoint with Black. He started out strong with an inaccuracy on move one (don’t hate me, Stockfish said it, not me) and got slightly outplayed in the opening which was topped off with a mistake in the early middlegame and the position was now +4. However, this is where players are most dangerous and like any good player, Samson started looking for tactics. The Black Knight started galloping all over the board picking up two pawns before returning to defend the King. And soon after, Black had equalised with a piece up. It was a back and fourth game which ultimately led to a Rook endgame. The only way to maintain equality is not obvious and so I leave it as a puzzle:
After the Knight was lost, as we all know very well by now: All Rook endgames are drawn. Thanks to Dan and Samson we were now comfortably in the lead, however we were by no means guaranteed a victory just yet.
I was next to finish on Board 2 with Black. Out of the opening I equalised quite easily and my opponent played a sub-optimal move pinning my Knight to my Queen. I knew this move was not best for White, however, I quickly realised two things: 1. I didn’t exactly know how to punish it; and 2. The pin is REALLY annoying. This led me to spend a lot of time in every subsequent move trying to find a way to play around the pin until I could conveniently break it without wasting tempi or damaging my structure should I move my Queen out of the pin. The game was one of lots of repositioning and slowly getting ready to strike by both sides with only one pawn trade by move 18, until finally, having built up a sizable advantage I struck in the centre.
Unfortunately, being low on time (classic Jonas), I lost my advantage having misevaluated my position after 18. … d4 19. exd4 e4 20. Ne5 Nxe5 21. dxe5 Ng4 22. Bxe7 (turns out that I am winning after, 22. … Qxf2+ 23. Kh1 Rxe7 24. Qg3 Qf5). So instead I went with 19. … exd4 20. Rad1 Ng4 21. Bg3 Bf6 at which point I was below a minute and played the rest of my game living off of the increment. Meanwhile, my opponent had about 1h on clock as he had only one speed – ‘On‘ – both in the opening and in the rest of the game. With such low time on the clock, and feeling like I was on the back foot having felt that I lost my advantage I was looking to try to finish the game as swiftly as possible by catching my opponent off guard. Essentially, I was playing aggressively and hoping my opponent makes a mistake, as I did not have time to play solidly (thank God for that). Indeed, the moment came when my opponent blundered:
I was eyeing up Nf3+ for a while as my pseudo-threat of the battery with the Queen and Bishop is negated by the Bishop on f1. However, with the seconds that I had on the clock, I missed that 25. Nd3?? now blocked the White Queen from guarding f3. Instead, I went on a journey with my Knight to try and remove White’s best defender – the aforementioned Bishop. My plan worked and I was once again winning.
This is a critical position with my idea to go Nd2. However, I rushed it 28. … Nd2?? is a blunder for a very subtle detail. After 29. axb5 axb5 (29. … Nxb3 loses on the spot to the passed c-pawn after 30. bxc6) 30. Qd3 Nxf1 31. Qxf1 Black has once again lost most of the advantage. However, just as I had rushed 28. … Nd2??, my opponent rushed 29. Qd3??. White too, had to wait as in the line above, by first taking the pawn 29. axb5, since now I get a passed pawn with 29. … Nxf1 30. Qxf1 bxa4:
And although my heart rate was probably around 200 BPM as a result of playing every move in only a few seconds, even I couldn’t throw such a winning position and ended up checkmating my opponent. See if you can find the mate in 7 that I found, although admittedly, I did not have time to calculate until mate until it was mate in 5:
It was looking good with 2.5 – 0.5 with three more boards left. And so, we move on to Board 4, where Darshan was making his debut for Bristol University B with the Black pieces!
Darshan’s game was a very closed one with White steadily building an advantage in the middlegame until a fatal blunder was made 27. Qc7??:
The winning move for Black was never found in the game, but I shall leave it as a puzzle to find. The opportunity to play the winning tactic persisted for another few moves, but was missed by both players and soon after, a draw was agreed upon. We were now guaranteed at least a draw in the match.
For the first time Freddie, with White, got a chance to play on Board 1. Unfortunately, the pressure of playing on Board 1 got to Freddie, and he was fighting not only against his opponent, but also with himself as well. This was evident by him second guessing his own moves and going for an opening decision which he normally doesn’t play, taking himself out of book much earlier than he needed to. Sadly, I did not get much from him about his game, and I do not have time to do a deep-dive analysis, so here is a quick summary because I’m lazy.
After going out of book White’s opponent managed to equalise and the game continued until Freddie went for a questionable pawn break in the centre. Black kept building their advantage after that until they missed a chance to win a very significant pawn, instead going for the Bishop pair, and now it was back to equal. The game ended quite abruptly as White went for complications missing a zwischenzug and blundering a Rook. This was a loss that I am sure Freddie has come out of – a better player.
Finally, we turn to King Julien. The reason we call him that is because my man does not need a second invitation to sacrifice a Queen. Sometimes it’s sound, sometimes it’s not. However, this time, Julien player what might be his current best classical game ever. So without further ado, let us look at King Julien’s Immortal Game. The opening was standard and I won’t reveal too much (although, unless you are a potato it should be pretty obvious) until Black made a blunder at which point Julien pounced:
8. … Bg4?? 9. Bxf7+!! Kf8. Naturally, 9. … Kxf7 10. Ng5+ Ke8 11. Qxg4 is best, but you cannot create art on the board if both players play a perfect game. After 10. Bb3 Nd4 the game was over with Black having made the second and last mistake of the game. 11. Nxd4 Bxd8 12. Ne6+ Ke8 13. Nxg7+!! Taking the Queen back goes from about +9 to +1 after 13. Nxd8 Bxb3. And after 13. … Kd7 14. Rxd1, even though material is balanced, the reason White has such a big advantage is because they have a Rook, both Knights and a Bishop (arguably both Bishops) developed, meanwhile Black’s most active and the only developed piece is the King on d7…
The rest of the game was clean-up which was visually appealing, but you will have to hunt down Julien yourself if you want to see it. In the end, it got to a completely winning Bishop & Knight VS Rook endgame, with three extra pawns for good measure. This won Julien the game and won the team – the match, 4 – 2.
We are now in second place with three points behind Horfield & Redland B and 5 points ahead of both South Bristol A and Downend & Fishponds C. With 3 games to go before the end of the season, we are still not yet guaranteed a promotion, however, winning the whole league is also not out of the realm of possibilities! Next match is against North Bristol A.