To continue the theme of this season of not having a single match go smoothly and without any drama we started this one with chaos like never before. I came nice and early to set up with no stress, however as time was approaching 19:10 and the Debate Society, who were occupying the Gromit Room, showed no signs of packing up, I was starting to get worried. After triple checking that it was indeed the correct date of the scheduled match it became clear that no booking for the Chess Club was made for tonight… The attempts to find another room to play in, notifying everyone of the change and doing so under time pressure whilst assuring our opponents, who had already arrived all the way from Thornbury, that everything will be sorted out in time was extremely stressful. As if that was not enough, we were faced with the moral dilemma of whether to allow another society to share the room that turned out to be available, which they had forgot to rebook just like us, to do some charity work. In the end, we were given access to a normally off-limits part of the building and the games started only ten minutes behind schedule. Thank you to everyone who helped out with this unfortunate situation, especially Julien, Tom and that one guy in the reception – legend. With the stress level requirement for this season matches now met, we can finally move on to the actual games.
The match featured what was one of the quickest games of the season. Garegin, on Board 5 with the Black pieces, managed to equalise without even making a move with 1. b4. The game continued until move 20 at which point Black offered a draw in the following position which was immediately accepted:
Whether this decision is questionable or professional is not for me to say. However, at the time I did worry if my message to the team members “If you are the last one playing and a draw draws us the match, offer/accept any draws unless you are 100% sure you can win”, was misinterpreted to go for a draw in any position. The reason for this message was that this was our penultimate match with a draw securing promotion to Division 1 – the goal we have been working hard to achieve this season. Personally, noting the LTPS that black has with the passed c-pawn, I would have gone for a King-side attack as you have all the time in the world to reroute pieces in such a closed position. Regardless, a draw is not a bad result and we were still on track to draw the match.
Next to finish was Dan on Board 6 with White. Dan played what he described as an incredibly instructive Italian from which he got a better understanding of important tempi and piece placement. I shall not bore you with the theory and nuances of move orders as frankly I know absolutely nothing about the Italian, however, I will show you one cool winning idea that was missed.
In this position, White can win a piece: 18. Bxe6 Qxe6 (18. … fxe6 allows 19. Nxg5+!! which I will leave for you to explore) 19. Ra4 and Black has no way to prevent Qa1 with the pressure on the a-file, now unstoppable. In the game 18. Qb1 was played preventing 18. … c6 19. b6 and indirectly putting pressure on the Black King. The game continued for quite a while until Black blundered a fork in the endgame and we were now leading the match.
On Board 2, King Julien with White faced the cheeky Scandi for the first time in classical and managed to blunder his c-pawn by move 5. In reality, it wasn’t actually a blunder as White gets rapid development, however White is equal at best. Thankfully, this was where Black started going astray by castling Queen-side where the c-file was already half-open and made a blunder which Julien took advantage of immediately with such perfect execution that I shall show the game to it’s conclusion:
Black just played 11. … Nb6?? losing the game on the spot: 12. Ne5 (attacking both f7 and h5) Bg6 13. Nb5 (forks a7 and c7!) Nd5 14. Nxa7+ Kb8 15. Nac6+ (a cheeky time-burner) Kc8 16. Na7+ Kb8 17. Nec6+ bxc6 18. Nxc6+ Kc8?! 19. Ba6+ Kd7 20. Ne5+ Ke6?? (feel free to pause here and find a #3) 21. Rc6+ Rd6 (21. … Kf5 22. Bd3#) 22. Bc8+ Kf6 23. Ng4#.
Needing only one more draw to secure promotion and with three games still going things were looking good. Although at this point our Boards 1 & 3 were in dire straits, Freddie on Board 2 with Black was up a piece and completely outplaying his opponent. Freddie played extremely aggressively, so much so that, like a true Chad that he is – Black never castled his King, and won a Knight by trapping it in the middle of the board!
The game continued on and Freddie decided at one point to give up an exchange to not allow counterplay, but having been up a piece he was now up the exchange. A very clean game which culminated in a mate in two puzzle for you to solve:
We had officially reached our goal and so both Dougie and I could relax, but not too much as our clocks were now only ticking from the increment.
I played with Black on Board 1, where I had an extremely uncomfortable yet even position, which had come out of a very complex cluster of pieces in the centre with lots of tension and tactics flying around after every move, until I made quite a significant mistake.
Honestly, 18. … Nd7? is such a brain-dead move that I can barely explain it. I think what happened was that on low time I was calculating a lot of variation very quickly and I mixed up my lines, going for an option that I had excluded. I remember being under the impression that I was already losing due to the Killer B’s staring at my King so I believe that I intended to go for 18. … Bb7 19. Bxf6 gxf6 20. Qg4+ Kh8 or 20. Bxh7+ Kxh7 21. Qh5+ as I would be more than happy with a perpetual. Regardless, this lost me the game until I pulled off what might very well be the swindle of the season.
In the following position, my desperate intentions were to try and walk my King to h3 in hopes for a swindle. However, for reasons that I cannot explain other than time pressure and bloodlust, my opponent went 35. Rf1?? pinning my Bishop to my King (or something I guess). As you can see, I was handed a swindle on a silver platter and after 35. … Rg2+ 36. Kh1 Rf2+ my opponent accepted my generous draw offer.
Lastly, we turn to Dougie on Board 4 with White. Dougie has had a rough season this year and it wasn’t looking good this game either… The opening for White was great, largely because Doogie’s opponent played the Benko with a fundamental misunderstanding of the ideas of the opening.
In this position Black played the absolutely horrible 9. … d6????????????, which is such a fundamental misunderstanding of the opening that it makes me gag a little (if Dougie’s opponent is reading this, I am sorry that I am not sorry, but you’re welcome for the insights you’re about to get). This kills all the hopes and dreams the light squared Bishop had, rendering the move 7. … Bb7 completely useless and a waste of a tempo, which in a gambit is sort of all you have. This also allows White to maintain the control of the centre while catching up in development. The thematic pawn move for Black is e6, challenging the centre, opening the eyes of the dark squared Bishop and preparing castling as well as indirectly putting pressure on e4. I could go on and on, but honestly I can’t bring myself to think about this terrible move anymore so let us move on.
Unfortunately, White did not seem to play according to consistent plans by moving major pieces to the Queen-side and yet seemingly trying to start an attack on the King-side with minor pieces and pawns. This ultimately led to a couple of mistakes, losing the control of the centre and a Queen getting trapped:
It is actually best to give up the Queen for the two minor pieces with 29. … Ne6 30. Bxe3 Nxd4 31. Bxd4 32. Re5 Rxf4. However, instead Dougie decided to give up the exchange to save his Queen with 30. Qe4 d5 31. Rg3+ fxg3 32. Qxe3 this is a suboptimal variation according to The Fish, but practically speaking it was the right decision to keep the Queen’s on with such an exposed Black King. Indeed, counter-attack after counter-attack was launched until under time pressure, not only did Black blunder a piece, but also a Queen trade into a winning endgame for White. Although also a beautiful swindle, it was lost to in the ether of time as both players were living off of the increment.
The match thus concluded with us winning 5 – 1 and securing our well earned promotion to Division 1! There is still one more game left in the season, however the pressure is off and we will be going to Keynsham to have some fun and play some dubious chess.