A Team’s Start of the Season Disappointment

Our first fixture of the season was against Ludlow A, newly promoted from Division 2, and we had no illusion that they were a team to be reckoned with.  With the news that the A49 was going to be closed from 8pm, I also knew that we would be looking at a late night, whatever the result.  At least it was early in the season, before the weather had become too bad.

Anyway, to the chess.  Things started pretty well as Daniel Lockett progressed quickly against Ray Woodley and reached an ending with two Bishops against two Knights. Admittedly, Bobby Fischer managed to hold such an ending with two Knights against Boris Spassky’s two Bishops in game 18 of the 1972 World Championship in Reykjavik but….well he was Fischer, wasn’t he? Fairly quickly, Daniel managed to convert his advantage, leaving Shrewsbury 1-0 up.

On board three, David was facing Richard Croot’s Modern Benoni and played the Mikenas variation.  It was an incredibly sharp position, although I was slightly nervous that David had ONLY sacrificed ONE Pawn.  As every schoolboy knows, David usually needs to sacrifice at least three Pawns to feel comfortable with his position.  In the meantime, Norman’s position was looking promising against Paul Munday and Jamie, having opened with his habitual English, looked roughly level against Perry Walker.  I was playing Joe Watson, who had opened with a Catalan.  I managed to reach a cramped position, with my light-squared Bishop apparently irrevocably entombed behind my Pawn chain for the foreseeable future.

Next to finish was David, who demonstrated that he, indeed, had failed to sacrifice enough Pawns and came off second-best in the ricochet of tactics flying round the board.  At this stage, Norman’s position looked even more promising.  Jamie was progressing towards his habitual time pressure, although his position looked sound enough.  At this point, I felt I had to make a break for it and started advancing some Queen’s side Pawns.  I still felt that my opponent had an advantage but I had to create some counterplay, one way or another.

As it happened, my game seemed to progress quite quickly.  My expansion on the Queen’s side seemed quite effective and Joe started taking a bit longer over his moves.  “At least I’ve got him thinking,” I thought.  Joe advanced his d-Pawn, which looked potentially dangerous for me but also gave me opportunities to continue my counter-attack.  I was blockading White’s d-Pawn with a Rook and also managed to create a passed c-Pawn of my own.  There were some tactics, too, and Joe, probably feeling the tide had turned, offered me a draw, which I accepted: 1½ apiece.

I looked at the remaining games and considered that Jamie’s was probably drawn, Norman’s won.  The only slight concern at this stage was Jamie’s rapidly depleting time, although I should be used to that by now!  Suddenly, on Norman’s board, things started to get interesting, as Norman spotted an opportunity to sacrifice an exchange, taking advantage of his opponent’s slightly exposed King.  “It’s in the bag!” I thought.  Then things started to go wrong.  Norman and Paul both started moving quite quickly and Norman appeared to play a combination in the wrong order, which Paul pounced straight away; Norman had dropped a piece.  However, all was not lost, as he had a dangerous looking passed Pawn and his opponent’s King was still struggling to find a safe haven.  Alas (for us), Paul managed to defend successfully to achieve the main upset of the evening. Ludlow 2½, Shrewsbury 1½.

By this stage, Jamie was VERY short of time.  Very soon afterwards, he made a slight inaccuracy, giving Perry the chance to gain an advantage.  Jamie offered a draw which, given that it gave Ludlow the match, Perry accepted.  Ludlow 3, Shrewsbury 2.

We console ourselves with the thought that last season, the game points were important in avoiding relegation; every point counts!

Francis Best, A Team Captain

B Team Faces Stern Test

Shrewsbury B faced a daunting challenge in their season’s opener: Wellington A away!  With the exception of Norman on board 5, everybody was out-graded by some margin.

Two of the games were done and dusted quite quickly. On board 3, Peter Kitchen disposed of Toby Neal in swashbuckling style in the space of half an hour!  (see “Interesting Games tab, play through it here). In a Marshall gambit Ruy Lopez, Toby played the old 11…Nf6 instead of the modern 11..c6. Indeed, up until Toby’s 13th move, they were following the original Marshall, Capablanca vs Marshall New York 1918! It wasn’t looking good for Toby anyway (Marshall himself came to the conclusion that …Nf6 wasn’t very good), when a further error led to a Queen sacrifice and back rank mate. Cracking stuff and a great result for Peter! 1-0 to Shrewsbury B.

Rather less inspiring was my lacklustre effort against Tiago Faustino on board 2. Tiago opened with Bird’s opening (1.f4). Immediately, I felt I could have done better, because I knew that I was playing black against either Toby or Tiago and, although I’d never played Tiago before, the one thing I knew about him was that he likes to play 1.f4.  So I could have prepared a bit! As it was I was playing blind, trying to remember how the Dutch went!

It didn’t go well. Tiago moved quickly, moving with the assurance of a player who knows what he’s trying to do. It seemed to me at the time that he quickly built up an imposing position, then I made a mistake and lost quickly. Looking through the game afterwards, however, and the terrible truth emerged. My position from the opening was actually perfectly OK and I should have been able to hold it. Indeed, for one move it was winning for me (a very easy tactical trick which we both overlooked). Anyway I played poorly and lost. One each!

The remaining 3 games were tense. Norman’s game on board 5 saw an early removal of queens and a difficult manoeuvring game where it looked to me and Peter hard for either side to make progress. Norman reckons he was winning, though, and he may well be right; he knows far more about those sort of positions than I do.

Ile played the Orang Utan (1.b4) against Colin Roberts and a tense situation developed, eventually getting into a difficult ending, where Ile was a pawn down but Colin’s extra pawn was doubled and it was hard to see how he could create the passed pawn he’d need in order to secure the win. Both Ile and Norman had the same problem: time!

Meanwhile Ivor was playing really well against Craig Murray, easily holding the position and slightly ahead on the clock. All three games were entering the final phase and things started to go awry! Ile’s time was becoming a big problem as Colin managed to swap off the rooks to reach a winning bishop ending. Norman’s position started to deteriorate as his clock ran down. Ivor lost a pawn but was now noticeably ahead on the clock. It became obvious that both Ile and Norman were going to lose on time and so Ivor (with my permission ) accepted Craig’s draw offer. A very creditable draw for Ivor as his opponent has nearly 40 grading points over him, the biggest disparity over the five boards. Meanwhile, both Ile and Norman succumbed to the inevitable. Norman’s final position still looked tenable to me. Ile’s wasn’t but, with more time, I’m sure he could have defended while the rooks were still on. Final score: Wellington A  3 ½ Shrewsbury B 1 ½.  Disappointing, but we can hold our heads up.

Next up Telford B at home.

Mark Smith, B Team Captain

 

Pre-Season Friendly Ends in Honours Even

Shrewsbury chess club got off to its usual unofficial launch to the season with our traditional (after a break of a couple of years) friendly versus Telepost.

As is usual, there were a couple of free transfers to even up the numbers with Peter Crean and Martin Ayres honorary Shrewsbury members for the evening.  As there was an odd number of players, Keith Tabner stood aside, which was very nice of him, as he’d organised the whole thing.  Scores were as follows in board order:

Nigel Ferrington 1-0 Francis Best

Matthew Clark   ½-½ Mark Smith

Steve Kempsell  0-1 Peter Crean

John Westhead ½-½ Ivor Salter

Quentin Mills.   ½-½ N O’Connor

Alan Cliff             0-1 Tony Purser

John Casewell    1-0 Martin Ayres

3 ½-3½

Honours even!  Ringers winning one (Peter) and losing the other (Martin).  Of the games involving Shrewsbury players there were 3 rather uneventful draws.  Saw hardly any of Ivor’s game but it looked a drawn ending from quite early on.  My own game wasn’t terribly exciting, except it appears that I missed a move that would have won the exchange just out of the opening.  Thereafter the game fizzled out to a dull draw.  Norman appeared to have some initiative against the improving Quentin Mills but, with no pawns on the Queenside, making anything of it looked difficult and a draw was agreed when they reached a rook ending.  I did catch the end of Tony’s game, a very sharp position in which Tony had the upper hand.  He rode his luck as a mistake in move order saw the balance change from a big advantage to probably lost to totally won as Alan missed his chance, all in the space of one move!  The final position with Tony about to mate was rather attractive but not for Alan’s King!

The most interesting game of the evening was Francis’s against Nigel.  A casual glance at the position would have told you that Francis was totally lost, as he had just two Knights for a Queen. Looking for a bit longer, though, and all was not so simple.  The Knights were well placed and the construction of a fortress looked a real possibility.  Hopes of Francis obtaining the draw that would give Shrewsbury victory were dashed, however, as Nigel really showed his class by giving back some of his material so that he was now a mere exchange up but in a much simpler position that was clearly won.  All in all, an enjoyable evening, which will have blown off a few cobwebs.  I think we should look to host it next year at Shrewsbury.

Mark Smith

B Team’s Promotion Hopes Dashed – But a Fine Season’s Performance

Shrewsbury B missed out on promotion to the first Division and a possible title against the odds in agonising fashion in the final game of the Division 2 season. Having led the field for almost all the season, Telepost B denied Ian Davies’ side a famous season with a hard-fought win in the final game, the title going instead to a Ludlow side strengthened by several highly-rated players joining from other clubs with Newport B joining them in gaining promotion to the top flight, so congratulations to those two sides and best of luck in the first division next season.

With “captain fantastic” Ian running away to Scotland and duo Mark Smith and Dan Lockett unavailable (and Peter Kitchen also unable to fill in), club stalwart Fred Harris, despite his retirement from league chess some years ago, agreed to fill in on board 5 for stand-in skipper Tony Purser in light of the importance of the match. The visitors, on the other hand, were at full strength and held a significant grading advantage on all boards except top board.

However, in the first game to finish the hosts took the lead. It was on board 5, where Fred was facing the rapidly improving Kate Walker. After a fairly cagey opening from both sides the game appeared roughly level, before a sequence of two or three inaccurate Queen moves and recapturing with the wrong piece suddenly meant Kate’s position was looking difficult, with Fred now controlling the only open file and his Queen pinning Kate’s Rook on her exposed King. A virtuoso display of sparkling attacking chess followed as Fred doubled his Rooks, forced Kate’s King onto the third rank and got his Knights hopping in, threatening checkmate and forcing Kate to give up her Queen for a Rook and Knight. While that can often be enough to hold a draw in an endgame, in this case her Rook and Bishop were trapped on their home squares and Fred’s Queen was centralised and active, meaning Pawns were going to drop off with regularity and so Kate resigned.

Next to finish was board four where Tony was facing Alisdair Benjamin. After missing an opportunity for a cheap trick winning a Pawn out the opening, Tony still established a promising position. However, Alisdair found a series of strong moves and put Tony under severe pressure. Although it looked as though he might find some fantastic defensive resources, eventually Tony was forced to lose several Pawns and succumbed to the pressure, losing the endgame. Shortly after, the match turned further as Norman O’Connor lost on board two to John Westhead. A seemingly fairly level position had gradually slipped away, with Norman also running low on the clock, and John established a dangerous attack with his Rook swinging out to the middle of the board.

This meant that Shrewsbury needed one and a half from the remaining two games in order to get promotion, and two wins to net the title. It looked as though the game on board three between Ivor Salter and Peter Crean was going to end in a draw – it was a King and Pawn ending with level Pawns and symmetrical structure. However, Peter’s King was more active and the pressure told and, although there may have been a draw at some point earlier, Ivor demonstrated afterwards that it was lost earlier than we had thought. That meant that the match was lost and there was only pride to play for on top board between this season’s superstar Dr Ile and Telepost’s Keith Tabner. Keith seemed to have pressure throughout the game in the White side of a kind of odd Saemisch King’s Indian/Czech Benoni hybrid but Ile rode it out, won a Pawn and showed exemplary technique to convert the endgame.

So overall, a fine season for the B team nonetheless which exceeded all expectations. Now onto the Minor Knockout!

Matthew Best, On-site reporter

So Near, Yet…

The B team has moved towards touching distance of promotion to Division 1 after our 4.5-0.5 win over already relegated Church Stretton B. We are now 3 points clear of our 2 nearest rivals with 2 matches left.  A forgone conclusion you might think, yet it could still all go horribly wrong (forever the optimist!) as we face the very strong Ludlow A and then Telepost B in our last match. The match between Telepost B and Newport B could even see us promoted without even playing, should Telepost win. Even a draw should do it for us because of our superior board count difference but, as every football manager will tell you, you can’t rely on other results (especially if you’re a Shrewsbury Town fan!) It’s also looking likely that we will only have 3 players available  for our last game but I’m working on it! Would be a real shame if that was the case AND we needed to win or draw.

I got the ball rolling after my opponent (who played the opening really well) dropped a piece (pin) and then later another piece (misread the position). I tried to mate him with Rook, Bishop and Knight on an open board and so nearly did (it’s quite difficult) until he resigned. Ile proved too strong for his opponent on 1 and then Tony got a draw on 5 after reaching a totally blocked position against his opponent who was making his comeback in chess after 30 years!

Performance  of the night must go to the vastly improved Shane Sweeney who took Norman all the way to an endgame position where I’m sure he could have held out for a highly creditable draw, but just a couple of tiny errors and Norman was in to promote his pawn and Shane resigned. Mark had a highly tactical position in his match towards the end with pins and potential sacrifices abounding. After cleverly  building up overwhelming  pressure against his opponent’s King a neat manoeuvre  forced the win of the Queen or mate. I always enjoy watching these sort of games as I stand there thinking what I would do only to see the players find a much better move (so unfair). It’s almost like a form of tactical training.

So crunch week is nearly upon us and we will certainly give it our best shot. Fingers crossed, watch this space!

Ian Davies, B Team Captain

Another Win, Another Controversy.

The B team remains on top of Division 2 after a narrow victory over Telford B on Friday night by 3-2, but not without  a moment of controversy  even before a pawn was pushed!

After a newspaper column stating the supposedly “raised eyebrows” caused by my decision to play Spanish student Celia on board 1 against Telepost B, I was informed by the Telford team that, as far as they were concerned, Dr Ile was ineligible  to play for us, as he had already appeared 6 times for the A team, even though he was officially classed as ungraded until January when he received  a grade of 162.  I therefore  intended to play him on board 1.  I stated that this was perfectly alright and was then informed that the League Controller  had also told them it was acceptable as well!   The opposing team stated that they would play the match only under protest and, indeed, they intended to take it to a higher level.  After this amicable tête-à-tête, the match started!

Before I knew it, the Doc. had agreed a draw and was gone.  Ivor then drew on board 4, but Mark’s superb run came to an end shortly after when he uncharacteristically  blundered a piece and came under a strong attack.  2-1 down then with Norman and me still playing.

My French Defence set up was going well and then I played what I thought was a clever move by winning a pawn in the centre, and discovering an attack on my opponent’s Knight, only to find it was my Knight that was in imminent danger.  After the game ended, we both agreed that the result might have been very different, had he not left me off the hook. I felt sure that this was correct but, after analysing it in depth at home, I found that it was safe all the time, so, just as I thought, it was a clever move!  I was a Pawn up but it was proving very difficult to break through, until my opponent forgot about a discovered check which won me the exchange and, after a tense struggle, the point.

I only saw the end of “Storming Norman’s” match in which he produced a beautiful  mating net around his opponent’s King: worth the admission money on its own!

So we await to see the outcome of Telford’s protest, but I can safely state that, should it be upheld, I shall well and truly eat my hat!

Ian Davies, B Team Captain

B Team Marches On

The B team went back to the top of division 2 this week after a superb 4-1 away victory against leaders Newport B. This brings our total tally against them to 9-1. We are now a point clear of our two nearest rivals and 2 points clear of third place and with a game in hand on all of them. Ludlow A lurks menacingly in the background, 3 points behind (same number of matches as us), so it is still all to play for and the final run to the end of the season promises to be an exciting, nail-biting affair.  Could this be our year?

Mark continued  his great run of form on board 1 by forcing resignation  from Danny Griffiths after winning the exchange in a Centre Counter game and obtaining dangerous mating threats.  After spending the whole of the weekend preparing the Albin Counter Gambit, my opponent  then, of course, opened with the London system, about which I knew absolutely  nothing!  All that shuffling about of the pieces must have helped though, as I first isolated his d-pawn, ganged up on it and then won it. After swapping the final pair of Rooks my Knight and King were too strong against his Bishop and King as I went about picking off his pawns.  Norman then drew on board 3 (I barely saw any of this game – sorry Norman!)

Tony, on board 5, had a totally  won position but knowing that the draw gave us victory, offered one which was immediately accepted. I think he just wanted an early night!

Peter Kitchen was appearing for us on board 2 and, by all accounts, was in a pretty precarious position at one stage against Athar Mehmood and rapidly running out of time.  I think Athar must have sacrificed a piece for a couple of Peter’s King side pawns, as he seems prone to do. Peter staged a comeback as everyone watched (always nerve-racking that, isn’t it?)  It was all very tactical at this stage, with Peter proving to be the better tactician by winning his opponent’s Queen and forcing resignation.

Next up is Telford B at home.  Only 4 games left; watch this space!

Ian Davies, B Team Captain

Second Whitewash (Sort of).

Your illustrious B team secured its second 5-0 win of the season when we played Priorslee B on Monday 11th January. Priorslee did default two boards in all fairness, but that’s not our problem!

Ile secured the 2 points after first winning a piece and later forcing his opponent either to lose his queen or resign. The Priorslee captain chose the latter option.  Mark then neatly checkmated George Viszokai with his heavy pieces on the h-file but all the real action was going on on my board where, after a disappointing Congress, playing stodgy, soulless chess, I decided to “go for it” with the King’s Gambit.  It was like watching Tal, Alekhine and Fischer all rolled into one (he said modestly – ed), as I steamrollered my way down the board, even sacrificing a Bishop and a few Pawns on the way, to eventually give mate with Queen and Rook. Of course, Mark immediately pointed out that I had missed a quicker mate, to spoil my thoughts of being World Chess Champion. There’s always someone isn’t there!

Ian Davies, B Team Captain

B Team Half Time Report

A very successful first half to our season has now come to an end and we stand on top, leading by one point, but like last season we all know how quickly that can change. I, for one, am under no illusion that it will, so let’s congratulate  ourselves on what we have achieved so far.

The Spanish Armada has now sailed back home, but this time undefeated, and the team owes our senorita Celia a huge debt of gratitude for helping to put us there. She will be very much missed but things go on and we must make sure that all of her efforts were not in vain as we commence the second half. It was a bit like Shrewsbury Town F.C. having Ronaldo on loan for the first half of their season and now heading League 1.

We will also be losing the services of Dan and Mark shortly, as they step up into the A team, so it’s going to be a long, hard struggle but our main priority must be to avoid relegation and 4 more points will probably  see us do that. So, well done to everyone and a particular thank you must go to Dr Ile who, along with Celia, formed a memorable partnership and, whatever happens in the future, we will always remember some special nights of chess created by those two.

Merry Christmas.

Ian Davies, B Team Captain

Shrewsbury’s Galacticoes!

A never to be forgotten  night of chess was played out at the Telepost club on Monday night (7th December) when the B team took on the leaders, Telepost B, and took both points after a dazzling finale.

Celia was given the honour of playing board 1, as it was her last appearance  for us and she has done so much for the team and club since she has been here.

Mark, playing on board 3, was first to finish after missing out on a winning attack and then having to settle for a draw. My game on board 5 against Andrew Lewis was the complete opposite. A bit like watching paint dry would be a fair assessment  of proceedings but still it was nice to see him again. Yes, you guessed  it, Andrew offered me a draw and, seeing no way through without messing it up, I agreed. Dan, on board 2, found Peter Crean on good form and was eventually overcome to lose and make it 2-1 to Telepost.

Ile, on board 4, was rapidly running out of time with less than five minutes left on his clock and I could see no way through for him.  Similarly, Celia was also running out of time in what, to me, looked like a dead drawn position with two pawns and a bishop each against Keith Tabner. Ile, showing great calmness and belief managed to checkmate Kate on the back rank with less than a minute left! None of us could quite believe that he had done it. 2-2 then.

All eyes now focussed on board 1, where it looked as though Celia was going to run out of time and the match would be lost. But by now we should know better than to underestimate our Senorita’s fantastic chess ability. I, for one, stood there spellbound as she displayed amazing endgame skill to force her opponent back and back, pick off both his pawns, while Keith was desperately trying to stop her and run her clock down.  But Celia was having none of that and was playing every move instantly, because she knew exactly what she was doing.  It really was great to witness as she relentlessly forced Keith onto the back rank, Queened one of her pawns and checkmated him. Applause rang out from everyone there.

What a fantastic way to end her time with the team. She really does have a great chess future ahead of her. GRACIAS CELIA!

Ian Davies, B Team Captain