Disappointment for Shrewsbury B

Shrewsbury B team’s tough start to the season continued against Newport B.  It looked finely balanced on paper.  On board 1, Ile was Black against Chris Lewis which started with a Modern opening but, as usual with Ile’s games, quickly found its own path.  My own game on board 2, with White against Danny Griffiths, saw another Modern but this quickly settled on the path of a more conventional Pirc.  Board 3 saw Ian with the Black pieces playing his favourite French defence against Stuart Ross and the game looked complex and sharp.  Norman, on board 4, had White against Chris Paul.  Norman opened with 1.c4 followed by an early g3 and Bishop g2, a favourite of his.  I did not catch the first few moves of Heath’s game, in which he had Black against Malcolm Price, as they were played rather quickly but he seemed to be doing alright.  However, this was destined to be one of those evenings when little, if anything, was to turn out the way it should!

From the opening Ile’s position looked sharp and unbalanced, usually a good sign in his games, but clearly there was a tough struggle ahead.  Ian’s game on board 3 also looked tough for both sides.  Heath’s position on board 5 began to look promising as did the future of Norman’s Bishop which was putting pressure on Chris’s centre.

However, at this point I was more preoccupied with my own game, which was getting lively with opposite side castling.  In my “subtle” way, I pushed both h and g pawns towards Black’s King.  Danny then missed a fleeting chance to get his own attack going by landing a Knight on a4,  Instead, he retreated it to e8, then played f6 to try and disrupt my attack.  This really should have been a fatal error. I found a nice resource (though Fritz pointed out that my move order was inaccurate), in which I appeared to offer a piece.  It couldn’t be taken, in fact, which Danny realised, though the move he played shouldn’t have served him any better.

The next half hour or so was very strange and perhaps defies explanation but I’ll try.  I’d worked out a sequence of moves which seemed to me to lead to an ending with 2 extra Pawns.  However, most unusually for the time of evening (about 9 pm), quite a few people were taking an interest in the game (normally this only happens from 10.20 or so when most of the games have finished and time is running out).  Danny wandered off, I made a move, Danny came back and let out a sigh of relief.  There was some shaking of heads;  too late I saw it!  I can be forgiven, I think, for not finding the mate in 8, but I really should have seen that a simple discovered check would have won Danny’s Queen on the following move and he would surely have resigned on the spot!  Worse still, I now realised my error.  My calculations were not entirely incorrect; I went into the ending 2 pawns up, though one of them turned out not to be tenable.  It may well be that the position was still won, however, I have to confess that I was mentally shot after this.  I played listlessly and agreed a draw about half an hour later.

Having dusted myself off (a bit; I was still annoyed for hours after), I took a good look at the other games.  Heath was now material up but he had to be careful; his King looked a bit exposed.  Ile’s game was still complicated.  they each had about 25 minutes left; on the whole I quite liked his position and knew it to be the sort of position which gets him results in the last 40 minutes (ie. the sort of position which can become much sharper very quickly).  Norman was a Pawn up going into an endgame with Rooks and Knights.  Ian looked in some difficulties to me but was hanging on in there and there were still many possibilities.  At this point, I would have predicted wins for Norman and Ile, a draw for Heath and a loss for Ian leaving us 3-2 winners and my blushes spared.  Wrong in every single detail!

First to fall by the wayside was Heath.  Naturally trying to win (he was the exchange for a pawn up after all), he unwisely grabbed some material and fell into a mating sequence which was nicely executed by Malcolm.

Things were also not quite so rosy on board 1  Positionally, Ile was still okay but he’d used up loads more time than Chris and was down to six or seven minutes to Chris’s twenty.  Normally, no big deal this but Chris is an excellent rapid and blitz player.

Worse, Norman had misplayed his ending.  First, he exchanged rooks: not necessarily wrong, but it reduced the options, then exchanged Pawns in the centre which left him no King entry point and no Knight sacrifice breakthrough.  His extra Pawn was now of no consequence and a draw was agreed.

2-1 down then with two games going to the wire.  Finally, we got a break!  Ian found a nice exchanging mechanism which would have resulted in Queen v two Rooks and a likely draw (still plenty of play, though).  Inexplicably, except that he was getting short of time, Stuart missed that his Queen was en prise at the end of the exchange and needed to move: 2-2!  In the end, the final game came down to time.  Ile played superbly with his last two minutes, as he usually does, and even crafted a winning position at the very end but he ran out of time.  So, a disappointing 3-2 loss for which I shoulder much of the blame (I think this is unduly harsh on yourself, Ian. We’ve all been there – Ed).  We’ll have better days!

Mark Smith, B Team Captain

Tough Start for B Team

Shrewsbury B faced a tough challenge in their opening game of the season vs Church Stretton A.  Church Stretton reformed as a club in the close season and I’m sure we all wish them well.  We were somewhat weakened by a change of rota which made Ile unavailable; indeed we started the evening unsure if we might have to default a board as I’d had an issue with my email and was unsure whether to expect Heath or not.  We started with just four boards with Tony on board 4.  Fifteen minutes later, Ivor arrived whom I had thought unavailable.  After some discussion, during which I offered to default the board, it was agreed that Tom Williamson, Church Stretton board 5 and captain, play Ivor anyway, despite it not being board order.   Anyway, on to the chess!

On first board, I had black against Trevor Brotherton; quite a challenge.  He played 1.g3 , which is a favourite of his and the game started quietly.  Board 2 saw Norman O’Connor take on David Hodge and Norman also played one of his favourites, an English with an early g3, which looked ok to me early on.  I didn’t catch the first few moves of Ian’s game but it all looked quite cagey against Stephen Chadaway, who is new to the area but, with a grade of 139, it looked like it could be a challenge for Ian, who has played very little competitive chess over the last year.  On board 4, Tony was up against Karl Wakefield (good to see him back).  Tony played his usual 1.Nf3, which has served him very well over the last year or so; he gets playable positions out of book.  I didn’t catch the opening on board 5 but it looked even.

My position against Trevor looked ok to me (Trevor agreed after the game). I was developed and my pieces were on good squares.  Norman’s game kept the tension but I quite liked the look of it.  His bishop on g2 looked like a proper Catalan bishop; a Norman position.  Ian looked as if he had work to do on board 3 to gain equality but his position looked solid enough.  Board 5 looked dead level.  The most interesting position was Tony’s on board 4.  Karl’s king looked in grave danger but then it often does in Karl’s games!

Around 9.30 things started to happen and quickly.  Tony could make no progress in his position and a draw was agreed.  I’d probably have played on myself but it’s worth pointing out that Karl out-grades Tony by about 30 points, so it’s a good half for Tony.  At around the same time, both Norman and I came to grief.  Norman made a mistake which cost him the game quickly, while I bucked the trend against Trevor.  Normally, it’s a tight game which goes to the wire, then I lose!  On this occasion, I lost quickly, after an unwise b4; the idea was alright, but too impatient.  Tom and Ivor agreed a draw, as did Ian, who had defended very well, and Stephen.

A loss to begin with but we’ll have better matches.

Mark Smith, B Team Captain

Solid Start for A Team

This season there don’t seem to be any easy looking matches on offer in the first division.  Our first two matches held the potential to offer us something, but both Priorslee Lions A and Wellington A can pack a punch on their night. Indeed, Wellington had already won their first match against Telford A by the margin of 4½ – ½.

Priorslee Lions

David Everington had the toughest task, playing on our board 1 for both matches.  David said after the Priorslee match that Adrian Zdanowski deserved to win, having won the last couple of encounters previously himself. On the bottom two boards, Matt Best and Mark Smith both seemed to be outplaying their respective opponents.  Indeed, these were the first two boards to finish – both with the “correct” result (at least from Shrewsbury’s point of view).  Alas, shortly afterwards, David was forced to resign, redressing the score from Priorslee’s point of view.

Meanwhile, I had experimented (badly) with an early Queen exchange against Bill Bates’s French defence.  I had hoped to play against the typical bad white square Bishop in Black’s camp but this never materialised, with Black’s forces enjoying better coordination and my King becoming exposed in my increasing attempts to rectify my earlier faulty play.  Soon, it was two points apiece, after I was forced to resign, and the match result all hinged on the outcome of the board three encounter between Peter Kitchen and Glyn Pugh.  Here are Peter’s comments on his game:

“Glyn caught me out completely on move one by playing 1.d4 and subsequently a Catalan.

I missed a promising knight sacrifice …Nxf2 early in the middlegame, and after a few mutual tactical blows the centre opened up and Glyn appeared to have a pleasant position.

But he went wrong over the next couple of moves, sidelining his queen and dark squared bishop on the a-file, and I built up a healthy initiative. I thought I was on the verge of obtaining a winning position as time ran down for both of us and appeared certain to make a breakthrough.

But then after an innocuous looking bishop retreat from Glyn I found I couldn’t take his undefended f2 pawn as planned. This threw me, and after quite a think I played a very poor move …Rc2 (…I think Kf7 was called for) which allowed Glyn’s Queen deep into my position and handed the initiative to him.

Glyn then missed a couple of opportunities to apply pressure on me before the position settled down a little and we agreed a draw (as the last game to finish I don’t think either of us fancied losing our team the match!).”

Thus, honours ended even overall; probably both sides were a little disappointed.

Wellington

David’s game against Wellington’s Toby Neal was a more of a case of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.  It was, however, a very entertaining game, which David has annotated here.  Sadly, though, David’s reward was another loss.  Was this match going to follow the same pattern as the Priorslee one?

In this match, I was playing against Colin Roberts. Colin played the English, as usual, but quickly found his pieces rather awkwardly placed, after allowing me to play an early …d4, kicking his c3 Knight, which didn’t really have a good retreat.  The Queenside became blocked and Colin chose to castle behind it.  However, his Queen was also stuck on that side of the board, as well as the fact that his Kingside pieces lacked coordination.  I played my Bishop to b7, offering to exchange off Colin’s one decent piece, the Bishop on g2, but Colin chose to retain his Bishop, blocking it in at the same time by advancing his Pawn to f3.  I advanced my central Pawns, opening up lines and in invasion through the central e-file proved decisive, leading to Colin’s resignation.  Well, at least that was an improvement from the last match!

On board 3, Daniel Lockett was White against Wellington’s James Kuczynski. Black replied to e4 with what developed into a classical Pirc. Neither side really pushed things too much to begin with and by move 16 there had yet to be any captures made. Both sides had a problem piece or two: Black’s white squared Bishop had only just got onto the a8-h1 diagonal to get involved, and Daniel’s Queen’s Knight on c3 was having to find another home to free up the Pawn behind it to support the pawn on d5.

An exchange of pawns on d5 by Black did finally open up the e file and Daniel decided to try and get a little initiative by pushing the f-Pawn and then the g-Pawn to harass a black Knight and free up some space to coordinate his heavier pieces on the e and f files.

Daniel had also managed to gain about ten minutes on the clock, which was probably key to what followed. Black advanced a Knight to e4, supported by Rook and Queen on the same file. However, this allowed White to exchange off the Knight and, when the Rook recaptured, Daniel’s own Knight was able to land on e6, with check, isolating the Rook. Black was forced to exchange Rook for Knight and Pawn, after which, with Daniel’s extra time, it was a case of exchanging Queens and picking off the remaining Pawns and creating a passed Pawn that Black couldn’t stop with his remaining Bishop.

Board four saw Wellington’s Mike Hollier as White against Peter Kitchen. The game was a Queen’s Gambit Declined, where, after the standard Bg5, Mike unusually retreated his bishop to f4 after Peter’s …h6.

Early in the middlegame, Mike chose to advance with c5. Realising he could quickly get squashed (with the a8 Rook and c8 Bishop still on their starting squares), Peter moved quickly to undermine this Pawn and, after an inaccuracy from Mike, Black won this pawn.

Mike then diverted all his resources into a kingside attack, and much of the rest of the game was spent with Peter fending off his many tactical threats, in the knowledge that he had two defended and unopposed central Pawns and was up on material to boot.

Having been about 25 minutes down in the clock early on, Peter was about 10 minutes up when the game entered its truly critical stage, with Mike deciding to go all-out for it with a Rxg7 sacrifice. Peter had to return a knight and another Pawn and his King was forced into the open, but Black remained material up and, crucially, had a few threats of his own.

With about 45 seconds of time left, Mike was thrown by a double threat on his Queen and the g2 square, blundered a Rook and resigned (which won us the match, as we went 1-3 up). There was a defence with Ne3 that would have essentially led to a queen exchange but this would have activated Peter’s pieces and left him with a far better ending.  As well as this, Peter also still had three or four minutes remaining on the clock.

Playing on board 5, Ivor Salter opened 1.e4 and, after seeing Black’s 1…c5, the Sicilian, Ivor had no hesitation in playing his favourite Morra Gambit.  It was book perfect with Colin taking both pawns, but he had not read the same book as Ivor and got bogged down in the opening. You can play through the game here.  A typical Morra rout!

Thus, we finished this match winners by 4 – 1, a result that was better than we might have hoped for.  After this result, and before Oswestry A v Newport A had ended in 2½ – 2½ draw, we were nominally at the top of the table for a day!  Still, at the time of writing, we are second behind Oswestry, on the same Match points (3) and just one single game point behind them.  I’ll take that for now!

Francis Best, A Team Captain

 

A Team Loses but Keeps Ahead of Rivals

The A team’s last fixture of the season was at Priorslee on Monday 27th March.  As this occurred after the last B Team’s match, we could afford to have a free run of all our players – subject to availability, of course.  On top board, David Everington faced Adrian Zdanowski, who essayed the Grünfeld against David’s 1.d4.  David played one of his pet lines, combining 4.Bf4 with 5.Qa4+.  Adrian failed to respond optimally and David was quickly pressing out of the opening.  In order to try relieving some of this pressure, Adrian gave up his Queen for a Rook and Knight, although he remained two Pawns down and had an exposed King position.  Within the next few moves, it was clear that Black had obtained no relief and David won convincingly, forcing through a winning attack against the Black King.

I was facing William Bates on board 2 and, for the second time this season, played the Scandinavian against William’s 1.e4.  Afterwards, William asserted that he had played Bc4 too early in both games, although he had chosen a slightly different setup this time compared with the previous fixture.  I have to confess I was a little cowardly and, when he offered me a draw on move 17, I accepted, even though I felt I was slightly better.  It seemed to me we stood better in several of the other games – anyway, that was my excuse!

On board 3, Daniel Locket was White against Glyn Pugh and played the exchange variation against Glyn’s French Defence.  After an early c4, a plan which Daniel has used effectively in a few recent games, he found his isolated d-Pawn under attack and lost it shortly afterwards.  With the Bishop pair and an extra Pawn, Glyn continued to build up the pressure.  On move 16, Daniel took a “poisoned Pawn” on b7.  Although Glyn missed the most decisive follow up, the resultant open lines seemed to help Black’s position far more than White’s and Daniel resigned a few moves later.

Board 4 saw Mark Smith face Steve Tarr, who played his habitual London system.  Although White (Steve) had an edge out of the opening, Mark defended accurately and even managed to progress to an ending where he was slightly better, having an extra outside passed Pawn in a Rook, Knight and Pawns ending.  However, Steve managed to keep his pieces very active, harassing Black’s King position, as well as containing the passed Pawn.  In the end, Steve forced the draw by threatening mate which Mark could only counter by repeating position.  So the match was level, leaving just board 5 to finish, with Ivor Salter facing Gary White.

Gary offered the Alekhine’s defence against Ivor’s 1.e4, although Ivor avoided mainline theory by playing 2.Nc3 (funny how many White players do that!)  Gary played the opening in a typically unorthodox fashion but Ivor responded energetically and developed a strong initiative with the Bishop pair, extra central space and a lead in development.  In trying to solve his problems, Gary also consumed a lot of time on the clock and Ivor was about twenty minutes ahead.  Things started to go wrong for Ivor around move 21, when he missed a golden opportunity to use his structural advantages against Gary’s King position.  A few further inaccuracies followed and Gary kept causing Ivor problems.  Steadily, we watched Ivor’s position deteriorate and his time advantage evaporate.  All credit to Gary for keeping his chances alive; eventually Ivor gave up material in desperation to try to keep in the game but this, too, was unsuccessful.  Gary managed to create a mating net against Ivor’s King with just 18 seconds left on his clock.  Now I really wished I hadn’t accepted William’s draw offer!

At least we remained ahead of Priorslee on game points and finished the season in fifth position.

All of these games, with Chessbase 14’s “Tactical analysis” added, can be viewed here.

Thank you to all our players who have taken part over the course of the season.  Just one Rapidplay fixture to complete now.

Francis Best, A Team Captain

A Team Loses out Narrowly to Telepost

Last Friday saw our penultimate fixture of the season take place against one of the division title contenders, Telepost A.  Last time we had just lost out to Newport A, Telepost’s chief rivals; a result that could easily have been reversed, had things just gone slightly better on the night.  Could we do better against Telepost?

The first game of the evening to finish was board 5, Matthew Clark for Telepost versus Ivor Salter for Shrewsbury.  The game started with a Scandinavian, Matthew playing 3.Bb5+ and Ivor defending with 3…Nbd7, a line I also quite like (check out my annotations to Everington v Best in the Interesting Games section).  Ivor allowed Matthew unbridled expansion on the Queenside and then on move 18, made a worse position lost by blocking the retreat path of his Bishop, which Matthew could then trap.  Ivor fought on valiantly for quite a few more moves but Matthew, gave back the piece at the end in order to create an unstoppable passed Pawn.  Ivor resigned: 1 – 0 to Telepost.

Boards three and four showed more promise for Shrewsbury.  On board 4, Peter Kitchen chose the Panov-Botvinnik attack against John Bashall’s habitual Caro Kann.  The position which arose was a typical Isolated Queen Pawn set up for White against a compact position for Black, which held few weaknesses.  Peter kept pressing and retained an active position but John defended accurately and even held a slight advantage in the middle game.  On move 21, John eschewed the opportunity to drive back one of Peter’s Knights, exposing his other Knight on f3, which could have then been taken to shatter the White Kingside position.  This was Black’s best chance for an advantage but, once this had passed, the position remained balanced and a draw was agreed on move 42: 1½ – ½, in favour of Telepost.

On board 3, Phil Zabrocki for Telepost chose a Grand Prix style set up against Daniel Lockett’s Pirc Defence.  A complex position arose in which the computer insists that White missed several opportunities to gain the upper hand during the first 20 moves or so.  Phil sacrificed a Knight for two Pawns but missed the opportunity to exchange off one of Daniel’s Knights and advance his central Pawns, which would have given him decent compensation.  The position remained complicated for both sides and, although Daniel managed to consolidate his advantage over the ensuing moves, he used much of his time allocation to do so.  By move 50, the Shrewsbury player had a won position but no time left, so a draw was agreed: 2 – 1 in favour of Telepost.

That left boards 1 and 2 to complete.  On board 1, Nigel Ferrington played a London / Colle set up.  On move 16, David offered up his g-Pawn and, as we all know, David is only happy when he has sacrificed at least one Pawn, preferably more.  Nigel was up for this and plunged his Queen into the Black position.  David decided against regaining the Pawn by capturing on g2, having chased the White Queen away.  This would have left the position equal, maybe slightly better for Black but, as we all know….

On move 23, Nigel could have prosecuted his advantage by advancing his d-Pawn, attacking the Black Bishop and allowing White to open up the position against the Black King which was in the centre.  This option remained available for several moves, although such tactics are always easier to spot in the armchair with the aid of the computer!  Nevertheless, David could have generated play against White’s own monarch by advancing his c-Pawn.  I’m surprised David didn’t play this, on the basis that it would have sacrificed another Pawn!

The position finally boiled down to an opposite Bishops and Pawns ending.  Now, as every schoolboy knows, opposite Bishops give an ending very drawish tendencies, but this one had quite a few Pawns in both sides of the board and Nigel pressed his advantage steadily.  Although there were opportunities for David to equalise, this was not easy over the board.  On move 49, David felt obliged to give up his Bishop for one of Nigel’s dangerous Pawns approaching promotion, after which it was all over. 3 – 1 in favour of Telepost.

So Telepost had won the match but my own game against Trevor Brotherton was still under way.  As we know from last season, every game point counts, especially as by this stage my position was very promising.  Trevor had opened with a Pirc defence, against which I had played a classical structure.  On move 12, Trevor captured my e4 Pawn with his Knight.  Although the Knight could be captured, Trevor could regain the piece straight away and I must admit that I thought that this tactic equalised for Black.  However, things were not quite so straight forward and the closer we both looked at the position, the more we came to the conclusion that it was actually quite difficult to play as Black.

In order to regroup his dark squared Bishop, Trevor re-routed it from g7 to c7.  The downside of this, apart from using a fair bit of time, was that it left his Kingside exposed (Black Pawns were on h7, g6, f5 and e5).  When I moved by Knight to f3, 24.Ng5 became a threat and suddenly tactical possibilities opened up for me against the weakened Black King.  In defending against this, Trevor had to accept a worse ending with Rook, Bishop and Pawns each.  Material was level but the Black Queenside Pawns were weak.  In addition, Trevor had used lots of time working his way through the middle game complications.  On move 47, I won a Pawn and the ending was winning for me, not to mention the large time advantage in my favour.  Possibly spurred on by my botching of an overwhelming position against Nigel in the away fixture, which ended in a draw, Trevor kept on playing to the bitter end.  On this occasion, though, I managed to avoid an embarrassing botch, securing the victory when Trevor’s flag fell on move 64.

So we narrowly lost 3- 2 but put up a brace fight, losing against both division leaders in quick succession by the narrowest of margins.  Our final match is against Priorslee Lions.

Francis Best, A Team Captain

A Team Misses out at Newport

As one of the strongest teams in the Shropshire league, we knew that Newport A would provide Shrewsbury A with a stern test last Thursday.  However, we have often punched above our weight in the league and, without the relegation pressure of last season, we were determined to enjoy the chess and give the match our best shot.  Having used our “dual purpose” players exactly 4 times previously, we knew that any such players we played in this match would be ineligible for any remaining B team matches.  Good job we’re nearing the end of the season!

We had the services of Ivor to bolster our numbers and, indeed, he has done pretty well for us recently, having won his previous two games.  Ivor was facing Warren Lewis on board 5 and played the two knights variation against the Caro Kann.  Warren went adrift in the opening and lost a Pawn.  Castling Queen side exposed the Newport player’s King and this game was the first to finish 1-0 to us!  The annotated game is here or on our “Interesting Games” tab.

On top board, David started with a London system set up against Nick Rutter, although the game went through a Grünfeld, before finally settling on a Queen’s Gambit declined / reversed Tarrasch.  Nick sacrificed the exchange to eliminate David’s strong Bishop.  Not to be outdone, David offered up his Queen for two Rooks and a Pawn, which might have been reasonably balanced but for a couple of inaccuracies on his part, which led to a dangerous passed Pawn for Nick, levelling the score.  The game was a great tussle, though, and David has annotated it here.

On board four, Peter was facing Danny Griffiths, and was out for revenge, having lost against Danny in the home fixture.  The game was a Queen’s Gambit Declined, Exchange Variation, and Peter managed early in the middlegame to get a “Petrosian knight” on d6, preventing much of White’s usual play with the Queenside minority attack.  Danny couldn’t break with e4 either, and Peter had all the play on the Kingside.  The only issue was Peter’s clock; he was about 20 minutes behind Danny. Eventually, Danny cracked under the pressure, and Peter won a Pawn and then a piece, prompting Danny’s resignation with Peter having a whole seven minutes to spare! 2-1 to Shrewsbury.

Daniel was playing Ian Jamieson on board 3, playing the exchange variation against Ian’s habitual French.  Anyone who considers the exchange French a quick route to a dull, early draw obviously hasn’t seen Daniel play it!  With open lines in the centre, Daniel offered an early Pawn sacrifice, which looked to offer him great chances of an attack against Ian’s King.  Ian gave up his castling rights to hurry his monarch away from the open e-file and I really thought Shrewsbury was soon going to be 3-1 up.  However, Ian defended dourly, Daniel was unable to press through his attack and Ian consolidated with his extra material.  That left us all square, with only yours truly to finish against Nat Paul.

My position seemed promising.  I had played the Scandinavian and managed to achieve a nicely coordinated position with a centralised Knight, good central pressure, and relative lack of coordination and counter-play for Nat.  Indeed, the computer revealed a powerful shot at move 21, which probably would have clinched the game on the spot.  Even without this tactical approach, my position held a pleasant positional edge but, unfortunately, I experienced (yet again) the kind of mental drift which has wrecked a number of my games recently.  I blame old age and general decrepitude!  Having let my advantage slip, I really should have adjusted my thinking to one of trying to maintain a balance.  Needless to say, I failed to do this and continued to try and press in what was a slightly worse position by now.  Finally, I blundered away a crucial Pawn and Nat was soon able to take advantage of my weak play and win the game.  In these situations, I am always cross with myself but full credit to Nat for grabbing the opportunities with both hands.  As we all know, such reversals are part and parcel of the game and we either have to live with them or give up!  The best thing is to learn the appropriate lesson and try to do better next time.

So, a memorable victory was not to be, but we did give Newport a good run for their money.

Francis Best, A Team Captain

B Team Marches On

Shrewsbury B team kept the pressure on their promotion rivals by beating Telepost B on Monday night.

The evening got off to a chilly start in a room that felt colder to me than it was outside; definitely “coats on” conditions!

Perhaps it was not so surprising then that the action included some fairly quick draws.  First to finish was Ile on board 2, who had Black against Keith Tabner.  The game began with the moves 1.d4 Nf6  2. c4  d5 which is quite unusual; a favourite of Frank Marshall, I believe.  A non-standard position arose, in which Ile had plenty of activity and a draw was agreed.

Matters on board 5 took a bit longer, as Tony took on John Westhead with White. I’m afraid that I saw very little of this game until it reached an ending, in which it seemed to me that Tony had some advantage but was happy to take the draw, bearing in mind his opponent’s higher rating and the position on the other boards.

Next to finish was my own game on board 3 against Steve Kempsell, a turgid affair in which my closed Sicilian got me no advantage at all.  Looking at the other games, it seemed to me that in both games we at least shouldn’t lose and we could win, so I offered a draw, which Steve accepted.

All-square with 3 games completed and it wasn’t even 9.30 yet!

The most exciting action was definitely on board 4, where Ivor had Black against Peter Crean. The opening had been a Scandinavian and Ivor quickly obtained a very active position.  At one point, while I was still trying to make something of my own position, I glanced across at this game and I thought it easily won by Ivor.  Then a tactic from Peter got him back in the game.  The resulting endgame saw Peter with Bishop and Knight versus Ivor’s Rook but Ivor had two extra Pawns.  What followed was a very smooth display from Ivor, though I suspect resistance could have been stiffer.  Ivor engineered a trade of Pawns which meant he had connected passed pawns on the b and a files.  The a Pawn proved the killer, though, as his Bishop couldn’t get to the correct diagonal and his Knight was as useless as Knights trying to stop Rook Pawns usually are.  The only slight complication was Ivor’s clock but he still had a good 5 minutes left after queening his a-Pawn so after a couple more moves, Peter accepted the inevitable and resigned, a very good game by Ivor.

This left us a point ahead with Dan’s game against Graham Shepherd the last to finish.  Graham had chosen the Modern defence, which I thought a brave choice against Dan, who has been playing the Modern on and off for as long as I’ve known him.  Dan’s position looked strong from the outset and Graham had issues developing and castling.  He did in the end manage to castle but it cost him a Pawn.  This was enough for Dan to win comfortably, the position rather resembling what can happen in the Catalan opening when it goes wrong for Black.  Dans b-pawn was passed and far too strong; in the end, it was going to cost Graham a Rook.  Rather than suffering unnecessarily, Graham resigned.  A good technical display by Dan.

Final score 3½ – 1½ to Shrewsbury B.  Only one game left against Telepost C at home.  If we win that, Telford A will need 5 points from their last 3 games to overtake us.  As one of those games is against Wellington A, this could be hard for them.  Let’s see!

Mark Smith, B Team Captain

Rolling Up Not Rolling Over

Storm Doris did not deter the enthusiasm on a cold, wet night heading for Newport to play their juniors.   We knew they were only fielding four players; one junior had jetted off on a holiday in the sun (who could blame him?)  With one default, it was agreed that the two juniors, Heath and Zak, should play each other.

Zak started and played the London and was met with the Dutch Defence that cut the use of the White square Bishop.  Heath won: two up.  On board three, Peter was having a tight game with Ed Xu. The right calculation in the middle game gave him a won position: three up.

Dr Ile started with his Orangutan.  He said after his win that he has had all different responses to this opening since playing it and it takes players away from prepared lines.

This left Dan and Simon playing on board one.  Since our team was winning 4 – 0, a draw was agreed.  With the match won four and a half to a half, there will not be many teams taking two points off this team.  The pressure is on Telford A to come up with the points in the remaining matches.

Captain on the night, Ivor Salter    

A Draw, A Win and We’re Safe!

The last two A team fixtures were important, on the basis that a good showing would more or less guarantee our survival in the first division.  Of course, this was looking pretty likely anyway, as one relegation slot had been filled by Church Stretton’s demise and Newport B have been struggling this season, and look more than likely to occupy the other place at the bottom of the table.

First of all, we had the away fixture against Oswestry A.  Oswestry are a tough team; we had held the draw at the home fixture, although Oswestry had been missing Brian Whyte on that occasion and I suspected that this would be unlikely on their home turf.  Indeed, when we arrived, Oswestry appeared to be at maximum strength.  I had not been upstairs at the Oswestrian and the general consensus of the Shrewsbury team was that the bar had been preferable.  Maybe this was Oswestry’s secret weapon!

The match was close throughout the evening.  The first to finish was Ile v Charles Lowick Higgie.  I didn’t see much of the game, unfortunately, but it finished in a draw.  My game against Richard Bryant was a slow, manoeuvring position,  so wasn’t going to resolve anytime soon.  Shortly afterwards, Daniel won against David Bennion. Their game had been fairly sharp with Daniel creating mating threats against his opponent’s King, which ultimately proved impossible to parry.  Things were looking up!

However, on board 5, things appeared to be going pear-shaped for Mark Smith against Graham Ives, so I didn’t raise my expectations too high.  David’s game against Brian Whyte appeared to be going in the Oswestry player’s favour, so we were up against it.  Soon afterwards, Richard and I exchanged a number of pieces to simplify down to a Knight and Pawns v Bishop and Pawns ending.  Richard had a passed Pawn two squares from Queening but it was securely blockaded by my Knight.  The Pawn configuration was such that neither side could make progress and we agreed a draw shortly afterwards.

Having finished my game, I could observe the remaining two more easily.  Mark’s position now looked completely shot, although he seemed to be doing his best to throw everything, including the kitchen sink, at Graham’s position.  David was a Pawn down in a Rook and Pawn ending, although it looked is if it could be held.  Shortly afterwards, Mark bowed to the inevitable, while Brian was doing his best to convert the ending against David in Oswestry’s favour.  However, David defended accurately and soon the final game was agreed drawn.  This left the match at honours even and we departed feeling that was a reasonable result.  Subsequently, the computer indicated that David could have secured a significant advantage with a positional Queen sacrifice.  However, it’s a lot harder to spot these things over the board at the time!

Next up was Newport B.  Given the latter team’s experience this season, we might have felt justified in an optimistic outlook for this match.  I was not taking anything for granted, though, as the scoreline against Newport B masked a much better playing strength than was indicated by the results, so we fielded about the strongest team we could muster.  Before the match started, I saw David in deep conversation with Warren Lewis; apparently they had both been promising juniors on the Shropshire chess scene many years ago.  Warren has just come back to chess after a long break, which is always nice to see, and I am sure he will prove an asset to the Newport side.

The match started well for us with Mark scoring a fairly quick win against Chris Paul.  Chris defended with a Sicilian, Mark choosing his usual closed set up, including the fianchetto of his light-squared Bishop on g2.  The game was quite level until Chris allowed Mark a little too much scope to attack on the Kingside, with an open f-file and all of Mark’s pieces pointing towards Chris’s King.  In order to dissipate the attack, Chris exchanged Queens but this allowed Mark to fork his opponent’s King and Bishop.  Faced with a ruinous loss of material, Chris resigned: 1-0 to Shrewsbury.

Next to finish was Warren v Ile.  Warren opened with the flexible 1.Nf3, which transposed into a Queen Pawn opening, Ile adopting the Baltic Defence set up with 3…Bf5.  White maintained an edge and space advantage up to around move 15, when Warren allowed a tactic which dropped a Pawn and ended up with his King stuck in the centre.  A little later and Ile acquiesced to an exchange of Queens, which reduced much of his attacking potential.  Nevertheless, he still maintained an advantage, although Warren defended tenaciously.  By move 32 the position was more or less level, although Ile was still trying to make something of his passed Pawn on e3.  On move 33, Warren made a fatal mistake, allowing Ile’s Rook to penetrate into the White position on d2.  Shortly after, Ile added to White’s woes by pinning the former’s Rook against King; Warren resigned, leaving Shrewsbury 2-0 up.

A glance at the remaining games saw Peter with a Pawn advantage on board 5 against Malcolm Price.  I thought it looked won for Peter, although he was getting behind on the clock – as usual!  On top board, Simon Maydew adopted the Colle-Zukertort attack, with the game standing pretty even throughout.  At one point, Simon missed a tactical opportunity to win a Pawn but by move 24 the position was level and a draw was agreed.  In my own game, Danny Griffiths opened with 1…g6, although it quickly transposed to a Pirc Defence.  I maintained a space advantage in the centre and on the Queen-side; this was counterbalanced by Danny advancing his f-Pawn to f4, hoping to drive a wedge into my King’s position and initiate an attack.  Black was slightly behind in development and I judged that I needed to play actively and attempt to generate some initiative where I had the space advantage, trying to strike before Danny could launch his attack.

I managed to generate pressure against Black’s vulnerable, backward d-Pawn, which should have created a winning ending for me, although I didn’t follow it up quite correctly, which should have allowed Danny to fight back and limit my advantage.  However, Danny also failed to find the best defence, lost the exchange and soon the ending was hopeless for him in any case.  On move 34, Black resigned, leaving Shrewsbury ahead 3½-½ and the match in the bag.  However, Peter and Malcolm were still playing and, as we all know from previous relegation battles, every point counts.

As Peter’s clock ran down, I feared for the outcome, even though Peter was a solid, passed Pawn to the good and had the better minor piece in his Bishop against Malcolm’s Knight.  All credit to Malcolm for fighting to the bitter end.  He was forced to give up his Knight to eliminate Peter’s passed Pawn and then attempted to advance his own Pawns in a last-ditch effort to turn the game around.  Peter was up to the task, however, even as his clock ran down and Malcolm soon conceded defeat. Thus, Shrewsbury won 4½-½, an excellent result.

So, we’re arithmetically safe this season.  It’s not as exciting as last year’s relegation battles but, frankly, I think I could do without that level of excitement!

Next in line for us are Newport A and Telepost A, which are both likely to be somewhat sterner tests!

Francis Best, A Team Captain

So Close!

Shrewsbury B team had their work cut out against Telford A last Friday.  Although Telford were missing a couple of their stronger players in Mark Keady and Munroe Morrison, George Kolbusz was available, which he hadn’t been in the reverse fixture.  The evening began with some hilarity over whether or not Wellington A were already promoted or not.  Apparently not, strictly speaking, as they could in theory default points, or, as Dave Gostelow pointed out, there could be an earthquake!

Anyway onto the chess!  In light of my recent performances and trying to take a rational view of my play, I have come to the conclusion that I am spending too much time looking at the other games and, to improve my results, that I must concentrate on my own game for a greater proportion of the three hours than I have been, especially early in the game.  For this reason my impression of the other games early on is a bit sketchy!

Board 1 saw Dan with the black pieces against Dave Gostelow.  No prizes for guessing the opening!  Dave appeared to have a good position but I only glanced at it, really.  Board 2 saw Ile take on George Kolbusz with white.  Again no prizes for guessing the opening! The quickest of glances made me determined not to look more closely; it looked complicated.  On board 5, Ivor was black against Richard Thompson; no prizes for guessing the opening!  A superficial look suggested that Richard had some advantage.  On board 4, Peter had white against Stefan Tennant.  I didn’t see what the opening was but it looked lively.

On board 3, I was engaged in a tussle with Richard Szwajkun with black.  The opening was a Torre attack against my favourite g6 structure.  Richard surprised me on move 6 by playing c4, which effectively turned the opening into a Grüunfeld but with Richard’s knight on d2 rather than c3.

The result was a position with open c and d files; I got developed ok at the expense of exchanging my light squared bishop for a knight.  It felt about even.

Feeling I had at least survived the opening, I decided it was time to put my captain’s hat on for a couple of minutes and check out the other games. Board 1 was looking really difficult for Dan.  He was a pawn down and in danger of being overwhelmed; the one thing was that he’d used a lot less time than his opponent.  Board 2 was a different matter; a complex ending with rooks & knights had arisen.  It looked alright for Ile but he was well down on time.  Peter’s game on board 3 appeared still to be in the opening and very tense.  Meanwhile, Ivor’s position still looked dodgy to me; Richard was pressing but Ivor was scrapping hard. Back to my own game and I found a manoeuvre that led to exchanges and, by move 25, it was down to my queen and bishop against Richard’s queen and knight.  I felt I had a small advantage but that it wouldn’t be enough if the queens were exchanged.

As we approached 10 pm things began to happen.  Looking across to board 3, things had suddenly got wild; Peter appeared to be winning and so it turned out.  I saw very little of this game, as it finished before mine did but Peter reckoned he was a bit lucky and that Stefan missed a good chance.  Of course, Stefan has only just come back to the game after an absence of about a year so a little rustiness is understandable.  It’s not normally like Stefan to miss a tactical opportunity!

Meanwhile, my game was hastening towards its inevitable conclusion.  Possibly, I missed an opportunity on move 28.  Even so, we’re talking advantage, not won! The problem was that I was having to think about where to put the queen next just about every move; all Richard had to do was keep offering to exchange queens.  The result was that I was down to about 15 minutes to Richard’s 40.  Having another quick look at the match situation, which was starting to look more hopeful, I took the draw.

1½ – ½ then, as we approached the death.  On board 5, Ivor was putting up a terrific fight.  The position was very sharp and, ominously for Richard, perhaps, it reminded me strongly of the position he should have won against Ile a couple of weeks ago!

Ile, meanwhile, was down to his last couple of minutes.  His position was good, possibly even won at one point, but there was to be no repeat of Ile’s time trouble heroics of a fortnight ago.  The position when Ile’s flag fell wasn’t lost but, as Ile said to an apologetic George afterwards, “It’s all part of the game!” (Editor’s note: George’s take on things was slightly different from this; he has provided his annotations to the game, which can be viewed here.

Meanwhile, Dan was performing heroics of his own against Dave.  Dan told me afterwards that he decided to take a leaf out of David Everington’s book and throw some pawns at a difficult position.  In any case, it certainly worked and Dave had to agree to a draw.  Good stuff from Dan.

All square, with just board 5 to finish.  Sometime around here Richard’s pen ran out!  Fortunately for him, I noticed straight away and provided him with a replacement.  This game was extremely sharp.  One had the feeling that it ought to be a win for Richard, really, but a single slip would turn the game (and match) around completely!  In the end what told was the clock.  Ivor’s difficulties meant that he had to use more time and a fork that didn’t quite work led to his downfall.

So we came up just short this time and lost 3-2, pushing us back to third place in the league.  Next up, Newport Juniors.  I’m missing for that one, so Ivor will stand in as captain for the night.  Hopefully, we can field a strong team.

Mark Smith, B Team Captain