A Plus for B Team!

Shrewsbury B team enjoyed a memorable evening in Telford against their A team last Wednesday. Telford fielded a strong side, Richard Thompson being rested, without any detriment to their grading.

For a change there were no quick finishes and all of the games held some interest. On board 5, Tony Purser was making his first appearance of the season with white against Munroe Morrison. Opening with 1.Nf3, d6, the position went out of any book very quickly but Tony appeared to be doing quite well. Boards 3 and 4 saw a brace of Scandinavians. Peter Kitchen on board 3 had the white pieces against Richard Szwajkun and the game followed Richard’s favourite line. This led to a position that was solid enough for Richard but a little bit passive.

Far more interesting were the events on board 4, where Ivor Salter essayed the Scandinavian from the black side against Stuart Ross. Stuart played a rare line and a fascinating position arose in which Ivor had a queen but Stuart had a rook and two minor pieces, normally more than enough, but Stuart was severely underdeveloped and Ivor’s Queen was menacing. It was the sort of position one can spend hours looking at and still not be sure who had the advantage. My quick assessment was that I’d rather have Ivor’s position but that that would change if Stuart could somehow unravel his pieces.

Meanwhile, my own position on board 2 was scarcely less interesting. Playing black against Mark Keady, I decided to risk Alekhine’s defence (cue collective groan from the rest of the team!) Mark responded with the critical Four Pawns Attack and quickly built up what looked like an imposing position. However, he had not created any weaknesses in my setup and, as always the case with the Four Pawns attack, was in danger of overextending.

On board 1, Ile opened with what is becoming his trademark: 1.b4 against Dave Gostelow. Matters took a course that I’ve observed a few times lately; a quick b5 from Ile and a complex, non-standard game, in which Ile is familiar with the possibilities and his opponent is not.

At the end of the second hour of play, all games were still ongoing. Tony appeared to have a slight edge on board 5 but it didn’t look easy to make progress. Board 4 was starting to look dodgy now, as Stuart succeeded in consolidating his position and his material advantage began to tell. Peter’s position didn’t appear to change much; he remained much more active with Richard solid but passive. On board two, Mark had sacrificed his g-Pawn against me in order to get his attack going but it was unclear whether he had enough compensation. He certainly had some.

Meanwhile on board 1, Dave appeared to be coping well with Ile’s opening but at considerable cost to his clock. At one point, I noticed he had used up an hour; it was move 13!

At around 10 pm things started happening, and happening quickly!

On board 5 Tony offered Munroe a draw. After a quick glance at the other boards, Munroe accepted; a good draw for Tony, who was out-graded by about 40 points.

Matters suddenly came to a head on board 3 with Richard playing far too passively, allowing Peter a neat finish to maintain his perfect B team record.

Meanwhile, Ivor succumbed to the inevitable and lost. All square, with two games to be decided.

Ile’s game was still complex, though he had won the exchange for a pawn earlier, in a sequence where it appears Dave missed a good chance. There followed a period of manoeuvring play, which seems quite lengthy on the score sheet but I can assure you it was all happening rather quickly.

I had succeeded in keeping my pawn advantage into the ending, though converting to a win wasn’t easy, I had a ally, though: the clock. As Mark got to his last 5 minutes, I still had quarter of an hour left. I kept looking over to Ile’s game, wondering whether a draw would do, or whether I’d need to win. Ile, I believe, was thinking along the same lines.

Suddenly, it was all over on board 1. Dave blundered in his time pressure, allowing a tactic that had echoes from an earlier position in the game. You can play through this game here or access it on the Interesting Games tab.

Just half a point required from me, then. At this point, I contrived to give the rest of the team a heart attack by allowing my opponent’s King to fork Rook and Bishop. Fortunately, the position was still a win for me and Mark was down to his last minute when he left his rook en prise and had to resign.  You can play through this game here or access it on the Interesting Games tab.

Telford A 1½ – Shrewsbury B 3½.  Great result! Next up: Newport Juniors.

Mark Smith, B Team Captain

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