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