A Team off the Blocks

Friday 30th September saw the A team’s second clash occur at home against Oswestry A.  Oswestry were missing their usual board 1, Brian Whyte, but Shrewsbury were also missing our usual board 1, Jamie Hopkins.  Both teams were on zero match points prior to this clash; Shrewsbury because we had lost to Ludlow and Oswestry because, although they had narrowly prevailed against Church Stretton, the latter team has recently had to withdraw from the league, having lost a number of players, and so any results including them have been scratched from the table.  Both teams were therefore keen to get something from the match.

On top board, I was facing Richard Bryant, whom I have played quite a few times in recent seasons; we usually have pretty interesting games, whatever the result.  The game started as a Scandinavian, transposing into a Panov-Botvinnik attack against the Caro-Kann.  Richard, as White played an early c5, looking to advance his Queenside Pawns, while I was looking for piece play against White’s weakened d-Pawn.  I then decided to take a look at the other games going on.

David, on board 2, was facing Charles Lowick-Higgie’s Grünfeld defence and appeared to have a good position.  Meanwhile, Daniel on board 3 against David Bennion had essayed his usual Pirc defence but something seemed to have gone horribly wrong and Daniel was going to have to lose at least the exchange.  Ile, on board 4, had opened with 1.b4, the Sokolsky or, if you prefer, the Orang Utan opening, against Graham Ives.  Well, Ile likes his wild openings!  Mark had played a Sicilian against Peter Brown, a newcomer for the Oswestry side; things looked about even.

I returned to my game and spotted an opportunity to gain a bit of initiative.  This worked but I followed it up a bit hastily, Richard advance his backward c-Pawn and, to avoid problems, I had to plant my Queen on b2.  However, Richard also couldn’t afford to leave my Queen untouched, and attacked it with his Rook.  I moved the Queen to a2, after which neither side could afford not to repeat the position with White’s Rook and Black’s Queen performing an elegant, perpetual two-step between the a- and b- files.  First result for the match was therefore a draw.

Meanwhile, on board 4, Ile had suddenly whipped up a vicious attack and, shortly afterwards, Graham was forced to resign.  You can play through their game here or you can find it on the “Interesting Games” tab.  Our elation was short-lived, however, when Daniel was also forced to resign.  1½ apiece.

While this drama was going on, David’s position against Charles had deteriorated, with the Oswestry player winning a Pawn and apparently holding the key positional trumps.  David had to sacrifice a Knight for Charles’s dangerous passed Pawn and was forced to resign shortly afterwards. 2½-1½ to Oswestry.

So all eyes were on board 5.  Mark had something of advantage as Peter’s Pawn structure, including doubled d-Pawns was the weaker.  However, Mark managed to get his Rook stuck on b4 and, in a double Rook ending, tactical possibilities can often cause a swift reversal of fortunes.  However, the Oswestry player was getting short of time and, despite one or two inaccuracies on Mark’s part, the latter managed to hold his nerve and score that vital match-drawing point in the last few minutes of the session.  Match drawn 2½-2½.

Francis Best, A Team Captain


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