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