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

B Team Edge Thriller

There was no shortage of incident and excitement in Telford last week as two division 2 games took place on the same evening.  It’s not my place to comment on Telford A vs Telepost C, other than to say that it ended all square.  Telford B vs Shrewsbury B was an interesting one, to say the least. It started with a bit of a panic as Ile had not arrived yet. His opponent on board 2, Richard Thompson, was quite sporting but at 7.45 I felt I had to instruct him to start Ile’s clock.  This done, I excused myself to my opponent on board 3, Roger Brown, and went out to look for Ile. Fortunately, he arrived a minute or two later and he sat down, having lost just 6 or 7 minutes.

None of this excuses my abysmal performance against Roger. It all started well enough. Roger employed the Scandinavian, which was a bit of a surprise, as I’d always thought Roger was an e5 man, and he did confirm afterwards that this is his normal first move. He took on d5, then retreated his Queen to d8, which I’ve always thought was a bit passive. I quickly built up an imposing position, won according to Fritz, then…I had an idea!  It wasn’t sound, but then Roger made a mistake and, had I played the correct follow-up, the position would have been more than satisfactory for me. However, I didn’t and got mated: 1-0 to Telford.  You always know you’ve done really badly when your opponent apologises!

The other games all looked pretty tight, though Matt and Ivor both looked in control to me.  At this point, Roger very kindly bought me a pint and we spent the next half hour or so having a good chat about all things chess.  When we returned (I did keep checking once in a while), time had moved on but things weren’t much clearer.  Matt now appeared to be winning against Stefan Tennant on board 1, as long as he avoided the sort of debacle I had fallen prey to.  Ivor, too, was now in total control against Steve Szwajkun, not to mention a couple of Pawns to the good.  Peter’s position against Windsor Peck was tight and tricky; very hard to call.  Ile’s game was another matter entirely; Richard had started with his favourite 1.c4 and, as usual with Ile’s games, things became complicated.  I have to be honest, at around 9.45, I didn’t like Ile’s chances at all.  His position looked a bit creaky but, worse, he had less than 15 minutes left to Richard’s 50!  By this stage, Matt had duly won his game against Stefan and he sought to reassure me; we all know that Ile plays really well under pressure.

Meanwhile, Ivor converted his advantage and won.  He’s been very solid all season: 2-1 to Shrewsbury, as we reached the climax.  Peter’s game continued to baffle and his and Windsor’s time were almost equal; less than a quarter of an hour each, with most of the material still on the board.  All seemed to hinge on an open file but it was very difficult.  One has to give Windsor his due; he keeps on battling and, if he does get tired, it doesn’t appear to affect his play.

All eyes were drawn to the other game remaining, however.  Having enquired about the match position, Ile offered Richard a draw.  Richard quite correctly declined; he probably needed to win for Telford to win the match.  Also, his position looked fine, although his time advantage was not as great as it had been, as he had reached his last 20 minutes. Ile had about 5 minutes left and the position was still extremely complicated.  With 2 minutes left, Ile tried a very bold manoeuvre.  Matt and I looked on trying to see the point.  We saw that Ile would swing his Rook across to e8 but then what?  If Richard went wrong, there was a mate, that’s what!  Richard did go wrong.  Then he saw what was happening.  He shook his head, then shook Ile’s hand.  Ile had just 37 seconds on his clock when this happened: sensational!  Ile said to me afterwards, “I should have lost and Richard should have won!”

Peter and Windsor were both below 10 minutes in a still very tense and difficult game.  In view of the fact that the result of the match was decided, however, they agreed a draw.

Final score Telford B 1 ½  Shrewsbury B 3 ½.   Next up, Telford A at home.  Will the B team captain drop himself for this one?  He hasn’t decided yet!

 

Mark Smith, B Team Captain

A Team Falls to Ludlow

Prior to this division 1 encounter, a number of club members had gathered for a presentation to Fred Harris, in recognition of his services to Shrewsbury Chess Club over the years.  Fred stood down as club President at the last AGM.  Formerly, he had been Secretary, as well as performing various services at County level.  Fred was presented with a painting by Tony Purser, appropriately chess-themed.

It would have been nice to have reported a match victory to round off the evening; alas, it was not to be.  The first piece of drama occurred when Shrewsbury appeared to be a player short, Ile having failed to show. It later transpired that Ile had been held up at work and his mobile phone was dead, so he was unable to contact us.  The immediate problem was to find a replacement.  Fortunately, Ivor Salter was able to step into the breach, and found himself facing Ludlow’s recent recruit, Kieran Lappin.  Ivor soon pressed out of the opening, having damaged his opponent’s Pawn structure, and went on to score a win, the first result of the evening.

Norman, on board 5 against Bob Woodley, defended with a Scandinavian, his opponent choosing the slightly dubious 3.c4, c6, 4.dxc6 continuation.  For a long time, Norman’s position looked promising, his position on the clock looking increasingly desperate, however.  Eventually, Norman succumbed and the scores were level.

On top board, I was Black against Lee Davis, who played his usual Catalan setup.  Out of the opening, White achieved a protected, passed Pawn on d5 and the rest of the game depended on whether Lee could capitalise this.  I managed to achieve a solid position, with my rook on d6 firmly blockading Lee’s passed d-Pawn, although Lee continued to press.

On board 2, David played a c3 Sicilian which progressed to a tense middle game.  After a sharp series of intermezzos and exchanges, however, the position simplified to a Rook and opposite Bishop ending, with neither side being able to press for an advantage.  A draw was agreed quickly afterwards.

On board 3, Matt Best was Black against Joe Watson, who played an exchange Queen’s gambit, Matt defending with a Slav set up. Out of the opening, Joe won the exchange, after a slight inaccuracy on Matt’s part. Joe progressed steadily towards converting the advantage and, despite commendable defensive efforts on Matt’s part, and a few slips on Joe’s, the outcome was never really in doubt.

This left me in the unenviable position of needing to win to try and draw the match.  The position didn’t really warrant a winning attempt, however, with Lee holding the only realistic winning chances and I therefore offered a draw.  Past experience has shown that every half game point is valuable, after all.  Understandably, Lee declined the offer, as he had slightly more time left on the clock than I did.  In the circumstances, I thought I might as well go for broke.  Advancing my King into the White position, I attempted to capture as many of the enemy Pawns as possible – but this involved losing my Bishop.  Ultimately, my reckless attempt was unsuccessful and I resigned soon after.

The final score was 1½-3½ and next up is Oswestry on 2nd February.

Francis Best, A Team Captain

 

Wellington A Too Strong for B Team

I’m afraid it’s my sad duty to report a defeat for our B team, the first one since the opening game of the season against the same opponents.

Wellington put out a strong team with board 3 graded 167, which would be a strong board 3 in division 1, let alone division 2. First, I have to report my shocker against Toby Neil. Toby surprised me slightly by playing one of the main lines in the Exchange Gruenfeld with 7.Bc4 and 8.Ne2. We were following theory till move 13 and by move 20, I was busted! I thought for a long time over my 15th move; the choice was an active move, which cost a pawn, or a passive move that didn’t. I very much wanted to play actively but chickened out. In a tough position, I failed to find the best continuation (which was still probably lost) and lost first my Queen then my King. Not good!

The other games were still in full swing, except for Peter’s game, which appeared still to be in the opening – a tense looking position. Dan appeared to be struggling a bit against Tiago Faustino. Going into a complex ending, he was a Pawn down but quite active and Tiago’s Knight looked very bad. All meat and drink to Tiago, though; he just kept making good, solid, positional moves, and quickly too. When Dan finally succumbed to the inevitable, he was down to his last 5 minutes, Tiago still had 50.

A different kind of drama was unfolding on board 1. Matt’s comments on his game (probably the most interesting game of the night) follow:

“My game against Colin started out with his usual English, before he surprised me by transposing into a harmless line of the exchange Slav, in which Black scores terrifically – over 60%, according to Chessbase. Colin remarked after the game that he loved my position out of the opening! However, once he got his M.O. of trading off a Bishop for a Knight and hopping his extra horse into gaps on my Queenside, it started to liven up as he built up pressure. I then overlooked a tactic that allowed him to win a Pawn, albeit at the expense of his very useful Knight, and I went into an ending with the initial aim of swapping off my light-squared Bishop for his Knight, getting into an opposite-coloured Bishops ending a Pawn down and holding the draw. This shouldn’t have been possible, but in my search for a drawn ending I managed to stumble into a won position, as Colin repaid my earlier generosity by giving back the Pawn. The trade of Bishops and play on both flanks meant that his Knight wasn’t able to defend both flanks at once and, after a bit of manoeuvring (and a few technical points subsequently pointed out by the computer that were too deep for both of us), I ended up with an extra Pawn. However, a positional error (18 months of studying endgames hasn’t sorted this all out) of picking the wrong moment to advance my Pawn, allowed some tactical defences with the Knight, which Colin consistently found and finished off with a neat Knight sacrifice to split the point.”

You can play through Matt’s game here.

Topsy turvy is probably a fair description of the action. Just to add to Matt’s comments, Colin Roberts appeared to have good winning chances as he was a Pawn up, then he made a mistake, which cost first his extra Pawn, then another one. The result was 2 Pawns plus Bishop vs 1 Pawn plus Knight. Perhaps Matt over-pushed at this point and Colin found an ingenious way to give up his Knight for the final Pawn: drawn but fascinating.

This left us needing full points from the final 2 games. Peter’s game was still in the early middle game and it looked quite hard for either side to accomplish anything; one of those games which we’ve all played but never get published, in which nothing really gets going. Norman’s game against Simon Rhodes was approaching the death. Norman had an extra pawn but it was the dreaded opposite coloured Bishops. Objectively, it was totally drawn but because of the match situation and his opponent’s inexperience (Simon only took up the game a year ago and, although he has made excellent progress, naturally, there are gaps in his knowledge), Norman continued playing. I thought Norman missed a chance to sacrifice his Bishop for the last two Pawns, which would have left 3 Pawns v Bishop. Probably still drawn but more opportunities for Simon to go wrong. As it was, Simon missed that he could give up his bishop for Norman’s final Pawn but it didn’t matter; the game was drawn.

This meant that the match was lost and Peter and his opponent Mark Podlesak agreed a draw, which was fair enough, though naturally there was potentially plenty more chess to be played. So, a setback, but not entirely unexpected; Wellington A are a very good team.

Next up Telford B

Mark Smith, B Team Captain