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