Shrewsbury B teams most recent match saw them up against Newport Juniors. This was theoretically a home game but, as it was against the juniors, it took place in Newport. I feel we’ve been slightly unfortunate in the matter of away travel this season. It’s worked out that, of our 15 matches, only 6 will have been at our own venue, with 4 trips to Newport, our longest journey.
For once, we arrived at our venue armed to the teeth, or at least with a full complement of players. I suppose it’s not too surprising that Newport were unable to do the same; in fact they only had 3 available! There was a short discussion about who should sit this one out. In the end, Tony and Ted stepped down leaving me on board 1 against Chris Lewis with Black, Ivor with the white pieces against Simon Maydew and Ian with Black against Zach Maydew. My initial thought was that Ivor and I would have to play well to get something but that Ian ought to be too strong for young Zach. I really should give up trying to predict chess results; I’m almost invariably wrong!
All three games saw some interest in the opening. The last time I played Chris was in a rapid game last summer in which he had played a Four Knights opening from my Alekhine move order. I face this all the time on line, so I thought I’d try it again. Sure enough, a Four Knights occurred but with an early Be2 from Chris (Bb5 or d4 being more usual). I felt my position was ok to begin with.
Ivor’s game was another matter. Faced with one of his own favourite openings, the Scandinavian, he unleashed one of those trappy lines of which he is so fond. I won’t give precise details here, in case he wants to try it again but suffice it to say that he encountered the classic problem with these lines; Simon had faced it before and with a bit of soul searching remembered or worked out (not sure which) the correct counter for it. The resulting situation saw Ivor a pawn down with the Queens off the board. Ivor had a lead in development but I couldn’t see any targets for him or any weaknesses in Simon’s game. Also, Simon had the two Bishops. He had used up quite a lot more time than Ivor, however.
The real action was taking place on board 3. It can be quite difficult to see every twist and turn in a dramatic game, especially when trying to concentrate on one’s own game! I did notice that Zach had played the London system which may well be quite a sensible choice for a junior player. I asked Ian for his thoughts on the game afterwards. I think it’s fair to say that he wasn’t happy with his own play but that equally he was impressed by Zach.my impression,confirmed by Ian was that Ian was completely busted in the opening with his king stuck in the middle.
I have to say that at this point I was really rather worried about the result of the match as it seemed to me that Ian and Ivor were both quite likely to lose, so it could all be down to me. I didn’t like my position as much as I had earlier; I’d missed a chance to open up the position with a good game. I hadn’t done so, because I hadn’t castled yet but actually there was nothing to fear. Now I was slightly cramped and had to be careful with my piece placement in order to avoid material loss. Chris had used up a lot more time than I had but the next half dozen moves were likely to be critical. While Chris was thinking I had another look at board 3, where a lot had happened. According to Ian, Zach had made a mistake, which cost a rook but Ian had blundered it back. I have to say it looked a bit trickier now; still looking good for Zach but now there were swindling chances for Ian.
It seemed as if he might have to as I made a simple error that blundered away a pawn. Fortunately for me, it wasn’t a very good Pawn, backward and, in addition, he had doubled Pawns elsewhere. Nevertheless, the best I could realistically hope for at this point was to hang on for a draw.
Then it all seemed to happen at once. Ivor bowed to the inevitable and lost. In truth, he never really got into the game after the opening. A Pawn down and ceding the two Bishops was always going to end badly against a strong technical player like Simon.
Then, out of nowhere, Ian won. He was, he said, about to lose and just left a snap mate in there which, luckily for Ian, Zach missed. “I felt genuinely sorry for the lad,” said Ian afterwards. Zach’s performance should not have come as a surprise to me; he ran me very close in a rapid game last year. He still makes quite a few mistakes, but it’s clear that he has the quality to become a strong player.
Match won; just game points and pride at stake. I felt I was doing ok, although I was still a Pawn down, I couldn’t see how Chris was breaking through. He was down to 12 minutes or so and I had more than half an hour. I offered him a draw, which I knew he would decline but I wondered if he’d push too hard trying to prove the win. So it turned out in the end. Chris missed one chance to cause me serious problems but, missing that, I had a a resource which got my Pawn back. With less than a minute on his clock he really should have bailed out with the perpetual check that was still available but looking for a mate he ended up in a mating net himself.
4-1 to Shrewsbury and we’re on something of a roll. Priorslee Lions B next.
Mark Smith, B Team Captain