Jamie Hopkins’ tenure as Shrewsbury A Team captain got off to a solid start with a 2.5-2.5 draw away to Priorslee Lions A.
Deprived of regular Peter Kitchen, Hopkins called upon B Team Captain Matt Best to fill in on board 5, with Dan Lockett making his first appearance as an A Team regular on board 4 and Hopkins on top board; Francis Best was on board two and David Everington on three.
The match looked to be off to a bad start when Matt dropped an exchange on board 5 against Gary White – overeager to pull off a neat tactic which superficially appeared to win a piece, only to miss a Knight check which led to the concession of the exchange.
However, in one of the biggest slices of luck likely to be seen in and around Telford this season, Best scraped an unlikely win in a hopelessly lost position after White (who was, confusingly, Black in this game) missed a mating combination. The position is in the picture in the top left – can you spot Best’s winning move?
After that start, things didn’t move quite so quickly for a while until Hopkins displayed superb endgame skills to fend off William Bates in an entertaining encounter on top board – achieved with a mere 25 minute time deficit for the Shrewsbury skipper!
At this stage, things were looking rosy for the visitors. Dan Lockett and Andy Tunks’ position looked level, Francis Best and Glyn Pugh were locked in a fierce tactical battle on board two, with Best having sacrificed a knight for two pawns (as well as a hefty amount of time) in order to open up Pugh’s king position and weaken his pawn structure.
The primary attraction, however, was on board three. David Everington had a piece in exchange for three pawns, and, despite having a hugely exposed King, looked like he was sure to win with a huge amount of pressure building in an enthralling encounter against Steve Tarr. However, a slight tactical misjudgement later and he lost a rook after mass exchanges and was left with a lost position. Karma for Matt’s win on board 5, as David later remarked!
With that result sealed, Priorslee looked to be in the driving seat. Lockett’s position was solid, but he was a long way behind on the clock (something of a theme for Shrewsbury players on the night) and eventually his position began to fall apart under time pressure.
Best’s position on board two remained fiercely complex, although he went for the jugular and advanced a pair of ominous-looking centralised passed pawns. Ultimately, with Pugh having also used a lot of his time up (although he still had 5 minutes to Best’s three) the players agreed a draw – a somewhat noisy group of Italians making concentration fiercely difficult at such an important stage; the unfortunate bar-tender was trying to keep the noise down whilst explaining the concept of I.D.
By this time, Lockett had entered a lost endgame with a rook apiece, but with Tunks having a pair of connected pawns as well. Ultimately, Lockett’s metaphorical flag fell (his light under the switch on his side of the electronic clock just doesn’t resonate in quite the same way) and he lost, meaning the match finished drawn.
Priorslee Lions A 2.5-2.5 Shrewsbury A
- W. Bates 0-1 J. Hopkins
- G. Pugh 0.5-0.5 F Best
- S. Tarr 1-0 D. Everington
- A. Tunks 1-0 D. Lockett
- G. White 0-1 M Best