Shrewsbury B team faced a tough challenge in the form of league leaders, Newport B on Friday 15th December. Newport fielded a strong side and we were not helped by having to default bottom board. We really have struggled to put out a full team this season, though, at least, we haven’t defaulted any match points. So 1-0 down at the outset and Chris Paul had a relaxing evening, at least at first.
Board 1 saw a welcome return for Matt Best, taking on Chris Lewis with Black; an exchange French defence was the opening. On board 2, I had White against Tony Holdford and a Philidor occurred. An interesting opening occurred on board 3. Danny Griffiths played 1.f4, Bird’s opening, which seems rather popular in Shropshire at the moment and Ivor replied 1…e5 which is the From Gambit. I can’t say that I liked the look of Ivor’s game after a few moves. He appeared to be both a Pawn down and to have an alarmingly draughty position. Meanwhile, Ian Davies rolled out the Grand Prix attack in answer to Stuart Ross and his Sicilian defence. Ian soon sacrificed a pawn on f5 for an unclear amount of compensation.
Over the next few moves I was reasonably happy with my position. I had a bit of extra space and my pieces were on nice squares. In the past, I always used to struggle against Tony, though we worked out after the game that our most recent encounter was at least 15 years ago!
It seemed to me that Chris Lewis had played his opening too casually against Matt, who had a good position and Chris’s clock was ticking!
Ivor and Danny had reached a major piece ending. Ivor was still a Pawn down but it seemed a lot more tenable than half an hour before. Ian continued to press; he was still a pawn down but he had definite compensation now. He needed to be careful though; his King was not entirely safe and Stuart’s Bishop, at the moment incarcerated behind his own Pawns and a terrible piece, had the potential to become a monster if he could ever get those Pawns rolling.
At this point Tony offered me a draw, which I accepted after a few minutes thought. Not a particularly easy decision, as my position was still ok but I couldn’t see how to proceed and decided we needed that half point on the board.
I don’t know how closely Tony had looked at board 1 but it definitely influenced my decision, as I was pretty confident that Matt was going to win. His pieces were focused on Chris’s king and he had a big time advantage. He hadn’t even had to sacrifice any material!
Ian was still pressing and all three results were possible. The position was very tricky; there was an opportunity to regain his pawn, maybe even win one but it looked very risky.
Board 1 reached its conclusion as Chris missed a possibility that forced instant resignation. His position was already extremely unpleasant however.
Meanwhile, Ivor had fought back in typically dogged fashion; Danny must surely have misplayed the position somewhere along the line though it was hard to pinpoint where. Maybe a case of several not best moves rather than an actual blunder. First, Ivor got some real counterplay against Danny’s King, then exchanged down to a Rook ending where Danny was bound to lose his extra Pawn. As the position was now equal, Danny offered a draw which Ivor accepted.
All square then, with 40 minutes left and one game to be decided.
This situation is always tough for the two players involved, with everyone else watching and the clock running. This game was probably tougher than most as the position was still very sharp with many possibilities.
Ian decided, after some thought to take the plunge and go for it, though the alternative – to keep his opponent’s Bishop incarcerated by blockading Stuart’s Pawns on dark squares – looked attractive to me and Francis, he would still have been a Pawn down. As Stuart’s Bishop would have been completely useless he ought to have had more than enough compensation. It’s much easier to speculate on other people’s games, however.
The result was that Ian was on the verge of winning big material but his King was poorly placed and there were several snap back rank mates in the air. Ian appeared to manage it all but then Stuart found a really beautiful resource, of which he should be proud, to force perpetual check and a drawn match.
So, at the half way point, we are mid-table. Who knows what the New Year may bring?
Mark Smith, B Team Captain