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