Solid Start for A Team

This season there don’t seem to be any easy looking matches on offer in the first division.  Our first two matches held the potential to offer us something, but both Priorslee Lions A and Wellington A can pack a punch on their night. Indeed, Wellington had already won their first match against Telford A by the margin of 4½ – ½.

Priorslee Lions

David Everington had the toughest task, playing on our board 1 for both matches.  David said after the Priorslee match that Adrian Zdanowski deserved to win, having won the last couple of encounters previously himself. On the bottom two boards, Matt Best and Mark Smith both seemed to be outplaying their respective opponents.  Indeed, these were the first two boards to finish – both with the “correct” result (at least from Shrewsbury’s point of view).  Alas, shortly afterwards, David was forced to resign, redressing the score from Priorslee’s point of view.

Meanwhile, I had experimented (badly) with an early Queen exchange against Bill Bates’s French defence.  I had hoped to play against the typical bad white square Bishop in Black’s camp but this never materialised, with Black’s forces enjoying better coordination and my King becoming exposed in my increasing attempts to rectify my earlier faulty play.  Soon, it was two points apiece, after I was forced to resign, and the match result all hinged on the outcome of the board three encounter between Peter Kitchen and Glyn Pugh.  Here are Peter’s comments on his game:

“Glyn caught me out completely on move one by playing 1.d4 and subsequently a Catalan.

I missed a promising knight sacrifice …Nxf2 early in the middlegame, and after a few mutual tactical blows the centre opened up and Glyn appeared to have a pleasant position.

But he went wrong over the next couple of moves, sidelining his queen and dark squared bishop on the a-file, and I built up a healthy initiative. I thought I was on the verge of obtaining a winning position as time ran down for both of us and appeared certain to make a breakthrough.

But then after an innocuous looking bishop retreat from Glyn I found I couldn’t take his undefended f2 pawn as planned. This threw me, and after quite a think I played a very poor move …Rc2 (…I think Kf7 was called for) which allowed Glyn’s Queen deep into my position and handed the initiative to him.

Glyn then missed a couple of opportunities to apply pressure on me before the position settled down a little and we agreed a draw (as the last game to finish I don’t think either of us fancied losing our team the match!).”

Thus, honours ended even overall; probably both sides were a little disappointed.

Wellington

David’s game against Wellington’s Toby Neal was a more of a case of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.  It was, however, a very entertaining game, which David has annotated here.  Sadly, though, David’s reward was another loss.  Was this match going to follow the same pattern as the Priorslee one?

In this match, I was playing against Colin Roberts. Colin played the English, as usual, but quickly found his pieces rather awkwardly placed, after allowing me to play an early …d4, kicking his c3 Knight, which didn’t really have a good retreat.  The Queenside became blocked and Colin chose to castle behind it.  However, his Queen was also stuck on that side of the board, as well as the fact that his Kingside pieces lacked coordination.  I played my Bishop to b7, offering to exchange off Colin’s one decent piece, the Bishop on g2, but Colin chose to retain his Bishop, blocking it in at the same time by advancing his Pawn to f3.  I advanced my central Pawns, opening up lines and in invasion through the central e-file proved decisive, leading to Colin’s resignation.  Well, at least that was an improvement from the last match!

On board 3, Daniel Lockett was White against Wellington’s James Kuczynski. Black replied to e4 with what developed into a classical Pirc. Neither side really pushed things too much to begin with and by move 16 there had yet to be any captures made. Both sides had a problem piece or two: Black’s white squared Bishop had only just got onto the a8-h1 diagonal to get involved, and Daniel’s Queen’s Knight on c3 was having to find another home to free up the Pawn behind it to support the pawn on d5.

An exchange of pawns on d5 by Black did finally open up the e file and Daniel decided to try and get a little initiative by pushing the f-Pawn and then the g-Pawn to harass a black Knight and free up some space to coordinate his heavier pieces on the e and f files.

Daniel had also managed to gain about ten minutes on the clock, which was probably key to what followed. Black advanced a Knight to e4, supported by Rook and Queen on the same file. However, this allowed White to exchange off the Knight and, when the Rook recaptured, Daniel’s own Knight was able to land on e6, with check, isolating the Rook. Black was forced to exchange Rook for Knight and Pawn, after which, with Daniel’s extra time, it was a case of exchanging Queens and picking off the remaining Pawns and creating a passed Pawn that Black couldn’t stop with his remaining Bishop.

Board four saw Wellington’s Mike Hollier as White against Peter Kitchen. The game was a Queen’s Gambit Declined, where, after the standard Bg5, Mike unusually retreated his bishop to f4 after Peter’s …h6.

Early in the middlegame, Mike chose to advance with c5. Realising he could quickly get squashed (with the a8 Rook and c8 Bishop still on their starting squares), Peter moved quickly to undermine this Pawn and, after an inaccuracy from Mike, Black won this pawn.

Mike then diverted all his resources into a kingside attack, and much of the rest of the game was spent with Peter fending off his many tactical threats, in the knowledge that he had two defended and unopposed central Pawns and was up on material to boot.

Having been about 25 minutes down in the clock early on, Peter was about 10 minutes up when the game entered its truly critical stage, with Mike deciding to go all-out for it with a Rxg7 sacrifice. Peter had to return a knight and another Pawn and his King was forced into the open, but Black remained material up and, crucially, had a few threats of his own.

With about 45 seconds of time left, Mike was thrown by a double threat on his Queen and the g2 square, blundered a Rook and resigned (which won us the match, as we went 1-3 up). There was a defence with Ne3 that would have essentially led to a queen exchange but this would have activated Peter’s pieces and left him with a far better ending.  As well as this, Peter also still had three or four minutes remaining on the clock.

Playing on board 5, Ivor Salter opened 1.e4 and, after seeing Black’s 1…c5, the Sicilian, Ivor had no hesitation in playing his favourite Morra Gambit.  It was book perfect with Colin taking both pawns, but he had not read the same book as Ivor and got bogged down in the opening. You can play through the game here.  A typical Morra rout!

Thus, we finished this match winners by 4 – 1, a result that was better than we might have hoped for.  After this result, and before Oswestry A v Newport A had ended in 2½ – 2½ draw, we were nominally at the top of the table for a day!  Still, at the time of writing, we are second behind Oswestry, on the same Match points (3) and just one single game point behind them.  I’ll take that for now!

Francis Best, A Team Captain

 

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