Shrewsbury B picked up their second win of the season away at Church Stretton.
Unfortunately, we were one down at the outset, as we were only able to field four players with a couple of our regulars unavailable. Fielding a full side for away games has proved to be problematic so far this season; nobody’s fault, just the way things are.
As if to balance the books, Church Stretton were also missing key players Trevor Brotherton, David Hodge and Karl Wakefield.
This meant that, instead of my traditional loss to Trevor, I was playing Steve Chadaway, who is relatively new to the area and is playing his first season for Church Stretton. The opening was a Scandinavian with Dan’s old favourite Qd6 retreat. There was a bit of business with the clocks; first Steve’s then my clock not working properly. All was sorted amicably and the first seven or eight moves were played quite quickly by both sides. I quite liked my position but Black was solid enough.
On board 2, Ivor had the black pieces against Graham Shepherd; another Scandinavian but this time, Ivor’s favourite 2.Nf6 line. Graham seemed to get a good position out of the opening with extra space and Queen-side possibilities.
Board 3 saw a really sharp opening as Tom Williamson risked the Schliemann against Ian’s Ruy Lopez. The position looked completely unbalanced but I would rather have had Ian’s game. He had succeeded in castling and getting most of his pieces out, while Tom had a very active Queen but most of his other pieces were still on their original squares.
Tony’s game appeared more balanced and looked like a sort of Reti or Kings Indian Attack to me but I was happy to see it as it looked quite similar to the type of game Tony has been playing successfully with White over the past year or so. Back to board 1 and I wasn’t quite so happy. For a few moves my position had seemed to be improving but Steve was getting back into it now and continued to move quickly while I was using up quite a bit of time. It seemed to me that there ought to be some advantage for me but a single inaccuracy would lose it all and maybe a bit more. You can play through this game here (see also “Interesting Games”.)
Ivor had fought back well to get back in the game. Graham then overlooked a fairly simple shot that cost him a Pawn. His Bishop on g2 was strong, however, and gave at least some compensation. Tony was playing well on board 4 against Chris Pimm Jones. The position was still quite balanced but Chris’s king looked a bit awkward and his pieces were struggling not to trip over one another. In contrast, Tony’s game was very harmonious. Simply put, it seemed that Tony had a better understanding of the position. In addition, Chris had used up far more time than Tony. Time also looked as if it was going to be a factor on board 3. Tom had done well to develop the rest of his pieces and my impression of the game was that it had gone from advantage to Ian to completely unclear. However, this was at the expense of his clock and he was down to his last twenty minutes in an extremely sharp position. Ian still had about three quarters of an hour.
Things were really beginning to heat up in my game. Steve had consolidated and was probably at least equal when he played 15…Nd5, which triggered complications. My 17th move, Nxf7, came as a complete surprise to him I think. Fritz isn’t in love with this move, preferring a tricky sequence where material remained level with perhaps a micro edge for White. I prefer my move as, although there was (one) path to equality afterwards, it was a much scarier position for Black. It boiled down to a piece sacrifice for two Pawns and an attack on Black’s King. I confess that I hadn’t seen the defensive resource available to Black on his 21st move when I made my 16th, so I was under the impression I was winning.
Board 2 was getting closer to the wire as Graham succeeded in whipping up some Queenside play. Board 3 was still sharp with Tom now down to 10 minutes to Ian’s 35.
On board 4, Tony continued to outplay his opponent who was also getting short of time. I was getting a bit short of time myself on board 1 but this turned out not to matter. Steve missed his chance on move 21 and from here on I was correct in considering the game to be won. On a couple of occasions, I could perhaps have been more precise; there was no need for me to exchange Queens on move 29 but I was down to my last 15 minutes and an ending with extra exchange plus Pawn seemed the safer path. It proved enough and Steve resigned: an entertaining game!
Scores level then with about half an hour to play. Board 2 was fairly level on time. Graham was still a Pawn down but had obtained an outside passed Pawn; difficult to call. Barring accidents, the win was looking clear for Tony, a checking sequence had left him a Rook up with monster passed Pawns in addition. Board 3 was another matter, as Ian overlooked a resource by Tom which won a Pawn, as Ian could not take the rook on f4 without dropping his Queen. Ian saw this – I know he did – and yet…he started by doing what we’re all taught in this type of situation when the position goes wrong and you have a big time advantage: use some of that time to have a think. Ian did this, then his hand moved out and…touched the rook! Under the laws of the game he was now obliged to capture the rook, if legally possible, the very move that cost Ian his Queen! This really should have been game over and I’m sure Ian would have resigned had Tom even had 5 minutes left on the clock. However, Tom had less than a minute! Stretton don’t have digital clocks so couldn’t tell exactly. Anyway, Ian’s King was marched up the board and I think he was expecting the inevitable, when he noticed that Tom’s king was no longer on the board! Tom was obviously playing instantaneously at this point and must have accidentally knocked his king off the board! The startling thing is that neither the players, nor Steve, nor I who were watching could pinpoint when exactly this happened. The players agreed to call it a draw, saving us all a headache!
Just after this Graham offered Ivor a draw, which Ivor accepted after establishing the match position.
Tony rounded off the evening by converting his won position to an actual win. A very good game from Tony. He had a wobble when he picked up his King and was about to play it to a position that would have stalemated his opponent. Fortunately, he realised in time and there was another good square for his King. Essentially, exactly the same same mistake as Ian but with a completely different outcome! Who says there’s no luck in chess?
So, an eventful evening to say the least.
Final score Church Stretton A 2 Shrewsbury B 3
Mark Smith, B Team Captain