Wellington A Too Strong for B Team

I’m afraid it’s my sad duty to report a defeat for our B team, the first one since the opening game of the season against the same opponents.

Wellington put out a strong team with board 3 graded 167, which would be a strong board 3 in division 1, let alone division 2. First, I have to report my shocker against Toby Neil. Toby surprised me slightly by playing one of the main lines in the Exchange Gruenfeld with 7.Bc4 and 8.Ne2. We were following theory till move 13 and by move 20, I was busted! I thought for a long time over my 15th move; the choice was an active move, which cost a pawn, or a passive move that didn’t. I very much wanted to play actively but chickened out. In a tough position, I failed to find the best continuation (which was still probably lost) and lost first my Queen then my King. Not good!

The other games were still in full swing, except for Peter’s game, which appeared still to be in the opening – a tense looking position. Dan appeared to be struggling a bit against Tiago Faustino. Going into a complex ending, he was a Pawn down but quite active and Tiago’s Knight looked very bad. All meat and drink to Tiago, though; he just kept making good, solid, positional moves, and quickly too. When Dan finally succumbed to the inevitable, he was down to his last 5 minutes, Tiago still had 50.

A different kind of drama was unfolding on board 1. Matt’s comments on his game (probably the most interesting game of the night) follow:

“My game against Colin started out with his usual English, before he surprised me by transposing into a harmless line of the exchange Slav, in which Black scores terrifically – over 60%, according to Chessbase. Colin remarked after the game that he loved my position out of the opening! However, once he got his M.O. of trading off a Bishop for a Knight and hopping his extra horse into gaps on my Queenside, it started to liven up as he built up pressure. I then overlooked a tactic that allowed him to win a Pawn, albeit at the expense of his very useful Knight, and I went into an ending with the initial aim of swapping off my light-squared Bishop for his Knight, getting into an opposite-coloured Bishops ending a Pawn down and holding the draw. This shouldn’t have been possible, but in my search for a drawn ending I managed to stumble into a won position, as Colin repaid my earlier generosity by giving back the Pawn. The trade of Bishops and play on both flanks meant that his Knight wasn’t able to defend both flanks at once and, after a bit of manoeuvring (and a few technical points subsequently pointed out by the computer that were too deep for both of us), I ended up with an extra Pawn. However, a positional error (18 months of studying endgames hasn’t sorted this all out) of picking the wrong moment to advance my Pawn, allowed some tactical defences with the Knight, which Colin consistently found and finished off with a neat Knight sacrifice to split the point.”

You can play through Matt’s game here.

Topsy turvy is probably a fair description of the action. Just to add to Matt’s comments, Colin Roberts appeared to have good winning chances as he was a Pawn up, then he made a mistake, which cost first his extra Pawn, then another one. The result was 2 Pawns plus Bishop vs 1 Pawn plus Knight. Perhaps Matt over-pushed at this point and Colin found an ingenious way to give up his Knight for the final Pawn: drawn but fascinating.

This left us needing full points from the final 2 games. Peter’s game was still in the early middle game and it looked quite hard for either side to accomplish anything; one of those games which we’ve all played but never get published, in which nothing really gets going. Norman’s game against Simon Rhodes was approaching the death. Norman had an extra pawn but it was the dreaded opposite coloured Bishops. Objectively, it was totally drawn but because of the match situation and his opponent’s inexperience (Simon only took up the game a year ago and, although he has made excellent progress, naturally, there are gaps in his knowledge), Norman continued playing. I thought Norman missed a chance to sacrifice his Bishop for the last two Pawns, which would have left 3 Pawns v Bishop. Probably still drawn but more opportunities for Simon to go wrong. As it was, Simon missed that he could give up his bishop for Norman’s final Pawn but it didn’t matter; the game was drawn.

This meant that the match was lost and Peter and his opponent Mark Podlesak agreed a draw, which was fair enough, though naturally there was potentially plenty more chess to be played. So, a setback, but not entirely unexpected; Wellington A are a very good team.

Next up Telford B

Mark Smith, B Team Captain

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