24.01.17 – London League 4: GLCC v Hammersmith
All good things must come to an end, and it looks like our unbeaten run in League 4 is no different. We trail our GLCC match 3-4 behind with a single game adjourned. Orial’s the man tasked to take his game away and come back for seconds, although it looks dubious whether he can salvage anything from his 4-pawn v 4-pawn end-game. Shame, because the game had looked dead even throughout. The win we need seems a long shot (!), so we might have to concede the match this time around.
Regardless of the result in that last one, I think we acquitted ourselves very well against a side who out graded us on nearly every board. GLCC actually lie bottom of the table (P5, L5!) but that appears hard to believe when you look at their lineup. I chatted to their captain before the match and he said that as they’ve got a deep pool of players to choose from, they actively rotate selection to ensure that everyone gets a broadly equal matchup. It’s some sign of our progression in this league that they decided to wheel out the big guns for their match against Hammersmith.
First to finish was yours truly. I agreed a quick-fire and charming draw in the French after a sharp tactical exchange meant that most of the pieces were swapped off fighting over d4. Not much to be excited about I’m afraid, but I was satisfied with the half point.
Draws for Nick and Brian followed not soon afterwards. I didn’t get to see much of either game but Nick and his opponent’s (lengthy) post-match analysis suggested a fair result was reached on both sides. Brian felt he had the edge but was cautious of over-pressing for fear of allowing tactical counter play. Good results for both give the relative gradings.
Matt – making his debut in League 4 – was next to finish, being on the wrong end of the first decisive result of the evening. he fell behind to a sharp tactic resulting in a pin on the Queen. Finding himself down a minor piece for a pawn, it was always going to be tough from thereon in. Still, he battled bravely and forced his much higher-rated adversary into an endgame, dodging several potential pitfalls along the way.
Dan secured a respectable draw on Board 8, although it could have been better still as the post-match analysis in the pub confirmed (where all the best analysis happens!). He was a couple of pawns up in his endgame but had to worry about a raiding pawn on the h-file that tied up his King in defence. When his Knight came off the board, his unconnected pawns were not enough to force the win and a draw was agreed.
Not for the first time in a match – and probably not the last either – Robin had the sharpest game of the evening. Open files, advanced Queens, unusual pawn structures – it had the lot! It felt like the game was on a knife edge for a while with one small mistake likely to be crucial either way. It seemed Robin had the momentum but a pawn break by his opponent gave him a dangerous pawn couplet on the 6th rank which took all of his attention to rebuke.
With both players in time trouble, they entered an endgame with very few pieces on the board (though alas, still a Queen!) and plenty of chances for stalemate. Unfortunately for Robin, his opponent kept his cool, dodged the numerous traps on offer and slowly improved his position until the Hammer flag was to fall. Unlucky, but a great game to watch.
Star of the show was John who scored a great win against Francois on Board 4; a real solid competitor. My cursory glances put him a pawn down in the middle game, but he was able to take advantage of the free c-file and penetrate with his Rook for check for good effect. He emerged not only a piece up, but also with the initiative, converting coolly into a victory thereafter.
That now takes John to 3.5 points out of a possible 4 for the season – having a stormer so far!
Next up is Wanstead 3, and a return to Golden Lane. Let’s hope it’s a winning return!