20.02.17 – London League 4: Hammersmith v Wanstead
Well done to everybody who fought hard for Hammersmith last night! The story was that we were up against a very strong side who outgraded us by an average of 21 points per board.
We defaulted one board so were 1-0 down initially, but nevertheless we started promisingly. Adam on top board played the London System and held his own solidly to draw against a very strong opponent.
I played as black against the London System on board two, and adopted Bajrush’s plan against an opponent graded 30 above me – fianchettoing both Bishops, then advancing the central pawns to e5 and d5, supported by the Bishops.
White’s King delayed castling and the central pressure enabled me to win first the b2 pawn, then another on d5. I turned down a draw after 20 moves, trying to simplify to arrive at a “won” endgame. However my opponent avoided exchanges, maximized the power of his white-squared Bishop, and in the 20 minute play-off after move 30 he produced a worrying King-side attack with Bishops, two Rooks, Queen and Knight.
I should have sacrificed the Rook for Bishop to relieve the pressure, but I didn’t see it under time pressure, instead taking refuge in a draw with just a few minutes left on the clock.
The heroes of the evening were Chris and Rich, who were first to finish. I didn’t see the intricacies of Rich’s game but he beat an opponent graded 36 higher than him!
Chris survived a hair-raising period of having to blockade the opponent’s 7th-rank pawn for ten moves or so, finally sacrificing a Knight to get rid of it, but emerging two pawns up to win the endgame.
At that stage it looked like we might win the match against all the odds, since I was two pawns up and Josue was a piece up for a pawn. But Josue’s opponent managed a Rook-infiltration of his second rank, gaining a pawn to create a winning Queening threat, and I got too short of time to force a win.
Then John’s game, which had looked pretty even throughout, ended in a loss against an opponent 25 grading points higher.
David, making his debut on board 8, managed an honourable draw.
So of the games played on the night, we drew 3.5-3.5, but lost 4.5-3.5 owing to the default. A credible result against tough opponents!