17.10.16 – Middlesex League: Hammersmith v Ealing 2
Monday 17th October could mean only one thing – the start of this year’s Middlesex League, at least as far as Hammersmith were concerned. Excited expressions were present across the faces of all who attended, as Lytton Hall was to play host to the might of Ealing 2.
Having narrowly been relegated from division two last year, we knew we had something to prove. As such, many seemed surprised by my decision to rest four of our top five boards. However, with our opponents coming into the match in bad form, and having heard rumours about their possible starting lineup, I was confident our middle order would pull through.
Play got underway at 7:30 sharp, and it was clear from the outset that both teams meant business. Sacrifices and zwischenzugs came flying across the boards at all angles, with spectators struggling to take their take their eyes off the boards to tend to their cups of tea.
First to finish was Alex Meynell. An assertive “checkmate” coupled with an astonished yelp were audible from board seven. It was clear what had happened. Alex had slyly wound his opponent up in one of his infamous opening traps and turned the screw. His disappointed opponent left the hall after just an hour.
Next up was board three. Sheikh Mabud, playing as black, faced Bird’s Opening (1. f4). After much deliberation, Sheikh decided he was not sufficiently up to speed with the notoriously double-edged From’s Gambit (1…e5!?) and instead responded with the main line (1…d5). Sheikh was further caught off guard by his opponent fianchettoing his queen’s bishop and attacking fast down the kingside. Sheikh held his nerve well. He proceeded to force tripled pawns on the g-file before coolly mopping them up with his rook. What followed can only be described as a meltdown from his opponent, who offered his hand in resignation before the time control.
Yours truly was third to finish. After my last four games for the club with the black pieces, I was relieved to finally have the first move. 1. d4 g6 2. Bf4 Bg7 appeared on the board and it seemed my opponent was happy to sit back and allow me to play in my favoured positional style. It transpired that he was to be the architect of his own downfall. After firstly failing to castle behind his fianchettoed bishop, he developed his knight to d7 where it found itself trapped by my queen’s pawn and blocking in his light-squared bishop. Weakening his pawn structure with the premature a6 and h6 were to be the final straws; soon his poorly developed pieces were overloaded, and resignation came on move 25.
Brian Dodgeon looked absolutely in control of his young opponent from the first move. His experience allowed him to gradually improve his material and strategic advantage, effortlessly negating his challenger’s attempts to attack down the queenside. Soon Brian’s passed f-pawn became unstoppable, and resignation was inevitable.
Dave Lambert clinched the fifth win and victory for the team. With his opponent’s king boxed in on h8, he sat for a long time, calculating, trying to find an elegant smothered checkmate. With time running low, amazed at his inability to procure the elusive mate, Dave calmly switched plans, instead pushing home his material advantage in the shape of two strong central pawns.
Fresh off the back of his dominant debut for the club, new member Orial O’Caithill was looking to maintain his 100% streak. Entering the endgame with two knights and five pawns each, Orial’s superior pawn structure and flawless technique appeared as if it was going to make the difference. With 20 minutes on his clock versus his opponent’s two, Orial hung a knight, gasping in frustration. Unwilling to trial his bullet chess skills, his opponent offered a draw, which Orial gratefully accepted.
After two and a half hours of play, Yasser Tello had reached a dead drawn endgame. With each player having an almost identical pawn structure and one knight apiece, spectators were perplexed by his decision not to take the draw. Yasser’s ambition paid off – after some Carlsen-esque maneuvering and a couple of seemingly innocuous inaccuracies, his opponent suddenly found himself in zugzwang. Yasser’s king entered the black stronghold and ruthlessly mopped up the pawns.
As the night drew to a close, everyone found themselves gathered around board one. Paul Kennelly looked to be dominating with the black pieces. He had a strong knight versus a weak bishop, and was pinning virtually all of his opponent’s pieces. As the inevitable time scramble commenced, calculation was out the window and instinctive mayhem ensued. Paul’s frustration was apparent as his opponent miraculously consolidated his position and won a pawn. A clever tactic sealed the defeat – white sacrificing his pawn with check to discover an attack on the black queen.
All in all, a very good start to the season. Next up is Harrow 2 at home on 14th November, where we’ll hope to face a slightly stronger team but win by an even bigger margin!
Result: Hammersmith 6.5 – 1.5 Ealing 2