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Off The Bottom!

posted 24 Mar 2012, 12:02 by knight moves
It has been a tough season as defending champions in Stoke League Division 1, but at least some progress was made with a 4-1 win against a weakened Alsager enabling Stafford to move off the bottom of the table.   

With Alsager defaulting on board 5 and conceding about 60 grading points a board on boards 2 to 4, Stafford were firm favourites but Alsager fought hard and the first result only came after about two hours of play with a win for Pavel Nefyodov.  An early Qg4 had extracted a concession from his opponent with Kf8, and Pavel then set about building up an attack against the uncastled king which developed into a mating attack down the d-file as the king attempted to head for the queenside. 

Malcolm Armstrong was a little uncomfortable out of the opening as his opponent accepted the Queen's Gambit and secured his pawn advantage.  Malcolm had compensation with the bishop pair and central pawn control, but it took a while to develop these advantages.  Even after winning a piece for two pawns the win was not clear, but his opponent allowed a tactic which exchanged queens and won a pawn, leaving Malcolm's passed e-pawn able to advance decisively to win the match for Stafford.

Roger Butters had looked on course for a swift victory when his opponent's King's Gambit opening did not go well and Roger was able to get a knight to f2 and win the exchange on h1.  His queen then entered the fray on the kingside and picked up a couple of pawns before Roger overlooked a resource which forced him to return the exchange.  However, he still had two extra passed pawns on the kingside which were sufficient to bring about his opponent's resignation in a rook and bishop ending. 

On top board, Lee Grinsell was under pressure throughout in a thematic Sicilian defence, where his opponent's kingside pawn advances were some way ahead of Lee's queenside threats.  As the white pawns crashed through and Lee ran increasingly short of time, his only chance lay with a desperate knight sacrifice.  This should merely have delayed the inevitable, but instead it provoked a massive blunder from his opponent.  With only 12 seconds on his clock against around 5 minutes, Lee threatened what looked to be an unstoppable mate.  Unfortunately, his opponent was able to give up his queen for only a pawn in order to prevent the mate, and he then declined Lee's draw offers to take the win on time which, to be fair, his earlier play had deserved.

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