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So Near Yet So Far at Cheddleton

posted 19 Feb 2012, 12:53 by knight moves
Stafford travelled to Cheddleton in Division 1 of the Stoke League missing several top players and, despite Cheddleton also being well below full-strength, were outgraded by over 20 points per board and clearly in for a tough evening. 

However, the match developed promisingly, with Andrew Leadbetter a clear pawn up on board 5 and none of the other games causing particular alarm.  The first result came on board 3 with a draw from Pavel Nefyodov.  He had blundered a pawn in the opening but followed this up with a sacrifice of a second pawn which left him with an enormous lead in development and a dangerous-looking attack against his opponent's king which was trapped in the centre.  Pavel then sacrificed a bishop but was soon obliged to take a draw by perpetual check.  Another draw followed on board 4 where Ray Hyde played solidly with the black pieces and seemed to enjoy the better of the game, but following a series of exchanges his slight edge was neutralised.

Cheddleton took the lead with a win on board 2.  Stephane Pedder's position had looked reasonable, but his opponent was able to make progress on the queenside to secure an outside passed pawn supported by a knight which was considerably better than Stephane's bishop.  A loss of the exchange accelerated the end, although by that stage Stephane's prospects were not looking good.

The top board game was extremely complicated.  Rafal Stepien for Cheddleton played a spectacular sequence which looked to be immediately winning, but somewhat fortunately Malcolm Armstrong had a neat resource which left him with queen and a dangerous passed a-pawn against rook, bishop and knight swarming around his exposed king.  Perhaps Rafal should have looked for a draw by perpetual check at this stage, but in pressing on with attempts to win he blundered and allowed Malcolm's queen to capture both the bishop and the knight and level the match.

Unfortunately, just as board 1 was swinging in Stafford's favour and the unlikely prospect of a match win was looming, board 5 swung in the other direction as Andrew Leadbetter spoiled his well-played game by blundering a piece.  With the match being played using the Fischer time control of 75 minutes plus 10 seconds per move, Andrew's advantage on the clock was not sufficient to save him and the Cheddleton player was able to wrap up the ending to give his side a 3-2 victory.

At least there will be an early opportunity for revenge when the sides meet again on Wednesday in the semi-final of the Open (8-man) cup.

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