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Survival!

posted 5 Apr 2012, 11:53 by knight moves
Stafford avoided relegation from Wolverhampton League Division One with a fine 3.5-2.5 win away at Kidderminster.

Pavel Nefyodov had a very short draw, albeit with the black pieces, and spent the rest of the evening proving the theory that watching other games is much more nerve-wracking than playing your own. 

Gerald Acey also drew on board one, where his opponent had accepted a rather warm pawn sacrifice which allowed Gerald to develop some rather dangerous-looking threats along the a1-h8 diagonal.  However, his opponent managed to secure his defences and neither player felt able to pursue a win as the draw was agreed.

Stephane Pedder contributed another half point on board 3.  Having opened up the position with an early d5 thrust, he had perhaps missed that his opponent could escape the pressure by castling queenside and pinning the d5 pawn against Stephane's rook on d1.  Stephane allowed his kingside pawns to be weakened in order to preserve his initiative and was quite happy to accept his opponent's draw offer as the position remained imbalanced.  So these three draws left this the match all square with three games in play as the first time control approached.  All three games looked to hold reasonable prospects for the Stafford players, but with time running short and the pressure levels rising, anything could have happened. 

As it was, Malcolm Armstrong put Stafford into the lead when his opponent went wrong in time pressure and allowed Malcolm to establish two rooks on the seventh rank which won two pawns with a third to follow.

Ken McNulty had been doing well on board five, and had also been 20 minutes ahead on the clock, but both of these advantages gradually disappeared in the run up to the time control.  Ken will feel that he let things slip as his opponent both defended and counterattacked resourcefully to turn the tables and win a piece.

Fortunately by this stage Andrew Leadbetter was well in command on board six.  Andrew has had some tough games when stepping up to the first team this season, but he certainly saved his best for the most important occasion with a well-controlled game.  He enjoyed the better of the middlegame with a well-placed rook on d3 and pressure against his opponent's weak pawns, and kept things under control to steer the game into a double-rook ending where he efficiently rounded up a couple of pawns and pushed his h-pawn to secure the crucial point.

Ken had kept things going until Andrew's win was confirmed before accepting the inevitable and resigning. 

So Stafford move up to the giddy total of 7 match points, with Stourbridge and Kidderminster's seasons completed on 5 and 6 points respectively.  Warley Quinborne, St George's and Wolverhampton remain in the relegation mix as postponed matches are completed, but it will be Division One chess for Stafford again next season.

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