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Tough Relegation Battle Against Stourbridge

posted 5 Apr 2012, 11:18 by knight moves
Things are very tight at the wrong end of the Wolverhampton League Division One table, so the home match against Stourbridge was a crunch one.  Stafford enjoyed a grading advantage on all 6 boards, but Stourbridge were also fighting hard to avoid relegation.

Gerald Acey had a lively game on top board.   Caught in an unfamiliar line of a sharp opening, he rather reluctantly escaped the pressure along the e-file by castling queenside behind tripled and isolated c-pawns.  However, his opponent could only look to capture these one at a time and, in the meantime, Gerald was able to develop some dangerous-looking counterplay on the kingside with his queen and rook.  His opponent sacrificed the exchange to take a draw by perpetual check in a complex position where both players felt that they stood worse.

Stafford took the lead with a smooth win by Kazik Wozniak on board 6.  Playing white, he soon established a knight on e6 which completely dominated the board and he followed this up with a central pawn advance to open lines against his opponent's king.  A blunder which allowed Kazik a discovered attack to win his opponent's queen brought about an abrupt end.

Malcolm Armstrong then doubled the lead with a win on board two.  He too established a strong knight, this time on d5, which his opponent probably should have exchanged but instead he chose to leave it there and began to suffer as it covered many important squares.  As Malcolm's rooks took over the open files on the queenside, the win of at least a pawn was inevitable but instead his opponent allowed a small combination to win two pieces for a rook and soon afterwards threw in the towel in a prospectless position and faced with the loss of at least one more pawn.

Ray Hyde looked to be doing well as he carefully restrained his opponent's early activity on the kingside and then took over the initiative on the queenside.  He won a pawn but only at the cost of a series of exchanges which left the game about to reach an opposite-coloured bishop ending in which Ray's extra pawn would have been irrelevant, so the game was agreed drawn.  This left Stafford two up with two games still in play, but on the back foot in both. 

Pavel Nefyodov had sacrificed his d-pawn rather speculatively in the early middlegame and, though he did get some pressure, it never quite seemed enough and two further pawns disappeared a Pavel tried desperately to break through.  Some accurate defence by his opponent eventually forced the exchange of queens and, three pawns down with no attack left, Pavel had seen enough. 

Stephane Pedder was under early pressure on the kingside and was only able to avert disaster at the cost of his d-pawn.  As the game moved into a double-rook ending, Stephane managed to obtain some activity for his rooks and looked to have reasonable prospects for a draw.  However, as his opponent advanced his queenside pawn majority, Stephane had little choice but to exchange one pair of rooks and reached a very unpleasant position in which his rook was forced to b8 to stop his opponent's pawn on b7 from queening.  With both players having 3 pawns remaining on the kingside, Stephane's problem was that he had no waiting moves with his rook.  His opponent played the endgame well to eventually secure a second passed pawn on the kingside, which was too much for Stephane's king to cope with and so he resigned to leave the match drawn 3-3.

So, little change to the overall relegation picture and the fight now moves on to the re-arranged match at Kidderminster (M6 permitting.....) for another six-pointer.