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A-Team Conquer Kings

posted 10 Mar 2011, 15:24 by knight moves   [ updated 14 Mar 2011, 12:33 ]
Stafford A consolidated their position at the top of Stoke League Division 1 with a close fought home win over nearest rivals, Holmes Chapel Kings.  With this win, Stafford move 3 points clear of Holmes Chapel, although the Kings still have 2 games in hand.
 
The match against defending Stoke League Division One champions was not the best time to be missing several key players, and Stafford found themselves facing a grading deficit of almost 25 points per board.   
 
The size of the task became even greater when Ken McNulty succumbed to a mating attack down the open h-file.   However, this signalled the start of a strong fightback from Stafford, beginning with a fine win by Stephane Pedder to level the match.   Stephane looked to have the worse of the opening when he failed to recover his pawn in a Queen's Gambit Accepted, but he obtained a dangerous initiative on the kingside and shattered his opponent's defences with a knight sacrifice, after which the ensuing threats from his queen and rook were too much. 
 
Ken Wozniak appeared to be worse throughout his game, defending against an attack and struggling with a very bad white-squared bishop which looked to be no match for his opponent's knight.    He did well to exchange the other pieces and reach an ending that looked set to be drawn when his opponent rather imploded and allowed Ken to exchange into a pawn ending where his outside passed pawn was the most relevant factor and allowed Ken to secure an unlikely win and give Stafford the lead. 
 
The decisive win came from Ray Hyde on board 3, overcoming a 32 grading point disadvantage.   Ray had an early draw offer rejected, and his opponent looked to have good attacking prospects on the queenside.    However, Ray defended doggedly and was two pawns up with his own kingside attack looking set to prevail when his opponent blundered into a mate.   
 
Holmes Chapel pulled a point back in the last game to finish, where Malcolm Armstrong had made a bad early mistake which allowed his opponent to secure a powerful bishop pair.   Although he fought back and at one point seemed close to equality, he could not contain the bishops which eventually proved decisive. 
 
So, a superb win for Stafford which extends their lead at the top of the division.    With only the return match at Holmes Chapel still to be played, it is now clear that victory in that match will give Stafford the title.    Before then, all eyes will be on Holmes Chapel's matches in hand against Alsager and Cheddleton.
 

Current Standings:

Stafford A

7

3

3

1

9

H C Kings

5

3

0

2

6

Newcastle A

6

1

4

1

6

Alsager A

6

2

1

3

5

Cheddleton A

6

1

2

3

4

 
 
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