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Cannock Div 2 Title Decider

posted 9 Apr 2011, 09:16 by knight moves   [ updated 9 Apr 2011, 09:20 ]
Stafford fell at the final hurdle in Cannock League Division 2 as they lost the title-deciding final match 1.5-2.5 to Rushall.  Trailing their rivals by one match point, Stafford needed a win to take the title and, not unexpectedly, both teams made every effort to get close to the 550 total garding limit.

It is always difficult to win a tight 4-board match as one loss leaves you needing two wins and a draw from the remaining three boards, and that proved to be the general theme of this match.
David Barker gave Stafford the lead when his queenside attack crashed through.    David had looked to be worse earlier on when his opponent's kingside pawn advances led to the win of a pawn, but this left his king rather exposed and, although castling queenside was probably necessary, this left David with a clear plan to push his queenside pawns and open lines for his rooks which eventually proved decisive as he first won queen for rook and then concluded with a mating attack.
However, it had been on the cards for a while that Rushall would level the match with a win on board 2, where Ray Hyde's opponent had established a dominant bishop on e5 which eyed the weak dark squares around Ray's king.    His opponent played well to gradually improve his position and, once hs queen was ready to join in the attack, Ray had no defence against the mating threats. 
Ken Wozniak had a fluctuating game on board 3, at first struggling with several weak pawns but he defended resourcefully and as his opponent allowed the pawn structure to become fixed, the tables swung as it was Ken who had weak pawns to attack with his active knight.    As he went a pawn up, Ken looked to be on the way to victory but unfortunately he allowed his knight to become trapped and he did well to emerge with 3 pawns for it.   With rook and five pawns against rook, bishop and two, the position was not easy to assess and a repetition of moves tempted both players into agreeing a draw.
The last game to finish saw Malcolm Armstrong needing a win but this had never been on the cards, as a rather listless opening left him passively defending a weak c-pawn.    It looked as if he had everything covered but, as can happen when walking such a tightrope - particularly when short of time -  a clever move from his opponent generated one more threat than could be met and his position fell apart to clinch the match and the league for Rushall.
So, a disappointing end to a good season in this league and Stafford will need to seek their season's silverware elsewhere.