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Cup Exit Against Wolverhampton

posted 18 Nov 2011, 11:56 by knight moves   [ updated 18 Nov 2011, 12:23 ]
Stafford entertained Wolverhampton in the first round of the Wolverhampton League Pittaway Cup, the open competition over eight boards.  The teams were very evenly matched throughout and it soon became clear that this was going to be a very tight match.    After the first hour's play none of the 16 players could claim a significant edge and it was no surprise when the halves began to appear on the scorecard. 

After about 90 minutes of play, 4 games were agreed drawn in quick succession.  Only Roger Butters had enjoyed any real advantage, weakening his opponent's queenside pawns and managing to win one, although in doing so he allowed his opponent to exchange pieces and reach a position with rook and opposite-coloured bishops in which there was no progress to be made.

With the match now effectively reduced to a 4 board encounter, thoughts began to turn to the possibility of a replay in the event of all 8 games being drawn.  Stephane Pedder had built up a very nice position on board 3, with a knight on e5 and bishop on d3 both well placed and his rook and queen controlling the open c-file.  His opponent was reduced to passive defence and was also running short of time, and the position was crying out for Stephane to produce a winning combination.  Unfortunately, he played his moves in the wrong order and blundered his rook to give Wolverhampton an effectively decisive lead given the board-count tiebreak in the event of a drawn match.

Wolverhampton then clinched the match with a win on board seven, where Ken McNulty looked to have been doing fine for most of the game before reaching an ending with knight and four pawns against bishop and four pawns.  Ken missed an opportunity to win a vital pawn, but even so, the position should have been sufficient to secure another half point.  However, Ken allowed his queenside pawns to get fixed on the wrong coloured squares and neglected an opportunity to bring his king to defend them.  This allowed his opponent to pick off the pawns and go on to secure the win.  

Andrew Leadbetter had another close game on board eight, but as material was exchanged his weakened pawns became increasingly vulnerable and fell off one by one until his opponent enjoyed what should have been a decisive 3 pawn advantage.  However, he failed to push his extra pawns and, as time ran short, Andrew somehow managed to salvage a draw. 

In the final game to finish, Malcolm Armstrong had equalised comfortably with black and looked set to join the batch of early draws. However, his opponent was in a determined mood and declined a draw offer to try to exploit his miniscule edge in a good knight versus bad bishop ending.  Malcolm's slight deficit on the clock assumed increasing importance as the time control was passed and, with the standard of play understandably declining, Malcolm erred to allow the knight to penetrate.  However, his opponent missed the best continuation and indeed came close to losing as the game was eventually drawn in 117 moves, leaving Wolverhampton the winners by a 5-3 margin.

Ah well, time to concentrate on the league.....