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Cup Final Disappointment

posted 16 Apr 2011, 01:25 by knight moves   [ updated 3 Feb 2012, 13:20 ]
Outgraded by an average of 10 points per board, Stafford suffered a narrow 4.5 - 3.5 defeat against Cheddleton in the North Staffs Open Cup Final.
The match again demonstrated the value of early points on the scoreboard as Cheddleton took a 2 point lead with wins on boards 3 and 4 against Stephane Pedder and Roger Butters respectively.  Stephane will still be wondering what possessed him to play his bishop to a square where it could simply be captured by his opponent's knight, whilst Roger had his first loss of the season (in his 14th game) when he went down in a double rook ending.   
Ray Hyde got Stafford off the mark with a draw, having been a pawn up but seen his advantage gradually disappear.    At this stage, however, the remaining 5 games held good prospects for Stafford and a 4-4 scoreline, which would probably have been sufficient to take the trophy on board count, was not out of the question.
Gerald Acey had a fascinating game on top board, defending the Queen's Gambit Declined Exchange Variation in classical style and, once he had secured the queenside pawn structure, transferring his pieces to the kingside for the thematic counter-attack.    This looked very promising but his opponent defended resourcefully and Gerald could not find a decisive breakthrough.   Having advanced his kingside pawns to join in the attack, Gerald's king was exposed and his opponent managed to turn the tables, winning queen for rook and looking set for victory himself.    The final twist came on the clock, where Gerald had built up a significant lead and, down to his last couple of minutes, his opponent allowed a perpetual check.   
Stafford's first win came from Malcolm Armstrong who won an attractive game, maintaining his opening space advantage and achieving a clear edge in the early middlegame.    His opponent sought complications and sacrificed a pawn which enabled his rook to reach the seventh rank where, combined with an active knight and bishop, it looked very dangerous.   However, Malcolm had calculated well and had an accurate sequence of moves to escape the checks whilst exploiting his opponent's pinned bishop to win a piece and shortly afterwards the game.   
Ken McNulty built up a good position with his central pawns beginning to roll down the board in a threatening manner.   However, Ken has had problems with the clock in several recent games and by this stage he was well behind on time and down to his last few minutes, which was an impossible situation given the "all moves in 85 minutes" time control, and he soon had to admit defeat.   Andrew Leadbetter had an interesting game on board eight, with both players looking to attack in an unbalanced position.    As they both ran short of time, and with the match now won for Cheddleton, caution became the order of the day and a draw was agreed.
In the last game to finish, Pavel Nefyodov scored a second win for Stafford.    His game had seen a very sharp opening lead to a complex position in which, unsurprisingly, both players ran short of time.    Pavel had managed to gradually outplay his opponent and was on his way to victory in a double-rook ending when his opponent brought the evening to a rather abrupt end by blundering into a mate.
So, Stafford enjoyed a good run in this competition with fine wins against Holmes Chapel and Alsager, but fell at the final hurdle and the search for silverware continues.
The Match Card can be found here