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Fightback at Newcastle

posted 4 Feb 2011, 10:01 by knight moves   [ updated 3 Feb 2012, 13:32 ]
Stafford maintained their unbeaten record in North Staffs Division 1 with a valiant draw at Newcastle.
Things were looking grim when Stafford went 2-0 down.  Stephane Pedder on board 3 had a disastrous game, getting mated as white in only 15 moves.  A dubious opening soon required a rather ignominious knight retreat, but instead Stephane chose to castle into the face of a huge attack which would have won at least a piece had Stephane not chosen the route of shortest resistance.
Gerald Acey has had several hard-fought duels with Alex Richardson on both sides of the English opening in recent years, most of which have been drawn but this time Gerald advanced his kingside pawns rather optimistically against Alex's perfect defensive structure.    Unable to prevent the loss of his c-pawn, Gerald gambled further with his kingside attack but this only served to weaken his own position which collapsed after some accurate and effective play from his opponent.
A defeat now looked likely but this was the start of a strong fightback from Stafford.   On board five, Pavel Nefyodov had played the opening energetically, leaving his king in the centre in order to progress his attacking options.    This strategy worked well as he was able to win a pawn and steer the game into a rook ending which, though not without its difficulties, offered excellent winning chances.    He then transposed into a winning pawn ending, only to throw the win away with an injudicious pawn advance.    His opponent could then have held the draw by simply moving his king backwards and forwards, but instead blundered badly to lose.  
Meanwhile on board four, Roger Butters had an extremely tough game which reached an ending with both players having bishop, knight and 4 pawns.    Roger's well-placed pieces appeared to give him a slight edge but his opponent's better king position gradually became the main factor and Roger looked to be in difficulties, but he kept calm and succeeded in setting up a fortress to secure a crucial draw.
This left Newcastle with a 2.5-1.5 lead in the match and Malcolm Armstrong needing a win to level the match.   At this stage, his game was still in a complex middlegame where his space disadvantage was compensated by a sound pawn structure and his opponent's weak king position, although perhaps his edge on the clock was of more practical significance.   Any of the three results was possible but his opponent over-pressed and lost first one pawn and then another to reach a knight ending where Malcolm's two pawn advantage eventually proved decisive with both players into their final minute.
So, a valuable if somewhat fortunate point which keeps Stafford at the top of a very tight league after 4 of the 8 matches.