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Setback at Alsager

posted 26 Feb 2011, 06:13 by knight moves   [ updated 26 Feb 2011, 06:22 ]
Stafford suffered their first defeat of the season in Stoke League Division 1 with a narrow 3-2 loss at Alsager.  Both clubs fielded strong sides and, with only 4 grading points in total between them, the scene was set for a tough evening's chess.  Things developed in a similar manner to the previous match at Newcastle, with Stafford slowly being forced on to the back foot but retaining sufficient opportunities to keep the match open.
Stephane Pedder obtained his usual cramped position as black and, when his opponent's queen penetrated to c6, he was faced with the loss of a critical pawn on d6 and had little choice but to try a speculative piece sacrifice.   His opponent missed the best continuation and allowed Stephane's queen in to the heart of his position to begin a series of checks which eventually acquired 3 pawns for the piece.     With Stephane having queen, rook and 4 pawns against queen, rook, knight and 1 pawn, the position was very difficult to assess but sadly Stephane left his rook en prise and had to resign to give Alsager what turned out to be a crucial lead.   
The clock proved to be the most important factor on the top 2 boards.   Lee Grinsell seemed to be gradually outplaying his opponent and won a pawn, but he had accumulated a half hour time deficit and, down to his last 5 minutes and his advantage being some way from being decisive, he had little practical choice but to agree a draw.    Meanwhile on board 2, Gerald Acey was on the other side of the fence, struggling on the board but well ahead on the clock, and his opponent went for the safe advantage of a rook ending with a passed a-pawn which Gerald was able to hold. 
Ken McNulty had a tough game, struggling to contain his opponent's raking bishop pair which supported a strong kingside attack that led to a decisive win of material which gave Alsager a winning 3-1 lead.  As most players retired to the bar, Malcolm Armstrong declined his opponent's draw offer and rather optimistically pressed for a consolation win.   His opponent had played very well to negate his early space disadvantage and the position was delicately balanced when once again the clock proved the crucial factor as Malcolm won on time.
So, a disappointing result although Stafford remain at the top a very competitive division.