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Stafford A Top the Table (for now at least)

posted 22 Oct 2010, 12:33 by knightmoves   [ updated 22 Oct 2010, 14:46 by knight moves ]
Stafford built on the win over Cheddleton in the opening match of the Stoke League Division 1 season with a convincing 4-1 home victory against Alsager, despite being slightly outgraded.   
Stephane Pedder was first to win on board 3, continuing his fine start to the season.    Unusually for Stephane when playing black, particularly against higher graded opposition, he gained a space advantage in the opening and soon developed a firm hold over the white squares.   The tactics that followed were always going to favour Stephane and his opponent resigned when faced with the loss of a rook.
On board 4, Ken McNulty achieved a very promising position with control of the open d-file and a pawn on f6 offering good attacking prospects against his opponent's king.    However, Ken perhaps over-estimated these attacking chances and lost control of the d-file to his opponent's queen and rook.    Fortunately for Ken, his opponent then misjudged the position and exchanged into a pawn ending in which he was unable to prevent the loss of a pawn, giving Ken an advantage which he duly converted to give Stafford a two point lead.
Alsager's point came from their captain Alan Thomason who beat Ken Wozniak on board 5.    Ken reached an endgame with two knights against two bishops which, with his compromised pawn structure and play on both sides of the board, was very unpleasant to defend.   Although he fought hard, Ken was unable to contain Alan's bishops and he had to resign.  
Gerald Acey had a tight game on top board which he won neatly in a pawn ending, the winning maneouvre being a very attractive and well-calculated one in which Gerald moved his king all the way to the eighth rank in order to force the key zugzwang position in which his opponent was unable to prevent the loss of a critical pawn..  
The last game to finish was Malcolm Armstrong's on board two.   At one stage it looked as if he might be the first to win as his opponent, faced with the prospect of a serious positional disadvantage when the game was barely out of the opening, chose a very speculative piece sacrifice.    Malcolm was able to exchange queens and move towards an endgame with an extra piece, but his opponent continued to fight hard and generated some play with his pawn majority on the kingside.   This probably looked more dangerous to the watching spectators than it really was, and eventually his opponent ran out of material as Malcolm pushed his a-pawn towards its queening square.    
So Stafford move to the top of the league table with 2 wins from the opening 2 matches, already doubling last season's points total!