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Stafford Into Cup Final

posted 11 Feb 2011, 09:21 by knight moves   [ updated 3 Feb 2012, 13:37 ]
Stafford reached the final of the Stoke League Open Cup with a narrow 4.5 - 3.5 victory over Alsager on 9th Feb.
 
Early draws from Ray Hyde and Ken Wosniak (who did well to extract himself from an awkwardly passive position) were followed by a very fortunate win for Stephane Pedder, whose opponent blundered a piece in a levellish position and resinged immediately.  Malcolm Armstrong was under considerable pressure when he misjudged the attacking strength of his opponent's bishop pair, but he managed to exchange pieces into a level ending and another draw was agreed.
 
Alsager then levelled the match with a win on board 8.   Andrew Leadbetter's King's Gambit appeared to have given him excellent prospects with his opponent's king trapped in the centre, but he allowed the queens to be exchanged and was left defending an endgame with a pawn deficit.     His opponent played well to advance his kingside pawn majority and Andrew resigned as a new queen was about to appear on the board.
 
This left the match all square with 3 games remaining, but with Lawrence Cooper looking set for victory on top board and therefore the board count tiebreak set to be well in Stafford's favour, Alsager needed wins on both of the other two boards.    At that stage, Pavel Nefyodov was under pressure but Gerald Acey looked to have a strong attack which would take Stafford to the winning line.    However, he missed a crucial queen retreat by his opponent which neutralised his attack and left him saddled with several weak pawns,
two of which fell off as the initiative swung heavily in favour of the Alsager player.    Fortunately for Gerald, his opponent was running critically short of time and eventually had to agree a draw in a queen ending by which stage he had lost one of his extra pawns to significantly reduce his winning chances.  
 
Lawrence then clinched the match with a win which had been on the cards for some time.    His opponent's queen looked threateningly placed on h5 but Lawrence found a neat series of moves which came close to trapping it, and his opponent had to shed a pawn in order to prevent this.    Lawrence then developed a strong kingside attack which won first one piece and then a second as his opponent sought counterplay on the queenside which never looked likely to succeed.
 
In the final game to finish, Pavel's early queenside initiative had soon be repelled and he had to defend against a vary dangerous-looking kingside attack, which he did well and the position remained extremely complex as both flags began to rise.     With more time available his opponent may well have won, but as it was the game descended into a blur of fairly random moves and a draw was agreed with both flags teetering on the edge; a fair result to a hard-fought game.   
 
Stafford will now face Cheddleton in the final in April.
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