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Stafford Ride Their Luck at Sutton Coldfield

posted 30 Oct 2010, 12:14 by knight moves   [ updated 30 Oct 2010, 12:15 ]
Stafford travelled to Sutton Coldfield for a Cannock League Division One match and, with a grading advantage averaging about 20 points per board, were strong favourites.   
Things began well when Malcolm Armstrong's opponent on top board blundered a pawn in the early middlegame.   Malcolm played safe with a series of exchanges to steer the game towards an ending where he won a second pawn and, although his opponent managed to prolong the game beyond the time control, he resigned to give Stafford the lead.
In a 4 board match, points on the board are worth a lot more than good positions in the remaining games, and that was certainly the case in this match.   Peter Evans had a fluctuating game on board 4 which took a distinct turn for the worse when he missed a crucial bishop retreat, allowing his opponent to start picking off his weak queenside pawns.   Although Peter generated some counterplay on the kingside, the game turned into a race between passed pawns which he looked set to lose.    However, his opponent missed several clear wins and allowed Peter a resource which saw both sides queening pawns and, whilst this sequence cost Peter his bishop, he had practical chances as his queen delivered a series of checks to the exposed king of his opponent who was also running short of time.    Eventually his opponent agreed to a draw, giving Peter an extremely fortunate but well-fought half point.    
Roger Butters had a pleasant early initiative thanks to a strong knight on d5, which he followed up with an interesting exchange sacrifice.   His opponent did well to return the exchange and steer the game into a rook ending where, although a pawn down, he had a straightforward opportunity to secure a draw by forcing a repetition.    Surprisingly he missed this continuation and Roger was able to make progress in the rook ending, securing a passed pawn and eventually exchanging the rooks to reach a winning pawn ending and clinch the match for Stafford.
Stephane Pedder was last to finish on board 2, surviving a very dangerous-looking attack against his king.   As the game headed into the allegro finish his opponent had several promising continuations, but Stephane defended well and also exploited his useful advantage on the clock.     Eventually his opponent ran out of both time and material to give Stephane the win, but one suspects that computer analysis will report another missed opportunity for Sutton Coldfield.   
So, a 3.5 - 0.5 win for Stafford which was a very flattering result in a match that could easily have been lost.