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Thud and Blunder at Newcastle

posted 15 Dec 2011, 03:59 by knight moves   [ updated 15 Dec 2011, 03:59 ]
Stafford finally began their defence of the Stoke League Division One title with an away match at Newcastle, but went down 3.5-1.5 in a fluctuating match which contained plenty of thud and blunder.

Stephane Pedder was struggling when an early d5 thrust backfired and he was left a pawn down and facing a strong protected passed d-pawn with both players having queen and rook.  It looked as if his opponent only needed to consolidate his position in order to secure the victory, but instead he rushed things and allowed Stephane's rook and queen to penetrate.  It is always difficult to adjust to sudden changes and, instead of taking the available draw by perpetual check, Stephane thought he could win and played a continuation which won queen for rook but unfortunately left him unable to prevent the passed d-pawn from queening to give Newcastle the lead.

The one uneventful game came on board 2 where Malcolm Armstrong equalised comfortably enough with black and neither player was able to generate any real winning prospects.  As the rooks were exchanged on the open d-file to leave a sterile position with queen, 2 bishops and 6 pawns each, it was time to agree a draw.

The next misfortune for Stafford came on board four.  Pavel Nefyodov had fought back well from a difficult opening in which a bishop sacrifice on f7 had netted his opponent a pawn and drawn Pavel's king in to the open.  However, some resourceful middlegame play left Pavel pushing for a win in a minor piece ending before he blundered and allowed a bishop skewer winning his knight and the game, giving Newcastle a 2.5-0.5 lead.

Ken McNulty had another wildly fluctuating game on board five.  His opponent doubled rooks on the open a-file which looked good but they actually had nothing to attack, so Ken got on with a dangerous-looking attack in the centre.  This should perhaps have been decisive, but somehow Ken lost a piece and, with queen and 4 pawns against queen, knight and 2 pawns, had to rely on threats generated by a strong pawn on d6.  His opponent should probably have taken a draw by perpetual check at this point, but instead blundered and allowed Ken to reach what should have been a straightforwardly winning pawn ending.  With the match being played using the Fischer time control of 75 minutes plus 10 seconds per move, Ken's time shortage was not as significant as it would have been under the conventional 85 minutes time control, but these positions are always easier to watch than to play and Ken made hard work of things.  He eventually reached a position with queen against pawn and looked to be back on the road to victory when he paused to work out the final winning sequence and, to his horror, noted his clock flashing and showing 0.00 to record a loss on time. Oh dear...... 

In the final game to finish, Gerald Acey had nurtured a small advantage throughout the game following early minor-piece exchanges which left his opponent defending a weak d-pawn and queenside pressure as the game moved into a double-rook ending.  It looked as if Gerald had found a winning sequence when he sacrificed a rook to queen his b-pawn and reach a position with queen against rook and both sides having only their h-pawns remaining.  However, it became clear that things were not so simple as his opponent came close to establishing a fortress with his rook on g5 defended by his pawn on h6.  Stalemate ideas were also in the air, but in practice the position was extremely difficult to defend with a 10-second increment and Gerald eventually succeeded in penetrating with his king and neatly sacrificing queen for rook to reach a winning pawn ending.

So, congratulations to Newcastle on their 3.5-1.5 win, but quite what the score should have been could be debated for some time....