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Winning Start in Wolverhampton Div 1

posted 27 Sept 2011, 13:48 by knight moves   [ updated 27 Sept 2011, 15:33 ]
Stafford travelled to Birmingham for the opening match of the Wolverhampton League Division 1 season against newly-promoted St George's and came away with a welcome 3.5-2.5 victory thanks to a win by Gerald Acey and draws on the remaining 5 boards, although several Stafford players will feel that they let good winning chances slip away.
Malcolm Armstrong was the first such culprit, after quickly achieving a promising position with his bishop on g4 pinning his opponent's knight on f3 very awkwardly against the queen on e2.  He had several ways to build up the pressure but carelessly allowed his opponent to unpin, which led to a series of exchanges and a level position in which the first draw of the evening was agreed.
Stephen Leadbetter, in his first game for Stafford in around 20 years, played an enterprising pawn sacrifice in the opening and enjoyed compensation with a powerful bishop pair.  His opponent neutralised the threats by exchanging into a double-rook ending in which Stephen's queenside pawns looked to give him an edge, but he was unable to prevent both of his opponent's rooks arriving on the seventh rank to earn a draw by perpetual check.
Roger Butters had also enjoyed the better of things on board 3, nurturing several positional advantages and eventually securing a strong pair of bishops in return for rook and pawn.  However, he could see no way to improve his position from there and offered a draw to his grateful opponent.
Stafford then took the lead with a win from Gerald Acey on the top board.  Gerald obtained a very pleasant position from the opening and a timely e4 advance opened things up for his well-placed  pieces.  Under considerable pressure, his opponent fell behind on the clock as Gerald won two pieces for a rook, and a blunder of the exchange shortly after the time control brought about what proved to be the decisive resignation, leaving Stafford one point ahead with two games still in play.
Andrew Leadbetter had a typically chaotic game on board six, establishing a dangerous passed d-pawn at the cost of a piece but maintaining a strong initiative which should have won the game for him.   Unfortunately he missed the winning move and, when the dust settled with each player having rook, opposite-coloured bishops and 5 symmetrical pawns, it looked time for another draw to be agreed.  However, both players pressed on and it was Andrew who made the next mistake, losing his a-pawn and giving his opponent a threatening passed pawn.  Andrew managed to obtain some counterplay against his opponent's king whilst also keeping an eye on the dangerous passed pawn, and with both players running short of time and the passed pawn unable to advance, the draw was eventually agreed.
In the final game to finish, Ken McNulty had looked set for victory when he won a piece during middlegame complications on the queenside.  However, his opponent had some threatening central pawns and Ken had to proceed with care.   He missed several clear wins as the clock ticked on and was well into his last minute against his opponent's 2 or 3 minutes as he queened a pawn (soothing the nerves of the watching Stafford players by capturing his opponent's last pawn along the way).   However, as he then sought to deliver mate with queen and bishop against a bare king, he put his opponent in stalemate.  Ken will be very disappointed to have thrown away the win in this manner but at least he had gained the crucial half point to secure the match victory.