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A Win!

posted 10 Jul 2012, 14:05 by knight moves   [ updated 17 Aug 2012, 08:34 ]
The Wolverhampton Summer League has not been a happy hunting ground for Stafford this season with the 3 teams failing to record a win between them from their first 6 matches combined, so it was not exactly with confidence that the Division One team entertained Rushall.  The teams were very closely matched with Stafford enjoying an average grading advantage of just 2 points per board, so a tight match looked to be in prospect and that was indeed what developed, with the most likely outcome at the time control looking to be a 2-2 draw before Caissa finally smiled on Stafford to leave the final result a rather flattering 3.5-0.5.

Ray Hyde lost a pawn in the early middlegame when his opponent accurately calculated a rather neat sequence of moves starting with Nxe4 to pick up the important e-pawn.  Fortunately, Ray had some compensation with a well-placed knight on c4, a strong pawn on d5 and pressure along the now open e-file against the e7 pawn, and his opponent, seeing no way to improve his position, offered a draw which a relieved Ray was happy to accept.

Malcolm Armstrong declined an early draw offer and brought some imbalance to the position by castling on the opposite side to his opponent.  As the respective attacks began, Malcolm was able to seize the initiative with his better-placed knights and, shortly before the time control, the tactics began to work in his favour as he won a piece and soon afterwards the game to give Stafford the lead.

On board three, Pavel Nefyodov was under pressure right from the outset as his opponent gambited 2 pawns in the opening and soon afterwards threw a knight into the mix.  Pavel did well to survive the early threats but the position remained complex and he had to shed a piece as the time control approached, albeit that he had some compensation with 2 connected passed pawns.  It looked as though his opponent only needed to find the right way to blockade these pawns with his extra knight, but instead he advanced his own passed a-pawn which Pavel was able to block with his king at the same time as advancing his own pawns until they could no longer be stopped to clinch a rather unlikely victory.

This left Stafford with a winning 2.5-0.5 lead and only Roger Butters still playing on board two.  Roger had also been under some pressure in the middlegame but his opponent was probably a bit too optimistic and neglected his own king safety, which gave Roger strong play along the e-file.  As time began to run short, Roger's edge on the clock assumed increasing importance and, although his opponent should probably have been able to hold the position with best play, blundered to allow Roger to play the attractive temporary sacrifice Nd8+ leading to the win of a rook and the game. 

This win moves Stafford back to 50% after three matches in Division One, with only an away match against West Bromwich on 16th July remaining.
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