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Big Match Disappointment

posted 1 Mar 2013, 10:08 by knight moves   [ updated 1 Mar 2013, 10:08 ]
Having risen to the top of the Wolverhampton League Division One table with just two matches remaining, a home encounter against second-placed Bushbury (a point behind but with a match in hand) certainly fell into the category of a big match, with a win for either side likely to leave them strong favourites to take the title.  Unsurprisingly, an extremely tough match ensued between two strong sides but the evening ended in disappointment for Stafford, 3-1 down with two games adjourned.

Gerald Acey had a queenside initiative but Lee Grinsell defended resolutely and a draw was agreed as the queens were exchanged into a knight versus bishop ending with little prospect for either player.  Kazik Wozniak's game saw early exchanges leading to an awkward rook ending as his opponent took control of the only open file.  Careful play from Kazik enabled him to exchange the rooks and reach an ending of king and 6 pawns each which was difficult to assess.  A mistake from either player would have been fatal but both treaded carefully and another draw was agreed. 

In his debut match for Stafford, Matthew Harborne reached a promising position with his pieces well placed for a kingside attack and the prospect of enduring pressure against his opponent's isolated d-pawn. Unfortunately, he appeared to miscalculate a tactical sequence which cost him two pawns and allowed his opponent's knights to reach dangerous outposts.  Matthew fought hard to generate counter-play but ran short of time and could not avoid the exchange of queens.  Having reached the time control, he was left to survey the damage and soon had to resign. 

The crucial result came on board three, where Malcolm Armstrong appeared to equalise quite comfortably out of the opening but then allowed a neat tactic which won the exchange, although he had some compensation with a pawn and sight of his opponent's king.  His opponent missed the best continuation and allowed Malcolm's knights the time to reach active posts, after which the position was extremely wild. Unfortunately for Malcolm he had run into serious time pressure and, with barely a minute left for 6 moves, he missed a winning sequence and allowed another tactic which won his queen.  Once again, there was little relief at reaching the time control as another resignation was required. 

Lawrence Cooper, playing black on board one, had a very pleasant position throughout with pressure against his opponent's backward b-pawn, but as the minor pieces were gradually exchanged it was not so easy to develop this initiative.  At the adjournment, with both players having queen and two rooks remaining, the b-pawn is still a target but it is securely defended and Lawrence will be in for another tough evening on resumption. 

Stephane Pedder was under queenside pressure which cost him a pawn, but once he managed to get some kingside play under way as his opponent ran short of time, the tables began to turn.  Stephane was disappointed to have missed a very promising continuation but still looked to enjoy a small edge as the game was adjourned, although with limited material remaining it seems that once again a draw is the most likely result.

On the bright side, all is not yet lost but it will require tremendous play from Lawrence and Stephane to secure the two wins required to draw the match when the adjourned games are resumed in a couple of weeks time. In the meantime, all credit is due to Bushbury for a resourceful team performance which showed why they are so difficult to beat.