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Crunch Match Success

posted 5 Apr 2013, 08:22 by knight moves   [ updated 5 Apr 2013, 08:22 ]
It was crunch time at the top of Stoke League Division One as Stafford, seeking to recover from the disappointing finish in the Wolverhampton League, entertained Holmes Chapel. 

The visitors were soon on the front foot as Stephane Pedder struggled on board five. Having allowed the queenside pawn structure to become blocked, he had no counterplay as his opponent broke through on the kingside. A serious invasion of minor pieces followed and Stephane did well to extract his king and survive into an ending, but sadly he was powerless to stop the passed h-pawn.

Matthew Harborne levelled the match with a valuable win on board four. An early exchange of queens led to a symmetrical position which looked drawish, but a neat sequence won a pawn and when a second one followed the game was soon over.  With the match level, the Stafford initiatives in the remaining three games all continued to grow and as they all went into the final ten minutes of the session it looked to be just a question of avoiding accidents with the pressure on.

Gerald Acey's game had been very complicated as his opponent established a knight on f4 where it was both dangerous and vulnerable as Gerald re-arranged his pieces to prepare the g3 pawn advance. Eventually his opponent had to lose the exchange and hoped to survive with a strong dark-squared bishop, but some accurate play from Gerald secured the win. 

Lawrence Cooper's game looked level for a long time, but he slowly began to make progress by advancing his queenside pawns. As time ran short, he was able to exchange into a queen ending where the practical problems were too great for his opponent.

With the match now won, Malcolm Armstrong finally managed to convert the advantage of the exchange which he had held since the early middlegame to leave the final score at a slightly flattering 4-1 to Stafford. 

The placings at the top of the league are now reversed with Stafford a point ahead of Holmes Chapel and still with a game in hand, so one win out of the two remaining matches against Alsager will suffice to secure the title.