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Full Strength at Newcastle

posted 18 Mar 2013, 12:32 by knight moves   [ updated 18 Mar 2013, 12:33 ]
The pursuit of Holmes Chapel Kings at the top of the Stoke League continued with a 4-1 win at Newcastle.  At full strength and with an impressive average grade of 193, Stafford enjoyed an edge of over 30 points per board but things did not proceed quite as smoothly as this and the final result might indicate.

Malcolm Armstrong allowed a piece sacrifice which he had not properly considered and was a little fortunate that it was not sound.  He emerged from the complications with a piece for two pawns and his opponent saddled with very weak light squares around his king, which Malcolm was able to exploit with a mating attack to put Stafford in the lead.

Only Matthew Harborne on board 5 was clearly better throughout.  He secured an advantage out of the opening and was building up a dangerous kingside attack which his opponent looked to evade by castling queenside.  However, Matthew had plenty of time to transfer his forces across the board and continue with the attack.  Eventually he won a pawn and kept things simple by exchanging into a rook ending where he soon won a second pawn at which point his opponent had seen enough.

Lee Grinsell perhaps stood a little better with a well-placed bishop on the a8-h1 diagonal, but time was beginning to run short and, with Stafford now leading 2-0 and the prospect of 2 Newcastle wins on the other remaining boards looking very remote, he decided that it was not the time for heroics and agreed a draw.

Gerald Acey had inexplicably blundered a piece and looked to be merely delaying the inevitable as he kept playing.  However, he managed to generate some initiative and regained a couple of pawns before, with rook, knight and four pawns against rook, two knights and two pawns, he secured the match-winning half point as his opponent judged it too risky to evade a series of rook checks.

Lawrence Cooper was a little better throughout on board 1 and established a strong knight on e5. He also built up a useful edge on the clock which ultimately proved to be the decisive factor as the practical problems proved too great for his opponent who lost on time despite the 10-second increment.

Stafford now stand just one point behind Holmes Chapel Kings with a match in hand, and it looks as if the match against the Kings on 20th March will be decisive.