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Slow Start in Wolverhampton Division One

posted 28 Oct 2012, 16:04 by knight moves   [ updated 28 Oct 2012, 16:04 ]
The Wolverhampton League Division One campaign began with two home matches against West Brom and St George's which both saw Stafford missing several first-team regulars.  Nothwithstanding this, both matches were very close on paper and so the combined return of just one point must be considered disappointing, even though this was one more point than looked likely for most of the St George's match.

Stafford were always struggling against West Brom who took the lead when Kazik Wozniak's queen became trapped.  Ray Hyde had a very interesting struggle on board 2, managing to contain his opponent's activity to secure a draw.  Peter Evans had a solid draw on board 6, and a further half point came from Pavel Nefyodov whose early pressure faded away.  The one win came from Stephane Pedder in a rather wild game in which he had looked to be in trouble before his opponent made the last mistake.  West Brom clinched the match with a win on top board, where Malcolm Armstrong made a bad early mistake leaving him with a serious lack of development and space.  Unable to get castled and struggling throughout to get any activity for his pieces, it was really only a matter of time until his opponent put him out of his misery to give West Brom a 3.5-2.5 win.

The match against St George's also began badly with Kazik Wozniak having an evening to forget on board 4, allowing an early Bxf2+ sacrifice which cost him the exchange and then blundering his queen to give St George's the lead after barely 15 minutes of play.  Ken McNulty also soon had an X-certificate position as his opponent's central pawns rolled down the board, and a protected pawn on d7 was rather awkward to say the least.  After his opponent's queen and knight invaded the empty space behind the pawns, it was not long until the visitors had a two point lead.

Andrew Leadbetter also looked to be in trouble on board 6 when he lost a pawn, but he managed to get his queen sufficiently active to frighten his opponent into offering a draw, which was gratefully accepted. Stephane Pedder played solidly with the black pieces and his opponent saw no way to break through, so another draw was agreed.  This left St George's 3-1 up as the top two boards moved towards the time control.  Gerald Acey had a pleasant position having quietly built up pressure on the queenside, but Malcolm Armstrong's position looked to have few winning prospects.  Beyond the time control and into the allegro finish, Gerald won a pawn and maintained his initiative to secure the win, while Malcolm was in a knight ending where a slight space advantage combined with a couple of extra minutes on the clock made things unpleasant for his opponent.  Although the position should undoubtedly have been drawn, these twin factors caused practical problems and Malcolm was able to secure a valuable win to tie the match.