After more than a year of waiting, I’m sure the players couldn’t wait to get started again – until we were forced to by traffic on the A509. A few frantic calls later we arrived for a slightly late start in Milton Keynes.
And it seemed that as soon as we finally got started, Ravi’s game was over. He made light work of Graham Smith’s dubious gambit in the Reti in no more than 16 moves for a flying start to the season.
The board 2 matchup was by far the closest on paper, and it looked like it would be an important one in the context of the match. Adrian had used his advantage as white to gain a slight edge in an early middlegame, but apparently didn’t fancy working too hard in the first game back. He offered a quick draw, which James accepted.
Steve’s game was very interesting, stemming from a Benoni where Steve had the white pieces. He won an exchange for a pawn in the middlegame, but was facing lots of pressure on the queenside from the remaining black pieces – a queen, rook and knight, as well as having to deal with a couple of pawns being thrown at his king. He made the seemingly sensible decision to swap queens and simplify, but it left his king in a sticky spot and he was eventually left in a R v N endgame, where the exchange for a pawn wasn’t enough for a win.
That left me and Mike remaining to close the match out on the bottom boards. My opponent had gone for a French exchange, clearly aiming for a draw from move one. As pieces got swapped off and the position simplified, we found ourselves in a position with three minor pieces and seven pawns each, and no clear advantage for either side. Mike had quickly won a piece in his game, but apparently feeling generous, he gave it back a few moves later. The next thing I saw, he was in a very drawish Rook + Knight vs Rook + Bishop endgame and accepted a draw. This was all I needed to offer my opponent the draw he’s been waiting for 60 moves.
So a solid 3 – 2 win to start the season, before we play the B team in 2 weeks.
Congratulations to Toby Cox and James Gardner who share the Bedford Club Championship with 5 points each out of 8. The victory of Richard Bodily in the 25th November relegation decider against Qais Karimi meant that Toby and James finished with identical Sonneborn-Berger tiebreak scores. Toby is the youngest in a line of Bedford Modern School players to have gained the title. Stephen Taylor (1971) and Jonathan Hill (1977) won while in the Upper 6th form. James Plaskett (Champion 1980, born 1960) and Richard Freeman (Champion 1983, born 1958) had already left the school.
Our own James Gardner has recently started a YouTube channel Epic Chess which looks great to me. It is a series of quick videos analysing the top flight super GM games and he tells me he will also be looking at the upcoming World Championship. Have a look, like, subscribe, comment and all those good things!
Twenty months or so after the Club’s last Beds League Match we started a new season with C versus D – with debuts for no less than 3 new members. One of those, Oscar, who does not even have a rating yet, was first to finish. Though part of the D team squad he agreed to turn out for the C Team on Board 5. When I first saw the game Oscar was a pawn up, then George dropped a Knight, and Oscar quickly cleaned up.
I had not planned to play but with no sight of our Board 3 after more than 10 minutes I stepped in to play another new member, Theo. I really struggled to remember book moves and as Theo seemed to know what he was doing I lost even more time. However, with the game about level he allowed me to mess up his Kingside pawns, and gain a sufficient small advantage to make an offer he couldn’t sensibly refuse.
On Board 2 Evan for the D Team was up against Richard (McMorran) – never likely to be an easy first match! After Richard had won an early exchange Evan got some pressure with Queen and Bishop on the long white diagonal, but it was not enough and Richard bagged the point.
Callum, who we all just about remembered after not seeing him since the first lockdown, got a big centre against Lucian, on Board 4, which he was eventually able to convert for a win.
Steve (Pike) on Top board got his rooks onto Robert’s second rank. I think Robert managed to win an exchange but only at the expense of Steve’s massive pair of passed queenside pawns (I think I dodged a bullet! – see below, Ed).
So 3.5 to 1.5 to the C team. When we next play in March it may well be a different story!
Our EACU team of Marc Obi, Richard McMorran and George Griffiths put up a good fight on Sunday in the U7200 section. Unfortunately Qais had to pull out on Saturday night for a family emergency and we defaulted on Board 1. Marc won all 3 games and George won 2 out of 3. Well played all!
Who would have predicted that the winning score in the 2019-21 club championship would be a mere 5 points out of 8? At the dawn of November 4th Toby Cox had finished with 5 points and no fewer than four other players could catch him by winning their remaining games. By the end of the day, after Bodily 0.5-0.5 Ledger and Habershon 0.5-0.5 Pike, Richard Bodily, Steve Ledger and Paul Habershon were ruled out of contention, leaving only James Gardner to join Toby if he beats Richard Bodily.
The relegation battle is no less compelling. Nick Collacott on 2.5 will be in one of the relegation places, but he will be joined by either Richard Bodily or Qais Karimi. These two still have to play each other, but Richard’s game against James Gardner could also be significant. Tiebreaking Sonneborn-Berger scores will not be known until all games are finished.