All at C versus Milton Keynes

(Alex writes his own headlines and very good they are too! – Ed)

Thursday saw the C team in yet another uphill battle against the Milton Keynes “B” team (I understand their alphabet doesn’t go in quite the same order as the one the rest of us use). But there was some good news – for the first time this season we were able to get a full-strength side out, in sharp contrast to the chaotic build-up to our derby fixture last week. It was good to see that Callum had recovered fully from his stomach bug.

Turning to the results, I broke the habit of a lifetime and wasn’t the first to finish this time around. That honour went to Peter on board 5, who had a difficult game where his opponent Andrew Bowler played 1 b3 and immediately sidestepped Peter’s opening repertoire. Andrew then blitzed out the first dozen moves or so and got what looked like a very strong position, while Peter was having to find all his responses over the board – always a tricky scenario. Peter left some holes in his defences and the game ended rather quickly as Andrew skilfully exploited the gaps.

My game on board 4 didn’t last that much longer, and I didn’t have the excuse of my opponent (Robert Whiteside) playing something out of left-field. Going into the advance variation of the French defence, I played f4 and then somehow lost control of the a7-g1 diagonal, preventing me from ever castling kingside. I reluctantly castled queenside instead, crossing my fingers and hoping I could survive the oncoming attack. (Narrator: he did not survive the oncoming attack.) About ten miserably passive moves latter, Robert finally broke through with a bishop sacrifice, and put me out of my misery.

I’m afraid I really don’t know much about Steve’s game on board 2 (I didn’t know much about it either! – Ed), other than that he lost to Adrian Elwin only a few minutes after I had also resigned. So that put the match beyond doubt rather early. At least this gave me and Adrian the opportunity to have some boring-but-important admin chat afterwards – thanks to Adrian for being so helpful.

The remaining games were rather more competitive. Callum’s game on board 3 was against Graham Smith, and it did look odd. Graham got out to an early advantage and snaffled a pawn with Callum’s king also looking a little misplaced, but Callum wriggled out of that, won back the pawn and got into a drawish endgame with rooks and knights. Indeed, Graham offered a draw, but hell will freeze over before Callum accepts a draw, and perhaps in pushing too hard for the win he missed a tactic of some kind which lost material. Graham converted efficiently, but credit to Callum for having the bravery to go for the full point against a very strong opponent.

That left top board as our only hope to avoid a whitewash, and if anything it was a curious reversal of board 3. Eoin Tweeddale had perhaps a microscopic edge throughout much of middlegame, but Mike hung in there and reached a complex-looking knight-and-pawns endgame, where Eoin was able to pick up a loose pawn on the queenside. Thereafter, the path to a draw looked very narrow indeed, but Mike nevertheless found some ingenious defensive resources, even when down to just seconds on his clock. Rolling the dice one more time, Eoin sacrificed his knight in an attempt to create an unstoppable avalanche of passed pawns, but it still wasn’t enough, and all the pawns came off resulting in just bare kings. Huge credit to Mike for staying cool under extreme time pressure and with a dozen eyes staring at his board.

Obviously that last game was academic to the overall match result, but for what it’s worth it represents progress after four defeats and a default last week! Thanks to everyone for turning out – we should have some slightly more winnable fixtures soon.

Final results:-

Mike Botteley ½ – ½ Eoin Tweeddale

Steve Pike 0 – 1 Adrian Elwin

Callum Shields 0 – 1 Graham Smith

Alex Potts 0 – 1 Robert Whiteside

Peter Gill 0 – 1 Andrew Bowler

Bedford C ½ – 4½ Milton Keynes B

Alex Potts, 3rd February 2024