C team victory at last!

BCL Division 1 Thu 14th Mar 2024 

BoardHomeBedford CLeighton Buzzard BAway
1 (B)2090Cox, Toby1 – 0Valentine, Brian J1959
2 (W)1968Botteley, Michael T0 – 1Taylor, Peter1831
3 (B)1790Shields, Callum T1 – 0Woodward, Ian P1800
4 (W)1726Potts, Alexander1 – 0Dorn, C Fred H1746
5 (B)1675Gill, Peter S0 – 1Gallagher, Sean1644
Total92493 – 2Total8980

The Bedford C team’s day of reckoning came around last Thursday, against our fellow Division 1 strugglers Leighton Buzzard B. Us plucky C’s came into the tie absolutely needing a win, with a draw all but relegating us from the league, and a defeat mathematically confirming it. Nevertheless, we had reasons to be optimistic – the two teams have roughly balanced results and comparative rating, meaning that this was a fair opportunity for us to finally break our duck. Also of course, we had a guest star appearance from Toby Cox, who had just come back from Cambridge for his Easter holidays – certainly a nice resource to be able to call on!

As it was, the match was one of high drama. All games came went to time scrambles in the end, and the match itself also went the distance.

While none of the games finished early, Peter’s result came in first on the bottom board. Up against Sean Gallagher, it seemed something of a repeat of when they met earlier this season. Peter rolled out a solid Petrov defence, but despite the opening’s solid reputation, the game became quite complicated, and although the position was even on the board, it was less so on the clocks. Very unfortunately, Peter got himself into a winning position with a forced mate, but he missed it in time trouble. Eventually Sean wriggled out and won the game.

My own game on board 4 came in next, against Fred Dorn. This one was a complete mess of a game; playing against a Benoni defence, I launched an attack on his king, pushing forward my own kingside pawns aggressively, but overlooked some counterplay against my own weakened king and lost my bishop in a fashion which blurred the line between blunder and sacrifice. Nonetheless, rounding up the loose piece lost Fred some time, and I eventually got 4 pawns for it, a reasonable trade. Fred then blundered back his own bishop, leaving me a winning rook-and-pawn ending, which I made a bit of meal of but eventually converted, levelling the match.

Toby’s game on the top board I didn’t see too much of, but it seemed assured. It looks like Brian Valentine attacked his French defence, but it was toothless stuff really. Toby won a pawn in the middlegame and then surgically traded off all the pieces. By the time my own game was finished and I was able to give the board more attention, the state of play was knight & two pawns versus knight & one, which instinctively felt like a draw. But then just a few moves later Brian’s last pawn fell and he conceded, putting Bedford 2-1 up.

Mike’s game on board 2 against Peter Taylor was an odd one – it seemed that, as happened before, Mike’s day-job was making life difficult for him and he arrived about ten minutes late. The game itself I know very little about, other than that Mike rolled out a stonewall opening as he had against Steve Ledger a couple of weeks back. It seemed that Peter was able to effectively chip down Mike’s structure, and as the game broke up the complications favoured him, eventually leading to a victory and tying the scorecard again. I believe this was Peter’s first win of a difficult season, so kudos to him for a well-played game.

That left Callum playing Ian Woodward on board 3, in a highly dramatic conclusion to the match. In a slow burn of a game, Callum had gradually improved the position and, perhaps realising the team context required him to go all-out, turned down a draw. He was the aggressor in a queen-and-rook ending, with even his king venturing into Ian’s camp to take part in the attack. He played several excellent moves to converge on victory, but I think miscalculated a crucial line where he had planned to play a check with his rook, only to realise too late that it was pinned. Then it was Ian’s turn to err, thinking that he could win Callum’s queen but weakening his back rank in the process, forcing him to give the queen back to stave off mate. Finally this led to a position where all the heavy pieces came off and Callum, with his much more active king, had a totally winning pawn ending. What a time for him to pull out his first win for the C team this season! (Analysis below)

The C team’s path to survival is still rather narrow, but we did what we needed to do in this match. We’re now relying on the other Bedford teams to do us a favour and trounce Leighton Buzzard as heavily as they can. By the time we travel to Milton Keynes next month for our last game, we will know exactly what is required for us to stay up…

Alex Potts, 17th March 2024

[Ed – I have left this game unannotated for 39 moves and then it all kicks off. I wasn’t there, but presume time pressure must have played a telling role in what followed! All in all, it must have been a very exciting game for the players and the gallery! N.B. If Callum has additional or contrary insight, please let me know and I will update]