Match Report: 9th October 2019. (By Captain Jonathan Smith)
|Culcheth A||V||St Helens A|
|Marek Mazek||1 – 0||Martin Brown|
|Jonathan Smith||0.5 – 0.5||Mark Ellis|
|Iain Johnson||1 – 0||Dave Hill|
|Robert Furness||1 – 0||Tom Dugdale|
|Damian McCarthy||0.5 – 0.5||Barry Groves|
|Tom Vout||1 – 0||Default|
|Final Score||5 – 1||*Culcheth white on odd boards|
St Helens have been boosted in strength recently, not only by Martin’s welcome return to the League towards the end of last season, but by the recruitment of a number of former Widnes players for both the WDCL and the Liverpool League. Consequently, their A team has a similar average (174) to us (175), and a bottom board of 152, and so it is not surprising that the match was keenly contested – especially so, since they comfortably beat us 5-1 in March !
Things are quieter for matches in “the Snug” here at the DATEN now that Man U don’t play on a Wednesday (sorry – couldn’t resist), but the absence of commentary next door doesn’t mean that we have discovered ideal playing conditions.
With autumn in full swing the heating was on, and, with the glare of what felt like arc lighting plus 10 players and a healthy number of spectators crammed in, the temperature steadily climbed. Players disrobed, mercifully only so far as decency allowed, and cans and bottles fogged by condensation were in abundance. By 9.30, entering the playing area was like disembarking from a 747 at Atlanta, but no-one seemed to wilt. Greta would have been so proud.
Anyway, there is a sense of justice to all of this – not long ago St H, despite their otherwise warm welcome, were playing at a temporary venue so bone jarringly frigid that everyone played in coats (and scarves and hats if I recall correctly), and even the barman felt it unnecessary to offer “ice” with the drinks. That said, even that didn’t compare with playing at Penketh…
Anyway, there was a match on….
I won the toss, and Marek grabbed the white pieces.
We went 1-0 up pretty quickly as Tom’s opponent was significantly delayed getting to the venue. 1-0.
Thereafter, the results were slow coming. All of the games are on the blog, and since most of them, especially Iain’s, Rob’s and Damian’s were heavily tactical, I won’t attempt any in-depth commentary as it it wont do the games justice. Rob has kindly provided his thoughts.
Martin played a Nimzo against Marek, and Marek elected for a steady approach with early exchanges, slowly nursing what appeared to be a small advantage with occasional exchanges, control of an open file, and a gain of tempo by not castling etc.
I played Mark on 2 – the last time I ventured to play the Grunfeld was against Peter Wells in the British Rapidplay (a bad decision as he had written a good book on it), and…well, lets just say it could have gone better. The absence of Craig on 6 allowed Mark to purloin a chair, park it near the door, and sit thinking Ivanchuk-like away from board. Whether he was searching for a breeze or admiring the lighting is not clear, but I matched his absences in spades with my endless captainitus.
Iain brought out the Wing Gambit to Dave’s Sicilian, and there followed a game which showed just how awkward the accepted gambit can be. Iain got lots of open space and at least one tempo. 2-0. (see bottom of this page for the game)
That wasn’t the only exciting and free flowing game, both Rob v Tom (on 4) and Damian v Barry (on 5) were games in which each player castled on the opposite side to their opponent.
My game against Mark dissolved into a draw (having had a look round at the other boards I offered an early handshake which was correctly rejected). Perhaps unusually, Mark played d5 allowing my black squared bishop to eye all squares down to a1 after he cemented the centre with c4. I was expecting it be blunted with e5 and the f1 bishop given greater licence on the white squares. I was under some pressure on the queenside, but after the exchange of queens white has a choice between creating a passed d and allowing my a-pawn to walk, or neutralising the position by taking the a-pawn. Mark did the latter and the game was drawish. 2.5-0.5.
Rob was next to finish – although Tom skilfully avoided the mating threats along the g file, black’s advancing passed d pawn gave an edge (it also had a similarly passed friend on the c file) and Tom overlooked that covering that pawn left him open to a rook and king fork. 3.5-0.5
Marek was next to finish – Martin had been very short of time for a large part of the game, and even with the 10s increment, the endgame was going to be a tough one. Once knights were off, Martin was about to go 2 pawns down and Marek had sealed off his king side. Queenside progress would be slow and inevitable, but Marek had a significant clock advantage. 4.5-0.5.
Damian v Barry was also affected by time, having respectively 25s and 45s at the close. With Damian about to win at any moment, and overlooking a nice mate in 4 when short of time, Barry embarked on a king hunt which liquidated sufficient material to halt the attack. Draw. 5-1.
A night of enterprising competitive chess played in a friendly atmosphere…who on earth would prefer the internet based bullet variety ?
Next stop: Ormskirk A – 21st Oct.