Mighty Bees v St Helens

The Bees travelled to the new St Helens venue on Wednesday 12th February to face the established 1st division contenders St Helens A.

Another David v Goliath performance would be required to take anything away from this match.

The new St Helens venue is a catholic club, which provides a large lounge area (which was clearly under-utilised on this Wednesday evening) for chess.

Overall a good venue with plenty of good size tables and chairs, adequate lighting and quiet surroundings – ideal for chess.

Most of the Bees had arrived before the St Helens players finally started drifting in and the exchange of teams showed St Helens were fielding a reasonably strong team so the Bees would need to work hard to get anything from this match, so the final score reflected a good performance and a very near upset……..

St Helens Score Mighty Bees Score
Mark Ellis 1 Keith Maudsley 0
Tom Dugdale 0 Steve Cole 1
Barry Groves 1 Andy Coe 0
Steve Potter 1 Nick Burriss 0
Ray Smith 0.5 Mike Rotchell 0.5
Dave Kelly 0 Alex Robinson 1
  3.5   2.5

The Bees won the toss and elected to play white on odd boards.

To the games in order of completion…….

Board 6 Alex v Dave Kelly

The position looked fairly even after white’s 20th move…….

Here Alex (black) played 20…….e4

White missed an opportunity here with 21. Nxe4 !! fxe4 22. Qxe4 and the threats along the e file (both bishops undefended) and the opening up of potential mating threats with queen and bishop ganging up on the a1-h8 diagonal gives white a clear edge. black would need to play 22……Nf8 and after 23. Qxb7 Qxb7 24.Bxb7 Rc7 25.Bxa6 white has 4 pawns for the knight, 3 passed pawns and a clear advantage.

Fortunately for the Bees white missed this chance and play continued….

21.Be2 Ne5 ! (black now has the edge) 22. Na4 Nd3 23.Bxd3 Rxd3 24.Rfd1?? Bb3 ! (winning the knight on a4) 25.Qe2 Bxa4 26.Rxd3 Bb5 !! and white resigned.

So first blood to the Bees and a debut win for the bees for Alex !!

The Mighty Bees 1-0 St Helens

Board 4: Nick v Steve Potter

Nick reached the following position after playing 14…Bg6

Steve Potter is a good tactical player who has an eye for a good combination. So going toe to toe with him in a complex exchange combination is probably not a good idea. Nick exchanges punches but is on the receiving end of a knock out blow as follows…..

15. Nxd6 Rxe1+ 16.Nxe1 Bxd3? (simple recapture of the knight on d6 is required) 17.Nxf7 !! Kxf7 18.Qb3+ Kf8 19.Nxd3 (and Nick is on the ropes – the KO punch soon arrives !!) 19…..b6 20 Nf4 !! Qd7 21 Ng6+ !! and Nick resigned as its mate next move.

The Mightly Bees 1 St Helens 1

Board 5 Mike v Ray Smith

This was the position after black’s 2oth move…….

The computer has Mike (White) better here but as in all games the question is how to make this good position into a winning one?

White has the majority of pawns on the queens side and black has adequate defenses on the king side so my over riding impression of the position is white should look for a breakthrough on the queenside. So moves like 21. c4 would maintain the advantage.

Mike decides to attack on the fortified kings side and try and pry open the f-file with….

21.Rdf1 Kg8 22.g4? (now black is at least equal as the h1 square can be doubled up on with the bishop and queen – white does not want to exchange his dominant knight for the bishop but would have to if Qd5 and Bc6 was established.) 22…..g6 (Qd5 or Bc6 are better) 23.g5 Rf8 24.h4 Rg7 25.Rf4 a6 draw agreed

The computer still has white slightly better.

The Mighty Bees 1.5 St Helens 1.5

Board 3: Andy v Barry Groves

The following position was reached following black’s 23rd move…….

The computer has black better, so Andy (white) needs to play carefully to avoid turning the position into a loss.

Breaking up the black pawns rolling down the kings side is priority and the computer suggests 24.Qxg5 hxg5 25.g4 !.

Andy probably had similar ideas and played 24.f4? exf4 ep 25.Qxg5 hxg5 26.gxf3 and black retains connected pawns whilst white’s pawn structure is broken. The computer has black winning.

Black took full advantage and forced white back into passive defense until we reached the position below after black’s 38th move……

when you spend the game defending passively its normally just a matter of time before you make the fatal mistake. Here Andy blunders. The position is already lost but the next move accelerates the end (probably played in time pressure)…..

39. Ke2?? Re5 and Andy resigned, the knight is lost.

The Mighty Bees 1.5 St Helens 2.5

Board 2: Steve v Tom Dugdale

In my game I had to be patient and wait for a chance which happened after black’s 28th move…..

The computer has this position level but Tom thought he could trap the black rook with…….

29. Bc3? (b3 or Bc1 is better) Nxc3 30.bxc3 Qa2 (Tom had missed this move and now black is able to mop up the q side pawns). game continued…

31. Rde3 Bh6 32. R3e2 Rxe2 33. Rxe2 Qa1+ 34. Kh2 Qxc3 35. d5 Qxa3….

and black emerges 2 pawns up, white’s only hope is forcing a breakthrough on the d/e file which he tries….

36. e6 f5 37.Qe5 Qd6 38. Qa1? (Qxd6 is better but being 2 pawns down you can understand white’s reluctance to allow queens to be exchanged)

The final error allows black to finish with a mating attack…
38…. h4 39. Qxa7 Qxg3+Kg1 Rc8 41. Qa1 Rc1+ 42. Qxc1 Bxc1 43. Kf1 Bf4 44. Rc2 Qd3+ 45. Re2 Bg3 0-1

The Mighty Bees 2.5 St Helens 2.5

Board 1: Keith v Mark Ellis (click on names for play through board version)

The match would now be decided on the final game to finish as everyone crowded around the Board 1 game where Keith had a lost position but Mark was very short on time. So for 5 minutes the game could swing either way…

Alas Keith could not blitz Mark, who managed his time well and converted the win to allow St Helens to win the match by the narrowest of margins….

Keith kindly provided notes to his game, and provides some insight into his thoughts and frustrations during the game….

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5Nc3 a6 6 Be3 e5 (Two years ago I had the same opening against Mark, and I played 6 Be2. He transposed into a Scheveningen with 6.. e6 and we drew in 30 moves) 7 Nb3 Be6 8 f3 h5 (This is the currently fashionable way for black to play, inhibiting white’s usual g4 advance. The drawback is a weak h pawn, and black usually follows up with g6 and Bg7) 9 Qd2 Nbd7 10 O-O-O ? (The first sign that my brain just wasn’t in gear. I know this variation and was intending to follow a game of Caruana’s where he played 10 Nd5, castled  K-side and played on the Q-side with c4, b4 and a break with c5. I simply forgot about that game and realised after castling Q-side that there was no way back into it) 10…Rc8 11Qf2 ??

(Inexplicable. I know it’s wrong to allow Rxc3, breaking up the pawns in front of the K, yet still did it. From now on the game is a struggle. 11 Kb1 is right) 11…Rxc3 ! 12 bxc3 d5 13 exd5 ? (There’s no need to allow the  B into a3 and allow black’s N to become active at the same time. 13 Kb2 would have been a bit better, and if black plays 13…dxe4 , then simply 14 Be2 is ok and at least keeps the N out) 13…Ba3+ 14 Kb1 Nxd5 15 Rxd5 (An admission that the opening has gone horribly wrong. Black has too much play around the white K) 15…Bxd5 16 c4 Be6 17 Bd3 Qc7 18 Rd1 a5 (The usual response when black plays the a5-a4 thrust is Bb5, but the pawn on c4 makes that impossible) 19 Qd2 (19…a4 20 Qa5) 19…Bb4 20 c3 Be7 (Heading for f6) 21 f4 (Finally a glimmer of hope. The threat of f5 is a serious one. Mark sank into a long think, and there are a number of traps for black to avoid . One is 21…f6 22 Bg6+ Kd8 23 f5 Bxc4 26 Bb6! winning. Mark is too good to fall for that) 21…Bg4 22 Re1 a4 23 Nc1 O-O 24 h3 exf4 25 Bxf4 (I felt at the time that this was a critical position, and looked at both 25 hxg4 fxe3 26 Qxe3, where White is still in the game, and 25 Bd4 Be6 26 Qe2, trying to create some play on the K-side) 25…Qb6+

26 Ka1? (Probably the last chance to save the game was 26 Qb2. Black is still better, but at least has to work hard for the win) 26…Be6 27 Qe2 Bf6 28 Qc2 Qa5 29 Ne2 Nc5 30 Rb1 ? (A final blunder in a difficult position. White doesn’t have time for Rb5) 30…Nxd3 31 Qxd3 Bf5 32 Qe3 Bxb1 33 Kxb1 Qf5+ 34 Kb2 a3+ 35 Kc1 (35 Kxa3 Qb1 followed by Ra8) 35…Rd8 36 Nd4 Bxd4 37 cxd4 Qf6 38 Bg5 Qxd4 39 Qxd4 Rxd4 ( The game continued with both players in a time scramble. The position is completely lost, and I resigned when it became clear that Mark wasn’t going to lose on time)
A game to forget.

Final Score

The Mighty Bees 2.5 St Helens 3.5

Another credit to the Bees as we take an established 1st division outfit all the way to the wire.

Bees next game is against Northwich on Wednesday 5th March. A chance to get back on the winning trail.

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