We turned up at the Rate Payers expecting to be outgraded but North Bristol were without two of their top three boards which meant only James on top board was significantly over-matched and this gave us a fighting chance in the ‘Party Room’.
James admitted he was out of his knowledge after about three moves against a Scandinavian but positionally he looked fine out of the opening. I gave away a pawn on board two almost immediately as I misplayed (again) the black side of a French (Tarrasch this time). The game revolved around whether Rob could take advantage of his four to two pawn majority on the queen side and get the pawns rolling. On three Mike was playing a Ruy Lopez and it looked equal. On four Piotr was contesting an Italian game and whilst complex he seemed to have a slight edge into the middle game. Alex set up his standard Stonewall (no surprise to anyone who has ever met him) and Will tried to unbalance the position by trading a piece for three pawns but this gave Alex open lines with his heavy pieces on the king side. On six Graham met an f4 opening with his standard e6, b6, Bb7. Like many of Graham’s games the centre became clogged and opportunities were on the flanks.
First to finish was Alex who took a draw via a perpetual check with no way through and Will having clear counter-play opportunities. We had to wait a long time for the next match to finish as all the games went deep on the clock. James had won a queenside pawn but Richard won one back and the game had been exchanged down to four pawns and knight and bishop each, it felt like Richard would have taken a draw at this point. I had been comprehensively outplayed and Rob had begun to get his pawns mobile and had denied me reasonable squares for my knight and bishop as well as keeping my king out of the action. It felt like only a matter of time. Mike was a pawn up and a long way ahead on time but finding a way through with knight vs bishop wasn’t obvious. Piotr drew on board 4, whilst two pawns up it was difficult to see how he could have forced the advantage without compromising his position. He remains undefeated for Horfield since joining us this season. Graham was struggling on board 6 as he was being positionally squeezed and down into his last minute. North Bristol took a 2-1 lead.
So three games left. James had smoothly taken a positional advantage after bishops were exchanged to deny Richard’s king any squares enabling his own king to clear up two pawns and get the result. A great effort against a decent player. 2-2. In my game Rob had connected pawns on d7 and c6. Pushing on to c7 would have meant he would have queened but unaccountably he got distracted by winning my a pawn allowing me to fork his rook and bishop with my knight meaning I could get my king and knight into positions to stop the pawns. A second blunder allowed me to win his rook with a revealed check. Not entirely sure how I won the game but I’ll take it. 3-2 to Horfield. Finally Mike and Jason were fiddling around in a locked position. With Jason having no genuine options to win he offered the draw and Mike, whilst maybe being able to grind out a win, accepted so we could all go home and the match was over.
A really good result for us against genuinely friendly opponents which made for a good evening. Looking forward to the rematch after Christmas.