Horfield Clifton 1. Derek Pugh 0-1 Chris Beaumont2. Paul Helbig 0.5 Zygimantas Svitojus3. Steve Dilleigh 0-1 Gareth Morris4. Peter Kirby 0-1 John Curtis5. Matias Candelario 0-1 Duncan Grossett6. Mike Harris 1-0 Dave Collier7. Dominic Tunks 0-1 Mark Dirnhuber8. Bob Radford 0-1 Igor Doklestic 1.5 – 6.5
We were strengthened the night before as Dominic became available, who I subbed in for me. This actually made us slight favourites in terms of our average grade of 180 to Clifton’s 178, but on the other hand I don’t think we’ve any success against Clifton in the cup since the 2008 final. Matias and Dominic both looked to be luring their opponents into aggressive play with conservative openings and both Clifton players took up the challenge. Igor had a comfortable position out of the opening with latent threats from his bishops and a knight on e6 covering everything. It seemed like Mike might be building some pressure and Dave was getting a bit behind on the clock which I thought could prove significant. The top boards looked fine although Chris seemed to be building the sort of safe slight plus that he thrives on. Paul’s game looked on the verge of being bad if black could force off his dark squared bishop but Paul was keeping the balance with tactical solutions. Steve built up space quickly on the queenside which Gareth was happy to ignore and expand on the kingside which looked ominous. Peter reached a middle game quite quickly where he was forcing John on the defensive but couldn’t land any telling blows. So it was all in the balance at about 9pm. The game that was particularly grabbing my attention was board 2. Paul threw in e5 at a critical point simultaneously shutting out black’s g7 bishop and opening up his on g2 which led to the win of the exchange for a pawn. Paul took advantage of black’s king in the middle to pick up a pawn or two and then gave back the exchange to keep the initiative. It all became rather messy but ultimately petered out into a drawn rook and pawn ending. That proved to be the highlight of our top half. Derek tried an interesting knight sacrifice luring the queen away to take it whilst he attacked down the middle with white’s pieces surprisingly uncoordinated, but once they regrouped it was clear that the pawns that had been gained would fall like autumn leaves and the game was over. Peter’s position went downhill for no perceptible reason with John uncoiling his position to take control and pick up material seemingly at will. Meanwhile Steve had done well to blockade Gareth’s attack but, after some exchanges, was left powerless to prevent infiltration of his position elsewhere and it collapsed in on itself. Attention turned to our lower boards where we would expect some easier pickings. Mike’s manoeuvrings and eye for a tactic led to the win of a piece and a premature end to the game, but any thought of celebrations were muted by the now inevitable fate of the match. Matias was on the fight-back from a difficult position by throwing pawns forward at white’s king but his pieces were struggling to find any decent squares. He did manage to conjure up attacking chances, with a rook on g2 supported by a pawn on h3 but it couldn’t do much on its own and white’s continued positional dominance told in the end. So with the match over we had the not very dramatic finale of boards 7 and 8. Bob had been battling gamely, for what seemed like many hours, the exchange down and eventually succumbed to the inevitable in an ending. Dominic had looked to be turning the tables in the middlegame but Mark played accurately, eventually emerging into a rook and opposite coloured bishop ending a pawn up. This didn’t seem to be much of a concern as the pawn was doubled and particularly when the rooks came off, but there was more to it than might have been supposed and Dominic was ultimately over-stretched to defend both sides of the board. So congratulations Clifton and we look forward to a repeat encounter.