Match Report: MKO Grendel vs Horfield (3 May): It ends with a whimper not a bang

We expected to be outgraded at the top of the board order and have the advantage lower down; the hope was we’d win enough in the bottom half to take the match. This was not how it turned out.

First to finish, after only 40 minutes or so, was board 3. Aimee lost a pawn in the opening and then allowed Hendrik to exchange off queens and bishops forcing black’s king into an open exposed position. Hendrik then manufactured forks to win the exchange and Aimee decided she’d had enough. By this stage a scan across the boards made me think we were well placed. Mikey had the imitative against Patrick on board 1, Ben and James were playing a slow burn where white was trying to control the board and space with c4-c5, b4 and the black bishop on f4 but it was about even and a game of patience. On board 4 Ewan and I were playing (I hoped) an improved version of our London battle from three weeks ago, on board 5 Shalome had castled long and Calan had sacrificed his bishop to break the pawns in front of white’s king but it didn’t look like enough pieces were involved and very much advantage Shalome with the black king exposed in the centre. Finally on six Piotr and John had quickly entered into a rook and pawn ending with black a pawn up but it was doubled making any advantage minimal.

So as they finished: Board 1 was next to finish. To my untutored eye Mikey had a strong position and was a pawn up. Patrick low on time however had a bishop for knight and white’s king looked exposed. Mikey in trying to force the issue gave up control of the central files and Patrick firstly doubled his rooks on the open files then got them onto the 7th and with the bishop created a mating threat to level the match. A tough loss or great under-pressure win depending which side of the fence you are on. On Board 6 a draw was agreed. John had turned the pawn deficit into a pawn advantage however on a very open board both players queened and with John’s time was close to being exhausted and the likelihood of endless queen checks a draw felt about right. Shalome and Calan on 5 finished next. Also a draw. Credit to black for scrapping to equality in a difficult position then being able to find a perpetual to draw the game. Match level at 2-2. Ewan and I finished next; Ewan had created some pressure on the queenside but I’d been unusually adequate in my defence. White was into his last minute and with his bishop certain to be lost and the threat of a queen and knight mate he decided repeating forced moves was the best way to resolve the position and the game was also drawn. So 2.5-2.5 with only board 2 left. James had broken Ben’s pawn stranglehold by finally arranging e5 and the position was complete chaos with equal but isolated lose pawns and was deeply unclear as to what would happen next. White offered a draw, black accepted. 3-3. A Grendel win on board count. Sadly a failure of my captaincy as I hadn’t communicated to James the match situation.

And with that the match and the season ended quietly with a contest where it felt as if we’d left some points behind but both teams ultimately got what they deserved.

1Patrick Flexman (1774)1Mikey Wright (1703)0
2Ben Radford (1765).5James Facey (1690).5
3Aimee Lowry (1632)0Hendrik Wessels (1683)1
4Ewan Hunt (1772).5Pete Marks (1681).5
5Calan Williams (UNG).5Shalome Kurian (UNG).5
6John Paton (1551).5Piotr Zielinski (1615).5

As a postscript I had in my mind two reference points to weave into the report; last night would have been Len Shacklton’s 100th birthday and of course the tedious old Grendel/Beowulf/’mother of all battles’ kind of thing. I’ve used the Grendel’s mother too many times and the chess bore no relation to Len’s artistry. Meh. We’ll leave it there.

Oh postscript to postscript! Hendrik has pointed to South Africa’s exit from the 2003 World Cup where Shaun Pollock wasn’t able to quite understand the Duckworth-Lewis calculation table in his pocket and failed to explain to the players in the middle, and as Mark Boucher blocked the last ball thinking they were ahead the match was lost. His reference point is better than mine!

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