Snow had turned to rain but it was still bad enough in Wiltshire for Downend to be without the services of Mr Williams. This meant we had an even clearer grading advantage across all the boards but everyone knows Downend battle and it would have been foolish to take anything for granted. The match as it turned out went right down to the wire.
From the outset it looked like it might be a tricky evening. On one Phil had launched into a full-blooded attack on Dominque’s king, ignoring the niceties of king safety white had launched everything into the attack and it looked as if black’s position might break but if it didn’t Phil might be vulnerable. On board 2, in a position that I’m confident has been played many times, it was Ian who had launched the kingside pawn-storm whilst John was targeting the queen-side white monarch with an open c file for access. On board 3 the game was slow moving but James had a solid king position and with his queen on a5 he was able to ask questions of Mike’s centre. It seemed quite even but black’s pieces looked better placed. Tom had the pressure against Judd on board 4, whilst it wasn’t overwhelming his space advantage meant his pieces were freer and in particular Judd’s white bishop was buried behind his pawns. It would require a degree of accuracy for black to equalise. Nigel had decided on giving up knight and bishop for f7 and the rook but it looked decent for Alan who was dominant on the queenside with queen bishop and rooks creating problems for white. Finally on the bottom board Grant and I played a line that probably has been played even more often that that on board 2 and it felt pretty equal into the middle game. There was at this stage enough in all the games to be entirely unsure of which way the match was going to go.
Board 2 finished first. John and Ian traded down pieces and following some assessment decided progress on either flank was unlikely to be fruitful with a rook and minor piece each and a half point to each team. On board 1 Phil had won a pawn in the centre but his monarch was awkwardly still in the centre without a pawn for cover anywhere so whilst white looked more active it was probably ‘chances for both sides’. James was now pressing Mike hard and with white unable to find a good square for his knight it ended on f1 getting in the way of his rooks and still centralised king. Once the e file opened and black was able to line up his rooks it meant white had no defence and Downend were ahead in the match. Tom still had his space advantage against Judd and managed to create a passed protected d pawn which now became the absolute focus of the game. Black had a similar pawn on the a file which certainly needed watching. Alan turned his strong position into a dreadful one by getting his queen trapped on b2 and the balance shifted decisively to Nigel who had queen and rook against four minor pieces. Alan give up a knight for two pawns and tried to create a fortress but Nigel got his queen in behind and Alan’s misplaced king had no escape squares and the game was done and the match was level again. I’d worked a solid position but thinking it was going to play itself had stopped concentrating on Grant’s kingside infiltration which woke me up sharply as he won the exchange and then traded queens to give him the material advantage although I won a pawn back and thought I wasn’t worse but certainly was now focused on holding the position rather than something better. My main plus was Grant had used a lot of time to get to this point. At this stage I wasn’t confident we’d pick up half the remaining points available.
So as they finished. I set Grant a small trap and hoped in his time pressure he’d fall into it. He tried to break open in the centre to find a route in for his rooks and I was able to win material with a back rank check that meant he had to give up both rooks to avoid mate. With the material and clock advantage the game was over and we’d edged ahead. Lucky for us as Grant’s play deserved more from the game. Then shortly afterwards on board 4 the game reached it’s conclusion. Queens had been exchanged and Tom had pushed his passed pawn with the possibility of supporting it with his bishop. Analysis afterwards showed this was an error as Judd could have given up bishop for pawn and marched his pawn down the board. However with only 20 seconds on his clock it wasn’t easy. The position reached had white a bishop for passed pawn up with the black king trying to hold the centre of the board. But white had enough time to work out the necessary waiting moves and broke through to level the match up meaning only the top board was still in play. Material had equalised but Phil had the whip hand with the more active rook. It allowed him to create two passed pawns on the kingside whilst Dominique worked on the queenside. In the end Phil calculated accurately to ensure his rook was able to take black’s last pawn but his king was well placed and his pawns on the sixth meant it was certain one of them would promote. A hard fought win which combined extravagant tactics with concrete endgame calculation.
A match win 3.5-2.5. Still unbeaten. It could easily have gone the other way. Credit as ever to Downend who never know they are beaten, Just three games to go and one more point needed (assuming South Bristol win all their remaining games) to confirm promotion.
|1||Dominique Conterno (1836)||0||Phil Nendick (2023)||1|
|2||Ian Pickup (1785)||.5||John Richards (1917)||.5|
|3||James Hennefeld (1751)||1||Mike Levene (1906)||0|
|4||Tom Ash (1697)||1||Judd Chidwick (1787)||0|
|5||Alan Papier (1655)||0||Nigel Pollett (1743)||1|
|6||Grant Daly (1550)||0||Peter Marks (1747)||1|
|Downend C||2.5||Horfield B||3.5|