On 11 November Ealing travelled to central London to play Albany who fielded the stronger team.

In three games, the players agreed to split the point. Andrew notes: “I played the …Qxd5 line against the French Tarrasch and managed to equalise out of the opening. We agreed a draw on move 21 as we approached an equal ending.” As Black, Mark’s game opened with From’s Gambit Declined (1.f4 e5 2.d3). Although both players had piece activity, the game never escaped the drawing zone.

Alan’s exposition of his encounter provides a vivid picture. He writes: “Against the Slav I played 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 which has been my repertoire for many years. He played 4…Bf5 and 5…e6 allowing me to grab the two bishops with 6.Nh4. I hadn’t played this or looked at it for a long time and I fell behind on the clock. Nevertheless I managed to play along known theoretical lines and we followed a 2019 blitz game Leko (2674) v Korobov (2687) until my opponent varied on move 14. We castled on opposite sides, me on the queenside.

I went for a questionable plan with Bh3 instead of pushing my h-pawn but my prospects improved after his undeveloping move 17…Nd7-b8, with the QR still on a8. I was encouraged to open the centre, even at the cost of a pawn. Unfortunately I blundered and ended up two pawns down. I had some compensation but if he had returned one pawn to activate his queenside, I might have been struggling.

As it was, my position improved and after I redeployed my bishop from h3 to b3, I was rightly optimistic about my chances. However, my engine stunned me by pointing out that, instead of 30.Bb3, I had a three-move plan to put a rook on h4 (either of them) and my queen on h3, threatening Rh8 mate and leaving him helpless. Three moves later he offered me a draw which I instantly accepted as I hadn’t seen the move he played which at first sight repelled my attack. In fact after my best reply the engine has me at about +3.5. At the end I had about 5 minutes against his 7 minutes. Afterwards we analysed in the bar, oblivious to the engine’s revelations.”

On top board, Martin played his second international master in the space of a week and half. Reflecting on his game, he comments: “I was White in a Goring Gambit Declined (booooo) and played an offbeat line to take him out of book.  With hindsight I wish I gone for the well-known dull drawing line, but you never really want that if you’re playing a gambit!  Of course the reason my line is offbeat is because ultimately it’s not very good if he plays it well. He did, and I’d lost any advantage from being White. Things got quite tactical and whilst I ducked anything too nasty my position slowly declined as he restricted my mobility.  After lots of manoeuvring he eventually broke through and my position collapsed rapidly.”

On board five, it was pleasing to see Raj return to league chess. Following an exchange Caro-Kann, he lost two pawns. Risks were then taken to complicate matters but unfortunately this led to a lost ending. Like Raj, Subas also stepped into the team at short notice. The Vienna opening yielded him a slight pull. In the subsequent middlegame his opponent’s 17.Bxd5 gave up a piece for two pawns with no clear plan going forward. Subas held the advantage but faltered towards the end when the tide turned. For the most part, a well-played game which demonstrates that 1800s are well within Subas’s strike range.  

In King Lear, Albany grew stronger as the play unfolded. Similarly, Albany grew stronger as the match unfolded. We never threatened to win but should not be too disappointed with the result, given our adversary’s higher overall rating.

AlbanyRating Result EalingRating
IM Thomas Rendle2413 1 – 0Martin Smith2169
Vincent Sagues21010.5 – 0.5FM Andrew Harley2144
Maxim Dunn20950.5 – 0.5Alan Perkins2156
Chris Dunn18830.5 – 0.5Mark Winterbotham1858
Iozeph Okosieme18811 – 0Raj Jhooti1806
Howard Groves18771 – 0Subas Subbaraj1529
 4.5 – 1.5