On 17 May we faced Hammersmith’s second team at the Mindsports Centre. They had won their last 6 matches, so a tough encounter was envisaged. Surprisingly my opponent did not appear and thereby defaulted the game. Mark immediately pointed out this was my first win for the team this season. He is incorrect: I managed to win in our home match against Metropolitan….by default. Resigning myself to a long night ahead, I dipped into one of the many Go books on display. Entitled “Catching Scent of Victory” by O.Rissei, it focuses on opening strategy in which priority is placed on “aggressively using the center of the board” and “highly valuing speed.” These words of wisdom are not exclusive to Go, as Andrew demonstrated in his game.

He observes: “I exploited an inaccurate move order in an Austrian Modern to net a piece for a pawn as early as move 12! But, like a football team 2-0 up, I then didn’t play as assertively as I might have and let him generate counterplay on my denuded kingside. With me having only 3 minutes left on the clock, him a lot more time, complex tactics everywhere, and my queen being dragged away from the defence, I even offered a draw. He declined but then his attack with a further rook sacrificed didn’t quite break through to mate. When my king escaped his queen’s checks, he had to resign.”

On top board, John offered an exchange sacrifice which could have been taken out of Topalov’s playbook. John writes: “My opponent played an Alapin line with an early c3 against my Sicilian. The early middlegame saw mass exchanges leading to a double rook and bishop versus double rook and knight ending in which several of his pawns were on the same colour squares as his bishop. It was fairly level until he missed an idea where I gave up rook for bishop and pawn to gain a monster passed b-pawn. He chose not to take the exchange but I still obtained the passed b-pawn which proved decisive. He resigned when it was clear it would queen.”

Former team captain, Chris, was on board 3. He comments: “Playing Black, the game opened with the Modern Defence with a “Gurgenidze” d5: 1 e4 g6 2 d4 Bg2 3 c3 d5 4 e5 c5 5 f4 cd 6 cd Nh6 7 Nc3 0-0 8 Nf3 Nc6 9 Be3 f6. My opponent then played 10 Qb3 when it is thematic to ignore the threats on d5 and b7 and play 10… Bg4 which gives Black an advantage. For no good reason I did not play this but instead played 10… e6 which makes a strategic concession, locking in the light-squared bishop. I followed up with a forcing continuation where my opponent made a couple of wrong choices: 11 0-0-0 fe 12 fe Ng4 13 Bg1 Bh6+ 14 Kb1 Be3 15 Be2 Bxg1 16 Rhxg1 Ne3 17 Rd2 Na5 18 Qb4 Nac4 19 Bxc4 Nxc4 20 Rd3. Now the simple and obvious 20… a5 21 Qb3 b5 is winning for Black.

One tempo was critical and after I played 20… Bd7, he responded with 21 Nd1! which equalises. The knight was able to come to e3, defending the c2 square, then to g4, exposing my dark-squared weaknesses. I didn’t see the danger and found my attack coming to nothing while defending poorly. The rest of the game was painful.”

Mark has played some excellent chess this season but this was not his night. He explains: “As White, my opponent played the London System. I tried to exchange his bishop on f4 by playing Nh5 before he played h3, but instead of retreating his bishop as expected, he played it to e5. I was on the backfoot most of the game, just holding on, but played a wrong check, and with my queen trapped on the edge of the board, I had to give up material. My opponent finished the game off nicely.”

With the score poised at 3-2 in our favour, the match result came down to Joao’s game. As White, he played the Closed Ruy Lopez. Following slow manoeuvring on both sides, Black broke out with d5 which lost a pawn. Gradually White built up his forces on the kingside, achieving a winning position. But in time trouble was unable to find the decisive blow, and even lost his extra pawn. With a complex position and White having less than one minute remaining, a threefold repetition secured our victory in the match.

Overall this was a good team performance which gives us 5 points out of 8. With a couple of matches remaining, we have serious chances of a top 2 finish.

Chris Skulte2157 0 -1John Quinn2195
Michael Saunders2084 0 – 1Andrew Harley2168
Tom Townsend1913 1 -0Chris Greenshields2021
Liam Fleming18610.5– 0.5Joao Santos1979
Matteo Bezzini1858 1 – 0Mark Winterbotham1920
        Default 0 – 1Simon Healeas1827
 2.5 -3.5