Match report: Clifton A – Downend B

Date: 31/01/2017
Clifton A 2.0-4.0 Downend B
James Cobb 0.5-0.5 Lewis Martin
Gareth Morris 0-1 Stephen Meek
John Curtis 0.5-0.5 Javier Ruano Marco
Duncan Grossett 0.5-0.5 Michael Meadows
David Collier 0-1 Michael Brigden
Igor Doklestic 0.5-0.5 Dominique Conterno

Firstly, apologies for the lack of reports recently. I haven’t played a match for a long time because of reasons, and I don’t seem to have a back-up reporter yet. I’ll work on that.

The team has done very well in my absence, so maybe I should have stayed away. The match, as I saw it went something like this (in order of the games finishing, more or less):

I finished first for a change. I played an old line, which unsurprisingly Javier didn’t seem to know. At one point I was the best part of an hour up on the clock, which you might think means I knew what I was doing, but in fact I was just playing moves that looked pretty much forced. At about move 15 I had to start thinking, and couldn’t find anything better than exchanging into a slightly worse endgame. That doesn’t worry me though, I reckon I’ve drawn more slightly worse endgames than anyone else in the League (and won a few too). Winning this one was never on the agenda though, and the inevitable draw was inevitable.

Meanwhile, Gareth had gone for more excitement in his opening, playing Bc4 and Qf3 by move 4, just like we’re taught not to do as kids. There was nothing at all wrong with it though, and Stephen was looking a bit confused by it, as no doubt was I. As is often the case the early aggression just led to an early queen exchange, leaving Gareth with a minuscule edge in an endgame. It closely resembled an exf6 Caro-Kann, which I used to play several centuries ago, and which are always drawn, except if you push too hard to win and miss tactics. That happened, and Stephen mopped up very well.

Next to me Dunc and Michael were trading gentle blows in a closed Catalan. Dunc was a little better, but not a lot seemed to be happening. Of course it’s very possible that I just don’t understand those types of positions. Either way the eventual draw didn’t seem to surprise anyone.

On board 5 David had played the Slav, and the line Michael played led to a position that I did understand. David didn’t seem to know the theory, and Michael looked better to me early on. When I looked again later it had changed, and David had solved his problems entirely, with an easy game. Then, once again, tactics happened and Michael ended up two pawns up in a rook endgame. It wasn’t quite as trivial as it first appeared, but despite David’s best efforts Michael carefully nursed his advantage to victory. That left us needing to win the last two games to draw the match, which at that point didn’t seem impossible…

On top board James played a QI against Lewis, which transformed into a kind of Benoni, but it seemed to me that James had all the disadvantages of a Benoni with none of the advantages. Rather than having counterplay it was a case of bracing for the inevitable central thrust. It looked pretty grim to my (possibly naive) eyes, but James isn’t an IM for nothing and he started skilfully finding counterchances as the pawns advanced. It was all looking pretty random as time trouble loomed, when unfortunately there was some kind of clock malfunction. While the clock was being reset (possibly with a hammer) a draw was agreed, which was a fair result, as perpetual check was probably on the cards.

That meant that board six wouldn’t have an effect on the match result, but Igor was trying hard to win. He’d done well after missing a pawn fork sac in the opening, and had gradually built up a good position and won a pawn. Dominique was making it tricky though, and no doubt was hoping that the adage ‘all rook endgames are drawn’ would hold up. The extra pawn was eventually lost, but Igor’s king was very active and I was expecting the fight to continue, but instead they decided to call it a day. It was losable for both sides in a time scramble, so that may have been sensible.

All in all not one of our best performances. All credit to the Downend players though, they played well and deserved the win. It doesn’t look like anyone can catch Downend A this year, so we’ll join their B team and others in the battle for second place.

John Curtis