This was the first match in which the Dyvels were able to play their four highest graded players, so it was nice to see that it was against our friends in the Monarchs.
As team captain I had the vicarious pleasure of being able to watch the four games as they evolved.
Board 4, Phil Taylor (handicap 4) against Dave Foster Junior (handicap 7), was first to finish. Dave had opened with the Polish b4 (also known as the Sokolosky). It is also called the Orangutan because Tartakower, playing Maroczy, used it after asking an Orangutan in the local zoo what opening he should play the next day!
The opening had the desired impact. Dave played well, and Phil ‘winged’ it. Within a few minutes Dave’s attack was flowing nicely, with knight, bishop and queen in action (the queens were off on move 8), and Phil cramping his pieces in a queenside corner retreat to defend against the knightly attack (which won a pawn).
In the middle game the attack switched to the king’s side where Phil had castled, and Phil had to ensure very correct defensive play to avoid being overwhelmed while gradually moving his rooks and bishop into a co-ordinated assault that took full advantage of the fact that a price of Dave’s early attack was a failure to castle his king to safety, and more open options to allow black to threaten forks and ways to reclaim the material.
With white’s kingside underdeveloped Phil swung a knight across to combine with a bishop to win the exchange. Nothing daunted, Dave countered with strong threats, and a near mate, requiring accurate responses from Phil to stay in the game. When Dave left a bishop en pris, however, it was the beginning of the end for white, and Phil made his material advantage tell.
Meanwhile, on board 1 Dave Wrigley was testing the Dyvel’s Jeremy Handley by responding g6 and f5 to white’s opening d4, c4.
The Leningrad Dutch main line is, with possible changes in move order: 1 d4 f5 2 c4 Nf6 3 g3 g6 4 Nf3 Bg7 5 Bg2 d6 6 0-0 0-0 7 Nc3 Qe8. As a non-expert, I was interested to see that this rarely-played-at-grandmaster-level opening offers real chances for black to win, but has weaknesses that white can exploit.
Jeremy duly exploited them, and with 20 minutes to go was a bishop for a pawn up in a rook and pawn ending. With only a few minutes on his clock Dave fought like a tiger, and took full advantage of a couple of slips first to win back the bishop for pawns before being allowed to get his king in front of the only remaining (white) pawn with only a single rook each. With Jeremy unable to force a win an honourable draw was agreed.
With two exciting games concluding it was too much to hope for more excitement in the other games – but the hope was fulfilled.
In Tim Wrigley’s game against the Monarch’s captain Derek Blair, Derek opened with the f4 Bird’s, or Dutch attack. Then both played cautiously to reach what looked like a closed position with pawn chains supported by minor pieces, rooks and the queens.
Derek then opened it up, and the resulting exchanges left Tim with two bishops against a knight and bishop. Tim found a way through to the back of the pawn chains with one of his bishops and cut them down faster than Derek could counterattack. The early slow burn was followed by some simple, very effective, attacking chess by black, and an overwhelming advantage of unstoppable passed pawns.
When Derek resigned, the Dyvels had 2.5 points to the Monarchs 0.5, but on handicap the scores would finish level if the Monarchs won the final game.
Everything depended on whether the rejuvenated Alex Ashworth (who has been playing some fine, sharp chess in recent games after a drop in form last year) was able to beat the ever sound Peter Crichton.
Peter’s Queen’s gambit had quickly resulted in a white pawn on d5 and another on b5, split by a black pawn with a fianchettoed bishop on b7 and the Queen on its rook file optimising the diagonal threats. A relentless pressure of attacking (and responsive defending) on both sides with combinations of two rooks, bishop and queen from black homing in on a key pawn on c4 defended by two rooks, knight and queen while other moves were parried and countered made it a complex and exciting game.
A pawn won early in the game by Peter was eclipsed a few moves later following one of these side thrusts, with Alex winning one back. As the end neared, with less than five minutes on each clock, the thrusts, counterthrusts and exchanges became more frantic as both tried to secure a winning advantage.
Towards the end with rook and a few pawns apiece, and a slight advantage on the clock for Peter, it seemed obvious that there was insufficient time for either player to win over the board, and an honourable draw was agreed. Phew!
Net result, a decisive 3-1 win for the Dyvels, and 23-19 win allowing for handicap.