Somerset- Hampshire match report.
I thought that after stepping down as match captain last season, I could enjoy some nice relaxing chess with none of the stress. Not yet at least. I was stand-in captain for the day.
This was the first match of the season, with Somerset defending the South West County Championship that they won last season, and hoping to build on our pre-season success in the WECU Jamboree. Roger Morgan is our new captain for this season. Sadly he was unavailable for the match, but nevertheless deserves a lot of credit for agreeing to captain and organise the teams. Not an easy job, but very much an essential one for Somerset chess.
When we arrived there was a slight problem. Namely Somerset hadn’t brought their 8 boards and sets. Hmm… not the best of starts to a season. As it turned out we were fortunate that Jim Fewkes could drive back to Yeovil, which was only about 30 minutes at most away, and for 8 of our players the match started about an hour later then anticipated.
Apologies to the people who were left waiting, and equally so to Hampshire chess.
When the match started it was difficult to tell exactly how close the match was, and there were no Hampshire grades written down, but from the few Hampshire players whose grades I could remember, it looked like a close match. I think Hampshire probably had slightly the stronger players towards the bottom, but at the same time any match where we have someone of Jack Rudd’s strength not on top board is always a good sign.
The match started fairly badly for us. Chris Strong won a couple of pawns but in return his opponent gained a strong attack, and finished with a flourish. The next game to finish was mine. Playing as black 12… Kg6 wasn’t exactly part of the plan, but it held together okay. We reached a position with R+ opposite coloured bishops where there was very little in the position, and I got offered a draw. I have to admit at this point when I looked around at the other games I was more then a little worried, but ultimately I decided I lacked the Arkell-esque grinding skills (for anyone unaware, Keith Arkell is an English GM who’s ground out more dull positions then the result of the planet combined) necessary to get anything from the position and agreed the draw. The next game to finish was Jack Rudd’s. The way Jack plays the positions after 1.e4 e5 2.d4 would probably cause me to switch openings if we ever played, and he scored another impressive victory. As Jack’s opponent put it after the match “I thought I’d avoid playing you on board 2”.
There was a fairly long delay before the next few results came in, before a flurry of results shortly after the time control. Chris McKinley’s piece sacrifice for 2 pawns looked visually very attractive, but ultimately it turned out that looking good was all that Chris’ extra 2 pawns did, and after the extra bishop gobbled them up, it was goodnight Vienna in short order. John Kilmister, Michael Cooper, Kells Stanton, and Kevin Paine all put up decent fights against higher grade opposition, but ultimately succumbed. On the plus side Chris Dorrington managed to beat a very strong opponent with black, Geoff Berryman ground out a tough endgame, and Jonathan Latham, David- Painter Kooiman, and Colin Stanton all got excellent wins as well, whilst Jim Fewkes held a slightly worse position to get a draw.
In case you wonder why having described the first few matches in so much detail, I’ve then summarised most of the remainder of the matches in barely a couple of sentences, I kind’ve decided to play 5 minute games rather then pay any attention to the match for a fair while after my game finished. Moving swiftly on…
When I went back to the playing hall it was dead level at 7 all, with 2 games remaining. I thought Gerry Jepps was winning; I can’t remember if it was an exchange up or a full piece, but he was material up at least. His opponent tried a rook sacrifice. It was either a moment of inspiration or desperation, and fortunately for us it turned out to be the latter. Gerry brought home the win shortly afterwards.
This left us with board 14- Stan Hill against John Wiseman. After blundering a pawn in the opening, Stan had put up impressive resistance, but a pawn is as they say a pawn, and John won out in a Knight and pawn ending.
So Somerset’s season begins with a hard fought draw. I’ve included my game below which you’re willing to use any which way you see fit. It’s not as interesting as I made it sound, but it’s short at least, so you won’t get too bored playing through it. Anyone else who wants to send me a copy of their game, I’m happy to annotate it, and add it to this report.
Board 3, Somerset- Hampshire
White: A. McDougall Black: B. Edgell
1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bb5 Nf6
Yup, the Berlin defence. It’s an invitation to be bored really. The main line goes 4. 0-0 Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8. Qxd8+ Kxd8 and then a few coma- inducingly dull hours of endgame fun.
One of the many ways of avoiding the coma. This transposes into the 4 knights opening.
5. 0-0 Bxc3?!
I guess not strictly an error, but having shown I’m quite content to spend an afternoon playing a dull position, why change strategy?
5… 0-0 6.d3 d6 7. Bg5 Bxc3 8.bxc3 Qe7 followed by Nd8- e6 is the main line.
6. bxc3 Nxe4
Sad to say I was already on my own at this point. I play 1…e5 in reply to 1.e4, have done so for a while, but don’t know the theory to one of the more common white openings beyond move 6. Wee bit embarrassing.
Already the position’s a bit difficult for black. I probably should’ve opted for 7…Nf6, when both 8. Nxe5 and 8 Bxc6 look pretty good for white, but I can at least hope to get away with castling and then worry about how to deal with those 2 pesky bishops. My choice was, to put it bluntly, a bit thick.
Okay. I had seen that after Qxe5+ Kf8 was forced, and it all looked rather ugly indeed, yet I played it anyway. I guess I was hoping to drag my opponent down to my level of familiarity with the position rather then a position he’d seen countless times previously. Which is much more of an excuse then a rational reason.
8. Bxc6 dxc6
Hitting g7, so my reply’s forced.
All looks rather horrible doesn’t it? I’m down on development by a long way, the king on f8 looks weak and blocks in the rook on h8, whilst white’s bishop can come to a3, the knight to e5 or g5 and the Rook to e1 in swift order.
10. Re1 f6
Not a move I particularly want to make. It does seem to invite the knight into e6 via g5 or d4, but I have to get the rook across to the e-file fairly quickly.
11. Qf4 Kf7
This encourages white to carry on the idea of bringing the knight into the attack, but it’s the only way of bringing the rook on h8 into the game.
I think white may have missed, or possibly missed the strength of, my next move. 12. Ne5+ looks like a better option. 12. Ne5+ Kg8 13. Nc4 Here Fritz recommends 13… g5, which I think you’d have to be made of metal to even consider. I was planning to grovel with 13…b5 and then after 14. Nxd6 cxd6 15.Ba3 Kf7 16.Bxd6 Be6 we’re in opposite coloured bishop territory. White’s extra pawn certainly gives him an edge, but I think it’s going to be very difficult to win it all the same.
Probably not deserving of 2 exclamation marks in terms of pure strength, but I think the visual impression of the move makes it worth the praise. As surprising at it may seem, the king is fairly safe on g6.
Of course d4 just loses the knight on g5, as the queen is protecting the pawn, so the knight has to move. 13. Ne6 Bxe6 Rxe6 Kf7 is fine for black. White could play 13. Nf3, admitting Ng5 wasn’t the wisest move. Not sure I have much better then Kf7 repeating, when white could play Ne5+.
14. Rxe4 Qd6
I’ve only got the queen and the king off the back rank, and yet my king’s safe as houses. It’s a funny old game.
Not the best square for the queen after my reply. Either h4 or f3 were better squares.
The clever little point here is that after 16. Re7 Qxe7! 17. Qxe7 Rhe8 the back rank threat means white has to give up the queen as well as the c2 pawn afterwards.
16. Rd4 Qe5
16…Rae8 is an idea when 17. Rxd6 Rxe3 18. Rxf6+ gxf6 19. dxe3 Bxc2 leaves us in another opposite bishops position, where ironically my active king gives me the slightest of edges.
17. Qxe5 fxe5
18. Rb4 b6
Here I was offered a draw and spent a while thinking about it, more based on how I thought the match was going then the position. I can play on here and barring anything horrific shouldn’t lose, but at the same time I couldn’t think of a decent plan to make any head-way.
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