Thanks to Nick Wilson for writing this, and Mike Richardt for forwarding it to me. The title to this post links to the Taunton Club website.
Ok, last night we travelled (yet again) to Glastonbury. Eager readers will know that last week I unluckily lost to Dave in a close game, but this time I'd be more aggressive and kick his ass on the pool table. Oh yes, and there is the small matter of the second leg of the two-match title-decider tie against Frome. You'll remember we won the first leg by 5-1, so things are heavily in our favour - a win, a draw or even scoring more than one point would secure us the hallowed and coveted Div 1 title.
Our team was the same as last week, except for Mike Redman, who sadly couldn't make it. We shifted our team up one board and Martin came in on board six - the full team list is Mark, Mike, Dave, Nick, Stan and Martin.
After last week's issues with lights I planned to arrive early (yes, a first for the whole season), firstly to see which bit of the sprawling Tor Club we'd be in, and secondly to try and ensure there was enough light to spot the dark pieces when placed on dark squares...
I wandered in - would we be in the main stage area? Poked my head round the door and... oh crap... not only was it being used, but a live band was busy tuning up!? I think someone like Fischer would probably have complained, but not us! Undeterred, I went to check the nursery bit (where we were last week)... Arrgh... lots of very talkative women in there having some sort of womens group. I don't think it was a slimming group - they didn't look fat enough for that (or maybe it was a successful slimming group). Anyway, that room was out, so it leaves, er... the toilets, um... main bar area... oh yes, and the skittle alley! Amazingly, the skittle alley was perfect - lots of space and bright lights above each table. The only issue, if I were a nit-picker, was the sliding doors - a winning combination of heavy, jarring and not particularly slideable mixed with a sound when moved that was comparable to a metal claw being dragged slowly down a blackboard - eye-watering and goose-bump inducing at the same time.
Again we had to bring 3 of our own boards. Dave was too ashamed to bring his tablecloth board again, but did bring his pieces. I proudly unveiled my DGT board only to be trumped by Martin with his luxurious triple-weighted rosewood Staunton set. Very nice. Ok, so you can talk the talk but can you walk the walk? I struggled yet again with my electric clock, trying to setup the 75/35 +15 setting, but gave up more quickly this time and settled with a boring old clock.
Frome turned up with just one change - the superfast-playing board 4 player was gone, and replaced with a new chap on the same board.
Taunton, being the 'home' team were white on evens. As we all moved up a board due to MikeRed not being there, it meant we all had the same colours again - what a stroke of luck - I have white. Do you know, I don't think it's averaged out over the season - I may have had white more than 50% of the time...
Ok, on to the games, which finished in this order
Board 6 M Worral 1 v G Udell 0
Martin's setup here was pure poetry in motion - his pieces are beautiful in already-mentioned triple-weighted rosewood, his clock was a shiny ebony with white dials and luxurious gold trim, and to cap it all, he had a pint of Guinness sat next to the board - it's white head and black body combined with a golden shamrock on the glass to complement the clock's colour scheme and just complete a picture of playing heaven. The game matched this beauty and poetry with a stunning rook sac on f7, leading to a short king-hunt, followed by a forced mate! A great game, topping a great season for Martin.
Ok, so Taunton are now 1-0 up. But I think if we'd lost the remaining 5 games and the combined two-match score was therefore level, we'd have lost due to the board count rule (remove board 6 and count again...). So we still needed half a point.
Step forward I'll-get-the-draw-for-the-match-Stan!
Board 5 S Wojick 0.5 v G Berryman 0.5
Stan had been under some pressure during this game. Nothing he couldn't handle of course, but if did mean he was spending time dealing with the pressure rather than dishing out the pressure. I noticed Dave giving this game a lot of attention - had he spotted some combination we'd all missed? Or was he simply assessing the game for our team's overall chances? Then it dawned on me! He was keeping a close eye on his pieces.. they were playing using his set...pawns can go missing so easily.. Anyway, in the game, Stan dealt with the pressure, offered a draw and it was accepted! Thank you Stan - that was the draw we needed to secure the title!
Now with the title safe, we wanted to win the match to win properly, rather than by a tie-break rule.
Board 4 N Wilson 1 v K Paine 0
I really need to buy a book on openings. On move 4 in a Gucio Piano / Two knights defence, I played the commanding d3. Good God, I was doing this aged 5 when I first learnt to play... have I learnt nothing in the intervening years? Anyway, after developing, I gradually moved over for my predictable k-side attack. Normally, when I do this, I either win quickly when an opponent makes a mistake, or I lose due to all the weakness I accept in the centre and Q-side. But today was different. My opponent crammed his k-side with pawns and pieces. How am I supposed to have a quick, flashy win when he does that? What a spoilsport.. Luckily I had a knight sac that opened him up and he resigned a few moves later. I had thought it'd be enough to win the 'man of the match' award, but not only did Martin better me with his board and board/drink combination (I only had a meagre shandy...) but his sac was of a higher value too (rook v knight)... However, somewhat unfairly, I am the sole man of the match judge, and I am extremely biased. I'll reveal the winner at the end of this report...
Board 1 M Hassal 1 v C Purry 0
Mark was very pleased with this win, and rightly so. He turned an advantage in the opening into a middle game combination that picked of first pawns and then netted a whole piece and with a strong looking attack. Very impressive, but I couldn't help but notice there weren't any rook or knight sacrifices here...tut tut..
Board 3 D Littlejohns 1 v M Leonard 0
Dave played his solid Caro-caan, but white was constantly pushing for initiative, which cost him a pawn or two. Dave simplified to what seemed a won ending, but white had a strong rook and active knight. Dave managed to dodge a few nasty looking tricks and eventually won due to his extra pawns and white's horrible time-trouble.
Board 2 M Richardt 0.5 v G Jepps 0.5
Mike had an extremely long day's travel back from Germany to make this match (big thank-you for all the effort!), and he was looking very tired. This tiredness lead to a mistake in the opening and he dropped a central pawn. Gerry pressed into the ending, still a pawn up. But Mike had a good knight v Gerry's bishop, and with correct play, this was a draw.
So, final score - Taunton win 5-1 (again!) and are undisputed Division One Champions! Hoorah!!!
Annoyingly, I didn't get a chance for a pool rematch with Dave...
Huge thank-yous to everyone tonight and those who have played in previous Div 1 matches to make this happen - its been a long time since Taunton won, and it feels great!!!
Man of the match - I award it to every player tonight(!). Early on, all the games had looked double-edged and I feared a 0.5 v 5.5 drubbing like we'd had against Glastonbury, but we all fought hard, turned it round and came out completely on top - we are deserved champions!!
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