Our campaign in the summer chess cup came to an in-glorious end last night when we were knocked out by Jesmond.
Based on the handicap system, a 3-1 result would have seen us through, and things were looking bright when they defaulted on bottom board and Paul Dargan worked his customary magic (more later) to quickly put us 2-0 up.
It then became a tale of two positions that on face of it appeared good for us, but where deeper inspection revealed considerable difficulties:
I'm playing White in the left hand position. I'd messed up a good situation from the opening, and then went in for this position thinking that with Black's knight 'offside' on h5 and queen 'out of the game' on b2, I would still be able to drum up some winning tries. It turns out though that both the queen and knight (controlling g3 and h4) are well positioned, and that White has considerable difficulties, e.g. after Rb1 Qd2, Black is threatening Qe3+, meanwhile Black's a8 rook is threatening to join the game with tempo. Unbelievably White is probably losing already; after 18 minutes thought I found one of the quickest ways:
1 Qb3?? Rxe2 0-1
So, with the score 2-1, Darren Laws had to win his game (right hand position). He's a pawn up but it looks difficult to win: after
1 ... Rb2 (correction, I'd initially posted Rb1+); 2 Nf1 (as 2 Rd3 loses to Rxd2; 3 Rxd2 Nf3+)
You suddenly realise it's even worse than that: White has no constructive moves and can only sit and wait for Black to improve his position. Desperately short of time and needing to win, Darren eventually sacrificed 2 pawns to break his king out of the prison, but the ending was then lost and the flag fall put both Darren and our team out of its misery!
On a happier note, let's finish with Paul Dargan's win. Playing a Sveshnikov as Black, he's generated a typical sicilian counter-attack, reaching this position after White's 17th move:
Here Paul played 17 ... Rc8! and after
18 Kf1? Rxc3! had a crushing attack. The game finished 19 h3 Rxd3!; 20 c3 Be2+; 21 Kel Rxc3! (sacrificing the same rook for the third time!); 22 fe Rc2; 23 f4 Qxd2+; 24 Kf2 Bd3 mate
Analysis shows that White had no good defence after 17 ... Rc8!, Paul gives a variation in ending a beautiful smothered mate if White tries 18 Be2:
18 ... Bxe2; 19 Nxe2 Nf3+; 20 Kf1 Nxd2+; 21 Ke1 Nf3+; 22 Kf1 Qe1+; 23 Rxe1 Nd2 mate: