Close, but no cigar
After starting with a draw and a loss last November, and with the January weekend cancelled due to Covid, the Tigers returned to the boards eager to get good results at Daventry. As always, we knew there would be no easy games, but we were ready to give it our all.
For some of us, the weekend started with a gathering at the Mindsports Centre where Bajrush would give us a lift – with the funny anecdote of him thinking we were playing at Milton Keynes. Since it was in the same direction, nobody noticed until he took a wrong turn and luckily Carsten was paying attention and the matter was quickly resolved. We arrived with plenty of time to get comfortable in our rooms and started preparing our games.
We presented a lineup similar to last time, with Carsten and Bajrush replacing Marios and Chris, and Andrew making his debut on board 8 as Abigail joined the second team at Maidenhead.
In round 3 we faced KJCA Kings, a team with many talented juniors in their lineup, who definitely played way better than their ratings so it was a very tough match as expected. After a quick win by Bajrush, two losses and many draws, it was all up to Marco to save the match on board 1. He was slowly building up pressure and eventually managed to win material, finishing it off in style with a lovely exchange sacrifice to draw out the enemy King. The game lasted 5 and a half hours and the match ended in a draw, which gave another point for the Tigers to make it 2.0/6 (with the 2-1-0 scoring scale)
John played an exciting game full of tactics! He ended up losing some material but the position was very complicated and in the end he managed to get a valuable draw against a very strong player.
Bajrush went for an early attack on the kingside which his opponent managed to neutralize, but then a black rook got trapped on c7 and white's advantage became too large.
Marco played a very tense game, trying to keep control of the position until he was able to invade black's territory with his heavy pieces. 55. Rxg6! was the move of the day, allowing him to avoid a long endgame and save the match for us.
After the games, we walked to the Queen of Hearts for our usual Saturday night out. The food was delicious and we had a few nice beers (just water for Andrew – maybe in a few years…), lots of bonding between our new players, and there was even a friendly bet on who would get a FIDE title sooner.
Round 4 had us facing North East England, already well-known by some of our members. Things were looking great right off the start with Bajrush winning yet again to make it 2/2 on his personal tally, and Andrew getting a dominating position with unbalanced material while most of the other games were still looking equal. After trading blows on boards 3 and 6 and a few draws, we were up 3.5-2.5 but had two very difficult positions on the last two games. Unfortunately we could not save either of them and the match ended in a bitter loss 4.5-3.5.
Andrew played a nice game, locking up black's kingside rook and taking control of the open d-file. After missing a winning line, he settled for a draw when his opponent showed a great defensive effort and created dangerous counterplay with his queenside passed pawns.
Fedja showed that even the London system can be very interesting, in a game with lots of tactical opportunities for both sides. After most pieces were exchanged and the dust had settled, the draw was the natural result.
Gaston chose an aggressive setup against the French defense. His opponent was defending well, but one inaccuracy was all it took for white to invade on the h-file after 24. Bf4!
Although we would have liked to end up picking up more points, and we certainly had chances to do so, it was still a good and fun weekend for all of us. It’s always a learning experience and we’ll do even better next time when the 4NCL resumes on the 26th of March. Go Tigers!
Report by Gaston Franco