The Dyvels v Monarchs game was another ‘in-house’ South Tyne fixture, with the handicap system playing its part in making the contest a thrilling encounter.
On Top board Dave Foster (Senior), playing white against Jeremy Handley saw Jeremy respond g6 to his e4 (The Modern Defence, giving up the centre to white, and allowing white to block the Bg7 bishop with a pawn on c3). Missing out the standard d4 Dave’s second move was c3, and his third d4.
Dave’s very strong attack developed with a mix of the h pawn advancing to h4 (which I discovered had been suggested as third move for white by Bobby Fischer) combined with bishop and queen pressure on the kingside pawns. In wriggling out of the pressure of the attack Jeremy gave up a queen bishop pawn. After pieces were exchanged the endgame saw David a pawn up and Jeremy fighting hard for equality. In the end he made it, and an honourable draw was agreed when neither player had enough on the board to force a mate.
Tim Wrigley, on board 2 for the Dyvels, reported his game as follows: “Alex Asthworth and I played a Symmetrical English opening, with me white and Alex black. I suspect that Alex knew more about this than I did but maybe he was just copying all my good moves. This leaves both sides with the problem of how to break the symmetry, and my book says can be boring and drawish, as neither side can afford to perform the break.
“That’s not how it felt to me as I struggled to negotiate Alex’s opening traps. Having just survived the opening I had just decided to try and open up the Queen’s side and get play down the b file, when Alex opened up the middle with e5 and lost a crucial pawn. The ending was Rook & six pawns against Rook & five pawns, which was not easy until the rooks were swapped off.”
As an observer it looked as if Alex slightly miscalculated the possibilities following the rook exchange, and Tim’s calculation of who could get pawns to queen first was well justified. When Alex recognised that he could not stop the upcoming onslaught he resigned.
In Peter Crichton’s game, Malcolm Reid launched his enthusiastic e4, f4 assault on the king’s side supported by knight, queen and rook while Peter calmly (or worriedly) sought to thwart the onslaught. For a while, with his queen, queen’s bishop and rook unable to get off the back rank he looked very much on the defensive. It all changed, as Peter described it: “Malcolm embarked upon a typically aggressive sacrificial attack on the kingside against my Sicilian but fortunately failed to find the best continuation; once a few pieces had been exchanged and things had settled down he was left a piece down with few counter-chances in the endgame.”
The most exciting – and most worrying – game for the team captains was that of Phil Taylor against Steve Larkin (who had just returned from a successful tournament in the Hastings championship). The game, and its outcome are well described by Phil:
“As there was a good possibility that I would be playing the ‘Hero of Hastings’ I thought I had better do some preparation. Looking through my database of 10 games with Steve I found he liked to play the Benko Gambit as black against d4.
“The line I had prepared was a Benko declined with the b5 pawn taking on c4. As usual, this didn’t happen so I reverted to plan B, eventually taking the b-pawn and supporting this and the d-pawn with knight and bishop. This gave good counterplay for quite a long period but black had fianchettoed his bishop on g7 and this proved a useful strategy as time wore on. By move 28 we were both perspiring with the effort but by move 36 black had broken through and was two pawns to the good. On move 39, black thought he’d pinned my Knight and was expecting to add a piece to the two pawns but I had managed to see a clever way out which equalised material.
“Clocks were coming into play now and I had an edge. Black offered the draw but I was under team instructions to win.” (This was the last game to finish, and Phil knew that for the Dyvels to win the match he needed to win – ‘team instructions’ is a little strong).
“This pressure led to my losing a piece and eventually chasing my opponent’s King into a tight space looking for a cheap mate. What I hadn’t realized was the peril I was putting my own king in. Fortunately, under severe time pressure, Steve again offered the draw, seeing a repetition and thinking the match would be won by the result. I accepted the offer and as onlookers helpfully pointed out, Steve had missed a one move mate and the match result was a draw. I think the result was a fair one given the complexity and ebb and flow of the game.”
As a match amongst friends in the same club the drawn match was an honourable outcome.
Result Points Points Result
Jeremy Handley (2) _1/2__ 2__ _2_ _1/2__ David Foster (Snr) (4)
Tim Wrigley (2) 1 __ 4___ 0___ 0_ Alex Ashworth (5)
Peter Crichton (3) _1__ 4__ _0_ _ 0__ Malcolm Reid (5)
Phil Taylor (4) 1/2__ 2__ 2_ _1/2__ Steve Larkin (5)
Handicap points 11 19
total match points 12 4
Combined scores 23 23