While our round 9 match had proved one-sided, the same could not be said of our round 10 encounter with the North East England team. The position at the start of the round was that KJCA Kings and North East England led with 15 points each, and we were joint third with Wessex on 14. In the chasing pack, Cambridge University 3 and AMCA Rhinos were on 13, and there were four teams on 12. We therefore really needed to win to be almost sure of promotion.
The match was unbearably tense. David Coates, with White against Ron Plater, managed to press home his attack in a sharp line of the Grünfeld, although not without some adventures. Andy Talbot, with Black, soon obtained a very promising Sicilian endgame against Malola Prasath, but it took him a long time to secure the win.
North East England struck back in the games Claudio Mangione – Paul Dargan and David Walker – Alan Byron. Claudio obtained three pieces for his queen, but he found it difficult to co-ordinate them due to his lack of development. In the end he lost material, and was forced to concede defeat. Alan Byron ended up in a horribly passive position with a really bad bishop, and in the end could only wait as his opponent brought up his forces to deliver the final blow.
As Mark Josse’s game against Andrew Dunn was drawn, everything was down to my game as Black against Andrew Lawson. After 20 moves by White, the players had reached a typical Hedgehog position. I decided to break with 20…b5, which unbalanced the position by exchanging my a- and b-pawns for White’s c- and e-pawns. My opponent took plenty of time over his moves, and by move 25, he had no more than a minute a move to reach the time control.
He then decided on a rash plan of attacking on the kingside with 26 Rg4. However, I started to lose the thread of the game, and also ran short of time. After lashing out with …g5 and …f5, I then found myself under pressure, but fortunately made the time control in one piece. Also, I was lucky that White, in his time trouble, missed some promising possibilities.
After the time control, White soon played a move (43 b4) which both players during the game thought was a mistake; indeed, after my reply (43…Rc4), White thought for a long time and ended up in time trouble again. However, subsequent analysis suggests that the move is quite reasonably and that any mistake occurred later.
However, White was evidently shaken both by his conviction that 43 b4 had been a mistake, the fact that he was short of time, and the match position. He allowed Black to play 47…f3! with a strong attack, and failed to take his chances to bail out with a draw. Finally the Black pieces penetrated the White position and delivered mate.
The result of this game meant that e2e4.org.uk 2 had won the match 3.5-2.5 and were almost certain of promotion, although in the following round we still needed a draw to be absolutely sure.
I give the game below with some more detailed notes.