Going into the last round, e2e4.org.uk 2 were tied for the lead in Division 3 with Wessex on 16 points. KJCA Kings, AMCA Rhinos and North East England were on 15, while Hackney and Cheddleton 2 were on 14. The pairings for the round were:
- Wessex – e2e4.org.uk 2
- North East England – AMCA Rhinos
- KJCA Kings – Cheddleton 2
- Hackney – Cambridge University 3
A win for us would make us champions; a draw would guarantee promotion; a loss would leave us depending on the results of the other matches.
While a draw between us and Wessex would have guaranteed both sides promotion, the match in fact turned out to be very hard fought. I managed to win relatively quickly, as my opponent overlooked that his knight on h5 was short of retreat squares, and so lost it following an unusual manoeuvre by my light-squared bishop. The other games swung back and forth less predictably, however.
Richard Almond soon came under heavy pressure as Black against the dangerous Michael Yeo. Although for a long time it was not clear whether White could break through, in the end he did, which allowed Wessex to even the scores.
We were able to take the lead again, however, as Iliyan Mladenov built up steadily as White against Martin Simons, and was able to force victory. This left both sides looking anxiously at the remaining three games.
The game between Keith Gregory (Wessex) and David Coates (e2e4.org.uk 2) looked likely to end as a draw, because of the blocked nature of the position, and in the end it did. The other two games were rather more complex.
The game Gavin Lock (Wessex) and Alan Byron (e2e4.org.uk 2) featured a time scramble, as Gavin, as usual, was in heavy time trouble. He slipped up just before the time control, allowing Alan to win a pawn. The resulting rook endgame looked like it should be a win for us, but it was still tricky.
Meanwhile, the encounter between Mark Josse (e2e4.org.uk 2) and Bruce Jenks (Wessex) had been swinging back and forth. At first, Mark was ahead, having won the exchange for a pawn, but he gradually allowed his opponent back into the game, and by the first time control was actually in some trouble, due to his opponent’s advanced pawns. Fortunately for us, in the moves leading up to the second time control, his opponent missed a win, and the resulting position was dynamically balanced.
In the other game, Alan Byron seemed to miss a clear win, and although his opponent still had to defend carefully, his chance seemed to have gone, and in the end the two players agreed a draw.
Seeing this, Bruce Jenks decided on a suicidal winning attempt, but Mark found the correct response, and play simplified to a rook and pawn against bishop and pawn endgame. Although his opponent then offered a draw, which would have given us the title straight away, Mark decided to go for the win anyway, which he then secured with two and a half minutes left in the quickplay finish. The season therefore ended on a tense but exhilarating note.
Many thanks to Sean Hewitt for his efforts this year (and previous years) in organising the e2e4.org.uk teams (all six of them!). Also, many thanks to all the players who contributed to our efforts in securing not only promotion but the title.
Of course, as is customary, I now give my own game from the match. It wasn’t terribly exciting, although it did prove important.