County Match (Minor Counties) 2013-14: Sussex – Leicestershire

Sussex qualified for the Minor Counties section of the ECF National Stages this year, a competition for teams with an average grade of under 180. Dix struggled to get together a team, and indeed we ended up defaulting a board, which in the end proved decisive.

The match was played at the Hartspring Community Centre in Bushey, Hertfordshire on Saturday 17th May. It was a hot day and there was congestion on the way round the M25. This, combined with me getting lost close to the venue, meant that I arrived fifteen minutes after what I had been told was the start time, 2 pm. However, when I arrived I discovered that our team captain had got this wrong, and the start time was in fact 1 pm! Our opponents, Leicestershire, sportingly agreed to delay the start as long as possible, but by 1:45 pm it was agreed that they needed to start, given the time until which they had booked the venue.

Whether or not these events are any excuse, I proceeded to play an awful game with White against Ray Burgess. I lost in only 26 moves following a terrible blunder in an admittedly poor position.

The match as a whole was tightly contested, and Leicestershire came out ahead 8.5-7.5. The default therefore proved very costly; a win in that game would have seen us go through.

I give my game below with some notes.

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[Event “County Match (Minor Counties)”]
[Site “Bushey”]
[Date “2014.05.17”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Mansson, James C”]
[Black “Burgess, Ray J”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “D10”]
[Annotator “Mansson,James”]
[PlyCount “52”]
[EventCountry “ENG”]
[WhiteTeam “Sussex”]
[BlackTeam “Leicestershire”]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e3 a6 5. Qc2 g6 6. Bd3 Bg7 7. Nf3 dxc4 8. Bxc4
b5 9. Bd3 Bb7 10. O-O Nbd7 11. a4 O-O 12. e4 {This allows Black counterplay
with …b4, as White no longer has e4 for the knight.} (12. b4 $1 {looks
stronger, preventing …c5. If} a5 13. Ba3 $16 {and White has strong pressure.}
) 12… b4 13. Nb1 (13. Ne2 {was also possible, although Black looks OK.})
13… a5 14. Qe2 c5 15. d5 Ng4 16. Nbd2 Nge5 17. Nxe5 Nxe5 18. Nc4 $2 (18. Bb5
$11 {was better.}) 18… Nxd3 19. Qxd3 Ba6 $17 {Now White has definite
problems, because of pressure from the Black queen and bishops.} 20. Rb1 e6 21.
b3 exd5 (21… Bd4 $1 {at once was stronger as it eliminates the option of
taking on d5 with the queen.} 22. Qf3 (22. dxe6 $4 {loses to} Bxf2+ $19) 22…
exd5 23. exd5 Bb7 {would lead to the same position as the game.}) 22. exd5 $2 (
22. Qxd5 {was a better try.} Qc7 $5 $17 {looks strong. It is worth keeping
queens on as the Black queen is a strong piece, while the White queen is
exposed to attack. Also, Black has the advantage of the two bishops.} (22…
Qxd5 23. exd5 Bxc4 (23… Rfd8 24. Rd1 $11 {White can defend the pawn.}) 24.
bxc4 Rfe8 $15 {and Black is better, although White has better chances than in
the game.})) 22… Bd4 {I had overlooked this move. White cannot now defend
the d-pawn.} 23. Qf3 Bb7 24. Ne3 f5 $1 {The threat of …f4 is impossible to
meet.} 25. Bb2 f4 26. Bxd4 $4 {I realised this was a blunder as soon as I
played it.} (26. Ng4 {did not lose at once, but after} Qxd5 {Black is likely
to win.}) 26… fxe3 {White loses a piece for no compensation because of the
double attack. I therefore resigned.} 0-1

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