McArthur Cup 2011-12: Horsham – Brighton

Last Tuesday saw Horsham’s first match in the McArthur Cup for many years. We had something of a (re-)baptism of fire, being paired against Brighton, one of the strongest sides in Sussex. Unlike the Mid-Sussex League matches, there is a compulsory quick-play finish in all games, with each player having 75 minutes to play 35 moves, followed by 30 minutes for the remaining moves.

The match started with Horsham coming under pressure on boards 4 and 6. Peter Harbott on bottom board was fortunate that his opponent first overlooked a simple means of winning a pawn early on, then agreed a draw in what looked like much the superior position. Dix Roberts was struggling on board 4 against John Henshaw, but his opponent too offered a draw when he was on top. Combined with a solid draw by Mike Forster on board 2 against Brian Denman, this left Horsham with a solid position in the match.

In the meanwhile, Gavin Lock was gradually building a powerful attack on top board against Luke Rutherford, while I had plenty of pressure on Geoff James’ position on board 3. However, Phil Stimpson emerged from the opening a pawn down and was definitely struggling against Paul Batchelor.

I allowed my advantage to slip, and then decided on a dangerous piece sacrifice for two pawns, leading to a very double-edged endgame. The match was now very much in the balance. Should Gavin prevail on board 1, and I gain at least a draw, then the result of Phil’s game would become irrelevant, as even if he lost, as was looking increasingly likely, we would win on board count.

Then things swung against Horsham as Gavin was unable to push home his attack, and was forced to take a draw by perpetual check. Phil was now definitely losing and indeed soon conceded. It was all down to my game.

I managed to win the piece back for my two pawns, and ended up with a superior bishop vs. knight endgame. However, I was unable to squeeze a decisive error out of my opponent, and forced a draw with second to spare. This left Brighton with a narrow 3.5-2.5 win, and Horsham fell at the first hurdle.

I give my game below with some notes.

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