In the tenth round of the London Online Chess League tonight, the Spitfires scraped home in an absolute thriller, including a truly extraordinary game by Morris Jones – and the Harriers scored a good win against a decent side too!
The Hurricanes, on the other hand, came a cropper against the champions-elect of season 2.
|Charlton Chess Addicks||Hendon Hurricanes|
|1||FM Conor Murphy||2395||1 - 0||CM Rob Willmoth||2200|
|2||Gary Clark||2230||½ - ½||Alex Leslie||2088|
|3||FM Tony Stebbings||2260||½ - ½||David Amior||1900|
|4||John Wager||2058||1 - 0||Gideon Vecht||1795|
|3 - 1|
In the Queens Division, the Hurricanes faced the Charlton Chess Addicks, who were already guaranteed the season 2 title. Our opponents had won all nine of their previous matches, with a two-point lead over second-placed SchachAttack A and an insurmountable game-points advantage to boot.
Charlton are a strikingly strong side; they had two FMs in their lineup, and their initial team sheet had a player rated 2215 on Board 4, though he had to be substituted at the last minute for someone rated 2058, leaving their average rating at a mere 2236!
The Hurricanes didn’t disgrace themselves by any means, with all games going the distance, but Charlton ran out clear victors.
On Board 4, Gideon never recovered after an error in the opening.
On Board 1, Rob was doing well for most of the game, reaching a major piece ending with level material. However, his king was more open than his opponent’s, which is so often a decisive factor in such situations. With little time on the clock, Rob succumbed to an attack.
On Board 2, Alex scored a very creditable draw against his strong opponent, never looking in any danger at all.
On Board 3, David Amior scored a good draw as well, although he was somewhat more fortunate to survive a position where he was a pawn down and had a distinctly draughty king.
The Hurricanes can be proud of how they performed; there is no shame in losing to a side that has romped home in every match to date, and clearly deserve to win the division!
The Queens Division games in round 10 are currently available here.
|Hendon Spitfires||East Ham Beagles|
|1||Eugenia Karas||1803||0 - 1||Laith Hayali||1765|
|2||Morris Jones||1758||1 - 0||Stephen Berkley||1683|
|3||Nick Murphy||1750||½ - ½||Michael Wickham||1675|
|4||Anton Drel||1510||1 - 0||Maksim Khromov||1450|
|2½ - 1½|
In the Bishops Division, the Spitfires were facing the East Ham Beagles, and looking to bounce back from the disappointment of last week. The Beagles are a decent side, placed fourth in the division, but we outgraded them on every board, and I hoped for a decisive victory.
Things didn’t look good early on, however, with Eugenia dropping a piece in the early middlegame and succumbing to an attack, and Anton seeming to have lost control of a very good position on Board 4, finding himself a knight down for just one pawn in the ending.
However, Anton managed to turn things in his favour once more by pushing his passed pawns on the queenside, and levelled the match!
This left everything resting on the middle two boards, which were the last two Hendon games to finish in this round, and left us all on the edge of our seats until the very last minute!
On Board 3, Nick’s position looked ropey from a positional point of view, with an isolated c-pawn on an open file, and his opponent having well-placed pieces. However, his opponent gave us some hope by neglecting to castle, and Nick got good counterplay against his opponent’s king, at the cost of a pawn.
The game reached boiling point on move 25, when Nick’s opponent thought for 13 minutes before centralising his queen, which was a critical error. Nick could and should have crashed through on f7, which was far stronger than Black’s counterplay against g2. However, thinking for seven minutes himself, Nick spurned the opportunity, and the game simplified into a major piece ending with level material.
The game swung back and forth, with both players in time pressure, although Black seemed to have the better chances for most of it. The key moment was when Black allowed his c-pawn to be exchanged for the White a-pawn, and then allowed the exchange of queens; the resulting rook ending was a fairly simple draw, which was probably a fair outcome of this tough fight!
The excitement of this game, however, paled into nothing when compared to Morris’s game on Board 2 – a truly outrageous contest, which must surely have cost me more years of my life than all the other LOCL rounds put together! Do bear with me as I recount the epic tale of this extraordinary game…
Morris didn’t come out of the opening well, but his opponent didn’t take his chances, and ended up allowing Morris a clever liquidation, which resulted in a rook-and-knight ending where Morris was a dangerous pawn up.
After some mutual inaccuracies, the game simplified further into a rook ending, where Morris had three pawns on the kingside against a single a-pawn for his opponent. Morris was clearly winning, and when he started pushing his pawns and got his rook behind his opponent’s, he seemed well on the way to victory.
However, Morris allowed his g-pawn to be exchanged for his opponent’s a-pawn, leaving him with just f- and h-pawns, a situation which is notoriously prone to being drawn. Watching live, Morris did seem to be struggling to make progress, and my heart was in my mouth – surely victory wouldn’t escape us here?
Tablebases confirm that White was able to draw at several points, but it required good rook endgame technique. A critical moment came when Morris’s h-pawn fell, leaving just the f-pawn, and a standard R+P-vs-R ending – would Morris be able to reach the classic Lucena position and force the pawn through? White could have prevented that, but his rook endgame technique wasn’t up to the task, and he allowed the winning position!
However, there were many gut-wrenching twists still to come in this game! Morris didn’t play the standard “bridge-building” technique, and instead ran out with his king, being checked from pillar to post by the White rook. In the end the Black king ended up on the back rank, with the f-pawn poised to queen, as it had been for many moves.
Once again, we seemed to be on the verge of victory, but Morris wanted to avoid some stalemate tricks – which didn’t actually exist, as it turned out, but it was a reasonable practical worry. Watching live, I felt sure he would play the simple rook retreat, 85…Rf8, which would have taken away all stalemate possibilities, and left White with no checks, and the Black f-pawn free to queen.
However, I almost had a heart attack when Morris instead decided to sacrifice his rook to allow the pawn to queen, allowing a notorious queen-versus-rook ending! A computer with tablebases can win these easily, of course, but in practice there are some tricky pitfalls, which Morris went on to demonstrate!
I could barely watch, as Morris trapped his opponent’s king in the corner, which is a perfect recipe for kamikaze rook checks. It looked as if White had cottoned on to this idea, and I thought the game would be drawn for sure (remember that we needed the full point to win the match!). I could not believe my eyes as the East Ham player missed the right way to continue the checks, and Morris was winning again!
Finally, Morris was able to corner the White king, and his opponent resigned on move 112!
I really have never seen a game quite like that one, let alone a decisive one for the match! The sheer number of tricky endings we went through, with the f+h-pawn rook ending bouncing between drawn and won, then White allowing the Lucena position, then Morris going for queen-versus rook rather than just queening the pawn, then both players slipping up in regard to the stalemate tricks… I still can’t quite believe it all happened, even now!
What makes it even more incredible is that time shortages didn’t really play a role in this game. Neither player dropped below eight minutes at any point, and Morris never dropped below ten – there were so many moves played that the 15-second increment kept plenty of time on both clocks!
One can sympathise with the nerves of both players, of course, and the following is easy to say as an outside observer, but I believe if either Morris or his opponent had recognised any of the countless critical positions in this game, and just taken 30 seconds to close their eyes, take some slow deep breaths, think about something else, and then refocus, the game could have been over in their favour a lot earlier!
Still, the only thing that ultimately matters is the result. At the end of the day, Morris deserves credit for coming out on top, winning us the match. Wow!
Streatham & Brixton B also won, so they still top the table on game points, with the Spitfires in second place. If they win in the last round, then they will win the Bishops Division title. All we can do is to try our best and force them to pull out that final victory. But for today, well done team!
|Hackney Happening||Hendon Harriers|
|1||James Corrigan||1833||½ - ½||Chris Rogal||1803|
|2||Alistair Dyte||1765||0 - 1||Amirabbas Mehrafarin||1734|
|3||Robin Oakley||1758||1 - 0||Matty Berenblut||1450|
|4||Peter Burgoyne||1653||0 - 1||Marcel Berenblut||1450|
|1½ - 2½|
It seems remarkable that there was another whole match to report on after all that, but there was! The Harriers faced off against Hackney Happening, who were fifth placed in the table and clear rating favourites.
However, the Harriers managed to upset them, with Chris holding a solid draw on Board 1, Amirabbas winning the time scramble after a back-and-forth affair on Board 2, and Berenblut Senior winning his first LOCL game for Hendon! Marcel won a pawn with a nice tactic, and played the ending well, reeling in the point after winning a couple more pawns.
Unfortunately, Matty (Berenblut Junior) lost when he walked into a knight fork, after having good chances in the ending, though he was somewhat fortunate to get that far after his opponent missed a mate in three on move 28.
Many thanks to all who played across all the teams!
The round 10 games in the Bishops Division are currently available here.
You can find a list of all stories about season 2 of the London Online Chess League here.