Top two teams draw in round 5

By Hendon LOCL captain Andrew Medworth
Wednesday 31 March, 2021

In round 5 of the London Online Chess League, the Hurricanes and Spitfires both drew their matches, while the Harriers suffered a heavy defeat against one of the strongest teams in the Bishops Division.

Battersea Juniors Hendon Hurricanes
Viktor Stoyanov
2335 1 - 0
Sacha Brozel
Nishchal Thatte
2028 1 - 0
Rob Willmoth
Denis Dupuis
1870 0 - 1
Alex Leslie
Nour Ajili
1510 0 - 1
Kennan Kesterson
2 - 2

In the Queens Division, the Hurricanes faced a team of strong Battersea junior players, one of whom featured in our 4-0 defeat to Battersea A in season 1. An interesting idea to run an all-junior team, but thankfully at Hendon we have some very decent juniors of our own, three of whom featured here alongside Rob!

The match didn’t start well, with Rob blundering a mate in 1 in a much better position. However, Alex Leslie struck back by converting an endgame after his opponent had unwisely traded queens and let his c-pawn go.

So everything rested on what happened with Kennan and Sacha on the top and bottom boards.

Kennan seemed to be doing well, with two bishops against two knights; he won a pawn and traded off into a winning king-and-pawn endgame – which he duly won – and it appeared we were on the verge of victory.

On Board 1, matters were far less clear, as Sacha was embroiled in a crazy back-and-forth struggle. I had no idea who was better from one move to the next, though the game eventually seemed to have settled in Sacha’s favour when he won a piece for two pawns.

But there was still drama in store, as Sacha was very short of time, and the position remained difficult, as Sacha didn’t have many pawns left, while his opponent’s were steadily advancing. The game reached boiling point with Sacha having less than a minute on his clock, while his opponent still had over ten minutes. Right at the death, Sacha went wrong, capturing a knight and allowing his opponent to queen.

Thus, the match ended in a tie. We were very unfortunate not to win here, as we had excellent positions in both the games we lost, and on another day we’d have taken at least a half-point from them.

I hate to dwell on the negatives in the analysis below, but the fact is that Alex and Kennan both won fairly smoothly; they showed good technique, but their wins contain fewer points of knife-edge drama and interest than our two defeats…

You can also find the Battersea captain’s report on this match on their website here.

[Event "London Online Chess League Season 2 - Queens"] [Date "2021.03.31"] [Round "5.6.1"] [White "Stoyanov, Viktor"] [Black "Brozel, Sacha"] [Result "1-0"] [BlackElo "1762"] [FEN "1rb1k2r/3n1ppp/p1p1p3/3p2P1/1b2P3/2N2P2/PPPB2P1/2KR1B1R b k - 2 14"] [SetUp "1"] [WhiteCountry "ENG"] [WhiteElo "2016"] { White has some advantage here, with good kingside play and better minor pieces. } 14...Nc5 $2 { The knight is tactically vulnerable here. } 15.Bf4 ( 15.a3 $1 Bxc3 ( 15...Ba5 16.b4 $18 ) 16.Bxc3 O-O 17.Be5 $1 { This may have been the trick White missed - there is a double-threat of Bxb8 and Bd6. } ( 17.Bd4 Nd7 18.exd5 cxd5 19.Bd3 $18 { is very strong as well } ) 17...Rb7 18.Bd6 $18 ) 15...Rb6 16.Be5 O-O 17.exd5 ( 17.Bd4 $18 { here or on the next move would have left Black vulnerable to a3. } ) 17...cxd5 18.Rh4 ( 18.Bd4 $18 ) 18...Nd7 19.Na4 Rb7 20.Bxa6 { Now a complicated trade of material seems to be happening. } 20...Be7 21.Bxb7 Bxg5+ $2 { This was the wrong move order though, which should have lost Sacha material. } ( 21...Nxe5 $1 22.Bxc8 Bxg5+ 23.f4 Bxh4 24.Bxe6 fxe6 25.fxe5 $16 ) 22.Bf4 Bxh4 23.Bc6 Be7 24.c4 e5 25.Rxd5 $4 { This counterattack doesn't work... } ( 25.Bh2 d4 26.Bxd7 Bxd7 27.Nb6 Bf5 28.Bxe5 $18 { White's queenside pawns will decide the game. } ) 25...Nb8 $1 { Black has a counter-counterattack against c6! } 26.Bxe5 Nxc6 27.Bd6 Be6 28.Bxe7 Nxe7 29.Rc5 { Black has won a piece, but White's queenside pawns are obviously threatening. } 29...Rc8 { It seems natural to exchange the heavy pieces, but it seems to let White push the queenside faster. } ( 29...Ng6 30.Kd2 h5 31.b3 Rd8+ 32.Ke3 Re8 33.Kf2 h4 $19 ) 30.Rxc8+ Nxc8 31.b3 f5 32.Nc5 Kf7 33.Kd2 g5 34.Ke3 Ne7 35.Kd4 $2 ( 35.Nxe6 Kxe6 36.b4 { seems to give White enough play } 36...Kd6 37.a4 Nc6 38.b5 Na5 39.Kd4 h5 40.c5+ Ke6 41.c6 h4 42.c7 Kd7 43.Ke5 g4 44.fxg4 fxg4 45.Kf4 h3 46.gxh3 gxh3 47.Kg3 $10 ) 35...Nc6+ 36.Kc3 h5 37.b4 h4 38.Nd3 g4 ( 38...Kf6 39.a4 g4 40.Nf4 Bc8 41.b5 Kg5 42.Nd3 gxf3 43.gxf3 Nd8 $19 ) 39.b5 gxf3 40.gxf3 Na5 41.c5 { Sacha has played the last few moves really well, and should be winning here. However the minor piece ending is really tricky; a willingness to mate with B+N vs K is required in many lines. Engines make it easy to splash exclamation and question marks around, but the fact that two such strong players made so many mistakes is testament to how difficult such positions are to play, especially in a blitz finish. } 41...Bxa2 ( 41...h3 $1 42.Nf2 h2 { pushing the h-pawn as far as possible was the way to go } 43.c6 Nc4 44.Kd3 ( 44.Kd4 Kf6 45.Kc5 { Trying to support the queenside doesn't work: White is much too slow. } 45...Kg5 46.b6 Nxb6 47.Kxb6 Bxa2 48.c7 Be6 49.Kb7 Kh4 50.c8=Q Bxc8+ 51.Kxc8 Kg3 $19 ) 44...Kf6 45.Ke2 Ke5 46.Nh1 ( 46.Kf1 Ne3+ $19 ) 46...f4 47.Kf2 Ne3 $19 { is the key trick - White can't win h2 and is completely helpless here! } ) 42.c6 ( 42.Kb4 $1 { forces the knight back to a square where the White pawns can gain tempi against it. } 42...Nb7 ( 42...Nc4 43.b6 Nxb6 44.cxb6 Bd5 45.Kc5 Bb7 $10 ) 43.Nf4 Ke8 44.c6 Nd8 45.c7 Kd7 $10 ) 42...Ke7 { Sacha dropped below 5 minutes here. } 43.Kd4 Kd6 44.Ke3 Bc4 45.Nf2 Ke5 ( 45...Bxb5 { seems to be a clear win, though it's very hard to calculate with little time } 46.Kf4 Nxc6 47.Kxf5 Ne5 $1 48.f4 Bd7+ $1 49.Ke4 ( 49.Kg5 Nf3+ 50.Kh5 h3 51.Nxh3 Bxh3 $19 { A good opportunity to show the right technique here! } ) 49...Ng4 50.Kf3 Nxf2 51.Kxf2 h3 $19 ) 46.c7 f4+ 47.Kd2 Be6 48.Nd3+ Kf5 49.Ke1 Nb7 ( 49...Nc4 50.Nb4 Nb6 $19 ) 50.Kf2 h3 $2 { This seems to throw away the win. } ( 50...Nd6 $1 51.b6 Bc8 52.Nc5 Ke5 53.Nd3+ Kd5 54.Nxf4+ Kc6 55.Kg2 Kxb6 56.Ng6 Nf5 57.Nxh4 Nxh4+ 58.Kg3 Ng6 $19 { and again, time to demonstrate the B+N vs K technique! } ) 51.Kg1 Kg5 52.Kh2 Bc8 53.b6 $2 { Now Black is winning again; this shows how tricky these endings are! } ( 53.Ne5 $1 Nd6 54.b6 Kf5 55.Nc6 { is an amusing tactical motif! } 55...Ke6 56.Kg1 Kd7 ( 56...Kd5 $4 57.Ne7+ $18 ) ( 56...Nc4 57.b7 Bxb7 58.Nd8+ Kd7 59.Nxb7 Kxc7 60.Nc5 $1 Kd6 61.Ne4+ Ke5 62.Ng5 $10 ) 57.Ne5+ Ke6 58.Nc6 $10 ) 53...Nd6 $2 ( 53...Na5 $1 54.Ne5 Kf5 55.Ng4 Nc4 56.Kxh3 Nxb6 $19 ) 54.Nf2 $2 ( 54.Ne5 $1 Kf5 55.Nc6 Ke6 56.b7 Nxb7 57.Na7 Kd7 58.Nxc8 Kxc8 59.Kxh3 Nc5 60.Kg4 Nd3 61.Kf5 Kxc7 62.Ke4 $10 ) 54...Nc4 $1 55.Nxh3+ { Now, with the win very close -- assuming Sacha was confident in his B+N mating skills -- tragedy struck: } 55...Bxh3 $4 { A really sad end to a fascinating ending; low on time, Sacha evidently assumed his opponent would recapture, and missed his reply. } ( 55...Kf5 $1 56.Nf2 Nxb6 57.Ne4 Ke5 58.Kg2 Nd5 $19 ) 56.b7 $1 { Unfortunately, that's the end of that. } ( 56.Kxh3 $4 Nxb6 $10 ) 1-0 [Event "London Online Chess League Season 2 - Queens"] [Date "2021.03.31"] [Round "5.6.2"] [White "Willmoth, Robert"] [Black "Thatte, Nishchal"] [Result "0-1"] [BlackCountry "ENG"] [BlackElo "1629"] [FEN "r3k2r/ppqbbppp/2n1pn2/2ppN3/3P1P2/PP1BP3/1BPN2PP/R2QK2R b KQkq - 2 10"] [SetUp "1"] [WhiteElo "2004"] { We pick up the game in a relatively standard Colle-Zukertort position. } 10...Nxe5 $2 { I was surprised by this, as it's rarely a good idea in this type of position. } ( 10...Qb6 { is preferred by my engine, which it considers roughly equal. } 11.dxc5 { is the main line, involving some tactical fun } ( 11.Ndf3 c4 $1 $15 { is one of the points, when White's b-pawn is pinned against the Bb2 } ) 11...Bxc5 12.b4 Bxe3 13.Ndc4 dxc4 14.Nxc4 Bf2+ 15.Kf1 Qc7 16.Kxf2 O-O-O ) 11.fxe5 Ng8 12.Qg4 $1 g6 13.O-O Nh6 14.Qf4 $1 g5 15.Qf3 O-O-O 16.Qh5 Bf8 17.Qxg5 ( 17.c4 { is preferred by the machine, when Black's king position looks very shaky } 17...Kb8 18.Rac1 Bc6 19.cxd5 Rxd5 20.Be4 $18 ) 17...Rg8 { A complex position has been reached, which both players found hard to play. Is White's centre strong, or is the e5 pawn just a hook Black can use to open more lines against the White king? Can Black coordinate his pieces, before White can use the open f-file to his advantage? } 18.Qf4 $2 ( 18.Qh5 { was better, when White still has a big advantage according to my engine. } ) 18...Ng4 $1 19.Rae1 cxd4 $2 ( 19...Bh6 $1 20.Qf3 cxd4 21.Bxd4 f6 $17 { is a similar motif to the game, but in a much better version for Black, who has a dangerous attack. } ) 20.Bxd4 $2 ( 20.Qxf7 $1 Nh6 21.Qh5 dxe3 22.Nf3 $14 ) 20...Bh6 $4 ( 20...f6 $1 { would have been a killer here - e5 just collapses } 21.Bxh7 Bh6 22.Qf3 Rg7 23.Bd3 fxe5 24.Ba1 Rdg8 $19 ) 21.Qf3 $2 ( 21.Qxf7 $1 Nxe5 22.Qh5 Bg7 23.Bxa7 $16 ) 21...Nxe5 $2 ( 21...f6 $1 $17 ) 22.Qh5 Ng4 23.Nf3 f6 $2 ( 23...f5 { was needed, providing extra support to g4. Now } 24.h3 $4 Be8 25.Qh4 Bg5 { traps the queen. } ) 24.h3 $1 Be8 25.Qh4 Bg5 { And now, with victory in reach, tragedy struck: } 26.Nxg5 $4 ( 26.Qxg4 Bxe3+ 27.Rxe3 Rxg4 28.hxg4 $18 { White has far too much for the queen here. } ) 26...Qh2# { Oops! } 0-1

Round 5 games in the Queens Division are currently available here.

Hendon Spitfires Hackney Hopefuls
David Amior
1900 ½ - ½
Chris Levy
Alex Funk
1878 0 - 1
Frederick Sugden
Chris Rogal
1803 ½ - ½
Zebedee Jones
Anton Drel
1510 1 - 0
Joseph Thornton
2 - 2

In the Bishops Division, the Spitfires were aiming to extend their 100% record in season 2, against the Hackney Hopefuls. On paper, we looked to have the stronger team, but you can never be too sure, as the official grades are quite stale now!

Anton got us off to a great start with yet another win on bottom board, keeping his head to pick off his opponent’s advanced pawns in a rook ending, forcing resignation.

Chris’s position looked dodgy at one stage, with his opponent’s rook infiltrating down the b-file, but for some reason the Hackney player didn’t do it, and Chris seemed to have recovered. I thought he had excellent winning chances after that, but ended up taking a repetition in a tricky knight ending.

This left us still needing a full point more to win the match, with both David and Alex having ropey-looking positions. David had been a pawn down since a very promising opening had fizzled out. In a topsy-turvy ending, he recovered from his disadvantage, and his opponent even blundered late on, giving David a chance to win the bishop ending, but David had already reconciled himself to a draw and traded everything off.

I thought Alex was just straightforwardly worse, but looking at the position afterwards, that’s not the case, and there were several draws available. However, Alex needed to play accurately, with his opponent having an outside passed pawn in the rook ending, and he sadly went down in the end.

This meant we only drew the match. Once again, we can consider ourselves unfortunate, as we had serious chances of picking up an extra half-point on all three boards. We can only hope the Spitfires won’t come to rue these missed opportunities at the end of the season!

Several games in this match had instructive endings, which are worth examining.

[Event "London Online Chess League Season 2 - Bishops"] [Date "2021.03.31"] [Round "5.13.1"] [White "Amior, David"] [Black "Levy, Chris"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [BlackElo "1842"] [FEN "3rbrk1/1p2q2p/2p1p1pP/p2pP3/P3P3/3Q4/1PP3B1/1K4RR w - - 1 23"] [SetUp "1"] [WhiteElo "1612"] { David has emerged from the opening a pawn down, but has some compensation in the form of the advanced h6 pawn, and better piece coordination (with a much better bishop). } 23.b3 { Making further pawn moves around the king is probably not advisable. Black is not threatening ...c5 hitting a4 (yet) because of the pressure against d5. } ( 23.Rf1 Rxf1+ 24.Rxf1 dxe4 25.Qxe4 c5 $10 { is my engine's main line, which it considers equal. } ) 23...Qc5 ( 23...b5 $17 { is the move my engine wants to play, getting things started on the queenside. } ) 24.Qh3 Bd7 ( 24...Rf2 { was the move I was worried about watching live, but remarkably it seems White is OK after } 25.Rc1 $1 ( 25.Qxe6+ $2 Bf7 $19 ) 25...Bf7 26.Rhf1 Rf8 27.exd5 cxd5 $10 ) 25.Qh4 $2 ( 25.exd5 { was necessary } 25...exd5 26.e6 Bc8 27.Rf1 { and White has sufficient play } 27...Rde8 28.Rxf8+ Rxf8 29.Re1 $10 ) 25...d4 26.Bf1 Rde8 $2 ( 26...b5 $19 { should see Black's attack land faster. } 27.Be2 bxa4 28.Bh5 d3 29.Bxg6 Qxc2+ 30.Ka1 Qc3+ 31.Ka2 Qxb3+ 32.Ka1 Qa3+ 33.Kb1 Rb8# ) 27.Be2 $1 Qxe5 ( 27...b5 28.Bh5 { sees the opposite-wing attacks come to a climax } 28...d3 29.Bxg6 $1 Qxc2+ 30.Ka1 { and neither side has anything better than a repetition here. Black can take it immediately with 30...Qc3+ or } 30...hxg6 31. Rxg6+ Kh7 32. Rg7+ Kh8 33. Rg8+ Rxg8 34. Qf6+ Kh7 35. Qf7+ { etc } ) 28.Rg5 Qf4 29.Qxf4 ( 29.Rxa5 { was better, letting Black be the one to trade queens if he wants. } 29...Qxh4 30.Rxh4 Rf2 31.Bc4 b5 32.axb5 cxb5 33.Bxb5 Bxb5 34.Rxb5 e5 { White should be OK here. } ) 29...Rxf4 30.Rxa5 Rxe4 31.Bd3 Rf4 32.Ra7 Bc8 33.a5 Rf7 ( 33...e5 $1 $17 ) 34.Rh4 $2 ( 34.Rf1 $10 { prevents ...e5 because of the Bc4 pin. } ) 34...c5 $2 ( 34...e5 $1 $19 ) 35.b4 ( 35.Bb5 Ree7 36.Re4 Rc7 37.Ra8 Rf6 38.a6 bxa6 39.Bxa6 Rf8 40.Bc4 Re7 41.Ra5 Rc7 42.Ra8 Re7 43.Ra5 $10 { is an amusing repetition! } ) 35...cxb4 $2 { Black shouldn't allow d4 to drop. } ( 35...e5 36.bxc5 Kf8 37.Ka2 Bf5 $17 ) 36.Rxd4 b3 37.cxb3 e5 38.Rh4 ( 38.Rb4 { piles up the pressure on b7 and leaves Black in trouble, though it may be survivable. } ) 38...Rc7 39.Kb2 Kf7 40.a6 Ree7 $2 ( 40...Kf6 $17 ) 41.axb7 $2 ( 41.Rc4 $1 { would have left Black in big trouble } 41...Rxc4 42.Bxc4+ Kf6 43.Ra8 $1 Rc7 44.a7 $1 b6 45.Ba6 Bd7 46.Rf8+ $18 ) 41...Rxb7 42.Ra1 ( 42.Ra6 Be6 ( 42...Bf5 $6 43.Bxf5 gxf5 44.Rh5 f4 45.Rf5+ Ke8 46.Ra5 e4 47.Rxf4 $10 ) 43.b4 Re8 $17 ) 42...Be6 ( 42...Bf5 43.Rf1 Ke6 44.Bc4+ Kf6 $17 { The e-pawn should run here. } ) 43.Rf1+ Ke8 44.b4 Rf7 $2 ( 44...Red7 $17 ) 45.Rxf7 ( 45.Bxg6 $1 { was possible here already } 45...hxg6 46.Rxf7 Kxf7 $1 47.h7 Rxb4+ 48.Rxb4 Kg7 49.Rb7+ Kh8 50.Re7 Bf5 51.Kc3 $10 ) 45...Kxf7 46.b5 Bd5 ( 46...Bf5 $1 { would have stopped the tactical tricks which follow, and left Black with excellent winning chances. } ) 47.Kc3 Ke6 ( 47...Kf6 { would have kept some advantage for Black. } ) 48.Bxg6 { Well spotted by David! This levels the material and saves the game. } 48...Kf6 ( 48...hxg6 $2 49.h7 $18 ) 49.Bd3 Kg5 50.Rh3 e4 51.Be2 Kf4 52.Kd4 Be6 53.Rh4+ Kg5 54.Rxe4 Bf5 $2 { In a difficult ending, Black goes wrong. } ( 54...Bd7 $1 { was a draw, though it requires Black to defend with R vs R+B, which can be difficult in practice. } 55.Kc5 ( 55.Re7 Kxh6 $10 ) 55...Rb8 ( 55...Bxb5 56.Bxb5 Kxh6 $10 ) 56.b6 Rc8+ 57.Kb4 ( 57.Kd6 Rc6+ 58.Kxd7 Rxb6 $10 ) 57...Rb8 $10 ) 55.Re5 $1 Rd7+ 56.Rd5 Rxd5+ 57.Kxd5 Kxh6 58.Ke5 Bc8 59.Bd3 Kg7 60.Bxh7 $4 { David played this instantly, with ten minutes on his clock. He'd clearly reconciled himself to a draw already, but with his pawn further advanced, he should really have taken a minute or two to see if he could get more from the game. } ( 60.Bf5 { wins, as Black can't keep blockading the pawn: there isn't room on the a6-c8 diagonal. } 60...Bb7 61.Bd7 h5 62.Bc6 Bc8 63.Kd6 h4 64.Kc7 Bf5 65.b6 $18 ) 60...Kxh7 61.b6 Bb7 62.Kd6 Bg2 63.b7 Bxb7 1/2-1/2 [Event "London Online Chess League Season 2 - Bishops"] [Date "2021.03.31"] [Round "5.13.2"] [White "Sugden, Frederick"] [Black "Funk, Alexander"] [Result "1-0"] [BlackElo "1624.6667"] [ECO "C21"] [WhiteElo "1248"] 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3 d5 { Alex had prepared this line for the game. } 4.exd5 Qxd5 5.cxd4 Nc6 6.Nf3 Bg4 7.Be2 Bb4+ 8.Nc3 Bxf3 9.Bxf3 Qc4 10.Bxc6+ bxc6 11.Qe2+ Qxe2+ 12.Kxe2 O-O-O { A fairly level position has arisen. Black's c-pawns look weak, but Black has good development, and will rapidly centralise his rooks and hope to target d4. } 13.Be3 Ne7 14.Rhd1 Rhe8 15.Rac1 Nf5 16.Kf3 Kb7 ( 16...Nh4+ 17.Kg3 Nf5+ 18.Kf3 Nh4+ 19.Kg3 Nf5+ { would already have forced a draw, but Alex understandably didn't want to do that, given that we had dubious positions on a couple of boards. Objectively there's no reason not to play on either. } ) 17.a3 Bxc3 18.Rxc3 Nh4+ 19.Kg3 Nf5+ 20.Kf4 Ne7 21.Kf3 { White offered a draw here, but again, Alex decided to play on. Again, there seems to be no objective reason not to, as Black has a good plan of swinging his rooks to the kingside. } 21...Nd5 22.Rc5 Rd6 23.g3 Rf6+ 24.Ke2 Rfe6 25.Rd3 f5 26.Rb3+ Kc8 27.a4 f4 ( 27...g5 { was possibly stronger here, though it's not clear there's a big difference. } 28.Kf1 g4 ( 28...Nxe3+ 29.Rxe3 Rxe3 30.fxe3 Rxe3 31.Rxf5 $10 ) 29.Ra5 ( 29.Ke2 Rh6 30.Kf1 Rxh2 31.Rxc6 Kd7 32.Rc5 Kd6 $15 ) 29...Nxe3+ 30.Rxe3 Rxe3 31.fxe3 Rxe3 32.Rxf5 Rd3 33.Rh5 Rxd4 34.b3 Rb4 35.Rxh7 Rxb3 36.Rh4 Rb4 37.h3 Rxa4 38.hxg4 $10 ) 28.gxf4 Nxf4+ 29.Kd2 Nd5 30.Ra5 Nb6 $2 { The first real mistake of the game. Alex wants to bring his king back to the b-file, but it doesn't achieve much, and the knight was doing important duties both defensively and offensively on d5. } ( 30...Kd7 31.Rxa7 Re4 32.Rbb7 Rh4 33.b4 Rxh2 34.Kd3 Rh3 35.b5 cxb5 36.axb5 Kd6 37.Ra6+ Kd7 38.Raa7 $10 ) 31.Rxa7 Kb8 32.Ra6 ( 32.Ra5 $16 { immediately seems to make more sense - why give the Black king a tempo to get to b7? } ) 32...Kb7 33.Ra5 Ra8 $2 { Exchanging the rooks is a definite mistake, though Black has a much more difficult defence than before in any case. } 34.Rxa8 Kxa8 35.Rb4 $2 ( 35.Bf4 Nd5 36.Be5 Re7 37.Rf3 $18 { White's extra pawn and superior minor piece should carry the day here. } ) 35...Ka7 ( 35...Re4 $1 36.Ke2 Nd5 37.Rc4 Kb7 { would have got back to something close to Black's previous defensive formation; Black is no longer significantly worse, as White's h-pawn is likely to drop. } ) 36.d5 Rd6 37.Rd4 c5 $1 { Necessary, as Black can't take on d5 due to the tactical vulnerability of his knight. } ( 37...Rxd5 $2 38.Rxd5 cxd5 39.a5 $18 ) ( 37...Nxd5 $2 38.Rxd5+ $18 ) ( 37...cxd5 $2 38.a5 $18 ) 38.Rd3 ( 38.Rh4 $16 ) 38...c4 $1 39.Bxb6+ { Exchanging minor pieces seems cooperative. } ( 39.Rc3 { would still preserve some advantage according to my engine. } ) 39...Kxb6 $6 ( 39...Rxb6 40.Rd4 Rxb2+ 41.Kc3 Rxf2 42.Rxc4 $10 { would have been a crystal-clear draw. } ) 40.Rd4 Kc5 $2 { The final losing move. The king-and-pawn ending is just lost. } ( 40...c5 { was the only chance, when } 41.Rxc4 Rxd5+ 42.Ke3 { still leaves White with all the winning chances, but it's far from over. } ) 41.Kc3 Rxd5 42.Rxd5+ Kxd5 43.a5 Kc5 44.a6 Kb6 45.Kxc4 Kxa6 46.Kc5 g5 ( 46...Kb7 { would have required White to find } 47.Kd5 $1 { when White is winning the race in all variations. } ( 47.f4 $2 Kc8 $1 48.h4 Kd7 49.f5 g6 50.fxg6 hxg6 $10 ) 47...Kb6 48.Ke6 c5 49.Kf7 g5 50.Kf6 $1 h6 51.Kg6 c4 52.Kxh6 g4 53.Kg5 Kb5 54.Kxg4 Kb4 55.h4 Kb3 56.h5 Kxb2 57.h6 c3 58.h7 c2 59.h8=Q+ { Check! } Ka2 60.Qh1 Kb2 { and sadly all considerations of which pawn Black has are irrelevant here - Black can queen, but White still has another pawn left over! } 61.f4 $18 ) 47.Kc6 Ka5 48.Kxc7 Kb4 49.Kd6 Kb3 50.Ke6 Kxb2 51.Kf5 h6 52.Kg6 Kc3 53.Kxh6 g4 54.Kg5 Kd4 55.Kxg4 Ke5 56.h4 Kf6 57.f4 Kg6 58.f5+ Kf6 59.h5 Kg7 60.Kg5 Kg8 61.Kg6 Kf8 62.h6 Kg8 63.Kf6 Kh7 64.Ke7 Kg8 65.f6 Kh8 66.f7 Kh7 67.f8=Q Kg6 68.Qg7+ 1-0 [Event "London Online Chess League Season 2 - Bishops"] [Date "2021.03.31"] [Round "5.13.3"] [White "Rogal, Christopher"] [Black "Jones, Zebedee"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [FEN "8/4k2p/p2p4/2pP1n2/2P1N3/3K1P2/P3N2P/3n4 w - - 8 46"] [SetUp "1"] [WhiteElo "1528"] { Chris has won a pawn and has a very promising knight ending. However, both players were short of time here, and the Black knights are dancing around menacingly. } 46.N2g3 $2 { Letting a Black knight into d4 is a mistake. } ( 46.Kc2 $1 Nde3+ 47.Kc3 Nd1+ 48.Kb3 Nde3 49.Nd2 $16 { White has great winning chances here. Both c4 and f3 are secure, and the White king is penetrating on the queenside. } ) 46...Nd4 $1 47.f4 ( 47.Nd2 { is a better try according to my engine, but it looks drawn to me, provided Black plays accurately: } 47...Kf6 48.Ke4 Nc3+ 49.Ke3 Nxa2 50.Nde4+ Ke7 51.f4 a5 52.f5 a4 53.f6+ Kf7 54.Nxd6+ Kxf6 55.Nde4+ Ke5 56.Nxc5 Nc2+ 57.Kd2 Na3 58.Nd3+ Kd4 59.Ne2+ Ke4 ( 59...Kxc4 $2 60.d6 Nb5 61.d7 $18 ) 60.Ng3+ Kd4 61.Ne2+ $10 ) 47...Nb2+ $1 { With the Black knights so well-placed, Chris decided to take a perpetual. } 48.Kc3 Nd1+ 49.Kd3 Nb2+ 50.Kc3 Nd1+ 51.Kd2 Nb2 52.Kc3 ( 52.Nxd6 $5 { is an interesting try, but it doesn't appear to win. } 52...Kxd6 53.Ne4+ Ke7 54.Nxc5 Nf3+ 55.Kc3 Nd1+ 56.Kb4 Nxh2 57.Nxa6 Ng4 58.Nc5 Nge3 59.Ne4 Nb2 60.d6+ Kd7 61.c5 Kc6 62.Kc3 Na4+ 63.Kb3 Nxc5+ 64.Nxc5 Kxd6 65.Ne4+ Ke6 66.Ng3 Nd5 67.f5+ Ke5 68.a4 h5 69.Nxh5 Kxf5 70.a5 Nc7 71.Kb4 Na6+ 72.Kb5 Nb8 73.Kb6 Ke5 74.Kb7 Nd7 75.Kc6 ( 75.a6 Nc5+ $10 ) 75...Nb8+ 76.Kc7 Na6+ $10 ) 52...Nd1+ 53.Kd2 Nb2 54.Kc3 Nd1+ 55.Kd2 Nb2 56.Kc3 1/2-1/2 [Event "London Online Chess League Season 2 - Bishops"] [Date "2021.03.31"] [Round "5.13.4"] [White "Thornton, Joe"] [Black "Drel, Anton"] [Result "0-1"] [FEN "3r4/2p4p/1pn1k3/p1p1Pp2/5P2/2P1NK2/PP5P/5R2 w - - 0 26"] [SetUp "1"] [WhiteElo "1710.1111"] { I was concerned for Anton here, as White has a protected passed pawn, while Black will find it hard to create a passed pawn of his own. } 26.Rf2 $2 { It's amazing how often "going active" is the right thing to do in rook endings. White was clearly afraid of ...Rd2, but should be seeking a penetration of his own. } ( 26.Rg1 $1 Rd2 ( 26...Ne7 27.Rg7 Rd2 28.Rxh7 Rxb2 29.Rh6+ Kf7 30.Rf6+ $18 Ke8 31.Nxf5 Nxf5 32.Rxf5 Rxa2 33.Rh5 a4 34.f5 a3 35.Rh8+ Ke7 36.f6+ $18 ) 27.Rg5 Ne7 28.Rh5 Rxb2 29.Rh6+ Ng6 30.Rxh7 $18 { would have been pretty desperate for Black. } ) 26...b5 ( 26...Ne7 { This extra tempo makes all the difference in the race! } 27.Rg2 a4 { The advanced pawn gives Black sufficient counterplay, compared to the lines above. } 28.Rg7 Rd2 29.Rxh7 Rxb2 30.Rh6+ Kf7 31.Rf6+ Ke8 32.Nxf5 Nxf5 33.Rxf5 Rxa2 34.Rh5 a3 $10 ) 27.Rg2 Ne7 28.Rg7 Rd2 29.Rxh7 Rxb2 30.Rh6+ Kd7 31.Rf6 { I completely misevaluated what was going on when spectating without an engine! It looks as if White's e- and f-pawns will be very dangerous, but in fact this is too slow, and Black takes over the advantage. If Anton assessed this correctly at the board, he did superbly! } ( 31.Rh7 Ke6 32.Rh6+ Kd7 33.Rh7 $10 { would have been a good opportunity for White to make a draw! } ) 31...Rxa2 { A good choice by Anton - it's important to have the queenside pawns as counterplay. } 32.e6+ Kd6 33.Nxf5+ Nxf5 34.Rxf5 Rxh2 35.Re5 $2 { This is the move I was afraid of as well, but it doesn't work. } ( 35.e7 $1 { was actually White's last chance to make a draw via tactics. } 35...Rh8 ( 35...Kxe7 36.Rxc5 $10 ) 36.Rf8 Rh3+ 37.Kg4 Kxe7 38.Rb8 $1 Rxc3 39.Rxb5 $10 { is my engine's flashy main line, when Black's pawns are too badly damaged to win. } ) 35...Rh8 $1 36.Ke4 ( 36.Re1 Ke7 37.f5 Kf6 { and in fact White's proud pawns are going to drop. } 38.e7 Re8 $19 ) 36...c6 $1 { Well played! It's crucial to keep the White king out of d5. } 37.Kf5 Ke7 38.Kg6 c4 39.f5 { I was worried Anton was going to get steamrollered here, but he had everything under control. } 39...Rg8+ $1 40.Kh7 Rg3 { I thought to myself, doesn't f6 win for White here? } 41.f6+ Kxf6 42.e7 Rg7+ $1 { Well it would have done, if it weren't for this move! Very nicely played by Anton, who played with great accuracy at the end there. } 0-1
Streatham & Brixton B Hendon Harriers
Angus French
1975 ½ - ½
James Baxter
Martin Smith
1960 1 - 0
Marcel Berenblut
Kostya Titorenko
1923 1 - 0
Dev Ranka
Phil Knott
1878 1 - 0
Matty Berenblut
3½ - ½

Further down the Bishops Division, the Harriers looked heavily outgunned, against one of the top sides, Streatham & Brixton B. So it proved, as Dev was swiftly mated, and Berenbluts Junior and Senior both gave creditable accounts of themselves but ultimately couldn’t match their opponents.

On Board 1, James Baxter bravely chanced his Latvian Gambit once again, and while he ended up with a rotten position, he did have compensation on the clock, when his opponent astonishingly took 15 minutes (of 45 initially available) on move 9! James survived the opening, but still looked as if he would lose, the exchange down in an ending. However, his opponent’s clock caught up with him and he went wrong, allowing James to make a draw, putting a smile on Harriers faces!

All round 5 games in the Bishops Division are currently available here.

Many thanks to all who played!

You can find a list of all stories about season 2 of the London Online Chess League here.