A Magnificent Seven for the Spitfires and Harriers

By Hendon LOCL captain Andrew Medworth
Wednesday 14 April, 2021

In the LOCL tonight, the Spitfires and Harriers both achieved decisive wins in the Bishops Division! The Hurricanes were unfortunately just pipped to the post by a strong Hackney Thirsty side.

Hendon Hurricanes Hackney Thirsty
1
Rob Willmoth
2200 1 - 0
Dashiell Shaw
2275
2
Alex Leslie
2088 0 - 1
Bob Eames
2268
3
Savas Marin Stoica
2043 ½ - ½
Dominic Mackle
2193
4
Jason Covey
1990 0 - 1
Jonny Tennyson
2020
1½ - 2½

The Hurricanes were facing a Hackney team which was, if anything, even stronger than the one that defeated us 4-0 in season 1 (report).

However, we did have the advantage that Rob wasn’t facing his bête noire opponent Bob Eames this evening, and he duly got us off to a great start in this match by closing out the game fairly straightforwardly after his strong opponent surprisingly dropped a piece at the end of the opening.

Savas had a promising position at one stage, but dropped an advanced pawn to give his opponent counter-chances. Savas won the exchange, but his opponent had two pawns for it, with decently placed pieces, and Savas justifiably took a repetition.

After this, Hackney levelled the match after Jason got his knight trapped, so all eyes were on Alex Leslie’s game.

It was a tense back-and-forth affair, and I had very high hopes when Alex gained a couple of pawns for the exchange in the ending. However, it was very tough to convert so low on time, and in the end Alex’s opponent was able to level the pawn count and take over the initiative. It was a very difficult task to hold from there, and the Hackney player ended up taking the game.

An exciting match, from which all the players emerge with credit. It could have gone either way!

[Event "London Online Chess League Season 2 - Queens"] [Date "2021.04.14"] [Round "7.6.1"] [White "Willmoth, Robert"] [Black "Shaw, Dashiell"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A48"] [WhiteElo "2004"] 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Bg5 Bg7 4.c3 h6 5.Bh4 O-O 6.Nbd2 d5 7.e3 Bf5 8.Qb3 b6 9.c4 Nc6 { A surprising decision, at least to my eyes. It's hard to believe that a player of this strength would miss the e3-e4 fork, but even if Black did calculate this, it seems very risky, and in the event, he definitely did miss something. } ( 9...e6 { is both a much safer move to my human eyes, and also preferred by my engine. } ) 10.cxd5 Qxd5 { This is a mistake. } ( 10...Na5 { was Black's best here, knocking the White queen away from d5 before taking. } 11.Qa3 ( 11.Qb5 $2 { is ineffective due to } 11...Bd7 $15 ) 11...Qxd5 12.b4 Nc6 13.Rc1 $16 { White has a pleasant initiative here, but at least Black is not losing material straight away. } ) 11.Qxd5 Nxd5 12.e4 { Now Black is losing material. } 12...Bxe4 ( 12...g5 13.Bg3 Ndb4 { was better, counter-attacking against c2, though after } 14.Rc1 Bd7 15.a3 { the knight has nowhere to go } 15...g4 16.Nh4 Bxd4 17.axb4 Bxb2 18.Rc2 Bf6 19.Nf5 Nxb4 20.Nxh6+ Kg7 21.Rxc7 Rfd8 22.Nf5+ Bxf5 23.exf5 $16 { Black at least has some nice queenside pawns for the piece here. } ) 13.Nxe4 g5 { It's possible this was the idea Black was relying on to save him, but it does not work. } 14.Bc4 ( 14.Bg3 { was even better, the point being that } 14...f5 15.Nc3 Nxc3 16.bxc3 f4 { does not win a piece back due to } 17.Bc4+ Kh8 18.Bd5 { when the Nc6 is horribly pinned. This was probably missed by both players. } 18...Rf6 19.Ne5 Nxe5 20.dxe5 Rff8 21.Bxa8 Rxa8 22.Bxf4 gxf4 23.O-O-O $18 ) 14...Ndb4 15.Rc1 gxh4 16.a3 { The culmination of the tactical sequence: the Black knight has run out of squares. Perhaps this is what Black missed back on move 10; understandable, but with the c-file weaknesses, this was an accident waiting to happen. } 16...Nxd4 17.Nxd4 Bxd4 18.axb4 { White is a piece up, and winning. The rest requires little comment. } 18...Bxb2 19.Rc2 Bd4 20.b5 Kg7 21.Ke2 f5 22.Nd2 e6 23.Nf3 Bf6 24.Bxe6 Rae8 25.Rxc7+ Kg6 26.Rc6 Re7 27.Kd2 Rd8+ 28.Kc2 Rde8 29.Bc4 Kg7 30.h3 Re4 31.Rd1 R8e7 32.Rdd6 Ba1 1-0 [Event "London Online Chess League Season 2 - Queens"] [Date "2021.04.14"] [Round "7.6.2"] [White "Eames, Bob"] [Black "Leslie, Alex"] [Result "1-0"] [BlackElo "1936"] [FEN "3q3r/pp2p1k1/3p2p1/3r4/3N2b1/1P6/P1PQ4/1K1R2R1 b - - 1 24"] [SetUp "1"] [WhiteElo "2108"] { Alex has defended excellently up to here in a sharp Dragon, but this was an interesting tactical moment. } 24...Bf5 $2 ( 24...Qd7 { should have been preferred. } 25.Qg2 { increases the pressure on the g-file, so it's understandable that Alex didn't go for this, but } 25...Rg5 26.Nf3 Bxf3 27.Qxg5 Qe6 { is an effective exchange sac that should enable Black to hold. } ) 25.Qg2 $2 { Missing a nice tactic! } ( 25.Rxg6+ $1 Bxg6 ( 25...Kxg6 26.Qg2+ $18 { wins the rook on d5 } ) 26.Ne6+ Kg8 27.Qxd5 { It's possible White even saw this far, but thought Black was just a pawn up. But the sting in the tail is that White is winning a piece after } 27...Qc8 28.Nf4+ e6 ( 28...Kg7 { does not help, as White mates after } 29.Nxg6 Kxg6 30.Rg1+ { etc } ) 29.Qg2 Qxc2+ 30.Qxc2 Bxc2+ 31.Kxc2 e5 32.Ng6 $18 { Black does have two pawns for the piece here, but White should be winning. } ) 25...Rxd4 $1 { A very necessary exchange sac, without which White is immediately crashing through. } 26.Rxd4 Qb6 27.Qf2 { After this, Black should definitely be OK, and even has winning chances. The ending with two pawns for the exchange is very interesting. } ( 27.Rf4 { would have kept up the pressure but after } 27...Qc5 28.Rxf5 ( 28.Re1 Kf6 { seems to be OK for Black too } ) 28...Qxf5 29.Qxb7 Kf7 30.Re1 Qf6 31.Qxa7 $14 { This ending should probably be holdable for Black. } ) 27...Qc5 28.Re1 $2 ( 28.b4 Rh2 29.bxc5 Rxf2 30.cxd6 Rxc2 31.Ka1 exd6 32.Rxd6 Kf7 $10 { White has too few pawns to pose a threat here, but neither should Black have any real winning chances. } ) 28...Bxc2+ { A clever idea, but it appears to shed at least one pawn unnecessarily. } ( 28...e5 $1 29.Rd2 Qxf2 30.Rxf2 Kf6 $1 { Black wants to push his central pawns, and compared to the game, he has preserved both of them, with a better king position to boot. } 31.Rd2 Ke6 32.Kb2 g5 $17 ) 29.Kb2 e5 30.Rd2 Qxf2 31.Rxf2 Bf5 32.Rd2 Rc8 33.Rxd6 ( 33.Rc1 { to prevent this invasion is preferred by my engine, when its evaluation is fairly level. } ) 33...Rc2+ 34.Ka3 e4 { Black's pawn starts to become dangerous. } 35.b4 Rc3+ ( 35...Kh6 36.Kb3 Rc7 37.Rg1 e3 38.Re1 Re7 39.Kc3 Bg4 40.Rd4 Bh5 41.a4 e2 { Black is pressing here, but White should be OK in the end. } ) 36.Kb2 Rd3 37.Rxd3 exd3 38.Kc3 Kf6 39.Kd4 g5 40.Ke3 Ke5 41.Rc1 b6 42.Rc7 Kd5 43.Rxa7 { White has won a pawn, at the cost of temporarily sidelining his rook. A critical moment is approaching - Black must be accurate, and that's hard to do, with little time left. } 43...Kc4 44.a3 g4 $2 { Unfortunately this loses. } ( 44...Kb3 { It's important to have the c4 square for the bishop. } 45.Rf7 Be6 46.Rf6 ( 46.Rb7 Bc4 47.Kd2 g4 $1 48.Rg7 Kxa3 49.Kc3 Bb5 50.Rxg4 $10 ) 46...Bc4 $1 47.Rxb6 Kxa3 $10 ) 45.Rf7 $1 { Winning a crucial tempo; Rf6 will now be unpleasant. } 45...Be6 46.Rf6 Kd5 ( 46...Bd7 { does not help } 47.Rd6 Bf5 48.Kf4 $18 { Black is losing g4, and the rook will outmanouevre the bishop. } ) 47.Kxd3 Ke5 48.Rh6 b5 49.Ke3 Kd5 50.Rh5+ Kc4 51.Rc5+ Kb3 52.Rxb5 Kxa3 53.Re5 Bd7 54.b5 Kb4 55.b6 Bc6 56.Kf4 { A good game by both players; Alex was only one good move away from seriously pressing in this ending. } 1-0 [Event "London Online Chess League Season 2 - Queens"] [Date "2021.04.14"] [Round "7.6.3"] [White "Stoica, Savas"] [Black "Mackle, Dominic"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [BlackElo "1981"] [FEN "r1b2rk1/pp2pp1p/3p1np1/q1pP4/2P1PP2/2PQ4/P3N1PP/R1B2RK1 b - - 0 12"] [SetUp "1"] [WhiteElo "2354"] { Black has exchanged his dark-squared bishop for Savas's knight on c3, which should give White a promising attack. Possibly with this in mind, he decided to shake things up on the queenside. } 12...b5 13.cxb5 a6 ( 13...c4 $5 { was an interesting try, with the point } 14.Qxc4 ( 14.Qc2 $16 { however is just very good for White } ) 14...a6 15.bxa6 $4 Bxa6 $19 ) 14.Ng3 $2 { This lets Black straighten out his structure. } ( 14.b6 $1 { followed by c4 would have left White with a very good position. } ) 14...axb5 15.e5 ( 15.f5 $5 ) 15...Nd7 { Black probably shouldn't allow White's next. } ( 15...Ne8 ) 16.e6 fxe6 17.dxe6 c4 18.Qf3 $2 { The queen is unfortunately placed here opposite Black's rook. } ( 18.Qc2 $1 Nc5 19.f5 { would give White a strong attack that seems to win material } 19...Nd3 20.Bh6 Bxe6 21.fxe6 Qa7+ 22.Kh1 Rf2 23.Ne2 $1 Rxf1+ 24.Rxf1 Nf2+ 25.Rxf2 Qxf2 26.Qd2 $16 { Clearly this would be a "two results" ending for White. } ) 18...Nc5 19.f5 Bxe6 20.Bh6 Bxf5 21.Bxf8 Rxf8 22.Nxf5 Rxf5 { Though White has won the exchange, Black's remaining pieces are well placed, and Savas decided to take the repetition. } 23.Qe3 Re5 24.Qf3 ( 24.Qf4 Rf5 25.Qd4 { would be a way to play on, but } 25...Nd3 26.Rxf5 gxf5 27.Qd5+ Kg7 28.Qxf5 Qb6+ 29.Kf1 Qa5 $10 { leaves Black perfectly well-placed: the knight is so strong that White has nothing better than a draw here. } ) 24...Rf5 25.Qe3 Re5 26.Qf3 1/2-1/2 [Event "London Online Chess League Season 2 - Queens"] [Date "2021.04.14"] [Round "7.6.4"] [White "Tennyson, Jonny"] [Black "Covey, Jason"] [Result "1-0"] [BlackElo "1651"] [FEN "2r2rk1/p3q1pp/3p4/1p1Q1p2/1Pn5/P1B1P1P1/5P1P/2RR2K1 b - - 0 26"] [SetUp "1"] [WhiteElo "2173"] { One of the critical moments of this game. White is doing well, with pressure on d6, and he is about to pick up a pawn on b5, but Black has assets of his own. } 26...Kh8 $2 ( 26...Qf7 $1 27.Qxb5 Nxa3 28.Qa6 Nc4 { shows the difference with the game: from f7 the queen protects the knight on c4. } 29.Ba1 h6 30.Rd4 $16 { leaves White well in command, but Black is still in the game. } ) 27.Qxb5 Nxa3 ( 27...Qf7 { is too late now unfortunately } 28.Rd4 Nxa3 29.Qd3 $18 { and d6 will fall soon, as } 29...Nc4 { runs into } 30.Rxc4 Rxc4 31.Bxg7+ $1 ) 28.Qa6 Nc4 29.Bxg7+ Qxg7 30.Rxc4 Rxc4 31.Qxc4 { Black is only one pawn down here, but his remaining pawns are all weak, and White's king is safer to boot. The ending is lost. } 31...Qe7 32.Qd4+ Rf6 33.Ra1 Qe5 34.Rxa7 Qxd4 35.exd4 Re6 36.b5 Re1+ 37.Kg2 Rb1 38.Rb7 Rb4 39.d5 Rd4 40.b6 Rxd5 41.Rd7 Rb5 42.b7 1-0

You can currently find all round 7 games in the Queens Division here.

East Ham Eagles Hendon Spitfires
1
Harry Zheng
1915 0 - 1
Kennan Kesterson
1983
2
Edison Figueroa
1908 0 - 1
David Amior
1900
3
Jack Sheard
1855 ½ - ½
Eugenia Karas
1803
4
Karin Bayona
1893 ½ - ½
Nick Murphy
1750
1 - 3

In the Bishops Division, the Spitfires had a critical encounter with the strong East Ham Eagles, who are also fighting for the top league places. They beat us 3-1 in season 1, so clearly needed to be taken seriously. But we were able to field an excellent line-up of our own, and a gripping match was in prospect!

David took first blood after managing the middlegame-to-endgame transition better than his opponent and converting nicely, showing once again that when it comes to rook endings, he is a force to be reckoned with!

Eugenia’s game could have gone either way after a complex middlegame, but once the double-rook ending arrived, a draw always looked likely, and it duly arrived, putting us in command of the tie.

The match was far from safe, though, with all three results possible on the other two boards!

Nick had a fantastic-looking position, having managed to trap his opponent’s king in the middle of the board, bereft of cover, but it was one of those frustrating positions where the killer blow just won’t seem to come, and the opponent seems to be inexorably untangling and developing counter-threats.

The game reached boiling point when Nick decided to sac his bishop to strip the pawn cover from his opponent’s king, but missed a strong reply, hitting his vulnerable f2 square. Nick lost a piece, but gained a couple of pawns and had the safer king, and in the end this allowed him enough play to get a draw, which seemed like a fair result after all the excitement!

There was still more to come on top board, though! I was very worried for a while when Kennan appeared to have got his rook trapped, but he had everything worked out, and I breathed a sigh of relief when he reached a rook ending a pawn up which looked almost impossible to lose, but also quite hard to win.

I thought a draw was inevitable – which would have suited us – but Kennan had every right to play for a win, and in his efforts to do so, allowed his opponent a passed h-pawn. The game should still have been a draw, but it wasn’t simple any more, and it was one of those pawn-race positions where I could easily imagine things going horribly wrong in the time scramble.

In the end, Kennan’s play was justified when his opponent made a fateful decision to put his king in front of his own h-pawn, allowing it to be trapped there by Kennan’s rook on the g-file.

The climax of the game was fascinating from a “pure chess” perspective, as Kennan’s opponent tried various stalemate tricks, though this was somewhat academic for the match result, as a draw was pretty much as good as a win from that point of view. Nonetheless, Kennan was able to sidestep his opponent’s traps and take the game, rounding off a decisive and well-deserved match win!

The Spitfires continue to top the division, though nothing can be taken for granted at this stage, as we still have some strong teams yet to play.

[Event "London Online Chess League Season 2 - Bishops"] [Date "2021.04.14"] [Round "7.14.1"] [White "Zheng, Harry"] [Black "Kesterson, Kennan"] [Result "0-1"] [BlackElo "1922"] [FEN "1r4k1/1rq1pp1p/n1pp1np1/p7/P2PP3/2N2P2/1P1QN1PP/1RR3K1 b - - 4 18"] [SetUp "1"] [WhiteCountry "ENG"] [WhiteElo "2124"] [WhiteFideId "460982"] 18...Rb3 19.Nb5 Qb6 20.Qc2 Re3 $1 { A surprising move, apparently leaving the rook hopelessly stranded behind enemy lines! This left me very puzzled as a spectator (and more than a little terrified as a captain!), but this was absolutely the right decision! } ( 20...Rb4 $2 21.Qxc6 Rxa4 22.Nxd6 $1 Qxc6 23.Rxc6 exd6 24.Rxa6 $18 ) 21.Nbc3 ( 21.Qxc6 $2 { is now not possible due to } 21...Rxe2 $19 ) 21...c5 ( 21...Nb4 22.Qd2 Rd3 { is the way my engine wants to go here - far from being in trouble, Black's rook is a great asset here! } 23.Qg5 Kg7 24.Rd1 h6 25.Qc1 e5 26.Rxd3 Nxd3 27.Qe3 Nf4 $17 ) 22.Qd2 cxd4 23.Qxd4 Rd3 24.Qxb6 Rxb6 25.Nf4 Rd2 { Black's rook has avoided being trapped, and Kennan has some queenside pressure. } 26.b3 Nc5 27.Ncd5 Nxd5 28.Nxd5 Rxb3 { I was a bit surprised to see Kennan let e7 go, but the position appears more or less level either way. } ( 28...Rb7 29.b4 $1 axb4 30.Rxb4 Rxb4 31.Nxb4 Nxa4 32.Nd5 { leaves Black a pawn up, but it's meaningless: } 32...e6 33.Nf6+ Kg7 34.Ne8+ Kf8 ( 34...Kh6 35.Rc7 { doesn't help Black either } ) 35.Nf6 $10 { and my engine just wants to take this repetition. } ) 29.Rxb3 Nxb3 30.Rc8+ Kg7 31.Nxe7 Ra2 32.Rc4 Nc5 33.Nc6 { This allows a complex manoeuvre winning a pawn, but the resulting rook ending should still be drawn. } ( 33.h4 Nxa4 34.Nc8 Nb2 35.Rc2 Ra1+ 36.Kh2 Nd3 37.Nxd6 a4 $10 ) 33...Nxa4 34.Nxa5 Nb2 35.Rc2 Ra1+ 36.Kf2 Nd3+ 37.Ke3 Ne1 38.Re2 Nxg2+ 39.Rxg2 Rxa5 40.Rd2 Ra3+ 41.Kf4 Ra6 42.h4 Kf6 43.Rd5 Ke6 44.Rd3 Ra4 45.Kg5 Ra5+ 46.Kg4 h6 ( 46...f5+ 47.Kf4 fxe4 48.fxe4 Ra1 { is an interesting try, but } 49.h5 $1 { looks OK for White. } ) 47.Rd4 Ke5 48.Rd3 f5+ 49.exf5 Ra4+ 50.Kg3 gxf5 51.Re3+ Kf6 52.Rd3 Ke5 53.Re3+ Kf6 54.Rd3 { I felt sure this would be a draw soon. } 54...f4+ { Letting the White king into the h-file like this does entail some risk. } 55.Kg4 Ke5 56.Kh5 d5 57.Kxh6 d4 58.Kg5 Ra8 59.h5 Rg8+ { Now for the critical moment. } 60.Kh6 $2 { Putting the king in front of the pawn like this loses. } ( 60.Kh4 { is fine for White, e.g. } 60...Kd5 61.Rd1 Kc4 62.Rc1+ Kd3 63.h6 Ke2 64.h7 Rh8 65.Rc7 $1 d3 66.Kg4 d2 67.Re7+ Kf2 68.Rd7 Ke2 69.Re7+ $10 ) 60...Rg3 ( 60...Kf6 61.Kh7 Rd8 62.h6 Rd6 63.Kg8 Rd7 { leaves White helpless } 64.Ra3 ( 64.h7 Rd8# ) 64...Rd8+ 65.Kh7 d3 66.Ra1 d2 67.Rd1 Kf7 { Zugzwang! } ) 61.Kh7 Kd5 62.h6 Kc4 63.Rd1 Kc3 ( 63...d3 64.Kh8 Rxf3 65.Kg7 Rg3+ 66.Kf6 f3 67.h7 Rh3 68.Kg7 Kd4 69.h8=Q Rxh8 70.Kxh8 f2 $19 ) 64.Kh8 d3 65.Rf1 d2 66.h7 { Trapping his own king like this was a clever last-ditch attempt by White. Unfortunately it doesn't quite work! } 66...Kc2 67.Rc1+ { These desperado checks are a clever idea, but there is a way out for Black. } ( 67.Rh1 $5 { might have been a better practical try, as the natural promoting move does allow the stalemate trick! } 67...Rg5 ( 67...d1=Q $4 68.Rxd1 $10 ) 68.Rh2 Rd5 69.Kg7 Rd8 70.h8=Q Rxh8 71.Kxh8 Kc1 72.Rh1+ d1=Q 73.Rxd1+ Kxd1 74.Kg7 Ke2 $19 ) ( 67.Rf2 { would be another tricky attempt } 67...Rh3 $1 ( 67...Kc1 $4 68.Rxd2 $10 ) 68.Kg8 Kc1 69.h8=Q Rxh8+ 70.Kxh8 d1=Q $19 ) 67...Kd3 $1 ( 67...Kxc1 { is stalemate of course! } ) ( 67...Kb3 $4 68.Rc3+ $10 { This way the desperado checks do work! } ) 68.Rc3+ Ke2 $1 69.Re3+ fxe3 $1 { Sorry, no stalemate today! } 70.f4 d1=Q 71.f5 Qa1+ 72.f6 Qxf6# 0-1 [Event "London Online Chess League Season 2 - Bishops"] [Date "2021.04.14"] [Round "7.14.4"] [White "Murphy, Nick"] [Black "Bayona, Karin"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [FEN "rnbqr1k1/pp3ppp/2pb4/3p4/2PPn3/3B1N2/PP3PPP/RNBQR1K1 w - - 2 10"] [SetUp "1"] { We pick up the game in a fairly ordinary Petroff position. } 10.Qb3 b6 $6 { This weakens the central light squares. } ( 10...Na6 { is in my computer's opening book, and looks better, with ideas of ...Nb4 and ...Nc7, awaiting events. } ) 11.cxd5 ( 11.Nc3 { is the preference of my engine, putting enough pressure on d5 and e4 that Black must give up his knight on e4. } 11...Nxc3 12.Bg5 $1 { A strong Zwischenzug which entails a piece sacrifice. } 12...f6 ( 12...Rxe1+ 13.Rxe1 Qf8 14.bxc3 $16 { White has vastly superior development here. } ) 13.bxc3 fxg5 14.Rxe8+ Qxe8 15.cxd5 $16 { White is virtually winning here according to my engine, with ideas like dxc6+ and Re1. } ) 11...cxd5 12.Nc3 Bb7 { This doesn't seem like a great square for the bishop. } ( 12...Be6 { seems to keep White's advantage within manageable bounds. } ) 13.Nxe4 dxe4 14.Ng5 $1 { A nice intermediate move from Nick. } 14...Qc7 $2 ( 14...Bd5 $1 { was virtually the only move for Black it seems } 15.Bc4 ( 15.Qxd5 $4 Bxh2+ { is the point of course } ) 15...Bxc4 16.Qxc4 Qd7 17.Rxe4 Nc6 18.Be3 $16 { White is better of course, but his extra pawn isn't the healthiest, and the exchange of light-squared bishops has blunted White's attack. Black is still well in the game. } ) 15.Nxf7 $1 Kf8 ( 15...Qxf7 16.Bc4 $18 ) ( 15...Bxh2+ 16.Kh1 Nc6 17.Nd6+ ( 17.Nh6+ Kh8 18.Qg8+ $4 { would be getting more than a little overexcited! This classic mating pattern is sadly not on here, as the Black queen covers f7. } 18...Rxg8 19.Nf7+ Qxf7 $19 { Oops! } ) 17...Kh8 18.Nxe8 Rxe8 19.Rxe4 $18 ) 16.Nxd6 { White is still doing well after this very understandable move, but it's striking how hard it is to find a clear knockout blow, even with the help of an engine. } ( 16.Nh6 $3 { was a win pointed out by the engine, albeit not something easy to play at the board. } 16...gxh6 ( 16...exd3 17.Qg8# ) 17.Bxh6+ { sees the Black king get ripped to shreds on the open board, for example } 17...Ke7 18.Bxe4 Bxe4 19.Rxe4+ Kd7 20.Qh3+ Kd8 21.Rxe8+ Kxe8 22.Re1+ Be7 23.Qe6 Nc6 24.d5 Nd4 25.Qg8+ Kd7 26.Qg4+ Kd8 27.Qxd4 $18 { White isn't even material down any more - quite the opposite - and Black's king is still in desperate trouble. } ) 16...Qxd6 17.Bc4 Nd7 18.Bd2 a5 19.Rad1 ( 19.Bg8 $1 { is very strong, with the double threat of Qf7# and Bxh7. } 19...Qg6 20.Bf4 Re7 21.Bc4 Rae8 22.Bg3 $18 { Black seems to have survived the worst, but the problem is there is no constructive plan and no way to get the king safe, whereas White can play things like Rac1, Bb5, Rc7, increasing the pressure to breaking point. } ) 19...Nf6 20.Re3 { Very natural, preparing to lift the rook to the kingside. } ( 20.d5 $1 { looks strange, putting the pawn on a vulnerable square and blocking the a2-g8 diagonal, but it is very strong. } 20...Rac8 ( 20...Nxd5 { is unsurprisingly just too dangerous } 21.Bc3 Rad8 22.Bxa5 $1 Qc6 23.Bxb6 $1 Qxb6 ( 23...Nxb6 24.Qb4+ $18 ) 24.Bxd5 Qxb3 25.Bxb3 $18 ) ( 20...Kg8 { You can run but you can't hide! } 21.Bg5 Kh8 22.Bxf6 Qxf6 23.d6 $18 { b6 is falling, and that's just the start of Black's problems. } ) 21.h3 Qc5 22.Rc1 Bxd5 23.Be3 Qd6 24.Bxd5 Qxd5 25.Qxb6 Rb8 26.Qd4 Red8 27.Qxd5 Rxd5 28.Re2 $18 ) 20...Bd5 21.Bxd5 ( 21.Rc3 $16 { is another surprising suggestion from my engine, with the idea of playing on the queenside which gives a sense of how non-trivial the path to advantage now is for White. } ) 21...Nxd5 22.Rh3 h6 23.Rh5 Rad8 24.Rf5+ Kg8 25.Bf4 { Incredibly natural, and what I was also thinking of when watching live. But again, my engine would rather play a different way. The problem seems to be that the bishop on f4 depends on the pin on the Nd5, but Black can break this. } ( 25.Re1 $16 ) 25...Qd7 26.Re5 Kh7 $2 ( 26...a4 $1 { was the pin-breaking idea. } 27.Qg3 ( 27.Qc4 b5 28.Qc1 Nb4 $10 ) 27...Nxf4 28.Qxf4 Rxe5 29.Qxe5 Re8 30.Qf4 Qd5 { and White will have a hard time winning this. } ) 27.Bg3 Nf6 28.Qxb6 Qa4 29.Re1 Qxa2 30.Rxa5 ( 30.Rxe8 Rxe8 31.Be5 Rf8 32.h3 $18 { Black is utterly passive; the fall of e4 seems like a matter of time. } ) 30...Qc4 31.Be5 $2 { This allows Black an opportunity to exchange his knight for the White bishop, something my engine wants to avoid. } ( 31.h3 Rxd4 32.Re5 $16 ) 31...Ng4 $2 { Spurning the opportunity. This was a critical moment in the game; Nick thought he saw a direct win that wasn't actually there - very easily done in this position! } ( 31...Nd7 $1 32.Qb7 Nxe5 33.dxe5 e3 $1 { makes good use of White's weak back rank, and gains sufficient counterplay to draw. } 34.fxe3 Re6 35.h3 Rd2 $10 ) 32.Bxg7 $2 { This would work excellently if it weren't for one thing... } ( 32.h3 Nxe5 33.dxe5 $18 { is a completely different story from the previous line, as White has no back rank problems here and is just two pawns up. } ) 32...Qf7 $1 { An excellent defence, hitting both g7 and f2. Now White is not better any more. } ( 32...Kxg7 $2 33.Ra7+ Kh8 34.h3 { is the end for Black, as the material must be returned to avoid mate } 34...Qxd4 35.Qxd4+ Rxd4 36.hxg4 $18 ) 33.d5 Kxg7 { Black is a piece up, but there is good news for White: he has three pawns, and while they are hard to hold, Black has few pawns of his own, which would likely be crucial in winning any ending. Black's king is also draughty. These factors combined enable Nick to hold the game. } 34.h3 ( 34.Ra7 { is no problem for Black } 34...Re7 35.Rxe7 Qxe7 36.h3 Nf6 $15 ) 34...Nf6 35.d6 Rd7 36.Rc5 Re6 37.Rc6 Ne8 38.Rd1 ( 38.Qd4+ Qf6 39.Rxe4 Qxd4 40.Rxd4 Re1+ 41.Kh2 $10 ) 38...Qf6 39.Qb8 ( 39.b4 { is an example of a line which is a draw wherever you look } 39...Nxd6 40.Qe3 Qe5 41.Qc5 Qf4 42.b5 e3 43.fxe3 Rxe3 44.Rcxd6 Rxd6 45.Qc7+ Kg8 46.Qc8+ ( 46.Qxd6 $4 Re1+ $1 $19 ) 46...Kg7 47.Qc7+ Kg8 $10 ) 39...Nxd6 40.Rc7 Rxc7 41.Qxc7+ Kg6 42.b4 Nb5 { This leads directly to a draw. } ( 42...Qe5 { is my engine's attempt to play on, but after something like } 43.Qc2 Ne8 44.f3 { Black is running out of pawns. } ) 43.Qb8 Rb6 44.Qg8+ ( 44.Qe8+ { was a direct way to collect e4, but the text is just as good. } ) 44...Qg7 45.Qe8+ Qf7 46.Qxe4+ Qf5 47.Qe8+ Qf7 48.Qe4+ Qf5 { A draw is a fair result, in a tough game where both players emerge with considerable credit! } 1/2-1/2
Beckenham and Bromley Hendon Harriers
1
Andrew Dovey
1675 0 - 1
James Baxter
1600
2
Malcolm Mourant
1638 0 - 1
David Lewis
1465
3
Zac Belcher
1464 1 - 0
Stanley Jacobs
1390
4
Dave Vigus
1510 0 - 1
Dev Ranka
1270
1 - 3

Elsewhere in the Bishops Division, the Harriers faced Beckenham and Bromley. The players acquitted themselves superbly, with James scoring an excellent attacking win on top board, and Dev taking advantage of a bizarre error by his opponent (possibly a mouse slip) to win a rook-and-pawn ending.

These wins cancelled out an early loss when Stanley fell victim to a strong attack in a romantic Vienna Gambit, and left us only needing a draw from David’s game to win the match.

David looked under serious pressure down the c-file at one stage, but his opponent let him off the hook. David offered a draw, but this was declined, so David – as he put it afterwards – was forced to go on and beat him! It must be said he had considerable help from his opponent, who dropped material to a back-rank trick, but David deserves great credit for staying in the game so long and taking the opportunity when it presented itself.

Congratulations to the Harriers on their second win of season 2!

The round 7 games in the Bishops Division are currently available here.

Many thanks to all the players, who continue to produce fighting chess at all levels of the League!

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