An almost perfect night in round 8

By Hendon LOCL captain Andrew Medworth
Wednesday 21 April, 2021

The eighth round of the London Online Chess League took place on Tornelo this evening, with our three teams coming out of their matches with three different results – though there were some excellent individual performances, and an important win for the Spitfires!

Our lineups looked quite different from normal this week, as several junior players were missing, with this being the first week of the new school term.

King's Head Bangers Hendon Hurricanes
CM Rick McMichael
2268 ½ - ½
Andrew Medworth
Andrew Gilfillan
2118 0 - 1
Alex Leslie
Conor O'Shaughnessy
2058 ½ - ½
David Amior
Colin Mackenzie
2013 1 - 0
Gideon Vecht
2 - 2

In the Queens Division, our team sheet looked especially odd, as I had to step in on Board 1 at the last minute. I was officially a reserve for the Spitfires, but once all the Spitfires games were successfully underway, King’s Head captain Colin Mackenzie kindly agreed to let me substitute for the Hurricanes, despite the fact that I wasn’t technically eligible.

We’d defeated King’s Head 3–1 in season 1, but with so many players missing, it looked unlikely that we’d be able to repeat that tonight. But King’s Head weren’t to get everything their own way in this match!

I managed to reach what I thought was a fairly balanced middlegame position, having stalled White’s kingside attacking potential at the cost of the bishop pair. However, I misjudged the situation, and my strong opponent obtained severe pressure against e6. In time pressure, I decided to let the pawn go in exchange for activity, and my gamble paid off, as the King’s Head player walked into a cheapo.

There were several tempting continuations, but I decided to take a very safe ending, with a rook against my opponent’s bishop and pawn. I duly exchanged off all his remaining pawns to secure a draw, which is a very good result for me personally (particularly as I started around ten minutes down on the clock), but also somewhat fortunate, as I felt I was in big trouble at one point.

I emerged to find Alex Leslie had won his game on Board 2, having been gifted material by his opponent in what appeared to be a fairly level position, but this had been cancelled out on Board 4, where Gideon (playing his first match in season 2) came under a strong attack from the King’s Head captain in a position with castling on opposite sides.

The game thus rested on David’s Board 3 encounter. By the time I looked at the position, the ending was level, but replaying the game, David was very fortunate to survive, after his opponent came up with a strong exchange sacrifice to end with a knight and several pawns against a rook, but didn’t find the right way to convert.

Overall, a 2–2 draw is an excellent result, given we were outgraded on every board, by over 200 points in a couple of cases, so well done Hurricanes!

[Event "London Online Chess League Season 2 - Queens"] [Date "2021.04.21"] [Round "8.1.5"] [White "Mcmichael, Rick"] [Black "Medworth, Andrew"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [BlackElo "1928"] [FEN "r2q1rk1/1p1nbpp1/2p1p2p/p2p4/2PP1PB1/1PB1P3/P1Q3PP/2R2RK1 w - - 2 18"] [SetUp "1"] [WhiteElo "2106"] { We join the game in a middlegame position which I rightly felt should be roughly level. } 18.f5 { Transforming the structure like this shouldn't be great for White objectively, but I didn't react very well. } ( 18.Be1 Bb4 19.Bf2 f5 20.Bf3 Nf6 21.Bh4 Qe8 { is a representative line from my engine, which doesn't look too inspiring, but it does conslider White slightly better. } ) 18...Nf6 ( 18...Bg5 { first was stronger, hitting e3. } 19.Rce1 Nf6 20.Bh3 exf5 21.Bxf5 Re8 $15 { Black has some pressure. } ) 19.Bh3 Qd6 $6 { This isn't a terrible move, but trying to hold e6 was not the right approach. } ( 19...exf5 20.Bxf5 Bb4 { is absolutely fine for Black. Any pressure White gets down the f-file should be balanced by Black down the e-file. } ) 20.fxe6 fxe6 21.Qg6 { A slightly awkward move for Black to face: the knight on f6 is pinned to the e-pawn. } 21...a4 $2 { Partially trying to distract White on the queenside, partly trying to free the Ra8 from defending the a-pawn, so it can swing to the kingside. } ( 21...Kh8 { getting the king out of any checks from e6 is my engine's suggested defensive scheme } 22.Be1 Ne4 $1 $10 { is fine for Black, as White cannot take on e6 } 23.Bxe6 $2 ( 23.Qxe6 $2 Qxe6 24.Bxe6 Bg5 $1 $19 ) 23...Bg5 $1 $19 ) 22.Be1 { This works much better with the Black king on g8. } 22...axb3 23.axb3 ( 23.Bg3 { is already an awkward intermezzo for Black to face. } ) 23...Ne4 $2 { A bit of a desperate move. I felt the direction of the game was trending in my opponent's favour, and I wanted to shed the e-pawn and aim for counterplay. } ( 23...Bd8 24.Bg3 Qe7 25.Be5 Qe8 { is the engine's suggested defensive scheme; Black's position is not too bad just yet. } 26.Qg3 Rf7 27.Rf2 Ne4 28.Rxf7 Qxf7 29.Bxe6 Nxg3 30.Bxf7+ Kxf7 31.Bxg3 $10 ) 24.Rxf8+ Rxf8 25.Qxe6+ Qxe6 26.Bxe6+ Kh8 { A critical moment in the game. } 27.cxd5 $2 { Played quite quickly by my opponent, but this misses a good tactical opportunity for Black. } ( 27.Rc2 dxc4 28.bxc4 { would have left White with a huge advantage: a pawn ahead and with the two bishops. I'd almost certainly have lost this. } 28...Bg5 29.Re2 $18 ) 27...cxd5 $2 { Missing my one completely clear winning chance of the game! } ( 27...Bg5 $1 { would have been quite devastating here, as White doesn't have the option of taking on e4, as in the game. Black threatens ...Bxe3+ followed by ...Rf1#, and White must lose material to prevent this. } 28.Bf2 Nxf2 29.Re1 ( 29.Rf1 Bxe3 $19 ) 29...cxd5 30.Bxd5 Ng4 $19 ) 28.Bxd5 $2 ( 28.Rc2 Bg5 29.Re2 $18 { was once again winning for White } ) 28...Bg5 $1 { Found at the second time of asking! My opponent now thought for several minutes, so it was clear he'd missed this. Unfortunately here it's not quite as strong as on the previous move. } 29.Bxe4 Bxe3+ 30.Bf2 Rxf2 ( 30...Bxc1 { was also tempting, but I was afraid of White's two pawns advancing supported by his bishop pair. } 31.Bxb7 Bb2 32.Bc6 Rb8 { will soon win a pawn for Black, however; if I'd seen that, I might have gone for this. But objectively, Black's advantage is probably not too large. } ) 31.Rc3 $2 { Not the move I expected. } ( 31.Re1 $1 { was my prediction, and it's the strongest move. This position is just level. } 31...Re2+ ( 31...Bxd4 32.Kh1 b6 $10 { is just a level ending } ) 32.Kf1 Rf2+ ( 32...Rxe1+ 33.Kxe1 Bxd4 34.Bxb7 { should also be level, because of the opposite-coloured bishops, but clearly there is no need to go into this pawn-down ending for Black } ) 33.Kg1 $10 ) ( 31.Rc8+ $2 { is an important move to look at, but } 31...Rf8+ $19 { is importantly check! } ) 31...Rf3+ $1 32.Rxe3 Rxe3 33.Bxb7 Rxb3 34.Bf3 Rd3 ( 34...Kg8 $4 35.Bd5+ $18 { would have been quite a tragedy - thankfully I managed to avoid that one! } ) 35.d5 Kg8 ( 35...Rd2 { did occur to me, trying to keep White's king confined, but I didn't think it would be hard to escape. My engine prefers this move, and deeper analysis suggests Black may well be winning, but with so little time remaining, it was always going to be very hard to prove that. } ) 36.h4 g5 { Spurning the last opportunity to play for a win. After the exchange of pawns, there are no longer enough pawns left for Black to cause trouble. } ( 36...Kf7 37.Kf2 { and Black is still the one with the chances, but it's not clear to me if it's enough. } ) 37.hxg5 hxg5 38.Kf2 Kg7 39.Kg3 Kf6 40.Kg4 { Now I saw a way to force a draw immediately, and I took it. } 40...Rd4+ 41.Kg3 g4 42.Bxg4 Rxd5 43.Bf3 Rd2 44.Kf4 Rxg2 45.Bxg2 { A very good result for me personally, albeit somewhat fortunate, since my position was lost at one stage. It goes to show that shows even the strongest players in the LOCL are very much human! } 1/2-1/2

The round 8 games in the Queens Division are currently available here.

Hendon Spitfires Battersea Cats
Chris Rogal
1803 1 - 0
WFM Diana Mirza
Morris Jones
1758 1 - 0
Steve Barry
Nick Murphy
1750 1 - 0
Joel Morales
Anton Drel
1510 1 - 0
Chris Watt
4 - 0

In the Bishops Division, the Spitfires faced the Battersea Cats, who had been struggling so far in season 2 (losing to the Harriers in round 4), but were strengthened today by the addition of WFM Diana Mirza on Board 1, so we couldn’t afford to be complacent.

In the end, though, the whole team played superbly to score a decisive victory! I didn’t see the order the games finished, so I’ll go board-by-board.

Top board was the only one where Battersea were stronger on paper, so it was wonderful to see our esteemed Chairman Chris Rogal defeat his strong opponent there!

It looked like Chris was coming under a strong kingside attack in the middlegame, but the Battersea player decided to go for a tempting but ultimately dubious exchange sacrifice. Taking Chris’s light-squared bishop gave Black some attacking chances, but they came to nothing when Chris put his queen on f1, leaving its counterpart no way into the light squares. Chris converted his material advantage very well, although it looks like his opponent may have missed an opportunity for a perpetual late on.

On Board 2, Morris Jones made a welcome return to the side, and did a great job of converting a rook-and-pawn ending after a slightly chaotic opening.

On Board 3, Nick emerged from the opening a piece up, after an opening blunder (possibly a mouse slip) by his opponent. The result never looked in doubt from then on, with Nick finishing in style after blowing his opponent’s kingside open.

Anton Drel completed the clean sweep on Board 4 by trapping the White queen after it unwisely ventured into his kingside without backup!

With three rounds to go, the Spitfires still top the Division, though there is a critical tie against Streatham & Brixton B next week, which will determine the final outcome of their season. We can only take one round at a time, though, so well done to the players for getting the job done today!

Hackney Hopefuls Hendon Harriers
Frederick Sugden
1668 1 - 0
Gul Kapur
Zebedee Jones
1638 ½ - ½
David Lewis
Stephen Mackie
1375 1 - 0
Dev Ranka
Gavin McCabe
1100 0 - 1
Matty Berenblut
2½ - 1½

Elsewhere in the Bishops Division, the Harriers faced the Hackney Hopefuls, who had drawn against the Spitfires in round 5, so had to be treated with respect. The match could easily have gone our way, but sadly, in the end the Harriers were just edged out.

On Board 1, Gul hung a knight in the early middlegame, which was too much to recover from.

David’s Board 2 encounter was the last game to finish. It was a real roller-coaster ride; David looked completely winning, three pawns up, but fell for a tactical trick that enabled his opponent to win a piece. It wasn’t easy for Black to win, however, with three pawns against six, one of which was a “wrong rook’s pawn”. In the end, David managed very creditably to hold the draw.

Board 3 was unfortunately settled by a mouse slip by Dev, who appeared to be on the verge of victory.

However, to finish the report on a high note, many congratulations to Matty Berenblut, who scored his first win in the LOCL, winning material out of the opening, ending up with the unusual material balance of two rooks against a knight and a bishop, with zero pawns exchanged!

Many thanks to all who played!

The round 8 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.