Our first team took a big step towards safety in Middlesex League Division 1 on Thursday with a crucial win over Kings Head!
Our opponents were something of a “dark horse” team in the division, since this was just the sixth of their twelve scheduled matches (quite remarkable given we are into the final two months of the season!). With so many matches still to play against teams spread throughout the table, their results could make a huge difference, not just to them but to the other teams as well.
On this occasion our opponents brought a fairly “tight” team in terms of ratings, with less than 200 points difference between top and bottom board.
We, on the other hand, were strong on the top three boards, with IM Lorin D’Costa and FM John Richardson heading the team and Gary Senior completing a trio which significantly outrated their counterparts. However, boards 4–6 were a different story, with a couple of key players missing, and I even had to fill in myself at the bottom after a late withdrawal: we were the ones out-rated there.
So the match always seemed likely to come down to a “match of two halves”: could we outscore our opponents at the top by more than they could outscore us at the bottom?
James made a quick draw with Colin Mackenzie, and while Mark Hutchinson unfortunately lost on the board next to me, I was fairly confident I shouldn’t lose my own position, so I was hopeful we could keep things to -1 in the lower half of the match. My hope was we would score +2 from the top three.
John won his game, I drew fairly easily, and Gary agreed a draw in a pawn-up rook ending, meaning the match was level with just Board 1 still in play.
Before the start, if there was one board I would have chosen to bet the entire match on, it would certainly have been this one, but to my horror I saw that Lorin appeared to have a worse position an exchange down! When I looked again a while later, he had won some material to get to an ending with five pawns against four, plus a rook and knight each. However, both sides were below two minutes on the clock, relying on the increments, so anything could happen!
Fortunately, the game ended in our favour when Lorin’s opponent fell for a knight fork, so we narrowly won the match right at the death. Phew!
|Kings Head 1
|Kings Head 1
|1 - 0
|1 - 0
|½ - ½
|½ - ½
|0 - 1
|Arnold, Simon D
|½ - ½
|Anderson, Peter F
|3½ - 2½
With that win, Hendon 1 is very close to mathematical safety in Division 1. We are actually third out of seven in the table for the time being, but that doesn’t mean too much with Ealing and Kings Head having three and four matches in hand respectively.
Still, Hammersmith 1 and Metropolitan are currently occupying the relegation places, and Hammersmith are the only one of the two who can catch us. In order to do it, they would have to beat Kings Head and Ealing in their remaining matches, we would have to lose ours against both Kings Head (in the return fixture) and Hackney, and Hammersmith would need to score at least 7½ game points more than us across the two. It’s a tall order, but possible, so it would be great to score at least a half match point in our last two away matches, just to be completely safe.
Many thanks to all who played – especially, as always, to those who helped with setting things out and clearing away!