Results - KO
Mid May. Thunderstorms. The ‘Horfield 8’ brave the cricket club for the last time this season. They had earned their seats. Hearts and minds focussed in on one thing – the last chance for silverware against the very side that denied the A-team the league title last year. Outgraded by 1 point per board, it was perfectly set up for a tense evening. Could they hold their nerve? Was fate on their side? They would wait until the last 10 seconds of the match to find out.
Dan Malkiel (right) was a late addition to the team and played Chris Russell on board 2. That's not Henry Duncanson against the wall - it's a different Henry.
The team was bolstered at the last minute by the availability of A-team regular Dan - we shifted a few players around and to avoid everyone having to play the opposite colour to what they expected; Dan found himself on board 2 where he entered a subtle French line. Derek was justifiably leading us on the top board; having won us the semi-final to get us there and having been on excellent form all season. He played similarly fearlessly in a sort of gambit line from Henry.
Jerry Humphreys v Kaj Wandowicz - board 6.
Our opponents were a player short and had to replace board 3 – Alex allowed some clock time to be returned and the players got going just as a few of the lower boards were reaching draw-ish endgames. Indeed Peter had no way of exploiting some doubled pawns (the only interesting feature of the position) and John offered a draw as he was just about to lose a pawn. It was accepted as the resulting position was only just more exciting than board 5. 1-1.
Michael Meadows v Mike Levene - board 7.
In stark contrast the ‘battle of the Mikes’ (a regular feature of Horfield and Downend encounters) was an explosive affair – the first position I saw seemed like one of those puzzles where you work out how on earth they got there. Downend Mike had boldly created some sharp and dangerous lines at the expense of his king – but had worked out the tactics well and won an exchange at the end and exposed Horfield Mike’s king even more. Horfield Mike had a passed pawn for it though – and after some very careful defence he could prove this was enough to hold. Kajetan played one of his favourite set-ups allowing subtle positional manoeuvres – Jerry was also more than happy with this with a slight space advantage. It heated up as the queens came off and the minor pieces fought for dominance but ultimately both players were aware enough not to allow any risky play to backfire. All four bottom boards drawn! 2-2.
Henry Duncanson v Derek Pugh - board 1.
Meanwhile at the top Dan and Henry had both declined draw offers to push for wins. Board 1 was still double-edged and dynamic but a few moves later Henry offered a draw back and shook hands. Chris had defended a slightly worse bishop and rook ending and Dan couldn’t see how to improve – another draw! 3-3.
Steve Dilleigh v Javier Ruano Marco - board 4.
Spectators were furiously debating what happens if all 8 games were drawn. Was it a replay? Would it go to the away team? No-one knew for sure, but we huddled round boards 3 and 4 to see if we would need to consult the handbooks for the answer. Optically the position was very good for Steve: a pawn up, good space and some lines to possibly attack. He traded queens to make a time-pressured finish less risky but Javier started to cause some problems. He was moving faster than Steve and declined a draw offer to blitz out an endgame, winning back a pawn and eventually sealing fate with a piece fork. Steve was also about to flag so held his hand out in resignation. Disaster! In retrospect his earlier advantage was optical – and only minimal in reality. As the endgame continued Javier simply found solid and tricky moves very quickly, and put the idea of a deadlocked match out of the question – Alex had to win to take the cup home.
Alex Easton v Mike Brigden - board 3.
His position thankfully was optically – and actually – better. But how to break through? They were down to about 4 minutes each with the position almost locked up. Alex made all of the Horfield crowd very nervous by continuing to notate some moves and repeating a king move to bide time. But a plan was required – and found soon after. It was easier for Alex to manoeuvre and it was his choice when to break open the b-file and trade off some rooks. He picked off a pawn and exchanged queens before trading good knight for bad bishop, traded one set of rooks to get a more active rook and pushed excess pawns to create queening threats. A lot of work to do in 4 minutes! But he was better throughout and converted this to a winning rook and pawn ending, queened first and took the last pawn just as Mike ran out of time. Victory! Spectators simultaneously deflated and applauded what has been a superb cup run. 4-4 and Horfield win on board count. Somehow we won by an even narrower margin than the semi-final. Congratulations to Downend for reaching the final and running us as close as possible without a full strength squad. We can finally relax for the summer with a trophy in the cabinet! (MH)
P.S. To re-live the evening, games have been posted up on the Downend site: http://www.downendchess.com/?page=report&subpage=111
Dan was unavailable for us, and Bath were missing Matthew Payne and Ben Edgell, so it was anyone's guess which way this would go.
John was the first to finish, when his better position was not good enough for more than a half. Mike L put the ball in the net soon after to put us 1.5-0.5 up.
Peter's game petered out to another draw and then Mike H succumbed after suffering for a long time with a position divided by his opponent's passed d pawn. So by 10 o'clock it was all square.
Steve looked like he was doing okay on top board but shorter on time. Derek had a big plus on time but under a bit of pressure. But both Phil and Rob were defending dodgy looking positions. The match looked like it could easily swing Bath's way. Steve could probably have won with very accurate play, but with time running out bailed out for a half. 2.5-2.5.
Now, both Phil and Rob managed to salvage draws to leave it all square with just Derek's game to go. A draw would not be good enough as Bath would win on board count. Derek played steadily and solidly as Rob Hearne's clock continued to move towards zero.
In the final we will play Downend who overcame Clifton 5.5-2.5 in the other semi. (JR)
The KO Cup has begun! The first quarter final got underway between two not quite full teams – which left Horfield as favourites on paper.
Waiting for the off! Boards 1-5
The bottom 3 boards were where our grades differed the most and were all looking good – including a fighting opening from Stuart and Peter which ended in our favour. I hardly saw any of Mike’s game as he managed to beat a strong opponent fairly quickly – which put us 2 up pretty early on.
Both Kaj and I thought we should be winning from out of the opening, but both ended up settling for a draw. I had won a pawn and had a beautiful knight in the centre; many spectators were admiring the knight but also witnessed my lack of conversion skills as my opponent found some nice defensive ideas.
Phil and Derek both entered endgames with a marginal plus, but they too settled for half a point. It was the opposite story for Alex, who was under some pressure and was lucky to save the game after the right combination was played in the wrong order.
Three of the draws were agreed late on in the match – with nobody really aware of the match situation – but luckily they were enough to get us over the line. We then also realised that Dan and Peter had finished their game on 1; Dan continues his impressive start after Peter had him on the ropes with a good sacrifice, but needed one too many precise follow-ups and Dan managed to turn the tables.
We play Bath in the semi-finals next; let’s hope we can send them to an early one. (MH)