Saturday, 23 March 2013

Missed Chances

Cardigan A are the perennial champions of the Dyfed League and are unbeaten again this season. But when Aberystwyth A played them on Monday 18th March, it looked for a while as though the long trek to Cardigan might have been worth it. The top-board encounter between Rudy van Kemenade and the league's strongest player Howard Williams exploded into tactics right away, surprisingly in view of the opening, the usually quiet Catalan. When the smoke cleared Black was an exchange up and the game didn't last much longer. On second board, though, Julie van Kemenade had worked up a dangerous attack against Iolo Jones's king with her favourite Philidor system. He seemed to be weathering it, however, and she took the opportunity to draw by perpetual check against her strong opponent, only discovering afterwards that the win was still there. I had learned in the car on the way to the match that I was due to play White against Tony Haigh; there followed a desperate analysis with Rudy's pocket set as I tried to remember a gambit line I'd prepared against his Franco-Benoni some months earlier. I managed to reproduce it successfully, and though it didn't all go to plan I reached the middle-game with a superior position, only to squander half a dozen winning chances in succession before being outplayed in the ending. Meanwhile, on board four, Cardigan's Howard Leah had been unavoidably detained, and Awne Osinga was summoned instead, arriving twenty-five minutes behind on the clock. James Cook got a big space advantage on the queenside with his Caro-Kann, but couldn't break through, and a draw was agreed. 3-1 to Cardigan, but Aber would have won if Julie and I had taken our chances.

Rudy van Kemenade - Howard Williams 0-1

Iolo Jones - Julie van Kemenade ½-½

Matthew Francis - Tony Haigh 0-1

Awne Osinga - James Cook ½-½

Thursday, 7 March 2013


Aberystwyth B faced a depleted team from at the St David's Club on Tuesday 5th March, so only three boards took part, with Aber captain Ian Finlay standing down. On top board I got nothing against Iwan Griffiths's French (by transposition) - he seemed to play all the aggressive moves, but, for no very clear reason, turned out not to have anything either, and an early draw was agreed. On board 3, James Corrigan scored his first win for the club in only his second competitive game, against Emyr Llywelyn. Both players made mistakes but James will draw a lot of confidence from his success. But it was the board 2 game that provided the drama. Owen Llywelyn seemed to be cruising against Tony Geraghty's Owen's Defence - a couple of pawns up, with aggressively posted rooks, and a generally superior position. When he carelessly let his opponent's bad bishop back into the game, he was still OK, but Tony had a sneaky trap prepared and Owen walked right into it, losing a piece. Shellshocked, he compounded the error by choosing the wrong option of the two available and dropped a rook into the bargain - an outrageous swindle for Aber, who won the match 3½-½ (including the defaulted game).

Matthew Francis - Iwan Griffiths ½-½

Owen Llywelyn - Tony Geraghty 0-1

James Corrigan - Emyr Llywelyn 1-0

Two-Act Drama

Only 24 hours after their match against Carmarthen, the B team were in action again in the club derby against Aberystwyth A at the St David's Club on Tuesday 26th February. The board 4 players, Georgina and I, having both taken part in the Dyfed Congress at Fishguard over the weekend, and thus played competitive chess four days in a row, decided to take the night off, and played the following Saturday. The top three boards set up this final confrontation nicely. Rudy had things his own way in a Bird's Opening against James Cook, winning the exchange and controlling the endgame to score a relatively easy win. On second board, however, Julie went wrong in a superior position against Ian, missing the fact that her f-pawn was pinned so that she could not recapture when he took her knight with a rook. Not only did this win him a piece, it also gave him a crushing attack on the kingside, and he duly scored another excellent result to follow his draw against Keith Downey the previous evening. Tony also did well, fending off a dangerous-looking attack from David Ferguson, which left a drawn bishop versus knight ending. Surprisingly, then, the two teams were tied when Georgina and I played our postponed game. She went on the attack against my Sicilian, as the lower-rated player should, and continued to move forward on the kingside despite my space advantage on the other wing and in the centre. At some point, though, she should have started to defend; as it was I broke through, winning a piece with mate following quickly. The final score was 2½-1½ to the A team.

Rudy van Kemenade - James Cook 1-0

Ian Finlay - Julie van Kemenade 1-0

David Ferguson - Tony Geraghty ½-½

Georgina Gray - Matthew Francis 0-1

Closer Than It Looked

A full-strength Carmarthen team were always likely to prove too strong for Aberystwyth B, and the match at the Emlyn Cafe, Tanygroes, on 25th February finally went according to the form book. Nevertheless, Aber put up a brave fight, and only the encounter on top board was really one-sided. I generally pride myself on my opening preparation, but this time got into a horrible mess against Gerry Heap's English Opening. With all my pieces tripping over each other on the back rank, I vainly tried to imagine I was Julie van Kemenade, who frequently manages to start a winning attack from such positions, but was soon put out of my misery. Tony Geraghty, on the other hand, reached an equal middle-game position with his London System against David Buttell, but allowed a dangerous central pawn to move forward, the start of an invasion that picked up a piece, with defeat following inevitably. Ian Finlay has had an excellent string of results recently but looked to be in trouble when Keith Downey invaded his second rank. White was too impatient, however, and tried to force things with a dubious piece sacrifice. Up on material, but still with a lot to do against a very strong player, Ian was happy with a draw. Georgina Gray has come close several times against much higher rated opponents, and this time reached what looked like a drawn position against Paul Orton, who dominated the d-file but could make no further progress. Unfortunately Georgina, just back from the Dyfed Congress with its longer time-limits, forgot about her clock, conceding an unlucky defeat on time. 3½-½ to Carmarthen.

Gerry Heap - Matthew Francis 1-0

Tony Geraghty - David Buttell 0-1

Keith Downey - Ian Finlay ½-½

Georgina Gray - Paul Orton 0-1