Another double post. Aberystwyth entered the last round of the Dyfed Online League on Tuesday 20 April needing a win against Steynton A to secure the championship. Top board Rudy van Kemenade probably knows the Petroff better than anyone, at least below grandmaster level, but Martin Jones had prepared well, and a complex theoretical struggle ensued. Black's two bishops and better pawns gave him an edge, but the result was far from clear until White blundered, losing an exchange. Adam Watkin-Jones dominated throughout in a Closed Siclian against Mark Paffard, who unwisely opened the position without having castled. The middlegame had only just started when White forced a decisive win of material. On Board 4, Tom Gunn was a pawn up for much of the game against Scott Hammett's Hippopotamus, but went a pawn down as the game transitioned to an ending. It was still difficult for Black, and Tom had a chance of saving the game at the very last moment. Everything then depended on my Board 3 game against Rob Lovegrove, which was the last to finish. After a good opening with my O'Kelly Sicilian, I allowed White to break in the centre and win a pawn, and spent most of the game trying in vain to undermine his dominant queenside pawns. But as time began to run out, both of us made errors - first White allowed a knight fork, then I returned the favour, then, in trying to clinch the win, he let me escape with my extra material. The 3-1 win to Aber gained us the title. Thanks to David Pinch for organizing a very successful and enjoyable league, and, as always, to Rudy for his analysis and captaincy.
Next week we were in action again, this time in the Welsh Chess Union Open Online against Pontyfenni. Rudy's aggressive early h4 against John Waterfield's Grunfeld only led to delayed development, with White's knight stuck on g1 until well into the middlegame, but Black wasn't able to take advantage and the game simplified to a drawn king-and-pawn ending. Adam got a level position against Ian Jones's Glek Four Knights, but went wrong in the complex rook ending which followed. They say all rook endings are drawn, and he missed a chance to draw this one, just before the end. Tom seemed slightly worse in a Dutch against Anthony Hughes, but the position was very blocked and soon became impassable. The game of the round was on Board 4, where Sam Holman's Sicilian came under fierce attack from Justin Morgans. Both players missed chances in the complications but White emerged an exchange and a pawn ahead. He was well behind on the clock, though, and had problems dealing with Sam's active minor pieces. Eventually he dropped a bishop, but Sam found it equally difficult to finish him off, till White made one last blunder and resigned. The result was a 2-2 draw.