On Monday night our Wirral team made a long trek to Wallasey in a game moved from our home ground at Chester, due to venue unavailability. We went into this match with 100% at the top of the division 2 table to play bottom of the league and pointless Wallasey 4. However our captain warned all of our team that a tough match should be expected and this materialized from an early stage. The first game to finish was on bd 1 where Bart Fajfer (our top player with 8/8 and 100%) to date was held to a draw by an opponent graded 40 points lower. The score line improved when junior Harry Gardiner forced a win on board 5 after gaining an exchange, and slowly turned the screw with further gains of one pawn and then a second. With a big King-side attack on its way the game concluded swiftly to put us in the ascendancy. Then came a fightback from the bottom team as the board 4 game switched violently from a pawn advantage and strong position for us, to a crushing attack for Wallasey as our player failed to cope with the time controls (no increments in this league) to put the scores level. Just as the scores were levelled our captain David Hulme maintained his 100% score in the league as powerful rooks combined on an open file and invaded the 7th rank to lead to an inevitable winning position and forced resignation on bd 2 to guarantee at least a match draw. The board 3 game was a titanic struggle which swung too and fro. At one stage our player offered a draw, whereby the opposition consulted their captain to be told bluntly not to accept even though we had a material advantage. The game went on and on and the material was recovered to level the position with both players into the last 5 minutes with no increments to save them. In an effort to win our player sacrificed a minor piece to create a passed pawn but this turned out to be unsound when the passed pawn was captured. However this had eaten massively into both players times and unfortunately for us the game was lost as the “flag fell” with just 43 seconds remaining of the 3 hours !
Match drawn while nearest contenders Wallasey 2 won comfortably to close the gap at the top of the table. So we head back to Wallasey next Monday (8th April) to play Wallasey 2 in a title and promotion “shoot-out”. We have the lead by 1/2 point in the table, so have the advantage of knowing a drawn match gives us the trophy. This is little comfort as Wallasey 2 boast a team with over 25 years first division experience (having been relegated last term) and having a team grade in the region of 762 against ours of 681. Also at stake is “player of the year” award which will be won by one of the Crewe team as David Hulme leads with 7/7 and Bart Fajfer 6.5/7, while nearest contender cannot score more than 6.5 as only one match remains. (Note Bart’s previous 8/8 included two cup matches not counting in the league)