Crewe’s B Online team have made it to the Playoff final in Division 6 after a superb win tonight against St Andrews White Cross. As is always the case we went into the match as underdogs with an average FIDE rating difference of about 100 pts per board. On board 1 Harry Gardiner met fire with fire and despite facing a rating deficit over over 250, you would never have known as Harry calmly exchanged his black pieces to win a pawn, before a clever h7 sacrifice allowed his opponent to regain parity and so an early draw was agreed.
On bd 2 Lukasz Michalek played a blinder, with kings castled opposite, he created the initial attack on the kingside, before manouevreing his rooks to the centre to offer his strong bishop as an exchange for a weaker knight, but with the capture of the knight on the 7th rank it gave Lukasz the impetus to win a pawn. It started to look very messy when his opponent regained a king-side pawn to make a potential pass-pawn on the h-file while Lukasz had unopposed A and C pawns. As black’s king raced over to stop the two Q-side pawns, Lukasz’s remaining bishop moved onto the attack, and co-ordinated with his Rook forced the black king to be cut off on A7. As black tried to counter with his Rook and opposite colour bishop, Lukasz set up a trap to allow himself to be checked in the middle of the board, which was defended by a rook block that opened a discovered check to win a Rook for nothing, to put the team in command.
On Bd 4, crafty Kobus Nienaber seemed to be in a bit of a jam with white but always seemed to push his opponents pieces to where they did not want to be and after exchanging the Queens to save a piece from attack, managed to retreat and reset his bishops on e3 and f3 behind central pawns that were about to roll. With Kobus using his time far more efficiently, a central pawn push opened a discovered attack on a rook on b7 by the f3 bishop, completely missed by his opponent and immediate resignation meant the match was won.
Meanwhile captain Dave Price had a night to forget literally as he plonked one knight out of the game on h5, before deciding the other knight should share a similar role on a5. Despite the pair of dim knights somehow Dave managed to hang in, but then decided he should make it easier for his opponent by presenting an opportunity for two central pass-pawns to march up the board. His opponent was in no hurry to convert his huge advantage but was still well ahead on the clock as well. Eventually a knight fork presented the key-blow and Dave was put of his misery. Having spoken to Dave after the match, he was grateful the youngsters were able to carry the team over the line, with a final score of 2.5-1.5
In the play-off final they will face MK Phoenix 3 who had an average rating of 1907 in tonight’s other semi-final, so it’s fair to say our average rating of 1569 will make us massive underdogs and accordingly will go into the final in a fortnight’s time with no fear and nothing to lose !