Our B team have been flying the flag for Crewe in the latest season of 4NCL Online League Chess. Tuesday night saw the BOL team in the Division 6 Play-off Final to determine the overall divisional champions, playing against MK Phoenix 3. A glance at the team lists showed we were massive underdogs as the opposition had a team graded 1352 FIDE pts higher, but we were not to be deterred. In fact first blood went to Harry Gardiner as our young veteran produced his finest result of the season, overpowering his opponent with a long range mating threat with Q&B against the King-side castled King, while his own King seemed marooned in the centre. The capture of Harry’s h-pawn led to a trapped piece and allowed Harry to enjoy some Rook threats on the h-file combined with the long-range Q&B hitting g2. A clever knight maneouvre gave Harry a crucial material gain to put us surprisingly in the lead.
Meanwhile on bd 4, Kobus had a deficit of over 400 pts but took the challenge to his opponent. Keeping things tight and exchanging his way to a superior end-game position, both players were left with Rook and 3 pawns, but Kobus was far more active with his (white) Rook attacking on the Q-side, while the black Rook was passively defending two pawns from d6, allowing Kobus to advance his King and create all the winning chances with an unopposed g-pawn. However the defence held out as all the pieces were exchanged to give a creditable draw.
Unfortunately bd 2 went against us, as a knight captured our Rook on h1 and was allowed to escape the corner without giving back an exchange. Lukasz Michalek threw everything he had left into a King-side attack, but accurate defence allowed MK Phoenix to put out the fire and level the scores …. and so it was left to captain Dave Price to see if he could obtain a draw that would have made us champions on tie-break. Dave made life difficult for himself by opening up the King side after an ambitious Nh5 move which left weak pawns set up on f6, g6, and h7 after his opponent probed at the king. The loss of the h-pawn gave Dave some counterplay, and after a long walk with the King from f7 to b8, dropped a second pawn on the a-file which could not be recaptured due to a pin on the King. A series of pawn exchanges created a monster pass-pawn which Dave could only stop by loss of a bishop. Eventually faced with two queening-pawns, we succumbed to the inevitable and lost 2.5-1.5 to conclude the campaign.
The BOL team have earned promotion after a superb season of over achieving, so will face even tougher opposition when season 4 commences towards the end of August. Well done to all of the squad of Harry, Lukasz, Kobus, Dave and the crucial support of Adam Fields and Nigel Gardner.