There was a welcome return to league chess at The Mals last night, after a series of postponements had prevented us playing any league matches since 17th November.
Two matches took place with the “A” team hosting the “C”, and the “B” team against the “E”. The original squads for all teams have been effected by the ongoing Health Pandemic, but it was pleasing to see four teams playing with a reduced number of four boards, utilising the large playing area at the club.
The planned line ups for the A vs C clash saw sides within 10 grading points of each other. There was a surprise addition with Martin Frisher playing his first match since March 2019, but the strict grading rules forced him to play on board 2 for the C team. With Mike Keenan winning on board 4, soon followed by the C’s skipper Dave Price on board 3 the Cs went into a 2-0 lead. Lukasz Michalek had gained an exchange and a pawn and it was not long before he pulled one back for the As on board 2. This left the board 1 match to decide the result and Karl Lockett won the battle of the top two club players to give the C team a resounding 3-1 victory, and take them to the top of the table with 5pts from 3 matches, while the A-team struggle near the bottom with just 2 pts from 4 matches.
The other match was a much closer affair. The E team started well with a win for Julian Bulbeck on board 4, but this was expected as the B team were missing two regulars and handed a league debut to 9 year-old Oskar Jarzynski who shows great promise and will be one to watch for the future. Next to finish was board 1 with the only draw of the night as Harry Gardiner offered a draw to the B team captain David Hulme, who accepted the offer on the basis it gets something on the scoreboard. Simon Layhe levelled the scores with a sound win on board 2 having won a piece for two pawns and then converted into victory. The board 3 game was predicted to be a long game as both players are renowned for using all of the time permitted. What looked to be very equal in the middle game turned as James Marshall’s activity generated a pawn advantage and then added another with pieces strongly co-ordinated in attacking vain. Despite the inevitable lack of time for James, he finished off the game avoiding various tricks and pitfalls to edge the B team over the winning line to conclude the match in the B team’s favour by the score of 2.5-1.5, and take them 2nd in the league with 5 pts from 4 matches, having played more matches than the other title contenders.