A bad day at the office as Alsager clinch the Open KO Trophy, and C team crunched by ‘castle

Wed 17th May – another busy and exciting night at The Mals, with two big matches and a packed playing room, with the best part of 50 people in attendance covering visiting players, club members and parents.

The Main Event of the Evening was the Open Knockout Final played over 6 boards between ourselves and Alsager. It was evident before the start that Alsager were determined to go “all-in” (in poker terms) as their team was significantly strengthened by the presence of old boy Simon Hood making his first appearance since 2015 (last rating 183 = 2070) slotting in on board 2 to move all their regular players down the batting order. The early skirmishes went in our favour as captain Martin Burns got us off to a winning start on board 4, before Karl Lockett won comfortably on board 6 and Simon Layhe was happy with a draw on board 2 to get us near the winning line. Next to finish was board 5, where Alsager’s underdog (Tim Twentyman) produced the first shock of the night to chalk one unexpectedly back with a good finish under time pressure. Then there was a further twist on board 3, as Alsager’s John Booth stunned our player with an immediate mate in a game that seemed to be there for the taking, but was much more evenly balanced than we had calculated. This all left the match in the hands of Jonathan Blackburn, Alsager and the league’s leading player, as he played a common theme of giving up a pawn for plenty of attacking opportunity and slowly turning the screw. Even in the knowledge that a draw would win the cup for Alsager, Jonathan calmly pushed home his activity advantage to finish with a flourish as the visitors turned out to be worthy winners of the Open knockout with congratulations to Alsager !

Meanwhile the C team were hoping to keep slim hopes of the division 2 title alive, only to be outplayed by title chasing (and now hot favourites) Newcastle. It was a rare occurrence for Carmel Barwick to come off second best as Dylan Cooper proved too strong on board 2, after the visitors had already chalked up two wins on the lower boards in this 4 board match. With a 3-0 deficit captain David Lambton declined a draw offer on board 1, and was duly rewarded with the scalp of a player rated approx 1900, to finish the C team’s campaign with a guarantee of 3rd place in the table behind Newcastle and Stafford.

There was only one internal Club Championship game this week that saw a Division 1 relegation battle between bottom placed chairman Dave Price, and 3rd bottom Events Officer David Hulme. Chairman Dave played a far superior opening as black to produce pressure. In an attempt to escape the building pressure, David H miscalculated badly and dropped a piece for a pawn. From there the chairman spared no mercy and put David to the sword with a well controlled execution. This leaves David H on 2.5/9, while Dave P and Richard F have 2/8 in the battle to avoid relegation.