On Tuesday 30th May, we went to play in the final of the NSDCA U1825 Knockout (Major Cup). Both teams were missing a couple of their highest rated players, which led to Crewe having a massive advantage in ratings of approx 1200 points over the five boards.
As has been the case many times during the season this meant nothing, when firstly Neville Layhe’s stonewall was grinded to a halt on board 5 with an agreed draw. Then there was another draw on board 2 as Rick Renegade’s grenades were comfortably shot down by opposition skipper Steve Emmerton. Next to finish was board 1, only this time there was an upset as Fenton’s Glyn Valentine was allowed to have two queen-side pawns running free and duly converted the win to leave Fenton – the massive underdogs – on the cusp of the biggest Cup upset since 1978 when Man Utd lost to the 2nd division Saints !… and this was before it was dark.
Meanwhile on board 3, our captain David Hulme (with the biggest rating advantage) was staring defeat in the eye after his opponent had counter attacked wonderfully to win a pawn followed by picking up two knights for a rook and then another pawn. On board 4, Julian Hawthorne had gained a pawn but was struggling to make decisive inroads. The games went on and on …. with David wriggling around as his opponent dropped a knight by mistake but still had many winning options with an extra 3 pawns. In the chaos of playing in increment time David had fluked his way to an endgame with King and Rook vs King and knight. At around 10.35pm Julian’s opponent gifted a piece giving Julian the win and making the score 2-2. Everyone watching the board 3 game unfold was sure it would be a draw giving Fenton the cup on tie break, but unfortunately for the hosts one last blunder lost the knight and immediate resignation followed just after 10.40pm and 97 moves, handing the Major Cup to (the very lucky team from) Crewe. Commiserations to Fenton.