Nice One Cyril
Harborough 3 v Heathcote 2
Score 3 v 2
By Rene Butler
With the match level at 2-2, our top board Cyril Hill offered his opponent, John Manger a draw. Their game looked ‘drawish’ having gone down the French exchange route. Manger declined Cyril’s offer.
One of the Heathcote’s players whispered that Manger is known as ‘The Grinder’ presumably due to his ability to dig out results from stodgy endings. Manger grinded away but it was Cyril who was successful, giving Harborough Three the two points to send us top of the table.
Half an hour beforehand we would have gladly settled for a draw. George Gowers had lost out to Heathcote captain Gordon Milner on board five. George went for the early kill with Queen and dark squared Bishop, having faced The Scotch Game. Gordon spotted the premature attack and was able to use his Queen and a Bishop to devastating effect. We’ve all been there. Many of us have the t-shirt.
Meanwhile, Harborough Three’s other new charge, Gary Joy, was struggling on board three against Richard Maconnachie. Robert Mills on board two was being eased out against Ray Beach, an opponent with a fine record against Harborough.
Mills said: “I opened with d4, but feel I manoeuvred my pieces poorly and Ray defended well. I exchanged Queens, mistakenly and lost a Pawn when a back-rank mate was threatened. From then on it was downhill. I resigned during a Rook and Pawn end game, four Pawns down.”
The only win looked like it was coming from board four via René Butler (me) in his game with Bill Roberts. With the white pieces, I was able to create a firm position, occupying the critical e5 square with a Knight that couldn’t easily be opposed as well as negating black’s light squared Bishop throughout. On the King’s side, the two Rooks supported an ambitious Pawn storm, leading to en passant and checkmate with the Queen on the back rank.
By the time board four had completed, Gary Joy had rescued his doomed position. Having faced e4 from Maconnachie, Gary employed the Scandinavian a response that often makes one pause for thought. Rather than take the Pawn, White played Knight c3, even though the move protects the e4 Pawn and threatens d5, Stockfish is dead against it. White proceeded to move his two Knights in an unusual fashion, opening the game up.
Gary’s Queen took the sitting Rook on a1, Black responded by forking Gary’s Rook and King with one of the much-travelled Knights. Play had the feel of an online blitz game, it was end-to-end. By move 23 White had the equivalent of a five-point advantage.
Forcing a series of checks with his Queen, Gary massaged the position so it wasn’t quite so worrying and offered a draw; once again, the Heathcote player declined, just as their top board had earlier. When Maconnachie played Pawn d3, he robbed his own King of its only escape square. Gary played Queen f4 prompting a surprised Maconnachie to quietly suggest: “…that’s checkmate…” Gary politely agreed maintaining his 100 per cent start to life in league chess.
All level at 2-2, Cyril and ‘The Grinder’ played on. Action was indicative of solid club level chess. Patient, methodical, little waste. The pivotal moment came when Cyril was able to attack two of White’s Pawns with his Queen, only one could be defended.
As the game developed, Cyril attempted to solidify his slim advantage with an exchange of Queens. Manger was having none of it, forcing our top board to progress his plan of slowly painting White into a corner with Pawns pushed on h and f files. Mate looked like it was looming. Manger, with a minute and a half remaining, resigned. A great scalp for Cyril and another win for Harborough Three. BUT, there are sterner tests to come – just look at Loughborough Two’s squad!