Nerve-wracking night at the Jolly Tanners

A pleasant evening at The Args ended with victory for Horsham last week, but by a narrower margin than the score suggests...

The MSL Knockout is a grade-handicapped competition, allowing Horsham to field a team with a wide range of playing strengths. I had intended to field Steve Alker (grade 77) on board 5, but with his unfortunate last-minute illness I was very grateful to Mike (grade 195) to sub in at the last minute. The big difference in their grades threw the even-handicap match out the window and instead Horsham would need to score 3.5 or more to progress.

Things started off well on board 5, where Peter Helliwell was soon two pawns up with a strong attack against Dennis Collard. The pressure soon told and Peter swept to victory and off to the bar for a well-deserved reward. Fittingly for a traditional English pub, the English opening appeared on all three of the top boards, and next to finish was Matthew on board 3 against fellow Horshamite Paul Kington. Paul has been playing some very combative stuff so far this season, and the players treated us to another violent spectacle with both kings losing their pawn cover. Matthew broke through with a nice combinative finish (see diagram and note at the end of this report).

On board 2 Jim Graham had chances to punish my dubious move order but I got away with it and equalised. Thereafter it was fairly sterile, and Jim offered a draw in an even position. As I considered it Matthew won, and Mike also offered Peter Farr a draw on board 1 after many adventures and overlooking a strong f-pawn advance by Black. Mike had managed to neutralise the threats and Peter accepted the draw, which prompted me to accept Jim's offer as well!

This meant Paul only had to draw against Mike Garson on board 4, and with an extra passed pawn he looked on for a win when I shook hands. However the ticking clock can do funny things, and despite winning another pawn Paul came under a dangerous attack and had to play very precisely to avoid getting mated! Both players probably played about 60 moves by the end, with chances for both sides going begging with the clock looming. Your correspondent was regretting shaking hands quite so readily! Finally Mike resigned in a position that still wasn't totally clear, but Paul had got back level on the clock and a draw wasn't good enough for The Args. Well done to Paul for staying the course and seeing us home.

P.G. Farr 1/2-1/2 M.C. Forster
J. Graham 1/2-1/2 A.R.J. Higgs
P.N. Kington 0-1 M.J. Forster
I.M.H. Garson 0-1 P. Richardson
D.G.E. Collard 0-1 P.J. Helliwell

4-1 to Horsham, who progress to face Woodpushers.

The diagram shows Forster-Kington after Black's 28...exd3? How did Matthew finish things off in a board-wide combination? Answer below in the comments.


Anthony Higgs's picture

Matthew played 29.fxg6+ Kg7 30.Rxf6! Kxf6 31.Rxb7! and Black resigned. He can struggle on with 31...Rxb7 32.Nd5+ Kg7 33.Nxc7 Rxc7 34.Qxd3 which is pretty horrible, White can play Be4-f5 and then use the queen to mop up. Black rightly preferred a trip to the bar...