Bridstones Holme Brew Chess Challenge: Round 8
As three of the five remaining players in the Bridestones competition played their final games there was no shortage of drama and excitement to be had at the Tradesclub on Monday night.
Most dramatic of all was Nick Sykes superb victory over the runaway tournament leader and top seed Matthew “Mate-You” Parsons. With a perfect score before the final round Matthew has hardly even been under pressure at any point in the tournament. Dave Shapland achieved what should have been a winning position a couple of games ago but he couldn’t close the deal and other than that Matthew’s progress has been relatively serene.
In this game Nick bravely ventured the King’s Indian Defence against Matthew, who plays the opening himself with Black, and opted to play 2.c4 instead of his habitual London System. Sometimes, facing one of your own favourite openings with colours reversed can do funny things to your psyche. Matthew however is too good a player to let such considerations mess with his head and he selected the solid and unpretentious Averbahk System (with Be2 and Bg5) to meet Nicks Kings Indian.
Nick navigated the opening without any problems and then, as Matthew said afterwards, just “kept on playing good moves” throughout the middle game. Meanwhile Matthew seemed to be struggling to find a plan and he slowly drifted into a weak position. A few rounds ago Dave had blown his chance against Matthew by trying to completely stamp out his opponent’s chances for counter-play instead of converting his positional advantage to a material one. Nick adopted the same approach in this game but, crucially, his control of the position was such that it didn’t affect his winning chances. He overlooked a couple of opportunities to nail a direct attack on Matthew’s king (probably because he wasn’t looking for one) and simply maintained his grip on the game.
Finally, possibly out of desperation, Matthew made the decision to swap the queens off and try to defend in an ending that Nick saw was simply winning for him. Against another player this approach might have worked but Nick’s end game technique has improved greatly over the last eighteen months and, despite both players getting into considerable time trouble, he held his nerve to convert a very impressive win and blot Matthew’s copy book on the final page.
This result means that Matthew has still won the tournament by a huge margin with a score of 7 out of 8. Nick meanwhile, after a largely disappointing tournament, can bask in the glory of a morale boosting win that gives him some momentum for the start of the new season, when he will take over the captaincy of the ‘A’ team and also brings his score for the competition up to a respectable 3 out of 8.
Whilst all this was going on Pete Leonard and Dave Shapland were engaged in another complicated and brutal struggle. Dave was in playful mood and elected to essay the Scandinavian Defence against Pete. An opening that he’s never played before but he had noticed that Pete hadn’t faced before with White at a classical time limit either. Dave’s hope was to draw Pete into a dangerous gambit line but Pete knew better than to fall behind in development against Dave and the struggle soon became complex and messy and both players missed good continuations amid the confusion.
The key moment of the game came as Dave went into “the tank” as early as move 14 and spent the best part of half an hour analysing a position that looked close to winning but turned to be less straight forward. The computer finds an interesting queen sacrifice that might have afforded Dave his best chance in the position. Instead he failed to find a killer blow and was shocked by the immediacy and force of Pete’s counter attack. The Black position became very uncomfortable indeed and Dave had left himself with an acute shortage of time to search for solutions to his problems.
Pete rightly launched a pawn assault on Dave’s king position and the attack simply stream-rollered home. Dave lost on time and resigned at the same time as they reached time control. Pete had avenged his defeat to Dave from earlier in the tournament and carried his own score to 3 out of 7 with just Andy Leatherbarrow to play next Monday to complete the competition.
Dave meanwhile has finished the tournament poorly with just a single draw from his last three games. He is still in second place on his own with 3½ out of 8 but he will at least be joined on that score by either Pete or Andy depending on the outcome of their game and if Pete wins that game he can finish in second on his own with 4 points.
Both this week’s games can be found in the viewer below.