Friday, 28 October 2011

Title challengers Newport held to a draw

With the return of some of their former stars from university, Newport A look a formidable side in this season's Division 1 with many tipping them as title challengers alongside Shrewsbury A and Telepost A.

However Church Stretton A refused to roll over in spite of a major difference in grades. Newport's five boards averaged an ECF grade of 172, compared to Stretton's 152, but the match ended 2.5-2.5 with Trevor Brotherton holding county number one Nick Rutter to a draw, Steve Rooney beating Gavin Cooper and Karl Wakefield winning against Tony Holdford.

The match produced plenty of interesting games (always a major distraction to those of us who like to watch progress on other boards between our own moves!) Trevor played a sharp line against Nick's Semi Slav with a g4 pawn sacrifice, resulting in open files, hanging pieces and severe complications. Honours were even in the end but it was certainly an exciting one to watch and hopefully the game score will be available here soon.

Karl wasn't aware of his opponent's predilection for the King's Gambit but saw off the Bishop's version of the gambit nonetheless. Karl accepted the gambit and steadfastly refused to relinquish the pawn on f4, eventually supporting it with a pawn chain. Tony managed to eat up a whole hour's more time than Karl in the middlegame but still couldn't find a way to get his attack going. Calmly lopping off pieces, Karl took the full point gratefully.

Gerald Link was eased out of a king and pawn ending on board three and Graham Shepherd, who had been under niggling pressure for much of the game also succumbed.

The agreed draw on board one set the match up for a thrilling finale as Steve Rooney and Gavin Cooper battled it out. With rooks and minor pieces on the board in a fairly even position Steve offered a draw, despite knowing this would lose the match as it was difficult to see a way to get the win. Gavin decided to plough on, understandable perhaps given the grading difference that he reckoned he could cope with the final time scramble better. Gavin had taken about 15 minutes extra at this point and with less than ten minutes to go, started moving almost instantaneously. The position then simplified and he allowed Steve, playing black, to gain a passed b pawn which proved to be stronger than Gavin's king-side majority. The tables now having turned, Gavin offered a draw which Steve politely refused sensing victory. A final flurry of moves ended with Gavin resigning one move from checkmate with lone K against K and Q and less than a minute on both clocks.  Phew!

Newport A 2.5 Church Stretton A 2.5

1. N Rutter 0.5, T Brotherton 0.5
2. G Cooper 0, S Rooney 1
3. N Paul 1, G Link 0
4. A Holdford 0, K Wakefield 1
5. C Lewis 1, G Shepherd 0.

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