Out of the Pennine hills came a team with malicious intent. It had been a day with skies as clear and blue as the shirts of his Manchester city heroes, but for Neil on board one it was not to be a championship performance. This chess match was against a team from Bolton who wanted to emulate the achievements of Bolton’s football past. Neil on board one as white opened with his favourite Birds/Dutch which had vanquished many a formidable opponent, but as early as move four he was in trouble; the pawn push to g5 coupled with a gambit exposed the weakness of kingside dark squares and Neil spent twenty minutes trying to find a way out of his difficulties but like a latter day Nat Lofthouse (Bolton and England football great) his opponent bulldozed his way through Neil’s position and could even have won Neil’s Queen! Alas there was no Vincent Company to deal with Nat and despite valiant efforts the result was never in doubt. The furrows of concentration etched deep across Neil’s tortured brow. He admitted to the author he may even have to abandon his beloved Dutch because of the scale of Nat’s total victory.
On board two John played his favourite Caro Kann against E4 and a battle royal ensued. Slowly but surely, John was pushed back, and his opponent managed to engineer a passed queenside pawn. Closer and closer it came but Premiership standard defending on John’s part out-manoeuvred his opponent and a score draw resulted.
On board three Khalid as white played the London system but, despite knowing the opening really wel, he lost a pawn for no advantage. However, this merely served to galvanise Khalid and with both sides having castled on opposite sides it was an Escape to victory. Like the film of the same name he opened up his opponent’s defences using his pawns like battering rams. The castle walls thus breached his opponent soon capitulated. A very credible victory, for Northenden.
On board four our man in form, Eddie, was initially in difficulty because his major pieces were located on the Queenside without sufficient avenues of exploitation, being blocked in by a strong pawn centre and then his Bolton opponent unleashed a strong Kingside attack. However this was more kick and rush more akin to Bolton’s current football style. A dubious Rook sacrifice was never going to upset our Eddie and he regrouped his army and may well have gone on to achieve victory but his opponent salvaged a draw with a perpetual check.
Tom meanwhile was facing Khalid’s favourite defence as black against E4, the Pirc. However it soon became obvious that unlike Khalid he was not as well versed in its intricate nature allowing Tom to dominate the centre, building up a strong initiative and exploiting the Pirc’s slow development. Fischer-like, he prevented his Bolton adversary from castling to safety, and then constructed a mating net, which obliged his opponent to resign.
On the bottom board our debutant Ayoub was getting used to the twin demands of notation and clock. This was a tremendously gallant effort and it becoming obvious that Ayoub, like Vincent Company, could take out his opponent. But this is not football, and Company-like he could not boot him off the pitch and he had to try to outplay him. Red cards notwithstanding Ayoub tried his best. The game had more twists and turns than City’s previous championship season but alas there was no Aguero with a last minute winner. Match practice prevailed and a home team defeat was the outcome.
Last to finish was Ben on board 6.This was perhaps the cup final game of the evening with both players hitting on the breakaway, knight forks, complicated exchanges and mistakes a plenty. One can have nothing but admiration for a player who never gives up and for one who takes defeat with good grace and good humour, sharing jokes with his victorious opponent. And so the final whistle blew with an away win for Bolton: four points to three.
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