Imperial College v. London Deaf

We struggled to get the whole team to arrive on time but that didn’t matter much as our hosts were running late themselves as they were still setting up the chess equipment at 7pm. It was a nice room for a match with its bright lights and plenty of room.
Looking at the team lists before the start of the match, it looked tough for our top boards that were about to face much higher grades: 210, 206, 187 and 160. So with that in mind I was hoping to see the bottom boards get the upper hand over their opponents to give us a realistic chance of a match win.
We got off to a bad start when Gian on board 10 was confused by his opponent’s 1st move 1.Nc3 which he hadn’t faced before. I hadn’t seen how that game went but if you face 1.Nc3 it’s best to try and claim the centre as much as possible so either 1…d5 or c5 are the most common replies to 1.Nc3. It can transpose to a few different openings so have to try to steer the game to a defence that you are comfortable with as black.
Some stability was restored when Barry drew with black on board 4 agianst a 160 graded player. It was looking good on the other bottom boards with Des, on board 9, ahead on material early but later on slipped up a bit and accepted a draw. Richard W. on board 8 was also looking good early on but something went wrong and was an exchange down but with a strong passed pawn, forcing his opponent in accepting the draw. On board 7, Raimundas was a pawn up but could not maintain this as his opponent won the pawn back and a draw was later agreed.
We got a boost from Robert on board 6 when his French Defence stood up to some strange moves by his opponent in this opening but Robert did not let this faze him and he broke through on the kingside with e3! opening up his pieces towards an attack on the white king and won the game very cleanly. Unfortunately Richard D. on board 5 with white could not stop his opponent kingside attack and lost later on. So with the top 3 boards still playing, we were 3–4 down so we needed to win on at least 2 of those boards to get a result.
Looking at the high grades of the top 3 boards, you would think this was a tall order but the 3 of us fought hard all the way down to the last 5 minutes of the quickplay finish. Neil on board 3 as white had a blocked centre so was involved in a slow manoeuvring kind of game. But Neil was under pressure towards the end of the game when his opponent broke through on the h file and forced the game down to a winning endgame.  On board 1 Chris played really well against an opponent who despite his high grade, he had beaten him before in the London League so had the psychological advantage. Whenever I watched the game my assessment seemed to swing backwards and forwards many times from ‘white is better’ to ‘black is better’ to a draw and vice versa. In other words – I did not have a clue! As I was focussed on my game and being in time trouble myself, I did not see the end where Chris and his opponent were in mutual time trouble but Chris told me he missed drawing chances at the very end in the rook and pawn endgame. After that the match was lost, 3–6 down with 1 game to play…
My game on board 2 was the last to finish where as black I was defending grittily for my life, just like Michael Freund :–), in order to hang onto the level material. But this came at a huge cost to my clock time which went down to less than a minute (digital clocks were used) with level material – rooks, queen, bishop and pawns on the board. I just blitzed it out with 30 seconds left just to see what happens while my opponent had over 2 minutes left when all of sudden as soon as I had about 8 seconds left or something (the spectators will know more than me what time I had left at different points of the endgame!) we had rook v. rook so I immediately offered a draw but was left stunned when my opponent refused a draw and carried on playing and so I just blitzed out a few moves in the ridiculous position with rook + king v. rook + king until I inevitably lost on time. What I had forgotten about in those few seconds was that I should have stopped the clocks and claimed a draw under FIDE rule 10.2! I knew that rule but as it is so rarely used (never seen it happen in practice during my 18 years’ competitive chess) I can be forgiven for momentarily forgetting about it.
So all of you – if you have less than 2 minutes left and during that time you have a position where your opponent is making no attempt to win the game or cannot win by normal means remember that according to FIDE rule 10.2 you should stop the clocks and claim a draw. If not accepted then it will be referred to the LL Secretary who would then get advice from an arbiter as to what result should be awarded. Of course, our matches have no arbiter so as you can appreciate, it is more complicated in League matches compared to tournaments which have an arbiter who can make an instant decision as to what should happen.
For the detail about article 10.2 for quickplay finishes, scroll down to appendix D in here on the FIDE website.
Even so, I thought it was pretty unsportsmanlike of my opponent to refuse the draw as soon as it got down to rook v. rook but I guess there are a few players out there who will do anything to win a game of chess and are so desperate to do so. That includes a FIDE master with a grade of 206 which is disappointing and sad to see.
Well done to Robert for his win, a timely confidence boost for him! It’s a shame that this was the only win for us on the night but we can only just learn from our mistakes, myself included, and aim to turn individual games from 0 point loss to a half point draw and/or a half point draw into a 1 point win. That is what will win us matches. It is still early days with 10 matches to go having played just 2 matches but we are 2nd from bottom already – we don’t want to turn into Crystal Palace in the Premier League right now!
Hopefully we can come away with our first match win of the season against Battersea II on 6th December.
Alasdair MacLeod,
LDCC Captain

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