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Kevin Agnew breaks 12-year drought

"Chess Notes" from County Down Spectator, 22 Nov 2004

Monday 22nd saw the Barracudas "away-team" travel to Portadown to visit the Leagues newest club.

With a late assembly of players, Barracudas captain Drew Ferguson approached the Portadown match with uncertainty. Fielding mostly ungraded players, and their sole rated member featuring on board 4 or 3, Portadown were expected to be no push-over and might well conceal unexpected strengths on top boards. A heavy loss against Bombardier suggested they may not be quite match-fit. The Barracudas were not going to underestimate their opponents and sat down ready for the best Portadown could offer.

Philip Todd returned to top board for the Barracudas against John Canning. Despite his youth, Philip remembered having a hard-time against John in an Open Tournament a while back and expected the worst. And the worst wasn't long in coming. John defended strongly, aggressively pushing his Queen uncontested to the third rank, right into the face of Philip's King. But Philip responded calmly repelling John's attack although losing a pawn in the process. Both sets of forces retreated to start again, a deal more quietly. John maintained his pawn advantage but Philip refused to give ground and as John came under time pressure, a result looked unlikely and Philip gladly accepted the draw.

Martin Rogers on board 2 seems inspired at the moment and even claims to be revisiting his old chess manuals "to combat these young up-starts who know too much theory" he says. Although Portadown's Nigel Telford may not be a "young upstart" he certainly suffered under Martin's onslaught tonight meeting a rather inglorious end which Martin insisted on replaying for the company; admittedly an elegant combination dispatching the White King unceremoniously.

Ken Browne faced Portadown's Colin Fenton on board 3; both tenacious players. Ken immediately felt the pressure which Colin was able to sustain throughout the game. Ken was forced to defend robustly and just about managed to maintain parity. Time pressure was again the telling factor and Ken gratefully accepted Colin's offer of a draw.

The Barracudas travelling "Black Man", Kevin Agnew took board 4 against John Lambe. For once, everything went Kevin's way with John leading into Kevin's prepared lines. The critical moment came with Kevin's Queen harassing John's Queen-side, a couple of minor pieces in support and John's central pawns looking vulnerable. The situation looked very dangerous for White but Kevin hesitated .. and hesitated some more .. before committing the fateful move. Kevin's Queen captured a lone central pawn simultaneously securing the centre for Black and launching a full, frontal attack on White's King. John capitulated soon after.

Bottom board, Barracudas captain, Drew Ferguson opened against Paul Moorehead with an awkward Queen's fianchetto. Although Paul established a strong, well supported central unit some uncertainty allowed Drew to secure an advanced outpost with sustained diagonal threats from both Bishops. Drew's extra mobility allowed him to pose several mating threats while Paul was cramped behind his wall of pawns. Eventually Drew broke through forcing exchanges to promote a c-pawn. With only a Knight and a few pawns left, Paul's position looked hopeless till Drew walked disastrously into a Knight fork, losing his Queen and almost all superiority. Fortunately for Drew, Paul's flag had fallen and he avoided another dreadful result.

The final result of a 4-1 win for the Barracudas lightened their journey home; more relief at narrow escapes than a convincing win. Except for Kevin, of course, who notched up his first full victory since returning to the game after a 12-year lay-off. There will be no stopping him now.

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