Hillsborough vs QUB

After a generally impressive start by QUB in their opening fixture, their next encounter saw them face one of Division 2’s most solid performers – Hillsborough, a team widely renowned throughout Belfast for their solid reputation. On paper, some may feel this is an easier fixture than Malone, but these campaigners have proved in the past they are no pushovers and if QUB have title aspirations then it is vital that they perform to the best of their capabilities against a potential banana skin of a fixture.
Hillsborough vs QUB

Calum Leitch (on the right) playing Geoffrey Collins over 4 years ago.

The QUB team on paper is weaker than last week’s team, with Claudio Fierro and Fred MacDonald, the team’s boards 1 and 3 respectively opting out with Tommy Nolan (who incidentally is playing his first competitive game in 17 years approximately) and Vladimir Pucovsky -an 1830 rated player from Slovakia, who has spent his remaining half a dozen or so years in England being drafted in to replace. This would be QUB’s first test of the squad’s strength and the next 3 hours worth of entertainment would be a sufficient example as any to find the worth of this QUB Team.

 

The first match to finish this week was the game on board 5 between the 2 newcomers to the league Tommy Nolan of QUB and Tiberiu Gociu of Hillsborough. The game soon became very strategically balanced, until Tommy lost the exchange with what he describes “a ludicrous Knight move” but Tommy certainly didn’t see this as an opportunity to go home and take an early bath, but instead he kept fighting and clawed his way into a perhaps favourable position. Unfortunately for QUB, that piece advantage was paying dividend for his Romanian opponent. He opened Tommy’s King up and found a passed pawn amongst the complications, a plan which dispatched Tommy’s defences and forced an immediate resignation. This secured the point for Hillsbrough to give them a 1-0 lead and pile misery on the young QUB side that perhaps are beginning to find the difficult demands of Division 2. Hillsbrough have reason to be excited about the acquisition of Tiberiu. But this showing from Tommy, despite the result brings encouraging news for QUB and bodes well for the future.

 

Moments later, QUB levelled the scoreline as debutant Vladimir Pucovsky won a hard fought game against the steady Michael Harkness on board 2. It was a game which saw neither player attain any real advantage, but a game where Vladimir was never in any danger of losing. He took his narrow advantage and concentrated his efforts into his passed d-pawn which was enough for him to gain an adequate advantage and force a resignation. A very encouraging performance from Vladimir, justifying his 1830 strength.

 Chris Millar, the QUB captain is wasting no time in solidifying his drawish reputation, with another steady unspectacular draw against Alistair Armstrong on board 4. It proved to be a game where tactical ingenuity was lacking. Yet, Chris gave his opponent very little chance to gain an advantage. After initially declining a draw offer, it was only within the next 2 or 3 moves that Chris conceded that the game was destined towards a draw. This further confirms Chris’s 100% record this year in attaining 4 draws in all competitions. After the game Chris said that he approximated that his team needed 1 and a half points to secure victory. Chris informed me that he would get the half point and allow me the glory and dubious honour (as well as the uphill task of winning) of securing the full point.

 On board 1 saw John Masterson of QUB (promoted to board 1 this week with the exclusion of Claudio) take on the highly respected Ulster Chess Union President David McAlister. The game itself noticeably got more open as time went on; as a result of this it became more tactical. John found himself up the exchange but down on time and yet his pawn had a strong grip hold on f6 and was very dominating, but David had John’s King exposed, something which John had to deal with. As the tension rose and as the game neared its conclusion, John was able to convert his material advantage into a win and guarantee QUB at least a draw.

 

So with the score currently at 2.5-1.5 in favour of the away side. It was up to Calum Leitch, the Division 2 specialist to at least draw his game and give the win to QUB. This is a situation Cal has been in on many occasions throughout his league career and normally he responds well to the responsibility and added pressure. Would this prove to be the case?

Trying to prevent this from happening was Geoffrey Collins. The pair’s only meeting was four years ago, a game which Calum narrowly won. Four years on and an increase in 700 points for Calum, one may be inclined to think that he is the firm favourite.

The opening started friskily and it saw Calum get a positional and material advantage. The middlegame saw a gutsy fightback from Collins who gave his younger opponent plenty to think about. This may have resulted in Leitch’s questionable positional sacrifice which saw him give up his rook for a bishop. The thinking behind it is that the bishop would be a lot stronger in the position than any rook. Whether this sacrifice was an accurate one is still being decided by the highly recommended Fritz but perhaps this is progress for Cal, as Fritz usually ridicules his play.

The game was close to the end and Geoffrey’s lack of time in the closing stages of the match was evident and Calum was able to snatch victory. Resulting in a 3.5-1.5 win for QUB and continuing the side’s perfect start to the season. The team must not get carried away as next week they face Bangor Groomsport and if Richard Proctor has heard a whisper of these QUB heavyweights then rest assured he will be aiming to topple the early pacemakers.

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