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Bangor vs Ballynafeigh 2

Fresh from a week's break, Ballynafeigh 2 resumed their league campaign with a trip to the North Down coast.
Bangor vs Ballynafeigh 2

Dennis Wilkinson looks on as Jamison-Hederson nears its conclusion

Ballynafeigh 2 left the confines of Ballynafeigh Community House for the first time this season this past Thursday with a visit to Groomsport Parish Hall to take on Bangor. On paper the away side were the heavy favourites, but while they were enjoying their free week, their opponents showed that they were not to be taken lightly by holding the champions Fisherwick to a draw.

Perhaps mindful of this, Damien Cunningham brought a full-strength squad with him, including the Ulster Senior and Intermediate Champions Mike Redman and Robert Lavery, strong American newcomer Stephen Rush (on course for a rating of around 1800 based on his performances so far this season) and renowned sugar cube sculptor Brendan Jamison.

The Bangor line-up, however, was not as strong as the team that had achieved last week's excellent result; McGuigan, McConnell, Henderson, Johnston and Owen Wilson.

McConnelll-Cunningham on board 2 was the first game to reach a conclusion; a quick, uneventful draw. Board 1 was a different matter, though, as Mike Redman quickly swept aside Paul McGuigan to give the visitors the lead.

Meanwhile on board 4, Garry Johnston showed no fear as he sacrificed a piece for an attack against Stephen Rush, but his confidence proved to be misplaced; Rush displayed "grace under pressure" against his Bangor "counterpart", sending strong "signals" that opponents would have to do more than just "roll the bones" to get a result against him (as Rookie would, no doubt, have written here, had he shared your author's taste in music) as he defended well and converted his material advantage into a trivially-won endgame. Hey "presto" - Ballynafeigh 2 had a two-point lead.

The win was now out of reach for Bangor, but given the situation on the two remaining boards - Jamison, like Johnston, getting insufficient compensation for a piece sacrifice against Ron Henderson on board 3, and Wilson with a seemingly impregnable position against Lavery on board 5 - they could have been forgiven for expecting to keep the scoreline respectable at the very least.

However, chess is a ruthless game, and on this occasion a couple of slip-ups were all it took to turn what looked like a hard-fought 3-2 contest into a 4.5-0.5 shellacking. Firstly, Wilson, in a position where his domination of the open e-file should have completely prevented Lavery from making progress, made an ill-conceived pawn push that allowed his opponent to place a rook on e6 supported by pawns on d5 and f5, rendering Wilson's doubled rooks more or less irrelevant. Faced with a choice between allowing a dangerous passed pawn or hunkering down while his opponent broke through at his leisure, Wilson chose the former and was beaten not long afterwards.

While all this was going on, Henderson had added several pawns to his material advantage over Jamison and was well on his way to claiming a big win - wait, his clock's running, but his opponent's king is in check, and he's got maybe two minutes left - he hasn't forgotten to press his clock, has he?

Yes, Ron Henderson had forgotten to press his clock. While his position on the board was a nailed-on win, by the time he noticed his mistake there just wasn't enough time to close the deal. It's not the most satisfying way to win, but in a league as tight as this, every point really does count.

After the Christmas break, a trip to Stormont to face NICS is next on the Ballynafeigh 2 agenda - another big win will go a long way to securing a place in Division 1 for the closing stages of the season.

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