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Cap'n Kelly Disappoints

For the first time, Belfast South travelled out to Dundonald to play NICS at their home venue. Kelly's Heroes arrived in bristling form not quite expecting the topsy-turvey match in store for them.
Cap'n Kelly Disappoints

Boards 1 & 3

The Heroes drifted in, in dribs & drabs. Some bemoaned their hobbled state, not having a real opportunity to win the division. Some were more laid-back, letting the elegance of Maynard Sinclair Pavilion wash over them, whetting their whistles in the process. The rest frenetically bounced around keen to play, keen to start, keen to begin, keen to finish... "Lets go!" they demanded. NICS, led by their unflappable Cap'n Newman, took it all in their stride. Who would have guessed what was about to happen.

Drew Ferguson, playing up on board 2 attempted to calm things down with a gentle passive opening. Bernard Jaffa was having none of it responding aggressively turning the table on hapless White who struggled to keep up. But for a blundered Bishop maybe Drew could have recovered something but his troops were in disarray while Bernard's were irritatingly nonchalant and impervious to any sort of threat. One up to the Heroes.

On board 1 Mark Newman faced John McKenna. Both strong, stable pawn structures belied the action as the pieces manoeuvred around them trading off for a balanced point-count but uneven material. Uncharacteristically, Mark had a dancing Queen which seemed surprisingly dynamic while John managed a more thoughtful co-ordinated team driving down on his opponent. A clever tactic caused John to lose a Bishop and ultimately the game. NICS had evened the match.

White to moveAdrian Donford-Smith opened on board 4 against Cathal Murphy. Adrian made a quick claim on the centre with minor pieces aggressively placed as companions to pawns on d4 & e4. Meanwhile Cathal was playing a waiting game perhaps too passive. Adrian got a wonderful position (see diagram)Cathal Murphy after he has just dodged a bullet with a pawn behind Black's defenses and a selection of pieces targeting Cathal's King with multiple X-rays and direct pins. Adrian backed off reckoning on better possibilities leaving Cathal fretting on what might happen next. Sadly the attack petered out and Cathal was able to recover and get back in the game. Under time pressure Cathal offered a draw which Adrian reluctantly accepted. The match was still all square.

On bottom board Pete Storey defended against George Jackson. Both players marshalled their forces on the King-side. However, Pete was able to co-ordinate a frontal attack on the White King while George concentrated on the e-file, trying to get pieces over to defend his King. A couple of times Black had mate-on-the-move which George managed to dodge. Perhaps frustrated by White's defences , Pete manoeuvred a Rook into an awkward position trying to force yet another mate threat. This time George had a devastating reply that not only nullified Pete's threats but attacked his Black Queen leaving Black's Rook en prise. Now White had a significant material superiority and with Black's attack options vapourised, it was not long before George was able to force Pete to capitulate. The Heroes take the lead.

Boards 5 & 4Final and deciding board 3 with Geoff Hindley defending against Martin Kelly. Geoff needed a win to halve the match for the team but his chances were far from good. Martin had successfully pushed through the centre with a rapid head-on attack on the Black king leaving both players with undeveloped pieces on the King-side. Geoff parried Martin's attacks resolutely but was forced to concede a pawn. Black was under severe pressure and as the Queen-side cleared of pawns and minor pieces, White had the opportunity to exploit his extra pawn pushing for promotion. However, Martin's King was exposed and distracted while he got his h-Rook into play; this allowed Geoff to get his pair of Rooks onto the second rank. With a tempo in-hand, it looked inevitable that Geoff could force the draw provided he kept Martin's King in check and didn't allow the White Rook pair to harry the Black King into submission. Collective gasps from the spectators as Geoff took his foot off the pedal creating an escape route for his King instead. Indeed, the escape route meant Martin was unable to contain the Black King. Geoff continued to avoid the forcing-draw, preferring to ping pawns and offer support to his beleaguered King. All this holding activity was eating into Martin's time, something he was rapidly running out of. Despite only a few pieces left it was becoming increasingly complicated to plan a win for White. Geoff threatened a back row mate, which given time pressure Martin overlooked, made a move letting Geoff deliver the coup de gras.

2014 has become a miracle season for Geoff and more than once now he has come to the rescue for his team. In tonight's match, as soon as the clock closed on the mating move, the silence was shattered by everyone chattering at once, clammering with their own "way out". A topsy-turvy result on every board with what proved to be an excellent draw for both teams, well, a fair result anyway.

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