Fruithill vs NICS

After their victory last week, a relaxed NICS team travelled across the city to Fruithill. Perhaps they should have been a bit more concerned: strong-man McAlister was missing for the match and Fruithill have a reputation for fielding strong, home-teams. As it was, the visitors were not entirely out-gunned.
Fruithill vs NICS

Fruithill vs NICS

Team captain, the flamboyant Mark Newman, started as a marginal favourite on board 1 while the rest of the team were giving up 3-400 points or more. This looked as it was going to be hard-work!

Board5: Pete Storey vs John MonaghanPete Storey started with White on board 5 against John Monaghan. All was going well till Pete blundered a piece letting John take control of the game. It wasn't long till Black claimed the game.

Cairan Marron opened for Fruithill on board 2 against Alan Burns. Alan gave-up a pawn early on for strategic advantage but Ciaran gained the upper-hand when he forced a trade of a pawn & Knight for a Rook, winning the exchange and a decent material advantage. As the pieces came off, Whites 2-pawn advantage began to tell with Alan getting pushed around by the pair of White Rooks dominating the central files. Hanging on in desperation, Alan had little left to play with and as his material gradually disappeared, Cairan claimed the game.

Board 4: Adrian Donford-Smith vs Frank CarruthersAs ever when Adrian Donford-Smyth faces stiff opposition, he ups his game. Defending against Frank Carruthers on board 4, Adrian came through the opening in good order; he was more than holding his own. Even as the pieces were coming off neither side could claim advantage. It was at the last hurdle, in a technical end-game where Frank's experience won the day.

Boards 2 & 3: Ciaran Marron vs Alan Burns, Neil Fisher vs Drew FergusonBoard 3 saw Drew Ferguson as White taking on Neil Fisher. The game began like a rerun of Drew's Lindores game a few weeks ago; Black lead with his d-pawn allowing his Queen and black Bishop to target h2. This time Drew responded by hitting a Knight on f6 with his black Bishop before it got blocked by Neil's advancing centre; the exchange doubled the pawns on the f-file exposing the Black King. In the centre, Neil pushed forward committing Drew to a white pawn chain and Neil with a black chain. Drew successfully opened his cramped King-side but let Neil claim e3 for his Knight. The Queen-side was locked up by the pawns while the King-side was in a stand-off. Neil had immediate control but White was able to gradually improve, targeting Black's f & h-pawns. White had weathered the storm and was making threats of his own now. As pieces were traded down, both Kings began to advance and when the Queens were swapped, almost unbroken pawns chains remained blocking the opposite coloured Bishops. Drew offered a draw but Neil held on trying to squeeze through the only gap left but this seemed to offer a better opportunity for White. Reluctantly, Neil accepted the draw. A good result for Drew thwarting most of Neil's ambitions with enough complexity to keep the outcome uncertain.

On top board, Board 1: Mark Newman vs Tony ParkerMark Newman opened as White with the Kings Indian Attack against Tony Parker. Mark got an open file for his rooks and 2 Bishops against a Knight and Bishop. But mistakenly giving up the open file for a poor thought out attack on an isolated pawn. Tony beautifully manoeuvred his Knight to threaten the King with a potential back row mate. Now possessing the open file, Black had all the play. With Queens on the board Tony did offer an early draw but Mark decided to fight on - perhaps his two bishops might have a slight advantage over the isolated pawn. But it wasn't to be, coming under time pressure and with no clear advantage, Mark re-offered the draw and Tony accepted. Tony played an excellent game; the next day, Mark enrolled in chess school!

So far the season has proved much tougher than the fledgling NICS squad anticipated. Despite some fine play on all boards, it has been extremely difficult to convert good individual performances into points. The past few matches have seen several games lost in the last moments that could well have been wins. Lets hope Mark's re-education can be passed on to the rest of the team with improvements in everyone's end-game technique.

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