NICS @ Bangor

NICS travelled to Groomsport for the 2nd match-up against league leaders Bangor. Admittedly Bangor are well clear in the Division but considering the previous meeting at the seasiders, NICS could be in with a chance.
NICS @ Bangor

Boards in play

Both teams fielded 6 boards on the night with Bangor dominating all the boards except number 1 which was weighted in favour of NICS captain Mark Newman. Drew Ferguson opening on board 3 for NICS crashed and burned in disastrous fashion to Walter Wilson. Looks like Drew will be looking for something better to open with after a very poor showing in the past few weeks. Despite Walter's claims that he cannot play fast, the game was played at a quick rate with aggressive-play from Walter pushing White back dictating a defensive position. Drew just about weathered a frontal attack but miscalculated a trade missing a check to lose an exchange. With his defences in disarray as well, White capitulated.

On bottom board, Pete Storey defended against Ashley McWhinney who claimed an extra advantage with a 200 rating point difference. Pete castled K-side early and this perhaps let Ashley gain advantage on the Q-side as Pete's pawns started to fall; White castled Q-side too evidently expecting no real threat. However, both Black's Bishops sat in front of their King aiming straight at the White King. It looked like a stand-off in the centre as the Queens faced each other. Pete calmly moved his Queen sideways onto the a-file threatening all sorts of nasty things if he could get behind Ashley's King on the back rank; White parried with an effective a4. But Ashley didn't realise the Black Queen was also attacking the White pawn on d2 - assisted by a forward Knight and one of Black's Bishops. Worse, the Knight move not only exposed a check but in his attempts to limit the damage, Ashley let his Queen get caught in a horrible fork. A excellent manoeuvre from Pete to claim the game and balance the match.

Adrian Donford-Smith was also giving up a couple of hundred points to Gary Johnston on board 4. In an aggressive flurry of activity pieces came out fighting, and falling, at a rapid pace while most pawns were rooted to their starting squares. Not so the e-pawns which both disappeared to leave the file open. In what is now becoming somewhat typical for Adrian, a wonderful tactic pushed a lone Knight and in two bounds caught Gary in a double-fork with check. Adrian nearly took both Gary's remaining pieces in the exercise and Gary capitulated soon after. NICS take a surprise lead.

On board 2 Alan Burns defended against Alan McConnell. Mr. Burns was giving up almost 400 points and promptly dropped a Rook to give White a distinct material advantage. But both player's pieces were poorly placed to let a lost Rook seal the game. Instead, Black charged down the K-side as usual, targeting the h3 pawn with long-range pieces in attendance. The pawn fell and as ever Black marshalled his pieces for a coup de grace. White calmly did his own marshalling: pushing a pair of pawns to the sixth rank, teaming up Queen and Rook on the a-file and the final straw, exchanging Bishop for Knight to demolish Black's ambitions on the White King. White was now attacking on so many fronts with the advanced pawns restricting the movement of the defenders; its was not long before the pressure turned into mating threats. Bangor win to balance the match at 2-2.

Geoff Hindley defended against Ken Browne on board 4 giving up almost 300 points as well as white advantage. The position was balanced till Ken forced an exchange that removed most of the major pieces and all of the minor pieces too with a couple of open files; more importantly he had a pawn advantage going into the end-game. Some deft play from Geoff got his Rook behind the White King pinging a few backward pawns as he did so. Ken pushed his pawn majority but too slowly letting the Black King get active with the result that Geoff won a pawn back and stalled White's progress. After a bit of posturing it became clear that neither player had winning possibilities and agreed a draw.

It came down to the final board on 1 to determine the match. Mark Newman opened to Paul McGuigan. Paul had established a long diagonal, pawn chain more or less restricting Marks activity to the half-open e-file. But with a canny Knight move Mark's white Bishop targeted the pair of Knights at the root of the pawn chain while simultaneously Queen, Rooks and an advanced pawn pushed-down on Black's exposed King. In uncharacteristic fashion Mark committed to attack forcing exchanges and reducing his own forces to a single Knight fronting his Queen while Paul retained 2 Knights, a Bishop and a Rook. Black's King was in the open though and the two White pieces were able to co-ordinate to pressure the King. But there were too many Black pieces soon consolidated in defence when Paul arranged his Knights to defend each other making them more or less invulnerable. Mark came very close to committing a draw by repetition but instead tried to open the game and entice Paul into an unforced error as both clocks wound down. But Paul had more sense and the game closed up again. Eventually, at the second time of asking, Mark accepted the inevitable draw.

Sadly despite his frisky finish Mark could not get more than a half-point to balance the match over the 6 boards but in the league match, Bangor won out 3-2.

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