NICS vs Fruithill

Back at home and NICS entertained Fruithill for their final meeting in the season; usually two well matched squads as board imbalances even out for the match. First match of the year went 4-1 for Fruithill, a draw in the second match. Could NICS actually nick more than a point on the night?

The 2013/14 season has been a tempestuous affair between the two teams and this was their last face-off for the year. A resounding 4-1 victory in their first match let Fruithill steal a lead over NICS in the first half of the league. In the Divisional play-offs, NICS have been scoring more consistently though the teams' next match-up only scored a draw. Could NICS get more for their efforts tonight?

Board 3 closed out very quickly with Drew Ferguson defending against John Robinson. Drew immediately took John out-of-book with an aggressive foray down the Q-side. It looked as if White's slow K-side development might net a significant material advantage for Black but John managed to recover well. Nonetheless as Drew traded down, he ended up with a pawn advantage in a Knight-Bishop endgame. Black's pawns were better placed with the front-runner on c4 unopposed; unfortunately Black's Bishop was poorly placed to offer any support. When John offered a draw, Drew reluctantly had to accept.

Board1On top Board Mark Newman defended against Sean Linton. An open centre and aggressively placed Queen let Mark win a rook early on in the game. Sean played excellently and won back the exchange but eventually, after Queens were off and a Knight lost, gave up the fight.

Alan Burns opened on board 2 against Gerry Collins. In a sharp game with action on both flanks Alan overlooked an attack losing a Bishop for no benefit. Gerry exerted severe pressure with a Bishop & Queen getting very close to a mate but as ever Alan wriggled out of it. As material came off, Black had advancing pawns on 3 files but his King was exposed to the threats of a wicked White Queen that was dodging a Queen-trade while nipping at the Black King. Finally, an incautious Queen move from Alan revealed a discovered check; his only option remaining was to trade Queens and let one or more of the Black pawns promote. Alan resigned to let Gerry even the match.

Pete Storey defended to Paul Logan on Board 5. In a robust game, Pete manage to take control of the centre with the authority of his Queen. Paul's pieces were not well co-ordinated and a Bishop en prise; still he had the potential of a strong attack building on the King-side. In an attempt to get some play, he sidelined his Queen giving a Pete a tough choice: should he take the Bishop for free, pin the Rook with his own black Bishop or charge in with his white Bishop taking g2 in front of the white King. The frontal attack won out and after a couple of moves, Pete was able to bring more material into the attack, Paul was in severe difficulty. Forks, pins, discovered checks, X-ray attacks galore as Pete demolished Paul's remaining defences to claim the game.

Boards 4 & 5: Geoff Hindley vs John Monaghan, Pete Storey vs Paul LoganAs in the previous meeting, it was down to the final board to determine the outcome of the fixture and as then Geoff Hindley opened to John Monaghan, this time on board 4. This evening NICS had the advantage and it was John who had to win to save the match. Both players had plenty of time on the clock and there were opportunities for White or Black though it was a tight game. John asked for a report on the match situation and played on. However, Geoff, having gained some momentum, offered a trade-down which John accepted perhaps expecting more from his pawn structure. But it soon became clear that the game would quickly stall so both agreed a draw.

NICS win the match 3 - 2 just about balancing the season's play with Fruithill but keeping their advantage in the league. This more or less marks the half-way point in the Division with NICS inching ahead of Fruithill but Bangor almost untouchable in top spot, 16 points clear of NICS.

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