NICS vs Muldoons

NICS entertained Muldoons on Thursday for their first match up in Division 2. Unusually NICS had the edge ratings-wise but not by much; this one could go either way.
NICS vs Muldoons

NICS vs Muldoons 2

After a bit of a cafuffle over the venue, the NICS players belatedly furnished the room with trestle tables, robbing chairs from the prepared seating for the next day's wedding reception. The Muldoon's team were tempted by the colouring books and crayons on display at one table, but managed to resist. And just as the clocks were about to start, NICS staffers distributed iced-glasses with elegant bottled water to each board; this impressed the Sailor Town crew no end, evidently a novelty down their way.

First game to close was on 3 where Alan Burns defended against Rodney Orr. The situation seemed passive enough but suddenly a pair of pawns disappeared. Then knights got exchanged and both Queens as well. This left a vacant centre which Rodney was aiming to control with a pair of Rooks co-ordinating with his minor pieces. Meanwhile Alan had been beavering away on the King-side pushing his h-pawn to the 3rd rank supported by his white Bishop and both Rooks in attendance. The break-through came when Black's Bishop took the g2 pawn opening the King to a series of discovered checks. Rodney was powerless to do anything but respond with the forced moves until the mate arrived.NICS vs Muldoons

While all this excitement was going on, Mark Newman, defending as Black, was getting harried by Muldoon's club captain Peter Wilson on top board. Mark had grabbed a pawn in the centre but at the cost of not being able to castle. This allowed Peter to harass Mark's King with a relentless spate of checks leading the King a merry dance. But Mark had not been idle and had managed to get a pawn all the way through to f2. Eventually the checks petered out ["Take that, Martin Kelly!"] and after promotion, Mark was able to wrap it up quite quickly.

At the other end, on bottom board, Geoff Hindley defended against Paddy Maguire. Paddy lost tempo in the opening allowing Geoff to get ahead in development. The game was very even and on move 17, Paddy offered a draw.  Geoff declined, instead, opting to take a poisoned c-pawn.  Paddy responded by swapping light-square bishops reckoning the Black bishop on f5 was too dangerous.  Paddy continued by putting pressure on the Black Queen until the two Queens were facing each other in the middle of the board, separated only by a White isolated passed pawn. But White had both Knights still on the board, and he skilfully used these in the centre to great effect.  Paddy equalised on pawns and again offered a draw.  After pondering the enormously complicated position for over 5 minutes, Geoff accepted and both repaired to the bar to discuss the game.

Geoff Hindley playing Paddy maguireOn board 2, David McAlister opened against Stephen Downes. Play was very controlled from both sides till White managed to capture a loose pawn. With this advantage, David decided to push for an end-game victory. Demonstrating a familiarity with expert Cuban play, White's pieces advanced up the board in waves, trading off when opportunities arose. Stephen could do little to resist the advancing tide of White pieces as his defences were simply washed away leaving no shelter for his King. After the match, David was able to illustrate his "advancing waves" technique totally without the aid of salsa rhythms, Cuban or otherwise.

Last board to finish, on 4, Drew Ferguson opening against Jim Waddell. In response to a slow, passive opening, Jim stormed down the centre creating a lot of problems for Drew who struggled with space. After an exchange of pieces resolved tension in the centre, Black was making headway down the K-side with his Queen coming in from the other flank. In his attempts to get some counter-play, Drew committed his Queen too far getting pursued by a Black Knight until Jim won an exchange on the 1st rank. Drew was in terrible shape until he discovered a neat tactic that both relieved pressure and maybe offered a slight material advantage. He got the move-order wrong but Jim's King was exposed and under serious threat from all White's pieces. Intimidated by the pressure, Black retreated letting White consolidate his attack. Unable to keep the Black King in check gave Jim the opportunity to renew his own attack setting up a mate-on-the-move if Drew was not careful.

Bg5+ what happens nextBut Drew had other ideas: from the illustrated position, he was able to trade pieces until he had Queen-Rook against Queen. Rather than opt for a simple Queen swap with a skewer, he found a way to capture the Black Queen almost for free and win the game (down the shallow end of the rating pool, a Rook against a handful of pawns is seldom a certainty).

A completely unexpected result with the match concluded well before 10:30pm. This final game perhaps echoing the overall performance  of the NICS team taking down their opponents with brutal efficiency. Except for Geoff. Hopefully he is not thinking of holding off for another 25 years before his next win.

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