QUB Sink Lagan

After putting title contenders Fisherwick to the sword last round, QUB were looking to add this week's visitors to the PFC, Lagan, to their list of victims. Lagan haven't enjoyed much luck since their relocation and renaming at the start of the season, not least when beaten royally 4.5-0.5 by Fisherwick in week 1. This time they were hoping the return of their board 1, Queen's student Jonathan Brown, would provide the catalyst to a reversal in their fortune. This was not altogether unlikely, considering the unavailability of four QUB players rated above 1750. Gone from the previous fixture's line-up were Karl McPhillips and John Masterson, while in came Damien Lavery and Andrew Higgins.
QUB Sink Lagan

The top boards assess where things went wrong for Steve

It was the QUB league debutant, Andrew Higgins, whose match was to finish first. Higgins hasn't played a standard length competitive game in a few years and was only informed of an opening in the league team the night before the match. He took up the challenge gamely though, and found himself paired as black against Gerald Harvey. The former Trinity College student Higgins played a smooth game with the black pieces, opening well and soon gaining a pawn. As Harvey's time ticked down, Andrew's position only became stronger, and he eventually became the first QUB player to win on board 3 this season. An excellent result for the debutant, who should be called up again for next week.

Next in was the result of David Grzymek. The Sullivan Upper student faced Peter May after a promotion to board 2, and soon found himself up against a Dutch Defence. The game never became greatly unbalanced though, as May adopted a Stonewall setup. With not much for either player to show for their pieces being swapped off, a draw was agreed. Grzymek gets off the mark for the season with a good result.

The board 4 encounter was between Damien Lavery and the Lagan captain, Chris Kelly. Lavery got tremendous piece activity and pressure for his isolated pawn, while Kelly's postion remained cramped and undeveloped for much of the game. Of equal concern for Chris was his growing time deficit and it was this, combined with Lavery's very comfortable superiority on the board, that eventually saw off the Lagan captain.

Back from another economically successful chess trip south of the border at the weekend, Chris Millar took on Chris Armstrong on board 5. Armstrong's one previous result this season was an impressive draw against the much higher-rated and in form Graeme McCormick. As on that occasion, Armstrong used the white pieces to enter into a drawish line. Millar wasn't too keen on this, however, and took the game into less theoretical and more unbalanced territory at the first realistic opportunity. The Irish Junior Champion put together a sacrificial attack on the enemy king, which in the end was only enough to gain a pawn advantage. This proved sufficient though with Armstrong's lack of endgame theory quickly being exposed in a rook and pawn endgame. Alike QUB team mate Lavery, Millar now sees his league record on to 2/2 for the season.

The last match to be resolved was the board 1 match-up of Steve Scannell and Jonathan Brown. With Karl McPhillips having enjoyed a regular spot on top board for Queen's so far, this was Scannell's first chance to play as the club's board 1. Steve decided to mix things up a bit against Brown's Queen's gambit, and both players found themselves propelled into an intriguing position. Brown decided to eschew the more theoretical lines on the suspicion that Scannell's knowledge was likely to be deeper, and successfully negotiated his way into a superior endgame. However, with both players entering the final minute of their time allocation, Steve looked like he might be able to get enough from his passed pawn to prove compensation for his piece deficit. It wasn't to be though, and Jonathan coolly won with less than a second of his time remaining.

Queen's won't be too worried though - their weakened team escaping with a comfortable 3.5-1.5 win. Next week sees them travelling to play North Belfast, who recently gave a display of strength by defeating champions Clifton House. With the Lagan banana skin successfully passed, Millar's Mob now look to continue their winning form against what should prove a formidable challenge.

QUB 3.5-1.5 LAGAN

1. Steve Scannell (2112) 0-1 Jonathan Brown (1955)
2. David Grzymek (1760) 0.5-0.5 Peter May (1782)
3. Andrew Higgins (1646) 1-0 Gerald Harvey (1612)
4. Damien Lavery (1688) 1-0 Chris Kelly (1639)
5. Chris Millar (1547) 1-0 Chris Armstrong (1451)

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