Diary Of a Totnes Pawn in the Battle of Frome
Saturday 16 May
After a good nights sleep, I headed downstairs to fuel up on a full English breakfast and a pot of coffee before packing my essentials and driving back to the Selwood Academy for more slaughter and mayhem on the 'flat sixty four'.
I met Mark who informed me that winners of the previous round would be paired with other winners this time round to 'wheedle out the chaff' so to speak. We joked that it could be us two who were paired next but instead I was to face a Mr Kevin Langmaid (108) and he opened with e4 to which I answered with a c5 (See game for details!). After a tough middle game it all pivoted on move 25. Afterwards he said he'd considered the Be4 alternative to his Nh7 but discarded it as unworthy. After exchanging queens and keeping the bishop pair I managed to force a win, although I came perilously close to throwing it all away when he made a last minute dash for a c-pawn promotion! Phew! Wiping the sweat from my brow I headed out for some well earned fresh air!
So two games down and two points on the board! Fantastic. With a feeling of elation I met up with Mark again who'd also won so we had some celebratory lunch and sat in the glorious sunshine discussing openings. He thought he'd seen my next opponent playing the French Defence earlier so I swatted up on White's main lines (not wishing to get a la battered as in my last French outing against Phil!).
Now my next opponent was a Mr Graeme Ford (114), the top player currently in the minor competition who had won both his games too. Because my grade was listed as 90e I was technically unseeded and so it was me against the top dog. He seemed nice enough and we had a brief chat before the match. He gave me the impression of a battle hardened campaigner and wore the scars of many tournaments etched upon his furrowed brows. I opened with e4 expecting e6 but got an unexpected c6 in reply! (I found out later that Mark had got his contestants mixed up!). Now here was yet another opening of which I knew nothing about so I had to knuckle down and do my best (see game).
It was a fantastic game.
You had to have been there to appreciate the drama! but I'll try and set the scene...
It was incredibly tense from move 26 up to the Queens being exchanged and this section took up a lot of his time. We added the 20 minutes extra on move 40 and that gave him 26 minutes for the end game. I had about 48 mins. As there were very few boards left playing a crowd had begun to gather around us. After a duel (Knight against Bishop) that he should have come out on top of he eventually did and got a pawn free on the a file and headed for Promotion. I was trying to stretch the game out and there was now less than 5 mins left on his clock. I gobbled up his first promoted Queen and there was a murmur around the table to the effect that the game was over and he'd won, especially as his f pawn was away into the sunset and he had a knight extra, but as I cleaned up his h and g pawns and positioned my two pawns side by side as he promoted for the second time I could feel the attention focus back on the game. I wanted a win by now, not just a draw and I knew that he was down to 2 mins as he moved his Queen to f5 (move63). The pressure was mounting for him too and he began to let out random moans and shake his head more and more often. Then his flag was half down, only a minute left at most and he brought his knight to d4, then e6, a couple of queen moves then I knew he was stuck. He couldn't work it out, I couldn't either but I thought the answer must be there for him if he only had time. Then he played Qe8+ and I was so relieved I jerked over rather clumsily and my fingers touched my king as I was reaching for my own pawn to promote it, I paused and looked around, and with about twenty people all crowded around watching every twitch I had to move the king and the only place was the square which gave him the mate!!!!!
Wow, after congratulating him (look of incredulity on his face!) I tidied up the paperwork, went and got in my van, closed the door and then screamed rather loudly. After a meal and a bit of deep reflection I'm feeling like I'm ready for a comeback tomorrow, two more games to go. Now off to bed dream of perfect sacrifices and steady hands!