Handicap Knockout: Highcliffe Fischers vs Poole Position
For this epic match, we bring you a 3 part report, with 3 different authors. We’ll start with John’s take on the start of the match
In a crowded schedule Poole Position rocked up to sunny Southbourne to take on Highcliffe Fischer’s in the opening round of the B&D Handicap Cup. (Thank you kindly Southbourne for hosting!! Monday nights seem a bit thin on the ground for both parties at this stage of the season).
It was soon evident that the two sides were coming armed with very differing tactical approaches.
Poole opting for a mix of youth and experience, loading the side with youngsters but at least the inclusion of Dave Burt on board 6 gave the average age an air of respectability.
Meanwhile it seemed that Highcliffe had gone with a mix of Ursells accompanied by some slightly older ‘youngsters’. Some of whom would have been Poole’s toughest ever opponents!! On a normal day this would have been a real ‘David vs Goliath’ fixture. However, the beauty of the handicap cup is that the scales (and calculators) come out beforehand as always levelling the playing field.
Poole must also give a special thanks to Tarik for stepping into the Poole board 4 as a last-minute replacement. Despite Poole’s protests his rustiness was not allowed to be factored into the calculations and once underway Highcliffe would need 5 points to win. Whereas Poole would need 1.5 points to cross the finish line.
20 mins into the match I was concerned that there may have been an issue with the clocks as most faces on the Poole side were spookily displaying 1hr 00mins. Turns out these kids seem to have trained themselves to play a move every 30 seconds – spooky.
Some maintained this brisk rate of play for longer than others, but it was a real pleasure to see this six-board match develop into a true battle. 40 mins in and Poole were looking no worse on any. In fact, Harry looked on the verge of creating a big upset on board five as he was the exchange ‘and some’ up. However just one error was enough to undo all his hard work. One small exchange of pawns swiftly activated Thomas’s only remaining pieces into activity. Harry had clearly underestimated this activity but a valuable lesson, I hope. Hard luck Harry but very well played up to that point. (1-0 Highcliffe).
A similar fate soon befell Dave Burt on board 6 who had seemed to be better in his R+P ending. Then level, then worse, then lost. An unfortunate finish for Poole but well-done Dan in efficiently and ruthlessly executing the finish! (2-0 Highcliffe)
As I left Tarik was resolutely trying to fend off Madison’s London system on 4. White always seemed to pull an edge through the game but without any black structural weaknesses, I wondered if this would materialise into anything. However with each pawn move from Tarik (sometimes forced) it seemed the task of holding might get more difficult.
But on 3 Leo was on the verge of a victory against Richard. Leo seemed to have come armed with a game-plan of consistently placing pieces on good squares. I was particularly impressed with his composure as he seemed more comfortable going into the think-tank on occasion and coming up with good plans each time. Very well played Leo.
Ellis and Adam’s game at first appeared to be looking a little dry, but then some of Ellis’s intuitive tactical resources soon brought about a melee forcing Adam into the think-tank on occasion. Adam appeared to come out of it unscathed and it appeared Ellis was going to have the tougher side of a R+P ending to try and hold. (Ellis has clearly demonstrated an exciting style in his first full season and his games are always worth a watch as there always seems to be something going on – Keep it up)!!!
Zander was tasked with facing one of the league’s top performers and I’m sure it wasn’t long before James was more familiar with the Scandinavian’s nuances than his opponent. However Zander appeared to be combining real grit alongside good positional understanding and made James work and work in order to prove an advantage. There was real maturity to Zander’s play as it is sometimes all too easy to try and force activity when it is simply not on. When I left, the position was difficult but still playable with an undertone of opportunity. Anyway Zander once again had put in another good performance.
As I left, the match was very finely in the balance and if anything, it looked like Poole might struggle to get there. But I couldn’t have been prouder of Poole Position and the team that captain Ellis had assembled. Great games, great spirit and great entertainment. Well done guys!!
Thank you John for your insights. You join us 2-0 down with two boards looking even, one promising and one dicey.
With John departing we were getting to the difficult part, where a single slip up can decide a game and match. It’s worth checking the grades at this point. Dave Burt was the only player outgrading his opponent, with each other player AT LEAST 200 rating points below. With the bottom two boards decided against us, we had it all to do.
I kept looking across at Leo, thankful for having a front row seat, because it was nicer than watching my own game which the computer wasn’t quite as pessimistic as I was in hindsight. I’ve still to understand endgames and how a position that looks lost can be held together with a well placed bishop, and the exchange is a very bad idea until its the best idea. Without these key insights I was unable to hold on and my position slowly lost viability.
Leo was a Rook against a Knight with three pawns apiece facing each other, but crucially a lone pawn of Leo’s in the centre of the board. Leo exchanged the Rook for the Knight in what I thought was a blunder, then I thought was genius. Then I counted the squares, had Leo miscounted? The King could get back and intercept it before it promoted! Perhaps the recapturing move shifted the pawn one column closer to the King messing up all the calculations? Sure enough, the King was about to get back and take it just as it promoted. However, that then leaves 3v3 but with Leo having his King in the mix and Richard’s King being in no-man’s land. Leo quickly forced a passed pawn and promoted it with Richard attempting to do the same, but not quite having enough moves. It was an epic battle and Leo managed to come out with the win, 1616 vs 1881. Well fought Richard, thank you for your gentlemanly conduct, I’m sure you’re just as happy as we are to see a junior progressing so well.
That gave us one vital point, we need a draw to win the match.
Then came Zander and Ellis on boards 1 and 2, with a draw needed from two competitive games, but they were against some handy players.
When I looked over at Zander’s game it was getting very complicated, he was a rook down, but with a pawn in inevitability from promoting. With the rook sac for the pawn it left Zander 2 pawns up, but unfortunately these were doubled and the opponent King was able to get across and take control of the situation just in time. A really close game against someone over 2000, an impressive showing.
This left Ellis against Adam, and for this I’ll pass over to the third and final author, Ellis himself:
Ah, the game of chess, a battle of the mind! And what a fierce battle it was, when I played black on board 2 against Adam. I had predicted he would play his favoured e4 opening, but in this particular game, he surprised me with a moment of hesitation before opting for Nf3. His move forced me to adapt to my slightly outdated preparation.
The contest between Adam and I was a close and intense one, each move calculated with precision and strategy. I decided to sacrifice a pawn to activate my rook and gain the initiative against his poorly placed queen. My play put Adam on the defensive and forced him to defend with care.
Yet, as with all great battles, the tide turned, and we eventually traded into an endgame with a rook and 2 pawns each. An endgame neither of us were going to lose. Thus, a draw was the outcome, thought not without great effort from both Adam and me.
In the end, this combined with Leo’s earlier victory was enough to secure triumph over Highcliffe, and hence we celebrated our win with great satisfaction.
That final half a point gave Poole the final bit they needed to win the match.
Result: 4.5 – 1.5
Result needed for Highcliffe: 5 – 1
Win for Poole Position
Well done to all players on both sides. It was an entertaining match full of twists and turns. All the games were competitive. Thanks to Highcliffe for the game and thanks to Southbourne for hosting.
April 22, 2023