A great venue at Winnick and excellent refreshments provided the perfect conditions for serious chess. We could not have had a worse start though. One of players failed to find the venue and returned home. 0-1. All of the games were very close. I had Jeff Wilson down as somebody who appeared to be making good progress, but his opponent Jim Moran put on his tin hat, buckled down and after an inaccuracy from Jeff took control and converted it to a win, 0-2, Ian Mitchell took a draw as he could not see a way forward, 0.5-2.5. Scott Ramsbottom looked slightly better, but left a discovered check that was so devastating that he resigned immediately, 0.5-3.5. When John Regan went down as well. things did indeed look bleak at 0.5-4.5.
But despite having to tell all of our remaining players not to take draws, I still felt there were glimmers of hope. And so it proved – Paul Latham finished off an excellent containing game by breaking through on the queenside, 1.5-4.5. And when Mike McCue eventually converted a long term advantage, we were still in the match, 2.5-4.5. The great escape looked on. However Tony Jinks was trying to defend king attacks coming from many angles but eventually there was one threat too much – 2.5 – 5.5 and Merseyside were only one win away from the match win.
However our team is made of stern stuff. Neil had dug in, in a position where he was very cramped, but he eventually managed to break out and force a win, 3.5-5.5. Mark Southby and his opponent were down to 5 minutes each, but Mark is a good tactical player and stirred up a very neat combination in a complex position that forced a win., 4.5-5.5. Peter Hurn had obtained an early material advantage, but his opponent found every saving move and threatened a few of her own. But Pete held it together tremendously and forced the win, 5.5.-5.5,
Earlier I had told Steve Crook that we were getting thrashed and therefore no draws to be take, Suddenly he was the last game to finish and the match result rested on this board. Steve had a slight advantage in a double rook and pawns each ending. I was trying to catch Steve’s eye to let him know the match score (at this stage a draw 6-6 would have been an excellent comeback).. Unfortunately, and naturally, Steve was absorbed in his endgame. Sadly one inaccuracy allowed Steve’s opponent to break into his position and, with his clock hanging, checkmate Steve. 5.5-6.5 to Merseyside. Congratulations to them, the new NCCU U120 champions,
However we are not out of it yet. In the NCCU triangular qualifying U120 section, two teams go through to the ECF stages. Merseyside had already beaten Yorkshire 8.5-3.5. This means if we beat or draw with Yorkshire , we will qualify in 2nd place. So – we go again at the excellent Bury Bridge club on April 15th 1-5 pm.