Jan 13, 2024

Reversal of Fortune. Open University 4 - 1 Luton B

Last November 2023, Luton A team travelled from the University of Bedfordshire to the Open University in Milton Keynes in their first away match of the season. The result was a comfortable Open University 1 - 4 Luton A.

Last week, January 2024, Luton B team travelled from the University of Bedfordshire to the Open University, for their first away match of the season. The result was a reversal of fortune; Open University 4 - 1 Luton B. However, the final result did not reflect the fluctuations over the board and the closeness of the match that evening.

With the team board 1 Octavian Arsenie and board 3 Aleksandar Juhasz overseas for the winter break, Luton B had to bump players up the board order; 1. Marek Gladysz, 2. Humayun Mirza, 3. Daven Patel, 4. Des Welton & 5. Sergiu Pop.

The Open University fielded the exact same team who faced our formidable A team last year. Board 1. Alexandar NO'D James, 2.Vince Edwards, 3. David Webber, 4. Elliot Long & 5. Mark Osborn.

Mark, Des and I are of a certain age whose predominent experience is over-the-board chess, but Daven and Sergiu come from the online generation, and since this, their first season of league matches, I expected their games to be a much harder test of their skill and nerves.

As I sat down to play against my opponent, I realised with some trepidation, that Vince Edwards had good results against much stronger players than me; a win against Luton A board 2 above, and a draw against Graham Borrowdale in the County Championship last week. Vince opened with 1.e4, and I thought I'd better reply with a conservative 1... e5 but changed my mind and played a Sicilian of which I was more familiar, only to be confronted with 3.c3, of which I am not familiar. Vince moved quickly, using hardly any time on his clock, and I squirmed and played suboptimal moves that didn't feel right. The Sicilian isn't an opening for draws and Vince played aggressively, placing his Bishops on b5 and g5 attacking my Knights. I thought this must be wrong, but was using up all my time, trying to find a plan which the end turned out to be, wait and see what White does and respond to that. A poor strategy.

I had a look at the other games were going for the team, and I was relieved that none looked as bad as my game. On board 1, Marek looked to have a passed pawn on the d-File, but it was still the middle game, so I wasn't able to determine who was winning. Board 3, Daven was a piece up in a nice open game, so this looked very promising. Board 4, Des was even stevens and maybe looked like he controlled the centre with pawns on e5 and d5. Board 5, Sergiu had a beautiful position, with Bishop and Knight attacking his opponent's shattered Kingside. We're doing much better than I expected.

Returning to my game, things were deteriorating. Vince had gained a pawn an planted a Knight right into the guts of my pieces on d6. It couldn't be removed without further loss of material and I was running out of ideas and time. I decided upon a bit of reverse psychology, playing the man, not the board. Since Vince's fast moves in the opening gave me reason to believe he knew the theory, I started to respond immediately to the next few moves, to give the illusion that there had worked out a winning combination, without actually having one. Vince seemed to slow down and take more time over his moves, giving me breathing time on the clock.

Back to the other boards. Marek and Des looked even on boards 1 and 4 but boards 3 and 5 looked like wins for Luton B. On board 5, Sergiu had won the exchange, had Bishops and Queen pointing at his opponents exposed King. Post match, Fritz stated "White has a decisive advantage". Over on board 3, Daven had opened files for his Rooks, diagonals for his Bishops and post match, Fritz also stated "White hs a decisive advantage". By my reckoning, I was going to lose my game, we'll draw on boards 1 and 4 and win on boards 3 and 5 and the match. Good.

On board 2, I managed to hold onto the Bishop pair against a pair of Knights, and as pawns were exchanged, the position opened up allowing some counter threats against Vince's King.

It was getting later into the evening without a result. Then disaster on board 3. Black's Knight had invaded White's position, and was harrassing Daven's Queen. Daven had to be careful to avoid a fork but was playing accurately until a momentary loss of concentration left his Queen en prise, and all his hard work for the evening came to an end.

Open University 1 - 0 Luton B

Luton B had lost a won game on board 3, but we still had Sergiu on board 5 and my game was turning. But then on board 4, Des was having difficulty developing his Queen's Knight and pushed his e-Pawn without preparation and eventually, his opponent won the game.

Open University 2 - 0 Luton B

We're still in the match and we needed a result in our favour, but unfortunately, when it did come on board 1, it was against us, and we had lost the overall match.

Open University 3 - 0 Luton B

On board 5, Sergiu with the White pieces and two Rooks and six pawns against Black's two Bishops, a Knight and five pawns. After a few more exchanges, it was Sergui's Rook and four pawns against Mark's Bishop, Knight and five pawns. We'd witnessed similar odds two evenings back with Tommy playing and winning this sort of endgame, but no two games are identical, and this one favoured Black. Sergju gave it his all, but it was not to be and Mark gave Checkmate on the 63rd move.

Open University 4 - 0 Luton B

Usually, this late into the evening, the losing team heads off home, but credit to Sergiu, Daven and Marek and stood close by to give me moral support in the closing minutes of my game. By this time, the position was equal but White's King was exposed, and I managed to create give a few checks that looked menacing but didn't do anything, however, Black over-reacted and I gained a pawn. Vince countered with a few checkmate threats activating all his pieces that dazzled and I could easily have falled for, but I survived the attack and gained a piece. Queens were then exchanged and with a Bishop and four pawns against White's four pawns, it was a won endgame.

Final result

Open University 4 - 1 Luton B

In conclusion, I felt we were up against it, without our usual board 1 and 3 but I could have recruited more experienced players on the night, but the idea of the B team is to give players who haven't played much over-the-board a chance of league matches and the way that Daven and Sergiu performed really impressed, and the final result could so easily have gone the other way.

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