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Devon Fall Agonisingly Short of National Title (09.07.2011.)

Devon’s hair-raising progress through the National Stages continued to the bitter end when they fell at the very last hurdle in their match against Nottinghamshire in the National Final on Saturday. At the death, with just two of the sixteen games to finish, Devon needed a win and a draw in order to bring the score to 8-8, in which case Devon would have won the match, and the National U-180 Championship, on tie break. With only minutes left Torquay schoolboy, Alex Billings, had four pawns against a solitary bishop, a guaranteed no-loss situation with clear winning possibilities. On the strength of this almost assured win (or so it seemed), the other Devon player agreed a draw in a better position in order to seal the match win, but no sooner had he done so, than Billings’ opponent found an almost miraculous move that saved his seemingly lost game, and so Devon fell half a point short of victory, 7½-8½.

Here is one of Devon’s two wins, with notes kindly supplied by the winner.

White: Dr. Dave Regis (166). Black: Andre Antunes (166).

English Opening [A14]

1.c4 e6 2.g3 d5 3.Bg2 Nf6 4.Nf3 c6 5.b3 Nbd7 6.Bb2 Be7 7.0–0 0–0 8.d3 b6 9.Nbd2 Bb7 10.Rc1 c5 11.d4 dxc4 12.Nxc4 b5 13.Nce5 cxd4 14.Qxd4 Nxe5 15.Qxe5 Qd5 16.Rfd1 Qxe5 17.Nxe5 Bxg2 18.Kxg2 White’s pieces are all a little better-placed than their Black counterparts. 18…Rac8? Played quickly. 19.Nc6 Nd5? 20.Nxe7+? I was grateful to find this “simple win of the exchange”. 20…Nxe7 21.Ba3 Rxc1 22.Rxc1 Expecting Black to resign. 22…Rc8! Oops! – missed that one. 23.Rxc8+ Nxc8 24.Bc5! White now has to work to exploit the slight advantage of B vs N. White wants to run Black out of moves before exchanging BxN in favourable circumstances. 24…f5?! 25.Kf3 Kf7 26.Kf4 Kf6 27.Bd4+ Kf7 28.Ke5 Ke7 29.Bc5+ Kf7 30.h3 a6 31.e4!? g6 32.exf5 gxf5 33.h4 h5?! 34.f3 Ne7 35.Bxe7 Kxe7 36.b4 Kd7 37.Kf6!? 37…Kd6 38.Kg5 Kd5 39.f4! Kc4 40.Kxh5 Kxb4 41.Kg5 Ka3 42.h5 b4 43.h6 Kxa2 44.h7 b3 45.h8=Q b2 46.Qa8! The saving move, which had to be anticipated before committing to 37.Kf6 46…b1=Q 47.Qxa6+ Kb2 48.Qb5+ Kc1 49.Qxb1+ Kxb1 50.Kf6 1–0 With queens removed, the Black King is left powerless to prevent an easy win.

Last week’s debut 2-mover by David Howard was solved by 1.Ng2! threatening 2.Ne3 mate and whatever Black tries to prevent this simply allows a different mate.

Here is an easier one, in which White is two pieces down and has abandoned his defences for all-out attack. He must succeed quickly or surely lose. How can this be done?

White to mate a.s.a.p.

“Devon Loch Finish” In Grand National Finals

Devon’s nail-biting journey to the National Final of the U-180 Inter-County Tournament continued to the very end of the trail, with a tragi-comic twist reminiscent of a famous finish to the Grand National, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

They were due to meet a Nottinghamshire team playing near their home territory, in contrast to Devon’s need to oragnise a complex and expensive combination of minibus pick-ups and private cars for the long trip north on a hot and inevitably tiring day. In addition, Devon had lost three of their regular side, with Mark Abbott (177 and on a pre-fixed holiday), Robert Thompson (175 at a family wedding) and David Toms, apparently vanished off the radar in the days beforehand, turned out to be in hospital and incommunicado.

An innovation this year was the ability to be able to monitor the state of play throughout the afternoon as results, as they came in, were posted on the East Anglian Union website. This was a little short of watching live games as we have become used to in big events, and one had to realise that the scores did not change unless one logged off and on regularly – if one stayed on-line, the score did not  change. Still, it was progress.

In the event, Devon slipped behind at an early stage, but never got too far behind, and the climax proved just a nerve-wracking as their quarter- and semi-final matches. However, this was a bridge too far for the man who saved them on both those occasions, Brian Gosling, and he lost this time. Nor was there a fairytale finish in store for the venerable, 85 year old John Gorodi, who had stepped in at the last minute for the missing David Toms, as he lost too. As ever, the outcome boiled down to the last two games still in play.

Alex Billings, playing Black, had 4 advancing pawns against a solitary bishop. He couldn’t lose and looked all set for a win that would level the scores to 7.5 each. With just minutes to go, the other player, Tim Paulden, was advised to settle for a draw in order to seal the envisaged win, as an 8-8 draw would give Devon the match on the board count tie break system. Paulden duly obliged, but seconds later Billings’ opponent found a brilliant saving move, and the expected win, in both the game and the match, evaporated before everyone’s eyes.

Cruel luck on Devon, but they had the satisfaction of having done much better than expected in the National Stages in general and this match in particular.

Garside vs Billings - the critical position.

Here is the crucial position upon which the whole match revolved. Black now played 1…a3 in order to protect his b-pawn and to pile on the pressure, but in reply White played 2.Bd1! and he can safely take on b3  because of the danger of stalemate.

Correct is 1…Kc3 after which the “save” doesn’t work. e.g. 2.Bd1 Kd2 3.Bxb3 axb3 4.Kxb2 Ke2 wins. So the bishop must stay on. Much fascinating and subtle play still invloved, but very difficult to work out in the final minutes.

The full details were as follows: 

Bd. Notts Grd     Devon  Grd  
1 G. Halfpenny 179 ½ ½ B. W. R. Hewson 176 W
2 T. Walker 179 0 1 T. F. Thynne 177 B
3 J. Harrison 176 ½ ½ A. W. Brusey 175 W
4 R. Hearne 174 ½ ½ Dr. T. J. Paulden 174 B
5 D. Flynne 170 ½ ½ Dr. J. Underwood 172 W
6 J. Swain 168 ½ ½ D. R. Cowley 170 B
7 A. Antunes 166 0 1 Dr. D. Regis 166 W
8 I. Kingston 166 1 0 A. S. Kinder 166 B
9 S. Burke 165 ½ ½ J. Duckham 165 W
10 G. Gibson 165 ½ ½ W. H. Ingham 164 B
11 D. Sudar 162 ½ ½ P. Brooks 160 W
12 S. Foster 161 ½ ½ C. V. Howard 158 B
13 D. Levens 159 1 0 B. G. E. Gosling 156 W
14 A. Garside 163 ½ ½ A. J. Billings 148 B
15 B. Hayward 158 ½ ½ P. J. Kennedy 151 W
16 E. Williamson 153 1 0 J. G. Gorodi 150 B