Manningtree Chess Club Match Results.

A-Team B-Team C-Team Suffolk Cup Suffolk Plate U145

A-Team PerformancesGradeAve BoardPlayedWonDrawnLostDefault
Wins
%
Lewis, Andrew P 2161.011560072.7
Burnett, Leon P 1681.8143101057.1
McAllister, John WF 1383.01010050.0
Nathan Barnes1513.0100100.0
Buis, Jim 1543.29261055.6
Hutchings, Philip J 1533.214545050.0
Stephens, Robert W 1394.06312058.3
TOTALS 56182810057.1
Performance stats for all Competitions

DIVISION ONE
PWDLPoints
1Bury St Edmunds B14102233½
2Ipswich C1473432½
3Manningtree A1491432
4Bury St Edmunds C1465331
5Ipswich D1460828½
6Ipswich A1451823½
7Felixstowe A1442823½
8Saxmundham A14121117½
Full Table

 Manningtree A 03/04/19Saxmundham A
1Burnett, Leon P 168 1 - 0Brown, David E 161
2Buis, Jim 154 0 - 1Lightfoot, Malcolm J 163
3Hutchings, Philip J 153 1 - 0Paige, Andrew 108
4Stephens, Robert W 139 1 - 0Brown, Hugo E 89
   3 - 1
Manningtree A completed its league programme with a comfortable win against a depleted Saxmundham A side to finish third in Division 1, narrowly missing out on second spot by a mere half-point. The grading disparity was too great on the bottom two boards for the visiting team to make an impact and a serious error on top board sealed its fate.
  Leon was faced with an innocuous side-line against his Sicilian Defence and soon took control of the position, eking out a clear advantage in the centre and steering towards a superior ending, when the game came to an abrupt end on move 22 as white overlooked a pin and lost a piece.
  Phil was outplayed in the opening and by move 17 he found himself a pawn down in a difficult position, but he succeeded in taking command of the c-file, which allowed him to infiltrate and force white's pieces into a passive back-row huddle. Indecisive play on black's part, however, could have let his opponent off the hook, but the Saxmundham player chose instead to blunder and bring the game to a speedy conclusion after the loss of his queen for inadequate compensation.
  In Bob's game, all the pieces bar a rook for each player had been exchanged by move 21, but the good news was that Bob had acquired an extra pawn in the process, leaving him with a 3 to 2 pawn majority on the queenside and three pawns a-piece on the king's side. Black helpfully exchanged the final rooks leaving White clear to establish a passed pawn and win the game. The only cloud on an otherwise bright horizon was Jim's loss on board two, surrendering his unbeaten record for the A team this season. A king-side attack against his opponent's monarch after the two players had castled on opposite wings proved ineffectual and he succumbed to a powerful breakthrough in the centre.

 Bury St Edmunds B 21/03/19Manningtree A
1Le-Vine, Mark R 198 0 - 1Lewis, Andrew P 216
2Jermy, Jaden 178 1 - 0Burnett, Leon P 168
3Ruthen, Stephen W 173 ½ - ½Hutchings, Philip J 153
4Pack, James 155 1 - 0Stephens, Robert W 139
   2½ - 1½
Manningtree A's hopes of retaining the Division 1 title came to an abrupt end at Bury St Edmunds as the home team asserted its grading superiority on the bottom three boards and won the match to improve its prospects of finishing top of the table. The match was notable for bringing to an end the unbeaten league records this season of two of the players, the top board for Bury St Edmunds and Manningtree's board two. Leon had, in fact, last lost playing for Manningtree A two years ago (in March 2017), thereafter establishing a run of 27 consecutive games undefeated.
  The match started inauspiciously, with Bob finding his opponent, whose grading had shot up in the January list, too hot to handle. The opening was a Modern Defence, which arose after 1 Nf3 g6, in which Bob made a couple of small errors that enabled white to win a central pawn and apply pressure on the kingside. The pressure steadily grew and the Bury player was able to mount a sustained attack that would have led to checkmate. A good game that white executed well and deserved to win.
  Equally inauspicious was the start of the game on board three. Losing a knight for a pawn in six moves as white to an opponent graded 20 points higher, is not a promising start to any game. However, seemingly dazzled by his good fortune, the Bury player failed to come up with a coherent plan to make his advantage tell. Phil's plan was to avoid piece exchanges and skulk behind a wall of pawns but, emboldened by black's dithering, he advanced in the centre, won a second pawn and lined up queen and bishop with mating threats against the castled king in mind. Seeing a way to win back the piece, Phil took it, but, in so doing, overlooked a forced win through an exchange of knight for bishop, followed by decisive kingside penetration. In the game, exchanges followed, black grabbed back a pawn and in mutual time shortage, Phil, who had the draughtier king, offered a draw that was immediately accepted.
  The game on board two started better from the Manningtree perspective. Leon successfully neutralised white's unambitious opening play and netted a pawn when his opponent overextended in the centre, but from that point onwards, he sat back, ignored Nimzowitsch's words about a passed pawn's 'lust to expand' and allowed it to be securely blockaded. Refusing a draw and frustrated by lack of any progress, he paid scant attention to white's own threats and suddenly found himself on the defensive. Unfortunately, he didn't adapt to the change of fortune at all robustly and conceded too much ground to hold the position.
  Meanwhile, on board one, Andy made steady progress in his game when his opponent submitted to the Maroczy Bind. By move 20, he had succeeded in exchanging several pieces, but Andy still held a strategic grip on the position in a queen-less middlegame. On move 32, his opponent attempted to relieve his constriction with a central pawn-advance. But this only made matters worse, and Andy quickly gained an overwhelming material advantage as a second unbeaten record bit the dust that evening. It is worth noting that the victors on the top two boards are themselves still to lose a league game this season.

 Manningtree A 06/03/19Ipswich D
1Lewis, Andrew P 216 ½ - ½Sheerin, Alex 177
2Burnett, Leon P 168 1 - 0Gregory, Stephen J 183
3Buis, Jim 154 ½ - ½Matthewson, Edward 179
4Hutchings, Philip J 153 1 - 0Paez, Alonso 135
   3 - 1
The Manningtree A players lined up against a full-strength Ipswich D team knowing that a 3-1 win on the night was the bare minimum to keep alive a slender chance of retaining the Division One title. By the end of play, the target had been achieved after Andy eventually had to concede a draw in a topsy-turvy encounter, Leon benefited from his opponent's lack of resistance as the clocks started to run down, Jim demonstrated his resourcefulness in an inferior ending and Phil reaped the reward of a below-par performance on the other side of the board.
  Andy's opponent opened in uncompromising style: sacrificing not one, not two, but three pawns for a king-side attack. If these were somewhat dubious, his fourth sacrifice, that of a piece, was excellently judged and, had he followed this up correctly, Andy would have been forced to resign. However, Andy just about survived, and his extra material should have been decisive, but short of time, he missed the most exact way to convert his advantage. The game concluded in an interesting theoretical endgame of two bishops and rook's pawn against rook, in which Andy's opponent found a neat way to draw by sacrificing rook for bishop, leaving Andy with an extra bishop and the "wrong" rook's pawn for a well-known draw.
  For the second time this season in a match against Ipswich D, Leon found himself facing a Dutch formation against his English Opening. The opponent was different, but the result was the same. It was a cagey affair until black decided to force the issue with a central pawn advance. This was what Leon had been waiting for, instead of initiating a conventional advance of pawns on the queen's side, and he pounced, seizing control of the centre. Black responded by grabbing a hot pawn and duly got his fingers burnt. Two slightly inaccurate tactical shots on Leon's part could have allowed his opponent back into the game with a fair chance of making a draw, but the clocks were ticking (metaphorically speaking nowadays) and some hurried moves by black made life easier for Leon, who wrapped up the point and ended a sequence of six draws in league matches.
  Jim, up against a redoubtable board three, essayed a variation of the classical King's Indian Defence from years gone past, rumoured to have been a favourite of Tal, but seen infrequently in the twenty-first century. It did not turn out too well, however, and Jim found himself defending a difficult endgame, but some of the trickery for which Tal was famous must have rubbed off for he found an ingenious way of holding a draw in a knight-versus-bishop ending that had threatened to end badly.
  Phil chose to respond to his opponent's Sicilian with a b3 system that quickly led to a closed position, with white having a spatial edge in the centre and a knight on f5, but no real prospects against correct defence. His opponent, however, advanced his g-pawn rashly, allowing white to target it with queen, bishop and h-pawn. He missed the chance to defend it with a timely f6 and soon lost it, exposing his king to a direct attack. When, five moves later a knight fell victim to a pin on the h-file, with further material loss inevitable, black resigned.

 Ipswich A 19/02/19Manningtree A
1Hill, Luke 193 ½ - ½Lewis, Andrew P 216
2Fogg, Martin 163 ½ - ½Burnett, Leon P 168
3Shephard, Andrew 156 ½ - ½Buis, Jim 154
4Woodcock, Keith D 142 0 - 1Hutchings, Philip J 153
   1½ - 2½
Manningtree A travelled to Ipswich looking for a substantial score to maintain its chances of holding onto the Division One title. Although the match was won, it may be that the failure to win by more than the most slender of margins will prove costly at the end of the competition. The inability to achieve more than two-and-a-half points in any match, except on one occasion, has put a brake on an otherwise successful campaign in which the top three boards still remain unbeaten.
  The first game to conclude was on board three, where Jim ensured that his unbeaten record remained intact with a quick draw. The active position of his opponent's queen on a5 within proximity of the white king that had castled long seemed sufficiently menacing to justify a repetition of moves. Phil's game was next to finish. Although he had come well prepared for his opponent's customary Veresov Attack and took a strong early initiative, a sequence of ill-judged exchanges rapidly dissipated all advantage, allowing a transposition into a rook and opposite-colour bishop ending, with white a pawn up. Phil plugged on and was rewarded for refusing a draw offer, despite having slightly the worse of it, when a series of aimless moves and severe time shortage left the Ipswich player's bishop entombed and saw his pawns falling one by one.
  On board one, Andy gained a slight advantage from the opening by a tactic which forced the doubling of the h-pawns in front of his opponent's king. However, his opponent defended solidly and avoided further concessions. He was rewarded on move 27 when Andy blundered away an entire exchange. Nonetheless, the doubled h-pawns and a prowling knight on the king-side created difficulties for his opponent, and it was not entirely surprising that, with both sides down to only five minutes on the clock, he cautiously offered a draw, which Andy was relieved to accept.
  The last game to finish was Leon's (for a change!). His opponent's choice of a rare, but dubious, side-line against the Accelerated Fianchetto variation of the Sicilian Defence saw black win a pawn in the opening for very little compensation, namely control of the d5 square. Yet, when white posted an untouchable knight on that square after the light-squared bishops had been exchanged, it proved difficult for black to make headway. Leon expended a considerable amount of time in seeking to turn a slight advantage, which he never relinquished, into something more until eventually, knowing the results on the other boards and finding himself with only a few seconds plus increment to finish the game, he proposed a draw, which was readily accepted.
  The league season is rapidly reaching its climax with four, possibly five, teams still in with a chance of lifting the trophy at the end of the season. Manningtree A is one of those teams, though perhaps not the favourite, and the narrow victory against Ipswich A saw it appear briefly at the top of the league table before other matches played later in the same week changed the picture. For the remaining three matches, comprehensive wins will be required if Manningtree is to sustain its challenge for the title.

 Manningtree A 06/02/19Bury St Edmunds C
1Lewis, Andrew P 216 ½ - ½Peters, Alexander John 194
2Burnett, Leon P 168 ½ - ½Collins, Jonathan L 169
3Buis, Jim 154 ½ - ½Lewis, Stephen 165
4Hutchings, Philip J 153 ½ - ½Donnelly, Andrew J 144
   2 - 2
An outcome that produced four draws may at first sight give the impression that the players spent a fairly peaceful evening over the chessboard, but this is far from what happened. The Manningtree team knew beforehand that a score of three points in the match would see it head Division 1 again. With this in mind, the home team pressed hard and had its chances on all boards, but in an evenly contested encounter Bury St Edmunds C successfully held out.
  On board one both players had opportunities for a win. Andy never got quite enough compensation for a pawn sacrifice, but his opponent allowed a nice breakthrough which led to the win of an exchange for a pawn. This should have proved decisive for Andy, but the Bury player deserves credit for finding a nice double pawn sacrifice in a difficult position for an attack against the black king. Indeed, Andy was close to losing on the clock, but improvised a desperate defence in the nick of time. His opponent cashed in his activity for a notional material advantage in a dead drawn endgame. On balance, this was a fair result.
  On board two, the Bury player walked into a prepared line and came out worse from the opening. Leon, however, missed a couple of forceful opportunities to cement his advantage and even allowed black to mount a serious counter-attack. In a dynamically balanced middle game, with both players down to less than three minutes on the clock and neither king entirely secure, a draw was agreed.
  The opening on board three, a hybrid Pirc/King's Indian Defence, saw black emerge with a reasonable position, but then a rather unnecessary and passive knight move allowed white to seize the initiative and win the exchange for a pawn. Black, however, was left with a monster of a protected knight on e5 as compensation, which white decided to remove at the cost of the exchange. After surviving various tactical complications, Jim successfully defended his king to reach a major piece endgame a pawn to the good. As on board two, with both players running short of time, a draw was agreed. Post-game analysis suggested that had black found the correct sequence of moves a second pawn would probably have been gained with a distinctly winnable position.
  If boards two and three, when facing the prospect of time trouble, agreed with Falstaff that discretion was the better part of valour, then what maxim could possibly apply to the extraordinary draw that occurred on the bottom board? Phil was a whole knight ahead by move 13 and envisaged a clear and simple win, but he stumbled, allowing black to win back the knight with a tactic. This still left him a pawn up with a stranglehold on what soon became a rook and opposite bishop ending. When Phil subsequently managed to win two more pawns, he had every expectation that black would resign at any moment in the face of the march of massed passed pawns towards their queening squares. With multiple ways to win outright, however, Phil over-finessed only to find - shock, horror - that he had allowed black to manufacture a perpetual check from seemingly nowhere. Phil, himself, supplies the appropriate maxim for this game from Sun Tzu's classic The Art of War: "When without resources, rely on resourcefulness itself". Truly a game of scorned opportunities!

 Ipswich C 22/01/19Manningtree A
1Munson, Shaun D 199 ½ - ½Lewis, Andrew P 213
2Wallis, Ian J 177 ½ - ½Burnett, Leon P 165
3Cook, Michael P 171 1 - 0Hutchings, Philip J 158
4Clapham, Michael JW 151 ½ - ½Buis, Jim 153
   2½ - 1½
At the mid-point of the match, it seemed that Manningtree A might secure a narrow win as the team appeared to be on the point of emulating one of its familiar routes to victory - draws on the top three boards and a win on bottom board - that had already accounted for Felixstowe A and Ipswich A earlier in the season (and other teams before that). But, on this occasion, the bottom two boards proved not to be as durable as in the past.
  The first game to finish was on board two. Leon played the same equalising line in the Sicilian Defence against the Maroczy Bind as he had essayed against Saxmundham A just before Christmas and achieved the same result - an 18-move draw which never left current opening theory, while on top board Andy, who had gained an early positional advantage with a knight outpost on d5 against a backward pawn on d6, met with stubborn resistance from an opponent avoiding any further concessions. It was not until move 32 when Andy achieved a break through, winning queen and pawn for two rooks. The material exchange favoured Andy; however, both sides were reduced to less than two minutes on the clock and Andy cautiously offered a draw in a promising position.
  On boards three and four, the chances of a draw and a win respectively were compromised by inaccurate play on the part of the Manningtree players as the evening wore on. In a symmetrical Bishops Opening on board three, Phil's opponent soon achieved equality, which then turned into a small but consistent edge, courtesy of a spatial advantage and a mobile king-side pawn majority. All the same, after multiple exchanges, the resultant ending held good prospects for a drawn outcome, but the combination of Phil's time shortage, his opponent's fine endgame play and continual pressure against white's passive setup led eventually to a clear win for the Ipswich player.
  While the gradual erosion of white's position on board three was taking place, a similar shift occurred on board four. Jim had played impressively to build up an opening advantage that saw him win a pawn and wreck white's king-side defence, but at a critical juncture in the game he underestimated a defensive resource in his own position and fearful of the loss of the exchange gave up his queen for a rook and minor piece. The ensuing endgame looked bleak, but Jim managed to engineer an unassailable fortress that persuaded white to take a draw by perpetual check.
  The opportunity for a match victory was lost in the last hour of play and now Manningtree A finds itself in a dogfight for second place behind Ipswich C, which consolidated its position at the top of the table with this result.

 Felixstowe A 08/01/19Manningtree A
1Hopkins, Phil 181 0 - 1Lewis, Andrew P 213
2Gemmell, Peter A 168 ½ - ½Burnett, Leon P 165
3Simons, Conrad 167 0 - 1Hutchings, Philip J 158
4Kirkham, Ed 146 0 - 1Buis, Jim 153
   ½ - 3½
An early draw on board two gave no indication that Manningtree A would, by the close of play, have chalked up its most comprehensive victory of the season. In the end, the match score of 3½ to ½ by no means flattered the away side. A solid performance all round saw the opposition, on three of the four boards, buckle under steady and relentless pressure to bring the Manningtree team to within half-a-point of the leaders in Division One (and would have given it top spot but for a 4-0 win by old rivals, Ipswich C, the same evening).
  For the second game in a row, Leon, playing with the black pieces and barely out of his opening preparation, was content to share the point with an opponent of similar grading. This peaceful outcome did not set the tone for the evening, though, as the other Manningtree players soon established dominating positions. Jim was the next to finish, his two fianchettoed bishops trained on the centre of the board like rifles at a shooting range made life difficult for the Felixstowe player. It was a combination of queen and knight, however, which decided the issue when white offered his resignation faced with a rare case of smothered mate.
  Phil was next to finish. Playing the 3.Bb5 line against the Sicilian, he found himself tied to the defence of his e-pawn, but this situation was compensated for by a lead in development, allowing him to exploit the position of black's uncastled king and his disconnected rooks. A combination of threat and restraint resulted eventually in the win of a pawn. This was followed by an exchange into a double rook endgame, which saw Phil win a second pawn in the process. After a pair of rooks came off, black, two pawns down and very short of time, soon resigned.
  On board one, Andy's opponent elected for an unusual Old Indian set-up, but never threatened to gain equality, and in a bid for nebulous counterplay offered a pawn sacrifice on move 25. Andy accepted the pawn, and by move 40 had every aspect of the position under control - except his clock. Playing on the increment, and reduced to less than a minute on the clock, the only danger was that Andy would somehow blunder away his dominant position. However, as so often happens, it is the player who is attempting to exploit his opponent's time-trouble who ends up blundering. On move 53, defending a dire position, his opponent made a final unnecessary error and resigned immediately after Andy's routine response.
  All in all, a promising start to the New Year.

 Saxmundham A 11/12/18Manningtree A
1Brown, David E 161 0 - 1Lewis, Andrew P 213
2Lightfoot, Malcolm J 164 ½ - ½Burnett, Leon P 165
3Usher, Michael E 148 1 - 0Hutchings, Philip J 158
4Collicott, Peter J 117 0 - 1Buis, Jim 153
   1½ - 2½
Manningtree A scored its fifth win in seven outings by the score of 2½ points to 1½ points. The result has put us in second place in Division One at the mid-season stage, when, with the exception of one match between two other teams still to be played (or notified), every team has played once against every other team. This is a creditable team performance, given the absence of our highest graded nomination for all matches, but our seeming inability to register more than the minimum required to win a match, if it continues, is likely to see us in mid-table at the end of the competition. This year's contest is one of the closest ever, with five teams all within a point of each other chasing the league leaders Bury St Edmunds B.
  A set-back on board three in the match against Saxmundham A meant that we did not make the most of our opportunity against the team propping up the division. Phil had looked to be doing well against his Saxmundham opponent in the early middle game, but he found the ultra-solid, if cramped, Fort Knox variation of the French Defence as impregnable as its name suggests. His downfall was brought about by the weakness of a backward d-pawn that was eventually lost, yielding control of the central files to black. In the tactical melee that ensued, black was able to effect multiple exchanges, neutralising any threat to his monarch, winning a rook for a knight and transposing into an easily won ending.
  This was the last game to finish. The first to end was the encounter on board two. Leon reached an even position out of the opening and accepted his opponent's early offer of a draw. The result was perhaps not unexpected - the two players were within one grading point of each other and Leon had drawn five of his previous six league games - but what was unusual was that Leon managed to avoid his perennial time trouble, taking up only seven minutes of his clock time for the whole game (all 17 moves of it)!
  The other two games were won by the Manningtree players. Jim did not have too much trouble converting the advantage that he had gained from a well-known tactical trick in the opening combined with a commanding pawn presence in the centre, whereas Andy had more of a battle on his hands. He obtained a central pawn majority and an early advantage in a Queen's Gambit Declined, but his opponent defended doggedly, and it was not until move 42 that his resistance finally crumbled when, desperately short of time, he missed a tactic that won the game for white.

 Manningtree A 28/11/18Bury St Edmunds B
1Lewis, Andrew P 213 ½ - ½Le-Vine, Mark R 187
2Burnett, Leon P 165 ½ - ½Jermy, Jaden 165
3Barnes, Nathan 161 0 - 1Pack, James 136
4Hutchings, Philip J 158 0 - 1Quader Mohammed e145
   1 - 2 *
* Bury penalised a match point for failure to confirm result within 7 days.
Although Fabiano Caruana probably felt more despondent about dropping three points in the games he played on 28 November, the Manningtree A team also had reason to rue a similar outcome on the evening of the same day. In the home encounter with Bury St Edmunds B the previous season, Andy and Leon had faced identical opponents as in this match and had been held to well-contested draws, but in that fixture the lower boards (Jim and Bob) had rallied from difficult, not to say losing, positions to secure the one-and-a-half points that guaranteed a home victory. History, or perhaps simply good fortune, was not to repeat itself on this occasion, however, as Nathan and Phil went down to lower graded opposition.
  On board one, Andy developed a promising position from the opening, offering a pawn sacrifice for the two bishops and open lines against his opponent's king. Among several plausible ways of playing the position that presented itself, Andy decided to enter an endgame with an exchange for pawn advantage. This, however, turned out to be a mistake as it allowed considerable prospects for the defending side, and his opponent held the ending without difficulty.
  Leon came up against the fast-improving junior star of the Bury club on board two. A barren line in the Symmetrical Variation of the English was enlivened when Leon carelessly inverted the correct move order in the opening to reach a positionally inferior game, but one not without attacking possibilities for white. An inaccuracy on black's part in the middle game in the choice of file on which to place his rook allowed Leon sufficient activity to equalise, but no more than that. The ensuing ending was always likely to finish in a draw even if the move repetition in which play abruptly terminated had not occurred.
  Nathan, making his debut for the first team, had the misfortune to come up against an opponent who, in his own words, played the game of his life. The opening was an English with a queen-side fianchetto in which Nathan unwisely swapped his dark-squared bishop for a knight to give his opponent the advantage of a powerful bishop pair. This allowed white to keep the black pieces tied down and gradually to improve his position until eventually finding a nice bishop sacrifice to win material, but the game had been lost for a while before that point.
  Phil chose to play the Rossolimo Variation against the Sicilian Defence, but he fared no better than Caruana had done with the white pieces in the same opening in the World Championship play-off earlier in the day. Having taken possession of the half-open h-file in a blocked position, Phil sought another front in opening up the a-file. This turned out to be an error as it granted black, who had hitherto looked passive, active play. In trying to straddle two horses, on the a- and h-files, Phil went for a kingside breakthrough, winning the black g-pawn with a tactic, but the Bury player had seen further and, with rook and queen concentrated on the a-file, invaded the seventh rank with mating threats. White, in responding to the danger, miscalculated, allowing his bishop to be pinned and then won, after which black soon forced resignation.
  It was a disappointing result against the league leaders, who came without one of their regular stalwarts and were significantly outgraded on three of the four boards. Manningtree A has scored a couple of memorable wins this season in matches where it has been outgraded on all boards, but it has now also slipped up twice in matches which on paper seemed to be well within its grasp. The last fixture before Christmas is an away match against Saxmundham A, currently propping up the league table with one draw and five losses.

 Ipswich D 13/11/18Manningtree A
1Sheerin, Alex 177 0 - 1Burnett, Leon P 165
2Gregory, Stephen J 179 1 - 0Hutchings, Philip J 158
3Matthewson, Edward 174 ½ - ½McAllister, John WF 137
4Holt, H Roger 141 0 - 1Stephens, Robert W 135
   1½ - 2½
For the second time this season, Manningtree A performed outstandingly in winning a match in which the team was outgraded on every board. The result against Ipswich D was arguably a greater achievement than the win against Felixstowe A in the opening fixture of the present campaign in that the total grade differential amounted to 76 grading points (or an average of 19 per board) as against 51 grading points in the earlier match. Not only that, but the victory was against the team at the top of the table after four rounds of the competition.
  Despite the defeat Ipswich D retained top spot (although subsequently displaced two days later by Bury St Edmunds B), since Manningtree needed three points to catch them up. This target was almost reached as in our only individual loss Phil seemed to be heading for a draw after his customary Caro Kann Defence. His Ipswich opponent played a line of his own invention, castling on the queen side and commencing to storm the black king with his king-side pawns. Black countered on the queen side and an exciting game with even chances resulted. Black, however, miscalculated a queen exchange and allowed a transposition into a rook and bishop versus rook and knight ending, where the vast superiority of white's bishop quickly proved decisive.
  On the other boards, Manningtree was more secure. Bob got us off to a good start with a win. After a slow opening in which white gained space on the kingside and in the centre, a slight tactical error on his part allowed Bob to win the a-pawn. Following the exchange of all the pieces except black's dark-squared bishop, which was now a dominating piece, and one of White's knights, white resigned when faced with the prospect of losing a second pawn in the centre, leaving black with a three-to-one majority on the queen side and a won ending.
  John scored a comfortable draw against a player graded 37 points above him, who came to the board with a 100% record in the league this season. The game started with 1.b3 and it soon saw black lose his e-pawn after a miscalculation. The cost to white was a slightly cramped position, but black had to allow simplifications to avoid the loss of a second pawn. As the game developed, the Ipswich player succeeded in restoring material equality, but the pawn he regained was a doubled g-pawn, which left John with a slight advantage in the ensuing rook and pawn ending. The advantage, however, was not enough for a win and a draw was agreed after a repetition of moves.
  This meant that the result on the top board would decide the match. Leon had offered a draw early in the middle game in a critical, dynamically balanced position, when it had seemed that Phil was likely to draw his game, but his opponent declined the offer only to find himself with an inferior game a few moves later. Black's attempt to exchange all four rooks to reach a position he hoped to hold foundered on a tactical resource available to white, which left Leon with a won knight ending after he forced the exchange of queens. The knights came off the board, pawns of both colours rushed to queen, but a timely check allowed white to exchange queens for a second time in the game before another of his pawns became the fifth queen to appear on the board and decide the match in Manningtree's favour.
  Next up are the new league leaders, Bury St Edmunds B, who will be coming to Manningtree at the end of the month for a clash between two teams that have each won four matches and lost one.

 Manningtree A 31/10/18Ipswich A
1Lewis, Andrew P 213 ½ - ½Hill, Luke e187
2Burnett, Leon P 165 ½ - ½Fogg, Martin 158
3Buis, Jim 153 ½ - ½Shephard, Andrew 155
4Hutchings, Philip J 158 1 - 0Jones, Les J 138
   2½ - 1½
Not for the first time, and not even for the first time this season, Manningtree A relied upon a win on the bottom board, while the other three games were drawn, to record a narrow victory in a league match. The successful outcome was only achieved, however, after some uncomfortable moments in a couple of the games.
  Boards one and two were fairly uneventful affairs that neither team deserved to win. Andy's game started in an enterprising spirit, with his opponent offering a Morra Gambit. After that bold start, however, both players proceeded with excessive caution. Andy declined the gambit, and his opponent opted for one of the less interesting lines of the c3 anti-Sicilian. An equal opening led to a level middlegame, which in turn fizzled out into a drawn endgame.
  Leon developed some initiative with white after a symmetrical English Opening appeared on the board, but active defence on his opponent's part saw to it that the point was shared when an unclear, but evenly balanced, middle-game position was reached with both players down to less than ten minutes on their clocks.
  The team was less secure on the lower boards. Jim was rather lucky to hold the draw in that his opponent ran low on time calculating a myriad of complicated ways to win rather than just gaining a pawn and converting to a simple endgame, while Phil misplayed the Rossolimo variation against the Sicilian, giving black a dream of a position, with white's pieces poorly coordinated and his queen in danger of being trapped in mid-board. The Ipswich player, however, seemingly unaware of his good fortune and intent on securing a draw, mishandled the game, first exchanging queens and then a good bishop for a knight. This surrendered dark-square control and the initiative to white. Black reacted poorly and blundered away his knight, leading to resignation a few moves later.
  So Manningtree A achieved victory once again by the narrowest of margins. The match score this season (three wins and one loss) is as good as any in the league, but the failure of the team to impose itself in the comprehensive way that it has managed to do in the last two campaigns sees it sitting third in the league table behind the two teams that it is due to play next. An interesting month lies ahead.

 Bury St Edmunds C 18/10/18Manningtree A
1Peters, Alexander John 195 0 - 1Lewis, Andrew P 213
2Lewis, Stephen 169 ½ - ½Burnett, Leon P 165
3Collins, Jonathan L 165 1 - 0Hutchings, Philip J 158
4Donnelly, Andrew J 139 1 - 0Stephens, Robert W 135
   2½ - 1½
This loss to Bury St Edmunds C has to go down as a missed opportunity to see Manningtree A return to the top of the league table. Our players travelled to Bury in the expectation of competing against a team that outgraded them on every board – and significantly so (with the exception of board one), but when they arrived at the venue they discovered that Bury’s top two nominations were not playing. This levelled the playing field, if not tilting it, so to speak, slightly in our favour. We were not able, however, to take advantage of this unanticipated turn of affairs. Our bottom two boards, after sterling work against higher graded opposition in the previous two league fixtures, were not on song against opponents who had grades close to their own. On the higher boards, Andy followed up his win in the last match with a win and Leon followed up his draws in the last two matches with a draw, but this was not enough to save us from our first defeat of the season.
  In his game, Andy gained an early structural advantage from a Queen’s Gambit Exchange Variation, but over-finessed and left a pawn en prise. Fortunately, the pawn-grab would have given Andy some attacking chances and, even more fortunately, his opponent spurned the opportunity to gain a pawn, electing instead to exchange queens to reach a prospectless endgame. Seeking activity, he followed this up with a pawn and then an exchange sacrifice, but this only worsened matters, enabling Andy to claim a relatively quick and comfortable win.
  On board two, Leon emerged from the opening with the better game and proceeded to exert pressure in the centre. He engineered a couple of difficult chances in the early middle game to make his initiative pay before his opponent could complete his development, but then he hesitated long enough for white to equalise. When the Bury player offered a draw with both players down to less than two minutes on the clock, Leon concurred with his opponent in deciding that it was unwise to be taking risks in an unclear position.
  Phil went astray against his opponent’s trademark 1 … Nc6, losing a pawn in the opening and seeing his kingside wrecked. From then on his king was hunted relentlessly across the board, with no hope of escape or counterplay in sight. Despite his reputation for resilience in saving lost causes, the result was never in doubt.
  Bob responded to white’s king’s pawn opening with his usual Modern Defence. After a lot of manoeuvring (nineteen moves passed without anything being taken), with black threatening to attack on the kingside and white positioning for a counterblow on the queenside, Bob forced the issue and exchanged off his white-squared bishop for a knight. In the ensuing play, black grabbed a pawn in the centre and followed this up by winning a pawn on the queen’s side. Despite this seeming to offer good winning chances, subsequent computer analysis suggests pursuing the kingside attack by black was the correct way to proceed. When white offered to exchange queens, black declined and, in doing so, lost his e4 pawn immediately to check and an unstoppable attack by white which was well executed. One to put down as a learning point.

 Manningtree A 03/10/18Ipswich C
1Lewis, Andrew P 213 1 - 0Munson, Shaun D 199
2Burnett, Leon P 165 ½ - ½Wallis, Ian J 177
3Hutchings, Philip J 158 ½ - ½Cook, Michael P 171
4Stephens, Robert W 135 ½ - ½Clapham, Michael JW 151
   2½ - 1½
For the second league fixture in succession, Manningtree A found itself outgraded by ten points or more on boards two to four. This time, however, with the return of our resident FM to the team, we held the advantage on top board and Andy made it count. On the other boards, the Manningtree players successfully resisted the downward pull of gravity that a grading comparison might have suggested. It was perilously close, though, as Leon and Phil walked tightropes of their own making before reaching the safe haven of a drawn game, while Bob was never in trouble.
  Leon was first to finish. He was caught out in a side-line of the English Opening that seemed at first sight to be innocuous, but which in fact packed some venom. All it took was a couple of inaccurate moves from white for Leon to find himself on the defensive for the rest of the game. After the game, our friend the computer found a winning line for black, available for one move, but the human players missed it and the moment passed. Leon, desperately short of time as is his wont, was happy to accept the offer of a draw when the danger had been averted and the pieces started coming off the board.
  Bob and Andy soon followed with a draw and a win respectively. Bob gained a small initiative with a queen's side pawn advance in the Réti Opening, but after a period of manoeuvring, pieces started to be exchanged and black was able to safeguard his position. A draw was agreed after 30 moves with each side having two rooks and seven pawns still on the board. Meanwhile, on board one, the Ipswich player boldly sacrificed his f-pawn to destabilize Andy's king's side, but, in an unbalanced position, he found little compensation for his lost material. Andy returned his extra pawn for initiative, and his opponent's uncoordinated forces were unable to avoid catastrophic material loss.
  This left the game on board three, with the match score standing at 2-1 in Manningtree's favour. Phil, systematically outplayed by an opponent who had defeated him on two previous occasions, took the decision to give up the exchange for the gain of a pawn and some slim chances of survival. As the clock times ran down, however, it looked for all the world that the home team would have to settle for a draw against old rivals when white found a winning plan, only to stumble at the last as he allowed one of Phil's remaining two central pawns to advance up the board towards the queening square and force a liquidation of all the material except the bare kings.

 Manningtree A 19/09/18Felixstowe A
1Burnett, Leon P 165 ½ - ½Hopkins, Phil 181
2Hutchings, Philip J 158 ½ - ½Gemmell, Peter A 168
3Buis, Jim 153 ½ - ½Simons, Conrad 167
4Stephens, Robert W 135 1 - 0Kirkham, Ed 146
   2½ - 1½
Manningtree A opened its campaign with a well-earned victory against opponents who outgraded the home players by ten points or more on every board. Following a routine that has served well in the past, Manningtree scored a full point on board four and closed the match out with draws on the other three boards.
  Bob proved a convincing winner on bottom board, while Jim held steady on the board above him to achieve a comfortable draw with the black pieces. On board two, Phil started well as his spatial advantage in an accelerated Sicilian Dragon caused black developmental problems, but when he passed up the opportunity of a promising exchange sacrifice, his opponent began to wrest the initiative away from him. An exchange of queens neutralised the position and a draw was agreed with mutual time trouble looming.
  On board one, any time shortage was a one-sided phenomenon. The Manningtree captain coped with the surprise of a Polish Opening as the Felixstowe player came racing out of the blocks, having used up only five minutes by move 17, but Leon then took too much time in seeking an initiative. It was only when his clock had run down to less than five minutes (after just 30 moves!) that he started to outplay his opponent and build up a superior position. Some thirty moves later with about ten seconds showing on his clock, Leon took the precaution of forcing a draw by perpetual check, thereby ensuring Manningtree won the match, only to discover afterwards an exchange sacrifice that would have led to mate in three.