Manningtree A travelled to the neutral venue of Bury St Edmunds for the Suffolk Cup final aware that on ratings alone they were marginally the
underdogs, but with the knowledge that they had beaten Ipswich D twice in the league this season. It was by no means obvious which of these
indicators offered the better guide to the evening's outcome, but once the games got under way the first signs were that Manningtree had made a
good start, material up on boards three and four, stable on board one and unbalanced on board two. As the evening wore on, the narrow advantage
that Manningtree had appeared to secure early on persisted. Victory on board four, with the concession of a draw on board three being counterbalanced
by a breakthrough on board one, meant that the match had been won before capitulation on board two.|
The first game to finish was John's on board four, which saw the Ipswich player advancing his c-pawn to c5 in a QGD. White proceeded to line
up his queen and all his minor pieces on black's king's position, leaving the defending side somewhat cramped. Whether it was from impatience
or from the realisation that black's defences were quite sound, he then decided to sacrifice a piece for two pawns. This might have worked better
had he not exchanged queens and his remaining minor pieces in the hope of trapping black's light-squared bishop behind the locked pawns on the
queen's side. As it turned out, John carefully monitored his opponent's 5-2 pawn majority on the king's side and was able to break through on
the other wing to allow his d-pawn to reach home.
Next to finish was board three. In a well-known line in the Caro-Kann from way back when, Phil's opponent, as black, sprang an early gambit,
inspired by some computer analysis, obtaining active chances and the advantage of the two bishops for the pawn, with opposite-side castling
adding to the tension. White grabbed a second pawn, countering Black's king-side attack with central play. Multiple exchanges led eventually
to a double rook ending, where black regained his pawns with some advantage. Sensing difficulties, but seeing black well behind on the clock,
Phil offered a draw and was pleasantly surprised and somewhat relieved by its rapid acceptance.
On board one, against his opponent's King's Indian Defence, Andy closed the centre early on and set up a threatening, advanced pawn-chain on
the king's side. His opponent avoided weakening his king-side defences and counter-attacked on the queen's side. This lead to multiple piece
exchanges that completely neutralised Andy's king-side initiative. Andy was offered a draw on move 28, but with the match outcome still uncertain,
decided to play on. However, on move 33, he could find nothing better than to offer the exchange of queens. Surprisingly, his opponent avoided
the exchange, and this proved the fatal mistake. Andy forced the exchange of black's key defensive piece (his king's bishop) and his queen
strolled into black's weakened king's side. Black's misplaced pieces could offer no defence, and his position rapidly collapsed. This result
was the one that guaranteed the Cup would return to Manningtree.
Meanwhile, on board two, Leon had chosen to play a risky line in the Sicilian Dragon. The sharp variation he decided upon was quite tenable, but
in weighing up the tactical hazards of leaving his king in the centre, he started to play too slowly. The combination of risk and slow play in the
opening proved to be a lethal cocktail as the sense of danger deserted our captain when he was obliged to speed up. The failure to castle on move
20 or 21, when he still had the chance, was Leon's downfall as the position opened up and his king was caught in cross-fire.
Despite the result in the final game, Manningtree A completed a hat-trick of wins over Ipswich D in the current season and, more significantly,
ensured that for the fourth year in succession they had some silverware to show for all their efforts.