A match that was much harder fought than a quick glance at the scorecard might suggest, was played last Sunday at Keble College and resulted in a 6-2 loss for Wales.
The match was played in excellent spirit, competitive but very friendly and without all the pressures of a formal team event. I think its fair to say that everybody played positively for a win with either colour and the result was an interesting set of games each with their own talking points. It was around three hours before the first game finished and all eight were fought out to a decisive result.
Oxford University Wales
IM Richard Palliser (2399) 1 - 0 James Cobb (2321)
Andrew Bigg (2267) 1 - 0 Richard Jones (2262)
Kemal Ozeren (2226) 1 - 0 Suan Evans-Quek (2261)
David A. Shaw (2165) 1 - 0 Sven Zeidler (2233)
Sophie Tidman (2123) 0 - 1 Tim Kett (2180)
Kieran Smallbone (2147) 0 - 1 Alan Spice (2161)
Daniel Gunlycke (U/R) 1 - 0 Debbie Evans-Quek (2013)
Heather Lang (2070) 1 - 0 Keith Thompson (U/R)
Oxford University 6 - 2 Wales
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We lost the top four boards which was obviously virtually decisive in its own right but none of these games was straightforward and arguably we had good chances at some stage in each of them.
On top board James Cobb took on Richard Palliser. Palliser chose a variation of the Benoni that James had himself played recently from the Black side as far as about move 17 ! Unfortunately James blundered very soon after but then battled back fiercely to regain a foothold on the game. In mutual time-trouble and with everything to play for he went for the full point rather than just trying to hold the position but Palliser kept his own composure very well and found all the right replies in a tense finish.
Richard Jones faced the Trompowsky Attack against Andrew Bigg and also went wrong early on. Again he fought back not just looking for equality but for ways to earn the full point. With two Bishops but a scattered pawn front and more 'ragged' position he managed to keep the tension and generate some threats of his own. For a short while he even looked to have the better chances but after another mistake White was able to regain control, tie Blacks pieces down to defensive duties and finally break through.
Suan Evans-Quek played a provovative reverse Leningrad Dutch set-up against Kemal Ozeren, encouraging his opponent's centre pawns forward in reply. By the time Black's e-pawn reached e3 it was clearly the critical factor in the position ! With one more tempo it could have been rounded up and won and then obviously White would have stood well but Black was able to generate enough threats to bring Suan's king out into the open and after an entertaining hunt it was finally mated somewhere round d6.
Sven Zeidler continued with his favourite "Patzer Rap" variation of the Scandinavian that he'd first essayed at the European championships in Plovdiv. This time he succeeded in completely equalising against David Shaw and then proceeded to outplay his opponent right up until a mutual time-scramble. With his knight entrenched on d5 and dominating the centre and White's queen forced into an undignified retreat to a2 things looked very good. After missing one or two chances as time pressure started to bite, though, his dominant position began to unravel, and when the time-control was reached a heavy piece ending had arisen where White suddenly had all the chances.
My own game against Sophie Tidman was probably the least eventful of the 8. I played my pet 5Bd2 line against the Winawer and after an inaccurate Queen sortie Black lost time and White soon stood better. She was forced to head for the classic inferior French ending with bad bishop vs good knight and a pawn down to boot.
Alan's game against Kieran Smallbone was an exciting and satisfying win. It started as a closed French / Sicilian with White choosing a Kings Indian Attack set up while Black expanded merrily on the Q-side. Alan calmly castled short and beat off any threats to his king while continuing to press home his advantage on the other wing. White continued to throw everything forward until the very end but eventually ran out of steam and had to concede a hopeless ending as his last few forces were turned back.
Debbie Evans-Quek played a d3 variation of the Ruy Lopez and kept things generally under control during a slow build-up in the early middle game. Daniel Gunlycke, the Oxford captain played an excellent game though, gradually expanding and taking over on the queen-side eventually forcing the key break-through just before the time-control. Once the clocks went back and there was time to pause and think it was clear the position was lost.
Keith Thompson was making his debut at this level as a late replacement for Abigail Cast who unfortunately had to drop out at the very last minute. The original intention had been for each side to field two female players, but in the circumstances we were delighted just to be able to fill the board with a player of suitable strength. He was unlucky to walk into some very dangerous home preparation from Heather Lang; a temporary pawn sacrifice in the otherwise mostly harmless 4Nge2 variation of the Winawer. Forced into some critical decisions early on before he'd really settled into the game, Keith went wrong, had to concede two pawns to go from one up to one down and still was unable to wrest back White's initiative. Hard though he fought from there, the cause was hopeless.
(games to follow)