Our first match was against Guildford 2 and the match didn’t run as smoothly as we hoped. In fact, we were lucky not to lose – my win against GM Flear with white was just enough to draw the match. The game started as a rather tame Queen’s Gambit, but curiously enough it got complicated once the queens got exchanged! The moves 15, 16 and 17 took me more than one hour and as the complications began I didn’t have much time, less than 15 minutes to reach move 40. I was lucky that he started to play moves that avoided the most complex lines and this led to his pieces becoming loose. He was also spending masses of time and on move 22 he was already in trouble, his blunder on the same move only quickened the end. An important win as it gave me more self-confidence ahead of the match with the superteam of Wood Green.
I was black against GM Laznicka in the match with Wood Green. He chose an unambitious line in the Queen’s Gambit Exchange and I had no problems in the opening. In the early middlegame he started to put his pieces on the kingside in order to advance there, but I had enough counterplay in the centre, I really liked the centralised position of my pieces on move 19: Bg6, Nf6 and Ne6, Bd6, Re8 and Rd8 and Qa6. Quite unexpectedly he blundered on the next move, allowing me to penetrate with my rook to e2. But he kept his cool and avoided immediate loss. We both entered time-trouble at that time and the lines were complex as I was trying to limit his counterplay based on g5, f5 and f6 when the outside knight on h4 would prove useful. At this moment he offered a draw and as time was running out I accepted. A very good result for the team, a draw with black, but unfortunately we lost several games after that point.
In the last round we needed to win to secure the 4th spot and we won comfortably. I was white against FM Sowray and he went for his usual Leningrad Dutch. I was well prepared and went into the endgame with an exchange operation that I had analysed in my preparations. The endgame was difficult for black as he had a lot of pawn weaknesses. He didn’t manage to create counterplay and I won a scholarly game.
A very good result for me, 2.5/3 and a repeat of the team’s 4th place. It was a very pleasant time spent at the Hinckley Island Hotel, the team atmosphere was at the highest level and I’m already looking forward to next season! After all, after two years finishing 4th, it’s time we moved upwards!
In the decisive match for the title, Guildford demolished Wood Green 6-2 and defended their title. Well done for the Guildford team, whose success started with the win of the French GM Edouard against GM Hammer and was sealed with GM Vachier Lagrave’s win over GM Adams, both wins with the black pieces. It is a rare thing to see the French helping the English win something.
As always, everything was organised at the highest level. The Hinckley Island Hotel is confirmed as the venue for the next season, so it’s more good times ahead!