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Baracudas Open Season

"Chess Notes" from County Down Spectator, 8 Nov 2004

This year, for various reasons, Bangor's junior teams - Winston and Templar - have amalgamated and adopted last years nickname "The Barracudas" as their formal name in the Ulster Chess Union League. On Monday-night they opened the playing season by travelling to Randalstown. In the same match last year, Randalstown almost suffered a whitewash, launching Templar on a vigorous league campaign trail. This weeks match was not expected to be as straight-forward.

Youngster Philip Todd stepped up to open on board 1 for Bangor. The Barracudas had lost two board 1 players; Evan Bell to a year-off and Martin Moorcroft enticed away to add some youth to an ailing team of veterans. David Grzymek moved up to senior competition after a spectacular season culminating in winning the Irish Junior title. Undaunted, Philip accepted the responsibility of top board with relish.

On arrival in Randalstown, the Barracudas were stunned to see the Derry-men led by a fresh import from Holland, S. van Kersten rated at almost 1900. Philip was seriously out-gunned conceding over 300 points but characteristically, he rose to the occasion and opened with sound play refusing to give ground. Gradually Philip gained the initiative claiming a couple of pawns here and there until the end-game approached with van Kersten under time pressure. In a spectacular display of accurate play, Philip coolly despatched his opponent to claim an excellent win.

With their new board 1, Randalstown regular players moved down the boards and Martin Rogers faced Richard Gould on board 2. Claiming lack of match practice, Martin declined the gift of a Knight allowing Richard to gain the initiative. In his usual resolute style, Martin persisted doggedly to defend his position but Richard eventually prevailed to claim the win.

Ken Browne opened for Bangor on board 3 against Joe Rogers. Both players were well matched in style and temperament and a tense positional battle ensued. Throughout the game it was difficult to tell who had the initiative with extremely careful manoeuvring from both players. But it was Ken who made the break through, distracting a Black Knight into an impossible position. With a piece-up and his opponent's position in disarray, Ken hammered home his advantage to claim a second win for Bangor.

Bangor's board 4, Kevin Agnew has been busy through the summer perfecting his Black defence and he eagerly took on Steve Eachus expecting his efforts to be well rewarded. Steve, of course, had other ideas and opened with an unusual Queen's fianchetto totally throwing Kevin. But Kevin rallied well reaching the middle-game in good shape. The balance of the game moved between both players with exchanges giving each temporary advantages. A pawn end-game resulted with Kevin promoting his Queen first. A lapse in concentration after nearly 3 hours and Kevin got caught in a check with his Queen in-line; forcing his resignation.

Gary Johnson and John Lines also had a topsy-turvy game on board 5. Gary established an early pawn lead and consolidated with an additional Knight capture. But his position was fragile and John gradually clawed his way back to lead a Bishop end-game. Gary still had chances with strong promotional opportunities with a pair of pawns and their King reaching the corner. John promoted first, however, and with a clever tempo move forced Gary to move his position vulnerable now to an inevitable mate.

A supporting board 6 between Bangor's Drew Ferguson and Ian Campbell saw a risky Budepest response to Ian's Queen's Gambit. Drew's plan worked though, and Ian rapidly lost control of the centre and to a large extent the game. But Ian maintained a dangerous threat down the long diagonal with Bishop and Queen. Drew forced an exchange to nullify the threat and launched an unexpected attack first picking off pawns and forcing Ian to retreat under check. Drew gained unassailable material advantage and the game was almost over till Ian committed his Queen in a last ditch mate attempt. The mate threat was empty but Drew overlooked the potential for a perpetual check and failed to defend against it conceding a draw.

Perhaps not the best result Bangor would have wished for but good play from everyone and some brilliance from Philip, plus Ken's resounding win can only give the team confidence. Fortunately excellent hosts, Randalstown, tempered the teams disappointment.

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