Verslag ronde 5

It all started so well

Taking the words of a gentle ribbing of one of the other clubmembers of DSC Dongen as a title, who remarked after the game that that was the vibe he got from us. Disappointed faces who thought we started out so well. If I think about it, he wasn’t exactly wrong, and certainly some players more than others had this vibe for a reason. Myself not the least as I too blew a position full of chances. And so much in a game which almost seemed like a _must win_ to preserve our Hoofdklasse position.

Well, depends where we say _started out well_. All five of the regular players could come, but Ron couldn’t make it in the end. Still – with Morris, me, Dennis and Arda, we have a set of usual suspects for the evening team. One unexpected bit of difficulty: usual driver Dennis was not confident in the state of his car. Fortunately, I could still serve as backup driver, and fortunately, also got the route right (but unfortunately, ended up needing a constant supply of heat to keep the front window from fogging up, heating up the inhabitants of the car a little more than they would have liked…). That at least was a start. We arrived with plenty of time to spare in Dongen, where we took our seats in the old parochial center.

None of the four games immediately heated up and all were off to relatively gentle starts. At board 1, Morris (white) started in a closed position against Jan-Pieter de Vries where both players were also taking a lot of time to get the game going. On board 2, I (black) and Roelant Schoots played a closed Sicilian where nothing was exchanged and in the end both of us seemed to take position for a queenside battle where I had grabbed some space. Nothing spectacular but it was a start. Board 3, Dennis (white) had opened e4 against Mark Maas but managed to turn it into something resembling a London or Colle-esque position. And finally on board 4, Arda (black) had played the Petrov against Xander Mahieu and got off to a quiet start as well.

That game was also the first to finish. In Arda’s own words, “I played the Petrov, exchanged some pieces, and drew”. Well, there was some more than that to it of course, as his opponent had still tried to mount an attack against Arda’s king as his defensive line had gotten slightly exposed with f7-g6-h5, but to no avail. Arda exchanged off the pieces and drew the game. That’s at least half a point in the bag – but alas, this was also to be our last. Not that the games showed it at that point of course, as both Morris and Dennis’ games are still in the balance, and I might even be slightly better as the queenside battle favours my side due to having more space and the long arm of the bishop on g7.

Right next to me Morris leaves the most baitable pawn on the board en prise. We all know that queens shouldn’t ever take on b2, but perhaps that advice also needs to be extended to rooks. His opponent took the bait on b2 and found himself into a crossfire of combinations, eventually leaving Morris with an exchange against a few pawns. Seemed solid enough. Dennis too got a good position as he had the better pawn structure in the game, albeit against with a knight against a bishop in an open position.

At that point, I also made a central break:

By now, Dennis dropped a pawn somewhere and ended up exchanging towards a rook endgame. Unfortunately, that specific pawn was a far-away passed pawn, leaving Dennis with a tough defense. In my mind, I count Dennis as either 0 or ½, my own game can still be anything, and Morris 1 or ½. Things are clearly headed towards a final tense shootout. Dennis’ game however keeps on slipping and slipping, as the pawn ends up making its grim march forward. Morris in the meantime had exchanged further and ended up in an endgame with two rooks against rook and bishop, and I pushed on with more active pieces.

Morris’ endgame seemed quite difficult to make some headway in, and to make matters worse Morris had nearly run out of time. In severe time trouble Morris ended up being forced to give the exchange back, leaving his opponent (again) with a passed pawn up. Morris couldn’t save the endgame and resigned. At a similar time, Dennis also had to concede his endgame, and I was running out of time to make something good happen in my own game while the team’s fate was already sealed…

This I failed to do. Under pressure and time trouble I blew it as well:

I didn’t see much of the analysis afterwards, as to add insult to injury I managed to lock myself out of the building (Fortunately Arda knew where I had gone, so this was only temporary!), in dire need to get some clarity back in my head. How did it all go so wrong? Do we, in the end, just lack that _je ne sais quoi_ to survive at this level? It all went so well at the beginning…

Well, enough to ponder on the long, painful way home. With this loss, it seems close to the end of the story of Eindhoven A in the Hoofdklasse. Morris gave all kinds of ways how we could still keep our position in the Hoofdklasse, which I ended up pithily summarize as “what we need is a miracle”. As Ron comments in the article: keep the courage!

Paul van Zon