Poly2020-II got off to a staggered start on the 11 November. Fifteen stalwarts registered, and Dairena drew the short-straw one-point bye.
Top seed Jallal played White vs. Eric. The latter rolled out his pet Budapest Gambit. Jallal refused the pawn and opted for a closed approach. Black emerged slightly better from the opening, but with no clear plan. As his pieces drifted Queenside, White settled a knight on f5. With a perhaps understandable reluctance to disturb his Kingside pawns, Eric eschewed the required g6 “bug-off” for too many moves, and when Jallal manoeuvred his pieces to allow a Queen intrusion on g5, Eric was done for. 1-0
Top vs bottom pairings gave second-seed Lewis an unenviable Black against the literally underrated Michael Matar, who also trotted out a favourite – his reverse-Dutch style “Bird’s”. Things were pretty even as a flurry of exchanges left an oddly bare Queenside bereft of pawns. A diverting exchange sacrifice allowed White to pawn-trap Lewis’ fiancetto’d Bishop, leaving White clearly ahead. As so often happens, Black almost immediately returned with a three-move combination and suddenly it was Q+3p vs. Q+3p. .5-.5
Danny met Alistair’s French Defence with typical aggression, castling long early, and advancing his Kingside pawns. It became very complicated very quickly. “Engine” assessments swung from side to side as complex combinations were “missed” in turn. Danny’s sacrificial attack seemed to stall, leaving him two pawns down. But an ill-advised decision to swap two active pieces for one of Danny’s doubled rooks was further blighted by a zwischenshach that cost Alistair one of his extra pawns, leaving Danny clearly ahead. Some 7th rank rook possibilities and others might have equalised for Black, but Danny went on to win. 1-0
Down the pecking order, the two “organisers” met up, my playing the White side of a Nimzo-Indian. Reasonably happy with pressure I was developing with doubled rooks along the c-file… I then did that “thing” again, advancing a Rook to c7, only to have it trapped by Nc6. (Stockfish confirming +1.2 to -1.5). With an extra pawn, and still some pressure along the file and against an isolated a pawn, I was hopeful to hold a tight position. Andy’s opening up the Kingside pawns to force the win allowed a long Q-fork of two pawns, and I now felt comfortable for the draw. A more unsettled Andy, however, missed that the manoeuvre had also left a rook en prise, and I fluked a win. 1-0
Last game on Poly2020 night had the rejuvenated Alex Marshall as White vs Craig Fay. White’s style of more-than-competent opening and middle-game play peppered with the very occasional “oversight” leading to immediate defeat had fallen apart in the final rounds of last year’s Poly2020, where he totally forgot the “oversight” part and thumped first myself then Robert Gibb. Alas, an early slip here allowed a …Bxg2 attack on his rook, trapped on its home square. I would have thrown my Queen and kitchen sink against Craig’s King, which would have to move off e8, but Alex chose the more elegant resignation at Move 7.
Delayed games: Richard is another notable for slightly outplaying his opponent early doors before opening a large one for his rival. White against Scott, he went astray in the opening, a knight swap on e4 drawing his own fianchetto’d Bishop into the centre. Black brought his Queen to f6, White his knight to f3. Black played Nc6 and White decided to exchange his awkward Bishop for this. Retaking with the Queen pawn suddenly gave Black an overwhelming position from nowhere, and White’s desperate attempts to save material led to mate. 0-1
Final game was Brian vs Robert. White set up a very compact position behind pawns on e4, d4, while Black sniped from another fianchetto. After inducing h5, White parked a bishop on h6, backed up by Queen, and had the edge. It was all about where and when he advanced which central pawn…until he went for a speculative sacrifice Nf5 (unlike Eric game…B already has pawn g6). Assessing this crucial exchange now depends on whether you live in Stockfish or the real world. Black took ten minutes deciding whether to take. If he does, White Q goes to g5, pinning Black’s bishop which is attacked by B on h6. Defendable, but then white knight joins in on h5. Looks horrible, but Stockfish says Black holds out (-2.2). So it insists it’s a mistake when Robert takes h6 Bishop with his own (+4.7). But now White has to decide whether to retake with Q, or with knight. The queen looks exposed, its supporting knight (still en prise) will be taken, so seems much safer to take bishop with knight and with check, so he does (-1.5) and the knight never escapes. 0-1