SISSA3 – ESG Emmen 1

SISSA3 – ESG Emmen 1

David contre goliath?

Tl;dr at the end.

Saturday, December 16th, time for the fourth SISSA3 KNSB game of this season.

Our season has been going quite well so far, with our first victory last time against Staunton 3. However, we have to face it: today can only be a different story, as we are against Emmen, the team that has won all of its games so far. While the reason for their presence in 5A will remain a mystery to me, there’s a question that I however needed to answer: 

How do you make a line-up against a team whose weakest player is almost 200rating points higher than the strongest player of your team?

For my players, opinions are mitigated, and so is the enthusiasm, ranging from “FREE ELOOO” to “it doesn’t matter whether I lose on 1 or on 8” comments.  At least, Joshua volunteers to be on board 1, eager to take up a challenge. With his score of 1,5/2 so far, I’m gratefully letting him the opportunity “to make his captain proud”.

At this point, I was not sure whether the biggest challenge of today would be to score any point, or to get the entire team to the playing venue: DSC being claimed by GC, our three SISSA teams have to play their home game in another venue. While setting up the boards there, I hear some comments from players of the higher teams, that we shouldn’t have been kicked out from DSC, that it felt like if we’re less important or legitimate than other clubs. Simultaneously, it is also decided that our few DGT3000 clocks would go the highest boards of SISSA1, leaving the rest of us with the good(?)(more on this later) old DGT2010, and that SISSA1 and SISSA2 would have their board 1 on the stage for everyone to see. Oh well, it probably doesn’t mean that SISSA3 is less important or legitimate than the other teams, right?

We’re almost ready to start, if it isn’t for a missing black bishop. Now, the issue when you play in a one-time venue, is that there’s no extra material available. It is quickly decided that I should bike back home to get a substitute for the missing piece, and Niels suggests that I borrow Joshua’s bike to avoid further delay. An idea that we abandon quickly when we realize that Joshua’s saddle is higher than my belly button. During the few following minutes, we actively try to find a bike that I can use despite my 160cm height. I would not recommend such search to anyone, especially less in the country with the tallest population worldwide. Luckily, and before I took my chance at destroying anyone’s bike (or myself), the missing piece is found, and the games can finally start.

It’s my first time attending the chess hall when not playing. Two years ago I would have never believed that I would ever do that for an entire afternoon, let alone willingly.

But here I am, as ready as my team is. Our most recent SISSA3 players, Joshua, Klaas Jan, Tije, and Lieuwe showed up on time and seem prepared. Diederick was on time as well, but he was also with me less than 10 hours ago, drinking beers in Htje. Justin informed us he would be delayed, but I’m pleasantly surprised when I see that for the first time this year, he actually brought a pen, which looks vaguely familiar. Paul, who hasn’t played KNSB  yet this season, shows-up a couple of minutes before the start of the game, and without any pen. Last, when everyone is sitting, ready for the kick-off, Freerk, on time and pen-ready, leans towards me: “Hey Aurore, is Carl our team captain?”. The saddest part is that I misheard and initially answer yes to his question. A team as ready as it can be.

Anyway, on to the games.

Our line-up:

  1. Joshua
  2. Freerk
  3. Justin
  4. Diederick
  5. Lieuwe
  6. Paul
  7. Tije
  8. Klaas Jan

Our goal:

Scoring more than 0.

Our dream:

Scoring more than 0.5.

The first few opening moves are being played and I walk around. While waiting for the more exciting moves of the games, I stay busy by asking myself the most fundamental questions that anyone in my position would:

-Is my team gonna get slaughtered in front of my eyes? 

-Will there be a cool game for Monday’s training?

-How many trucjes is Niels gonna find? 

-Which SISSA1 player is gonna have a 5 hours long endgame today?

-Is Jorn gonna join for dinner?

It occurs to me that I should also maybe take notes, for the report. While I’m wondering whether I can take them by using my phone in the venue, I see Carl in a corner, writing his own in a notebook, the old-fashion way. Maybe Freerk’s question was valid and he should have been our team captain.

Glancing at Justin’s board, I notice that what I first thought was a knight of his on c6, was actually a knight of his on b6. On move 7. Taking a quick smoke break, he assures me that this knight is great there, and I know better than to argue. He asks whether I know the rating of his opponent, and whether he wants to know. I figure that at this point of the game, he’s probably better off not knowing that he’s facing their strongest player, who has won all of his games this season. So I just remind him that all of these players are strong, and he confidently goes back.

Going back inside, Tije’s board catches my eyes. The player who asked me, before the game even started, whether he could drew, had his queen behind the enemy lines. That’s it. Like really, his queen is happily sitting on c2,  far from any other pieces. Am I witnessing a fantastic attack, or a queen being trapped? I am not fully sure yet, but it seems like Tije is, and manages to manœuvre his pieces without any sacrifice. At least not yet. 

Next to him, Klaas Jans pieces seem nicely developed. Except maybe for his castle, already fully blown up, with a bishop preventing his king to walk away from future threats. A few minutes later, he’d tell me that his game was very tactical and that it should be okay, even if he’s already down a pawn. I’m not sure if he was reassuring me or himself.

I move up a few boards, and the moment I arrive at Diederick’s, his opponent captures a pawn with his queen, move that also comes with a check. Diederick is not impressed, and while he casually sends me getting him a spoon, he calmly looks at his options, and keeps on playing as if all was part of his plan. 

Diederick’s opponent winning a pawn in the opening

On board 1, Joshua is also not impressed. A few moves into the opening, he just accepts a gambit, which I assume his opponent was not expecting. And it seems like Joshua made the right choice, as his opponent doesn’t get much compensation for the pawn.

For Freerk, Lieuwe and Paul, nothing feels too tense yet. Quite usual for the first hour of the game, but a specially nice sight when facing much stronger players.

I am walking back and forth and forth and back. Until Niels interrupts me. He has his trucjes look (if your partner ever looks at you the way Niels looks at trucjes, make sure to marry them), and excitedly tells me that his game is training material for Monday. I’m a simple person, when someone mentions a cool game, I go and watch it. Sorry team. Niels proceeds with sacrificing a queen, and everything on that board is very pleasant to watch. I decide to make this board into my happy place for whenever the stress I get from watching my teammates games becomes inevitably too high.

Instantly after taking this decision, I am of course interrupted in my thoughts. Freerk’s clock stopped working. Just like that. Luckily, Carl is already there, trying to fix it. He manages to do so, but chances are, that it’s gonna be temporary, and we probably need another clock, or new battery.

Did I already mention that we didn’t have extra material in this venue?

I start thinking of solutions that don’t involve finding a bike that fits me. Fortunately, Carl immediately offers to go and buy some battery. Before leaving, he informs us that he will not be back before at least 15mn. Therefore, I’m obviously a bit surprised when I see him with a hand full of batteries a couple of seconds later. He assures me that he is not Santa, and that he just found them here, but the large smile on his face and the Christmas decoration of the venue makes me severely doubt it. 

Oh well, I guess Carl should have been our team captain.

The games continue. Diederick and Justin’s positions seem to slowly get worse, but both players keep their cool and keep on fighting. Joshua has a solid position and never gives his pawn back. Freerk and Paul’s games look very equal. Lieuwe seem to be getting worse, but the engine will later reveal that having a king on e7, a few squares away from the enemy queen and knight, is better for him. Go figure.

Lieuwe being better than white in this position

I alternate between watching Tije and Klaas Jan’s game. It’s an emotional rollercoaster. KJ got his pawn back, but seems to be facing checkmate threats. His face is buried in his hoodie. Tije’s opponent has now castled and seems safe. Tije’s face is also buried in his hoodie. Klaas Jan’s is not anymore, and he winks at me: he is now up a piece for two pawns. How is that even possible? I thought he was dead.

Olaf, who decided to enjoy his krentenbollen while witnessing this game, later commented that this was the most entertaining lunch break he could have had. I shortly step outside. Justin seems as puzzled as Olaf and me with KJ game: the guy was busted, but he now has winning chances? Before we even go back inside, the first result of today falls: Klaas Jan won. 

Freerk asks me whether he can use that clock to replace their defective one, but Carl insists that they keep playing with the current one until it fails. After all, it’s probably good that he’s not our team captain. Anyway, 1-0 for us.

Klaas Jan casually dying on move 27
Klaas Jan casually crushing his opponent on move 29

Unfortunately, there’s not much time for festivities. Despite all of his attempts, Diederick can’t take back the advantage from his opponent, and after his opponent took away his last chances for attack, Diederick resigns. I’m still impressed by how calm Diederick remains for the entire game. He put on a good fight. 1-1. 

On the other boards, the main noticeable changes are for Lieuwe and Tije. Lieuwe’s opponent just forked his king and his rook with a knight. Tije’s opponent has a passed pawn on the sixth rank and is coordinating all his pieces. It’s a bit painful to watch, so I go back to my happy place. Niels is now up three pawns and surrounding his opponent’s king. I feel good again. I go back to my team. Tije’s opponent has now his passer on d7. Is there any way out of this? There is one, and Tije was preparing for it. Checkmate in 3. 

2-1 for us. 

Tije to move and to find the checkmate

I’m overjoyed. I check how Lieuwe’s position untangled, expecting that he would be at least down an exchange. To my surprise, Lieuwe is up a piece. It turned out that the fork never worked, and that Lieuwe’s king on f6 was the active piece needed to win that annoying knight. What a hero.

Lieuwe just doesn’t need to develop his pieces

I meet Freerk and Justin in front of Joshua’s game. Everyone is very excited. Our team already scored two points, Joshua is up a pawn, Lieuwe is up a piece, Paul and Freerk’s games are going strong. Justin felt like he was losing, so confusion arises when his opponent suddenly gives him an exchange. 

Could we… be winning?

Lieuwe’s advantage converts into a win, and our team now stands 3-1. He seems over the moon, and he should: he just defeated a player who apparently used to be above 2000. To say that we’re over exceeding our expectations would be an undertake. 

Now for our four remaining players, things get tougher. It turns out that the quality that Justin’s opponent gave was the best way to convert an already winning game into a crushing one. We are being put back into our place. The difference of level between that player and us just astonishes me. How are we even supposed to fight against that? Why are they even playing in the 5th class? Justin can be proud of his game. For those three hours, he played solidly and did his best, and that’s all he could have done. 3-2.

White, already winning against Justin, will find the best move in this position: 18. Rxe6

Now, 3 games left. If Joshua keeps up with how he’s been playing so far, we are assured to have at least a draw, maybe a win, and this on board 1.

Paul and his opponents have traded queens. Paul has doubled his rooks on the h file, but his opponent seems to have a better pawn structure. Could he get a draw from this game? 

On board 2, Freerk is fighting to defend his isolated pawn. Depending how this unfolds, maybe that could also be a draw? 

Unfortunately, our highest rated player does not find the way to defend without giving up an exchange. From that move on, he can’t really salvage the game, and resigns shortly after. 3-3

Freerk has defensive ressources even without sacrificing the quality with 26.Rxe4

We can feel the pressure in the air. Or maybe that’s just me becoming way too invested in the games of my teammates. That wouldn’t be the first time that I overthink. Paul asks me for the standing. He has traded rooks and is now in an endgame with equal material on both sides – 5 pawns and a minor piece. But his opponent has a passer. I know that in his position I would be shaking, but similarly to Diederick a few hours ago, he’s keeping his cool. Each of his moves feels very calm and thought through. It is unfortunately not enough to prevent his opponent to manoeuvre his way into a second passed pawn. It’s too late to prevent the promotion of both pawns. 3-4, and up to Joshua to determine our final results. 

Our board 1 player also reached an endgame. Bishop pairs for both players, but Joshua still has the pawn that he stole in the early game. Is it enough to get a win? Or is there already too little pieces on the board to get out of a draw? I can’t tell, I’m not even sure I can even still think. His opponent offers a draw. Joshua looks at me. I don’t think he should accept it yet, but also, if he doesn’t feel it I don’t want to risk adding even more pressure on him. So I assure him that it’s up to him, and how he feels. I know that if he accepts it, we lose this round. But also, a different outcome didn’t even occur to us as a possibility until this point.

Should Joshua accept the draw offer?

He keeps on playing. All pawns are being traded, and only the two bishop pairs and Joshua’s d pawn remain on the board. His opponent manages to trade the bishop. Sadly, the enemy’s king already stands in front of Joshua’s pawn. Stalemate, and a final score for our team of 3.5-4.5.

White trades all bishops and gets a stalemate

David might have beaten Goliath, but it is not today that SISSA3 beats Emmen. 

Nonetheless, I’m impressed by all my teammates, and this result is definitely worth celebrating. 

We go to Htje to wait before dinner (I don’t recommend booking a table for 16 people the weekend of winterwelvaart), and then we go to happy italy, where we wait even more before dinner. And to finish the last 2023 report for SISSA3, it’s worth mentioning that this time at least, the heating system of the restaurant was working. 

Report by Aurore.






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