On the road for relegation?

Saturday 2nd of March, KNSB day, only two games left to play for SISSA 3.

After our loss against Philidor last time, our team is not in a good place in the ranking: two teams will be relegating, and with our 2 points, we are competing with Staunton and Philidor to stay in the 5th class. So we need to score. Either today, or next time, or ideally both. But let’s face it: it’s gonna be tough. We wanted to secure our position last time already when we played against Philidor and it backfired terribly. Lesson learnt. Let’s not have any expectations for today, not put pressure on the team, and do what we do best at SISSA: spend the day enjoying either our chess games, some food, or some beers. 

Today, we’re playing a home game against TAL2, but once again, we have to change our location to the kindergarten instead of using the DSC. This venue is slightly less spacious than DSC, but this time, things should run more smoothly than last time: we have notation sheets, extra clocks, extra batteries, and even extra boards and pieces (after all, you never know what to do if your board stops working during the game, so we came prepared – hup bestuur!). And good thing that we did, because as last time, it takes us some time to find a missing black bishop. At that point, I’m just wondering who in SISSA is involved in the black market for black bishops. I have some suspicion but I’ll keep my comments to myself. 

Anyway, all the three teams are ready. All the boards and all the pieces are set. And all the clocks seem to be working. Cherry on top, everyone in my team is on time (Is it because neither Roland nor Justin is playing today? Probably.). However, despite this beautiful organization, one thing remains missing: our opponents. A few chess players (unknown to me) are walking in, but it seems to only be SISSA1 and SISSA2 opponents. I do what I do best and I start panicking a little bit. Obviously, I triple check my emails from last week, where I got confirmation from TAL2 that they know about our change of venue. 13:06 and finally, they arrive. 8 players with 100elo more than us on average and probably 30 years older than us on average.

After a few more minutes of waiting for SISSA1 to also get all their opponents, the games start.

I am not too happy that not all our available players can play (it’s now been a couple games in a row that we have 12+ players willing to play). Perhaps, making SISSA4 for next season will solve this recurring issue. Nonetheless, after some spamming and some juggling between availability, priority, chances of redemption, here’s our line-up, and it’s quite promising:

1. Joshua (black)

2. Tije (white)

3. Merlijn

4. Lieuwe

5. Aurore

6. Lucas

7. Rick

8. Anne

A SISSA3 team with an average of 1760, compared to two years ago, that feels a bit crazy to me. But also, I don’t understand anything about the rating system anymore: I went to being maybe slightly underrated to being obviously overrated overnight, that’s just off. Anyway.

After taking some time to decide what to play for my first move (why is it that now that I actually enjoy playing against d4, I only get people playing e4 against me?), I get to wander quite a bit, as for once, my opponent takes quite some time for each of his moves. 

It’s the first time that we have Anne playing for us in our team, and I’m happy to see that his white pieces are developing quite nicely. I’m also quite happy to see that my other teammates are playing openings that I know them to be comfortable with. Today should go better than last month.

One and a half hour goes by. That’s usually the moment when the first SISSA3 players finish their games, while all the players in the other teams are still at the beginning of their games. Not this time, while Maarten wins for SISSA2, all the games in our team still look very uncertain. 

Merlijn seems to be playing a very positional game, with all the pieces still on the board. Joshua, Lucas, Rick and I all have traded one minor piece and a pawn. Anne’s rooks felt a bit uncoordinated, but after he trades a few more pieces, the pressure of what felt to be quite an aggressive game, with checkmate threats on both sides, is released. I don’t see how he can make some progress in his position, but his opponent seems a bit stuck as well. 

On board 2, I try to make sense of Tije’s position. Through the games this season, I learnt to not interpret his tense posture as him not being happy with his game. Yet, his pieces feel a bit uncoordinated too, I’m not sure if he’s attacking on the queen side or on the king side. I’m used to see him win positions that I don’t understand, so I don’t question it too much.

Tije’s position. And now what?

Two boards further, Lieuwe has traded queens, and both players still have 7 pawns, 3 minor pieces, and their rook pairs on their respective back ranks. Anyone not being familiar with Lieuwe’s killer kings might find his active king on e3 a bit odd at first, but that’s just Lieuwe’s way of winning a pawn. 

Lieuwe’s superior king happily going to e3

I go back to focusing on my own board. I am once again letting white suffocating all my pieces. However, I don’t panic as much as I used to – I know that I came back from worse than this. Knowing that my teammates are also all doing well, with a couple of them apparently in better positions, is also quite comforting. 

We are now more than 2 hours into the games. It’s probably a record for SISSA3 to still have all 8 boards playing at that time.

Joshua comes to me, his opponent offered a draw. I know that next to me Lieuwe is up a pawn and an exchange in a winning endgame. I know that the rest is doing quite alright too. And I know that if Joshua thinks he can win that game he’ll go for it. So I let him know that it’s up to him, that he can take it if he wants, but can keep on playing if he feels like it. Less than a minute later, Tije comes to me. He wants to draw.  Our first two boards getting draws while the rest is still playing what looks like mostly alright games? Fine by me. 

I’m trying to see what Joshua decided to do, but before I reach his board Rick comes to me. He also got a draw offer. Last time I checked, he also was in a very equal position, and I know that his opponent is much more experienced than him. That’s gonna give us half a point, but for Rick, and for the team, I still consider this a win. 

Rick (black) accepts the draw offer

WHAT DID JOSHUA DO? I don’t have time to go check, as I hear Lieuwe’s opponent offering him a draw. That seems crazy, Lieuwe was up a pawn and an exchange in a winning endgame, right? RIGHT? I see that his opponent managed to get Lieuwe’s rook stuck defending against a pawn promotion, and that his bishop prevents Lieuwe’s own pawn to promote. Can Lieuwe still make progress? For me, I can’t tell without calculating, but it looks very tricky, as Lieuwe’s king can’t both attack the bishop and protect the other pawns against his opponent’s king. It was a nice played game, that unfortunately only awards Lieuwe (and us) half a point. 

Lieuwe‘s position was actually not stuck with the right plan

On the bright side, I finally have the time to hear what Joshua decided: he took the draw. We went from everyone playing, to 4 halfjes in 3 minutes, damn. By the time I go back to my seat, Anne also drew. 


A clean, but dry game for Joshua in 20 moves

Merlijn, Lucas and me are still standing. 

Crap, I’m really not happy with my game (that tends to happen when I blunder pawns for no reason) and Lucas is missing a few pawns in an open endgame where his opponent has the bishop pair.

After the queen trades, the endgame is not very favorable to Lucas

Merlijn has only traded a pawn so far, so I have no idea what to hope for his game yet. I hope that once again he’ll work his magic.

Merlijn’s game can still go either way

Am I panicking a little bit? Of course. One silver lining though: we’re at move 30, I have 30 minutes on the clock, and my opponent has 2. It wouldn’t be the first time either that I win by flagging my opponent in a long game where my position is worse. But hope chess can only work so much. We reach move 40 and an endgame. I have 2 connected passers and a more active king. He has 4 connected pawns against my king and h pawn. That’s gonna be tough, but I have to try to get at least a draw. For a few moves, I play all the (only) correct moves for it. And I miss it. There goes my chance to join today’s draw club.


Puzzle time: only one move doesn’t lose the game for black

In the meantime,  Merlijn’s opponent’s pieces are starting to coordinate to prepare for an attack against Merlijn’s king, while his bishops are a bit stuck. That doesn’t look promising. For Lucas, after defending for as long as he could, and trying everything he could, he finally has to resign. Tough game. 2,5-4,5

On board 3, Merlijn can’t bring his pieces fast enough to defend against the attack.

Game over, 2,5-5,5

We’ve had more satisfying moments. 

Meanwhile, Staunton got a draw against Haren, so with Philidor, we’re last in our category. Are we gonna join SISSA1 in their relegation journey? Most likely, but only the last game is gonna tell us. 

At least, SISSA2 keeps on going with their win streak. 

And more importantly, as highlighted by Enno, we got a nice dinner in Napoli, with little waiting time, and good pizzas.  

Report by Aurore

Tl; dr:





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