It was to be a landmark night at the Bankers . Statistically it was the 1st time Belfast South had hosted 2 league games on one night, but by the nights closure it would be a landmark night for altogether different reasons.
In a night showcasting its changing of seasons in more ways than one, our Autumn temperatures replaced with Winter ones, coupled with vicious winds and rain. Yet in juxtaposing contrast to this, both The Lions and The Witches were in town to contest essentially a 10 board match-up. This scenario , made all the more critical by the boastful claims of Martin Kelly that his club is the 2nd best in the League. Martin had been putting so much time into finding this sketchy technicality that he didn’t play himself!
Upon all my years of entering the Bankers Club, I have only ever seen one. That was Graeme McCormick vs Paul McNaughten for a draw in the board one clash of Kellys Heroes vs The Witches. 10 moves legend has it, shucks I had a fiver on move 8!
A draw was followed by another draw as William Storey found a drawing line a piece down vs the exposed King of Iza Bujak on board 3. It was the best multi Storey could hope for as a 2nd piece was looking lost.
Matt McAree brought the first decisive result of proceedings, in favour of the travelling Witches with a trademark swashbuckling attempt on the opposing King. With the staying stamina and jumping prowess of a Pipe Cheltenham Handicap entry, Matt’s pawns can seemingly know no boundaries. His opponent J P Corrigan, may have had a perpetual at the end given how every one of Matts pieces were so far advanced that they had just been spotted going through airport security! Matt seemed to think he had the perpetual covered. Onlookers remained unconvinced, if he had a Time Turner then yes it could have been covered. He is a Witch I suppose!
The most intriguing match was always going to be John McKenna vs Ian Kilpatrick on board 2. Except it wasn’t. Bookmakers had started paying out on the draw at move 4! After 2 and a half hours of stride for stride equality a draw was agreed. Both players claim a pawn was threatened at one point, but I believe this to be untrue! It was a close-fought game between 2 very in-form players. 2.5 to 1.5 Witches.
Step forward the most intriguing match of the Div 2 clash, Craig Stevenson vs Andy Hughes. Andy playing with a rare white, seemed unperturbed. After gaining an opening advantage , he won a pawn and inflicted structural damage. Any chances his opponent might have had in the endgame was dismissed with immeasurable class by his opponent to seal the match. The Guitar Hero downing Kellys Heroes!
In the Top Division clash, both sides sat level on points. Along with QUB, in what has been a fascinatingly bizarre but brilliant season so far.
The Lions have been getting their pride back though, and Sam Moore put them 1 -0 up on board 4 after catching John Bryars out in an unstoppable knight fork.
Board 3 was drawn shortly after between John Bradley, the clubs best “mane” owner and one of the signings of the season so far and A Team regular Bruce MacLean, also the owner of a fine “mane.” Bradley held a slight edge for most of the game but he was well held in the end by Bruce , who was albeit glad to accept the draw.
With matches still in the balance, the focus turned to Calum Leitch vs Ray Devenney on board 1. Both players have enjoyed unbeaten spells of late, but Calum holds an unbeaten record against Ray. Ray gave up an exchange for an attack but found his follow up moves neutralised. With his attack now resembling a dim light on the end of a wand, he outtricked his opponent with his final wave of the wand. A seemingly forced Queen trade to go into the won endgame was quickly countered with a devastatingly quick and incisive rook check. I didn’t even have to look at the board to know I was beat. The visual realisation confirmed my instincts as my rook was forced to resign its protection from my recently moved Queen. A 1 move turnaround, Lions and Leitch stunned, from a hex from the Ould Wizard!
Up stepped recovery man Richard Gould to rescue the situation by beating Bernard Jaffa. In a game befitting of both players styles, it ebbed too and fro. Richard left it late, converting a piece up with less than 2 minutes on his clock to seal a seemingly important win.
Those betting on Sam Flanagan and Ross Harris to be the last match finished weren’t to be disappointed. The pair who have never played each other before, seemed to want to make up for that very fact with a 3 hour epic. Sam enjoyed the better of it, winning the early middlegame exchanges and leaving Ross with an unpretty dilemma. Piece activity (which looks limited) or material and structure. Ross chose to fight for a draw and may have well had it but for a frisky pawn move when caught looking into the moonlight outisde. But as Ross was to be reminded on his drive home from a neighbouring street, Sams Yer Man for a Bargain and the A Teams Artillery Man and Mr Ice T converted from there. A commendable Get out of Jail draw from The A Team!
Martin for once was stunned and speechless having lost the record for his 2 favourite conversation topics in one night. The only unbeaten Heroes now is the current Eurovision song contest winning song.
In a season changing night in November, we seen presents handed out and Heroes being unwrapped early this year! 1st win of the season for The Witches, 1st defeat for 2 years for Kellys Heroes.
Now that’s hardly a Banker at the Bankers club!
Pre-match Heroes Haka was a sleeping success