The Calderdale Evening Chess League saw its opening round of fixtures for the 2019-20 season played on Monday night as League 1 teams gathered to test their metal and shake off any rustiness that may have accumulated over the summer break.
This season there are only seven teams in the League after the decision was taken at the League AGM in July to change a long-standing rule that stated that League 1 must have eight teams in it. The rule change means that League 2 can maintain four teams. Next season the numbers will change again to go to six teams in League 1 and five in League 2 – always assuming there are no more teams that disappear in the meantime of course!
This further change to the number of teams in each league means that two teams will be relegated from League 1 at the end of this season but only one will be promoted from League 2.
Right, let’s get kicked off with the match reports then. The reigning champions of League 1 are Hebden Bridge ‘A’ (though as they won the title as Hebden Bridge ‘B’ last season, they can hardly be named the ‘B’ team again this season can they?) and they faced off against the League 2 champions from last season, Brighouse. It was always likely to be a stern test for the new-comers and so it proved to be as they were roundly thrashed 4½ – ½.
The visiting team’s night got off to a pretty bad start when Tim Pryke blunder early on in his game against Pete Leonard on board 4 and resigned on move nine.
After that the pace of Hebden’s advance slowed down rather as three of the other four games became grinds. The exception was the board 1 game between Hebden’s Matthew Parsons and Brighouse’s Robert Broadbent. In this one Matthew gained a great deal of space on the queen’s side in a Closed Sicilian type of position. He followed this up with a positional exchange sacrifice that left Robert almost completely helpless, before finishing the game off with a checkmate in the endgame that his opponent was generous enough to let him play out.
Hebden were 2 – 0 up and cruising. The next game to finish was on board 5 where John Kerrane took down Brighouse debutant Dave Gunthorpe. This was a Queen’s Gambit Declined Exchange Variation game in which the Brighouse man acquitted himself well but then slowly started to bleed pawns through out the middle game. John accumulated his advantage and mopped up efficiently to make it 3 – 0. It was a similar story on board 3 where Andy Leatherbarrow essayed his Scandinavian Defence and slowly and steadily improved his position against Ronnie Grandage all the while giving his opponent no real active play. Finally, Andy was able to simplify down to a king and pawn ending in which he was a pawn up. This left Ronnie with little choice but to resign.
The last game to finish at least ensured Brighouse would not leave Hebden Bridge on the wrong end of a whitewash as their captain Paul Whitehouse held a draw against his counterpart Dave Shapland on board 2. This was a strange game originating from a London System. Dave had no problems equalising but was unable to create any significant problems for Paul after the queens were exchanged early in the game. Try as he might, Dave couldn’t avoid blocking the position up and it gradually became evident that he was going to need to take great risks to play for a win. That was unnecessary given the match situation and so, when Paul offered a draw at time control, Dave saw no reason to refuse.
The final match score was:
Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs Brighouse
M.Parsons 1 – 0 R.Broadbent (W)
D.Shapland ½ – ½ P.Whitehouse (W)
A.Leatherbarrow 1 – 0 R.Grandage (W)
P.Leonard 1 – 0 T.Pryke (W)
J.Kerrane 1 – 0 D.Gunthorpe (W)
4½ – ½
A fine start for Hebden and a difficult one for Brighouse who were seriously outgunned ratings-wise. At least they can console themselves knowing that the rest of their matches before Christmas should theoretically be against teams who finished below there first opponents last season.
With the league down to seven teams there are just three matches being played in each round with one team having a bye. This time round it was Hebden Bridge ‘B’. They will return to action on 3oth September when they will host their ‘A’ team at the Golden Lion for the first derby match of the season. That should be an absolute cracker if both teams can gather their full ordnance.
Away from Hebden Bridge, Belgrave ‘A’ beat their ‘B’ team in their first derby clash. The ‘A’ team look like a solid outfit this season with a new addition to their line up on board 4 in the form of Colin Proctor. On paper only the top board encounter between John Morgan and Gordon Farrar looked like it would be closely fought, and indeed it was drawn, but elsewhere the ‘B’ team held their higher rated opponents on boards 4 and 5 where Angel Gonzalez and Paul Jacobs drew with Colin Proctor and Karim Khan respectively. Belgrave ‘A’ did their damage on boards 2 and 3 where Dave Patrick beat Mike Barnett and Tony Slinger (who could very easily be playing on board 1) beat Chris Edwards.
The third match in the round took place at Halifax’s Lee Mount venue where Halifax ‘A’ hosted Huddersfield ‘A’. A first glance at the Halifax team suggests they could be a serious threat if they can get the returning Darwin Ursal and Winston Williams on to their top two boards on a regular basis. The home side were missing Bill Somerset and Richard Porter on Monday, if that pair join forces with Ursal and Williams then they’ll be capable of beating any team in the league. Instead their bottom three boards were Carols Velosa, Sam Scurfield and Vivienne Webster. Fine players all but not the same standard as Somerset and Porter.
By contrast, Huddersfield were slightly weaker than they often are at the start of the season. No Greg Eagleton or Mitchell Burke in their line-up. Instead, Captain Steve Westmoreland played on board 1 and was backed up by experienced players in the form of Dave Keddie, Nick Sykes and Richard Boylan and then another welcome newcomer to the Calderdale League, David Booth.
Huddersfield were out rated on every board but board 4 and the form books played out as Halifax took the match 3½ – 1½ with the home team not managing a single win with the White pieces. The wins for Halifax came on board 2, where Winston Williams beat Dave Keddie, and on board 5 where Vivienne Webster saw off David Booth.
All five games from the Hebden Bridge vs Brighouse match are in the game viewer below. Next week sees the return of League 2.