Intermezzo

Oct 122018
 
There were no half measures at the Golden Lion on Monday night as all five games ended decisively between Hebden Bridge 'A' and Hebden Bridge 'B'. Photo credit: Kevin Harber (Flickr)

There were no half measures at the Golden Lion on Monday night as all five games ended decisively between Hebden Bridge ‘A’ and Hebden Bridge ‘B’. Photo credit: Kevin Harber (Flickr)

As mentioned in last week’s post the second of six (!!) Hebden Bridge derby matches in League 1 this season was postponed from last week until Monday evening. It was worth the wait though as no quarter was asked for and none was given as all five boards in the Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘B’ match saw a decisive result and some interesting and enterprising chess was played.

Of course, the fixture was only paying lip service towards being a real derby as Hebden Bridge ‘A’ are based in Todmorden at the Golden Lion. Last season Golden Lion had been beaten at home by the same opponents. It was the only match they lost as they clinched their fourth successive title. Hebden Bridge finished four points behind them in second place. It would be reasonable to assume then that these two sides should be in the mix for the title race again this season.

This time around the situation was somewhat different. Hebden bridge ‘B’ had started their season with a resounding win against their ‘C’ team while Hebden Bridge ‘A’ had lost out to Halifax ‘A’. However, the Todmorden-based team still sported a very strong line up with the spine of their quadruple title winning side all present. Andrew Clarkson was on board 1, Martyn Hamer on 2 and Phil Cook on 3. They were joined be Andrew Swales and Pete Dickinson. Swales is new to the team this season, but Dickinson played some games on board 5 last year and performed well.

Hebden ‘B’ meanwhile, whilst not having the same ordnance on all the top boards, certainly had strength in depth. Matthew Parsons played on board 1, Dave Shapland on 2, Pete Leonard on 3, Sam Swain on 4 and Neil Suttie on 5. This meant that the ‘B’ team were stronger on paper on the bottom two boards, weaker on boards 2 and 3 and then slightly stronger again on the top board. If the over the board encounters were as finely matched as it looked in the grading of the players then it was going to be a tight match.

And so it proved to be. All the games continued well into the second half of the evening and the results on all four boards were by no means pre-ordained. It seemed that Hebden ‘B’ would need to win at least one of the bottom two boards. In the end they won both. In the first result of the night, Neil Suttie built up methodically and sensibly against Pete Dickinson’s Philidor Defence. He managed to force Pete’s pieces into disharmony and was then able to take advantage of that with a nice combination starting with 20.Ng5. After Black’s response 20…Rg6 see if you can spot Neil’s continuation in the diagram on the right. After this the game drew to a swift conclusion.

Sam followed up on Neil’s good work with a slightly different sort of win. A highly complicated Chigorin System of the Ruy Lopez appeared on the board. Andy seemed to be making some progress with Black but then, just as had happened on board 5, his pieces seemed to somehow get in each other’s way whilst Sam’s were operating harmoniously. This led first of all to White winning a pawn and then, a little later, Andy was compelled to give up the exchange to prevent his queen from getting trapped. After that Sam was always in control even thought the complications persisted for a while longer. Finally, Sam forced simplifications and Andy resigned when he made a blunder in what was already a lost position.

It was 0 – 2 to Hebden ‘B’, and it seemed that they needed the buffer for by the time Sam had won his game, Pete Leonard had a losing rook and pawn ending on the board against Phil Cook and Dave Shapland, just like Andy and Pete before him, gotten his pieces in a tangle and was forced to give up his queen for a rook and bishop. Unlike Andy and Pete though he did have some counter play and a very resilient looking defensive position.

This all meant that the result on board 1 was absolutely critical to the outcome of the match result. Andrew had ventured a pseudo King’s Indian position against Matthew’s inevitable London System. This way of approaching the London has a decent reputation and indeed Andrew appeared to be holding his own only for Matthew to slowly out play him and exchange one type of advantage for another until he finally sealed it in a rook and pawn ending. By this time Pete had lost and Dave was only writhing in agony before Martyn dealt his death-blow but the result was no longer in doubt. Hebden ‘B’ had managed to beat the title holders away for a second successive season.

Here is the match card:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘B’
A.Clarkson 0 – 1 M.Parsons (W)
M.Hamer 1 – 0 D.Shapland (W)
P.Cook 1 – 0 P.Leonard (W)
A.Swales 0 – 1 S.Swain (W)
P.Dickinson 0 – 1 N.Suttie (W)
2 – 3

All the games from the match can be found in the game viewer below. Thanks to Andrew Clarkson and Matthew Parsons who have both annotated their game from Monday night.

This result means that Hebden Bridge ‘B’ are the only team with a 100% record after just two rounds! A most unlikely state of affairs. Belgrave ‘A’ are next in the table on 3 points. Then come Belgrave ‘B’, Huddersfield ‘B’, Halifax ‘A’ and Huddersfield ‘A’ on 2. Hebden Bridge ‘C’ have 1 point and Hebden Bridge ‘A’ are yet to get off the mark.

Next week the bottom two teams will play the last of the Hebden Bridge derby matched before Christmas while the top team host Huddersfield ‘A’ in what promises to be another tight match. Belgrave ‘A’ vs Halifax ‘A’ and Belgrave ‘B’ vs Huddersfield ‘B’ completes the fixtures.


League 2

This week also saw a second round of fixtures played in League 2. In this Belgrave ‘C’ crushed Halifax ‘C’ 1 – 4 with ‘Super’ Steve Harrington registering his fourth win out of four in both leagues so far this season. Chris Edwards and Paul Jacobs also won their games while boards 1 and 2 were drawn.

At the Trades Club Brighouse went one point better to whitewash Hebden Bridge ‘D’s line up of juniors and Huddersfield ‘C’ registered a walk over when Halifax ‘B’ defaulted their match.

All of this means that the new outfit, Huddersfield ‘C’ and the old stagers, Brighouse sit atop the League with 4 points. Belgrave ‘C’ and Halifax ‘B’ have 2 points and Halifax ‘C’ and Hebden Bridge ‘D’ have no points.

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Oct 072018
 
The Chinese won both the Open and Women's sections in Batumi. A rare and outstanding achievement.

The Chinese won both the Open and Women’s sections in Batumi. A rare and outstanding achievement.

Your editor is fresh back from a short holiday and, as you might expect, there is plenty to catch up on. This week we’ll get an update on Round 1 of the Calderdale Evening League 2 matches which took place last week and also the second round of League 1 matches that (mostly!) took place this week.

Before all of that though it would be most remiss not to reflect on the chess event that has been dominating coverage on all the big chess news sites for the last two weeks. What do you mean ‘Which event?’ Surely you’ve noticed that the biggest (literally) chess event in the world has been taking place in Batumi, Georgia. Yes, I mean the chess Olympiad.

Hillarp Persson vs. Laurusas. White to move. Black has just played Qf1 threatening to pick up the bishop after Qg2+ next. Can you see how the legendary attacker Tiger Hillarp Persson concluded the game with White here.

Hillarp Persson vs. Laurusas. White to move. Black has just played Qf1 threatening to pick up the bishop after Qg2+ next. Can you see how the legendary attacker Tiger Hillarp Persson concluded the game with White here.

For the past three editions of this great event, which is a real personal favorite of mine, I’ve been involved with running the Fantasy Chess Olympiad. Along with Matty Webb who did all the clever web development work, we’ve had a great time entertaining a global audience and providing them with an opportunity to engage with the Olympiad in a new and interesting way. Sadly, this time around, we both concluded some months ago that neither of us had the time or the energy to run it again. We hope it will make a return for the 2020 edition.

In some ways, not having the FCO to worry about over the last two weeks has left me with more time to enjoy the event itself. It has been extremely well covered in all the usual places and, for a change, England have actually performed creditably well.  The team this time consisted of Michael Adams, Luke McShane, David Howell, Gawain Jones and Nick Pert (Nigel Short was busy making a monkey of himself as a candidate for the FIDE presidency which is too long and tawdry a tail to discuss in any more detail here). After 9 of the 10 rounds England had managed to manouevre themselves into a three way share of third place and were genuine medal contenders having lost only one match to Azerbaijan at that stage.

Haast vs. Kosteniuk. Black to play. Former Women's World Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk finished off her opponent her in elegant style. The firs move is fairly obvious but can you see the whole idea?

Haast vs. Kosteniuk. Black to play. Former Women’s World Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk finished off her opponent her in elegant style. The firs move is fairly obvious but can you see the whole idea?

Unfortunately, they were then drawn against the Russians in round 10 and, despite the fact that the Russian line up looked marginally less frightening than it might have done (no Grischuk or Svidler), they still managed to beat our heroes fairly convincingly with Vladimir Kramnik on board 3 (!!!) downing David Howell in the only decisive game of the match. However, after this set back, England picked themselves up and managed to crush Kazakhstan to finish the event in fifth place. This is the best result for England at an Olympiad for over 20 years so congratulations to them.

In the end the Chinese won both the Open and Women’s sections following a dramatic final round that saw the infamous Sonneborn-Berger tie break invoked. this effectively meant that the final result wasn’t known for quite some time after all the top teams had finished as the results of their earlier opponents was also needed in order to calculate the tie break scores.

I might well return to the Olympiad briefly in my next post but for now, I’d like to share a couple of interesting positions that caught my attention. These are both featured on the right. See if you can find the winning continuations in both situations. The solutions are given (along with the games in full) in the game viewer at the bottom of this post.

Now, back to more local affairs…


Calderdale League 2

The first round of League 2 fixtures this season took place on Monday 24th of September and there was a very welcome last-minute surprise in the form of a Huddersfield ‘C’ team joining the league. This brought the total number of teams up to six and meant that one team would not need to take a bye in each round of fixtures. As it was our own ‘D’ team scheduled not to play in round 1 Huddersfield’s new arrivals were particularly welcome and travelled to the Trades Club to take on our juniors (plus John Kerrane!)

Huddersfield brought along a team with some new faces in it alongside some seasoned veterans. It looked like the visitors would be favorites on paper and so it proved over the board as they inflicted a whitewash on the home side. Here is the full match scorecard:

Hebden Bridge ‘D’ vs. Huddersfield ‘C’
J.Kerrane 0 – 1 J.Lavan (W)
T.Dodd 0 – 1 R.Sutcliffe (W)
Z.Sandhu 0 – 1 C.Bond (W)
L.Curry 0 – 1 M.Rojinsky (W)
J.Edmondson 0 – 1 P.Czerwinski (W)
0 – 5

Elsewhere in League 2, Brighouse dispatched Belgrave ‘C’ at the Belgrave Club with Robert Broadbent, Nick Hudson and Adrian Dawson all scoring wins for the visitors. Steve Harrington managed an excellent consolation point against Paul Whitehouse on board 3 and the bottom board was drawn. The local Halifax derby was only contested on four boards with the ‘B’ team sweeping aside the ‘C’ team on all of those to win the match 4 – 0.

These results see the new Huddersfield ‘C’ outfit go top of the table with Halifax ‘B’ and Brighouse in hot pursuit. One would expect these three teams to be duking it out right through the season.


Calderdale League 1

This week the second round of League 1 fixtures took place. But, before we dive into those it’s worth mentioning that the Huddersfield ‘A’ vs. Huddersfield ‘B’ match, which was postponed from round 1, also took place on the 24th of September and resulted in a surprising and resounding defeat for the senior side by 4 – 1. The lower rated players in the ‘B’ team on boards 3, 4 and 5 all managed wins whilst on the top two boards, where the match ups were more even, the games were drawn.

This week though, Huddersfield ‘A’ bounced straight back on Wednesday night when they fielded a much stronger team against a Halifax ‘A’ side who were, conversely, far weaker than they had been against Hebden Bridge ‘A’ (@Golden Lion) in the first round. Even though Huddersfield defaulted their fifth board, they won on three of the others as Greg Eagleton, Mitchell Burke and Nick Sykes beat Richard Porter, Vivienne Webster and Pete Moss respectively. Nick has sent us his game which you will also find in the viewer at the end of this post.

By turns, Huddersfield ‘B’, having bagged that excellent derby win were soundly thrashed by Belgrave ‘A’ who had only managed a draw in their own derby match in the first round of fixtures. John Morgan on board 1, Karim Khan on board 4 and Steve Harrington (Again! He’s 3/3 for the season so far against higher rated opponents) on board 5 all won. On boards 2 and 4 Huddersfield managed to hold draws against higher rated opponents.

This just leaves us with Hebden Bridge ‘C’s match against Belgrave ‘B’ to report on. These two teams, along with Huddersfield ‘B’, appear to be the most likely candidates for relegation this season and so, seeing as Huddersfield ‘B’ had already won a match and Belgrave ‘B’ drawn one, it felt imperative that Hebden get off the mark. The match was pretty tight by all accounts. John Kerrane summarises proceedings for us below:

The two teams looked evenly matched on paper, and so it turned out on the night. Neil Bamford’s win for Hebden Bridge after a long endgame on board 4 was matched by Dave Colledge’s on board 5 for Belgrave. The other three games were drawn, leaving the final score level.

The individual results were:

Hebden Bridge ‘C’ vs. Belgrave ‘B’
A.Leatherbarrow ½ – ½  G.Farrar
P.Gledhill ½ – ½ M.Barnett
J.Kerrane ½ – ½  K.Marsh
N.Bamford 1 – 0 L.Johnson
T.Sullivan 0 – 1 D.Colledge
2½ – 2½

The big clash between Hebden Bridge ‘A’ and Hebden Bridge ‘B’ will take place at the Golden Lion on Monday night as the venue was not available for the match to be played last Monday. Should Hebden ‘A’ win that match then there would be no teams in the league with a 100% record after just two matches! It looks like this season could become very interesting indeed.

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Sep 212018
 
They're away! It all began again in the Calderdale Evening Chess League on Monday night. This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from Tomas' Flickr photostream

They’re away! It all began again in the Calderdale Evening Chess League on Monday night. This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from Tomas’ Flickr photostream

On Monday night the Calderdale Evening Chess League started up again as a round of League 1 fixtures were played.

As is always the case where any club has two or more teams in a division they are drawn to play each other in the first fixture of the year to ensure there can be no hint of collusion later in the season. This season Hebden Bridge, Huddersfield and Belgrave all have two teams. Hebden Bridge actually have three with the team based at the Golden Lion now part of the club and named Hebden Bridge ‘A’.

As Golden Lion were last season’s champions (their fourth title in succession which is a feat only ever bettered by Courier ‘A’ who won the Anderson Trophy five successive times between 1986-87 and 1990-91) let’s start with them.

At the core of the Golden Lion team is the same spine that has helped them to those last four league titles, Martyn Hamer, Andrew Clarkson and Phil Cook. This year though their top scorer from last season, Dave Shapland, has based himself back at the Trades Club as Captain of Hebden Bridge ‘B’ and David Innes and Marc Turu, who played on board five between them for most of last season, have both moved on. In their stead came Andrew Swales and Jon-Paul Ellis who occupied the bottom two boards as they hosted Halifax ‘A’.

Halifax have had a turbulent few seasons themselves. They used to have a trio of super strong players on the top three boards themselves but Winston Williams and Darwin Ursal were both missing last season and the team felt their loss keenly. However, for this first match of the season, Winston was back on board 1 and with Bill Somerset on board 2, Richard Porter on 3, Carlos Velosa on 4 and Sam Scurfield on 5, Halifax had a stronger line up than they’d managed to put out at any point in 2017-18.

Porter vs. Cook. White to move.

Porter vs. Cook. White to move.

It was always likely to be a tall order for Hebden ‘A’ on the lower boards and they weren’t helped when JP lost his game quickly and somewhat noisily. Unfortunately, this caused some distraction to other players on both sides and Andrew Swales lost his game shortly afterwards.

This put the top three Hebden ‘A’ players under a great deal of pressure and the remaining games went on long into the night. They could very well have pulled it off. Martyn managed to beat Winston, Andrew had Bill on the rack for significant chunks of the evening only for his adversary to defend himself stoutly and resourcefully to hold the balance and a draw.

This just left Phil cook and Richard Porter to decide the match. If Phil could win the match would be tied. Nay other result and Halifax would steal the win. Phil was a piece and a pawn up when he made time control and all looked well but it seems he may have drifted back into time trouble for he made a most uncharacteristic blunder on move 41 and this basically cost him the game on the spot as Richard spotted a nice tactic. See if you can find it in the position on the right.

The games from the top three boards can be found in the game viewer at the end of this post. Here is the final match score card:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ (@Golden Lion) vs. Halifax ‘A’
M.Hamer 1 – 0 W.Williams (W)
A.Clarkson ½ – ½ B.Somerset (W)
P.Cook 0 – 1 R.Porter (W)
A.Swales 0 – 1 C.Velosa (W)
JP.Ellis 0 – 1 S.Scurfield (W)
1½ – 3½

So, an early season set back for the reigning champions that will give the other teams in the League this year hope of stealing their crown. There is a long, long way to go though.

Meanwhile at the Trades Club Hebden Bridge ‘B’ were playing their derby match against Hebden Bridge ‘C’. Hebden ‘B’ welcomed back the strongest player in the league (on paper at least) in the form of Matthew Parsons. Dave Shapland, Pete Leonard, Sam Swain and Neil Suttie made up their formation.

Hebden Bridge ‘C’ had the luxury of having more players than they needed and so their Captain, Martin Syrett generously sat the match out to enable others to play. The ‘C’ team lined up with Andy Leatherbarrow, Neil Bamford, John Kerrane, Terry Sullivan and Luca Curry. With significant differences in the players ratings on all the boards this match always looked like it would be a tough challenge for the ‘C’s but they’ve been known to cause derby upsets before and they put up spirited resistance before succumbing on this occasion.

Leatherbarrow vs. Parsons. Black to play

Leatherbarrow vs. Parsons. Black to play

The first game to finish saw Dave Shapland take advantage of some early season rustiness on Neil Bamford’s part to win swiftly but the other games all went on much, much longer. On board 3, the lack of ‘match fitness’ (if you can call it that!) showed itself even earlier as Pete Leonard confused two different variations of the Grunfeld Defence and lost a pawn as early as move 6. Sometimes, this kind of thing can be overcome but John Kerrane maintained his material and restricted Pete’s counter play for quite a long time. Later in the game he gave Pete a glimmer of hope before finding the right way to close out the game with some good technical play. The match was level.

Sadly, that was as close as the ‘C’ team got. First, Matthew sealed a fine win with the King’s Indian Defence by finding a very smart pretty tactic. See if you can spot it in the diagram on the right. Then Sam saw off Terry in the endgame before Neil did much the same against Luca although he had held a material advantage for a significant chunk of the evening.

All five games from this match are in the viewer at the end of this post. Here are the final results:

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘C’
M.Parsons 1 – 0 A.Leatherbarrow (W)
D.Shapland 1 – 0 N.Bamford (W)
P.Leonard 0 – 1 J.Kerrane (W)
S.Swain 1 – 0 T.Sullivan (W)
N.Suttie 1 – 0 L.Curry (W)
4 – 1

The third match to take place on Monday night was the one between Belgrave ‘A’ and Belgrave ‘B’. Again, on paper this looked like it should have been straight forward for the home team, but, playing Black and with a rating advantage on every board but board 5, they struggled greatly.

Gordon Farrar continued his strong recent form by holding Ian Hunter to a draw on board 1. New recruit Keith Marsh and Les Johnson did the same to Dave Patrick and Malcolm Corbett respectively. Meanwhile, the only player in the ‘A’ team line up to have a lower rating than his opponent (Steve Harrington against Angel Gonzales) won his game and this left Karim Khan with the task of holding Dave Colledge to a draw to squeeze out a win for Belgrave ‘A’. Sadly he was unable to manage it and Dave won the last game of the night to finish as the ‘B’ team took a very creditable draw indeed.

On Wednesday night Huddersfields ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams were due to meet but (perhaps unsurprisingly given their recent history) the fixture was postponed until next week. We will try and bring you that result then.

League 2 starts next week and the good news is that Huddersfield have been able to belatedly enter a ‘C’ team to the League which means that there won’t need to be a team taking a bye in each round of matches. Very welcome news that and so Hebden Bridge ‘D’ will host Huddersfield ‘C’ next week.

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Sep 162018
 
Today readers, we offer you the chess version of an amuse bouche as we prepare for the start of the new season tomorrow night. The image above is evidently an amuse bouche of raw milk, sea urchin and sea grapes (not sure that sounds awfully appetising!) The image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from City Foodsters Flickr photostream

Today readers, we offer you the chess version of an amuse bouche as we prepare for the start of the new season tomorrow night. The image above is evidently an amuse bouche of raw milk, sea urchin and sea grapes (not sure that sounds awfully appetising!) The image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from City Foodsters Flickr photostream

An amuse bouche, often accompanied by a complementing wine, are served both to prepare the guest for the meal and to offer a glimpse into the chef’s approach to the art of cuisine. The term is French and literally means “mouth amuser”

The new Calderdale Evening Chess League season begins tomorrow night. So, on the eve of hostilities opening up once again, the time felt right to inspire, titilate and tantilise your chess senses with whatever the chess equivalent of an amuse bouche would be. This takes the form of a highly entertaining and very beautiful game that was played in the recent Korchnoi Memorial tournament.

Before that though, lets remind ourselves of the Calderdale League 1 fixtures taking place up and down the valley this week.

First of all on Monday 17th:

  • Hebden Bridge ‘B’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘C’
  • Hebden Bridge ‘A’ (A.K.A Golden Lion) vs. Halifax ‘A’
  • Belgrave ‘A’ vs. Belgrave ‘B’

And then on Wednesday:

  • Huddersfield ‘A’ vs. Huddersfield ‘B’

The shape of League 1 feels like it’s changed quite a lot compared to last season. Halifax ‘B’ and Brighouse have dropped down to League 2 to be replaced by Huddersfield ‘B’ and Belgrave ‘B’. Neither Huddersfield nor Belgrave have had two teams in the top tier for quite some time. Stay tuned to these web pages for a report on these matches later this week.

Next, we must report on the outcome of the Hebden Bridge Chess Club Lightning tournament which was advertised here a couple of weeks ago. Here’s a brief report from John Kerrane:

To round off the Summer Programme, we held our Annual Lightning Tournament on Monday the 3rd of September at the Golden Lion, Todmorden.

There were plenty of slip-ups and oversights as usual in Lightning Chess, making it a light-hearted way to end the summer. Eleven players entered the tournament, not a bad attendance at all considering the change in venue. Several of the regular Golden Lion players were there, which gave us the strongest field we’ve ever had.

Matthew Parsons led from the outset. Although he was closely challenged in all six rounds, he ended the outright winner on 4½/6, with Martyn Hamer, Andrew Clarkson, Dave Shapland and Martin Syrett all in second place with 4/6.

The individual scores of all eleven entrants were:

  • Matthew Parsons = 4½
  • Martyn Hamer, Andrew Clarkson , Dave Shapland, Martin Syrett = 4
  • Pete Leonard, Nick Sykes, Andy Swales = 3
  • John Allan = 2½
  • Terry Sullivan, John Kerrane = 2

Congratulation to Matthew for winning against some stiff competition.

D.Paravyan vs. S.Golubov, Korchnoi Memorial 2018 (Round 6). White to play his 23rd move. What would you do here?

D.Paravyan vs. S.Golubov, Korchnoi Memorial 2018 (Round 6). White to play his 23rd move. What would you do here?

Now, let’s turn our attention to the entertainment! Take a look at the position on the right. White is to play and has already invested a knight to draw the Black king out to the f6 square but now Black has just played 22… Kxf6 instating an attack on the White queen. See if you can find the idea that enabled White to crown the game with a stunning finish.

The whole game is well worth a closer look and there are a series of surprising and beautiful tactics that preclude this position. There are also a fair few afterwards! I’ve added the whole game into the viewer at the end of this post so that you can find the answer to this puzzle and also enjoy the whole game.

It’s not surprising that this game as been widely circulated and celebrated on the internet so I’ve also embedded a YouTube video to Agadmator’s channel where he covers the game and covers some of the key variations.

I hope that this will serve as an appetite whetter for the chess to come in Calderdale over the coming months.

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Sep 042018
 

During last year’s summer programme we ran an endgame workshop all about the concept and practical applications of ‘zugswang’.

Carlsen vs. Nakamura, Sinquefield Cup 2018. It's White's 93rd move. How did the World Champion continue his masterplan here?

Carlsen vs. Nakamura, Sinquefield Cup 2018. It’s White’s 93rd move. How did the World Champion continue his masterplan here?

For the uninitiated, here is a dictionary definition for the term:

Definition: zugzwang

(German for “compulsion to move” pronounced [‘tsu:ktsvan])

A situation found in chess and other games wherein one player is put at a disadvantage because they must make a move when they would prefer to pass or not to move. The fact that the player is compelled to move means that their position will be significantly weaker. A player is said to be “in zugzwang” when any possible move will worsen their position

This week I was very taken with two very different zugzwang ideas that were seen in the final round of the Sinquefield Cup in St Louis. There can be no better exemplars to follow than World Champion Magnus Carlsen and the dazzlingly creative Levon Aronian so both games are worth taking time to examine. In both cases the zugzwang concept was used to help the player with the White pieces to victory and a share of first place.

Aronian vs. Grischuk, Sinquefield Cup 2018. Black's king is open but it isn't easy to apply the finishing touch. How did Aronian proceed here?

Aronian vs. Grischuk, Sinquefield Cup 2018. Black’s king is open but it isn’t easy to apply the finishing touch. How did Aronian proceed here?

See if you can spot the ways to create winning zugzwang positions from the diagrams on the right. The answers are given in the games in the viewer at the end of this post (I’ve also published the zugzwang examples that were used in the endgame workshop last year).

Carlsen’s game featured a typically remorseless grind against Hikaru Nakamura. Carlsen finally took victory after almost 100 moves but he sowed the seeds of his win much earlier on and his technique in the rook and pawn ending was absolutely flawless. It’s an endgame that is well worth a closer study. I’ve added a very few notes to the game viewer but you can watch GM Danny King’s ‘Powerplay Chess’ You Tube channel video about it below for a clear and erudite exposition of the ending.

By stark contrast, Aronian’s win against Alexander Grischuk was a tactical masterpiece featuring a relatively speculative sacrifice in the romantic style of Mikhail Tal. Again, there is plenty to learn from and admire prior to the zugzwang position which is merely the coup de grace. Again, Danny King provides an excellent guided tour in the video below. I’ve only really added notes about the zugzwang position in the game viewer.

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Aug 242018
 
This position from Shapland vs. Wells, Blackpool Congress was considered in our Analysis Evening earlier this summer. It's White to play. What would you do here? Find out the best move in the game viewer at the end of this post.

This position from Shapland vs. Wells, Blackpool Congress was considered in our Analysis Evening earlier this summer. It’s White to play. What would you do here? Find out the best move in the game viewer at the end of this post.

It’s been a little over three months since we last posted on this website and your editor has enjoyed something of a summer break. However, with a new season looming, it’s time to brush the cobwebs away from my keyboard start posting again. I thought it might be a good idea to briefly recap and reflect on some of things that have happened since our last post in May.

1.) Coming soon! Club Lightning Championship

The final chapter of this year’s summer programme will take place on Monday 3rd of September when our annual Lightning Championship will be staged. PLEASE NOTE, this is going to take place at The Golden Lion, Fielden Square, Todmorden as the Trades Club is unavailable.

Please do try and join us for what is always an enjoyable evening. Remember, Lightning Chess is played with a buzzer sounding every 10 seconds to regulate when each move must be played.

Round 1 will start as soon after 19.30 as possible so do try and arrive at The Golden Lion before then if you can.

2.) Calderdale Chess Roll of Honour 2017-18

Now that we have that out of the way lets quickly list the winners and losers from last season’s action.

Calderdale Chess League 1

  • Winners: Golden Lion – 26 points
  • Runners-up: Hebden Bridge ‘A’ – 22 points
  • Relegated: Halifax ‘B’ and Brighouse
  • Top scorer: Dave Shapland (Golden Lion) 12/13

Calderdale Chess League 2

  • Winners (promoted): Huddersfield ‘B’ – 18 points
  • Runners-up (promoted): Belgrave ‘B’ – 17 points
  • Top scorer: Les Johnson (Belgrave ‘B’) – 8½/9

Calderdale Chess Handicap League

  • Winners: Halifax

Calderdale Individual Championship

  • Winner: Phil Cook (Golden Lion) 4½/5
  • Second place: Pete Leonard (Hebden Bridge) and Mike Barnett (Belgrave) 4/5

Calderdale Team Lightning

  • Winners: Hebden Bridge

3.) Websites down

Eagle-eyed observers have noticed that the Yorkshire Chess website has disappeared. Is it ever to return they ask? It’s unlikely at this time we think. Essentially it had been operating on the good will of the webmaster (who was funding hosting costs out of his own pocket) and a small editorial team of volunteers. When the Yorkshire Chess Association either dithered, or declined, to cover ongoing costs it expired.

There is something of a replacement in the form of Steven Mann’s website about Yorkshire Chess which now includes a page for the Yorkshire Chess Association. (There is also a link to this site in the ‘Useful and interesting websites’ list on the right of this page.

Additionally, the YCA Grading website though still live now, is essentially being archived this year. Jon Griffiths, who has done sterling service, has retired as the Grading Officer for the Yorkshire Chess Association and with him goes the website. You can still go to the site to check you current rating which will be used as the starting rating for Calderdale fixtures this season. However, the ratings here will not be updated and no more league results will be added. The site will disappear completely in 12 month’s time once the English Chess Federation (ECF) ratings supplant the local ratings.

All this leads us nicely onto…

4.) Calderdale League 1 to be ECF graded next season

The situation with the Yorkshire grading website left all the leagues in Yorkshire with critical decisions to make at their AGMs over the summer. The only way to get games graded centrally now is via the ECF’s Grading Officer for Yorkshire and that means that all players in the league must become members of the ECF. The only alternative is to grade league games locally in order to avoid ECF membership fees.

At the Calderdale AGM this was considered and discussed at length with some of those present feeling that lower rated, occasional players only playing in the Calderdale League would be unwilling to spend £16 to join the ECF as Bronze Members. Others pointed out that regular participants in the Calderdale, Bradford, Huddersfield, Leeds and Yorkshire Leagues would want all their games to go towards one single rating and may decide to play elsewhere if Calderdale didn’t follow the suit of the other Leagues, many of whom are already affiliated to the ECF.

Finally, it was agreed that Calderdale League 1 games would be rated by the ECF and that, for this season at least, League 2 and the Handicap League would not be ECF rated. This decision will be reviewed again at an EGM meeting next year.

5.) League 1 players need to become ECF members

The upshot off all of this discussion is that any player taking part in Calderdale League 1 matches this season must become an ECF Member. Bronze Membership costs £16 (£5 for Juniors) and you can join online via the new membership portal. The link has been added to the list of ‘Useful and interesting websites’ on the right.

If you plan on playing in Congresses as well this season then you should become a Silver member (£23.50 or £5 for Juniors) to have those games graded otherwise you will be charged an additional entry fee by the Congress organisers in order to get your games graded.

So, if you are playing in League 1 this season please join (or renew your membership with) the ECF at your earliest convenience. The membership year starts on September the 1st.

6.) Hebden Bridge Chess Club welcomes Golden Lion players

At our own club AGM this summer it was agreed that we would absorb the players of the Golden Lion team into our club. This was done primarily to allow the team to continue playing home matches in Todmorden whilst benefitting from the necessary organisational structure of Hebden Bridge Chess Club. It will also allow some of our other members who live in Todmorden to join this team if they wish to do so.

The Golden Lion will continue to be the base for the team but please note that it is now known as ‘Hebden Bridge ‘A’ on the new Calderdale League website were you can find all of the scheduled fixtures for this season.

7.) ‘Teamer’ now being used to help manage our League 1 teams

At the club AGM it was also agreed that the League 1 teams (Hebden Bridge ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’) will now be administrated in part by an online service called Teamer. If you are invited to play for any of these teams you will receive an invitation (by text or email) to join the club’s Teamer web pages. You will also be notified and invited to play in matches via the Teamer service and you will be able to accept or decline these invitations by text or email or by logging onto the website. There is also a smart phone app available that you can use and receive notifications this way.

We plan to trial this for a year and then gather feedback from members to see how they liked using it at the end of the season. It will hopefully reduce the time and effort needed for the Captains to organise their teams but it won’t entirely replace the need for phone calls. Basically, if you don’t respond to the invitations we’ll pester you by calling instead!

If you have any questions or concerns about how Teamer works please email us hebdenbridgechessclub@gmail.com or speak to Dave Shapland at the club sometime.

8.) Summer Programme: Analysis evening

Our summer programme of events and competitions has been continuing as usual over the last few months. In July, Dave Shapland presented a game from the Blackpool Chess Congress which he took part in back in March and came joint first in his section. The game was from the critical fourth round and several members have asked for it to be published here for further study and entertainment. You’ll find it in the game viewer at the end of this post.

9.) Summer Programme: Matthew Parsons Simultaneous

Last Monday we held a simultaneous match against our strongest player, Matthew Parsons. The turn out this year was excellent with 11 members coming along to try their luck against Matthew. Here’s a brief report from John Kerrane.

On Monday evening, Hebden Bridge Chess Club’s strongest player, Matthew Parsons, took on eleven other club members in a Simultaneous Exhibition, as part of the club’s Summer Programme, at the Trades Club, Holme Street.

Playing all eleven players at once, and making moves on each board in turn, Parsons seemed to have no trouble in establishing superior positions on most boards, but two stalwarts of the club’s C team, Andy Leatherbarrow and Martin Syrett, both fought back and eventually won their games. The rest of the company weren’t so successful, and Parsons finished the evening on 9 wins out of 11, a pretty impressive score line.

Parsons is a popular colleague, and members were relieved to hear that he has decided to continue playing for Hebden Bridge next season!

Considering how difficult it is to take on so many opponents at once, and having performed so well, it seems terribly unfair to only publish one of Matthew’s defeats from Monday night and yet, we have done so! Andy Leatherbarrow’s win can also be found in the game viewer at the end of the post.

10.) World Chess Championship Match in London

Magnus Carlsen will take on his latest challenger, Fabiano Caruana in a 12-game match in London this November. The venue and schedule was announced last month. This event offers a unique opportunity to sample the atmosphere and tension of a World Championship match. Your editor attended a game from the Kasparov vs. Kramnik match in London in 2000 and can heartily recommend it to anyone who’s got the inclination to take a day trip to London for it. Tickets and further information can be found on the World Chess website.

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May 142018
 

Just for a change, today we publish some news that is less than a month old! Your editor promises to bring the Calderdale League reporting to a conclusion later this week. Until then, we bring reports on the Calderdale Team Lightning and Junior Pennine Gigafinal events.

This is my annual excuse to find a beautiful photograph of lightning! This year's is by Kim Seng. It is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from Kim Seng's Flickr photostream.

The advent of the Team Lightning competition gives us our tenuous excuse to publish a beautiful photograph of lightning! This year’s is by Kim Seng. It is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from Kim Seng’s Flickr photostream.

On Monday 30th April, Belgrave Chess Club hosted the league’s Annual Lightning Competition at the Belgrave Club, Halifax. Pete Leonard reports on the event which ended in a resounding success for Hebden Bridge:

The last fixture of the season in the Calderdale Evening Chess League is traditionally a Team Lightning Tournament, held in the Belgrave Club, in Halifax. This format gives each player precisely ten seconds in which to make each move, leading to occasionally humorous outcomes, as the rules permit a player to capture their opponent’s king. A total of 24 players enabled six teams of four to contest a five-round, all-play-all competition.

On paper, Hebden Bridge had by far the strongest team, but little is certain in lightning chess. In the event, the form book proved true, and Hebden Bridge swept the board, scoring 19½ out of a possible 20 points. Belgrave A were second, on 12 points.

With such a result, it was no surprise that Hebden Bridge’s team of Matthew Parsons, Pete Leonard, Nick Sykes and Martin Syrett won all four of the individual board prizes. A light-hearted evening was enjoyed by all who took part.

Then, last Saturday, nine of our young chess players from Hebden Bridge and Todmorden travelled to Saddleworth Secondary School, Oldham, to play in the Pennine Megafinal (the area final) of the 2018 UK Chess Challenge. john Kerrane reports on this event:

Players from the Upper Calder Valley have a good record in this event, and this year was no exception. After a slow start, most of the players scored well, and five of them qualified to progress to the Gigafinal (the northern regional final) which takes place in Manchester on July 14th and 15th. So, congratulations to Eira Watson (Girls U-7) of Hebden Royd School Chess Club, and Gwilym Hughes (Boys U-13) of Hebden Bridge Chess Club, who both won their sections, and to qualifiers Luca Curry (Boys U-15), also of Hebden Bridge Chess Club, and Freya Birch (Girls U-11) and Eric Guest (Boys U-9) of Castle Hill School, Todmorden.

The individual scores for all our participants were: Dan Crowley (U11B, 2½/6), Ben Crowley (U8B, 2½/6), Freya Birch (U11G, 4/6), Gwilym Hughes (U13B, 4/6), Martha Kidd (U11G, ½ /6), Luca Curry (U13B, 3/6), Eira Watson (U7G, 2/6), Art Watson (U7B, ½/6), Eric Guest (U9B, 3½/6).

Although the entry to the Megafinal was a little down or previous years, the standard was still high, and we acquitted ourselves very creditably. Several of the youngsters were a bit disappointed at just missing out on qualifying to progress to the next round, but they all bore it well, and for all the players, it was great experience, and makes a good platform to build on for the future. We wish Eira, Luca, Gwilym, Freya and Eric all the best in the Gigafinal, which will be quite a challenge for them all.

Thanks to Pete and John for these updates. Stay tuned for a final round of reporting on the outcome of the Calderdale Leagues.

Apr 222018
 

It’s been a very long time indeed since this website reported on the Calderdale Evening League so it’s time for an action replay! There is a lot of catching up to do so let’s begin at once and rewind back to week commencing Monday the 19th of February when League 1 teams convened for round 10.

Round 10

First of all an unusual and potentially very serious incident occurred on the Wednesday night as Hebden Bridge ‘A’ travelled to Huddersfield ‘A’ for an encounter that would likely decide which of these two teams would mount a serious challenge to league leaders Golden Lion. The match was building nicely when one of Huddersfield’s players became unwell and ultimately had to be taken to hospital after just 30 minutes play. Happily, we can report that the player concerned is ok but understandably the teams decided to abandon the match and rearrange the fixture for another day. More on this later.

This incident enabled Golden Lion to climb further clear at the top by thrashing the league’s back markers Brighouse away 0 – 5. All of the games were over by about 9.15 although in a couple of instances Brighouse’s players could have chosen to labour on in much worse positions rather than ending their evening’s early. It would almost certainly not have changed the outcome had they battled on.

Elsewhere, Hebden Bridge ‘B’ defaulted their second match of the season as they were unable to raise a side for the away match at Halifax ‘A’. Halifax themselves only had four players and for the results was recorded as 4 – 0 to the home side.

The final match of Round 10 between Halifax ‘B’ and Belgrave ‘A’ ended 1 – 4 to the visitors with wins by John Morgan, Richard Bowman and Karim Khan. Halifax salvaged good draws against higher rated opponents for Peter Hughes against Ian Hunter and Vivienne Webster against Dave Patrick.

Round 11

On the 12th of March Hebden Bridge ‘A’ faltered in their pursuit of Golden Lion as they failed to beat Belgrave ‘A’ away. They were greatly hampered by only having four players and indeed, would quite possibly have won the match if they had been able to field a full team. Pete Leonard got an excellent result when he beat Ian Hunter on board 1 and Nick Sykes drew with Dave Patrick on board 2. Sam Swain won on board 4 against Karim Khan but, with Belgrave’s Richard Bowman beating another Richard (Bedford) on board 3 and the default on board 5, it was only a drawn match for Hebden.

Golden Lion took full advantage of their pursuers slip up as they crushed Halifax ‘B’ at home 5 – 0. Halifax defaulted a board themselves but Andrew Clarkson won a very nice game on the Black side of an Anti-Grunfeld Variation against Pete Hughes, Dave Shapland played aggressively against Scott Gornall who survived a violent attack on his king only to emerge a piece down in a simple ending and Mick Connor and Marc Turu also scored wins against Vivienne Webster and Mac Randhawa respectively.

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ bounced back from the disappointment of defaulting their round 10 match by edging out Brighouse in a tight match where all five games ended decisively. Hebden lost the top two boards as Robert Broadbent defeated Andy Leatherbarrow and Chris Lund beat Martin Syrett. However, Hebden won on board 3, 4 and 5 to snatch a vital victory that gives them a good chance of surviving relegation this season. Paul Gledhill, John Lavan and Neil Bamford scored the wins.

Sadly, there was another default fixture in round 11 as Halifax ‘A’ were unable to field a team at Huddersfield ‘A’.

Round 12

This brings us to a crucial round of ties played on the 26th of March as all of the top three played in the same venue. Hebden Bridge ‘A’ hosted Golden Lion and Hebden Bridge ‘B’ hosted Huddersfield ‘A’ at the Trades Club.

Hebden started the evening a point behind Golden Lion and knowing that only a victory would be good enough to keep realistic title hopes alive. However, they had been the only team so far this season to defeat their guests when they crushed them 1 – 4 at Golden Lion before Christmas.

This time around Hebden were not as strong as, although they welcomed back Matthew Parsons to top board for the occasion, they were without Andrew and Chris Bak and also John Allan. This meant that Pete Leonard, who played board 5 in the away match, was on board 2 and regulars Nick Sykes, Richard Bedford and Sam Swain completed the line-up.

Golden Lion meanwhile had strengthened their line up from that match pre-Christmas and replaced David Innes on board 5 with Mick Connor. The top four boards of Hamer, Clarkson, Cook and Shapland all played in the previous match and, on the night, all improved on their individual results from the home defeat to help Golden Lion move well clear at the top of the league.

The final position between Martyn Hamer and Matthew Parsons. Guess the result!

The final position between Martyn Hamer and Matthew Parsons. Guess the result!

On board 1, Martyn Hamer and Matthew Parsons played out a fascinating and highly complicated encounter that ended in a draw in a very unusual final position (see right). In previous encounters between these two they have circled each other carefully and exchanged prosaic wins in their last two match ups. This time the gloves came off and the sparks flew. This excellent and entertaining game appears in the game viewer at the end of this report along with some notes by Matthew.

Hebden did manage to win on board 5 just as they had done in the away match. This was another very complicated game where Sam Swain, having built up a very comfortable and promising position against Mick Connor decide to start sacrificing pieces to open up his opponent’s king. With the aid of a computer it is possible to find better defensive ideas than Mick did but, from a practical perspective, it was a very difficult position to defend and the attack looked very scary. Mick went wrong and Sam won in combustible style.

After this brief glimpse of optimism the other three boards all ended in defeat for the home side however. Dave Shapland got nothing from the opening against Richard ‘Beaky’ Bedford but pounced on a brief window of opportunity afford to him by a slightly slow move by his opponent. Here too accurate defensive moves were required but they were hard to find and Beaky relented under pressure.

Nick Sykes seemed to be defending himself very solidly with Black against Phil Cook on board 3 but he too made one mistake and was brutally punished for his error as Phil converted mercilessly.

The final game to finish went on late into the night. Andrew Clarkson had lost any opening edge he may have had against Pete Leonard Alekhine’s Defence and the game seemed to be headed for a draw when the players entered a double bishop and pawns ending. Andrew had other ideas however and decided to continue playing, with no real risk of losing, just in case his team needed a victory to seal the match. By the time it became evident that he didn’t need to win he had managed to secure a winning advantage in a single bishop (same colour) and pawns ending. This game features twice in the game viewer as both players have analysed the game for us.

In the end Golden Lion won a match full of high quality and exciting chess to stamp their authority on the title race with two rounds to go. Here’s the final match score card:

Hebden Bridge ‘A vs. Golden Lion
M.Parsons ½ – ½ M.Hamer (W)
P.Leonard 0 – 1 A.Clarkson (W)
N.Sykes 0 – 1 P.Cook (W)
R.Bedford 0 – 1 D.Shapland (W)
S.Swain 1 – 0 M.Connor (W)
1½ – 3½

Meanwhile, just across the room, third place side Huddersfield ‘A’ were locked in combat with Hebden Bridge ‘B’. Just like the other match, the hosts made a bright start with a win on the bottom board but were quickly overhauled by their higher rated opponents on the other boards.

It was John Kerrane on board 5 who gave the hosts something to cheer about. Huddersfield’s Robert Sutcliffe deployed his Blackmar-Diemer Gambit. Kerrane could have played 2…e6 and simply transposed into his favorite French Defence, but he chose instead to take Robert on and was rewarded with a lively and active game in which the players castled on opposite wings. Although John’s attack looked quicker on the queen’s side, Robert found a way to block up the structure and then went on the attack himself on the king’s side. However, his attack also faltered and finally, John broke through in the centre, fittingly, with the extra pawn that he’d won on the second move, to take the full point.

Sadly, not long afterwards, Huddersfield were level as Steve Westmoreland took full advantage of a slightly eccentric opening sequence by Paul Gledhill and won a piece early in the game. That it took him a little while to patiently convert his advantage should not delude the reader that he was ever in any danger of failing to do so.

That just left the top three boards. On board 2 Dave Keddie and Mark Stollery set the board alight with some fiery complications in a game that Mark wanted to be an Alekhine’s Defence but Dave elected instead to steer into a Four Knights opening. Mark chose a very tactical continuation but he too blundered a piece early on. Dave made no mistakes and put the game away in 19 moves to put Huddersfield in the lead.

The match was won for the visitors when Leo Keely finished off Andy Leatherbarrow from a Spanish opening. On this occasion however, it was not to be a typical ‘Spanish torture’ with a slow build up and attack by White on the king’s side whilst Black aims for counter-play on the queen’s side. Instead, Leo actually won the game by grabbing an extra pawn on the queen’s side and liquidating down to a position where that extra pawn was able to push through to b7 and at the end he finished with a nice tactic to exploit Andy’s overloaded rook which couldn’t defend the back rank and the weak f7 square.

Finally, in the longest game of the match, Hebden’s Captain, Martin Syrett, was slowly and inexorably ground down by Dave Tooley who thereby helped his side clinch a convincing 1 – 4 victory. Here is the final match scorecard:

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ vs Huddersfield ‘A’
A.Leatherbarrow 0 – 1 L.Keely (W)
M.Stollery 0 – 1 D.Keddie (W)
M.Syrett 0 – 1 D.Tooley (W)
P.Gledhill 0 – 1 S.Westmoreland (W)
J.Kerrane 1 – 0 R.Sutcliffe (W)
1 – 4

Elsewhere in Calderdale, Belgrave ‘A’ continued their resurgence as they took full advantage of more Halifax ‘A’ woes at the Lee Mount Club. Halifax defaulted board 2 and 3 and lost on the other three boards as the visitors emerged with a clean sweep and a slightly dissatisfied feeling despite the result.

Also at the Lee Mount, bottom side Brighouse finally managed to secure their first points of the season as the edged out Halifax ‘B’ in a tight encounter. The key to the match was the top two boards where both Robert Broadbent and Nick Hudson managed to beat Peter Hughes and Scott Gornall respectively. Two draws on boards 4 and 5 were enough to see Brighouse over the line. Kudos to them for getting off the mark in what’s been a tough season for them.

This round of fixtures all but crowned Golden Lion as league champions as they now sat four points clear of Hebden Bridge ‘A’ with two fixtures remaining. Hebden had an extra match in hand but they would still need Golden Lion to lose at home to Halifax ‘A’ and Huddersfield ‘A’ in order to have any chance of catching them.

We’ll report on round 13 (which took place on the 9th of April) and 14 (which takes place next week) in our next report and also reflect on the final fixture in League 2. In the meantime there are a host of games available (16!)from rounds 10, 11 and 12 in the game viewer below. Thanks as always to those players who have sent us their games and annotated them.

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Apr 062018
 
Cook vs Leonard. Black to move. How would you proceed here? See how the game continued and what the best continuation was in the game viewer at the end of this post.

Cook vs Leonard. Black to move. How would you proceed here? See how the game continued and what the best continuation was in the game viewer at the end of this post.

Apologies for the recent radio silence on this website. Your editor has been in the throes of leaving one job and starting another and therefore there has been even less time than usual to keep on top of the website. Hopefully we can catch up quickly so expect a few posts in the coming weeks to get our league reports back up to date. Before all of that though…

The fifth and final round of the 2017-18 Calderdale Individual Championship took place at the Trades Club just over a month ago on Monday 5th of March. Given the adverse meteorological impact of the ‘Beast from the East’ at the end of the previous week and weekend, arbiter John Kerrane was probably very relieved that transport conditions had improved enough to ensure players could reach the venue.

The final round usually promises some tense and exciting chess as the prizes are decided both at the head of the tournament and, also for grading prizes and the junior prize. On this occasion there was certainly tension and a great deal of fighting chess. However, despite this, the top three boards all ended in draws which leant the denouement of this year’s championship something of an anti-climactic feel.

Let’s start with the title decider. Defending champion Phil Cook (Golden Lion) was the only player on a perfect score at the beginning of the evening. He was drawn to play White against Pete Leonard (Hebden Bridge) who was on 3½ and needed to win to overhaul the leader. Last season Matthew Parsons had managed to do just that but as he was a point behind Phil he was unable to snatch the title from his grasp.

The other player in with a shot of overtaking Cook was Mike Barnett (Belgrave) who was also on 3½. He had the White pieces against Richard Porter (Halifax) who was on 3 points. Matthew Parsons (Hebden Bridge) was the other player on 3 but he had contracted the same flu bug that had damaged the ranks in rounds 3 and 4 and was therefore absent.

Both the top two boards featured hard fought battles, but both ended in draws. Phil and Pete’s game developed in an interesting fashion as Phil deployed an unusual line of the Reti Opening advancing his b and c pawns in the first three moves. Pete responded well by taking direct action against the advanced queen’s side pawns and then striking in the centre as well before Phil could get developed. This allowed Pete to equalise comfortably, but it also led to some simplifications that suited Phil’s objective of drawing to retain his title.

Pete missed a brief window of opportunity to snatch a pawn on move 16 (see the diagram above) and instead it was Phil who bagged a pawn. Pete seemed to have dangerous threats in exchange for the material, but Phil had it all under control and simplified the position to the point where he had an extra passed a-pawn which looked extremely dangerous. Pete just had enough counter play to regain the pawn and hold the position but no more and when Phil allowed Pete to win back the pawn to force further simplifications the players agreed to peace with Phil retaining his title. This draw was also enough to secure Pete the prize for second place.

The board 2 encounter was a completely different in character in all respects except that the opening set up selected by Mike Barnett was similar to the one chosen by Phil (Mike played c4 on move two and fianchettoed his king’s bishop). In this game the players chopped wood relentlessly until they reached an endgame where they both had isolated d-pawns and Mike had a bishop and knight versus Richard’s bishop pair.

It was only now that the game really began. Richard seized the initiative and won first one and then a second pawn. Around time control though he also missed a couple of clear cut winning chances and instead Mike defended tenaciously however and found a tricky resource that enabled him to swap a pair of bishops and advance his c-pawn to the seventh rank tying down Richard’s remaining bishop down in the process. However, Mike then had to give up his knight to remove one of Richard’s passed pawns and a foot race between Richard’s passed a-pawn and Mike’s king and f-pawn ensued with the two pawns queening on successive moves. It still looked like Black might win but in fact it wasn’t possible for Richard to make progress with just a queen and bishop against the queen and, at the very end of the evening the two men signed a truce. This was a fascinating endgame and some notes on it have been provided in the game viewer at the end of this article.

Mike has certainly had his money’s worth in this year’s competition as he’s been involved in the last game to finish in at least three of the five rounds! He finished on 4/5 (level on points with Pete) and won a grading prize. An excellent result for Mike.

Gledhill vs Shapland. Black to move. Find the killer blow that White had overlooked. Answer in the game viewer at the end of this post.

Gledhill vs Shapland. Black to move. Find the killer blow that White had overlooked. Answer in the game viewer at the end of this post.

Richard finished on 3½ where he was joined by Dave Shapland (Golden Lion) and Martin Syrett (Hebden Bridge). Dave took full advantage of an opening error by Paul Gledhill to win his game with a nice tactic (see the diagram on the right) while Martin took a while longer to overcome the spirited resistance of Vivienne Webster.

Sandwiched in between the top two boards and these two were Nick Sykes and John Allan. They also played out a draw where Nick also played 1.Nf3 and 2.c4 but the game later transposed into a Maroczy Bind type position. John knew how to equalise and worked to towards engineering the key pawn break of b5 on move 19. After this the game petered out and the players agreed a draw on move 24.

On board 6, Geoff Ainsley and Steve Harrington (Belgrave), with nothing much to play for acquiesced to a three-fold repetition as early as move 15. But then on board 7 there came a critical encounter between two juniors, Zora Sandhu and Toby Dodd (both Hebden Bridge). Toby needed to beat his young opponent to catch him on 2½ and beat him he did, but only after a feisty struggle ending only after Zora overlooked a sneaky discovered check that cost him his queen. This result enabled Toby to snatch the junior prize from Zora but there was a consolation in the form of a grading prize for the youngster.

The rest of the games saw wins for Scott Gornall aginst Martin O’Keeffe, Marc Turu against Jon-Paul Ellis, Luca Curry against Gwilym Hughes, Bill Joyce against Fred Bortoletto, Martha Leggett against Joel Hadari and Alfie Dermo against Juliet Hadari.

Most of the games from the final round are featured in the game viewer at the end of this post. But first here are the final standing and prize winners.

  • 4½ points: Phil Cook (First)
  • 4 points: Pete Leonard (Second), Mike Barnett (Grading prize)
  • 3½ points: Richard Porter, Dave Shapland, Martin Syrett
  • 3 points: Matthew Parsons, John Allan, Nick Sykes, Angel Gonzalez (Grading prize)
  • 2½ points: Geoff Ainsley, Scott Gornall, Vivienne Webster, Steve Harrington, Paul Gledhill, Toby Dodd (Best Junior), Zora Sandhu (Grading prize), Marc Turu (Grading prize)
  • 2 points: Neil Bamford, Jon-Paul Ellis, Richard Bottomley, Luca Curry, Bill Joyce, Martha Leggett
  • 1½ points: Richard Bedford, Martin O’Keeffe, Juliet Hadari
  • 1 point: Fred Bortoletto, Gwilym Hughes, Juliet Hadari, Joel Hadari
  • ½ point: Mitchell Burke
  • 0 points: Chris Edwards
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Feb 212018
 
Any excuse for a silly headline and lead image! Phil Cook is, once again, the only unbeaten player after 4 rounds in this years Calderdale Individual Championship.

Any excuse for a silly headline and lead image! Phil Cook is, once again, the only player with a perfect score after 4 rounds in this years Calderdale Individual Championship.

Round 4 of the 2017-18 Calderdale Individual Chess Championship took place at the Trades Club in Hebden Bridge on Monday the 5th of February. The competition has reached the sharp end of proceedings and the leaders at the top of the standings took each other on to decide who would remain in contention when the final round takes place in two week’s time. But before we dive into round 4, let’s first quickly re-cap what happened in round 3 as we didn’t report on that at the beginning of January.

Round 3

This round was substantially affected by the burgeoning cold and flu epidemic as no fewer than five players were forced to take half point byes due to ill health or being on vacation. That meant that, although there were four players on 2 points at the end of round 2, only two were present to contest round 3 as Pete Leonard (Hebden Bridge) was unwell and Dave Shapland (Golden Lion) was on holiday.

This meant that reigning champion Phil Cook (Golden Lion) and Richard Porter (Halifax) were flung together. They’d met in the league earlier in the season and Cook had prevailed. He managed to repeat the feat after successfully navigating a wild and highly unusual opening phase of the game where both players appeared to be ignoring the orthodox principles of chess at times. The champion was on 3 points alone. The question was now, how many of those on 1½ could keep pace with him to stay in touch.

There were a couple of surprises in round 3, notably on board 2 where Martin Syrett (Hebden Bridge) profited from a tactical oversight by his club colleague John Allan late on in an interesting and unbalanced endgame. John seemed to be better for much of the game but suddenly fell into a mating net and Martin pounced to reach 2½.

On board 4 too there was a rating upset as Geoff Ainsley held Nick Sykes (Hebden Bridge) to a draw in a game that looked very much like Geoff could have won if he’d carried on playing. Nick annotates the game in the viewer at the end of this post.

But the story of the night (almost) unfolded on board 5 where there was almost an upset of colossal proportions. Top seed Matthew Parsons (Hebden Bridge) had an objectively lost position at one point in his game against Steve Harrington (Belgrave). Matthew had rating advantage of over 70 points so a defeat would have been cataclysmic. However, he showed both his character and experience by knuckling down and forcing his opponent to continue to find the best moves and plans to seal the deal. Little by little Steve’s advantage subsided until, finally, he made a more significant mistake and suddenly the game was in the balance again. Matthew was not going to give Steve another chance as he converted to keep his slim hopes of re-capturing the title he last won in 2014-15 alive.

The only other players to reach 2½ were Mike Barnett (Belgrave) who defeated Jon-Paul Ellis (Hebden Bridge) in clinical fashion despite having to navigate some seriously murky waters and Paul Gledhill (Hebden Bridge) who continued a recent run of good form to beat Marc Turu (Golden Lion).

Of the eight juniors competing in the round only Zora Sandhu (against Juliet Hadari) and Fred Bortoletto (against Joel Hadari) were able to win their games.

Eight of the twelve games in round 3 can be found in the game viewer at the end of this post.

Round 4

Just as they did last year, Dave Shapland and Phil Cook faced each other in Round 4 of the Calderdale Individual Championship. The result of the game was the same as last season too! [Photo: Matthew Parsons]

Just as they did last year, Dave Shapland and Phil Cook faced each other in Round 4 of the Calderdale Individual Championship. The result of the game was the same as last season too! [Photo: Matthew Parsons]

On top board Phil Cook was now the only remaining player on 3 out of 3 when the night started and he was pitted against the highest rated of the players on 2½. This turned out to be the same opponent he’d beaten in round 4 of last year’s competition, Dave Shapland, also of Golden Lion Who’d taken a half point bye in round 3.

This game was keenly contested and, although Dave made a mistake early on which gifted his opponent a pawn, he did get some active play in compensation as was able to rustle up a dangerous looking attack. However, Phil defended calmly in time trouble, saw off the attack, consolidated his position and was then able to simplify into an end game which was easily won for him. It was déjà vu for both players as Dave subsided to defeat once more but Phil marched on to 4 out of 4 just as he did last season.

Unlike last year however, when no one else made it to within a point of Phil, this time two players managed to make it to 3½ out of 4. Pete Leonard (Hebden Bridge) beat his club colleague Martin Syrett. He too won a pawn early in the game but in this instance, Martin had no compensation and Pete converted smoothly.

Meanwhile on board three, Mike Barnett defeated Paul Gledhill with Black in the last game of the night to finish. Paul put up spirited resistance, but Mike was too good for him in the end. Pete and Mike are now the only players who have any chance of overhauling Phil and one of them will face him in the final round needing to win to steal the crown from him.

On board 4 Matthew Parsons had a much easier ride than he had in round 3 and cruised to victory with White against Geoff Ainsley. He’s paid the price for defaulting in round 2 as he’s a full point behind the leader with no chance of winning the title back this year.

Position from Porter vs. Gonzalez after 14.b3 Qf5. How would you proceed with White here? See what actually happened in the game viewer at the end of this post.

Position from Porter vs. Gonzalez after 14.b3 Qf5. How would you proceed with White here? See what actually happened in the game viewer at the end of this post.

Richard Porter was again involved in one of the most interesting games of the round following on from the extraordinary sequence of moves that featured in the opening phase of his game with Phil in the round 3. This time he found a very unusual tactical idea to lay a trap for Angel Gonzalez. Richard’s concept wasn’t flawless, but Angel didn’t play as accurately as he needed to, and he finally lost a piece for a pawn. Normally this would have resulted in an easy win for Richard, but he found his rook to be very passive in the ending whilst Angel’s was completely free to roam at will. Richard had to play very deliberately to finally liberate his game and carve out a hard-earned victory.

Further down the board order Zora Sandhu put one hand on the junior prize by defeating Luca Curry to move onto 2½ out of 4. Zora is one of no fewer than seven players on that score and will almost certainly be challenged with an opponent of much greater strength in the final round. However, the only other two juniors with any chance of catching up are Joel Hadari and Toby Dodd. One of them must win and home that Zora loses in order to draw level.

Below are a list of all the results from round 4 and the game viewer below that contains a number of games from the round.

Calderdale Individual Championship Round 4

Dave Shapland 0 – 1 Phil Cook
Pete Leonard 1 – 0 Martin Syrett
Paul Gledhill 0 – 1  Mike Barnett
Matthew Parsons 1 – 0  Geoff Ainsley
Richard Porter 1 – 0  Angel Gonzalez
Neil Bamford 0 – 1 Vivienne Webster
John Allan 1 – 0 M.O’Keeffe
Marc Turu ½ – ½  Scott Gornall
Bill Joyce 0 – 1 Steve Harrington
Martha Leggett 0 – 1 Jon-Paul Ellis
Richard Bottomley 1 – 0 Joel Hadari
Luca Curry 0 – 1 Zora Sandhu
Fred Bortoletto 0 – 1 Toby Dodd
Alfie Dermo 0 – 1 Gwilym Hughes

The leading scorers after 4 rounds are:

Phil Cook (Golden Lion) – 4
Pete Leonard (Hebden Bridge), Mike Barnett (Belgrave) – 3½
Matthew Parsons (Hebden Bridge), Richard Porter (Halifax) – 3

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