Intermezzo

Nov 222017
 
Hebden Bridge 'A' tamed the Golden Lion last week to assert their title credentials.

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ tamed the Golden Lion last week to assert their title credentials.

Last week the fifth round of the Calderdale Evening League 1 took place in venues in Todmorden, Halifax, Brighouse and Huddersfield.

On Monday there was a clash of title contenders as Hebden Bridge ‘A’ travelled to Todmorden for their match with Golden Lion. Meanwhile Halifax ‘A’ drove across town to play Belgrave ‘A’ and Halifax ‘B’ went further afield to play Brighouse. Then on Wednesday Huddersfield ‘A’ hosted Hebden Bridge ‘B’.

The tie of the round was undoubtedly the one between Golden Lion and Hebden Bridge ‘A’ as these two teams plus Huddersfield have set the early pace and look like the strongest teams in the league this season. Last year Hebden made the journey to Todmorden knowing that a win would pretty much guarantee them the title while any other result would hand it to their hosts. In the end it was a humbling experience for Dave Shapland’s men as they went down 4 – 1 suffering three defeats and gaining just two draws.

This time round Captain Pete Leonard had brought an even stronger line up – probably the strongest he could have mustered – in a bid to continue the team’s recovery since they lost at home to Huddersfield in round 3. Matthew Parsons and Andy Bak were two of the losers in last year’s match and they returned on boards 1 and 2 with points to prove. Chris Bak, John Allan and Pete himself made up the rest of the line-up meaning that (for the first time in a very long time – possibly ever!) the whole Hebden line up was rated above 160.

Golden Lion meanwhile were under the charge of Hebden’s captain of last season, Dave Shapland. He didn’t quite have his strongest possible team but it was close. Regulars Martyn Hamer, Phil Cook and Andrew Clarkson were on the top three boards and then Dave played on board 4 and David Innes on board 5. Only on the bottom board, where David was rated 20 points lower than Pete, was there a significant difference in ratings between the two sides.

Playing all boards with the White pieces should confer some sort of advantage but it had not helped Hebden in last season’s failure, this time out they determinedly made it count. The first game to finish was the bottom board where Pete was subjected to a typically ferocious attack from David. However, on this occasion Pete simply took the material he was offered (as he likes to do) and then calmly repelled the threats before going to the counter offensive. Hebden had made a perfect start and for once, the men from the Golden Lion were under pressure.

Things went from bad to worse for the hosts pretty quickly. On board 1 Matthew benefitted when Martyn missed a tactic and found himself a pawn down and with a very uncomfortable position as early as move 16. It was almost a mirror of their encounter last season. Martyn fought on of course but then another nice tactical sequence cost him an exchange after which Matthew was clearly winning and just went on mopping up pawns. At the end Martyn was an exchange and four pawns down and had run out of any chances to trick Matthew so he resigned.

Hebden were 0 – 2 up and by this stage of the evening it looked like it was going to be a total rout. Phil Cook on board two had deployed his Nimzowitsch Defence against Andy Bak but it looked like the opening had gone very badly indeed as Andy had gained a huge space advantage and Phil was hanging on by his finger nails. On Board 3, Chris Bak had also had the better of the opening against Andrew Clarkson and, whilst he wasn’t winning, Andrew was clearly going to have to play well to hold on for a draw. Finally, on board 4, Dave Shapland had also suffered from a weak display in the opening and was a pawn down against John Allan. With Golden Lion now needing to win all three of these games to take the match it was clear that a miracle would be required.

The miracle didn’t come as Andy finished off Phil to seal the match and now it was simply a case of whether or not Chris and John had an appetite to try and grind out victories to rub salt into the wound. It turned out that they didn’t although both did press on for a while. First Dave managed to find a way to activate his pieces and exchange off three sets of minor pieces so that opposite coloured bishops were left on the board. It was clear that, even with the extra pawn, John would probably require Dave to make some more mistakes if he was going to win and, having felt like he’d lost most of his advantage, proposed a draw.

Then on board 3, Chris Bak too acknowledged that Andrew’s stubborn defence had somewhat levelled the playing field. The position was congested and, although he had a space advantage, it was hard to see how Chris could make progress, so he too offered a draw.

This was an outstanding 1 – 4 win for Hebden Bridge against one of their principle rivals for the title. Here is the final match scorecard:

Golden Lion vs. Hebden Bridge ‘A’
M.Hamer 0 – 1 M.Parsons (White)
P.Cook 0 – 1 A.Bak (White)
A.A.Clarkson ½ – ½ C.Bak (White)
D.Shapland ½ – ½ J.Allan (White)
D.Innes 0 – 1 P.Leonard (White)
1 – 4

The other games on Monday night were rather closer matches. Bottom team Brighouse did their very best to scrounge something from their match against Halifax ‘B’ but they were out of luck. The top two boards were drawn and Adrian Dawson managed to overcome Howard Wood on board 3 but then Ronnie Grandage and Tim Pryke lost to Vivienne Webster and Ray Cully respectively as Halifax pinched the match 2 – 3.

Halifax ‘A’ have had a real struggle so far this season but there are signs of a recovery beginning to show as they held Belgrave ‘A’ to a draw by winning tight encounters on the top two boards and drawing with a rating disadvantage on board 4. Only Karim Khans’ win on board 5 against Mac Randhawa and Richard Bowman’s win on board 3 against Carlos Velosa saved the home team from defeat.

This just leaves us to report on the Wednesday night match between Huddersfield and Hebden Bridge ‘B’. This was the home side’s chance to take advantage of Golden Lion’s slip up and go top of the league on their own. However, as it turned out Hebden had other ideas.

Huddersfield have been pretty consistent with their team selection so far this year with Greg Eagleton, Dave Keddie, Steve Westmoreland and Dave Tooley forming the spine of their team. This time Dave Keddie was missing but the other three regulars played on the top three boards and were joined by Andrew Dearnley and David Gray on boards 4 and 5.

Hebden were out-gunned to one extent or another on every board as they brought Neil Suttie, Nick Sykes, Martin Syrett, Andy Leatherbarrow and Paul Gledhill to the fixture. Yet, despite their statistical disadvantage, the visitors caused their hosts a great deal of trouble.

On board one, Greg Eagleton was unable to make anything more than a draw in a cagey encounter with Neil Suttie. As Neil was giving away the biggest rating difference in the tie this was an excellent result for him. There were also draws between the Captains, Steve Westmoreland and Martin Syrett, on board 3 and between the Andrew’s, Dearnley and Leatherbarrow, on board 4.

Paul Gledhill lost out to David Gray on board 5 but Nick Sykes levelled the match by beating Dave Tooley on board 2. It appeared that Dave had the better of the opening phase of the game but he got short of time as he looked for the knock-out blow they may not have been there and over-pressed. In the end he ran out of time in a lost position.

Here is the final match card:

Huddersfield ‘A’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘B’
G.Eagleton ½ – ½ N.Suttie (White)
D.Tooley 0 – 1 N.Sykes (White)
S.Westmoreland ½ – ½ M.Syrett (White)
A.Dearnley ½ – ½ A.Leatherbarrow (White)
D.Gray 1 – 0 P.Gledhill (White)
2½ – 2½

In the end then Huddersfield ‘A’ did go top of the league with this draw. They now have 9 points whilst Golden Lion and Hebden Bridge ‘A’ both have 8. Neverthless, Huddersfield may feel they have failed to fully exploit their advantage as they could have been two points clear at the top and with a far superior board count ahead of their crunch match with Golden Lion just before Christmas. It looks as though that match will now decide who will be top of the league at the half way point in the season. It could still be Hebden ’A’ if those other two draw. Hebden have now played all of their main rivals once and will finish the first half of the season by playing Brighouse and Halifax ‘B’ so they should reach 12 points without any fuss.

At the other end of the table, Brighouse are still rock bottom but, with their fantastic draw at Huddersfield, Hebden ‘B’ have joined Halifax ‘A’ on 3 points and actually have a better board count. Halifax ‘B’ are a point ahead on 4 points and Belgrave ‘A’ are not yet out of the relegation battle completely as they have 5 points. It looks like it will be a tight battle to see who goes down with Brighouse.

Five games from the two Hebden Bridge matches can be found in the viewer below. As always, our thanks go to those who sent in their games or annotated them. The match reports would be so much less interesting without them. If anyone else (from any clubs in Calderdale would like to send in Calderdale League games for publication (annotated or otherwise) please just email your PGN files to hebdenbridgeschessclub@gmail.com

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Nov 142017
 
The fashionable score in round 1 of the Calderdale Individual Championship where there were no draws this year.

The fashionable score in round 1 of the Calderdale Individual Championship where there were no draws this year. Photo used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from Duncan C’s Flickr photostream

Last Monday night saw round 1 of the Calderdale Individual Championship for 2017-18 take place at the Trades Club. The reigning champion, Phil Cook was back to defend his crown, as were three of the other four players who finished on the same score (4) as Phil last season. Dave Shapland, Richard Bedford and Matthew Parsons were all on the entry list. Entries were slightly down on the 38 participants of last season with 32 players registered – six of whom took a half point bye for round 1.

The field is also a shade weaker this season as last year there were nine players rated over 150 with six of these were rated above 170. In this year’s edition there are eight rated above 150 and three over 170. One constant factor however is the strong proportion of junior entries which highlights the main benefit of playing the event at the Trades Club. Nine of the entries this year are members of the Hebden Bridge Junior club and this competition provides them all with an excellent opportunity to play against adults from across both Calderdale Leagues.

Of course with one section and a huge range in abilities from the top to the bottom of the draw the first round is always likely to see it’s fair share of flat-track bullying. Last season’s first round was exceptional in that there were a serious number of upsets with lower rated players drawing (including draws against the top two seeds) and even winning two games. This time around normal order was restored with all the results going the way of the favorites and no drawn games. It was zeros and ones all the way down the draw.

The common theme in many of the games was tactics involving the loss of the queen – and of course, these games ended pretty swiftly. Nick Sykes is on great form at the moment and he won Luca Curry’s queen with a bishop fork on move 16. Luca resigned three moves later. On the board next door Martin Syrett was up to his old tricks with the Kings Gambit and he succeeded in pulling off a family knight fork of king, queen and rook against Bill Joyce to win on move 18. Interestingly, Paul Gledhill pulled off a mirror image of Martin’s family fork against Joel Hadari on board 13. The main difference in the two games being that, as opposed to resigning on the spot like Bill, Joel toiled on for 20 more moves and forced Paul to mate him.

By way of a variation on the theme, Dave Shapland thought he’d found a combination to win Neil Bamford’s queen for two pieces on board 3. It turned out that he’d miscalculated however and in fact Neil won a rook, knight and bishop for his queen and a pawn. This is altogether a different assessment and, when the dust had settled, it was clear that Neil had a mathematically winning advantage. But of course it’s never that easy to win a game like this with such unusual material imbalances and Neil wasn’t able to find the right method to consolidate and activate his pieces. Dave then laid a nasty trap and Neil fell into it meaning that this game too was also over early in the evening and in under 30 moves.

Elsewhere in the room the lower rated players put up spirited resistance without ever really looking like they were going to cause an upset. The battle of the Richards (Bottomley and Porter) on board 5, went into an endgame before Richard Bottomley fell to a nasty bishop skewer of his rook to his king at the end of an exchange sequence.
On board 6 newcomer to Calderdale chess, Mark Turu, was taken deep into the end game by Toby Dodd who defended resiliently despite being a pawn down for much of the game. Mark was forced to grind out the result as he carefully traded off pieces to reach a five pawns versus four pawns and same coloured bishops ending. Finally, the bishops came off too and Mark’s passed a-pawn diverted the Black king to allow White’s to hoover up Blacks remaining pawns. A patient victory for Mark and staunch resistance from Toby who will surely be served well by this type of form if he plays like this in his league matches too.

Young Gwilym Hughes also forced his opponent, Mike Barnett into a drawn-out affair that finished in a win for Mike on move 55. In this game Gwilym paid the price for having too many weak pawns and Mike efficiently took everything that he was offered and gave nothing in return until his own pawns advanced relentlessly on White’s king right across the board like space invaders.

Juliet Hadari (against Scott Gornall), Martha Leggett (against Vivienne Webster) and Alfie Dermo (against Angel Gonzales) all saw the junior participants put up spirited resistance but ultimately ended in failure.

This just leaves us with three of the top four boards to report on. First of all on board 4 Pete Leonard seemed to be romping to an early win against J-P.Ellis but, just at the moment when a check mate looked inevitable, J-P found a way to give up an exchange and a pawn to stave off Pete’s attack and he was forced instead to consolidate his advantage and win more slowly. Sure enough, the engines show there were some swifter paths to victory, but, having been surprised in the opening round of this tournament last season Pete, quite rightly, chose a risk-free route to accumulate the full point.

The reigning champion, Phil, was up against Steve Harrington on board 2. He had the benefit of the White pieces too but again, the underdog resisted stubbornly. Not only that, but to his great credit, Steve also tried to play actively. Bit by bit, Phil accumulated one positional advantage after another and squeezed his opponent on the queen’s side of the board where the half open b-file was proving to be White’s avenue into the Black position. Eventually, on move 26, Steve overlooked, or was forced to accept the loss of a pawn and his position simply collapsed after that and he resigned just as he was about to go three pawns down into a same-coloured bishops end game.

Undoubtedly the game of the round was on board 1 however as previous winner and number 1 seed, Matthew Parsons took on Chris Edwards in a struggle which became an epic encounter and lasted until the very end of the evening’s play. Last season Matthew had been held to a draw in the first round with the Black pieces but he didn’t alter his approach which was to play solidly and aim to outplay his opponent in the middle and endgame.

Chris chose the Panov-Botvinnik Attack of the Caro-Kan as the battleground for the game but he mis-handled the opening somewhat and lost a pawn. That said, Matthew’s extra pawn was both passed and isolated on the d-file so his margin for error as he exchanged off into a double rook endgame was slim. Chris hunkered down to his task and Matthew then went slightly astray himself as he opted to activate his king when, as he says himself in the game notes, he would have done better to first develop his second rook. By move 22 he admitted that he was not really any better and would ‘have to win the position again’.

Chris’s more active rook, doubled on the d-file, were the key to his defensive chances but then it seems he over-reached himself and started playing for a win when it would have been more prudent to harass the White king with his rooks and ask Matthew to find a winning method. Finally, Matthew activated his king’s rook and, although he was compelled to give back his extra pawn, the players were now in a time scramble and it was Chris who eventually cracked under pressure to hand Matthew a very hard-earned win.

Here is a full list of all the results:

C.Edwards 0 – 1 M.Parsons
P.Cook 1 – 0 S.Harrington
N.Bamford 0 – 1 D.Shapland
P.Leonard 1 – 0 J-P.Ellis
R.Bottomley 0 – 1 R.Porter
M.Turu 1 – 0 T.Dodd
L.Curry 0 – 1 N.Sykes
M.Syrett 1 – 0 B.Joyce
G.Hughes 0 – 1 M.Barnett
S.Gornall 1 – 0 J.S.Hadari
M.Leggett 0 – 1 V.Webster
A.Gonzales 1 – 0 A.Dermo
B.J.S.Hadari 0 – 1 P.Gledhill

Half point byes:
M.Burke, J.Allan, R.Bedford, G.Ainsley, M.O’Keefe, Z.Sandu

All but one of the games from round 1 can be found in the game viewer below.

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Nov 032017
 

BouncebackabilityRound 4 of Calderdale League 1 took place on Monday this week and, after a disappointing showing in round 3, both Hebden Bridge ‘A’ and Hebden Bridge ‘B’ were hoping to demonstrate their powers of recovery.

Pete Leonard’s Hebden Bridge ‘A’ team were put to the sword in brutal fashion by Huddersfield ‘A’ in their last match. Now, in a strange quirk of the fixture list this season, they were set to play their fourth consecutive home match of the season – they will in fact play six of their seven matches in the first half of the season at home. This schedule should give all the ‘A’ team members plenty of practice playing with the Black pieces before Christmas!

On Monday night they were up against a resurgent Belgrave ‘A’ side who have bolstered their line up considerably this season with the inclusion of John Morgan and Dave Patrick. The visitors have also shown an impressively consistent line up so far this season using only six players to date. On Monday they brought Ian Hunter, Morgan, Patrick, Malcolm Corbett and Karim Khan to the Trades Club. Pete meanwhile had strengthened his team compared to the one he’d fielded for the Huddersfield defeat. Andy Bak returned to play on board 1 and Nick ‘Syko’ Sykes was back on board 5 after performing strongly on top board for the ‘B’ team in the last two rounds.

As the two teams gathered for the match it was clear that the outcome was completely in the balance. On paper both sides had exactly the same average rating. Would the possession of the White pieces in these circumstances tip the balance in favour of the visitors?

The match turned out to be just as tight as the statistics would have suggested. On board 2, though the Johns Morgan and Allan played out an interesting and intricate dance with John Allan relinquishing a pawn in exchange for active piece play, the game ultimately ended in a draw at the point when it seemed inevitable that Black would win the pawn back.

On board 4, Neil Suttie seemed well set to open Hebden’s account as he got the better of Malcolm Corbett in the opening, winning first one, than a second pawn. However, in reaching out for a third he missed a tactic and had to relinquish a piece. The players reached an endgame in which Malcolm had a rook, bishop and two pawns against Neil’s rook and five pawns. The situation still looked dicey for White but Malcolm managed to stabiles the situation and, finally, they repeated moves and agreed a draw although the engine assesses the final position to be decisively in White’s favour with accurate play.

Andy Bak lost out to Ian Hunter on board 1 but Hebden struck back decisively with wins on boards 3 and 5 to secure the narrowest possible victory. Pete Leonard’s win demonstrated most aptly the natural justice inherent in the game as, having succumbed to an opening trap in horrifying fashion last time out against Huddersfield, he this time sprung a trap of his own to secure a decisive advantage, winning a piece. That he was able to do this against a player as well prepared as Dave Patrick just goes to show that it really can happen to anyone!

Meanwhile on board 5 the Syko was doing his dark work against one of his favourite customers, Karim Khan. Karim tends to play a hybrid Reti-Larsen’s opening system (with 1.Nf3 and 2.b3) when he thinks he’s facing a well booked-up opponent. The approach has worked for him in the past no doubt, but when you are up against someone as well versed in theory as Nick, playing offbeat lines can sometimes back fire. In this instance, even though he’d expected to face 1.e4, Nick wasn’t surprised by Karim’s opening choice and was able to gain a very comfortable position early on in the game as a result.

The middle game developed along purely positional lines and Nick gradually improved his position and simply outplayed Karim who was eventually forced into desperate measures as he gave up a whole rook for just two pawns. The hoped-for initiative never manifested itself and Nick simply handed back an exchange and defused White’s activity to win the game and secure the match for Hebden.

Here is the full match scorecard:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs. Belgrave ‘A’
A.Bak 0 – 1 I.Hunter (White)
J.Allan ½ – ½ J.Morgan (White)
P.Leonard 1 – 0 D.Patrick (White)
N.Suttie ½ – ½ M.Corbett (White)
N.Sykes 1 – 0 K.Khan (White)
3 – 2

This excellent win put’s Hebden Bridge ‘A’ on three wins out of four. They are still most definitely in the title chase and will next play away at Golden Lion in Todmorden on the 13th of November.

Now to Martin Syrett’s Hebden Bridge ‘B’ team who, despite putting up good resistance in all three of their matches before this one, had failed to score a match point. They too were playing at home on Monday night against fellow back-markers Brighouse. This match represented Hebden’s best opportunity yet to get off the mark.

Brighouse brought pretty much their strongest line up of the season for a match that was vitally important for them too. On board 1 was Robert Broadbent, a player able to take on anyone in the league. Then came Nick Hudson, playing his first game of the season on board 2, Captain Paul Whitehouse on board 3 and Adrian Dawson and Tim Pryke on boards 4 and 5. To meet this team Martin fielded Andy Leatherbarrow, himself, Paul Gledhill, Neil Bamford and Terry Sullivan. With rating advantages on board 2, 3 and 5 and an evenly matched encounter in prospect on board 4, it looked like Hebden might have the edge.

Of course rarely do all the games in a match go according to the ratings. Such was the way of things in this one as Andy Leatherbarrow succeeded in drawing with Black against Robert Broadbent on board 1 despite giving away more than 25 rating points.

It was on the middle boards, where the games were most closely matched, that Hebden did their damage. Neil Bamford dispatched Adrian Dawson on board 4 and on board 3, new player Paul Gledhill took down Paul Whitehouse’s London System in confident fashion. He played sensibly until Paul misjudged a tactic that cost him a piece. The rest was pretty straight forward.

Finally, Captain Syrett won a nice game on board 2. For once it was his turn to face a gambit line as Nick Hudson met his Sicilian Defence with the Smith-Morra Gambit. It’s not in Martin’s nature to play passively to hang on to material and so he didn’t as he prioritized development and placed his pieces on active squares. He also hung onto the gambit pawn with the only cost being that his king remained in the centre of the board uncastled for a pretty long time. It turned out to be the safest place for it as Paul allowed Martin to exchange bishop for knight on g4 and opened the g-file by re-capturing with his g-pawn.

Martin continued to prioritise piece activity until move 22 when he finally decided it was safe for him to castle king’s side. By this time he had a strong positional advantage as well as an extra pawn. Finally, it was Martin and not Nick who got an unstoppable king’s side attack as he pushed his pawns with his opponent pretty much a passive by-stander. At the end Martin broke through decisively with his queen to finish the game in his favour. This gave Hebden ‘B’ their first win of the season.

Here is the scorecard:

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ vs. Brighouse
A.Leatherbarrow ½ – ½ R.Broadbent (White)
M.Syrett 1 – 0 N.Hudson (White)
P.Gledhill 1 – 0 P.Whitehouse (White)
N.Bamford 1 – 0 A.Dawson (White)
T.Sullivan 0 – 1 T.Pryke (White)
3½ – 1½

So, with both Hebden teams showing their ‘bouncebackability’ and keeping their respective hopes for the title and avoiding the drop alive, heads now turned to Halifax chess club where the other four teams in League 1 were gathered.

Halifax ‘A’ took on Huddersfield ‘A’ and Halifax ‘B’ welcomed Golden Lion. Both visiting sides were the only ones left undefeated in the league at the start of the night and, by the end of the evening, they both still were.

Huddersfield ‘A’ are perennial challenges for the title. In recent years though they have failed to get their strongest line up out consistently across the whole season. So far this time they have gotten stronger and stronger. Having defeated Hebden Bridge ‘A’ last time out now they were out to add Halifax ‘A’ to their list of victims and they fielded Greg Eagleton, Mitchell Burke and Dave Keddie together for the first time this season to help them do it.

In fact, in the end it was made to look easy as Greg beat Bill Somerset, Mitchell beat Richard Porter and Dave beat Carlos Velosa. Dave Tooley then beat Sam Scurfield and Steve Westmoreland took down Mac Randhawa to record the League’s first whitewash of the season.

Golden Lion meanwhile were given a head start as, for the second match in a row, their opponents defaulted a board to them. It could have been another overwhelming victory at the Lee Mount Club but in the end the visitors made hard work of it as they lost their first board of the season on board 5 where Marc Turu had a perfectly viable position against Ray Cully only to blunder to instant defeat.

The visitors did manage to win the remaining three games but they certainly didn’t have everything their own way. On board 2 Phil Cook was forced to toil and grind late into the evening against Scott Gornall before he finally converted a rook and pawn ending where he had an extra pawn. On board 3, Andrew Clarkson defeated Howard Wood quickly but realized the outcome could have been different if Howard had spotted a tricky defence that could have netted him a piece.

Finally, Dave Shapland won a piece very early in his game against Vivienne Webster but then played too casually and lost it back before going on to win the game for a second time in a tough knight, rook and pawns endgame when Vivienne got her knight trapped in enemy territory. The final score was 1 – 4.

All of this means that Golden Lion stay on top of the league table by just half a board point over Huddersfield ‘A’. Both have 8 points. Hebden Bridge ‘A’ are in third place with 6 points, Belgrave ‘A’ have 4 and then Halifax ‘A’, Halifax ‘B’ and Hebden Bridge ‘B’ all have 2, while Brighouse stay rooted to the foot of the table and have yet to score.

A number of games from this week’s fixtures can be found in the game viewer below. Thanks again to Nick Sykes for collecting and transcribing many of them for publication.

Next week sees the start of the 2017-18 edition of the Calderdale Individual Chess Championship. As in recent years, all rounds will take place at the Trades Club on the first Monday of the months of November, December, January, February and March. John Kerrane is the tournament organiser. If you haven’t yet entered and you would like to please call (01422 842 426) or email (kerranerie@btinternet.com) John before the end of the day on Sunday 5th of November.

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Oct 262017
 
All three Hebden Bridge teams crashed to defeat on a bad night at the Trades Club last Monday. Image used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from bleggg's Flickr photo stream.

All three Hebden Bridge teams crashed to defeat on a bad night at the Trades Club last Monday. Image used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from bleggg’s Flickr photo stream.

On Monday last week all three Hebden Bridge teams took to their boards at the Trades Club as the ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams played their third round League 1 fixtures (against Huddersfield ‘A’ and Halifax ‘A’ respectively) and the ‘C’ team played their third round fixture against Halifax ‘D’ a week early.

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ had started the season with a couple of wins and now faced stern opposition in the form of Huddersfield ‘A’ who had also started the season in perfect fashion. Usually, matches between Hebden and Huddersfield are super-tense and tight affairs but on this occasion Huddersfield rather cruised to victory by a margin that doesn’t really do justice to the close nature of the games.

Sadly the tone was set by ‘A’ team captain Pete Leonard who fell into an opening trap against Dave Keddie and was compelled to resign in just 10 moves as he was a piece down with no compensation. At least he retained his perspective on the loss and remained sanguine. He has even annotated the game for us in the game viewer at the end of his post. We have indeed, all been there at some point. Your correspondent blundered a mate in one earlier this season.

The night didn’t get much better. John Allan went down to Mitchell Burke on board 1. He seemed to have built himself a decent position and, according to the kibitzers, may even have overlooked some chances to press for victory. But in the end Mitchell found a way to win as he so often does from difficult positions.

Sam Swain and Neil Suttie on boards 3 and 4 also went down against Steve Westmorland and Dave Tooley respectively. Sam never really managed to equalise against Steve’s English Opening and Neil suffered when he initiated sharp play by castling on the opposite wing to Dave but found that White’s attack was fastest.

This just left Richard Bedford to salvage some pride for the home team by despatching Robert Sutcliffe with one of his trade mark off-beat opening lines, the Black Knight’s Tango. It’s a line ‘Beaky’ is an expert in and it showed as Robert struggled to get to grips with it and was defeated.

The final match score card made for grim reading for Hebden:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs. Huddersfield ‘A’
J.Allan 0 – 1 M.Burke (White)
P.Leonard 0 – 1 D.Keddie (White)
S.Swain 0 – 1 S.Westmoreland (White)
N.Suttie 0 – 1 D.Tooley (White)
R.Bedford 1 – 0 R.Sutcliffe (White)
1 – 4

Across the room Hebden Bridge ‘B’ did rather better but still came up short in a very close match with Halifax ‘A’ who had beeby Hebden ‘A’ in the previous round and by their own ‘B’ team in round 1. They desperately need to get off the mark and they did, but only just.

Top board for the visitors was Bill Somerset and he took on Nick Sykes. This was a highly theoretical and classically set game in a Queen’s Gambit Declined. Nick equalised comfortably and the players agreed to halve the point fairly early in the game which was a great outcome for the home team as Bill is rated 30 points higher than Nick who secured a second draw against very strong opposition in two matches.

There were also draws on board 3, 4 and 5 for Andy Leatherbarrow against Carlos Velosa, John Kerrane against Sam Scurfield and Neil Bamford against David Loughenbury. John and Neil also gave away serious rating differences and Andy and Carlos were rated almost exactly the same. This represented a great battling display by the ‘B’ team.

But unfortunately their night was also due to end in disappointment as the last board to finish saw Richard Porter overcome Martin Syrett in a battle of the captains. Martin gained the exchange but afterwards his position seemed more difficult to play and eventually he felt compelled to give back a bishop to secure a dangerous passed pawn. Richard found a solution to the problems he had been set however and managed to convert his material advantage to a full point to seal Halifax’s first win of the season.

Here is the full match scorecard:

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ vs. Halifax ‘A’
N.Sykes ½ – ½ W.Somerset (White)
M.Syrett 0 – 1 R.Porter (White)
A.Leatherbarrow ½ – ½ C.Velosa (White)
J.Kerrane ½ – ½ S.Scurfield (White)
N.Bamford ½ – ½ D.Loughenbury (White)
2 – 3

Here's an arresting position from the game between Robert Broadbent (Brighouse) and Phil Cook (Golden Lion). White has just played 39.Bh5+. Look at the fully-loaded fifth rank! The game ended in a draw and you can see it all in the game viewer at the end of this post.

Here’s an arresting position from the game between Robert Broadbent (Brighouse) and Phil Cook (Golden Lion). White has just played 39.Bh5+. Look at the fully-loaded fifth rank! The game ended in a draw and you can see it all in the game viewer at the end of this post.

Elsewhere in League 1, Golden Lion continued their perfect start to the season by demolishing 4-man Brighouse ½ – 4½. The game of the night here was undoubtedly Robert Broadbent and Phil Cook’s draw which was a keenly contested encounter with Robert showing great determination and creativity to press hard for a win only to find that Phil was equal to the task as he just managed to hang on. It was one of those games that looked like White should win but in practice finding the solution was difficult and in the end, with his clock running down, Robert decided he should at least salvage a half-point for his team.

The other three games in this match saw relatively straightforward victories for Andrew Clarkson against Paul Whitehouse, Dave Shapland against Adrian Dawson and new team member Marc Turu against Tim Pryke.

Finally, Belgrave ‘A’ defeated Halifax ‘B’ to stay in contention for the title race. The damage was done here by Dave Patrick and Richard Bowman on board 2 and 3 as they saw off Scott Gornall and Howard Wood. The other games saw the Halifax ‘B’ players make very creditable draws against higher rated opponents to limit the margin of victory to 3½ – 1½.

These results mean that Golden Lion and Huddersfield ‘A’ are now at the top of the league with 6 points. Hebden Bridge ‘A’ and Belgrave ‘A’ have 4, Halifax ‘A’ and Halifax ‘B’ have 2 and Brighouse and Hebden Bridge ‘B’ are still on 0.
I mentioned at the beginning of the article that Hebden Bridge ‘C’ also played a match at the Trades Club. This was scheduled a week early to allow John Kerrane to organise the junior squad before going away on holiday this week. Halifax ‘D’ are, on paper, the team that the juniors should have in their sights as potential victims and indeed they did fair better than they had in their first two matches although they still went down in the end.

On board 1 the token ‘non-junior’, J.P. Ellis held Glen Roper to a draw while on board 2, Toby Dodd scored the ‘C’ team’s first board win of the season by defeating John Nicholson. Luca Curry, Martha Leggett and Alfie Dermo were all defeated. Here is the match scorecard:

Hebden Bridge ‘C’ vs. Halifax ‘D’
J.P.Ellis ½ – ½ G.Roper (White)
T.Dodd 1 – 0 J.Nicholson (White)
L.Curry 0 – 1 D.Rowley (White)
M.Leggett 0 – 1 E.Fynn (White)
A.Dermo 0 – 1 P.Stowe (White)
1½ – 3½

The other two matches in League 2 were played on Monday this week and saw Belgrave ‘B’ defeat Belgrave ‘C’ by 3½ – 1½ and Huddersfield ‘B’ thrashed Halifax ‘C’ 4 – 1 with a result that sees them go top of the league on their own as the only side with a perfect record. They are followed by Belgrave ‘B’ and Belgrave ‘C’ who both have 4 points, Halifax ‘C’ and Halifax ‘D’ who both have 2 points, and, at the bottom, Hebden ‘D’ who have at least managed to win their first game of the season. Maybe that will inspire the youngsters to greater heights and more rewards for their efforts.

You’ll find a good number of the games from last week in the game viewer below. Thanks to Nick Sykes for collecting and transcribing these for this report.

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Oct 162017
 
White to play from Velosa vs. Swain (Hebden Bridge 'A' vs Halifax 'A') Black has grabbed a hot pawn. Can you see how White took advantage to press home the attack? Answer in the game viewer at the end of this post.

White to play from Velosa vs. Swain (Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs Halifax ‘A’) Black has grabbed a hot pawn. Can you see how White took advantage to press home the attack? Answer in the game viewer at the end of this post.

Both Calderdale Evening Chess Leagues have now played two rounds of fixtures, so we’ve plenty of action to catch up on in this post.

League 1

Let’s catch up on round 2 of League 1 first of all. Most of the fixtures took place on Monday 2nd of October with Golden Lion’s first home fixture against Hebden Bridge ‘B’ postponed until Monday the 9th.

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ took on Halifax ‘A’ at home in their second match of the season. In recent years these two sides have fought out some epic encounters full of twists and turns and almost always very tight indeed. Hebden had the better of things last season but for this fixture both sides sported line ups that looked very different to the corresponding fixture last season.

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ had fielded Messrs Parsons, A.Bak, C.Bak, Shapland and Leonard on the 3rd of April when they edged a tight match 3 – 2. This time out the side was Andy Bak, John Allan, Sam Swain, Neil Suttie and Richard ‘Beaky’ Bedford. Team Captain Pete Leonard was away and stand-in Captain, Nick Sykes, elected to play his strongest five available players which meant no place for him in the line up.

Halifax ‘A’ also had four different players to the April match. Last season they had Winston Williams, Darwin Ursal, John Morgan, Richard Porter and Sam Scurfield. This time out it was Bill Somerset, Richard Porter, Carlos Velosa, David Loughenbury and Barry Wadsworth. With this line up the visitors were out-graded on every board to a greater or lesser extent. On paper it looked it should have been easy for Hebden but it turned out to be anything but.

On Board 1 Andy Bak and Bill Somerset continued their theoretical discussion of the Semi-Slav (this time the Anti-Moscow Variation as opposed to the Botvinnik Variation). This opening lends itself to mind boggling complications and generally both sides make inaccurate moves. On this occasion it was Andy with Black who came out on top.

Board 2 saw Richard Porter play the London System against John Allan. John’s had plenty of practice of playing against this system from his recent games against Matthew Parsons and Richard didn’t play the most ambitious lines. Never the less the game did get pretty complicated. However, with plenty of life still in the position, the players agreed to a draw on move 25.

Halifax struck back on board 3 where Carlos Velosa was up to his old tricks with Bird’s Opening (1.f4). Sam Swain handled the unorthodox opening system perfectly well but Carlos is a dangerous tactician and, when Sam grabbed a hot pawn on move 26, Carlos seized the opportunity and found a pretty forcing sequence (see the puzzle at the top of the post). Sam missed the point and resigned when he saw mate in two coming.

Loughenbury versus Suttie on board 4 was another London System. Here too Black seemed to equalise fairly easily and the game simplified quickly to a double rook, knight and six pawns each endgame. The players decided as early as move 22 that the position was sterile and shook hands. Of course the engine has an opinion of its own and suggests White was better with potential to play against a vulnerable Black a-pawn.

This meant that the match was decided on board 5 where Hebden had the largest rating advantage of any of the encounters. However, Richard Bedford had toiled with the Black pieces to take down Barry Wadsworth in round 2 of last year’s Calderdale Individual Championship so the conclusion was by no means forgone. On this occasion however, Beaky made lighter work of the task when, in the middle game he managed to create and exploit a pin on the d-file. Barry had a fleeting opportunity to release the pin on move 26 when Bc5 or Bd4 (see the game in the viewer at the end of this post) may have enabled him to hang on. But after the game move 26.Re3 and, soon after, the critical mistake 28.h4? he first lost a piece and then his queen with check mate to follow shortly.

Thus did Hebden manage to win a tight match 3 – 2. Bizarrely they have been scheduled to play 6 out of the first 7 matches this season at home (!!) which means they are going to get some practice with the Black pieces and may be able to make a strong surge when the have the reverse fixtures after Christmas.

Here is the final match scorecard against Halifax:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs. Halifax ‘A’
A.Bak 1 – 0 W.Somerset (White)
J.Allan ½ – ½ R.Porter (White)
S.Swain 0 – 1 C.Velosa (White)
N.Suttie ½ – ½ D.Loughenbury (White)
R.Bedford 1 – 0 B.Wadsworth (White)
3 – 2

On the same evening Belgrave ‘A’ bounced back from their opening fixture defeat against Golden Lion to thrash Brighouse ½ – 4½. The home side were without their top board Robert Broadbent and this exposed the rest of the squad. Only the Brighouse Captain, Paul Whitehouse, saved a walk over for the visitors when he held John Morgan to a draw on board 2 – a highly creditable outcome considering the rating difference of almost 60 points.

Then, on Wednesday last week, Huddersfield ‘A’ took on Halifax ‘B’ who had surprisingly opened their account by beating their own ‘A’ team in the first fixture. Huddersfield defaulted their third board and Ray Cully held Steve Westmoreland to a draw on board 5 but the other three games went the way of the home side as Huddersfield won 3½ – 1½.

To complete the second round of fixtures, Golden Lion and Hebden Bridge ‘B’ played their match this last Monday, the first at the eponymous venue of the home side. It must be said that not everything went perfectly smoothly (the venue was noisy) but the necessary steps have already been taken to ensure better conditions for future matches and five new visitors to the league turned up for some social chess which was very encouraging.

The match itself swung the way of the home side all too quickly. On board two Hebden’s Andy Leatherbarrow blundered a piece early in the game and, although he battled on for some time after that, the outcome was never in doubt and Andrew Clarkson converted to the full point.

By this time though the match was already in the bag. Dave Shapland beat Neil Bamford on board 3 in the first match to finish as Neil got his pieces into a tangle, gave up the exchange for a pawn to try and sort himself out only to drop a piece to a tactic shortly after.

On board 4 the manner of victory was rather different as Golden Lion’s David Innes ground down Terry Sullivan finally swapping down to a king and pawn ending where he had an extra pawn and a sure win. Terry resigned rather than suffer further.

Finally, on board 5, Golden Lion’s new recruit Peter Dickinson played a complicated draw out against Paul Gledhill. There was plenty of complexity and excitement in this one but in the end the players decided to agree peace terms with the situation at the board still rather unclear.

With the match now decided Hebden’s Nick Sykes was able to offer a draw to Martyn Hamer in the confidence that he was at least no worse and possibly even slightly better against his much higher rated opponent. Certainly Martyn was happy enough to grant the request given that trying for anything more would have involved a good deal of risk and a very long and drawn out evening’s effort to boot.

The final match scorecard looked like this:

Golden Lion vs. Hebden Bridge ‘B’
M.Hamer ½ – ½ N.Sykes (White)
A.A.Clarkson 1 – 0 A.Leatherbarrow (White)
D.Shapland 1 – 0 N.Bamford (White)
D.Innes 1 – 0 T.Sullivan (White)
P.Dickinson ½ – ½ P.Gledhill (White)
4 – 1

With all teams now having played two matches, Golden Lion top the table with 4 match points and 7½ board points. Hebden Bridge ‘A’ are in second place with the same match points and 7 board points and Huddersfield are in third, also with two wins from two matches but 6½ match points. Belgrave ‘A’ and Halifax ‘B’ have one win and one defeat to their names and at the bottom, Brighouse, Hebden Bridge ‘B’ and, surprisingly Halifax ‘A’, are yet to score any points.

In round 3 next (matches played tonight) both Hebden Bridge teams will be at home with Hebden Bridge ‘A’ playing Huddersfield ‘A’ and Hebden Bridge ‘B’ hosting Halifax ‘A’. These should be fascinating match ups. Elsewhere Golden Lion host Brighouse and Belgrave ‘A’ will play Halifax ‘B’.

League 2

John Kerrane’s (predominantly junior) Hebden Bridge ‘C’ team played their first round match on the 25th of September and their second round match last Monday.

In round 1 they faced Belgrave’s new ‘C’ team outfit. Unfortunately, Hebden were missing one of their youngsters when Martha Leggett had to take an emergency trip to the dentist at the last minute. The largely junior line up was up against it any way as Belgrave fielded an experienced side who were more than a match for the hosts on this occasion.

Here’s the match scorecard:

Hebden Bridge ‘C’ vs. Belgrave ‘C’
J.Kerrane ½ – ½ D.Colledge (White)
L.Curry 0 – 1 A.Gonzales (White)
T.Dodd 0 – 1 S.Harrington (White)
G.Hughes 0 – 1 P.Jacobs (White)
Default 0 – 1 R.Bottomley (White)
½ – 4½

Then, last week, Hebden fielded a similar line-up against Belgrave’s ‘B’ team (this match was an away fixture but Belgrave had kindly agreed to play it at the Trades Club so that transportation for the juniors was not a difficulty. This time the juniors faced a side that in no small part reflected the line up of the Belgrave ‘A’ team that had participated in League 1 a few years ago. Once again Hebden managed just a single draw and this time it was provided by one of Todmorden’s refugees welcomed into the club to play in League 2 – J.P Ellis who scored a very fine draw with Gordon Farrar on board 1.

Here is the full score card:

Belgrave ‘B’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘C’
G.Farrar ½ – ½ J.P.Ellis (White)
M.Barnett 1 – 0 T.Dodd (White)
L.Johnson 1 – 0 L.Curry (White)
P.Edwards 1 – 0 J.S Hadari (White)
C.Edwards 1 – 0 B.J.S Hadari (White)
4½ – ½

All of this means that Hebden ‘C’ are still awaiting their first win of the season. Maybe it will be ‘third time lucky’ as they take on Halifax ‘D’ at the Trades Club this evening (this match is being played a week ahead of schedule).

In League 2, Belgrave ‘C’ and Huddersfield ‘B’ top the table with two wins out of two. Halifax ‘C’ and Belgrave ‘B’ have one win each and Hebden and Halifax ‘D’ are yet to score.

You’ll find a number of recent games in the game viewer below. Our thanks to Nick Sykes for collecting and transcribing the Hebden Bridge games.

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Sep 222017
 
The chess players of Calderdale got saddled up for the new chess season as round 1 matches in League 1 took place this week. This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from John Maddin's Flickr photostream

The chess players of Calderdale got saddled up for the new chess season as round 1 matches in League 1 took place this week. This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from John Maddin’s Flickr photostream

Monday night saw the first convention of the 2017-18 Calderdale Evening Chess League. But, before we dive into the match reports and results, let’s ring the changes from last season as there have been several of significance and this website has lain dormant over the summer so there’s lot’s to catch up on.

Let’s start on a positive note! There are eight teams taking part in League 1 this season after last season began with Todmorden ‘B’s last moment withdrawal. This is a very welcome state of affairs.

The other significant change in League 1 concerns the current (and three-time consecutive champions) Todmorden ‘A’. Todmorden chess club folded over the summer but a chess team based in Todmorden has been salvaged and will be based at the Golden Lion in Fielden Square. The team primarily comprises former Todmorden ‘A’ players and it is hoped that, by moving the team to the Golden Lion (a community pub with an interest in hosting and promoting a range of local clubs) that some fresh blood might be attracted and new administrators be found for a club in Todmorden to be established there.

In the meantime, some of Todmorden’s members have joined Hebden Bridge Chess Club and been welcomed with open arms as they have bolstered our numbers to the extent that we can be far more confident about being able to consistently field three teams across the two divisions this season. That hasn’t been the case in recent years.

Some consolidation and expansion has occurred elsewhere in the league too. Belgrave have seen John Morgan and Dave Patrick return to their ranks (a few years ago they represented Courier at the same venue but when Courier was discontinued they joined Halifax and Todmorden respectively) and this has enabled them to enter two teams into League 2 this season as former ‘A’ team regulars are now available for the ‘B’ team and ‘B’ teamers for the ‘C’ team.

Finally, League 2 has also welcomed back a Huddersfield ‘B’ team this season. It’s been a while since Huddersfield has had two teams in the league and this too is a very heartening development. It is worth mentioning to readers that, (PLEASE NOTE) whilst Huddersfield ‘A’ will continue to play their home matches at the Lindley Club on a Wednesday night, the ‘B’ team will play their home matches at the Honley Club in Holmfirth on a Monday night.

League 1, round 1 fixtures took place on Monday and Wednesday night this week. Here’s a quick re-cap of all the teams playing in League 1 this season:

  • Golden Lion (formerly Todmorden ‘A’ – League 1 Champions 2016-17)
  • Hebden Bridge ‘A’ (League 1 Runners-Up 2016-17)
  • Halifax ‘A’ (League 1 3rd place 2016-17)
  • Huddersfield ‘A’
  • Belgrave ‘A’
  • Halifax ‘B’
  • Hebden Bridge ‘B’
  • Brighouse (promoted as League 2 Champions 2016-17)

And so, to the action. Tradition holds that any derby matches between teams from the same club are held on the 1st and 8th rounds of the league season. This meant that Hebden Bridge ‘A’ and Hebden Bridge ‘B’ were pitted against each other and so were Halifax ‘A’ and Halifax ‘B’. Additionally, Belgrave ‘A’ hosted Golden Lion and, on Wednesday evening, Huddersfield ‘A’ played Brighouse.

Last season Hebden Bridge ‘A’ only managed to draw against their ‘B’ team in the opening match of the season when they were playing at home (i.e. they all had the Black pieces). This time around although the ‘B’ team once again had the White pieces, the eventual outcome of the fixture more closely resembled the return match up from 2016-17 when Hebden Bridge ‘A’ won 4½ – ½.

One factor that had certainly changed since last season was the team line ups. Gone from the ‘A’ team line up on the 23rd of January were their top three boards, Matthew Parsons, Chris Bak and Dave Shapland. In their stead appeared John Allan (a ‘B’ team player last season), Pete Leonard (the team Captain this season) and Sam Swain (a welcome new arrival this summer). The side was completed by Neil Suttie (a Todmorden refugee) and ‘A’ team regular Nick Sykes.

Martin Syrett’s ‘B’ team also saw some changes from the last time these two sides played with John Allan stepping up to the ‘A’ team and John Kerrane stepping out of the line up to make way for fresh blood. Martin was joined by Andy Leatherbarrow on board 2, a returning friend from Keighley Mark Stollery on board 3, a new member Paul Gledhill on board 4 and a familiar friend Terry Sullivan on board 5.

With the ‘B’ team out-graded by at least 20 points on each board, they could have anticipated a tricky evening and so it proved as the stronger ‘A’ team squad drew two and won three of the games despite all operating the Black pieces.
On board 1, ‘B’ team Captain Syrett ventured his favorite King’s Gambit against John Allan. John took and kept the gambit pawn but as the game eventually simplified down to a rook and three pawns versus rook and two pawns ending it became clear that it wasn’t so easy for Black to convert his extra pawn and finally the players agreed to a draw.

Andy Leatherbarrow played an English Opening to counteract Pete Leonard’s favoured Grunfeld set up on board 2 and a very closely contested and finely balanced game ensued which eventually was agreed drawn. However, the kibitzing Matthew Parsons thought Andy might have had a winning ending when the result was agreed.

The game on board 3 between Mark Stollery with White and Sam Swain with Black developed into one of the evening’s sharper battles after the agreed upon the Meran variation of the Semi-Slav as their chosen terrain for the opening phase. It appeared that Sam built up a good deal of pressure but the assessment of the position was still unclear. Later on Mark sacrificed a piece for an attack but Sam defended stoutly and was able to consolidate and win the game with the extra material.

On board 4 the ‘A’ team’s Neil Suttie faced a new member, Paul Gledhill who has just arrived in the Calder Valley from Manchester. He set out his chess-playing style by essaying the Urusov Gambit. Neil responded cautiously and carefully before building an attack on the White king that led him to win first a piece and then the game.

Finally, on board 5, Nick Sykes played the Nimzo-Indian against Terry Sullivan and gained a god position from the opening before both players overlooked a strong tactical idea for White that would have kept Terry in the game. Once he’d missed his chance Nick didn’t give him another and won the game soon after.

Here are the full match details:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘B’
J.Allan ½ – ½ M.Syrett (White)
P.Leonard ½ – ½ A.Leatherbarrow (White)
S.Swain 1 – 0 M.Stollery (White)
N.Suttie 1 – 0 P.Gledhill (White)
N.Sykes 1 – 0 T.Sullivan (White)
4 – 1

A good start for Hebden Bridge ‘A’ then and they look to have a very compact line up with all players rated within a 20 point range. With occasional appearances from the likes of Matthew Parsons and the Bak brothers, they will certainly be in the running for the league title again this season.

The other derby match at Halifax threw up a great surprise as Halifax ‘B’ beat their ‘A’ team colleagues rather handily. To be sure, the ‘A’ team does not look as strong as it has done in recent years with John Morgan moving back across town to Belgrave and Darwin Ursal and Winston Williams both missing. Never the less, the line up on paper should have been sufficient to have gotten the job done, but derby matches can be strange affairs, especially when it’s the first match of the season and blunders are perhaps more likely.

In any case, with the ‘A’ team all having the Black pieces, the statistical advantage was diminished and on the night Pete Hughes overcame Bill Somerset on board 1 and Vivienne Webster and John Nicholson beat Sam Scurfield and David Loughenbury respectively overturning significant rating differences in the process. The bottom board was drawn which left only the ‘A’ team captain, Richard Porter, to salvage a consolation point for his team by beating his counterpart Scott Gornall on board 2.

The third match to take place on Monday night was between Belgrave ‘A’s new beefed up side and Golden Lion. This was probably the heavy weight encounter of the round in terms of teams who may be vying for the title at the end of the season. Golden Lion’s top three boards (Martyn Hamer, Pete Mulleady and Andrew Clarkson) have done the business for Todmorden ‘A’ over the course of the last three seasons, but on this occasion they were matched by Belgrave’s Ian Hunter, John Morgan and Dave Patrick. Of these three boards perhaps only Andrew Clarkson will feel he should have achieved more than a draw for his efforts.

This match was sealed for the ‘Champions’ by wins on the bottom two boards. On board 4 Dave Shapland over whelmed Malcolm Corbett’s Pirc when his opponent chose swift expansion on the queen’s side over piece development and then played inaccurately at a crucial moment to allow Dave a mating attack. Later, David Innes saw off Karim Khan in a game that was typical of his street fighting style. The opening was off beat, the tactics obscure and, although it appeared at one point that Karim had the upper hand, shortly afterwards he found himself a whole rook down for just two pawns and the rest was fairly straight forward for David.

On Wednesday evening Huddersfield ‘A’ hosted neighbors Brighouse in the final match of round 1. Again on paper this looked like a total mis-match as Huddersfield out-rated the visitors 45 points or more an all of the bottom four boards! That they only won by the narrowest possible margin was down largely to the efforts of Brighouse’s top board, Robert Broadbent who drew with Greg Eagleton, their team Captain Paul Whitehouse who drew with Andrew McFadden and a new Brighouse player, journeyman Adrian Dawson who has joined the club to help bolster their dwindling numbers, who dispatched Dave Tooley on board 4. Dave Keddie and Steve Westmoreland restored order for Huddersfield by winning on boards 2 and 5 to see the home side over the line.

At the end of round 1, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ are top of the opening league table having been the only side able to win by a margin of 4 – 1. Golden Lion and Halifax ‘B’ are just behind them on board count with Huddersfield in fourth. Based on the first round of match one would have to conclude that the title honours will be fought out between Golden Lion, Hebden Bridge ‘A’, Huddersfield and probably Belgrave ‘A’. We’ll have to wait and see but the league certainly looks like it will once again be very competitive this season.

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Apr 132017
 
With one round left to play only Todmorden 'A' or Hebden Bridge 'A' can take the League 1 title. Meanwhile, Halifax 'C' are already League 2 champions. Image from Daniel Coomber's Flickr photostream

With one round left to play only Todmorden ‘A’ or Hebden Bridge ‘A’ can take the League 1 title with Todmorden in the driving seat. Meanwhile, Halifax ‘C’ are already League 2 champions. Image from Daniel Coomber’s Flickr photo stream

It’s been a while since our last post and much has action has taken place in the Calderdale Evening Chess League with Division 2 drawing to a close and Division 1 now in its final few rounds of fixtures.

Let’s start by round up the Division 2 final standings as the last round of fixtures were played on the 27th of March. Halifax ‘C’ and Brighouse were the only two teams in contention for the title and the single promotion berth on offer this season (I believe this is correct as there are only 6 teams in league 2 this season).

Halifax began the round 2 points clear of Brighouse and, with the two sides board scores being almost identical, that meant Brighouse needed to beat Hebden Bridge ‘C’ and hope that Halifax went down to Todmorden ‘C’ if they were to pick their pockets at the last.

Brighouse did their job with a whitewash of the Hebden Bridge junior outift. Hebden Juniors Captain John Kerrane reports on the outstanding game of the night.

The match was notable for a terrific, tense struggle between Brighouse captain Paul Whitehouse and Toby Dodd on board 3. In a blocked position, Whitehouse eventually forced a breakthrough on the kingside, but then found himself in a dangerous position. Eventually, he managed to avoid his opponent’s counter-play, until, with mate inevitable, Dodd was forced to resign.

The individual results were:

Brighouse vs. Hebden Bridge ‘C’
R. Broadbent 1 – 0 O. Buchan
N Hudson 1 – 0 L. Curry
P. Whitehouse 1 – 0 T. Dodd
R. Grandage 1 – 0 B. J. S. Hadari
T. Pryke 1 – 0 J. Y. Hadari
5 – 0

That unfortunately meant that the juniors finished the season with no match points and just 9 game points from their ten matches. Never the less, there are some very young players amongst their number and John is seeing a number of them developing with some promise. Let’s hope they will continue to improve and enjoy the game next season.

Meanwhile, over at Todmorden, the home team were being subdued by a similarly emphatic score line by Halifax. On paper this match looked like it should have been a close one but Halifax steamrollered their way through some experienced opposition to win 5 – 0 and take the League 2 title. Congratulations to them! The final league table and all results can be found on the Calderdale Chess League website.


Now to League 1. Readers may remember that, back at the beginning of March we reported on Todmorden ‘A’s significant step towards a third successive league title as they overwhelmed Hebden Bridge ‘A’ at home. Since then there have been two further rounds of fixtures with the penultimate set taking place this evening and the final round on April 23rd.

Round 11

These fixtures took place on March 20th and Todmorden ‘A’ underlined their superiority with another emphatic home victory against Huddersfield. Only Dave Gray on board 5 managed to hold his higher rated opponent Dave Patrick as Todmorden won the remaining games to win 4½ – ½.

This put any fading hopes Huddersfield might have had of winning the league completely out of their heads and while Todmorden continued to power forwards their remaining rivals had contrasting fortunes as Hebden Bridge ‘A’ had to take a full default from Halifax ‘B’ who were unable to field a team, while Halifax ‘A’ were only able to draw with Belgrave ‘A’ at home. Three of the games in that match were drawn with Malcolm Corbett defeating Richard Porter for Belgrave whilst Carlos Velosa defeated Gordon Farrar for Halifax.

This left Hebden Bridge ‘A’ still top on 16 points but they were only one point ahead of Todmorden ‘A’ who had a game in hand. Halifax were on 13 points and now had to face first Hebden Bridge ‘A’ and then Huddersfield and Todmorden ‘A’ to complete their season. They would need to win all three of those matches to have any chance of taking the title.

Round 12

Last week the 12th round of matches took place and this coincidentally put the top three teams into the same room as Hebden Bridge ‘A’ hosted Halifax ‘A’ and Hebden Bridge ‘B’ hosted Todmorden ‘A’. With the Trades Club hosting most of the best players in the league it was always likely to be a fascinating an exciting evening of chess with plenty of incident to keep the players and the kibitzers happy!

Halifax came knowing that only a win could keep their title chances alive while Hebden too knew that failure would see them drop out of the title race. Halifax were slightly weakened by the absence of Bill Somerset but were still able to field a strong side comprising Winston Williams, Darwin Ursal, John Morgan, Richard Porter and Sam Scurfield. Hebden meanwhile were pretty much at full strength with Matthew Parsons, Andy Bak, Chris Bak, Dave Shapland and Pete Leonard all turning out.

The early stages of the match looked promising for the visitors as Dave Shapland committed a decisive blunder straight out of the opening against Richard Porter and went down before the players had reached move 20. Then Winston and Matthew agreed a draw fairly early in the evening having both played fairly swiftly to reach a position which was unclear and had plenty of potential play left in it but neither side felt inclined to take any risks.

Despite the score line Hebden Bridge seemed to be sitting pretty in the other games and when the next two boards concluded in their favour the match was all but sealed. First Pete Leonard won material against Sam Scurfield and simply hung on to it whilst also building up a decisive positional advantage. Then Andy Bak cashed in on a rare blunder by Darwin who gave away both his d and e pawns in the space of a couple of moves. After that Andy managed to find means to simplify the position so that his opponent had no chance of recovering. Hebden were 2½ – 1½  up by 9.30 and most of the players could now enjoy kibitzing the ‘B’ team’s match with Todmorden.

The final game to finish was on board 3 where Chris Bak seemed to have equalized comfortably against John Morgan but then got into difficulties in the middle game and could well have gone down. However, John missed a couple of precise moves and didn’t get the most from his opportunity. Finally Chris managed to simplify down to a rook and pawn ending and the players agreed a draw although some of the strongest players in the room suggested that White could perhaps have continued pressing in the end game with no chances to lose but some hopes of winning.

So, Hebden edged it to keep the pressure up on Todmorden. Here are the individual scores from the match:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs. Halifax ‘A’
M.Parsons ½ – ½ W.Williams
A.Bak 1 – 0 D.Ursal
C.Bak ½ – ½ J.Morgan
D.Shapland 0 – 1 R.Porter
P.Leonard 1 – 0 S.Scurfield
3 – 2

Meanwhile on the next row of tables, Todmorden were being made to work very hard for their result against Hebden Bridge ‘B’ who had one of their strongest line-ups of the season available. With John Allan, Andy Leatherbarrow, Martin Syrett, John Lavan and John Kerrane all playing, it seemed that Hebden would at least give a slightly weakened Todmorden line up of Hamer, Cook, Clarkson, Patrick and Innes a workout.

Only the game on board 5 ended swiftly and relatively early as John Kerrane erred against Dave Innes and was dispatched mercilessly. The other four boards however were much tighter affairs and could all have yielded a result of some sort to the Hebden players.

On board 4 John Lavan seemed to have made it to a completely equal endgame of rook and pawns against Dave Patrick. However, having worked so hard to maintain the balance John too made a blunder and lost on the spot as Todmmorden took a 2 – 0 lead.

The last three games went on deep into the night. Finally though Joh n Allan was ground down in impressive fashion by Martin Hamer on board 1. An English Opening transposed to a Maroczy Bind Sicilian Defence which is notoriously dour for the operator of the Black pieces. Martin created a weakness in the Black camp when John’s b-pawn became isolated. When that pawn eventually fell Martin had connected passed pawns on the a and b-files and after that the result seemed inevitable even if it did take a good while longer to transpire. John fought valiantly but to no avail. Todmorden were over the line with this result.

Next to finish was the board 3 game between Andrew Clarkson and Martin Syrett. Andrew has kindly annotated this game for us and it appears in the game viewer at the end of this post. This one didn’t look like it would last long at all as Martin fell into a notoriously dodgy line of the Levenfish Variation of the Sicilian Dragon. With structural weaknesses all over the place it seemed his number would be up but Martin wriggled and fought furiously and Andrew missed a couple of chances to accentuate his advantage.

Martin managed to drum up counterplay once the queens had been exchanged and then took advantage of a tactical resource that Andrew had missed to keep himself afloat. The players then entered a rook, bishop, knight and pawns each ending which have a habit if being devilishly complex. This was no exception has Martin seemed to have a dangerous passed e-pawn whilst Andrew took aim at his opponent’s weak king and played for mate.

Finally, with the pressure of the clock starting to weigh on both players and the tension in the position getting ever more precarious Martin chose the wrong one of several promising looking variation and Andrew was able to run his king to a safe haven and reinstate his mating threats with decisive effect.

Todmorden were somehow 4 – 0 up and had managed to find a way to win three very tight games. But that was nothing compared to the drama that was to conclude the evening on board 2.

Andy Leatherbarrow has had a fantastic season, gaining results from a string of much higher rated opponents. He looked like he would repeat the trick against the freshly crowned Calderdale Individual Champion, Phil Cook. This game was a real slow burner with Phil deploying his habitual English Opening. Gradually Andy equalized and that took the initiative but Phil’s position looked solid until, with both players short of time before move 36 was reached he grabbed a hot pawn that him a piece.

With time control reached (just!) safely, Andy now had an extra knight and the initiative and Phil’s king looked exposed. But as Andy searched for the most efficient way to finish off his opponent both players drifted into time trouble again. Andy did miss a decisive break through almost at the last but still managed to change up his extra knight to and extra rook. It still looked like a nailed-on consolation win for Hebden but now Andy had almost no time left and as he blitzed out his moves his flag eventually fell with him having traded down to a winning king and pawn ending.

Heartbreak then for Andy who certainly deserved more for his good play as both players used pretty much all their time it was not as if he had squandered his allotted time any more than his opponent.

Here’s the final match scorecard:

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ vs. Todmorden ‘A’
J.Allan 0 – 1 M.Hamer
A.Leatherbarrow 0 – 1 P.Cook
M.Syrett 0 – 1 A.Clarkson
J.Lavan 0 – 1 D.Patrick
J.Kerrane 0 – 1 D.Innes
0 – 5

There are eight of the ten games played from these matches in the game viewer at the end of this post.

Round 13

With Hebden Bridge ‘A’ having a bye round on Monday night this week, Todmorden finally had the chance to leap frog their rivals by winning their match in hand at Halifax ‘B’. This should have been very straightforward but Todmorden’s line-up was unexpectedly weakened while Halifax ‘B’ were able to field a pretty much full strength side. Peter Hughes, Sam Scurfield and Scott Gornall all managed to draw with their higher rated opponents (Sam indeed almost managing to beat Dave Patrick on board 3), but wins by Andrew Clarkson over Carlos Velosa and Dave Milton over Howard Wood saw Todmorden over the line.

This meant that they did indeed finally step into the top spot in the league on 19 points with one round to go. Ominously it’s the first time they have been top of the league on their own this season. Hebden Bridge ‘A’ have 18 points but their board count is much lower than the new leaders meaning that they must beat Belgrave in the final round of fixtures and hope Todmorden slip to defeat against Halifax ‘A’. Not impossible but very much dependent on the strength of Halifax’s team for that match.

Speaking of which, Halifax ‘A’ bounced back from the disappointment of losing to Hebden Bridge in round 12 by comfortably defeating a four-man Huddersfield side on Monday night. The visitors scored a full point when Dave Keddie defeated Darwin Ursal, and a half point as Leo Keely drew with Winston Williams on the top two boards but that was their only a consolation. With that result Halifax secure third place with 15. Huddersfield have a bye in the final round of fixtures and so their season is now complete. They lie in fourth place on 13 points.

There is still some action to be had at the other end of the league table however. Halifax ‘B’ and Hebden Bridge ‘B’ are separated by just 2 points but Hebden’s cause would have been aided greatly if they could manage to get a result from their tie with Belgrave ‘A’ at the Trades Club on Monday. Sadly, despite having five players and a stronger line up than when they managed to draw with the same team away earlier this season, Hebden got squashed flat this time around.

Once more the side played well but were largely undone by blunders which cost them dearly. Only Martin Syrett on board 3 was able to hold a draw with Karim Khan as the home side lost ½ – 4½. Here is the full match scorecard.

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ vs. Belgrave ‘A’
J.Allan 0 – 1 I.Hunter
A.Leatherbarrow 0 – 1 M.Corbett
M.Syrett ½ – ½ K.Khan
J.Lavan 0 – 1 G.Farrar
N.Bamford 0 – 1 M.Barnett
½ – 4½

This result leaves Hebden Bridge ‘B’ bottom on 2 points and Halifax ‘B’ on 4 points. Belgrave are well clear of any relegation battle on 7 points. Hebden play Halifax in the last match of the season and a win would see them draw level on points although their board count is 5 lower than their rivals so they’d need to win 5 – 0 to avoid finishing in last place. This seems unlikely given their recent fortunes but nothing is impossible.

The final round of fixtures on the 23rd of April would seem to hold only an outside chance of an upset then as Todmorden have draw odds for the title against Halifax and even that is dependent on Hebden Bridge ‘A’ seeing off a very solid Belgrave line up who have been something of a nemesis for them in recent years.

 

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Mar 172017
 
Cook vs. Parsons. This was the final position from the last game to finish in this year's championship. White can put off the inevitable by sacrificing the exchange on d5 but Black will still be winning.

Cook vs. Parsons. This was the final position from the last game to finish in this year’s championship. White can put off the inevitable by sacrificing the exchange on d5 but Black will still be winning. Phil therefore resigned here leaving 5 players on 4 points with tie-break deciding the champion for the second year running

Another edition of the Calderdale Individual Chess Championship came to a close last Monday at the Trades Club. It’s been a fascinating competition this year with a number of the top seeds dropping draws and even stumbling to defeat in a couple of cases in the early rounds of the competition. That essentially cleared the way for the fourth seed, Phil Cook of Todmorden, to reach 4/4 after three consecutive wins against players from Hebden Bridge: Martin Syrett in Round 2, Nick Sykes in Round 3 and Dave Shapland in Round 4.

In the meantime some of the other leading players had been trying to make up ground on the leader but had been foiled by his continuing string of victories. Top seed and three-time champion, Matthew Parsons (Hebden Bridge) had overcome fifth seed John Allan (Hebden Bridge) and then drawn with sixth seed Ian Hunter (Belgrave) to stay within touching distance of the run-away leader and would now finally have the opportunity to catch him in the final round if he could beat him with the Black pieces to order. Failing to win would guarantee that Cook would win the trophy and even a defeat for the Todmorden player could still see him through on a tie-break if one or more of the other players besides Matthew Parsons reached 4 points as well.

If the top board game promised to be the most interesting game of the evening from the perspective of the final standings then some of the subsequent boards also promised some entertaining action. On board two ninth seed Pete Leonard (Hebden Bridge) had recovered from his surprise defeat in round 1 to beat the second seed and reigning champions Greg Eagleton (Huddersfield) in the fourth round. His reward was another tough assignment with the Black pieces against the undefeated Ian Hunter. On board 3 an all Hebden Bridge encounter between too of Phil Cook’s victims, Martin Syrett and Dave Shapland, promised to be an ‘uninhibited’ toe-to-toe encounter.

After that the draw was, unfortunately, adversely effected by a spate of final round withdrawals – which these days seem to be a disappointing inevitability in this competition. Greg Eagleton withdrew before the final round and his Huddersfield club colleague Mitchell Burke also failed to show up when he was due to play Richard Bedford (Todmorden), another of the players on 3 points.

There were a number of other match ups that promised some interesting and closely fought battles. On board 5 John Allan was paired against Steve Harrington (Belgrave) who had performed admirably to reach 2½/4. Allan played patiently in the opening against his opponent’s Accellerated Dragon variation of the Sicilian Defence. Exploiting some inaccurate play he won first one and then a second pawn to accumulate an overwhelming endgame advantage. This meant John finished on a respectable 3½/5 having drawn with Mike Barnett (Belgrave) in round 2 and been defeated by Matthew Parsons in round 3.

On board 6 Mike Barnett and Scott Gornall (Halifax) looked on paper like they would be very evenly matched and so it proved as they played on into an end game but neither player could secure an advantage and they each drew their second game of the competition to finish on 3 points.

Board 7 saw Andy Leatherbarrow (Hebden Bridge) face the seventh seed, Richard Porter (Halifax). It was Leatherbarrow who had ensured the top seed’s tournament had gotten off to a slow start when he held Matthew Parsons to a draw in round 1. He’d beaten a lower ranked player in round 2 but had then stalled somewhat himself with a half point bye in round three and a draw with Nick Sykes (Hebden Bridge) in round 4. Richard’s tournament meanwhile had been rather more topsy-turvey after he suffered a big upset at the hands of club colleague Pete Moss in round 1 and then lost another game to a lower ranked player, Martin Syrett, in round 4.

It looked like it would be another very stiff test for the Halifax player and indeed in the early stages of the game Andy played sensible, solid chess and slowly built up a small advantage. At move 22 White still stood better but then it looked like Andy followed the wrong plan by advancing his h-pawn and in a couple of moves the advantage swung to his opponent who was able to see out the win and finish on 3 points.

On the lower boards there was still something to play for in the form of grading prizes and the Hebden Bridge junior contingent were battling it out for their prize as well.

On board 8 Pete Moss (Halifax) rounded off a fine tournament for him by beating Vivienne Webster (Halifax) with the Black pieces to reach 3 points. Barry Wadsworth and Daniel Rivron (both Halifax) fought each other to a stand-still to finish on 50% and Robert Sutcliffe (Huddersfield) defeated Bill Joyce (Todmorden).

Bedford vs. Dawson. White to play. He has a very promising intiative. how should he proceed? See how many of the subsequent lines you can calculate after finding White's next move.

Bedford vs. Dawson. White to play. Richard has a very promising initiative here. How should he proceed? See how many of the subsequent lines you can calculate after finding White’s next move.

The juniors were playing against each other on the bottom boards. Gwilym Hughes scored his second win of the competition against Alfie Dermo and in a battle of the siblings Joel Hadari managed to beat his sister Juliet for his first point in the competition. Martha Leggett was unlucky once again as her opponent didn’t appear and there was no-one to pair here against. She’s picked up two defaults in this fashion which is a shame.

That just leaves us with the business end of proceedings to cover off. On board 4 Richard Bedford (Todmorden) was the first of the players in with a chance of pulling level with Phil should he be defeated. He had been due to face Mitchell Burke (Hudderfield) but when Mitchell didn’t make an appearance he was re-paired with Adrian Dawson (Belgrave). That should have been an easier proposition for Richard and so it turned out to be as he played, with White, a nice Anti-Grunfeld where the players castled on opposite sides of the board. Richard’s attack was always looking quicker however and he broke through to give checkmate with some pleasing pyrotechnics. This made him the second player (after Phil) to reach 4 points.

Syrett vs. Shapland. Martin Syrett has two pawns for the exchange having just traded queens on e8. How should Black now proceed and what should the result be with best play? Find out the answer in the game viewer at the end of this post.

Syrett vs. Shapland. Martin Syrett has two pawns for the exchange having just traded queens on e8. How should Black now proceed and what should the result be with best play? Find out the answer in the game viewer at the end of this post.

On board 3, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ and ‘B’ team captains, Dave Shapland and Martin Syrett were also battling it out to reach 4. These two are uncompromising characters at the board and their games are usually full of fight and attack. This game, full of ebb and flow, did not disappoint on that score. Dave chose to play the French Defence as a surprise weapon and Martin soon veered from the most well-trodden paths of the Tarrasch Variation to ensure the game would reach an original position early on.

Dave got himself in a tangle and soon it looked like Martin had managed to stir up an overwhelming attack. However, the Black position proved to be more resilient than it appeared and Dave was able to repulse the White pieces and launch a counter offensive. This in turn looked dangerous and provoked Martin to sacrifice an exchange for two pawns and the initiative.

With Dave’s king bobbing about in the open and Martin’s rook and queen infiltrating the Black camp it seemed Martin might have at least enough for a draw but then, late on in the evening, with both players weary from an exhausting battle, Martin chose to exchange queens not seeing that the resultant ending of bishop and five pawns versus rook and three pawns was losing for him almost immediately via a tactical trick. Dave has had a number of lucky escapes against lower rated opponents in this year’s competition but nevertheless managed to reach 4 points.

Hunter vs Leonard. Black has just played 44...f4? which unfortunately allows an attractive check mate. How long will it take you to spot it?

Hunter vs Leonard. Black has just played 44…f4? which unfortunately allows an attractive check mate. How long will it take you to spot it?

On board 2 Ian Hunter and Pete Leonard also played a very interesting and complicated game which saw Pete playing his habitual choice against the English opening 1…b6. The game then looks like it transposed in to something akin to a Catalan. Pete, like Dave, has provided extensive annotations of this game in the viewer at the end of this report and the game is well worth playing through as both players fought in uncompromising fashion for an unbalanced position that would be most likely to produce a decisive result.

At one point Pete seemed to have the advantage and Ian offered an exchange sacrifice to try and stay afloat. Pete declined it, preferring instead to lock his bishop in on b2 with his advanced a-pawn providing support. Soon after that though, as Pete admitted himself, he started to lose his way and when he declined two subsequent pawn offers by Ian, White seized the advantage by sacrificing his queen for a rook and bishop!

The subsequent play was highly complicated with Ian holding passed b and c-pawns as part of his perfectly adequate compensation for the material. Both players went astray at times in the murk that followed but it was Ian who ended up on the winning side after Pete wandered his king into an attractive mating net. With this Ian became the fourth player to reach 4 points.

All of this now meant that the battle on board 1 was irrelevant as far as deciding the destiny of the title was concerned. Phil’s ‘sum of consecutive scores’ tie break was already better than Ian, Dave or Richard’s and would also be better than Matthew’s even if he lost. Never the less, Matthew showed great fighting spirit to play for victory with Black in a game he had to try and win even though he knew even that would probably not be enough to re-take the title he last won in 2015.

Purely from an accuracy perspective, this final game of the competition was probably one of the best played in all 5 rounds. It certainly compares well with Matthew’s fine win with the Black pieces against John Allan in round 3. Once again he played it patiently and slowly took advantage of Phil’s natural desire to play it safe in a game that he only needed to draw. Even in the game notes that he has provided Matthew finds it hard to pinpoint exactly where Phil went wrong as he slow neutralised any White winning chances and then went onto the offensive.

In the end game only Black had winning chances and Matthew patiently manoeuvred his pieces, including his king to their optimum squares and then prepared a pawn break through on the queen’s side. At the end Phil could have sacrificed the exchange to limp on but it was evident that would only prolong his agony and by that stage of the evening it was evident he had won the championship in any case.

The final results show a 5-way tie for first but with Phil Cook champion on the ‘sum of progressive scores’ tie-break. Congratulations to Phil on his maiden Calderdale Individual title. Dave Shapland finished second. Ian Hunter and Matthew Parsons were the only two unbeaten players in the competition but they did each draw twice. Ian at least had the consolation of a grading prize. Matthew had to content himself with having played the best chess in the tournament and having had the toughest schedule as he beat both John Allan and Phil Cook and draw with Ian. These three players were seeded 6, 5 and 4 respectively.

The fifth player to score 4 points was Richard Bedford. He was also the lowest rated to reach this score which was a highly creditable outcome. Unfortunately, he just missed out on a grading prize as he was in the same banding as Ian who edged him on tie-break.

The other grading prizes were won by Mike Barnett, Pete Moss and Gwilym Hughes. Martha Leggett took the junior prize.

A full list of the final scores is given below:

4 points = P.Cook (1st), D.Shapland (2nd), M.Parsons, I.Hunter (Grading prize), R.Bedford
3½ points = J.Allan
3 points = R.Porter, P.Leonard, M.Syrett, S.Gornall, M.Barnett (Grading prize), P.Moss (Grading prize), M.Leggett (Junior prize)
= G.Eagleton, M.Burke, N.Sykes, A.Leatherbarrow, D.Rivron, B.Wadsworth, S.Harrington
2 = J.Lavan, R.Sutcliffe, V.Webster, N.Bamford, A.Dawson, G.Hughes
= A.Gonzalez, L.Curry, T.Dodd
1 = B.Joyce, J.Y.Hadari, B.J.S.Hadari
½ = M.J.Tait
0 = A.Dermo

Withdrew = J.Brooke, T.Sullivan, M.O’Keefe

A selection of games from the final round can be found in the game viewer below. The top three games all come with commentary from Matthew Parsons, Pete Leonard and Dave Shapland respectively.

All that remains is for us to express our gratitude to the tournament organizer and controller, John Kerrane who once again presided over a well-attended and smoothly run competition.

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Mar 052017
 

Dave Shapland's Hebden Bridge 'A' team's title aspirations took a wounding blow at the hands of the title holders on Monday night.

Headache? Dave Shapland’s Hebden Bridge ‘A’ team’s title aspirations took a wounding blow at the hands of the title holders on Monday night. [Photo by Andrew Clarkson]

Round 10 of the Calderdale Evening Chess League Division 1 took place this week and the key clash was between league leaders Hebden Bridge ‘A’ and the title holders Todmorden ‘A’. While these two duked it out for pole position in the league the third team in close contention for the title, Halifax ‘A’ took a bye week and were able to watch the results come in with interest.

In the first half of the season Hebden had held Todmorden to a draw at home when they all had the Black pieces. Indeed they had very nearly won the match with the champions winning the final game at the end of the night to equalise. Interestingly, on Monday night the sides both fielded identical line ups to the first encounter. Todmorden were at full strength with Messrs Hamer, Mulleady, Cook, Clarkson and Patrick all available. Hebden meanwhile had almost their best line up on paper with only Pete Leonard missing as they fielded Matthew Parsons, Andy and Chris Bak, Dave Shapland and Nick Sykes. Another gripping match was expected with Todmorden three points behind their visitors but with a match in hand.

Sadly for Hebden Bridge their night got off to a pretty bad start and they never really got going or even looked like posing their hosts any problems. This Todmorden line up are a very solid side and they don’t lose many games so it’s important not to drop too many boards against them. That Hebden failed to win on a single board was tough enough, that they lost three of the five was particularly disappointing.

Andy Bak and Pete Mulleady (front) and Matthew Parsons and Martin Hamer (rear) get to grips at the start of the evening's play. [Photo by Andrew Clarkson]

Andy Bak and Pete Mulleady (front) and Matthew Parsons and Martin Hamer (rear) get to grips at the start of the evening’s play. [Photo by Andrew Clarkson]

Proceedings went wrong alarmingly quickly and in surprising fashion when Matthew Parsons made a move order mistake in an opening line he is very familiar with. Ordinarily this might have enabled Martin Hamer to equalise with ease but on this occasion the imprecision cost Matthew and exchange for absolutely no counter play. Martin converted very quickly and smoothly and Hebden were behind almost before they’d got started. Matthew very rarely makes this kind of mistake so it was particularly unfortunate timing for it to happen in this match.

Andy Bak seemed to be doing perfectly well against Pete Mulleady’s Dutch Defence on board 2. That was until he gave up a piece for three pawns. It was suggested later that there was nothing wrong with Andy’s concept but perhaps he didn’t follow up as accurately as he needed to for he was forced to resign not too long after the material imbalance appeared on the board. Already the deficit felt like an insurmountable obstacle for the remaining Hebden players to overcome – especially with the extra pressure that comes from being behind and needing to win games.

Todmorden's Dave Patrick (left) is the league's top scorer with 7½/8 after his win against Nick Sykes on Monday. [Photo by Andrew Clarkson]

Todmorden’s Dave Patrick (left) is the league’s top scorer with 7½/8 after his win against Nick Sykes on Monday. [Photo by Andrew Clarkson]

The outcome of two of those three boards became academic when Dave Patrick finished off Nick Sykes on board 5. Nick was particularly unhappy with his play but he too has had a good season for his team thus far with four wins and three draws before this match. In this game he too wasn’t his usual self.

With nothing left to play for the remaining two boards were simply a matter of pride for Hebden Bridge. In fact they could well have been white-washed as Andrew Clarkson certainly had winning chances at a key moment in his game with Dave Shapland and Chris Bak was a pawn down against Phil Cook on board 3. The two games couldn’t have been more different however as Chris’s opening experiment against Phil yielded him nothing but a sterile position with no advantage whatsoever. Under such circumstances any mistake at all can be terminal and so he did well to hold on after blundering a pawn. Some accurate defence limited the arrears and Phil knew there was no need to grind it out so quickly settled for a draw.

Dave and Andrew’s game have a habit of being tense and complicated encounters with neither player backing away from critical variations. This game was no different and both players have annotated it in the game viewer at the end of the post. For once Dave seemed to get a reasonable position out of the opening against Andrew’s Pirc Defence and certainly held the advantage early in the middle game. However, once his attempts at a direct assault ran out of steam Dave began to lose momentum, Andrew found a clever way to activate his queen and the tables turned.

With both players getting into hot water on the clock as well Andrew allowed Dave to sacrifice a knight on d6 in order to get an advance, passed e-pawn. It looked dangerous but Andrew defused it with some precise defensive moves and the game exploded when Dave responded by giving up his queen for a rook and the initiative. The idea was unsound but it needed an engine to prove it and, with both players very short of time Andrew finally made a couple of less accurate moves that enabled Dave to recuperate his materials losses and reach an end game on where both players had a knight and five pawns. At this point Andrew offered a draw and Dave accepted as it seemed that any advantage he might have had was notional and it seemed pointless risking it all for a win when the match was settled already.

So, the final score was a convincing 4 – 1 to the champions who are now just a point behind their visitors with a match in hand. The title is in their grasp once more provided they can win their remaining matches. Here is the score card from Monday’s match:

Todmorden ‘A’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘A’
M.Hamer 1 – 0 M.Parsons (White)
P.Mulleady 1 – 0 A.Bak (White)
P.Cook ½ – ½  C.Bak (White)
A.Clarkson ½ – ½ D.Shapland (White)
D.Patrick 1 – 0 N.Sykes (White)
4 – 1

Also on Monday night, Belgrave ‘A’ suffered a surprising drubbing at the hands of Halifax ‘B’. The visiting side took full advantage of their ‘A’ team not having a match to strengthen their lineup. Never the less a ½ – 4½ defeat was not a likely looking possibility before a piece was moved. Only Gordon Farrar’s draw with Scott Gornall on board 3 saved the hosts from a whitewash as Richard Porter defeated Ian Hunter, Carlos Velosa beat Richard Bowman, Howard Wood took down Angel Gonzalez and Vivienne Webster won against Les Johnson. This signal triumph meant that Halifax ‘B’ over took Hebden Bridge ‘B’ to get onto 4 points. Martin Syrett’s men would now have to win their away match against Huddersfield on Wednesday in order to get back off the bottom of the league table.

It was always going to be a tall order for the ‘B’ team and the mountain grew even higher when Martin was once again unable to find five players for the match. The club’s miserable week continued as the four players who did make it suffered a cruel fate at the hands of a resurgent Huddersfield side who should probably have beaten the Hebden ‘A’ team last time out. Only John Kerrane could hold a draw against Dave Tooley on board 3 although of course the other players put up stern resistance, they were all swept aside. Here’s the final scorecard for the Wednesday match.

Huddersfield vs. Hebden Bridge ‘B’
L.Keely 1 – 0 A.Leatherbarrow (White)
D.Keddie 1 – 0 M.Syrett (White)
D.Tooley ½ – ½ J.Kerrane (White)
S.Westmoreland 1 – 0 N.Bamford (White)
A.McFadden 1 – 0 DEFAULT
4½ – ½

A week to forget and move rapidly on from for both our club’s league 1 teams. Tomorrow is the final round of the Calderdale Individual Championship so hopefully those involved in that can recover some of their morale before the next round of League 1 fixtures on the 20th of March when Hebden Bridge ‘B’ will be taking their bye round and Hebden Bridge ‘A’ will travel to Halifax ‘B’ in a match they simply have to win and convincingly too. Meanwhile Halifax ‘A’ will host Belgrave and Todmorden ‘A’ will host Huddersfield who have thus far been the only team able to beat them this season. The champions will be itching for revenge.

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Feb 162017
 
Hebden Bridge 'A' came very, very close to losing their unbeaten record at The Trades Club on Monday night.

Nails were most definitely bitten at The Trades Club on Monday night as Hebden Bridge ‘A’ came very, very close to losing their unbeaten record to Huddersfield.

The Calderdale Evening Chess League division 1 title race is really hotting up as, on Monday night, the teams played the ninth of fourteen rounds. We’re at the business end of the season now and the destiny of this year’s title most definitely hangs in the balance.

This week title holders Todmorden ‘A’ hosted Belgrave ‘A’, current league leaders Hebden Bridge ‘A’ hosted their old foe Huddersfield and 2013-14 champions Halifax ‘A’ played Hebden Bridge ‘B’ whilst Halifax ‘B’ had a week off.

At Todmorden the champions found themselves weakened by the absence of Martin Hamer and Pete Mulleady but they still managed to field a team with an average rating of 165! Replacements Alistair Wright and Mick Connor can hardly be considered as weaknesses. Indeed, both played their part in a tight 3½ – 1½ victory where the home team displayed their resilience by remaining unbeaten on all 5 boards. No small feat with the Black pieces. The top two boards and board 4 were drawn (with Phil Cook drawing with Ian Hunter on top board in what could be a dress rehearsal for the final round of the Calderdale Individual Championship) with wins by Dave Patrick on board 3 over Karim Khan and Mick Connor on board 5 over Mike Barnett proving decisive.

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ were due to host Halifax ‘A’ but the fixture was switched to Lee Mount after the corresponding fixture in the first half of the season was played at The Trades Club. Hebden ‘B’ still played with the Black pieces though. Sadly, Hebden were again struggling to put out a full line up and defaulted board 5 but the remaining four players put up a terrific fight. Andy Leatherbarrow has been having a golden season (he’s only lost one game so far) and he put in another legendary performance to take Darwin Ursal’s scalp on board 1 (the rating list shows a whopping 58 point difference between the two though we all know what Andy is capable of) while captain Martin Syrett held Winston Williams to a draw on board 2 (overcoming a 47 point rating difference).

Sadly that was as far as the resistance went as John Lavan went down to John Morgan on board 3 and Neil Bamford lost to Richard Porter on board 4. Here’s full confirmation of the individual results:

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ vs. Halifax ‘A’
A.Leatherbarrow 1 – 0 D.Ursal (White)
M.Syrett ½ – ½ W.Williams (White)
J.Lavan 0 – 1 J.Morgan (White)
N.Bamford 0 – 1 R.Porter (White)
DEFAULT 0 – 1 S.Scurfield (White)
1½ – 3 ½

On paper the juiciest tie of the round always looked like being Hebden Bridge ‘A’ against Huddersfield. These old enemies have played out plenty of epic battles over the years although in more recent times Hebden have had the edge – in fact the last time Huddersfield won was on 22nd September 2014. Perhaps it was their time to win again.

Both teams fielded slightly unusual line ups. Hebden were missing the services of Matthew Parsons and Pete Leonard but drafted in Chris Bak and John Allan as replacements alongside Andy Bak, Dave Shapland and Nick Sykes. Huddersfield meanwhile were without regulars Greg Eagleton, Mitchell Burke and Dave Tooley but they still brought a competitive side with Leo Keely and Dave Keddie on boards 1 and 2 and Steve Westmoreland, Robert Sutcliffe and Bryn Charlesworth completing their line up. On paper Hebden looked much stronger on the lower boards with the top two boards looking more closely matched.

Of course what looks likely from an analysis of the statistics before the match often bears no relation to what actually takes place. This match turned into an epic struggle with all five games ending decisively. Right from the off the outcome looked in the balance as two of the five boards were decided relatively quickly. First of all Andy Bak had a bad day at the office against Leo as his double edged opening choice of the Schliemann Variation of the Spanish backfired. He first lost the exchange for a pawn and then blundered into a pawn fork that lost a piece. All this compelled his resignation before the players had reached the 20th move. A game to forget for Andy.

Hebden bounced back quickly though as John Allan made fairly short work of Steve Westmoreland. The Tarrasch Variation is not a popular choice against the Queen’s Gambit these days and Steve, who is normally very well prepared in the opening phase of the game, seemed to be caught a little bit cold. He lost a piece in the opening and after that John offered him no hope of recovering as he simply exchanged material and achieved an overwhelming advantage in the end game. 1 – 1.

Somewhat later on Nick Sykes made it 2 – 1 to the hosts as he converted smoothly against Bryn Charlesworth on board 5. It was a solid performance from Nick who has only lost three of his seventeen games this season. He met Bryn’s offbeat choice of the Nimzo-Larsen opening in principled fashion and slowly outplayed his lower rated opponent winning an exchange and then grinding out a win.

Hebden were in front but the remaining two games looked very worrying indeed for them by the time Nick had put them in front. On board 2 Dave Keddie and Chris Bak were playing a Classical Variation of the French Defence and it appeared that Chris had chosen a fairly unusual approach. In the middle game he overlooked a tactic that cost him a pawn and Dave found a clever way to maintain a passed pawn on f6. Chris was hanging on but White was clearly better.

Meanwhile on board 4 Dave Shapland had reintroduced the Budapest Counter Gambit to his repertoire against Robert Sutcliffe. The opening seemed to be going according to plan for Dave until it became clear that Robert was going to break with orthodoxy by castling queen’s side. This was a smart move because Dave burned way too much time on his clock trying to find a way to take advantage of Robert’s choice but in the end couldn’t find any way to improve on Black’s regular plan and the game took a fairly obscure turn.

Later on Dave missed a move order trick that enabled Robert to set up a various dangerous looking battery of two bishop and a queen pointing towards Dave’s castled king. Robert then played very energetically to advance his king’s side pawns in order to break open that side of the board and it was clear that White’s attack was going to be the fastest. Dave sought refuge in complications but was now extremely short of time and in trouble on the board as well.

Black (Chris Bak) has just played 30...Kd6 to try and protect his e-pawn. Can you see how Dave Keddie responded?

Black (Chris Bak) has just played 30…Kd6 to try and protect his e-pawn. Can you see how Dave Keddie responded? The solution is in the game viewer below.

As both these remaining games reached their critical phases Hebden Bridge seemed in deep trouble but, as so often happens in these tense situations, mistakes changed the course of events. On board 2 Chris, desperately trying to prevent the advance of Dave’s f-pawn fell victim to a very attractive tactic that would have a decisive material cost. Chris chose a different path and went for a walk up the board with his king only to be caught in a mating net. It was 2 – 2.

The final act of the evening was no less dramatic as Robert and Dave approached time control with Dave down to his last minute on the clock. Suddenly Robert started playing quickly too although he had more time to think. A forcing line appeared in which it looked like Robert could grab a pawn and open up Dave’s king to a decisive attack. However, he’d missed an intermezzo from Dave’s queen which cost him the bishop and the game was suddenly over.

The Hebden players breathed a huge sigh of relief and congratulated their opponents on a ferociously hard fought encounter. The final scores were:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs. Huddersfield
A.Bak 0 – 1 L.Keely (White)
C.Bak 0 – 1 D.Keddie (White)
J.Allan 1 – 0 S.Westmoreland (White)
D.Shapland 1 – 0 R.Sutcliffe (White)
N.Sykes 1 – 0 B.Charlesworth (White)
3 – 2

You can find a number of the games played on Monday night in the game viewer at the end of this post.

These results mean it’s ‘as you were’ in the league table. Hebden Bridge ‘A’ stay top on 14 points. Halifax ‘A’ are second on 12 and Todmorden ‘A’ are third with 11 although they have a match in hand on the other two which could bring them within a point of the leaders. Huddersfield have 9 points and now seem to be out of contention for the title although with Todmorden and Halifax still to play, they could yet have a bearing on the outcome.

At the other end of the table Belgrave ‘A’, despite running a number of the top teams very close have only 4 points and are not clear of the relegation dog fight as Hebden Bridge ‘B’ and Halifax ‘B’ are both on 2 points. It seems likely that the games between these three teams will decide which one of them goes down.

In the next round of fixtures on 27 February Hebden Bridge ‘A’ will travel to Todmorden ‘A’ for an absolutely critical encounter. Hebden have yet to lose a match but they have drawn two, one of these was against Tod. It should be enthralling especially if both teams are able to field their strongest line ups. Halifax ‘A’ have a week off and so you can imagine they too will be fascinated to see the outcome of his tie.

While this is going on Belgrave ‘A’ will play host to Halifax ‘B’ in the relegation battle of critical import. If Belgrave win you’d have to fancy that they wold guarantee their safety.

The final match sees Hebden Bridge ‘B’ on the road again at Huddersfield.


The Trades Club also saw another one of the inaugural Handicap League fixtures as Hebden Bridge played host to Belgrave while at Todmorden another match was played between Todmorden and Halifax. The final round of fixtures is due to be played on the 10th of April and there is a postponed match between Belgrave and Todmorden to be re-scheduled.

At Todmorden the home team put out the stronger side but as a result gave their opponents a 3½ point head start. They did manage to overcome this with a 5 – 1 ‘over-the-board’ score to take the match 5 – 4½.

At Hebden Bridge John Kerrane took the opportunity to field an all-junior line up against the visiting Belgrave side. What’s more, as the visitors came with only five players, he was even able to add a further player (Martha Leggett) to their team in order to make sure everyone got a game. This is really what the handicap league is all about, giving League 2 players more opportunity to play games and for the juniors, every game is great experience.

When the handicap (average rating difference between the two teams) was calculated Hebden also started with 3½ points but they too were overhauled by their more experienced opponents. Only the ‘enemy in the midst’ of Belgrave’s ranks lost her game as the visitors match Todmorden with 5 – 1 win at the boards and a  5½ – 4½ win over all. Below are the individual scores for the match.

Hebden Bridge ‘H’ vs. Belgrave ‘H’
O.Buchan (W) 0 – 1 D.Colledge
L.Curry 0 – 1 A.Gonzalez (W)
A.Dermo (W) 0 – 1 A.Dawson
B.J.S Hadari 0 – 1 S.Harrington (W)
J.Y.Hadari (W) 0 – 1 R.Bottomley
T.Dodd 1 – 0 M.Leggett (W)
Handicap 3½ – 0 Handcap
4½ – 5

The outcome of this league is also completely up for grabs with Halifax, Belgrave and Todmorden all in the hunt.

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