Calderdale League 1 took another step towards the halfway mark last week and the season is shaping up to be very interesting indeed. In our last report we saw that both Golden Lion and Huddersfield ‘A’ stumbled to their first defeat and draw of the season respectively, both to Hebden Bridge teams. It’s now very tight at the top between these two and Hebden Bridge ‘A’ and then the next four teams Belgrave ‘A’, Halifax ‘B’, Hebden Bridge ‘B’ and Halifax ‘A’ are all pretty close together as well. How would week 6 play out?
Let’s start the report by recounting events at the Lee Mount in Halifax where Hebden Bridge ‘B’ were visiting Halifax ‘B’ and Golden Lion took on Halifax ‘A’.
Hebden ‘B’ sported a very different look to their last match away at Huddersfield where they had benefitted from having a couple of ‘A’ team regulars in the side that helped them draw with the league leaders. This time out they had Andy Leatherbarrow back on board 1, Martin Syrett on 2, John Kerrane on 3, Paul Gledhill on 4 and Neil Bamford on 5. This team matched up pretty closely to Halifax’s side although the host team held higher ratings on all but board 2.
The first board to finish was in fact the board two clash between the team captains and Martin came out on top against Scott Gornall. Scott is normally a tough player to beat but Martin seemed to develop a ferocious attack quite easily and was able to carry the day fairly swiftly. Soon after, the board 1 game between Andy Leatherbarrow and Peter Hughes and the board 5 game between Neil Bamford and Ray Cully ended in draws. Leatherbarrow and Hughes looked to be a tightly controlled, risk free affair where both sides probed and then decided that a draw was ok. It was probably more ok for Andy considering the match situation. On board 5 there was a feeling that Neil could have pressed for longer to try and eek out a win against Ray but he, like Andy was out-rated by 15 points by his opponent and the draw edged Hebden closer to a crucial match win.
That victory was sealed when John Kerrane polished off Howard Wood with great efficiency and then, towards the end of the evening, Paul Gledhill crowned a very fine team effort by beating Vivienne Webster, another tough opponent.
The final match card looked like this:
Halifax ‘A’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘B’
P.Hughes ½ – ½ A.Leatherbarrow (White)
S.Gornall 0 – 1 M.Syrett (White)
H.Wood 0 – 1 J.Kerrane (White)
V.Webster 0 – 1 S.Gornall (White)
R.Cully ½ – ½ N.Bamford (White)
1 – 4
Across the room, Golden Lion were slowly but surely grinding out another win to recover from their defeat to Hebden ‘A’ in round 5. Dave Shapland picked the same team that had played in that match and saw everyone but David Innes on board 5 improve their performance by half a point or more. Admittedly the opposition was a little weaker than it had been a few weeks ago but the visitors never looked in trouble on any of the boards aside from the one they lost. Dave Shapland sacrificed no fewer than three pawns against Sam Scurfield on board 4. Each time Sam accepted one he put greater pressure on himself to defend accurately and, as his clock time ebbed away, eventually he started making mistakes and Dave’s attack broke through.
Martyn Hamer drew comfortably with Bill Somerset on board 1 before David over-pressed on board 5 against Dave Loughenbury. Having sacrificed a pawn for the initiative in the opening, David won back the material but then swapped off the last pieces on the board only to realise later that the king and pawn ending he’d acquiesced to was losing.
The match was level and the last two boards looked unclear but on board 2 Phil Cook appeared to have significant advantage both on the board and on the clock against Richard Porter although the position was messy and very complicated. Meanwhile Andrew Clarkson and Carlos Velosa were locked in a Maroczy Bind-type position that appeared balanced and tense. Andrew declined a draw at one point wanting to ensure that Phil was going to win before he considered acquiescing. This was risky as both players were very low on time, but Andrew judged it well and, by the time Phil did convert the full point against Richard, Carlos too had gone astray and found that he too was losing this time in a piece and pawns ending.
The final score was 1½ – 3½.
Meanwhile, back at the Trades Club, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ were playing their fifth home fixture of the season (in six games played so far!) and should now feel they have gained plenty of practice playing with the Black pieces! Their opponents this time were Brighouse and they should have been very confident of defeating the bottom team despite having a much weaker team than for their last outing at Golden Lion.
Pete Leonard had played board 5 in that match but this time he was on top board. John Allan was promoted from board 4 to board 2. Nick Sykes returned to play board 3 and Richard Bedford and Neil Suttie made up the rest of the line up. With this team Hebden out-pointed Brighouse heavily on every board but board 1 and yet they almost failed to win the match.
Pete Leonard and Robert Broadbent chopped wood in fairly frenetic fashion on the top board. They were down to two pawns a knight and a rook each by the time they agreed peace terms on move 36. Meanwhile on board 2, John Allan suffered a major malfunction against Nick Hudson who found a wrinkle in one tactical variation that netted him an exchange in the end game. John continued only briefly but then decided to resign shortly afterwards.
Hebden saved themselves (sometimes literally!) on the lower boards. Nick Sykes was far from impressed with his game but he never the less managed to beat Paul Whitehouse when his opponent blundered a bishop to him on move 26. The rest was just a matter of mopping up.
Neil Suttie was also forced to toil on board 5 against Tim Pryke. Finding himself in one of those games where he was perfectly solid but without much of a platform for really dynamic or aggressive play, Neil had to slowly accumulate advantages until his position was overwhelming. First he won a pawn, then he managed to triple Tim’s pawns on the b-file, then he won a second pawn and isolated all White’s remaining pawns so that there were weaknesses everywhere. However, Tim battled stubbornly and even managed to reduce his losses to the extent that he reached a rook and pawns ending just one pawn down. Despite his efforts, Neil’s technique was up to the job and he converted to put Hebden in front with one game remaining.
In that last game though Adrian Dawson was doing very well against Richard Bedford. It seemed that Richard was in great danger of loosing but he fought on persistently and when Adrian unaccountably offered a draw from a position of superiority, Richard shook his hand enthusiastically. Hebden had just squeaked the win.
Here’s the match scorecard:
Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs. Brighouse
P.Leonard ½ – ½ R.Broadbent (White)
J.Allan 0 – 1 N.Hudson (White)
N.Sykes 1 – 0 P.Whitehouse (White)
R.Bedford ½ – ½ A.Dawson (White)
N.Suttie 1 – 0 T.Pryke (White)
3 – 2
Then, last Wednesday, everyone held their breath to see how the league leaders would get on in their home tie against Belgrave ‘A’. Sadly the result never got posted on the league website as the match was postponed due to an unexpected clash with a Huddersfield League fixture we understand. Hopefully the postponement will soon be re-arranged.
All of this leaves Golden Lion top of the league on board count from Hebden Bridge ‘A’ but Huddersfield ‘A’ lie in third a point behind and with their postponed match still in hand. The lower end of the table has become quite congested following Hebden ‘B’s win at Halifax. Belgrave ‘A’ are on 5 points (with their game in hand) along with Hebden ‘B’. Then come Halifax ‘B’ on 4 points and Halifax ‘A’ on 3. Brighouse seem destined for the drop now as they remain on 0 but the second relegation spot could easily go to any of the others at this stage.
In the game viewer below you’ll find a number of games from round 6. As always, our thanks to the players who collected or sent their games through to us for publication. If anyone else would like to see their league games published here (we’ll publish whatever we receive) then please email your PGN files to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Before we go we should quickly add that the first game in this year’s handicap league took place last Monday too. This saw Belgrave sweep aside Halifax over the boards by a score of 5 – 1, however, such was the rating difference between the two sides that the two draws Halifax managed on boards 1 and 6 were sufficient to see Halifax steal the match 5 – 6 after the handicap bonus was applied!
Finally, this Monday was round 2 of the Calderdale Individual Championship. There will be a report on that here in due course.