Sep 132013
 
Dave Shapland's (right) game against Clive Edwards (left) was the last to finish and decided a close match. At the end the kibbitzers hovered to help the players anaylse a complicated struggle and Pete Leonard (centre) demonstrated a forced win that Dave had been unable to compute during the game

Dave Shapland’s (right) game against Clive Edwards (left) was the last to finish and decided a close match. At the end the kibbitzers hovered to help the players anaylse a complicated struggle and Pete Leonard (centre) demonstrated a forced win that Dave had been unable to compute during the game

As the clock to the start of the 2013-14 season ticks down Hebden Bridge players are preparing themselves for a fresh batch of Calderdale Evening Chess  League struggles. Final preparations began for the ‘A’ team as they hosted another pre-season friendly against Burnley chess club last Monday. These two clubs met for a pre-season match last year and managed to reach a truce. This year the match was closely fought once again.

Burnley’s Andrew Clarkson has kindly sent us his version of the evening’s events.

Burnley ‘B’ gained promotion back to the first division of the East Lancs Chess Association having won division 2 at the end of the 2012-2013 season. With the new season fast approaching we needed a tough warm up match to prepare for battle against all the ‘A’ teams in the East Lancs League. So a trip to visit our old friends at Hebden Bridge would be perfect practice.
With a couple of Burnley ‘B’ team players unavailable I slotted myself into our line up for some much needed preparation too. When I learnt that Matthew Parsons was unable to play for Hebden Bridge I really thought we would be in with a chance. Five well fought games were played with Dave Shapland versus Clive Edwards the most entertaining, and match deciding encounter. I really look forward to reading Dave’s account of the game.
On board 1 Andy Jaques was never in danger against Andy Leatherbarrow but neither could he make any headway. My game on board 2 saw Nick Sykes play the correct moves much further than he was aware of until I came up with a novelty on move 13, which gave me a decent position. Of course neither of us played the best moves but I did manage to squeeze a win when the position crystallised. Board 3 saw Rob Tokeley fall victim to time trouble again after he had had a successful summer playing in tournaments with time increments per move. Board 4 will be the game to analyse with Clive Edwards trying to throw the kitchen sink at Dave Shapland. Finally on board 5 I was impressed to find that David Innes had saved a lost game against Martyn Syrett by aiming for drawing chances in a Rook and pawn ending.
Congratulations to Hebden Bridge on your 3-2 victory and we look forward to seeing you again.
Our thanks to Andrew and to the Burnley team for offering to visit Hebden Bridge once again despite our hosting this match last season. A number of the players have offered us annotated versions of their games which are provided in the viewer at the end of this post. Before that though, here is the match card (Burnley won the toss and played White on the odd boards):
Hebden Bridge vs. Burnley
A.Leatherbarrow ½ — ½ A.Jacques (W)
N.Sykes 0 — 1 A. Clarkson
P.Leonard 1 — 0 R.Tokeley
D.Shapland 1 — 0 C.Edwards
M.Syrett ½ — ½ D.Innes
3 — 2
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Aug 302013
 
bridestones 2

Bridestones Holme Brew Chess Challenge: Final Game

The Bridestones Holme Brew Chess Challenge came to an end at the Trades Club on Monday night as Andy Leatherbarrow and Pete Leonard played out a draw in trying circumstances as the chess players attempted to concentrate over the din of the live football being televised in the main room.

This result allowed Pete to catch up with Dave Shapland in second place with 3½ out of 8 and Andy’s half point enabled him to catch Nick Sykes on 3 points with all these four players finishing well behind the tournament winner, Matthew Parsons on 7.

Below is the final cross table for the competition. Next week Matthew will receive his prize of beer from our sponsors and all the participants will hope that the summer of chess has sharpened them up for the coming season rather than worn them out. These five players will spearhead Hebden Bridge ‘A’s attempt to achieve a “Three-peat” of Calderdale League 1 title’s. They’ll need to be at their best to have any chance of succeeding.

Bridestones 2013 Final Table

Let’s pause moment to assess the merits of this summer-long contest. The objective was to give the ‘A’ team players some focus over the close season and hopefully provide them with the opportunity to play some decent chess as well. To this extent the competition succeeded because each player had some positive aspects to take away from their games and certainly some of the chess was of a decent quality.

Perhaps the most surprising feature of all was the lack of draws in the competition. Bearing in mind that four of the contestants were rated within 10 points of each other it is interesting that there were only 4 draws (17%) in 23 games and that includes one draw featuring Alastair Wright who withdrew after playing three games. For the record there were 12 White wins (52%) and 7 Black wins (31%).

So, how about the format? Does it have any merits and offer any possible view of summer vacations yet to come? “Perhaps” I think is the answer. Probably it was too much to expect a six-player double round robin to fit comfortably into the summer break and also allow players to be away on holiday. After Alastair had withdrawn it became easier to finish the schedule. Several participants have said they’d like to do something similar again next season and so perhaps two or even three grade-banded sections of 5 players in each would be a possibility. Certainly a planned and agreed schedule would be a good idea to give everyone some structure and a timetable to work to. This could still allow for holidays and be planned around participants’ vacations.

A couple of players also mentioned the idea of inviting in some players from other clubs to take part provided they commit to the schedule and agree to play at the Trades Club. This is an interesting possibility and might enable some additional strength to be drafted in at the high end of the spectrum (mostly to give Matthew a proper run for his money!) Ultimately, the competition is a club contest and the bulk of the participants should come from the membership. I’d certainly welcome some feedback from other members about the possibility of expending the format next summer. Who knows, perhaps Bridestones Brewing will be interested in sponsoring it again.

I asked all of the players to share their thoughts on the competition and their own performance. Let’s start with the thoughts of the winner.

1st: Matthew Parsons — 7/8

Firstly it was a great idea, it was worthwhile, I had some good games, and I’m glad I took part.

I think the quality of games was reasonable. I believe people were too concerned with the opening and trying to catch out/avoid their opponents strengths, rather than playing to their own, of which I was guilty of in 3-4 games, though luckily I only paid the price once.

Mine own performance – I cannot be disappointed. 8/9 against such a field I believe to be a great performance”

2nd= Dave Shapland — 3½/8

The format of the competition made it unusual and challenging. The round robin is totally different from anything else I’ve done before and I really enjoyed it. It has a somewhat claustrophobic feel to it which lends the whole thing some intensity.

Frankly, I expected to lose both my games against Matthew (though I tried hard to cause him difficulties) and so my objective for the tournament was to score 50% against the others. I managed to succeed in this and so I’m satisfied with my tournament although my loss with White to Matthew is still the cause of some pain!

Being the lowest rated and, in my opinion, the weakest endgame player in the line up, I felt it was particularly important for me to prepare for the opening phase well and to play ambitiously with White. I scored 3 out of 4 with White so I achieved my objective (and ironically I won three endgames where my opponent’s played less well than I did!) However, my performance with Black was not so good (½/4 if you don’t count my draw with Al) and so perhaps I should have stuck to my regular repertoire in my games with Black against Andy and Pete!”

2nd= Pete Leonard — 3½/8

I’m glad to have taken part and would do so again. What do other members think? Given that there is no club championship during the winter, how about setting up a Summer League that is open to all members? Entries could be required by a date that would give time for the competition to be organised.

Say a dozen entered; the thing could be split into two divisions, initially split by grading, but with promotion and relegation, to give those of us who aren’t Matthew something to play for! How many matches? Two against each opponent is the ideal.

As for this tournament, I think the result was a fair reflection of our various abilities. I was disappointed in many of my games; without looking through them again, I lost fairly feebly to Matthew, to Andy and Dave, first time round, and was fortunate to win both of my games against Nick.

I hear what Matthew says about obsessions with openings. I feel my opening knowledge is 30 years out of date! In an attempt not to fall into the more well-known traps, I have tended to focus on just a few openings. Certainly, you know that I’m going to open 1.e4 as White, and respond 1…Nf6 to either 1.e4 or 1.d4. Over time, I may try to extend this.”

3rd= Nick Sykes — 3/8

I think the tournament has actually been a success, mainly as we managed to get through all the games.

I would like to do something similar next summer, whether we open it to more players from other clubs and do a single round robin, I don’t know?

My own performance was a little strange. In the games I didn’t make one move blunders (with that I mean the computer assessment changing dramatically in one move) I did very well. My openings were a positive, in no game was I worse out of the opening and in 6/8 I achieved clearly better positions (just need to convert the advantage). I played slightly different openings to what people might have expected which may have been an psychological advantage.”

3rd= Andy Leatherbarrow — 3/8

“I enjoyed the matches. Usually I just relax and do no chess across the summer. I will be interested to see if it makes a difference to the season start. The only thing I would try and change would be the uneven spacing of the games, but that may not be possible.

Personally I tried to play positions I know less well or have not tried in matches and different opening lines to my usual ones. This has been challenging but insightful. It was interesting to play the different styles within the team. Generally I was happy with my games. There were just a couple that I was not fully tuned into and got beaten.”

It appears then that this competition, or something like it, may return next summer and hopefully with more players taking part. I hope our readers have enjoyed the games and the coverage. I must also say “Thank you” once again to our sponsor for providing us with a prize. Let’s hope that this is the start of something special!

Below is the final game of the competition. All games and reports can be found on the Bridestones page in the tab above.

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Aug 232013
 
The most iconic scream in the history of cinematography. But this may not be Janet Leigh. Could it be Matthew Parsons scream of frustration as our very own Syko made him his second victim of the tournament. This image is used under Creative Commons terms and is sourced from Dave Pattern's Flickr photostream

The most iconic scream in the history of cinematography. But this may not be Janet Leigh. Could it be Matthew Parson’s scream of frustration as our very own Syko made him his second victim of the tournament? This image is used under Creative Commons terms and is sourced from Dave Pattern’s Flickr photostream

Bridstones Holme Brew Chess Challenge: Round 8

As three of the five remaining players in the Bridestones competition played their final games there was no shortage of drama and excitement to be had at the Tradesclub on Monday night.

Most dramatic of all was Nick Sykes superb victory over the runaway tournament leader and top seed Matthew “Mate-You” Parsons. With a perfect score before the final round Matthew has hardly even been under pressure at any point in the tournament. Dave Shapland achieved what should have been a winning position a couple of games ago but he couldn’t close the deal and other than that Matthew’s progress has been relatively serene.

In this game Nick bravely ventured the King’s Indian Defence against Matthew, who plays the opening himself with Black, and opted to play 2.c4 instead of his habitual London System. Sometimes, facing one of your own favourite openings with colours reversed can do funny things to your psyche. Matthew however is too good a player to let such considerations mess with his head and he selected the solid and unpretentious Averbahk System (with Be2 and Bg5) to meet Nicks Kings Indian.

Nick navigated the opening without any problems and then, as Matthew said afterwards, just “kept on playing good moves” throughout the middle game. Meanwhile Matthew seemed to be struggling to find a plan and he slowly drifted into a weak position. A few rounds ago Dave had blown his chance against Matthew by trying to completely stamp out his opponent’s chances for counter-play instead of converting his positional advantage to a material one. Nick adopted the same approach in this game but, crucially, his control of the position was such that it didn’t affect his winning chances. He overlooked a couple of opportunities to nail a direct attack on Matthew’s king (probably because he wasn’t looking for one) and simply maintained his grip on the game.

Finally, possibly out of desperation, Matthew made the decision to swap the queens off and try to defend in an ending that Nick saw was simply winning for him. Against another player this approach might have worked but Nick’s end game technique has improved greatly over the last eighteen months and, despite both players getting into considerable time trouble, he held his nerve to convert a very impressive win and blot Matthew’s copy book on the final page.

This result means that Matthew has still won the tournament by a huge margin with a score of 7 out of 8. Nick meanwhile, after a largely disappointing tournament, can bask in the glory of a morale boosting win that gives him some momentum for the start of the new season, when he will take over the captaincy of the ‘A’ team and also brings his score for the competition up to a respectable 3 out of 8.

Whilst all this was going on Pete Leonard and Dave Shapland were engaged in another complicated and brutal struggle. Dave was in playful mood and elected to essay the Scandinavian Defence against Pete. An opening that he’s never played before but he had noticed that Pete hadn’t faced before with White at a classical time limit either. Dave’s hope was to draw Pete into a dangerous gambit line but Pete knew better than to fall behind in development against Dave and the struggle soon became complex and messy and both players missed good continuations amid the confusion.

The key moment of the game came as Dave went into “the tank” as early as move 14 and spent the best part of half an hour analysing a position that looked close to winning but turned to be less straight forward. The computer finds an interesting queen sacrifice that might have afforded Dave his best chance in the position. Instead he failed to find a killer blow and was shocked by the immediacy and force of Pete’s counter attack. The Black position became very uncomfortable indeed and Dave had left himself with an acute shortage of time to search for solutions to his problems.

Pete rightly launched a pawn assault on Dave’s king position and the attack simply stream-rollered home. Dave lost on time and resigned at the same time as they reached time control. Pete had avenged his defeat to Dave from earlier in the tournament and carried his own score to 3 out of 7 with just Andy Leatherbarrow to play next Monday to complete the competition.

Dave meanwhile has finished the tournament poorly with just a single draw from his last three games. He is still in second place on his own with 3½ out of 8 but he will at least be joined on that score by either Pete or Andy depending on the outcome of their game and if Pete wins that game he can finish in second on his own with 4 points.

Both this week’s games can be found in the viewer below.

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Aug 152013
 
Is it Brad Pitt or is it Pete Rawlings? Frankly it's hard to tell the two apart

Is it Brad Pitt or is it Pete Rawlings? Frankly it’s hard to tell the two apart

For no other reason than to convey the epic nature of its content today’s report is provided in Homeric style.

Like the Acheans flocking to the walls of Troy in ancient days,
So Keighley’s chess players fell on Hebden Bridge with minds ablaze.
They’d test the mettle of their neighbour’s will
And were hell-bent on seeing that their blood would spill.

Ten versus ten across the Trades Club were they ranged,
Some one-time colleagues now in enmity estranged.
Head to head and toe to toe did their assorted might
Now gird their loins and steel their wills to take to fight.

Pete Rawlings like th’enraged Achilles drew first blood
His enemy’s defences not as stubborn as they should.
How desperately his club mates need his services next season.
Will he sally from his tent or hold his reason?
His Myrmidon colleagues for an ending to his exile now do pray
Without him they are surely weaker for the fray.

Despite the clarion of their talisman’s tumescent start
Hebden’s lower orders promptly fell apart.
Dan Crampton valiantly launched a vigourous attack
But lost when his resolute opponent pushed him back,
And Ray Deraverairere lost his head so early
He dropped a knight and skulked off looking surly.

As Zeus on Mount Olympus, kibbitizing Matthew Parsons now observed,
How Hebden’s stubborn forces their integrity preserved.
For as the melee ebbed and flowed like wind-blown sand
They artfully and determinedly gained the upper hand.

First Josh Blinkhorn did like fearsome Ajax smite his foe,
Decapitating him with one great and mighty blow.
Thence Terry Sullivan bearing loyal Hector’s grave resolve
Did his game with some equanimty dissolve.

Andy Leatherbarrow (as once did wily Odysseus) schemed and plotted
Meantime Al Wright’s pieces became fused and knotted.
Precision blows upon his hapless foe did our Odysseus rain
Sending him reeling from the fight in shock and pain

A third win in succession shortly followed on
As Martin Syrett’s double knight and pawns ending technique shone.

Then came the final and conclusive torrent
To which the onlooking John Kerrane like Agememnon gave his warrant.
Labouring as did Hercules to cleanse the Augean stable
Nick Sykes fought on and on with rook and pawn to hold his table.
Whilst Dave Sugden did the same with calmly calculated plot
Just as Paris held his pulse to loose his fabled shot.

At battle’s end one final loss would Hebden suffer
Remorsefully Dave Shapland wished that his resolve was tougher.
He mourned like noble Priam for his hurtful loss
Though by his fortitude was his skilled adversary’s victory given gloss.

And all the while aloof from all the furious battle cries
Pete Leonard and Matt Parsons sought each other’s mutual demise.
For Bridestones honour they engaged in mortal struggle
‘Til Pete cracked and the yet unbeaten Parsons burst his bubble.

The deeds of brave souls on all sides did do Ares honour
As battered, bruised and weary they staggered from the clamour
To bind their wounds and mourn their fallen dead,
Until the next time they go head to head.”

Not quite iambic pentameter but there you are. The final match scorecard looked like this:

Hebden Bridge vs. Keighley
A.Leatherbarrow 1 – 0 A.Wright (W)
N. Sykes ½ – ½ R.Zaidman
D.Shapland 0 – 1 D.Dufton
J.Blinkhorn 1 – 0 M.Cunningham
D.Sugden ½ – ½ M.Bray
M.Syrett 1 – 0 I.Goater
T.Sullivan ½ – ½ F.Wrigglesworth
P.Rawlings 1 – 0 J.Byers
R.Deravairere 0 – 1 C.Watson
D.Crampton 0 – 1 J.Douglas
5½ – 4½

All games described in this poetic match report can be found in the game viewer below.

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Aug 092013
 
Matthew Parson's Sniper system was sorely tested this week... but he still won the game

Matthew Parson’s Sniper system was sorely tested this week… but he still won the game

Bridestones Holme Brew Summer Chess Challenge

As the summer winds it way into August and the holiday season, the Bridestones Holme Brew Chess Challenge is almost at an end and now crawling slowly to a halt. With participants away on holiday there have only been two games played in the last few weeks and the weeks ahead will also see single games completed rather than groups of fixtures.

Both games played last week and this involved the out-going Hebden Bridge ‘A’ team Captain, Dave Shapland. From a grading perspective at least the bottom seed been the surprise package of the competition as he had succeeded in getting himself to 3/5 and a clear second position following his defeat of Pete Leonard a few weeks ago. Now he faced the new Hebden ‘A’ Captain Nick Sykes and the runaway tournament leader Matthew Parsons in successive weeks knowing that, if he could overcome the odds again an win both games he could even be back in the hunt for the tournament victory.

First came his game as Black against Nick who was propping up the table and desperate to score a victory to avenge a painful defeat when the two met earlier on in the competition. Both these players are great connoisseurs of the opening phase of the game and so it was no surprise to see a deeply theoretical discussion appear on the board. Nick had beaten Dave earlier this season in the Calderdale Individual Championship by deploying 1.c4 and took full advantage of a blunder by his opponent early in the middle game to collect the whole point. This time round, true to his principles of never playing the same opening against the same payer twice, Nick opted for 1.e4 and waited to see whether or not Dave would essay the Sicilian, Spanish or his recent pet line, the Pirc. Dave picked the Spanish and surprised his opponent a little by offering a mainline rather than the Bird’s or Classical variations which deviate from the most well trodden paths early.

It turned out that Dave had anticipated Nick would choose the Worrall Attack (5.Qe2) and had prepared a line to play against it that looked quite similar in nature to an old favourite of Dave’s the Open Variation or the Marshall Gambit. The game followed thematically well known principles until Dave plunged in in the centre with 14…d4, closing the position in that part of the board. The game then developed on the flanks as Dave tried to create problems for Nick on the queen’s-side whilst Nick countered in classical fashion by manoeuvring his pieces across to the king’s-side to go for Dave’s monarch directly.

The crisis of the game came with Dave’s decision to initiate huge complications after 24…g5!? Computer analysis suggests this was his best option but it appeared Nick had numerous ways to sacrifice material in order to get a strong attack. Instead he chose another course which appeared to offer him material parity and chances to exploit Dave’s structural weaknesses later on. Dave then missed a deeply cunning way to win a piece and found himself a pawn down but with very active pieces as compensation. Nick then missed an opportunity to give himself good winning chances and entrenched himself to ensure his opponent didn’t get the chance to build an attack. The queens came off the board and then, with Dave still a pawn down a draw was agreed as Nick had no good way of converting his advantage due to the activity of Dave’s remaining rook and bishop. An interesting game with plenty of excitement and the first time Black has not lost in four games between these two.

On Monday night Dave lined up against the club’s strongest player knowing that only a win could give him any hope of catching Matthew up in the competition. At least he had the White pieces with which he had so far scored 3/3. He’d also had the chance to think about and prepare for Matthew’s Sniper system where Black plays and early c5-g6-Bg7 in one move order or another. What Dave had in mind was to capture Matthew’s pawn on c5, bolster the long black diagonal with c3 and then play the unusual looking 6.Na3!? This turns out to be a critical test of Black’s resources and there are many bear traps awaiting the unsuspecting Sniper. Of course Matthew is anything but unsuspecting and he played the best and only moves to keep himself afloat.

Surprisingly, Dave chose to offer an early queen exchange and Matthew, confident of his end game ability, was happy to acquiesce. However, he then followed up with the natural looking 9…0-0 and it turned out that this was one of those occasions where playing natural looking moves wasn’t a good idea. Dave was able to get his pieces onto good squares and force Matthew to place some his on awkward squares. A well timed h3-g4 thrust locked Black’s king’s knight up on h6 and with the Sniper bishop also locked in on g7 and no immediate opportunity to break out with the thematic f5 Matthew was suddenly rendered somewhat immobile.

Over the next dozen or so moves Dave increased his advantage with some sound active play until the critical moment in this game arrived at move 26. Matthew’s a-pawn was attacked but, rather than move or defend it (remaining passive) Matthew played 26…Kh8 with a view to giving up the pawn and re-activating his knight via g8 and e7. Dave had a long think as he considered the pawn offer but, critically, he declined it in favour of trying to keep Matthew’s activity to a minimum. It was the point at which the game turned. Matthew hung on and gradually unravelled his pieces. Dave’s advantage dwindled until Matthew generated some counter play on the h-file and suddenly Dave had to change his mindset to defending for a draw rather than playing for a win. A series of inaccurate moves was followed at move 55 by a tired blunder and it was all over. Matthew had escaped to take yet another win. He is now on 6/6 and no-one can stop him wining this competition. Congratulations to our inaugural Bridestones Holme Brew Chess Challenge Champion!

Both the games covered in this report are in the game viewer below.

Next week Hebden Bridge will play a friendly 10-board match against Keighley at the Trades Club. There should be plenty of action from this encounter to provide some interest for these pages next week.

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Jul 222013
 

bridestones 2There is a chapter in Christian Hesse’s excellent tome “The Joys of Chess” which is entitled “The conqueror of the conqueror of Fischer” in which he sets out a method for calculating something called a ‘Fischer Score’ whereby every chess player is given a number based on how many victories they are away from beating Bobby Fischer. It’s a sort of ‘6 degrees of separation’ theory.

You can create a ‘Fischer Score’ based on the following terms:

  • Bobby Fischer himself has the Fischer number of 0
  • Anyone who defeated Fischer at least once gets the Fischer number 1
  • Anyone who defeated anyone who defeated Fischer gets the number 2
  • Anyone who can’t trace a line of victories between themselves and someone who beat Fischer gets a Fischer number of infinite ∞

This is all fairly frivolous of course and it’s a fun game to play to see who might have the lowest Fischer number. However, for most of us that would take a fair degree of research to figure out the best player you’ve ever beaten and then workout the best player they’ve ever beaten etc.

It must say something about the status of Bobby Fischer that chess players want to measure themselves against him

It must say something about the legendary status of Bobby Fischer that all chess players seem to want to measure themselves against him (and ponies want to rub noses with him!)

However, with a little bit of tweaking of this basic idea Calderdale players have a very good local point of entry to a surprisingly low Fischer number (of sorts!) The key is to change the basic principle from someone who beat Fischer to someone who drew with Fischer and now, suddenly, Pete Leonard becomes your gateway to a ‘Fischer Score’ of 3! Why? Well, remember that, back in the 70’s our colleague Mr Leonard secured an excellent and surprisingly turgid draw with the Magician of Riga himself, Mikhail Tal. That being the case, and being certain that Tal himself both beat and drew with Fischer, then Pete has a Fischer score of 2 and anyone who’s drawn with or beaten Pete has a Fischer score of 3.

On this basis the latest Hebden Bridge player to bag himself a single digit ‘Fischer Score’ (of 3) is Dave Shapland who beat Pete last Monday night (Andy Leatherbarrow joined this elite group earlier in the tournament and Nick Sykes and Matthew Parsons did so earlier this season). Rather more significantly, this win also moved Dave on to a score for the competition of 3/5 which puts him into a clear second place. It also gives him an impressive 3/3 with White with just Matthew Parsons left to play with these pieces.

As you’ll see from the game and commentary in the viewer below, Dave had prepared something very specific for his game with Pete as he chose not to essay his habitual 1.e4 in favour of 1.d4 and 2.c4. He did this just to have a crack at Pete’s favourite Grunfeld Defence. Or, more precisely, he did it so that he could deploy the so-called ‘Anti-Grunfeld’ where White plays 3.f3!? The name of the variation might suggest that this line prevents or discourages Black from entering the Grunfeld. This isn’t the case. What it really does is change the nature of the opening should Black decide to opt for the Grunfeld with 3…d5 instead of transposing into a King’s Indian with 3…d6 or a Benoni with 3…c5. The ‘Anti-Grunfeld’ has been a popular guest at the highest echelons of the game recently, Vishy Anand even deployed it against Boris Gelfand during last year’s World Championship match.

In this instance, Dave didn’t get the advantage he’d expected from his sly choice because Pete decided to go for an offbeat (and almost certainly dubious) continuation when he captured on d5 with his queen and then after 5.e4 moved her majesty to a5. No doubt there were improvements available for both players but Dave got much the better of the opening and ended up bagging the exchange for a pawn before the game was 20 moves old. Dave probably should have gone on to convert his advantage in prosaic fashion but he over-elaborated after that and allowed Pete’s resilient and stubborn defence to pay dividends. Pete won back the exchange but Dave’s space advantage persisted and he kept on applying pressure to Black’s position.

On they went into an endgame that looked drawish but Dave still had the initiative and finally Pete made some inaccurate moves allowing Dave to create weaknesses to target in a rook and pawn ending. After the time control the standard of play dwindled significantly but Pete missed chances and made more mistakes until eventually Dave was forcing home his h-pawn or winning Pete’s rook.

Meanwhile, tournament leader Matthew Parsons was once again demonstrating his superiority over the entire field as he dispatched Andy Leatherbarrow with no more effort than he would take to swat a fly. This is not to suggest that Andy played poorly. In fact it is hard to identify where he went wrong! Nevertheless Matthew identified a critical weakness (the dark squares) in Andy’s position and exploited it very creatively and single-mindedly until the pressure was too much and Andy’s position simply collapsed. This was another very impressive performance from Matthew who looks increasingly likely to score 100% in this competition.

Both games can be played through in the viewer below and the tournament cross table can be found on the dedicated Bridestones page.

Can any readers work out their Fischer number? (Or perhaps a Kramnik or Anand or even a Carlsen number.) Leave a comment at the end of this post if you can and lets’ see if we can gather some members’ scores together!

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Jul 112013
 

bridestones 2Bridestones Holme Brew Chess Challenge: Round 5

The Bridestones Holme Brew Chess Challenge continues into July and August without Alastair Wright. Having played only three of his scheduled ten games Alastair has decided that he has other priorities in his life this summer and has withdrawn. That means that the cross table has changed somewhat and Dave Shapland has gained the most from the situation as he was the only player of the three Alastair had faced who had not won the game.

This change in circumstances will at least make it a little easier to finish the tournament off in a timely fashion as a ten round all-play-all was an ambitious exercise. Now the competition is 8 rounds and each of the players has now completed at least 50% of their quota. On Monday night Dave Shapland and Pete Leonard were the last to reach this landmark as they played Andy Leatherbarrow and Nick Sykes respectively.

They say revenge is a dish best served cold. As Dave Shapland found on Monday night it can also be white, slippery and rather hard work to eat. This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from loop_oh's Flickr photostream

They say revenge is a dish best served cold. As Dave Shapland found on Monday night it can also be white, slippery and hard work to eat – rather like this spaghetti! This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from loop_oh’s Flickr photostream

Dave appeared to be facing the more difficult challenge, at least psychologically, because he’d lost in painful fashion to Andy only the previous week and faced a player who is particularly tough to break down when he has the Black pieces. However, Dave overcame Andy in a long and hard fought struggle to move onto a respectable 50% score at the halfway mark.

The first surprise of the game was Andy’s choice of 1…e5, eschewing his favourite Scandinvian Defence 1…d5. Did he fear some deep opening preparation on Dave’s part? Perhaps he just wanted to play a game of chess instead of testing his memory of opening lines against an opponent who likes to base his play on concrete variations. Either way it didn’t turn out fantastically well as Andy selected Philidor’s Defence which yielded him a playable but rather passive position.

Dave missed a couple of tactical opportunities and Andy was able to swap pieces off to relieve what little pressure Dave had succeeded in developing before taking the initiative with an advance of his queen’s side pawns. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where it all went wrong for Andy but there were a couple of mildly inaccurate moves that seemed to have a disproportionate effect on his position and suddenly he found himself a piece down for a couple of pawns in the endgame. Andy defended stubbornly as he always does but Dave was finally able to create a distant passed pawn on the a-file that eventually allowed him to force victory.

Nick and Pete’s game developed along very similar lines to their first game when Nick had the Black pieces and gained a considerable advantage before throwing the game away with a tactical error. This time around, with White, Nick decided to play 1.e4 and have a go at Pete’s Alekhine’s Defence (1…Nf6) Nick played the opening phase well (when does he not) and got a comfortable advantage that he could well have converted to a win on another day. Unfortunately he missed a couple of chances to play actively and Pete held on and created some counter play before Nick overlooked a tactic and found himself a piece down. Having gained the advantage Pete made no mistakes and succeeded in doubling up on his remorseful opponent.

Both games are annotated in the viewer below:

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Jul 062013
 

The final game of the 2011/12 season Individual Knockout was played a couple of weeks ago! This competition has become increasingly interminable in recent years and this one has gone on and on until the participants thought it would never end. One competitor wryly suggested that it would have ended sooner if it had been played by post!

The main challenge with any summer tournament is that it has to be fitted around player’s holidays and that can make scheduling difficult. The Knockout is further hindered by the rule which says drawn games must be replayed and this can mean that individual encounters go on for weeks or even months if several games are required to find a winner.

It’s telling to see that, this season, neither the Team nor the Individual Knockout competitions have been organised and this might lead us to believe that their permanent demise is imminent. Certainly there is still an appetite for summer chess amongst the players but the League Committee need to have a long hard think about what to place into the vacuum left by this contest.

Right, enough moaning! Back to the action: the final of this year’s Individual Knockout was a mouth-watering prospect as it matched up this year’s Calderdale Individual Champion (Matthew Parsons) with last year’s winner (Darwin Ursal). These two appeared to be evenly matched and the clock times for the handicap were close enough to make little difference to the way the game was played. Matthew, as the lower rated of the two had the advantage of the White pieces although he was heard to remark that, whenever he and Darwin play it always seems to be the player of the Black pieces who ends up winning.

I’m certainly not a good enough player to be able to offer any erudite exposition on the way the game evolved but what I can tell you is that Matthew had thought carefully about what he would play in the opening and elected to go for 1.e4 (which he virtually never plays) simply in order to transpose the inevitable Sicilian Defence that followed in to a line that he had spent time studying with an early g3. The tussle was very closely matched right into a double rook ending which Matthew played very accurately and was able to snaffle first one and then a second pawn. Darwin tried his best to put up resistance but Matthew technique was admirable and he duly collected a third title to go with his League 1 and Individual Championship gongs. The endgame in particular is well worth closer study by anyone who wants to see how double rook endings should be conducted.

bridestones 2Bridestones Holme Brew Chess Challenge: Re-scheduled games

Of course the Bridestones Holme Brew competition has also been progressing and last week Andy Leatherbarrow played two games as he faced Nick Sykes with White on Monday and then Dave Shapland with White on Wednesday. His fortunes were contrasting but interestingly the results of both games hinged on faulty strategic decisions that led to tactical disaster.

On Monday Nick sensibly chose to play the Sicilian Defence in the almost certain knowledge that he would face an anti-Sicilian line. True to his record Andy opted for a Closed Sicilian position. Nick is well versed in anti-Sicilian lines and has an excellent record against them and he soon achieved equality by employing the classic stratagem of queen’s side expansion against White’s king’s side advance.

The crucial moment in the game came when Andy decided to open the centre with 15.d4?! It turned out that Black was much better placed to exploit the opening of the game and Nick soon developed a very dangerous initiative. Having advanced the pawns in front of his king Andy found that his majesty was now metaphorically wearing no clothes and his embarrassment was plain to see by move 23 as Nick arranged both bishops and his queen to point towards the White king from afar. Andy desperately tried to plug the holes but Nick applied the finishing touches by manoeuvring one of his bishops from the queen’s side to the king’s side. This combined with a battery of queen on b7 and bishop on a8 was the death knell. A very well played game by Nick after a strategic error on Andy’s part.

On Wednesday however, the tables were turned as Andy operated the White pieces once more against Dave. This time the opening was a Pirc which Dave has been introducing to his repertoire recently. Dave had anticipated Andy’s likely choice of variation (an early h3) and played the opening in contemporary fashion with a6 and b6 to hold his ground and prepare a counter-strike on White’s centre.

Sadly for Dave that was where his sound strategy came to an end as he then elected to breakout with c5 in stead of e5 on move 10. His motives were sensible in that he was familiar with Benoni-types set ups and had gained a playable middle-game against Mathew in the previous round. However, in this instance the e5 break was needed to hold the line and Andy played very accurately, confident that he knew where to place his pieces and how to meet Black’s plan. Labouring under the misapprehension that his fianchettoed bishop was about to do serious damage on the White queen’s side, Dave plunged in by sacrificing his b-pawn and then opening the a1-h8 diagonal with 18…Ne4? Andy had seen further however and knew that he could give up the exchange for a brutal attack on the Black king. Dave had seen the idea and planned a counter measure but he’d overlooked that a different move order by White would spell disaster and was forced to capitulate as early as move 21 when it became clear he was getting mated or losing a piece for nothing.

This competition enters it’s second half on Monday as Nick takes on Pete Leonard and Dave faces a psychological challenge by having to play Andy again with the White pieces. Matthew is due to play Alastair Wright but it appears Alastair may have withdrawn from the tournament.

All three games mentioned in this post can be found in the game viewer below.

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Jun 202013
 

bridestones 2Bridestones Holme Brew Chess Challenge: Round 4 and 5

Over the last two weeks the Bridestones Holme Brew Chess Challenge has seen another four games completed and the competition leader has reached the half-way point in the competition. Wins against Nick Sykes and Dave Shapland mean that Matthew Parsons is comfortably in the lead and it already looks like he won’t be caught unless he has a total melt down in the second half of the tournament. That said, the current gap between Matthew and the chasing pack is artificially wide because no-one else has played five games yet. Pete Leonard and Nick Sykes have now played four and Andy Leatherbarrow, Dave Shapland and Alastair Wright have played just three.

Two round four games were played last week as Pete Leonard faced Andy Leatherbarrow and Matthew Parsons played Dave Shapland. Both of these two games were interesting encounters of a decent standard. Pete and Andy have never played each other at a classical time limit and Andy made a very clever choice of opening to give himself the best possible platform against Pete. Selecting the Nimzowitch Defence 1.e4 Nc6 2.d4 d5!? was and excellent way to catch Pete on the hop and it worked. Pete didn’t play the opening optimally and Andy got a very pleasant position. Of course both sides missed some improvements but ultimately Andy played the endgame very accurately and Pete didn’t defend himself as stubbornly as he could have done in allowing Andy to win in fine positional style. This result brought Andy up level with Dave Shapland who started the round with a point and a half.

This position appeared in Parsons vs. Shapland. Matthew has just played 40.Nh4+ and Dave now played Kh5. However, if he'd played Kf6 instead he could have saved himself. Can you work out how? The solution is in the game viewer at the end of this post

This position appeared in Parsons vs. Shapland. Matthew has just played 40.Nh4+ and Dave now played Kh5. However, if he’d played Kf6 instead he could have saved himself. Can you work out how? The solution is in the game viewer at the end of this post

Facing Matthew with the Black pieces meant that Dave had to decide how to best meet Matthew’s pet system, the London. Dave chose 1.d4 d6 which is certainly a good way to meet White’s plan to play Bf4 but if it has a draw back it is that it encourages White to transpose into King’s Indian and Benoni positions after and early c4. Matthew sensibly did exactly that and Dave decided to go for a Benoni with a c5 break, rather than a King’s Indian with e5.

Dave may not have played the opening with the upmost precision in terms of move order but he did succeed in developing all his pieces and stabilising his position thereby forcing Matthew to devise and execute some kind of plan. After a longish think at move 15 Matthew decided to go for queen’s side play with Rab1 and then b4 the following move. Meanwhile, Dave didn’t really have the luxury of options as his opening play left him solid and developed but passively waiting for White to come at him. When the queen’s side advance came Dave tried to counter in the centre and then found some resources to complicate the position on the queen’s side as Matthew lost a bit of the control he had over the position and Dave’s pieces sprang to life.

The critical position of the game came at move 23 as Dave sank into long thought and then, not wanting to get into time trouble, opted for a line that appeared to simplify to an unbalanced and playable ending. The judgement was a poor one however because it transpired that keeping pieces on the board and maintaining tension would have been the route to an advantage for Black whilst the resultant ending reached in the game was simply better for White. Matthew had a bishop and knight for a rook and pawn but, critically, both sides also had their dark squared bishops and the presence of the White bishop pair throttled Black’s potential for counter play. Dave’s position might still have been defensible but it was a difficult challenge that was beyond Dave  and he succumbed fairly tamely as Matthew simply created structural weaknesses to that Dave couldn’t defend. However the computer found a miraculous resource almost at the end of the game that could have saved him a half point. Take a look at the diagram position and see if you can work it out before checking out the game and solution in the viewer at the end of this post.

A round 5 game and a rescheduled round 3 game were also played as Matthew and Nick and Pete and Alastair faced off. Nick and Matthew played their round 5 game early and Nick, having gained a perfectly acceptable middle game position with White inexplicably muddled up a move order and ended up without his queen! Sadly this was the second game in a row where Nick had gifted his opponent the full point and it leaves him languishing on half a point from four games.

Pete and Alastair’s game was more closely contested, at least until the very end of the game and the evening. Intriguingly Alastair elected to play the French and face Pete’s King’s Indian Attack set up. The game became very complicated and both players got short of time and may have missed opportunities to improve their play. As the end game hove into view Alastair managed to grab himself a pawn that might have proved decisive were it not for the fact that he then blundered a piece to essentially hand the full point to his opponent. This win allowed Pete to move into clear second place with two points from four games although he has played a game more than Andy and Dave who are half a point behind him.

All four games mentioned in this post are annotated in the game viewer below. Next week Andy will play his postponed round 1 game against Dave and back markers Alastair and Nick will try to improve their positions in a battle that could leave one of them firmly adrift at the foot of the standings.

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Jun 192013
 
'Performance review time again' by jmlawlor. Need I say more? Time to step into the manager's office and find out what he thinks of you! This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from jmlawlor's Flickr photostream

‘Performance review time again’ by jmlawlor. Need I say more? Time to step into the manager’s office and find out what he thinks of you! This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from jmlawlor’s Flickr photostream

At the end of the season it has become customary for this website to review and analyse the performance of Hebden Bridge’s teams and their players. In fact, this year, I’ve been asked by several players ‘when’ the review will be published. Well, dear readers, you need wait no longer. Today I’m publishing the first part of the review and I’ll be starting with a player review for League 1

Sadly there was only one Hebden Bridge team in the top division this year owing to Hebden Bridge ‘B’s relegation last season. Hebden Bridge ‘A’ were the champions in 2011-12 but as we began our title defence it must be said that our expectations were not high. There were two reasons for this. First of all our team felt like it was a little bit weaker without the scintillating Darwin Ursal who, along primarily with Matthew Parsons, had carried the team to the title the previous year. Darwin’s ‘season-long-loan’ from Halifax came to an end as Halifax ‘A returned to the top flight.

The second reason for our pessimism was that the other main contenders for the title appeared to have become even stronger. Todmorden ‘A’ had almost pipped us in 2011/12 and had the same super strong top order this time round. Huddersfield ‘A’ had their usual strong line up and deep reserves to call upon. Courier had bolstered their lower order and now the returning Halifax ‘A’ looked very menacing with two 180’s on their top two boards.

Of course, we all know that the outcome at the end of the season was a title-retaining triumph for Hebden Bridge. Not only that but they won by three points. Despite losing the services of Matthew Webb less than half-way through the season it was comfortable. How could this be? The answer, I think is in this scoreline — 3-2! Put simply, after an early upset at the hands of Huddersfield we managed to keep winning matches by the narrowest possible margin. In every fixture someone pulled a result out of the bag when it mattered and, unlike last season, everyone in the team played a part somewhere along the line. This season was the proof that fielding a consistent, determined and focused side capable of scoring heavily on the lower boards and holding their own on the top boards is the key to winning the title. When our rivals faltered, we took full advantage.

Here then are my player reviews for Hebden Bridge ‘A’s team of conquering heroes. The statistics below only represent results from League 1. They don’t include any League 2 games or any of the Calderdale Individual Championship games played

2012-13 player review Matthew Parsons

Last season Matthew performed excellently and possibly did not receive the credit he deserved for his contribution simply because Darwin did even better. This season there is no doubt that he stepped up to the task of leading the side from board 1. Facing the league’s ‘big beasts’ he did himself great credit and can most certainly now be named amongst their number! He backed this up further by winning the Calderdale Individual Championship comfortably with a score of 4½/5.

In the league he scored 9/14 (64%), losing just twice and winning 6 times. He also clinched a few absolutely critical games when the team needed a result. None were more so than the game I’ve given at the foot of this post as his best of the season, when he stared down Halifax ‘A’s Bill Somerset to help his side win a championship deciding encounter by a score of… 3-2.

2012-13 player review Pete LeonardPete’s second season playing for the ‘A’ team saw him playing slightly less frequently (10 games to last season’s 13) but making an incremental improvement on his performance with 5½/10 (55%) to last season’s 50%. Last year he had a dreadful run towards the end of the season but this time round he was consistent throughout the year having moved up to play on boards 2 and 3 rather than 3 and 4 as he had last year. Pete also won some match-deciding encounters. The most important of these was his stylish win against Dave Firth of Huddersfield in Hebden’s first win over their nemesis in a VERY long time. Of course the final score was 2-3!

Despite the critical nature of that victory I have not chosen this as Pete’s best game, an indication of a surfeit of good material! Instead I’d consider his very attractive win over Dave Sugden in round 4 of the Calderdale Individual Championship to be his finest. Witness the instinctive sacrifice and entertaining king hunt that ensues. Simply one of the best games of the season!

2012-13 player review Dave Shapland
Dave had every reason to be disappointed with his personal contribution to the team’s victory last season. Like Pete, he had a terrible run of form at the end of the year that could have cost his side the title. This year solidity was his top priority and he certainly achieved that with no less than seven (!) draws from thirteen games, more than any other player in the side and certainly not a statistic you’d expect from such an uncompromising player. Dave was particularly solid with the Black pieces. He didn’t lose in League 1 with Black although his form with White was poor and cost him rating points overall.

Many of Dave’s best results were draws. He drew twice with Todmorden’s Andrew Clarkson (and twice more in the team knockout!) and had comfortable draws with Huddersfield’s Dave Tooley and Courier’s Robert Clegg to help his side win the matches in question. He did also score a couple of critical wins including the game I’ve given in the viewer below. A sharp and complicated win against Brighouse’s Bruce Bendall in a match that Hebden eventually won… 2-3.

2012-13 player review Nick Sykes
The ‘Syko’ was as determined and belligerent as ever this season. He made a major contribution to his team’s success last season with a score of 65% on board 5. This season he was equally effective. That he ended the season on 62% merely reflects his promotion up the board order towards the end of the year when other members of the team were unavailable and his own good form merited a crack at the big boys. His only defeats were both on board two to Darwin and Courier’s Dave Patrick. Although he gained few rating points in the league his excellent performance in the Calderdale Individual Championship, where he finished in joint 2nd-4th place with 4 points, bolstered his grade at the end of the season to 155 and he beat team mates Shapland and Leonard in that competition.

Nick’s solid and positional style means that many of his wins require him to invest a lot of time at the board to squeeze victory from theoretically advantageous positions. I’ve picked his win against Mike Huett of Todmorden ‘B’ for his best game because I think it best demonstrates Nick’s style across all areas of the game. He is knowledgable and flexible in the opening from which he rarely emerges at a disadvantage. His middle game his solid and shows a good positional sense and his endgame technique is robust and dependable. Mike can be a dangerous player to face but Nick is never in peril in the game below. Instead he slowly applies pressure until his opponent’s resistance breaks.

2012-13 player review Matty Webb
Having debuted with two wins from two games last season, Matty was earmarked as the long-term replacement for Darwin on board 1 or 2. Unfortunately not everything went to plan. After an early loss to Huddersfield’s Mitchell Burke in the first match of the year, Matty then started a new job which effected his availability to play in Calderdale as well his ability to give the levels of energy at the board that he would have liked. He did score two wins from his five games but he wasn’t happy with this return and chose to stand aside to focus on his work commitments. At the time this felt like a major set back but In the end his decision probably allowed the team to go on to achieve their best results. Of course we wish Matty well with his endeavours and hope that one day he might come back to play the game competitively.

For his best game I’ve picked this typically smooth win over Todmorden ‘B’s Alastair Wright who has a superb record with the White pieces but was here swept aside quite comfortably by Matty.

2012-13 player review Andy Leatherbarrow
Having been a fringe player in 2011/12, Andy stepped into the space left by Matty and was immediately very effective. He won four and drew two of his eight games only dropping his losses later on in the season including in the last match of the year when the match outcome was irrelevant. The fact that his rating for league 1 fixtures is showing a deficit is primarily down to the level of opposition he was facing. Even a draw can cost you dearly on board 5 if you have a aspirations to increase your grade over the season. Fortunately, Andy’s excellent performance in league 2 and in the Yorkshire League meant that his end of year grade increased on last year’s appreciably.

Andy was another player who performed very strongly in the Calderdale Individual Championship and he effectively ended the chances of top seed Mitchell Burke by beating him with Black as early as round 2. That game is given at the end of this post and shows Andy’s expert handling of the Scandinavian Defence, one of his favourite opening lines. Mitchell doesn’t cause him enough problems in the opening, loses concentration for a moment and is dispatched in fine style by Andy who is rated more than 30 points lower than him.

Enjoy some the entertaining games below. Next time we’ll review the performance of some of the players in league 2.

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