Jun 022011

Today I’m continuing with the end of season review. This time I’ll be focusing on Hebden Bridge ‘B’. Here’s how they finished in League Division 1.

It must be said that this result constitutes a pretty good performance from the ‘B’s whose main objective this year was always going to be to escape relegation. As the season kicked off it appeared that they were well placed to do that for the team looked reasonably strong on paper. With a new grade of 158 Pete Olley took up board 1 duties and Dave Shapland returned from a two year sojourn with the ‘A’ team to occupy board 2. The regular side was completed by Andy Leatherbarrow on 3, team Captain, Martin Syrett on board 4 and John Kerrane on board 5.

Sadly, in the early part of the season Captain Syrett wasn’t able to put out his best team. On match day one the team were away at Courier ‘A’ but they travelled without Pete Olley, who was unavailable. Due to the oddities of the fixture schedule all four Hebden Bridge teams were playing on that day and so Martin was unable to find a replacement the result being that the team defaulted on board 5 in a 4-1 defeat.

Circumstances were even more challenging on match day two. This time Alastair Wright nabbed both Dave Shapland and Andy Leatherbarrow to replace missing members of his ‘A’ team and Pete Olley was again unavailable. This led to Martin having to promote himself from board 4 to board 1 in the home fixture against Halifax ‘A’ and also having to draft in emergency support in the form of Terry Sullivan, Dave Sugden and Steve Priest. Baring in mind the make shift nature of the side a tied match against Halifax was a good result.

It was ironic that when Martin was finally able to put out his best side it should be against one of the best teams in the league. The third round saw the two Hebden Bridge teams in League 1 go head to head and, inevitably, the ‘A’ team run out 4-1 winners. Dave Shapland (on board 2) and Dave Sugden (deputising for John Kerrane on board 5) managed to draw their games.

Finally, good news followed for the ‘B’s as they travelled to fellow strugglers Todmorden on November the 1st and scored their first victory of the season by a convincing 4-1 margin. After this match the team lost at home to Huddersfield ‘A’ and then, disappointingly, away to Belgrave in a tight match that they seemed to have under control at one point. This just left Brighouse left to play in the first half of the season and it finally seemed that some good fortune would come the ‘B’ team’s way as Brighouse arrived with only 3 players. Despite this Hebden made terribly heavy weather of the fixture and only just wheezed over the line when Dave Shapland beat Bruce Bendall on board 2 to secure victory by the narrowest possible margin.

The team started the second half of the season just above the relegation zone and needing to get themselves an early win to steady the ship and settle the nerves. Sadly they were singularly unable to achieve this as they first let a promising match position slip away at home to Courier and then managed only a draw away to Halifax when once again a victory seemed to be on the cards. Another heavy defeat at home to Hebden Bridge ‘A’ followed before what now appeared to be a critical fixture at home to the bottom side, Todmorden.

This fixture took place on the 7th of March. Todmorden confounded Hebden first by bringing a very much stronger line up to the match then they had managed to present at the home fixture and then by winning comfortably 1½ – 3½. This result seemed to cast the ‘B’s into something of a despondent mood for they almost failed to get a team together for the next match away at Huddersfield. In the end Dave Shapland managed to draught in some emergency replacements from Leeds Chess Club to help out and a full team of 5 players ran a depleted Huddersfield side terribly close losing 3-2 in a tense fixture.

Finally, this Dunkirk spirit seemed to galvanise the team for the run in and, needing to win both their remaining fixtures to have any hope of survival, they managed to do just that. First of all Martin Syrett secured a nail-biting 3-2 home victory against Belgrave and then Dave Shapland carried the day with a decisive victory over Robert Broadbent on board 1 in the final match away to Brighouse. In the end Halifax went down in flames in the final set of fixtures against the already relegated Todmorden to give Hebden Bridge an even more comfortable margin of safety.

It’s been a hard (and at times desperate) slog against relegation this season for the ‘B’s. However, in the end, when disaster loomed, the team performed well and did enough to merit their survival. Quite what the team will look like next year remains to be seen.

Below is a player by player summary of the ‘B’ team’s performance this season. A quick note on the players stats below before we dive in. All the numbers refer only to the Calderdale League matches and the ratings differential is based on accumulating the YCA live rating scores for each league game played. The end-of-season ratings are calculated in a slightly different way. Live ratings only provide a transient flavour of a players form rather than a solid assessment of their entire season so readers should view the stats below as a guideline only.

Pete Olley — Board 1
Rating (at the start of the season): 158
Score: 1½/10

It’s been a tough and dispiriting season for Pete who picked up board 1 responsibilities due to his clearly superior rating at the start of the season rather than because he coveted the job. That said, he fought hard in every game he played and managed up a couple of good draws against Leo Keely and Darwin Ursal. It should also be pointed out that he scored a further half point on board 5 for the ‘A’ team when he was ‘promoted’ up to their ranks. Never-the-less I’m sure Pete will have learned from his games this season and will be looking forward to a less high profile role next season as well as a chance to re-build his confidence.

Analysis of Pete Olley’s league games in 2010-11

As his best game I’ve selected this smooth and work-man-like draw against Darwin Ursal.

Dave Shapland — Board 2
Rating: 148
Score: 8½/14

It was something of an anus mirabilis for Dave this season. Certainly he was sometimes guilty of being “over enthusiastic” with the White pieces and to prove this it should be noted that his two White wins both came against players rated lower than himself. However, his form with Black certainly merited the nom de guerre afforded to him in these pages earlier this season in honour of Halloween (and Joseph Blackburne!) — The Black Death. His unbeaten record with Black assumes even more impressive proportions when you consider that four of those eight games were played on board 1 and he turned out two wins and two draws in that position.

Analysis of Dave Shaplan’d league results in 2010-11

Dave certainly contributed to the end of season spurt that secured the team’s status in League 1 and I’m giving his final “Hurrah!” against Robert Broadbent as his best effort of the year.

Andy Leatherbarrow — Board 3
Rating: 139
Score: 4½/12

Pardon the pun but it was a checkered history for Mr Leatherbarrow in 2010-11! In the first half of the season he was a pitiful shadow of his usual self as he lost one game after another in ever more desperate and creative fashions. Time trouble usually played a part in his downfall. For long periods of games he seemed to do himself excellent justice only to fall apart or blunder at a critical moment in the end game. Ultimately he did manage to get himself together and achieved the considerable feat of taking a whole point off John Morgan (albeit via a time forfeit) in the first match of the second half of the season. Following this result he then steadied the ship in an admirable fashion by resolutely drawing his remaining games to score +1 in the second half of the season. He also scored 1½/2 for the ‘A’ team.

Analysis of Andy Leatherbarrow’s league results in 2010-11

Andy certainly salvaged himself some pride and contributed to the home run resurgence that carried the team through its troubles to safety. Here is his aforementioned victory against John Morgan.

Martin Syrett — Board 4
Rating: 137
Score: 5½/13

It wasn’t a vintage year for Captain Syrett in the league as he’d be only too willing to admit himself. That two of the five wins in the table below were garnered through defaults explains why his live rating has dropped slightly over the season. Once again the Calderdale Individual Championship was a happy hunting ground for Martin though as he picked up a grading prize by scoring 4/5. In achieving this he shared second place with such illustrious companions as Mathew Parsons and Dave Wedge. This excellent result will no doubt carry his end of season rating upwards and counteract his league form somewhat. Martin also made a critical contribution to the ‘B’ team’s survival by claiming the decisive victory in the penultimate fixture at home against Belgrave.

Analysis of Martin Syrett’s league results in 2010-11

I’ve chosen to give this game against Mike Barnett as Martin’s best of the season. From a purely aesthetic perspective many of Martin’s victories are pleasing to the eye but this one has the additional impact of being delivered under great pressure.

John Kerrane — Board 5
Rating: 125
Score: 5½/10

John did stirling work for the ‘B’ team this season particularly in the early part of the schedule when Andy and Martin were struggling with their form. Although one of his victories was a default the remainder of his results exhibit a pleasing symmetry: three wins, three draws and three defeats. John’s style is based on a solid positional understanding and his trade mark English Opening has once again served him well this season.

Analysis of John Kerrane’s league results in 2010-11

I could give any one of his smooth victories as his best game of the season but instead I’m going to replay his draw against Matthew Wedge-Roberts in the second derby fixture of the year because I think John brought his very best play to this encounter and should probably have won against a player who finished second highest in the points scoring list for the season.

Some of the challenges faced by Martin Syrett in getting a regular team of 5 players together are expressed only too vividly by the lengthy supporting cast of players who stepped in to help out. Let me do them honour by concluding this post with a recording of their contributions:

Dave Sugden 2/3
John Mahoney 1/1
Neil Bamford 1/2
Steve Priest 1/2
Terry Sullivan 1/2
Tony Ibbitson ½/1
Phil Rhami ½/2

I hope that readers will offer their opinions about the ‘B’ team’s performance this season. I’m sure the players themselves will have plenty to say! Who do you think we should have playing in the ‘B’ team next season? Please do post your comments below for others to see and consider.

May 172011

Today we begin a review of the 2010-11 season which I’m aiming to cover off in several parts. We start with Hebden Bridge ‘A’s title challenge in Calderdale League Division 1. Here are the standings in the final table.

Ultimately this result spelt out disappointment for Hebden Bridge ‘A’ who lost their title to Huddersfield, and jubilation for Hebden Bridge ‘B’ who escaped relegation from the top flight.

Of course the story is much more complicated than that. The ‘A’ team seemed to be strong contenders to retain their title right from the start of the season and on paper it appeared that Huddersfield would be their main rivals with Courier ‘A’ looking like potential dark horses as they sported very competitive players on their top 3 boards.

The reigning champions fielded almost exactly the same side they had finished the previous season with. The exception was that Matthew Wedge-Roberts replaced Dave Shapland on board 4 as Dave moved into the ‘B’ team. This made virtually no difference to the team on paper and indeed the ‘A’ team started the season with a string of powerful and conclusive victories as they raced to 3 wins out of 3 and 13 board points out of a possible 15!

Meanwhile, Huddersfield had started very sluggishly as they drew at home to Brighouse in their first match and then lost at home to Courier in their second. This surprising upset seemed to signify the arrival of the Courier team as serious title contenders until they themselves slipped to a home defeat in the very next round against Belgrave. After 3 matches it was Belgrave and Hebden Bridge who topped the table with perfect records.

Round 4 took place on the November the 1st and Hebden Bridge hosted Huddersfield knowing that if they could defeat them they would almost certainly end their rival’s title hopes on the spot. It was on this night that Huddersfield started to show their steel as they clinched a tight match 2-3. Matthew Parsons’ glittering victory over David Firth on board 2 (see below) was scant consolation for the rare defeats suffered by Dave Wedge on board 1 and Matthew Wedge-Roberts on board 5. Suddenly, Huddersfield were back in the title race 1 point behind Hebden Bridge as Belgrave took sole leadership of the table by extending their unbeaten run to four matches with a win at Halifax.

By the mid-season interval however, normal service had been resumed. Hebden Bridge ‘A’ took out the league leaders and then defeated Courier at home in the last match before Christmas. However, Huddersfield had kept up the pace behind them by beating Hebden Bridge ‘B’, Todmorden and Belgrave to move into second place.

The second half of the season saw the two leaders remain locked together as they pulled away from the rest of the teams in the division. Hebden Bridge ‘A’ continued to put away their opponents in a more convincing style than Huddersfield as the racked up an increasingly impressive board count but, try as they might, they couldn’t extend their points lead. In the end the title race came down to the second fixture between the two sides on the 10th of March, this time with Huddersfield having the home advantage.

Sadly, this was where the wheels came off for Hebden Bridge as they fell to a humiliating 4½ – ½ defeat. Dave Wedge dropped down to board 2 for the match and was the only player preventing a total whitewash as he drew with Chris Booth. The rest of the team all capitulated and the disappointment was palpable.

To give Alastair Wright’s team credit, they then lifted themselves to win their remaining fixtures and keep the pressure on Huddersfield but unfortunately their rivals, despite some close run contests, didn’t make any mistakes. In the end the ‘A’ team’s season came down to those two clashes with Huddersfield and on those nights, they didn’t do enough. Let us congratulate Huddersfield however for recovering from their awful start to get through the rest of the season with a perfect record.

Here are the man-for-man statistics for the ‘A’ team this season. A quick note on the players stats below before we dive in. All the numbers below refer only to the Calderdale League matches and the ratings differential is based on accumulating the YCA live rating scores for each league game played. The end-of-season ratings are calculated in a slightly different way. Live ratings only provide a transient flavour of a players form rather than a solid assessment of their entire season so readers should view the stats below as a guideline only.

David Wedge — Board 1

Rating (at the start of the season): 168
Score: 8/14

An interesting contrast in fortunes for Dave this season depending on which colour he played. He scored only 3/7 with White but managed 5/7 with Black. The stats might suggest that he was overambitious with White but, having looked at his games this season, I’d tend to suggest that perhaps he was sometimes not ambitious enough and didn’t manage to put his opponents under enough pressure. That’s just my opinion. I suspect he would say that four defeats in one season is not a vintage year for him but he was the third highest points scorer on board 1 behind Huddersfield’s Leo Keely and Belgrave’s Gordon Farrar. That’s no mean feat. He actually scored the same number of points as Gordon but dropped to board 2 for the away fixture against Huddersfield (which means he scored 7½ of his 8 points on board 1) where he scored the team’s solitary half point.

Analysis of Dave Wedge’s league games in 2010-11

Here is Dave at his best, punishing his own team Captain for having the temerity to play a Max Lange Attack against him in the Calderdale Individual Championship. Alastair makes one mistake and is buried.

Matthew Parsons — Board 2

Rating: 167
Score: 10½/13

It was a really tremendous season for Matthew who lost only one game when he played on board 1 away against Huddersfield. He also swapped places with his Captain for the two ties against Belgrave and therefore scored 2 of his points on board 3. Otherwise he made 8½/10 on board 2 which is an awesome accumulation! All these exploits enabled him to increase his live rating by nearly 4 points over the season. Add to this his excellent run in the Calderdale Individual Championship where he was only stopped in the last round by Courier’s John Morgan and Matthew can be very happy with his performance this season although he will no doubt be disappointed to finish second in both the team and individual competitions. Board 1 beckons for Matthew next season.

Analysis of Matthew Parsons’ league results in 2010-11

I’ve chosen his mind bendingly complicated game against Dave Firth for his best game of the season, although in truth, there were several candidates.

Alastair Wright — Board 3

Rating: 160
Score: 9½/14

Team Captain Alastair Wright is another player who shows contrasting form with each colour. With the White pieces he was indestructible scoring 5/7 but with Black he showed some frailty. Both his loses this season occurred when he was playing Black. Unfortunately for him, playing on board 3 (except for the two matches with Belgrave and one against Todmorden when he played on board 2) and having a relatively high grade for his board position meant that his high score of 9½ only yielded him a neutral live rating score for his league fixtures. As a Captain he continued to discharge his duties in an exemplary fashion and, as a result, the ‘A’ team were always able to sport a strong side even when regular team members were missing.

Analysis of Alastair Wright’s league results in 2010-11

Alastair is pretty open about bemoaning his poor form with Black but, as this game shows, he is also capable of winning nice games when conducting them. This positional annihilation of Todmorden’s Scott Gornall is a case in point.

Matthew Wedge-Roberts — Board 4

Rating: 144
Score: 11/14

Matthew finished the season as the second highest points scorer in the Division behind John Morgan of Courier. Even though two of his 10 wins were defaults he still deserves great credit for this score. A successful team in the league will always require their lower boards to score heavily and he certainly delivered in this regard. Unfortunately his two defeats came at the hands of Huddersfield players in the critical encounters of the season but, other than those lowlights, he should be delighted with the way things went for him this year and his grade must be heading in a northerly direction once more for next year.

Analysis of Matthew Wedge-Roberts league results in 2010-11

Many of Matthew’s wins are pretty destructive. I’ve chosen this game from the few of his that I have on my database for the year (Matthew doesn’t keep any of his score sheets — the shame, the shame!) as a good illustration of the combustible style that has yielded him a bucket load of points against the lower board opponents he has been required to dispatch.

Nick Sykes — Board 5

Rating: 135
Score: 7½/11

Playing bottom board in a good team is always a bit of a thankless task. This is because, if you’re a decent player, you are expected to win pretty much every game you play and any defeat can be costly both for the team and individually. Nick has managed to amass a good scoring percentage in the matches he played in this season but nevertheless he has paid a heavy price for his defeats and draws and ends the season with a negative live rating for his league games despite scoring +4! It must be said that he had a good run out in the Calderdale Individual Championships ending the tournament as the only unbeaten player apart from the winner, John Morgan. Hopefully the end of season ratings will reward him more suitably for his efforts.

Analysis of Nick Sykes’ league results in 2010-11 

Here is Nick’s interesting round 2 draw against John in the Calderdale Individual Championship. Baring in mind John only dropped a point and a half all season in the league, this smooth draw represented a great result for Nick.

I hope that readers will offer their opinions about the ‘A’ team’s performance this season. I’m sure the players themselves will have plenty to say! Who do you think we should have playing in the ‘A’ team next season when Dave Wedge and Matthew Wedge-Roberts are gone? Please do post your comments below for others to see and consider.