We continue our catch up of League reports today with an overview of the eleventh round of Calderdale League fixtures which were played on the 25th of February.
The big clash of this round was between league leaders, Belgrave ‘A’ and the second placed team, Hebden Bridge ‘B’, who were just one point behind their rivals. The match took place at the Belgrave Social Club and with no other teams in realistic contention for the title it seemed very much like a title decider. Certainly, it was due or die for Hebden Bridge as a defeat would leave them three points adrift with just three matches remaining.
On the night Hebden arrived at their hosts with their ‘regular’ line up of Matthew Parsons, Dave Shapland, Pete Leonard, Sam Swain and Neil Suttie. Belgrave’s line up by contrast was slightly altered from their recent matches but no less strong for that. They had experience and stability on the top three boards in the form of John Morgan, Dave Patrick and Tony Slinger but then introduced John Cawston to replace the absent Richard Bowman on board 4. Karim Khan, another regular player was on board 5. On paper Hebden Bridge had the edge, but the ratings on all the boards were close enough to suggest that this was going to be a tough battle.
All five games were hard fought affairs and played on well into the evening. The first game to be concluded was on board 4 where Sam Swain seemed to be in trouble at one point against John Cawston but he knuckled down, found some accurate moves and held a draw.
Next, on board 1, Matthew Parsons overcame John Morgan in another tight game. Matthew had played the opening phase very quickly and this put a good deal of pressure onto John as he had used up much more time on the clock. When John then missed a tactic shortly before time control it appeared that the game would soon be all over but then Matthew made a mistake himself and suddenly the game appeared to be level again. It was Matthew’s rook, knight and three pawns against John’s rook, bishop and three pawns. There appeared to be very little on, but Matthew declined his opponent’s draw offer and managed to outplay John to secure the first whole point of the match for Hebden.
Neil Suttie then made sure of at least a draw in the match for the visitors when he bet Karim on board 5. This was another game where Hebden took full advantage of having the White pieces to apply great pressure to their opponents. Karim never really seemed to get any counter play going and Neil eventually broke through.
Belgrave now needed to win both the remaining games to tie the match and retain their slender lead in the title race. However, their hopes were dashed when Dave Shapland agreed a draw with Dave Patrick from a modestly advantageous position to give Hebden 3 game points. The Hebden Bridge captain had held a decisive advantage earlier in the endgame but had frittered it away somehow. However, with very little material on the board and realizing that his opponent had no realistic chances of winning at all, Shapland made an offer his counterpart could hardly refuse.
The last game of the knight to finish saw Belgrave score a consolation victory as Tony Slinger finally ground down Pete Leonard’s resistance in a rook and pawn ending. Both players afterwards agreed that the end game was theorectically drawn, but it required accurate defence from White to hold and that is always difficult in an evening league match with relatively little time available on the clock.
Here is the final match scorecard:
Belgrave ‘A’ – Hebden Bridge ‘B’
J.Morgan 0 – 1 M.Parsons (W)
D.Patrick ½ – ½ D.Shapland (W)
T.Slinger 1 – 0 P.Leonard (W)
J.Cawston ½ – ½ S.Swain (W)
K.Khan 0 – 1 N.Suttie (W)
2 – 3
And so, with this crucial victory the advantage in the title race swung back to Hebden Bridge. They now have to face Belgrave ‘B’, Huddersfield ‘B’ and Halifax ‘A’ to finish off the season. All matches in which they will be the favourites, but Halifax ‘A’ did beat them in the final match before Christmas.
Belgrave meanwhile have a tougher run in with Hebden Bridge ‘A’, Huddersfield ‘A’ and finally Hebden Bridge ‘C’ still to face.
Elsewhere, Hebden Bridge ‘A’s fantastic run of 5 straight match wins came to an end as they were forced to forfeit their match against Huddersfield ‘A’. This was unfortunate because Huddersfield has lost their regular venue in Lindley and were forced to find alternate accommodation in Holmfirth. Hebden, already missing a couple of key players who were not available to play on a Wednesday night then lost another last minute due to work commitments and decided to default the match rather than turn up with three players.
Similarly, Hebden Bridge ‘C’ also defaulted their match to Huddersfield ‘B’ when they could not raise a team either. It’s always a shame to see matches defaulted.
So, the second and only other match played in the round was between Belgrave ‘B’ and Halifax ‘A’. Belgrave were desperately seeking to bail themselves out of the relegation zone (and so news of Hebden ‘C’s default to Huddersfield ‘B’ will not have been greeted well in Claremont!) and so brought a very strong line up to the party for Halifax’s visit. In fact, Halifax without their regular board 1, Bill Somerset, were weaker throughout the side and the home team snatched a vital victory with wins by Malcolm Corbett over Carlos Velosa and Les Johnson over Howard Wood. Vivienne Webster scored a fine consolation point over the higher rated Gordon Farrar on board 3 and the other two games were drawn.
In our next post we’ll cover the final round of the Calderdale Individual Championship and also the final rounds of League 2 as well as the twelfth round of League 1.
Three annotated games from the Belgrave vs. Hebden Bridge ‘B’ match can be found in the viewer below.