Dec 302014
 

Before we say “Goodbye” to 2014 let’s have a last look back at the chess year from a Hebden Bridge perspective. I’m going to make this a two part story (with the second half coming later in the week) and intersperse some positions from games played by Calderdale players (mostly Hebden Bridge players of course). If you feel like testing yourself with some of these positions as puzzles then you can. Alternatively if you’d like to re-live these games again in full then they are collected in the viewer at the end of this post.

Calderdale League 1

January: Parsons vs. Broadbent — Calderdale League 1. Black has just played 11…fxg6. White has a significant advantage but how should he proceed? Should he go for 12.Ng5, 12.Nh4, or something else? The solution is in the game viewer at the end of this post.

January: Parsons vs. Broadbent — Calderdale League 1. Black has just played 11…fxg6. White has a significant advantage but how should he proceed? Should he go for 12.Ng5, 12.Nh4, or something else? The solution is in the game viewer at the end of this post.

Let’s start by recollecting the tremendously exciting Calderdale League 1 title race. Of course Hebden Bridge ‘A’ started the season as champions but they knew right from the off that they would struggle to retain the title as Huddersfield, Courier ‘A’, Todmorden ‘A’ and Halifax ‘A’ all strengthened their line ups during the 2013 summer break. Despite a very strong start that saw the champions defeat both Todmorden ‘A’ and Halifax ‘A’ before Christmas, they subsided in the December and January period with a string of disappointing results. Hebden were realistically out of the title race by the time 2014 had reached the end of its first month but the team did rally strongly towards the end of the season as they sprung a huge 1 — 4 away win on their arch-rivals Huddersfield. They ended the season respectably placed in mid-table, well clear of the relegation zone.

Sadly for HebdenBridge ‘B’, the season was extremely tough as they struggled to field a full team on numerous occasions and were out graded in most of the matches they played. Relegation was always the likely outcome for them but, despite the hardships, they did manage very creditable draws with their own ‘A’ team and Todmorden ‘B’ as well as taking a victory from their home match with Brighouse.

April: Tooley vs. Shapland — Calderdale League 1. White has just played 22.Qa3 and in the game Black replied by sacrificing his rook on f2. Is this sound? Try and calculate all of the critical lines. See game viewer for the solution.

April: Tooley vs. Shapland — Calderdale League 1. White has just played 22.Qa3 and in the game Black replied by sacrificing his rook on f2. Is this sound? Try and calculate all of the critical lines. See game viewer for the solution.

Of course the title race was very competitive indeed and came down to a four-hourse race between the aforementioned Couier ‘A’, Halifax ‘A’, Huddersfield and Todmorden ‘A’ outfits. Huddersfield looked to have the title in the bag with two rounds to play but they were derailed by HebdenBridge ‘A’ in the penultimate fixture and this allowed Halifax to take the driving seat. In round 14 they needed to beat Courier ‘A’ in a winner-takes-all encounter, whilst Huddersfield travelled to Todmorden knowing that they had an outside chance if they could win there. In the end Huddersfield slumped to another defeat and Halifax edged it against Courier to take their first title for 28 years!

Looking at Hebden Bridge’s individual scores in league 1, Dave Shapland was the highest scorer for HebdenBridge ‘A’ with 8½/11 playing predominantly on boards 4 and 5. Pete Leonard, Matthew Parsons and Andy Bak all managed at least 50% and Matthew Webb guest starred in the two matches against Todmorden ‘A’ scoring wins against Martin Hamer on both occasions. The ‘B’ team naturally struggled individually but their captain Martin Syrett scored an extremely creditable 5½/10 playing largely on the upper boards.

Calderdale League 2

April: Syrett vs. Webster — Calderdale League 1. This was a really crazy game! Black, having just played 17… Bh3 is threatening to play Ng4 next move. This looks dangerous. How should White respond? Solution in the game viewer below.

April: Syrett vs. Webster — Calderdale League 1. This was a really crazy game! Black, having just played 17… Bh3 is threatening to play Ng4 next move. This looks dangerous. How should White respond? Solution in the game viewer below.

League 2 was depleted by the loss of Todemorden’s ‘D’ team right at the outset of the season and that meant that just seven teams competed for the title. In the end most people’s favorites Belgrave won the league with a score of 21 points.  Halifax ‘B’ finished in second place with 19 and Todmorden ‘C’ were third with 16 points.

Like Hebden Bridge ‘B’ the Hebden teams in League 2 also struggled to raise full line ups from time to time as the club’s membership of active league participants dwindled. Certainly the ‘C’ team were not contenders for promotion as they have been in previous years. In the end Hebden ‘C’ were fifth with 9 points and Hebden ‘D’ finished bottom with 2 points. But what a glorious 2 points they were!

Surely the outstanding team performance anywhere in Calderdale (perhaps even anywhere in Yorkshire) in 2014 has to be our ‘D’ team’s mind-blowing win over the eventual champions Belgrave. It happened at the Trades Club on February the 17th as Danny Crampton’s ‘development’ squad took on an unbeaten Belgrave line up that out-rated most of their Hebden ‘D’ adversaries by 80 points or more.

February: Dickinson vs. Corbett — Calderdale League 2. After 22.Rxg7 by White ... Qxb3 looks like a very strong response for Black. It didn't turn out well in the game. Why not? Solution in the viewer below

February: Dickinson vs. Corbett — Calderdale League 2. After 22.Rxg7 by White … Qxb3 looks like a very strong response for Black. It didn’t turn out well in the game. Why not? Solution in the viewer below

From the off the ‘D’ team put up spirited resistance but none of the players or spectators expected anything other than a comprehensive win for the visitors. However, it didn’t work out that way as Captain Crampton on board 1, Karl Dickinson on board 2 and Dylan Leggett on board 4 all beat seasoned campaigners rated far, far above them as the ‘D’ took a famous match 3 – 2 and condemned Belgrave to their only defeat of the season.

Check this out for a score card. The ratings of each player at the time the match was played are given in brackets.

Hebden Bridge ‘D’ vs. Belgrave
D.Crampton (63) 1 – 0 G.Farrar (148)
K.Dickinson (40)  1 – 0 M.E.Corbett (144)
P.Dearden (52) 0 – 1 M.J.Barnett (126)
D.Leggett (29) 1 – 0 A.A.Gonzalez (137)
M.Leggett (91) 0 – 1 L.Johnson (133)
3 – 2

From an individuals perspective, the Hebden teams in League 2 all had a very tough season. Only John Kerrane and Neil Bamford could manage 50% for the ‘C’ team which was symptomatic of their travails and none of the ‘D’ team managed 50% even though those three musketeers from that match in February all grew their year-end ratings as a result of their deeds!

Calderdale Individual Championship

February: Ursal vs. Burke — Calderdale Individual R4. Black's just played 45… Rg8 and White, in time trouble, missed his chance to win the game. How should he have proceeded?

February: Ursal vs. Burke — Calderdale Individual R4. Black’s just played 45… Rg8 and White, in time trouble, missed his chance to win the game. How should he have proceeded?

Hebden Bridge’s Matthew Parsons retained his Calderdale Individual title in March as, after drawing in the first round with Martin Syrett in November, he beat his ‘A’ team colleagues Messrs Leatherbarrow, Shapland, Leonard and Sykes to lift the trophy ahead of a strong field that included Todmorden’s Pete Mulleady, Halifax’s Darwin Ursal (who finished second on 4 points) and Huddersfield’s Mitchell Burke. All in all the tournament was a little bit disappointing as a spectacle mainly due to the vast majority of entries coming from Hebden Bridge players. This tended to lend the competition the air of a club championship plus some special guests rather than a highly competitive tournament comprising the best players from across Calderdale duking it out for the area’s premium individual title.

Nevertheless there were some memorable highlights aside from Matthew’s impressive form. In the first round John Kerrane played extremely well against the top seed, Mitchell Burke and actually missed a mate in one that would have given him one of the best wins of his life. Breathing a huge sigh of relief Mitchell scraped through to win that game in the end. In February’s fourth round the Huddersfield board 1 was once again involved in the game of the night as he faced former champion Darwin Ursal with the Black pieces. Knowing that he needed to win to stay in touch with Matthew, Darwin threw the kitchen sink at his rival in a very sharp King’s Indian Defence and both players got into desperate time trouble as they strove to navigate their way through the complexities of the position. Eventually they agreed to a draw with only moments left on their clocks and a crowd of kibitzers straining to see what was happening at the board.

March: Shapland vs Leatherbarrow - Calderdale Individual Championship R5. It's White to move. The position is a mess and there are weaknesses everywhere on both sides. Black has just played 20...g5. What's White's best approach here?

March: Shapland vs Leatherbarrow – Calderdale Individual Championship R5. It’s White to move. The position is a mess and there are weaknesses everywhere on both sides. Black has just played 20…g5. What’s White’s best approach here?

When the final round took place in March the tournament leader dispatched the last of his ‘A’ team colleagues (in the form of Nick Sykes) to retain his title. However, this was far from a smooth victory as Nick got a perfectly playable game from the opening and Matthew felt compelled to venture a risky exchange sacrifice to unbalance the position in search of the victory he needed to guarantee first place. It looked like Nick would at least hang on for a draw in the endgame but Matthew set up a cunning mating net and Nick stumbled into it.

Meanwhile, further down the board order Dave Shapland and Andy Leatherbarrow were engaged in a game that showed all the hallmarks of two participants who no longer had anything to play for in the competition. They contrived to create a game of huge complexity with sacrifices offered and declined and the tension almost unbearable. Eventually Dave ran out the winner and this result gave him a share of third place alongside Nick Sykes and Martin Syrett on 3½/5 behind Matthew and Darwin.

Calderdale Team Lightning

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ made some amends for losing their League 1 title by powering to victory in the  Team Lightning competition which took place at the Belgrave Social Club in May. Although only six teams were entered Hebden still faced formidable opposition in the form of the reigning champions Huddersfield who had wheeled out a ferocious line up to defend the trophy. The crunch match up came as early as round 2 when Hebden ‘A’ faced the holders and, despite being out-rated on every board, they scored a tremendous 4 – 1 victory. This paved the way to their success as they scored 22½/25 with Huddersfield finishing a distant four points behind. The Hebden Bridge line up of Matthew Parsons, Andy Bak, Pete Leonard, Dave Shapland and Nick Sykes also collected four of the five individual board prizes and Hebden Bridge ‘B’s Karl Dickinson won the junior prize.

May: Matthew Parsons of Hebden Bridge 'A' (left) and Nigel Hepworth playing for Belgrave (right) battle out in the final round of the Team Lightning competition

May: Matthew Parsons of Hebden Bridge ‘A’ (left) and Nigel Hepworth playing for Belgrave (right) battle out in the final round of the Team Lightning competition

Yorkshire League

A number of Hebden Bridge players represented Calderdale ‘B’ in Yorkshire League Division 2. After a very promising start to the season with three consecutive victories the team ran out of steam and were only sure of safety from ignominious relegation when they rallied to two more wins in March. They finished 8th out of 12 with five wins and six defeats. Not a bad return in the end.

One of Calderdale ‘B’s best performers (scoring 6/7 at 86%) was Hebden’s John Allan. He only played a handful of evening league matches as he much prefers to play his chess in the daytime. On this evidence one can understand why. Hopefully he’ll continue to be available and successful for the side this year.

Andy Leatherbarrow was often wheeled out on the higher boards against very strong opposition and so his record of seven draws and three defeats was by no means a poor one. Martin Syrett also featured frequently though he had less success here than he did in the evening leagues and Calderdale Individual.

There were no Hebden players in the Calderdale ‘A’ team this season but they distinguished themselves once again in League Division 1 by finishing with a 50% record and in 6th place out of 12.

In the game viewer below you’ll find the complete games featured in the positions above (some with commentary) so you can see how you got on with the puzzles. I’ll be posting the second half of this article early in the new year when I’ll be focusing on the second half of 2014. Until then I’d like to wish all our members and readers a very happy new year!

 

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May 162014
 
Smothered checkmates don't come along all that often but in lightning chess, where blunders and sudden catastrophes occur more often, they are more likely to make an appearance. Here's one from Monday night (the position is from memory so it might not be 100% accurate).  White was worried about Black playing Bh3 so he decided on 1.Bf1 only to be punished with Nh3 mate!

Smothered checkmates don’t come along all that often. In lightning chess however, blunders and sudden catastrophes occur in most games! Here’s one from Monday night (the position is from memory so it might not be 100% accurate). In an unusual position following a wild opening phase White was worried about Black playing Bh3 so he decided to play Bf1 only to be shocked by Nh3 mate!

The Calderdale Evening Chess League held its traditional curtain closer to the season on Monday night as players gathered at the Belgrave Social Club for the team lightning competition. For the uninitiated, lightning games are played to the sound of a buzzer which goes off every 10 seconds. Players must make their move in turn on the sound of the buzzer. Checks need not be announced and kings may be captured to end the game. This format makes for some entertaining chess (see the diagram for evidence!) and surprising outcomes as the playing field between the best and the rest is levelled by the reduced thinking time.

This year only six teams entered the competition which was slightly disappointing considering last year’s excellent turn out. Still, this neatly confined the competition to an all play all over five rounds with five players per side. Despite the small number of teams representation was at least spread from clubs across the league as Huddersfield, Belgrave, Halifax, Todmorden and Hebden Bridge (with two teams) all entered sides.

Last year’s winners, Huddersfield, returned to defend their title in strength as they fielded a truly ferocious line up. Leo Keeley, Greg Eagleton and Mitchell Burke are all rated over 180 and their board 4 was Dave Keddie who is rated at 171! Their captain Robert Sutcliffe completed the line up on board 5.

Right from the start it was clear that Huddersfield’s main rivals were likely to be Hebden Bridge ‘A’ who also came with a strong team of evening league regulars. They had gathered Matthew Parsons, Andy Bak, Pete Leonard, Dave Shapland and Nick Sykes for the occasion. Many of the strongest players from the other clubs did not make an appearance. For example, new League 1 title holders Halifax only had Scott Gornall from their ‘A’ team line up. Last year’s runners up Todmorden didn’t have any of their ‘A’ team at all although they did have a good League 1 regular on board 1 in the form of Neil Suttie. League 2 champions Belgrave had most of their regular line up present too although they supplemented Gordon Farrar and Mike Barnett with Nigel Hepworth and Karim Khan. Hebden Bridge ‘B’ supplemented their line up with Todmorden’s Dave Milton.

The team lightning is decided on board scores rather than match scores and so, having both won their first matches by a margin of 4½ — ½ the crunch encounter between Huddersfield and Hebden Bridge took place as early as round 2. Despite being out-graded on every board but board 5 Hebden Bridge not only beat their rivals but outscored them by the surprising margin of 4 — 1! Only Hudderfield’s Leo Keeley took a win for the title holders.

This margin of victory gave Hebden Bridge a comfortable cushion for the remaining three rounds and put the pressure on Huddersfield to score extremely heavily if they were going to catch up. As it was Hebden barely took their feet off the gas as they scored 5 — 0, 5 — 0 and finally 4 — 1 to take the honours. Dropping only two and a half points through the whole competition was great achievement and, unsurprisingly, Hebden almost swept the board of individual medals as well.

Matthew Parsons of Hebden Bridge 'A' (left) and Nigel Hepworth playing for Belgrave (right) battle out in the final round of the competition

Matthew Parsons of Hebden Bridge ‘A’ (left) and Nigel Hepworth playing for Belgrave (right) battle out in the final round of the competition

Final scores were:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ — 22½/25
Huddersfield — 18½
Todmorden — 10½
Belgrave — 10
Halifax — 7
Hebden Bridge ‘B’ — 6½

Individual board winners were:

Board 1: Leo Keeley (Huddersfield) — 4½
Board 2: Andy Bak (Hebden Bridge ‘A’) — 4½
Board 3: Pete Leonard (Hebden Bridge ‘A’) — 5
Board 4: Dave Shapland (Hebden Bridge ‘A’) — 5
Board 5: Karim Khan (Belgrave) and Nick Sykes (Hebden Bridge ‘A’) — 4

Hebden Bridge ‘B’s Karl Dickinson won the junior medal.

The competition was organised and overseen very capably by Dave Colledge of Courier chess club.

Apr 222014
 
Halifax Captain Carlos Velosa was at least as happy as Diego Maradona was in 1986 as his team lifted the title last Monday. Did his team carry him round the car park at Belgrave though?

Halifax Captain Carlos Velosa was at least as happy as Diego Maradona was in 1986 as his team lifted the title last Monday. Did his team carry him round the car park at Belgrave though?

By now most if not all readers will be aware that Halifax ‘A’ won their first Calderdale Evening Chess League 1 title for twenty eight years last Monday night. Belgrave won the League 2 title to be promoted as champions back to the top flight. They will be joined by Halifax ‘B’ who finished in second place. Halifax’s Darwin “Draw-Win” Ursal finished the season as the best individual in League 1 with a score of 12/14 (or 10/12 if you discount a couple of defaults). Another Halifax player, Scott Gornall, took the League 2 individual player of the year plaudits with 10/11 (with just one of these points coming from a default).

It’s been a wonderful year for Halifax Chess Club and all their members should be given great credit for their commitment and passion for the game especially when you consider that just two seasons ago they had no teams in the top flight. Naturally taking the League 1 title is a really big deal for Halifax. I was 11 years old when they last won it! Let’s take a moment to reflect on what the world was like  in 1986. Here are some of the big events of that year:

In the news

  • An accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine kills thousands and pollutes a huge are
  • The Challenger space shuttle disintegrates shortly after take off killing all 7 crew members
  • Prince Andrew, Duke of York, marries Sarah Ferguson at Westminster Abbey
  • Pan Am flight 73 is hijacked by terrorists at Karachi International Airport
  • Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher opens the M25 motorway
  • The UK and France announce plans to construct the Channel Tunnel
  • The Soviet Union launches the Mir space station
  • Out of Africa win Best Picture at the Academy Awards
  • Microsoft Corporation launches it’s first offering of stock shares
  • Pablo Picasso’s Weeping Woman is stolen and then found two weeks later in a locker at a station in Melbourne

In sport

  • At World Cup ’86 in Mexico England lose to Diego ‘Hand of God’ Maradonna’s Argentina in the Quarter Finals
  • Boris Becker wins his second consecutive Wimbledon Mens Singles title by defeating Ivan Lendl in straight sets
  • Liverpool win the League and FA Cup double beating near neighbours Everton into second place in both
  • Richard Dunwoody rides West Tip to victory in the Grand National at Aintree
  • Greg Lemond wins his first Tour de France
  • Joe Johnson surprises everyone by beating Steve Davis 18-12 in the final of the World Snooker Championship
  • Mike Tyson wins his first world boxing title defeating Trevor Berbick in Las Vegas

In chess

  • Garry Kasparov beat Anatoly Karpov to take the World Chess Championship for the first time
  • England (Miles, Nunn, Short, Speelman, Chandler and Flear) won the silver medal at the Chess Olympiad in Dubai finishing only behind the Soviet Union
  • Halifax won the Calderdale Evening Chess League

Quite a memorable year I’m sure you’ll agree! 1986 feels like a lifetime ago. Poigniantly I noticed recently that 1986 really was a life time ago for Vugar Gashimov. The Azerbaijani Grand Master was born in 1986 and died tragically from a brain tumour in January this year. The current tournament in Shamkir is being held as a memorial to him.

Now, back to the action in Calderdale. The final round of the season began with three teams still in contention for the title in League 1. Halifax ‘A’ were top on board count but they had to travel to Courier ‘A’, who were on the same match points as them, for the last round. Halifax knew they needed to win to be sure of the title because, if they drew, Huddersfield could over take them by winning away at Todmorden ‘A’. Courier also knew that they had to win the match so a truly bloodthirsty night of chess was in the offing.

The first result of the night came from Todmorden where the home side’s Andrew Clarkson won a miniature against Huddersfield’s Dave Keddie on board 3. This already left Huddersfield with a mountain to climb. Meanwhile at Belgrave Social Club the only early result was a surprisingly short draw on board 4 between the Captains Dave Patrick and Carlos Velosa.

By the middle of the evening it became apparent that Huddersfield were slipping out of contention. In fairness to them Todmorden ‘A’ have put together an incredible record at home this season having lost only one game from 35 played with the White pieces! By the end of the second hour’s play the home side had secured a draw on board 4 between Alastair Wright and Imre Zelei and they then put the title beyond the visitor’s grasp when  Pete Mulleady beat Mitchell Burke on board 2. Huddersfield now had to win both the remaining boards just to tie the match.

Back at Halifax the match situation remained tense for much longer. By 10 o’clock only a second draw in board 2 encounter between Tony Slinger and Winston Williams had been added to the early result and the match as in the balance. Courier’s Robert Clegg seemed to have the advantage over Sam Scurfield but failed to find the best way to press it home and then blundered to give Halifax the advantage on the bottom board. The top board match up between Phil Watson and Darwin Ursal was destined to run and run with the outcome being anyone’s guess. It was only when Bill Somerset beat John Morgan on board 3 that Halifax really started to believe they could do it.

Shortly afterwards Halifax did clinch the title as Sam mopped up against Robert to make the score 1-3. The last game to finish was significant only because it robbed Darwin of his unbeaten record in Calderdale this season. Phil managed to beat him in a time-scramble at the end of the evening’s play.

Zeintot could have played a part in the outcome at Todmorden too as both Rob Tokeley and Dave Tooley ran very close to the wire. The Todmorden man had to make his last nine moves before the time control in a minute but he just made it and the players went into an opposite coloured bishops ending which looked drawn. They squeezed every last drop out of the position but finally Dave offered Rob a draw and it was accepted. Todmorden had won the match and all that remained was for Leo Keeley to do all in his power to take down Martyn Hamer and give Huddersfield a consolation victory. Sadly for them, even that didn’t happen and another draw meant that Todmorden took the match 3½-1½.

The final league table therefore shows Halifax ‘A’ on top with 21 points. Courier ‘A’ were second on 19 points just one and a half boards ahead of Huddersfield who finished third also on 19 points. Todmorden ‘A’ were fourth on 18 points and will be left wondering what might have been had they not defaulted in the penultimate fixture at Halifax. Had they played and won that match they’d have won the league themselves by a single point!

Below Todmorden the 2012-13 champions Hebden Bridge ‘A’ finished the season off in fifth place but ended the season in fine style by thrashing Todmorden ‘B’ at home 4½-½. Todmorden therefore finished in sixth. For a change I’ll not bore readers with a long description of what was a meaningless encounter but suffice to say Hebden tried their best to hold on to their crown but simply didn’t have enough strength in their team to sustain a challenge this season. The match score card was:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs. Todmorden ‘B’
M.Parsons 1 – 0 N.Suttie
P.Leonard 1 – 0 M.Connor
D.Shapland 1 – 0 P.Edwards
A.Leatherbarrow ½ – ½ R.Collier
M.Syrett 1 – 0 T.Webster
4½ – ½

The game viewer at the end of this post has four of the five games from this match in it. Some of them are quite interesting and I’d particularly like to draw readers’ attention to the slugfest between Martin Syrett and Tom Webster which is highly entertaining toe-to-toe struggle in a King’s Gambit Accepted. The viewer also has Bill Somerset’s critical win against John Morgan in the Courier versus Halifax match and Andrew Clarkson’s game against Dave Keddie from the Tod ‘A’ versus Huddersfield match. My thanks as always to Adrian Dawson for collecting Bill’s game and Andrew for taking the time to share his thoughts on his game and on the match at Todmorden. I’d also like to thank the Halifax Captain Carlos Velosa for his description of events at Courier.

As a curtain call on this year’s League 1 reporting it should be noted that Hebden Bridge ‘B’ defaulted their ‘dead rubber’ at Brighouse. Both those teams go down to play in League 2 next season. It seems highly unlikely that Hebden will be able to field three teams in the lower flight having struggled for numbers all season long.

… and so to League 2. Hebden Bridge ‘C’ finished their season off by playing the leaders Belgrave at the Trades Club. If they could emulate their ‘D’ team colleagues in defeating the front-runners then it was still possible for Halifax ‘B’ to pip Belgrave at the post by defeating Hebden Bridge ‘D’ at home. The last fixture of the night saw Todmorden ‘C’ take on Halifax ‘C’ at home.

As it was Belgrave assumed the mantle of Champions by dispatching Hebden ‘C’ comfortably. Here are the individual scores:

Hebden Bridge ‘C’ vs. Belgrave
J.Kerrane ½ – ½ G.Farrar
N.Bamford 0 – 1 M.Corbett
T.Sullivan ½ – ½ M.Barnett
R.Deravairere 0 – 1 L.Johnson
A.Brown 0 – 1 A.Gonzalez
1 – 4

The games from this match can also be found in the viewer below.

Belgrave secured the title with a score of 21 points. Halifax ‘B’ didn’t have to play in the end as Hebden ‘D’ defaulted their match as well. Halifax finished in second place with 19 points. Todmorden ‘C’ were third with 16 points as they defeated Halifax ‘C’ 4 – 1 in their last match and this meant that Halifax ‘C’ finished fourth with 10 points. Hebden ‘C’ were fifth with 9 points, Courier ‘B’ scored 7 and Hebden ‘D’ were last with 2 points (but what a glorious 2 points they were!)

In future posts over the summer I’ll do the usual thing of reviewing the season and the performance of the Hebden Bridge teams and individuals. I’d welcome further comments from players outside the club. Anyone who’s followed the comments posted against last week’s newsflash will see that the debate and opinion has been positive and extensive. Do feel free to contribute. In particular I’d very much like to see some nominations either in the comments here or by email to hebdenbridgechessclub@gmail.com for the best games of the season. I’m going to be writing a review of the Calderdale season for the Yorkshire website and would very much like to feature the best games of the year from right across the leagues not just from Hebden Bridge.

Thank you all for following the website during the season. I hope you’ve enjoyed the coverage and I’m looking forward to what I hope will be another fantastic year in 2014-15!

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Apr 152014
 
Lightning strikes for Halifax 'A' and Belgrave. This image is used under Creative Commons terms and is sourced form gleasonmj's Flickr photostream

Lightning strikes for Halifax ‘A’ and Belgrave. This image is used under Creative Commons terms and is sourced form gleasonmj’s Flickr photostream

Congratulations to Halifax ‘A’ who lifted their first Calderdale Evening Chess League 1 title since 1985-85! They defeated a strong Courier ‘A’ side 2 – 3 at the Belgrave Club to take the crown. At Todmorden their ‘A’ team beat Huddersfield by 3½ – 1½which means that Courier finish as runners up on board count ahead of Huddersfield. Todmorden ‘A’ finished fourth.

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ finished off their season with a convincing 4½ – ½ win over Todmorden ‘B’ whilst Hebden Bridge ‘B’, with nothing to play for forfeited their away game to Brighouse. Both those teams go down whilst Hebden ‘A’ finish fifth and Tod ‘B’ finished sixth.

Congratulations too to Belgrave who won League 2 by defeating Hebden Bridge ‘C’ at the Trades Club last night. Halifax ‘B’ join them in League 1 next season.

A more detailed report and game will follow later this week.

Apr 112014
 

About this time two years ago we were all getting excited about the tightest Calderdale League 1 title race ever. Hebden Bridge ‘A’ fell across the finishing line with a draw giving Todmorden ‘A’ the opportunity to steal the title if they could win 5-0 at Huddersfield ‘B’. They won 4-1 and lost out by a single board point.

This year’s title race has been even more compelling and, although Hebden Bridge aren’t directly involved they played their part on Wednesday night in setting up a three-way photo finish that reminds us of this iconic image from the recent Winter Olympics in Sochi.

You might have enjoyed watching this entertaining end to one of the ski-cross races as three competitors fell and slid across the finishing line almost in unison. This season's League 1 title race has been similarly unpredictable with seemingly no-one able to assert their authority for long. Which of the final three contenders will step up to take the crown from Hebden Bridge on Monday night?

You might have enjoyed watching this entertaining end to one of the ski-cross races as three competitors fell and slid across the finishing line almost in unison. This season’s League 1 title race has been similarly unpredictable with seemingly no-one able to assert their authority for long. Which of the final three contenders will step up to take the crown from Hebden Bridge on Monday night?

Hebden Bridge ‘A’s title ambitions for this year were finally expunged by Halifax in the last round of matches but, if they are honest with themselves, they’ll have realised some time ago that the game was up.  Since they beat Halifax away last November they have won only one match and drawn two from their last eight fixtures. That’s relegation form. That said, Nick Sykes’ team have fought hard in every encounter and tried to defend their title with as much vigor and determination as ever.

Before this week’s round of fixtures Huddersfield seemed to have the title race under control as they were two points clear of Halifax ‘A’ and Courier ‘A’ and three clear of Todmorden ‘A’. On Monday night those two teams did their job to make the run in as close as possible by winning in very different circumstances. Halifax were due to host Todmorden ‘A’ who still had an outside chance of catching up themselves if they could win this match and then beat Huddersfield at home in the final round. However, Todmorden’s old ‘away fixture’ weakness returned to haunt them as they found that several regular A-teamers were unavailable and were forced to decide between fielding a weakened line up at Halifax or playing a strong ‘B’ team at home against Brighouse to try and secure that team’s league 1 status. Bizarrely (from this observer’s perspective at least!) they chose the latter and whilst Todmorden ‘B’ won narrowly 3-2 to condemn Brighouse and Hebden Bridge ‘B’ to the drop, the ‘A’ team defaulted their match against Halifax completely. This 5-0 walkover may yet have a significant impact on the destiny of the title.

Meanwhile Courier ‘A’ were also struggling to field a side as they arrived at the Trades Club to play Hebden Bridge ‘B’ with only four players. It could have been disastrous for their title bid but the quartet they did bring were still too strong for Hebden who only managed to add a draw to the point gained from the defaulted board. Martin Syrett did continue his recent excellent form by drawing with Dave Patrick but that was as good as it got for Hebden Bridge ‘B’ who have endured a torrid time this season. They finish off with a wooden spoon contest against Brighouse on Monday with both teams doomed to the lower division already.

Here is the match scorecard from the Trades Club:

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ vs. Courier ‘A’
J.Blinkhorn 0 – 1 T.Slinger
M.Syrett ½ – ½ D.Patrick
J.Kerrane 0 – 1 J.Cawston
R.Deravairere 0 – 1 R.Clegg
D.Crampton 1 – 0 DEFAULT
1½ – 3½

Now all eyes could turn towards the Lindley Liberal Club for Wednesday’s clash between Huddersfield and Hebden Bridge ‘A’. Halifax and Courier players had everything crossed in the hopes of any kind of away result. Even a draw would have given them hope of catching up with the leaders.

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ have a truly execrable record against Huddersfield. Just one win in the last five years and that was last season at Huddersfield when the home side only fielded four players! To make matters worse Matthew Parsons and Nick Sykes couldn’t play and Matthew Webb was unavailable too. This forced Dave Shapland, the stand in Captain on the night, into drastic measures as he called on the services of regular super-sub Andy Bak and virgin debutante Calderdale Leaguer Ihor Lewyk. The philosophy for Hebden Bridge was straight forward: “If you want to take our crown from us then you’ll have to break our fingers to get it!” Hebden have fielded very strong line-ups against their closest rivals this season and they weren’t about to abandon that approach just because they were out of contention for the title.

Huddersfield meanwhile had also fielded a strong team though perhaps, with half an eye on Monday’s visit to Todmorden,  not their very strongest. Another epic contest was in the offing as the ten players sat down to start the clocks.

The first game to finish was the top board encounter between Ihor and Greg Eagleton. The opening was a Czech Benoni which is typifed by a closed pawn structure in the centre and some deep manoeuvring in the trenches and on the flanks. Neither player was in the mood to take too many risks and as the heavy pieces started to come off they agreed to peace.

Shortly afterwards another draw was agreed on board 5 where Hebden’s Andy Leatherbarrow initially appeared to have gained the upper hand right out of the opening. Unwittingly Tony Aguirre had wandered into a line of the Nimzowitsch Defence that Andy had looked at that very day and he deployed a tactical trick to win a pawn and seemingly put the White king in grave danger. However, Tony kept his head and calculated that by moving his king to f2 would solve his immediate problems and simplify the position a good deal. His idea worked to the extent that he gained a bishop pair against Andy’s brace of knights as compensation for Black’s extra pawn and the two entered the endgame early. Once again neither player wanted to risk too much in a very balanced position and they quickly agreed to a draw.

The last three games went on far longer and on they seemed to be very close indeed. On board 2 Andy Bak had gained a very pleasant position against Mitchell’s Spanish by deploying the Smyslov Variation (typified by 3…g6). On board 3 Pete Leonard was up against Huddersfield’s own latest recruit, Imre Zelei, who had boldly deployed the Four Pawns Attack against Pete’s Alekhine’s Defence. However, Pete used some opening preparation of his own as he unleashed the unusual and very interesting move 5…g5!? which is at the extreme end of the ‘hypermodern’ spectrum. Imre sensibly kept the tension in the position and carefully maintained his pawn centre until on move 22 his, and subsequently, his team’s, night came to a rather abrupt end.

There was a sudden rush of action on the remaining three boards. Poor Imre had simply removed the protect from an attacked knight and therefore lost it on the spot. He had no compensation whatsoever and therefore had to resign. This was shortly followed by an equally sudden and unexpected catastrophe from Mitchell on board 2. Realising that he possibly had to play for a win to maintain his sides chances he opted to hide his king on h1 on move 29 but this allowed Andy to play a nice combination which won a piece and incredibly the match was over.

This just left Dave Shapland to add the cherry to the cake as he lured Dave Tooley into a pawn grab with his queen on b7. The subsequent open b-file was acquired by Black’s rook which then landed on the seventh rank. Tooley tried to surround the rook but in doing so he allowed his opponent to sweep his defending pieces from the king-side, push forward with his f-pawn and then offer a rook sacrifice on f2. Subsequent analysis prooves that, for once, Dave Shapland’s idea was sound and he went on to force the enemy king into the open. From there it was reasonably simple.

The final match scorecard looked like this:

Huddersfield vs. Hebden Bridge ‘A’
G.Eagleton ½ – ½ I.Lewyk
M.Burke 0 – 1 A.Bak
I.Zelei 0 – 1 P.Leonard
D.Tooley 0 – 1 D.Shapland
A.Aguirre ½ – ½ A.Leatherbarrow
1 – 4

Another dramatic chapter in the long history between these two rivals was written then and on this occasion the outcome was a devastating blow for the home team although they were as generous and sporting in defeat as they are gracious in victory. They now have to go to Todmorden ‘A’ on Monday and win to have any chance of taking the title. They must also hope that Courier and Halifax draw their match or that Courier win by a point less than they do at Todmorden.

Halifax are now in the box seat as their board count is insurmountably superior to the other two teams on the same points as them. However, they can take nothing for granted because, like Huddersfield, they will be playing with the Black pieces on Monday night and Courier will surely field their strongest possible line up. All three teams have to play for a win because a draw, even for Halifax, won’t guarantee success. It should be a monumentally tense and dramatic evening in the Calder Valley. The stakes are even higher for the two team playing in Halifax as the last time either of them won the league was when Halifax took it in 1985-86! (Thanks to Carlos Velosa for this nugget.)

You can view all the games from the Huddersfield vs. Hebden Bridge ‘A’ match in the viewer below. My thanks to all the Hebden team who have taken the time to add some commentary to their games.

All that remains for me to say is “Good luck!” to all three teams involved in Monday night’s showdown. Whoever does inherit Hebden Bridge’s crown will be very, very worthy ‘Kings of the Valley’ this year.

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Apr 052014
 
Huddersfield are now in charge of their own destiny in League 1. Remain unbeaten in their last two fixtures and they will take back the title from Hebden Bridge. They are not quite ready to steer with their feet... but almost. This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from hadsie's Flickr photostream.

Huddersfield are now in charge of their own destiny in League 1. If they remain unbeaten in their last two fixtures and they will take back the title from Hebden Bridge. They are not quite ready to steer with their feet… but almost. This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from hadsie’s Flickr photostream.

There was a further round of fixtures in both leagues 1 and 2 during the course of the last two weeks. We’ll focus on the league 1 situation first as these matches took place last Monday the 23rd of March.

The headline news is that Huddersfield are now very much in the box seat for the title as they avenged the surprise home defeat they suffered before Christmas at the hands of Brighouse by beating the same team away by 1½ — 3½. Mitchell Burke led the way on board 1 with a victory over Robert Broadbent and the tie was effectively polished off on the bottom two boards where David’s Firth and Tooley dispatched Nick Hudson and Paul Whitehouse respectively. This ensured Huddersfield reached 19 points and would maintain their lead at the top.

Of critical importance was the match up between Courier ‘A’ and Todmorden ‘A’ which took place in Halifax at the Belgrave Social Club. Courier made a clear statement of intent by fielding Phil Watson on board 1 followed by Tony Slinger, John Morgan, Dave Patrick and Robert Clegg. This is their strongest possible line up. They knew they had to defeat Todmorden to stay in touch with the title race and win they did by a margin of 3½ — 1½. Todmorden unfortunately displayed an age-old frailty in that they were not able to field the kind of strength away from home that they put out consistently in Todmorden. Missing Pete Mulleady and Rob Tokeley they only managed to replace these players with weaker players and they paid a heavy price. Chris Edwards lost to Robert Clegg on the bottom board and Martin Hamer lost to Phil Watson on the top board to condemn them to defeat. This result means that Courier stay two points behind Huddersfield but Todmorden have now lost control of their own destiny for they are three points behind and can’t catch Huddersfield if the top team win their next match.

Huddersfield’s win also put paid to any slim hopes the reigning champions had of catching their rivals. Hebden Bridge ‘A’ were therefore playing for pride at home to Halifax ‘A’. Halifax meanwhile, like Courier knew that they needed a win to stay in touch with Huddersfield and they fielded a powerful line up to take on the team that had surprised them at home in the first half of the season.

The night got off to a cautious start as Andy Leatherbarrow and Sam Scurfield chopped wood with wonderous efficiency on board 5 to agree a draw on move 15. After that the wheels fell off completely for the home team. First of all Dave Shapland conceded his first defeat of the season for the ‘A’ team as he played over ambitiously against Winston Williams and then overlooked a tactic that led to checkmate. Next up Nick Sykes came off second best in the battle of the Captains on board 4 as, after securing an early advantage against Carlos Velosa, he lost control. The position got messy and Carlos took his chance to generate a mating attack.

So far so bad! Hebden now needed their top two boards to win in order just to save the match. It wasn’t going to happen. Andy Bak succeeded in getting a draw off Darwin Ursal on board 2, no mean feat given the form Darwin has been in this season (it’s just his second draw of the year in the league!) in a game where Darwin generated absolutely nothing at all from a Sicilian Kalashnikov variation but Andrew didn’t have enough of an edge to convert the endgame.

Finally Matthew Parsons also succumbed to Bill Somerset on board 1 as he ventured a sacrifice that netted him an attack and two pawns for a piece. Bill however defended with extreme accuracy, repelled the attack and then engineered simplifications to convert his material advantage.

It ended 1 — 4. Here is the match score card:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs. Halifax ‘A’
M.Parsons 0 — 1 W.Somerset
A.Bak ½ — ½ D.Ursal
D.Shapland 0 — 1 W.Williams
N.Sykes 0 — 1 C.Velosa
A.Leatherbarrow ½ — ½ S.Scurfield
1 — 4

All these results played right into the league leader’s hands for both of their closest pursuers, Halifax and Courier, have already played them twice and so cannot directly affect the outcome of the title race. These two must hope that either Hebden Bridge (next) or Todmorden ‘A’ (last) can produce a win that will allow them to catch up. If Hebden could pull off a surprise and beat Huddersfield and Todmorden were able to beat Halifax on the road then a grand stand finish would be in prospect with Courier hosting Halifax and Todmorden hosting Huddersfield on the last day of the season. More likely Huddersfield will beat Hebden and give themselves draw odds for the title against Todmorden in the final round. Good luck to them!

At the other end of the table, Brighouse’s defeat still leaves them in a desperate situation as far as relegation is concerned. They are second from bottom only on board count over Hebden Bridge ‘B’ and either side need to win both their remaining matches to have any chances of staying up. The only reason that they still have this slender hope is because Hebden ‘B’ managed to draw with Todmorden ‘B’ last Monday. It was the kind of performance they’ve been threatening all season but they couldn’t manage the extra half point that they desperately needed for a win that would have given them a much greater chance of staying up.

In the end Martin Syrett’s men had to content themselves with some really excellent individual results. Josh Blinkhorn dispatched Neil Suttie with cruel efficiency on board 1 and Martin Syrett also won impressively against Paul Edwards whilst Neil Bamford continued his recent good form by drawing with Rob Collier. The two defeats cost them dear. Dan Crampton was always likely to be up against it on board 5 with Tom Webster opposite him but John Allan got into clock difficulties on board 2 against Mike Huett when it looked like he was doing well. John’s zeintot and Mike’s resourcefulness was enough to turn the game in it’s head and the last game of the night to finish went Todmorden’s way and they held the draw.

Here’s the score card:

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ vs. Todmorden ‘B’
J.Blinkhorn 1 — 0 N.Suttie
J.Allan 0 — 1 M.Huett
M.Syrett 1 — 0 P.Edwards
N.Bamford ½ — ½ R.Collier
D.Crampton 0 — 1 T.Webster
2½ — 2½

To his very great credit at least Dan Crampton managed to improve on this result when he faced Tom Webster again this last Monday night as the League 2 team played another round of fixtures. John Kerrane reports on the action:

Hebden Bridge ‘C’ travelled to Claremount Social Club, Halifax, to take on Courier ‘B’. The teams looked evenly matched on paper, and when Ray Deravairere pounced on an error by his opponent to produce a checkmate in the last game to finish, the expected 2-2 draw emerged.

The individual results were:

Courier ‘B’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘C’
D.Colledge ½ — ½ J.Kerrane
J. B.Smith ½ — ½ N.Bamford
P.Jacobs 0 — 1 R.Deravairere
R.Bottomley 1 — 0 K.Dickinson
Default 0 — 0 Default
2 — 2

Hebden Bridge ‘D’, meanwhile, were playing at home at the Trades Club, Holme Street, against a very strong Todmorden ‘C’ side. Captain Dan Crampton finished the evening kicking himself for having missed a forced checkmate early in his game against Tom Webster, but his half-point was the only bright spot for the team, and the result went 4½-½ to the visitors.

The individual results were:

Hebden Bridge ‘D’ vs. Todmorden ‘C’
D.Crampton ½ — ½ T.Webster
A.Brown 0 — 1 D. H.Milton
P.Dearden 0 — 1 R.Pratt
D.Leggett 0 — 1 J. P.Ellis
M.Leggett 0 — 1 B.Joyce
½ — 4½

Hebden Bridge ‘D’ also played a re-scheduled fixture against Halifax ‘B’ the week before when the League 1 sides were playing. Here’s the score card from that one:

Hebden Bridge ‘D’ vs. Halifax ‘B’
A.Brown 0 — 1 T.Hilton
K.Dickinson 0 — 1 S.Gornall
P.Dearden 0 — 1 J.Aldridge
D.Leggett 0 — 1 R.Cully
M.Leggett 0 — 1 A.Dawson
0 — 5

Elsewhere in League 2 the critical match between Belgrave and Halifax ‘B’ took place this last Monday. Halifax were looking to upset the applecart and snatch the title from Belgrave and they signalled their intent by fielding a very strong side indeed. However, in the end it was Belgrave who shaded it 3 — 2 and that means they are pretty much assured of the title. Halifax will probably join them in promotion but they are now only a single point ahead of Todmorden ‘C’ (though they have a game in hand on their pursuers.

In the game viewer below you’ll find a number of games from the league 1 matches mentioned in this report. My thanks as always to those who have sent me commentary for their games.

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Mar 242014
 
The original Kingmaker. Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick. Shakespeare puts the words of this quote into his mouth as he lies wounded and dying after the battle of Barnet

The original Kingmaker. Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick. Shakespeare puts the words of this quote into his mouth as he lies wounded and dying after the battle of Barnet. (Image from Wikipedia)

By the end of the night tonight the crown that the Hebden Bridge ‘A’ team have possessed with such pride for the past two seasons may well have been prized from their grasp. Yes, it’s time to bring readers up to date with the current state of play in the turbulent League 1 title scrap. Let’s begin today’s post with a little bit of Shakespeare to remind ourselves that all good things must come to an end.

… what is pomp, rule, reign, but earth and dust?

And, live we how we can, yet die we must.”

– Henry VI Part 3, Act 5, Scene 2

The last round took place exactly one month ago whilst your editor was taking his annual recreation in the Alps — that is the only excuse I can offer for the tardiness of this website’s recent reporting. Round 11 already saw the champions entering, if not the “last chance saloon”, then certainly the “next to last chance saloon”! They travelled to Todmorden and took on one of their key rivals, Todmorden ‘A’. They knew it would be a terrifically tough task to win as Todmorden had not dropped a single game point at home in the season until then. Not only that, but as well as missing Dave Shapland, they were also forced to travel without Matthew Parsons who was unwell.

That forced Nick Sykes into some last minute improvisation as the team had long planned to recruit in their “super sub” Matthew Webb in place of Dave Shapland. Now the captain was forced into desperate but soundly considered action as he managed to get hold of John Allan to play on the bottom board. This meant that Hebden still turned up with a pretty strong line up to face the Tod ‘A’ regulars of Messers Hamer, Mulleady, Clarkson, Wright and Tokeley. The night was set for drama.

Hebden have suffered in recent rounds from starting the night out well and then slipping to draws or defeats in the later games to finish. This time they couldn’t have had a worse start to the evening as Pete Leonard had a terrible accident against Pete Mulleady on board 2. It was one of those occasions when, no matter what a player tries, they only seem to make things worse. Pete was dead and buried in very short order and went out into the cold night licking painful wounds.

But, Hebden bounced back immediately as Matty Webb did what no-one else has done at Todmorden ‘A’ this season. He won with Black! It was a smooth positional victory rather than the blood and thunder triumph he had enjoyed against the same opponent in the first half of the season. Doubling up on Martin Hamer is no mean achievement and goes to show what kind of form Matty is in at the moment. He’s gone on since this match to get his Yorkshire live rating up over 200. That was his target for the season, so congratulations to him for reaching this significant milestone.

That game levelled the scores and now the bottom three boards would decide the match. This would have been about as good a scenario has Hebden could have wished for as this was where the difference in ratings between the two sides was minimal. All three games went on into the night and the balance was maintained by Andy Leatherbarrow who successfully defended himself once again with the Scandinavian against ex-team mate Alastair Wright for a hard earned half point.

Meanwhile Nick Sykes and Andrew Clarkson on board 3 had been engaged in a highly topical and significant discussion in the Sicilian Najdorf variation. Andrew, as well prepared as ever, opted for an early h3. This line has been seen at the very highest levels recently (including the ongoing Candidates Tournament) and so an interesting and lively game was in prospect here with both players well versed on the themes of the opening. As that game progressed through a see-saw middle game and into a king and pawn ending the pawn 5 game drew to a dramatic and momentous conclusion.

John Allan had managed to engineer a fine position for himself against Rob Tokeley on board 5. Using the Tarrasch Variation he’d first equalised and then gone on to secure a small but stable advantage in the middle game. The only down side was that John was burning up the same volume of time on his clock as his opponent, who is a habitual zeintot addict. Nevertheless, by move 30 John had an extra, passed, but isolated d-pawn in a same coloured bishop and rook ending. He had some winning chances and could press on and on almost without risk.

But that was when John fell foul of one of the oldest tricks in the book. Rob made his 36 move and offered John a draw. Unsure as to whether or not he should accept the offer, which was made from a position of weakness, John got up from the board to look at the match score and the remaining games. Having decided that he should continue to play and try to win he returned to the board only to be informed that he had lost on time! It was a heartbreaking return for Hebden for this board would decide the outcome of the match. A draw would have resulted in a drawn match and a win for John would have been a win for Hebden.

As it was, the loss turned out to be critical, for Nick Sykes was unable to find a win in his endgame against Andrew. In fact, subsequent analysis demonstrates that both sides missed chances to win the game. So, in the end it was a very close scare for the men of Todmorden but they’d won another home match and their first victory over Hebden Bridge for three years. Here’s the full match scorecard:

Todmorden ‘A’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘A’
M.Hamer 0 — 1 M.Webb
P.Mulleady 1 — 0 P.Leonard
A.Clarkson ½ — ½ N.Sykes
A.Wright ½ — ½ A.Leatherbarrow
R.Tokeley 1 — 0 J.Allan
3 — 2

This defeat left Hebden 4 points behind Todmorden with just 6 points left to be won in the last three matches of the season. It got worse for the champions when news filtered through two days later that Hebden Bridge ‘B’ had been beaten by the league leaders Huddersfield 3½ — 1½ . This result, though not as decisive as the line-ups might have suggested, left Hebden ‘A’ 5 points behind Huddersfield.

The match scorecard of this match looked like this:

Huddersfield vs. Hebden Bridge ‘B’
M.Burke 1 — 0 J.Blinkhorn
G.Eagleton ½ — ½ M.Syrett
D.Firth 1 — 0 Default
D.Tooley 1 — 0 S.Priest
R.Sutcliffe 0 — 1 N.Bamford
3½ — 1½

Whilst all of this was going on Todmorden ‘B’ put a dent in Courier ‘A’s title ambitions by drawing with them at home and Halifax ‘A’ underlined their own title credentials by thrashing Brighouse 5 — 0.

With three rounds to go the Champions now need a miracle to keep their title. Huddersfield would need to lose all three of their remaining matches starting at Brighouse tonight whilst Hebden would need to beat Halifax at home, Huddersfield away and then Todmorden ‘B’ at home. Not only that but they’d also have to overtake Todmorden ‘A’, Halifax ‘A’ and Courier ‘A’. This is not going to happen. However, the King’s of Calderdale League 1 may still have the power to decide who will wrench the crown from their broken fingers as those matches against Halifax and Huddersfield could be critical for either of those two teams’ title hopes were they to lose.

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ meanwhile still have a chance to survive in league 1. They are 3 points behind Todmorden ‘B’ and 2 behind Brighouse and they have to play both of those teams before the end of the season. Two wins could still see them stay up. Watch this space for news of tonight’s 12th round.

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Mar 232014
 
David against Goliath as depicted by Michelangelo in the Sistene Chapel

David against Goliath as depicted by Michelangelo in the Sistene Chapel

Today we begin a long-overdue catch up on the Calderdale Leagues as they approach the business end of proceedings this season. In this post we’ll get up to date with League 2 and must surely start by heralding probably the most extraordinary result that the league may ever have seen. Last month the Hebden Bridge ‘D’ team, without a win to their names this season, hosted the top team Belgrave, who had yet to lose and are ferociously focused on returning to the top flight where they feel they belong.

Belgrave might well have been forgiven for not taking the match too seriously but they have a devoted line up which they field consistently no matter who they are playing. Messrs Farrar, Corbett, Barnett, Gonzalez and Johnson were all present and correct for this encounter which only makes the match result of 3 — 2 to Hebden Bridge all the more unbelievable!

Had the ‘D’ team Captain Danny Crampton unearthed some new junior talent that bore his side to this glorious victory? No, it was largely the same team of relatively inexperienced players that he’s been blooding all season long. With the exception of Dan himself and Paul Dearden on board 3, the other players are all participating in their first league season. Moreover three of the players in the team had not yet won a single game this year. Ironically it was this very trio that secured the ‘D’s their famous victory.

The gulf in class between the teams can be appreciated simply by taking a look at the average rating of the two sides before this match. Belgrave weighed in at 142 which is a considerable average for a team in the second division. Hebden ‘D’ meanwhile averaged a puny 37! Admittedly this is skewed significantly because Martha Leggett had only played one rated game before the match and so has to count as a ‘0’ for the purposes of average rating. Nevertheless the margin between the teams was so vast that it could scarcely even be conceived that any result other than 0 — 5 would occur.

So what happened to cause this freak result? A look at the games in the viewer below gives witness to the fact that, yes, Belgrave did have a collective blunderfest of the most extraordinary proportions. However, it also shows that Hebden played in a spirited fashion and were tactically aware enough to capitalise on the opportunities that came their way.

Take the board 1 encounter for example. Dan Crampton trotted out his London System, a variation he’s played frequently enough to ensure he get’s a reasonable position out of the opening. His opponent, Gordon Farrar went for a King’s Indian type set up putting his queen on e8 and playing the e5 advance. It’s a reliable way to play against the London. It would be fair to say that Dan lost control of the centre but he’d developed his pieces sensibly and so Gordon’s advantage was minimal. It then looks like Gordon blundered (rather than sacrificed) his advanced e-pawn and suddenly Dan had a very nice position. Inevitably complications arose but Danny held himself together and swapped off material whilst retaining his extra pawn. Gordon pieces got active and he made the decision to grab the pawn back by capturing a reasonably hot pawn on b2. This gave Danny a half-open b-file for his rook but even when he went a pawn ahead again and landed his rook on b7 it looked like the best he could hope for was a draw. That however, was when providence decided to do Dan a favour for, rather than exchanging a pair of rooks on b7, Gordon decided to try and keep the rooks on and vacated the seventh rank. In the process he overlooked that Dan’s queen on f3 would be able to capture the f7 pawn with check and then give mate on h7! The game was up.

Ok, so one freak result is unusual but what happened next was simply extraordinary. Karl Dickinson is another of the Hebden ‘D’ team who’s been unable to win in his first season in the league. He’s learning the ropes and trying to improve. He was up against Malcolm Corbett on board 2 and must have felt a little stumped almost immediately when Malcolm deployed his Alekhine’s Defence an opening I’d imagine Karl has never faced before. Of course, the game became obscure quite quickly and Malcolm won a pawn as early as move 12. By move 18 he’d won a second pawn and seemed to be on his way to a comfortable win but, in the confusion of the early skirmish, Karl had also managed to induce a few weaknesses in the position and the time Malcolm had taken to grab those pawns had allowed Karl to catch up his development deficit. Suddenly the position was very messy and a little unclear.

On move 21 Malcolm developed his bishop aggressively on b4 and appeared to be about to launch a mating attack on Karl’s king which had gone to the queen’s side. However, in developing the bishop he’d allowed Karl to capture a pawn on g7 with his rook and had left his own king in the centre. When Malcolm then deployed what appeared to be the coupe de grace with 22…Qxb3 it turned out there was a twist. Black threatened mate and the queen couldn’t be captured but now Karl had his own queen check on h5. Then there was a bishop check on b6. Malcolm blocked the check with his rook but once the rook was taken the pin on White’s c-pawn had been lifted and Karl simply took Malcolm’s queen! A queen and a rook down was too much and Malcolm threw in the towel immediately.

Whilst all this had been going on order was being restored on boards 3 and 5 where Mike Barnett and Les Johnson beat Paul Dearden and Martha Leggett to keep the match in the balance. It looked like the champions elect might survive a massive scare but in the end even that was beyond them. Perhaps the most surprising win of all was bagged by young Dylan Leggett on board 4. His game against Angel Gonzalez was something of a see-saw affair. In the opening phase of the game Angel neglected his development in order to damage Dylan’s pawn structure. But Dylan, with an untouchable queen on a central square was able to exert the greater pressure and Angel was forced to take a huge risk to complete his development. Dylan won a piece in the tactics that ensued and his opponent’s position appeared to be completely immobilised.

The game took another turn after Angel managed to get the queens off the board and flee with his king to h6. Dylan then either blundered, or simply gave back his extra knight but now maintained a three pawn advantage in a much simplified position. As the endgame bowled on a complex double rook and pawn position arose and Dylan held on to his advantage. Angel seemed to have his ambitions confined to trying to salvage a draw. But then, just as Angel reduced the material deficit to a single pawn, Dylan found a series of checks that forced the Black king on the run once more. Finally, on move 40, possibly in time trouble, Angel blocked another rook check with a rook of his own but overlooked that Dylan could give a further check by advancing the c-pawn. The king had to move and Angel was going to lose his rook. So he resigned and Hebden Bridge ‘D’ had secured the most remarkable result of the season.

If there is a theme running through all three of the games that Belgrave lost it is that one should never underestimate the value of occupying the seventh rank, whether in attack or defence. This tactic was the downfall of each of the Belgrave men.

Here’s the final match scorecard:

Hebden Bridge ‘D’ vs. Belgrave
D.Crampton 1 — 0 G.Farrar
K.Dickinson 1 — 0 M.Corbett
P.Dearden 0 — 1 M.Barnett
D.Leggett 1 — 0 A.Gonzalez
M.Leggett 0 — 1 L.Johnson
3 — 2

As a final word on this match it is perhaps worth mentioning that this exact same Belgrave line up draw with a Hebden Bridge ‘A’ team consisting of Webb, Parsons, Leonard, Shapland and Sykes just last season!

Since this match took place two further rounds of league 2 have taken place and business as usual has been restored as Belgrave bounced back with wins against Halifax ‘C’ and Todmorden ‘C’. Last Monday meanwhile Hebden ‘D’ were pummelled 4 — ½ by Halifax ‘C’.

Our other division 2 side have been having a torrid time since Christmas. They themselves only just managed to beat their ‘D’ team colleagues 3 — 2 and that has been their only positive result since the halfway mark.

Belgrave remain top of the division on17 points. Halifax ‘B’ are two points behind them but they do have a match in hand. These two play each other on March the 31st and that match will decide who the champions of league 2 will be. Further down the table Hebden ‘C’ are now only in fifth with 8 points and the ‘D’ team are bottom with 2 points — though they are will long remember the night those points were won! Four of the games from the Hebden ‘D’ vs. Belgrave match can be found in the game viewer below.

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Mar 132014
 
The Calderdale crown belongs to Matthew Parsons once more. This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from trainjason’s Flickr photostream

The Calderdale crown belongs to Matthew Parsons once more. This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from trainjason’s Flickr photostream

Parsons keeps his crown

Last year’s Champion retained his Calderdale Individual Championship at the Trades Club on Monday night. Congratulations to Matthew on this significant achievement! Darwin Ursal of Halifax was 2nd and the grading prizes were won by Nick Sykes, Martin Syrett, Angel Gonzalez and Alex Brown. You can read a full report of how the round proceeded, see the full final standings and play through the games from round 5 over on the Yorkshire Chess website but I’ll also publish the games here later today in our game viewer for those who prefer it.

 

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Mar 082014
 
Matthew Parsons is the reigning Calderdale Champion and is set to retain his title unless Nick Sykes can stop him on round 5 on Monday.

Matthew Parsons (left) is the reigning Calderdale Champion and is set to retain his title unless Nick Sykes can stop him on round 5 on Monday.

Momentum with the Reigning Champion

The fifth and final round of this year’s individual championship takes place at the Trades Club on Monday (the 10th). Hebden team mates Matthew Parsons and Nick Sykes will be slugging it out for the honours. I’ve just posted a report of the round 4 action and all the games (except one) on the Yorkshire Chess website. For some reason the game Leonard vs. Parsons just wouldn’t load into the Chess Microbase so I’m adding it to this page in the game viewer below (along with all the others from round 4) for completeness. Good luck to both Matthew and Nick in the final round. May the best man win!

 

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