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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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!