Mar 132020
 

The mist has finally cleared in the League 1 title race and we can now clearly see who the favorites are despite the fine margins involved. Photo: Coconino National Forest

Here is a brief article to bring readers (almost!) up to date on the status of the League 1 title race.

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ hosted Huddersfield ‘A’ at the Golden Lion last Monday (the 2nd) to play their match in hand. With this match both Hebden teams have now played nine times and so the position in the league table clarifies itself somewhat.

A win for Hebden ‘B’ would take them top of the league on board count, overtaking their ‘A’ team for the first time this season. The home side’s line up remained unchanged from the previous week’s match away at Belgrave ‘A’. Huddersfield visited with a marginally stronger line up than they had fielded against Hebden Bridge ‘A’ at home in the previous round. Out went David Booth on board 4 to be replaced by Richard Boylan, an experienced and steady presence. The visitors also swapped the order of their top two boards from the previous week with Steve Westmoreland playing on board 1 and Dave Keddie on board 2.

By the mid point in the evening the visitors seemed to be holding their own pretty well as Nick Sykes held Andrew Clarkson in a theoretical Grunfeld battle and Richard Boylan also drew his game with Sam Swain. The home side had won on board 5 however where Jamie Heritage continued his unbeaten streak for the club by beating Rob Mitchell. The game was not without chances for the visiting player however as you’ll see from the game viewer below.

Later in the evening however, Hebden’s ferociously strong top board duo gave the victory a pleasant gloss as Martyn Hamer overcame Steve Westmorland and Phil Cook defeated Dave Keddie. With that victory Phil puts himself in pole position for the League’s ‘Most Valuable Player’ title as he has now scored 7½/9 games. He is now a point and a half (!) clear of his pursuers, his team mate Martyn, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ captain Dave Shapland, Vivienne Webster of Halifax and Dave Patrick of Belgrave who all have 6 points. In fact Hebden Bridge ‘B’ have four players in the top 10 list of highest scorers in the league and so it’s easy to see why they have climbed to the top of the heap.

Here is the final match scorecard:

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ vs. Huddersfield ‘A’
M.Hamer 1 – 0 S.Westmoreland (W)
P.Cook 1 – 0 D.Keddie (W)
A.Clarkson ½ – ½ N.Sykes (W)
S.Swain ½ – ½ R.Boylan (W)
J.Heritage 1 – 0 R.Mitchell (W)
4 – 1

This result means that both Hebden Bridge teams now have 15 points from nine games. They have both drawn one and lost one match. In fact, their records are identical except for in the ‘Boards’ column of the table as the ‘B’ team have now scored 31.5 board points and the ‘A’ team have 28.5. This may seem like a narrow margin, but with only three matches left to play this season,  a three point board count lead is significant especially when you note that Hebden Bridge ‘B’ have to play the two sides at the bottom of the division as well as Halifax ‘A’ with the White pieces, while Hebden Bridge ‘A’ have to play Belgrave ‘A’ and Halifax ‘A’ with the Black pieces and have Belgrave ‘B’ away for their other match. It seems most unlikely that the ‘A’ team will be able to overhaul the board count deficit and so may now be relying on an unlikely shock match result to turn the tables in their favour. Either way, the ‘B’ team are now most definitely in the driving seat.

Let us also note an excellent result for our ‘C’ team in League 2 on Monday night as they beat Belgrave ‘C’ at home in what looked like a tough match. On board 1, Pete Leonard got lucky when, after playing a winning combination, Faisal Rabbi resigned after an unexpected move by Pete, when objectively, he was still winning. The board 5 game was the last to finish and here Paul Gledhill had about 10 moves to make in a couple of minutes, but it was his opponent, Paul Edwards who made the inaccuracies, and then resigned.

Here’s the match scorecard:

Hebden Bridge ‘C’ vs. Belgrave ‘C’
P.Leonard 1 – 0 F.Rabbi (W)
N.Suttie ½ – ½ D.Colledge (W)
N.Bamford 0 – 1 C.Edwards (W)
J.Kerrane ½ – ½ L.Johnson (W)
P.Gledhill 1 – 0 P.Edwards (W)
4 – 1

Mar 022020
 

It still isn’t clear who’s in the driving seat in the League 1 title race between Hebden Bridge’s ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams. Photo: Michael Coghlan

There’s a diminishing amount of chess left to play in the 2019-20 season and the League 1 title race is still nip and tuck between the two Hebden Bridge sides after the eleventh round of fixtures was played this week.

Title holders and current league leaders, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ travelled to Huddersfield ‘A’ on Monday whilst Hebden Bridge ‘B’ visited Belgrave ‘A’. At Huddersfield, the ‘A’ team put out pretty much their strongest possible line up of Parsons, Pantazopoulos, Shapland, Leonard and Leatherbarrow, against a home side that was bereft of their very strongest players. In fairness Messrs Eagleton (three appearances) and Burke (one appearance) have not been playing frequently for them this season (while Leo Keely has restricted himself to playing for Huddersfield ‘B’ exclusively) and that has made life pretty challenging for their top board players this season.

The home team’s line up of Dave Keddie, Steve Westmoreland, Nick Sykes, David Booth and Rob Mitchell were operating the Black pieces and also heavily out rated on all five boards and it looked like the match would offer Hebden Bridge an excellent opportunity to harvest the kind of heavy points win they needed for the title race duel. Of course, it didn’t turn out to be quite so simple – when does it ever.

Early on in the evening all seemed to be going pretty smoothly for the visitors as they achieved decent positions on all boards out of the opening. Boards, 2, 4 and 5 all finished at a similar point in the evening. On board 5, Andy Leatherbarrow won a piece for a pawn from Rob Mitchell as early as move 16 and, thereafter, played sensibly to keep control of the position and simplify the game. That it took 62 moves to complete the process should not in any way suggest that the Huddersfield man was able to mount serious resistance after his early loses.

On board 4 however, Pete Leonard was left to kick himself after he missed several clear-cut chances to accumulate a similar opening advantage to Andy. Instead he had to settle for an extra pawn in a rook and knight ending. Had he managed to exchange the rooks off, Pete would almost certainly have taken the full point, but instead, he lost his extra pawn and might even have got himself into hot water before agreeing to peace terms.
Stavros soon increased Hebden Bridge’s dominant position as he completed a smooth positional win over Steve Westmoreland. At the end, Steve had a rook and bishop against Stavros’ queen, but once the queen had invaded Black’s camp it was all over.

That just left boards 1 and 3 to finish. The contest on board 1 ended first and with a surprising outcome too. Matthew Parsons hardly ever loses with the White pieces – especially in the Calderdale League – yet he lost his second of the season on Monday. Facing an aggressive line against his favourite London System, Matthew blundered an important pawn (just proving it can happen to anyone) after which his position against Dave Keddie was pretty much untenable. Dave played very well to nurture his advantage over the line. Suddenly, there was a danger that Hebden Bridge might only tie the match if they lost on the last board to finish.

Fortunately for them, by the time Matthew’s game had finished, Dave had achieved the upper hand against Nick Sykes. However, that wasn’t the whole story of the game. It was tense, complex and certainly saw Black have the better chances at several points during its course. Nick and Dave have played each other hundreds of times and know each other’s repertoires very well. Dave decided to divert from his usual patterns of play against Nick’s Sicilian Najdorf in a bid to avoid a heavyweight theoretical discussion.

Dave got the kind of game he wanted but Nick developed a good position and had a couple of chances to secure a significant advantage – albeit after some vertigo inducing variations illuminated by engines afterwards. In the end it was the clock that was Nick’s undoing as he left himself with very little time to conduct the latter stages of the middle game in which pinpoint accuracy was still required for him to hold. Instead, he managed to get to the time control but was immediately trapped in a mating net.

Here’s the full match score card:

Huddersfield ‘A’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘A’
D.Keddie 1 – 0 M.Parsons (W)
S.Westmoreland 0 – 1 S.Pantazopoulos (W)
N.Sykes 0 – 1 D.Shapland (W)
D.Booth ½ – ½ P.Leonard (W)
R.Mitchell 0 – 1 A.Leatherbarrow (W)
1½ – 3½

Meanwhile, closer to home, in Halifax, the ‘B’ team were battling Belgrave ‘A’ in a match that looked on paper like it would be much tighter than the one in Huddersfield. Indeed, when the two sides had met in Todmorden during the first half of the season, Hebden had only edged the match by 3 – 2. This time out though, they were even stronger having recruited the talented youngster, Jamie Heritage to their number for his first run out in League 1. He duly won his game against Karim Khan on board 5 in a long end game where Jamie had a bishop, knight and pawn against a rook.

The regulars on the top four boards also did their jobs with only Sam Swain succumbing to the dangerous Malcolm Corbett on board 4. Martyn Hamer and Phil Cook both won while Andrew Clarkson drew with Richard Bowman on board 3.

The final scorecard looked like this:

Belgrave ‘A’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘B’
J.Morgan 0 – 1 M.Hamer (W)
D.Patrick 0 – 1 P.Cook (W)
R.Bowman ½ – ½ A.Clarkson (W)
M.Corbett 1 – 0 S.Swain (W)
K.Khan 0 – 1 J.Heritage (W)
1½ – 3½

These two results mean that the difference between the two Hebden Bridge sides remains exactly the same. Hebden ‘A’ are two points clear of the ‘B’s having played one match more and they have just one extra board point. Hebden ‘B’ play their match in hand at home to Huddersfield ‘A’ on Monday. Even a 3 – 2 win would see them take the top spot with a two point board advantage with just three matches left in the season.

The third and final match of the eleventh round of League 1 fixtures saw an upset as the bottom team, Brighouse, scored their first win of the season in resounding fashion by beating Belgrave ‘B’ 1 – 4. Only Les Johnson on board 4 was able to stem the tide of results by winning his game against Tim Pryke. This means that Brighouse have given themselves a slim chance of escaping the single relegation spot. They have now drawn level with their vanquished hosts on 3 points at the bottom of the division. However, their board count is so low that they will likely have to secure another result of some sort in one of their remaining two matches in order to do a Houdini. They have Halifax ‘A’ at home in the next match before visiting Hebden Bridge ‘B’ away in the final match of the season.

League 2

Before we sign-off we should also mention that Hebden Bridge ‘C’ scored a resounding 5 – 0 victory last week over Halifax ‘B’. This was a great result and bodes well for them as they go into their final cycle of games with a home match against ‘Belgrave ‘C’ at hoe on Monday.

Here’s the scorecard from the match last week:

Hebden Bridge ‘C’ vs. Halifax ‘B’
P.Leonard 1 – 0 P.Moss (W)
J.Heritage 1 – 0 D.Rowley (W)
N.Bamford 1 – 0 J.Nicholson (W)
J.Kerrane 1 – 0 A.Whiteley (W)
C.Marsden 1 – 0 B.Wadsworth (W)
5 – 0

Feb 142020
 

The Calderdale League 1 title race has become a whole lot more interesting since Hebden Bridge ‘B’ beat the ‘A’ team last month. The two sides are now neck and neck and look like they’ll be duelling it out right to the end of the season. Photo: vegaseddie’s Flickr photostream

The recent ‘Game of the Decade’ series of posts has meant that we’ve fallen rather behind with our Calderdale League updates in January. It’s time to rectify that with a bumper edition designed to get you up to date with the state of affairs in all three Calderdale Leagues.

League 1

Two rounds of fixtures were played in January. In the first, played on the 6th of January, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ had an opportunity to stretch their lead at the top of the table as their colleagues in the ‘B’ team had a bye. They travelled to the team at the bottom of the division, Brighouse. The home side had added a new player to their ranks over the Christmas break as Oliver Graham made his first league appearance on board 1.

Hebden meanwhile were significantly under strength with both Matthew Parsons and Stavros Pantazopoulos unavailable. This left team captain, Dave Shapland, with the honours against Brighouse’s new signing. They played out a tense game which originated from a Hungarian Defence but transposed into more of a Ruy Lopez-type position. Oliver had some chances to obtain a good game but didn’t make the most of them and Dave was able to take full advantage and establish knights on both f5 and h5 before opening the position, re-locating one of his knights to a monstrous outpost on e6 and switching his king from the queen’s side to the king’s side to drive home his attack.

On board 2, Andy Leatherbarrow at first seemed to obtain a solid position against Robert Broadbent but later found himself defending a tricky end game that he was unable to hold. Meanwhile, the board 3 encounter saw Pete Leonard trying very hard to convert a promising position against Brighouse’s captain, Paul Whitehouse. However, just as he had done in the reverse fixture of this match in round 1 against Dave, Paul held on gamely and Pete ultimately had to settle for a draw.

Most of the hard work in this match was done by Hebden’s two Neils on boards 4 and 5. Neil Suttie saw off Ronnie Grandage and Neil Bamford beat Tim Pryke to seal the result for the visitors and ensure they kept moved 4 points clear of their ‘B’ team rivals having played one match more.

Brighouse vs. Hebden Bridge ‘A’
O.Graham 0 – 1 D.Shapland (W)
R.Broadbent 1 – 0 A.Leatherbarrow (W)
P.Whitehouse ½ – ½ P.Leonard (W)
R.Grandage 0 – 1 N.Suttie (W)
T.Pryke 0 – 1 N.Bamford (W)
1½ – 3½

 

In the other fixtures of this round, Belgrave ‘A’ beat their ‘B’ team ‘away’ by a score of 1½ – 3½ and Halifax ‘A’ (complete with a new player on board 2) defeated Huddersfield ‘A’ 2 – 3 in a ding-dong match with no draws.

Two weeks later, on the 20th of January, the League 1 teams were back at it again and this time the focus was undoubtedly on the Trades Club where Hebden Bridge’s ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams met for their second derby match of the season. Their first encounter in October had been a very tight and hard-fought affair. This one was to be no different.

Both teams were without their regular board 1 players as Matthew Parsons was unavailable and Martyn Hamer was making his annual pilgrimage to play in the Gibraltar tournament. That meant that boards 1, 2 and 3 would see re-matches of the first fixture but with colours reversed while on board 4 Pete Leonard (who missed the first match) took on John Allan and on board 5 Neil Suttie took on Mick Connor (making his first appearance of the season for the ‘B’ team).

All the games featured plenty of action and the game on board 1 was the first to finish with Phil Cook and Stavros Pantazopoulos neutralising each other for a draw. Boards 3 and 4 were also drawn after well contested efforts with Sam Swain and Andy Leatherbarrow and John Allan and Pete Leonard also agreeing peace terms.

The match was decided on boards 2 and 5. The game between Andrew Clarkson and Dave Shapland on board 2 was the first of these to finish. The players discussed a highly theoretical and very sharp and complex variation of the Sveshnikov Sicilian. Dave had prepared this line for the game thinking that Andrew would be less familiar with it, but this was a serious misjudgement. It turned out Andrew knew exactly what he was doing and played very accurately until Dave overlooked a tactic that allowed Andrew to force an endgame where he was a pawn up and had a positional advantage. Dave tried his best to complicate matters, but Andrew’s technique was exemplary as he converted the win.

The last game to finish was between Mick Connor and Neil Suttie. This one went right to the death with Neil now needing to win to tie the match. With both men battling the clock as well as each other, the game was destined for a nail-biting conclusion. Mick seemed to be winning but then Neil found a way to enter an ending where he had four pawns versus a knight and a single pawn. It probably should have been drawn but, playing for his team, Neil tried to win it and instead ended up losing it.

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘B’
S.Pantazopoulos ½ – ½ P.Cook (W)
D.Shapland 0 – 1 A.Clarkson (W)
A.Leatherbarrow ½ – ½ S.Swain (W)
P.Leonard ½ – ½ J.Allan (W)
N.Suttie 0 – 1 M.Connor (W)
1½ – 3½

 

So, the ‘B’ team took their revenge by 1½ – 3½ and moved back to within 2 points of the league leaders with a match still in hand. Their scheduled match last Monday at home against Huddersfield ‘A’ would have been their chance to go top on board count but it was postponed as the main road to Todmorden from Halifax was closed for most of the day on Monday as the valley reeled from the aftermath of storm Ciara. Should the ‘B’ team win this game in hand, we will then have a thrilling run in between the two Hebden sides as they aim to stay perfect and win as many boards as they can. It could be enthralling.

The other matches played on the 20th of January saw Huddersfield ‘A’ thrash Brighouse 4 – 1 (albeit with highly creditable individual results for Oliver Graham and Tim Pryke who held Greg Eagleton and Nick Sykes respectively) and Belgrave ‘A’ draw against Halifax ‘A’ in a match that saw the visitors board 3 and 4, Carlos Velosa and Vivienne Webster, achieving a win and a draw respectively against higher rated opponents.

This week, aside from the postponement between Hebden Bridge ‘B’ and Huddersfield ‘A’, Brighouse were whitewashed at home by Belgrave ‘A’ and Halifax drew with Belgrave ‘B’ which was a fixture the home side will feel they should have won as they out rated their visitors on every board but only Vivienne on board 5 was able to beat her opponent as Carlos this time lost to Chris Edwards on board 3.

For the moment then, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ remain top of the table on 13 points having played eight matches. They are followed by Halifax ‘A’ on 12 points from nine matches and then Belgrave ‘A’ with 11 points from nine matches and Hebden Bridge ‘B’ with 11 points from just seven matches.

In the League basement, Brighouse remain bottom on 1 point but they have not yet lost hope of avoiding relegation as Belgrave ‘B’ have 3 points and have also yet to face Brighouse for a second time. Still, it looks bleak for the Brighouse team at the moment.


League 2

The sides in the second division also played twice in January. On the 13th, the runaway leaders Huddersfield ‘B’ underlined their overwhelming superiority by beating bottom team Halifax ‘B’ 1 – 4. Pete Moss and Andrew Whiteley showed spirited resistance in drawing their games with much higher rated opponents but the rest of the home side’s line up were put to the sword.

In this round, Belgrave ‘C’ also clarified their second-place position as they beat Hebden Bridge ‘C’ by 3½ – 1½. In this match Belgrave’s top three boards all won but Hebden’s tail wagged furiously as Chris Marsden drew with Angel Gonzalez and Jamie Heritage continued to show great potential as he beat Paul Edwards and earned himself a board promotion in the next round of fixtures.

Belgrave ‘C’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘C’
F.Rabbi 1 – 0 J.Kerrane (W)
D.Colledge 1 – 0 N.Bamford (W)
L.Johnson 1 – 0 P.Gledhill (W)
A.Gonzales ½ – ½ C.Marsden (W)
P.Edwards 0 – 1 J.Heritage (W)
3½ – 1½

The teams reconvened on the 27th of January. This time is was Hebden Bridge’s turn to get a taste of Huddersfield’s dominance as they were on the end of a 4 – 1 defeat. It certainly didn’t help that they had to default a board due to John Kerrane falling unwell on the day of the match, but, once again, it was left to young Jamie, this time on board 2, to salvage some pride as he beat David Gray in a fine game. It’s safe to say that we haven’t yet discovered the limit of Jamie’s abilities! Meanwhile, in Halifax, Belgrave ‘C’ were heaping more misery on Halifax ‘C’ who they trounced 0 – 5.

Huddersfield ‘B’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘C’
L.Keely 1 – 0 P.Leonard (W)
D.Gray 0 – 1 J.Heritage (W)
G.Boot 1 – 0 N.Bamford (W)
A.Ward 1 – 0 P.Gledhill (W)
S.Anscombe 1 – 0 DEFAULT
4 – 1

 

It’s safe to say that this division has become something of a procession with big gaps opening up between the sides. Huddersfield are top with a perfect 16 points from eight matches. Belgrave are second on 10, Hebden Bridge have 5 and Halifax just 1.


Handicap League

In stark contrast to League 2, the Handicap League is poised for a thrilling finale. The competition only has three rounds of fixtures but, after the second round was played on the 3rd of February, we are looking at the prospect of a final showdown between Hebden Bridge and Huddersfield as they have both won their first two matches.

In round 2 Hebden beat Halifax 4½ – ½ over the boards and, after Halifax had received an extra half point from the handicap system, they were comfortable 4½ – 1 winners. What amounted to Hebden’s regular ‘C’ team were too good for the equivalent of the Halifax ‘B’ team. Only John Kerrane dropped a half point against John Nicholson when he blundered in a completely won position. Aside from that it was straightforward for the home side.

Hebden Bridge H vs. Halifax H
N. Bamford 1 – 0 H.Wood (W)
(W) J.Kerrane ½ – ½ J.Nicholson
C.Marsen 1 – 0 B.Wadsworth (W)
(W) P.Gledhill 1 – 0 E.Fynn
J.Heritage 1 – 0 P.Stowe (W)
Handicap bonus: 0 – ½
4½ – 1

The match between Huddersfield and Belgrave was altogether much closer. Interestingly, Huddersfield were out rated on every board but they fought hard and managed to win on board three and draw on boards one and five. That meant that, although they lost over the boards by 2 – 3, they managed to win the match due to the two extra handicap points they received before-hand.

This now sets up the aforementioned winner-takes-all encounter at Huddersfield on the 30th of March. Hebden will certainly fancy their chances.

Jan 012020
 

First of all I’d like to wish all our members and readers a very Happy New Year! In this first post of the new decade we’ll be catching up on a plethora of recent action from across the Calderdale Evening Chess League as we reach the halfway mark in the 2019-20 season.

Handicap League

On Monday the 16th o November the first round of fixtures in this year’s handicap league were played. Hebden Bridge travelled to Belgrave and Huddersfield went to Halifax.

In the second of these matches, Huddersfield held a rating advantage on all but the top board where Scott Gornall out rated Alec Ward. However, when the handicap calculation was made the overall rating difference was small enough that Halifax only received a half point head start. It turned out that this was the only score they were going to receive as Huddersfield went about their business in brutal fashion putting their opponents to the sword on every board including the top one were Alec was the only player to overturn the handicap.

Across Halifax at the Belgrave Social Club the home team welcomed Hebden Bridge. Here both teams field six players. It seems that everyone involved thought this was the correct number and were in error – a resolution to this will need to be agreed by the league committee as the Calderdale League website only has room to enter the results from five boards.

Hebden fielded a balanced side with regular ‘A’ teamers, Stavros Pantazopoulos and Pete Leonard, on boards 1 and 2, and two juniors, Zora Sandhu and Jamie Heritage on boards 5 and 6. John Kerrane and Paul Gledhill made up the numbers. Belgrave meanwhile largely featured players who appear most regularly in their ‘B’ and ‘C’ teams and this meant that they too received a half point head start.

Despite an outstanding draw for the home side on board 1 where Dave College held Stavros Pantazopoulos, Belgrave lost the match. Two victories for Hebden on board 2, where Pete Leonard overcame Chris Edwards; and board 5, where Jamie Heritage won in just his second competitive over the board encounter; were accompanied by draws on boards 3, 4 and 5 to see Hebden home by a score of 3 – 4 after the handicap had been taken into account.

Here is the final match score card:

Belgrave vs. Hebden Bridge
D.Colledge ½ – ½ S.Pantazopoulos (W)
(W) C.Edwards 0 – 1 P.Leonard
L.Johnson ½ – ½ J.Kerrane (W)
(W) P.Edwards ½ – ½ P.Gledhill
R.Pratt ½ – ½ Z.Sandhu (W)
(W) A.Arthur 0 – 1 J.Heritage
Handicap ½ – 0 Handicap
2½ – 4

POST SCRIPT: Both clubs agreed a way to resolve the issue of having played the match over six boards instead of five. The game between Paul Edwards and Paul Gledhill will not be entered onto the League results website. As the two players were very close in their ratings this means that the overall match result will not be affected the omission of this one board. Handicap League fixtures are not rated and so this will not effect the players ratings either.

This result represents a good start for Hebden in a competition they have a realistic chance of winning.

League 1

As we reported on in our last post, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ faced a challenging trip to Halifax ‘A’ on Monday the 9th of December for the final round of fixtures in League 1 this year. The champions brought a very strong line up with Matthew Parsons, Stavros Pantazopoulos, Dave Shapland, Andy Leatherbarrow and Pete Leonard all turning out to face a slightly below strength Halifax team. The hosts were without Winston Williams and Sam Scurfield meaning that they lined up with Darwin Ursal, Richard Porter, Carlos Velosa, Vivienne Webster and John Nicholson in their side.

On paper it looked like the top board would be very tight but then Hebden out rated Halifax by varying degree from board 2 downwards. In the end the result did reflect the statistics but the match was somewhat tighter than the ratings suggested it would be.

Hebden successfully plucked the low hanging fruit early on in the evening when Pete Leonard saw off John Nicholson on board 5 to give the visitors the lead. After that result though, the rest of the games were rather more closely fought.

As expected, the board 1 encounter between Matthew Parsons and Darwin Ursal was a heavyweight encounter. Initially, Matthew appeared to be doing well but then Darwin turned the tables and even won some material but, as the game got sharper and more complex, the Halifax player overlooked a forced draw and the game came to an abrupt end.

Boards 2 and 3 finished at a similar time quite late in the evening. Stavros Pantazopoulos slowly turned up the heat and built the tension in his game against Richard Porter until finally, the Halifax captain cracked by miscalculating a tactical sequence and losing material. It looked like he was in serious trouble positionally anyway.

This result prompted Dave Shapland to offer Carlos Velosa a draw on board 3 in order to try and secure the match. This game too had been a tight and tense affair. Carlos had wrestled the initiative from his opponent in the middle game but didn’t find the right way to press home his advantage and allowed Dave to re-establish control.

Dave’s advantage in the ensuing endgame was quite small, even non-existent, but it seemed that he could carry on playing for a win at very little risk and so that was what he did until a draw was all his team needed. Ironically, in the very position where Carlos shook hands, it appears he may have had a good try for a win himself. However, when you’ve been hanging on with little hope of winning for a while, sometimes you just want the game to be over.

In the end it was probably a good job that Dave stopped playing when he did for, shortly after the board 3 game ended, Andy Leatherbarrow made a critical mistake against Vivienne Webster on board 4 and slumped to Hebden’s only defeat of the night.

Here is the final scorecard for the match:

Halifax ‘A’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘A’
D.Ursal ½ – ½ M.Parsons (W)
R.Porter 0 – 1 S.Pantazopoulos (W)
C.Velosa ½ – ½ D.Shapland (W)
V.Webster 1 – 0 A.Leatherbarrow (W)
J.Nicholson 0 – 1 P.Leonard (W)
2 – 3

A crucial win then for Hebden Bridge ‘A’ but a highly creditable performance from Halifax ‘A’ who demonstrated why they’ve been up near the top of the table for most of the first half of this season.

Over in Brighouse, Hebden Bridge ‘B’ were busy bidding for a win that would take them above Halifax and restrict the gap with their ‘A’ team to a couple of points. Unfortunately, Hebden lost the services of Richard Bedford on the day of the match as he succumbed to one of the many bugs doing the rounds at this time of year. Happily however, even with four players, Hebden were far too strong for their hosts as they won on all four of the boards that did see action.

Here’s the scorecard:

Brighouse vs. Hebden Bridge ‘B’
R.Broadbent 0 – 1 M.Hamer (W)
C.Lund 0 – 1 P.Cook (W)
T.Pryke 0 – 1 A.Clarkson (W)
D.Gunthrope 0 – 1 N.Suttie (W)
R.Grandage 1 – 0 DEFAULT
1 – 4

In the third match to take place on the 9th, Huddersfield ‘A’ defeated Belgrave ‘B’ at home to increase their margin for error above the drop zone. Had Belgrave managed to beat them, Huddersfield would have dropped down a place into sixth. Instead they drew two points further ahead to within one point of fourth placed Belgrave ‘A’ who had the bye in round 8.

Huddersfield were happy to welcome Greg Eagleton into their side for the first time this season and he duly saw of Gordon Farrar on board 1. Belgrave struck back on board 3 where Karim Khan took down Richard Boylan but Huddersfield sealed the win when Nick Sykes defeated Chris Edwards on board 5. The other two games were drawn.

All this means that, at the halfway mark, there are no teams on the same points total. Hebden Bridge ‘A’ are top with 11 points, Hebden Bridge ‘B’ have 9 and Halifax ‘A’ are third with 8.

League 2

On Monday 2nd of December the League 2 teams played their final round of fixtures in 2019. Run away leaders Huddersfield ‘B’ hosted second placed Belgrave ‘C’ and duly won 4 – 1 to maintain their perfect run of form. They look all but certain to secure promotion back to League 1 next season. The home team dropped just two draws in this match as Belgrave players Dave Colledge on board 2 and Paul Edwards on board 5 managed to hold their opponents.

At the Trades Club, Hebden Bridge ‘C’ were up against the bottom team Halifax ‘B’. This fixture was a very tight one with three draws in the match balanced by a win for either side. Scott Gornall beat John Kerrane on board 1 for Halifax’s win and Chris Marsden won against John Nicholson on board 4 for Hebden Bridge. It’s worth mentioning that a new junior club member, Jamie Heritage, played his first match for the club on board 5 and drew against Andrew Whiteley. You’ll have seen above that he went on to win his next game in the Handicap League against Belgrave. We look forward to seeing how this new young prospect develops.

Here is the full match scorecard:

Hebden Bridge ‘C’ vs. Halifax ‘B’
J.Kerrane 0 – 1 S.Gornall (W)
P.Gledhill ½ – ½ H.Wood (W)
T.Sullivan ½ – ½ D.Rowley (W)
C.Marsden 1 – 0 N.Nicholson (W)
J.Heritage ½ – ½ A.Whiteley (W)
2½ – 2½

You’ll find a couple of the games from the matches reported on in this post in the game viewer below.

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Dec 082019
 

It’s been a long haul but Hebden Bridge ‘A’ have managed to get back to the top of the pile in League 1. Can they stay there? Photo: Vern’s Flickr photostream

Last Monday the sixth round of fixtures in Calderdale League 1 took place and resulted in the leadership of the title race changing hands. Since round 3, when they had a bye, the League Champions, Hebden Bridge ‘A’, have been pursuing Halifax ‘A’. In round 4 they missed their chance to catch up immediately when they were only able to draw at home to Huddersfield ‘A’ while Halifax had their bye round. Then in round 5, Halifax slipped up when they could only draw at home to the back-markers of Brighouse. Now in round 6, with their lead curtailed to a mere half point on board count, Halifax had the tough challenge of travelling to third placed Hebden Bridge ‘B’ whilst Hebden ‘A’ hosted Belgrave ‘B’.

At Todmorden, Halifax wheeled out one of their big guns in the form of Darwin Ursal. He doesn’t appear for them as regularly as he’d probably like to, but when he does, the team tend to perform well (this season they won against both Huddersfield ‘A’ and Belgrave ‘A’ with Darwin in the side). Darwin replaced Winston Williams at the top of the board order and was joined by team captain, Richard Porter, Carlos Velosa, Vivienne Webster and Howard Wood.

Hebden meanwhile had their own big guns. All four of them! Messrs Hamer, Cook, Clarkson and Swain have played in every match so far this season and between them have amassed a considerable score of 12 points from 15 games (10 wins, 4 draws and 1 defeat to be precise). They were joined on board 5 for the second time this season by Paul Gledhill.

By all accounts the match was a pretty exciting one with the under dogs on all but one of the five boards taking something from their games. On board 1 Darwin defeated Martyn Hamer to inflict his first loss of the season. Phil Cook was the one player with a rating advantage who managed to win his game as he outplayed Richard Porter on board 2. Andrew Clarkson was lost at a certain point against Carlos Velosa but somehow managed to bag a draw. Sam Swain made a one move blunder against Vivienne Webster to concede his first defeat of the season and Paul Gledhill saved the home side’s blushes by over-coming Howard Wood.

And so, a truly topsy-turvy match ended in a draw. Here’s the full match scorecard:

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ vs. Halifax ‘A’
M.Hamer 0 – 1 D.Ursal (W)
P.Cook 1 – 0 R.Porter (W)
A.Clarkson ½ – ½ C. Velosa (W)
S.Swain 0 – 1 V.Webster (W)
P.Gledhill 1 – 0 H.Wood (W)
2½ – 2½

This represents an outstanding result for Halifax against a team that out rated them on every board but one. Hebden meanwhile, had a collective off night and they don’t have many of those.

Unbeknownst to them, the result in Todmorden provided Hebden Bridge ‘A’ with the chance to overhaul Halifax at the top of the table and also gain a crucial point on their club colleagues who were hot on their heels. They needed to beat Belgrave ‘B’ to achieve that outcome. That they achieved this by a seemingly comfortable margin does not do justice to the tension of the games played on the night or the spirited resistance of their opponents.

The first game of the match to finish was the board 1 encounter between Matthew Parsons of Hebden Bridge and Gordon Farrar of Belgrave. It looked to bystanders like Matthew achieved a comfortable advantage out of the opening from a Caro-Kann Defence and converted it smoothly. However, as Matthew revealed afterwards, he made a move order error and, for a brief moment, realised that he could be lost. Fortunately for him, Gordon missed his window of opportunity and Matthew made sure that he made no further errors as he swept the visiting player aside.

Two tough draws followed this single victory for Hebden as both Andy Leatherbarrow and Neil Suttie found themselves unable to convert advantageous positions against lower rated opponents. Les Johnson on board 4 and Angel Gonzalez on board 5, managed to create problems and resisted the home players stubbornly in order to hold the balance in congested positions.

Hebden won the last two games to finish but both were very hard fought. On board 3, up against Chris Edwards, Dave Shapland got pretty much nothing out of his Sicilian Defence in the opening and misplayed the position slightly when we initiated ideas common to the Sveshnikov Variation in a similar but slightly different line – the Boleslavsky. However, at the crucial moment Dave calculated and saw further over the horizon and suddenly had a rampaging passed pawn that Chris could not prevent from reaching the seventh rank. The game ended pretty much immediately after that.

The last game to finish was another tense affair on board 2 between Stavros Pantazopoulos and Mike Barnett. Stavros got into his customary time trouble in this game but had a very dangerous initiative that finally enabled him to convert a full point late into the evening.

Here is the final match scorecard:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs. Belgrave ‘B’
M.Parsons 1 – 0 G.Farrar (W)
S.Pantazopouols 1 – 0 M.Barnett (W)
D.Shapland 1 – 0 C.Edwards (W)
A.Leatherbarrow ½ – ½ L.Johnson (W)
N.Suttie ½ – ½ A.Gonzalez (W)
4 – 1

With that win Hebden ‘A’ reclaim they place at the top of the pile, for now at least. They round off their 2019 with a dangerous trip to Halifax ‘A’ in a battle for the top spot. Third-placed Hebden Bridge ‘B’ appear to have an easy fixture away to Brighouse but one can never count one’s chickens in this league, as mentioned earlier, Brighouse drew with the then league leaders Halifax just two rounds ago.

The other match in League 1 last week saw Belgrave ‘A’ visit Huddersfield ‘A’. The home side are perennial contenders in this league but are having a torrid time of it this season. Aside from the aforementioned and outstanding draw with Hebden Bridge ‘A’ back in early November they have managed just one win against Brighouse until this point. Their misery continued as they were roundly drubbed by Belgrave. Richard Boylan saw off Karim Khan on board 4 for Huddersfield but defeats for Steve Westmoreland against John Morgan, Nick Sykes against Malcolm Corbett and David Booth against Dave Colledge as well as a draw between two more Dave’s – Keddie and Patrick – on board 2 did for the home side. Belgrave have now finished their fixtures for 2019 and sit in fourth place on 6 points. They are comfortably clear of their vanquished opponents who are in fifth with 3 points.

Next week we’ll report on the final round of both the League 1 and 2 fixtures before Christmas.

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Nov 232019
 

Take it from someone who’s played for title winning sides and relegated ones – sometimes playing chess in the Calderdale can feel a little bit like your bullying or being bullied by the opposition! Chess is a hard game. Last week it was Belgrave ‘B’s turn to take a pummeling. Next week, who knows? Photo: Thomas Ricker’s Flickr photostream

In today’s post we’ll catch up on Calderdale Evening League action from last week and this week and get ourselves back up to date with our reporting.

League 1

On Monday 11th of November, League 1 teams convened for their fifth round of fixtures this season. The leaders after round 4 were Halifax ‘A’ who’d taken advantage of Hebden Bridge ‘A’ drawing their home match against Huddersfield ‘A’ last time out to sneak ahead. Halifax were at home to the bottom team in the division Brighouse.

In a top versus bottom clash you’d expect the leaders to win fairly comfortably. However, Halifax defaulted their board 3 and thus found themselves playing catch up right from the off. The teams traded wins on the top two boards with Brighouse’s Robert Broadbent beating Richard Porter and Halifax’s Winston Williams (playing on board 2 for some strange reason) beating Nick Hudson. Sam Scurfield won for the hosts on board 5 and so the outcome of the match hinged on the game between Carlos Velosa and Tim Pryke. Despite there being nearly a 70-point rating advantage in Velosa’s favour, Pryke managed to hold a draw and so Halifax were only able to tie the match.

All of this was unknown across town at the Belgrave Club where Hebden Bridge ‘A’ and ‘B’ were visiting Belgrave ‘A’ and ‘B’ respectively. Wins for the visitors would see the ‘A’ team catch Halifax again and the ‘B’ team close the gap between themselves and top spot to one point.

Let’s start with the ‘B’ team’s match up. Hebden ‘B’ have been utterly consistent with the line up of their top four boards this season. Hamer, Cook, Clarkson and Swain have so far done them proud in being matched in only one fixture – the one against their ‘A’ team – so far this season. Duties on board 5 have rotated around somewhat with Richard Bedford, Pete Leonard, Paul Gledhill and for this match, John Kerrane, all taking turns.

Belgrave ‘B’ were out-rated by almost 30-points on every board but the bottom one where John Kerrane out-pointed Les Johnson by 7-points. The match turned out to be as one-sided as the ratings would have led speculators to predict. The ‘B’ team bullied their way to a 4½ – ½ victory with only Andrew Clarkson conceding a draw to Dave College. Here is the full match scorecard:

Belgrave ‘B’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘B’
G.Farrar 0 – 1 M.Hamer (W)
M.Barnett 0 – 1 P.Cook (W)
D.Colledge ½ – ½ A.Clarkson (W)
C.Edwards 0 – 1 S.Swain (W)
L.Johnson 0 – 1 J.Kerrane (W)
½ – 4½

Bizarrely, Sam Swain played Chris Edwards for the second time in two matches as the two also faced each other on the same board when Belgrave ‘A’ visited Todmorden for their round 4 match. At least they played with opposite colours this time around! This was the ‘B’ team’s second win by such a convincing margin and they have the highest board count (14) of all the teams in the division after five rounds of play.

On the other side of the room at the Belgrave Social Club, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ were engaged in a mortal struggle with their hosts, Belgrave ‘A’. Both teams were back to full strength having fielded slightly weakened line ups in their last matches. Belgrave welcomed Tony Slinger back on board 3 and Malcolm Corbett on board 4. Hebden meanwhile saw Matthew Parsons, Stavros Pantazopoulos and Dave Shapland return to the fray having missed their last match. The two sides looked pretty evenly matched on the lower boards and so it looked like the outcome of the top two boards, where Hebden had larger rating advantages, would be critical.

All five games were very keenly contested. The first to finish was the board 4 encounter between Andy Leatherbarrow and Malcolm Corbett. Andy had chosen to meet Malcolm’s Alekhine’s Defence with the relatively modest but tense and strategically complex Voronezh System of the Exchange Variation. Often in this line, White gets a pleasant space advantage but, with thematic and well-rehearsed preparation, Black can find ways to fight for equality. That was pretty much what happened in this game. Malcolm broke out in the centre with 10…e5, Andy took the opportunity to gain space when he responded with 11.d5 but Malcolm countered by manouevring his knight with 11…Ne7 and 12….Nf5.

A few moves later Andy was able to secure a small but stable advantage when he exchanged knights on c5 and created a passed d-pawn. However, he didn’t find the right method to try and maintain his edge, allowed Malcom to create a passed pawn of his own on d4 and then, when both pairs of rooks came off it seemed clear that the position was pretty sterile, even with queens and a bishop pair each still on the board. In fact, my chess engine seems to think that White was slightly better when the draw was agreed but Andy was somewhat low on time and, with no other results certain in the match, made the right decision to maintain the balance of the score line.

The visitors took the lead in the next game to finish when Dave Shapland beat Tony Slinger on board 3. This game transposed from a Sicilian Defence into a pseudo Spanish or Italian Game due to a move order trick. Again, both players developed their strategies in thematic fashion. Dave transferred his knights to the king’s side and his queen to f3 in order to and try and occupy the f5 square and build a direct assault on the Black king while Tony looked to counter on the queen’s side by expanding with b5-a5-a4.

Dave was ready for Tony’s plan though and threw his bishop into h6. At this moment Tony selected the wrong defensive option and Dave was able to secure a winning positional advantage and an iron grip on the game with an unchallengeable knight on the f5 outpost. The Belgrave man wriggled on the hook for a few moves before giving up when the queens were exchanged at which point Dave was three pawns up.

Despite taking the lead in the match the overall situation was far from clear at this moment in proceedings. On board 5 Neil Suttie had lost a piece very early on against Karim Kahn, who essayed the rare and highly tactical Elephant Gambit! Neil had some compensation for the piece and the game was hugely unclear and complex but objectively, he was probably losing.

On board 2 Stavros Pantazopoulos took on Dave Patrick’s Slav Defence but seemed to be able to make no significant impact in the opening and Dave appeared to have at least neutralised the situation by the time the board 3 game was over. He might even have been slightly better.

Finally, on board 1, Matthew Parsons and John Morgan were locked into one of Matthew’s London Systems which John had met in enterprising fashion by playing 2…b5. At first it looked like Matthew would perform his usual trick of slowly outplaying his opponent using his superior knowledge and understanding of the resultant middle game position but on this occasion John fought back. First of all, he landed a blow that Matthew had completely overlooked and then he won an exchange when Matthew blundered in what was otherwise still an equal position.

From Suttie vs. Khan in the Belgrave ‘A’ vs Hebden Bridge ‘A’ match. White to play. What would you do here? Solution in the game viewer at the end of this post

At this point in the evening two defeats and a draw looked like the likely outcome on the last three board for Hebden and that would see them lose the match. Thankfully, two of their three players were able to improve their situations. First, Neil fought back against Karim. He managed to win back his piece although it was at the expense of going two pawns down. It was a very hard game to both assess and play and both combatants got into pretty desperate time trouble as they approached time control. In the last few moves of the game Neil, in his haste, missed both a tough checkmate and then another clear winning line. Karim meanwhile rustled up enough activity to salvage a draw by perpetual check. It was probably a just result.

Sadly, no such justice was on offer for the stout resistance out up by Dave Patrick on board 2. He and Stavros reached an endgame in which they both had four pawns, a knight and a queen. Dave had a distant passed pawn on the b-file. In these types of position’s however, the initiative is crucial as a knight and a queen can be very dangerous indeed when working together. Stavros found a way to offer Dave a pawn in order to take the initiative. Dave misjudged the resultant position as both players time began to run out and Stavros forced a decisive attack home.

These two results meant that Hebden had already sealed match victory by the time John had, to his great credit, seen out a hard-earned victory over Matthew in the last game of the night to finish.

Here is the match scorecard:

Belgrave ‘A’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘A’
J.Morgan 1 – 0 M.Parsons (W)
D.Patrick 0 – 1 S.Pantazopoulos (W)
T.Slinger 0 – 1 D.Shapland (W)
M.Corbett ½ – ½ A.Leatherbarrow (W)
K.Khan ½ – ½ N.Suttie (W)
2 – 3

Your editor can’t remember the last time Hebden Bridge lost on top board for two matches in a row. Surely the run won’t continue and fortunately the results have not cost them too dearly as they rejoin Halifax at the top of the table on 7 points behind the leaders only by a single drawn board. However, Hebden Bridge’ B’ are now breathing down the necks of the leaders as they have 6 points and a better board count. Hebden Bridge ‘B’ play Halifax at home in their next match on Monday while Hebden Bridge ‘A’ host Belgrave ’B’. The title race is shaping up nicely.

League 2

This Monday night the four League 2 teams faced each other again with Hebden Bridge ‘C’ hosting the run-away leaders Huddersfield ‘B’ and Halifax ‘B’ hosting Belgrave C’.

Unfortunately, Hebden were unable to stop Huddersfield’s momentum and continue their recent run of good form as they went down heavily 1 – 4. Paul Gledhill and Chris Marsden were able to hold draws against players of similar ratings to their own, but John Alllan, John Kerrane and Terry Sullivan went down to David Gray, Granville Boot and Bryn Charlesworth respectively. Here is the final match scorecard:

Hebden Bridge ‘C’ vs. Huddersfield ‘B’
J.Alllan 0 – 1 D.Gray (W)
J.Kerrane 0 – 1 G.Boot (W)
P.Gledhill ½ – ½ J.Hill (W)
T.Sullivan 0 – 1 B.Charlesworth (W)
C.Marsden ½ – ½ C.Haigh (W)
1 – 4

In the other match to take place this week, Belgrave ‘C’ re-took sole possession of second place with a closely fought victory over Halifax ‘B’ at Halifax. Pete Moss managed to win for the hosts on board 2 but wins by Les Johnson over John Nicholson on board 3 and Paul Edwards over Barry Wadsworth on board 4 were enough to see the visitors to victory.

There are a few games from the Belgrave ‘A’ vs Hebden Bridge ‘A’ match in the game viewer below.

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Nov 162019
 

Huddersfield ‘A’ slowed down Hebden Bridge ‘A’s attempt to retain their title by holding them to a draw. Photo credit: veggiefrog’s Flickr photostream

Your editor is freshly home from his holidays and recognizes the need to catch up on the Calderdale Evening League scene which has now played three rounds of fixtures since our last post. In this missive we’ll cover the League 1 action from fixtures played on the 28th of October and also the League 2 matches played on the 4th of November.

League 1

We’ll start with title holders Hebden Bridge ‘A’ who hosted a Huddersfield ‘A’ team that has been struggling somewhat so far this season with defeats against Halifax ‘A’ and Hebden Bridge ‘B’ sandwiching a win over Brighouse in round 2.

Hebden were missing their top three boards from their previous match against their ‘B’ team. Matthew Parsons, Stavros Pantazopoulos and Dave Shapland were all unavailable, but into the side came the Bak brothers, Chris and Andy and also the returning Pete Leonard who had been absent for their previous match. Andy Leatherbarrow and Neil Suttie made up the full compliment.

On paper this side looked to have a decent edge over the visiting line up which had plenty of experience but not the same strength, especially on the top couple of board as they fielded with Steve Westmoreland, Dave Keddie, Nick Sykes, Richard Boylan and David Booth.

Unfortunately for the hosts, this was one of those occasions where the form book was not reflected in the result. Andy Bak and Neil Suttie beat Dave Keddie and David Booth on boards 2 and 5 respectively and Andy Leatherbarrow drew with Nick Sykes on board 3 but there were blunders by Chris Bak and Pete Leonard on boards 1 and 4 which saw the visitors grab the two wins they needed to tie the match. Kudos to Huddersfield for taking their chances in these games and effectively slowing down the momentum that was building in the holders attempts to retain their title. Hebden were happy not to have dropped both match points in the end. Here’s the full match card:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs. Huddersfield ‘A’
C.Bak 0 – 1 S.Westmoreland (W)
A.Bak 1 – 0 D.Keddie (W)
A.Leatherbarrow ½ – ½ N.Sykes (W)
P.Leonard 0 – 1 R.Boylan (W)
N.Suttie 1 – 0 D.Booth (W)
2½ – 2½

This result meant that Halifax ‘A’ stayed top of the League by a single point despite having their bye week. It also gave the Hebden Bridge ‘B’ team a chance to close the gap on their colleagues with a tight win at home over somewhat weakened Belgrave ‘A’ line up. The visitors arrived without Tony Slinger, Malcolm Corbett or Peter Hughes in train and, although John Morgan and Dave Patrick succeeded in holding draws against their higher rated opposition on the top two boards, Karim Khan and Chris Edwards were dispatched by Andrew Clarkson and Sam Swain respectively. However, Steve Harrington beat Paul Gledhill on board 5 to give the visiting team a single win and keep the scoreline respectable.

The full match score card was:

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ vs. Belgrave ‘A’
M.Hamer ½ – ½ J.Morgan (W)
P.Cook ½ – ½ D.Patrick (W)
A.Clarkson 1 – 0 K.Khan (W)
S.Swain 1 – 0 C.Edwards (W)
P.Gledhill 0 – 1 S.Harrington (W)
3 – 2

Several games from these two Hebden Bridge matches can be found in the game viewer at the end of this post. My thanks to all the players concerned for sending in their games for publication. This website would not be nearly so interesting without games to look at!

The third match of the round saw back markers Brighouse beaten by Belgrave ‘B’ at home. This moved the visitors further ahead of their opponents and gave them a fighting chance of avoiding relegation. Remember that two teams go down from league 1 this season but only one will be promoted from league 2.

League 2

Speaking of which… last week saw round 4 of the League 2 season with the teams starting their second cycle of four this season. For Hebden Bridge ‘C’ this meant a home tie against a Belgrave ‘C’ team that had pipped them at the post in the opening match. The players were hungry for revenge and duly got it with a fine team display that saw Andy Leatherbarrow, John Kerrane, Paul Gledhill and Terry Sullivan all win their games against Chris Edwards, Angel Gonzales, Paul Edwards and Paul Jacobs respectively. Only Chris Marsden on board 5 went down to defeat after a blunder in his game.

The match scorecard looked like this:

Hebden Bridge ‘C’ vs. Belgrave ‘C’
A.Leatherbarrow 1 – 0 C.Edwards (W)
J.Kerrane 1 – 0 A.Gonzales (W)
P.Gledhill 1 – 0 P.Edwards (W)
T.Sullivan 1 – 0 P.Jacobs (W)
C.Marsden 0 – 1 R.Pratt (W)
4 – 1

With this result Hebden joined their defeated foes on 4 points for the season so far. These two sides are now 4 points behind the run-away leaders, Huddersfield ‘B’. They consolidated their advantage with a crushing 4½ – ½ win at home against Halifax ‘B’. Only Howard Wood on board 1 was able to hold a draw against David Gray.

Next week we will feature another double-billed report as we cover the matches played in League 1 on Monday night and also the League 2 matches being played next week.

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Oct 282019
 

Hebden Bridge ‘C’ got off the mark at the third time of asking last Monday night when they beat Halifax ‘B’ away. Photo credit: The U.S. Army’s Flickr photo stream

Just a short report this week folks as your Editor is away on his holidays.

Last Monday night saw the third round of Calderdale League 2 take place with the top two teams facing each other for the right to lead the League and the bottom two facing off to see who would get out of the basement.

Sadly Hebden Bridge ‘C’ were in the second of these contest having lost against Belgrave ‘C’ and Huddersfield ‘B’ by the narrowest possible margin. Now they faced Halifax ‘B’ in a match that would decided who would be the back markers after the first of four rounds of fixtures.

Hebden fielded their strongest line up yet with Andy Leatherbarrow on board 1 and Pete Leonard on board 2. Neil Bamford played on 3 with Paul Gledhill on 4 and Chris Marsden on 5.

Hebden’s captain on the night was Andy Leatherbarrow and he reports that it was a very noisy night at the Lee Mount venue as the players had to play in room next to bar rather than the usual room due to the venue having other conflicting commitments. There were some very loud drunken people around which made concentrating on the games rather hard but it seemed to disturb the home side more than the visitors.

Horward Wood played Andy on board 1 was so perturbed that he decided to resign on the loss of a pawn early on as he was fed up with background noise. Shortly afterwards Pete Leonard won on board 2 when his opponent blundered horribly and this was followed by Neil Bamford winning on board 3. Chris Marsden also won what was just his second ever competitive over the board game. He must think  this chess lark is all rather easy! Last to finish was board 4 where Paul Gledhill struggled on a pawn down but lost to Barry Wadsworth in an endgame.

Here’s the match scorecard:

Halifax ‘B’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘C’
H.Wood 0 – 1 A.Leatherbarrow (W)
D.Rowley 0 – 1 P.Leonard (W)
A.Whiteley 0 – 1 N.Bamford (W)
B.Wadsworth 1 – o P.Gledhill (W)
E.Fynn 0 – 1 C.Marsden (W)
1 – 4

In the other League 2 match, Huddersfield ‘B’ seized sole ownership of the top spot after they beat Belgrave ‘C’ 2 – 3 away. The home side succeeded in beating higher rated opponents on board 2 and 3 where Chris Edwards and Les Johnson took down David Gray and Granville Boot respectively. However, the visitors won all three of the other boards to take the match.

This week the League 1 teams return to action and we hope to bring you a brief report and some games from the Hebden Bridge teams later this week.

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Oct 202019
 

Black to move in Clarkson vs. Sykes. Andrew had just played 20.f4 threatening to open up lines towards Nick’s king. What would you do with Black here? Nick took an unusual but effective approach. Find out what he did in the game viewer at the end of this post.

We’ve two weeks’ worth of action to catch up on in this post and, coincidentally, two matches featuring Hebden Bridge against Huddersfield teams. The aggregate score is proudly displayed in our title but that masks the fact that we won one by a huge margin and lost one by fractions.

First of all, a week last Monday, Hebden Bridge ‘C’ undertook the odyssey of travelling to Holmfirth to take on Huddersfield ‘B’. The hosts are probably the favorites to take the League 2 title having been relegated from League 1 last season, but Hebden Bridge have decent players available to them too and were still more than capable of causing an upset though they were out graded on every board.

It was a brutal match in the end with none of the five boards ending peaceably. The visitors fought well but fell just short of causing a big upset. On board 1 Andy Leatherbarrow was winning against Leo Keely, but lost track of time and didn’t manage to reach the time control.

Meanwhile, Neil Bamford bounced back from losing his first match of the season on board 2 with an excellent win over David Gray. He won a knight in the middle game and tidied up nicely. John Kerrane never really managed to make a mark on Granville Boot on board 3 and Paul Gledhill ‘went for glory’ on board 4 against Simon Anscombe, but his attack didn’t come off and he went down.

On board 5 though, debutant Chris Marsden outplayed his opponent nicely, tripling his heavy pieces on the b-file to dominate the game and not becoming discombobulated when Black tried to mix things up by sacrificing a knight for two pawns.

Here’s the match scorecard:

Huddersfield ‘B’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘C’
L.Keeley 1 – 0 A.Leatherbarrow (W)
D.Gray 0 – 1 N.Bamford (W)
G.Boot 1 – 0 J.Kerrane (W)
S.Anscombe 1 – 0 P.Gledhill (W)
J.Hills 0 – 1 C.Marsden (W)
3 – 2

In the other match in League 2, Belgrave ‘C’ smashed Halifax ‘B’ by 4½ – ½. Dave College was out graded on board 1 against Scott Gornall but managed to hold the draw while the rest of his team-mates all held rating advantages over their opponents and duly dispatched them.

Those results mean that Huddersfield and Belgrave are on a collision course to fight for the top spot when they meet on Monday night whilst Hebden Bridge ‘C’ will hope to avoid sinking to the bottom of the table when they face Halifax away.

Now on to last week’s matches in League 1. Reigning champions and league leaders, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ sat out the round 3 matches and were interested by-standers as they waited to see if any of their rivals could over-haul them at the top.

Like their ‘C’ team colleagues the previous week, Hebden Bridge ‘B’ travelled to Huddersfield on Monday night, although they made a slightly shorter trip to the Lindley Liberal Club. Hebden had pretty much as strong a line up as the one they had sported in the derby match in round 2 with Pete Leonard (un needed by the ‘A’ team) returning to play on board 5 in place of Richard Bedford.

Hebden’s fire power was simply far too much for Huddersfield to handle. Without their top two rated players they were heavily out gunned on the top boards and forced to promote what would have been highly competitive lower board players to fill the gap.

Of course, Huddersfield fought hard and made Hebden work for their victory but Martyn Hamer over came Dave Keddie on board 1 and Phil Cook found a chink in Steve Westmoreland’s armour when the Huddersfield captain tried to block up the position and build a fortress.

On the lower boards, Sam Swain and Pete Leonard played the same opening variation against Richard Boylan and David Booth’s French Defence. However, whereas Pete never really looked like slipping up on board 5, Sam seemed to be in trouble against Richard towards the end of the middle game but managed to turn the tables to enter a rook and pawn ending with an extra pawn. In time trouble, Richard capitulated when he might still have salvaged a draw.

That just left the board 3 match between Andrew Clarkson and Nick Sykes. Predictably this was the heaviest theoretical duel of the night with the players continuing their discussion of the 6.h3 line of the Najdorf. This line is trendy enough that Magnus Carlsen played it in the FIDE Chess.com Grand Swiss earlier this week! Nick has been good enough to annotate the game and send it through for publication – see the game viewer at the end of this post. It seems that Andrew secured an advantage but, with both players in time trouble, he was unable to find the best procedure and a draw was agreed in the last game of the night to finish as Nick secured a sole half point for his team.

Here’s the match scorecard:

Huddersfield ‘A’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘B’
D.Keddie 0 – 1 M.Hamer (W)
S.Westmoreland 0 – 1 P.Cook (W)
N.Sykes ½ – ½ A.Clarkson (W)
R.Boylan 0 – 1 S.Swain (W)
D.Booth 0 – 1 P.Leonard (W)
½ – 4½

Elsewhere, Halifax ‘A’ took full advantage of Hebden Bridge ‘A’s absence to go top of the table by beating Belgrave ‘B’ at Claremount Road. The hosts managed to draw on board 2 and win on board 5 but were otherwise put to the sword with Winston Williams leading the charge on board 1 as he stayed perfect for the season winning his third game.
Also, at the Belgrave Social Club, their ‘A’ team continued to make Brighouse’s return to the top flight a miserable one as they won 4½ – ½. Only Robert Broadbent on board 1 was able to resist.

So, Halifax ‘A’ are top of the table with 6 points from three matches. Belgrave ‘A’ and Hebden Bridge ‘A’ are on 4 points but Hebden have only played two matches. Hebden ‘B’ and Huddersfield ‘A’ have 2 points each (Hebden have also have a match in hand) and Belgrave ‘B’ and Brighouse are bottom.

There are a selection of games from the last two weeks in the game viewer below.

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Oct 042019
 

Ingmar Bergmans’ ‘The Seventh Seal’ contains the most iconic chess game in cinematic history. At it’s heart Max Von Sydow’s character chooses to answer our question for today: “Chess or extinction?” with the answer “Chess”. Which of us wouldn’t do the same?

On Monday night patrons of the Golden Lion in Todmorden were greeted with this seemingly stark ultimatum as they entered the premises. The occasion was the first local derby match of the Calderdale Evening Chess League season between Hebden Bridge ‘A’ and Hebden Bridge ‘B’ and the alternative on offer was an ‘Extinction Rebellion’ group meeting taking place upstairs. Our genial host merrily posited these two options from behind the bar to any customer who she didn’t really recognise. It didn’t fail to raise a chuckle from the chess players, who were in the know, and quizzically alarmed looks from genuine newcomers.

It’s the kind of scenario that can only really happen out at the Golden Lion. On Monday what could turn out to be one of the most serious and earnest chess matches of the season was punctuated by musical interludes from the bar next door. Funky breaks and wailing guitar solos were in plentiful supply. It could have been off-putting (and possibly would have been at another venue) but at the Golden Lion pretty much all the players seemed to be bobbing their heads in appreciation and even humming the tunes to themselves at some point. It certainly didn’t seem to adversely affect the standard of the chess being played, which was pretty high.

Last year, the Hebden Bridge based team beat the Todmorden based team not only in the corresponding fixture but to the title too. The Golden Lion fraternity had a desperately awful start to the season last year, drawing one and losing four of their first five matches. They were not helped by having some lower rated players on boards 4 and 5 early for the early matches before the roster stabilised. This time around, with Hebden Bridge ‘C’ having been relegated last year and a few new players arriving at the club, the ‘B’ team is stronger. Much stronger. Ferociously strong. The five players in the line-up on Monday sported an average ECF rating of 174.8!! Those five in order were Martyn Hamer; the Calderdale Individual Champion of the last three seasons, Phil Cook; Andrew Clarkson; Sam Swain and Richard ‘Beaky’ Bedford. It’s got to be one of the strongest lines-ups ever fielded in the league – certainly it is just about the strongest your correspondent has ever seen.

The reigning champions had strengthened their line up too! They boasted an average rating of 172.8 and were comprised of Matthew Parsons; Calderdale League debutant, Stavros Pantazopoulos; Dave Shapland, Andy Leatherbarrow and Neil Suttie. With the two teams so closely matched it was bound to be a tight, tense and enthralling match. It also promised to be a very late night, and that was exactly how it turned out.

The ‘A’ team playing White, did their best to try and exploit their ‘advantage’ in the early stage of the evening. On board 1, Matthew and Martyn duelled in Matthew’s favorite London System. The early exchanges were very cagey and Matthew appeared to get very little from the opening despite his best efforts. On board 2 it was a different story as Phil met Stavro’s 1.d4 and 2.c4 with a very unorthodox approach. It cost him a pawn early on and it wasn’t clear if it was a gambit or a blunder, but it certainly led to some unclear and unusual positions. More importantly, it caused Stavros to start thinking hard and, with him playing the relatively short evening league time limits for the first time, he soon got very behind on the clock.

Dave Shapland sprang a surprise on Andrew Clarkson on board 3 – well maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t – as he decided to take on Andrew’s Grunfeld rather than having yet another go at his Pirc which he has never yet been able to defeat. Inspired by some recent games from the FIDE World Cup, Dave played the first moves of the mainline exchange variation and then selected an offbeat continuation with 8.Bb5+. He succeeded in stabilising his pawn centre and getting his pieces developed onto active squares in the opening while Andrew was given some problems to solve from the early stages.

Andy Leatherbarrow and Sam Swain contested an English Opening in which the centre of the board soon become rather blocked with pawns. Both players switched their efforts to counter attacks on opposite flanks with Sam playing f5 and Andy playing b4 to try and break the position open in their favour.
Finally, on board 5, Neil and Beaky contested the latter’s favoured Nimzowitsch Defence. This too was a very tense game in the early stages with Beaky gradually manoeuvring his pieces over to the king’s side to build what looked like a dangerous attack.

For much of the night it was really difficult to see which way the match would go as all the boards seemed rather unclear. Slowly but surely though, the games started to resolve themselves. The first to finish was the board 2 match where Stavros found himself with a rook and pawn versus Phil’s knight and bishop. He also found himself very short of time as early as move 20! Phil too had consumed a fair deal of time and the end of the game demonstrated the tension of the encounter and the pressure of the clock as Stavros overlooked a move that would have secured him the advantage and instead actually handed Phil with a winning opportunity. However, Phil in turn missed his opportunity as he opted to sacrifice a bishop to force a perpetual check and the game ended abruptly in a draw. This was a rather curious but by no means bad game.

The game on board 1 finished next with both players choosing not to take any undue risks although it looked like they explored some interesting possibilities in the post-mortem. There’s a health respect between Matthew and Martyn who have both won games from each other in the past. This time it was a draw.

The home side took the lead shortly afterwards when Sam beat Andy on board 4. In a very complicated middle game, Sam finally succeeded in opening up the position in the centre and damaging the White king’s protective shield. Meanwhile, Andy opened the b-file for his heavy pieces. It would appear that this scenario favoured Black because, by the time Andy had decided on a tactical approach with 24.Re6!? it looks like he was already in trouble. Sam found the right solution to the problem and emerged an exchange up. Andy didn’t have enough compensation and his king was too exposed to try and mount a serious counter-attack. Sam snuffed out any counter play and mopped up efficiently.

I often think you can measure the intensity and drama of a chess game by the number of pints consumed by the players. The game between Neil and Beaky was clearly a ‘six pint’ game, which says it all really.

The champions struck back on board 3 where Dave’s initiative against Andrew built up into a strong attack. Andrew may have missed a couple of fleeting opportunities to defend himself more robustly but generally the position was much harder for Black to play than White and once Dave had been able to initiate a rook lift and transfer his queen to the h-file it was all over bar the king hunt as Andrew’s monarch staggered drunkenly up the board as far as d5 in the vain hope of finding a refuge.

And that meant that the outcome of the match would be settled by the board 5 encounter. As the rest of the players gathered around it was far from clear who was better if anyone. Both Neil and Richard burned their clocks down to almost nothing before the time control and then almost as soon as they’d had their 15 minutes added, they slowed down their rate of play and got into time trouble again!

It’s clear from the game analysis that the pendulum swung between these two several times during the game but in the end the game and the match was decided when Beaky over-stepped the time limit and sportingly pointed it out himself. By that point Neil seemed to have secured a winning advantage anyway.

Here’s the final score card from what was a fabulous match full of interesting play and you can find four of the five games with some annotations in the game viewer at the bottom of this post.

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ vs Hebden Bridge ‘A’
M.Hamer ½ – ½ M.Parsons (W)
P.Cook ½ – ½ S.Pantazopoulos (W)
A.Clarkson 0 – 1 D.Shapland (W)
S.Swain 1 – 0 A.Leatherbarrow (W)
R.Bedford 0 – 1 N Suttie (W)
2 – 3

Elsewhere on Monday night Huddersfield ‘A’ were busy putting Brighouse to the sword in much the same fashion that Hebden Bridge ‘A’ had done in round 1. The score was ½ – 4½ and this time it was Robert Broadbent on board 1 who salvaged Brighouse’s pride by holding Greg Eagleton to a draw. Nick Sykes, Alec Ward, Steve Westmoreland and David Booth all won their games.

At the Lee Mount Cllub in Halifax, Halifax ‘A’ were rustling up a highly convincing victory against last season’s runners up, Belgrave ‘A’. Certainly, Belgrave were weaker for this match than they had been for their first-round match, missing Tony Slinger and Colin Proctor as they were. Into the breach stepped Malcolm Corbett and Steve Harrington. Halifax meanwhile welcomed back Richard Porter to board 3 and this strengthened their line up enough for them to be higher rated on all five boards. The home team won on all three of the top boards as Darwin Ursal, Winston Williams and the afore mentioned Richard Porter beat John Morgan, Dave Patrick and Malcolm Corbett respectively. Karim Khan and Steve Harrington held their adversaries, Carlos Velosa and Vivienne Webster to draws as Halifax romped home 4 – 1.

All these results mean that after two rounds, only Hebden Bridge ‘A’ and Halifax ‘A’ have perfect scores and 7½ board points each. Huddersfield and Belgrave ‘A’ have two points each and the other three are yet to score although both Hebden Bridge ‘B’ and Belgrave ‘B’ have both got a game in hand.

In round 3 it will be the reigning champions turn to sit it out as Halifax will be given the chance to go top on their own if they beat Belgrave ‘B’ away.

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