Apr 132017
With one round left to play only Todmorden 'A' or Hebden Bridge 'A' can take the League 1 title. Meanwhile, Halifax 'C' are already League 2 champions. Image from Daniel Coomber's Flickr photostream

With one round left to play only Todmorden ‘A’ or Hebden Bridge ‘A’ can take the League 1 title with Todmorden in the driving seat. Meanwhile, Halifax ‘C’ are already League 2 champions. Image from Daniel Coomber’s Flickr photo stream

It’s been a while since our last post and much has action has taken place in the Calderdale Evening Chess League with Division 2 drawing to a close and Division 1 now in its final few rounds of fixtures.

Let’s start by round up the Division 2 final standings as the last round of fixtures were played on the 27th of March. Halifax ‘C’ and Brighouse were the only two teams in contention for the title and the single promotion berth on offer this season (I believe this is correct as there are only 6 teams in league 2 this season).

Halifax began the round 2 points clear of Brighouse and, with the two sides board scores being almost identical, that meant Brighouse needed to beat Hebden Bridge ‘C’ and hope that Halifax went down to Todmorden ‘C’ if they were to pick their pockets at the last.

Brighouse did their job with a whitewash of the Hebden Bridge junior outift. Hebden Juniors Captain John Kerrane reports on the outstanding game of the night.

The match was notable for a terrific, tense struggle between Brighouse captain Paul Whitehouse and Toby Dodd on board 3. In a blocked position, Whitehouse eventually forced a breakthrough on the kingside, but then found himself in a dangerous position. Eventually, he managed to avoid his opponent’s counter-play, until, with mate inevitable, Dodd was forced to resign.

The individual results were:

Brighouse vs. Hebden Bridge ‘C’
R. Broadbent 1 – 0 O. Buchan
N Hudson 1 – 0 L. Curry
P. Whitehouse 1 – 0 T. Dodd
R. Grandage 1 – 0 B. J. S. Hadari
T. Pryke 1 – 0 J. Y. Hadari
5 – 0

That unfortunately meant that the juniors finished the season with no match points and just 9 game points from their ten matches. Never the less, there are some very young players amongst their number and John is seeing a number of them developing with some promise. Let’s hope they will continue to improve and enjoy the game next season.

Meanwhile, over at Todmorden, the home team were being subdued by a similarly emphatic score line by Halifax. On paper this match looked like it should have been a close one but Halifax steamrollered their way through some experienced opposition to win 5 – 0 and take the League 2 title. Congratulations to them! The final league table and all results can be found on the Calderdale Chess League website.

Now to League 1. Readers may remember that, back at the beginning of March we reported on Todmorden ‘A’s significant step towards a third successive league title as they overwhelmed Hebden Bridge ‘A’ at home. Since then there have been two further rounds of fixtures with the penultimate set taking place this evening and the final round on April 23rd.

Round 11

These fixtures took place on March 20th and Todmorden ‘A’ underlined their superiority with another emphatic home victory against Huddersfield. Only Dave Gray on board 5 managed to hold his higher rated opponent Dave Patrick as Todmorden won the remaining games to win 4½ – ½.

This put any fading hopes Huddersfield might have had of winning the league completely out of their heads and while Todmorden continued to power forwards their remaining rivals had contrasting fortunes as Hebden Bridge ‘A’ had to take a full default from Halifax ‘B’ who were unable to field a team, while Halifax ‘A’ were only able to draw with Belgrave ‘A’ at home. Three of the games in that match were drawn with Malcolm Corbett defeating Richard Porter for Belgrave whilst Carlos Velosa defeated Gordon Farrar for Halifax.

This left Hebden Bridge ‘A’ still top on 16 points but they were only one point ahead of Todmorden ‘A’ who had a game in hand. Halifax were on 13 points and now had to face first Hebden Bridge ‘A’ and then Huddersfield and Todmorden ‘A’ to complete their season. They would need to win all three of those matches to have any chance of taking the title.

Round 12

Last week the 12th round of matches took place and this coincidentally put the top three teams into the same room as Hebden Bridge ‘A’ hosted Halifax ‘A’ and Hebden Bridge ‘B’ hosted Todmorden ‘A’. With the Trades Club hosting most of the best players in the league it was always likely to be a fascinating an exciting evening of chess with plenty of incident to keep the players and the kibitzers happy!

Halifax came knowing that only a win could keep their title chances alive while Hebden too knew that failure would see them drop out of the title race. Halifax were slightly weakened by the absence of Bill Somerset but were still able to field a strong side comprising Winston Williams, Darwin Ursal, John Morgan, Richard Porter and Sam Scurfield. Hebden meanwhile were pretty much at full strength with Matthew Parsons, Andy Bak, Chris Bak, Dave Shapland and Pete Leonard all turning out.

The early stages of the match looked promising for the visitors as Dave Shapland committed a decisive blunder straight out of the opening against Richard Porter and went down before the players had reached move 20. Then Winston and Matthew agreed a draw fairly early in the evening having both played fairly swiftly to reach a position which was unclear and had plenty of potential play left in it but neither side felt inclined to take any risks.

Despite the score line Hebden Bridge seemed to be sitting pretty in the other games and when the next two boards concluded in their favour the match was all but sealed. First Pete Leonard won material against Sam Scurfield and simply hung on to it whilst also building up a decisive positional advantage. Then Andy Bak cashed in on a rare blunder by Darwin who gave away both his d and e pawns in the space of a couple of moves. After that Andy managed to find means to simplify the position so that his opponent had no chance of recovering. Hebden were 2½ – 1½  up by 9.30 and most of the players could now enjoy kibitzing the ‘B’ team’s match with Todmorden.

The final game to finish was on board 3 where Chris Bak seemed to have equalized comfortably against John Morgan but then got into difficulties in the middle game and could well have gone down. However, John missed a couple of precise moves and didn’t get the most from his opportunity. Finally Chris managed to simplify down to a rook and pawn ending and the players agreed a draw although some of the strongest players in the room suggested that White could perhaps have continued pressing in the end game with no chances to lose but some hopes of winning.

So, Hebden edged it to keep the pressure up on Todmorden. Here are the individual scores from the match:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs. Halifax ‘A’
M.Parsons ½ – ½ W.Williams
A.Bak 1 – 0 D.Ursal
C.Bak ½ – ½ J.Morgan
D.Shapland 0 – 1 R.Porter
P.Leonard 1 – 0 S.Scurfield
3 – 2

Meanwhile on the next row of tables, Todmorden were being made to work very hard for their result against Hebden Bridge ‘B’ who had one of their strongest line-ups of the season available. With John Allan, Andy Leatherbarrow, Martin Syrett, John Lavan and John Kerrane all playing, it seemed that Hebden would at least give a slightly weakened Todmorden line up of Hamer, Cook, Clarkson, Patrick and Innes a workout.

Only the game on board 5 ended swiftly and relatively early as John Kerrane erred against Dave Innes and was dispatched mercilessly. The other four boards however were much tighter affairs and could all have yielded a result of some sort to the Hebden players.

On board 4 John Lavan seemed to have made it to a completely equal endgame of rook and pawns against Dave Patrick. However, having worked so hard to maintain the balance John too made a blunder and lost on the spot as Todmmorden took a 2 – 0 lead.

The last three games went on deep into the night. Finally though Joh n Allan was ground down in impressive fashion by Martin Hamer on board 1. An English Opening transposed to a Maroczy Bind Sicilian Defence which is notoriously dour for the operator of the Black pieces. Martin created a weakness in the Black camp when John’s b-pawn became isolated. When that pawn eventually fell Martin had connected passed pawns on the a and b-files and after that the result seemed inevitable even if it did take a good while longer to transpire. John fought valiantly but to no avail. Todmorden were over the line with this result.

Next to finish was the board 3 game between Andrew Clarkson and Martin Syrett. Andrew has kindly annotated this game for us and it appears in the game viewer at the end of this post. This one didn’t look like it would last long at all as Martin fell into a notoriously dodgy line of the Levenfish Variation of the Sicilian Dragon. With structural weaknesses all over the place it seemed his number would be up but Martin wriggled and fought furiously and Andrew missed a couple of chances to accentuate his advantage.

Martin managed to drum up counterplay once the queens had been exchanged and then took advantage of a tactical resource that Andrew had missed to keep himself afloat. The players then entered a rook, bishop, knight and pawns each ending which have a habit if being devilishly complex. This was no exception has Martin seemed to have a dangerous passed e-pawn whilst Andrew took aim at his opponent’s weak king and played for mate.

Finally, with the pressure of the clock starting to weigh on both players and the tension in the position getting ever more precarious Martin chose the wrong one of several promising looking variation and Andrew was able to run his king to a safe haven and reinstate his mating threats with decisive effect.

Todmorden were somehow 4 – 0 up and had managed to find a way to win three very tight games. But that was nothing compared to the drama that was to conclude the evening on board 2.

Andy Leatherbarrow has had a fantastic season, gaining results from a string of much higher rated opponents. He looked like he would repeat the trick against the freshly crowned Calderdale Individual Champion, Phil Cook. This game was a real slow burner with Phil deploying his habitual English Opening. Gradually Andy equalized and that took the initiative but Phil’s position looked solid until, with both players short of time before move 36 was reached he grabbed a hot pawn that him a piece.

With time control reached (just!) safely, Andy now had an extra knight and the initiative and Phil’s king looked exposed. But as Andy searched for the most efficient way to finish off his opponent both players drifted into time trouble again. Andy did miss a decisive break through almost at the last but still managed to change up his extra knight to and extra rook. It still looked like a nailed-on consolation win for Hebden but now Andy had almost no time left and as he blitzed out his moves his flag eventually fell with him having traded down to a winning king and pawn ending.

Heartbreak then for Andy who certainly deserved more for his good play as both players used pretty much all their time it was not as if he had squandered his allotted time any more than his opponent.

Here’s the final match scorecard:

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ vs. Todmorden ‘A’
J.Allan 0 – 1 M.Hamer
A.Leatherbarrow 0 – 1 P.Cook
M.Syrett 0 – 1 A.Clarkson
J.Lavan 0 – 1 D.Patrick
J.Kerrane 0 – 1 D.Innes
0 – 5

There are eight of the ten games played from these matches in the game viewer at the end of this post.

Round 13

With Hebden Bridge ‘A’ having a bye round on Monday night this week, Todmorden finally had the chance to leap frog their rivals by winning their match in hand at Halifax ‘B’. This should have been very straightforward but Todmorden’s line-up was unexpectedly weakened while Halifax ‘B’ were able to field a pretty much full strength side. Peter Hughes, Sam Scurfield and Scott Gornall all managed to draw with their higher rated opponents (Sam indeed almost managing to beat Dave Patrick on board 3), but wins by Andrew Clarkson over Carlos Velosa and Dave Milton over Howard Wood saw Todmorden over the line.

This meant that they did indeed finally step into the top spot in the league on 19 points with one round to go. Ominously it’s the first time they have been top of the league on their own this season. Hebden Bridge ‘A’ have 18 points but their board count is much lower than the new leaders meaning that they must beat Belgrave in the final round of fixtures and hope Todmorden slip to defeat against Halifax ‘A’. Not impossible but very much dependent on the strength of Halifax’s team for that match.

Speaking of which, Halifax ‘A’ bounced back from the disappointment of losing to Hebden Bridge in round 12 by comfortably defeating a four-man Huddersfield side on Monday night. The visitors scored a full point when Dave Keddie defeated Darwin Ursal, and a half point as Leo Keely drew with Winston Williams on the top two boards but that was their only a consolation. With that result Halifax secure third place with 15. Huddersfield have a bye in the final round of fixtures and so their season is now complete. They lie in fourth place on 13 points.

There is still some action to be had at the other end of the league table however. Halifax ‘B’ and Hebden Bridge ‘B’ are separated by just 2 points but Hebden’s cause would have been aided greatly if they could manage to get a result from their tie with Belgrave ‘A’ at the Trades Club on Monday. Sadly, despite having five players and a stronger line up than when they managed to draw with the same team away earlier this season, Hebden got squashed flat this time around.

Once more the side played well but were largely undone by blunders which cost them dearly. Only Martin Syrett on board 3 was able to hold a draw with Karim Khan as the home side lost ½ – 4½. Here is the full match scorecard.

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ vs. Belgrave ‘A’
J.Allan 0 – 1 I.Hunter
A.Leatherbarrow 0 – 1 M.Corbett
M.Syrett ½ – ½ K.Khan
J.Lavan 0 – 1 G.Farrar
N.Bamford 0 – 1 M.Barnett
½ – 4½

This result leaves Hebden Bridge ‘B’ bottom on 2 points and Halifax ‘B’ on 4 points. Belgrave are well clear of any relegation battle on 7 points. Hebden play Halifax in the last match of the season and a win would see them draw level on points although their board count is 5 lower than their rivals so they’d need to win 5 – 0 to avoid finishing in last place. This seems unlikely given their recent fortunes but nothing is impossible.

The final round of fixtures on the 23rd of April would seem to hold only an outside chance of an upset then as Todmorden have draw odds for the title against Halifax and even that is dependent on Hebden Bridge ‘A’ seeing off a very solid Belgrave line up who have been something of a nemesis for them in recent years.


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Mar 052017

Dave Shapland's Hebden Bridge 'A' team's title aspirations took a wounding blow at the hands of the title holders on Monday night.

Headache? Dave Shapland’s Hebden Bridge ‘A’ team’s title aspirations took a wounding blow at the hands of the title holders on Monday night. [Photo by Andrew Clarkson]

Round 10 of the Calderdale Evening Chess League Division 1 took place this week and the key clash was between league leaders Hebden Bridge ‘A’ and the title holders Todmorden ‘A’. While these two duked it out for pole position in the league the third team in close contention for the title, Halifax ‘A’ took a bye week and were able to watch the results come in with interest.

In the first half of the season Hebden had held Todmorden to a draw at home when they all had the Black pieces. Indeed they had very nearly won the match with the champions winning the final game at the end of the night to equalise. Interestingly, on Monday night the sides both fielded identical line ups to the first encounter. Todmorden were at full strength with Messrs Hamer, Mulleady, Cook, Clarkson and Patrick all available. Hebden meanwhile had almost their best line up on paper with only Pete Leonard missing as they fielded Matthew Parsons, Andy and Chris Bak, Dave Shapland and Nick Sykes. Another gripping match was expected with Todmorden three points behind their visitors but with a match in hand.

Sadly for Hebden Bridge their night got off to a pretty bad start and they never really got going or even looked like posing their hosts any problems. This Todmorden line up are a very solid side and they don’t lose many games so it’s important not to drop too many boards against them. That Hebden failed to win on a single board was tough enough, that they lost three of the five was particularly disappointing.

Andy Bak and Pete Mulleady (front) and Matthew Parsons and Martin Hamer (rear) get to grips at the start of the evening's play. [Photo by Andrew Clarkson]

Andy Bak and Pete Mulleady (front) and Matthew Parsons and Martin Hamer (rear) get to grips at the start of the evening’s play. [Photo by Andrew Clarkson]

Proceedings went wrong alarmingly quickly and in surprising fashion when Matthew Parsons made a move order mistake in an opening line he is very familiar with. Ordinarily this might have enabled Martin Hamer to equalise with ease but on this occasion the imprecision cost Matthew and exchange for absolutely no counter play. Martin converted very quickly and smoothly and Hebden were behind almost before they’d got started. Matthew very rarely makes this kind of mistake so it was particularly unfortunate timing for it to happen in this match.

Andy Bak seemed to be doing perfectly well against Pete Mulleady’s Dutch Defence on board 2. That was until he gave up a piece for three pawns. It was suggested later that there was nothing wrong with Andy’s concept but perhaps he didn’t follow up as accurately as he needed to for he was forced to resign not too long after the material imbalance appeared on the board. Already the deficit felt like an insurmountable obstacle for the remaining Hebden players to overcome – especially with the extra pressure that comes from being behind and needing to win games.

Todmorden's Dave Patrick (left) is the league's top scorer with 7½/8 after his win against Nick Sykes on Monday. [Photo by Andrew Clarkson]

Todmorden’s Dave Patrick (left) is the league’s top scorer with 7½/8 after his win against Nick Sykes on Monday. [Photo by Andrew Clarkson]

The outcome of two of those three boards became academic when Dave Patrick finished off Nick Sykes on board 5. Nick was particularly unhappy with his play but he too has had a good season for his team thus far with four wins and three draws before this match. In this game he too wasn’t his usual self.

With nothing left to play for the remaining two boards were simply a matter of pride for Hebden Bridge. In fact they could well have been white-washed as Andrew Clarkson certainly had winning chances at a key moment in his game with Dave Shapland and Chris Bak was a pawn down against Phil Cook on board 3. The two games couldn’t have been more different however as Chris’s opening experiment against Phil yielded him nothing but a sterile position with no advantage whatsoever. Under such circumstances any mistake at all can be terminal and so he did well to hold on after blundering a pawn. Some accurate defence limited the arrears and Phil knew there was no need to grind it out so quickly settled for a draw.

Dave and Andrew’s game have a habit of being tense and complicated encounters with neither player backing away from critical variations. This game was no different and both players have annotated it in the game viewer at the end of the post. For once Dave seemed to get a reasonable position out of the opening against Andrew’s Pirc Defence and certainly held the advantage early in the middle game. However, once his attempts at a direct assault ran out of steam Dave began to lose momentum, Andrew found a clever way to activate his queen and the tables turned.

With both players getting into hot water on the clock as well Andrew allowed Dave to sacrifice a knight on d6 in order to get an advance, passed e-pawn. It looked dangerous but Andrew defused it with some precise defensive moves and the game exploded when Dave responded by giving up his queen for a rook and the initiative. The idea was unsound but it needed an engine to prove it and, with both players very short of time Andrew finally made a couple of less accurate moves that enabled Dave to recuperate his materials losses and reach an end game on where both players had a knight and five pawns. At this point Andrew offered a draw and Dave accepted as it seemed that any advantage he might have had was notional and it seemed pointless risking it all for a win when the match was settled already.

So, the final score was a convincing 4 – 1 to the champions who are now just a point behind their visitors with a match in hand. The title is in their grasp once more provided they can win their remaining matches. Here is the score card from Monday’s match:

Todmorden ‘A’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘A’
M.Hamer 1 – 0 M.Parsons (White)
P.Mulleady 1 – 0 A.Bak (White)
P.Cook ½ – ½  C.Bak (White)
A.Clarkson ½ – ½ D.Shapland (White)
D.Patrick 1 – 0 N.Sykes (White)
4 – 1

Also on Monday night, Belgrave ‘A’ suffered a surprising drubbing at the hands of Halifax ‘B’. The visiting side took full advantage of their ‘A’ team not having a match to strengthen their lineup. Never the less a ½ – 4½ defeat was not a likely looking possibility before a piece was moved. Only Gordon Farrar’s draw with Scott Gornall on board 3 saved the hosts from a whitewash as Richard Porter defeated Ian Hunter, Carlos Velosa beat Richard Bowman, Howard Wood took down Angel Gonzalez and Vivienne Webster won against Les Johnson. This signal triumph meant that Halifax ‘B’ over took Hebden Bridge ‘B’ to get onto 4 points. Martin Syrett’s men would now have to win their away match against Huddersfield on Wednesday in order to get back off the bottom of the league table.

It was always going to be a tall order for the ‘B’ team and the mountain grew even higher when Martin was once again unable to find five players for the match. The club’s miserable week continued as the four players who did make it suffered a cruel fate at the hands of a resurgent Huddersfield side who should probably have beaten the Hebden ‘A’ team last time out. Only John Kerrane could hold a draw against Dave Tooley on board 3 although of course the other players put up stern resistance, they were all swept aside. Here’s the final scorecard for the Wednesday match.

Huddersfield vs. Hebden Bridge ‘B’
L.Keely 1 – 0 A.Leatherbarrow (White)
D.Keddie 1 – 0 M.Syrett (White)
D.Tooley ½ – ½ J.Kerrane (White)
S.Westmoreland 1 – 0 N.Bamford (White)
A.McFadden 1 – 0 DEFAULT
4½ – ½

A week to forget and move rapidly on from for both our club’s league 1 teams. Tomorrow is the final round of the Calderdale Individual Championship so hopefully those involved in that can recover some of their morale before the next round of League 1 fixtures on the 20th of March when Hebden Bridge ‘B’ will be taking their bye round and Hebden Bridge ‘A’ will travel to Halifax ‘B’ in a match they simply have to win and convincingly too. Meanwhile Halifax ‘A’ will host Belgrave and Todmorden ‘A’ will host Huddersfield who have thus far been the only team able to beat them this season. The champions will be itching for revenge.

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Feb 162017
Hebden Bridge 'A' came very, very close to losing their unbeaten record at The Trades Club on Monday night.

Nails were most definitely bitten at The Trades Club on Monday night as Hebden Bridge ‘A’ came very, very close to losing their unbeaten record to Huddersfield.

The Calderdale Evening Chess League division 1 title race is really hotting up as, on Monday night, the teams played the ninth of fourteen rounds. We’re at the business end of the season now and the destiny of this year’s title most definitely hangs in the balance.

This week title holders Todmorden ‘A’ hosted Belgrave ‘A’, current league leaders Hebden Bridge ‘A’ hosted their old foe Huddersfield and 2013-14 champions Halifax ‘A’ played Hebden Bridge ‘B’ whilst Halifax ‘B’ had a week off.

At Todmorden the champions found themselves weakened by the absence of Martin Hamer and Pete Mulleady but they still managed to field a team with an average rating of 165! Replacements Alistair Wright and Mick Connor can hardly be considered as weaknesses. Indeed, both played their part in a tight 3½ – 1½ victory where the home team displayed their resilience by remaining unbeaten on all 5 boards. No small feat with the Black pieces. The top two boards and board 4 were drawn (with Phil Cook drawing with Ian Hunter on top board in what could be a dress rehearsal for the final round of the Calderdale Individual Championship) with wins by Dave Patrick on board 3 over Karim Khan and Mick Connor on board 5 over Mike Barnett proving decisive.

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ were due to host Halifax ‘A’ but the fixture was switched to Lee Mount after the corresponding fixture in the first half of the season was played at The Trades Club. Hebden ‘B’ still played with the Black pieces though. Sadly, Hebden were again struggling to put out a full line up and defaulted board 5 but the remaining four players put up a terrific fight. Andy Leatherbarrow has been having a golden season (he’s only lost one game so far) and he put in another legendary performance to take Darwin Ursal’s scalp on board 1 (the rating list shows a whopping 58 point difference between the two though we all know what Andy is capable of) while captain Martin Syrett held Winston Williams to a draw on board 2 (overcoming a 47 point rating difference).

Sadly that was as far as the resistance went as John Lavan went down to John Morgan on board 3 and Neil Bamford lost to Richard Porter on board 4. Here’s full confirmation of the individual results:

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ vs. Halifax ‘A’
A.Leatherbarrow 1 – 0 D.Ursal (White)
M.Syrett ½ – ½ W.Williams (White)
J.Lavan 0 – 1 J.Morgan (White)
N.Bamford 0 – 1 R.Porter (White)
DEFAULT 0 – 1 S.Scurfield (White)
1½ – 3 ½

On paper the juiciest tie of the round always looked like being Hebden Bridge ‘A’ against Huddersfield. These old enemies have played out plenty of epic battles over the years although in more recent times Hebden have had the edge – in fact the last time Huddersfield won was on 22nd September 2014. Perhaps it was their time to win again.

Both teams fielded slightly unusual line ups. Hebden were missing the services of Matthew Parsons and Pete Leonard but drafted in Chris Bak and John Allan as replacements alongside Andy Bak, Dave Shapland and Nick Sykes. Huddersfield meanwhile were without regulars Greg Eagleton, Mitchell Burke and Dave Tooley but they still brought a competitive side with Leo Keely and Dave Keddie on boards 1 and 2 and Steve Westmoreland, Robert Sutcliffe and Bryn Charlesworth completing their line up. On paper Hebden looked much stronger on the lower boards with the top two boards looking more closely matched.

Of course what looks likely from an analysis of the statistics before the match often bears no relation to what actually takes place. This match turned into an epic struggle with all five games ending decisively. Right from the off the outcome looked in the balance as two of the five boards were decided relatively quickly. First of all Andy Bak had a bad day at the office against Leo as his double edged opening choice of the Schliemann Variation of the Spanish backfired. He first lost the exchange for a pawn and then blundered into a pawn fork that lost a piece. All this compelled his resignation before the players had reached the 20th move. A game to forget for Andy.

Hebden bounced back quickly though as John Allan made fairly short work of Steve Westmoreland. The Tarrasch Variation is not a popular choice against the Queen’s Gambit these days and Steve, who is normally very well prepared in the opening phase of the game, seemed to be caught a little bit cold. He lost a piece in the opening and after that John offered him no hope of recovering as he simply exchanged material and achieved an overwhelming advantage in the end game. 1 – 1.

Somewhat later on Nick Sykes made it 2 – 1 to the hosts as he converted smoothly against Bryn Charlesworth on board 5. It was a solid performance from Nick who has only lost three of his seventeen games this season. He met Bryn’s offbeat choice of the Nimzo-Larsen opening in principled fashion and slowly outplayed his lower rated opponent winning an exchange and then grinding out a win.

Hebden were in front but the remaining two games looked very worrying indeed for them by the time Nick had put them in front. On board 2 Dave Keddie and Chris Bak were playing a Classical Variation of the French Defence and it appeared that Chris had chosen a fairly unusual approach. In the middle game he overlooked a tactic that cost him a pawn and Dave found a clever way to maintain a passed pawn on f6. Chris was hanging on but White was clearly better.

Meanwhile on board 4 Dave Shapland had reintroduced the Budapest Counter Gambit to his repertoire against Robert Sutcliffe. The opening seemed to be going according to plan for Dave until it became clear that Robert was going to break with orthodoxy by castling queen’s side. This was a smart move because Dave burned way too much time on his clock trying to find a way to take advantage of Robert’s choice but in the end couldn’t find any way to improve on Black’s regular plan and the game took a fairly obscure turn.

Later on Dave missed a move order trick that enabled Robert to set up a various dangerous looking battery of two bishop and a queen pointing towards Dave’s castled king. Robert then played very energetically to advance his king’s side pawns in order to break open that side of the board and it was clear that White’s attack was going to be the fastest. Dave sought refuge in complications but was now extremely short of time and in trouble on the board as well.

Black (Chris Bak) has just played 30...Kd6 to try and protect his e-pawn. Can you see how Dave Keddie responded?

Black (Chris Bak) has just played 30…Kd6 to try and protect his e-pawn. Can you see how Dave Keddie responded? The solution is in the game viewer below.

As both these remaining games reached their critical phases Hebden Bridge seemed in deep trouble but, as so often happens in these tense situations, mistakes changed the course of events. On board 2 Chris, desperately trying to prevent the advance of Dave’s f-pawn fell victim to a very attractive tactic that would have a decisive material cost. Chris chose a different path and went for a walk up the board with his king only to be caught in a mating net. It was 2 – 2.

The final act of the evening was no less dramatic as Robert and Dave approached time control with Dave down to his last minute on the clock. Suddenly Robert started playing quickly too although he had more time to think. A forcing line appeared in which it looked like Robert could grab a pawn and open up Dave’s king to a decisive attack. However, he’d missed an intermezzo from Dave’s queen which cost him the bishop and the game was suddenly over.

The Hebden players breathed a huge sigh of relief and congratulated their opponents on a ferociously hard fought encounter. The final scores were:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs. Huddersfield
A.Bak 0 – 1 L.Keely (White)
C.Bak 0 – 1 D.Keddie (White)
J.Allan 1 – 0 S.Westmoreland (White)
D.Shapland 1 – 0 R.Sutcliffe (White)
N.Sykes 1 – 0 B.Charlesworth (White)
3 – 2

You can find a number of the games played on Monday night in the game viewer at the end of this post.

These results mean it’s ‘as you were’ in the league table. Hebden Bridge ‘A’ stay top on 14 points. Halifax ‘A’ are second on 12 and Todmorden ‘A’ are third with 11 although they have a match in hand on the other two which could bring them within a point of the leaders. Huddersfield have 9 points and now seem to be out of contention for the title although with Todmorden and Halifax still to play, they could yet have a bearing on the outcome.

At the other end of the table Belgrave ‘A’, despite running a number of the top teams very close have only 4 points and are not clear of the relegation dog fight as Hebden Bridge ‘B’ and Halifax ‘B’ are both on 2 points. It seems likely that the games between these three teams will decide which one of them goes down.

In the next round of fixtures on 27 February Hebden Bridge ‘A’ will travel to Todmorden ‘A’ for an absolutely critical encounter. Hebden have yet to lose a match but they have drawn two, one of these was against Tod. It should be enthralling especially if both teams are able to field their strongest line ups. Halifax ‘A’ have a week off and so you can imagine they too will be fascinated to see the outcome of his tie.

While this is going on Belgrave ‘A’ will play host to Halifax ‘B’ in the relegation battle of critical import. If Belgrave win you’d have to fancy that they wold guarantee their safety.

The final match sees Hebden Bridge ‘B’ on the road again at Huddersfield.

The Trades Club also saw another one of the inaugural Handicap League fixtures as Hebden Bridge played host to Belgrave while at Todmorden another match was played between Todmorden and Halifax. The final round of fixtures is due to be played on the 10th of April and there is a postponed match between Belgrave and Todmorden to be re-scheduled.

At Todmorden the home team put out the stronger side but as a result gave their opponents a 3½ point head start. They did manage to overcome this with a 5 – 1 ‘over-the-board’ score to take the match 5 – 4½.

At Hebden Bridge John Kerrane took the opportunity to field an all-junior line up against the visiting Belgrave side. What’s more, as the visitors came with only five players, he was even able to add a further player (Martha Leggett) to their team in order to make sure everyone got a game. This is really what the handicap league is all about, giving League 2 players more opportunity to play games and for the juniors, every game is great experience.

When the handicap (average rating difference between the two teams) was calculated Hebden also started with 3½ points but they too were overhauled by their more experienced opponents. Only the ‘enemy in the midst’ of Belgrave’s ranks lost her game as the visitors match Todmorden with 5 – 1 win at the boards and a  5½ – 4½ win over all. Below are the individual scores for the match.

Hebden Bridge ‘H’ vs. Belgrave ‘H’
O.Buchan (W) 0 – 1 D.Colledge
L.Curry 0 – 1 A.Gonzalez (W)
A.Dermo (W) 0 – 1 A.Dawson
B.J.S Hadari 0 – 1 S.Harrington (W)
J.Y.Hadari (W) 0 – 1 R.Bottomley
T.Dodd 1 – 0 M.Leggett (W)
Handicap 3½ – 0 Handcap
4½ – 5

The outcome of this league is also completely up for grabs with Halifax, Belgrave and Todmorden all in the hunt.

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Jan 272017
Sometimes the derby match ups can be unexpectedly competitive, other times they can be damaging encounters for the second teams. This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from Julie Falk's Flickr photo stream

Sometimes the derby match ups can be unexpectedly competitive, other times they can be damaging encounters for the second teams – in this case Halifax ‘B’ and Hebden Bridge ‘B’ managed just a point between them. This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from Julie Falk’s Flickr photo stream

After a Christmas vacation of over a month, Calderdale League 1 teams re-convened this week to begin the second half of the season. With Hebden Bridge ‘A’ just a point in front of title holders Todmorden ‘A’ and two points ahead of Halifax ‘A’ this year’s title race is once again set to be enthralling.

In fact, before we dive into the eight round of fixtures lets round up the only loose end from the first half of the season as Halifax ‘B’ hosted Huddersfield on the 16th of January to play the match that was postponed in November.  The visitors white-washed their opponents in convincing fashion which meant they also closed to within two points of the league leaders at the half-way point of the season.

Traditionally, fixtures between teams from the same club take place in the first and eight rounds in order to eliminate any possibility of collusion for a ‘convenient’ result later in the season. That said, sometimes clubs seem to find it strangely more difficult to get ten players out than they do during the rest of the season. Thankfully, that didn’t happen on this occasion as full line-ups were fielded for both the Halifax and Hebden Bridge derbies. We should have seen a Todmorden derby as well but Todmorden ‘B’ withdrew before a pawn was moved this season and so Todmorden ‘A’ had a bye round which will have suited them with their board 1 player Martin Hamer currently playing in the Gibraltar Open.

Indeed, players absent in Gibraltar certainly had an impact on Huddersfield’s match at Belgrave this week. Both Greg Eagleton and Mitchell Burke are over at the rock and that meant Huddersfield had to put out a weaker team than Captain Steve Westmoreland might have liked. Even more unfortunately, Belgrave chose this week to put out their strongest side of the season with regulars Ian Hunter, Karim Khan and Gordon Farrar supplemented by rare appearances from Richard Bowman and Malcolm Corbett. This meant Gordon played on board 5 which is most unusual.

As it happened strengthening the lower boards didn’t help the home side in that department as Khan and Corbett lost to Nigel Hepworth and Steve Westmoreland respectively and Farrar drew with McFadden on board 5. This might have cost Belgrave dearly but they salvaged a point from the match as Hunter beat Keddie on board 1 and Bowman beat Tooley on board 2.

Now to the ‘demolition derbies’ alluded to in the title of this post. Halifax ‘A’ put their ‘B’ team to the sword most convincingly. Only Peter Hughes on board 1 salvaged a draw with Winston Williams. Beyond that there were wins for Messrs Ursal, Somerset, Morgan and Porter who all out-rated their opponents by 40 points or more!

Finally, we come to the Hebden Bridge derby which the ‘A’ team approached with some degree of trepidation. After all, on the first evening of the season they had been lucky to escape with a draw when Andy Leatherbarrow and Martin Syrett had surprised Dave Shapland and Chris Bak respectively and John  Allan had held Matthew Parsons to a draw.

On this occasion both sides were slightly weaker. Hebden ‘A’ field just one of the two Bak brothers – Chris – and consequently Hebden ‘B’ did not have Nick Sykes amongst their number as he took his regular seat on board 5 for the ‘A’s.

There was still a question about whether the players might have become a bit rusty over the Christmas period having only had the third round of the Calderdale Individual and in some cases, the Yorkshire League, to get their brains back into gear this month. In fact, the most significant factor in this match turned to be the colour allocation for, as the ‘away’ team in this match, Hebden ‘A’ took the White pieces on all boards and made full use of them.

First to finish were Pete Leonard and John Kerrane on board 4. Pete actually blundered a pawn and allowed the queens to be exchanged in the same combination on move 10 but never the less seemed to obtain a reasonably active position by way of compensation. Five moves later John overlooked a tactic that allowed Pete to gain two pieces for a rook and suddenly the game had turned around. Pete played actively after that and sealed a win as early as the 26th move to take his personally tally in the League to 4½/5.

The ‘A’ team asserted their superiority further when Nick Sykes took down Neil Bamford’s Sicilian Dragon to double the lead.  Like Pete, Nick is also undefeated in the Calderdale League this season. In fact his only defeat since September came at the hands of Phil Cook in the last round of the Calderdale Individual Championship. It is on such individual records as these that Hebden are building their title challenge.

On board 1 Matthew Parsons was facing John Allan for the third time this season. They had drawn in the reverse fixture when Matthew had Black and John had played very accurately to hold him to a draw. Then they had played again with the same colours early this month in the Individual when Matthew played superbly to nurse a small advantage to victory. Now Matthew had White and it was evident right from the off that he was determined to make it count. Playing his habitual London System he methodically outplayed John using his formidable understanding of the opening to ruthlessly exploit every inaccuracy. Finally, John cracked under the pressure as he blundered his queen and resigned immediately – oddly enough also on move 26. Matthew has provided some notes to this game which is published along with the others from this match in the game viewer at the end of this post.

This result took the ‘A’ team over the top and on to 3 points. Now it was just a matter of how many points they could score to improve their board count.

The last two games were repeats (but with colours reversed) of the match-ups that had upset the apple cart in round 1. Chris Bak against Martin Syrett on board 2 and Dave Shapland against Andy Leatherbarrow on board 3. The two games were very different in nature with one being sharp and tactical in nature and the other much quieter and positional.

For the second game in a row Dave faced the Two Knights and employed the so called ‘Modern variation’ where White plays 5.e5 instead of 5.0-0 which has a long history. For the second game in a row his opponent chose immediately to take a solid and relatively unambitious path. In round 3 of the Calderdale Individual Richard ‘Beaky’ Bedford had chosen 5…Ng4 and gone on to achieve a superior position. Now Andy took a leaf out of this book by employing 5…Ne4. Dave responded by offering a pawn sacrifice on move 7 which Andy declined in order to try and create disharmony in the White camp. It seemed to work as he equalised easily. Dave tried to keep tension in the position but Andy found a way to get the queens off and then simplify down to an opposite coloured bishops ending. Try as he might to exploit a purely notional positional advantage, Dave couldn’t provoke Andy to make a mistake and eventually the game was agreed a draw. With that Dave’s winning streak of eight games comes to an end and Andy continues his admirable renaissance after having a tough year in 2015-16.

The second chapter of Bak vs. Syrett was a complicated and tense affair in which both players managed to get into zeitnot twice and the outcome seemed in the balance right up until almost the very end of the evening. Martin continues to eschew his old Scandinavian habit in favour of the Sicilian Defence. Chris played an offbeat closed line and seemed to get a solid advantage but as always, Martin wriggled and resourcefully found ways to stir up trouble. In fact kibitzers noticed that Chris appeared to overstep the time limit right before move 36 but Martin, in acute time trouble himself, didn’t notice. It was ironic then that the game was finally decided when Martin overstepped the time limit much later in the evening although by that stage it appeared that his position was hopeless in any case.

The individual scores highlighted a significant change of fortunes from the round 1 match:

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘A’
J.Allan 0 – 1 M.Parsons
M.Syrett 0 – 1 C.Bak
A.Leatherbarrow ½ – ½ D.Shapland
J.Kerrane 0 – 1 P.Leonard
N.Bamford 0 – 1 N.Sykes
½ – 4½

These results ensure that Hebden ‘A’ stay top of the league two points clear of Halifax ‘A’ and three clear of Huddersfield and Todmorden ‘A’ who have a game in hand. Their next couple of matches are likely to be absolutely crucial to their title challenge however as they face first the erratic but ever-dangerous Huddersfield at home and then the reigning champions Todmorden away. If they can win both of those two tough encounters they’ll be in the box seat.

Monday night also saw the inauguration of the Calderdale Handicap League which was created primarily to offer league 2 players a few more games during the season. Only three clubs – Hebden Bridge, Halifax and Belgrave – have entered teams, but it will an interesting experiment that could gather more momentum in future seasons especially if the league’s team numbers continue to dwindle.

So, on Monday the Trades Club saw Hebden Bridge host Halifax although Halifax should have been the home team but generously agreed to play in Hebden Bridge as the home side fielded a squad full of juniors meaning travel would have been very difficult. The handicap systemis based on average rating of the two sides with a weighting being awarded to the lower rated team in the form of points on the scoresheet ahead of the match. In this instance the Hebden Bridge started the tie on 1½ points.

Sadly, it didn’t help them much as they lost the six board match by 5½ – ½ with Owen Buchan taking the consolation half point from Glen Roper. The individual scores were:

Halifax vs. Hebden Bridge
B.Wadsworth 1 – 0 K.Sharpe (w)
G.Roper (w) ½ – ½ O.Buchan
R.Whiteley 1 – 0 L.Curry (w)
J.Nicholson (w) 1 – 0 G.Hughes
M.Tait 1 – 0 J.Y.Hadar (w)
P.Stowe (w) 1 – 0 T.Dodd
Handicap 0 – 1½ Handicap
5½ – 2

All five games from the Hebden Bridge derby can be replayed in the game viewer below.

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Dec 222016

christmas-number-1No, not who’s top of the music charts for Christmas. The only question on the minds of chess players in the Calder Valley for the last two weeks has been ‘who will be top of the league at the halfway point in the season?’
Two rounds of fixtures have been held last week and this so there is plenty for us to catch up on before we settle down to our turkey and brussel sprouts.

But even before that we should report on the postponed match from round 5 between champions Todmorden ‘A’ and Hebden Bridge ‘B’. The storm last month prevented Hebden from travelling but the teams were able to re-schedule quickly for the following week. Unfortunately, Hebden were unable to raise a full team and travelled with four players. To add to their woes, they were roundly thrashed by the title holders who were smarting from their first loss for over a year at Huddersfield in round 4. Only team Captain, Martin Syrett was able to withstand the hosts to draw his game against Phil Cook (he might have liked to transfer this result to the game the two played in the Calderdale Individual a few weeks later!) The individual results were:

Todmorden ‘A’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘B’
M.Hamer 1 – 0 J.Allan (White)
P.Cook ½ – ½ M.Syrett (White)
A.Clarkson 1 – 0 T.Sullivan (White)
D.Patrick 1 – 0 N.Bamford (White)
D.Innes 1 – 0 DEFAULT
4½ – ½

Then last Monday came the sixth round of fixtures. Top spot holders Hebden Bridge ‘A’ had a bye for this round but kept vigil over the pack of teams arranged closely behind them in the table.

First up the champions benefitted from a walkover as Halifax ‘B’ defaulted their away trip to Tod ‘A’ for the second successive season. I’m sure that Todmorden would have much preferred to play this match than have 5-0 handed to them and if the title hunt comes down to board count this results could yet be a factor in the outcome.

Meanwhile title contenders Halifax ‘A’ and Huddersfield were scrapping it out at Huddersfield for the right for second place in the table. Halifax won it in a gory match where all boards ended decisively. Winston Williams, Bill Somerset and John Morgan all won their games on boards 2,3 and 4 respectively but on board 1 Darwin Ursal lost to Greg Eagleton and on board 5 Richard Porter lost to Steve Westmoreland. This result meant that Halifax took second place on the same points but a lower board count than Hebden Bridge. Huddersfield meanwhile having played all three of their closest rivals with the Black pieces in the first half of the season found they had lost to Hebden Bridge ‘A’ and Halifax ‘A’ but beaten Todmorden ‘A’. They have a postponed match in hand against Halifax ‘B’ and if they won that they’ll get to 8 points and remain in contention for the title.

Finally, Belgrave hosted a Hebden Bridge ‘B’ side who were once again a player short. Despite having a decent pool of players Martin is struggling to find enough of them who are available for each match and this was compounded last Monday by the lack of a driver to get the players to Halifax. With the ‘A’ team having a bye, Nick Sykes was able to ease the situation by appearing on board 1, but the rest of the team had to get to the venue by public transport and taxis.

Despite these travails the visitors still succeeded in extracting a point from the fixture thanks to some good play on the other four boards. They might even have won the match had not John Kerrane been short of time due to his late arrival after a heroic journey to the Belgrave Social Club once the Hebden Bridge junior club had finished at 7.15. Joh had an extra piece against Karim Khan with his team level pegging but in time trouble he lost his extra material and the players agreed a draw. Here are the full match results which still represent a great result for the ‘B’ team:

Belgrave ‘A’ vs Hebden Bridge ‘B’
I.Hunter ½ – ½ N.Sykes
R.Bowman 0 – 1 M.Syrett
K.Khan ½ – ½ J.Kerrane
G.Farrar ½ – ½ N.Bamford
M.Barnett 1 – 0 DEFAULT
2½ – 2½

Finally then we come to this week’s seventh round fixtures. The choice match up was undoubtedly Todmorden ‘A’s trip to Halifax ‘A’ in a clash that would decide who would go top of the league should Hebden Bridge fail to beat Belgrave at home. Todmorden had already enjoyed having the White pieces on all boards against Hebden Bridge ‘A’ and Huddersfield this season but had only managed a single point with their draw at Hebden. They really needed a win to keep them in contention in 2017 when they will have to play Black against these three rivals.

Todmorden took a commanding lead in the match as Martin Hamer (playing on board 2 possibly for the first time ever!) beat Bill Somerset and Dave Patrick beat Carlos Velosa on board 5. They then secured the match win with draws on boards 3 and 4. Pete Mulleady on board 1 looked like he would round off a commanding performance as he had the better position against Winston Williams. However, at the end of the evening’s play and no doubt in time trouble, he stumbled to defeat and Halifax succeeded in taking some of the gloss off the score line which finished 3 – 2.

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ were due to play Halifax ‘B’ at the same venue but a series of calamities forced them to default the entire match at the last moment. Once again Martin Syrett was struggling to find available players. He had again scraped four together but then John Kerrane came down with the lurgy on the day and had to withdraw. Once again without transport for an away match and with only three players, Martin decided to concede defeat and so Halifax found out what it feels like to have a match default. Not ideal.

Finally, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ played host to Belgrave ‘A’ knowing that a win would ensure they at least shared top spot. In fact with the result at Halifax turning out in their favour it transpired that a win would put them top on their own – though of course they didn’t know that during play.

Belgrave put out their regular line up of Ian Hunter, Karim Khan, Gordon Farrar, Mike Barnett and Angel Gonzalez. Les Johnson turned up as well but when offered the chance to play on board 5 he deferred to Angel. Hebden meanwhile were without their strongest player, Matthew Parsons, but were still able to field a line-up that looked strong enough on paper to secure victory, especially on the lower boards, in the form of Andy Bak, Chris Bak, Dave Shapland, Pete Leonard and Nick Sykes.

In the event, although Belgrave battled hard, Hebden took control early in the evening and managed to keep their noses in front. First of all Nick Sykes benefitted from a blunder by Angel in the opening. He simply left a piece en prise. Next Chris Bak agreed to a draw against Karim Khan on board 2. After an unusual line of the French Defence appeared on the board the queens came off on move 8 and thereafter the game simplified further. Neither side took any chances and, at move 18, with two rooks, two bishops and six pawns each on the board, the players shook hands.

A little while later, Dave Shapland managed to continue his winning streak in Yorkshire competitions against Gordon Farrar who elected to play the rarely seen Belgrade Gambit of the Four Knights. Dave played cautiously to begin with but managed to secure the extra pawn and then found some energetic continuations to push forwards in the centre. The game got complicated towards the end but Dave seemed to have everything under control and bagged the win when Gordon blundered into a mate.

Hebden had now secured at least a tied match but on the last two boards matter were not straight forward. On board 1 Andy Bak secured what looked like a clear advantage against Ian Hunter in a sideline of the infamously complicated Botvinnik Variation of the Semi-Slav. However, as is often the case with these types of openings, one slip is fatal and so it proved as Andy over looked a zwischenzug that caused him to lose a rook.

With blunders having decided all three decisive games thus far it now fell to Pete Leonard (hero of the hour at Halifax in November) to avoid making another one to hold what looked like a tricky ending against Mike Barnett on board 4. Indeed, it appears that Mike missed some good winning chances as time pressure built up before they reached move 36. It looked like the main danger Pete might have would be to take a risk playing for a win when a draw was all that was needed. However, in the event it looks like he too missed a couple of winning tries just before time control.

Finally, as Pete battened down the hatches, Mike saw there was no way to break through and accepted the draw offer that gave Hebden a 3 – 2 win and puts them top of the League at the half way point in the season. Here are the individual scores for the match:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs. Belgrave ‘A’
A.Bak 0 – 1 I.Hunter (White)
C.Bak ½ – ½ K.Khan (White)
D.Shapland 1 – 0 G.Farrar) (White)
P.Leonard ½ – ½ M.Barnett (White)
N.Sykes 1 – 0 A.Gonzalez (White)
3 – 2

You can find all five games from this match, plus Nick Sykes’ draw with Ian Hunter from the Hebden ‘B’ match with Belgrave, in the game viewer below.

So at the halfway mark this season, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ have 10 points and are the only unbeaten team in the league. Todmorden ‘A’ are just behind them on 9. Halifax ‘A’ have 8 and will be joined on that score by Huddersfield assuiming they win their match in hand against Halifax ‘B’. It’s very much game on at the top then with all four of these teams still in genuine contention. We’ll have a much better idea about Hebden’s chances of taking the title at the end of February when they will have played both Huddersfield and Todmorden again.

At the bottom, Belgrave have 3 points and Hebden Bridge ‘B’ and Halifax ‘B’ both have 2. Here too then, there is still a great deal to be decided in the relegation battle.

All that remains is for us to wish all our members and visitors a very happy Christmas and a health, prosperous and check mate filled 2017!

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Nov 242016
Pete Leonard (left) was made to work extremely hard for his decisive win against John Morgan on board 4.

Pete Leonard (left) was made to work extremely hard for his decisive win against John Morgan on board 4.

Two of the three scheduled Calderdale League 1 fixtures were postponed on Monday night as away-players had difficulties getting to venues amidst the travel chaos caused by the miserable stormy weather. Hebden Bridge ‘B’ were unable to get to Todmorden for their match with the league champions (although the largely Lancashire-based Todmorden team was able to get there) and Huddersfield were also forced to abandon their trip to Halifax ‘B’. There will be plenty of time to re-arrange these fixtures later in the season.

That just leaves us with one match to report on. Thankfully it was an absolute stonker as Hebden Bridge ‘A’ travelled to league leaders Halifax ‘A’. With Halifax having deployed their strongest possible line up in the previous round of fixtures against Belgrave, Hebden were expecting a very warm reception and when it became clear that the home team would be only slightly weaker than they were for the Belgrave match (Carlos Velosa replacing Richard Porter on the bottom board) it was clear that they were going to get one!

Hebden themselves had the spine of their team all present and correct. Matthew Parsons, Dave Shapland, Pete Leonard and Nick Sykes are all in good form at present and they were joined on this occasion by just one of the two Bak brothers as Andy made his fourth appearance of the season. Despite having such a strong line-up themselves, Hebden were out-graded on all but the top and bottom boards and therefore expected a very tough struggle although having the White pieces would certainly be of assistance.

A tough struggle was exactly what they got although three of the five games were over by 9.30 which is quite an unusual occurrence for such a heavy weight clash. This was no reflection on the level of aggression on display however as two of those three games ended decisively.

The final position from the game between Dave Shapland and Bill Somerset deserves a picture. Bill had overlooked White's winning move 18.Qh6!

The final position from the game between Dave Shapland and Bill Somerset deserves a picture. Bill had overlooked White’s winning move 18.Qh6!

On board 3, Dave Shapland was up against Bill Somerset and took the opportunity to deploy the highly complicated Velimirovic Attack against Bill’s Classical Sicilian set up. Dave correctly anticipated that Bill would not shirk a theoretical discussion and saw the game develop as he expected it to right up to move 11 when Bill chose to divert from the mainline and the players were no longer playing from their re-collection of the opening books. The game still developed in highly complex fashion with Dave offering a piece sacrifice on move 15. By move 18 it emerged that Bill had overlooked a key idea in the position and was getting check-mated. As always with such complicated games, chess software subsequently found numerous ways to improve for both players, but on this occasion it was Bill who made the decisive error.

At about the same time that this game was concluding, so did the game on board 5 between Nick Sykes and Carlos Velosa also finished. Carlos surprised Nick by not playing his habitual choice of 1…b6. Instead he played classically and the players soon reached a Berlin Variation of the Ruy Lopez. Of course this opening has the reputation of being pretty stodgey at the highest levels of the game but Nick kept tension in the position early on and the game developed in an open and tactical manner. In this instance the tactics heralded simplification rather than a decisive advantage and the players soon decided to conclude a peace agreement.

With the two team Captains (Carlos and Dave) now having finished their games, they were completely available to fret and worry over the remaining results. Halifax levelled the match very soon after board 5 was finished as Andy Bak, who had earlier appeared to have a promising position and an extra pawn against Winston Williams, made a tactical miscalculation and found himself on the end of a decisive attack. The match was all square with two games to finish.

Two of the highest rated players in the league (Darwin Ursal and Matthew Parsons) produced a suitable tense and gripping battle.

Two of the highest rated players in the league (Darwin Ursal and Matthew Parsons) produced a suitably tense and gripping battle.

On board 1 Matthew Parsons and Darwin Ursal were locked in an epic struggle. These are two of the biggest beasts in the Calderdale League and their encounter was suitably hard fought and tense. Matthew took no chances and essayed his favorite London System and Darwin did his best to take the game down an offbeat path in the face of Matthew’s comprehensive understanding of all the key Black responses. Ultimately, both players burned significant amounts of time with the position on the board remaining tense. Finally, Darwin either made a mistake or took a very risky decision and both gave up a pawn and damaged his structure at the same time in the hopes of activating his pieces. With only a handful of seconds left on their clocks to reach time control both players overlooked some tactical points that they would normally have spotted and when they reached the haven of move 36, with material and chances even, they immediately agreed a draw. All the kibitzers breathed a sigh of relief and then pointed out both the player’s zeitnot oversights. Don’t they always!

This just left board 4 to finish with the match all square. In contrast to his Captain on board 5, John had chosen to return to an offbeat old favorite of his (1…a6) rather than play the Pirc which has recently appeared more frequently in his repertoire. This time it was Pete who took the game off down an interesting avenue early on as he won a pawn but at the cost of allowing John to activate his pieces and especially his queen’s bishop on h1-a8 diagonal. Soon Pete had to give the pawn back though and as the queens came off the board the tables were turned as Pete got a very active position in exchange for two pawns.

It turned out that the second pawn John grabbed was poisoned and, as a result, Pete was able to trap the remaining Black knight. In the final phase of the game, as both players started to get into time trouble the material on the board was two bishops and two pawns for White versus one bishop and five pawns for Black. Pete’s bishop pair were dominant though and by the time the players had scraped through to time control John only had one extra pawn and it was unable to progress up the board. The only question that now remained was whether Pete could find the right method to win and avoid any drawing tricks john might have in the time he had remaining.

Slowly, agonizingly slowly for the involved kibitzers, Pete edged his way towards victory until, when both players were down to their last few minutes John shook the dice for a final time as he swapped off his bishop for Pete’s last pawn and asked his opponent if he knew how to check mate with the bishop pair and a king. With only a couple of minutes on your clock and the match result in the balance this is quite a tall order but, finally, Pete did manage it. His relieved and happy team mates congratulated him as Hebden secured a critical victory.

Here are the individual results for the match. The annotated games can be found at the foot of this post in the game viewer. There are some good ones this week to be sure!

Halifax ‘A’ vs Hebden Bridge ‘A’
D.Ursal ½ — ½ M.Parsons (White)
W.Williams 1 — 0 A.Bak (White)
W.Somerset 0 — 1 D.Shapland (White)
J.Morgan 0 — 1 P.Leonard (White)
C.Velosa ½ — ½  N.Sykes (White)
2 — 3

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Nov 052016

The miniature heroes in this week’s match were Nick Sykes and Dave Shapland who both won their games in under 20 moves

The battle for the Calderdale League 1 title just got very hot this week as Halifax ‘A’, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ and Huddersfield all presented their credentials persuasively while back-to-back champions Todmorden ‘A’ slumped to a defeat.

Let’s start with that last headline as, on Wednesday evening Huddersfield took on Todmorden at home and managed to go one better than Hebden Bridge ‘A’ had done when they drew their match with the champions in the last round of fixtures. This was a blood-soaked match with all five games ending decisively. Tod took boards 4 and 5 as Dave Patrick defeated Dave Tooley and Mick Connor beat Steve Westmoreland. In most circumstances one might have expected that to be more than sufficient for Todmorden to take the match as their top boards are always very reliable, especially with White. However on this occasion they suffered a major malfunction. On board 1 Martin Hamer went down to Greg Eagleton, on board 2 Mitchell Burke beat Phil Cook and on board 3 Dave Keddie overcame Andrew Clarkson as Huddersfield snatched the match 3-2 and sent the champions home with their tails between their legs.

Earlier in the week Halifax ‘A’ gave the clearest possible signal of their intent to win back the title they lost to Todmorden two seasons ago as they fielded their strongest possible line up for the first time this season. This was more than sufficient to brush aside Belgrave ‘A’ although it wasn’t all plain sailing for the visitors as they drew on board 1 and lost on board 3. With more than 30 points rating advantage on the bottom four boards Halifax would have expected to win the match comfortably but on board 3 Gordon Farrar took down Bill Somerset while the battle between Ian Hunter and Winston Williams on board 1 looked on paper like it might be tight and it did indeed end in a draw.  Nevertheless wins for Halifax by Darwin Ursal (playing his first match of the season) against Karim Khan on board 2, John Morgan (also making his first appearance of the season) against Mike Barnett on board 4 and Richard Porter against Angel Gonzalez on board 5 secured victory and means Halifax are now the only remaining team with a perfect record in the league after winning three out of three.

That just leaves us to report on Hebden Bridge ‘A’s home match against Halifax ‘B’. With their ‘B’ team having a bye in round 4, Hebden took something of a chance by leaving out their three highest rated players and replacing them with B-team stalwarts to take on the back markers. This was certainly a risk as they lost with the Black pieces when deploying similar match tactics against the same side last season and certainly couldn’t take victory for granted. However, even without Matthew Parsons, Andy Bak and Chris Bak, they overwhelmed the visiting team.

Objectively speaking Hebden still looked like firm favorites as they out-graded the enemy by 10 points or more on the bottom three boards. The top two boards were also stronger than their counter-parts, though to a more marginal extent. It felt like it was going to be a tough night but, in the event, Hebden pulled two clear fairly early in the evening with a couple of quick wins and never looked back.

First of all, Nick Sykes equalized comfortably against Scott Gornall’s patient opening play on board 3, and then won a piece when Scott left a bishop en prise on move 14 having moved its defender the previous move and evidently ‘forgotten’ he had done so. An embarrassing moment to be sure, but we’ve all done it at some point.

Not too long after that Dave Shapland accepted a resignation from Pete Hughes on move 19. Dave deployed the aggressive Albin Counter-Gambit and it seemed that Pete may have been over ambitious in pushing his queen’s side pawns before getting his king to safety. Suddenly Dave overwhelmed him on the dark squares, won the exchange and a pawn whilst preventing Pete’s king from castling. The position was grim enough to persuade Pete to resign at once rather the be tortured in a drawn out ending with this type of material deficit. Hebden were 2-0 up.

Martin Syrett usually captains the ‘B’ team but with his side enjoying a bye week he took to board 4 against Vivienne Webster and surprised spectators by playing the Sicilian Defence instead of his habitual Scandinavian. He seemed to get a reasonable position in the middle game but Vivienne played patiently and preserved a small edge until the players reached a queen and pawn ending and Vivienne swiped an extra pawn. Unfortunately she overlooked a stronger continuation and allowed Martin enough counter play to force a perpetual check. Hebden just needed a draw from the last two boards to win the match. They did rather better than that!

First Andy Leatherbarrow profited from some more Halifax charity when he pounced on a tactical oversight by Ray Cully to win a piece. Ray didn’t need to see any more and resigned on the spot as Hebden crossed the finish line with a game to spare.

That game too finished in a victory for the hosts as Pete Leonard slowly improved his position after being at a disadvantage against Carlos Velosa in the opening stages on board 2. With the position looking complex but balanced Carlos sought out complications and found a way to ‘win’ Pete’s queen for two knights and a rook. Such material imbalances can be tricky to manage but Pete seemed to keep everything under control and soon managed to restrict Carlos’s queen to such an extent that he saw nothing better than to give her majesty up for Pete’s rook and trying to race a passed pawn to the eight rank. Pete navigated the final complications and forced resignation capping a very fine performance from Hebden.

The individual scores are confirmed below:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs Halifax ‘B’
D.Shapland 1 — 0 P.Hughes (White)
P.Leonard 1 — 0 C.Velosa (White)
N.Sykes 1 — 0 S.Gornall (White)
M.Syrett ½ — ½ V.Webster (White)
A.Leatherbarrow 1 — 0 R.Cully (White)
4½ — ½

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

Next Monday sees the Calderdale Individual Championship getting underway. Once again the Trades Club will host the competition with rounds being scheduled for the 7th of November, 5th of December, 9th of January, 6th of February and 6th of March. There is still time for you to enter if you haven’t already. Further details can be found on the Calderdale Chess League website. Please email or call John Kerrane to confirm your entry by no later than Sunday 6th of November.

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Oct 222016
This position featured in a variation from the game Clarkson vs. Shapland in Hebden Bridge 'A's match with Todmorden 'A'. Black seems to be in big trouble with his knight and rook attacked. Is there any hope for him? What's the best move? Solution in the game viewer at the end of the post. This one's tough and neither player saw it during the game.

This position featured in a variation from the game Clarkson vs. Shapland in Hebden Bridge ‘A’s match with Todmorden ‘A’. Black (to move) seems to be in big trouble with his knight and rook attacked. Is there any hope for him? What’s the best move? Solution in the game viewer at the end of the post. This one’s tough and neither player saw it during the game.

As the third round of Calderdale League 1 matches got underway last Monday night there was one stand out fixture which promised to have a bearing on the destiny of the title this season. Hebden Bridge ‘A’ hosted back-to-back champions Todmorden ‘A’ at the Trades Club. Additionally, at the same venue Hebden Bridge ‘B’ played Huddersfield while at Lee Mount Halifax ‘B’ took on Belgrave ‘A’.

The scale of the task facing Hebden ‘A’ was daunting. With the rule change this season giving all away team players White this was essentially the equivalent of what would have been an away fixture in previous years and Todmorden have an outstanding record with the White pieces. The last time Todmorden ‘A’ lost with all playing White was the 2nd of February 2015 when they fielded an under-strength side against Brighouse and were punished with a 2-3 defeat. Since then they have won eight in a row and usually by a comfortable margin. They certainly haven’t lost with White when fielding their strongest available line up for a very long time. If ever.

With Todmorden having only played one match so far this season it was hard for Hebden to predict exactly who would appear for them and so they prepared themselves for the worst case scenario. When Messrs Hamer, Mulleady, Cook, Clarkson and Patrick all arrived at the Trades Club it was clear that the champions were prepared for a full-blooded battle.

Hebden themselves were at pretty much optimal strength. Matthew Parsons returned on board 1 having missed the last match against Huddersfield. Andy Back and Chris Bak were back-to-back (sorry!) on boards 2 and 3 while Captain Dave Shapland and Nick Sykes completed the line-up. The top boards were relatively evenly matched but Hebden gave away 10 rating points or more on the bottom two boards. The key questions were, could Dave and Nick get results out of their higher rated adversaries and, if not, could one of the top three for Hebden find a way to win one of their games.

Andy Bak and Pete Mulleady drew their game about half way through the evening with Pete having used quite a lot of his clock-time to ensure at least equality against an opponent who has a good personal score against him. Neither player would have been too unhappy with a draw. Not too long after this the top board was also drawn with Martin Hamer and Matthew Parsons transposing from an English Opening to a Maroczy Bind variation of the Accelerated Dragon. Again neither player would have been unhappy to sign peace terms in what was a well-played game between too strong players which reached the logical outcome.

At this stage the other three boards were all closely fought. Chris Bak seemed to have some structural weaknesses to contend with in another English Opening but in compensation his pieces appeared active and he was fighting hard for equality. On board 4 Dave Shapland seemed to neutralise the same opening system Andrew Clarkson had played against him last season but then, missing his best chance equalise he drifted into difficulties and seemed to be in a bit of trouble.

Finally, on board 5, Nick Sykes played the Sicilian Defence against Dave Patrick who essayed the 2.c3 variation. Nick has great knowledge of the Anti-Sicilian variations and eventually secured equality, though it seemed, with no real chances for more. Eventually, some time after time control had been reached, this game too was agreed drawn with both players having light-squared bishops and four pawns each. The position was sterile and there was nothing more to be done. This was a good result for Nick who has lost his last few games against Dave.

The final two games of the evening went right down to the wire and at the very end of the night’s play they both had dramatic twists in store for the players and kibitzers alike. On board 4 Andrew had waded into deep water against Dave. He’d advanced his queen into enemy territory which at first glance looked deadly but then he realised that his own king’s position was vulnerable to a counter-attack and had to stay calm and find two accurate moves to keep himself afloat. These cost him all of the 25-minute advantage he had on the clock and more. As both players reached the haven of move 36 they had only a minute or so left on the clock and would now have 15 more minutes each to fight out a complicated knight, bishop and pawns ending where Andrew seemed to have the only realistic chances of winning.

On board 3 Chris had patiently held his nerve to reach an endgame where he had a bishop and pawns against Phil’s knight and pawns. It seemed Chris had a notional advantage but in this game too both players had used much of their time to get to the time control and soon burnt up their extra 15 minutes trying to ensure they didn’t make a mess of the ending although Chris was now the one pressing or a win.

At this late stage in the evening spectators might have been sensible putting their money on five draws and a tied match. However, fate held a dramatic twist as Chris managed to win his end game with some fine technical play whilst in a desperate time scramble to give Hebden the lead.

The players on board 4 were completely unaware of this result as they were so short of time themselves they couldn’t get up or even look away from the board. Andrew was angling hard for a win but he had so little time left it seemed inevitable that Dave would draw the game and help Hebden win the match. Unfortunately for the home team Captain, he chose the wrong course and suddenly found himself facing two connected passed pawns and a knight with only a bishop to defend himself. Before he had chance to try and extricate himself he lost on time with Andrew’s flag also hanging by a thread. By that stage Dave’s position was lost anyway.

And so, the match was indeed tied and the exhausted players dragged themselves home. Hebden will probably be the happier of the two teams with that result but it could have been even better. The individual results were:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs Todmorden ‘A’
M.Parsons ½ — ½ M.Hamer (White)
A.Bak ½ — ½ P.Mulleady (White)
C.Bak 1 — 0 P.Cook (White)
D.Shapland 0 — 1 A.Clarkson (White)
N.Sykes ½ — ½ D.Patrick (White)
2½ — 2½

Looking on from the sidelines, Halifax ‘A’ (who had a bye this week) would probably have been delighted to see this result as they battle to regain the crown they lost two years ago. With two wins from their first two matches Halifax have the same points as Hebden Bridge ‘A’ with a game in hand whilst Tod ‘A’ have played the same number of matches but are a point behind.

This result also handed Huddersfield the opportunity to stake their claim as contenders to the crown. Having lost to Hebden ‘A’ last time out they needed to bounce back against Hebden Bridge ‘B’. They did just that and very conclusively as Martin Syrett’s team, missing a player, went down 0 — 5. All the games were hard fought but ultimately the higher rated Huddersfield team saw off their hosts conclusively. Individual scores were:

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ vs Huddersfield
J.Allan 0 — 1 G.Eagleton (White)
M.Syrett 0 — 1 D.Keddie (White)
A.Leatherbarrow 0 — 1 D.Tooley (White)
T.Sullivan 0 — 1 S.Westmoreland (White
DEFAULT 0 — 1 D.Gray (White)
0 — 5

This put Huddersfield onto 4 match points along with Halifax ‘A’ and Hebden ‘A’, although they too have played a match more than Halifax and Todmorden. In round four Huddersfield will host Todmorden in a match that will provide them with an opportunity to establish their title credentials should they be able to get a result. It will be interesting to see how they get on. On the same evening Halifax ‘A’ return to action at Belgrave ‘A’ and Hebden Bridge ‘A’ play their third home fixture of the season against Halifax ‘B’ who beat them with the Black pieces last season.

Some of the games from the Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs. Todmorden ‘A’ fixture can be replayed in the viewer below. Our thanks to Chris Bak, Andrew Clarkson and Nick Sykes for taking the time to annotate their games for us.

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Oct 102016
Hebden Bridge 'A's raiding party laid Huddersfield to waste (for a change!) This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from Jakub T. Jankiewicz's Flickr photo stream.

Hebden Bridge ‘A’s raiding party laid Huddersfield to waste (for a change!) This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from Jakub T. Jankiewicz’s Flickr photo stream.

Calderdale Evening League 1 teams convened again last week for the second round of fixtures this season. Sadly the absence of Todmorden ‘B’ means there are only 12 matches being played by each team this season and that means is even less room to recover from a slip up. All the more reason then for Hebden Bridge ‘A’ to bounce back from a disappointing draw with their ‘B’ team colleagues the previous week as they travelled to their age-old rivals Huddersfield. Traditionally, Huddersfield have been something of a nemesis for Hebden Bridge ‘A’ but last season they managed an impressive double over their adversaries and were hoping for more of the same in this fixture.

Hebden lined up with a strong team. Brothers Andy and Chris Bak played on the top two boards, then the Captain, Dave Shapland played on board 3 and Nick Sykes and Martin Syrett played on board 4 and 5. Huddersfield meanwhile were slightly weaker than they might usually be but they still sported a very strong player in the form of Mitchell Burke on board 1. Dave Tooley played on board 2 with Nigel Hepworth, Steve Westmoreland and Stuart Oliver completing their formation. This meant that Hebden had an edge rating-wise on all but the top board. The new league rules meant that the away team all played White and that possibly accentuated Hebden’s position as favorites on paper.

The match began solidly enough for Hebden as Andy Bak agreed a draw relatively swiftly with Mitchell Burke on board 1 to ensure the team got off to a sound start. It was clear that boards 2 and 3, where the difference in ratings was the largest, would be the critical battleground.

Sure enough, Hebden struck there next as Dave Shapland took advantage of a few dubious moves by Nigel Hepworth to initiate a king hunt that ended with Nigel’s king getting checkmated on c4 with the remnants of his forces behind him. Hebden hit the front with that win and they never really looked like relinquishing the lead after that.

Martin Syrett’s winning start to the season continued as he won a pawn against Stuart Oliver on board 5 and then tricked his opponent into a tactical error that cost him the game. Martin admitted afterwards that he’d spotted his idea had been unsound but Stuart missed the refutation.

Nick Sykes and Steve Westmoreland played what was surely the most interesting game of the evening as a super-sharp and highly theoretical Anti-Moscow Variation of the Semi-Slav Defence appeared on the board. It looked very promising for Nick at one point as he opened the f-file for an attack which Stuart seemed ill-prepared to meet. After the game, some human analysis seemed to indicate that Nick had missed an on the spot win, but then, on running the line through Nick’s mobile phone engine it turned out not to be the case due to cunning defensive line which, to his great credit, Steve had spotted at the board. In the end Nick’s initiative petered out and it looked like Steve would survive to win in the endgame only for Nick to find a bishop sacrifice that forced perpetual check. Nick has analysed this game in the viewer at the end of this post. It’s well worth a look.

Finally, with the match result no longer in doubt, Chris Bak added the cherry to the icing on the cake by completing a dominant performance over Dave Tooley. Dave seemed to get an awkward position right out of the opening and Chris increased the pressure steadily until his opponent cracked. Another nice win to complete a 1 — 4 victory for Hebden. The individual results from the match are given below.

Huddersfield vs. Hebden Bridge ‘A’
M.Burke ½ — ½ A.Bak (White)
D.Tooley 0 — 1 C.Bak (White)
N.Hepworth 0 — 1 D.Shapland (White)
S.Westmoreland ½ — ½ N.Sykes (White)
S.Oliver 0 — 1 M.Syrett (White)
1 — 4

Elsewhere, reigning champions, Todmorden ‘A’, having had the bye in round one when they should have faced their club colleagues, made a winning start to their title defence at Belgrave ‘A’. They also continued the dominance with the White piece that they have demonstrated time and again over the last two seasons as they pummeled their hosts ½ — 4½ . It clearly doesn’t matter whether they play White at home or away, they are just incredibly hard to stop when they are playing White. Belgrave’s Dave Colledge was the only one of their players not to lose as he drew with Mike Huett.

The third match of the round was held at the Trades Club between Hebden Bridge ‘B’ and Halifax ‘A’. In a confusing turn of events, Halifax were actually the home team as their venue was not available and so the captains had agreed to play the match on the scheduled date but at Hebden Bridge instead of Halifax. This meant the Hebden, as the ‘away’ team, played White at home. Confused? Me too.

Following on from their tremendous opening results against their ‘A’ team, the ‘B’s could be confident of competing even with one of the strongest sides in the League and last year’s runners up. Halifax seem to be without the services of last year’s top board Darwin Ursal, but they are still very strong with Winston Williams playing on board 1, Bill Somerset on 2 and Richard Porter on board 3. All of these players are rated over 165. Their line-up was completed by the experienced and ever-solid Peter Hughes and team captain Carlos Velosa.

Hebden were somewhat weakened compared to the first match of the season. Against Hebden ‘A’ they had Nick Sykes and Martin Syrett in their line up, but as those two were needed by the ‘A’ team later in the weak, they lined up with John Allan on board 1, Andy Leatherbarrow on board 2, John Kerrane on 3, Neil Bamford on 4 and Terry Sullivan on board 5.

From a rating perspective it should have been a total cake-walk for Halifax but once again Hebden showed their mettle. John Allan drew with Winston Williams in an attritional struggle that lasted until the very end of the evening with both players down to bare kings and queens. Winston appeared to be trying to extract a win on time but John held on for half a point. On board 2 Andy Leatherbarrow surpassed his season opening win over Dave Shapland by beating Bill Somerset. It appeared that Bill was trying to extract something from a completely even position and over reached himself. Andy once again showed he had a ruthless streak by winning in the ending.

Sadly for Hebden the good form didn’t continue down the order as Halifax’s bottom three boards restored the status quo. Richard Porter gratefully accepted a blunder from John Kerrane and while Pete Hughes and Carlos Velosa also steadily out-played their lower-rated opponents. The final score was 3½ — 1½ to the home side (who were playing away!) The match scorecard below should make it clear!

Halifax ‘A’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘B’
W.Williams ½ — ½ J.Allan (White)
W.Somerset 0 — 1 A.Leatherbarrow (White)
R.Porter 1 — 0 J.Kerrane (White)
P.Hughes 1 — 0 N.Bamford (White)
C.Velosa 1 — 0 T.Sullivan (White)
3½ — 1½

All of this leaves Halifax ‘A’ atop the early league table by virtue of them having won two matches whilst Todmorden ‘A’ have only played, and won, one. Hebden ‘A’ are in second place with 3 points. Halifax ‘B’ and Belgrave ‘A’ languish at the foot of the table but Halifax have also played only one match. These two teams play each other next week while Hebden ‘A’ will have their chance to stake their title credentials as they host Todmorden ‘A’ at the Trades Club and Hebden ‘B’ welcome Huddersfield. It should be an interesting evening.

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Oct 012016
The opening fixture of the season typically sees a wrestling match between sides from the same club. This time in Hebden Bridge, honours were even. (This photo is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from Tsutomu Takasu's Flickr photo stream.)

The opening fixture of the season typically sees a wrestling match between sides from the same club. This time in Hebden Bridge, honours were even. (This photo is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from Tsutomu Takasu’s Flickr photo stream.)

The 2016-17 Calderdale Evening Chess League season has begun! Another exciting and tense season lies ahead with Todmorden ‘A’ defending their League 1 title. Can they manage a ‘three-peat’?

Unfortunately the week before the first round of fixtures news filtered out that another League 1 team had folded right on the eve of battle as Todmorden ‘B’ withdrew. Presumably a lack of players forced this upon them. That leaves League 1 in the most unsatisfactory position of only having seven teams as it was far too late to try and bring one of the relegated teams back up. It’s been depressing to see the league dwindling over the last few years but let’s not dwell on that when there has been a round of fixtures in both divisions to divert us with.
Hebden Bridge ‘A’ and Hebden Bridge ‘B’ postponed their scheduled opening day derby duel by a week so that they could both field 5 regulars. Team Captains Dave Shapland (‘A’ team) and Martin Syrett (‘B’ team) were able to put out their strongest line ups and test their mettle. On paper the ‘A’ team looked favorites for a heavy win. Matthew Parsons has returned to Hebden Bridge to play on top board. This meant that last year’s top board, Andy Bak, moved down to board 2. Andy’s brother Chris, a new recruit, appeared on board 3 and then came Dave Shapland and Pete Leonard on boards 4 and 5.

This also meant that the ‘A’ team were able to ‘loan’ out Nick Sykes for the evening and he appeared on board 2 for the ‘B’ team. On top board was John Allan. Martin Syrett played on board 3 with Andy Leatherbarrow on 4 and Neil Bamford on 5. The ‘A’ team out graded their opponents by 10 points or more on every single board. Surely it would be plain sailing. As it turned out, far from it!
For the first half of the evening all seemed to be progressing as one might have expected although the ‘B’ team were all putting up stiff resistance with the White pieces (a new arrangement for this season as all away players now have White). Then, suddenly, Neil Bamford capitulated with a blunder against Pete Leonard on board 5. He had done extremely well up until that point and even held an advantage but his error pretty much lost on the spot and the ‘A’ team had the lead.

From that point on though, it was all downhill. Chris Bak seemed to get nothing at all from the opening against Martin Syrett. In a French Tarrasch the position looked very sterile after the queens were exchanged early. However, Martin is a tricky customer and he spotted a tactic that Chris missed and soon went three pawns up as well as keeping the initiative. Chris almost managed to save himself in the murk of a rook and pawn ending but Martin had just enough and his technique was up to the task. 1-1.

On board 1 Matthew Parsons had eschewed his usual Caro-Kann and Sniper Defences against John Allan in order to find his way into a Spanish-style position though it was reached via a Philidor’s Defence move order. Once in the middle game Matthew might have expected to slowly out play his opponent but he was full of praise for John’s precise play after the game saying that he was never allowed to fully equalise and ultimately had to accept a draw offer when in a marginally inferior position.

Meanwhile on board 4 Dave Shapland steadily built up a significant advantage in a reversed Sicilian Kan. However, just at the moment he appeared to have the game all wrapped up he overlooked a simple tactic and lost his queen for a knight. He tried for a while to pull off a swindle but Andy is far too experienced a player to allow that to happen and gave up an exchange to simplify and seal the deal. Suddenly the ‘A’ team were 2-1 down with only one board left in play.

It was the board 2 encounter between Nick Sykes and Andy Bak that would decide the outcome of the tie. Andy had played the Schliemann Variation of the Spanish, a line Nick is very familiar with, and the game looked to be accurately played by both sides for much of the game. It was only after the other games had finished that the balance started to tilt a little in Andy’s favour.
He managed to win a pawn and, with a rook, bishop and three pawns against Nick’s rook, knight and two pawns, it seemed that Andy might be able to save his team mates and salvage a drawn match. But the endgame looked very hard, if not impossible to win. At one moment Nick could have pretty much forced a draw or even won the game if Andy had misplayed it. Instead Nick chose to give up his knight for two pawns. Now Andy had a rook, bishop and h-pawn against Nick’s rook and g-pawn. It seemed to be a very clever choice from Nick because Andy’s h-pawn was due to queen on a square of the opposite colour to his bishop and so all Nick needed to do was exchange the rooks in order to secure a famous win for the ‘B’ team.

Sadly, at the end of a stressful and tiring game, Nick came unstuck at the very last when he wandered into a tactic that was both a discovered attack and a skewer. He lost his rook and that was that. The ‘A’ team will breathe a sigh of relief whilst the ‘B’ team let out a sigh of exasperation. They played well enough to win but will be happy enough with a draw. Below is the final scorecard and four of the five games from this match can be found in the game viewer tat the end of this post:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs Hebden Bridge ‘B’
M.Parsons ½ — ½ 0 J.Allan (w)
A.Bak 1 — 0 N.Sykes (w)
C.Bak 0 — 1 M.Syrett (w)
D.Shapland 0 — 1 A.Leatherbarrow (w)
P.Leonard 1 — 0 N.Bamford (w)
2½ — 2½

Elsewhere in League 1, the champions sat out the first round of fixtures that was to have seen them take on their ‘B’ team. The other derby match between Halifax ‘B’ and Halifax ‘A’ proved to be rather more straight forward for the favorites as the ‘A’ team smashed the ‘B’s by ½ — 4½! That put Halifax ‘A’ top of the inaugural table as in the third fixture of the round Huddersfield were only able to pip Belgrave ‘A’ 3 — 2. The hard work was done on the bottom two boards where Nigel Hepworth and Steve Westmoreland defeated Mike Barnett and Angel Gonzalez respectively to cancel out Karim Khan’s defeat of Dave Keddie on board 2.

Last Monday night also saw the beginning of League 2 which has just six teams in it again this season. Hebden Bridge ‘C’ started their campaign at home against Belgrave ‘B’ (formerly Courier ‘B’). Hebden’s captain, John Kerrane was able to completely fill his line up with junior club members and they performed creditably with notable draws for Owen Buchan against Dave Colledge on board 1 and Toby Dodd who held on in a difficult rook and pawn ending against John Smith on board 3. A couple of the games from this match can be found in the game viewer at the end of this post. The individual results were:

Hebden Bridge ‘C’ vs Belgrave ‘B’
O.Buchan ½ — ½ D.Colledge (w)
G.Hughes 0 — 1 A.Dawson (w)
T.Dodd ½ — ½ J.B.Smith (w)
M.Leggett 0 — 1 S.Harrington (w)
A.Dermo 0 — 1 R.Bottomley (w)
1 — 4

The second derby match between Halifax teams, this time the ‘C’ and ‘D’ teams ended in similar success for the stronger side as the ‘C’ team won 4 — 1. In the third match Brighouse, who were relegated last season managed to hold a draw with Todmorden ‘C’ despite defaulting two boards! Robert Broadbent on board 1and Paul Whitehouse on board 2 cancelled out the defaults on boards 3 and 5 while Ron Grandage and Tom Webster drew on board 4.

Next week sees the champions Todmorden ‘A’ get their first outing away at Belgrave while Halifax ‘A’ host Hebden Bridge ‘B’, Huddersfield host Hebden Bridge ‘A’ and Halifax ‘B’ take a bye.

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