Apr 222018
 

It’s been a very long time indeed since this website reported on the Calderdale Evening League so it’s time for an action replay! There is a lot of catching up to do so let’s begin at once and rewind back to week commencing Monday the 19th of February when League 1 teams convened for round 10.

Round 10

First of all an unusual and potentially very serious incident occurred on the Wednesday night as Hebden Bridge ‘A’ travelled to Huddersfield ‘A’ for an encounter that would likely decide which of these two teams would mount a serious challenge to league leaders Golden Lion. The match was building nicely when one of Huddersfield’s players became unwell and ultimately had to be taken to hospital after just 30 minutes play. Happily, we can report that the player concerned is ok but understandably the teams decided to abandon the match and rearrange the fixture for another day. More on this later.

This incident enabled Golden Lion to climb further clear at the top by thrashing the league’s back markers Brighouse away 0 – 5. All of the games were over by about 9.15 although in a couple of instances Brighouse’s players could have chosen to labour on in much worse positions rather than ending their evening’s early. It would almost certainly not have changed the outcome had they battled on.

Elsewhere, Hebden Bridge ‘B’ defaulted their second match of the season as they were unable to raise a side for the away match at Halifax ‘A’. Halifax themselves only had four players and for the results was recorded as 4 – 0 to the home side.

The final match of Round 10 between Halifax ‘B’ and Belgrave ‘A’ ended 1 – 4 to the visitors with wins by John Morgan, Richard Bowman and Karim Khan. Halifax salvaged good draws against higher rated opponents for Peter Hughes against Ian Hunter and Vivienne Webster against Dave Patrick.

Round 11

On the 12th of March Hebden Bridge ‘A’ faltered in their pursuit of Golden Lion as they failed to beat Belgrave ‘A’ away. They were greatly hampered by only having four players and indeed, would quite possibly have won the match if they had been able to field a full team. Pete Leonard got an excellent result when he beat Ian Hunter on board 1 and Nick Sykes drew with Dave Patrick on board 2. Sam Swain won on board 4 against Karim Khan but, with Belgrave’s Richard Bowman beating another Richard (Bedford) on board 3 and the default on board 5, it was only a drawn match for Hebden.

Golden Lion took full advantage of their pursuers slip up as they crushed Halifax ‘B’ at home 5 – 0. Halifax defaulted a board themselves but Andrew Clarkson won a very nice game on the Black side of an Anti-Grunfeld Variation against Pete Hughes, Dave Shapland played aggressively against Scott Gornall who survived a violent attack on his king only to emerge a piece down in a simple ending and Mick Connor and Marc Turu also scored wins against Vivienne Webster and Mac Randhawa respectively.

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ bounced back from the disappointment of defaulting their round 10 match by edging out Brighouse in a tight match where all five games ended decisively. Hebden lost the top two boards as Robert Broadbent defeated Andy Leatherbarrow and Chris Lund beat Martin Syrett. However, Hebden won on board 3, 4 and 5 to snatch a vital victory that gives them a good chance of surviving relegation this season. Paul Gledhill, John Lavan and Neil Bamford scored the wins.

Sadly, there was another default fixture in round 11 as Halifax ‘A’ were unable to field a team at Huddersfield ‘A’.

Round 12

This brings us to a crucial round of ties played on the 26th of March as all of the top three played in the same venue. Hebden Bridge ‘A’ hosted Golden Lion and Hebden Bridge ‘B’ hosted Huddersfield ‘A’ at the Trades Club.

Hebden started the evening a point behind Golden Lion and knowing that only a victory would be good enough to keep realistic title hopes alive. However, they had been the only team so far this season to defeat their guests when they crushed them 1 – 4 at Golden Lion before Christmas.

This time around Hebden were not as strong as, although they welcomed back Matthew Parsons to top board for the occasion, they were without Andrew and Chris Bak and also John Allan. This meant that Pete Leonard, who played board 5 in the away match, was on board 2 and regulars Nick Sykes, Richard Bedford and Sam Swain completed the line-up.

Golden Lion meanwhile had strengthened their line up from that match pre-Christmas and replaced David Innes on board 5 with Mick Connor. The top four boards of Hamer, Clarkson, Cook and Shapland all played in the previous match and, on the night, all improved on their individual results from the home defeat to help Golden Lion move well clear at the top of the league.

The final position between Martyn Hamer and Matthew Parsons. Guess the result!

The final position between Martyn Hamer and Matthew Parsons. Guess the result!

On board 1, Martyn Hamer and Matthew Parsons played out a fascinating and highly complicated encounter that ended in a draw in a very unusual final position (see right). In previous encounters between these two they have circled each other carefully and exchanged prosaic wins in their last two match ups. This time the gloves came off and the sparks flew. This excellent and entertaining game appears in the game viewer at the end of this report along with some notes by Matthew.

Hebden did manage to win on board 5 just as they had done in the away match. This was another very complicated game where Sam Swain, having built up a very comfortable and promising position against Mick Connor decide to start sacrificing pieces to open up his opponent’s king. With the aid of a computer it is possible to find better defensive ideas than Mick did but, from a practical perspective, it was a very difficult position to defend and the attack looked very scary. Mick went wrong and Sam won in combustible style.

After this brief glimpse of optimism the other three boards all ended in defeat for the home side however. Dave Shapland got nothing from the opening against Richard ‘Beaky’ Bedford but pounced on a brief window of opportunity afford to him by a slightly slow move by his opponent. Here too accurate defensive moves were required but they were hard to find and Beaky relented under pressure.

Nick Sykes seemed to be defending himself very solidly with Black against Phil Cook on board 3 but he too made one mistake and was brutally punished for his error as Phil converted mercilessly.

The final game to finish went on late into the night. Andrew Clarkson had lost any opening edge he may have had against Pete Leonard Alekhine’s Defence and the game seemed to be headed for a draw when the players entered a double bishop and pawns ending. Andrew had other ideas however and decided to continue playing, with no real risk of losing, just in case his team needed a victory to seal the match. By the time it became evident that he didn’t need to win he had managed to secure a winning advantage in a single bishop (same colour) and pawns ending. This game features twice in the game viewer as both players have analysed the game for us.

In the end Golden Lion won a match full of high quality and exciting chess to stamp their authority on the title race with two rounds to go. Here’s the final match score card:

Hebden Bridge ‘A vs. Golden Lion
M.Parsons ½ – ½ M.Hamer (W)
P.Leonard 0 – 1 A.Clarkson (W)
N.Sykes 0 – 1 P.Cook (W)
R.Bedford 0 – 1 D.Shapland (W)
S.Swain 1 – 0 M.Connor (W)
1½ – 3½

Meanwhile, just across the room, third place side Huddersfield ‘A’ were locked in combat with Hebden Bridge ‘B’. Just like the other match, the hosts made a bright start with a win on the bottom board but were quickly overhauled by their higher rated opponents on the other boards.

It was John Kerrane on board 5 who gave the hosts something to cheer about. Huddersfield’s Robert Sutcliffe deployed his Blackmar-Diemer Gambit. Kerrane could have played 2…e6 and simply transposed into his favorite French Defence, but he chose instead to take Robert on and was rewarded with a lively and active game in which the players castled on opposite wings. Although John’s attack looked quicker on the queen’s side, Robert found a way to block up the structure and then went on the attack himself on the king’s side. However, his attack also faltered and finally, John broke through in the centre, fittingly, with the extra pawn that he’d won on the second move, to take the full point.

Sadly, not long afterwards, Huddersfield were level as Steve Westmoreland took full advantage of a slightly eccentric opening sequence by Paul Gledhill and won a piece early in the game. That it took him a little while to patiently convert his advantage should not delude the reader that he was ever in any danger of failing to do so.

That just left the top three boards. On board 2 Dave Keddie and Mark Stollery set the board alight with some fiery complications in a game that Mark wanted to be an Alekhine’s Defence but Dave elected instead to steer into a Four Knights opening. Mark chose a very tactical continuation but he too blundered a piece early on. Dave made no mistakes and put the game away in 19 moves to put Huddersfield in the lead.

The match was won for the visitors when Leo Keely finished off Andy Leatherbarrow from a Spanish opening. On this occasion however, it was not to be a typical ‘Spanish torture’ with a slow build up and attack by White on the king’s side whilst Black aims for counter-play on the queen’s side. Instead, Leo actually won the game by grabbing an extra pawn on the queen’s side and liquidating down to a position where that extra pawn was able to push through to b7 and at the end he finished with a nice tactic to exploit Andy’s overloaded rook which couldn’t defend the back rank and the weak f7 square.

Finally, in the longest game of the match, Hebden’s Captain, Martin Syrett, was slowly and inexorably ground down by Dave Tooley who thereby helped his side clinch a convincing 1 – 4 victory. Here is the final match scorecard:

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ vs Huddersfield ‘A’
A.Leatherbarrow 0 – 1 L.Keely (W)
M.Stollery 0 – 1 D.Keddie (W)
M.Syrett 0 – 1 D.Tooley (W)
P.Gledhill 0 – 1 S.Westmoreland (W)
J.Kerrane 1 – 0 R.Sutcliffe (W)
1 – 4

Elsewhere in Calderdale, Belgrave ‘A’ continued their resurgence as they took full advantage of more Halifax ‘A’ woes at the Lee Mount Club. Halifax defaulted board 2 and 3 and lost on the other three boards as the visitors emerged with a clean sweep and a slightly dissatisfied feeling despite the result.

Also at the Lee Mount, bottom side Brighouse finally managed to secure their first points of the season as the edged out Halifax ‘B’ in a tight encounter. The key to the match was the top two boards where both Robert Broadbent and Nick Hudson managed to beat Peter Hughes and Scott Gornall respectively. Two draws on boards 4 and 5 were enough to see Brighouse over the line. Kudos to them for getting off the mark in what’s been a tough season for them.

This round of fixtures all but crowned Golden Lion as league champions as they now sat four points clear of Hebden Bridge ‘A’ with two fixtures remaining. Hebden had an extra match in hand but they would still need Golden Lion to lose at home to Halifax ‘A’ and Huddersfield ‘A’ in order to have any chance of catching them.

We’ll report on round 13 (which took place on the 9th of April) and 14 (which takes place next week) in our next report and also reflect on the final fixture in League 2. In the meantime there are a host of games available (16!)from rounds 10, 11 and 12 in the game viewer below. Thanks as always to those players who have sent us their games and annotated them.

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Feb 072018
 
Not quite 180 for the top three in League 1 last week but 13.5 out of a possible 15 game points isn't bad!

Not quite 180 for the top three in League 1 last week but 13.5 out of a possible 15 game points isn’t bad!

Last week teams from the top half of the division all played against teams from the bottom half in round 9 of the Calderdale Evening Chess League 1. These fixtures produced the kind of one-sided results that might have been expected especially as, in all but one of the four ties, the stronger teams had the White pieces on all five boards. Indeed, the top three teams dropped no more than a single defeat and a couple of draws between them as they made light work of their opposition.

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ travelled to play Halifax ‘A’ at the Lee Mount Club. Halifax were without their Captain, Richard Porter and seemed to feel his loss keenly as the put out a comparatively weak team. They were out graded on every board except on board 1 and in the end all of the games followed the form books.

Bill Somerset was the only one of the home players to draw blood as he beat Pete Leonard in a Closed Sicilian where the players castled on opposite sides of the board. This type of game possibly suited Bill’s style more than Pete’s and, at least on this occasion, it was the Halifax man who took the day as his attack crashed through. Pete’s defensive task was practically quite challenging and he wasn’t able to find the most resilient moves.

That was as much as Halifax could muster however as they lost on all the remaining boards. Carlos Velosa had ‘one of those days’ on board 2 as he blundered numerous times to make Nick Sykes’ task relatively straightforward. Sam Scurfield faired better on board 3 as he closed the centre to slow down Richard ‘Beaky’ Bedford’s play. However, the Hebden man opened the g-file with decisive effect and finished the game in brutal fashion. Neil Suttie and Sam Swain added gloss to the result by defeating Daniel Rowley and Mac Randhawa respectively.

Three of the games from this match can be found in the game viewer at the end of this post. Here is the full match scorecard:

Halifax ‘A’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘A’
B.Somerset 1 – 0 P.Leonard (W)
C.Velosa 0 – 1 N.Sykes (W)
S.Scurfield 0 – 1  R.Bedford (W)
D.Rowley 0 – 1 N.Suttie (W)
M.Randhawa 0 – 1  S.Swain (W)
1 – 4

At the Trades Club Hebden Bridge ‘B’ hosted league leaders Golden Lion. Martin Syrett has been able to field a core of four players pretty regularly this season and it was no different on this occasion as he, Andy Leatherbarrow, Paul Gledhill and Neil Bamford (who have all played at least 6 of the 9 fixtures thus far) were joined by John Kerrane who has played less frequently but is hardly a stranger to League 1 chess.

Despite this experienced line up and some spirited resistance by everyone on the team, Hebden were beaten soundly by a visiting side who out-rated them heavily on all but the bottom board. On board 1 Andrew Clarkson was the beneficiary of a blunder by Andy Leatherbarrow which lost a piece for nothing on the spot. There was no point in continuing and the avalanche had begun.

Board 2 saw Captain Syrett last rather longer against Phil Cook but he saw his position slowly eroded by his opponent who won a pawn on move 30 and then a second a few moves later. Martin can always be relied upon to muddy the waters even from a disadvantageous position, but on this occasion, the more he wriggled, the tighter the noose about his neck became. Immediately after time control, and already in a desperate position, he too blundered as he allowed Phil’s queen to fork his king and rook. It was game over.

John Kerrane also put up stiff resistance for forty moves or so against Mick Connor, but then, just as it looked like the game might fizzle out into a draw, Mick found a way to create some complications and John too made a tactical error which saw him lose a piece.

The last two games to finish were the most keenly contested. Never the less, on board 5 Marc Turu was able to grind down Neil Bamford, slowly accumulating small advantages which eventually amounted to a winning position. As his team mates had, Neil did his very best to graft for something but Marc was resolute forcing Neil to concede when he was three pawns in deficit and bound hand and foot.

Finally, there was a rather epic and tense encounter between Dave Shapland and Paul Gledhill. Dave applied some pressure in the opening and appeared at one point to have an over whelming advantage. However, he let numerous opportunities slip through his fingers, then played the ensuing endgame rather haphazardly to see all chances of victory slip away and even allowed Paul a brief opportunity to snatch a win at the death. However, this was one of those occasions when the player who has felt under constant pressure for most of the game was so relieved to see a certain draw that he didn’t really look for a win. Dave was given the chance to correct his error and the last game of the match was halved.

There are four games from this match in the game viewer below. Here is the match card:

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ vs. Golden Lion
A.Leatherbarrow 0 – 1 A.Clarkson (W)
M.Syrett 0 – 1 P.Cook (W)
P.Gledhill ½ – ½  D.Shapland (W)
J.Kerrane 0 – 1  M.Connor (W)
N.Bamford 0 – 1  M.Turu (W)
½ – 4½

This result leaves Golden Lion top of the league on board count. They are three game points clear of Hebden Bridge ‘A’ and both have 16 match points. Halifax ‘A’ and Hebden Bridge ‘B’ remain in fifth and sixth places respectively. They certainly can’t be sure of staying up and will have to ensure they pick up points against the bottom teams when they play them.

Back at the Lee Mount Club, Huddersfield ‘A’ were engaged in the slaughter of Halifax ‘B’ by ½ – 4½. On paper it looked like it should have been a white-wash and it nearly was with only home Captain, Scott Gornall managing a heroic result by drawing with Greg Eagleton who his rated almost 60 points higher than him. The rest of the side were put to the sword and this result ensures Huddersfield stay in the hunt for the title as although they are only on 11 match points they have two re-scheduled fixtures yet to play which, if both are won, will see them move up to be just one behind the two leaders.

The fourth match of the round saw Belgrave ‘A’ host back markers Brighouse. The visitors challenge looked even greater when they arrived with only four players. However, they should great fighting spirit to make the final score line the tightest of the round when Nick Hudson drew with John Morgan on board 2 and Paul Whitehouse went half a point better to beat Dave Patrick on board 3. Brighouse remain bottom of the league and Belgrave ‘A’ in fourth although they are seven points distant behind the leaders.

Be sure to tune back into these pages later this week when there will be a bumper update on the Calderdale Individual Championship when we cover rounds 3 and 4 (which took place on Monday night).

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Jan 212018
 
A suitably snow-related race for the seasonal conditions! Hebden Bridge 'A' and Golden Lion are the leaders in League 1 at the moment with little to choose between them. Photo used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from ERic Teela's Flickr photo stream.

A suitably snow-related race for the seasonal conditions! Hebden Bridge ‘A’ and Golden Lion are the leaders in League 1 at the moment with little to choose between them. Photo used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from Eric Teela’s Flickr photo stream.

It’s been over a month since our last report on the Calderdale League. We didn’t report at all on the seventh round of League 1 which took place just before Christmas. The main reason for this was that, unfortunately, neither Hebden Bridge team contested their scheduled matches. Hebden Bridge ‘B’ were unable to field a team and defaulted their match with Belgrave ‘A’. Meanwhile, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ were ready to play against Halifax ‘B’ but the visitors then requested a postponement. This match will now take place next Monday the 22nd.

Meanwhile, Golden Lion were reinstating their title credentials by pipping League leaders Huddersfield ‘A’ away in a very tense affair. Dave Shapland won early on board 5 against Dave Tooley to give the visitors the lead but the next two games to finish were drawn and this left Roger Keely against Pete Mulleady and Leo Keely against Phil Cook. Both looked very close and one wouldn’t have betted against two draws at this point. However, as clock pressure started to make itself felt towards the end of the evening the games fell decisively, one to each side, as Roger blundered against Pete while Leo picked Phil’s pocket in an endgame it appeared he had no way of winning. So, it ended 2 – 3 and this result ensured Golden Lion were back on top of the League at Christmas

The second half of the season got underway on Monday night and, as is traditional, featured the return derby matches. In this instance for Hebden Bridge and Halifax.

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ beat their ‘B’ team comfortably (4-1) in September but they have struggled against them in previous years. Would they struggle this time? As you would expect the line ups meant that, on paper, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ had a comfortable rating advantage on every board. With captain Pete Leonard on board 1 followed by John Allan, Richard Bedford, Neil Suttie and Sam Swain all the players were rated over 150. Martin Syrett’s ‘B’ team however was packed with seasoned campaigners all capable of causing an upset on their day. Andy Leatherbarrow was on board 1, Martin on 2 and then new man Paul Gledhill who is having an excellent debut season, John Kerrane and Neil Bamford.

In the end the ‘B’ team were unable to land a telling blow on their opponents. Paul, John and Neil all managed highly creditable draws against their opponents but on the top two boards Pete and John both won to ensure Hebden ‘A’ kept up their title chase.

Here is the match scorecard:

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘A’
Andy Leatherbarrow 0 – 1 Pete Leonard
Martin Syrett 0 – 1 John Allan
Paul Gledhill ½ – ½ Richard Bedford
John Kerrane ½ – ½ Neil Suttie
Neil Bamford ½ – ½ Sam Swain
1½ – 3½

Halifax ‘A’ lost to their ‘B’ team colleagues in the first match of the season but took their revenge this time around as they won their match comfortably and in exactly the same fashion as Hebden Bridge ‘A’ by drawing on the lower boards and winning the top two boards with Bill Somerset and Richard Porter over turning Peter Hughes and Scott Gornall respectively. This restored some order to the two Halifax teams’ league positions too with the ‘A’ team moving 3 points clear of their colleagues, who have that match against Hebden ‘A’ in hand.

Having agreed to reverse the venue for the first fixture of the season, Huddersfield ‘A’ were due to host Brighouse at home on Wednesday night but this match was postponed when the wintery weather caused chaos on the roads in the area .

That just leaves us to cover league leaders Golden Lion who fought their way to victory at home in a very tough match against Belgrave ‘A’. The 3½ – 1½ score line does not reflect the close nature of the encounter. Golden Lion fell behind early in the evening as Dave Colledge defused David Innes’ attacking intentions taking the gambit materials and keeping them.

Next to finish was board 2 where Phil Cook and John Morgan drew their game. Now, down one point with three boards left to finish it seemed the home team were up against it but they recovered and gained the lead courtesy of two marvellous games. First of all, on board 1, Martyn Hamer initiated a devastating attack on Ian Hunter’s king to sweep him aside. This was followed by an admirable technical victory by Andrew Clarkson over Dave Patrick. The rook and minor piece ending appeared pretty level at first glance but Andrew used his king to boldly march up the board not once, but twice with decisive effect.

Now Golden Lion had the lead but, in the final game to finish Karim Khan had the better of Dave Shapland. That was, seemingly, until he realised he had to win the game to tie the match. Both players had only a few minutes left to complete a knight and pawns end game where Karim had four pawns to Dave’s two. Under normal circumstance Karim would have converted easily but, under the pressure of the clock and needing a win he went astray, lost his knight and then his pawns meaning Dave had swindled his first win from this opponent. Historically it’s been the other way around!

All this leaves Golden Lion still at the top on 14 points from eight matches. Hebden ‘A’ are two points behind but have that match against Halifax ‘B’ in hand next week. If they can win that 5 – 0 they’ll be just half a board point behind Golden Lion. Huddersfield ‘A’ are still in third on 9 points but they now have two postponed matches to play so they are still right in the hunt.

At the other end of the table Brighouse, without a point, look doomed. Halifax ‘B’ are on 4 points, Hebden ‘B’ have 5 and then Halifax ‘A’ and Belgrave ‘A’ have 7 each. Theoretically, any of these last four could occupy the second relegation spot.

In the game viewer below are a selection of games from this week and the round played before Christmas. Our thanks as always to those who have sent in their games for publication. These columns would be greatly diminished without them.

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Jan 032018
 
Dave (left) in action at the Brighouse Rapidplay in 2011.

Dave (left) in action at the Brighouse Rapidplay in 2011. He was never seen without his trade mark baseball cap.

Unfortunately we must begin 2018 by sharing the sad news that Dave Milton passed away in December. So many Calderdale Chess players will have met him or known him and a very great number of us enjoyed playing against him.

Tributes to and memories of Dave have already been shared by Ihor Lewyk on the Yorkshire Chess website and a detailed obituary recalling his involvement in Yorkshire Chess has also been published by Steve Mann on his Yorkshire Chess Association Yearbook. I don’t intend to repeat any of the content from those two articles and Ihor and Steve both knew Dave and his long term involvement with chess much more intimately than I.

What is absolutely clear from those two articles and from the conversations and emails I’ve had about Dave in the last few weeks is his huge enthusiasm and appetite for the game, not only as a player but primarily as an organiser and team Captain.

I first met Dave when I moved to Calderdale twelve years ago at which time he was Captain of the Calderdale ‘B’ team in the Yorkshire League. He gave me the opportunity to play my first games for Calderdale. However, most local league players will have known Dave for his leadership of the Todmorden Chess club which, quite simply, wouldn’t have existed without him. Dig back into the Yorkshire Chess Annual Statistics web page and you’ll notice that, in 2007-08 Todmorden Chess Club disappeared from the records. It was Dave who re-established them in 2009-10 and he essentially ran the club and organised all the teams from then until the beginning of this season when his illness forced him to give it up.

Dave built up Todmorden’s player base over the years and at one point in 2012-13 they even had four teams across the two divisions. He was particularly determined to see the ‘A’ team capture the League 1 title. After a number of near misses he finally achieved this objective in 2014-15 and under his skillful stewardship the team then went on to make up for lost time by retaining their title in 2015-16 and again last season.

Unfortunately the club was so reliant on Dave that when he stood down last summer it almost folded. However, the team now called Golden Lion was salvaged and will be playing the remainder of this season’s fixtures with his legacy  very clearly in their thoughts. Indeed, the team heard the news of his passing last month just a week before they played league leaders Huddersfield ‘A’ and certainly felt that their win in that match was a fitting tribute to him.

It’s hard to think of Dave as either a team Captain or a player without reflecting on his long battle with a rare form of cancer called myeloma which effects the blood’s plasma cells and is a relapsing-remitting form of cancer. Dave lived longer with this condition than anyone else in the UK and his chess play was as implacable, unyielding and resilient as his battle with this illness. I had a few hard battles with him myself in recent years and will remember him as a friendly and sporting, but tough opponent.

Dave was heavily involved with the organisation of the Caldedale League, in recent years it was he who ensured all the various trophies were engraved and returned from incumbent champions in time for presentation to their new owners at the League AGM. He played regularly in the Calderdale (for Todmorden) and Bradford (for Central Division) leagues and his last game was played for Belgrave ‘C’ against Halifax ‘C’ as recently as October. I must thank Howard Wood for generously agreeing to send me the moves of this game which Dave won. I’ve also published one of my games against him in the viewer below. Both games are typical of the style I mentioned above and both see him deploying one of his favorite openings, the French Defence.

Friends and colleagues across the region will miss Dave very much and of course we send our condolences to his family. His funeral will be held at 14.15 on the 9th of January at Park Wood Crematorium, Park Road, Elland. HX5 9HZ. The family have requested no flowers be sent and that any donations instead be made to  the MacMillan Cancer Support Fund Halifax.

Please feel free to share your memories and thoughts about Dave by leaving a comment to this post.

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Dec 062017
 
An interesting position from Shapland vs. Scurfield in the Halifax 'A vs. Golden Lion match. It's White's move and he appears to have an over whelming attack. However, precision is still required. How would you proceed? Find the solution and the game continuation in the game viewer at the end of this post.

An interesting position from Shapland vs. Scurfield in the Halifax ‘A vs. Golden Lion match. It’s White’s move and he appears to have an over whelming attack. However, precision is still required. How would you proceed? Find the solution and the game continuation in the game viewer at the end of this post.

Calderdale League 1 took another step towards the halfway mark last week and the season is shaping up to be very interesting indeed. In our last report we saw that both Golden Lion and Huddersfield ‘A’ stumbled to their first defeat and draw of the season respectively, both to Hebden Bridge teams. It’s now very tight at the top between these two and Hebden Bridge ‘A’ and then the next four teams Belgrave ‘A’, Halifax ‘B’, Hebden Bridge ‘B’ and Halifax ‘A’ are all pretty close together as well. How would week 6 play out?

Let’s start the report by recounting events at the Lee Mount in Halifax where Hebden Bridge ‘B’ were visiting Halifax ‘B’ and Golden Lion took on Halifax ‘A’.

Hebden ‘B’ sported a very different look to their last match away at Huddersfield where they had benefitted from having a couple of ‘A’ team regulars in the side that helped them draw with the league leaders. This time out they had Andy Leatherbarrow back on board 1, Martin Syrett on 2, John Kerrane on 3, Paul Gledhill on 4 and Neil Bamford on 5. This team matched up pretty closely to Halifax’s side although the host team held higher ratings on all but board 2.

The first board to finish was in fact the board two clash between the team captains and Martin came out on top against Scott Gornall. Scott is normally a tough player to beat but Martin seemed to develop a ferocious attack quite easily and was able to carry the day fairly swiftly. Soon after, the board 1 game between Andy Leatherbarrow and Peter Hughes and the board 5 game between Neil Bamford and Ray Cully ended in draws. Leatherbarrow and Hughes looked to be a tightly controlled, risk free affair where both sides probed and then decided that a draw was ok. It was probably more ok for Andy considering the match situation. On board 5 there was a feeling that Neil could have pressed for longer to try and eek out a win against Ray but he, like Andy was out-rated by 15 points by his opponent and the draw edged Hebden closer to a crucial match win.

That victory was sealed when John Kerrane polished off Howard Wood with great efficiency and then, towards the end of the evening, Paul Gledhill crowned a very fine team effort by beating Vivienne Webster, another tough opponent.

The final match card looked like this:

Halifax ‘A’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘B’
P.Hughes ½ – ½ A.Leatherbarrow (White)
S.Gornall 0 – 1 M.Syrett (White)
H.Wood 0 – 1 J.Kerrane (White)
V.Webster 0 – 1 S.Gornall (White)
R.Cully ½ – ½ N.Bamford (White)
1 – 4

Across the room, Golden Lion were slowly but surely grinding out another win to recover from their defeat to Hebden ‘A’ in round 5. Dave Shapland picked the same team that had played in that match and saw everyone but David Innes on board 5 improve their performance by half a point or more. Admittedly the opposition was a little weaker than it had been a few weeks ago but the visitors never looked in trouble on any of the boards aside from the one they lost. Dave Shapland sacrificed no fewer than three pawns against Sam Scurfield on board 4. Each time Sam accepted one he put greater pressure on himself to defend accurately and, as his clock time ebbed away, eventually he started making mistakes and Dave’s attack broke through.

Martyn Hamer drew comfortably with Bill Somerset on board 1 before David over-pressed on board 5 against Dave Loughenbury. Having sacrificed a pawn for the initiative in the opening, David won back the material but then swapped off the last pieces on the board only to realise later that the king and pawn ending he’d acquiesced to was losing.

The match was level and the last two boards looked unclear but on board 2 Phil Cook appeared to have significant advantage both on the board and on the clock against Richard Porter although the position was messy and very complicated. Meanwhile Andrew Clarkson and Carlos Velosa were locked in a Maroczy Bind-type position that appeared balanced and tense. Andrew declined a draw at one point wanting to ensure that Phil was going to win before he considered acquiescing. This was risky as both players were very low on time, but Andrew judged it well and, by the time Phil did convert the full point against Richard, Carlos too had gone astray and found that he too was losing this time in a piece and pawns ending.

The final score was 1½ – 3½.

Meanwhile, back at the Trades Club, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ were playing their fifth home fixture of the season (in six games played so far!) and should now feel they have gained plenty of practice playing with the Black pieces! Their opponents this time were Brighouse and they should have been very confident of defeating the bottom team despite having a much weaker team than for their last outing at Golden Lion.

Pete Leonard had played board 5 in that match but this time he was on top board. John Allan was promoted from board 4 to board 2. Nick Sykes returned to play board 3 and Richard Bedford and Neil Suttie made up the rest of the line up. With this team Hebden out-pointed Brighouse heavily on every board but board 1 and yet they almost failed to win the match.

Pete Leonard and Robert Broadbent chopped wood in fairly frenetic fashion on the top board. They were down to two pawns a knight and a rook each by the time they agreed peace terms on move 36. Meanwhile on board 2, John Allan suffered a major malfunction against Nick Hudson who found a wrinkle in one tactical variation that netted him an exchange in the end game. John continued only briefly but then decided to resign shortly afterwards.

Hebden saved themselves (sometimes literally!) on the lower boards. Nick Sykes was far from impressed with his game but he never the less managed to beat Paul Whitehouse when his opponent blundered a bishop to him on move 26. The rest was just a matter of mopping up.

Neil Suttie was also forced to toil on board 5 against Tim Pryke. Finding himself in one of those games where he was perfectly solid but without much of a platform for really dynamic or aggressive play, Neil had to slowly accumulate advantages until his position was overwhelming. First he won a pawn, then he managed to triple Tim’s pawns on the b-file, then he won a second pawn and isolated all White’s remaining pawns so that there were weaknesses everywhere. However, Tim battled stubbornly and even managed to reduce his losses to the extent that he reached a rook and pawns ending just one pawn down. Despite his efforts, Neil’s technique was up to the job and he converted to put Hebden in front with one game remaining.

In that last game though Adrian Dawson was doing very well against Richard Bedford. It seemed that Richard was in great danger of loosing but he fought on persistently and when Adrian unaccountably offered a draw from a position of superiority, Richard shook his hand enthusiastically. Hebden had just squeaked the win.

Here’s the match scorecard:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs. Brighouse
P.Leonard ½ – ½ R.Broadbent (White)
J.Allan 0 – 1 N.Hudson (White)
N.Sykes 1 – 0 P.Whitehouse (White)
R.Bedford ½ – ½ A.Dawson (White)
N.Suttie 1 – 0 T.Pryke (White)
3 – 2

Then, last Wednesday, everyone held their breath to see how the league leaders would get on in their home tie against Belgrave ‘A’. Sadly the result never got posted on the league website as the match was postponed due to an unexpected clash with a Huddersfield League fixture we understand. Hopefully the postponement will soon be re-arranged.

All of this leaves Golden Lion top of the league on board count from Hebden Bridge ‘A’ but Huddersfield ‘A’ lie in third a point behind and with their postponed match still in hand. The lower end of the table has become quite congested following Hebden ‘B’s win at Halifax. Belgrave ‘A’ are on 5 points (with their game in hand) along with Hebden ‘B’. Then come Halifax ‘B’ on 4 points and Halifax ‘A’ on 3. Brighouse seem destined for the drop now as they remain on 0 but the second relegation spot could easily go to any of the others at this stage.

In the game viewer below you’ll find a number of games from round 6. As always, our thanks to the players who collected or sent their games through to us for publication. If anyone else would like to see their league games published here (we’ll publish whatever we receive) then please email your PGN files to hebdenbridgechessclub@gmail.com.

Before we go we should quickly add that the first game in this year’s handicap league took place last Monday too. This saw Belgrave sweep aside Halifax over the boards by a score of 5  –  1, however, such was the rating difference between the two sides that the two draws Halifax managed on boards 1 and 6 were sufficient to see Halifax steal the match 5 – 6 after the handicap bonus was applied!

Finally, this Monday was round 2 of the Calderdale Individual Championship. There will be a report on that here in due course.

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Nov 222017
 
Hebden Bridge 'A' tamed the Golden Lion last week to assert their title credentials.

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ tamed the Golden Lion last week to assert their title credentials.

Last week the fifth round of the Calderdale Evening League 1 took place in venues in Todmorden, Halifax, Brighouse and Huddersfield.

On Monday there was a clash of title contenders as Hebden Bridge ‘A’ travelled to Todmorden for their match with Golden Lion. Meanwhile Halifax ‘A’ drove across town to play Belgrave ‘A’ and Halifax ‘B’ went further afield to play Brighouse. Then on Wednesday Huddersfield ‘A’ hosted Hebden Bridge ‘B’.

The tie of the round was undoubtedly the one between Golden Lion and Hebden Bridge ‘A’ as these two teams plus Huddersfield have set the early pace and look like the strongest teams in the league this season. Last year Hebden made the journey to Todmorden knowing that a win would pretty much guarantee them the title while any other result would hand it to their hosts. In the end it was a humbling experience for Dave Shapland’s men as they went down 4 – 1 suffering three defeats and gaining just two draws.

This time round Captain Pete Leonard had brought an even stronger line up – probably the strongest he could have mustered – in a bid to continue the team’s recovery since they lost at home to Huddersfield in round 3. Matthew Parsons and Andy Bak were two of the losers in last year’s match and they returned on boards 1 and 2 with points to prove. Chris Bak, John Allan and Pete himself made up the rest of the line-up meaning that (for the first time in a very long time – possibly ever!) the whole Hebden line up was rated above 160.

Golden Lion meanwhile were under the charge of Hebden’s captain of last season, Dave Shapland. He didn’t quite have his strongest possible team but it was close. Regulars Martyn Hamer, Phil Cook and Andrew Clarkson were on the top three boards and then Dave played on board 4 and David Innes on board 5. Only on the bottom board, where David was rated 20 points lower than Pete, was there a significant difference in ratings between the two sides.

Playing all boards with the White pieces should confer some sort of advantage but it had not helped Hebden in last season’s failure, this time out they determinedly made it count. The first game to finish was the bottom board where Pete was subjected to a typically ferocious attack from David. However, on this occasion Pete simply took the material he was offered (as he likes to do) and then calmly repelled the threats before going to the counter offensive. Hebden had made a perfect start and for once, the men from the Golden Lion were under pressure.

Things went from bad to worse for the hosts pretty quickly. On board 1 Matthew benefitted when Martyn missed a tactic and found himself a pawn down and with a very uncomfortable position as early as move 16. It was almost a mirror of their encounter last season. Martyn fought on of course but then another nice tactical sequence cost him an exchange after which Matthew was clearly winning and just went on mopping up pawns. At the end Martyn was an exchange and four pawns down and had run out of any chances to trick Matthew so he resigned.

Hebden were 0 – 2 up and by this stage of the evening it looked like it was going to be a total rout. Phil Cook on board two had deployed his Nimzowitsch Defence against Andy Bak but it looked like the opening had gone very badly indeed as Andy had gained a huge space advantage and Phil was hanging on by his finger nails. On Board 3, Chris Bak had also had the better of the opening against Andrew Clarkson and, whilst he wasn’t winning, Andrew was clearly going to have to play well to hold on for a draw. Finally, on board 4, Dave Shapland had also suffered from a weak display in the opening and was a pawn down against John Allan. With Golden Lion now needing to win all three of these games to take the match it was clear that a miracle would be required.

The miracle didn’t come as Andy finished off Phil to seal the match and now it was simply a case of whether or not Chris and John had an appetite to try and grind out victories to rub salt into the wound. It turned out that they didn’t although both did press on for a while. First Dave managed to find a way to activate his pieces and exchange off three sets of minor pieces so that opposite coloured bishops were left on the board. It was clear that, even with the extra pawn, John would probably require Dave to make some more mistakes if he was going to win and, having felt like he’d lost most of his advantage, proposed a draw.

Then on board 3, Chris Bak too acknowledged that Andrew’s stubborn defence had somewhat levelled the playing field. The position was congested and, although he had a space advantage, it was hard to see how Chris could make progress, so he too offered a draw.

This was an outstanding 1 – 4 win for Hebden Bridge against one of their principle rivals for the title. Here is the final match scorecard:

Golden Lion vs. Hebden Bridge ‘A’
M.Hamer 0 – 1 M.Parsons (White)
P.Cook 0 – 1 A.Bak (White)
A.A.Clarkson ½ – ½ C.Bak (White)
D.Shapland ½ – ½ J.Allan (White)
D.Innes 0 – 1 P.Leonard (White)
1 – 4

The other games on Monday night were rather closer matches. Bottom team Brighouse did their very best to scrounge something from their match against Halifax ‘B’ but they were out of luck. The top two boards were drawn and Adrian Dawson managed to overcome Howard Wood on board 3 but then Ronnie Grandage and Tim Pryke lost to Vivienne Webster and Ray Cully respectively as Halifax pinched the match 2 – 3.

Halifax ‘A’ have had a real struggle so far this season but there are signs of a recovery beginning to show as they held Belgrave ‘A’ to a draw by winning tight encounters on the top two boards and drawing with a rating disadvantage on board 4. Only Karim Khans’ win on board 5 against Mac Randhawa and Richard Bowman’s win on board 3 against Carlos Velosa saved the home team from defeat.

This just leaves us to report on the Wednesday night match between Huddersfield and Hebden Bridge ‘B’. This was the home side’s chance to take advantage of Golden Lion’s slip up and go top of the league on their own. However, as it turned out Hebden had other ideas.

Huddersfield have been pretty consistent with their team selection so far this year with Greg Eagleton, Dave Keddie, Steve Westmoreland and Dave Tooley forming the spine of their team. This time Dave Keddie was missing but the other three regulars played on the top three boards and were joined by Andrew Dearnley and David Gray on boards 4 and 5.

Hebden were out-gunned to one extent or another on every board as they brought Neil Suttie, Nick Sykes, Martin Syrett, Andy Leatherbarrow and Paul Gledhill to the fixture. Yet, despite their statistical disadvantage, the visitors caused their hosts a great deal of trouble.

On board one, Greg Eagleton was unable to make anything more than a draw in a cagey encounter with Neil Suttie. As Neil was giving away the biggest rating difference in the tie this was an excellent result for him. There were also draws between the Captains, Steve Westmoreland and Martin Syrett, on board 3 and between the Andrew’s, Dearnley and Leatherbarrow, on board 4.

Paul Gledhill lost out to David Gray on board 5 but Nick Sykes levelled the match by beating Dave Tooley on board 2. It appeared that Dave had the better of the opening phase of the game but he got short of time as he looked for the knock-out blow they may not have been there and over-pressed. In the end he ran out of time in a lost position.

Here is the final match card:

Huddersfield ‘A’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘B’
G.Eagleton ½ – ½ N.Suttie (White)
D.Tooley 0 – 1 N.Sykes (White)
S.Westmoreland ½ – ½ M.Syrett (White)
A.Dearnley ½ – ½ A.Leatherbarrow (White)
D.Gray 1 – 0 P.Gledhill (White)
2½ – 2½

In the end then Huddersfield ‘A’ did go top of the league with this draw. They now have 9 points whilst Golden Lion and Hebden Bridge ‘A’ both have 8. Neverthless, Huddersfield may feel they have failed to fully exploit their advantage as they could have been two points clear at the top and with a far superior board count ahead of their crunch match with Golden Lion just before Christmas. It looks as though that match will now decide who will be top of the league at the half way point in the season. It could still be Hebden ’A’ if those other two draw. Hebden have now played all of their main rivals once and will finish the first half of the season by playing Brighouse and Halifax ‘B’ so they should reach 12 points without any fuss.

At the other end of the table, Brighouse are still rock bottom but, with their fantastic draw at Huddersfield, Hebden ‘B’ have joined Halifax ‘A’ on 3 points and actually have a better board count. Halifax ‘B’ are a point ahead on 4 points and Belgrave ‘A’ are not yet out of the relegation battle completely as they have 5 points. It looks like it will be a tight battle to see who goes down with Brighouse.

Five games from the two Hebden Bridge matches can be found in the viewer below. As always, our thanks go to those who sent in their games or annotated them. The match reports would be so much less interesting without them. If anyone else (from any clubs in Calderdale would like to send in Calderdale League games for publication (annotated or otherwise) please just email your PGN files to hebdenbridgeschessclub@gmail.com

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Nov 032017
 

BouncebackabilityRound 4 of Calderdale League 1 took place on Monday this week and, after a disappointing showing in round 3, both Hebden Bridge ‘A’ and Hebden Bridge ‘B’ were hoping to demonstrate their powers of recovery.

Pete Leonard’s Hebden Bridge ‘A’ team were put to the sword in brutal fashion by Huddersfield ‘A’ in their last match. Now, in a strange quirk of the fixture list this season, they were set to play their fourth consecutive home match of the season – they will in fact play six of their seven matches in the first half of the season at home. This schedule should give all the ‘A’ team members plenty of practice playing with the Black pieces before Christmas!

On Monday night they were up against a resurgent Belgrave ‘A’ side who have bolstered their line up considerably this season with the inclusion of John Morgan and Dave Patrick. The visitors have also shown an impressively consistent line up so far this season using only six players to date. On Monday they brought Ian Hunter, Morgan, Patrick, Malcolm Corbett and Karim Khan to the Trades Club. Pete meanwhile had strengthened his team compared to the one he’d fielded for the Huddersfield defeat. Andy Bak returned to play on board 1 and Nick ‘Syko’ Sykes was back on board 5 after performing strongly on top board for the ‘B’ team in the last two rounds.

As the two teams gathered for the match it was clear that the outcome was completely in the balance. On paper both sides had exactly the same average rating. Would the possession of the White pieces in these circumstances tip the balance in favour of the visitors?

The match turned out to be just as tight as the statistics would have suggested. On board 2, though the Johns Morgan and Allan played out an interesting and intricate dance with John Allan relinquishing a pawn in exchange for active piece play, the game ultimately ended in a draw at the point when it seemed inevitable that Black would win the pawn back.

On board 4, Neil Suttie seemed well set to open Hebden’s account as he got the better of Malcolm Corbett in the opening, winning first one, than a second pawn. However, in reaching out for a third he missed a tactic and had to relinquish a piece. The players reached an endgame in which Malcolm had a rook, bishop and two pawns against Neil’s rook and five pawns. The situation still looked dicey for White but Malcolm managed to stabiles the situation and, finally, they repeated moves and agreed a draw although the engine assesses the final position to be decisively in White’s favour with accurate play.

Andy Bak lost out to Ian Hunter on board 1 but Hebden struck back decisively with wins on boards 3 and 5 to secure the narrowest possible victory. Pete Leonard’s win demonstrated most aptly the natural justice inherent in the game as, having succumbed to an opening trap in horrifying fashion last time out against Huddersfield, he this time sprung a trap of his own to secure a decisive advantage, winning a piece. That he was able to do this against a player as well prepared as Dave Patrick just goes to show that it really can happen to anyone!

Meanwhile on board 5 the Syko was doing his dark work against one of his favourite customers, Karim Khan. Karim tends to play a hybrid Reti-Larsen’s opening system (with 1.Nf3 and 2.b3) when he thinks he’s facing a well booked-up opponent. The approach has worked for him in the past no doubt, but when you are up against someone as well versed in theory as Nick, playing offbeat lines can sometimes back fire. In this instance, even though he’d expected to face 1.e4, Nick wasn’t surprised by Karim’s opening choice and was able to gain a very comfortable position early on in the game as a result.

The middle game developed along purely positional lines and Nick gradually improved his position and simply outplayed Karim who was eventually forced into desperate measures as he gave up a whole rook for just two pawns. The hoped-for initiative never manifested itself and Nick simply handed back an exchange and defused White’s activity to win the game and secure the match for Hebden.

Here is the full match scorecard:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs. Belgrave ‘A’
A.Bak 0 – 1 I.Hunter (White)
J.Allan ½ – ½ J.Morgan (White)
P.Leonard 1 – 0 D.Patrick (White)
N.Suttie ½ – ½ M.Corbett (White)
N.Sykes 1 – 0 K.Khan (White)
3 – 2

This excellent win put’s Hebden Bridge ‘A’ on three wins out of four. They are still most definitely in the title chase and will next play away at Golden Lion in Todmorden on the 13th of November.

Now to Martin Syrett’s Hebden Bridge ‘B’ team who, despite putting up good resistance in all three of their matches before this one, had failed to score a match point. They too were playing at home on Monday night against fellow back-markers Brighouse. This match represented Hebden’s best opportunity yet to get off the mark.

Brighouse brought pretty much their strongest line up of the season for a match that was vitally important for them too. On board 1 was Robert Broadbent, a player able to take on anyone in the league. Then came Nick Hudson, playing his first game of the season on board 2, Captain Paul Whitehouse on board 3 and Adrian Dawson and Tim Pryke on boards 4 and 5. To meet this team Martin fielded Andy Leatherbarrow, himself, Paul Gledhill, Neil Bamford and Terry Sullivan. With rating advantages on board 2, 3 and 5 and an evenly matched encounter in prospect on board 4, it looked like Hebden might have the edge.

Of course rarely do all the games in a match go according to the ratings. Such was the way of things in this one as Andy Leatherbarrow succeeded in drawing with Black against Robert Broadbent on board 1 despite giving away more than 25 rating points.

It was on the middle boards, where the games were most closely matched, that Hebden did their damage. Neil Bamford dispatched Adrian Dawson on board 4 and on board 3, new player Paul Gledhill took down Paul Whitehouse’s London System in confident fashion. He played sensibly until Paul misjudged a tactic that cost him a piece. The rest was pretty straight forward.

Finally, Captain Syrett won a nice game on board 2. For once it was his turn to face a gambit line as Nick Hudson met his Sicilian Defence with the Smith-Morra Gambit. It’s not in Martin’s nature to play passively to hang on to material and so he didn’t as he prioritized development and placed his pieces on active squares. He also hung onto the gambit pawn with the only cost being that his king remained in the centre of the board uncastled for a pretty long time. It turned out to be the safest place for it as Paul allowed Martin to exchange bishop for knight on g4 and opened the g-file by re-capturing with his g-pawn.

Martin continued to prioritise piece activity until move 22 when he finally decided it was safe for him to castle king’s side. By this time he had a strong positional advantage as well as an extra pawn. Finally, it was Martin and not Nick who got an unstoppable king’s side attack as he pushed his pawns with his opponent pretty much a passive by-stander. At the end Martin broke through decisively with his queen to finish the game in his favour. This gave Hebden ‘B’ their first win of the season.

Here is the scorecard:

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ vs. Brighouse
A.Leatherbarrow ½ – ½ R.Broadbent (White)
M.Syrett 1 – 0 N.Hudson (White)
P.Gledhill 1 – 0 P.Whitehouse (White)
N.Bamford 1 – 0 A.Dawson (White)
T.Sullivan 0 – 1 T.Pryke (White)
3½ – 1½

So, with both Hebden teams showing their ‘bouncebackability’ and keeping their respective hopes for the title and avoiding the drop alive, heads now turned to Halifax chess club where the other four teams in League 1 were gathered.

Halifax ‘A’ took on Huddersfield ‘A’ and Halifax ‘B’ welcomed Golden Lion. Both visiting sides were the only ones left undefeated in the league at the start of the night and, by the end of the evening, they both still were.

Huddersfield ‘A’ are perennial challenges for the title. In recent years though they have failed to get their strongest line up out consistently across the whole season. So far this time they have gotten stronger and stronger. Having defeated Hebden Bridge ‘A’ last time out now they were out to add Halifax ‘A’ to their list of victims and they fielded Greg Eagleton, Mitchell Burke and Dave Keddie together for the first time this season to help them do it.

In fact, in the end it was made to look easy as Greg beat Bill Somerset, Mitchell beat Richard Porter and Dave beat Carlos Velosa. Dave Tooley then beat Sam Scurfield and Steve Westmoreland took down Mac Randhawa to record the League’s first whitewash of the season.

Golden Lion meanwhile were given a head start as, for the second match in a row, their opponents defaulted a board to them. It could have been another overwhelming victory at the Lee Mount Club but in the end the visitors made hard work of it as they lost their first board of the season on board 5 where Marc Turu had a perfectly viable position against Ray Cully only to blunder to instant defeat.

The visitors did manage to win the remaining three games but they certainly didn’t have everything their own way. On board 2 Phil Cook was forced to toil and grind late into the evening against Scott Gornall before he finally converted a rook and pawn ending where he had an extra pawn. On board 3, Andrew Clarkson defeated Howard Wood quickly but realized the outcome could have been different if Howard had spotted a tricky defence that could have netted him a piece.

Finally, Dave Shapland won a piece very early in his game against Vivienne Webster but then played too casually and lost it back before going on to win the game for a second time in a tough knight, rook and pawns endgame when Vivienne got her knight trapped in enemy territory. The final score was 1 – 4.

All of this means that Golden Lion stay on top of the league table by just half a board point over Huddersfield ‘A’. Both have 8 points. Hebden Bridge ‘A’ are in third place with 6 points, Belgrave ‘A’ have 4 and then Halifax ‘A’, Halifax ‘B’ and Hebden Bridge ‘B’ all have 2, while Brighouse stay rooted to the foot of the table and have yet to score.

A number of games from this week’s fixtures can be found in the game viewer below. Thanks again to Nick Sykes for collecting and transcribing many of them for publication.

Next week sees the start of the 2017-18 edition of the Calderdale Individual Chess Championship. As in recent years, all rounds will take place at the Trades Club on the first Monday of the months of November, December, January, February and March. John Kerrane is the tournament organiser. If you haven’t yet entered and you would like to please call (01422 842 426) or email (kerranerie@btinternet.com) John before the end of the day on Sunday 5th of November.

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Oct 262017
 
All three Hebden Bridge teams crashed to defeat on a bad night at the Trades Club last Monday. Image used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from bleggg's Flickr photo stream.

All three Hebden Bridge teams crashed to defeat on a bad night at the Trades Club last Monday. Image used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from bleggg’s Flickr photo stream.

On Monday last week all three Hebden Bridge teams took to their boards at the Trades Club as the ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams played their third round League 1 fixtures (against Huddersfield ‘A’ and Halifax ‘A’ respectively) and the ‘C’ team played their third round fixture against Halifax ‘D’ a week early.

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ had started the season with a couple of wins and now faced stern opposition in the form of Huddersfield ‘A’ who had also started the season in perfect fashion. Usually, matches between Hebden and Huddersfield are super-tense and tight affairs but on this occasion Huddersfield rather cruised to victory by a margin that doesn’t really do justice to the close nature of the games.

Sadly the tone was set by ‘A’ team captain Pete Leonard who fell into an opening trap against Dave Keddie and was compelled to resign in just 10 moves as he was a piece down with no compensation. At least he retained his perspective on the loss and remained sanguine. He has even annotated the game for us in the game viewer at the end of his post. We have indeed, all been there at some point. Your correspondent blundered a mate in one earlier this season.

The night didn’t get much better. John Allan went down to Mitchell Burke on board 1. He seemed to have built himself a decent position and, according to the kibitzers, may even have overlooked some chances to press for victory. But in the end Mitchell found a way to win as he so often does from difficult positions.

Sam Swain and Neil Suttie on boards 3 and 4 also went down against Steve Westmorland and Dave Tooley respectively. Sam never really managed to equalise against Steve’s English Opening and Neil suffered when he initiated sharp play by castling on the opposite wing to Dave but found that White’s attack was fastest.

This just left Richard Bedford to salvage some pride for the home team by despatching Robert Sutcliffe with one of his trade mark off-beat opening lines, the Black Knight’s Tango. It’s a line ‘Beaky’ is an expert in and it showed as Robert struggled to get to grips with it and was defeated.

The final match score card made for grim reading for Hebden:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs. Huddersfield ‘A’
J.Allan 0 – 1 M.Burke (White)
P.Leonard 0 – 1 D.Keddie (White)
S.Swain 0 – 1 S.Westmoreland (White)
N.Suttie 0 – 1 D.Tooley (White)
R.Bedford 1 – 0 R.Sutcliffe (White)
1 – 4

Across the room Hebden Bridge ‘B’ did rather better but still came up short in a very close match with Halifax ‘A’ who had beeby Hebden ‘A’ in the previous round and by their own ‘B’ team in round 1. They desperately need to get off the mark and they did, but only just.

Top board for the visitors was Bill Somerset and he took on Nick Sykes. This was a highly theoretical and classically set game in a Queen’s Gambit Declined. Nick equalised comfortably and the players agreed to halve the point fairly early in the game which was a great outcome for the home team as Bill is rated 30 points higher than Nick who secured a second draw against very strong opposition in two matches.

There were also draws on board 3, 4 and 5 for Andy Leatherbarrow against Carlos Velosa, John Kerrane against Sam Scurfield and Neil Bamford against David Loughenbury. John and Neil also gave away serious rating differences and Andy and Carlos were rated almost exactly the same. This represented a great battling display by the ‘B’ team.

But unfortunately their night was also due to end in disappointment as the last board to finish saw Richard Porter overcome Martin Syrett in a battle of the captains. Martin gained the exchange but afterwards his position seemed more difficult to play and eventually he felt compelled to give back a bishop to secure a dangerous passed pawn. Richard found a solution to the problems he had been set however and managed to convert his material advantage to a full point to seal Halifax’s first win of the season.

Here is the full match scorecard:

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ vs. Halifax ‘A’
N.Sykes ½ – ½ W.Somerset (White)
M.Syrett 0 – 1 R.Porter (White)
A.Leatherbarrow ½ – ½ C.Velosa (White)
J.Kerrane ½ – ½ S.Scurfield (White)
N.Bamford ½ – ½ D.Loughenbury (White)
2 – 3

Here's an arresting position from the game between Robert Broadbent (Brighouse) and Phil Cook (Golden Lion). White has just played 39.Bh5+. Look at the fully-loaded fifth rank! The game ended in a draw and you can see it all in the game viewer at the end of this post.

Here’s an arresting position from the game between Robert Broadbent (Brighouse) and Phil Cook (Golden Lion). White has just played 39.Bh5+. Look at the fully-loaded fifth rank! The game ended in a draw and you can see it all in the game viewer at the end of this post.

Elsewhere in League 1, Golden Lion continued their perfect start to the season by demolishing 4-man Brighouse ½ – 4½. The game of the night here was undoubtedly Robert Broadbent and Phil Cook’s draw which was a keenly contested encounter with Robert showing great determination and creativity to press hard for a win only to find that Phil was equal to the task as he just managed to hang on. It was one of those games that looked like White should win but in practice finding the solution was difficult and in the end, with his clock running down, Robert decided he should at least salvage a half-point for his team.

The other three games in this match saw relatively straightforward victories for Andrew Clarkson against Paul Whitehouse, Dave Shapland against Adrian Dawson and new team member Marc Turu against Tim Pryke.

Finally, Belgrave ‘A’ defeated Halifax ‘B’ to stay in contention for the title race. The damage was done here by Dave Patrick and Richard Bowman on board 2 and 3 as they saw off Scott Gornall and Howard Wood. The other games saw the Halifax ‘B’ players make very creditable draws against higher rated opponents to limit the margin of victory to 3½ – 1½.

These results mean that Golden Lion and Huddersfield ‘A’ are now at the top of the league with 6 points. Hebden Bridge ‘A’ and Belgrave ‘A’ have 4, Halifax ‘A’ and Halifax ‘B’ have 2 and Brighouse and Hebden Bridge ‘B’ are still on 0.
I mentioned at the beginning of the article that Hebden Bridge ‘C’ also played a match at the Trades Club. This was scheduled a week early to allow John Kerrane to organise the junior squad before going away on holiday this week. Halifax ‘D’ are, on paper, the team that the juniors should have in their sights as potential victims and indeed they did fair better than they had in their first two matches although they still went down in the end.

On board 1 the token ‘non-junior’, J.P. Ellis held Glen Roper to a draw while on board 2, Toby Dodd scored the ‘C’ team’s first board win of the season by defeating John Nicholson. Luca Curry, Martha Leggett and Alfie Dermo were all defeated. Here is the match scorecard:

Hebden Bridge ‘C’ vs. Halifax ‘D’
J.P.Ellis ½ – ½ G.Roper (White)
T.Dodd 1 – 0 J.Nicholson (White)
L.Curry 0 – 1 D.Rowley (White)
M.Leggett 0 – 1 E.Fynn (White)
A.Dermo 0 – 1 P.Stowe (White)
1½ – 3½

The other two matches in League 2 were played on Monday this week and saw Belgrave ‘B’ defeat Belgrave ‘C’ by 3½ – 1½ and Huddersfield ‘B’ thrashed Halifax ‘C’ 4 – 1 with a result that sees them go top of the league on their own as the only side with a perfect record. They are followed by Belgrave ‘B’ and Belgrave ‘C’ who both have 4 points, Halifax ‘C’ and Halifax ‘D’ who both have 2 points, and, at the bottom, Hebden ‘D’ who have at least managed to win their first game of the season. Maybe that will inspire the youngsters to greater heights and more rewards for their efforts.

You’ll find a good number of the games from last week in the game viewer below. Thanks to Nick Sykes for collecting and transcribing these for this report.

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Oct 162017
 
White to play from Velosa vs. Swain (Hebden Bridge 'A' vs Halifax 'A') Black has grabbed a hot pawn. Can you see how White took advantage to press home the attack? Answer in the game viewer at the end of this post.

White to play from Velosa vs. Swain (Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs Halifax ‘A’) Black has grabbed a hot pawn. Can you see how White took advantage to press home the attack? Answer in the game viewer at the end of this post.

Both Calderdale Evening Chess Leagues have now played two rounds of fixtures, so we’ve plenty of action to catch up on in this post.

League 1

Let’s catch up on round 2 of League 1 first of all. Most of the fixtures took place on Monday 2nd of October with Golden Lion’s first home fixture against Hebden Bridge ‘B’ postponed until Monday the 9th.

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ took on Halifax ‘A’ at home in their second match of the season. In recent years these two sides have fought out some epic encounters full of twists and turns and almost always very tight indeed. Hebden had the better of things last season but for this fixture both sides sported line ups that looked very different to the corresponding fixture last season.

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ had fielded Messrs Parsons, A.Bak, C.Bak, Shapland and Leonard on the 3rd of April when they edged a tight match 3 – 2. This time out the side was Andy Bak, John Allan, Sam Swain, Neil Suttie and Richard ‘Beaky’ Bedford. Team Captain Pete Leonard was away and stand-in Captain, Nick Sykes, elected to play his strongest five available players which meant no place for him in the line up.

Halifax ‘A’ also had four different players to the April match. Last season they had Winston Williams, Darwin Ursal, John Morgan, Richard Porter and Sam Scurfield. This time out it was Bill Somerset, Richard Porter, Carlos Velosa, David Loughenbury and Barry Wadsworth. With this line up the visitors were out-graded on every board to a greater or lesser extent. On paper it looked it should have been easy for Hebden but it turned out to be anything but.

On Board 1 Andy Bak and Bill Somerset continued their theoretical discussion of the Semi-Slav (this time the Anti-Moscow Variation as opposed to the Botvinnik Variation). This opening lends itself to mind boggling complications and generally both sides make inaccurate moves. On this occasion it was Andy with Black who came out on top.

Board 2 saw Richard Porter play the London System against John Allan. John’s had plenty of practice of playing against this system from his recent games against Matthew Parsons and Richard didn’t play the most ambitious lines. Never the less the game did get pretty complicated. However, with plenty of life still in the position, the players agreed to a draw on move 25.

Halifax struck back on board 3 where Carlos Velosa was up to his old tricks with Bird’s Opening (1.f4). Sam Swain handled the unorthodox opening system perfectly well but Carlos is a dangerous tactician and, when Sam grabbed a hot pawn on move 26, Carlos seized the opportunity and found a pretty forcing sequence (see the puzzle at the top of the post). Sam missed the point and resigned when he saw mate in two coming.

Loughenbury versus Suttie on board 4 was another London System. Here too Black seemed to equalise fairly easily and the game simplified quickly to a double rook, knight and six pawns each endgame. The players decided as early as move 22 that the position was sterile and shook hands. Of course the engine has an opinion of its own and suggests White was better with potential to play against a vulnerable Black a-pawn.

This meant that the match was decided on board 5 where Hebden had the largest rating advantage of any of the encounters. However, Richard Bedford had toiled with the Black pieces to take down Barry Wadsworth in round 2 of last year’s Calderdale Individual Championship so the conclusion was by no means forgone. On this occasion however, Beaky made lighter work of the task when, in the middle game he managed to create and exploit a pin on the d-file. Barry had a fleeting opportunity to release the pin on move 26 when Bc5 or Bd4 (see the game in the viewer at the end of this post) may have enabled him to hang on. But after the game move 26.Re3 and, soon after, the critical mistake 28.h4? he first lost a piece and then his queen with check mate to follow shortly.

Thus did Hebden manage to win a tight match 3 – 2. Bizarrely they have been scheduled to play 6 out of the first 7 matches this season at home (!!) which means they are going to get some practice with the Black pieces and may be able to make a strong surge when the have the reverse fixtures after Christmas.

Here is the final match scorecard against Halifax:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs. Halifax ‘A’
A.Bak 1 – 0 W.Somerset (White)
J.Allan ½ – ½ R.Porter (White)
S.Swain 0 – 1 C.Velosa (White)
N.Suttie ½ – ½ D.Loughenbury (White)
R.Bedford 1 – 0 B.Wadsworth (White)
3 – 2

On the same evening Belgrave ‘A’ bounced back from their opening fixture defeat against Golden Lion to thrash Brighouse ½ – 4½. The home side were without their top board Robert Broadbent and this exposed the rest of the squad. Only the Brighouse Captain, Paul Whitehouse, saved a walk over for the visitors when he held John Morgan to a draw on board 2 – a highly creditable outcome considering the rating difference of almost 60 points.

Then, on Wednesday last week, Huddersfield ‘A’ took on Halifax ‘B’ who had surprisingly opened their account by beating their own ‘A’ team in the first fixture. Huddersfield defaulted their third board and Ray Cully held Steve Westmoreland to a draw on board 5 but the other three games went the way of the home side as Huddersfield won 3½ – 1½.

To complete the second round of fixtures, Golden Lion and Hebden Bridge ‘B’ played their match this last Monday, the first at the eponymous venue of the home side. It must be said that not everything went perfectly smoothly (the venue was noisy) but the necessary steps have already been taken to ensure better conditions for future matches and five new visitors to the league turned up for some social chess which was very encouraging.

The match itself swung the way of the home side all too quickly. On board two Hebden’s Andy Leatherbarrow blundered a piece early in the game and, although he battled on for some time after that, the outcome was never in doubt and Andrew Clarkson converted to the full point.

By this time though the match was already in the bag. Dave Shapland beat Neil Bamford on board 3 in the first match to finish as Neil got his pieces into a tangle, gave up the exchange for a pawn to try and sort himself out only to drop a piece to a tactic shortly after.

On board 4 the manner of victory was rather different as Golden Lion’s David Innes ground down Terry Sullivan finally swapping down to a king and pawn ending where he had an extra pawn and a sure win. Terry resigned rather than suffer further.

Finally, on board 5, Golden Lion’s new recruit Peter Dickinson played a complicated draw out against Paul Gledhill. There was plenty of complexity and excitement in this one but in the end the players decided to agree peace terms with the situation at the board still rather unclear.

With the match now decided Hebden’s Nick Sykes was able to offer a draw to Martyn Hamer in the confidence that he was at least no worse and possibly even slightly better against his much higher rated opponent. Certainly Martyn was happy enough to grant the request given that trying for anything more would have involved a good deal of risk and a very long and drawn out evening’s effort to boot.

The final match scorecard looked like this:

Golden Lion vs. Hebden Bridge ‘B’
M.Hamer ½ – ½ N.Sykes (White)
A.A.Clarkson 1 – 0 A.Leatherbarrow (White)
D.Shapland 1 – 0 N.Bamford (White)
D.Innes 1 – 0 T.Sullivan (White)
P.Dickinson ½ – ½ P.Gledhill (White)
4 – 1

With all teams now having played two matches, Golden Lion top the table with 4 match points and 7½ board points. Hebden Bridge ‘A’ are in second place with the same match points and 7 board points and Huddersfield are in third, also with two wins from two matches but 6½ match points. Belgrave ‘A’ and Halifax ‘B’ have one win and one defeat to their names and at the bottom, Brighouse, Hebden Bridge ‘B’ and, surprisingly Halifax ‘A’, are yet to score any points.

In round 3 next (matches played tonight) both Hebden Bridge teams will be at home with Hebden Bridge ‘A’ playing Huddersfield ‘A’ and Hebden Bridge ‘B’ hosting Halifax ‘A’. These should be fascinating match ups. Elsewhere Golden Lion host Brighouse and Belgrave ‘A’ will play Halifax ‘B’.

League 2

John Kerrane’s (predominantly junior) Hebden Bridge ‘C’ team played their first round match on the 25th of September and their second round match last Monday.

In round 1 they faced Belgrave’s new ‘C’ team outfit. Unfortunately, Hebden were missing one of their youngsters when Martha Leggett had to take an emergency trip to the dentist at the last minute. The largely junior line up was up against it any way as Belgrave fielded an experienced side who were more than a match for the hosts on this occasion.

Here’s the match scorecard:

Hebden Bridge ‘C’ vs. Belgrave ‘C’
J.Kerrane ½ – ½ D.Colledge (White)
L.Curry 0 – 1 A.Gonzales (White)
T.Dodd 0 – 1 S.Harrington (White)
G.Hughes 0 – 1 P.Jacobs (White)
Default 0 – 1 R.Bottomley (White)
½ – 4½

Then, last week, Hebden fielded a similar line-up against Belgrave’s ‘B’ team (this match was an away fixture but Belgrave had kindly agreed to play it at the Trades Club so that transportation for the juniors was not a difficulty. This time the juniors faced a side that in no small part reflected the line up of the Belgrave ‘A’ team that had participated in League 1 a few years ago. Once again Hebden managed just a single draw and this time it was provided by one of Todmorden’s refugees welcomed into the club to play in League 2 – J.P Ellis who scored a very fine draw with Gordon Farrar on board 1.

Here is the full score card:

Belgrave ‘B’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘C’
G.Farrar ½ – ½ J.P.Ellis (White)
M.Barnett 1 – 0 T.Dodd (White)
L.Johnson 1 – 0 L.Curry (White)
P.Edwards 1 – 0 J.S Hadari (White)
C.Edwards 1 – 0 B.J.S Hadari (White)
4½ – ½

All of this means that Hebden ‘C’ are still awaiting their first win of the season. Maybe it will be ‘third time lucky’ as they take on Halifax ‘D’ at the Trades Club this evening (this match is being played a week ahead of schedule).

In League 2, Belgrave ‘C’ and Huddersfield ‘B’ top the table with two wins out of two. Halifax ‘C’ and Belgrave ‘B’ have one win each and Hebden and Halifax ‘D’ are yet to score.

You’ll find a number of recent games in the game viewer below. Our thanks to Nick Sykes for collecting and transcribing the Hebden Bridge games.

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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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