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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The individual results were:

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

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

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


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

Round 11

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

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

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

Round 12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the final match scorecard:

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

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

Round 13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Mar 172017
 
Cook vs. Parsons. This was the final position from the last game to finish in this year's championship. White can put off the inevitable by sacrificing the exchange on d5 but Black will still be winning.

Cook vs. Parsons. This was the final position from the last game to finish in this year’s championship. White can put off the inevitable by sacrificing the exchange on d5 but Black will still be winning. Phil therefore resigned here leaving 5 players on 4 points with tie-break deciding the champion for the second year running

Another edition of the Calderdale Individual Chess Championship came to a close last Monday at the Trades Club. It’s been a fascinating competition this year with a number of the top seeds dropping draws and even stumbling to defeat in a couple of cases in the early rounds of the competition. That essentially cleared the way for the fourth seed, Phil Cook of Todmorden, to reach 4/4 after three consecutive wins against players from Hebden Bridge: Martin Syrett in Round 2, Nick Sykes in Round 3 and Dave Shapland in Round 4.

In the meantime some of the other leading players had been trying to make up ground on the leader but had been foiled by his continuing string of victories. Top seed and three-time champion, Matthew Parsons (Hebden Bridge) had overcome fifth seed John Allan (Hebden Bridge) and then drawn with sixth seed Ian Hunter (Belgrave) to stay within touching distance of the run-away leader and would now finally have the opportunity to catch him in the final round if he could beat him with the Black pieces to order. Failing to win would guarantee that Cook would win the trophy and even a defeat for the Todmorden player could still see him through on a tie-break if one or more of the other players besides Matthew Parsons reached 4 points as well.

If the top board game promised to be the most interesting game of the evening from the perspective of the final standings then some of the subsequent boards also promised some entertaining action. On board two ninth seed Pete Leonard (Hebden Bridge) had recovered from his surprise defeat in round 1 to beat the second seed and reigning champions Greg Eagleton (Huddersfield) in the fourth round. His reward was another tough assignment with the Black pieces against the undefeated Ian Hunter. On board 3 an all Hebden Bridge encounter between too of Phil Cook’s victims, Martin Syrett and Dave Shapland, promised to be an ‘uninhibited’ toe-to-toe encounter.

After that the draw was, unfortunately, adversely effected by a spate of final round withdrawals – which these days seem to be a disappointing inevitability in this competition. Greg Eagleton withdrew before the final round and his Huddersfield club colleague Mitchell Burke also failed to show up when he was due to play Richard Bedford (Todmorden), another of the players on 3 points.

There were a number of other match ups that promised some interesting and closely fought battles. On board 5 John Allan was paired against Steve Harrington (Belgrave) who had performed admirably to reach 2½/4. Allan played patiently in the opening against his opponent’s Accellerated Dragon variation of the Sicilian Defence. Exploiting some inaccurate play he won first one and then a second pawn to accumulate an overwhelming endgame advantage. This meant John finished on a respectable 3½/5 having drawn with Mike Barnett (Belgrave) in round 2 and been defeated by Matthew Parsons in round 3.

On board 6 Mike Barnett and Scott Gornall (Halifax) looked on paper like they would be very evenly matched and so it proved as they played on into an end game but neither player could secure an advantage and they each drew their second game of the competition to finish on 3 points.

Board 7 saw Andy Leatherbarrow (Hebden Bridge) face the seventh seed, Richard Porter (Halifax). It was Leatherbarrow who had ensured the top seed’s tournament had gotten off to a slow start when he held Matthew Parsons to a draw in round 1. He’d beaten a lower ranked player in round 2 but had then stalled somewhat himself with a half point bye in round three and a draw with Nick Sykes (Hebden Bridge) in round 4. Richard’s tournament meanwhile had been rather more topsy-turvey after he suffered a big upset at the hands of club colleague Pete Moss in round 1 and then lost another game to a lower ranked player, Martin Syrett, in round 4.

It looked like it would be another very stiff test for the Halifax player and indeed in the early stages of the game Andy played sensible, solid chess and slowly built up a small advantage. At move 22 White still stood better but then it looked like Andy followed the wrong plan by advancing his h-pawn and in a couple of moves the advantage swung to his opponent who was able to see out the win and finish on 3 points.

On the lower boards there was still something to play for in the form of grading prizes and the Hebden Bridge junior contingent were battling it out for their prize as well.

On board 8 Pete Moss (Halifax) rounded off a fine tournament for him by beating Vivienne Webster (Halifax) with the Black pieces to reach 3 points. Barry Wadsworth and Daniel Rivron (both Halifax) fought each other to a stand-still to finish on 50% and Robert Sutcliffe (Huddersfield) defeated Bill Joyce (Todmorden).

Bedford vs. Dawson. White to play. He has a very promising intiative. how should he proceed? See how many of the subsequent lines you can calculate after finding White's next move.

Bedford vs. Dawson. White to play. Richard has a very promising initiative here. How should he proceed? See how many of the subsequent lines you can calculate after finding White’s next move.

The juniors were playing against each other on the bottom boards. Gwilym Hughes scored his second win of the competition against Alfie Dermo and in a battle of the siblings Joel Hadari managed to beat his sister Juliet for his first point in the competition. Martha Leggett was unlucky once again as her opponent didn’t appear and there was no-one to pair here against. She’s picked up two defaults in this fashion which is a shame.

That just leaves us with the business end of proceedings to cover off. On board 4 Richard Bedford (Todmorden) was the first of the players in with a chance of pulling level with Phil should he be defeated. He had been due to face Mitchell Burke (Hudderfield) but when Mitchell didn’t make an appearance he was re-paired with Adrian Dawson (Belgrave). That should have been an easier proposition for Richard and so it turned out to be as he played, with White, a nice Anti-Grunfeld where the players castled on opposite sides of the board. Richard’s attack was always looking quicker however and he broke through to give checkmate with some pleasing pyrotechnics. This made him the second player (after Phil) to reach 4 points.

Syrett vs. Shapland. Martin Syrett has two pawns for the exchange having just traded queens on e8. How should Black now proceed and what should the result be with best play? Find out the answer in the game viewer at the end of this post.

Syrett vs. Shapland. Martin Syrett has two pawns for the exchange having just traded queens on e8. How should Black now proceed and what should the result be with best play? Find out the answer in the game viewer at the end of this post.

On board 3, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ and ‘B’ team captains, Dave Shapland and Martin Syrett were also battling it out to reach 4. These two are uncompromising characters at the board and their games are usually full of fight and attack. This game, full of ebb and flow, did not disappoint on that score. Dave chose to play the French Defence as a surprise weapon and Martin soon veered from the most well-trodden paths of the Tarrasch Variation to ensure the game would reach an original position early on.

Dave got himself in a tangle and soon it looked like Martin had managed to stir up an overwhelming attack. However, the Black position proved to be more resilient than it appeared and Dave was able to repulse the White pieces and launch a counter offensive. This in turn looked dangerous and provoked Martin to sacrifice an exchange for two pawns and the initiative.

With Dave’s king bobbing about in the open and Martin’s rook and queen infiltrating the Black camp it seemed Martin might have at least enough for a draw but then, late on in the evening, with both players weary from an exhausting battle, Martin chose to exchange queens not seeing that the resultant ending of bishop and five pawns versus rook and three pawns was losing for him almost immediately via a tactical trick. Dave has had a number of lucky escapes against lower rated opponents in this year’s competition but nevertheless managed to reach 4 points.

Hunter vs Leonard. Black has just played 44...f4? which unfortunately allows an attractive check mate. How long will it take you to spot it?

Hunter vs Leonard. Black has just played 44…f4? which unfortunately allows an attractive check mate. How long will it take you to spot it?

On board 2 Ian Hunter and Pete Leonard also played a very interesting and complicated game which saw Pete playing his habitual choice against the English opening 1…b6. The game then looks like it transposed in to something akin to a Catalan. Pete, like Dave, has provided extensive annotations of this game in the viewer at the end of this report and the game is well worth playing through as both players fought in uncompromising fashion for an unbalanced position that would be most likely to produce a decisive result.

At one point Pete seemed to have the advantage and Ian offered an exchange sacrifice to try and stay afloat. Pete declined it, preferring instead to lock his bishop in on b2 with his advanced a-pawn providing support. Soon after that though, as Pete admitted himself, he started to lose his way and when he declined two subsequent pawn offers by Ian, White seized the advantage by sacrificing his queen for a rook and bishop!

The subsequent play was highly complicated with Ian holding passed b and c-pawns as part of his perfectly adequate compensation for the material. Both players went astray at times in the murk that followed but it was Ian who ended up on the winning side after Pete wandered his king into an attractive mating net. With this Ian became the fourth player to reach 4 points.

All of this now meant that the battle on board 1 was irrelevant as far as deciding the destiny of the title was concerned. Phil’s ‘sum of consecutive scores’ tie break was already better than Ian, Dave or Richard’s and would also be better than Matthew’s even if he lost. Never the less, Matthew showed great fighting spirit to play for victory with Black in a game he had to try and win even though he knew even that would probably not be enough to re-take the title he last won in 2015.

Purely from an accuracy perspective, this final game of the competition was probably one of the best played in all 5 rounds. It certainly compares well with Matthew’s fine win with the Black pieces against John Allan in round 3. Once again he played it patiently and slowly took advantage of Phil’s natural desire to play it safe in a game that he only needed to draw. Even in the game notes that he has provided Matthew finds it hard to pinpoint exactly where Phil went wrong as he slow neutralised any White winning chances and then went onto the offensive.

In the end game only Black had winning chances and Matthew patiently manoeuvred his pieces, including his king to their optimum squares and then prepared a pawn break through on the queen’s side. At the end Phil could have sacrificed the exchange to limp on but it was evident that would only prolong his agony and by that stage of the evening it was evident he had won the championship in any case.

The final results show a 5-way tie for first but with Phil Cook champion on the ‘sum of progressive scores’ tie-break. Congratulations to Phil on his maiden Calderdale Individual title. Dave Shapland finished second. Ian Hunter and Matthew Parsons were the only two unbeaten players in the competition but they did each draw twice. Ian at least had the consolation of a grading prize. Matthew had to content himself with having played the best chess in the tournament and having had the toughest schedule as he beat both John Allan and Phil Cook and draw with Ian. These three players were seeded 6, 5 and 4 respectively.

The fifth player to score 4 points was Richard Bedford. He was also the lowest rated to reach this score which was a highly creditable outcome. Unfortunately, he just missed out on a grading prize as he was in the same banding as Ian who edged him on tie-break.

The other grading prizes were won by Mike Barnett, Pete Moss and Gwilym Hughes. Martha Leggett took the junior prize.

A full list of the final scores is given below:

4 points = P.Cook (1st), D.Shapland (2nd), M.Parsons, I.Hunter (Grading prize), R.Bedford
3½ points = J.Allan
3 points = R.Porter, P.Leonard, M.Syrett, S.Gornall, M.Barnett (Grading prize), P.Moss (Grading prize), M.Leggett (Junior prize)
= G.Eagleton, M.Burke, N.Sykes, A.Leatherbarrow, D.Rivron, B.Wadsworth, S.Harrington
2 = J.Lavan, R.Sutcliffe, V.Webster, N.Bamford, A.Dawson, G.Hughes
= A.Gonzalez, L.Curry, T.Dodd
1 = B.Joyce, J.Y.Hadari, B.J.S.Hadari
½ = M.J.Tait
0 = A.Dermo

Withdrew = J.Brooke, T.Sullivan, M.O’Keefe

A selection of games from the final round can be found in the game viewer below. The top three games all come with commentary from Matthew Parsons, Pete Leonard and Dave Shapland respectively.

All that remains is for us to express our gratitude to the tournament organizer and controller, John Kerrane who once again presided over a well-attended and smoothly run competition.

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Mar 052017
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Feb 132017
 
The last man standing this year is Phil Cook of Todmorden. But there is still one last round to go. Can he remain undefeated to become the new champion of Calderdale?

The last man standing this year is Phil Cook of Todmorden. But there is still one final round to go. Can he remain undefeated to become the new champion of Calderdale?

Last Monday night saw an enthralling and exciting fourth round of the Calderdale Individual Chess Championship unfold at the Trades Club. Previous rounds and seen a number of surprising results which had led to some of the top seeds falling half a point behind the pace setters, fourth seed Phil Cook (Todmorden) and eighth seed Dave Shapland (Hebden Bridge) who started round four as the only two players on a perfect 3/3.

With these two destined to face each other on the top board it was vital that those trailing just behind on 2½ succeeded in winning so they could keep pace or possibly catch up with the two leaders should they draw. That would be no easy task for now the best players in the competition would start to get drawn against each other. On board two, top seed and triple champion from 2013-2015, Matthew Parsons (Hebden Bridge) would take on fifth seed Ian Hunter (Belgrave) and on board three reigning champion Greg Eagleton (Huddersfield) would play Pete Leonard (Hebden Bridge) who was the unlucky player on two who was destined to ‘float up’ when Mitchell Burke (who was also on 2½) withdrew from the competition.

But whilst these battles on the top three boards could prove decisive in shaping the destination of the 2016-17 title, there were some equally juicy looking match ups just below them. On board 4 Richard Porter (Halifax) took on Martin Syrett (Hebden Bridge) and then club colleagues Nick Sykes and Andy Leatherbarrow (both Hebden Bridge) faced off before the last two players on 2 points Richard Bedford (Todmorden) and Pete Moss (Halifax) also looked like an interesting battle.

Very often on these important and tense occasions, strong players can tend to cancel each other out and take a ‘safety first’ approach to their games. However, on this occasion the circumstances of the tournament situation really encouraged the players to take some risks and play for the full point. This resulted in some highly interesting and full-blooded contests.

On board 1, Dave Shapland, playing White took precautions to try and ensure he kept winning chances in his game as he knew that he would have to Black in the final round against a top player and felt he needed the largest points buffer he could muster to have any hope of winning the competition. For the third game in a row his opponent played 1…Nc6 against his 1.e4 opening move. In the two previous encounters he had chosen to transpose into a solid variation of the Two Knight Defence and had got nothing at all from the opening phase even though he’d scored a point and a half from them. This time, he opted for the Scotch Game which had the added benefit of taking his opponent by surprise.

If Dave had intended to keep the tension in the game with his opening choice then he certainly succeeded in doing that. Phil sensibly opted for a less well known variation beginning with 6…Qg6!? Now both players were already in unfamiliar territory and unsurprisingly, started to burn through their allocated time as a result. Dave fanned the flames further when he castled queen’s side on move 14 and the game became extremely sharp and complicated with all three results seemingly possible.

Ultimately, the player’s time shortage before the time control at move 36 proved decisive. Dave made a series of moves that didn’t really improve his position and got himself into hot water as he lost a pawn. Soon after, Phil returned the inaccuracy when he offered an exchange of queens which should have enabled Dave to equalise again. However, he missed his chance and when the time control did arrive he found himself in serious difficulties.

Dave battled on but his position became increasingly futile and his queen’s side pawns fell giving Phil a passed a-pawn. A final tactical twist that Phil had overlooked proved not to be a problem as, in exchange for a rook and knight, Phil forced home his a-pawn and then drove the White king to c5 to win the game.

With board 1 producing a result it was now even more important that the chasing pack won their games in order to keep up with Phil and give themselves a chance in the final round.

On board 2 Matthew played his habitual London System which was well met with some solid and sensible play by Ian. The game looked very much in the balance although Matthew was placing his confidence in a good knight versus bad bishop endgame scenario. Unfortunately for him, that scenario never appeared on the board for he got side-tracked and misjudged a key position on move 18 that left the game dead level with both sets of rooks and queens still on the board.

Matthew took a risk to unbalance the play by sacrificing both his rooks for Ian’s queen in the hopes that his opponent might be more likely to make an error. That didn’t happen and, if anything, it was Ian who was pressing for a win and seemed to come very close to getting one. However, Matthew just had everything under control and, despite walking the tightrope to try and win, in the end he had to settle for a draw as Ian couldn’t make progress and Matthew was able to repeat the position.

On board 3 events had also conspired in Phil Cook’s favour. Reigning champion Greg had the Black pieces against Pete Leonard and seemed to achieve a perfectly playable position in a Closed Sicilian. That is, until he overlooked a tactical nuance that would have meant he would be three pieces for a rook down. He decided not to continue and resigned as early as move 23! Kudos to Pete for taking his chance and advancing to 3 points himself.

All of this now meant that Phil was out in front on 4 points with Matthew, Ian, Dave and Pete all on 3. Would any of the others on 2 be able to join the chasing pack?

On board 4 Martin Syrett sprung a second surprise of the evening by beating Richard Porter with the Black pieces. In a complicated Kings Indian Defence Martin succeeded in launching a strong king’s side attack whilst keeping his opponent’s counter play on the other side of the board to a minimum. After the time control Richard finally cracked under pressure and Martin broke through in the centre with a discovered check tactic and successfully mopped up for an excellent win.

Nick Sykes developed a very strong attack against Andy Leatherbarrow on board 5 out of a topical variation of the Two Knights Defence with 4.d3. The position played and evolved very much like a Closed Spanish where White builds up an attack on the king’s side and Black tries for counter play in the centre and on the queen’s side. Nick may well have missed some opportunities to win the full point but Andy also defended actively and resourcefully and he held on for a draw in what was about to become a same-coloured bishops and pawns ending where he was a pawn down but Nick was going to struggle to break through.

On board 6 Richard Bedford succeeded in gaining a decisive positional advantage straight out of the opening (another King’s Indian) against Pete Moss and then proceeded to offer his opponent not the slightest glimmer of counter play as he ensured that he would be the sixth player to reach 3 points.

Further down the boards there were wins for John Allan (Hebden Bridge) against Angel Gonzalez (Belgrave), Mike Barnett (Belgrave) against Barry Wadsworth (Halifax) and Scott Gornall (Halifax) against Owen Buchan (Hebden Bridge). All these players advance to 2½ points.

Also in amongst this mid-section of the boards was a tremendous fighting draw that was the last game of the night to finish was battled out between Daniel Rivron (Halifax) and John Lavan (Hebden Bridge). The game finished with John’s king on h8 holding up passed White pawn on h7. White’s extra bishop was of no use to him because it was the wrong colour to drive the Black king away and therefore stalemate was inevitable.

The lower boards also saw some very competitive games especially between some of the junior contestants who were starting to fight it out between themselves for the junior prize. Before we get to that though, there were two more ‘all adult’ clashes to mention. In the first Adrian Dawson (Belgrave) played a nice game to overcome his higher rated opponent, Robert Sutcliffe (Huddersfield), and secure his second win of the competition. Neil Bamford (Hebden Bridge) also won against Bill Joyce (Todmorden) to also reach 50%.

Now to the juniors. Martha Leggett took a full point bye by default (her second of the competition unfortunately) to move onto two point. That makes her the highest scoring junior but she is being pursued by Luca Curry (who took a half point bye in round 4), Owen Buchan (who we already saw lost to Scott Gornall) and Toby Dodd (who won a long and protracted battle with Joel Hadari) who all have 1½.

Gwilem Hughes lost to Vivenne Webster (Halifax)  and we should also mention that, on board 15, Joel’s sister Juliet, won her game against Alfie Dermo to score her first win of the competition.

Here then is confirmation of the individual results from round 4:

Calderdale Individual Chess Championship 2016-17: Round 4

Dave Shapland 0 – 1 Phil Cook
Matthew Parsons ½ – ½ Ian Hunter
Pete Leonard 1 – 0 Greg Eagleton
Richard Porter   0 – 1 Martin Syrett
Nick Sykes ½ – ½ Andy Leatherbarrow
Richard Bedford 1 – 0 Pete Moss
Angel Gonzalez 0 – 1 John Allan
Daniel Rivron     ½ – ½ John Lavan
Barry Wadsworth 0 – 1 Mike Barnett
Scott Gornall 1 – 0 Owen Buchan
Adrian Dawson 1 – 0 Robert Sutcliffe
Gwilym Hughes 0 – 1 Vivienne Webster
Bill Joyce 0 – 1 Neil Bamford
Toby Dodd 1 – 0 Joel Hadari
Alfie Dermo 0 – 1 Juliet Hadari

Full point bye:  Martha Leggett
Half-point bye:  Steve Harrington, Luca Curry
Default:  Mitchell Burke, Michael Tait

The standings with one round remaining are therefore as follows:

  • 4 points – P.Cook
  • 3 points – M.Parsons, I.Hunter, D.Shapland, P.Leonard, R.Bedford, M.Syrett
  • 2½ points – G.Eagleton, M.Burke, J.Allan, N.Sykes, S.Gornall, M.Barnett, A.Leatherbarrow, S.Harrington
  • 2 points – R.Porter, J.Lavan, V.Webster, N.Bamford, D.Rivron, P.Moss, A.Dawson, B.Wadsworth, M.Leggett
  • 1½ points – A.Gonzalez, O.Buchan, L.Curry, T.Dodd
  • 1 point – R.Sutcliffe, B.Joyce, G.Hughes, J.Y Hadari
  • ½ point – M.J.Tait
  • 0 points – A.Dermo, B.J.S Hadari

13 of the 15 games played in round 4 can be found in the game viewer at the end of this post.

All that leaves us to consider are the permutations for round 5. It will wither be very simple, or very complicated.

Phil Cook should have draw odds with White against Matthew Parsons in the final round. A long as he doesn’t lose he will be champion.

If Phil does lose though all hell breaks lose as in that scenario, he and Matthew would both be on 4 points along with up to three other players. The tie break would then come into force. On that basis we have asked the competition controller, John Kerrane, to provide us with the tie-break rules for the competition so that everyone can be clear in advance how this would work in that eventuality.

Here they are:

Calderdale Individual Championship: Tie Break Regulations

In the event of players achieving the same scores, tie-breaks will be applied in the following order:

  1. The result of the individual game between players.
  2. Sum of progressive scores. (equivalent to Bucholtz system)
  3. Sum of opponents’ scores.
  4. Sum of opponents’ grades.
  5. Sum of opponents’ grades with progressive elimination of the grade of the lowest-graded opponent.

This is roughly equivalent to the recommended FIDE system, also recommended by the ECF, modified to allow for a low number of rounds.

In the event of more than two players achieving the same score, the tie-break will proceed directly to step 2 above.

Note: For the purposes of a tie-break only, unplayed games of players who have withdrawn before the end of the tournament will be counted as draws in section 3 above.

On this basis the following assumptions can be made:

  • Phil Cook is champion if he wins or draws in round 5
  • Matthew Parsons is champion if he beats Phil Cook in round 5 and no-one else on 3 points wins their game
  • Phil Cook is champion if he loses to Matthew but one or more other player reaches 4 points (based on the sum or progressive scores rule)

Comments and feedback on the tie-break rules and the permutations are welcome as always.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jan 132017
 
Let loose the hounds! The hunt is on to catch co-leaders Phil Cook and Dave Shapland in the Calderdale Individual Championship. This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from the Cochran Library's Flickr photostream

Let loose the hounds! The hunt is on to catch co-leaders Phil Cook and Dave Shapland in the Calderdale Individual Championship. This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from the Cochran Library’s Flickr photostream

The third round of five in the Calderdale Individual Championship took place on Monday night at the Trades Club. It’s at this stage of the competition, where it passes the half way mark, that a ‘sharp end’ of the standings emerges.

Before we get to the action though let us first remark that 34 players took part in round 3. That’s a pretty high proportion of the original 38 starters. In recent years there has been an unfortunate trend towards a significant number of withdrawals and so it is a most welcome development to see so many players sticking with it. If 34 players also sit down to play round 5 that would be fantastic.

At the start of round 3 there were four players on 2 points and so they were drawn against each other. On board 1 the fourth seed, Phil Cook (Todmorden) took on Nick Sykes (Hebden Bridge) with White and on board 2 Dave Shapland (Hebden Bridge) played another Todmorden player Richard Bedford.

Behind this quartet an unusually large mass of players were in the chasing pack on 1½. This included the remaining five of the top six seeds – 2013-14-15 Champion Matthew Parsons (Hebden Bridge), reigning Champion Greg Eagleton (Huddersfield), Mitchell Burke (Huddersfield), Ian Hunter (Belgrave) and John Allan (Hebden Bridge). These heavyweights were joined by John Lavan (Hebden Bridge), Scott Gornall (Halifax), Mike Barnett (Belgrave) and Andy Leatherbarrow (Hebden Bridge).

Andy took a half point bye in this round which left an even number of players on 1½ battling it out to maintain the chase on the leaders. It also meant that two of the big-hitters would have to face each other and the draw pitched club colleagues John Allan and Matthew Parsons against one another in what was undoubtedly the juiciest match up of the round. These two played on board 3 and below them Greg played John Lavan, Mitchell had White against Scott and Mike had White against Ian.

At the other end of the draw a number of the juniors were now drawn against each other which meant that the battle for the junior prize was well and truly on. Martha Leggett played Owen Buchan, Luca Curry faced Toby Dodd and Juliet Hadari played Gwilem Hughes.

On the top two boards the opening phase took very different turns. On board 1 Nick had spent some time considering how best to respond to Phil’s habitual English Opening (1.c4) only for Phil to confound him by playing a different move order (1.Nf3 and 2.c4) which ruled out Nick’s preparation and threw him back on his own resources at once. Somewhat dispirited, Nick drifted into a difficult position straight out of the opening and then capitulated when Phil found some brisk tactics to bring the game to a swift conclusion on move 22. Phil therefore became the first player to reach 3 out of 3.

On board 2 Dave and Richard reached a position in the Two Knights Defence that both had foreseen and considered in their preparations. Richard opted for a very solid set up where he grabbed an extra pawn but accepted some structural weaknesses in exchange. Dave didn’t play the opening phase at all well and, like Nick, drifted into an inferior position. Fortunately for him Richard had arrived 15 minutes late for the start of the game and so, when Dave later sought to complicate the position in order to change the dynamics, Richard began to get into time trouble.

Dave then threw caution to the wind on move 22 and sacrificed a second pawn as well as exposing his king in order to try and build up further pressure on Black’s vulnerable f7 square. Richard defended accurately until, on move 30, he blundered and quick as a flash Dave broke through. A shame for Richard who played very well against his higher rated opponent up until that moment.

This means that Dave and Phil will face each other on the 6th of February in round 4 to see if one of them can stay perfect and get to four points.

Probably the highest quality game of the day was seen on board 3 where Matthew slowly ground down John Alllan with Black to maintain his hops of regaining the title. In a Four Knights Game, Matthew created a structural imbalance on the queen’s side by creating doubled c-pawns for John. Then he quickly opened the a-file and took control of it. John sought the haven of simplification but Matthew maintained a marginal edge due to John’s, now isolated, doubled c-pawns. Finally as they entered a rook and pawns ending, Matthew won one of the White c-pawns, swapped of the rook and accurately finished off the king asnd pawn ending for a very nice positional win against a strong opponent.

On boards 4, 5 and 6 the higher rated players also did what was expected of them. Greg kept a small advantage out of the opening against John Lavan who was never able to equalise and eventually capitulated. Mitchell found a nice tactic against Scott to win a piece as early as move 15. He lost two (and later three) pawns in the process but the material advantage was sufficient even though it took him a while to convert it. Finally, Ian had to grind out a win in a double bishop and pawns ending against Mike who put up serious resistance. This game outlasted all the other by some margin and it seemed at one point like Mike would hold his opponent but it was an illusion as Ian eventually broek through to mate hi opponent.

In round 4 Mitchell will now likely play Matthew with Black while Ian will have White against Greg. These should be epic encounters with only two of the four maintaining winning chances after that round.

Further down the draw, two of the higher rated players who had lost in the first round continued their resurgence to get to 2 out of 3. Richard Porter won smoothly against his Halifax club colleague Vivienne Webster and Pete Leonard inflicted a second victory of the season with his Alekhine’s Defence over Neil Bamford who certainly did not lack ambition in his approach but ultimately fell victim to an opening trap.

Martin Syrett (Hebden Bridge), Pete Moss (Halifax) and Steve Harrington (Halifax) also advanced to two points with wins against a trio of Belgrave players in the form of Adrian Dawson, John Brooke and Angel Gonzalez respectively. Pete’s performance in particular should be applauded as he beat his second higher rated opponent of the competition.

So too on board 12 did Halifax’s Barry Wadsworth who took down Robert Sutcliffe (Huddersfield) to progress on to 2 points himself. This leaves some experienced players in one point. They’ll be eager to get back to 50% in the next round against potentially weaker opponents.

Finally we should tell the story of the juniors. Alfie Dermo (Hebden Bridge) took on an adult when he was re-paired to play Daniel Rivron (Halifax). Alfie did his best but Daniel was solid and secure and outplayed his young opponent. The other junior vs. senior clash also went the way of experience as Bill Joyce (Todmorden) overcame Joel Hadari (Hebden Bridge) without too much trouble.

The all junior clashes produced the mix bag of quality and competitiveness one might expect. At one end of the scale Juliet Hadari lost what was probably the shortest game in Calderdale Individual Championship history against Gwilem Hughes. At the other end of the scale Luca Curry finally beat Toby Dodd after a much more interesting and evenly matched struggle.  Owen Buchan was the other winner over Martha Leggett.

Full results are listed below along with the standings after round 3 and some of the games in the viewer at the end of the post. I’m having some problems with the regular viewer so have had to use a different one for the moment. Hopefully it should not spoil the experience too much. Round 4 is on the 6th of February and should produce some fascinating and hard fought matches.

Calderdale Individual Championship: Round 3
Phil Cook 1 – 0 Nick Sykes
Dave Shapland 1 – 0 Richard Bedford
John Allan 0 – 1 Matthew Parsons
Greg Eagleton 1 – 0 John Lavan
Mitchell Burke 1 – 0 Scott Gornall
Mike Barnett 0 – 1 Ian Hunter
Vivienne Webster 0 – 1 Richard Porter
Neil Bamford 0 – 1 Pete Leonard
Adrian Dawson 0 – 1 Martin Syrett
Pete Moss 1 – 0 John Brooke
Steve Harrington 1 – 0 Angel Gonzalez
Robert Sutcliffe 0 – 1 Barrie Wadsworth
Alfie Dermo 0 – 1 Daniel Rivron
Martha Leggett 0 – 1 Owen Buchan
Bill Joyce 1 – 0 Joel Hadari
Luca Curry 1 – 0 Toby Dodd
Juliet Hadari 0 – 1 Gwilym Hughes

Half-point bye:  Andy Leatherbarrow
Default:  Martin O’Keeffe, Michael Tait

Standings after round 3:
3 points: P.Cook, D.Shapland
2½ points: M.Parsons, G.Eagleton, M.Burke, I.Hunter
2 points: R.Porter, P.Leonard, N.Sykes, R.Bedford, M.Syrett, A.Leatherbarrow, P.Moss, B.Wadsworth, S.Harrington
1½ points: J.Allan, J.Lavan, S.Gornall, M.Barnett, A.Gonzalez, D.Rivron, O.Buchan
1 points: J.Brooke, R.Sutcliffe, V.Webster, N.Bamford, A.Dawson, B.Joyce, L.Curry, G.Hughes, M.Leggett
½ points: M.J.Tait, T.Dodd
0 points: B.J.S Hadari, J.Y.Hadari, A.Dermo

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Dec 222016
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dec 182016
 
Only four players have a maximum 2 points after the second round of this year's Calderdale Individual Chess Championship. Photo used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from bicouni's Flickr photo stream.

Only four players have a maximum 2 points after the second round of this year’s Calderdale Individual Chess Championship. Photo used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from bicouni’s Flickr photo stream.

After the turbulence of the first round a relatively normal service was resumed in Round 2 of the Calderdale Individual Championship as the higher rated players generally re-asserted their dominance. That wasn’t to say that there weren’t any surprises though. A couple of the underdogs put up stern resistance and manage to draw their games against top seeds.

With the champions from the last four seasons (and also the top two seeds), Matthew Parsons (Hebden Bridge) and Greg Eagleton (Huddersfield), having only managed draws in round 1, there was an opportunity for some of their challengers to maintain a half point advantage if they could manage to win again in the second round. The first surprise of the evening happened before play had even started as the third seed, Mitchell Burke (Huddersfield) did not show up and appeared not to have informed the arbiter, John Kerrane, early enough in advance of the round to be eligible for a half point bye. We will await to see whether or not Mitchell will be given a half point. In any case, Mitchell’s absence meant that the draw had to be carried out again from scratch so the start of the round was delayed.

Once proceedings were underway it was clear that the cohort of Hebden Bridge’s junior players, all relishing the opportunity to play against more experienced opposition, where going to have a difficult evening. All eight of the juniors lost in the end and they put up varying degrees of resistance.

Owen Buchan (Hebden Bridge) faced the toughest proposition as he’d taken a half point bye in round 1 and was then drawn to face reigning champion Greg Eagleton in round 2. Owen quite sensibly chose to play a 2.c3 Sicilian line rather than wade into some theoretical debate and he succeeded in playing some interesting and unusual moves and maintained the material balance but failed to get his king to safety and was gradually out-manoeuvred until Greg broke through on move 21 to threaten mate.

Martha Leggett (Hebden Bridge) was unfortunate enough to have been the extra player in the draw in round 1. The up-side was that she got a full point. The downside was that she now faced another experienced player with half a point to his name Belgrave’s Angel Gonzalez. She also put up good resistance with some sensible play in the opening but slowly it all unraveled and Angel’s experience showed through.

The other junior who showed good fighting spirit was Luca Curry (Hebden Bridge) who took on Pete Leonard (Hebden Bridge) one of the surprise losers in round 1. This was a game of hanging pawns for, while Luca kept his pieces on the board he slowly lost one pawn and then another until Pete had reached a single rook and pawns ending where he had four (!) extra pawns. Luca realized that the game was up at this stage but he had at least managed to reach an ending.

Finally, Toby Dodd also put up firm resistance against Steve Harrington (Belgrave) in an encounter that didn’t have the same gap in rating between the two players as some of the others and was therefore rather more protracted.
The remaining four Hebden Bridge juniors, Gwillem Hughes, Alfie Dermo, Julia Hadari and her brother Joel were unfortunately put to the sword in rather more summary and swift fashion by Robert Sutcliffe (Huddersfield), Vivienne Webster (Halifax), Neil Bamford (Hebden Bridge) and Adrian Dawson (Belgrave) respectively.

In the next round some of the juniors will inevitably start to get drawn against each other and this should begin the process of deciding which of them will win the junior prize in the tournament. Hopefully they are also learning and getting valuable experience from these games played against adult opposition.

Now let’s look further up the draw. The other high-profile victim of round 1 (besides Pete Leonard) was Richard Porter (Halifax). He bounced back with a win in positional style over Bill Joyce (Todmorden). Top seed Matthew Parsons won in similar fashion against Daniel Rivron (Halifax) and Andy Leatherbarrow (Hebden Bridge) capitalised on his excellent draw with Matthew in round 1 by beating Michael Tait (Halifax) to advance to 1½.
That just leaves us with the remaining twelve players (aside from Mitchell Burke) who had won in round 1 to cover. With Mitchell out of the draw they were all neatly paired against each.

On board 1 Martin Syrett (Hebden Bridge) was up against fourth seed Phil Cook (Todmorden). Martin can be a very dangerous player and has been on decent form this season but unfortunately, on this occasion, he suffered a major malfunction. Having responded in typically ambitious fashion to Phil’s provocative opening play, Martin overlooked a tactic that gave his opponent a devastating counter-attack early in the middle game. The end was efficiently executed by Phil who compelled Martin’s resignation as early as move 21 and was the first player to reach 2/2 on the night.

Not long afterwards Nick Sykes (Hebden Bridge) joined Phil on 2 as he took down one of the round 1 heroes, Pete Moss (Halifax), who had beat Richard Porter in fine style. Nick, as ever, was well versed in the opening that appeared on the board as play transposed from a King’s Indian Defence to a Maroczy Bind-type position but with some interesting nuances. Pete’s position gradually became more and more difficult until Nick was able to force a decisive breath through in the centre. He concluded the game with a nice tactic exploiting a pin on the d-file and a knight fork on c7.

It was rather later in the evening before anyone else was able to make it to the perfect score. On board 4, Dave Shapland (Hebden Bridge) faced John Brooke (Belgrave) and played energetically to set up a strong attack and put his opponent under great pressure. Dave won a piece and then another. John soldiered on but he had no counter play and was eventually forced to resign in a hopeless situation just after the players had reached time control.
Interestingly, only one more player was able to join the three now on 2 points. On board 2 fifth seed Ian Hunter (Belgrave) seemed in danger of losing to super-solid Scott Gornall (Halifax) at one point but in the end an acute time-shortage for Scott enabled Ian to escape with a draw which was the least he deserved for his efforts.

The sixth seed John Allan (Hebden Bridge) also faltered against Mike Barnett (Belgrave). Mike is a tough player to beat with Black and John didn’t manage to create any sort of complications or imbalance in the game and as a result the two chopped wood until they reached a same-coloured bishop and pawns ending which was only ever going to be a draw.

The last game of the evening to finish did finally produce a fourth player to make it to 2 points. Richard Bedford (Todmorden) took his time but did convincingly outplay Barry Wadsworth (Halifax) who put up stiff resistance but was already losing by the time he blundered both his remaining pieces in terrible time trouble at the very end of the evening.

The full list of individual results and standings after round 2 are given below. Some of the games from round 2 can be found in the game viewer at the end of this post.

Calderdale Individual Championship: Round 2
M.Syrett 0 – 1 P.Cook
I.Hunter ½ – ½ S.Gornall
M.Barnett ½ – ½ J.Allan
J.Brooke 0 – 1 D.Shapland
N.Sykes 1 – 0 P.Moss
B.Wadsworth 0 – 1 R.Bedford
M.Parsons 1 – 0 D.Rivron
O.Buchan 0 – 1 G.Eagleton
M.J.Tait 0 – 1 A.Leatherbarrow
A.Gonzalez 1 – 0 M.Leggett
R.Porter 1 – 0 B.Joyce
P.Leonard 1 – 0 L.Curry
G.Hughes 0 – 1 R.Sutcliffe
V.Webster 1 – 0 A.Dermo
B.J.S Hadari 0 – 1 N.Bamford
A.Dawson 1 – 0 JY Hadari
S.Harrington 1 – 0 T.Dodd

Default: M.Burke, M.O’Keefe
Half-point bye: J.Lavan
Withdrawn: T.Sullivan

Standings after round 2:
2 points = P.Cook, D.Shapland, N.Sykes, R.Bedford
1½ = M.Parsons, G.Eagleton, I.Hunter, J.Allan, J.Lavan, S.Gornall, M.Barnett, A.Leatherbarrow, A.Gonzalez
1 = M.R.Burke, R.Porter, P.Leonard, M.Syrett, J.Brooke, R.J.Sutcliffe, V.Webster, N.Bamford, A.Dawson, P.Moss, B.Wadsworth, S.Harrington, M.Leggett
½ = D.Rivron, O.Buchan, M.O’Keefe, M.J.Tait, T.Dodd
0 = B.Joyce, L.Curry, G.Hughes, A.Dermo, J.Y.Hadari, B.J.S Hadari

In round 3 on the 9th of January, we should see some really interesting games between the leading players as, providing no-one takes a half point bye, the four leaders should square off and then the nine on 1½

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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