It’s very hard to resist the Star Wars analogies in the week when the latest chapter in the movie franchise hits the big screen. Last night it felt a more like ‘Return of the Jedi’ at the Trades Club as a host of familiar faces, some of whom we haven’t seen for a long time, popped in for some pre-Christmas fun. There was also the small matter of a postponed match between Hebden Bridge ‘B’ and Todmorden’C’ to play. More of that later though. Last week was also an action packed week in the Calderdale League as teams in both divisions took to their boards to battle out the eternal struggle between the light and the darkness.
Last weekend I drafted the weekly column for the Yorkshire Post on behalf to the Yorkshire Chess website (you can catch an extended version over there still) in which I said that Calderdale League 1 looks very much like a two horse race as we reach the halfway stage of the season. Last week’s round of fixtures did nothing to changes that assessment as both Todmorden ‘A’ and Halifax ‘A’ continued their winning ways.
Tod ‘A’ travelled to Belgrave for their toughest away fixture yet (at least on paper) and returned with 3½ points as wins by their stalwarts Martin Hamer, Andrew Clarkson and Dave Patrick saw them comfortably across the line. That Dave Innes lost and Phil Cook only managed to draw against an opponent rated forty points lower than him were of no consequence as the champions retained their 100% record.
Meanwhile, second placed Halifax ‘A’ had made the reverse trip from Halifax to Todmorden to play Todmorden ‘B’. Tod’s second string have had an excellent season so far and sit comfortably mid-table having taken the scalps of Hebden Bridge ‘A’ as well as Brighouse and Halifax ‘B’ earlier in the schedule. On this occasion they were no match for the visitors as Halifax‘s big guns boomed. Darwin Ursal, Bill Somerset and John Morgan are a trio who should trouble Tod ‘A’ when those two sides play each other again on Feburary 15th. Having lost the match at Todmorden in October, Halifax will have to win that one to catch up with their rivals, but it’s not a feat that is beyond them.
The other match up on Monday night was a relegation dog fight between the bottom two teams in the league, Brighouse and Halifax ‘B’. That there were four decisive games and a draw tells you all you need to know about the fighting spirit of these two teams. Unfortunately they split the four wins between them and the deadlocked outcome probably doesn’t suit either side.
Finally, last Wednesday night, the ancient enemies, Huddersfield and Hebden Bridge ‘A’ met at Huddersfield for another chapter in their long chronicle of dramatic clashes. These two teams have a habit of playing out nail-biting, hairs-breadth contests and on this occasion it was no different.
To be sure, Huddersfield were weaker on paper than they have been for this fixture in many a long year. Hebden actually out-graded their opponents on the bottom four boards. I can’t ever remember that being the case since I’ve been reporting on this match. That said, the margin of advantage was fairly slim and the top board encounter certainly seemed to favour the hosts.
By about half past nine though the match already seemed to be all but over in the visitor’s favour. On board 2 Dave Shapland had something of a red letter day against Dave Tooley who tipped his king as early as move 23. This had been preceded by a solid and risk free draw between Stuart Westmoreland and Andy Leatherbarrow on board 4. Martin Syrett then put Hebden Bridge beyond defeat by downing Bryn Charlesworth after he blundered in a sharp position.
Hebden appeared to be home and hosed but Huddersfield had other ideas. On board 1, Pete Leonard had gained an advantage right out of the opening against Dave Keddie and seemed to be pressing it home with some enterprising and active play. He won a pawn and the exchange and it looked like he would cruise to victory when, suddenly, an inaccurate move by Pete turned the tables. Dave’s queen and knight went on the attack and were able to force first the return of the exchange and then the exchange of queens to transpose into a winning king and pawn ending. Pete did everything he could to try and hold it but in the end his four isolated pawns were no match for Dave’s two connected pairs.
Now it was all down to the final board to decide the outcome of the match with Hebden needing just a draw to secure victory. This board 3 encounter went right down to the wire with Tony Aguirre and Nick Sykes (returning to the side after a couple of months absence) embroiled in a complicated cut and thrust game that kept the kibitzers guessing the result right to the end.
From the Black side of a Closed Sicilian Nick seemed to get a perfectly playable, even favourable position, especially after Tony decided to sacrifice the exchange for what looked like pretty dubious compensation. But then Nick overlooked a pawn capture that came with a check and found that his king was suddenly exposed to a string of checks that led to him losing no fewer than four pawns for the exchange!
Once the players had (just!) reached time control Nick found a way to get the queens off the board and was then able to start hoovering up pawns with his rook. Of course there were a myriad of knight forks to be avoided but he managed to navigate them all and even missed a couple of winning chances for himself as the two of them stopped recording their moves and blitzed through the final stages of the endgame. Eventually they both queened their last pawns on the same move and agreed to a draw which seemed like a fair result.
Hebden breathed a sigh of relief as they took the tie by the slimmest of margins. Here is the final match scorecard:
Huddersfield vs. Hebden Bridge ‘A’
D.Keddie 1 — 0 P.Leonard
DTooley 0 — 1 D.Shapland
A.Aguirre ½ — ½ N.Sykes
S.Westmoreland ½ — ½ A.Leatherbarrow
B.Charlesworth 0 — 1 M.Syrett
2 — 3
The games from the top three boards can be found in the game viewer at the end of this post. All of them have been analysed by the Hebden players.
Last week also saw a complete round of League 2 fixtures. In this league the title race is far less clear cut as Halifax ‘C’, Todmorden ‘C’ and Hebden Bridge ‘B’ are all reasonably close together at the top of the table while Courier, Halifax ‘D’ and Hebden Bridge ‘C’ are all adrift in the bottom half.
Halifax ‘C’ have reached the halfway mark at the top however and have a perfect record of five wins from five matches as they dispatched the juniors of Hebden Bridge ‘C’ at home by a convincing margin of 3½ — 1½ despite defaulting on board 2. Only Hebden’s captain John Kerrane was able to hold his own to draw with Pete Hughes – a very creditable outcome for John. The rest of Halifax’s line up of experienced veterans proved too strong for the juniors on this occasion. Below is the final match scorecard:
Halifax ‘C’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘C’
P.Hughes ½ — ½ J.Kerrane
DEFAULT 0 — 1 F.Exall
H.Wood 1 — 0 O.Buchan
B.Wadsworth 1 — 0 L.Curry
R.A.Whiteley 1 — 0 M.Leggett
3½ — 1½
Meanwhile, across town at the Belgrave Social Club Courier were hosting the second placed team in the division, Hebden Bridge ‘B’. This match was a close call with Hebden just edging it by the odd point thanks in part to a line up that was strengthened by the return of Roger Baxter who was most welcome home for Christmas. His win, along with one by Martin Syrett and draws by Andy Leatherbarrow and Neil Bamford saw the ‘B’ team over the line. The score card for this match looked thusly:
Courier vs. Hebden Bridge ‘B’
D.Colledge ½ — ½ A.Leatherbarrow
J.Smith 0 — 1 R.Baxter
A.Dawson 0 — 1 M.Syrett
P.Jacobs ½ — ½ N.Bamford
S.Harrington 1 — 0 A.Brown
2 — 3
Todmorden ‘C’ were in third place behind Hebden only on board count. They managed to reverse that state of affairs by thrashing Halifax ‘D’ 4½ — ½ at home
All of this just lent last night’s postponed fixture a greater air of importance as the two teams locked together on 6 points played their game in hand with sole possession of second place at stake.
The proximity of this match to Christmas enabled Hebden to summon up another returning Jedi master to their line up as Dave Wedge (remember him?) dusted down his light-sabre and leapt into battle on board 1. Together with Roger making a second successive appearance, this made the Hebden line up the strongest ‘B’ team the club has fielded for quite some time as captain Martin Syrett was given the luxury of sitting the match to allow John Kerrane and Danny Crampton to get games. To be fair, Martin’s generosity could have backfired for, with himself on board 4 and John on board 5, Hebden would surely have swept their opponents aside fairly swiftly. As it was the team had to recover from an early loss by Dan to rescue the win.
Roger levelled the scores reasonably comfortably when his opponent miscalculated a combination. Hebden then went in front as John overpowered Bill Joyce on board 4. It could have been worse for the visitors had Dave Milton not been able to find a perpetual check resource to save his game against Andy when he was two pawns down. Finally, Dave Wedge went the full distance against Pete Logan but finally won on time in a position where he seemed to have a pretty stable advantage. All the games from this match are in the game viewer below and here is the match scorecard:
Hebden Bridge ‘B’ vs Todmorden ‘C’
D.Wedge 1 — 0 P.Logan
A.Leatherbarrow ½ — ½ D.Milton
R.Baxter 1 — 0 B.Glew
J.Kerrane 1 — 0 B.Joyce
D.Crampton 0 — 1 I.Knagg
3½ — 1½
All that remains is for me to wish all our members and readers a very Happy Christmas and a successful and prosperous 2016!