It’s been a very long time indeed since this website reported on the Calderdale Evening League so it’s time for an action replay! There is a lot of catching up to do so let’s begin at once and rewind back to week commencing Monday the 19th of February when League 1 teams convened for round 10.
First of all an unusual and potentially very serious incident occurred on the Wednesday night as Hebden Bridge ‘A’ travelled to Huddersfield ‘A’ for an encounter that would likely decide which of these two teams would mount a serious challenge to league leaders Golden Lion. The match was building nicely when one of Huddersfield’s players became unwell and ultimately had to be taken to hospital after just 30 minutes play. Happily, we can report that the player concerned is ok but understandably the teams decided to abandon the match and rearrange the fixture for another day. More on this later.
This incident enabled Golden Lion to climb further clear at the top by thrashing the league’s back markers Brighouse away 0 – 5. All of the games were over by about 9.15 although in a couple of instances Brighouse’s players could have chosen to labour on in much worse positions rather than ending their evening’s early. It would almost certainly not have changed the outcome had they battled on.
Elsewhere, Hebden Bridge ‘B’ defaulted their second match of the season as they were unable to raise a side for the away match at Halifax ‘A’. Halifax themselves only had four players and for the results was recorded as 4 – 0 to the home side.
The final match of Round 10 between Halifax ‘B’ and Belgrave ‘A’ ended 1 – 4 to the visitors with wins by John Morgan, Richard Bowman and Karim Khan. Halifax salvaged good draws against higher rated opponents for Peter Hughes against Ian Hunter and Vivienne Webster against Dave Patrick.
On the 12th of March Hebden Bridge ‘A’ faltered in their pursuit of Golden Lion as they failed to beat Belgrave ‘A’ away. They were greatly hampered by only having four players and indeed, would quite possibly have won the match if they had been able to field a full team. Pete Leonard got an excellent result when he beat Ian Hunter on board 1 and Nick Sykes drew with Dave Patrick on board 2. Sam Swain won on board 4 against Karim Khan but, with Belgrave’s Richard Bowman beating another Richard (Bedford) on board 3 and the default on board 5, it was only a drawn match for Hebden.
Golden Lion took full advantage of their pursuers slip up as they crushed Halifax ‘B’ at home 5 – 0. Halifax defaulted a board themselves but Andrew Clarkson won a very nice game on the Black side of an Anti-Grunfeld Variation against Pete Hughes, Dave Shapland played aggressively against Scott Gornall who survived a violent attack on his king only to emerge a piece down in a simple ending and Mick Connor and Marc Turu also scored wins against Vivienne Webster and Mac Randhawa respectively.
Hebden Bridge ‘B’ bounced back from the disappointment of defaulting their round 10 match by edging out Brighouse in a tight match where all five games ended decisively. Hebden lost the top two boards as Robert Broadbent defeated Andy Leatherbarrow and Chris Lund beat Martin Syrett. However, Hebden won on board 3, 4 and 5 to snatch a vital victory that gives them a good chance of surviving relegation this season. Paul Gledhill, John Lavan and Neil Bamford scored the wins.
Sadly, there was another default fixture in round 11 as Halifax ‘A’ were unable to field a team at Huddersfield ‘A’.
This brings us to a crucial round of ties played on the 26th of March as all of the top three played in the same venue. Hebden Bridge ‘A’ hosted Golden Lion and Hebden Bridge ‘B’ hosted Huddersfield ‘A’ at the Trades Club.
Hebden started the evening a point behind Golden Lion and knowing that only a victory would be good enough to keep realistic title hopes alive. However, they had been the only team so far this season to defeat their guests when they crushed them 1 – 4 at Golden Lion before Christmas.
This time around Hebden were not as strong as, although they welcomed back Matthew Parsons to top board for the occasion, they were without Andrew and Chris Bak and also John Allan. This meant that Pete Leonard, who played board 5 in the away match, was on board 2 and regulars Nick Sykes, Richard Bedford and Sam Swain completed the line-up.
Golden Lion meanwhile had strengthened their line up from that match pre-Christmas and replaced David Innes on board 5 with Mick Connor. The top four boards of Hamer, Clarkson, Cook and Shapland all played in the previous match and, on the night, all improved on their individual results from the home defeat to help Golden Lion move well clear at the top of the league.
On board 1, Martyn Hamer and Matthew Parsons played out a fascinating and highly complicated encounter that ended in a draw in a very unusual final position (see right). In previous encounters between these two they have circled each other carefully and exchanged prosaic wins in their last two match ups. This time the gloves came off and the sparks flew. This excellent and entertaining game appears in the game viewer at the end of this report along with some notes by Matthew.
Hebden did manage to win on board 5 just as they had done in the away match. This was another very complicated game where Sam Swain, having built up a very comfortable and promising position against Mick Connor decide to start sacrificing pieces to open up his opponent’s king. With the aid of a computer it is possible to find better defensive ideas than Mick did but, from a practical perspective, it was a very difficult position to defend and the attack looked very scary. Mick went wrong and Sam won in combustible style.
After this brief glimpse of optimism the other three boards all ended in defeat for the home side however. Dave Shapland got nothing from the opening against Richard ‘Beaky’ Bedford but pounced on a brief window of opportunity afford to him by a slightly slow move by his opponent. Here too accurate defensive moves were required but they were hard to find and Beaky relented under pressure.
Nick Sykes seemed to be defending himself very solidly with Black against Phil Cook on board 3 but he too made one mistake and was brutally punished for his error as Phil converted mercilessly.
The final game to finish went on late into the night. Andrew Clarkson had lost any opening edge he may have had against Pete Leonard Alekhine’s Defence and the game seemed to be headed for a draw when the players entered a double bishop and pawns ending. Andrew had other ideas however and decided to continue playing, with no real risk of losing, just in case his team needed a victory to seal the match. By the time it became evident that he didn’t need to win he had managed to secure a winning advantage in a single bishop (same colour) and pawns ending. This game features twice in the game viewer as both players have analysed the game for us.
In the end Golden Lion won a match full of high quality and exciting chess to stamp their authority on the title race with two rounds to go. Here’s the final match score card:
Hebden Bridge ‘A vs. Golden Lion
M.Parsons ½ – ½ M.Hamer (W)
P.Leonard 0 – 1 A.Clarkson (W)
N.Sykes 0 – 1 P.Cook (W)
R.Bedford 0 – 1 D.Shapland (W)
S.Swain 1 – 0 M.Connor (W)
1½ – 3½
Meanwhile, just across the room, third place side Huddersfield ‘A’ were locked in combat with Hebden Bridge ‘B’. Just like the other match, the hosts made a bright start with a win on the bottom board but were quickly overhauled by their higher rated opponents on the other boards.
It was John Kerrane on board 5 who gave the hosts something to cheer about. Huddersfield’s Robert Sutcliffe deployed his Blackmar-Diemer Gambit. Kerrane could have played 2…e6 and simply transposed into his favorite French Defence, but he chose instead to take Robert on and was rewarded with a lively and active game in which the players castled on opposite wings. Although John’s attack looked quicker on the queen’s side, Robert found a way to block up the structure and then went on the attack himself on the king’s side. However, his attack also faltered and finally, John broke through in the centre, fittingly, with the extra pawn that he’d won on the second move, to take the full point.
Sadly, not long afterwards, Huddersfield were level as Steve Westmoreland took full advantage of a slightly eccentric opening sequence by Paul Gledhill and won a piece early in the game. That it took him a little while to patiently convert his advantage should not delude the reader that he was ever in any danger of failing to do so.
That just left the top three boards. On board 2 Dave Keddie and Mark Stollery set the board alight with some fiery complications in a game that Mark wanted to be an Alekhine’s Defence but Dave elected instead to steer into a Four Knights opening. Mark chose a very tactical continuation but he too blundered a piece early on. Dave made no mistakes and put the game away in 19 moves to put Huddersfield in the lead.
The match was won for the visitors when Leo Keely finished off Andy Leatherbarrow from a Spanish opening. On this occasion however, it was not to be a typical ‘Spanish torture’ with a slow build up and attack by White on the king’s side whilst Black aims for counter-play on the queen’s side. Instead, Leo actually won the game by grabbing an extra pawn on the queen’s side and liquidating down to a position where that extra pawn was able to push through to b7 and at the end he finished with a nice tactic to exploit Andy’s overloaded rook which couldn’t defend the back rank and the weak f7 square.
Finally, in the longest game of the match, Hebden’s Captain, Martin Syrett, was slowly and inexorably ground down by Dave Tooley who thereby helped his side clinch a convincing 1 – 4 victory. Here is the final match scorecard:
Hebden Bridge ‘B’ vs Huddersfield ‘A’
A.Leatherbarrow 0 – 1 L.Keely (W)
M.Stollery 0 – 1 D.Keddie (W)
M.Syrett 0 – 1 D.Tooley (W)
P.Gledhill 0 – 1 S.Westmoreland (W)
J.Kerrane 1 – 0 R.Sutcliffe (W)
1 – 4
Elsewhere in Calderdale, Belgrave ‘A’ continued their resurgence as they took full advantage of more Halifax ‘A’ woes at the Lee Mount Club. Halifax defaulted board 2 and 3 and lost on the other three boards as the visitors emerged with a clean sweep and a slightly dissatisfied feeling despite the result.
Also at the Lee Mount, bottom side Brighouse finally managed to secure their first points of the season as the edged out Halifax ‘B’ in a tight encounter. The key to the match was the top two boards where both Robert Broadbent and Nick Hudson managed to beat Peter Hughes and Scott Gornall respectively. Two draws on boards 4 and 5 were enough to see Brighouse over the line. Kudos to them for getting off the mark in what’s been a tough season for them.
This round of fixtures all but crowned Golden Lion as league champions as they now sat four points clear of Hebden Bridge ‘A’ with two fixtures remaining. Hebden had an extra match in hand but they would still need Golden Lion to lose at home to Halifax ‘A’ and Huddersfield ‘A’ in order to have any chance of catching them.
We’ll report on round 13 (which took place on the 9th of April) and 14 (which takes place next week) in our next report and also reflect on the final fixture in League 2. In the meantime there are a host of games available (16!)from rounds 10, 11 and 12 in the game viewer below. Thanks as always to those players who have sent us their games and annotated them.