Intermezzo

Feb 202021
 

Pawns are like mushrooms. Sometimes they can be a tasty treat, other times they can be poisonous. Telling the difference isn’t always easy. Photo: Alan Cleaver

From time to time we have a little fun with Pete Leonard about his principled approach to accepting pawn sacrifices. As he mentioned in his comment to our last post, his inclination is always to accept whatever is on offer and “put the money in the bank/your pocket”. Absolutely nothing wrong with that approach and Pete is a strong enough player to know (at least some of the time!) when it’s not a good idea to take the material.

Pete was at it again last Tuesday as round 2 of the 4NCL Online Spring Congress took place. This time though there was an interesting counter balance to his success in that Dave Shapland’s opponent went pawn grabbing and got himself into the hottest water as a result.

But let’s start with Pete. Having started the tournament out with a draw he was doubtless keen to get a win under his belt and, with the White pieces and a lower rated opponent at hand, he duly bagged the full point. His opponent played the Scandinavian and ventured a dubious gambit on move 3. Pete ate the ‘mushroom’ and seemed to be duly nourished as a result. On move 16 Pete’s opponent generously offered him another tasty morsel but he got very little in exchange  for it – managing only to exchange off one of Pete’s bishop’s for his knight. Pete saw no reason not to have another bite and quote right too. By move 20 he had a stable two pawn advantage and a passed -a pawn of his own to boot! The rest was relatively straight forward and Pete converted comfortably.

Dave on the other hand had won his first round game and was therefore expecting to face a stronger opponent than in round 1. Indeed, his opponent, Steve Wylie, did play well early on in the game and responded sensibly to Dave’s provocative approach to the London System which involved him playing 1d4 c5!? and then after 2.c3 venturing 2…Qc7?! which must be dubious but prevented White from playing the move he wants to play 3.Bf4. The main problem for the Steve was that he played too slowly. This meant that, when the position sharpened on move 22, he didn’t have as long to calculate and assess variations as he might have liked. At that point in the game with 22…Nc5?! Dave offered his opponent a choice of pawns to grab on a7 and e7. Steve grabbed the e7 pawn with his rook and then, when Dave took his d-pawn he speculated on maintaining his material advantage with 24.Rxa7?? But this time the pawn was poisoned. With White’s rook and queen away on the a-file, Dave had time mount an attack on the enemy king. When Steve then grabbed a second hot pawn with 26.Rxd6? it was pretty much all over and Dave’s attack broke through.

Also playing in the ‘Major’ section, for players rated under 2000,  was John Allan. He too had won his first round game and was looking to advance to 2/2. The pawn grabbing theme continued here when John responded to his opponent’s Catalan Variation by accepting the gambit pawn on c4 and holding onto it. White never really seemed to get anything much for the pawn although the variation is perfectly reputable. By move 16 John had picked up a second pawn, this time through a blunder rather than a sacrifice, and he calmly proceeded to mop up, never giving his opponent any counterplay and winning more and more material.

So much for the three players in the Major. How did Ollie Hill get on in his second round game in the Open section. Readers may remember that, last time out, unrated Ollie snatched a famous win in his first game in a competition of this kind. Naturally, his ‘reward’ was a draw against a much stronger opponent in round 2. Indeed Anastasis Kafetzopoulos, with a rating of 2131 proved to be a completely different proposition. Ollie played the Alapin Sicilian with 2.c3 but, sadly, he fell into a tactic early on in the game that cost him a piece and, after that, his opponent clinically put him to the sword. Still, there are five rounds left and Ollie will come up against opponents that he can expect to do well against later in the competition.

Below are all of the games mentioned above with some engine annotations from the Lichess house engine – Stockfish.

Feb 102021
 

Both our Hebden Bridge teams drove through the opposition last night to notch up their second wins of the competition. Photo: Dermot O’Halloran

Last night saw the second round of action in the 4NCL Online League with both Hebden Bridge teams taking part in Division 7 matches.

Having had relatively straightforward assignments last time out, both sides were expecting sterner tests in round 2 and, despite the fact that between them they only dropped half a point, that should not disguise the fact that the matches were much more competitive. The first team in particular were pushed hard by a handy Aberystwyth University 1 side.

Hebden Bridge 1 were without the services of Greg Eagleton, who played board 2 last time out, but in came Pete Leonard on board 4 whilst Andrew Clarkson and Dave Shapland both moved up a board.

Meanwhile, Hebden Bridge 2 faced a Muswell Hill Juniors team that looked very green on paper but it’s always dangerous to assume that a junior’s rating has kept pace with their ability. All of them sported much higher Lichess ratings than they had ECF Online ratings.

However, it was Hebden Bridge 2 who started the night with two quick wins. On board 4, Terry Sullivan was first to strike with the Back pieces. He played sensibly against his young opponent, first securing the bishop pair, then targeting a pawn weakness to win material and finally, when his opponent tried for counter play he took over in the centre of the board and set up a simple mating pattern that his adversary overlooked.

Shortly afterwards Josh Blinkhorn made it 2-0 to the second team when he also delivered checkmate by taking advantage of his opponent having not castled. John Allan then made it 3-0 against another opponent who never got castled. Note that John should have been playing Black but his opponent issued the challenge on Lichess incorrectly and, despite John trying to get them game aborted, they continued. This error was flagged with the arbiters afterwards and there was a chance that the game would be scored 0-0 but in the end the result stood.

Meanwhile, the first team were having a more challenging time of it against Aberystwyth University who certainly played in enterprising fashion. For example Pete Leonard’s opponent on board 4, Kieran Rafferty, played 2…f5 against his Bishop’s Opening – evidently this is called the Calabrese Gambit! Being the pawn-grabber extraordinaire that he is, Pete played it like a King’s Gambit Accepted in reverse and this give him a stable advantage with an extra pawn and decent development. By move 25, Pete had two extra pawns and the queens were off. Black’s only compensation was that he had a bishop pair against Pete’s pair of knights. However, that proved to be nothing like enough and Pete converted by pushing his connected passed e and f pawns down his opponent’s throat.

The next to win was Phil Cook on board 1. We’re used to seeing Phil play solid, positional chess under pinned by an sharp tactical sense that knows when his opponent has slipped to take full advantage. On this occasion however he was the one going a little bit wild as, playing a reversed Sicilian against the English Opening he decided to expanded rapidly on the king’s side with h5 and then g5 before he had gotten his king to safety. This looked risky but he was able to get away with it because his opponent had blocked the centre by playing e4 as early as move 4. According to Stockfish the game was littered with inaccuracies which is hardly surprising given the complexity of the position, however, it was Phil who came out on top in the melee driving his opponent’s king into the centre of the board. White had no coordination and resigned as soon as Phil made a tactical break through.

Andrew Clarkson sealed the won for the first team by winning his game on board 2. This game was a Four Knights Sicilian and, even though Andrew won the exchange, his opponent seemed to have sufficient compensation to hold on. At one point Andrew event thought he might be worse (see his game notes in the viewer below). However, once the players had transposed into an endgame where Andrew had the exchange for a pawn, his superior endgame technique won the day and Andrew got over the line to make it 3-0.

The last two games to finish in each match were tense affairs. On board 3 for the first team, Dave Shapland had to weather a very dangerous looking attack on the Black side of a Sicilian Dragon. However, Dave was confident that his opponent had launched his assault prematurely and, taking a leaf out of Mr Leonard’s book simply took everything that was offered to him. First one pawn, then another and finally the exchange. The critical moment came when Dave found 16…Rc5! which helped him to defend along the fifth rank. His opponent missed one fleeting chance to equalise and after that Dave’s counter attack was unstoppable even if he did miss a simple checkmate that would have crowned the performance nicely.

On board 1 for the second team, Dave Wedge was up against a tough opponent in Stanley Badacsonyi who certainly outperformed his rating by some margin. This was perhaps the most accurately played of all the games last night. There were comparatively few errors and, although Dave at one point achieved an advantage, he was able to hold on to it and got into trouble on the clock. Eventually the players agreed a draw  with fours pawns each and opposite coloured bishops left on the board.

So, another 4-0 win for the first team and a 3.5-0.5 win for the second team. The third round in two week’s time will surely see at least one of the paired with a side that could be stronger than them. It should start to get really interesting from here on in.

All the games from last night can be found in the game viewer below. In most cases the annotation is from Lichess’s house engine – Stockfish, but Andrew Clarkson and Dave Shapland have provided some annotation of their own. You can find instructions for using the viewer just down below it at the end of the post.

Instructions for using the PGN Viewer

For the benefit of those who are uninitiated (or simply can’t remember as it’s been so long!) the game viewer above contains all eight games played on Tuesday night. It will automatically scroll through all of them one after the other unless you tell it to stop by clicking on the ‘=’ button below the board. To select the game you wish to view click on the ‘…’ symbol in the white box above the board. This will reveal a drop down menu for you to choose from and when you select your game will appear. You can navigate forwards and backwards using the arrow buttons beneath the board or click on the moves in the text box on the right. Most of the annotations in these games have been generated by Lichess’ in house engine which creates auto-analysis for every game played (one of the tools they use to track down and punish cheats!) and are therefore part of the download when you export games from Lichess to your own chess engine or database.

Feb 052021
 

Gordon vs. Hill. White has just played 30.g3. How should Black proceed here? Answer in the report below.

As mentioned in last week’s post, online chess competitions are booming to cover the ongoing gap left by the absence of over the board chess. Last Tuesday the 4NCL’s (Four Nations Chess League) third online season for their team competition began. This week saw their individual competition kick off. This is a seven round Swiss System played every other Tuesday between the 2nd of February and the 27th of April. There are four sections: an Open which has 63 participants, the Major (for players rated under 2000) which has 47 participants, the Intermediate (U1700) with 68 participants and a Minor (U1400 and beginners) with 39 participants. With a time limit of 45 minutes for all moves plus 15 seconds per move this (like the team competition) is the closest thing we’re going to get to Classical chess time controls until we can get back to playing face-to-face.

For the second edition of this individual competition (which took place between September and December last year) your editor was the only member of the club to take part. For the record I scored a fairly miserable 2.5/7 in the Open section. This time there are four players affiliated with the club involved across the top two sections.

Let’s start with one of our latest members. Ollie Hill only joined our Lichess community last week and has no English Chess Federation rating but he can clearly play a bit as he bravely decided to have a go in the Open Section. He’s the only unrated player in the section and was rightly anxious about getting hammered although he felt the experience would be ‘instructional’. As it happened, Ollie managed to come out on top after a complicated and messy struggle against the 31st seed in his section, Sean Gordon, who’s rating is 1909. Playing a Benoni, Ollie missed a couple of chances to exchange the frequently bad light squared bishop and seemed to be hanging on early in the middle game. However, with both players dropping in the odd inaccuracy, the game remained balanced.

The critical moment arrived in the diagram position given above. Ollie (playing Black) has a winning position here after his opponents previous move 30.g3?? which is a blunder. Ollie played the very natural looking response 30…Bxb2?? which appears to be winning him a pawn but in fact transforms the position from being a Black win to being a White win! His opponent found the correct idea initially by giving up his queen for two rooks with 31.Qxe4 Rxe4 32.Rxe4 but after 32…Bxc1 he missed the winning continuation which is not to recapture the bishop on c1 (as he did in the game and went on to lose) but instead to play 33.Re8+! Kg7 34.b7 when his b-pawn cannot be stopped and White will simply need to figure out how to walk out of some spite checks.

Instead of all this, Ollie needed to find 30…Qf5! This clever creeping move maintains the threat of Bxb2 but also threatens to get the queen to e4 or h3 with mating threats. For example: 30…Qf5! 31.Qc2 Re1! 32.Qxf5 Rxf1+ 33.Kg2 Rf2+ and then gxf5 wins Black a rook. Or 30…Qf5 31.Qb3 Qh3! and White must give up everything just to delay 32…Re2 and mate to follow on h2 (which explains why 30.g3?? was a blunder). A very complicated position but highly instructive.

After this adventure, Ollie went on to win with his queen against White’s two rooks as he was able to pick up the White passed b-pawn and then had too many targets to attack. Despite being low on time, Ollie converted nervelessly. Congratulations to him on a fine achievement in his first competitive online game!

Elsewhere, in the Major section, Dave Shapland, Pete Leonard and John Allan were all hoping to win their round 1 games against lower rated opposition. Dave and John did indeed manage to do this fairly easily as they had White and their opponents made critical blunders that led to sudden defeats. Pete’s opponent however proved more resilient and managed to hold Pete to a draw with a knight and pawns versus bishop and pawns ending. Pete will feel he missed chances to pick up a full point. 22…Bh3 instead of Bd7 looks like a significant opportunity. But, in a competition over 7 rounds, a draw, even against a lower ranked player, in round 1 could enable him to score well in subsequent rounds as he may be able to avoid the highest rated players in the section for the time being. Let’s see if his ‘Swiss Gambit’ will turn out well for him in the long run.

All four games by the Hebden Bridge contingent are given in the game viewer below.

Instructions for using the PGN Viewer

For the benefit of those who are uninitiated (or simply can’t remember as it’s been so long!) the game viewer above contains all four games played on Tuesday night. It will automatically scroll through all of them one after the other unless you tell it to stop by clicking on the ‘=’ button below the board. To select the game you wish to view click on the ‘…’ symbol in the white box above the board. This will reveal a drop down menu for you to choose from and when you select your game will appear. You can navigate forwards and backwards using the arrow buttons beneath the board or click on the moves in the text box on the right. Most of the annotations in these games have been generated by Lichess’ in house engine which creates auto-analysis for every game played (one of the tools they use to track down and punish cheats!) and are therefore part of the download when you export games from Lichess to your own chess engine or database.

Jan 292021
 

Rupf vs. Blinkhorn, 4NCL Online, 2021. White to play. Black has just captured a pawn on e5 with his queen. It looks like a clean pawn win but he’d over looked a beautiful tactic which, thankfully his opponent (and everyone who studied the game afterwards!) also missed. Can you do better? The solution is in the article below.

It’s been a very long time since this website made a post – the last one was on the 5th of April, 2020! That report acknowledged of course that our ‘normal’ activities have had to be curtailed due to COVID-19. Now, nearly ten months on, we still can’t meet physically at the Trades Club and we can’t play any matches in the Calderdale Evening League or any other ‘over the board’ encounters for that matter. It is of course impossible to know when these activities will be able to resume – perhaps we can hope for a usual scheduled start to the 2021-22 season in September – but one thing is for sure, when they do resume, they won’t be or feel quite the same.

During the lockdown we have, of course, moved online. Lichess has become our website of choice for meeting to play games against each other and we have established our own Hebden Bridge Chess Club pages where members can come and meet each other for friendly games. We’re doing that most Mondays. We’ve also been holding Study Night sessions on Microsoft Teams on Thursday nights which has been a good opportunity to actually see each other and, hopefully, learn something and be entertained! Meanwhile, updates to members have been delivered via email rather than here on the website. If anyone isn’t getting these and would like to please email me at hebdenbridgechessclub@gmail.com to get added to the mailing list.

The whole chess world has migrated to being online although there have been, and still are, a very few elite level over the board tournaments being played – Wijk Aan Zee is taking place at the moment. In England our salvation has been the 4NCL (Four Nations Chess League) which has successfully adapted to move from being a fairly exclusive, over the board club competition to welcoming chess club teams from across the nation at all levels of ability in its new online incarnation. They’ve also moved their individual congresses online and so their are chances to play chess at a decent time limit (45mins + 15secs per move) both in the team and individual formats.

Season 3 (each season lasts 4 months) of the 4NCL Online League began on Tuesday night and we’re delighted to report that Hebden Bridge debuted two teams of four and have a squad of 14 registered players. Both sides start out in Division 7. This is one giant league of 66 teams and it’s a 7-round swiss system. If our teams manage to fight their way out of this division (it’s still not quite clear to me how that works) then the top six leagues each consist of four groups of eight teams. They each play each other and then the top team from each group contest semi-finals and a final. Of course Division 1 contains some extremely strong players amongst their number – even some Grand Masters.

Back to Division 7. Our 1st team are seeded three in the division and our 2nd team are seeded 16th. This meant both sides were in the top half of the draw and got paired with fairly low-ranked opposition. Hebden Bridge 1 lined up against Wessex Some Stars G with Phil Cook, Greg Eagleton, Andrew Clarkson and Dave Shapland in their team. Hebden Bridge 2 were up against Barnet Knights D and fielded David Wedge, Pete Leonard, Josh Blinkhorn and Rob Catlow.

It was interesting to be paired against what seemed generally to be fairly fresh group of players, many of whom I’d guess were juniors. This led to some stereotypical examples of what can happen when two players of very different playing strengths are pitted against each other. Prime among these was the first game of the night to finish on board 4 of Hebden Bridge 2’s match with Barnet Knights D. Rob Catlow’s opponent played so quickly that she actually ended the game with more time on her clock than when she started (remember that after every move is made 15 seconds are automatically added to your clock) so, while Rob was taking his time to make sure he saw as much as he could his opponent was blitzing out moves and was almost inevitably bound to miss something eventually. Indeed, after some mistakes on both sides of the board Leela Maya overlooked Robs’ 26.Ng6+ after which the roof caved in on her position.

At the other end of the spectrum, the other fourth board encounter between Hebden Bridge 1 and Wessex Some Stars G saw Dave Shapland’s opponent, George White playing at glacial speed early on in their game. Dave chose to play the French Defence (not his usual selection!) having seen that his opponent played the Tarrasch Variation (3.Ne2) which is his own choice against that opening with White. The plan turned out well when his opponent first played sub-optimal early moves but also took ever such a long time to make them. Already a pawn down after eight moves, George was ten minutes behind on the clock by move ten and had just eight minutes plus the increment to complete them game by the time he’d reached move twenty. Aside from one brief slip where his opponent could have equlaised, Dave steadily built up a space advantage and then pushed through his central pawn majority in thematic style until White’s position broke down under the pressure.

By the time this game was over, both matches were settled in Hebden’s favour. After Rob’s early win the 2nd team collected two more wins for Josh Blinkhorn (re-joining the club from his new home in Germany!) and Pete Leonard. Josh survived a scare when his opponent missed a particularly devious and beautiful tactic. In the position given above if Oscar Rupf had found 11.Ne4!! he would have pretty much won the game on the spot as 11…Qxb2?? allows 12.Nd6+ followed by either 13.Qe8 or Nxf7 checkmate! So, Black is therefore forced to give up his queen. Having survived that moment, shortly after, Josh showed that his own tactical awareness was sharper when he saw further in a forcing line and bagged a piece. He coasted home after that.

As the club’s most assiduous pawn grabber, Pete must have been delighted when his opponent played the Icelandic Gambit variation of the Scandinavian Defence and simply collected the proffered pawn. He held on to it comfortably and then took full advantage when his opponent overlooked an intermezzo (17.Ne4) which won him a piece. The rest was easy.

The remaining games lasted somewhat longer and were hard fought although Greg Eagleton, on board 2 for the 1st team, picked up his opponent’s queen when she blundered it on move 17. She went berserk after that trying to go for Greg’s king but he stayed calm, defused the tactics and then delivered checkmate with his huge material advantage. On board 1, Phil Cook played a typically smooth game on the White side of a Catalan. He simply retained a small positional advantage and put his opponent under pressure until he too made a tactical error that cost him a piece. Now the 1st team had also secured a 3-0 lead.

Andrew Clarkson made it 4-0 when was finally able to convert his long term positional trumps out of a Maroczy Bind set up in the opening. He managed to get all his pawns on the right coloured squares in preparation for a same coloured bishops ending and then, when his opponent finally gave him a tactical opportunity he didn’t miss it, grabbed an extra pawn and then converted the technical ending without any problems.

Last to finish was David Wedge on board 1 for the 2nd team. He too had to be patient against a resilient opponent who resisted well but slowly slipped into an inferior position. Dave broke through on the queen’s side, set himself up with a passed c-pawn and drove it home remorselessly.

So, a fine start for both teams in the 4NCL. I won’t bother sharing the score cards as the score lines for each player are easily remembered! Tough match ups will most certainly lie ahead in round 2. But for now all the games are posted in the game viewer below. Andrew Clarkson has kindly provided some light annotations for his game. The rest of the annotations are from the Lichess house engine analysis.

For the benefit of those who are uninitiated (or simply can’t remember as it’s been so long!) the game viewer below contains all eight games played on Tuesday night. It will automatically scroll through all of them one after the other unless you tell it to stop by clicking on the ‘=’ button below the board. To select the game you wish to view click on the ‘…’ symbol in the white box above the board. This will reveal a drop down menu for you to choose from and when you select your game will appear. You can navigate forwards and backwards using the arrow buttons beneath the board or click on the moves in the text box on the right. Most of the annotations in these games have been generated by Lichess’ in house engine which creates auto-analysis for every game played (one of the tools they use to track down and punish cheats!) and are therefore part of the download when you export games from Lichess to your own chess engine or database.

Apr 052020
 

In these times of ‘social distancing’ chess players are having to become creative in order to pursue their favorite pass time! Thanks to Andrew Clarkson for sending me this amusing image!

With the Corona virus causing chaos and unprecedented disruption around the world, Hebden Bridge Chess Club and the local chess leagues have all been forced to adapt in order to continue their activities. All ‘over-the-board’ chess has been suspended until we are once again allowed to sit down across from each other to play the game we love. In the meantime, Hebden Bridge Chess Club has moved online. We’re still getting together on Monday evenings but now we’re doing it via Chess.com and Microsoft Teams.

Last Monday we hosted our first try at holding a Microsoft Teams video call so that we could look at some puzzles and a game together. More than 10 us managed to spend an hour and a half together analyzing. It was great fun, if a little ad hoc. I’ll be thinking about the best way for us to run these sessions in future so that we can get the most out of them. In the meantime though, for those that missed it, below are the three puzzle positions taken from the excellent ‘Invisible Chess Moves’ by Emmanuel Neiman and Yochan Afek.

I’ve set the board to display in puzzle mode. See if you can find the next move and do enough analysis to support your choice. Once you advance the game the solution will be displayed along with the required variations. Remember that you need to click on the bar above the board with the three dots in it to reveal and select the games in the viewer. At the end there is also a fairly wild game that we analysed at together.

Online activities for week commencing 6th April

This week we’ll continue with our online activities with another Microsoft Teams call on Monday the 6th followed by an online tournament on Chess.com. I’m also going to try out running some activities at other times and see how we get on. Here’s the schedule for this week.

  • Monday 6th of April at 19:30 – Puzzles and Game Analysis
    Microsoft Teams video call with three more puzzles and a game prepared and presented to us by Pete Leonard. Follow this Microsoft Teams link to join the video call. You can choose either to download the Microsoft Teams software to your computer, or join via your web browser.
  • Monday 6th of April at 21:00-22:00 – Online Blitz Tournament
    We’ll play an online blitz tournament on Chess.com. 5 minutes each for all moves. This will be another ‘Arena’ tournament where you play as many games as you can in 1 hour and get re-paired as soon as a new opponent is available. You get awarded extra points for ‘streaks’ of wins. If you aren’t already a member of Chess.com then it’s easy and free to create an account. Once you’ve done that follow this link to find our online chess club and click on the orange ‘Join’ button. Once you’ve joined the club you can follow this link to register for the tournament – online registration opens at 20:00 – so you won’t be able to join the tournament before then.
  • Wednesday 8th of April at 16:00 – Online Rapidplay Tournament
    Online rapidplay tournament on Chess.com. Follow this link to join. This will be a 10 mins each. This will be a 6-rounded Swiss format and should be finished by about 18:00. Online registration is from 15:00.
  • Good Friday 10th of April at 19:00 – How good is your chess?
    This will be another Microsoft Teams video conference but this time a slightly different format. We’ll go through a Grand Master game and you’ll be asked to predict the next move and score points based on how well your answers correspond to the best moves in the game. At the end we’ll see who’s scored the most points and rate your performance. Follow this link to join us.

Hopefully there should be something here for everyone and we’ll be able to keep you out of mischief!

I just have one final notification:

  • Online Classical Chess Tournament
    I’m sure that lots of you, like me, are missing your slower time limit chess. So, I’m proposing to run a tournament at a classical time limit on Chess.com. The number of rounds and format will have to be determined by the number of entrants but I’d ideally like it to be at least 6 rounds and run the format as 90 minutes for all moves! (i.e. like the evening league but without the winding back of clocks after 36 moves). Obviously this tournament would take place over a number of weeks…
    If you would like to take part in this competition then please email me to tell me you’re interested at hebdenbridgechessclub@gmail.com
Mar 132020
 

The mist has finally cleared in the League 1 title race and we can now clearly see who the favorites are despite the fine margins involved. Photo: Coconino National Forest

Here is a brief article to bring readers (almost!) up to date on the status of the League 1 title race.

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ hosted Huddersfield ‘A’ at the Golden Lion last Monday (the 2nd) to play their match in hand. With this match both Hebden teams have now played nine times and so the position in the league table clarifies itself somewhat.

A win for Hebden ‘B’ would take them top of the league on board count, overtaking their ‘A’ team for the first time this season. The home side’s line up remained unchanged from the previous week’s match away at Belgrave ‘A’. Huddersfield visited with a marginally stronger line up than they had fielded against Hebden Bridge ‘A’ at home in the previous round. Out went David Booth on board 4 to be replaced by Richard Boylan, an experienced and steady presence. The visitors also swapped the order of their top two boards from the previous week with Steve Westmoreland playing on board 1 and Dave Keddie on board 2.

By the mid point in the evening the visitors seemed to be holding their own pretty well as Nick Sykes held Andrew Clarkson in a theoretical Grunfeld battle and Richard Boylan also drew his game with Sam Swain. The home side had won on board 5 however where Jamie Heritage continued his unbeaten streak for the club by beating Rob Mitchell. The game was not without chances for the visiting player however as you’ll see from the game viewer below.

Later in the evening however, Hebden’s ferociously strong top board duo gave the victory a pleasant gloss as Martyn Hamer overcame Steve Westmorland and Phil Cook defeated Dave Keddie. With that victory Phil puts himself in pole position for the League’s ‘Most Valuable Player’ title as he has now scored 7½/9 games. He is now a point and a half (!) clear of his pursuers, his team mate Martyn, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ captain Dave Shapland, Vivienne Webster of Halifax and Dave Patrick of Belgrave who all have 6 points. In fact Hebden Bridge ‘B’ have four players in the top 10 list of highest scorers in the league and so it’s easy to see why they have climbed to the top of the heap.

Here is the final match scorecard:

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ vs. Huddersfield ‘A’
M.Hamer 1 – 0 S.Westmoreland (W)
P.Cook 1 – 0 D.Keddie (W)
A.Clarkson ½ – ½ N.Sykes (W)
S.Swain ½ – ½ R.Boylan (W)
J.Heritage 1 – 0 R.Mitchell (W)
4 – 1

This result means that both Hebden Bridge teams now have 15 points from nine games. They have both drawn one and lost one match. In fact, their records are identical except for in the ‘Boards’ column of the table as the ‘B’ team have now scored 31.5 board points and the ‘A’ team have 28.5. This may seem like a narrow margin, but with only three matches left to play this season,  a three point board count lead is significant especially when you note that Hebden Bridge ‘B’ have to play the two sides at the bottom of the division as well as Halifax ‘A’ with the White pieces, while Hebden Bridge ‘A’ have to play Belgrave ‘A’ and Halifax ‘A’ with the Black pieces and have Belgrave ‘B’ away for their other match. It seems most unlikely that the ‘A’ team will be able to overhaul the board count deficit and so may now be relying on an unlikely shock match result to turn the tables in their favour. Either way, the ‘B’ team are now most definitely in the driving seat.

Let us also note an excellent result for our ‘C’ team in League 2 on Monday night as they beat Belgrave ‘C’ at home in what looked like a tough match. On board 1, Pete Leonard got lucky when, after playing a winning combination, Faisal Rabbi resigned after an unexpected move by Pete, when objectively, he was still winning. The board 5 game was the last to finish and here Paul Gledhill had about 10 moves to make in a couple of minutes, but it was his opponent, Paul Edwards who made the inaccuracies, and then resigned.

Here’s the match scorecard:

Hebden Bridge ‘C’ vs. Belgrave ‘C’
P.Leonard 1 – 0 F.Rabbi (W)
N.Suttie ½ – ½ D.Colledge (W)
N.Bamford 0 – 1 C.Edwards (W)
J.Kerrane ½ – ½ L.Johnson (W)
P.Gledhill 1 – 0 P.Edwards (W)
4 – 1

Mar 022020
 

It still isn’t clear who’s in the driving seat in the League 1 title race between Hebden Bridge’s ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams. Photo: Michael Coghlan

There’s a diminishing amount of chess left to play in the 2019-20 season and the League 1 title race is still nip and tuck between the two Hebden Bridge sides after the eleventh round of fixtures was played this week.

Title holders and current league leaders, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ travelled to Huddersfield ‘A’ on Monday whilst Hebden Bridge ‘B’ visited Belgrave ‘A’. At Huddersfield, the ‘A’ team put out pretty much their strongest possible line up of Parsons, Pantazopoulos, Shapland, Leonard and Leatherbarrow, against a home side that was bereft of their very strongest players. In fairness Messrs Eagleton (three appearances) and Burke (one appearance) have not been playing frequently for them this season (while Leo Keely has restricted himself to playing for Huddersfield ‘B’ exclusively) and that has made life pretty challenging for their top board players this season.

The home team’s line up of Dave Keddie, Steve Westmoreland, Nick Sykes, David Booth and Rob Mitchell were operating the Black pieces and also heavily out rated on all five boards and it looked like the match would offer Hebden Bridge an excellent opportunity to harvest the kind of heavy points win they needed for the title race duel. Of course, it didn’t turn out to be quite so simple – when does it ever.

Early on in the evening all seemed to be going pretty smoothly for the visitors as they achieved decent positions on all boards out of the opening. Boards, 2, 4 and 5 all finished at a similar point in the evening. On board 5, Andy Leatherbarrow won a piece for a pawn from Rob Mitchell as early as move 16 and, thereafter, played sensibly to keep control of the position and simplify the game. That it took 62 moves to complete the process should not in any way suggest that the Huddersfield man was able to mount serious resistance after his early loses.

On board 4 however, Pete Leonard was left to kick himself after he missed several clear-cut chances to accumulate a similar opening advantage to Andy. Instead he had to settle for an extra pawn in a rook and knight ending. Had he managed to exchange the rooks off, Pete would almost certainly have taken the full point, but instead, he lost his extra pawn and might even have got himself into hot water before agreeing to peace terms.
Stavros soon increased Hebden Bridge’s dominant position as he completed a smooth positional win over Steve Westmoreland. At the end, Steve had a rook and bishop against Stavros’ queen, but once the queen had invaded Black’s camp it was all over.

That just left boards 1 and 3 to finish. The contest on board 1 ended first and with a surprising outcome too. Matthew Parsons hardly ever loses with the White pieces – especially in the Calderdale League – yet he lost his second of the season on Monday. Facing an aggressive line against his favourite London System, Matthew blundered an important pawn (just proving it can happen to anyone) after which his position against Dave Keddie was pretty much untenable. Dave played very well to nurture his advantage over the line. Suddenly, there was a danger that Hebden Bridge might only tie the match if they lost on the last board to finish.

Fortunately for them, by the time Matthew’s game had finished, Dave had achieved the upper hand against Nick Sykes. However, that wasn’t the whole story of the game. It was tense, complex and certainly saw Black have the better chances at several points during its course. Nick and Dave have played each other hundreds of times and know each other’s repertoires very well. Dave decided to divert from his usual patterns of play against Nick’s Sicilian Najdorf in a bid to avoid a heavyweight theoretical discussion.

Dave got the kind of game he wanted but Nick developed a good position and had a couple of chances to secure a significant advantage – albeit after some vertigo inducing variations illuminated by engines afterwards. In the end it was the clock that was Nick’s undoing as he left himself with very little time to conduct the latter stages of the middle game in which pinpoint accuracy was still required for him to hold. Instead, he managed to get to the time control but was immediately trapped in a mating net.

Here’s the full match score card:

Huddersfield ‘A’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘A’
D.Keddie 1 – 0 M.Parsons (W)
S.Westmoreland 0 – 1 S.Pantazopoulos (W)
N.Sykes 0 – 1 D.Shapland (W)
D.Booth ½ – ½ P.Leonard (W)
R.Mitchell 0 – 1 A.Leatherbarrow (W)
1½ – 3½

Meanwhile, closer to home, in Halifax, the ‘B’ team were battling Belgrave ‘A’ in a match that looked on paper like it would be much tighter than the one in Huddersfield. Indeed, when the two sides had met in Todmorden during the first half of the season, Hebden had only edged the match by 3 – 2. This time out though, they were even stronger having recruited the talented youngster, Jamie Heritage to their number for his first run out in League 1. He duly won his game against Karim Khan on board 5 in a long end game where Jamie had a bishop, knight and pawn against a rook.

The regulars on the top four boards also did their jobs with only Sam Swain succumbing to the dangerous Malcolm Corbett on board 4. Martyn Hamer and Phil Cook both won while Andrew Clarkson drew with Richard Bowman on board 3.

The final scorecard looked like this:

Belgrave ‘A’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘B’
J.Morgan 0 – 1 M.Hamer (W)
D.Patrick 0 – 1 P.Cook (W)
R.Bowman ½ – ½ A.Clarkson (W)
M.Corbett 1 – 0 S.Swain (W)
K.Khan 0 – 1 J.Heritage (W)
1½ – 3½

These two results mean that the difference between the two Hebden Bridge sides remains exactly the same. Hebden ‘A’ are two points clear of the ‘B’s having played one match more and they have just one extra board point. Hebden ‘B’ play their match in hand at home to Huddersfield ‘A’ on Monday. Even a 3 – 2 win would see them take the top spot with a two point board advantage with just three matches left in the season.

The third and final match of the eleventh round of League 1 fixtures saw an upset as the bottom team, Brighouse, scored their first win of the season in resounding fashion by beating Belgrave ‘B’ 1 – 4. Only Les Johnson on board 4 was able to stem the tide of results by winning his game against Tim Pryke. This means that Brighouse have given themselves a slim chance of escaping the single relegation spot. They have now drawn level with their vanquished hosts on 3 points at the bottom of the division. However, their board count is so low that they will likely have to secure another result of some sort in one of their remaining two matches in order to do a Houdini. They have Halifax ‘A’ at home in the next match before visiting Hebden Bridge ‘B’ away in the final match of the season.

League 2

Before we sign-off we should also mention that Hebden Bridge ‘C’ scored a resounding 5 – 0 victory last week over Halifax ‘B’. This was a great result and bodes well for them as they go into their final cycle of games with a home match against ‘Belgrave ‘C’ at hoe on Monday.

Here’s the scorecard from the match last week:

Hebden Bridge ‘C’ vs. Halifax ‘B’
P.Leonard 1 – 0 P.Moss (W)
J.Heritage 1 – 0 D.Rowley (W)
N.Bamford 1 – 0 J.Nicholson (W)
J.Kerrane 1 – 0 A.Whiteley (W)
C.Marsden 1 – 0 B.Wadsworth (W)
5 – 0

Feb 142020
 

The Calderdale League 1 title race has become a whole lot more interesting since Hebden Bridge ‘B’ beat the ‘A’ team last month. The two sides are now neck and neck and look like they’ll be duelling it out right to the end of the season. Photo: vegaseddie’s Flickr photostream

The recent ‘Game of the Decade’ series of posts has meant that we’ve fallen rather behind with our Calderdale League updates in January. It’s time to rectify that with a bumper edition designed to get you up to date with the state of affairs in all three Calderdale Leagues.

League 1

Two rounds of fixtures were played in January. In the first, played on the 6th of January, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ had an opportunity to stretch their lead at the top of the table as their colleagues in the ‘B’ team had a bye. They travelled to the team at the bottom of the division, Brighouse. The home side had added a new player to their ranks over the Christmas break as Oliver Graham made his first league appearance on board 1.

Hebden meanwhile were significantly under strength with both Matthew Parsons and Stavros Pantazopoulos unavailable. This left team captain, Dave Shapland, with the honours against Brighouse’s new signing. They played out a tense game which originated from a Hungarian Defence but transposed into more of a Ruy Lopez-type position. Oliver had some chances to obtain a good game but didn’t make the most of them and Dave was able to take full advantage and establish knights on both f5 and h5 before opening the position, re-locating one of his knights to a monstrous outpost on e6 and switching his king from the queen’s side to the king’s side to drive home his attack.

On board 2, Andy Leatherbarrow at first seemed to obtain a solid position against Robert Broadbent but later found himself defending a tricky end game that he was unable to hold. Meanwhile, the board 3 encounter saw Pete Leonard trying very hard to convert a promising position against Brighouse’s captain, Paul Whitehouse. However, just as he had done in the reverse fixture of this match in round 1 against Dave, Paul held on gamely and Pete ultimately had to settle for a draw.

Most of the hard work in this match was done by Hebden’s two Neils on boards 4 and 5. Neil Suttie saw off Ronnie Grandage and Neil Bamford beat Tim Pryke to seal the result for the visitors and ensure they kept moved 4 points clear of their ‘B’ team rivals having played one match more.

Brighouse vs. Hebden Bridge ‘A’
O.Graham 0 – 1 D.Shapland (W)
R.Broadbent 1 – 0 A.Leatherbarrow (W)
P.Whitehouse ½ – ½ P.Leonard (W)
R.Grandage 0 – 1 N.Suttie (W)
T.Pryke 0 – 1 N.Bamford (W)
1½ – 3½

 

In the other fixtures of this round, Belgrave ‘A’ beat their ‘B’ team ‘away’ by a score of 1½ – 3½ and Halifax ‘A’ (complete with a new player on board 2) defeated Huddersfield ‘A’ 2 – 3 in a ding-dong match with no draws.

Two weeks later, on the 20th of January, the League 1 teams were back at it again and this time the focus was undoubtedly on the Trades Club where Hebden Bridge’s ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams met for their second derby match of the season. Their first encounter in October had been a very tight and hard-fought affair. This one was to be no different.

Both teams were without their regular board 1 players as Matthew Parsons was unavailable and Martyn Hamer was making his annual pilgrimage to play in the Gibraltar tournament. That meant that boards 1, 2 and 3 would see re-matches of the first fixture but with colours reversed while on board 4 Pete Leonard (who missed the first match) took on John Allan and on board 5 Neil Suttie took on Mick Connor (making his first appearance of the season for the ‘B’ team).

All the games featured plenty of action and the game on board 1 was the first to finish with Phil Cook and Stavros Pantazopoulos neutralising each other for a draw. Boards 3 and 4 were also drawn after well contested efforts with Sam Swain and Andy Leatherbarrow and John Allan and Pete Leonard also agreeing peace terms.

The match was decided on boards 2 and 5. The game between Andrew Clarkson and Dave Shapland on board 2 was the first of these to finish. The players discussed a highly theoretical and very sharp and complex variation of the Sveshnikov Sicilian. Dave had prepared this line for the game thinking that Andrew would be less familiar with it, but this was a serious misjudgement. It turned out Andrew knew exactly what he was doing and played very accurately until Dave overlooked a tactic that allowed Andrew to force an endgame where he was a pawn up and had a positional advantage. Dave tried his best to complicate matters, but Andrew’s technique was exemplary as he converted the win.

The last game to finish was between Mick Connor and Neil Suttie. This one went right to the death with Neil now needing to win to tie the match. With both men battling the clock as well as each other, the game was destined for a nail-biting conclusion. Mick seemed to be winning but then Neil found a way to enter an ending where he had four pawns versus a knight and a single pawn. It probably should have been drawn but, playing for his team, Neil tried to win it and instead ended up losing it.

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘B’
S.Pantazopoulos ½ – ½ P.Cook (W)
D.Shapland 0 – 1 A.Clarkson (W)
A.Leatherbarrow ½ – ½ S.Swain (W)
P.Leonard ½ – ½ J.Allan (W)
N.Suttie 0 – 1 M.Connor (W)
1½ – 3½

 

So, the ‘B’ team took their revenge by 1½ – 3½ and moved back to within 2 points of the league leaders with a match still in hand. Their scheduled match last Monday at home against Huddersfield ‘A’ would have been their chance to go top on board count but it was postponed as the main road to Todmorden from Halifax was closed for most of the day on Monday as the valley reeled from the aftermath of storm Ciara. Should the ‘B’ team win this game in hand, we will then have a thrilling run in between the two Hebden sides as they aim to stay perfect and win as many boards as they can. It could be enthralling.

The other matches played on the 20th of January saw Huddersfield ‘A’ thrash Brighouse 4 – 1 (albeit with highly creditable individual results for Oliver Graham and Tim Pryke who held Greg Eagleton and Nick Sykes respectively) and Belgrave ‘A’ draw against Halifax ‘A’ in a match that saw the visitors board 3 and 4, Carlos Velosa and Vivienne Webster, achieving a win and a draw respectively against higher rated opponents.

This week, aside from the postponement between Hebden Bridge ‘B’ and Huddersfield ‘A’, Brighouse were whitewashed at home by Belgrave ‘A’ and Halifax drew with Belgrave ‘B’ which was a fixture the home side will feel they should have won as they out rated their visitors on every board but only Vivienne on board 5 was able to beat her opponent as Carlos this time lost to Chris Edwards on board 3.

For the moment then, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ remain top of the table on 13 points having played eight matches. They are followed by Halifax ‘A’ on 12 points from nine matches and then Belgrave ‘A’ with 11 points from nine matches and Hebden Bridge ‘B’ with 11 points from just seven matches.

In the League basement, Brighouse remain bottom on 1 point but they have not yet lost hope of avoiding relegation as Belgrave ‘B’ have 3 points and have also yet to face Brighouse for a second time. Still, it looks bleak for the Brighouse team at the moment.


League 2

The sides in the second division also played twice in January. On the 13th, the runaway leaders Huddersfield ‘B’ underlined their overwhelming superiority by beating bottom team Halifax ‘B’ 1 – 4. Pete Moss and Andrew Whiteley showed spirited resistance in drawing their games with much higher rated opponents but the rest of the home side’s line up were put to the sword.

In this round, Belgrave ‘C’ also clarified their second-place position as they beat Hebden Bridge ‘C’ by 3½ – 1½. In this match Belgrave’s top three boards all won but Hebden’s tail wagged furiously as Chris Marsden drew with Angel Gonzalez and Jamie Heritage continued to show great potential as he beat Paul Edwards and earned himself a board promotion in the next round of fixtures.

Belgrave ‘C’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘C’
F.Rabbi 1 – 0 J.Kerrane (W)
D.Colledge 1 – 0 N.Bamford (W)
L.Johnson 1 – 0 P.Gledhill (W)
A.Gonzales ½ – ½ C.Marsden (W)
P.Edwards 0 – 1 J.Heritage (W)
3½ – 1½

The teams reconvened on the 27th of January. This time is was Hebden Bridge’s turn to get a taste of Huddersfield’s dominance as they were on the end of a 4 – 1 defeat. It certainly didn’t help that they had to default a board due to John Kerrane falling unwell on the day of the match, but, once again, it was left to young Jamie, this time on board 2, to salvage some pride as he beat David Gray in a fine game. It’s safe to say that we haven’t yet discovered the limit of Jamie’s abilities! Meanwhile, in Halifax, Belgrave ‘C’ were heaping more misery on Halifax ‘C’ who they trounced 0 – 5.

Huddersfield ‘B’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘C’
L.Keely 1 – 0 P.Leonard (W)
D.Gray 0 – 1 J.Heritage (W)
G.Boot 1 – 0 N.Bamford (W)
A.Ward 1 – 0 P.Gledhill (W)
S.Anscombe 1 – 0 DEFAULT
4 – 1

 

It’s safe to say that this division has become something of a procession with big gaps opening up between the sides. Huddersfield are top with a perfect 16 points from eight matches. Belgrave are second on 10, Hebden Bridge have 5 and Halifax just 1.


Handicap League

In stark contrast to League 2, the Handicap League is poised for a thrilling finale. The competition only has three rounds of fixtures but, after the second round was played on the 3rd of February, we are looking at the prospect of a final showdown between Hebden Bridge and Huddersfield as they have both won their first two matches.

In round 2 Hebden beat Halifax 4½ – ½ over the boards and, after Halifax had received an extra half point from the handicap system, they were comfortable 4½ – 1 winners. What amounted to Hebden’s regular ‘C’ team were too good for the equivalent of the Halifax ‘B’ team. Only John Kerrane dropped a half point against John Nicholson when he blundered in a completely won position. Aside from that it was straightforward for the home side.

Hebden Bridge H vs. Halifax H
N. Bamford 1 – 0 H.Wood (W)
(W) J.Kerrane ½ – ½ J.Nicholson
C.Marsen 1 – 0 B.Wadsworth (W)
(W) P.Gledhill 1 – 0 E.Fynn
J.Heritage 1 – 0 P.Stowe (W)
Handicap bonus: 0 – ½
4½ – 1

The match between Huddersfield and Belgrave was altogether much closer. Interestingly, Huddersfield were out rated on every board but they fought hard and managed to win on board three and draw on boards one and five. That meant that, although they lost over the boards by 2 – 3, they managed to win the match due to the two extra handicap points they received before-hand.

This now sets up the aforementioned winner-takes-all encounter at Huddersfield on the 30th of March. Hebden will certainly fancy their chances.

Feb 022020
 

The votes have been cast, polling is now closed and we have a winner! The game between Dennis Breen and Matthew Parsons was the overwhelming favorite in our poll  with more than 69% of the votes. Firth vs. Wedge was second and Gormally vs. Morgan came in third. The full results can be seen in the table below.

Thanks to everyone who contributed suggestions for this poll and to everyone who voted. Congratulations to the winners!

Jan 242020
 

This way to the polling station! Time for you to decide on your ‘Game of the Decade’. Photo: kcivey

We’ve reached the end of our short series covering some of the best, most interesting, exciting and memorable chess games played in Hebden Bridge or by Hebden Bridge Chess Club players. Now it’s time for us to reveal our short list and for readers to decide which one they think is their ‘Game of the Decade’.

Just as with the long list I really agonised over which games to select. There are so many factors to weight up and, in the end, the selection is subjective. The least I can do is explain the criteria that I used to weigh up the long list candidates so that readers can understand how I reached this short list of five games, even if they don’t agree with my choice.

  • How accurate was the play in general?: although there were some games on the long list in which the general standard of the play was not that high, I felt they merited inclusion because of one interesting moment or because they were particularly dramatic. However, those games have not been carried forward to the shortlist as I felt the games here should be considered as being ‘well played’ by the majority of our readership. All of the games on this short list would be torn to shreds by chess engine’s but we aren’t computers and so the engine’s assessment didn’t come into my thinking so much. It’s also fair to say that really complicated games tend to contain more moves that engines would class as ‘inaccurate’ but that, for us mere mortals, would be hard to criticize. So the complexity of the game was considered in conjunction with the standard of play.
  • Was the game was a genuine contest?: I eliminated some games from my consideration because I felt they were too one-sided. Sometimes even games that were well played by one player were ruled out because the defender had capitulated too easily or missed an obvious improvement
  • Was the game exciting or unusual in any outstanding way?: I felt all the games on this shortlist should have some exciting or interesting moments in them. That didn’t mean they had to be sacrificial, tactical or complicated but I felt they needed to have some kind of ‘X-factor’ in them.

Here then is my shortlist for readers to vote on:

 

In the game viewer below I have published the five shortlisted games again for those who wish to refresh their memory before making their decision.

This poll will be open for 1 week only. Everyone is welcome to vote (you don’t have to be a Hebden Bridge Chess Club member or even a UK resident!) Voting is anonymous and please note that you’ll only be allowed to vote once by the poll, so choose carefully! I’d also very much like to hear from any readers who would like to share the reasons for why they chose a particular game and whether or not they thought the right games made both the longlist and the shortlist. Do please leave comments at the end of this post and let everyone hear your opinions. You can post comments anonymously if you wish to.