|Is it Captain Marvel or is it Martin Syrett?|
As the Calderdale Evening Chess League season begins to draw to a close both of Hebden Bridge Chess Club’s Division 1 teams rode into battle on Monday night in matches that could yet decide their success or failure of their seasons. The club’s regular venue at the Trades Club was unavailable and so the players were forced to de-camp to the unfamiliar surrounds of the White Lion pub. This could have been a disruptive influence on proceedings but it must be said that the function room we were given was big enough, comfortable enough and quiet enough and generally very satisfactory. It also seems that the players agreed with this assessment because both sides managed to win their matches, though in rather contrasting styles.
I’ll deal with the ‘B’ team first. They have been locked in a relegation battle all season and as the night begin they occupied second last position in the league table with Halifax ‘A’ one point above them and Brighouse four points ahead. These were the only two teams they had any chance of over hauling before the end of the season so a win was essential. Their opponents were Belgrave who are occupying a sort of mid-table limbo between the dangers of relegation and the excitement of the title race. In the reverse fixture at Belgrave in November Hebden Bridge lost 3-2 in a match they probably should have won. It was clear they were capable of victory but confidence and expectationshave been low for several months now.
The night began badly for Hebden Bridge as, on board 1, Pete Olley blundered a bishop against Gordon Farrar and was compelled to resign shortly afterwards. Pete has had a very challenging year on board 1 and has generally given an excellent account of himself against the league’s top players although he only has two draws to show for his troubles. The ‘B’ team steadied the ship with comfortable draws on boards 3 and 5 where Andy Leatherbarrow and guest star Steve Priest respectively kept Les Johnson and Angel Gonzalez at bay. All this left the match situation in the balance as Hebden Bridge required the remaining two boards to win the tie
Dave Shapland was first to finish on board 2 where he successfully out fought Malcolm Corbett. The players had met with the same colours last season and they once again discussed the Voronyez Variaiton of Alekhine’s Defence. This line is characterised by White’s attempt to set up a bind on the Black position and force him to create positional concessions in order to liberate his pieces. Dave managed to do this successfully early in the game but Malcolm defended himself stoutly and creatively for a long time until eventually, possibly in desperation, he opted for a line that brought about an unclear tactical melee. For several moves the outcome was unclear but then Dave found the most accurate continuations and Malcolm missed a few difficult saving chances and Hebden Bridge had their first win of the evening.
This left the match all square with just one board left to play. ‘B’ team Captain, Martin Syrett, built up a significant space advantage on board 4 against Mike Barnett but, in the process, he also got himself into trouble on the clock. The tension in the room was palpable for the Hebden Bridge players. Would Martin beat the clock and maintain his advantage or would defeat once again be snatched from the jaws of victory? Find out below where the full game and some accompanying commentary is given:
A thrilling climax to the evening then and huge relief for the ‘B’s who, aided by their Captain’s brave victory, now step out of the relegation zone once again as Halifax ‘A’ fell to a 1-4 defeat at home to Courier ‘A’. The effort must be sustained however for in the last match of the season Hebden Bridge ‘B’ must travel to Brighouse whilst Halifax ‘A’ go to bottom side Todmorden. The ‘B’ team must at least match Halifax’s result to stay in Division 1 next season. At least they are in control of their own destiny. Anyone who wants to see Captain Syretts celebrations after the match should watch the video below which will give you a general impression!
The match card is given below:
Meanwhile, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ are sadly not in a position to be in control of their own destiny. They trail Huddersfield at the top of the table by a single point but now require their nemesis to slip up in order to allow them to retain their title. They did their job against Brighouse on Monday night with three wins, one draw and a single defeat on board 5 where Nick Sykes lost to Nick Hudson.
It feels like a few members of the ‘A’ team might be feeling a little battle weary at the end of a long hard season. Certainly, the side is not winning matches by the kinds of crushing margins they were in the first half of the season. Their title rivals Huddersfield, by contrast, began with a draw and a defeat but have since won every match including two critical victories against Hebden Bridge ‘A’.
On Monday night there were some signs that Alastair Wright’s team still has the stomach to fight to the end though as, on board 1, Dave Wedge won smoothly against Robert Broadbent. By his own admission Dave has not had a vintage season, but he has picked up some form since Christmas and will need to maintain that for the last round match against Courier ‘A’.
Captain, Alastair Wright, also ground out a win on board 3 against Bruce Bendall.
Matthew Parsons played out the most exciting game in this fixture against Dennis Breen. I didn’t get the chance to catch much of this game and when I did I must confess I wasn’t at all sure what was going on. The complications seemed to be extensive. Matthew certainly enjoyed it and, rather than publish it here, I will instead link to his own blog so that you can read his thoughts on it and play through the game which ended in a draw.
The other home team win came from Matthew Wedge-Roberts who dispatched his opponent in fairly straight-forward fashion.
The final match card looked like this: