Feb 072012

Of course there's no hint of mutiny but Martin Syrett's 'C' team are floating dangerously adrift of Belgrave

Another round of league 1 fixtures were played during the course of last week. After the previous round’s excitement leading to Hebden Bridge ‘A’ hitting the front on their own for the first time this season it was always going to be interesting to see how Todmorden ‘A’ responded to their set back. They hosted Hebden Bridge ‘B’ last Monday. John Kerrane provides the report on this match.

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ travelled to Todmorden on Monday evening to take on title challengers Todmorden ‘A’ in the first division of the Calderdale Chess League.

Having held Courier ‘A’ to a draw the previous week, the Hebden side’s hopes were high, especially as Todmorden ‘A’ were weakened by the absence of their regular board 2 player, Martyn Hamer. However, even an under-strength Todmorden ‘A’ proved too strong for Hebden Bridge ‘B’, and the result of the match was a 4-1 win for Todmorden, giving them some revenge for a loss to Hebden Bridge ‘A’ by the same score the previous week.

Andrew Clarkeson was Todmorden’s top board player on Monday’s night and he kindly sent us the moves and some notes from his exciting game with Andy Leatherbarrow which is well worth replaying. Here is his perspective on proceedings.

Todmorden were struggling before we started. No Martyn Hamer, away on international duty, no Peter Mulleady, and nobody to play board 5! Luckily we ‘found’ Bob Pratt in the bar downstairs and drafted him in to avoid a default.

Bob played a blinder on board 5 and how we needed it! I got into desperate time trouble by move 25 with a losing position. However with both flags hanging I played instantly to extricate myself and it was Andy’s flag that fell! That secured the match for Todmorden and a draw was agreed on board 2 as well because of that. But in the post mortem as we reconstructed the scramble on board 1 it turned out Black had completed his 36th move! It is no consolation that White just had the advantage at that point and another example of how chess can be so unjust.

The individual results were:

Todmorden ‘A’ — Hebden Bridge ‘B’
A. Clarkeson 1 — 0 A. Leatherbarrow
A. Wright ½ -½ M. Syrett
N. Suttie 1 — 0 D. Sugden
R. Tokeley ½ -½ J. Kerrane
R. Pratt 1 — 0 N. Bamford
4 — 1

This result left the ‘B’ team firmly fixed in the relegation zone. There was more bad news for them later in the evening as it emerged that Brighouse had lost to Belgrave 2 — 3, a result that pulled Belgrave a further 2 points clear of danger. The ‘B’s are now 4 points behind them and Captain Syrett and his crew are in great danger of being left too far adrift to escape the drop this season. They made a miracle last year. Can they do it again?

On Thursday night the new league leaders were in Huddersfield to take on the back markers Huddersfield ‘A’. Despite the absence of Darwin Ursal due to illness, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ still fielded a side that was far too strong for Huddersfield as Matthew Webb played a second fixture for Hebden on board 1 and Matthew Parsons moved to board 2.

Parsons was the first to finish his game against young Peter Hepworth. The game was memorable for the interesting static nature of the ending as Black held all of White’s pieces in a zugswang and simple marched his king into a position where it was possible to trade everything off into a won king and pawn ending.

Shortly after this game had finished ended boards 3 and 1 were also completed. Dave Shapland overcame Brian Corner for the second time this season when Brian overlooked a nasty intermezzo that allowed Dave to damage his king’s position. He then compounded his woes by opening up the b-file for Dave to win a piece and set up a murderous attack.

Matty Webb took things more slowly against Chris Stratford’s London System. He played as aggressively as he could but White’s choice of opening is notoriously tough to breakdown and, in the end, Matty had to settle for an ironclad positional advantage that he brought home ruthlessly.

Boards 4 and 5 were always likely to be the most closely contested and so it proved. Pete Leonard generated a decent advantage against Eddie Mellor but then found that his opponents position wasn’t so easy to break down and, when Eddie steadfastly refused to help him out with a tactical oversight, Pete had to settle for a draw in a position he admitted was slightly better for his adversary.

The last game of the night to finish was Nick Sykes’ remorseless grinding down of Mark Rojinsky. Sykes has played the Schliemann Variaiton of the Spanish against this opponent before and it seemed apparent that Rojinsky and learnt from the last game they contested. Nevertheless, Sykes first equalised comfortably and then gained a nagging advantage that eventually paid off. Once he had managed to exchange the queens the resultant rook ending never looked like anything other than a Black win and Sykes jealously protected his advantage to convert the full point. Nick has made a very positive habit of nursing home small advantages this season and has made an excellent contribution to Hebden’s current elevated status.

Huddersfield ‘B’ — Hebden Bridge ‘A’
C.Stratford 0 — 1 M.Webb
P.Hepworth 0 – 1 M. Parsons
B.Corner 0 — 1 D. Shapland
E.Mellow ½ -½ P.Leonard
M.Rojinsky 0 — 1 N. Sykes
½ — 4½

Here are a selection of the games from both Hebden Bridge fixtures last week. They are also available for download via the Chessbase online viewer. The download version contains several games with commentary. My thanks to Matty Webb, Andrew Clarkeson and Pete Leonard for supplying annotations to their games.

Whilst visiting the Lindley Social Club (Huddersfield’s home venue) the Hebden players were also able to watch the most mouth watering tie of the round as Courier ‘A’ visited the reigning champions, Huddersfield ‘A’. Having dropped a point at home to Hebden Bridge ‘B’ last time out, Courier really needed to win and they brought a very strong line up to the fixture. By comparision, Huddersfield were under strength and it transpired that, with fixtures to play on both Friday night and Saturday afternoon, many players had been forced to select which ties to play in. This depletion took it’s toll in the end. The top three boards were all drawn. Huddersfield’s Mitchell Burke was unable to create a lasting advantage against John Morgan. David Firth seemed to have an advantage when he agreed a draw with Courier’s Dave Patrick, but on closer inspection it seemed like Black had some good counter play. On board three Richard Boylan and Robert Clegg were the first to agree peace terms.

Thus, all the decisive action took place on boards 4 and 5. This was where Huddersfield’s lack of strength in depth eventually told. First their captain, Robert Sutcliffe was beaten by Peter Hughes and then, as the evening drew to a close, Courier’s Kevin Winter finished off Stuart Oliver in a complicated game were he had a queen knight and pawns against two rooks, a knight and pawns.

All this leaves the champions 4 points behind the league leaders and they now look unlikely to defend their title. Courier must be warmly congratulated for completing a double over Huddersfield ‘A’ having also won their home match against them. It must be quite some time since any team has managed that feat. Courier’s reward is that they now occupy third place on their own, three points behind Hebden ‘A’ and they still have to play the top two teams. Todmorden ‘A’ remain in second but they must rely on other teams to help them if they are to catch up.

  One Response to “Captain Syrett and Crew Cut Adrift”

  1. Great report – I liked the “ironclad positional advantage” assessment, I couldn’t have put it better myself. 🙂

    I will email you my game from the match so hopefully you can include it, I must apologise I did intend to sent it the following morning…

    Very much looking forward to seeing how the rest of the season pans out – I hope to even turn up if only as a reserve!

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