Apr 122012

It’s been the most competitive League 1 title race in years and it’s going to go right to the tape as both Hebden Bridge ‘A’ and Todmorden ‘A’ won their matches last Monday to ensure that the final round will be decisive.

Of course a competitive league is also a tight league and the two contenders both expended another of their cats lives on their way to victory as Brighouse and Courier ‘A’ respectively ran them very close indeed. The outcomes of both matches were heavily affected by the dreaded zeintot as critical decisions were made quickly and under intense pressure. Here are two examples:

Shapland vs. Hudson: position after 36.Kh1

In this first position (right) from Hebden’s match with Brighouse the away player clearly has the game in the palm of his hand. White is a piece down and his king is extremely vulnerable. White had been hanging on desperately for several moves when this position arose but, critically, it’s the 36th and final move before time control. As he searched for the right way to apply the finishing touch Brighouse’s Nick Hudson glanced at his clock and, suddenly realising that he only had a few seconds to make his move, jerked into life and banged out 36…Rxf2? At this point Dave Shapland (playing White) breathed a huge sigh of relief for, after the clocks had been put back, the game concluded with:

37.Qxf2 Qh7
38.Rg5  ½-½

The game assessment has changed completely and now White is winning so, why a draw? Well, you’ll have to read the match report to understand that but let’s just say that when a draw is all that is required to seal a result players can make decisions they wouldn’t make in other circumstances. However, here is a stark example of the last move before time control being critical to the outcome of a game.

Here’s another example from the Todmorden vs. Courier match:

Clarkeson vs. Clegg: position after 48.Kd3

This game has gone past the first time control and both players are (once again!) in desperate time trouble. Of course Black should be winning easily. He has an extra rook. However, when you’ve been playing for over 3 hours and the rest of the players in the match have all finished and are kibbitzing the pressure is absolutely acute.

Black played 48…Ra2?! (48…Rcd2+ 49.Kc3 exd5 50.cxd5 Rxd5 is winning for Black) and when White responded with 49.d6 and offered a draw Black couldn’t see past the various threats to find a solution. Given his shortage of time he felt forced to agree to peace.

Thanks to Todmorden’s Andrew Clarkeson for sending us this critical game. There are lots of interesting variations as it turns out. You can take a look at them all in the game viewer at the end of this post. He described the critical game in the match for us:

We only just beat Courier to keep the title on ice. We used up all our luck in that match when I managed to achieve a draw against Robert Clegg at 10:40pm. I had been lost for ages, a whole Rook down with nebulous compensation, but kept plugging away even with zero time on my clock. With everybody gathered round and his own flag rising Robert saw the spectre of a mate or pawn promotion to a Queen for myself, so reluctantly accepted my draw offer. Of course the truth was he was still completely winning in the final position but that is chess pressure for you.”

This draw turned out to be critical to the outcome of the match as there had already been three drawn games and a single victory for Todmorden on board 5. This last result enabled Todmorden to steal a 3-2 victory that ensured the title race would go to the last round of the season.

Meanwhile, Hebden Bridge ‘A’, having lost for the first time this season in the previous round at Belgrave, were suffering from a severe bout of the jitters. The team was slightly under strength without Matthew Parsons to occupy board 2 but they still appeared to have too much fire power for a Brighouse side that had travelled without their star performer, Dennis Breen.

Half-way through the evening it appeared that disaster was going to strike again for Hebden as 3 of the 5 boards were objectively lost for the home side and one of the other two seemed very drawish. That was when Hebden, who have gotten themselves out of numerous scrapes this year, started to use up more of their cat lives.

First of all Andy Leatherbarrow, deputising for the ‘A’ team on board 5, took advantage of a blunder by Ron Grandage to deliver a checkmate when he was an exchange down. It had been even worse earlier on when he’d correctly sacrificed a piece for an attack but had then misplayed the position to leave Ron with an overwhelming material plus.

By this stage of proceedings Darwin Ursal had already seen off Robert Broadbent on board 1 for the second time this season and that left the league leaders in a commanding 2-0 position that perhaps did not reflect the nature of the struggle.

On board 2, Pete Leonard mis-played his opening against Bruce Bendall and went two pawns down in the middle game. Bruce maintained an excellent grip on the advantage and when the end game arrived he had two connected passed pawns which he duly nursed home for a very creditable victory.

This result combined with Dave Shapland’s plight on board 3 really put the result of the tie into some doubt. However, as we saw from the first diagram in this post, Dave was, to all intents and purposes, saved by the bell (or at least the clock!) when Nick Hudson blundered away all his good work on the last move before time control. Dave glanced across at Nick Sykes’ position on board 4 before offering his opponent a draw that essentially secured the match win. But, as he made the proposition he also said, “I don’t deserve to win this game. Not in this fashion”.

This left Sykes in the happy position of only needing to draw his endgame against Paul Whitehouse. He was a pawn up in a pawn and piece ending but, rather than taking the easy option, to his very great credit, Nick played on. He was, no doubt, spurred on by the painful memory of failing to convert a two pawn advantage against Les Johnson in the Belgrave match and, although many of the kibbitzers felt his slender advantage could not be converted, he proved them all wrong by driving home his last remaining pawn to clinch the match in fine style.

The final match score card was:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs. Brighouse
D.Ursal 1 — 0 R.Broadbent
P.Leonard 0 — 1 B.Bendall
D.Shapland ½ – ½ N.Hudson
N.Sykes 1 — 0 P.Whitehouse
A.Leatherbarrow 1 — 0 R.Grandage
3½ – 1½

So, both of the top two teams survived substantial scares to ensure that the title race goes the distance. Todmorden play the back markers, Huddersfield ‘B’ away in the last round, a match they must surely win. This means that Hebden Bridge must also win their final round encounter away against Courier ‘A’, a much tougher prospect. If Hebden draw and Todmorden win then it will come down to board count and a 5-0 win for Todmorden (not unrealistic) would snatch the title by the slenderest possible margin… a single drawn game. Could that draw in time trouble by Andrew Clarkeson or Dave Shapland’s sporting draw offer against Nick Hudson when he could have played for a win turn out to be critical moments in the campaign?

Whilst all this was going on Hebden Bridge ‘B’ were also in action at home against their ‘A’ team’s conquerors, Belgrave. With Andy Leatherbarrow having moved up to the ‘A’ team, Martin Syrett had to press himself into service on the top board and Dave Sugden and Josh Blinkhorn were also promoted. The result was immaterial for Syretts’ men as their relegation is sadly already assured. Nevertheless they gave an excellent account of themselves against a strong Belgrave side with four of the five team members earning draws. Only Josh blotted their copy book when he lost to Mike Barnett. All the games from both these league 1 fixtures are in the game viewer at the end of this post. I draw readers attention to Martin’s comfortable draw with a Kings Gambit against Belgrave board 1, Gordon Farrar.

Here is the final scorecard:

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ vs. Belgrave
M.Syrett ½ – ½ G.Farrar
D.Sugden ½ – ½ M.Corbett
J.Blinkhorn 0 — 1 M.Barnett
J.Kerrane ½ – ½ A.Gonzalez
N.Bamford ½ – ½ L.Johnson
2 – 3

This just leaves me to round up by informing readers of the fate of reigning champions Huddersfield ‘A’. They played ‘away’ against their ‘B’ team colleagues and won an odd match (the ‘A’ team was very much under strength and even defaulted board 4) by the odd point. Mathematically this still leaves them in contention for the title but in order to win they would need Hebden Bridge to lose and, more unlikely, Todmorden to draw or lose to Huddersfield ‘B’.

Before I sign off I’d like to mention that Hebden Bridge ‘D’ also played on Monday night in a postponed match against Courier ‘B’. They managed to win the match to secure their second win of the season. More of this in our next post.

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Mar 312012

Hebden 'A' were red-faced for a different reason on Monday night!

It is without shame that I begin this post with a hefty chunk of text originally drafted for another article on this site just over two years ago: “Memento Mori” (10th of March, 2010). Back then this blog was more of a personal diary than a club website but the events of this week gave me good reason to recall those two latin words.

In ancient Rome when a conquering General returned to the capital after a successful campaign he was often voted the honour of a “triumph” by the senate. This was essentially a ceremonial victory parade through the streets of the city with his army following in his wake. The General would drive in his chariot, the roads lined with jubilant citizens, to the senate house where he would be received by his peers and become the subject of various obsequies.

However, to ensure all this adoration didn’t give him too inflated an opinion of himself, behind him, in the chariot, would be one of his slaves who would murmur again and again in his ear the words “Look behind you! Remember that you are but a man!” It is this phrase that the classic epitaph “Memento mori” (Remember you must die) originates from. I also like to believe that it is the origin of the famous pantomime catch phrase “Look behind you!” but I admit that might be stretching reality a little bit too far!

Over the last few months I’ve been reminded of this lesson from antiquity on several occasions as I’ve seen and experienced life at the chess board deliver some reality checks (no pun intended!) When you are on a good run of form, whether this be at chess, or in any competitive situation, it is easy to get overconfident and start to feel like a Roman General enjoying his moment in the spotlight. Victories are easy to come by, your luck is in and you feel unstoppable. It is at this moment that the game tends to hand you a timely reminder that all good things must come to an end.”

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ have been on an excellent run of form this season. Before Monday’s match at Belgrave they were unbeaten and 3 points clear at the top of League 1 They seemed to have hurdled the most serious barriers between them and the title. However, if they were feeling complacent and comfortable then their opponents on Monday played, most effectively, the part of  the whispering chariot passenger to their Roman General and reminded them that they aren’t champions yet.

Belgrave's men (backs to the camera) in deep thought as they contrived Hebden Bridge 'A's downfall

Dave Shapland’s men ultimately went down in flames despite getting off to an excellent start when Matthew Parsons won nicely against Malcolm Corbett on board 2. Matthew is fast becoming an expert on his preferred “Sniper” system and although Malcolm won a pawn his pieces were uncoordinated and one oversight was all it took for Matthew to secure the win.

Next to finish was Darwin “Draw-Win” Ursal who’s inspirational form this season and rapidly rising live grade  totally justified his promotion to board 1. However, he was perhaps surprised by Gordon Farrar’s cunning deployment of the Classical Variation against his Sicilian Dragon and, although the opening went well enough for him, he then made a few uncharacteristic errors to hand his opponent a pawn’s advantage. As usual when faced with adversity, Darwin knuckled down and found a way to acheive a draw but, by his high standards, it wasn’t one of his best efforts.

A draw on top board is not an unusual outcome. Matches in the Calderdale League are usually decided on the lower boards and this was where it all started to go wrong for Hebden Bridge. First of all Pete Leonard blundered whilst in full control of proceedings against Mike Barnett and was quickly and clinically punished for his sins – he was right to point out afterwards that this was probably a just outcome baring in mind his win against the same opponent in the reverse fixture was obtained in very similar fashion.

Shortly after this Dave Shapland also succumbed of a sudden to Richard Bowman who has been a new and very useful addition to the Belgrave line up in the last few matches. The position seemed to be about equal until Dave tried, over-optimistically, to play for a win, underestimated his opponents attacking potential and resigned in the face of a mating attack.

That left poor old Nick Sykes to try and rescue his team yet again. He has managed to do so on several occasions this season – at home to Hebden Bridge ‘B’, away at Brighouse and at home to Huddersfield ‘A’ all spring readily to mind. This time he had to win to secure a draw and, as the rest of the players gathered around his game against Les Johnson, all seemed well. In a double rook and pawn ending Nick had two extra pawns. Rook endings are never easy however and the clock was not on Nick’s side. In his haste he overlooked a couple of winning opportunities and was ultimately forced to offer his opponent a draw as both men had only moments left on their clocks.

Belgrave are to be congratulated on their excellent play and result. They have thrown a title race that seemed decided wide-open once again. Here is the full match score card:

Belgrave vs. Hebden Bridge ‘A’
G. Farrar ½ – ½ D.Ursal
M.Corbett 0 — 1 M.Parsons
R.Bowman 1 — 0 D.Shapland
M.Barnett 1 — 0 P.Leonard
L.Johnson ½ – ½ N.Sykes
3 – 2

Of course such a traumatising defeat resulted in some self-flagellation by the losers in the aftermath. However, now that some water has passed under the bridge, the ‘A’ team players should reflect that they have done exceptionally well to have got as far as they did through the season without losing when all the other teams in the league have lost at least three times. They now need to show the same fighting spirit that has taken them to the top of the table in order to finish the job off against Brighouse at home on Monday and then away to Courier ‘A’ on the last day of the season. They now once again have a baying pack of hounds at their heels in the form of : Todmorden ‘A’ who closed the gap at the top to a single point by dispatching  Brighouse away 1 – 4; Courier ‘A’ who now lie 2 points off the leaders having beaten Huddersfield ‘B’ by the same score; and Huddersfield ‘A’ who won 4½ – ½ at home against Hebden Bridge ‘B’ on Thursday night.

Sadly, the ‘A’ team’s slip up combined with the ‘B’ teams defeat means that Hebden Bridge ‘B’ will be relegated at the end of the season. I’ll amend this post with their scorecard once it is available to me. In the meantime here are the ‘A’ team games against Belgrave.

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Mar 302012

Danny Crampton was one of the heroes in Hebden 'C's draw with Halifax

It’s high time readers had an update on the progress of our League 2 teams. While all the excitement in League 1 has been continuing unabated (more on this tomorrow!) Hebden Bridge ‘C’ have been going about their business in a most efficient manor. They lie in second spot behind Todmorden ‘B’ and, whilst they may not catch up with the leaders, they still have a chance to gain promotion by finishing second. To succeed they must hold off a strenuous competitive effort from Halifax ‘A’ who are themselves desperate to get back into the top flight. Last Monday the two sides met (at Halifax although it was a Hebden Bridge home fixture) with Hebden holding a just a single point’s advantage over their rivals. ‘C’ team Captain, John Kerrane, reports for us:

Hebden Bridge ‘C’ set off for a tough match against Halifax ‘A’ last Monday night. Heavily outgraded on all boards, the ‘C’ team players expected a difficult match, and by the end of the opening, they were in trouble on all five boards. However, Dan Crampton and Ray Deravairere on boards 4 and 5 fought back to snatch win, and when Steve Priest secured a draw on board 2 in the last game to finish, they were relieved to find that they had drawn the match 2½-2½. The result means that Hebden Bridge ‘C’ is still in contention at the top of the second division, while promotion is by no means certain for Halifax ‘A’.”

The individual results were:

Hebden Bridge ‘C’ vs. Halifax ‘A’
J. Kerrane 0 — 1 W. Somerset
S. Priest ½ – ½ A. Ibbitson
N. Bamford 0 — 1 C. Velosa
D. Crampton 1 — 0 P. Moss
R. Deravairere 1 — 0 A. Dawson
2½ – 2½

This was a truly inspiring result from John’s team especially from Danny and Ray on the two bottom boards. Ray has only just started playing for the club and only recently learned how to record the moves so a win against a seasoned campaigner like Adrian Dawson is really very creditable. Sadly, I only have John’s game from the top board of this match but, despite his loss, John played well and held out well into the endgame against a player rated over 180! This game is in the viewer at the foot of this post.

All of these heroics meant that when Todmorden ‘C’ came to visit Hebden Bridge this last Monday night confidence was high. Our ‘B’ and ‘C’ teams have really struggled to fill their line-ups on occasion this season and John was forced to field two different players on boards 4 and 5 for this match. Interestingly he selected brother and sister combination Robert and Robina Murray, both very promising juniors. Here is his report from Monday’s match:

On Monday evening, Hebden Bridge ‘C’ took on Todmorden ‘C’ at the Trades Club, Holme Street, and managed to extend their recent run of good form with a 4-1 victory.

The foundations of the result were laid by the team’s two young players, brother and sister Robert and Robina Murray on boards 4 and 5, with two early and emphatic wins. When Steve Priest seized on a mistake by his opponent to win his queen, the match was decided, and finished when Todmorden’s capain, Dave Milton, resigned in a difficult position and desperate time trouble.”

The individual results were:

Hebden Bridge ‘C’ vs Todmorden ‘C’
J. Kerrane 1 — 0 D. Milton
S. Priest 1 — 0 T. Webster
N. Bamford 0 — 1 R. Stoelman
R. P. D. Murray 1 — 0 R. Pratt
R. J. Murray 1 — 0 B. Joyce
4 — 1

The game viewer below contains both of the Murray siblings’ victories as well as John Kerrane’s nice win against Dave Milton. Robina’s effort was particularly interesting as she exchanged her queen for excellent positional and material compensation before propelling her passed b-pawn over the line to finish the job.

The ‘C’s re-scheduled fixture against Halifax ‘A’ will take place on April the 30th and that is likely to decide who goes up with Todmorden ‘B’ who surely can’t be denied at this stage. It should be a fascinating and tense finale.

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Mar 202012

A postcard from St. Anton, where your webmaster has been conspicuously avoiding chess. This wonderful image was sourced from clinstedt's Flickr photostream.

Apologies to our regular visitors for last week’s radio silence. Your webmaster has been taking his recreation in the Austrian Tirol and has returned refreshed and invigorated. Despite being in foreign parts word never-the-less reached our ears about the final round of this season’s Calderdale Individual Chess Championship. John Kerrane organised and managed the final round in the absence of Paul Edwards (who has done an excellent job in his first year in charge of the competition) and he reports on the proceedings. 

Twenty players gathered for the fifth and last round of the Calderdale Individual Chess Championships, hosted by Hebden Bridge Chess Club at the Trades Club, Holme Street, on Monday evening.

The contest for the top prizes depended on the results on the top two boards, where Mitchell Burke of Huddersfield and Hebden Bridge’s Darwin Ursal agreed a draw, while Pete Leonard, also of Hebden Bridge, beat off an attack from Robert Clegg of the Courier, to force a win. This left Darwin Ursal with first prize on 4½/5, while Pete Leonard also on 4½/5 was edged into second prize on a tie-break. Grading prizes went to M. Burke (4/5), A. Leatherbarrow (Hebden Bridge, 3½/5), M. Barnett (Belgrave, 3/5) and John Aldridge (Halifax, 2½/5)”

The individual results were:

M. Burke ½-½ D. Ursal
R. Clegg 0-1 P. Leonard
R. Sutcliffe ½-½ A. Leatherbarrow
J. Blinkhorn 1-0 J. Aldridge
A. Dawson 0-1 J. Morgan
M. Syrett 0-1 M. Barnett
D. Milton 0-1 A. Gonzalez
C. Velosa 1-0 T. Webster
S. Priest 1-0 J. Nicholson
B. Joyce ½-½ J. Nicholson

Darwin "Draw-win" Ursal

Let us offer round some congratulations to the performers of note. Of course we should begin with the new champion. Darwin has so far had the kind of year John Morgan enjoyed last season. He is unbeaten in the league and cup competitions and tops the list of individual point scorers in league 1. He is a worthy champion. Well done Darwin!

The second placed contestant, Pete Leonard, also deserves a hearty “Congratulations” for an excellent performance. He beat last season’s champion in round 3, drew with the top seed in round 4 and scored an excellent win with Black against the ever-competitive Robert Clegg in the last round. Pete was only beaten in to second place by virtue of Darwin’s marginally swifter pace in reaching 4 points. Pete has annotatedhis game with Robert in the game viewer at the bottom of this post. As always his commentary is honest, elucidating and even handed. Thanks to Pete for sending this. I’ll add more games to the viewer when I can get hold of them.

Pete Leonard

Mitchell Burke was also undefeated and finished on 4 points having drawn with both of the two players above him. Mitchell certainly has the potential to win this tournament in years to come.

Finally I’d also like to congratulate the 3 players who finished on 3½ points. Huddersfield’s Robert Sutcliffe had a good showing in last years championship too and this year he beat reigning champion John Morgan in round 4 losing only to Mitchell in round 2. Former champion Andy Leatherbarrow was typically resiliant with his display although he managed to stay slightly below the radar this year. He beat both Nick Sykes and Adrian Dawson (in fine style too!) and was unbeaten with those two wins and three further draws. Josh also managed to bounce back from a first round defeat to John Morgan with 3½ from his last 4 games. Well done to all of these three and the grading prize winners.

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Mar 102012

Hebden 'A' are top of the heap and remain unbeaten - just! This wonderul photo is from Da Beez's Flickr photostream

During the struggle
They will pull us down
But please, please
Let’s use this chance
To turn things around
And tonight
We can truly say
Together we’re invincible”
(Muse – Invincible)

On Monday night Hebden Bridge ‘A’ cleared another big hurdle on the road to what looks increasingly likely to be the road to the Calderdale League 1 title. They scrapped their way to draw against last year’s champions, Huddersfield ‘A’ as the Trades Club played host to the second Hebden vs. Huddersfield double header of the season with the two ‘B’ teams also squared up.

At the start of the night Hebden ‘A’ looked down on their nearest rivals from the vantage of a 4-point lead but they knew that the Champions (one of two teams occupying second spot) would be gunning for them and would bring a ferociously strong side in a final bid to retain their title. Nothing less than a win would do for Huddersfield which is why it was somewhat surprising that two of their contingent agreed relatively quick draws in positions that still seemed to have plenty of play in them.

On board 1 Huddersfield’s Mitchell Burke is beginning to develop a reputation for being an advocate of the good old fashioned “Grandmaster” draw as he and Matthew Parsons banged out 15-odd moves of theory in the London System and then agreed terms shortly after the first new moves. Matthew was about to gain a pawn in a Benko-type position which offered Mitchell some activity in compensation. It seemed however that Mitchell didn’t have complete confidence in his set-up for he offered a draw and Matthew knowing he would have to play very accurately to convert his material advantage and not without risk, decided to accept.

It wasn’t too much later in the evening when board 3 also finished. Here Hebden’s “The-Man-Who-Drew-With-Mikhail-Tal”, a.k.a Pete Leonard, also drew with Huddersfield’s David Firth. Pete had deployed a new system for him against David’s French Defence. However, it didn’t turn out quite as he’d planned and David seemed to have a decent space advantage. Never-the-less once all the heavy pieces had been traded on the open c-file it looked like the extra space would be difficult to convert into a full point and David wasted no unnecessary energy trying to do so. Pete had absolutely no winning chances and so accepting the draw offer was perfectly understandable.

Subsequent events seemed to completely justify the early Huddersfield draw offers as Dave Tooley beat Dave Shapland on board 4 to put the visitors in front. Shapland spent far too long in the opening trying to find the best way to meet his opponent’s unusual Scandinavian variant and, although he obtained a perfectly acceptable Panov-Botvinnik type position, he started to play more and more loosely as he began to run short of time. A progressively serious string of inaccuracies were followed by the blundering of a rook and Shapland resigned before he lost on time.

It now looked like a very tight spot but Hebden have been in tight spots before this season and it seems to galvanise them into iron-willed intransigence. As the crisis loomed Nick Sykes seemed to be about to calm the storm as it appeared he was overrunning Tony Aguirre’s position. There had to be a win there somewhere (and as you’ll see in the game in the viewer below, there were several!) but, amidst all the complexity, Nick couldn’t find it and Tony hit him hard on the counter attack.

What happened next was most unusual. With zeintot at it’s most acute and the players totally focused on the board, Nick suddenly pointed out that both flags had dropped! Neither player had reached time control. What should happen next? A couple of amused bystanders observed that Nick’s flag had dropped first but Tony had either not seen it or sportingly chosen to overlook it until his flag had also fallen. After a brief discussion the players agreed to keep playing and the clocks were turned back 15 minutes.

At this point Tony seemed to have obtained a decisive advantage. He had two bishops and a rook against two rooks with a handful of pawns each. Victory for Huddersfield seemed inevitable but Nick fought valiantly to scrounge a draw. First of all he won a pawn and exchanged off a pair of rooks and then he managed to manouevre his last rook and king into a position where they could trade off Tony’s last pawn on f2 and one of his bishops leaving him with insufficient material to checkmate Nick. The too shook hands to confirm it was a draw and Hebden had once again escaped defeat by the narrowest of margins.

There was still work to be done however. Hebden were still a point down and there was just one board left in play. Fortunately Hebden’s stand out player of the season, Darwin Ursal, was at the controls. His captain has started to call him “Drawin” because those are the only two results on his record in Calderdale this season — and there haven’t been many draws!

Darwin was facing Huddersfield’s Dave Keddie and early on in the game Black seemed to have gained at least equality if not a bit more. However, as has been the case on so many occasions this year, Darwin stabilized the situation and then took the initiative. By the time Nick and Tony’s game had finished he had a couple of pawns advantage in a complicated minor piece ending. Dave did everything he could to create complications but Darwin snuffed out any counter-chances mercilessly and started to hoover up the rest of Dave’s pawns.

In the end it was futile to resist the inevitable and Dave resigned handing Darwin another win and Hebden Bridge a draw which may very well be decisive in the final league standings. Darwin and Nick had been the heroes this time round but all members of the team have produced critical results for the team at one time or another and there is a strong spirit and determination about them. Can they finish the season unbeaten?

The match scorecard was:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs. Huddersfield ‘A’
M.Parsons ½ – ½ M.Burke
D.Ursal 1 — 0 D.Keddie
P.Leonard ½ – ½ D.Firth
D.Shapland 0 — 1 D.Tooley
N.Sykes ½ – ½ A.Aguirre
2½ – 2½

The ‘A’ team’s draw gave some of the other title chasers a rare opportunity to narrow the gap and both Todmorden ‘A’ and Courier ‘A’ took full advantage. Todmorden beat Belgrave 3½ – 1½ at home and Courier beat Brighouse by the same margin, helped thought they were by Brighouse dropping two defaults.

The last match of the round was the bottom of the table clash between Hebden Bridge ‘B’ and Huddersfield ‘B’. In the previous round of fixtures Huddersfield had hauled themselves level with their fellow relegation prospects by gleaning a draw with Brighouse. Both teams started the night with just 3 points and, with Belgrave the closest side to them in the table, on 9, it seemed unlikely that either side could get themselves out of trouble. As it was, Hebden ‘B’ kept their slim hopes alive with a resounding win.

Huddersfield ‘B’ were stronger than they had been for the reverse fixture before Christmas, but Hebden’s home advantage was put to good use as Andy Leatherbarrow, Martin Syrett, Dave Sugden and Neil Bamford beat Robert Sutcliffe, Stuart Oliver, Chris Stratford and Dave Tyfa respectively. On board 4 John Kerrane took the opportunity to staunch the flow of adverse results he has been struggling with by cruising to a straightforward draw with Brian Corner. Congratulations to Martin Syrett and his team on their first victory of the season. The result means that Hebden can still dream of catching Belgrave but they’ll need to beat both Belgrave and Brighouse in their last two fixtures and hope Belgrave get beaten in their remaining fixtures as well.

The final match score card was:

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ vs. Huddersfield ‘B’
A.Leatherbarrow 1 – 0 R.Sutcliffe
M.Syrett 1 — 0 S.Oliver
D.Sugden 1 – 0 C.Stratford
J.Kerrane ½ – ½ B.Corner
N.Bamford 1 – 0 D.Tyfa
4½ – ½

All 10 of the games from Monday night can be played through or downloaded form the game viewer below. I’ve also added in 3 stray games from the previous week’s match between Courier ‘B’ and Hebden Bridge ‘C’. If you are interested in taking a look at the league tables then you can go to the “Calderdale League 2011-12” page link at the top of the page.

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Mar 022012
Hebden Bridge ‘A’ are showing a clean pair of heels as they pull clear at the top of League 1. Image sourced from gothick_matt’s Flickr photostream

It’s been another busy week of League chess in Calderdale with both divisions marching into combat.

In League 1 the leaders, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ have developed an apparently plump 4 point cushion at the top of the table after a string of favourable results in this round of fixtures. They began the round 2 points clear of Todmorden ‘A’ and 3 points ahead of Courier ‘A’. Both those teams lost their matches this week. Courier went down 3½-1½ at Belgrave who have turned their season on it’s head after a terrible pre-Christmas campaign. Meanwhile the reigning champions, Huddersfield ‘A’, showed they still have the stomach for a fight by beating Todmorden, also by 3½-1½, at home.

All this meant that Hebden ‘A’ could pull further ahead in the title race by beating their ‘B’ team colleagues. This they duly did by a margin of 4-1. This score line re-asserted the ‘A’ team’s ascendency after the ‘B’s had earned a surprising draw in the corresponding fixture before Christmas. On the night however Dave Shapland’s men gave their relegation colleagues no quarter as they ruthlessly took them apart.

Dave was the first to finish his game on board 4 against John Kerrane. He equalised in the opening fairly swiftly and then found ways to exploit some positional weaknesses that John had created. Sensing he was getting into deep water John tried to create complications but these backfired and Dave tightened the thumbscrews before a tactical oversight on John’s part handed Dave a free knight and he resigned.

On board 2 Darwin Ursal faced the ‘B’ team Captain, Martin Syrett. Martin attempted to throw his adversary in the opening by deploying a different anti-Sicilian line then his usual Grand Prix Attack. He seemed to be doing perfectly well before he too made a tactical error and also lost a piece.

Pete Leonard ground out a very nice positional win against Dave Sugden on board 3. Something appeared to have gone awry in the opening for Dave and Pete made no mistake in punishing him clinically in a game he rightly claims to be one of his season’s “better efforts”.

The most interesting game of the night was played on board 5 where the ‘A’ team’s Nick Sykes deployed Bird’s Defence against Neil Bamford’s Ruy Lopez. This line is very interesting and leads to some highly entertaining and unusual play. Nick seemed to be doing very well as Neil struggled to come to terms with a line he knew little about, but just as the game seemed to be in the bag, Neil set up a cunning trap and Nick fell into it. After that Neil had no trouble claiming yet another scalp in a season where he has gathered a good handful of them.

The last board to finish was board 1 where Andy Leatherbarrow played Matthew Parsons. Andy has shown tremendous resilience on top board for the ‘B’s this season and his statisitcs alone do not accurately reflect the quality of his play against the best in the league. He made Matthew work very hard until, in a pawn and piece ending that seemed to be drawn, he ran out of time to hand Matthew the full point.

The final match score card was:

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘A’
A.Leatherbarrow 0 — 1 M.Parsons
M.Syrett 0 — 1 D.Ursal
D.Sugden 0 — 1 P.Leonard
J.Kerrane 0 — 1 D.Shapland
N.Bamford 1 — 0 N.Sykes
1 — 4

All of the games from the derby fixtures can be replayed and downloaded from the viewer at the end of this post. This new game viewer by Chess Tempo has undergone some user testing but seems to be working really well for everyone so I intend to use it henceforth. It’s easy to use, simply select a game from the drop down list above the board and then navigate through the moves using the arrow keys on your computer or the arrow buttons under the chess board. You can play through variations in the commentary by clicking on a move in the variation and then advancing through the moves in the same way as mentioned above. You can also download the games by selecting the command in orange below the moves and annotation area.

In League 2 Hebden Bridge ‘D’ sat out this round of fixtures as they had a bye generated when Wheatley withdrew from the league earlier this season. That just left Hebden Bridge ‘C’ to travel to Courier ‘B’ in this division. John Kerrane picks up the story of the tie.

On Monday evening, Hebden Bridge C travelled to the Belgrave Club, Claremount, Halifax for a match against Courier B in the second division of the Calderdale Chess league.
The match was notable mainly for the fact that all the games were over relatively quickly, and all led to decisive results. While Hebden Bridge C captain John Kerrane and Dan Crampton on board 4 both lost due to blunders, the rest of the team polished their opponents off in style, and the game ended in a 3-2 win for the Hebden Bridge side. The match featured the debut for the C team of Ray Deravairere, who won a pawn endgame on board 5, and looks set to become a regular member of the team.”

The individual results were:

Courier ‘B’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘C’
P. Hughes 1 – 0  J. Kerrane
J. B. Smith 0 – 1 N. Bamford
J. Whitehead 0 – 1 S. Priest
P. Jacobs 1 – 0 D. Crampton
R. Bottomley 0 – 1 R. Deravairere
2 – 3

This result means that Hebden ‘C’ retain their second place spot in the division. They are 5 points behind the leaders  Todmorden ‘B’ – who thrashed Halifax ‘B’ for the loss of only half a point on Monday night – although they have two games in hand on them. Halifax ‘A’ are 1 point behind Hebden Bridge having played the same number of games as them. Halifax beat Todmorden ‘C’ on Monday. Hebden still have to play Halifax ‘A’ twice and so it seems certain that the result of these two matches will decide which of them gets promoted to League 1 next season.

Next week there is another round of League 1 action as Hebden Bridge and Huddersfield have the second round of their double match up at the Trades Club when Hebden ‘A’ host the champions with a chance to put themselves out of sight in this year’s title race and Hebden ‘B’ host Huddersfield ‘B’ in a match they absolutely must win to have even the remotest chance of staying up. It should be fascinating so stay tuned for more the reports and the games.

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Feb 272012

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that we’d be celebrating a number of significant land marks on this website. I’ve already posted tributes to Boris Spassky on the occasion of his 75th Birthday and also to Mark Crowther’s “The Week In Chess” which reached it’s 900th edition this month. In this final “celebration” post it is Huddersfield Chess Club in the spot light.

Huddersfield CC have reached their 160th year in 2012 and what better way to mark the occasion than with a celebratory one day rapidplay tournament. The festivities take place on the 29th of April at the Huddersfield Grosvenor Casino and the prize fund is suitably “big time”. There is a guaranteed first prize of £1,000 and there will be a £100 grading prize for every 20 entries.

I hope the Grosvenor is a cool inside as this... but I doubt it! Photo sourced from geek7's Flickr photostream

The entry fee is £10 and the tournament is a 6 rounder. You can enter this one-off event by downloading the entry form from Huddersfield’s website. Participants should be aware of two special conditions necessitated by the venue. First of all, all entrants need to be members of the Casino in order to gain entry. This can be done on the day, it’s free and requires only the completion of a simple form and a photo ID card of some sort (passport or driving licence). You can cancel your membership when you leave if you wish. Secondly, the tournament cannot accept entries from juniors as no one under the age of 18 is permitted access to the venue. It’s a shame that this condition is in place but I guess that anyone who is celebrating their 160th birthday would rather share the occasion purely with oldies!

I hope that as many Calderdale players as possible will be able to support this event which should really be a good one.

Feb 172012

Darwin Ursal, not half!

The Belgrave Social Club in Halifax hosted the 4th round of the Calderdale Individual Chess Championship on Monday night. As the tournament reaches its final stages (there is one more round to play in February) the leading contenders have positioned themselves for glory.

At the end of round three there were, appropriately, just three players still with a perfect score: Mitchell Burke of Huddersfield and Darwin Ursal and Pete Leonard of Hebden Bridge. Another Hebden player, Dave Shapland was half a point behind them and this set the scene for two critical showdowns in round 4.

Interestingly, or not as it turned out, Mitchell offered Pete a draw in their game after only 20 moves. Conducting the Black pieces, Mitchell carefully constructed a position in which he had neutralised Pete’s opening move advantage but then he clearly did not feel inclined to take any risks by playing for a win thereafter.

If, from a spectator’s point of view, the top board action was disappointing, then the game on board two more than made up for it. Darwin has been on sparkling form this season having only lost one game so far from 21 played! He once again demonstrated his ability to balance sound positional principles with an opportunistic eye for active play as he beat his Hebden Bridge team captain. Dave played his part in an interesting encounter though and certainly set Darwin some challenges in the opening phase of the game.

Shortly after the queens had come off the board, Dave opted to create a material imbalance by trading his knight and bishop for one of Darwin’s rooks and a pawn. Materially this maintained the equality, but positionally it was clear that Darwin had the better deal. Soon after this Dave played an inaccurate move that enabled Darwin to win back the pawn and then establish his pair of knights deep in the Black position in such a way that they dominated Dave’s pair of rooks. As Dave got short on time he began to play moves that weakened his position further and Darwin broke through decisively. Amazingly Darwin was the only player of the White pieces to score a full point in the round and he now leads the tournament on his own with 4 points. A draw in the last round should be enough to secure the title.

Without a doubt the most enthralling encounter of the round once again involved the incumbent champion, John Morgan. He was toppled from his perch by Pete Leonard in round 3 and now found himself in serious difficulties against Huddersfield’s Robert Sutcliffe. The game was the last to finish and wound its way to a complicated, multi-piece ending that seemed to be in the balance until somehow John got tangled up in the tactics and lost a piece. Even then, with two bishops and a pawn against a single bishop, Robert had to play carefully and deliberately to see the point home. He duly did so however and was rightly and generously congratulated by his opponent and the assembled kibbitzers.

Another Robert, this time Robert Clegg of Courier, joined his namesake on three points by dispatching Hebden Bridge’s Dave Sugden. Poor Dave was forced to concede defeat with the White side of a French Defence Tarrasch Variation for the second time in the tournament when he dropped a bishop.

Former Champion, Andy Leatherbarrow, also joined the two Roberts on 3 points when he beat Adrian Dawson of Halifax. This was one of two games on the night that ended with a checkmate – it was a pretty one too! The other was given by Martin Syrett in a bright end to his game against Tom Webster that seemed to bypass the middlegame completely and go straight from the opening to an ending.

Aside from the “Grandmaster-style” draw on board 1 there were three other games that ended with peace being concluded. The pick of these was Pete Hughes’ rumbunctious half with Josh Blinkhorn. As ever, Josh conducted the game very sharply by selecting the dangerous Albin Counter Gambit – vast complications ensued. The game is well worth a review and Pete Hughes has kindly supplied some commentary to the game which is available via the ‘download’ link below.

You can view all of Monday night’s games in the game viewer below. Simply select the game you wish to view by selecting it from the drop-down box above the chessboard. You can also download the games. My thanks to Pete Leonard and Pete Hughes who both supplied commentary on their games available only via the ‘download’ option.

Here is the full list of results from round 4:

P.Leonard ½ – ½ M.Burke
D.Ursal 1 — 0 D.Shapland
J.Morgan 0 — 1 R.Sutcliffe
D.Sugden 0 — 1 R.Clegg
P.Hughes ½ – ½ J.Blinkhorn
A.Dawson 0 — 1 A.Leatherbarrow
A.Gonzales 0 — 1 N.Sykes
M.Barnett ½ – ½ C.Edwards
T.Webster 0 — 1 M.Syrett
D.Milton ½ – ½ N.Bamford
J.Nicholson 0 — 1 S.Priest
B.Joyce 1 (bye)

Leading scores:
4 points = D.Ursal
3½ = M.Burke, P.Leonard
3 = R.Clegg, R.Sutcliffe, A.Leatherbarrow
2½ = D.Shapland, P.Hughes, J.Blinkhorn, N.Sykes, J.Aldridge

I am testing out a new game viewer below. If you like it (or if you don’t) please leave a comment as I would like to start using it in future. Features that you should be able to make use of are:

  • Select a game from the drop down list above the board
  • Click on the move that you’d like to start playing from and then use the arrow buttons on your keyboard to move forwards or backwards
  • You should be able to see annotations and play through the variations by selecting the first move and then using the arrow keys
  • You should be able to download the games as a PGN file by clicking on the “Download games”  message in orange at the bottom

Hopefully this viewer will meet all the criteria I have on my wish list (multiple games, annotations, replay subvariations, download pgn) etc. and also be technically fairly bomb proof as we’ve had issues in the past with some of the viewers I’ve tried. Let me know what you think. My grail quest may finally be over!

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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.

Jan 272012

Matthew Webb (right) made a successful debut for Hebden Bridge against Peter Mulleady

The Barclays Premiership had another so-called “Super Sunday” last weekend. These Sky Sports styled occurrences take place when the league’s top four teams take each other on in the same round of fixtures. On Sunday it was Manchester United and Manchester City who came out on top against their London rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal.

Of course the Calderdale Chess League can’t really claim to hold quite the same standing in the nation’s collective sporting psyche! But, if it did, then we might have dubbed this week’s round of Division 1 fixtures as “Mega Monday”. As the second half of the season began no fewer than five teams (Todmorden ‘A’, Hebden Bridge ‘A’, Courier ‘A’, Huddersfield ‘A’ and Brighouse) were all within 2 points of each other at the top of the table. Rarely has the league been so nicely poised at the mid-season interval. By a happy quirk of the fixtures schedule, four of these teams were set to face-off during the course of this week.

On Monday night Hebden Bridge ‘A’ hosted Todmorden ‘A’ at the Trades Club. These two teams occupied the top two spots in the league both on 11 points but with Todmorden top by virtue of a better board count. On the first week of the season the two drew at Todmorden so a tight match seemed to be in prospect.

Hebden Bridge had taken the opportunity to bring in a fresh recruit over the Christmas break. Matthew Webb had been approached by the Hebden captain, Dave Shapland, earlier in the season when Matthew Parsons had been unavailable. At the time Webb wasn’t able to step in but, when Parsons appeared to be unavailable again for this fixture, Webb was able to make his Calderdale League debut on board 1. In the event there was a last minute re-shuffle in the Hebden Bridge line-up as first Parsons’ schedule changed to enable him to play and then Nick Sykes offered to sit the match out as he had work commitments of his own to attend to. This left Dave with his strongest possible line-up, probably the strongest Hebden have been able to field for many a long year.

Todmorden meanwhile arrived slightly depleted. Their regular board 2, Martyn Hamer was on a chess holiday abroad as he was taking part in the Gibraltar Chess Festival. All this meant that Hebden’s usual top four boards all dropped down one and Todmorden’s bottom four boards all moved up. This difference was almost certainly critical to the outcome of the match as Hebden cruised to a 4-1 victory.

On board 1 Matty Webb faced Peter Mulleady. Forewarned as he was of his likely opponent and his regular repertoire, Matty was able to arm himself with some in depth theoretical understanding of the Sniper — 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 c5. He selected a line that requires Black to play accurately for a lengthy period in order to maintain equality and that small but lasting pressure eventually told as, somewhere, Mulleady went astray. Webb gained a knight and bishop for a rook and then played very accurately indeed to convert the full point. This result represented an excellent debut for Matty at the perfect point in the season for Hebden.

Boards 3 and 5 were the next to finish and they yielded the victories for the home team that sealed the match. Darwin Ursal has been having a wonderful season for Hebden. He is unbeaten and has been playing exciting chess. On board 3 he found himself pitted against Hebden Bridge ‘A’s former captain, Alastair Wright. Wright is always a tricky opponent to meet as he could play almost any opening known to mankind. On this occasion he deployed the Black Knights Tango (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 Nc6!?) against Darwin in a bid to disturb his equilibrium. At first the plan seemed to be working as a messy position ensued from the opening in which Black seemed to be doing quite well. But then, instead of consolidating, Wright went for it a little too soon and Darwin was able to regain control of the game. After that he never let it go and drove home his advantage mercilessly. This result leaves Darwin at the top of the heap in the “Player Performance” table for League 1.

On board 5, captain Shapland beat Rob Tokeley’s Caro-Kann Defence. Rob used up a lot of his time in the early stages of the game and didn’t appear confident in the variation he deployed (the Bronstein-Larsen variation, 4…Nf6!?) At first Dave played for a spacial advantage and control of the centre but then, when it appeared that the Black king did not have an ideal safe haven to secure himself, he went for a direct attack. Under the pressure of the clock, Rob failed to find the most accurate way to defend and Dave’s attack broke through.

Before too much more of the evening had passed Hebden were 4-0 up. Matthew Parsons displayed impressive strategic understanding of his favourite London system as he remorselessly built up and then exploited his positional advantage against Andrew Clarkeson. With the queens off the board Black’s King’s Indian-style set up didn’t really contain it’s usual poison and, although Black clung on to slim hopes in the end game forcing Parsons to play some accurate moves, he was more than up to the task and closed out the win.

This just left the board 4 encounter where Hebden’s Pete Leonard was playing Neil Suttie. The opening was a Ruy Lopez, an old favourite of Pete’s, nut on this occasion Neil selected a sideline that Pete wasn’t familiar with and his thematic approach turned out to be unsuitable on this occasion. Suttie played resourcefully and patiently to exploit Pete’s inaccuracies but duly converted a superior endgame despite a mild case of zeintot before the time control.

The final match card then was:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ — Todmorden ‘A’
M.Webb 1-0 P.Mulleady
M.Parsons 1-0 A.Clarkeson
D.Ursal 1-0 A.Wright
P.Leonard 0-1 N.Suttie
D.Shapland 1-0 R.Tokeley

This excellent win for Hebden maintains their unbeaten run in the League this season and takes them top of the division for the first time. They have hit the front on their own having dispatched their nearest rivals over the course of the last three matches — Brighouse, Courier ‘A’ and now Todmorden ‘A’. However, there won’t be any complacency for the title race is still very close and more tough matches lie between them and the championship.

Here are the games from this match. Select the game you want to view using the drop-down menu above the board. You can also download all the Hebden Bridge games in PGN format via this Chessbase viewer.

The other clash between teams in the top five took place in Huddersfield last night where the league champions announced their grim resolve to defend their crown by thrashing Brighouse 4½-½! Only Dennis Breen was able to resist his adversary as he drew with Dave Keddie. This result is a stark contrast to the defeat they had suffered in the reverse fixture on the opening night of the season. Perennially slow starters, Huddersfield are still in touch with Hebden Bridge ‘A’ and will fancy their chances of catching them yet. They join Todmorden on 11 points just 2 behind Hebden.

The fifth of the quintet spearheading the division at the start of the night were Courier ‘A’. They might well have expected to have joined Todmorden and Huddersfield themselves as they faced relegation threatened Hebden Bridge ‘B’ at home. If they had such expectations then they would have been sorely disappointed with the outcome of their match for Hebden ‘B’ performed heroically to tie it and might even have won.

The critical match up was on board 1 where Hebden’s Andy Leatherbarrow snatched a last gasp victory from John Morgan who was guilty of over pressing in an equal position. Morgan doesn’t lose often and the phenomenon is even rarer when he operates the White pieces so this was a wonderful result for Andy who has performed admirably for the ‘B’s on board 1 this season.

Unfortunately, Martin Syrett fell victim to Dave Patrick’s cunning tactical play early in the evening and was unable to recover so Andy’s result redressed the balance as the bottom three boards were all drawn. On board 3 Dave Sugden and Robert Clegg fought out a tense battle in which it appears the draw may have been agreed with both players in serious time trouble. John Kerrane neutralised Dave Colledge’s efforts relatively comfortably on board 4 and Neil Bamford came very close to beating Geoff Thompson on board 5.

Here is the full match card:

Courier ‘A’ — Hebden Bridge ‘B’
J.Morgan 0-1 A.Leatherbarrow
D.Patrick 1-0 M.Syrett
R.Clegg ½-½ D.Sugden
D.Colledge ½-½ J.Kerrane
G.Thompson ½-½ N.Bamford

Here are the games from the Courier ‘A’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘B’ match. You can also download all the Hebden Bridge games in PGN format via this Chessbase viewer.

This brilliant result (the second time this season the ‘B’s have drawn with one of the big hitters having also tied their own ‘A’ team away) means that Martin Syrett’s men maintain contact with Belgrave, their rivals in the drop zone. Belgrave fixed Huddersfield ‘B’ firmly to the root of the table by beating them comfortably – 4½-½ – at home on Monday night. If Hebden Bridge ‘B’ can match Belgrave’s results and beat them in their encounter towards the end of the season then they may, once again, perform a great escape. You can take a look at the current state of the league table by going to the Calderdale League page of this site.

The League 1 sides return to action again next week as the ‘B’ team travel to Todmorden who will be wounded and very dangerous and the ‘A’ team take on Huddersfield ‘B’ away and must avoid assuming that the result will be a foregone conclusion and be focused on improving their board count against the back-markers.