After a lengthy hiatus it’s about time we wrapped up the 2015/16 Calderdale Evening Chess League season with a report on the final rounds and also the recent team lightning competition.
League 2 results
We’ll begin with League 2 for a change. Before the last round of fixtures took place Halifax ‘C’ were top of the tree with 16 points. They finished off their season away at Hebden Bridge ‘C’ which appeared to be what golfer’s would call a ‘Gimme’ as our junior squad, despite performing with great credit on occasion this season, had nevertheless failed to win a single match up to that point.
Should a minor miracle have occurred however, Hebden Bridge ‘B’ were poised to take advantage provided they could win their final match of the season at home to Courier. In the event that Hebden ‘B’ lost, then Todmorden ‘C’ (who played away at Halifax ‘D’) could have overhauled them to finish in the second promotion spot. All-in-all, there was plenty still to play for in the final round of fixtures.
In the event, all of the drama took place in the battle for second place as Halifax ‘C’ cruised through their match against Hebden’s juniors (plus John Kerrane who sadly no longer fits into this category!) to seal a well-earned division title. Captain John drew his game against Howard Wood on board 1 and Owen Buchan also drew on board 2 against Ray Cully. The rest of the team were all defeated by Halifax’s seasoned veterans. The individual scores were:
Hebden Bridge ‘C’ vs Halifax ‘C’
J.Kerrane ½ — ½ H.Wood
O.Buchan ½ — ½ R.Cully
T.Dodd 0 — 1 P.Moss
M.Leggett 0 — 1 B.Wadsworth
J.Hadari 0 — 1 M.Long
1 — 4
In the meantime, across the room at the Trades Club, Hebden Bridge ‘B’ were making very hard work of their match against Courier. There were early wins on board 3 (for Adrian Dawson against Neil Bamford) and on board 5 (for Richard Bottomley against Hutch Hutchinson) which put the visitors firmly in the driving seat. Hebden rallied with a win on board 2 for team Captain Martin Syrett against John Smith and there was a draw on board 1 between Andy Leatherbarrow and Dave Colledge. This left Hebden needing to win on board 4 to draw the match and secure second place. Freddie Exall was the man with the weight of the world on his shoulders and he got lucky against Paul Jacobs as the Courier man missed a clear cut win before going on to lose the endgame as Freddie saved Hebden’s bacon. It’s not very often that the outcome of a single game can have such an impact on the outcome of the positions in the league.
The final match scorecard looked like this:
Hebden Bridge ‘B’ vs Courier
A.Leatherbarrow ½ — ½ D.Colledge
M.Syrett 1 — 0 J.Smith
N.Bamford 0 — 1 A.Dawson
F.Exall 1 — 0 P.Jacobs
H.Hutchinson 0 — 1 R.Bottomley
2½ — 2½
In the meantime, Todmorden ‘C’ did win their match at Halifax by 2 — 3 but it wasn’t quite enough to catch Hebden.
So, at the end of the season, Halifax ‘C’ are League 2 champions with 18 points. Congratulations to them. Hebden Bridge ‘B’ finished in second with 15 points and will be promoted should they want to be (last season they declined promotion). Todmorden ‘C’ were third with 14 points. In the bottom half of the table, Courier were fourth with 8 points, Halifax ‘D’ were fourth with 5 points and Hebden Bridge ‘C’ finished bottom with no points but they did get 10½ board points.
League 1 results
Now to League 1 where a number of important matters were decided on the date scheduled for the final round of fixtures despite there being a couple of postponed matches left outstanding. At the sharp end of the table, Todmorden ‘A’ were level on points with Halifax ‘A’ but they had a better board count and a match in hand. This pretty much meant that if they won their match at home to Belgrave then they would succeed in retaining the title that they won last season. Halifax meanwhile were set to play Todmorden ‘B’ at home knowing that they absolutely had to win to harbour any remote hopes of keeping their title chances alive.
There was also a crucial battle to decide third place in the final league table. Hebden Bridge ‘A’ and Huddersfield were both a long way behind Halifax and Todmorden but they were locked together on 14 points and faced each other in the final round. Hebden knew that a win at home in this match could see them grabbing third spot despite the fact that Huddersfield had a match in hand on them.
At the other end of the table, Brighouse were already confirmed as the inhabitants of the ‘basement’ with just two drawn matches to their names all season. The identity of the other relegated side however, was still open to question. Belgrave were safe on 12 points but either of Halifax ‘B’ or Todmorden ‘B’ could still stay up with the right result on the final day of the season.
On the night Halifax ‘B’ won 3 — 2 at home to Brighouse to advance their cause and draw level on points with Todmorden ‘B’. A pair of fine wins for Richard Porter over Dennis Breen on board 1 and Dave Sugden over Robert Broadbent on board 2 were enough to seal a tight win. Ray Cully was the other Halifax winner on board 5.
Halifax ‘A’ meanwhile had done their bit to help out their club colleagues by beating Todmorden ‘B’ comfortably at home 4 — 1. Heavily out-graded on all boards, Tod ‘B’ managed two good draws as Rob Collier held Sam Scurfield on board 5 and Richard Bedford also draw with Bill Somerset on board 3 despite giving away nearly 50 rating points. This game can be seen in the viewer at the end of this post.
Sadly for Halifax, a miracle did not occur as Todmorden ‘A’ retained their title by thrashing Belgrave 4½ — ½ at the Todmorden Working Men’s Club. Martin Hamer conceded a draw to Ian Hunter but the rest of the team all did their jobs well as Tod cruised to another League 1 title with a game still in hand. Hearty congratulations to them! They have been pretty much untouchable this season, especially at home.
In the battle for third place, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ struck a mighty blow as they managed to dismantle Huddersfield 4 — 1. On board 1 Andy Bak drew a see-saw encounter with Leo Keely that could have gone either way, though in the end Andy was relieved to see Leo miss a couple of winning lines in the time-scramble before move 36. They agreed a draw soon after. Meanwhile on board 4 Martin Syrett and Steve Westmoreland drew a little earlier in the evening although that game too was not short of action.
The decisive games were all rather different in style. Dave Shapland took full advantage of Dave Keddie having an off-night as he made some uncharacteristic errors early in the game and then overlooked a decisive attacking plan and resigned on move 20. Andy Leatherbarrow and Nick Sykes took rather longer to win their games but they both performed redoubtably to do so. Nick slowly wore down Dave Tooley on board 3. Out of a French Defence, Nick exchanged his rook for two of Dave’s pieces and then carefully exchanged off more pieces to end up with an endgame where he had two knights and three pawns against Dave’s rook. The Huddersfield captain hung on grimly to defend right to the very death but Nick confidently avoided all the tactical tricks and converted.
On board 5 Andy also ground down Mark Rojinsky to give the final score a very pleasing gloss for Hebden. The final match score card looked like this:
Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs. Huddersfield
A.Bak ½ — ½ L.Keely
D.Shapland 1 — 0 D.Keddie
N.Sykes 1 — 0 D.Tooley
M.Syrett ½ — ½ S.Westmoreland
A.Leatherbarrow 1 — 0 M. Rojinsky
4 — 1
The margin of this victory meant that only a 5 — 0 away win against Todmorden ‘B’ in their postponed fixture would be enough for Huddersfield to snatch third spot from Hebden.
The following week the final loose ends were tied up as Huddersfield played that postponed away match at Todmorden ‘B’. Wins on the top two boards for Greg Eagleton against Neil Suttie and Dave Tooley against Mike Huett meant that Hudderfield were able to steal a 2 — 3 win but that simply wasn’t enough to nick third place and they finished the season in fourth behind Hebden Bridge ‘A’ by one and a half board points.
Meanwhile, despite the fact that a hugely unlikely 0 — 5 away win for Halifax ‘B’ against Todmorden ‘A’ would have handed their ‘A’ team colleagues the title, Halifax ‘B’ instead defaulted the match and so it was the returning champions who scored five more board points to underline their superiority. A disappointing way for Todmorden to get over the line but no less deserved for all that. This final result also meant that a total of 32 boards were defaulted in League 1 this season, a frankly scandalous proportion of all the games played in the division at over 11%.
Here is the League 1 top ten individual scorers list. The players and the teams they played for are given followed by their score, the number of games they played and their performance rating for those games according to the Calderdale Chess League website:
- Dave Patrick (Todmorden ‘A’) — 13 / 14 (173)
- Andrew Clarkson (Todmorden ‘A’) — 12 / 14 (174)
- Martin Hamer (Todmorden ‘A’) — 11½ / 14 (193)
- Darwin Ursal (Halifax ‘A’) — 11 / 12 (198)
- Phil Cook (Todmorden ‘A’) — 9½ / 14 (173)
- Sam Scurfield (Halifax ‘A’) — 8 / 12 (142)
- Dave Shapland (Hebden Bridge ‘A’) — 8 /13 (163)
- John Morgan (Halifax ‘A’) — 7½ / 9 (172)
- Stuart Westmoreland (Huddersfield) — 7½ / 11 (144)
- Mike Barnett (Belgrave) — 7½ / 12 (138)
Unsurprisingly the list is dominated by Todmorden ‘A’ who fill four of the top five places. Dave Patrick finished top of the heap with 13 out of 14 although it must be said that (though it’s not his fault) he benefitted from no fewer than 4(!) defaults. Andrew Clarkson was second and scored 12 out of 14 (with three defaults included), Martin Hamer scored 11½ out of 14 (three defaults) and in fifth place in the table, Phil Cook scored 9½ out of 14 (three defaults).
Halifax ‘A’s Darwin Ursal bagged the highest rating performance of everyone as he finished in fourth place with 11 out of 12 (no defaults). I suspect that this statistic alone tells part of the story of why Halifax couldn’t match Todmorden this season in the end. In previous seasons they themselves have had a number of players in the high-scoring top ten individuals. This season Darwin missed two matches himself (note that Todmorden’s top four played in every single match!) and the other two of their players to finish in the top ten list (Sam Scurfield with 8 and John Morgan with 7½) played twelve and nine games respectively. They simply couldn’t turn out their best players as frequently Tod could and that meant that, although they were winning matches, they frequently did so by a lower margin than their rivals and fell behind on board count.
Dave Shapland was Hebden Bridge’s top scorer in League 1 with 8 out of 13 and a performance rating of 163. Below is the League 2 list:
- Ian Knagg (Todmorden ‘C’) — 8 / 9 (103)
- Martin Syrett (Hebden Bridge ‘B’) — 7 / 8 (144)
- Bill Joyce (Todmorden ‘C’) — 6½ / 10 (87)
- Dave Milton (Todmorden ‘C’) 6 / 10 (118)
- Barry Wadsworth (Halifax ‘C’) 6 / 10 (102)
- Peter Logan (Todmorden ‘C’) — 5 / 9 (125)
- Pete Moss (Halifax ‘C’) — 5 / 9 (107)
- Alex Brown (Hebden Bridge ‘B’) — 4½ / 6 (100)
- Mac Randhawa (Halifax ‘D’) — 4½ / 7 (89)
- Andy Leatherbarrow (Hebden Bridge ‘B’) — 4½ / 8 (131)
Once again we see Todmorden dominating. This time it’s players from Todmorden ‘C’, who actually finished third in the League, that feature in four of the top six places. It seems their player base was smaller than either Halifax or Hebden Bridge though as all four of their players in this list played nine or ten games out of ten in the league this season. Ian Knagg finished top of the pile with an excellent score of 8 out of 9 games. In second place, Hebden Bridge’s Martin Syrett had the highest performance rating for the season but that does include some games from League 1 and also the Calderdale Individual Championship which actually bring his average rating down. If you just calculate Martin’s rating for the League 2 games he achieved a rating of 152!
Calderdale Team Lightning tournament
On Monday the 9th of May Belgrave Social Club hosted the traditional curtain-closer to the league season — the Team Lightning tournament. Hebden Bridge were on the rota to organise this year’s event which fortunately went smoothly enough… the other clubs participating even allowed Hebden Bridge to win the which was very generous of them!
Although there were only 6 teams in the event the competition was really fierce. In every round at least one game lasted for the full 60 moves and required adjudication to settle the score and a good number of games in each round were fought right out into end game battles. There were generally fewer one-sided match ups than their sometimes are although the few matches that were one-sided had a significant bearing on the result at the end of the night.
Title-holders Huddersfield brought a seriously strong line-up to the event with Leo Keely, Mitchell Burke, Dave Tooley, Antonio Aguirre and Robert Sutcliffe on their roster. Hebden Bridge ‘A’ also had a strong line-up with Matthew Parsons on board 1 returning to play for them having been absent for a couple of seasons. They also sported Andy Bak, Dave Shapland, Nick Sykes and Martin Syrett.
The other teams in the line-up were weaker but by no means push-overs. Belgrave had Ian Hunter on top board and the rest of their line up included Karim Khan, Malcolm Corbett, Angel Gonzalez and Les Johnson. League 1 winners Todmorden also fielded a side although only one player from their title winning ‘A’ team in the form of Andrew Clarkson. Still, they had more League 1-standard players with Neil Suttie, Richard Bedford and Dave Milton also present and a League 2 regular, Bill Joyce on board 5. Hebden Bridge ‘B’ and Halifax had the weakest line-ups on the night and this was certainly reflected in their final scores although of course both sides fought hard in every game.
The format of the competition, which places an emphasis on board points and not match points, actually means that sometimes, even losing an individual match encounter, is not terminal to a team’s chances. Unusually, in this edition of the competition this scenario actually took place.
Huddersfield dominated the early rounds as they first smashed Halifax 4 — 1 and then managed to down their main rivals, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ by 3 — 2 in the second round. In the third round they also beat Belgrave 3½ — 1½ and with just two round left they led by one and a half points from Hebden Bridge ‘A’. That should have been enough to take the title, but somehow it wasn’t for, although Huddersfield finished with two strong 4 — 1 wins against Todmorden and Hebden Bridge ‘B’, Hebden ‘A’ finished with a pair of 5 — 0 wins against Hebden ‘B’ and Halifax to snatch victory by a single drawn game!
The drama lasted right to the very end of the evening as, in the last game to finish in the Huddersfield versus Hebden ‘B’ match, Antonio Aguirre left his king en prise in a won position which cost the holders a crucial point. Then, in the very last game of the night to finish, Martin Syrett was grinding away in an ending against Halifax’s John Nicholson. When the buzzer ran out it was left to adjudication as to whether or not Martin had enough of an advantage to claim a win. Eventually Andrew Clarkson decided that he did have enough and that rounded-off Hebden’s incredible finishing spurt.
The final team scores were:
- Hebden Bridge ‘A’: 19
- Huddersfield: 18½
- Belgrave: 14½
- Todmorden: 9
- Hebden Bridge ‘B’: 7½
- Halifax: 6½
The winners of the individual board prizes were:
- Matthew Parsons (Hebden Bridge ‘A’) — 5
- Mitchell Burke (Huddersfield) — 5
- Dave Tooley (Huddersfield) — 5
- Angel Gonzalez (Belgrave) — 3½
- Les Johnson (Belgrave) — 5