Jun 082016

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%.

Individual Winners

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:

  1. Dave Patrick (Todmorden ‘A’) — 13 / 14 (173)
  2. Andrew Clarkson (Todmorden ‘A’) — 12 / 14 (174)
  3. Martin Hamer (Todmorden ‘A’) — 11½ / 14 (193)
  4. Darwin Ursal (Halifax ‘A’) — 11 / 12 (198)
  5. Phil Cook (Todmorden ‘A’) — 9½ / 14 (173)
  6. Sam Scurfield (Halifax ‘A’) — 8 / 12 (142)
  7. Dave Shapland (Hebden Bridge ‘A’) — 8 /13 (163)
  8. John Morgan (Halifax ‘A’) — 7½ / 9 (172)
  9. Stuart Westmoreland (Huddersfield) — 7½ / 11 (144)
  10. 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:

  1. Ian Knagg (Todmorden ‘C’) — 8 / 9 (103)
  2. Martin Syrett (Hebden Bridge ‘B’) — 7 / 8 (144)
  3. Bill Joyce (Todmorden ‘C’) — 6½ / 10 (87)
  4. Dave Milton (Todmorden ‘C’) 6 / 10 (118)
  5. Barry Wadsworth (Halifax ‘C’) 6 / 10 (102)
  6. Peter Logan (Todmorden ‘C’) — 5 / 9 (125)
  7. Pete Moss (Halifax ‘C’) — 5 / 9  (107)
  8. Alex Brown (Hebden Bridge ‘B’) — 4½ / 6 (100)
  9. Mac Randhawa (Halifax ‘D’) — 4½ / 7 (89)
  10. 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

Team Lightning

Round 2 saw the clash of the holders, Huddersfield, and their main rivals, Hebden Bridge ‘A’. Matthew Parsons (front right) of Hebden Bridge, beat Leo Keely (front left) on board 1 and went on to score 5 out of 5 to claim the board prize.

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:

  1. Hebden Bridge ‘A’: 19
  2. Huddersfield: 18½
  3. Belgrave: 14½
  4. Todmorden: 9
  5. Hebden Bridge ‘B’: 7½
  6. Halifax: 6½

The winners of the individual board prizes were:

  1. Matthew Parsons (Hebden Bridge ‘A’) — 5
  2. Mitchell Burke (Huddersfield) — 5
  3. Dave Tooley (Huddersfield) — 5
  4. Angel Gonzalez (Belgrave) — 3½
  5. Les Johnson (Belgrave) — 5
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Apr 172016
Chess, like life, has it's ups and downs. Hebden Bridge 'A's form has been inconsistent this season as their recent results testify. this image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from Stignygaard's Flickr photostream

Chess, like life, has its ups and downs. Hebden Bridge ‘A’s form has been inconsistent this season as their recent results testify. this image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from Stignygaard’s Flickr photostream

Last Monday saw the completion of the League 2 season with the destination of the title race all but decided. Halifax ‘C’ were two points clear of Hebden Bridge ‘B’ and faced Hebden Bridge ‘C’ at the Trades Club in their last match. Hebden’s juniors have yet to win a match this season and seem unlikely to start now but they have been improving and have taken highly improbable match wins in the past (who can forget a memorable home win against Belgrave two years ago?) Meanwhile Hebden ‘B’ were also due to play at home against Courier.

We’ll report on the outcome of League 2 next week. In the meantime, the rest of this report will be dedicated to recent League 1 action with an update on the last two rounds of fixtures.

On the 21st of March, last year’s Champions and this season’s league leaders Todmorden ‘A’ pulverised an already relegated Brighouse team 4½ — ½. Only Brighouse’s Robert Broadbent on board 2 could put up any sort of resistance as he drew with Phil Cook.
The battle between Todmorden ‘B’ and Belgrave also took place at the Todmorden Working Men’s Club. This was an altogether more tense affair with Belgrave taking the only decisive game of the match when Ian Hunter took down Neil Suttie on board 1. The rest of the games were drawn.

While this was going on, second placed Halifax ‘A’ were maintaining their dogged pursuit of Tod ‘A’ with a win over Huddersfield at home. Stuart Westmorland pilfered a victory on board 4 for the visitors and Dave Tooley drew with John Morgan on board 2. However, the rest of a moderately understrength Halifax team were too good for their opponents and won their games to seal the victory.
The second match hosted by Halifax Chess Club threw up one of the surprise results of the season as Halifax ‘B’ defeated Hebden Bridge ‘A’ for only their second won of the season. Sure Hebden were under strength without the likes of Pete Leonard and Andy Leatherbarrow but they still out-rated their opponents on every board and should have won the match.

Indeed, the evening began well enough when Neil Bamford defeated Barry Wadsworth in an exciting game on board 5. Sadly, that was the last full point Hebden were going to score that evening as the rest of the team were collectively and individually insipid. On board 1, Andy Bak blundered a piece so early on in the game that several observers thought he might have played a pre-prepared sacrifice in the opening. He hadn’t and Richard Porter is not the sort of fellow to give back a piece. The match score was soon level.

On board 3, Nick Sykes managed to get absolutely nothing at all out of the opening against a well prepared opponent in Vivienne Webster. Try as he might, Nick couldn’t find a way to unbalance the position and eventually acquiesced to a draw. It was the same result on board 4 too but the means by which it was achieved was rather different. Hebden’s Martin Syrett pressed hard and appeared to be winning his endgame against Ray Cully, but his resourceful opponent found a passive defence that was obdurate enough to stop Martin in his tracks and another draw left the scores level at 2 each.

This left stand in Captain Dave Shapland in the enviable position of needing to win against Scott Gornall on board 2. Patiently Dave crafted out a position that appeared to be highly advantageous, but then slowly but surely he relaxed his strangle hold and then managed to relinquish all his positional trumps to his opponent. Scott was not as profligate as Dave and converted his advantage smoothly to seal an excellent win for Halifax and a chastening evening for Hebden who have now lost 3 matches to opponents positioned below them in the league this season.

The final match card looked like this:

Halifax ‘B’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘A’
R.Porter 1 — 0 A.Bak
S.Gornall 1 — 0 D.Shapland
V.Webster ½ — ½ N.Sykes
R.Cully ½ — ½  M.Syrett
B.Wadsworth 0 — 1 N.Bamford
3 — 2

Two weeks later the League 1 teams reconvened for their penultimate round of fixtures. This time we’ll start with Hebden Bridge ‘A’ who went on the road to bottom team Brighouse. These two sides have a history of playing out some pretty brutal battles where all five games have a decisive result. On this occasion it was no different. What was perhaps a little surprising was how easy it was for an understrength Hebden team to defeat their hosts who, though under full strength themselves, nevertheless had their top players out on the first two boards.

Without Pete Leonard again and also Andy Bak, Hebden players were all forced to take a step up as Neil Bamford was once again drafted in on board 5. For the second match in a row Neil was the first to finish and did so with a win.

The remaining four games all lasted much longer and saw tough battles played out. Martin Syrett was the next to finish his game as he defeated the home side’s latest recruit Chris Lund with his trade mark Scandinavian Defence.

Not long after that the home side pulled a point back as Robert Broadbent somehow survived a huge attack from Nick Sykes to win his game. Nick was dejected to find afterwards that he had missed a number of clear cut winning opportunities but he has generously sent us his game for publication which is an entertaining one despite the outcome for him.

The last two games to finish ran almost to the very end of the evening’s play. On board 1 Dave Shapland finally overcame the determined resistance of Dennis Breen to put his Calderdale season back on track after a run of four successive defeats. The opening was an Open Spanish which Dave has an good record with but he overlooked an excellent opportunity to take advantage of an inaccuracy played by Dennis early in the game and then got into serious hot water.

Fortunately, Dennis then returned the favour in a complicated position and as the game simplified Dave found himself in an ending in which he had the bishop pair and a far advanced, isolated White d-pawn to target. Once he’d picked that up it was a matter of finding the right technique to put Dennis away. Endgame technique is not something that Dave is renowned for but on this occasion he was up to the task as he engineered further simplifications to leave himself with two connected passed pawns and a rook against Dennis’s loan rook. Finally, Dave converted for an excellent win against a strong opponent.

That just left Andy Leatherbarrow to complete the scoring for the visitors by beating Ron Grandage at the very end of the evening. This one really was a grind but finally, with both players low on time, Ron missed a tactic that gave Andy the exchange and the rest was easy.

So, Hebden completed a fine away victory following on from the disappointment of losing at Halifax ‘B’ in the previous fixture. Their inconsistency has really been the story of their season. The individual scores were:

Brighouse vs. Hebden Bridge ‘A’
D.Breen 0 — 1 D.Shapland
R.Broadbent 1 — 0 N.Sykes
C.Lund 0 — 1 M.Syrett
R.Grandage 0 — 1 A.Leatherbarrow
T.Pryke 0 — 1 N.Bamford
1 — 4

Elsewhere in the league Halifax once again maintained the pressure on Todmorden ‘A’ with another victory this time away at Belgrave by 1 — 4. However, they were to be disappointed on Wednesday night when, at the eleventh hour, Huddersfield defaulted all five boards to Todmorden in a fixture that represented the last genuine banana skin for Tod this season. This default pretty much hands back-to-back titles to Tod who would probably need to lose both their final round match at home to Belgrave as well as their match in hand against Halifax ‘B’ for Halifax to have any chance of snatching the crown from them.

The other match played on Monday the 4th was between Todmorden ‘B’ and Halifax ‘B’. Continuing on from their fine home win against Hebden Bridge the visitors won again by a score of 2 — 3. This result means that Todmorden ‘B’ are not quite safe from the threat of relegation because they are only two points ahead of Halifax ‘B’ now. Both teams have one postponed fixture to play which means that Halifax ‘B’ will end the season playing first Brighouse at home and then Todmorden ‘A’ away whilst Todmorden ‘B’ play ‘Halifax ‘A’ away and then Huddersfield at home. Based on current form you’d have to say that Halifax ‘B’ stand a decent chance of staying up. We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.

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Mar 182016
Champions again? Todmorden 'A' have been the strongmen of League 1 so far this season and certainly put on a powerful display at Hebden Bridge this week.

Champions again? Todmorden ‘A’ have been the strongmen of League 1 so far this season and certainly put on a powerful display at Hebden Bridge this week. This photo is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from mikecogh’s Flickr photostream

It’s been a crazy week of action in the Calderdale League this week with sides from both divisions in action.

Let’s start with Hebden Bridge ‘A’s match up with last year’s champions and current league leaders Todmorden ‘A’. Over the last few years Hebden have struggled at Todmorden but have more than held their own and more in the home fixtures. In fact, since Todmorden ‘A’ returned to League 1 in 2011-12 they have never beaten Hebden ‘A’ at home. Moreover, Hebden were fresh from their most convincing performance of the season against Halifax ‘A’ last time out and for this fixture they managed to field their strongest line up of the year so far in the form of Andy Bak, John Allan, Dave Shapland,  Pete Leonard and Nick Sykes. That said, Tod, who must have been conscious of their travails at Hebden in recent years, also fielded their strongest possible line up as they arrived with Martin Hamer, Phil Cook, Pete Mulleady, Andrew Clarkson and Dave Patrick in tow. Clearly it was going to be a magnificent battle at the White Lion on Bridge Gate (the Trades Club was not available as they had a gig on there on Monday).

On the night all five games were hotly contested and generally saw a high standard of chess being played although inevitably there were mistakes too and these led to decisive results on three boards. On board 2 John Allan and Phil Cook chopped wood with the efficiency and speed of a power saw and agreed peace terms without jeopardising their half of the point. After that it was well into the evening before the outcome of the match was decided when Hebden’s lower boards started falling like Autumn leaves.

First of all Nick Sykes was defeated by Dave Patrick. In a Classical Variation of the French Defence the two tested each others knowledge of opening theory. Dave successfully dodged all the traps and pitfalls in the early stages but Nick retained a very small advantage. However, as they entered a double rook and multiple minor piece ending Nick played inaccurately, Dave pounced to win a pawn and after that he mopped up very efficiently. Generally, Dave demonstrated that he’s extremely experienced and well prepared with his favorite openings. Nick made one mistake and got punished.

Shortly after this Pete Leonard gave up the ghost in an endgame after a rather more one-sided fight against Andrew Clarkson. Andrew is just as well prepared in the Pirc Defence as Dave is in the French and it showed as Pete seemed to get a couple of possible strategies mixed up and ended up with a pretty miserable position straight out of the opening. Andrew gave him no chance of recovering and polished him off smoothly. Already the best Hebden could hope for was a draw and to do that they’d need to win both the remaining boards.

Their hopes were quickly extinguished when Dave Shapland also succumbed to Pete Mulleady in another French Defence (this time the 3…c5 line of the Tarrasch Varaition). This was a typically complex offering from Dave who miscalculated in the opening and faced with losing a piece was compelled to sacrifice it for two pawns and a dangerous initiative. Any chess engine will quickly tell you that White has nothing here but over the board it looked pretty scary. Pete bravely sent his king meandering off to g6 which turned out to be the best way for him to play for the full point. As the complexity level rose both players got into horrible time trouble (Dave had the worst of it) and ultimately that led to the precision level going right down as they scrambled to make their last 10 moves or so. The game analysis shows that Pete went wrong towards the end of the game and handed Dave a single winning chance. He missed it and went down immediately.

This just left Andy Bak and Martin Hamer to play out the draw that also seemed like an inevitability on board 1. In fact Martin offered a draw on this board very early on in the evening, probably knowing that it is not in Andy’s nature to accept these kinds of offers and pretty much compelling him to try and find a way to imbalance the Catalan Opening they were discussing. Andy tried gamely to do just that but, with the match lost and no real hope of squeezing out anything he offered the draw by return and it was accepted.

All in all a disappointing night for Hebden who had to doff their hats respectfully to a powerful performance from the champions who now must be odds on to retain their title. They lead on board count over Halifax ‘A’ but have a game in hand over them. Both of the top two are yet to face Huddersfield who may yet play a part in deciding the destiny of the title but if Tod stay in this kind of form they’ll win comfortably. Finally, after five failed attempts in a row, they had beaten Hebden in Hebden. Four of the five games are in the viewer at the end of this post. The final scorecard was:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs Todmorden ‘A’
A.Bak ½ − ½ M.Hamer
J.Allan ½ − ½ P.Cook
D.Shapland 0 âˆ’ 1 P.Mulleady
P.Leonard 0 âˆ’ 1 A.Clarkson
N.Sykes 0 âˆ’ 1 D.Patrick
1 âˆ’ 4

Elsewhere in Division 1 Halifax ‘A’ stayed in second place by virtue of their 1½ − 3½ away win at Brighouse. Only an excellent win for Nick Hudson over Bill Somerset on board 2 interrupted their progress. Belgrave and a beefed up Halifax ‘B’ side traded blows to tie their match. Ina Hunter and Malcolm Corbett won for the home side and Dave Sugden and Vivienne Webster won for Halifax. On Wednesday night Huddersfield pummeled Todmorden ‘B’ 4½ − ½ with only David Innes on bottom board providing resistance for the visitors. This result moves Huddersfield back into third position above Hebden Bridge ‘A’ in fourth. As pointed out above however, Huddersfield have the hardest run in of the top four as they play all their rivals in the last three rounds of the season and have a match in hand to play against Todmorden ‘B’. At the bottom, Halifax ‘B’ join Brighouse on 2 points but neither has any realistic hopes of avoiding relegation as they are both 6 points behind Todmorden ‘B’.

In League 2 the key match was between the leaders Halifax ‘C’, and second placed Hebden Bridge ‘B’. Hebden had to win this match and hope for their rivals to slip up again in the last match of the season to have any chance of snatching the title from them. At least they managed to do their bit by securing a fine ½ − 4½ victory away from home. Terry Sullivan ‘dropped’ the half point against Barry Wadsworth on board 4 but the rest of the team were brutally efficient as Andy Leatherbarrow beat Ray Cully on board 1, Martin Syrett beat Howard Wood on board 2, Neil Bamford beat Pete Moss on 3 and Alex Brown beat John Nuttall on board 5. Below is the final match car:

Halifax ‘C’ Hebden Bridge ‘B’
R.Cully 0 − 1 A.Leatherbarrow
H.Wood 0 − 1 M.Syrett
P.Moss 0 âˆ’ 1 N.Bamford
B.Wadsworth ½ − ½ T.Sullivan
J.Nuttall 0 âˆ’ 1 A.Brown
½ − 4½

Hebden Bridge’s junior outfit gave Todmorden ‘C’ an almighty scare as they played their home fixture at the away venue with the Trades Club being unavailable. Team Captain and Hebden Bridge Junior club organisers John Kerrane reports on his young charges:

The Hebden Bridge ‘C’ team, consisting mostly of junior players, gave a very good account of themselves, and an early win by Toby Dodd on board 4 gave them hopes of a victory. However, the Todmorden team played steadily, and their greater experience saw them through to a 2 âˆ’ 3 win.”

The individual results were:

Hebden Bridge ‘C’ vs Todmorden ‘C’
J.Kerrane ½ − ½ D.Milton
O.Buchan ½ − ½ B.Glew
L.Curry 0 âˆ’ 1 P.Logan
T.Dodd 1 âˆ’ 0 B.Joyce
M.Leggett 0 âˆ’ 1 I.Knagg
2 − 3

In the third match played in League 2 Courier beat Halifax ‘D’ 3½ − 1½ thanks to wins by Adrian Dawson and Paul Jacobs.

Next week League 1 is on again with two matches being played at the Halifax Chess Club and two at Todmorden Chess Club. Hebden Bridge ‘A’ travel to Halifax ‘B’, Halifax ‘A’ host Huddersfield in what promises to be the tie of the round while Todmorden ‘A’ host Brighouse and Todmordfen ‘B’ host Belgrave. Expect another report on this site next week as we fast approach the business end of the season.

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Mar 112016
The Trades Club, Holme Street, has become something of a fortress for Hebden Bridge 'A' who haven't lost in a home fixture since September 2014.

The Trades Club, Holme Street, has become something of a fortress for Hebden Bridge ‘A’ who haven’t lost in a home fixture since September 2014.

It’s been a little while since this website last reported on the Calderdale Leagues. A combination of organising the Danny Gormally simul and some holiday down time has resulted in something of a service interruption. Time to put that right. There’s certainly been no shortage of chess going on since we last reported nearly a month ago.

League 1

League 1 first, as it should be. Hebden Bridge ‘A’ have enjoyed back to back home fixtures at the Trades Club and have taken full advantage of having White on all boards to collect a couple of valuable wins. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First of all we must examine the sharp end of the League 1 stick.

When we left it last we billed the top of the table clash between Halifax ‘A’ and Todmorden ‘A’ as potentially season-defining. As it stood, Tod, having won the reverse fixture at home earlier in the season, were two points clear at the top of the table and had a better board count. Halifax had kept pace with the reigning champions after their defeat but really needed to overhaul them in their home fixture to have any chance of regaining the title they won in 2014.

The two met in round 8 on the 15th of February and the big guns were all present. The home side had done everything they could to field their strongest line up as their team sheet read Ursal, Somerset, Porter, Morgan and Patrick. Todmorden meanwhile were not at their absolute strongest. They had Messrs Hamer, Cook, Clarkson, Patrick and Innes in their side. This meant that, though pretty evenly matched, Halifax had a big rating advantage on the bottom board and a slight deficit on board 3. A close match was on prospect but ultimately the ratings of the two line-ups gave no clue to the outcome of the individual encounters.

First of all David Innes beat Carlos Velosa on board 5 despite giving away over twenty rating points. If this was Tod’s potential weakness then it had not been exploited. However, that was the last full point Halifax dropped as the top four boards did the business. Darwin Ursal and Richard Porter held Martin Hamer and Andrew Clarkson respectively while Bill Somerset beat Phil Cook and John Morgan beat his Courier team mate from last season, Dave Patrick. This was Dave’s first dropped point of the season. So Halifax won 3 — 2 and moved back level on points with the champions. Game on!

Whilst all this was going on Huddersfield were dispatching Halifax ‘B’ at the same venue 1½ — 3½, Belgrave were pretty much ensuring their League 1 status for another season as they beat Brighouse away 2 — 3. Finally, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ avenged themselves on Todmorden ‘B’ who had beaten them at Todmorden earlier in the season. The Tod second string have acquitted themselves nobly this season and have a line-up that can give anyone side in the league a run for their money when they are all on their game. On this occasion Hebden took full advantage of being at home and all having the White pieces and when a mix up meant the Tod had to default the bottom board Hebden had all the trump cards the needed to secure victory.

Alastair Wright made a very welcome return to Hebden Bridge chess club after a hiatus from the game. He played on board 4 and drew without any problems against Richard Bedford. On board 1 John Allan also drew against Neil Suttie. The decisive results were on boards 2 and 3. First, Pete Leonard put the match out of the visitor’s reach when he beat Mike Huett. Then, the last game to finish saw Tod’s Mick Connor play a very good game against Dave Shapland, exploiting his one opportunity to the full to avenge himself for a painful defeat in the final round of last year’s Calderdale congress.

The final scorecard was:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs Todmorden ‘B’
J.Allan ½ — ½ N.Suttie
D.Shapland 0 — 1 M.Connor
P.Leonard 1 — 0 M.Huett
A.Wright ½ — ½  R.Bedford
M.Syrett 1 — 0 DEFAULT
3 — 2

Two weeks later the League 1 teams were in action once again, but in the meantime, it appeared that Todmorden ‘A’ and Todmorden ‘B’ were supposed to have played their postponed derby fixture. For whatever reason the ‘B’ team defaulted all boards giving their colleagues a walk-over. Whilst there may well have been a perfectly legitimate reason for this it doesn’t leave a good taste in the mouth for the ‘A’ team, no top of the league only on board count, gained 5 precious board points over their rivals Halifax. There will no doubt be accusations of collusion in the event that the title race comes down to board points and it would have been better for these two sides to have contested their fixture properly.

The long and the short of it is that League 1 has seen a steep rise in defaults this season — 21 boards so far — and an unhelpful number of fixtures have been postponed and on several occasions this has been due to teams not being able to get full line-ups out which suggests more defaults have been avoided in this way. It doesn’t bode well for the future of the league that clubs are struggling to get five players out for the scheduled fixtures so regularly. We should perhaps polish our halos by noting that Hebden Bridge is the only team in League 1 not to have defaulted a single board all season!

OK, rant over… back to the action. On February 29th a further fixture was postponed in the shape of Todmorden ‘A’ against Halifax ‘B’. This gave Halifax ‘A’ the chance to go top of the league if they could beat Hebden Bridge ‘A’ away at the Trades Club. On paper it certainly looked like Halifax had a great chance. Their team lined up with Darwin Ursal on board 1 and continued with Winston Williams (making his first appearance this season), Bill Somerset, Carlos Velosa and Sam Scurfield. Hebden meanwhile had Andy Bak on board 1 and then John Allan, Pete Leonard, Nick Sykes and Alastair Wright. To have any chance of getting a positive result Hebden would need to perform strongly on the bottom two boards and hold their own on the upper boards.

In the event that was exactly what they managed to do. Darwin overcame Andy on board 1 to give Halifax the lead but both John and Pete managed to draw against their higher rated opponents to give Hebden a chance if they could win at least one of the two remaining boards. The way for a dramatic denouement had been paved. It arrived in the form of some serious zeitnot for Sam Scurfield on board 5 during which he moved his queen, realised it was en prise and moved it again. Alastair called him on it but Sam thought he had not let go of the piece. The only eye-witness was John Kerrane, who when asked, confirmed that Sam had let go of the queen. This left the Halifax player with little choice but to resign as he had no means of contesting the game without his queen.

That levelled the scores but, as a polite but slightly noisy discussion about the board 5 result continued, Nick Sykes and Carlos Velosa were still playing their game and the result of the match now hinged upon it. Fortunately for Hebden, Nick had succeeded in winning a piece early on in the middle game so it was really a case of making sure he didn’t throw away his advantage. He didn’t and converted on move 46 to give Hebden a hard but well-earned victory and putting a major dent in Halifax’s fresh hopes of league regaining the title. They will hope that Hebden can repeat their feat of daring-do when they host Todmorden ‘A’ next Monday the 14th of March. That would ignite the championship race once again.

The final match score card was:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs. Halifax ‘A’
A.Bak 0 — 1 D.Ursal
J.Allan ½ — ½  W.Williams
P.Leonard ½ — ½  W.Somerset
N.Sykes 1 — 0 C.Velosa
A.Wright 1 — 0 S.Scurfield
3 — 2

On the same evening that this drama was unfolding, Huddersfield were quietly continuing their recent consistent run by beating Belgrave away 2 — 3 (they won the top three boards and lost the bottom two) and Tod ‘B’ were bouncing back from their recent run of bad results by defeating Brighouse 3½ — 1½ at home (Tod won on all three of the bottom boards to take the win). It’s currently unclear why Todmorden ‘A’ did not also play their home fixture against Halifax ‘B’ but this match appears to have been postponed.

So, with 4 (or 5 for half the teams in the division who still have postponed fixtures to play) to go on the season Todmorden ‘A’ and Halifax ‘A’ have 16 points each but Tod have two more board points and a match in hand against Halifax ‘B’. Hebden Bridge ‘A’ and Huddersfield are both on 12 points with Hebden third thanks to an extra half board point, though Huddersfield have a game in hand to play against Tod ‘B’. In the bottom half the relegation battle already appears to be over. Belgrave have 9 points and Tod ‘B’ have 8 which probably means they are both safe because Brighouse have just 2 draws to their names and Halifax ‘B’ have only 1.

There are a number of games from the two Hebden Bridge ‘A’ fixtures in the game viewer at the end of this post.

League 2

Now on to league 2 where eight of the scheduled ten fixtures have now been played and the title and promotion race is therefore in its final stages. The last round of fixtures was played on 22nd of February and saw a tough night for the juniors in the Hebden Bridge ‘C’ team who went down after a hard fight with their ‘basement buddies’ Halifax ’D’. John Kerrane reports:

All five junior players made a good start, and half an hour into the game, the seemed to be doing well on three out of five boards. However, gradually, blunders and errors of judgement took their toll, and once the final game, a tough struggle between Toby Dodd for Hebden and Michael Tait for Halifax, finished in a win for Tait, the visitors went home with a 0 — 5 win.

The individual scores were:

Hebden Bridge ‘C’ vs Halifax ‘D’
O.Buchan 0 — 1 J.Nuttall
L.Curry 0 — 1 J.Nicholson
T.Dodd 0 — 1 M.J.Tait
M.Leggett 0 — 1 M.Long
G.Hughes 0 — 1 D.Rivron
0 — 5

This results condemns the Hebden ‘C’ outfit to the bottom of the table. Their results have not really been a reflection of the improvement this current crop of juniors are showing. If they keep at it then it won’t be long before the results start coming for them. Halifax ‘D’ meanwhile move onto 5 points and have now leapfrogged Courier into 6th place on board. count.

Elsewhere Courier lost narrowly to the top team Halifax ‘C’ while the Hebden Bridge ‘B’ team had a minor malfunction away at Todmorden ‘C’ as they lost 3 — 2. They have now lost contact with Halifax ‘C’ who would need to lose both their remaining fixtures and see Hebden win both of theirs for there to be any chance of Hebden winning the league.

Individual scores were:

Todmorden ‘C’ vs Hebden Bridge ‘B’
D.Milton ½ — ½  A.Leatherbarrow
P.Logan 0 — 1 M.Syrett
T.Webster ½ — ½  N.Bamford
B.Joyce 1 — 0 D.Crampton
I.Knagg 1 — 0 F.Exall
3 — 2

On Monday both leagues return to action as Hebden Bridge ‘A’ host current champions Todmorden ‘A’ (this match will be played at the White Lion Hotel on Bridge Gate as the Trades Club is unavailable), Hebden Bridge ‘B’ travel to Halifax ‘C’ in a match they must win to keep any hopes of winning the league alive, and finally Hebden Bridge ‘C’ host Todmorden ‘C’.

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Feb 192016

Calderdale Flood Relief simul_Danny Gormally_panoramic

Our simultaneous match with Grand Master Danny Gormally in aid of Calderdale Flood Relief took place on Sunday the 7th of February. Twenty-one players from both the Calder Valley and further afield across West Yorkshire and East Lancashire took their seats in the comfortable surroundings of Hebden Bridge Town Hall’s Waterfront Hall to pit their wits against England’s number 14 and last year’s British Chess Championship runner-up.

Having billed the event as a 30 board simul I was somewhat agitated when Danny arrived in Hebden Bridge the evening before and asked how many players we had confirmed. I had to admit that it was ‘only 17’ but that I was hopeful some more would turn up on the day and that, in any case, the players who had registered were pretty strong. Perhaps it was for the best that numbers were somewhat lower than we’d hoped. Of course that wasn’t really the point, I wanted 30 players because I wanted to raise as much money through entry fees as I possibly could. Fortunately, Northern Rail’s involvement and donation of £250 helped to bolster the financial numbers. They also arranged Danny’s train tickets for us which was no small thing as he travelled down from Alnwick in Northumberland.

Grand Master Danny Gormally takes centre stage in the Waterfront Hall

Grand Master Danny Gormally takes centre stage in the Waterfront Hall

I’d met Danny once before at another simul in Leeds five years before. He seemed then like an easy-going, honest (at times maybe too honest!) and friendly chap and that impression of him was reinforced during the course of Saturday evening as we had a few drinks and ate a curry together. I hadn’t realised that Danny had actually spent some time in the Calderdale Valley immediately after his successful trip to Warwick for the British Championships last August. He’d planned on playing in the Huddersfield Rapidplay on his way home the weekend after the British and decided to stay in Elland and explore the area for a few days before hand. In the end I suspect it was this stay in West Yorkshire that influenced his decision to come and give the simul. He’d been to Hebden Bridge and liked it.

Before I dive into an account of the simul itself I’d like to say a few words about the venue. It simply would not have been possible to have held this event without the support of Hebden Bridge Town Hall. They don’t usually open the place on Sundays but they did for us. What’s more they staffed the café which, besides keeping the participants refreshed, also helped to draw in a few curious members of the public. Our hearty thanks to the staff and management of the Town Hall for providing a fabulous space for us to hold the event in and for taking such an interest in what might have otherwise been viewed as something of a nerd fest. I think those who did pop their heads in were genuinely interested and somewhat in awe of the effort that both Danny and the participants were putting into the games.

I needn’t have worried about the number of players we had. We did get some more entries on the day to take us up to twenty-one in total and also a number of local players and old friends of the chess club popped in to lend their support by buying raffle tickets and cheering on their comrades. This was much appreciated too and there was a warm welcome for everyone.

Dave Shapland accepts a donation from Helen Kettleborough of Northern Rail under the watchful eye of GM Gormally

Dave Shapland accepts a donation from Helen Kettleborough of Northern Rail under the watchful eye of GM Gormally

Before we began there was time to pose for a formal photograph with Northern Rail’s representative Helen Kettleborough and Grand Master Gormally. Well, it wouldn’t have been a fundraiser without a few handshakes and an enormous ceremonial cheque would it? Then it was down to business as we quickly ran through the rules of engagement (I jokingly promised that Danny had offered to play a re-match with colours reversed against anyone who beat him quickly — perhaps I won’t make that joke again next time!) and then the players chose and took their seats.

It had occurred to me during the preparations for the event that it might be nice to print out plaques bearing each player’s name, club and rating. That might have given Danny a better idea of the strength of the opposition he was facing. Still, as he went round the room shaking hands and playing his opening moves I noted with interest that he played 1.e4 and 1.d4 exclusively. This seemed like a mark of great respect from our guest and, as the games unfolded, it turned out that respect would not be unwarranted.

Let the games begin! Danny played the opening stages of all his games in orthodox fashion. Photo courtesy of Hebden Bridge Times

Let the games begin! Danny played the opening stages of all his games in orthodox fashion. Photo courtesy of Hebden Bridge Times

I don’t mind saying that I expected nothing whatsoever from my game with Danny. I was mostly taking part to help make up the numbers although of course I also wanted the chance to test my skills against a GM. Previous experience of simuls had taught me that I didn’t tend to concentrate too well during the early stages of the game as I was too aware of other games going on around me and players settling into their own ‘zones’ as battle lines are drawn up. I made a pretty snap decision to play Albin’s Counter Gambit on my board which was a pretty impudent selection. I’ve added some notes to my game and the psychological tug of war going on in my head in the game viewer at the end of this post.

It was very interesting to see how the chips fell in terms of the seating arrangements. Danny certainly found himself approaching the chess equivalent of ‘Amen Corner’ at the US Masters Golf in Augusta when he reached the highest rated player in the room (after Danny of course!) Matthew Parsons of Huddersfield. Seated on Matthew’s left were John Morgan (Halifax), Dave Wedge (Hebden Bridge) and Andrew Clarkson (Burnley) all these four are rated between 160 and 185. Later on, as proceedings got particularly testing for Danny, he had a similarly tough sequence on the other side of the room as he approached Chris Bak (Bradford), Andrew Bak (Bradford), myself, Richard Bedford (Todmorden) Darwin Ursal (Halifax). All three of the games Danny lost and a significant portion of the six draws he agreed to, came from these two segments of the room though that’s not to say he didn’t find spirited resistance on all the other boards for he most certainly did.

He had every reason to look pleased! Andrew Clarkson drew the first Grand Master blood of the afternoon

He had every reason to look pleased! Andrew Clarkson drew the first Grand Master blood of the afternoon

The pivotal moment in the afternoon came just over an hour into play when I became aware as I took a quick tour of the room that Andrew Clarkson was looking very excited and his game had attracted a good deal of attention. As he mentions in the commentary to his own game he essayed an exchange sacrifice in a line of the Pirc Defence that he considers to be risky for Black and usually only plays in blitz games to stir up trouble. Maybe he was curious to see how Danny would go about refuting it. Optically Black appeared to have good compensation for the material on the form of a huge lead in development and a pair of advanced pawns on the e and f-files. Danny defended calmly at first and when Andrew’s queen checked him on h4 he simply moved his king to f1 and seemed to be hunkering down. Unfortunately this allowed Andrew to bait a diabolical trap and Danny fell right into it. The outcome was the loss of his queen for no compensation whatsoever. The position was completely lost but Danny staggered on for a few more moves before accepting that he was going to have to let them game go and not waste any more of his energy on it.

Despite the fact that Danny had chalked up a couple of wins by the time he’d resigned to Andrew, this moment completely changed the atmosphere in the playing hall  in two ways. First of all Danny was annoyed and frustrated at making a mistake that had cost him a game and that seemed to affect his concentration for a little while. Secondly, the rest of the participants all realised that it was possible to get a result out of Danny and re-doubled their own efforts. The outcome of both these factors was that Danny’s task got much more challenging.

By this stage of the afternoon Danny had beaten John Nicholson, Dave Colledge (both Halifax), Paul Whitehouse (Brighouse), John Kerrane (Hebden Bridge), Richard Bedford (Todmorden) and Joe Birks (Burnley) who at 7-years-old was the youngest participant in proceedings. This first game against Joe was very interesting. In a French Tarrasch Danny sacrificed a piece to get at Joe’s king but the youngster defended tenaciously and appeared to be fighting back well when he made a mistake and that allowed Danny to break through to the Black king at the second time of asking. This game, along with all but one of the others are available to view and play through in the game viewer at the end of this article. After achieving a second victory over Joe at the very end of the session, Danny was very impressed to learn his young adversary’s age. It’s certainly a name to look out for in the future if his form at this event was anything to go by.

Gormally vs. Shapland

Gormally vs. Shapland

This string of six comparatively early wins and the defeat to Andrew Clarkson should have given Danny a decent platform to build on by about 3.30pm. However, as mentioned above, that single defeat really disrupted his equilibrium for a little while during which time he made mistakes on a few other boards and landed himself in very hot water. Further wins against John Morgan (Halifax), Andy Leatherbarrow (Hebden Bridge), Malcolm Birks (Burnley) and Steve Harrington (Halifax) followed but now Danny was getting fatigued and frustrated that he hadn’t managed to finish a couple of stubborn opponents off.

In the final hour of the session Danny had to tip his king against me and my neighbor that afternoon Andy Bak (Bradford). The latter defeat was particularly galling as he’d been a pawn up in a rook and minor piece ending but had somehow bungled his victory. He could very easily have lost to Gordon Glover (Blackburn) as well but craftily offered a draw in a tempting position and Gordon only too happily accepted peace terms only to find that he was almost certainly winning in prosaic fashion when he analysed the game afterwards.

A perplexed looking Pete Leonard tries to get to grips with his adversary

A perplexed looking Pete Leonard tries to get to grips with his adversary

Now the end of the afternoon was nigh and Danny pragmatically made draw offers on a number of boards in order to focus his remaining energy on the few remaining games where he had the most realistic chances to win. Darwin Ursal (Halifax), Chris Bak (Bradford), Richard Bedford (in his second game of the afternoon) and Dave Wedge (Hebden Bridge) all agreed to peace terms. Danny now tried to grind down the remaining players who were all settled in for long endgames with grim-faced determination. Finally, Martin Syrett (Hebden Bridge), Mike Barnett (Halifax) and Pete Leonard (Hebden Bridge) were defeated deep into their endgames although it appears Pete missed a chance to claim a draw through three-fold repetition.

The last game of the afternoon to finish was against the highest rated player in the room after himself. Matthew Parsons had been made to suffer down a piece for a pawn but the winning method was not straightforward as there were so few pawns left on the board. Exhausted and, as he tweeted later, ‘feeling like a punch drunk boxer’ Danny offered Matthew a draw which was accepted and the simul was over.

Danny’s final score was 14 wins, 6 draws and 3 defeats. Here’s a record of all results:

  • Defeats: Andrew Clarkson, Andy Bak and Dave Shapland
  • Draws: Dave Wedge, Matthew Parsons, Darwin Ursal, Richard Bedford, Chris Bak and Gordon Glover
  • Wins: Malcolm Birks, Mike Barnett, John Nicholson, Steve Harrington, Joe Birks (x2), Richard Bedford, Andy Leatherbarrow, Pete Leonard, John Kerrane, Dave Colledge, Paul Whitehouse, Martin Syrett and John Morgan

Best Game

We asked Danny to select the game that he considered to be the best of the afternoon. He picked the fascinating and complex encounter with John Morgan. Even though Danny won the game in the end he was very impressed with John’s play in an opening variation which is a pet line that he’s been playing for years. John’s knowledge of the system was evident in the early stages and Danny was in serious danger of losing the game at one point. There are lots of interesting ideas and variations in it so it’s well worth looking through the game (with some notes added) in the viewer at the end of this post. Danny has also commented on the game (and the event in general) on his YouTube channel. I’ve embedded the video below.

The prize for the best game was a 12 month premium subscription to Chess24. Congratulations to John for winning this prize which was well-deserved for his enterprising play.

Thank you!

This week we closed the books on this event and have done all our sums. In total we have raised just over £750 for Calderdale Flood Relief which is more than we had expected. All that remains then is to say a big ‘Thank you’ to those without whom this event would not have been possible (everything in orange below is a hyperlink that you can follow if you want to know more):

  • To our new friends at Hebden Bridge Town Hall for opening their doors to us on a Sunday and giving us such a warm welcome. The venue was really perfect
  • To Northern Rail for paying for Danny Gormally’s travel tickets and donating £250
  • To the Chairman of the Calderdale Chess League Association, Howard Wood for donating a number of high value fantastic prizes for our raffle
  • Also to our friends at Chess24 who provided our ‘Best Game’ prize plus two further premium memberships for the raffle
  • To Chess Magazine and their editor International Master Richard Palliser for their donation and providing us with a space to report on the event in their March edition. Order your copy now!
  • To Halifax Courier and the Hebden Bridge Times for sending heir photographer and reporting so extensively on the event in last week’s edition (the report is still available online)
  • To BBC Radio Leeds for taking the time to interview me about the event on the Johnny I’Anson Breakfast Show (it’s 1hr 25mins into the show!)
  • To all of those spectators and friends of the chess club who came along on the day to buy raffle tickets and support the participants
  • To the twenty one players who paid and gave up their valuable Sunday afternoons to take on a Grand Master.
  • And finally, our heartfelt thanks to GM Danny Gormally for coming down to Hebden Bridge and being such an excellent competitor in taking on a strong field and performing magnificently. We hope to welcome you back again in the future. His new book ‘A Year Inside the Chess World’ is on sale now!
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Feb 102016
However you choose to define it, there is no doubting that Hebden Bridge have something of a mental block when it comes to playing away to Belgrave

Whatever you choose to call it, there is no doubting that Hebden Bridge have something of a mental block when it comes to playing away to Belgrave

There’s been plenty going on in January but for one reason or another (primarily that I’ve been busy organizing the simul with Danny Gormally – of which, more later this week!) I haven’t had the time to post anything on these pages for quite a while. Here then is a round up of the Calderdale Evening Chess League action from last month.

The first match after the Christmas break can be as tricky as the first match of the season. It’s hard to know quite what to expect and if you haven’t played a serious game in over a month, you may find that you’re a little bit rusty. This season, in the Calderdale Evening League first division the gap between rounds 7 and 8 was more like six weeks than a month. For those who’ve got used to playing a match every week during the league season that feels like an awfully long lay-off.

That’s why, as the players of Hebden Bridge ‘A’ pulled into the car park at the Belgrave Social Club in Halifax two weeks ago, they felt no small amount of trepidation. In the first match of the season, playing Belgrave at home, Hebden had completed what must be one of the most unjust whitewashes in the League’s history. They could easily have lost the match against the visitors but they somehow won 5-0. So, Belgrave would be thirsty for revenge. They also had some historical precident on their side. Last season, in the corresponding fixture, Belgrave took Hebden down 3-2 when, right up until the end of the evening, it looked like Hebden would win it. Reaching further back, Belgrave has been a graveyard for Hebden Bridge ‘A’ on a number of occasions in recent years. Defeat there almost cost Hebden the title four years ago.

On this occasion Belgrave fielded Ian Hunter, Karim Khan, Gordon Farrar, Malcolm Corbett and Mike Barnett. All seasoned veterans of local league chess, all well capable of dispatching players graded higher than them. So, despite out grading their opponents on every board, the visitors knew there was a tough evening’s chess ahead of them. The tone for a tense evening was set early on as all of the games bar one began in relatively quiet fashion. On board 1 Ian Hunter chose to play the Exchange Variations of the Semi-Slav against Andrew Bak. This has the reputation for being one of the most sterile variations in the whole of chess, but that just means Black must be all the more on his guard against complacency.

On board 2, Karim Khan was so desperate to avoid playing another Spanish against Dave Shapland that he resorted to the Nimzo-Larsen Attack with 2.b3 and got precisely nothing from the opening phase of the game. Gordon Farrar, has more of a track record of using eccentric opening lines and he deployed an early f4 against Pete Leonard on board 3 with the game transposing into a pseudo reversed stonewall. Again, White gained no advantage from the opening. Finally on board 5, Mike Barnett is the sort of chap who sticks to the tried and tested and he pretty much always goes for 1.Nf3 and 2.c4. He did so on this occasion against Andy Leatherbarrow too and the players soon found themselves in a symmetrical variation of the English Opening.

The exception to all of this was the perfect storm that began to brew on board 4 where Nick Sykes chose to deploy the Sicilian Dragon against Malcolm Corbett and the game followed a very sharp and extensively analysed course as the two entered the Soltis Variation of the Yugoslav Attack characterised by Black playing h5 to try and slow down the White king’s side advance. Nick correctly observed that he could steal the initiative by sacrificing the exchange on c3 in thematic fashion and he quickly generated a very dangerous attack for his troubles. When Malcolm then overlooked simple tactic that picked up his a-pawn as well his king began to look very vulnerable indeed.

The first game to finish was board 1 where, at some point during the middle game, Andy won a pawn and, despite stubborn resistance from Ian, he was able to nurse this all the way into the end game and covert it to a win. The visitors had taken the lead. A little while after that Gordon and Pete agreed peace terms in a queen and pawns ending that looked dead even. The players made the same assessment and shook hands.

That though was where the good news ended for Hebden. Nick was unable to find a breakthrough against Malcolm and was still an exchange down as the players reached the end game. When Malcolm managed to get both his rooks onto the seventh rank it looked bleak for Nick who was unable to find a means of keeping his position together and had to resign. The match was level.

To make matters worse, Dave Shapland had gone astray against Karim on board 2 as well. Missing his best opportunity of the game to create pressure on the e-file, Dave ended up with one of his rooks running up and down the fifth rank and looking in danger of getting trapped. Rather than accepting an ugly looking position, Dave gave up the exchange for a pawn and seemed to have hopes of grabbing a second. With a pair of rooks off the board he might have had chances of holding or even winning the game but all four rooks were present and Karim’s quickly got active and started to target Dave’s weak queen’s side pawns. Again, passivity did not seem an attractive option so Dave went for activity and counter play hoping to complicate Karim’s task of winning. The Belgrave player gamely turned down a craftily timed draw offer from his opponent, forced himself to calculate through the complications and finally reached a position where he was giving check mate. Belgrave had the lead.

Finally, just as Dave was resigning on board 2, Andy and Mike were concluding peace on board 5. The position was level and both players were short on time having each exhaustively searched every possibility for play left in the game.

So Belgrave extracted their revenge with a fine 3-2 win against a Hebden team who appeared to be still wearing their Christmas jumpers and paper crowns. Here’s the final match score card:

Belgrave vs. Hebden Bridge ‘A’
I.Hunter 0 — 1 A.Bak
K.Khan 1 — 0 D.Shapland
G.Farrar ½ — ½ P.Leonard
M.Corbett 1 — 0 N.Sykes
M.Barnett ½ — ½ A.Leatherbarrow
3 — 2

Elsewhere, Halifax ‘A’ were busy routing their ‘B’ team by 4½ — ½. Scott Gornall managed to draw against John Morgan on board 3 but that was the ‘B’ teams only consolation. This results means that Halifax ‘A’ have drawn level on points with Todmorden ‘A’ at the top of League 1. However, the only reason that has occurred is because the other scheduled derby match between Todmorden ‘B’ and Todmorden ‘A’ was postponed, so Tod ‘A’ have a match in hand on their rivals. In the next round the top two will meet at Halifax for an encounter that Halifax must win in order to have any chance of overhauling the champions. It should be a cracker.

A few days after these two fixtures were played, Huddersfield hosted Brighouse and then dispatched them 4 — 1 without losing a single board. Wins on the bottom three boards by Messrs Hepworth, Westmoreland and Charesworth were the difference as the top two boards ended in draws.

So, despite losing to Belgrave, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ hold on to third spot in the league behind the evermore distant leading duo. That said, both Huddersfield (in fourth) and Todmorden ‘B’ (in fifth) have two games in hand on them and are only two points behind.

The teams in League 2 had emerged from their Christmas vacations a week prior to League 1 and they then played another round of fixtures this last Monday. John Kerrane reports on the most recent matches for Hebden Bridge ‘B’ and ‘C’.

“On a busy Monday evening at Hebden Bridge Chess Club… our two second division teams were both in action.

The ‘B’ team took on Halifax ‘D’, who put up stiff opposition to what was, on paper, the stronger side, and it was not until the last game to finish, between Hebden’s Freddie Exall and Halifax’s Michael Tait went Hebden’s way, that the 3 — 2 win for the home side was clinched.

The individual results were:

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ vs. Halifax ‘D’
A.Leatherbarrow 0 — 1 B.Donkersley
M.Syrett 1 — 0 G.Roper
N.Bamford ½ — ½ J.Nicholson
A.Brown ½ — ½ M.Randhawa
F.Exall 1 — 0 M.J.Tait
3 — 2

Courier had generously offered to play their ‘home’ fixture against Hebden Bridge ‘C’ at the Trades Club, to allow Hebden Bridge’s junior players an opportunity to play, and the youngsters played so well that the match could easily have gone 2 — 3 in their favour. However, lack of experience in the endgame led to their advantages slipping away, and the final result was a 4 — 1 win to Courier.

Luca Curry’s game against John Smith on board 2 ended bizarrely — John made a move and offered a draw, overlooking a simple mate for Luca on the next move. Luca missed it too, and accepted the draw.

Individual results were:

Courier vs. Hebden Bridge ‘C’
D.Colledge 1 — 0 O.Buchan
J.B.Smith ½ — ½ L.Curry
P.Jacobs ½ — ½ T.Dodd
S.Harrington 1 — 0 M.Leggett
R.Bottomley 1 — 0 G.Hughes
4 — 1

A few weeks before this most recent round of fixtures the two Hebden teams had met for their second derby match of the season. The ‘B’ team used this match as an opportunity to field a few juniors themselves which in turn allowed John Kerrane to give some of the fringe players amongst his young charges the chance to get a bit of experience. The bottom two board of this match were all junior affairs which but the more experienced players triumphed here. Only John Kerrane himself managed to win on board 1 against Neil Bamford as Hebden ‘B’ ran out comfortable winners. The final match scorecard looking like this:

Hebden Bridge ‘C’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘B’
J.Kerrane 1 — 0 N.Bamford
L.Curry 0 — 1 F.Exall
M.Leggett 0 — 1 D.Crampton
G.Hughes 0 — 1 O.Buchan
J.Hadari 0 — 1 T.Dodd
1 — 4

In the League table Halifax ‘C’ are top on 14 points. They are 2 points clear of Hebden Bridge ‘B’ and 4 points clear of Todmorden ‘C’. Courier (5 points), Halifax ‘D’ (3 points) and Hebden Bridge ‘C’ (yet to score) complete the standings.

Some of the games from the fixtures mentioned in this article can be found in the viewer below.

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Dec 222015
Ironically, you'd have to have been living on another planet not to know that there is a new Star Wars film on at the cinemas. Hebden Bridge have seen a few Jedi masters return to strengthen their numbers of the last few weeks.

Ironically, you’d have to have been living on another planet not to know that there is a new Star Wars film on at the cinemas. Hebden Bridge have themselves seen a few Jedi masters return to strengthen their ranks in the last few weeks.

It’s very hard to resist the Star Wars analogies in the week when the latest chapter in the movie franchise hits the big screen. Last night it felt a more like ‘Return of the Jedi’ at the Trades Club as a host of familiar faces, some of whom we haven’t seen for a long time, popped in for some pre-Christmas fun. There was also the small matter of a postponed match between Hebden Bridge ‘B’ and Todmorden’C’ to play. More of that later though. Last week was also an action packed week in the Calderdale League as teams in both divisions took to their boards to battle out the eternal struggle between the light and the darkness.

Last weekend I drafted the weekly column for the Yorkshire Post on behalf to the Yorkshire Chess website (you can catch an extended version over there still) in which I said that Calderdale League 1 looks very much like a two horse race as we reach the halfway stage of the season. Last week’s round of fixtures did nothing to changes that assessment as both Todmorden ‘A’ and Halifax ‘A’ continued their winning ways.

Tod ‘A’ travelled to Belgrave for their toughest away fixture yet (at least on paper) and returned with 3½ points as wins by their stalwarts Martin Hamer, Andrew Clarkson and Dave Patrick saw them comfortably across the line. That Dave Innes lost and Phil Cook only managed to draw against an opponent rated forty points lower than him were of no consequence as the champions retained their 100% record.

Meanwhile, second placed Halifax ‘A’ had made the reverse trip from Halifax to Todmorden to play Todmorden ‘B’. Tod’s second string have had an excellent season so far and sit comfortably mid-table having taken the scalps of Hebden Bridge ‘A’ as well as Brighouse and Halifax ‘B’ earlier in the schedule.  On this occasion they were no match for the visitors as Halifax‘s big guns boomed. Darwin Ursal, Bill Somerset and John Morgan are a trio who should trouble Tod ‘A’ when those two sides play each other again on Feburary 15th. Having lost the match at Todmorden in October, Halifax will have to win that one to catch up with their rivals, but it’s not a feat that is beyond them.

The other match up on Monday night was a relegation dog fight between the bottom two teams in the league, Brighouse and Halifax ‘B’. That there were four decisive games and a draw tells you all you need to know about the fighting spirit of these two teams.  Unfortunately they split the four wins between them and the deadlocked outcome probably doesn’t suit either side.

Finally, last Wednesday night, the ancient enemies, Huddersfield and Hebden Bridge ‘A’ met at Huddersfield for another chapter in their long chronicle of dramatic clashes. These two teams have a habit of playing out nail-biting, hairs-breadth contests and on this occasion it was no different.

To be sure, Huddersfield were weaker on paper than they have been for this fixture in many a long year. Hebden actually out-graded their opponents on the bottom four boards. I can’t ever remember that being the case since I’ve been reporting on this match. That said, the margin of advantage was fairly slim and the top board encounter certainly seemed to favour the hosts.

By about half past nine though the match already seemed to be all but over in the visitor’s favour. On board 2 Dave Shapland had something of a red letter day against Dave Tooley who tipped his king as early as move 23. This had been preceded by a solid and risk free draw between Stuart Westmoreland and Andy Leatherbarrow on board 4. Martin Syrett then put Hebden Bridge beyond defeat by downing Bryn Charlesworth after he blundered in a sharp position.

Hebden appeared to be home and hosed but Huddersfield had other ideas. On board 1, Pete Leonard had gained an advantage right out of the opening against Dave Keddie and seemed to be pressing it home with some enterprising and active play. He won a pawn and the exchange and it looked like he would cruise to victory when, suddenly, an inaccurate move by Pete turned the tables. Dave’s queen and knight went on the attack and were able to force first the return of the exchange and then the exchange of queens to transpose into a winning king and pawn ending. Pete did everything he could to try and hold it but in the end his four isolated pawns were no match for Dave’s two connected pairs.

Now it was all down to the final board to decide the outcome of the match with Hebden needing just a draw to secure victory. This board 3 encounter went right down to the wire with Tony Aguirre and Nick Sykes (returning to the side after a couple of months absence) embroiled in a complicated cut and thrust game that kept the kibitzers guessing the result right to the end.

From the Black side of a Closed Sicilian Nick seemed to get a perfectly playable, even favourable position, especially after Tony decided to sacrifice the exchange for what looked like pretty dubious compensation. But then Nick overlooked a pawn capture that came with a check and found that his king was suddenly exposed to a string of checks that led to him losing no fewer than four pawns for the exchange!

Once the players had (just!) reached time control Nick found a way to get the queens off the board and was then able to start hoovering up pawns with his rook. Of course there were a myriad of knight forks to be avoided but he managed to navigate them all and even missed a couple of winning chances for himself as the two of them stopped recording their moves and blitzed  through the final stages of the endgame. Eventually they both queened their last pawns on the same move and agreed to a draw which seemed like a fair result.

Hebden breathed a sigh of relief as they took the tie by the slimmest of margins. Here is the final match scorecard:

Huddersfield vs. Hebden Bridge ‘A’
D.Keddie 1 — 0 P.Leonard
DTooley 0 — 1 D.Shapland
A.Aguirre ½ — ½ N.Sykes
S.Westmoreland ½ — ½ A.Leatherbarrow
B.Charlesworth 0 — 1 M.Syrett
2 — 3

The games from the top three boards can be found in the game viewer at the end of this post. All of them have been analysed by the Hebden players.

Last week also saw a complete round of League 2 fixtures. In this league the title race is far less clear cut as Halifax ‘C’, Todmorden ‘C’ and Hebden Bridge ‘B’ are all reasonably close together at the top of the table while Courier, Halifax ‘D’ and Hebden Bridge ‘C’ are all adrift in the bottom half.

Halifax ‘C’ have reached the halfway mark at the top however and have a perfect record of five wins from five matches as they dispatched the juniors of Hebden Bridge ‘C’ at home by a convincing margin of 3½ — 1½ despite defaulting on board 2. Only Hebden’s captain John Kerrane was able to hold his own to draw with Pete Hughes – a very creditable outcome for John. The rest of Halifax’s line up of experienced veterans proved too strong for the juniors on this occasion. Below is the final match scorecard:

Halifax ‘C’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘C’
P.Hughes ½ — ½ J.Kerrane
DEFAULT 0 — 1 F.Exall
H.Wood 1 — 0 O.Buchan
B.Wadsworth 1 — 0 L.Curry
R.A.Whiteley 1 — 0 M.Leggett
3½ — 1½

Meanwhile, across town at the Belgrave Social Club Courier were hosting the second placed team in the division, Hebden Bridge ‘B’. This match was a close call with Hebden just edging it by the odd point thanks in part to a line up that was strengthened by the return of Roger Baxter who was most welcome home for Christmas. His win, along with one by Martin Syrett and draws by Andy Leatherbarrow and Neil Bamford saw the ‘B’ team over the line. The score card for this match looked thusly:

Courier vs. Hebden Bridge ‘B’
D.Colledge ½ — ½ A.Leatherbarrow
J.Smith 0 — 1 R.Baxter
A.Dawson 0 — 1 M.Syrett
P.Jacobs ½ — ½ N.Bamford
S.Harrington 1 — 0 A.Brown
2 — 3

Todmorden ‘C’ were in third place behind Hebden only on board count. They managed to reverse that state of affairs by thrashing Halifax ‘D’ 4½ — ½ at home

All of this just lent last night’s postponed fixture a greater air of importance as the two teams locked together on 6 points played their game in hand with sole possession of second place at stake.

The proximity of this match to Christmas enabled Hebden to summon up another returning Jedi master to their line up as Dave Wedge (remember him?) dusted down his light-sabre and leapt into battle on board 1. Together with Roger making a second successive appearance, this made the Hebden line up the strongest ‘B’ team the club has fielded for quite some time as captain Martin Syrett was given the luxury of sitting the match to allow John Kerrane and Danny Crampton to get games. To be fair, Martin’s generosity could have backfired for, with himself on board 4 and John on board 5, Hebden would surely have swept their opponents aside fairly swiftly. As it was the team had to recover from an early loss by Dan to rescue the win.

Roger levelled the scores reasonably comfortably when his opponent miscalculated a combination. Hebden then went in front as John overpowered Bill Joyce on board 4. It could have been worse for the visitors had Dave Milton not been able to find a perpetual check resource to save his game against Andy when he was two pawns down. Finally, Dave Wedge went the full distance against Pete Logan but finally won on time in a position where he seemed to have a pretty stable advantage. All the games from this match are in the game viewer below and here is the match scorecard:

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ vs Todmorden ‘C’
D.Wedge 1 — 0 P.Logan
A.Leatherbarrow ½ — ½ D.Milton
R.Baxter 1 — 0 B.Glew
J.Kerrane 1 — 0 B.Joyce
D.Crampton 0 — 1 I.Knagg
3½ — 1½

All that remains is for me to wish all our members and readers a very Happy Christmas and a successful and prosperous 2016!

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Dec 082015
The Calderdale League 1 season is threatening to become a classic two horse race between Todmorden 'A' and Halifax 'A'. This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from vegaseddie's Flickr photostream

The Calderdale League 1 season is threatening to become a classic two horse race between Todmorden ‘A’ and Halifax ‘A’. This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from vegaseddie’s Flickr photostream

Last week saw the a second consecutive week of League 1 fixtures and, as we approach the half way point in the season the race for the title already looks like it has clarified down to two teams.

Todmorden ‘A’ cemented their place at the top of the table by demolishing a four-man Huddersfield side at home by 4½ — ½. On board 1 Martin Hamer and Greg Eagleton drew their game but Phil Cook, Pete Mulleady and Andrew Clarkson all won their games whilst Dave Patrick was gifted a walk-over as Huddersfield suffered again from a problem they have struggled with for a number of years, getting five strong players to get involved in away fixtures.

This result leaves Tod top with a perfect six wins from six matches. They have played all three of their perennial rivals at home in the first half of the season and so they’ve yet to be tested with the Black pieces away to Halifax ‘A’, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ and Huddersfield. This should give their rivals a little bit of hope.

Halifax ‘A’ are the team who are closest to Todmorden ‘A’. They are two points off the pace having lost just one match away to Tod. Last Monday they kept pace with the reigning champions by defeating Belgrave 3 — 2. Casual observers might have expected a more comfortable margin of victory for the home side but they were missing Darwin Ursal on board 2. They did replace Darwin with John Morgan, who made his first appearance for Halifax having been one of the players effected by the demise of Courier ‘A’ over the summer break. John beat Karim Khan and Carlos Velosa beat Angel Gonzalez on board 4 but boards 3 and 5 were drawn and Bill Somerset suffered a setback on board 1 where he succumbed to Ian Hunter.

Also at Halifax, Todmorden ‘B’ were maintaining their impressive form this season by thrashing Halifax ‘B’ ½ — 4½. Neil Suttie, Mick Connor, Rob Collier and Richard Bedford all won their games and the only draw was between Ray Cully and Mike Huett. This result leaves Halifax ‘B’ rooted to the bottom of the table with a match in hand to play away at Huddersfield. Todmorden ‘B’ also have a match in hand against Huddersfield still to play but they are currently lying in fourth place with 6 points

All of these results meant that Hebden Bridge ‘A’ had an opportunity to climb back up to third place in the table if they could beat Brighouse at home. Having recovered from a three match losing streak in the previous week, Hebden were hopeful of continuing their impressive home form which has seen them defeat both Belgrave and Halifax ‘B’ comfortably.

Brighouse did bring five players (which can sometimes be a problem for them when they are away from home) but they were missing the services of Dennis Breen who is their regular board 1 player. This left their stalwart Robert Broadbent on board 1 to face John Allan. On board 2 Hebden fielded Pete Leonard against Nick Hudson. Dave Shapland played Paul Whitehouse on board 3; Andy Leatherbarrow played a new member of the Brighouse team (which is most encouraging to see) a Mr T.Pryke. On board 5 Martin Syrett played Ronnie Grandage.

Looking at the strength of the match ups it appeared that Brighouse’s best chances lay on the top board. After that the rating gaps between the home and the away players grew the further down the board order you went. Hebden played it safe on the top two boards taking no risks. John Allan’s game with Robert Boradbent was pretty sterile and was agreed a draw fairly early in the evening. Pete Leonard also finished with a draw against nick Hudson. He didn’t really manage to get much pressure from the opening and Nick played solidly.

On the remaining three boards there was a bit more action and entertainment. Andy Leatherbarrow took full advantage of his opponent’s slightly strange and passive opening play. He created structural weaknesses, developed his pieces rapidly and then simply applied pressure to the weak spots until Black’s position caved in.

On board 5 Martin Syrett was enjoying his second King’s Gambit in two weeks against Ron Grandage. Unlike the last fixture against Barry Wadsworth of Halifax ‘B’ though, this time Ron chose to decline the gambit and this simply gave Martin a very comfortable position where he controlled the centre, enjoyed more space and had a nice lead in development.

Ron is a tough competitor though and he hung on gamely, finally forcing Martin to settle for a comfortable if not yet decisive endgame advantage in the form of two extra pawns. Slowly but surely Martin squeezed the Black position and although Ron may have missed a good chance to escape at some point, the result never really looked in doubt. Hebden were home and hosed with one game to finish.

And what a tense and nail-biting affair that game was. Dave Shapland had played one of his more eccentric opening lines in the form of 2.a3 against the Sicilian. If his intention was to confuse his opponent he certainly seemed to have succeeded for after ten moves Black had already blundered a couple of pawns. As he tried to find a way to take advantage of Dave’s provocative play, Paul Whitehouse attempted to mix things up himself, miscalculated a combination and found himself down an exchange and a pawn. At this point Dave could have put the game away but he missed the brief window of opportunity and then struggled to put Paul away despite Black being in a desperate tangle.

As the game reached time control the position had become intensely complex and very tense. In trying to get to the Black king Dave had allowed Paul the chance to get at his own monarch with his queen and a knight. The game was on a knife edge and Dave was forced to take a huge risk in order to avoid a draw by repetition. The gamble paid off for Paul missed the one rather difficult chance he was given to gain a decent advantage and then found that his attack had burnt out and he had both his knights en prise. It was all over and Dave breathed a sigh of relief.
The final match score card looked like this:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs. Brighouse
J.Allan ½ — ½ R.Broadbent
P.Leonard ½ — ½  N.Hudson
D.Shapland 1 — 0 P.Whitehouse
A.Leatherbarrow 1 — 0 T.Pryke
M.Syrett 1 — 0 R.Grandage
4 — 1

So Hebden Bridge do now sit in third place although both Huddersfield and Todmorden ‘B’ below them have games in hand and wins would see them overtake Hebden.

In the game viewer below you’ll find all the games from this fixture.


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Nov 272015
Over the last couple of weeks Hebden Bridge and Halifax have fought a couple of bouts and exchanged punches by winning one each. This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from Defence Images Flickr photo stream

Over the last couple of weeks Hebden Bridge and Halifax have fought a couple of bouts and exchanged punches by winning one each. This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from Defence Images Flickr photo stream

Hebden Bridge teams have played a number of fixtures against Halifax chess club over the last few weeks. Last week Hebden Bridge ‘B’ took on Halifax ‘C’ for bragging rights in League 2. More of that tie later.

First, this week Hebden Bridge ‘A’ hosted Halifax ‘B’ in a match they needed to win to end a three match losing streak and pull themselves away from the relegation zone. This they duly did but the evening was not without its difficulties. First of all the players arrived at the Trades Club to find that, due to a staffing problem, the venue could not remain open past 10.15. That wouldn’t be long enough to play the match so an alternative venue need to be found in a hurry. Thanks then go to the White Lion pub for agreeing to host the match in their snug and turn off the music in that area so that the players no more disturbed than they would have been in their usual venue.

The teams were closely matched on the top couple of boards where, on board 1 Hebden were able to field John Allan for the first time this season. He played Richard Porter. On board Pete Leonard played Dave Sugden. It was in the lower reaches of the board order where Hebden looked like they ought to be in possession of the better chances. On board 3 Dave Shapland held a significant rating advantage over Ray Cully, Andy Leatherbarrow out-graded Vivienne Webster on board 4 and Martin Syrett also out-pointed Barry Wadsworth on board 5.

Indeed, the night got off to a great start when Dave was able to take full advantage of some passive opening play by Ray to launch a direct assault on the Black king right from the opening. As early as move 17 Dave had reached a position where Ray faced either the loss of his queen or check mate.Instead of these he chose the third option which was to resign.

The remaining games were much more closely fought. On board 1 John Allan was making his first appearance of the season for Hebden Bridge and he found himself in what appeared to be serious trouble in the middle game against Richard Porter having decided, perhaps injudiciously, to castle on the opposite side of the board to his opponent in what is usually a quiet variation of the French Defence. Instead of a sterile game however, Richard generated a huge attack on the castled White king while the White king’s pawns stayed on their starting blocks. Somehow though, John managed to hang on and, with both players working under the pressure of a significant time shortage, he managed to hold the draw.

Not long after this Martin Syrett put the fixture firmly into the home side’s hands. He’d be the first to admit that he’s had a miserable run of form of late and so a return to his bread and butter repertoire in the King’s Gambit, Cunningham variation, was most welcome. Martin is very familiar with the ideas in this line and was able to set up dangerous threats against the Black king. Barry tried to keep the position closed but eventually Martin broke through and, once the queens were exchanged, he was able to play a nice combination that ended in checkmate.

Needing only a draw to conclude the match in their favour, Hebden now looked to Andy Leatherbarrow and Pete Leonard to bring home the bacon. Andy had been pressing hard against Vivienne Webster for the whole game having won a pawn early on. He looked on the verge of breaking through as time control was reached but his opponent wriggled and squirmed and , with time running out for both of them, Andy accepted a draw offer to get his team over the line. His position may well have been winning but his time shortage dictated that this was the right decision.

Finally, Hebden’s Captain, Pete Leonard, concluded the evening’s play by accepting a draw with Dave Sugden. This one had been a hard grind in a bishop, knight and pawns ending, Pete had more space and looked like he could restrict Dave’s activity to extract a decisive advantage. However, every time he seemed about to break through Dave found a way to keep himself in the game and, in the end, his persistence was rewarded when he managed to win a pawn. That wasn’t enough to turn the tables completely though and Pete held his ground for a draw easily enough in the end and with neither player having anything to play for from a match perspective.

Here then is the final match scorecard as Hebden Bridge secured only their second win of the season:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs Halifax ‘B’
J. Allan ½ — ½ R.Porter
P.Leonard ½ — ½  D.Sugden
D.Shapland 1 — 0 R.Cully
A.Leatherbarrow ½ — ½   V.Webster
M.Syrett 1 — 0 B.Wadsworth
3½ — 1½

Last Monday the League 2 sides played a round of fixtures and Hebden Bridge ‘B’ hosted their closest rivals for the title, Halifax ‘C’. Hebden were able to field their ‘A’ team regulars, Andy Leatherbarrow and Martin S. Hebden were able to field their ‘A’ team regulars, Andy Leatherbarrow and Martin Syrett along with their other stalwarts of the season so far, Neil Bamford, Terry Sullivan and Alex Brown.

Halifax had a little surprise up their sleeves in the form of Pete Hughes who hasn’t played an evening league fixture for quite a while and was last seen playing for Courier. His addition on top board did much to strengthen the visitors line-up as they also brought Vivian Webster, Pete Moss, Barry Wadsworth and Andrew Whiteley.

On paper Halifax held decent ratings advantages on the top and bottom boards with Hebden enjoying a sizeable advantage on board 2 while the other two boards were closely matched. It was all the more surprising then to see that on the boards where the big discrepancies were present the underdog was able to over-turn the odds in each instance as Andy Leatherbarrow held Peter Hughes, Vivienne Webster defeated Martin Syrett and Alex Brown defeated Andrew Whiteley.

These results cancelled each other out and so it was on the two boards where the players were more evenly matched that the result was decided. On board 4 Barry Wadsworth defeated Terry Sullivan while on board 3 Neil Bamford and Pete Moss drew.

Here is the match score card:

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ vs. Halifax ‘C’
A.Leatherbarrow ½ — ½  P.Hughes
M.Syrett 0 — 1 V.Webster
N.Bamford ½ — ½ P.Moss
T.Sullivan 0 — 1 B.Wadsworth
A.Brown 1 — 0 R.A.Whiteley
2 — 3

Whilst this was going on at the Trades Club a Hebden Bridge ‘C’ team comprising predominantly of juniors, travelled to Todmorden ‘C’ where they found themselves up against some experienced opposition who proved too shrewd for them on the whole. Only John Kerrane managed to avoid a defeat to prevent a whitewash. Despite the score line however, John is really pleased with the progress his young charges are making.

The final match score was:

Todmorden ‘C’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘C’
R.Collier ½ — ½ J.Kerrane
P.Logan 1 — 0 O.Buchan
D.Milton 1 — 0 L.Curry
B.Joyce 1 — 0 T.Dodd
I.Knagg 1 — 0 M.Leggett
4½ — ½

In the game viewer below you will find nine of the ten games played by the ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams in this last round of fixtures.

Next week, its League 1 action again as Hebden Bridge host Brighouse and aim for back to back wins for the first time this season. We’ll bring you a report on that match and an update on the league situation too.

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Nov 102015
Unfortunately for Hebden Bridge 'A' it's now three lemons in a row. Hopefully they can break their losing streak next time out. This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from Nils Ohman's Flickr photo stream.

Unfortunately for Hebden Bridge ‘A’ it’s now three lemons in a row. Hopefully they can break their losing streak next time out. This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from Nils Ohman’s Flickr photo stream.

Time for another update on the Calderdale League 1 season as round 4 took place last week.

The first thing to note is the alarming absence of completed fixtures involving Huddersfield.  They should now have played four matches but the league website only gives one result! What on earth is going on? Well, the grapevine suggests that the round 2 fixture they had slated to play at home against Halifax ‘B’ was postponed due to Halifax not having a full team available (and when did that ever stop a match from going ahead?) The round 3 match at home to Belgrave has not been entered on the league website yet (why?) though we understand it was played. And the round 4 match away to Todmorden ‘B’ was postponed due to a scheduled late night road closure in Hebden Bridge that prevented the away team from getting back to Huddersfield via that route after 10pm.

Fair enough on this last perhaps, but Hebden themselves were playing at Todmorden and managed to get not one but two teams to the Todmorden Working Men’s Club only to find that Todmorden themselves had failed to get a team together for a handicap team match that was scheduled for the same evening as the league 1 matches. I imagine that Captain John Kerrane will seriously consider extracting a full default from his opponents for allowing a team, predominantly comprising juniors, to travel to Todmorden without cause.

But enough of my moaning. I’m getting cantankerous in my middle-age. Let’s get down to business. Title holders and league leaders Todmorden ‘A’ were hosting Hebden Bridge ‘A’ whilst Halifax ‘B’ took on Belgrave at home and Halifax ‘A’ played Brighouse. The two matches involving Halifax both ended in the same score but with opposing outcomes as Halifax ‘A’ beat Brighouse 4 — 1  (Brighouse defaulted a board for the third match in a row but at least they turned up!) while Halifax ‘B’ fell by the same score line to Belgrave.

The match at Todmorden should have been a breeze for the home side if you looked at the raw statistics. Despite missing Pete Mulleady, Todmorden ‘A’ still out-graded Hebden ‘A’ on every board except board 5. And yet, Hebden, up against top-class opposition for the second successive match, acquitted themselves pretty nobly and fought hard on every board. In fact, by mid-evening they were more than holding their own.

The first game to finish was on board 3 where Heben’s Dave Shapland beat Andrew Clarkson. Todmorden lose very few games at home so this was a notable achievement. The more so as Dave was under great pressure for most of the game and was only able to pounce on a single chance given to him when Andrew misjudged a complicated variation where Dave offered his queen in exchange for a bishop and rook. This was one occasion when the player with the advantage should have held his positional pressure rather than cashing it in for material, but such decisions are notoriously hard to assess and on this occasion, Andrew got it wrong.
Soon after, Pete Leonard also managed to extricate himself from what looked like a pretty dreadful position to draw against Phil Cook. The game turned a little messy and Pete managed to coordinate some counter play which saved his bacon. This was another over-turning of the statistical odds and Hebden found themselves a point up with three boards in play.

Any hopes of a stunning and unexpected victory were soon dispelled however when Dave Innes beat Martin Syrett with the White pieces for the second time in three fixtures (he also won the board 5 game when Hebden met Tod ‘B’ recently). This levelled the match score, but there were two close games still being played.

On board 1 Hebden’s Andy Bak was a pawn down against Martin Hamer having been made to suffer positionally from a very early stage in the game. He battled gamely to hold his own and at a few moments it seemed he might even be able to hang on for a draw. However it wasn’t to be as Martin played a rook and minor piece ending with great precision to bring home the full point.

The final nail in Hebden’s coffin came when Dave Patrick put an end to Andy Leatherbarrow’s spirited resistance. This was a very tight game. Andy had made a mistake in the middle game to give Dave a pawn’s advantage but with queens, a rook and a minor piece each still on the board it looked like Andy might have some chances to hold. It was predominantly through attrition and persistence that Dave finally ground his opponent down. Finally, winning a second pawn and simplifying the position was curtains for Andy who had also used almost all of his available time to fight to the death.

The final match scorecard was:

Todmorden ‘A’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘A’
M.Hamer 1 — 0 A.Bak
P.Cook ½ — ½ P.Leonard
A.Clarkson 0 — 1 D.Shapland
D.Patrick 1 — 0 A.Leatherbarrow
D.Innes 1 — 0 M.Syrett
3½ — 1½

Unfortunately that result meant that Hebden Bridge lost three matches in a row for the first time in almost two years. Their next match is at home against the bottom side in the league Halifax ‘B’, so hopefully they can end their losing run. In the game viewer below you will find Andy Bak’s game against Martin Hamer, Pete Leonard’s game against Phil Cook and two versions of Dave Shapland’s game against Andrew Clarkson. Andrew has very generously sent his thoughts on what was a painful defeat and it is interesting to compare the two players thinking during the course of their encounter.

Last night the Trades Club hosted round 1 of the Calderdale Individual Championship. Look out for a report on that here soon.

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