The Calderdale League 1 title race has become a whole lot more interesting since Hebden Bridge ‘B’ beat the ‘A’ team last month. The two sides are now neck and neck and look like they’ll be duelling it out right to the end of the season. Photo: vegaseddie’s Flickr photostream
The recent ‘Game of the Decade’ series of posts has meant that we’ve fallen rather behind with our Calderdale League updates in January. It’s time to rectify that with a bumper edition designed to get you up to date with the state of affairs in all three Calderdale Leagues.
Two rounds of fixtures were played in January. In the first, played on the 6th of January, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ had an opportunity to stretch their lead at the top of the table as their colleagues in the ‘B’ team had a bye. They travelled to the team at the bottom of the division, Brighouse. The home side had added a new player to their ranks over the Christmas break as Oliver Graham made his first league appearance on board 1.
Hebden meanwhile were significantly under strength with both Matthew Parsons and Stavros Pantazopoulos unavailable. This left team captain, Dave Shapland, with the honours against Brighouse’s new signing. They played out a tense game which originated from a Hungarian Defence but transposed into more of a Ruy Lopez-type position. Oliver had some chances to obtain a good game but didn’t make the most of them and Dave was able to take full advantage and establish knights on both f5 and h5 before opening the position, re-locating one of his knights to a monstrous outpost on e6 and switching his king from the queen’s side to the king’s side to drive home his attack.
On board 2, Andy Leatherbarrow at first seemed to obtain a solid position against Robert Broadbent but later found himself defending a tricky end game that he was unable to hold. Meanwhile, the board 3 encounter saw Pete Leonard trying very hard to convert a promising position against Brighouse’s captain, Paul Whitehouse. However, just as he had done in the reverse fixture of this match in round 1 against Dave, Paul held on gamely and Pete ultimately had to settle for a draw.
Most of the hard work in this match was done by Hebden’s two Neils on boards 4 and 5. Neil Suttie saw off Ronnie Grandage and Neil Bamford beat Tim Pryke to seal the result for the visitors and ensure they kept moved 4 points clear of their ‘B’ team rivals having played one match more.
Brighouse vs. Hebden Bridge ‘A’
O.Graham 0 – 1 D.Shapland (W)
R.Broadbent 1 – 0 A.Leatherbarrow (W)
P.Whitehouse ½ – ½ P.Leonard (W)
R.Grandage 0 – 1 N.Suttie (W)
T.Pryke 0 – 1 N.Bamford (W)
1½ – 3½
In the other fixtures of this round, Belgrave ‘A’ beat their ‘B’ team ‘away’ by a score of 1½ – 3½ and Halifax ‘A’ (complete with a new player on board 2) defeated Huddersfield ‘A’ 2 – 3 in a ding-dong match with no draws.
Two weeks later, on the 20th of January, the League 1 teams were back at it again and this time the focus was undoubtedly on the Trades Club where Hebden Bridge’s ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams met for their second derby match of the season. Their first encounter in October had been a very tight and hard-fought affair. This one was to be no different.
Both teams were without their regular board 1 players as Matthew Parsons was unavailable and Martyn Hamer was making his annual pilgrimage to play in the Gibraltar tournament. That meant that boards 1, 2 and 3 would see re-matches of the first fixture but with colours reversed while on board 4 Pete Leonard (who missed the first match) took on John Allan and on board 5 Neil Suttie took on Mick Connor (making his first appearance of the season for the ‘B’ team).
All the games featured plenty of action and the game on board 1 was the first to finish with Phil Cook and Stavros Pantazopoulos neutralising each other for a draw. Boards 3 and 4 were also drawn after well contested efforts with Sam Swain and Andy Leatherbarrow and John Allan and Pete Leonard also agreeing peace terms.
The match was decided on boards 2 and 5. The game between Andrew Clarkson and Dave Shapland on board 2 was the first of these to finish. The players discussed a highly theoretical and very sharp and complex variation of the Sveshnikov Sicilian. Dave had prepared this line for the game thinking that Andrew would be less familiar with it, but this was a serious misjudgement. It turned out Andrew knew exactly what he was doing and played very accurately until Dave overlooked a tactic that allowed Andrew to force an endgame where he was a pawn up and had a positional advantage. Dave tried his best to complicate matters, but Andrew’s technique was exemplary as he converted the win.
The last game to finish was between Mick Connor and Neil Suttie. This one went right to the death with Neil now needing to win to tie the match. With both men battling the clock as well as each other, the game was destined for a nail-biting conclusion. Mick seemed to be winning but then Neil found a way to enter an ending where he had four pawns versus a knight and a single pawn. It probably should have been drawn but, playing for his team, Neil tried to win it and instead ended up losing it.
Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘B’
S.Pantazopoulos ½ – ½ P.Cook (W)
D.Shapland 0 – 1 A.Clarkson (W)
A.Leatherbarrow ½ – ½ S.Swain (W)
P.Leonard ½ – ½ J.Allan (W)
N.Suttie 0 – 1 M.Connor (W)
1½ – 3½
So, the ‘B’ team took their revenge by 1½ – 3½ and moved back to within 2 points of the league leaders with a match still in hand. Their scheduled match last Monday at home against Huddersfield ‘A’ would have been their chance to go top on board count but it was postponed as the main road to Todmorden from Halifax was closed for most of the day on Monday as the valley reeled from the aftermath of storm Ciara. Should the ‘B’ team win this game in hand, we will then have a thrilling run in between the two Hebden sides as they aim to stay perfect and win as many boards as they can. It could be enthralling.
The other matches played on the 20th of January saw Huddersfield ‘A’ thrash Brighouse 4 – 1 (albeit with highly creditable individual results for Oliver Graham and Tim Pryke who held Greg Eagleton and Nick Sykes respectively) and Belgrave ‘A’ draw against Halifax ‘A’ in a match that saw the visitors board 3 and 4, Carlos Velosa and Vivienne Webster, achieving a win and a draw respectively against higher rated opponents.
This week, aside from the postponement between Hebden Bridge ‘B’ and Huddersfield ‘A’, Brighouse were whitewashed at home by Belgrave ‘A’ and Halifax drew with Belgrave ‘B’ which was a fixture the home side will feel they should have won as they out rated their visitors on every board but only Vivienne on board 5 was able to beat her opponent as Carlos this time lost to Chris Edwards on board 3.
For the moment then, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ remain top of the table on 13 points having played eight matches. They are followed by Halifax ‘A’ on 12 points from nine matches and then Belgrave ‘A’ with 11 points from nine matches and Hebden Bridge ‘B’ with 11 points from just seven matches.
In the League basement, Brighouse remain bottom on 1 point but they have not yet lost hope of avoiding relegation as Belgrave ‘B’ have 3 points and have also yet to face Brighouse for a second time. Still, it looks bleak for the Brighouse team at the moment.
The sides in the second division also played twice in January. On the 13th, the runaway leaders Huddersfield ‘B’ underlined their overwhelming superiority by beating bottom team Halifax ‘B’ 1 – 4. Pete Moss and Andrew Whiteley showed spirited resistance in drawing their games with much higher rated opponents but the rest of the home side’s line up were put to the sword.
In this round, Belgrave ‘C’ also clarified their second-place position as they beat Hebden Bridge ‘C’ by 3½ – 1½. In this match Belgrave’s top three boards all won but Hebden’s tail wagged furiously as Chris Marsden drew with Angel Gonzalez and Jamie Heritage continued to show great potential as he beat Paul Edwards and earned himself a board promotion in the next round of fixtures.
Belgrave ‘C’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘C’
F.Rabbi 1 – 0 J.Kerrane (W)
D.Colledge 1 – 0 N.Bamford (W)
L.Johnson 1 – 0 P.Gledhill (W)
A.Gonzales ½ – ½ C.Marsden (W)
P.Edwards 0 – 1 J.Heritage (W)
3½ – 1½
The teams reconvened on the 27th of January. This time is was Hebden Bridge’s turn to get a taste of Huddersfield’s dominance as they were on the end of a 4 – 1 defeat. It certainly didn’t help that they had to default a board due to John Kerrane falling unwell on the day of the match, but, once again, it was left to young Jamie, this time on board 2, to salvage some pride as he beat David Gray in a fine game. It’s safe to say that we haven’t yet discovered the limit of Jamie’s abilities! Meanwhile, in Halifax, Belgrave ‘C’ were heaping more misery on Halifax ‘C’ who they trounced 0 – 5.
Huddersfield ‘B’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘C’
L.Keely 1 – 0 P.Leonard (W)
D.Gray 0 – 1 J.Heritage (W)
G.Boot 1 – 0 N.Bamford (W)
A.Ward 1 – 0 P.Gledhill (W)
S.Anscombe 1 – 0 DEFAULT
4 – 1
It’s safe to say that this division has become something of a procession with big gaps opening up between the sides. Huddersfield are top with a perfect 16 points from eight matches. Belgrave are second on 10, Hebden Bridge have 5 and Halifax just 1.
In stark contrast to League 2, the Handicap League is poised for a thrilling finale. The competition only has three rounds of fixtures but, after the second round was played on the 3rd of February, we are looking at the prospect of a final showdown between Hebden Bridge and Huddersfield as they have both won their first two matches.
In round 2 Hebden beat Halifax 4½ – ½ over the boards and, after Halifax had received an extra half point from the handicap system, they were comfortable 4½ – 1 winners. What amounted to Hebden’s regular ‘C’ team were too good for the equivalent of the Halifax ‘B’ team. Only John Kerrane dropped a half point against John Nicholson when he blundered in a completely won position. Aside from that it was straightforward for the home side.
Hebden Bridge H vs. Halifax H
N. Bamford 1 – 0 H.Wood (W)
(W) J.Kerrane ½ – ½ J.Nicholson
C.Marsen 1 – 0 B.Wadsworth (W)
(W) P.Gledhill 1 – 0 E.Fynn
J.Heritage 1 – 0 P.Stowe (W)
Handicap bonus: 0 – ½
4½ – 1
The match between Huddersfield and Belgrave was altogether much closer. Interestingly, Huddersfield were out rated on every board but they fought hard and managed to win on board three and draw on boards one and five. That meant that, although they lost over the boards by 2 – 3, they managed to win the match due to the two extra handicap points they received before-hand.
This now sets up the aforementioned winner-takes-all encounter at Huddersfield on the 30th of March. Hebden will certainly fancy their chances.