May 162013

bridestones 2Bridestones Holme Brew Chess Challenge: Round 1

Last Monday the Bridestones Holme Brew Chess Challenge got underway at the Trades Club. With the two highest rated players and the third and fourth rated players meeting each other in round 1 the prospect of some close games was promised. That the two pairings had met each other in competitive games in the last few months only added to the interest.

Matthew Parsons is the highest rated player in the competition by over 10 rating points and he is therefore the strong favourite to win. If anyone could prevent him from making a winning start with White then Alastair Wright appeared to have (statistically at least) the best chance. The two had played only a few weeks before when Hebden Bridge ‘A’ beat Todmorden ‘B’ in the final round of Calderdale League 1. In that game Matthew had won but only after having been forced to slowly and remorselessly grind down some tough resistance from Alastair. In the end a bad bishop and a relatively passive position had cost him the game.

"There's many a slip twixt cup and lip". Alastair Wright's blunder cost him the game immediately whilst Nick Sykes' game slipped away gradually. This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from fiordiferro's Flickr photostream

“There’s many a slip twixt cup and lip”. Alastair Wright’s blunder cost him the game immediately whilst Nick Sykes’ game slipped away gradually. This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from fiordiferro’s Flickr photostream

Matthew had White again for this game and essayed the same opening line — his favourite London System. Alastair chose a completely different opening plan from the previous game and seemed to get himself a reasonable game. However, on move 18, and in a completely level position, Alastair blundered. Matthew immediately picked up a piece and the game was concluded swiftly and a little disappointingly from a spectator’s point of view.

In contrast the game between Pete Leonard and Nick Sykes went the full distance and would have provided any of their club colleagues following the game with plenty to think about. These two had met in the final round of the Calderdale Individual Championship in March. On that occasion Nick had the White pieces, got into trouble in the opening and suffered for a long time before Pete blundered into a mate in one.

Unfortunately for Nick, Caissa is a just and fair patron Goddess and she turned the tables in this game. Pete played 1.e4 and waited to see how Nick would respond. He might reasonably have expected the Sicilian Defence (1…c5), the Spanish (1…e5) or the Caro-Kann (1…c6). What Pete got was the Spanish whereupon he diverted into his new pet line, the Bishop’s Opening with 2.Bc4. There are many transpositional possibilities in this variation but there are also some very idiosyncratic lines. Pete chose 3.d3 (which seems fairly dubious) and Nick played the opening phase nicely to secure himself a comfortable advantage into the middle game.

Pete clung on and Nick was unable to find the best ways of converting his advantage. As the night wore on Nick’s old enemy, (and only real weakness this season) the clock, started to become a factor. The pair reached time control with only a minute or so each and by this stage a double rook ending had appeared on the board and Nick’s advantage had evaporated. Pete managed to establish a rook on the seventh rank and appeared to have gained genuine winning chances for the first time that evening.

Now it was Nick’s turn to buckle down to a gritty defensive task. Sadly the damage had been done and although Nick missed a few chances to improve his defence Pete played the rook and pawn ending well and slowly picked off Nick’s weak pawns before pushing his passed b-pawn home. Chess can be a cruel game.

Andy Leatherbarrow’s game with Dave Shapland was postponed until later on in the schedule which has several available slots for playing re-scheduled match-ups.

Both the first round matches mentioned in this report can be found in the game viewer below.

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May 082013

This summer – alongside our usual schedule of events, competitions and classes (of which more to come) – 6 of the chess club’s strongest players will be competing in a double-round-robin contest. This is a friendly event that has been organised to provide the combatants with some serious and challenging action during the off-season. We’ve been fortunate enough to secure a local prize sponsor for the tournament. Bridestones Brewing are an award winning craft brewery based just up the hill at Blackshaw Head. This summer they have launched a brand new product that is available exclusively at the Trades Club. To celebrate the launch of the aptly named “Holme Brew” they will be providing a small prize for this event.

I’ll be posting a tournament cross table on a new page in due course and there will be round-by-round reports on the progress of the competition right here over the next few months. In the meantime, to whet your appetite, Nick Sykes has prepared some player profiles and assessed the chances of each of the competitors.

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ recently retained the Calderdale Division 1 title in some style. The core of the team were Matthew Parsons, Pete Leonard, Dave Shapland, Nick Sykes and Andy Leatherbarrow. This season they were team mates, but this summer they will by enemies.

The five key players of the title winning team will be joined by the Todmorden ‘B’ and former Hebden Bridge ‘A’ captain, Alastair Wright, in an all-play-all-double-round-robin series of games that will run over the summer during the chess off-season.

This is the first tournament of this type for Hebden Bridge players where the participants will know who they will be playing well before the games. This gives the opportunity for players to prepare for each other’s favourite opening systems and begs the question as to whether players will stick with their pet lines or try something different to catch their opponents off-guard. Whatever happens it promises to be a fascinating series of games all of which will be published right here after each round.

Player Profiles

Here is a profile of the players with the current live ratings taken just before the tournament began as well as each players’ favourite openings based on their preferences in recent games.

Matthew Parsons
Matthew ParsonsEnd of Season Rating: 174
Favourite Opening Systems: White – London System, Black – The Sniper (1…g6 2…Bg7 with 3…c5)
The clear favourite for this tournament Matthew has more than 10 rating points advantage over his next highest rated opponent and will fear no-one having beaten Dave, Andy and Pete already this season in the Calderdale Individual Championship. He also has a positive record against Nick and Alastair who he beat in the final round of this season’s league 1. Matthew is pretty loyal to his chosen openings which makes him a relatively easy opponent to prepare for. However, Matthew avoided his mainlines when playing team-mates in the individual and will be confident enough to be able to outplay his opponents in the middlegame whichever opening lines he chooses to deploy.

Alastair Wright
Alastair WrightEnd of Season Rating: 158
Favourite Opening Systems: White – 1.d4 2.c4, Black – Caro-Kann, Black Knights Tango
Alastair has been playing for Todmorden for the last two seasons but was previously the captain of Hebden Bridge ‘A’. He has not played a lot of chess this year but has had some impressive results, including a draw against the highly rated Bill Somerset and a win against David Patrick. He has played Nick (+0 =2 -0), Dave (+1 =0 -0) and Andy (+1 =0 -0) previously and has an excellent record having never lost to any of them. He has lost once to Matthew and has never faced Pete in a rated game. Alastair’s choice of openings seems to change week after week which makes him impossible to prepare for. His opponents simply have to be ready for anything!

Pete Leonard
Pete Leonard 02End of Season Rating: 157
Favourite Opening Systems: White – 1.e4 (2.c3 Sicilian, Bishop’s Opening), Black – Alekhine’s, Grunfeld
Pete is only in his third season in the Calderdale League but has already shown his pedigree as a high-quality First Division player. Pete has only played Matthew and Nick from players in tournament and has failed to register a point as yet, albeit he had a completely won game against Nick in the Calderdale Individual this season before blundering. Pete is another player loyal to his chosen openings and has demonstrated an ability to cook-up excellent home preparation in order to gain a significant opening advantage.

Nick Sykes
Nick SykesEnd of Season Rating: 155
Favourite Opening Systems: White – 1.c4 (English Opening transposing into specific 1.d4 openings), Black – Caro-Kann, Nimzo Indian Defence
Nick is having another good year that should see his grade improve for the third year running. He’s played all his opponents before Matthew (+0 =1 -3), Alastair (+0 =2 -0), Dave (+1 =0 -1), Pete (+1 =0 -0) and Andy (+1 =0 -2). Nick’s opening choices have been fairly diverse this year compared to previous years so he will not be so easy to prepare for. Whatever Nick plays you can be sure he will have a book on it!

Andy Leatherbarrow
Andy LeatherbarrowEnd of Season Rating: 154
Favourite Opening Systems: White – 1.e4 (Closed Sicilian, Scotch Game), Black: Scandinavian, Czech Benoni, Hedgehog System
Andy has had an excellent season and has made the biggest improvement in his rating out of all the other players in the tournament. He scored an outstanding victory against the highly rated Mitchell Burke in the Calderdale Individual Championship this year. Andy has played Matthew (+0 =0 -2), Nick (+2 =0 -1) and Alastair (+0 =0 -1) previously but has never met Dave or Pete in a rated game. Andy is pretty loyal to his chosen openings however he is well known to have outstanding theoretical knowledge and understanding in many  openings lines so it would be dangerous to prepare too much for his chosen openings as he could deploy many others equally as well.

Dave Shapland
Dave ShaplandEnd of Season Rating: 148
Favourite Opening Systems: White – 1.e4 (Open Sicilian, Italian Game, French Tarrasch), Black – Sicilian Dragon, Ruy Lopez, Semi-Slav, Budapest Gambit
The captain of the two-time Division 1 champions is known for his love of sharp unbalanced positions and is one of the most imaginative players in the Calderdale League. Dave has played Matthew (+0 =2 -2), Nick (+1 =0 -1) and Alastair (+0 =0 -1) previously but has never met Pete or Andy in a rated game. Dave’s opening choices are usually aimed to obtain dynamic positions with plenty of opportunity for tactical play. Dave is not quite as rigid with his opening repertoire as maybe Pete or Matthew and has shown a willingness to prepare for his opponents in any way that will help him drag the game onto his terms. He has played a handful of different openings over the last few seasons.

The first few games of this competition were played on Monday the 6th of May and we’ll be bringing you the results and annotated games very soon.