Nov 292014
Reigning champions Halifax 'A' are 'tooled up' and back in the hunt for this year's League 1 title after beating Hebden Bridge on Monday and seeing leaders Huddersfield go down on Wednesday. This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from Neil Moralee's Flickr photo stream

Reigning champions Halifax ‘A’ are ‘tooled up’ and back in the hunt for this year’s League 1 title after beating Hebden Bridge on Monday and seeing leaders Huddersfield go down on Wednesday. This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from Neil Moralee’s Flickr photo stream

As the Calderdale League 1 season draws towards the half way mark the title race became a whole lot more interesting this week. The round 6 fixtures began on Monday night with Huddersfield sitting pretty at the top of the pile with a perfect score of ten match points from their first five matches. Todmorden ‘A’ were on two points behind them and reigning champions Halifax ‘A’ were two more points off the pace on just six points along with Hebden Bridge ‘A’.

However, by the end of Wednesday night, as Huddersfield were surprisingly beaten at home by Courier, the table had closed right up. In fact, Todmorden ‘A’ are now at the top of the heap on board score as they trounced Belgrave at home 4 — 1. Huddersfield are now in second and Halifax have put themselves right back into contention as they beat Hebden Bridge ‘A’ at home 4 — 1 and now lie just two points off the pace. Hebden and Courier are on six points each and still have an outside shot at the title as well.

The story of Hebden Bridge’s trip to Halifax on Monday night is full of interest. As expected, Halifax put together a very strong line up on the top three boards where the visitors were entertained by Winston Williams, Darwin Ursal and Bill Somerset. All of these players are rated over 180 whilst their opponents from Hebden Bridge were all in the 150’s. On the bottom two boards however the ratings between the two sides were much closer and so the pressure was on Hebden Bridge to score well here if they were to have any hopes of upsetting the applecart at the Lee Mount Club for a third successive year.

Sadly for Hebden lightning rarely strikes three times and this occasion was to be no different as, after hard fought encounters on all five boards, Halifax ran out comfortable winners. The first game to finish was the board 5 match up between Halifax’s captain, Carlos Velosa and Andy Leatherbarrow of Hebden Bridge.

The game began in fairly obscure fashion as Carlos employed his habitual opening move of 1.f4 but soon the game began to look a bit like a Closed Sicilian and Andy appeared to be doing quite well. Then came a pretty and amusing series of moves where both players offered and declined or were unable to accept pieces sacrifices. Carlos’s king seemed to be vulnerable at one moment but he found counter play by skewering Andy’s queen to a rook. Now it was Andy’s turn to seek compensation for the exchange but, just as he seemed to be building up pressure on Carlos’s king again the Halifax player found a precise series of checks that forced his capitulation. Carlos has very kindly sent us the game with some notes and it’s in the viewer at the end of this post.

Soon after it got even worse for Hebden as Martin Syrett lost to Scott Gornall on board 4. It looked like the kind of messy encounter Martin usually thrives on but on this occasion Scott coped with the complications better and Halifax had a 2 — 0 lead with their big guns still to finish.

The match could well have ended in a humbling whitewash for the visitors but they were rescued from that fate by their captain Pete Leonard who held Winston Williams to a draw fairly comfortably on board 1. In fact, as Pete points out in his notes to the game (which is in the viewer at the end of this post) he missed several good opportunities to play for a win and at the end it looked if anything like his position was for preference in a rook, knight and pawn ending.

Shortly after this game ended so did the game on board 3 where Nick Sykes debated the King’s Indian Defence with Bill Somerset. This was a heavyweight theoretical duel for Bill plays the King’s Indian with both colours and Nick has beaten some strong players with the opening himself. In the end Bill’s experience paid off as, although the honours in the opening phase were even, Bill slowly outplayed Nick in the middle game and managed to negotiate some acute time pressure to secure the win.

This just left the board two game between Darwin Ursal and Dave Shapland. The first surprise of this game was that Dave chose not to play his favourite Budapest Gambit (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5!?) but instead opted for the Semi-Slav which is a more solid, yet still dynamic opening. He’d used this to reasonable effect in a previous game against Darwin but had lost in the end.

On this occasion Dave captalised on the relatively unambitious continuation chosen by Darwin that left him with no real opportunities to put Black under pressure. Darwin then felt compelled to resort to some murky but dubious complications but the gamble could have paid off for he missed one rather difficult opportunity to win an exchange and after that he was under pressure for much of the rest of the game.

Dave too missed a gilt-edged opportunity to hang on to an extra piece that Darwin felt he was going to regain after a tricky series of forcing moves and after that, although he was never in any danger of losing in the resulting rook and minor piece end game, Dave never had quite enough of an advantage to put the game away and had to settle for a draw.

Here is the final match scorecard:

Halifax ‘A’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘A’
W.Williams ½ — ½ P.Leonard
D.Ursal ½ — ½ D.Shapland
W.Somerset 1 — 0 N.Sykes
S.Gornall 1 — 0 M.Syrett
C.Velosa 1 — 0 A.Leatherbarrow
4 — 1

As well as four of the games from this match, the game viewer below also contains Matthew Parsons draw on board 1 against Tony Slinger of Courier ‘A’. Courier have been something of a bête noir for Huddersfield in the past and so it proved again on Wednesday as Huddersfield were without Messrs Keeley, Eagleton and Burke. Despite that they still had a strong enough side to beat their visitors but the board match ups were far more balanced than they would have been and in the end Courier’s Dave Patrick beat Dave Keddie on board 2 and Robert Clegg beat Dave Tooley on board 4 to give Courier a crucial win.

Remember that there is a League EGM at the Belgrave Social Club, Claremount Road, Halifax this Monday the 1st of December. This meeting has been held to propose and discuss possible changes to the league structure and so it’s very important that representatives from each club are present.

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  21 Responses to “Champions back in the hunt”

  1. Andy, I thought the EGM was at Belgrave. The first Monday of any month is used by a football league so we do not have the room available.

  2. Hi Carlos,
    Yes you are quite right, my bad! It is at Belgrave not Lee Mount. I shall change the article to reflect that later today.

  3. Interesting to read an opponents honest interpretation of the game. A few didactic points from my perspective: 1. There are more ways to play a classical KID than closing the centre and rushing pawns and pieces to the appropriate side. I purposefully tried to steer the game away from where a KID player would be most comfortable. 2. Having a monster piece on d4 does not give any advantage by itself, although White does have to be very careful to keep his weak points secure whilst trying to work around it. A few more pices with open lines and weaknesses to attack are required. This is why playing f4 is generally a bad idea in this position unless I have a forced tactical idea behind it. 3. Black has to be a little patient and wait until White crates a weakness ant not create them himself. Playing g5 was just such a weakness and plays into White’s hand, especially having two bishops pointing at a now weakened kingside. 4. Nick shouldn’t give up the KID. It’s a very dynamic and sound defence and can lead to very interesting battles like this one. He was never worse until only the late middle game and after only a couple of strategic mistakes. He easily equalised from the opening. This was one of the most enjoyable games this season, the enjoyment you get after 12 rounds and managing to get through. Next time it will be even more difficult to play against him. 1. b3 should do it 😉

  4. I should also note that I don’t know this opening at all well but I married it for better or worse. Sometimes it is for better. A game in the same opening as Black against Pete Shaw (promised to Nick but I’ll take whatever publicity I can get), who introduced Be3 to me. It features a nice tactic, quite deep but few branches from moves 21 to 26. 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 O-O 6.Be2 e5 7.Be3 Ng4 8.Bg5 f6 9.Bh4
    Nh6 10.d5 Nd7 11.Nd2 a5 12.a3 Nf7 13.b4 h5 14.f3 Bh6 15.Bf2 axb4 16.axb4 Rxa1
    17.Qxa1 f5 18.Nb3 Nf6 19.h3 fxe4 20.fxe4 Ng5 21.Bd3 Nfxe4 22.Nxe4 Nxe4 23.Bxe4
    Rxf2 24.Kxf2 Qh4+ 25.g3 Qxe4 26.Re1 Qf5+ 27.Kg1 Qf3 28.Qa8 Qxg3+ 29.Kf1 Qf3+
    30.Kg1 Be3+ 31.Rxe3 Qxe3+ 32.Kg2 Qxh3+ 33.Kf2 Kg7 34.Qb8 Qh2+ 35.Ke1 Bg4
    36.Qxc7+ Kh6 37.Nc1 Qc2

  5. I agree with bill – don’t give up the KID Nick! You beat me with it, remember your advice to me the other day!

  6. I would like to say, without trying to take anything away from pete’s and davids draws, (and nick played well despite losing) all three of you from your comments seem somewhat intimidated by your opponents grade.

    As someone who is playing around the same grade as bill, winston, and darwin, and has experience of playing all of you, i can tell you the difference is not so great as you might think!

    • ‘… the difference is not as great as you think!’
      I think the difference between us is about 30 points Matthew 🙂 Is that a great difference? The ratings don’t lie! I think I might once have beaten a player at that sort of level.

      I can see what you’re saying but the critical difference is that Pete, Nick and I make more mistakes than you, Darwin, Bill and Winston do and when we are playing opponents at your level we are more likely to have our mistakes punished.

      Cases in point… I made a tactical mistake against you in the first match of the season. I might have even expected a 140 or even a 150 strength player to over look that but you spotted it quickly and the game was over. Against Darwin last week I think I only played one ‘bad’ move and that might have cost me the game. I was lucky not to lose as a result, but Darwin missed it. In the end I felt a little disappointed not to have won the game but I didn’t find the best moves myself. Maybe I played the endgame a bit too ‘safety first’ but I think I’d have done that against most opponents regardless of their rating.

      Whatever my notes may convey, I don’t think I am intimidated by my opponent’s grade. I certainly didn’t feel intimidated on Monday because I never felt that Darwin was putting me under pressure. If he had put me under pressure perhaps I might have started seeing things less objectively and started to panic.

      What I will say about playing higher rated opponents is that I do go into the game knowing I’ll have to play to my very best standard to get any sort of result. If that’s what you mean by ‘the difference not being as great’ as I might think, then you are right, at my very best I can compete and even win. The key point is, how often will I be able to play at my very best level against this sort of opposition?

  7. Ten games Higher Grade +7 =2 -1. At start of game think ‘this is that 1 in 10’.

  8. Lets all just play what we play and not get hung on this that and the other. Grades, openings, defenses, all is thrown out with a single careless move on the board, and it can happen to anyone, including Masters.

  9. The more careless moves, the lower the grade, the more the smiles, the better the single game.

  10. I’ve been very impressed with Pete Leonard’s games all year. In the game against Winston he just got a comfortable edge with Black after seemingly not too much effort, just a shame he couldn’t put him away!

    The position after White’s 23rd move amused me, White’s pieces look very silly on the side of the board, I’m not surprised that there’s some sort of tactic with 24…g5, although it’s not so easy to calculate.

  11. I’ve had a couple of interesting games with Darwin on the Black side of the Semi-Slav, he played the Meran both times against me. I play 8…Bb7 but it’s typically followed up with …a6 soon enough, but there are some subtle differences in some lines. It’s very interesting to play!

    Nick – I’m also starting to dabble with the King’s Indian as Black and there’s certainly a lot to learn as White has so many options.

    However most of the time you’ll get a dynamic playable position as Black which is all you’re aiming for really. I find some of the computer evaluations in the King’s Indian lines to be pretty meaningless. They often give White a significant plus in the main lines, but that’s irrelevant in a human game where Black often gets lots of counterplay and attacking chacnes.

    Another example – in your game after 17…c6, the computer says it’s “dead level”. This position is very complicated and dynamic. Usually the better player will triumph with either colour as you have to make precise calculations and have a good understanding. You can only get good understanding by practicing the lines and failing sometimes!

  12. Dave,
    It was very kind of you to credit me with a win over Dave Tooley,
    in the Huddersfield-Courier match!
    Actually,i wasn’t even in the team,having now gone into semi-retirement
    from league chess.The honour went to John Cawston.

    • Robert, many thanks for your correction. I guess that I’m so used to seeing you in the team I mis-read the scorecard!
      I hope that your ‘semi-retirement’ turns out to be short-lived and that we soon see you back in full time action in the Calderdale League

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