The Belgrave Social Club in Halifax hosted the 4th round of the Calderdale Individual Chess Championship on Monday night. As the tournament reaches its final stages (there is one more round to play in February) the leading contenders have positioned themselves for glory.
At the end of round three there were, appropriately, just three players still with a perfect score: Mitchell Burke of Huddersfield and Darwin Ursal and Pete Leonard of Hebden Bridge. Another Hebden player, Dave Shapland was half a point behind them and this set the scene for two critical showdowns in round 4.
Interestingly, or not as it turned out, Mitchell offered Pete a draw in their game after only 20 moves. Conducting the Black pieces, Mitchell carefully constructed a position in which he had neutralised Pete’s opening move advantage but then he clearly did not feel inclined to take any risks by playing for a win thereafter.
If, from a spectator’s point of view, the top board action was disappointing, then the game on board two more than made up for it. Darwin has been on sparkling form this season having only lost one game so far from 21 played! He once again demonstrated his ability to balance sound positional principles with an opportunistic eye for active play as he beat his Hebden Bridge team captain. Dave played his part in an interesting encounter though and certainly set Darwin some challenges in the opening phase of the game.
Shortly after the queens had come off the board, Dave opted to create a material imbalance by trading his knight and bishop for one of Darwin’s rooks and a pawn. Materially this maintained the equality, but positionally it was clear that Darwin had the better deal. Soon after this Dave played an inaccurate move that enabled Darwin to win back the pawn and then establish his pair of knights deep in the Black position in such a way that they dominated Dave’s pair of rooks. As Dave got short on time he began to play moves that weakened his position further and Darwin broke through decisively. Amazingly Darwin was the only player of the White pieces to score a full point in the round and he now leads the tournament on his own with 4 points. A draw in the last round should be enough to secure the title.
Without a doubt the most enthralling encounter of the round once again involved the incumbent champion, John Morgan. He was toppled from his perch by Pete Leonard in round 3 and now found himself in serious difficulties against Huddersfield’s Robert Sutcliffe. The game was the last to finish and wound its way to a complicated, multi-piece ending that seemed to be in the balance until somehow John got tangled up in the tactics and lost a piece. Even then, with two bishops and a pawn against a single bishop, Robert had to play carefully and deliberately to see the point home. He duly did so however and was rightly and generously congratulated by his opponent and the assembled kibbitzers.
Another Robert, this time Robert Clegg of Courier, joined his namesake on three points by dispatching Hebden Bridge’s Dave Sugden. Poor Dave was forced to concede defeat with the White side of a French Defence Tarrasch Variation for the second time in the tournament when he dropped a bishop.
Former Champion, Andy Leatherbarrow, also joined the two Roberts on 3 points when he beat Adrian Dawson of Halifax. This was one of two games on the night that ended with a checkmate – it was a pretty one too! The other was given by Martin Syrett in a bright end to his game against Tom Webster that seemed to bypass the middlegame completely and go straight from the opening to an ending.
Aside from the “Grandmaster-style” draw on board 1 there were three other games that ended with peace being concluded. The pick of these was Pete Hughes’ rumbunctious half with Josh Blinkhorn. As ever, Josh conducted the game very sharply by selecting the dangerous Albin Counter Gambit – vast complications ensued. The game is well worth a review and Pete Hughes has kindly supplied some commentary to the game which is available via the ‘download’ link below.
You can view all of Monday night’s games in the game viewer below. Simply select the game you wish to view by selecting it from the drop-down box above the chessboard. You can also download the games. My thanks to Pete Leonard and Pete Hughes who both supplied commentary on their games available only via the ‘download’ option.
Here is the full list of results from round 4:
P.Leonard ½ – ½ M.Burke
D.Ursal 1 — 0 D.Shapland
J.Morgan 0 — 1 R.Sutcliffe
D.Sugden 0 — 1 R.Clegg
P.Hughes ½ – ½ J.Blinkhorn
A.Dawson 0 — 1 A.Leatherbarrow
A.Gonzales 0 — 1 N.Sykes
M.Barnett ½ – ½ C.Edwards
T.Webster 0 — 1 M.Syrett
D.Milton ½ – ½ N.Bamford
J.Nicholson 0 — 1 S.Priest
B.Joyce 1 (bye)
4 points = D.Ursal
3½ = M.Burke, P.Leonard
3 = R.Clegg, R.Sutcliffe, A.Leatherbarrow
2½ = D.Shapland, P.Hughes, J.Blinkhorn, N.Sykes, J.Aldridge
I am testing out a new game viewer below. If you like it (or if you don’t) please leave a comment as I would like to start using it in future. Features that you should be able to make use of are:
- Select a game from the drop down list above the board
- Click on the move that you’d like to start playing from and then use the arrow buttons on your keyboard to move forwards or backwards
- You should be able to see annotations and play through the variations by selecting the first move and then using the arrow keys
- You should be able to download the games as a PGN file by clicking on the “Download games” message in orange at the bottom
Hopefully this viewer will meet all the criteria I have on my wish list (multiple games, annotations, replay subvariations, download pgn) etc. and also be technically fairly bomb proof as we’ve had issues in the past with some of the viewers I’ve tried. Let me know what you think. My grail quest may finally be over!