There was a feast of excellent and interesting chess on offer at the Trades Club last Monday night as Hebden Bridge ‘A’ hosted Todmorden ‘A’ and Hebden Bridge ‘B’ hosted Huddersfield in two fiercely contested league 1 ties. Fittingly for the time of year there were plenty of colourful pyrotechnics and no shortage of heat as quality of the chess on some of the boards reached a very high standard indeed.
The ‘A’ team won the title last year but have looked more vulnerable without the services of Matthew Parsons so far this season. They lost their last home match against Courier and that didn’t bode well as the welcomed their nearest neighbours and early league leaders Todmorden ‘A’. For the past two seasons Hebden seem to have had something of an Indian sign over their local rivals for, in their last four encounters Hebden have won three and drawn one match. Tod brought their strongest ever team to the Trades this time out as, for the first time at Hebden Bridge, they fielded Messrs Hamer, Mulleady and Clarkson on the top three boards. Their captain, Alastair Wright took up board 4 and Rob Tokeley played board 5.
The home side had significantly bolstered their arsenal since that last home defeat to Courier however. Matthew Webb was recruited to cover board 1 duties several weeks ago but then, on the preluding Friday night, Matthew Parsons announced that he was ready to come back to play having missed the first three matches of the season. This meant that Dave Shapland was able to drop down to the ‘B’ team as the rest of the ‘A’ team lined up with regulars Pete Leonard, Andy Leatherbarrow and Nick Sykes.
Hebden were like wounded animals after their slip up against Courier and they were absolutely determined to win this match and haul themselves back into contention for the title. Todmorden of course are a very able team indeed so it was going to take a super-human effort from the home-side to pull it off and that they did heralds the fact that some fantastic and entertaining chess was played.
The home side were solid on the lower boards where Andy Leatherbarrow comfortably held Alastair’s Caro-Kann Defence without ever looking like he might win. Whilst this game was mostly of interest to those with a taste for technical chess the rest of the games had plenty of fireworks to light up the tie.
Some players come back from a lay-off looking a bit rusty but Matthew Parsons was truly in scintillating form as he pounced on an oversight be Pete Mulleady to secure two pieces for a rook and pawn as well as a clear positional advantage. As the game progressed he was able to convert that into a clear piece advantage and the endgame was simply child’s play for a contestant of Matthew’s calibre. This was a very smooth performance against an excellent opponent. Hebden were one up.
On board 1 the game developed along complex lines as Matthew Webb chose to meet Martin Hamer’s Alekhine’s Defence with the highly provocative Four Pawns Attack. Martin knows his Alekhine’s intimately and in fact he secured a very good looking attack as the players castled on opposite sides of the board. Martin had his queen and rook lined up on the half-open g-file and Matty seemed to be in trouble. However, at the crucial moment Martin seemed pass up on the most critical way to continue his attack and suddenly Matty’s position came to life. A couple more inaccurate moves from Martin and he found Matty’s knights had invaded his position decisively on e6 and b5. The short and brutal counter-attack was concluded with a very attractive check mate. Hebden had won the top two boards and were already assured of at least a draw.
In fact they finished a triumphant night undefeated as first Nick Sykes clung on in the face of a seemingly kamikaze attack from Rob Tokeley and then Pete Leonard held his nerve admirably to halve the point in a typically complicated discussion of the Pirc Defence with Andrew Clarkson. This was a very fine performance from all members of the team against a formidably strong side. Bravo!
Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs. Todmorden ‘A’
M.D.Webb 1 — 0 M.Hamer
M.Parsons 1 — 0 P.Mulleady
P.Leonard ½ — ½ A.A.Clarkson
A.Leatherbarrow ½ — ½ A.Wright
N.Sykes ½ — ½ R.Tokeley
3½ — 1½
Meanwhile on the next row of tables Martin Syrett’s beleaguered ‘B’ team finally got their season off to a start with a frightening task against Huddersfield who were not as strong on the night as they sometimes can be.
Board 1 was the first to finish as Dave Shapland’s ill-conceived opening ploy backfired on him immediately and he found himself playing one of Mitchell Burke’s favourite openings without much of a clue as to what he was doing. The result was a slow and agonising death as Mitchell rubbed out all hope of counter play and simply wiped Dave off the board.
On Board 5, Hebden’s Terry Sullivan looked to be in control against the Huddersfield Captain Robert Sutcliffe. The game ended in a draw however as Robert found some cunning resources to keep himself in the game. John Kerrane was less fortunate on board 4 as he made a mistake as early as move seven and was left to suffer for the rest of the game until Tony Aguirre put him out of his misery.
Huddersfield were already over the top and needed just a draw from the last two matches. This was no forgone conclusion however for Josh Blinkhorn set about David Firth in spirited fashion and forced his higher-rated opponent to defend very accurately to hold the draw while on board 3 Hebden’s Captain, Martin Syrett, also seemed to have excellent winning chances against Dave Tooley but eventually had to content himself with a draw. A good effort from the ‘B’s who seem really to be playing for pride although Todmorden ‘B’ and Brighouse are both also on zero points after 4 rounds so amazingly, Hebden might yet save themselves.
Hebden Bridge ‘B’ vs. Huddersfield
D.Shapland 0 — 1 M.Burke
J.Blinkhorn ½ — ½ D.Firth
M.Syrett ½ — ½ D.Tooley
J.Kerrane 0 — T.Aguirre
T.Sullivan ½ — ½ R.Sutcliffe
1½ — 3½
Yesterday saw the start of the Calderdale Individual Championship which is being played at Hebden Bridge’s Trades Club this year. There will be coverage of this competition round by round on the Yorkshire League website and I’ll post a link here when the first round report is up.