The first round of the Calderdale Individual Chess Championship 2011-12 took place on Monday night at the Belgrave Social Club in Halifax. From a personal perspective I must say that it was good to see the competition take place away from Hebden Bridge where it has been held for the last 8 years. This is in no way a slur on John Kerrane’s excellent management of the event during that time. In fact, the event has gone from strength to strength under his watch. However, it was probably time for someone else to shoulder the burden of responsibility for a while. Step forward Todmorden’s Paul Edwards who has big shoes to fill. He brings us this report on the first round action.
With the change of venue this year one cannot begin without making simple comparisons with previous championships; what has changed and what remains the same.
For the last eight years the championship has been held at The Trades Club, home of Hebden Bridge Chess Club (HBCC). Those championships always ran smoothly with packed houses attracting a large HBCC presence. There was always a busy, club atmosphere.
The new location is in central Calderdale and it is hoped that, being closer to more club bases, there will be at least a similar size of entry in future editions. This year however the number of competitors was actually 30% down (from 40 to 28) on 2010-11 with no junior entrants this time. Some of this is attributable generally to a reduced number of league players. HBCC contributed 12 of the competitors, 30% of the total, continuing their strong tradition of supporting this event. We have lost 6 of the top 10 graded players from last year’s competition for a variety of reasons unrelated to the relocation of the competition.
The atmosphere at the Belgrave Social Club is different too. The room is brighter, more spacious and quieter. There also seemed to be a more serious mood in the room this year in that everyone appeared to be there to win or at least give a good account of them selves. There are some obvious favourites this year but enough strength in the mix to ensure that the winner will have to earn the Timeform Cup. There will be no easy games.
On a chilly, wet night, the room temperature was high and some fancied players were sweating before the end of the round. Round 1 is usually where the games go to form, pitting higher grades against lower grades. This outcome was, in the end, largely reflected in the results. However that does not tell the whole story and the round was by no means a formality.
Strong opposition put up against the favourites: Mitchell Burke of Huddersfield took about 30 moves before he got his breakthrough against Angel Gonzalez of Belgrave; Darwin Ursal (Hebden Bridge) bashed out a lightning-style finale against Mike Barnett (Belgrave) winning with less than 2 minutes remaining on his clock; Dave Milton (Todmorden) succumbed to time pressure when two pawns up against Dave Shapland (Hebden Bridge); and defending champion, John Morgan (Courier) must have been surprised by the fierce resistance of the ever-improving Josh Blinkhorn (Hebden Bridge).
There were a few surprises: John Aldridge (Halifax) contrived a problem-like final position that forced Andy Leatherbarrow (Hebden Bridge) to accept a draw by repetition and Neil Bamford (Hebden Bridge) clamped down on any initiative Nick Sykes (Hebden Bridge) could muster for his draw. The biggest surprise was Adrian Dawson producing a winning result against his Halifax club mate, Carlos Velosa, overcoming a grading deficit of almost 30 points! This is like the Adrian of old; let’s hope he keeps his rediscovered appetite.
Two players were awarded full point byes. I must say a word of consolation to Matt Levy who was this time the person taken out of the draw because there were an odd number of competitors. Unfortunately in this competition it is the lower graded players who suffer this fate. Had Matt stayed a little longer he would have been re-paired, Terry Sullivan arrived and registered just a little too late. So, Terry has also been given a full point. Matt and Terry, you can only be given one default, turn up next time and you are guaranteed a game.
Our thanks go to Paul for sending us this report and helping to collect the games in the viewer below which are almost a complete representation of the action. Just one is missing and that was due to illegibility rather than absence. Pete Leonard has kindly annotated his game with Chris Edwards. If any other players want to send me anotated games I will replace the move only versions with the new ones. Just send your PGN file in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
The next round takes place on Monday the 12th of December. It should throw up some more very tough pairings and generate some interesting and closely fought games. If John Morgan is to retain his title he will be forced to play to an even higher standard than he did last year and that can only be a good thing for the future of this competition.