Sep 272013

A week last Monday the Calderdale Evening Chess League season for 2013-14 got underway. As the league 1 teams fired their opening salvos in what promises to be an intriguing campaign, your editor had his weapons inspectors out on the ground to cast an eye over the enemy arsenals. Today we’ll review action from league 1 and also this week’s league 2 fixtures:

But who has acquired the biggest guns? It looks like Halifax ‘A’ and Courier ‘A’ have acquired the most powerful ordnance during the summer break. This image of USS North Carolina is used under Creative Commons terms and is sourced from the Uprooted Photographer’s Flickr photostream

League 1

We should start with some bad news. Reigning champions, Hebden Bridge ‘A’, were rocked by the withdrawal of their board 1 player, Matthew Parsons, for the entire season. Matthew has decided to take a break from chess this season and that leaves the ‘A’ team bereft and in no fit state to fight for a third successive title. Unfortunately this change in circumstances has had a catastrophic impact on the ‘B’ team who had just gotten themselves promoted back to league 1. To find that they would have to hand over a top board player to the ‘A’ team for the season was too much to be able to absorb as the club simply doesn’t have enough players to have two competitive teams in league 1. After some soul searching deliberation and with regret the club therefore decided to withdraw the ‘B’ team from the league this season.

It was a hard decision but the right one because, in League 2, the ‘D’ team were also struggling to get a regular five together and so the latest losses were just too much to handle. Now the weakened ‘A’ team will be able to call up the best of the ‘B’ teamers as they need them and the remainder will slot comfortably back into the ‘C’ team on the top boards and in turn the lower board ‘C’ team players can now appear in the ‘D’ team squad. These two sides will play each other in the opening round of the League 2 season on Monday night at the Trades Club.

What all of this meant last week was that the scheduled derby match between the ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams did not take place and the champions had to take the opportunity to reset their sights for the season. Looking around at the rest of the now 7 team top tier, it quickly became clear that avoiding relegation should be the first objective! The remainder of last season’s title winning side (Pete Leonard, Andy Leatherbarrow, Nick Sykes and Dave Shapland) will have to play out of their skin on the top two boards and match the great results they had on the lower boards last season if they are to score any match points this season. Bearing in mind the number of 3-2 wins they scavenged last time out it would appear that the loss of their top board will be a significant set back.

But, now, more of the first round action from the opening matches in League 1. Here are the results first of all:

Brighouse 2 — 3 Courier ‘A’
Halifax ‘A’ 2½ — 2½ Huddersfield ‘A’
Todmorden ‘A’ 3½ — 1½ Todmorden ‘B’

Let’s start with the last of these fixtures, the Todmorden derby. Todmorden ‘A’ continue to boast a ferocious looking line up. With Martin Hamer, Peter Mulleady and Andrew Clarkson on the top three boards and all rated over 160 they have the fire power at the top end to do significant damage. Over the past two season it has been their lower boards that have thwarted their title hopes. However, they’ve made some changes here as Alastair Wright has arrived in the team as Captain and played on board 4 last week. Rob Tokeley has moved down to board 5 as a result and this line-up, if they can field it for the majority of their fixtures) looks like it will once again make Tod ‘A’ title contenders.

That said their ‘B’ team also looked handy on Monday night. On board 1 Neil Suttie held a very creditable draw against Hamer and Dave Innes also drew with Andrew Clarkson on board 3. The damage was done on boards 2 and 4 where Mulleady beat Connor and Wright beat Webster. Board 5 was also a draw with Mike Huett holding Tokeley. The critical point then was that the ‘A’ team didn’t lose on any of the 5 boards and this victory puts them top of the opening league table. The ‘B’ team will be looking to hold onto their league 1 status and again, if they can get a team of this strength out for the whole season, they stand a decent chance.

The week’s heavy-weight encounter took place at Halifax where the home side demonstrated their towering ambition to win the league by adding some serious firepower to their line up. Winston Williams appeared for them on board 1 and that meant that last season’s deadly duo of Bill Somerset and Darwin Ursal dropped down to play boards 2 and 3 respectively. Both these two players are rated in the 180’s! Halifax now boast the most powerful top order of any league 1 side. The question is, can they deploy this weaponry on a consistent, home and away basis?

Halifax were another team confounded by the weakness of the lower boards last season. They looked a little vulnerable on 4 and 5 again on Monday with Scott Gornall and John Aldridge facing Huddersfield’s Tony Aguirre and Robert Sutcliffe respectively. Scott did splendidly and won his game but John lost to Robert. Rumour (and the list of registered players on the league website!) suggests that Halifax still have more recruits to deploy on the lower boards. If this is true it will certainly make them strong contenders for the crown.

But what of Huddersfield? Robert Sutcliffe is back in the Captains chair this season and he lusts for the title once again having just missed out in the last two seasons. Huddersfield have formidable resources but their perennial problem is getting enough of those resources out in their line up on a consistent basis. They looked much the same as last season in this first match but David Firth took a tremendous win off Bill Somerset which helped them to a very good away draw considering the look of the line-ups on paper. I suspect Robert also has more cards still to play. Leo Keely and Dave Keddie (both rated in the 170’s) are registered as are Chris Booth and Greg Eagleton (160’s) so with their best five players at the board Huddersfield would take some stopping!

So this just leaves us with Brighouse and Courier ‘A’s tie to round off the report. Last season Brighouse just managed to escape relegation on the last day of the season by holding out away to Belgrave who went down in their stead. Brighouse still have two strong top boards in the form of Robert Broadbent and Dennis Breen but their lower order is weaker and they don’t have as strong a squad of reserves to draw upon in times of need. They’ll be contenders for relegation in my view although they are still capable of causing upsets on their day. They ran Courier as close as it is possible to do so last week and they certainly have no lack of fighting spirit.

Courier are another team that have strengthened an already formidable line up to bolster their title hopes. In came Alwoodley’s Tony Slinger last week to play on board 1 and that meant that Robert Clegg, John Morgan and Dave Patrick all dropped down one place in the order from last season. Kevin Winter also made an appearance on board 5 so this team now has genuine strength in depth with the likes of Peter Hughes, Dave Colledge and Guy Thompson all ready to back up any mis-pers from one round to another. Courier will need last week’s five to appear regularly and play consistently if they are to win the league. It could happen.

All in all then there look like there will be two fascinating battles taking place in league 1 this season. At the top, Todmorden ‘A’, Halifax, Huddersfield and Courier ‘A’ seem set to fight for Hebden’s title while at the bottom Tod ‘B’, Brighouse and Hebden themselves will be scrapping for every last point they can get their hands on to avoid that single relegation slot. It should be another epic. I’m going to stick my neck out and say now that I think my money is on Halifax for the title.

League 2

The bad news for Hebden Bridge in league 1 translates into good news in league 2 because the ‘C’ team is strengthened as a result of the ‘B’ team’s withdrawal and it will be able to call on players from the ‘A’ team’s lower reaches in case of emergency. That shouldn’t be necessary though as the club has plenty of players to furnish league 2 sides. On Monday night the Hebden Bridge ‘B’ and ‘C’ teams met for their first derby match of the season and, predictably, the ‘C’ team ran out comfortable winners. Here’s the match card:

Hebden Bridge ‘C’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘D’
M.Syrett 1 — 0 D.Crampton
K.Kerrane 1 — 0 P.Dearden
S.Priest 1 — 0 H.Leatherbarrow
T.Sullivan 1 — 0 S.Leatherbarrow
J.Todd 1 — 0 D.Leggett
5 — 0

The ‘C’ team look like they have enough strength in their side to challenge for promotion. In addition to the line up above they have ‘C’ team regulars Neil Bamford and Ray Deravairere who can come into the side and also the opportunity to put Dave Sugden or Josh Blinkhorn into the line up. These two players are likely to get some games for the ‘A’ team as well with Matthew Parsons now being absent.

Danny Crampton continues to blood the clubs juniors in the evening chess league and it’s good to see that Spike and Hephzi Leatherbarrow and Dylan Leggett are enthusiastic to play for him. It’s hard to see how the ‘D’ team will do anything other than prop up the table (although Todmorden’s ‘D’ team will be realistic targets for them to take aim at) but high performance in the league is not an objective for our ‘development’ side.

Looking elsewhere for the ‘C’ team’s main rivals the obvious place to start was the Belgrave Social club in Halifax where Courier ‘B’ were hosting Belgrave with whom they share a venue. Belgrave were unfortunate to get relegated last season and, with the same set of players available to get them back up again they shouldn’t have any issues regaining their top-flight status at the end of the season. Courier’s Peter Hughes managed to draw with Belgrave’s Gordon Farrar on board 1, but aside from that the home team were swept aside. Courier might have enough about them to challenge for the second promotion spot but if they don’t get a full team out for every fixture (they defaulted board 5 on Monday) then they don’t have any chance of achieving that.

There were two other derby fixtures taking place on Monday. Halifax ‘B’ will benefit from the additional strength drafted into their ‘A’ team in league 1 and that makes them genuine contenders for promotion this season. However, they made heavy weather of it against the seasoned campaigners in their ‘C’ team. On board 1 Scott Gornall scored his second win of the new season by beating Barry Wadswroth but John Aldridge and Adrian Dawson both lost to their lower rated opponents leaving it to Ray Cully and Howard Wood on boards 4 and 5 to bail the ‘B’s out of trouble as they scraped a 3 — 2 win. Despite this narrow margin of victory Halifax should be there or there abouts when it comes to promotion places at the end of the season.

Todmorden ‘C’ made no mistakes at home against their ‘D’ team. Their captain, Dave Milton enjoyed a night off when the ‘D’ team defaulted their bottom board and the rest of the side all won to complete a white wash that puts them top alongside Hebden ‘C’.

It looks to me like the promotion places in league 2 will be shared between Belgrave, Halifax ‘B’, Todmorden ‘C’ and Hebden ‘C’. The key factor in deciding who goes up will be “who wants it the most”. That may sound obvious but all of these teams will be able to call on a decent pool of players for back up and if the captains are tempted to “rotate” their squads to give all their squad members games then that is likely to effect their chances adversely. I expect Belgrave to go up as champions with one of the other three joining them. I’d love to see Hebden make it but my head thinks it will be Todmorden.

Next week we shold have some games to look at as Hebden Bridge ‘A’ travel to Brighouse for a match that already looks like it’s a must win for both teams if they want to avoid getting caught up in the relegation scrap.

  18 Responses to “Ordnance Survey”

  1. Firstly I’m sorry my withdrawal has had this effect. It certainly wasn’t my intention and I’m sad that people will miss out on games.

    Secondly however I would raise the point that one of the reasons I decided to stop playing was the practice of teams recruiting players from outside their area to bolster their squad. Whilst I appreciate that we do not live in an ideal world, chess will only continue to be an active sport if clubs take it upon themselves to promote in the local area and encourage our game.

    This is something that Hebden through the work of john kerrane, much to his credit have done, sadly there are not many of Hus type around.

    Indeed this is one of the reasons I withdrew from playing in the Bradford league last year, as I found myself doing exactly what I criticise above.

    There are other reasons of course, the fiasco with the YCA grades

  2. It’s nice to see that the Calderdale league is attracting the stronger players.

    Hopefully this will filter down throughout the leagues and make for more competitive chess all the way through!

    Looking forward to see how the season pans out!

  3. Well, here are two contrasting views!

    I’m afraid I’m going to chicken out of this one and say that I stand somewhere between the “more foreign imports” vs. “locals only” debate.

    First and formost I want to see the Calderdale league thrive and be healthy. The number of clubs and players in those clubs participating in league chess has been on the wain for some years now. Matthew is right, we should be more active in recruiting members across the league and certainly Hebden Bridge is prolific (largely through John’s work with the junior section) in recruiting new members. Sadly, over the last few years, although we’ve gained some new members most of those either can’t, or don’t want to play league chess and at the same time we’ve lost some active members. It’s this recent drop off that has led to the current predicament with the ‘B’ team rather than any one individual’s choices.

    Having said that, because I want to see a healthy league I’m not against clubs bringing in players from other leagues if that enables them to field 5 players every week and be competitive. I also think it helps to add variety to what is in reality a fairly small pool of players. I’ve spent much of the last few years dipping into the Leeds and Bradford leagues to supplement my Calderdale fixtures. It’s a great way to meet some new people and to get some more variety in my game. Calderdale will always be my first priority but after that I just want to play as many games as I can.

    So what’s the answer? Honestly I think that we have to continue to promote the game of chess and encourage particpation across all clubs in the league (and indeed all of Yorkshire – witness the excellent Bradford Chesstival that took place two weeks ago) and we also need to continue making players from outside Calderdale welcome in our league now so that we can continue to have one of the most competitive (and at the moment one of the strongest!) leagues in the county.

  4. I think there’s a massive false dichotomy being played out here.

    I am massively in favour of bringing in “outside players” into any league. It adds prestige and encourages other players to play in the league. This also ought to allow more teams to be created with local players being able to play more varied opponents. Calderdale is in a great location as it can attract players from the other side of the Pennines as well as Yorkshire folk!

    I agree that clubs and associations have done far too little to attract new players. I think that that Bradford is making great strides in trying to improve in this regard. We are aware of which clubs didn’t support the Bradford Chesstival and which clubs have grown as a direct result of it!

    Matt what do you mean about the farce of the YCA grades?

  5. The more strong players that are playing in the league the better, I don’t care if they come from Mars!!!

  6. Don’t joke Nick… that can be arranged! 🙂

  7. I am not too concerned about bringing in stronger players into the league. I’m concerned about decline of chess clubs. Obviously this is a multistrand issue.

    I have always felt, and this by the way, is one of the reasons I stopped playing for Huddersfield, that its more important to allow the regular club members, ie those who regularly intend club night, to play for the teams. A club does not work without a regular well attended club night, and its those layers who are the heart and soul of the club. I don’t believe that outside players should be given places in the team.

    Now I have nothing against you personally Andrew, or indeed Matthew Webb last year, but I don’t believe that you should be able to play for the club unless you regularly attend club nights. If this means that the team is weaker, even defaults a board, or loses a game, then so be it. Chess should be played for fun, not for an obsessive need to win.

    I also feel that Halifax by bringing in the players they have, have made the league season uninteresting, as on a five board team, they are just too strong. And its not like Halifax don’t have players who could play!

    I know 3-4 over 190 graded players who could play for Hebden if approached, but I don’t believe its fair, reasonable, in the spirit of the game, or fair play.

    As for yca grades, all Hebden a players grade are wrong due to a computer error apparently, and for some reason it can’t be fixed. This means that every game one of those players plays creates an incorrect grade result or both them and their opponent, and the problem is exponential.

    • Hi Folks, always good to debate a point or two, I whole heartedly support Matthews ideal of having a group of players club based who want to play some league chess as well as turn up on a normal club night for a social game, or participate in a chess related discussion/analysis. Very lucky to have Hebden on the doorstep. But I can also see the benefits of having a wider pool of higher graded players in the league as this should raise the standard and provide some interesting chess but it could mean that to be competative all teams recruit from elsewhere and there is no one left playing in the league that supports a local club, the answer who knows! , those of a more competaive nature always have weekend tournaments to go at, I always took the calderdale league to be friendly natured game once a week with other local chessophiles, cheers andy l.

  8. I agree the YCA grades is a big problem, especially when you have 5 wins against good opposition not recognised as the case with Matthew. I can see that being highly demotivating. I was under the impression that Jon was going to fix the problem. You say this is now not the case?

    If so then, yes the grades are not accurate and is a major concern. My grade at the moment is 156 but should be nearer 150 as 3 loses have not been added to the grades from last season. Matthew should be about 5-6 points higher than his grade currently. This creates a kind of ripple effect when my games affect one players grade his grade will then effect another and so on then the whole system is inaccurate.

    In an ideal world every club would have a healthy pool of players and have a regular club night when no matches are on. That would be amazing, the fact Hebden has this is what makes me travel 10+ miles every week to play chess and more importantly socialise with some really great like minded people.

    It would be interesting to ask members from other clubs why they do not have regular club nights, is it an issue with the venue? Or is it lack of commitment? I feel that in many ways the non-match night are just as enjoyable if not more so that match nights. Certainly clubs like Todmorden and Halifax should find it easy to have regular club nights with the number of members they currently boast.

    I for one would be happy to see Todmorden players such as Mike Huett, Neil Suttie, Paul Edwards, Tom Webster etc to pop along to the HB club night.

  9. Apparently Jon isn’t going to fix the grades from what he wrote in email to me.

    Don’t see why.

    Exponential problem, as mentioned above.

  10. I play for three evening league clubs. Bradford, Pudsey and Hebden Bridge, all of which have club nights on Mondays!

    I come from Bradford and that is always my priority.

    If as Matthew says, I should only play Bradford Evening League along with ONLY other players who presumably live in Bradford, the league would quickly become small and rather boring as there would be a limited number of players to play against! The same reasoning would apply to Dave and Nick etc at Hebden Bridge and the Calderdale League would also become rather repetitive!

    I think club nights are an important aspect of a thriving chess club – particularly for players who only want to play in their “home” league.

    It is up to each club to decide how it manages who plays in their team(s). When I captain my teams (Bradford B in YCA League, Bradford in 4NCL) – I do recruit from outside. However I always first ask the loyal, reliable members of the club, even if that makes us slightly weaker than we could be. If I need more players, then I ask from outside. This is not necessarily the “correct” way of doing things, everybody will have their own take.

    I see what you mean about the grades – it’s a problem I’ve never seen before! I’m surprised that Jon is unable/unwilling to fix this. However this seems to be an isolated case and I wouldn’t criticise the entire Chessnuts system for this reason. There may be other reasons for criticising it but that’s not the main topic of discussion here!

  11. It seems I’ve come to this debate a little late…My opinion as an ‘outsider’ is that I’m not in any way restricted to a limited number of miles outside my front door (other than what I am prepared to drive). I have not been recruited or ‘brought in’ and do not receive payment to play for Halifax. I make myself available for selection. I am also not a ‘Bradford player’, I’m a Bingley, Pudsey, and Halifax player. I don’t live in any of these areas. I also turn out regularly for all three teams instead of just the crunch matches. I pay membership fees to all three clubs. To complete the picture, I’m also not really interested in club nights. Competitive league/cup chess against strong players like Matthew Parsons is where I get my fun. Since leaving Mars many years ago, I have had the great pleasure of playing for many chess clubs in many leagues across the country.

  12. I simply do not get some of the views above. It sounds to me that some are just throwing their toys out of the pram because in their mind, no one outside Calderdale should be playing in the league. That view is utterly nonsense and somewhat archaic!

    It was said that “chess will only continue to be an active sport if clubs take it upon themselves to promote in the local area and encourage our game”. I say that the addition of new (stronger) players does just that, regardless of where the come from. The more players a club has the more money the club will have to promote chess and invest on own development.

    When I joined the club we had less than half the number of players we have today, and before you say it, only 3 or 4 of those come from outside Calderdale. So, we’ve recruited more players from Calderdale than we have from outside.

    It was also mentioned: “I also feel that Halifax by bringing in the players they have, have made the league season uninteresting”. How so? Should it not be the opposite? We do not want the same teams winning the league over and over, playing the same players week in week out, so in effect, we have made things more competitive for everyone. I was top bord for Halifax some 3 or 4 seasons ago. If things stayed as they were, I would regularly be playing against others some 20 – 40 points my grade. Those that would be playing me will now have to play against someone just a few points above own grade. If that’s not more competitive I do not know what it is.

    Our top 2 boards have scored 3 out of 6 points in the 3 games we so far played. Sounds to me that opponents are raising to the challenge and things are now more interesting rather than not.

    The Calderdale Chess League runs team competitions. The aim is to win them and to do so, a club will chose their own strategy (develop / recruit players) and gather the required resources (venue, players, training, equipment, run club nights, etc). I do not believe for a second that every single person reading this does not aspire to win (a single match, the league, a tournament). Competition is what makes us all want to do better and improve our game. If you are reading this and disagree, then you might as well stick to reading chess books, attending club nights and playing online, whilst having a nice cup of tea.

    The chameleon effect – despite what was written and said before, I see that Matt (Parsons and Webb) both played for Hebden ‘A’ last night – funly enough, against what were the league leaders up to yesterday (Tod ‘A’). Neither live anywhere near Hebden Bridge but I gladly welcome them back to the league 🙂

    My apologies if I sound blunt, but some of the comments i read, rubbed me the wrong way.

    • Guys, why are you complaining about recruiting strong players from different league? Don’t you realise it’s beneficial for the league? It makes the league more interesting and we can get quality games. Grades are just numbers! I don’t care if one of the Calderdale team recruits Richard Palliser or Takedza Chippangga or other strong players from different league. Bring them on! You were saying you want to play for fun, why not make it fun and competitive ,doesn’t it mean it’s no longer fun playing against players stronger than you? We can’t produce top notch players overnight, it would take at least a good 2 to 3 years to develop one. Beating weaker players will not do us any good but losing against stronger players will help us learn more and inspire us to beat them!

  13. Lastly, I have nothing against weaker players coz I’ve been there before and I know how it feels to get nervous playing against stronger players, but it doesn’t mean I would back down from the challenge and I get bored because I know what would be the result. The stronger player I face the more I bring my “A” game and try my best to pull an upset. Let’s just have a fun and competitive chess guys!

    • I completely agree with you Darwin. I always find it easier to “get myself up” for a match against a strong player. I think most of us agree that we want the league to be as strong as possible. This season will, once again, be an exciting race for the title with 5 teams currently in the mix for it.

  14. Who said the league is now less competitive? I see 5 teams split by 2 points after 5 games played (top four split by a single point).

    Also, who would have predicted Huddersfield losing to Brighouse by 4-1?!!!!

  15. One day Darwin I might bring you my ‘A’ game. Be afraid 🙂

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>



This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.