Aug 042012

Today I’ll be drawing our end of season review to a close by posting individual player statistics for last season. I’ll begin in this post by looking at the ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams’ most utilised players and will publish a post covering the ‘C’ and ‘D’ teams next week.

First of all, a few notes on the player statistics below. I have only examined league games played by the individuals in question. Yorkshire League matches, matches in other leagues, congresses and the Calderdale Individual Championships have not been included because the aim of the exercise is to show how a player has performed for the club over the last 12 months. An indication as to the player’s year round performance can be gleaned from the change in their end of season rating from last year to this which I have included. I’ve also included a file of ‘best games’ for each of the players below and some of these do include stand out examples from the Calderdale Individual Championships.

Matthew’s performance for his team this season was absolutely outstanding. In nine games he was unbeaten and he won two thirds of those contests. He spent the entire season battling it out with the toughest opposition in the league and he performed superbly. As always his opening repertoire was the foundation for his success because he is so difficult to catch off guard in this phase of the game. His favoured opening systems (the London System with White and the Sniper with Black) are also pretty much impossible to avoid and so his preparation always finds an expression over the board. What all this means is that he is virtually never playing at a disadvantage in the middle game and that is where his he usually finds a way to out play his opponents.

For his best game I’ve selected his critical last round win with Black against Courier’s Dave Patrick. It’s a typical example of how he utilises the flexibility of the Sniper System to great effect. Matt has a wonderful feel for this opening and he scored very heavily with it last year (four wins and one draw). Matthew will be a critical factor in Hebden Bridge ‘A’s attempt to hang on to the league title in the forth coming season.

It’s hard to come up with anything new to say about “Draw Win” because it feels like it’s all been said before. Last season he was simply unstoppable. He was unbeaten in both the League and in the Individual Competitions (hence the nickname) and his percentages outstripped even Matthews. As well as bagging the League title with Hebden he also won the Calderdale Individual Championship and the Individual Knockout competition.

Perhaps the most important aspect of his game from the perspective of the team was his ability to conjure up results when positions seemed sterile and/or when our backs were against the wall.  Despite getting into difficulties out of the opening on several occasions he always managed to wriggle out of trouble in the middle game and often upgraded level positions to victories simply by putting his opponents under acute pressure.

There were many candidates for best game but the one that left the most indelible mark for me was his win with Black against Robert Broadbent of Brighouse. Darwin was the last board to finish, the match was tied, he was short of time and the position was complex. Never the less he always seemed to be in total control of the situation and got the result the team needed. This contribution was repeated again and again over the course of the season. Darwin’s return to Halifax for next season is their gain and Hebden’s loss.

Not a vintage year from a personal perspective. A percentage score of less than 50% was the lowest in the team but Dave was an ever present in the side and took his satisfaction from selecting and organising the Championship winning side as Captain. In the previous season Dave was unbeaten with the Black pieces despite playing some very challenging opponents on board 1 and 2 with the ‘B’ team. This season his Black score was much less impressive and although his repertoire held up well in the opening he made too many errors in the middle game. Perhaps this was a lack of concentration on his own games as he kept an eye on his team mates or perhaps it was a desire to push too hard for the full point when a draw would have been satisfactory. Whatever the reason, Dave will hope to make a better contribution over the board next season and with Darwin moving on, he’ll need to!

I’ve selected a game from the Calderdale Individual Championship for his game of the season which perhaps says all it needs to about his league form.

It’s never easy to return to competitive chess after a prolonged lay off but last year Pete did just that as he began playing for Hebden Bridge ‘C’ and scored heavily. This season was always going to be a much tougher challenge and he generally acquitted himself very well and demonstrated that he is now operating at the right level for his abilities. For any returning player the opening phase of the game is usually the hardest to reinvigorate as assessments of favourite opening systems may have changed during one’s absence. It appeared to me that this was sometimes the case for Pete as usually when he got into difficulties it was as a result of an opening inaccuracy of a technical nature rather than a dreadful tactical blunder.

Pete would be the first to admit that he is a ‘grinder’ and likes to stay in control of his games of chess. His best efforts then are generally positional in nature. I’ve therefore selected a game that I would imagine would be his own favourite which was his round three victory in the Calderdale Individual Championship against the incumbent champion John Morgan. Pete went on to score an excellent 4 out of 5 in the competition and finished second behind Darwin.

All in all a good year for Pete that he’ll look to build on further next season.

Playing the lower boards in a side that is challenging for the title can be a thankless task. Often you will find yourself playing lower rated players than yourself and will be expected to extract the full point more often than not. This duty requires will power, determination and the ability to forget quickly about any occasional mishaps and bounce back immediately. Nick ‘Syko’ Sykes demonstrated all these worthy attributes in spades this season. With only two defeats from thirteen and an undefeated record at home he was critical to the team’s success. His games are often long slogs and I was particularly impressed with his record of closing out games with wins or draws when he was the last to finish and we needed a result

I’ve picked one such example of his determination for his best game in the viewer below. He had been disappointed to only draw when in time trouble in our previous match and when his game with Paul Whitehouse looked to all the kibitzers like it was headed for a draw he simply didn’t agree with the assessment and saw victory home in a highly technical end game. It may not be the most interesting game he played this year but it perfectly sums up his contribution. We’ll need more of the same next season.

When it appeared that Matthew Parsons might have to miss much or all of the season due to work commitments our search for an interim board one took us to Matty’s door. Although in the end he only turned out twice he did exactly what was required of him and his win over Peter Mulleady in our home match against Todmorden ‘A’ was a critical to securing a signal victory. This game features in the viewer below and I was hugely impressed with the way he controlled the game out of the opening and into the middle game as he maintained a modest advantage which he converted by never letting his opponent off the hook. We hope he’ll be available more frequently next season.

Now lets take a look at the ‘B’ team.

Poor old Andy was in the hot seat this season. Top board for a ‘B’ team playing in Division 1 is the toughest assignment of them all. He was out graded in pretty much every match he played in. I know from personal experience that you can play your best chess every week and still end up losing a lot. Andy seemed to revel in the challenge and was at his obstinate best all year round. A 46% return for a player graded 140 at the start of last season was a great achievement and he actually managed 50% with the Black pieces. I should mention that he represented the ‘A’ team on board five once last year and won that game which is included in the stats given here.

Andy has developed a winning habit against Courier’s top board, John Morgan. He beat him last season and he beat him with the Black pieces this season in the game given at the end of this article

The ‘B’ team Captain can always be relied upon to maintain a cheerful continence regardless of his side’s situation. For the last few years he has been leading a team struggling against relegation but he never complains and always does his best to help his team perform. This season, sadly, he lost the service of too many players to be able to mount the kind of challenge he would have liked. The ‘B’s lost quite a few matches by the odd point and drew a few more they could have won. Such is the way of things when your luck is out.

From a personal perspective Martin was forced to occupy a higher board than he would usually operate as a result of the absences and his percentage score reflects his struggles. By nature he tends to play aggressively and sharply and that tends to lead to a positive result one way or another and against higher rated opposition that uncompromising approach can lead to danger. However, Martin did pick up some highly creditable draws with much stronger players than himself. The game I’ve chosen for Martin is a typically combative effort dealt out to Huddersfield’s Stuart Oliver when the ‘B’ team hosted Huddersfield ‘B’.

Dave Sugden

Dave stepped up from representing the ‘C’ team on board one in the second division last season and, although he was clearly capable of operating confidently in division one, he seemed to find it challenging at times this season. Certainly he wasn’t helped by being drafted in to the high pressure environment of the ‘A’ team for four games early in the season and had to recover from a tricky run of form at about this time. In the end he did recover and re-find his confidence later in the season and his results for the ‘B’ team, 3 out of 6, was a very creditable return.

Dave’s opening repertoire his highly combustible and, although I’ve selected a drawn game for these pages don’t let that trick you into thinking that the game is uninteresting. This was a very exciting and complicated draw with a player rated considerably higher than himself.

I sometimes marvel that John is able to find time to play league chess because he organises the junior club, Captain’s the ‘C’ team and pretty much looks after all the administrative functions of the club. This season he was called upon to play rather more games than I suspect he would have liked. This was purely down to the dwindling numbers of ‘B’ team players which forced Martin Syrett to draft in John and Neil Bamford on a frequent basis.

The statistics above therefore represent John’s performance for both the ‘B’ and ‘C’ teams. His 50% score does him credit and he almost managed to Captain the ‘C’ team to promotion, pipped as they were at the post by a Halifax team that had reinforced itself drastically in the second half of the season.

In my view John’s best game of the season was his nice win against Dave Milton in a battle between the team Captains from when Hebden ‘C’ hosted Todmorden ‘B’.

Neil had an outstanding year this season emphasising his continued improvement as a player. He was a valuable asset on board 5 for the ‘B’ team and also played a big role in the ‘C’ team’s promotion challenge as he played 23 games in the season — more than any other Hebden Bridge player in the Calderdale league. He gained 9½ rating points from his league matches and the only reason that isn’t reflected in his end of season increase (of 5 points) was because he struggled to replicate his league from in the Calderdale Individual Championships.

I’ve picked out his excellent victory over club colleague Nick Sykes from the derby clash between Hebden Bridge’s ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams. Neil actually scored 2 points for the ‘B’s across these derby fixtures as he also beat Dave Sugden in the return clash. The game below lurches from favouring one side to the other and Nick’s opening choice contributed to a hugely entertaining game full of interest and excitement. In the end Neil won because he managed to ensure he made the next to last mistake of the game!

It was great to be able to deploy Matthew twice this season despite his departure to Cambridge University in September. He made his appearances for the ‘B’ team on top board and drew with Robert Broadbent and John Morgan, two very solid players. I given his game with John in the viewer below. Hopefully we’ll be able to make similar use of Matthew next year.

Josh is another player who struggled a little for consistency this year. On his best days he is capable of bamboozling the best players in the league but he is also prone to occasionally over extending himself against players of a lower grade than himself.  That is generally because his style his hugely ambitious. He loves complications and he takes risks to initiate them. That means his games are always interesting to watch.

This season he finished on 50% after playing games for both the ‘B’ and ‘C’ team. It may seem harsh for me to pick a game that he has lost in the viewer below but I genuinely think this game was an excellent achievement played as it was against a player graded 180 whom he very nearly beat through his wonderful feel for the initiative. Such a shame that he missed a couple of winning chances in time pressure at the end but a really nice snap shot of Josh’s capabilities. He’ll improve further next season I predict.

I’m sure that there will be plenty of club members who will want to share their own views on my reviews, opinions and game choices. Don’t hold back if you feel I’ve dealt with someone unjustly or feel that I’ve overlooked a critical factor. Leave a comment. We love debate and opinion on this website!

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