The Bridestones Holme Brew Chess Challenge continues into July and August without Alastair Wright. Having played only three of his scheduled ten games Alastair has decided that he has other priorities in his life this summer and has withdrawn. That means that the cross table has changed somewhat and Dave Shapland has gained the most from the situation as he was the only player of the three Alastair had faced who had not won the game.
This change in circumstances will at least make it a little easier to finish the tournament off in a timely fashion as a ten round all-play-all was an ambitious exercise. Now the competition is 8 rounds and each of the players has now completed at least 50% of their quota. On Monday night Dave Shapland and Pete Leonard were the last to reach this landmark as they played Andy Leatherbarrow and Nick Sykes respectively.
Dave appeared to be facing the more difficult challenge, at least psychologically, because he’d lost in painful fashion to Andy only the previous week and faced a player who is particularly tough to break down when he has the Black pieces. However, Dave overcame Andy in a long and hard fought struggle to move onto a respectable 50% score at the halfway mark.
The first surprise of the game was Andy’s choice of 1…e5, eschewing his favourite Scandinvian Defence 1…d5. Did he fear some deep opening preparation on Dave’s part? Perhaps he just wanted to play a game of chess instead of testing his memory of opening lines against an opponent who likes to base his play on concrete variations. Either way it didn’t turn out fantastically well as Andy selected Philidor’s Defence which yielded him a playable but rather passive position.
Dave missed a couple of tactical opportunities and Andy was able to swap pieces off to relieve what little pressure Dave had succeeded in developing before taking the initiative with an advance of his queen’s side pawns. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where it all went wrong for Andy but there were a couple of mildly inaccurate moves that seemed to have a disproportionate effect on his position and suddenly he found himself a piece down for a couple of pawns in the endgame. Andy defended stubbornly as he always does but Dave was finally able to create a distant passed pawn on the a-file that eventually allowed him to force victory.
Nick and Pete’s game developed along very similar lines to their first game when Nick had the Black pieces and gained a considerable advantage before throwing the game away with a tactical error. This time around, with White, Nick decided to play 1.e4 and have a go at Pete’s Alekhine’s Defence (1…Nf6) Nick played the opening phase well (when does he not) and got a comfortable advantage that he could well have converted to a win on another day. Unfortunately he missed a couple of chances to play actively and Pete held on and created some counter play before Nick overlooked a tactic and found himself a piece down. Having gained the advantage Pete made no mistakes and succeeded in doubling up on his remorseful opponent.
Both games are annotated in the viewer below: