There’s a diminishing amount of chess left to play in the 2019-20 season and the League 1 title race is still nip and tuck between the two Hebden Bridge sides after the eleventh round of fixtures was played this week.
Title holders and current league leaders, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ travelled to Huddersfield ‘A’ on Monday whilst Hebden Bridge ‘B’ visited Belgrave ‘A’. At Huddersfield, the ‘A’ team put out pretty much their strongest possible line up of Parsons, Pantazopoulos, Shapland, Leonard and Leatherbarrow, against a home side that was bereft of their very strongest players. In fairness Messrs Eagleton (three appearances) and Burke (one appearance) have not been playing frequently for them this season (while Leo Keely has restricted himself to playing for Huddersfield ‘B’ exclusively) and that has made life pretty challenging for their top board players this season.
The home team’s line up of Dave Keddie, Steve Westmoreland, Nick Sykes, David Booth and Rob Mitchell were operating the Black pieces and also heavily out rated on all five boards and it looked like the match would offer Hebden Bridge an excellent opportunity to harvest the kind of heavy points win they needed for the title race duel. Of course, it didn’t turn out to be quite so simple – when does it ever.
Early on in the evening all seemed to be going pretty smoothly for the visitors as they achieved decent positions on all boards out of the opening. Boards, 2, 4 and 5 all finished at a similar point in the evening. On board 5, Andy Leatherbarrow won a piece for a pawn from Rob Mitchell as early as move 16 and, thereafter, played sensibly to keep control of the position and simplify the game. That it took 62 moves to complete the process should not in any way suggest that the Huddersfield man was able to mount serious resistance after his early loses.
On board 4 however, Pete Leonard was left to kick himself after he missed several clear-cut chances to accumulate a similar opening advantage to Andy. Instead he had to settle for an extra pawn in a rook and knight ending. Had he managed to exchange the rooks off, Pete would almost certainly have taken the full point, but instead, he lost his extra pawn and might even have got himself into hot water before agreeing to peace terms.
Stavros soon increased Hebden Bridge’s dominant position as he completed a smooth positional win over Steve Westmoreland. At the end, Steve had a rook and bishop against Stavros’ queen, but once the queen had invaded Black’s camp it was all over.
That just left boards 1 and 3 to finish. The contest on board 1 ended first and with a surprising outcome too. Matthew Parsons hardly ever loses with the White pieces – especially in the Calderdale League – yet he lost his second of the season on Monday. Facing an aggressive line against his favourite London System, Matthew blundered an important pawn (just proving it can happen to anyone) after which his position against Dave Keddie was pretty much untenable. Dave played very well to nurture his advantage over the line. Suddenly, there was a danger that Hebden Bridge might only tie the match if they lost on the last board to finish.
Fortunately for them, by the time Matthew’s game had finished, Dave had achieved the upper hand against Nick Sykes. However, that wasn’t the whole story of the game. It was tense, complex and certainly saw Black have the better chances at several points during its course. Nick and Dave have played each other hundreds of times and know each other’s repertoires very well. Dave decided to divert from his usual patterns of play against Nick’s Sicilian Najdorf in a bid to avoid a heavyweight theoretical discussion.
Dave got the kind of game he wanted but Nick developed a good position and had a couple of chances to secure a significant advantage – albeit after some vertigo inducing variations illuminated by engines afterwards. In the end it was the clock that was Nick’s undoing as he left himself with very little time to conduct the latter stages of the middle game in which pinpoint accuracy was still required for him to hold. Instead, he managed to get to the time control but was immediately trapped in a mating net.
Here’s the full match score card:
Huddersfield ‘A’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘A’
D.Keddie 1 – 0 M.Parsons (W)
S.Westmoreland 0 – 1 S.Pantazopoulos (W)
N.Sykes 0 – 1 D.Shapland (W)
D.Booth ½ – ½ P.Leonard (W)
R.Mitchell 0 – 1 A.Leatherbarrow (W)
1½ – 3½
Meanwhile, closer to home, in Halifax, the ‘B’ team were battling Belgrave ‘A’ in a match that looked on paper like it would be much tighter than the one in Huddersfield. Indeed, when the two sides had met in Todmorden during the first half of the season, Hebden had only edged the match by 3 – 2. This time out though, they were even stronger having recruited the talented youngster, Jamie Heritage to their number for his first run out in League 1. He duly won his game against Karim Khan on board 5 in a long end game where Jamie had a bishop, knight and pawn against a rook.
The regulars on the top four boards also did their jobs with only Sam Swain succumbing to the dangerous Malcolm Corbett on board 4. Martyn Hamer and Phil Cook both won while Andrew Clarkson drew with Richard Bowman on board 3.
The final scorecard looked like this:
Belgrave ‘A’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘B’
J.Morgan 0 – 1 M.Hamer (W)
D.Patrick 0 – 1 P.Cook (W)
R.Bowman ½ – ½ A.Clarkson (W)
M.Corbett 1 – 0 S.Swain (W)
K.Khan 0 – 1 J.Heritage (W)
1½ – 3½
These two results mean that the difference between the two Hebden Bridge sides remains exactly the same. Hebden ‘A’ are two points clear of the ‘B’s having played one match more and they have just one extra board point. Hebden ‘B’ play their match in hand at home to Huddersfield ‘A’ on Monday. Even a 3 – 2 win would see them take the top spot with a two point board advantage with just three matches left in the season.
The third and final match of the eleventh round of League 1 fixtures saw an upset as the bottom team, Brighouse, scored their first win of the season in resounding fashion by beating Belgrave ‘B’ 1 – 4. Only Les Johnson on board 4 was able to stem the tide of results by winning his game against Tim Pryke. This means that Brighouse have given themselves a slim chance of escaping the single relegation spot. They have now drawn level with their vanquished hosts on 3 points at the bottom of the division. However, their board count is so low that they will likely have to secure another result of some sort in one of their remaining two matches in order to do a Houdini. They have Halifax ‘A’ at home in the next match before visiting Hebden Bridge ‘B’ away in the final match of the season.
Before we sign-off we should also mention that Hebden Bridge ‘C’ scored a resounding 5 – 0 victory last week over Halifax ‘B’. This was a great result and bodes well for them as they go into their final cycle of games with a home match against ‘Belgrave ‘C’ at hoe on Monday.
Here’s the scorecard from the match last week:
Hebden Bridge ‘C’ vs. Halifax ‘B’
P.Leonard 1 – 0 P.Moss (W)
J.Heritage 1 – 0 D.Rowley (W)
N.Bamford 1 – 0 J.Nicholson (W)
J.Kerrane 1 – 0 A.Whiteley (W)
C.Marsden 1 – 0 B.Wadsworth (W)
5 – 0