Apr 162015
This is my annual excuse to find a beautiful photograph of lightning! This year's is by Kim Seng. It is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from Kim Seng's Flickr photostream.

This is my annual excuse to find a beautiful photograph of lightning! This year’s is by Kim Seng. It is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from Kim Seng’s Flickr photostream.

The annual Calderdale Team Lightning competition will be hosted by Halifax Chess Club this year. The event will once again take place at the Belgrave Social Club on Monday the 27th of April.

All players who would like to take part are asked to arrive at the venue as close to 7.00pm as possible so that teams can be registered in time for the first round to begin at 7.30pm.

If you would like to register a team in advance of the event then please email Dave Colledge and Howard Wood at davecoll33@hotmail.com and howardwood@hotmail.com respectively. Please send your team name and the names of the five players in the line-up (this can still be changed on the night if necessary). Doing this will enable the organisers to have your team registered early but you will still need to arrive in plenty of time before the first round starts to pay your team entry fee of £2.50.

As is always the case, everyone who comes along will get to take part so even if your club don’t enter a team, or if you don’t have five players, come along anyway and the organisers will find a team for you to play for on the night or identify players to fill your squad.

The team lightning is the traditional curtain closer to the season and is a fun way for everyone in the League to get together and play. At the end of the evening the trophies for the Calderdale Evening Leagues and Calderdale Individual Championship will be handed out to the winners.  So if you can make it do come along for an excellent night of social chess and a chance to give this season’s winners a well-deserved round of applause.

Apr 032015
This position, the final one from the game Bak vs. Somerset, tells you all you need to know about Monday's match between Hebden Bridge 'A' and Halifax 'A'. It went down to the wire and the result could have gone any one of three ways.

This position, the final one from the game Bak vs. Somerset, tells you all you need to know about Monday’s match between Hebden Bridge ‘A’ and Halifax ‘A’. It went down to the wire and the result could have gone any one of three ways.

 There was yet another night of nerve shredding tension ahead as the penultimate round of the Calderdale League 1 season took place at clubs across Calderdale on Monday night. As reported here in our last post, there were three teams at the top separated only by board point with another team just two points behind them. Would all three teams still be in contention when the last round takes place on April 20th?

Let’s start by reporting the result of the Courier ‘A’ vs Huddersfield match which took place a week early at the home team’s request. These two were in fifth and fourth places respectively and knew that they were competing for the podium places rather than top spot. Still, that didn’t prevent them from bringing very powerful teams to the battle. Huddersfield had lost at home to Courier back in November at a time when they were riding high in the league table. That defeat was the start of a slump that cost them their tilt at the title.

Unfortunately a cold dish of revenge was not on Courier’s menu as they succeeded in doing the double on their rivals. Messrs Morgan, Cawston and Colledge beat Dave Keddie, Dave Tooley and Mark Rojinsky on the bottom three board to propel their team to victory. On board 2 Matthew Parsons beat Courier’s captain, Dave Patrick, to maintain his challenge for the league individual prize and the top board between Tony Slinger and Leo Keely was drawn. The result leaves Courier in 5th on 14 points and Huddersfield in 4th on 16.

Then this Monday last the other three fixtures were played out. At the bottom of the table Todmorden ‘B’ gave themselves an outside shot at a miraculous escape from relegation as they beat Brighouse at home. This match was a blood bath as all five boards ended in decisive results. On boards two and three Robert Broadbent and Nick Hudson took wins against Dave Innes and Mike Huett. Unfortunately for Brighouse though, Tod took the other three boards as Neil Suttie beat Dennis Breen on board 1, Robert Collier beat Paul Whitehouse on 4 and Richard Bedford continued his successful rehabilitation to the game with a win over Ron Grandage on 5.

League leaders Todmorden ‘A’ travelled to Belgrave for a match both teams absolutely had to win. Tod needed to ensure they stayed top and preferably extended their board count lead. Belgrave knew that their chances of staying up were running out fast. As it was the stronger team prevailed as Tod smote down the home team 1 — 4. On board 4 Karim Khan beat Carlos Gil-Fresno on time and that was all Belgrave could muster. Todmorden were going to stay top for the final round of fixtures.

The situation at the bottom of the league has been made extremely interesting by Tod ‘B’s win. Brighouse stay on 6 points but they are now just a point clear of both Tod ‘B’ and Belgrave. All three teams have tough assignments in the final round of the season. Brighouse host Courier ‘A’ knowing that a drawn match will probably be enough to keep them up. Belgrave travel to Huddersfield who now have nothing much to play for and may field a weaker than usual line up. Tod ‘B’ have to go to title challengers Halifax ‘A’ for the final round knowing that every half-point they score will help their ‘A’ team colleagues and if they do pull off and unlikely win (or draw and Brighouse and Belgrave lose) then they could still stay up. Most likely all three sides will lose but stranger things have happened!

Now to the main event. No disrespect to the other teams in action this week but the fact that so many spectators from other clubs turned up to watch the battle between Hebden Bridge ‘A’ and Halifax ‘A’ tells you all you need to know about the importance of the outcome. The players didn’t disappoint either as the match could still have finished in any of the three different results right up until the final seconds of the evening’s play. It was another epic struggle at the Trades Club.

These two teams had identical records (match and board points) before the start of play and so it was no surprise to see that Halifax and brought their best possible line up to take on the home side who also put out almost their strongest possible line up. As usual, Halifax demonstrated that they’d thought carefully about how to deploy their top three players. When the sides met earlier this season it was Winston Williams on board 1, Darwin Ursal on board 2 and Bill Somerset on board 3. This time Winston dropped to board 3 and Bill and Darwin both moved up a board. On 4 and 5 Halifax fielded Sam Scurfield and Carlos Velosa respectively.

Hebden’s line up was marginally weaker on paper than the visitors. They wheeled out Ihor Lewyk and Andy Bak on boards 1 and 2, then came Captain Pete Leonard on board 3 and finally Nick Sykes and Dave Shapland on boards 4 and 5. Only Pete Leonard was rated appreciably lower than his opponent but he’d drawn with Winston in the reverse fixture in November and so could be confident of holding his own.

The match unwound tortuously with the margins between success and failure on each board being tiny. First to finish was the Nick Sykes vs. Sam Scurfield encounter on board 4. Nick has been playing the White side of the Spanish with great skill this season and so he must have been happy to see Sam play the Breyer Variation of that venerable opening. However, Sam played the opening so accurately that Nick got nothing much at all from the opening and decided not to take any risks trying for more than equality. The players agreed and early draw and settled down to watch the rest of the drama unfold.

Halifax struck the first blow on board three later on. Winston managed to create a complete mess against Pete and somewhere in the confusion, Pete went wrong and ended up facing three advanced Black pawns on d4, e4 and f4! It looked difficult to play and so it proved. Winston mopped up. 0 — 1 to Halifax.

Now the pressure was right on the remaining Hebden players to pull a result out of the bag. This is a team that’s at their best when the backs are against the wall though and once again, they found a way. On board 1 Ig Lewyk had managed to get promising position from a modest opening. Darwin got himself all tangled up and Ig found the right way to capitalise and get a significant advantage. But Darwin is a world class wriggler and, by burning a big chunk of his time he found a way to get counter play and plug the holes in his position. As the time control loomed Ig made a big mistake and Darwin found the exchange sacrifice that opened up the White king. On most occasions it would have been curtains for Ig but, because Darwin was in such acute time trouble he missed the winning continuation on several occasions as they reached move 36.

Now it was Ig’s turn to wriggle free as he took his king for a precarious looking walk. Surprisingly Darwin overlooked a final opportunity to play for the full point and instead settled for a perpetual check to draw the game. It was probably a fair result, if an unlikely one.

On board 5, Halifax Captain, Carlos Velosa was fighting for his life against Dave Shapland. Rather than trying to blow Carlos’s trademark Owen’s Defence (1…b6) away, Dave tried to transpose into a line of the French Tarrasch that he is familiar with. When Carlos refused to acquiesce and didn’t play d5 it appeared that this could only be to White’s advantage. Both players used 45 minutes for their first dozen moves and it looked like this game too might be decided by clock pressure rather than good play.

Meanwhile on board 2 Andy Bak and Bill Somerset were engaged in a heavyweight positional encounter. Andy might well have expected Bill to play his favorite King’s Indian Defence against 1.d4. If he did he was to be disappointed as Bill offered a Nimzo-Indian and Andy opted for a Queen’s Indian set up. This set the tone for some extensive simplifications as all the bishops and the queens were exchanged off by move 13. The rooks were off the board too by move 20 leaving the players with a complicated double knight and pawns ending with plenty of time on the clock to devote to its intricacies. As the players reached the time control Andy managed to win Bill’s a-pawn and created an outside, passed a-pawn of his own at the same time. Bill almost immediately won back a pawn on e2 and now it was sown to whether or not Andy’s passer was enough for him to steal the full point.

Dave and Carlos reached move 36 with a minute and thirty seconds remaining respectively. By this stage Dave had lost control of the position but then regained it when Carlos made a single mistake in his time crisis. It wasn’t a bad blunder but it was enough for Dave to pick up a pawn. He then grabbed a second and Carlos missed the best way to counter which would have almost certainly led to a drawish ending. Instead Dave ended up with two extra pawns in an opposite coloured bishops end game. These are notoriously drawish but the presence of White and Black pawns on the a-file turned out to be the critical factor. Dave managed to amass an unusual constellation of pawns on the king’s side, unopposed, doubled h-pawns and a g-pawn. On their own even these three amigos may well not have been enough. But, Dave correctly found a way to overwork the Black bishop by marching his king over to the Black a-pawn and that was curtains. With only minutes each left on the clock, Dave had drawn Hebden level.

The final episode of this enthralling match now played out on board 2. Bill won a pawn but Andy kept his passed a-pawn as now the knights came off the board leaving just kings and pawns. In mopping up the a-pawn Bill found his king at a disadvantage and Andy was able to get his king into the Black camp. Both players thought they were winning and now both were down to their last few minutes and second of time on their clocks. They kept playing. Finally Andy managed to queen his h-pawn first and then prevent Bill landing his f-pawn. But Andy was almost out of time. At the end there was momentarily some confusion as Andy finally appeared to have a won position but ran out of time as a stalemate position appeared on the board. Bill hadn’t had the chance to claim a win on time and so the game and the match were drawn.

Everyone, particularly the two Todmorden ‘A’ players who had stopped by on the way home from Belgrave to watch the match, breathed a sigh of relief. These two teams couldn’t be split at the start of the night and they remained locked together with identical records at the end of the night too.

Here’s the match score card:

 Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs. Halifax ‘A’
I.Lewyk ½ — ½ D.Ursal
A.Bak ½ — ½  W.Somerset
P.Leonard 0 — 1 W.Williams
N.Sykes ½ — ½  S.Scurfield
D.Shapland 1 — 0 C.Velosa
2½ — 2½

All this means that Todmorden ‘A’ take a single match point and a three and a half board point lead into the final round of fixtures where they will host Hebden Bridge ‘A’. If Todmorden win or draw that match they will be champions. If Hebden win and Halifax don’t beat Todmorden ‘B’ then Hebden will be champions and if Halifax do beat Tod ‘B’ then they will need Hebden to win by a smaller margin than them to retain their title. Get it? Someone asked on Monday what happens if Hebden and Halifax win by the same margin. Who wins the title then or is a tie declared? Unless Halifax win by virtue of alphabetical order I don’t know the answer to this. Does anyone else?

Whatever happens the final round is sure to be just as tense and thrilling as this one. Maybe Halifax could agree to switch venues and play their home match at Todmorden so that all three top teams can be in the same room. That would be fun!

Mar 192015
Remember this entertaining end to one of the ski-cross races from last year's Winter Olympics in Sochi as three competitors fell and slid across the finishing line almost in unison. This season's League 1 title race has been similarly close with no-one team able to assert their authority for long. Which of the final three contenders will step up to take the title this year?

Remember this entertaining end to one of the ski-cross races from last year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi as three competitors fell and slid across the finishing line almost in unison. This season’s League 1 title race has been similarly close with no-one team able to assert their authority for long. Which of the final three contenders will step up to take the title this year?

It’s that time of year again! Calderdale League 1 now has just two rounds left to play following this week’s fixtures and there are still four teams in with a shot at the title.

On Monday night two of the title rivals got the opportunity to inspect each other’s credentials as they played at the same venue, though not against each other. At Todmorden Working Men’s Club, Todmorden ‘A’ began the night at the top of the table on board count (by one board!) as they hosted Courier ‘A’. Across the other side of the room Todmorden ‘B’, who are at the foot of the table and look doomed for the drop despite the doubtlessly spirited resistance they put up each match, took on the second placed side Hebden Bridge ‘A’.

Meanwhile over in Halifax, Halifax ‘A’ (the third team on the same number of match points at the top of the table) were playing host to Belgrave side in desperate need of a win to avoid occupying the other relegation spot at the end of the season. Finally, at Brighouse, Huddersfield were visiting in the hopes of capitalising on any slip ups from the top three as they lurked just two points behind them.

Your correspondent was at Todmorden, so let’s start by describing the action there. Hebden Bridge arrived with a good side but were unfortunately without the three strongest players who had helped them pull off the feat of winning two matches on the same night a few weeks ago. Despite this it looked like they would have enough to beat Tod ‘B’ Indeed the match got off to a great start for them (a hallmark of their recent form) when they won the first two boards to finish.

On board 3 Dave Shapland played patiently and solidly on the Black side of a Queens Gambit Declined Exchange Variation against Rob Collier. Rob has had some excellent results recently whilst Dave has been on poor form and so it seemed that the higher rated player was taking careful precautions not to be the victim of a giant killing. However, as the game progressed it became clear that it was becoming harder and harder for White to play actively and improve his position whilst Black had control of the half-open e-file and had successfully planted a knight on e4. All it took was one slip from Rob for Dave to pounce and sacrifice the knight on f2. This drew the White king into the open and Rob quickly realised that his goose was cooked.

Meanwhile on board 4, Todmorden’s Captain Dave Milton was giving his higher rated opponent John Allan a serious run for his money. In a Queen’s Gambit Accepted, Dave got and held onto a very promising looking position but his old enemy the clock, crept up on him and his standard of play diminished as his time crisis grew. Finally, John recovered from his poor start and went on to the attack and when a forcing sequence of moves netted him the exchange and a pawn, Dave resigned. It was 0 — 2 to Hebden.

With Todmorden ‘A’ playing just across the room it was too much of a temptation not to flit between the two matches especially as, at this stage of the evening, Hebden Bridge looked like they held winning advantages on boards 1 and 2 and were drawing at worst on board 5. The Todmorden versus Courier match looked like a much tenser affair although Tod took charge early on as Andrew Clarkson smote down Dave Colledge on board 5 with what looked like consummate ease. With such a large gap in ratings between the two players this was no surprise.

Around about the same time Pete Mulleady and John Morgan agreed a draw on board 3 leaving Todmorden a point to the good. However, on board 4 Carlos Gil Fresno was in horrendous time trouble against John Cawston and was at the added disadvantage of having to play a terribly complicated position. Cawston has been in excellent form recently so it looked like Courier might equalise there. The top two boards were close but on board 1 Todmorden’s Martin Hamer seemed to have built up quite a bit of pressure against Tony Slinger. On board 2 Phil Cook versus Dave Patrick looked like anybody’s game and was complicated enough to be a mystery.

Back in the Hebden Bridge match with Tod ‘B’ the visitor’s pace had slowed as on board 5 Richard Bedford and Martin Syrett agreed to a repetition in a queen and pawn ending that certainly appeared to be dead level. Unfortunately for Hebden though, things had gone wrong for Nick Sykes against Mike Huett on board 2. Nick had won a pawn and held a winning advantage I the endgame but he overlooked a cheapo and wandered into a knight fork that lost him a piece. Still, he had a pawn for the piece, looked like he might be able to win another and with so few pawns left on the board, Mike’s task was far from easy.

At least Hebden were able to secure the match win as Pete Leonard completed a dominating victory over Mick Connor. The home player essayed a line of the Catalan in which White sacrifices a pawn. On this occasion however it didn’t seem like he managed to get any compensation as Pete simply kept the pawn and advanced menacingly on the queen’s side. Connor defended tenaciously but eventually Hebden’s Captain broke through to seal the match win.

Back over at the Todmorden ‘A’ match the situation changed from being tight to being a landslide victory as they rattled off victories on the remaining boards in quick succession. First Martin Hamer’s pressure was finally too much for Tony Slinger to resist. Similarly on board two Phil Cook applied more and more pressure until Dave Patrick cracked and finally, on board 3 Carlos Gil Fresno not only survived the first time crisis but improved his position and then somehow defended another assault wave with his flag hanging to even beat John Cawston on time!!! This was a bonus result for Tod as a draw seemed the best Gil-Fresno could achieve. However the result left them with a superb final score line of 4.5-0.5.

The only game now remaining in play was the board 2 match between Mike Huett and Nick Sykes in the Tod ‘B’ vs. Hebden match. Nick, obviously furious with himself for blundering away a winning advantage carried on playing a piece down in the end game and it soon became clear Mike would have to play accurately to convert his material advantage because there were so few pawns left on the board. However, convert he eventually did to give his team’s score line a more respectable look.

Here is the score card for the Hebden match:

Todmorden ‘B’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘A’
M.Connor 0 — 1 P.Leonard
M.Huett 1 — 0 N.Sykes
R.Collier 0 — 1 D.Shapland
D.Milton 0 — 1 J. Allan
R.Bedford ½ — ½ M.Syrett
1½ — 3½

So, Tod ‘A’ and Hebden had done their job with Todmorden increasing their board points advantage over Hebden to two. Over at the Lee Mount Club in Halifax the hosts were also keeping themselves right in the hunt as they thrashed Belgrave 4½ — ½. Bill Somerset drew with Ian Hunter on board 1 but the rest of the games went to Winston Williams, Darwin Ursal, Richard Porter and Carlos Velosa in board order. Halifax’s league statistics are now identical to Hebden Bridge’s and these two teams play each other at Hebden on the 30th of March with the winner staying in the title race and the loser dropping out of it! These are the two form sides in the League right now so it should be an epic encounter.

The final match of this round of fixtures took place in Brighouse were the hosts faced a very strong Huddersfield side who were licking their wounds from two successive league defeats and desperate to stay within a couple of points of the leading trio. On board 1 Robert Broadbent did very well to draw with Leo Keely and on board 4 Paul Whitehouse did even better to draw with Dave Keddie but the other three games all went to Huddersfield with Mitchell Burke winning against Bruce Bendall on board 2, Matthew Parsons beating Nick Hudson on board 3 and Dave Tooley beating Ron Grandage on board 5.

Below are the games from the Hebden Bridge match against Todmorden ‘B’. My thanks as always to Pete Leonard and Nick Sykes for their annotations.

Feb 052015
Nick Sykes (left) is in sparkling form at the moment having won three games in three weeks for Hebden Bridge 'A'

Nick Sykes (left) is in sparkling form at the moment having won three games in three weeks for Hebden Bridge ‘A’

It was a third consecutive week of Calderdale League chess for Hebden Bridge ‘A’ on Monday night at the Trades Club as they played hosts to Belgrave from Halifax.

Having lost three of their six matches played before Christmas Hebden have gone on a brilliant run since the Christmas break starting out with wins over Todmorden ‘A’ and Courier ‘A’. Both those teams were higher rated on average than they were. This time however they knew that the boot would be on the other foot as Belgrave’s regular line up was slightly weaker than their own. Of course, having lost to Belgrave away earlier in the season Hebden were taking absolutely nothing for granted and when the visitors turned up with seven players (two of whom had never played for them before!) the home team knew they were in for a tough night.

Once Belgrave had decided on who was actually going to sit down and play it became apparent that the match would probably be decided on the lower boards where Hebden held modest rating advantages. However, all of the match ups were close enough to indicate that a tense night was in prospect. And so it turned out to be as all five games were contested fiercely.

The board two encounter was the first to finish. Here, Dave Shapland secured himself a decent advantage against Gordon Farrar’s Philidor’s Defence which developed idiosyncratically when Gordon played the unusual 4…g6!? Dave elected to play the position a little bit like a Yugoslav Attack and castled on the opposite side of the board to Gordon. Ultimately all but the heavy pieces were traded and Dave opened the h-file. It looked at various stages like he should have cashed his chips and won Gordon’s backward d-pawn but Dave didn’t think this would give him a clear enough edge in the rook ending and engine analysis suggests he may have been right. Dave tried to set up a diabolic trap but when Gordon side-stepped that a draw was the inevitable result.

At that point in the night it was very much unclear as to whether or not this first result would be a good one for Hebden or not because all the other games were very close fought and could conceivably have gone either way.

That all changed when, on board 5, Martin Syrett concluded a vicious attack on Mike Barnett’s king by compelling his opponent to give up his queen for knight and bishop. Then in the scramble to reach the time control Mike made an error that allowed a fork and with the loss of one of his two pieces he resigned. Hebden had the lead.

Next up Andy Leatherbarrow bagged his second win in succession by converting a minor piece ending against Angel Gonzalez. These two had swapped off the queen’s very early in the game but the resultant queen less middles game was complicated and Andy found himself in his habitual time crisis which was compounded by Angel seemingly trying to blitz him. But Andy made the time control with a small advantage which he converted when Angel walked his knight into a pin. By this time Andy was down to his last 5 minutes but he just had enough time to convert the endgame for Hebden’s second win of the night.

It was only fitting that Nick ‘Syko’ Sykes should score the winning point for his team on board 3. He’s in a real purple patch at the moment and has now won all three of his games for Hebden in 2015. He was facing Karim Khan, a man who is himself having a really strong season and has claimed several scalps, including Nick’s Hebden teammate Dave Shapland, in the reverse fixture last Autumn.

This could have been a banana skin for Nick but if it was he never looked in danger of slipping up as he subjected Karim to the ‘Spanish Torture’. Karim just could find an active plan and Nick seemed to have all the time in the world to build up a huge attack on the Black king which finally crashed through to give White victory.

Hebden had won the match but there was still one board playing. Here Belgrave’s new recruit, Ian Hunter, was up against Hebden’s Captain Pete Leonard. It looked like Pete had landed himself in trouble straight out of the opening as Ian gained a very comfortable position. In this game too the clock situation was very tense as the players embroiled themselves in a very complicated rook and two minor pieces ending. Peter was subjected to intense pressure but seemed to have built himself a fortress with his knight on g1 and his rook holding the position together on the second rank while Ian’s bishop had no targets because Pete had pawns on the opposite colour squares. However, it was one of those positions where Ian could manoeuvre almost endlessly and eventually Pete ran out of time at the same moment that he made a mistake that seemed to have allowed Ian in. this was an unfortunate outcome for Pete who had defended himself staunchly.

Here’s the final match scorecard:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs. Belgrave
P.Leonard 0 — 1 I.Hunter
D.Shapland ½ — ½ G.Farrar
N.Sykes 1 — 0 K.Khan
A.Leatherbarrow 1 — 0 A.Gonzalez
M.Syrett 1 — 0 M.Barnett
3½ — 1½

Elsewhere this week both the title race and the relegation battle heated up as giants tumbled.

In Todmorden the ‘A’ team continued their yo-yo form with a surprising defeat at the hands of Brighouse. The hosts had rightly been concerned about fielding a slightly weaker team than usual last week against a full strength Halifax ‘A’ but they had won that match by a four point margin. What could go wrong against the lowly Brighouse? As it turned out plenty. At Halifax Tod’s top three boards had powered them to victory. This time out they could only muster two draws and one win on board two for Carlos Gil-Fresno against Robert Broadbent. That opened the door for Brighouse’s bottom boards to spring a massive surprise as they won on both 4 and 5 to claim the match 2 — 3. This result still leaves Todmorden ‘A’ top of the league on 14 points but now it’s only on board count. The result also propels Brighouse 2 points clear of the relegation scrap and means that Belgrave have a good deal of work to do to reel them in as the two teams have now met twice and drawn twice.

Also at Todmorden, their ‘B’ team took on Courier ‘A’ who recovered from their defeat at the hands of Hebden Bridge last week by soundly thrashing their hosts 4½ — ½. They move to 12 points, within touching distance of the leaders. Tod ‘B’ despite being competitive in every match are rock bottom.

Undoubtedly the most mouth-watering and certainly the most critical tie of the week in terms of the title race was played out last night at Huddersfield between the hosts and the title holders Halifax ‘A’. The visitors knew that this was a must win encounter as victory for Huddersfield would place them 6 points clear of the champions — too much ground to make up. However, Halifax bounced back from the disappointment of losing to Todmorden last week as they walloped the home team 1 – 4. Only Matthew Parsons on board 1 could manage a win against Bill Somerset. Huddersfield’s storming start to the season now seems like a distant memory and their line up seems to have got weaker, not stronger as the season has worn on.

All of this means that ther are no five teams within 2 points of each other at the top of the table. We now have two weeks off before the next round of fixtures sees Courier ‘A’ hosting Halifax and Huddersfield playing at home against Todmorden ‘A’. Hebden host Brighouse and they certainly won’t be taking them lightly after their triumph this week. The title race is well and truly on!

Jan 312015
Despite the wintery weather over the last few weeks there has been plenty of bright chess played by Hebden Bridge's chess teams. This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from Jan Scott Nelson's Flickr photo stream

Despite the wintery weather over the last few weeks there has been plenty of bright chess played by Hebden Bridge’s chess teams. This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from Jan Scott Nelson’s Flickr photo stream

What with the various postponed fixtures around the Christmas and New Year period it’s no surprise to see that there has been a flurry of activity in the Calderdale League over the last couple of weeks. Hebden Bridge ‘A’ hosted the league leaders Todmorden ‘A’ last Monday and then this Monday gone found themselves at the Belgrave Social Club for a match against Courier ‘A’.

We’ll com back to the ‘A’ team in a moment but first let’s cover the League 2 results from the Trades Club last Monday where, for the first time in a long time all three Hebden teams were playing at the same time.

Danny Crampton’s Hebden Bridge ‘B’ team have looked like they mean business this season and are contending for the second promotion spot  with Todmorden ‘C’ in a title race that already looks to be over as Halifax ‘B’ top the table by 5 points from these other two. Crampton’s barmy army faced the bottom team in the division, Courier ‘B’, for a match that looked on paper like it would be straight forward for the hosts.

It didn’t turn out that way when each team fielded 4 players and agreed to default a board each rather than pairing up the two ‘spare’ players. Therefore the match became essentially a three board affair and Hebden were right up against it when Neil Bamford went down to Paul Jacobs in an entertaining game. This meant that both John Allan on board 1 and Martin Syrett on board 2 needed to beat Dave Colledge and John Smith respectively to win the match. This they duly did but not without adventure.

The final match score card was:

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ vs. Courier ‘B’
J.Allan 1 — 0 D.Colledge
M.Syrett 1 — 0 J.B.Smith
N.Bamford 0 — 1 P.Jacobs
DEFAULT 0 — 1 R.Bottomley
D.Crampton 1 — 0 DEFAULT
3 — 2

Meanwhile John Kerrane’s ‘development’ team were paired against Todmorden ’C’ and found it to be a tough assignment. Hebden defaulted their fourth board and fielded two of their juniors in the line up against a squad of seasoned Todmorden veterans. The result was a ½ — 4½ thrashing for the home team with just captain Kerrane saving their dignity with a draw against his old foe Dave Milton.

Here’s the scorecard:

Hebden Bridge ‘C’ vs. Todmorden ‘C’
J.Kerrane ½ — ½ D.Milton
R.Deravairere 0 — 1 P.Logan
T.Dodd 0 — 1 T.Webster
DEFAULT 0 — 1 R.Pratt
M.Leggett 0 — 1 B.Joyce
½ — 4½

Various games from these two League 2 encounters are posted in the game viewer at the end of this article. All of this means that Courier ‘B’ stay rooted to the bottom of the table with Hebden ‘C’ just above them. At the top Hebden ‘B’ and Todmorden ‘C’ are still level on points and very close on board count in second and third positions.

Now, to the League 1 action. Hebden Bridge ‘A’ entered these latest fixtures with very little expectation of scoring any points for both Todmorden ‘A’ and Courier ‘A’ out graded them on most if not all boards. However, Hebden are capable of pulling off results against the very best sides in the division on their red letter days and they actually had two of these on the last two Mondays as they first took down the League leaders’ strongest possible line up and then dispatched Courier in a storm of decisive games.

Let’s deal with Todmorden’s visit first. They arrived with Messrs Hamer, Mulleady, Cook, Gil Fresno and Clarkson all of whom sported ratings of 170 or above in the December Yorkshire ratings. This must be one of the most formidable line ups there has been for many a long year in the Calderdale League and Hebden were out rated by 20 points or more on each of the bottom four boards!

Unfortunately for them Todmorden ‘A’ have a pretty awful record at Hebden and this occasion was not to prove any happier for them. The first game to finish was the board 1 match up between Andy Bak and Martin Hamer. On paper this was the tightest match up of the five boards with Andy being rated only a little lower than Martin. Andy met the Alekhine’s Defence in a calm and positional fashion aiming to shut down Blacks active chances and slowly improve his position. He did this very successfully, put Martin under pressure and duly converted the full point when his opponent made a tactical error.

The scores were soon level as Andrew Clarkson overturned Andy Leatherbarrow on board 5. Andy essayed a classical line against Andrew’s Pirc and seemed to be caught off guard by his opponent’s slightly offbeat response. He ended up losing on time in a pretty terrible position. Anyone wanting to play in this way against Andrew in the future will need to look carefully at what happened here to find improvements for White.

The next two games to finish concluded one after the other. First of all Nick Sykes pounced on a tactical blunder to compel instant resignation from Carlos Gil Fresno. In fairness Nick had already succeeded in obtaining a very comfortable position against Black’s Sicilian Sveshnikov opening.

Directly after this Todmorden were level again as Phil Cook dispatched Dave Shapland on board 3. This game went wrong for Dave very early on as Phil chose an interesting and offbeat line of the Two Knights Defence. Dave played logically but in this instance that wasn’t enough and when he was tempted into the speculative sacrifice of a piece for two pawns and an exposed Black king it soon turned out that Black was more than comfortable defending himself. Once the players had reached a simplified ending it became all too easy for Black to convert his advantage.

This meant that the match came down to the battle of the Pete’s (Leonard and Mulleady) on board 2. This game was decided by a double time-crisis. Right before time control Pete Mulleady seemed in very grave danger in a still complicated position. However, Pete Leonard was the one who overlooked a tactic when he missed a discovery on his queen that lost her majesty for a rook and bishop. This should have been enough for Todmorden’s Pete to convert the game after the time control but Leonard’s two bishops and rook were extremely irritating against the Black queen and knight. Mulleady got himself into time trouble for a second time and this time his opponent did capitalise as Black stumbled into a mating net.

And so the match was decided only at the very end of a compelling and tense evening with Hebden edging it by the odd point in five decisive encounters. Here’s the match scorecard:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs. Todmorden ‘A’
A.Bak 1 — 0 M.Hamer
P.Leonard 1 — 0 P.Mulleady
D.Shapland 0 — 1 P.Cook
N.Sykes 1 — 0 C.Gil Fresno
A.Leatherbarrow 0 — 1 A.Clarkson
3 — 2

All five games can be found in the game viewer at the end of this post. I promise you won’t fail to be entertained and/or interested by any of them!

Now let me bring you completely up to date with this week’s action. On Monday night Hebden Bridge ‘A’ returned to battle again with a trip to face Courier ‘A’ in Halifax. Despite the previous week’s heroic effort none of the side expected anything other than a very tough match against another team who matched or bettered them rating-wise across all five boards.

If anything the Hebden men were on even more inspired form as the demolished their opponents convincingly despite losing the first game of the night to finish. This was the board 2 match up between the two team captains Dave Patrick and Pete Leonard. This time Pete was on the losing side having been the hero the week previously. This game would make and excellent companion to the Bak vs. Hamer game mentioned above for again White opted for a slow positional squeeze against the Alekhine Defence and again Black struggled to cope and was ground down.

It looked like it was going to be a long hard night for the visitors but that was when everything changed. First of all Andy Bak beat Tony Slinger on board 1 in a King’s Indian come Benko Gambit that got very sharp indeed at the end . However, once it became clear White had nothing to show for his efforts down the h-file Black was simply much better.

Not long after this Andy Leatherbarrow converted the material advantage he accrued against Dave Colledge fairly early in the game as he navigated through all the tricks and complications Dave could throw at him to put Hebden in the lead.

Nick Sykes won a splendid and extremely interesting battle against John Cawston on board 4. The game started out as a rather unfashionable Tarrasch Variation but perhaps players should look at this variation again for it was once a favourite of Garry Kasparov and contains more than a drop of poison. Nick sacrificed the exchange in thematic fashion and then demonstrated again that he is in excellent form this season by winning the ensuing ending which looked vey uncomfortable for his opponent.

This time the match was decided before the last game finished but Hebden won it all the same. Dave Shapland opted for a reputable and solid set up against John Morgan’s English Opening and the position developed along the lines of a reversed Classical Dragon. This system is very hard for White to break down and as the tension in the centre built John correctly opted to force simplifications that seemd to guarantee Black equal play.

However, the double rook, bishop and knight end game that emerged was very complicated and both players started to consume time on the clock as they tried to navigate accurately through the tactics. Dave thought he’d found a cunning way to set up a pin on the c-file that would net him a piece. John saw the idea and believed it but overlooked a couple of ways it could have been side-stepped when he instead opted to give up his knight for two pawns.

Dave now had two rooks and a knight against John’s two rooks and with the time control reached he had plenty of breathing space to improve his position and tie John up. He still managed to make heavy weather of it at the end and it was only when John, under pressure on the clock, made a tactical error that Dave was able to cause devastation with his knight and round up a splendid performance for the team on the night.

Here is the match scorecard:

Courier ‘A’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘A’
T.Slinger 0 — 1 A.Bak
D.Patrick 1 — 0 P.Leonard
J.Morgan 0 — 1 D.Shapland
J.Cawston 0 — 1 N.Sykes
D.Colledge 0 — 1 A.Leatherbarrow
1 — 4

Again, there are annotated games form this match in the game viewer below. I’ll provide a full update on the league positions in the first division next week as there is another round of action on Monday when Hebden Bridge ‘A’ will once again be at home, this time to Belgrave.

Jan 162015

In part two of my review of 2014 we’ll cover summer and Autumn period. With the Calderdale and Yorkshire league seasons completed in May you might have been forgiven for thinking that nothing much would have been going on in the summer but you’d be quite wrong.

ECF County Championship

July: Syrett vs. Shapland - Hebden Bridge Summer Rapidplay. Black to play. With both players in dreadful time trouble White has understandably just offered simplifications with 28.Qd2. How should Black respond? Solution in the game viewer at the end of this post.

July: Syrett vs. Shapland – Hebden Bridge Summer Rapidplay. Black to play. With both players in dreadful time trouble White has understandably just offered simplifications with 28.Qd2. How should Black respond? Solution in the game viewer at the end of this post.

Pete Leonard, Andy Leatherbarrow and Dave Shapland all took part in the Yorkshire under 160 team’s superb run to the final of the county championships. In May Dave and Pete travelled to Penrith to play their part in the demolition of Cumbria in the qualifiers. Andy joined them for the quarter final match against Essex which saw the Yorkshiremen avenge their defeat to the same side in the 2013 final. Dave missed the semi-final win against Cambridgeshire and, unfortunately, Pete was unavailable for the final which was played, along with all the other finals, in Warwick in July.

Both Andy and Dave won their games in the final against Middlesex as Yorkshire struggled on the top eight boards but swept their opponents aside on the lower boards where they scored 7/8!

Yorkshire also won the ‘Open’ section of the County Championships when they thrashed another Middlesex team 11½ – 4½. This included a fine win by HebdenBridge’s occasional guest star Matty Webb. This was just one step on the road to a fabulously successful season for Matty. 2014 saw his rating shoot up and he currently occupies the number 3 spot on the Yorkshire Chess Association rating list.

Summer competitions

September: Bak vs. Eagleton - Calderdale League. White is the exchange down but he has the initiative. Can you see a way to take advantage?

September: Bak vs. Eagleton – Calderdale League. White to play. White is the exchange down but he has the initiative. Can you see a way to take advantage?

During the summer the club held two rapidplay competitions in which particpants played each other twice with 30 minutes each on the clock. The ‘A’ group was won by Matthew Parsons who was dominant through out and only lost one game to Dave Shapland. There were a good number of highly entertaining games played in the top section.

As preparations for the new league season began some warm up activity was organised to get players back into the swing of things. First of all six of our members travelled to Keighley chess club to play in a return friendly match to the one played at the Trades Club in 2013. Keighley took revenage for their away defeat the previous year by winning this match 4 — 2. Neil Bamford was the only Hebden player to win but both John Kerrane and Nick Sykes took creditable draws.

The following week Matty Webb agreed to play a simultaneous match against all-comers at the Trades Club. Ten players took up the challenge in which Matty generously (or foolishly perhaps!) agreed to play all the games sat standard Calderdale League time limits. He still scored 9 out of 10 conceding draws to Matthew Parsons and Martin Syrett and losing just one to Danny Crampton who sneakily played at high speed and survived long enough to win the game on time when Matty didn’t notice what he was up to.

Then came the Club Lightning competition which was won in fine style by John Allan with a score of 5½/6. Pete Leonard and Dave Shapland trailled on a point and a half behind him on 4 and John Kerrane and Nick Sykes were next on 3½.

October: Leonard vs. Morgan - Calderdale League. White to play. With such a lead in development it's no surprise to find White can proceed in sacrificial style. What's his best continuation?

October: Leonard vs. Morgan – Calderdale League. White to play. With such a lead in development it’s no surprise to find White can proceed in sacrificial style. What’s his best continuation?

Calderdale League 2014-15

After the warm ups came the serious business of the new league season. The club decided to field three teams across the two leagues this year as our pool of willing league participants continued to dwindle. Most significantly Matthew Parsons made the decision to return to representing Huddersfield after a four year stint playing in the HebdenBridge ‘A’ team. That loss was keenly felt but the ‘A’ team began the season pretty solidly as they almost took advantage of Huddersfield arriving at the Trades Club with only four players in the first round and then beat Courier ‘A’ in fine style in round 2. Andy Bak on board 1, Pete Leonard on 2 and Nick Sykes on 4 all played brilliantly to beat strong opponents.

Subsequently it’s been a bit of a mixed bag for the ‘A’s as they followed their surprise win over Courier with a surprise defeat to Belgrave but then beat both Brighouse and Todmorden ‘B’ before succumbing to a very strong Halifax ‘A’ team despite drawing on the top two boards.

October: Sykes vs. Clegg - Calderdale League. White to play. How did Nick cap a really fine thematic game from this position?

October: Sykes vs. Clegg – Calderdale League. White to play. How did Nick cap a really fine thematic game from this position?

League 1 is warming up to be another fascinating contest this season as the reigning champions Halifax ‘A’ have recovered from a slow start to get themselves back in contention whilst Huddersfield started tremendously but have subsequently slipped up to allow their rivals to close up on them. Todmorden ‘A’ and Halifax look like the main contenders although Courier aren’t out of the race just yet.

In league 2 both the ‘B’ and ‘C’ teams have found life difficult. League 2 has just six teams in it this year and our teams occupy the 4th and 5th places at present with one win and one draw a piece. Danny Crampton has taken up the captaincy of the ‘B’ team and after beating Courier ‘B’ in the first round his side have managed only a draw against Halifax ‘C’ in the subsequent three matches.

Meanwhile John Kerrane’s ‘C’ team have performed identically to pick up the same number of match points and they trial their ‘B’ team colleagues only on game points at the moment.

Halifax ‘B’ are the dominant force in League 2 thus far and they already have a decent lead over Todmorden ‘C’ and Halifax ‘C’. The two Hebden sides are still close enough to challenge for second place here.

Yorkshire League

Calderdale ‘A’ are maintaining the same position they finished in last year by occupying the middle of the Division 1 table after 5 rounds. In League 2, Calderdale ‘B’ have started in rather lacklustre fashion with one win, one draw and three defeats so far. They’ll need to up their game to be sure of avoiding relegation this season. Hebden regulars Andy Leatherbarrow, John Allan and Martin Syrett look poised to assist in this task with John continuing his excellent form of last season in this competition.

December: Webb vs. Guramishvili, London Chess Classic FIDE Open. It's White to play. He's sacrificed a piece on d5 to open the e-file. How should he proceed to capitalise on that. This is straight out of the opening book so anyone wanting to play the Najdorf needs to know this idea!

December: Webb vs. Guramishvili, London Chess Classic FIDE Open. It’s White to play. He’s sacrificed a piece on d5 to open the e-file. How should he proceed to capitalise on that. This is straight out of the opening book so anyone wanting to play the Najdorf needs to know this idea!

London Chess Classic

In December I was fortunate to have the opportunity to visit the London Chess Classic and see the opening round of the main competition. Whilst I was there I was surprised but very pleased to get the opportunity to meet one of my chess heroes, Garry Kasparov! The former world champion was there for a book signing and I wasn’t going to miss out on that opportunity. Of course I spent the whole time in the queue trying to think of something meaningful to say to him and then pretty much stuffed it up when I got to the front of the queue. Never mind, I now own a signed copy of the second part of his chess biography ‘Kasparov on Kasparov’ which I can certainly recommend to anyone who’s interested in some literature on his career.

In the end I only spent a little bit of time inside the chess classic itself because I predominantly wanted to follow Matty Webb’s game in the FIDE Open that was taking place alongside. To my great delight he played a game in a theoretical line of the French that I play myself against a Grandmaster in the form of Neil McDonald. It was an interesting game that ended in a draw.

Matty played extremely well in the tournament and I’ve included a game he won against WGM Sopiko Guramishvili in round 2. Anyone who watched the recent World Chess Championship match will know that Sopiko was co-commentator with Peter Svidler so this was a high-profile scalp for Matty to take.

The full games, some with commentary, are featured in the game viewer below so that you can find the solutions to the positions given in the article as well.

Nov 292014
Reigning champions Halifax 'A' are 'tooled up' and back in the hunt for this year's League 1 title after beating Hebden Bridge on Monday and seeing leaders Huddersfield go down on Wednesday. This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from Neil Moralee's Flickr photo stream

Reigning champions Halifax ‘A’ are ‘tooled up’ and back in the hunt for this year’s League 1 title after beating Hebden Bridge on Monday and seeing leaders Huddersfield go down on Wednesday. This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from Neil Moralee’s Flickr photo stream

As the Calderdale League 1 season draws towards the half way mark the title race became a whole lot more interesting this week. The round 6 fixtures began on Monday night with Huddersfield sitting pretty at the top of the pile with a perfect score of ten match points from their first five matches. Todmorden ‘A’ were on two points behind them and reigning champions Halifax ‘A’ were two more points off the pace on just six points along with Hebden Bridge ‘A’.

However, by the end of Wednesday night, as Huddersfield were surprisingly beaten at home by Courier, the table had closed right up. In fact, Todmorden ‘A’ are now at the top of the heap on board score as they trounced Belgrave at home 4 — 1. Huddersfield are now in second and Halifax have put themselves right back into contention as they beat Hebden Bridge ‘A’ at home 4 — 1 and now lie just two points off the pace. Hebden and Courier are on six points each and still have an outside shot at the title as well.

The story of Hebden Bridge’s trip to Halifax on Monday night is full of interest. As expected, Halifax put together a very strong line up on the top three boards where the visitors were entertained by Winston Williams, Darwin Ursal and Bill Somerset. All of these players are rated over 180 whilst their opponents from Hebden Bridge were all in the 150’s. On the bottom two boards however the ratings between the two sides were much closer and so the pressure was on Hebden Bridge to score well here if they were to have any hopes of upsetting the applecart at the Lee Mount Club for a third successive year.

Sadly for Hebden lightning rarely strikes three times and this occasion was to be no different as, after hard fought encounters on all five boards, Halifax ran out comfortable winners. The first game to finish was the board 5 match up between Halifax’s captain, Carlos Velosa and Andy Leatherbarrow of Hebden Bridge.

The game began in fairly obscure fashion as Carlos employed his habitual opening move of 1.f4 but soon the game began to look a bit like a Closed Sicilian and Andy appeared to be doing quite well. Then came a pretty and amusing series of moves where both players offered and declined or were unable to accept pieces sacrifices. Carlos’s king seemed to be vulnerable at one moment but he found counter play by skewering Andy’s queen to a rook. Now it was Andy’s turn to seek compensation for the exchange but, just as he seemed to be building up pressure on Carlos’s king again the Halifax player found a precise series of checks that forced his capitulation. Carlos has very kindly sent us the game with some notes and it’s in the viewer at the end of this post.

Soon after it got even worse for Hebden as Martin Syrett lost to Scott Gornall on board 4. It looked like the kind of messy encounter Martin usually thrives on but on this occasion Scott coped with the complications better and Halifax had a 2 — 0 lead with their big guns still to finish.

The match could well have ended in a humbling whitewash for the visitors but they were rescued from that fate by their captain Pete Leonard who held Winston Williams to a draw fairly comfortably on board 1. In fact, as Pete points out in his notes to the game (which is in the viewer at the end of this post) he missed several good opportunities to play for a win and at the end it looked if anything like his position was for preference in a rook, knight and pawn ending.

Shortly after this game ended so did the game on board 3 where Nick Sykes debated the King’s Indian Defence with Bill Somerset. This was a heavyweight theoretical duel for Bill plays the King’s Indian with both colours and Nick has beaten some strong players with the opening himself. In the end Bill’s experience paid off as, although the honours in the opening phase were even, Bill slowly outplayed Nick in the middle game and managed to negotiate some acute time pressure to secure the win.

This just left the board two game between Darwin Ursal and Dave Shapland. The first surprise of this game was that Dave chose not to play his favourite Budapest Gambit (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5!?) but instead opted for the Semi-Slav which is a more solid, yet still dynamic opening. He’d used this to reasonable effect in a previous game against Darwin but had lost in the end.

On this occasion Dave captalised on the relatively unambitious continuation chosen by Darwin that left him with no real opportunities to put Black under pressure. Darwin then felt compelled to resort to some murky but dubious complications but the gamble could have paid off for he missed one rather difficult opportunity to win an exchange and after that he was under pressure for much of the rest of the game.

Dave too missed a gilt-edged opportunity to hang on to an extra piece that Darwin felt he was going to regain after a tricky series of forcing moves and after that, although he was never in any danger of losing in the resulting rook and minor piece end game, Dave never had quite enough of an advantage to put the game away and had to settle for a draw.

Here is the final match scorecard:

Halifax ‘A’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘A’
W.Williams ½ — ½ P.Leonard
D.Ursal ½ — ½ D.Shapland
W.Somerset 1 — 0 N.Sykes
S.Gornall 1 — 0 M.Syrett
C.Velosa 1 — 0 A.Leatherbarrow
4 — 1

As well as four of the games from this match, the game viewer below also contains Matthew Parsons draw on board 1 against Tony Slinger of Courier ‘A’. Courier have been something of a bête noir for Huddersfield in the past and so it proved again on Wednesday as Huddersfield were without Messrs Keeley, Eagleton and Burke. Despite that they still had a strong enough side to beat their visitors but the board match ups were far more balanced than they would have been and in the end Courier’s Dave Patrick beat Dave Keddie on board 2 and Robert Clegg beat Dave Tooley on board 4 to give Courier a crucial win.

Remember that there is a League EGM at the Belgrave Social Club, Claremount Road, Halifax this Monday the 1st of December. This meeting has been held to propose and discuss possible changes to the league structure and so it’s very important that representatives from each club are present.

Nov 142014

UK_CalderdaleReports of its death are greatly exaggerated!

The 2014-15 edition of the Calderdale Individual Chess Championship began on Monday night at the Trades Club in Hebden Bridge. This competition follows its usual (but unusual) format of being played at the rate of one round per month between November and March…

A full round 1 report and games can be found on the Yorkshire Chess website

Nov 072014
Any other teams who wish to donate a point head start to our 'A' team this season  please apply in advance so that we can advise our own corresponding player not to travel. Thanks! This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from Howard Lake's Flickr photostream

Any other teams who wish to donate a point head start to our ‘A’ team this season please apply in advance so that we can advise our own corresponding player not to travel. Thanks! This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from Howard Lake’s Flickr photostream

As I mentioned in last week’s post, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ played the second of their back to back fixtures at the Trades Club on Monday against Todmorden’B’. Their opponents may have been winless and at the foot of the table but victory could not be taken for granted as all the boards saw match ups of similar rated players. This was going to be a tough task for Hebden and so it proved.

Once again Hebden were handed a huge boost at the start of the night when Todmorden’s board 3, Dave Innes, failed to appear meaning that, for the third time this season, Hebden had been donated a point’s start by their opponents. Last week at Brighouse they made it count and they’d almost squeezed something from Huddersfield in the first fixture of the season as well. Could they capitalise this time around?

Nick Sykes was the man left on the sidelines this week although, having played in a bruising British Rapidplay Championship at the weekend, he seemed unperturbed at not getting a game. Instead he got to watch as a tense and enthralling set of encounters unfolded.

Martin Syrett was the first to finish against Rob Collier on board 5. Your correspondent didn’t get to see a great deal of this game but it seemed to end rather abruptly after a pretty lengthy and close-run contest. Hebden were, for the third time in five matches this season, 2 — 0 up.

Todmorden got a point back half an hour or so later when Todmorden’s Mike Huett broke through to Andy Leatherbarrow’s king in a contest where the players had contested a lively looking closed Sicilian.

Now it was down to the top two boards to decide the encounter with Hebden a point up. In truth Todmorden never really looked like they were going to trouble their Hebden counterparts on these top two boards although in the end, and after much struggle they did hold both games. On board 1 Pete Leonard seemed to surprise Neil Suttie with his Bishops Opening and he got a pleasant edge which he converted to a single pawn’s advantage. However, Neil maintained drawing chances by keeping the queens on the board and eventually, in a queen and pawn ending, Pete offered a draw when it no longer seemed he could make progress even though he still held a notional advantage. Hebden now needed a draw on board 2 to secure the tie.

They did eventually get it at the end of a very hard-fought encounter between Dave Shapland and Mike Connor. Dave seemed to get a lot of pressure out of the opening against Mike’s Alekhine’s Defence. However, often in the Alekhine’s Black appears to have a miserable position and is forced to take some risks to get counterplay. This looked like it would be the theme of this game also until Dave underestimated the strength of a thematic pawn advance which enabled Mike to win a piece by force.

But again appearances were deceptive, for Dave was soon able to regain the piece and keep up his pressure. Off came the rooks at which point the players were left with a piece (Dave and bishop and Mike a knight) and four pawns each. Still Dave pressed but the position was levelling out until finally Mike tried to simplify further by exchanging queens. It wasn’t a favourable swap as there were pawns on each side of the board and the bishop became the more valuable of the two pieces.

Finally, deep into the second time control, Dave offered Mike a draw when he realised it would win his team the match. It still looked like he could win but he was taking no chances. Mike was pleased to accept as he surely couldn’t have played for the win his team needed without taking great risks.

The final match scorecard looked like this then:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs Todmorden ‘B’
P.Leonard ½ — ½ N.Suttie
D.Shapland ½ — ½ M.Connor
N.Sykes 1 — 0 DEFAULT
A.Leatherbarrow 0 — 1 M.Huett
M.Syrett 1 — 0 R.Collier
3 — 2

Elsewhere the league leaders showed their true class as both Huddersfield and Todmorden ‘A’ inflicted the first 4 — 1 and 4½ — ½ results in the league this season. On Monday night Todmorden ‘A’ travelled to meet a strong Courier ‘A’ side and utterly routed them. Tod had what looks like their strongest possible line up (which was not the case when the lost to Huddersfield last time around) and Courier were rather under strength. Still, only Martin Hamer ‘dropped’ a half-point to Tony Slinger on board 1. The rest of the Todmorden team won their games.

As if in response to this result the league leaders underlined their supremacy with a 4 — 1 win at home to Brighouse last night. Greg Eagleton slumped to a defeat against Dennis Breen on board 1 but the rest of the Huddersfield team strode to victory. Matthew Parsons has sent us his miniature against Robert Broadbent who was already struggling before overlooking a surprising tactic that ended the game at once.

The fourth match of the week saw the champions Halifax ‘A’ travel across town to visit Belgrave. After a stuttering start, Halifax now have all three of the musketeers who drove them to last year’s title. Messrs Ursal, Williams and Somerset all won their games on the top three boards although a little of the shine was taken off their wins by a draw on board 5 and a defeat for Sam Scurfield inflicted by Angel Gonzalez on board 4.

All of this means that Hebden Bridge have climbed to their highest league place of the year to date. They are third on board count ahead of Halifax. Both have 6 points. Todmorden ‘A’ have 8 and Huddersfield are still perfect on 10. Hebden Bridge fans shouldn’t get too excited about the team’s lofty status however as their next four fixtures pit them against Halifax away, Todmorden ‘A’ at home, Huddersfield away and then Courier ‘A’ away. If they are still in third place after that lot they’ll be over the moon!

Remember that next week sees the start of the Calderdale Individual Championship with the first round taking place at the Trades Club. Mathew Parsons will be back to see if he can make it three in a row. Can anyone stop him? Entries remain open until Sunday. Details can be found on the Calderdale Individual Championship page of this website.

Oct 312014
Hebden Bridge 'A' have twice recovered from tough defeats to win their next match. Can they manage back to back wins on Monday? This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from Konstantin Lazorkin's Flickr photo stream

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ have twice recovered from tough defeats to win their next match. Can they manage back to back wins on Monday? This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from Konstantin Lazorkin’s Flickr photo stream

Lose, win, lose, win. That’s been the pattern for HebdenBridge ‘A’ so far this season. Last time out they suffered a painful 2 — 3 defeat on the road at Belgrave but on Monday night they redeemed themselves by beating Brighouse away 1½ — 3½. Admittedly they were handed a very useful start when the home team admitted they only had four players. Unfortunately this left poor old Martin Syrett as a spare part for the evening which is never a very satisfactory outcome for the player involved.

All of this left Hebden Bridge a point up and with four relatively tight match ups to contest on the remaining boards. Captain Pete Leonard was on board 1 against Dennis Breen and found himself facing the Russian System of the Grunfeld Defence. It had been a while since Pete had looked at the line but he seemed to be doing perfectly well in the opening and middle game. His problems began as proceedings began to transition into an ending. This is often the place where games are won and lost as one player jumps at the chance of simplification while their opponent has seen further and envisaged an ongoing advantage.

Whether or not that’s what happened in Pete’s game only he will know but he ended up defending a rook an pawn ending where he had an f-pawn and Dennis retained his a and h pawns. To onlookers it seemed like the game could be held and post-game analysis seems to bare that out. However, Pete also had an acute time shortage and in the end that was what did for him as he ran out of time with just the kings, a pair of rooks and Dennis’s h-pawn left in play.

Fortunately, by the time this game was concluded at the end of the evening the match was already decided in Hebden’s favour. First of all Dave Shapland scored his first full point of the season against Robert Broadbent. Dave had won their last two encounters using the Classical Variation of the Ruy Lopez (3… Bc5) but in this game he selected an even earlier diversion by opting to play the Bird’s Variation (3… Nd4) that had given him such a promising position against Karim Khan I the last match. Once again he obtained a very strong positional hold and Robert finally lashed out on the queen’s side to try and get some counterplay. This back-fired on him and with a little care taken to ensure Robert’s connected passed pawns didn’t cause an upset, Dave steered the game to a successful conclusion.

Hebden were 0 — 2 up but they’d been in that situation against Belgrave and still managed to lose the match. This time they made no mistake although both Nick Sykes and Andy Leatherbarrow could perhaps consider themselves fortunate not to have lost. Nick finished first against Bruce Bendall on board 3. The game transposed into a Vienna Game and Bruce spotted a thematic tactic that looked like it netted a pawn. In fact, as Nick’s analysis in the viewer below shows, Brue should have lost his piece although the winning of it would have meant Nick boldly marching his king out to g6. Once the pawn had been won Bruce managed to keep up the pressure and Nick was struggling to equalise. It looked like it might be a lost cause but Bruce was taking too long to find the strongest continuations and he ran out of time with just a few moves to make to reach time control.

Once Pete had succumbed to the same condition on board 1 it just remained for Andy Leatherbarrow and Paul Whitehouse to conclude their business. Andy frequently gets into hot water with his clock and it was no different on this occasion as the players manoeuvred cautiously in a closed position. In his zeitnot Andy made an error and Paul won Andy’s queen in exchange for a bishop and rook. However, with the position being closed Andy was just able to build a fortress that Paul could not find a way of dismantling and, with the match result no longer in doubt, the two agreed peace terms.

Here is the final match scorecard:

Brighouse vs. HebdenBridge ‘A’
D.Breen 1 — 0 P.Leonard
R.Broadbent 0 — 1 D.Shapland
B.Bendall 0 — 1 N.Sykes
P.Whitehouse ½ — ½ A.Leatherbarrow
DEFAULT 0 — 1 M.Syrett
1½ — 3½

Three of the games from this match, complete with notes, are available in the viewer at the end of the post.

Last weekend Real Madrid and Barcelona played their first ‘El Clasico’ match of the season in the Spanish football league. This always seems to garner world-wide media coverage and is met with general excitement by football fanatics. The closest that the Calderdale Chess league can come to such a mouth watering prospect is Todmorden ‘A’ vs. Huddersfield. These two teams have been amongst the very strongest in the league for several years now (much longer in the case of Huddersfield) and this season they were the only two teams to go unbeaten for the first three matches. When they met at Todmorden on Monday night then it felt like something had to give.

What gave was Todmorden. Comparing their line up with the first three matches of the season they seemed a little bit under strength but it still appeared they had more than enough to give Huddersfield a very tough test. Unfortunately a blunder on board 5 in an equal position and an epic grind by Huddersfield’s Mitchell Burke on board 4 finally got the job done for the travellers who have played four away fixtures so far and are the only team with a perfect record. They’ve self combusted after strong starts in recent years but this time they are even stronger. Surely it won’t happen again will it? Todmorden may well have to beat them in the reverse fixture to maintain their hopes of victory.

It appears that Todmorden ‘B’s match with Belgrave was postponed which just leaves me with the task of mentioning the match between Halifax ‘A’ and Courier ‘A’ at Halifax. In the last round of last season these two duked it out for the title and Halifax prevailed. They did so once again on Monday by fielding their strongest line up of the season. They’ll need to be able to get Messrs Ursal, Somerset and Williams out like this more regularly if they are going to defend their crown but at least they, like HebdenBridge have recovered to a 50% score. Courier’s defeat means they too are 2 and 2. These three already appear to be a long way behind the leaders who have two point lead over Todmorden ‘A’ and a four point lead on this group.

Next week the league 1 teams will be in action again and Hebden Bridge ‘A’ will host the back markers Todmorden ‘B’. They may be bottom but they’ll be no push over in a league season that has not yet seen a winning margin greater than 3½ — 1½. If Hebden win then they can face the final two difficult tests before Christmas (Halifax ‘A’ and Todmorden ‘A’) knowing that even two defeats would not put them into the relegation zone. However, if they do lose they’ll head for the festive season looking over their shoulders.