Nov 172016

I couldn’t find a picture of an applecart actually being upset so this will have to do! At least it reflects the meltdowns some of the higher rated players had in round 1 of the Calderdale Individual Chess Championships last Monday.

The first round of the Calderdale Individual Chess Championship is typically a relatively turgid affair. The draw for the opening round pits the top half of the draw against the bottom half and, with only one section in the event, you tend to see the kind of grading differences between opponents that tends to lead to a clean sweep for the favorites. Occasionally the odd half point is saved and very occasionally a top dog makes a blunder from which it is impossible to recover. But in recent year’s this has been a rare event. However, it appears that the underdogs in round 1 of this year’s championship had not read the script as we were treated to a fascinating evening full of surprise and upset.

But before we get to the action, lets briefly recite the cast of characters in this drama. 38 players registered to enter which represents a very good turn-out, although immediately 5 of those 38 took a half point bye in round 1. Unfortunately, that left young Martha Leggett without an opponent in round 1. Top seed in the draw was the champion of 2013, 2014 and 2015, Matthew Parsons (Hebden Bridge) who made his return after missing last year’s competition. In round 1 he was drawn to face club colleague Andy Leatherbarrow with Black pieces. Defending champion Greg Eagleton (Huddersfield) was seeded second and found himself playing with the White pieces against Angel Gonzalez (Belgrave).

The top two are both rated well into the 180’s and their opponents on Monday were rated more than 50 points lower than them. The next 4 seeds in the draw are all rated in the 170s. Mitchell Burke (Huddersfield), Phil Cook (Todmorden), Ian Hunter (Belgrave) and John Allan (Hebden Bridge) had a slightly smaller grade advantage on paper but it still looked overwhelming like the top boards would result in a clean sweep for the top seeds.

After this top half dozen we then had Richard Porter (Halifax), Dave Shapland, Pete Leonard, John Lavan and Nick Sykes (all Hebden Bridge), Richard Bedford (Todmorden) and Martin Syrett (Hebden Bridge) all rated between 140 and 169 (but mostly at the lower end of that scale). They too enjoyed grading differentials of between 40 and 50 points over their opponents.

As ever there was an excellent showing from the Hebden Bridge junior club who fielded 8 players all of whom were taking the opportunity to test themselves against more seasoned players from the league and compete for the ’Best Junior’ prize.

Let battle commence! It was great to see the Trades Club packed for round 1 of the CIC

Let battle commence! It was great to see the Trades Club packed for round 1 of the CIC

Now, to the action. Early on in the evening there didn’t appear to be much evidence to suggest any apple carts would be upset. Pretty much the first to win his game was Nick Sykes who quickly dealt with Bill Joyce (Todmorden) on board 11. On board 6 John Allan won smoothly against Adrian Dawson (Belgrave) after dealing effectively with Adrian’s pet opening, the Lowenthal Variation of the Sicilian Defence. Likewise, Ian Hunter defeated Neil Bamford (Hebden Bridge) in similarly prosaic fashion. Both Phil Cook (against Vivienne Webster) and Mitchell Burke (against Robert Sutcliffe) had to work a little bit harder to get the better of their adversaries but they did so in due course.

At the lower end of the draw there were also some quick victories as some of the juniors found themselves with too much to do against more experienced opponents. John Brooke (Belgrave) had finished his game against Julia Hadari (Hebden Bridge) pretty quickly and Scott Gornall (Halifax) also dealt with young Alfie Dermo (Hebden Bridge) in short order. Soon after the youngsters were joined in defeat by Gwillem Hughes (Hebden Bridge) who went down to Martin Syrett and Joel Hadari (Hebden Bridge) who lost to Mike Barnett (Belgrave). Of the junior contingent this just left Luca Curry battling it out with Richard Bedford beyond the half-way stage of the evening. Despite these early set-backs though, the battle for best junior in the tournament looks like it will be well contested.

Beyond the mid-point of the evening the balance of power began to shift towards the underdogs. At first it was only a minor blip as Andy Leatherbarrow (who has been having an outstanding season so far) managed to hold a draw without too many problems against the top seed on board 1. It was perhaps a greater surprise when Angel Gonzalez also held a draw against the reigning champion, mainly because he did so with Black. This was how the bottom half of the draw got off the mark.

By this point of the evening it was becoming clear that some of their number were playing well enough to have very good winning chances. On board 7 Richard Porter seemed to have secured a perfectly good position against Pete Moss (Halifax) but then he over looked an exchange sacrifice that brought about a huge attack for White. There didn’t seem to be an immediate break through, and Richard defended tenaciously, but his position looked abject. Next door on board 8, Dave Shapland was struggling with White against Terry Sullivan. Terry played carefully and accurately (although also slowly) in the opening phase of the game and Dave didn’t manage to get any kind of attack going in a Rubenstein Variation of the French Defence. Finally, Dave took too much of a risk in keeping the queens on the board when Terry offered their exchange and suddenly Black was in the ascendency which led to Terry also winning an exchange and maintaining the initiative to boot.

The next two boards were also looking interesting. Pete Leonard had gained a very pleasant position from the opening against Barry Wadsworth but then started to misplay the position and Barry, never one to decline the opportunity to attack, did just that was hanging on and started to turn the tables. John Lavan was also up against it in his game with Steve Harrington who was going for it with Black and putting his higher rated opponent under serious pressure.

In the end a couple of the stronger players had to rely on the clock to haul themselves to safety. Dave Shapland was in serious trouble but Terry, having played very deliberately earlier in the evening, didn’t seem able to raise the tempo of his game as time control loomed and allowed his clock to run down with six moves still to make. Dave let out a massive sigh of relief!

Steve Harrington’s brave effort also came to nought during the time scramble which, if the score sheet is correct seems to have involved both players over-looking a mate in 1 for White towards the end of the game. In the end, John navigated through the complexities to gain material and Steve also ran out of time. By this point in the evening Richard ‘Beaky’ Bedford had also overcome the spirited resistance of Luca Curry which ensured that the juniors drew a blank in round 1. No doubt they will begin to pick up some points in round 2.

This just left the two major upsets of the evening to play themselves out. First of all Pete Leonard went completely off the rails against Barry Wadsworth. He lost a pawn and then a piece and was in desperate time trouble to boot! In the end he felt compelled to resign soon after the time control as the queens were about to come off leaving Barry with an extra knight and two pawns in the end game.

Pete Moss’s victory came about in rather different style. Having kept his boot metaphorically on Richard Porter’s throat he slowly lost some of his control but then, just as it seemed Richard might somehow salvage something from the game, he blundered a rook and resigned on the spot. A fitting outcome for Pete’s earlier fine play. Richard was the first to congratulate his opponent and as they chatted afterwards it emerged that they had played each other before at primary school 46 years previously!! We didn’t find out who won that game but Pete left no questions about this one.

Below are the full results of round 1 with a selection of 13 of the games in the viewer at the end of the article. You can also tell us who you think will win the tournament after this slightly surprising set of round 1 results in the poll below. (The poll will close on Wednesday 23 November.)

Round 2 takes place on Monday 5th of December. Will some of the successful underdogs be able to continue showing their fine form?

Calderdale Individual Championship: Round 1
A.Leatherbarrow ½ — ½ M.Parsons
G.Eagleton ½ — ½ A.Gonzalez
R.Sutcliffe 0 — 1 M.R.Burke
P.Cook 1 — 0 V.Webster
N.Bamford 0 — 1 I.Hunter
J.Allan 1 — 0 A.Dawson
P.G.Moss 1 — 0 R.Porter
D.Shapland 1 — 0 T.Sullivan
B.Wadsworth 1 — 0 P.Leonard
J.Lavan 1 — 0 S.Harrington
B.Joyce 0 — 1 N.Sykes
R.Bedford 1 — 0 L.Curry
G.Hughes 0 — 1 M.Syrett
S.Gornall 1 — 0 A.Dermo
B.J.S Hadari 0 — 1 M.Barnett
J.Brooke 1 — 0 J.S.Hadari

Full point bye: M.Leggett
Half-point bye: O.Buchan, T.Dodd, M.O’Keefe, D.Rivron, M.J.Tait

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Nov 052016

The miniature heroes in this week’s match were Nick Sykes and Dave Shapland who both won their games in under 20 moves

The battle for the Calderdale League 1 title just got very hot this week as Halifax ‘A’, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ and Huddersfield all presented their credentials persuasively while back-to-back champions Todmorden ‘A’ slumped to a defeat.

Let’s start with that last headline as, on Wednesday evening Huddersfield took on Todmorden at home and managed to go one better than Hebden Bridge ‘A’ had done when they drew their match with the champions in the last round of fixtures. This was a blood-soaked match with all five games ending decisively. Tod took boards 4 and 5 as Dave Patrick defeated Dave Tooley and Mick Connor beat Steve Westmoreland. In most circumstances one might have expected that to be more than sufficient for Todmorden to take the match as their top boards are always very reliable, especially with White. However on this occasion they suffered a major malfunction. On board 1 Martin Hamer went down to Greg Eagleton, on board 2 Mitchell Burke beat Phil Cook and on board 3 Dave Keddie overcame Andrew Clarkson as Huddersfield snatched the match 3-2 and sent the champions home with their tails between their legs.

Earlier in the week Halifax ‘A’ gave the clearest possible signal of their intent to win back the title they lost to Todmorden two seasons ago as they fielded their strongest possible line up for the first time this season. This was more than sufficient to brush aside Belgrave ‘A’ although it wasn’t all plain sailing for the visitors as they drew on board 1 and lost on board 3. With more than 30 points rating advantage on the bottom four boards Halifax would have expected to win the match comfortably but on board 3 Gordon Farrar took down Bill Somerset while the battle between Ian Hunter and Winston Williams on board 1 looked on paper like it might be tight and it did indeed end in a draw.  Nevertheless wins for Halifax by Darwin Ursal (playing his first match of the season) against Karim Khan on board 2, John Morgan (also making his first appearance of the season) against Mike Barnett on board 4 and Richard Porter against Angel Gonzalez on board 5 secured victory and means Halifax are now the only remaining team with a perfect record in the league after winning three out of three.

That just leaves us to report on Hebden Bridge ‘A’s home match against Halifax ‘B’. With their ‘B’ team having a bye in round 4, Hebden took something of a chance by leaving out their three highest rated players and replacing them with B-team stalwarts to take on the back markers. This was certainly a risk as they lost with the Black pieces when deploying similar match tactics against the same side last season and certainly couldn’t take victory for granted. However, even without Matthew Parsons, Andy Bak and Chris Bak, they overwhelmed the visiting team.

Objectively speaking Hebden still looked like firm favorites as they out-graded the enemy by 10 points or more on the bottom three boards. The top two boards were also stronger than their counter-parts, though to a more marginal extent. It felt like it was going to be a tough night but, in the event, Hebden pulled two clear fairly early in the evening with a couple of quick wins and never looked back.

First of all, Nick Sykes equalized comfortably against Scott Gornall’s patient opening play on board 3, and then won a piece when Scott left a bishop en prise on move 14 having moved its defender the previous move and evidently ‘forgotten’ he had done so. An embarrassing moment to be sure, but we’ve all done it at some point.

Not too long after that Dave Shapland accepted a resignation from Pete Hughes on move 19. Dave deployed the aggressive Albin Counter-Gambit and it seemed that Pete may have been over ambitious in pushing his queen’s side pawns before getting his king to safety. Suddenly Dave overwhelmed him on the dark squares, won the exchange and a pawn whilst preventing Pete’s king from castling. The position was grim enough to persuade Pete to resign at once rather the be tortured in a drawn out ending with this type of material deficit. Hebden were 2-0 up.

Martin Syrett usually captains the ‘B’ team but with his side enjoying a bye week he took to board 4 against Vivienne Webster and surprised spectators by playing the Sicilian Defence instead of his habitual Scandinavian. He seemed to get a reasonable position in the middle game but Vivienne played patiently and preserved a small edge until the players reached a queen and pawn ending and Vivienne swiped an extra pawn. Unfortunately she overlooked a stronger continuation and allowed Martin enough counter play to force a perpetual check. Hebden just needed a draw from the last two boards to win the match. They did rather better than that!

First Andy Leatherbarrow profited from some more Halifax charity when he pounced on a tactical oversight by Ray Cully to win a piece. Ray didn’t need to see any more and resigned on the spot as Hebden crossed the finish line with a game to spare.

That game too finished in a victory for the hosts as Pete Leonard slowly improved his position after being at a disadvantage against Carlos Velosa in the opening stages on board 2. With the position looking complex but balanced Carlos sought out complications and found a way to ‘win’ Pete’s queen for two knights and a rook. Such material imbalances can be tricky to manage but Pete seemed to keep everything under control and soon managed to restrict Carlos’s queen to such an extent that he saw nothing better than to give her majesty up for Pete’s rook and trying to race a passed pawn to the eight rank. Pete navigated the final complications and forced resignation capping a very fine performance from Hebden.

The individual scores are confirmed below:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs Halifax ‘B’
D.Shapland 1 — 0 P.Hughes (White)
P.Leonard 1 — 0 C.Velosa (White)
N.Sykes 1 — 0 S.Gornall (White)
M.Syrett ½ — ½ V.Webster (White)
A.Leatherbarrow 1 — 0 R.Cully (White)
4½ — ½

The games from this match can be found in the game viewer below.

Next Monday sees the Calderdale Individual Championship getting underway. Once again the Trades Club will host the competition with rounds being scheduled for the 7th of November, 5th of December, 9th of January, 6th of February and 6th of March. There is still time for you to enter if you haven’t already. Further details can be found on the Calderdale Chess League website. Please email or call John Kerrane to confirm your entry by no later than Sunday 6th of November.

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Oct 222016
This position featured in a variation from the game Clarkson vs. Shapland in Hebden Bridge 'A's match with Todmorden 'A'. Black seems to be in big trouble with his knight and rook attacked. Is there any hope for him? What's the best move? Solution in the game viewer at the end of the post. This one's tough and neither player saw it during the game.

This position featured in a variation from the game Clarkson vs. Shapland in Hebden Bridge ‘A’s match with Todmorden ‘A’. Black (to move) seems to be in big trouble with his knight and rook attacked. Is there any hope for him? What’s the best move? Solution in the game viewer at the end of the post. This one’s tough and neither player saw it during the game.

As the third round of Calderdale League 1 matches got underway last Monday night there was one stand out fixture which promised to have a bearing on the destiny of the title this season. Hebden Bridge ‘A’ hosted back-to-back champions Todmorden ‘A’ at the Trades Club. Additionally, at the same venue Hebden Bridge ‘B’ played Huddersfield while at Lee Mount Halifax ‘B’ took on Belgrave ‘A’.

The scale of the task facing Hebden ‘A’ was daunting. With the rule change this season giving all away team players White this was essentially the equivalent of what would have been an away fixture in previous years and Todmorden have an outstanding record with the White pieces. The last time Todmorden ‘A’ lost with all playing White was the 2nd of February 2015 when they fielded an under-strength side against Brighouse and were punished with a 2-3 defeat. Since then they have won eight in a row and usually by a comfortable margin. They certainly haven’t lost with White when fielding their strongest available line up for a very long time. If ever.

With Todmorden having only played one match so far this season it was hard for Hebden to predict exactly who would appear for them and so they prepared themselves for the worst case scenario. When Messrs Hamer, Mulleady, Cook, Clarkson and Patrick all arrived at the Trades Club it was clear that the champions were prepared for a full-blooded battle.

Hebden themselves were at pretty much optimal strength. Matthew Parsons returned on board 1 having missed the last match against Huddersfield. Andy Back and Chris Bak were back-to-back (sorry!) on boards 2 and 3 while Captain Dave Shapland and Nick Sykes completed the line-up. The top boards were relatively evenly matched but Hebden gave away 10 rating points or more on the bottom two boards. The key questions were, could Dave and Nick get results out of their higher rated adversaries and, if not, could one of the top three for Hebden find a way to win one of their games.

Andy Bak and Pete Mulleady drew their game about half way through the evening with Pete having used quite a lot of his clock-time to ensure at least equality against an opponent who has a good personal score against him. Neither player would have been too unhappy with a draw. Not too long after this the top board was also drawn with Martin Hamer and Matthew Parsons transposing from an English Opening to a Maroczy Bind variation of the Accelerated Dragon. Again neither player would have been unhappy to sign peace terms in what was a well-played game between too strong players which reached the logical outcome.

At this stage the other three boards were all closely fought. Chris Bak seemed to have some structural weaknesses to contend with in another English Opening but in compensation his pieces appeared active and he was fighting hard for equality. On board 4 Dave Shapland seemed to neutralise the same opening system Andrew Clarkson had played against him last season but then, missing his best chance equalise he drifted into difficulties and seemed to be in a bit of trouble.

Finally, on board 5, Nick Sykes played the Sicilian Defence against Dave Patrick who essayed the 2.c3 variation. Nick has great knowledge of the Anti-Sicilian variations and eventually secured equality, though it seemed, with no real chances for more. Eventually, some time after time control had been reached, this game too was agreed drawn with both players having light-squared bishops and four pawns each. The position was sterile and there was nothing more to be done. This was a good result for Nick who has lost his last few games against Dave.

The final two games of the evening went right down to the wire and at the very end of the night’s play they both had dramatic twists in store for the players and kibitzers alike. On board 4 Andrew had waded into deep water against Dave. He’d advanced his queen into enemy territory which at first glance looked deadly but then he realised that his own king’s position was vulnerable to a counter-attack and had to stay calm and find two accurate moves to keep himself afloat. These cost him all of the 25-minute advantage he had on the clock and more. As both players reached the haven of move 36 they had only a minute or so left on the clock and would now have 15 more minutes each to fight out a complicated knight, bishop and pawns ending where Andrew seemed to have the only realistic chances of winning.

On board 3 Chris had patiently held his nerve to reach an endgame where he had a bishop and pawns against Phil’s knight and pawns. It seemed Chris had a notional advantage but in this game too both players had used much of their time to get to the time control and soon burnt up their extra 15 minutes trying to ensure they didn’t make a mess of the ending although Chris was now the one pressing or a win.

At this late stage in the evening spectators might have been sensible putting their money on five draws and a tied match. However, fate held a dramatic twist as Chris managed to win his end game with some fine technical play whilst in a desperate time scramble to give Hebden the lead.

The players on board 4 were completely unaware of this result as they were so short of time themselves they couldn’t get up or even look away from the board. Andrew was angling hard for a win but he had so little time left it seemed inevitable that Dave would draw the game and help Hebden win the match. Unfortunately for the home team Captain, he chose the wrong course and suddenly found himself facing two connected passed pawns and a knight with only a bishop to defend himself. Before he had chance to try and extricate himself he lost on time with Andrew’s flag also hanging by a thread. By that stage Dave’s position was lost anyway.

And so, the match was indeed tied and the exhausted players dragged themselves home. Hebden will probably be the happier of the two teams with that result but it could have been even better. The individual results were:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs Todmorden ‘A’
M.Parsons ½ — ½ M.Hamer (White)
A.Bak ½ — ½ P.Mulleady (White)
C.Bak 1 — 0 P.Cook (White)
D.Shapland 0 — 1 A.Clarkson (White)
N.Sykes ½ — ½ D.Patrick (White)
2½ — 2½

Looking on from the sidelines, Halifax ‘A’ (who had a bye this week) would probably have been delighted to see this result as they battle to regain the crown they lost two years ago. With two wins from their first two matches Halifax have the same points as Hebden Bridge ‘A’ with a game in hand whilst Tod ‘A’ have played the same number of matches but are a point behind.

This result also handed Huddersfield the opportunity to stake their claim as contenders to the crown. Having lost to Hebden ‘A’ last time out they needed to bounce back against Hebden Bridge ‘B’. They did just that and very conclusively as Martin Syrett’s team, missing a player, went down 0 — 5. All the games were hard fought but ultimately the higher rated Huddersfield team saw off their hosts conclusively. Individual scores were:

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ vs Huddersfield
J.Allan 0 — 1 G.Eagleton (White)
M.Syrett 0 — 1 D.Keddie (White)
A.Leatherbarrow 0 — 1 D.Tooley (White)
T.Sullivan 0 — 1 S.Westmoreland (White
DEFAULT 0 — 1 D.Gray (White)
0 — 5

This put Huddersfield onto 4 match points along with Halifax ‘A’ and Hebden ‘A’, although they too have played a match more than Halifax and Todmorden. In round four Huddersfield will host Todmorden in a match that will provide them with an opportunity to establish their title credentials should they be able to get a result. It will be interesting to see how they get on. On the same evening Halifax ‘A’ return to action at Belgrave ‘A’ and Hebden Bridge ‘A’ play their third home fixture of the season against Halifax ‘B’ who beat them with the Black pieces last season.

Some of the games from the Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs. Todmorden ‘A’ fixture can be replayed in the viewer below. Our thanks to Chris Bak, Andrew Clarkson and Nick Sykes for taking the time to annotate their games for us.

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Oct 102016
Hebden Bridge 'A's raiding party laid Huddersfield to waste (for a change!) This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from Jakub T. Jankiewicz's Flickr photo stream.

Hebden Bridge ‘A’s raiding party laid Huddersfield to waste (for a change!) This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from Jakub T. Jankiewicz’s Flickr photo stream.

Calderdale Evening League 1 teams convened again last week for the second round of fixtures this season. Sadly the absence of Todmorden ‘B’ means there are only 12 matches being played by each team this season and that means is even less room to recover from a slip up. All the more reason then for Hebden Bridge ‘A’ to bounce back from a disappointing draw with their ‘B’ team colleagues the previous week as they travelled to their age-old rivals Huddersfield. Traditionally, Huddersfield have been something of a nemesis for Hebden Bridge ‘A’ but last season they managed an impressive double over their adversaries and were hoping for more of the same in this fixture.

Hebden lined up with a strong team. Brothers Andy and Chris Bak played on the top two boards, then the Captain, Dave Shapland played on board 3 and Nick Sykes and Martin Syrett played on board 4 and 5. Huddersfield meanwhile were slightly weaker than they might usually be but they still sported a very strong player in the form of Mitchell Burke on board 1. Dave Tooley played on board 2 with Nigel Hepworth, Steve Westmoreland and Stuart Oliver completing their formation. This meant that Hebden had an edge rating-wise on all but the top board. The new league rules meant that the away team all played White and that possibly accentuated Hebden’s position as favorites on paper.

The match began solidly enough for Hebden as Andy Bak agreed a draw relatively swiftly with Mitchell Burke on board 1 to ensure the team got off to a sound start. It was clear that boards 2 and 3, where the difference in ratings was the largest, would be the critical battleground.

Sure enough, Hebden struck there next as Dave Shapland took advantage of a few dubious moves by Nigel Hepworth to initiate a king hunt that ended with Nigel’s king getting checkmated on c4 with the remnants of his forces behind him. Hebden hit the front with that win and they never really looked like relinquishing the lead after that.

Martin Syrett’s winning start to the season continued as he won a pawn against Stuart Oliver on board 5 and then tricked his opponent into a tactical error that cost him the game. Martin admitted afterwards that he’d spotted his idea had been unsound but Stuart missed the refutation.

Nick Sykes and Steve Westmoreland played what was surely the most interesting game of the evening as a super-sharp and highly theoretical Anti-Moscow Variation of the Semi-Slav Defence appeared on the board. It looked very promising for Nick at one point as he opened the f-file for an attack which Stuart seemed ill-prepared to meet. After the game, some human analysis seemed to indicate that Nick had missed an on the spot win, but then, on running the line through Nick’s mobile phone engine it turned out not to be the case due to cunning defensive line which, to his great credit, Steve had spotted at the board. In the end Nick’s initiative petered out and it looked like Steve would survive to win in the endgame only for Nick to find a bishop sacrifice that forced perpetual check. Nick has analysed this game in the viewer at the end of this post. It’s well worth a look.

Finally, with the match result no longer in doubt, Chris Bak added the cherry to the icing on the cake by completing a dominant performance over Dave Tooley. Dave seemed to get an awkward position right out of the opening and Chris increased the pressure steadily until his opponent cracked. Another nice win to complete a 1 — 4 victory for Hebden. The individual results from the match are given below.

Huddersfield vs. Hebden Bridge ‘A’
M.Burke ½ — ½ A.Bak (White)
D.Tooley 0 — 1 C.Bak (White)
N.Hepworth 0 — 1 D.Shapland (White)
S.Westmoreland ½ — ½ N.Sykes (White)
S.Oliver 0 — 1 M.Syrett (White)
1 — 4

Elsewhere, reigning champions, Todmorden ‘A’, having had the bye in round one when they should have faced their club colleagues, made a winning start to their title defence at Belgrave ‘A’. They also continued the dominance with the White piece that they have demonstrated time and again over the last two seasons as they pummeled their hosts ½ — 4½ . It clearly doesn’t matter whether they play White at home or away, they are just incredibly hard to stop when they are playing White. Belgrave’s Dave Colledge was the only one of their players not to lose as he drew with Mike Huett.

The third match of the round was held at the Trades Club between Hebden Bridge ‘B’ and Halifax ‘A’. In a confusing turn of events, Halifax were actually the home team as their venue was not available and so the captains had agreed to play the match on the scheduled date but at Hebden Bridge instead of Halifax. This meant the Hebden, as the ‘away’ team, played White at home. Confused? Me too.

Following on from their tremendous opening results against their ‘A’ team, the ‘B’s could be confident of competing even with one of the strongest sides in the League and last year’s runners up. Halifax seem to be without the services of last year’s top board Darwin Ursal, but they are still very strong with Winston Williams playing on board 1, Bill Somerset on 2 and Richard Porter on board 3. All of these players are rated over 165. Their line-up was completed by the experienced and ever-solid Peter Hughes and team captain Carlos Velosa.

Hebden were somewhat weakened compared to the first match of the season. Against Hebden ‘A’ they had Nick Sykes and Martin Syrett in their line up, but as those two were needed by the ‘A’ team later in the weak, they lined up with John Allan on board 1, Andy Leatherbarrow on board 2, John Kerrane on 3, Neil Bamford on 4 and Terry Sullivan on board 5.

From a rating perspective it should have been a total cake-walk for Halifax but once again Hebden showed their mettle. John Allan drew with Winston Williams in an attritional struggle that lasted until the very end of the evening with both players down to bare kings and queens. Winston appeared to be trying to extract a win on time but John held on for half a point. On board 2 Andy Leatherbarrow surpassed his season opening win over Dave Shapland by beating Bill Somerset. It appeared that Bill was trying to extract something from a completely even position and over reached himself. Andy once again showed he had a ruthless streak by winning in the ending.

Sadly for Hebden the good form didn’t continue down the order as Halifax’s bottom three boards restored the status quo. Richard Porter gratefully accepted a blunder from John Kerrane and while Pete Hughes and Carlos Velosa also steadily out-played their lower-rated opponents. The final score was 3½ — 1½ to the home side (who were playing away!) The match scorecard below should make it clear!

Halifax ‘A’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘B’
W.Williams ½ — ½ J.Allan (White)
W.Somerset 0 — 1 A.Leatherbarrow (White)
R.Porter 1 — 0 J.Kerrane (White)
P.Hughes 1 — 0 N.Bamford (White)
C.Velosa 1 — 0 T.Sullivan (White)
3½ — 1½

All of this leaves Halifax ‘A’ atop the early league table by virtue of them having won two matches whilst Todmorden ‘A’ have only played, and won, one. Hebden ‘A’ are in second place with 3 points. Halifax ‘B’ and Belgrave ‘A’ languish at the foot of the table but Halifax have also played only one match. These two teams play each other next week while Hebden ‘A’ will have their chance to stake their title credentials as they host Todmorden ‘A’ at the Trades Club and Hebden ‘B’ welcome Huddersfield. It should be an interesting evening.

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Oct 012016
The opening fixture of the season typically sees a wrestling match between sides from the same club. This time in Hebden Bridge, honours were even. (This photo is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from Tsutomu Takasu's Flickr photo stream.)

The opening fixture of the season typically sees a wrestling match between sides from the same club. This time in Hebden Bridge, honours were even. (This photo is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from Tsutomu Takasu’s Flickr photo stream.)

The 2016-17 Calderdale Evening Chess League season has begun! Another exciting and tense season lies ahead with Todmorden ‘A’ defending their League 1 title. Can they manage a ‘three-peat’?

Unfortunately the week before the first round of fixtures news filtered out that another League 1 team had folded right on the eve of battle as Todmorden ‘B’ withdrew. Presumably a lack of players forced this upon them. That leaves League 1 in the most unsatisfactory position of only having seven teams as it was far too late to try and bring one of the relegated teams back up. It’s been depressing to see the league dwindling over the last few years but let’s not dwell on that when there has been a round of fixtures in both divisions to divert us with.
Hebden Bridge ‘A’ and Hebden Bridge ‘B’ postponed their scheduled opening day derby duel by a week so that they could both field 5 regulars. Team Captains Dave Shapland (‘A’ team) and Martin Syrett (‘B’ team) were able to put out their strongest line ups and test their mettle. On paper the ‘A’ team looked favorites for a heavy win. Matthew Parsons has returned to Hebden Bridge to play on top board. This meant that last year’s top board, Andy Bak, moved down to board 2. Andy’s brother Chris, a new recruit, appeared on board 3 and then came Dave Shapland and Pete Leonard on boards 4 and 5.

This also meant that the ‘A’ team were able to ‘loan’ out Nick Sykes for the evening and he appeared on board 2 for the ‘B’ team. On top board was John Allan. Martin Syrett played on board 3 with Andy Leatherbarrow on 4 and Neil Bamford on 5. The ‘A’ team out graded their opponents by 10 points or more on every single board. Surely it would be plain sailing. As it turned out, far from it!
For the first half of the evening all seemed to be progressing as one might have expected although the ‘B’ team were all putting up stiff resistance with the White pieces (a new arrangement for this season as all away players now have White). Then, suddenly, Neil Bamford capitulated with a blunder against Pete Leonard on board 5. He had done extremely well up until that point and even held an advantage but his error pretty much lost on the spot and the ‘A’ team had the lead.

From that point on though, it was all downhill. Chris Bak seemed to get nothing at all from the opening against Martin Syrett. In a French Tarrasch the position looked very sterile after the queens were exchanged early. However, Martin is a tricky customer and he spotted a tactic that Chris missed and soon went three pawns up as well as keeping the initiative. Chris almost managed to save himself in the murk of a rook and pawn ending but Martin had just enough and his technique was up to the task. 1-1.

On board 1 Matthew Parsons had eschewed his usual Caro-Kann and Sniper Defences against John Allan in order to find his way into a Spanish-style position though it was reached via a Philidor’s Defence move order. Once in the middle game Matthew might have expected to slowly out play his opponent but he was full of praise for John’s precise play after the game saying that he was never allowed to fully equalise and ultimately had to accept a draw offer when in a marginally inferior position.

Meanwhile on board 4 Dave Shapland steadily built up a significant advantage in a reversed Sicilian Kan. However, just at the moment he appeared to have the game all wrapped up he overlooked a simple tactic and lost his queen for a knight. He tried for a while to pull off a swindle but Andy is far too experienced a player to allow that to happen and gave up an exchange to simplify and seal the deal. Suddenly the ‘A’ team were 2-1 down with only one board left in play.

It was the board 2 encounter between Nick Sykes and Andy Bak that would decide the outcome of the tie. Andy had played the Schliemann Variation of the Spanish, a line Nick is very familiar with, and the game looked to be accurately played by both sides for much of the game. It was only after the other games had finished that the balance started to tilt a little in Andy’s favour.
He managed to win a pawn and, with a rook, bishop and three pawns against Nick’s rook, knight and two pawns, it seemed that Andy might be able to save his team mates and salvage a drawn match. But the endgame looked very hard, if not impossible to win. At one moment Nick could have pretty much forced a draw or even won the game if Andy had misplayed it. Instead Nick chose to give up his knight for two pawns. Now Andy had a rook, bishop and h-pawn against Nick’s rook and g-pawn. It seemed to be a very clever choice from Nick because Andy’s h-pawn was due to queen on a square of the opposite colour to his bishop and so all Nick needed to do was exchange the rooks in order to secure a famous win for the ‘B’ team.

Sadly, at the end of a stressful and tiring game, Nick came unstuck at the very last when he wandered into a tactic that was both a discovered attack and a skewer. He lost his rook and that was that. The ‘A’ team will breathe a sigh of relief whilst the ‘B’ team let out a sigh of exasperation. They played well enough to win but will be happy enough with a draw. Below is the final scorecard and four of the five games from this match can be found in the game viewer tat the end of this post:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs Hebden Bridge ‘B’
M.Parsons ½ — ½ 0 J.Allan (w)
A.Bak 1 — 0 N.Sykes (w)
C.Bak 0 — 1 M.Syrett (w)
D.Shapland 0 — 1 A.Leatherbarrow (w)
P.Leonard 1 — 0 N.Bamford (w)
2½ — 2½

Elsewhere in League 1, the champions sat out the first round of fixtures that was to have seen them take on their ‘B’ team. The other derby match between Halifax ‘B’ and Halifax ‘A’ proved to be rather more straight forward for the favorites as the ‘A’ team smashed the ‘B’s by ½ — 4½! That put Halifax ‘A’ top of the inaugural table as in the third fixture of the round Huddersfield were only able to pip Belgrave ‘A’ 3 — 2. The hard work was done on the bottom two boards where Nigel Hepworth and Steve Westmoreland defeated Mike Barnett and Angel Gonzalez respectively to cancel out Karim Khan’s defeat of Dave Keddie on board 2.

Last Monday night also saw the beginning of League 2 which has just six teams in it again this season. Hebden Bridge ‘C’ started their campaign at home against Belgrave ‘B’ (formerly Courier ‘B’). Hebden’s captain, John Kerrane was able to completely fill his line up with junior club members and they performed creditably with notable draws for Owen Buchan against Dave Colledge on board 1 and Toby Dodd who held on in a difficult rook and pawn ending against John Smith on board 3. A couple of the games from this match can be found in the game viewer at the end of this post. The individual results were:

Hebden Bridge ‘C’ vs Belgrave ‘B’
O.Buchan ½ — ½ D.Colledge (w)
G.Hughes 0 — 1 A.Dawson (w)
T.Dodd ½ — ½ J.B.Smith (w)
M.Leggett 0 — 1 S.Harrington (w)
A.Dermo 0 — 1 R.Bottomley (w)
1 — 4

The second derby match between Halifax teams, this time the ‘C’ and ‘D’ teams ended in similar success for the stronger side as the ‘C’ team won 4 — 1. In the third match Brighouse, who were relegated last season managed to hold a draw with Todmorden ‘C’ despite defaulting two boards! Robert Broadbent on board 1and Paul Whitehouse on board 2 cancelled out the defaults on boards 3 and 5 while Ron Grandage and Tom Webster drew on board 4.

Next week sees the champions Todmorden ‘A’ get their first outing away at Belgrave while Halifax ‘A’ host Hebden Bridge ‘B’, Huddersfield host Hebden Bridge ‘A’ and Halifax ‘B’ take a bye.

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