Jan 312022

Our trophy for winning Division 5 of 4NCL Online Season 4 arrived with me last week

4NCL Online Season 5 began on Tuesday night last week and Hebden Bridge Chess Club once again fielded three teams in this national competition for chess clubs across the UK and Ireland. Having dipped our toe in the water with two teams in season 3 (which was played this time last year), and then expanded to three teams for Season 4 (which started in August last year), this competition is proving to be a good way to make sure everyone at the club has a chance to play some competitive chess – especially those who don’t yet feel ready to return to playing face to face.

The 4NCL has also been a great way to continue involving the historic members of the club who have now moved to other parts of the UK (or even the world) some of whom came back to join us when we moved online during lockdown. Our online community is really an extension our physical membership at the Trades Club.

The resumption of over the board chess means that participation in the 4NCL Online has been quite unpredictable. In season 3, at the height of the winter lockdown last year there were seven leagues and 264 teams of 4 players. That equals over 1,000 players participating in each of the seven rounds and then a reduced number taking part in the divisional playoff semi-finals and finals that followed. That’s quite a phenomenal participation rate. As clubs began to return to meeting and playing face to face, season 4 saw a significant reduction in numbers with five divisions and 184 teams. Now for season 5 numbers have dropped again, but less significantly to 154 teams in five divisions.

In season 4, Hebden Bridge 1 became champions of Division 5. Although this was the bottom division and our first team were the top seeds, this was still no mean achievement in a league consisting of 56 teams as the competition was fierce and many players in the league were much stronger than their fledgling ECF Online ratings suggested they would be. The teams from Morpeth and Cork in particular were of very similar strength to our first team and pushed them all the way. We beat Morpeth by the narrowest possible margin and only tied with Cork in round 7 by which time the title was, thankfully, already in the bag. By coincidence, I received the trophy recognizing our triumph this week and have pictured here so that all our members can enjoy it!

Our other teams also performed consistently with their average ratings. The second team started slowly with a defeat in round 1 and a draw in round 2 but then they won four matches in a row before falling to Wells Globetrotters 1 in the final round to finish in 10th place. Our third team finished just outside the top half of the table in 34th position. In a contrast of fortunes with the second team, they began with two excellent drawn matches against tough opposition, then lost their next four matches before rallying to win in the last two rounds and climb back up the table.

For season 5, there has once again been a significant ‘churn’ of teams with many dropping out of the league and a good number of new teams signing up. As expected, Hebden Bridge 1 were promoted out of the bottom division and have landed in Division 3. Meanwhile, both our second and third teams have been seeded into Division 4 and so have also avoided the melee of Division 5. The top four divisions are run along different lines to Division 5 which uses a seven rounded Swiss system to decide the winner. Instead, in the top divisions, there are 32 teams and these are then subdivided into four groups of eight teams. Each team plays a round robin against all the other teams in their group across seven rounds and then the winners of each group progress to the divisional play offs with a semi-final and final taking place. Winning their group then is the main target for each of our teams this season and that process began on Tuesday night.

Now let’s find out how each team did in their first round matches.

Hebden Bridge 1 vs Cork A

Hebden Bridge 1 are in Group C of Division 3. This saw them drawn alongside last season’s rivals Cork, who tied with them in the final round of season 4. With Hebden compelled to field a weaker line up than they had done for that final match of last season and Cork also marginally weaker, it promised to be another very closely fought affair. Hebden’s team consisted of Andrew Clarkson, Dave Shapland, David Wedge and Pete Leonard. All experienced players both over the board and online having played in both previous seasons that we have participated in the 4NCL Online.

The evening began pretty well for Hebden 1 as they seemed to secure at least a small advantage out of the opening on every board except board 1 where Andrew found himself up against it with the Black side of the Anti-Grunfeld set up deployed by Henk de Jonge. Although he was two pawns down, he had a perfectly acceptable position with active piece play until he opted for 18…Bxb2, recapturing one of the pawns, when 18…Bd4, maintaining the initiative, would have secured him a solid advantage. After that, he was on the edge of defeat for much of the rest of the game as his opponent was able to complete his development and consolidate his material advantage of an extra passed pawn on b5. Fortunately, Henk couldn’t play the resultant position as accurately as he needed to and Andrew was able to force a position where there was nothing better for White to do than repeat moves for a draw.

By this time David Wedge had already won his game with the Black pieces against Vaibhav Sharma on board 3. White played the opening very passively and David was quickly able to secure a very comfortable game. By move 20, he had an extra pawn and an overwhelming positional advantage which he did not waste and converted the position into a win on move 51 though is opponent could well have resigned long before that.

Pete Leonard also won his game on board 4 playing White against Sumeet Bhattacharjee to carry Hebden to victory. Black used the eccentric, but perfectly playable Czech Defence (characterised by 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 c6) against which Pete developed sensibly and then played for extra space on the queen’s side. There was a very brief moment early in the middle game where the engine thinks Black was slightly better, but aside from that, Pete’s game was reasonably comfortable throughout and his main challenge was managing his time. He won an exchange on move 20 and then made solid progress as he secured a fine outpost for one of his knights on d6. As he drifted into time trouble, Pete blundered back the exchange and the game seemed to equalise but then another error by his opponent, who was also getting short on time, simplified the task and led to a mating attack.

Pete’s win just left the board two game between Dave Shapland and Simon Lawrence to be decided. This was the only one of the four boards that saw a rerun of one of the games from the end of last season when Simon had beaten Dave handily. This time, Dave found a nice way to win a pawn as early as move nine on the White side of a French Defence Rubenstein Variation. However, he didn’t play the follow up accurately and started to drift when he played 19.Bc1, when 19.Qe2 would have preserved his advantage. After that he played a string of sub-optimal moves and Simon took full advantage grabbing the initiative, winning back the pawn and then over running Dave’s position to collect a comfortable point.

Despite this loss though, Hebden 1 had made a great start to their league campaign winning by 2½ – 1½ to improve on their tie with Cork last season. Two other teams won their opening matches in Hebden’s group. Brentwood Juniors won 4-0 (including two defaults) and Uxbridge B also won 2½ – 1½. The other match was drawn. Hebden will play Brentwood Juniors in round 2, so there is a chance to take control of their group right away.
You’ll find all the games from Hebden Bridge 1’s match against Cork A in the game viewer at the end of this post along with the games from the other two matches.

Hebden Bridge 2 vs Calstock Killers

Hebden Bridge 2 are also in Group C of their division. The trickle-down effect of missing players who usually represent the first team meant that both the second and third team were understrength compared to their regular line ups. However, the second team did really well to keep all of the games tight and, in the end, secured a hard-earned tie in a match where all four games were won by Black.

On board 1, John Allan was in fact the first Hebden player to finish from all three teams as he comfortably overcame his opponent, Gary Trudeau. Maybe it helped that he had played him twice before and beaten him on both occasions. Regardless, the game was in the balance until White over-extended himself in the centre in playing 12.e5 when 12.Bf3 – consolidating first – would have been more prudent. John then set up a nice trap with the seemingly innocuous 17…Nf8 which induced a blunder that lost a piece for nothing. Rather than play on, Gary resigned on the spot.

The remaining three games all finished around about the same time so let’s run through them in board order. On board 2 Ollie Hill played his usual brand of interesting and enterprising chess against Jason Henderson. Ollie elected to play an offbeat line against the French Defence and seemed to get a perfectly acceptable position early on even though the engine’s assessment did not think much of it. In practical play between two humans, sometimes playing to discombobulate your opponent is a highly effective approach. Ollie developed naturally but may later have had cause to regret choosing to castle queen’s side on move 11 as it was on this flank where Black’s decisive attack later broke through. Just as his opponent’s offensive seemed unstoppable though, Black blundered most of his advantage away with 20…Nc4, allowing a series of exchanges which simplified White’s defensive task. Sadly for Ollie, the respite didn’t last long, as a second wave of the assault arrived and broke through forcing Ollie to exchange his queen for one of Black’s rooks. The rest was a mopping up exercise which Jason completed efficiently.

It was a different story on board 3 where John Kerrane played very nicely to maintain control against Michael Hill. The game started out as a Semi-Slav Defence where Michael elected to close the pawn structure and try to play for a space advantage. As the opening transitioned into the middle game and the position started to open, it looked like John’s queen’s side pawns might be vulnerable to an attack. However, John defended himself carefully and Michael was unable to find a way to break into the Black camp. The game turned just after it transitioned into the end game as White took the wrong approach with 30.Rb6 when he should instead have pushed his passed a-pawn immediately. John launched a counter-attack which took advantage of his opponent’s back rank weakness and suddenly White’s passed a-pawn was blockaded whilst Black’s passed d-pawn was accelerating up the board. Michael felt compelled to sacrifice his knight for it and, now a piece up, John showed good technique to convert the full point.

Chris Marsden was holding his own quite nicely against Nigel Kirkman on board 4 throughout the opening and into the middle game. This game was played from a French Defence Classical Variation with neither player really able to gain the upper hand until Chris decided to try and break out with the ill-fated move 23.f4. This should have allowed Black to exchange pawns and pieces on c4 and then win a pawn by capturing twice on g3. Instead Nigel went for the attractive looking 23…Nxd4 which grabs a free pawn due to 24.Qxd4 falling to a deadly pin with 24…Bc5. Chris could have limited the damage to a pawn if he’d been able to find the tricky 24.b4, but instead went for 24.Be3 and this gave Nigel a second bite of the cherry that he did not fail to capitalize on. Chris got his bishop trapped on c4 and the rest was straight forward.

So, a very decent 2-all draw for the second team which may stand them in good stead as stronger players return to reinforce their efforts in round to come. Their match was the only one that was tied in the group and so they sit in joint 4th-5th along with their opponents.

Hebden Bridge 3 vs Downend 2

The third team are in Group B of Division 4. They had two experienced 4NCL Online players in the form of Josh Blinkhorn and Terry Sullivan on boards 1 and 3 and then two new-comers as Paul Gledhill and Matthew Nolan stepped in on boards 2 and 4. This was always likely to be a tough assignment for the third team and so it proved although they fought tenaciously and came close to getting a result.

The first game to finish in this match was the board 4 debut of Matthew Nolan. Given that he’s fairly new to chess this competition is really all about getting a feel for what competitive chess involves and wetting his feet. His opponent Elliott Bleeg took full advantage of his opportunity as Matthew weakened his king’s position early on in the game when he played 7…f6 which led to the loss of a rook. Matthew did his best to wriggle but he was going to have to have seen a big blunder in return and Elliott was careful enough to convert without too much trouble.
Not long after Matthew’s demise the board 3 game was finished as well as Terry drew with Shaun Walsh. Facing a King’s Indian Defence, Terry deployed the Petrosian Variation and got a good game with a persistent advantage but unfortunately, he wasn’t able to find a way to press home his edge even though he was never in any danger and had lots more space when acceding to a repetition of moves and a draw.

On board 1, Josh had been under pressure with the White pieces against Thomas Ash’s Sicilian Najdorf Variation after he went astray during the opening. It looks as though 10.Bg3 was the start of his troubles. The engine calls for 10.fxg5 instead. It took Thomas several moves to play the obvious pawn fork 14…e5 which had been on for a couple of moves. When he did play it though it didn’t actually work and Josh found a way to maintain material parity. However, Josh lost a couple of pawns on the king’s side and that gave Black a passed pawn on the h file in an ending where Josh had a knight and bishop against Thomas’s rook and two pawns. Josh did manage to get some counter play but in the end Thomas played the ending with fewer mistakes and was able to win in the end.

That just left Paul Gledhill, also making his 4NCL Online debut on board 2. His game was also a Sicilian Najdorf but he had the Black pieces against James Meadows. This was a tense and complicated struggle with Paul getting a dangerous looking attack on the queen’s side after James castled long but leaving his own king in the middle of the board. James was tempted into a thematic and dangerous looking piece sacrifice with 17.Nd5. It didn’t work but it was hard to find the best continuation as the position exploded into pure tactics that only a computer could reasonably expect to navigate perfectly. For a brief moment White was better but he missed a difficult chance and Paul kept his cool admirably to maintain the balance and eventually won two pieces as White’s position fell apart.

A 2½-1½ defeat was not a terrible outcome for the third team and it will be interesting to see how they get on in this group once some of the stronger players in the squad return in round 2.

All the games from last week’s 4NCL Online matches can be found in the viewer below. Some have annotations from Lichess’s in house engine – Stockfish 14 – and the variations and move assessments are from the engine.

Instructions for using the PGN Viewer

For the benefit of those who are uninitiated, the game viewer above contains all of the games played on Tuesday night. It will automatically scroll through all of them one after the other unless you tell it to stop by clicking on the ‘=’ button below the board. To select the game you want to view click on the ‘…’ symbol in the white box above the board. This will reveal a dropdown menu for you to choose from and when you select your game will appear. You can navigate forwards and backwards using the arrow buttons beneath the board or click on the moves in the text box on the right.

Nov 122021

This position arose in Barlow vs. Heritage in the round 4 clash between Hebden Bridge D and Belgrave A. It’s Black to move and, despite his king being in the centre, his pieces are starting to menace the Black king. What’s the best next move for Black. You’ll find the answer in the game viewer at the end of this post.

Monday night saw the fourth and fifth rounds of the Calderdale 30 Rapidplay tournament take place at the Belgrave Club in Halifax. Readers may remember from the previous article on this competition that Hebden Bridge D sat atop the table with a perfect record of nine wins from nine games after the first three rounds with Hebden Bridge A a point behind them on eight.

Proceedings were slightly less frenetic on Monday as just two rounds were scheduled so it was just a matter of organising some last minute logistics to fill a couple of empty team rosters (Hebden Bridge arrived with 11 players and needed a twelfth) and jiggling the board orders to accommodate a couple of loan wolves who had turned up hoping for a game. It was great to see one-time Hebden Bridge player, Darwin Ursal, at the Belgrave Club and he slotted onto board 1 for the Nomads whilst Angel Gonzalez moved from board 3 in that team to join Hebden Bridge D on board 3.

As could be expected, team composition did change between rounds 1-3 and 4-5. Hebden A were unchanged but Hebden B saw Ralph Tatt getting his first taste of competitive chess in Calderdale on board 3 and David Wedge kindly making an emergency last minute substitute for an unwell Nick Doody on board 2. The C team welcomed Andy Leatherbarrow on board 2 and, as mentioned above, Angel Gonzalez joined the D team on board 3.

Here’s how the two rounds progressed:

Round 4

Hebden Bridge A had double derby trouble on Monday with two tough assignments against first their ‘B’ team and then their ‘C’ team. The first one was a very hard fought affair and in the balance until the very end of the round with board 1 being the last to finish in the room. Cobus Daneel continued his perfect trajectory with a victory over Ralph Tatt but Dave Shapland lost to David Wedge on board 2 meaning that the fate of the match rested on the top board clash between Matthew Parsons for the A team and Phil Cook for the B team. Much like their classical time limit encounter at the start of the season, this one went right to the wire. Matthew claimed a win on time at the end but Phil hadn’t noticed that Matthew’s allowance had also elapsed and, after a brief discussion a draw was amicably agreed and was probably a fair result. So, the match was tied.

This result gave the D team a chance to increase their lead however, up against a strong Belgrave A side, they were unable to take advantage and slipped to a 2-1 defeat as Sam Swain lost to Dave Patrick on board 2 and Angel Gonzalez lost to Karim Khan on board 3. However, on board 1 Jamie Heritage demolished Dave Barlow convincingly with the Black pieces to keep his perfect record in the competition. This game is given in the game viewer at the end of this post with some annotations by Jamie for your entertainment.

Hebden Bridge C meanwhile were engaged in another tight encounter, this time with Huddersfield A. Andy Leatherbarrow lost to Nick Sykes on board 2 but Martyn Hamer and Jeremy Butts beat Gerald Cuaresma and Colin Frank respectively to seal a victory.

Round 5

Things went from bad to worse for the A team as they were taken apart by their C team colleagues. Dave Shapland lost gain, this time to Andy Leatherbarrow, Matthew Parsons and Martyn Hamer drew on the top board and Cobus even lost his perfect record to his friend Jeremy on board 3. 2.5-0.5 for the C team was a fantastic result and helped to propel them up the standings.

This time the D team were able to take full advantage of the A team’s mis-step as they handed Huddersfield A their second 2-1 defeat to a Hebden side of the evening. This time Colin Frank was able to beat Angel Gonzalez on the bottom board but Sam beat Nick Sykes and Jamie won yet again, this time against Gerald Cuaresma.

The B team also won their match against against Huddersfield B by the same score of 2-1. Phil Cook capped a great evening with a win over Leo Keely and David Wedge beat Alec Ward to see the B team to victory. Ralph had another game with Amin Hossain but ended up on the losing side.

League Table after 5 rounds

Hebden Bridge D – 12
Hebden Bridge A – 10
Belgrave A – 9.5
Hebden Bridge B – 8.5
Hebden Bridge C – 8.5
Huddersfield B – 8.5
Nomads – 7
Huddersfield A – 6
Belgrave B – 3
Halifax – 2

So, although Hebden D extended their lead at the top by a point, there is now a bunch of times gathering behind them and the A team who, despite Monday’s tough results, remain in second place. With plenty of clutch matches to come, including the top two teams facing each other in round 6, and four more rounds still to play, it seems possible that even the teams on 8.5 could catch up if they can string some big wins together.

Top scorers

Jamie Heritage – 5
Phil Cook – 4
Sam Swain – 4
Cobus Daneel – 4
Matthew Parsons – 3.5
Martyn Hamer – 3.5
Dave Patrick – 3.5

The honour of being the top scorer in the competition is also still wide open but someone will have to stop Jamie Heritage if they are going to snatch it from him.

Instructions for using the PGN Viewer

For the benefit of those who are uninitiated, the game viewer above contains one of the games played last Monday night. It will automatically scroll through all of the moves unless you tell it to stop by clicking on the ‘=’ button below the board. You can navigate forwards and backwards using the arrow buttons beneath the board or click on the moves in the text box on the right.

Oct 082021

This position appeared in the game between Matthew Parsons and Leo Keely in the second round of the Calderdale 30 on Monday night. It’s White to play. How should he continue? You’ll find the answer and the rest of the game in the viewer at the end of this post.

The Calderdale Evening Chess League launched a brand new competition on Monday this week as 30 players from across the region met at the Belgrave Social Club in Halifax to play three rounds of chess at a time limit of 30 minutes each. This tournament will see ten teams of three players participating in a round robin team format over four evenings from this week through to March next year. League positions will be determined not by match points but by points scored on each and every board and that means every single game has a potential bearing on the outcome with up to three points available in every match.

It was great to see so many chess players all in one place on Monday and almost half of them were representing Hebden Bridge Chess Club as we entered four teams to take part. They joined two teams from Belgrave, two from Huddersfield, one from Halifax and another team of ‘Nomads’ made up of players from various clubs who didn’t have a berth in any of the other teams. Hebden chose to distribute their strength across all four of their teams in order to try and make the whole tournament as competitive as possible. Their fours teams were led on the top boards by Matthew Parsons, Phil Cook, Martyn Hamer and Jamie Heritage whilst their bottom boards were occupied by four players who joined the club either just before or just after the COVID lockdown, Cobus Daneel, Jeremy Butts, Chris Marsden and Sam Giles.

By the end of the evening two of Hebden’s teams had taken an early lead and were well clear of the pack. Here is a round by round breakdown of the scores.

Round 1

Hebden Bridge A (Matthew Parsons, Dave Shapland and Cobus Daneel) beat the Nomads side (Richard Porter, Vivienne Webster and Angel Gonzalez) by 2½-½. Matthew and Cobus won fairly comfortably but a rusty Dave missed a hanging piece in the middle game and then blundered the exchange in his game but somehow managed to hang on for a draw in the end game with Vivienne’s time running out.

Hebden Bridge B (Phil Cook, Nick Doody and Chris Marsden) beat Halifax (Andrew Whiteley, Barry Wadsworth and John Nicholson) 2 – 1 though they didn’t lose a game as both boards two and three were drawn whilst Phil won on board 1.

Huddersfield B (Leo Keely, David Gray and Alec Ward) whitewashed Huddersfield A (Nick Sykes, Robert Mitchell and Colin Frank) 3-0.

Belgrave A (Dave Patrick, Robert Clegg and Chris Edwards) beat Belgrave B (Dave Colledge, Les Johnson and Steve Harrington) 2½ – ½.

But the result of the round was undoubtedly Hebden Bridge D’s (Jamie Heritage, Sam Swain and Sam Giles) pasting of Hebden Bridge C (Martyn Hamer, Paul Gledhill and Jeremy Butts) 3-0 with Jamie’s win over Martyn on board one serving further notice that he is going to be a major force to be reckoned with in Calderdale this season.

Round 2

Hebden Bridge D continued their perfect form with a 3-0 thrashing of the Nomads in round 2. Just half a point behind them were Hebden Bridge A who also managed to beat Huddersfield B 3-0. Matthew Parson’s beautiful game against Leon Keely on board 1 is given in the game viewer at the end of this post and is well worth taking a look at, while Dave Shapland survived another scare before turning the tables on David Gray and new-comer Cobus Daneel took down the Huddersfield Captain Alec Ward in fine attacking style.

Hebden B beat Belgrave A 2-1 in a tight match with Nick Doody’s win over Robert Clegg on board two proving to be decisive as Phil Cook drew with Dave Patrick and Chris Marsden drew with Chris Edwards on boards 1 and 3 respectively. This put the B team two points behind the D team and one and a half behind the A team after two rounds.

Hebden C bounced back from their first round defeat by the D team to beat Halifax 2-1. Martyn and Paul won their games on boards 1 and 2 against Andrew Whiteley and Barry Wadsworth while Jeremy on board 3 also had much the better of the game against John Nicholson before running out of time in a completely winning position.

In the last of the round 2 matches, Belgrave B lost 1-2 to Huddersfield A.

Round 3

Hebden Bridge D assured themselves of the top spot in the league after 3 rounds by carrying out their third demolition of the evening, this time against Halifax. This rounded off an extremely impressive evening from all three of their players.

Hebden Bridge A lost a little bit more ground in their chase as they won 2½-½ for the second time in the evening against Belgrave B. This time it was Matthew on board 1 who was impressively held to a draw by Dave Colledge. Meanwhile Dave and Cobus both did what they needed to against Les Johnson and Steve Harrington respectively. Cobus finished the night on 3 out of 3 – another very impressive performance.

Hebden Bridge B lost their final match of the evening 1-2 to Huddersfield A. Phil beat Nick Sykes on board 1 but Nick and Chris both lost their games to Robert Mitchell and Colin Frank respectively.

Hebden Bridge C continued their recovery with a fine 2-1 win over Belgrave A. The hero here was Jeremy who recovered from two painful losses on time to dispatch the experienced Chris Edwards on board 3. This win, along with Phil’s win over Dave Patrick on board 1 was enough to counteract Paul’s loss to Robert Clegg on board 2.

The final match of round 3 saw the evening’s only tied match as Huddersfield B and the Nomads fought themselves to a standstill. Leo Keely beat Richard Porter on the top board but Angel Gonzalez beat Alec Ward on the bottom board whilst the game between David Gray and Vivienne Webster was a draw.

League Table after 3 rounds

Hebden Bridge D – 9 points
Hebden Bridge A – 8
Hebden Bridge B – 5
Huddersfield B – 4½
Belgrave A – 4½
Hebden Bridge C – 4
Huddersfield A – 4
Nomads – 2
Belgrave B – 2
Halifax – 2

This competition is a welcome addition to the calendar and there was a great atmosphere at the Belgrave Club with so many players all in one place and lots of exciting games being played. Whilst two of the Hebden teams are currently riding high, neither of them have played the strongest teams in the competition yet and so there is plenty of time over the remaining six rounds for the other to haul them in, and, with some missing players due to return for the next night of fixtures, there is every chance that fortunes may change.

Instructions for using the PGN Viewer

For the benefit of those who are uninitiated, the game viewer above contains one of the games played last Monday night. It will automatically scroll through it unless you tell it to stop by clicking on the ‘=’ button below the board. You can navigate forwards and backwards using the arrow buttons beneath the board or click on the moves in the text box on the right.

Sep 262021

Sometimes, when a match is in the balance, you need the heavy hitters to tip the scales in your favour. That was exactly what happened on Monday night as the top 3 boards helped Hebden Bridge 2 edge past Huddersfield 2. Photo Credit: Janet Ramsden’s Flickr photo stream

On Monday night the first of the round 2 matches in this season’s Calderdale Evening Chess game were played. As we return tentatively to over the board chess in the wake of the COVID pandemic, there is just one division of eight teams this season and each round of fixtures is played across two weeks. This has been done to allow clubs the opportunity to share players between teams should they be suddenly have squad members becoming unavailable due to a positive test and self-isolation or illness.

On Monday, Hebden Bridge 2 hosted Huddersfield 2 at the Trades Club. Both sides had done well against their first teams in the first round of matches with Hebden, as reported here last week, drawing their match with Hebden Bridge 1 whilst Huddersfield 2 went one better and beat their first team. However, while Huddersfield selected the exact same five players that had done the job for them the previous week, Hebden rang the changes in order to try and get as many members of their squad as possible a game. Their board 1 for the derby match, Phil Cook, took a week off and out too went Cobus Daneel. They were replaced by Nick Doody and Sam Swain both playing their first matches of the season and, in Nick’s case, his first match for the club.

This was an absorbing, tense and very close match with the result in doubt right until the last moves were played. Looking at the ratings beforehand it seemed that Hebden Bridge would be favourites primarily owing to their superior strength on the lower boards, but that was actually where they struggled most. Chris Marsden and Sam Swain both made blunders to help Bryn Charlesworth and Alec Ward overturn the odds on boards 4 and 5.

This left Hebden’s top three boards to do the heavy lifting. Nick Doody, returning to chess after several years away, demonstrated he was in great shape with a nice win against David Gray on board 3 before Andrew Clarkson finally triumphed over Leo Keely on board 1 in a long encounter that saw Leo go a piece down early on but then provide obdurate resistance.

The last game to finish was the one on board 2 between young Jamie Heritage of Hebden Bridge and Granville Boot of Huddersfield. This was a fascinating encounter with a very unusual material balance that kept onlookers speculating about the outcome right to the end. Granville had a rook for four pawns in the endgame and caused Jamie all sorts of problems before the 15-year old finally found a way to stop his pawn storm and seal the win for Hebden Bridge at the death.

A great match! Here is the final match score card which saw Hebden 2 move into 2nd place in the fledgling league table just behind Belgrave 2 on board points as they tied with Halifax 1 on Monday night.

Hebden Bridge 2 vs. Huddersfield 2
(B) A.Clarkson 1 – 0 L.Keely
(B) J.Heritage 1 – 0 G.Boot
(B) N.Doody 1 – 0 D.Gray
(B) S.Swain 0 – 1 A.Ward
(B) C.Marsden 0 – 1 B.Charlesworth
3 – 2

Instructions for using the PGN Viewer

For the benefit of those who are uninitiated, the game viewer above contains some of the games played last Monday night. It will automatically scroll through all of them one after the other unless you tell it to stop by clicking on the ‘=’ button below the board. To select the game you wish to view click on the ‘…’ symbol in the white box above the board. This will reveal a dropdown menu for you to choose from and when you select your game will appear. You can navigate forwards and backwards using the arrow buttons beneath the board or click on the moves in the text box on the right.

Sep 182021

Hebden 1 and Hebden 2 kicked off the new season playing against each other. Who got their calculations right on the night? Read on to find out. Photo credit: litherland’s Flickr photo stream

On March 16th 2020 I played on board 1 for Hebden Bridge ‘C’ as they hosted Huddersfield ‘B’ in the Calderdale Evening Chess League. That was a round 11 match and we’d almost reached the end of the season. Sadly, we didn’t make it to the very end. Little were any of us playing that night to know that this would be the last competitive over the board chess we would play for the best part of 18 months. The COVID lockdown came into effect the following week and all our activity ground to a halt.

Much has changed since that Monday night in 2020. Lockdown life has afforded many people the opportunity to discover the pleasures of playing chess for the first time or has given those who used to play years ago the chance to renew their appreciation of the game. The Queen’s Gambit series on Netflix has glamourised the world of chess and challenged the generally held stereotypes people had of chess players and chess itself. Online chess has boomed significantly and the number of online competitions available to us has expanded as a result – but we’ve also been confronted by an epidemic of online cheating that has damaged the reputation of the game.

A few weeks ago, we were able to start up our face-to-face meetings at the Trades Club again and we’ve been blessed with a steady influx of new members as well as an enthusiastic return to action by our existing membership base. As long as the world can stay COVID secure in the near future and activity is not abruptly curtailed again, it would appear that the pandemic has had a silver lining for the chess community.

Last Monday night Hebden Bridge 1 and Hebden Bridge 2 met for the first match of a brand new Calderdale Evening League season. It was great to be back at the board playing competitive chess again. However, the match was not completely free from the impact of the COVID pandemic. For a start, several of the players who had originally been selected to play either came down with the virus or were anxiously awaiting the results of tests to see if they could leave their homes. The Trades Club was unavailable for the match because they had a gig scheduled that night but our back up venue (the Golden Lion in Todmorden) was unable to open as planned due to staff shortages. Indeed, the match between Halifax’s two teams was postponed as their usual venue was also unavailable.

Riding to our rescue came our friends at Belgrave Chess Club who agreed to host our derby match at their venue so that we could proceed as planned. In recent seasons our top two teams have been selected based on the geography of their player bases with those players from the upper Calder Valley and East Lancashire playing in one team based at the Golden Lion and the those based all points west of Hebden Bridge playing at the Trades Club. Generally, the two sides have been fairly evenly matched and they’ve dominated League 1 in recent times.

This season, there is only one division and all four clubs (Hebden Bridge, Halifax, Belgrave and Huddersfield) have fielded two teams in it. With all our home games taking place at the Trades Club we’ve taken the opportunity to split the strength of our pool of players evenly across the two teams. Thus, on Monday the strongest two players available faced each other on board 1 and then the next two strongest on board 2 and so on across the 5 boards with just a small change on the bottom two boards. The idea was to try and create genuine competition between the two sides and, based on the evidence from Monday, it seems to have worked well. The match was tied with competitive and tense games on all five boards.

Both teams fielded a blend of experienced league players, more recent league players with fewer games under their belts and brand new members who’d never played in the Calderdale League before. Right from the start of the evening it was clear that the match was going to be tight. Board 4 was the first game to finish when Andy Leatherbarrow (playing for the first team) took down Cobus Daneel (one of the two new members) with the Black pieces. This was followed shortly after by a draw on board 2 between Andrew Clarkson (playing for the second team) and Martyn Hamer. These two have faced each other many times before and, despite entering a promisingly complicated line of the Sicilian Richter Rauser, they sensibly decide not to risk too much and signed peace terms in a roughly equal position.

Having fallen behind, Hebden 2 then struck back mid-evening when 15-year old Jamie Heritage beat Dave Shapland to level the scores for the second team. Dave had prepared a line of the French Tarrasch Variation as a bit of a surprise but Jamie coped with it superbly and played accurately to maintain some pressure. Dave committed the first major imprecision of the game and followed it immediately with a more serious blunder which led to a terminal loss of material.

The second team then took a 2½ – 1½ lead when Chris Marsden, who had been steadily turning the screw against the second new player in the match, Jeremy Butts, won a piece and then converted his advantage without too much fuss. That result meant Matthew Parsons (playing for the first team) needed to beat Phil Cook with the Black pieces to tie the match up. That he succeeded in doing this only at the very end of the evening should reveal that this game was very tight, very well played and extremely tense. At the end, Matthew won on time but it appeared he had won endgame anyway. Subsequent analysis with an engine revealed that in fact, Phil could have held the balance but only with a very accurate sequence.

So, the match ended tied which is probably a slightly better result for the first team given they were all playing Black. The final match scorecard is below:

Hebden Bridge 1 vs. Hebden Bridge 2
M.Parsons 1 – 0 P.Cook
M.Hamer ½ – ½ A.Clarkson
D.Shapland 0 – 1 J.Heritage
A.Leatherbarrow 1 – 0 C.Daneel
J.Butts 0 – 1 C.Marsden
2½ – 2½

You can view some of the game played on Monday in the game viewer below.


Instructions for using the PGN Viewer

For the benefit of those who are uninitiated, the game viewer above contains some of the games played last Monday night. It will automatically scroll through all of them one after the other unless you tell it to stop by clicking on the ‘=’ button below the board. To select the game you wish to view click on the ‘…’ symbol in the white box above the board. This will reveal a dropdown menu for you to choose from and when you select your game will appear. You can navigate forwards and backwards using the arrow buttons beneath the board or click on the moves in the text box on the right.