Aug 302013

Bridestones Holme Brew Chess Challenge: Final Game

The Bridestones Holme Brew Chess Challenge came to an end at the Trades Club on Monday night as Andy Leatherbarrow and Pete Leonard played out a draw in trying circumstances as the chess players attempted to concentrate over the din of the live football being televised in the main room.

This result allowed Pete to catch up with Dave Shapland in second place with 3½ out of 8 and Andy’s half point enabled him to catch Nick Sykes on 3 points with all these four players finishing well behind the tournament winner, Matthew Parsons on 7.

Below is the final cross table for the competition. Next week Matthew will receive his prize of beer from our sponsors and all the participants will hope that the summer of chess has sharpened them up for the coming season rather than worn them out. These five players will spearhead Hebden Bridge ‘A’s attempt to achieve a “Three-peat” of Calderdale League 1 title’s. They’ll need to be at their best to have any chance of succeeding.

Bridestones 2013 Final Table

Let’s pause moment to assess the merits of this summer-long contest. The objective was to give the ‘A’ team players some focus over the close season and hopefully provide them with the opportunity to play some decent chess as well. To this extent the competition succeeded because each player had some positive aspects to take away from their games and certainly some of the chess was of a decent quality.

Perhaps the most surprising feature of all was the lack of draws in the competition. Bearing in mind that four of the contestants were rated within 10 points of each other it is interesting that there were only 4 draws (17%) in 23 games and that includes one draw featuring Alastair Wright who withdrew after playing three games. For the record there were 12 White wins (52%) and 7 Black wins (31%).

So, how about the format? Does it have any merits and offer any possible view of summer vacations yet to come? “Perhaps” I think is the answer. Probably it was too much to expect a six-player double round robin to fit comfortably into the summer break and also allow players to be away on holiday. After Alastair had withdrawn it became easier to finish the schedule. Several participants have said they’d like to do something similar again next season and so perhaps two or even three grade-banded sections of 5 players in each would be a possibility. Certainly a planned and agreed schedule would be a good idea to give everyone some structure and a timetable to work to. This could still allow for holidays and be planned around participants’ vacations.

A couple of players also mentioned the idea of inviting in some players from other clubs to take part provided they commit to the schedule and agree to play at the Trades Club. This is an interesting possibility and might enable some additional strength to be drafted in at the high end of the spectrum (mostly to give Matthew a proper run for his money!) Ultimately, the competition is a club contest and the bulk of the participants should come from the membership. I’d certainly welcome some feedback from other members about the possibility of expending the format next summer. Who knows, perhaps Bridestones Brewing will be interested in sponsoring it again.

I asked all of the players to share their thoughts on the competition and their own performance. Let’s start with the thoughts of the winner.

1st: Matthew Parsons — 7/8

Firstly it was a great idea, it was worthwhile, I had some good games, and I’m glad I took part.

I think the quality of games was reasonable. I believe people were too concerned with the opening and trying to catch out/avoid their opponents strengths, rather than playing to their own, of which I was guilty of in 3-4 games, though luckily I only paid the price once.

Mine own performance – I cannot be disappointed. 8/9 against such a field I believe to be a great performance”

2nd= Dave Shapland — 3½/8

The format of the competition made it unusual and challenging. The round robin is totally different from anything else I’ve done before and I really enjoyed it. It has a somewhat claustrophobic feel to it which lends the whole thing some intensity.

Frankly, I expected to lose both my games against Matthew (though I tried hard to cause him difficulties) and so my objective for the tournament was to score 50% against the others. I managed to succeed in this and so I’m satisfied with my tournament although my loss with White to Matthew is still the cause of some pain!

Being the lowest rated and, in my opinion, the weakest endgame player in the line up, I felt it was particularly important for me to prepare for the opening phase well and to play ambitiously with White. I scored 3 out of 4 with White so I achieved my objective (and ironically I won three endgames where my opponent’s played less well than I did!) However, my performance with Black was not so good (½/4 if you don’t count my draw with Al) and so perhaps I should have stuck to my regular repertoire in my games with Black against Andy and Pete!”

2nd= Pete Leonard — 3½/8

I’m glad to have taken part and would do so again. What do other members think? Given that there is no club championship during the winter, how about setting up a Summer League that is open to all members? Entries could be required by a date that would give time for the competition to be organised.

Say a dozen entered; the thing could be split into two divisions, initially split by grading, but with promotion and relegation, to give those of us who aren’t Matthew something to play for! How many matches? Two against each opponent is the ideal.

As for this tournament, I think the result was a fair reflection of our various abilities. I was disappointed in many of my games; without looking through them again, I lost fairly feebly to Matthew, to Andy and Dave, first time round, and was fortunate to win both of my games against Nick.

I hear what Matthew says about obsessions with openings. I feel my opening knowledge is 30 years out of date! In an attempt not to fall into the more well-known traps, I have tended to focus on just a few openings. Certainly, you know that I’m going to open 1.e4 as White, and respond 1…Nf6 to either 1.e4 or 1.d4. Over time, I may try to extend this.”

3rd= Nick Sykes — 3/8

I think the tournament has actually been a success, mainly as we managed to get through all the games.

I would like to do something similar next summer, whether we open it to more players from other clubs and do a single round robin, I don’t know?

My own performance was a little strange. In the games I didn’t make one move blunders (with that I mean the computer assessment changing dramatically in one move) I did very well. My openings were a positive, in no game was I worse out of the opening and in 6/8 I achieved clearly better positions (just need to convert the advantage). I played slightly different openings to what people might have expected which may have been an psychological advantage.”

3rd= Andy Leatherbarrow — 3/8

“I enjoyed the matches. Usually I just relax and do no chess across the summer. I will be interested to see if it makes a difference to the season start. The only thing I would try and change would be the uneven spacing of the games, but that may not be possible.

Personally I tried to play positions I know less well or have not tried in matches and different opening lines to my usual ones. This has been challenging but insightful. It was interesting to play the different styles within the team. Generally I was happy with my games. There were just a couple that I was not fully tuned into and got beaten.”

It appears then that this competition, or something like it, may return next summer and hopefully with more players taking part. I hope our readers have enjoyed the games and the coverage. I must also say “Thank you” once again to our sponsor for providing us with a prize. Let’s hope that this is the start of something special!

Below is the final game of the competition. All games and reports can be found on the Bridestones page in the tab above.

Aug 232013
The most iconic scream in the history of cinematography. But this may not be Janet Leigh. Could it be Matthew Parsons scream of frustration as our very own Syko made him his second victim of the tournament. This image is used under Creative Commons terms and is sourced from Dave Pattern's Flickr photostream

The most iconic scream in the history of cinematography. But this may not be Janet Leigh. Could it be Matthew Parson’s scream of frustration as our very own Syko made him his second victim of the tournament? This image is used under Creative Commons terms and is sourced from Dave Pattern’s Flickr photostream

Bridstones Holme Brew Chess Challenge: Round 8

As three of the five remaining players in the Bridestones competition played their final games there was no shortage of drama and excitement to be had at the Tradesclub on Monday night.

Most dramatic of all was Nick Sykes superb victory over the runaway tournament leader and top seed Matthew “Mate-You” Parsons. With a perfect score before the final round Matthew has hardly even been under pressure at any point in the tournament. Dave Shapland achieved what should have been a winning position a couple of games ago but he couldn’t close the deal and other than that Matthew’s progress has been relatively serene.

In this game Nick bravely ventured the King’s Indian Defence against Matthew, who plays the opening himself with Black, and opted to play 2.c4 instead of his habitual London System. Sometimes, facing one of your own favourite openings with colours reversed can do funny things to your psyche. Matthew however is too good a player to let such considerations mess with his head and he selected the solid and unpretentious Averbahk System (with Be2 and Bg5) to meet Nicks Kings Indian.

Nick navigated the opening without any problems and then, as Matthew said afterwards, just “kept on playing good moves” throughout the middle game. Meanwhile Matthew seemed to be struggling to find a plan and he slowly drifted into a weak position. A few rounds ago Dave had blown his chance against Matthew by trying to completely stamp out his opponent’s chances for counter-play instead of converting his positional advantage to a material one. Nick adopted the same approach in this game but, crucially, his control of the position was such that it didn’t affect his winning chances. He overlooked a couple of opportunities to nail a direct attack on Matthew’s king (probably because he wasn’t looking for one) and simply maintained his grip on the game.

Finally, possibly out of desperation, Matthew made the decision to swap the queens off and try to defend in an ending that Nick saw was simply winning for him. Against another player this approach might have worked but Nick’s end game technique has improved greatly over the last eighteen months and, despite both players getting into considerable time trouble, he held his nerve to convert a very impressive win and blot Matthew’s copy book on the final page.

This result means that Matthew has still won the tournament by a huge margin with a score of 7 out of 8. Nick meanwhile, after a largely disappointing tournament, can bask in the glory of a morale boosting win that gives him some momentum for the start of the new season, when he will take over the captaincy of the ‘A’ team and also brings his score for the competition up to a respectable 3 out of 8.

Whilst all this was going on Pete Leonard and Dave Shapland were engaged in another complicated and brutal struggle. Dave was in playful mood and elected to essay the Scandinavian Defence against Pete. An opening that he’s never played before but he had noticed that Pete hadn’t faced before with White at a classical time limit either. Dave’s hope was to draw Pete into a dangerous gambit line but Pete knew better than to fall behind in development against Dave and the struggle soon became complex and messy and both players missed good continuations amid the confusion.

The key moment of the game came as Dave went into “the tank” as early as move 14 and spent the best part of half an hour analysing a position that looked close to winning but turned to be less straight forward. The computer finds an interesting queen sacrifice that might have afforded Dave his best chance in the position. Instead he failed to find a killer blow and was shocked by the immediacy and force of Pete’s counter attack. The Black position became very uncomfortable indeed and Dave had left himself with an acute shortage of time to search for solutions to his problems.

Pete rightly launched a pawn assault on Dave’s king position and the attack simply stream-rollered home. Dave lost on time and resigned at the same time as they reached time control. Pete had avenged his defeat to Dave from earlier in the tournament and carried his own score to 3 out of 7 with just Andy Leatherbarrow to play next Monday to complete the competition.

Dave meanwhile has finished the tournament poorly with just a single draw from his last three games. He is still in second place on his own with 3½ out of 8 but he will at least be joined on that score by either Pete or Andy depending on the outcome of their game and if Pete wins that game he can finish in second on his own with 4 points.

Both this week’s games can be found in the viewer below.

Aug 092013
Matthew Parson's Sniper system was sorely tested this week... but he still won the game

Matthew Parson’s Sniper system was sorely tested this week… but he still won the game

Bridestones Holme Brew Summer Chess Challenge

As the summer winds it way into August and the holiday season, the Bridestones Holme Brew Chess Challenge is almost at an end and now crawling slowly to a halt. With participants away on holiday there have only been two games played in the last few weeks and the weeks ahead will also see single games completed rather than groups of fixtures.

Both games played last week and this involved the out-going Hebden Bridge ‘A’ team Captain, Dave Shapland. From a grading perspective at least the bottom seed been the surprise package of the competition as he had succeeded in getting himself to 3/5 and a clear second position following his defeat of Pete Leonard a few weeks ago. Now he faced the new Hebden ‘A’ Captain Nick Sykes and the runaway tournament leader Matthew Parsons in successive weeks knowing that, if he could overcome the odds again an win both games he could even be back in the hunt for the tournament victory.

First came his game as Black against Nick who was propping up the table and desperate to score a victory to avenge a painful defeat when the two met earlier on in the competition. Both these players are great connoisseurs of the opening phase of the game and so it was no surprise to see a deeply theoretical discussion appear on the board. Nick had beaten Dave earlier this season in the Calderdale Individual Championship by deploying 1.c4 and took full advantage of a blunder by his opponent early in the middle game to collect the whole point. This time round, true to his principles of never playing the same opening against the same payer twice, Nick opted for 1.e4 and waited to see whether or not Dave would essay the Sicilian, Spanish or his recent pet line, the Pirc. Dave picked the Spanish and surprised his opponent a little by offering a mainline rather than the Bird’s or Classical variations which deviate from the most well trodden paths early.

It turned out that Dave had anticipated Nick would choose the Worrall Attack (5.Qe2) and had prepared a line to play against it that looked quite similar in nature to an old favourite of Dave’s the Open Variation or the Marshall Gambit. The game followed thematically well known principles until Dave plunged in in the centre with 14…d4, closing the position in that part of the board. The game then developed on the flanks as Dave tried to create problems for Nick on the queen’s-side whilst Nick countered in classical fashion by manoeuvring his pieces across to the king’s-side to go for Dave’s monarch directly.

The crisis of the game came with Dave’s decision to initiate huge complications after 24…g5!? Computer analysis suggests this was his best option but it appeared Nick had numerous ways to sacrifice material in order to get a strong attack. Instead he chose another course which appeared to offer him material parity and chances to exploit Dave’s structural weaknesses later on. Dave then missed a deeply cunning way to win a piece and found himself a pawn down but with very active pieces as compensation. Nick then missed an opportunity to give himself good winning chances and entrenched himself to ensure his opponent didn’t get the chance to build an attack. The queens came off the board and then, with Dave still a pawn down a draw was agreed as Nick had no good way of converting his advantage due to the activity of Dave’s remaining rook and bishop. An interesting game with plenty of excitement and the first time Black has not lost in four games between these two.

On Monday night Dave lined up against the club’s strongest player knowing that only a win could give him any hope of catching Matthew up in the competition. At least he had the White pieces with which he had so far scored 3/3. He’d also had the chance to think about and prepare for Matthew’s Sniper system where Black plays and early c5-g6-Bg7 in one move order or another. What Dave had in mind was to capture Matthew’s pawn on c5, bolster the long black diagonal with c3 and then play the unusual looking 6.Na3!? This turns out to be a critical test of Black’s resources and there are many bear traps awaiting the unsuspecting Sniper. Of course Matthew is anything but unsuspecting and he played the best and only moves to keep himself afloat.

Surprisingly, Dave chose to offer an early queen exchange and Matthew, confident of his end game ability, was happy to acquiesce. However, he then followed up with the natural looking 9…0-0 and it turned out that this was one of those occasions where playing natural looking moves wasn’t a good idea. Dave was able to get his pieces onto good squares and force Matthew to place some his on awkward squares. A well timed h3-g4 thrust locked Black’s king’s knight up on h6 and with the Sniper bishop also locked in on g7 and no immediate opportunity to break out with the thematic f5 Matthew was suddenly rendered somewhat immobile.

Over the next dozen or so moves Dave increased his advantage with some sound active play until the critical moment in this game arrived at move 26. Matthew’s a-pawn was attacked but, rather than move or defend it (remaining passive) Matthew played 26…Kh8 with a view to giving up the pawn and re-activating his knight via g8 and e7. Dave had a long think as he considered the pawn offer but, critically, he declined it in favour of trying to keep Matthew’s activity to a minimum. It was the point at which the game turned. Matthew hung on and gradually unravelled his pieces. Dave’s advantage dwindled until Matthew generated some counter play on the h-file and suddenly Dave had to change his mindset to defending for a draw rather than playing for a win. A series of inaccurate moves was followed at move 55 by a tired blunder and it was all over. Matthew had escaped to take yet another win. He is now on 6/6 and no-one can stop him wining this competition. Congratulations to our inaugural Bridestones Holme Brew Chess Challenge Champion!

Both the games covered in this report are in the game viewer below.

Next week Hebden Bridge will play a friendly 10-board match against Keighley at the Trades Club. There should be plenty of action from this encounter to provide some interest for these pages next week.

Jul 222013

bridestones 2There is a chapter in Christian Hesse’s excellent tome “The Joys of Chess” which is entitled “The conqueror of the conqueror of Fischer” in which he sets out a method for calculating something called a ‘Fischer Score’ whereby every chess player is given a number based on how many victories they are away from beating Bobby Fischer. It’s a sort of ‘6 degrees of separation’ theory.

You can create a ‘Fischer Score’ based on the following terms:

  • Bobby Fischer himself has the Fischer number of 0
  • Anyone who defeated Fischer at least once gets the Fischer number 1
  • Anyone who defeated anyone who defeated Fischer gets the number 2
  • Anyone who can’t trace a line of victories between themselves and someone who beat Fischer gets a Fischer number of infinite ∞

This is all fairly frivolous of course and it’s a fun game to play to see who might have the lowest Fischer number. However, for most of us that would take a fair degree of research to figure out the best player you’ve ever beaten and then workout the best player they’ve ever beaten etc.

It must say something about the status of Bobby Fischer that chess players want to measure themselves against him

It must say something about the legendary status of Bobby Fischer that all chess players seem to want to measure themselves against him (and ponies want to rub noses with him!)

However, with a little bit of tweaking of this basic idea Calderdale players have a very good local point of entry to a surprisingly low Fischer number (of sorts!) The key is to change the basic principle from someone who beat Fischer to someone who drew with Fischer and now, suddenly, Pete Leonard becomes your gateway to a ‘Fischer Score’ of 3! Why? Well, remember that, back in the 70’s our colleague Mr Leonard secured an excellent and surprisingly turgid draw with the Magician of Riga himself, Mikhail Tal. That being the case, and being certain that Tal himself both beat and drew with Fischer, then Pete has a Fischer score of 2 and anyone who’s drawn with or beaten Pete has a Fischer score of 3.

On this basis the latest Hebden Bridge player to bag himself a single digit ‘Fischer Score’ (of 3) is Dave Shapland who beat Pete last Monday night (Andy Leatherbarrow joined this elite group earlier in the tournament and Nick Sykes and Matthew Parsons did so earlier this season). Rather more significantly, this win also moved Dave on to a score for the competition of 3/5 which puts him into a clear second place. It also gives him an impressive 3/3 with White with just Matthew Parsons left to play with these pieces.

As you’ll see from the game and commentary in the viewer below, Dave had prepared something very specific for his game with Pete as he chose not to essay his habitual 1.e4 in favour of 1.d4 and 2.c4. He did this just to have a crack at Pete’s favourite Grunfeld Defence. Or, more precisely, he did it so that he could deploy the so-called ‘Anti-Grunfeld’ where White plays 3.f3!? The name of the variation might suggest that this line prevents or discourages Black from entering the Grunfeld. This isn’t the case. What it really does is change the nature of the opening should Black decide to opt for the Grunfeld with 3…d5 instead of transposing into a King’s Indian with 3…d6 or a Benoni with 3…c5. The ‘Anti-Grunfeld’ has been a popular guest at the highest echelons of the game recently, Vishy Anand even deployed it against Boris Gelfand during last year’s World Championship match.

In this instance, Dave didn’t get the advantage he’d expected from his sly choice because Pete decided to go for an offbeat (and almost certainly dubious) continuation when he captured on d5 with his queen and then after 5.e4 moved her majesty to a5. No doubt there were improvements available for both players but Dave got much the better of the opening and ended up bagging the exchange for a pawn before the game was 20 moves old. Dave probably should have gone on to convert his advantage in prosaic fashion but he over-elaborated after that and allowed Pete’s resilient and stubborn defence to pay dividends. Pete won back the exchange but Dave’s space advantage persisted and he kept on applying pressure to Black’s position.

On they went into an endgame that looked drawish but Dave still had the initiative and finally Pete made some inaccurate moves allowing Dave to create weaknesses to target in a rook and pawn ending. After the time control the standard of play dwindled significantly but Pete missed chances and made more mistakes until eventually Dave was forcing home his h-pawn or winning Pete’s rook.

Meanwhile, tournament leader Matthew Parsons was once again demonstrating his superiority over the entire field as he dispatched Andy Leatherbarrow with no more effort than he would take to swat a fly. This is not to suggest that Andy played poorly. In fact it is hard to identify where he went wrong! Nevertheless Matthew identified a critical weakness (the dark squares) in Andy’s position and exploited it very creatively and single-mindedly until the pressure was too much and Andy’s position simply collapsed. This was another very impressive performance from Matthew who looks increasingly likely to score 100% in this competition.

Both games can be played through in the viewer below and the tournament cross table can be found on the dedicated Bridestones page.

Can any readers work out their Fischer number? (Or perhaps a Kramnik or Anand or even a Carlsen number.) Leave a comment at the end of this post if you can and lets’ see if we can gather some members’ scores together!

Jul 112013

bridestones 2Bridestones Holme Brew Chess Challenge: Round 5

The Bridestones Holme Brew Chess Challenge continues into July and August without Alastair Wright. Having played only three of his scheduled ten games Alastair has decided that he has other priorities in his life this summer and has withdrawn. That means that the cross table has changed somewhat and Dave Shapland has gained the most from the situation as he was the only player of the three Alastair had faced who had not won the game.

This change in circumstances will at least make it a little easier to finish the tournament off in a timely fashion as a ten round all-play-all was an ambitious exercise. Now the competition is 8 rounds and each of the players has now completed at least 50% of their quota. On Monday night Dave Shapland and Pete Leonard were the last to reach this landmark as they played Andy Leatherbarrow and Nick Sykes respectively.

They say revenge is a dish best served cold. As Dave Shapland found on Monday night it can also be white, slippery and rather hard work to eat. This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from loop_oh's Flickr photostream

They say revenge is a dish best served cold. As Dave Shapland found on Monday night it can also be white, slippery and hard work to eat – rather like this spaghetti! This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from loop_oh’s Flickr photostream

Dave appeared to be facing the more difficult challenge, at least psychologically, because he’d lost in painful fashion to Andy only the previous week and faced a player who is particularly tough to break down when he has the Black pieces. However, Dave overcame Andy in a long and hard fought struggle to move onto a respectable 50% score at the halfway mark.

The first surprise of the game was Andy’s choice of 1…e5, eschewing his favourite Scandinvian Defence 1…d5. Did he fear some deep opening preparation on Dave’s part? Perhaps he just wanted to play a game of chess instead of testing his memory of opening lines against an opponent who likes to base his play on concrete variations. Either way it didn’t turn out fantastically well as Andy selected Philidor’s Defence which yielded him a playable but rather passive position.

Dave missed a couple of tactical opportunities and Andy was able to swap pieces off to relieve what little pressure Dave had succeeded in developing before taking the initiative with an advance of his queen’s side pawns. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where it all went wrong for Andy but there were a couple of mildly inaccurate moves that seemed to have a disproportionate effect on his position and suddenly he found himself a piece down for a couple of pawns in the endgame. Andy defended stubbornly as he always does but Dave was finally able to create a distant passed pawn on the a-file that eventually allowed him to force victory.

Nick and Pete’s game developed along very similar lines to their first game when Nick had the Black pieces and gained a considerable advantage before throwing the game away with a tactical error. This time around, with White, Nick decided to play 1.e4 and have a go at Pete’s Alekhine’s Defence (1…Nf6) Nick played the opening phase well (when does he not) and got a comfortable advantage that he could well have converted to a win on another day. Unfortunately he missed a couple of chances to play actively and Pete held on and created some counter play before Nick overlooked a tactic and found himself a piece down. Having gained the advantage Pete made no mistakes and succeeded in doubling up on his remorseful opponent.

Both games are annotated in the viewer below:

Jul 062013

The final game of the 2011/12 season Individual Knockout was played a couple of weeks ago! This competition has become increasingly interminable in recent years and this one has gone on and on until the participants thought it would never end. One competitor wryly suggested that it would have ended sooner if it had been played by post!

The main challenge with any summer tournament is that it has to be fitted around player’s holidays and that can make scheduling difficult. The Knockout is further hindered by the rule which says drawn games must be replayed and this can mean that individual encounters go on for weeks or even months if several games are required to find a winner.

It’s telling to see that, this season, neither the Team nor the Individual Knockout competitions have been organised and this might lead us to believe that their permanent demise is imminent. Certainly there is still an appetite for summer chess amongst the players but the League Committee need to have a long hard think about what to place into the vacuum left by this contest.

Right, enough moaning! Back to the action: the final of this year’s Individual Knockout was a mouth-watering prospect as it matched up this year’s Calderdale Individual Champion (Matthew Parsons) with last year’s winner (Darwin Ursal). These two appeared to be evenly matched and the clock times for the handicap were close enough to make little difference to the way the game was played. Matthew, as the lower rated of the two had the advantage of the White pieces although he was heard to remark that, whenever he and Darwin play it always seems to be the player of the Black pieces who ends up winning.

I’m certainly not a good enough player to be able to offer any erudite exposition on the way the game evolved but what I can tell you is that Matthew had thought carefully about what he would play in the opening and elected to go for 1.e4 (which he virtually never plays) simply in order to transpose the inevitable Sicilian Defence that followed in to a line that he had spent time studying with an early g3. The tussle was very closely matched right into a double rook ending which Matthew played very accurately and was able to snaffle first one and then a second pawn. Darwin tried his best to put up resistance but Matthew technique was admirable and he duly collected a third title to go with his League 1 and Individual Championship gongs. The endgame in particular is well worth closer study by anyone who wants to see how double rook endings should be conducted.

bridestones 2Bridestones Holme Brew Chess Challenge: Re-scheduled games

Of course the Bridestones Holme Brew competition has also been progressing and last week Andy Leatherbarrow played two games as he faced Nick Sykes with White on Monday and then Dave Shapland with White on Wednesday. His fortunes were contrasting but interestingly the results of both games hinged on faulty strategic decisions that led to tactical disaster.

On Monday Nick sensibly chose to play the Sicilian Defence in the almost certain knowledge that he would face an anti-Sicilian line. True to his record Andy opted for a Closed Sicilian position. Nick is well versed in anti-Sicilian lines and has an excellent record against them and he soon achieved equality by employing the classic stratagem of queen’s side expansion against White’s king’s side advance.

The crucial moment in the game came when Andy decided to open the centre with 15.d4?! It turned out that Black was much better placed to exploit the opening of the game and Nick soon developed a very dangerous initiative. Having advanced the pawns in front of his king Andy found that his majesty was now metaphorically wearing no clothes and his embarrassment was plain to see by move 23 as Nick arranged both bishops and his queen to point towards the White king from afar. Andy desperately tried to plug the holes but Nick applied the finishing touches by manoeuvring one of his bishops from the queen’s side to the king’s side. This combined with a battery of queen on b7 and bishop on a8 was the death knell. A very well played game by Nick after a strategic error on Andy’s part.

On Wednesday however, the tables were turned as Andy operated the White pieces once more against Dave. This time the opening was a Pirc which Dave has been introducing to his repertoire recently. Dave had anticipated Andy’s likely choice of variation (an early h3) and played the opening in contemporary fashion with a6 and b6 to hold his ground and prepare a counter-strike on White’s centre.

Sadly for Dave that was where his sound strategy came to an end as he then elected to breakout with c5 in stead of e5 on move 10. His motives were sensible in that he was familiar with Benoni-types set ups and had gained a playable middle-game against Mathew in the previous round. However, in this instance the e5 break was needed to hold the line and Andy played very accurately, confident that he knew where to place his pieces and how to meet Black’s plan. Labouring under the misapprehension that his fianchettoed bishop was about to do serious damage on the White queen’s side, Dave plunged in by sacrificing his b-pawn and then opening the a1-h8 diagonal with 18…Ne4? Andy had seen further however and knew that he could give up the exchange for a brutal attack on the Black king. Dave had seen the idea and planned a counter measure but he’d overlooked that a different move order by White would spell disaster and was forced to capitulate as early as move 21 when it became clear he was getting mated or losing a piece for nothing.

This competition enters it’s second half on Monday as Nick takes on Pete Leonard and Dave faces a psychological challenge by having to play Andy again with the White pieces. Matthew is due to play Alastair Wright but it appears Alastair may have withdrawn from the tournament.

All three games mentioned in this post can be found in the game viewer below.

Jun 202013

bridestones 2Bridestones Holme Brew Chess Challenge: Round 4 and 5

Over the last two weeks the Bridestones Holme Brew Chess Challenge has seen another four games completed and the competition leader has reached the half-way point in the competition. Wins against Nick Sykes and Dave Shapland mean that Matthew Parsons is comfortably in the lead and it already looks like he won’t be caught unless he has a total melt down in the second half of the tournament. That said, the current gap between Matthew and the chasing pack is artificially wide because no-one else has played five games yet. Pete Leonard and Nick Sykes have now played four and Andy Leatherbarrow, Dave Shapland and Alastair Wright have played just three.

Two round four games were played last week as Pete Leonard faced Andy Leatherbarrow and Matthew Parsons played Dave Shapland. Both of these two games were interesting encounters of a decent standard. Pete and Andy have never played each other at a classical time limit and Andy made a very clever choice of opening to give himself the best possible platform against Pete. Selecting the Nimzowitch Defence 1.e4 Nc6 2.d4 d5!? was and excellent way to catch Pete on the hop and it worked. Pete didn’t play the opening optimally and Andy got a very pleasant position. Of course both sides missed some improvements but ultimately Andy played the endgame very accurately and Pete didn’t defend himself as stubbornly as he could have done in allowing Andy to win in fine positional style. This result brought Andy up level with Dave Shapland who started the round with a point and a half.

This position appeared in Parsons vs. Shapland. Matthew has just played 40.Nh4+ and Dave now played Kh5. However, if he'd played Kf6 instead he could have saved himself. Can you work out how? The solution is in the game viewer at the end of this post

This position appeared in Parsons vs. Shapland. Matthew has just played 40.Nh4+ and Dave now played Kh5. However, if he’d played Kf6 instead he could have saved himself. Can you work out how? The solution is in the game viewer at the end of this post

Facing Matthew with the Black pieces meant that Dave had to decide how to best meet Matthew’s pet system, the London. Dave chose 1.d4 d6 which is certainly a good way to meet White’s plan to play Bf4 but if it has a draw back it is that it encourages White to transpose into King’s Indian and Benoni positions after and early c4. Matthew sensibly did exactly that and Dave decided to go for a Benoni with a c5 break, rather than a King’s Indian with e5.

Dave may not have played the opening with the upmost precision in terms of move order but he did succeed in developing all his pieces and stabilising his position thereby forcing Matthew to devise and execute some kind of plan. After a longish think at move 15 Matthew decided to go for queen’s side play with Rab1 and then b4 the following move. Meanwhile, Dave didn’t really have the luxury of options as his opening play left him solid and developed but passively waiting for White to come at him. When the queen’s side advance came Dave tried to counter in the centre and then found some resources to complicate the position on the queen’s side as Matthew lost a bit of the control he had over the position and Dave’s pieces sprang to life.

The critical position of the game came at move 23 as Dave sank into long thought and then, not wanting to get into time trouble, opted for a line that appeared to simplify to an unbalanced and playable ending. The judgement was a poor one however because it transpired that keeping pieces on the board and maintaining tension would have been the route to an advantage for Black whilst the resultant ending reached in the game was simply better for White. Matthew had a bishop and knight for a rook and pawn but, critically, both sides also had their dark squared bishops and the presence of the White bishop pair throttled Black’s potential for counter play. Dave’s position might still have been defensible but it was a difficult challenge that was beyond Dave  and he succumbed fairly tamely as Matthew simply created structural weaknesses to that Dave couldn’t defend. However the computer found a miraculous resource almost at the end of the game that could have saved him a half point. Take a look at the diagram position and see if you can work it out before checking out the game and solution in the viewer at the end of this post.

A round 5 game and a rescheduled round 3 game were also played as Matthew and Nick and Pete and Alastair faced off. Nick and Matthew played their round 5 game early and Nick, having gained a perfectly acceptable middle game position with White inexplicably muddled up a move order and ended up without his queen! Sadly this was the second game in a row where Nick had gifted his opponent the full point and it leaves him languishing on half a point from four games.

Pete and Alastair’s game was more closely contested, at least until the very end of the game and the evening. Intriguingly Alastair elected to play the French and face Pete’s King’s Indian Attack set up. The game became very complicated and both players got short of time and may have missed opportunities to improve their play. As the end game hove into view Alastair managed to grab himself a pawn that might have proved decisive were it not for the fact that he then blundered a piece to essentially hand the full point to his opponent. This win allowed Pete to move into clear second place with two points from four games although he has played a game more than Andy and Dave who are half a point behind him.

All four games mentioned in this post are annotated in the game viewer below. Next week Andy will play his postponed round 1 game against Dave and back markers Alastair and Nick will try to improve their positions in a battle that could leave one of them firmly adrift at the foot of the standings.

Jun 102013

bridestones 2Bridestones Holme Brew Chess Challenge: Round 3

Last Monday’s third round games featured an outrageous miscarriage of chess justice and another smooth win for the top seed. An earlier version of this post featured an erroneous score for the game between Andy Leatherbarrow and Matthew Parsons which appeared to involve Matthew playing an awful combination and get away with it. As you’ll see from the comments to this post Andy played 27.Rfd1 and not 27.Rfc1 which meant that Matthew captured the rook rather than sacrificed the knight when he played 30… Nxd1+! This confused for your editor because 27… Qe6 still made sense even without the queen being threatened by the rook because it placed the White bishop under attack. Even more confusing was that the subsequent attack still almost worked aside from the fact that Andy ‘appeared’ to have missed a straightforward defence three moves in a row!

With Alastair Wright and Pete Leonard sitting out the action due to Pete’s holiday there were just two games being played, both of which were repeat encounters from this year’s Calderdale Individual Chess Championship. Matthew had beaten Andy Leatherbarrow with Black in round 3 and went on to win the title. Nick Sykes defeated Dave Shapland in round 4 and went on to finish in joint third place. Would the form books lead to repeat performances?

As I thought, just one perpetrator then! This image is used under Creative Commons terms and is sourced from f4niko's Flickr photostream

Were there one or two perpetrators? We must check that our evidence is correct. This image is used under Creative Commons terms and is sourced from f4niko’s Flickr photostream

Nick was playing Black in his game with Dave (in their match from the CIC the colours were reversed) and bravely elected to venture the Sicilian Defence with which had lost to Dave in their only encounter prior to this season. At first it appeared that a sneaky move order trick would enable Dave to get exactly the kind of tactical mess he so enjoys as Nick, caught off guard by 2.Nc3, suddenly found himself playing a Classical Sicilian instead of the Najdorf and Schevenigan systems he prefers. This meant that Dave was able to put the dangerous and monstrously complex Velimirovic Attack into play and the game looked poised for pyrotechnics. However, Nick adjusted well and decided to delay castling in favour of taking immediate counter measures on the queen’s-side. Dave misplayed the resultant position and was then on the back foot as Nick targeted a weak looking White king having already gone a pawn up.

Although he overlooked a couple of chances to bury Dave in the middle game, Nick maintained a pawn’s advantage into a rook and minor piece ending. However, matters were complicated by Dave’s passed a-pawn which advanced rapidly to occupy Nick’s pieces. It still should have been winning for Black but then Nick captured the White f-pawn with his bishop overlooking that it was protected by Dave’s rook and all his hard work was undone at a stroke. All that remained was for Dave to patiently coax home his advantage as Nick fumed in frustration across the board his pocket well and truly picked.

Andy had also played White in his game with Matthew earlier in the year. In that game Andy had chosen a very unorthodox opening and was summarily executed. This time he played ‘normally’ and tackled Matthew’s favorite Sniper system head on. All appeared to be going well for Andy who was holding his own quite comfortably until his error on move 28 allowing Matthew to uncork a winning knight manouevre immediately.

As a result of his larceny Dave significantly improved his standing in the tournament. Matthew increased his lead to a point and a half and now has three points whilst Dave moved into second on one and a half. The two  play each other in round 4 whilst Alastair is due to play Nick an Pete plays Andy. Below are both games with commentary. There is a cross table on the dedicated tournament page.

May 312013

bridestones 2Bridestones Holme Brew: Round 2

Fixtures from the second round of the inaugural Bridestones Holme Brew Chess Challenge took place at the Trades Club on Monday the 20th and 27th of May. Already the competition has begun to take the shape most of the particpant’s expected as top seed Matthew Parsons maintained a 100% record by beating Pete Leonard whilst Alastair Wright and Dave Shapland and Nick Sykes and Andy Leatherbarrow drew. It would appear that the competition for second place is already becoming the main point of interest as all the remaining competitors have now made a mark on the tournament cross table.

On current form it is hard to see anyone managing to do more than draw with Matthew and even that would be some achievement. He is a level up from everyone else. Playing a second consecutive game with White, Matthew this time abstained from playing the London System in favour of the Kings Indian Attack (1.Nf3, 2.d3, 3.g3 and 4.Bg2). He said he did this because he didn’t think Pete, a 1.e4 player down to his boots, would be familiar with all the ideas in the Kings Indian. Perhaps so but he may have forgotten that Pete himself employs the KIA set-up against the French Defence so that might just be psychology on Matthew’s part. Frankly it doesn’t really matter what openings he plays with White (unless he elects to take opponents on in their own theoretical territory which would be perverse in the extreme) because his middle game play is almost always superior enough to enable him to win from equal or even moderately worse opening positions.

No-one has been left on the start line as all 6 competitors have now opened their accounts. This o,age is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from jon-'s Flickr photostream

No-one has been left on the start line as all 6 competitors have now opened their accounts. This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from jon-‘s Flickr photostream

However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Matthew’s opponents might well take some crumbs of comfort from this encounter with Pete because in fact he got less than nothing from the opening and Pete was bold enough to take the initiative and even dream of the advantage at one point. Matthew’s games are usually strategically complex and sometimes tactically but rarely does one get the impression that the tactics may take over the game. In this instance they did threaten to and, had Pete had the courage to grab the material that was available at the end of a long tactical sequence he might have caused his opponent some real problems. As it was the fleeting opportunity was missed and Matthew counter attacked hard. Suddenly all of the Kings Indian type ideas he mentioned in the post-mortem came to fruition as the pressure on Pete’s king began to build. In the end Pete lost a piece and was compelled to resign shortly afterwards. At least he won his first round match and so is on 50% for the competition so far.

The game between Nick Sykes and Andy Leatherbarrow was a completely different matter. As Andy said afterwards it was…

… a cagey affair with neither one of us wanting to get a game in the other one’s area of interest.

A strange opening ensued with plenty of manoeuvring and jockeying for position in the middle game. Nick had lost in round 1 and Andy was playing his first game in the competition and so it was understandable that neither wanted to take any risks to try and win the game. In the end neither made any mistakes and so a draw was inevitable.

That just left Alastair Wright and Dave Shapland to decide their game. As the lowest rated player in the competition Dave risks becoming a target for all the other players and so it was important that he, also playing his first game of the tournament, got off to a positive start to avoid any rot setting in from the outset. Alastair as another player who had lost in round 1 also had an interest in getting safely off the mark. As it was Dave, playing Black, did make some provocative moves (no surprises there!) in the opening which was a Vienna Gambit. Perhaps wary of Dave’s love for chaotic and wild positions Alastair refused to be drawn into a tactical melee and therefore missed a couple of critical chances to put his opponent under the most pressure.

The middle game was pretty much non-existent as Dave, taking his bat home after being refused his favourite toys, changed his mindset from “provocative” to “turgid”. He took his chance to exchange the queens early and play a long ending. For a while it seemed that Alastair had some good winning chances because Dave had put his remaining knight offside on a5 and appeared to be having trouble reactivating it. However, he used the opportunity afforded by a temporarily weak White d-pawn to open the centre, exchange off the rooks and then manoeuvre his knight just in time to maintain equality. The complex knight versus bishop ending still seemed to be in White’s favour (and indeed the computer finds a clear cut win for White) but a few more active moves secured Dave a hard earned draw.

Next week Dave has White against Nick and Andy has White against Matthew whilst Alastair takes a breather due to Pete’s absence for a holiday. An up to date cross-table of the results so far can be found on the Bridestones Holme Brew Chess Challenge page. All of the games from round 2 are in the viewer below and all are extensively annotated.

May 162013

bridestones 2Bridestones Holme Brew Chess Challenge: Round 1

Last Monday the Bridestones Holme Brew Chess Challenge got underway at the Trades Club. With the two highest rated players and the third and fourth rated players meeting each other in round 1 the prospect of some close games was promised. That the two pairings had met each other in competitive games in the last few months only added to the interest.

Matthew Parsons is the highest rated player in the competition by over 10 rating points and he is therefore the strong favourite to win. If anyone could prevent him from making a winning start with White then Alastair Wright appeared to have (statistically at least) the best chance. The two had played only a few weeks before when Hebden Bridge ‘A’ beat Todmorden ‘B’ in the final round of Calderdale League 1. In that game Matthew had won but only after having been forced to slowly and remorselessly grind down some tough resistance from Alastair. In the end a bad bishop and a relatively passive position had cost him the game.

"There's many a slip twixt cup and lip". Alastair Wright's blunder cost him the game immediately whilst Nick Sykes' game slipped away gradually. This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from fiordiferro's Flickr photostream

“There’s many a slip twixt cup and lip”. Alastair Wright’s blunder cost him the game immediately whilst Nick Sykes’ game slipped away gradually. This image is used under Creative Commons terms and sourced from fiordiferro’s Flickr photostream

Matthew had White again for this game and essayed the same opening line — his favourite London System. Alastair chose a completely different opening plan from the previous game and seemed to get himself a reasonable game. However, on move 18, and in a completely level position, Alastair blundered. Matthew immediately picked up a piece and the game was concluded swiftly and a little disappointingly from a spectator’s point of view.

In contrast the game between Pete Leonard and Nick Sykes went the full distance and would have provided any of their club colleagues following the game with plenty to think about. These two had met in the final round of the Calderdale Individual Championship in March. On that occasion Nick had the White pieces, got into trouble in the opening and suffered for a long time before Pete blundered into a mate in one.

Unfortunately for Nick, Caissa is a just and fair patron Goddess and she turned the tables in this game. Pete played 1.e4 and waited to see how Nick would respond. He might reasonably have expected the Sicilian Defence (1…c5), the Spanish (1…e5) or the Caro-Kann (1…c6). What Pete got was the Spanish whereupon he diverted into his new pet line, the Bishop’s Opening with 2.Bc4. There are many transpositional possibilities in this variation but there are also some very idiosyncratic lines. Pete chose 3.d3 (which seems fairly dubious) and Nick played the opening phase nicely to secure himself a comfortable advantage into the middle game.

Pete clung on and Nick was unable to find the best ways of converting his advantage. As the night wore on Nick’s old enemy, (and only real weakness this season) the clock, started to become a factor. The pair reached time control with only a minute or so each and by this stage a double rook ending had appeared on the board and Nick’s advantage had evaporated. Pete managed to establish a rook on the seventh rank and appeared to have gained genuine winning chances for the first time that evening.

Now it was Nick’s turn to buckle down to a gritty defensive task. Sadly the damage had been done and although Nick missed a few chances to improve his defence Pete played the rook and pawn ending well and slowly picked off Nick’s weak pawns before pushing his passed b-pawn home. Chess can be a cruel game.

Andy Leatherbarrow’s game with Dave Shapland was postponed until later on in the schedule which has several available slots for playing re-scheduled match-ups.

Both the first round matches mentioned in this report can be found in the game viewer below.