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.

Mar 132020
 

The mist has finally cleared in the League 1 title race and we can now clearly see who the favorites are despite the fine margins involved. Photo: Coconino National Forest

Here is a brief article to bring readers (almost!) up to date on the status of the League 1 title race.

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ hosted Huddersfield ‘A’ at the Golden Lion last Monday (the 2nd) to play their match in hand. With this match both Hebden teams have now played nine times and so the position in the league table clarifies itself somewhat.

A win for Hebden ‘B’ would take them top of the league on board count, overtaking their ‘A’ team for the first time this season. The home side’s line up remained unchanged from the previous week’s match away at Belgrave ‘A’. Huddersfield visited with a marginally stronger line up than they had fielded against Hebden Bridge ‘A’ at home in the previous round. Out went David Booth on board 4 to be replaced by Richard Boylan, an experienced and steady presence. The visitors also swapped the order of their top two boards from the previous week with Steve Westmoreland playing on board 1 and Dave Keddie on board 2.

By the mid point in the evening the visitors seemed to be holding their own pretty well as Nick Sykes held Andrew Clarkson in a theoretical Grunfeld battle and Richard Boylan also drew his game with Sam Swain. The home side had won on board 5 however where Jamie Heritage continued his unbeaten streak for the club by beating Rob Mitchell. The game was not without chances for the visiting player however as you’ll see from the game viewer below.

Later in the evening however, Hebden’s ferociously strong top board duo gave the victory a pleasant gloss as Martyn Hamer overcame Steve Westmorland and Phil Cook defeated Dave Keddie. With that victory Phil puts himself in pole position for the League’s ‘Most Valuable Player’ title as he has now scored 7½/9 games. He is now a point and a half (!) clear of his pursuers, his team mate Martyn, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ captain Dave Shapland, Vivienne Webster of Halifax and Dave Patrick of Belgrave who all have 6 points. In fact Hebden Bridge ‘B’ have four players in the top 10 list of highest scorers in the league and so it’s easy to see why they have climbed to the top of the heap.

Here is the final match scorecard:

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ vs. Huddersfield ‘A’
M.Hamer 1 – 0 S.Westmoreland (W)
P.Cook 1 – 0 D.Keddie (W)
A.Clarkson ½ – ½ N.Sykes (W)
S.Swain ½ – ½ R.Boylan (W)
J.Heritage 1 – 0 R.Mitchell (W)
4 – 1

This result means that both Hebden Bridge teams now have 15 points from nine games. They have both drawn one and lost one match. In fact, their records are identical except for in the ‘Boards’ column of the table as the ‘B’ team have now scored 31.5 board points and the ‘A’ team have 28.5. This may seem like a narrow margin, but with only three matches left to play this season,  a three point board count lead is significant especially when you note that Hebden Bridge ‘B’ have to play the two sides at the bottom of the division as well as Halifax ‘A’ with the White pieces, while Hebden Bridge ‘A’ have to play Belgrave ‘A’ and Halifax ‘A’ with the Black pieces and have Belgrave ‘B’ away for their other match. It seems most unlikely that the ‘A’ team will be able to overhaul the board count deficit and so may now be relying on an unlikely shock match result to turn the tables in their favour. Either way, the ‘B’ team are now most definitely in the driving seat.

Let us also note an excellent result for our ‘C’ team in League 2 on Monday night as they beat Belgrave ‘C’ at home in what looked like a tough match. On board 1, Pete Leonard got lucky when, after playing a winning combination, Faisal Rabbi resigned after an unexpected move by Pete, when objectively, he was still winning. The board 5 game was the last to finish and here Paul Gledhill had about 10 moves to make in a couple of minutes, but it was his opponent, Paul Edwards who made the inaccuracies, and then resigned.

Here’s the match scorecard:

Hebden Bridge ‘C’ vs. Belgrave ‘C’
P.Leonard 1 – 0 F.Rabbi (W)
N.Suttie ½ – ½ D.Colledge (W)
N.Bamford 0 – 1 C.Edwards (W)
J.Kerrane ½ – ½ L.Johnson (W)
P.Gledhill 1 – 0 P.Edwards (W)
4 – 1

Mar 022020
 

It still isn’t clear who’s in the driving seat in the League 1 title race between Hebden Bridge’s ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams. Photo: Michael Coghlan

There’s a diminishing amount of chess left to play in the 2019-20 season and the League 1 title race is still nip and tuck between the two Hebden Bridge sides after the eleventh round of fixtures was played this week.

Title holders and current league leaders, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ travelled to Huddersfield ‘A’ on Monday whilst Hebden Bridge ‘B’ visited Belgrave ‘A’. At Huddersfield, the ‘A’ team put out pretty much their strongest possible line up of Parsons, Pantazopoulos, Shapland, Leonard and Leatherbarrow, against a home side that was bereft of their very strongest players. In fairness Messrs Eagleton (three appearances) and Burke (one appearance) have not been playing frequently for them this season (while Leo Keely has restricted himself to playing for Huddersfield ‘B’ exclusively) and that has made life pretty challenging for their top board players this season.

The home team’s line up of Dave Keddie, Steve Westmoreland, Nick Sykes, David Booth and Rob Mitchell were operating the Black pieces and also heavily out rated on all five boards and it looked like the match would offer Hebden Bridge an excellent opportunity to harvest the kind of heavy points win they needed for the title race duel. Of course, it didn’t turn out to be quite so simple – when does it ever.

Early on in the evening all seemed to be going pretty smoothly for the visitors as they achieved decent positions on all boards out of the opening. Boards, 2, 4 and 5 all finished at a similar point in the evening. On board 5, Andy Leatherbarrow won a piece for a pawn from Rob Mitchell as early as move 16 and, thereafter, played sensibly to keep control of the position and simplify the game. That it took 62 moves to complete the process should not in any way suggest that the Huddersfield man was able to mount serious resistance after his early loses.

On board 4 however, Pete Leonard was left to kick himself after he missed several clear-cut chances to accumulate a similar opening advantage to Andy. Instead he had to settle for an extra pawn in a rook and knight ending. Had he managed to exchange the rooks off, Pete would almost certainly have taken the full point, but instead, he lost his extra pawn and might even have got himself into hot water before agreeing to peace terms.
Stavros soon increased Hebden Bridge’s dominant position as he completed a smooth positional win over Steve Westmoreland. At the end, Steve had a rook and bishop against Stavros’ queen, but once the queen had invaded Black’s camp it was all over.

That just left boards 1 and 3 to finish. The contest on board 1 ended first and with a surprising outcome too. Matthew Parsons hardly ever loses with the White pieces – especially in the Calderdale League – yet he lost his second of the season on Monday. Facing an aggressive line against his favourite London System, Matthew blundered an important pawn (just proving it can happen to anyone) after which his position against Dave Keddie was pretty much untenable. Dave played very well to nurture his advantage over the line. Suddenly, there was a danger that Hebden Bridge might only tie the match if they lost on the last board to finish.

Fortunately for them, by the time Matthew’s game had finished, Dave had achieved the upper hand against Nick Sykes. However, that wasn’t the whole story of the game. It was tense, complex and certainly saw Black have the better chances at several points during its course. Nick and Dave have played each other hundreds of times and know each other’s repertoires very well. Dave decided to divert from his usual patterns of play against Nick’s Sicilian Najdorf in a bid to avoid a heavyweight theoretical discussion.

Dave got the kind of game he wanted but Nick developed a good position and had a couple of chances to secure a significant advantage – albeit after some vertigo inducing variations illuminated by engines afterwards. In the end it was the clock that was Nick’s undoing as he left himself with very little time to conduct the latter stages of the middle game in which pinpoint accuracy was still required for him to hold. Instead, he managed to get to the time control but was immediately trapped in a mating net.

Here’s the full match score card:

Huddersfield ‘A’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘A’
D.Keddie 1 – 0 M.Parsons (W)
S.Westmoreland 0 – 1 S.Pantazopoulos (W)
N.Sykes 0 – 1 D.Shapland (W)
D.Booth ½ – ½ P.Leonard (W)
R.Mitchell 0 – 1 A.Leatherbarrow (W)
1½ – 3½

Meanwhile, closer to home, in Halifax, the ‘B’ team were battling Belgrave ‘A’ in a match that looked on paper like it would be much tighter than the one in Huddersfield. Indeed, when the two sides had met in Todmorden during the first half of the season, Hebden had only edged the match by 3 – 2. This time out though, they were even stronger having recruited the talented youngster, Jamie Heritage to their number for his first run out in League 1. He duly won his game against Karim Khan on board 5 in a long end game where Jamie had a bishop, knight and pawn against a rook.

The regulars on the top four boards also did their jobs with only Sam Swain succumbing to the dangerous Malcolm Corbett on board 4. Martyn Hamer and Phil Cook both won while Andrew Clarkson drew with Richard Bowman on board 3.

The final scorecard looked like this:

Belgrave ‘A’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘B’
J.Morgan 0 – 1 M.Hamer (W)
D.Patrick 0 – 1 P.Cook (W)
R.Bowman ½ – ½ A.Clarkson (W)
M.Corbett 1 – 0 S.Swain (W)
K.Khan 0 – 1 J.Heritage (W)
1½ – 3½

These two results mean that the difference between the two Hebden Bridge sides remains exactly the same. Hebden ‘A’ are two points clear of the ‘B’s having played one match more and they have just one extra board point. Hebden ‘B’ play their match in hand at home to Huddersfield ‘A’ on Monday. Even a 3 – 2 win would see them take the top spot with a two point board advantage with just three matches left in the season.

The third and final match of the eleventh round of League 1 fixtures saw an upset as the bottom team, Brighouse, scored their first win of the season in resounding fashion by beating Belgrave ‘B’ 1 – 4. Only Les Johnson on board 4 was able to stem the tide of results by winning his game against Tim Pryke. This means that Brighouse have given themselves a slim chance of escaping the single relegation spot. They have now drawn level with their vanquished hosts on 3 points at the bottom of the division. However, their board count is so low that they will likely have to secure another result of some sort in one of their remaining two matches in order to do a Houdini. They have Halifax ‘A’ at home in the next match before visiting Hebden Bridge ‘B’ away in the final match of the season.

League 2

Before we sign-off we should also mention that Hebden Bridge ‘C’ scored a resounding 5 – 0 victory last week over Halifax ‘B’. This was a great result and bodes well for them as they go into their final cycle of games with a home match against ‘Belgrave ‘C’ at hoe on Monday.

Here’s the scorecard from the match last week:

Hebden Bridge ‘C’ vs. Halifax ‘B’
P.Leonard 1 – 0 P.Moss (W)
J.Heritage 1 – 0 D.Rowley (W)
N.Bamford 1 – 0 J.Nicholson (W)
J.Kerrane 1 – 0 A.Whiteley (W)
C.Marsden 1 – 0 B.Wadsworth (W)
5 – 0

Feb 142020
 

The Calderdale League 1 title race has become a whole lot more interesting since Hebden Bridge ‘B’ beat the ‘A’ team last month. The two sides are now neck and neck and look like they’ll be duelling it out right to the end of the season. Photo: vegaseddie’s Flickr photostream

The recent ‘Game of the Decade’ series of posts has meant that we’ve fallen rather behind with our Calderdale League updates in January. It’s time to rectify that with a bumper edition designed to get you up to date with the state of affairs in all three Calderdale Leagues.

League 1

Two rounds of fixtures were played in January. In the first, played on the 6th of January, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ had an opportunity to stretch their lead at the top of the table as their colleagues in the ‘B’ team had a bye. They travelled to the team at the bottom of the division, Brighouse. The home side had added a new player to their ranks over the Christmas break as Oliver Graham made his first league appearance on board 1.

Hebden meanwhile were significantly under strength with both Matthew Parsons and Stavros Pantazopoulos unavailable. This left team captain, Dave Shapland, with the honours against Brighouse’s new signing. They played out a tense game which originated from a Hungarian Defence but transposed into more of a Ruy Lopez-type position. Oliver had some chances to obtain a good game but didn’t make the most of them and Dave was able to take full advantage and establish knights on both f5 and h5 before opening the position, re-locating one of his knights to a monstrous outpost on e6 and switching his king from the queen’s side to the king’s side to drive home his attack.

On board 2, Andy Leatherbarrow at first seemed to obtain a solid position against Robert Broadbent but later found himself defending a tricky end game that he was unable to hold. Meanwhile, the board 3 encounter saw Pete Leonard trying very hard to convert a promising position against Brighouse’s captain, Paul Whitehouse. However, just as he had done in the reverse fixture of this match in round 1 against Dave, Paul held on gamely and Pete ultimately had to settle for a draw.

Most of the hard work in this match was done by Hebden’s two Neils on boards 4 and 5. Neil Suttie saw off Ronnie Grandage and Neil Bamford beat Tim Pryke to seal the result for the visitors and ensure they kept moved 4 points clear of their ‘B’ team rivals having played one match more.

Brighouse vs. Hebden Bridge ‘A’
O.Graham 0 – 1 D.Shapland (W)
R.Broadbent 1 – 0 A.Leatherbarrow (W)
P.Whitehouse ½ – ½ P.Leonard (W)
R.Grandage 0 – 1 N.Suttie (W)
T.Pryke 0 – 1 N.Bamford (W)
1½ – 3½

 

In the other fixtures of this round, Belgrave ‘A’ beat their ‘B’ team ‘away’ by a score of 1½ – 3½ and Halifax ‘A’ (complete with a new player on board 2) defeated Huddersfield ‘A’ 2 – 3 in a ding-dong match with no draws.

Two weeks later, on the 20th of January, the League 1 teams were back at it again and this time the focus was undoubtedly on the Trades Club where Hebden Bridge’s ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams met for their second derby match of the season. Their first encounter in October had been a very tight and hard-fought affair. This one was to be no different.

Both teams were without their regular board 1 players as Matthew Parsons was unavailable and Martyn Hamer was making his annual pilgrimage to play in the Gibraltar tournament. That meant that boards 1, 2 and 3 would see re-matches of the first fixture but with colours reversed while on board 4 Pete Leonard (who missed the first match) took on John Allan and on board 5 Neil Suttie took on Mick Connor (making his first appearance of the season for the ‘B’ team).

All the games featured plenty of action and the game on board 1 was the first to finish with Phil Cook and Stavros Pantazopoulos neutralising each other for a draw. Boards 3 and 4 were also drawn after well contested efforts with Sam Swain and Andy Leatherbarrow and John Allan and Pete Leonard also agreeing peace terms.

The match was decided on boards 2 and 5. The game between Andrew Clarkson and Dave Shapland on board 2 was the first of these to finish. The players discussed a highly theoretical and very sharp and complex variation of the Sveshnikov Sicilian. Dave had prepared this line for the game thinking that Andrew would be less familiar with it, but this was a serious misjudgement. It turned out Andrew knew exactly what he was doing and played very accurately until Dave overlooked a tactic that allowed Andrew to force an endgame where he was a pawn up and had a positional advantage. Dave tried his best to complicate matters, but Andrew’s technique was exemplary as he converted the win.

The last game to finish was between Mick Connor and Neil Suttie. This one went right to the death with Neil now needing to win to tie the match. With both men battling the clock as well as each other, the game was destined for a nail-biting conclusion. Mick seemed to be winning but then Neil found a way to enter an ending where he had four pawns versus a knight and a single pawn. It probably should have been drawn but, playing for his team, Neil tried to win it and instead ended up losing it.

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘B’
S.Pantazopoulos ½ – ½ P.Cook (W)
D.Shapland 0 – 1 A.Clarkson (W)
A.Leatherbarrow ½ – ½ S.Swain (W)
P.Leonard ½ – ½ J.Allan (W)
N.Suttie 0 – 1 M.Connor (W)
1½ – 3½

 

So, the ‘B’ team took their revenge by 1½ – 3½ and moved back to within 2 points of the league leaders with a match still in hand. Their scheduled match last Monday at home against Huddersfield ‘A’ would have been their chance to go top on board count but it was postponed as the main road to Todmorden from Halifax was closed for most of the day on Monday as the valley reeled from the aftermath of storm Ciara. Should the ‘B’ team win this game in hand, we will then have a thrilling run in between the two Hebden sides as they aim to stay perfect and win as many boards as they can. It could be enthralling.

The other matches played on the 20th of January saw Huddersfield ‘A’ thrash Brighouse 4 – 1 (albeit with highly creditable individual results for Oliver Graham and Tim Pryke who held Greg Eagleton and Nick Sykes respectively) and Belgrave ‘A’ draw against Halifax ‘A’ in a match that saw the visitors board 3 and 4, Carlos Velosa and Vivienne Webster, achieving a win and a draw respectively against higher rated opponents.

This week, aside from the postponement between Hebden Bridge ‘B’ and Huddersfield ‘A’, Brighouse were whitewashed at home by Belgrave ‘A’ and Halifax drew with Belgrave ‘B’ which was a fixture the home side will feel they should have won as they out rated their visitors on every board but only Vivienne on board 5 was able to beat her opponent as Carlos this time lost to Chris Edwards on board 3.

For the moment then, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ remain top of the table on 13 points having played eight matches. They are followed by Halifax ‘A’ on 12 points from nine matches and then Belgrave ‘A’ with 11 points from nine matches and Hebden Bridge ‘B’ with 11 points from just seven matches.

In the League basement, Brighouse remain bottom on 1 point but they have not yet lost hope of avoiding relegation as Belgrave ‘B’ have 3 points and have also yet to face Brighouse for a second time. Still, it looks bleak for the Brighouse team at the moment.


League 2

The sides in the second division also played twice in January. On the 13th, the runaway leaders Huddersfield ‘B’ underlined their overwhelming superiority by beating bottom team Halifax ‘B’ 1 – 4. Pete Moss and Andrew Whiteley showed spirited resistance in drawing their games with much higher rated opponents but the rest of the home side’s line up were put to the sword.

In this round, Belgrave ‘C’ also clarified their second-place position as they beat Hebden Bridge ‘C’ by 3½ – 1½. In this match Belgrave’s top three boards all won but Hebden’s tail wagged furiously as Chris Marsden drew with Angel Gonzalez and Jamie Heritage continued to show great potential as he beat Paul Edwards and earned himself a board promotion in the next round of fixtures.

Belgrave ‘C’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘C’
F.Rabbi 1 – 0 J.Kerrane (W)
D.Colledge 1 – 0 N.Bamford (W)
L.Johnson 1 – 0 P.Gledhill (W)
A.Gonzales ½ – ½ C.Marsden (W)
P.Edwards 0 – 1 J.Heritage (W)
3½ – 1½

The teams reconvened on the 27th of January. This time is was Hebden Bridge’s turn to get a taste of Huddersfield’s dominance as they were on the end of a 4 – 1 defeat. It certainly didn’t help that they had to default a board due to John Kerrane falling unwell on the day of the match, but, once again, it was left to young Jamie, this time on board 2, to salvage some pride as he beat David Gray in a fine game. It’s safe to say that we haven’t yet discovered the limit of Jamie’s abilities! Meanwhile, in Halifax, Belgrave ‘C’ were heaping more misery on Halifax ‘C’ who they trounced 0 – 5.

Huddersfield ‘B’ vs. Hebden Bridge ‘C’
L.Keely 1 – 0 P.Leonard (W)
D.Gray 0 – 1 J.Heritage (W)
G.Boot 1 – 0 N.Bamford (W)
A.Ward 1 – 0 P.Gledhill (W)
S.Anscombe 1 – 0 DEFAULT
4 – 1

 

It’s safe to say that this division has become something of a procession with big gaps opening up between the sides. Huddersfield are top with a perfect 16 points from eight matches. Belgrave are second on 10, Hebden Bridge have 5 and Halifax just 1.


Handicap League

In stark contrast to League 2, the Handicap League is poised for a thrilling finale. The competition only has three rounds of fixtures but, after the second round was played on the 3rd of February, we are looking at the prospect of a final showdown between Hebden Bridge and Huddersfield as they have both won their first two matches.

In round 2 Hebden beat Halifax 4½ – ½ over the boards and, after Halifax had received an extra half point from the handicap system, they were comfortable 4½ – 1 winners. What amounted to Hebden’s regular ‘C’ team were too good for the equivalent of the Halifax ‘B’ team. Only John Kerrane dropped a half point against John Nicholson when he blundered in a completely won position. Aside from that it was straightforward for the home side.

Hebden Bridge H vs. Halifax H
N. Bamford 1 – 0 H.Wood (W)
(W) J.Kerrane ½ – ½ J.Nicholson
C.Marsen 1 – 0 B.Wadsworth (W)
(W) P.Gledhill 1 – 0 E.Fynn
J.Heritage 1 – 0 P.Stowe (W)
Handicap bonus: 0 – ½
4½ – 1

The match between Huddersfield and Belgrave was altogether much closer. Interestingly, Huddersfield were out rated on every board but they fought hard and managed to win on board three and draw on boards one and five. That meant that, although they lost over the boards by 2 – 3, they managed to win the match due to the two extra handicap points they received before-hand.

This now sets up the aforementioned winner-takes-all encounter at Huddersfield on the 30th of March. Hebden will certainly fancy their chances.

Feb 022020
 

The votes have been cast, polling is now closed and we have a winner! The game between Dennis Breen and Matthew Parsons was the overwhelming favorite in our poll  with more than 69% of the votes. Firth vs. Wedge was second and Gormally vs. Morgan came in third. The full results can be seen in the table below.

Thanks to everyone who contributed suggestions for this poll and to everyone who voted. Congratulations to the winners!

Jan 242020
 

This way to the polling station! Time for you to decide on your ‘Game of the Decade’. Photo: kcivey

We’ve reached the end of our short series covering some of the best, most interesting, exciting and memorable chess games played in Hebden Bridge or by Hebden Bridge Chess Club players. Now it’s time for us to reveal our short list and for readers to decide which one they think is their ‘Game of the Decade’.

Just as with the long list I really agonised over which games to select. There are so many factors to weight up and, in the end, the selection is subjective. The least I can do is explain the criteria that I used to weigh up the long list candidates so that readers can understand how I reached this short list of five games, even if they don’t agree with my choice.

  • How accurate was the play in general?: although there were some games on the long list in which the general standard of the play was not that high, I felt they merited inclusion because of one interesting moment or because they were particularly dramatic. However, those games have not been carried forward to the shortlist as I felt the games here should be considered as being ‘well played’ by the majority of our readership. All of the games on this short list would be torn to shreds by chess engine’s but we aren’t computers and so the engine’s assessment didn’t come into my thinking so much. It’s also fair to say that really complicated games tend to contain more moves that engines would class as ‘inaccurate’ but that, for us mere mortals, would be hard to criticize. So the complexity of the game was considered in conjunction with the standard of play.
  • Was the game was a genuine contest?: I eliminated some games from my consideration because I felt they were too one-sided. Sometimes even games that were well played by one player were ruled out because the defender had capitulated too easily or missed an obvious improvement
  • Was the game exciting or unusual in any outstanding way?: I felt all the games on this shortlist should have some exciting or interesting moments in them. That didn’t mean they had to be sacrificial, tactical or complicated but I felt they needed to have some kind of ‘X-factor’ in them.

Here then is my shortlist for readers to vote on:

 

In the game viewer below I have published the five shortlisted games again for those who wish to refresh their memory before making their decision.

This poll will be open for 1 week only. Everyone is welcome to vote (you don’t have to be a Hebden Bridge Chess Club member or even a UK resident!) Voting is anonymous and please note that you’ll only be allowed to vote once by the poll, so choose carefully! I’d also very much like to hear from any readers who would like to share the reasons for why they chose a particular game and whether or not they thought the right games made both the longlist and the shortlist. Do please leave comments at the end of this post and let everyone hear your opinions. You can post comments anonymously if you wish to.

Jan 232020
 

It’s Black to play in this position from Ursal vs. Leatherbarrow. What would you play here? Find out what Andy did in the game viewer below.

This is the third part of the series in which we’ll be featuring the final five games that made it onto my long list. After having had five games from 2014 in our last post, this time the games span out over a longer time frame from 2016 to 2018.

I also want to mention that I’m using a different game viewer in this post. Several readers had been in contact with me to say that they had not always been able to see the Chess Tempo game viewer that I had been using. I’m not sure what was causing the problem as it wasn’t a universal one, but that game viewer was no longer being updated or supported so I guess it was going to break down at some point anyway. The ‘new’ viewer is in fact one that I was using quite some time ago. I’ve tinkered around with the display to try and optimize it. I hope it works for everyone.

Please note that, when more than one game is included in the viewer, you need to click on the bar above the board to reveal a drop-down list and select the game you want to view. Otherwise, the viewer is set to automatically play through the games in turn.

Right! On with the show.


10.) Gormally vs. Morgan, Hebden Bridge Flood Relief Simul, 7th February, 2016

Many readers will have happy memories of our fund raising simul for flood relief with GM Danny Gormally back in 2016. I know I do – primarily because I beat him of course! It was a tough day at the office for the GM as he ended up losing a small handful of games against what he acknowledged was a pretty strong field of club players.

I could have featured several games from this event. All of Danny’s defeats could have qualified as ‘memorable giant-killings’ despite the fact that they were simul games. However, in the end I decided that I should feature the game that he picked out as the ‘best game’ of the simul.

John Morgan acquitted himself most nobly in this one. For a start, he had the courage of his conviction to play his favorite St George’s Defence (1…b5) against the GM. Secondly, he was quick witted enough to spot when Danny’s aggressive play tipped into over-extension and he punished him effectively. In fact, after John had played his 14th move Danny was strategically lost already.

The question then became whether John could be accurate enough to finish the GM off. Unfortunately, he missed a couple of opportunities to finish his illustrious opponent off and Danny slowly clawed his way back into the game. By move 25 he had managed to equalise. John missed one last rather difficult and very beautiful saving chance and goes down swinging. A cracking game of heroic failure fully worthy of it’s space in our list.


11. Cook vs. C.Bak, Calderdale League 1, 17th October, 2016

The younger of the two Bak brothers has played fewer games for Hebden Bridge than Andy and his style of play is rather different. Chris admits that he prefers slow burning positional squeezes rather than the percussive tactical play and attacking flair that is the hallmark of Andy’s style.

This game is a good example. Phil Cook is not an easy man to beat, especially with the White pieces. In fact, I can only think of one other occasion that this happened and that was in the final round of the Calderdale Individual Championship 2016-17 against Matthew Parsons, and Phil already had the title in the bag by that point. There must be others, but I haven’t witnessed them.

In this game a curious position arises from an English opening in which the White king ends up on d1 and Black castles long behind a shattered pawn structure and with White controlling the b-file. In the middle game, Phil finds a creative way to double his rooks on the open d-file but Chris strikes back in the centre.

I think time pressure had an impact on the quality of the play in this game from as early as move 20 and both players commit some errors. In particular, on the last move before time control and under extreme pressure, there is a case of double blindness as both men miss a straight-forward tactic that would have sealed the game for Black. Instead they bound on into an intricate and interesting rook, piece and pawns ending in which Chris slowly out plays his opponent and runs the gauntlet of a second time scramble to secure a very nice victory.


12.) Ursal vs. Leatherbarrow, Halifax, 13th February, 2017

When Darwin Ursal first started playing for Hebden Bridge in 2010-11 I gave him a nickname: ‘Draw-Win’ Ursal. That was simply because he never lost and usually won. So, it’s fair to say that finding a Calderdale game in which he was on the losing side is like finding a hen’s tooth! Here then is a hen’s tooth extracted with great effort by Andy Leatherbarrow.

The key moment of the battle comes on move 20 when Andy digs deep and plays an instinctive piece sacrifice to get Darwin’s king out in the open. The position is very complicated, and Andy couldn’t possibly have calculated everything, but his bravery and gut feel are rewarded as he gets a huge attack on the king with his queen and rook whilst Darwin’s pieces are largely by standers.

Andy can’t find the killing blow immediately but patiently probes and pushes the White king around until he can find something concrete. Darwin’s defensive task proves impossible and he finally caves in. A fascinating sacrifice which is well worth of further study and exploration and is excellent calculation practice!


13.) Cook vs. Porter, Calderdale League 1, 27th of November, 2017

We’ve just seen Phil Cook losing a game. It wouldn’t be at all fair to omit an example of the three time and reigning Calderdale Champion’s work. With that competition now defunct, he may end up keeping the trophy and the title forever!

This game is from the Calderdale League and I think it is quite typical of Phil’s style and qualities. Of course we expect to see his trade mark English Opening but Richard’s choice of response (to play d5 and d4 quite quickly, provokes Phil into playing 3.b4!? and this induces Richard to gambit the d-pawn. From there on in Phil plays deceptively simple and sensible chess to increase his control in the centre, open the b-file, improve the position of his pieces and limit Black’s counter play.

By move 30, White’s position is a picture of harmony whilst Black’s is a sad tangled mess. Richard hit’s out in desperation, trying to complicate proceedings but he is in no position to do so and Phil ends up with four extra pawns and a positional bind.

This one is a bit of a crush, but it’s a model in how to exploit eccentric opening play.


14.) Patrick vs. Clarkson, Calderdale League 1, 15th of January, 2018

Sometimes a game stands out because of one unusual feature or motif. This game is a case in point. How many games have you seen when one player’s king could justifiably be dubbed ‘Man of the Match’? In his notes to this one Andrew Clarkson quite justifiably awards his king the MVP prize and when you take a look at this game, you’ll see why.

The game doesn’t start out in a way that would suggest it would become so remarkable. Dave chooses an unusual, but perfectly playable variation of the Pirc Defence to test Andrew with. Both players develop sensibly and then a crisis comes in the centre of the board as Andrew breaks thematically with 12…c5 and Dave responds in kind 13.e5 and a mass simplification occurs.

If this doesn’t sound promising so far then the endgame really makes up for it. Both players have six pawns and two rooks but Dave has a bishop against Andrew’s knight but he also has doubled and isolated c-pawns and this proves to be the decisive factor in the outcome. Dave forces off another pair of rooks thinking that he can at least hold the position. It’s at this point that Andrew executes a remarkable winning plan as he marches his king across the open board from g8 to collect one of Dave’s loose c-pawns before turning tail and racing back to g7.

In the final act, Andrew manages to exchange the final pair of rooks to enter a knight versus bishop ending in which he has an extra pawn. He then frog-marches his king all the way back to pick up Dave’s pawn on a2 in order to win the game. Of course, there are some improvements in play that both sides could have made here but this is a fairly unusual endgame to be sure.

In my final post of this series tomorrow I’ll be launching a poll for readers to choose their favorite game from a shortlist of 5 games selected by me.

Jan 122020
 

Maybe the craziest position of the decade? This is from Syrett vs. Webster. White just played 7.Kh1. Find out how this happened and what came next in the game viewer at the end of this post.

Today’s post covers five more games from the archive that made my ‘long list’ for Hebden Bridge’s ‘Game of the Decade’. Interestingly, all five of today’s games were played in 2014. It seems that this was a vintage year for interesting and exciting chess games in the Calder valley. Was it something in the water I wonder? Who knows?
As with Friday’s post, I’m going to give a short description of each game and why I selected it plus, at the end of the post, all the games are published with some notes.


5. Dickinson vs. Corbett, Calderdale League 2, 17th of February, 2014

The 17th of February, 2014 should be memorialised in our collective psyches in the same way that the dates of some of England’s most famous battlefield triumphs are memorialised. Why? Well, the date marks what amounts to the most improbable, unlikely and surprising match result ever in the Calderdale League. That’s not hyperbole. The occasion in question was our Hebden Bridge ‘D’ junior team, without a win to their names approaching the end of the season and rooted to the foot of the table, hosting Belgrave ‘B’ who were top of Division 2 and undefeated. No one expected anything other than a rout for the hugely out-gunned home side and yet the juniors triumphed 3 – 2.

This game from board 2 was my pick of three startling wins by our juniors but I should also mention that Dan Crampton beat Gordon Farrar and Dylan Leggett defeated Angel Gonzalez (both excellent wins) in a blood bath where all five games were decisive. I felt compelled to pick one game from this match and I chose this one primarily because of the dramatic turning of the tables at the end. Karl Dickinson was being comprehensively dismantled by Malcolm Corbett whose main problem appeared to be choosing between the different ways to win the game. In the end the one he chose back fired horribly and Karl found the narrow path he needed to tread to force victory. The only shame is that he missed a very beautiful checkmate right at the end which would have crowned his startling achievement. But this game is certainly the most memorable giant-killing of the past decade.


6. Shapland vs. Leatherbarrow, Calderdale Individual Ch. – Round 5, 10th of March, 2014

Let’s get this one out of the way as it’s one of mine! Generous colleagues suggested a few of my own games as candidates but not this one. However, when I weighed them all up, I felt this game was the most special and I remember a lot of the kibitzers after the game remarking on how interesting it was. It’s hard to disagree, this is a most unusual game. It should also be said that Andy played a full part it too, competing with creativity and bravery in a game that was ultimately a bit of a dead rubber for both of us as neither of us could challenge for the Championship in the final round.

The game develops out of a Scandinavian Defence and, in a moment of improvisation, I decided to play on both sides of the board rather than in the centre. This makes for a very unusual and chaotic position but somehow, I always felt that I managed to maintain the initiative. This is one of those games with a dizzying complex of variations some of which the players considered and calculated and others that were unearthed with the help of an engine afterwards. I’m relatively satisfied however, that both of us played the game well enough for it to be on this list and as your archivist, I have to permitted one indulgence surely?!


7. Syrett vs. Webster, Calderdale League 1, 14th of April, 2014

Another game made memorable by its total mayhem. I seem to recall that I was playing in another match at the Trades Club on the night in question, took an early walk to see what was happening on the other boards and nearly fell over with surprise when I saw this one. By the time Martin had played his seventh move he was missing his f, g and h-pawns and Tom had a pawn on h2 that the White king was taking shelter behind. On move 7 mark you!

That this position is reasonably well known in King’s Gambit theory is bye the bye, there aren’t many players that would agree to reach this position in a serious game. If White has the audacity to play the King’s Gambit, generally Black players will try to spoil his fun in some way by declining it or playing the Falkbeer Counter Gambit. Here though we have a full-blooded King’s Gambit Accepted – a rare jewel that both Martin and Tom immerse themselves in to the full.

To be fair, this game is rather one-sided after Tom makes a couple of mistakes early on. It gallops on in a similar vein with some striking moments along the way before Martin finally finds a route through to Tom’s king. This game can be torn to shreds under the scrutiny of an engine, but that’s rather missing the point. It’s pure entertainment from start to finish.


8. A.Bak vs. Eagleton, Calderdale League 1, 22nd of September, 2014

I was keen to have a feisty draw on the long list, and this is one of the feistiest I can remember. It’s more chaos and complexity but is different from the previous two games in that this one is rather more theoretical in nature as the platform for it is one of the most heavily analysed branches of the Najdorf Sicilian, the infamous Poisoned Pawn variation.

The game develops much as you’d expect it to with Black collecting White’s b2 pawn at the cost of giving his opponent a serious development advantage. With his queen getting kicked around, Greg fights to find ways to simplify the position whilst Andy strives to keep pieces on and open lines towards the Black king.

I remember both players got into serious time trouble in this game, which is no surprise when you consider the level of complexity they were dealing with. However, neither man backs down and both play some creative and resourceful chess. Later in the game Greg plays an inaccuracy that hands Andy the advantage but he in turn fails to find the most effective way to prosecute his attack and the game hurtles on.

At the end, realizing that both their flags had fallen and not knowing who’s had dropped first, the exhausted fighters agreed to a draw. A game full of fight and commitment.


9. Sykes vs. Clegg, Calderdale League 1, 6th of October, 2014

‘And now’, as Monty Python famously said, ‘for something completely different! Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of excitement to enjoy here, but this is a silky smooth and predominantly positional win from Nick where all the tactics fall into place for him behind his single-minded strategy. It’s a classic win against Robert’s King’s Indian Defence with White attacking on the queen’s side and trying to break through before Black can get to his king.

The fact that the result never seems to be in doubt should not disguise the fact that Robert played quite well himself in this game, it’s just that Nick played pretty much perfectly to best him. At the end White is just a pawn up but the position is completely winning.

A really fine effort from both players which bestows even more kudos on the winner.

  ( ) -   ( )
  ( )

Download games
ChessTempo PGN Viewer