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.
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.