Lose, win, lose, win. That’s been the pattern for HebdenBridge ‘A’ so far this season. Last time out they suffered a painful 2 — 3 defeat on the road at Belgrave but on Monday night they redeemed themselves by beating Brighouse away 1½ — 3½. Admittedly they were handed a very useful start when the home team admitted they only had four players. Unfortunately this left poor old Martin Syrett as a spare part for the evening which is never a very satisfactory outcome for the player involved.
All of this left Hebden Bridge a point up and with four relatively tight match ups to contest on the remaining boards. Captain Pete Leonard was on board 1 against Dennis Breen and found himself facing the Russian System of the Grunfeld Defence. It had been a while since Pete had looked at the line but he seemed to be doing perfectly well in the opening and middle game. His problems began as proceedings began to transition into an ending. This is often the place where games are won and lost as one player jumps at the chance of simplification while their opponent has seen further and envisaged an ongoing advantage.
Whether or not that’s what happened in Pete’s game only he will know but he ended up defending a rook an pawn ending where he had an f-pawn and Dennis retained his a and h pawns. To onlookers it seemed like the game could be held and post-game analysis seems to bare that out. However, Pete also had an acute time shortage and in the end that was what did for him as he ran out of time with just the kings, a pair of rooks and Dennis’s h-pawn left in play.
Fortunately, by the time this game was concluded at the end of the evening the match was already decided in Hebden’s favour. First of all Dave Shapland scored his first full point of the season against Robert Broadbent. Dave had won their last two encounters using the Classical Variation of the Ruy Lopez (3… Bc5) but in this game he selected an even earlier diversion by opting to play the Bird’s Variation (3… Nd4) that had given him such a promising position against Karim Khan I the last match. Once again he obtained a very strong positional hold and Robert finally lashed out on the queen’s side to try and get some counterplay. This back-fired on him and with a little care taken to ensure Robert’s connected passed pawns didn’t cause an upset, Dave steered the game to a successful conclusion.
Hebden were 0 — 2 up but they’d been in that situation against Belgrave and still managed to lose the match. This time they made no mistake although both Nick Sykes and Andy Leatherbarrow could perhaps consider themselves fortunate not to have lost. Nick finished first against Bruce Bendall on board 3. The game transposed into a Vienna Game and Bruce spotted a thematic tactic that looked like it netted a pawn. In fact, as Nick’s analysis in the viewer below shows, Brue should have lost his piece although the winning of it would have meant Nick boldly marching his king out to g6. Once the pawn had been won Bruce managed to keep up the pressure and Nick was struggling to equalise. It looked like it might be a lost cause but Bruce was taking too long to find the strongest continuations and he ran out of time with just a few moves to make to reach time control.
Once Pete had succumbed to the same condition on board 1 it just remained for Andy Leatherbarrow and Paul Whitehouse to conclude their business. Andy frequently gets into hot water with his clock and it was no different on this occasion as the players manoeuvred cautiously in a closed position. In his zeitnot Andy made an error and Paul won Andy’s queen in exchange for a bishop and rook. However, with the position being closed Andy was just able to build a fortress that Paul could not find a way of dismantling and, with the match result no longer in doubt, the two agreed peace terms.
Here is the final match scorecard:
Brighouse vs. HebdenBridge ‘A’
D.Breen 1 — 0 P.Leonard
R.Broadbent 0 — 1 D.Shapland
B.Bendall 0 — 1 N.Sykes
P.Whitehouse ½ — ½ A.Leatherbarrow
DEFAULT 0 — 1 M.Syrett
1½ — 3½
Three of the games from this match, complete with notes, are available in the viewer at the end of the post.
Last weekend Real Madrid and Barcelona played their first ‘El Clasico’ match of the season in the Spanish football league. This always seems to garner world-wide media coverage and is met with general excitement by football fanatics. The closest that the Calderdale Chess league can come to such a mouth watering prospect is Todmorden ‘A’ vs. Huddersfield. These two teams have been amongst the very strongest in the league for several years now (much longer in the case of Huddersfield) and this season they were the only two teams to go unbeaten for the first three matches. When they met at Todmorden on Monday night then it felt like something had to give.
What gave was Todmorden. Comparing their line up with the first three matches of the season they seemed a little bit under strength but it still appeared they had more than enough to give Huddersfield a very tough test. Unfortunately a blunder on board 5 in an equal position and an epic grind by Huddersfield’s Mitchell Burke on board 4 finally got the job done for the travellers who have played four away fixtures so far and are the only team with a perfect record. They’ve self combusted after strong starts in recent years but this time they are even stronger. Surely it won’t happen again will it? Todmorden may well have to beat them in the reverse fixture to maintain their hopes of victory.
It appears that Todmorden ‘B’s match with Belgrave was postponed which just leaves me with the task of mentioning the match between Halifax ‘A’ and Courier ‘A’ at Halifax. In the last round of last season these two duked it out for the title and Halifax prevailed. They did so once again on Monday by fielding their strongest line up of the season. They’ll need to be able to get Messrs Ursal, Somerset and Williams out like this more regularly if they are going to defend their crown but at least they, like HebdenBridge have recovered to a 50% score. Courier’s defeat means they too are 2 and 2. These three already appear to be a long way behind the leaders who have two point lead over Todmorden ‘A’ and a four point lead on this group.
Next week the league 1 teams will be in action again and Hebden Bridge ‘A’ will host the back markers Todmorden ‘B’. They may be bottom but they’ll be no push over in a league season that has not yet seen a winning margin greater than 3½ — 1½. If Hebden win then they can face the final two difficult tests before Christmas (Halifax ‘A’ and Todmorden ‘A’) knowing that even two defeats would not put them into the relegation zone. However, if they do lose they’ll head for the festive season looking over their shoulders.