Friday, 7 January 2011

Festive cheer for our League 1 teams

Santa paid an unexpected visit to the
Trades Club and dispenced some 'gifts'
On the Monday before Christmas the Calderdale Evening Chess League season reached its halfway mark. Hebden Bridge Chess Club played host to two fixtures from Division 1 as Hebden Bridge ‘A’ faced Courier ‘A’ and Hebden Bridge ‘B’ took on Brighouse. The two teams entered into this last round of 2010 fixtures in very different situations. Alastair Wright’s ‘A’ team were sitting pretty at the top of the league whilst Martin Syrett’s ‘B’ team writhed uncomfortably in the relegation zone.

Courier ‘A’ might be considered to have had something of an enigmatic season so far this year. They have swept away many of the weaker teams and also managed a superb away win at Huddersfield but have also fallen to some surprising defeats to both Belgrave and Halifax. The away side were at full strength on their top 3 boards where Roberts Clegg, Dave Patrick, and in particular John Morgan, have been the engine room of their title challenge. These three were joined by Messrs Colledge and Whitehead on boards 4 and 5 respectively.

It seemed that the key to the match would be the outcome of the bottom two boards and indeed this turned out to be the case as both Nick Sykes and Matthew Wedge-Roberts notched up comfortable wins for the home side against their lower rated opponents. Matters were much more unclear on the top three boards where the spoils were divided equally. On board 3 Alastair Wright faced up to John Morgan. Both players began the evening undefeated in the league and in contention for the division’s individual prize for the season’s highest scorer. The game was keenly fought but ultimately petered out to a draw on move 23. Evidently neither player wanted to put their superb records at risk.

On board 2, Matthew Parsons has had an excellent season so far and also started the night unbeaten and with only one draw preventing a perfect score (he lags behind John Morgan in the individual scoring charts only because he has played one game less than the Courier player). Perhaps more impressive than the results themselves has been the manner of them however as Matthew has brushed aside strong opponents without too much trouble at all. In this match he knocked over Dave Patrick in such a fashion that the result never seemed in doubt.

Meanwhile the fight on the top board turned out to be the longest of all the games. Ultimately Hebden Bridge’s Dave Wedge succumbed to Robert Clegg after a razor sharp theoretical discussion of the French Defence Winawer Variation had unravelled into an unbalanced endgame in which Dave was always struggling to hold the draw.

This result and the Division’s other big clash between Belgrave and Huddersfield (which the latter won 3-2) leaves Hebden Bridge ‘A’ one point clear of Huddersfield in second place at the half way mark. At the moment it very much looks like the away fixture against Huddersfield will prove to be the title decider although the ‘A’ team also have tough away fixtures to both Belgrave and Courier in the second half of the season.

In the evening’s other match Hebden Bridge ‘B’ were given the best possible early Christmas present when Brighouse arrived at the Trades Club with only 3 players. Despite this set back they almost snatched a most unlikely result by winning two of the three remaining games and running the home side very close in the third. Fortunately that third game, the board 2 clash between Dave Shapland and Bruce Bendall was the first game to finish and so the match was already decided before the games on boards 1 and 3 had been completed.

Dave found himself playing against one of his own favourite opening variations and was able to manoeuvre the game into a line that he knew to contain a good degree of poison for Black. Inaccuracies were committed by both sides as the struggle become complicated and Bruce found an interesting way to continue by giving up both his rooks and a knight for Dave’s queen and two pawns. Theoretically, this should have been a straightforward victory for the pieces against the queen and pawns, but it’s never as simple as that and as Dave struggled to find the correct plan Bruce missed a couple of opportunities to create some serious problems for White. In the end Dave managed to get his rooks and bishops into the Black position and Bruce overlooked a check mate. The notes given in the game below are Dave's.

Meanwhile on board 3 Andy Leathbarrow looked once again like he was going to break his duck for the ‘B’ team this season only to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory for the second match running. This time he entered an endgame a pawn up but the advantage dissipated and then, apparently from no where Andy found himself in a mating net from which he could find no escape. Chess can be a cruel game and it turned out that Andy resigned when he still had a method of drawing. He has had a rotten run of luck so far this season. Hopefully 2011 will bring better fortune for him.

Finally, on board 1 Pete Olley built up a significant special advantage against Robert Broadbent. However, the advantage came at a price and Pete fell into time trouble. Robert is a resilient opponent and he just clung on and clung on until eventually Pete, unable to find a way through Black’s defences had to exchange off the pieces into an unfavourable king and pawn endgame. The endgame was probably a theoretical draw but Pete would have needed to play very accurately and with his clock ticking he was unable to hold on.

The full results of both matches are given below:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ – Courier ‘A’
D.Wedge 0 - 1 R.Clegg
M.Parsons 1 – 0 D.Patrick
A.Wright ½ - ½ J.Morgan
M.Wedge-Roberts 1 – 0 D.Colledge
N.Sykes 1 – 0 J.Whitehead
3½ - 1½

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ – Brighouse
P. Olley 0 - 1 R.Broadbent
D. Shapland 1 – 0 B.Bendall
A.Leatherbarrow 0 – 1 R.Grandage
M. Syrett 1 – 0 DEFAULT
J. Kerrane 1 – 0 DEFAULT
3 – 2

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