Tuesday, 8 February 2011

In a tight spot

Just like our furry friend here, Martin Syrett's 'B' team
are feeling the squeeze in the lower reaches of Division 1
First of all, apologies to all readers for the long delay between events and the posting of articles on this blog. My home broadband connection went down two weeks ago and getting the service resumed has been an interminable hell of calls to one of our prominent national broadband providers! I won't be recommending them to anyone in future. In the meantime I've been trying to write posts offline and then get to public Wi-Fi hotspots to actually publish. This is harder than you might think!

Anyway, Hebden Bridge Chess Club’s ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams both returned to action last week with ties that took place on Monday night (the 31st).

Alastair Wright’s ‘A’ team began the evening only on point behind Huddersfield with a match in hand and they showed yet again why they are in contention for the title by crushing the league’s bottom team Todmorden ‘A’.

The night started well for Hebden Bridge as, first Nick Sykes on board 5, and then Matthew Parsons on board 2, took advantage of blunders by the Edwards brothers Paul and Chris to take a 2-0 lead. Matthew certainly didn’t feel like he had secured much out of the opening at all and even thought that Black had some chances to make life difficult for him. However, he cunningly found a way to induce a mistake from his opponent and took full advantage.

On board 1 Dave Wedge faced Todmorden’s new recruit, Andrew Clarkson, who had the temerity to play one of Dave’s own pet opening lines against him (in the form of the Pirc Defence) and held Dave to a fairly comfortable draw. Our thanks go to Andrew for taking the time to provide the notes to the game in the game viewer below.

Dave’s son Matthew continued his rich vain of form as he beat Mike Huett in the game below.

And finally, the Captain’s game on board 3 went on late into the evening with Alastair being given a good run for his money by Scott Gornall before the pair agreed peace terms.

The final match card for the fixture is given below.

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ – Todmorden ‘A’
D.Wedge ½ - ½ A.Clarkson
M.Parsons 1 – 0 C.Edwards
A.Wright ½ - ½ S.Gornall
M.Wedge-Roberts 1 – 0 M.Huett
N.Sykes 1 – 0 P.Edwards
4 - 1

Martin Syrett’s ‘B’ team are the ones in this post’s eponymous “tight spot”. They’ve been flirting with the relegation zone all season long and when other results conspired against them on Monday night (namely Brighouse continuing Belgrave’s woeful run of form with a 4-1 win at home) they slid back into it on board score.

Despite the bigger picture however, this was a reasonably creditable result although I suspect that Martin will feel his side may have missed an opportunity.

The result of the night was on the first board to finish as Pete Olley obtained a comfortable draw against Darwin Ursal on board 1. In an opening that looked a bit like a Tarrasch Variation of the Queen’s Gambit Pete won a pawn in the opening at the expense of suffering from impeded development. The extra pawn didn’t mean that much in the end as Black’s pawn structure was damaged, but it did keep Pete’s illustrious opponent occupied as he tried to build up some sort of compensation. It will be interesting to see what Darwin’s first grade is at the end of this season, his current provisional grade on the Yorkshire Chess Association list is 159.

Next to finish was Andy Leatherbarrow on board 3 as he also held a comfortable draw against Pete Moss that continues a welcome return to form for him since the Christmas break.

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ missed the services of a flu-ridden John Kerrane on board 5, but his replacement Neil Bamford did his job exceptionally by beating Ray Cully on board 5. I’m not sure if Ray ran out of time in the final position of the game below because it seems as if White still has plenty to play for even if he is certainly worse. Whether it be on time or not, congratulations go to Neil for winning this crucial game.

Team Captain, Martin Syrett, suffered another evening of pain and anguish as he once again fell victim to a nasty tactic that lost him a piece for nothing. This left the score level at 2 all with just the board 2 encounter left to play and the tension at the Lee Mount Club was high. Both teams really needed to win the match in order to pull away from the relegation zone.

This last game was probably the most interesting and complicated game of the night. If you had scored the match on paper before hand you would have expected Hebden Bridge’s Dave Shapland to be too strong for Howard Wood, but in the event Howard played nicely in a Fianchetto Variation of the Sicilian Defence. Dave’s queen’s side counter play never got going and Howard’s rickety looking king’s side attack proved to be more dangerous than it first appeared.

In the game above the players had only reached White’s 22nd move by the time the rest of the games had been concluded and both players were beginning to look like they would get embroiled in a time scramble. Howard had offered Dave a draw after playing 21.Qe2 and Dave, waiting to see the outcome of the board 4 game, declined and then had a long think about his own move 21. The computer suggests that the best continuation would have been 21…Rf8. The game move is not disastrous but it took Dave a long time to play it. Howard quickly played 22.f4 (which seems to have been a missed opportunity as 22.Nd6!? looks very promising) and offered Dave the draw again. Now with only about 10 minutes each to play another 14 moves Dave had to do some speedy risk assessment. He said afterwards,

“The position seemed to me to be just about equal but I could see a lot of danger for Black. I thought I had it covered and was planning to play 22… a6 if I had decided to play on. However, I considered the complications ahead would not be played accurately by either side due to the time trouble we were both in. At a congress, or in the event that the outcome of this game did not effect the match result, I would certainly have played on but, in the end, I considered Pete’s excellent result on board 1 and thought, ‘it would be a shame for that result not to mean anything and if I lose then that will be what happens’. This made up my mind and I accepted Howard’s offer.”

As a final note it is worth mentioning that Dave was right, 22…a6 does appear to secure Black a small advantage but the position remains very sharp and complicated. Let us hope that, at the end of the season, this single decision does not decide the fate of the ‘B’ team’s status. The final match card is given below.

Halifax ‘A’ – Hebden Bridge ‘B’
D.Ursal ½ - ½ P. Olley
H.Wood ½ - ½ D. Shapland
P.Moss ½ - ½ A.Leatherbarrow
C.Velosa 1 – 0 M. Syrett
R.Cully 0 – 1 N.Bamford
2½ – 2½

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