Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Chess Improvement Carnival V

Today I am pleased to make it official that the fifth edition of the Chess Improvement Carnival (CIC) will be held right here on this blog from the 4th of May.

For those of you who haven’t seen previous incarnations of the CIC then the idea is simply this: readers nominate chess related posts and articles that they would like to share with the world. It can be something you wrote yourself or something that you’ve seen on another blog that you think is useful, instructive, thought provoking or funny.

If you still don’t get the idea then why not check out some of the material that was selected for previous carnivals hyperlinked below:

  • CIC IV – April: The Omelette Edition, hosted by Liquid Egg Product
  • CIC III – March: The Renaissance Faire Edition, hosted by Blunderprone
  • CIC II – February: The Coney Island Edition, hosted by Brooklyn 64
  • CIC I – January: hosted by Blue Devil Knight
The only guidelines for submission that you need to bare in mind are these. First of all the post has to be chess related and second of all it has to come from a blog rather than a professionally run chess website. You can nominate a post by following this link. The deadline for submissions is looming so don’t procrastinate, nominate your favourite post now and lets make the May edition of the carnival the biggest one yet!

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Come on and do the conga!

Today is St.George’s Day and so it only seems right that this blog celebrate the occasion by offering up a Dragon to be slain! Of course I’m talking about the chess variation rather than the mythical beast itself. I count myself as something of a Sicilian Dragon aficionado and have played the opening numerous times with both sets of pieces. In the game I’m presenting for examination today I was playing with White in an online correspondence tournament in which all games played had to be Dragons. My opponent chose to play a line called the Soltis Variation (it’s named after the American GM who is credited with introducing it into high level chess) and things got very interesting there after. In fact this game also features the only occurance I think I've ever come across in a genuine game where one player has ended up with quadrupled pawns so, to me, it is something of a collectors item.

The Soltis variation (characterised by 11…h5) is reputable and very sound. Recommendations don't come any higher than that of ex-World Champion Garry Kasparov who, in his title match against Viswanathan Anand in 1995, chose to defend this line of the Dragon after a series of set-backs with his beloved Najdorf variation. I can remember the shock waves this switch caused amongst commentators at the time of the match. It was a huge change in strategy from Kasparov but, as always with him, it was a practical decision and it worked. Anand was caught off guard, lost in the first game that the Soltis was played and the momentum of the match changed decisively.

I hope readers will enjoy this little sojourn into Dragon theory…

Wednesday, 20 April 2011


I can offer readers a veritable tumult of reports and games because today we chronicle the heroic efforts of all four of Hebden Bridge Chess Club’s teams as they rode gallantly into battle for the last time this season on Monday night. The fixtures secretary has thrown some curve balls at us this year including the playing of all four of our derby matches on dates other then the opening nights of each half of the season; round 4 of the Calderdale Individual Championships on Valentine’s night; and, most testing of all, the opening and closing fixtures in both divisions played on the same night. This meant that our hard pressed Captains had to find 20 players between them and even for a club of our size, that is no easy task when it’s school holiday week. I’m delighted to report that all four teams did sport full line-ups even though we had to tap into all sorts of rarely plumbed resources!

I’ll start with Hebden Bridge ‘B’ who, you may remember, managed a tense 3-2 victory in their match with Belgrave two weeks ago to haul themselves out of the relegation zone. They needed to match Halifax ‘A’s result at bottom side Todmorden ‘A’ in order to be sure of safety and a draw in conjunction with a Halifax win would have left the teams needing to be separated by their board count. John Kerrane reports for us on the unfolding of the night’s events at Brighouse.

“With both sides missing key stronger players, it was an unusual match, but in the end, Hebden Bridge ‘B’ avoided relegation in fine style with a 3-2 win, led by Dave Shapland on board 1, who played his favorite Classical Defence against Robert Broadbent’s Spanish Opening, and conducted a vigorous attack culminating in a very attractive mate.”

The individual results were:

Brighouse – Hebden Bridge ‘B’
R.Broadbent 0 – 1 D.Shapland
B.Bendall ½ - ½ A.Leatherbarrow
P.Whitehouse 1 – 0 J.Kerrane
N.Hudson ½ - ½ P.Rhami
Default 0 – 1 M.Syrett
2 – 3

It was a noble decision by Captain Martin Syrett to stand aside and let Phil Rhami play a game. But, as the ‘B’ team struggled to put together a full side themselves Phil (who also stepped in to play the away fixture against Huddersfield) travelled from Leeds to take part in the tie and therefore deserved his spot. Essentially he was the hero of the hour for, by turning up and playing a game, he essentially scored Hebden 1½ points. His draw with Nick Hudson was resourcefully played after a highly provocative opening treatment almost got him into very hot water.

The second game to finish was Dave Shapland’s effort against Robert Broadbent. He equalised fairly swiftly and then capitalised on his opponents manouevring play before connecting at the end with a destructive mating combination utilising two bishops and two rooks. The notes in the game viewer below are Daves.

Next John Kerrane succumbed to Paul Whitehouse after a long struggle and this left the match in the balance with just Andy Leatherbarrow’s game against Bruce Bendall to finish. Most club members will know about Andy’s predilection for long distance affairs and his dalliance with time trouble. He stayed true to his code in this game as he used up all but one minute of his time to get to move 36 and then a good deal of his remaining 15 minutes to get to the end of the game. All the while poor Martin Syrett tried to calm his palpitations as he looked on from the sidelines! In the end Bruce decided that he could not make any progress and offered Andy a draw which Andy accepted and the match was won for the ‘B’ team.

This excellent result meant that the ‘B’s were safe and could go home in a happy mood. As it turned out, Todmorden beat Halifax by the surprising margin of 4-1 and so even a defeat would not have damaged Hebden Bridge’s status. Never-the-less congratulations are in order for when the proverbial ordure hit the fan this season the ‘B’ team showed their Dunkirk spirit and did their jobs in their last two matches of the season. Each player has done his bit to keep them up. Well done ‘B’s!

So now to the ‘A’ team who needed to beat Courier ‘A’ away to keep their faint title hopes alive. On paper this was a tough final round fixture for Hebden Bridge as Courier have performed solidly all season and are comfortably anchored in third place in the league. In addition, all three of their top boards are rated in the 160’s and that puts them on a parr with the big beasts at Huddersfield and Hebden Bridge. Only their weaker lower boards have prevented them from competing for the title.

In the event however, Courier were victims of the fixture secretary’s scheduling as they were only able to field 3 players and were missing their talisman, John Morgan who has secured this year’s “Most Valuable Player Award” by scoring 11½ points in 13 games as well as becoming the Calderdale Individual Champion. Regardless of their opponents charity, Hebden Bridge exacted the fullest of penalties by inflicting a traumatising 5-0 whitewash on their opponents.

Individual scores were as follows:

Courier 'A' – Hebden Bridge ‘A’
R.Clegg 0 – 1 D.Wedge
D.Patrick 0 – 1 M.Parsons
D.Colledge 0 – 1 A.Wright
Default 0 – 1 M.Wedge-Roberts
Default 0 – 1 N.Sykes
0 – 5

Dave Wedge was performing his swan song for Hebden Bridge as he leaves us this summer to pursue a new career opportunity down in Cambridge. He has been the side’s top board stalwart for many years and will be sorely missed. Fittingly he smote down Robert Clegg with his customary aplomb as his “Good bye” present.

On board 2 Matthew Parsons demonstrated his readiness to fill Dave’s very large shoes next season by doubling up on Dave Patrick for the season. Here is his game.

Team Captain, Alastair Wright completed the rout with a win against Dave Colledge.

The ‘A’ team must now sit tight and await news from Huddersfield on Maundy Thursday when the league leaders host Belgrave for the curtain closing fixture in League 1. Could it be the holiday season will deplete the resources available to one or both sides? There might yet be a one more twist in the title race. Of course we will keep our ears to the ground and let you know the result as soon as we possibly can.

Normally I’d be ending my report here but today I must ask readers to gird their loins for even more! Both of the club’s Division 2 sides were also in action on Monday. First of all, Pete Rawlings gives us news of the ‘C’ team’s home match against Huddersfield ‘B’.

“Our final match of the season gave us the double over Huddersfield ‘B’, quite a feat considering that they will beat us to second place in division 2. (Only if they win their game in hand against Halifax ‘B’: Ed.) Trevor Deluca played his first match of the season to gain us a bital point and Pete Leonard continued his near-perfect run. A great performance by the team in a good season. It would be nice to keep this team together as a unit, says their sentimental old captain.”

As Captain Rawlings rightly points out, Pete Leonard has had a superb run for the ‘C’s scoring 6 wins from 7 games. In the game below he inflicted an eye-watering humiliation upon Stuart Oliver.

The ‘C’ team match scorecard looks like this then:

Hebden Bridge ‘C’ – Huddersfield ‘B’
D.Sugden 1 – 0 N.Hepworth
S.Priest 0 – 1 R.Sutcliffe
P.Leonard 1 – 0 S.Oliver
N.Bamford 0 – 1 C.Stratford
T.DeLuca 1 – 0 E.Mellor
3 – 2

Last, but by no means least, the ‘D’ team travelled to Todmorden for their last match of the season against Todmorden ‘C’. Danny Crampton’s team have suffered greatly this season as a result of sticking to their policy of fielding a side full of rookies to league chess. Encouragingly there were signs here that the side is starting to see the fruits of their patient approach as, for the first time this season, they scored two wins in a match. Matt Levy and Danny Crampton scored the points.

The individual results were:

Todmorden ‘C’ – Hebden Bridge ‘D’
R.Stoelman 1 – 0 P.Dearden
G.Bowker 1 – 0 K.Sharpe
J.P.Ellis 0 – 1 M.Levy
T.Webster 1 – 0 C.Greaves
B.Joyce 0 – 1 D.Crampton
3 – 2

With young Kyle Sharpe getting his third outing in adult competition on board 2 and other team members continuing to gain good experience it would seem that the green shoots of growth and development are starting to emerge and that the ‘D’ team can be optimistic about next season. Let’s hope that the summer programme of activities and handicapped competitions will enable these players to develop their games even further.

That’s all for now folks. I'd just like to say "Thank you" to all those players who submitted games and result to me so quickly. It isn't easy gathering everything together in two days but with your help we did it! Watch this space for details of the up and coming summer programme of informal competitions and game tutorials and don’t forget the team Lightning tournament takes place in Todmorden on the 9th of May. By way of a final word I can confirm that there will be a chess club meeting on Monday the 2nd of March when John Kerrane plans to hold an informal Lightning Competition to give players the chance to practice at this format of the game.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

How to swash your buckle

Today dear readers I would like to introduce you to a new columnist for this blog who I hope will be making regular returns to these pages. Wishing to be known only by the nom de guerre of “The Swashbuckler”, he will hopefully provide some inspiration for any player who wants to introduce an air of swagger and panache to their games instead of dour, avoid-losing-at-all-costs solidity. He promises that his columns will be less about self-improvement and more about developing a playing-style for those of you who want to play like neanderthals! I’ll let him explain more:

Yes I do always where this outfit at the board!
The Swashbuckler #1: Rules of Swashbuckling

Welcome readers to my first column for the Hebden Bridge Chess Club website. Hurrah! Today, in anticipation of the mouthwatering scraps and adventures that I have in store for you, I would like to set the scene by defining the philosophy that I play my chess by and which will dictate the tone and content of my future postulations. Perhaps the best place to start would be to define the term “Swashbuckler”.

The dictionary definition of a Swashbuckler is:
  1. A flamboyant swordsman or adventurer
  2. A sword-wielding ruffian or bully
  3. A dramatic or literary work dealing with a swashbuckler
For our excellent purposes we can discard the third of these meanings although I hope that the word “dramatic” will be applicable to all the games I share with you on this blog. I should like to expand a little on the first two meanings however because in modern culture it seems that our interpretation of the term at hand is influenced by many of the books and films of the last century that have fixed an image of ‘swashbucklers’ and ‘swashbuckling’ so vividly into our imaginations. Whilst our first instincts here are useful I don’t want to lose sight of some of the original meaning of the term. Time for a bit of etymology and here I’d like to quote directly from an excellent blog that I discovered during my research called “The Pirate King”:

"Although you and I may associate “swashbuckling” with pirate stories and Hollywood movies, the term was originally anything but complimentary. A “swashbuckler”, when the word first appeared around 1560, was a swaggering braggart, bully or ruffian. “Swashbuckler” actually came from the antiquated words “swash” (to make a noise by striking) and “buckler” (shield).
A “swashbuckler” was originally a mediocre swordsman who compensated by making a great deal of noise, strutting through the streets banging his sword on his shield, challenging passersby to duels, and just generally acting like a jerk."

So, from this information, what can we deduce should be the defining characteristics of the chess-playing-swashbuckler (CPS)? I’d like to offer the following profile for your consideration:
  1. A CPS is, first and foremost, defined by their bravado. They delight in displaying naked aggression and revel in their flamboyant style even though their bark is almost always more potent than their bite
  2. They are adventurers in the field of opening theory selecting unusual, old-fashioned, eccentric and rococo systems that others deem to be at best unclear and at worst diabolical
  3. CPSs are, to use a modern term, ‘flat-track bullies”. The weaker their opponent is the more absurdly insulting the opening system will be that they deploy and the greater level of risk they will be prepared to take during the middle game. Endgames simply tend not to occur in the score books of dyed in the wool swashbucklers.
  4. They value the means as greater than the ends and would rather suffer a glorious and blood soaked defeat than a turgid and attritional victory. 
  5. CPSs are, by their nature, disruptive. By this I mean that they will take every opportunity to create disharmony at the chess board. They strive to create material imbalances that are terrifyingly hard to assess and may play moves that flout the conventions of orthodox chess teachings
Well, that will do for a start though I reserve the right to add further defining characteristics to this profile as I see fit.

Now that I’ve defined the raison d’etre for this column I think it’s only right that I tell you about the format that I have in mind. In each column that I publish here I will introduce readers to either; a “Swashbuckling Hero” from the annals of history, many of whom will be plucked from relative obscurity; or an opening system that I deem to be suitable for budding swashbucklers to add to their repertoires. In either case I very much hope that the games I share with you will inspire you to introduce just a little bit of ‘swash’ and ‘buckle’ to your chess life for, as I like to say to all my students: "Life’s too short for endgames!"

By way of prologue to the themes I’ve introduced today I’d like to share a game I played online recently:

Thanks for reading folks. Please do give your thoughts on this game and/or the swashbuckling methodology I'm advocating in these columns. See you again soon.

The Swashbuckler

Friday, 15 April 2011

"When you see a good move, look for a better one"

These words of wisdom from Emanuel Lasker came back to me this week as I analysed a game that I played in the Leeds League on Wednesday. Take a look at the position below. It’s Black to move. What would you play?

I think that the real point behind Lasker’s motto is that if you think you’ve found a good move then it follows that your position must be reasonable and that usually means there are numerous possibilities. If there are numerous possibilities then that might mean you’ve missed an even better option. How many times do we miss killer moves because we think we’ve found the best move in the position and stopped looking?

Ok, that’s today’s lecture over. Now, let’s move on to the latest league results from Monday night. John Kerrane picks up the tale.

"With the end of the Calderdale Chess Evening League approaching, Hebden Bridge Chess club’s two second division sides found themselves drawn against each other at the Trades Club.

The ‘D’ team put up a valiant struggle, with Matt Levy on board 3 taking Steve Priest to the very end of time allowed, but the greater strength of the senior team told and the ‘C’ team came away with a 5-0 victory.

This match also saw the second outing for the ‘D’ team’s new junior prospect, 9-year-old Kyle Sharpe. Although he did not win, he did enough to show that he will be a serious problem to senior players in a year or two."

The full score card is given below:

Hebden Bridge ‘D’ – Hebden Bridge ‘C’
J.Todd 0 – 1 D.Sugden
P.Dearden 0 – 1 J.Blinkhorn
M.Levy 0 – 1 S.Priest
K.Sharpe 0 – 1 P.Leonard
D.Crampton 0 – 1 P.Rawlings
0 – 5

Next week sees the season end hove into view as all four teams will be in action. Both our Division 1 teams are playing away with the ‘A’ team still hoping that their rivals Huddersfield will slip up and allow them to retain their title and the ‘B’ team hoping they can hold their nerve against Brighouse and stay in the top flight.

Meanwhile the ‘C’ team are the only ones at home as they face Huddersfield ‘B’ needing a win to keep alive any hopes of promotion and the ‘D’ team finish off the season against Todmorden ‘C’ as they aim to score a few more board points to offer them some encouragement for next year. Of course full results and, hopefully some games, will appear right here as soon as they are available. Anyone wanting to see current league standings ahead of the last round can do so at the Calderdale Chess League website (their is a link on the tool bar on the right).

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Don't look now!

Vassily Ivanchuk looks at anything but the board!
How do we know that Neanderthal Man played blindfold chess? Because in excavations of their sites no chessboards or pieces have been found.

It’s an old and rather cheesy joke but don’t let that hide the essential truth that it exploits. The physical manifestation of the game of chess (the board and pieces) only exists to help us players visualise the moves. Once you have learned chess notation and grasped of the rules you can play the game in your head. That virtually none of us practice this is an indication of how difficult it is to do. If you’ve never tried it I recommend you give it a go. It is mind bogglingly difficult! However, one skill that, throughout history, sets aside the very best chess players from us mere mortals is their ability to do this very thing.

I recently came across a very interesting and very comprehensive post by HeinzK on his Chess Plaza blog called “The big comparison” in which he associates this game we play with lots and lots of other aspects of life. It is a post which is by turns funny, philosophical, insightful and poetic. It is also full of links to other related blog posts and stories and I followed one about super Grand Master Vassily Ivanchuk which looked interesting. I ended up reading a very nice little interview conducted with him shortly after he had won the Gibraltar Chess Festival in February of this year. One answer he gave tickled me in particular and it was also the answer that had grabbed HeinzK’s attention. Ivanchuk was asked how much time he spent on chess (aside from playing in tournaments) and he answered:

“It’s hard to say, because chess and the way you train for it, is quite unusual. For example it’s not even obligatory to sit at a computer, or even a chess board. I can also walk in the park and analyse some important position in my head. Moreover, it’s by no means certain that working using such a method will have any less effect than if I sit at a computer. It depends much more on getting into a mental state that allows you to discover new ideas.”

“I can walk in the park and analyse some important position in my head.” Woah! Ivanchuk has a reputation for being a “genius” and also for being, shall we say, one of the game’s more colourful characters. This statement certainly seems to bare that out. So next time you take your dog for a walk and spot a dishevelled looking fellow doing laps of the park and muttering to himself as he gazes somewhere into the far distance, don't worry, he might appear to be a lunatic but it is probably just Vassily analysing an opening novelty.

The real point I guess, is that this extraordinary ability to visualise games and positions is both a blessing and a curse for the chess professional. On the one hand it helps them develop their astounding powers of calculation and concentration, on the other it means that their minds can never truly be free of the game that dominates their lives. The truth that Ivanchuk reveals by being unable to provide an answer to the interviewer’s question is that lots of his chess is played in his head and so it is impossible to keep track of how much time he spends on it.

I’ve seen it mentioned in several sources that Ivanchuk (and some other players) frequently sit at the board and calculate variations without spending much time actually looking at the pieces themselves. On his blog, Tim Krabbé suggests that this is actually quite a logical way to visualise future positions because “the mental pieces are often on different squares than their wooden counterparts.”

To illustrate this point (in a post that is interestingly titled “The handicap of sight”) Krabbé references this incident which is taken from "Psychology in Chess" by Nikolai Krogius.

The Colonel is back!
 So now, I’d like to end this post on a slightly lighter note. As I read the interview with Vassily Ivanchuk I also remembered that our old friend, Colonel Walter Polhill (RTD), had written an article for The Independent on Sunday in which he referred directly to Ivanchuk’s ability to find brilliant ideas without looking at the board. I am willing to risk prosecution to bring you that article for your amusement.

"You can tell great players by their eye movements. An average club player’s eyes dart about hopelessly, never knowing quite where to look for the best move. A Grand Master focuses rapidly on the critical area of the board. It is a rare genius that looks, as Vassily Ivanchuk does for much of the game, at the ceiling. And when he is not perusing the ceiling, he often stares blankly at the audience. His 24th move in this game however, surely came from the ceiling."

Notice how, in this game, there are numerous occasions when one piece advances to enable another to occupy the square it has vacated. 24.g6!! enables the White bishop to occupy g5, 29.e5! and 30.Nb6! allow the g2-bishop to check on d5 and this bishop then immediately vacates this square again with 32.Be4 in order to allow the knight back to d5 on it’s way to e7.

These kinds of moves can be hard to spot over the board because your eye sees a piece on its current square and that can mean that you rule out a good plas because in your mind a certain key square is unavailable. By visualising the board and pieces without looking at them Ivanchuk is able to liberate his creativity and come up with combinations that many mere mortals wouldn’t be able to spot.

So, the moral of the story is that if you want to improve your abilities to visualise positions during analysis then take up blindfold chess. Just don't expect me to be leading by example!

Friday, 8 April 2011

Captain Marvel to the rescue

Is it Captain Marvel or is it Martin Syrett?
As the Calderdale Evening Chess League season begins to draw to a close both of Hebden Bridge Chess Club’s Division 1 teams rode into battle on Monday night in matches that could yet decide their success or failure of their seasons. The club’s regular venue at the Trades Club was unavailable and so the players were forced to de-camp to the unfamiliar surrounds of the White Lion pub. This could have been a disruptive influence on proceedings but it must be said that the function room we were given was big enough, comfortable enough and quiet enough and generally very satisfactory. It also seems that the players agreed with this assessment because both sides managed to win their matches, though in rather contrasting styles.

I’ll deal with the ‘B’ team first. They have been locked in a relegation battle all season and as the night begin they occupied second last position in the league table with Halifax ‘A’ one point above them and Brighouse four points ahead. These were the only two teams they had any chance of over hauling before the end of the season so a win was essential. Their opponents were Belgrave who are occupying a sort of mid-table limbo between the dangers of relegation and the excitement of the title race. In the reverse fixture at Belgrave in November Hebden Bridge lost 3-2 in a match they probably should have won. It was clear they were capable of victory but confidence and expectationshave been low for several months now.

The night began badly for Hebden Bridge as, on board 1, Pete Olley blundered a bishop against Gordon Farrar and was compelled to resign shortly afterwards. Pete has had a very challenging year on board 1 and has generally given an excellent account of himself against the league’s top players although he only has two draws to show for his troubles. The ‘B’ team steadied the ship with comfortable draws on boards 3 and 5 where Andy Leatherbarrow and guest star Steve Priest respectively kept Les Johnson and Angel Gonzalez at bay. All this left the match situation in the balance as Hebden Bridge required the remaining two boards to win the tie

Dave Shapland was first to finish on board 2 where he successfully out fought Malcolm Corbett. The players had met with the same colours last season and they once again discussed the Voronyez Variaiton of Alekhine’s Defence. This line is characterised by White’s attempt to set up a bind on the Black position and force him to create positional concessions in order to liberate his pieces. Dave managed to do this successfully early in the game but Malcolm defended himself stoutly and creatively for a long time until eventually, possibly in desperation, he opted for a line that brought about an unclear tactical melee. For several moves the outcome was unclear but then Dave found the most accurate continuations and Malcolm missed a few difficult saving chances and Hebden Bridge had their first win of the evening.

This left the match all square with just one board left to play. ‘B’ team Captain, Martin Syrett, built up a significant space advantage on board 4 against Mike Barnett but, in the process, he also got himself into trouble on the clock. The tension in the room was palpable for the Hebden Bridge players. Would Martin beat the clock and maintain his advantage or would defeat once again be snatched from the jaws of victory? Find out below where the full game and some accompanying commentary is given:

A thrilling climax to the evening then and huge relief for the ‘B’s who, aided by their Captain’s brave victory, now step out of the relegation zone once again as Halifax ‘A’ fell to a 1-4 defeat at home to Courier ‘A’. The effort must be sustained however for in the last match of the season Hebden Bridge ‘B’ must travel to Brighouse whilst Halifax ‘A’ go to bottom side Todmorden. The ‘B’ team must at least match Halifax’s result to stay in Division 1 next season. At least they are in control of their own destiny. Anyone who wants to see Captain Syretts celebrations after the match should watch the video below which will give you a general impression!

The match card is given below:

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ – Belgrave
P.Olley 0 - 1 G.Farrar
D.Shapland 1 - 0 M.Corbett
A.Leatherbarrow ½ - ½ L.Johnson
M.Syrett 1 – 0 M.Barnett
S.Priest ½ - ½ A.Gonzalez
3 – 2

Meanwhile, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ are sadly not in a position to be in control of their own destiny. They trail Huddersfield at the top of the table by a single point but now require their nemesis to slip up in order to allow them to retain their title. They did their job against Brighouse on Monday night with three wins, one draw and a single defeat on board 5 where Nick Sykes lost to Nick Hudson.

It feels like a few members of the ‘A’ team might be feeling a little battle weary at the end of a long hard season. Certainly, the side is not winning matches by the kinds of crushing margins they were in the first half of the season. Their title rivals Huddersfield, by contrast, began with a draw and a defeat but have since won every match including two critical victories against Hebden Bridge ‘A’.

On Monday night there were some signs that Alastair Wright’s team still has the stomach to fight to the end though as, on board 1, Dave Wedge won smoothly against Robert Broadbent. By his own admission Dave has not had a vintage season, but he has picked up some form since Christmas and will need to maintain that for the last round match against Courier ‘A’.

Captain, Alastair Wright, also ground out a win on board 3 against Bruce Bendall.

Matthew Parsons played out the most exciting game in this fixture against Dennis Breen. I didn’t get the chance to catch much of this game and when I did I must confess I wasn’t at all sure what was going on. The complications seemed to be extensive. Matthew certainly enjoyed it and, rather than publish it here, I will instead link to his own blog so that you can read his thoughts on it and play through the game which ended in a draw.

The other home team win came from Matthew Wedge-Roberts who dispatched his opponent in fairly straight-forward fashion.

The final match card looked like this:
Hebden Bridge ‘A’ – Brighouse
D.Wedge 1 – 0 R.Broadbent
M.Parsons ½ - ½ D.Breen
A.Wright 1 – 0 B.Bendall
M.Wedge-Roberts 1 – 0 R.Grandage
N.Sykes 0 – 1 N.Hudson
3½ – 1½

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Team Lightning Competition and other impending events

Can Hebden Bridge 'A' make
 lightning strike twice?
Today’s post is designed merely to give members and regular readers a heads up on some important dates coming up in the next few months.

1.) First of all, on Monday the 9th of May, the 2011 edition of the Calderdale Chess Team Lightning Competition takes place at Todmorden Working Mens Club. Please note that, unlike recent years, this is tournament is taking place in Todmorden and NOT at the Belgrave Club in Halifax.

All players are welcome but it is suggested that you contact your team Captains about entries from your club as several will already be making plans. In previous years additional teams have been made up by gathering surplus players from all clubs so everyone should get a game that wants one.

Last year Hebden Bridge ‘A’ won the tourney with a record score of 24/25 but they did not have to face the 2009 champions, Huddersfield, who will no doubt be hungry to snatch the title back this year.

The Team Lightening event is always a really fun way of ending the season so please do come along and join in.

Grand Master Danny Gormally returns to Leeds Chess
Club for another simultaneous event on the 12th of June
2.) On Sunday the 12th of June Leeds Chess Club will be hosting a simultaneous event with Grand Master Danny Gormally. It costs £10 to enter and you can register for it on the Leeds Chess Club website. I entered the corresponding event last year and can heartily recommend it. Danny was very laid back and relaxed and this made for a friendly and fun atmosphere. If you want your chance to take on a Grand Master face to face then this is as good as you’ll get.

3.) Finally, here is a real coup for this website! I am delighted to announce that, from May the 4th, our humble blog will be hosting the 5th edition of the Chess Improvement Carnival. The idea behind the event is very simple. Readers nominate interesting and useful posts about chess from across the blogosphere. Those nominations are edited and promoted right here for all the world to see. It’s a kind of “Chess Blog Greatest Hits” for the month of May. If anyone is interested in taking a look at the current edition then you can go to the Liquid Egg Product blog and have a browse. Of course we need nominations for May’s edition so if you’ve spotted a useful, interesting or funny blog post about chess anywhere on the internet recently then please submit it here and it will be considered.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Blink and you'll miss it

Last Monday night it was the turn of Hebden Bridge Chess Club’s League Division 2 teams to wade into action. Hebden Bridge ‘C’ had a home fixture against Todmorden ‘C’ and our ‘rookie’ squad, the ‘D’ team played away against Halifax ‘B’.

Our ‘D’ team mostly comprises players who are taking their first steps in competitive chess and so it is no surprise to learn that they have struggled this season and are bottom of the league. Last Monday, Halifax’s team of seasoned campaigners was too strong for our chaps and ran out 5-0 winners. The full match scorecard is given below:

Halifax ‘B’ – Hebden Bridge ‘D’
B.Wadsworth 1 – 0 J.Todd
J.Aldridge 1 – 0 T.Whelan
J.Nicholson 1 – 0 M.Levy
D.Summerskill 1 – 0 K.Sharpe
J.Gilhooly 1 – 0 D.Crampton
5 – 0

It is worth noting that our club’s most promising junior, Kyle Sharpe, played his first match for the ‘D’ team and is beginning to get some experience of playing against adult opponents. This will no doubt act as further spring board for his burgeoning ability. News of his exploits in the world of junior chess can be found in the “Juniors” section of this site.

Now, onto the ‘C’ team. Non-player Captain, Peter Rawlings had been optimistic of the side’s promotion chances prior to the match against Todmorden last week. Unfortunately, he was compelled to put out a slightly weakened line up and the side paid a heavy price against a useful Todmorden ‘C’ team. The only winner of the night for Hebden Bridge was Steve Priest on board 3 and, although both Josh Blinkhorn and Dave Sugden took draws against decent opposition on the top two boards, boards 4 and 5 were (as they so very often are) decisive with the visitors taking two wins to seal a tight match. This result is something of a set back for the ‘C’s who had been on an excellent run of form. Promotion now looks unlikely, but is still a possibility. Here is the match card:

Hebden Bridge ‘C’ – Todmorden ‘C’
D.Sugden ½ - ½ D.Milton
J.Blinkhorn ½ - ½ R.Stoelman
S.Priest 1 – 0 J.P.Ellis
P.Leonard 0 – 1 T.Webster
P.Dearden 0 – 1 B.Joyce
2 – 3

After the match, despite his disappointment, Pete couldn’t hide his delight in telling me about Josh Blinkhorn’s game on board 2. Josh has had a pretty good season this year and his playing standard is developing progressively. Many of his games bare the hallmarks of his aggressive attacking style and Monday’s effort was no different. I’ve published the game in full in the viewer below but the starting position is a key moment in the game.

Early in the game Josh overlooked the threat behind 8…Qc7 and lost material as a result. This pretty much left him with only one option. Do or die attack. Pete told me that Josh had a 20 minute think before playing 20.Nf3! in the position below. It was certainly well worth spending the time for it transpires that the rook on h1 cannot be taken. To Ruud Stoelman’s great credit he spotted the trap and side-stepped it. Moment’s later the players had agreed a draw although it looks like Black’s king could have escaped the checks according to Fritz.