Tuesday, 19 July 2011

End of season review - part 4

Today I’m posting the final part of my 2010-11 season round up and in this chapter I’ll be focusing entirely on the Calderdale Individual Championships of 2010-11.

The competition took place between November and March with each of the 5 rounds being played on the first or second Monday of the month at Hebden Bridge Chess Club’s home venue, the Trades Club. This edition of the championships was, in terms of both strength and depth, the most competitive I can recall with a good range of entrants from across Calderdale taking part. John Kerrane organised the event with his customary aplomb and round 1 took place on Monday the 8th of November.

If readers are interested in the individual results from each round or the original reports then you can read them by clicking on the hyperlinks embedded in the appropriate sub-heading below.

Round 1: Underdogs put in their place

Down boy!
On paper it looked like the most open competition in years with the top 6 players all rated over 150 and a lengthy tale beneath that of 37 contestants. Naturally as the competition progressed some of the competitors dropped out. In particular we missed both Darwin Ursal who entered but never actually took part and Chris Booth, who did play in the early rounds but was unavailable for the final rounds. The absence of these two effectively thinned the list of favorites down to the reigning champion Dave Wedge, Matthew Parsons and previous winner Alastair Wright (all of Hebden Bridge) and John Morgan of Courier.

However, while all of these players seemed to possess the consistency and quality required to win, it also seemed certain that some of them would slip up against lower ranked opposition because this competition always produces the odd upset or two along the way.

That didn’t happen in round 1 where, quite unusually, all of the higher rated players succeeded in overcoming their opponents. Statistically this was always likely but in reality the result was quite unusual. Many of the games were decided by blunders or totally dominated by the higher ranked players but some of the underdogs did bite savagely before being reduced to submission. In particular the two players who would become the tournament’s dominant forces had to struggle late into the evening to secure their first points. John Morgan survived a substantial scare against Halifax’s Barry Wadsworth in a game that unfortunately I do not have available to publish, and Matthew Parsons had to grind down Huddersfield’s Brian Corner in an endgame that meant their game was the last to finish.

Two of the other top seeds however showed their dominance with crushing victories.

Priest vs. Booth is game 1 in the viewer at the end of this post
Wedge vs. Dawson is game 2 in the viewer

Round 2: Revenge of the underdogs!

The underdogs bite back!
The second round took place on the 13th of December and on this occasion the lower graded players were in no mood to roll over for their superiors. Having won every single game in the first round the top half of the draw found circumstances to be rather more challenging as they set their sights on maintaining their perfect start.

Aside from Chris Booth, who took a half point bye in round 2, all the top seeds were in action and the highest profile casualty was the eventual winner of the tournament, John Morgan. The fourth seed could only hold a draw against Nick Sykes despite having a considerable grading advantage over him. John deployed an old favorite opening line of his with the Black pieces playing 1…a6 and 2…b5. On this occasion Nick managed to neutralise it fairly easily and even overlooked some chances to maintain a decent advantage before the game finally simplified into an equal endgame. This was to be the only blot on an otherwise clean sheet during the tournament for John whilst Nick drew several more times in later rounds but remained the only other unbeaten player in the whole competition.

Sykes vs. Morgan is game 3 in the viewer at the end of this article

Other notable instances of overturning of the odds were attained by Terry Sullivan who held a draw against the sixth seed, Pete Olley; Dave Sugden who also held a draw against Todmorden’s Scott Gornall and Steve Priest who managed to purloin a win from Chris Edwards when his opponent committed an atrocious blunder in time trouble. In addition to this win the underdogs also secured victories when Josh Blinkhorn beat Belgrave’s Mike Barnett (the runner up last year) and, most satisfying of all, Hebden Bridge ‘D’ team’s James Todd scored a full point from Brian Corner who had troubled Matthew Parsons so grievously in round 1. This game deserves another publication in recognition of the achievement.

Corner vs. Todd is game 4 in the viewer

The other top seeds maintained their momentum. On board 1 Dave Wedge dispatched a Hebden Bridge colleague and former champion, Andy Leatherbarrow. Matthew Parsons made light work of Martin Syrett and Alastair Wright beat Paul Edwards. These results left Dave, Matthew and Alastair on perfect scores along with Josh Blinkhorn and Huddersfield’s Robert Sutcliffe who overcame Dave Milton in the last game of the night to be completed.

Round 3: Parsons toils to set up showdown with champion

Dave Wedge beat Alastair Wright in the
board 1 clash of round 3
Things began to get really interesting in round 3 as the number of leaders dwindled setting up more evenly matched contests full of promise and intrigue. At the end of the night just two players had managed to maintain their 100% records and they were Hebden Bridge’s top two players, reigning champion Dave Wedge and Matthew Parsons. That they achieved their perfect scores by very different methods was really the story of the round.

Dave seemed to have been handed the more difficult task when the draw pitted him (for the second round in a row!) against a club colleague and former champion in the form of Alastair Wright. Alastair has a track record of taking points off Dave in this competition and everyone fully expected a dour and merciless struggle. In the event it was all over rather swiftly and in savage fashion as Alastair, playing Black made the fateful decision not to play the Alekhine’s Defence (1.e4 Nf6!?). This opening has been a favorite play-thing of his in the past but it had also recently been adopted by his opponent. Alastair was obviously wary of what preparation Dave may potentially have made and decided to meet 1.e4 with Nc6 instead. However, he then somehow managed to transpose in the Max Lange Attack which is a well known graveyard for the ill-prepared. Alastair soon selected the wrong continuation in a forcing line and was summarily dispatched in brutal fashion.

Wedge vs. Wright is game 5 in the viewer at the end of this post

This early evening execution meant that Dave was able to observe first hand the discomfort of his neighbour for, on board 2, Matthew was being taken the full distance by the spirited Robert Sutcliffe. It seems that, having missed an opportunity to secure a decent advantage in the middle game, Matthew had allowed his opponent to get back into the contest. As the late evening settled in the two arrived at a very complicated endgame position with little time to assess it. In these sorts of situations instinct tends to be very important and Matthew’s blitz skills carried him to victory as he seemed to sense the right moments to take risks in search of the full point.

Sutcliffe vs. Parsons is game 6 in the viewer

The fifth player with a score of two before the round began was Josh Blinkhorn. He had the misfortune to be drawn against the returning top seed Chris Booth who finished him off in clinical fashion. On board 4, John Morgan attoned for his draw in round 2 by defeating Matthew Wedge-Roberts and he now joined Chris and Belgrave’s Angel Gonzalez on 2½/3. Meanwhile the rest of the large group that had been on 1½/2 were surprisingly peaceable as a series of draws left them a little further adrift of the leaders.

Round 4: Chess lovers mate on Valentine’s night!

Let us be clear that a bacchanalian orgy did NOT take place
at the Trades Club on Valentine's night
While Calderdale’s canoodling couples cosied up for a romantic evening on Monday February the 14th, the competitors for the Calderdale Individual Chess Championship title took their seats for another climactic battle. Of course the scheduling of the fourth round meant that there were some absentees. Most notable of these was Chris Booth, who, having already takena half point bye, now forfeited a full point and, now out of contention, he withdrew from the final round as well. This left the way clear for the rest of the leading pack to slug it out for the title.

It was no surprise that most of the attention was focused on the board one clash where Dave Wedge defended his title against Matthew Parsons. A win for Dave would have left him needing only a draw in the final round to defend his crown, a win for Matthew and we would have a new champion. In the event of a draw John Morgan and Angel Gonzalez were lurking half a point behind them preparing to pounce. The match up didn’t disappoint and the pair struggled long into the night. In the end Matthew emerged victorious to take sole lead of the competition on 4/4.

Parsons vs. Wedge is game 7 in the viewer at the end of this post

On board 2 John secured his opportunity to shoot for the title with a fairly straightforward victory over Angel.

Gonzalez vs. Morgan is game 8 in the viewer

These results meant that John would play White against Matthew in the final round and would need to win that game to lift the title. A draw for Matthew would be enough for him to take it.

Behind these two there was now a chasing pack of 5 players on 3/4. Dave Wedge was one of these and he was joined by one of his victims from earlier in the tournament, former champion Andy Leatherbarrow, Todmorden’s Scott Gornall, Huddersfield’s Robert Sutcliffe and Hebden Bridge’s Martin Syrett. Robert in particular had shown impressive form in reaching this score having taken the tournament leader to the brink in round 3 and then beating the in form Dave Sugden in round 4.

Sugden vs. Sutcliffe is game 9 in the viewer

Round 5: Morgan picks Parson’s pocket for the title

And so, it all came down to one last heavy weight encounter. With Chris Booth and Dave Wedge now withdrawn or trailing in their wake respectively, John Morgan and Matthew Parsons settled down to slug it in the final round out at the Trade’s Club on the 14th of March. With so much at stake and with Matthew needing only a draw it is little wonder that John stayed true to his style and maintained a tense and strategically complex game for as long as he possibly could. In the end he was able to create a passed pawn and finally the pressure was too much for Matthew and he had to concede the championship to John.

Morgan vs. Parsons is game 10 in the viewer at the end of this post

Elsewhere the minor places were being decided. On board 2 Dave Wedge tore Robert Sutcliffe apart to claim the top grading prize and finish the tournament on a creditable score of 4/5. Scott Gornall and Andy Leatherbarrow drew on board 3 which enabled Martin Syrett to beat Alastair Wright and claim the next grading prize by finishing level on points with the dethroned champion. The last two grading prizes were claimed by Hebden Bridge’s Josh Blinkhorn and Todmorden’sTom Webster who both won their last round fixtures.

Syrett vs. Wright is game 11 in the viewer

So for the first time in a long time the Timeform Trophy left Hebden Bridge and now resides with John Morgan at Courier until next year’s championship kick’s-off. Congratulations to John on his achievement because this year’s championship was as competitive, if not more, than any I have ever taken part in.

Games Viewer

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Final Standings of all players are given below.

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