Belper A 3 Chesterfield A 1
The last two were both Maroczy Binds. Simon Gilmore got much more pressure against George than I did against Malcolm, and George had to defend for much of the game. This he did very solidly, and just before Simon's breakthrough we had things pretty even; but Black's counterplay didn't spark at the vital moment. It was on board one that we got the rub of the green: I got outplayed until a complex rook ending, where I started a pawn down and presumably lost, but drew. Four good competitive games, good evening, result another matter.
Derbyshire Cup rounds 3 & 4
Derby B 1.5 Chesterfield A 2.5
Chesterfield A 3 Derby A 1
I don't often play the same opening twice, so this time the turn of 1...e5 and Ray got a decent plus in the resulting Spanish. When he went for the final attack I just managed counterplay to fend it off and he offered a draw. It was still interesting, but with George looking good for a draw and Mike for a win, it was what we needed. If Ray's endgame's anything like his middle game and I don't doubt it, time to grab the half point and out of there. George also played a Ruy v Kevin, and this was a more obvious draw, rooks and knights and lots of locked pawns.
Now Mike Johnson struck for us. Very difficult to make an impression on Dave Williams' d4 Bf4 set up, but Mike managed it with a queen's side pawn roller, pieces descending on the White a and b pawns, clear win. And so anything needed from Daniel v John, and it was looking a high quality positional game..and I had to leave!!
But George remained and it sounds like he watched an absolute humdinger:
"Daniel held his ground in a double edged game, both Kings under attack and Daniel had a passed pawn fifth rank on queen side which was well held by the black pieces. He was a move away from mating the black king when John Shannon's flag dropped. Near the end, it was clear to see from the post mortem that John had missed
a win with a forced line, Daniel would have lost. (editor confesses, seen the game, don't see the loss)
Full credit to Daniel he has outplayed his opponent with clever tactical moves with some risk to his exposed King.
He even sacced his rook on f6 to get his pawn queened on the h8 square. John pointed out that if he had taken the rook, he would have gained extra tempo to attack the defenceless white king, as the 'h' pawn needed one more square to queen".
That's Dr Daniel Sullivan folks: this win against such a redoubtable opponent ought to make more than a few of Derbyshire's finest take note of the name.
Burton B 1 Chesterfield A 3
Match started with a disaster as George made it to an ending, knight v bishop and he had an extra pawn. Then - amaurosis schacchistica!- as he assumed his knight was guarded by a king two squares away! An extraordinary way to end a great run of games, our sympathy to George.
Just the moment for our new recruit to open his account. You'll all recall from your classical studies, or from the film "300", the evil emperor Xerxes and his attempt to conquer Greece. But do you know that, late in life, he picked up, from the Greek team, their most brilliant leader, and his courtiers recount how he woke up in the middle of the night crying with joy, "I've got Themistocles the Athenian!"? Well, we've got Daniel Sullivan, Xerxes my old mate, and I know just how you felt. Black side of a Classical Ruy Lopez, Daniel struck in the late middle game, his bishops and king elegantly weaving an inescapable web around Dave Pickering's rook.
This was the highlight of the match. On one, John Hoddy survived my opening tricks and looked very good in the middle game. I made it to a rook ending one pawn ahead, and had the great good fortune that he resigned in a position the books - but what do Keres, Fine and Korchnoi know? - have as a dead draw.
So to the last, 2-1 up. Magnus Carlsen has got huge and deserved applause for playing on to win against Levon Aronian when a draw meant $70 000 and first prize, a win added nothing except honour, and a loss would have been a painful blow to prestige and wallet. But was less at stake here? Any result needed from Mike Johnson, but he rightly played on to win with RB and 5 v RB and 4, the clock for once his ally rather than his opponent's.
Derbyshire Cup, first round
Chesterfield A scores
Board 1 Michael Johnson 1 1
Board 2 Martin Howard 1 ½
Board 3 Steve Bracey ½ 1
Board 4 Mike Smith 1 ½
So considering we were missing main man Mr Latham we scored an excellent 6 ½ points out of 8 which puts us in poll position for round 2. The draw was perhaps a little kind but these short games are not easy..our board 4 man undoubtedly got the toughest draw to start against Andy Toothill but duly converted an exchange up into a well earned win. High jinks on board 3 with Steve a rook and pieces to the good only to fall to a stalemate trap with his opponent getting up and dancing round the table to celebrate – wish I’d seen this! Jokes in the car journey home made for good entertainment though..round 2 and I had a good win against David Gothard and Martin drew against Paul Madden. Martin had the black pieces and I saw the ending , both sides with Queen , 2 rooks and pawns , Martin held firm , nicely played. Not sure on the other 2 games but another 1 ½ points were added so not a single game lost. Well done everyone..
Chesterfield B, I’ve no real detail to add here other than another excellent start , 6 points out of 8 scored in the plate section so a strong position again for Chesterfield going into round 2 , every time I saw George he was grinning like a Cheshire cat! It should be noted that George is playing well this season so keep up the good work..also well played Dave and Ian and good to see new member Jonathan Devine making up the 4th player on the night.
Chesterfield A 1.5 Breadsall 2.5
The B team had wrapped up a magnificent 3-1 win against a strong Belper side, showing themselves the champions they are, before any of our results were in. Shows how tough our match was.
So in order: I went wrong in the opening against Paul Madden. Not an oversight mistake, more a lack of understanding, made a bit more concerning by the fact that Paul saw the point instantly. I wriggled with some ingenuity, and he played very well to swap an advantage based on my queen being in danger of being rounded up, to one based on a knight on d6. After that, we were playing catch up: could anyone win to save us?
Mike Johnson ended up defending a difficult ending, knight and pawns v bishop and pawns, against Pablo Padilla Cabero. The pawns were exchanged one by one, but the last neared the queening square and Mike needed to find only moves to hold it back. At the end, Pablo didn't see a way through - don't know if there was one - and agreed a draw. A lesser man would have won it on time, one of the many reasons why it's great to have Pablo back among us.
Steve Bracey reckons he should have lost against Steve Burke, and the post mortem looked that way; but in the event Steve too had his moment of opportunity; another draw, fair result. And in the last, George took on Derek Jarvis, who's had some good results against our top men. But tonight he was on the defensive, and it ended in a won rook ending for George. Agony as he missed it at the last, but still a good result against a fine player.
2013 - 14 Chesterfield B 2 - Chesterfield A 2
Most of these have been 2-2 draws, but we don't prearrange them, honest officer. This time Steve Bracey played down a line Andy Mort knew well, but not to take anything away from Andy, whose guns blazed to splendid effect, first blood to the B team. Dave Ashcroft put a lot of pressure on George, who did well to draw; and then there was a fascinating draw between Martin and Mike Johnson. Mike as Black sacs a pawn for long term pressure with queen and rook against Martin's two extra queen's side pawns; eventually he won back one pawn for an equal ending. Against less accurate defence you might get a bit more, so excellently played by both. I now had to win against Mike Alcock to level things, and managed it as a difficult middle game moved to the ending: Mike sacced an exchange to get shot of some pressure, but the resulting position was lost. 2-2.
Making a mental note to claim victory on the grounds that Glenn's one of us and his points should count for Chesterfield as well as Breadsall, we gave it a go. And in the first round, sensation. I got ground down by John Molyneux, but sacced my queen for two knights, a supported passed pawn and a bit of play. In a thrilling finish my bishops chased his queen around and the pawns proved too much. But Bracey topped my result with a win v Paul Madden, based he said on a blunder from Paul in a totally won position. A win for Chris as well and we were away; plus Breadsall had lost two to us, and would be well behind and trying to make up the deficit for the rest of the evening.
Next round we cemented the advantage, scored 3.5/4, good rook ending from Steve, good swindle by Mike v Paul Kelman, grand to have him back among us. But in the third, not so hot as one win (from Mike), a loss and two draws saw our lead down to a single point. I scraped a draw v Ray Evans, well done me, and Chris had a huge advantage before dropping a queen, well done to draw that! Now Breadsall were after us like a giant tanker chasing down a mini.
Last round and Chris had won and I was struggling into the last seconds against Simon Gilmore; a long and hard fought rook ending. With the clock hanging I got to the Lucena position and we had two points...would it be enough? The result was a tie...bottom board elimination and here Chris's excellent 2.5 (went in as board 4 and his sole loss was to Paul Madden, I ask you...no shame in that!) wasn't quite as white hot as Andy Toothill's 3...which meant we'd won. Thanks to all the oppo for such a great evening. Andy commented that in the last round they'd dropped what would have been a decisive half point to one of their own B team, so if he can identify himself a pint's on its way.
That said, the sensational result, to be remembered for years to come, was that Chesterfield's other side won no fewer than ten of its 14 matches; and the last was a must win v Burton. This took them to the league title by one point, over an immensely strong Breadsall team; a fantastic achievement and congratulations to our clubmates.
Burton A 2 Chesterfield A 2
Steve got into a hairy position against Paul Moore: a couple of pawns up, but Paul did well to get his king active and into the fray; some spectacular forks from Steve and he emerged into an ending with knight against bishop, each having two pawns on the far side of the board. But by now Paul's king had drifted out of it and Steve's lumbered across. Don't know if other lines would have seen an easier win than the knight sac for both Paul's pawns, but from here on Steve got it right. An interesting and exciting finish.
Mike's game v Ralph Allen looked one of his best: strong thematic pressure on the queen's side from Mike's French defence; Ralph found saving moves and sacced an exchange to hold back pressure. At the last, for once having the clock on his side rather than against him, Mike prevailed in a R v N ending, a great display.
So our season concludes: we've swapped the last two matches with Belper amid fixture congestion, thanks to them for that.
A cracking season, much better results than last year. At one point we were even in contention, and as Mike pointed out, nobody has actually taken us on in a four v four and beaten us: defeats were against our B team, defaulting a board; 2-2 on board count v Breadsall; and this last, a default v Belper. That apart, our half of the club took on everybody and didn't lose a match: this year, the target of keeping both sides up was massively overfulfilled. The B team may have done still better: as I write, they need to win their last match to be champions,
which would be a superb achievement.
Chesterfield A 3.5 Belper B 0.5
Belper's draw was secured by Vaughan Smith v Steve Bracey: I thought Steve had got this, based on extra queenside pawns to win the ending, but Vaughan attacked down the middle and secured the draw. Mike Johnson - John Shaw looked a good contest, Mike taking the point by coming out on top in a blow-for-blow tussle on the king's side.
In the same room our B team were playing Belper A, so a taster for Belper of the sort of 8 board matches of the Sheffield League. Between the two teams, though, they were missing Malcolm and Alan to name but two, and went down by the same score - looked a fine performance by our other crew.
Derby/Mickleover 2 Chesterfield A 2
Steve Bracey seemed to have a space advantage v Ray Forey, but there was always potential in the Black position; the draw had to be a fair result. I thought Chris had had it against Dave Williams: Dave put on loads of pressure and won a piece - I saw the attack persisting and guessed it might be resignable. But Chris fought on, trademark speed and aggression; won back the piece, and then an exchange to boot. A rueful smile from Dave as he saw the mistake too late - he really is one of the nice guys in Derbyshire chess.
John Shannon hadn't had too much bother from me in the first version of this match...fortunately for us, Mike Johnson proved tougher meat; a difficult QGD type of position long defended, went for decent counterplay. Eventually Mike had to concede an ending a pawn down, but here too he defended to the last, and secured the vital half point to square the match.
Cup semi: Breadsall 2 Chesterfield 2
I was trying to hold back attacks on both wings from Paul Madden; under such pressure, a time disadvantage can be the last straw, so I avoided that to such good effect that I had thirty five minutes left to his six. I also thought I'd weathered the worst and might have chances against his king, if I could show he'd over extended. No such luck: Paul's last move was an excellent one and coupled with a draw offer, which I had no good grounds to refuse.
I did take a look at the other boards, thought Mike Johnson was developing a crushing attack, and Mike Alcock had chances on both sides v John Molyneux. So I took the draw ....hadn't looked closely enough at Alcock - Molyneux, our man resigning at once.
All the pressure now on Mike Johnson, and here the clock proved our undoing as Mike missed a couple of promising lines in time trouble, and Steve hung on bravely. After the attack, Mike had other winning chances in the ending, based on a pawn majority on the other side of the board, but with seconds left Steve thwarted this too, and a stirring contest ended in the draw Breadsall needed to go through on board count, device of the devil.
A match which set a high standard for the final to surpass.
Chesterfield A 3.5 West Notts A 0.5
Rob Willoughby - Steve Housley was also a classic set up: big centre for Rob, Steve finding King's Indian pawn and minor piece counter chances. An exciting game resulted, Steve hitting the extended king side position with raking bishops. He invested an exchange sac in this and it paid off; tremendous stuff, both sides going for the win and such varieties of options to consider in position after position.
And to the last: David Levens attacking a solid French set up from Mike Johnson. Mike's queen attacked some loose pawns, picked one up and had a solid long term advantage on the queen's side. On the king's, his position looked hard to break, with knights rook and queen poised to react if David pushed matters. The match situation being desperate, White did go for an attack, and Mike's counter finished off his first ever victory against David.
I'd been too knackered to play myself, and it was a real treat watching the team bring in such a convincing vctory. In the next bar, another thrilling match: 2-2 for the B team v Breadsall, going to the last seconds in Hubert against John Molyneux. As I've said before,if the public knew what was really going on they'd be queuing round the block.
Breadsall 2 - Chesterfield A 2
Chris's Benko gambit was declined by Andy Toothill, who got strong central pressure based on control of e5 ; I thought that successive occupations of this square by bishop and queen would be devastating, but Chris hung on grimly well into a bishop ending before succumbing.
Steve Housley looked to be going the same way against Derek Jarvis, who infiltrated with queen and bishop, and finished an excellent spell of play a solid two pawns ahead. Steve had some attacking chances, but Derek played a couple of moves that looked so solid, breaks your heart to see any flicker of a king's side cheapo snuffed out. I turned to the Burke-Johnson post mortem, plus the very decent beer; had resigned the match as lost - but when we finally gathered ourselves for departure - astonishment! Steve had turned it round, found pressure in another part of the board, and Derek must have blundered. Steve, who had stepped in for Steve Bracey and thanks for that, had saved the team from sure defeat.
Chesterfield A 1.5 - Chesterfield B 2.5
Ah well...the three held the bridge for a good long while - Mike Johnson avenged a previous defeat by Martin, Steve Bracey and Andy Mort drew, and the match was won by the B team 2.5-1.5, or if you prefer (and I do), levelled on the night, as Dave Ashcroft won and up-and-down contest with Chris on board 4. 1.5-2.5, if our unbeaten record was to go, at least it was in house.
Chesterfield A 3.5 Burton A 0.5
Paul Moore - Steve Bracey was a Yugoslav Attack v Steve's Dragon Sicilian; the king side pawn storm didn't quite break through; Paul was a pawn up, but his king's position on b1 looked a bit drafty. Then suddenly Steve's pieces, pent up in the far corner, burst into the action. Nf6 x e4! a knight sac, and when it was taken, the spectacular queen sac Qf7 x b3! check! and if the pawn on a2 recaptures, Ra8 to a1 mate, Steve's last three pieces being rooks on a8 and c8, bishop on g7. Such a beautiful collection of long moves on open files and diagonals, the classic attack that uses all your pieces and finds them sufficient, we were all delighted...Steve said Santa had given him a Christmas present, but only a good boy would have got this one.
Chris had to win his game twice: looked like he had a winning combination after a well played QP opening, in which the open nature of the position had given him a variety of attacking options. But the winning combo was played in the wrong order, and Roy Hedges struck back, winning a piece for a pawn. Nothing else for it, Chris advanced pawns wherever possible, securing a big passer on c6. And then a variation on the usual attack on squares of one colour - not seen this before - the decisive pieces were rooks, moving only to White squares to neutralise the black bishop. Real character to fight on and win after it had all come apart.
I came out of the opening against Trevor a pawn up, and, apart from one simplifying combination, it was a dour sort of game, lasting over 60 moves into a rook ending which, still a pawn ahead, I won...an example of the Lucena position, worth ten minutes if you don't know it.
So we were looking at a big score. The last game saw Ralph Allen (as in our previous match with Burton) secure his side's half point. Johnson - Allen resolved itself into a trench warfare locked pawn chains affair, Ralph's bishop on d4 so securely anchored, Mike's pressure against d5 so clear, that I didn't see which player was the one who might win. It was the last to finish, an honourable draw. If tomorrow's the Apocalypse, it was a fine match with which to knock off; otherwise, Merry Christmas and may 2013 be even remotely as successful.
Belper B 1.5 - Chesterfield A 2.5
"Well we managed it - just.
First to finish was Mike J. Forced e4 but that allowed his opponent to exchange virtually everything off, and Mike took the draw lest that had left his d pawn as a weakness.
Next to finish was Chris. His Dutch was given a seeing-to, Chris has donated it to 'dump-it' and will in future play a recommendation from colleagues on the journey home.
Steve is on a roll and last night was no exception, 3 wins in 3 days - impressive. He played a line where usually players castle on opposite wings, but his young opponent castled on the same side and flung forward pawns in front of his own King. Steve found a tactic winning a N pawn, which can sometimes be fraught, but Steve was up for the challenge. All that remained was to see if he could convert with only one extra pawn, which he did without difficulty.
Finally my own game, last to finish for the second time this week but this occasion within time. Colleagues have asked me to send the game to you [attached], they liked that after 19 moves where I have pawns on c5 d5 e5 with no opposing pawns on any of these files, and move 29 Kg2 leaving all 5 of my opponents pieces are en prise: Queen, two Rooks, Bishop and Knight. In the final position he resigned rather than play 35...h6, denying me a Queen sacrifice to force mate" .
I also have Mike Johnson's account, and had the tricky question of which to publish. Thankfully we won...so I'm going for both - I've had the task of recording defeat, I'm going to enjoy reading about success!
Here's a first, Johnson first to finish as Alan set his stall out well and pieces were swapped off leading to a draw offer from Alan, I checked other boards , Chris seemed to be in some difficulties , Mike playing well and 2 pawns up , Steve a pawn to the good if my memory is correct , draw was accepted , unfortunately Chris went down not long after so we needed 2 wins to get the maximum points. Steve's’opponent chased the pawn but excellent move choices from Steve preserved not only the pawn but after a pair of rooks were exchanged the advantage became clearer and Luke resigned as it was just a matter of time. As Chris pointed out the advantage of finishing early was to see the other games and Mike's was the pick of the bunch with sparkling stuff , pawns were pushed to f7 and d6 ( both passed! ) pieces hanging and Vaughan threw in the towel with Mike about to finish off with a mating attack. Mike was keen to get a pint immediately and even though time was getting on I gladly said of course!
So, the season being one third complete: from five matches, seven points! A really good return, which might well spare us a repeat of last season's relegation struggle. Last time out we had a win and four defeats by this stage. This term, two wins and three draws. Brilliant, decent input from everyone, Steve Bracey's 4 from 5 an obvious standout, Chris and Mike Smith making impressive contributions.
Chesterfield A 2.5 - Breadsall 1.5
To the chess: my Sicilian had been crushed by two excellent attacking players (John Shannon and Jon Nelson), so when faced by a third I disinterred the Caro Kann and got a much sounder position; maybe Paul Madden got a slight edge in some lines but his draw offer was surely a fair one. Next door was more exciting: Mike Johnson got a small advantage from an English type system and turned the screws like an Inquisitor, Steve Burke's pieces contorting themselves into ever more unnatural positions as the pressure increased. With Steve's king stuck in the centre I didn't see how his pieces were getting developed... something must work for Mike...mustn't it?
Over to board 4: Chris Evans - Derek Jarvis. A really tough opponent...Chris got an attack going; I was fairly sure Derek could hold it off and he did...would that leave Chris's position a bit loose? Well, the creative juices are really flowing for Chris these days: a draw was agreed and then in the post mortem he may have been demonstrating how his attack could have found its second wind. Still, draws on two difficult boards and we were looking good on the remaining two, Messrs Johnson and Bracey.
Andy Toothill v Steve Bracey : Blackmar Diemar gambit, once summed up by Harry Golombek as "an attempt to turn a closed position into an open one by violent means...totally unsound". So right up Steve's street, not likely to succeed against a man who can defend as well as Andy - but here's the shocker - it was Andy, not Steve, offering the gambit! This daring piece of psychology backfired, which neutrals would think a bit of a shame, but Steve and I are all in favour. Steve was going for a queen swap and an ending a safe pawn ahead, when Lady Luck took a hand. Steve had missed a fork by Andy, which appeared to be winning back the pawn. Only when Andy had played this, to audible groaning from Steve, did a reply appear on the board which won Steve the exchange and the game, soon after.
So back to the last, needing only a draw. And when I had to leave, Steve Burke had held on heroically, survived Mike Johnson's attack, and things hung in the balance. I'll knock off now...I've had an email from Mike describing the end of this epic struggle, which decided the match in our favour. Enough of Latham: I make way for the Club President himself.
Hi , everyone , I drew my game with Steve Burke last night so an excellent team effort and match win , after turning down 3 draw offers and then both flags hanging , particularly Steve's I offered a draw which Steve accepted , it appears I missed the win of a piece near the end which Chris pointed out in the analysis but not sure I’d got the time to convert! A fair result I think as Steve hung on grimly and may have had chances to win himself in the ending , we left the pub at about 11:25pm with Steve keen to analyse it all and I’d like to add it’s a pleasure to play Steve who is a smashing chap and a very good player too.
Chesterfield A 2 - 2 Derby Mickleover (played at Derby)
Mike Smith played the Black side of a Ruy Lopez, and preserved a pawn advantage into a rook ending. Shrewd exchanges by Ray Forey saw this advantage largely neutralised by being isolated and doubled, so a draw was agreed lest either player go wrong.
Next, the highlight of our evening, as Chris Evans emerged from a dramatic middle game with knights and a rook chasing Dave Williams' king. It was impressive to see what a dangerous attack Chris got going with such limited material, and he cashed it in for an easily won endgame, levelling the match. Many of us have found Dave much harder to overcome.
Now all rested on Steve Bracey - Martin Cobham, where an uncharacteristically quiet opening saw Steve a pawn ahead, and swapping material to the ending. This was a theoretical draw, rook each and three pawns against two on the same side. But finding the correct defence isn't inevitable, and our side began to get excited with the idea that Steve could actually win this. Here John pointed out that Steve had stopped recording his moves, and then stopped his player's clock, started Steve's and stated that Steve needed to reconstruct the score before playing on. Steve agreed the draw rather than try to reconstruct or get into the question of who has the right to point these things out / interfere with the clock, and on the whole a draw was a fair result to the match.
Thanks to Dave Williams and co for agreeing the rearrangement of this fixture; thanks to Steve Bracey for saving the day by getting us there, after the sad obliteration of my car, much the same as followed OTB.
West Notts 2 - 2 Chesterfield A
Andrew was first off the mark: he's looked a real talent every time I've seen him in action, and tonight was no exception. Brian looked OK when first I checked, but Andrew foxed him on the b file, won a piece and came through with a crushing attack. I equalised: we got a position with which both sides were happy, and maybe David Levens had compensation for a pawn, but the line he chose dropped a piece and the game. Then it swung our way: Steve played a pawn sac against Eric, which he said he'd play again. Personally I wonder, but in the event, he won an exchange and shattered Black's king side pawns. There looked compensation in the form of a queen side pawn push, so it was an exciting, chaotic sort of game...then a blunder from Eric, and Brian and I were looking a while and suddenly - the win of a queen by cheapo. An agonisingly long wait, and just as I'd decided he'd not seen it, Steve woke up and played it. The match was ours if Mike could get any change out of Ian. I thought he had good chances early on, with Benko-like pressure against White's b pawn, but Ian pushed through the centre, and though Mike fought to the last it was always Ian's game. 2-2, fair end to the contest.
2012-2013. Chesterfield B 2 - 2 Chesterfield A
Mike Alcock defended my queen's pawn opening with something that wasn't quite your usual Slav and my stuff turned out equally homemade. I thought I had the win of a pawn, but Mike showed that his position was too flexible, mine too rigid for that to matter: I gave back the pawn for a draw.
Steve Bracey looked more promising for my lot: offered an excellent gambit of his own devising, ended up a pawn ahead and with an attack. I thought Andy Mort was on the ropes, but he held on well and the draw was agreed: Steve still a pawn up but with lots of work to do. Mike Johnson entered an ending, Q R and 4 v Martin's Q R and 5; he'd conceded the extra doubled pawn in return for Martin's bishop. But Martin Howard's King Side bishop, it's been shown many a time to be worth more than other bishops. Should be an archbishop, or at least a primate. So it was a fair exchange, and the queen ending was drawn.
And so to the last. George Peters v Mike Smith was a long one, Ruy Lopez from George, and finally to an ending where Mike had the two bishops and a passed a pawn. He was right to turn down the draw offer, but somehow George stopped the pawn and now the momentum swung his way. A fighting draw, a match point each, must take both teams off the bottom.
Derbyshire Cup Final. Chesterfield v Belper.
The side was Dave Latham, Mike Alcock, Mike Johnson and Martin Howard; our Belper friends and colleagues played Malcolm Armstrong, Simon Edwards, Simon Gilmore, David Gothard. The scene - hope there's nothing in the tale that this might be for one of the last occasions - was Spondon's Accordis venue. Thanks especially to Bert Loomes, who basically organised and hosted the final.
Looked like it would be a war of attrition: nobody risked much in the opening. Probably the bravest was Simon Edwards, essaying the Benoni against Mike Alcock. He got a double edged position as you'd expect, the big question being whether his rook on f4 was the spearhead of an attack or vulnerable to sniper fire from Mike's minor pieces. Simon Gilmore got a distinct plus v Mike Johnson, and Martin got the familiar English, pressure down the long white diagonal: one of the Sheffield websites rightly commented that this opening can be a deadly weapon in Martin's hands.
But the first to finish was my own game. Malcolm gave me a hot pawn; I had to concede the wrecking of my king's side, the return of the pawn and a general swap off. Come the ending I wanted to get my rooks and knight going through the centre before Malcolm could get organised. This bit I overreached, and could have been in real difficulties. Luck was with me, Malcolm commenting that his sense of danger let him down a bit, as he advanced his king in search of the win. Suddenly I had the win of a piece: a6 threatening a bishop, and by sheer chance various checks and forks covered all its possible retreats.
While we were analysing, in came Mike Alcock and Simon Edwards. When we left, Mike was a pawn ahead and I thought it was in the balance as to whether he'd keep it; but Simon commented that he'd lost "spectacularly". Sounds like this was the game of the match, and my great regret is that I haven't yet seen the denouement.
2 -0: was that it, by board count even if we lost the last two? I didn't know the rules myself; Simon Gilmore said that was it, we'd won - but I don't think our other players knew that!
Mike Johnson went down fighting against Simon Gilmore, an fine positional display by the Belper captain. Its extraordinary feature was that Mike planted a bishop on e4, surveying the White king side and queen side and no way for White to dislodge it. And yet such was the position that matters proceeded as if this piece were not on the board: it was helpless to influence the play as Simon moved inexorably to a won pawn ending. The mysteries of chess...
And so to the last: Martin an exchange ahead, David's king looking a bit short of defenders but no clear way through to it; distinct counterplay for him in the form of a menacing queen side pawn majority. Hard fought? Well, when it ended, only the kings were left on, so even a pair of warriors like Martin and David had to call it a night.
And that was it: after the tense relegation battles, the season ended with the presentation of the cup. A wonderful moment after a hard match against terrific opponents. The Sheffield League, the Derbyshire Cup; the successes of Joe Hooton and Doug Saunderson have their echoes in our time.
Chesterfield A - Lichfield A
Looked pretty likely when Maurice Staples and Arthur Kent turned up as boards one and four. We waited a while, then started. Where were Pete Collins and mysterious colleague?
When they made it, half an hour late after being betrayed by a satnav, the fourth player was Mike Page who'd expected to be on four. No worries, Johnson and Bracey split the difference on the clocks and boards 2 and 3 had an hour each for 30 moves. Mike Page promptly played a blinder: Steve saw a ghost and didn't take an offered bishop; then Mike made it to a heavy piece ending in which, before swapping queens, he had distinct chances. The double rook ending was well played by both and drawn.
Earlier, Maurice answered my new occasional weapon, the Caro Kann, with the famous f3 Fantasy Variation. The opening was pretty exciting, and at one point I thought I had chances based on the exposed king and my rooks and knights ganging up against a weak centre. But it wasn't to be, the defence was sound, the position rapidly burned out, draw agreed. Mike Johnson and Pete Collins likewise drew: an English went to a dead level position, symmetrical pawns and queen, 3 minor pieces each.
Level, then, as we gathered round the last game of the league season, an up-and-down contest between Steve Housley and Arthur Kent. Steve had considerable pressure early on and a spatial plus; Arthur hung on well; the late middle game looked like it could go either way; then a slip from Arthur and Steve landed an excellent combination to win a vital pawn, and next the exchange. As the position crumbled, Arthur shed a bishop and resigned. A really good win to finish the season from Steve; a great result for the team, and the original goal of keeping two teams in the first division has been achieved. Didn't think I'd be writing that, even a few weeks ago. Well done everybody, especially for the results which turned it all round at the season's end.
Belper A - Chesterfield A
I played the QGD Exchange, having failed to make much impression on Malcolm's Caro Kann. Half way through I wished I'd stuck to the script: he put me under uncomfortable pressure. David Gothard - Mike Johnson saw Mike get the better pawn structure, David open lines and the initiative: I had this as evenly balanced. On three, Steve Bracey got a Maroczy Bind sort of set up from a 1.c4 start, and was looking the man setting the problems. On board 4, Brian was really up against it: Simon Gilmore plays the Samisch against the King's Indian ever so well, and you have to remember that this man had just survived a meeting of the Finance Committee of the ECF: what fighting spirit he must possess.
In the event, Mike Alderson blundered a pawn in what I thought was already a difficult position, and resigned, a great point for us from Steve Bracey. Next, Simon Gilmore levelled it with an overwhelming attack on board 4. At this point, the post match chat revealed that Mike Johnson and I separately recalled the discussion on the way down: anything from the match would give us a real chance of avoiding relegation, so it wasn't one of those where going for a 40:60 win rather than a draw was essential. That's a team: we don't need communication, we think the same faintly pessimistic stuff by osmosis. Mike and David agreed their draw, all on me. As possibly my best idea in the game, I offered a draw with just the slightest hint of pleading. 2-2, we've had many a victory that gave us less delight.
I believe that this match confirmed Breadsall as champions: prior to it they were racing certainties, now mathematical as well. Many congratulations to Derek, Paul, John, Glen, Steve and co: very worthy winners, fine players, fine sportsmen. The Chesterfield A - Derby/Mickleover relegation battle goes to the final countdown.
Burton A - Chesterfield A
The match started with the news that Phil Briggs probably wouldn't make it for reasons quite beyond anyone's control; our best regards to him. We rapidly decided the fairest thing was to keep boards 2 to 4 as they were and kick off.
Paul Moore - Brian Crofts looked a classic toe-to-toe blow for blow Pirc, chances for both, must confess for a long time I took it Paul's strength would see him through. Trevor Bould - Mike Johnson was a war of attrition; Nimzowitsch would have loved Trevor's good knight v bad bishop advantage. I thought Mike would hold out for a draw but if he did would really suffer on the way. And Steve Bracey told me he'd caught Ralph Allen in an opening trap and we could surely chalk up the point, so naturally Ralph nearly got him within a few moves.
And then it turned. With minor pieces flying everywhere, and the usual knife edge Pirc stuff, would the White centre collapse or surge forward? Brian kept finding the moves.At the last Paul went for a win of the exchange which wasn't there: Brian got both White knights for the rook. Paul's next move was a blunder (must confess I'd have played it myself) which lost a further exchange. So he was going a piece down and resigned at once. A thrilling game, much of it very well played on both sides, and a brilliant moment for Brian and the whole team.
So 2- 0. Mike had fought back by now, and the position looked a dead draw. And now the match situation made Trevor turn down Mike's offer, and go for it: a pawn sac and King to c5, aiming for some weak spot in Mike's set up. But Kc5 was wrong, letting loose Mike's a pawn, which we had assumed would never move beyond a4. Suddenly it raced for a2 with the energy of a getaway driver. Trevor had to block it with Ra1 and then came Bb1! trapping the rook irretrievably and forcing resignation.
In the last, Steve had had hopes based on Ralph's bishop getting stuck on c8 behind his own pawns. Once Ralph liberated it he was the man setting the problems, and I took it Steve's rook and knight would narrowly fail to hold things together. Space to mention Steve's deep plan K(g3) to g4, then to g3, then to g4. But, the match being gone, Ralph was kind enough to offer the draw and we were soon out of there. 3.5 - 0.5, where did that come from? We ended up in the same pub used to recover from previous near misses. This time it was a bit of a party.
Chesterfield A - Derby/Mickleover
Not that Steve Bracey and Dave Williams took the tough route: exchanges, draw in about 15, better than I managed against Dave this season and what our side needed.
Next, I landed an opening surprise, introduced Ray Evans to my favourite Najdorf line. It's tremendously tactical, and to solve the problems over the board, as Ray did, was quite awesome: he found a book sequence all the way to move 16, in a line that must be at least as hard a problem as that faced by Capablanca when Marshall uncorked his famous Attack. At this point, Ray had used an hour and I three minutes; shortly after he had 10 moves to make in 3 minutes and probably an advantage. That draw offer was a real poser for me...eventually I accepted and our two Black players had halved their boards.
Here I had to leave it...tough, slow openings in both Johnson-Forey and Edmundson-Cobham led to what looked equal positions with plenty of play to come. Sorry to have missed it, Ian and Mike taking on two really tough opponents. The rub of the green was against us: no way through for Mike (or Ray) on 2, and Martin finally edged out Ian on 4. So let's look for the bright side...still looking...ah, here's my best shot...
Before the match, it occurred to the first comers in both teams that Chesterfield two teams in the first, Derby none and three in the second, bit of a struggle for both clubs. Not that we won't battle to the last against relegation, but it's looking like we'll be at full strength in div 1 next season folks.
Chesterfield - Derby/Mickleover; Cup Semi
I thought Martin likely to level it for us: looked like he was forcing Dave Williams into a position out of chess players' nightmares: knights on e8, c7; bishop on c8 and rook on a8; virtually nothing could move. But here Dave showed once again what a dogged defender he can be; the saving moves involved yet another piece to the back rank - the other bishop to f8, then out to c5; draw agreed.
So it was Mike Alcock who proved our hero; fresh back and Black v Ray Forey. Not many of us fancy ourselves for a win there, but Mike managed it and at the end he was the exchange up, pieces coming through, pawns ahead, White's position disintegrating, and the final coup saw a win of the queen.
That was us through on board count if I could draw with Ray Evans. I ran out of steam after some good ideas in the opening, and the computer has Ray ahead in a complex position around move 20. That was certainly how I felt at the time, desperately hoping it'd hang together. But Ray was deep in time trouble, and a few tricks saw me swap into a rook ending where a draw was agreed. So 2-2, board count meaning our win on 2 comes ahead of their win on 4.
Curiously, the results were in exactly the same order in our B Team's Plate semi, also v Derby, but here Derby came through, Trevor being the man who scored for us on board 4.
The final will be against Belper, and while ours was the narrowest of squeaks, theirs was a great performance to defeat a formidable Breadsall team. Here's hoping they don't bring their A game to the showdown...
Chesterfield A - Burton B
Now I managed to put us in the lead. I'd been playing on some pawn weaknesses in Roy Hedges' set up, got pressure going in a tense middle game; there were a lot of ways for White to go wrong and Roy dropped an exchange. As he said, he could have battled on, but he did the sporting thing and resigned, and we all settled down for the last.
Mike Johnson - John Hoddy saw some clear and aggressive stuff from Mike in the middle game; a bold pawn advance left John's king uncastled and open lines for bishop, queen and knight. I thought there had to be something, maybe just the rounding up of the lonely black pawn on d4...but John found the moves, swapped queens and now that pawn advanced to d2. It was Mike battling for the draw, with very little time left. John had an hour, but moved quickly himself to load more pressure. The eventual rook ending saw each have pawns on the f g and h files, John a pawn on a5 as well. This was technically won for black, but Mike found a lot of tricks and the last throw saw everything eliminated bar kings and a lone black h pawn...a narrow squeak on position and clock, exciting game. Match points on the board after the last debacle...2.5-1.5; Steve stood beers and bites on the way back and many thanks for that.
Breadsall - Chesterfield A
Mike Johnson was last to finish: went for an attack v John Molyneux and I thought it looked good, 'til I counted the pieces: Mike had invested a rook at one stage, and John sorted out the attack and won in the ending. Brave try by Mike, who asked the match score presumably intending to fight to the last. I was able to reassure him that it was 0- 3 to Breadsall.
Earlier, Steve Bracey had done the best of us: surprised Andy Toothill with a sudden knight sally that landed on White's d3, so the king couldn't castle. I was vaguely reminded of one of Tal's last brilliancies, and Steve did get a decent attack going. At one point, he declined a draw, but at the very death, when I thought he had chances in the late middle....he gave away a piece.
Don't think I've ever been on the wrong end of a whitewash before. Maybe Kipling has the answer.
"If you can meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two imposters both the same..."
Chesterfield A - Chesterfield B
For my own game with Hubert I shall now own up: I took the day off and researched his games on the net, this is how petty it gets within a club. Cheers to IM Dharma Tjiam for the opening ideas I plagiarised for a reasonable position. Hubert had an attack coming, and could slow it up with a defensive move, or let me go pawn grabbing. This was the brave option for Hubert, as his attack then had to work...he ended up four pawns down and it did look like he'd get my king as fairly adequate compensation. But "pawn grabbing" did I say? Pawn grabbing is like treason, it never succeeds, and for the same reason...somehow I survived and levelled the match, so it wasn't pawn grabbing, it was careful calculation, honest. Steve Bracey reckons this was one of the most exciting games he'd seen at our club and it was certainly hairy.
In the last, Ian was my man to take on George and he did me proud; a fine strategic game, full of fighting spirit, and a heavy piece ending, Ian's queen and rooks coming down the d file, George standing in the way like Horatius at the Tiber Bridge. The clock decided this one in favour of Ian, after a bit of debate about what the rules actually were - not that anyone would think Chesterfield approach these internal matches in anything short of ferocious competitive spirit. Where would chess be without a little controversy?
Chesterfield - Burton A
Cup at Spondon
The second team - Pete, George and Brian - were ahead on the first evening but a player short on the night. Pete Ellis of Spondon helped us out, thanks to him: hope he enjoyed the two wins that more than justified his selection. George scored the same, and again the team were top of their section, jolly good show you fellows.
Derby - Chesterfield
Chesterfield A - Belper
Burton B - Chesterfield A
Chesterfield A - Breadsall
Lichfield - Chesterfield A
2011/12 Chesterfield B - Chesterfield A
Cup Final : Chesterfield - Breadsall
As a gesture at friendly atmosphere, we'd offered to play extra boards. This resulted in our only win, and a fine one too, Brian with what turned out to be a fairly crushing king's side attack against Phil Morgan, who'd given Martin such a hard game in the league.
On the top four, hard fought attrition was the order of the day. Glen Halfpenny looked ahead against me almost throughout; I missed my one chance to counterattack, but he'd passed on a very promising line earlier. Eventually I survived to an ending, bad bishop v good knight, drawn so long as I carried on finding only moves. Next to me Mike Alcock and Steve Burke played a French with long pawn chains; my impression was that Mike was looking for a sacrificial way through, and the pressure lasted a long while, switching from one side of the board to the other. At the last he offered the draw, over to Fritz, whereupon Glen did too; 1-1 at the top.
We thought Mike Johnson was pressing, RN v RB in his game with Andy Toothill, but Andy held on and may have been winning when the draw was agreed at the urging of the clock. Martin certainly was ahead v Derek in the last; first two bishops for a rook, then an exchange, then a clear piece: QB v Q the only pieces left when Derek won on time. Fine hard match, congratulations to Breadsall.
Burton A - Chesterfield
And so to an epic struggle, Ralph Allen - Mike Johnson. It looked terribly difficult for Ralph to demonstrate the advantage Burton needed against Mike's sound and flexible set up; while forcing things Ralph shed a pawn in complicated manoeuvrings; down to knight and 3 v knight and 4. This ending, in which Ralph had the compensation of a better placed king, was on a knife edge and, as far as I can tell, very well played on both sides. Ralph won the pawn back, and had maybe five minutes to Mike's two when he accepted Mike's draw offer, two pawns left to each and the knights wheeling round. A great game to finish this match and our league season.
Chesterfield - Derby Mickleover league match
Thanks to everyone who's turned out for this team; probably the way people responded to the call was one of our biggest advantages over our rivals. By far the hardest of our title wins; in the early part of the season I thought we'd blown it; in the latter we came through time and again, and there's been some splendid chess. And if any of our opponents pops by our site, respect to you guys too. A pleasure and an honour to play everyone who's taken us on this season, your fellowship and sportsmanship much appreciated.
Chesterfield - Derby Mickleover cup semi
Then, unglued. Mike Alcock did win the point, but Ray struck back against me; a good trick won back the pawn and suddenly his queen, rook and knight were coming in with all sorts of threats. Meanwhile, John came out on top v Hubert, and as it came down to a rook ending spectators divined the true state of affairs at last: won for Derby. I'm pretty sure I saw a win for Ray at this point, and ruefully told the Breadsall people (much clearer winners v Belper) that it looked like Derby in the final. But at the last, Ray played another move and I managed to grovel my way to drawing chances. With much less time on the clock, Ray offered the draw, and we were home by 2.5-1.5.
One more heave needed...
League Table 27-Mar-11
Division 1 P W D L For Ag Pts
CHESTERFIELD A 12 9 2 1 29.5 18.5 20
LICHFIELD A 11 6 3 2 26 18 15
BREADSALL 11 6 2 3 25 19 14
BELPER A 11 5 2 4 22.5 21.5 12
DERBY/MICK A 12 4 2 6 21 27 10
BURTON A 11 2 4 5 19.5 24.5 8
WEST NOTTS A 10 2 1 7 16 24 5
BURTON B 10 0 4 6 16.5 23.5 4
Division 2 P W D L For Ag Pts
CHESTERFIELD B 10 7 1 2 26.5 13.5 15
LONG EATON A 10 6 3 1 24.5 15.5 15
A VALLEY/C CROSS A 9 3 3 3 18.5 17.5 9
DERBY/MICK C 9 4 1 4 17.5 18.5 9
BELPER B 9 3 2 4 16 20 8
DERBY/MICK B 10 2 3 5 17 23 7
WEST NOTTS B 11 2 1 8 16 28 5
Division 4 P W D L For Ag Pts
A VALLEY/C CROSS B 10 8 2 0 26.5 13.5 18
SPONDON B 11 7 2 2 28.5 15.5 16
LONG EATON B 11 5 3 3 25 19 13
CHESTERFIELD C 9 6 1 2 22.5 13.5 13
ROLLS ROYCE B 10 3 0 7 16 24 6
LICHFIELD C 10 1 1 8 12 28 3
SPONDON D 9 0 1 8 9.5 26.5 1
Leicestershire - Derbyshire
No repeat this time, I'm afraid: we went down 10-6. The top half were evenly matched on paper, and Derbyshire scored 5.5/8, with 100% from Chesterfield's contingent (of one). But Leicestershire fielded 160s all the way down, bar a couple of 157s on the bottom two, and came through very strongly. Shows the vital contribution our club can make: we've got the people to win this. Still, nice day, great venue and when I sat down on board two between Ray Evans and Simon Gilmore it had to be with a feeling of pride. Thanks to Paul for organising again this season, and his was one of the games to watch: went down playing absolutely the right stuff. To next year...
Chesterfield - West Notts
Eric duly equalised, binding several of Mike J's pieces to the defence of a knight; the two bishops carried the day. As Mike Alcock commented, this wasn't any usual tactical win by a promising junior, but a strikingly mature performance and you can only take your hat off.
Robert Willoughby and Dave Dunnett had pawn chains, pressure down the long black diagonal for Robert and queen and knight reinforcing that: Dave's b2 pawn looked under heavy fire and there was a possible weakness on e3. As Dave said, he'd done the team thing and resisted his usual gambits for a much more solid approach. But I must admit I was hoping Dave could draw this, and my own game was a very hard slog. First I just survived combinations, then I was a clear pawn down, then I looked like I'd get tied to the defence of a central pawn...and even then a dodgy rook ending, still a pawn down and that extra pawn was heading for touchdown. But then the breakthrough. Dave held on; Robert sacced an exchange for a few pawns; Dave hit back with a rook on the seventh and Robert's flag went. Tremendous result for Dave, hero of the hour. Shortly afterwards I managed to hang on by my fingernails against Ian, who was good enough to offer the draw rather than try to win on time. 2.5-1.5, skin of teeth again, title challenge still alive and all thanks to Mike Alcock and, the memorable story of this match on our side, Dave Dunnett.
Belper - Chesterfield
Fortunately we had a strong side out against the crowd who'd recently beaten our main title rivals from Lichfield. First to finish, Alan v Martin, Alan having considerable pressure after Martin feels he misplayed the opening. Various swaps led to an equal position and a draw was agreed. As I looked round Mike Johnson was clearly ahead v David Gothard, I was clearly behind against Malcolm Armstrong and Simon Gilmore - Mike Alcock was anybody's, Simon having a Maroczy bind position of a type I don't like, but Mike feels he can handle. This he did, and built up an advantage based on landing Simon with doubled, isolated b pawns. Next, Mike J and David settled into a war of attrition, could Mike convert an extra pawn? which was a contrast from earlier, rooks and bishops flying around.
These last three all went our way, as Malcolm spared me the best line and offered a draw a pawn up, but in a position where I had a dangerous passer. One for the experts to ponder: at the time I was glad of the draw. We were looking through the game when we learned that Mike J had converted his advantage, eventually having B and 3 v B and none, so that even opposite coloured bishops wasn't a factor securing the draw. And so to the last, Mike and Simon fighting it out in a difficult rook ending; strong resistance from Simon but he finally had to give best. 3-1 to us, terrific result given the oppo. Lately we do seem to be winning when we're ahead, and saving some pretty grim positions when we're behind; long may that continue.
Breadsall - Chesterfield
Mike did take revenge v Derek Jarvis for a heavy defeat in this fixture last year; Mike got something that looked like a Benko gambit for White, long term pressure down the a and b files backed up by a bishop on g2 aiming down the long diagonal. This looked a very fine game by Mike; Derek held out for a long time but finally the defence buckled. Hubert took a moment from his game to spot a win for Phil in the game v Martin, but in the end this came down to Martin having a pawn for the exchange - a passer on the b file, and pressure down the long White diagonal against Phil's extended king side. Queen and bishop against queen and rook, then the queens were swapped for a drawn position; very close for Phil, brave fightback from Martin. And so all got to watch the denouement of Burke - Mossong, the game I'd cowarded out of: Hubert took a space advantage on the queen's side, looked like passed pawns or a trap of Steve's bishop; Steve hit back with an attack on the king's side which needed Huibert to spot loads of pitfalls; this he did and in the final position he'd linked up the two spheres of activity quite beautifully, right hook from a rook down the b file to b2, left jab from queen and bishop coming in on the kingside, everything hitting an unfortunate bishop pinned by the rook, attacked by the rest, such resistance overcome that the initial team deployment looked one of my shrewder moves. 3-1 in this big table top clash.
Chesterfield - Burton B
Alcock - Hedges transposed into the Steinitz defence to the Ruy Lopez, Mike commenting that he does well when he gets to the position normally, badly when he gets to the identical set up by transposition...or t'other way round, I forget which. This time he chose something that resembled a Maroczy bind, looked plausible and interesting and I had to drag myself back to my own board. Stirring contest saw Roy secure the draw: looked a solid, very competent game by both. Next John Hoddy - Mike Johnson saw Mike get the sort of position from a French defence which I can't do, but he plays with great understanding; at one stage I thought there was too much coming down the centre for White to keep it all out, but John did and we got a fascinating rook ending. Leaving that for the moment, I didn't see Steve Bracey - David Hoddy, and let's face it I was a bit of a twit as it was, spending more than half a second looking at 2 + 3 while playing Phil Briggs.
Steve tells me Dave went for a Budapest gambit, good bold choice facing Steve with his own sort of attitude. Steve did throw it back and got pressure, and was muttering something on the way back about "h4, why did I go for cheap stuff with the queen when I should have played h4?" What this means I dunno, Dave will, and might have had the answer to h4 for all I know. Draw, anyway; and so to John Hoddy - Johnson; John needed a win to square the match. The position was level, still some play, when he accepted Mike's draw offer; pretty generous but also sporting since if he'd won it would probably have been by clock. We stagger on. Cheers to Burton for a cracking match, and since at least one of their team confessed to reading this blog I trust they think it's a fair write up. If not, down to Phil 'cause he ensured I dared only take a few squints at the other games.
Cup at Spondon
Chesterfield - Burton A
That was agreed drawn just after the lone hero pulled us through, as mentioned above. This time it was Martin: a crowded queenside position arose out of Paul Moore's Panov-Botvinnik attack; Martin got some pressure and then pinned a knight on c3. Bishop on b4 and all three heavy pieces ganged up on the open c file, winning the knight; bit of a strategic masterpiece. This left me to find a draw the exchange down, both sides looking a move away from landing mating attacks. Trevor swapped queens and now had an ending, RR + 4 v RB + 4; I awoke from deep thought to realise I had four minutes left to his 15. So the spectators got their money's worth with the ensuing time scramble, and by the narrowest margin I scraped a draw. 2.5-1.5.
Derby - Chesterfield
So one out of two needed. Mike Johnson put pressure on Dave Williams, and won the exchange with an excellent combination and, we took it, the game soon after...but Dave really started playing chess once he had queen and knight for queen and rook. At one point I thought his determined counter attack would carry the day, but Mike held on bravely. And so to Forey - Latham, 90% of which was one of my best games, and I flatter myself that had it ended decisively the loser would still have shown himself a pretty fair player. At the end I had two bishops and queen to rook and queen, and pawns coming through the centre. I thought it was over, but Ray battled on and found such resources against my weakened kingside. We both tried everything - I was looking at three completely different queen sacs - and agreed a draw when the clock was about to decide. 2.5-1.5 to us; a thrilling match, mentions in dispatches to lots of the players and biggest gong going to M Alcock.
Chesterfield - Belper
Still, that's what happened on top board, with a memorable miniature from Mike Alcock. Simon built up for one of those slow but sure attacks down the f file, and at move 16 it looked very plausible; it was one of those where the demonstrator asks if you can believe that White's position collapses in about half a dozen moves, and I still can't. Next to finish, but it was much later, was that Catalan: Andy held off a kingside attack from Alan, and won on the more open queenside. Two points became the vital 2.5 when David Gothard and Mike Johnson finally called off a difficult struggle; again, there had been a lot of play on both sides of the board. Latham-Gilmore was last to finish. I had a space advantage in this one, which twice threatened to unravel in the face of counterplay; in the end it went to a tense endgame, where I won a pawn and then my King got chased about quite a bit. Took almost all the allotted three hours before Simon threw in his hand. 3.5-0.5, but it was a harder contest than that suggests.
Cup at Spondon
We entered two teams, and the A team on 6 out of 8 should have no trouble (unlike last year) in making the semis. Messrs Johnson and Alcock contributed a win and a draw each, and the standout score was Steve Housley's two wins. The B team plugged away manfully - some of them had expected to be in the plate - and got 2.5, Steve Bracey and George holding the end up well at the top. A few of our star players were absent and we'll leave folk guessing as to where we'll play them in the next round...partly because we're guessing ourselves.
Chesterfield - West Notts 'A'
Board four was the first to finish. George was well matched with John Collins, who unexpectedly sacrificed his bishop for two pawns late in the endgame, and shortly afterwards resigned.
Andy on board three was Rook for a Knight up. Making good use of his Rooks he trapped Andrew Garside's King with no escape.
Shortly after in quick succession, draws were accepted on board one and board two. Mike reached the end game with a pawn down, but clawed his way back into the game with a clever Queen manoeuvre which left Ian Kingston's position totally stranded, whereupon a draw was agreed.
Steve with his double edged 'King's Indian fianchetto' held out against David Levens 'Colle system'. This led to a tricky ending, and both players were happy to accept a draw.
With this unexpected result, without the big guns, the 'A' team moved up the League Table and perhaps avoided relegation. Result 3-1 to Chesterfield. (G.P)
Shropshire v Derbyshire
Chesterfield - Breadsall
Lichfield - Chesterfield
Burton B - Chesterfield
2010/11: Chesterfield - Lichfield
Rolls Royce Jamboree
Chesterfield - Belper
The match was decided early on; when there's nothing to play for people relax and the top two from Belper handed us a couple of unaccustomed errors, a kindness they probably won't repeat when it matters. Shortly afterwards Andy Mort and Alan Downham agreed a draw: sharp opening, equal middlegame, nothing doing. But on the third board, Mike Johnson and David Gothard quite failed to get into the spirit of the occasion. Theirs was hard fought, interesting, both sides trying to come out on top strategically. This ended in pawn chains and no way through unless someone blundered by trying to force things. Both players were alive to that danger, and a draw was agreed. 3-1 to Chesterfield; so 12 wins, a draw, and a default. The trophy stays in Chesterfield.
Burton B - Chesterfield
Burton B met in an ideal venue: peaceful bowling club, couple of decent beers, beautiful sunset. Roy Hedges put some pressure on my set up, but lost a piece to a low trick. Dave Hoddy went for a Colle system v Andy Mort and neither player found a way through. On the way back we had a think about how you whip up activity in this line, maybe the results will be coming to a chessboard near you; but zilch tonight: 1.5-0.5. Next to finish, Mike Johnson against John Hoddy, which looked equal chances and full of fight and then - suddenly over as Mike got in a succession of shots, winning game and match. And so we all gathered round Alcock-Briggs, which easily lived up to billing. A thrilling struggle, clearly an Alekhine's defence right into the late middle: Mike with a space advantage, Phil ready to strike at the slightest sign of an overreach. This he did: queen rook bishop and knight coming in and for a second I thought he had mate, but Mike had seen this, and five of Phil's last ten minutes went on how best to save a piece. The spectators were muttering "Phil's winning" or "Mike's winning" like the Athenians at the battle of Syracuse harbour. At the death, Mike won a bishop and had Q& N v Q; he had a queen sac to end the game, noticed only by Phil; Phil then had lots of checks coming and the clock advantage of two minutes v about 30 seconds. Draw agreed to a fine and exciting game; the match to Chesterfield 3-1.
Derby B - Chesterfield
No slip ups, despite very creditable performances by two talented juniors (Messrs Thaker and Madar); a complex middle game in Latham - Smith, and a brave challenge from Ray Forey in his game with Hubert. In the end it was a clean sweep by Hubert, Mike Alcock, myself and Andy Mort, and we have 21 points. Exactly the same number as the basic minimum needed to win last year, although this year we made it with three, rather than one, to spare.
Thanks to all the players who've carried us through to a victory that looks more impressive on paper than it felt at the time. Ten wins and a draw looks emphatic, but there are people at all sorts of clubs who can tell you that it was a lot closer than that.
Chesterfield - West Notts
For a long time it looked like an equaliser for West Notts on 3, where Mike Johnson was teetering on the edge against Andrew Garside. Here again we were in luck, as Andrew cashed in a heavy attack for an ending in which he was clearly ahead, but turned out not to have enough to win. What a prospect he looks.
On board 4 Nottingham High School had supplied another very promising talent. Andy Mort and Eric Williamson went at it toe to toe in the centre of the board, tense and complex. Andy finally came out a piece up, and Eric didn't go down easily, but that was the winning point and Andy had ended a short losing sequence; congrats to him and right back for the upcoming matches to decide both league titles.
Steve Bracey advises that you should beware of juniors, still more of juniors in blazers, and people in blazers with Latin tags are the most dangerous of the lot. Looked good advice on tonight's showing.
Mike Alcock did launch his counterattack, and went into an ending a dodgy pawn up. Possibly worth playing on, but the players each had about a minute left. So draw agreed, 3-1 to us, and 2 from 4 needed to retain the title.
Long Eaton - Chesterfield
In the event, I managed to round up Kishan's passed pawn, and won the ending. Next, Alcock-Evans was agreed drawn, with lots of play but little time left. And so to Mike Johnson, who kept us on tenterhooks through a very long ending: Andy Robins' flag fell in a study-like position where the kibitzers found a win, but would Mike in the two minutes he had left? We'll never know...yet another dodgy 2.5-1.5, how long can we carry on fluking it like this?
Cup Semi: Belper - Chesterfield
Chesterfield - Derby A
Chesterfield A - Derby B
And so to an exciting finish in Thaker-Johnson. Mike had offered his Benko Gambit. He's won some fine games with this, and accepting the gambit meant that Maitreya, with White, had to soak up long term strategic pressure. This he did brilliantly, long into the late middle game, when he finally conceded the exchange, but even this in return for a well placed knight and extra passed pawns. Mike had a passive rook, three minutes on the clock, and faced a queen and knight eyeing his king. But now he found lots of great moves almost instantly; a slip from White and his game came apart. With seconds left, Mike had a won pawn ending...this became queen and king v king with the clock hanging, surely it was all over now? And it was - by stalemate!! 3-1, and we departing muttering about how Maitreya had deserved the draw for his great play earlier, and it would have been a shame, and let's just turn the clock back on and see...hey, it's still ticking... and over here, look, it's STILL ticking. Ah well, first half of the season over and we've dropped just the one point; can't be bad.
Belper A - Chesterfield A
Alcock and Gilmore played an interesting strategic struggle: chances in the centre for Mike, and that niggling pressure you get from well played Queen's gambitty sorts of things; Simon a pawn up with possibilities of a Q side push. Agreed a draw when level, but not dead. Alderson - Latham was a complex set up, King's Indian on my side but not on his. I thought I'd divert his attention to his Q side pawn manouevrings, then strike like a snake on the King's side, but it didn't come off, and the post mortem showed that his first big mistake in the game was accepting my draw offer. Well played, we thought. Johnners was up against a new player - to us - in David Gothard, who looked thoroughly competent and ended up BB v BN with pressure in the ending. Mike managed to swap a vital pair of bishops, and now he was the man with winning chances, slight though they were. Draw in the end, fair result.
And so to the last. Alan Downham had outplayed Martin in the middle game, and now had R + 4 v R + 2, the extra pawns being on f5 and e6, Martin's king blockading. This looked hopeless; as Martin's rook got active the best I could offer was an impression that Alan faced real technical difficulties before he won the match for Belper. But cue a tremendous display of skill in the ending from Martin, every nuance perfect...and now the central pawns were going, and although what was left - two rook pawns each - ought to be drawn, the momentum was with our man, as was the clock. Just as I was wondering if, from the jaws of defeat, Martin could actually come up with a win...! Alan made a fatal blunder, dropping the rook. All over, and although wow, Martin, endgame wizardry, one couldn't help wishing he'd inflicted this catastrophe on a nastier guy than Alan Downham. 2.5-1.5 to us, and suddenly we've opened a gap at the top of the league. Genghis Khan would have been proud of us. Three of us made the trip home safely, I've no doubt Mike Alcock did as well, but if he spent the night in a snow drift I'm sure he'll agree it was worth it.
Chesterfield - Burton B
Anyway, it mostly came good in the end. Solid resistance from Mike Johnson saved the day for him: got into a rook ending a pawn down, but with a safe draw. Martin did go down, but on top board Roy's attack came to bits against Mike Alcock, so the match was level. Andrew had turned down my draw offer, which was the right decision at the time, but if he was unknown to me as such a strong player, probably nobody had told him either that rook endings - along with cheap swindles - are among the few bits of chess I've half got my head round. My two areas of relative strength came together magnificently. 2.5-1.5.
I must repeat my thanks to John Hoddy, who agreed to help with the delivery of chess sets. He'll be doing Swadlincote, a place so far off that it may be mythological for all I know. Thanks a lot: from our point of view it's one of the most difficult journeys sorted.
Third/fourth round of the cup; we started on a sound 4.5 out of 8. Our second team didn't make it, so the challenge was to finish fourth out of six, or better. With our star crew of Latham, Alcock, Johnson and Crofts, how hard could that be? Well, it ended in folk hanging on the games to finish and demanding to know the tie break methods, and one old buddy rubbing his hands with glee at the possibility that we were out....dawn approaches after the long dark night of Chesterfield supremacy.
Third round looked OK. I won against Ray Forey, bit of a bluff but it counts. Johnson won well against Simon Gilmore - an omen though, that this fine player was Belper's board 3. Mike Alcock was an exchange up v Pablo Padilla, but let him off with a draw. 7/12, easily where we needed to be.
Then, in the last round, near disaster. Simon Edwards looked good against me, but shed a pawn for an ending I couldn't win. Mike J got a grim position and inexplicably didn't go for the one complicating line; unfortunate loss and I'd bet on him to get revenge for it next time he meets that opponent. Brian went down in similar fashion. Suddenly, we were on 7.5/15 and only 8 would do - and even that wasn't certain to be enough. The last game was Mike Alcock v Paul Madden: taking board two certainly hadn't given Mike easier opponents! It was perhaps fortunate that Mike didn't know that a win made it certain and a draw left us calculating: he had a slight advantage, the sort of thing that can come unstuck if you go for the win. Draw agreed, and it turned out that Spondon were also on 8/16 with three teams ahead of us. I now found that bottom board elimination was the tie break: don't know if, say, sum of opponents' scores would have see us out. To general disappointment, we'd racked up an unbeatable 0/4 on bottom board. The semi will be against Belper, probably as tough as it gets, but immeasurably better than ending the cup defence at the first hurdle.
Derbyshire - Staffordshire
Breadsall - Chesterfield
Mike Alcock equalised with a handy win over Pablo Padilla,and over to our two White players to see if they could win it. Hubert seemed to have an initiative, and I thought Paul Madden played some risky stuff to stop it growing, but he knew exactly what he was doing and the game was drawn. I thought I was ahead v Steve Burke, but couldn't find a killer blow and pushed it too far: the winning chances were all his when he accepted my draw offer because of the clock. So 2-2, first point dropped, and credit to Breadsall: we brought a very strong team and they put up terrific resistance, with obvious touches of brilliance from Derek and Paul.
Jeremy Hamm of Sheffield Nomads is keen to hear from you. He organises the Sheffield A team, winners of the Woodhouse Cup for the last couple of seasons. Easily found if you google "Sheffield chess". We play on a Saturday and the chess is usually really good. Various familiar faces in the team and we'd be glad to see you. If anyone else is keen to play on a Saturday, we run three other Sheffield teams. Paul Blackman would be one of Jeremy's competitors for Nice Guy of Sheffield chess, and he runs a team aimed especially at encouraging young talent.
First four rounds of the cup take the form of a jamboree, over two evenings. We had entered two teams, which began to look a bit ambitious as the hunt for players began! Eventually we found seven to turn out, and thanks especially to David Bentley, who agreed to come at the last minute, thus keeping us respectable. So we went for it: #A being Latham D, Johnson M, Crofts B and Fault D. #B was Housley, Bracey, Peters and Bentley, a chance to show Derbyshire we have more good players than those they've seen: Steve Housley got the point across with a good win over Dave Williams. Otherwise, the luck of the draw was against us: three of each side's eight games were against the other Chesterfield guys, leaving me thinking that we could have stayed at home and at The Three Merry Lads they lay on decent beer.
After the games started, Fault dropped out as a spare player was drafted in; this didn't alter #A's score, which was a promising 4.5/8 for third place. #B had a harder time, with unexpectedly decent oppo on the lower boards - Alan Downham and Derek Jarvis no less. With #A well placed for the semis, we have a quandary as to how to deploy our other Sheffield A people if they're available for the next round.
West Notts - Chesterfield
Derbyshire - Greater Manchester
Manchester might have been stronger still, though as it was outgraded our folk easily enough; but when they left I think they knew they'd been in a battle. Their top man David Hulmes (211) was obviously a player of master strength, and he won against Paul Madden, at which point I was coming under attack from the British senior champion Richard Beach (197) on two. This crisis was the cue for a marvellous fightback on 3-5. Kishan Lakhani of Long Eaton won against Mike Surtees, well known and a cult hero especially for his deep and original openings analysis. Simon Gilmore backed this up with a draw against Harry Lamb (see history, google Bolton Chess, in fact, you could probably google "chess"). But great results though these were - and Kishan's especially points to the future - I've not yet got to The Masterpiece.
Our own Mike Johnson was up against Stephen Pickles, who gave an Elo of 2280 and is noted by the ECF as comfortably in the 190s for several recent years, i.e. over 200 with the recent revamp. Mike played a magical game, one to gladden the shades of Nimzowitsch and Petrosian: retreats, weird developments, obvious moves barely considered, and a storming attack which simply took white's position to bits.
Andy Mort drew quickly and efficiently, but it wasn't the day for Steve and Martin. Steve played the usual buccaneering gambit stuff against a man too good to be taken in, and Martin was denied a draw, mainly by a mix up with the clock...but Emma played a Modern, or maybe a King's Indian, to great effect. Her opponent was probably a bit lucky that his draw offer was accepted, but it had been a very hard game. Terrific stuff, and I believe Emma is now Derbyshire's only unbeaten player.
Of our other buddies, people singled out Trevor Bould for a fine game v Galina Utyuznikhova, whom I've always found a formidable opponent.
And so the crowd descended on board two, where I had thrown back Richard's attack, and now needed to win a bizarre ending (R,R v R & 4) to tie the match, which would have been an heroic result for Derbyshire. Not to be: I've found the win since but not on the day, in an ending I'd not seen before, and credit to Richard for never saying die. 7.5-8.5 the final score.
Chesterfield - Long Eaton
2009/10 Derby - Chesterfield
Board one was a corker, Derbyshire's county champion Mike Alcock v highest rated player John Shannon, and it lived up to billing. Mike had the initiative and didn't go for risky sacs against John's strong position. Always alive to the chance to switch to a favourable ending, he eventually got one: passed h pawn, the heavy pieces milling around it: too much pressure even for John. The game looked a classic.
Don't know if the others matched the quality, but they were long and tough. Mike Johnson was the other winner; didn't seem to have the advantage when he declined Dave Williams' draw offer, but then made it to a good knight v bad bishop ending which he won like a true pupil of Nimzowitsch. Steve Bracey was still playing, and probably ahead, against Martin Cobham, who timed his draw offer excellently, given the match situation. Steve took it, we were 2.5-0.5 up and the shambles of Retout-Latham ended in my swindling a draw in a game in which I'd been under the cosh, then a piece up, then a rook up, then ...a queen down, the stuff of nightmares. 3-1 then, and Alcock-Shannon a hard act to follow, may it be a portent for the season.
First match was the longest trek we do in either league: Lichfield away. Historic venue in the depths of their Guildhall, a long low stone hall crammed with players competing in various local leagues. They'd saved the toughest for us, and the newly promoted team looked as good as any we'd faced last season. Steve Bracey's dodgy gambit met the right response from Pete Collins, and Steve had to choose between going a solid pawn down or trying an unsound knight sac. Needless to say, he went for the sac, it came off and the finish looked classy. 1-0. Maurice Staples put Mike Johnson under much pressure and had a pawn and an attack, but Mike held on with great skill and showed that all rook endings are draws. Staples was 185 only last year, now it's all the way down to 170; on tonight's evidence he looked Lichfield's class act and well done Mike. Andy Mort played a fine logical game; won a pawn transferring to the ending and never gave his opponent the ghost of a chance. This won a match which had looked dodgy. Top board was just entertainment at 2.5-0.5, and it duly ended in disaster, Dave's flag falling when he was hunting down Paul Wallace's king with a queen v bishop. Always nice to recall an opponent's sportsmanship and we toasted the Ecclesall star Dave Adams, who memorably called it a draw v Lloyd Powell in a similar position. 2.5-1.5, glad to get out of Lichfield with that.
Second up, the trip to Derby with the same crowd. This time the oppo were old friends. Steve had a promising hack attack against Dave Williams' Sicilian set up, but we'll call Williams' win of the exchange a smart spot by him rather than a goof by Steve; draw immediately offered and agreed. Andy maintained 100% after pressing hard in a locked position, then burning his opponent's clock with a creative draw offer; White's position collapsed very soon after. Castro-Johnson was a fine strategic performance by our man, finishing with a neat spot-the-move forcing immediate resignation. And finally, at the sixth attempt Dave Latham starts to close the gap on Derbyshire's #1 rated player John Shannon: John went wrong in the opening, found endless defensive ideas but threw in his hand on 78. Avoid Dave or he'll force you to sit through repeat showings of this one. 3.5-0.5: it'll be a good team that betters that result against Derby.
Steve Burke and some colleagues from Sutton were the first to respond to our come for free, help drink the beer and play a few friendly games offer. Very nice to see them, and as we say, members of any club are welcome.
Third match was at home v Long Eaton. At about 180 average, ours was the highest graded team the club's put out since records began. We've had the pleasure of the company of Hubert Mossong for some weeks now; he's been showing us the error of our ways in lots of friendly games, and I was looking forward to seeing how he'd perform against a really strong opponent. Ray Evans fitted the bill, and it went all the way to a last pawn stalemate. For the first time this season, we brought out the Ramsden set, for which see History 3 when we get there: by ancient tradition going back all the way to 2004, this only appears for a serious game featuring at least one player who has, or had, a 190 grade and (bad luck for some GMs) also plays in the right spirit. Hubert and Ray did it full justice.
Mike Alcock returned to the team! which alone made this a red letter day for the club. Kishan Lakhani will no longer be described in these pages with anything suggesting talented junior. He's a very strong player, and hardly the guy you'd elect to face if easing yourself back in. It was a terrific win for Mike, and a really exciting game: he looked right back to his best. I couldn't match it on three v Geoff Gibson: I'd survived to a pawn up in a difficult ending; goof one left me looking for a draw and goof two threw that away. Fortunately Mike Johnson pulled us through in the last game to finish, v Andy Robins. 2.5-1.5. I wouldn't be at all surprised if this was the highest powered match in the D&D for some years: it was about our strongest and I think Long Eaton's too.
Fourth, the showdown with reigning champions Breadsall. Andy Mort replaced Mike Alcock and Hubert's still here as the secret weapon, though if he carries on getting the current results the "secret" part won't last. One for the website as Hubert won what looked a very good game against Paul Madden. He even found time for a glance at my board and spotted a win I missed early on. Luckily for me Derek Jarvis missed what would have been my last trick, in time trouble at the very end of the game. Andy Mort led the way in the match, winning against Andy Toothill who's often proved a very tough opponent for us. This left Breadsall's only scorer as Steve Burke, whose game v Mike Johnson looked hard fought, but a draw throughout. Obviously 3.5-0.5 against last year's unbeaten champions was quite a result.
And so to Belper for match 5, which featured perhaps the outstanding result by a Derbyshire player this season. Sadly this was on board one by our old buddy Simon Gilmore, who managed to hold off an attack from Hubert which looked a certain winner, then came through in a difficult rook ending where Hubert gave him every chance to go wrong. The match was long decided by then: at last the captain led the way with a quick miniature; Mike Johnson played what looked suspiciously like a Blackmar-Diemar gambit and won against a new (to us) and good player, Simon Edwards; and Andy Mort kept up his 100% record, overcoming stout resistance from Vaughn Smith in a Q&R ending. 3-1 to us. Five matches, five wins: the rest of the League will have figured out our intentions by now; but with 10 points already, that looks like relegation staved off for another season.
DERBYSHIRE v WORCESTERSHIRE over 16 boards at Acordis. Thanks to Paul Kelman and Bert Loomes for the organising. The club did its bit, supplying five of the 16 players on the team. Hubert faced a fairly stodgy White set up on top board, and eventually agreed a draw rather than try to grind it out. In the event, his pushing us all down one was probably crucial. I won a sparkler on two, but Emma (and Fritz) showed how it should have ended with a queen sac as "a little bit of Morphy". Mike Johnson ran into a Rambo and there wasn't much anyone short of master could have done, a splendid attack by his opponent; Martin's game was a knife edge King's Indian, well played by both, and his King side attack carried the day; Emma's opponent needed a win at all costs for his side, but hardly played a risky move and duly got his draw, condemning his team to defeat. Another fine game by Emma and, Leics and Lincs beware, captain Kelman signed her up for the next match on the spot. 9-7 for Derbyshire, 3-2 for the Chesterfield crew.
First round of the CUP: off to Accordis, seven or eight teams playing two rounds of jamboree. Spreading the fun around a bit, we sent Mike Johnson, Andy, Steve Bracey and Emma, a team roughly comparable to our likely rivals. A jolly time had by all, and a creditable 4/8 total, starring 2/2 by Andy Mort. The 50% score puts us on joint 3-6th I believe: with four to qualify we could hardly be better placed for an exciting second evening...
...which featured two very fine wins by Mike Alcock on top board. A third round 2.5/4 left us still not clear of the pack going into the home straight, but a clean 4/4 in the last round made us first of the four qualifiers. We take on Burton for a final place against Breadsall or Derby.
LEICESTERSHIRE V DERBYSHIRE. Five players again for the second county match. Best wishes to Paul Kelman for a swift recovery: Trevor Bould captained the side in his absence and Paul Madden led us off with a good win on one. After that, it has to be admitted that Leicestershire's finest came out on top against our club's senior representatives. But the other game was one to recall in years to come. See History 1 for Otto Hardy, our dashing young club champion three times in the late 50s: where else but chess could you see a real blood-and-guts contest - at a senior level - between such a legendary figure and a rising star over 60 years his junior? Emma looked like she'd taken a hammer blow early on, but came back instantly with one of her own, and quite a crowd gathered round one of the very last games to finish, to see her lay the old warrior low. That tied the match at 7-7 and the final 8-8 was a good result given the opposition.
Sixth match v Burton. Comment was passed at the county match that the League was becoming a procession. Phil Briggs did his best to halt it: plugged away v Hubert, offered two draws, then won after a slip by our man. All the other games went to last few minutes. Mike Alcock and Ralph Allen played their spectacular Ruy Lopez line for the third time. Wild sacs lead to an ending where Mike has two pieces, Ralph a rook and an extra two pawns; Mike reckons this is a win and at the third time of asking he showed one. I won a pawn early on v Trevor Bould; thought he might go wrong if I pressured him rather than switch to a doubtful ending; went wrong myself and just had enough to win. Steve Kimberley was new to us, standing in for Paul Moore on 4. Mike Johnson looked ahead for most of the game, but there were just RB v R left on when he finally broke the resistance. 3-1, and at Christmas we had 12 points from 6; second place Derby 8 from 7. There's no lack of will to stop us: Briggs left commenting to his gallant crew "I'll drive, you lot can walk!" which sounds ominous for the cup semi.
Seventh match v Derby and finally a wheel came off. Hubert won with Black against John Shannon, which even for him was beating worthy opposition; from here onlookers expected another victory, as Messrs Williams Retout and Forey were all facing higher graded Chesterfield people...but in three long tough games the Derby men came through. I duly gritted teeth and congratulated them: it's not yet time to call in the ringers in this league, but another couple of wins before we give everyone a game. Quite a reversal from the first match, ouch.
Eighth, Breadsall, who brought such a strong side that no less a man than Andy Toothill was spectator and reserve. Half way though it looked grim, with Madden-Alcock even, Mort-Burke already a soundly played draw; and Mike Johnson under the cosh, I thought, since Derek Jarvis had a solidly backed passer on d6. Latham-Padilla was worse still: a knight on b4 stopped two of my three pieces from moving and his passed pawn looked hard to stop without heavy losses. At this point Mike Alcock went for a win and Paul Madden won by direct attack. That ought to have decided matters, but Fortune favours the lucky. Pablo allowed me a cheapo, the dead pieces sprang to life and the match was level. Mike Alcock then told me (after the game!) that he'd intended to warn me about my opponent's opening line, cheers for that! and finally Mike Johnson won his rook ending; I don't know how he turned it round, but the quickplay finish looked pretty ruthless. This may well have been the hardest fought match since Long Eaton. 2.5-1.5.
The Cup semi with Burton was rearranged because of blizzards; thanks to Trevor Bould for his help in finally getting things together, and especially appreciated was the gesture of finding a neutral venue after I'd felt obliged to offer to play at their place. I missed the match myself, and Mike Johnson had gone for the even higher cultural pursuit of studying the Renaissance and the bottom of a few jars in Florence. But that hardly weakened our side of Mossong Alcock Mort and Bracey. With Phil Briggs missing from Burton's line up I'd have stuck a few bob on our team, but Mike Alcock tells me it was very tough, with Bould Hedges and John Hoddy drawing against our guys, who must have been 20 points ahead of them. Cheers for Hubert who won "in the last seconds" against Ralph Allen on top board; we all know how hard he can be to beat. And so to the final...
...but first, the ninth match, v Lichfield. Again, my account's based on reports from Mike A and Andy Mort. George took board 4 and did well to turn round his game for a draw. Hubert also drew and the match was all square; Andy Mort sounds like he was doing great 'til a goof, but Mike Alcock came through against Pete Collins. 2-2; still well ahead of any conceivable challenger except West Notts, whom we have to play twice. Win lose or draw tonight, those matches should decide matters.
Tenth match at Long Eaton. We'd done badly at Rotherham this week, and bounced back with another defeat. Not down to picking a weak team: it just didn't go our way. Hubert v Ray Evans was the repeat of a thriller from earlier in the season, and I guess it's the most high powered individual game this league can offer. The opening was offbeat and double edged, and Hubert looked to have good chances at one stage but Ray took the point. Board two saw Mike Alcock pushing for a win with v Geoff Gibson; got a strong pawn on f3; but when the centre opened Mike's king was the more exposed, and a piece sac went wrong. I was already doing nothing against Andy Robins' Caro Kann, and in pushing for an edge found myself a pawn down in a rook ending. The winning chances were all his when he offered a draw; I accepted, thinking Mike Johnson was lost, his winning combination having turned out to have a flaw which left him pawns adrift in the ending. But just as my game was agreed drawn, thus losing the match, Norman Davies allowed Mike right back into it, and his pawns rushed through to a winning touchdown. So 1.5-2.5, a scoreline possibly better than we deserved, and our matches with West Notts are now more significant than I'd expected.
Holidays and distance meant few folk fancying the showdown at West Notts; fortunately they'd had the same problems and featured just two of their brilliant juniors. Daniel Lin went a pawn down to Mike Johnson and tried a sac which turned out not to give enough. Amisha Parmar resisted much longer and I was lucky she hadn't played in a few months: certainly showed why she's nationally known, and not only the league's second strongest junior but also our highest rated woman player. George Peters looked up against it in a rook ending v John Collins, but played like Korchnoi and proved the draw more quickly than I thought possible. So the match was won, and the three of us had to leave without getting the result of the top board. This looked an epic, with David Levens clearly ahead early on; but Mike Alcock got the upper hand in a very complex middle game and reported victory. We now need 2 from 3 to be mathematically certain, but have no objection to helpful results from anyone who plays Derby in particular.
Twelfth, Burton at the neutral Spondon venue. They'd been relegated and not putting out the strongest of sides...until it came to us. Phil Briggs played a permanent piece sac on the 6th move and the result was chaos; we both thought I was winning, but a terrific attack at the last got him the point his brave idea deserved. The other three boards looked evenly matched on paper, but all three went our way and all were well worth a look. Steve Bracey got to play his Dragon variation and even a pet pawn sac: looks a classic win for Black, White's strong centre knocked down with four or five successive blows. Martin Howard got good pressure v Trevor Bould, and allowed the 'win' of his queen for both rooks; one variation showed a king hunt to the 5th; in the game, he transferred smoothly to a won ending. And in the last, Mike Johnson boldly declined Ralph Allen's draw offer and showed a win in the ending; there was one terrific position where white's queen and three minor pieces could or couldn't hold it together; in the end one was dropped. So, nearly an elephant trap, but a fine match with four anthology games, and one win from two will see us home and dry.
...and the win came in our 13th match, home v West Notts. My opponent fell into an opening trap and resigned on 17; a captain's innings to settle the side, I thought, as I headed off to watch footie on TV with my lad. 90 minutes later I returned with every confidence to find out how the match had finished in our favour. But no! all games were still in progress, and Mike Alcock, engaged in a life-and-death struggle with David Levens, was asking me how the others were doing; sounded a bit anxious! Mike Johnson looked to be facing a difficult attack, and my guess that he'd win was based more on my view of Mike than his position. Andy Mort had the chance to finish off with a great combination, but we weren't sure it was sound. Anyway, the result went our way; Andy rightly didn't risk the sac and won with a series of clockburners in a complex position. Analysis revealed he was ahead, and also that his sac was a brilliancy that got away. Mike Johnson came through in good style, his opponent's position collapsing on a rock-like defence...and David Levens scored a fine win, which still left us with the League trophy by 3 - 1. The 14th match - postponed after most of the Belper team got trapped on the M1 - won't be needed so probably won't be played.
The Cup Final saw a narrow victory against a determined challenge from Breadsall. What-are-the-odds that our league match score was repeated exactly, game for game? Early draw for Andy and Steve Burke, fair agreement in some Q side opening that ended looking like a Caro Kann: Karpov might have thought one side had a minimal edge worth grinding out for a week or two, but which side? My win against Pablo bore inspection this time; hung onto a hot pawn from the opening, defied an excellent sac to get the advantage of 2 B's v R + P, and managed to throw back White's attack. So we needed a point from the last two, and here Derek Jarvis offered Mike Johnson a draw which I'd have accepted: I thought Mike Alcock was on the point of winning. But Paul Madden played the rook ending quite brilliantly to save, and then win it...back to Johnson-Jarvis, all results possible. Mike had two minutes to Derek's four; both were finding good moves instantly. This was a marvellous episode of play, ending when Derek went wrong. El Presidente was now a piece up and about to queen with seconds left. All results were still possible, including a win of game and match for Breadsall if Mike's flag fell, but such was the speed and tension that first Mike, then Derek, played illegal moves and conceded two minutes on the clock. For Derek to concede two minutes was, of course, fatal and he resigned at once. To be honest, this was such a gallant display from Breadsall that I was left, not with triumph but a sense that winning everything in Derbyshire leaves good people with nothing, and I felt like a banker ought to feel as he cashes the bonus. Probably too soft to be a chess player...or a banker. Still, this is the only trophy we've played for which we've never won. Until now, and it was a great Final.
The only trophy we were defending was the Jamboree shield, 20 minute competition at Rolls Royce. Five teams turned out in our section, and our Latham-Johnson-Mort-Bracey combo sneaked it: 11.5/16 a point ahead of Belper, set up by some dreadful swindles (Alderson thoroughly clobbers Latham and drops a rook in last seconds is one I won't be showing) and a stellar 4/4 from Andy Mort.
Thanks to all the people who turned out for this team. Captain's prize to Mike Johnson with 11/13, ahead of Andy Mort 6.5/10 and myself on 8.5/12; eight players appeared and none scored less than 50%; second to Mike on percentages was Steve Bracey on 3/4.
Some very good chess players wanted these trophies. Ray Evans, John Shannon, Paul Madden, Phil Briggs, Derek Jarvis, David Levens, Geoff Gibson and Simon Gilmore just some of the people who played terrifically well against us. Phil and Geoff are especially noted as the guys who played two, won two against the Chesterfield double winners, respec' to them and all our other friends and opponents, and we won't be challenging the Rest of the League any day soon...but with determination and strength in depth we got there. Well done folks.
The Southernmost team in Sheffield A Division, we're also the Northern outpost of the Derby & District League, plugging away over 4 boards.
Over the previous three seasons we'd met strong resistance from several teams, particularly on the top boards. It was rarely easy, but we won the league three times running. I imagine Derbyshire's finest must have felt weary of the old firm of Alcock, Latham, Andrews, Mort and Johnson: individual players could match us but not for strength in depth. Latterly we had Martin Howard and Steve Housley to call upon as well: one season began with 12 wins and a draw.
This season we had to play without our star man Mike Alcock. All best wishes to him for his recovery. Often top board for the county; eleven times its champion, including the previous season...taking on his regular top board opponents made it very clear to me what a contribution he'd made. Still, after a couple of early defeats we performed well enough; when the game feature's up and running there will be some cracking games to show off. Mike Johnson and Martin Howard were very regular and had a lot of good results; Andy Mort captained the side and played many a captain's innings; thanks to Steve, Dave, George and Mick who also turned out for us. Our eventual result was second: creditable with such tough competitors as Belper, West Notts and Burton around, and none of the others were easy. All credit to Paul Madden, Steve Burke and their Breadsall colleagues who've pushed us close before and won it this year. Enjoy it while you've got it!
THE COUNTY SIDE
Paul Kelman of Amber Valley runs the Derbyshire team, and in recent years our club's usually provided the strongest contingent. This year we scored 3.5/4 as I recall, in the vital showdown against I forget whom; but overall the team got crushed and so no repeat of the march to the Minor Counties final a couple of seasons ago. It's good chess when it happens - occasional Saturdays - and we can put anyone who wants to play in touch with the captains either of the under 125s or of the County side.
Other Derbyshire events: qualified easily for the cup semi-final, went down narrowly to Belper. 20 minute Jamboree was lots of fun and that we did win. Next year we'll aim for more serious silverware.