2018/19 End of season report
Chesterfield 'A' had another reasonable season in 2018/19. We finished third behind Ecclesall 'A' and Sheffield Nomads 'A' who were both extremely strong sides.
Of the 14 matches played, we won 8 drew 1 and lost 5.
Tim Humphries scored a splendid 5 from 6 (83.33%)
There were also good performances from Steve Burke, Andy Mort and Dave Latham. Dave scored 6.5 out of 10 (65%) which was impressive for someone playing on such a high board.
We were unable to retain the cup being beaten in the semi-final by S.A.S.C.A.
There were strong performances by a number of players. Worthy of note Steve Housley (9.5/12), Mike Johnson (8.5/13) and Mike Alcock (4/6).
We won the Cup!!!
After impressive wins against Barnsley, Worksop and University we drew against S.A.C.A. in the final. As board count did not apply in the final a replay was required. There was some difficulty in agreeing a convenient date for the replay. In the end the Controller imposed a date. Unfortunately S.A.S.C.A. could not raise a team on that date and were forced to default. (The rules have now been changed to avoid this problem in the future). Whilst this was not the way we would have wished to win, it is worth mentioning that under the new rules Chesterfield would have won on the original night because board count will now apply in the final as it does in the earlier rounds.
2017 end of the season report
We won the Sheffield Davy League!!!
We ended the season three points clear of our nearest rivals, Nomads 'A'.
There is no doubt the team was considerably strengthened by the arrival of Peter Ackley. Peter played in twelve matches and despite playing on board one or two never beaten. An incredible performance!
Also was unbeaten was Andy Mort who won ten of his twelve games. A most impressive 92% performance,
Mike Johnson and Dave Ashcroft also made a significant contribution to our winning the league.
Nomads B 2 Chesterfield 6
I was generally struggling against Paul Cumbers, and the computer found a combinational win for him which was well within his powers; in the event I used my considerable experience of defending lousy positions to make it to a level endgame where there wasn't much doing. Mike Johnson secured a draw against Mike Newett, their post game analysis examining something for Mike N that might have turned it for him. The game had seen Mike J with the solid centre, Mike N counter attacking in good style, maybe not the usual role for our Mike, but handled well enough. The other points were swapped: Martin got a position a pawn up, with his bishop eyeing the White king; but there were a lot of tricky tactics to handle before you could convert this position, and Ian Barwick prevailed. The other game I didn't see, which was a pity, as Andy Mort was our highest board winner; congrats on that, wrapped up a pleasing scoreline after recent tribulations.
Chesterfield 2 Ecclesall 6
Steve Bracey summed up my game v Jim Burnett as "got a bit of a chess lesson there" and it's a fair description. Jim landed the familiar Rxf3! exchange sac in the French to decisive effect. Mike Alcock put up much more stubborn resistance against David Adams; he had to give up a piece for two pawns to hold off what looked a great attack, but in the end David decided he hadn't got enough to continue, well done Mike. Elsewhere we were drawing or losing, and I didn't see too much of it. Good draw by Glenn in the ending against Dr Hempson, rook knight and bishops of opposite colours if I recall rightly. So match over, off to the bar and the reflection that it could have been worse: Mr Adams demonstrating a selection of brilliant miniatures (with Black!) he's uncorked recently. Very well played to Ecclesall, looking as strong as I've ever known them.
Chesterfield 6 Nomads B 2
The difference between Pablo and Harry is only 131 points anyway, and Harry made light of it to be the hero of the night on our side. sound opening, perfectly playable middle game position, draw agreed: we'd assumed we were starting a second match in succession a point behind, but very well done Harry.
Steve Housley won early with a stonking queen's side attack, doubled rooks down the b file like a battering ram. Andy Mort played very soundly and overcame strong resistance from Ken Dewhurst: we were away.
Mike Johnson had much the worst of it against Joel Thiruchelvam, and gave up his queen to mount a determined defence of the last ditch. So poor a commentator am I that I wondered, at one stage, why Joel was playing on a rook and knight behind, but a quick headcount of queens (White one on the board, Black one in the box) gave me the true tale and Mike did well to save this one.
The top three boards show, perhaps, the influence of Mr Carlsen spreading downwards: all hard fought endings. I came out on top pretty narrowly against Paul Cumbers, after his excellently played opening gave him a lot of pressure. My decent run makes it to ten. Hubert and Mike Newett was a rook ending, and anyone watching couldn't fail to be impressed by Hubert's exploitation of what had been a small advantage. Glenn much the same: knight and 6 apiece v Ian Barwick, Glenn's plus being that he had two pawn islands to Ian's three. So a very solid performance by the top end, which we've not always produced v Nomads B.
And in the last, credit to Ejike Ogadah, new face to us and welcome aboard. George has had a brilliant season in Sheffield, and just look at the people who've gone down or failed to beat him in his last ten games: 174, 154, 171. And now Ejike came in with a grade of 90 and left us having stuck no fewer than 25 points on that, as stout resistance led to an endgame where George finally went astray. I suppose this was Nomads' answer to Harry's heroics earlier. Never mind George...all good things must come to an end...and come to that, I think I've got Andrew Ledger next week myself.
Barnsley 2.5 - Chesterfield 3.5 (Richardson Cup)
So, board count applying, we needed most versions of 3 points from the top 5 as a minimum. My advice would have been not to panic, play normal stuff rather than coming over all aggressive because of challenge. All but Steve Bracey followed it. He wheeled out the Blackmar-Diemar, and at one stage I thought Pete Micklethwaite would bust it as his colleague Richard Hall did last year. But not tonight: Steve's pressure won back the pawn and then another, and he'd leveled the match.
Steve Housley also went a pawn down, but two bishops and activity seemed maybe to count for more: draw, not too far off the full point. Greensmith-Mort was also drawn, Dave's sound position withstanding classic fianchetto on g7 and c5 chipping at the centre from Andy, well played guys. Mike Johnson and Tony Pogson was the longest and most difficult of the three draws, Mike getting an ending with a good knight against a bishop which you couldn't quite say was bad - certainly, not bad enough to result in a loss, though Mike tried to the last.
And so to top board, Andy Butterworth needing a win to balance Steve Bracey's and take Barnsley through on board count. In an absolute thriller he three times nearly got it, the game starring a desperate hunt of his king by my queen from c1 to g6, where it nearly joined in a mating attack. Both found only moves for much of the way, many thanks to Andy for a great game. Vishy and Magnus played the same variation for a short and much criticised draw in their recent match, and if they'd been with us we'd have shown them - you just need a few mistakes on each side to liven it up, chaps. So we'll claim 4.5 points in games played, 3.5 to count.
Chesterfield A 3.5 - Nomads A 4.5
And we'd sprung two opening surprises I think. I wheeled out an entire new system against the Modern, as shown to me by no less a man than IM Jeff Horner...and Mike Alcock, who'd won against one brilliant young player in Oskar Hackner, now resurrected a pet Spanish line from 30 years past, against another, Sam Milson. This ended with bishops and rooks crashing home, terrific game from Mike.
Andy Mort and Geoff Frost played out a solid draw, Glenn and Chris agreed one...3 points and nearly there.
OK, we have clearly offended the goddess - three teams out, they all lose by the narrowest margin - she can't make it plainer so own up who was it?
Steve Housley declined a draw and he was surely right to do so - classic slow-burning attack in the Ruy, two bishops looking menacing. Martin was even more clearly winning against Andy Hards, and blew it with a single blunder. My position looked very promising, and I thought Jon's attack against it - starting with a very brave ...g5!? must either win or come to grief. Very nearly the former - some of his ideas were thrilling - but at the end of it all a queen sac wasn't sound, and there I was with a won ending. But a moment's inattention and he got a perpetual. Probably his contribution to the game deserved it, and I certainly wouldn't have conceded it had his courageous attack not taken its toll on my poor nerves.
So disaster complete: all depended on Said-Johnson, and here Mike, who had lost an exchange in a slight error around the time control, still had a decent looking passed pawn. But Mohammed's rooks on the seventh won game and match for Nomads....foiled again!! Still, on the plus side, it was a tremendous match, we enjoyed a beer and a chat over analysis with some of the Nomads guys afterwards, and... I'm not really convincing anyone here am i?
Chesterfield 5 Worksop 1 (Richardson Cup)
The next two, Martin's win against Rob Porter and Dave Fidler v Mike Johnson, had a vague thematic similarity when we looked at them in the post mortem. In each our man seemed to get suffocating pressure, Martin very quickly. I felt for Rob - it recalled the sort of position Andrew Ledger gets against me on a regular basis. Dave defended for longer against Mike, and it turns out, though I can hardly believe it, that some of our club aren't familiar with the immortal Samisch-Nimzowitsch masterpiece in which, anticipating Johnson, the stormy petrel also played P-R3! as the decisive move ending all counterplay. Very impressive stuff from the middle order; an object lesson in controlling the position.
Mike Alcock looked, at one stage, well on the attack against Phil Griffiths and I wondered if we were one brilliant concept away from a miniature. Not against Phil, though: the attack broke, his pieces found the right squares and this was Worksop's point. On the top, an equally determined challenge from Oliver, who was well ahead into chaotic late middle game territory; my eventual win one to be filed under "they all count".
SASCA/Rotherham Juniors 3 Chesterfield 5
...and so our two Summer teams amalgamated for the main campaign.
The combining of Rotherham Juniors and SASCA raised the prospect of a team led by Peter Shaw, Jonathan Arnott and Oskar Hackner. Fortunately for us, Oskar wasn't there (I've since located him representing England in Montenegro, best of luck in the EU Youth Championships) whereas we had a strong side out. From here if anything it got slightly better for us as Jon and Glenn moved very swiftly to a level ending, agreed drawn. Not only the half point, but now I could get out of a confined corner (where at least I had the best chair, a fine swivel number) and see the games.
First off the mark, Steve Bracey. There's an old story about a batsman having a quiet word about gardening with the opposing captain, who then had a word with his fast bowler, Harold Larwood. The batsman didn't know what they were talking about, until Larwood knocked out the middle stump and said "that'll teach you to tell our skipper I'm getting slower than ever!" I tried something similar; Alan Coupe commented he'd got Bracey again, so I reassured him that Bracey isn't the man he used to be. Don't know if this had any bearing on the startling attack with which Steve scored in under 20. Probably not.
Stephen Lee struck back for the oppo: I thought Dave Ashcroft had manoeuvred a Sicilian into a promising rook ending, but Dave tells me Stephen had turned it before the concluding win of Dave's rook. Sam Cobbold and Steve Housley agreed a draw soon after: their position was down to rooks, queen and bishop on either side; with kings a little drafty this was too much firepower for either side to risk it.
Now we got our noses well in front. I'd got promising pressure against Peter and narrowly prevailed in a chaotic last scene which he made much more complicated than I'd intended. I think I should thank Martin here for winning the toss, and hey wow, for a moment I make 200 in the Yorkshire gradings, worth a beer. Mike Alcock and Miles Edwards-Wright had a position which was equally complex, but Mike's pieces were maybe more securely placed than mine had been: it looked a good strategic performance, and the concluding tactics left Mike with a huge material plus. So we were at 4-2, anything needed from Mike Johnson or Martin.
Mike had looked good, an exchange ahead, B N R v B B N. But Steve Gibbs' pair of bishops proved a real weapon, chasing Mike's rook all over and pressuring a weak pawn. Mike rightly gave back the exchange for a dead drawn ending, but with his clock hanging, lost a piece...painful one. And so to Martin, who'd made excellent use of minor piece pressure in a queenless middle game v Tom Wills. Martin had R B and N v 2 rooks, and a very promising lone pawn on the queen's side. A pair of rooks came off, and just as we were expecting Tom to continue his very stubborn resistance to the last ditch, he missed a fork. Captain's innings from Martin, 3-5 to us.
Summer League. Chesterfield A 0.5 Chesterfield B 3.5
a convincing win for the B team but an interesting match nevertheless. Brian won the toss and Hubert chose black on 1 , off we go..an intriguing game on board 3 as both players bashed out the moves and Chris was soon a piece up , then a cracking fight back from Amar who threw everything in including a stalemate trap but Chris held firm to claim victory , 0-1 , i genuinely believe i lost time looking over at the game on board 3 , fascinating and played at breakneck speed. Apparently Dave dropped a pawn early doors on board 4 , unfortunately i didn’t see much of this game but as Brian was converting his position to a win , i’d got into difficulties dropping a pawn myself , Steve advanced centre pawns , it was Queen , Rook and 5 pawns v Queen , Rook and 4 pawns , i nudged ahead on the clock , Steve offered a draw which i took even though the match was now lost , ½ - 2 ½ , finally to the game on board 1 , attacking play from Glen , excellent defensive play from Hubert , an enthralling contest which was still being analysed by both players at 10:40pm , ½ - 3 ½ then. It should be added i was given the name of Mr Grumpy by Steve Bracey as i asked for a 5 minute game to be played away from the ‘match area’ , is the pressure of being captain getting to me already! Not so Brian who now has 3 wins out of 3 for his Chesterfield B team , not bad you old geezer..
SASCA 2 Chesterfield 6
The match had a relaxed, end of term let-it-all-hang-out vibe about it. I expect that's why Oskar let me land a punch a man of his strength normally spots a mile off. Thereafter he fought back excellently and a casual observer might have wondered whose attack would strike home first, but he'd given me too much of a start. Steve Housley's win the captain described as "a gem", and so it was, well played open system, space advantage leading to inevitable pretty combination. Our third win came from George; an exchange and a couple of pawns up against Claes Hackner, he scored with an attack on the back rank, piling up pieces against a pinned bishop.
I thought Mike Johnson's win against Jonathan Arnott especially impressive, respect to Jon for his congratulating our man. Mike's French defence can be pretty formidable, and since I don't play it myself I looked at it more from Jon's side - how would I attack that? Well, good grief, the pawn formation looked as unassailable as the walls of Mordor, and when the gates opened in the form of the only open file, there were Mike's rooks dominating like a pair of cave trolls. Heavy stuff.
Four draws to complete the victory. Andy Mort had performed a hero's role at the 4NCL, about six hours for a hard fought draw in his team's efforts to stave off relegation. No wonder he was ready to accept a shared point in a locked position v Miles; Andy wryly commenting that we'd spent eight hours of the warmest day of the year inside playing chess. Steve Bracey got some pressure against John Fryer's set up, and I thought he'd win an isolated c pawn and the game soon after; John held on well and king's side counter play meant he had enough for a draw. Maybe the best showing from SASCA was Steve Gibbs'' assured handling of Martin's English opening; high rated players have gone down to this, but here at one stage we thought a sound pawn formation gave Black an edge; well done to Martin for maintaining enough control for the draw. Dave Ashcroft rounded things off with a strong performance, well constructed open position, fine game to complete a very good comeback season.
Chesterfield 2.5 Woodseats 5.5
It was a good night to be called Fletcher: Paul John and Gerry prevailed against Martin, Andy and Steve B respectively. So those were the four wins for Woodseats, if you've been counting: none of them looked easy and our guys can take credit from that.
John Sparkes didn't give up either, after George landed a beautiful combination early in the game. The Woodseats board 8 hung on into a knight and pawn ending, where he was able to offer a draw. George declined, swapped kinghts and went on to our only win - he'd have queened the last pawn on the board.
My game v Allan Potts was very exciting, all the way into the ending. Shouldn't put this through a computer, but I have...I'd thought I was resisting pressure pretty well throughout, but it appears I should have lost, then got a won ending, and at one point a mate in two! before baling out to a draw. At the time it felt like trying to hold back the tide of Allan's terrific imagination. Steve Housley also drew with Black: a Spanish v Peter Hulse; resolved itself into an ending, two rooks for Peter v Steve's rook and bishop, drawn after an unlucky fingerfehler from Peter. In the last, Dave Ashcroft played Black; a well played traditional set up, both sides having d and c pawns on their fourth rank with all the pieces massed behind them, the sort of thing Tarrasch would have recognised and approved. A sound draw, should take Dave's grade into 140+ territory, more than respectable for a comeback season and another rag of dignity for Chesterfield A.
Chesterfield 6.5 Nomads B 1.5
Nomads were heavily outgraded from here on in, and defaulted two to the Steves; on their side, a very fine result for John Woollard to draw with Martin, on ours, the best win looks like Mike Johnson coming out on top v Mike Newett, which was more than I managed myself. Dave Ashcroft and George were our other winners. This match, thanks to another couple of results going our way, put us in our highest position of the season, second place...left us wondering what might have been, had the other version of this fixture gone to plan.
Chesterfield 5 Ecclesall 3
Andy Mort rightly commented on what hard and interesting games these were, and since my own game was a pretty rumbustious affair Andy may have seen more of the games around him than I did. But I certainly watched Steve Housley and Phil Ellis trading blows right into a desperate knight v bishop ending, drawn with next to nothing on the board. Martin got an elegant position v James Marley, and I thought his subtle pressure on the queen's side might win back a pawn deficit with decisive advantage, but all credit to James, well worth the draw his fighting spirit deserved. A sound draw for Dave Ashcroft v Ken McIntosh: as Dave showed last week v Geoff Frost, there's a gleaming talent once the rust is polished off...and Andy himself fought a thriller with Chris Marley, leaving the match level on the bottom four. The grading system tells us this was a very creditable result for the Ecclesall lower order, who conceded points on three of the boards, but they are four established and redoubtable players and it was a credit to our people too.
And so to the top end, so often saved by the team's strength in depth: but these are heady days for us, and tonight was one of our finest hours. I got into no little difficulty in the opening against David Adams, and by move 15 was wondering if I was on the wrong end of a miniature, soon to be overwhelmed by hordes of black queen's side pawns. But now I'll speak proudly and say that just for an hour I did show myself a foeman worthy of the steel of this outstanding player, and a chaotic duel resolved itself into a won ending. Next to me Glenn looked to be on the wrong end of a sacrificial attack from Daniel Sullivan, and regular readers know how highly I rate Daniel's abilities...but Glenn defended doggedly. No winning line was found at the board or in the post mortem, and a fine combination saw Glenn make it to an ending where perhaps he had what slight chances there were.
Mike Johnson's French resulted in just as stern a contest v Ewan Cormack, in which his better structure seemed almost to compensate for Ewan's extra pawns. Took a strong nerve and good technique from Mike to draw this though, the final position being three pawns each on one side, Ewan's rook and king not quite enough to push home his extra pawn on t'other side.
And at the last, Mike Alcock followed his terrific victory v Chris Shephard with another. He played the Ruy Lopez and Matthew Holborow replied with vigour and imagination. At one point we think Matthew missed a difficult winning line; thereafter he fought to the last but had to resign as the clocks registered the final minutes of the match. You know, I have to admit - just between you and me - to the unworthy thought that if everyone drew, and I was the sole winner to bring home the match, I could feel a bit smug about myself. But to share the palm with Mike Alcock: now that's a greater honour.
Nomads A 2.5 Chesterfield 5.5
In the event, thanks to Mike Alcock and a captain's innings from Martin, we managed a distinctly respectable 3-1. Kieran went for a minority attack against me, which looked promising, but fizzled out in a mistake, leaving me a pawn ahead. Sam Milson looked to have a tremendous attack v Mike Johnson, who was finding very ingenious ways to hang on; but surely these two games would end a point apiece? In the event, they did - I made nothing of my advantage with Kieran; his clock ran dry, and at the end I misplayed it and should even have lost, but he was still up for draw offers. Mike did weather the storm, emerging into an ending with rook and knight each; neither had more than seconds left as the draw was agreed. Thrilling game, the one we were all wanting to look at afterwards.
At the lower end, George got a Maroczy bind v Steve Withington, well defended, no way through; draw. But Messrs Housley and Bracey delivered the advantage we needed: two wins, Bracey by an attack which won the exchange, leaving rook and bishop against two rooks; at the last, the bishop was pinned and won. Steve Housley's King's Indian set up proved its worth again; strong minor piece counter attack v Arjun Babu, fine victory. Geoff Frost - Dave Ashcroft looked a cracking game; our old buddy duly struck back for Nomads, but not after some exciting minor piece play had given both sides chances; this one resolved itself into exchange up for Geoff, dangerous passed a pawn for Dave; the weight of that exchange proved too much. So 2.5 - 1.5 to us on 5-8, just what the doctor ordered.
And now the break even quota on 1-4 was overfilled. Martin plugged away to the last, English set up v Andy Hards. A skilful and far-seeing liquidation from Andy nearly neutralised Martin's positional plus, but our man narrowly prevailed in a queen ending; and here's a question: when did anyone from Chesterfield last win against Chris Shephard? Hang on, hey that's a serious thought, when did anybody win against Chris? Has it ever happened?? Well, maybe Martin's managed it at golf, but I think this was a first in my time at chess and, if you haven't played him, that tells you something about what an opponent the oft-times Sheffield champion proves. But 6th March 2013 if we need to ask again at some distant future date. That was the night Mike Alcock declined what looked a fair draw offer, went for it with bishops on the queen's side raking across the board, backed up by queen and rook, and at the end he had the familiar queen and bishop mate on g7: no way out, at last, for one of the most formidable of all our opponents.
Kelham Island's finest served at the new Nomads venue, company from both sides couldn't be bettered; result did no harm to a beautiful evening either.
Chesterfield 6 Barnsley 2
Only one match-up was a repeat from last week: I took on Andy Butterworth, with White this time...handing over to Fritz it tells us Latham was ahead at the start, messed up, carried on hacking away a bit behind; passed up a perfectly good offer of perpetual, carried on into a dodgy ending and eventually scored the point because his crude powers of endurance overcame Butterworth's superior judgment of position. It was all in figures but that's roughly the tale.
Next door Hubert looked a lot more polished, fine understanding of the use of black squares, determined resistance from Ken Hunter who eventually lost a piece in a difficult and probably lost ending.
Three draws followed: Glenn got an open position with decent attacking chances v Gary Hinchcliffe; at one point I wondered if he might repeat the little bit of Morphy which won him the Notts League game of the year...Mike Alcock looked to be getting a grip on his position v Dave Greensmith, but Dave hung on in there and his draw meant that, though Barnsley lost both matches, he personally scored 1.5/2 v our finest; Mike Johnson went for pressure down the long white diagonal; various swaps left Pete Micklethwaite defending lots of doubled pawns....but in the knight ending it looked like Pete who had the chance to land the punch. So no way through for anyone on 3-5 in the end.
From here on, we looked for strength in depth to tell, and eventually it did: Martin's win v Richard Hall was a sort of double revenge, for his own loss to in the first match, and for Richard's fine win against our team. Andy Mort's English set up again led to long term advantage and the full point. The last was a cracking contest, Steve Housley and John Stevens both having chances against the other's King. When I took a butcher's, John had rooks and bishop coming through the centre and I thought that looked very dangerous, but Steve must have kept his head and this exciting game was agreed drawn about half way through my pint of Jennings.
Barnsley 3.5 Chesterfield 4.5
The Steves were quickly off back down the motorway: Mr B going for the Blackmar-Diemar gambit. Harry Golombek dismissed this as "totally unsound" and Richard Hall seems to concur: he put up a sound defence, accepted the piece sac Steve threw in to fan the dying embers, then chopped off a bishop to conclude. Steve Housley struck back for us: strong strategic performance based on pushing a queen's side pawn, backed by the heavy pieces, which then transferred to the 7th rank to gang up on a hapless knight.
One each; and now draws were agreed by Dave Ashcroft and Mike Johnson, the latter after an extraordinary opening in which he and Ken Hunter each had pawn chains stretching all the way to the rook's pawn on the 6th rank. At this point - near disaster, as Martin got a position against Dave Greensmith which I thought was vaguely promising...but not after Rxc5? was met by the simple ...b6 forking queen and rook. Ouch.
I had played the opening too passively against Andy Butterworth, and he developed a serious initiative. This he exchanged for an ending a pawn ahead, but it was very difficult to make progress from here, especially at our time limits, so he offered a draw and I grabbed his hand off.
3.5-2.5 to Barnsley, and we had bags of time to enjoy the last two. Andy Mort was playing Neil; he had some central pressure, and then scored with a temporary queen sac. This left Neil with no chance of holding back Andy's two central pawns, especially since his rook had to do without the assistance of the king and knight, hopelessly trapped in a corner. And so level, and to the last, Halfpenny- Pogson: the clocks were running down, particularly Tony's. The Barnsley man hung on as Glenn's pieces closed in, moving from good squares to better ones and forcing Black back and back. The final position was almost a zugzwang, with Tony defending something out of chess players' worst nightmares: credit to him for holding back the tide so long. An inexorable win for Glenn; two memorable wins to finish and we were home by the narrowest margin.
Worksop 2.5 Chesterfield 5.5
And there's a huge plus: I was the sole loser! Mike Alcock and Jim Burnett played to a dead stop in the middle game. Mike Johnson seems to have given Oliver a big chance early on, but when Oliver missed it, finished matters with a corking combination. On either side of him, good wins for Glenn and Martin. Andy Mort and Steve Bracey had agreed draws fairly early on v Phil Griffiths and Brian Oldham; so that was the match won, and as the cherry on top Steve Housley returned to form with a fine victory, our score of 5.5 being a clear win rather than the knife-edge struggle typical of Worksop - Chesterfield matches. It was a very strong match, both sides having nearly everybody there; as Jim commented, their outfit represented the best of three towns (Mansfield and Doncaster I take it being the others). Can't leave without a plug for the beer: it's a real ale and I think home brew pub, worth the trip even aside from the chess.
Phoenix 4 Chesterfield 4
But Phoenix, like ourselves on many a better day, can call on strength in depth. The next three boards all went to them, a bit of a downer for our lads, as Tristram Cole, John Mercy and Douglas Couch prevailed v Steve Bracey, Steve Housley and George Peters respectively. On the last, Chris struck back for us and halved the match, a fine result against Chern Yean Sim.
Woodseats 5 Chesterfield 3
Mike Alcock was up for the challenge: a splendid attacking game against Daniel, rooks and queen smashing into Black's position a couple of moves ahead of what looked dangerous counterplay. Glen against Allan Potts looked even more double edged, discoveries and combinations all over the place. Not a position many would survive against a man of Allan's talent, but Glen gave at least as good as he got and a great struggle ended drawn. Next door Mike Johnson seems to have taken decisive advantage of a single tempo slip by Paul Fletcher, who was left defending a difficult position, a pawn down I think, king looking a bit unsafe.
So Paul and I both lost. My position looked very shaky early on...there was one point where it looked like I might equalise, but Andrew made it to an ending a pawn ahead and duly prevailed: I've certainly played worse this season and won; the main reason I lost was...find an excuse here...OK, he was too good. And so the top half ended, thanks to sterling work by the other three, 2.5-1.5 to us.
Not much luck lower down. Harry against Martin looked well played, a classic QP position, stable structure for White, attacking counterchances for Black...it went with Harry and the stable structure. No change for Steve Bracey, mown down by an attack from Gerry Fletcher of a kind I've seen Steve play himself on happier days...John Fletcher always had pressure against Steve Housley and made it tell in good style. Andy Mort held back the tide with a fighting draw v Mark Allison. So 5-3 to Woodseats; not the result we wanted but we should take heart from a lot of good chess on our side, as on theirs.
Ecclesall 4 Chesterfield 4
My contest with David Adams was absorbing, so I missed most of the rest. I asked folk for their assistance for this report: general answer was -"you missed it? Ah well, that's for the best". Reduced to what I did see:
Mike Alcock played a daring gambit with Black against Peter; lesser players have gone astray against it, but Dr Hempson showed too much understanding and won in good style. Two down, and at this point my imposing-looking central position was being shown for the ramshackle set up it really was: I anticipated defeat and would have suffered it, had David not been looking for a risk-free way to win.
Steve Housley showed us the way back. Phil Ellis got into time trouble and our man chose this moment to land a few more problems: the flag went. Andy Mort had a decent position and was looking for a winning blow, but nothing doing against competent defence; Martin's draw with Chris Marley, sorry guys, not seen; Ewan Cormack seemed to have some central pressure v Mike Smith, if I recall rightly, but this too was a sound game and drawn. We were running out of boards. Pre-match you'd have looked forward to the Mike Johnson - Daniel Sullivan clash, and it didn't disappoint. Long and intense, ending in a fascinating position, Daniel's lone bishop and king trying to hold back Mike's four pawns. Study-like stuff, and there may well have been a win for Mike, but Daniel held the last ditch heroically for Ecclesall.
And so to the last. A slip from David while looking for a safe win, and I had squeaked through to a double rook ending. Here a draw had been offered, and declined partly because I like rook endings, partly because of the match situation. But now things turned in my favour, the odd feature being that David's rooks on the seventh lacked things to bite on, and an isolated pawn which had been my biggest weakness came to life. So, not a game to delight purists, but I did manage a win, against one of Yorkshire's very finest: it tied a great match and I owe Caissa the appropriate sacrifice. Is it still a fatted calf or does she take Visa Debit these days?
Chesterfield 2 Nomads A 6
A last quick look showed that Mike Alcock and Kieran O'Driscoll were chucking ordinance at each other, the question being who'd land the heavy blow; and Steve Housley was up against it, Andy Hards a pawn ahead and his queen looming over a loose king side position. Andy Mort, Martin and Mike Johnson seemed to be doing solidly enough. Exit Dave for the night shift and for the rest of this report I'm relying on the score card.
And it's read better: Mike Alcock got a draw with Kieran, Mike Smith got an excellent result with a draw v Trevor Braithwaite, and....hang on a minute while I make out the rest...can't find my glasses...erm...no, that's it.
A really strong Nomads team, the sort of outfit you come up against in the top divisions of the 4NCL, and, since you need either a woman player or a junior, and their lineup featured a real star in the latter category in Sam Milson, they'd be eligible for it.
The real test, said Winston Churchill, is not who shows confidence in the hour of victory, but who can keep the faith when things go badly. Spot on, Winston, cheers for that.
Next two nights our Derbyshire team won its matches and I beat a quick retreat to the appropriate page. Well done Nomads - 11-5 v Chesterfield so far this season, some splendid chess and a real challenge for the return matches.
Richardson Cup: Chesterfield 1 Phoenix 5.
Steve Housley faced a phalanx of pawns from John Mercy and did very well to halt this attack. And now a draw was offered by John and accepted, probably rightly - I don't know if his king's lack of shelter could have been exploited. At this point, I was doing really well against Denis Molofej - went for a daring thrust in the centre, facing him with a problem which left him short of time before he bailed out, losing a bishop for two pawns. But patzer sees a check, gives a check and I had to hand back the piece and enter a lost queen and pawn ending. Denis found the right moves from here on, very impressively given the clock, but narrowly failed to finish me off. So both games had been great contests, and maybe we could have squeezed a bit more from one or t'other of them...but apres nous, le deluge.
Martin was a pawn up for much of his game, but lost on time. Andy Mort seemed to have a winning attack through the centre, but nothing quite came off, and then he blundered a piece; resolute defence from Tristram. Farshad Ai v Mike Alcock was a tremendous struggle, and they had three minutes left between them when Mike's position came unglued...and so to the one we were all analysing, chaos between Mike Johnson and Carl Walker. Mike offered the only gambit in his repertoire, Carl (who hadn't seen it before) responded brilliantly, and by move 10 Mike's king was on the third rank with pieces flying at it. At one point we think Mike missed a win by a march of his king to the fifth rank to fork two pieces! and, as all else tonight, the contest went to Phoenix.
On his way out John was heard to say that a match like this happened once a year and called for champagne. Mine's three litres of industrial cider.
Chesterfield 5 - SASCA 3
First off the mark was George, a nice quick win; and his example was followed by...well, nobody really. The next game to finish was a loss on time, to give you an idea of how long and hard fought most of them were. The decision by clock was against Mike Alcock, who'd come in fresh from a marvellous result v Paul Madden to lead a defeat of the Derbyshire champions. But nothing doing against Oskar Hackner: the black set up was impervious and Oskar seemed to me to be looking to an endgame advantage when time ran out for his opponent. And Martin had thrown John Fryer a piece, so that was gone too I assumed.
On one I came in thinking I was giving Jon Arnott the advantage that I'd been at work since 4 in the morning: but he outbid me with two jobs and standing for public office. Under such circumstances our game's a bit of a sparkler and an honourable draw, pleased with that given the opponent. So 1.5 apiece and we got to watch a lot of hard tense chess as most of the rest went to the wire.
Mike Smith scored a clean win, an invasion by queen and rook leaving nothing standing. Martin responded to the loss of a piece with a kitchen sink attack; John gave back the piece for three pawns, but this only opened lines and, at the end, the rooks, queen and bishop descended for a great comeback. Next, McClure-Housley was agreed drawn, after Steve had tried hard to make middle game, and then endgame, pressure tell; sound game by both. So 4-2. Here I had had high hopes for Mike Johnson on 3, where he'd spent ages trying to squeeze a win from knight and 4 v 6 pawns, in a fascinating position where some of the pawns were locked; could Mike exploit this, or would Steve Gibbs come through with a couple of passed pawns on the other side of the board? In the event, first the clock and then the position turned against Mike, and we were down to the last board, needing any result. Andy Mort had made it to a rook ending v Martin Lau, and here Andy missed not a nuance, a very impressive performance under pressure to win the match; 3.5-0.5 on the last four to outweigh two fine wins for SASCA at the top.
Chesterfield 6.5 - Worksop 1.5
First half of the match looked tough, none of the Worksop people subsiding quickly, and on top board Jim Burnett landed a heavy blow on your correspondent, going a pawn up with a daunting attack.
Mike Alcock led the way, boldly disinterring something from the 19th century; Oliver seemed to have survived the pressure well, but made a hurried move and Mike landed a decisive combination. Next door Glen accepted a couple of hot pawns, and I wondered if he'd survive Nick Mahoney's lead in development. But now the lower end came through; four wins, well done to Steve, Andy, Martin and Mike J - the last taking on Jim Davis, nice to welcome him back; Mike's win was based on solid defence and a winning passed a pawn. Hubert couldn't find a way to convert a space advantage against Phil Griffith, solid defence from him; Glen made it to a rook ending, and they're all drawn as you know, though he had to show some good technique. And in the last I clung on to the edge of the precipice for over two hours, with Jim stamping on my fingertips...a very lucky draw. So it might well have been closer had Jon Tait and Ivan David entered the lists, but as it was a fine score with nobody beaten.
Richardson Cup 2012. Chesterfield 1 v Chesterfield 2
The Cup draw resulted in a match between ourselves. That was the catch: Steve's excellent win was against Mike Alcock, levelling the score. Avoiding the natural urge to senseless violence, Steve soaked up the pressure and played the ending to perfection. 118 v Nomads, 240+ v... Chesterfield, there's a fine club man. I'd started the match with a quick win v Mike Smith: Black looked close to equalising early on, but we reached a position where avoiding pitfalls was oddly difficult.
In the next phase, team 1 took control. Martin proceeded overwhelmingly down the centre; Brian still going for counterplay after the loss of a rook. Dave Dunnett was just as brave, but Andy Mort converted his piece advantage into a rook, bishop and promoted pawn ahead. Mike Johnson v Chris Evans was a complicated middle game position, in which Chris sacced a piece for loads of pawns. The denouement saw Chris with a bishop and 6 (one of them two squares from touchdown); Mike with both bishops and 3. Here Mike prevailed, his bishops stopping everything.
So 4-1 to team 1, but in the last another grading upset. Kevin Fairburn - Steve Housley looked even all the way through; at the end each had queen, bishop and various pawns. I thought Kevin's threats meant Steve would have to take a draw, but manfully he went for more. Kevin struck with a mating attack, tremendously well done to him. Final score was thus 4-2, both versions of Chesterfield happy with that scoreline.
Nomads B 5 - Chesterfield 3
I spent some time thinking about the collection of hard cases, candidate masters and the like who hadn't appeared for Nomads A...maybe they were pulling a fast one and would cram the B team with stars? Well, they did: not, however, the high rated people I was thinking about, but a collection of 150 players who turned over our famed middle order. Where on Earth did that come from?
First up, quick draws on the bottom two; didn't see what Steve and Chris could do to push for the wins we needed, solid stuff from Paul Morrison and John Woollard - and what are they doing with grades under 120? Must have offended the chessnuts grader. Next, I ran into serious difficulties v Paul Cumbers. Experience shows that my King's Indian isn't quite enough against a man with his understanding of late opening/ transition to middle game - so I tried the Grunfeld and did worse. Got to an ending three pawns behind, where an honourable chap would have resigned.
So I looked around with help from Andy Hards. Nothing was going to plan, anywhere, so I struggled on in my own game, hoping that as the games wore on our strength and experience would pull us through, as often before.
Not how it turned out, as Mike Smith lost on time, and Steve Housley made it to a lost ending. H pawn and bishop for Stuart Crosthwaite, but no, not the usual wrong coloured bishop. Yet another new find on four for Nomads: Mira Kvetoun, and he seemed to have Andy Mort on the ropes, a pawn down with his king in the corner facing waves of pieces flowing into his position. Glen was battling Milan Zpevak on board 2; possibly he pressed too hard because of the situation, but a complex struggle resolved itself: Milan got an unstoppable pawn roller.
And so the match was lost, and nothing else for it but for the last three to rescue the colours. Andy bravely held off Mira's attack for a draw. In one of the finest feats of my swindling career, I grovelled to an undeserved draw against Paul, cheers to my key ally in adversity, the clock. And at the last, Mike Johnson prevailed against Mike Newett for our only win. A French resulted in a fascinating and unusual position: Newett had a rook on a1, imprisoned by Johnson's pawn on a2 and bishop on b1. So with those out of the game, could Johnson's rook hold back Newett's king side pawns and bishop? We'll never know, the clock decided.
5-3, and if Justice had prevailed - and long may it fail to do so - it would probably have been 6-2. I got home to Mrs Dave grumbling that I'd been out enjoying myself twice this week. I admitted being out, admitted it was twice...the rest I was able to deny.
DAVY LEAGUE 2012 / 13: Chesterfield 7.5 - Phoenix 0.5
Actually, the cause was greatly helped by Phoenix being two players short, one of them Denis Molofej whose early results suggest he'll make a really formidable top board. In his absence, Farshad took top spot and resisted well. Pawn chains were locked, Glen had an advantage based on the better pawn structure. At the last he had a passed, supported h pawn just two squares from queening, so Farshad's king and knight were stuck fretting about it, while his rooks held back considerable pressure on the other side of the board. My guess was that Farshad would end up submerged like King Canute, but all credit, he hung on for his side's only score.
Hubert was off the mark quickest, his dark square strategy working to perfection. Martin took a night off from his usual bishop to g2 inevitable mate, and showed an excellent understanding of the use of knights instead: his command of c5 and an open file meant that his knights proved better than John Mercy's bishop pair. Tough resistance, but eventually an easily won rook ending.
Mike Alcock's Grand Prix Attack looked a formidable weapon; another won rook ending, but none of these were easy. My game with Mohammed Aryan proved particularly difficult, wouldn't care to put it through a computer. Very solid and hard to beat from Mohammed: before I managed to exploit a slip in the endgame it went over 60 moves. The one I didn't see was Johnson-Konark; observers recount another grim war of attrition, Mike scoring the point at the death. For a team that lost 0.5-7.5 they sure didn't go down easily.
Chesterfield - Phoenix
This had been Chesterfield's season in the Summer League and it ended 4-0; I'll claim the win itself was down to brute talent, that it was 4-0 reflects us having the luck as well.
Mohammed Aryan couldn't make it, so Saeed Hassani had to play as sub; Andy Mort had already scored over 80% in this league, and carried on in his usual vein. I played a quiet opening against Farshad: I thought I was setting some difficult problems, but Farshad solved them and I was thinking about a draw...when suddenly a cheapo appeared on the board in front of me. Nothing I'd aimed for, just a gift of the gods, the luck I mentioned.
The last two games were long and tough. Mike Smith made his first appearance for us, and joined Brian as our only players on 100%. His opponent Douglas Couch was new to me, but in the opening and at the post mortem it was clear he's a real talent. In the game, he dropped a piece to a skewer and Mike ground out a win in the ending. And Tristram Cole v Mike Johnson saw a classic Johnson victory: a closed position in the French, Mike's kingside pawn structure, pawns on white squares, knights controlling all ways in. Reminded me of a portcullis. Tristram attacked this as well as anyone could, but it was unyielding and Mike pushed things on the queen's side inexorably. So that was 4-0 and a fine win to end the Summer season.
Nomads - Chesterfield
Two of the league's best younger players led the challenge from Nomads - I played Oskar Hackner, Mike Johnson took on Daniel Sullivan. Last time I played Oskar, I was dead by move 14; this wasn't quite as decisive, but it'll do for my revenge and a tale to tell when he's a master. I came in having just suffered a crushing bereavement: my beloved car dropped dead on the M1, and this almost made up for it. Mike v Daniel was an exciting prospect for the bookies among us, and it was pretty even throughout, agreed drawn with B and 4 v N and 4, seemed a fair result to a good tough game.
Andy Mort - Mike Newett was likewise even until Mike dropped a piece, and resigned at once - and in the last, Claes Hackner stepped in as sub and defied Martin for ages, set up a very tough carapace; at the last our man prevailed and 3.5-0.5 ? Excellent result for us, and better still the B team were there to see it, as they wrapped up a fine season of their own with a narrow squeak win v SASCA.
Rotherham - Chesterfield
So that was it: solid backing from Andy Mort, drawing with Chris Williams; Steve Bracey halving with Gerry Fletcher, and the Summer League trophy stays with us. Very well done to all who turned out.
Chesterfield - Worksop
So down to Martin and Andy to win the match for us. Andy showed the advantage of a better pawn structure, Phil Griffiths holding on all the way to a rook ending. Here the aforesaid P.S. was only part of the advantage: Andy also controlled the only open file. Phil sacced a couple of pawns for activity, but it wasn't there for him tonight; 2-1. After a tense period in which Martin and Oliver were attacking on opposite sides, Oliver dropped a piece, and it was surely all over? Martin eventually had the advantage of a bishop, four extra pawns, and an attack...and he only needed a draw to secure the match. But there was an almighty scare, as Oliver carried on playing, Martin looked for precise moves, and it began to dawn on spectators that there was very little time left. When Martin finally landed a mate Oliver had just missed a couple of checks, and when we examined the clock it turned out the Worksop man had been less than ten seconds away from landing one of history's greatest swindles. Well, that's for another day. Tonight the team had hauled me over the line with them. One match point needed to retain the trophy.
Phoenix - Chesterfield
We heard the sorry tale later...he went to the Harlequin, no show, went home...that's when I got him on the mobile and told him it was The Gardener's. So he raced off to The Abbey before realising it wasn't the Gardener's.
Let's cut it short. 1-0 to Phoenix.
Brian led our fightback, a wonderful fighting game against a much higher rated opponent, a thrilling Pirc reminiscent of the masterpiece v Burton that kick- started our rise from the Derbyshire League relegation zone. I had a long tough game v Farshad, prevailing in a rook ending after picking a flashy combination because I failed to spot a simpler win that had been waving at me.
And so we needed any result from Andy's game v Tristram Cole. Tristram played the Advance Variation against Andy's Caro Kann, and you could tell the opening right into the final phase, Tristram needing to push home a phalanx of king side pawns before Andy's slower but certain advance on the queen side got home. Andy had R,B v R, N, a definite plus if he wasn't swept away, but clearly behind on the clock. At the last, Andy did manage to stop the advance and had a clear win on the board; but with very little time left he offered the draw and Tristram took it rather than reduce the game to a blitz. 2.5-1.5, the near disaster of the default ending in a great victory.
Chesterfield - Rotherham
Fortunately Martin and Andy struck back for us. Andy looked good from early on, his black knight superbly placed on g4, pressure down the diagonals towards Chris Willey's centre; something had to give and it did. Martin's English scored yet again, the nagging pressure down the g2-b7 diagonal. Chris Williams defended for a good while, and they did miss the win of a piece, but at the end Martin had a passed pawn on b5 and nothing was going to stop it.
So 2-1; certainly at one point I looked lost, but found enough cheap tricks to hang on. No repeat of the spectacular Worksop result, but 2.5-1.5 won us the match.
Worksop - Chesterfield
Jim Burnett was on holiday, but new player (to us) Ivan David was demonstrating the latest Anand-Gelfand game from memory and at such speed - looked a scary enough replacement. The opening was wild and original; my plans for penning him onto the back ranks came to naught and we went for a long rook ending, in which I squeaked through by the narrowest margin. Next door, Oliver was back and had some pressure against Mike Johnson, starring an imaginative pawn sac which we thought gave good chances. Mike defended actively, and ended up coming through the centre with that extra pawn, winning a fine game.
Martin and Phil Griffiths was a difficult contest arising from an English. Pieces flew everywhere, lots to calculate and at the end, a sudden moment of clarity: Martin took a piece and if it were recaptured, rook to the seventh hitting a bishop and threatening mate on the other side of the board, a real sting in the tail. Andy Mort completed the match: a dour struggle with Rob Porter, Andy aiming doubled rooks and bishops at Rob's king side, but showing the flexibility to unravel this attack and win in the ending.
So if you've been counting, 4-0 and I trust our travelling support (Steve Bracey) was suitably impressed. Don't really know where it came from: all the games were hard fought and the law of averages ought to have meant Worksop got something. I suppose if you toss coins eventually four come down your way.
Chesterfield - Nomads. Summer League
Andy Mort and I were fresh from the 4NCL: had we learned anything? Well, Andy certainly played as if he had: his English opening soon resulted in an overwhelming attack down the central files, bishop (complete with sac), knight and behind them, rooks and queen. Crushing, bad luck for Kev to meet a man in this sort of mood.
My King's Indian is sort of in the garage for repairs; I tried the Grunfeld against Daniel and initially he had all the play. He made me show some of my best stuff to survive, let alone equalise, and I only won by playing an exchange sac which carried some risk of defeat. Glad to get my win now, before he improves out of reach.
So 2-0; the other games were played to the bitter end. Andy Hards took on Mike Johnson's French; got an extra pawn, but in the transition to the ending it looked like this would mean little: Andy had two pawns in the centre, Mike a and b pawns. These looked much harder to stop than Andy's and we thought Mike would prevail. Superb defence, including an offer of a piece, got Andy to an ending with two pawns v knight and pawn, which was drawn. Great game by both players.
In the last, Martin took on Mohammad and it looked like he'd get to a won ending. Rook queen and the king's bishop, familiar pressure down the long diagonal, and Martin liquidated the queen's side pawns except for his own a pawn. A passed pawn up, surely won? But Mohammad found tons of counterplay, tricky stuff with the knight and heavy stuff lined up behind his d pawn. It was almost certainly drawn on the board when Martin's flag fell. 2.5 - 1.5 to us, the title defence under way.
Barnsley - Chesterfield
Andy Drabble and Mitchell Burke couldn't make it, but nor could Mike Alcock, Hubert and Glen Halfpenny, so the match was probably a fair reflection of both clubs. Absentees missed a dour struggle, wins hard to come by.
Brian and Richard Hall reached a solid position, big risk for whoever tried to disturb the equilibrium, draw agreed. I tried an offbeat line in the Spanish, which has caught out many a player particularly when Mike Alcock tries it. Andy Butterworth had no great difficulty solving it, and we were soon into a dead draw, complete with opposite coloured bishops. Third to finish and still nothing to pick between 'em, Steve Bracey and Pete Micklethwaite.
Hereabouts it struck me that Martin, Andy and Steve H were in quite different positions, but all looking to exploit pressure down long diagonals at the opponent's QN2 squares. Martin and Andy had got there from English / Catalan sorts of systems, and the advantage looked slight but persistent. Steve and Dave Greensmith was much hairier, chances for both, Steve willing to sac things to push through a dangerous pawn, Dave counterattacking with a rook. Each was a slip from disaster; the post mortem found scary ideas for both, and eventually this exciting game was drawn. So too Peters - Hunter, queen knight bishop and pawn chains; eventually the queens came off and George looked for ways to break the deadlock: but Ken was equal to the challenge.
The two wins came from Andy and Martin, each managing to keep a vital passed pawn after general queen's side liquidation. Gary Hinchliffe had to give his rook for Martin's a pawn, and even when down to his last two pawns only went down by a single tempo; Tony Farrell tried to the end against Andy, but the counterattack drove Andy's king into the heart of Black's position, where it helped the round up of Tony's pawns.
Last game of our season to finish: Martin Sheard - Mike Johnson, another fine struggle, ending in a complex position where Mike might have been coming through the centre, or Martin showing that the shattering of his king's side pawn structure had only given him open lines for a crack at Mike's king. We'll never know. The game was drawn, completing not only a terrific unbeaten campaign for the team, but an extraordinary unbeaten season for El Presidente Johnson himself. Fabulous, the stuff of legends.
Chesterfield - Nomads B
The match kicked off our way, George winning against Steve Withington from what had looked a pretty even late middle game. Andy Mort and Keith Davis agreed a draw and then the match settled down for a long haul.
I played a howler on board 1 as early as move 7, in one of my favourite defences too. The computer confirms that Paul Cumbers was well in front for most of the game, but I've got lots of experience in defending rubbishy positions and held on for the draw with the tenacity of a bulldog in danger of losing his bone. Mike Alcock surpassed me both the desperation of his situation and in the result. Not only did his position v Andy George look lost, he had 16 seconds for the last six moves. The win from there would have baffled Houdini.
Many thanks to Mike for a donation of magazines. They included "New in Chess" with the Anand-Topalov match annotated by Vishy himself - absolute treasure trove.
So 3-1. Martin looked to have pressure against Stuart Crosthwaite, but the winning combination wasn't there. Next door, though, Glen boldly invested a pawn in the ending for aggressive chances v Milan Zpevak, and it paid off in the form of a piece. Tough resistance from both Nomads, and again the pair of games finished 1.5-0.5 to us. So the match was won, the teams swapping points on the last two.
First Mike Johnson made long term pressure tell: he had Q R and B v Mike Newett's Q R and N. The Black pieces looked stretched, but where was the killer blow? I thought Johnson's swap of the queens showed excellent judgment, and shortly after the foundations of Black's position finally shifted.
And at last, one of the main stays of our win of the League - Steve Housley's marvellous 9/9 run of victories - was brought down by Ken Dewhurst. Entering a difficult ending - a rook and opposite coloured bishops each - Steve looked in trouble because his two pawns were behind in the race v Ken's three. At the death, just the bishops and two of Ken's pawns were left on. Although these were near promotion, Steve did get a last shot at a fortress. Sadly for us he missed it and Ken queened a pawn. Well played to him; commiserations to Steve and let's hope he isn't too distressed by a record of only 90%; result 5.5 - 2.5.
Chesterfield - Rotherham
Rotherham would also have been at at their strongest, but Gary McGann couldn't make it. So we started 1-0 by default, and Martin won the toss as well...this had to be our night.
First to finish - Chris Willey - Martin Howard, battle of the captains ending in a very sudden perpetual attack by Chris on Martin's queen. This theoretical idea yielded a post mortem more interesting than your average 7 move draw. Extraordinary if you hadn't seen it before.
And now Steve Housley got us going, a fine trap which looked drawish, but ended in a win of a rook by Alekhine-like sting in the tale. Next, Pete Ballard played an interesting Modern defence against me which post match analysis showed should have led to a very promising King's Indian type position for him. Fortunately for me he played another line and I got too much central pressure.
So 3.5 - 0.5 and for about half an hour we were dodging between the bar and the match, where our superstrong 2-5 line up (Alcock, Halfpenny, Mossong and Johnson) needed half a point for the title. Any one of these would have been the story of the night had they scored it...but who better than Mike Alcock? He's missed so much of the season through illness, and now he's returned to us, and there he was doing battle with Steve Mann. An exciting game of open lines ended in Steve's Q and two knights v Mike's Q, B and knight; Steve proposed a draw; after some thought Mike took it, and that was the historic moment, we'd done it!!. Next, Glen won us the match. He and Chris Williams played a bewildering game, rooks bishops and threats all over the place: you'd obviously have thought of Lasker - Napier, Cambridge Springs 1904. Like Lasker, Glen landed the final punch. What a huge increase in our firepower he's brought.
Hubert scored next. Black against Gerry Fletcher, his was a fine strategic performance, based on a bishop's long term pressure from b7 against the castled king, and the e pawn advancing to irresistibly to promote, backed by rooks and queen. I suspect this, or else Glen's, was the best played game of the match. In the last, Andy Baxter held out with tremendous determination against Mike Johnson. Rooks, opposite coloured bishops, pawn chains. Mike was undaunted by the drawish nature of the position, and really tried the last, saccing his extra pawn to try to force a way through; but all credit to Andy, it wasn't there.
So 6.5-1.5, and the League title's ours again. Many thanks to all the opponents who made it a contest well worth the winning.
Nomads A - Chesterfield
Sure enough, Geoff had been telling God's honest.
Our best regards to Kieran in particular; and it sounded like enough folk were on holiday to make a formidable team in themselves.
Steve Bracey and Ray Trigg made it to a rook ending, early on, draw. Steve Burke and Geoff Frost, same again, some pressure from Steve and I thought there must be some trick against Geoff's structure, but instead he activated his queen's bishop to hold it all together and equalise entirely.
Next up, Andy Hards struck for Nomads: Simon had rooks on the 7th, but Andy an attack down the g file which proved unstoppable without heavy losses...and then I made a pig's ear of a difficult, but possibly drawable, rook ending v Jon Nelson. Nice geometric patterns in the final position, especially if you were the one playing them or spectating. The receiving end, not quite so good! 3-1 to Nomads, but looking promising on the other four boards.
Mike Johnson - Daniel Sullivan made it to an ending, R and B on either side. Here Mike offered a draw, and I thought things looked sufficiently dead to make that fair. With the match looking a bit dodgy, Daniel had to turn him down, but then Mike won an exchange, and so the game, in complex manoeuvering.
George Peters - John Woollard was a long and difficult duel, the ending likewise drawn with best play, which it got for no little time; but these knight endings are very tricky, and after some scary moments George ended up scraping home to level the match.
Trevor Braithwaite - Martin Howard looked a fascinating contest. Trevor had a clear early plus, but Martin played the proverbial captain's innings to hold on. And so we got to R and B v R and N, the celebrated Fischer's ending, named for the American world champion. Here I did think Martin would prevail, as Trevor defended the back rank...but the defence was resourceful, and the final position a study in equilibrium.
And so to the fateful last...board two, Glen Halfpenny - Mohammad Said. Mohammad's scored a fair few points against us, but this time Glen got the pressure, swapped off into an ending Q v two rooks; Glen had some extra pawns and their slow advance proved inexorable. 4.5-3.5 to Chesterfield, leaving the league practically, though not mathematically, decided. There were a lot of players missing between the sides, but Nomads - Chesterfield was still a battle worthy of both clubs.
Chesterfield - Rotherham Juniors
Glen was the first to finish, for 2-0; this really was something to see: a little bit of Morphy, as Blackburne used to put it: a terrific attack in a queenless middle game, the crowning move Ne5+! all the more spectacular a shot because it declined a safe advantage; bad luck for Tom to run into a man in this kind of shape. The top end was completed by three draws. Martin Howard v Alan Coupe I had hopes for, distinct pressure for Martin, but Alan held on well, and at the end after a slight slip Martin says he was glad of the draw. So was I v Peter: I varied from my normal 1.e4 and got an exchange QGD, an opening I've found hard to handle as Black. Pete had no such trouble, and as tension built in the centre there was one line which Alan Coupe and I thought left me struggling. As it happened, I was relieved to get a perpetual. Next to me, Oskar Hackner - Mike Alcock looked a real battle. Mike sacced a pawn for what looked like various forms of slashing attack. I even wondered if he'd bring off a brilliant miniature, but Oskar, as is becoming legendary, never showed the slightest sign of the pressure, and not only survived but looked like he might come out on top in the ending. Draw agreed, I'm told because the players thought they were short of time when the digital clocks were about to give them another 15 minutes!
The match finished unexpectedly heavily, with three wins on 5 -7. Mike Johnson had play from early on against Nat Holroyd-Doveton's isolated pawn, and though Nat defended to the last, Mike preserved this slight advantage all the way to a won pawn ending. Steve Housley's 100% record continues in the Davy, Jonathan Ward putting up such resistance that I believe this was the last to finish, and Steve Bracey prevailed against Claes Hackner on 7 in a tense and difficult struggle in which, for a long while, he looked ahead but never able to land anything terminal. Steve said that at one stage he was ceasing to fancy his chances, but in the end his was our fifth win for 6.5-1.5.
Chesterfield - Worksop
Our clearest advantage looked to be on 5-8 - Johnson, Mort, Housley and Bracey - what stronger combination could we put out? But Worksop held our two Black players: Brian Oldham v Andy Mort the first to finish, dead level, Dave Fidler - Steve Bracey ending with a nice point. Locked pawn chains and I thought Steve would swap his bishop for a knight on e5, plonk his own knight immovably on e4 and try for a Nimzowitschean good knight v bad bishop. But just as Steve declined a draw offer, Dave insisted with Nxf7! saccing his knight for a perpetual.
I survived the opening v Jon Tait, and landed a decent combination to win a pawn; nothing harder than winning a won game! and I went astray almost immediately. There were still plenty of fireworks and there were a lot of good ideas...the last of them Jon's. Glen levelled it for us...he'd been a piece ahead v Chris Chambers from fairly early on, and converted to make it 2-2.
This match has in recent history been a very tough one for us, so maybe Andy and I were a bit optimistic to cross fingers that we were ahead on all four remaining boards, and head for the bar. Mike Alcock looked to have all kinds of stuff lined up against Jim's cramped king side, and I thought he'd got it, but as the players demonstrated afterwards, if there is a win it's hard to find if Jim played the correct defence, which he did excellently. Next, Martin had an extra pawn and pressure, Q R and B v Nick Mahoney. But Nick boldly sacced a couple of pawns for an attack, and at the last looked like he'd carry the day...draw agreed, narrow squeak indeed. In the context of the match, these last three were absolutely vital: Glen ensuring the top end halved out, Mike returning brilliantly to draw with a redoubtable opponent who's taken the full point from us so often, Martin holding on in that familiar difficult psychological position: It Looked Like A Win But It's Coming Unglued.
Two to play, and for the first time we hit the lead: Steve Housley's three passed pawns couldn't be stopped by the long resistance of Mick Clark's two rooks and a knight. 100% for Steve and we're going into March! So 4-3 and we gathered round Mike Johnson - Phil Griffiths. Here Mike won an exchange and a chaotic position resolved itself into a strong attack against Black's king side as well. But the clock! Mike put his supporters through agonies here...7 minutes became two. But when the moves came, they were excellent, really tricky to defend...Mike won a piece, so now a rook up. Hardly any time for either player when Mike went for the kill, and Phil landed a perpetual. Game and match were a tremendous struggle, cheers to all the Worksop team for the match and their company. A narrow 4.5-3.5 to us.
Jim's organising a one dayer in Bawtry, April 28th. I signed up within minutes of getting the form: should be a jolly time; hope some of you can make it.
Woodseats 1 - Chesterfield
Against determination carried to this sort of length I stood no chance...all I can plead is that from the post mortem it sounded like what I'd offered hadn't bored him. 8/8 for his English Opening this season, victims including some of the Real People, let's take a look at some of the other games.
Glen must have had a solid plus against Paul Fletcher, the heavy pieces coming through the centre and pressure on a couple of isolated queen's side pawns. It ended R B + 5 v R N + 5, but here the defence held, vital draw. Board 6 was similar, Andy v Stuart Jones, in that I thought Andy must be slightly ahead in the rook ending with his passed central pawn. Wasn't to be though...another draw, 2-1 to Woodseats. The equaliser came from Martin: also made it to a rook ending from an English set up, but this time a pawn ahead. Each had g + h pawns, and John's king was getting ready to throw his weight around among them, but that left Martin's d pawn heading for promotion.
And so to the last two and, device of the devil, board count looming. Here Andrew's win on 1 gave Woodseats the advantage: we needed a win and a draw. And now Mark Allison won for Woodseats in a thrilling game with Mike Johnson: Mike ended up trying to hold an impossibly difficult position, king on f8 all on his own, Mark's rook on the 7th, knight on f6, queen coming through to join in like the third opposing heavy piling into the bar room brawl. Time for the taxi out of that one, bad luck Mike, scary stuff from Mark indeed.
Now if only these things were decided on, oh, let's say bottom board elimination for argument's sake. Where were the S & DCA committee for a rule change when we needed it? A thriller was coming to its climax, Hankinson - Mossong. Mike made a huge pawn advance on the kingside, the phalanx backed by his pieces...would this break through or would Hubert strike back with rook, queen and bishop against the spaces Mike had allowed? It ended with clocks running down, queen ending, Hubert 3 pawns to 2 ahead and doing the checking. Enormously difficult to defend, and at the last one pair of pawns was swapped and Hubert forced the exchange of queens to clinch it. Great game by both players... and the match? All square, board count to Woodseats. 1 + 5 = 6 beats Chesterfield 3 + 4 = 7. Can't get closer than that, and we were left to rue what might have been on various boards. Well done to Woodseats, most worthy finalists and best of luck.
(personally I was at Sunningdale purely to hang out with a few friends you understand)
Nomads B - Chesterfield
Three wins to one, and I won't reveal which Nomad said he was well pleased that that was the same score as the A team managed! Steve Housley played White on 7 v Ken Dewhurst and exploited a spatial advantage; 6/6 for Steve this season, and this looked as fair a try as any yet at stopping him. Next door Withington-Bracey saw our man win a pawn by skillful pressure in the late opening, ...Qa4! from the other side of the board looking particularly swish; he held this advantage right to the ending, but didn't convert in the face of stubborn resistance. It was Andy Mort who scored our second win; his advantage was a bishop; Joel Thiruchelvan's heavy pieces and advanced pawns eyed Andy's king for quite a while, but the breakthrough never came and Andy rounded it off in the ending.
3-5 were all long, and drawn. Glen had an exchange for a pawn, Milan Zpevak a strong central position. Mike Johnson sacced an exchange and I thought Stuart Crosthwaite's exposed king must succumb to some sort of discovery or double check. But at the end Stuart struck back with a series of checks and this exciting game was agreed drawn. Martin was probably even closer against Mike Newett, seemed clearly ahead, but tells me his opponent transferred cleverly to a drawn opposite coloured bishop ending.
We swapped points on the top two. Paul Cumbers was clearly on top after the opening; I made up for the dodgy pawn structure with crude attacking gestures and the winning ploy was a trap of Paul's queen. He'd have seen this coming had his position been less promising, but they all count...and so to board 2, where Andy George landed two rooks and a knight in the heart of Hubert's position. High pressure stuff; check from the knight and Kh6 leaves things in the balance and Kh7 proved instant death. Brought back memories of my own loss to Andy a couple of years back...in the same room. Chesterfield's bete noire bites again...but we'd won the match 5-3, for which relief much thanks.
Chesterfield - Barnsley
Chesterfield - Ecclesall
The top four were just as hard fought. Glen got to an ending Q&N v Chris Marley's Q&B; Chris had what advantage there was and well done Glen to secure the draw, great to have him with us regularly. David Adams tells us he's studying Black defences pretty hard at the moment, and the results were evident as, after 12 moves, I got a position the computer reckons is OK, but at the time felt curiously planless; his pieces were dynamically placed and I felt distinctly uneasy. Ah well..he warned me not to put it through the computer. My next few moves were one of my better ideas, the silicon changing its assessment after seeing my cunning plan played out..and now it has me winning...and then, well, he warned me. Draw agreed, it'd be either a master or a fool who wasn't happy with that against Mr Adams...off to the bar, where he showed us some of the stuff he's been plotting in his studies. If it comes to a board near us it's scary indeed.
James Marley v Martin was agreed drawn, fairly enough; opposite bishops, Martin a pawn up, James with clear compensation in the form of better mobility. And so to the last: Peter Hempson v Hubert Mossong, a difficult endgame, and two of the league's very best endgame players: this really was one to watch for anyone who wanted to learn. Shame on those of us who were in the bar, we can only plead that when Ecclesall turn up it's like the other half of our club. Hubert had RB +6 v RN +6; most of us could do with a bigger advantage than that to prevail against Peter; superb win for Hubert; 5.5-2.5 to Chesterfield with no losses; the scoreline clearer than the match felt.
Woodseats 3 - Chesterfield
Martin won a piece early on v Shane Firth, but the Woodseats man fought on so long and hard that this was one of the last to finish. Andy Mort was first, his account of the game with Jon Sparkes featuring so many twists and turns that I was amazed they'd twisted and turned so often in just 18 moves. From a fairly dead position Jon went for an attack; Andy swapped two pieces for a rook and a couple of pawns; Jon allowed a snap mate while winning one back.
Brian, presumably relishing the recently unfamiliar position of overdog, made it two: an interesting double edged position, plenty left on and counterplay for both; when next I looked they'd left the board and he'd got the familiar Q on g2, B on f3, opponent's king on g1. Another good fight by both, Bob Merryweather the Woodseats man this time. I'd faced an exciting gambit from Bill, but came out two pawns ahead. Here I thought I'd end things by swapping the lot to a won rook ending; but when I got there it was far from won; a long grind followed; all credit to Bill, very close to the draw.
Mike Johnson next: he had pressure from a g2 bishop, rooks on the c/b files; Dan Stinton holding on grimly, knight and two rooks protecting pawns this way and that in a queen side huddle. Long into the endgame, Mike made all the pins and pressure tell. And so to the last; that must have been George Harriott's young man watching with us as dad held out as the last man standing of Woodseats' heroic band. Hope he was proud of his old boy: the Woodseats club will be proud of all of them. George Peters had an extra pawn in the rook ending, and eventually won a vital second. Exeunt Chesterfield, fairy tale over; the bad guy won, we can live with that.
Rotherham - Chesterfield
The rest of the games took a lot longer. I was doing OK against Pete Ballard, and had a choice: go for the win of a pawn and an exciting pawn chase in prospect, or a daring attack with a knight, aiming to win a piece or the exchange and I've gone for it and he's replied....Qf8 mate, ah well, got that out of the way without losing us the match...back rank mates, useful tip I don't mind passing on is don't allow them.
The top four boards all started 1.c4, must be the trend. Martin v Steve Mann ended English/Catalan, Mike Johnson tried a Grunfeld sort of plan v Chris Williams; both were solid, level games all the way to drawn endings; so 3-2 to us, and the lower boards looking favourable. Andy Mort had an extra bishop v Chris Willey; Steve Housley won a rook v Phil Sharpe from a position where his bishops dominated the centre. There was a surprising amount of resistance from both Rotherham players after going so far behind, Chris making it right to an ending 2Bs + 1 v B. On t'other board, Steve tried a lot of intricate stuff with the bishops to finish off Phil, leaving his extra rook watching the action from h3, behind the lines. But as clocks started to run down he called up this vital reserve and cracked the position just as Phil's flag fell.
The winning point had been scored a little earlier by Glen. His game v John Baker had come to an exciting late middle game, Q R and N v Q R and B, John going for an attack, Glen for the push of his passed queen side pawns. There was always anxiety as to whether John would land a winning blow or a perpetual, but Glen held it all off, queened a pawn and you could only feel for the White King, helpless as rook, bishop and two queens bombed his sanctuary to smoking fragments. 6 - 2.
Woodseats - Chesterfield
Peter Hulse reckoned he was ahead three times v Steve Bracey, Steve thought it was five times and this was another battle in which luck smiled on us. 3-1 became 3.5-1.5 as Glen split the point with John Trafford, credit to him against a redoubtable opponent, stabilising those middle boards on which our matches with Woodseats so often seem to turn; and the winning point came from Andy Mort. This I played through afterwards and it's a beautiful game, Andy's positional nous, Mark Allison's fine imagination, Andy managing to keep control and winning with an elegant attack.
Andrew Ledger played 1.d4 and as far as I can see Black has numerous ways to reply to this, all of them ending in getting suffocated. But this time I did manage to strike back from my usual crummy position against him, and suddenly I was an exchange up in the ending...cheers to one or two Woodseats guys for their sympathy, as I missed a snap mate. For my birthday, I got to play a noted IM. Next year, I'm putting in for one of those little boxes of candied fruit. Last to finish, Paul Fletcher - Mike Johnson. Mike got into one of those French positions that look agony to me, but he endures them and gets good results from them. This time, Paul was a pawn down but seemed to have all the play; probably he was right to turn down Mike's draw offer, but in the event Mike won a second pawn, queened another and concluded the game with a crushing tactic.
So 5.5-2.5 against a fine side. Could have been less, could have been more, dammit. Andy Mort said that this might have been the best Chesterfield performance he had ever seen. Much less wouldn't have done it.
Rotherham Juniors - Chesterfield
On the board, relatively quick wins for Brian, making a fair-sized grading advantage tell, and George, the latter avenging last year's defeat by Jonathan Ward; appreciation to Rotherham for not claiming when our man's phone went off. Next, Steve Bracey brought home a pawn advantage he'd had since the opening, and we were well away: one point needed from the last four.
Looking round, though, Oskar Hackner had the initiative against Martin, and we know how good Oskar can be. Martin had two knights for two bishops, and the question was whether they'd get lodged in Oskar's position or be swept away by a central pawn advance. Board one didn't have these classy themes: I'd made a mess of the opening against Peter Shaw and my main compensation was that he'd spent a lot of time looking for the way to finish me off. Mike Smith was a pawn down in a very complex position v Nat Holroyd-Doveton. So when I'd managed to swap into an ending where Pete had two knights for my rook and pawn, but about two minutes for 8 moves, I offered a draw. Very glad he took it, and I was fairly sure that, if all else went wrong, Mike Johnson was good for a draw v Alan Coupe and that would be us over the line. Theirs was a tense ending, RRN (Johnson) v RRB (Coupe) with Alan having an isolated d pawn. So Mike was doing the pressing and I was confident we'd win the match.
In the event, fortune was with us. Mike S came out on top and suddenly checkmated Nat, who'd taken a rook instead of playing a zwischenzug (surely you don't need to look it up) which would have left Mike's brilliancy tragically ruined. Next, the game of this match finished, as Oskar's position started to wobble and fell apart just as his flag went, which he sportingly pointed out himself. This had been an immensely difficult game, great credit to both. In the last, Mike and Alan agreed a draw, by now down to N v B, with the clock about to decide. 1-6.
Chesterfield - Nomads
Heavily looked like it might feature in the report on board one, where I went wrong early on and a miniature for the Nomads website looked possible, fine pawn sac and all 210 of Jon Nelson's attacking abilities bearing down on me like a careering HGV. Steve H, Glen and George looked under pressure too, and I knew Mike J next to me, and Brian - up against Kev Marshall - were giving away quite a few points. Didn't like what I saw elsewhere, so blinkers on for my own game.
Steve Bracey scored the first point as last week, won the exchange and the game soon after v Ian Barwick, thanks for the contribution to settling my nerves. Next, Brian and Kev agreed a draw, very level late middle game, well done Brian when you read this. At this point I was still ducking and diving, swapping things off when I could, and suddenly the relief that I was still alive and the attacking pieces were getting fewer. On my next trip round Andy Hards commented that it looked good for our guys, which was more than I thought but he turned out a prophet. Andy himself was in difficulties v our skipper Andy Mort, but made it to the ending much as I had.
Mike Johnson and Chris Shephard went for long pawn chains, one for the strategists, who'd be the one to find the sac or build pressure slowly on the weaknesses? Here Mike did us proud: this was the sort of game where I'd expect Chris to be at his most formidable, but our man stabilised things in a position where he had a slight space advantage, draw agreed. A long post mortem of Johnson-Shephard and Nelson-Latham followed over a friendly drink, and what I heard left me wondering how much players at Nomads must have benefited over the years from having an analyst like Chris in house.
And so to three decisive boards. Glen fought on like a hero against Mohammad on 3, but was too far behind from the opening, Mohammad proving, thankfully for us, the only man to convert a number of promising positions on their side. Geoff Frost had early pressure v Steve Housley, based on a pawn on the sixth and the big question, could the support come through to back it up? Much as von Manstein failed to break through to Stalingrad, the support was held off. This fine struggle went Steve's way, the attack rounded up and rooks and things crashing through in counterattack, vintage stuff from Steve...and a great team performance culminated, like that immortal move for the Barbarians v New Zealand, with George Peters' c pawn rushing, unstoppable as Gareth Edwards, for the try line. Daniel Sullivan had come to the match with a terrific record of 8/9 and last six straight, so all credit to George and where do Nomads find these people? The captain at once agreed a draw with Andy Hards, glorious victory by 5 to 3.
Worksop - Chesterfield
Nick Mahoney and Mike Johnson played a Trompowsky which turned into something which looked very much like a Benoni, heavy attack from Nick, which Mike survived during both players' time trouble, a thrilling passage of play. I wondered if Mike had better chances in the endgame, but it was drawn. My own game with Jon Tait was the first result I've ever got against him, think my score's now a very creditable 0.5-4.5, though I may have blotted out a few. I thought I was fine early on, but really struggled in the ending and saved the half point with tricks at the last. And so, as I've told it, level into the final two. Last to finish, Martin Howard v Chris Chambers, Martin's English opening looking a really formidable weapon these days. He ended up with a clearly won endgame, but very little time on the clock. Chris fought on bravely until Martin queened a pawn. Final score 5-3 to us: if we'd done a couple like that last season v Worksop we'd have stolen the league. But I've missed one out.
Jim Burnett v Mike Alcock. A chap once told me he'd never played chess, but he imagined it was all about honour and chivalry and respect between opponents, so I told him that he knew the game better than some who'd played it all their lives. Jim-Mike, though, was surely the sort of thing he had in mind, a real battle between warriors and gentlemen. The most thrilling game of this and many another match saw Mike launch the kitchen sink at Jim's king, including a sac of queen for odds and ends, and a deadly looking pin down the long diagonal. Jim held it off - don't ask me how, I'd have gone under myself - and at one stage was near a win. But at the last Mike had rook knight and bishop for the queen and they descended on the White king near the centre of the board. Best wishes to Mike, and he signed off, for now, with a wonderful performance.
Chesterfield - Woodseats
The next two also went to Woodseats. Mike Alcock looked OK to me, maybe his pieces had less squares than the ideal: but I didn't expect the sudden denouement as Allan Potts speared the White queen. On 3 Woodseats' new acquisition Paul Fletcher scored a splendid point for them, winning against Hubert.
Not a bad time for a strong performance lower down, and fortunately we got one. Steve Bracey was playing Bill, and made it to a bishop ending a pawn ahead, which he converted. Martin was on 4, contrast of styles with Mark Alllison I'd have thought, and a good strategic performance from our captain to put us back in it. Sole draw of the evening next, Andy Mort v Peter Hulse. The equaliser came from Mike Johnson. We had such a strong side out that Steve Bracey was able to welcome Mike to the bottom end: Stuart Jones looked to have decent drawing chances in an endgame where each had rook and bishop, but Mike forced the swap of all the pieces into an elementary pawn ending. And so we gathered round the last, Srini Muthukrishnan v Steve Housley, coffee house, pieces sprayed everywhere...hardly any time left, Steve a piece down but with a pawn on the seventh and, crucial weapon, the next move. With a long series of checks and threats he won back the piece, promoted the pawn to win another, and was still checking when Srini's flag fell. Steve had just over a minute left, and he'd squeaked us home by 4.5-3.5.
Ecclesall - Chesterfield
Let's note the name Ewan Cormack, defied Mike Alcock's Spanish, great try by both players...Phil Ellis held on into a lost pawn ending v Steve Bracey and somehow drew it...Andy Mort says he got nothing against James Marley either. At the very end it got agonising...all had been draws except Hubert's excellent win. George had been a solid pawn ahead and doing fine, but lost the pawn plus to one trap, then shed another two, you could feel the pain. Thanks to David Adams, stood me a much needed beer at this point. And so to the last: 3.5-3.5, Ken Norbury against Mike Johnson, an ending, first rook and knight, now knight and pawns on each side. I thought Mike had the position, but Ken had the initiative and with a fine series of moves he forced a fascinating denouement...Mike could go a pawn down or take one which left his knight trapped. Boldly he chose that option, and rescued his knight at the cost of swapping to an ending with 3 pawns against 4. From here he did marvellously well, and the rescue of half a point meant we'd scraped a draw in the match.
2011-12: Richardson Cup. Stannington - Chesterfield
Mike Johnson's ended in pawn chains, Q N and opposite coloured bishops. The position reminded me very much of Spassky-Fischer game 3, the difference being that the post mortem found no win for either player, though it was very close. My own game with Ryan Burgin was another thriller; thought I was behind, then ahead, then that I'd held off his attack and would soon be a couple of pawns up and all over. But I'd missed a great point and ended up just making a draw, R + 6 v R B + 3, my thanks to the clock. Steve Bracey rounded it off: won a pawn on the queen's side, then an excellent simplifying sac to make it all clear. Swapping a rook for Pete Locking's bishop and advanced passed pawn, Steve left himself R, B v two rooks, but with passed a and b pawns which couldn't be stopped. 4.5 - 1.5, harder than it sounds; a classical 3 wins with White, 3 draws with Black.
Rotherham - Chesterfield
Nomads - Chesterfield
Chesterfield - Worksop
The top two boards were thematically similar: King's' Indians or were they? you know the sort of thing, and with Jim Burnett getting a solid plus against me based on a space advantage, Martin taking what I thought was a lukewarm, rather than hot, pawn against Oliver, I had White ahead in both games. But Black (Dave and Oliver) eventually struck back and won, I when Jim overstretched a bit in the search for a win, Oliver with some striking tactics against Martin's position. Andy and Phil Griffiths had agreed a draw early on. So 1.5-1.5 and the match, and league, was won by Mike Johnson; a tense game saw Mike putting pressure on Chris Chambers' d pawn; then a long and difficult Q+P ending which fascinated the spectators. All sorts of zaps and traps for both players, Mike landing the last to overcome immense resistance.
Phoenix - Chesterfield
Chesterfield - Nomads
Chesterfield - Rotherham
Worksop - Chesterfield
Summer league. Chesterfield - Phoenix
Looked perfectly capable of handling it: Black v Paul Fletcher, the two sides pressing on opposite sides of the board, and it was Martin who crashed home, very fine win. Steve Bracey won a memorable game at about the same time: heavy Grunfeld analysis, exciting exchange sac, and then a wonderful bishop sac which we'll do well to top this season. Steve ended two pawns up: the gem just needed a polish and neat presentation in a little jewellery box. Possibly this phase, with Gerry resisting to the last and the clock teetering, wasn't quite up to the earlier brilliant standard, but Steve got there before the flag fell, object of the exercise. Next, Mike Alcock, RRN and pawns on each side v Carl. Didn't look easy, space advantage for Mike but having to be careful lest it come tumbling down...probably Carl missed a very hard line to crack in favour of a sac I'd have played myself. Wise decision to sit this out: Mike saw through it and finished ahead R to N. Last, Farshad v Mike J: I had hopes for this early on, with Mike holding out against a kingside attack, centre locked...and now he was pushing Farshad back to defend a pawn on g3, and if this could be coordinated with a raid on the isolated a pawn, left on its own to hold back Mike's queenside push...but at the last it came apart and Farshad secured his side's point with a confident kingside surge, hordes of pieces swarming in. Still, 3-1 was a great result to a hard contest.
Worksop - Chesterfield
Martin finished off a great season with the proverbial captain's innings: overcame dogged resistance from Ken Morrison, slow, massive pressure, second last to finish and put us back in with a shout. But the match was secured for Worksop on the next boards, where despite being slightly outgraded, they defended their first division status with grim determination. Steve Housley played splendidly and got to a clearly won knight ending, but Chris Chambers never gave up and at the death it went agonisingly astray; in my view Steve Bracey was always looking ahead against Janos Wagenbach, bishops against knights; don't know if Janos recalled losing to Martin in a vaguely similar position, but if he did the memory didn't faze him; and Phil Beckett completed the hat-trick of vital draws: he can tell the tale of how he stepped in as sub, down on the clock against Andy Mort, and didn't give an inch. So to the last, George against Phil Griffiths. Here we won the post mortem, going for a line George had seen in the game and showing that it came out a pawn up, 4.5-3.5 to us.
OK, I've come back to this piece an hour later, have to end it with how it really happened - fine win in the ending by Phil, would have been agony to see George go under if we'd been the team facing win or drop. Vital win for Worksop, congratulations to them on what must surely be a successful struggle against relegation and we look forward to seeing them next season. 3.5-4.5, sound second place finish in the League.
Ecclesall - Chesterfield
There'd been a swap of wins, James Marley over Steve Housley; George continuing an excellent season with a win on 7 v Pete Hoare. And so all depended on Martin - Chris Marley, difficult position, everyone gathered round, time running out, no pressure then. Martin was up an exchange, QRR v QRN, that knight well placed either to be the linchpin of a blockade or to spring forward as part of a counterattack if Martin went for his shots. This he did, and I thought it looked hairy, but Martin finally overcame stout resistance, winning a pawn and swapping all remaining pieces. Won ending, as the flag fell. 4.5 - 3.5 to us; had anything depended on it, the match would have been such a nailbiter.
As I read the league table, that seems to secure us a second place finish: congratulations to Nomads on a splendid campaign to recover their title. But we can surely agree that Martin led a very honourable title defence and many thanks to him; second in Sheffield, first in Derbyshire, that's a result thoroughly worthy to be mentioned alongside last year's heroics, and the more distant achievements of our predecessors.
Woodseats - Chesterfield
Woodseats equalised through John Fletcher: this I looked through with the players and it was clear that Steve Housley had run into a man in great form - unless, scary thought, this is his usual standard, in which case we can all look out. The next two were drawn: Andy Mort with an exchange French v Mick Joyce, he tells me it was grim! and Martin not quite able to land one in a heavy piece ending v John Trafford; honourable draw.
Level with three to go: Mike Alcock Black against Andrew Ledger, playing a Benoni set up; George looking very double edged in a fascinating position on 7; Alan having some pressure in an ending where he and Stuart Jones each had a queen and a bishop. The bishops were of opposite colours, and this favoured the attacking side - Alan - but I didn't see his way through. At this point I couldn't tell, but Allan Potts predicted it accurately. First Alan found a fine combination to win on board 6. Next, Mike Alcock resigned against Andrew. The position was lost on time, but the post mortem revealed huge complexity, and I think there's every chance that this performance by Mike was the most heroic of all those our side put up tonight. And so to the decider, Cannell- Peters on 7, a knight ending. This I thought won for George, and so it proved, concluding a brilliant match to watch. On either side so many people did themselves and the clubs credit. 4.5 - 3.5.
Chesterfield - Phoenix
The order in which the games finished must have been a heartbreaker for Phoenix, who needed the points more than we did and were doubly unlucky: first, that we had such a strong team turn out, secondly in the ending of a very close struggle. First Steve Moxon won the race on 7; then a splendid victory for Paul Fletcher v Hubert, to add to his win over no less a player than Jon Nelson last time out. Awesome. This took Phoenix to 3.5-1.5; but that was as near as they got. Mike Alcock won a pawn in the opening v Farshad, and despite considerable pressure down the d file held this same advantage through RRB v RRN, all the way down to a won rook ending. Zahir Aryan was possibly even closer v Mike Johnson, but Mike (RRN v same) controlled the only open file, and was the one setting the problems; eventually Zahir failed to see one after long and gallant resistance. In the last, I'd managed to survive Carl's attempt at a hat trick of three wins in a season v Chesterfield; it was tactical, then it looked like burning out to a draw, then I landed a fairly long combo to transfer from middlegame to an ending a pawn ahead. I made heavy weather of this after the moment of inspiration that got me there, but eventually won it. 4.5-3.5.
Barnsley - Chesterfield
Hubert made it to an ending a pawn down; fought on manfully for ages, but Andy won the pawn chases and with it the game: he'd brought Barnsley right back into it. We finished with three close draws. Martin had hopes v Dave Greensmith, based on a queenside breakthrough, but it wasn't there; Mike Johnson reckons his own opponent Martin Sheard was a lot closer to breaking the deadlock, pressure against Mike's pieces which were all on the back rank; Mike went for an attack (!) from here, got a lost position, but Martin hadn't the time, draw agreed and we were over the line. In the last Steve Housley had a decent looking attack for a pawn; Tony Farrell did well to fend this off; then there was a frightful time scramble, with Tony winning pawns, dropping a piece, would Steve queen a pawn? No! he returned the piece; frantic rook ending, Tony's flag fell but he was due an extra two minutes for an illegal move - all this in a matter of seconds, and some think chess is a slow game! They agreed a draw, which concluded a terrific contest in the right spirit. 5-3 to us.
Chesterfield - Worksop
Mick Clark made a promising showing in our first sight of him as Worksop's new skipper - not only got a strong side out but secured the advantage of playing White on five of the eight boards: led by a man with skill like this they'll be rising in the table pretty quickly!
Tait - Latham was the first to finish: I gave some thought to the question of how to avoid getting battered tactically, and I suppose the plan paid off - I went down strategically this time, Jon making crucial decisions with the ease of a carpenter knocking in nails. Steve Bracey equalised with a fine aggressive game, Jon asking Phil Griffiths "well, what d'you expect if you let Bracey attack?" a question some had thought maybe one for a few years back, but on tonight's showing Steve's still got it... and Brian Oldham - George Peters went to a knight v bishop ending, agreed drawn. Next up, two wins for each side. Steve Housley was on the Black side of a Ruy Lopez so complex that one spectator commented that Steve was lost in the position where Chris Chambers resigned. Ken Morrison got good results from an intriguing opening choice - Wing Gambit v the French: Mike Johnson looked OK or on the defensive, take your pick, but blundered and carried on the game in a fairly hopeless position in the hope of salvaging the match. Jim Burnett now put our chances in real doubt. The game v Mike Alcock looked difficult and double edged, Jim with pressure on the queenside and an extra pawn, Mike with an attack headed by pawns on the other side. Just as we were wondering if Mike was going to win game and match, Jim landed a rook sac and mate: Mike had seen it, but in another line. Thrilling, high quality game. And so to the last two. First Martin levelled at 3.5 apiece, grinding Janos down in a fine rook and bishop ending; then Ian lost agonisingly in the last. He'd been the exchange up and coming through on the king's side in King's Indian sort of style, though it wasn't. Pushing for the win he sacced the exchange back but then it came unglued; at least he went down trying the last. 3.5-4.5 to Worksop, another close, hard match.
Chesterfield - Barnsley
Earlier Steve Housley and George had set us on the way; Steve looked especially imperious; two passed pawns in the centre crushing all in their path; didn't envy John Stevens as he tried to hold off Steve there, brings back memories of some I've had v Steve, no thanks. George I didn't see, but many thanks for the point mate! and Martin likewise had a big space advantage, then an exchange as well. Bracey - Lea-Kyme was drawn, but that was us over the line after a tougher struggle than gradings suggest. Next, I thought Andy Mort was coming through winning pieces with various pins against Francesca Fozard's king. This action was happening around c2/d2, thoiugh, and Francesca struck back excellently against Andy's king with a long distance expedition, sort of like the Byzantines invading Persia while their own capital was under seige. Proved a sound scheme now as then, Andy landing in a perpetual check. What the Persians got I forget, don't think they did any better.
The last was a high class struggle, Ken Hunter gunning for Mike Johnson; the defence held very well, skilful stuff from both players. Eventually Ken's flag went; our post mortem had Mike winning clearly, but not easily: he said he wasn't sure he'd have seen it, but I'll take that bet. So 6-2 to us, if Barnsley field this crew plus the regulars in the return, it should be some match.
Phoenix - Chesterfield
First four went with White, board one Mike Alcock - bit of a brilliancy I hear - and captain Martin Howard scoring for us, Carl Walker and Mohammed Aryan for Phoenix. Congrats to all four, don't know much about the quality but let's spotlight Martin for not being daunted by losing to Farshad in the Plate, and Carl, joining Pete Shaw, Kieran O'Driscoll and Andy Hards on next season's list titled Remember These Guys They Beat Us Twice Last Time Out; heard the game v Mike Johnson was a tactical spectacular; let's console ourselves with the idea that it set Carl up nicely for his win in the Sheffield - Bradford match in which he appeared alongside Martin and myself...
Gerry Fletcher - Andy Mort was the third repeat game from the Plate, and a draw this time as last; and if you describe the match by going down the team sheet, the winning point's by Steve Bracey, well done for overcoming your thoroughly justified fear of John Mercy mate. The half point on board 8, as I read the Sheffield website, was scored by Unidentified; welcome to Chesterfield that man, you're in the team next week and keep up the promising start. Last to finish was Alan; Martin tells us he was an exchange up with good winning chances, but offered a draw to win the match 4.5 - 3.5. Revenge for the Plate, the team clearly transformed by leaving me out.
SASCA - Chesterfield
The last three showed real resistance, firstly from Steve Gibbs - R& B v Mike Johnson's R&N, that knight a monster holding everything together rather like Jon Nelson's last week. Secondly from Stephen Lee, a pawn down v Martin, but having decent chances based on his queen and knight combining well against queen and bishop; Stephen then threw in an exchange sac, which Martin defused with admirable coolness. And after these two had both gone our way, we gathered round to watch the last SASCA warrior, James Alsop: a brave show he put up, defying Steve Bracey right into the depths of a bishop and pawn ending before honourably admitting defeat.
Chesterfield - Nomads
Steve Bracey got us going with a solid enough draw with Mike Newett; at this point I was looking for ways to hang on v Jon in the opening, and George was similarly up against it v Andy Hards on 8, fairly soon a couple of pawns behind and masses of stuff coming down the board at him. Nobody else looked too badly off, and Andy Mort won a piece a bit later, as Mohammed picked up a bishop when his knight was attacked by a pawn. Mike Alcock did us proud with a sound, fighting draw with Chris Shephard.
Looking back on my game, I'm reminded of Alekhine's dictum that you needed to beat him in the opening, the middle and the ending. Urr, yeah, that's pretty much what happened to me. Mike Johnson went down much the same, Kieran aiming bishops at his king and heavy stuff crushing the defences, looked a terrific game by Kieran. Thanks to Mike who'd just got out of hospital for this one and best wishes for the rest of his recovery. Next up, Steve H v Jeremy, which again went to Nomads, Steve having some pressure for a pawn but not quite there. In the last two, Andy converted his advantage v Mohammed, and Martin went down at the very last v Paul Cumbers, honourable performance against a redoubtable opponent, as one could say of quite a few of our games. In this one I thought that the clock might save the day for Martin, but Paul found the moves at the end. So 2-6, ouch.
I'll stick that in a different colour, so anyone who wants a quick summary can skip the rest and head off for a beer. How you handle defeat is, of course, one of the marks of a true sportsman, so I'll say Congratulations to Nomads, cracking performance, and looking worthy winners of the League; and that said, please excuse me: I feel a strange urge to drink myself into a twitching vegetable.
Chesterfield - Woodseats
Mike Johnson faced a surprise on move 1 - e4 from John Trafford and an interesting K Indian reversed v the French. I thought Mike had a lot of space, and I had hopes for this one. But I was in the bar goggling at all the possibilities Allan Potts had seen in our game, when it came through that John had come out on top: good game though, thought Mike. Hulse- Bracey also saw our man pleased with the general standard: Steve decided the Albin Counter had been too often to the well, so went stodgier. Looked under the cosh, then the White attack was coming apart, then Steve went for an option we've all tried: move, goof, dead. So 1-3 at the top end, and 8 gone as well, and we were contemplating defeat. But we had them all out tonight, and I can't recall us looking stronger than Martin, Steve Housley and Andy Mort on 5 through 7. They all won to save the day; Andy had much the same extra pawn and central pressure as against Phoenix, but no mistake this time; Martin likewise pushed solidly home, Mick Joyce a particularly strong player to face on 5 I'd have thought. Steve Housley looked in considerable difficulty v Stuart Jones well into the late middle, but turned it round and got an attack, with very few pieces left, which won a rook or mated. 4-4, a few could have gone better for either side; fine match, great to have the Woodseats crew back among us.
For anyone who didn't know...I'm delighted to inform you that Woodseats have also launched a blog; there's an account of this match (and all their others), and it's not only entertaining, but follows in the best tradition of friendliness and chivalry between opponents. Sums up this contest:
<A fantastic match, worthy of the Yorkshire League or 4NCL at least. I am very proud and grateful to all those who turned out to represent the club in such a magnificent occasion.> Couldn't put it better myself...indeed, I didn't put it half as well.
Rotherham Juniors - Chesterfield
That only equalised the top two. Peter Shaw had wiped me out in the first fixture, so we provided real oppo this time - Hubert Mossong. He certainly did better than I had and, when I saw it, was a pawn down with attacking chances, kings castled on opposite sides. But Peter's position proved impenetrable, and he crashed through on the queenside, first man this season to score 2/2 against us and looking a really formidable player these days.
Steve Bracey and Andy Mort took us into the lead relatively smoothly; Steve's was first, decent attack in the middle game; Andy's so quick that when I got there he was mopping up Nat's pawns with his queen in the ending. Even after this, when I thought the match was going our way, some of our guys disagreed and we did look in trouble on 1, 5 & 8. Jonathan Ward - new to us - got the better of a complex one v George; the post mortem came up with a line for George which would, at least, have kept it complex. Sadly, this line was as hard to find as the venue, and while George was searching his flag fell. Martin was a pawn down v Alan Coupe; had an advanced rook and the advance of Alan's central pawns would leave the odd hole around his king; when I looked later, though, those pawns of Alan's looked a bit of a steamroller and Martin felt he was lucky to get the draw.
So 3.5-2.5, let's mosey over to boards 3 and 4. Mike Alcock had a difficult rook ending v Ashley Littlewood: he was a pawn down, but had a passer and a king nearer the action. This proved enough to liquidate the queenside position and they were able to agree a draw. And so to Mike Johnson, first appearance after what sounds a pretty horrid 'lurgy and even this was touch-and-go. I'd missed the first 20 moves but the position showed unmistakably that Oskar Hackner had declined a Benko Gambit and Mike was pressing hard on the queenside pawns. Oskar hung on well to the time control but around then dropped a piece. 5-3 to us.
Plate: Phoenix - Chesterfield
Match started well enough as I won a pawn by a cheapo on move 8, and most of the gang looked equal or ahead. Mohammed Aryan v Steve Housley looked particularly interesting and original in the opening, and Andy Mort was playing the English to perfection, obviously coming out a central pawn ahead and with an attack.
In the event, all the games proved long and hard. Paul Fletcher fought on against me, and it went 70 moves before finally I prevailed. Couple of times I thought it was over, but in the ending, two pawns down with opposite bishops, there may have been a draw for Paul. Shows his strength since effectively he'd been giving me pawn and move from the start. Carl Walker equalised for Phoenix in an excellent game v Mike Alcock, long pins and back rank mates: this was the obvious game for a long and fascinating post mortem. I asked Mike "goof or brilliancy?" and he congratulated Carl, telling me "I played what I thought was a brilliant move, but he played a brillianter". Nd5! winning the game and adding a new word to the language.
Martin v Farshad Ai ended unfortunately. Martin offered a queen swap and Farshad, playing an intermediate check, accepted half the bargain. He got Martin's queen without actually giving up his own. Ouch.
We now needed a couple of wins and sadly none came. Mohammed-Steve went level all the way, RRB v RRB, down to bishop ending. Andy against Gerry saw our man a clear pawn up and so nearly there, but a draw resulted; and John Mercy - Steve Bracey was also drawn. This looked a great game: Steve was pretty open that he regards John as a bit of a bogey man. So I talked some spirit into Steve, reminding him of how Karpov never gave up against Kasparov...he's beaten, he comes back, he's beaten, he comes back, and at last, after years undaunted...he's beaten. Encouraged by this, Steve went boldly for his Albin Counter and half way through looked to have tactical chances, but John defended well and the ending was a clear draw. Which was more than Karpov got.
Chesterfield - Ecclesall
Back to the match. I'd accepted Peter's draw offer because a) the position was equal, b) he's a superb endgame player and things were looking ominously like an endgame and c) the team was looking good. Chris Marley promptly landed a brilliancy on Mike Johnson, who'd looked to have excellent chances. Be4!! - well, you'd have to have been there, it recalled one from Bobby Fischer. Possibly there's a saving line but we only found it after several failures. Fortunately Andy Mort had already scored for us against Phil Ellis, very badly needed, and Steve Housley followed this up with a win against Alan McIntosh to take us into the lead: didn't see this one until a position where Steve was a rook up, game over. I'll have to ask Steve whether he concurs with Alan's rueful comment that he'd just blown a winning position. Same again with Steve Bracey: another win for his Albin Counter, and a nice point in the endgame, but he said it was such a fluke that here was a win, as opposed to a loss, which made you want to give up chess. So, 4-2, half a point needed. George was up against Ewen Cormack, new to us; and while one or two turned our way, this was the opposite story. Earlier George and I both thought he was not only winning, but in some style; but it came to bits as Ewen found an excellent defence and came through confidently in the rook ending. 4-3; we rushed to crowd Martin Howard - James Marley...and the captain brought it home. He was already a pawn up in a bishop ending; both bishops were dark squared, and the pawns were locked, James's also being on dark squares. So it was clearly a draw or a win for Martin, and he made it a few minutes later. Hard, sporting contest, 5-3 to us.
Next week we're having a Christmas dinner - see front page - at The Three Merry Lads - and chess will be off the agenda, so I'll sign off with Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you, Dear Reader.
Chesterfield - Rotherham Juniors
Mike Johnson and Martin Howard looked unlucky to come away with half a point between them. I wondered if Mike had a win v Paul Blackman in an ending where each had rook and bishop, Mike's rook going after pawns and I didn't see that Paul had better than offering checks and repetitions. Not how it ended though: Paul won a piece and R,B and rook pawn v R was a clear win. Martin and Ashley Littlewood were level down to rook and knight each, when Martin won a piece; but an advanced pawn secured the draw for Rotherham. And on two, Mike Alcock got to a double rook ending, and he and I both thought he'd landed the winning punch, but Denis Molofej saw further and a draw resulted: this seemed such a well played game.
Our points came from the lower boards, bouncing back after the Nomads match. Steve Housley was a pawn up with an attack, queen and bishop on each side. Oskar Hackner defended stoutly, and the attack was held off, but at the cost of a second pawn, Steve winning the ending: at the rate Oskar's improving that win might one day be a tale to tell. Andy Mort's game with Alan Coupe looked as complicated as Andy's explanation as to how he broke through with a difficult combination. Nat Holroyd Doveton didn't go down easily either: George won a piece and his rook and knight combined very well against Nat's king side defences. Thanks to Steve, Andy and George, that adds up to 4.5, probably as an average between 3 and 6, either of which might have been our score had one side had all the luck.
Top board and somebody was coming down to Earth with a bump: me after the win at Nomads, or Peter Shaw after a brilliant performance in the Sheffield-Wakefield match. I played ideas based on Leonid Stein, throwing in one of those pawn sacs by which he used to electrify positions. Possible flaw in the plan came to light: I'm not Leonid Stein...and I'm not Pete Shaw either, to judge by what followed. There was an excellent new beer at the bar, but its name was a bit rude to advertise here.
Sheffield Nomads - Chesterfield
The top four were all hard games. Captain's innings from Martin, looked a bit dodgy at one stage but came back bravely and was setting difficult problems when Jeremy's flag fell one move short. Mike Alcock sacced an exchange to land a pawn on the 7th against Chris Shephard. Their post mortem came up with some tantalising might have beens, but Chris must be about as resolute a defender as Sheffield has to show, and he prevailed again. Jon Nelson had come prepared for Hubert, and wheeled out a slow opening which gave considerable central pressure; I just about survived and won the ensuing brawl, twice spotting flaws in my tactics after playing them, and solutions for the flaws. Last to finish was Kieran O'Driscoll v Mike Johnson, which was a great struggle and right at the height of tension, both looking for mates, when Mike's flag fell. So 2-6, and I was left with the age-old dilemma. Would I rather win when the team loses, or lose when the team wins? Erm...ah...sorry lads...this time given the opponent I'll take the win and scuttle for the exit.
Plate: Sheffield Hallam - Chesterfield
We were ahead on grading on all boards, and that's how it went; Brian won too quickly for me to see the game; George won a piece and so the ending; Andy had an unstoppable kingside attack. The other three boards were well contested: Richard Houghton - who's done so well to set up the new club at Sheffield Hallam - went for a sacrificial attack against Steve Bracey, who held on through complications and finished up with two knights against a rook; when he'd won the exchange this advantage was a piece. On top board Tom Pitcher sacced an exchange to hold off pressure, and, with minutes remaining, a second exchange for a position where I was hard put to it to show that my two rooks and things could prevail against two knights on excellent squares. Just managed to spot something, after a glance at my clock showed two minutes left and I was wondering whether it was the appropriate time to panic. On board two, Anton Smith must have been within an ace of a draw against Mike Johnson, ahead in the opening and the ending being a rook each and opposite coloured bishops. Mike squeezed home: match closer than the scoreline.
Chesterfield - SASCA
Mike Alcock led the fightback (a line I've used before), with an impressive win v Louis Brijmohun. This started 1.e4 c5 2.Na3!?, a classic piece of chutzpah by a young star up against our eminence grise: plan I guess being a slow build up a la Ruy Lopez, knight coming maybe to c4 and e3. But it was still on a3 during the sparkling tactical interlude around move 18, the possibility of Bxb2 forking rook and knight being an unheard melody of the interchange which won Mike a piece and, eventually, the ending. Mike Johnson was taking on another outstanding junior, Evie Hollingworth. Locked pawn chains, Mike with a space advantage; eventually he made it tell, looked a very hard game. And so to the last three, where somehow we managed the two points needed. Martin had queen and bishop v queen and knight, and sustained pressure down the long white diagonal. I didn't think he'd win, but at the last Steve Gibbs' stern resistance broke. Andy Mort chucked a piece in an equal ending, and so had rook v rook and bishop, various pawns. Nothing for it but a brave king march into the heart of Martin Lau's position, and rook checks and threats got the draw. And so to 8, last to finish, George Peters down in the rook ending v Steven Lee. Rook and 4 v rook and 2 came down to R, a and c pawns v George's lone rook. This is a difficult theoretical draw, and at the last George scored the vital half point. Andy Mort congratulated his successor: "Better a lucky captain than a good captain".
2010/11: Richardson Cup, Worksop - Chesterfield
Steve Housley and Andy Mort took five and six. Steve had black, Ruy Lopez v Chris Chambers. Both gave it a go, and it ended up looking a bit symmetrical, Chris attacking on the dark squares with queen rooks and bishops, Steve counterattacking on the light. Honourable draw. Brian Oldham proved as tough to beat as usual, and no way through for Andy on six, match level.
Meanwhile, I did my bit for once, went for broke v Jim Burnett. If he had held on to consolidate he'd probably have won, and he certainly gave me a lesson in the post mortem with the range of defensive possibilities he demonstrated...but in the game, he'd picked a line where I landed a bit of a corker. Next to me, Hubert, who's had some great tussles with Jim himself, was taking on Jon Tait. Initially, I thought the game looked equal, but Jon came through in the endgame: at least after clobbering me in our last few matches he was picking on someone his own size this time. And next, Oliver Graham - Mike Alcock went the way of the Worksop man: it was a bit like Latham-Burnett in that the loser seemed to win the post mortem, but in the game Oliver played very well, and at 3-2 Worksop had won on board count if it came to that. Martin Howard-Ken Morrison was now for honour only. It was tough and well played; Martin was doing the pressing, but Ken held on and a draw was agreed at the point where only the clock would have decided. 3.5-2.5, we can concentrate on the league.
The Captain's Report.
Barnsley - Chesterfield
And so to kick off, once we'd retrieved guess who from the wrong pub. First good news was that Barnsley's top three had taken a well earned break. It would be some club that didn't feel the loss of Messrs Drabble, Butterworth and Pogson, but that was the last gift they gave us. Hard fight for an hour and a half; some dodgy positions and I could see where nerves were telling and blunders waiting to be made.
Steve Bracey and Vlad Shaposhnikov burned out their position, draw agreed. At this point, Martin was up an exchange and Mike Johnson down one, though I thought there were drawing chances in both games. I was level against Martin Sheard and didn't think Steve Housley had much more against Neil Todd. Lots of draws, the potential for losses if people pushed too hard. At this stage, I thought the winners might be Mike Alcock on two: he was playing Dave Greensmith and I recognised the opening line: it's just about as good as the book, nobody plays it and last time Mike did he blew me away with it. Nineteenth century brilliancy coming right up. And on 8, Ian was playing strongly against Paul Lea-Kime's Pirc set up: he'd got pressure, space advantage and looked good...but these things can come apart. Finally, Andy Mort was playing the Caro Kann with real understanding and I thought Tony Farrell was being forced into artificial manouevrings.
In the event, Tony held on well and found a perpetual. Next, Micklethwaite-Johnson was agreed drawn. 1.5 each; still tense, and the Barnsley crowd were making us sweat. But then, the breakthrough. Martin accepted my offer of a pawn ending rather than what looks like a draw, and had a clever idea to queen with four pawns v three on the far side of the board. My king made it just in time, so I won. Next, Ian landed a combination to clinch a fine game. 3.5-1.5, we were surely on the way.
Dave Greensmith had defended heroically on two, survived Mike's attack with an equal position, and a draw was now agreed. This left Martin Howard to score the point to take us over the line, and who more appropriate after the season he's had? and off we were to the bar, where Steve Housley joined us after concluding a fine uncompromising season with his first draw in 15 games. +3 =5 -0 for a 5.5-2.5 win and I refer anyone to "News" who wants to hear what we made of winning the Davy.
University - Chesterfield
Time for Steve Housley to play the hero: a complex position with Black against the Guioco Piano, something he plays himself. Lots of difficult tactical possibilities, and Steve landed a crusher. There was a lengthy post mortem, in which Quinton Lip seems definitely to have found better lines; but it was always difficult and Steve wasn't at the p.m. with his own thoughts: he'd have been fighting off people trying to buy the drinks by then.
Mike Alcock was much the best of our top three: both players had promising attacking chances, and I wondered if Alcock's queen rook and knight were going to put enough pressure on Arnott's kingside to carry the day; but Jonathan held on comfortably enough. Martin likewise had no way through, but it was a solid draw; now it was down to 1 & 3; would we hold on? and 7 & 8; would we come through? and 2-2 needed on these four boards.
Mithun Chakravorty equalised for his side, and then came one of those minutes on which a match - and possibly a season - turns. Andy Mort had gone for broke with the Blackmar - Diemar gambit: to play this in such a match? Chutzpah? Cojones? or Klutz? only time would tell. Anyway, the defence was excellent, and I envisaged Andy holding on, still a pawn down, in a difficult ending. Then came the slip...Rd2?? allowing B (g5) x d2 and the match is ours! but Andy missed the backwards capture! and a draw was agreed. Then, favour returned on top board, as Prasun completely outplayed me, rejecting my draw offer with a politeness it hardly deserved. I went for cheap tactics to try to break his black square bind. It started to look a little complex, and the time was short, but I was very relieved when he offered a draw of his own. I normally take a minute to look round the other games. This time, I took three fifths of a second.
So to 7 & 8; we needed a win and a draw. George had queen, rook and five against queen, rook and four. It's been wisely commented that there are four types of chess: opening, middle game, endgame and heavy piece endgames. This was a classic of the last, the extra pawn potentially counting for little as the pieces flew around. And next door, Steve Bracey had a B v N endgame v Linna Na, lots of pawns; I was vaguely reminded of Botvinnik's masterpiece to hold on to his title v Bronstein, rightly termed an endgame of genius. So all Steve needed was genius and maybe he'd overcome a stern defence?
But now came Peters' finest hour. He was up on the clock, the position was difficult for both sides: precise sequences needed or you allow forks, mates and perpetuals...and, as regards the league situation, a friendly for University and all the pressure's on George. Cometh the hour... he found a sequence I'd defy a master to better, and with five splendid moves went from hairy heavy piece to won rook ending. There was a slight slip later, and Mark Atherton might have carried on had his flag not been hanging, but the win on time was certain if that on the board was not. We were home by the narrowest margin if Bracey, still searching for that elusive way through, could make the draw. He at once offered one, and analysis showed this was the right result. 4.5-3.5, an absolute thriller and how the title shot is still on track I don't know. Showdown at Barnsley next week.
Chesterfield - Rotherham Juniors
Mike Alcock had firmer ideas about how you settle the side: something of a brilliancy. First pressure,then a temporary knight sac leaving him a pawn up and the king wide open; then handed the pawn back with an excellent clearance sac and an irresistible swarming on the black squares...he and Paul had a smile about how White was the side from which to watch that one. And next door Mike Johnson was ahead by a pawn or so against Tom Whitaker: this was looking good.
Next to finish was Andy Mort, who had a solid pawn coming through on c3 with Andy's black pieces supporting it. He'd hoped to be away for this match, so a brief note of appreciation to the Icelandic volcano which scuppered the travel plans. We were surely near the line. But now some performances to send Paul Blackman away a happy man, for all Mr Alcock's splendid win. Oskar Hackner came through in a rook ending v Andy Marsland - the last of chess's many modes you'd choose against Andy; and Ashley Littlewood held on in a thriller against Martin Howard, both kings with little protection and clear lines to them...just a question of who would land the blow. Next, a slip from Johnson let Whitaker establish a bind on the position, which resulted in a drawn endgame.
Steve Housley had a strong looking position with rook, queen and bishops raking the White kingside from afar. Heather Coupe defended well and it ended in rook, bishop and pawn chains. Here Steve found a far from obvious move ..Bxa3! taking a pawn which looked protected. He then had to spot a few tricks and passed pawns won it, not unlike Andy Mort's game. That was 4-2; which became 4-3 as Littlewood landed a haymaker v Howard: didn't think anyone was going to beat Martin this season. 2-2 against our very strong bottom four, unexpected to say the least.
So we needed a draw on top board, and our hopes could hardly have been in safer hands. Luxembourg scored 1 out of 46 in a couple of simuls against the Czech supergrandmaster David Navara, and their lone winner had a strong position: four pawns locked on the queenside, Hubert's bishop and knight probing for weaknesses against Peter Shaw's two knights, and Hubert had a big time advantage. Now down to knights, and with best play Peter seems to have had the draw, but the clock was almost up and he dropped the knight. All over, 5-3: had Hubert not been there, the play of those juniors might have made it a different tale.
Clay Cross - Chesterfield
Didn't look too good. Mike Alcock was in severe time trouble, and Dean Hartley built up a strong attack: possibly there was a way to come through, but the flag fell first. Steve Bracey had already drawn, match level at 2-2. On the bottom boards, George had a complex position, then a find-the-winning-move problem , which had 'em all gathered round; Brian had come through a topsy-turvey game to an equal, but complex rook and knight ending. Once he won this, I agreed my draw, whereupon George found his brilliancy, congratulations to both. In the last game, Andy Mort played a captain's innings, pushing his extra passed pawn against Paul Kelman's long defence with rook and queen. At the last, Andy's pawn made it home and we had 5.5. Not an easy match, and Steve Housley aside we mostly made heavy weather of it.
Chesterfield - Nomads B
Steve Bracey threw an exchange into the mix, so he was a rook down for a couple of pawns; but then an astonishing turnaround as he won back the exchange with an attacking position, and Oliver Phipps chucked in a piece sac for freedom. Steve won what had been a hopeless position in the rook ending. So 1-2, Steve H and I agreeing that it was an exciting match all right, thanks to our contributions. And so it ground on, Ken Dewhurst especially looking very good against Andy Mort, and I didn't see where wins for Mike Alcock and George were going to happen either. Nomads B coming to Chesterfield and, with the biggest ratings upset the Davy had seen in years, handing the title to their A Team...looked distinctly on the cards. If it had happened, nobody could have said our opponents didn't deserve it: anyone facing a stronger player could do no better than come in with the determination and self-belief some of these guys showed.
In the end, Hubert got an unbeatable bind v Andy George on board one, and Mike Alcock got an ending the exchange up. Purists might question the technique in the Peters-Copley game, which included two missed mates in one, but George found one at the third time of asking. Mort-Dewhurst was agreed drawn, Ken unable to make his pressure tell...and although Mike Alcock failed to convert his advantage in the face of time pressure and stubborn resistance, Mike Johnson came out on top in a difficult encounter with Phil Ford, which ended in a terrific time scramble. This. along with Hubert's, was the pick of the wins on our side; on theirs, well, I'll be staying clear of the Nomads website because one viewing of Latham-Newett is enough for any lifetime. 5-3 to us, if it's true that champions win when they play badly then we're up there with the best of them...what a fright. When I got home I discovered that all my hair had fallen out.
Worksop - Chesterfield
At this point, you could make a case for a wobble. I had misunderstood the opening, and was now in a rook ending, defending islands of weak pawns against Jim Burnett's more organised set up. Oliver Graham - Mike Alcock looked anybody's, and Steve Housley had boldly gambitted a pawn for an attack which didn't look a certain winner to me. But it was Steve who set us on the road, as his opponent's position collapsed under great pressure. Next, Oliver - Mike went our way, concluding with a fine attack after a king hunt, all the more impressive because of the complexity of the position and the fact that White was himself threatening mate. The 4.5 was crossed as Mike Johnson finally made long term pressure tell against John Smith, who'd held out an exchange down with admirable tenacity. The cherry on the cake was my first win against Jim Burnett, who declined a draw offer, and obvious draws on the board, then went for the win but lost a pawn race. Lucky win for me, but I was never going to beat a guy like Jim using mere skill.
Last game to finish showed that neither club runs out of good players over 8 boards. A classic Modern / King's Indian set up, Andrew Smith attacking in the centre, Ian with a heavy Kings Side counter thrust, the rooks coming down the f file. Ian came out on top, the ending being two rooks supporting a pawn on h3 and Andrew's rooks preventing further progress. On the queenside each had four pawns, and here Ian found the flexibility of thought to swap that apparently crucial h3 pawn for one of White's on the other side of the board. That was the key, and after an initial three draws we were home by 6.5-1.5.
Chesterfield - University
Prasun Chakravorty and I played the opening competently and agreed a quick draw, followed by Andy Mort and Nicholas Carding on 5, Andy saying he made a bit of a mess of the opening. But from quite an early stage Messrs Howard, Housley and Bracey looked ahead, and I was feeling fairly confident as to the result. Martin and Steve Housley both looked very good, the former coming through with c5! on the queenside and lots of pieces swarming into wide open spaces; Steve had King's Side pressure with his opponent's pieces covering various pressure points; but it never looked enough, and Steve transferred into an ending the exchange up, which he won handily. 3-1 became 4-1 as Mike Johnson pulled off the only grading upset: caught Youra Taroyan's queen with too few squares. Youra shed two pieces to escape this one and fought on manfully, but it was Mike's in the end.
At the start of the evening Youra's colleagues had him show an astonishing game he played recently, which we really must have on the Sheffield website; I joked with him that we didn't need his A game tonight, but it was a cracking result for Mike after that fine win against Paul Blackman last week.
Steve Bracey had been inches away from the try line for ages, a pawn on e7 and all Mark Atherton's pieces striving to hold it off. This he managed for ages, but Steve finally won game and match for us.
And so to the last two, both honourable draws. Mike Alcock and Mithun Chakravorty went the traditional way to the draw, an excellent hard fought game right into an ending with half chances for both. George and Mark Kirkham tried this idea for a while, and I think George missed a clear win, but then they obviously tired of the book approach and went for chaos: George threw a piece, Mark handed it back and then a rook as well, and in the final position George had queen and knight against two pawns; his flag fell, spectators of both sides correctly shut their various gobs, George checkmated and then we wondered what the rules were. Didn't know, so draw agreed as the proper end to a match played in the right spirit. 6-2.
Rotherham Juniors - Chesterfield
I looked fine against Peter Shaw on top board, a pawn up, but this was nothing compared to the strategic masterpiece happening next to me. Mike Alcock played the French against Denis Molofej, who's made a big impression in his first season in Yorkshire. Mike took space on the queenside, and some of his pawns were quite advanced when he castled behind them and locked things up. Denis now had to face Mike's heavy pieces coming down the kingside at White's castled position...it could be seen coming way off, but stopping the attack was something else. And beyond that, as I could see from my position trapped between rows of chairs, Mike Johnson had won Paul Blackman's queen for two bishops and some pawns. Mike said afterwards he was so impressed with the tenacity of resistance and general trickery and resource Paul found from here, so it may have been a sac for all I know, but Mike got round the back with queen and rook in the end, and we had our 4.5 points.
Andy Mort came unstuck against Tom Whitaker, dropped a rook in the end; and my promising position v Peter deteriorated as I failed to match his endgame skills. Have to look at that one...didn't find a drawing line in a winning position. So to the last to finish. Here John Denby appeared for us, many thanks to him for rallying to the cause after at least a year, and great to see him again. As the crowd gathered he had an assymetric ending, B+N v R, both sides having pawns well advanced, and very little time left. John handled this coolly, and came through in style, checkmate with 30 seconds left and looked very comfortable about it. 5.5-2.5, fine team performance.
Chesterfield - Barnsley
4-1, and Martin looked to have a draw in a rook ending v Tony Farrell. Then he won one pawn on a blunder, and a second by a cunning plan missed by all spectators. The last two went to hanging flags and reflected credit on all four players. Mike Alcock and Martin Sheard agreed a draw after a fabulously complex game with chances for both, and Andy Butterworth scored his side's sole win with what we'd have to say was a splendid victory against Hubert in a system they both play. 5.5-2.5 to us, good enough against an outfit who've given such trouble in the past.
Ecclesall - Chesterfield
George got us off to a great start, a crushing win (with Black!) against Ecclesall board 7 Dee Folt. Folt's team mates looked a more impressive line up than he'd proved: Ken Norbury and James Marley on 6 and 8, and, legendary as Lillee and Thomson, the opening attack of Adams and Hempson. I tried to surprise David with a line I'd never seen before in the c3 Sicilian. Sure enough he knew it, but a few risky moves and I offered a draw on the principle that nobody thinks you let the side down by only drawing with Black against David Adams. Andy Mort drew with Chris Marley shortly after, maybe on much the same principle. But when we looked round, apart from Martin who was clearly ahead, it wasn't obvious where the points were happening. Steve Housley had a bit of a 'mare, as Jason used to put it: pawn sac in the opening, but insufficient compensation, and finally got overwhelmed by phalanxes of pawns. David Adams sympathised - those drivers again, and how horrible it is when you spend your adrenalin on the question of whether we'll get there in time. Martin did convert his advantage, good win, 3-2. But on 2 Mike Alcock came under great pressure from Dr Hempson, superb endgame player as ever, and the opposite coloured bishops weren't compensation enough as Peter stopped Mike's pawns on the queenside and came through irresistibly in the centre with his own majority.
The last two looked classics. Our new player Ian Edmundson was under pressure and a pawn down v James Marley, but such was his resistance that if he'd lost I was ready to say it had been a display that proved his right to his place. But instead, the attack was fought off into a knight ending where the extra, doubled pawn was hardly an advantage for James, and a win for Ian - probably on time - was a possibility. At this point he accepted a draw, and mindful of Ecclesall's long record of chivalry in our contests (Adams-Powell sprang to mind) I was glad he did. Over to Mike Johnson and Pete Szalapaj for the decider. A thrilling game, with attacking chances for both. Mike and I both thought he'd landed the winner with Bd2! but Pete countered excellently, and a draw resulted. 4-4, and as Mr Adams commented, "well done, both of you".
Nomads A - Chesterfield
Martin and Steve B took the bottom two (!) and got us off to the best possible start: nice strategic stuff from Martin to follow up his heroics v Belper (see Derbyshire) and Steve looked a man who understands the Dragon, as opposed to just liking the name. So 2-0, and surely the top six could squeeze 2.5 even from an outfit like Nomads, strong enough to play Paul Cumbers on 4 and Jeremy Hamm on 6.
Nah, I'm afraid. Steve Housley - Mohammad Said seems a regular pairing and guaranteed a hard battle. No exception this time, and it went to Mohammad. Andy reckoned he messed up the opening against Jeremy: he didn't go down easily either, but that was the match level. Mike Alcock was probably the unluckiest of us: really made a fight of it against Kieran, and the key phase was a very complex late middle game, RRN on either side, Kieran's king right in the middle of the board. More than once I thought Kieran was done for: the post mortem was all about possible wins for Mike, but, as Kieran once told me, a stake through the heart's not enough, you've got to burn the body. Agony. The match was practically decided when Mike Johnson narrowly failed to hold a difficult ending v Paul Cumbers: great credit to him for surviving Mike's Benko Gambit with a clear plus. My own draw with Chris Shephard was one of which I'm as proud as of many a victory: my record against Chris ought to be poor, in fact is worse than that, and he provided the usual stern test of my dodgy understanding of strategy. Came through it this time, but he held the draw easily after a well timed exchange sac, and after that I had to show a few tricks to hang on.
All this excitement meant I had little time to view the Mossong-Nelson heavyweight clash. Last to finish, long and complicated with few initial exchanges; I think Hubert had some pressure...and this battle between a master and a guy who really ought to have his own title ended in a draw. 5-3 to Nomads, well done to them, well done to us: some high quality games, some great sporting moments. Not the result we wanted, but I was proud to be there.
Chesterfield - Clay Cross
It went with the former. Steve Housley first to finish: attacked on both wings, constant pressure and eventual mistake by his opponent. Perhaps a pity the game didn't last long enough for us to have a word with his victim: it was Carl Garside, a member of High Peak, the only Derbyshire club with whom we have no contact. He left at once and missed a heavy Chesterfield victory. Our old friends Anthony Natt, Dean Hartley and Paul Kelman went down fighting against Latham, Johnson and Howard; George, Steve B and Andy made it 7-0 at the top, and their man won rook and game against Brian on 8. Time for a swift half and a merry Christmas to all our readers.
Nomads B - Chesterfield
In the event, we had everybody there except Hubert, and came through 6-2. Andy came unstuck early on against Phil Ford, and got into one of those positions where you're finding ever more unnatural moves to survive. I took the opposite approach: got a very good position v Andy George, and he had about 3 minutes left on the clock. Nomads have called what followed a swindle, but really he found about 20 good moves in no time, which was excellent, really something to see - and you can! Go to the Nomads website: it's one of the five worst defeats of my career and you've got to shove aside some real horror shows to get on that list.
This was the last to finish, so let's turn back with relief to the six wins which ensured this match went to plan. Haidar Nomeq is a man you'd look to for stern resistance, and he held out into a difficult endgame, which Mike Alcock won by a startling mating attack with his last two pieces, a rook and knight. Johnson-Newett saw our man give a huge chance to his opponent: a winning sac about three moves deep. Fortunately it was missed, and the president came through smoothly in a rook ending. Steve Housley won earlier than this: looked strong, clear plan, inevitable result. Well done Steve, this was probably the pick of the bunch, along w ith Martin's: he won a pawn fairly early and never gave the ghost of a chance thereafter. At this early stage, it's looking like Steve v Martin for captain's prize, they're both scoring very heavily.
Brian won on time in a position where he'd done well to stay alive 'til the control, and George had an interesting ending: his queen against two rooks. Which is better depends on the pawn structure: here, it was chaotic and the queen picked 'em off before the rooks could get organised. So 6-2, could easily have been worse, and on this showing we'll be playing these lads in the top division for years to come.
Chesterfield - Nomads A (Sheffield League)
Mike Alcock- Chris Shephard was one of two repeat fixtures from last week. This looked a very balanced, well played game, all the way to the drawn ending. By contrast, board three was chaos: Paul Cumbers stood in for Kieran O'Driscoll and basically played me off the board until I managed to create complications. Fritz gives its opinion that what followed was a horrible swindle of a fine and honourable player.
So level at the top, and the teams were neck and neck lower down too. Martin Howard won a couple of pawns and came through early on. Level again: as Chesterfield tried to reverse our loss in the Cup, Mohammad Said did it the other way, avenging last week's defeat by Steve Housley. And on board six I thought Andy Mort had the initiative against Geoff Frost, but the win wasn't there... 3 - 3 and so to the last two: Johnson-Hamm and Bracey-Khakimova. In the latter, Steve bravely sacced a pawn and didn't find a winning line. Masrura defended solidly for most of the evening, and Steve says she was winning when a mistake finally gave him the game. Meanwhile, the umpteenth game between Mike and Jeremy also went our way, Jeremy conceding after a long bishop endgame.
So 5-3 ...and to conclude, the victory fell on us. It's been a long wait for a win against Nomads...cheers to Jason Patrick who stood me a beer. We've all earned one.
Nomads A - Chesterfield (Richardson Cup)
These three wins gave Nomads the match on board count, if it came to that...and it wasn't a million miles away. Steve Housley scored with Black against Mohammad Said, a fine result against a man who won their last encounter; I didn't see too much of this, but what I saw was active defence in a queenless late middle game. Martin successfully defended the last ditch against Nomads' latest recruit Geoff Frost - there was a pawn one square from promotion, pieces swarming around it like rugby players trying to force their man over the line. Geoff had rightly sacced a piece for this, but still hadn't found a killer move when his flag fell. Martin did really well, especially not to go for any of the desperate counterattacks I'd been willing him to try. And board two was a clash to whet the appetite - Mike Alcock v Chris Shephard. There was a long endgame, Q, B + pawns v Q, N + pawns. Mike turned down a draw and is clear that, as things stood, this was the right decision; but, as he says, you can only admire Chris's strength in this kind of position. 4 - 2 to Nomads, and we now have lots of options for rearranged matches in Derbyshire.
Jeremy Hamm - google Sheffield chess and you'll soon find him through the Sheffield website or the Nomads club website - is still looking for players for the Woodhouse Cup team. Very good chess, on Saturdays. For this team you probably need to have 150 strength or above, and any such players from Chesterfield or any other club reading this, are more than welcome.
Chesterfield - Ecclesall
Andy Mort showed how a skipper settles his side: a smooth Catalan, correctly played and a quick win. Steve Bracey's game was an early draw. David Adams had come half expecting Hubert, whom he beat twice last season, like, how do you do that? The ironies of chess: Hubert wasn't here, and we were reduced to fielding some patzer in his place. David soon put together an opening advantage, and in the post mortem I was shocked to see how far his plans for the attack were advanced; but he'd written off my counterattack, which I'll be showing off for the next year regardless of whether you want to see it. It's a bit of an 18-certificate gore fest, but obviously I gotta take pride in anything achieved against an opponent of this stature.
2.5-0.5, and I must admit that after my unexpected win I thought the Ecclesall players might fold like the Philistines after that unfortunate accident to Goliath. Not a bit of it: they fought to the end, with Andy Mort and myself muttering the while about what a tough match it was. On board two Mike Alcock had won a piece in the opening, and never looked like conceding the draw, but Joe Morrison somehow managed a win against Emma, who held a sound structure for a long time against this wily and experienced campaigner. Pete Hoare followed this up with a win against George. 3.5-2.5; so to Steve Housley's board, where he had a good looking position - two pieces v rook and pawns. Phil Ellis struck back, and I didn't see a way out of the nasty pin and threat to transfer to a won pawn ending. Mike Johnson's game with Ken Norbury was looking a dead draw, and I must admit I thought he'd have to find a win here if we were to get to 4.5. But when I looked back to Steve, he'd found a line where he conceded the exchange for an unstoppable passed pawn; and at the very last Mike Johnson also came through, his knight proving superior to Ken's bishop in the ending. 5.5-2.5.
Chesterfield - Aughton (Richardson Cup)
Chesterfield - Worksop 2009/10
And a stumble at the first hurdle. Worksop brought a strong side headed by Jon Tait and Jim Burnett. I did my best v Jon, but got outclassed tactically. Mike Alcock's got a very decent record against Jim, and was in it for longer than me, but it wasn't his night either. Worksop's other wins were on 7 & 8: they had very decent strength in depth and came out on top against George and Carlos. Chesterfield struck back in the middle order: Steve Housley and Martin Howard had very sound looking wins. Mike Johnson's was anything but: normally Mike gets into frightful time trouble and copes well with it: this time both players had seconds left, and Mike was hanging on by his fingernails when Jim Davis' flag fell. They all count, and it gave us a sniff of a draw. The last was Oliver Graham (Worksop) v our new skipper Andy Mort. Deep into the ending it was dead level, I thought, but in an exciting finish first Oliver, then Andy, went for the win. It ended with just the kings on the board. Jim Burnett commented that he thought this made it 17-3 in our favour for matches he'd played against Chesterfield. If so, we must have just come through in a lot of close finishes...and here's one the other way.
Ecclesall - Chesterfield 2008/2009
Our season in Sheffield's been a long time starting, but it opened with a terrific match. In board order:
Board one had the makings of a classic. Hubert looked good against David Adams, two pieces v a rook and the odd pawn; he tells me he then left a piece en prise. I thought I was doing OK v Pete Hempson, then made a slip and woke up in the infirmary. Mike Alcock led the fightback, won an exchange and R v N ending against Gordon Stables; two games, two fine victories in his comeback. Johnson- Szalapaj was a hard fought draw; Mike was pressing, Pete held him off, Hubert showed a lovely winning attack afterwards but was it forced? Steve Housley had Q,B v Q and a lot of pawns v Chris Marley; I thought the win showed fighting spirit against a tough opponent. Martin Howard played Ken McKintosh and got a passed, supported pawn on a6 early on, strategic win and it looked very good. The last two games both went to the wire; Alan McKintosh-George Peters a very tough draw; Phil Ellis survived his own time trouble, then levelled the match when Emma Bentley's flag fell at the end of a game which Phil said had always been about equal. With this fine game and Emma's win v Phil Griffiths of Worksop B we finally have an answer to the question of who to play when George is on seven, and presumably will one day have the answer as to who plays when we can't get Hubert. 4-4, thanks to the Ecclesall crowd for their excellent chess and still more their company on a great evening. Apologies to Dr Hempson who stood me a drink; thanks for that, the disappearing act was because one of the team needed an early start for Alton Towers next day, and another to bounce hard cases in darkest Doncaster.
Chesterfield - Sheffield Nomads
This certainly turned out the memorable hard fought match I'd hoped for - the result was another matter. Early on things looked good...Steve Bracey won quickly with a sac he reassures us was totally unsound, and after an hour or so most of the boards looked OK or better. This should be one of the first Sheffield League matches with not only competitive games, but also competitive blogs, so you can check out Kieran O'Driscoll''s view on the Nomads website. Here's my own totally unbiased account:
Hubert had a very exciting attack against Jon Nelson, but the win wasn't evident either at the time or, as far as I saw, in the high-powered post mortem they conducted. When the attack evaporated, Jon was up an exchange and game over. Maybe Fritz can find the winner in that game: the silicon had interesting comments on board two. Kieran had a very decent plus throughout the opening, but then I struck back with rat-like cunning and briefly held the advantage (says Herr Fritz). In his place I'd probably have assumed Fate had turned against me, but Kieran played the brave moves at the vital points, and won convincingly. Mike Alcock seemed to have a small advantage in the ending; not enough to win but a sight better than the rest of us have done against Paul Cumbers in recent years; Mike's fine comeback is well on track. Andy Mort seems unstoppable: 100% over 6 games I think, and all of them with Black. Steve Housley was suddenly a rook up against Jeremy, but somehow the Sheffield captain clawed it back, a terrific save by him. Martin started in great style, saccing a pawn to prevent Mursal castling; sadly he saw the winning follow up, but also a ghost and didn't play it! This was not only a half point, but a minor masterpiece that got away - the pity was that a lesser player would have gone for that incisive e4! by not spotting the drawback that wasn't! I didn't see Chris Shephard- Mike Johnson, but gather it went the way of most of my own efforts against Chris. No need for the various apologies folks - it was a great contest. Looked very promising at one stage, but ended 3.5-4.5, and as Dick Dastardly would put it, "drat, drat and triple drat!"
Chesterfield - Sheffield University
Steve Bracey had mentioned the possibility of the University as opponents when making his pitch to the landlord. Alas for us, they came to play chess rather than boost the pub's profits. Mike Alcock's ranked higher than me in Derbyshire, lower in Sheffield so that's the board order: he continues to show that it's Sheffield who got it wrong. A good win against Mithun Chakravorty, while I got outplayed by Prasun and failed to put it right by sacrificing. Wins were swapped further down, as Mike Johnson went down to Youra Taroyan and Andy Mort - does anything stop this man? - came through yet again, this time against the University captain Mark Atherton. I believe that's now 9/9 in competitive fixtures, with Jeremy Hamm/Bobby Fischer 11/11 the only logical target. Suzy Blackburn won a pawn against Steve Housley and the ending without giving our man much chance - best of luck to her as she represents Wales at the Olympiad; and all rested on top board, since 3-3 meant we'd squeak through on board count. I was drowning my sorrows at the vital moment, but Hubert tells me Jonathan was in time trouble and he offered a draw rather than try to win on the clock. Overall, this result was fair, particularly since the University had lost their venue and switched to ours, thus ensuring we'd have Mike Alcock and ending any chance of their having IM Simon Buckley. Looks like we used up our Richardson Cup luck last season folks.
Phoenix - Chesterfield
At the fourth attempt the season revved up with a 6-2 win at Phoenix, particularly welcome after the previous two narrow defeats. For once it was the top end who scored the points, after three draws on the lower boards. Howard - Mercy looked long and hard fought; Bracey - Ai got to an exciting opening position and was agreed drawn; and Andrew Birtwistle achieved the impossible, the first player this season to dent Andy Mort's 100% score. Still a magnificent opening to the season for our man. At the top, I finally scored a win after a difficult ending in which we think Carl missed a couple of draws. Paul Fletcher looked even closer against Hubert: the post mortem was about a possible win for him, but Hubert came through clearly enough at the end. Steve Housley won, just as at Ecclesall, with Q, B v Q and more pawns; played with real fighting spirit. Mike Johnson - Tristam Cole looked exciting, White's extra piece but Black's extra pawns in a strong chain, was there a way through? Well, to cut the tension, yes there was; and Mike Alcock won his ending and hunted down all Gerry's pieces except the King, which was fleeing Mike's Q & N when - the flag fell. I'd be home kicking the dog, but Mike's a nicer chap and his dog Jake looks too tough to kick, so the evening ended with an honourable draw.
Chesterfield - Woodseats
I never hear anyone debate who's the League's top player. It's like debating who's the Queen of England, too simple for a good row. We duly scraped the Ramsden set together for IM Andrew Ledger, board one for Woodseats and Sheffield, the one indispensible member of the Woodhouse Cup winning team; 100% record against Chesterfield - that win by Mike Alcock being in a county match. Tonight we provided decent opposition in the shape of Hubert, and the game was less one-sided than most of the rest. Still, winning against Woodseats normally means getting 4.5 on the bottom 7, and so it proved again. The cause wasn't helped by the strong backing Ledger got from his side's middle order: 2/3 by Carpino, Trafford and Joyce against Alcock, Johnson and Housley, a formidable trio who well outgraded them. Pick of the games from our side was probably Mike Alcock, who had a beautifully placed knight on d4 and a decent bind on the position: not quite enough to win against active defence from Nigel. Three wins needed, and I wasn't volunteering: I was just glad to get out with a whole hide, after surviving a typically scary attack from Alan Potts. He very kindly congratulated me on a cool defence, and I thought half a point with Black against such a fine attacking player was pretty cool too. The wins came on the bottom three: very nice to see Bill Ward at the club, looking ever more back to good health. He looked tough to break down, but this is the Year of Andy Mort, and again our top scorer managed it. Steve Bracey rose to our grunting noises about last week's GM draw, with an excellent aggressive performance. All rested on the last game to finish; I was hiding behind a sofa in the bar, but braver souls tell me Martin won it for us after a last gasp scare. Well done folks.
Chesterfield - Rotherham Juniors
First to finish was Steve Housley, so quick with Black that I can't describe the game. Veni, vidi, vici - right on, Jules. George Peters alternated with Steve Bracey on 8, and this I did see: sound development, overwhelming attack, strong passed pawn backed up by an array of tanks. We haven't seen Chris Wing much lately: nice to have him back, taking on Hubert in a variety of languages, then Martin OTB. Martin went for a Nimzowitsch defence, but the finish looked a bit King's Indian: locked centre, irresistible pressure down the g & h files. So 3-0 to us, and I owe the guys my own win: given the match situation Paul had to turn down my draw offer and try a risky attack rather than allow perpetual. Getting over the line to 4.5 took a while longer, without being much in doubt. There was strong resistance from the other Rotherham people: the young guns Xi Yang Guo and Tom Whitaker both had the advantage against Alcock and Johnson, which Tom converted. Mike Alcock held off Yang in a R&2 v R&3, looked hard to me but our man had the technique, unlike Kasparov in a similar position v Piket. Alan Coupe likewise looked up against it v Andy Mort, but he found the draw. So to top board, which looked tremendously difficult: Hubert's perfectly placed pieces, Peter's extra pawn but damaged structure. Hubert showed us a possible win afterwards: in the game itself White stood up well and the opposite coloured bishops are an old story. So 5.5-2.5 and we're emerging from the pack and sneaking up behind Nomads.
Chesterfield - Ecclesall
Both sides were just a little short of full strength: we were missing Mike Alcock and didn't have a board 8. Brian Crofts subbed, was already behind on time, gave it a good shot against Phil Ellis, but Phil won a long ending. Ecclesall were missing Dr Hempson, who'd made such a mess of our poor board 2 in the first match. This time I was up against Gordon Stables. I thought I'd try the attack Alan Potts had wheeled out against me, and mugged it up on the internet. Can't think why it didn't work as well for me as it had for Potts: I was struggling all game for the half point. 0.5-2.5 as Adams (David, might as well be Mickey) won again against Hubert. In the post mortem Mossong and Stables found why Black should have won, and just as soon as they allow appeals based on what should have happened we'll be in there. The match was equalised, as at their place, by Steve Housley and Martin; George, Mike J and Andy all scored draws. The truth is Gordon gave me such a contest I didn't have time for more than a glance at my surroundings: I'll add details of heroic defence and hair-breadth 'scapes in th'imminent deadly breach just as soon as anyone buttonholes me! 4-4.
Worksop - Chesterfield
Worksop had recruited not only Jon Tait, as before when in the top division, but also Jim Burnett, great to see the League didn't lose him with Barnby Dun. With Jim Davis on 3 a terrific contest was in prospect. Tait - Mossong was a draw, beyond my ability to comment; late middle game. I pride myself that Jim Burnett didn't get bored: ours was, I think, the last to finish and he still needed to show his exceptional endgame skill. This equalised the top three, as Mike Johnson had scored a fine point against Jim Davis: there seemed considerable pressure when Jim played a move he'd been telling himself not to! Level at the top, and the lower end scored very heavily. Three wins for Andy Mort, Martin Howard and George Peters, with Phil Beckett the lone draw for his side v Steve Bracey. The match ended 5-3, Steve Housley having scored so many points for us and now, in yet another promising position, leaving a queen en prise. If only my own goofs had been at such non-vital moments.
Nomads - Chesterfield
This match had almost everything you look for in chess. A great venue, a hard, sporting contest against a team who include a lot of really nice guys. Memorable games. "Almost" I say because there's also that teeny detail of The Result, and here it turned out that you can't have everything...The teams swapped wins earlyish, Andy going down to a kingside attack from Jeremy; looked like this had to succeed because of our man's Queenside pressure if it didn't; it did, sadly for us, and might appear in the Sheffield Captain's Selected Games from all good book shops. Steve Bracey appalled conservatives by wheeling out the Albin Counter Gambit for such an important match- and this was against Haidar Nomeq! But he was rewarded with a good win and a well deserved pint. 1 each. Years back I was down to play Chris Shephard and asked Mike Johnson to tell me the guy's weak spots. "He's tough" said Mike. This wasn't encouraging so I asked Mike to elaborate. "He's very tough". None too helpful, but at least I found it accurate and it still holds good...Johnson-Shephard went all the way to a drawn pawn ending and it looked, well, tough: Mike can be proud of it. Cumbers-Alcock was thrilling, chaotic, Mike's King in the open, Paul's under attack - was Paul ahead? Mike later commented that he had more resources than he thought he had; I wondered if he might steal it, but the draw was fair. Latham-O'Driscoll was another barnstormer, a Najdorf with both sides going for the kill until the late endgame. Here my king march to h5 nearly settled it, but Kieran found the answers and I was glad of the perpetual. And all this excitement before we even get to top board...Jon Nelson, voted the man we'd pay to see by one departing carload of Chesterfield players, takes on Hubert Mossong - if Joe Public knew what chess was about they'd be queueing round the block. Hubert's compensation for a piece was some pawns and Jon's open King position. With fine coordination Jon's rooks and minor pieces held off numerous attacking options and then started to move forward. R, B + 2 v R and 4 looked to most of us a win for White, but Hubert never subscribed to his teammates' anxiety and made it to R+ B v R + 1 where a draw was agreed. So level, and the fateful last two: George Peters held on manfully into a long rook ending against a higher rated opponent, but Andy's sounder pawn structure carried the day; and Said-Housley, where Steve could be backed for a sure win, said the optimists half way through. Lucky there was no bookie on site! Both sides went for it, it was a game fully worthy of this splendid match, and with a queen on h4 and solid pawn on g3 bearing down on White's castled king, I saw where the optimists were coming from. But Mohammad won it for his side with a spectacular combinational attack, which was the subject of his whizz-bang coffee house post mortem until they booted us out. As Sitting Bull commented after the Little Big Horn, " a great battle, there were no cowards on either side".
See NEWS for the next match: Hubert, Mike and Dave teamed up with four of our Nomads buddies and IM Andrew Ledger of Woodseats, and this all-star combo made up the Sheffield team which won narrowly at York, our main rivals in the Woodhouse Cup for the last few seasons.
Chesterfield - Phoenix.
Three wins and five draws for 5.5-2.5, and the evening began as pleasantly as it continued, people from both sides well pleased by the Sheffield team - to which we've both contributed players - winning at York. The wins came on 2 4 and 8: I sacced a piece v Carl and after the game it looked like it might even have been sound ("Tal wouldn't even think that was a sac" said Bracey, but it was scary enough for me); Mike Johnson-Raymond Gosden looked bold and double edged, with Mike getting his retaliation in just ahead; George Peters looked to be winning, then unstuck, then back on top and then possibly no way through against Taher Aryan, and I'd still like to know how he finally managed it. The five draws were very different in character: Cole-Housley the surest - symmetrical early on, no mistakes on either side. Wildly different was Andy Mort's: I looked to see he'd won two pawns and Black's king was out in the open. I thought that looked good value for a sacrificed piece, but on counting - there hadn't been a sac! he was playing brilliantly and totally winning. And so it continued long into the ending...what does it take to finish off Zahir Aryan? Credit to him, he was even in with a chance of a win on time when he did the sporting thing and agreed a draw. Steve Bracey said this was a fair exchange for his own game v John Mercy, possibly lost when a draw was agreed deep in the ending. And so to 3, where R+ 6 v R + 5 looked good for Mike Alcock v Gerry Fletcher, Mike saying ruefully that he "finally found a draw", and on top board Paul v Hubert was played to a dead stop: looked a game for the connoisseur, all the way through a correct pattern.
Woodseats - Chesterfield
The reverse fixture had been tough and close; this time, Woodseats were missing quite a few star players, some unavailable, some stuck in a huge traffic jam. Andrew Ledger did make it and his game with Hubert was the star attraction; Hubert tried one of Andrew's own defences against him. I recall Latham-Ledger and my visions of a huge central build-up slowly crushing Black's position. Well, yeah, that can happen and Andrew showed us how: Hubert put up gallant resistance but the defensive line failed to hold. Many thanks to Hubert for his play and his fellowship as he now takes an extended trip back home. We won almost all the rest: George and Steve Bracey coming through in the endgame, well done guys for continuing to plug away there; Martin and I by attack in the late middle. His looked particularly elegant and economical, mine was a sac at the end of a long grind. Steve Housley attacked like a pitbull in a queenless middlegame, rooks and bishops swooping on the uncastled White king, but Stuart Jones fought on and Steve's eventual exchange advantage was just enough to win. John Trafford took the only other half point for his side, the game with Mike Johnson a solid draw; and with Nigel Carpino not making the match there was a late substitution. I regret I can't read my own writing, because Martin X was well worth a tribute for his fighting show against Mike Alcock, the game being decided by complicated combinational play which had some of us wondering who was actually winning. 6.5-1.5; obviously very pleasing against our old rivals, but one day we've got to dent Andrew Ledger's 100% record or die trying. Bill Ward made a particularly friendly welcoming speech and I'm more than happy to return his sentiments.
Chesterfield - University
Three wins and two draws each, for a 4-4 in this top of the table showdown. The result should please Nomads as much as either of the competing teams, but not to take anything away from a grand evening.
University were missing Suzy Blackburn and their captain Mark Atherton; for us the missing man was Hubert and we could have done with him to take on Simon Buckley. I did my best and had a decent position half way through, which I duly mishandled; Simon joined me in time trouble while looking for the smoothest way to finish me off, and I was still throwing cheapos to the last, but it was always his game. Mike Alcock played a brave and promising pawn sac against Jonathan Arnott, but it was Jonathan who landed the haymaker in the ensuing complications. So we were up against it, and this after Steve Bracey's Albin had come through yet again in the first game to finish. The rest of the team pulled us through, with particular credit to Steve Housley and Mike Johnson, batting even against Mithun & Prasun Chakravorty, both of whom are well over 180 these days. Andy Mort was also conceding a few grading points to Youra Taroyan, but the finish was quite superb, an exchange sac for a mating net with limited material: well worth a puzzle diagram, and the vital point to save the match. Martin Howard looked like joining him; well ahead, declined Azmiddin's draw offer, and still a good pawn up when,,,the flag fell! Four each thanks to George winning on 8; the traditional 3/4 for our bottom end. The return fixture might still decide this league. Again, a very friendly match with the student stand-in captain Mithun commenting that we'd always shown great hospitality, a compliment more than worth a match point.
Rotherham Juniors - Chesterfield
...and the season's first catastrophe, as we went down 2.5-5.5. Andy Mort won a piece early on and the game soon after, but he and Martin Howard, who also won in good style, played something of a lone hand. Steve Bracey sacced two pieces for a perpetual check; I've still to ask him if that position left on the board, with the mate in three, was from the game or from analysis. That was our 2.5 and those points were up on the scoreboard early on...after that it ebbed away. Yang Guo played two for them, a promotion well deserved on tonight's showing; he understood the middle game position far better than I did, and attempts at complication got nowhere. I thought Steve Housley was doing rather better, and wondered if he was winning a vital pawn, but the attack backfired; Mike Johnson put up a long and valiant battle against Paul Blackman on three, but Paul always had enough following a Tal-like unsound sac which Mike didn't accept. George Peters has scored a lot of points lately, but tonight wasn't his night either...and so to top board, where I thought Hubert had a slight edge in a Queen ending. He said afterwards that he thought he had to push for a win to draw the match, which was gone anyway; and as often happens, pushing for a win led to defeat, a fine score by Peter Shaw. Overall, a match for us to forget, and congrats to the Rotherham Juniors team.
Chesterfield - Barnsley
This was a close and exciting 4-4 draw; Steve Bracey scored early on and another win for Steve Housley had us looking set for victory. Brian looked good value for his draw on 8 against the Barnsley captain John Stevens. Half way through Andy Mort was winning easily, and I fancied myself for a possible breakthrough or at worst a draw...but no. Andy and I both goofed, and we were lucky that he had the draw in hand. I sacced a knight and then a rook and it didn't finish at all like it did when Tal went for broke. I wonder why that could be? Martin Howard and Mike Alcock shared the points with Gary Hinchcliffe and Dave Greensmith, and that left all hanging on Johnson-Sheard, the last game to finish. This too was a might-have-been; Mike looked to have decent chances but got his king agonisingly trapped on h3, with Martin's pieces inexorably closing the trap. So 4-4 and the big question was...are they still serving?
Chesterfield - Worksop
For us, the season ends effectively with three frendlies: we can't win or get relegated, and the main competitive focus is in Derbyshire where we're attempting the cup and league double. There's also the Woodhouse, where our contributors to the Sheffield team look favourites to retain the trophy. The evening began with the trophy making its appearance, and it really is worth a look: historic Victorian silver, by the leading smiths of the time.
Worksop came for a win to stave off relegation, and brought such a fine side you wonder why that was ever an issue. Tait, Burnett, Morrison and Davis as the top half; I think our club did well to give them the contest that ensued. We were short of players and defaulted one, for which I think I need to hold up a hand; Brian Crofts again stepped in at short notice, this time v Janos Wagenbach (on 6!). This was the second game to finish, George and Phill Beckett having called an early end to hostilities, and we were 2.5-0.5 behind. Jim Burnett and Mike Alcock have had some fine battles as you'd expect from their records as county champions; this one had pieces flying all around and ended in a draw. I was sacrificial lamb against Jon Tait on one; probably blew a decent opening position on a speculative sac of knight for numerous pawns and an open king position...sure enough it didn't work. Mike Johnson flew the flag for us with a fine win on 3; he already had a very good position when Ken missed the sneaky tactic that meant the c4 pawn couldn't be taken. Martin Howard defeated Oliver in good style, the ending looked very efficient; and Emma played 8 against Brian Oldham. How did Worksop end up near the bottom when they can field a team with as strong a player as this on bottom board? Still, it was a fine game, with Emma declining Brian's offer to attack unsoundly against his solid position. Instead a well played opening saw her pieces on the back rank and then a skilled counterthrust. A draw was agreed in a position where at the least Emma had no disadvantage, but time was short. So a couple of apologies from me: to our gang because another captain would at least have got a full side out, and to Woodseats and co. who needed a contribution from us to their efforts against the drop. The other Chesterfield players who did turn up can be very proud of their efforts against an excellent set of opponents. 3.5-4.5.
Barnsley - Chesterfield
Barnsley are part of a relegation dogfight; their rivals wanted a strong team out; but it's a long way to go and I'm grateful to those who did turn out for us. Their reward was a thrilling match played in the best spirit, ending in the closest of draws. Andy Mort said his game was "boring", but if so it was the only one, and it looked efficient. Martin Howard played the opening splendidly; won a piece early on; might have given a slight chance in going for a neat win rather than the ending, but scored the point in good style. Dave Dunnett had agreed to play at the last minute, a kindness that deserved a better fate than the sledgehammer attack from Tony Farrell; Steve Housley attacked bravely enough, but Tony Pogson's defence was both solid and active. So 2-1 in wins to them; and in a chaotic game on board one Fritz tells me Andy Drabble had every chance, but I landed the final blow; 2.5-2.5. Three draws followed - but what draws! I thought George had a big space advantage on 7, then realised I was actually watching a very fine strategic game by his opponent Dave Greensmith, exploiting Black square weaknesses in the style of Hubert Mossong. The long-prepared breakthrough against George's king position was slightly misplayed, thanks be, and our man picked up an exchange and the half point...both players can be proud. Mike Johnson - Andy Butterworth was equally hard fought; very little to choose and plenty of play left when the flags teetered and a draw was agreed. And so we gathered round Hunter-Bracey; Steve's last Dragon had been a great win, but Ken proved tougher opposition and it was only in the ending that Steve showed a winning advantage. Another couple of minutes on the clock and I'd have backed him...as it was, the win for one or the other would have been on time and it's anyone's guess whose flag would fall; such a lottery would have been an unworthy end to this fine match, so Ken and Steve agreed the draw. 4-4.
University - Chesterfield
And so the league winds down, with a final "friendly", neither team in danger of relegation or winning the league. We lost 5-3, a feat mainly achieved at the top end. Jonathan Arnott played with real determination and squeezed a win from a very level late middle, with a study like finish. I helped him out with a piece goof. Mike J and Steve H held out much longer against the Chakravorty twins, Mike being the last to go under in a tense position where both had chances. Steve's game looked very hard and he survived on life support against Mithun's attack for ages. So 3-0 to them at the top; Andy Mort gaining us a shred of respectability. He had one of those Slav positions where you sac your King side pawns and swoop down on White's castled king with bishops and queen. Botvinnik loved these, but perhaps didn't sac quite so many pawns. The end might have been a curious legal matter, Azmiddin's flag falling as he stretched out his hand to accept Andy's draw offer, but this was a nice sporting match and the point wasn't considered. And so to Martin, who handled the transition to a rook ending beautifully; missed maybe a couple of short cuts but got there in the end, and Steve B, who went more directly for an attack and the second of our two wins. George's Board 7 was agreed a draw, probably a fair result but still in an exciting chaotic position. The beer here is splendid, and though we lost the match there were, of course, no real sorrows to drown.