Bulletin No 32

Tynedale Chess Club: e-bulletin no 32 (5 April 2010)

March 2010 has been a defining moment in the history of Tynedale Chess Club, with massive changes on virtually every front. One change in particular marks the end of an era and serves to highlight an on-going problem in the club. I refer of course to

The departure of Mike Nicholson

After more than thirty years of living in Hexham, Mike and his wife will be moving shortly to Shropshire. The loss to Tynedale Chess Club is simply immense. Mike has been around for so long and has worn so many different hats over the years both here in Tynedale and in the wider Northumberland scene that it is extremely difficult to envisage a future without him. In the few years that I have known him at Tynedale, he has been an inspirational captain of the Reivers, doing his utmost to ensure the continued presence of the Reivers in the top division and succeeding, some might say against all the odds. He has been a club man through and through, concerned with and active in every area of the club’s activities – Northumbria league matches, South Tyne league matches, summer knockouts, club championships, AGMs. He has lost none of his fierce competitiveness over the years, but that has not stopped him helping all and sundry in all sorts of ways, from quick post-match analysis to generous coaching. For Tynedale Chess Club he is, quite simply, irreplaceable.

His departure is the latest in a line of such events which leaves the club’s active membership severely depleted. Colin Davison moved to Derbyshire at the end of January this year; Mark Taylor left us for employment in Liverpool in the summer of 2009; Matthew Taylor has been largely unavailable since starting at DurhamUniversity, and we are likely to lose Jack Bradshaw to university studies next season. This leaves us with just eleven active players, and already the debate about whether we run two teams or one next season has started. Whatever the outcome of that debate, it is clearer than ever that we must, somehow or other, attract new members.

As if to emphasise the significance of Mike’s impending departure, the club has felt obliged to move to a new venue. With the situation at Tynedale Sports Club in Hexham becoming increasingly problematic, the decision has been taken to move to the Dyvels pub in Corbridge with immediate effect. One way and another, we are entering a new era.

The winds of change have been blowing no less fiercely over the board, as the following reports make clear.

Northumbria League division 1

This turns out to be the year in which the Reivers’ luck finally ran out and the threat of relegation, which had been hanging over the team for years, became a reality. Reivers’ captain David Wrigley takes up the tale:

“Reivers v Kings B

We welcomed Kings B through the horde (swarm?) of beekeepers into the changing rooms.

Tim drew first blood. His position initially looked a bit passive, but he muscled his way into the centre and had much the better of the middlegame. Ray was feeling the pressure and when he slipped tactically, Tim was clinical. He played a pretty combination to pick up a loose pawn, then a much prettier one to pick up a loose Queen! 1-0

Dave F was next to finish, he’d had a riotous game against Paul Costello, pieces strewn all over. Dave was the exchange up, but Paul had compensation in a big mobile pawn centre, and it was these pawns which eventually won the day. Dave faced material ruin and had to concede. 1-1

Mike writes: “In the end my game with Gary Murphy ended in a comfortable dead-level 
draw.  He tried an unusual version of the Veresov, playing Qd3 on 
move 3 and soon castling long.  This enabled me to get another game 
with good development and coordination, culminating in the better 
centre, but Gary had sufficient mobility to prevent me making 
anything of it.  He declined a draw offer, before accepting the 
inevitable on his 29th.” 1.5-1.5

Mike McBeth and I exchanged 11 moves of Evans gambit theory, then I decided to sacrifice another pawn because I thought it looked like fun and was in the spirit of the opening. Instead of trapping his king in the centre, as planned, it just allowed him to castle queenside, where his position was impenetrable and all scope for attack had gone. I lost a knight a couple of moves later, and it was probably a blessing, sparing me another twenty moves or so of torture 1.5-2.5

Dave Weldon found himself in the unenviable position of being down on the clock and having to beat Andy Lawson a pawn down in a 4 rook ending. He set a couple of traps, but Andy just side-stepped them and Dave was left with no play and no hope. Another fine showing, but it ain’t easy at the top!

1.5-3.5

Relegation looms large again!

Tynedale Reivers   Kings B
Dave Weldon 0 1 Andy Lawson
David Wrigley 0-1 Mike McBeth
Mike Nicholson ½-½ Gary Murphy
Dave Foster  0 1 Paul Costello
Tim Wrigley 1-0 Ray Shepherd
  1½-3½  

Reivers v Tynemouth Hobbits

Somewhat chastened by the return to form against Kings B the previous week, Tynedale welcomed the Hobbits in the knowledge that a loss would effectively spell relegation for our brave warriors.

On top board, Dave was having a tough time handling Clive Waters. The position was double-edged and very open, though at a glance it looked a though Clive was the one making the running. I was pleased indeed when I looked over to see them shaking hands – Dave sacrificed his way to a perpetual, and the toughest job of the night was completed.

Mike was next over the line. He writes: “My game v Antonio Moneva-Jordan was a disaster.  After a solid but rather too cramped opening, I was just getting a pleasantly more  mobile game when I totally missed one of the most obvious sucker  punches ever, Nh6+ forcing Kh8 and allowing Nf7+ picking up my Q on  d8.  By way of possible explanation, it was only the following day  when I recalled a parallel with a lightning game I played at the ICCF  congress in Leeds in September.  There, after one of my games as  black, my opponent enquired whether I had actually ‘seen’ his R on  h8, and why hadn’t I taken it?  I realised then, as I realised this  time, that indeed I literally hadn’t seen it.  I knew it was there,  but hadn’t looked at it.  With little vision remaining in my left  eye, and having now tested what I can actually see down on h8 if I’m  basically facing the centre of the board, I realise I do have an  issue to deal with.  That part of the board is normally hidden from  my good right eye by my nose, so h8 and a few adjacent squares appear  very much dimmer, in normal light, than the rest of the board!   Look  at a board with your left eye closed, and you’ll see what I mean.  My  practice over the years has always been to move my eyes, not my head,  to look at different parts of the board, as moving my head would give  clues to my opponent about what I was planning.  Maybe that has to  change now.  Anyway, the message to my opponents is to attack my  castled K if I’m black, or to target the a1 corner if I’m white!  But  then, maybe I just played a shocker …”

My own game was an untidy, error-strewn affair. I met Michael Hubbard’s Scandinavian in fairly quiet fashion and things soon felt equal. I mistakenly decided that he was making positional gains and decided to swap bits off before he tied me up in knots, but only succeeded in losing the exchange. Material up, Michael visibly relaxed, and castled casually into danger – my bishop and queen took the initiative, threatened mate, and when my attack floundered I was free to regain the exchange, but now a pawn down. Thereafter I was picked apart, my every threat dealt with efficiently whilst my time whittled away and my pawn structure crumbled.

Tim played his usual solid French, but the centre was opened up a bit earlier than he’d have liked and he was left defending an exposed backwards e-pawn. A canny exchange sacrifice shored up his position, and John had to struggle to find a way through, but he returned the exchange for a pawn and the pawn endgame was totally lost.

Hero of the hour was Dave Foster. He used 88 minutes on his clock, beating his previous record by a full hour! When all the other games finished, Dave was two pawns to the good against Lara Barnes, though both sides had marauding rooks and exposed kings. Dave showed little concern for his material advantage, and whilst Lara was able to pick up those two spare pawns, the time she lost in taking them was too great, Dave was able to pull off a lawnmower mate.

So the Reivers are relegated in all but name, though the Daves are to be commended for two cracking results.

Tynedale Reivers   Tynemouth Hobbits
Dave Weldon 0.5-0.5 Clive Waters
David Wrigley 0-1 Michael Hubbard
Mike Nicholson 0-1  Antonio Moneva-Jordan
Dave Foster 1-0  Lara Barnes
Tim Wrigley 0-1  John Clarke
  1.5-3.5  

Forest Hall A vs Tynedale Reivers

The Reivers were relegated without so much as touching a piece, as Jesmond Rookies brought in a couple of incognito GMs to beat Morpeth A midweek. So the pressure was off and our games were there to be enjoyed! Dave Foster had barely sat down when his handshake came, a quick draw in a stodgy position was his reward for a well conducted opening. Mike Smith is pretty dangerous, so this was definitely half a point gained, not lost.Derek, had a tough time with Keith Brooks. He bravely defended, but was slowly pushed back, allowing Keith’s knight to take up residence right in the middle of his position. Material losses were imminent, and Derek’s remaining pieces weren’t active enough to launch a desperado counter-attack.Tim had a fairly comfortable ride against Steve Bowey. He picked up a pawn early on, though he had NN for his opponents BB on a fairly open board, so his initial advantage wasn’t that easy to realise. Tim managed to arrange the exchange of knight for bishop and swap off queens whilst his pieces took up dominant positions. He squeezed, and Steve cracked, he could choose to lose a second pawn or swap off his remaining pieces into a hopeless ending.My game against Martin Seeber was a bit scrappy – I blundered a pawn without any compensation on move 7, but Martin overlooked it, choosing instead to merely mess up my pawn structure. He had a better pawn structure and more active pieces, but swapped off pieces over-zealously and we ended up in a double edged bishop & 5 each endgame. I had good chances to hold the draw (I thought I was winning at the time, but Fritz disagrees) but time pressure got the better of me and Martin queened a pawn with mate to follow.Dave Weldon had yet another exciting outing. John Newberry sacrificed a minor piece for two of Dave’s central pawns, and his Bishop and Queen pinned Dave down from aggressive positions. At a glance, the threats looked menacing, and Dave wasn’t able to develop easily whilst John’s forces moved in. The pressure was never released and Dave’s position was eventually hopeless.

Forest Hall A    Tynedale Reivers
John Newberry 1-0 David Weldon
Martin Seeber 1-0  David Wrigley
Mike Smith ½-½ David Foster Snr
Keith Brooks 1-0  Derek Blair
Steve Bowey 0-1  Tim Wrigley
  3½-1½  

So the Reivers’ long spell in top- flight chess comes to an end. The team’s performances for the season look like this

  Played Points Percentage
Dave We 11 2 18.18%
David Wr 11 3.5 31.82%
Mike 9 3.5 38.89%
Dave F 9 2.5 27.78%
Tim 10 3.5 35.00%
Derek 1 0 0.00%
Peter 1 0.5 50.00%
Jack 1 0 0.00%
Phil 1 0.5 50.00%
Steve 1 1 100.00%

No outstanding performances (Steve’s 100% record notwithstanding!), results amongst the regular players are fairly consistent. Mike edges the MVP contest for the season, we’re going to miss him. Dave Weldon has been cheerful setting about his struggle on board 1, and Tim and Dave Foster have both performed better than their percentages might suggest. A big thanks to all who’ve played this season, and my deepest apologies for leading the team to relegation.

David out.”

Many thanks, David, for those reports, and commiserations to all concerned. Life is tough in division one and David and his squad are to be congratulated for sticking manfully to their task. All the regular players have pulled off impressive victories on occasion during the season, so it is by no means all bad news.As if all of this were not change enough for one month,

Northumbria League Division 2

brings change of its own, for despite the fact that the Tans have played no matches in March, there has been considerable off-the-board activity. First, Jesmond Pawns defaulted their away match against us after we had tried, and failed, to raise a team to play them in Jesmond on a Friday night (there were only two Fridays available before the school holidays). That gave us two more match points and five more game points, prompting a flurry of ill-founded speculation, originating in the NCA website, that the Tans had clinched promotion in second place. In fact, it remained possible for Morpeth B to overhaul us, should they have won all three of their outstanding matches by a margin sufficient to surpass our games total. However, they then went down 3-2 to South Shields and with that result promotion of the Tans to the first division became a reality. So with one match still to play, against Morpeth B, the Tans cannot now be caught nor can they catch Gosforth Empire. They are therefore assured of second place in the division regardless of the result against Morpeth B.

This is a fine achievement for the second team of a club as small as ours. It also poses an interesting dilemma. Should we decide to run two teams in the Northumbria league next year, how will their composition be decided?

South Tyne League

A welter of activity here, with no less than four Tynedale matches and two Monarchs ones to report. Let’s start with Tynedale. First a belated report on the match against HaydonBridge on Feb 25th. Mike Nicholson writes:

“At long last Tynedale managed to play their first Haydon Bridge match of the season, with honours even but with the one point for a drawn match sufficient to put us joint top of the table with a match in hand. Here’s the score:

HaydonBridge H/c   H/c Tynedale
Ian Mackay 3 0-4 2 Mike Nicholson
Christine Moorcroft 5 0-4 3 Peter Crichton
David Tulip 6 4-0 4 Phil Taylor
Ralph Fawcett 7 0-4 4 Bruce Reed
  21 4-12 13  
    25-25    

Clever direct-to-player transfer dealing by HB captain Tulip brought in a new but somewhat familiar face on board 4 for the hosts. This, plus the return to the smartly refurbished room at the Railway, got everything away to a good start. An attempt to shake the opposition by starting board 2 with misplaced queen and king couldn’t really be expected to upset such a strong lot of visitors, though Phil, coasting aggressively along, was caught short by a queen fork on his king and rook. Here is Phil’s own version of events: David has a good record against me, playing solid chess and for some reason I try to force the issue against his play too much. I managed to open quite well, with David starting out for a King’s Indian but moving his pawn to h6 thus preventing him from castling while I kept pressure on there. I probably concentrated on this too much and there were several places where I could have simplified some exchanges and had a better position. I also didn’t castle and maintained an unprotected rook on h1 which was to be my downfall. Having pushed all my pawns far too far down the board (in an attempt to be more aggressive!) David found a careful move Qd3 which threatened Bishop and two pawns. Now comes my first real blunder of the season – I protected the Bishop and the wrong pawn, allowing David to check with a threat on my unprotected rook – 0-1 & what started out looking like a good season has deteriorated a little over recent weeks.

That result put pressure on the rest of us, since we were already in a no-win match situation, and only three wins out of three in the remaining games could yield the single point for a drawn match. Peter, undeterred by having to restart his game as mentioned above, describes his game thus: An irregular opening [a deviation from a Tarrasch] during which I missed the opportunity to win a piece on move 7. Christine, having been on the back foot, had equalised by move 15 but then simplified, allowing me to win a pawn in a double rook ending and then forced the exchange of all the rooks, leaving me with a won K&P ending.

My own win came next. Ian’s Caro-Kann was serving him well until with development completed he decided to offer the exchange of queens. A combination then forced him to concede the bishop pair in an open position, and with all the board under my control I was able in due course to set up a forced mate with rook and two bishops against his king behind his three king-side pawns.

That left Bruce seeking the last essential win. He writes: My game against Ralph was summed up at the end by his comment “I was like a rabbit in the headlights”. This did not show in the early moves of his Queen’s Gambit, which I declined, but gradually became apparent as the game wore on. His initial moves fitted the dictum of getting your pieces developed (knights on c3 and f3, bishops out to e2 and d2, castled kingside, queen on c2), but almost nothing pushed beyond the half way line. I played the Tartakower variation of QGD, with the queen’s bishop on b7. Rooks on c8 and e8 supporting knight and pawn advances produced first a central weakening for white, then a lost exchange – a rook pushed to f3 to defend a knight was taken out by the b7 bishop as he exchanged pawns to try to save his centre. In the end, as players crowded round to see the outcome of the final unresolved game, his attempt to retake a ‘poisoned’ pawn left for him in the centre led to his queen being pinned against his exposed king and his resignation.”

Next up were Friars, on March 11th, and Mike writes:

“Tynedale went into this match still unbeaten and level on points at the top of the table with Monarchs and Austins, who had both played a match more. Peter C and Phil being unavailable, likewise Jack and Matthew, we were still able to continue with the strategy of sharing games around as much as possible. While I have played four times, Dave, Bruce, Phil and the Peters have all played three, and I hope Jack and Matthew will be able to make up some lost ground in the three remaining matches either side of Easter.

At the start of the match, I made sure we all (myself, Dave, Bruce and Peter B) were fully aware that we needed just 1.1/2 points to win the match on handicap. Bill Hardwick had arrived with the same team we had recently beaten at Hallbankgate, but he’d forgotten to bring his grading list. I was able to supply his team’s handicaps, which I had checked against those used at our previous match. We had one handicap point to spare. Knowing what we needed proved significant in more ways than one, as the following game reports start to reveal (particularly Bruce’s and Dave’s). Dave finished first, against Bruce Wallace, and here’s his account.

‘I was White and opened 1) PK4 – PQ3 2) PQ4 – NKB3 3) NQB3 – PKN3 4) PKR3 – BN2 5) NKB3 – O-O 6) BB4 – NQ2 7) PR3 – PK4. Nothing disastrous happening at all so far, but I gradually lost control of the centre and at move 26 was positively losing with a pawn down. So I offered a draw which Bruce declined. Bruce does not seem to have a killer’s mentality at the moment and gradually allowed me to pull the position back to the point where I had the advantage and was close to wiping off the pawn deficit and advance my own. He offered the draw. Now then, looking around the boards, especially Bruce’s, and already being told what we needed to win the match I accepted Bruce’s offer even though he was in time trouble and on the back foot. Nuff said.’

I’m not sure that at that stage we would all have agreed with Dave’s assessment of our prospects, but his judgement was certainly proved correct. Bruce it was, if I recall correctly, who finished next, and he writes:

‘Playing black, against Daniel O’Dowd’s e4, I replied with the Taimonov variation of the Sicilian – so called because the Soviet Grandmaster Mark Taimanov developed it with a pawn on e6 for the second move rather than the more common d6. I have read that there is masses of theory, but as I only know the first few moves, I played it because I knew from a previous conversation with Daniel that he works hard at his chess, and I thought he may be slightly less familiar with this less commonly played variation of the Sicilian. This game followed the early moves of the Taimonov – with a knight on c6, a pawn on a6 and the queen on c7.

As he had advanced his f pawn after castling on the kingside, but had not played his ‘black’ bishop out to e3 I played my black bishop to b4, checking his king, and gaining a tempo. I have no idea if this was sound or not, but it produced what Daniel later called ‘a blunder’ when he attacked the bishop by moving his c3 knight to a4 on the flank, leaving me the chance to pick up the now undefended e4 pawn with a knight from f6. As this then defended the bishop, and threatened a nasty fork if he did not remove it, he exchanged his knight for my bishop, leaving me a pawn up.

The rest of the game was characterised by sharp attacks from him, and dogged defence of my slight advantage by me. In the end, with David having drawn, and Mike looking like he was about to draw, I offered a draw – which I thought was enough to win the match. As he couldn’t see any way to force a win, and thought I had winning chances with my two passed kingside pawns, he agreed the draw. Subsequent analysis suggests that the draw was the more likely outcome if we had played on with unlimited time (instead of the few minutes we both still had on our clocks).’

That left Peter B and myself in play, and still a half-point needed. Peter had, I knew, gone a piece down early on, so the pressure was on me to prove that my rook and pawns ending was as drawn in practice as I thought it was in theory. Here’s Peter’s tale of what sounds like a good scrap with Bill Hardwick:

‘As white I opened d4, c4 and pushed the d pawn to 5 to cramp him. He skewered my queen and rook and I tried a bishop sacrifice for his h pawn to take his knight away and let me take his bishop. Down on material I was well developed and had a good attack on the king’s side. He made a mistake and I got a rook back but missed a good chance to counter his attack by putting my rook on the wrong square. In the end his counter-attack was too strong and, out of time, I resigned. If I hadn’t made those errors, the result could have been different – I think!’

That left me once again struggling against the clock and George Glover. George had a queen-side pawn majority, plus the initiative, gradually forcing me back. I knew I had to keep my own king-side majority intact, and keep George’s king from reaching his pawn majority. I don’t think George had quite such a clear concept of the strategy, and as my time pressure grew more desperate, he started to play less accurately, finally dropping a vital king-side pawn. I at last felt justified in offering the draw, although I was well within my last half minute and must surely have lost on time had the offer been declined. Very sportingly, George accepted, despite conceding the match.

At this point I must ask readers to recall the events following the Reivers-Morpeth summer KO match last year, when Morpeth had wrongly entered a grading for one of their players, went away thinking they had won the match, then had to ring up to admit the error, which swung the result in Reivers’ favour. Now, on the morrow of the Friars match, I happened on the fact that Daniel O’Dowd’s handicap number had been wrongly entered, 3 instead of 4. To cut a long story short, I notified Syd Cassidy and told him the match should in fact be recorded as a draw, not as the win which I had reported the previous evening. I said we were accepting the draw, and did not intend to appeal. Bruce, reading my note to the team to explain what had happened, wrote me a very clear and thoughtful piece about the matter, including the comment that it should be clarified which handicap figures were the applicable ones – those entered on the score-sheet before the match, or those listed on the grading list and handicap conversion table. It was worth copying to Syd, which I did, for future reference. The outcome of it all was that both Syd and Bill Hardwick felt that the figures agreed before the match should stand, and that Tynedale should take the match. This whole episode was a victory for sportsmanship and good sense, and has been concluded without the slightest rancour. The STCA is the stronger for it.

Here, then, is the final final result, and Tynedale go two points clear at the top of the table:

Tynedale H/c   H/c Friars
Mike Nicholson 2 2-2 1 George Glover
Dave Foster snr 3 2-2 3 Bruce Wallace
Bruce Reed 4 2-2 3 Daniel O’Dowd
Peter Booker 7 0-4 4 Bill Hardwick
  16 6-10 11  
    22-21    

The third match was against Austins on 16 March. Mike, who was not himself playing, writes that the match was lost 1.5 to 2.5 over the board and 20 to 27 on handicap, as follows:

Syd Cassidy 1-0 Dave Foster
Alan Hiatt 1-0 Peter Crichton
Marco Ho 0.5-0.5 Bruce Reed
Drew Millar 0 1 Phil Taylor

Peter writes that he lost as black to a Vienna Gambit, in which his opponent played a very nice rook sacrifice which shattered Peter’s already rather shaky position and led to a quick demise.

Phil writes of his game: “Drew plays well above his lowly grading of 94 and I was able to play solidly replying with my standard Murphy’s [sic for O’Reilly, as PC points out]variation of the Sicilian as black. It was so solid and boring that we actually got to the completion of move 20 before even a pawn was taken. On move 24 Drew miscalculated and went a Bishop down. There was another period of slow careful play with the board opening up a bit. By move 37 my pieces had become a bit more threatening – Q&B pointing at h2 & Knight waiting to pounce. A couple of moves later and I had my rooks lined up on the e-file as well vs his rooks lined up on the second rank. I finally managed to win with a mate on move 45 & I don’t believe that Drew had seen it coming. The worst part about my game coming back a bit after a slightly ropey period is that the team loses despite my win.”

As Mike observes, “This result, and Tynedale’s loss to Monarchs, has rather dented our title chances.”

And so to the Tynedale v Monarchs match, for which Monarchs captain Derek Blair has submitted this report.

“Tynedale vs Monarchs (23/3/10)

An important match for both teams. If Monarchs were to lose, they would be relinquishing their title as champions, having lost 2 and drawn one fixture with a difficult final game against unbeaten Austins. If Tynedale lost they would be also probably be out of the championship title having lost to Austins the previous week. Also, for this internal derby, Tynedale were without Mike and Peter Crichton, although their team of Dave Foster, Bruce, Matthew and Phil only needed 1.5 points to win.

David Wrigley had white against Dave, who played a French Defence. White quickly stormed into an aggressively advanced position with better development and was able to push his central pawns forward, persuading Black to sacrifice his king side bishop for two pawns rather than retreat it back to f8. Black’s king was trapped in the centre and white proceeded to cement his advantage with further captures and swaps giving Monarchs the first point.

Father Tim, not to be outdone by son, was grappling with a Queens Gambit Declined against Matthew, who was making one of his rare but welcome appearances. Matthew had fianchettoed his bishop on b7, putting pressure on the centre and encouraging Tim to engineer a big swap but giving his opponent potential queenside pawn advantage. Matthew no doubt saw this possibility and proceeded to swap queens to further his plan. However he miscalculated and went a piece down which ultimately lost him the game.

Meanwhile on Board 4, Malcolm had secured a reasonable position from his irregular b7 opening as black and was enjoying the potential of a kingside thrust to combine with his lurking bishop. However, in manipulating his queen into an attacking forward position he was encouraged to go one square too far and got it well and truly trapped, thus ceding all possibility of a win against an experienced player like Phil.

Board 2 featured an English opening from Bruce, his favourite, which Black failed to combat sufficiently vigorously, succeeding only in getting his king’s bishop badly placed on a7. White won a central pawn in the middle game, exploiting Black’s flawed attempt to break out, at which point Black offered White a draw, knowing that was enough for an overall win for Monarchs. White naturally refused this option and played on for a win, which was not easy as his knight was off side and black’s pieces were better coordinated centrally. White rightly played aggressively and invaded black’s position with queen and bishop. However and fortunately, black had a defensive resource by bringing over his own queen thus forcing white to decide either to swap off queens or retreat, leading no doubt to the draw. In an oversight, White moved his bishop instead and so Black gratefully devoured at no cost White’s queen which had been left en prise; and undeservedly the game and match were won. (3:1)

Monarchs must beat Austins in their final match in April to have a possible chance of retaining the title. “

Many thanks to Derek for that, as for the following report on the earlier Monarchs match against HaydonBridge on March 11th:

“LAST GASP WIN FOR MONARCHS

Monarchs entertained their friends from HaydonBridge on Thursday March 11 to enable them to field their full strength team, which included ex-Monarch stalwart Ralph Fawcett. As always Monarchs needed 3 points just to draw, due to the usual difficult handicap.

First to finish was Derek Blair on Board 2. He played white against Christine, still the only female player in the league, and experimented with a Torre opening, which was new to him. Not very efficiently, but somehow, two pawns were gained for white and so, rather boringly, opportunities were sought to exchange whenever possible. Black did have some threats with a bishop versus knight and a fairly centralised king but with a time disadvantage Black threw in the towel after some 30 plus moves.

Steve Larkin, also with white, opened briskly and competently against Ralph Fawcett who revealed flashes of his old but unpractised know-how. Steve corralled black into the back row and, after exchanges used his pawn advantage to force through a kingside pawn roller to clinch the win. Observers noted that Steve must have been feeling comfortable because, exceptionally, he was seen wandering around looking at the other games during his!

With all due regard to the above players, the real drama featured the Wrigley father and son duo. David Tulip, the HaydonBridge captain, gave Tim a real pounding with his well-honed English opening and was impressively two pawns up with a considerable time advantage to boot. The Monarchs captain feared the worst especially when Tim, who had had to abort his own potentially lethal attack by exchanging off rooks and bishops to nullify white’s attack, then had to give David the option of manning off queens to save further damage. David did not choose to do so, giving Tim the opportunity to swoop with his queen capturing white’s bishop and forcing his king into the open where it was mated. Phew!

Then to Board 1 where David defended against what appeared to be a version of the ‘Haydon Bridge English’ and was fighting to survive with the clock ticking very unfavourably for him. Although a pawn down, he shared two minor pieces with centralised kings with his opponent but manoeuvred his own more tellingly to negate white’s earlier spatial control. With seconds left, and after having been seriously constricted, he gradually and brilliantly infiltrated white’s position sufficiently to scare his experienced opponent, Ian MacKay, who agreed to a draw. Phew! Phew! Master(ly) Wrigley!!

Final fortunate result: 3.5 to 0.5 to the Hexham team.”

Club Championship

The first, all-play-all phase is now complete and reveals the following table:

Derek Blair 5/8
Phil Taylor 4.5/8
Bruce Reed 4/6
Peter Crichton 4/6
Malcolm Reid 3/6
Jack Bradshaw 2.5/5
Mike Nicholson 2.5/5
Dave Foster 2/3
Matthew Taylor 1.5/2
Steve Larkin 1.5/5
David Wrigley 0.5/1
Peter Booker 0/7

Bruce gets the nod over Peter and Jack over Mike in accordance with the rule which states that “If at the end of phase 1 two or more of the finalists have the same score from the same number of games, they will be seeded by reverse order of grading – i.e. the lowest graded player will be seeded above the next lowest.”

The top eight players qualify for the second, knockout phase. However, Mike has withdrawn, given his impending move, as has Matthew, given his university exams. As a result, Dave Foster moves up to seventh seed and Steve Larkin sneaks in as eighth seed. In consequence, the draw for the quarter-finals is as follows:

A: Derek v Steve

B: Bruce v Jack

C: Phil v Dave

D: Peter v Malcolm

In the semi-finals, the winner of A plays the winner of B, and the winner of C plays the winner of D.

The onus is on the higher seeded (not graded) player to contact his opponent to arrange a date for the game. If humanly possible, quarter-finals should be played by the end of April. Colours will be drawn by lot on the night.

A copy of the rules governing the championship is available on the championship board, which should be at the club venue (the Dyvels) every time a game is played. Good luck and may the best man win!

Miscellanea

The Sell championship. David Wrigley has sent me this report on his progress:

“My Sell tournament was seemingly over, I played a stinker against Geoff Loxham, having very little idea about how to handle his unusual set-up. I set about fixing the centre and tried to pour through his kingside. Having blown the f and g files open, it was his pieces, not mine, which charged through. I found a resource which saved me from the immediate material loss but ended up with a horrible bishop vs Geoff’s good knight and a passed pawn to boot.
However, nobody seems to want to win the tournament! As things stand, I’m on 3/6, there are 2 players on 3.5, and one on 4. I play the leader in the last round! I may yet be in a 4-way tie for first!”

Good luck, David. We hope to see your name on the winner’s board, possibly with half the field alongside you!

The Newcastle championship. In round 6, your editor found himself up against Dave Stebbings, run-away leader with 5/5 and having the advantage of white, to boot. So it might seem that a draw with black was a highly creditable result, were it not for the fact that Dave later confessed that he came hoping for a draw (which almost assures him of the title), which he duly got. Taking no chances, he forced a series of exchanges which left your editor’s would-be queenside attack in tatters, after which there seemed no way through for either side. Ah well, a half point is better than nowt!

It has been decided to enter two teams in the summer knock-out this year, one to be captained by Phil, the other by a member of the Wrigley dynasty.

Forthcoming events.

April 23-25 County Durham Chess Congress at Houghton-le-Spring

April 24-25 Scottish Borders Congress at Hawick

July 2-4 Harrogate Chess Congress

And that concludes this mega-edition. If you have read this far, you deserve a medal !

Steve Larkin

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