The new year started with two matches at the AMAL last night. In division 2 the “A” team hosted league leaders Cheddleton “B”, while the “E” and “F” teams fought out a division 5 derby.
The top of the table “E” team were out-graded on paper due to the vagaries of estimated grades and F-grades employed under league rules and were set for a tough challenge. The first game to finish was the junior battle on board 4 where Harry Gardiner comfortably defeated his opponent to put the “E” team in the lead. Next to finish was the E’s other junior as Amy Lovatt won the bd 2 game against Les Hall. Amy kept up her 100% record for the team and has now scored 10/12 in all games since the South Cheshire Shield started. Both Harry and Amy are improving rapidly and it is expected both players grades should jump when the new grades are released around the end of January. The remaining games were close affairs before Chris Rhodes capitalised on errors in the bd 1 game to make it 3-0. The final game to finish saw Phil Wright hold Nigel Gardner to a draw. This result leaves the E team four points clear at the top of the table (with a maximum 12 pts from 6 matches), although lower down Meir C are the closest challengers (with 5 pts from just 4 matches). The “E” team are at home to Meir B next week.
The “A” team put up a good fight against runaway leaders Cheddleton B, with David Hulme (bd 4) and Rick Renegade (bd 5) winning, while there were losses incurred on boards 1 and 3 to leave the match delicately poised at 2-2 with Karl Lockett playing Bill Armstrong on bd 2. These two have met a number of times in the last couple of seasons and usually their games “go the distance” and last night was no exception. This was a hum-dinger of a game as advantage went too and fro with both players deep into increment time. One moment it looked like Karl had the upper hand with approx 5 minutes left against Bill’s 2 minutes around the 40 move mark. As the players thrashed out a further 30 moves or so Bill’s experience allowed him to gain a secure winning advantage to leave Karl forced into resignation. So for the second consecutive match, Cheddleton B beat Crewe A to effectively eliminate the “A” team from the title race. The “A” team are at home to Cheddleton C next week.