Away Day Blues as “B” & “E” stumble in title chases

It’s been a tough week for the club with five matches all played away from home, as the fixture lists have given us a run of 9 consecutive away games, to leave the MALS club with no matches for the 2nd week in a row.

The week started well for the Fabulous “F” team who went to play Meir C in a 5th division game. The scorecard showed a flattering 4-0 win for us which did not reflect the true nature of the match as wins for Simon Layhe, Dave Price, Harry Gardiner and Phil Wright brought home the match points.

Wednesday night saw the “A” team facing Newcastle B and division 5 leaders, the “E” team facing Newcastle E at the Bridge Club. The “A” team fielded two juniors for the first time ever with Amy Lovatt on bd 4 and Harry Gardiner on bd 5. Another first saw all five boards drawn to take a share of the points which took the “A” team up to 2nd in the table having completed all our fixtures. Both juniors played superbly as Harry was outgraded by nearly 40 pts and Amy was last to finish trying valiantly to go for the win  where the pawn advantage was nullified by opposite colour bishops. There were tame draws for Karl Lockett on bd 1 and David Hulme on bd 3, while Neville Layhe’s powers of concentration were tested to the full in a game lasting some 85 moves.

The other match at the Bridge Club was far more important with the division 5 title up for stakes, as our “E” team played against 2nd placed Newcastle E, the only team capable of overhauling our leaders. This match started promisingly for us as Dylan Sayers had a very good win on bd 3 against a higher graded and much more experienced opponent. Steve Ballantyne on bd 4 pushed for the win but could not break through against stubborn defences to take a draw, leaving the top two boards in play. The next game to finish saw Newcastle’s youngest player, Joe Hirst overrun one of our recent recruits, Julian Bulbeck on bd 2 to level the scores. On bd 1 Chris Rhodes lost his first match of the season (on game no. 26 !) to the host’s captain Alberto Gissi as the “E” team suffered likewise with their first defeat of the season to leave the door ajar at the top of the table. The “E” team need 3 pts out of their last 3 matches to secure the division 5 title, while Newcastle have two matches remaining both of which are against our own “F” team.

Friday night saw our B & F teams take on Cheddleton E & H respectively. The Bees went into this division 3 match two pts ahead of Newcastle C but having played one more match and with level board point difference, so a win was the order of the day. However for the 2nd time this season one of our players failed to arrive to leave us with an uphill battle. The remaining trio salvaged what could be a crucial point for the Bees, with Simon Layhe (bd 4) and Karl Lockett (bd 1) gaining the necessary wins despite being under the cosh at one stage. The Bees can only hope Newcastle C drop a point or two in their final 3 matches.

The F team gained a well earned draw thanks to draws from Dave Price on bd 1 and Adam Fields on bd 3 (his first point for the club). Kobus Nienaber went one better and picked up his first win for the club while junior Harry Gardiner suffered a rare defeat on bd 2, though this may have been expected against an opponent graded 44 pts higher. In addition to the match counting boards a further graded game was played to give youngster Charlie Dodd a competitive game on a very busy night with Cheddleton hosting five matches and showing their strength in depth by avoiding defeat in all five.

Next week we have just 3 fixtures scheduled as our Wirral team chase the division 2 title, our “E” team go in pursuit of the NSDCA Division 5 title and our “F” team also in action.