Tuesday night saw our table-topping Wirral team play a home match (at Chester in this league) against second bottom of the table Hoylake 2. Captain David Hulme was confident the opposition would be weaker than normal as Hoylake’s 1st team was also in action (in division 1) who normally contribute at least two players to the second team. Unfortunately David’s hopes were squashed at the sight of the oppostion who had their normal top two. The outshot of all this was that boards 2-5 were almost identical in grades with only bd 1 being of any siginifcant advantage to us.
The match started badly with an early loss on bd 4, as the opposition’s experience capitalised on an early mistake. David H levelled the scores with a win on bd 2 to take his tally for the season to a very impressive 6/6 and a grading performance of 186 to date in the league, before our top player Bart Fajfer did the same, extending his record to 8/8 including Wirral Cup matches and even better rating performance of 198 in the WCL, to make it 2-1. Simon Layhe on bd 3 seemed to be holding position well until the loss of a pawn made it a little uncomfortable. However Simon’s good bishop with Rook and 4 pawns was enough to hold out for a draw which ensured we would not lose. This left Dave Price in play on bd 5, who seemed to be in total control with a two pawn advantage before allowing his opponent to get very active in and end game with Rook, Knight and pawns each. Dave managed to keep his concentration while many would have struggled. It was a crucial win for the team who remain top of the table with a 100% record from 6 matches. We have two matches left both in April, the first against Wallasey 4 and the latter the “potential title decider” with Wallasey 2 who also have a 100% record but have only played 4 matches to date.
Wednesday night saw the “A” team at home to Newcastle B in division 2 and the “D” team at home to Newcastle “E” in division 4.
The division 2 match was another big match at the top of the table, with both teams weighing in almost on the 725 grade limit. The home team were forced to change their line up following the release of the January grades, with Karl Lockett and David Hulme being rotated out in favour of Ola Titiloye and Simon Layhe, while the Newcastle team only had their captain’s name appearing on the scoresheet from both matches as they showed their considerable options for this division. The match started well for the top of the table Crewe team as Simon Layhe wrapped up a quick win on bd 5, before Ola and Amy Lovatt secured safe draws to make it 2-1 for the hosts. Newcastle’s bd 1, Reinhold Heinlein (grade 187) proved too much to handle and made it 2-2. The bd 4 game looked on a knife-edge with black’s king stuck on the edge of the board and cut off, and Crewe’s white king seemingly in the firing line too. It appears that Crewe’s Chris Rhodes read the position better as he was able to drop a piece to the back rank delivering a long distance check and follow-up mate, to make the final score 3-2 to Crewe, who remain top of NSDCA div 2 having Pld 7, W4, D3 but can easily be caught by any of the chasing pack Cheddleton B, Macclesfield and Newcastle B.
The other match at the Mals saw both div 4 teams equally matched as well. Les Hall won the battle of the captains for the hosts on board 4, before Newcastle’s junior Hambel Willow made it 1-1 with a top board victory. Doug Barnett was happy to earn a draw, so we could all watch the remaining game on bd 3 between Crewe’s junior Harry Gardiner and the experienced Nic Wright. Both players were disappointed to end up with a hard earned draw which saw the match finish with points shared, to leave our D team respectfully in mid table, and the visitors in 2nd place.