Last night saw the Mals Club packed to the rafters as Crewe hosted a trio of NSDCA Cup Finals, with the Major Cup (U150) vs Meir, Intermediate (U130) vs Cheddleton and the Perry Trophy (U110) vs Newcastle. Before the matches commenced there was a record number of 29 Crewe members in attendance, together with the 14 visiting players plus one or two supporting cast (drivers and parents) filling the playing room.
Around 7.40pm the matches got underway and a hush descended on the room, with its unique layout of two board ones on the higher level floor and the remaining 12 boards covering the dance floor and its perimeter.
Looking at the starting line ups, Newcastle appeared to be favourites in the Perry match, Crewe had over 100 points grade advantage in the Major, and the Intermediate match was too close to call with both teams within the range 603-608 out of a maximum 645.
The Perry Trophy was the first match to be completed and it could not have been closer. Without knowing the order of each game finishing the match concluded in a 2-2 draw as the Crewe underdogs pushed Newcastle all the way. Wins on board 1 by Harry Gardiner and Adam Fields on board 4 for Crewe meant that Newcastle’s winners on boards 2 and 3, Nic Wright and Jeff Tombs held the ascendancy as the Trophy was decided by bottom board elimination after Board count left the match tied, in favour of Newcastle. Congratulations to them and thanks as always for playing in great spirit.
The second match to conclude was the Intermediate Cup, where Crewe ran out victors by the flattering score of 4-1. From all accounts this does not reflect the close nature of the match. Chris Rhodes set the hosts off with the first point on the scorecard with a win on board 2 before Cheddleton’s rising junior star Sam Parry beat the Crewe’s elder statesman Doug Barnett on top board to give the visitors the edge. The engine room for Crewe proved decisive with Simon Layhe and Lukasz Holcman (playing his first match of the season) playing aggressively to put the team over the line with a 3-1 lead. Dave Price turned a poor position into a strong one to be last man to finish on the night and conclude the 4-1 win, giving Crewe the Intermediate Cup for the 3rd successive year.
The Major Cup saw the Meir underdogs push Crewe all the way. An early draw on board 2 between Crewe’s Amy Lovatt and Meir’s Pete Windows appeared to be a good start for both sides. Stuart Green on board 5 managed to hold an end game to a draw for Meir when he was a whole bishop down with 4 pawns for each player but cleverly hid his king behind the last pawn of the a2-b3-c4-d5 chain to prevent the opposition bishop from making any contribution. On board 1 meanwhile Steve Hill picked up a poisoned pawn before realising this led to a loss of the bishop for a further pawn against Crewe’s Karl Lockett. Karl calmly created a huge advantage as he advanced his Kingside pawns to leave the enemy King stuck in an unavoidable mating net with Rook and bishop to score a decisive blow in Crewe’s favour to take the lead 2-1. On board 4, Crewe’s Rick Renegade appeared to have a great chance of winning a major piece but delayed the attack and left his defences short as Clive Ferry fought back with a Queenside attack leading to an unstoppable 3-passed-pawn barrage to level the scores at 2-2. This left Dave Fuller in play for the visitors against David Hulme and with a pawn advantage and with a big plus on the clock as David H was down to his last minute plus 10 second increment against Dave Fs 25 minutes or so. Knowing a draw would suffice with the Board Count tie break David H offered the draw which Dave F just had to refuse under instruction from captain Steve Hill. Despite being short of time David H managed to create activity with his Rook, bishop and 4 pawns to slowly swap off material and ultimately bring the King into play first to prevent any chance of victory for Dave F. Eventually peace was agreed when it was obvious no progress could be made and the match concluded 2.5 pts each. In this case Crewe were fortunate to be on the right side of the tie break rule, to bring Crewe’s first success in the Major Cup.
A great night at The Mals ended just a tie break away from a hat-trick of cup wins for Crewe. Many thanks to all the visiting teams that played in such a friendly, but competitive and sporting manner and congratulations to Newcastle for their success in the Perry Trophy.