Having moved the division 1 derby forward from 14th December to 23rd November, we have brought an early conclusion to the 2022 part of the league season and in the process dodged the potential hassle of a 14th December clash with England’s world cup hopes (Swiss Rapidplay may be affected).
This week has seen 3 fixtures with our C team playing at Fenton B on Monday, while our E team hosted Alsager B, and the F team hosted Cheddleton C on Wednesday.
The C team fixture featured the stars from our B team’s great result on Friday with Neville Layhe added to the trio of David Lambton, Julian Hawthorne and Carmel (headline act at Bolton) Barwick. Julian provided some entertaining comments about the trials and tribulations of playing league chess in an open plan pub. Unfortunately Julian misjudged a piece sacrifice and swiftly fell to defeat on board 2. Neville performed a minor Houdini stunt on board 3 to turn a losing position into a full point as his opponent inexplicably allowed Nev to check and win a rook for free when down two pawns in a R+3P vs R+1P endgame. Carmel’s fine run continued with a defeat of one of the league’s rising juniors, gaining a piece as she piled on the pressure to put us 2-1 in the lead. Finally skipper David endured a loss as his time advantage elapsed while the opposing B,N&K positions eclipsed our B&N set up. The final score of 2-2 sees the C team lead the table as we head to the xmas break, with 6 pts from 4 games. The next fixture against Newcastle (on 5pts from 3 games) looks like a key title pointer.
Wednesday at The Mals saw another bumper night, alongside the 9 boards from the 2 league matches, we had a further 6 internal competition games, with several members also playing friendly games while watching all the action unfold.
The E team had the tough task of facing div 3 league leaders Alsager B. With teams reasonably matched, Alsager had a small rating advantage playing over 5 boards. For this match Crewe unveiled another new player as Richard Fish made his OTB debut and became our 40th member to play in the league this season, with the added pressure of playing on board 1. Despite a solid opening Richard found it tough to make any break through and when over stretching left his defences weak and succumbed to defeat. At the other end of match, Matthew Dean matched his opponent step for step to pick up a valuable draw on board 5, which was then supplemented by another solid draw from Phil Grocott on board 4 against a very experienced player. Kobus Nienaber held onto a difficult position when being an exchange down in an endgame, with his bishop and pawn keeping a Rook and Pawn at bay, to give us a 3rd draw. Unfortunately Doug’s promising position evaporated as the night went on and the temperatures dropped as he conceded defeat late into the evening, leaving Alsager as worthy winners and league leaders at xmas.
The F team faced Chedd’s C team, with 3 of the boards very evenly matched, and Chedd having a distinct rating plus on board 2. First to finish was our 10 year old Oskar Jarzynski blitzing out a game, and snatching a lucky win from the jaws of defeat as he managed a back rank mate when down by a Q&N. A superb game on bd 2 saw the visitors Dave Hallen engineer an exchange gain, while Steve Ballantyne thought he could turn the tables with attacks on two pieces only to find his opponent could escape with a retreat that forced a Q-saving move from Steve, and then the 2nd piece to retreat to safety. Further infiltration gained a couple of pawns forcing our resignation. On board 4, Pawel Stanny had won a piece for a pawn in the opening. Maintaining this advantage throughout, Pawel eventually created all the space needed to allow his King to dominate the endgame. As a pawn got promoted this was enough for success. The remaining game saw George Bulbeck co-ordinate a beautiful R,B & N attack against an open King and two rooks, to force a mating net that could only be avoided by the loss of a piece to give George an excellent win when short of time. The final result being an unexpected 3-1 win to leapfrog the F team from 6th to 3rd in the table, with a solid 5 pts from 5 matches.
It was all hands on deck in the club championship. In division 1 there were two hard fought draws with Lukasz Michalek denting Harry Gardiner’s title chase, and Martin Burns having a long winded endgame with Karl Lockett. Division 2 saw wins for James Marshall and George Jelliss. In division 3, Mark Randell got his campaign underway with a well earned full point.
Next week (14th Dec) is scheduled for Rounds 3 & 4 of the Swiss Rapidplay, but this will be psotponed if England make it to the World Cup semi-finals.