Chess was the winner !

Thanks to Nigel Gardner, the D team captain for our headline this week. And what a fantastic night it was on Wednesday 25th January at The Mals Club as we hosted 3 separate league matches which brought teams from Fenton, Newcastle and Stafford to sit alongside a bustling night of internal competition games. By the writer’s calculations there were nearly 50 players and spectators involved.

It is hard to know where to start, as all 3 matches were big events in themselves. I suppose top billing would go to the Division 1 encounter between teams placed 2nd and 3rd at the start of the night with any result seeing new leaders overtake Crewe B. This match between Crewe A and Fenton A saw the visitors bring the 2nd highest rated team of the season with their previous match’s team possessing the highest. Fenton would have been slight favorites with 3 of their team outrating Crewe’s by at least 100 pts, with the advantage reversed on board 4. First blood went to Crewe “A” with a quick win by Harry Gardiner as his opponent made an early mistake. The other 3 boards would go the distance. Board 2 was next to finish as the host’s captain Martin Burns held equality to force a draw as the clocks moved on to 10.15. Shortly afterwards Karl Lockett was happy to take a rare draw with both players having two rooks on the attack in an endgame where perpeptual check was the best outcome for both players. This left the board 1 game to decide the result and it did not disappoint in the “drama stakes”. Bart Fajfer had a Bishop and Knight with Queen,2 Rooks and 6 pawns with an exchange advantage, but facing a hazardous set of Knight traps and various potential pins against his King as the King manoevred to an eventual safe hiding. All this took place with both players deep into increment time, and both having less than 10 seconds remaining on several occasions. Ultimately Bart’s position unfolded to find a killer move as the Queen threatened a back rank attack with a Bishop cutting off any escape for the opposing King as the “flag fell” which was suprisingly called by the opposition captain as a spectator. Final score 3-1 to Crewe A, who move to the top of the league with 9 pts from 6 matches, 1 point ahead of Crewe B and a further point ahead of Fenton, and 3 pts ahead of Cheddleton “A” who have a game in hand !

Then there were two heavyweight matches in Division 2 as our C team entertained a much strengthened Stafford team, and our own bolstered D team hosted Newcastle. The C team match saw Neville Layhe pick up an early draw on board 4, as all of the C team players were outrated by around 100 pts with Carmel Barwick outrated by 200 pts. Board 1 was heading to a further draw between both captains, while hiccups occurred in both other games with illegal moves leading to 2 minute penatlies against Crewe’s board 3 and Stafford’s board 2. The pressure on board 3 was too much for Crewe as Andrew Mowat won for the visitors. This left Carmel in play who continued her excellent run of form to force a win with a pass-pawn that could only be stopped by the loss of a piece in the endgame, allowing the extra piece to secure the victory and save the match. Captain Dave Lambton was pleased with the outcome against the highest rated team fielded in division 2 this season, with Staffords overall rating of 7241 being higher than the 1st division leaders Crewe B !!

Captain of the D team Nigel Gardner arranged a stronger than normal D team to accommodate players having commitments at Cheddleton on Friday in the Cup. Nigel’s comments on the match card were as follows: “On a night when chess was alive and kicking in Crewe; this was a titanic struggle. After 90 minutes there was just 1 pawn of material difference across the entire match. Some excellent games played with a draw being a fair result.
A particular mention for a very imaginative and nerve-jangling win by Lee on board 1; preferring to play to a conclusion rather than allow Alan’s clock to run down when he had forgotten to push it in his last 2 minutes!” There was some superb play in this match, with Lukasz Michalek making a quick break to win on board 4. With losses on board 2 and 3, Lee Farrington played an excellent game to defeat the highest rated player in division 2, and save the match for Crewe D.

The division 2 table shows Newcastle in command with 8 pts from 5 matches, with nearest contenders Crewe C on 7pts from 6, and Crewe D on 5 pts from 5.

In Club Championship games, Andrew Crosby and Steve Ballantyne both added a point to their tally in the 2nd section, while Phil Grocott continued his march with another win in the 3rd division to open up a big gap with 4.5 pts from 5 games, leading by 2.5 pts.

There were four members playing rated Rapid play games, with George and Julian Bulbeck the victors in those.

Friday 27th: Our U1600 cup team travelled to Cheddleton, with more news click on Nigel’s Match Report.