Monday 27th Feb: Crewe travelled to Fenton to play in the semi-final of the Open knockout, for the right to play Alsager in the final.
The match was contested over 6 boards, with Crewe having an approx 300 pts advanatge in total ratings, which in reality is a very small difference of about 7 pts per board based on the old 3 digit system, mainly due to the absence of Fenton’s 2nd highest rated player – so all things considered – a pretty even contest.
Fenton struck the first blow against the grain, with a win on board 5 from their acting captain Ray Hyde in the absence of the ubiquitous Steve Emmerton. In John Motson commentary it was 1-0 to the home team. Fortunately it did not take too long to hit the equaliser as Karl Lockett proved too strong on board 6 enjoying the biggest rating advantage of 230 pts. Visiting captain Martin Burns deployed on board 4 found a sweet skewer to emerge victorious and put Crewe 2-1 in the lead. Then around 9pm a little pandemonium broke out as Fenton’s Petru Floresc (on board 2) had his mobile phone loudly ringing out of his pocket. When he eventually located the phone a discussion took place between captains to agree that a warning was the rule in place, but before returning to the board his phone was set off for a second occasion meaning automatic loss under the rules. However Simon Layhe did not want to claim a default and sportingly agreed with all parties that the game could continue, adding to the tension of a close match.
As the match moved towards 10pm, Crewe had gained the upper hands on boards 2 and 3, while Fenton appeared to be in better shape on the top board. Simon by this time was two pawns ahead but faced with very active opposition pieces, found his way to sac one exchange before swapping all the remaining pieces to leave himself with an unstoppable choice of pass-pawn (either a or g), while his King arrived just in time to stop Petru’s central connected pass-pawns and give Crewe a 3-1 lead.
As we moved past 10pm, Lee Farrington had gained massive control with a Bishop on h6, with Queen and Rook controlling the open e-file, while Fenton’s castled King (on the kingside) was looking very vulnerable to mating attacks on g7 and e8. There was no counter play available as Lee assumed dominance and forced resignation to make it 4-1. The writer was now thinking about the late John Motson and his commentary of Germany 1 England 5, and thinking “this is getting better and better and better” and so it transpired with Bart Fajfer turning the tables on board 1 to make it an unexpected and resounding 5-1 to the visitors, just like England all those years ago coming back from 1-0 down !!
Crewe have been drawn at home in the final against Alsager, and will play in their first ever Open KO final. The winners will be breaking the domination of Cheddleton and Stafford who have held the trophy between them over the last decade !