Crewe’s title hopes in the balance as both teams held at another Full House.

Wed 8th March: The NSDCA’s top two teams (from Crewe) hosted the division one’s bottom two teams, as leaders Crewe A played Alsager and Crewe B faced Macclesfield. The playing room was packed yet again with over 40 players involved in a mix of league matches, club championship and friendly games, not to mention several parents and a visiting (non-playing) captain.

Crewe “A” went into the match as slight favourites, but Alsager were not fazed by the challenge ahead. With Jonathan Blackburn rated nearly 2300 and having the white pieces, it was expected he would ensure Alsager a full point on top board and he did not disappoint. This effectively meant our “A” team needed to collect 2.5pts from the remaining 3 boards to extend their lead at the top of the league table. Our A team’s record is built on strength in depth as there is little difference between all four players in terms of ratings. As usual our big-hitters Harry Gardiner and Karl Lockett provided the wins, but we did not get anything from the board 2 game as John Booth won for the visitors to leave the match drawn at 2-2.

Meanwhile Crewe B have been performing above expectations as the lowest rated team in division one by some way. Starting the match in second place just one point behind our brothers, the Bees were dealt a cruel blow as top board Simon Layhe succummed to a cold/flu leading to a last minute change of line up. On board 4 Jarek Czyz was playing only his 2nd match of the season and after gaining an early pawn held onto the advantage ultimately queening a pawn and putting us in the lead. Visitors Macclesfield have recovered after a shaky start and are currently the form team in the division, and took the lead following wins on board 3 by Phil Cattermole, and on board 1 for John Ewens who got the better of a Ruy-Lopez to strangle the life out of David Hulme’s position. On board 2, Rick Renegade produced the necessary magic to pressurise his opponent into a mistake late on, with a match-saving knight fork of King & Queen as the score levelled out to 2-2 with all games being won by the white pieces.

These results still leave Crewe “A” at the top of the table with 11 pts from 9 matches, and Crewe “B” in second place with 10 pts. However the chasing pack will all believe they can win the title now, as Cheddleton “A” have 9 pts from 8 matches, Fenton “A” have 8 from 7 and Holmes Chapel have 8 from 8. With all contenders likely to drop points from here, any one of these five teams could easily win the league trophy.

In club news, we continue to grow as our membership increased to 52, with many of our recent additions being much younger than the average player. Alongside the two league matches, there was one game played in the Division 1 Club Championship, with Carmel Barwick continuing her excellent run with her 13th win from 14 games since October, and maintaining her 100% record in the Club championship as she joined Julian Hawthorne on 3/3 in pursuit of joint leaders Harry Gardiner and Martin Burns (each on 5/7).

In division 2 of the Club championship, there were wins for Tom Smith and Doug Barnett, with draws between Andrew Crosby and Jakub Grabowski as well as James Marshall and George Jelliss. Doug’s win takes him into the joint lead with 5/7, while George Bulbeck has 5/6. James is the nearest contender with 4/6 while Andrew has the same score having played 3 more games than James.

The matches scheduled for D & E teams at Cheddleton tomorrow (Friday 10th) have been postponed due to the weather.

Next week we have two more matches at home, with our U1825 cup team in action against Alsager and our F team playing Kidsgrove.