Mixed Bag in the League, while Club Championships Heat up

Monday 27 March – The F team played away at Fenton in the 3rd division, with both teams within 64 total rating points of each other – so an absolute negligible difference. Pawel Stanny with black on board 2, got us off to a good start, as a sharp queen-side attack opened up the castled position and forced a mating attack giving us a 1-0 lead. On board 4, George Jelliss was a piece up but running very short of time. With several ways of skinning the cat available, George decided to go the long way round the houses before an overwhelming attack with two rooks chased the King into submission and 2-0 to us. Steve Ballantyne seemed to be in the ascendancy with an early exchange gain. Slowly but surely his opponent wriggled and turned the tables picking up a minor piece, and had two strong bishops in an open position with a rook, against Steve’s two rooks. Unfortunately Steve’s rooks got cramped for space as one exchange fell, before the last rook was pinned against his King by the other bishop. Faced with all this, resignation was the only choice as Steve kicked himself around the bar, with the match now 2-1. On board 1, Andrew Crosby was enjoying an attacking game but allowed his opponent to set up a strong two pawn centre. Andrew went on a queen rampage picking up a couple of pawns, while his opponent calmly advanced the central pawns to create an unstoppable monster, as the King walked down the board to join the pawns and queen. Andrew could not stop the advancing monsters as a 2nd queen arrived and forced the win. A final score of 2-2, was a fair reflection in a match of high quality.

Wed 29 Mar – our E team hosted Cheddleton C in the 3rd division with ambitions of closing the gap on top of the table Alsager B. Doug Barnett had a comfortable win on board 3, before Phil Grocott agreed a draw on board 4. As usual James Marshall was down to below 5 minutes on the clock and was grateful to agree a draw on board 2, which guaranteed the team could not lose. Dave Price on board 1, was a pawn up when offered the draw, but decided to play on looking for a full point. His decision was ultimately vindicated, as he slowly pushed his connected pass pawns to success and give a final score of 3-1. This result takes the Es to 15 pts from 10 matches, just one point behind the league leaders with a game in hand. Next up is the potential decider when the E team travel to Alsager on 11th April.

Fri 31 Mar – Nigel Gardner’s much changed D team went to play Cheddleton B in division 2, with the Ds looking to close the gap from 3rd place to the leaders. A look at the team sheets showed the match would be nip and tuck, with team ratings within 70 pts of each other and both teams deploying regular Division 1 players on their top boards. The results did not go in our favour as Chedd chalked up their first win of the season by the narrow score of 2.5-1.5. Losses on the top two boards were too much despite the best efforts of captain Nigel who drew on board 3, and George Bulbeck winning on board 4 to take his unbeaten run to 11 league and cup games. With just two matches remaining for the D team it is unlikely they can now catch the leaders Newcastle who are 3 pts ahead.

Club Championships were eagerly contested on Wednesday (29th) with 9 games taking place plus a further rated game with two members in separate divisions.

In division 1, Carmel Barwick extended her 100% record to make it 4/4 as she demolished the Tournament Officer (David Hulme) to leave him in a relegation battle on 2/6. David Lambton’s win against trophy chasing Julian Hawthorne (4.5/6), put him also on 2/6. Lukasz Michalek’s win took him to 4/6, to leave Karl Lockett on 4.5/9. Richard Fish’s hard earned draw against leader Harry Gardiner (5.5/9) means he is the 3rd player on 2/6. The chase for the trophy looks wide open with Martin Burns slight favourite now on 5/7, with his game against Carmel probably being pivotal. With just 9 weeks to go to the 31st May deadline, the key will be whether all games can be completed alongside league and cup fixtures.

In division 2, Andrew Crosby won the top of the table clash with George Bulbeck to conclude his campaign with 7pts from 12 games, while Goerge is on 5pts with 5 games still to play if he can fit them in. There were wins for Kobus Nienaber (4/7), Oskar Jarzynski (3.5/7) and Julian Bulbeck (3/7) to ease relegation fears.

In division 3 Vicky Kelsall added a half point to her tally to move into joint second place on 2.5/7, while Mark Randell moved to 2/4. Leader Phil Grocott has quite a cushion with 5.5/6.