Tue 11th Apr – The E team went to Alsager for the proverbial “6-pointer” at the top of the NSDCA Div 3 table, and were greeted by Alsager’s strongest team of the season. As always in a 4-board match, the balance swings to and fro with fine margins often deciding the outcome. On this occasion it favoured the league leaders – Alsager – as they came out winners by the narrowest score possible 2.5-1.5, as predicted by their rating advantage. It was tough going for our top two boards who came home empty handed despite putting up valliant efforts. Our best result came from Adam Fields playing on board 3 playing just his 3rd match of the season, as he inflicted the first defeat of the season on his opponent who came into this match with 7/8 and a provisional rating of 1742, some 300 pts more than Adam. On board 4 Kobus Nienaber earned a draw, which turned out to be not quite enough to save the team as we could not muster anything from the top two. This result leaves Alsager as clear favourites for the div 3 title with 18 pts from 12 games, while the Es have 15 from 11 in 2nd place.
Fri 14th Apr – our F team made the longer trek to Cheddleton, where their club hosted 3 matches so had their resources fully stretched. The night started precariously as our board 1 Andrew Crosby got delayed by public transport on his way to the match, but was rescued by team-mate Pawel in the depths of Stoke to get him to the church on time ! (Chedd’s venue being a church hall). Our F team is there to provide opportunities for as many as possible and has so far employed 16 members in the team, with line ups often matched with the opposition as best as we can. On this occasion we were rated about 180 pts below Cheddleton’s C team, which at an average of 45 pts per board is very small. On board 3, Steve Ballantyne put us in the lead thanks to converting a pawn advantage into a queen. On board 4 Mark Randell had his maiden voyage to success, with his first win for the club much to the delight of himself and all of his team-mates. With the 2-0 advantage, Andrew wisely used his experience to offer a draw, which was accepted with both players running short on the clock. Pawel seemed to have the upper hand in the last game and refused a draw offer in the knowledge the team result was safe, but succumbed to a loss after running out of time. Captain David Hulme wanted to put his thanks on record with Pav coming to the team’s rescue to get Andrew to the match. The final score of 2.5-1.5 in our favour again shows the fine margins that decide matches, and puts the F team on 15pts alongside our E team, having played 12 matches.
Wednesday’s club night had a number of Internal Championship games taking place. In division 1, the top 3 seeds all won, with Harry Gardiner completing his campaign with 6.5pts from the 10 games, Martin Burns staying in 2nd place with 6/8 and Karl Lockett moving 3rd with 5.5/10. Julian Hawthorne 4.5/7, Carmel Barwick 4/5 and Lukasz Michalek 4/6 are all in contention to win the trophy, while the other five players are all in relegation scrap that mirror images the current Premier League dogfight.
In division 2, George Bulbeck and Doug Barnett added wins to their tally to get them closer to leader Andrew Crosby. Andrew leads the way with 7/12, while George has 6/8 and Doug has 6/9. James Marshall has the leaders in his sights with 4.5/7 but did not have a game, while the other winner this week was George Jelliss.
In division 3 runaway leader Phil Grocott who has 6/7 now, was held to a draw by Mark Randell who retains his 50% score with 2.5 pts.
Next week (19th) sees the potential league decider between Crewe A and B, as the club looks to win its first ever NSDCA 1st division title, but with two other teams from Fenton and Holmes Chapel in contention nothing can be certain.