Brilliant way to end 2023 in the NSDCA League

A busy week has seen five of our eight league teams in action during the last week of fixtures for 2023.

Monday 11th December – Our G team ended the year as 4th division league leaders following a strong performance against the experienced Meir outfit. Wins from Steve Ballantyne, Malcolm Green, and Jamie Roberts were backed up with a draw from Pawel Stanny on top board to give a final score of 3.5-0.5. The team have amassed 13 pts from 7 matches and have a 5 point lead over 2nd placed Fenton D’s team. Youngster Jamie heads the scoring chart with a perfect 7/7, while skipper Steve has picked up 6 from 7.

Tuesday 12th December – saw two matches at the St Mary’s Centre, as our “A” team hosted Holmes Chapel A in div 1, the D team hosted Newcastle in div 2, and the F team travelled to play Fenton C in div 3.

The A team had a very tough encounter with Holmes Chapel. Harry Gardiner turned round a difficult position on board 4 to put us in the lead, and it was a long time before any other games finished. Slowly but surely the defending champions edged their way to success by the narrow margin of 2.5-1.5 as Martin Burns and Bart Fajfer secured draws, before Richard Lee earned a backs to the wall draw when under attack in the dying embers of increment time. The “A” team are making solid progress in their title defence, as they head the table at Xmas with 9 pts from 5 matches. The most serious challenge is likely to come from Fenton “A” who are 3 pts behind with a game in hand (vs Cheddleton “A” on 16th January) before we travel to Fenton for a typical 6-pointer on 23rd January !

The D team had a resounding win against a slightly higher rated Newcastle team. There were superb wins from captain David Lambton on board 1 and Martin Frisher on board 2, where both players were outrated. Martin secured the 4-0 whitewash after George Bulbeck and Chinenye Basil-Nwachuku completed more straight forward wins. This unexpected result takes the Dees top of the table with 11pts from 7 matches, in a very competitive division. 2nd placed Fenton B are on 9 pts with a game in hand, and as probable favourites are the highest rated team in the division, although Stafford could have the necessary strength to beat everyone have played only 3 matches to date and have a glut of fixtures towards the end of the season.

Crewe F have become the “draw masters” of the NSDCA with a 4th draw in 5 matches at Fenton. Neville Layhe churned out a top notch performance on board 1 to win his game, and captain Dave Price ensured the spoils were shared as he also won with the white pieces. We could not chalk up anything with the black bits so ended up with a fourth consecutive drawn match, which leaves the team in 3rd place unbeaten with 6 pts from 5 matches. Leaders Gables “A” look to be strong favourites for the div 3 title.

Our final league match of 2023, saw our “H” team travel to Kidsgrove for a 4th division match. Thanks to the support of our members we managed to take 9 players to the Red Bull Pub in Kidsgrove much to the delight of our hosts. According to their secretary Julian Cook, this was probably the biggest number of chess players involved in a match at Kidsgrove for approx 30 years. There were some great results for our players as Mark Randell and Kobus Nienaber put us 2-0 in the lead and Julian Hawthorne made his first appearance of the season to secure the match with a 3rd win. Final score 3-1.

Although Kidsgrove edged the “extra games” 3-2, the overall evening was a great success played in a very friendly atmosphere. Our wins came from Matthew Dean and Dave Price, but the real winner was Chess.