At long last – The Return of OTB Matches !

Wednesday night saw Crewe Chess Club play its first match against another club in proper Over The Board (OTB) conditions since the Covid outbreak in March 2020, as Fenton brought a five board team for a pre-season graded friendly.

The visitors had to contend with a couple of late player withdrawals, but thanks to their captain Steve Emmerton still managed to raise the team of five, but this conceded some grade advantage to the hosts.

Unfortunately for Steve he fell to an early blunder which allowed one of our debutants, David Lambton to notch up his first OTB success for the club. Julian Bulbeck soon added another point to our score with a win on board 5 before the visitors pulled one back on board 4. Lukasz Michalek seemed to have the upper hand on board 3 with Kings castled on opposite sides of the board, with his King having greater protection. The position became double edged but the clock ultimately proved the downfall for his opponent and match victory was secured. This left the board 1 game outstanding, as our other debutant Marin Burns was under severe pressure before a badly judged exchange sacrifice gave Martin the advantage. However it was not plain sailing as Martin was down to one minute on his clock against 27 minutes, but managed to tie up his opponent thanks to the 10 second increments, before forcing victory from a game which had looked pretty dire earlier in the evening.  The final score was a flattering 4-1 success.

In other action at the club, there were 16 players involved in the internal Winter Tournaments. Full details are on the LMS. Additionally there were another 8 members involved in coaching sessions as chairman Dave Price led the sessions.

Next Wednesday (20th) there is another pre-season friendly as we host Holmes Chapel and on Thursday we take a small team to play Kidsgrove.

Before both of these we have our two 4NCL online teams playing on Tuesday night.

Details of OTB fixtures/results and 4NCL online fixtures/results can be seen from the tabs at the top of this page.

It’s unbelievable Geoff !!

Sorry to mix metaphors, but what a wonderful week for Crewe Chess Club.

Tuesday (5th) night saw the fortnightly battles in 4NCL Online, with the AOL team taking on the Manchester Manticores in division 3, and the BOL team up against Calstock Killers in division 4  …. what a gladitorial scene that sets.

The A team had not won a match for nearly 12 months and 3 seasons of 4NCL online, but Tuesday night saw that unwanted record come to an end. Karl Lockett on board 2,supplied the first shock of the night as his opponent missed a long range back rank attack to allow him to watch his beloved Crewe FC. This was followed by the captain David Hulme trapping his opponent’s Queen for a minor piece after been given an exchange gain as well, so 2-0 to the underdogs. The top performance came from David Lambton on board 1 against a much higher grader opponent. A superb  piece sacrifice was followed by a King-hunt with Queen, Rook and Knight that was so devilish the piece was recaptured in a mass exchange to leave Dave several pawns to the good. Unbelievably 3-0 to the underdogs and match points secured, as we ended with a 3-1 scoreline.

The BOL team went one better as they whitewashed the Killers. Even though teams were evenly matched, our B team is full of online wizards who regularly exercise their magical powers. The 4-board army of Rick (the grenade) Renegade, Harry (stay cool I am a chess player) Gardiner, Lukasz (cool-hand Luke) Michalek, and Kobus (the destroyer) Nienaber were all too good and won comfortably to head into one of the promotion slots. Having played all the other top-half teams in their section, the chances of back-to-back promotions is very much alive. So much so, the B team could overtake the A team in the massive 4NCL structure of nearly 180 teams.

After a terrific Tuesday, it was time for a Wonderful Wednesday as the club hosted Rounds 1 and 2 of the Internal Swiss Rapid-play tournament. As I arrived just after 7pm, I was greeted by a packed-house with a record turn out of 30 members in attendance. It was a privilege to announce the competition’s rules and show-off the club’s newly acquired congress pairing board and wall-chart, as a hastily added set of pairing cards were needed to accommodate the increased numbers. An extra table, set and clock was required before the Tournament could commence. The joy of watching 9 year old Oskar participate in his first competition was matched by the sheer excitement of seeing record numbers involved.

Club chairman Dave Price was delighted to see the club so active, especially when considering the current environment where so many clubs are  unfortunately struggling. With an odd number of 25 players, Dave was able to continue coaching the hand full of newcomers who are not yet ready for comeptitive chess before joining the battle in round 2.

Full scores for the Internal Rapid-play can be accessed from the LMS, which shows we have five joint leaders after two rounds, with top seeds Martin Burns, Harry Gardiner, David Hulme and Rick Renegade joined by newcomer Jarek Czyz, who looks to be a formiddale addition to the club’s ranks.

Events for October

This is our schedule of events for the month ahead:

  1. Wed 6th October – Swiss Rapidplay Rounds 1 and 2
  2. Wed 13th October – Crewe vs Fenton (pre-season friendly)
  3. Wed 20th October – Crewe vs Holmes Chapel (pre-season friendly)
  4. Thur 21st October – Kidsgrove vs Crewe (pre-season to be confirmed)
  5. Wed 27th October – NSDCA League commences with two matches                 Crewe D vs Crewe A and Crewe C vs Crewe B

Members will be able to continue playing Winter Tournament games on these nights (if not involved in the planned events), as well as the normal club session commencing at 6.30pm

The 4NCL Online League continues with matches on Tuesday 5th and 19th October with Rounds 4 and 5 for our two teams.

Any more details required on the above events please contact the Events Organisor David Hulme; or Chairman Dave Price

AOL suffer again, BOL in promotion slot; and News Update

This week’s news comprises six items:

  1. 4NCL AOL team suffer again.
  2. 4NCL BOL rise up the table
  3. Winter tourneys get cracking
  4. Crewe withdraw from NSDCA OTB Swiss League
  5. Crewe mini Rapid-play League to start on 6th October
  6. Crewe vs Fenton (graded friendly match) on 13th October

1. Starting with the online AOL team, it was another tough day at the office as we faced promotion-chasing Barnet Knights A team. An average grade deficit of 375 points (= 50 old grade pts) per board, with a 559 deficit on board 1 it did not require a genius to predict the result. It was to our credit that all boards put up a decent fight as all games went over the 90 minute mark before the inevitible happened and we succumbed to a 4-0 loss, leaving us at the bottom  of our division 3 Group D table, with just 1 board point to show from our first three matches (12 boards).

2. Meanwhile the BOL team continue to shine the light for the club, with another impressive result beating Brentwood Juniors 3-1. A look at the score sheet showed their bottom board was as highly graded as our top board, so despite an average 240 pts grade deficit per board, Dave Price’s mighty bees buzzed their way to success. Wins from youngsters Harry, Lukasz and Kobus as they all performed their online wizardry secured the points. Unfortunatley the writer was unable to watch these stars playing as he was too busy suffering on board 1 for the AOL team. With this result the B team have risen to 2nd in division 4 Group D, and currently sit in one of the two promotion booths. Stranger things have happened but we could see the BOL team climb to division 3, as the AOL team fall to division 4 judging by performances so far !!

3. The club’s winter tournaments saw another 16 players in action on Wednesday night as the events early rounds take place. There will be 22 games for each player in division 1 and 18 games in divsion 2 as things stand with all games being graded and a deadline of 31st May 2022 for completion. Some notable results on Wednesday saw chairman Dave Price unexpectedly beat the Summer and Annual Handicap Champion, while Andrew Crosby outplayed secretary David Hulme before allowing David to escape with a lucky draw. Although these events are in their infancy it is clear these will be very competitive judging by the match atmosphere generated on Wednesday. Currently Neville Layhe leads division 1 and Lee Tilton, Nigel Gardner and Steve Ballantyne share the lead in division 2.

4. At the NSDCA AGM on Monday night, the league decided to press ahead with a Swiss-style league with “mandatory mask wearing” and accordingly our club reluctantly elected to withdraw for now, with a view to revise the situation in January.

5. In order to provide some league chess, the club has set up a mini Rapidplay league to last until January, when matters can be reviewed again. It was thought that Rapidplay would provide a nice alternative to the long-play internal events. The RP league starts on Wednesday 6th October where it is hoped there will be 6 teams participating, but this seems likely to change.

6. We have arranged a graded friendly home match with Fenton on Wednesday 13th October. Provisionally this will be over 5 boards and is subject to amendment.

Details of 4NCL online can be seen from the tab at the top of this page with details of Winter Tournaments and the mini Rapidplay League available from the Crewe Chess Club section of the NSDCA League Management System.

Harry makes it a double

18 year old Harry Gardiner wrapped up his second trophy in successive weeks as he concluded the Summer “All-play-all” last night with a win in the final game of the whole competition.

The event started in mid-June and the trophy was only decided in the last game, after last night’s pairings saw the four contenders going head to head. Three of the four players were on 3.5/5 – Harry, Doug Barnett and Simon Layhe, with the other contender Dave Price on 3/5, and the games to be played were Harry vs Simon and Dave vs Doug.

Chairman Dave took the early advantage as he managed to overcome Doug, no doubt aided by the fairly noisy club room causing distractions to all involved. Temporarily this put Dave in top spot, finishing with 4 pts, and with the remaining game in the balance we had the prospect of a 3-way tie for the trophy if the final game was a draw, or if we had a positive result that would prove decisive for the winner. In the end, Harry would emerge with the win to become Summer Champion – again congratulations to Harry.

It is great to see Harry’s game going from strength to strength, as it is only four years ago that Harry’s first ever grade was a miserly 31 in old ECF money. Let’s hope he continues to improve his game and grade which is now 1848 in new money (= old 153 grade) and help the club compete at a higher level in future league events.

Full results can be seen from the following link


4NCL – BOL get first win under belt, but AOL suffer again

Last night saw Round 2 of the current 4NCL Online Season (No 4). The A team faced division 3 hot shots – Guildford Castles while the B team took on Barnet Knight C in division 4.

The A team were never likely to succeed against a team that is highly rated enough to be amongst the top dogs in division 1, with an average rating above 2100. The gulf in class was apparent as the match was decided in under 30 minutes as our top three boards were all outplayed. The remaining game saw Simon Layhe play a blinder, as he prized open the castled king, and then forced the opponent’s overworked queen to fall. Simon’s win was the first board point collected by the A team after two matches. There is no rest in the next round as we face another top rated team !

The B team found the going much easier, with a big grade advantage on each board, although a team comprising juniors can never be under-estimated. On board 1, Rick Renegade threw his usual grenade into the mix, to emerge with 4 queenside pass-pawns, while his King was safely grounded on h8, in front of an opposition pawn on h7, which prevented his King being attacked for some time, before one of his own pawns converted to a queen.

Lukasz Michalek seemed to be involved in a game that was pretty equal until he created another queenside pawn majority that proved key in converting the position.

Skipper Dave Price was happily meandering along before realising he was a pawn down. However he did possess a couple of killer centre-pawns that pushed forward to squash his opponents position, and forced resignation when one was to be promoted. His game finished last to make the score 3-1.


Harry Gardiner wins 7th Annual Blitz Handicap

Last night saw the club take a big step back to normality, with 20 members competing for the Annual Time & Point Handicap trophy, plus several spectators, other newcomers and the control team.

The format of a 5-round swiss is complicated by time and points handicap based on players standard grades, so that the top players rated between 1900 and 2000 are allowed 5 minutes to complete their games, while lower graded players have 1 minuted added to their time for each approx 100 point band up to a maximum of 15 minutes. Additionally handicaps are added to lower grade players varying from half a point to 2.5 pts based on the grade band they fit in to. Any previous winners have time and handicap points reduced to add to their difficulty of winning the trophy, and this has ensured we have had a different winner in all six previous events.

The first round saw most of the top half seeds win their games as expected which forces them to play each other in Round 2. As the bottom half of seeds have the biggest handicaps any early win propels them up the leader board. The unusual results in round 2 saw three draws among the higher seeds, so that only two players emerged with two wins – being Rick Renegade and Amy Lovatt.

The battle of the top two in Round 3 saw Amy succeed to be the only player with 100% record and effectively make it impossible for Rick to win the trophy as he did in 2018. Wins for Kobus Nienaber and Reinhard Haack to take their scores to 2 from 3, put them in the joint lead with Amy on 3.5 pts with the handicaps included, ahead of a couple of players with 3 pts and a large group on 2.5 pts.

Round 4 threw up a number of surprises with Harry clinching the top board game against Amy. Simon Layhe’s 4th round win kept up his unbeaten score with two wins and two draws, while Dave Price and George Jellis added further wins to their accounts to leave all of this group on a combined score of 3.5 pts together with Kobus and Reinhard, making it a 7-way tie on the leader board.

Round 5 scores created a big head ache for the tournament controller as four of the leading group all won their last round games making a tie on 4.5 pts as Harry, Amy, Simon and Reinhard all chalked up successes to finish ahead of a group on 4pts including unbeaten No 1 seed Martin Burns, Doug Barnett, Julian Bulbeck and the 2020 online winner – Nigel Gardner.

A series of Armageddon play-offs were then decided as the best way to determine the outright winner. The random draw, paired Simon with Reinhard and Harry with Amy. Simon had a walk-over as Reinhard was too tired to continue after the long evening. When Harry met Amy for the second time on the night we could not have seen a more dramatic finish as Harry was given an extra minute as white, but knew he had to win otherwise a draw would see Amy in the play-off final. A tense game followed with both players using all of their seven minutes until the late middle game saw complications and pieces literally falling all around in mayhem as the clocks homed in towards flag-fall. With just two seconds remaining on both clocks confusion arose and Amy’s flag fell first in uncertain circumstances as pieces were not placed correctly. It was impossible to say which player was totally responsible for the wreckage and the controller decided that flag-fall was the only call available so that Harry went through to play Simon.

A good number of spectators stayed late to watch the play-off final, as Simon was given 9 minutes with white to see if he could beat Harry with his 6 minute allowance. A tactical game saw Simon gain a pawn with Rook, two bishops and 6 pawns vs Rook, bishop, knight and 5 pawns. Harry managed to deflect Simon’s minor pieces to recover the pawn and swap his knight against a bishop, which led to an endgame with opposite bishops and opposing potential pass-pawns. In a complicated endgame both players created queening pawns and Simon missed a winning combination but would only have had a couple of seconds to make too many moves and ultimately lost on time, when Harry would have had insufficient material after Simon could recapture the queening pawn. Either way a draw would see Harry win the Armageddon play-off and win the 2021 Time & Point Handicap to become the 7th different winner. Congratulations to Harry.

A special thank you to Steve Ballantyne for working on all the pairings, and to Les Hall and Dave Price for resetting clocks for every game and setting up the room for the event.

All in all it was another special night for the club, with all members taking part in a friendly and sporting manner, as another new member was introduced to club activities and an exciting finish to decide the champion !


Upcoming events and AGM News

The club held its AGM on Wednesday 25th August. Main items

  1. Subscriptions held at £20 p.a for Adult Members and £10 for juniors (under 18 @ 1st September 2021)
  2. Club’s 7th Annual Time & Point Handicap to be held on Wednesday 1st September, commencing at 7.30pm prompt. Contact David Hulme for details and to register beforehand.
  3. League chess to be confirmed – with NSDCA executive proposing a swiss competition for teams of 4 players – no grade limits, but players restricted to one team. League AGM to be held Monday 20th September at Meir CC.
  4. Internal long-play events to start on Wednesday 8th September for all members interested – games to be graded, and ECF membership required in addition to club subscription
  5. Club entered two teams into latest 4NCL Online Season 4. Other online chess put on back burner while OTB returns.


Summer tournament heads to a fantastic finale

With just a pair of games left to be played in the 2021 Summer OTB Competition, we have a four-way slug-fest to see who is our latest club tournament prize-winner. The remaining games are Harry Gardiner vs Simon Layhe and Dave Price vs Doug Barnett, and any one (or more) of these four will be the Summer Champion.

The 7-man all-play-all commenced in June with club newcomer Martin Burns the apparent favourite, competing with the above four players plus Neville Layhe and Les Hall, all determined to be part of our first OTB competition since the Covid pandemic gripped the country.

As we approach the final games, we have four players on 3.5 pts having all dropped at least 1.5 pts. Among these Martin has already completed his six games so will be overtaken, while Doug, Harry and Simon also sit on 3.5 pts and chairman Dave is just behind on 3pts, with their final games remaining. If Harry or Simon win their game, they are guaranteed at least a share of first place with Doug the only other player capable of scoring 4.5 pts. A draw between Simon and Harry would allow Doug to win outright if he beats Dave, or if Dave beats Doug we could have a 3-way tie.

It is hoped these games will be played on Monday or Tuesday of next week to meet the 31st August deadline for the competition.

Just a reminder we have our Annual General Meeting on Wednesday 25th August, starting at 7.30pm and to be followed by a 5-round 5-minute blitz.

It is the intention to have our 7th Annual Time and Point Handicap on  Wednesday 7th September if there are enough members ready to return to the club, and the following week should see the start of our Winter long-play competition (two divisions of all-play-all).



New League Season 21/22

The NSDCA Committee have arranged a meeting for Monday 16th August to discuss the possible restart of league chess and to prepare for the necessary League AGM in due course. At this stage it is unknown how many teams will be competing.

If anyone is interested in playing league chess for the club, please contact either Dave Price or David Hulme (or any of the committee and captains shown on our contacts section.)

In the meantime our club continues to meet on Wednesdays from 6.30pm, and is currently running a summer tournament as well as providing friendly chess for any member that wishes to attend.

We have our own Club AGM scheduled for 25th August, to be followed by a 5-round blitz for all interested.

September should see our Annual Time & Point Handicap taking place. We will also be aiming to arrange one or two pre-season friendlies with other clubs as we have done in all seasons prior to the Covid-19 outbreak.