Harry chases the Quadruple (a bit like LFC)

With the VMS League season over and a short break before the South Cheshire Shield League kicks off, attention turns to our internal tournaments. The internal divisions 1,2 and 3 all started back in September and complete their marathons on 30th June.

In division 1, the top players have just 3 games to go, with Harry Gardiner adding to his lead this week. Harry has moved to 10.5/13 with only one defeat this season, and has already won the 2021 Summer and Time & Point Handicap tournaments. He is the hot favourite to win division 1, and stands one point off the two leaders in the Swiss Rapidplay. His nearest rival in division 1 is Martin Burns who was pegged back this week in a draw with Neville Layhe, to drop behind on 9/13. David Lambton sits in 3rd with 7/11 so has five more game to play if he can squeeze them all in.

Division 2 has seen little activity since the start of 2022, with Nigel Gardner still leading on 6/7, one point ahead of Lee Tilton on 5/7. While Nigel and Lee have other commitments, George Bulbeck is reeling them in and sits in 3rd place on 4.5/8. If George can arrange enough of his remaining games then he has every chance of overtaking the leaders.

Division 3 has become a two horse race with Mike Keenan in the ascendancy. Mike has a 100% record with 5/5, and beat his key rival recently – our 10 year old rising star, Oskar Jarzynski (5/6). Mike is favourite if he can complete the remaining games with the biggest obstacle being availability of other players.

Finally, please note that the final night of our Swiss Rapidplay for Rounds 7 & 8 will take place on Wednesday 18th May, where so far we have had 36 members take part in our largest ever internal event.

B team conclude VMS season and attention turns to club championship

Tuesday night saw the B team play the final VMS league match of the season at Alsager. At long last Julian Hawthorne was able to make his debut for the club, while Dave Price covered for B team regular James Marshall. It looked to be plain sailing as Reinhard Haack got the Bees off to a flying a start with a quick win on board 5. Julian delivered a neat finish to escape the shackles on board 2 and Steve Ballantyne converted a major piece advantage on board 4, to give us victory after a loss on board 1. Dave P decided caution was the best option to agree a draw in the final game and finish the match with a 3.5-1.5 scoreline. The Bees finished the league as runners-up to the all conquering D team.

Wednesday saw a few internal club competition games take place. In division 1,  Harry Gardiner and Martin Burns cemented their one-two positions in the chase for the club championship taking their tallies to 9.5/12 and 8.5/12 respectively. The other game in division 1 saw Rick Renegade add a point to move onto 4/10. With Dave Lambton remaining on 7/10 it looks to be a three-horse race for the title.

In division 2, there has been very few games played since the turn of the year so that Nigel Gardner still leads with 6/7 from Lee Tilton on 5/7. There were wins for Steve Ballantyne (1.5/4) and Kobus Nienaber (3/6). With the tournament running until 30th June there is plenty of time for a shake up at the top.

In division 3, junior Oskar Jarzynski is piling on the pressure with a leading score of 5/6. With a maximum of 8 games to be played it is going to be difficult for anyone to overtake Oskar, although Mike Keenan is very much in contention on 4pts.

Looking ahead, the club will host Rounds 7 & 8 of the Swiss Rapidplay on Wednesday 18th May, before the South Cheshire Shield (league) gets underway the following week.

Three Campaigns come to conclusion

After the excitement of playing a Grand-Master, and an unbelievable Rapid-play night with Chessnuts.com , it was time for the final round of 4NCL season 5 and the penultimate match in the NSDCA’s VMS League.

Tuesday night was round 7 of the 4NCL online which concludes the league schedule. The “AOL” team struggled against Morriston Alekhine in the battle for the division 2 wooden spoon, with a disappointing heavy loss. Only Simon Layhe spared our blushes salvaging a draw on top board. The “BOL” team faired slightly better going down 3-1 to Braunstone in division 3 with Nigel Gardner the sole victor for us. At the end of the league campaign the AOL team have failed to register any match points while the BOL team picked up two draws to finish second from bottom in their sub division. A decision will be made later in the year whether we play in season 6 based on members wishes.

In the real world of OTB chess the C team played their final match of the season hosting Alsager. With our visitors only having four players available captain Dave Price stood down. The match ended in a 2-2 draw with the final game on board 3 going down to the wire where opposing captain Andy Barker saved the match for Alsager. Our points came from wins by Karl Lockett (bd 1) and Mike Keenan (bd 4).

In the internal tournaments, their was a division 1 top of the table clash with Harry Gardiner (8.5/11) retaining his lead with a draw against Martin Burns (7.5/11) ; and Neville Layhe notched up another point to move to joint 4th with Karl Lockett on 6/12.

Chessnuts @ Swiss Rapidplay – Wed 13th April

Wow, what an evening it was at The Mals Club for our 3rd night of the club’s Swiss Rapidplay tournament, covering Rounds 5 & 6 of the 8-round event.

It was a record turnout for those taking part in an internal event as 26 members went into battle, despite several absences due to holiday season, taking the overall numbers competing to 36 so far.

Round 5 saw the top two seeds go head to head on board 1, as Karl Lockett ruined the only 100% scorer’s (Martin Burns) record to move to 4.5 pts ahead of Martin, Simon Layhe and Jarek Czyz all on 4 pts. There were no great surprises in Round 5, with the highlight from the club’s point of view seeing three recent recruits including an “all-ladies pairing” on board 13 as Vicky Kelsall gained success, and 12 year old Joe Hignett playing his first ever “graded game” achieving a draw.

Between rounds, our visitors from Chessnuts.com interviewed the two ladies – Vicky & Milena Hignett while setting up a “Hand and Brain Blitz” game with the assistance of David Lambton and Martin Frisher as the “brains”. See video link below.

Round 6 saw underdogs Jarek Czyz and Simon Layhe defeat the top two seedings and move into the lead of the tournament with scores of 5/6 with both games watched by many spectators. Lukasz Michalek defeated the tournament controller – David Hulme on board 3 to move into joint 3rd with Karl on 4.5 pts. A group of five sit just behind these with 4 pts each and will hope to be contention. This group includes James Marshall, David L, No 1 seed Martin, Harry (No 3 seed) Gardiner, and No 20 seed Nigel Gardner who has beaten four of the top 10 players in an outstanding effort to date.

The final night is yet to be determined as an earlier one was postponed before xmas due to the Covid situation, and promises to be an exciting climax to the competition.

Many thanks go to non-playing Steve Ballantyne for keeping track of all the scores to allow the tournament controller to play in the competition, and to youngster Harry Gardiner who sets up the club (boards, sets and clocks).  And a special final thank you to Nicky from Chessnuts for coming to The Mals and promoting our club.

Simon takes on GM – Dr John Nunn

It’s been a fortnight since our last report and we have played three NSDCA League matches and two more online matches in the 4NCL.

On 30th March we had two more derbies in the NSDCA with E vs B and C vs A teams. The B team nudged up to 2nd place in the league table with a 3-1 win after successes for Simon Layhe, James Marshall and Steve Ballantyne outweighed Neville Layhe’s sole effort for the E team. The C team won narrowly 3-2 to leave the “A” team rooted in the bottom slot. The highlight of the evening was Peter Kanalos’s first ever win (for the As), but the rest of the team failed to live up to Peter’s exploits. There were draws on the top two boards, with the C team sealing the result thanks to George Jellis and Mike Keenan.

Tuesday (5th April) was 4NCL Round 6 with our AOL team against Bude in division 2 and the BOL team vs KCS U13 in division 4. As noted in the headline, board 1 for Bude was GM Dr John Nunn with Simon Layhe given the challenge of facing him with the black pieces. Simon put up a superb fight and daring to sacrifice a Rook for a Bishop and a pawn was not able to generate quite enough compensation as the GM slowly realigned his Rooks to control the endgame and infiltrate the queenside weakened pawns. The match ended up in a 3-1 defeat which was soured a little as an obvious mouse-slip cost Karl Lockett to drop a rook, with his opponent refusing to accept it was a genuine slip. If Karl had been allowed to continue he was in the ascendancy and with David Lambton’s win on board 3 may possibly have collected our first point of the season with a draw. Meanwhile our B team suffered the same scoreline (1-3) with Kobus Nienaber our sole winner. According to captain Dave Price, Kobus was in the worst position for the team with the other three boards all looking good, but unfortunately things didn’t work as planned.

Wednesday night saw our D team up against Alsager, with three regular squad members missing including captain Nigel Gardner. The replacements had mixed results with the match concluding in a draw, to see the D team lose their 100% winning record. Wins by Jarek Czyz (his first in the league), and Pawel Stanny were backed up with a draw from David Lambton as the D team completed their league schedule with a superb record of 9 wins and 1 draw to take the league title by a landslide.

In our internal tournaments, Harry Gardiner added a further half point to extend his lead in division 1 with 8/10, to keep ahead of Martin Burns and David Lambton both on 7/10. Harry is in pursuit of a hat-trick, already having won the 2021 summer tournament and the Annual Handicap. The competition should see all 10 players having 18 games each, so there is a long way to run yet.

There was a potential decider played last night in the division 3 (U1300) competition as the top two went head to head. Mike Keenan used all his experience to beat our youngest star Oskar Jarzynski and maintain a 100% record with 4/4 to move ahead of Oskar’s 4/5.

Weekly Report

With the League title already secured by Nigel Gardner’s D team, they continued their 100% record with win number 9 against our C team on Wednesday. Wins from Rick Renegade, David Lambton and Nigel together with a draw by Pawel Stanny (against Mike Keenan) were enough to outweigh Dave Price’s lonely win for the Cs.

Tuesday night was Round 5 of 4NCL online and resources were stretched. The AOL team suffered another narrow defeat 1.5-2.5 with Karl Lockett doing everything he could to save the match but could only muster a draw to add to Dave Lambton’s win by default, as his opponent never turned up (online). The BOL team faired better, as normal !, and grabbed a 2-2 draw as Harry Gardiner outgunned the opposition and Andrew Crosby converted a long-term advantage into a comfortable win. The B team are in 7th place out of 8 in their division 3 mini group while the A team languish 8th in their division 2 group without a point to show. The AOL team face Bude in Round 6 who have GM Dr John Nunn in their ranks !

In our internal competitions, Harry Gardiner overtook Martin Burns to move into pole position in Div 1 after his latest win sent him to 7.5/9 ahead of Martin’s 7/10 and David L in the frame with 6.5/9. With a possible 18 games for all to play, it is too early to rule out other contenders making a run for the trophy.

Division 2 has seen very little activity since the turn of the year, but there is plenty of time for members to get a shake on, and track down leader Nigel Gardner (6/7) and 2nd placed Lee Tilton (5/7).

Division 3 saw youngster Oskar Jarzynski take the lead on Wednesday night, with a further win to take his tally to 4/4. He should face stiff competition as Mike Keenan (3/3) and Chris Marais (2/2) all have 100% records, and I would expect top seed Phil Wright to push this trio all the way.


Crewe goes to Blackpool for the weekend

The Blackpool Congress has been taking place this weekend and  we can report that there were 12 members of the club involved, which is probably the biggest number from any single club.

In the major section we have Bart Fajfer (3.5/5), Karl Lockett (2.5/5) and Simon Layhe (3/5). Bart finished in 5th= place with several others just out of the prize money. Simon’s performance rating is estimated at an excellent 2027,  compared to his entry rating of 1719.

The intermediate section saw David Lambton and David Price both finishing on 2/5. Dave P was ranked 62nd out of 70 so has over-performed by some margin.

Our only entrant in the Minor section, George Bulbeck scored 3/5 in his first ever Congress. Another excellent effort which put him in 16th place out of 50 on tie breaks, but the same score as 9th place.

Our masses competed in the standard section where Julian Bulbeck and Andrew Crosby have excelled to finish with 3.5/5 each, 7th and 10th positions out of 60 competitors. Nigel Gardner has batted above his average to score 2.5/4, likewise Kobus Nienaber with 2/4. One of our newest members –  Chris Marais playing his first ever congress and with only two graded games before this congress should be delighted with his achievement to gain a win in the final round this afternoon. Phil Wright was one of the last to finish playing in the standard and ended up with 1 point.

 Group photograph

1. Ds race to the Chequered Flag ! 2. Oskar in The Top 10

The D team completed their domination of the NSDCA’s VMS League this week after swatting aside a beefed-up “C” team. Wednesday night saw the Dees come from 2-0 down to dramatically drub the C team and secure the league title. It did not look likely when Martin Frisher was drafted into the C team at the last minute to deliver an early blow to the champions-elect with a win on board 2. The addition of Martin allowed the rest of the C team to move down one board and create what appeared to be a decisive advantage, as the battle of the captains on board 4 also went in favour of the Cees as Dave Price made it 2-0. However the Ds like to deliver with drama and their was no shortage as the clock was well past 10pm with the score still standing at 2-0. First signs of the fightback came on board 1, where Rick Renegade appeared to be doomed to defeat but somehow conjured up a Houdini-like escape after having just a few seconds on his clock created enough havoc to pull off a surprise and make it 1-2. Then the flags came into play as board 3 saw guest (D team) player George Bulbeck pull a rabbit out of the hat when facing imminent defeat was gifted a win when his opponent ran out of time, and so it was 2-2 with board 5 in play. Here it was the turn of Pawel Stanny to complete the comeback, who fought and fought in a difficult position; so much so that another flag fell on the opponent’s clock and to the surprise of all onlookers, the D team had somehow emerged as 3-2 winners (all games won with white) to secure the League title after just 7 matches of a 10 match campaign. Congratulations to Nigel Gardner’s D team squad.

In other news, our youngest member – Oskar Jarzynski is currently rated at 1399E (at 1st March) which puts him in the top 10 players in the UK for the Under 10 age group. He stands out as the only North-West player in the top 10 of essentially an all Southern listing.

Dominant Dees Deliver again

Another superb club night on Wednesday saw one match take place, together with a handful of internal competition games and a gathering of new players receiving coaching, as well as visitors from Alsager and Fenton clubs.

The main event was the clash between the table-topping D-team and second placed E-team. The D’s captain Nigel Gardner was absent due to other commitments which would mean they were missing their leader who is unbeaten in 14 games since we returned to OTB chess after the Covid enforced break. When the board 1 player failed to arrive, the Ds benefitted as Bart Fajfer was able to play his first league match for over 2 years as a replacement. The first game to conclude saw Pawel Stanny put the league leaders in front. Neville Layhe (E) drew with David Lambton (D) as David defended doggedly, before Kobus Nienaber delivered a killer blow for the Ds on board 4. Bart converted a two pawn advantage into a full point before the last game saw George Bulbeck finish the night as the sole winner for the E team. The final result was 3.5-1.5 for the D(ream) team, as they moved further ahead of the chasing pack, with a perfect 12 pts from 6 matches, with the E & B team both on 7 pts, their closest rivals some way behind.

In the club’s division 1 tournament, Martin Burns added another point to his tally to move into 2nd place with 6 out of 9, trailing the leader Karl Lockett on 6.5 pts who has played one more game. David Lambton remains in contention in 3rd place with 5.5 pts from 8 games, in what appears to be a marathon based competition with potential for all players to play a maximum of 24 games.

In division 3, Philip Wright got off the mark with a win in his second game, while newcomer Matthew Dean was successful playing his first long play game, as he became the 31st player to join our 3-division competition this season.

With another potential new member attending, we have now had 18 new recruits since the start of the season, as chairman Dave Price devotes most of his time to teaching newcomers, as we aim to introduce as many as possible to competitive and league chess as and when they are ready.

The current growth of the club is testimony to the efforts of Dave Price, and  shows we have more active members at the moment than any other club in the North Staffs League, which is a superb achievement for a club still in its infancy having only been formed in June 2014 !!

Was history made while we suffered Online woes the night before the Ds Dominated the VMS ?

What a busy week we’ve had, or two nights to be more accurate as Tuesday saw us playing two 4NCL Online League matches at the same time our “A” team made the short trip to Alsager and Wednesday had four teams in League action on a brilliant night at The Mals.

So was history made on Tuesday night ? The Alsager team fielded a weaker team than normal, but had a line up with an age difference of more than 80 years between their oldest and youngest team members. Without divulging too much detail, Richard Martin who is approx 95 years young was in a line up with Isaac Stanley who is a junior player. Enquiries are being made to see if this is a record for age difference in a league team within the ECF !!

Whatever the results of the research, the score line showed that our “A” team had a resounding 5-0 win, although the team maybe renamed as “Nomads A” with only two of the nominated squad available; Martin Burns had to dig deep to find five eligible players. Thanks to the supporting cast of Julian and George Bulbeck as well as Nigel Gardner, who backed up squad members Martin and Phil Wright to win all five boards.

We also had our two online teams playing in the 4NCL on Tuesday. Our AOL team was heavily outgraded by Dundee, as their bottom board 4 was rated 80 points higher than our top board. Despite the one sided expectation, we put up a brave fight to lose narrowly 1.5 – 2.5 as skipper David Hulme clocked up a rare win after a dodgy piece sacrifice, and Simon Layhe played more sensibly to earn a draw in a tight double-edged position. Meanwhile the BOL team had an even stiffer task with an average rating deficit of just over 200 pts and a massive 490 point shortfall on board 4. It was no surprise that defeat was to come, as skipper Dave Price avoided the whitewash with a draw, but our lower boards put up terrific fights.

Wednesday night at The Mals was another busy night as more members returned to the club with the easing of Covid related issues. We had 28 in attendance, as four teams played in the League and everyone else had some coaching. According to my records the club has hosted 50 different potential members this season, with 35 now having fully paid memberships.

The two matches were very closely fought between C and E in one match and D vs B in the other. The E team have a settled batch of players and had a small advantage over the C team, especially as skipper Dave Price elected to drop himself in favour of coaching the growing number of newcomers. The “E” team notched up a 3-2 win to move up to 2nd in the league, with wins from Neville Layhe, Julian Bulbeck and 9 year old Oskar Jarzynski. The “C” team were grateful to guest players Martin Burns and Kobus Nienaber for their two wins.

The other match saw league leaders – Nigel Gardner’s D(ream) team take on what was their nearest challengers – David Hulme’s B(ees) team. The early skirmishes proved decisive as Nigel and Pawel Stanny outmanoeuvred the Bumbling Bees on boards 4 and 5, before Simon Layhe brought the Bees back into contention with a win on board 2. On board 3 Adam Fields (D) and James Marshall (B) had a long duel before peace was agreed with a draw that meant the D team could not be beaten. The final game saw David on board 1 trying to engineer an end game advantage against Rick Renegade. Rick superbly created a counter attack with a supported passed b-pawn that was enough to prevent David’s King providing support to two passed pawns on the “e” and “g” files. However Rick’s King was able to hold the two pawns as neither could push on past the 6th rank. Rick held the position despite behind down to seconds on his clock on several occasions and ensure the D team retain their 100% record as they continue to dominate the VMS (Voluntary Mask Section of the League) after this 3-2 scoreline and put further daylight between them and the chasing pack.