Away Day Blues as “B” & “E” stumble in title chases

It’s been a tough week for the club with five matches all played away from home, as the fixture lists have given us a run of 9 consecutive away games, to leave the MALS club with no matches for the 2nd week in a row.

The week started well for the Fabulous “F” team who went to play Meir C in a 5th division game. The scorecard showed a flattering 4-0 win for us which did not reflect the true nature of the match as wins for Simon Layhe, Dave Price, Harry Gardiner and Phil Wright brought home the match points.

Wednesday night saw the “A” team facing Newcastle B and division 5 leaders, the “E” team facing Newcastle E at the Bridge Club. The “A” team fielded two juniors for the first time ever with Amy Lovatt on bd 4 and Harry Gardiner on bd 5. Another first saw all five boards drawn to take a share of the points which took the “A” team up to 2nd in the table having completed all our fixtures. Both juniors played superbly as Harry was outgraded by nearly 40 pts and Amy was last to finish trying valiantly to go for the win  where the pawn advantage was nullified by opposite colour bishops. There were tame draws for Karl Lockett on bd 1 and David Hulme on bd 3, while Neville Layhe’s powers of concentration were tested to the full in a game lasting some 85 moves.

The other match at the Bridge Club was far more important with the division 5 title up for stakes, as our “E” team played against 2nd placed Newcastle E, the only team capable of overhauling our leaders. This match started promisingly for us as Dylan Sayers had a very good win on bd 3 against a higher graded and much more experienced opponent. Steve Ballantyne on bd 4 pushed for the win but could not break through against stubborn defences to take a draw, leaving the top two boards in play. The next game to finish saw Newcastle’s youngest player, Joe Hirst overrun one of our recent recruits, Julian Bulbeck on bd 2 to level the scores. On bd 1 Chris Rhodes lost his first match of the season (on game no. 26 !) to the host’s captain Alberto Gissi as the “E” team suffered likewise with their first defeat of the season to leave the door ajar at the top of the table. The “E” team need 3 pts out of their last 3 matches to secure the division 5 title, while Newcastle have two matches remaining both of which are against our own “F” team.

Friday night saw our B & F teams take on Cheddleton E & H respectively. The Bees went into this division 3 match two pts ahead of Newcastle C but having played one more match and with level board point difference, so a win was the order of the day. However for the 2nd time this season one of our players failed to arrive to leave us with an uphill battle. The remaining trio salvaged what could be a crucial point for the Bees, with Simon Layhe (bd 4) and Karl Lockett (bd 1) gaining the necessary wins despite being under the cosh at one stage. The Bees can only hope Newcastle C drop a point or two in their final 3 matches.

The F team gained a well earned draw thanks to draws from Dave Price on bd 1 and Adam Fields on bd 3 (his first point for the club). Kobus Nienaber went one better and picked up his first win for the club while junior Harry Gardiner suffered a rare defeat on bd 2, though this may have been expected against an opponent graded 44 pts higher. In addition to the match counting boards a further graded game was played to give youngster Charlie Dodd a competitive game on a very busy night with Cheddleton hosting five matches and showing their strength in depth by avoiding defeat in all five.

Next week we have just 3 fixtures scheduled as our Wirral team chase the division 2 title, our “E” team go in pursuit of the NSDCA Division 5 title and our “F” team also in action.

Success at Newcastle Mini Congress

Thanks to Alberto Gissi for running this year’s Newcastle Mini.

Our club provided the greatest number of entrants – A great effort from our members making up some 25% of the total entry.
Not to mention taking a bigger percentage of the prize money, with junior Harry Gardiner picking up 1st prize in the U100 and Simon Layhe a share of 1st prize in U130.
Not to forget Phil Wright collecting the “Kangaroo prize”.
                  Harry                               Simon                                      Phil


Intermediate Cup final success, Perry Trophy knock-out plus Dave Hulme wins two games in one match !

A long-winded headline to cover this week’s three matches. Starting with the 2nd match of the week which saw our Intermediate (U130) team successfully retain the Cup trophy after a tough battle with friendly rivals Newcastle at The Bridge Club. Early draws were achieved by newcomer Julian Bulbeck  on bd 4 and the ubiquitous Dave Price on bd 5. The match was tilted in our favour as Amy Lovatt used the early piece gained to trap the opponents King after utilising all but a few seconds of her time allowed, as she asked our roving reporter to record moves once she was below 5 minutes remaining. Just as Amy was about to win, success was guaranteed for the team as Doug Barnett’s draw offer was accepted on bd 1. Shortly thereafter Chris Rhodes added another win with a flourish to complete the match score at 3.5 – 1.5.  This takes Chris’s unbeaten run in all NSDCA games to 25.

The Perry B team (U110) traveled to Cheddleton on Friday night as massive under-dogs. The Fabulous Four played heroically according to captain Dave Price, who acted as team chauffeur as well as non playing captain. Harry Gardiner was first to finish with a well earned draw on bd 2, having held an exchange advantage in the early middle game before coming under pressure from advancing King-side pawns and taking the draw offer. Next to finish on bd3 with another draw was our latest debutant, youngster Lukasz Michalek playing his first ever competitive match – congratulations to him on holding his own against a very experienced opponent. Steve Ballantyne battled manfully on bd 1 before losing to one of Cheddleton’s rising stars – junior Sam Parry, whose grade is currently 117 and likely to be much higher in the next grading list. Last to finish was Kobus Nienaber losing to another up and coming junior, Joe Alcock already graded 108.  The final result was a loss 3-1, but the Fabulous Four were a great credit to our club playing against a team whose current grades were over 100 pts greater than ours.

The journey home was an enlightening tale as junior Harry Gardiner impressed the group with his recollection of all world champions from the late 1800s to modern times.

The other match played earlier in the week was a Wirral League encounter between our promotion chasing team and Division 2 established Chester E, played at Hoole Community Centre in Chester. This score-card showed David Hulme playing on bd 4 for Crewe and also on bd 5 for Chester !! Luckily for us our captain (Hulme) put the first point on the board with a swift win in a wild game where fortune was on our side. Neville Layhe picked up a good draw on bd 3 against a rapidly improving Chester junior already graded 142. Our bd 5 Dave Price fell victim to an attack from the other Dave Hulme to give the strange looking balance of two wins by Dave Hulme. Some while later we lost the bd 1 game, leaving the Walsall Warrior, Rich Wiltshir striving to level the match for us which he duly did in calm fashion. The result takes us to 3rd in the table and still with an outside chance of taking the division 2 title if we can win all 3 remaining matches, but the odds are against us as we have tougher matches than 2nd placed Atticus and also have to face table topping Buckley/Mold 1 in our penultimate match.

Three title chasing wins, two more debutants, and one wooden-spoon race !

It’s been a busy week for the club with four matches played including trips to Chester, Newcastle and Cheddleton.

The first match saw our Wirral team take on a below strength Chester F team in a division 2 encounter. Early wins for Neville Layhe, David Hulme and Dave Price confirmed the points were safe before Simon Layhe and Karl Lockett agreed draws to wrap up a convincing 4-1 win, which took the team up to joint 3rd in the table with two matches in hand on the leaders. The team is very much in contention for promotion with matches to play against the top two.

Wednesday night saw our B team host Meir A in the NSDCA division 3. The Bees were in 2nd place in the table trailing leaders Newcastle C just on board points, and were soon in trouble as board 1 was won swiftly by the visitors. However the Bees are made of fighting-stock and despite appearing to be behind in two of the three remaining games, the points started to come in as Rick Renegade, Chris Rhodes and late replacement Dylan Sayers all overturned their opponents to swing the result in our favour and emerge as 3-1 victors. With this win the Bees returned to top of the table but have to wait and see if Newcastle C overtake them with their game in hand. The title looks like going to the wire with two matches left for us and three for Newcastle.

Also on Wednesday night our basement battling “C” team went to play Newcastle D in a division 4 game. Junior Harry Gardiner continued his good form with another impressive win a against a higher graded opponent on bd 4, before Doug Barnett eased a draw on bd 2. On board 3 we had our latest debutant with Adam Fields playing experienced Pete Shaw. A fine effort from Adam saw him gain an exchange before Pete’s experience proved too much and took the point for our opponents. The final game saw David Hulme taking on their captain Paul Clapham and despite David’s significant grade advantage was held to a draw by Paul’s solid play, to conclude the match with a 2-2 draw. The result took the C team off the foot of the table on board points, where our own D team have fallen to as we contest the wooden spoon.

Friday night saw our division 5 table-topping “E” team travel to Cheddleton and take on their full strength “I” team. Without regular stars Amy Lovatt and Steve Ballantyne, it was always going to be a tough match against a team that can near the maximum grade points allowed. Captain Nigel Gardner reported on the LMS as follows:

Another very enjoyable and competitive Friday evening at a busy Cheddleton club. With a couple of enforced changes to our usual line up both incomers performed admirably to force wins in tight matches. A great result from Chris again on top board and a very assured performance from our youthful debutante Julian on board 2 in a match that finished when most had left and were already at home. An excellent result for Dylan against a much higher graded opponent taking an early pawn advantage and slowly tightening the screw to reap his just rewards. Ali and I played out another draw although both enjoyed what was a challenging game. Well done to my team and many thanks to our excellent hosts.

This result takes the “E” team 4 pts clear at the top of the table. With 4 matches left to play our Es need one win and a draw to guarantee the title.

A great week for the club and special mention to our two new players Adam Fields and Julian Bulbeck.

Unbeaten this week

With the shortened week due to Good Friday, this week’s report is produced a little earlier than normal. There are three matches to report on as the “A” team played at Fenton on Monday, with the “D” and “E” teams at home to Stafford B and Newcastle D respectively.

The week started extremely well as the “A” team managed to overcome Fenton “A”, who are destined to be Division 2 champions. The match was unexpectedly tipped in Crewe’s favour when Karl Lockett won the battle on board 1 early in the evening as he out-manouevered Fenton’s star player (graded 183 and previously unbeaten 9.5/11), to put us in the lead 1-0. Better news arrived swiftly as Doug Barnett took advantage of his opponents passive opening to force the second win before Fenton fought back with a win for Glyn Valentine on bd 2. Amy Lovatt on bd 4 ensured the team were guaranteed at least a draw when she picked up a draw with a forced repitition. She was rather disappointed not to have won after being a piece up and then sacrificing it back for what looked like a forced mating attack, but her opponent escaped the net. A strange game finished on bd 3 with a draw as David Hulme clawed back material against Kas Capatina, after blundering a rook for nothing. Fortunately Kas was so short on time, David managed to steal a draw for the team to win 3-2 and put the expected champions champagne on ice for another week or two.

Wednesday night saw another packed clubhouse with two matches and another 12-15 members playing friendly chess. The division 4 encounter between our “D” team and Stafford “B” was a close run match. Our roving reporter did not arrive early enough to see the outcome of the games on boards 2-4 but found we were trailing 2-1, with our win coming from Dylan Sayers with a good result on bd 2, with losses for captain Les Hall and newcomer Kobus Nienabar who only lost to Pete Evans (the league treasurer) after a spirited fight in only his second league match. The match was decided by the outcome of the top board game which looked to be heading for a draw until Neville Layhe found a way to snare his opponent into a pawn mating net as the King went to attack Neville before getting stranded and cut-off. The match drawn at 2-2 saw the “D” team rise one place up to 4th in the league table.

The “E” team were playing a top of the table division 5 clash with Newcastle “E”. Going into this match our Es were leading the table by 2 pts and with 2 matches in hand, although it is likely Newcastle will extract maximum points from their remaining games to keep the pressure on our “E” team. With two of our regular players missing including captain Nigel Gardner it meant the team needed reinforcing and was likely to be heavily outgraded on the bottom board. This match unfolded with a draw on bd 3 with Chris Rhodes being held by Brian Wagstaff before the Es “big-hitter” Amy Lovatt forced a material gain to take the full point on bd 2. Newcastle hit back with an equally devasting win on bd 4 to leave the match level and the bd 1 game in progress. Although Doug Barnett had a pawn advantage, it was not enough to beat the battling chairman of Newcastle, Alberto Gissi and after Alberto forced a repetitive threat peace was agreed and the match points shared to leave the status quo at the top of the division 5 table with one match less each to play. For our E team Amy continues to be the lead performer with a perfect 9/9, while chief support act Chris Rhodes moved on to 6.5/9 and extends his unbeaten run in the NSDCA this season.

“E” Team flying the flag as others lag !

It’s been a busy week for the club with four matches all played away from home. The club was packed on Wednesday night with some more new faces amongst the 18 or so there, while another 4 members were at Newcastle.

The week started promisingly as the “E” team continued their assault on the division 5 title. They went to face Meir C with just a hand-full of grading points separating the two teams. Skipper Nigel Gardner seemed content as the first three games all shared the points. Chris Rhodes playing on bd 1 took his unbeaten run to 20 matches in all NSDCA competitions this season, with his draw. The other draws came from Steve Ballantyne and Nigel (taking his score to an unbeaten 7/9 for the Es).  The match was to be settled by the outcome of the board 2 game featuring our star junior Amy Lovatt. As usual Amy played coolly to build up a decisive advantage and ultimately win the game and the match (2.5-1.5) to give the “Es” a  further cushion at the top of the table. Amy’s record for the E team is a superb 8/8.

Tuesday night saw the “F” team take on Alsager C in a division 5 match. Although the team were soundly beaten 3-1, skipper Dave Price was very proud as the team introduced another new member to competitive league chess as Kobus Nienaber made his debut and became the 13th player to represent our new F team this season. Our single point was won by former Alsager-player Les Hall.

Wednesday night saw our high-flying Bees travel to Newcastle to play a top of the table clash with the host’s C team. Unfortunately the team lost for only the second time this season by the narrowest of margins 1.5-2.5. There were draws for Karl Lockett on bd 1, Chris Rhodes on bd 3 (extending his run to 21 unbeaten) and Simon Layhe.

A really entertaining battle on bd 2 decided the match in Newcastle’s favour as their captain Alan Paling reported on the LMS site ” This top of the table clash was extremely tight with three draws leaving the result of the match in the hands of Hambel and Rick on Board 2. Hambel had an advantage but was short of time and played the majority of her moves towards the end with less than a minute (and often seconds) left. Despite Rick complicating things Hambel held her nerve and eventually took the full point. This means Newcastle C can catch Crewe B at the top of the table if they win their match in hand.”

The final match of the week for us saw our Wirral team facing Atticus (of Liverpool) at a neutral Wallasey venue to reduce our travelling commitment. This division 2 battle started with our team on 100% with 3/3 wins and our opponents with 3/4 wins. However there was an ominous start to the night when team lists were exchanged to show Steve Kee graded 196 was on top board for Atticus and two of the other four boards were graded much in their favour. Our main hope would be for Rick Renegade to attack with gusto on bd 3 with the white pieces, to try and compensate for the anticipated negative result on bd 1 with the remaining players hoping for at least a share of the points. Alas it was not be as our 100% record was firmly extinguished as we lost on bds 1 and 3 early on. The other three games all ended in draws with Dave Price and Simon Layhe performing extremely well, while David Hulme escaped with a very fortunate draw. The final result of 1.5-3.5 might prove to be useful in the final reckoning if we can pick up positive results in our next two or three matches.

Crewe 1 Newcastle 1

Sorry for the boring headline as your writer was absent from the club this week. There were just two matches played with the “A” team hosting Newcastle B in division 2 and the “D” team travelling to Newcastle D in division 4.

The “A” team were missing regulars Neville Layhe and David Hulme, but still managed a narrow win 3-2. Ola Titiloye earned a draw with black on top board against his 184 grade opponent, while Rick Renegade continued his strong run to win on bd 3. Doug Barnett picked up a draw on bd 5 and all eyes were left to watch Amy Lovatt finishing last on bd 4. With both players running short of time Amy kept her composure to build up enough pressure to convert the game into a full point and ensure the “A” team went back to 3rd in the table.

Meanwhile down at The Bridge Club the “D” team came home empty handed following a narrow loss 2.5-1.5. Draws from Neville, Dylan Sayers and Harry Gardiner were not quite enough as the team made it a hat-trick of successive narrow reverses.

One up and One out !

A quiet week for the club has just seen two matches played. The “A” team were hosting Cheddleton D in division 2, while our “Perry A” team were trying to defend the Under 11o Cup, in the first semi-final against Newcastle.

The Perry team suffered a knock-out blow, going down 4-0 against a strong Newcastle team. Outgraded by 130 pts, Newcastle were just too strong with an average grade of 99 compared to our 65 average, it was no disgrace the team came home empty handed. Our “Perry B” team face an equally tough semi-final away to Cheddleton in due course. Congratulations to Newcastle on reaching the final.

The other match saw our “A” team scrape a 3-2 win. Two early (grand-master ?) draws were taken by David Hulme and Neville Layhe, before Rick Renegade converted his one pawn advantage into a clear win on bd 4, and Cheddleton’s junior star Jacob Boswell outgunned us on bd 1 to level the score at 2-2. Both captains were happily encouraging their player to take a draw, but despite offers being made by Crewe’s junior Amy Lovatt the draw was declined. No doubt the Cheddleton player was regretting their choice to play on as Amy broke through decisively on the King-side to set up a match winning attack and carry the team over the line. Amy’s record is a most impressive 19 wins from 21 games, and no draws, since (the South Cheshire Shield started on) 12th July. This win took the “A” team one place up the table to 3rd, just ahead of Macclesfield on board points, but still well adrift of the leading teams (Fenton A and Chedd B). The “A” team are back in action on Wednesday against Newcastle B.



Bees extend lead despite Beast from the East

On monday this week the D team traveled to Fenton for a division 4 match before the big freeze took hold. However we came off 2nd best as a spirited Fenton C gained their first victory of the season. A win from Neville Layhe on top board and a draw from young Harry Gardiner on board 4 were not quite enough to salvage any points from the match as the team lost narrowly (score 2.5 – 1.5 to Fenton).

By Wednesday with the freezing weather gripping the country all but one match in the NSDCA was postponed, with the only surviving fixture being our B team at home to Alsager A in division 3. Due to horrific conditions on the road one of the Alsager team got stranded in Congleton and another player arrived too late and lost by default. The two players that beat the elements were left to carry the flag for the visitors. It must have seemed as cold inside the AMAL as it was outside as the Bees froze out their opponents with Ola Titiloye playing superbly on Bd 1 and Amy Lovatt on board 4 to complete a 4-0 win, that does not reflect the great efforts made by Steve and James from Alsager to try and save their team. This result gives the B team a 5 point lead at the summit of division 3 ahead of Newcastle C who have two matches in hand as well as the head to head with our Bees.

Our Wirral team had to postpone the long journey to Buckley/Mold and have re-arranged the fixture for Wed 2nd May.

F.A.B = Fun, Abysmal and Brilliant

Three matches to report on over the last seven days, where the “A” team played at Maccelsfield in Div 2 on Monday, the “B” team hosted Alsager B in Div 3,  and the “F” team played against Cheddleton I in Div 5 on Wednesday at the AMALS.

The “Abysmal A” team are forced to drop one of our top 5 players for every match now that our total grades exceed 725 by just 3 points, so we went to Macclesfield without top graded Olawale Titiloye. The match started badly as we lost on bd 5 quickly before Karl Lockett secured a draw on top board. Rick Renegade playing with white for the first time this season in the “A” team played aggressively as normal to equalise matters with a win on bd 3. Steady eddy – Neville Layhe gained a solid draw with black pieces on bd 2 to leave David Hulme in play on bd 4. David was a pawn down with a bishop and 3 pawns vs a knight and 4 pawns and running out of time. As his opponent had all the play and a massive advantage on the clock draw offers were declined as David eventually lost on time, to leave Macclesfield as 3-2 victors. The team currently sit joint 3rd in the table but trail the leaders by a long way.

The “Brilliant B” team had a 50 pts grading advantage over the visitors so were slight favourites on paper. An early grand-master draw on bd 1 for Neville with black was a sold start, and peace was agreed on bd 2 when Andy Barker of Alsager forced the draw with repetitive threats of “mate in one” could only be stopped by repeating the position. Luckily for Rick his opponent did not see a forced win, but this is not surprising when he had been on the attack for the entire game. The match swung decisively in our favour when Chris Rhodes converted a big time pressure advantage into a major material gain to give us a 2-1 lead. Junior Amy Lovatt with black on bd 3 seemed to have the upper hand after active play gained a central pawn. After a steady build up of positional play Amy converted the position into an unstoppable win to ensure the match was won 3-1. The Bees stay top of div 3 with 15 pts from 9 matches, with nearest challengers Newcastle C just 3 pts behind with a game in hand and two encounters yet to come with our Bees. Rick Renegade and Chris Rhodes continue to be the outstanding players for the team with records of 6.5/7 and 7/9 respectively.

The “F for Fun” team were able to give a rare game to Martin Frisher on top board playing his first league match of the season to add to his one off appearance for the Open Cup team. Cheddleton’s team comprised two experienced players on top boards and two juniors on lower boards. Their juniors held equality as they were first to strike with a win by young Robert Cooper on bd 4, before our own improving junior Harry Gardiner played superbly to notch up a leveling win  on bd 3. Harry is the team’s leading scorer with 5.5 pts. On bd 2 Simon Layhe enjoying the opportunity to play regularly since Xmas picked up a draw to leave the match 1.5 each. Unfortunately for us Martin’s rustiness left him short of time on bd 1 and ultimately lost to Colin Abell who is in an unbeaten run stretching 8 games.

The “F” team have now managed to use 13 players so far this season and remain the bedrock of the club to introduce new players to league chess thanks to the generous captaincy of Dave Price. Funny enough Dave P has captained seven teams out of our last 8 club matches over the last three weeks due to an odd combination of other captains being absent. Thanks go from all club members for Dave’s unstinting work on behalf of the club.