1. NSDCA Season Concluded and 2. Online Club Update

Item 1 – Message received today (31st May) from League Secretary as follows:

Dear All,

I am writing to all NSDCA clubs having been asked to do so by Robert Milner.

It has become clear that concluding this season will not be possible.  As such this current season will not be restarted.  All games played up to the point of suspension will be counted for grading and the results of matches played and league standings will be recorded for our archives .  However no league titles or trophies will be awarded.  Arrangements for the AGM will be agreed in due course.

May I take this opportunity to wish everyone well.  I look forward to the day we can get back to over the board chess but until then stay safe.

With best wishes

Robert West

2. Club Online Update

Tuesday night saw our 4NCL team beaten by top of the (div 3) table team – Hull Romans. Thanks to Neville Layhe gaining a hard earned draw we avoided the dreaded whitewash.

Wednesday night saw an internal 15 minute Rapid-play (5 round swiss) event using Lichess’s pairing system (clearly not as good as our own David Hulme’s ?). There was a standout performance from Kobus Nienaber who toppled David Hulme in round 1 and later beat top seed Karl Lockett, to finish as winner with 4/5 under Lichess tie-break rules ahead of junior Harry Gardiner with the same score of 4/5. There was a field of 10 players for the event, which was lower than the 16 we had a fortnight earlier. I suspect our beautiful weather may have proved too much of a temptation compared to the prospect of being tied to a computer for nearly 2.5 hours LOL.


Battling draw in Round 7 of 4NCL Online

Round 7 saw us facing the runaway leaders of our section in Division 3, the team called “3 Smarties 1 Tube” all with links to the Imperial College London and a history of ECF grades massively above our own.

It was no surprise to see Karl Lockett out gunned on board 1, against a player previously graded 200+. After a positive start to the game where Karl’s opening caused his opponent some serious discomfort and a big time advantage, the class eventually told. Meanwhile on board 4 Nev (Stonewall) Layhe played a fantastic attacking line with a classical exchange sacrifice before surrounding the opposition’s King with a Bishop pair on f6 and g6. Despite bing material down the swift attack was too much for his higher grade player. A loss on board 3, left ustrailing 2-1 with Rick (the grenade) Renegade on the offensive as ever. Despite Rick’s opponent having a most recent grade of 175+, the aggressive play was too much as Rick set up a cute mating attack against a castled King involving a Knight threatening to come to e7, and a Bishop on c3 preventing any escape on a long diagonal, with a Rook threatening to combine on the h file after giving up an exchange to remove the only defending piece. It was brilliant to watch. With this finish it gave our team (bottom of the table) a share of the spoils in a 2-2 draw against the previously only 100% team in the division !

I would recommend a look at the 4NCL’s site to find the games on their PGN links.

Jim Grange and Simon Layhe share 1st place in inaugural Online RP

Last night saw the club hold its first online Rapid-play Tournament. As this was always going to be a trial event we decided to run it as a “4-round-Swiss” with 15 minutes allowed for each player in each game (with no increments). To make life interesting we used ECF long-play grades for seeding purposes which meant we had to formulate pairings ourselves.

The event attracted 16 keen members and was scheduled to kick-off at 7.30pm. The 1st round pairings were posted in the Lichess chat room and had disappeared out of sight due to the banter exchanged between players before the first pawn was even pushed. With a couple of members new to the Lichess system a couple of games could not start and there was a series of frantic phone calls from players to the control room (where the isolating controller had no idea what was going on !) but matters were resolved thanks to the help of our Lichess experts – Dave Price and Rick Renegade. As the 1st round got underway some games had finished before others had started as the controller tried to keep track of the 8 boards in progress. Eventually the dust settled and all the results flowed in with all of the top 8 seeds winning their opening games.

Round 2 saw smoother progress as the top seeds Jim Grange, Karl Lockett, Rick Reneagde and Simon Layhe all won against seeds 5 to 8, and similar progress was made with seeds 9 (Kobus) ,11 (Lee) and 12 (Nigel) all beating their lower rated opponents with one draw in the remaining game between Andrew and Les. And so … on to Round 3. And time for another hiccup ..

The controller issued the pairings as previously in the chat room, only for them to disappear due to some techno-fobia. This only became apparent when players started asking “has Dave H disappeared” and “can someone ring Dave”. After a couple of minutes delay and much chunnering among the players the pairings were re-issued and Round 3 commenced rather later than planned.

Here we had the top four seeds all paired against each other with their 100% records. There was nothing to separate this bunch as both games ended in draws with some nice sportsmanship shown. A draw was agreed in one game where a win could have resulted on time, but with an exchange deficit a draw was offered. Lukasz Michalek and Kobus Nienaber gained their second wins. Due to one pair of players using wrong colours in this round an incorrect result was recorded and only corrected after the event completed. As round 3 completed, there top four seeded players were in the joint lead on 2.5 pts, with Lukasz and Kobus just behind on 2pts.

The last round saw Jim paired with Karl and Simon paired with Rick on the top boards, with Kobus and Lukasz on board 3. The winner had to come from these 6. Jim managed a quick win in his game while Simon and Rick traded blows before Simon emerged victorious. Kobus managed to overcome young Lukasz to finish in a brilliant 3rd place. Then we had a pile up in 4th place as Karl, Rick, Dave Price, Andrew Crosby and Nigel Gardner all amassed 2.5 pts.

Congratulations to Jim and Simon on their success and thanks to all members who made it such a memorable and enjoyable event.

It is hoped we can run another competition in a few weeks time as all involved expressed their enjoyment as evidenced by the great banter through the night.

Final Cross-Table below

NO. R 1 R 2 R 3 R 4 pts
1 Jim Grange 159 W9 1 B6 1 W4 0.5 B2 1 3.5 1ST =
2 Karl Lockett 149 B10 1 W5 1 B3 0.5 W1 0 2.5 4TH =
3 Rick Renegade 138 W11 1 B8 1 W2 0.5 B4 0 2.5 4TH =
4 Simon Layhe 137 B12 1 W7 1 B1 0.5 W3 1 3.5 1ST =
5 Harry Gardiner 135 W13 1 B2 0 W9 0 B11 1 2 9th=
6 Dave Price 119 B14 1 W1 0 B12 0.5 W13 1 2.5 4TH =
7 Lukasz Michalek 113 W15 1 B4 0 W11 1 B9 0 2 9th =
8 James Marshall 99 B16 1 W3 0 B10 0 W12 0 1 12th =
9 Kobus Nienaber 96 B1 0 W14 1 B5 1 W7 1 3 3RD
10 Andrew Crosbie 95 W2 0 B13 0.5 W8 1 W14 1 2.5 4th=
11 Lee Tilton 94 B3 0 W16 1 B7 0 W5 0 1 12th =
12 Nigel Gardner 88 W4 0 B15 1 W6 0.5 B8 1 2.5 4TH =
13 Les Hall 88 B5 0 W10 0.5 B16 1 B6 0 1.5 11th
14 Nick Harrison 80 W6 0 B9 0 W15 1 B10 0 1 12th =
15 Russell Smithers 60 B7 0 W12 0 B14 0 W16 0 0 16th
16 Adrian Howells 50 W8 0 B11 0 W13 0 B15 1 1 12th=


Tough Going in 4NCL Online

Another two matches in Rounds 4 and 5 of the newly formed 4NCL online league have found us struggling at the foot of Division 3 Group D. We have suffered two 3-1 defeats against MK Phoenix 2 in round 4 and Nottingham University in round 5. Our sole successes came on board 4 in both matches with Harry Gardiner (rd 4) and Neville Layhe (rd 5).

Neville has been our star performer in the tournament unbeaten with 3.5/4 so far. All other squad players have managed to pick up 1 point each having been outgraded on every occasion. It has been a baptism of fire as we have been placed in a division above our grade levels. It would be a massive surprise if we can avoid relegation but as underdogs we have nothing to lose as we embark on the second half of the campaign.

Full details of the 4NCL competition (180 teams in 5 divisions) can be seen on their excellent website.


First success in 4NCL & team blitz !

Our online club has had a busy week, playing Round 3 of the 4NCL (div 3 vs Horsham) on Tuesday, Wednesday club night mix of Blitz and Long-play, and a Blitz Challenge (10 min + 10 sec) against local friends Holmes Chapel.

Neville Layhe (aka Whitevanman) set the ball rolling on Tuesday with a comfortable win having gained a 2 pawn advantage (connected pass pawns) early on before taking his time to ensure the position was converted to our benefit. Amy Lovatt (Gnowm) made an early error on board 1 losing an exchange which was always going to be decisive against a much higher rated opponent, and so the scores were levelled. Rick Renagade (aka DONT_ WALK_OFF) played his normal explosive style to crack open the opposition defences. A slightly premature sac of 2 rooks for a queen missed an immediate winning chance as captain David Hulme (watching all games) became nervous, before restoring a forcing mate combination, put us in the lead and guaranteed our first point of the 4NCL season. The final game saw Karl Lockett (aka ZZCrewe) taking advantage of a spacial advantage on board 2 converting into two huge central pass pawns. Karl took his time to tie down his opponents pieces so much so that his opponent had no squares for Rook, Bishop and pawns as Karl’s freedom allowed a mating net to be set up but did not need to finish it off as time ran out for the other player, to finish the match with a 3-1 flourish.

Wednesday saw a typical club night with 14 members playing 77 Blitz Games and a couple of other members preferring a Long-play game using normal League time controls. The Blitz event was won by the club’s leading player Bart Fajfer (aka pelbonek) with junior Harry Gardiner (aka Gingerninja2003) 2nd and 3rd placed Karl Lockett.

Thursday saw the club’s 2nd inter-club Blitz challenge. Our first event saw us soundly trounced by Chester’s big-guns, but this time we outnumbered and outgraded Holmes Chapel. Although we ran out as comfortable winners the stand out performance came from HCCC’s Colin Mills (aka knightrider11) with an amazing 100% score of 5/5 which would have been 6/6 had the final game not been cut-out, as he single-handedly scored 16 of HC’s 18 pts ! Crewe’s top scorers were all juniors, with Harry Gardiner and Lukasz Michalek (aka Good-40-percent) amassing 22 pts between them. Most pleasing was 15 y/o Safwan Khan’s (sim_wan05) 100% performance. Thanks to Pat Bennett from HC for orgainsing the event.

A tough start in 4NCL online League

We have now played two matches in the newly formed 4NCL online league, with teams comprising of 4 boards.

The 4NCL Management team decreed we should play in division 3, and were seeded in 28th place out of 32 teams in the division. However the seedings assumed we would have a team with much higher grades then we are selecting and so we are probably going to find it difficult to avoid relegation in our new venture.

Our first match (April 7th) started promisingly against 4th seeds, Warley Mighty Quins after Neville Layhe got a solid draw on board 4 and Amy Lovatt played serenely to find a superb win on board 2. However the two remaining games against higher grades did not bring any points despite  valiant efforts.

Our second match (April 14th) against 29th seed Falmouth & Truro found us significantly outgraded on top 3 boards. However Neville Layhe again got us off to a flying start with a Stonewall Demolition on board 4, with a beautiful King-side attack that put us in a 1-0 lead. The oppositions strength slowly began to strangle the life out of our positions despite two of the games going deep into the session.

We have a squad of 8 for the competition but have kept the same line up for the first two matches of Karl Lockett, Amy Lovatt, Harry Gardiner and Neville Layhe. The other members keeping the bench warm are Jim Grange, David Hulme, Rick Renegade and Dave Price. It is expected some squad rotation will be deployed as there are 10 matches to be played over the next couple of months.

We got blitzed by Chester tonight !

We played our first online club match tonight, taking on the might of Chester in a Blitz Battle, consisting of games played with a time limit of 5 mins plus 3 secs increment per move.

The scorecard makes for harsh reading as we came second by a long way with Chester running out as big winners by the score of 134-76. Our chances were hampered by the last minute withdrawal of our top player plus another member not joining in who had signed up to play.

Our leading performer was Harry Gardiner (aka gingerninja2003) who clocked up an impressive 12 pts from 12 games. Martin Gill made a virtual return and scored 10 pts from 9 games, while Karl Lockett scored likewise from 11 games. Lukasz Michalek gained 9 pts from 7 games to be our highest percentage scorer on the night. A group of players scored 8 being chairman Dave, alongside Nigel Gardner and Kobus Nienaber. Les Hall would have been delighted to outscore the secretary with 5 pts and Martin Frisher made a cameo performance to help cover for our missing duo, picking up 4 pts from just 5 games, with Dave H (the secretary) performing abysmally to score 4pts from 8 games (with 2 pts awarded for a won game).

Thanks to everyone who joined in and took on the challenge.

Lichess … to the rescue ?

With the short term prospects for a return to OTB chess looking pretty grim, the club are looking to keep interest going through online chess for those that want to.

Our initial actions have been to contact Chester CC to arrange an event in the next few days as a challenge match.

We are intending to open a “club event” on Wednesday evenings which may start this week (25th March) if we can possibly get it ready.

Further contact has been made with Wallasey CC to gauge interest in another battle.

Once we have a little experience of how things work,  we can then look further a field with a view to organising some more matches with our friends from other NSDCA clubs.

Anyone interested please contact secretary David Hulme or chairman Dave Price.

In the meantime please take care of yourselves and all your families and friends through this unprecedented time.


NSDCA League Matches suspended

The major news to report is that all NSDCA League Matches have been suspended until further notice. It is intended to review this position at the end of March.

We managed to fulfil all the scheduled fixtures in this past week, which included a Wirral League match at Wallasey on Monday, The D team at home to Stafford and E team against Meir B on Wednesday, with the G team playing Newcastle F at The Bridge Club on Friday.

Our Wirral team went in to their match as division 2 league leaders with 100% record against bottom of the league Wallasey 5 who had not registered a point in all their previous matches and already confirmed in relegation slot. You would not have known as a mighty shock was on the cards after an early draw on board 2 and then followed a loss on board 4. Cool hand Lukasz Michalek on board 5 brought us back to parity with a comfortable win, before our leading player junior Harry Gardiner wrapped up another full point on board 3. Our skipper on board 1 could have taken a draw to get the team back on the road home for the 50 mile return journey but all the team were happy to wait to allow David Hulme to convert his unstoppable advantage and conclude a sound team victory 3.5-1.5 where all the whites were dominant for us. The team has a huge cushion at the top of the table and would be expected to complete their promotion push in due course.

On Wednesday night, the division 4 title chasing D team came unstuck as they were beaten for this first time this season. Only skipper Les Hall picked up a full point on baord 4, with Lukasz gaining a draw. This division is now much more competitive with a number of teams in the chasing pack, although Les’s team have it in their own control if they win all remaining matches including an end of season clash against leaders Cheddleton E.

Also at home on Wednesday were Nigel Gardner’s E team. Nigel took the opportunity to give games to players who had played fewer matches than others, with a notable win for Pawel Stanny playing in division 5 for the first time after previous division 6 introduction to league chess. Nigel’s report can be seen under “Nigel’s Match Reports” column.

Friday night saw a seriously understrength division 6 G team make the short trip to Newcastle. With all top 3 boards unavailable the team put up a spirited fight before going down 3-1 to suffer their first defeat of the season too (like the D team). As captain David Hulme observed the standard of chess was considerably higher than expected for teams limited to a maximum grade of 80. There were two major highlights for us from this match. Firstly junior Safwan Khan played a mature game to win after a superb exchange and discovered attack with check to gain a Queen and bishop for a Rook. The other highlight was to see Mark Randell make his debut on baord 4 and become the 8th Crewe player to be introduced to league chess this season !



U130 Cup team through to Final (again, again, again and again)

No….. it’s not a line from an old Status Quo song, but just to say Dave Price’s team made it through to their 5th consecutive final, being the Cup Holders for the last 3 years and runners-up in 2015/16. Thanks to the skipper Dave Price for his account of the semi-final.

On Monday night this Intermediate Cup team travelled down the A500 to face Fenton in what was always going to be a close match. We were probably slight favourites with just 34 grading points separating the 5-board teams in our favour. The top two boards were almost identically graded as Fenton shaded the score here. The first game to fall was board two where Steve Emmerton gave Fenton the lead.  But it didn’t take long for Crewe to equalise as Julian (the midnight Mule) Bulbeck had a superb win on board 5. The captain was disappointed as Julian had promised to do a cabaret dance had he lost but it is not surprising he won as he is on superb form, going into this clash with 8.5/10 and his only defeat so far this season against a 135-rated opponent in a division 5 match (with a max grade permitted of 125). Next to finish was Junior Lukasz Michalek who is heading to higher levels and is enjoying a rich vein of form and provided the necessary win on bd 4. Shortly afterwards Dave P was offered a draw looking like a forced repetition hence a draw was agreed. This meant either team had a chance to progress to the final. Julian (Hawthorn) needed a win for Fenton but Rick (the grenade) Renegade only needed a draw to win the match for us. Rick was under huge pressure and had hoped the captain had played on for a win just in case he made a mistake. All eyes were on the game as both players made full use of their time. The pressure was on and the result could  have gone either way. Looking round the room at spectators expressions it looked like Rick had made a few bad moves and was going to lose. A few moves later everyone could see Ricks plan and under emmence pressure he forced a draw  but a single wrong move by either player and zugzwang the game would be lost. Rick produced the goods yet again when the club needed it most with the crucial draw. The final score being a narrow 3-2 win for us.

Our Cup holders will face the winners of Cheddleton/Newcastle semi-final taking place this Friday. The final is scheduled for Wednesday 22nd April assuming there is no other cup final fixture clash for either of the potential opponents.

So far this calender year the club has been fortunate to enjoy a phenomenal series of results, almost comparable to Liverpool’s premier league season. Ignoring club derbies we have played 22, Won 15, Drawn 6 and Lost 1. No doubt this amazing run will come to a shuddering halt before too long, but let’s enjoy it while we can. Well done to every member who has contributed to this run of results …. Cheers.