One win, one loss and one postponement

After a glut of matches in November, the club has a quieter couple of weeks in the run up to Christmas. This week’s schedule included a Wirral League match against Chester E, with both teams on 100%; a North Staffs division 4 match between our D team and Kidsgrove, and our first postponement of the season (Crewe F vs Cheddleton F in div 5).

The Wirral team retained the same line up as the previous match with junior Harry Gardiner making a positive contribution to the squad, and faced a stronger than expected Chester E team. David Hulme won the captains battle of bd 2 for Crewe, before Chester’s namesake was battered into submission by our junior star on bd 5 – Harry to make it 2-0. Dave Price was well placed until leaving his Queen en-pris against Chester’s Joe Nemcek (winner of Crewe’s Intermediate congress). Bart Fajfer on bd 1 came out of a sticky position to emerge triumphant and keep up his 100% record in the Wirral League with a stunning performance rating of 200 to date, to ensure victory for Crewe, before Chester’s grade advantage on bd 3 completed the result with a 3-2 scoreline to us. The next league match is not until February for our table-topping team, but we do face a difficult KO quarter-final next week.

Last night at the Mals Club our D team suffered an unexpected reverse against Kidsgrove. In a close run match, we were narrowly beaten by 2.5-1.5 with Doug Barnett picking up our sole win and Neville Layhe the draw. The D team have slipped down the table since a superb win in their first match and now lie in 6th place in the table, but only 2 pts adrift of the leaders.

The club Rapid-plays are nearing conclusion now with Bart Fajfer assured of the division 1 title with a convincing score of 15.5/17, identical to the 2016 record of Rich Wiltshir.

Division 2 of the Rapid-play could not be closer as 16 y/o Lukasz Michalek seems certain to win the trophy with a score of 11/16,just edging out Nigel Gardner’s effort of 11/17. Les Hall missed a chance to gazump the trophy after two losses left him just of the frame with 8.5/14. With Lukasz and Nigel playing in the Wirral KO next week, the competition has effectively been decided. Well done to Bart & Lukasz.

Rapid-play Division 2 Title Race

16 year old Lukasz Michalek picked up two vital points on Wednesday, with Nigel Gardner in close pursuit adding one more point to his tally. With just two more club nights to go before the competition closes, it looks like these two have broken away from the rest of the pack. Lukasz leads with 11/16 while Nigel has scored 10/16. With very few games left to play for these two it will be difficult for Nigel to overhaul Lukasz. Les Hall is currently 3rd with 6.5/10 and Kobus Nienaber just behind on 6/10. These two could make a late challenge if they can find enough opponents to close the gap, but that seems unlikely now. Full details of all internal competitions can be seen on the League Management System or from the links on the right hand site of the website.

Three Matches on One Night

After playing almost a match a day last week, this week we had the challenge of playing three matches on Wednesday night, including two teams away at the Newcastle Bridge Club.

Starting with the “A” team, they came away with a fortunate match draw in the division 2 clash with Newcastle B. After early defeats on top two boards, Amy Lovatt had to settle for a draw on bd 4 against rising junior Joe Hirst when she could not force a decisive break through. David Hulme on bd 3, when offering a draw in a dire position, was lucky to trap an opponents piece later, to get an unexpected win. On bd 5, Chris Rhodes battled deep into increment time to find another excellent win to save the match for the “A” team who are currently sitting on top of division 2.

The other match at the Bridge Club also turned out to be drawn between our “D” team and Newcastle’s “E” team. Draws on bd 1 by Rick Renegade and Doug Barnett on bd 2, were enough with junior Harry Gardiner’s win on bd 3.

At the Mals Club, it was our “E” team hosting Meir’s “B” team in division 5. With a significant team grade difference in our favour, the result went according to book-maker’s expectations, although Meir’s under-dogs put up a competitive fight according to captain Nigel Gardner. Crewe ran out victors by score of 3.5-0.5 thanks to a draw from Julian Bulbeck on top board and wins from Dave Price, Adam Fields and Kobus Nienaber. The result stretched the E team’s lead to 3 pts at the top of the league table, with 2nd placed Cheddleton H having a game in hand, with the prospect of two matches to come against each other.

Almost a match a day, keeps the club at play !

Another busy week has seen the club playing a match on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as the fixture secretaries gave us one day off. A look at our fixture schedule shows we have 17 matches in November, which is one more than the biggest club in the NSDCA !

Monday night saw our Fabulous “F” team travel to Meir to take on their B team in division 5. A superb performance saw all of our players grabbing maximum points with a 4-0 win thanks to captain Nigel Gardner, Kobus Nienaber, Adam Fields and Reinhard Haack; after a hard fought reversal at Cheddleton on the Friday before. It is pleasing to note that both teams promote chess for all of their club members with both teams approx 100 pts below permitted grade totals.

Tuesday night, it was our division 4 “D” team headed by Les Hall, taking on local club Alsager (B team) at the cricket club. The hosts won the battle of the top two boards while Les (bd 4) and Harry Gardiner won the bottom two to ensure the match was drawn 2-2 with both teams just under the 460 grade point limit.

Wednesday night the “E” team captained by non-playing Nigel were at home against Meir C in division 5. After an early draw by Julian Bulbeck on bd 3, 16 yr old Lukasz Michalek gained our first win, before Dave Price (on bd 1) and Simon Layhe (bd 2) added further wins from unlikely looking roots to make the final score 3.5-0.5. This result took the “E” team back to the top of the league, with rivals Cheddleton H in close pursuit, with just 1 point separating the two teams after four matches completed.

The last match of the week saw the Wirral team make the long treck to face Wallasey 3 in a division 2 match. 15 yr old Harry Gardiner, making his Wirral team debut stole the spot-light with a stunning victory over Wallasey’s captain on bd 5. Shortly afterwards David Hulme (bd2) and Bart Fajfer (bd 1) maintained their 100% records to make it 4/4 for both players and more importantly for the team who sit on top of the league table for now. Simon Layhe played very well to earn a draw on bd 3 against a tough opponent, used to playing on bd 1 in previous seasons, to finish the match with a glowing score of 3.5-1.5.

The club’s Rapid-play division 2 had further games played on Wednesday night as Les Hall added 2 wins to his tally and Nigel Gardner a further 1 point. With just four club nights remaining before the competition closes it has developed into a 4-way fight for the trophy. Lukasz Michalek leads with 9/14, ahead of Nigel 9/15, with Les jumping to 3rd on 6.5/10 and Kobus sitting in 4th on 6/10. It looks like a fascinating race to the winning post.


Bolton Rapid-play

Thanks to secretary Les Hall sending the following report from today’s RP at Bolton:

A contingent of 4 Crewe players played at the Bolton rapid play today, had mixed results, Neville Layhe was best getting a 3 way share of 3rd place in the knights U125, with 4.5 out of 6. Les Hall got a 2 way share of the grading prize in the same section with 4 out of 6, I think Bart Fajfer got 3.5 out of 6 in the major u165, and Doug Barnett went home before the last round playing in the major. More information can be found on the Bolton club website.

F team in close call for underdogs

 Thanks to captain Nigel Gardiner for the following F team report:
Friday evening saw our F team of grading underdogs take on the might of Cheddleton G and yet again nearly overturn the form books. With Mike Keenan making his league debut for the club on board 4 and an average grade deficit of 23 across the team all bookies would have had Cheddleton heavily odds-on favourites. However, ever up for a challenge the F team fought, feverishly until the finish.
On board 1, Nigel managed to bore his very experienced opponent into a stupor, exchange off a number of pieces whilst he wasn’t looking, and force him into eventually accepting that he had to agree a draw or face the possible ignominy of losing to someone graded 41 points below him. This was approximately 90 minutes in and with an unexpected half point on the scoreboard the rest of the team had renewed optimism that anything is possible. Lukasz was struggling against a very, doughty opponent on board 3 and had considered resigning until he was told he would be walking home if he did. He was down on pieces and position but resumed battle but was then encountering time pressure. The game went on….and on…..and on …..and Lukasz just wouldn’t be cowed. Eventually his opponent made a mistake and after a few tense moments (ahem) a draw was agreed. (what the basis of the draw was nobody really knows (it could have been an accepted offer, it could have been 3 fold repetition, it could have been the 50 move rule, it could have been loss of will to live!!!!) but in the end it was another half point and again versus an opponent with a 33 point grade advantage. Fantastic battle and a fully justified result Lukasz!
Mike was playing his first proper match for the club on board 4 against a young, but relatively experienced, opponent. He came under great pressure early on which he had to use large amounts of time to extricate himself from, but he did so to achieve a slender pawn advantage in the end game. However he had about 2 minutes left compared to his opponents 40 and a draw was again agreed to the relief of all onlookers. A great start for Mike and this left the match level with just Reinhard playing on board 2 in a very close game. Again though, it was close on the board but a 45 point deficit on grading. Reinhard attacked down one flank, Dave rose attacked down the other for Cheddleton. Unfortunately for Crewe, Dave calculated marginally better and started his attack one move ahead of Reinhard which led to overwhelming pressure and a well deserved victory for Dave and Cheddleton. However a great battle from Reinhard and a very enjoyable evening for all the Crewe team who are in action again on Monday evening at Meir.

Two club nights, five matches and a Mixed bag of results !

Another extremely busy week for the club, started with the division 3 C vs B derby on Tuesday, followed by C hosting Cheddleton D and Bees going to face Newcastle C on Wednesday, and concluding with our A&F teams facing Cheddleton B and G on Friday.

The division 3 derby saw the Bees flying in the ascendancy as they inflicted defeat on the C team. An early draw on bd 4 between C team skipper Dave Price and Simon Layhe, preceded the first shock as Bees captain Rick (the grenade) Renegade explosively attacking Karl Lockett on bd 1 as Karl faced his first loss of the season. Chris Rhodes held a pawn advantage which was converted to an overwhelming monster as Julian Bulbeck’s defences were breached to put the Bees in total command. The last game saw Neville Layhe beat Amy Lovatt to give the Bees a resounding win by the score of 3.5-0.5 to put them in 2nd place with a game in hand to overtake the top of the table C team. Meanwhile Nigel Gardiner picked up a useful half point in division 2 of the Rapid-play.

Wednesday saw another brilliant night at the Mals Club, with four players away at Newcastle, another 19 members in attendance, plus our visitors from Cheddleton. The C team were happy to end up with a draw, following two draws on bottom two boards by Dave Price after throwing away a huge advantage, and Julian Bulbeck holding on when a pawn down. David Hulme picked up the sole win on bd 2 before the visitors tied the match with a win on top board. The match ended 2-2, but subsequently Cheddleton have been penalised for playing an ineligible player (not registered with the ECF), and the match score has been adjusted to show a win for Crewe C.

The B team had a superb result as they defeated Newcastle C by 2.5-1.5. The top two boards were under pressure and a half-point from Rick Renegade proved vital, as Chris Rhodes and Simon Layhe underlined their small grade advantages with wins on bd 3 and 4, to take them top of the table, before being removed as the C team gained an extra match point with penalty referred to above.

With the B and C teams in action, there were some more crucial games played in RP division 2 as the title chasing trio of Nigel Gardiner, Lukasz Michalek and Kobus Nienaber all added point to their tally. Lukasz now leads with 9/14, from Nigel with 8/14 and Kobus on 8/10. Les Hall sits in 4th place on 4.5/8. It looks like being a close run competition with just a few weeks to go before the 31st December deadline.

Friday night saw our “A” team facing a strong Cheddleton B team. An early defeat on bd 3 was an ominous start, and captain David Hulme was lucky to escape with a an agreed draw when a pawn down on bd 5. Cheddleton showed their superiority when junior Sam Parry played beautifully to win on bd 4. We appeared to have a major advantage on bd 1, when Bart Fajfer misplayed the position and lost to another junior Jacob Boswell to consign us to defeat before Karl Lockett gained a consolation draw on bd 2 for a final score of 4-1 to Chedd. However a penalty has since been imposed on Cheddleton for playing an ineligible player (as mentioned above) which has reversed the result to a 2-2 draw.

The F team report is shown as a separate news item.


My inbox has been flooded this week, with a message from our division 5 captain Nigel Gardner, catching the eye headed “All bets are off” and then came a clever response from Neville Layhe headed “It’s only a game”.

  1. Nigel = All bets are off !!!!!!!!!!!!!!














Ringside seats are free. But the drinks aren’t!!!!

  1. Neville – It’s only a game

It’s civil war down at the Crewe Clubs Clan,

Where they’ll fight it out down to the very last man.

Stone wall attack meets Sicilian kill,

Whilst Roy Lopez wrestles with a Benoni Bill.


If your pawn falls in passing and takes a trip off the board,

And your bishop met a mishap whilst you went to the bar,

Make your knight do a fork before it gets gored,

And centre your castles before going to the war.

After 55 moves when your flag’s about to go,

And everyone’s finished except you and your foe,

Take time to reflect that it’s only a game,

Win or lose come tomorrow you’ll still be the same,

Like me still unheard of whilst searching for fame.



5 Matches, 4 wins & a Full House !

What a week it’s been for our club with 5 matches taking place.

The first match saw Dave Price’s C team travel to face Meir “A” on Monday night. The team was strengthened by the addition of Amy Lovatt on board 2 as she made a return after a short study break. Julian Bulbeck (bd3) and Dave Price picked up good draws on the bottom boards against the grades before Karl Lockett extended his unbeaten run with another strong performance on bd 1 to win and take his current rating for the season to over 180. With just a draw needed from Amy to secure the match she played confidently to go the distance and pick up the full point to make the final score 3-1, and move the C team top of division 3 with their 3rd win and 100% record.

Tuesday night it was the turn of our Wirral League  team as they travelled to Chester’s Town Crier Hotel to play against Chester F. An early loss on bd 2 was soon equalized by skipper David Hulme on bd 3. Matters progressed smoothly as Chris Rhodes won shortly thereafter and Simon Layhe won comfortably to ensure match victory. This left Bart Fajfer in play on board 1 who used up nearly all of the maximum 3 hours allowed with his opponent, before trapping a piece to give us a final score of 4-1. After 3 matches we trail leaders Wallasey 2 on board scores, as both teams currently have 100% records.

Wednesday night saw the Mals club buzzing with activity again with approx 15 members turning up for the early 6.30 session. With the E team playing away at Newcastle F, there was still another 28 chess players in attendance including the opposition teams as matches commenced. The “A” team hosted Macclesfield in division 2 and the “D” team hosted Newcastle “D” in division 4.

The “A” team had the club’s top 3 players available for the first time this season as Bart (163) and Ola Titiloye (162) allowed Karl Lockett (149) to play on board 3 for the first time since 2015. Captain David Hulme (135) could not play due to the minimum counting grade rule, which allowed Simon Layhe and Chris Rhodes to makeup the team. The match started ominously as we lost on bd 4, before Ola got us on the scoreboard with a draw on bd 2. Bart Fajfer outgunned his opponent to level the scores with a win on top board. The match was to go deep into increment time and was delicately balanced. Chris Rhodes on bd 5 played a beautiful endgame under extreme time pressure, with less than one minute left (against his opponent’s 20 mins)  around the 40 move mark, he forced the win after another 30-odd moves. The bd 3 game was still in play although Karl had engineered pass-pawns on both sides of the board in a difficult endgame of opposite colour bishops. After much perseverance Karl duly completed his win and take the team to 3.5-1.5 win, which shows us as league leaders at this premature stage after two matches.

The “D” team faced an experienced Newcastle “D” team and could not find a path to victory on any of the four boards. Just two draws were all we had to show on the scorecard as Doug Barnett (bd2) and Harry Gardiner (bd3) both drew as the team was defeated 3-1. Captain Les Hall will be hoping for a better performance when they face his former club, Alsager, next week.

The third match for us on the night saw captain Nigel Gardner take his “E” team troops to face Newcastle “F”, without his top player Simon Layhe who was required for “A” team duties. Fortunately Newcastle fielded a weaker than expected team that gave us a big grade advantage on bottom two boards which allowed Adam Fields (bd3) and captain Nigel Gardner to gain two wins before Dave Price enjoyed a win on bd 2. Julian Bulbeck outgraded by approx 20 pts on top board battled long and hard before falling to the Newcastle captain, Alberto Gissi. The final score was 3-1 as the “E” team made it 3 out of 3 in pursuit of the division 5 title defence.

In the club’s Rapid-play Division 2 section, junior Lukasz Michalek added another point from two games to extend his lead at the top of the table with 8/12, as Nigel (6/10) and Kobus Nienaber (5/8) were occupied in matches.

Next week sees another busy schedule, with a preview of the division 3 derby between our C and B teams to follow over the weekend !


One win, one draw and a K-O !

With 3 matches to report on this week, we start off with the “Open Cup” match played at Macclesfield on Monday. With 4 of the club’s top 6 players absent it was always going to be tough in the six-board match and made worse as Macclesfield used a stronger line up than their normal division two team and therefore we were massive underdogs. It wasn’t long before the gulf in class showed as we lost quickly on board 5 to trail 1-0. At the 90 minute mark it appeared we were holding our own on all the other boards and even had an advantage on board 6 where Dave Price had gained an exchange in a promising position. As the games moved through their middle phases towards the end-game phase this is where the wheels started to come off our bus as firstly skipper David Hulme lost a promising position on bd 3 and shortly afterwards our bd 4 lost two pawns to face an inevitable defeat to leave us 3-0 down. Our first draw was salvaged on bd 6 before another draw was picked up by Karl Lockett on bd 2. The bd 1 game appeared to be much in our favour before a piece sacrifice from Bart Fajfer was not followed up properly and allowed his opponent to escape from a draw by repetition in looking for a win which left the back door open to a mating attack. The final score being a comprehensive KO , losing 5-1. A special mention should be made of our junior reserve Harry Gardiner who played his highest grade opponent to date and gained a draw, thanks to Macclesfield providing an additional (non-counting) board.

Wednesday night saw the Mals Club with another full house as we entertained Cheddleton F and Meir C in division 5, making the total number of players present 28.

Our “E” team had a slight grade advantage over a very experienced Chedd “F” team. First out of the traps was Dave Price on bd 2 with a smooth win following another game in which he gained an exchange. This time he converted it to a win following attacking play with Rooks on the 7th rank. On bd 3 Julian Bulbeck had a disaster on the way to the match with crashing his car, and the theme continued as he gave away his queen from a winning position but managed to hold out for a draw. With Colin Abell converting a big king-side attack for the visitors on bd 1 the score was levelled. Reinhard Haack was left in play with spectators from both sides gathered around the bd 4 game as our man used up his time wisely to make sure he gained the full point to push the “E” team over the winning line by narrow margin of 2.5-1.5.

The “F” team faced an even tougher challenge as they conceded over 130 grading points to a strong Meir C team. With board 4 going the way of the visitors it looked ominous for Nigel Gardiner’s team. Kobus Neinaber, one of our recent recruits played superbly to win his game on bd 3 and keep the match in the balance. 16 year old Lukasz Michalek earned a brilliant draw against his opponent graded 52 points higher to leave the skipper in play on bd 1. Nigel had his back to the wall in a very cramped position on bd 1 but defended robustly to prevent his experienced opponent graded 43 pts higher from making any match winning breaks. The final score ended 2-2 which must rank as one of the best results ever for our newest team under the positive leadership of captain Nigel, who has the duel responsibility of looking after both of our division 5 teams.

Another few games were played in Rapid-play division 1, while our two latest members played a division 2 long-play game which saw Ben Harrision successful. In addition to these competitive games, several members took the opportunity to analyse some recent games as well as a bit of Blitz-chess ! Looking ahead to next week we have five matches including three on Wednesday which is sure to test our resources to the extreme.