Four Matches: 2 wins, 2 losses, 2 titles and 2 Runners-up

It’s been a busy week for the club with four teams in action, plus two not in action picking up titles without pushing a pawn. It all started on Monday night as our Wirral team did the 100 mile round trip to Wallasey for the 3rd time this season this time for the division 2 shoot-out between ourselves and favourites 2nd placed Wallasey 2. Captain David Hulme was a little bemused as the opponents fielded a team including their 1st team captain on board 3, when their 1st team were also in action in a potential division 1 title match. Oddly enough (and unfairly in my opinion) this meant the Wallasey 2 team outgraded their 1st division team, and showed a clear intent of Wallasey’s priority to achieve promotion. As always our Wirral team fought bravely and at one stage looked like we might achieve the required draw to win the league as Junior Harry Gardiner played a superb game on board 5 against a very strong opponent. Harry was dominating the game but allowed his player to recover enough to get a draw. Meanwhile our leading star Bart Fajfer had set up enough traps and duly converted the board 1 game to put us in the lead. The big grading advantage on board 4 proved too much for us as Mike O’Mahony equalised the score. The board 3 game involving their 1st team captain looked like it could go against the grain but alas our player could not unravel the complex position and fell down. This left board 2 as the title decider with David Hulme on the back foot needing to win, having lost a crucial central pawn and under time pressure David tried desperately to create an attack with his Rook, Knight and minority pawn but could not prevent Steve Lee from swapping bishop for knight before gaining another pawn. David battled to the end but at 10.40 with just seconds left was forced into a neat mating net with King, Rook and pawns overwhelming him. A deserved win for the stronger Wallasey 2 left us as runners-up. A tough finale to the season where we massively exceeded our expectations. A special mention of the “player of the year award” is due as Bart Fajfer scored a fantastic 7.5/8 to finish ahead of David Hulme 7/8.

Wednesday night saw the D team at home to Stafford A in division 4. Captain Les Hall stood down to give other members a chance to play and with a much weaker team than normal. Outgraded on bottom 3 boards it was no surprise that we lost narrowly 1.5-2.5. The highlight for us came when 17 y/o Ben Harrison won on board 4, with Doug Barnett getting a draw on top board.

Also on Wednesday night our C team went to play Newcastle C in a division 3 contest. The C team had the unlikely task of having to win 4-0 to gain a share of the title with our own B team. Under the inspired captaincy of chairman Dave Price the miracle was nearly achieved as his report shows below:

It was not my normal team talk but we needed to win 4-0. Amy was first to finish she was low on time but went a piece up and John resigned. Second to finish was myself (Dave P) when all else fails sack and attack. I was already a Pawn down looking at a lost game. I had 6 Pawns a Bishop, a knight and a Rook v 2 Bishops a Rook and seven Pawns. All of Pete’s Pawns were connected and all his pieces active. I had doubled pawns and all pieces protecting the king. It was all or nothing, I gave up my Knight for 3 pawns and not satisfied I then gave my Rook away for Pete’s white Bishop. Now for the Pawn storm. Pete miscalculated and allowed me to Queen on the white square with a check and shortly after he resigned.

Now 2-0 to Crewe and Julian looked round and the pressure was on. It wasn’t long and another Newcastle player resigned to make it 3-0 and all eyes were on Karl (board 1) and the pressure was rising. It proved too much and unfortunately Karl’s efforts were not enough to stop Alan and left the final result 3-1 to Crewe.

A great team effort, not just in our last game but a super team all season. It had been a close run thing throughout and to run our B team so close to finish as runners-up with the same match points but lose out by ONE board point ! Congratulations are due to the B team.
Friday night saw our F team face Cheddleton F in division 5, together with added support in the guise of “A” team captain David Hulme strolling along at about 8.30pm. The F team report can be seen separately thanks to our super captain and reporter Nigel Gardner.
David had gone to see the division 2 match between Chedd B and Macclesfield, and became a Cheddleton supporter for the night, hoping they could prevent Macclesfield from winning 4-1. This was because the “A” team had finished their season and were 2 pts clear of Macc at the top of the table and with 4 board points better off. He came home smiling as their match ended in draw to give Crewe “A” their first prize in the club’s short 5 years history.

Some you win, some you lose

Both Crewe’s division 5 teams were in action this Wednesday and
experienced wildly contrasting fortunes.
Playing Newcastle in what appeared to be a very evenly matched
contest our F team managed to score less than one half in total!!!
However, all four games lasted well beyond the other match and each
was keenly contested. George, Mike, Reinhard and Kobus all had
chances but were eventually well beaten on the night and
congratulations to Newcastle on what must be a welcome and uplifting
result for them.

The other match of the evening found our E team continuing their
challenge for the title against Cheddleton’s F team who had reverted to
their more usual junior line up. This caused a last-minute reshuffle to
Crewe’s team to try and even out the grades where possible and the
games ensued. On board 4 Lucasz was in dominant mood from the off
and within 15 moves had trapped his opponents queen. Thereafter,
victory was inevitable and duly came in quick succession; another
Excellent and Efficient performance from our E team regular.
Boards 1 & 2 however were not going to script and Simon was a piece
down on 1 and Julian was under the cosh with an onslaught of an
Meanwhile on board 3 I was treading water, waiting to see how the
other games developed fearing I might have to force a win just to get a
draw for the team!
Julian on 2 had eked out an escape and eventually eased his way into
the attack. Unfortunately, I think his opponent had overstretched
himself in his onslaught and suddenly Julian was two pieces up for
around 3 pawns. Some careful positioning followed and finally so too did
the victory, giving us a 2 – 0 lead.
Immediately, I decided to get off the fence as I was beginning to get
splinters and was liable to do something rash; I offered a draw which he
gladly accepted giving us the match with 2.5 – 0.5 lead.

Within a very short time Simon had miraculously snatched a final victory
from what had seemed an inevitable defeat (lucky was the word he
himself used!!!) and the team was able to relax with a job well done and
a 3.5-0.5 win.
The E team’s main challengers for the league have a game on Friday
and Monday so all eyes glued to the screens clicking the refresh button
for the result then!!!!!
The Ees have one game left later in April before the final showdown at
the Mals on the 8th May, when the two title contenders will be going
head to head in the last game of the season.

Board Count Matters !

There have been 3 further matches this week since the Wirral match. Wednesday night saw another busy night at The Mals Club with the E team hosting Cheddleton F and our own “F” team at home to Newcastle F. A separate report from captain Nigel Gardner covers both of these matches. For the E team it was a win by 3.5-0.5 to add to their narrow lead at the top of the table. However nearest competitors Cheddleton H have closed the gap with a 4-0 default win tonight to go level on match points and trail our E team by just one half of a board point. What a finish to the season we have here.

Thursday night saw a weakened “A” team make the short trip to Holmes Chapel Rooks. Lady luck was much on our side as we managed a 3-2 win to take us 2 pts clear at the top of the division 2 table, with a board count 4 greater than 2nd placed Macclesfield who have one match left against 3rd placed Cheddleton B. The outcome of that match will determine the division 2 champions.

The Rooks started the match well with a superb win by junior Ellen Scattergood on board 4 with a crushing King side attack, before the score was levelled thanks to a default. Amy Lovatt always seemed in control on board 2 after an early pawn fork won a minor piece for a pawn. Amy duly made the score 2-1 with the two remaining boards looking good for us with a one pawn advantage on top board and an exchange advantage on bd 3. The Rooks although massively outgraded fought to the end as Colin Mills on board 1 held Karl Lockett to a draw. In the meantime captain David Hulme had blown his advantage against Paul Clifford (with over 50 grading points) and was staring down the barrel at defeat. A hopeful offer of a draw, with Paul down to under 2 minutes on the clock, was gleefully accepted and  allowed David to escape with a draw and scrape a 3-2 win for the team.

To add to the Board Count Matters headline, the C team go to Newcastle this week in the knowledge they need to win 4-0 to share the division 3 title with our own B team. The odds on the C team winning at all are no more than 50%, and the odds of a 4-0 win are extremely remote.

Wirral Team in effective play-off for title

On Monday night our Wirral team made a long trek to Wallasey in a game moved from our home ground at Chester, due to venue unavailability. We went into this match with 100% at the top of the division 2 table to play bottom of the league and pointless Wallasey 4. However our captain warned all of our team that a tough match should be expected and this materialized from an early stage. The first game to finish was on bd 1 where Bart Fajfer (our top player with 8/8 and 100%) to date was held to a draw by an opponent graded 40 points lower. The score line improved when junior Harry Gardiner forced a win on board 5 after gaining an exchange, and slowly turned the screw with further gains of one pawn and then a second. With a big King-side attack on its way the game concluded swiftly to put us in the ascendancy. Then came a fightback from the bottom team as the board 4 game switched violently from a pawn advantage and strong position for us, to a crushing attack for Wallasey as our player failed to cope with the time controls (no increments in this league) to put the scores level. Just as the scores were levelled our captain David Hulme maintained his 100% score in the league as powerful rooks combined on an open file and invaded the 7th rank to lead to an inevitable winning position and forced resignation on bd 2 to guarantee at least a match draw. The board 3 game was a titanic struggle which swung too and fro. At one stage our player offered a draw, whereby the opposition consulted their captain to be told bluntly not to accept even though we had a material advantage. The game went on and on and the material was recovered to level the position with both players into the last 5 minutes with no increments to save them. In an effort to win our player sacrificed a minor piece to create a passed pawn but this turned out to be unsound when the passed pawn was captured. However this had eaten massively into both players times and unfortunately for us the game was lost as the “flag fell” with just 43 seconds remaining of the 3 hours !

Match drawn while nearest contenders Wallasey 2 won comfortably to close the gap at the top of the table. So we head back to Wallasey next Monday (8th April) to play Wallasey 2 in a title and promotion “shoot-out”. We have the lead by 1/2 point in the table, so have the advantage of knowing a drawn match gives us  the trophy. This is little comfort as Wallasey 2 boast a team with over 25 years first division experience (having been relegated last term) and having a team grade in the region of 762 against ours of 681. Also at stake is “player of the year” award which will be won by one of the Crewe team as David Hulme leads with 7/7 and Bart Fajfer 6.5/7, while nearest contender cannot score more than 6.5 as only one match remains. (Note Bart’s previous 8/8 included two cup matches not counting in the league)


Bees secure 3rd division title as F team blow open the division 5 title race

Only two matches to report on for this latest week. With both at home it was another packed out Mals Club where the B team hosted Cheddleton C in division 3 and the F team hosted joint league leaders Chedd H.

The B team knew that any result scoring 1.5 board points or more would ensure retaining the title, with only our own C team able to equal them if they can get an unlikely 4-0 win in their final match. Doug Barnett started the ball rolling with a solid draw on board 3 before losses on top two boards left the Bees short of their target. However Simon Layhe underlined his top-scorer status with a well deserved win to give the Bees the 1.5 pts required to guarantee the title, taking his personal tally for the team to 9/11 for the season.

The F team had a fabulous result in beating Cheddleton H, who had not lost a match all season, which allowed the E team to take top spot in division 5 by the slender margin of 1 extra board point. Division 5 has become a 2-horsed race for the title with 3 matches left each for our Es and Chedd H.  In a closely contested match Nigel Gardner (bd 4), Harry Gardiner (bd 2) and Martin Frisher (bd 1) all won their games to give us a 3-1 scoreline.

Record attendance as Ds deliver again and As assault on title continues.

Three matches to report on this week as the D team played Cheddleton E in division 4 in a re-arranged match on Tuesday, while the “A” team hosted Fenton B in division 2 and the U110 B team faced Newcastle in the Perry Trophy sem-final on Wednesday. A further match was scheduled but Cheddleton could not raise a team for the other Perry Trophy semi-final.

The D team did the business against Chedd E with a 3-1 win. Doug Barnett and Neville Layhe got draws on top two boards as Harry Gardiner won the battle of the juniors on board 3 and Les Hall won the skippers battle on board 4. This was our first attempt to use the club on a Tuesday night and apologies are due to our visitors as the game was played to a difficult background of noise due to other activities within the club.

Wednesday night was a fantastic night for all chess players at the Mals Club. When I arrived at 7.15pm there were already some 20-odd members playing friendly chess before the two visiting teams arrived (from Newcastle and Fenton). I counted 34 people playing chess plus several other parents and spectators which filled the room with a great vibrancy.

The Perry Cup match report can be seen below thanks to captain Nigel Gardner who must be in line for “Chess Newsreporter of the Year” award.

The “A” team had to wait until 8pm before the full Fenton team arrived due to severe delays on the A500/D-road. The home team romped to a surprising 5-0 win as Ola Titiloye gained  the first point as he breached the bare King-side defences of his opponent’s Sicilian defence. Shortly afterwards Bart Fajfer extended a pawn advantage from an opening gambit to end up with two rampaging Bishops and 6 pawns against a poorly placed Rook, Bishop and 4 pawns to extend our lead to 2-0. David Hulme won the captains clash on board 3 after being squashed in the early middle game to unleash an attack with assistance from his opponent’s poor choice of exchange. So 3-0 and the match points secured for our division 2 top of the table team. Chris Rhodes outplayed his opponent on board 4 with a rare chance to have white for the “A” team, before Doug Barnett continued his 100% record for the As in his own style of squash-buckling play proved too much for his player despite being very close to running out of time.

Captain David Hulme was delighted with As team first ever 5-0 win having taken nearly 5 years to achieve in division 2. With just one match remaining against bottom of the table Holmes Chapel Rooks the dream of our first division 2 title is still on, but we need title rivals and favourites Cheddleton B to drop at least 2 points from their last 3 matches in their tricky run in against contenders Macclesfield and Newcastle B.

Perrylous for Crewe’s Bees

Report by Nigel Gardner:

Crewe’s (U110) B team were at home in the Perry trophy this Wednesday hosting Newcastle. The same four who upset the odds in the first round at Alsager, way back at the start of October, took to the boards in a semi final that they knew would mean meeting the Crewe A team in the final. However, it was another mountain to climb with Crewe’s team graded at 303 against Newcastle’s 405.

As we trudged through the foothills of the openings all games appeared evenly balanced and once the other match of the evening got underway a contemplative and studious hush descended over the games. It felt like serious chess was going on!!! …… It was.

On board 1 as black I presented my opponent with a challenging defence whose walls he tried to scale, but found himself repeatedly rebuffed. Suddenly, I had some counterplay on the queenside and my offer of a draw was welcomed and off we scuttled downstairs to the bar and a chat. All square after one.

Boards 2 & 3 involved Reinhard and Phil playing against higher graded opponents and both being well and truly in their games with opportunities. Reinhard was down a knight for two pawns and although he tried to battle it out the extra minor piece in the end game was enough to snaffle up his extra pawns and defeat followed shortly after. Within minutes Phil’s game to a similar ending where he had challenged throughout but had to gradually succumb to his more experienced opponent. At this stage the match was over at 2.5 – 0.5 but Lukasz battled on, on board 4……..and on, and on, and on.

Almost from the first move, Lukasz was pushing for a win. He had gained an advantage by the mid-game only to have had it wrested back from him. However, his opponent had taken time to work things out and this was now beginning to work against him. The clock was ticking and getting louder. Eventually, in the endgame the pressure became too much, and Lukasz drove home his advantage for a well-deserved win against an opponent graded 30 points above him. This made the overall score a respectable 1.5 – 2.5. Newcastle march on to the final against Crewe’s A team. Our team came close to the edge of another Cup shock but in the end it was too Perrylous for us and we will have to return to base camp and lick our wounds.

In football terms, we now have more time to concentrate on the league!!!

Dees deliver as Cees chase champions Bees

There have been 3 matches this week, with the F team’s match at Newcastle already reported, leaving the D team’s match at Kidsgrove in division 4 and the C team match at Cheddleton C.

The Dees kept up their excellent away record with a narrow win over mid-table rivals Kidsgrove. Thanks to wins on boards 3 and 4 by junior Harry Gardiner and skipper Les Hall, victory was confirmed when the experienced Doug Barnett added the necessary draw for a 2.5-1.5 result which leaves the D team in 4th place with 10 pts from 11 matches, some way behind the leaders Newcastle D on 16pts from 9.

Friday night as always means another match at Cheddleton as our C team went to play the host’s C team to fight for an unlikely chance to win the division.  A win for Chedd C would have handed the title to our Bees. It was a night for the black pieces to have the dominance, as Amy Lovatt controlled from the opening for a win on board 2, before white’s only contribution came from Crewe captain Dave Price with an important draw on board 3 having given up the ascendancy. Julian Bulbeck gained his best result of the season to date with a board 4 win to ensure match victory as the board 1 game went to Chedd. This result guarantees a Crewe 1,2 at the top of the table with the Bees odds-on favourites to retain their title now.

Next week is an “all-ticket sell out” at the Mals, when Crewe “A” play Fenton B, and our Perry Cup teams have semi-finals against Cheddleton and Newcastle.

“Fs Fail to Find Fortune as Finger Fumbles Form Finality”

Thanks again to Nigel Gardner for the following division 5 match report.

Crewe’s F team travelled, again, optimistically, to play Newcastle F on Wednesday. The evening ended with a narrow 2.5-1.5 defeat which the hosts fully deserved.

The evening seemed to be one for blunders (or being kind, forced oversights).

The highlight of the evening for Crewe was probably the result of the game on board 4 where Ben, playing his first league game away and his first one as black, overcame a much more experienced opponent. From what I could see Ben had a series of attacks, constantly probing, until eventually his opponent let out an anguished groan. He had overlooked something in one of Ben’s attacks and the end quickly came for a very pleasing result putting Crewe 1-0 up.

On board 2 I was in a very interesting game which had massively opened up after a cautious opening. I had gained my opponent’s queen for the loss of a couple of pawns and a minor piece with a tempting sacrifice. However, he had 2 passed pawns and my queen and rook were side-lined, so not as rosy as it may have looked, but still a certain win for me so long as I didn’t blunder. Guess what; his 2 knights and 2 rooks complicated the position and he gleefully accepted the gift of my queen when I overlooked what in hindsight what was an obvious fork with his rook! A few moves later I offered a draw and was delighted that it was accepted as he had the slight upper hand.

Whilst this had been going on, Kobus on board 1 had been playing a great game against a much higher graded opponent and all seemed equal. However, he then decided not to be left out in the blunder stakes and overlooked his opponent’s fork on his two rooks with a knight. Despite the writing being on the wall he followed an unusual path to try and save the game using attack as the best form of defence and at one point it seemed as though it might work. Experience eventually told and eventually Kobus had to concede leaving the match score all square.

Board 3 saw Mike playing a very tight game in which he gradually gained the upper hand and whilst not a bolt on win well into the end game if anyone looked like a winner it was him. Unfortunately, Mike’s old enemy, the clock, was on the side of his opponent and in a complicated pawn position he had around 7 minutes left. At this point, whilst still very much with the upper hand he touched a pawn then realised it was the one protecting his remaining rook and he was forced to move it losing the rook and shortly after losing a game that was at worst a draw.

In every game Crewe played well but oversights cost us. To move forward in chess, as in life, we should aim to learn from our mistakes; so there were plenty of learning opportunities at Newcastle!

Nil desperandum. Ut severis seges.

Weird Wednesday walkabout warmup !

Thanks to captain Nigel Gardner for the following division 5 Match report: 

Crewe’s F team travelled, optimistically, to play Stafford on Monday expecting a hard match. Little did they know that finding the venue would be an unexpectedly challenging task. Firstly, an extended, guided tour of Stafford by car, followed by an equally “de-stressing” (not) walking tour of the back streets of Stafford, ably guided over the phone by Stafford captain’s wife (many thanks to Mrs Evans)!!   

Anyway, it had taken our mind off the games ahead. They were soon, sharply refocussed when we arrived to find Stafford had gone for broke with their team selection, being 1 point short of the maximum 400 for the team total. It was suggested that we may as well just concede on all four boards and go home considering our paltry team’s total grade of 325; down over 18 points a board on average.

However, I don’t think the rest of the team could cope, immediately, with another hour of my driving so we decided we may as well play the match and see what would transpire!  

In a very conducive venue and a cordial atmosphere battle commenced and all four games soon advanced with the opening series of moves happening more quickly than is often the case. There were no obvious advantages gained although Adam on board 2, from a fairly turgid position, suddenly entered a piece exchange that saw 8 of the major and minor pieces disappear in the space of a couple of minutes, greatly advancing the game, opening up the board and significantly helping Adam with his time management!

Debuting on board 1 Reinhard had played very solidly against an unfamiliar opening and the game was becoming enmeshed in a web from which neither side could see an escape. Stafford offered a draw and Reinhard gladly accepting. This recorded a half point against an opponent graded 21 points higher; off to the bar for Reinhard then, with a job well done!

Meanwhile on board 3 I had tried to force the game, always taking the more aggressive option which had pinned my opponent back and advanced two passed pawns down the queenside. Now an impasse was reached as I had 2 rooks, a knight and a queen behind the pawns and my opponent had the same forces defending them. Although there were possible ways forward any positive move by either side now had an air of high risk attached and again, we agreed a draw and the match remained all square.

By this time things were looking less than rosy on boards 2 and 4 for Crewe. Both Adam and Lukasz were a minor piece down although Adam did have two passed pawns in the centre. Not long after this Lukasz found me to confirm that he was certain all was lost, and we were doomed!!  I advised him that it was a long walk home and to go back and battle to the death, never knowing what may transpire. 20 minutes later he found me again to inform me that he had just won; is it Lukasz or Lazarus? However, Lukasz did put a caveat on the good news saying that Adam was a dead man walking……but at this stage we were up 2-1. Lukasz and I went in to watch what we assumed to be the death throes of Adam’s match and the match score would then be tied.

In the meantime, Adam’s two passed pawns had managed to cause the material to be equalised and with 5 pawns and a rook apiece left an honourable, yet surprising, draw was agreed.

This gave Crewe a victory in the match 2.5-1.5 against all the odds and against the flow of the match throughout the evening. The good news was nobody had to walk home, and it goes to show grades don’t necessarily mean that much when the real games start; its just two players facing each other with 16 pieces each on the board and the best player/team on the night gets the decision. A great set of results both for all four individuals and for the team.

Quod erat demonstandum, carpe diem.