We are approaching the final round of the NSDCA’s 3rd online congress since Covid put a stop to OTB chess. The current event has 32 competitors in 3 sections, with our club providing a dozen of those involved.
We have four players in the top section, occupying places 5 to 8 out of 12 after 4 rounds. Youngsters Lukasz Michalek and Harry Gardiner are chasing podium places alongside Neville Layhe and Dave Price.
In the U120 section, Kobus Nienaber is in joint second just half a point behind the leader, and needs some assistance from club legend Les Hall who faces the tournament leader in the final round. Kobus plays Alsager’s Nev Jones for a chance to finish as champion or runner-up. Our other player aka Pop-Eye has yet to get on the scoreboard.
In the U90 section, we have George Bulbeck and Mike Keenan in contention on 3 pts, trailing the leader by half a point who is paired with Mike. Robert Scott has notched up a creditable 2 pts so far, with Pawel Stanny and Mark Randell also competing.
In the meantime the club is open to limited number by arrangement on each Wednesday. Please contact chairman Dave Price if you wish to attend, so that we can comply with current Government Guidelines and Regulations.
Our B team have been flying the flag for Crewe in the latest season of 4NCL Online League Chess. Tuesday night saw the BOL team in the Division 6 Play-off Final to determine the overall divisional champions, playing against MK Phoenix 3. A glance at the team lists showed we were massive underdogs as the opposition had a team graded 1352 FIDE pts higher, but we were not to be deterred. In fact first blood went to Harry Gardiner as our young veteran produced his finest result of the season, overpowering his opponent with a long range mating threat with Q&B against the King-side castled King, while his own King seemed marooned in the centre. The capture of Harry’s h-pawn led to a trapped piece and allowed Harry to enjoy some Rook threats on the h-file combined with the long-range Q&B hitting g2. A clever knight maneouvre gave Harry a crucial material gain to put us surprisingly in the lead.
Meanwhile on bd 4, Kobus had a deficit of over 400 pts but took the challenge to his opponent. Keeping things tight and exchanging his way to a superior end-game position, both players were left with Rook and 3 pawns, but Kobus was far more active with his (white) Rook attacking on the Q-side, while the black Rook was passively defending two pawns from d6, allowing Kobus to advance his King and create all the winning chances with an unopposed g-pawn. However the defence held out as all the pieces were exchanged to give a creditable draw.
Unfortunately bd 2 went against us, as a knight captured our Rook on h1 and was allowed to escape the corner without giving back an exchange. Lukasz Michalek threw everything he had left into a King-side attack, but accurate defence allowed MK Phoenix to put out the fire and level the scores …. and so it was left to captain Dave Price to see if he could obtain a draw that would have made us champions on tie-break. Dave made life difficult for himself by opening up the King side after an ambitious Nh5 move which left weak pawns set up on f6, g6, and h7 after his opponent probed at the king. The loss of the h-pawn gave Dave some counterplay, and after a long walk with the King from f7 to b8, dropped a second pawn on the a-file which could not be recaptured due to a pin on the King. A series of pawn exchanges created a monster pass-pawn which Dave could only stop by loss of a bishop. Eventually faced with two queening-pawns, we succumbed to the inevitable and lost 2.5-1.5 to conclude the campaign.
The BOL team have earned promotion after a superb season of over achieving, so will face even tougher opposition when season 4 commences towards the end of August. Well done to all of the squad of Harry, Lukasz, Kobus, Dave and the crucial support of Adam Fields and Nigel Gardner.
The online tournament, for players under grade 80 at July 2020, has been a chance for many of our new members to compete, with five players in an “all-play-all” with two games against each other. The new members Rob Scott and George Bulbeck, added to Mark Randell (who played his first game ever when the club last played OTB on Friday 13th March 2020) with Russell Smithers and Mike Keenan as previously established members.
The event has been very competitive, and all players have performed very well to a standard that indicates much improvement. Everybody has picked up at least one win and a draw and it has been a very close contest. The trophy became a 3-way chase with Mike leading early on and completing his games early to score 5/8 and set the bar high. Russell has scored at least 50% against all players and stands on 4/7. The decisive result came on Friday as George beat Russell to take an unassailable lead with 5.5/8. There is just one game to be played between Russell and Mark to complete the event, while Robert managed to score 3pts with at least one draw or a win against all of his his rivals, and Mark has so far scored 1.5 with one game to go.
Congratulations to George who will receive a trophy at the 2021 AGM in due course.
Full details can be accessed via the LMS, use link below
Under 80 Online LP
Crewe’s B Online team have made it to the Playoff final in Division 6 after a superb win tonight against St Andrews White Cross. As is always the case we went into the match as underdogs with an average FIDE rating difference of about 100 pts per board. On board 1 Harry Gardiner met fire with fire and despite facing a rating deficit over over 250, you would never have known as Harry calmly exchanged his black pieces to win a pawn, before a clever h7 sacrifice allowed his opponent to regain parity and so an early draw was agreed.
On bd 2 Lukasz Michalek played a blinder, with kings castled opposite, he created the initial attack on the kingside, before manouevreing his rooks to the centre to offer his strong bishop as an exchange for a weaker knight, but with the capture of the knight on the 7th rank it gave Lukasz the impetus to win a pawn. It started to look very messy when his opponent regained a king-side pawn to make a potential pass-pawn on the h-file while Lukasz had unopposed A and C pawns. As black’s king raced over to stop the two Q-side pawns, Lukasz’s remaining bishop moved onto the attack, and co-ordinated with his Rook forced the black king to be cut off on A7. As black tried to counter with his Rook and opposite colour bishop, Lukasz set up a trap to allow himself to be checked in the middle of the board, which was defended by a rook block that opened a discovered check to win a Rook for nothing, to put the team in command.
On Bd 4, crafty Kobus Nienaber seemed to be in a bit of a jam with white but always seemed to push his opponents pieces to where they did not want to be and after exchanging the Queens to save a piece from attack, managed to retreat and reset his bishops on e3 and f3 behind central pawns that were about to roll. With Kobus using his time far more efficiently, a central pawn push opened a discovered attack on a rook on b7 by the f3 bishop, completely missed by his opponent and immediate resignation meant the match was won.
Meanwhile captain Dave Price had a night to forget literally as he plonked one knight out of the game on h5, before deciding the other knight should share a similar role on a5. Despite the pair of dim knights somehow Dave managed to hang in, but then decided he should make it easier for his opponent by presenting an opportunity for two central pass-pawns to march up the board. His opponent was in no hurry to convert his huge advantage but was still well ahead on the clock as well. Eventually a knight fork presented the key-blow and Dave was put of his misery. Having spoken to Dave after the match, he was grateful the youngsters were able to carry the team over the line, with a final score of 2.5-1.5
In the play-off final they will face MK Phoenix 3 who had an average rating of 1907 in tonight’s other semi-final, so it’s fair to say our average rating of 1569 will make us massive underdogs and accordingly will go into the final in a fortnight’s time with no fear and nothing to lose !
Last Tuesday (20th) saw Round 7 of the current 4NCL online matches, to complete the all-play-all sections. The B team went into their match against Deaf England 1 in the knowledge that avoding defeat would guarantee a top two position in their sub-division (6A) and secure promotion. The opposition were almost identically graded in terms of total FIDE grades, with their top two being higher graded by roughly the same as our boards 3-4 outgraded them, so the scene was set for a well-balanced match. Young Harry Gardiner has been notching up the points on top board, but got a piece trapped without compensation and soon resigned to put the promotion party on hold. Colossul Kobus (Nienaber) and Cool-hand Luke (Michalek) put the train back on the tracks with two resounding wins to ensure we had a least a share of the match points. Captain Calm – Dave Price aka Baldrickprice had a game that was seriously double-edged and just when he was trying to avoid all the pitfalls was offered a draw which was gladly accepted to get the team over the winning line to take the match 2.5-1.5 and guarantee top slot in division 6A.
There is a pair of end of season play-offs to determine the division champions with the semi-finals played on Tuesday 4th May. As yet we do not know who the opponents will be (out of MK Phoenix 3, Battersea Juniors and St Andrews White Cross 1.
Meanwhile the AOL team (A Online) played their final game already consigned to relegation and facing Manchester Juniors A team. As has been the case all season, the opposition bottom board was higher graded than our own top board, and it was not long before the writing was on the wall. A whitewash was narrowly avoided as David Hulme held on for a backs-to-the-wall draw on bd 2, against Cheddleton’s young rising star Sam Parry. With the conclusion of the season for the A team, we have ended in relegation position for 3rd time in a row, and would be decent if 4NCL actually put us out of our misery and dropped us to division 4. We have struggled every season and this time has been the toughest as the team only gained 6 board pts from 28 games, with Neville Layhe being the star performer collecting 2.5 of the 6 pts on his own !
Tuesday (6th April) saw round 6 of the 3rd season for our two 4NCL Online League teams. Captain Dave Price was grateful the other players were in fine form as the B team cemented their status as leaders of division 6A against Plymouth 2. Junior Harry Gardiner seems to relish playing on bd 1 as he smashed his higher graded opponent to smitherines in no time at all, to put the league leaders in command. Kobus Nienaber, who has really taken the bit between the teeth throughout this Online regime, similarly cruised to victory on board 4, against a marginally higher graded player. Captain Dave was in command when he blundered a rook in the end game, probably thinking too far ahead and opened the door to a potential slippage at the table summit. With Lukasz Michalek being severely tested in a difficult end game where he was a pawn down to some skilful play it seemed we may not win the match. However Lukasz is made of fighting spirit and constantly kept nipping at the heels despite the pawn loss and what seemed terminal trouble, with a king cut-off by a Rook on the 7th. Lukasz’s defence was oustanding as his opponent tried every “which-way” to convert the pawn advantage as he somehow got his King into the corner to stop the advancing Rook’s pawn and was able to blockade with his own Rook when needed to prevent defeat. Eventually (after about 80-odd moves) the Plymouth player had to agree he could not force the win, and so the B team scraped home 2.5-1.5, when it should have been much easier. I suspect captain Dave will be swapping boards with young Lukasz for the vital round 7 game. The team are 1 point ahead of the 2nd and 3rd placed teams who play each other in the final round before the semi-finals. In order to win the group and guarantee a semi-final spot they need to defeat Deaf England 1, and may still win the group with a draw in round 7. This would be the first occasion our club has reached any 4NCL play-offs if we can make it.
At the opposite end of the spectrum our A team have struggled throughout this campain in division 3D. After 5 defeats, we clocked up our first point of the season with a 2-2 draw against Catford Cosmonauts 3. The match was drawn in all respects with each of the four games all ending in draws. Lukasz Holcman was first to share the spoils as it seemed he was in a rush on bd 2. Neville Layhe (the team’s star performer) appeared to have created enough chances to win but allowed his opponent to escape with a draw on bd 4, while Rick Renegade has one of his usual wild games with attack and counter-attack before somehow finishing level. Karl Lockett as always taking on the toughest role on top board kept a calm control throughout before ensuring safety of another draw. Well done to the AOL team in breaking their duck. Although guaranteed to finish in one of the two relegation slots for the 3rd season in a row, at least they have a chance of avoiding the wooden spoon if we can win our final game.
Two weeks ago I wrote “Crewe 2 in outside contention…..”, and I am delighted to report the team led by inspirational (unknown to him) skipper and club chairman (aka Baldrickprice) Dave Price completed the unlikely task on Saturday afternoon.
Crewe2 finished the campaign with a hard-fought win against Lee Tilton’s underdogs Crewe 3. It was only on bottom board where Crewe 2 managed to seel the deal with a 5-3 win. The top three boards finished at 3-apiece as Kobus Nienaber grabbed a win and a draw for Crewe 3 on top board, and Lukasz Michalek did the same for Crewe 2. Lukasz’s opponent Nigel Gardner performed the now-standard-heroics of taking a half point from the much higher graded opponent, and Adam Fields shared a 1-1 score with Neville Layhe. And so it was left to chairman Dave to gain the crucial two points in his games, with one in the bag on Thursday and the second game delayed until Saturday, due to his opponent being unwell. The final score being 5-3 to Crewe 2, to finish the season on 8 pts from 5 matches.
This victory alone would not have secured the “virtual trophy” if previous league leaders Holmes Chapel (HC) had avoided defeat in their final match. It was fitting that Macclesfield played their strongest team of the season against the defending champions and inflicted HC’s first ever loss in the NSDCA online leagues by the narrowest margin possible of 4.5-3.5. However it was still due to help from the friends of Crewe 1 in the 4th round of pairings who took a vital point off HC in a drawn match, that contributed to the title, as Crewe 2 finished just one point ahead of HC, Cheddleton and Macclesfield.
Crewe 1 concluded their campaign with a 7-1 success against bottom of the table Kidsgrove, as Harry Gardiner, Simon Layhe and David Hulme all scored two points to supplement Karl Lockett’s one point on top board.
It’s a season of complete contrasts for our two 4NCL teams competing in Season 3, so let’s start with the positive side !
Our B team (called Crewe BOL) had a resounding success this week in their division 6 encounter with MCS Oxford B , where both sides seemed very level on grades, with the only exception being in our favour on board 2, and the opposition containing a team full of juniors who seem to excel in this online league. However our youthful team has a little more experience, as Harry Gardiner (bd 1) and Lukasz Michalek (bd 2) quickly proved to be far too strong with major material gains without any compensation for the opposition. It was not long before the match was secure as our online sensation, Kobus Nienaber was held to a draw to supplement our top two board successes. It was left for Adam Fields to use up all of the time allowed before adding a third success to the scoreboard, to finish with a convincing win by 3.5-0.5. The BOL team sit 3rd in their group A table (of 8 teams) and face joint leaders Hertford 2 in Round 5. A positive result in that match would send the team into one of the two promotion slots, having already played the other join leaders.
The A team (called Crewe AOL) are finding it much tougher. Our Round 4 opponents were St Benildus B whose bottom board was higher graded than our top player, which is often the case in Division 3. Not for the first time this season the team narrowly avoided the whitewash thanks to our own Whitemanvan – Neville Layhe. The top 3 boards were all swotted aside, as Nev picked up yet another solid draw despite facing the biggest grade deficit of 235 FIDE points. It gets harder for the A team as they face league leaders Bolton and Worsley in round 5.
Apologies for the lack of reports since xmas as your writer has been sidelined by work commitments for an extended period due to Covid impact on reporting deadlines.
Last week saw all three of Crewe’s teams in the NSDCA Rapidplay. On Wednesday Crewe 3 comfortably came out winners over Kidsgrove. Kobus Nienaber has proved to be an online sensation and won both of his top board games, while skipper Lee Tilton scored 50% in his games against colleague Andrew Crosby. Nigel Gardner ensured success for the team as he emulated Kobus with two points, and relative newcomer Pawel Stanny did well to score 50% against a much more experienced opponent, to give a final glowing score of 6-2.
Crewe 1 had the toughest task possible of playing against Holmes Chapel who had a 100% record over two seasons going into this match. Top two boards were significantly outgraded as Rick Renegade played superbly to pick up 1 pt on board 2. On board 3 Harry Gardiner played Colin Mills who has a briliant record in the online format, but Harry pulled out all the aces to win two exciting and tough games, which kept the match in the balance. On board 4 Simon Layhe having won the first game, needed a draw to give us an improbable team win, but alas he over-extended a King side attack and dropped a piece in the melee, which allowed Malcolm Roberts to achieve an equal share of the points and leave the match drawn at 4-4, which is the first points dropped by HCCC.
Crewe 2 playing on Thursday faced a strong Stafford outfit. Top board Lukasz Holcman was another player to be outgraded but scored a vital half point in his two games, while Neville Layhe and Lukasz Michalek shared the points in their games on boards 2 and 3. It was left to skipper, Dave “Baldrickprice” to apply the coup-de-grace as he steam-rollered his way to two points on board 4, to ensure the team edged the contest by the narrowest of margins 4.5-3.5 and send Crewe 2 to joint second place in the table.
The five round tournament concludes next week (16th-18th March) with Crewe 2 in title contention as they finish with a derby against Crewe 3. Holmes Chapel face Macclesfield in the final round and could be outgraded for the first time if Macc play their strongest team. Cheddlton play Stafford in their final game and have a chance to take the title if other results work in their favour, while Macclesfield have a slim chance too, but need to beat the defending champions by better than 7-1 and that the two teams above them fail to win !! So it’s a 4-way shoot out for the title with Holmes Chapel as favourites to retain it, after dropping their only point in round 4 against Crewe 1 who are lowest placed of our club teams.
Thanks to Popeye (aka Andrew Crosby) we embarked on a new online challenge taking on the might of Kenya’s Nairobi Club using the Chess.com platform this afternoon. It was a match of 10 boards x two games of Rapid-play (25 mins + 10 secs increments)
The opposition outgraded us significantly as is common in these matches, and our top players all seemed to go AWOL, as secretary David Hulme was offered as the board 1 sacrificial lamb. The only positive for David was that he managed to go the distance in both games, hoping his opponent might fall asleep at the screen.
The most positive news came from Martin Frisher, playing on board 2 as he grabbed the bull by the horns, and came through with two wins – a superb and lonely effort. A number of our squad failed to disturb the scorers, but there were four players who came out with great credit all managing to pick up one win in their pair of games with contributions from chairman Dave on board 5, Kobus the slayer on 6, Lee the aggressor on 8, and Nigel the blitzer on 9.
The final score was 14-6 to Nairobi, with many of our team playing their first games on Chess.com, which was quite an experience after playing on Lichess for nearly 12 months.