Harry makes it a double

18 year old Harry Gardiner wrapped up his second trophy in successive weeks as he concluded the Summer “All-play-all” last night with a win in the final game of the whole competition.

The event started in mid-June and the trophy was only decided in the last game, after last night’s pairings saw the four contenders going head to head. Three of the four players were on 3.5/5 – Harry, Doug Barnett and Simon Layhe, with the other contender Dave Price on 3/5, and the games to be played were Harry vs Simon and Dave vs Doug.

Chairman Dave took the early advantage as he managed to overcome Doug, no doubt aided by the fairly noisy club room causing distractions to all involved. Temporarily this put Dave in top spot, finishing with 4 pts, and with the remaining game in the balance we had the prospect of a 3-way tie for the trophy if the final game was a draw, or if we had a positive result that would prove decisive for the winner. In the end, Harry would emerge with the win to become Summer Champion – again congratulations to Harry.

It is great to see Harry’s game going from strength to strength, as it is only four years ago that Harry’s first ever grade was a miserly 31 in old ECF money. Let’s hope he continues to improve his game and grade which is now 1848 in new money (= old 153 grade) and help the club compete at a higher level in future league events.

Full results can be seen from the following link


4NCL – BOL get first win under belt, but AOL suffer again

Last night saw Round 2 of the current 4NCL Online Season (No 4). The A team faced division 3 hot shots – Guildford Castles while the B team took on Barnet Knight C in division 4.

The A team were never likely to succeed against a team that is highly rated enough to be amongst the top dogs in division 1, with an average rating above 2100. The gulf in class was apparent as the match was decided in under 30 minutes as our top three boards were all outplayed. The remaining game saw Simon Layhe play a blinder, as he prized open the castled king, and then forced the opponent’s overworked queen to fall. Simon’s win was the first board point collected by the A team after two matches. There is no rest in the next round as we face another top rated team !

The B team found the going much easier, with a big grade advantage on each board, although a team comprising juniors can never be under-estimated. On board 1, Rick Renegade threw his usual grenade into the mix, to emerge with 4 queenside pass-pawns, while his King was safely grounded on h8, in front of an opposition pawn on h7, which prevented his King being attacked for some time, before one of his own pawns converted to a queen.

Lukasz Michalek seemed to be involved in a game that was pretty equal until he created another queenside pawn majority that proved key in converting the position.

Skipper Dave Price was happily meandering along before realising he was a pawn down. However he did possess a couple of killer centre-pawns that pushed forward to squash his opponents position, and forced resignation when one was to be promoted. His game finished last to make the score 3-1.


Harry Gardiner wins 7th Annual Blitz Handicap

Last night saw the club take a big step back to normality, with 20 members competing for the Annual Time & Point Handicap trophy, plus several spectators, other newcomers and the control team.

The format of a 5-round swiss is complicated by time and points handicap based on players standard grades, so that the top players rated between 1900 and 2000 are allowed 5 minutes to complete their games, while lower graded players have 1 minuted added to their time for each approx 100 point band up to a maximum of 15 minutes. Additionally handicaps are added to lower grade players varying from half a point to 2.5 pts based on the grade band they fit in to. Any previous winners have time and handicap points reduced to add to their difficulty of winning the trophy, and this has ensured we have had a different winner in all six previous events.

The first round saw most of the top half seeds win their games as expected which forces them to play each other in Round 2. As the bottom half of seeds have the biggest handicaps any early win propels them up the leader board. The unusual results in round 2 saw three draws among the higher seeds, so that only two players emerged with two wins – being Rick Renegade and Amy Lovatt.

The battle of the top two in Round 3 saw Amy succeed to be the only player with 100% record and effectively make it impossible for Rick to win the trophy as he did in 2018. Wins for Kobus Nienaber and Reinhard Haack to take their scores to 2 from 3, put them in the joint lead with Amy on 3.5 pts with the handicaps included, ahead of a couple of players with 3 pts and a large group on 2.5 pts.

Round 4 threw up a number of surprises with Harry clinching the top board game against Amy. Simon Layhe’s 4th round win kept up his unbeaten score with two wins and two draws, while Dave Price and George Jellis added further wins to their accounts to leave all of this group on a combined score of 3.5 pts together with Kobus and Reinhard, making it a 7-way tie on the leader board.

Round 5 scores created a big head ache for the tournament controller as four of the leading group all won their last round games making a tie on 4.5 pts as Harry, Amy, Simon and Reinhard all chalked up successes to finish ahead of a group on 4pts including unbeaten No 1 seed Martin Burns, Doug Barnett, Julian Bulbeck and the 2020 online winner – Nigel Gardner.

A series of Armageddon play-offs were then decided as the best way to determine the outright winner. The random draw, paired Simon with Reinhard and Harry with Amy. Simon had a walk-over as Reinhard was too tired to continue after the long evening. When Harry met Amy for the second time on the night we could not have seen a more dramatic finish as Harry was given an extra minute as white, but knew he had to win otherwise a draw would see Amy in the play-off final. A tense game followed with both players using all of their seven minutes until the late middle game saw complications and pieces literally falling all around in mayhem as the clocks homed in towards flag-fall. With just two seconds remaining on both clocks confusion arose and Amy’s flag fell first in uncertain circumstances as pieces were not placed correctly. It was impossible to say which player was totally responsible for the wreckage and the controller decided that flag-fall was the only call available so that Harry went through to play Simon.

A good number of spectators stayed late to watch the play-off final, as Simon was given 9 minutes with white to see if he could beat Harry with his 6 minute allowance. A tactical game saw Simon gain a pawn with Rook, two bishops and 6 pawns vs Rook, bishop, knight and 5 pawns. Harry managed to deflect Simon’s minor pieces to recover the pawn and swap his knight against a bishop, which led to an endgame with opposite bishops and opposing potential pass-pawns. In a complicated endgame both players created queening pawns and Simon missed a winning combination but would only have had a couple of seconds to make too many moves and ultimately lost on time, when Harry would have had insufficient material after Simon could recapture the queening pawn. Either way a draw would see Harry win the Armageddon play-off and win the 2021 Time & Point Handicap to become the 7th different winner. Congratulations to Harry.

A special thank you to Steve Ballantyne for working on all the pairings, and to Les Hall and Dave Price for resetting clocks for every game and setting up the room for the event.

All in all it was another special night for the club, with all members taking part in a friendly and sporting manner, as another new member was introduced to club activities and an exciting finish to decide the champion !


Upcoming events and AGM News

The club held its AGM on Wednesday 25th August. Main items

  1. Subscriptions held at £20 p.a for Adult Members and £10 for juniors (under 18 @ 1st September 2021)
  2. Club’s 7th Annual Time & Point Handicap to be held on Wednesday 1st September, commencing at 7.30pm prompt. Contact David Hulme for details and to register beforehand.
  3. League chess to be confirmed – with NSDCA executive proposing a swiss competition for teams of 4 players – no grade limits, but players restricted to one team. League AGM to be held Monday 20th September at Meir CC.
  4. Internal long-play events to start on Wednesday 8th September for all members interested – games to be graded, and ECF membership required in addition to club subscription
  5. Club entered two teams into latest 4NCL Online Season 4. Other online chess put on back burner while OTB returns.


Summer tournament heads to a fantastic finale

With just a pair of games left to be played in the 2021 Summer OTB Competition, we have a four-way slug-fest to see who is our latest club tournament prize-winner. The remaining games are Harry Gardiner vs Simon Layhe and Dave Price vs Doug Barnett, and any one (or more) of these four will be the Summer Champion.

The 7-man all-play-all commenced in June with club newcomer Martin Burns the apparent favourite, competing with the above four players plus Neville Layhe and Les Hall, all determined to be part of our first OTB competition since the Covid pandemic gripped the country.

As we approach the final games, we have four players on 3.5 pts having all dropped at least 1.5 pts. Among these Martin has already completed his six games so will be overtaken, while Doug, Harry and Simon also sit on 3.5 pts and chairman Dave is just behind on 3pts, with their final games remaining. If Harry or Simon win their game, they are guaranteed at least a share of first place with Doug the only other player capable of scoring 4.5 pts. A draw between Simon and Harry would allow Doug to win outright if he beats Dave, or if Dave beats Doug we could have a 3-way tie.

It is hoped these games will be played on Monday or Tuesday of next week to meet the 31st August deadline for the competition.

Just a reminder we have our Annual General Meeting on Wednesday 25th August, starting at 7.30pm and to be followed by a 5-round 5-minute blitz.

It is the intention to have our 7th Annual Time and Point Handicap on  Wednesday 7th September if there are enough members ready to return to the club, and the following week should see the start of our Winter long-play competition (two divisions of all-play-all).



New League Season 21/22

The NSDCA Committee have arranged a meeting for Monday 16th August to discuss the possible restart of league chess and to prepare for the necessary League AGM in due course. At this stage it is unknown how many teams will be competing.

If anyone is interested in playing league chess for the club, please contact either Dave Price or David Hulme (or any of the committee and captains shown on our contacts section.)

In the meantime our club continues to meet on Wednesdays from 6.30pm, and is currently running a summer tournament as well as providing friendly chess for any member that wishes to attend.

We have our own Club AGM scheduled for 25th August, to be followed by a 5-round blitz for all interested.

September should see our Annual Time & Point Handicap taking place. We will also be aiming to arrange one or two pre-season friendlies with other clubs as we have done in all seasons prior to the Covid-19 outbreak.



NSDCA Online Congress – The Final Week

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.

BOL beaten in 4NCL Online Fantastic Final Play-off

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.

Newcomer George wins U80 Tournament

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 BOL through to 4NCL Play-off Final

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 !