Simon takes on GM – Dr John Nunn

It’s been a fortnight since our last report and we have played three NSDCA League matches and two more online matches in the 4NCL.

On 30th March we had two more derbies in the NSDCA with E vs B and C vs A teams. The B team nudged up to 2nd place in the league table with a 3-1 win after successes for Simon Layhe, James Marshall and Steve Ballantyne outweighed Neville Layhe’s sole effort for the E team. The C team won narrowly 3-2 to leave the “A” team rooted in the bottom slot. The highlight of the evening was Peter Kanalos’s first ever win (for the As), but the rest of the team failed to live up to Peter’s exploits. There were draws on the top two boards, with the C team sealing the result thanks to George Jellis and Mike Keenan.

Tuesday (5th April) was 4NCL Round 6 with our AOL team against Bude in division 2 and the BOL team vs KCS U13 in division 4. As noted in the headline, board 1 for Bude was GM Dr John Nunn with Simon Layhe given the challenge of facing him with the black pieces. Simon put up a superb fight and daring to sacrifice a Rook for a Bishop and a pawn was not able to generate quite enough compensation as the GM slowly realigned his Rooks to control the endgame and infiltrate the queenside weakened pawns. The match ended up in a 3-1 defeat which was soured a little as an obvious mouse-slip cost Karl Lockett to drop a rook, with his opponent refusing to accept it was a genuine slip. If Karl had been allowed to continue he was in the ascendancy and with David Lambton’s win on board 3 may possibly have collected our first point of the season with a draw. Meanwhile our B team suffered the same scoreline (1-3) with Kobus Nienaber our sole winner. According to captain Dave Price, Kobus was in the worst position for the team with the other three boards all looking good, but unfortunately things didn’t work as planned.

Wednesday night saw our D team up against Alsager, with three regular squad members missing including captain Nigel Gardner. The replacements had mixed results with the match concluding in a draw, to see the D team lose their 100% winning record. Wins by Jarek Czyz (his first in the league), and Pawel Stanny were backed up with a draw from David Lambton as the D team completed their league schedule with a superb record of 9 wins and 1 draw to take the league title by a landslide.

In our internal tournaments, Harry Gardiner added a further half point to extend his lead in division 1 with 8/10, to keep ahead of Martin Burns and David Lambton both on 7/10. Harry is in pursuit of a hat-trick, already having won the 2021 summer tournament and the Annual Handicap. The competition should see all 10 players having 18 games each, so there is a long way to run yet.

There was a potential decider played last night in the division 3 (U1300) competition as the top two went head to head. Mike Keenan used all his experience to beat our youngest star Oskar Jarzynski and maintain a 100% record with 4/4 to move ahead of Oskar’s 4/5.

Weekly Report

With the League title already secured by Nigel Gardner’s D team, they continued their 100% record with win number 9 against our C team on Wednesday. Wins from Rick Renegade, David Lambton and Nigel together with a draw by Pawel Stanny (against Mike Keenan) were enough to outweigh Dave Price’s lonely win for the Cs.

Tuesday night was Round 5 of 4NCL online and resources were stretched. The AOL team suffered another narrow defeat 1.5-2.5 with Karl Lockett doing everything he could to save the match but could only muster a draw to add to Dave Lambton’s win by default, as his opponent never turned up (online). The BOL team faired better, as normal !, and grabbed a 2-2 draw as Harry Gardiner outgunned the opposition and Andrew Crosby converted a long-term advantage into a comfortable win. The B team are in 7th place out of 8 in their division 3 mini group while the A team languish 8th in their division 2 group without a point to show. The AOL team face Bude in Round 6 who have GM Dr John Nunn in their ranks !

In our internal competitions, Harry Gardiner overtook Martin Burns to move into pole position in Div 1 after his latest win sent him to 7.5/9 ahead of Martin’s 7/10 and David L in the frame with 6.5/9. With a possible 18 games for all to play, it is too early to rule out other contenders making a run for the trophy.

Division 2 has seen very little activity since the turn of the year, but there is plenty of time for members to get a shake on, and track down leader Nigel Gardner (6/7) and 2nd placed Lee Tilton (5/7).

Division 3 saw youngster Oskar Jarzynski take the lead on Wednesday night, with a further win to take his tally to 4/4. He should face stiff competition as Mike Keenan (3/3) and Chris Marais (2/2) all have 100% records, and I would expect top seed Phil Wright to push this trio all the way.


Crewe goes to Blackpool for the weekend

The Blackpool Congress has been taking place this weekend and  we can report that there were 12 members of the club involved, which is probably the biggest number from any single club.

In the major section we have Bart Fajfer (3.5/5), Karl Lockett (2.5/5) and Simon Layhe (3/5). Bart finished in 5th= place with several others just out of the prize money. Simon’s performance rating is estimated at an excellent 2027,  compared to his entry rating of 1719.

The intermediate section saw David Lambton and David Price both finishing on 2/5. Dave P was ranked 62nd out of 70 so has over-performed by some margin.

Our only entrant in the Minor section, George Bulbeck scored 3/5 in his first ever Congress. Another excellent effort which put him in 16th place out of 50 on tie breaks, but the same score as 9th place.

Our masses competed in the standard section where Julian Bulbeck and Andrew Crosby have excelled to finish with 3.5/5 each, 7th and 10th positions out of 60 competitors. Nigel Gardner has batted above his average to score 2.5/4, likewise Kobus Nienaber with 2/4. One of our newest members –  Chris Marais playing his first ever congress and with only two graded games before this congress should be delighted with his achievement to gain a win in the final round this afternoon. Phil Wright was one of the last to finish playing in the standard and ended up with 1 point.

 Group photograph

1. Ds race to the Chequered Flag ! 2. Oskar in The Top 10

The D team completed their domination of the NSDCA’s VMS League this week after swatting aside a beefed-up “C” team. Wednesday night saw the Dees come from 2-0 down to dramatically drub the C team and secure the league title. It did not look likely when Martin Frisher was drafted into the C team at the last minute to deliver an early blow to the champions-elect with a win on board 2. The addition of Martin allowed the rest of the C team to move down one board and create what appeared to be a decisive advantage, as the battle of the captains on board 4 also went in favour of the Cees as Dave Price made it 2-0. However the Ds like to deliver with drama and their was no shortage as the clock was well past 10pm with the score still standing at 2-0. First signs of the fightback came on board 1, where Rick Renegade appeared to be doomed to defeat but somehow conjured up a Houdini-like escape after having just a few seconds on his clock created enough havoc to pull off a surprise and make it 1-2. Then the flags came into play as board 3 saw guest (D team) player George Bulbeck pull a rabbit out of the hat when facing imminent defeat was gifted a win when his opponent ran out of time, and so it was 2-2 with board 5 in play. Here it was the turn of Pawel Stanny to complete the comeback, who fought and fought in a difficult position; so much so that another flag fell on the opponent’s clock and to the surprise of all onlookers, the D team had somehow emerged as 3-2 winners (all games won with white) to secure the League title after just 7 matches of a 10 match campaign. Congratulations to Nigel Gardner’s D team squad.

In other news, our youngest member – Oskar Jarzynski is currently rated at 1399E (at 1st March) which puts him in the top 10 players in the UK for the Under 10 age group. He stands out as the only North-West player in the top 10 of essentially an all Southern listing.

Dominant Dees Deliver again

Another superb club night on Wednesday saw one match take place, together with a handful of internal competition games and a gathering of new players receiving coaching, as well as visitors from Alsager and Fenton clubs.

The main event was the clash between the table-topping D-team and second placed E-team. The D’s captain Nigel Gardner was absent due to other commitments which would mean they were missing their leader who is unbeaten in 14 games since we returned to OTB chess after the Covid enforced break. When the board 1 player failed to arrive, the Ds benefitted as Bart Fajfer was able to play his first league match for over 2 years as a replacement. The first game to conclude saw Pawel Stanny put the league leaders in front. Neville Layhe (E) drew with David Lambton (D) as David defended doggedly, before Kobus Nienaber delivered a killer blow for the Ds on board 4. Bart converted a two pawn advantage into a full point before the last game saw George Bulbeck finish the night as the sole winner for the E team. The final result was 3.5-1.5 for the D(ream) team, as they moved further ahead of the chasing pack, with a perfect 12 pts from 6 matches, with the E & B team both on 7 pts, their closest rivals some way behind.

In the club’s division 1 tournament, Martin Burns added another point to his tally to move into 2nd place with 6 out of 9, trailing the leader Karl Lockett on 6.5 pts who has played one more game. David Lambton remains in contention in 3rd place with 5.5 pts from 8 games, in what appears to be a marathon based competition with potential for all players to play a maximum of 24 games.

In division 3, Philip Wright got off the mark with a win in his second game, while newcomer Matthew Dean was successful playing his first long play game, as he became the 31st player to join our 3-division competition this season.

With another potential new member attending, we have now had 18 new recruits since the start of the season, as chairman Dave Price devotes most of his time to teaching newcomers, as we aim to introduce as many as possible to competitive and league chess as and when they are ready.

The current growth of the club is testimony to the efforts of Dave Price, and  shows we have more active members at the moment than any other club in the North Staffs League, which is a superb achievement for a club still in its infancy having only been formed in June 2014 !!

Was history made while we suffered Online woes the night before the Ds Dominated the VMS ?

What a busy week we’ve had, or two nights to be more accurate as Tuesday saw us playing two 4NCL Online League matches at the same time our “A” team made the short trip to Alsager and Wednesday had four teams in League action on a brilliant night at The Mals.

So was history made on Tuesday night ? The Alsager team fielded a weaker team than normal, but had a line up with an age difference of more than 80 years between their oldest and youngest team members. Without divulging too much detail, Richard Martin who is approx 95 years young was in a line up with Isaac Stanley who is a junior player. Enquiries are being made to see if this is a record for age difference in a league team within the ECF !!

Whatever the results of the research, the score line showed that our “A” team had a resounding 5-0 win, although the team maybe renamed as “Nomads A” with only two of the nominated squad available; Martin Burns had to dig deep to find five eligible players. Thanks to the supporting cast of Julian and George Bulbeck as well as Nigel Gardner, who backed up squad members Martin and Phil Wright to win all five boards.

We also had our two online teams playing in the 4NCL on Tuesday. Our AOL team was heavily outgraded by Dundee, as their bottom board 4 was rated 80 points higher than our top board. Despite the one sided expectation, we put up a brave fight to lose narrowly 1.5 – 2.5 as skipper David Hulme clocked up a rare win after a dodgy piece sacrifice, and Simon Layhe played more sensibly to earn a draw in a tight double-edged position. Meanwhile the BOL team had an even stiffer task with an average rating deficit of just over 200 pts and a massive 490 point shortfall on board 4. It was no surprise that defeat was to come, as skipper Dave Price avoided the whitewash with a draw, but our lower boards put up terrific fights.

Wednesday night at The Mals was another busy night as more members returned to the club with the easing of Covid related issues. We had 28 in attendance, as four teams played in the League and everyone else had some coaching. According to my records the club has hosted 50 different potential members this season, with 35 now having fully paid memberships.

The two matches were very closely fought between C and E in one match and D vs B in the other. The E team have a settled batch of players and had a small advantage over the C team, especially as skipper Dave Price elected to drop himself in favour of coaching the growing number of newcomers. The “E” team notched up a 3-2 win to move up to 2nd in the league, with wins from Neville Layhe, Julian Bulbeck and 9 year old Oskar Jarzynski. The “C” team were grateful to guest players Martin Burns and Kobus Nienaber for their two wins.

The other match saw league leaders – Nigel Gardner’s D(ream) team take on what was their nearest challengers – David Hulme’s B(ees) team. The early skirmishes proved decisive as Nigel and Pawel Stanny outmanoeuvred the Bumbling Bees on boards 4 and 5, before Simon Layhe brought the Bees back into contention with a win on board 2. On board 3 Adam Fields (D) and James Marshall (B) had a long duel before peace was agreed with a draw that meant the D team could not be beaten. The final game saw David on board 1 trying to engineer an end game advantage against Rick Renegade. Rick superbly created a counter attack with a supported passed b-pawn that was enough to prevent David’s King providing support to two passed pawns on the “e” and “g” files. However Rick’s King was able to hold the two pawns as neither could push on past the 6th rank. Rick held the position despite behind down to seconds on his clock on several occasions and ensure the D team retain their 100% record as they continue to dominate the VMS (Voluntary Mask Section of the League) after this 3-2 scoreline and put further daylight between them and the chasing pack.

Swiss Rapidplay – Rounds 3 & 4

This is the 2nd report of the week (commencing 31st January) which involved over 60 rapid-play games, with the previous report covering the online international aspect, and this one in respect of our 8-Round Internal Swiss Event.

Wednesday saw the delayed rounds 3 and 4 take place, with rounds 5 & 6 now scheduled for 13th April and rounds 7 & 8 to be played after the League season has ended. We had 26 members take place in Rounds 1 and 2 back in October and we had a further 5 members join the competition on Wednesday.

Round 3 saw 24 members in action, with 6 members taking half point byes due to absence. We had 5 players heading into Round 3 with 100% records, but only two emerged with their record intact as top seed Martin Burns and ungraded Jarek Czyz claimed wins. No.2 seed Karl Lockett wrecked secretary David Hulme’s 100% score, to move into 3rd place as the only member on 2.5 points, with an 11 player pile-up just behind on 2 points.

Round 4 saw the top board clash end in Martin’s favour, so he is now the only player on 100%. Karl notched up his second win of the night to move into 2nd place with 3.5 pts. James Marshall had a night to remember adding 2 points with a notable win against No.5 seed, to join four others on 3 points, who are the highly seeded Harry Gardiner, Rick Renegade, Simon Layhe , and the unseeded Jarek.

It was great to see newcomer Matthew Dean join in, with it being just his 2nd night at the club. Thanks to Marek Jarzynski for playing in Round 3, so there was no one without a game, and to Phil Wright for recording the scores so that the Events Officer could play.

The event looks like being a great success for the club as the number of players involved makes it feel like a typical congress arena. Full scores and pairings for the Swiss competition can  be seen from the LMS and the tab on the Right Hand Side of our Home Page labelled “Club Internal Competitions 2021”

Next week sees a resumption of NSDCA League matches, which starts a sequence of 9 consecutive Wednesdays of league chess at The Mals Club.

International Rapidplay vs Nairobi

This week has seen the club involved Rapidplay chess, with this match against Nairobi the focus of our first report.

On Sunday we embarked on our 2nd International Challenge, thanks to Andrew Crosby’s links with Nairobi Chess Club, which is Kenya’s biggest and longest surviving club. Andrew managed to round up a team of 20 players from Crewe including a couple of guests with links to our opponent’s country.

This Online (Lichess) match commenced at 3pm GMT, which was 6pm in Kenya. It was very much a case of going into the uknown with many opposition players not having recognised ratings, while our intention was to give as many as possible the opportunity to play. This allowed Nairobi a distinct advantage in the lower quartile as their experienced players came up against several very new to online chess in our team.

The match scorecard shows a very even battle over the top 10 boards with Crewe edging the lead 11-9, the next five boards also showed Crewe as slightly superior 5.5 to 4.5, but alas the match was determined on the bottom five boards as Nairobi whitewashed our new players with a dominant 10-0 sector. The final result being 16.5-23.5 in favour of Nairobi.

The match consisted of two games per board, one with white and black against the same opponent, with time limits of 20 minutes plus 10 seconds increments, which is a favourite option for these type of Rapidplay matches.

The event was hailed a great success in both clubs, with coverage extended to the English Chess Federation. An initial match had been played early in 2021 with Nairobi also successful, with both clubs now committed to making this an annual event. So, we at Crewe look forward to 2023 in the hope we can gain our first success in International combat.

It was great to see the Nairobi’s club report referring to the prestigious Crewe Chess Club in England, and we look forward to a long and enjoyable relationship with our Kenyan counterparts, which has been materially  fostered by Andrew Crosby’s enthusiasm for online chess and discovering the Nairobi Chess Club website. Many thanks are due to Roberto Villuela from the Nairobi club who collaborated with Andrew to ensure that both teams could field 20 boards with evenly matched teams.

Match scorecard 


Ds Deliver again and go top of Table

It was nice to see two matches take place at The Mals again on Wednesday (26th) with teams back to the full five board compliment. On one side we had Crewe E hosting Alsager and on the other we had Crewe A vs Crewe D.

Alsager had intended to field two new players but due to a last minute Covid related issue, had to revert to a more experienced team as captain Andy Barker had covered all possibilities by having himself and Neil Hankey in attendance as reserves if needed. Crewe E had a marginal advantage in ratings but the teams were very closely matches overall, being one of the purposes of splitting squad strengths evenly to make all matches interesting. First game to finish involved 9 year old Oskar Jarzynski playing his 3rd league match for the club, all in this month. Opponent Neil Hankey used his time well in a game that swung too and fro, with Oskar having the advantage from the opening, but then Neil fighting back to have chances of winning the end game, before peace was achieved with a draw. The E team took the lead as Julian Bulbeck gained success with the white pieces on board 4, and Neville Layhe added a half point with a draw on board 2. The visitors fought back from a 2-1 deficit as white pieces held sway with John Booth and Andy Barker getting Alsager to the winning post 3-2 !

Meanwhile the other match saw the D team defeat the As by the same 3-2 scoreline. Signifcant here was where the ratings differed by more than 100 pts between players, the higher grade backed up the predicted result with wins, while their were draws where rating differences were less than 100. For the D team it was David Lambton and Pawel Stanny who D-livered the full points, with Adam Fields and Nigel Gardner D-liberately dragging out draws. The A team’s victor was captain Martin Burns on board 1. The D team are the only side with a 100% record in the table and have the luxury of knowing they can afford to lose a match and still retain top spot as all other teams have dropped at least 3 points already. They face closest contenders – the B team in their next match.

Tuesday (25th) saw the start of 4NCL Online Season 5. With a drop in teams entering the event, both our our teams have been moved to higher  divisions as our A(OL) team in division 2 and the B(OL) in division 3.

It was a close encounter for the A team but they lost narrowly to Cornish Choughs 1.5-2.5. Karl Lockett was the standout performer with a win on board 2 and David Lambton excelled against a much higher rated player to pick up a draw with black on board 1.

The B team as usual outperformed the As, and picked up a superb match draw against Hackney Hackers, a team with an average rate over 400 pts higher per board. Harry Gardiner and Jarek Czyz performed (the now expected) miracles to win on top two boards !! Pawel Stanny and Mike Keenan both lower rated by well over 500 pts pushed their opponents all the way before both running out of steam after valiant efforts. A great start to the season for BOL.

The 4NCL competition is so tough that one of the the AOL team will have to face Grand-Master Dr John Nunn in a few weeks time. Captain David Hulme is suggesting we “draw lots” to see which one of our members wins the lottery to play a GM.