Kobus saves the Lambs from Slaughter

We have been playing in Round 3 of the NSDCA Online Rapidplay this week, where Crewe 3 were involved with the top of the table clash with Holmes Chapel. There was much banter among the team before this big match as Nigel Gardner started off a superb chain of messages starting with a picture of:

Despite being outgraded by some 240 pts, Lee Tilton’s Crewe 3 put up a stubborn fight against the competition favourites. An incredible performance from Kobus Nienaber (grade 98) won his 1st game against a very experienced player graded 168. The remaining players all battled hard and pushed opposition players all the way, but in the end the sheer strength and ability proved conclusive as Holmes Chapel ran out to win 7-1. Their captain Mike Hancock told our reporter that “the result did not do justice to Crewe’s efforts, and that our club is breath of fresh air in the League !”

Crewe 1 played Cheddleton on Wednesday, without Karl Lockett and David Hulme to allow some squad rotation. It was great to see Simon Layhe back in the team after a few months break, with Rick Renegade, Harry Gardiner and Dave Price making up the team. A solid team effort produced a comfortable 6-2 win to take the team up the table to 3rd. This was an expected result with our grade advantage of approx 20 pts per board, coupled with our much greater experience of playing online.

On Thursday night Crewe 2 played Newcastle, who like Crewe 1 decided to employ a system of squad rotation. Accordingly Newcastle’s team grades were significantly lower than previous rounds, and it was not too long before Crewe secured the match. However Newcastle did not lie down and put up some strong resistance that held the top two boards to a 2-2 score, but Lukasz Michalek and Martin Gill gained all 4 points on bottom two boards to ensure a 6-2 final result.

At the end of Round 3, all Crewe teams have won 2 lost 1, and are separated by board scores of 14.5, 14 and 13.5 pts in team order.

In Round 4 we have our first “derby” as Crewe 1 play Crewe 2 on Wednesday 25th, and then Crewe 3 play Newcastle the following night.

4NCL Online – A game of snakes and ladders !

There were two more matches for Crewe in season 2 of 4NCL this week, with our AOL team facing 100% high-flyers Kent Kestrels, and the BOL team against Ashby Ivanhoe.

Starting with the good news, the BOL team were inspired as they turned in the club’s best ever result in 4NCL with a 4-0 demolition. The first two games were over in very quick time as Lee Tilton and Kobus Nienaber were just too strong, and the match was soon in the bag as Lukasz Michalek kept up his outstanding record of being unbeaten as he overturned the grades on board 1 to make it 3-0. Meanwhile Adam Fields used all of his time to get the upper hand in a clever ending with good Knight vs bad bishop when it was looking pretty grim at one stage. After a 2 hour battle, Adam emerged victorious to put the icing on the cake. The BOL team have climbed up the ladder to 38th position, with a 50% score from 6 matches.

Meanwhile the AOL team were sliding down their table as they fell to the table-topping Kent outfit. The captain David Hulme set the tone with a “shocker” on board 2, allowing his Queen to get trapped early on, having to give up a Bishop or knight to save the lady. As his opponent went to capture the knight with the h pawn, there was a mouse slip as the h pawn moved on to h4 instead of capture on g4. Good sportsmanship prevailed as David permitted a “take-back” and resigned a few moves later in a hopeless position after dropping a 2nd piece ! Harry Gardiner got the team off the mark with a draw, before Kent won the board 1 game to secure the points. Neville Layhe again put up a solid performance on bd 4 to gain a comfortable draw. So after 6 rounds, the AOL team sit one place above the relegation zone but in a perilous position as the Warwick Bears team in 7th have a guarantee 4-0 win coming in the final round. The AOL team play Morriston Alekhine in the last round in the knoweledge that a win secures division 3 status, a loss means relegation, but a draw could mean either depending on other results. It was thought a draw would leave us safe, but the game pts previously used in the league tables do not apply ! This was only acknowledged by the League Controller after our captain had requested clarity on the tie-break rules, which had not been properly reflected in the tables published.

Also taking place this week was our Monthly Challenge Night, which featured our 2nd Chess960 competition. Unfortunately we only had 7 members participate mainly because so many had played 4NCL the previous night. This competition was won by Martin Frisher who scored a perfect 5/5 despite being up against our best 960 players.

Next week it is time for Round 3 of the NSDCA’s Online Rapid-play where our stars from Crewe 3 play Holmes Chapel in the top of the table clash; with Crewe 1 against Cheddleton and Crewe 2 vs Newcastle.

Crewe 3 fly to the top of the NSDCA RP Online League (for now) !

With all three Crewe RP teams in action this week, the clear stars of the show so far are Lee Tilton’s 3rd team. After a comfortable win against Meir in round 1, they were paired with the higher-graded Cheddleton team in round 2. Despite being put under severe early pressure and the captain being outplayed by their promising junior Joe Alcock on board 3, the rest of the team in the guise of Adam Fields, Kobus Nienaber and Nigel Gardner rounded up full points with the black pieces in game 1, to take a surprising lead 3-1. Soon it was 3-2 as Joe did the business for Chedd again, before Adam and Kobus secured the match with superb white attacks to put us 5-2 ahead. Nigel calmly headed for peace in the final game to put the team top of the table, with 4pts and a board score of 12.5-3.5. However there is a heavy price to pay for this early success as Lee’s team have been paired with big-hitters Holmes Chapel (HC) in Round 3.

HC have the strongest team in the mini-league by some distance, and after squeaking past Crewe 1 in the 1st round, were paired with Crewe 2 in the 2nd round. HC set off like a house on fire, and it did not take long for their superiority to show, as Pat Bennett (Bd 2) won two games quickly backed up by a win on board 1 from Mike Hancock and a hard fought win on board 3. Martin Gill got Crewe on the scoreboard with a solid draw in game 1, and maybe had chances of a win in game 2 before taking the second draw. On board 1 Neville Layhe had created a positional advantage with white, before allowing his opponent to pick up pawns and steal a further win. The highlight for the team was Lukasz Michalek’s performance to win the 2nd game on board 3, offering an exchange sacrifice that was turned down and then taking advantage of the material held to gain our only win of the match. Final score was 6-2 to HC, who are one of only two teams out of 10 to take maximum pts from the first two rounds.

The last match of the week saw Crewe 1 take on Newcastle. Although Crewe appeared to have a big grade advantage on lower boards, the Newcastle captain Alberto Gissi had already warned the Crewe captain that the ‘castle team had two improving juniors on the lower boards who were being coached by Welsh FM Jonathon Blackburn. Things started ominously for Crewe as Newcastle raced into an early 2-0 lead with swift victories on boards 1 and 2. Just as Crewe had levelled scores through David Hulme on bd 3 and Dave Price on bd 4 in game 1, Karl Lockett gained revenge with white on top board and then Harry Gardiner followed suit on bd 2, to put a reverse slant on the scores with Crewe in the lead 4-2. Dave Price, although captain for Crewe 2, led Crewe 1 to success as he defended a difficult position before breaking out for a quick-fire mate to give Crewe victory. Newcastle’s “Junior Prodigy” Dylan Cooper was too hot to handle for David Hulme in the 2nd game, as he exploited positional weaknesses, to find a crucial winning knight fork and take the win easily to conclude the match, as Crewe edged the final result 5-3, to leave six teams all on two pts from 2 matches.

Round 3 will be played week commencing 9th November as Crewe 3 face favourites Holmes Chapel, Crewe 2 take on Newcastle and Crewe 1 play Cheddleton. Full fixtures and tables can be seen on NSDCA Online LMS, shown on our Website Tabs.

Tough going in 4NCL Online League

This week has seen Crewe AOL play Stroud Oldies in div 3, and Crewe BOL play Calstock Killers.

The A team were outmuscled by the senior Stroud team, but put up a determined fight. Captain David Hulme offered himself as the sacrificial lamb playing aginst Gloucestershire’s 2019 County champion on board 1 and was well beaten. Karl Lockett generated one of his typical positions and seemed to have good chances, before being snuffed out by resolute play from his opponent. In fact the tables turned and Karl was facing a lost endgame until a mistake gave Karl the upper hand back. However sound defence stopped Karl from winning to finish with a draw. On board 3 Rick (the grenade) Renegade seemed determined on self-destruction early on, but somehow emerged victorious from the wreckage and general chaos he created. Board 4 saw an early loss and so we ended up narrowly beaten 2.5-1.5. Our chances of staying in division 3 remain intact as we remain 3 pts above the relegation places and may have just enough points alreadt to finish above the trap-door. Time will tell and Round 6 will let us know what we have to do in the final round.

The B team found themselves without star player Lukasz Michalek after play was due to start. However Dave Price’s swift actions enabled us to call up a reserve in Lee Tilton on board 2. However opposition Calstock Killers had a much stronger team averaging 227 FIDE points more per board, equivalent to 30 ECF grade points, so it was no surprise we came off second best. The only scoreboard contribution came from “steady Eddy” Neville Layhe who was happy to play for a draw facing much higher opposition. The team have slipped to 45th place out of 68 teams in the division, but still have a very creditable 4pts from 5 games.

Next week sees the 2nd Round of the New NSDCA Rapid-play League where all three of our teams should be in action.

NSDCA Online kicks off with Crewe in 3 matches

With the inevitable lack of OTB matches, the NSDCA has started an Online League to take place over the next 8 weeks or so as a trial run. 10 teams have entered the 5 round competition which has taken the form of two rapid play games per player and 4 boards per team in each match.

The first match to take place was Crewe 2 vs Kidsgrove on Tuesday. Crewe’s experience of playing on Lichess was probably the decisive factor as Kidsgrove held level sway on the top two boards with David Johnson taking 1.5 pts from his two games for them, but Crewe’s higher grades came into play with Lukasz Michalek and Martin Gill gaining 2-0 scores on their boards, to supplement Lukasz Holcman’s 1.5 pts and Neville Layhe’s half point to finish the match with a 6-2 scoreline.

Wednesday night saw Crewe 1 take on top seeds Holmes Chapel, while Crewe 3 faced bottom seeds Meir. The Holmes Chapel match proved to be a much closer match than expected, as Crewe punched above their weight (grades) on the top two boards as Karl Lockett and Rick Renegade both produced superb 1-1 scores, and with Harry Gardiner doing better on bottom board with 1.5 pts the match was determined by the board 3 encounter where Colin Mills outplayed David Hulme to take both points and give Holmes Chapel victory by the narrowest margin possible 4.5-3.5.

The other game on Wednesday saw Crewe 3 prove too strong for Meir. A combination of far more Lichess experience and higher grades combined with more familiar Rapid-play time limits as Crewe ran out comfortable winners as  Adam Fields, Lee Tilton and Pawel Stanny all gained 2-0 successess with Simon Haas picking up the consolation win for Meir, before disappearing to the pub without playing the second game ! It is hoped the remaining game will be played at a later date.

It’s all happening Online for now !

Looking ahead this week, Crewe will be kicking off the new NSDCA RP Online season with 3 matches. See our tab on the top bar of our website for fixtures/results.

Last Tuesday was Round 4 of the current 4NCL season, with our AOL team playing division 3 up against leaders Wessex Some Stars, with grades of over 175 on bottom board; and our BOL team against Ashfield Anonymous D in division 6. It was no great surprise that both teams came unstuck as David Hulme gained our only half-point for the AOL team, while the BOL team did marginally better as Lukasz Michalek got a good draw on top board, and we benefitted from a default win as one of the opponents never appeared online. So both teams slip to midtable with 50% scores of 4pts from 4 matches. Round 5 takes place on Tuesday 20th October.

The other event to take place this week was our Monthly Lichess Challenge and for this we decided to play a 6-round Chess960 competition. It took a lot of us by surprise with the strange starting poistions for all back rank pieces, but it soon emerged that our youngsters Adam and Harry adapted quickly together with our most experienced online player Karl. As these three all headed to the final round with scores of 4/5; Harry and Adam were thwarted as Karl was the only one to win and claim the Gold Medal spot, with another youngster Lukasz joining the pile on 4pts. It seems that all enjoyed the novelty of the Chess960 and it is likely to feature again in next month’s Club Night Challenge on the first Wednesday of the month.

Harry and Lukasz allow the Secretary to share Rapid-Play Trophy !

An amazing night produced a fantastic finale and most unexpected outcome as the Rapid-Play Division 1 came to a dramatic conclusion, culminating in a three-way tie for first place.

17 y/o Harry started the evening one point clear as the favourite to take the trophy but was put to the sword by our South African star Kobus (Vrystaatbul on Lichess). With Harry needing just one point at the outset from the two games, Kobus set about upsetting the form book and took advantage of Harry’s generosity to impose a 2-0 scoreline.

While Harry was slipping to his first defeat Lukasz Michalek outplayed secretary David Hulme and battered him into resignation as pieces were falling everywhere for David, and this allowed Lukasz to take the joint lead with Harry on 12.5/19, with David behind on 11.5/19.

Karl Lockett should have profited from the slip-ups by the leaders, but Popeye (Andrew Crosby) was determined to have a stunning effect on the Trophy outcome having gained confidence from his 1-1 scoreline last week with David. Andrew had prepared conscientiously for Karl’s openings and was rewarded with success in both games. It should be noted that Karl would have been champion if he could win both games tonight.

As Kobus inflicted an early 2-0 score on Harry, Lukasz knew all he needed was a draw in game 2 against David. David only became aware of the situation while concentrating on his own game, as Lukasz put a note in the chat room to say Harry had tripped up. All of a sudden David had gained a supporter and a number of spectators suddenly appeared, who all knew what was going on far better than either of the players and were apparently sharing game analysis. Unfortunately for Lukasz he allowed David to build up a head of steam with a big King-side attack, that ultimately proved decisive as Lukasz’s time began to expire leading to resignation when facing a forced mate. As the game ended only then did it become apparent that all three players finished up on the same score of 12.5pts.

Congratulations to Harry, Lukasz and the Reporter for sharing the trophy, which will no doubt cause a headache for the next AGM prize-giving.

Ultimately the tournament has been a great success with 11 Rounds played over 3 months. All players deserve great credit for managing to play all their games and bringing a tremendous climax to the competition.

Full scores can be seen on the LMS, with Karl Lockett, Rick Renegade and Neville Layhe all finishing on 11pts just behind the winners. All players made a major contribution to the event, and even though it was played online, it is in my opinion, the most interesting, competitive and closely contested event the club has had since we started in 2014.


Harry takes the lead as Online Rapid-Play heads to fantastic finale

Junior Harry Gardiner is on the cusp of clinching the Rapid-play Division 1 Trophy after a punishing schedule of playing 3 games in 24 hours. Last night Harry was pushed in two games by 2016/17 Player of the Year, Martin Gill but managed to grab a vital win and a draw in two hard fought games. Tonight has seen closest contender (the No. 1 Seed) Karl Lockett win one and lose one against our Division 2 champion Kobus Nienaber, while Harry had another slug-fest with Adam Fields before emerging victorious.

All the leading players have now played 18 of their 20 games, and play their final games on Wednesday (30th September). Harry is now the clear favourite (on 12.5 pts) with a one point lead over joint 2nd placed Lukasz Michalek and David Hulme, with Karl a further half point behind. In the final round Harry faces Kobus (on 7.5pts), who has taken some points off nearly every opponent and has two additional games to play against Rick Renegade. Karl has potentially the easiest final pairing playing Andrew Crosby, while Lukasz and David have to do battle in the final round, ensuring at least one of this pair will drop points in the title chase.

To watch the final round games, switch on your Lichess TV at 7.30pm on Wednesday.

Popeye’s Gambit crushes Secretary’s RP Trophy Dream

The Division One Rapid-Play Tournament is building upto a fantastic finale with all games scheduled to finish on Wednesday (30th Sept). David Hulme has joined Lukasz Michalek in the lead with 11.5/18, as bottom seed Andrew Crosby (the above mentioned Popeye) took a crucial point off the secretary. In all honesty Andrew could have taken both points as he outplayed David in the openings, only to allow him off the hook in the second game. The main beneficiary from Popeye’s success was junior Harry Gardiner who played just one game this week adding another full point to his tally to take his score to 10/15. Harry will be assured of the Trophy if he scores a further 4pts from his remaining 5 games, but could then be caught by top seed Karl Lockett who has scored 10/16 following his addition of 2 pts this week . With the joint leaders (Lukasz & David) playing each other in the final round, this favours Harry and Karl, but interestingly the two chasers have to play Kobus Nienaber in their remaining games. It promises to be an exciting finish as these four slog it out.

In other news this week, Andrew and Lee Tilton played the first  game in the Club OTB Ladder Tournament, playing at home with Mals Club chess activities temporarily postponed.

In the 4NCL Online League, our two teams were in action again on Tuesday (22nd). The AOL team played Preston South End in division 3, and gained a respectable draw as Karl Lockett and David Hulme picked up half-points before Neville Layhe got the vital win to finish the match 2-2. The AOL team have been presented with a gift as their first opponents (Harrow 3) have withdrawn from the league, and a 4-0 loss has been reversed to give the team the flattering score of 4pts from 3 matches.

In Division 6 the BOL team faced Celtic Tigers Cubs. Excellent performances from Nigel Gardner, Kobus and  Lukasz all landing knockout blows before Adam Fields secured a draw to give the team a resounding victory (3.5-0.5) which puts the team also on 4pts from 3 matches, sharing 3rd place in the table with 18 other teams ! Next 4NCL matches to be played 6th October.