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Friday, 22 May 2015

The Carnival is Over

Played at the Navigation last evening -

Marple 1            V        Chorlton 1 : Manchester Lge. Div. One : 21/05/2015

1 J Reed          0.5/0.5  D Lee
2 S Tranter     1-0       RA Doney
3 G Trueman  0.5/0.5  S Foulkes
4 P Kirby        1-0       A Elliott
5 N Livesey     0-1       H Hughes
6 A Jenkins    1-0        G Jackson
7 C Baker       1-0        D Fault 


Marple completed all their fixtures for the 2014-2015 season with what looks at first glance a comfortable victory. In truth it was anything but and the final scoreline could have been 5-2 to Chorlton. Chorlton have a large squad of players and I was slightly surprised when Stan told me he had found it difficult to round up seven players for this fixture with sadly Miss Dee Fault making a (non)-appearance on board seven, leaving Chris with no opponent. From a Marple point of view we were of course one up before the start of play (1-0), but it does show just how difficult it is to  get chess players to commit once we get towards summer.Our team  was also a long way short of being our highest graded line up.
Andy was first to finish with a convincing victory. I had been slightly concened when he voluntarily swapped of his Bishop on g2 but he knew exactly what he was doing  and Mr Jackson soon resigned (2-0).
With hindsight John and my games were a taste of things to come. We both managed to somehow secure draws as Black against strong opposition despite at times having some rather dubious positions.(3-1). I didn't see how Board 5 finished as I was busy post-mortemening(?)  but I learned that Nigel had lost a piece to a clever trap and ended up with a lost position.(3-2) This was a shame as Nigels record in the Manchester League this season has been outstanding and even with this result included has still performed well above his grading.
So we were one up with two to play and we had White in both these games. However when I looked at the games I concluded we were losing on both boards. Steve had a terrible pawn structure in a double Rook ending and with a massively experienced player like Ron on the Black side I decided Chorlton would definitely be getting the full point. If anything Pauls position was even worse, not only was he a clear passed pawn down, his Bishop was a very poor prelate, totally hemmed him by pawns on the same colour.
What happened over the next twenty minutes was truly remarkable. Steve conducted the Rook ending like Akiba Rubinstein on a good day, finding  one tremendous move after another.The memory of how he played will stay with me for a long time. Ron must have gone wrong somewhere but it was not apparent to me where and incredibly Steve emerged with a clearly won position. Ron resigned and we had won the match!. (4-2).
On board four Austin had been winning for a long time but it was one of those endings where making progress is not so easy when the clock is ticking. Austin played the wrong line and ultimately allowed his beautiful Knight to be taken with check preventing his seventh rank pawn from promoting.Chess can be a very cruel game sometimes but you do have to credit Paul for never giving up, particularly when he was suffering from a very nasty virus. We had won this game as well - (5-2).
So three wins from our last three matches in the Manchester League have propelled us to mid-table respectability with even a marginally positive final score ( +4=1-4 Points Difference+2).Only Leicester City have achieved anything similar. At the risk of sounding smug we have achieved all the goals I set at the  start of the season - Winning the Stockport League & Cup and surviving in the Manchester League. As I'm sure Nigel Pearson would say though it's all down to the players (and the drivers!) so thanks to all of you who have contributed to this seasons successes.
Looking ahead with the promotion of a very strong 3C's 2 team and a reinvigorated Blue Club the first division of the Manchester League will next season be one of the very strongest chess leagues in the whole of England. This is just one of the new challenges that await us......

Friday, 15 May 2015

We Will Survive

However given the way I am feeling I may not.But  the good news is Marple ensured they would be playing First Division Manchester League chess next season with the following fine victory at the Navigation last evening.

Marple 1    V    Stockport 2  :Manchester Lge. Div. One: 14/05/2015 

1 S Hegarty   1-0      M Taylor
2 N Livesey   1-0      M Tunstall
3 A Jenkins   0.5/0.5  M Crowther
4 C Baker      0-1       A Coe
5 T Cowling    0.5/0.5 D Pardoe
6 D Preen      1-0        V Rushworth
7 J Barlow     0.5/0.5   J Kelly


This was in some ways the most important match of the season as if we had lost we may well have had to get a result against the very strong Chorlton team next week to avoid relegation. The run up to the match wasn't easy as six of our seven highest graded players were not available for various reasons. The situation got even worse on Wednesday as Sarah  was very ill and understandably said she wouldn't be able to play.By Thursday afternoon I really didn't know what to do as I had become so unwell I simply couldn't play chess. As I was looking through my address book to see who might be able to turn out Sarah contacted me to say she felt a bit better and within two seconds  she was taking my place and agreeing to Captain the team.
The odds were still against Marple as we were outgraded on, I think, five of the seven boards but there were lots of great performances to ensure we won by two clear points. Obviously I don't know what happened in the individual games so if anyone wants to comment or send in game scores they are more than welcome.
Last night  I told Sarah this result would go down in the history of Marple chess club. This may sound like a grandiose statement but is undeniably true - as I am now writing it.
Well done everyone.

Friday, 8 May 2015

No Doubt About It

Played at Holmes Chapel Chess Club last evening -

Holmes Chapel     v    Marple      Charnley Cup Final    07/05/15

1 JLB Blacburn    0-1   A Longson
2 JM Turner         0-1   A Walton
3 P Bennett           0-1   J Bentley 
4 M Hancock        0-1  J Horton
5 B Scattergood    0-1   S Hegarty
6 A Raeburn      0.5/0.5 G Trueman


Firstly if anyone from Holmes Chapel  is reading this I apologise for the slightly arrogant title to this piece. Given the sad death of Erroll Brown I had to use a Hot Chocolate song but "Everyones a Winner" would have been innacurate and given events elsewhere on Thursday inappropriate.Also try as I might  I couldn't find a way to headline a chess match with "You Sexy Thing".
Anyway on to the chess. My game with Andy (Raeburn) was the third time I have drawn with him in the last eighteen months. My only mitigation is that I have had Black every time.On this occasion a very subtle move order by Andy left me defending a type of Scheveningen Sicilian I have never played before in my life. This showed as Andy left the opening with a slight plus. I didn't play particularly badly but I always felt I was slightly worse and computer analysis later confirmed this. Andy offered me a draw on move 26 and given that we seemed to be doing well on virtually all the other boards it seemed logical to accept. (0.5/0.5).
Alans game was the next to finish. He engaged John (Turner) in a Tarrasch French line he obcviously knew very well.Alan played ...g5 and though it was still theory (I think) it takes strong nerves to play such a move against a very good attacking player like John. The next time I looked at the board the Queens had come off and Alan had a big advantage in the centre. John ultimately tried to defend an opposite coloured Bishop ending two pawns down but it was no problem for Alan to convert. (1.5/0.5).
Our John (Bentley) was next to finish. He seemed in control throughout most of the game using what in my view is a very potent weapon in the Catalan system. Pat allowed John to dominate the centre and ultimately win a piece. Given Pats style of play perhaps he would have had better chances using some sort of g6 system.Although Pat played on for some time he ultimately resigned facing an unstoppable attack. (2.5/1.5).
Sarah took us over the line with a win over Ben Scattergood. In a Classical French Sarah established a Knight on d6. The position was complicated though and I did get a bit concerned when Sarah took about thirty minutes on one move.However  White won the Opening  and Ben ended up playing a middle game position where he was material down without compensation .In due course Ben resigned. A special thanks to Sarah for turning out when she was unwell and thus saving me from any last minute scrambling to get a team together. (3.5/1.5).
Alex also won. He had faced a very interesting Winawer where Black retreats his Bishop to a5 rather than taking on c3. I wondered if Alex would play the move recommended by Alekhine and Fischer 6b4!?. Of course he did. This is perhaps the best choice but is very complicated and double edged.Given the strength of the players on Board One it's not surprising theory was followed for quite some time  but my gut instinct was White had an edge. Ultimately Mr Blackburn (Jon?) relinquished  the exchange, and although he had some interesting attacking ideas on the kingside Alex' accurate play resulted in him taking the full point. (4.5/1.5).
Jamies game was the last one to finish. This was a Closed Sicilian that always looked pretty even to me although Jamie was becoming ever more short of time. We were playing with ten second increments and when I saw Jamies clock reading just 5 seconds against his opponents 10 minutes plus I thought he was doomed. However in the circumstances he played remarkably well and the focus transferred to Michael who was under pressure to win in such circumstances. Jamie now seemed to be getting on top and was further helped when Michael made an illegal move. This gave Jamie an additional two minutes and when the clocks were reconfigured it turned out to be Michael that lost on time in what was by now a lost position for him.This was quite a remarkable recovery, one of the best of its type I have seen. (5.5/0.5).
So we now have done the "Double" of League and Cup without losing a match! It's been a long season in the Stockport League and I would like to sincerely thank all those who have either played or enabled people to play.
It's still not quite all over though, there are still two important Manchester League fixtures coming up.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Neil wins the League! ( With a little help from his friends)

Played at the Navigation last evening -

Marple A         V             Stockport A      Stockport Lge. Div. One    30/04/2015

1 A Longson   0.5/0.5    A Smith
2 J Bentley     0.5/0.5     P Siddall
3 S Hegarty    0.5/0.5     P Cawley
4 G Trueman  0.5/0.5     D Toole
5 P Kirby        0.5/0.5     A Coe
6 N Dainty      0.5/0.5     J  Mason


The title of League Champions rested on the result of this match. We held the advantage inasmuch as we could even lose as long as we garnered at least 1.5 points, however there was the problem of a fixture clash for our 3'Cs players as they were playing a Manchester Cup Final against Bolton on the same evening. Fortunately Alex and John were able to play for us and I am grateful to them and Andy (Horton) for this as we were facing a severe shortage of players otherwise.
So I was in a reasonably relaxed frame of mind until I turned on  my computer late on Thursday morning to discover Isaac wasn't going to be able to play. I was working in Oldham in the afternoon and it became  a frantic scramble to try and find a replacement. However all the players I attempted to reach were either understandably unavailable or uncontactable.
By 6.15 we still only had five players. I then rang Neil who immediately agreed to play , even though he would be facing someone at least fourty or fifty grading points higher than him. At least we had a full team.
When Stockport arrived at the Navigation from a Marple perspective it was pleasing to see they weren't at their strongest with Andy Reeve unable to play owing to illness and Mike Taylor also unavailable. They were still a formidable team though and our overwhelming objective was to get the 1.5 points which we needed to retain the title which  helps explain what followed.
John led the way when he played very solidly against Phil Siddall and then offered a draw.After some thought Phil accepted. Alex then followed suit by very exact play with Black reaching a position where Alan Smith  could see no way to play for a win. Like Phil, Alan  similarly agreed to a draw proposal.
We were half a point from the title. Sarah had faced a very interesting opening  from Paul Cawley. He had played a set up based on d4,Bf4 and Nc3. When I started playing chess this would have been considered very bizarre but recent games by Baadur Jobava amongst others have shown just how dangerous this line can be. Sarah always seemed to have enough play to me to be at least equal and she too offered a draw - but Paul played on. My game with Dave Toole had been enlivened by a very surprising pawn sac from Dave. He was understanably trying to obtain a random position with Black to create winning chances. It wasn't really sound though and I thought I had a clear plus. I then totally overlooked a Knight move from Dave.Computer analysis shows I still had a very nice response, but I didn't see that either. What I played led to a reasonably level game with Dave reclaiming his pawn. I offered a draw but Dave politely declined.
Meanwhile Neil playing a much higher graded opponent had emerged from his trusty Vienna Gambit with what seemed to me some advantage. He then played a very nice line where Jeff could have gone pawn grabbing but it would ultimately have cost him a Bishop. As played a position was reached where Jeff was actually a pawn up but with a pretty grim pawn structure (a7,a6,c6,e4) and an inferior Bishop.Neil could legitimately have played on with  good prospects of a full point. But putting the team first he made what I thought was a beautifully timed draw offer which put Jeff in a terribly quandary. Ultimately he decided he had to accept.We had won the title and Neil had secured the winning half point!
Shortly afterwards  Dave offered me a draw which I accepted and then Sarah also drew against Paul (Cawley).
So it was left to our Paul to try and ensure we went through the season unbeaten. He had faced a c4,g3 system from Andy Coe which he seemed to know well. Paul was very resilient though and eventually a draw by repetition was agreed. The match had finished drawn 3-3.This was the first chess match I have ever played in where every game was drawn, a perhaps appropriate way for me to celebrate my first title as a chess captain in over thirty years.
Many thanks to all who have played and drove througout the season, its not all over yet though - the Charnley Cup Final is at Holmes Chapel next Thursday.