Woodseats A vs Nomads A, 15th January 2018

Woodseats A 1 7 Nomads A
Daniel Sullivan (w) 0 1 Jon Nelson
Stuart Jones 0 1 Chris Shephard
Shane Frith 0.5 0.5 Andrew Hards
David Toft 0.5 0.5 Geoff Frost
Steve Moon 0 1 Ian Barwick
Brendan Ashmore 0 1 Mike Newett
Bill Ward 0 1 Stuart Crosthwaite
Stephen Daykin 0 1 Nick Mahoney

And so to Woodseats and the Red Lion for our first match of 2018. Andrew was missing (we wish him and his family well, of course) and Woodseats were also missing one or two others towards the top end of the team that left them comfortably outgraded on nearly every board. However, that didn’t prevent them from making a fight of things and the scoreline, as ever it seems, flattered us somewhat. First to finish were David and Geoff – Geoff forgot the usual continuation in the opening he played and things petered out quickly. But his was the only game to finish (relatively) quickly. Elsewhere, the battles were fought hard and long into the night.

Stuart entered into a King’s Gambit of sorts with Bill and seemed to hold onto the extra pawn, and hold it, and hold it… and eventually his pawn became a thorn in Bill’s position that he wasn’t able to round up as Stuart picked up pawns elsewhere on the board. Nick followed a little while after, also winning a number of pawns in the endgame to break Steve’s resistance.

After this, everything was something of a blur as most of the remaining games finished at a similar point. Mike’s kingside pressing eventually told as he forced his way into Brendan’s position; Ian’s pieces initially seemed to be getting in a bit of a tangle but once he sorted them out he too, was able to eke an advantage and overturn Steve’s brave resistance. On three, I got dragged into a very drawish opening line (I am sure I didn’t play it well but that’s no surprise!) and once everything came off Shane and I were left with a very drawish rook and pawn ending (one where I nearly walked into a mate in 1!) that ended in a draw, unsurprisingly. On two, Chris gradually wore Stuart down and in the ending, Chris’ more active king and better placed pawns were crucial (aided and abetted by a pawn advantage, as I recall). And on top board Jon and Daniel were out of book on around move 4… the game became exceedingly sharp and when I thought Daniel might be lost, he managed to wiggle some more before eventually entering an endgame where he was a piece down. Jon’s technique at this point was flawless, though, culminating in a nice mating pattern without need to promote his final pawn.

A one-sided result, but not so much a one-sided match – and a convincing enough start to 2018.

Jon Arnott vs Andrew Hards

Barnsley A vs Nomads A, 5th December 2017

Barnsley A 4 4 Nomads A
Andy Butterworth (b) 0 1 Jon Nelson
Martin Sheard 0.5 0.5 Andrew Hards
Richard Desmedt 0.5 0.5 Geoff Frost
Ken Hunter 0.5 0.5 Ian Barwick
Tony Pogson 0 1 Mike Newett
Pete Micklethwaite 1 0 Wilson Banda
Neil Todd 0.5 0.5 Steve Withington
Richard Hall 1 0 BYE

We’ve struggled at Barnsley more than once in the past, and today was no exception. A default on the bottom board was not a good start. I spent most of the evening outside coughing or in the bathroom so didn’t see a great deal of the games. A draw after 25 or so minutes on board three wasn’t ideal in the circumstances – Geoff and Richard sheathing their swords early on – but Martin and I weren’t too far behind (I’ve yet to beat him in several attempts so a draw was a bit of a bonus personally in the circumstances!). Mike’s game also finished prematurely – Tony managed to get his queen trapped early on and resigned soon after. So even-Stevens after a very quick first half… the second half was not quite so fast though. Steve, Wilson and Jon all seemed under varying degrees of pressure whilst Ian seemed to have an attack brewing. Wilson eventually found Pete’s passed pawns too much, and even a piece sacrifice was not enough to stop them rolling through his position. Steve held on in his game and Neil agreed a draw in a position that may or may not have had more play in it – so we were 3.5 – 2.5 down; Ian’s draw with Ken, under some pressure, was well timed and though we couldn’t win the match, we could still draw it so everything came down to Jon. Andy repeated a combination he had recently played but crucially a piece was not on the same square as it had been before and when Jon’s counter-attack came, it picked up a loose rook and sealed a win which earned us a hard-fought, barely-scraped draw. PHEW! At least we go into the Xmas break still unbeaten… although it was a close one and no mistake.

Marek Gajdosz vs Andrew Hards

Darnall and Handsworth A vs Nomads A, 29/01/2018

Darnall & Handsworth A 2.5 5.5 Nomads A
Rob Woodford (b) 0.5 0.5 Jon Nelson
Aram Ter-Gevorkian 0 1 Chris Shephard
Marek Gajdosz 0 1 Andrew Hards
Geoff Brown 1 0 Mike Newett
Danny Dawson 1 0 Ian Barwick
Craig Chatterton 0 1 Nick Mahoney
Joanna Kromka 0 1 Wilson Banda
Mick Turnidge 0 1 Rahul Kumar

Our second match of 2018 and a trip to dark horses, Darnall and Handsworth. They were missing a number of their top boards from this season, which undoubtedly helped us albeit we were also not at our strongest and indeed, I only managed to scrape together a full team on the morning of the match.

The games got underway at around 7.40, with the throbbing rhythm of the KeepFit class reverberating under our feet for the first 20 minutes or so. As per usual, some games moved at a much faster rate than others and it wasn’t long before Wilson was into an endgame with Joanna, a pawn up. When I next checked, he was a bishop up as well and her resistance did not last too much longer with him picking up her remaining pawns. The overall match position looked quite good at this point – Jon wasn’t more than 10 or so moves into his game, Chris was into a queenless middle-game, my position was…complicated, Mike seemed to be on the front foot, Ian didn’t appear to have any issues, Nick was on top with a queenside attack and Rahul seemed to have more space in which to muster an assault.

Rahul finished next and we were 2-0 up. An ending that was advantageous became entirely crushing when Mick dropped an entire rook. Jon’s game wasn’t too far behind. Rob seemed to have a bit of pressure on the a1-h8 diagonal but it ultimately fizzled out into a draw and we were 2 points away from the win. However… there was no sign of this happening any time soon as most of the remaining games carried on long into the evening. Ian was eventually next to finish, but unfortunately for us Danny got revenge for a defeat last season by turning the tables as Ian dropped the exchange and became passive, to be eventually checkmated on the 7th rank as his clock ran down. The gap was soon back up to two points, however, as Nick’s pressure on the queenside eventually told, giving him a material advantage with Craig unable to avoid further exchanges and extremely short on time.

3.5 – 1.5 with myself, Chris and Mike left playing. All eyes seemed to be on boards 3 and 4 (two games for the price of one, spectator-wise I guess!). I had thrown my pieces at Marek’s kingside, but couldn’t find a sacrificial win and eventually went for a speculative sac on d6 (two pawns for a piece, with a guaranteed win of the exchange as well). It probably wasn’t quite good enough, and the computer slightly prefers Black once the dust settled. Fortunately for me, however, Marek immediately blundered allowing me to win a whole piece, and the ending, Rook + Bishop vs Knight + Bishop, was just winning provided I avoided any nasty forks. I did, and when my pawn reached the seventh I found a neat little tactic to force an immediate win and get us over the finishing line. I glanced at Mike’s position and it looked, on the face of it, as if Geoff had blundered a piece away and with only a queen and rook would struggle to finish Mike off – but I must have missed something as whilst Marek and I were replaying our game, Geoff informed me that he had won so the rook, queen and pawn on the 6th must have been more threatening than I had thought with my quick look.

It had looked like Chris’ game would be hard to win – a pawn up but in a rook and pawn ending and I couldn’t see how he could hold all his pawns without being constantly checked by Aram’s rook. But this is Chris we’re talking about and he expertly nursed his pawns to eventually emerge successful, putting a nice gloss on the result. So overall a pleasing result considering the scramble I had on to get a team together. We move up to second, behind Chesterfield, and with our clash against them postponed, we face Ecclesall next later in February.

Farshad Ai vs Andrew Hards

Woodseats A vs Nomads A, The Red Lion 10/04/2017

There was a time, not that long ago, when this would be a clash of the Titans – but neither side is as strong as it once was and Woodseats’ issues were exacerbated by someone dropping out at around 7pm. All of which meant that Steve and Keith tossed a coin to see who would play, and Keith lost the coin toss… so played. Not sure how that worked but fair enough!

As it happens, Keith was first to finish. He entered a pretty drawish looking endgame with an extra pawn but the same coloured bishop as Dave. At some point, Dave exchanged those pieces and in the circumstances that was a mistake that let Keith invade with his king and make the extra pawn tell. The 2pt gap didn’t last long though. Simon got trapped by Bill’s trappy opening, and lost a piece. He picked up a couple of pawns for it but his own position was reminiscent of the Swiss cheese in my fridge – a second piece was lost and eventually his king was driven to mate in the middle of the board. Sadly for Woodseats, that was to be their only win of the night. Board 5 was next to conclude – Stuart picked up a piece for a couple of pawns during the opening at some point and Brendan found himself on the back foot for most of the remainder of the game – not sure how the game finished but it was our man that carried the day. Jon scored another full point a little later – his knights were causing havoc on Mark’s kingside and he eventually won the exchange before smoothly converting the win.

Mike and Dave on board four had been quite standoffish – a Rossolimo Sicilian had led to a relatively quiet middlegame with neither player making a great deal of headway and the minutes ticking by. A draw offer was accepted and that was the match sealed for us, leaving just myself and Chris still playing. I finished first this time – a potentially very sharp opening was avoided by Peter and we entered a rooks and pawns ending where I felt I had a slight space advantage and a centralised king. Naturally I didn’t play the ending so well, but Peter missed some defensive tricks and eventually I was able to do what I had set out to do and get a pawn to the 7th that was going to win a rook and the game. A fortuitous point. All of which left Chris playing out his match with Nigel. He had been exerting severe pressure on the queenside for most of the game, with Nigel’s pieces clumped together uncomfortably. When he did break through, however, his time was nearly up and Nigel found some tactics with queen and knight, including two mating threats that Chris did well to avoid with a minute or so left on his clock. Nigel then found himself a piece down with no checks and Chris threatening to consolidate – a deep think at just the wrong time saw his own clock tick down and over the line… giving Chris and Nomads the last win of the night and a 6.5 – 1.5 win. Some fun games, interesting positions… and the bonus of being able to do it all again in a fortnight when Woodseats visit us for our final match of the season.

Andrew Hards vs Peter Hulse

Barnsley A vs Nomads A

I woke up on the morning of this match with 6 players and the fear that we were going to turn up for the second season in the past 3 or 4 with only 3/4 of a team. Miraculously we had managed to win with 6 players the last time that happened, but I didn’t foresee that happening again so it was with a pretty big sigh of relief I secured the Woollards (yes, John too!) around mid-day and knew we wouldn’t be defaulting any boards. Barnsley had sportingly moved the fixture back a week when I realised I’d be defaulted 5 boards the previous Tuesday – this time around we were still missing most of our middle order with Jamie, Ian, Mike, Geoff, Henry, Arjun and Stuart all otherwise indisposed but we had a side, with B team captain Keith filling in to free Ian up for a vital match for the Bs on the same evening. Oven-related difficulties meant I was late turning up (with Nick in tow) and by the time I was settled at the board John and Neil were already into a queenless middlegame which was agreed drawn around about 8.15pm; Jo’s game finished maybe 15 minutes later when Anthony blundered his queen – after being the last to join the team, the Woollards were the first to leave, out the door well before 9.00pm with 1.5/2 pts in the bag. It wasn’t a whole lot later that Keith managed to turn his game around – Paul had had a good opening and was pressing on the queenside but Keith’s black-squared bishop and queen combined nicely for a mating attack, giving us a healthy lead. Nick and Ken drew shortly afterwards in what looked to be a fairly even and quite blocked-up position. That left the top three boards and Simon on 6 still playing. Jon had opted for complications in what had looked a pretty quiet middlegame – his king was dangerously exposed to mating threats but interposing his spare bishop to prevent Andy landing a knockout blow meant they eventually exchanged queens and were left with a rooks and pawns ending – all of which are drawn, right?

Speaking of draws, Pete and I have a habit of playing those out and this time around we had a slightly different game but the same outcome – once the queens were off there didn’t seem to be a huge amount left in the position for either of us and that’s now P3 D3 in our head-to-heads. Simon, on the other hand, was making headway in his game on the queenside – with Richard having castled long his king was gradually coming under sustained assault and although I missed the ending, it did seem likely that either Simon would crash through and win quickly or Richard would spend a significant time grovelling before possibly escaping into an ending. Judging by how soon the game finished, I would assume the former outcome. That took us over the line, with a 5-2 lead unassailable and only Chris left to finish. It wouldn’t be Chris without a little bit of time pressure, but once he had successfully reached 30 moves, and once Martin had generously adjusted the clocks by giving Chris 15 mins back and himself only 10 (which Chris realised and corrected not long after, for the record!), a draw offer followed shortly afterwards. A nice win, with all top five boards drawing and the bottom three winning, was done and dusted around 9.45 for what must have been our earliest finish of the season. Fair play to Barnsley, for letting us move the match, and whilst the title has already been decided, we move on now to a back-to-back matches against Woodseats to round off the season.

Pete Micklethwaite vs Andrew Hards (Round 3)

Pete Micklethwaite vs Andrew Hards (Round 3)