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.

Hillsborough A vs Nomads A, 16th October 2017

Hillsborough A 3½ – 4½ Nomads A
Sue Maroroa 1/2 – 1/2 Jon Nelson
Paul Fletcher 1/2 – 1/2 Chris Shephard
Carl Walker 0 – 1 Andrew Hards
Khaled Muflehi 0 – 1 Geoff Frost
Bryan Wood 1 – 0 Wilson Banda
John Mercy 1/2 – 1/2 Ian Barwick
Gerry Fletcher 0 – 1 Stuart Crosthwaite
Mike Grimsley 1 – 0 Nick Mahoney

Match day two… Jon was back… and so was Sue for the hosts which wasn’t unexpected, but of course made our task just that extra bit trickier. Our opponents have had a name change over the summer but they still bat very deep and on paper this looked like a very closely matched contest. Over the board it would prove to be even closer. Last time around, our lower order had bailed us out but this time we would need the top boards to step up. Given that the corresponding fixture last season had seen us lose heavily (blowing up our title chances in the process) the stage was set for an almighty tussle and a chance at some form of revenge. The first result was positive – Geoff’s four pawn attack looked like some heavy duty theory for virtually every move and when Khaled didn’t find the right response, one queen sacrifice later it was mate in two over the board and a healthy start for us. Jon and Sue then took a relatively early draw in a queenless middlegame after what looked like a pretty cautious opening; 50% over the remaining boards would suffice but that was no means certain. Chris seemed slightly better, perhaps, whilst I was trying to demonstrate that Carl’s pawn sacrifice was not sound by grimly holding onto the extra pawn. Wilson seemed to be having the worst of it against Bryan, positionally not as strong and a pawn down. Ian was also a pawn down – possibly sacrificed as he was looking to build an attack on John’s queenside. Stuart was two pawns up in a French defence for seemingly nothing so I felt reasonably confident there, but Nick was also a pawn down and Mike’s pieces all seemed to be pointing in the right direction.

So it wasn’t a big shock when Wilson was next to finish – he dropped a piece in the endgame and that was more than enough to see Bryan smoothly convert. Back to level pegging and still down materially at least in a couple of the games – a tense situation but one that for once, I didn’t seem to be struggling too much with. Carl offered a second pawn sac as he tried to find a way through to my king, but that was also snaffled and followed up by my c- and d- pawns advancing up the board and sealing the win (although naturally I missed the best, last move in favour of something more pragmatic). Back in the lead…I thought. But at some point either just prior or just after my game had concluded, Nick’s position had caved in. To paraphrase his words afterwards, ‘Mike kept playing threatening moves’. It certainly looked that way from what I saw as both sides of the board came under concerted pressure for a large proportion of the middlegame. So were were actually level again with 3 left. Chris had got down to a rook and pawns ending a pawn up but the pawns were split and after much to-ing and fro-ing Paul found a way to eliminate all the remaining pawns and leave a dead drawn ending the result. 3-3 and all eyes on boards 6 and 7. Stuart was the exchange up, and then finally a whole rook up as Gerry’s bishop ended up pinned to his king and dropping off the board as both players entered the last 2-3 minutes of their time. Stuart kept a cool head (as I was losing mine thinking he had missed a mate) and eventually forced off a rook pair to leave him with a won position. 4-3 to us, Ian an exchange down after a sac on c6 to try to get at John’s king. With both players approaching the final few seconds of their time, Ian chased John’s king across the board and tied up his rook to defence; with Ian’s king solidly placed behind bishop, knight and pawns there wasn’t going to be a winner in mutual time trouble and when John offered a draw, Ian duly accepted and the match was won. Hooray! This felt much more like a victory earned than one handed to us by good fortune, with some valiant defence on the part of Hillsborough only really collapsing at the last. What is also positive is that we appear to be sharing contributions this season as well with no one on 100% after two games; a good sign as regards team strength and team performance. Now we take a break before the next fixture falls on Halloween…

Two matches, two 4.5 – 3.5 wins. We apparently want to make this season as nerve-wracking as possible for the captain. Thanks team!

Ecclesall A vs Nomads A 4th October 2017

Ecclesall A 3½ – 4½ Nomads A
David Adams 1/2 – 1/2 Chris Shephard
Jim Burnett 1 – 0 Andrew Hards
Farshad Ai 1/2 – 1/2 Geoff Frost
Pete Hempson 1 – 0 Wilson Banda
Ewan Cormack 0 – 1 Ian Barwick
James Marley 0 – 1 Mike Newett
Ken McIntosh 1/2 – 1/2 Stuart Crosthwaite
Alan McIntosh 0 – 1 Nick Mahoney

And so it begins… a tough match first up became suddenly exceedingly tough when Jon was unable to make it due to illness. Throw in some ludicrous traffic that led to 5 of us arriving at 7.55pm and it was just about as bad a start to match as I’ve known at Nomads…and most of us hadn’t even played a move yet. One of us who had was Chris… he agreed a draw with David pretty much as I sat down at my board to play. OK, I was late but I wasn’t THAT late, surely? Still, David and Chris then proceeded to toddle off to the bar and analyse their game whilst I walked into yet another disastrous opening against Jim. After a comfortable win in my first match of the season, this was as comfortable a loss as you’re likely to see; I could have resigned after about 10 moves or so. My score vs Jim is now P4 W0 D0 L4. In all honesty, I’m lucky to have those 0s considering how the games have gone. Things didn’t look too bad elsewhere but I wasn’t entirely convinced we’d have enough to draw, let alone win the match. Stuart and Nick seemed to have the best chances whilst Mike looked comfortable and both Geoff and Ian were dealing with sharp positions. Wilson, making his debut on four, relatively quickly reached what looked to be an even endgame with Pete. But something went wrong somewhere – possibly an attempt at a trap or maybe sharp play from Pete resulted in a tricky looking position that turned out to be a lost position. So half a point from three of the top four. Geoff looked like he might cause Farshad some trouble with a space advantage and some active pieces but some accurate defence and what might be double-edged if things went wrong convinced Geoff to opt for a share of the spoils. 1 out of 4 on the top four boards is not a normal Nomads return…so our fabled lower order would need to deliver the goods. Nick obliged – giving up the exchange (albeit temporarily as it happened) for some very active play against Alan’s king which saw him home. At that point, with the last train from Sheffield due in 20 mins or so, I had to leave proceedings to drop Nick off so missed the endings of the last three games. Mike pciked up a pawn advantage in the middlegame that he nursed home in the ending to win but despite some pressing and a space advantage, Stuart couldn’t find the knock out blow and Ken was able to stave off a defeat on 7. Which meant the scores were level with one match still remaining. Ewan had opened up Ian’s king in an attack and at some point Ian had lost his queen for insufficient compensation. The pieces and pawns ending looked like it would be a formality and indeed I’m told that Ewan had several moves that won and one that lost. To the incredulity of various onlookers, he found the losing move and Ian delivered checkmate with a pawn to, quite amazingly, seal an opening day win for the team.

Top performance from the bottom four boards, securing 3.5/4 and seeing us home after a ropey beginning. Gutting for Ecclesall, who really ought to have had better than the tightest of defeats for their trouble. Next up, a trip to Hillsborough.

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.

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)

Nightmare at the New Barracks Stannington A v Nomads A

Stannington A 5½ – 2½ Nomads A
Paul Fletcher 1 – 0 Jon Nelson
Carl Walker 0 – 1 Chris Shephard
John Fletcher 1 – 0 Jamie Hillman
Khaled Muflehi 1 – 0 Geoff Frost
Bryan Wood 1/2 – 1/2 Ian Barwick
John Mercy 1/2 – 1/2 Mike Newett
Alan Sutton 1 – 0 Nick Mahoney
Adrian Millward 1/2 – 1/2 Arjun Babu

It is not enough to have higher graded players but in a tight league we have to perform every week. This was a collective night off, but credit to Stannington who took their chance. They seemed as surprised as we were.

After a few days in bed, at the last minute I declared myself fit. Buoyed by an examination of Gawain Jones website, I knew that Sue was in the Far East so I felt pretty confident……A quick draw or even loss and I could go home.

Whilst wandering aimlessly through my opening, I sat amazed at Jamie being tricked in the opening on the board next to me. Well this could be hard. Then suddenly Nick lost seemingly very early, it was clear this was going to be a long night. Mike drew and then Jamie lost, so problems were mounting. Khaled neglected to win my Queen to a fork which actually gave me false hope.

Chris then won like Chris does but then Jon lost like Jon doesn’t.

All over.

Ian tried manfully to win a materially level ending. Well he does most weeks but not this. Arjun apparently created a stalemate in a lost position.

And of course the quick draw became the very long loss. A few tactics near the end but not enough.

Well done to Stannington, always good hosts and nice sandwiches.