Woodseats A vs Nomads A

In my time playing for Nomads, our main rivals have historically been Chesterfield and, of course, Woodseats, boasting as they do the top rated player in the Sheffield league and a guy on board two who is a pretty damn fine attacking chess player in his own right. Fortunately for us, Andrew was missing this night and Allan came up against a guy on board one who is also a pretty damn fine attacking chess player – Potts vs Nelson was absolutely not for the faint hearted and for the second season in a row I could only watch the game and wonder how exactly Allan’s knight ended up THERE and what was Jon’s queen doing moving to THAT square. But these guys play chess on a different level entirely to me so I left them to it and went back to my own disaster.

There’s not a great deal to be said about the match itself. The result suggests a rout but it was never anything like that and flattering in the extreme for us. I left before the end, so missed wins for Chris (who mentioned subsequently he had offered a draw which his opponent had apparently not heard!) and Deji, neither of whom appeared to have had particularly advantageous positions when I exited stage left. My own game (and the solitary 1 on the Woodseats scoreboard) was no great shakes – a gambit that Nigel essentially played around neatly and precisely until I overstretched, missed a tactic, then missed another tactic trying to get counterplay to emerge two pieces down for my first S&DCA defeat of the season.

It’s hard to be too down on yourself though when the rest of the team pull through. Nick maintained his 100% record; Steve and Henry both had neat wins and Geoff overcame Bill in a French Defence I get the feeling both had encountered in previous battles – and more than once at that. And that game on board one? Jon eventually emerged from complications a piece to the good and although Allan was able to win a pawn or two it wasn’t enough to turn the tide. Three wins from three, and we’ll take on SASCA next.

Postscript: Thanks are due to our hosts and Mr Ward in particular, who arranged a buffet spread in honour of Woodseats’ first match of the season. As I sit typing this still awaiting my takeaway dinner ordered an hour ago, I’m inclined to think I really ought to have eaten more of it!

Nomads A vs Ecclesall A

Wednesday 1st October at Eten Cafe

Nomads A 5 1/2 – 2 1/2 Ecclesall A
Jon Nelson (w) 1/2 – 1/2 Dave Adams
Deji Jeje 0 – 1 Jim Burnett
Chris Shephard 1 – 0 Pete Hempson
Andrew Hards 1 – 0 Ewan Cormack
Geoff Frost 1/2 – 1/2 James Marley
Nick Mahoney 1 – 0 Gunnar Mallon
Henry Withington 1 – 0 Ken Norbury
Steve Withington 1/2 – 1/2 Chris Marley

Last season this was the showdown, top vs second and the points shared after two away wins. This year, both teams have been weakened and perhaps it won’t prove to be quite the top of the table clash it was before… but it was still a fantastic battle. We were outgraded, again – this time by an average of 5 points and particularly Nick and Henry who were conceding more than 10 points to their opponents – so to come away with only one defeat on eight boards was an exceptional performance… and of course, both Nick and Henry secured stunning wins to boot.

So how did it happen? Geoff was a doubt even on the morning of the match but was eventually persuaded to turn out. His game against James seemed pretty even and although his queen and bishop buzzed around the black holes in James’ kingside, there were no real threats and nothing to prevent the draw offer being accepted. This was followed not too long afterwards by another draw on top board – a complicated middle game with Jon’s queen centralised and Dave’s central pawns providing a barrier to his attacks. Queens off, bishop and knight and a pair of rooks each, draw eventually agreed. The first underdog victory was to follow – Henry and Ken were at each other from the early middlegame but Henry’s attack eventually resulted in Ken’s central pawns being doubled. Henry’s rooks were then doubled on the adjacent file and Ken resigned rather than face the inevitable pawn chopping that was likely to follow. Another great scalp for Henry who continues to improve rapidly. His father then followed with another hard fought draw against Chris – this time on the back foot for pretty much the entire duration of the game before managing to swap off everything but a pair of knights each for another half point.

Nick then edged us closer to a win – the game against Gunnar was a maelstrom of attacks, possible sacrifices, open king positions and menacing pieces. Nick’s queen was nearly trapped more than once…Gunnar’s queen eventually was as it was forked with check to end a fascinating competition. Definitely one to see again if you ever get chance.

Half a point from the win… it was left to Chris to nudge us over the finish line – a very slow, methodical build up around the centre eventually crashed through and although Pete limited the damage, materially, to a couple of pawns, there was no coming back from that and the only danger was that Chris’ scoresheet, where it looked like he had marked move 32 instead of move 30 for the time control, might rush him into a time-control error. It didn’t. Game over.

Jim’s match had looked won against Deji for some considerable time – a massive kingside attack that there seemed no way to repel. Yet repel it Deji did… for several moves and an hour or so. The h file eventually cleared though, and Jim’s heavy artillery found its way onto that file and into Deji’s position – score one for the visitors. And that just left my game against Ewan – dead drawn last time we played this time I managed to eke out a pawn in the early middlegame. Several attempts to try and activate my pieces seemed destined for failure but when Ewan pushed a pawn one square too far I was able to win it with check, exchange a set of rooks and break out of the position; eventually entering an ending with a rook and three pawns versus a rook there was only going to be one outcome.

So a second consecutive win – well played Nomads! I’m sure revenge will be keenly sought in the return leg…

Nomads A vs Nomads B

It’s not often that Nomads A are the underdogs, but on our return to league duty after a successful 2013-14 campaign we found ourselves slightly outgraded by Nomads B and, up until the morning of the match, actually at risk of defaulting a board – but when Arjun returned to feature for the B team, Les dropped down to the F team and Pasha stepped up to play board 8.

The actual match was a classic, and from memory I can’t recall a battle where the clock ticked past 9.30 with the score still at 0-0. Early impressions were that Jon had played a sharp line against Paul and sacc’ed a pawn, Deji and Mike were going to be at it all night with slow build-up on both sides, I was going to be defending against Ian for long periods (whilst hoping to hold onto a pawn I had grabbed), Joel was going to press with extra space and a pawn in his game with Nick, Henry was going to be fending off tactical shots from Stuart all evening, Arjun was going to try to eke Steve’s king out of the corner, Ray was going to try to demonstrate his extra rook was better than the two pieces that Ken had for it, and Pasha was going to try to do the same thing against John.

When things did start to sort themselves out… it looked like our 100% record against our clubmates might be under serious threat. There was one victorious Withington in the room tonight…but it wasn’t Steve who capitulated under Arjun’s kingside pressure to score first blood to the opposition. I missed the ending…but it seems that Ray quickly levelled things up as his rook did indeed prove superior to Ken’s two pieces (with the added help of a couple of passed pawns…). Not long afterwards, a glut of finishes as we moved into the lead. Joel’s attack against Nick was looking threatening, until he blundered a piece and Nick calmly dealt with a couple of desperate tactics before converting. With Paul accepting Jon’s offer of a draw on one, we were only two points away and I was then able to switch from defence to attack against Ian and prise open his kingside to take the full point, leaving us only a point from a win in the match. Pasha was now the exchange up against John – so when Henry finally succumbed to Stuart’s two pronged attack I was still confident we would get over the finish line.

Then, disaster. Pasha won an entire rook with a tactic and, 10 minutes ahead on the clock and John into his last five, it seemed a simple forced queen exchange would seal the deal. However… a deflection tactic that didn’t work when he looked at it before didn’t work this time either and after touching his rook, Pasha realised he was going to lose it. Under external time pressure, he resigned – and a certain win turned into a defeat to level the scores.

All eyes on Deji. He and Mike had kept each other at arm’s length and with the clocks winding down it seemed as though neither player could make any progress. Then Mike dropped his a-pawn. It *looked* innocuous but it gave Deji the chance to exchange queens and start a queenside pawn roller. So he did. With about 3 minutes left on the clock each he created two passed pawns and when Mike took one with his rook, unfortunately for him Deji then took his rook – and that was game, set and match. Phew!

As ever, we make things hard for ourselves but also, as ever, that Nomads A fighting spirit came to the fore once again as we managed to turn the match in our favour and bring home the points…hard on the B team who have now lost by the narrowest of margins to us in consecutive matches… and next week we get to do it all again as we go toe-to-toe with last year’s runners-up, Ecclesall A.