Nomads A vs Phoenix A

Nomads A 6.5 – 1.5 Phoenix A
Jonathan Nelson (w) 0.5 – 0.5 Denis Molofej
Chris C W Shephard 1 – 0 Carl Walker
Deji Jeje 1 – 0 Qais Aryan
Andrew Hards 1 – 0 Szilaod Tamas
Geoff Frost 0 – 1 John R Mercy
Nicholas Mahoney 1 – 0 Steven Moxon
Henry Withington 1 – 0 Shahram Jahromy
Ray Trigg 1 – 0 DEFAULT

A personal bogey team of mine, Phoenix made the trip to Nomads a player short which was a good start, but a pity for Ray who had missed out on a game last time around when I couldn’t find him at the pick up point on the way to Barnsley. Still, it did relieve the pressure a little (and also suggested Phoenix might well be under strength) – a good chance to potentially avenge the thrashing meted out to our B team the week before and also, maybe, get our run of wins up and running again after dropping three points in two matches. On the night, there were a number of interesting games and some tricky looking positions – so it was something of a surprise that the top board was first to finish and potentially the game with the least amount of fireworks (note: possible contribution of yours truly in forgetting to remind Jon of a fixture until the night before…). A fairly innocuous looking exchange of pieces in the centre and a draw offer and that was that one done and dusted. Henry followed not too long afterwards – he got a threat against f7 that was only ever going to lead to one result and whilst Shahram held on longer than he might have done, the final score was never going to be in question – Henry’s outstanding form continues for Nomads.

Deji was the next one to chalk up a point – a belated birthday present as he unwrapped Qais’ centre and hunted his king down – the piece exchanges when they came left him a large number of pawns to the good and winning a piece in an already won ending. I was the next to finish, and that was enough to take us over the line. A (very) early d4 in what started as a Caro-Kann gave me an apparent space advantage after nine pawn moves in the first ten of the game. Eventually I seemed to have something of a vice over the position without any real threats, despite winning a pawn, but a tactical shot in the centre gave me the exchange advantage and a neat move, which I thought was winning a rook (Fritz rather disappointingly points out that actually, I’m just winning a pawn and entering a rook vs bishop endgame with what would be a winning advantage), brought instant resignation. And we were home and dry. The one game that seemed destined to finish early (particularly as Geoff had explicitly stated he needed to finish early) had taken a turn for the worse from a Nomads perspective – Geoff’s exchange sacrifice wasn’t quite enough (although a draw by repetition was there for the taking) and when John’s king marched across the board, Geoff’s position suddenly collapsed and we had our first defeat of the night. Nick then converted, albeit on time in a winning position. At first glance, I thought he had had his rooks forked but he had a check to buy him time to free them and a passed f-pawn was going to prove decisive if the clock did not.

And finally to Chris, once again the last player to finish having barely scraped over the time control (his flag had been horizontal for at least 4 moves so he must have been down to a handful of seconds). A tactic had won a piece but the position was dangerously open and Carl tends to thrive in those situations – with the heavy pieces still on it looked as if he might not break through but if someone is going to, it’s going to be Chris. A couple of inaccuracies and his queen invaded the position to bring Carl’s resistance to an end, and the match was over.

A flattering scoreline, but this season the wins are all going to be hard fought, so we’ll take it, of course to maintain our position at the head of the table a little longer. Next we face an ominous looking Chesterfield team, with a 100% record and a team that could conceivably feature a player in the 170s on bottom board!

Nomads A v Nomads B

28/10/2014

Nomads A 4 – 4 Nomads B
Jonathan Nelson (W) 0.5 – 0.5 Paul Cumbers
Deji Jeje 0.5 – 0.5 Ian Barwick
Chris C W Shephard 0 – 1 Mike Newett
Andrew Hards 1 – 0 Stuart Crosthwaite
Geoff Frost 0.5 – 0.5 Ken Dewhurst
Nicholas Mahoney 0.5 – 0.5 Joel C Thiruchelvan
Henry Withington 1 – 0 Keith Wicks
Steve Withington 0 – 1 Robert Shaw

We were back to full strength for the home fixture against our B team – and unbeknownst to me both Jeremy (again) and Arjun were missing from the B team line-up so in theory we were stronger favourites for this one than we had been on the opening night of the season. Of course, that wasn’t how things panned out and yet again things went to the wire – in fact, we were even more fortuitous to take a point away from this tie than we were to get both in the away leg.

Henry was first to finish – a pawn sacrificed for some nasty discovered threats and Keith, a B team debutant, was unable to fend them all off – the first and only time we were ahead on the night. Steve’s game appeared to be going in a similar direction but he allowed Robert counterplay and his centre collapsed – facing an ending a piece down Steve conceded. A great result for Robert and a look around the rest of the boards suggested it could prove decisive. No one really appeared better, several of us (including myself) were definitely worse. On top board, Jon’s queen and knight seemed to be in and around Paul’s king – but a quick material count suggested Paul had the upper hand if he could survive the attack. A piece was handed back to prevent the perpetual but I missed the eventual draw so I’m not sure how exactly Jon managed to escape. Geoff was facing his bete noire – he does not have a good record against Ken – and a slow build up on the kingside appeared to favour the B team player. Somehow the exchanges worked out, however, and Geoff salvaged a half when left with a rook and five pawns each ending. 2-2. Deji and Ian had been heading for a drawn ending for some time, it seemed – opposite coloured bishops and a handful of pawns but no chances to make a breakthrough and after Deji tried a few tactics in vain, eventually they shook hands. Then things took a turn for the worse – Chris had managed to get his knight and bishop into a bit of a tangle on the kingside and Mike took full advantage – winning pieces and continuing to generate enough threats that any chance of Chris forcing a perpetual were snuffed out. We were behind with only two games to go.

Nick and Joel had played out a Scandinavian and play eventually seemed to be around Joel’s pawn majority on the queenside. A switch of focus from Nick resulted in the heavy pieces coming off and the question was – could Nick’s passed pawn and knight outplay Joel’s bishop and extra pawn on the queenside? The question as never answered though – mutual time trouble and a tricky, technical ending are not the best of bedfellows and they declined to put the position to the test – another draw and we were 3-4 down with one to play.

That one happened to be mine and to be frank it shouldn’t have been. I was worse almost from the get go and disastrously so at one point when Stuart fortunately overlooked a tactic that would have saw him picking up a free queen. I was on the back foot for the whole game, only finally breaking out at the death when Stuart’s time trouble started to have an effect – a king/rook fork was missed and this gave me a winning advantage – a queen sacrifice to ensure there were no last minute tricks in his armoury was enough for resignation and, somehow, I had won and somehow, we had drawn.

The B team get stronger every season and showed why they’ve only lost once in their first four matches. With Jeremy and Arjun back to bolster their line up going forward, I don’t see them scraping along the bottom of the table like last season – over two matches the score has been 8.5 – 7.5 and that tells its own story. We now need to recover from this shock in time for the trip to Barnsley.

Phoenix A v Nomads B

4/11/2014

Phoenix A 5.5 – 2.5 Nomads B
Farshad Ai (W) 0 – 1 Paul Cumbers
Carl Walker 1 – 0 Ian Barwick
Qais Aryan 0.5 – 0.5 Mike Newett
Szilaod Tamas 1 – 0 Arjun Babu
John Mercy 1 – 0 Stuart Crossthwaite
Douglas Couch 0.5 – 0.5 Ken Dewhurst
Steven Moxon 0.5 – 0.5 Joel Thiruchelvan
Saeed Hassani 1 – 0 Eric McKenna

Nomads A vs SASCA A

Steve and Henry were unavailable for this one so we welcomed back erstwhile Nomad, Oliver Phipps, to the fold – and ultimately he proved to be an inspired selection. SASCA were missing their regular boards 2 and 3 in the shape of Peter Shaw and Ryan Burgin, and Jon Arnott as well – so we had to fancy our chances but… this season has already demonstrated that there are simply no easy matches in the first division and it’s fair to say that at around 9.00pm I looked around and only saw one player with an outright plus in their game and a Nomads shirt, figuratively speaking, on their backs. So how did it all turn around?

Well… our sole remaining 100% scoring player was the first casualty of the evening. Nick reached an endgame a bishop to the good but two passed pawns to the bad against Alan and Alan’s king was the more active. Both pawns couldn’t be stopped and that was 1-0 to the away team. We then had to write off the board 6/7 table altogether as Ray’s position went from aggressive, to loose, to lost as Nat steadily exchanged off when it best suited him to turn a small positional plus into a completely winning endgame. 2-0 down is not the best way to start the match and fortunately Geoff was in the mood for some fireworks on board 5. As tends to be the case in any game against Paul, you’ll get chances and Geoff was able to build a very strong centre, with his minor pieces moving into threatening territory. A counter punch from Paul, late on, was never going to be enough and although eventually the position simplified Geoff was a piece up and ultimately ran out a comfortable winner.

Chris pulled the scores level shortly afterwards – the only real danger he faced was the clock at one point as he slowly turned the positional screw on Tom before winning a piece. His king was slightly exposed but some fancy geometric manouevring with bishop and queen ensured all the entry points were covered and eventually Tom capitulated. Two more draws followed – Oliver’s first competitive game in 2, maybe 3 years and a double-edged ending where he was going to queen first, but Claes was going to queen second and with check was agreed drawn (a perpetual check was sure to have followed if they had played on). And then on two with both players pushing pawns deep into enemy territory, Deji’s passer on the 6th, supported by a black-squared bishop, was enough to earn him a draw with Miles despite Miles being the exchange up.

So it all came down to me and to Jon. I had been worse (slightly, then much, then slightly again) for pretty much the whole evening so had written off my chances. I offered a draw when I thought that Steve might have problems converting his single pawn advantage but he played on and it seemed likely I would eventually be ground down. However… I do tend to keep fighting in these situations and a couple of inaccuracies let me get a pawn to the seventh…at which point I then managed to take control of the queening square and Steve gave up the exchange. A rook and one vs a bishop and three, I still thought I’d struggle to win but a rook sac picked up one of the pawns and actually gave me the chance to force the bishop off for my last remaining pawn – against two pawns on the fifth with my king behind them it was all over once I found Rd1. All of which meant Jon was finally able to offer a draw in a complex but double-edged position with barely 10 minutes left of the match. Oskar accepted and somehow, despite Geoff commenting that he had lost count at 10 when checking my bad moves, we had won. Next up… a rematch with our upstart rivals who were beating Barnsley in the same room by, I think, a slightly more convincing scoreline.

Postscript – I can’t really end this review without a nod towards Paul Blackman. Early in the night it was apparent he was struggling somewhat but fortunately he was able to settle down and play most of the game out against Geoff (albeit I am sure he was none too happy to have lost). I am sure I speak for the whole club and Sheffield chess as a whole when I say that we continue to wish him all the best.

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!