Robert Shaw vs Alexander Pilakoutas

Pete Micklethwaite vs Andrew Hards (Round 3)

Ewan Cormack vs Andrew Hards (2016-17 season)

Andrew Hards vs Yang Guo

Nomads A vs Chesterfield A

This match has often been a title decider in recent years, and Chesterfield’s recent away record at our place isn’t half bad. The sides were exceedingly evenly matched as well for this one, with the biggest ‘live’ grading difference across the eight boards being 17pts and no other player conceding 10+ points on either side. So even before we got started it seemed entirely plausible that this would be one of our closest battles yet. Early finishes do not appear to be a hallmark of this season either – the last three matches came down to the final few minutes and at that point the score was still in the balance too; past 9.30 all eight boards were still in action – chess may not be considered a spectator sport but for the few players in attendance tonight it couldn’t have been anything less than gripping stuff to watch. I can testify that it was even more gripping to be playing!

So how did things pan out? Well board one featured pretty much every single possible configuration you’re likely to see in a chess match and several you’d probably never see again. An early Kg3 from Dave, some very complicated moves from Jon… I’ll confess here and now I have absolutely no clue what was happening, even after speaking to Dave a couple of times in the course of it. Board two was a little more standard although Chris’ bishop looked particularly unhappy hemmed in on h-file for quite a while as Peter grabbed a kingside space advantage in the opening. Board three… Mike’s slow and steady build up, Jamie’s calm and considered piece play; time a likely critical factor here (with both players not exactly unfamiliar with time trouble!). My own game against Martin featured some pushed pawns, long castling and a long, drawn-out battle for control of d4 and the a7-g1 diagonal. Ian’s game, on the other hand, featured a relatively quick swap down of major pieces and a minor pieces ending with all three results possible. Mike and Andy had a (slightly) standoffish Sicilian going on. Geoff had his ‘favoured’ French (with the Black pieces yet again) and Arjun appeared to be adopting a safety-first approach against notorious gambiteer Steve B.

And then the results started to dripfeed through. First… board 4. Seconds before the time control for Mike, a little longer for Jamie. Heavy pieces ending, some exchanges and an accepted draw offer. Mike might have had a positional plus but his clock negative could have been more telling in a tricky ending so the draw seemed reasonable enough. The second match to finish wasn’t too far behind with Andy and Mike reaching a rooks, piece and pawns ending; Andy slightly more space, Mike perhaps with the more centralised pieces – again a fair result and now this was a six board match.

Arjun was in time trouble. Again. And not in a position that appeared to offer any significant breakthroughs; I must have missed something though because the game that concluded not long after I had last looked at it had concluded in our favour – a surprise additional half point swing (I had assumed it was a draw) that ultimately proved crucial and edged our noses in front.

Boards 1 and 2 were next to finish, albeit not in that order. Chris managed to make his h-file bishop an important piece at the end of the game, winning a pawn, invading with his queen… but not quite having enough for a winning attack. A good draw nonetheless from a tricky position that could easily have come unstuck. Dave and Jon, meanwhile, continued to randomly scatter pieces across the board to an extent that I swear at one point there was a draughts piece involved in proceedings. An early Kg3, a much later exchange sacrifice, Dave with doubled pawns on the 7th and 5th, Jon offering a poisoned bishop – I could make neither head nor tail of it and I’m glad I didn’t record the position as putting it into Fritz might just cause my laptop to explode. Dave felt minded to recall a quote from Howard Staunton – “I cannot see how it is possible for either player to save his game.” And I was obliged to agree. Turns out Dave just about managed it – when the queens came off the pawn on the 7th went from threat to crowning glory as a second queen was enough to win material and enter a winning endgame. I don’t know whether it was myself or Geoff that finished next – either way, at 2.5 – 2.5 we needed 2 from the last 3 and it was these two games that brought the necessary points haul. My game ultimately hinged on Martin’s doubled h-pawns, which occurred on move 6 and gave me a route into the kingside from where I was able to prise open his pawn structure after winning the exchange. Geoff’s game hinged on him winning the d-pawn and then retreating into his shell and staving off Steve’s kingside attack for what seemed like 20 or so moves. Either way, stave it off he did before turning the tables and invading with queen and rook to seal the deal. All of which left Ian’s knight and pawns ending – a probable draw (Steve had repeated at one point and would have again if Ian had also done so) but with a pawn advantage Ian tried to push for more. It didn’t quite work out though – a pawn up became a pawn down (the only pawn left) and careful husbandry of that pawn allowed Steve to queen before Ian’s flag fell.

To sum up… Exciting! Thrilling!! Confusing!!! Classic midweek chess, with two very well matched sides going toe-to-toe and battling to the very end. This didn’t feel like a lucky win, or a one-sided win – it felt like a match that could go either way and would hinge on the smallest of detail. That’s exactly what we got, and fortunately for us it was the Nomads contingent that got that break and brought home the points. It seems that the entire season will be consisting of tight, hard fought but friendly competition – personally, I can’t wait for the next match!

Andrew Hards vs Martin Howard

Ecclesall A vs Nomads A

Usually chess evenings end with a mad scramble. However, on this match day it began with a mad scramble as one of my players went AWOL and several others either didn’t respond to requests to play or had already made arrangements for the evening. I had even emailed James to inform him we were likely to be short a player when Nick responded to my pleas with a ‘I think I might be able to make it’ message… good enough for me and in he came on eight as the board order from the first match all shuffled up to 3-7. Dr Hempson was missing from the Ecclesall line up as well, so on paper the teams looked very evenly matched. Over the board… it was a similar story. I think this is the first match I can recall when 6 boards were still in action at 9.45pm; over half the games were still in progress at a point when the Ecclesall C – Nomads C match had concluded which should give a good idea of how tight this was.

eccya1

So the first to finish was the last to sign up – Nick and Ken drawing a drawish game after agreeing a draw. I didn’t see much of this game so I can’t really offer much beyond that! Second to finish (as is regular tradition) was Geoff – only this time it wasn’t a draw as regular Ecclesall opponent Gunnar lost material to a tactic and was unable to recover with the position blasted open. I followed (not so close) behind – it’s not often you move your king twice in the first 12 moves and don’t lose in a miniature but after missing a tactic in the opening I was in trouble for the majority of the game with Farshad maintaining a pawn+ advantage for some time. However, my early centralised king proved to be a little bit of a thorn in his plans in the later middlegame and I was able to hang on and eventually win the pawn back to reach a completely drawn ending. Ian, on the other hand, was a pawn up in his endgame against James but was on the receiving end of some active rook play that allowed James to recover his pawn deficit and offer a draw. We had the advantage with four games still ongoing, all of which featured Nomads players in varying degrees of time trouble ranging from Chris (whose flag seemingly hung for a good 20 minutes) to Arjun (who was actually not too far behind on the clock for once but making heavy weather of a position in which he had declined a draw offer).

eccya2

It was actually Jon that finished next – he had all the activity against David’s kingside and it looked for all the world like he would break through – winning the exchange still wasn’t enough for the full point though as a combination of David’s dogged resistance and a ticking clock meant Jon wasn’t able to find a way to win. 3 – 2. Mike had a tremendous advantage against Ewan with two connected, passed pawns on the 6th, mating threats and surely only a matter of time before he sealed the deal. Chris, however, was struggling to stay on the board after Jim’s sacrifice opened up the kingside. Pieces were seemingly scattered across the board, with blocking sacrifices, exchange sacrifices, and some piece positions that I’ve not seen for some time (Knights on h7 and f8, Bishops on g7 and e8). Jim kept his composure and worked his way through the complications to secure a winning advantage and tie the scores. Arjun’s position had deteriorated significantly by now – being a rook down in a queen and rook ending against Alan is not ideal at the best of times and a king/queen fork was enough for him to fall on his sword. From a relatively commanding position, we were now entirely dependent on Mike to secure a share of the spoils; that he had lost both passed pawns and had a hanging flag wasn’t helping matters but his final passer got to the seventh and Ewan had run out of checks – rather than force Mike to play out the win and gamble that his flag might fall, Ewan resigned and the match was tied. Phew. I don’t think I’ve sweated that much in a match (the venue was a little on the warm side, my position was atrocious, and the team keep on giving me heart palpitations) but the end result seemed pretty fair. We had a slight edge in several games, but were also under the cosh in the others – and ultimately this is a point gained on last year when Ecclesall A were the one team to inflict defeat on us.

Onwards to Chesterfield in a couple of weeks… these matches don’t get any easier, do they?

Andrew Hards vs Farshad Ai

Mike Newett vs John Fryer

Andrew Hards vs Tom Wills (2016-17 season)

Nomads A vs SASCA A

Last season ended with an almighty clash of the titans, as Nomads A and SASCA A collided in our penultimate match; the 4-4 draw (with a couple of dropped 1/2 points from our side at the start and end of the match) ultimately handed the title to SASCA. That hurt – and beating Stannington A in a dead rubber didn’t do anything to assuage the pain. The fixtures secretary sprinkled his magic dust and we got an immediate shot at revenge at the start of this season… but with Sam Milson and Paul Cumbers back in Lincolnshire and Daniel unable to play Tuesdays (and moving to SASCA as a result) the omens did not seem all that good. However… SASCA were shorn of several of their players for the match as well so when we sat down to play the match ups seemed pretty even, with two fixtures (Chris – Ryan, myself – Tom) mirroring that fateful night in April.

It has become a bit of a cliche in my reports over time, but even the most one-eyed of Nomads fans would admit that tonight was absolutely our lucky night. Geoff and I perused the boards some time after 9.00pm, deep into the second hour of the match, and when Geoff asked ‘is anyone from our team winning?’ it was clearly a rhetorical question. Jon seemed to be hanging on by his fingertips against Oskar, Chris didn’t appear any better against Ryan, Jamie’s pawn structure looked like a long term weakness and his clock a medium term one with Yang composed and looking to grind him down, my own position was the usual mess of randomly scattered pieces in an a3 Sicilian and last time that had happened against Tom, he had slipped calmly into a won ending…and won; Ian’s king looked dangerously exposed with Steve’s pieces massing for a kingside attack; Mike and John were sparring lightly in a centre-counter; Geoff was struggling to make headway as Nat’s pawn structure and greater space seemed to give him all the play, and finally Arjun and Marek seemed to be swapping off pieces and heading towards a likely drawish ending.

For the first time I can remember, the first to finish was Chris. To my amateur eye, he seemed to have a slightly better position but nothing significant and a queen and two minor pieces each together with a smattering of pawns looked exceedingly drawish. It was indeed drawn and both teams were off the mark. Geoff’s game finished next and this too ended in a draw though by his own admission it should be chalked up in the ‘fortunate’ section of this report; Nat missing the win of a pawn before accepting a (slightly) hopeful offer of a draw on the very next move. At least we had a point – but SASCA then took the lead when Jamie’s resistance was finally broken. Clinging on somewhat from the late middlegame as his pawn weaknesses began to take their toll, he was unable to get any real piece play as Yang kept things tight and precise to eke out a win and a level of revenge for his defeat to Jamie last season. So we were now 2-1 down – but that was the only time we were behind. A flurry of wins now followed (to the extent that I don’t actually know in what order). Arjun won a piece in a series of exchanges and that was enough; Mike had turned the screw gradually against John’s kingside and something (I didn’t see what) eventually gave and that was also enough; and Ian’s brave defence, including sacrificing the exchange, was sufficiently diverting that Steve was unable to make the time control and that too, was enough. From 2-1 down to 4-2 up pretty much in an instant.

With little hesitation, I snapped off one of Tom’s extra pawns and offered a draw a move later both because I knew that would win us the match, but also because he had a lot less time than me and I felt I could hold the position (note: I had also taken a look at Jon’s game not too long beforehand and it hadn’t looked overly promising). Naturally and logically, Tom declined as he still had an extra pawn and my king might yet be vulnerable to a queen and rook attack so we played on. I thought I’d have another look at Jon’s game and somehow he was a piece and a pawn or two up, ahead on the clock, and clearly winning. Things were looking up! And they went from good to even better – I managed to avoid any tricks and march my king over to the left hand edge of the board where the best Tom could do was check repeatedly with his rook – he thought he could do better but that allowed me to generate my own series of checks followed by a double-edged rook manouevre that both blocked out the dying embers of his attack whilst also creating an unstoppable threat of my own. Tom’s final queenside pawn fell and with it his queen and the match was ours. A minute or two later, Oskar’s defence finally collapsed and Jon, too, sealed a win.

Conclusion: Another fascinating battle between SASCA and Nomads staged with familiar faces, some unfamiliar positions, and ultimately a result that perhaps gives the whole league hope in the face of what on paper looks to be a formidable SASCA side when all their big guns are playing. Next up we travel to Ecclesall and the site of our one defeat last season. Here’s hoping the scent of revenge continues to linger in our nostrils for that one!

James Marley vs Andrew Hards (2016)

Nomads A vs Barnsley A

Nomads A took a hard fought point from the match against Barnsley A. We were both weaker than usual and welcomed yet another Withington to the team Sam.
At my first glance round, Sam and Steve were not doing too well, Jamie and Henry were clearly better.
Sam did lose as did Steve. Steve’s kingside vanished and he was 2 pawns down. However his pieces Q & R were more active and if he could have consolidated he could have been Ok. However he decided to sacrifice his Bishop, not necessarily a good decision and soon lost.
Jon’s game on 1 was very solid and Andrew with White seemed more interested in not losing. A draw was agreed.
I thought Chris had been doing Ok on 2, certainly in the early stages. I had my back to their game but I heard Martin say “draw”. What I didn’t know until after was that Martin was in a crushing position and his flag fell as he made his 30th move. The old “had he made his move”, “did he press his clock” “did the flag fall early” etc etc. Now I set all the clock and always give a minute on all clocks at start. Chris immediately offered/accepted a draw and everyone was happy.
Henry was winning confortably but he played a move that we all knew he was going to make, all knew that it lost. very sad he had played really well.
So we were 4-1 down. Although Jamie was winning, I was under the cosh and Arjun turned a draw down.
Some magic, Arjun went into overdrive and crashed through.
I offered a dubious piece sacrifice which my opponent rejected because he thought he was winning anyway. I managed to break through on my Queenside whilst Richard was trying to unlock my Kingside.
Jamie all this time had been winning a double Rook + Queen ending a couple of pawns up. with that amount of heavy pieces on the board it is never easy.
So 4-4.
Very very hard work.

Chesterfield A vs Nomads A

Chesterfield A Nomads A
1 6729 190 :12 Mike Alcock W 0 1 Jonathan Nelson 202 :35 7062 S
2 2291 198 :09 Hubert Mossong B 0 1 Chris C W Shephard 191 :23 1603 S
3 1284 186 :19 David Latham W 0 1 Deji Jeje 183 :19 4156 S
4 7693 172 :25 D Martin Howard B 0 1 Kieran O’Driscoll 179 :20 2028 S
5 4223 174 :32 Michael D Johnson W ½ ½ Andrew Hards 168 :26 2268 S
6 6732 157 :27 Andrew J Mort B ½ ½ Geoff Frost 163 :25 1297 S
7 3888 158 :09 David Ashcroft W 1 0 Nicholas Mahoney 146 :46 4179 S
8 1541 161 :26 George Peters B ½ ½ Ray Trigg 147 :11 4199 S

 

Although we have been top of the table most of the season, fact is that Chesterfield A were running at 100% with 6 wins from 6 and level on points with games in hand.  With two draws and a loss already, anything less than victory against our closest rivals would likely see the title as good as ceded with several matches still to play.   So it was the ideal time for Kieran to make his long awaited 2014-15 season debut – and face the same opponent he had taken on in our cup quarter-final tie.   Chesterfield weren’t quite at full strength – but any team with Dave Latham on three and no room in for either Steve, Housley or Bracey, is going to be a force to be reckoned with.

It sort of goes without saying that Geoff’s game was the first to finish.  as Andy mentioned to me after the match, they’ve played each other probably four dozen times over the course of many Woodhouse seasons, and 95% of those games have ended drawn.  This time around, Geoff had an IQP but most of the space to play in – he thought he was worse whilst Andy was of the opposite opinion so a draw was fair enough.  Chesterfield then took an early lead in the match as Dave’s kingside attack smashed Nick’s king’s defences apart.  A well-timed bishop sacrifice stripped any vestiges of hope away and with mate looming, Nick resigned.  That, however, was as good as it got for our gracious hosts.  Jon and Mike appeared to be in for a long, drawn out struggle, and Jon’s protracted fianchetto of his kingside bishop (via f6), together with a knight that went to g6 and then h8, didn’t look overly promising.  Clearly however there’s something to be said for that set up as I didn’t get to see the position again; next time I was free to look the game was over and we had a 1 in our column on the scoresheet.

Kieran had seemed slightly better against Martin for a while, but Martin was getting some play on the kingside; but an over-ambitious stretch resulted in a piece dropping off the board.  A second one followed not too long afterwards and when Kieran managed to force off some of the heavy pieces as well there was only going to be one winner.  On board two, meanwhile, Chris had managed some strong pawn advances and Hubert’s position seemed increasingly cramped – again I missed the denouement but it wasn’t a huge surprise that our man pulled the full point out of the bag.  Three games left and we were now ahead in the match, requiring a point for the win.

At this point, a comedy interlude – in the match on the other side of the room Chesterfield were taking on Stannington and at a crucial juncture in our fixture, the room was deathly silent only for the plea ‘come on mate, give us a draw’ to be heard.  Looking at the match card later on Chessnuts, it appears the plea was in vain…

My third match against Mike had gone the way of the other two – he got his attack in first and I was holding on desperately in the face of rook, queen and knight bearing down on my king – but somehow I came out of the complications with a safe-ish king and an extra pawn.  Ahead on the clock as well, I thought I might even snatch victory from the jaws of defeat but in the final half dozen minutes, despite having two extra pawns, I was unable to stave off Mike’s mating threats sufficiently to convert and a draw by repetition, my first half of the season, was the conclusion.

All eyes to Deji – having sacrificed the exchange earlier in the game he was starting to bring his bishops to bear and Dave’s king looked increasingly at risk.  A draw offer was rightly declined and the resulting endgame gave Deji two connected, passed pawns heading down the board supported by his bishop.   Dave fought to the last, and on another day the flag-falling gods might have been kind; not this time though as Deji queened with check – faced with a second queen about to put in an appearance, Dave fell on his sword and the match was ours.   So, very unusually for Ray, his game was the last one to end – an early pawn sacrifice had been recovered and for the longest time George was shuffling his queen and knight around the board to hold his position together.  Finally, however, there was a breakthrough and both players invaded the other side simultaneously.  It looked like George might make his extra pawns count, but Ray kept checking and threatening and a draw was agreed.

5.5 – 2.5 to us!  A surprising and welcome result against such fine and honorable opponents and one which we’ll need to build on now for the remainder of the season – five more wins and we’ll be guaranteed a play-off!

Ecclesall A vs Nomads A

Our first league match of the year and a return fixture against opponents who pushed us all the way at home.  This time they pushed us that little bit further and we were ultimately fortunate to come away with anything.  In fact, at around about the 9pm mark Jon and I were wandering the boards and Jon asked, in all seriousness, whether ‘I saw any wins for us’.  The answer was a resounding ‘no’.  By that point, his early pressing had fizzled out, Chris had moved most of his pieces back to their original squares (after getting his queen out on move three – and not even with a threat of Scholar’s Mate!), Deji was struggling to break through on the kingside, I was heading towards a slightly inferior endgame, Geoff’s big e5 knight had gone and his backward pawn on e3 was blockading his own position, Nick was struggling to make light of a complicated position, Steve had gambited a pawn but to no apparent advantage, and Jamie was playing a Caro-Kann.  How we scored four points from that position, I do not entirely know… but we did.

Nick and Ken were the first to finish – Ken played a neat bishop sacrifice (which was mate in one if accepted) then offered a draw.  It was still unclear – but the fact of the matter was Nick was a pawn down so accepting the offer seemed entirely reasonable.   Geoff’s position then caved in somewhat spectacularly, with Gunnar’s bishops, rook and pawn proving too much for the king and queen to handle.  There then followed a pause – lots of thinking, a couple of time scrambles, and mild controversy as Deji forgot to notate his moves once he’d made the time control.  James offered me a draw in a position that was slightly better for him – but knowing the match situation I opted to play on in a rook and pawns ending.  7 and 8 were the next to finish – Steve eventually entered an endgame still that pawn down from move two, but Alan’s bishop didn’t dominate as expected and somehow they both queened in succession (with an extra pawn each) – half a point and a bit of an escape.  Jamie meanwhile had done something that I always struggle with in the C-K… attack!  His kingside pawn advances proved increasingly problematic for Chris and just when I thought he might hold on, I returned to my game.  When I looked again, Jamie was queening a pawn and sealing a point.  So split on the bottom four, would we do any better on the top four?

Turned out I made a good choice in declining the draw.. James didn’t play the ending accurately, I managed to get the more active rook and better placed king and when my king made it to g2 I had a decisive advantage – we were somehow in the lead – albeit not for long as Jon had played on far longer than one might expect in the vain hope of maybe being stalemated by David; fat chance – three pawns rolling up the board, it was never going to happen and when the hope of even a stalemate faded, Jon resigned.   Deji more or less immediately countered that with another controlled victory – after it became apparent he wasn’t going to force Ewan’s kingside into premature collapse pieces were exchanged and a switch to the queenside saw him pick up a couple of pawns.  One of those pawns made it to the sixth and that was the end of that.

So all eyes on Chris yet again – for the third or fourth time this season he was last to finish and this time, sadly, it wasn’t on a high note.  Jim had seemingly held all the trumps most of the match; despite not having any material advantage until the endgame Chris’ position was a mess and when Jim gained a passed pawn it looked all over.  However inaccuracy let Chris pick that pawn up (we’re talking SEVERE time trouble by this stage) and it looked like maybe he might hold on.  Alas, no.  Jim’s other passed pawn instead proved decisive, slowly advancing to the queening square and taking a well deserved point for the visitors.  We can’t complain; Ecclesall would have been calling the police in if we had stolen both points!  A rest next week then… followed by a top of the table clash with regular table-toppers Chesterfield…. Continue reading “Ecclesall A vs Nomads A”

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.

Robert Shaw vs Steve Withington

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!

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.