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!

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.