Nomads A vs Barnsley A

Oskar Hackner 1 – 0 Daniel Sullivan
Samuel Milsom 0 – 1 Pete Micklethwaite
Jon Nelson 0 – 1 Andy Butterworth
Kieran O’Driscoll 1 – 0 Neil Todd
John Fletcher 1 – 0 Ken Hunter
Vasilis Pasialis 1 – 0 Richard Hall
Andrew Hards 1 – 0 Tony Perry
Stuart Crosthwaite 1 – 0 DEFAULT

With our captain on holiday, and Geoff unable to stand in after just getting back from holiday, I retook the reins for a night as stand-in stand-in and promptly won the toss. Barnsley dropped a player earlier in the day, so were down to seven but given the notice we had, at least Stuart was spared a bracing walk in the cold evening air. On paper we had a big grading advantage, but that counts for nothing over the board and I can recall a couple of shock defeats to Barnsley in the past where form went out the window. There really are no easy matches in the top flight and so it proved again.

My game was the first to finish; in a French Tony tried to force some exchanges and it gave me a route into d6 and a nasty knight check. A couple of moves later I won a piece and had an overwhelming attack in the middle of the board which was likely picking up a second. Game over and I had the luxury of watching the others unfold. John had sacrificed a piece for an attack, Kieran had won an exchange with a neat tactic… and the other games looked nicely poised. But the next result did not come for quite some time. Daniel and Oskar looked to have an interesting position that could have gone either way – Oskar’s king looked a little draughty but a mistake from his opponent allowed him his own nasty knight checks and the exchange was won and with it the game. That put us 3-0 up, and Kieran gradually ground down Neil, pushing his minor pieces back and eventually working his rooks into and behind Neil’s king. With his pawns set to drop, he resigned and we were 4-0 to the good.

The match winning result was on board 5. John’s piece sacrifice gave him considerable play, and Ken was scratching around with his knights, king, rook and queen all in the corner trying to hold things together. He forced some exchanges and eventually John swapped queens – but Ken’s two knights were no match for John’s active rook and passed pawn on the king side which eventually forced Ken to give up one of his knights and with it, any realistic chance of holding out. So we were over the line… and Vasilis, after going two minor pieces up for two pawns and being forced to give one back, got his rook in behind Richard’s king and found a checkmate in a position that otherwise could have remained somewhat tricky to finish off.

So all eyes to the final two games, and two slightly unusual finishes. Andy vs Jon is always a slugfest, with both players trying to batter the other into submission. Historically Andy has come off worse but this time around he held his queenside together (just) and when he moved to the attack, Jon’s lack of time (and worse position!) told – an illegal move (where Jon played a queen move whilst his jacket played a pawn move) and resignation followed, albeit the position was lost by then anyhow. But that wasn’t the last of the illegal moves for the evening… Pete had kept Sam at arm’s length for most of the game, and when Sam did eventually break through the tables were rather rapidly turned and Pete’s rook, queen, bishop and knight all swarmed the black kingside. Pete declined a perpetual as he felt he had more – and when I checked back again he had a pawn one square away from queening. Sam was looking for a mate, a trap or a perpetual with queen and knight and Pete hoped to block them out with his own queen. With 30 seconds or so left each, a knight check, then a queen check… and Pete moved his king back into check without realising. Sam was down to maybe 15 seconds at this point, and didn’t realise himself…gave another check, Pete blocked with his queen and with Pete’s king in check and Sam to move with 10 seconds on the clock… Sam resigned. Would the extra 2 minutes have been enough to save the game? Hard to tell – the checks were likely going to run out but Pete’s clock was also rapidly approaching zero and he might not have had enough time to finish things off.

So a good, solid win, with a couple of slightly quirky losses. Barnsley were missing a couple, and ultimately our strength in depth told so my own personal banana skin was avoided. Next up will be Chesterfield in a little over two weeks’ time.

Andrew

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.

Carl Walker vs Andrew Hards (October 2017)

Andrew Hards vs Peter Hulse

Pete Micklethwaite vs Andrew Hards (Round 3)