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Bulletin No 31

Tynedale Chess Club: e-bulletin no 31 (27 Feb 2010)

For much of the time, it looked as though February would offer pretty much the same story as January had done, so with that advance health warning, I shall start with

Northumbria League division 1

With two matches this month, the Reivers looked likely to move two steps nearer relegation, given the quality of their opponents. First up were Morpeth A. David Wrigley has provided the following report:

“The Reivers season-long form continued unabated with the visit of Morpeth A on Weds 17th Feb. I think it’s fair to say that this match was decided on the clocks, time management seems to be an issue for certain Tynedale players!

Dave Foster had a night to forget, gifting his opponent a queen in the early middle game, which at least allowed him to retire to the main bar and ponder over the quiz, which is apparently a Wednesday night feature. 0-1

Dave Weldon followed some 90 minutes later, his valiant resistance coming to a rather unjust loss. The trouble with playing 180-odd players week-in week-out is that you’ve got to be very careful not to make tactical errors, and Dave found himself behind on the clock as a result. Roger squeezed, and Dave finished up a bishop down with his position shot. 0-2

Tim’s game with Les, in spite of some prepared opening tinkerings, seemed very similar to previous ones they’ve played. They castled on opposite sides, Les’s queenside attack seemed faster and more ferocious than Tim’s queenside counterplay, but Tim found some tricky moves, repulsed Les’s attack and found himself comfortable on the board but down on the clock. Time trouble struck again, Tim missed a mate in one with seconds left. 0-3

A few moments later, I was flicking my king over. My opponent met my opening in the theoretically recommended way, I sacced a pawn and got little for it. Convinced my opponent was still in book, I spent longer and longer looking for moves and found myself with five minutes to my opponents 40. I had to force the issue, so I started throwing my bits at his king. Fifteen dubious but exciting moves later, I was Q for RRB down with the board wide open, and looking in vain for a perpetual. Mike mated me without much fuss.0-4

And so, to the hero of the hour! Mike writes:

“A decent game at last!  Taking a traditional approach to my opening against James Turner, I spent the first fourteen moves giving absolute priority to completing the development of all my pieces.Then from a somewhat congested position I was able to find, little by little, moves to improve and free things, finding targets in his relatively uncoordinated ranks.  The position still felt level, though I was beginning to feel somewhat tense, wanting not to lose, but feeling there was still hope that a win could give us a team point or two.  In the middle of one exchange I found what we both thought was a very strong zwischenzug (move 25), costing James a lot of clock time.  He missed the one sound but abstruse sacrificial saving move.  Instead he chose to simplify, forcing the exchange of light-square bishops which pulled his queen to the centre of the  board.  What he overlooked was that his pieces were now completely  independent of each other, and when I played … Bd2, his knights on  e1 and c3 were both helpless.  Throughout the middle-game and even  after James’ blunder my own pieces and pawns all remained  coordinated.  If only I could always achieve that …”

1-4, and saved from a whitewash by Mike’s fine effort.

Reivers v Morpeth A
Dave Weldon 0-1 Roger Coathup
David Wrigley  0-1 Mike Smyth
Mike Nicholson 1-0 James Turner
Dave Foster 0-1 George Ellames
Tim Wrigley 0-1 Les Whittle

Morpeth are title contenders, and it’s certainly no disgrace to go down by their hand, but we need to find a couple of wins somewhere along the line. Both Tynemouth teams are now picking up points.”

The Reivers’ next match, on Feb 26th, was away to Jesmond Knights, last year’s league champions and not yet out of the title race this season. The Reivers’ prospects were not helped by the fact that Mike Nicholson was unavailable and so was almost everyone else, hence the presence of your editor on board 5. David Wrigley takes up the story:

“Reivers vs Jesmond Knights

Jesmond Knights are defending league champions, and the Reivers were without Mike, our form player, so the journey over was a relaxed one, unburdened by expectations. Dave F and Tim were each bumped up a board, and Steve stepped in on board 5.

Jesmond also fielded a weakened side, the expected 160+ players on the bottom two boards didn’t materialise so Tim & Steve had reason to hope, though we still faced a tough task on the top three.

Steve was first to finish, I was a little surprised by his thumbs-up, having very casually assessed the position as about even a couple of minutes earlier. He writes

“ I played a sort of Grand Prix attack against my opponent’s Sicilian, cleared the f file and launched a kingside attack. My opponent managed, somewhat precariously, to block off the open file with a knight and then castled queenside, despite my attempts to stop him. However, the knight remained vulnerable and eventually fell. A piece and a pawn down and likely to lose further material, he kindly resigned, about which – knowing my propensity for unforced errors – I was very pleased.” 1-0!

I’d been struggling against Paul Bielby for a long time, eating up clock time in a vain attempt to save my doomed e-pawn when he played an unfamiliar line against my French. I bit down on my urge to lash out, instead exchanging down to a rook & 6 vs rook & 5 ending. My king was more active and I was able to isolate and pick off his extra pawn, exchanging rooks in the process. My king looked offside, but it made it back to the kingside just in time. We were each left with f,g and h pawns and Kings leering at one another, a pretty clear draw, but I was down to my last five minutes and Paul still had half an hour on the clock (and, no doubt, a lot more experience in pawn endings than me), so he was justified in declining my draw offer. Paul casually pushed his f-pawn with check, but after exchanging on f5, my king was able to move into the centre and take the opposition, and he was unable to defend his f-pawn. 2-0!

Dave Foster was in his element, undaunted by the 40 point grading gap and unconcerned by material matters, he set about sacrificing pawns by the bucketload (reports suggest he was 5 down at one point!) and lining up his pieces at John Turnock’s king. John was using a lot of time defending, and Dave was throwing out threat after witty threat, but John weathered the storm with a couple of extra pawns intact and enough time to make them count. Dave’s words in the car on the way home: “The best game I’ve ever lost.” 2-1

Dave Weldon had an absolute dream, ruthlessly punishing a subtle positional error. Dave piled on the pressure, smoothly improving his pieces whilst Edward failed to muster counterplay, and forcing Edward to weaken his kingside pawn barrier with threats. Dave’s attack was soon overwhelming and he wrapped it up with a discovered check, winning Edward’s queen…. or king. 3-1!!! Tynedale win their first match since Feb 2008!

With the match decided, we come to board 4. It had been a typical French positional struggle, the centre a big fixed mass of pawns and neither player feeling any desire to castle. When the game ended (and the match decided) on board 1, Tim was in a slightly passive position but material was level, and he had a quarter of an hour to Dave Walshaw’s five minutes, so I was a little surprised when Dave turned down Tim’s draw offer. Dave found some good probing moves, and Tim burned most of his time advantage responding to them. The game descended into a time scramble, Tim dropped a knight in the chaos, they each queened a pawn but Dave’s got there first and he mated Tim with thirty seconds or so left. A real pity for Tim, though Dave’s play in time trouble was impressive.

And so

Jesmond Knights v Tynedale Reivers
Ed Dodds 0-1 Dave Weldon
Paul Bielby 0-1 David Wrigley
John Turnock 1-0 Dave Foster
Dave Walshaw 1-0 Tim Wrigley
Tony Davey 0-1 Steve Larkin

That’s more like it! The only drawback is that the Reivers suddenly have some survival prospects, so instead of a casual canter to relegation, we face a stressful run-in. The captain also faces a selection headache – we could have won 5-0, where does Mike fit into this?!”

An absolutely splendid result, with top class play by Tynedale’s top three boards against much higher graded and vastly more experienced opponents. Will the Reivers maintain their reputation as the Houdinis of the relegation zone? Watch this space!

Northumberland League Division 2

Two matches to report here as well, and again something to celebrate! First was an away fixture against Tynemouth Warriors, on Feb 2nd. Although the Warriors occupied a place in the bottom four of the division while we were second top, this always felt as though it was going to be a tough match, and so it proved. The line-up was as follows:

1. R. Oxnard (130) v Peter Crichton (130)
2. D. White (125) v Phil Taylor (122)
3. P. Jackson (120) v Steve Larkin (126)
4. M. Robson (100) v Bruce Reed (121)
5. R. Stead (104) v Malcolm Reid (113)

It should be noted that we had no reserve for this fixture, so the whole squad owes a debt of gratitude to Phil, who turned out despite having a stinking cold and did his level best playing on board two for the first time this season (with Derek Blair still swanning around Portugal, the top three boards had all moved up one board, and the brutal captain declined to let Phil slide down the order). Not surprisingly, Phil succumbed to his opponent, but not before Bruce, playing with the dreaded black pieces, had gained a draw. His opponent, in a dead level game, ran out of ideas and settled for a draw by repetition. Next up was Peter, with a clear-cut win. His opponent swapped off queens on move 3, was unable to castle, and Peter moved in and despatched him. Shortly afterwards, the gallant Phil called it a day and the score stood at 1.5 all.

On board 3, your editor disentangled himself from another sticky start and launched what looked like a strong attack, till his opponent responded with a move spelling potential disaster in white’s back rank. For once, your editor found a neat move of his own and, three moves later, the game was over, much to his relief. 1.5 to 2.5.

So, not for the first time this season, the match result hung on Malcolm’s game. This went right to the wire, both players having queen, rook and several pawns – a highly volatile combination, especially under acute time pressure. Malcolm had a passed pawn on the sixth rank but, try as he might, he couldn’t force it home and with seconds left on the clocks and the Tans players on the verge of heart attacks lest Malcolm lose on time, a draw was agreed and the match was won 2-3. Phew!

This result left the Tans firmly established in second place in the division, but with three extremely tough fixtures to come. The toughest of the lot came a fortnight later when, on Feb 16th, they played hosts to Gosforth Empire, the division leaders. So this was it! The top of the table show-down, played out in the unfamiliar surroundings of the ladies’ changing room, the back bar having been booked for another function. Both sides were on fourteen match points, but ours had come from nine matches, whereas Gosforth Empire had a perfect record – played seven, won seven. The line-up was:

1. Jack Bradshaw (146) v Paul Sumner (143)
2. Peter Crichton (130) v Geoff Harrison (135)
3. Steve Larkin (126 v Noel Boustred (129)
4. Bruce Reed (121) v v  Dave Stebbings (126)
5. Phil Taylor (122) v Steven Tulloch (126)

It looked like a very close match, and so it proved. There were no early calamities, no rapid wins. When I looked around after about an hour’s play, no player enjoyed more than a single pawn’s advantage. First to finish was Bruce, with a fine win over his in-form opponent. He writes:

“The first thing to say about my game against is that it was enjoyable – because it was a balanced game of attacks repulsed on both sides, probing to find and create weaknesses, and eventually the satisfaction of inflicting the first defeat of the season on David who has been an ever-present for Gosforth Empire.

I varied the move order of my favourite English opening, playing g3 immediately after the Nf6 response to c4, which I had seen in (a fairly wild) game played by Karpov in a world candidates tournament game in 1989 that I had recently played through. It encouraged David to play first e6, and then (in response to my Nc3) d5, followed by the exchange cd, ed, e3, and c6 before my standard Bg2 financhetto followed by Nf3 .His pawn formation created a weakness that mattered later in the game. After much manoeuvering and thrusts repulsed in the first half of the game I was able to win the pawn on d5 on move 19. He is not a passive player of black, and probed with bishop and knight to try to find weaknesses in my position. I countered the threats he created while trying to create weaknesses in his defences in front of his king-side castled king. On move 23, as he pushed forward his c6 pawn to c5 I decided to give up the knight on d4 threatened by it, and exchanged knight and bishop for a pawn and rook in the hope that the further weakening of his kingside defences would give me more chance of a win. He countered with an attempt to trap my queen or win a pawn, and as I responded he hesitated at the implications of the additional counter-threats I presented. As he first pulled a bishop back – to prevent me from breaking through by taking that former c6 pawn that was now on d4, and following through with an attack on the king that would have won two further pawns – I opened up a file which gave me the chance to pin his queen on a diagonal against his king. Looking for opportunities to get counterplay he made one further move – pushing a bishop to fork a rook and pawn – and I was able to move my bishop to a3 where it pinned his queen on d6 in front of his king on f8. He resigned (on move 31), because the loss of the queen, and the prospect of successive checks on his exposed king that would have allowed me to pick up more material, which left him in a hopeless position. “ 1-0

Next up, I think, was Peter, who continued his fine form of late. He writes:

“I took advantage of my third white in a row to build steady pressure which allowed me to win two pawns on the queenside which would probably have been decisive even if my opponent hadn’t then allowed me to win a rook for nothing which led to his immediate resignation.” 2-0

            Next came Phil, who writes:

“My game on Tuesday wasn’t much to write home about. My opponent played very solidly. He opened with c5 English & because this was what Mark used to play I immediately took it out of book with b6 fianchettoing my Bishop on b7. I managed to get a reasonable middle game position with bishops threateningly pointed at my opponent’s King side but was unable to unlock the centre to my advantage. Thereafter my opponent had the better plans and I soon found my pieces becoming disconnected. It doesn’t take much from there to miscalculate/miss completely what he had in mind and although my mistakes were not complete blunders my opponent was clinical enough to take every small advantage to press home and win.” 2-1.

            On top board, Jack was engaged in a thrilling struggle which went to the wire. The last time I looked, Paul Sumner had rook, bishop and two pawns to Jack’s rook and five pawns and it seemed a tough call for Jack. As the clocks ran down, I heard repeated offers of a draw, and so it turned out. Jack writes:

“This was an even game throughout, with black selecting the Caro-Kann in order to bring about a relatively closed position. White chose the Panov-Botvinnik Attack in response, but by allowing a knight exchange on c3 (following black’s Nc6-b4-d5 manoeuvre) left him with a backward pawn on c3. White was also a little open on the h1-a8 diagonal, with Black’s queen on d5 and bishop on b7, forcing the pawn move f2-f3. However, Black failed to capitalise on these positional weaknesses, as he missed a forced series of exchanges on e4, following White’s trapping of his queen. With the clearing of many pieces from the board, things became interesting when Black gave up his bishop for three pawns at the start of the endgame. But my computer found no way through for either side from then on, so a draw, finally agreed on move 62 (despite being clear by move 46, due to bishop + wrong rook’s pawn) was the ‘right’ result.”

This result was a fine achievement by Jack, given his lack of match practice. It meant the match was at least drawn. Could it be won? On board three your editor was struggling after a promising start. He was completely outplayed in the middle game, so much so that his queen spent virtually all her time on defensive duty on the back rank, desperately trying to repel the threats of mate which came thick and fast. One such threat came in the form of a bishop sacrifice which your editor declined, having spotted the consequences… except that subsequent computer analysis showed that the bishop could be taken with impunity and the game (and match) won! Then his opponent missed a mate in two (your editor had not seen it either!) before delivering the coup de grace.

            So the match was drawn, which meant we were the first team this season to take a point off our opponents. It also keeps us in the hunt for promotion. Thanks are particularly due to Jack, who stepped in when we learned that Derek was unavailable and then played so well. But it is arguable that none of us disgraced ourselves (though John Wheeler, who was observing the match, may well point a finger in your editor’s direction!).

South Tyne League

One result to report here: Friars v Tynedale. My thanks to Mike for the following:

 Friars v Tynedale  Feb 8th 2010

  H/c Result H/c  
George Glover 1 2-2 2 Mike Nicholson
Bruce Wallace 3 2-2 3 Dave Foster (snr)
Daniel O’Dowd 3 0-4 4 Peter Crichton
Bill Hardwick 4 0-4 4 Phil Taylor
  11 4-12 13  

A pretty comfortable win over Friars kept Tynedale on 100 per cent, though still with only three matches played. A single handicap point advantage meant we needed only to draw the match to win, and by the time I stood up for my first leg-stretch, Phil was already a queen to the good. After that, straightforward draws on the top boards took us to our target, and although Peter advised me he was going to lose, he duly delivered another whole point while the rest of us relaxed at the bar.

Phil’s drama: The game didn’t last very long mainly due to Bill’s handily placing his Queen into a tight space & my having the presence of mind to spot that I could trap it. The opening which started as the O’Kelly variation of the Sicilian soon took on a different light & White’s Qg3 looked to pose me some problems as it stopped my castling King side. (If I had castled Bh6 would have been very nasty.). After White lost his Queen it was a question of maintaining concentration to make sure I didn’t make a silly mistake. Fortunately it was White who made the next blunder, missing the Bishop staring at d1 – by that time Bill had had enough & resigned. (Phil sent the game score, but I couldn’t open it).

George offered me a draw after 18 moves of a balanced Caro-Kann, and with Dave looking sound and Peter OK (I thought) it wasn’t hard to decide how to respond. Whether I accepted before or after Dave and Bruce agreed their own draw, I can’t tell, but when Peter came and told me his different assessment of his game from my own, the match was already in the bag. Here’s Dave: Bruce opened with PK4 and received PQB4 in return. He then made solid (but a little predictable) piece development which allowed me to gain the centre and he went a pawn down on move 14 which left his castled king side a bit exposed. All his moves thereafter centred on preventing my Kings Rook pawns from menacing his flank. After a Queen and Bishop trade-off he had to make careful moves to avoid a preferable rook exchange. I had already asked the powers that be what we needed for a match win and as Phil had a quick win, and Mike had just drawn I offered the match winning draw whilst a pawn up. My opponent had already blocked any further black advance at the expense of any attacking white play so I was quite happy to offer the draw.

Peter explains his encounter thus: I had the white side of a Slav and lost an important pawn [g pawn] early on after which I was on the back seat for most of the game and probably should have lost. Fortunately my opponent allowed me to win a piece on move 27 which allowed me back into the game and eventually I managed to come out on top. [By which Peter means checkmate: Mike]”

So at this point Tynedale look like serious contenders for the league title, but of course it is still early days and doubtless Cap’n Blair of the Monarchs will not relinquish his crown without a fight!

Club Championship

With the cut-off point for the first phase falling at the end of March, this is getting interesting. Club champion Malcolm Reid has finally wriggled himself into the top eight. Bruce Reed has moved up the table and Mike Nicholson down. The Reivers captain is still somnolent and his dad even more so!

Derek Blair 5/7
Phil Taylor 4.5/7
Peter Crichton 4/6
Bruce Reed 3/5
Jack Bradshaw 2.5/5
Mike Nicholson 2.5/5
Dave Foster 2/3
Malcolm Reid 2/5
Matthew Taylor 1.5/2
Steve Larkin 1.5/5
David Wrigley 0.5/1
Peter Booker 0/7


The Sell championship. David Wrigley writes:

“My Sell game against Andy Robinson went as follows: Andy played a French against my e4 (my fourth French in five Sell games, but my first as white), which I misplayed slightly, lending him a better centre and a better protected king. We castled on opposite sides, but he played passively and allowed me to line up my pieces against his kingside. By the time he started to take action on the queenside it was too late. I played a pleasing rook-sac which brought about grievous material losses.”

This gives David 3/5, which puts him just about back in contention for the title.
2. The Newcastle championship. Playing black against Bill Noble, your editor ruined a strong attack by sacrificing the wrong piece for the wrong pawn. When the initiative swung the other way, it took him 0.01 seconds to accept Bill’s offer of a draw. So more by luck than judgement he finds himself on 3/5.

3.The third Gosforth Rapidplay event. Held on Sat Feb 20th, entries were modest: 11 in the Open, 6 in the Major and 19 in the Minor. Your editor contested the latter, where his score of 3/5 looks a lot better than it was, including as it did a full point bye and a win over a nine year-old Bielby protégé who has a long way to go yet. The organization of the event left something to be desired, but the play of seven year-old Zheming Zhang and of A. S. Wadwha, a veteran of fifteen, was a delight to behold.

4. Forthcoming events.

April 23 – 25. County Durham Chess Congress Houghton-le-Spring. (I have some entry forms, or you can download them.

April 24 – 25. Scottish Borders Congress Hawick

September 24 – 26 Northumberland Chess Congress North Shields

5. In a purely personal capacity, your editor has made some observations about the structure of the Northumbria League to John Wheeler, who will float them in the next county bulletin for discussion. Please feel free to rubbish them!

6. For all you would-be club champions, there are just five Tuesdays left in which to consolidate/improve/begin your assault on the title! Good luck!

Steve Larkin

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