League winners 23/24, roundup of recent matches.

Apologies again for the lack of an update recently on this website. We left things after our narrow win away at Skelmersdale when the A team pulled off a narrow victory.

The next fixture of the year was our A team v B team match, the B team put up a brave fight but were heavily out-graded on all boards and fell to a heavy 4.5-0.5 defeat. Not withstanding a good draw for Tom Vout against Ian Dutton and a debut for youngster Shlok who gave Andy Coe a fair few things to think about during their game!

A much closer contest came at Winwick a couple of weeks later. Winwick have recently recruited Martin Carpenter who has added a touch of class to their line up on board 1. This match was a tight affair with the top 4 boards drawn, Andy Coe managed to nick it for us on board 5 resulting in another two points collected. If Winwick manage to keep fielding the team below next season, they may well be the ones to watch out for next year!

Then came the key fixture, our return match V Atherton chess club. Sometimes in sport the most keenly anticipated matches can end up being the most anticlimactic, I’m afraid this was the case here as 5 games in this fixture were drawn! There were a few absolute snoozer’s that don’t really merit a commentary, Keith almost managed to bring home a win in his game v Paul Dugdale winning two pawn’s early on. Dugdale had some dynamic compensation however and managed to create enough confusion with Keith low on time to grab the draw. I was happy with the result however as by now we had a healthy lead in the division.

Our penultimate game came with an away trip to Northwich, We were missing quite a few players for this one. Despite this Andy Coe, Nick Burriss and Alex Robinson performed excellently each winning their games. The result perhaps should have been even more convincing as Rob on board 2 had a winning position (from a complicated opening he has had quite a few times) the position was very double-edged however and Rob was to make a mistake giving Richard Betts the win for Northwich. Damian had been in control of his game and managed to obtain a piece up endgame with no compensation. He then went on to play one of the worst moves he’s ever played in needless time trouble, blundering a rook. Luckily after this horror the game was still drawn!

Then onto our final fixture where we were to play this season’s runner up side St Helens, so therefore expected a stern test. We were more then a bit disappointed that only 2 opposition players turned up for this fixture. The reason for this has not yet been established, Steve Potter was very apologetic after the match on behalf of his club. Two games were played and these at least were very competitive. I was watching Steve Potter’s game V Marek and was somewhat tickled to see that for a third game I think of the season V ourselves Steve had gone in for an early middlegame Na5! Clearly he is not a subscriber to the view “Knights on the rim are dim!” Marek in this game as Ian Dutton had done earlier in the season managed to exploit his extra central play to obtain a winning position.

Phoenix Lamb’s game V our latest debutant Andy Bak looked very interesting, Andy looked to be winning a pawn when Phoenix unleashed a positional Rook sacrifice with Andy’s King still being stuck in the centre. Despite the extra material Andy’s pieces were completely paralyzed and after the game Andy suggested he thought he was probably losing… Andy is an excellent player however and in the end he managed to unravel and bring home the full point in this game as well.

The B team also played a Key game v Winwick on the same evening. (Note Keith in the purple jumper cutting a frustrated figure, he was deprived of a game by St Helens not showing up, had notice been given he could have played in this match…) *Keith has been playing board 1 for the B team for much of the season.

So there we have it, Culcheth A league winners for the 2nd year running! Well done and thanks to everyone who has contributed this season.

Skelmersdale V Culcheth A 13th December 23

Board 1- Dutton V Stanley

Traditionally the month of December is a restful month in the WDCL calendar as the teams wind down towards a Christmas break. Not so this year! Possibly due to a welcome addition of Lymm and Eccles chess club to the league there are extra fixtures to fulfil. Therefore the A team players found themselves in action for the 2nd December Wednesday in a row.

Football league titles are often won not just in the big matches but also by the top sides grinding out results against smaller but well drilled teams. The analogy was not lost on me as we were making our way to Skelmersdale on what was an extremely cold and drizzly evening.

We had a slightly changed line up from last week, Marek Mazek and Andy Coe coming back into the side in place of Robert Furness and Nick Burriss.

The first result of the evening came on board 5, Andy Coe having beaten his opponent Dave Stanfield when they last met, repeated the same opening line. Stanfield however admitted to me afterwards that he had in fact studied the position since then and this time was well prepared as he fairly quickly brought home the first point for Skelmersdale 1-0.

Despite the early set back things were looking fairly promising I thought in the early stages of all the other boards.

Marek Mazek has only played one League game from six so far this season so his return for this fixture was most welcome. In his usual fast attacking style Marek was to level the scores, proving to be just too strong for his opponent Mike McGreal on this occasion. 1-1

On board 3 Damian was up against Gareth Ellis for the second time this season. Previously Gareth had held Damian to a draw in a solid French Rubenstein this time therefore Damian decided to play a different first move as White. Early on Gareth was playing just as solidly as the last meeting managing to trade off a pair of Bishops. Damian then decided to expand in the centre anyway, in the hope of unbalancing the game. An interesting middlegame was reached with White having a big centre but made up of a pair of hanging pawns on d4 & e4. Gareth tried to exploit this by attacking the pawns but eventually a White knight landed on f5 and Black’s king was opened up, forcing resignation 1-2.

In the above picture, Ilya is 3 pawns ahead with passed G and H pawns. With such a good position it can be all too tempting to relax thinking nothing can go wrong. This can be a dangerous mindset though in chess, and thus proved to be the case when Ilya now winning a 4th pawn to reach 2 Rooks & 5 pawns v 2 Rooks and 1 pawn was despite the huge material advantage suddenly lost! Massey had skilfully executed the swindle by first of all doubling rooks on the 7th rank and then marching his king into Ilya’s castled position. Ilya sadly did not sense the danger fast enough and the position below could not be saved… chess can be a cruel game at times… 2-2

Massey V Dubov – Even with the move and 4 extra pawns, Black’s position cannot be saved.

Therefore the match was to once again go down to the wire, as it did earlier in the season. Ian’s opponent Paul Stanley had played an early gambit line from which Ian had obtained an excellent position in response. As the players entered the middlegame however Ian’s early activity around the Black king had died down somewhat with a tense endgame being reached.

The key moment came in the below position…

Black has just played Ne3

In the above position whilst under severe time pressure Paul decided to try Ne3 possibly on the expectation of something like 1.Nxe3, fxe3, 2.Kxe3 when Black can play Nxe5. White of course does not have to capture twice and the game went 1.Bxe3, fxe3 2.Re1! With the plan of picking up the pawn with the Rook. After this Black’s weak pawns started to drop leaving Paul in the end with a lost Rook and 3 pawns V Rook and 1 pawn endgame. Once Ian forced off the final pair of Rook’s Black resigned. 3-2

What a tough match! Thanks to everyone involved, we now do have a bit of a gap until the next fixture in January. Happy Christmas to all readers!

as of 14th Dec 23

St Helens A V Culcheth A 6th Dec 23

In the Penultimate game before Christmas our A team faced St Helens. We had managed to take an early lead so far in the Division 1 league table, this has been quite surprising to me as we have been without a good handful of the key players from previous seasons.

Going into this fixture St Helens sat 2 points behind us, meaning that a drawn match would see us tied at the top.

The match began 15 minutes later then the usual start time, no complaints from us as this suited Ilya who as ever was racing to get to the game straight from work and therefore on this occasion did without his usual 10 minute starting deficit. Ilya was up against Barry Groves, to Ilya’s surprise Barry bashed out 1.g4?! which has a reputation of being the very worst opening move one can play! “The Grob” as it is known is not without some venom for the unwary opponent, however on this occasion Barry’s neglect of traditional opening principles was to cost him dear as Ilya went on to win quickly with a powerful kingside attack. 0-1

Ian Dutton on board 1 had been expecting to face Mark Ellis, Mark however had apparently been a late drop out so therefore Steve Potter was Ian’s opponent on board one. Steve played his usual Black set up with an early Bishop on the long diagonal whilst Ian took control of the central squares and had a pretty position.

From the above diagram, Black decided to embark on a plan to distract the White bishop from its defence of e4 with …,Na5? Followed by c4 and Nb3.

the pawn on b3 is now a goner

Generally a strong centre in chess beats play on the wing and this proved to be the case here as Ian sidestepped Black’s idea and went on to win the loose pawn on b3. Steve now a pawn down with the worse position played on but Ian converted comfortably 0-2

The final moments of Dutton V Potter

On board 2 Damian was facing Phoenix Lamb for the first time since last season when Phoenix won a tremendous calculative game. This time around Damian was more on his guard having underestimated his opponent last time. A more positional game ensued which probably suited Damian a bit more, finally after a fair bit of manoeuvring Black managed to gain a won pawn ending. 0-3

Phoenix resigned here as Black’s King is going to invade

This left Rob and Nick to finish the match with the result already decided.

Rob looked to be playing a terrific game but perhaps lacking a bit of confidence from some tough results lately he made a mistake which allowed his opponent to gain a perpetual check. 0.5-3.5

This left Nick to finish off against another St Helens youngster Jake Money. We were grateful to Nick for playing this fixture at the last moment as Marek was a late drop out. This game looked extremely close throughout and the players agreed a fair draw in a fairly level rook and pawn ending. 1-4