2011-12 News


End of Season Blues

posted 11 May 2012, 12:21 by knight moves

The final Stoke League Division One match of the season was at home against Holmes Chapel and, despite the final league positions for both teams already determined, a tough evening's chess ensued as the visitors recorded a 3.5-1.5 victory to complete the season's double over Stafford.

Malcolm Armstrong opened the scoring with an uneventful draw on board one, equalising comfortably with black but unable to develop any advantage in a blocked position.  On board four, Pavel Nefyodov was on the white side of an extremely sharp Sicilian in which neither player appeared prepared to blink.  Pavel probably pushed a little too hard by castling queenside, which allowed his opponent's initiative to quickly reach rather alarming proportions.  One factor was the central pawn majority which was poised to advance when Pavel unfortunately blundered a piece and resigned immediately.

Holmes Chapel doubled their lead with a second win with the black pieces on board two.  Stephane Pedder did not manage to recover his pawn in a Queen's Gambit Accepted and found himself playing an inferior middlegame with the added disadvantage of being a pawn down. Stephane fought hard but eventually had to bow to the inevitable.

Kazik Wozniak had looked to stand a little better when he established a knight on d4, but as material was exchanged it became clear that the knight had nothing to attack and a draw was agreed. 

The final game to finish was on board three where Roger Butters had been a little better in the middlegame with strong central pawns, but the tables began to turn as the game moved into a rook ending. Roger lost a pawn but got compensation with his active rook and reached a position with rook and a-pawn against rook and doubled c-pawns. With his king in front of the c-pawns, the draw should have been routine but, as his time ran short, Roger moved his king away and may have been losing before his opponent allowed him to return his king to its optimum post and salvage a draw with less than a minute remaining on his clock.

Roll on next season.....

Deja Vu Against Cheddleton

posted 27 Apr 2012, 05:05 by knight moves

Stafford faced title-chasing Cheddleton in the penultimate Stoke League Division One match of the season.

On board one, Gerald Acey won a pawn when his opponent misplayed his central expansion.  However, his opponent's rook occupied the only open file and Gerald, seeing no real prospects to exploit his extra pawn, accepted a draw offer.

Roger Butters had an extremely lively game on board four, fending off his opponent's kingside sacrifices.  Roger must have been very close to losing at some point, but he hung on and a resourceful Rxf6 exchange sacrifice of his own allowed him to establish a strong knight on d5.  As the dust settled, Roger had bishop and knight against rook and pawn but his opponent judged that further winning attempts would have been unduly reckless and another draw was agreed.

The remaining three games all went down to the wire, with the Fischer time control of 75 minutes plus 10 seconds per move ensuring that time should not become the over-riding factor.  At this stage, any result was possible in each game, let alone in the match as a whole.

Pavel Nefyodov had been under early pressure as his opponent established a strong knight on e5, but Pavel was able to repel it and took over the initiative with strong knights of his own on e4 and f5.  Pavel had a clear edge as time ran short and, although there was plenty of play left, the practical problems proved too much for his opponent whose flag fell to give Stafford the lead.

Malcolm Armstrong's game was difficult to assess throughout.  Having misplayed the opening he was under some pressure, but his opponent probably overpressed with his winning attempts and Malcolm may have stood better towards the end of the middlegame.  However, he exchanged into a rook ending which seemed completely level but his opponent declined a draw offer and pressed on.  A couple of inaccuracies from Malcolm left him on the back foot, but he found a key move with h4 and his opponent soon had to repeat moves and agree to the draw.

Stephane Pedder had the toughest task of the evening on paper, conceding 30 grading points and playing black to boot, but he defended resolutely throughout.  As the time began to run out he had the opportunity to take a draw by perpetual check but, unsure of the prospects in the other two games, he pressed on for the win.  Sadly, he misjudged the position and soon had to resign.

This left the match drawn 2.5-2.5, with striking parallels to the match earlier in the season in the semi-final of the 8-man Open Cup competition - a win for Pavel Nefyodov (against the same opponent!), a loss for Stephane Pedder in the final game to finish, and draws on all of the other boards.  At least this time there is the consolation of one league point rather than the board-count loss in the Cup match, and a valuable point it is in ensuring that Stafford will at least avoid finishing bottom of the league.  It could also prove to be a valuable point for Cheddleton who will win the league if they can beat Newcastle in the forthcoming title-deciding match.

Hickman Cup Exit

posted 22 Apr 2012, 12:27 by knight moves

The semi-final of the Hickman Cup, the Staffordshire County Open cup competition, saw Stafford travelling to Walsall Kipping and, short of several first-team regulars, struggling against an average grading deficit of around 16 points per board.

The home side drew first blood on board five when Ken McNulty, having got his queen into the heart of his opponent's position on e3, omitted to ensure that he could get it out again and found it trapped.   Further blood followed on board three as Stephane Pedder did not get to grips with his opponent's kingside advances and succumbed to a well-played attack.

Andrew Leadbetter opened Stafford's account with a draw on board six.  He had looked to be a bit worse as his opponent's central pawns advanced, but he remained solid to earn a draw.  Ray Hyde was the one Stafford player who enjoyed the better of things, despite giving away 26 grading points.  However, as time began to run short he missed a strong continuation and allowed his grateful opponent to escape with a draw.

On board two, Malcolm Armstrong faced British Senior Champion David Anderton, and a lively encounter developed as the players castled on opposite sides and launched their separate attacks.  Malcolm's attack ran out of steam first and he was in trouble as a pawn sacrifice exposed his king.  A rather involuntary exchange sacrifice followed, but Malcolm was able to pick up a second pawn and, with time running short, his opponent could see no way to improve his position and allowed a rook sacrifice leading to a draw by perpetual check.

In the final game to finish, Lee Grinsell had also been under pressure as he faced a strong kingside attack.  However, he defended robustly and also gradually recovered his deficit on the clock, and may have stood a little better when discretion prevailed with both players down to their last couple of minutes and a draw was agreed.

So, Stafford's involvement in the final will be restricted to acting as hosts, as Walsall Kipping take on Cheddleton.

Winning Finish to Wolverhampton League Division One

posted 17 Apr 2012, 11:11 by knight moves   [ updated 17 Apr 2012, 11:13 ]

Stafford wrapped up the Wolverhampton League Division One season with a home encounter against West Brom, the match having been re-scheduled at Stafford following an abortive trip to West Brom earlier in the season.  The pressure was off for both sides, with Stafford having avoided relegation by defeating Kidderminster and West Brom confirmed in second place having lost the crunch match against Lichfield two weeks earlier.

Stafford enjoyed a slight grading advantage on all 6 boards with West Brom missing their top 3 players, and the match followed a very similar pattern to the previous week's encounter against Kidderminster.  One very short draw (from Stephane Pedder) was followed by two more (Roger Butters having neutralised his opponent's early pressure and Ray Hyde's initiative suffering the opposite fate).  Malcolm Armstrong then gave Stafford the lead, having defended against a rather unsound attack and accurately calculated a sequence which would have led to significant material advantage had his opponent not resigned. 

The remaining two games both went down to the wire.  Pavel Nefyodov was under pressure throughout the game as his opponent's aggressive opening led to a strong attack with well-placed minor pieces.  Pavel did well to steer the game into a rook ending but was a long way behind on the clock.  He made the most of his own passed pawn but unfortunately missed one chance to earn a draw as both his time and position evaporated. 

This left the match all square with the top board game remaining.  Gerald Acey had been better throughout the game and managed to resist his opponent's resourceful but increasingly desperate attempts to complicate the position, eventually crashing through with a kingside mating attack to clinch thematch. 

So, Stafford finish with a total of 9 points, with 4 match wins, 1 draw and 5 defeats (including one default) - having spent most of the season worrying about relegation, this can be considered as a minor success;


Status

Team

P

W

D

L

Points

Board Points

Champions

Lichfield A

10

8

2

0

18

40½

2nd

West Bromwich

10

7

1

2

15

37½

 

Bushbury A

9

6

0

3

12

34½

 

Walsall Kipping A

9

5

1

3

11

28

 

Rushall A

9

4

1

4

9

26½

 

Stafford A

10

4

1

5

9

25½

 

St George's A

9

3

2

4

8

25½

 

Wolverhampton A

10

2

2

6

6

26½

 

Kidderminster A

10

2

2

6

6

25

 

Warley Quinborne A

8

2

1

5

5

22

 

Stourbridge A

10

2

1

7

5

20½

Survival!

posted 5 Apr 2012, 11:53 by knight moves

Stafford avoided relegation from Wolverhampton League Division One with a fine 3.5-2.5 win away at Kidderminster.

Pavel Nefyodov had a very short draw, albeit with the black pieces, and spent the rest of the evening proving the theory that watching other games is much more nerve-wracking than playing your own. 

Gerald Acey also drew on board one, where his opponent had accepted a rather warm pawn sacrifice which allowed Gerald to develop some rather dangerous-looking threats along the a1-h8 diagonal.  However, his opponent managed to secure his defences and neither player felt able to pursue a win as the draw was agreed.

Stephane Pedder contributed another half point on board 3.  Having opened up the position with an early d5 thrust, he had perhaps missed that his opponent could escape the pressure by castling queenside and pinning the d5 pawn against Stephane's rook on d1.  Stephane allowed his kingside pawns to be weakened in order to preserve his initiative and was quite happy to accept his opponent's draw offer as the position remained imbalanced.  So these three draws left this the match all square with three games in play as the first time control approached.  All three games looked to hold reasonable prospects for the Stafford players, but with time running short and the pressure levels rising, anything could have happened. 

As it was, Malcolm Armstrong put Stafford into the lead when his opponent went wrong in time pressure and allowed Malcolm to establish two rooks on the seventh rank which won two pawns with a third to follow.

Ken McNulty had been doing well on board five, and had also been 20 minutes ahead on the clock, but both of these advantages gradually disappeared in the run up to the time control.  Ken will feel that he let things slip as his opponent both defended and counterattacked resourcefully to turn the tables and win a piece.

Fortunately by this stage Andrew Leadbetter was well in command on board six.  Andrew has had some tough games when stepping up to the first team this season, but he certainly saved his best for the most important occasion with a well-controlled game.  He enjoyed the better of the middlegame with a well-placed rook on d3 and pressure against his opponent's weak pawns, and kept things under control to steer the game into a double-rook ending where he efficiently rounded up a couple of pawns and pushed his h-pawn to secure the crucial point.

Ken had kept things going until Andrew's win was confirmed before accepting the inevitable and resigning. 

So Stafford move up to the giddy total of 7 match points, with Stourbridge and Kidderminster's seasons completed on 5 and 6 points respectively.  Warley Quinborne, St George's and Wolverhampton remain in the relegation mix as postponed matches are completed, but it will be Division One chess for Stafford again next season.

Tough Relegation Battle Against Stourbridge

posted 5 Apr 2012, 11:18 by knight moves

Things are very tight at the wrong end of the Wolverhampton League Division One table, so the home match against Stourbridge was a crunch one.  Stafford enjoyed a grading advantage on all 6 boards, but Stourbridge were also fighting hard to avoid relegation.

Gerald Acey had a lively game on top board.   Caught in an unfamiliar line of a sharp opening, he rather reluctantly escaped the pressure along the e-file by castling queenside behind tripled and isolated c-pawns.  However, his opponent could only look to capture these one at a time and, in the meantime, Gerald was able to develop some dangerous-looking counterplay on the kingside with his queen and rook.  His opponent sacrificed the exchange to take a draw by perpetual check in a complex position where both players felt that they stood worse.

Stafford took the lead with a smooth win by Kazik Wozniak on board 6.  Playing white, he soon established a knight on e6 which completely dominated the board and he followed this up with a central pawn advance to open lines against his opponent's king.  A blunder which allowed Kazik a discovered attack to win his opponent's queen brought about an abrupt end.

Malcolm Armstrong then doubled the lead with a win on board two.  He too established a strong knight, this time on d5, which his opponent probably should have exchanged but instead he chose to leave it there and began to suffer as it covered many important squares.  As Malcolm's rooks took over the open files on the queenside, the win of at least a pawn was inevitable but instead his opponent allowed a small combination to win two pieces for a rook and soon afterwards threw in the towel in a prospectless position and faced with the loss of at least one more pawn.

Ray Hyde looked to be doing well as he carefully restrained his opponent's early activity on the kingside and then took over the initiative on the queenside.  He won a pawn but only at the cost of a series of exchanges which left the game about to reach an opposite-coloured bishop ending in which Ray's extra pawn would have been irrelevant, so the game was agreed drawn.  This left Stafford two up with two games still in play, but on the back foot in both. 

Pavel Nefyodov had sacrificed his d-pawn rather speculatively in the early middlegame and, though he did get some pressure, it never quite seemed enough and two further pawns disappeared a Pavel tried desperately to break through.  Some accurate defence by his opponent eventually forced the exchange of queens and, three pawns down with no attack left, Pavel had seen enough. 

Stephane Pedder was under early pressure on the kingside and was only able to avert disaster at the cost of his d-pawn.  As the game moved into a double-rook ending, Stephane managed to obtain some activity for his rooks and looked to have reasonable prospects for a draw.  However, as his opponent advanced his queenside pawn majority, Stephane had little choice but to exchange one pair of rooks and reached a very unpleasant position in which his rook was forced to b8 to stop his opponent's pawn on b7 from queening.  With both players having 3 pawns remaining on the kingside, Stephane's problem was that he had no waiting moves with his rook.  His opponent played the endgame well to eventually secure a second passed pawn on the kingside, which was too much for Stephane's king to cope with and so he resigned to leave the match drawn 3-3.

So, little change to the overall relegation picture and the fight now moves on to the re-arranged match at Kidderminster (M6 permitting.....) for another six-pointer.

Off The Bottom!

posted 24 Mar 2012, 12:02 by knight moves

It has been a tough season as defending champions in Stoke League Division 1, but at least some progress was made with a 4-1 win against a weakened Alsager enabling Stafford to move off the bottom of the table.   

With Alsager defaulting on board 5 and conceding about 60 grading points a board on boards 2 to 4, Stafford were firm favourites but Alsager fought hard and the first result only came after about two hours of play with a win for Pavel Nefyodov.  An early Qg4 had extracted a concession from his opponent with Kf8, and Pavel then set about building up an attack against the uncastled king which developed into a mating attack down the d-file as the king attempted to head for the queenside. 

Malcolm Armstrong was a little uncomfortable out of the opening as his opponent accepted the Queen's Gambit and secured his pawn advantage.  Malcolm had compensation with the bishop pair and central pawn control, but it took a while to develop these advantages.  Even after winning a piece for two pawns the win was not clear, but his opponent allowed a tactic which exchanged queens and won a pawn, leaving Malcolm's passed e-pawn able to advance decisively to win the match for Stafford.

Roger Butters had looked on course for a swift victory when his opponent's King's Gambit opening did not go well and Roger was able to get a knight to f2 and win the exchange on h1.  His queen then entered the fray on the kingside and picked up a couple of pawns before Roger overlooked a resource which forced him to return the exchange.  However, he still had two extra passed pawns on the kingside which were sufficient to bring about his opponent's resignation in a rook and bishop ending. 

On top board, Lee Grinsell was under pressure throughout in a thematic Sicilian defence, where his opponent's kingside pawn advances were some way ahead of Lee's queenside threats.  As the white pawns crashed through and Lee ran increasingly short of time, his only chance lay with a desperate knight sacrifice.  This should merely have delayed the inevitable, but instead it provoked a massive blunder from his opponent.  With only 12 seconds on his clock against around 5 minutes, Lee threatened what looked to be an unstoppable mate.  Unfortunately, his opponent was able to give up his queen for only a pawn in order to prevent the mate, and he then declined Lee's draw offers to take the win on time which, to be fair, his earlier play had deserved.

Roaming in Rushall

posted 20 Mar 2012, 12:47 by knight moves

Stafford’s team in the Cannock League played an away match at Rushall last night.  The start was significantly delayed for Ken McNulty and Peter Evans as Ken’s Sat Nav is convinced that the Rushall venue is adjacent to junction 10 of the M6.  After the air inside the car had turned a shade of blue, they resorted to the old and trusted methods of signposts and memory and eventually arrived to the sound of ticking clocks.

Peter Evans began with a confident quick opening.  He won a pawn, and swapped queens, a rook and 3 minor pieces, but then still in the earlier mindset of having to make up time, succumbed to a backwards moving bishop, which seen his rook fall.  1-0 to Rushall.

Stephane Peddar equalised with a good win on board one, having gained pawns with a combination attack on the king’s side.  He was then two pawns up with each player having two rooks and the opposite coloured bishops.  Stephane was able to remove this problem with another combination that exchanged bishops and one of the rooks; he was then able to win the resulting endgame. 

James Topp, playing black on board 4 contemplated settling for a draw, but he was able to discern slight weaknesses with white’s queenside and in the position of the white king.  James won material with a combination of rook, knight and bishop and he forced his opponent’s resignation with a knight fork of king and rook.

Ken McNulty was last to finish on board 2.  Trying to claw back some lost time, he had played the opening too quickly and allowed his opponent to develop strong minor pieces, which significantly hampered Ken's development.  He went on to lose a forced exchange and although he gained some counter play, his fate was sealed when his opponent returned the exchange to leave an unstoppable passed pawn on the h file.  Final result 2-2.

Thanks to Rushall for a good match, and for their sportsmanship in allowing the 2 late arrivals a grace period of 15 minutes.  Without this, Ken and Peter would have had to play their first 30 moves in approximately 15 minutes.

Long March for B Team

posted 17 Mar 2012, 04:58 by knight moves

It's been a long March for Stafford B, as they have so far suffered a heavy loss in the North Staffs League U130 cup, as well as two disappointing losses in the Wolverhampton League, leaving them second to the bottom of the Wolverhampton League Division 3, with relegation looming. 

The problems started at Stourbridge on March 5th, when we were only able to field a team of 4 players for a 5 board match.  James Topp, playing black lost on board 4 in a game when he unable to prevent white gaining a massive spatial advantage and a passed central pawn.   David Barker on board 5 was able to gain a draw after going out of the book against his opponent’s Sicilian Defence.   Peter Evans drew on board two with the black pieces, trying the Grunfeld defence.  After middle game complications he gained a passed c pawn, and his opponent was forced to sacrifice a piece to remove the pawn.   Carelessness then allowed Stourbridge to recover the piece and a draw resulted.

Ray Hyde, playing White, used his pet line against the King's Indian.  He soon reached a very favourable position in which he won a pawn and gained a lot of space, but sadly missed an obvious way to finish the game on move 25.  His higher-graded opponent managed to unravel his pieces and went into a 4 bishop ending a pawn down but with a superior position.  Ray completely lost the thread in the time scramble and resigned with less than a minute left on the clock. 

Well played to Stourbridge, especially as they had their minds on a Birmingham League cup final to be played later that week.   Final result : Stourbridge B 4 - Stafford B 1


On March 7th, Stafford B met Newcastle in the NS&DCL U130 (Intermediate) Cup.   This was rather a hammering, with a 4½ to ½ loss.  Our only points were gained by Tony Meakin from Rugeley who kindly agreed to help us out in this match.  Thanks to Tony who gained a draw in a game where each tactical complexity was neutralised.

As for the rest of the Stafford team, David Barker lost a piece in the opening and although he fought to the bitter end the loss was inevitable.  Boris Ondrejkovic felt that he lost because he was too concerned with dominating space and allowed his opponent tactical advantage.  Peter Evans began well and had an even position but a premature advance of his C pawn failed, and he lost a pawn.  This permitted his opponent to infiltrate his position with Queen and Rook leading to a mate.  Denis Nesbitt appeared to be doing well on board one, until he lost his queen for a rook.  Well played to Newcastle who will meet Holmes Chapel in the final.


Back in the Wolverhampton League on March 14th, Stafford B had a better game against Wolverhampton B, but still lost to a stronger Wolverhampton team.

Kasik Wozniak won on board one when he took full advantage of an unsound sacrifice by the Wolverhampton skipper.  Peter Evans lost on board 3 in a game where he never was able to develop his pieces properly.  He survived queenside attacks, but was forced to resign as his opponent switched his attention to a kingside pawn advance.  James Topp, with the white pieces played well and had a good combination attack against black’s king, but black successfully defended this and won a pawn and rook endgame.   Andrew Leadbetter also lost an endgame; this was bishop and pawn and Andrew was forced to resign against the weight of connected passed pawns.   Boris Ondrejkovic achieved a win when his opponent failed to read a queen check.  Boris was able to win his opponent’s queen, and with only minutes left on his clock he secured victory with a checkmate.

Thwarted by the Traffic

posted 10 Mar 2012, 01:52 by knight moves   [ updated 10 Mar 2012, 01:53 ]

Kidderminster away is never the easiest of journeys, and with the closure of the M6 Toll Road causing gridlock to the south of Stafford it became mission impossible.

The car containing 3 players heading for the Wolverhampton League Division One match had barely reached the outskirts of Stafford by the scheduled start time, and there was nothing to be done but to telephone apologies and turn around.  The other 3 Stafford players did arrive from different points of the compass, and Kidderminster kindly agreed for the match to be postponed to a yet-to-be-determined date. 

 At least those who did make it were able to enjoy a few blitz games with some of the Kidderminster team before heading home.

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