So, after a 5 week break we return to main league chess. Would anyone remember any of the openings? Would be C team manage to finish above the B team in Division 2? And – more importantly – could anyone remember how to program the clocks or indeed what time controls we were supposed to be playing? If you’re sitting comfortably, I will begin.
The A team played their last league game of the season away at Rose Forgrove, playing the ‘grove’s A team. With club captain Paul May unavailable and Rose Forgrove outgrading Limewood and Scarcroft on every board, it didn’t look good for our A team – BUT! Rob Lockwood overcame an almost 250 point grade deficit to beat Clive Davies and Paul Johnson overcame another deficit to win his game. With a couple of draws from Paul Brencher and Dan Hill, we took the match 3-2. This guaranteed that our A team would finish in the top half of Division 1, which is a fantastic season result in such a tough league – hopefully this will mean that if the league moves to 3 Divisions next year (as clubs can field more teams), our A team will remain in Division 1. With the A teams from 7 different clubs in the top 7 places, you’d expect those to form the bulk of Division 1.
Into Division 2, where going into the last round of matches our C team was actually above the B team, although both were down towards the lower end of the table. Arguably the B team had the easier final fixture at home against Rose Forgrove C while the C team visited promotion-chasing Alwoodley B, but how would they get on on the night?
Well, the B team’s match got off to an unusual start as our venue claimed not to have notice of our booking and were planning to close at 9pm, when of course the match timings are geared to finish by 10pm. Fortunately the Rose Forgrovers were OK with agreeing reduced time on the clocks, which really goes to show how friendly this league is in frustrating circumstances. Unfortunately the switch to shorter games didn’t really help the B team, with only Lewis Carroll getting anything from his game, pulling the rabbit out of the hat with a great draw against a player rated over 250 higher.
This meant that unless the C team “did a Derby County” and had points deducted for selling the back room of the Fox and Grapes to themselves for a vastly reduced price whilst also wildly overvaluing the resale value of knights on the edge of the board and doubled pawns, they would finish above the B team. Which was handy, because the C team didn’t do that well at Alwoodley B. Our only win was Titas Lukauskas on board 1 versus Frank Sheldrick, with Titas trapping Frank’s queen on h6 with a lovely combination of knight, bishop, rook and queen, at which point Frank resigned.
Titas’ brother Rojas suffered a rare defeat on board 2 in a fascinating king and pawn endgame featuring mutual promotions, and a forced exchange of queens initiatied by a skewer which unfortunately left Rojus’ king too far away from the rest of the pawns. Fascinating game to watch, and that’s my excuse for losing my own game after an error which allowed my opponent to pick up a key central pawn which he levered to great advantage. With defeats on boards 4 and 5 (all outgraded) the C team lost 4-1. Thanks again to Alwoodley for making us all feel so welcome and offering consoling drinks after the matches as we retired to the bar to discuss the games and watch the footie (Liverpool v Villareal). Such a nice club to play at, even if the away captain ends up having to lift all the tables out and put them away – I bet Carlsen doesn’t have to do that!
So our first full season after lockdown is finished and over-the-board chess in Leeds looks good. Many teams I have spoken to are hoping to have more teams out as either more people are comfortable returning to OTB chess, or players – especially younger players – are moving from playing online to OTB. While both of these are great news, the latter is especially good for the future. Maybe we’ll be able to return to 4 regular teams next season too?
Oh, and the answer is that it’s setting 18 and we play 1h20m with 10 second increments!