Yorkshire Post Article 9 – Calderdale League

 

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This is an extended version of the column published in The Yorkshire Post on 12th December 2015

As the local evening chess leagues across Yorkshire get towards the half way stages it seems like an appropriate moment to begin covering some of the action. We begin this week with Calderdale.

League 1

The last four or five seasons have been halcyon years in Calderdale League 1. In three of the last four seasons the title race has been decided by a very narrow margin (a single board point in 2011-12) and the outcome unknown right until the last rounds were played. During the same period the average playing strength of a league 1 team has risen from 147 in 2010-11 to 156 in 2014-15. For anyone who’s interested, I calculated this by working out the average strength of the five most frequently used players in the season for each team and then calculating the mean of all the team strengths.

This happy trend couldn’t last forever of course and this season the league was significantly weakened by the withdrawal of Courier ‘A’. The team had been serious contenders for the title in the previous two seasons but, when the York League changed their fixture nights to Mondays this year, a couple of their players were forced to choose whether to play in Calderdale or York and naturally chose the league closest to their homes. Another player announced he was ‘retiring’ and suddenly only two Courier regulars remained. Courier’s loss has been Todmorden and Halifax’s gain however as the reigning champions, Todmorden ‘A’, picked up the services of Dave Patrick and Halifax ‘A’ have recently fielded John Morgan in their team.

Tod ‘A’ immediately looked like odds on favorites to retain their title. In fact such was the strength of their line-up that Patrick (a board 2 player for Courier last season) found himself slotting in on board 5 for their first match! Tod have taken full advantage of their new recruit and have started like a bullet from a gun as they collected 6 wins out of 6 to start the season. They were also able to maximise the benefit of the league rule in Calderdale which awards the home side the White pieces on all five boards.  Tod made the most of this by beating their perennial close rivals Halifax ‘A’, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ and Huddersfield all at home. Of course they now have to play all these teams away after Christmas!

Tod also boast two of the top three highest scoring individuals in the league to date. Dave Patrick has, unsurprisingly, achieved a one hundred per cent record so far though Martin Hamer has perhaps achieved a more significant feat by currently appearing in joint second place with 5/6 on board 1. He’s certainly got the best ‘Rating Performance’ in the League to date.

I don’t have any examples of Dave’s play this season but in the game viewer below you can see how well Martin has been playing. In the featured game he takes full advantage of some eccentric opening play to grind down Andy Bak with a fine technical display. This win was crucial in powering Tod to victory at home against Hebden Bridge ‘A’.

As the teams approach the turn Todmorden have six wins out of six and are top of the table with 12 points. Halifax ‘A’ are second with 10 points and the remaining teams trail by a further four points or more. It looks like a two horse race at the moment with Halifax needing to match Todmorden’s pace and also win their return match on the 15th of February to have any chance of regaining the title they won in 2013-14. However Tod have in the past shown some vulnerability in away fixtures and, as mentioned above, they will have to visit Halifax, Hebden Bridge and Huddersfield in the New Year.

League 2

For the second year running there are only six teams in League 2. Here though the race for the title and promotion is more competitive. Halifax ‘C’ top the table with four wins and 8 points. Hebden Bridge B and Todmorden C are level on 4 points each but have a match in hand against each other still to play. All of these three sides are still in with a great chance of winning League 2. The top scoring individual in this division is currently Vivienne Webster of Halifax ‘C’ who is on 4/4.

Calderdale Individual Championship 2015-16

This competition takes place over five rounds spread out across a four month period with all rounds played at the Trades Club in Hebden Bridge. Building on last year’s strong entry, there are thirty eight contestants this time around and seven of these are rated 160 or above. There are also three former winners in the field. It’s certainly the strongest and deepest line-up the competition has seen for many a long year.

The first two rounds have already taken place and the headline news is that the three-time defending champion, Matthew Parsons, is not taking part in this year’s contest. This gives the rest of the field a wonderful opportunity to get their name on the Timeform trophy. After the first two rounds there are seven players with a perfect score; Phil Cook (Todmorden), Greg Eagleton (Huddersfield), John Allan (Hebden Bridge), John Morgan (Halifax), Pete Leonard (Hebden Bridge), Peter Hughes (Courier) and Vivienne Webster (Halifax). Round 3 takes place on January the 11th and should feature some high quality battles between these leaders.

All in all, we’ve another exciting climax to the season to look forward to in Calderdale in 2016.


The editorial team at Yorkshire Chess compile a weekly column for The Yorkshire Post every Saturday, with the online version published on Sunday. If you have any feedback or suggestions for the column, please click on "Contact Us" at the top of the page.

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