April 2016

Thu 7th: Opening Disaster
Mon 11th: The Story So Far (V)

Thu 7th: Opening Disaster
We've all had them - games that start badly, and then get worse. Spectators love them, taking a ghoulish pleasure in watching the unequal struggle develop. The knight c7+ fork and the greek bishop are two common themes. However this game from this year's mini-congress features many player's favourite - the f7 sac, with Alex Cartlidge in the driving seat. (for an f7 sac that didn't work see
Jan 27 2016)

1 e4 e5
2 Nf3 Nc6
3 Bc4 Nf6 When playing the black side of this RR tends to play Bc5 in the belief he'll get castled before white can set up a useful sac on f7.
4 Ng5 d5
5 exd5 Nxd5?? Normal is Na5
Alex Cartlidge v A Victim after 5 ... Nxd5

Aggressive players will go straight or the sac; Alex kindly plays another move first: 6 d4
Protecting the knight, pressurising the centre, and allowing the bishop into the game, but it does allow black to negate the threat against f7 with Be6 or possibly Nxd4 (momentarily covering the important f3 square). For example
6 ... Be6, 7 Nxe6 fxe6 is playable, particularly if white now takes the e5 pawn, whilst
6 ... Nxd4, 7 c3 f6, 8 cxd4 fxg5, 9 dxe5 Bb4+, Nd2 c6 though not good is better than what transpired.

6 ... Be7
7 Nxf7 Kxf7
8 Qf3+ Bf6 Black is reluctant to advance his king, but one can't help feeling that Ke6 with intent to try to hold the material plus is his best chance.

9 Bxd5+ Be6
10 Bxe6+ Kxe6
11 dxe5 Bxe5
12 0-0 Rf8 with vague hope that white will help himself to the h-pawn and allow black to get in Rh7 and Bxh3. Optimistic, but as the saying goes even a poor plan is better than none. My style would be Qd5, defending the bishop and hoping that if an exchange of queens comes I can survive the endgame.

Alex Cartlidge v A Victim after 14 ... Na5

13 Qb3+ Kf6 blocking with the queen is surely better.
14 c3 Na5 (Diagram right)This knight on the rim is assuredly dim - white had shown he has no intention of grabbing the b-pawn, which would only serve to slow his attack. From here it is merely a matter of time.

15 Qa4 c6, 16 Qh4+ Kf7, 17 Qh5+ Ke6
18 Qg4+ Kf7, 19 b4 Kg8, 20 Qe6+ 1-0

Black's play after the f7 sac may not have been best, nor perhaps was white's, but it is difficult to be too critical as at the table with the position open the need to consider many possibilities, and the wish to came up with some idea with counterplay possibilities, no matter how scant, leaves black with a nigh on impossible task.
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Mon 11th: The Story So Far (V)
Division 1
H Chapel A 5 3 1 1 7
Cheddleton A 5 2 2 1 6
Newcastle A 5 2 0 3 4
Stafford A 5 1 1 3 3
Division 3
Cheddleton D 12 6 4 2 16
Crewe B 12 5 5 2 15
Cheddleton E 12 6 2 4 14
Meir A 12 5 3 4 13
Alsager A 13 5 2 6 12
Kidsgrove 14 5 2 7 12
Stafford B 12 3 5 4 11
Newcastle D 13 3 1 9 7
Division 5
Cheddleton G 13 6 6 1 18
Meir D 11 5 5 1 15
Fenton D 9 7 1 1 15
Cheddleton H 13 3 5 5 11
Meir C 12 3 5 4 11
Newcastle F 12 3 4 5 10
Crewe D 11 2 2 7 6
Cheddleton I 9 0 4 5 4
Division 2
Newcastle C 12 6 4 2 16
Macclesfield 13 4 5 4 13
Cheddleton C 12 5 3 4 13
Cheddleton B 12 5 2 5 12
Newcastle B 13 5 2 6 12
Crewe A 13 5 2 6 12
H Chapel Rooks 10 4 2 4 10
Fenton A 11 3 2 6 8
Division 4
Alsager B 11 7 2 2 16
Fenton B 11 6 2 3 14
Crewe C 11 6 1 4 13
Meir B 11 5 2 4 12
Cheddleton F 11 5 1 5 11
Newcastle E 12 3 3 6 9
Fenton C 11 1 1 9 3

Time for another look at the season's progress, even if there is a shortage of new things to say in some directions.

Division one is a case of showdown delayed, as the matches due in March were both postponed. Consequently no further progress here.

In the second it is still a case of no team taking a stranglehold with a run of victories, but with games running out the chances of Newcastle C being left stranded at the top are increasing. All those 13 and 12 point holdings reflect the closeness of competition, and indeed it is now 7th place Holmes Chapel Rooks who can now boast the second highest maximum possible haul, while bottom placed Fenton can still reach 50%. Moorland illness has caused the postponement of the leader's visit to Cheddleton C, so the earliest the title could be decided is on the 21st when Rooks entertain the leaders when a win for the visitors would be decisive, but the at least as likely any other result would not. Other placings are considerably less clear cut.

Four teams are still in the hunt for the division three title for which the champions will need at least 17 points since Crewe B and Cheddleton E remaining two games are both against each other with their original early October meeting finally getting a May date. Cheddleton D are the team with their destiny in their own hands (just), while Meir A need to win both their remaining games, hope that the leaders falter against Alsager A, , that Cheddleton E and Crewe B have a suitably even share of points in their encounters, and that the stars are correctly aligned to give them a superior tie break. No problem. At the other end extensive incompetence has allowed Newcastle D to lay claim to the wooden spoon. I blame the captain.

The division four teams have made a habit of playing most of their matches on the scheduled nights, so the competition is on course to finish this week. Alsager B will be champions unless they lose and Fenton B win, in which case Fenton will sneak the title on a superior tie-break. As Alsager's match should be played tonight at Meir, the dust could have settled by the time you read this. At the wrong end of the table Fenton C have indeed claimed the bottom place with Newcastle E a place higher, though there are still several possibilities for the order of the remaining places for which tie-breaks do not apply.

A backlog of fixtures for both Fenton D and Cheddleton I somewhat obscures the true position in division five, but I can't help feeling that Fenton's games in hand will prove more important than Cheddleton G's points on the board. Meir D may yet surprise both, though I suspect not. Whether Cheddleton I's games in hand will prove more important than Crewe D's points on the board in the race to avoid last place is more debatable, and whilst it is possible for both teams to glean enough points to push some other side into the unwanted slot, it would take a very considerable turn in their fortunes to do so.

The participants in the Open cup final have also been determined, with Stafford to visit Holmes Chapel. If both sides are at full strength this will be a substantial clash. However my money is on Holmes Chapel as I suspect that their opponents may struggle to field a team that approximates to their best.

The final acts will be played out over the next few weeks, revealing the inaccuracy in the various predictions I have made.
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