The Armies Move South
Well that is what is seemed for the two main forces in the Northern Counties Chess Union. Lancashire were represented in 3 finals, Yorkshire had gone one better and had 4 teams in the finals. Not to be outdone, Lancashire would make the trip back up north the happier!
The Open Section
A repeat of last year’s final. Lancashire v Yorkshire. After last year’s board count win, Yorkshire were determined to go one better this year around. Yorkshire on paper had the stronger team out, with strong players throughout the 16 boards. Lancashire were a little stronger on the top boards and a tough battle commenced!
In the end, another very close win.
It always looked very tight: Yorkshire won the first game but Lancashire fought back to go two up; it then swung Yorkshire’s way again, going one up all the way to lead 8-7 before Lancashire won the last game to take the match on board count yet again.
With such a close match, every single game was crucial. But two games particularly caught the attention, both of them rook endings in the later stages of the match.
Firstly, Nick Ivell defended a long rook ending one or two pawns down and salvaged a draw when several times his situation looked hopeless. His detailed theoretical knowledge of such endings was evident in the post mortem, and his draw effectively kept us in the match.
In the last game to finish, Martin Mitchell converted a rook ending with him being a pawn up, with the outcome of the game in the balance until very close to the end; ultimately, Martin was going to be able to promote his one remaining pawn on the a-file because his opponent’s King was too far away to help prevent it.
The Under 160’s
Once again, a repeat of last year’s final. Another Battle of the Roses. Last year there was disappointment for Lancashire. This year, could they turn it around? Yorkshire put out another strong team, the average grade was 154, which is very strong in a 16 board match. Lancashire also had a good strong team out, with an average grade of 148.
An excellent game from Bill. Would it turn out to be Lancashire’s day?
Well Bill’s win was one of an amazing sequence. Yorkshire were leading 4.5 – 3.5, and then suddenly the wins starting coming in for Lancashire.
With Bill’s win and others coming in alongside, the match was not 7.5 – 4.5 to Lancashire, one more win needed to be safe.
My game was a tense match, but my opponent erred to let me win a pawn and in a difficult position with rooks on the open file his king went onto the wrong square and falling for a Knight fork. My opponent played on, in the hope that he Knight would be tapped before accepting the inenvitable. A win for Lancashire and the U160 trophy.
From 3.5 – 4.5 down, Lancashire won 11-5, an amazing finishing sequence. Event the one drawn game in that sequence was a great finish. The starting position I am not 100% certain of, but it went something like this. Alas the Lancashire player missed Ka3 winning on the spot, after Kb5 stalemate is forced after Rb4+, the rook must be taken otherwise White wins.
In the U100’s, Lancashire were up against a strong Leicestershire. Leicestershire grading average of 97 versus Lancashire’s average of 88. Having started brightly, Leicestershire ground out the wins needed and ran out winners 7-5, in a match where all 12 boards were decisive. No GM draws in this section!
Overall, 2 out of 3 was a good return. It would have been nice to have come back with 3 out of 3.
Next season, it is the 100th season. Plenty of incentive for Lancashire to go for it again.
Open Photo’s (C) Chris Lamming