SASCA A edge out Chesterfield to maintain 100% league record

SASCA A retained their 100% record in Division 1 after travelling to Chesterfield and winning by just 4.5-3.5. The match didn't feel particularly in danger, with the win assured relatively early on in proceedings.

On Board 1, Oscar drew with the black pieces against Dave Latham - the rook ending with equal pawns was always likely to end as a draw in a tight game. Peter Shaw on Board 2 continued an incredible run of form (having won twice in the 4NCL over the weekend, including a demolition of grandmaster Keith Arkell which raised some eyebrows) by taking charge of his game against Hubert Mossong and eventually converting to gain the full point. 

On board 3, Jonathan Arnott gained a small edge with the Black pieces against Mike Alcock and was able to neutralise White's pressure after he sacrificed a pawn for play. Board 4 saw a fine attacking game by Miles Edwards-Wright in the 3.Be3 line against the French Defence. The finish with R+B+N+4P v 2R was visually very impressive for Miles, who was in charge of the game throughout due to a huge lead in development.

Board 5 saw Tom Wills outplay his opponent in a tactical position, leaving him only to have to be careful when wining material not to allow his opponent's queenside passed pawns to run down the board. Again, this was a matter of technique to finish.

Steve Gibbs succumbed on Board 6, going an exchange for a pawn down in a game of opposite wing attacks. Whilst it appeared that he had adequate compensation on an open board, his opponent was able to eventually break through and swapped off into a winning endgame.

Paul Blackman on Board 7 lost a tight game which went down to a bishop-and-pawn endgame, whilst John Fryer also went down in a similar endgame on Board 8 having been a pawn down for most of the game.

Three matches now remain in the League: Nomads A, Nomads B and Nomads A. One match remains in the Cup: Nomads 1. Playing the same club four times in a row does rather seem like overkill, but both the League and the Cup will be determined by these matches.

Thrilling Richardson Cup Final (15th March)

The Richardson Cup final was probably one of the strongest matches that has been seen in the Sheffield leagues for years. On bottom board the matchup was between Daniel Sullivan (186) and Deji Jeje (182) - grades from last full grading list. A high quality match, thoroughly deserving of being called a Cup Final.

SASCA were already due to play Nomads in four of their last five games of the season (v Nomads 1 in the Cup, Nomads A twice in the League and Nomads B in the League) but after a 3-3 draw the Cup Final will now be replayed - making it an incredible five out of six (four against Nomads' first team).

Oskar Hackner(W) 0 - 1 Jonathan Nelson

A rare loss for Oskar; Jonathan Nelson sacrificed a pawn for an initiative in the Black side of a Sveshnikov and was able to convert to a win.

Peter Shaw 1 - 0 Paul Cumbers

Peter was able to develop a strong pawn centre and gradually advance to beat Paul Cumbers, also with the black pieces.

Yang Guo 0 - 1 Samuel Milson

Probably the most entertaining game of the evening. In a hugely sharp position, Yang planted a knight on d6 - which looked as though it could give him a considerable advantage, so long as it could be consolidated. An exchange sacrifice seemed to destroy his opponent's position, but once the exchange was given back the tables seemed to turn. White developed pressure on the kingside; Black had a racing a-pawn. It was the a-pawn which finally decided.

Jonathan Arnott 0.5 - 0.5 Chris Shephard

A closely-fought positional game with an open d-file. Jonathan got the better of things around the time control, but overextended slightly in trying to force the win. It led to an opposite-colour bishops position with queens on. Jonathan was able to win two pawns, but after the queens came off, he was unable to complete the win in the opposite-colour bishops endgame during the time scramble. Chris Shephard was well within his rights to claim the draw - despite just one second remaining on his clock.

Ryan Burgin 1 - 0 Jamie Hillman

Ryan had the White pieces in a Colle, where his opponent closed the position with ...c4. Ryan played g4!? to strike against his opponent's position. A king-and-pawn endgame was reached which his opponent might have been able to draw with best play, but a combination of an illegal move and a later inaccuracy allowed Ryan eventually to convert and gain the full point.

Deji Jeje 0.5 - 0.5 Daniel Sullivan

Deji defended stubbornly in a Stonewall Dutch, managing to hold to a draw in a slightly difficult endgame by creating an effective fortress.

SASCA and the top Nomads team will have to do battle again three more times before the season is out, unless the Cup replay is also drawn...

SASCA A beat Stannington in nail-biting match

On paper, the Stannington v SASCA A fixture looked like it should be an easy win for the away side - despite the absence of Ryan and Miles.  With SASCA having won every game this season convincingly and outgrading their opponents by 25 points a board on the top four, SASCA had a comfortable position out of the openings in most games.  Indeed, Pete Shaw wrapped up a quick win with a pretty finish - trapping his opponent's queen on its home square with Bc7, prompting an immediate resignation.

But Stannington quickly hit back; Deji missed a tactic in a strong position which instantly cost him the game, whilst boards 7 and 8 saw Paul Blackman and Nat Holroyd-Doveton lose within minutes of each other.  However, Oskar Hackner always looked like winning with the black pieces on top board.  His trademark French Defence proved solid against White's Universal System approach, with the White centre crumbling as Oskar also built a solid lead on the clock.

That brought the match to 3-2, and Steve Gibbs converted what was not quite as straightforward a position to level at 3-3.  Just Tom Wills (up a pawn in a knight-versus-bishop ending) and Jonathan Arnott remained.  Tom's position did not look easy to win.  Having more than equalised out of the opening, Jonathan pushed somewhat too hard in building a pawn centre and had to bail out into a rook-and-pawn ending a pawn down.  Jonathan should have had very good drawing chances, so a 4-4 draw was looking like a real possibility.

Tom's opponent failed to cope with pressure in the endgame, falling for a tactic to make his task much simpler and giving SASCA a 4-3 lead.  Jonathan activated his pieces as his opponent played passively; despite being down a pawn, Jonathan played much more actively and put White under a lot of pressure.  A pawn breakthrough on the kingside decided the game, leaving SASCA with a 5-3 win - and breathing a sigh of relief.  The closest game of the season by a long way.

SASCA 1 (8th Feb) reach Richardson Cup final

Both SASCA 1 and SASCA 2 were in action on Monday night, playing in the semi-finals of the Richardson Cup and the Plate respectively.  SASCA 2 actually faced the tougher task of the two, up against first diviion side Woodseats 1.  They acquitted themselves very well, with Paul Blackman doing well to cope with sustained pressure from Mark Allison on top board and able to achieve the draw.  John Fryer gave a good account against Nigel Carpino, but ultimately succumbed - as did Nat Holroyd-Doveton.  Ian Hemingway, Martin Lau and Miles Hemingway all secured draws, with the 4-2 scoreline perhaps a touch unflattering after a solid team performance.

SASCA 1 disposed of Clay Cross in a routine 6-0 win, with the top side remaining undefeated for the season in both league and cup.  They will face Nomads 1 in the final of the Cup, who edged out Ecclesall 1 by 3.5-2.5 in a somewhat closer semi-final.  Nomads are just one point behind SASCA in the league table, but the teams have not yet met.  The three fixtures between the two teams could determine who wins both League and Cup, although Ecclesall are just a single point further back in the League. 

Sheffield age group championships

Dozens of young chessplayers from across Sheffield descended on Birkdale school on Saturday for the Sheffield age group championships.  The overall quality of chess was high, and after a long hard-fought competition the winners were as follows:

Under-18: Byron Hemingway

Under-15: Miles Hemingway

Under-13: Sam Cobbold*

Under-11: Ashwin Krishna

Under-9: Adhita Krishna

* - following a playoff with Harveer Narula

Trophies were also awarded for 'best of their school', with other prizes for commendable performances and runners-up including medals and mounted plaques.  Some of the older competitors also took chess books which had been donated.  

This annual event is made possible by the hard work and dedication of Ian Hemingway and John Fryer, as well as the many parents who assisted in one way or another throughout the day.