Incredibly, against all the odds, Tynemouth A team have won Division 1 of the Northumberland Chess League and are League Champions for 2019/20.
Congratulations, also, to Dennis White and his Tynemouth D team, who won Division 3.
The A team squad who won the league title were:- John Clarke (captain), David Henderson, Paul Dargan, Clive Waters, Gary Cornwall and Darren Laws, with Steve Burnell and Paul Edwards each playing (and winning) one game. On paper, we were by no means the strongest side in the division – the Northumberland League is formidably strong, with many players graded over 200, whereas our top board, David, was graded “only” 182. But, as the Northumberland website puts it, we “Leicester City’d “ it.
If we were Leicester City, then undoubtedly the Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez of the team were Paul and Clive, who, between them, scored 9.5 points from 10 games. Paul, in particular, made a habit of finding ways to win from positions that ranged from dead drawn to totally lost. Our record for the season was 7 wins and 2 draws from 9 matches.
Our nearest challengers were Gosforth Empire, who we played in match no.7 in an incredibly tense encounter at The Hunting Lodge. After the first three games to finish were all drawn, Darren went down to his only defeat of the season, but Clive stepped up to the plate, winning an excellent game against Gosforth’s Andy Lawson to give us a drawn match. That left us a point clear of Gosforth, with both sides having two more matches to play. Gosforth, though, had a superior game points total, so they would beat us to the title if we finished level on match points.
In round 8, Gosforth kept up the pressure by beating Durham 3-2, but we kept our noses in front by winning a crazy match at Leam Lane by 3.5-1.5. Then, in the final round, Gosforth beat Leam Lane 3- 2, meaning we had to win our last match, against Jesmond, to clinch the title. This match was another horribly tense affair.
It started well, with Gary winning very smoothly against former county champion John Turnock, but then David and myself were both beaten, leaving us 1-2 down and in grave peril. It didn’t look good for us – Clive appeared to have a very bad position, while Paul’s game looked level at best. But then Clive’s opponent inexplicably blundered, gifting him the win and squaring the match. This left Paul needing to win in a time scramble in a very drawish looking Rook and pawn ending against Jesmond’s Chris Izod. Amid scenes of almost unbearable tension, Paul held his nerve and, yet again, somehow found a way to squeeze out a win to give us the match and the League title.
I described our penultimate match, against Leam Lane, as “crazy”, and the events in that match certainly typified the sort of season that we had. Darren reached an endgame against Leam Lane’s Kyrill Gara in which he had only a King and Bishop, against Kyrill’s King, Knight and two pawns, so, clearly, a hopelessly lost position. At one point, Darren must have come within a millisecond of losing on time. But then, for some reason, his opponent suddenly became gripped by indecision, and, eventually, he overstepped the time limit. So a draw? No; Leam Lane’s David Walker demonstrated how it is theoretically possible to mate with King and Bishop against King and Knight, so a win for Darren. My own game, here , was every bit as ridiculous.
If either Darren or I had lost, as we both should have done, then the match would have been drawn and Tynemouth A would not have won the League title.