The WCPL fixtures and results can be found here.

WELSH CHESS PREMIER LEAGUE 2016/17

Paul Hatchett May 2017

This year there were six entries in the most important team tournament in Wales, a reduction of one from the previous year. This was due to the apparent move of players from the defunct East Glamorgan Nomads to The Vale. The competition had been won for the last two seasons by Abergavenny with Cardigan in second position. Those two teams were likely to be favourites again although White Knights are always strong. The new strengthened Vale team looked impressive on paper. This left Nidum and Cardiff, the latter deciding to play juniors on the bottom boards.

With only five rounds of matches, it was decided that the first two would be on a home and away basis with the last three at a central venue. This seemed to work well with only one default game. The central venue allows the best players in the country to meet, chat and look at each other’s games. It does mean a lot of travel for a team like Cardigan though.

Round 1 – October 2016

So much for predictions! The top teams for the last two years both go down with the biggest surprise perhaps the demise of Abergavenny to The Vale despite the latter missing their top player, Tim Kett. In fact, it is fair to say that all the teams were missing some players when you looked at the people registered.

The Vale Abergavenny
2085 Nigel Ralphs 0 1 Charles Morris 2194
2069 Lee Davis 1 0 Lloyd Powell 2108
2065 Pete Heaven 0.5 0.5 Frank May 2094
2064 Ben Thomas 1 0 Douglas Spencer 2011
1992 Robert Taylor 0.5 0.5 Mark Adams 1965
2001 James Thomas 1 0 David Llewellyn 1942
4 2

(All grades are WCU which takes precedence in WCPL)

Abergavenny were without Sven Zeidler but still looked strong on grades. Charles won a pawn coming out of the opening and another going into the ending. Board 2 was decided by a blunder when the Abergavenny player appeared to be winning comfortably. This was probably the important moment as both the Thomas boys had good wins to put The Vale in a strong position.

Nidum Cardigan
2068 Robert Saunders 0.5 0.5 Howard Williams 2364
2071 Craig Evans 1 0 Iolo Jones 2226
2033 Andrew Gibbons 1 0 Rudy van Kemenade 2051
1961 Robert Moore 1 0 Tony Haigh 1913
1902 Chris Sims 0.5 0.5 Adam Watkin-Jones 1987
1888 Hywel Griffiths 0 1 Matthew Francis 1690
4 2

Board 1 was a complex but short draw. Rudy played too loosely and even giving up his queen failed to stop checkmate. Moore v Haigh was messy with the Swansea player coming through in the end. However, game of the whole round was probably the effort by Craig Evans against one of the hardest players in Wales to beat. Iolo is an excellent ending player so it is always a good idea to stop him getting there in the first place!

White Knights Cardiff
2099 Jason Garcia 0 1 Tom Brown 2161
2020 Peter Bevan 0 1 Paul Hatchett 2109
1996 Nicholas Evans 0.5 0.5 Derek Jones 2026
1952 Adam May 0.5 0.5 Shayanna Sivarajasingam 1824
1824 David Buttell 0.5 0.5 Venetia Sivarajasingam 1842
1807 Keith Downey 1 0 Default
2.5 4.5

It is fair to say that Cardiff travelled with little hope to Llanelli as, unfortunately, a last minute circumstance meant that it was not possible to get a full team. Walter Braun had left for England and the next top two highest graded players were not available. However, the mood lifted a little when the team from White Knights showed up at the Conservative Club with no Strugnell, Hewitt or Young. The quickly improving Sivarajasingam sisters would be included in all matches, when available. This provided valuable experience of playing in the top league in Wales. However, it was unknown how they would cope despite their obvious talent and tenacity.

Wins on the top boards may appear decisive but it was Shayanna’s amazing rescue of a terrible position which swung the day to the East Walians. It was clear already that the juniors were an asset, not a liability.

Round 2 – January 2017

Cardiff The Vale
2140 Alex Bullen 1 0 Tim Kett 2239
2137 Tom Brown 1 0 Nigel Ralphs 2130
2083 Joe Fathallah 0.5 0.5 Lee Davis 2074
2032 Derek Jones 1 0 Pete Heaven 2097
1744 Venetia Sivarajasingam 0 1 Ben Thomas 2027
1841 Shayanna Sivarajasingam 1 0 Robert Taylor 1944
4.5 1.5

Both teams were stronger for the second round after winning their first matches. Cardiff won convincingly on four of the boards with only Ben Thomas obtaining his second win as compensation. Alex Bullen’s played particularly well again using the Caro Kann very effectively.

It is worth noting perhaps that this Cardiff team was far younger on average compared with the usual WCPL fare. Perhaps, youth is the best policy.

Abergavenny Nidum
2246 Sven Zeidler 0.5 0.5 Robert Saunders 2076
2087 Frank May 0.5 0.5 Andrew Gibbons 2026
2000 Douglas Spencer 0.5 0.5 Craig Evans 2086
1974 Matthew Parry 0.5 0.5 Matthew Davies 2026
2003 John Waterfield 0.5 0.5 Gareth Yeo 1997
1959 Mark Adams 1 0 Chris Sims 1883
3.5 2.5

The other winning team from the first round came up against Abergavenny. Most of the games were very even although it is perhaps unusual for the wild Blackmar-Diemer to be drawn after 13 moves (Evans v Spencer). The other games showed more fight, especially on the top boards. The decisive game showed Chris Sims using a familiar bishop sacrifice on h3 in the Scandanavian. When things did not go as planned, he threw more wood on the fire. Sadly, this did not work and Abergavenny ran out narrow winners in the match as a result.

Cardigan White Knights
2342 Howard Williams 0 1 Carl Strugnell 2242
2219 Iolo Jones 1 0 Bill Hewitt 2145
2168 Gerry Heap 0 1 Alan Young 2105
2009 Rudy van Kemenade 0 1 Jason Garcia 2100
1960 Adam Watkin-Jones 0 1 Adam May 2006
1903 Tony Haigh 0.5 0.5 Peter Bevan 1986
1.5 4.5

Both Cardigan and White Knights came out with virtually their strongest possible teams and a close battle was expected. What happened was a very one sided encounter with only Iolo Jones and Tony Haigh scoring for Cardigan. On a personal level, I was sad to see an Alekhine Defence getting squashed on board 1. Board 3 ably demonstrated the power of the two bishops in a Scheveningen.

So, after two rounds only Cardiff had a 100% record with Cardigan yet to score. The other teams had one win each.

Round 3 – March 2017

All the teams got together in Pencoed with everything still to play for. Cardiff played bottom side Cardigan and were finally able to bring out the four top boards available with the two pre-selected juniors. The match was very close indeed:

Cardigan Cardiff
2342 Howard Williams 0.5 0.5 Grzegorz Toczek 2265
2219 Iolo Jones 0.5 0.5 Alex Bullen 2140
2168 Gerry Heap 0.5 0.5 Tom Brown 2137
2009 Rudy van Kemenade 0 1 Paul Hatchett 2110
1903 Tony Haigh 1 0 Venetia Sivarajasingam 1744
1768 Adam Robinson 0 1 Shayanna Sivarajasingam 1841
2.5 3.5

Howard came under tremendous pressure in an ending and was perhaps fortunate to draw. Rudy lost control of the one open file and that ultimately cost a pawn and the game. Shayanna won a piece very quickly and the game did not last long. As the rest of the Cardiff loyally ran for home, it was left to Alex Bullen to defend an ending a pawn down against the remorseless Iolo Jones. A draw was required to achieve the win. This was finally achieved when the difficult theoretical ending, King versus King was reached after 80 moves.

Nidum The Vale
2074 Adam Musson 1 0 Nigel Ralphs 2130
2076 Robert Saunders 0.5 0.5 Lee Davis 2074
2026 Andrew Gibbons 0.5 0.5 Pete Heaven 2097
1997 Gareth Yeo 0 1 Sam Jukes 18202
2026 Matthew Davies 1 0 Neil Stuart 1718
1923 Mark Evans 1 0 Stephen Bonutto 1636
4 2

A weakened Vale side were not strong enough for a consistent Nidum team, especially on the bottom two boards. Sam Jukes effort against a higher rated player underlined how much improvement he has made recently

White Knights Abergavenny
2242 Carl Strugnell 0 1 Charles Morris 2153
2145 Bill Hewitt 0.5 0.5 Frank May 2087
2105 Alan Young 1 0 Douglas Spencer 2000
2006 Adam May 0.5 0.5 Mark Adams 1959
2058 Nicholas Evans 0.5 0.5 John Waterfield 2003
1986 Peter Bevan 1 0 David Llewellyn 1923
3.5 2.5

A close heavyweight encounter gave victory to White Knights. They must have rued fielding a weakened team in round 1 where a win against Cardiff would have now given them a 100% record. As it is, Alan Young produced his second win in a row, again showing the power of a bishop in an ending. Peter Bevan won an exciting and complex game with his king running to the fifth rank chased by black’s queen and rook.

With two rounds left the table looked like this:

1 Cardiff 6pts

2 = Nidum and White Knights 4pts

4= Vale and Abergavenny 2pts

6 Cardigan 0 pts

With Cardiff due to play Abergavenny and Nidum whilst Nidum having to meet White Knights in Round 5, it was still an open race but it was almost certain that the title was in the hands of the top 3. The demise of Cardigan was difficult to explain.

Round 4 – April 2017

The day after April Fool’s day found the players meeting in Merthyr. Would Cardiff be able to continue the 100% record?

Cardiff Abergavenny
2140 Alex Bullen 1 0 Frank May 2087
2137 Tom Brown 1 0 Matthew Parry 1974
2110 Paul Hatchett 0.5 0.5 John Waterfield 2003
2083 Joe Fathallah 0.5 0.5 Richard Miles 1995
2081 David Roberts 0.5 0.5 David Llewellyn 1923
2032 Derek Jones 0.5 0.5 Chris Dixon 1810
4 2

No Charles Morris, Lloyd Powell or Sven Zeidler for the reigning champions probably was critical as the top two boards for Cardiff continued their excellent form. The juniors were not available and the substitutes were suitably solid in what turned out to be a comfortable victory.

White Knights Nidum
2145 Bill Hewitt 0.5 0.5 Adam Musson 2074
2105 Alan Young 0 1 Robert Saunders 2076
2100 Jason Garcia 0 1 Craig Evans 2086
2006 Adam May 0.5 0.5 Matthew Davies 2026
1986 Peter Bevan 0.5 0.5 Chris Sims 1883
1811 David Buttell 1 0 Hywel Griffiths 1874
2.5 3.5

This result left open a potentially exciting finale between Cardiff and Nidum. However, the match should really have gone the other way as Alan Young bravely sacrificed against Robert Saunders but, unfortunately, missed a mate in two.

Cardigan The Vale
2342 Howard Williams 0 1 Tim Kett 2239
2219 Iolo Jones 0.5 0.5 Nigel Ralphs 2130
2168 Gerry Heap 0.5 0.5 Lee Davis 2074
2009 Rudy van Kemenade 1 0 Pete Heaven 2097
1903 Tony Haigh 0 1 Sam Jukes 1802
1758 Martin Jones 1 0 Stephen Benutto 1636
3 3

It was honours even for two teams towards the bottom of the table. Howard tried the Berlin Defence against Tim but the latter kept it tight. A sort of Steinitz arose and when the many times Welsh Champion tried to break open the position, Tim took advantage and obtained a winning ending which he duly converted. Rudy took advantage of the white pieces, which he had in all five matches, to open his account. Under significant pressure, Pete Heaven could not stop his kingside attack.

Another advantage of playing all the matches together was shown when I had chance to reminisce about getting drunk with Cardigan’s board 6, and two others, some thirty years previously. The reason for the inebriation was Haverfordwest’s victory over Cardigan in the Mid Wales League!

Round 5 – May 2017

The finale of the season had some in-built potential excitement. If Nidum could beat Cardiff by at least 4 points to 2 then the title would go west. Anything less than this and Cardiff would win.

Nidum Cardiff
2074 Adam Musson 0 1 Grzegorz Toczek 2265
2076 Robert Saunders 0 1 Alex Bullen 2140
2026 Matthew Davies 0 1 Tom Brown 2137
1997 Craig Evans 0.5 0.5 Paul Hatchett 2110
2026 Alan Bennett 1 0 Derek Jones 2032
1923 Glyn Sinnett 0.5 0.5 Venetia Sivarajasingam 1744
2 4

It was probably crucial that Cardiff could put out the top four boards used in the season on the final day. A 3-0 result on the top half comfortably confirmed a clean sweep for the capital. Adam dropped a piece to a simple tactic early on board 1. Alex ground out a good technical win on the queenside whilst controlling Robert’s activity on the other wing. I won a pawn but after some poor form in the Welsh Championship and 4NCL, I quickly offered a draw with one eye on the match score. Craig waited until Glyn took a draw a pawn up against Venetia before accepting that the title was out of reach.

This left the captain to show his attacking skills smashing through on the kingside after sacrificing more than one pawn.

The Vale White Knights
2239 Tim Kett 0 1 Carl Strugnell 2242
2130 Nigel Ralphs 1 0 Alan Young 2105
2074 Lee Davis 0.5 0.5 Jason Garcia 2100
2097 Pete Heaven 0.5 0.5 Adam May 2006
1802 Sam Jukes 0 1 Peter Bevan 1986
1636 Stephen Bonutto 0 1 David Buttell 1811
2 4

White Knights leapfrogged Nidum on game points after a good win against The Vale. Carl won an exciting game against Tim to follow on from his IM norm in Ireland. The match result should probably been more one-sided but the board two result swung around completely due to time trouble.

Abergavenny Cardigan
2087 Frank May 0.5 0.5 Howard Williams 2342
2153 Charles Morris 0.5 0.5 Iolo Jones 2219
2003 John Waterfield 0.5 0.5 Rudy van Kemenade 2009
1923 David Llewellyn 0.5 0.5 Adam Watkin-Jones 1960
1959 Mark Adams 0.5 0.5 Tony Haigh 1903
1810 Chris Dixon 0.5 0.5 Julie van Kemenade 1743
3 3

All I shall say is that games were, in some cases, more exciting than the bare match score shows!

Final Table

Team P W D L M GP
Cardiff 5 5 0 0 10 19.5
White Knights 5 3 0 2 6 17
Nidum 5 3 0 2 6 16
Abergavenny 5 1 1 3 3 13
The Vale 5 1 1 3 3 12.5
Cardigan 5 0 2 3 2 12

The final table seems to show that Cardiff dominated the season and were not really in trouble after perhaps getting away with defaulting against White Knights on the first day. The Sivarajasingam sisters performed well and the top four boards did not lose a game. Alex Bullen (3.5/4) and Tom Brown (4.5/5) were outstanding.

All the games are available to download on the WCU website in the games section.

Thanks should be given to Kevin for his organisation and all that helped set up and act as arbiters in the league this year.