A year and a half and more without being able to welcome a team to Northenden Chess Club.
A year and a half and more of online adventures that promised so much but could not hope to replace face to face play.
A year and a half and more of waiting and hoping to get back to the magic we knew before.
And yes! It is a kind of magic. The focus and concentration of 2 teams of players studying their individual games in an almost reverential silence heavy with careful thought and calculation as time runs inexorably down. Interested spectators absorbed and caught up by the positions and intricacies of each and every game. It's a kind of magic and the queen still remains the strongest piece.
It was at 7pm on Monday 27th September 2021 that we opened our doors and welcomed in our friends from East Cheshire Chess Club. The weather all day had been wet and windy, a bad, chaotic day, but the evening brought a calm to Manchester and inside Northenden Chess Club the gathering of the two clubs heralded the first OTB team match at NCC for a year and a half and more, and here the sun was shining.
This would not have happened but for the efforts of myself and Steve McCall and I am grateful to him for helping to organize the event. It went off without a hitch. Cheers Steve.
We said it would be a friendly match between 2 teams of 6 players with a time control of 60 mins with a 10 sec increment from move 1. Notation optional. NCC won the toss. NCC white on odds.
Everyone is in place for 7.30 and pleasantries are exchanged, introductions made and battle commences.
Chatter stops, silence descends and silence remains.
On board 1 we had Jamie T v Steve Tr.
On board 2 we had Steve Tu v Steve Ta.
On board 3 we had Tom D v Nick F.
On board 4 we had Neil O. v Steve Mc.
On board 5 we had Liam L v Chris B.
On board 6 we had Eddie H v Muhammad N.
The match starts smoothly, with one or two trying to remember how the clocks work. It has been a long time! Most notate, others choose not to. It is a friendly.
Side games are going on as well, new people have appeared at the club and there are games aplenty. The atmosphere is excellent! The location too. Here a massive thank you to Northenden Social Club, the home of NCC. It really is a great venue.
For the first few minutes or a bit longer there is calm. For a few minutes more all is tranquil. Then a result. Out of the blue.
We have all had problems now and again coming safely out of the opening. For Tom it is his lucky day but he wastes no time in playing another game with Nick. The second one really is tough!
Neil and Steve Mc are deep in concentration on board 4, hunched over the board, closer and closer to becoming one with their pieces. This game is going to be very even.
On board one also, the concentration and focus are of the highest order, as is the play, two titans of the game locking horns in an arm wrestle of opposing wills. Jamie and Steve Tr., both determined to give no quarter.
Around the players eager spectators look on appreciatively. Big thanks to Khalid, Des, Alex, Jim, Ayoub, Sergio, Harry and Vijay for lending the event such great support.
For a friendly match there are some excellent tussles all over the room.
Just as the game on board 1 is akin to an arm wrestle so it is on board 2 until, after a see-saw of fortunes, Steve Tu. manages to come through against Steve Ta. A good contest!
Meanwhile Neil is holding his own against Steve Mc in a tricky endgame with Rook, Knight and equal pawns.
Eddie on board 6 with doubled rooks is looking for a way to get to Muhammad's weak pawn. Only one is weak and Eddie has it in his sights.
Liam has a game that is cut and thrust on board 3 against Chris. It is like a pirate movie! Then Liam wins a rook with careful, calculated play
The game on board 4 is on a knife's edge as the last rooks are swapped off. Knight and 5 pawns versus the same.
On board 1 we are still in the middle game, a real tug of war is going on. A fascinating game!
Liam on 5 is now a piece up and looking for the win.
Eddie on 6 is now up a pawn but there is everything to play for. In his favour is the clock. 36 minutes remaining to him aginst Muhammad's 5.
On board 4 we are down to a pawn endgame. This for me is a fitting cocnlusion in this friendly match between 2 friendly clubs.
Then Eddie wins and Liam is a piece up going into a testing endgame!
And the game on board 1 is the mustard! and I mean English! It burns and just a little at a time. This is one really hard fought battle and time is ticking down fast!
Neil and Steve Mc have it 2 pawns v 2 pawns. It's crazy and something we all love, the race to queen first! While Liam's pressure and patience win the day on board 5.
On board one the heavyweights are still closely locked and probing with pawns to the fore, no rooks, 6 pawns each, queen, bishop and knight. Still in the middle game and time is quicky running out. A few more moves and then Jamie's queen surges forward and the black queen retreats. A frenetic next few moves. Everyone is watching.
We cannot take our eyes off the game. Then time runs out for white. So close to a win. What a great game! Even moments after the end both players are analyzing the last few moves to see all the possibilities. Great camaraderie!
The match is over. The result not so important. The event very important and there were chocolates!
After the match Eddie and Steve Ta. were kind enough to share their thoughts with me.
Eddie mentioned a mixture of how good it was getting back over the board and giving us a taste of what is coming next. He said he hopes that everyone is going to keep going.
Steve said it felt quite emotional to come in and be welcomed and remember what it was like, that the silence and the adrenalin were far more than online. He said it was so good to be playing like-minded people.
This is an event that we will repeat many more times. We are open to offers. A massive thanks to East Cheshire Chess Club for making it all possible. We look forward to playing you again soon.
Long live OTB Chess!