Manchester League A Division Preview

Apoligies for the lack of posts but I went on holiday for a fortnight but now I am back and eagerly anticipating the Manchester League A division were I will be captaining Denton 1 in the quest to stay up after last seasons near debacle. We have however started off with a 7-0 win albeit a default in the Reyner Shield. I am now going to do a club by club review.

Bolton

Last Season: 5th W4 D2 L3 F32.5 A30.5 +2 10pts

Bolton are tradtional title contenders and as stated on their website, are the only club to have won the Reyner Shield in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. They have produced several strong players such as GM Nigel Short who played Kasparov for the World Championship in 1993, GM David Norwood, IM Jeff Horner who still plays for them and they also have up and coming star Joseph Mcphillips, who is already over 210 ECF and is trying to get an IM norm. Bolton also are aiming for the future it seems with a strong focus on juniors, helped by having the junior co-ordinator of Greater Manchester chess, Julian Clissold. The club last year however endured some difficult results, not helped by losing Mike Surtees who is a strong 200 level player famous for playing revolutionary openings and his many battles with Ali in weekenders. The club endured a rather tame defence to their Reyner, losing to 3C’s 2. Also a strong team was destroyed 5.5-1.5 against eventual winners 3C’s 1 and they also failed to beat 3C’s 2 and Denton in the league while losing games vs Heywood and Stockport. However at the end of the day Bolton have several strong players as well as the 2 mentioned earlier,others include Harry Lamb who has been over 200 and is still 184 and more than capable of beating a 200+ on his day, also the captain John Hall who is 182, and several 160’s and 170’s so that there is plenty of strength in depth. Bolton certainly cannot be written off but the strengthening of the league I think is going to result in more mid table mediocrity.

Chorlton

Last Season: 7th W3 D0 L6 F32 A31 +1 6pts

Chorlton along with 3C’s have a vast quantity of players to choose fromm and both club’s have 6 teams, however the top 2 teams struggled last year with the 2nds winning the wooden spoon and the 1sts only managing 6 points and were probably relieved to see the end of the season. Chorltons main problem appears to be the fact that they are the only club that doesn’t have a 200+ level player on board 1 (although Hope can play that level) and the team is mainly 150’s 160’s and 170’s which means that they have a lot of strength in depth and win a lot of games on the bottom boards, but when they come up against teams that have 200+ at the top and players Chorlton’s level at the bottom they are going to come unstuck. However there was positives as well, they were unlucky to lose 4-3 to a strong Bolton 1 side, but losing 4-3 to Great Lever must have been concerning. If Chorlton are to survive this league they are going to need to win the ‘derby’ vs Denton and need the top players such as Hope Mkhumba, Daniel Lee, Samuel Hernandez and co to be on fire because at the bottom end Chorlton are as strong as anyone and a few injuries and suspensions doesn’t hamper them badly unlike most other teams. I would be very surprised if a club the size of Chorlton would go down but as we saw with Newcastle you are never too big to go down! I think they’re strength in depth could just do it though.

Denton

Last Season: 8th W1 D2 L6 F25.5 A37.5  -12 4pts

We have arrived at the greatest club 😉 Last season was an interesting one with a lot of changes, the season before (just before I joined) the club had a very promising team that reached the Reyner and was flying high in the league but a lot of transition has happened since which has led to the exits of Dave Toole and Paul Cawley and Anthony Entwistle having a break, but the arrival of some strong foreign players from Manchester University. 1 of them Jose Pablo Lopez has been on fire since and has wiped out several higher rated players including a 203 and the other is yet to play but looks very strong, and of course there is always 204 rated Ali Jaunooby who I am sure needs no introduction! They were the only team not to lose to 3C’s 1 in all competitions and also drew with Bolton 1 and beat 3C’s 2 and them points proved enough to keep the team up despite an alarming nosedive which started off with a series of narrow and unlucky 4-3 defeats but culminated in a 6-1 drubbing to Chorlton and a 6.5-0.5 to Great Lever which are 2 clubs Denton need to be beating if they want to stay up. (I won’t be biased and say we!) Denton’s strongest 7 can give the likes of 3C’s good games on their day but of course there is a lack of strength in depth which of course is looking to be rectified. My prediction is that Denton can survive providing the captain can get the best 7 out in the critical games and take the odd point off the big guns like last year.

Great Lever

Last Season: 6th W4 D1 L4 F32 A31 +1 9pts

Great Lever managed to finish in a mid table finish, certainly boosted  by the transfer of Mike Surtees across the town! This is impressive given that it is a small club with only 1 team but the starting 7 is impressive, it contains some very active players: You can find Mike Surtees, Peter Mulleady and Mick Connor at a lot of events, and also contains over strong players such as the open county captain Jon Lonsdale. However if a player is missing, the replacements are only 120’s and 130’s and while being good solid players, you need players of at least 150 strength in my opinion in the A division especially this year were it is probably as strong as it has ever been and this could lead to Great Lever’s downfall. Last year they managed to beat Chorlton 1, draw with Heywood 1 and gave Denton 1 and Chorlton 2 thrashings. The Great Lever vs Denton 1 game is looking like a must win game for both clubs and much will depend on whether the captains can get their desired 7 out that night or not. Who knows as well maybe the club have brought in another 200 😉 So my prediction is if Great Lever get their strongest team out (which sees congress veteran Mick Connor on bottom board) vs the teams around them, they have every chance of beating the drop.

Heywood

Last Season: 4th W5 D1 L3 F31 A32 -1 11pts

Heywood have been a threat for a long time now, boasting numerous talented players, such as the Rabbite brothers, Marek Mazek, Martyn Hamer and the addition of the Talbot brothers who are all in the 175-200 range.They even occasionally acquire the service of GM Keith Arkell! The problem seems to be sometimes getting players out, for example vs Bolton they had a strong team and won but in other games there was several players missing, for example vs Denton. Usually the captain Bill O’rouke plays on 7 if the team is strong but he was playing 5 in some games, and the team suffered an embarrassing 6.5-0.5 drubbing to 3C’s 2 in the last game of the season which allowed 3C’s to overtake them. However even a strong team lost 5-2 to Stockport 1 and the team also failed to beat Great Lever and were beaten convicingly by 3C’s 1 5-2. However it was towards the end of the season that the Talbot brothers arrived so if they play most of the games, I can see Heywood being up there. The team having a negative points difference must be a concern though and displays the importance of getting strong teams out consistently, but it seems to me that Heywood have added strength in depth this season, so another top 4 finish at least. (Shame there is no champions league!)

Marple

Last Season: 2nd (Promoted From B) W8 D0 L1 F39.5 A23.5 +16 16pts

Marple decided to enter a team in the Manchester league last year for the first time since dinosaurs roamed the earth and were put in B after much debating (incorrectly in my opinion but that’s beyond the scope of this article) and as expected they got promoted easily albeit with a loss to Urmston’s ‘dream team’ Now Marple are expected to challenge for the A division instantly but the problem is that whilst still being a very strong team, they don’t have Alan Walton, John Bentley or Keith Arkell in this league and they’re star player IM Daniel Fernandez is likely to be hunting for GM norms around the world  while the cold dark struggles in winter for league points are ongoing. However with FM Alex Longson and his partner WFM and British Womens Champion Sarah Hegarty and Daniels younger brother Michael still around, Marple will be up there and almost certainly in the top  3. There is plenty of strength in depth as well with strong 160-170 level players such as Glenn Trueman and Sean Hewitt. Everytime I have played vs Marple as a Denton player we have been convincingly pasted! Also the club runs several FIDE rated blitz events which don’t even cost a £ to enter so I recommend checking them out.

Stockport

Last Season: 2nd W8 D0 L1 F40 A23 +17 16pts

Stockport had a very impressive season last year, winning every game including beating the likes of Bolton and Heywood to set up a showdown with 3C’s 1 needing only a draw to win the league. However they were  heartbreakingly beaten 4-3 in what must have been a very tense game! And to be honest it isn’t surprising when the club has several strong players such as Andy Reeve and Alan Smith and can field a team of all 170-200 players which can beat any team. However this feat will be tougher to replace because Bolton 2 and Chorlton 2 have been replaced by Urmston and Marple who are probably as strong if not stronger than Stockport. Stockport were helped last year with the arrival of 4 players who  were all above 170 ECF, Paul Cawley and Dave Toole arrived from Denton and Ray English and Phil Sidall returned to chess who were ungraded but came out at 179 and 180 respectively. The ingredients are all there for Stockport to have another succsessful season, especially if David Hulmes returns who was about 210!

3C’s 1

Last season: 1st W8 D1 L0 F43.5 A19.5 +24 17pts

3C’s 1 won the double last year in impressive style, apart from a draw with Denton, the team won every other game in all competitions and this was mainly helped by a bunch of very talented juniors. This includes Andy Horton who won the Bramley Harker and is 209 ECF now (!), his brother Jamie and Daniel Abbas. The adult players are all very strong, Alan Walton who is a CM + various other players who sometimes play and this even include GM Stephen Gordon and his partner IM Sophie Milliet. The strength of this team is frightening and 4 games were won by a 5-2 margin. The consistency of the team certainly played a part and the final of the Reyner was actually 3C’s 1 vs 3C’s 2! Which the 1st team won 6-1 to clinch the double. 3C’s have traditionally had some very strong juniors and are the only club to have kept 2 teams in the top flight. 3C’s 1 are still the team to beat but the strengthening of the league this season will mean all tough games and more threats to their title, but it will take a strong team to stop them winning another double, who will stop them?

3C’s 2

Last Season: 3rd W5 D1 L3 F36.5 A26.5 +10 11pts

3C’s 2 were last seasons surprise package, despite being newly promoted they thrashed Heywood 1 6.5-0.5 drew with Bolton 1 and beat Chorlton 1 in both league and cup as well as Bolton 1 in the cup to reach the final only to lose to their 1st team. It could have been even better in the league: they were missing several players vs Denton and had to play their 1st team so they didn’t have the Horton brothers available. The ‘Didsbury gang’ of Hortons and Daniel Abbas won several games for this team as well despite having to play higher up and this very young team managed to get 3rd ahead of Heywood on points difference (that thrashing probably helped a bit!) However of course with the strengthening and the fact that even with a lot of tweaking, Andy Horton is almost certainly not going to make the 2nd team it may be a case of ‘second season syndrome’ but of course all the time at 3C’s the juniors are improving and someone else is coming through: I bet you hadn’t heard of Jason Lau this time last year 😉 So another 130-140 player could easily end up nearly 180 as a result! 3c’s 2 will be safe but finishing 3rd again will be very hard to achieve, but we will see!

Urmston

Last Season: 1st (Promoted From B) W9 D0 L0 F50 A13 +37 18pts

Urmston after a shock relegation in 2011/12, managed to win the B Division with a perfect record and only 13 points dropped all season, just like Denton in 10/11 😉 The captain John ‘chilli’ Reyes and chief banter artist has managed to create a ‘dream team’ which even managed to beat Marple as well as destroying the rest of the B division and won the Waltuch as well. He acquired the services of FM  Adam Ashton as well as Damian McCarthy and his friend Steven Jones who plays when home from Uni. Also he (like Denton) is getting players in from the University who don’t have a team anymore and he has already brought in Tong Qiu who is 2289 FIDE. Urmston like Marple are not going in this league just to try and survive, they want the title! However they sometimes struggle to get all of the dream team out so I don’t think they are strong enough to overturn 3C’s yet. If the dream team does get out though in every match then quite a few strong teams are going to get a pasting off Urmston!

Well that’s all for now folks, but I will be giving detailed reports of the Denton 1 games and brief reports on notable results elsewhere, so stay tuned! There is a lot to play for with every team being able to boast strong players and there will be many beautiful games played and who knows someone might make a name for themself! From 3C’s juniors to Denton’s University contingent to Urmston’s dream team it is going to be one hell of a season and I can’t wait for it to start!

 

 

 

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