EPSCA Inter-Association Championships

Under 9s limp into Finals

The Essex under 9 team, normally one of the leading sides in EPSCA competitions, found the going very tough during the South-East England zone of the Championships, finishing in a lowly 7th place from 8 teams, but, thanks to a rule change, miraculously qualifying for the Finals which take place in Potters Bar on 5th April.

The event, organised by the Richmond Junior Chess Club and held at Sutton Grammar School, got off to a chaotic start as, with all the competitors at the boards and waiting for the off, someone noticed that the team representing NW London had not arrived. A quick phone call to their supposed Manager confirmed that they didn't intend to and that somewhere a message had not been passed on, so all the competitors were sent back to their team rooms while the paperwork for a 9-team jamboree which the organisers had carefully prepared was thrown in the bin and a hasty 8-team jamboree was prepared "on the fly".

Under the old rules, Essex would have been eliminated. A 9-team event would command just four qualifying places. However, Hertfordshire, as hosts, automatically gain a place in the Finals and this year, a rule change bestowed two extra places on the SE zone as last year's Champions and Runner-up, Wey Valley (Surrey) and Richmond were present. Last year's competition was marred rather when Barnet and Hertfordshire associations, fed up year after year with preparing perfectly decent teams only to see them eliminated by the "big 3" of Essex, Wey Valley and Richmond, went to a different qualifying event, leaving just six teams in the SE zone. With NW London not appearing, the two extra qualifying places this year ensured that Saturday's business was purely to eliminate the unfortunate Bedfordshire, whose team finished just two points behind Essex.

When play did begin some 30 minutes later than scheduled, it was clear that the Essex team was going to struggle. Some of the players on the lower boards were facing impossible tasks as a lack of experience became apparent and their pieces began to disappear. However, some promising positions higher up gave some reasons for optimism. Tom Huband, on board 1, played well and when the endgame arrived had a more active king. However, a slip-up here left Tom's opponent in charge. Chris Miall, on board 2, had a fluctuating game and, with R, B, N & 6P v 2R & 4, should have finished his opponent off with the relatively simple plan of pushing the a-pawn. However, it became more complicated and eventually, after having been in a lost position for some time and the prospect of losing on time looming ever closer, Chris gratefully removed black's rook and secured the draw.

Liam Raybould, playing on 3, was in control from start to finish and won well. Elliott Holland, on 4, should have joined Liam with a win, but, the exchange and a pawn ahead, could not find a way to break down his opponent's position and too readily agreed to a draw. Jack Sirkett, on 5, had to face a Fried Liver Attack and, aware of the dangers, played an early Qh4. Although he lost his h8 rook, Jack captured white's light-squared bishop, developed his queen-side, tucked is king out the way and picked up the knight stranded on h8. Not much of this was sound, but White had clearly never met this original defence before and, playing from memory rather than calculation, should have lost. When the ending was reached, Black was better, but failed to take advantage and drifted into a lost position. David Watson, on 6, secured a point after a fairly wild game.

Three points from a round which might have yielded 6 was clearly a disappointment but, with few players in the bottom half of the team maintaining material equality for long, it was pretty clear that Essex were operating with just half a team capable of scoring points, although Joshua Brown, on board 10, was a queen ahead but failed to spot a coming double-rook checkmate as the pawns in front of his king were devoured. None of this was the fault of the players lower down, of course: our organisers had simply not provided sufficient playing opportunities during the preceding six months to give them the practice or competition. Having said that, some of them are still very young and will be much better equipped in one (or two!) years' time for future under 9 teams.

Wey Valley, normally one of the leading teams, were at it again and their 9½/12 left a very competent Hertfordshire team in second place by just half a point. Richmond and Sussex shared third on 7½ and then came Barnet (4½), Kent (4) and backmarkers Essex and Beds on 3 each. Hertfordshire's rise has been impressive in recent years. Only two or three years ago they were delighted to have managed to qualify for the Finals and a number of hard-working and dedicated coaches, including Jeremy Ward, has done wonders for their junior chess. Some years ago it was Jeremy along with his brother Chris (British Champion 1996) who were responsible for the supremacy of the Kent under-11 team, a domination which lasted until some three or four years ago.

Round 2 was an improvement for Essex as this time Tom Huband put his opponent away well and Liam Raybould won again. This time, Jack Sirkett had such an advantage that he could afford to blunder a rook and still had enough left to win. With Elliott Holland completing the job, 4 points from the top 5 was much more like it. Sadly, this became 4 from the top 12 as none of the other Essex players managed to score.

Essex had pulled ahead of Bedfordshire now, as they had managed another 3, but we were falling behind everyone else as Barnet and Kent scored 5½ and 5 respectively. Wey Valley, whose first 10 results were all wins, only managed another ½ from the top two, as their board 2 was being swamped by an avalanche of passed pawns and board 1's flag fell. He had a queen and a g pawn to his opponent's knight, so it is actually possible to set up a mate (qh1, pg2, kg1, Nf3, Ke1). However, he had claimed the draw under the 2 minute rule so it would have been a harsh arbiter to have found against him. Herts consolidated their position in second place with 8½ as Richmond managed 7.

The final round saw Essex add another 3 points to their total as Tom Huband won very competently and Liam Raybould demonstrated exactly the right combination of good temperament and controlled play to become the only Essex player to score 100%. Elliott Holland established a strong position and won two pawns. His decision to swap queens was, in principle, a very good one but he hadn't looked quite deeply enough into the position and found to his chagrin that afterwards Black's rook was able to skewer his bishops. Nathanael Lee, who had worked hard all day, won well to complete the scoring for Essex. Tom Colley, on board 8, reached a drawn K & P v K ending but played his king to the wrong square when the pawn was on the 6th and was beaten.

Ten points does not look too good. However, with the opportunity to draft in two or three players who had other commitments and a day's work on the team and we should be able to get closer to 50% when the finals come around.

The Essex team consisted of Tom Huband, Christopher Miall, Liam Raybould, Elliott Holland, Jack Sirkett, David Watson, Nathanael Lee, Tom Colley, Christopher Neill, Joshua Brown, Ronan Murphy, Laura Hough, and reserves Chantele Birch, Angharad Lee and Caoimhe Murphy.

Final scores: Wey Valley 28½, Herts 27, Richmond, 23½ Sussex, Barnet 17, Kent 13, Essex 10, Beds 8.

Cappelle la Grande Open Championships

George shows resolution to the French

George in Greece George in Greece
George about to begin a game in the World Youth Championships, Greece, 2002 Finnish IM Olli Salmensuu about to begin play v George, Cappelle la Grande 2003

When George O'Toole, a year 5 pupil from Temple Sutton School, found himself on 3 points from 4 rounds in the World's most prestigious Open Championship at Cappelle la Grande, he might have floated down to play Grandmaster Bogdan Lalic. After this brilliant start George found himself amongst some seriously good players, and his opponents included at least one IM and a WGM. This was great experience, of course, but his final score didn't really do justice to the standard of his play as all of these Big League players knew they were in a scrap.

George added one further point to his total, against O. Croenne, a player rated 2110 (the equivalent to about 185 BCF). George's eventual score of 4 / 9 gave him a rating performance of 1690 (approx 136 BCF) but this does not tell the true story of a magnificent effort by a player still three months short of his 10th birthday.

Croenne,O - O'Toole,G [C33]
Cappelle la Grande

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4 g5 4.Nc3 d6 5.Qh5 Qe7 6.d3 c6 7.h4 g4 8.Bxf4 Nf6 9.Qa5 d5 10.Bb3 dxe4 11.0-0-0 Bg7 12.h5 h6 13.dxe4 0-0 14.Bd6 Qd8 15.Bc7 Qe7 16.Nge2 Nxe4 17.Bd8 Qe8 18.Rhe1 Nd7 19.Bh4 b6 20.Qa4 Ndc5 21.Qb4 Bf5 22.Nf4 Qb8 23.g3 a5 24.Qc4 b5 25.Qf1 a4 26.Bd5 cxd5 27.Ncxd5 Qe5 28.Ne7+ Kh8 29.c3 Nb3+ 30.axb3 axb3 31.Rxe4 Qxe4 32.Qd3 Ra1+ 33.Kd2 Rxd1+ 34.Kxd1 Qh1+ 0 - 1

WGM Trabert,B - O'Toole,G [C47]
Cappelle la Grande

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Bb4 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.Bd3 0-0 8.0-0 d5 9.exd5 cxd5 10.Bg5 c6 11.Na4 Be6 12.c3 Be7 13.Re1 Nd7 14.Bxe7 Qxe7 15.Bc2 Qf6 16.Qd4 Rfe8 17.h3 h6 18.Re3 Qg5 19.Nc5 Nxc5 20.Rg3 Qxg3 21.fxg3 Nd7 22.Rf1 Rab8 23.b4 Nb6 24.a4 Rb7 25.Qd3 g6 26.g4 Nc4 27.Qd4 Rbe7 28.Re1 Bc8 29.Rxe7 Rxe7 30.Qf6 Re1+ 31.Kf2 Re8 32.Qxc6 Kf8 33.Qxd5 Ne3 34.Qc5+ Kg7 35.Bb3 Bb7 36.Qxa7 Re7 37.Qd4+ Kh7 38.Qc5 Re4 39.Qc7 Ba8 40.Qxf7+ 1-0

British Chess Problem Solving Championships

McDowell pipped by Mestel

Defending British Champion Mike McDowell (Customs Chess club) just failed to keep his title after a sprint finish by Double Grandmaster Jonathan Mestel levelled the points scored but put the former British and World Champion ahead by virtue of the faster time. There was also a respectable performance by Neil Sutherland (Southend) who finished 12th in the Final of 22 competitors, which took place at Oakham School.

The British Championship consists of three rounds, the Starter round, which is published widely in national newspapers and magazines; the Postal round for "seeded" solvers as well those competitors who submit a correct solution to the starter round; and, where solvers are successful in the Postal round, the Finals. As usual, the "periodical" prize for the pubication whose readers submitted the most entries to the starter round was won by the Times, whose chess correspondent, R. D. Keene, publishes the starter problem several times.

Full details of the Championships, including the scores and all thirteen problems and solutions, can be found on Brian Stephenson's website.

8/4q2B/1Q6/8/2k5/8/8/3K4 8/8/4k3/6K1/q7/3B4/8/6Q1
White to play and win. Last week's solution (Troitzky, 1909): 1 Qc5 Qd1 2 Bf5+ Kf7 3 Bg6+ Ke6 4 Qc8+ Ke7 5 Qe8+ wins

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