The Essex under 11 team became Southern England Champions with a solid display in the EPSCA Zone held at Woodlands School, Basildon. Wey Valley (Surrey) took the silver medals and, in a resurgence recalling times past, Kent took bronze.
As with the previous week's tournament involving the under 9s, NW London were originally due to provide a team, but at least on this occasion plenty of notice was provided that they would not be coming. Eventually, seven teams sat down to play with the main purpose being to eliminate the bottom two sides to decide who would be going to Swindon on 10th May for the Finals.
In the 13th season of Essex teams participating in EPSCA tournaments, this was the oldest team we had ever selected: only two members of the under 9 side were included. On paper, it was also one of the strongest and this was demonstrated as the first round results began to arrive. The players had been instructed that the teams that played slowly were invariably the most succesful at this type of competition and the early results were wins. In addition, the majority of positions seemed to favour Essex. Not only that, the luck of the draw had given the two strongest Essex players opponents from what are traditionally our nearest rivals in events of this type. George O'Toole was paired against Wey Valley and Subin Sen played Richmond. It is rare for either of the Essex top 2 to lose in their own age group and these were games very likely to have a great bearing on the final result, given that these EPSCA events are often decided by small margins.
Indeed, Essex were the only team to win all of the top three boards as, in addition to George and Subin, Simon Payne won impressively, harnessing his opponent's passed pawn and trapping the white dark-squared bishop which remained on the board but was unable to take any further part in the game until after Simon's light-squared bishop had removed all but one of White's pawns. However, this was tempered by the fact that our players all lost on board 4-7, although in a couple of those it was against the run of play. Lloyd Carter had been especially unfortunate as he outplayed his opponent for almost the entire game, winning his queen for a minor piece, but at the end could not find a way to unpick the Q v R & N ending, eventually losing his queen through a trap. Below this level, there was only one loss from Essex but a couple of lucky draws: Peter Fernandes defended very well but eventually his position lapsed into the hopeless, apart from the time on the clock and his Richmond opponent decided not to risk the fall of his flag, which was most precariously perched on top of the minute hand. Todd Goodyear escaped with a stalemate.
Although Essex scored well, taking 13 points from the round, this left us in second place behind Wey Valley, who scored 15. Sussex, on 10½, occupied third and Richmond were left in 4th place on 9½, a most unusual occurrence for them to score less than 50%. With Kent on 9, Barnet on 7½ and Herts on 5½, this was developing into a very close contest. It will almost certainly be the case that there will be numerous weaker teams than these when the Finals come around.
If round 1 was close, round 2 was closer as a three point margin covered the top 6 teams, only the hapless Barnet suffering badly. Once again, the Essex top three led the way with very good chess. George O'Toole launched a classical king-side attack against the Barnet board 1, Subin won a K & P ending but Simon's game was the most memorable of all. His heavy pieces invaded black's queen-side, a dominant knight cost Black a bishop and the dénouement was reached when the black queen, on c8, was attacked but had no safe haven to flee to. Wins from William Cheung (who had had a bad position early on), Roland Johnson and Michael Migan gave Essex 6 points from the top half. Roly Fischer Vousden and Jack Goodyear each improved on the draw they achieved in the first game, Tom Huband reached 2/2, and another good run from boards 17 - 19 gave Essex a round score of 13, reducing Wey Valley's lead to just half a point as the Surrey side notched up 11½. Richmond managed 11, Kent 10½ and Sussex and Herts 10 apiece to make this probably the tightest round in an EPSCA competition for 10 years. Knife-edge stuff indeed!
Round three saw some Houdini routines by some of the Essex players, although the round was for the most part based on good solid chess. George O'Toole was involved in a tense struggle against the Kent top board, Richard Lobo, and sacrificed a pawn. A good old-fashioned king-side attack culminated in George's Queen, Rook and Knight bearing down on Black's king-side and when the crunching Rf6 was played, Black was going to lose something. George forced Black's king out towards the centre, jettisoning his knight in the process, and the game was graced with the most elegant finale 34 g4 mate.
Subin's game remained stubbornly level for a long time, but Simon, this time playing black, defended well against the Giuoco Piano, kept the pawn that White had sacrificed, swapped all the pieces and then won the K & P ending which ensued. Rhys Lloyd, less experienced at this level, won neatly against Wey Valley, but used only five minutes of his allotted time for about 50 moves, demonstrating amply why he lost his first two games. William Cheung was involved in a most unusual game against a Richmond player. The game was not very old when William, playing White, had a one-pawn advantage in a same-coloured bishop ending. Instead of consolidating his position and playing for the long-term, William allowed the exchange of bishops after which he could not prevent the invasion of the black king and two of his queen-side pawns disappeared, giving a position which was winning for Black. William's king headed for the king-side pawns and, although by now a queen down, captured a couple of them. Technically this was still win for Black, but one in which good moves for White were easier to find because there were so few choices and the pawns were far advanced, but decent Black replies rather harder as the queen had many possible squares, some more effective than others, from which to control operations. William eventually queened a pawn and Black finally exchanged this second pair of queens in order to promote a third pawn. For the second time in the game William was queen for pawn down but eventually Black made some final and fatal mistake which lost his queen and the game was concluded with William executing an effective Q & K v K checkmate, neither side now having any pawns.
There was another remarkable piece of escapology as Jonathan Fallman had reached an ending in which each side had two rooks but Jonathan had an a-pawn whilst Black had a very effective-looking knight. Jonathan's king was stuck in a corner and this observer could not see any reason why a rook check from Black would not win a rook. However, this game mysteriously continued until eventually Jonathan was offered a draw which he took rather longer than expected to accept. Meanwhile, on a lower board, Hamish Hore had been in some difficulties against a Wey Valley player who had then missed a mate in 1 which Hamish didn't. The significance of this was to become apparent soon.
By now, Essex had drawn level with Wey Valley with only two games left in play for each side, although in neither case were the two leading teams in direct conflict. The Essex games were George's on board 1, which was by now all but in the bag, and Subin's on board 2. Subin had reached a K & P ending with 3 v 3 on the kingside and 2 v 2 on the queenside. Subin went after white's queenside, leaving his own kingside to the mercy of the white king, and if both sides had pushed the pawns then black would have queened first, white immediately afterwards, and black would probably have been able to draw by perpetual check, whilst still a pawn down. Having done the hard work, Subin made an error which allowed White to queen first and win the game.
Now the team managers were looking to see what the tie-break situation would offer as Essex had finished but Wey Valley were a point behind with a game in play. To be fair, that particular position never looked too promising for the Wey Valley player, but it is amazing how pressure can lead to all sorts of unforeseen circumstances. As it happened, the first tie break gives weight to the number of wins and this left the teams level. The second tie break is bottom board elimination and that too left the teams level with each board 20 scoring 2 points. Board 19 would have won it or Essex as our player scored 2 points but Wey Valley managed 100% on that board, but as it happened the last game to finish was a draw by Wey Valley and Essex finished half a point ahead.
O'Toole,G (Essex) - Lobo,R (Kent)[B22]
EPSCA South Zone, Basildon 2003
1.e4 c5 2.c3 d5 3.exd5 Qxd5 4.d4 Nf6 5.Nf3 Bg4 6.Be2 e6 7.0-0 Be7 8.h3 Bh5 9.Be3 cxd4 10.cxd4 0-0 11.Nc3 Qd8 12.Qb3 Qc8 13.Rac1 Nc6 14.Ne5 Bxe2 15.Nxe2 Nd5 16.Nxc6 bxc6 17.a3 Nxe3 18.fxe3 Qd7 19.Qc3 Rfc8 20.Nf4 c5 21.Qd2 cxd4 22.Rcd1 e5 23.Nh5 Qe6 24.exd4 exd4 25.Rde1 Qd6 26.Qe2 Bg5 27.Qf3 Rf8 28.Qg4 Bh6 29.Rf6 Qc7 30.Rxh6 g6 31.Nf6+ Kg7 32.Rxh7+ Kxf6 33.Qxd4+ Kg5 34.h4+ Kf5 35.g4# 1-0
|12||Roly Fischer Vousden||2½|
In round 2, the board order was
19 David Pedro (1)
20 Melissa Hirst-Jones (0)
21 Liam Hough (½)
22 Alex Randall (0)
23 Peter Maynes (0)
24 Marcus Bertuzzo (1)
and in round 3
19 David Pedro (0)
20 Marcus Bertuzzo (1)
21 Liam Hough (½)
22 Melissa Hirst-Jones (0)
23 Peter Maynes (1)
24 Alex Randall (1)
Boards 21-24 constituted a reserves' tournament in which Essex were 2nd to Wey Valley.
|The Top Table||Roland Johnson & Michael Migan||George is a blur after 29 Rf6!||Playing Hall|
Angela Hore and Carol Payne provided a superb results service at very short notice.
Roger Sharman (out of shot) was Arbiter, Essex Team Manager and also provided the cabaret.
16 competed in the Dutch Open Championship at Nunspeet. The top scores were:
1. GM Michel Caillaud (France, World Champion 1987, 2000) 60½
2. GM Dolf Wissmann (NL) 59
3. IM Peter van den Heuvel (NL) 50
4= FM Mike McDowell (GB) 48½
4= FM Hans Uitenbroek (NL) 48½
My thanks to Mike McDowell for the above info. Today's problem is a Mate in 2 from the Dutch Open:-
|White to play and mate in 2.||Last week's solution (Troitzky, 500 Endspielstudien): 1 Bg8+ Kd3 2 Qb5+ Kd4 3 Qb2+ Kd3 4 Qd2 and wins Black's queen If 1 Bc3 2 Qb3+ and 3 Qb2+ wins the queen; if 2 ... Kc3 3 Qc4+ mates next|
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