Essex juniors show the way
Saturday 14 August, Wanstead House
Report by Mark Murrell. Photos by Peter Nickals (click on images to enlarge and slideshow)
Essex U1600 7½-½ Hants U1600
Only three County Associations took up the opportunity for an early return to over-the-board matchplay in the ECF’s pre-season County Challenge competition for eight-board teams with an average team rating maxima of 1600 in the Minor and 2000 in the Major. The Minor got under way on Saturday, with Essex playing host to Hampshire whilst the two Kent teams went head to head at a new venue at St Mary Cray, Orpington, moving the first pawns of the County Challenge earlier in the afternoon. Kent Haddrell (with the lower team average) romped home there with a 6½-1½, ahead of their upcoming visit to Winchester.
A well-ventilated Wanstead House was a hive of activity, with the County’s junior players at the forefront, welcoming the first ECF-rated team matches in the County for some 17 months whilst our leagues engaged in careful preparations for the new season as more of our county clubs open again.
Covid struck on the morning of the County Challenge Minor match as Hampshire lost their top board to a positive test, notified sufficiently early to avoid a wasted journey for Essex’ top board, following the election of the Essex skipper not to enforce the default being taken on bottom board. Minimum standards for venues apply to this competition in regulations set for the peak of the delta wave which arrived earlier than expected. These comprise through ventilation, distancing and mandatory face coverings, save for those aged under 11 or in need of exemption due to a medical condition. There was one face covering adjustment to accommodate an under 11 Essex player, with the opposition electing a single board option adjacent to a wide-open double window.
In an innovation agreed between the participating counties, team lists were exchanged through the ECF’s League Management System results service (LMS) and revealed online one hour before the scheduled match start, with the caveat that assigned colours may change following the traditional toss. The Roding SmartBoard displayed the match LMS webpage. Pre-match, the downstairs lounges hosted the Hampshire camp, whilst Essex players took to the first floor breakout rooms where face coverings could be removed provided social distancing was maintained. The County room, Roding, easily accommodated the seven boards in play.
The revealed matchcard gave Essex a paper advantage per board of 12 rating points on average and the higher rating on the top six boards. On the lower boards Essex played two young junior players whose online performances in Essex competition had demonstrated a vast improvement on their old ECF grades that set their over-the-board ratings. With skipper Peter Nickals spoilt for choice from the Essex call to arms, the 1600 team was a mix of experience from the outer reaches of the county and youth reflecting the thriving junior Essex online scene during the lockdowns established by Junior Organiser, Robin Slade. The junior quintet of Charukgan Muhunthan, Olga Latypova , Charlotte Willoughby, Ruqayyah Rida and Huzaifa Baig all won their games, proving excellent value for their ratings as the seniors held their own, with former U14 team manager Trevor Dickerson adding the further win over the board. Keith Cook from Maldon ensured an undefeated afternoon, with the solitary draw. A very comfortable 7½-½ scoreline taking Essex 1600 to the top of the table.
League Table: Minor 1600
Next up for Essex 1600 is Kent Steele at Wanstead on 4 September whilst Paul Kenning takes charge of Essex 2000 (sitting between the old U175 and U180 minor counties teams, where Essex have had such a great record in seasons past) at St. Anselms in Dartford (early start of 12:30 pm there).
If you would like to get involved with the county’s back to real chess initiative and pre-season over-the-board matches contact Peter Nickals. Our aim is to provide team chess opportunities for all as we encourage a return to over-the-board play and rated chess.
All matches played at G105+15.
Essex All Over 5–3 Wanstead & Woodford + Guest
Meanwhile, the county reserve room, Forest on the second floor, had a trial run with the Essex squad taking on local club, Wanstead. Through ventilation ran the length of the playing room. What had been billed as an eight board match between Wanstead & Woodford and Essex saw a flurry of team changes in the 24 hours before the match. A medical withdrawal (non-covid this time) saw a reduction to seven boards and a player switch from the Essex squad to level up the teams, an unexpected arrival saw the 8th board reinstated only for a no show for the visitors being filled by a Wanstead junior. All skin off the back of organiser, Peter.
A close match on ratings and on play, also involving two Essex Juniors, provided further success for squad Essex. Essex All Over 5–3 Wanstead & Guest.
Essex Juniors Rated Rapid
Organised at very short notice by Essex Match Captain, Mark Murrell, to take advantage of a rare occurrence of having the exclusive use of Wanstead House on a Saturday afternoon and run in association with the local junior clubs of Ilford and Wanstead & Woodford, the Boaden Hall played host to an afternoon of junior chess aimed particularly at those new to over-the-board chess. Notwithstanding the August holiday season and just a week’s notice, 18 juniors elected for rated play (including those who had not played any tournament chess or over-the-board chess before). With one withdrawal to unforeseen circumstances and another transferred into the Essex county squad, 16 juniors from Chelmsford, Ilford, Thurrock and Wanstead took part in a G10+5 ECF rapid rated Swiss tournament. Scheduled for five rounds but played over six when ahead of schedule at the end of Round 3 the tournament was extended by a unanimous vote of the junior players.
The online world of board viewing from above in two-dimensions, clicking on pieces to highlight available moves, clicking on squares to make some moves, blocked illegal moves, clocks that control themselves and being able to change piece or pawn selection when on move is far removed from the touch move, three dimensional over-the-board chess and clock control of a seemingly alien environment of tournament rated chess, yet the control team had a surprisingly very quiet afternoon.
Great sportsmanship was evident throughout the afternoon with forgotten clock presses pointed our or corrected, players calling their own flag falls (in one instance with a forced mate on the board) and no disputes, a credit to their junior clubs. There were of course the not unexpected piece blunders and missed checkmate threats from moving too fast and to a lesser degree adjusting to the different attack sight lines of three dimensions, but the clock management settled down as the tournament went on. Some excellent chess was played too among the top boards each round, with some very close battles. On this showing, Essex Junior chess has plenty of potential including among some very young players. No one player had it all their own way and every player scored a legitimate win.
Duc Ta aka Tin Tin and Aradhya Mukherjee tied for first place on 5/6 with their decisive head-to-head encounter in Round 4 giving Tin Tin the tie-break decider. Most of the Wanstead juniors had the advantage of a full-term’s over-the-board practice, including a five week 10 round rapid (G10+5) Junior Club Championship. The rest of Essex will quickly catch up, if their online exploits and Saturday’s performances are anything to go by.
In between rounds there were extra tables available for replays, speed games and social chess as well as the giant chess set out on the lawn, which also kept a couple of the dads amused. A fine afternoon meant that parents camped in the House gardens without need of the parents room.
Tom Barton of Ilford JCC and Ben Harte of Wanstead JCCC assisted controller Mark Murrell, with the ECA’s junior organiser Robin Slade providing invaluable support behind the scenes. Robin will be joining the control team for a repeat event on the afternoon of Saturday 4th September ahead of the return to school.
Link: Vega Tournament Pages
Back to Real Chess Fest, Part 2 – Juniors Online entry form for Saturday 4th September
There will be a second Back to Real Chess Fest on 4 September. The Junior Online Entry form is now available from the Fest 2 page.