ECF Minor Open County Championship

Details for the Minor Open matches are given in the tabbed display below. Click on the tabs to open the sub pages. Details include all match tables and all games played.

Eight teams contested the first stage of the Minor Open: Berks, Cheshire and North Wales, Cumbria, Essex, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Northumberland and Somerset. There is something to be said for Online competition: in OTB competition, Essex has rarely played these counties, if at all. One exception: Berks at one time were regular SCCU competitors, but it is many a season since they entered; they attempted a revival at U100 level in 2019-20 but did not contest either match. Hants we played in a BCF U175 SF in 1997 and if you go back far enough, Hants were once a part of the SCCU.

Essex qualified in second place behind the all-conquering Northumberland. For the Final, Northumberland would have to field three teams simultaneously, having entered the Open, Major  Open and U1600 and qualified all three to the Finals. In the qualifiers, the only had to field two teams at the same time; could they continue their winning progress fielding three teams at the same time?

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Essex Minor Open match details

 Date Round Home team Score Away Team
12 June 2021 Qual 1 Berks 3½-6½ Essex
19 June 2021 Qual 2 Essex 9-3 Hants
3 July 2021 Qual 3 Northumberland 7-5 Essex
17 July 2021 Qual 4 Essex 9-3 Cumbria
21 August 2021 Qual 5 Glos 3½-8½ Essex
18 September 2021 Final Northumberland 7-5 Essex

Played 12 June 2021

Board Berkshire v Essex
1 Robert Starley 2113 0-1 Andrew P  Lewis 2310
2 John Wager 2023 ½-½ John H Hodgson 2055
3 George Green 1843 1-0 Ian Reynolds 1998
4 Mark Taylor 1826 1-0 Martin McCall 1976
5 Paul Janota 1819 0-1 Ian Hunnable 1933
6 Soham Kumar 1795 0-0 Chris Hampton 1927
7 James Love 1606 0-0 Istvan Karacsony 1921
8 Witold Koreywo 1536 0-1 Harry Zheng 1914
9 Bill Upton 1410 0d1 Edgar Wilson 1912
10 Ivan Sayer 1353 0-1 David Flynn 1911
11 Aanya Adhikari 1206 1-0 Mae Catabay 1585
12 Anrudh Raj 1200 0-1 Rezin Catabay 1311
  Average 1645 3½-6½ Average 1897

The Essex team assembled by Peter Nickals held a substantial rating advantge; indeed Essex outrated Berks on every board. Two games failed to start and a third was decided by default. The webmaster’s own game was 40 minutes late starting, despite both players having at various times issued challenges. Subsequent investigation has brought us a clearer understanding of the process, which may have prevented the games that failed to start; so we have added a clear and concise guide (yes, another).

The games that were played

Played 19 June 2021

Board Essex v Hampshire
1 John Hodgson 2041 (W) 1-0 Richard Thurstans 1989 (B)
2 Martin McCall 1986 ½-½ Daniel Shek 1921
3 Julian Corfield 1955 ½-½ David Graham 1855
4 Chris Hampton 1927 1-0 James Chilton I 1816
5 Edgar Wilson 1912 1-0 Melissa Hamilton 1641
6 David Flynn 1911 0-1 George Feltham 1618
7 George Horan 1866 1-0 Alan Willis 1608
8 Harry Zheng 1862 1-0 Fionn O’Donovan 1606
9 Michael Spurr 1845 1-0 Manoj Chandar 1573
10 Gerald Conley 1659 0-1 Matthew Deacon 1548
11 Dai Harris 1600 1-0 Philip Ware 1528
12 Rezin Catabay 1311 1-0 Stephen LeFevre 1392
  Average 1823 9-3 Average 1675

Essex had an average rating advantage of 148 points a board, outrating Hants on every board but one. This made for a comfortable afternoon, Essex winning by 8-2 with two draws and only two casualties.

John Hodgson, with a Sicilian Maroczy Bind, lined up his big guns along the back rank b,c and d-files and advanced his mobile pawn centre. Thereafter, the contrast in the activity of the two camps was startling. John converted his mobile pawn front to a pair of advanced passed pawns on c6 and b5, when Black could have resigned. Resignation came 10 moves later. Edgar won the exchange and a pawn with a three move combination at move 15 and had no trouble converting his advantage with the inexorable advance of his K-side passed pawns.

Chris Hampton lost the exchange, but White, in acute time shortage (inside his last minute against Chris’ 26 minutes) immediately blundered (34 Ra5?) allowing Chris to counter to expose the weakness of White’s back rank. White’s time ran out, but in the final positionl, if 36 Kh1 Qxb4! wins the errant rook on a5.

Martin McCall secured an outside pawn majority which was the only difference in a minor piece ending. Martin was able to force a passed pawn home to win a knight, but at the cost of two pawns and White skillfully made those two pawns count to force a draw.

George Horan won against a Dutch Defence in which Black allowed George too much space in the centre, while Harry Zheng overcame White’s eccentric strategy in a Catalan. Michael Spurr established a winning K-side attack in only 19 moves and Black had seen enough. Rezin, meanwhile, had won a bishop but still had to keep his head when White counter-attacked with his remaining heavy artillery. With mate threatened, Rezin coolly found a combination to exchange his queen for two rooks, delivering mate nine moves later.

In the last game to finish, Julian Corfield dodged a bullet, his opponent opting for repetition when he didn’t have enough time to find the mate that was there.

This win puts Essex at the top of the table by half a game point over Northumberland; these two clash in the next round.

Played 3 July 2021

Board Northumberland
v Essex
1 Max Turner 2312 (2343) (W) 0-1 Ian Reynolds 1998 (1915) (B)
2 David Mooney 2205 (2200) ½-½ Julian Corfield 1955 (1983)
3 John Boyd, 2098 (2080) 1-0 Chris Hampton 1927 (1923)
4 Chris Izod, 2082 (2058) ½-½ David Flynn, 1911 (1863)
5 Robin Nandi 1929 (1990) 0-1 Harry Zheng 1862 (1915)
6 Phil Eastlake, 1872 (1803) ½-½ Michael Spurr 1845 (1863)
7 Andy Trevelyan 1849 (1893) 1-0 Edison Figueroa 1799 (1908)
8 James McKay 1767 (1630) 1-0 Colin Newton 1745 (1743)
9 Mark McKay, 1823 (1750) 1-0 Gerald Conley 1659 (1683)
10 Raj Mohindra 1703 (1773) 1-0 Ruqayyah Rida 1630 (1231)
11 Ian Chester 1573 (1660) ½-½ Dai Harris 1600 (1570)
12 Andrew Hutchins 1489 () 0-1 Mae Catabay 1585 (1525)
  Average 1892 7-5 Average 1793

Out-rated by an average 99 points a board, Essex couldn’t avoid coming second to the all-conquering Northumberlanders. Nonetheless, all three Essex wins were impressive, not the least of these being the top board performance of Ian Reynolds, giving 314 points, yet outplaying his opponent with 9 …Bc6! forcing the fork of knight and bishop or lose a pawn. As there are games in the database with this position, we presume it’s a known trap; either way, an impressive dispatch in 24 moves.

Update: Ian Reynolds has kindly supplied the background to his game: “I have had that line v the Nimzo twice before yesterday’s game. In those games my opponents played 7 Bd2 and 7 Ng3. I had waited for 7 Rb1 with the key of Bc6 and Bd4 after b5. So it is book. My opponent clearly did not know the line and was 25 minutes ahead of me on the clock when he played f3 which is poor. Pity I missed Qh4+ at the end losing a second P after Qd6. I suspect the football match was more attractive for my opponent than playing on!”

Another half point might have accrued in the last game to finish, had Dai found 56 … Ke6! (and if then 57 Nf6 h6!) rather than repeat moves for the draw – but it couldn’t change the result.

Northumberland top the table with 6/6, while Essex are =2nd with Cumbrian and Cheshire & N Wales on 4 points.

Next match is on 17 July, against Cumbria.

Northumberland games

Played 17 July 2021

Board Essex
v Cumbria
1 Andrew Lewis 2300 (W) 0-1 Holden Davis 2032 (B)
2 John Hodgson 2041 ½-½ Roy Ellames 2027
3 Ian Reynolds 1998 1-0 John Grave 1978
4 Ashley Freeman 1991 1-0 Neil Jones 1872
5 Julian Corfield 1955 ½-½ Roger Hart 1864
6 Ian Hunnable 1929 0(def)-1 Greg Millar 1773
7 Chris Hampton 1927 1-0 Gary Sharkey 1706
8 David Flynn 1911 1-0 Peter Caulfield 1653
9 Harry Zheng 1862 1-0 David Wright 1619
10 Michael Spurr 1845 1-0 Alan Llewellyn 1571
11 Mae Catabay 1585 1-0 Guy Griffiths 1555
12 Rezin Catabay 1311 1-0 John Lydon 1526
  Average 1888 9-3 Average 1765

Essex comfortably converted a clear advantage on paper (+123 average) to a 9-3 win, easily overcoming the default point gifted and the surprise defeat of Andy Lewis as the result of a murderous pin (18 …Qb6).

Is the Cumbria Board 2 the one-time Harlow player?

Essex Minor now have their destiny in the own hands, facing Gloucestershire in the last fixture of the qualification round on 21 August; winner progresses to the Finals on 18 September, where Northumberland once more awaits.

Played 21 August 2021

Board Gloucestershire
v Essex
1 Dinter, Brian 2290 (W) 1-0 Lewis, Andrew P 2281 (B)
2 Stewart, Joseph 2213 ½-½ Hodgson, John H 2054
3 Ashworth, Michael J 2124 ½-½ Reynolds, D Ian W 2011
4 Jenkins, John 2089 0-1 McCall, Martin 1977
5 Southcott-Moyers, Indy 1978 1-0 Julian Corfield 1963
6 Tarabuta, Petru 1956 0-1 Hunnable, Ian D 1939
7 Ashworth, Robert 1905 ½-½ Hampton, Christopher 1933
8 Brown, Graham 1718 0-1 Muhunthan, Charukgan 1907
9 Walker, Adrian N 1688 0-1 Flynn, David 1904
10 Reekie-Black, Matthew 1601 0-1 Zheng, Harry Z 1869
11 Carey, Alex 1616 0-1 Catabay, Mae C 1586
12 Lyall, David 1107 0-1 Catabay, Rezin C 1347
  Average 1858 3½-8½ Average 1898

The points were shared over the top seven boards. Essex cleaned up on the bottom five. Job done.

Essex did particularly well to share the top six boards where Glos out-rated the East Saxons by an average 112 rating points per board. Outstanding among these results was Martin McCall’s win, giving 112 rating points; in old money that’s 170 beats 185.

The games

Played 18 September 2021

Board Northumberland
v Essex
1 Izod, Chris 2077 (2041) (W) 0-1 Hodgson, John H 2054 (2103) (B)
2 Symonds, Richard 1958 (1968) 1-0 Reynolds, D Ian W 2011 (1915)
3 Varney, Zoe 2008 (1998) ½-½ Hampton, Christopher 1933 (1916)
4 Zhang, Zheming 1994 (2103) ½-½ McCall, Martin 1977 (1927)
5 Turner, James 1953 (1878) 0-1 Hunnable, Ian D 1939 (1981)
6 Nandi, Robin J 1909 (1937) 1-0 Muhunthan, Charukgan 1907 (1870)
7 Gara, Kirill 1915 (1900) ½-½ Flynn, David 1904 (1863)
8 Cornwall, Gary L 1909 (2005) 0-1 Zheng, Harry Z 1869 (1915)
9 Eastlake, Phil 1875 (1803) ½-½ Spurr, Michael 1853 (1870)
10 Trevelyan, Andy J 1866 (1893) 1-0 Rida, Ruqayyah 1655 (1261)
11 Chester, Ian B 1570 (1638) 1-0 Catabay, Mae C 1586 (1525)
12 Johnston, Alexander 1654 () 1-0 Catabay, Rezin C 1347 (1353)
  Average: 1891 7-5 Average: 1837

The Finals were held with full anti-cheating regimen. All players were required to connect to a Zoom session throughout, run by the match Arbiters, and to play on a PC or laptop (not tablet or smart phone) displaying Task Manager (or equivalent) showing apps running, which were allowed to be a browser running and ECF LMS match sheet only and to share their screen. Players’ microphones were required to be on, which was initially a point of concern with the potential for noise distraction, but once all the  games had been started match condition silence was maintained and the only sounds were in the nature of “random noise” that you get with an over-the-board match and was therefore closer to OTB play than the normal online silence. One advantage here, by comparison with OTB, players could adjust their speakers to moderate sound distraction, though they needed to be loud enough to allow for the Arbiter to be heard, as necessary. For contact with the Arbiter during play (e.g. if you have to be away from the screen – e.g. a bathroom break – for which Arbiter’s leave was needed) the Zoom chat window allowed silent communication. It was also interesting to be able to see your opponent while the game was in progress.

You have to hand it to Northumberland: they entered all three online Championships, Open, Major Open and U1600. In the qualifying rounds, they never had to field more than two teams at a time, but would they manage similar success fielding all three teams at the same time? The answser is a resounding “Yes” as they swept the boards winning all three matches convincingly; very few Counties would manage that – most impressive.

Essex shaded Boards 1-9 by 5-4, but Northumberland batted longer and took the botom three boards to win by two at 7-5, the same score as between the two teams in the qualifying rounds. There were mouse slips on Boards 1 and 5 (the former was obvious with 8 b3?? losing the queen, when 8 bxc3 must have been intended, and on Board 5, your correspondent dropped the c-pawn on c6 when in the process of playing 3 …c7-c5). We suspect a mouse slip also on Board 6 with 25 Qe4?? losing the queen.

The other Finals: in the Open Devon 5-7 Northumberland and U1600 Northumberland 8½-3½ Leicestershire.

The Games