SAE - Radstock
Saturday, March 15
With the EPSCA Under 11 Zonal taking place, turnout at this new addition to the SAE Calendar might have been thought to be lower than usual. Instead, there was an excellent entry of 35, including 16 newcomers. The grade distribution was very flat, making for many highly competitive games. The concentration by all players was impressive to see, with very few games finishing inside 10 minutes, and always 3 or 4 in each round going down to the wire.
The decisive game ought to have taken place in round 5 between the two top seeds, but it was decided to delay this showdown for the final round. Finally, the two unbeaten players could not be kept apart. The final round would decide all, with those on 3rd a whole point behind, the winner would have to emerge from the game at table 1. Robert Starley (grade 1286) was the favourite to win out over Jonathan Smith (735).
Nonetheless, some careful play by both players kept the game on a knife-edge for some time. Finally, Jonno miscalculated a complicated series of exchanges and lost a rook for a knight. But that wasn't the end of it. His knight went marauding in enemy territory, mopping up backward pawns until it got trapped with no escape squares and then lost. Robert proceeded to finish off the game efficiently and win his second SAE trophy of the season.
Whilst the more experienced players finished mostly in the top half, there were 5 new players who scored 3 points, and there were several upsets along the way for many others. The minor trophy was awarded to the top player graded under 400. Usually this would go to someone scoring around 3½ or 4 points, but today it went to Joseph Pechey who finished with 5 / 6, joint second with Jonno and Matty Kemp.