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ECF U18 and U13 Championships Sunday, June 26
Chris Archer-Lock (U18 manager) and Lucy Head (U13 manager) writes:

Click for larger photo
Click for larger photo

The Berkshire Under 18 team battled hard in this strong two round event, scoring a respectable 9 points, although frequently outgraded over many of the 12 boards. The splendid setting of Eton College and the walk from the team rooms past the historic Crimean cannon inspired the players to dig in, and there were many highlights in the uphill struggle which ensued. The first round saw two positive results from lengthy battles. Daniel Noel struck early at the vulnerable f7 square in his opponent’s position, and expertly carried his pawn advantage into a well played endgame. Then Philip Archer-Lock out-manouevered his adversary from a position of strength in a queenless middlegame to gain the exchange, which he later sacrificed back with precise timing to force and convert a winning if tricky pawn endgame. Roy Zhang and Robert Starley played solidly to draw their matches, and three further draws emerged from the cut and thrust of the further action. Alex Manton-Jones had played well to secure and hold an advantage, but then battled back well to save a half point after his opponent lobbed a tactical grenade in the middlegame. Monish Sudhakar was rewarded for a long defensive struggle, accepting his opponent’s draw offer in the final seconds. Adrian Archer-Lock finally won a decisive material advantage after a strong attack, but had to settle for a draw as the clock’s flag signalled a potential time bomb rather than the opponent’s surrender.

A well earned breather at half time, and a photo opportunity by the said cannon, saw the team holding sixth place, and a feeling that the campaign could be looking up. The opening volleys of the second round placed us under immediate pressure, however, and we suffered losses in the outgraded middle order. From that position, it was creditable that the round ended with another 4½ points, matching the booty of the first round. Our two unbeaten players on the day, Adrian Archer-Lock and Robert Starley, each played well to gain the edge after patient play in the early stages. Charlie Bucknell fought back well from his early first round disappointment to achieve a decisive victory, while Max Papachristos relished a second lengthy encounter, this time achieving a breakthrough on the queen’s wing with the aid of an advanced b-pawn. George Tunstall completed Berkshire’s scoring for the round, sharing the point with his Devonian opponent after a fascinating struggle which ended with a knight sacrifice to support George’s rook incursion, achieving perpetual check. When the dust settled, our position had slipped by one place to 7th, but this was a creditable result from an enjoyable and challenging contest.

It was interesting to note that our congratulated successors as ECF Under 18 champions, Sussex, were also winners of this championship for the first time, capitalising on many strong recent years of Sussex junior chess. The team managers’ thanks are due to many people: to the players for their commitment, to all who helped Berkshire to host a successful national event, and to Eton College for providing a fine chess venue which enabled us to welcome teams from the north, south, east and west of the country.

In contrast to the battles of attrition in the two-round U18 event, the Under 13 competitions saw a more quickfire four round schedule, following the 30 minute rapidplay format. Berkshire came close to taking a share of the spoils in each event. The Under 13 Open team performed above their average grade and came a very creditable 3rd, a point behind the two leading counties, Kent and Surrey.

Matthew Wadsworth proved his worth on top board winning 3.5 points, in a versatile performance which ranged from exploiting a minimal endgame advantage to unyielding middlegame manouevers around interlocking pawn structures. Ragul Sudhakar also defeated some reputable players and remained unbeaten over the four games. Some of the team struggled with the shorter timescale, having played in recent standard play tournaments, but all won points against strong opposition. Louise Head was involved in some exciting matches, including a knife-edge minor piece ending, and had a particularly successful win against a Sussex adversary, while Alfred Wong played carefully to obtain a draw against a highly graded Kent player. Ryan Wong showed expert calculation in the process of overpowering his opponents, nor did Anthony Zhang leave his powder dry, backing up the team effort with a well deserved win in the second round. In the Minor event, Berkshire had an excellent first round winning 5/6 points, but our leading position was short-lived as we didn’t have the same success in the next few rounds and we dropped our ranking to 4th, still only 2.5 points behind the winners. This was characteristic of the exciting ebb and flow of battle in a tightly matched grade-limited event.

The third round showed some strong games on the top three boards, with Jonathan Matthews taking a decisive lead quite early in the game and making up for shock defeat in the second round. Jeff Abraham played some excellent games and remained unbeaten on 2nd board with 3½ points. Each game looked confident and he remained in control to the end. Charlie Pye took his time and achieved a couple of wins. Tarun Puri had a quick win on the first game but in spite of playing some long games and being very close, unfortunately his other games didn’t go his way. Katie Rennie also played some thoughtful chess winning the majority of her games and Helen Archer-Lock showed no mercy on 6th board, rising to the challenge of playing in her debut Under 13 team outing, including a casual-looking knight sacrifice in the final round which led to inevitable checkmate for the surrounded king.

A big thank you to the players, parents and to Eton, who provided the venue. The short walk from playing rooms to team rooms gave us a little pleasant exercise walking in the sunshine.

Related links

Under 18:
Eton College
Last Season's Results

Under 13 (Open):
Eton College
Last Season's Results

Under 13 (Minor):
Eton College
Last Season's Results