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Berkshire U18s are NYCA national champions! Sunday, September 22
Jim Wadsworth writes:

Click for larger photo
Click for larger photo

During the journey up the motorway, the team manager had a good feeling about the extremely strong and experienced team that was on its collective way to Northampton, for the annual National Chess Youth Association under 18 championships. With more than half the team being proven England internationals, there were good prospects for being amongst the prizes. As a consequence, the usual team managerial script of "play your best" was dispensed with. Instead it was more of a case of "go out there and bring back some trophies".

And the team delivered spectacularly! Berkshire's U18 team are the NYCA national champions, possibly for the first time ever!

With a final score of 21½ from a possible 24, the team ended up 9 points ahead of their nearest rivals (last year's winners, Kent*). Utterly dominant throughout, and a joy to watch. Everyone won at least one game with 5 players scoring a perfect three from three. Anthony Zhang, making his debut at this level, was amongst the 100% gang, and deservedly took home the additional trophy for the team's player of the day.

There were plenty of highlights, so I will pick out just a few.

In round 1, David Starley won on time with just ten seconds left on his clock. Objectively he was slightly better over the board in a 2 bishops vs 2 knights endgame, but was it enough? He was calmness personified in the time scramble - unlike the increasingly nervous Berkshire team manager watching on - even recording his moves until the last minute or so. And at last his opponent's clock reached zero. William Foo also won on time (though he would soon have won anyway, had the clock not intervened). Ragul Sudhakar won over the board - unusually for him with lots of time left. We finished on 6½ from a possible 8, and were already a point and a half clear of the field. A good start.

In the second round, most of the last few games to finish involved Berkshire players. Charlie Bucknell held on well to secure a draw despite being two pawns down in the endgame. Will won again, against Kent's board 1. With 30 seconds left on his clock, Matthew Wadsworth mated his opponent via a pretty rook sacrifice. An undefeated round, and now four points ahead of second placed Kent.

Traditionally, Berkshire teams have a bit of a drop-off in the last round of these jamboree events. Not today. Round 3's score was a crushing eight out of eight. Long before the end we knew we had won the whole event, but no-one stopped concentrating. Two of the early winners back to the team room were Charlie and Daniel Noel - so early that frankly I don't know what happened in their games. Roy Zhang won his game via an exchange sacrifice followed up with immaculate endgame technique.

After that it was simply a matter of tidying up the team room and collecting the trophies. Just shows what we can do in these events when our best players are available. With two more under 18 competitions this season, how many more prizes can we win?

My congratulation to the players, and my thanks as always to the parents for their time and support.

*The only disappointment on the day was that Kent failed to bring back the permanent trophy so that was not able to be presented to us. Pretty poor. Hopefully we will get it at some point.

Related links

Last Season's Results