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NYCA Under 16 Saturday, November 09
Chris Archer-Lock and Lucy Head writes:

Click for larger photo
Click for larger photo

Eight U16 Berkshire players made the long journey to Telford for this year’s U16 NYCA team event. With a player dropping out the day before, we nearly didn’t make it but we were very grateful to retired chess player, Alfred Wong who stood in at very short notice and contributed with some useful points. In our team, we also had Jonathan Matthews who hasn’t played in a competitive chess event for over two years but showed that one never forgets how to play well if one has the necessary skills.

The first round saw us take time to find our feet, although at least two points put us on the first rung of a steep ladder at a strong Under 16 competition. A controlled positional win by Louise Head with 28 seconds remaining on the clock was supported by a win from Jonathan Matthews who built nicely on early piece activity to secure a strong outpost and win a pawn. Other games looked promising but all were eventually lost, including a narrow time scramble loss for Helen Archer-Lock, who was making her debut at this age group.

There was enough promise to suggest that things would get better, as indeed happened with four points gained in round two. The three wins were achieved by Ryan Wong in a complicated Scotch game, by Alfred Wong who gained space in an Open Sicilian which caused his opponent to capitulate under time pressure, and Ragul Sudhakar with a neat win of a piece. Still, we approached the final round being second last out of seven counties and needing a fantastic final round to be amongst the prizes. A fantastic finale did await, as the final round saw us gain a magnificent seven points in the final shoot out. Our score galloped ahead with a default win for Sruthi Ramaraju, also making her debut in the team, whose opponent had already left for home and Louise Head, tactically exploiting weaknesses in her opponent's Tarrasch Defence to become our top scorer with 2.5/3. Draws from Ryan Wong and Ragul advanced our score, and a number of tense positions remained. Alex Vanlint infiltrated with his queen to turn his game round and win. Alfred Wong's Welsh opponent had played the interesting St George's defence, which he slew with a kingside attack. Jonathan Matthews found a nice tactical finish based on a supported passed pawn. The final game to finish was Helen Archer-Lock's endgame against rivals South Wales, and this time she was victorious in the time scramble. With the team not expecting to be in the prizes and some already on the motorway home, we discovered that Berkshire had done enough to leap forward triumphantly into second place at the National Youth Chess Association championships.

Well done to a committed team and thanks to the players and parents for supporting this event. It was a long way to drive and with so many refusals from players, the U12 team never made it and the U16 team nearly went the same way. I hope with the recent success of the Berkshire NYCA U18 team and now the U16 team, more players will come forward to represent their county at this event. We showed again we are a county to be reckoned with amongst the top juniors in the country.

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