Under 11 Girls Team event: Berks, Oxon, Sussex, Barnet
Saturday, January 18
Mark Say writes:
A very young and inexperienced Girls Under 11 Team welcomed the might of Barnet, Sussex, Oxfordshire and Wiltshire to The Abbey Junior School for a 3-round tournament last Saturday. Despite missing 4 key players, Berkshire produced a gritty, fighting display and surpassed all expectation by coming 3rd= with Wiltshire and only 2½ points behind Sussex in 2nd place. Barnet proved, as expected, to have the strongest team and they ran out worthy winners on 25½ points.
In the first round, the Berkshire team struggled to shake the Christmas ‘rust’ off and the team ended with just 4 points. Aylin Gurleyen, Rhea Ukil and Anvesha Saxena all scored well, whilst Saadhikha Shanker and Connie Say fought really hard against far stronger opponents to force draws.
In the Second round, the team really ‘knuckled’ down and fought hard. We ended the 2nd round with 7½ points out of 12 and moved up clear into 4th place. The Team Manager was left open-mouthed as player after player seemed to edge ahead and score wins. Even those that didn’t, were fighting hard against much older and more experienced opponents – particular mention must go to Kateryna Heslington who had a really tough battle and kept her opponent at the board for nearly an hour!
Aylin had another excellent match which was thrilling to watch; Saatvika Mahesh (playing Board 1) was now into her stride and made light work of her Sussex opponent…but perhaps the best displays came further down the boards. Francesca Blackwell was a picture of concentration – hunched over her board and grinding her opponent down remorselessly; Elizabeth Wood scared the wits out of the Team Manager by taking forever to take her opponent’s Queen...and then with a laconic, emotionless demeanour proceeded to turn a losing position into a fantastic win! Finally Mahi Khetarpal (our least experienced player) played extremely sensibly and slowly (this is GOOD!) to earn her first point for the county.
Between Rounds 2 and 3, we held a team meeting and all agreed that if we had a good 3rd round then third place was possible. The team had earned its name of “The Battling Berkshires” and now we needed to cement the earlier efforts.
Arti Lenoir who was 0 for 2 until then (but had really been pushing her opponents hard), finally got her just desserts and scored a cracking win – the happy smile as she left the hall showed that the afternoon had been worthwhile!
Laura Autio, also making her county debut, had like Arti been battling hard. It was great to see her score her first win – with more practice and some Saturday Afternoon Events, Laura could develop into a really good player…once she had got rid of the ‘rust’ from not playing much competitively, she then played very well. The final match decided the result – Wiltshire had to get a ½ point to secure 3rd place ahead of us – but they couldn’t do it and The Battling Berkshires had secured a 3rd place tie! As Team Manager, I was delighted by the team spirit, the heart, endeavour and above all else – the desire to make life difficult even if the opponent was more experienced and a foot taller!
“Star of the Day Prize” must go to Anvesha Saxena who scored 3/3 – if Anvesha could play a few more SAEs, her grading will rocket up and she has the potential to become a very good player. Saatvika, Aylin, Elizabeth and Saadhikha all contributed really well…but in truth the whole team performed fantastically and I have high hopes for the next 2-3 years as most of the players will still be eligible.
Huge thanks must go to Peter Davey for running the tournament so well, Jim Hoskins for his wise counsel and chess advice and to Maggie Shepherd at The Abbey for hosting us at such a welcoming venue. Finally, ‘thank you’ to all the parents who gave up such a large part of their weekend to ensure that the team got there on time and were fed, watered and supported so well.