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ECF U18 Championships Sunday, June 29
Chris Archer-Lock writes:

After four years’ absence the ECF Under 18 county championships returned to Wilson’s School in Surrey on 29th June. With apologies to any readers seeking to escape the World Cup, four years ago the chess here had provided a welcome distraction from the England football team’s defeat by Germany (see report on 2010 event), but this year such considerations had been put aside with the help of England’s early departure from Brazil. The Berkshire team on this occasion was young and looked forward to the challenge of playing often more experienced opposition, although a challenging first half of the event lay in store as we acclimatised to this strong event.

In the first round, we faced a Mexican wave of defeats, the only points gained being in the more experienced top half of the team. Richard Zhu achieved an impressive positional win against the Budapest Gambit, first neutralising the opening and then achieving full control of the queenside. Alex Vanlint was engaged in a finely balanced rook and pawn ending, which was decided by a strong central king position and then picking up opposing pawns which had strayed offside. Our points total was completed with a sound draw for Matthew Wadsworth playing black against Hertfordshire’s also strong board 1, and achieving comfortable equality in a Caro-Kann Defence. In spite of these positive scores, we stood in last place at the interval and needed an improvement in results after the break and half time team talk.

Indeed it proved to be a game of two halves, as our fortunes were turned around in the second round. A number of solid half points built the defensive foundation for the Berkshire counterattack. Richard Zhu drew comfortably after his opponent’s double fiancetto resulted in hanging pawns which he controlled comfortably; Charlie Bucknell was close to victory with two rooks against a queen, which ultimately proved active enough to reach the final whistle; Nikolai Hinterreither also held a material balance with two minor pieces against rook and two pawns; James Moody equalised under pressure in an opposite coloured bishop endgame; and Jack Lawrence created enough pressure to hold a rook ending a pawn down. With the first round score already equalised in draws, the team went on to score significant victories. Jake Tippey first achieved an equal position through exchanges on the open d-file, and then a decisive advantage by a knight raid on enemy territory which netted the full point. Alex Vanlint applied queenside pressure with the Sicilian Defence and obtained a decisive material advantage. Ragul Sudhakar played a patient Giuoco Piano, converting better pieces and kingside pressure first to a material advantage and then to a winning king and pawn endgame. Finally Matthew Wadsworth had been engaged in a fascinating struggle with an opponent who had exchanged a piece for three pawns in a dynamic position arising from an English Opening. The game remained balanced until in the final moments of an ending with rook and knight against rook and advancing pawns Matthew manouvered neatly to trap the opposing king on the edge of the board and deliver checkmate. Thus an impressive 6½ points were achieved in the second round and the team had recovered to finish sixth equal in the event. Good experience was indeed gained, which will stand the players in good stead for future appearances at this level. Congratulations to winners Sussex, who pipped Hertfordshire on tie break.

The joint managers would like to thank the organisers for a well-run event, the players for their efforts and participation, and the parents for their support.

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Results
Last Season's Results