Chess Moves

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European Youth Chess Championships – Day 4

We saw Batumi at its best today with perfectly clear blue skies and a full day of sunshine and it was also our best day so far in the playing halls with a total score of 17.5 points.  That’s 63% or in fact 65% for the purists given that, for the third day in a row, we had an England v England pairing (Amy v Katherine in the under 18 girls) and so a maximum score of 27.

Five of our players are right at the top of their respective tournaments – Akshaya is on the maximum 3 points in the under 14 girls, and Ezra, Richard, Alex and Anita are all on 2.5 points in the under 18, under 14, under 12 and under 10 girls respectively.

As ever there were some really tough draws today with 4 of our players facing opponents graded over 300 points above them (Cosima, Sacha, Josh and Richard) and particular congratulations to Richard and Sacha who won those games.  We also saw great wins from Navi, Anantha and Girinath among the 13 wins of the day.

Today’s results really helped our overall performance with the team scoring 50% to date (or 52% taking into account our home team draws).

Round 4 is tomorrow and whilst writing, we are waiting for the draw to come up. Fingers crossed for another great day like today.

- Angela Higgs

European Youth Chess Championships – Day 3

After overnight rain the sun has made a welcome appearance and it has started to get warmer. The sea is gently lapping the shore unlike yesterday when the waves were the height of houses. The England team is accommodated at the Intourist Palace Hotel in spacious, well-appointed en-suite rooms. It is just a short walk to the main playing venue at the Sheraton Batumi Hotel; the Under 8’s are playing their games at the Intourist Palace Hotel. Both arenas provide excellent playing conditions with good temperature control. Carpeted rooms mean that it is nice and quiet during play. Everyone other than the players and arbiters are required to leave the room before play begins and so there are few distractions for the players.

There are 989 players from 45 countries registered for the championships with the largest delegations coming from Georgia (140), Russia (136) and Azerbaijan (96) and the smallest team from the Faroe Islands (1). England has a team of 28 players across the different age categories who are each being coached by one of the 7 England chess coaches – Lorin D’Costa, John Emms, Glenn Flear, Jovanka Houska, Andrew Martin, Neil McDonald and Gyula Meszaros. Each player has an hour with their coach before playing a new opponent and post-match analysis is done in the team room back at the hotel.

Round 2 has resulted in a much improved set of results in comparison with Round 1, producing 15 points from 28 matches.  Amy Hoare and Koby Kalavannan were playing on the live boards today but both games were eventually lost after a valiant effort. Three players are now on 2/2 – Matthew Wadsworth, Akshaya Kalaiyalahan and Anita Somton with at least two of them scheduled to play on live boards in Round 3. A further 4 players are undefeated on 1.5/2 – Ezra Kirk, Richard Zhu, Alex Golding and Haolin Zhao. Zoe Varney has playersucceeded in drawing against two much higher rated players. There are 6 players yet to score and so they are working hard in their preparations for Round 3 and beyond – there are still a further 7 rounds to play.

- Mary Fraser

European Youth Chess Championships – Day 2

This was a tough first day for team Junior England at the European Youth Chess Championships – with a slightly disappointing overall score of 9.5.  Novice and veteran players alike can take heart from Head of Delegation Jim Wadsworth’s counsel – ‘there are no easy matches at this level in chess’. And it’s undeniable – as coach Andrew Martin points out – we travel over 2000 miles to the eastern shores of the Black Sea, don’t speak the language, can’t drink the water, arrive lagged and dazed. Different if you’re a Turkish or Russian junior. With allowances made for missing bags, long delays, and arriving in the wee small hours of the morning (Josh Higgs, Catherine Shephard, Ezra Kirk are all still sleep-deprived)  – it’s all about what happens on the board.

Triumphs first: Richard Zhu (U14)  took a magnificent scalp – defeating Pole  Kamil Koziol, ranked over 300 points higher. Zoe Varney (U16 G)  and Josh Higgs ( U 14) both held superior forces (on paper, at least ) at bay. Russian Ayyyna Egorova struggled for a draw with Zoe  and Josh held off both sleep and German Martin Kololli, again achieving half a point. Mention must be made of young Anita Somton (U10 G) –  winning her first match against Armenian Nadezhda Khachatryan. Go Girl!

A Blue on Blue pairing is always frustrating   – do we have to travel this far to play at home? – but, alas,  it’s unavoidable. The match between Matthew Wadsworth and Theo Slade (U 14) went as the ranking would suggest, the formidable Matthew chalking up his first win. With luck, civil wars over the remaining eight rounds will be kept to a minimum. Whoever said chess wasn’t physical (HMG’s Department of Media, Culture and Sport?) should try matching Charlie McLaren , Sacha Brozel or Alex Golding (all U12) for sheer stamina: they notched up nearly fourteen hours of match-play between them on Day 1. Charlie and Alex battling to wrench half a point from – respectively – Georgian Giga Goderdzishvili and Azeri Muhammed Ismayilov. By 8pm, Sacha finally succumbed to the higher-ranked Edoardo di Benedietto. And the same was true for James Moreby against his far-outranking Russian opponent. Koby Kalavannan compensated in part for those losses in the section with an impressive win over home-boy Mate Todashvilli.

With eight long matches to go, and weather as variable as England international football , the parents are starting to eye one of the dozen-so casinos in town — but, far safer to bet on this squad of talented and resourceful juniors and their coaches.

- Mark Brozel

European Youth Chess Championships 2014 – Batumi, Georgia

Saturday 18th October 2014, 10pm

We’ve arrived – or at least most of us have! The 2014 European Youth Chess Championships are finally about to start.

Just over 6 months ago, 28 of England’s top juniors accepted an invitation from the ECF to represent their country in one of the strongest and most prestigious tournaments on the junior international chess calendar. The planning for this tournament has been difficult and time consuming but excellently marshalled and meticulously organised by Head of Delegation, Jim Wadsworth. Vaccinations and visas had to be arranged, not to mention dealing with the hotel booking, insurance and entry forms.  With no direct flights from the UK and 28 players, 7 coaches and 35 parents travelling in 8 different groups arriving into 3 different airports, it’s enough to give you a headache! No wonder when I bumped into Jim this morning in Istanbul airport he was in the duty free, purchasing a large bottle of Scotch!

We travelled as a family, leaving Cornwall first thing on Friday morning, with a 4 hour drive to Heathrow, followed by a 4 hour flight to Istanbul, a 15 hour stopover in Istanbul airport and a 2 hour flight to Batumi in Georgia. Thankfully the coach journey to the hotel was a matter of minutes, although the Georgian authorities seemed to take an age over passport control (a full 5 minutes checking Andrew Martin’s credentials – I can’t think why!) Actually, although that might seem a bit of a long trek, I think we had it quite easy compared to some. Quite a number of players and parents opted to try to get some form of sleep in the departure lounge of the ridiculously busy Istanbul airport (we opted instead for the comfort of a ridiculously expensive airport hotel!), some decided to travel via Trabzon in Turkey, involving a rather long road trip from the airport across the border (some of them are still in transit as I type) and unfortunately we also had the almost inevitable case of lost luggage – hopefully they will be re-united with their belongings soon!

And so we come to the start of the tournament! 989 players from 45 different countries, having to cope with not only the clash of cultures and change in diet that we have already experienced in our first few hours here in Georgia, but also with the ultra strict “zero-tolerance” rule (if you are not sitting at your board when the arbiter starts the round you will be defaulted) and a 40 move “Sofia draw” rule (if you agree a draw in the first 40 moves you forfeit the game). It’s a tough life being a chess player!

Oh, and I almost forgot – it’s our son, Theo’s birthday today! He had to remind us when we woke up in Istanbul this morning. What a way to spend your 14th birthday – half of it in Turkey and half of it in Georgia – crazy isn’t it? But he wouldn’t have it any other way – and nor would any of the other 27 players! They are all ready, they are all excited and they can’t wait for 3pm tomorrow when the competition finally starts!

- Andrew Slade

Congratulations – Alan Merry

alanmerryCongratulations to Alan Merry, who not only made his third and final International Master norm (his first came at the Big Slick International in June 2013 and his second at the Winter Chess IM all-play-all in Mallorca in November 2013) but also scored his first Grandmaster norm with a score of 6/9 and a performance of 2624 at the Poker Stars Isle of Man International Chess Tournament 2014. He now needs to raise his rating to 2400 to be awarded the IM title.
His result can be viewed here – and the tournament website is here –
[picture courtesy of John Upham]