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