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– from Chris Howell
We awoke to rain and temperatures more Siberia than Serbia after a 20-degree drop over 2 days – and the news that the water supply throughout Novi Sad is being turned off for 15 hours tomorrow. According to local sources it is to do with the opening of a new bridge over the Danube.
As well as the suddenly very British weather the feeling that it’s really just like home is strengthened by the pairing computer’s appalling sense of humour in continually pairing all the English players against each other, particularly in the under-11s. Hopefully in the afternoon round (yes folks, it’s another double-round day!) it will relent.
Toby gets the first point of the day with a bye in the U9s, and immediately gets stuck into a few hours extra practice with coach Megan.
Everyone has at least a point now at half way and the understanding is growing that this is a very, very strong tournament and 50%+ here will be a great score for any of our players, as there are so few easy games. My own son Oli has played over 300 moves in 5 games; 3 of those moves have changed his score from 4 to 1.5/5 (although he would of course have played different opponents) – it’s that tough.
By 11am our U9s were appearing at regular intervals with Alexander scoring a solid pawn-up victory and Leo storming to a crushing 20-move win, both as black. Leo on 4/6 is becoming a serious contender, and Jason could still join him.
In the first U11 match-up Tim got a great opening but gave Daniel one chance to break out which he took, going a pawn up and swopping pieces mercilessly to win the ending. Soon after Ethan was another quick winner.
Midday and results have slowed to a trickle, with Vincent recording the next win to leave us at 6/10 at 12.30. Soon after two more wins, with Jonathan Finn converting an excellent endgame while Mahima won the exchange early on after which the result was never in doubt; our first draw was a happy Jason after nearly 3 hours effort.
First winner in the fourth hour was Charlie with a truly brilliant 27-move sacrificial win as black to move to 4/6 and real contention. The two remaining all-England clashes finished with wins for Tom after a see-saw game with Samir and for Freddie when Oli left a knight en prise in a probably drawn endgame. Draws for Lawrence and Matthew meant we had hit the magic 13 with 2 to go – our first 50%+ round! After 4 hours 10 minutes both Reuben and Laura emerge with hard-fought draws – 14/25 – woohoo!
So the afternoon round will surely be tough with many of the team playing higher-rated opposition after their wins – at least there is just the one England v England draw, inevitably in the U11s again, so anything is possible!
And it’s off to another brisk start with a 25-minute black win for Tim in the U-11s – followed before the hour by a fine attacking win from Freddie (the 150 attack!) and a 13-move queen win quickly converted from Lawrence.
Toby emerged in triumph after an hour having scored his first over-the-board win, with a few setbacks followed by an excellent refutation of a premature Kings Indian f5 break by Thomas Finn bringing another whole point. Then a rash of draws: Jason with another useful half-point, then Ethan after his endgame ended in a classic Q vs bishop’s pawn on 7th draw, and finally another solid performance from Mahima.
By 7.30 pm Reuben had won the all English clash, and by 8pm there was great news with wins against strong opposition from Matthew and Amardip.
Jonathan Lee had an excellent win against a highly-rated Russian, and as dusk fell over Novi Sad six of our battling players (Charlie, Tom Mc, Vincent, Samir, Laura and Jonathan Finn) were still at the board as the fifth hour of play approached. Charlie consolidated his tournament position with a draw to reach the magical 4.5 with 2 rounds to spare, while Tom went down after a brave fight. Samir battled to another great win, as did Vincent who started the day almost too sick to play only to score 1.5 points! Jonathan completed another solid draw, leaving young Laura as our last player standing, showing amazing tenacity as ever, although eventually going down. But we had done it again – another 50%+ round with 13 points in the bag for our best day by far overall!