ECF QF U120 Report

Lancashire 6 – 6 Essex (win on board count)

Chess is a very cruel game. You can play brilliantly for 49 moves, then one questionable move and you are lost. Multiply that by 12 or 16 boards and you have county chess. The ecstasy of a team win in the last minute versus the pain of suddenly losing or drawing a winning position in time trouble. This is county chess – a drug I’ve had for 25 years and shared with a great band of players proud to represent their county. And so many thanks to every one of you who made the effort, especially those who helped get other players to the venue.

We had the usual excellent venue, the East Midlands bridge centre in Spondon, doubling up with the u160’s against the same opponent, Essex. They had an equally good u120 team out and it was clear it was going to be close. 

This proved the case. Our strongest players, who have pulled us out of the mire many times, found it tough going on the top boards. Phil Shaughnessy and Chris Lysons have saved our bacon so many times, but on this occasion came off second best. Debutant Andy Swales on board one came up against a tough cookie who is now 133 grade and rising, and also went down. Captain Dave Thorp has been finding it difficult to find time to play with work pressures and, perhaps a bit ring rusty, also lost.

On the plus side, Gerry Whitehead parked his health concerns and pulled off yet another county win, as did his evergreen Eccles colleague Lawrence Harold. Young Thisumi Jayawarna also won despite running into serious time difficulties. Her older sister Tarini earned a very sold draw, as did Mark Southby and Peter Hurn. 
And so with two to play we were one down (4.5-5.5).

However, both Gary Bennett and Jeff Wilson had played excellently and were winning. Despite a late fumble, Jeff converted to make it 5.5-5.5 and 30 pairs of eyes started to gather around the last board. This was by far the best I had ever seen Gary play, and he was in total control.

But as I say, chess is a very cruel game. In a completely won position, but with the clock running down, Gary as Black relaxed on the last move in the following approximate position with White now to play:

White to play and draw – not the usual way to win a match!

Black has unwittingly forced White into the only saving move. Pawn to a8(q)! if BxQ we have a stalemate and a win for Essex on board count. Incredible. If it’s any help Gary – we have all been there and learnt from it for the rest of our chess lives!

In passing – I think our u120 team may have been jinxed! Two years ago we lost on board count when a player failed to turn up. Last year we lost on board count when a car puncture meant we lost two players. This year we lost on board count and, when Jeff Wilson went out to his car, found he had a shredded tyre!!

Next year must be the year when our u120 teams get all the luck and go all the way!  Many thanks for playing everybody.

Bill O’Rourke

ECF County QF Stage – U160

Final score – Lancashire 6 – 10 Essex.

First of all many many thanks to all of you who made the effort yesterday.

We lost 10-6. We were just a few too many players short to be successful, although it must be said everything that could go wrong seemed to go wrong on the day!
David Innes answered the call very late on Friday night after Richard Gavin withdrew with flu. Many thanks, David.

Teams start arriving at the excellent East Midlands Bridge for the U160 and U120 matches.

Played at the excellent East Midlands bridge centre, we kicked off the 4.5-hour match with Dave Aspinall playing an opening that looked strong, creative and had his opponent looking bewildered.

Unfortunately, Dave went wrong somewhere early on and suddenly he was lost! 0-1. Dave Innes looked to have a strong central pawn but again a mistake leads to dropping a piece and the game. Early doors and 0-2 did not augur well for the afternoon, especially across the boards only Steve Ward looked to be ahead, having decided to snaffle his opponent’s rook and allowing a dangerous looking initiative for his opponent.

The match then went quiet for one hour. Looking at the boards they all looked fairly even apart from Steve’s. A spate of draws now took place in even looking games. 0-2 became 2.5-4.5 in no time at all. Clearly, Essex had taken on board their 2 point advantage and realised they could wait for us to try to over-reach. My game was typical. My opponent played risk-free chess and what appeared an aggressive opening from me petered out after several pieces swap off to a dead draw.

With the onus being on trying to breach the gap, results started to go against us. John Whitfield and Rob Tokeley both had reverses from hopeful positions and suddenly the game was virtually out of our reach, 3-7. Steve Ward converted to offer some hope at 4-7 and John Addison’s win took us to 5-7 and with Phil Taylor looking good, some faint hope remained. But Steve Potter was having to resiliently defend on one with his time running down. A couple more dead draws took Essex to the line at 5-8. Suddenly Roger Chapman went down in a tricky queen and pawn ending and Essex had won. Phil Taylor won a good game to make it 6-9 but Steve Potter went down in the last few seconds to complete a 6-10 defeat.

This was a bad day at the office for the team. Essex deserved winners on the day and we relinquish our national title. However we’ve had these reverses before and we will be back next year – with hopefully the few strong players who could not make it this time. 

Report from Bill O’Rourke, U160 Captain.