Excerpts from a report written by James Connors
A year on from the BCA’s 90th anniversary, it was a warm welcome back to Solihull with 21 players and three guide dogs prepared to occupy the chess room and battle it out over five rounds at the board across the weekend. We also welcomed many other attendees – families and friends of players from near and far.
Once again, there was both an Open and Challengers’ trophy but these were merged into a single section. And with a classic pairing of Gerry and Julie as arbiters, and Richard Murphy lined up as steward, we all looked in safe hands!
Round 1 took place on the Friday night, so very understandably, a few players took a half point bye having made long journeys. As is often the case with a Swiss round 1, there were some quite large rating gaps between players, but many games were still very competitive. In the end though, each result went the expected way.
Roll on Saturday morning and Round 2 certainly made things more interesting. With a handful of interesting draws, several of the higher seeded players found themselves already trailing. After an impressive draw from Ian Blencowe against the significantly higher rated Tristram Cole, only Owen Phillips, Gary Hogan, Norman Wragg and I made it through to 2/2. Meanwhile, in the Challengers’ section, Gill Smith secured an impressive victory over John Fullwood.
Round 3 on Saturday afternoon then saw no end to the excitement, with Owen defeating Norman to lead the pack on 3/3 while Tristram kept pace with a win to move back to 2.5/3. Ian Blencowe’s flying start was held back by a draw in a strong effort by Olle Engstrom from Sweden, despite Ian receiving the downfloat. Meanwhile, in the Challengers’ section, Mark Hague impressed with a win over George Phillips to move to 2/3 and was joined by Mahendra Galani from Austria who defeated Gill to also move to 2/3. Saturday’s round ended with a very intricate and chaotic position between Gary Hogan and James descending into a time scramble, with James finding a trick to join Owen as leader with 3/3.
After an evening of Gary Hogan regaling us with a fascinating account of his experiences in Rhodes, followed by time to catch up with old friends and a good night’s rest, Sunday morning came around. Number 1 seed, Owen and number 5 James remained the only perfect scorers and were of course paired on board 1, with Owen taking the white pieces. An interesting game followed, which ended in a draw. Meanwhile, across the rest of the pairings, Tristram caught back up with the leaders with a win over Bill Armstrong, after safely navigating a challenging endgame, and Ian Blencowe continued an impressive streak of results after a draw with Norman Wragg. In the meantime, Colin Chambers continued to mark an impressive return to BCA chess after recovering from surgery over the summer with a win, as well as a win for Olle Engstrom to take them both to 2.5/4. In the Challengers’ section, all results went as expected and Mark, Mahendra, John Fullwood and Malcolm Jones all went into the final round tied at the top on 2/4.
Round 5 came about after an exciting but tiring weekend in the chess room, and perhaps expectedly, several quick draws were agreed including between Tristram and Owen leaving them on 4 points apiece to watch as James blundered a rook in ten moves out of the opening against Ian Blencowe. And despite James clawing back to a losing but tricky Rook vs Knight endgame that lasted nearly 90 minutes, Ian found the correct sequence with his rook in the end to continue an impressive weekend of results and move to 3.5/5. He was also joined by Gary Hogan who between the three of them, shared 3rd place. Owen and Tristram were both crowned winners but by tie break, Owen took the trophy for the Open section.
In the Challengers’, of the four leaders, only Mark Hague secured a win in the final round, leading to himself being crowned as Challengers’ Champion with 3/5. Mark was delighted because he’d never won a BCA trophy before!
Many people stayed for the Sunday night. In the evening there was an impromptu soirée with music, singing and jokes. The contributions included a Russian song and poem by Natasha Hogan, aged 3, who was supported by her mum, Alyona.
The weekend saw an absolutely outstanding set of chess matches once again plus good food and lots of fun socialising! And a great deal of thanks was owed to Richard, Gerry and Julie for all of their hard work too in the chess room as well as to Freya for raising £160 with the raffle and all the others who helped across the weekend. But most importantly, thanks must go to John Fullwood, who put in a great deal of organisational work to make the weekend a great success and a pleasure to attend!
Here are the final placings and prize winners!
On 4 points: Owen Phillips and Tristram Cole. They finished joint 1st/2nd in the Open and Owen won the Open trophy on tie-break.
On 3.5 points: James Connors, Gary Hogan and Ian Blencowe. James and Gary each got a share of 3rd prize in the Open and Ian won Grading Prize A which was of higher value. Ian’s portion of 3rd prize was cascaded down to the next score group.
On 3 points Norman Wragg, Bill Armstrong, Colin Chambers, Olle Engstrom (Sweden) and Mark Hague. Norman, Bill and Colin shared Ian’s portion of 3rd prize. Olle won Grading Prize B, which was of higher value. Mark won first prize in the Challengers, again of higher value, and also received the Challengers trophy.
On 2.5 points George Phillips, Abi Baker and John Fullwood. Abi and John shared 2nd/3rd prizes in the Challengers.
On 2 points Mahendra Galani (Austria), Malcolm Jones, Gill Smith, John Osborne and Tony Lawton. Gill, John and Tony shared Grading Prize C.
On 1.5 points Gary Wickett
On 1 point Phil Rafferty, who won Grading Prize D
On 0.5 point Lea Ryan
Congratulations to all the prize winners!