European Youth Team Championships

Andrew’s final report

The England team came to Poland with the intention to play chess against strong opponents, to work as a team and learn from each other. We were significantly lower rated than most of the other teams, seeded 17 out of 21 teams. Most, possibly all, of the other teams had brought a team coach with them.

Within the England team, amongst other things, one or more of the players had to cope with missed transfers, several days of lost luggage, worry about exam results, sickness and the disappointment of multiple down floats to play lower-rated players. The players overcame these obstacles to ensure the team ended in the rankings placed higher than our seeding (equal 11th on match points, 14th place on tie break). While it varied from player to player, the team overall gained rating points.

The tournament was very well organised and played to a high standard. The Polish hosts were always polite, welcoming and accommodating. I would certainly recommend that stronger England players consider entering this tournament in the future, and personally I hope that I will be able to return to Poland for junior chess in the future to experience the host nation’s hospitality once again.

— Andrew Varney

Rounds 5-7 report

Rounds 5 to 7 featured two more matches against Polish teams (we ‘collected’ all but one during the tournament) and one against another Slovakian team. All of the games were shown on live boards on chess24 and the PGNs can also be downloaded from the tournament website.

The round 5 match we narrowly lost 2½ – 1½ to Poland 2. The board 1 game was very well defended by Conor to hold the draw against his FM opponent by aiming for, and playing accurately in, a final position with bishop against 3 pawns. After the match, the Polish board 1 player joined the England team over dinner and afterwards for table football (if it hadn’t been malfunctioning). In my view that’s what chess should be like – whatever the battle over the board, the opponents can be best of friends off the board. As was typical for this tournament, the England team played more chess together afterwards.

The final score in the round 6 match vs Slovakia 3 was a very comfortable 4 – 0. However, even the results in this match were not as straightforwardly obtained as the score line might suggest. Zoe had decided to experiment with 1.d4 rather than her usual 1.e4 as she was interested in playing against the Benoni, but did not end up with the comfortable position she was aiming for. It was good for the whole team to get wins under their belts this round: Conor’s first win of the tournament, Stephen back to winning after a few long struggles that did not go his way, and Koby back on track for a possible board prize.

The last round pairings saw the team awarded a third down float, disappointing as they would have preferred to have played stronger players. Despite the ratings of the Poland 3 players, not all the games were easy, however, and the team ended with a 3-1 win.

— Andrew Varney

Round 4

Results link – here | Website – here

We made it to the carpet! Not the red carpet, but nonetheless a milestone.

Up until this point the highest team table that we had played on was number 7 in the first round, but for round 4 we were playing on table 6. The room is carpeted from that point towards the higher tables.

At the beginning of the round, the England players were looking quite relaxed. It was good to be in this position playing a much higher rated team again (Denmark, sixth seed). Koby was on 3/3, one of only two players in the whole tournament, and gaining a significant number of rating points. The team win the previous day probably also helped morale.

All boards fought hard for a result. Koby’s winning streak had a bump in the road this round after a long struggle, and Conor’s and Stephen’s games were also played right to the last. Zoe was once again two pawns up, and although she lost her advantage as before, on this occasion she managed to draw when her opponent allowed her to sac her bishop against the pawn that mattered after also allowing her king in to deal with his other pawns.

Despite being heavily out-rated (mostly 200-300 ELO rating difference) on all boards and the harsh final score of 3.5-0.5, this did not represent the quality of the games, as all players succeeded in pushing their titled opponents to the limit.

— Andrew Varney

Round 3

England were paired against Poland 5 for round 3. The Poland 5 team was put together after the technical meeting when it was pointed out that the ECU regulations for the tournament required there to be an even number of teams. The original 21 teams would have meant 7 byes during the tournament for which some people had travelled a long way to play strong international chess.

Although Poland 5 are (not surprisingly) the lowest rated team in the tournament, the mean of 1543 FIDE is far from representative of their true playing strength. The Polish board 1 for the match (13-year-old Maciej Czopor) has had some recent very good results including a draw against Peter Wells in the London Chess Classic. Chess-DB’s ‘URS’ ratings also suggest that lower board players in the team are probably under-rated by around 400 ELO points.

Conor’s task on board 1 was therefore similar to the previous rounds, whereas the other team members had a different challenge. The young, rapidly improving Polish players had virtually no games to look through for preparation, so there was a danger of a big surprise in the opening, especially as they are on home turf with a lot of strong coaching available. Yet a loss or draw by an England player to any of them would result in a tumble in rating.

Fortunately the games went in our favour on boards 2 to 4, with all the opposing players losing because of inaccuracies and blunders while the England players stuck more accurately to their plans. Stephen’s board 2 game featured a queen sac in the opening, which although all theory, provided a moment of concern for those watching! Conor’s game was hard to call as he was an exchange up but against two well advanced connected pawns. A draw was the result in that game, and 3.5-0.5 in the match. Overall it was a much earlier finish for the team than in the previous two rounds.

— Andrew Varney

Round 2

Disappointment was the flavour of the round 2 day (Friday) for the England team at EYTCC in Poland. We were playing Slovakia 2, a team with a mean rating of 2273, still below average for this strong junior tournament, but out-rating us by 100-200 FIDE points on all but board 3. Why disappointment then at losing 3-1? Because we were clearly winning each of the games.

Both boards 1 and 2 featured complicated positions, but with Conor and Stephen having a clear advantage from fairly early on. Board 3 was quite even, and on board 4 Zoe found a nice tactic towards the end of the middle game to go 2 pawns up. Unfortunately Zeitnot turned everything around! Suddenly Conor was lost due to trying to make too much of his opponent’s time trouble. Stephen changed his mind on a key move under time pressure, as did Zoe on her second time scramble. This was after losing much of her advantage playing on increment approaching the move 40 time control. Meanwhile Koby calmly converted when his opponent started to struggle under time trouble.

Another disappointment followed in the evening when the pairings came out and we saw we had unexpectedly received a second down float.

— Andrew Varney

Round 1

This is not only the strongest junior chess tournament that I have attended with Zoe, it is also in my opinion the best organised and most friendly. The Polish hosts have really gone out of their way to make the visiting teams welcome and to make the tournament a success.

The England team gelled from the first day, and while the matches are tough and there have been some ups and downs already, the players are in good spirits and are working hard.

Getting match points in Round 1 was a great start, especially against the strongest of the home teams. Unfortunately Zoe on board 4 was lost out of the opening, but on board 3 Koby kept things level until his opponent blundered under time pressure, when he took full advantage of it. On board 3, Stephen managed to salvage a draw from a lost bishop and pawn endgame by playing a lot more accurately than his opponent.

Conor’s game against Poland’s 2420-rated board 1 was an interesting struggle, enough to attract a crowd of spectators not only from among the Polish delegation but also some of the top teams’ coaches. Conor’s advantage grew through the middlegame as he gradually outplayed his opponent showing great technique in a series of different types of position. A tactical trick finally saved Poland a  half point. The match was thus a draw.

— Andrew Varney

Good luck to Koby, Stephen, Zoe and Conor – our team in the European Youth Team Championship in Poland …

Results link – here | Website – here

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