Under 18 County Championships 2018

Neill Cooper with the Open Champions Kent and Team Manager, Jo Wildman

— a report from John Swain, with pictures by Phill Beckett

This event saw a very encouraging return, after 2017’s default. The event at The King’s School in Grantham, whose most famous alumnus is Sir Isaac Newton, saw nine counties with players from a full age-range, with several from primary school alongside those of secondary and sixth form age. Some counties did suffer from late withdrawals due to illness etc, especially Surrey which necessitated promoting three of their U130 Minor players into the Open team and defaulting three boards in the Minor event. Hertfordshire also had this problem, defaulting two boards in the Minor event, with Kent and Notts each a player short in the same event.

Both the Open and the U130 Minor events were run as a two-round six-team jamboree by the Controller, Neill Cooper. Games were standard play, with 55 minutes on the clock plus a five second increment. The two competitions were fiercely contested, with two counties sharing the lead after Round 1 in both events and the eventual winner in both only half a point ahead of the second-placed team. There is obviously some luck in the draw in a jamboree system, especially over two rounds, but an advantage is that it does place a premium on fighting chess and a determination to deliver the full point for the team, not a ‘Grandmaster draw’. 

In the Open, Kent were jointly in the lead with Sussex after the first round, with 8.5 points out of a possible 12, followed by Surrey on 6.5.  Encouragingly, the other three counties did well in Round 1, despite being heavily outgraded — Leicestershire scored 4.5 and both Herts and Suffolk 4 apiece. In the second round, the star performers were Surrey who notched up 8.5 points but still had to settle for third place since Kent did just enough with 8 points to win the title outright, ahead of Sussex.

The final scores in the Open, with average grades in brackets, were —
16.5/24 Kent (151)
16 Sussex (161)
15 Surrey (154)
9.5 Hertfordshire (131)
7.5 Leicestershire (118) and Suffolk (122)

Kent received the impressive wooden board, which dates back to 1950, together with a cup and each team member received engraved plaques. Sussex received engraved “silver” medals.

In the Minor (under 130 grade) competition, the event was not surprisingly contested strongly by the two counties with full teams: Norfolk and Yorkshire, who both scored very heavily in round 1 with 5/6.  Kent pushed them close, scoring 4 points from their five boards in round 1 and a further 3/5 in round 2, finishing third on 7 points. Norfolk edged it in Round 2, with 4/6, whereas Yorkshire could only manage 3.5 and therefore finished in second position. The Norfolk players each received an engraved plaque whilst the Yorkshire team had to be content with medals.

Scores in the Under 130 Minor —
9/12 Norfolk
8.5 Yorkshire
7 Kent
5 Nottinghamshire
2 Surrey
1.5 Hertfordshire

It was good to see the Best School trophy contested by 15 schools, each of which had at least two representatives (up to four scores could count).  After one round, both Haberdashers’ Aske’s and Knowle Academy were jointly in the lead with two points of a possible four (or in Knowle’s case 2/2 since both of their players won!).  Haberdashers’ pulled away in Round 2 to win the trophy on 5.5/8 with ACS Egham second on 4/8.

Thanks are due to The King’s School Grantham for providing the venue and to Sue Drulia and Fran Ball, staff of King’s and Sixth Form assistants who manned Reception and guided folks to team bases etc.  King’s also provided an excellent range of food – the pizzas and paninis were especially popular!  Thanks are also due to the players who displayed good sportsmanship throughout and who made the jobs of arbiters Phill Beckett and John Swain very straightforward, together with the team managers and parents who accompanied them. The Controller Neill Cooper masterminded the whole event and deservedly received many compliments for its smooth running.

It is to be hoped that a county or junior organising body will take up the challenge in 2019 and organise this very enjoyable and worthwhile event.  For reference, the hosts and organisers over the past fourteen years are as follows —

Year   Date     Host   Organiser  U18 Open U18 Minor
2005   18-Jun   Leics  ECF           7 
2006   20-May   Leics  ECF           7  
2007   21-Apr   Herts  ECF           3
2008   10-May   Derbys Derby         5        4
2009   28-Feb   Derbys Derby         6        9
2010   27-Jun   Surrey Surrey        6        4
2011   26-Jun   Berks  Berks         10
2012   30-Jun   Berks  Berks         15    
2013   30-Jun   Herts  Herts         14  
2014   29-Jun   Surrey SCCU          9        10
2015   24-Jun   Lincs  ECF           4        4
2016   26-Jun   Sussex Sussex        5        5
2017   None
2018   25 Feb   Lincs  ECF           6        6

Mikolaj Rogacewicz (Sussex, 182) v Jeff Tomy (Hertfordshire, 145) Board 3

Freddie Hand (Kent, 208) v Alex Golding (Surrey, 213) Board 1

0-1

Gwilym Price (Surrey, 198) v – Alex Leslie (Hertfordshire, 152) Board 2

1-0

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