U19 Finals

A report from John Swain

This premier event, sponsored by Winchester College, has involved thousands of players over the years from its inaugural season in 1957-58 when it was sponsored by The Sunday Times. This year’s event attracted 142 teams from 90 schools.  Finalists from 2018, strong teams with a total grade of at least 750 and teams which did well at the Eton Rapidplay in September 2018 qualified automatically for the knock-out Regional Stage in the Spring Term, so less experienced teams had the chance to play in competitive qualifying events in the Autumn Term without fearing being demolished in a very one-sided contest by the eventual winners.  Each of the fourteen Regional winners received an engraved DGT 2010 clock and the other two finalists, Brighton College and St Olave’s Grammar School, qualified via the Repechage at Wilson’s School.

Uppingham School was again the impressive setting for the Final; the event moved there in 2006 and has been there ever since.  The format is that the sixteen schools play four games over two days with an hour on the clock and an increment of ten seconds per move.  Boardcount was used in four cases in rounds 2 and 3 to separate the teams, and one match in round 2, Tiffin School v Wilson’s School could only be decided (in favour of the former) by bottom board elimination, with boardcount also level.  Many commented on the strength of the event, with five teams having combined grades of over 1000: RGS Guildford, Champions in 2017 were strong favourites, averaging 195; Hampton School, runners-up in 2016 and 2017 (180); Reading School, Champions in 2014, 2016 and 2018 (176); Royal Grammar School Newcastle (171); Westminster School (169).

The top eight seeds duly won their encounters in round 1 against lower half opposition, but a taste of things to come was provided by an exciting match between RGS Guildford and ninth seeds St Olave’s where the result depended on the last game to finish; had it gone the other way, St Olave’s would have won on boardcount.  In round 2, RGS Guildford had another close encounter, this time with King Edward’s Chelmsford, but eventually emerged winners 3.5-2.5.  The upset of the round was provided by City of London School (average 166) defeating the 2018 Champions Reading School on boardcount.

Neill Cooper organised an optional seven-round Blitz tournament (3 minutes and a 2 second increment) which attracted 41 players, including four staff, despite the rival attractions of England v USA and Wimbledon.  This was won by FM Tom O’Gorman (Brighton College) with a perfect score ahead of Anthony Zhang (Reading School) 5.5/7, followed by Savin Dias and Alex Leslie (both Haberdashers Aske’s) FM Richard Mladek and Harvey Zhang (both Reading School) and Remy Rushbrooke (Westminster School) on 5/7.

Could City do it again?  Yes! They sat down in Round 3 the following day to play RGS Guildford.  Another titanic struggle developed, with most games going the distance and City prevailing with another 3-3 tiebreak victory.  Hampton looked in good form with a comprehensive 5-1 demolition of close rivals RGS Newcastle.  The stage was therefore set for the Final between City of London School and Hampton School, which had both finished equal third last year. Hampton took an early lead when Jake Liang won on board 4 against Aadarsh Saravanan, but City hit back virtually immediately with a victory by Charukgan Muhunthan against Max Elliott on board 5.  Top boards FM Koby Kalavannan (Hampton) and Sacha Brozel shared the point, whilst Jacob Yoon beat Rajat Makkar to give City the lead.  The two remaining games went virtually to increments; Hampton’s board 6 Ben Hammond found an ingenious drawing tactic against Tejas Mulay when the exchange down but City’s board 2 Partha Mulay defeated Alfie Onslow to seal the first-ever Championship title for City of London School by 4 boards to 2.  City of London players received the cup and plaques as Champions, with Hampton School players receiving plaques as runners-up, together with the Richard Haddrell Memorial Trophy, named after the chief Conductor 2001 – 2015.  Former Champions Reading School, 2017 Champions Royal Grammar School Guildford and Royal Grammar School Newcastle received plaques for their third equal position, as did St Olave’s Grammar School who also received the Plate Trophy (an engraved wooden board dating back to 1994) being the best first-round loser with two victories subsequently.  Other teams received engraved medals.

Phill Beckett entered the results on the ECF’s League Management System which allowed those on-site and elsewhere to follow the results virtually live for the first time. Unfortunately, the league table displayed does not tie-break 3-3 results and so produced results which misled a few viewers.  It did, however, allow us to discover instantly the best performer at the event: FM Tom O’ Gorman (Brighton College) who produced a 4/4 and 270 grading performance; Ethan Sanitt (Haberdashers’ Aske’s) and Harvey Zhang (Reading) also scored maximum points.  The best performer relative to his grade was Bilal Ahmed of Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital whose grading performance was 173, ninety points above expectation.

We are very grateful to the sponsors Winchester College.  Many thanks are also due to: the hospitality provided again by Uppingham School; Julian Clissold, Non-Executive Chairman of the ECF for presenting the prizes, bringing the equipment and assisting with the arbiting; those schools, teachers and organisers which ran qualifying events; Neill Cooper for his repechage tournament at Wilson’s School in April 2019 and for the Blitz at the Final; Phill Beckett, Michael Burn, Neill Cooper, David Matthews and Alan Thorn who administered the regions; finally, Chief Arbiter Phill Beckett (who also took the team photos).

The results were —

Champions City of London School – won 4 matches
2nd Hampton School – won 3 matches
3rd = Reading School, Royal Grammar School Guildford, Royal Grammar School Newcastle – won 3 matches
6th = St Olave’s Grammar School (Plate Winners), Brighton College, King Edward VI Grammar School Chelmsford, The Haberdashers’ Aske’s School for Boys, Westminster School, Wilson’s School – won 2 matches
12th = Chepstow School, Nottingham High School, Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital, Tiffin School – won 1 match
16th Altrincham Grammar School for Boys – won 0 matches

The following sixteen schools have qualified for the Under 19 National Schools Chess Championship Finals at Uppingham School on Tuesday 2nd July and Wednesday 3rd July 2019 —

Altrincham Grammar School for Boys; Brighton College; Chepstow School; City of London School; Hampton School; King Edward VI Grammar School Chelmsford; Nottingham High School; Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital Bristol; Reading School; Royal Grammar School Guildford; Royal Grammar School Newcastle; St Olave’s Grammar School; The Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School; Tiffin School; Westminster School; Wilson’s School

The teams will take part in a four-round Swiss tournament with no drawn matches allowed.  The Fischer time limit for each game will be all the moves in one hour plus ten seconds per move.  The Chief Arbiter will be Phill Beckett, assisted by Arbiters Julian Clissold and John Swain.  For further details of the rules click here

The timetable is as follows —

Tuesday 2nd July 2019
Noon – arrival at Uppingham School
12.30 – 1.30 pm – lunch
2.00 pm – Round 1
5.00 pm – Round 2
7.30 pm – evening meal
8.30 – 10.00 pm (Optional) either a Blitz Tournament (three minutes and two seconds increment per move) or a Chess 960 (Fischer Random) tournament, open to both accompanying adults as well as players.

Wednesday 3rd July
8.00 am – breakfast
9.00 am – Round 3
Noon – lunch
1.00 pm – Round 4
3.45 pm – Prizegiving
4.15 pm – depart