Saturday 5th September 2020 at 6:30pm on Chess.com
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The Blackburne Challenge, the oldest challenge
Controller’s match night report
Played on Saturday 5th September, honour was restored to the North of England after a 126 wait in the oldest counties challenge of them all with an emphatic victory over the South of England in the North v South Challenge, particularly across the top 20 boards where the North held a significant and decisive grading advantage. GM Matthew Sadler & WIM Natasha Regan provided the live commentary. In 1894 style, Adrian Elwin, David Sedgwick, Phill Beckett and controller Mark Murrell were the match stewards.
All bar two of the 39 affiliated English counties were represented extending the reach of county competition with the event fulfilling its “all abilities” team billing, from Grandmaster to beginner. The match was played on Chess.com over 108 boards matching the last encounter in 1894. With thanks to South skipper, Anthony Fulton, you can read about the 1894 London & 1893 Birmingham encounters in history corner on the event webpage.
The North crossed the finishing line reaching 54½ game points at 8:49pm after 2h 19m play in the 2½h session. Skipper Mick Riding, rounding off his triumphant online summer, ironically reported that it was Nick London for the North who scored the winning point. By close of play a further 6 points had been added to give a comfortable margin of victory 60½ to 46½, in this finale to the summer’s online counties championship season and the first ECF members event of 2020/21.
It has taken 126 years for the North of England to issue the long awaited challenge to the South of England for a rematch to determine whether the supremacy established by the South in 1893 in Birmingham and re-affirmed in 1894 in London has stood the test of time. These early challenges paved the way for the establishment of the regional Unions, competition between them and the Counties Championships that has seen nationwide competition over more than 100 years. SCCU archivist, Anthony Fulton, has once again delved into his ancient trove to uncover the origins of these challenge matches and their influence in the development of organised chess long before our national Federation existed. Reports of both matches have been preserved, which you can read at your leisure in the history section of this page.
The Online Counties Championships, which conclude on 22nd August 2020, have attracted representative county teams across the nation from all 5 Unions. What better way to celebrate such a summer of online chess than for those counties to rejoinder in those ancient rivalries and combine with the ECF Online Clubs to produce a truly national epic match.
Any chess player can participate in this multi-board challenge provided they hold a new season 2020/21 ECF Membership or Supportership taken out on or before 3 September, have an active playing account on Chess.com, the host platform, and have not been banned from ECF Clubs. Allegiance will of course need to be declared and here the eligibility rule that applied in 1894 is to be followed with county of birth determining ‘northerner’ or ‘southerner’ status or a period of established residency of 1 year or more. In 1894 it was counties of the North and Midlands that took on the South (then encompassing the western and eastern Unions) and so it will be today with the NCCU and MCCU combining against the EACU, SCCU and WECU. Oxfordshire, currently unaffiliated, falls into the northern camp by virtue of its former membership of the MCCU. Take a look at the map section of this page for the Unions map and the North v South battle ground divide.
There is no limit on numbers. Those who sign up will play, though we may have to invoke some dual allegiances to balance the numbers. If you qualify as a floater please indicate this on entry to your Chess.com ECF Club (North or South) of choice. You will need your new ECF ME number.
Back in 1894 there was no ranking system (other than class) and a 4½ hr playing session (with adjudication). In 2020 board orders will be determined firstly by July 2020 grades (as revised) and secondly alphabetically. Players without a July 2020 grade will be assigned a competition grade by the Controller. The time control is 60 + 15 (all moves in 60 minutes plus 15 second increments from the start). All games will be ECF online standard rated. Pairings will be available on the ECF LMS interactive matchcards (above). Competition communications, including notification of your match arbiter, will only be by Chess.com messaging through your team’s Club (ECF North or ECF South).
All players must abide by the ECF Online Fair Play and Anti-Cheating Rules (OFPAC Rules), the ECF Online Code of Conduct and the Competition Rules (above). For the purposes of ECF sanctions under the OFPAC Rules this is a Tier 1 event. Processing of data is in accordance with the ECF’s Privacy Notice and is set out in the Competition Rules.
All players should familiarise themselves with playing chess on chess.com and particularly making and receiving challenges. See the instructions in the Competition Documents menu and the series of linked Chess.com guides.