Wales and West of England U14 Team Event
Saturday, January 23
Jim Wadsworth writes:
Despite being arguably 4 or 5 players below full strength, Berkshire's under 14 team successfully retained the West of England championship, beating off a strong challenge from South Wales (this apparent geographic anomaly being explained by the fact that officially the event is called the 'West of England and South Wales championships').
This time the competition was held near Devizes, Wiltshire and there were 3 other teams competing in the under 14 section.
The day started promisingly, especially as quite a few points were secured in rather lucky ways during round 1. That said, William Foo sacrificed a bishop to force open the h-file and converted smoothly thereafter, and there were convincing wins for Alfred Wong and Michael Gilbert (the latter making his debut at this level having come into the team as an emergency replacement following a last minute withdrawal). Conversely Edmond Lote was gifted a win from what should have been a lost position following his opponent's generous blunders of one rook, then a pawn, then his other rook; and Ryan Wong salvaged a draw when his flag fell thanks to both his opponent's blunder and a forensic examination of the position by the arbiter. But both the latter games showed the character of the team, fighting on even when in difficult situations. We ended the round on 8 points, half a point ahead of South Wales.
Less luck was needed in the second round. On the lower four boards, led by Louise Head it was one-way traffic in Berkshire's favour against Wiltshire. Elsewhere Jonathan Matthews fought hard and very well to recover to a draw against a strong opponent from South Wales, and on the top board Daniel Noel agreed a draw in what was a very blocked position against the Devon player. We again scored 8 points and extended our overall lead to one and a half points.
In the final round, there were very quick wins for Edmond, Charlie Bucknell and Jonathan. Louise rightly accepted a draw offer in a tricky position. Towards the end, with just three of our boards still playing it was still mathematically possible for South Wales to overtake us. Then Matthew Wadsworth found a nice discovered attack combination with rook and knight and quickly forced his South Wales opponent to resign. More or less at the same time Michael queened a second pawn to mate his opponent from Devon and we knew we had won the title. And then in the very last game of the event to finish, Ryan added the final gloss by winning a game he had initially been losing - once again showing wonderful fighting spirit.
Fully half of the team won all of their games, and two other Berkshire players were unbeaten. Well done all. A very strong performance, especially when one bears in mind that the average age of the team was about 11 years old; all but one player from today's team will be available for the under 14s not just next year, but also the year after!
Many congrats to the players, and as always many thanks to the parents and to Nigel Dennis for making the trip.
Last Season's Results