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SCCU U/18 Jamborees Sunday, March 09
Jim Wadsworth and Claire Lawrence writes:

Two under 18 teams from Berkshire, one Open and one Minor, competed in the 2014 Southern Counties Chess Union annual jamboree. The event was ably hosted by Sussex in the beautiful South Downs.

We had two relatively young U18 teams and no entry to the U14s as, given the available players, that was the 'best fit' against the event rules. That meant having no fewer than four under 11s involved!

That said surely the 'Open' team, as reigning champions and with half the team being seasoned England internationals, had a strong chance of retaining the title we won for the first time ever in 2012?

In practice, the Open event was incredibly closely-fought. No surprise - the average grades for the four competing teams were within ten points of each other. After the first round we were second by just half a point, yet by the end we had been relegated to joint third! The winners, Kent, were only one-and-a-half points ahead of Berkshire.

There were some excellent performances by Berkshire's players: Matthew Wadsworth won all three games against strong board 1 opposition (representing a grading performance approaching 240). Roy Zhang was unbeaten, including an excellent win with black against England's top female junior. On board 4, Richard Zhu was also undefeated. And 8 year old debutant Harvey Zhang ended up on 50% - he was completely unphased by the hulking great teenagers sitting opposite him!

However, overall it was not enough, and we had to settle for handing back the impressive silver trophy.

The Minor competition was similarly closely fought, with all six teams having an average grade close to the competition limit of 110. However, Berkshire's team was certainly the youngest, with most players being 13 or younger. We got off to a great start, with James Moody back in the team room with a win almost immediately. However, the rest of round 1 was a string of losses. That said, 7 year old Dhruva Bhagwat impressed with his fight in a technical rook and pawn endgame. His opponent did eventually convert but Dhruva made him work hard for it!

We saw improved scores in the second and third rounds. James Beckinsale epitomised the determination of all the Berkshire players - having lost in rounds 1 and 2 he was suddenly rather unwell early in his third round game. However, as soon as he had recovered his composure, he insisted on going back into the playing hall to continue his game. He had winning chances, but had to settle for a draw (and at the end spent more than half an hour doggedly defending a clearly drawn position; James knew it was a draw - and how to ensure it stayed that way - but his much older opponent nonetheless kept plugging away for what felt like an eternity!). Jack Lawrence put early losses behind him to win in the final round; and James Moody won again in round 3 (thus becoming the team's top scorer).

In the final analysis it was a somewhat disappointing outcome for both teams. We were missing a couple of players from what would have been our strongest team in the Open section. That had an inevitable knock-on effect into the Minor group.

However, there were plenty of positives for the players to take away. The younger team members in particular will have learnt a lot about the resilience and accuracy needed at this level; and just spending time in the same team room as some of the more experienced / senior players will undoubtedly have had some benefit.

As ever, our thanks to the players and parents for their participation, commitment and support. And thanks also to the Sussex team for a well-organised and smoothly-run event.

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