On Friday 19th August, Toby travelled up to Loughborough for the Delancy UK Chess Challenge Challengers tournament. The journey was all too predictable for these tournaments, with long traffic delays and a marathon journey up north.
After 3 tough qualifying rounds, only 250 participant were left, the quality of the players were extremely high - with many county and England juniors competing. The format of play had also changed from previous qualifying tournaments. Play was now over 2 days (Saturday and Sunday), 3 games each day and time controls of 1hour +15minutes. Also, there were no more age sections so an Under 8s could play an Under 18s.
Due to numbers, the Challengers tournament was split into 3 groups, A, B and C. Toby was place in Group B, with close to 20 players rated above 100, the highest at 188. Looking at the quality around him, Toby entered the playing hall uneasy and apprehensive . He needed the first game to settle his nerves and it was an intense game with both sides having many attacking chances, but he managed to gain a slight advantage and eventually win. But this reassurance was short-lived as he was paired up with a local county player (and eventual winner) with a grade of 153. Toby dug deep and held up a good fight, but after 2 hours he unfortunately blundered a queen for a rook and his position dwindled.
Tired and suffering from the previous defeat, he picked himself up and managed a win to finished the day on a high. 2 out of 3.
Ready and more relaxed in day 2, he was paired with another strong opponent grade 130. Another tough game ahead lasting close to 2 hours, Toby walked out deflated after having a winning position, he let slip from memory a threat whilst calculating as 3 and lost the game. He was kicking himself :(. The next game was more positive beating a Under12 Girl and in with a chance for a prize. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be with another strong county player graded above 100 in the final round, he lost, missing out on a prize and once again...deflated:(. But soon he was back to his old self and happy with his achievement, after all, 3 out of 6 isn't that bad...I guess. :)
It was a great experience for Toby, he played some tough games, met new friends and more importantly had lots of fun. Unfortunately, there was a sour note to the weekend. Mike Basman who is the organiser for the UK Chess Challenge tournaments informed the players and parents that the tournament was under threat after running for 20 years and may not be running next year. HMRC are demanding VAT for children entrance fees, the bill amounting to £300,000. This demand, in my opinion, seems totally insane. Not only is chess is a fantastic game, it helps children and adults alike to enhance their calculation, decision making and concentration skills. To end the UK Chess Challenge would no doubt stifle junior chess in the UK. Don't let this happen without a fight, please sign their online petition.