English Closed Championships 2016
It would seem that a long drive up North and Junior Chess tournaments go hand in hand and last weekend was no exception. It was the Under 11 English Closed Championship, hosted in Nottingham High School. We set off on Friday late afternoon and traffic was abysmal. Three and a half hours later, seeing day turn into night we finally reached our hotel. Exhausted! We grabbed a quick bite to eat and headed for bed hoping Toby was rested enough for an early start the next day and a long weekend of tough chess.
Saturday 9.30am and all the energy from the children masked their long journeys the night before. Children from all over the country were competing for the title, many from strong Junior chess counties such as Sussex and Cambridgeshire. There were also a strong showing from the West Country including a number of Wiltshire and Somerset Junior County players. High quality chess was guaranteed and with time controls at 1hour+30min, the days were going to be long and hard.
Toby started well winning his first round convincingly, but his opponent in the 2nd round was going to give him a run for this money. An experienced Wiltshire Junior player with a good record against Toby in previous encounters (a win and a draw). But it was Toby's turn this time, Toby sacrificed a pawn to establish his attack and pressured his opponent into a blunder to go a rook up. Toby attacking pressure eventually overwhelmed his opponent and Toby went on to win the game.
The final round of the day was going to Toby's worst nightmare. Paired against the top seed ranked 135, Toby knew his opponent well, good friends, but also a defeat against him at the British Championship. As the players were waiting for the round to start, Toby looked nervous. However, once the game started he steadied his nerves and started to play to his strengths. Toby was black, facing the Ruy Lopez opening it soon became a very attacking game with Toby going a pawn down. Determined to stay in the game, Toby dug deep and played with care and precision ensuring he didn't conceded anything else to his opponent. As the game went on, Toby managed to equalise the game, getting into a position to win a pawn back. It was a long hard fought battle and with only one other board still playing, his opponent offered Toby a draw which Toby accepted. A great result for Toby, but having given his all he was visibly exhausted and was not in the mood to celebrate, it was time to call it a day.
Feeling the effects of the previous day, Toby requested a bye in the next round which was granted. His final round was against a 108, playing against the French Defence exchange variation, Toby won an exchange, bishop for a knight and won a pawn. Before long, Toby was 2 pawns up going into the endgame and used this advantage to win. So after a hard fought and exhausting 2 days, Toby ended the weekend with 4 out of 5 and undefeated, securing a fantastic 3rd place. A brilliant result for Toby and an added bonus of earning his first ½ norm.
Congratulations also goes to 2 of Toby's county team mates from Somerset, Iben and Samir, both earning their first ½ norms. Finally, a big thanks to Chris Strong (Somerset Junior Team Manager) for supporting the Juniors over the weekend.