Open/U180 Match Reports 2011-2012 Season

SCCU Round 1: Surrey v Middlesex (1/10/11) What could have been...?

The first match of the season saw the Open team face the erstwhile crowned ECF Open Champions - Surrey who exercised their bragging rights by having the Low├źnthal Trophy on display. However the smug smile was almost wiped off their faces as the match was closer than anyone expected Mx losing 7.5-8.5 to the extent where Mx had one of those if only days....

If only George had managed to find the winning line instead of agreeing to what he thought was a forced draw by repetition the match would have at least been tied;

If only Peter and Simon had managed to hang on and secure draws with George winning Mx could have pulled off the improbable and won;

If only transport both road and rail hadn't been a nightmare more of the team would have arrived less frazzled and maybe not rushed their games thereby making errors;

If only Colin (Mackenzie) hadn't gotten ill in the days before the match the line-up wouldn't have had to be adjusted at the last minute;

If only key squad players were available the team would have been so much stronger and Mx could dream of attaining their first win against Surrey since their return to top flight chess thereby breaking their appalling record (+0 =1 -3);

If only the squad were so much stronger then it would be unnecessary to call on the u180 squad to complete the XVI giving both a fighting chance of securing respective Championships;

If only; if only; if only....

Although the game was one of lost opportunities there were still a few good highlights, wins from Nev, Mark, and Guy. The most notable though was Bob's win over Graeme.

Close run thing but no banana :'(

Full details

Upon taking up the role of captain it was agreed a 5-year review takes place at the end of the 2011-12 cycle whereupon a decision is made as to whether I continue as captain or step down and let someone else with a 'name' take over. However pre-season comments from former squad members who have opted not to represent the County due to lack of strength has meant the review period has started earlier than expected.

At the beginning of my 5th year as captain it is clear the team are at a crossroads - too strong to be considered a Minor team but too weak to be able to consistently challenge for the Open Title. The history books show the following the last time Mx were Champions:
SCCU Champions 1988-89
ECF Open Champions 1988-89
ECF Minor Champions 1993-94
So comments from 'disgruntled' former squad members could be justified. Considering there had been no team for the best part of a decade (1996-2007 except with the abortive attempt of Paul Mckeown to revive team between 1999-2001) on returning to competition in 2007-08 the best we have achieved are:
SCCU Runner-up 2008-09
ECF Open Runner-up 2007-08
ECF Minor Runner-up 2009-10
On the whole not a bad record as captain if you include Semi-Final and Quarter-Final defeats to Lancashire in 2008-09 and 2010-11 respectively. Since there was no established team prior to my taking up captaincy my tenure to date has been primarily a rebuilding process ensuring Mx are able to field competitive (if not always winning) teams.

I am pragmatic enough to realise if the team is to step-up to the next level there is a desperate need to recruit players of the 190+ calibre in order to give Mx a realistic chance of challenging for both SCCU and ECF Open titles. Unfortunately, I do not have access to this class of player. In acknowledging I do not have access to players of necessary calibre I am heavily reliant on squad members to 'sell' the idea of County Chess on my behalf in order to ensure Mx can challenge for said titles. The usual request to pass on my contact details or theirs remains in place. Consequently I need to consider what characteristics do I have that justify that I continue as captain? I may not be a strong player nor able to keep the company of GM's/IM's/FM's or players 190+ but what I do have in my favour is my enthusiasm and organisational skills, aspects which are fundamental to organising any team supported by the fact that I captain both Open and u180 teams with relative success for both teams. I leave it to you to help decide on my suitability as captain along with suggesting how to break through the glass ceiling. Replies to this thread welcomed. In the event I am to be replaced who do you think has sufficient status to take over?

Anyway, the first round of matches has been truncated as only Sussex and Essex were able to play their match with the Herts-Kent match deferred to 17th March 2012. Essex travelled to Hassocks and got comprehensively thumped 11.5-4.5. The Sussex line-up is worth taking notice of since Mx also travel to Hassocks (7th January 2012.) The match could determine whether Mx compete in the Open Championship albeit in 3rd place as the assumption is Kent and Surrey will fill the first two berths or whether we end up playing in the Minor Championship. However our next match on 5th November 2011 against Kent will allow us to challenge the presumption that Surrey and Kent are certainties to take automatic qualifying berths to ECF Stage proper.

Table after Round 1:
1. Sussex 1/1 (11.5)
2. Surrey 1/1 (8.5)
3. Mx 0/1 (7.5)
4. Essex 0/1 (4.5)
5. Herts 0/0 (0)
6. Kent 0/0 (0)

SCCU Round 2: Middlesex v Kent (5/11/11) Middlesex record maiden victory!

By a quirk of fate (alternatively a mischievous Controller!) the 1st 2 rounds of the 2011-12 cycle pits Mx against the 2010-11 Open finalists Surrey and Kent. The match against Surrey was a close encounter with Mx losing by the odd point. After such heartbreak the team were determined not to finished second to the other ECF Finalist. However with the teams evenly matched (Team Ave.: Mx 192 - Kent 191) another close match was on the cards.

The match was a slow burner. After the 1st hour's play the games were still in the opening phases with all players skirmishing, striving to establish some kind of advantage that seemed not to be forthcoming; it proved no surprise then when the first result of the day was a draw.

Having won the Major section in High Wycombe and coming 4th= in Gatwick of the e2-e4 Congresses, Open team debutant Ananth continues his fantastic form. His win sees Middlesex draw first blood. The advantage though is short-lived as Andrew loses a spirited game. It is pleasing to see the Open Team field juniors once again Dominic being the last junior representative and this match saw Mx field 2 - Peter (Batchelor) being another debutant turning out for the team after his endeavours in the World U16 Olympiad in Ismir (Turkey). Let's hope we can encourage Ananth, Peter and a few other juniors to play regularly for the Open and u180 teams thereby mirroring the success of Counties such as Kent; Surrey and Sussex. Score: 1.5-1.5.

A flurry of draws follow then disaster, Phil loses the thread of his game to give Kent the lead for the first and only time. Peter (Ackley) restores parity having played an assured game. Score: 4-4.

The match reaches its halfway point and it is a tense affair.  However, Mx seems to be getting the better of the remaining matches; a few though are still unclear thus all results are still possible. A firm lead is established when 2 wins out the next 4 results see Mx give Kent a body blow which they never recover from despite their rearguard action. Harrow players are on fire as Ananth's and Peter's wins are followed up by wins from Colin (Crouch) and Nevil. The latter two's victories ensure an undefeated day for that estimable Club. Score 7-5

Richard's draw bring Mx closer to the winning line but the remaining Kent players are pulling out all the stops to try and attain the wins that will bring the scores level. George dashes their hopes by securing the final win that takes Mx over the winning line with 2 games to go. Score:  8.5-5.5.

The remaining games are both drawn to give a final score of 9.5-6.5 and with it a maiden victory for the 2011-12 campaign!
Well done guys! 

Full details:

In honour of Harrow Club here are their wins:

Table after Round 2:
With the Surrey v Sussex result outstanding unable to confirm positions.

So with 2 rounds gone and having played the habitual winners of the SCCU title in recent years Mx path to the knock stages ought to be a straightforward affair however our next match away to Sussex on 7th January 2012 is one of many banana skins along the way as Sussex are notoriously poor on the road but redoubtable at home. The others, Herts (Home) - Will 2011-12 see an amazing trend broken? Since our return to the Open competition SCCU matches against Herts have resulted in the away team winning! ???
Then there's Essex (Away) THE Saxon derby! Having capitulated to Sussex 4.5-11.5 they record a resounding win with a 11.5-4.5 home win over Herts. Essex is like Sussex poor on the road but redoubtable at home.
It is clear that we will need to be at our fighting best if we are to continue the trend of always competing in the ECF Stage since our return.
Anyway let's play each game as they come and see what happens! ;D

Each year MCCA awards the Martin Blaine Individual Trophy to the best performing Open team player. After 2 rounds the leading players are:
Nevil 12points (2/2)
Bob 11points (1.5/2)
Colin C. 11points (1.5/2)
George 11points (1.5/2)
Jochen 10points (1/2)

Due to the London Classic and the festive break the Open competition is suspended during December. Next match 7th January 2012: Sussex(A)

Go on the Middlesex!

The results of Round 2 are in and they show that the advantage was clearly with the home teams:
Essex 11.5 - 4.5 Herts
Surrey 13 - 3 Sussex
Two comprehensive victories for the home teams!

Table after Round 2:
1. Surrey 2/2 (21.5)
2. Mx 1/2 (17)
3. Essex 1/2 (16)
4. Sussex 1/2 (14.5)
5. Kent 0/1 (6.5)
6. Herts 0/1 (4.5)

SCCU Round 3: Sussex v Middlesex (7/1/12)

SCCU Round 4: Essex vs. Middlesex (4/2/12)

SCCU Round 5: Middlesex vs. Hertfordshire (3/3/12)

Ever since Middlesex’s return to top flight chess this match has an unusual claim in that the away team has always won! If ever a record needed to be broken it had to be in this cycle in order for Middlesex to progress to the Open Competition of County Championship and attempt to secure a 33rd ECF Title.
On paper Middlesex were the stronger team (190 – 182) so the odds seemed stacked in their favour. However, past matches have shown that averages mean nothing. Records show that Middlesex have always been the stronger team but remarkably when at home have been unable to put one over Herts as they have proved more than capable to meet the challenge. For once their luck ran out as Mx score a comprehensive 10-6 win thereby ending a 4year sequence of away wins. Let’s hope that it does not start a new trend of the home team winning!
The match got off to a great start with your author recording the 1st of 5 Mx wins. The win seemed to settle any nerves as the first 7 games did not see Mx lose a game and establish a 5-2 lead. Anthony’s win was followed up by 4 draws and further wins from Carsten and Peter.
Having established a significant lead Herts thought they were starting a mini-revival with their sole win. 3 draws kept things under control and Bob’s win brought Mx closer to their first home victory over a redoubtable opponent. Mx leads 7.5-4.5
Nev’s draw means Mx reach the magic score of 8 and Colin’s Mackenzie’s win sees Mx over the winning line and finally break the trend. Mx leads 9-5.
The last two games are drawn to give the score a final gloss 10-6.
Well done guys!

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