After a gap of 6 years, the EG Closed Championships were successfully revived by Paul Tew and Andrew Trickey. With Bridgend Tennis Club (the home of the Bridgend Chess Club) providing the venue at no cost, the organisers were able to offer quite substantial prizes, and there was a total entry of 30, split into two sections. Although 13 of the players were from the Bridgend club, there were also entries from Barry, Cardiff, Caerphilly, Nelson, North Cardiff and Pontypridd, so there was a fair representation of other clubs from within the zone, though the closeness to the South Wales Winter tournament in Chepstow the previous week may have affected the entry.
EG CLOSED CHAMPIONSHIP (14 players)
None of the top rated players in the zone chose to take part, and so there were opportunities for a number of EG’s lesser ranked players to make their mark in the Championship, and there were upsets throughout the event.
The major upset in Round 1 was the second seed Gareth Harley-Yeo losing to Rafal Gozdz, but additionally, the top seed Steve Cunliffe only managed to draw with Mike Cleaves.
Round 2 saw a hard fought game between Allan St Clair and Richard Hanscombe, with Richard eventually coming out on top. Steve Cunliffe started quite promisingly against Femi Adebajo, but gradually Femi’s pieces took control of the board, and Steve’s early pawn push on the king-side eventually proved fateful. Mike Cleaves achieved a position with a sizeable material advantage against Hugh Price, but Hugh kept fighting, and trapped Mike’s queen. Even so Mike still achieved a position with 3 minor pieces against 2 Rooks and a couple of pawns, but then seemed to me to go to pieces (perhaps his position was worse than I thought) and Hugh played well to queen his a-pawn and win. Meanwhile 3rd seed Dave Robinson blundered against Guy Wagner and his loss put him out of the running. By the end of this round, there were only 3 players on 100% - Paul Tew, Richard Hanscombe and Guy Wagner.
Guy Wagner’s French Defence came unstuck very quickly after Paul Tew’s early Qh5, and although he fought hard, the result was never seriously in doubt. Richard outplayed Femi Adebajo, and with the remaining results favouring Paul and Richard, they finished this round a clear point ahead of the field. For a long time, the Bridgend junior Sean Day was beating Steve Cunliffe, but experience eventually prevailed, and Neil Stuart’s game aginst Rafal Gozdz was the last to finish with Neil losing on time in what seemed almost like a problem position, where a couple of move’s back, I felt it could have been set as whichever side to move mates in …
The draw for round 4 was spoilt somewhat with Mike Cleaves pulling out ill, and preventing what looked an interesting bottom board pairing between the two juniors Alex Freeland and Sean Day. Alex was given the bye, and Sean was involved in a game against David Robinson, where Dave successfully converted the relatively unusual material of R+B+N v Q with other material on the board into a win. The top board game between Richard Hanscombe and Paul Tew quickly turned in Richard’s favour when he picked up a pawn quite early, and ultimately converted the advantage in a R and P ending. On board 2, Gareth Harley-Yeo returned his pieces to the back rank early in the game, but they then sprang to life, with Gareth picking up pawns and maintaining his grip on the position. Guy, however, sacrificed the exchange for a lot of checks, and despite failing to claim a draw by repetition correctly, the game was eventually drawn. In a re-paired game, Femi Adebajo rapidly disposed of Hugh Price, who had played two long games on the Saturday. Allan St Clair beat Rafal Gozdz and Neil Stuart had a good win against an out of sorts Steve Cunliffe.
Talk in the interval of Paul somehow preventing Richard turning up for the last round proved to be just talk, and the games started with Richard needing only a draw to ensure 1st prize out on his own. Losing would allow Paul, playing Femi, or Allan St Clair who had generally played steadily in reaching 3, to tie for 1st place.
Allan won quickly and efficiently against Guy Wagner, ensuring as a minimum a share of 2nd prize, and Paul could not manage to beat Femi, leaving Allan in clear second place. Meanwhile Richard on top board was steadily outplaying Gareth, until rather unexpectedly he dropped his guard and suddenly found himself having to deal with some very awkward mating threats. Spurning a draw offered, he found a very neat tactic involving a temporary rook sacrifice to save the day, and shortly afterwards had completed a clean sweep of 5/5 to win the tournament by a full point.
1st 5 Richard Hanscombe
2nd 4 Allan St Clair
3rd 3 Ѕ Paul Tew (U2000 grading prize)
4th= 3 David Robinson, Femi Adebajo, Rafal Gozdz (U1850 grading prize)
7th = 2 Ѕ Gareth Harley-Yeo, Guy Wagner
9th 2 Alex Freeland
10th 1 Ѕ Steve Cunliffe
11th= 1 Hugh Price, Sean Day
Withdrawn Mike Cleaves 1 Ѕ /3, Neil Stuart 2/4
The Woodrow brothers, Steve and Mike were clear favourites for this event, but at the start their claimed bye in Round 3 to watch the Cardiff City match during that Round, meant neither would be able to reach 5 points. The late entry, Jeremy Jones, didn’t help his chances, by being unable to find the venue(!) and he was given a Ѕ point bye in the first round. All the remaining players were under 1500, so the winner was likely to come from these three.
Again there were surprises, though the first round results went by grading.
In round 2 the big surprise was Andrew Trickey’s excellent win against Mike Woodrow, with a good demonstration of how opposite coloured bishops favours the attacking side. Other results largely went as expected, though Clive Crowley overturned a 200 point grading difference in opening his score with a win against Varun Varma.
Before the start of round 3, the Woodrow brothers got to their football match, but found it had been called off, and it was not too late to put them back into the draw - but with mixed fortunes. Steve had a comfortable win against Andrew Trickey, to become the only player on 3/3 whilst Mike suffered the biggest shock of the whole event, losing to Nathan Trickey, Nathan’s best ever result to date. Jeremy Jones moved into clear second place with a win against Bill Wilkins. Last game to finish was Roger Jenkins against Gareth Carpenter, which was a very competitive draw.
In Round 4, Steve Woodrow seemed to have no problem in defeating Jeremy Jones, to guarantee at least a share of first prize. At the start of the tournament, I had expected to pair the Woodrow brothers in this round, but it was another family pairing which occurred, with Nathan Trickey beating his father Andrew to move into 2nd place. Simon Blackmore defeated Roger Jenkins to join Nathan in 2nd place. Neither of the Bridgend players Gareth Carpenter and Damon Davies were able to join Nathan and Simon, their game ending in a draw. On bottom board, the advantage kept switching particularly when the players reached the endgame phase. Eventually, Stephen Brown lost a Rook to a Queen fork, when it seemed likely his opponent Michael John would be unable to hold 2 connected passed pawns supported by R and K. This epic went well onto a second score sheet, before Michael finally managed to mate with K+Q v lone K
So, as in the Championship, a winner was already decided before Round 5 started, with the worst case scenario being for Steve Woodrow to lose, and be caught on 4 by either Nathan or Simon Blackmore against whom he had White. Nathan apart, Damon Davies had been the most successful junior to date and was playing Jeremy Jones, both on 2Ѕ, but Jeremy’s experience told for him to take second place. Gareth Carpenter joined him by defeating Nathan, who got a well deserved grading prize. Stephen Brown played Thomas Davies in the hope of getting his first point, and his win ensured no player finished on zero points, whilst Michael John completed a memorable day with his second successive win.
You may have gathered from the above that Simon was unable to beat Steve, but he gave him a real run for his money eventually losing on time, in the middle of an attack which Steve was barely holding. Thus we had our second winner on 5/5, with Steve Woodrow finishing a point and a half clear of the two in 2nd place.
1st 5 Steve Woodrow
2nd = 3 Ѕ Jeremy Jones, Gareth Carpenter
4th = 3 Mike Woodrow, Simon Blackmore (U1500 grading prize), Nathan Trickey (U1300 grading prize)
7th = 2 Ѕ Bill Wilkins, Andrew Trickey, Roger Jenkins, Damon Davies
11th= 2 Varun Varma, Kevin O’Rourke, Michael John
14th 1 Ѕ Thomas Davies
15th= 1 Clive Crowley, Stephen Brown
Report by John D Thornton (arbiter)