A total of 29 players made it down for the December event, smashing the previous record of 22, which meant David Dooley’s buns all went very quickly! And with players like Constantin and club champion Pawel entering for the first time, it was by far the strongest ever event too. The first round saw some big mis-matches on paper as a result, but though every game went with seed, there were some scares, not least when I beat Danny on time when only a pawn up and still a long way off actually being winning.
Ciarán had the bye in round 1 as he was rushing from the work Christmas party, and that meant a nasty draw in round 2 for Cal, who had lost to Pawel in round 1 and was now floating up. Round 2 went almost entirely with seed, though we did have two “upsets” as reigning champion Dylan beat Constantin while Seán allowed Zdravko take his traditional Swiss submarine route.
By round 3, we had seven people on 2/2 – John beat me after a possibly suspect piece sac in a B+P ending was badly defended, while Pawel beat Mariusz in the Polish derby.
By the end of round 4, John was the only one left on 100%, having also beaten Mihailo, though he still had two more tough rounds to go to hold on to his lead. But he did so in style, beating both Pawel and Constantin to end on 6/6. So even with a big field, he had to beat each of the other top four seeds, so there can be no doubt he was a deserving winner!
But behind him, the race was on to get as many grand prix points as possible. In round 5, I lost to Utkarsh despite him hanging his queen; knowing I was won, I casually developed pieces and then found my own queen had been trapped; I thought I had a smart way out, but though it kept my queen, Utkarsh had a rook and three pieces for it, which was winning even before my flag fell. Both Utkarsh and Seán finished on a highly creditable 4/6, behind only John, reigning club champion Pawel and reigning Frank Scott Shield and blitz grand prix champion Dylan.
With an increase in numbers expected this year, we’ve extended the scoring system down to 20th place – Ciarán took the solitary point for 20th after finding that work parties and chess don’t mix too well (!), just ahead of Eoin on tie-break, who had one of several respectable debut tournaments, while there were points for Danny and Des, both seeded outside the top 20.
The final table was too big to fit on the screen, but the top 26 were –
Taylor, David Dooley and Rowan Kelly were the other three contestants.
That means the early leaderboard looks like this –
When the new points system is put into last year’s results, the top few are unchanged, even down to Mihailo and Zdravko being level on points, so it’s fair to say the new system is comparable! But it does give a fairer picture further down, and rewards attendance over high positions.
There will be five more tournaments; four are listed on the club calendar, and the final one will be in either April or May. With six events, we can discount each player’s lowest score, so there’s scope for a bad tournament caused by, say, going to a work party first, or indeed just missing a tournament entirely. There’ll be three grading prizes – bands will be confirmed after the next tournament – as well as trophies for the top three and our gold trophy for the winner. The next event will be on the 8th of February.