After an absence of many years, this year saw the return of an inter-univeristy championships. For this invention, we must thank Brimingham univeristy and in particular Jeffrey Bryant for organising the event and making the whole day run so smoothly.
The event took place on Saturday the 28th February in the guild at the Univeristy of Birmingham. there were 22 teams present representing some 9 universities. Oxford fielded two teams, and although missing several key players, we were fairly hopeful of providing a good score.
The day started eventfully
with the minibus being reveresed into by a lorry within five seconds of
us being given the keys. Undeterred, and with dented minibus we set out
on the journey upto birmingham, already running 45 minutes late...I drove
up ahead of the bus, hoping to reach Birmingham in time to get the start
delayed whilst the slower minibus made it's way up. Unfortunately, only
the minibus had directions, so whilst me and Matt Ludbrook, the second
team captain got lost in Birmingham, the minibus was steadily making it's
way there. As we eventually found the place, fifteen minutes after the
scheduled start, we were suprised to see the Minibus people there already..so
much for the faster car.
Luckily, the start had been delayed and we were not the last university to arrive, indeed Liverpool, at the time of writing, have still not made it.
The tournament had a rather odd system, the first two rounds being held in a jamboree style so that approximate team rankings could be sorted. From these, teams were then split into groups of five or six to decide the final winners. Hence the emphasis was very much on the first two rounds as failure to be in the top five after two rounds would lead to a highest placing of sixth.
The first round produced a mixed bag of results for the two Oxford teams. The firsts were shown that all might not go their way as Alex Lewis (183) went down on board 4 to an impressive Leeds A player, reportedly graded 170+. Meanwhile, with Liverpool not turning up, Maxim Devereaux (208) found himself playing the 2nd board of Manchester graded 188 and could only draw. Joel Ouaknine (183) beat a 172 on 2, I (183) won on 3 against an ungraded player whilst Shashi Jayakumar eventually overcame his 140's opponent on the bottom board.
The 2nd team on the other hand struggled. Stuart Pink (170) drew on board one, Matthew Ludbrook (136) got smashed by the 190 Leeds player on board two, James Ferrando (133) stuggled to a draw on 3, Peter Harrison (113) lost on five whilst John Smith (122) showed the rest of the team how to do it with a win on 4.
So after the first round things looked bleak. The first team were joint 4th-8th on 3.5 behind Leeds and Birmingham B on 5. The seconds were well down the field on 2/5.
The second round draw provided some comfort as many of the leading teams were avoided. The hardest games looked to be in store on board 3 where i had to face Southampton and on 5 where Shahsi had Sheffield A. Max had an easy game on the top board against his 110 opponent from Warwick D, Joel won again on two. I managed to survive in the tactics after totally misplaying what should have been an easy win. Alex won in a mere 3 minutes, and Shashi wrapped it all up on the bottom board to give five staright wis, enough to guarantee a place in the top flight.
Meanwhile the 2nds were showing their stuff inspired by a second victory from Jon Smith. Stu Pink lost to Ian Henderson (173) of Southampton whilst the other four all won. A 6/9 total took the seconds into a tie for 10th place with Sheffiled A. With five going inot division one and five into division two a tie-break was required. A few anxious moments occured as the arbiters summed opponents scores. to have a shot at best B team and best overall Univeristy the B-team had to be in the 2nd division. Unfortunately it was not to be as they were narrowly edged out into 11th.
The 1sts meanwhile qualfied
for Division One behind Leeds A (9/10) along with Edinburgh A, Manchester
A and Birmingham A all with 7.5.
The first group match saw Oxford A vs Edinbrough A and Birmingham A vs Leeds A. Leeds breezed home 4-1, losing only the bottom board to the impressive daniel Lambourne. We on the other hand looked like making a clean sweep before I duly gifted my opponent a draw for a 4.5-0.5 victory.
the seconds meanwhile were emulating our success with a 4.5-0.5 vicitry of their own over Warwick B. The draw came from Peter Harrison, probably playing that rubbish he always comes out with when he has the white pieces!
As the seconds took their
bye in round 2, we took on Manchester. With no pressure yet apparent, we
took them apart 4.5-0.5, Who drew? Well need you ask? after having equalised
easily and then obtained an overwhelming position I proceded to miss dozens
of wins before exchanging into a lost ending but thankfully I managed to
find a saving swindle for the draw. At the time, we assumed the title was
between us and Leeds, how little did we know.....
Leeds meanwhile progressed with a comfortble 4-1 victory over Edinbrough.
Round Three saw the first team take a breather to allow them a chance to see Leeds in action against what one assumed would be a demoralised Manchester team after their previous beating.
Shocks were in store though as Jacobs on 3 and Cooper on one both lost for Leeds. It got worse as 2 and 4 lost giving Manchester a 4-1 victory. The mathematics started coming out as we realised that as long as we got half a point againt Leeds then we victory was still ours for the taking in the final round.
Round four saw the big confrontation. Perhaps feeling the pressure a little, we lost our way quite quickly and after half an hour may well have gladly taken that half point as all five of us looked in trouble. As shashi lost to put us behind things looked bad. Then Alex somehow managed to hold the draw against a player he had been soundly beaten by earlier in the day. With the pressure eased Max held his game on top board and I soemhow sacked enough material on 3 to convince Jacobs (177) that he was in such danger of being mated that a draw to secure the match was preferable. Joel unfortunately lost his 100% record.
Still going into the last and final round, with Leeds sitting out we knew that we only need beat Birmingham to win the title. Things were looking good after Max classically outplayed Andrew George on top board and my opponent lost his way quite severly on the black side of the Leningrad.
On the other three though things did not look so good. Joel was slighly better, alex was worse and shashi was clearly lost. Still two draws was all we needed......ten minutes later things looked brighter. Somehow Shashi had won his piece back, alex had chances and Joel looked to be crushingly won.
Alex managed to swindle a piece out of his opponent to give us the 3 points we needed. It only remained for Joel and Shashi to put the cing on the cake. As Shashi lost and Joel looked to be struggling,