BUCA Championships 2014

Feb 28, 2014, 2:06 PM |

LAST weekend was the BUCA Team tournament, a competition between teams of 4 players from some of the UK's higher-educational establishments. Durham uni's chess club, having grown a lot since its re-incarnation last year, managed to yield two full teams of interested players, and I was somehow trusted with organising the trip once again, despite my enormous and obvious incompetence. 

For some, this tournament would be about competing for the BUCA 2014 title. For many, this tournament would be about enjoying some casual chess and socialising with other chess players.

For me, this tournament would, naturally, be about finding new ways to embarrass myself in front of the chess community. Since this was only my 3rd long-play OTB tournament since taking up chess semi-seriously, I haven't yet managed to exhaust all possibilities to make myself look stupid whilst conducting a chess game. Thus, read on if you want to see me checkmated within 3 moves (no, really!), or blunder my queen after a 10-minute think. Remarkably, I managed to win a couple of games as well! Perhaps I'll be allowed back.

I played on 4th board for Durham 1; we were one of the lower-graded teams (average grading) in the 10-strong "Championship" section (the top section). So most of my games were always likely to be fairly tough! Actually, I played players of an average 0f 155.8 (my grade is 156) and scored 2.5/5, exactly even. Considering these statistics carefully, I think I played pretty well to my grade in this event Surprised. Which, of course, means I am dissatisfied! Well, I've never yet played a tournament and been satisfied, so there you go.

ANYWAY, to the games! Game 1 was vs. Cambridge; time controls are 60|10 in this tournament.

That was a good game and I was really annoyed to lose after playing the opening so well. Definitely played far below my best missing that tactic, although I felt my opponent played very nicely in a difficult middlegame situation. We lost the match, 3.5-0.5, George on Board 3 taking our only draw.

I went into the next game, against York, still a bit annoyed at myself and didn't really play it as properly as I should have done. Which is at least partly why I lost again. The rest of why I lost will become evident ...

Well, I gifted my opponent that one! Despite all the dodgy stuff I did in that game I was definitely still in it before the queen hang. A game I will gladly push out of my mind as soon as possible.

The team also lost 3-1. George provided the only point, meaning Bds 1,2 and 4 were still yet to score.

Luckily, for me that's as bad as it got. I managed to stop the bleeding with a simple-ish win against a 106 on Southampton's bottom Board in Rd 3.

Having beat Southampton last year, it was nice to beat them again this year, with Phil on Board 2 also winning and George drawing on Board 3.

So that was day 1 over, pretty dire performance, all round! We went out to a really good curry place for dinner and a couple of pints, before returning to the hotel for ... well, more pints and some pool!

Somewhere towards the end of the evening I found myself playing 4-way exchange chess with some others. For those of you that don't know what that is (I didn't) it's beyond my skills to explain, so I direct you to the Almighty Oracle that is Wikipedia:


Note we played on 4 boards instead of just 2. Now, being new to this, there a few strategies that weren't quite natural to me. That lead to this being one of the first games I played:

Needless to say, I continued to dazzle with my Exchange skills. Eventually everyone else got bored of battering me across the board and it was time for sleep.

DAY 2, thanks to a good night's sleep, I felt ready to play again, and determined to do better! After a cooked breakfast, I actually turned up to the AGM to see how it went on. Cue sitting through the whole thing with pretty much nothing to say as York tried to argue for the use of Yorkshire grades (Yorkshire have a separate kind of grading system) for some of theur players next time, and Bangor putting in a small request for Welsh translations of the entry form. I racked my brains, but couldn't think of any regional customs native to County Durham, so stayed silent.

So then the 4th round got underway. We were facing a very strong Edinburgh side who significantly outgraded us on all boards. Nevertheless I managed to record my best win in an ECF graded game with the following effort:

Well, I managed to prove to myself I can beat strong players in ECF graded competition, finally - my previous best win in a tournament was vs. a 130. Unfortunately it didn't help the team as we slipped to another defeat despite Phil holding the draw on Board 2. Sam on Board 1 had an especially good position but fell into time trouble and made a couple of blunders.

So on a mighty 2/8, Durham faced Warwick in the last round, who despite being graded above us, were on nil points. My game was an exercise in underestimating your opponent and in a very complicated rook endgame - be prepared for a lengthy one ...

Apologies for such a morass of endgame analysis but I couldn't be bothered to wade back through and pick out the critical lines! Anyway, I didn't think I was too badly worse at any point in that game. If he had more time, he maybe might have gone for that pawn endgame that seems winning for him, but there was no time to evaluate that carefully. And I missed several chances for an advantage. A draw is maybe a fair result.

Well, the draw managed to secure the match draw, with George winning and Phil drawing. That meant Durham 1 finished with 3/10 points, so placing 8/10 in the Championship section. That seems quite bad but in all fairness we were the 8th seeds, so pretty much as could be expected.

Our 2nds finished exactly in the middle of their section, the Plate, scoring 5/10 and placing 8/15.

Well, it was a great tournament, and I enjoyed it! Still feel like I could have played much better and picked up another couple of half-points in some of those games, but that's how it goes I guess.

Thanks for reading!