BUCA Team Championships 2016

Mar 19, 2016, 2:35 AM |

On the weekend of the 20th/21st February, the BUCA 2016 Championships were held in Birmingham. These are the annual team championships contested by UK universities.

I'm now at Lancaster, and this was the first time that the university had entered into the tournament. We entered two teams - one into the top section, and one into the bottom.

Owing to some untimely dropouts, we ended up being by far the weakest team (by gradings) in the top section. Hence, we were very apprehensive before the tournament! Our team was: myself on top board (at ECF 169 the lowest graded top board), Ian on board 2 (USCF 1655), Nikola on board 3 (FIDE ~1600) and Alkis on board 4, with ECF ... 83! Alkis would play some players with grades up to 160, so he particularly was in for a tough time.

The playing area was pretty cool. As we were in the Championship section, all our boards were nice wooden DGT boards, automatically relaying the moves to Chess24 (who were, amazingly, doing some coverage of the event!) Hence we felt like titled players playing in this tournament.

In the first round, we faced a strong UCL team. My game is below. The time controls were 60|10 (pretty short, but standard for BUCA).

I feel this was the only game in the tournament where I had really no chances to win, and was just outplayed by my opponent. Not a good start, but hopefully it will pick up!

We lost to UCL 3.5-0.5. Ian did well to pick up a half point (see his blog here: https://www.chess.com/blog/Shi_Tou/buca-british-university-chess-championships-championship-section )

Our second round was against Bath. As these guys were the lowest seeds until half of our team dropped out, we had some hope to get something from this match! See my game below.

It was heartening to get a half point on the board. I never really felt in danger during this game, and got the better side of the draw without really ever threatening to win the game. There might have been chances that I missed!

Overall we went down to Bath 3-1. Nikola got our other draw. So, still zero match points!

In the evening round, we played Edinburgh. Now here, we were especially optimistic to get some match points; since Edinburgh's Board 4 had not shown up, we were already up a point! (Alkis decided to count this as a win for him!) Nevertheless, their other 3 boards were strong. Here's my game:

Ian and Nikola had already lost by the time this game was entering time pressure, so the rest of the team went outside and watched the conclusion on chess24 with the computer evaluation! It's pretty cool that this was possible. So, we earnt our first match point! 

In the evening, the tournament organisers put on a 9-round blitz tournament at 3|2 time control - a new and very popular venture. 64 players took part, despite the fact that the event didn't start until 10pm and lasted a couple of hours! Ostensibly, the tournament was FIDE rated (despite the fact only one of my results has filtered through to the FIDE website), but it wasn't something to take too seriously - I had a couple of pints whilst playing!

The most incredible moment happened in Round 2 - after having won the first game, the second wasn't going well - but I managed to sneak into the worse side of a K+N+B vs. K ending! I was feeling confident I had swindled a draw - but my opponent had other ideas! Purely on the increment, he proceeded to demonstrate the W maneouvre almost flawlessly, and mated me! This earnt a well-deserved round of applause at the end from the other players, who had gathered round to see the conclusion.

Psychologically scarred by this ( :p ) I put my queen en prise in Round 3 and went to 1/3. However, happily after this things took a turn for the better. I went 5/6 in the final rounds, finishing with a respectable 6/9. It was good fun - first time I've played in a real blitz tournament! The full results can be found here: http://chess-results.com/tnr208618.aspx?lan=1

Back to the real tournament! Round 4, we played Southampton, another team we felt we had chances against, given their gradings. My game was a bit of a strange one, to be honest.

Interesting, but ultimately I played far too many bad moves in this game! That the ending was so close was a surprise given the moves leading up to there.

Anyway, we somehow got blanked 4-0 by Southampton, despite having chances in most games. This left us solidly at the bottom of the pack with our solitary match point.

Round 5, we played York. We will be playing them in the Roses tournament (an Olympic-style sporting tournament between the universities of York and Lancaster, themed on the Wars of the Roses 600 years ago!) later this year, so this was a preview! We were motivated to try and beat these guys. My game is below.

This was a crushing loss. I felt like I dictated this game and really should have won, never mind a draw! But that's how it goes in chess sometimes - and ultimately of course, there's no luck in chess, so the result is fair.

Nikola drew his game - the rest of us lost again - so another crushing loss! At least we didn't finish on 0.

I'll mention our 2nd team before I finish. Stanley, Sam, Karolis and Jordan were playing in the 3rd section, in which there were 2 games a round at 25|10 time control. Most of these guys had never been to a competitive chess tournament before, so they did exceptionally to score 23/40 and get 6 match points! Enough for a share of 4th (6th on tiebreaks).

Anyway, the weekend was a good one. I think I learnt the most from this tournament than I have in any other since my first one - competing against stronger players consistently is great! As usual, I'm a little dissatisfied with my result of 1.5/5 - but it could have been worse I guess.

Thanks for reading!