So it was that time of year again where a number of chess clubs from universities around the country visit the annoyingly remote High Wycombe and drink a lot, mock each other and occasionaly play some rather interesting chess. For the third year i was representing Southampton University although in their second team as our first team had a chance of doing particularly well and i would definitely only hinder that. The first team were ranked 7th out of 17 going into the tournament which is exactly what they were the previous year and had managed to swindle joint third place so expectations were high. Our second team were ranked 13th but were fielding four people who we knew on a good day could challenge the higher graded players since we all had experience playing people of that calibre. So although exectations were low we knew we could make an upset.
So as usual the weekend started incredibly early on Saturday morning when i awoke with an extremly big hangover having once again opted in to going out the night before (it was 95p pints at out student union, can you blame me) with a bus, train, another bus and a lift to catch since we only had one driver for seven of us and so two of us had to travel for two hours longer than everyone else. This was time to fill up with ungodly amounts of caffeine and prepare for our round 1 game against York 1 who not only had an all-round strong team but the highest rated guy in the competition on top board. This only outgraded our top board, Gunnar Mallon by 90ish points. In comparison my opponent only outgraded me by 50 so i had nothing to complain about. We had an interesting game where i went on the offensive early and after gaining a slight tempo out of a dodgy opening i chose to sacrifice in order to blow open his kingside. The game got to a position where i couldnt see a clear way through and knew he was under time trouble so offered a draw seeing boards 1 and 4 were level and board 3 was a piece up. He accepted only for us to lose the game 3.5-0.5.
Our third board, Jack Armogie had an interesting game on board 3 which he managed to play very well to go material up only to lose it later on and it went as follows.
So after an opening round where i was one of three people to pick up half points out of the bigger teams, our first team had walked over a new to BUCA Newcastle team who had showed up with 10 minutes on there clocks. It was at this point where i noticed that fellow veteran of BUCA Michael meadows had somehow sneaked a draw in his opening match and this means that our opponents were likely to be Bristol 2. This meant i would be playing Mr Meadows in a game we both took more seriously than any other game we've played sadly a mistake by me around move twenty saw a quick resignation and a fairly boring game.
The rest of our team faired just as badly as we went on to lose an embarrasing 3-1 but with luck our first team won their game 4-0 and were represnting our uni much better than us.
The third round is usaully the toughest as everyone is tired and hungry and desperate to finish early and race to either the delightful food in the hotel or the nearest KFC/Mcdonalds if you're from bristol and have no class (I swear i wasn't bitter about the previous round). We were drawn against Warwick 2, another match that i wasn't looking forawrd to as they have always had enough strong players to field two very good teams. I played against the scandinavian which i haven't done for a while and thought my attack was just very nicely defending and i rather messily let pawn drop which my opponent nicely grinded down to an end game he won. But this was ok because nothing could upset me when food was so close.
Another swift 4- 0 loss for the second team followed which meant a very quick rush to dinner and more importantly the bar! A loss for the first team also meant their dreams of winning and been momentarily dashed but sinced they lost to the eventual winners we'll let them off. So following a rather depressing day of badly played chess we enjoyed a few pints and some exchange chess in the evening to wind down which also incorporated Bristol getting snippy with the hotel management and being forced to drink in there rooms, which is always funny.
The next day started bright and early at ....wait, Damn it it's 9:45! Ive slept through my damn alarm. And breakfast ends at 10! Queue the fastest i have ever moved in my life so i could stuff my face with a quick double full english and quickly head down to the BUCA AGM which i usually miss due to it being incredibly dull and i wish i had missed again.
Having only managed to get 1.5 match points so far it meant we would almost certainly play the reserve team in the first match. Which meant a 4-0 win for us no matter what! Queue dance music!
This also meant that we would likely get low grades we could all smash and get our confidence levels up right?...WRONG! No once again me and top board, Gunnar were outgraded but feeling good from breakfast and for once not being hungover there seemed a change of fortune in the air for us. Well that was until we both lost..My game saw me go a pawn up very early on but then in a refusal to give it back at any point saw me just lose horrifically but to be fair to a very nice attack
Luckily our bottom two boards secured wins and help out team morale. since our first team suffered a 3-1 loss at the hands of Warwick 1. The final round had us take on Bristol 3 widely regarded as the worst team from the worst uni in the competition. Knowing i was playing someone with a grade lower than 100 was nice but i know in the mood i was in i could happily lose it so i just thought id go for broke and play something a little dodgy. In an opening im usually very comfortable in i made a mistake as early a move 4 but then played well to find a line where i got two pieces for a knight. Then made horror move as i went to blunder an exchange right before the endgame....I got a draw in the end in a fairly unorthodox way but this should be a lesson on never resigning.
Gunnar had also had a very good last game of a tournament he hadnt performed up to his expectations in optimised by the line over the table of his opponent saying "this feels like a trap" whilst taking a piece to which Gunnar simply confirmed "It is a trap!".
So we managed to win our final game 3.5 - 0.5 and come 13th (higher than bristol 2 and 3!! :D) and our first team came fifth after winning their final game 4-0. Top board, Jasper Tambilini proved his 20 point grading drop in january was not justified after a neat little win in his final game that saw hime close out a very drawish position rather nicely.
So ended another year at BUCA and since im graduating this summer it means i never have to see Michael Meadows face again so im pretty happy about that fact. But I must say every year it has been incredibly enjoyable and well organised. I can only hope that Southampton don't go easy on everyone else next year and maybe just win it. Since the only prize we managed this year was Tom Mcfaul playing second board for the first team who got third place in the board 2 board prize we'll hope for more next year.
Congratulations to Imperial for winning it!
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