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ECF Online Counties Championship - National Stage Draw: Confirmed

ECF Online Counties Championship - National Stage Draw: Confirmed

Amynstor
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The ECF's Online Counties Competition has been a success so far for Mx. The group stages were completed on 1st August and it is with great pleasure to announce each Middlesex team has qualified for the elite competition of their respective sections. MxA were joint first in their division but pipped to top spot by virtue of their loss to Lincolnshire, however let's call it joint first! MxB and Mxu1825 were undefeated in their respective groups so are one of the top two seeds for their competitions.

With the group stage completed the National competition begins in earnest as this is where the prizes are won. What is they say in darts? 'Trebles for show! Doubles for dough!' The National Stage is where the competing counties are able to score the doubles to see out a rubber to continue with the darts analogy! Your author will focus solely on the competitions that Mx participate in rather than all of the pairings. The full draw is given in links below:

Open Championship

Major Open

Open Challengers

Minor

u1825 Championship

u1825 Challengers

The draw sees Mx play against these counties in the respective competitions:

Open MxA vs. Northumberland

Open Challengers MxB vs. Shropshire

u1825 Championship Mx vs. Lincolnshire

A pre-match assessment on Mx's chances in each match are given below:

u1825 Championship Mxu1825 vs. Lincolnshire

It has been known for sometime that Mxu1825 will face Lincolnshire as both secured their berths in the National Stage before the completion of the Group Stage. This pairing is certainly a tough one to call if using group stage as a guide. To date Mxu1825 have been averaging 118 as opposed to Lincolnshire's 127 this would suggest an advantage to Lincolnshire. The key thing to note though is that Mxu1825 have yet to field their strongest team but with supposedly second string teams devastated two of their opponents in the group stage en route to the KO Stage (vs. Oxfordshire 11-1 a record margin of victory in the competition attained by actual play, i.e. no defaults and vs. Surrey 10.5-1.5 includes two defaults). Lincolnshire on the other hand have been virtually fielding their first XII throughout and finished runner-up thus either Northumberland the group winners were significantly stronger, Lincolnshire had an off day when playing Northumberland or there is an imbalance to their team namely strong at top weak at bottom. The simplest thing therefore is for Mx1825 to field their strongest XII. If they do it would average 136 so would Lincolnshire be able to cope - advantage Mx? Should Mxu1825 prevail they face the winner of Northumberland vs. Essex. Northumberland will probably be favourites for the match as they averaged 130 in the Group Stage by far and away the strongest average of the four semi-finalist. Essex also fly the flag for the SCCU but will be up against it having only averaged 122. Northumberland then are favourites to progress to final with a toss up between Mx and Lincolnshire and Essex by far the underdogs.

Ranking by team average:

1st Mx (136), 2nd Northumberland (130), 3rd Lincolnshire (127) 4th Essex (122)

Open Challengers MxB vs. Shropshire

Of the three draws MxB must be favourites to progress to the final as Shropshire averaged 146 during the Group Stage as opposed to MxB's 164. Their strongest line-up was 147 well short of MxB's weakest line-up (162 vs. Oxfordshire). Although favourites MxB's final group match proves they should take nothing for granted as they were pushed harder than expected. However, it could be argued that MxB were due for a dip and it came at just the right time. A sign of a champion is to be able to grind out a win even when you're not on song and that is precisely what MxB did. Should they prevail as expected against Shropshire then they would face the winner of Oxfordshire vs. Cumbria. Oxfordshire of course will be a known quantity as MxB played them in the group stage and edged a tense affair. It would be expected that if the two were to meet in the final despite Oxfordshire's lust for revenge they would find themselves up against a significantly stronger MxB. Cumbria although winning their group are not significantly stronger than Shropshire as they averaged 146 in the Group Stage their strongest line-up being 149 (vs. Hampshire) both fall well short of MxB's 160+ average. MxB must be confident not only of winning their semi-final clash but the overall title.

Ranking by team average:

1st Mx (164), 2nd Oxfordshire (156), 3rd= Cumbria/Shropshire (146)

Open MxA vs. Northumberland

The most intriguing pairing in the National Stage for Mx is that of MxA vs. Northumberland. Mx finish joint first in their division but are pipped by Lincolnshire by virtue of head to head record. Northumberland on the other hand stormed their division as they attain a perfect record one of four teams to do so (MxB, Mxu1825 & Northumberland u1825). Now when reviewing the respective groups the following observation can be made of Open Division 1A the matches between Devon, Lincolnshire and MxA were true tests of strength as all equally balance and all emerge with a point each suggesting that their division was relatively even. Had Yorkshire not haemorrhaged players there could well have been four teams of significant strength in the division. Since Northumberland stormed their group it is only right to ask have they been likewise tested? The decisive win against second placed Norfolk (7.5-4.5) would suggest not. None of Northumberland's opponents were able to muster an average of 190 let alone higher. Norfolk at 186 was the strongest opponent faced. Open Division 1A had 3 teams that were 185+ (Devon, Lincolnshire and MxA) even Yorkshire at 181 outgraded many of Northumberland's opponents. This would suggest that the seedings were possibly incorrect as more of the stronger teams were placed in D1A creating an imbalance which Northumberland benefitted from. Thus although on paper Northumberland have a worthy team will they able to maintain their performance to date when playing against a true peer? The following response from the Northumberland Captain when asking to play over 12+ boards gives an insight to his thoughts:

"The Ferguson/Wenger analogy is funny. I check your team every week and know if your best 12 are available we are not starting favourites 🙂 And if your guys walk through our games of the last fortnight they'll know so too 😂 But from where we started I'll settle for the chance."

[Editor's note: Mick Riding and I have or are expected to face-off against each other in the following matches - Online County Championship Preparatory Round, Open National Stage SF and potentially u1825 Championship F; National 100 (8th August to 22nd August) and Online NvS (5th September). Not having competed against each in OTB play it is remarkable how many times the pair of us have had to meet in such a short period of time and in matches that will determine who will have opportunity to lift more silverware. These contests are reminiscent of the Wenger/Ferguson clashes in Premiership football throughout the late 1990's and noughties. It is also apposite that Ferguson and Wenger are referenced as they perfectly capture the NvS rivalry that will be once again engaged in when the modern chess world reprises the 1893 & 1894 matches both of which were won by the South!]

Notwithstanding should both teams get their first string out a tight match ensues. Mx though can claim the psychological advantage as they held Northumberland to a draw in the preparatory round of matches with a competitive second string. What is known is that both sides will undoubtably be stronger than the initial match but MxA improve by 20grading points as opposed to Northumberland's 10. Will this mean a significant shift in MxA's favour? Whosoever wins will then face the winner of Norfolk vs. Lincolnshire and many would say Lincolnshire are nailed on to win that tie as if Lincolnshire continue to field their fabulous  duo (Turner and Dorrington) then Norfolk will have their work cut out. However, Norfolk did defeat a significantly stronger Yorkshire side in the preparatory rounds so is it possible that lightning can strike twice? 

Ranking by team average:

1st= Middlesex/Northumberland (195) 3rd Lincolnshire (193) 4th Norfolk (178)

Match play has yet to take place but it is clear that Mx have great prospects in each of their SF pairings.

Will the finals day see all three being present? Time will tell but you will be able to watch the developments here on the 8th August!

More News

ECF Online Counties Championship - Group Stage Summary

ECF Online Counties Championship - Group Stage Summary

ECF Online Counties Championship - National Stage u1825 Championship SF vs. Lincolnshire match report

ECF Online Counties Championship - National Stage u1825 Championship SF vs. Lincolnshire match report