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ECF Online Counties Championship - National Stage Open SF vs. Northumberland match report

ECF Online Counties Championship - National Stage Open SF vs. Northumberland match report

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The SF tie between Northumberland and Mx is the second time the two have met in online play. Pre-match articles have stated that both teams were undercooked in preparatory round since many players from both squads, primarily Mx, opted out as they were familiar with chess.com format so felt no need to play an additional round. When the group stage got underway it was possible to see the relative strengths of the teams which naturally got stronger after the preparatory match and the steady recruitment prior to the cut-off date on 1st August. MxA averaged 195 as did Northumberland (12board average) thus it would be fair to say that if both teams got their strongest XII out a close match would be on the cards.

There is an irony in the fact that Mx and Northumberland have met twice in the maiden online counties competition as this equals the amount of times the two met in OTB play and this includes your author being gracious enough to allow a combined Northumberland & Durham team just to be considered as Northumberland! The first time the two competed against each other was in the 1931-32 Counties Championship final. Northumberland & Durham were the NCCU's representative having won the regional competition. Beating Lancashire and Yorkshire en route was a fantastic achievement but of course could only be done as a result of an experiment trialled by the Union - they permitted a combined team to participate. By doing so the Northern powerhouses of Lancashire and Yorkshire could be feasibly challenged. Unfortunately the experiment is abandoned and it will not be until Cheshire & North Wales merge in 1968 that another combined team is allowed to participate. The second time the two met was in 1948-49 SF. On that occasion Northumberland was comprised of players only from their county. Irrespective of whether a single or joint entity Mx won both encounters comfortably and many would have expected this to be the case.

This encounter though had a different feel to it as the two were equally poised so anyone would be hard pressed to say which team if any could be considered favourites. If either team were looking for an edge Mx could claim that in the preparatory match they yielded 10pts to Northumberland (Mx team ave. 179; Northumberland team ave. 189) as they effectively fielded the MxB team and held the Northumbrians 7-7. If both teams continue to field teams averaging 190+ then Mx would have gained significantly in strength as opposed to Northumberland. Another edge that could be given to MxA is the fact Northumberland have yet to face a team even remotely close to them in terms of team average. Norfolk at 186 was the strongest team faced. MxA on the other hand have consistently fielded teams averaging 190+ and have played teams whose averages were greater than 185 so from the off the question posed to Northumberland is, 'Can they raise their game?' Northumberland on the other hand could play clever as if match over 12boards they knew full well this would negate Mx's natural advantage if played over more. They would also be looking to preserve their 100% record, so the notion of a cornered animal fighting tooth and nail to survive could give the Northumbrians the will to succeed. Notwithstanding, the averages of the teams going into the match indicated it would be a close run affair to the extent it would be no surprise if tie-break came into play! As expected Northumberland come into the match with effectively their strongest team and over 12boards. Mx were likewise strong but just fall short of their strongest line-up as top performer to date Tom was absent. There was nothing between the teams so would have to see how match unfolds. Could even come down to tiebreak. Mx team ave. 202; Northumberland team ave. 201; Par score 6-6 

Despite the pre-match build-up the match was a damp squib for Mx. Once Northumberland attained the first win of the match there was a steady drip of victories for the Northern team punctuated with Mx draws. The only bright spots for the team being the victories achieved by Charlie and Mirek.

Unlucky guys a fantastic campaign comes to an abrupt end as does the prospect of trying to create more unique pieces of history, namely to win maiden online counties championship thereby be the only county to win the maiden competitions of both OTB and Online. 

Links to the each game are given for you perusal

Bd1 https://www.chess.com/live/game/5269667966
Bd2 https://www.chess.com/live/game/5269661086
Bd3 https://www.chess.com/live/game/5269645613
Bd4 https://www.chess.com/live/game/5269672865
Bd5 https://www.chess.com/live/game/5269660320
Bd6 https://www.chess.com/live/game/5269667152
Bd7 https://www.chess.com/live/game/5269785922
Bd8 https://www.chess.com/live/game/5269666428
Bd9 https://www.chess.com/live/game/5269684178
Bd10 https://www.chess.com/live/game/5269661653
Bd11 https://www.chess.com/live/game/5269732649
Bd12 https://www.chess.com/live/game/5269666081

Open Championship SF Results

MxA vs. Northumberland MxA lose 4.5-7.5

Lincolnshire vs. Norfolk Lincolnshire win 7.5-4.5

See full here for full results of KO Stage

Once again Mx find themselves hitting the glass ceiling hard when it comes to the pursuit of National success. They have proven time and again they deserve to be recognised as one of the better counties in the country but since their last National Counties triumph (2012) they have failed to add to the record haul (29). If proof of glass ceiling is needed here is the list of their finishes at both Regional and National Stage since that last triumph:

Cycle SCCU Position National Position
2012-13 SCCU Champions Runner-Up
2013-14 SCCU Champions Runner-Up
2014-15 3rd Semi-Final*
2015-16 2nd Runner-Up
2016-17 3rd Quarter-Final**
2017-18 SCCU Champions Semi-Final
2018-19 2nd Semi-Final
2019-20 SCCU Champions Suspended
Average finish 1.75 3.29

*Semi-final finish counts as 3.5 as no 3rd/4th place play-off **Quarter-final finish counts as 6.5 as no play-offs 

If one discounts the period 1995-2007 when with the exception of 1999-01 there was no Mx Open team the period 1965-78 is the longest drought Mx have had without lifting the National title. 2019 is halfway to matching this drought. It is clear from the above table that Mx are one of the top four counties nationwide. During this time they have been a challenger to the emerging and declining forces of Lancashire, Surrey and Yorkshire each one puncturing the hopes of Mx lifting the Lowenthal Trophy at the second time of asking under your author's stewardship. Northumberland have now done it in the online version. Mx have been a consistent presence throughout seeming to be the perennial bridesmaid never the bride. At some stage the ceiling will be broken through. When Mx broke their drought in 1979 they went onto achieve magnificent things. Until then there are silver linings from the ECF's new venture a competitive team fielded throughout (competition average 195); one of the few teams to be able to field an average team of 200+ and of course a top four finish. This is in keeping with their OTB performance. There is one hope that your author has and it is this, those individuals who have represented the online team continue to do so when OTB play resumes; if they do the county's prospects of eventually breaking the glass ceiling will increase exponentially!

Before bringing the report to an end it is only right to give an idea of some team statistics including best performing MxA player. 

Best Performing Player (Points) Most Played Best Performing Player (Grade)(min.3)
1st Mirek 4/6 Tanmay 6 including default Tanmay 241 (+20)
2= Charlie 3/4 Mirek 6 Tom 226 (+19)
2= Tom 3/4 Andrew (Stone) 6 Charlie 197 (+7)
2= John (Tennyson) 3/5 Rick 6 Rick 190 (-17)
2= Tanmay 3/5 John (Tennyson) 5 Andrew (Stone) 185 (-14)
2= Andrew 3/6 All others 4 or less Mirek 184 (-4)

Thanks of course goes to all of the squad players participating in the competition. Mx had 23 players turn out possibly one of the largest Open squads in the section. It would of course been interesting to have played matches over 16boards as it would have allowed more individuals to play. By being reduced to 12boards any 'natural' advantage Mx would have accrued towards the tail over their opponents was negated. It is hoped that now one online competition has been completed should there be future ones they are played over the traditional 16board format.

And so with that parting comment like the MxA campaign their match reports come to an end.

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