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MxA vs. Cheshire and North Wales - Match Report

MxA vs. Cheshire and North Wales - Match Report

Amynstor
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The match report for the final round is in part a delayed one as it should have been published on 14th June. However as it well known the first round of group matches was aborted due to problems on the chess.com platform. In order to maintain integrity your author makes no changes to the preamble the only additions are comment on respective teams line-ups, how the match developed and post match commentary.

The publication of the Online Counties Competition fixture schedule meant the ECF's venture into a new contest began in earnest. Mx were one of the many counties able to field multiple teams however the key achievement must be the only county willing to field two teams in the Open group stage. Should they qualify for the KO Stage with MxA playing in Division 1 they would make a challenge for the Open title; MxB  the Challengers/Minor competition by playing Division 2. Putting MxB to one side, MxA were placed in a group containing Cheshire and North Wales (C&NW), Devon, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. On paper many would say that Mx and Yorkshire are favourites to progress from the group but since matches are won with actual play (physical or virtual) rather than on paper, the unfancied counties would be eager to upset the odds as proven by Norfolk's defeat of Yorkshire in the practice matches on 6th June.

Mx A's first (last!) group match was a clash with a new opponent C&NW. In county chess it is unusual to come across a combined county team however C&NW continue to be one. It must be stated though that Leicestershire are actually Leicestershire and Rutland and Cambridgeshire are technically Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire but the joint name is very rarely if ever given in county matches. This combined body was formed in 1968 due to the travel difficulties of NW players when playing Welsh Zones in the Welsh Chess Union (WCU) county championship. In fact they found it easier to travel to Cheshire! A merger between the two could be considered as no surprise as from the 1880's onwards when both Associations existed (NW became dormant on two occasions) the two areas regularly competed against each other highlighting the ease of travelling between the two areas.

When viewing C&NW as separate entities, in Middlesex's long and illustrious history in OTB version of County Championship they had played Cheshire twice the last being the 1965 SF on the way to lifting the title. Mx never had opportunity to play North Wales despite their revival in 1961 as they never qualified for the National Stage from the WCU's regional competition. This was compounded when the WCU left the BCF having formed the Welsh Chess Federation in 1969. By way of aside when reviewing English Counties Mx have not played 11 of the 39 historic counties. They have also not played the newly formed counties of Merseyside and Cleveland. When WCU  were part of BCF Mx did not play 3 Welsh Zones one of course being North Wales. Other counties would be hard pushed to match or even beat this record. The history of these two counties aside Mx had never played this combined team. Mx had indeed played a combined team before in the 1930's Northumberland and Durham but had not faced once since where this would of course mean playing C&NW. The match therefore was a first.

When reviewing the respective line ups as expected both were changed MxA more so. With an eye on a SF match-up against Northumberland and a possible final against Lincolnshire MxA had added a bit more strength as Sacha (Bd2), John (Bd4) and Leo (Bd10) all made their debuts. A match against C&NW was probably a nice way to ease themselves into the competition as on paper Mx were the overwhelming favourites but as usual there are a number of caveats. Firstly, caution is the watchword. There is no accounting for form or complacency. Second, 20th June sees the clash between the top two seeds - Mx s. Yorkshire - so the match should be seen as a warm up for that critical group match. Third, Mx need to focus on the end goal and to do this they must qualify for the KO stage in either 1st or 2nd position. Thus this match should still be treated with the seriousness of any other match. Any slip may give our adversaries whether in our group or wider the impression that Mx can be taken. If Mx played to their expected performance a comprehensive victory over Cheshire & North Wales would send an ominous message to their fellow competitors - Mx mean business and have their eyes set firmly on the prize! MxA team Ave. 197 C&NW team Ave. Par score Mx win 9.5-2.5

Due to your author being on unsuccessful duty for MxB it is not possible to comment on how the match unfolded. Suffice to say some wins, some draws and some losses which when collated lead to a Mx victory of 7.5-4.5. It was a case of job well done rather than emulating the spectacular feats of Mxu1825 who have attained stonking wins in consecutive weeks, vs. Oxfordshire 11-1 and vs. Surrey 10.5-1.5! In team events the winning line matters more than margin of victory. The mixed results were also replicated by the debutants! Key thing is MxA secure qualifying spot for the KO Open Stage!

Well done guys!

See full results here

The games links are given here for your perusal:

Bd1. https://www.chess.com/live/game/5236706064
Bd2. https://www.chess.com/live/game/5236689271
Bd3. https://www.chess.com/live/game/5236684151
Bd4. https://www.chess.com/live/game/5236688974
Bd5. https://www.chess.com/live/game/5236676344
Bd6. https://www.chess.com/live/game/5236686930
Bd7. https://www.chess.com/live/game/5236692645
Bd8. https://www.chess.com/live/game/5236697188
Bd9. https://www.chess.com/live/game/5236706620
Bd10. https://www.chess.com/live/game/5236679587
Bd11. https://www.chess.com/live/game/5236702629
Bd12. https://www.chess.com/live/game/5236669580

Other results:
Leicestershire vs. Yorkshire Yorkshire win 9.5-2.5

Devon vs Lincolnshire Devon win 6.5-5.5

Your author has some observations about the Devon vs. Lincolnshire match one of which is Mx dodged a bullet! Bd1 Keith Arkell vs Matthew Turner - 'nuff said! Devon fielded by far their strongest line up as their team average against Lincolnshire was 194 (Lincolnshire average 197). Devon had brought in Arkell for the Mx match to slot above FM Claridge-Hansen. For their final hurrah in the group stage they add IM Gary Lane! What price Devon had fielded that line up against Mx! Mx may be envious that their GM's and IM's have yet to turn out but the one thing in their favour unlike teams such as Devon and Lincolnshire is the strength in depth. Both of these teams have to rely heavily on their top order performing as they are vulnerable at the tail. If Mx were to face either of these teams they would feel good about their chances. Of course one or two GM's or IM's would certainly swing match in their favour! Another is that Devon slipped up badly! Their draw against C&NW cost them a place in the Open Championship and would have relegated MxA to the Major Open. Although Devon pulled off what some would consider a remarkable win, they must be rueing the draw against C&NW as that extra 0.5pt would have seen Devon pip Middlesex on overall game points! Mx may have been unlucky to have to faced GM's in consecutive matches ultimately costing them top spot but maybe Lady Luck is beginning to look favourably towards them? If so she is thanked profusely and hopes she continues to favour the team!

Final Standing:

Position County MP GP
1= Lincolnshire 4 38.5
1= Middlesex 4 33
3 Devon 3.5 33
4 Yorkshire 2 29.5
5 Cheshire & NW 1.5 28.5
6 Leicestershire 0 16.5

Although finishing joint first MxA for the KO Stage tie break condition 1 applies head to head record. Since Lincolnshire defeated MxA they are seeded 1. Lincolnshire's addition of Matthew Turner and Chris Dorrington ultimately proving the difference between the two teams if only because players pushed down the order. By recruiting John and Sacha Mx can do likewise! Mx now proceed to SF where they face runaway leaders of Group B Northumberland. The SF pairing is the second time that the two will have met in this new format of county chess as they played each other in the preliminary round on 6th June. Then as has been pretty much the case throughout the competition Northumberland fielded their first string. However Mx were slightly undercooked as their team was a balance between players of MxA & MxB. Then Northumberland were held to draw. With a stronger Mx team facing Northumberland will the pendulum swing Mx's way? Should MxA successfully negotiate it would be fair to say that Lincolnshire will be their opponents in the final. Northumberland dominated their division as no real challenger emerged. With Norfolk playing Lincolnshire a series of unfortunate events would have to take place to deny them a place in the final however as stated the preparatory round saw Norfolk defeat a strong Yorkshire team! Roll on a MxA vs. Lincolnshire final!

Next fixture 8th August KO SF Open Stage 

MxA vs. Northumberland

Lincolnshire vs. Norfolk

Player Performance (min 3games)

The competition to be the best performing MxA player reaches an interesting point as the end of the group stage as their are six players separated by 0.5pts and a further four are just another 0.5pts behind thus 10 players separated by a total of 1pt! There is all to play for and with at least one if not two games to come there is ample opportunity for someone to pull clear!

1st= Tom (4games) / John (Tennyson) & Mirek (both 5games) 3pts

4th= Tanmay (4games) / Rick & Andy (Stone) (both 5games) 2.5pts

Tanmay has been willing and able to play in all matches but the absence of his opponent in the penultimate match against Leicestershire has probably cost him first place!

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