Tuesday 15 November 2016

Yarm School - HMC Champions!

Every year, we take two or three teams down to the Queen Elizabeth Grammar School ('QEGS') in Wakefield for the annual HMC Chess Championships.

Last year we finished second in both the Under-9 and Under-11 categories, but it has been a long time since we actually won one of the sections.
Setting off in good spirits
This year we had one team in the Under-9 section and two in the Under-11s. All three teams started well with excellent victories in the first of the six rounds. We then had our usual share of mixed fortunes as we headed towards the halfway point of the event, with all three teams suffering one defeat and earning a second win.
Traditional half-time photo

There was a great amount of drama in the second half of the tournament. The Under-9s won two more matches and lost one. They did very well to beat QEGS A by a narrow margin in the fourth round and they finished off with a great 4-0 victory over RGS D in the final round, earning them a fine fourth place.

Captain Ajay Selvan led from the front, winning three games, drawing two and losing just one. Ayan Thomas won three and lost three, as did Aryan Nalawade. Grace Crawford continued to play excellent chess and won four of her games, including the decisive encounter in the match against QEGS A. This game will will stick in my mind not just because Grace played so well to earn a famous match victory for the team, but also because she played the second half of the game with a nosebleed. The sight of her holding tissues to her blooded nose with one hand as she pushed her pawn forward to become a new queen with the other is one that will definitely stay with me!
The Under-9s had a great day too and finished fourth
We had two teams in the Under-11 section. The B team played extremely well all day long and managed to win three, draw two and lose only one of their matches. Their most important match was against RGS A in the penultimate round. They managed a fabulous 2-2 draw, with wins from Gaurav Kannan and Samantha Botterill. This was not only a great result for the B team (RGS A were the defending champions) but also for the Yarm A team, as it allowed them to keep pace with RGS A as they went into the final round.

Captain Gaurav had a good day on board one, winning three games against strong players. Samantha and Keya Shah won four games each on their HMC debuts. Rishik Kalagara won two, drew one and lost three. His last game, in which he managed to force a draw despite being on the point of losing for a long time, made him a hero as it meant his team won their match against RGS C and secured fourth place in a tough field.

Yarm A looked to have stumbled fatally in the third round when they lost heavily to RGS A. However, thanks partly to the B team's heroics they suddenly found themselves in with a chance of taking the title after all. They went into the final round dead level with RGS A and just half a point ahead of QEGS B. They now had two problems: they had to beat QEGS A and they had to better the match score of RGS A, as the tiebreaker favoured their rivals (because RGS A had beaten Yarm A earlier in the tournament). Quite a task!

RGS A duly took control of their final match and won heavily, to the tune of 3-1. Now 'all' we had to do was win 4-0!

Fortunately, captain Ammar Soni was on the form of his life and he won a very good game to finish on a personal score of five wins and a draw from six games. Adhi Dinakaran also won, to take his score to four wins from six games. Henry Parker won his third game of the tournament too, although he was under severe pressure and a lot of material down for most of the game. Yet Henry has a good eye for a checkmate chance and with his last good piece he swooped down to checkmate the opponent's king. Yusuf Syed had played like a real champion all day long and he saved his best game till last, chasing his tough opponent's king all the way across the board and into the jaws of doom. The position was fiendishly complicated but Yusuf remained remarkably cool to secure the victory that led to Yarm A becoming the new HMC Under-11 champions!
The Yarm Under-11s are the champions!
Although we have distant memories of our Under-9s winning their section many years ago - back in the great days of Thomas Mavin - we cannot remember Yarm ever having won the Under-11 section before. A magnificent achievement!
A famous team
One thing that certainly helped all of our teams was being able to practice with our brand new chess clocks, which were very kindly purchased by the Yarm Prep. School Social Committee. This meant that none of our players felt too nervous about using clocks in the tournament and none of them lost on time.

Congratulations, everyone! It was a superb day of chess.

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