Cumnor have a respectable record in the Frank Wood Shield reaching the semi finals in 2012 and beating (the reigning champions) Witney 1 in 2014/15 but this year could be our year to win it as we have reached the Final, which will be played on Thursday 31st May against Cowley.
The Frank Wood Shield is the Oxfordshire Chess version of the FA cup and has been “revamped” this year. It has always been a knockout competition using a handicap to try and level the playing field. This year a new system based on the difference between the average grades of the two teams playing a match is being used. Another change was that clubs could enter as many teams as they wanted (as long as it wasn’t more than the amount of teams in the league) and call them whatever they wanted. The names included The Witney Weavers, The Didcot Daredevils and The Wantage Alfredians, after much discussion we came up with Cumnor The Six Horsemen of the Apocalypse which we can all agree is the best name and we should just get a medal just for that. The draw was made during the Cowley Christmas Blitz and we were the first name out of the hat which means we get to play all our matches at home.
Our first round match was against The Cowley Forks, we were unsure what kind of Cowley team would turn up and to our surprise (and maybe horror) it was a very strong team, pretty much an amalgamation of the Cowley 1 and 2 sides. As their average grade was 177 while ours was 131 we only needed 1.5 points to go through which doesn’t sound too hard but Cowley’s board six (161) was stronger than me on board one (159). Talking about board 6 the first shock of the cup happened on it, Chris got a draw against Graham Cole which is outstanding result due to the 64 point difference! Mark got the all important win on board 3 against Will Burt at the end of a long and tiring game which put us into the next round.
Our round two match opponents were The Magdalen Blackbirds, we realised this was a very difficult match as the juniors who would play for Magdalen would be under graded. This time we called on Zoe and Daniel to play but before the match we re-read the rules and realised Zoe couldn’t play as she hadn’t played for Cumnor this season but Daniel could play. So this team we had a higher average grade of 146 while Magdalen had a grade of 133 which meant we needed to win 3.5 out of the six boards and 3-3 draw would see Magdalen through to the semi final. On the night we gained the 3.5 points needed with wins from Daniel, Ian, Mark and a draw from Gareth.
The semi final match was arranged for the 10th May against another Cowley team, The Cowley Fins. This time using Robert’s low grade (which we can all agree is too low) to pull the average grade down to 133 we were within the 5 points of The Cowley Fins (132) which meant the following rule applied.
“9.7.8 In matches between teams differing in average grade by less than 5 points, a
team scoring at least 3.5 points is the winner of the match. Should such a match
be tied 3-3, board count will be used to decide the result. If the match is still tied,
the result will be decided by eliminating the bottom board, then (if necessary)
the fifth, etc. Should all the games in the match be drawn, the team with the
lower average grade will win. If the average grades of the teams are identical,
the away team will win.”
This is my time to apologise, I misread the rules. I missed the board count rule in the case of a draw and went to the next line. Believing “If the match is still tied, the result will be decided by eliminating the bottom board,” when we won the bottom board I wrote that Cumnor needed to win 3.5 as in a case of a draw the bottom board won’t count. This played out as the final result was a 3-3 draw, with Ian and Robert winning and Mark and myself getting a draw. Believing we had been knocked out we congratulated The Cowley Fins but….. the next day Gerard realised that the board count rule over ruled the bottom board elimination.
The match went to an arbiter who decided that Cumnor should go through!
So by hock or by crook we have reached the final. We now play another Cowley team, The Cowley Sharks in the showpiece final of the Oxford Chess Season. Will we make it a hat-trick of wins against Cowley teams or will they get their revenge?