Oxfordshire is blessed at the moment with a rich crop of talented juniors. Many of you will know that two of them, Jan Murawski and Kenneth Hobson, won their respective sections in the British Junior Chess Championships, and Kenneth was in action again recently at the Frome Congress, held at Selwood Academy. He was joined by Dimitrios Zakarian and Alex Hertog, all playing in the highest rated Open section, an excellent illustration of the strength of junior chess in the county at the moment
All had good individual results, Kenneth and Dimitrios both finishing on 3.5/5 and winning grading prizes , and Alex playing well above his rating to finish on 1.5. Further it was proposed that a team to represent Oxfordshire was formed, but more about that later … First all three have been kind enough to send me what they think is their best game, so let’s have a look:
Kenneth chose his second round victory against Allan Pleasants
Kenneth nowadays is a much better player than I, so I’ll leave you with his comments, save to say that as a Pirc/Modern player I agree 8… c6 is not a good decision, 8… c5 screams out to be played, and that the tactics at the end are very pretty; sacrifices on empty squares are often difficult to see, and line closing ideas doubly so.
Dimitirios also provided some analysis for his round 4 game against John Waterfield, and talking of tactics move 27 is a stunner!
Obviously the son has inherited something from the father … The sacrifice leaves white’s minor pieces miserably bottled up in the corner and the lone rook is totally ineffective against Black’s Queen and Knight. The computer confirms it all as sound, one pretty line with distant echoes of Kenneth’s idea above:
Superb stuff! It’s one thing to see these things, but it it takes confidence (of youth?) to play them.
Alex chose his 2nd round draw against George Hollands as his best game. Outrated by around 150 points Alex nevertheless almost grinds out a long positional win in a very mature game:
I’m usually on the white side of these structures, and if I can get a knight into d6 I am normally very happy. However Alex nicely defuses it here, and in the process wins a pawn to go into a Rook + 3 pawn against R + 2 ending. Now to me this looks very difficult to win, but on the plus side there are only 2 possible results; white is in for a long and miserable defence. The key to winning is to somehow eventually get the king in front of the pawns aiming for the Lucena position, while avoiding black’s main drawing possibility, the Philidor position. Easily said, very difficult to achieve here with the white pawns connected and on the same files as Blacks, and a well placed White king. Alex slowly and patiently makes progress but in the end white manages to set up essentially the Philidor drawing method – to be honest I suspect with best play the ending was drawn from the start, but Alex made a fine stab at it.
So three juniors in the Open, all doing pretty well. As a result after round 3 it was suggested that an Oxfordshire team was put together, which required a fourth player. So which shining star of Oxford youth chess could they chose?
Yes, weighing in at over 55 years and more than 50% the age of the other 3 players combined it was me! I was playing in the Major, restricted to players rated under 1950, and was doing pretty well. I ended on 3.5/5, enough for a share of third.
My best game was probably round 1, but that was a Benoni and I’ve shown a lot of them recently. So here is my round 4 effort:
Pretty, but my opponent was the architect of his own (k)nightmare with 15… Qe7. That said I was pleased with getting the tactics around 13 exd6 right (threat dxe7), and Kb1 to kill off counter play is the kind of move I easily miss.
So the weekend resulted in good performances all round, and prizes for 3 of us, not a bad haul at all! So what did that mean for the team? Well … unfortunately it was decided we tried to enter the team too late, so my career as an Oxfordshire Junior was cut cruelly short :( To add insult to injury part of the reason for the rejection was that we were doing too well individually to enter a team that late!
Thus a good weekend for Oxfordshire chess at an enjoyable and well run congress – if you can get to Frome next year I strongly recommend it. I’ve been going since 2018, and I really feel I ought to mention in previous years I went with Ian Brooke, a stalwart of Oxford Chess that we sadly lost earlier this year. I am sure he would be overjoyed to see such young talents doing so well in such a tough competition.