The first Bristol Chess Times tournament went down a storm, 12 wood-pushers seamlessly blended into the usual pub antics – nodding along to the Spanish guitar playing or debating answers from the pub quiz whilst playing some intense rapid games. It was 4 teams of 3 – North Bristol, South Bristol, Clevedon and a rag tag bunch we named the Mercenaries. We didn’t have enough players until the night before so we played a bit of wait-and-see, but it all worked out in the end – making organiser/arbiter Jon very happy:
Some eager beavers arrived to help set up, have a drink, or in Chris and Waleed’s case have a game of blindfold chess to warm up. Believe it or not, they are on about move 10 of a real game here and are deep in concentration..
The first match-ups were drawn at random and saw the Mercenaries draw South Bristol and Clevedon face North Bristol. Each player faced off against their counterpart once with White and once with Black. Ben Edgell (Mercenaries) was a cut above the rest for the night as he proved why he is comfortably above 200 even when not playing regular chess. He scored 2/2 and his teammates gladly polished it off to march ahead to the final beating South Bristol 5-1. Meanwhile the other match had more evenly split teams and a much more even score of 3-3. This tournament favoured the bottom board for all tie-break situations, so as rising Clevedon star Max had won 2/2 on board 3 – Clevedon went through on board count.
- Mercenaries 5 – 1 South Bristol
- North Bristol 3 – 3 Clevedon.
Due to the grading restrictions (team average had to be below 150) there were bound to be interesting matches where a few players had the pressure to make their grades count, while others acted as the underdogs – aiming to snatch points and prove their team’s grading strategy as correct. The mercenaries were the most skewed team – largely due to Ben who won 2/2 again, despite a tenacious Andrew at the helm for Clevedon. So Chris and Max had to win at least 3/4 to stand a chance. They both won their first round which helped – but in the second Chris looked in a lot of danger. He had lived up to his surname (strong) and had sacked a piece for an attack against up-and-coming Horfieldian Sam; who repelled the attack and was consolidating – though he had used some time getting there:
Max was under some pressure from a classic pawn-storm from Waleed, but had his own play on the other side. They both played quickly and the dust settled even quicker – Max was a piece up and just had to mop up the resulting danger. He did so and completed another 2/2 – counterbalancing Ben’s whitewash on board 1. We were all checking the maths and had just about confirmed that Clevedon would win on board count when Chris somehow hung on to the draw (the only one of the night) and sealed Clevedon’s third trophy of the season by a clear margin.
The bronze medal match was soon billed as an all-out rivalry between North and South – perhaps taking advantage of being on home turf the South of the River won this time convincingly 5-1.
- Final: Clevedon 3.5-2.5 Mercenaries
- Bronze medal match: North Bristol 1 – 5 South Bristol
Champions: Clevedon (total count: W6 D1 L5)
2nd: Mercenaries (total count: W7 D1 L4)
3rd: South Bristol (total count: W6 D0 L6)
4th: North Bristol (total count: W4 D0 L8)
A more casual game
Chess isn’t often categorised in the same bracket as checkers, cribbage or dominoes, but it is clearly adaptable enough to be a played as a pure pub game. This event was billed as such – and played as such, and everyone got into the spirit of “casual competitiveness”. More importantly, it gave the game and the league that little bit more visibility to casual players – during the night two friends enquired about the event, challenged me to a game and played alongside the tournament. Many other pub-quizzers and diners observed and walked on through, glancing at the games for a quick evaluation of the game – or in utter bemusement, we’ll never know. Whether casual players join the league or not – the game is being promoted and those who wish they’d kept up the game or wish they’s been taught before can get involved and have fun.
The invitational was a great success – but as always feedback is welcome and we may hold another one soon, perhaps even more teams and even shorter games!
Mike is a regular player in the league and co-editor of Bristol Chess Times.