Back in 1978, the first Kidlington Chess Tournament was held. It had two sections (Major: U180 and Minor: U135) and offered a guaranteed minimum prize fund of £130. The event grew rapidly. For the fourth event in 1981, an Intermediate section was added, the grading limits on the sections were 190, 160 and 125, and the prize fund had grown to over £500. Two years later, in the sixth annual tournament of Kidlington, the prize fund was over £700, and the grading limits of the three sections were 225, 175 and 125.
With this year’s Kidlington Chess Tournament held at Exeter Hall, Kidlington, on 4 & 5 February, the event reached a landmark 40th year and featured a number of innovations. For the first time, the top section was not grading-limited but an Open section. We also had for the first time at Kidlington the option of online entry, and we added a further prize to the bottom section. (We had added a fourth [U120] section in 2012.) Moreover, the Oxfordshire Individual Championship, resuscitated this year, was decided at Kidlington, the winner being the eligible player with the highest combined score in the Open sections of the two weekend tournaments held in Oxfordshire during the season, at Witney in October and at Kidlington.
We were surprised and delighted at the large increase in the number of entrants this time. Such was the demand that we reached the capacity of our usual playing area (192 players) nearly a week before the start of the tournament and had to close to further entries. That had not come even close to happening before in the time I have been involved in the organization of the tournament. (Before my time, it had not been entirely unknown that the figure of 192 entries had been exceeded and an extra room in the building had been hired, but hiring an extra room at the venue was not economically viable and in any case we felt that allowing more entrants would have put undesirable strain on the facilities at the venue as well as creating the danger of a degree of overcrowding which would would not be good for the atmosphere of the tournament.
Of our 192 starters, 28 were in the Open section, 57 in the U180, 47 in the U145 section, and 60 in the U120. Competitors ranged in age from 7 to 89.
As last year, we were very pleased to have Andrew Varney deputize for Priscilla as controller for the U145 section on the Saturday, joining our other regular controllers, Tim Dickinson and Lucy Smith. As usual, they all did their work in an efficient, unruffled, and friendly way.
Despite the presence of Grandmaster John Nunn and new IM Alan Merry in the Open section, as well as Oxford University’s Portuguese FIDE Master David Martins and Armenian FM David Zakarian, we again had a ‘home-grown’ winner, with Marcus Harvey (now an FM, too) of Witney Chess Club taking clear first place and the £250 winner’s prize with a score of 4.5/5. He dropped just a half-point in round 3 against Nunn, and beat David Martins in the final round. Marcus’s result was a repeat of his clear victory in 2015. (He also shared first place back in 2013.) John Nunn and David Martins, along with former Oxford University player Michael Healey, shared second place. Of those who finished a point further back on 3 in equal fifth place, Ben Ogunshola and David Coleman qualify for places in the 2017 British Championship at Llandudno this summer.
The Oxfordshire Individual Championship title and trophy go to Oxford University’s David Zakarian, who, despite being unable to play the last round at Kidlington because of duties supervising the Oxfordshire Under-9 team, added to his score in the Open section at Witney to win the Championship with 5.5 points. Zoe Varney came second with a combined total of five points. (Marcus Harvey had been unable to play at Witney.)
Zoe’s brother Daniel Varney, of Cumnor Chess Club, deservedly took clear top spot in the U180 section with a score of 4.5/5, a half-point ahead of visitors Peter Tart and Paul Colburn and of Cowley’s Will Burt and Oxford City’s Anthony Lee.
The U145 section produced a five-way tie for first place, shared by Berkshire players Michael Lucey and George Green, Camberley’s Paul Gillett, and two Oxfordshire players, Steve Barry (who mostly plays tournaments rather than in the Oxfordshire League) and Cowley’s Bob Samuels, all of them on 4/5.
In the U120 section, there was a seven-way tie for first place on 4/5, between James Barnett, Dominic De Silva, Paul Bristow, Jason Madden, Roy Watson, and two juniors, Gloucestersire’s Oliver Stubbs and Berkshire junior Helen Archer-Lock, who thereby went one better than her shared second place in the section last year.
For a complete list of prizewinners and the crosstables for the four sections, please consult the other pages under the ‘2017’ tab. You may also wish to look at the fine selection of photos from this year’s event taken by Brendan O’Gorman (who shared the U160 grading prize in the U180 section), which he has posted online here. My thanks to him.
As usual, Andrew Butterworth of Chess Direct provided the excellent bookstall as well as the boards and sets and a good number of the clocks we used, and we are pleased that Helen Hackett (Hackett’s Food & Drink of Witney) was again able to provide us with the fine selection of refreshments. My thanks to them both.
A tournament organizer relies on many other people in a variety of ways to make things happen and to run smoothly, and it is a pleasure to thank them. In addition to the section controllers, and Andrew Butterworth and Helen Hackett (already mentioned), I would like to add my thanks to the staff at Exeter Hall (especially Bert) and to Ian Brooke and, especially this year, to Tom Williams.
After reaching the milestone of 40 years of the Kidlington Tournament this year, it’s worth reflecting on and giving thanks for the efforts of those who started the whole thing off four decades ago (some at Kidlington this year played in the first event back in 1978!), and all those who through the years have worked hard and made contributions in different ways to keep the tournament going and growing. I single out Tom, not to downplay the vital roles that many other have played over the years, but because, having been among those who started the tournament up four decades ago, he is now standing down after forty years at the heart of the organization in various capacities. In recent years he has been Treasurer–though that title does scant justice to the contribution he has continued to make. In learning the ropes, since I came into the Kidlington organizing team in 2010, I have relied heavily on Tom, not only for his work as Treasurer and more, but also for his sound advice, encouragement, practical support and friendship. So a very special ‘Thank you’ to Tom.
Finally, my thanks go to all the 192 players who competed at this year’s Kidlington, and to those who made donations to our funds (vital to our long-term survival and to our support for local chess).
This year, we reached a milestone: the 40th annual Kidlington Chess Tournament. Next year, as we move into our fifth decade, we celebrate another 40th anniversary. The 41st annual Kidlington Chess Tournament, taking place on Saturday and Sunday 4 & 5 February 2018, will be the fortieth to be held at Exeter Hall. We look forward not only to welcoming back old chess friends but also to making new ones. Do join us there!
Gerard O’Reilly (14 February 2017)