2014 Tournament Report

The 37th annual Kidlington Chess Tournament was held on the weekend of 1 & 2 February 2014 at our usual venue, Exeter Hall. Doubtless helped by the absence this time of competing English events clashing with Kidlington’s traditional calendar slot of the first weekend of February, the congress attracted a very satisfying total of 170 entrants, considerably up on last year’s number and the best for several years, with 22 starters in the top section (Under-225), 46 in the U180, 59 in the U145 section, and 43 in the U120.

There was, however, one calendar clash which affected us. Priscilla Morris, who normally returns from acting as a controller in Gibraltar in time to take charge of the U145 section, was unable to be with us this time because the two events overlapped. But we were very fortunate to have the services of Alex Holowczak, who stood in for Priscilla on this occasion and joined our other regular controllers, Tim Dickinson and Lucy Smith.

I had wondered before the tournament whether a number of players might find the introduction of digital clocks and our new incremental time limit (90 minutes plus 15 extra seconds added automatically from move 1) confusing or otherwise problematic, but from conversations I had during the weekend, it seems that in general the reaction was very positive.

As ever, the tournament was characterized in all sections by many interesting and closely-contested games. The top section was jointly won with 4/5 by James Jackson of Northampton and veteran Jim Burnett from Doncaster. The highest-placed participant currently playing locally was Oxford City’s Phil Hayward, who scored 3/5 and took a share in the U190 grading prize.

The U180 section, on the other hand, was dominated by local players, with Scott Crockart of Didcot taking clear first place on 4½/5, thanks to winning his final-round game against Oxford City’s Sean Terry while the hard-fought encounter between Cowley’s Ray Starkie and Phil Neatherway ended in a draw.

Most unusually for such an event, the U145 ended with two players on 5/5. Steadily improving 14-year-old Zoe Varney and Simon Terrington, both of Cumnor Chess Club, shared the top honours, a whole point ahead of Wantage’s Peter Hemmings, Cowley’s Maria Mate, and eleven-year-old Berkshire junior Nikolai Hinterreither.

The bottom (U120) section ended in a win for James Ramsden of Aylesbury, who scored 4½/5, just half a point ahead of four players: Stephen Crockett (visiting from Birmingham), Lee Collins of the Cowley Workers club (who had been absent from competitive chess for nearly ten years before this season), nine-year-old Nikhil Hakeem from Bristol, and Rajagopal Panicker, a resident of Kidlington, who was playing in his very first tournament.

The Team Prize was shared between a quartet from Cowley, ‘The Four Knightmares’ (Will Burt, Nick Burrows, David Keeling, and Maria Mate), and a foursome of Oxfordshire juniors rejoicing(?) in the designation, ‘Please Print Name Here’ (Zoe Varney of Cumnor, Elizaveta Sheremetyeva of Witney, and James Cole and Alex Keane of Magdalen College School), each team amassing a collective total of 12½/20.

For a complete list of prizewinners and the crosstables for the four sections, please consult the other pages under the ‘2014’ tab. You may also wish to look at a fine selection of photos from the event taken by Brendan O’Gorman (who competed in the U180 section), which he has posted online at http://tinyurl.com/Kidlington2014. My thanks to him.

As usual, Andrew Butterworth of Chess Direct provided the fine bookstall as well as the boards and sets, and we are delighted that Hackett’s Food & Drink of Witney have now become firm fixtures at Kidlington with their excellent selection of refreshments and friendly service. For our incremental time limit, we needed to switch to the use of digital clocks this year. We have Chess Direct to thank again for the use of some of these, but we are also very grateful to David Welch and the 4NCL for the loan of many more.

A tournament organizer relies on many other people in various (often unobtrusive or hidden) ways to make things happen and to run smoothly, and it is a pleasure to thank them. In addition to those just mentioned, I would like to add my thanks to the staff at Exeter Hall (especially Bert), and to Ian Brooke, Mike Truran and the Witney Congress, and Roger Thetford.  I am full of admiration as well as gratitude for the efficient, unruffled, and friendly way in which Tim, Alex, and Lucy, this year’s section controllers, carried out their duties. But my deepest debt of thanks is to Tom Williams, the Kidlington Tournament Treasurer (though that title does scant justice to his contribution), not only for his work as Treasurer and more, but for all his practical support, thoughtfulness, sound advice, and encouragement through the year.

Finally, my thanks go to all the players who entered this year’s Kidlington, those who made donations to our funds (vital to our long-term survival and our support for local chess), and to those who had not come along intending to compete but who were kind enough to ‘fill in’ so as to give a game to players who would otherwise have had to sit out a round because of an odd number of players in the draw.

Next year’s event, the 38th annual Kidlington Tournament, will take place at Exeter Hall on the weekend of 7 & 8 February, 2015. We hope to see you there!

Gerard O’Reilly
(6 February 2014)

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