This was the final that very nearly wasn't. After potential venues in first Leicestershire and then Rochdale fell through, the organisers were left looking for hosts at only a few weeks' notice. Fortunately Sussex stepped into the breach -- incidentally ensuring their team's participation in the final, despite finishing a lowly 7th/8 in their zonal competition. We were quite happy, Haywards Heath being a much more accessible venue than Rochdale.
In round one the points rolled in nicely, and an eventual total of 13 / 20 put us in fourth place, close behind Sussex (16), Richmond (15) and Wey Valley (14) and with a two-point cushion to Berks and Notts on 11. Meanwhile the players on the reserve boards scored 3 / 4, which under the 'best three to score' format gave us a share of the lead. Round two was full of draws! Four in quick succession gave us 12 points: solid but not threatening the leaders who scored 15, 15½ and 15 points to remain in the same order. Sussex's total of 31 already exceeded the 25 they had scored in three rounds in the qualifier, against supposedly weaker opposition! Essex (14) and Barnet (13) had good rounds, putting them on 22½ and 21 points: close to us, but not uncomfortably so. Our reserves fared less well, scoring only 1½.
We needed a truly excellent final round to get amongst the leaders. Another 12-point round consolidated fourth place as Essex fell away, but was never enough to overhaul Wey Valley. Sussex scored an extraordinary 18 / 20 to take the title with a convincing tally of 49 / 60, followed at a respectful distance by Richmond (45) and Wey Valley (43½), then Oxfordshire on 37 clear of Barnet (34). Were the Sussex organisers feeding their team colour-coded yoghurt perhaps? Whatever the reason, the home team certainly found the recipe for success, and deserve congratulations on a great victory -- as well as hosting an excellent event.In the reserve competition three victories gave us another perfect 3 / 3, and a total of 7.5 / 9 that put us level with two other teams. The three could not be separated by invoking the tie-break of including the fourth score, but on the second tie-break (top two scores from each round) we were second -- so the reserves came away with medals!
Fourth place (and second in the reserves) is a tremendous improvement on last year, when our U11 team failed to qualify for the final. Congratulations to all involved, particularly Adam Smith and Martin Thetford who are now proud owners of multi-coloured flashing pens for scoring 3 / 3, and to Charlie Harnden, Ben Thorne and Jennifer Collister who were unbeaten on 2½. And of course to indefatigable team manager Caro Hunt, who has been working since last December (at least!) to facilitate our participation in this year's EPSCA competitions.
|17||Cheshire & N Wales||5.5||7||4.5||17|
|5||Ben Thorne||0.5||1||1||2.5||Cheshire & N Wales||Wey Valley||Liverpool|
|10||Tom Maxwell||1||0||1||2||Barnet||Essex||Cheshire & N Wales|
|12||Tim Akinola||1||0||1||2||Devon||Liverpool||Wey Valley|
|15||Toby Hambly||1||1||0||2||Wey Valley||Cheshire & N Wales||Yorkshire|
|20||Amaar Khan||1||1||0||2||Nottinghamshire||Wey Valley||Barnet|