As one event to mark the SCCU’s quasquicentenary (125 years), we entered a self-financed team in this year’s World Senior Team Championship held in Crete from the 24th April to 2nd May 2017.
|The SCCU team facing Latvia Women in round 8.|
The team consisted of the current and past Presidents of the Union, being myself, Mike Gunn and David Howes, all under the guidance of team captain David Sedgwick.
Recognising that in rating terms we would be the weakest team in the event by a significant margin, we set ourselves two objectives:
- Enjoy ourselves
- Avoid humiliation
The 7.15am departure from Gatwick provided the first challenge, especially for those of us who had been at the ECF Council meeting in Birmingham the day before. We met up at the airport with a number of other players from the “official” England teams, along with a few other familiar names playing under the Bermuda banner. The crew had obviously been tipped off that they had a contingent of chess playing geriatrics aboard and welcomed us during the pre-flight announcements, albeit referring to us generically as “the England team”.
The venue was the Creta Maris Beach Resort, about a 30 minute drive from the capital, Heraklion. This is a large complex with several swimming pools, as well as direct access to a good beach, and with accommodation largely consisting of rooms in mini-villas scattered over the hillside site – which ensured a certain amount of exercise was had by all.
The event was split into 50+ and 65+ sections. Our team captain being a youngster barely more than half way to his own quasquicentenary, meant that we were only eligible for the younger section. The tournaments consisted of 9 rounds, with matches played over 4 boards, but teams could include a fifth member, allowing one to be rested each day. As we only had 4 players, we each had to play every day. Teams did not have to play in strict rating order, but having declared a team order at the start of the event, you had to stick to that order, albeit teams of 5 could rest any one with the others moving up a board appropriately.
There were 22 teams in each section. Adding the 4 of us to the 29 players spread across 6 official England teams, meant that the ECF was the best represented Federation. Including teams from Wales and Scotland in each section, along with our Bermudian friends in the 50+ section, meant that the British contingent dominated the event, at least numerically.
Whilst we were seeded at the bottom of our section, a bit of skulduggery by the England 1 team – Nigel Short being a last minute substitution – meant they eased themselves into the top seed position. Any doubt we might have had about the strength of the opposition we faced didn’t survive the publication of the pairings for the first round. We were up against the German team of VSG 1880 Offenbach. Only David Howes, on board 4, had an opponent rated (marginally) below 2000, whilst David Sedgwick and I on boards 1 and 2 faced opponents rated above 2200. (It didn’t escape my notice that on board 2 in the bottom match I faced a higher rated opponent than did Nigel Short on board 1 in the top match!) With David Sedgwick achieving a win and myself a draw, we felt this was an excellent start.
Next we faced Wales and a draw on board 3 saw Mike Gunn off the mark, although the rest of us failed to add to the score line. In round 3 we met Sweden II and David Howes had his first draw, a result I matched on board 2 whilst our captain notched up his second win on board 1; thus a draw overall and a Match Point for SCCU 125. This meant we were elevated off the bottom table for round 4, where we played Oslo. Just a draw by David Sedgwick retained a degree of honour for the team.
Round 5 had us relegated back to the bottom table, where we remained for the rest of the tournament. We played Bermuda, who were reduced to 3 players due to a very late withdrawal. We suffered a whitewash on the played boards, only the default win on 4 making the score line look a little more respectable. Round 6 has us paired against England III and a 3 – 1 loss, with draws by the 2 Davids.
By now we had played all the lower-ranked teams and round 7 had us paired against another German team, 12th seeded Rochade Bielefeld Revival, all of whose players were rated above 2000. This was our first complete whitewash. Our penultimate opponents were 14th seeded Latvia Women, who inflicted a similar result upon us as our previous opponents. Finally, we played 16th seeds Sweden I, where once again Mike Gunn put us on the score line with a draw.
So, overall the team match score was no wins, one draw and 8 losses. Each of us on the lower 3 boards notched up 2 draws, whilst our outstanding player was David Sedgwick with 2 wins and 2 draws.
The full results can be found on the tournament website (www.wstcc-crete.com) but I’ll try to summarise the main points. In each section there were bronze, silver and gold trophies for the top 3 teams, and also for women's teams. In addition, there were medals for the best player on each board number (including the 5th player for teams with 5) in each section. In the 65+ section, this was very much a Russian affair, with their players taking all 5 “best board player” medals and the gold trophy. In the 50+ section, England I failed to hold on to their top seed position, coming away with the bronze trophy, but 3 of their players featured amongst the 5 “best board” medal winners. The top placed 50+ team was Saint Petersburg, followed by Armenia in silver trophy position.
This was a well organised event, with excellent accommodation and good playing conditions. Other than the final round, matches didn’t start till 3pm, allowing time for a couple of morning excursions that were laid on for us, and to confirm that the Aegean in April is warmer that the waters around the UK at any time of the year.
The first excursion was to the excavated site of the ancient Palace of Knossos. During the conducted tour it took us about half an hour to realise one of our team had got separated from the group! (Well, what are friends for?)
The second excursion was to the Island of Spinalonga, located in the largely enclosed bay of Elounda. This tiny island had been heavily fortified over the ages, then served as a leper colony as late as 1957. A beautiful area and very much the centre of the upper echelon of the Cretan tourist industry. For those with a long enough memory to be eligible to have entered this tournament, this was the setting for the 1977 BBC drama serial Who Pays the Ferryman.
- enjoy ourselves: achieved
- Avoid humiliation: achieved
Finally, a big thank you to David Sedgwick for suggesting that we take part, for organising our entry and for leading us throughout the event.
Next year the championships return to the 2016 venue of Radebeul, near Dresden in Germany, running from 30th June till the 8th July. Might there be an SCCU 126 team?