The London Team Rapidplay: Report

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The idea of a chess related event at Imperial College London isn’t a new one: the last major open tournament held at ICL was the 1st Chessmaster British Blitz Championships back in 1999, which Hackney famously dominated en-route to a well deserved victory. Going back even further, Imperial is quite a famous venue for weekend congresses, as often as three times a year, spanning from the 70’s to the 90’s. The current students and indeed the organiser (!!) had no idea of this when the thought of hosting a chess event crossed our minds, and once we had booked the beautiful activity rooms on the first floor of the Union, the pressure was on to live up to our reputation.

Setting up on the Friday night was an interesting affair, particularly with the Union (despite being equipped with an awesome dining hall) seemingly only having ten tables in the entire building. The meeting rooms in the east wing basement were duly plundered, a process taking approximately four hours and ending in several hearty drinks on Friday evening. The end result, though, was spectacular: the well lit event hall was set up and players would find themselves competing against each other in the shadow of the Royal Albert Hall the next day.

All primed and ready to go

Saturday morning proved both productive and hectic, with everything being set up but chaos when it came to putting individuals into new teams. When the dust settled, the event started only twenty minutes late, with nineteen teams taking part. The fact that there was an odd number of teams was actually a blessing in disguise: teams with players departing during the day were able to ‘steal’ players to fill in during rounds – this meant no boards were defaulted, and even players receiving a bye could participate in a rated game!

Among the event’s guests included the esteemed kingscrusher (Tryfon Gavriel), famous for his chess videos and thousands of followers on YouTube. At a “measly” ECF rapidplay rating of 208 (for those unfamiliar with chess ratings, this is comfortably Master strength), he was playing as the lowest rated player in the daunting Team Barford, arriving as the team to beat with an average grade of 211!

Extra tables and analysis boards were available near the entrance of the room, which players used in the gaps between rounds but almost not at all during lunchtime, with most of the hall taking advantage of the longer break to get a proper meal in, in the many nearby restaurants and cafes.

A view from down the table during an analysis session

The day was regularly interrupted with muffled screams and shouts of joy from the downstairs student bar, where a large number of cricket fans (mainly Sri Lankan) were congregating to watch the Cricket World Cup Final. After lunch (during India’s match winning innings: say that three times fast!) the attitude was somewhat more subdued and the chess was a tad quieter. For the record, this event organiser attempted to have the World Cup Final moved to another date to accommodate the chess, but they rather rudely never got back to my e-mail…

Tryfon Gavriel and Alan Luo (the day’s honourary French delegate) analysing after Barford’s close call against Cereal Imperial in Round 2

Rounds one and two started slightly late but with an awesome turnaround thanks to our guest arbiter Alex Holowczak, by the start of the third round after lunchtime (which was a generous hour, not common for a chess rapidplay event!) the day was looking like it could be back on schedule by the end of the day.

Crowding around the arbiter to see the next round’s pairings

Barford were sole leaders after second and third seeds Athenaeum A and Kings Head I drew their match in Round 3, but the afternoon got especially tense when Team Barford were spectacularly beaten by Athenaeum A in Round 4! Paul Thorainsson managed a victory against Venkat Tiruchirapalli and Charles McAleenan held Andrew Stone to a well deserved draw on bottom board despite being 46 points his junior, for the match to be decided 2.5-1.5 in Athenaeum’s favour. This resulted in Kings Head and Athenaeum having a joint-lead for the next round, with Barford a single point behind and ready to pounce.

The West London Knights face off against Athenaeum B

The final round saw Barford in prime position to pounce, playing Kings Head I and pulling off a victory. However, Athenaeum A won their match as well which clinched first place outright, so Barford had to settle for second place after leapfrogging Kings Head I, who put in a great performance to finish 3rd overall.

Outgoing Imperial College Chess Club president Jamie “8 pints” Funnell played as a filler for Hammersmith in the last round to spectacular over-the-board effect. Jamie is also famous for winning congresses all over the country that start with the letter B…

Event organiser John Sargent (fresh from a caffeine overdose) and arbiter Alex Holowczak (fresh from a competitive snooker match) oversaw proceedings on the day.

Other notable mentions that won prizes include Cereal Imperial which won the best-academic-institution prize, as well as a storming tournament from juniors from Wilson’s School who deservedly pick up the best-average-U150 prize as well as keeping all the university teams on their toes! Finally, the best game prize (which was offered on-the-day) as judged by English IM Thomas Rendle went to the Round 3 encounter between Chris Tandy of the Mush-Vrooms who played against Tom Slater of the Southampton Cheetahs.

After packing up, the day ended with a lot of the Imperial crew celebrating at the event organiser’s residence, with special guests Postman Patzer (Kishan Pattni) and DJ Hippo (Justin Hadi) keeping the party going into the early hours.

The event was an overwhelming success and thanks must be given to all parties involved in setting up before and after as well as all the team captains and players who made the day a fantastic one over-the-board as well. Special thanks must be given to Adam Raoof and Sean Hewitt, who helped tremendously with the organisation of the event beforehand, as well as John and Christine Constable who generously offered to lend us top-quality equipment for the day’s proceedings. We look forward to seeing you at Imperial College’s events in the future, which will hopefully be soon and frequent!

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by John Sargent, London Team Rapidplay Coordinator

Please reference this webpage’s URL and this article’s author when quoting from this report. Many thanks!

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