UCU Blitz 2013

The final event of 2013: the UCU Blitz Championship. An afternoon of outrageously fast and furious play to sort out the men from the boys.
UCU Blitz 2013

Round 19 in Progress

The youngsters at playThe traditional antidote to festive excess - the UCU's Blitz Championship - kicked-off on the last Saturday of the year: 28th December 2013. A good field of over 20 players turned out to give their grey cells a final workout for the year. Great to see a couple of fresh faces, Richard Morrow & Conall Newman, back home for the holiday season. Youth should be on their side against the "old-hands" struggling with the extreme pace of the games. Evidently, as the final standings show, its not just about speed of thought, keen intuitive play is still hard to beat.

Alertness and speed of reaction is clearly evident in these photos of players, still competing with intensity even into the 19th round. The competition was closely contested over 21 rounds with the top third of players in the final standings separated by only 4 points or so. Even after the final round there was nothing to differentiate the top two finishers; the outright winner had to be determined by one more blitz match.

Mohamed SaadMark Newman bemused at his own exploits against John BradleyRound 1 started with all players with a game (an odd fellow arrived for the second round to bring the field up to 21). No surprises at all though as the strong players demolished their lowly rated opposition. Second round yielded more interesting pairings and two surprises on top boards with top seeds Gabor Horvath & Michael Waters being taken out by a couple of younger, experienced blitzers: Calum Leitch & Damien Lavery. This confused the pairings for the next round, pushing the best seeds well down the playing order while top three boards saw good matchups and the tourneys first draw between John Masterson & Nicholas Pilkiewicz.

Blitz matches are unforgiving and round 4 saw Gabor Horvath drop another point this time to Nicholas Pilkiewicz, while Calum Leitch seemed to be on form leading the field with a clean sheet which he maintained in round 5. Damien Lavery was chasing, along with John Masterson who took a point from Michael Waters. In round 6 Calum dropped his first point to Damien Lavery letting the top seeds play catch-up. Round 7 and Calum reclaimed the lead with Michael and Gabor not letting him out of their sight.

In round 8 Gabor and Michael asserted their authority while their challengers seemed to be faltering. Round 9 resulted in 4 draws one of which between the top seeds while Calum and Damien both drifted out. Round 10 played out according to rating levels except for Damien Lavery getting caught by rising star Thomas Donaldson. Now half-way through and round 11 followed ratings as did 12 with lower ranked players who had been scoring well getting pushed back down by their seniors.

Calum LeitchThe rest of the rounds continued this pattern with stronger players besting the weaker rated; the pairings avoided any closer match-ups - a danger for the two challengers who needed to show consistency to keep themselves in contention. Calum Leitch faltered in two games though, drifting out of consideration, dropping two points against Ian Woodfield & Mohamed Saad while Damien Lavery erred against novice Jason Harris.

Ian Woodfield

By now the top seeds had established a lead they were able to maintain against junior opposition. And that's how the tournament finished with Gabor Horvath and Michael Waters sharing top spot with 18.5 points each, 2 points clear of Damien Lavery and 2.5 clear of Calum Leitch.

Lack of concentration against junior players had perhaps cost the two challengers dear; the lead they had established in the first half of the competition was gradually whittled away with no chance of recovering missed opportunities in the second half.

There was nothing separating the top two boards; both had dropped two games and they had drawn with each other. So a final play-off game decided the tournament with Michael Waters emerging victorious as 2013 UCU Blitz Champion.

Detailed results and standings are available in the Competition Results Section

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