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Strand come out on top in 12-board super match

QUB welcomed Strand for a friendly match that went down to the wire.

24 Player Mega Match Championship 2017: QUB Chess Club v Strand Chess Club. Tuesday 19 December 2017.

Report by Arbiter/Organiser Brendan Jamison

Designed by Charles Lanyon, the main building at Queen’s University was built in 1849 in the Tudor Gothic style. It is one of the most beautiful buildings in Belfast and it was the perfect setting for a competitive duel between the two largest clubs in Northern Ireland. Both QUB and Strand are vibrant expanding chess communities in the South and East of the city, with a strong focus on youth development, be it children, teenagers, students or young adults.

For the 12 boards in this match, Queens recalled two of its former students, firstly, Robert Lavery (1603) who defeated Modestas Razbadauskas (1577) on Board 4 with a ferocious Kingside attack. Secondly, Martin Kelly (1363) who deployed his trademark Vienna opening to defeat Michael Wong (===) who still fought on gallantly, even when down a Queen for a Rook.

Meanwhile QUB music Professor Ian Woodfield (1589) had a short stroll from his office as he defended with Black on Board 3 against 14 year old Russian teenager Daniil Zelenchuk (1568). As Ian’s Sicilian position moved into the middle-game, he sacrificed the exchange on c3, trading his Rook for Daniil’s Knight. However, there was not enough compensation for Black after White pressed ahead with a series of exchanges to secure a textbook endgame win.

Boards 1 and 2 saw four exciting international players battle it out with great intensity. Nikhil Joshi (2044) from Mumbai was White against San Antonio’s Stephen Rush (1901). After much positional play from both sides, White eventually found a tactic to secure the win, leading to a disclosed double-checking mate! On Board 2, multi-award winning Russian champion Mikhail Pavlov (1795) was defending as Black against Spanish supremo Sergio Esteve Sanchez (1835). After mounting strong counter-attacks as Black, Pavlov accidentally mis-calculated a combination, playing the reverse order and subsequently leaving his Queen en prise! Naturally it was gobbled up in a heartbeat! A significant Queens victory from Sanchez which brought a smile to his fellow team-mates.

On the lower boards, Strand teenagers James Wong (===) and Adam Rushe (900 provisional) delivered quick-fire wins against QUB students William Watson (===) and Lai Zhe Yang (===). Meanwhile on board 8, Joshua Leslie (1065) recovered a point for QUB through breaking through on the Queenside of 9 year old Dexter Harris (1005). It was such a pleasure to watch so many young players competing in this match as they bring so much positive energy and enthusiasm to every venue they play in. Their hunger to constantly improve also inspires older players.

Board 7 saw QUB Chess Club President Rian Mellotte (1128) as Black against Strand player Dr. Colin Burcombe (1100 provisional) from the Queens Theology department at Union College. It was a titanic struggle of attack and counter-attack, positional elegance and sharp tactics. Colin had a powerful Bishop pair for a Rook. He  had menacing mate threats with his Queen and Bishops but Rian defended on the Kingside and kept the pressure up in the centre and Queenside, eventually driving through for an impressive win.

Board 6 featured the return to competitive play of last year’s Ulster Under 19 Champion Vincent Crean (1339) as White against Strand’s Ranjit Singh (1147). Vincent built up a very strong attack in the centre, penetrating Ranjit’s 7th rank with his Rooks but Black managed to hold the fort and eventually found counter attacks of his own after swapping off one set of Rooks. Vincent’s pawn placements made them hard to defend and Ranjit played a strong endgame to secure the win for the visitors.

The points were constantly notching up on the score-board with an initial 2-1 by Strand, then it was even, then Queens took the lead, then it was even again with 4-4 and then onto 5-5. Such a thrilling nail-biter which kept the players and spectators entertained!

Board 5 saw Strand player Dr. Dmitry Zelenchuk (1412) from QUB School of Electrical Engineering take on the Ulster Junior Champion Cathan Gormley (1260). This was one of the most gruelling battles of the whole night, offering such fascination to onlookers enthralled by the game. Zelenchuk as White had a Rook and Queen but Gormley was exerting incredible pressure with his two Rooks and two minor pieces. In the end, after many complications and mating threats from both players, Dmitry found a back-rank mating sequence with his Queen and Rook. However, credit should be attributed to Cathan who was easily playing with the strength of a 1400-1500 rated player and his chess is clearly improving at a rapid rate.

Just before 11pm, the final game to finish was QUB Jamie Corscadden (===) as White on Board 10 against Rhys McLean (749). Strand were sitting on 6 points, with Queens on 5. The crowd gathered around the final board. The pressure was on both players, neither wanting to make  a catastrophic endgame mistake. Rhys marched forward with his King and two pawns on the g and f-files, while Jamie slid his King over to defend his one remaining pawn on the h-file with his Bishop in the corner over on the other side of the board. It could have become a blitz scramble, but instead the tension was dissolved fairly quickly when they both agreed a draw. The Strand players were elated to hit 6.5 points out of 12 to secure the match win but Queens definitely put up an outstanding fight and the standard across all 12 boards was very high.

Special thanks to Rian Mellotte of QUB for captaining his team and hosting the event for 24 of our most exciting players.

RESULTS PER BOARD

QUB6.5-5.5Strand
Stephen Rush 0-1 Nikhil Joshi
Sergio Esteve Sanchez 1-0 Mikhail Pavlov
Ian Woodfield 0-1 Daniil Zelenchuk
Robert Lavery 1-0 Modestas Razbadauskas
Cathan Gormley 0-1 Dmitry Zelenchuk
Vincent Crean 0-1 Ranjit Singh
Rian Mellotte 1-0 Colin Burcombe
Joshua Leslie 1-0 Dexter Harris
Lai Zhe Yang 0-1 Adam Rushe
Jamie Corscadden 0.5-0.5 Rhys McLean
William Watson 0-1 James Wong
Martin Kelly 1-0 Michael Wong
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