Yesterday, the Suffolk Under 11 team played in the Midland/East Zone Final of the EPSCA Inter-Counties Championship, at the Malcolm Arnold Academy in Northampton. This was the team before the action started:
We knew there would be some strong teams playing, and our team was inexperienced at this level. They finished in seventh place out of the nine competing 'counties', which was probably as good as had been hoped. They finished ahead of neighbours Cambridgeshire, who were weakened by the absence of two of their players.
Our top eight boards performed extremely well, scoring 15 points out of a possible 24. Our boards 1 and 2 were 'borrowed' from Norfolk, and that certainly helped, as other Suffolk children were able to play on lower boards. One of the outstanding performances was on Board 3, where Alex Sheerin had the toughest possible draw, having to play against the Board 3s of the top three teams. He nevertheless scored 2½ points, and may even have had a win in the drawn game, against the eventual winners Barnet.
At the other end of the team, the two girls on Boards 19 and 20 both received a bye, thanks to Cambridgeshire's defaulted boards, but still managed to win 3 of the other 4 games, with Bethany Young winning both and Zoe Newman one.
Unfortunately, many of the Suffolk middle boards tended to move too quickly, a habit which will surely be eliminated with more experience. The games were of 100 minutes duration, with 50 minutes for each player. A number of games involving middle order Suffolk players were completed in less than 10 minutes!
The 18 Suffolk players all came from either Woodbridge School (6) or Bury Knights JCC (12).
Other players scoring more than zero were: Ryan Chan 2; Karthik Saravanan 1½; Anita Somton 1; Mario Saenz de Villaverde 2; Daniel Garcia-Leon 2; Alan John 2; William Moody 2; Toby Cassy 1; Abel Vadakelan 1; Liya Baby ½.
The final team scores and positions were:
1 Barnet 52½ points
2 Kent 44
3 Essex 36
4 Richmond 28½
5= Hertfordshire 24
5= Northamptonshire 24
7 SUFFOLK 22½
8 Cambridgeshire 19½
9 Birmingham 18½
Barnet were a class apart, scoring an average of 17½ points out of 20 in each round. In Round 1 they scored an amazing 19 points. The top six teams qualify for the National Finals in Nottingham on 11 May; sadly Suffolk will not be among them. Team Manager Laura Cortabarria (mother of Mario and Aaron) was rightly very proud of the team's achievements.