At the end of February, a chess team went to High Wycombe to go head-to-head against other universities in the British Universities Chess Association (BUCA) championships., finishing above other top universities, with University College of London (UCL), London School of Economics (LSE) and Imperial amongst the casualties it proudly stood over. Featuring some of the top chess players Britain has to offer, the tournament was set to turn into a heated melée.
Finishing slightly behind Cambridge, and winning two personal awards for outstanding play, Swansea can proudly hold its head high for fostering some of the most able-minded students. In fact, only 5 universities can boast winning more than one personal award: BPP, Edinburgh, Cambridge, Warwick and Swansea.
Swansea started off well with a draw against 4th seed BPP, despite arriving with a 10-minute disadvantage. A surprising, yet convincing draw by Gerasimos (known as Gerri) against the top 8th British player, Ameet Ghasi, has shown BPP that Swansea is a serious contender. Demoralised by the unexpected result, despite Ghasi’s reputation as the youngest winner of the British Rapid Chess Championship, Zi Jin took advantage of the momentum and claimed a draw despite time pressure due to late arrival. Michael’s triumph gave advantage to Swansea. It was short-lived, though, as Peter Vas salvaged a series draw by defeating Richard in an unexpectedly close game, despite Richard’s rating deficit. Asked how the team drew against a vastly superior opponent, Michael Lam, team leader, replied, “It’s not about who they are, it’s about who we are.”
Results: Series 1
Swansea (Seed:13) 164 2-2 BPP (Seed:4) 186
w Giachos, Gerasimos 202 ½ – ½ Ghasi, Ameet K f 245
b Cleveland, Richard 170 c 0 – 1 Vas, Peter J f 212
w Lam, Michael 147 1 – 0 Nickson, Ben 149
b Wang, Zi Jin 140 ½ – ½ Wraith, Mark 140
Invigorated by this stunning result, the team faced LSE next round. Oliver Bell, one of the team’s substitutes, entered the fray and has shown some potential to win the game, but due to experience issues, he did not manage to seal the deal, and lost the game. Zi Jin, meanwhile, played ferociously, boldly going into a dangerous game focused around passed pawns on the point of promotion.
With a 2-0 deficit, Gerri found himself straining at one time with a mere 12 seconds on the clock and a difficult endgame on the board, pulled himself out of the brink and forced a well deserved draw. Michael ended the series, being the last game of the whole round, by reducing his game into a difficult Queen vs Queen + Pawn endgame. All speculation was on a draw, until he surprised everyone by managing to promote his own pawn, winning the game.
Results: Series 2
LSE 159 2½ – 1½ Swansea 147
w Gopakumar, Siddharth 171 ½ – ½ Giachos, Gerasimos 202
b Shaefer, Jakob 170 0 – 1 Lam, Michael 147
w Wei, James 161 1 – 0 Wang, Zi Jin 140
b Desai, Anup 135 1 – 0 Bell, Oliver 100
Round 3 kicked off at 6:30pm, and this time it’s Swansea versus UCL, a key game that Swansea must not lose – will their team’s stamina and determination be enough to match UCL’s high ratings?
With each player exhausted, Gerri’s opponent entered a passive defense, hoping to conserve energy. A poor decision in hindsight – Gerri was looking for blood to take his anger out on, and nothing short of obliteration followed. Michael played a game of imbalances, hoping to catch his opponent offguard with both sides looking for weaknesses. The length of his previous matches, however, took their toll, and was checkmated after a brutal fight. Richard fought bravely, but lost critical time on the board that was converted into an attack his defences could not hold. The same could not be said of Zi Jin, however. Receiving the brunt of a strong attack after an initial sacrifice, he defended it until his opponent’s momentum fizzled out. Gaining the initiative, he proceeded to produce his own attack, aiming at a checkmate both knew was inevitable, resulting in a well-earned resignation, and proving that Swansea can hold its own in a critical position.
Results: Series 3
Swansea 164 2-2 UCL 168
w Giachos, Gerasimos 202 1 – 0 Makepeace, Philip J 190
b Cleveland, Richard 170 c 0 – 1 Bigio, Jacob 169
w Lam, Michael 147 0 – 1 Ertbjerg, Andreas 166
b Wang, Zi Jin 140 1 – 0 Park, Bill 150
Round 4 kicked off at 11:30am. The team groaned at its bad luck as it faces its fourth high-seeded team, one which is tipped to do exceedingly well in the tournament – Imperial. As Gerri pursued a solid defence as Black, and caught his opponent off guard with a sharp strategy of expansion, ending in a draw, Richard played the White side in what appeared at a glance to be a losing game. However, he showed his hidden resources in what was deceptively a losing position, ending the game as he attacks his opponent’s king, whilst the Black Queen was lost on the other side of the board, unable to help. Zi Jin attacked his opponent, full of energy, in a wild opening sacrifice, putting up a great fight, right across until the endgame. Michael played slowly, and did what he does best – suffocate his opponent in a metaphorical systematic asphixiation, resulting in the resignation of an opponent who had nothing to gain and everything to lose at the end. With 2½ points on hand, Swansea has gained a definite win against a true contender of the tournament.
Results: Series 4
Imperial 172 1½ – 2½ Swansea 164
w Chua, Zie 195 ½ – ½ Giachos, Gerasimos 202
b Stahl, Clement 182 0 – 1 Cleveland, Richard 170
w Porter, Sam J 157 0 – 1 Lam, Michael 147
b Barron, Luke J 155 1 – 0 Wang, Zi Jin 140
As the team waited for their next opponent to be announced, anticipation was rife. They have face 4 of the top teams – surely for the tournament to be fair, they’d be given at least a break, something that most other teams have received? Imagine the anger, then, when Durham, the sixth seed, was announced. The team regained its composure admirably, and gave Durham a fight that gave a warning: Do not mess with Swansea.
First to finish was Michael, giving Swansea a fighting chance for a series win after concluding an imbalanced endgame. With Durham’s confidence clearly shaken by a team. Richard was fall in a race to see who would checkmate their opponent, a fight based around key weaknesses. With everyone’s eyes was on one of the last game of the day – Gerri’s. And to Durham’s dismay, Gerri took a casual sip of water as he dominates his opponent with 3 minutes to spare against Durham’s 12 seconds and the opponent’s frantic search for a solution to wipe out Swansea. Swansea’s coolness and resilience, however, paid off – the time pressure on Durham was too much, and after a blunder, Gerri seized the perfect opportunity, and removed Durham’s hopes of winning the series.
Results: Series 5
Swansea 164 2 – 2 Durham 181
w Giachos, Gerasimos 202 1 – 0 Kilpatrick, Callum 224
b Cleveland, Richard 170 c 0 – 1 Lunn, Matthew 175
w Lam, Michael 147 1 – 0 Gazis, George 164
b Wang, Zi Jin 140 0 – 1 Taylor, William J 161
A prize giving ceremony was in store shortly after the tournament. Swansea went home with not one, but two medals for an outstanding play in their positions – Michael Lam, Board 3, and Gerasimos Giachos, Board 1.
This tournament is a testament to the determination, coolness, and solidity that the whole team have shown all through the tournament. No other team could boast as an underdog and have defied every single top contender of the tournament. And no team could have functioned as such without outside support. We thank Tom Upton for his continual support, who have backed us up in times of great need, and who without we would not have been able to show other universities of Swansea’s calibre.