2019 European Club Cup Ulcinj, Montenegro, Nov 9th-17th

White Knights chess club is Wales’ only representative in this year’s European Club Cup.  The team comprised Alan Young, Jason Garcia, Allan Pleasants, Peter Bevan, David Buttell, Adam May and Tomasz Miga.

We were ranked 65 of the 66 teams and the bottom ranked team Tatvan from Turkey even had a GM and IM in their team.  There were going to be some tough matches ahead. 

We left South Wales for Gatwick airport on Saturday morning for our flight from Gatwick into Tirana, Albania.  The only other ways to get to Ulcinj were by flying to airports in Montenegro via either Istanbul and Moscow.  Arriving in Tirana we still had a 2.5 hour bus journey to Ulcinj and after 16 hours of travelling we arrived at 11pm on Saturday night in very heavy rain.  It felt just like being at home.

Report by Jason Garcia

Round 1

Our round 1 opponents were a team from Moldova called Perfect.  Jason decided to rest himself for the first round and we were black on the odd boards and white on the even boards.  We got off to a wonderful start with Peter Bevan winning against his 2250 opponent with black.  His opponent was kind enough to make a one move blunder which would have got him checkmated so he resigned on the spot. 

Perfect soon equalised the match with David Buttell losing his game to his stronger opponent.  In a complex double edged position Adam May unfortunately got checkmated by his opponent to make the score 2-1 to Perfect.  Next to finish was Tomasz Miga who was making his debut in this event and he drew with his opponent.  That left the score 2.5 – 1.5.  It was soon 2.5 – 2.5 when Alan Young won after completely outplaying his 2300 rated opponent in a French Defence opening.  This left Allan Pleasants playing against his IM opponent.  Allan had rook and pawn for Bishop and Knight in a doubled edged position with Queens still on the board.  At one point Allan could have swapped queens and could have tried to push his passed a pawn which might have given him good chances.  Instead Allan tried to attack the King with Queen and Rook but his opponent defended well and after nearly 5 hours Allan finally resigned. 

Final score in match – Perfect 3.5 – 2.5 White Knights.  Despite being heavily outranked this was so close to an amazing start to the event.

Round 2

In round 2 we were paired with En Passant from Netherlands. We had previously played this team in this event in Bilbao in 2014.  Again we were heavily out rated with this team having 4 titled players.  First to finish was David Buttell who was check mated by his opponent in a Sicilian opening.  Despite being worse in his game for a while, Peter Bevan managed to fight back and ended up in an endgame where he had rook and 3 pawns v rook and 2 pawns but it wasn’t enough to win.  Next to finish was Jason Garcia who lost a complex game which had all minor pieces on the board after 20 moves against his IM opponent.

Alan Young was a pawn down in a queen and pawn endgame but his opponent missed a chance to defend a crucial a3 pawn and this gave Alan enough counter play to get a draw.  Another good result for Alan against a strong opponent.  Allan Pleasants having the black pieces for a 2nd match in a row played a good game against his IM opponent and despite being a pawn down in a rook and pawn endgame had good drawing chances.  He unfortunately missed a crucial defensive move late in the game and this was enough for his opponent to win.  Despite losing his opening two games Allan has played some good chess for large parts against strong opponents.  This meant we could not get anything out of the match with the match score being 4-1.  This left Tomasz Miga playing his 1950 rated opponent trying to win a rook and pawn endgame where he had the initiative.  Despite missing some easier chances to win Tomasz finally got his first win in this event after 108 moves and 5.5 hours of play.  It was the last match to finish in the round. 

This brought the final score in the match to be – En Passant 4 -2 White Knights Chess Club. 

Alan, Peter and Tomasz have started the event brilliantly with scoring 1.5 out of 2 games,  Hopefully the other guys in the team can get some good results over the coming rounds.  Tomorrow we are playing Hillerod Sk from Denmark and Peter Bevan will be sitting out this game.

Round 3

Having got close but not close enough to getting our first match points in rounds 1 and 2 our round 3 opponents were a team from Denmark called Hillerod SK.  Peter Bevan had a rest for this match and we were white on the odd boards. 

This was another tough match with us being heavily outrated.  First game to finish was Dave Buttell who unfortunately allowed a king side attack and his opponent was able to sack his queen to force a check mate.  Jason and Alan both lost around the same time with Jason playing a poor opening and was always worse and Alan had a reasonable position in a c3 sicilian for a while before his opponent took control. 

This was not looking good at this point with us being 3 -0 down but Adam May had a very nice win as black in a queen’s gambit declined opening to get our first point.  This left Alan Pleasants and Tomasz playing and their games went on and on.  Tomasz defended a Knight and pawn ending very well and managed to finally draw after nearly 5 hours of play when both players had only King and Knight left.  Allan Pleasants played a really good game against his IM opponent but unfortunately missed some winning tactics before getting into an endgame with King, rook and 4 pawns v King, Rook bishop and 1 pawn.  His opponent had enough counter play for this to end up being a draw.

Final score in match – Hillerod SK 4 -2 White Knights. 

Round 4

You would think after losing our first three matches our opponents would get easier.  This was not the case as in round 4 we faced the toughest team yet with 5 players over 2300.  We were paired with Lunds ASK from Sweden and unfortunately Alan Young had been ill and we decided to rest him for this match.

Dave Buttell was first to finish after allowing a king side attack in a Dutch opening.  Tomasz and Peter were next to finish unfortunately losing their first games of the event.  Adam unfortunately also lost despite after coming out of the opening in a reasonable position.  This left Jason and Allan fighting on top two boards against their IM opponents.  Jason in a complex game missed a chance to get a good position in time trouble and eventually lost.  Alan fought on for a while in a two minor pieces and queen v rook and queen endgame but his opponent’s extra piece told in the end.  A very tough match v really strong opponents. 

Final score in the match to be – Lunds ASK 6-0 White Knights Chess Club. 

 Round 5

After a really hard match the day before we needed a positive response and in this match we were paired with the Luxembourg team CE Le Cavlier Differdange.  They were the 63 highest ranked team so whilst higher than us were more of our standard. 

We got off to a wonderful start with Tomasz continuing his excellent run of form with a nice win against his 1850 opponent.  Peter was next to finish drawing a blocked position with his opponent.  Alan, in a very doubled edged position where both sides missed tactics in time trouble, managed to win a Queen and Knight v Queen and Bishop position to give us the match score of 2.5 – 0.5.  Adam managed to draw a queen endgame after being a pawn down at one point.  This ensured we could not lose the match. 

Jason unfortunately lost a pawn in the opening and was certainly worse for a large part of the game.  He however fought back and managed to get a good Rook and Knight v Rook and Bishop endgame and eventually won his pawn back.  His opponent with 5 minutes left had to settle for a perpetual check despite knowing this would lose the match.   Allan Pleasants could now relax knowing the match was won.  However, despite being two pawns up and missing a chance to win a third pawn allowed his opponent some counter chances and in the end was fortunate that his opponent in time trouble missed a winning tactic.  This board ended up in a draw.  Allan has played some really good chess this week but unfortunately has not taken some of his winning opportunities.

Final score in the match to be – CE Le Cavalier Differdange 2-4 White Knights Chess Club. 

Having won our first match we have now been paired with the Norwegian team Baerum Schakselskap who are again much stronger than us with two IM’s in the team.  Allan Pleasants after several long games will be sitting out this game.

Round 6

Having won our previous match unsurprisingly we got paired with a tougher opponent being the Norwegian team Baerum Schakselskap.  This team only had two IM’s and a CM and had Magnus Carlsen’s dad on board 5.  Allan Pleasants had a rest for this match and we were white on the odd boards. 

Peter Bevan was first game to finish unfortunately losing to his stronger opponent.  Tomasz continued his excellent run of form with another win against a higher rated opponent.  Adam then drew his game and despite being better for quite a while Dave Buttell ended up drawing.  This left Jason and Alan fighting on against their IM opponents.  Unfortunately despite both having chances at different points in their games after nearly 5 hours of play they both lost.  It just shows that these stronger players just keep playing on and on to finally force mistakes from their opponents. 

Final score in match – Baerum Schakselskap.  4 -2 White Knights. 

Round 7

Hoping we would get the second lowest ranked team St Benildus in the last round we were unfortunately given an up float to Celtic Tigers from England who had 3 points.  Tomasz was due to sit out this match but unfortunately Adam was taken ill overnight and had to drop out so Tomasz was back in the team.  We had a surprising bonus when we got to the match to see that 2 of Celtic Tigers 7 man squad had had to leave and as such they were defaulting board 6.  Therefore Tomasz went from being rested to playing to then not having a game.  Our lead did not last long as Peter Bevan unfortunately was well beaten by his opponent who actually missed a one move checkmate during the game.  Allan Pleasants played a very solid game on board 1 and not much happened and a draw was agreed.  David Buttell got his first win of the week to put us 2.5 – 1.5 up.  Alan had prepared a very aggressive line in the Sicilian for his opponent and won a piece for 2 pawns quite quickly.  However his opponent had counterplay for the material and this wild game continued with Al thankfully getting to the time control with seconds left.  By now he had two rooks and a Bishop against Knight and 4 pawns marching down the board.  Thankfully Al was able to sack a rook for two pawns and ended up getting to a position with rook and bishop v Knight.  His opponent eventually resigned which won us the match.  Jason had a successful opening against his opponent and won a pawn but swapped rooks off at the wrong moment and give his opponent the drawing chances he needed and the game was drawn. 

Final Score – White Knights Chess Club 4 – 2 Celtic Tigers

In summary then, a successful tournament for the team which resulted in White Knights being the highest placed British team.

The round-by-round results can be found here.

A selection of games can be viewed here.