Wednesday 1st July was the night for our annual Time & Point Handicap to take place. This year was very different to the previous five events as it had to be held “online” using the Lichess system. We had a field of 15 players, with the 2019 champion Bart Fajfer being allowed just 4 minutes to play his complete games, and all other players allotted with time based on their January ECF grades up to a maximun of 15 minutes for the lowest grade player. The 2018 champion Rick Renegade was restricted with 1 minute deducted from his standard time and a half point handicap removed. All other players were given at least half-a-point handicap to add to their scores achieved over the 5-round swiss style competition and the lowest grade player given 2.5 pts to add to their score.
It was obvious from the start that the competition would be wide open as only 3 of the top 7 seeds won their first round game, with one game drawn which in itself is quite unusual in Blitz games. Top seeds Bart Fajfer and Amy Lovatt, together with 7th seed Lukasz Michalek, 11th seed Lee Tilton, 12th seed Ben Harrison, and outsider Nic Harrison seeded 15th all won while 13th seed Nigel Gardner held 5th seed Harry Gardiner to the unexpected draw.
Round 2 saw some more shock results as Lee Tilton beat reigning champion Bart Fajfer, and Nigel Gardner toppled 3rd seed Karl Lockett. Amy Lovatt and Lukasz Michalek made it 2 from 2, while Rick Renegade got his first win under his belt and Harry Gardiner’s win put him on 1.5 pts. Les Hall and Martin Gill got their shows on the road with a draw. However with the handicaps taken into consideration, three players had amassed 3.5pts after just two rounds – Lee, Nigel and Nic.
Round 3 saw Amy paired with Lee, and the only other 100% record of Lukasz paired with Harry. Amy and Harry prevailed in these games, while 13th seed Nigel was paired with No.1 seed Bart and again upset the form book with a superb win, using his time masterfully and controlling the position. Rick’s attacking prowess ensured he took the scalp of joint leader Nic and Martin got his first win after a close battle with Ben, and 14th seed Les picked up his first win of the night, while Kobus Nienaber and Andrew Crosby could not be separated with a draw for them to both register their first scores to go with their handicaps of 1.5 pts each. So after Round 3, Amy was the only player with 100% (3 from 3), but Nigel had 2.5/3 plus 2 pts h/cap to give him a score of 4.5pts. Nigel had a clear lead from contenders Nic, Les, and Lee who all had 3.5 pts (as did Amy).
Round 4 saw the Trophy defining clash with Nigel having white against Amy, while the chasing contenders saw Les face Rick, Lee face Harry, and Nic face Martin Gill. The three contenders were all beaten as Nigel coolly dismantled the one remaining 100% record of Amy’s to put himself on an unassailable score of 5.5 pts. Andrew gained his first victory in round 4, while Martin Frisher entered the arena to replace one player and pick up a tidy win. Lukasz and Ben played out a draw to keep up the record of one draw in every round so far.
Having established that Nigel could not be caught, he relaxed in the final round as Rick served up a typically attacking display to inflict Nigel’s only loss of the night. Harry pushed Amy into a big blunder in their game to finish in fine fettle, and the only unbeaten player on the night to end up with 4.5 out of 5, plus a half point handicap ensured a joint 2nd finish. Martin Gill finished with a flourish as he beat chairman Dave Price, filling in for a late withdrawal, to share joint 2nd place after three successive wins to score 3.5 from 5, plus a h/cap of 1.5 pts. Lukasz and Nic earned round 5 victories to finish in joint 4th place with combined scores of 4.5 pts.
Overall it seems the handicaps gave everyone a fair chance of winning as 13th seed Nigel won the event, followed by Harry (5th seed) & Martin (8th seed). Excellent efforts too from Lukasz (7th seed) and Nic (15th seed). For the top seeds only 100% will give them a chance !
To summarise final positions:
1st – Nigel Gardner 5.5 pts (3.5 + 2)
2nd = with 5 pts – Harry Gardiner (4.5 + 0.5), Martin Gill (3.5 + 1.5)
4th = with 4.5 pts – Lukasz Michalek (3.5 +1), Nic Harrison (2 + 2.5)
Congratulations to Nigel on becoming the 6th separate winner of the Annual Blitz Handicap. It should be noted that Nigel played ALL top 5 seeds on his route to victory !
Rest assured he will be handicapped to death next year !!!