2022-23 Season Report

Whereas the 2021/22 was one where all chess clubs, including ours, were gradually emerging from COVID and were often not at full at full strength, 2022/23 was business as usual, with some very hard fought divisions across the different leagues.

The season was notable for us because we had an influx of enthusiastic members new to competitive chess.   Despite their inexperience, they played good chess, starting off in the Bacchus League before, in many cases, progressing to the more serious leagues.

Whilst other targets emerged during the season, our main goal at the start of the season was to maintain our place in Division 1 of the Bournemouth and District Chess League (B&DCL).  So that seems like an appropriate place to start...

B&DCL Division 1

It has always been a bit of a David and Goliath struggle for Ringwood in the Bournemouth and District first division, and at times a David who has mislaid his catapult somewhere.   The challenge was made harder this year because a lot of strong players had arrived or resurfaced at other clubs post Covid, making it the strongest Division 1 for many years, possibly ever.

At the start of the season conventional wisdom was Poole B’s decision to take promotion to the first division would mean Poole A would struggle to win the division and Poole B would struggle to stay up! After the first round of games that scenario looked only 50% right as Poole B defeated Poole A!

By round three, Ringwood had obtained two good draws and were facing Highcliffe at home where the wheels came off and we lost 4-0. In the next round, away against Poole B we re-found our wheels to edge the match for us, with good wins for Kevin and Peter and a draw for Niall. The first half of the season concluded with a loss against Poole A.  Despite the defeat it was a good result with a win for Peter and a draw for Kevin against a side outrating us by an average of 70 points on each board.

At the halfway point of the season the league table looked like this

The second half of the season started well. A hard-fought draw against Southbourne and a good victory against a strong Wimborne courtesy of wins by Kevin and the rest of us managing “flat bat” draws. However, hiccups followed with defeats against Highcliffe and Poole B leaving us just two match points clear of Highcliffe going into the last round, and with the following final fixtures on the same Monday night to decide championship and relegation:
Ringwood A        v              Poole A
Poole B                 v             Highcliffe A

Highcliffe A, last year's champions, had finally hit form and if they won at Poole would join us on 7 points but have a better board point difference, so we needed at least a point to guarantee safety. One thing in our favour was the stakes were exceptionally high for Poole A. Should they lose to us and Poole B win the championship would their lives be worth living?

In the Ringwood A v Poole A match (pictured below) peace was announced pretty early on three boards leaving Tich, who might have missed our team talk as he arrived very late (giving Peter his first heart attack of the evening), playing Mike Duggan. To quote Peter from LMS, “Mike offered a draw in a position where he felt he was a little better, but this was turned down by Tich, nearly giving me my second heart attack of the evening. However, a few moves later a draw was agreed. Post match analysis made the position unclear.”

This guaranteed Poole A the championship and that Ringwood would stay up. Highcliffe beat Poole B but to no avail. The final league table is shown below.

Only Peter played in all the matches but fortunately he managed 7/10, with Kevin playing 9 times and scoring 4 on top board.  Another tough season beckons in 2023-24!

B&DCL Division 3

Rob’s priority was to ensure all players who wished to play got the opportunity to do so rather than to always put out the strongest side. In all, 8 different players took part over 39 games. Over the season, the team performed strongly and only missed out on promotion by one point.

At the start of season, Rob was a little low on the number of players, but as the season progressed the problem became more of ensuring everyone got a reasonable chance to play. Rob, an experienced teacher, handled this very neatly by passing the work and responsibility of player availability to the children (sorry players)! He set up a Google doc to allow them to show their availability and transport needs. As the date of a match approached he notified the selected players for the team. It wasn’t fool-proof as people would on occasion not actually be available when selected, but as Martin had offered to play as an emergency “Johnny no-mates” substitute it worked well.

The team performed well and were in the mix for promotion till the end of the season, finally finishing third.

There were strong individual performances from several players including Martin with 3.5/4, Richard Ormesher with 4/6 and top scorer Malcolm with 5/8.

Dorset League Division 2

Initially it was hard to get people to play even in the home matches! However, over the season more players became available, especially those “graduating” from the Bacchus league. Seven players who played in the Bacchus league played at least once in the Dorset league. In all 15 Players took part over the 10 games with no player playing more than 5 games.

Teams in this league are restricted to a maximum of 7200 grading points for the team and we haven’t been close to that limit in any match this season. We finished mid table this year which was an improvement on last season when we finished bottom.

This season was relatively subdued for wackiness after last season when we turned up at Purbeck on the “original” date rather than the date the match had been re-arranged to be played on! This time the high spot of wackiness was driving Malcolm and Julian to Dorchester and back whilst the seat belt alarm randomly sounded.

I think the most satisfying win was away to Weymouth B. We unfortunately had to default a board so Julian, Matt and I started 1 down and with an average grading deficit of 180 points but managed to win the match 2.5-0.5!

Top individual scorers were Richard Ormesher with 3/4 and Martin with 3/5 but a special mention must go to Liam, Ben and Julian who all picked up points in their first non-Bacchus games.

Southampton League Division 1

As with the Dorset League, this was a classic season of two halves. In the first half I was struggling to get players and in the second half, new ones were arriving by the day. The players who stepped up generally scored remarkably well. Dave Fuller from Poole joined our ranks and was a much needed and entertaining addition.

The season started off with a great result away at Southampton where we won 3.5-1.5 despite being out-graded by an average 140+ on every board. Dave’s win against Fraser McLeod was excellent, but the stand-out result was Matthew Hull win when out-graded by 500+ points.

A good win against the University followed and then a hard-fought draw against the odd with title favourites Fareham allowing me to harbour dreams of glory as Fareham had played 5 games and only had 6 points. A bad defeat away to Salisbury followed by a win against the University and the league table showed there was all to play for if Fareham failed to find their mojo!

Sadly, Fareham didn’t need to find much mojo as Salisbury bizarrely defaulted their remaining 3 away matches against Fareham, Southampton and ourselves, turning out only to ensure the University kept their unfortunate record attempt alive!

A hard-fought draw against Southampton A with Dave Fuller winning well meant that we would need to beat Fareham in what turned out to be our last actual game played. Whilst the spirit was willing the flesh was weak and Fareham turned out their strongest team (Average grade 2036) returning a comfortable 3.5-1.5 win on the night to retain their title.

Over the season, Dave Fuller with 4/6 and Richard Perrin with 3/5 scored well and remained unbeaten whilst Peter Anderson returned 50% on top board and played in all the matches. Overall, we have to be happy with where we finished. Next season it’s likely the same teams will contest the league with the addition of Basingstoke.

Bacchus League

The aim of the Bacchus League is to introduce new and less experienced members to competitive, inter club chess in a friendly environment but with the requirement to use clocks and record moves.  There are no cups or awards, and in reporting the matches the agreed focus is not on the result but on how individuals faired and what they learned.

In the 2022/3 season the Ringwood Waifs and Strays team used 9 players for their six matches and recorded a commendable 14.5 points out of a possible 27. The opposing teams were Southbourne Seagulls and Poole Bishops, organised by Nikki and Tarik respectively.  They both deserve thanks for their support to make the matches competitive and sociable, especially for juniors. The encouragement they gave to players on both sides cannot be underestimated.

There were some good performances from players in all 3 club teams, but Poole and Southbourne were well ahead of us in the early encounters. However, we were much more competitive in the second half of the season, with honours being about even at the end of the season (a perfect Bacchus result)!

The 2022-23 Bacchus league players improved enormously during the year and have given us the capacity to form a team in the 4/5th division of the Bournemouth and District league in 2023-24.  The new players who have arrived at the club in spring and summer 2023 will hopefully enjoy the Bacchus experience next season.

Mike reported that he has really enjoyed being part of this season's Bacchus experience as captain.  However, he has struggled this season to combine chess admin with care duties etc at home and the situation has unfortunately become more difficult. Mike therefore is handing the Bacchus captaincy baton on to Julian for next season.

All in all a very satisfactory season with much promise for 2023-24.  In the meantime, we can all enjoy the relaxed inter-season fun of the KO Handicap Cup and the Summer League.

Martin Clancy, July 2023