Season 3 of the London Online Chess League came to an end last week, so it’s time to look back on another great 11 weeks of online chess!
This season ran from 19th June to 18th August, with a match each Wednesday at 7pm. The format was very similar to Season 2: there were four divisions (Queens, Rooks, Bishops and Knights), the top three being all-play-alls with 12 teams each, and the Knights Division was an 11-round team Swiss for the remaining 13 teams.
The only real change was to the system of rating limits: this season these were caps on the average rating of each team, rather than the rating of every individual player. For example, the Rooks Division had a rating limit of 2000, but sides could field players rated over 2000 as long as the team’s average rating was below that limit.
The League assigned teams to divisions based on indicative line-ups which each club provided with their entries; this season our teams were placed in the Queens, Rooks and Bishops Divisions respectively. This was effectively a promotion for the Spitfires, who played in the lower Bishops Division with the Harriers in Season 2.
Overall, our club was represented by 22 different players in Season 3, slightly down from 25 in Season 2. There were several factors behind this: a few of our junior players had other plans for the summer, Alex Funk became a father for the second time (congratulations!), and I didn’t play any games myself (probably for the best, given how badly I’ve been playing in the Club Championship!).
This was partly offset by new member Julie Oh playing several games (welcome!), and long-time members Gary Senior and JC Sartenaer playing in the LOCL for the first time. In total, there are now 30 Hendon members who have played at least one LOCL match across the three seasons.
I’ll start by looking at the outcome of the season for each team, and then turn my attention to individual performances.
The Hurricanes finished eighth out of 12 teams in the Queens Division, with 5/11 match points: 4 wins, 2 draws and 5 defeats (table, full results). Cavendish A finished on the same score of 5/11 match points, but the Hurricanes finished above them due to a higher game points score. The Hurricanes scored 22/44 game points, exactly 50%.
(The official Queens Division league table is incomplete at the time of writing, so the Hurricanes’ League position is based on my own calculations: as far as I can see, the King’s Head Bangers beat the MetroGiants in round 6, and the MetroGiants beat Hammered And Out by a 4–0 default in round 9, so both those teams finished above the Hurricanes.)
Overall this was a mixed season for the Hurricanes. They scored match points against some extremely strong sides, including SchachAttack and the Charlton Chess Addicks, but lost narrowly against bottom side Hammered And Out, and against the MetroGiants.
Both their match-points and game-points totals were higher than Season 2, where they scored 4½/11 and 20½/44 respectively, so while their table position was the same, we have to count this as a small improvement.
The Hurricanes also got their game points from a wider variety of players; in Season 2 the top three players scored 16½ out of the team’s total 20½, whereas here the top three scored just 12½ out of the team’s total 22, with the top five scoring 18.
The Hurricanes players this season were: Rob Willmoth (5½/8), David Amior (4/9), Sacha Brozel (3/5), Alex Leslie (3/6), Kennan Kesterson (2½/6), Christopher Rogal (1½/6), Jean-Claude Sartenaer (1/1), Anton Drel (1/1), Morris Jones (½/1) and Gary Senior (0/1).
The Spitfires finished fourth out of 12 teams in the Rooks Division, with 7/11 match points: 7 wins, no draws, and 4 defeats (table, full results). This is a superb result given that the team was in the division below in Season 2, and this season there was only one match (out of 11) in which the Spitfires’ average rating exceeded that of their opponents!
The team was in some ways unfortunate, in that they faced two of their principal rivals, Hackney Happening and the Charlton Chess Nuts, in the first two weeks of August, which is precisely when we were most severely depleted by the school holidays. It’s hard to know for sure, because other clubs were probably also affected by this problem to some extent, but had we scored points in those matches, we could have finished even higher.
The Spitfires were significantly boosted by an extraordinary contribution from new member Amirabbas Mehrafarin, whose 9/9 score constituted over a third of the team’s game points on its own! The team was dependent on a fairly small group of players for most of its points, with the top four scoring 21 of the 25½ total.
The full list of Spitfires players were: Amirabbas Mehrafarin (9/9), Morris Jones (4½/7), Anton Drel (4½/5), James Baxter (3/6), Nick Murphy (2/4), Gul Kapur (1/3), Julie Oh (½/3), David Amior (½/1), Christopher Rogal (½/3), Gideon Vecht (0/1), and Dev Ranka (0/1). Unfortunately we lost one point to a default as well.
The Harriers had a significantly more difficult Season 3 compared to Season 2, largely because several strong scorers from last season (such as James Baxter and Amirabbas Mehrafarin) were mostly playing for higher teams this time.
Most weeks the Harriers were out-rated by their opponents: the team’s average rating was just 1456, against a divisional limit of 1750. Since the Harriers' average rating never exceeded 1549, the team would have been better off in the Knights Division, where the limit was 1650.
The Harriers actually scored quite decently on Boards 3 and 4 (5½/11 and 6/11 respectively): the problem was on Boards 1 and 2, where we scored just 2½/11 each.
This was largely a consequence of the fact that when we submitted our entries, our indicative line-ups for the three teams were based on our 12 strongest players, who were very rarely all available at the same time (and my policy was to select the Harriers by rotation rather than by strength anyway).
Having up-to-date grades would help a lot (the Spitfires also had a low average rating relative to their division, but were still competitive since they had several players performing far above their ratings). Perhaps the League will start operating a promotion and relegation system as well, so if a team is weak relative to its division one season, it will be strong the next, and vice versa.
In any case, it wasn’t all doom and gloom for the Harriers, as Marcel Berenblut scored 100%, Dev Ranka had a really good season as well and is clearly improving strongly, and Julie Oh is a promising young talent who I’m sure has a great future ahead. Several of the teams the Harriers beat ended up finishing fairly high in the division.
This season’s Harriers were: Marcel Berenblut (3/3), Dev Ranka (3/6), Stanley Jacobs (2½/6), Matty Berenblut (2/7), David Lewis (2/7), Julie Oh (1½/6), James Baxter (1½/3), Gul Kapur (1/4), Tony Artman (0/1), and Jean-Claude Sartenaer (0/1).
Although the LOCL is a team competition, it’s important not to lose sight of individual performances, especially when people play for multiple teams over the course of the season.
First of all, we should thank our faithful regulars, whose reliability makes it so much easier to raise teams! The people who played in more than half the 11 matches were:
Special thanks to Alex Leslie, Rob Willmoth and David Amior, who have been incredibly consistent across the three seasons, with amazing totals of 28 matches, 30 and 32 respectively!
Our overall top scorers in Season 3 were:
Honourable mention also goes to Marcel Berenblut (3/3) and Sacha Brozel (3/5 – rating performance 2281), who were the other two people to score above 50%, and to Alex Leslie, who scored 3/6 with a rating performance of 2209. It’s especially great to see several junior players with rating performances at or near FM strength!
I’d like to take this opportunity to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who played for or supported Hendon in LOCL Season 3! It’s been an honour to be your captain over the past 11 weeks.
With the end of this LOCL season comes the end of our Club season as well. Online chess has been a lifeline for us in this extraordinary pandemic year, but what of the future?
Personally, I very much hope that online club chess is here to stay. Along with many others, I’ve found it much more convenient and less stressful than over-the-board chess, and far easier to fit in with family life, with no need to worry about the traditional headaches of transport, venues and equipment.
Of course, many of us are missing over-the-board chess too, and there are lots of LOCL players, both new and old, whom I’d love the opportunity to meet socially soon. But it’s not one or the other: I’m convinced that both online and offline club events have their place, and we hope to have an exciting programme of both in 2021–22!
The LOCL now takes a break, as the London League focuses on getting their over-the-board competition back up and running. Having arranged matches more or less continuously since Season 1 started in October 2020, with just a few weeks' break between seasons, I must say I could do with a rest myself! But I do hope the LOCL will be back eventually, and if it is, I think it’s very likely we’ll participate.
One thing I do hope, though, is that any future online competitions will be ECF rated. The ratings we’ve been using are extremely out-of-date, with more and more “captain’s adjustments” needed to account for the fact that people’s playing strength has changed (usually for the better) during the pandemic. In Season 3, virtually all our players performed above their official strength in the competition, which is great news, but also a sign that the official OTB ratings are pretty meaningless now, most being unchanged since March 2020.
The big benefit of the LOCL, compared to my previous online chess experience, has been that the games feel serious, just as much so as over-the-board tournament chess. Making them part of the official rating system (even a separate system specific to online chess) would really make that complete.
For similar reasons, I hope that future competitions will be played under slow standard time controls. Rapid would be OK, in my opinion, but something that meets the criteria for standard-play rating would be ideal. Personally, I see no point in a LOCL blitz event: if I want to play blitz, I can easily find casual games online. The great thing about the LOCL has been the ability to get a serious standard-play game online.
I also hope that Tornelo will raise their game for future competitions:
Hopefully strong continued demand for this type of chess will drive further innovation from all the online chess platforms!
In conclusion, many thanks again to all our players and supporters, and I look forward to seeing you online and/or over the board next season!
You can find a list of all stories about this season of the London Online Chess League here.