A report on our 2022/23 league season

By Andrew Medworth, Hendon Club Captain
Sunday 2 July, 2023

Now we have played all our Middlesex League matches for 2022/23, it is time to look back on our year of team chess. Here is my Club Captain’s report, in advance of our AGM on 10th August, where I will be happy to answer member questions about it.

The Middlesex League

This season the Middlesex League had three divisions, and we had four teams: Hendon 1 played in Division 1, Hendon 2 in Division 2, and Hendon 3 and Hendon Barnet Knights in Division 3.

All matches were played over six boards. (Traditionally Middlesex League matches were eight boards, but in 2021/22 the League switched to six in order to support the post-pandemic recovery, and they continued with that this season by popular demand from multiple clubs.)

In total, the three divisions this season had 7, 7 and 6 teams respectively. Each division is a double-round all-play-all, with each team playing every other team home and away. Therefore, teams in Divisions 1 and 2 played 12 matches each, and teams in Division 3 played 10 matches each.

Team selection

I was the captain for Hendon 1, 2 and 3. In keeping with previous years, my team-building method was as follows. First I established a target rating range for each team, based on the population of members currently active in league chess. For each match, I would start by sending an email invitation to members in the team’s rating range. If I did not get enough players that way, I would expand the invitation to all members eligible to play in the match.

If I ended up with more than six volunteers, then for Hendon 1 and 2, I would select the players I judged to be the strongest (normally those with the highest ratings, though I occasionally deviated from that when I judged it appropriate, for example if a player had a rating based on very few games and there was other evidence suggesting a playing strength above their rating). For Hendon 3, I would select the six players who had played the fewest matches so far that season, across all teams, using playing strength only as a tie-break.

The purpose of this policy was to aim for the best results possible for Hendon 1 and 2, while selecting Hendon 3 on a rotation basis in order to offer playing opportunities to as many members as possible. We have received clear feedback over the years that members want us to run both these types of team.

Hendon Barnet Knights is our junior team, in collaboration with Barnet Knights junior chess club. The team was captained by Rob Willmoth, who would first offer places to Barnet Knights juniors, parents and coaches, with other Hendon players making up the numbers in the rare cases this was necessary. Before the start of the season, Rob agreed that regular players for Hendon Barnet Knights (defined as those playing four or more matches) would become paying Hendon members.

We have had this partnership with Barnet Knights for over ten years now. Its purpose is to foster the development of junior chess, and to offer a friendly low-commitment introduction to league chess for young players. Over the years, this has brought many promising players into the club, who have gone on to rise up through our ranks and become some of our strongest players.

Overall statistics

In total, we played 42 matches this season (12 in Division 1, 12 in Division 2, and only 18 in Division 3, since Hendon 3 and Hendon Barnet Knights had to play each other twice). This added up to a total of 264 team places.

This was a slight increase on last season’s 252, because there were more teams in the League overall (see details below). However, it is still a long way short of what we were seeing pre-pandemic: in 2018/19, the last fully completed season before COVID, we had 528 total team places as we ran five eight-board teams.

Ignoring defaults and the two internal matches between Hendon 3 and Hendon Barnet Knights, we played 234 games, winning 84, losing 94, and drawing 56.

Looking at only games played against rated opposition, we scored 109/228 or 47.8%, against opposition with an average rating of 1807. This translates to a club rating performance of 1791, a few points better than the average rating of our fielded players, which was 1784.

I was particularly pleased by our low default rates this season. We defaulted just one game, and only won five games due to defaults by our opponents. This was down from 10 and 9 respectively last season. I’m not sure what to read into this, if anything, but it speaks volumes of the reliability of our players!

In total, Hendon were represented this season by 62 different players. If we exclude the Barnet Knights team then were were represented by 44 different players. These numbers were very similar to last year (67 and 44 respectively). By comparison, in 2018/19, these numbers were 89 and 61.

Our full match results for this season can be found here.

I will now discuss the results of each of our individual teams. For each division, to give a sense of strength, I include a graph comparing our teams' rating distributions on each board to the other teams.

Hendon 1

Hendon 1 finished fifth out of seven teams in Division 1, winning three matches, drawing three, and losing six (4½/12 match points). Our game points score was 33/72 (46%), composed of 21 wins, 24 draws and 27 losses.

Hackney won the division with 10/12 (congratulations to them!) followed by Muswell Hill 1 a half-point behind. Next came Kings Head 1 and Ealing, and below us are Hammersmith 1 and Metropolitan who are relegated.

It was good to see Division 1 back to a full seven teams, with promoted Ealing and Metropolitan replacing Harrow 1 and Athenaeum who did not field teams last season. (Harrow 1 returned to the League in Division 2, but Athenaeum were still sadly nowhere to be seen.)

Unfortunately, Hendon 1 spent most of the season battling relegation. At the turn of the year, we had not yet won a match, having drawn two and lost three. The league table gave a misleading impression, as on paper we were mid-table, but several teams below us had many matches in hand.

Across the division, a large number of matches were rescheduled to very late in the season, many due to public transport strikes. The last match took place on 26th June, which is very late by historical standards.

Things turned around a bit in the New Year, as we won our first match of 2023 at home to Hammersmith. However, we unaccountably lost away to back markers Metropolitan despite having a much stronger team, and while we thrashed them a few weeks later in the reverse fixture, we could only draw at home to Ealing despite again out-rating our opponents on every board.

Thankfully we were able to pick up a precious match point at home to Kings Head in early May (in a far more difficult match than the ones we had just failed to win), and our relegation rivals Hammersmith 1 continued to struggle. By the time of our final match on 6th June, we needed just one game point to guarantee safety, as in that case Hammersmith could only match us on points and game points with a 6–0 win in their final match, and we had a superior head-to-head score.

We achieved this in somewhat anti-climactic fashion when Kings Head defaulted a board, and Anthony Bolchover made 100% sure by drawing with Colin Mackenzie.

Overall Hendon 1’s season cannot be considered particularly good, but it could have been much worse. The team was represented by only nine players rated over 2000, with only five of those appearing more than once (Gary Senior, Rob Willmoth, Nishchal Thatte, FM John Richardson and IM Lorin D’Costa).

Of these, John Richardson and Rob Willmoth had superb seasons, scoring 4½/5 and 4/5 respectively, with IM-strength rating performances, and Lorin contributed 3/3 as well. Special mention also goes to Eric Eedle, who made an excellent 4/6 score with a rating performance of 2097. These four were the only players to score over 50% for Hendon 1 this season. Without them, the outcome could have been very different, so we owe them our thanks and congratulations.

We had particular problems raising strong teams away from home, with Gary Senior the only player rated over 2000 to play for Hendon 1 in multiple away matches. At home, Hendon 1’s average rating was 2087, while away it was just 1973: this difference was the largest in the whole Middlesex League and almost twice as large as the next team in Division 1.

It is hard to give a single reason for Hendon 1’s fall from grace. A large factor is that our higher-rated players are busy people with many other commitments, including teaching or other activities, especially on days other than Thursdays. Given the very difficult economic environment currently, we cannot blame people for prioritising paid work over playing in league matches.

Our overall member numbers are extremely healthy, so the problem is unlikely to be with the popularity of chess in general or Hendon’s offering. However, we are unable to field teams of anything like the strength we used to pre-pandemic, when we won Division 1 regularly. We either need to accept this or find ways of attracting stronger players back to the club.

Here is the full league table.

Graph showing box plots of Division 1 strength by board

Hendon 2

Hendon 2 finished third out of seven teams in Division 2, winning seven matches and losing 5 (7/12 match points). Our game points score was 38½/72 (53%), composed of 29 wins, 19 draws and 24 losses.

The division was convincingly won by Albany with 10/12, who are in the two promotion places along with Kings Head 2 (8/12). Below us were Harrow 1 and Muswell Hill 2, followed by Hammersmith 2 and Willesden & Brent in the relegation places.

Division 2 was a good place to observe some rapid changes in fortune compared to last season. Hammersmith 2 experienced a significant fall from grace after winning the division in 2021/22 (and presumably declining promotion). Kings Head entered a new team in Division 2 this season, which had an excellent campaign. It was good to see Willesden & Brent back in the Middlesex League after they were not able to run a team last year. Harrow 1 also returned, albeit a division below. West London however sadly did not run a team after losing all their matches last time. Muswell Hill 2 were the other team promoted from Division 3 last year, after finishing second.

For Hendon 2 it was very much a “season of two halves”. By chance we had a slightly unbalanced schedule, starting with five away matches, followed by six at home. We scored just 2/5 from the initial away matches, but then went on an absolute tear, winning our first five home matches, only spoiling the run by losing to the division winners Albany. Until then we’d had an outside chance of promotion, but that disappeared with a final loss at Harrow in early June.

Still, this is a decent result for Hendon 2, with contributions coming from a wide variety of players, such as Mark Hutchinson (4/9), David Amior (3/5), and Jonathan Rubeck (3/3). Well done to the Tigers!

Here is the full league table.

Graph showing box plots of Division 2 strength by board

Hendon 3

Hendon 3 finished joint last of six teams in Division 3, winning three, drawing one, and losing 6 (3½/10 match points). Our game points score was 25½/60 (42.5%), composed of 20 wins, 11 draws and 29 losses.

The division was won by Harrow’s very impressive junior team with 7½/10, led by 8-year-old super-talent Bodhana Sivanandan, who scored a barn-storming 7½/8 with a rating performance of almost 2200. Congratulations to Harrow Juniors on pipping Hammersmith 4 to the title by half a point!

Hendon Barnet Knights finished third, followed by Kings Head 3. Hammersmith 3 finished joint last with Hendon 3, scoring the same match points and game points. The next tie break would be head-to-head results, but this is no help, as both matches between the teams were won 4–2 by the home side.

The next tie break is board count, presumably calculated by adding up the board numbers where each team won in the two head-to-head matches and picking the team with the lower number: by this measure, if I have done my sums right, Hendon 3 finish fifth and Hammersmith 3 sixth. However, this is of no real significance as there is no lower division, and even if there were, both teams would be relegated anyway.

Hendon 3’s low position is no surprise given we deliberately do not select the strongest players available for each match. The team was represented by a satisfyingly wide spread of players, with only one player (Evelina Engelaityte) playing five matches and everyone else playing four or fewer. The team’s top scorer was David Lewis with a very creditable 2½/4. David Amior and Aharon Landman also scored 2/3.

It was unfortunate to see Division 3 smaller than last season, as Muswell Hill 2 were promoted but were not replaced by West London, who did not field a team. This meant there were only 10 matches available for Hendon 3 rather than 12 last season.

Here is the full league table.

Hendon Barnet Knights

Hendon Barnet Knights finished third in Division 3, with 5/10 match points (5 wins, 5 losses) and 32/60 game points (53%: 28 wins, 8 draws, 24 losses).

This was a similar result to last season, but it was pleasing to see the Knights were less reliant on adult coaches Randolf Borces and Zsolt Bakacsi this time. There were good performances from youngsters up and down the team, with highlights being Ethan Pang and Rian Sarkar scoring 4/4 and 3/3 respectively, Jake Hung 3½/5, Max Michener 2/3, and Orest Stus 2½/4.

Well done to the Knights!

(For the league table, see Hendon 3 above.)

Graph showing box plots of Division 3 strength by board

Individual results

I would also like to pay tribute to some individual players who made outstanding contributions this season, across all our teams. (As always, I have to apply some arbitrary cut-offs to these lists, so apologies to anyone who just missed out on being included!)

First, here are the players who played six or more matches:

  • Mark Hutchinson (6/13)
  • James Robinson (5/13)
  • Andrew Medworth (4½/13)
  • Jonathan Rubeck (7½/12)
  • Gary Senior (4/12)
  • David Amior (5/10)
  • Eric Eedle (4½/7)
  • Alex Funk (3/6)
  • Chris Rogal (3/6)
  • Salvatore Pepe (2½/6)

Many thanks to all these stalwarts! Having a core of players willing to turn out week after week makes it so much easier to run a team.

Our top 10 scorers this season were:

  • Jonathan Rubeck (7½/12)
  • Mark Hutchinson (6/13)
  • David Amior (5/10)
  • James Robinson (5/13)
  • John Richardson (4½/5)
  • Eric Eedle (4½/7)
  • Andrew Medworth (4½/13)
  • Ethan Pang (4/4)
  • Rob Willmoth (4/5)
  • Gary Senior (4/12)

Congratulations to the following players for scoring over 50% (over four games or more):

  • Ethan Pang (4/4)
  • John Richardson (4½/5)
  • Rob Willmoth (4/5)
  • Jake Hung (3½/5)
  • Eric Eedle (4½/7)
  • Zsolt Bakacsi (2½/4)
  • Orest Stus (2½/4)
  • Jonathan Rubeck (7½/12)
  • Anthony Bolchover (3/5)
  • Antoine Clarke (3/5)
  • Harvey Garfield (3/5)
  • Aharon Landman (3/5)

Finally, I’d like to acknowledge our most-improved players, who outperformed their average rating by the largest margin.

  • Yitzchok Priampolsky (1/2, rating performance 1606 vs rating 797)
  • Liana Wen (1/3, rating performance 1420 vs rating 1065)
  • Max Michener (2/3, rating performance 1699 vs rating 1416)
  • Antoine Clarke (3/5, rating performance 1601 vs rating 1366)
  • Rob Willmoth (4/5, rating performance 2395 vs rating 2237)
  • David Lewis (2½/5, rating performance 1575 vs rating 1425)
  • Damien Sobolevski (1/5, rating performance 1139 vs rating 999)
  • Eric Eedle (4½/7, rating performance 2047 vs rating 1909)
  • Anthony Bolchover (3/5, rating performance 1923 vs rating 1794)
  • Xander Lee (1/3, rating performance 1363 vs rating 1244)

It’s no surprise to see a lot of juniors on this list – but plenty of adults outperformed as well! Well done to all!

Next season

We heard from several members this year who would have liked to play more League games than they did – particularly those playing mainly for Hendon 3.

I always offer to try to organise rated friendly games (at the League time limit) for anyone not selected for a home match. This offer was almost never taken up this season, so it seems that members generally value playing team chess against other clubs significantly more than playing rated chess at the same time limit against other Hendon members.

The fact that Division 3 has dropped to six teams this season (of which two are from Hendon) has not helped us, since this meant Hendon 3 only played 10 matches, down from 12 in 2021/22. However, we can’t rely on another club entering another Division 3 team to give us more matches. We must ask ourselves whether we should run a fifth Hendon team next season.

There were only two matches in 2022/23 when I had 12 or more players (a full extra team) available for Hendon 3. However there were another four matches where I had 9 or more available. Naturally, I tend to stop trying to find players for a match once we have a full team, so if we had nine players available, there’s a good chance we could have got to 12 with a bit more pushing.

We do have to take into account the fact that it is much harder to raise a team for away matches than home matches. We can only run a fifth team if we are confident of consistently raising full teams both home and away. For most Hendon 3 away matches this year I was getting 8–9 volunteers.

This suggests that from a member demand perspective, running a fifth team would be borderline but probably possible. A further argument in favour of this is that we now have at least as many members as we did pre-pandemic, when League matches were eight boards and we successfully ran five teams.

On the other hand, we must consider the additional pressure on our accommodation which would result from running an extra team. I set a limit of two Hendon teams playing at home per evening, which means each evening we can accommodate up to two matches against other clubs or one internal match.

With the 2022/23 league composition, this rule means we needed a minimum of 12 home match nights. (In fact, we had 16 home league match nights this season, as it is generally impossible to achieve optimal scheduling efficiency.) If we ran a new team in Division 2 (so we have one Division 1 team, two Division 2 teams and two Division 3 teams) but the composition of the League otherwise stayed the same, we would need a minimum of 17 home match nights, so in practice we would probably need something like 21 or 22.

This is logistically quite feasible: the only question is whether the Club has a better use for those evenings. Personally I wonder whether it wouldn’t be better to use the time for more socially-focused events, but that is a question for broader discussion within the Club.


I’d like to thank everybody who played for any Hendon team this year. The fact that we only defaulted one game all season speaks volumes for how dependable our players are!

I’d particularly like to thank those who have helped with the running of our teams this year. While I did attend most Hendon 1–3 matches in person, I wasn’t able to attend all of them, so thank you to those who acted as captain on these occasions (e.g. keeping score and sending me the result afterwards). Thank you also to Rob Willmoth for his captaincy of Hendon Barnet Knights.

I’d also like to thank those who turned up early to help set up the playing room for home matches, and those who stayed late to help tidy up afterwards. These jobs really feel so much easier and quicker when several people pitch in!

I hope you enjoyed reading this report and I look forward to 2023/24!