all the traditions in the Sheffield League, the 'Hope Valley' 5-minute
competition comfortably ranks as my favourite. Perhaps it's the
childhood memories of braving fog and occasional snow or ice on the winding
roads out to the old Fox House Inn; perhaps it's the roaring open fires and
ambience of that old venue, or maybe - just maybe - it's the camaraderie
towards the end of a long season, the entertaining if often inaccurate
chess, and the competition's unique format.
year's event was a little different. The tradition had already
survived the move away from the Hope Valley area, and now it appears to
have survived the pandemic. The event ran outdoors rather than
indoors, limiting the potential for transmission of any pernicious virus
which might be hanging around. Surprisingly perhaps, the weather
turned out to be even less of a problem than it had sometimes been in the
old Hope Valley days. True, it was dull and overcast. Had it
been cricket, there would have been little concern of a downpour ending
proceedings early but the new ball would likely have swung to devastating
precisely 16 entries, we seized the opportunity for a modified format
limiting 'social contacts': two separate groups of eight players each
played an all-play-all before the obligatory knockout rounds (1st in Group
A v 2nd in Group B; 1st in Group B v 2nd in Group A) which characterise the
competition - albeit devoid of the usual crowds.
chess itself is somewhat difficult to report on, given that the Saw
Grinders Union venue stuck to official guidance and groups of spectators
would have been frowned upon to say the least. Suffice it to say
that, as ever, some games went down to the wire with frantic time scrambles
as the dying seconds ticked away.
was just one organisational scare: had Yang Guo lost his final game, we would
have ended up with an unbreakable four-way tie for second place in Group A.
Thankfully, the results were clear and it was on to the semi-finals.
Ledger, who had won all of his group-stage games, continued his progress
towards the rook-shaped trophy with a win over Miles Edwards-Wright.
Yang Guo beat defending champion Deji Jeje in the other semi-final to
set up his clash with Andrew Ledger in the final. Andrew maintained
his perfect score for the evening in the final in his own inimitable style,
gradually outplaying Yang to take the title. [See
photo of the finalists below.] Miles beat Deji in the third-place
some of the strongest local players were unable to attend for
understandable reasons, the overall standard remained high. Hopefully
next year we'll be back indoors and at full capacity. Some old
traditions at least are worth preserving.