England's Chess Demise
Hungary hammering leaves England wondering where the young talent is
Leonard Barden on Chess
England came a lowly 16th at the European Team Championships in Crete and the decline has led to concern over the lack of young blood ready to step up
England’s woeful performance at this week’s European team championship in Crete began with a 2-2 draw against the minnows from Moldova and ended with a brutal defeat, 0.5-3.5, by Hungary. They were the No4 seeds but finished 16th in a field of 40 countries. Meanwhile the favourites, Russia and Azerbaijan, fought out the gold medals, which the Azeris took by a surprisingly comfortable 3-1 margin in their individual match.
Team failure is often offset by a strong individual result but this time there were none. All five Englishmen played around 100 points below their normal rating and only Gawain Jones, with 3/5, surpassed 50%. A major worry is Michael Adams’s current poor run. The Cornishman, 45, ranks alongside Nigel Short as England’s best ever player. He has consistently held his place among the world’s best 20-25 grandmasters well into his 40s, but in recent months his rating has dropped to a five-year low. Adams is now in danger of losing his elite 2700 rating status.
England has six GMs in the world top 100, the five who played in Crete plus Matthew Sadler. David Howell, at 26, is the only one still in his 20s. No other English player has the form credentials to challenge the established team, so to avoid a steady and persistent decline as the current squad ages the search for new young blood will become urgent.
There is a dearth of obvious candidates. England has none of the fast advancing teens and pre-teens whom the rising chess nations like India, China and the US have developed.