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100th British – Rd. 3

“Big Wheel turning…..”

(From a lyric by ELO)

The last time we came to Torquay, in 2009, the fun thing to do on the sea-front was a chess match in the helium balloon that was moored near the venue. This consisted of a 2-game match between Jack Rudd (Devon) and Andrew Greet (Cornwall) – one game played on the way up to 400 ft above the promenade and a return game on the way down. This was filmed, with interviews of the contestants by the splendid James Essinger, and the video posted on YouTube, still viewable in 2 parts (type in “chess at 400 ft.”).

This year it is all a little more informal, with the Big Wheel substituting for the balloon, (now departed). This Wednesday afternoon (31st July) is the time set aside for Chess on the Big Wheel. Just turn up at the wheel with a pocket set of some kind in mid-afternoon ( c. 15.00 hrs) and you will be allowed on free of charge, a freebie negotiated by Stewart Reuben.

The Big Wheel

This is not just any old big wheel.  The new attraction has come to the Torquay straight from the  London Olympic Park where it was at the centre of the celebrations next to the Olympic village.

At 60 metres high it is taller than Nelson’s Column, and  has 40 enclosed, lit gondolas, and weighs in at 365 tons.  The Torquay Big Wheel is a great place to take in the fabulous  views over the Bay while playing a friendly game of chess.

So if you missed out on the Olympic Park experience, this could be the next best thing. Don’t miss out a 2nd time!

General view

Get a pod with a view!

Looking at the picture above reminds me that perhaps we should not forget the sorry fate of the first official British Chess Champion. Who he? Of course, we mostly know about Napier’s win in 1904 and the subsequent domination by Atkins, but that was only under the auspices of the BCF. But long before that, the British Chess Association organised several British Championships, the first being in 1866, and won by Cecil De Vere, who beat every one of his 4 opponents 3-0. He died of TB in the quayside building on the extreme right of the above photograph, just a few minutes walk from this year’s venue. He was only 29. He was buried in Torquay cemetary, a mile or so from the venue. So the real 1st champion and this year’s, whoever that may be next week, will, for a short time, be just yards apart.

The full sorry story of his life is recorded in his biography “The English Morphy”? (Steinitz’s description),  available now at the Chess & Bridge bookstall.

Look for the blue cover

5 p.m.

OK. so what actually happened?

At 3 p.m. there were 30 people assembled at the entrance to the wheel, carrying a variety of sets & boards, from the neatest small magnetic sets to a big floppy board. Stewart Reuben took names and pairings, and then the thing started. However, it soon became clear that there had been a misunderstanding; Stewart thought he’d wangled free use of 3 or, at best, 4 circuits of the wheel, but the company had, in fact, pencilled them in for a whole hour! Fine for the players – not so good for the photographer who had no opponent and no head for heights.

Syringa & Imogen Camp; Martin Simons & Jordan Lewis et al. lining up for the Big Wheel.

Stewart Reuben taking a roll call.

Syringa & Imogen get down to play.

Play in the adjacent pods

View from the top. The Riviera Centre is top right.


All done. Looking back, one notices the wheel's sunflower-like centre.

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