The 36th East Devon Congress got under way at the appointed time of 7 p.m. tonight with a few words of welcome from the Secretary, Alan Maynard. The overall entry was 15 down on last year, which was, in turn, 15 down on 2009, a worrying trend for the Committee to consider at their post-congress meeting. Strangely, while the Open and Major sections held up well, it was numbers in the Minor Section that were down. By and large, most of the players here were familiar faces, the usual suspects, one might say; if the congress is to continue in its present form, it must attract many more newcomers.
Paul Helbig of Bristol returned to defend the trophy he won last year, hopes dented by the unexpected appearance of IM Jack Rudd, hot foot from the Brighton International that finished mid-week, and clear favourite here. Other contenders for a prize in the Open include John Wheeler, Graham Bolt and Dominic Mackle.