The Paignton Congress has always been held on the first week of September, after the kids have gone back to school and by allowing the magnificent Oldway Mansion to host a chess congress free of charge, originally, the local Council could feel they were stretching the holiday season a bit. As the years went by budgets tightened and local councils everywhere found themselves unable to offer such largesse and hire charges were introduced.
Eventually, the cash-strapped Torbay Council felt obliged to give up Oldway and its surroundings, the Fernham Estate and eight years ago sold it to a developer, who promised wonderful things including that the Congress would/might be able to return to Oldway after it had been converted into a de luxe hotel. Yet nothing happened. For six years the place was effectively mothballed and the puzzlement of chessplayers and local citizens gradually grew to anger as the building continued to decay.
Behind the scenes, the developer realised that the gardens surrounding Oldway were Grade 1 listed, even higher than the Mansion itself, and his Plan A, to move in the bulldozers and build houses, the proceeds of which would pay for the hotel, proved unworkable. The developer and the Council locked horns, suing each other in court, until just before this year’s Congress when the news broke that the developer had dropped the case and handed the estate back to the Council, “for the good of the building”.
There was some talk among players that this might mean a possible return to Oldway, or whether they preferred the Livermead anyway, with all that it had to offer; on the seafront with splendid views over Torbay, in-house accommodation, easier parking, an outdoor swimming pool, quiet carpeted playing room, next to the station etc. So who needs Oldway? That story is on-going.
Meanwhile, local resident, GM Keith Arkell, was odds-on to win the Premier, as he was 316 ratings points above his nearest rivals, Stephen Peters and Stewart Ashley. Even so, the others still had £650 prize-money to play for. Keith’s record over the years at Paignton is impressive; 22 1st or 1st=s and 2 second places in 24 years. Yet another 7/7 result, to add to his fine nationwide run seemed a near certainty.
Except that not everything went his way. Colin Rose, the hotel’s maintenance man, regularly passed through the analysis room and book stall, carrying a pot of paint and a brush on his way to a job he was doing out the back. He freely admitted he knew nothing about chess – “couldn’t even set the board up, mate”, but still enjoyed a bit of good-natured banter on his way past each time. Before the start of Rd. 4 he chirped up “How’s the big guy doing, then?” (i.e. Keith). “Pretty well”, I replied, “He’s a locked on certainty to win” “Not today, I don’t think. I’ve got him down for a draw – or maybe even a loss. That’s my prediction anyway” he quipped and on he went.
Sure enough, Keith was down to play Stephen Peters, for whom this was his first return to tournament chess after a lengthy absence. Game drawn. “I was never in it at any point” said Keith afterwards. “Never had any advantage”. Little did he know how the odds of a win were stacked against him from the outset. After that it was plain sailing, but he still had to settle for 6½/7.
Not all attention was focussed on the GM, of course, as prize money totalling £3,600 was spread among 42 players.
The full prizelist was as follows:
|66th Paignton Congress 2016|
|4th – 10th September Livermead House Hotel, Torquay|
|GP U-2026||Steve Dilleigh||1984||Horfield||3½||10|
|Jonathan Wells||1997||N. Norfolk||3½||10|
|Slow start (0/2)||Daniel Gibbs||1808||Brentwood||2½||20|
|A. Stewart took the British Championship 2017 QP|
|3rd=||K. Hurst||174||E. Budleigh||5||34|
|GP U-158||Y. Tello||156||Wimbledon||4½||30|
|GP U-143||G. Naldrett||135||Gerards Cross||4½||30|
|Slow start||J. Robertson||134||E. Kilbride||3||20|
|G. Shepherd||131||Church Stretton||5||75|
|GP U-126||R. Burroughs||103||Malvern||4||7.50|
|GP U-101||M. Cox||89||Southampton||3||12.50|
|P. Broderick||97||Newport (Salop)||3||12.50|
|Boniface 5 Rd. A.M. (U-180)||/5|
|1st||B. G. Gosling||159||E. Budleigh||4||300|
|2nd=||J. E. Hickman||162||Reading||3½||150|
|GP U-159||N. Mahoney||147||Barmby Dun||3||25|
|Thynne 5 Rd. A.M. (U-135)|
|1st||N. G. Andrews||124||York||4||300|
|M. A. Roberts||131||Holmes Chapel||3½||75|
|GP U-125||M. Cuggy||121||Brixham||3||25|
|Slow start||C. Doidge||124||Teignmouth||2½||20|