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Exmouth hosted a Newton Abbot team, knowing that a win for either side would be enough to win the Mamhead Cup Devon’s Division 2, although Exmouth had the feint comfort that a 2-2 draw would give them the title. To this end, both captains had packed their teams with grading points up to the permitted maximum of 639. Both clubs had their top player on Bd. 1, but the difference then was that Newton Abbot had averaged their next 3 boards, while Exmouth had packed everything they had on to Bds. 2 & 3, and filling in an improving player on Bd. 4, in the hope that he might be able to extract something from his game. Team captain, Oliver Wensley, was unable to fit himself in the team, and was obliged to watch from the sidelines.
This particular hope was not borne out as Blake’s opponent, the rapidly improving Vignesh Ramesh, whose latest rapidplay grade is actually 160+, won and Exmouth went 0-1 down, which put increasing pressure on the other 3. For some time, there seemed little between the sides in each game. Eventually, Mark Abbott, using the greater freedom that his pieces had, managed to conjure up a sharp winning attack, thereby levelling the score.
Bds 1 and 3 both went down to the final seconds of normal time and final minutes of extra time. Stephens was gradually being positionally stifled, as Mackle got a pawn to the 7th and his opponent had to commit a knight to h8 to block it. Eventually he had to concede as Mackle could pick up pawns at will. Shaw had gone a piece up, but Brooks found a lot of counterplay as his pieces were better unified. Shaw had to reconfigure and reorganise his army, which he managed. With c. 2 minutes left for each player he won a central pawn with a knight fork that swapped off queens and immediately after a bishop fork won a rook, and with it the game.
A finish to the match that was as nerve-wracking for the spectators as the players. Thus Exmouth added the Mamhead Cup to the Bremridge Cup they had won a fortnight before.
The match details and resulting league table as follows:
|Mamhead Cup||Div. 2 25.04.15.|
|1||J. K. Stephens||194||0||1||D. Mackle||203|
|2||M. V. Abbott||173||1||0||M. Hui||150|
|3||M. Shaw||170||1||0||P. Brooks||154|
|4||S. Blake||102||0||1||V. Ramesh||132|
|Mamhead Div. 2||1||2||3||4||5||+||-||pts|
Devon’s RapidPlay tournament, the Newman Cup, has in recent years been the preserve of the same three clubs, Exmouth, Tiverton and Seaton, with Seaton being very much the underdogs. However, under the driving force of their captain, Steve Dean, they have never been downcast or tempted to give it all up, and in fact this season has seen a big change. The difference is the return to the fold of Jonathan Underwood after an absence of several years in the US. He has returned to the Devon scene, refreshed and re-invigorated, turning out regularly for the Devon county team, for Exmouth in Devon’s 1st Division and Seaton.
On Wednesday evening he turned out on top board for Seaton against his other club, Exmouth, in the Devon RapidPlay League. With a RapidPlay grade of 196 and surely about to break the 200 barrier in the next list, he was too much of a handful for the home captain, Mark Abbott, and made it 4 wins to nil in the home and away matches this season. Similarly, on Bd. 3, Oliver Wensley’s attacking skills proved too much for Alan Dowse in both games, with knights seeming to do most damage . On Bd. 2, Chris Scott, nearing the time limit, made an illegal move which lost the 1st game, but got his revenge in the next game when his king became very active in a N+Ps endgame and managed to force one through to queen. On Bd. 4, Simon Blake got a winning advantage in the first game, but lost his way in the 2nd, and Hazel Welch took full advantage, as she is wont to do.
4-all was probably a fair result on the night, but not enough to give Exmouth any hope of retaining the title.
|1||M. V. Abbott||167||0||0||1||1||J. Underwood||196|
|2||C. J. Scott||157||0||1||1||0||S. K. Dean||151|
|3||O. E. Wensley||151||1||1||0||0||A. Dowse||113|
|4||S. Blake||91||1||0||0||1||Mrs. H. Welch||111|
The first game to finish was on Bd. 4 where Scott was trying to hold an endgame position with a rook each and bishops on opposite coloured squares. With best play it might have been possible to hang on, in view of the bishops, but the pressure told and he inadvertently allowed White’s bishop to fork K & R. 1-0 to Exeter.
Shaw then managed to convert his positional advantages into material gain, forcing a win to level the scores. Dave Regis then restored Exeter’s lead by applying constant pressure in the endgame. Shortly after, Oliver Wensley exploited the advantage a well-placed, attacking bishop pair vs two defending knights, and forced resignation, to make it 2-all.
Almost immediately Exeter drew ahead for the 3rd time when Sean Pope made the most of a mistake by his opponent in allowing him back into the game. He won the exchange and then made equal swaps to snuff out any chance of a kingside attack.
This assured Exeter of avoiding a loss, but the win hung on the outcome of the top game, which went into extra time after Paulden ran down to the very last second on his digital clock before completing his 40th move. He had delayed development of his queenside pieces until late in the game and was struggling to get them usefully deployed thereafter. White was the exchange up at this point and his pieces were better coordinated and were focussed on the enemy king. However, the win wasn’t immediately clear and he had a long think over his 41st move before finding a knight pseudo-sacrifice that won immediately whether the knight was taken or not, making the final score 3-all.
|Bremridge Cup||Sat. 14th March 2015|
|1||Dr. T. J. Paulden||187||0||1||J. K. F. Stephens||196|
|2||Dr. D. Regis||181||1||0||Dr. J. W. R. Underwood||180|
|3||Dr. G. Body||171||0||1||M. Shaw||173|
|4||S. Waters||164||1||0||C. J. Scott||154|
|5||Dr. T. D. P. de Piro||160e||0||1||O. E. Wensley||151|
|6||S. Pope||141||1||0||B. G. E. Gosling||148|
If it was unusual to have a match at this level with no drawn games, it was even more so that every game was a White win, giving the final result sheet a certain symmetry.
Exmouth’s final match in this competition is against Teignmouth, while Exeter are due to play Newton Abbot.
A very small piece of chess history was made when the small fledgling East Budleigh club played their first ever match against Exmouth, the current Devon champions.
In fact, the relative strengths of the clubs had little to do with it, as the competition involved was the local League’s new Handicap RapidPlay Competition. The rules state that the total team grade must not exceed 560 (140 average) and stronger players will be handicapped in the time they are allocated on the clock, as indicated below. Team captains can thus select their teams working in two dimensions. East Budleigh chose to play their two strongest players in the hope and expectation that they would be able to rattle off their moves quickly enough to offset their time handicaps. Exmouth chose to play 76 grading points short of the permitted maximum in the hope that their extra time on the clock would make up the difference. Doubtless a delicate balance to try and judge, and get right.
In the event the different factors seemed to balance themselves out and the match finished 4-all. The only player to finish on 100% was Simon Blake, who played on level terms timewise. Although these matches are meant to be a bit of fun, (results don’t go for grading) in fact it was an exhausting encounter for all concerned – the players were totally shattered at the end.
|Exmouth||Grd||mins||rd 1||rd 2||rd 1||rd 2||E. Budleigh||Grd||mins|
|1||O. Wensley||149||44||½||0||½||1||K. Hurst||191||16|
|2||R. Jones||129||38||0||½||1||½||B. Gosling||157||22|
|3||I. Grist||108||28||0||1||1||0||M. Lester||80||32|
|4||S. Blake||102||30||1||1||0||0||T. Miner||70||30|
Exmouth’s 2nd match in Devon’s premier inter-club competition, the Bremridge Cup, was against Tiverton (A). Their loss of Somerset players, Edgell and Littlejohns has been offset by the acquisition IM Jack Rudd and Theo Slade, which meant that they were probably even a little stronger than before. However, both teams turned out to be missing key players. Tiverton were missing Slade and Duckham, while Exmouth were without Mark Abbott and Steve Martin, which probably cancelled each other out. Another cancelling out was on Bds. 1 & 6 where Exmouth were outgraded by 28 points on Bd. 1, while Tiverton were similarly situated on Bd. 6. Overall, the total difference was just 4 points, so anything could be expected – even the unexpected. Tiverton won the toss and chose white on odd-numbered boards.
The first game to finish was Rudd-Stephens, both regular quick starters. After just 15 minutes’ play they had reached move 15 (i.e. 30 seconds per move). Stephens went in for the Sicilian Defence with White playing 6. Bb5. Black played 7…Qb3 attacking White’s b-pawn newly abandoned by the bishop. White ignored the threat, leaving Black with the thought “shall I take it and risk the inevitable counter-threats to the advanced queen – or play safe?” Known as the Poisoned Pawn variation, for obvious reasons, top players with either colour wouldn’t go in for it if they didn’t know the risks. Rudd not only sacrificed the pawn but a knight as well, in order to achieve active play, but he chose the wrong follow-up line and after a number of equal exchanges Black finished up with the only piece on the board which was more than enough to deal with the remaining scattering pawns. 1-0 to Exmouth in under 2 hours. On Bd. 6 the game ended rather suddenly when Black resigned, even though there still seemed to be some play in it, although he had been under attack for some time. 2-0 to Exmouth. Meanwhile, Oliver Wensley had been successful in cramping his opponent’s position, while gradually building up his own kingside attack with all his pieces bearing down on the enemy king to a point where mate was unavoidable. 3-0.
The one game spectators had mentally written off in favour of the home side was on Bd. 4 where Scott looked to be dead in the water. A pawn down, his queen and 2 rooks were cramped in a corner around his king, trying to stave off further material loss, while Black had the freedom of the board. Somehow, and nobody, least of all the losing player himself, could explain how and when it all started to go wrong, but Scott gradually extricated his queen and rook, got counter-play and finished with a sharp mating combination. 4-0.
With the match result now decided, and there being little advantage to either side in the two remaining games, they quickly agreed draws, and everyone was left scratching their heads about what they had just witnessed.
This left Tiverton on 50% after 3 matches, while Exmouth have 2 wins out of 2, with another tight-fought match against Exeter next up.
|1||Jack Rudd||224||0||1||John Stephens||196|
|2||Brian Hewson||174||½||½||Jon Underwood||180|
|3||Simon Bartlett||169||½||½||Meyrick Shaw||173|
|4||Ivor Annetts||162||0||1||Chris Scott||154|
|5||Keith Atkins||157||0||1||Oliver Wensley||151|
|6||Kelvin Hunter||120||0||1||Brian Gosling||148|
Exmouth’s first match in Devon’s premiership was at home against Newton Abbot. There had been problems about finding a venue, but the newly-refurbished Writing Room at the Manor Hotel proved ideal.
Steve Martin’s was the first game to finish. He has the habit of turning up, winning in little over an hour, before going back home immediately. No-one’s complaining, as this immediately puts pressure on the opposition. Then Jonathan Underwood got a draw against the dangerous junior, John Fraser, followed by another win, this time for Chris Scott who made no mistakes and took full advantage of a couple of slight misjudgments by his opponent. This was balanced by a loss by John Stephens who had Black, and failed to get satisfactory counter-play against Mackle’s opening.
This left Bds. 5 & 6 to decide the outcome. Gosling had had something of a harum-scarum game, losing a piece but winning 2 significant pawns by way of compensation. In the end he was able to force a perpetual check with his queen. 3 points in the bag. However, Oliver Wensley’s position looked pretty watertight, and was never in danger of losing, unless he blundered. He offered a draw, but knowing that to accept would mean losing the match Kinder declined. A few moves later he consulted with his captain before accepting the draw, possibly in order to avoid the prospect of a 4-2 loss or to get back home at a respectable hour.
The games scores will shortly be sent to the chessdevon website.
|1||J. K. Stephens||194||0||1||D. Mackle||203|
|2||J. Underwood||179||½||½||J. Fraser||181|
|3||S. Martin||171||1||0||M. Hui||150|
|4||C. J. Scott||157||1||0||T. F. Thynne||161|
|5||B. G. Gosling||153||½||½||P. Brooks||154|
|6||O. E. Wensley||149||½||½||A. Kinder||149|
Exmouth had their first home match of the season when they entertained old rivals Teignmouth to the town. It was not quite a home match as the Club’s new base, the Royal Beacon Hotel, had a Christmas party booked. But the Manor Hotel, just down the road, on the Beacon, came to the rescue and offered their small “Writing Room” as a suitable area. They also had a function booked, the annual meeting of the local Euchre League (don’t ask – it’s a strange American card game that has survived in Exmouth for generations). But both activities were ‘low maintenance’ and didn’t interfere with each other. It must be said that over the past 2 decades the managements of both hotels have been very good to the chess community, both local and national, and it is hoped will continue as it’s of mutual benefit.
After c. 90 minutes play, the match seemed to be going the visitors’ way, as Boards 1 and 4 were definitely looking bad for Exmouth, but two blunders in those games came to the rescue and turned what could have been a 3-1 defeat into a 3-1 victory.
|Mamhead Cup||Div 2||29.11.2014|
|1||John Stephens||194||1||0||Bill Ingham||176|
|2||Jon Underwood||179||½||½||Alan Brusey||176|
|3||Oliver Wensley||149||½||½||Kevin Hindom||145|
|4||Simon Blake||102||1||0||Norman Tidy||137|
Two turning points from the match:
Above: Black has just played …h5, possibly expecting the g-pawn to move, but f5! wins immediately as Black can’t prevent a passed pawn being created.
Below: White has been asking all the questions so far in the game, and has just played Rd7, threatening Black’s f-pawn and possibly with thoughts of doubling his rooks on the open file at some point. But …Bc8 wins a piece and Black’s bishop pair boss the game from then on.
Exmouth now have to face Tiverton (A) and Newton Abbot (H) in this league in the New Year.
Exmouth’s first match in the Devon Leagues involved the longest trip of the season, to Barnstaple, where they expected to be facing a team headed up by IM Jack Rudd or Theo Slade – or both. As it turned out, neither was available, for reasons that will become apparent. So the home team’s strength was somewhat below what was expected.
The Barnstaple captain, Steve Clarke, got into terrible trouble in the opening and faced with two ways of losing material, he prevented both with a move that allowed mate on move 13. That’s the problem with being a playing home captain - one’s head is full of potential problems e.g. is the premises going to be unlocked; is everyone going to turn up; are the refreshments organised etc. So much so that once play starts one’s head is elsewhere.
In the Scott-Oughton game, a lot of material came off the board early on, and with no discernable advantage to either side a draw was agreed. On Board 3, team captain Oliver Wensley secured Black’s d- and e-pawns and was able to force the issue down those central files with his extra pawn, backed by rooks, advancing with unanswerable threats. Malcolm Belt, usually a buccaneering cut & thrust merchant, found himself in a long attritional game in which, python-like, he gradually deprived his opponent of the oxygen of space, and kept him restricted to his back 2 ranks until the win was secured.
It may have been a relief not to be facing Rudd and/or Slade, but the reason for their absence was that, aparently, they were playing for Tiverton in the Bremridge Cup Div. 1, which is not such good news for Exmouth’s 1st team later in the season. Tiverton’s team list that day can only be wondered at.
|Mamhead Cup||Div 2||08.11.2014|
|1||Steve Clarke||133||0||1||Meyrick Shaw||170|
|2||Rob Oughton||131||½||½||Chris Scott||157|
|3||Jon Munsey||128||0||1||Oliver Wensley||149|
|4||Mike Dow||115||0||1||Malcolm Belt||128|
Last year, Seaton improved their chances by bringing in Steve Martin, and this year added Dr. Jonathan Underwood, which tipped the balance altogether. Seaton won both rounds 2.5 – 1.5 and finished 5-3 winners. Chris Scott maintained his continuing improvement by winning his individual encounter against Martin, while Jones managed to stem early aggression from Adams and may have had very slight advantages in both games but with time running out offered draws, which Adams was minded to accept. But Underwood was clearly fired up after winning 6 Blitz games eight days earlier and the combination of his endgame technique and speed of move proved too much for the Exmouth captain. Blake had a won position in Rd. 1 but ran very low on time and Dowse kindly offered a draw when he could have won on time.
Exmouth have started with a loss several times before in this competition, but managed to make up lost ground. In this case, this seems less likely than hitherto, and Seaton must be considered serious contenders for the title.
|Seaton||Grd||Rd 1||Rd 2||Rd 1||Rd 2||Exmouth||Grd|
|1||Jon Underwood||179||1||1||0||0||Mark Abbott||167|
|2||Steve Martin||172||½||0||½||1||Chris Scott||157|
|3||Martyn Adams||133||½||½||½||½||Bob Jones||147|
|4||Alan Dowse||111||½||1||½||0||Simon Blake||91|
The start of Exmouth’s league season was a unique event in the history of the club. For the first time ever, they had entered two teams in the Exeter & District League Division 1, and the league rules rightly state that any club with 2 teams in the same division must make that their first match, to avoid any possible suspicion that, should they meet in a later round, one team might voluntarily lose in order for the other to win the cup. Not that they would, of course, but any team so edged out couldn’t help but wonder…..
Not that there would be any danger of that happening in this case, as, given the club’s relatively limited playing resources, both teams were likely to be well short of the maximum team grade total of 640, unless they acquire some strong new members from somewhere. But the club are treating it as a fun event with no high expectations of ultimate glory.
On the night, blunders abounded; one player tore his scoresheet up in disgust while another didn’t submit his scoresheet at all - all good fun. At the end of night it was the Elephants that got trampled while the Eagles soared above.
|Bd||Exmouth Elephants||Grd||Exmouth Eagles||Grd|
|1||S. J. Murray||138||½||½||C. J. Scott||157|
|2||D. Thomson||134||½||½||R. H. Jones||129|
|3||F. R. Hodge||97||0||1||M. Belt||128|
|4||T. Badlan||82||0||1||S. Blake||102|