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Death of Peter Clarke. (17.01.2015.)

The Western Morning News chess column was suspended at the end of October last year, with a promise that the situation would be reviewed in January. Such has been the reaction of readers, via letters to the Editor, that he has been persuaded to re-introduce it without delay. A phrase used by a spokesman for the paper was “Back by popular demand”, so many thanks to all those who conveyed their views through the right channels, and brought about this change of heart.

If you cancelled your order for the paper’s Saturday edition, you can now renew it. If you are outside the delivery area, here follows the text of the first column of the new era…..

The noted chess player and author of chess books, Peter Clarke, died on 11th December, aged 81, after a long illness, bravely borne.

He was taught to play chess at the age of 6 by his father, and won the London Boys’ Championship in 1950 and 1951, and the SCCU Boys’ Championship in 1950. He attended the university on his doorstep, Queen Mary College, in the Mile End Road. But the call for a career in science was nowhere as strong as his love of chess, and that is the road he chose to go down. But first, National Service could not be avoided and he spent this 2 year interlude in Bodmin training as a Russian linguist. This re-ignited his love for north Cornwall, as he had spent family holidays there.

By 1959 he was a regular writer for the British Chess Magazine, reporting at length on prestigious events and analysing games and openings. He played in 8 Olympiads between 1954 and 1968, losing only 15 of the 96 games played.

After marriage to Peggy Wood in 1966, he returned to the westcountry, eventually settling at Chapel House in the hamlet of Shop near Morwenstow.  In 1971, he and a group of 5 local friends, calling themselves the Hexagon put on the 1st Barnstaple Congress. The group functioned for about 10 years until Peter suffered a stroke in 1983, forcing him to give up such intensive activity.

He found that postal chess was better suited to a slower life-style, eventually winning the Grandmaster title. He also became a leading expert at solving chess problems.

He was the most modest of men, with no vanities or conceits. A much fuller account of his career may be found in the blog section of this site.

Here is one of his wins from the 1957 British Championship in York. This Rd. 5 game against Cheltonian, Denis Mardle, shows Peter at his sharpest.

White: D. V. Mardle. Black: P. H. Clarke.  Sicilian Defence – Paulsen Variation [B42].

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.Bd3 Nc6 6.Ne2 Nf6 7.Nbc3 b5 8.0–0 Bb7 9.b3 Bc5 10.Bb2 0–0 11.Qd2 Qc7 12.Rae1 Rac8 Adding potential pressure down the c-file 13.Kh1 Nb4 14.Qg5 Be7 15.f4 d6 16.e5 dxe5 17.fxe5 Ne4 18.Qg4 Nxd3 19.cxd3 Nxc3 20.Nxc3 Rfd8 21.Re3 Bf8 22.Ne4 Threatening to join the attack. 22…Bxe4 23.Qxe4 Qc2 24.Bd4 Rd7 25.Rh3 h6 26.Qg4 Qd2 27.a4 Rc1 28.Kg1 Rxf1+ 29.Kxf1 Rc7 30.Qe2 Rc1+ 31.Kf2 Qf4+ Forking king and bishop. 0–1.

This position, which also featured in this month’s copy of Chess magazine, arose during the last Exmouth Seniors Congress in November. Former Hexagon member Richard Smith (Black) found a winning move against Peter Lucas. Can you spot it?

Black to play and win.

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