The day of the Surrey vs Devon match dawned warm and cloudless. Having e-mailed all on-line team members the day before to set off in good time, and allow for all contingencies, from heavy traffic, over-heating engines and getting lost, I thought I’d better do likewise and was on the road shortly after 10 a.m. and after a good trip got to Stratford-sub-Castle just after midday, an hour before I could get the key to open up the Reading Room (village hall) and start laying the stuff out. At least this gave me a chance to soak up some of the ambience of the place.
The Wiltshire Avon, one of the best trout streams in England, flows along one side of the hall, while on the other is Old Sarum, an Iron Age hill fort, which survived through Roman times until the early Middle Ages, when a conscious decision was made; feeling the town had outgrown the restrictions of its hilly site and there was no mortal danger of imminent attack from invaders, the authorities moved onto the flat land of the Avon valley and built a marvellous cathedral.
Old Sarum, as seen from the venue. The Iron Age defensive banks can clearly be seen on the left, though it hardly does the site justice when seen from the air (below). Lower left is the site of the Saxon cathedral and on the central mound stood a Norman castle.
Old Sarum become completely de-populated after the removal of its inhabitants, yet it continued to send two members to Parliament for hundreds of years until the 1832 Reform Act, making it synonymous of all Rotten Boroughs, an unfortunate reputation with which to end a wonderful 5,000 year history of habitation. However, one of the Borough’s MPs in the 18th Century was Pitt the Elder, Britiain’s first PM, who lived in a large house next to the venue.
Old Sarum’s invaders this day came from east and west, but their battle was to be of a cerebral nature; scars inflicted would be mental, not physical. My previous day’s e-mail listed specific travelling hazards, but didn’t mention the fact that it was the final day of the Devon County Show in Exeter, and, with the weather so predictably fine, the traffic bottleneck there was of monumental proportions. In contrast to my 2 hour run, cars having to pass through Exeter took up to 4 hours, one arriving 30 minutes late.
Looking at the team lists it was noticeable how closely matched the teams were – no more than an handful of grading points between opponents, except for the two last minute substitutes on bottom boards, Allen and Jones, outgraded by 15 and 10 points respectively.
Bill Ingham (above in yellow) got things off to the perfect start with a quick win after his opponent blundered a piece away in the opening. Devon stayed a point ahead as the next results were all draws, especially Allen and Jones who thereby proved not to be the weak links; Thynne, Cowley and Regis were the others. Brusey, Jamieson, Underwood and Brooks had longer games, some of them coming under some pressure but all still ended in draws, Ingham’s original win being the difference between the teams. With one win and 9 draws from the first 10 games to finish, it was left to the final six to decide the result.
Robert Thompson’s game featured the unusual balance of a Surrey rook pair v 3 minor pieces. In the end French had a sole rook vs bishop, knight and pawn. The rook wished only to sacrifice itself for the pawn, so Thompson had always to be able to screen it as it crept forward, successfully as it proved. His win was immediately offset by Kinder’s loss. Next Gosling drew and Schofield lost, to level the scores at 7-all. With the last two games in progress, Gorodi looked to be losing, so it was left to Steve Homer on top board to resolve the match. His ending had similarities to Thompson’s in that it depended on whether Homer, with knight and pawn v bishop, could shepherd his single pawn through to queening without it being taken. With both flags hovering and scoresheets abandoned he found the right plan and mated. It now mattered not that Gorodi was still struggling, as even if he lost to even the scores to 8-all, the fact that Devon’s 3 wins were all in the top half, while Surrey’s were all in the botton half, meant that the tie-break rule gave it to Devon on “Board Count” who now go on to meet the winners of Warwickshire v Lancs.
Details and more battle scenes below:
|National U-180||Date: 25.05.2010.|
|1||B||Simon McCullough||177||0||1||Stephen J. Homer||178|
|2||W||Neil Cooper||178||½||½||Dennis R. Cowley||176|
|3||B||Phil Stimpson||179||½||½||Alan W. Brusey||175|
|4||W||Julien Shepley||178||½||½||Ian M. Jamieson||175|
|5||B||Alan Punnett||173||½||½||Trefor F. Thynne||173|
|6||W||Angus French||173||0||1||Robert Thompson||170|
|7||B||David Sedgwick||174||½||½||Dave Regis||165|
|8||W||Paul Archer||169||0||1||William H. Ingham||166|
|9||B||Nick Grey||157||½||½||Jon Underwood||165|
|10||W||Paul Barasi||162||1||0||Stephen Schofield||162|
|11||B||Geoff Marchant||164||½||½||Paul Brooks||162|
|12||W||Trevor Jones||156||½||½||Brian G. E. Gosling||159|
|13||B||Ian Deswarte||161||1||0||Andrew S. Kinder||158|
|14||W||Alasdair MacLeod||156||1||0||John G. Gorodi||155|
|15||B||Simon Wrigley||158||½||½||John E. Allen||143|
|16||W||Adrian Waldock||150||½||½||Robert H. Jones||140|