The 5 teams in Devon’s 1st Division, play each other once, giving a total of 4 matches. Both Exeter and Exmouth have been a little slow off the mark this season, for one reason or another, and this was the third match for each, with Exeter having won their 1st two matches, while Exmouth had won one and drawn one. So there was everything to play for.
Luck played a part in the team selection for both sides. Exmouth were lucky in that former player, Ken Derrick, had decided to play a more active part in Devon chess, playing both for the county and his old club of Exmouth. This, combined with Dr. Underwood’s recent return from a two year stint in Connecticut, enabled the home team to be at full strength. On the other hand, one Exeter player found himself in another country and had to be substituted at short notice.
The first game to finish was on Bd. 4 where Kevin Hurst gained the upper hand against Simon Waters in a Petroff Defence, and it was all over in 21 moves. This was balanced by a win for Dr. Paulden who broke through Dr. Underwood’s king’s position, utilising long open lines for his pieces, queen, rook and bishops. Then Exeter took the lead as Andy Boyne got a knight established on the 6th rank, and kept all his other pieces working harmoniously. At this point, 2-1 down, and two players a pawn down, for little obvious compensation, even a drawn match looked optimistic.
It was, in fact, like a match of two halves, with the first 3 games finishing in 21, 28 and 32 moves respectively, while the other three all went right down to the wire; in 59, 63 & 64 moves. The 6 free players and non-playing captain all looked on nervously as the games went into extra time and fortunes gradually swung around.
Mark Abbott had looked the only one with a superior position, but this was gradually whittled away until an ending was reached where he only had 3 pawns against a rook. Fortunately, his king was able to protect them as they shuffled forward, like a shepherd coralling his last 3 sheep. The rook alone could do little as his king was trying to catch up with the action. Abbott finished prettily, underpromoting a pawn to a knight with check, allowing a 2nd pawn to queen.
Now 2-all, and the other two games, in which both Exmouth players had been a pawn down, were gradually turning around. The Stephens/Regis game had been positionally congested with 13 pawns still on the board late on, but Stephens was able to grab an open file for his rook, before invading Black’s position to winning effect. The Pope/Shaw game came down to a N + B each with a scattering of pawns, when Shaw opted to swap his bad bishop for Pope’s good knight, after which he was able to grab a few pawns and ran his h-pawn forward to queen, which Pope was unable to prevent.
So it finished 4 – 2, which sounds a healthy margin, but the result was in doubt to the very end. It was unusual at this level to have all six games ending decisively, with no draws, indicative of how all 12 players were committed to the cause.
|1||K. W. Derrick||207||0||1||A. Boyne||195|
|2||J. K. F. Stephens||192||1||0||D. Regis||179|
|3||J. Underwood||177||0||1||T. Paulden||177|
|4||K. J. Hurst||176||1||0||S. R. Waters||168|
|5||M. Shaw||166||1||0||S. Pope||158|
|6||M. V. Abbott||167||1||0||P. Dobber||142|