If ever a sign were needed of the enduring popularity of this Exeter-based event, in spite of its financial problems of recent years, the entry of 53 in the Open was surely it, in spite of the fact that the Committee always seem to issue their entry forms much later on than most congresses – often a matter of weeks rather than months. The list of entries, (see below) shows much more than the “usual suspects”, but an eclectic mix, with a good sprinkling of new faces. Russia and Norway appear in the Club column; there’s a significant Cornish contingent; Devon ex-pats returning to the fold (e.g. Piper – Holsworthy// Shapland & Hutchings – Barnstaple // Lowe – Paignton), not to forget former Kenyan Champion, Humphrey Andolo.
At the top of this exotic pile, by some margin, was Paignton-based GM Keith Arkell, fresh from his 1st= at Bristol the previous weekend. Just before the start, his Rd. 1 opponent, John Wheeler, was sitting patiently behind the black pieces awaiting his opponent’s arrival, and I jokingly warned him against trying the Caro-Kan as Keith was an acknowledged expert, which of course he already knew. But he needed no words of warning from me as he set about squeezing a draw from the game. In fact, at the beginning of a double rook and pawns ending John was a pawn up. Keith was able to win it back but could make no further progress. and a draw was agreed.