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Exmouth V Barnstaple – What could possibly go wrong!?

Saturday was a beautiful cloudless day with the air like wine and the prospect of a trip across Devon, from the south to north coast for a chess match excited the sense of anticipation. All 8 people involved were experienced players and organisers, and although it was only a 2nd division match, it involved an International Master, 2 qualifiers for this year’s British Championship, 2 former and one current contender for British junior titles and a former World record holder – so what could possibly go wrong!?

Well, quite a lot actually. 30 minutes before I set off, the Home captain phoned to say he’d just realised he’d assembled a team whose total grade came to 640, when the rules clearly stated it should be Under 640. He wasn’t sure what to do about it at that late juncture, and I left him worrying about who, if anyone, he could call in and who should be left out at such short notice.

Minutes later, my two passengers arrived and we set off, heading north. Almost immediately one passenger was taken violently ill (nothing to do with my driving, I hasten to add) and we had to turn back and take him home, which, at best,  left us having to play a strong team with only three players.

Once in Barnstaple, we parked and arrived at the venue with 10 minutes to spare, only to find that the home team were locked out of their room. A local friend of the club usually arrives with a key, opens up and provides the refreshments, but he was nowhere to be seen. Their Plan B is to have a player with a spare key. In this case, he arrived only to find he’d left his key at home, and had to drive all the way back to Bideford to get it.

At 3 p.m. after half an hour waiting, someone came down from upstairs and said he had a key and would let us in, which he did, but then no-one had the key to the equipment cupboard, so we were little better off. We could at least now have tea or coffee, but someone had forgotten the biscuits. To fill the time, the captains tossed for colours; Barnstaple won and naturally took the two whites on 1 and 3, with Bd. 4 already in the bag.

Eventually, the second keyholder arrived from Bideford and a silence descended as play started about 45minutes late. However, it was not long before a security van drew up outside and its uniformed driver came in wanting to know who had set off the alarm. No alarm had been heard, but the system was wired up to the firm’s offices and it went off silently, so as not to scare off any intruder. It took him a half hour to satisfy himself that nothing untoward had occurred, but on leaving, warned us all, loudly, to watch out for possible trouble.

It wasn’t long thereafter before John Stephens fell to ‘Jumping’ Jack Rudd. Stephens, playing an opening he knows well, played his 10th move too quickly, getting the move order mixed up. Jack pounced and it was soon over. He played 34 moves in 11 minutes’ thinking time, at a rate of 19 seconds per move, quite usual for him. Quite apart from whatever’s happening on the board, this inevitably puts time pressure on all his opponents, as a scheduled 4 hour game isn’t going to last much longer than half that time at most, with the opponent’s clock running most of that time.

So it was 2-0 and any hope of a miracle win flown out of the window. Fortunately Jones, playing against the English Opening (which he hates), had managed to turn round an early reverse, and was finding the greater freedom for his pieces, with probing threats on both sides of the board, and eventually, his opponent resigned.

Meanwhile, Meyrick Shaw was having to cope with the dangerous Theo Slade, currently in the England Junior squad. Slade played the French Defence, and White managed to set up a strong early kingside attack, Black having to sacrifice the exchange in order stay in the game. This allowed Shaw the luxury of being able to sacrifice material back in order to continue his winning attack. leaving the match drawn. The captains reflected afterwards that after all that had gone before, probably neither side deserved to win.

All of which proves the old saying – “If a thing can go wrong, it probably will”, and it certainly did for both sides on this particular Saturday afternoon.

  Barnstaple Grd     Exmouth Grd
1 Jack Rudd 220 1 0 John Stephens 192
2 Theo Slade 145 0 1 Meyrick Shaw 166
3 Jon Munsey 135 0 1 Bob Jones 130
4 A. Rinvolucri 122 1 0 Fred Hodge (def) 115
    622 2 2   603


Bds 1 & 2 - two white wins.

Theo Slade plays the French Defence.

John Stephens facing Rudd - a possible rehearsal for this year's British.

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