Matches in this season’s Exeter & District League seem to have been more difficult than usual to arrange and get played. Players and organisers are busier than ever these days with work and family commitments, and trying to get competitive teams out midweek is getting increasingly frustrating.
This season Sidmouth, recent winners of Division 1, had already declined to enter, and the Met Office was forced to withdraw before a match was played after a combination of staff retirements and transfers caused them to lose players. This left Exmouth & Exeter as the only teams left, and even this match got put back to the last minute. Eventually, it was agreed to have a one-off, winner-takes-all match on the last Tuesday before the League Prizegiving at the annual Coast vs Country match, to be held at the Exeter Club’s new premises, the Heavitree Social Club. Whatever the unsatisfactory nature of having to decide the top prize in this way, at least it focussed minds on the night – the kidology going on as the players assembled betrayed a definite frisson to the occasion. In spite of having just a few days’ notice, both teams had their strongest teams out – it was going to be a High Noon moment.
The least-experienced player was Exmouth’s Oliver Wensley, a former member of the old Exmouth Junior Club, who returned to active play in September after an absence of nearly 20 years when his grade was 97. It soon became clear that he had improved greatly since then, and his provisional grade of 120 was upgraded to 130 at the start of the year, and his new grade in August may be even higher. This could be his sternest test to date. On the night he matched Simon Waters’ early play and no advantage to either side was discernable after move 22 when Waters offered a draw. Wensley correctly consulted his captain as to the state of the match, and the offer was accepted with some alacrity.
On Bd. 2 Brian Hewson and Dave Regis, whose 50th birthday it was, both played with care and precision. Hewson seeemed to get a slight edge as the first time control approached, but not enough to be able to force anything and a draw was agreed.
Meanwhile, Exmouth’s Abbott and Stephens, both playing with the Black pieces, had the initiative in their games – the only question was whether this could be converted into points as the allegro 15 minutes after move 30 raced by. On Bd. 3 Paulden was short of time throughout the game and eventually his flag fell, but in circumstances where it was debatable whether Stephens had enough material to win. The subsequent discussion involved all present and the finest of fine points of the Laws of Chess relating to these situations were debated. Meanwhile, Graham Bolt resigned after losing a piece in the ending of a game in which Abbott had held the initiative throughout, but was in danger of losing it as Bolt’s undeveloped pieces eventually sprang out of the traps, a fact that allowed the Stephens-Paulden game to be agreed a draw without affecting the result of the match- Exeter 1.5 – 2.5 Exmouth.
|1||G. Bolt||182||0||1||M. V. Abbott||177|
|2||Dr. D. Regis||166||½||½||B. W. R. Hewson||176|
|3||Dr. T. J. Paulden||174||½||½||J. K. F. Stephens||181|
|4||S. Waters||167||½||½||O. E. Wensley||130e|