Devon had a club success at national level for the first time in a number of years last weekend when Newton Abbot won the Major Section of the newly-reformatted National Club Championships. Their Club Secretary, Trefor Thynne reports:-
Holiday Inn, Birmingham Airport, 11th -12th April 2015
A Newton Abbot Perspective:
Newton Abbot Chess Club scored a notable success for Devon chess when they won, at their first attempt, the MAJOR Section (U-175 grade average) at the revamped National Club Championships held in Birmingham over the weekend of 11th – 12th April. The Club’s 1st team was as surprised as anyone by the ease of their victory as they won all four of their matches and finished 3 points clear of the runners-up. Not only that, but the Club’s 2nd team did very well in coming 3rd out of 10 teams in the INTERMEDIATE Section (U-150 grade average).
The idea of entering teams for this event had come about when several of the club’s members decided to do something different from the usual run of local league competitions. The National Club Championships, formerly run like the FA Cup with a season-long knock-out campaign (although with the addition of a Plate competition for Rd. 1 losers) had somewhat lost its cachet with the expansion of the 4NCL, and in 2014 the ECF decided to reinvent the competition as a weekend congress at High Wycombe for club teams. Each team would consist of 4 players and would play 4 matches over the weekend. This year the event switched to the conveniently central location of Birmingham and attracted an increased entry into its 4 sections (Open, Major, Intermediate and Minor).
The Newton Abbot club (which incidentally celebrates its 10th birthday this year) entered two teams whose members were:
MAJOR: Stephen Homer (184); John Fraser (175); Trefor Thynne (168); Matthew Wilson (157). (av. 171)
INTERMEDIATE: Andrew Kinder (146); Wilf Taylor (142); Vignesh Ramesh (138); Jacquie Barber-Lafon (121). (av. 136).
It was noteworthy that each of the two teams contained one of Devon’s best junior players: 17 yr- old John Fraser, already an England international, in the Major team and 14 yr -old Vignesh Ramesh in the Intermediate, both products of Torquay Boys’ Grammar School.
MAJOR SECTION RESULTS:
Rd. 1: Newton Abbot (171) 2½ – 1½ Wanstead and Woodford (173).
(Homer 1; Fraser ½; Wilson 0; Thynne 1)
Rd. 2: Newton Abbot 2½ – 1½ DHSS (167).
(Homer ½; Fraser 1; Wilson ½; Thynne ½)
Rd. 3: Newton Abbot 3 -1 GLCC (173).
(Homer 1; Fraser ½; Thynne ½; Wilson 1).
Rd. 4: Newton Abbot 2½ – 1½ Solihull (169).
(Homer 0; Fraser 1; Thynne ½; Wilson 1).
Individual scores: Homer 2½ Fraser 3 Thynne 2½ Wilson 2½
1st Newton Abbot 8: 2nd Wanstead and Woodford 5: 3rd Drunken Knights
4th Solihull 3: 5th DHSS 2: 6th GLCC 2.
INTERMEDIATE SECTION RESULTS:
Rd. 1: Newton Abbot (136) 1-3 Leamington (125).
(Kinder 0; Taylor 0; Ramesh 0; Barber-Lafon 1).
Rd. 2: Newton Abbot 3 -1 Redditch (135).
(Kinder 1; Taylor ½; Ramesh 1; Barber-Lafon ½).
Rd. 3: Newton Abbot 2½ – 1½ Wanstead & Woodford (144).
(Kinder ½; Taylor 1; Ramesh 0; Barber-Lafon 1)
Rd. 4: Newton Abbot 2 – 2 Sutton Coldfield (144).
(Kinder 0; Taylor 0; Ramesh 1; Barber-Lafon 1).
Individual scores: Kinder 1½; Taylor 1½; Ramesh 2; Barber-Lafon 3½).
1st Sutton Coldfield 7; 2nd Braille Chess Association 6; 3rd Newton Abbot 5; 4th Newport (Salop) 5; 5th Leamington 4; 6th Warley Quinborne 4; 7th Redditch 4; 8th Wanstead & Woodford 2; 9th Wolverhampton 2; 10th GLCC 1:
The pleasing thing about the performance of the Newton Abbot 1st team was the consistency over all 4 boards with no weak link. Each player scored vital wins in closely-fought matches. Considering that the majority of previous winners of this event have come from the powerful south-east of England, this victory is a notable triumph for Westcountry chess (one leading ECF officer present actually asked me after the prize-giving “Where exactly is Newton Abbot? “ I was pleased to reassure him that yes, good chess was played in the far south-west and no, we did not have straw sticking out of our ears!
The club’s second team also exceeded expectations since they had the 3rd lowest average grade of the 10 teams. All four team members contributed wins at vital moments but the outstanding score (3 ½) was that of Devon and West of England Ladies’ Champion on Bd 4, Jacquie Barber-Lafon.
To conclude, the experiment of entering this new-style event can be called a resounding success and it perhaps paves the way for other Devon clubs in the future. Certainly the format was much appreciated by all teams who competed in an enjoyable atmosphere of friendly rivalry. Accommodation (discounted rates on offer for chess players) in the Holiday Inn was excellent, as were the playing conditions in the hotel.
Newton Abbot Chess Club members look forward to defending their title in 2016. Let us hope to see other Devon clubs also take up the challenge of competing on the national stage.
NB: Wilson finished early and left for home, thereby missing the team’s photo opportunity, but the organisers insisted on 4 players being present, so Andrew Kinder appears in both teams below.