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E. Devon Congress 2017 – Final Day (12.03.2017.)

By the end of Rd. 4, the Open Section had developed into a mini tournament between the titled players just playing among themselves. Top seed, Arkell had had a dodgy game against his former pupil, Rudd and dropped a half point, but Nunn’s scorecard was unblemished, while, the Spanish IM, Simon, the Austrian FM, Braun, and Tournament Secretary,Tim Paulden himself, were never far away.

A few scenes from the end of Rd. 4: Brian Gosling (E. Budleigh & Exmouth) plays Stephen Homer (Newton Abbot), while next door, Dave Littlejohns (Taunton) plays Adam Woodruff, formerly of Exmouth.

Jamie Morgan (Exeter) in action against Meyrick Shaw (Exmouth)

At the top of the Minor Section, Paul Errington faces Joy, one of the Fursman sisters, in front of Martin Maber against Ken Alexander

The 5th & final round gets under way with a handshake between John Nunn (4/4) and Jack Rudd. The prospect of a bright and breezy game in the usual Rudd style pleased the neutrals, but the game ended with a quick & quiet draw in 10 moves. There might have been an element of disappointment in the hall, but then, if John Nunn offered you a draw, wouldn't you accept?! It guaranteed Nunn at least a share of 1st prize.

David Pardo Simon kicks off against Keith Arkell. Both knew from early on that a win would catch Nunn in 1st place, but they could only manage a draw, Arkell having to draw on all his endgame powers to achieve that.

Walter Braun kicks off against Tim Paulden, who, in spite of the heavy organisational load in this his first year in charge, had an excellent tournament. The game finished as a draw, with only a knight and less than a handful of pawns each. It was good to have a fresh face featuring among the regulars, and he hopes to be on the local scene for the foreseeable future.

East Devon Congress 2017 – Day 2

As you may have seen from the official event website, it will display, (a) the pairings for each round; (b) the results of every game played in all 3 sections and (c) images of both scoresheets for every game played. These will be posted very quickly after each round. That will leave this site able to concentrate on pictures and stories that may emerge from the event. Comedy and tragedy – all will be ruthlessly unearthed and displayed for all to see.

Anthony Higgs is keen to set the ball rolling in his Rd. 2 against Arkell, but still lost in the end.

"Dr. Nunn, I presume". Dr. & double GM, John Nunn, starts off against Congress Secretary, Dr. Tim Paulden, who, at this point, thought it best to play his regular, favourite defence. Bill Ingham, winner of the Exmouth Seniors' Congress in November, looks on.

North vs South: Plymouth-born Candidate Master, John Wheeler, gets started against Bideford-based IM Jack Rudd.

Graham Bolt (in blue) recently captained Exeter's winning team against Exmouth (the current holders) in Devon's top team tournament, the Bremridge Cup. However, Exmouth are biting back, as Graham lost his Rd. 1 game against Paul Hampton and was kept to a draw in this next game against Meyrick Shaw.

In the "middle tier" of the Open. Bill Adaway considers his options against Chris Lowe, a lecturer at Exeter University, but formerly, back in the day, a member of the team of precocious juniors called Paignton Palace, headed by Gary Lane. Committee member, Mark Abbott, looks on

In the Minor Section, two Tiverton club members were paired in Rd. 2: Brian Aldwin, President of the Exeter & District Chess League, plays Dr. Honeyball, (facing) formerly lecturer in Law at Exeter University.

Nunn vs Paulden - the final throes: the game finished minutes after this. Afterwards, Tim observed "I played my favourite defence, but he just kept making all the right moves". Well, Tim, that's what Grandmasters do. Watching the last rites is surprise entry, Austrian FM, Walter Braun, while Dominic Mackle keeps an eye on Arkell's game. As No. 5 seed, Mackle has had an indifferent start to the tournament, but his class will surely tell in the end.

Bristol Spring Congress Results (11.03.2017.)

Bristol’s Spring Congress took place on the last weekend of February. Keith Arkell (240 – Paignton) won the Open Section with a maximum 5 points, as there was no-one anywhere near him in rating. The nearest was Thomas Villiers (204 – Barnet), who duly came 2nd.

The other sections were more closely contested with a quadruple tie in the Major (U-155), between George Georgiou (Swindon); Sam Jukes (Barry); Robert Radford (Keynsham) and Alan Papier (Bristol & Clifton), all on 4 pts.

The Minor (U-125) was won by James Rosseinsky (Horfield) on 4½ pts followed by Grant Daly (Downend), on 4.

This was Arkell’s final game that clinched his 1st place.

White: Keith Arkell (2406). Black: Joseph Turner (1936).

King’s Indian Defence – Fianchetto Variation [E62].

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.c4 Bg7 4.Nc3 0–0 5.g3 d6 6.Bg2 Nc6 7.0–0 e5 8.dxe5 dxe5 9.Bg5 Be6 10.Nd5 Bxd5 11.cxd5 Qxd5 12.Qxd5 Nxd5 13.Nxe5 Nxe5 If 13…Bxe5 14.Bxd5 Nd4 15.e3. 14.Bxd5 c6 15.Bb3 a5 16.a4 Nd7 17.Rab1 Nc5 18.Bc2 Rfe8 19.Be3 Ne4 20.Rfd1 Re7 21.Rd3 Rae8 22.Bb6 Chasing after pawns on the edge of the board may not appear significant at this stage of the game, but at the end winning this pawn is the difference between the two sides.  22…h5 23.e3 Re5 24.Rd7 Rd5 25.Rxd5 cxd5 26.Bxa5 d4 After the next skirmish. White has a 2–1 pawn majority, which he is adept at exploiting to his advantage. 27.exd4 Bxd4 28.Bxe4 Rxe4 29.Kf1 h4 30.Bd2 Be5 Now the road is clear to push those pawns a.s.a.p. 31.b4 Bd6 32.a5 Rd4 It’s also time for the king to step forward and play his part …. providing it’s safe to do so. 33.Ke2 f5 34.Bc3 Re4+ 35.Kd3 hxg3 36.hxg3 Rg4 37.Bd4 Bb8 38.b5 Kf7 39.a6 Ke6 No better is 39…bxa6 40.bxa6. 40.axb7 Kd5 41.Be3 g5 42.Rc1 f4 43.gxf4 gxf4 44.Bd4 f3 45.Rc5+ Kd6 46.Rc8 Black’s bishop must fall. 46…Rxd4+ 47.Kxd4 Ba7+ 48.Ke4 1–0.

The ECF’s Chess Book of the Year 2016 was Chess for Life by Matthew Sadler and Natasha Regan (Gambit – £15.99). The subtitle describes the book: “Understanding how a player’s chess skills develop and change with the passage of time”. To this end they interviewed a number of older players, and Keith Arkell contributed a section on rook & pawn endings, described by the judges as “masterly”, and “a mini textbook in itself”. His endgame mastery was on show at Bristol, as in the above game, making early exchanges of material in order to simplify and get to the endgame, where he could better exercise his skill.

The solution to last week’s problem by  Dave Howard was 1.Qe8! threatening 2.Qa4 mate. Black’s rooks have several tries, but 2.Nc5++ is also mate. The week before’s was solved by 1.Qa3! and not 1.Qxe3 which had inadvertently been left in from the previous week. Apologies for that.

This position arose in a recent game in the Devon leagues. Black has just played Qa6, so why did he resign next move?

White to move and Black resign

E. Devon Congress 2017 – Exeter – Rd. 1 (10.03.2017.)

This event started back in 1976 in a relatively small way, but 3 years later, with the benefit of local sponsorship, the entries shot up to 219. That year it was won by John Nunn ahead of a chasing pack that included Dave Rumens, Plaskett, Blackstock, Franklin and Peter Sowray – quite an array of up-and coming players of the time.

Since those heady days, the numbers have slipped, especially in recent years, but this year, for no obvious reason, the entry went right back up to the 150s, with a late influx of titled players. Devon residents Keith Arkell and Jack Rudd, were present, as one might expect, of course, but there were new names like IM David Pardo Simon, a Spanish student at the University, and an Austrian FM, Walter Braun, who had turned up to live in Exmouth only a few days earlier. Oh, and someone called John Nunn, making his first appearance here since 1979. His appearance could be a factor in the increased interest this year, but also there was an unparalelled entry of 12 from the University.

This year’s 42nd East Devon Congress got under way this evening in Exeter’s commodious Corn Hall, with words of welcome from Congress Secretary, Dr. Tim Paulden, whose energy in creating a new website for the event, with facilities for easy on-line entry, could be a 3rd factor.

The pictures set the scene and tell the story:-

Petra & John Nunn after checking the pairings for Rd. 1

Roger Hutchings (W), formerly of Barnstaple, takes on Keith Arkell on top board, but gets his queen trapped after 16 moves. David Pardo Simon, a Spanish student currently studying at Exeter University, looks on.

Austrian FM, Walter Braun (W) enjoyed a quick win against John Bass. Braun won their game in 8 moves, one of the shortest games in the Open in its 42 year history.

Former Scottish Junior International, Paul Hampton, faces Graham Bolt, and wins in c. 28 moves. Next to Bolt is Bill Adaway, who once got a draw against Portisch in a big London Open.

The diminutive figure that looks, at first glance across a crowded room, like a primary school pupil, is in fact Miss Ang from Singapore, currently a student at Exeter University.

... and she's giving congress regular, Brendan O'Gorman, quite a lot to think about.

Top board in the Minor: Christine Constable vs Ken Alexander. Christine's husband, John, is helping out as an arbiter in the absence through illness of Tony Tatam, while Ken is Secretary of the Torbay Congress and delivered the new, multi-coloured entry forms.

Dr. David Anthony Toms 1937 – 2017 (04.03.2017.)

David Anthony Toms 1937 – 2017

Dr. David Anthony Toms, a member of Sidmouth and Exmouth Chess Clubs, passed away on 15th February 2017, aged 80. A funeral service will be held on Tuesday 14th March at St. Leonard’s Church, Exeter, starting at 13.30 hrs. Any donations will go towards St. Leonard’s Church and the Kairos Prison Ministry, a world-wide organisation dedicated to supporting prisoners and their families.

David’s father and grandfather before him, both called Arthur, ran a meat pie and live & jellied eel  shop at 84, Chatsworth Road, Lower Clapton, Hackney. The road was originally constructed on virgin land in c. 1869, and was built especially straight and wide so as to allow for shops and a weekly market with stalls on either side of the road. Economic activity was stimulated in that area with the opening of Clapton station in 1872 and the arrival of the tram system. It is quite possible that the Toms family had lived in that road from the start, and this photograph of the Toms shop front suggests the Victorian era. 1

The Toms family business: Meat Pies & Live Eels

Below: Typical scene of Chatsworth Road, Clapham, at about the time of David’s birth. 2

Chatsworth Street, Clapham in the 1930s

Today one is more likely to find kebab shops and pizza parlours than jellied eel emporia, but the area is currently undergoing a Notting Hill-like process of gentrification, and a lively cross-cultural ethos is much in evidence around Chatsworth Road.

David attended the local primary school and might have succeeded to the eel empire, but he proved very bright and academic, and won a scholarship to Bancrofts School, a direct grant grammar school in leafy Woodford Green. Bancroft’s was very supportive of chess as a valuable extra-curricular activity. Not only David but several of his contemporaries were also successful as promising juniors, including R. Jessop.

1954 was his annus mirabilis on the chessboard. In January he won the London Boys’ Championship ahead of Michael Macdonald-Ross, thus joining the ranks of former winners like Harry Golombek (1929 – son of Polish-Jewish refugees) and Leonard Barden (1946 – son of a dustman), who both went on to become legends in the chess world.

In August he went on to play in the British Boys’ Championship, beginning a long association with Nottingham. He came 10th= scoring 6/11 points, a creditable total but not quite headline-making. However, on the strength of these two results he was invited to join a team of English U-18 juniors to tour Holland in which they played 4 teams of Dutch juniors, beating them all. David scored 2½/4 points.

In September, he played in the 3rd Paignton Congress, coming 2nd in the Premier Reserves C Section behind Peter C. Gibbs of Bradford. He didn’t play at Paignton again until 2009, when he took part in one of the last of the series before it was forced to move out of the famous Oldway Mansion.

Suddenly school days were over and he went to medical school, specialising in mental health and graduated with an MB. He followed a career in psychiatry, becoming a member of the Royal College of Physicians and later elected Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. He was a Director of a group of psychiatrists based in Regent Street, Nottingham. His impressive title by this time was Dr. Consulting Psychiatrist David A. Toms  MB; MRCP; FRCPsych.

With this demanding career and a growing family of four children (2 sons & 2 daughters), there was no time for chess tournaments or weekend congresses, so he took to correspondence chess, carrying a small cardboard folding chessboard in his jacket pocket, for any opportune moment to analyse his current games.

Eventually he retired to the small village of Tipton St. John and joined the nearby Sidmouth Chess Club. At that time, the majority of members were happy to play only within their club, but several of the more able players joined the nearby Exmouth Chess Club in order to get games at the weekends in Devon’s 1st division, the Bremridge Cup, and David followed this path, contributing to them winning the title 9 times between 2002 – 2016. He was meticulous in recording in his scorebook not just his own game but the names of all players involved in the match and their individual scores and the team totals.

Dr. Toms in action against Dr. Peter Hempson at Paignton 2015.

He was elected President of the Devon County Chess Association in 2012.

When illness started to take its toll, he was not averse to telling friends what was wrong and how he was advising his own GP the best course of treatment.

Whenever his health allowed, he continued to play until very near the end.

Both his career and life generally were underpinned by his strong Christian faith.

R. H. Jones.

Credits:

  1. This silk screen print, adapted from an old photograph, was made by Hackney artist Richard Roberts, and is available from his website Roberts Print.
  2. 2.The street views may be found, along with many others of historical interest, on the Yeah! Hackney website.
  3. Photo by R. H. Jones.

The Essential Role of a County Captain (04.03.2017.)

The role of county captain is not recommended to those of a nervous disposition, but it is a vital job if competitive teams are to be fielded in important matches. The all-conquering Somerset team has lost its captain of recent years, and with no replacement coming forward, it shows. Devon have had the excellent services of Brian Hewson as captain for many years, but he also retired after this match, with no replacement yet identified. How will this affect future Devon teams? On this occasion Devon beat Somerset by 12½-3½ in the 1st team and 11-1 in the 2nd team, and his game follows. Somerset names 1st in each pairing: 1.B. Edgell (200) 1-0 D. Mackle (208). 2.A. Footner (175) 0-1 J. Stephens (193). 3.A. Gregory (164) 0-1 O’Neill (185). 4.J. Lobley (160e) 0-1 S. Homer (190). 5.G. N. Jepps (159) 0-1 T. Paulden (187). 6. L. Bedialauneta (149) ½-½ J. Underwood (183). 7.N. Senior (156) 0-1 B. Hewson (187). 8. C. Purry (149) ½-½ S. Martin (182). 9.C. Fewtrell (143) 0-1 J. Wheeler (174). 10.T. Wallis (144) 0-1 C. Lowe (175). 11.O. Isaac (117) 0-1 P. Sivrev (175). 12. T. Alsop (130) 0-1 D. Regis(175). 13.C. McKinley 0-1 (127) 0-1 P. Hampton (161). 14.M. Baker (137) ½-½ T. Thynne (170).15. A. Byrne (127) 0-1 O. Wensley (168). 16. S. Pickard(129) 0-1 W. Ingham (162).

2nd teams: 1.M. Willis (126) ½-½ B.Gosling (159) 2.A. Stonebridge (121) 0-1 V. Ramesh (154). 3.G. Greenland (113) 0-1 C. Scott (151). 4.J. Beviss (110e) ½-½ L. Hafstad (142). 5. K. Kyriacou (97) 0-1 N. Butland (150). 6. R. Fenton (111) 0-1 M. Quinn (146). 7. R. Harris  (112) 0-1 C. Keen (150). 8.B. Thornley (111) 0-1 M. Stinton-Brownbridge (145). 9.D/f 0-1 I.Annetts. 10.M. Cooper (97) 0-1 R. Whittington (137). 11.D. Smith (91) 0-1 W. Taylor (137). 12.d/f 0-1 R. Wilby.

White: N. Senior. Black: B. W. Hewson.

Queen’s Pawn Game D05

1.d4 Nf6 2.e3 c5 3.Nf3 e6 4.Bd3 d5 5.c3 Nc6 6.Nbd2 Qc7 7.0–0 Bd6 8.Re1 0–0 9.e4 Threatening e5 forking bishop & knight 9…cxd4 10.cxd4 10…dxe4 11.Nxe4 Nxe4 12.Bxe4 f5 13.Bc2! h6 14.Bb3 Threatening Black’s pinned e-pawn. 14…Nd8 15.Bd2 Bd7 16.Rc1 Bc6 Black has little choice but to lose his e-pawn, or play much of the game on the back foot. 17.Bxe6+ Nxe6 18.Rxe6 Qd7 19.Qb3? The threat of a discovered check looks attractive but is a mistake.  Black missed the best move 19…Bd5! as the queen cannot take the bishop because of Bxh2+ and the queen is lost. 20.Rce1? Having missed it earlier, he now gets a second chance. 20…Bd5! 21.Re8+ 21…Rxe8 22.Rxe8+ Qxe8 23.Qxd5 White emerges the exchange down. 23…Qc6 24.Qb3 Kf8 25.d5 25…Qe8 26.Nd4 Qe4 Threatening both the unprotected knight and mate on b1. 27.Ne6+ Kg8 28.g3 b6 29.Qb5 29…Re7! 30.Qc6? Probably realising his mistake, White hopefully offered a draw here but Black had also noticed that the d-pawn was now pinned and the knight can taken with impunity. 30…Rxe6! 0–1

Here is a hitherto unpublished 2-mover by Dave Howard of Somerset.

White to mate in 2

Nunn’s Visitation (25.02.2017.)

The ECF’s Team Challenge, is now in its 4th year and a qualifying event attracting 14 teams was held recently at Torquay Boys’ Grammar School .

The competition, for secondary school teams of 4 players, involves 4 rounds with each player having 12 minutes per game. Five schools sent teams to this year’s event, but the hosts entered 6 teams to increase the competition. The competition was organised by Tim Onions and Trefor Thynne who are in charge of chess at the Grammar School.  Last year TBGS was awarded the title of Chess Leadership School by the ECF in recognition of its efforts to promote chess in other south-west schools.

1st Torquay Boys’ Grammar School “A”            14 points (out of 16). 2nd= Clyst Vale Community School & Stover School, Newton Abbot (both10½). 4th=  TBGS Yr. 9 & TBGS year 8  “A” (both 9½). 6th= TBGS “B” & TBGS Yr. 8 “B” (both 8½). 8th Teignmouth Community School  “B”                               (8). 9th=  Coombeshead School, Newton Abbot “A” & Teignmouth “A  (both 7½). 11th TBGS Yr. 7 (6½). 12th Stover “B” (5). 13th Fusion (a team comprising reserves) (4). 14th Coombeshead “B” (2).

The winners, who qualify for the national finals to be held in London on 29th March, and the two teams finishing 2nd= were presented with medals.

Bristol’s Spring Congress is taking place this weekend at Bristol Grammar School, while the E. Devon Congress will take place on 10th – 12th March in Exeter. Tim Paulden has taken over as Secretary of the event and has set up a new website for it, where one can both enter and pay on-line. His energy seems to be getting results as the top section is attracting some strong players. Local Grandmaster Keith Arkell has signed up, as has Austrian master player Walter Braun. More surprising, perhaps, is the entry of John Nunn, formerly in the world’s Top 10, and something of a legend in chess circles. He has a GM title for playing and another for problem solving, not to mention an academic doctorate – a true polymath. World Champion Magnus Carlsen once explained why he thought extreme intelligence could actually prove to be a hindrance to one’s chess career, and cited as an example Nunn’s never having won the World Championship. He said “He has so incredibly much in his head. Simply too much. His enormous powers of understanding and his constant thirst for knowledge distracted him from chess”.

This would not be Nunn’s first appearance in Exeter, however, – he played in 1979, when he came 1st, ahead of Rumens, Plaskett, Blackstock, Franklin & Sowray.

The British Problem Solving Championship took place last weekend at Eton College, where the winners are usually either Nunn or Jonathan Mestel. This year, however, they were pushed down to 2nd & 3rd by a relative newcomer, Ian Watson of Durham. David Hodge, formerly of Exminster and Torquay BGS, came 5th while Jon Lawrence of Torquay came 17th.

This was the 1st of their problems, a 2-mover with c. 6 minutes allowed for solving.

Dr. Jago’s 2-mover last week was solved by 1.Qxe3!

White to mate in 2 moves

Cream of the Cornish (18.02.2017.)

After a loss to Devon in October, Cornwall came back in their next match recently with a creditable 8-8 draw against Somerset. Cornish names 1st in each pairing:- 1.J. Menadue (189) 0-1 T. Goldie 196). 2.M. I Hassall (183) ½-½ B. Edgell (200). 3.J. Hooker (177) ½ – ½ M. French (170). 4.L. Retallick (176) 1-0 D. Littlejohns (176). 5.D. Saqui (176) 1-0 M. Richardt (184). 6.R. Kneebone (174) ½ – ½ G. N Jepps (159). 7.J. Morgan (170) ½-½ A. Champion (153). 8.C. Sellwood (154) 0-1 C. Purry (149). 9.G. Trudeau (153) 1-0 J. Fewkes (142). 10.P. Gill (149) 1–0 M. Worrall (139). 11.R. Stephens (148) 0-1 M. Baker (137). 12.J. Nicholas (147) 1-0 C. Mckinley (127). 13.M. Hill (143) 0–1 A. Byrne (127). 14.J. Henderson (129) 0-1 G. Greenland (113). 15. D. R Jenkins (125) 1-0 M. Maber (104). 16. D. Lucas (121) 0-1 J. Beviss (90).

The Cornish Championships were held at Carnon Downs at the weekend. The defending champion, James Hooker (Camborne) again kept a cool head under pressure and retained his title  with 3½/5 points, while close on his heels were Robin Kneebone (Carrick), Gary Trudeau (Liskeard), Colin Sellwood (Camborne) and Mark Watkins (Penwith)

The Falmouth Cup for those graded U-146 was won by the relative newcomer, Jan Rodrigo (Penwith) with 4½, followed by Harvey Richings (Penwith) and Martin Jones (Newquay).

The U-120 grading prize was won by Anton Barkhuysen (Camborne), and the U-100 prize was won by John James (Penwith), while Thomas Oates’ performance (Camborne) was judged the best by a junior.

Here is James Hooker’s Rd. 2 game with notes kindly supplied by the winner.

White: C. Sellwood. Black: J. Hooker. Sicilian Defence [B40]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Bb4 6.Bd3 Nc6 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.0–0 White should have played e5 here to stifle Black’s e5 and d5 idea and to make the d3 bishop better. 8…e5 The wasted tempo with e6 earlier and now e5 means little as White’s bishop on d3 is now restricted, and Black is looking for a strong centre with a future d5 push. 9.Qf3 0–0 10.Qg3 Re8 11.Bd2 d5 12.exd5 cxd5 13.Bg5 Creates a threat of trading and grabbing the d5 pawn, but lost a tempo by playing Bd2 previously. 13…Bxc3 14.bxc3 Qd6 15.Be2? The decisive error, allowing Ne4 as it’s not pinned anymore and leaving the bishop on g5 very few squares. 15…Ne4 16.Qe3 f5 17.Rfd1 Defending with tricks, f4 will be met with Qxe4. 17…Qc6 18.Bh4 White’s best shot now is 18 Bh5 g6, 19 Bf3. The point being to get Black to play g6 so he doesn’t have the h6 and g5 idea trapping the bishop. 18…f4 19.Qd3 Nxc3 20.Re1 Nxe2+ 21.Rxe2 If 21 Qxe2 then Qh6 and White’s bishop on h4 is lost 21…Ba6 0–1

The key move to last week’s problem by Dave Howard was 1.Qa4! after which all Black’s ‘tries’ fail.

This week’s 2-mover is by the Cornish problemist, Dr. Maurice Edwin McDowell Jago (1902-‘98). He was born in St. Buryan, where his father, Ashley Tilsed, was also a GP.

White to play and mate in 2

Simon Bartlett – 1954-2017

Simon Bartlett’s funeral was held yesterday (08.02.2017.) and his great friend, Ivor Annetts, has compiled these facts and memories of Simon, and invited anyone to make use of them.

He writes as follows:

Simon was born, brought up and educated, in Paignton.  He attended a boys’ school and did extremely well, gaining admittance to Bristol University to read law.  After a time he decided that this was not for him, and he took a year off in Morocco.  He then returned to Bristol University to read chemistry and was awarded a degree in that subject.  Apart from a brief period with another company, the whole of his working life was spent with a chemical company in Cornwall called Key Organics.  At its peak, Simon led a team of seven researchers.  Their task was to produce organic chemical compounds with particular properties as requested by the company’s customers.  During the 90s, China began to be able to do this much more cheaply and this led to Simon eventually being the sole researcher for Key Organics.  He told me on more than one occasion that he still got a kick out of doing his job.  Simon eventually retired at the age of 58 and gave every indication that he was thoroughly enjoying his new life.

I first met Simon around 28 years ago at Tor Abbey.  It was a unique chess occasion, as the West of England Championship was held at that prestigious venue.  Brian Boomsma was also a competitor and he and Simon were already friends.  Years later Simon was to become the godfather of Brian’s new son.  At Tor Abbey, Brian introduced me to this 35 years old confident upstart, then graded at something like 125, and over the next few years the three of us, all very different from each other, became close friends.

During the chess year we would enter anything up to half a dozen or more congresses across the west country.  It became traditional for the three of us, frequently joined by Brian’s partner Lynda, to meet up for an Indian meal on the Saturday night.  Fueled by too many bottles of house red, the conversation would flow, arguments would sometimes be intense, and occasionally when Brian and I took opposing views, Simon would remain the calm, objective and rational one.  And now I realize that throughout all of the intervening years, I have never seen Simon angry or, apart from his final few months, emotionally disturbed in any way.

He was tremendously well-read, retained facts, and had a lively enquiring mind.  He was particularly knowledgeable on economics, his partner, Margaret having a degree in that subject.  I well remember his scary, penetrating analysis at the time of the financial crisis in 2008.

Ten years or so ago we discovered that we both had had experiences with the game of bridge, with Simon’s being rather more than an experience as he played regularly in a Camelford club.    We arranged to partner each other once per week as members of an online bridge club.  I vaguely remembered elements of the Acol and Blackwood bidding systems; Simon knew them inside out and tempted me towards something called a Precision Club(?) system.  He was also, to my eyes, extremely skilled at playing the cards.  After a time, this, with chess, was too much for me and so I pulled the plug on our bridge soirees.  Simon, true to his character, showed no concern at my decision.  It is extremely possible that he was secretly relieved at not having to continue to carry the burden of teaching a novice.  If so, he showed no sign of it.

I am also indebted to him for sharing his chess opening expertise with me.  Following explanations from Simon, I did at various times experiment with the Sveshnikov Sicilian – Simon insisting on calling it the Pelikan – the Grunfeld and the French Wing Gambit.  It soon became clear that Simon’s occasionally risky, tactical play was not consistent with my attempted cautious positional style.  I well remember him saying,

“The point about chess is that you are trying to have fun!”

Another Simon quote I remember is,

“People are passionate about all kinds of things throughout their lives.  With me it’s chess.”

Such was his passion for the game that some years ago he joined Tiverton Chess Club in order to strengthen the club’s team in Devon County team competitions.  At week-ends he would regularly play for Tiverton in the Bremridge (Div 1), Mamhead (Div 2) and the Rooke Cup.  On occasion he accepted my invitation to play in midweek Exeter & District League matches.  Every single game he played for Tiverton involved him in a 150 mile round trip from his home in Camelford.  For DCCA week-end home matches he would lunch with me and my partner, Yvonne, in Tiverton.  There were never any quiet moments during those lunches.  I came to believe that Simon possessed a restless mind; always thinking, always enquiring; always ready to discuss.  Yvonne tells me of how he was always able to answer her scientific queries and how he always replied to her enquiring emails accurately and concisely.

Shortly after the diagnosis of his condition, I stayed with him and Margaret overnight in Camelford and experienced the overwhelming attention of his Great Dane, Boris, and his Irish Wolf Hound, Maeve.  The contentment of Simon and Margaret, with their dogs and Margaret’s horses was clear.  He had often spoken to me of his joy in walking the dogs in the surrounding countryside.  Quite recently a fashion magazine had been shooting in the Camelford area and the photographer decided that he needed an Irish Wolf Hound to stand next to one of his wiry female models.  Enquiries led to Simon and Margaret’s door and I well remember the pleasure shown by Simon next time I saw him.  It wasn’t just the handsome fee that Maeve had earned for him.  He showed me the magazine, and the pride at having Maeve gracing the pages of an upmarket fashion mag. was clear to see.

On an earlier occasion he had found his dogs useful in a different way.  Noisy neighbours had moved in next door and repeated requests for the music to be turned down had had no effect.  A visit to the offenders with Boris and Maeve did the trick!

I have received many tributes to Simon from chess players across the West Country and beyond.  I end with one of them from Brendan O’Gorman, photographer for the ECF:

“Dreadful news but thanks for letting me know. I liked Simon. He had a sense of humour and, beyond the chess board, was smarter than your average chess player.

Clash of the Titans (11.02.2017.)

The current Devon Champions, Exmouth, hosted local rivals, Exeter, in a match on Saturday that would not only confer local bragging rights but probably determine who would win this year’s Devon club championship.

The omens were not good for the hosts, as Exeter were able to field their strongest team, probably one of the strongest sides seen for many a decade, while Exmouth were under par, conceding c. 16 points per board over Bds 3 – 6 – a big ask. However, the match proved to be a truly titanic struggle as each game came to an end.

First of all, Exeter’s captain, Graham Bolt, won the toss yet chose to give their opponents White on top board. That was the first to finish, when O’Neill came unstuck and resigned, and put Exmouth 1-0 up. Was Bolt’s tactic a wise one? Next, Chris Scott got a valuable draw against Jamie Morgan, playing his first game for Exeter. Then, Oliver Wensley generated enough pressure to cause his opponent to run out of time.

Thus Exmouth had 2.5 point after 3 games, and it seemed highly possible they would be able to get something from the other 3 games to squeeze at least a draw.  Then Dave Regis, who had 2 minor pieces for a rook, forced a win, while Bolt found himself in an ending with 2 bishops against 2 knights with a sprinkling of pawns on either side. The bishops found good long diagonals enabling his king to advance, keeping the black knights and king on their back rank, and a win was inevitable. 2.5 all, with former Scottish International, Paul Hampton, locking horns with Paulden, in what for the most part had been a blocked position. However, in seeking active play for his queen, he allowed Regis’ queen in to the centre. With just 2 minutes of extra time left on both clocks, there was a titanic struggle with both queens grabbing any pawn they could get hold of, preferably with check, and Paulden succeeded in this race.

So, with just seconds to go, Exeter took the lead for the first time in the match, and with it the match.

The details were:-

Bremridge Cup    Div. 1        11.02.2017
EXMOUTH Grd EXETER Grd
1 J. Underwood 187 1 0 P. A. O’Neill 185
2 S. Martin 185 0 1 G. Bolt 190
3 P. Hampton 166 0 1 T. J. Paulden 187
4 O. E. Wensley 168 1 0 C. Lowe 175
5 B. G. Gosling 159 0 1 D. Regis 175
6 C. J. Scott 152 ½ ½ J. Morgan 170
1,017 1,082