John Stephens of the Exmouth Club became Devon’s Individual Chess Champion when he beat Brian Hewson in their 2nd game on Saturday. The first game was drawn and in the next game Hewson had the white pieces and played his usual English Opening. Stephens was determined at the outset to play off the front foot and set up a series of small threats which eventually led to White voluntarily giving up all his queenside pawns in order to try and create pressure on the kingside. However, it was Black’s resulting queenside pawn majority that proved decisive and it became impossible for White to prevent queening.
John first learned the game at Withycombe Raleigh Primary School, where Deputy Head Tony Lake ran the team, and was soon representing his school in the Exmouth Primary Schools’ Chess League in the 1990s. He got extra challenges at the Exmouth Junior Club run by Fred Hodge. At Exeter School, he spent many lunchtimes playing quick games against Dave Beckwith, the Maths teacher who ran the school chess club.
After graduating at Imperial College, he returned to the Exmouth Club where he was soon challenging for the Club Championship, a title he has now won several times. This victory is his best chess achievement to date.
Last season, Club President, Mark Abbott , won the magnificent Winter-Wood Shield for the champion of Devon club champions (see below), and this success adds greatly to the Club’s recent achievements. It now behoves Oliver Wensley to win the Intermediate Section and Bob Jones to win the Minor to make it a hat-trick of wins for the same club – highly unlikely to happen, of course, but still theoretically possible.