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A Shaft of Light on DCCA’s Early History.

Out of the blue, this week, shone a shaft of light on the earliest history of the Devon County Chess Association. It came in the shape of an innocent enquiry from Howard Stead from York, who was sorting out his late father’s belongings when he came across a very nice, boxed Jaques chess set, and was curious as to its origins.

The box


The tell-tale label


As can be seen, the label gives away most of the story, but perhaps some context is required…

In the beginning, the Devon County Chess Association was founded on September 24th 1901, in a blaze of publicity and enthusiasm, in an effort to formalise and foster inter-club chess throughout the county. Its very first congress was a week-long affair held in Barnfield Hall, Exeter, starting on Monday April 21st. At this time the Association had 212 members belonging to 13 affiliated clubs. They make a strange-sounding list to our 21st century ears: Broadclyst, Dartmouth, Devonport YMCA, Exeter, Hatherleigh, Newton Abbot, Plymouth, Teignmouth, Tiverton YMCA, Torridge, Torquay, Totnes and Winkleigh.

The star attraction throughout the week was the American super-star, Harry Pillsbury, who put on a series of demonstrations of his mental powers; standard simultaneous displays, one match against 14 chessplayers and 5 draughts players, followed by demonstrations of “knights’ tours”.

There were two main sections for Devon players – the Championship Tourney and the Second Tourney. There were 16 entries in this lower section, namely, Miss Hunt and Miss M. Hunt (Barstaple); Miss Pigg (Exeter); Rev. G. P. Blomefield (Bickington); Major Rawlins (Bath); Major Sherwell (Honiton); A. Phillips (Appledore); J. Cottle Green (Exeter); Spencer Cox (Honiton); G. F. Pollard (Totnes); G. W. Cutler (Exeter); H. Taylor (Exeter); F. J. Backhouse (Taunton); L. Illingworth; H. E. Bell and W. H. Gundry (both Exeter).

As we can see, Pollard won the section, dropping only a point in the process, half a point ahead of Illingworth.

George Frederick Pollard was born in 1879 to Frederick (33) and Katherine (25) nee Haig, an Edinburgh Scot. At that time they lived at 1, Richmond Terrace, Everton, and George was christened at St. Saviour’s Church, Everton. His father had been born in Taunton and was listed as a physician. By 1881, the family had moved to 52, Rodney St, Liverpool. The 1901 Census records that the family had moved to 21, St. Nicholas Rd, Streathan in London where the father listed as a “medical practitioner”. But George was not with them as by this time he had qualified as a teacher, and had moved to a hostel attached to Totnes Grammar School, at 36 Fore Street. The housemaster was Charles Rea (37) and George Pollard was his assistant, looking after a collection of 14 & 15 year old boarders.

After this, he rather falls off the radar. There is no evidence that he ever married. There is a death of a George Frederick Pollard recorded in Rotherham in March in 1965 aged 84. It would be easy to conclude that this was our George, but there was another person with the same name and age, but that one was a coal miner and married with several children. I can’t tell which one this death refers to.

Mr. Stead didn’t know his father owned this set or how he came by it. There were both arm chair players, playing en famille but not belonging to any club. So how the set came to end up in York may remain a mystery for some time yet. More work necessary.

The Paignton – Doeberl Connection.

Gary Lane has  just sent this e-mail from Australia, where a chess colleague of his is, apparently, putting together a book to commemorate the 50th anniversary of their Doeberl Cup  (Now where have I heard that kind of thing before?!). It seems Gary brought the Paignton book to his attention

Hi Bob,

I thought you might be interested to know that you are proving to be an inspiration to a guy writing a book celebrating 50 years of the Doeberl Cup which is Australia’s leading weekend tournament.

Bill Egan writes:

“I got a copy of the Paignton book after you made me aware of it.

I found it very interesting. There are many parallels with the approach I have been using but also some significant differences.

I think these are probably warranted by the different nature of the two events; Paignton has not had the central significance in the English scene that the Doeberl has in Australia, and the book makes it clear that it is in some ways in decline, whereas the Doeberl has been growing in significance.

Robert Jones made his task a bit simpler by simply incorporating a lot of available archival material whereas I have complicated mine by starting from scratch, just using historical info as a base resource. My main problem at present is that I am going to have to trim back quite severely to keep the book to a reasonable (and affordable) size. 

One obvious parallel is the use of profiles of leading players.”

For those less familiar with the Ozzie chess scene, the Doeberl Cup event runs over every Easter weekend in Australia’s federal capital of Canberra. It was originally funded by the architect, Erich Doeberl, who may have been involved in the construction from scratch of the city from its founding in the early 1900s. Like the Paignton Congress, it has grown in popularity, but the Doeberl has also grown in national significance, as it often attracts more entries than the Australian Championships, whereas Paignton’s original kudos of 1951 started to decline as the number of other events mushroomed in the wake of the British chess explosion of the 1970s.

There are connections between the two as several players have played in both events. The Doeberl’s original winner in 1963, John Purdey, son of the venerable Cecil, played at Paignton in 1955, where he came equal last.  Max Fuller came 2nd= behind Ray Keene at Paignton in 1969 and went on to win the Doeberl in 1974, ‘75 & ‘83. More recently, Gawain Jones has played in both events.

Anyway, the potentially inspirational Paignton book is still available to any would-be chess history recorders. Available from all good chess book sellers. Failing that, contact me via e-mail ( £15.99 post free.




















Denys P. Bonner (1919 – 2010)

Denys Pepperell Bonner. 

(29.09.1919   –   03.10.2009)

Working on his postal game.


Denys Bonner was most active in the post-war years, first in his home town club of Exmouth, and after his move in 1954 to Yeovil, in his adopted county of Somerset. He operated at a high level in four areas of active play, correspondence chess and both composing and solving chess problems. 

He came from two long-standing Sidmouth families. His father, Ernest Bonner, was a bank manager, firstly with the South West and London Bank and later the Westminster Bank. While working in the Sidmouth Branch of the S. W. & London Bank between 1908 – 1918, he met and married Emma Pepperell, whose father James ran a dairy business in Sidmouth Market Place which involved Emma and her sister. The Pepperells could trace their family back through Sir William Pepperell, a 17th century English settler in the New England state of Maine, though Sir William’s descendents, as loyalists,  fled back to England on the eve of the American War of Independence  in 1777.  This line can be traced right back to the Norman Conquest. 

Their first child was Kenneth Harding Bonner, but with Emma pregnant with twins, Ernest joined the Westminster Bank and was created Manager in Wandsworth, London, where Denys and his twin sister Muriel (known as Mimi within the family), were born in 1919.  About 1930, Ernest gave up his job with the bank and moved to Exmouth, where he took on the Moriglen Private Hotel in Salterton Road (below). 

The Moriglen Hotel, Exmouth, now demolished.


Denys attended a small private school, St. Martin’s in Sidmouth, and probably had much contact with his maternal grandparents, the Pepperells. On leaving school, he followed his father’s footsteps and joined the Westminster Bank. His first post was in Crowborough, Sussex, before moving to the Paignton branch. 

The teenage Bonner at the Moriglen, Salterton Road.

At the outbreak of war, brother Kenneth joined the RAF and was later killed in action. Denys himself was later called up but within weeks of leaving home developed pneumonia, was released and returned to Exmouth. After the War, Mimi became a GI bride and emigrated to the U.S. where she lived for the rest of her long life. 

In 1943 he moved from Paignton to Exmouth. It is not clear how he spent his leisure time during the decade 1933–43, but on September 18th 1943, he got his first mention in the Exmouth Chess Club’s records by attending the A.G.M. where he was immediately elected Secretary and Treasurer, on the recent death of M. Tucker, who had filled both posts since the club’s resurrection in 1929. His position at the bank would have qualified him as Treasurer, but quite how a newcomer, as he appears to have been, could be elected to two such key posts in a matter of days is unclear. There is no evidence of any chess activity on his part before his move back to Exmouth; his first problems were published from 1943 onwards, but he may have been a member of the Paignton Club during his time there. 

In February 1946 he married Betty McDonald, an expert tennis player who had won trophies at Junior Wimbledon and was equally good at Table Tennis. Denys himself was good enough at table tennis to be a Division 1 player in the local league, but Betty was better than him, eventually becoming English Ladies Over-60s Champion. They lived first in a flat in Rolle Street, Exmouth before moving to the leafy Avenues district of the town, 58, Douglas Avenue, where two daughters were born, Daphne and Penny. 

During this period in Exmouth his involvement in the world of problems increased dramatically. He subscribed to B. H. Wood’s young magazine Chess (founded 1935) and in the June 1944 issue had his first 2-mover published, even though it was incorrect. It was one of a set of six positions by different composers, and the Problem Page editor, C. S. Kipping, adds the question – “Do you see anything wrong in one of these?” It was Bonner’s that was wrong, and the errors were pointed out in a subsequent issue. Quite why Kipping published an incorrect position, instead of starting a dialogue with Bonner and putting it right before publication, is not clear. Perhaps he detected the potential talent. No more problems appeared until after his marriage to Betty, when he had positions published in August and September 1946.

In addition to the composing, he was also heavily involved in solving. In Chess, Kipping published a page of problems each month in a Ladder Competition. Interested readers were invited to send in their solutions each month and points were awarded. A list of the top 150 or so was published periodically, and at the end of the year prizes were awarded on the basis of the most points gained during the previous 12 months. In March 1943 Bonner was Runner-Up, repeating the achievement in 1946 and 1947. Then in 1948 he achieved what must have been his ambition of becoming “Champion Solver”, ahead of such luminaries as Denis Mardle and Geoff Berryman. He repeated this the following year, when Kipping was moved to observe…”Mr. Bonner is to be warmly congratulated in securing the maximum points and thus winning the Championship for the second year in succession. He had hardly done any solving until he entered our lists in 1944…. Our Champion is 29 and has other activities in the way of bridge and table tennis. He has published about 16 problems and Mrs. Bonner has published two.”  

Betty’s first problem had appeared in March 1947 together with one of Denys’s own – a possible contender for a small bit of chess history – husband and wife publishing problems on the same day. It is thought that it was unlikely to be a fix – though she never took up the game seriously, the family think that she knew enough to be able to compose a problem or two, with Denys on hand to check its soundness. 

Chess at this time also ran tournaments for postal chess, both for teams and individuals. The records are patchy at best and difficult to plough through, but their June 1945 issue records, in an individual knockout event, Bonner beating Dr. Maurice Jago, who was Cornwall’s top postal player for many years, capable of beating anyone, and also a noted problemist. This gives some indication of the level he was playing at. 

The Exmouth Club’s minutes from the early post-war years seem to be obsessed with the matter of premises and make no mention of internal tournament winners, but Bonner was probably the strongest player until the arrival around 1950 of G. T. Womack, who retired to the town and was an experienced and even stronger player. This marked the start of a minor golden period for Exmouth. Firstly, they won the Mamhead Cup that year (Devon’s Division 2 tournament), repeating the feat in 1951, 1952 and 1954. 

Mamhead Cup   DCCA  Div 2    1950

    P W D L Pts
1 Exmouth 5 4 1 0 9
2 Plymouth 5 4 0 1 8
3 Exeter 5 3 1 1 7
4 Torquay 5 2 0 3 4
5 Tavistock 5 1 0 4 2
6 Teignmouth 5 0 0 5 0

 The challenges within the Exmouth Club may not have been enough for him, as he joined Exeter as well and won their championship in the 1952-53 and 1953-54 seasons. To put the achievement into some sort of perspective, the winners of that competition before and after that 2 year period were D. J. P. Gray and F. E. A. Kitto respectively, who both represented England around that time. 

At the Exmouth AGM on 26th September 1953, a new venture, the creation of an Exeter & District Chess League was flagged up, and Denys Bonner was deputed to attend an exploratory meeting at the Exeter Club three days hence, to assess the interest. He was an obvious choice as he was a member of both clubs. 

At this meeting, Bonner was joined by Ted Hesse (Civil Service), Denys Gray, (a pupil at Exeter School and later to become Sir Denys) and G. R. Cottew, T. J. Maddick and S. P. Gibbons of the home club. It was clear that the will was there, so the plan was put into action and a set of rules agreed. Cottew, formerly a member of the Exmouth Club before transferring to Exeter, and clearly the driving force behind this move, was elected League President and donated a cup, the Cottew Cup. 

Two weeks later, Bonner reported to a Committee Meeting of the Exmouth Club. The rules were read out and discussed, and the five members present voted unanimously to join in. Womack was elected as Match Captain for the League Team, as Denys Bonner was due to move to Somerset before the end of the year. 

In the event, the League’s first season comprised six clubs, namely Exeter, St. Luke’s Teacher Training College, St. Loyes College for the Disabled, Exeter School, Exeter University College and the Civil Service. Exmouth had no trouble in winning the League in its first season and becoming inaugural winners of the Cottew Cup. Unfortunately for Exmouth, Bonner moved to the Yeovil branch of his bank and Womack died suddenly at the end of the season. This knocked the stuffing out of Exmouth’s 1st team, and they won no more major cups in any competition for almost 20 years. 

He moved to Somerset, where he rose within the ranks of the Westminter Bank, transferring at intervals between their branches at Yeovil (Chief Clerk), Glastonbury (Deputy Manager), Warminster (Manager) and back to Glastonbury as Manager. 

He seemed to go from strength to strength, and played a major part in Somerset county chess in a way that he had never done on the wider Devon scene. His record of county championships over a 20 year period was second to none. 

  Somerset  Individual Championship
  Champion Joint winners  
1958 D. P. Bonner    
1959 D. P. Bonner    
1961 D. P. Bonner    
1962 D. P. Bonner R. H. Northage  
1963 D. P. Bonner R. H. Northage  
1964 D. P. Bonner R. H. Northage Rev. P. R. Kings
1966 D. P. Bonner    
1968 D. P. Bonner R. H. Northage  
1970 D. P. Bonner    
1971 D. P. Bonner    
1972 D. P. Bonner    
1973 D. P. Bonner    
1974 D. P. Bonner    
1975 D. P. Bonner    

 He was first a member of the Yeovil Club, but after leaving there joined Wells. It wasn’t long before he had established himself as Somerset’s most versatile chessplayer. By the end of the decade he had won the county championship twice and was Somerset’s No. 1 postal player. 

His problem solving and composing continued apace, becoming Chess magazine’s Solving Champion in 1957, 1958 and 1959 after which Wood stopped the competition, or Bonner would have had more successes. Instead he won the Championship of the British Chess Problem Society in 1960 and jointly in 1962. 

In 1968 he took over as Somerset team captain for a few seasons and by 1972 had become a Vice President of the county. 

Bonner in his prime.


In October 1971 Peter Clarke and his committee of six, called The Hexagon, organised the 1st Barnstaple Open, a 5 round weekend congress, a relatively new venture in its time, which attracted 70 players including Bonner. Not a large entry in number, but as regards quality, Bonner at a grade of 180 had 21 players above him. He finished with a 50% score, level with, among others, P. C. Griffiths (205) and B. H. Wood (199). It appears that the only OTB game of his that survives from his entire career is his 1st round game against committee member P. A. Jones which appeared in the congress booklet. It was a quick draw against an opponent 50 points lower-graded, played on the Friday evening after a tiring week at the bank. He probably decided that the weekend congress scene, although rapidly increasing in popularity at this time, did not fit in with his many other interests and family commitments. 

His daughters Daphne and Penny, for example, had inherited all his interests and talents. Daphne was an outstanding academic, ultimately gaining an honours degree in Maths from Cambridge and a PhD from Aberdeen. She was no blue-stocking, however, playing bridge, table tennis and chess, just like her father. Aged 16, she was the youngest player at that time ever to play Table Tennis for Somerset. But her sister, 3 years younger, soon overtook her, becoming champion of both Somerset and Wiltshire and having trials for England while still in her mid-teens. She later became British Ladies Over-40s Champion. They both played chess, too, but in this it was Daphne who was the better, twice winning the Somerset U-18 Ladies’ Championship.

Penny's wedding

 The talents continued down through the generations as the grandchildren continued the chess and table tennis tradition, with Grandad Denys helping with the coaching whenever the opportunity arose. Penny’s own son, Alex Perry, twice became National Table Tennis Champion and has 3 Commonwealth Games Gold Medals. Her daughter Lucy played for Wales in the 2006 World Championships and other son Simon won medals at the British Universities Table Tennis Championships. Daphne’s sons, Mark and Luke Russell both play, winning junior chess championships wherever they happened to be living, in Newcastle and Aberdeen, Luke becoming British U-12 Champion in 1990 at Eastbourne. 

Denys retired as Manager of the Glastonbury Nat West bank in 1979 at the age of 60. In retirement, in addition to his ongoing activities in chess, bridge and table-tennis, he converted the large wooden shed at the back of his house in Street where he had a table tennis table permanently set up, into a cattery where he and Betty cared for up to 15 stray animals at a time. He also involved himself in his passions for disarmament and the future of the railways by writing letters to local and national newspapers and his MP, all those published being meticulously pasted into a cuttings book.

 As regards chess, he gave up active play and concentrated on problems. In February 1986 he was one of only 13 contestants in the British Problem Solving Championship, held at the Grosvenor Hotel, London. By then approaching 70 yrs he didn’t stand much chance against the likes of Peter Clarke and double GM-in-waiting, Jonathan Mestel, but the experience was memorable (see below).

Bonner with Barden

Back in 1972 he had made the acquaintance of a monk at Downside Abbey School, Dom Cyprian Stockford, having played each other when the Wells Club met Downside in the Somerset League. Although they only very rarely met in person after that, they kept in touch by letter as they explored new ideas in problems, gradually extending into the more esoteric fields of Fairy Chess, in which new pieces with different powers are added to the usual armoury, and Patrol and Orphan Chess. The latter was only devised in 1971 in which an “orphan” is an unidentified piece, powerless and immobile until such time as it is attacked, whereupon it assumes the characteristics of the attacker. In Patrol Chess, devised in 1975, a piece can only capture or give check if it is protected by one of its own side.  By involving himself in these kinds of complex problems at this early stage, Denys really was pushing back the boundaries of the game itself. 

Dom Cyprian recalls Bonner’s “generosity to lesser mortals”, always appreciating and encouraging any fledgling talent whenever and wherever he came across it. They often submitted Fairy problems under both names, but Cyprian happily concedes the original ideas were generally Bonner’s. 

In 1993 the couple moved to Summerway in Whipton, Exeter to be near their daughter, Penny. Denys became involved in local politics, campaigning on behalf of the local Lib. Dem. candidate, Dr. Jonathan Underwood, another excellent chessplayer. 

In 2003, when the Exeter & District League was celebrating its 50th Anniversary, I visited him as part of some research I was doing on the history of the League. I had never met him before but knew that he’d started his chess career in Exmouth, and was keen to record his memories. Game as ever, he expressed a willingness to re-join the Exmouth Club and felt the train journey and walk in the dark at each end would be no problem, but then in his mid-80s it was more than anyone could expect of him, and it never materialised.

Betty died in 2001, but Denys stayed on in the house until he became too ill to care for himself. He died just days after his 90th birthday, which he had celebrated with all his family around him. 

By involving himself in four different aspects of the game, not even to mention his many other interests, it might be said that his talent was spread a little too thinly, and he might have achieved an even higher level if he had concentrated on just one aspect. Yet by limiting himself in any way, he would probably have lost more than he gained. No one can balance that particular equation. 

He was true chess pioneer in, first of all, leading Exmouth to early successes, and late in life working at the very frontiers of chess problem composition. 

R. H. Jones. 


Testimony of Daphne Russell & Penny Mann (daughters) and Dom Cyprian Stockford. 

Chess magazines. 

BCF Yearbooks. 

Pritchard, D. P:           Encyclopaedia of Chess Variants      Games & Puzzles Publications 1994. 

Hooper, D & Whyld K: Oxford Companion to Chess 2nd ed.                      OUP       1992  

Copyright © R. H. Jones 2010  All rights reserved.

Review Copies Sent Out

Some review copies of the Paignton Congress book were sent out yesterday.

Ray Keene was first to respond, saying he would give it a plug in the Times at some point – probably nearer the event.

John Saunders was next, but with a full review on his blog, in which our respective wives, Jennifer Jones and Elaine Saunders, get their own mentions. Go to his Blog  ( )or read it below:-

John discussed the project with me at Torquay at last year’s British Championship when he came down, and warned me about the temptations and dangers of letting such a project mushroom almost out of control, as one tends to shove in more and more material. Consequently, I’ve been aware of trying to maintain that balance between including interesting material without getting it overloaded.

John Saunders’ Chess Blog

John Saunders

Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey, United Kingdom

Chess editor, writer, photo-journalist, webmaster

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Book Review: ‘Sixty Years in the Same Room’

‘Sixty Years in the Same Room‘ by Robert H Jones (Keverel Chess Books, 2010)
The sub-title of this book perhaps gives a better clue to its contents: “a history of the Paignton Chess Congress“. The title refers to the fact that this much-loved congress has been played annually since 1951 in the very same room of the prestigious Oldway Mansion in Paignton. It started life in 1951 as a celebration of the Devon County Chess Association’s 50th year of existence and it is now coming up to its own 60th instalment in the same room of the same building (of course), running from Saturday 5th to Saturday 11th September 2010.

Chess in the West Country is very lucky to have its own dedicated historian, Bob Jones, who for many years has lovingly memorialised the game in this part of England in newspaper articles, books and on the web (e.g. here and here). In this book he has collated the history of the congress from coverage given in CHESS, BCM and other sources, with photos of some of the contestants, summaries of each year’s tournaments, pen pictures of eminent players and sixty memorable games (where have I heard that phrase before?! No, Bobby Fischer didn’t play there but one famous world champion did come to Paignton and suffered defeat in the very first round ever played in the congress. The book tells all). There is even a section on the history of the Oldway Mansion, which started life as the home of the celebrated US plutocrat Isaac Singer, and the author even touches on this remarkable gentleman’s decidedly colourful love-life (in the best possible taste, of course).

The book is effectively a nostalgic look-back at British chess throughout the past sixty years, since nearly everyone who is anyone in the British chess world has put in an appearance there at some point in their career. The Paignton Congress is a fixed point in the much-changing universe of British chess, perhaps even more so than the more venerable Hastings Congress (with its changed formats and venues). It is quaint but delightfully so and its supporters come back year after year, and decade after decade. Not just amateurs, either – Keith Arkell is its most loyal supporter amongst the chess elite, also local boy made Australian(!) Gary Lane, and there are plenty of other titled players who have played there. It is cunningly held just after the school term begins in September but that did not stop a very young Mickey Adams putting in a crafty appearance or two when he was ‘nobbut a lad’ (skiving off school to play chess? You could already tell he was going to be a top-class player). And Mickey is there again in 2010, giving a simul on 7 September 2010, according to the entry form. Mickey is of course a born and bred West Country man and it is a matter of enormous and well-deserved pride in those parts to have produced arguably the finest chessplayer ever to have come from these islands.

This is clearly a well-researched labour of love by Bob Jones and it will be a delightful read for those who have ever played at Paignton, or are well-stricken in years and enjoy a good helping of chess nostalgia. One very nice touch was his dedication: “to chess widows everywhere and my wife Jennifer, in particular”. I showed this to my own “chess widow” and reminded her that, 15 years ago, she had declared the Paignton Congress to be the best one she had ever been to. She still stands by this verdict, on the grounds that it allowed us to do some tourism in the morning, in a particularly lovely part of Devon, then she could take a time-out in the afternoon while I played my chess and finally we could rendezvous in the evening for dinner. I have to say that Elaine’s criticism of certain other congresses (which better remain nameless) has been withering in the extreme – so, for her to utter words of approbation about Paignton should be taken as the very highest recommendation possible.

I’m guessing that this book will be available from The Chess Shop in Baker Street any day now (my review copy was hot off the press) or from Bob himself. 157 pages softback, plenty of photos, £15.99.

Paignton Books Delivered.

Back home after two weeks in the frozen North (Leeds – well, the first week was like winter; the 2nd was warm and humid) – and the books on the Paignton Congress, the final proofs of which were sent to the printers 2 days before I left, were delivered this evening, right on cue. Timings could not have been better.

First impressions are that it looks good, and the contents have the kind of varied, interest-provoking look I was after. Lots of charts, tables, photographs, games with diagrams etc.

It remains to be seen what the public reception is like.

Every entrant at this year’s event (5th – 11th Sept.) will get a free copy. Extra copies will be available to other customers after Monday 6th September 2010.

The book cover

A Brief History

Exmouth Chess Club

A Brief History of Chess In Exmouth.

by R. H. Jones.

(Updated 01.12.09)

The first mention of a chess club in Exmouth can be found in the 1st edition of the Year-Book of Chess 1907, where it appears below the four clubs in Exeter. However, no details are given, and it doesn’t appear again in subsequent lists, so its very existence at this time must be in some doubt.

It would, however, be strange if Exmouth, one of Devon’s larger towns, did not have a club at a time when even small villages supported one. After all, if places like Winkleigh could support a club, why not Exmouth. It may have been that its proximity to Exeter, whose club at the Barnfield building was open 12 hours a day, every day, was a demotivating factor.

At the 1947 AGM the Secretary made the following interesting observation in his report: “I am sorry to record that we are loosing (sic) one of our oldest members in Mrs. Carter, who joined the club during the 1st World War”…. This is the earliest direct reference I can find to a club existing in Exmouth in the early years of the 20th century.

In 1922 an Exmouth Club affiliated with the Devon County Chess Association, its premises being the Y.M.C.A. in Victoria Road, meetings on Wednesdays between 6 and 10 p.m. The secretary was W. Thompson Godfrey of 4, Johnson’s Place, Exmouth. They entered the Moyle Cup, the lower of Devon’s two divisions, then run on a knock-out basis and won it at their first attempt. The only record is Exmouth’s name on the trophy.

The D.C.C.A.’s annual report in 1924 noted that the club had moved to the Book Club in Rolle Street. Mr. Godfrey’s address was given as the Midland Bank Chambers, Exmouth. It had 10 members, namely Messrs F. Crane, H. C. Huggins, A. E. Jupe, E. Llewellyn, H. Price, H. St. A. Sims, H. Taylor, F & M. Tucker.

Their membership of 10 was small compared with those of other clubs that year: e.g. Bideford (13); Dawlish (12); Paignton (14); Tavistock (18) and Totnes (17).

In the 1923-24 season Exmouth defended the Moyle Cup, but lost to Teignmouth & Shaldon 4½ – 1½, its significance being that it was Exmouth’s first recorded match result. The following season Exmouth entered again, this time losing to Newton Abbot 5 – 1 in a preliminary round. It was no great disgrace as Newton Abbot went on to beat Teignmouth & Shaldon in the Final, also by 5 – 1.

Exmouth then disappears off the chess radar until February 1929 when the present club was formed. J. Mackenzie took the initiative in convening an initial meeting on 11th February at which it was decided to call the club “The Exmouth Chess Club” and the rental of £9 for the rest of the year at the Church Institute was agreed. The moment must have been propitious as 20 members paid up their 52p annual subscription in just a few weeks. These included several of the earlier club, Messrs Godfrey, Llewellyn, Taylor and the Tuckers.

The 1st AGM was held in October 1929 at which the Secretary, M. Tucker, read out his report, as follows:

Mr. Chairman, Ladies & Gentlemen,

The Exmouth Chess Club, after a lapse of some years, was re-formed early in the year through the initiative of Mr. J. Mackenzie to whom the thanks of the members are due and have been accorded.

A few people who promised to join backed out, but we have a total membership of 20, which though quite a good start is not quite enough to place us in a sound financial position, and all members are asked to give the names of any chess players to the Secretary that he may write to them to join the Club.

The attendance on the Tuesday afternoon meeting was quite satisfactory and thanks are due to those ladies who arranged for the teas which is much appreciated.

On Friday evenings the attendance was chiefly remarkable by its absence.

From this one can infer that it was a club for the retired or well-to-do rather than working-class folk.

They affiliated to the Devon County Chess Association, and entered the Moyle Cup for the 1929–30 season. They reached the final eventually losing to Plymouth, and exactly the same thing happened the following season.

In 1934, the DCCA President, Robert Newman, Lord Mamhead, donated a new cup for Devon clubs for middle-ranking teams, in between the Bremridge and Moyle Cup competitions. Exmouth entered and were the first winners, repeating the feat in 1936 and again in 1938.

Throughout the autumn of 1935, Sir George Thomas, British Champion the previous year, was raising funds to help finance the great International Tournament in Nottingham in 1936. To this end he toured Devon giving three simultaneous displays. On 3rd December he visited Exeter and played 21 local people in the Barnfield Hall. Of these, 8 came from the Exmouth Club, namely Revd. Glynn Grylls, Revd. C. W. Light, F. H. Light (Club Match Captain), Capt. Mackenzie (Club Vice President), A. D. Murray, L. S. Shadbolt (Club President), M. Tucker and A. C. White. All lost.

By the 1937 AGM the club had moved in successive seasons from the Church Institute to the Blue Café to the Byron Hotel to Moreton Crescent. Confidence was slowly growing as there was a proposal that the Club should again enter Devon’s Division 2, the Mamhead Cup, with an amendment that they should enter Devon’s top league, the Bremridge Cup. However, more cautious spirits among the membership prevailed and both proposal and amendment were defeated. So for some unexplained reason the club voted not to enter the Mamhead Cup in 1937, of which they were the only holders and would win again the following year. Similar caution determined that they should not invite Znosko-Borovsky to give a simultaneous match in the club after his visit to Exeter.

Koltanowski in 1925, aged 22


The Belgian Champion, George Koltanowski, (1903 – 2000) had met and befriended A. R. B. Thomas, teacher at Blundell’s School, Tiverton, when they both played in the 1st Margate Congress in 1935. Koltanowski came to stay with Thomas several times including a week in November 1937. Earlier that year Koltanowski had set a new world record of playing 34 opponents simultaneously blindfold, winning 24 and drawing 10. The Secretary had written to Koltanowski about visiting the Exmouth Club but had not received a reply. They persisted with the invitation and eventually he did come to Exmouth on November 22nd 1937, as part of a tour of the Westcountry, that included Teignmouth, Plymouth, Liskeard and Bristol.

The match was held at the YMCA in Victoria Road. In the afternoon the Belgian played two games simultaneously, one against Harold Mallison, lecturer in Maths at Exeter University College, Devon’s strongest player at the time and another against a team of club members who were allowed to discuss their moves. In the evening he played a full simultaneous match against all club members, winning 14 and drawing 2, with no losses. In spite of Mallison’s meticulous recording of his games, no trace of this particular game can be found among his many scorebooks.

With the outbreak of war, there was clearly much debate at all levels about how the chess world should respond to the unusual circumstances. Was it proper, for example, to be playing at warfare, while others are engaged in the real thing. Also, there was the question of the personal safety of players crossing the county to play matches at a time when Exeter and Plymouth city centres were being bombed flat. At their 1940 A.G.M. the following resolution was passed: “That the Secretary write to (Devon Secretary), Mr. Pitt-Fox, to say ‘That the Exmouth Chess Club, while willing to fall in with any decision of the D.C.C.A. am of the opinion that the time is not suitable for chess on the county scale’”. In accordance with wishes, DCCA suspended inter-club competitions for the duration of the war, although the club continued throughout the war years. No club members were reported killed during Exmouth’s own bombing raids.

Normal services were resumed after the war and members voted to enter the Mamhead Cup again for the1945 – 46 season. The new premises were at the Seagull Hotel.

Ever since 1929 the minutes tell a story of continued concern about the need to get more members, whether through personal contact or adverts in the local press. There had consistently been over 20 members, but this was not deemed sufficient for the club’s financial well-being. The names of members listed in 1945 tells its own story. They were: Mrs. Adams; Miss Carlyon; Miss Beard; Miss Barclay; Miss Follett; Miss Harding; Mrs. Horne; the Rev. Addinbrook; the Rev. Bull; P. Wood; Lt. Col. Beadon (President); Col. Campbell; A. A. Branson; J. H. B. Foss; James Guild (Secretary); F. J. Eckroyd; Denis P. Bonner; H. Taylor (Auditor); George Cottew; Dr. McDonagh; Dr. Geidt; F. H. Light. Mr. O’Farrell.

It sounds like a collection of mainly the military, clergy and elderly spinsters, though this is probably not doing them justice. The general level of play among them is illustrated by two comments in the minute book at this time.

Firstly, at the 1947 A.G.M. the Secretary noted that Mr. J. H. B. Foss had played for Devon against Gloucestershire, one member playing in one match for Devon being a fact worthy of recording for posterity. Secondly, a little later we read the following “The President then referred to a very important rule in the game of chess which he noticed was being frequently ignored, that is that is a piece is touched by a player, then that piece must be played. The underlining was by the secretary.

Having said that, there was one bright star among this constellation – that of Denys Bonner. He had moved to Exmouth aged 13 when his parents took over the Moriglen Private Hotel on the Salterton Road. On leaving school he joined the Westminster Bank in Exmouth. Eventually, he became Manager of the Westminster Bank in Glastonbury, Somerset, and he won the Somerset Individual Championship so many times they gave him the trophy to keep, and he donated a replacement. (see Bonner’s biography on this site for more details of his chess life).

1950 marked the start of a minor golden period for Exmouth. Firstly, they won the Mamhead Cup that year and in 1951, 1952 and 1954.

Mamhead Cup   DCCA Div 2    1950

    P W D L Pts
1 Exmouth 5 4 1 0 9
2 Plymouth 5 4 0 1 8
3 Exeter 5 3 1 1 7
4 Torquay 5 2 0 3 4
5 Tavistock 5 1 0 4 2
6 Teignmouth 5 0 0 5 0

The team members were J. H. B. Foss; Rev. Addinbrook; D. P. Bonner; A. A. Branson & Col. Campbell. The Club paid half of the players’ travelling expenses to away matches.

At their AGM  on 26th September 1953, a new venture, the creation of an Exeter & District Chess League was flagged up, and Denys Bonner was deputed to attend an exploratory meeting at the Exeter Club three days hence, to assess the interest.

At this meeting, Bonner was joined by Ted Hesse (Civil Service), Denys Gray, (a pupil at Exeter School and later to become Sir Denys) and G. R. Cottew, T. J. Maddick and S. P. Gibbons of the home club. It was clear that the will was there, so the plan was put into action and a set of rules agreed. Cottew, formerly a member of the Exmouth Club before transferring to Exeter, and clearly the driving force behind this move, was elected League President and donated a cup, the Cottew Cup.

Two weeks later, Bonner reported to a Committee Meeting of the Exmouth Club. The rules were read out and discussed, and the five members present voted unanimously to join in.


Above:   Bonner in 2003, aged 85, working on one of his problem compositions at home in Exeter.

Below: Bonner in his prime working on his postal game.


A new member, a strong player called G. T. Womack, was elected as Match Captain for the League Team, as Denys Bonner was due to move to Somerset before the end of the year. It was clear that the League, as originally conceived was intended for players who were of about Devon’s 2nd or 3rd Divisions. For example, in the first season, Exeter’s team was listed as Exeter Moyle, and later as Exeter “C”, that is, equivalent to Devon’s 3rd division.

In the event, the League’s first season comprised six clubs, namely Exeter, St. Luke’s Teacher Training College, St. Loyes College, Exeter School, Exeter University College and the Civil Service. Exmouth had no trouble in winning the League in its first season and becoming inaugural winners of the Cottew Cup. Unfortunately, Bonner moved to the Yeovil branch of his bank and Womack died suddenly at the end of the season. This knocked the stuffing out of Exmouth’s 1st team, and they won no more major cups for almost 20 years.

In 1955, the club moved from the Seagull Hotel to the rather grander Imperial Hotel, where they stayed until it burned down.

In 1959, Lt. Col. Beadon, who had been President for 22 years, died. 1960 saw the arrival of V. G. Tempest, a strong player from Sidmouth, who within a few years had done every job in the club. In the summer of 1969, however, he died following a stroke, and Guy Sparke raised a subscription to pay for a new trophy in his memory. This became the Club Championship trophy.  In the 1964-65 season no matches were played at all “owing to lack of membership”. The Club’s profile was again at a low ebb.

By the late 60’s however, some fresh blood arrived. Local lad Fred Hodge joined, and Guy Sparke and his son Philip returned from farming in Kenya. R. H. Jones from Budleigh was also a talent, (not to be confused with the other R. H. Jones who moved to Exmouth from Teignmouth in 1971 – that often led to confusion). 1970 saw the arrival of several players who were to prove significant in the club’s fortunes. Retired civil servant with Thames Water, Ken Schofield, graded c. 180; a local teenager Stuart Landon, who was to achieve 150+ grading, and a young student at nearby Rolle College, Steve Boniface (c.150).

The new players were instrumental in creating a more informal ambience within the club. From the Club’s start members had always addressed each other by their surnames or other honorifics. So a typical conversation might go thus: “Good evening, Mr. Hodge”. “ ‘ Evening, Major. I’d give you a game but I‘m due to play the Colonel tonight”. Then, a small Management Committee meeting in 1971 changed all that when new member Ken Schofield went a step too far, dropped the “Mr” and addressed his colleague simply as “Hodge”. Fred bridled at this and retorted “Hang on a minute – call me Fred, Mr. Hodge or Sir, or don’t talk to me at all”. Guy Sparke calmed the situation by suggesting that, in future, members call each other by their first name, which is how it’s been ever since.

This new generation was much keener to play in tournaments outside the club, and it certainly showed in results. In 1971 Exmouth entered two teams in the Exeter & District League for the first time. Ken Schofield entered the Devon Individual Championship, losing only to Peter Clarke, while Fred Hodge won not only the DCCA Minor Championship but also the Exeter & Dist. Individual Champion jointly with David Tout.

The only downside during that season was the death of a member, Norman Calvert, in the middle of Exmouth’s home match against Exeter University A. Earlier in the evening Calvert had approached the team Captain, Fred Hodge, saying he was feeling unwell and asked whether someone could take his place, but no one was available. As the match progressed, Exmouth had got the upper hand in most games and seemed on the verge of victory over their much stronger opponents, but suddenly Calvert slumped over the board scattering pieces everywhere. Fred Hodge gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but in vain. The hotel Manageress was very helpful in calling the emergency services. The match was re-scheduled, but Exmouth lost.

The upward trend was continued during the 1971-72 season, when for the first time in almost 20 years Exmouth entered the Mamhead Cup, and rediscovered their happy knack of winning it, beating the North Devon champions, Barnstaple, in the Final by 3½-2½. (see chart below).

A celebratory photograph was taken in the clubhouse of the Budleigh Salterton Croquet & Lawn Tennis Club. (see below).

  Mamhead Cup Grd     Date: 24.06.72
  Exmouth I       Barnstaple II
1 K. S. Schofield 171 ½ ½ W. J. Welch
2 E. G. Sparke 146 1 0 P. A. Jones
3 S. R. Boniface 161 1 0 J. Parker
4 R. H. Jones 135 0 1 E. H. Jones
5 S. Landon 120 ½ ½ R. H. Stacey
6 F. R. Hodge 116 ½ ½ F. V. Pye

In addition, Guy Sparke played in all six of Devon’s county matches, winning every game. In fact, a car full of Exmouth players played in all county matches at this time. Ken Schofield won through to the final of the Devon individual championship, losing to A. R. B. Thomas.


Exmouth’s pool of players in the Mamhead Cup 1971 – 72

Taken at the Budleigh Salterton Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club.

Seated (l – r): Tom Grozier; Fred Hodge. Back row: Bernard Landon; Steve Boniface; Guy Sparke; Ken Schofield; Stuart Landon; Bob Jones.

Disaster struck later in November 1972 when their venue of 17 years, the Imperial Hotel, was gutted by a fire that killed 5 people and the Manageress’s cat, one of the five being the Manageress herself who had re-entered the burning building to rescue her cat. At the next Management Committee meeting, the Secretary, Bernard Landon, recorded that “Mr. Sparke was instructed to make an immediate claim against the Club’s insurers for the full sum as it was felt that, in view of the extensive damage to the Hotel, it was extremely unlikely that anything would be salvaged”. At the next meeting it was reported that the insurers had settled the claim in full to the tune of £10.50. However, a basic rule of physics had been overlooked – i.e. that heat rises, and that as the clubroom had been situated in the Hotel’s games room below ground level, the club’s equipment was recovered more or less intact.

The more pressing problem was that of finding a new venue. Steve Boniface was very helpful in getting a move to Rolle College, where he was a student and where the Club remained for the next 36 years.

The Fischer-Spassky match of 1972 raised the game’s profile to unprecedented levels and Exmouth rode the wave, with a number of developments, making the 1970s a new Golden Age for Exmouth Chess. On the strength of the public interest, especially among juniors, Bob Jones started the Exmouth & District Primary Schools Chess League, which he ran until his retirement 25 years later. In May 1975, Bernard Landon and Steve Boniface joined with Jones to hold a one day congress open to the pupils of the 16 primary schools in Exmouth and district. This was first held in Rolle College on Saturday 24th May 1975. It was successful and continued for the next 22 years. It was the first congress that Boniface had organised, and from here he went on to become one of Britain’s top arbiters, eventually receiving his badge as FIDE Arbiter at an event in Exmouth, just yards from where he started his arbiting career.

About this time, Steve Boniface and Bernard Landon started a Junior club that met in the College on a Saturday morning, and a junior club continued to meet at Rolle College for the next 25 years, run by first Fred Hodge and then Tim Onions.

The structure of junior chess within Exmouth at this time was successful in enabling a number of young players to reach their potential. Firstly, most primary schools in the greater Exmouth area were involved in the Primary School League, and had the facilities to allow any of their pupils to play informally. The better ones then played for their school team in the League, and the keener ones could join the junior club at Rolle College. Players who came up through this system included, for example, Robin Cotton of Otterton Primary School, who became Devon U-11 Champion and later became one of Exmouth’s strongest players. He played in the 1980 British U-16 Championship in a section won by Peter Wells, future GM. Chris Scott had a similar career, coming 5th in the British U-14 Championship in 1975, in the process rubbing shoulders with the likes of Julian Hodgson, Malcolm Pein and Nigel Short in adjacent sections. Later, John Stephens progressed through this structure to become Exmouth’s senior champion. Whatever the talent or ambition of any junior player in the greater Exmouth area, the structure existed to enable it to be fulfilled.

Throughout 1974, Ken Schofield was finalising plans for a new congress based in Exeter. This was to become the East Devon Congress, which he hoped would be an integral part of the local league rather than separate from it. To help unify the two entities, he lobbied the League A.G.M. that they should change the name of the league to the East Devon League, an idea that was turned down both then and on several future occasions. Plans were slow to develop but eventually came to fruition in 1976.

On the strength of their victory in the Mamhead Cup in 1972, the Club elected to enter Division 1, the Bremridge Cup for 1972 – 73. Optimism was high after beating Teignmouth in their first-ever Bremridge match, but they were never a match for the top clubs of the day, Exeter, Plymouth and the University, as the records below clearly show.

  Bremridge Grd     Date: 4.11.72           Date: 12.12.72 Grd
  Exmouth I       Teignmouth I     Exmouth I     Exeter I  
1 K. S. Schofield 171 1 0 T. F. Thynne 169   K. S. Schofield 0 1 A. R. B. Thomas 203
2 S. R. Boniface 161 1 0 R. S. Thynne 162   S. R. Boniface 0 1 R. A. Lee 188
3 E. G. Sparke 146 ½ ½ P. E. Halmkin 154   E. G. Sparke ½ ½ M. Gilhespy 165
4 R. H. Jones 135 ½ ½ I. S. Annetts 144   G. C. Lund ½ ½ B. W. Clapp 169
5 G. C. Lund 120 ½ ½ R. Liggitt 145   R. H. Jones 0 1 M. A. Cartwright 172
6 F. R. Hodge 116 ½ ½ W. A. Frost 142   S. Landon 0 1 M. W. Wood 171
    849 4 2   916     1 5   1068
          Date:27.01.73           Date: 24.03.73  
  Exmouth I       Plymouth I     Exmouth ½ ½ Exeter Uni.  
1 K. S Schofield 171 ½ ½ R. M. Bruce 177   K. S. Schofield 0 1 D. Sewell  
2 S. R. Boniface 161 0 1 G. W. Wheeler 178   E. G. Sparke 0 1 S. J. Mann  
3 E. G. Sparke 146 0 1 R. Delnon 189   R. H. Jones 1 0 R. H. Lingham  
4 G. C. Lund 140e 0 1 P. S. Beighton 160   G. C. Lund 0 1 C. Hatch  
5 R. H. Jones 135 1 0 J. K. Gross 169   J. Bennett ½ ½ R. Heasman  
6 F. R. Hodge 116 0 1 K. Bloodworth 158   N. Benson 0 1 H. Ditmas  
    869   1031     2 4    

The fact was that Exmouth was too strong for the 2nd Division and not strong enough for the 1st. So they tended to go up and down in successive seasons.

In March 1976, Ken Schofield’s plans for a new event bore fruit, when the first East Devon Congress took place at Exeter University. There was a hiccup at the first prizegiving, but this did not detract from the event’s fundamental success and it has gone from strength to strength, eventually moving to St. George’s Hall in the heart of the city.

Below: Ken Schofield introducing the guest, A. R. B. Thomas, at the opening of the first East Devon Congress at Exeter University.

Congress Secretary, Guy Sparke looks on, while Peter Clarke prepares his bookstall in the background.

EDEvon Congress#2

EDevon Congress#3

Above: A scene from the 1st East Devon Congress, specially posed for the local paper.

Nearest camera Exmouth player Malcolm Horne is playing a bearded Ralph Heasman, Guy Sparke is playing his own son, Philip, watched by Exeter player Chris Bellers who is sitting next to Jon Kelway.

The nearest thing to a department store in Exmouth was the family-owned Walton’s in Rolle Street opposite where the Sunlit Café used to be. Such was the growing interest in all things chess-related in 1975 that another interesting project took off.  A pupil at Exmouth Community College had constructed a most unusual chess set out of wood as one of his school projects. The set somehow got into the local press and came to the attention of the shop’s owner, Mr. Walton-Turner, who spotted a publicity gimmick that suited both parties, the shop and the chess club.

After some discussion it was agreed that he would donate a cup for a knockout tournament that was to conform to several criteria:

(a)   Games should be played in his shop window, in the evenings.

(b)   The strange set had to be used.

(c)   It should be open to anyone in Exmouth who wished to play, not just club members.

(d)   It had to take place in early November, after he had cleared out his autumn displays and before the Christmas stuff came out.

And that is exactly what happened for several years. At about 7 p.m. two players and a third person who would be taking down the moves, would foregather near the back of the shop, (now near the kiosk in the Magnolia Centre), and wait to be let in by the caretaker. The set was already in place on a low table, so that spectators outside could watch the action, and the game went ahead. Of course, being the first week in November, fireworks were regularly let off in the vicinity, clearly with the intention of disturbing the players’ concentration, but no harm was ever done. Occasionally a small group of passers-by would congregate to see what on earth was going on.

Eventually, two finalists would emerge and the final had to be played on a Saturday afternoon when the Magnolia Centre was at its busiest. In its early years it seemed the cup was generally won by a strong newcomer. The publicity aspect of the tournament worked well, as the club got several new regular members from the small groups that looked in through the window. Eventually, Walton’s went the way of most small department stores in the new global economy, but the tournament continued in-house and is still played for every year on a knock-out basis. The early winners were:-

Year Winner   Year Winner   Year Winner
1975 Ivan Legg   1990 Bob Jones   2005  
1976 Stuart Landon   1991 Guy Sparke   2006  
1977 Stephen Crockett   1992 Dave Rogers   2007  
1978 Stuart Landon   1993 Fred Hodge   2008  
1979 Trefor Thynne   1994 Malcolm Belt   2009 John Stephens
1980 Robin Cotton   1995 Bob Jones   2010  
1981 Guy Sparke   1996 Malcolm Belt      
1982 Guy Sparke   1997 Philip Trussler      
1983 Tim Buckley   1998 Philip Trussler      
1984 Guy Sparke   1999 Philip Trussler      
1985 Malcolm Horne   2000 Philip Trussler      
1986 Rev. Denis Tongue   2001 Philip Trussler      
1987 Nicholas Worthing   2002        
1988 Arthur Coates   2003        
1989 Nicholas Worthing   2004        

Throughout the 1970s Exmouth persevered with their entry to the Bremridge Cup, notwithstanding their lack of strength in depth – they were always one or two good players short to be able to compete with the likes of Exeter, Teignmouth and Plymouth, though the results of the 1976-77 season show that no team could take them lightly.

  Bremridge     Date: 4.12.76.         Date: 22.01.77.
  Exmouth     Exeter   Exmouth     Torquay
1 I. Legg 0 1 D. Richardson   K. S. Schofield 0 1 M. Roberts
2 S. R. Boniface 0 1 J. Ottoson   S. R. Boniface ½ ½ A. M. Tyrell
3 E. G. Sparke 0 1 D. J. Richards   E. G. Sparke 1 0 D. Smith
4 R. H. Jones ½ ½ C. J. V. Bellers   R. H. Jones ½ ½ A. Kerry
5 P. Sparke 1 0 Dr. R. Hitchcock   P. Sparke 0 1 B. Boomsma
6 G. C. Lund 0 1 S. M. Owen   S. Landon 1 0 M. Turner
    1½ 4½       3 3  
        Date: 05.02.77         Date: 19.02.77
  Exmouth     University   Exmouth     Teignmouth
1 S. R. Boniface 0 1 P. Broad   K. S. Schofield ½ ½ T. F. Thynne
2 K. S. Schofield 0 1 P. Pritchard   S. R. Boniface 0 1 P. E. Halmkin
3 E. G. Sparke 1 0 R. H. Lingham   E. G. Sparke 0 1 R. S. Thynne
4 R. H. Jones 1 0 J. Hutchings   R. H. Jones ½ ½ R. Liggitt
5 P. G. Sparke ½ ½ T. Landsman   S. Landon ½ ½ B. J. Penaligen
6 C. Lund ½ ½ G. Reason   I. Ashford 0 1 I. S. Annetts
    3 3       1½ 4½  
        Date: 12.03.77          
  Exmouth     Plymouth          
1 K. S. Schofield 1 0 G. W. Wheeler          
2 E. G. Sparke ½ ½ R. M. Bruce          
3 C. J. Scott 1 0 S. Williams          
4 P. Sparke 0 1 K. Bloodworth          
5 S. Landon ½ ½ Rowena Bruce          
6 C. Lund 0 1 C. Gilbey          
    3 3            

In 1979 the Club celebrated the 50th anniversary of its latest incarnation. A sub-committee had been formed some time before to make plans, the main ones being two commemorative matches. In one, Exmouth combined with Teignmouth who were celebrating their 75th year (incorrectly, as we now know – the club was actually founded in 1901), and an outdoor match was held on the Maer, adjacent to the promenade. June it may have been, but it was cold and windy enough to disturb the pieces.

In a second match, Ron Bruce, the Devon Match Captain, agreed to raise a team of 12 from the rest of Devon that would roughly match Exmouth’s current strength, with total grades of each team being under 1500. This took place on June 3rd in Rolle College.

The scores were as follows: (Exmouth names first)

1. K. S. (Ken) Schofield   1 – 0   G. W. (Gary) Lane (def.)

2. S. R. (Steve) Boniface 0 – 1   R. M. (Ron) Bruce

3. Stuart Landon               0 – 1   R. M. (Rowena) Bruce

4. Stephen Crockett         0 - 1   J ohn Walker

5. E. G. (Guy) Sparke       1 – 0   Dr. Richard Hitchcock

6. R. H. (Bob) Jones        1 – 0   A. W. (Alan) Brusey.

7. R. A. (Robin) Cotton .5 – .5   N. G. (Neil) Crickmore.

8. I. E. S. (Ian) Ashford  0 – 1   N. Horne.

9. G. C. (Colin) Lund      .5 – .5   G. C. (Gordon) Walker.

10. Bernard Landon      1 – 0   R. Graham.

11. Rev. Denis Tongue  1 – 0   B. Nagy (def.)

12. Prof. Philip Stoy      1 – 0   F. W. (Frank) Smith.

7 – 5

1979/80 proved to be something of both a high point and watershed. In addition to the Golden Jubilee celebrations, no less than 10 schools were competing in the Primary Schools League, with around 100 children involved in matches. Robin Cotton and Alison Landon became West of England Boy and Girl champions, on the first occasion that the junior championships were separated from the main Easter Congress, being held at West Buckland School near Barnstaple. Bob Jones became Devon Intermediate Champion.













4th Exmouth & District Primary Schools’ Congress winners 1979

Front row (l-r) James Anderson (Best U-10  – Budleigh Salterton); Christopher Jones (1st overall – Withycombe); Rhona Dowling (Best Girl – Otterton).

Back row): Gavin White (Runner-Up – Withycombe); Simon Huxtable (League winning team – Withycombe Raleigh P. S.); Robert Davies 3rd overall (Brixington Juniors).

Overall winners in the early years were:-

  Year Winner School  
1st 1976 Robin Cotton Otterton Primary School  
2nd 1977 Christopher Morrish Otterton Primary School  
3rd 1978 Robert Davies Brixington Junior School  
4th 1979 Christopher Jones Withycombe Raleigh P. S.  
5th 1980 Gavin White Withycombe Raleigh P. S.  

On the down-side, the following year Steve Boniface moved to Brighton after a decade’s involvement with the club. Also, the death of Stephen H. Crockett took another strong member. He had been a leading player between the wars, in 1937, for example, leading Middlesex to the county championship, playing Bd. 1 above the likes of the current British Champion William Winter, E. G. Sergeant and the future British Postal Champion, Harold Israel. After the war, the insurance company for which he worked sent him to South Africa, where he spent 11 years in Grahamstown. On retirement, he returned to the UK in 1977 and bought a house very near Rolle College. Quiet and unassuming, few in the club appreciated the chess career he’d had, and his presence in Exmouth was all too short.

On 15th February 1984 Ken Schofield died suddenly from a heart attack. At a Management Committee Meeting a few days later, Guy Sparke paid tribute to “his organising ability, sound judgment and chairmanship”, adding that “he’d been a major personality on the Devon chess scene”.

Notwithstanding the loss of Schofield, 1984 was a good year in terms of silverware, as Exmouth A won the Cottew Cup, and Exmouth B successfully defended the Turner Cup, while Guy Sparke became East Devon’s Individual Champion.

A new member at this time was Godfrey Quack (pronounced Kwork), a Cambridge-graduate who had had a career in the oil business, and in semi-retirement had taken on a sub-post office in Budleigh Salterton. He was a noted problemist specialising in Merediths (i.e. 2-movers involving about 12 pieces), whose compositions had been published nationally. In 1996 he collated 77 of his published problems and his friend Barry Barnes, an IM for Problem Composition, added an appreciation, and the whole was published in a small booklet by Keverel Chess.  (ISBN 0-9531321-0-2). The effort involved was timely as Godfrey died early in 2000, leaving the booklet as his small bequest to the chess world.

The 1990s passed relatively quietly compared to the 1970s. There was just one team trophy in the decade, though club members dominated the East Devon Individual Championship until the controller Ray Shepherd gave up running it in 2002 and no-one could be found to take it over.

exmouthHist051Above: The two winning teams in the Exmouth & District League’s 18th season in May 1993.

Front row: Withycombe Raleigh’s Thomas Losey and John Stephens with the main trophy.

Back row: Tom Greenacre, Bronagh Griffiths, Kris Statham, Jennifer Richmond and Jessica Hope of the Dolphin School.

However, as the new millennium approached, Exmouth was about to become a major chess centre at a higher level. Both DCCA and the West of England Chess Union were finding the tournaments they ran were slowly declining in popularity. WECU’s annual Easter Congress and Championship, for example, had for over half a century moved around the South West, the idea being that each of the constituent counties could take a turn at hosting the prestigious event. In recent years it had tended to move between Weymouth, Weston-Super-Mare and Torbay, but it was becoming increasingly difficult to find suitable venues at a reasonable cost. The number of entries rarely exceeded 75 and regulars never knew from one year to the next where it might be held, or when, as Easter moved back and forth through the calendar, according to its own unfathomable formula. When the 1996 Congress at Torquay Boys’ Grammar School made a £400 loss and had to be bailed out by the Union with a £400 “loan”, the Executive knew things had to change.

At the 1998 AGM it was agreed that it should stop being peripatetic, and the Union General Secretary, Bob Jones, said he would explore the possibility of Exmouth having a suitable venue. His first port of call was to see a local property developer and former Exmouth Club member, John Fowler of Eagle Investments, who said he had just purchased a place that would be ideal – the Royal Beacon Hotel. One look around the playing hall was enough to know that a new home for chess had been found. It was fully carpeted making the room utterly quiet during play, with comfortable chairs, a bar and restaurant facilities. Not only was the owner a chess-player, but so was the hotel manager, Bill Ellis, an American who had played Walter Browne in a simultaneous match in the US. The only constraint was the limit of 100 players, though as the event had never approached this number before it was not seen as a problem.

So the Easter 1999 Congress seemed destined to be held there, and so it was, with WECU President Ian George reporting back to the 2000 WECU Executive that it was the best congress he had ever played in. Entries were up and it was a financial success too, and there was a unanimous vote to keep it in Exmouth for the foreseeable future.

WECU Champions at Exmouth.

Year Champion County
1999 Neil Crickmore Devon
2000 Jack Rudd Somerset
2001 James T. Sherwin Somerset
2002 Gerald Moore Somerset
2003 Matthew Turner Somerset
2004 Matthew Turner Somerset
2005 Jack Rudd Somerset
2006 Matthew Turner Somerset
2007 Matthew Turner Somerset
2008 Ian Thompson Somerset
2009 Geoff Taylor Glos.


Above: The noted problemist, David Shire and a very young David Howell receive their Grading prize cheques from Congress Secretary Adrian Rookes at the 2001 WECU Congress in Exmouth.

Howell went on to become British Champion in 2009.


Above:  James T. Sherwin, with the WECU Championship trophy in 2001.

Sherwin was born in New York and was part of the US scene there in the late 50’s and 60’s, which involved Bobby Fischer, Fine, Reshevsky, Saidy, Bisguier & Lombardy among many others. He knew and played them all.

Also in 1999 Steve Boniface took early retirement, which left him free to pursue this chess interests full time. Seeing the success of the WECU Congress he met with Bob Jones and Bill Ellis to explore two other ideas in which the Royal Beacon Hotel could be used.

One idea was a tournament only for strong players who were seeking title norms. Although the Hotel manager was keen on the plan, it never came to fruition. The other idea was for a Seniors Congress, where scores would go toward the Seniors’ section of the BCF’s Grand Prix scheme, as it was then formulated. This did go ahead and the first Seniors event was held in November 2000 with an entry of just 27 players, well short of the stated seating limit of 80. As Steve Boniface was giving his services free and prizes were very modest, it just about broke even. Notwithstanding this disappointing response, it was persevered with, and the entry gradually picked up as each year went by. One refinement introduced with the idea of boosting the overall entry, was to include a so-called Junior section for the 50-somethings – those who are too young for the main show, but wanted to be part of it. It’s a regular cause of amusement when these grown men refer to themselves as Juniors. The 10th Seniors Congress was held in November 2009 with over 80 players participating.









2nd Seniors Congress – 2001, many of whom went on to play in most years that decade:

Front row (l–r): Bill Davies; Yusef Ehtesham; Peter Carrick; Brian Ross; Alan Sherriff, Ivor Annetts.

Middle row: Mike Kaye; Alf Bullock; Elaine Pritchard (née Saunders); David Pritchard; Dave Burt; Clive Deakin.

Back row.  Don Turtle; Mike Stoop; Robert Ryan; Ken Bloodworth; John Gorodi; Jim Nicolson; Frank Chambers; Bill Frost; Bill Newrick; ? ; Trevor Holt.


Neat & Tidy!

At the 6th Seniors Congress, former Club member Roger Neat was drawn against Norman Tidy in the last round, giving the pairing Neat v Tidy, something both had earnestly wanted for several years, but this was the first opportunity to do it legitimately. It was not a fix.

2001 saw the DCCA celebrating the centenary of its foundation. Several ideas were mooted but only one came to fruition, that of World Championship contender, Michael Adams, putting on a simultaneous display at the Royal Beacon on Sunday 16th September. Taking up the challenge were 37 local players, who included several of Devon’s top players. Adams finished them all off in double quick time. Afterwards, Ken Bloodworth, who had played in a number of these matches against World Champions, said Michael’s performance was “just awesome” and more impressive than any he had been involved in.


Above: Michael Adams makes his rounds during the simultaneous match at the Royal Beacon Hotel.

In the foreground is Andrew Wright (Plymouth); Tony Tatam (Plymouth and physically unable to sit at the time); Hotel Manager Bill Ellis is watching Adams move at his board.

In the background is club member and DCCA President, Phil Trussler, and Malcolm Belt (head in hands).

At this time, Exmouth Club members had a high profile within the county, filling. no less than 8 key DCCA posts;  those of President, Deputy President, General Secretary, Competitions Secretary, Grading Officer, Publicity Officer and two delegates to WECU. This was probably without precedent in the Association’s 100 year history, and while a commendable effort on the part of a small club, was generally accepted as not a good thing, as it illustrated how volunteers were not coming forward from other areas.

In 2000 DCCA noted that not only were club entries in their tournaments in decline, but many strong players were not participating in those teams that were active. To help remedy this situation, the AGM agreed that clubs could become more proactive in recruiting new members to play in Devon leagues. Exmouth rallied to the call and enlisted players like Mike Cox, a strong but inactive player who lived in a small village outside Exmouth and was unable to drive. Ken Derrick, a former President of Gloucestershire and the Bristol League, was similarly discovered living a quiet life in a small village near Exmouth and inactive in the wider Devon scene. Both were glad for the opportunity to play serious county-wide chess. Trefor Thynne re-joined his old club for a season and the experience revived his appetite for club chess and on the strength of that, he went on to reform the Newton Abbot club in his home town, which has subsequently blossomed.

These were the key to Exmouth winning the Bremridge Cup for the first time in its 100 year history, and its subsequent victories (see table below).

In 2001, on the basis of its sudden rush of activity in several areas of chess, it was suggested that the Club submit an application for the title of BCF Club of the Year. This was duly done and the BCF decided to create a new category and install Exmouth as its first winner – that of Small Club of the Year (2001).

In June 2002 a team of chessplayers from Torquay’s twinned town of Hellevoetsluis, toured the area, playing several local clubs, with Trefor Thynne acting as liaison. Their match against Exmouth took place at the Royal Beacon Hotel and the occasion was also used for the presentation of a cheque from the Town Council to support the good work of the Junior Club, which at this time was being run by Tim Onions.


Above:   The Mayor of Exmouth, Cllr. Pat Graham, presents a cheque to Club President, Mark Abbott.

Below: Exmouth v Hellevoetsluis – June 2002:

Exmouth players are all facing the camera l-r: Guy Sparke (in yellow); Malcolm Belt; Dave Rogers (chewing pen); Dave Adams; Mark Abbott; John Stephens.


In 2005, the Club received a shock when Plymouth University, who had been given the Rolle College campus by Devon County Council, announced it was to close the site and sell it off to the highest bidder. The Club was given three years notice, and there were hopes that the buildings could be retained by the town for educational use, but the time came in 2008 when the College, home to the club for 37 years, locked its doors for the last time, and a temporary room for the club was found in a working men’s club in the town centre. This in turn was sold to a developer and the club had to move on again, and currently resides at the Age Concern premises in New Street.

The trials and tribulations of the Club in recent years have not detracted from its efforts to put out competitive teams whenever possible. Here is their team looking undeterred at the prospect of being about to face a strong Newton Abbot team in the showdown final match of the 2006-07 season in the Bremridge Cup.


Above: Exmouth’s Bremridge team looking unfazed by the prospect of being about to face Newton Abbot in a deciding 2007 match.

Seated (l-r):       Kevin Hurst; Mark Abbott; Brian Hewson.

Standing:          David Toms; Ian Jamieson; John Stephens.


Above: The team with the Thomas Cup for winning the Devon Team RapidPlay Championship in 2008 and 2009.

Front: John Stephens & Ian Jamieson. Back: Brians Hewson and Gosling.

Summary of Exmouth Successes.

D. C. C. A.

Div. 1Bremridge Cup   Div. 2Mamhead   Div. 3Moyle
Started 1901   Started 1935   Started 1910
Exmouth won in   Exmouth won in   Exmouth won in
2002   1935   1923
2003   1936   1960
2004   1938    
2005   1950    
2007   1951    
2009   1952    

Exeter & District League.

Div. 1Cottew Cup   Div 2Turner Cup   IndividualChampionship    
Started 1954   Started 1963   Started 1957    
Exmouth A won in   Exmouth B won in   Exmouth winners    
1954   1967   Ian Ashford 1973  
1960   1974   Stuart Landon 1974  
1976   1976   Dennis Tongue 1975  
1977   1978   Stuart Landon 1976  
1984   1979   Guy Sparke 1984  
2000   1983   Fred Hodge 1992  
2002   1984   Bob Jones 1993  
2009   1985   Bob Jones 1994  
    1989   Guy Sparke 1995  
    1992   Bob Jones   (joint) 1997  
    2001   Bob Jones   (joint) 1998  
    2004   No contest after 2002  

Internal Tournaments.

  Tempest Trophy   Walton’s Cup  
  Championship   Knockout  
1970     ——–  
1971 Ken Schofield   ——–  
1972 Ken Schofield   ——–  
1973 Ken Schofield   ———  
1974 Ken Schofield   ——–  
1975 Guy Sparke   Ivan Legg Rolle student from Glos.
1976 Steve Boniface   Stuart Landon Exmouth-born &Town resident
1977 Ken Schofield   Stephen Crockett Ex Middx champion; town resident; retired.
1978 Ken Schofield   Stuart Landon  
1979 Guy Sparke   Trefor Thynne Local resident.
1980 Steve Boniface   Robin Cotton Former Devon junior champion; local
1981 S. Landon & R. Cotton   Guy Sparke Budleigh resident
1982 Robin Cotton   Guy Sparke  
1983 Guy Sparke   Tim Buckley Topsham resident; club member; junior.
1984 No award   Guy Sparke  
1985 Guy Sparke   Malcolm Horne Town resident
1986 Malcolm Horne   Rev. Denis Tongue Town resident; retired
1987 Guy Sparke   Nicholas Worthing Budleigh resident; retired inventor
1988 Bob Jones   Arthur Coates Town resident; retired forester.
1989 Bob Jones   Nicholas Worthing  
1990 Guy Sparke   Bob Jones Town resident.
1991 Guy Sparke   Guy Sparke  
1992 Guy Sparke   Dave Rogers Former Rolle student; Town resident
1993 Fred Hodge   Fred Hodge Exmouth-born and resident
1994 ?   Malcolm Belt Town resident
1995 ?   Bob Jones  
1996 ?   Malcolm Belt  
1997 ?   Philip Trussler Topsham resident; Club President.
1998 Philip Trussler   Philip Trussler  
1999 Philip Trussler   Philip Trussler  
2000 Philip Trussler   Philip Trussler  
2001 Philip Trussler      
2002 Mark Abbott      
2003 Bob Jones      
2004 Adam Woodruff      
2005 Bob Jones      
2006 Mark Abbott      
2007 John Stephens      
2008 John Stephens   John Stephens  
2009 John Stephens