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Exmouth Open Account in Div. 2

Exmouth’s first match in the Devon Leagues involved the longest trip of the season, to Barnstaple, where they expected to be facing a team headed up by IM Jack Rudd or Theo Slade – or both. As it turned out, neither was available, for reasons that will become apparent. So the home team’s strength was somewhat below what was expected.

The Barnstaple captain, Steve Clarke, got into terrible trouble in the opening and faced with two ways of losing material, he prevented both with a move that allowed mate on move 13. That’s the problem with being a playing home captain - one’s head is full of potential problems e.g. is the premises going to be unlocked; is everyone going to turn up; are the refreshments organised etc. So much so that once play starts one’s head is elsewhere.

In the Scott-Oughton game, a lot of material came off the board early on, and with no discernable advantage to either side a draw was agreed. On Board 3, team captain Oliver Wensley secured Black’s d- and e-pawns and was able to force the issue down those central files with his extra pawn, backed by rooks, advancing with unanswerable threats. Malcolm Belt, usually a buccaneering cut & thrust merchant, found himself in a long attritional game in which, python-like, he gradually deprived his opponent of the oxygen of space, and kept him restricted to his back 2 ranks until the win was secured.

It may have been a relief not to be facing Rudd and/or Slade, but the reason for their absence was that, aparently, they were playing for Tiverton in the Bremridge Cup Div. 1, which is not such good news for Exmouth’s 1st team later in the season. Tiverton’s team list that day can only be wondered at.

  Mamhead Cup Div 2     08.11.2014  
  Barnstaple Grd     Exmouth Grd
1 Steve Clarke 133 0 1 Meyrick Shaw 170
2 Rob Oughton 131 ½ ½ Chris Scott 157
3 Jon Munsey 128 0 1 Oliver Wensley 149
4 Mike Dow 115 0 1 Malcolm Belt 128
  totals 507 ½   604

Barnstaple Win Mamhead Cup Div. 2 (12.04.2014.)

Barnstaple made the long trip to Exmouth knowing that a drawn match would secure them the Div. 2 championship. With International Master Jack Rudd and England Junior International Theo Slade on board, this was always a distinct possibility. However, in any grade-limited tournament like this one (639 max) the price has to be paid on the lower boards where players of a more modest grade have to be played. On this occasion, Exmouth chose to play 4 middle-range grades in the hope that 2 points could be rescued on Bds. 3 & 4. And this is exactly how it played out, although all 4 games were tense and well-contested affairs by both players.

On Bd. 1 the position soon developed into a complex one with pieces of both colours all over the board, but with only 3 pawns each. Rudd, of course, is known to play only at express speed, and he made his 35 moves in 35 minutes, but such were the comlications that Shaw ran out of time and his flag fell 5 moves short.

On Bd. 2 Oliver Wensley orchestrated a kingside attack based on the rock of having a knight posted immovably on his 5th rank. However, his massed pieces left the other wing vulnerable, and Slade countered down the a-file with doubled rooks. This won material and with it the game.

Gosling’s position looked relatively even until Smith put his king into trouble and lost out to a Q+K fork, and resigned on move 28.

Scott won a piece in a series of exchanges around move 30, but still had the tricky job of finding the best lines to exploit this advantage to a winning one. A Q+R knight fork settled the outcome.

Thus the drawn match was what Barnstaple came for and they were duly delighted, whereas Exmouth had nothing to play for in this tournament except pride in a good perfomance on the day, and this they achieved.

The games may be found on the chessdevon website.

  Exmouth Grd     Barnstaple  Grd
1 Meyrick Shaw 172 0 1 Jack Rudd 219
2 Oliver E. Wensley 157 0 1 Theo Slade 162
3 Brian G. Gosling 151 1 0 Richard Smith 139
4 Chris J. Scott 142 1 0 Michael Dow 115
    622 2 2   635


General view of the match - Exmouth on the right.

Exmouth settle into the match - Shaw; Wensley; Gosling & Scott.

Rudd (nearest); Slade; Smith & Dow.

Mamhead Cup – Div. 2 Exmouth vs Tiverton (09.11.2013.)

Exmouth’s first match of the season was a home encounter vs Tiverton. It involves 4 players whose grades total U-640, and on this occasion the teams could hardly have been more closely matched.

Exmouth lost the toss, and it went downhill from there on. First, Simon Bartlett, who has been having an excellent spell in recent months, overcame his opponent in 26 moves. Steve Murray lost a piece on move 15 and Duckham gradually got a stranglehold on the position, not allowing his opponent any counter-play. This left Abbott and Gosling trying to rescue the match without having any positional or material advantages, much too tall an order given the strength of the opposition. Eventually, both did well to hang on for a draw at about the 50-move mark.

  Devon Div. 2       Mamhead Cup  
  Exmouth Grd     Tiverton Grd
1 Meyrick Shaw 172 0 1 Simon Bartlett 174
2 Mark Abbott 165 ½ ½ Brian Hewson 165
3 Brian Gosling 151 ½ ½ Ivor Annetts 152
4 Steve Murray 148 0 1 Jon Duckham 146
  Totals 636 1 3   637


Bartlett - Shaw (nearest)

The Tiverton team (facing)

Heads down for a battle of wits.

Exmouth V Barnstaple – What could possibly go wrong!?

Saturday was a beautiful cloudless day with the air like wine and the prospect of a trip across Devon, from the south to north coast for a chess match excited the sense of anticipation. All 8 people involved were experienced players and organisers, and although it was only a 2nd division match, it involved an International Master, 2 qualifiers for this year’s British Championship, 2 former and one current contender for British junior titles and a former World record holder – so what could possibly go wrong!?

Well, quite a lot actually. 30 minutes before I set off, the Home captain phoned to say he’d just realised he’d assembled a team whose total grade came to 640, when the rules clearly stated it should be Under 640. He wasn’t sure what to do about it at that late juncture, and I left him worrying about who, if anyone, he could call in and who should be left out at such short notice.

Minutes later, my two passengers arrived and we set off, heading north. Almost immediately one passenger was taken violently ill (nothing to do with my driving, I hasten to add) and we had to turn back and take him home, which, at best,  left us having to play a strong team with only three players.

Once in Barnstaple, we parked and arrived at the venue with 10 minutes to spare, only to find that the home team were locked out of their room. A local friend of the club usually arrives with a key, opens up and provides the refreshments, but he was nowhere to be seen. Their Plan B is to have a player with a spare key. In this case, he arrived only to find he’d left his key at home, and had to drive all the way back to Bideford to get it.

At 3 p.m. after half an hour waiting, someone came down from upstairs and said he had a key and would let us in, which he did, but then no-one had the key to the equipment cupboard, so we were little better off. We could at least now have tea or coffee, but someone had forgotten the biscuits. To fill the time, the captains tossed for colours; Barnstaple won and naturally took the two whites on 1 and 3, with Bd. 4 already in the bag.

Eventually, the second keyholder arrived from Bideford and a silence descended as play started about 45minutes late. However, it was not long before a security van drew up outside and its uniformed driver came in wanting to know who had set off the alarm. No alarm had been heard, but the system was wired up to the firm’s offices and it went off silently, so as not to scare off any intruder. It took him a half hour to satisfy himself that nothing untoward had occurred, but on leaving, warned us all, loudly, to watch out for possible trouble.

It wasn’t long thereafter before John Stephens fell to ‘Jumping’ Jack Rudd. Stephens, playing an opening he knows well, played his 10th move too quickly, getting the move order mixed up. Jack pounced and it was soon over. He played 34 moves in 11 minutes’ thinking time, at a rate of 19 seconds per move, quite usual for him. Quite apart from whatever’s happening on the board, this inevitably puts time pressure on all his opponents, as a scheduled 4 hour game isn’t going to last much longer than half that time at most, with the opponent’s clock running most of that time.

So it was 2-0 and any hope of a miracle win flown out of the window. Fortunately Jones, playing against the English Opening (which he hates), had managed to turn round an early reverse, and was finding the greater freedom for his pieces, with probing threats on both sides of the board, and eventually, his opponent resigned.

Meanwhile, Meyrick Shaw was having to cope with the dangerous Theo Slade, currently in the England Junior squad. Slade played the French Defence, and White managed to set up a strong early kingside attack, Black having to sacrifice the exchange in order stay in the game. This allowed Shaw the luxury of being able to sacrifice material back in order to continue his winning attack. leaving the match drawn. The captains reflected afterwards that after all that had gone before, probably neither side deserved to win.

All of which proves the old saying – “If a thing can go wrong, it probably will”, and it certainly did for both sides on this particular Saturday afternoon.

  Barnstaple Grd     Exmouth Grd
1 Jack Rudd 220 1 0 John Stephens 192
2 Theo Slade 145 0 1 Meyrick Shaw 166
3 Jon Munsey 135 0 1 Bob Jones 130
4 A. Rinvolucri 122 1 0 Fred Hodge (def) 115
    622 2 2   603


Bds 1 & 2 - two white wins.

Theo Slade plays the French Defence.

John Stephens facing Rudd - a possible rehearsal for this year's British.

Exmouth Runners-Up to Tiverton in Mamhead Cup

Exmouth’s win over Barnstaple on Saturday marked the end of that tournament for another year. The final table is as follows:

  Mamhead Div. 2 1 2 3 4 5 Pts F A
1 Tiverton 2 1 2 1 6 10½
2 Exmouth 0 2 1 2 5 9 7
3 Barnstaple 1 0 2 1 4
4 Teignmouth 0 1 0 2 3 6 10
5 Newton Abbot 1 0 1 0 2 7 9

Tiverton were undoubtedly deserved winners. Our fate was sealed by the topsy-turvy match against Teignmouth; a blundered rook by each side and a breathless blitz finish between Redman and Brusey that could have gone either way but finished in a draw, as did the match. The unlikeliest result was surely Newton Abbot’s last place.

Still, a good result for Exmouth, considering the unavailability of top players at times.

Teignmouth – Exmouth Draw In Div. 2.

Exmouth travelled to Teignmouth for their 2nd match in the Mamhead Cup (Devon’s division 2), fielding their secret weapon, Mike Redman, in what may be his only match for the club this season.

The first game ended when Jones coolly and quickly placed a rook en prise, with no compensation whatsoever. However, Teignmouth are nothing if not even-handed, and Bill Ingham marooned his last rook, leaving Murray to pick it up at leisure, levelling the scores. Gosling got short of time in what might have been a slightly better position, and he accepted the offer of a draw. This left everyone to gather around the top board game, as fortunes swung to and fro.

In the middlegame, Redman seemed to have a positional bind and merely needed to open the centre and exploit his advantage. However, he inadvertantly placed a piece on a bad square and Brusey could counter-attack. He went 2 pawns up and seemed sure to win himself. Material came off and with minutes to go, they were in a knight+pawns endgame. Redman’s knight perfomed minor miracles, winning  3 pawns and threatening to queen. From nursing a loss, to looking drawn, he was suddenly sniffing a win again. With the last seconds running out on the digital clocks, both sides queened and after a flurry of checks a draw was agreed. Nerves frayed all round, but honours even.

  Teignmouth Grd     Exmouth Grd
1 A. W. Brusey 174 ½ ½ M. Redman 194
2 W. H. Ingham 166 0 1 J. S. Murray 151
3 P. E. Halmkin 150 ½ ½ B. G. E. Gosling 150
4 J. G. Gorodi 149 1 0 R. H. Jones 130
    639 2 2   625


Bds 1 & 2 get down to action.

Gosling (l) vs Halmkin.

Gorodi (l)vs Jones.


Tense knight and pawns ending reaches a climax.

Exmouth Win Mamhead Cup (Div. 2)

In recent years, Devon’s 2nd Division, the Mamhead Cup, has often involved only 2 teams, Exmouth and Teignmouth, playing matches home and away, and very close they have always been.

This year there were 5 entries, yet still in the final round the league winner depended on the result of the Exmouth vs Teignmouth match – whoever won this match won the Cup. However, a drawn match would favour Exmouth as they had a lead of 1 point over their nearest rivals.

As the 4 games got under way, the tension was palpable, and ultimately time-trouble, the result of great caution, was a major factor in the outcome of three games. After an hour’s play, things looked very bleak for the home team, (Exmouth) as David Toms blundered on move 19 and lost horribly, while Jones was staring down the barrel of a gun as Halmkin had the option of forcing material win, with a very strong attack to follow.  However, Halmkin missed the winning line and within 3 moves was on the back foot, from which he never recovered, running very short of time in the process. The same happened with Gosling on Bd. 3 who blundered the exchange after he had  had a strong position throughout.  Down to a bishop vs rook, he pressed on regardless in desperate time trouble, when his opponent, in turn, blundered away his rook for just a pawn, and they entered extra time. On Bd. 1, Hewson had set positional problems that his opponent needed much time to solve, and eventually he won on time. The 2 points gained thus guaranteed the league title for Exmouth, but to add a little extra icing on the party cake, Gosling and Gorodi agreed a draw, the two blunders having cancelled each other out. Gorodi had extra pawns but the Black’s king and bishop could cope with them.

The 2.5 points were secured within about 10 minutes of each other.

  MAMHEAD CUP       Date: 16.04.11  
  Exmouth Grd     Newton Abbot Grd
1 B. W. R. Hewson 176 1 0 A. W. Brusey 175
2 Dr. D. A. Toms 159 0 1 W. Ingham 164
3 B. G. E. Gosling 156 ½ ½ J. G. Gorodi 150
4 R. H. Jones 138 1 0 P. E. Halmkin 148
   Div. 2 (639 max) 629 2½  1½    637

 The League positions with one match still to play.

  Mamhead Cup 1 2 3 4 5 Total
1 Barnstaple X 0 - 0 0 0
2 Exmouth 2 X 1 2 2 7
3 Newton Abbot - 1 X 1 2 4
4 Teignmouth 2 0 1 X 1 4
5 Tiverton 2 0 0 1 X 3

Exmouth standing: l-r Jones; Hewson; Toms & Gosling. Seated: Ingham; Brusey & Gorodi.

The match gets off to a nervy start.

Bill Ingham on the way to a dramatic win for the visitors.

Peter Halmkin started strongly, but missed a winning line.

Exmouth’s First Win of the Season. (26.02.2011.)

Exmouth have found it difficult to win anything this season, but they managed to break their duck on Saturday, though they needed several strokes of luck to go their way in order to achieve it.

Firstly, both teams had two of their top players unavailable, but with Tiverton fielding another team at the same time they found it difficult to replace like with like. Exmouth fared slightly better when Jonathan Underwood was able to do some last minute juggling with his family commitments and was able to turn out for the sea-siders. This made all the difference to the outcome, though all four games were well-contested throughout – there’s no such thing as an easy game in the Devon leagues.

The Annetts – Underwood game raced to a draw after an exchange of several pieces in a Sicilian where the resulting pawn formation made it clear neither side would be able to force the issue.

Having won the toss (another stroke of good fortune) Hewson on Bd. 1 was able to play his favoured English Opening and after making 6 captures in 7 moves (21 – 27) winning 2 pawns in the process, forced Bartlett to resign.

On Bd. 4, Jones played a Sicilian, won a pawn in the opening and later the exchange, and thereafter managed to keep things simple, eventually reaching a won endgame of R vs B and a scattering of pawns on each wing.

On Bd. 3, Phil Kennedy was kept stretched for most of the game, until after a big exchange of material his Queen and bishop suddenly bore down on the Black King stuck in its fianchettoed corner and mate was inevitable.

Mamhead Cup Div.2 26.02.2011.
Exmouth Grd. Tiverton
1 W B. W. R. Hewson 176 1 0 S. Bartlett 162
2 B Dr. J. Underwood 172 ½ ½ I. S. Annetts 155
3 W P. J. Kennedy 151 1 0 J. Knowles 133
4 B R. H. Jones 138 1 0 S. Thorpe-Tracey 114
639 max. 637 ½ 564

Match in progress (Bd. 1 nearest)

Exmouth team on left.