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Exmouth Retain Newman Cup (12.02.2014.)

Exmouth’s last match in Devon’s Newman Cup (for RapidPlay teams of 4 totalling U-600 grade) was against Tiverton and was effectively a cup final, with the winner taking all. However, Tiverton had a built-in edge as a 4-4 draw would give them the Cup on the 1st level of tie-break (game points). Before clocks were started, their captain explained that even if we had been level on game points, Exmouth would still have lost out due to having lost to Tiverton in Rd. 1, which led his opponent to quip “I see – even if we win we lose!” 

Round 1:

Tiverton won the toss and chose Black on Bd. 1. for the 1st round.  Simon Blake played forcefully and at one point was looking at the opportunity of possibly being able to sacrifice his queen for a back rank mate, but his opponent was alert to the risk. The game finished with opposite coloured bishops and level pawns all on squares that could not be attack by the enemy piece, amd a draw was agreed.

Oliver Wensley was happy to push all his pawns forward whenever he could, which Annetts avoided taking, so the endgame featured two long strings of pawns across the board, like WWI trench lines, except that Oliver was able to probe for weaknesses and eventually had 2 pawns that could run for the line. Annetts could only stop one by letting the other queen.

On Bd. 2 Mark Abbott started with some advantages in piece development but was unable to convert this into any other more practical advantage and the game slid into a R+5 vs R+4 endgame, and Atkin’s extra pawn was central, advanced and shepherded by his king. However, Abbott’s rook cleverly pecked away at the other pawns, won one back and the danger was over. Draw agreed.

The game on Bd. 1 was more difficult to assess by the spectator. Hewson had an attack down the open g-file against the enemy king involving Q, R + N, which White was managing to hold, while creating a passed pawn on the a-file that could not be ignored. The pressure built up as time started to press and it was Hewson that broke first.

Round 2:

Exmouth had to score a minimum of 4½ points to win the cup and a 3-1 lead from Rd. 1 was a healthy start, but this competition is notorious for the way in which the luck changes from one round to the next. For any one player, the hardest thing to do is to win both games outright, so nothing could be taken for granted. 

Sure enough, Blake’s position crumbled after overlooking a knight capture in the middle of the board and Exmouth started with a loss. This was evened up when Annetts overlooked a bishop skewering both rooks and getting out of that merely allowed a bishop to fork king and knight, and Wensley scored his 2nd win soon after.

Abbott’s endgame looked not unlike the first one in some respects, but this time Atkins did not let things slip and he evened up their personal scores.

In the top game, Shaw broke through against the enemy king using both bishops, a knight and his queen, which was enough to win, leaving the round a 2-2 draw, but 5-3 overall.

The competition overall has once again proved a close one, with all teams losing at least one match.

Bd Exmouth Grd Rd 1 Rd 2   Rd 1 Rd 2 Tiverton Grd
1 M. Shaw 164 1 1   0 0 B. W. Hewson 184
2 M. V. Abbott 159 ½ 0   ½ 1 K. P. Atkins 139
3 O. E. Wensley 146 1 1   0 0 I. S. Annetts 140
4 S. Blake 100 ½ 0   ½ 1 J. Knowles 117
  Totals 569 3 2   1 2   580

Exmouth Edge It – Again. 1st Newman Cup Win (05.12.2013.)

The Newman Cup is Devon’s RapidPlay Tournament, held by Exmouth numerous times in recent years. Their defence started with a reverse at the hands of Tiverton last month, making their away match to Seaton a crucial one.

It is a commonplace that away matches to Seaton are held in the depths of winter, when the trip there has to be made during the rush hour, with a great wind blowing and rain thrashing down. Last night was no exception. Progress was slow and the venue was reached with only minutes to spare before the scheduled start of 7 p.m. However, on arrival, the venue was locked and the key-holder unobtainable as a group of chess-players and others huddled in the doorway. Eventually, she arrived and play started just a few minutes late.

Rd. 1 started well with Simon Blake winning quickly and Oliver Wensley getting a draw, but Chris Scott was overwhelmed by the very steady Steve Dean, and Meyrick Shaw’s position, playing a Closed Sicilian, ran short of time and came unstuck against Steve Martin. So Rd. 1 was lost 2.5 – 1.5.

Fortunately, in this competition there’s always a second bite of the cherry, which is where Exmouth often hit back after an early loss. So in this case, when Blake won again. Scott played quickly, leaving Dean to get behind on the clock and he cracked under the pressure. Shaw invited the Alekhine’s Defence, but Martin opted not to play 2.e5 but preferred 2.d3 and soon found himself on the back foot with his King’s position in a mess and pieces undeveloped. Shaw managed to maintain th einitiative and eventually got a 2nd queen, forcing resignation. the 3-0 lead ensured a won match, and it mattered not that Wensley ran out of time in a winning position.

  Newman Cup             05.12.2013.  
  Seaton Grd Rd 1 Rd 2   Rd 1 Rd 2 Exmouth Grd
1 Steve Martin 162 1 0   0 1 Meyrick Shaw 164
2 Steve Dean 148 1 0   0 1 Chris Scott 154
3 Alan Dowse 113 ½ 1   ½ 0 Oliver Wensley 146
4 Nicolas Bacon 108 0 0   1 1 Simon Blake 100
    531 1   3   564

Exmouth Win Newman Cup

After their disappointing loss to Tiverton in the Bremridge Cup (Div. 1) on Saturday, Exmouth were faced with meeting them again just four days later, this time in the Newman Cup, which comprises four players involved in two one hour games.

The teams were well-matched, to within 1 grading point. Playing “Steady Freddy” Hodge with a modest grade on Bd. 4 allowed stronger players in the middle order – a policy that paid dividends when he won the 1st game as Knowles, in desperate trouble, had to watch his digital clock count down the last 10 seconds. Wensley also won, while the other 2 games were drawn, Jones being a knight for a rook down but a king in a good defending position. With seconds to go, his opponent was not prepared to risk losing on time so agreed a draw. 3-1 to Exmouth.

In Rd. 2 with colours reversed, Annetts and Knowles took revenge for their earlier losses, while Stephens and Hewson drew again. Jones had White and went all out for early attack against the Sicilian Defence, using the Yugoslav System. He lost the exchange but it didn’t seem to matter as all his pieces were active and the Black king was stuck in the centre. Atkins defended stoutly and his queen became active. With a minute to go, the queen checked forking a rook. White brought his queen back to both block the check and protect the rook, which looked good for about 2 seconds until he realised the rook was not reciprocating the defence; in fact the queen was completely undefended and could be taken for nothing, with check and picking up the rook as well. Black’s mindset was that he did not wish to exchange queens as the White pawns would win the game, so imagining, like White, that the proximity of the rook to the queen meant they were protecting each other, withdrew his queen back up the board. The collective and audible sharp intake of breath from the spectators told him something was very amiss and then he realised. ****! (Expletive deleted). Seconds later the queens were forced off and the danger passed. Those 10 seconds of double lunacy decided the game, the match and the destination of the League trophy.

It actually made up for our bad luck on Saturday.

Bd Tiverton Grd Gm 1 Gm 2   Gm 1 Gm 2 Exmouth Grd
1 B. W. R. Hewson 178 ½ ½   ½ ½ J. K. F. Stephens 176
2 I. S. Annetts 153 0 1   1 0 O. E. Wensley 164
3 K. P. Atkins 138 ½ 0   ½ 1 R. H. Jones 147
4 J. Knowles 124 0 1   1 0 F. R. Hodge 107
  Totals 593 1   3   594

After the match it was calculated that even with a match against Seaton still to play, Exmouth cannot be caught and have won the cup with a match to spare.

The position below was the vital one. The pieces at the top of the board are not exact, as the whole thing was a blur at the time. White now played 1.Qe1 to block the check and protect the rook. Black, not realising the queen was unprotected and not wishing to exchange queens (as he thought) , played 1…Qg5. Nothing to be proud of on either side, but anything can happen as the clocks run down to the last few seconds.

Club’s 1st Match of the Season.

Exmouth were the hosts in their first match of the new season when they entertained Tiverton on Wednesday evening. The visitors’ secret weapon was the unexpected appearance of Devon’s match captain, Brian Hewson, who usually does not like to play mid-week evening matches after a long day’s stressful work, but as he is now within weeks of retirement, he’s clearly easing up in that respect.

Exmouth’s newcomer was Obie Ebanks, whose first-ever match this was. Overall, the teams were very evenly matched and very close to the maximum permitted grade limit.

In the first of two rounds at 30 mins. per player, Hewson lost a pawn and Stephens successfully ensured he paid the price. The second game was drawn. On Bd. 2 Morrison showed how quickly and originally he can play, and won with two strong attacks. On Bd. 3  Jones blundered a pawn away in the opening and played much of the game on the back foot, trying to blockade pawns from advancing. With only rooks on, he managed to break open the centre to give his own rooks some counter-play and the game was drawn. In the 2nd, he played his favourite reply to a c3 Sicilian, almost got his queen trapped in the centre of the board early on, but its presence there eventually paid dividends as he won material to a point where his black queen finally got a twin sister.

Ebanks admitted to being a bit overawed in the 1st game, but rallied and won the second, thus levelling the  match score at 4-all.

  Newman Cup         RapidPlay (U-600)  
  Exmouth   Rd1.  Rd2   Rd.1  Rd.2 Tiverton  
1 J. K. Stephens 176  1       ½     0        ½ B. W. R. Hewson 178
2 O. E. Wensley 164  0       0     1        1 J. Morrison 165
3 R. H. Jones 147  ½      1     ½       0 I. S. Annetts 153
4 O. Ebanks 110e  0       1     1        0 E. A. Maynard 103
  Totals 597  1½   2½    2½     1½   599
           4          4    


John Stephens led his team to an honourable draw.