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Posts Tagged ‘Percy & Douglas Fawcett’

Gold Fever! (01.04.2017.)

There must be some gene in the Devonian make-up that compels them to go to the other side of the world on crackpot missions looking for vast quantities of gold. This was first displayed by Sir Walter Raleigh, late of East Budleigh, who in 1617 led a second expedition up the Orinoco in search of the fabled city of El Dorado. It was a doomed venture and many of his men, including his only son, Watt, died in the attempt. Raleigh reported back to King James I, who had him executed for his failure.

300 years later gold fever broke out again when Col. Percy Fawcett, born in Torquay and brought up in Teignmouth, led several expeditions into the Brazilian interior on the same mission. The very name El Dorado was, by this time, tainted, so Fawcett called it the Lost City of Z. Out this week is a major film of the story.  Like Raleigh, Fawcett took his son on his final expedition, which simply vanished without trace. Several expeditions were subsequently sent to look for the expedition that was looking for gold, but no trace of Fawcett or cities of gold has ever been found.

Meanwhile, Percy’s older brother, Douglas was living a life every bit as exotic as his sibling. He was a pioneering science fiction writer well ahead of H. G. Wells, philosopher, mountaineer, photographer, racing motor cyclist and motorist. For many more details on his life visit keverelchess/biographies/edouglas fawcett.

He was also a keen chess player all his long life, last playing at Paignton in 1959.

In 1904 he took part in a special Rice Gambit tournament, financed by the US millionaire, Isaac Rice, who had devised a gambit in a line of the King’s Gambit and wished to test it out with top players.

White: D. Fawcett. White: James Mortimer

Kings Gambit – Rice Gambit [C39]

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.h4 g4 5.Ne5 Nf6 6.Bc4 d5 7.exd5 Bd6 8.0–0 White is gambitting not just a pawn but his central knight. 8…Bxe5 All games in this tournament had to start from this position. 9.Re1 Qe7 This was the defence most favoured by Black in the tournament, and was Prof. Rice’s own choice. 10.c3 and this was White’s preferred response. 10…g3 11.d4 Ng4 12.Bxf4 Bxf4 Less favoured by computer analysis is 12…Qxh4 13.Qf3 Qh2+ 14.Kf1 f6 15.dxe5 fxe5 16.Bxe5 Qh1+ 17.Ke2 Nxe5 18.Qf6 leaving Black’s Queen, rook & knight all attacked. 13.Rxe7+ Kxe7 14.Qf3 Be3+ 15.Kh1 f5 16.d6+ cxd6 17.Qd5 Rf8 18.Na3 Nf6 19.Qf3 f4 20.Re1 Nc6 21.Qxf4 Ng4 22.Rxe3+ Nce5 23.Qg5+ Ke8 24.dxe5 d5 25.Bb5+ Bd7 26.Bxd7+ Kxd7 27.Qxg4+ 1–0 The check is vital, giving White time to cover Black’s threatened back rank mate.

In last week’s position (above) it’s Black’s knight that is trying to hold everything together, but unsuccessfully as White won easily after 1.RexB and if 1…NxR 2.Rb7+ forcing 2…RxR 3.PxR and the pawn cannot be stopped from queening.

In this position White is facing a strong attack. How should he proceed?

Hooten & The Lady & the Fawcett Brothers (24.09.2016.)

Last weekend’s TV schedules flagged up the start of a new adventure series entitled Hooten and the Lady, with high production standards and deeming it enjoyable but forgettable Friday night candy floss. In it, British Museum curator, young Lady Alex Lindo-Parker, jets off to the Amazon rainforest in search of Col. Percy Fawcett’s lost camp, is thrown together with maverick adventurer Hooten, and within on-screen minutes the pair stumble on a cave containing a skeleton, presumably that of Fawcett, grasping a treasure map in its bony hand, which quickly leads them to the fabled city of gold, El Dorado. The fact that scores of expeditions from Sir Walter Raleigh’s in 1595 to Fawcett’s in 1925 had all failed in that very same project is neither here nor there; one must suspend one’s disbelief.

What the programme doesn’t mention (and why should it?) is that Fawcett was brought up at 3, Barnpark Terrace, Teignmouth, together with 3 sisters and an older brother, Edward Douglas (1866-1960), who led a life every bit as exotic as Percy; a pioneering science fiction writer, philosopher, alpinist, aviator & chessplayer.

Douglas founded the Totnes Club in 1901 and played for Devon. He moved to Switzerland for many years to concentrate on his mountaineering, but after a heart attack halfway up the Matterhorn at the age of 66 he was forced to give up, and returned to quieter pursuits, including chess. He played in the Paignton Congress from its inception in 1951 to 1959 died in 1960 aged 94.

A report of Paignton 1958 said Of the veteran players, 92 year old Mr. Douglas Fawcett, played some good games and delighted everyone with his memories of Pillsbury and his first game with Steinitz, played in 1879”.

Much more detail of his life may be found on keverelchess.com/e-douglas-fawcett.

Here is his game from Rd. 8 of the Southsea Congress 1949, in which he beats the 9-times Irish Champion, illustrating his sharp attacking style.

White: E. Douglas Fawcett. Black: J. J. O’Hanlon.

Ruy Lopez – Berlin Defence.  [C67]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0–0 Nxe4 Black accepts the proffered pawn, not often done these days. 5.d4 Be7 6.Qe2 Nd6 7.Bxc6 bxc6 8.dxe5 Nb7 9.Nc3 0–0 Fawcett is following the Pillsbury Variation, in tribute to his hero. 10.Nd4 Nc5 11.Rd1 Qe8 12.Nf5 Ne6 13.Ne4 Rb8 14.b3 Rb5 15.f4 Rd5 16.Be3 Bb7 17.Qg4 Building up a kingside attack from which a black rook and bishop are powerless to defend. 17…Kh8 18.c4 Rxd1+ 19.Rxd1 g6 20.Nxe7 Qxe7 21.Nf6 The perfect place for a knight. 21…Rd8 Black needs f8 for his knight to defend h7. 22.Qh4 Nf8 23.c5 d5 24.Bd4 Qe6 25.g4 Bc8 26.Rf1 Ba6 This threat can be ignored. 27.f5 Qe7 28.e6! Opening the bishop’s diagonal.  28…fxe6 29.Nxd5+ 1–0 Winning the queen.

In last week’s position, Arkell had the choice of 2 mates; 1.RxN+ RxR 2.Rh7 mate, or 1.Rh7+ NxR 2. RxN mate.

Here is a 2-mover by John Brown of Bridport (1827 – 63).

White to play & mate in 2.