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From Bude To The Isle of Man (10.10.2015.)

Peter Clarke, the well-known chessplayer, columnist, author and bibliophile died last December after a long illness, and it was his family’s wish that an event of some sort should be held in his memory. It was decided that the scheduled 3rd Bude RapidPlay should be renamed the 1st Peter Clarke Memorial Tournament. This was held in Bude on Saturday, and the gathering of local players was joined by a number of the Clarke clan, including his wife, Peggy, her youngest brother, Philip Wood, two of their 3 daughters, Pennie and Salli and 3 grandchildren.

The winner of the Open Section was Steve Piper (Salisbury) whose chess career started as a junior at the Holsworthy Chess Club, founded by Peter, while the Runner-Up was Peter’s brother-in-law, Philip Wood.

The U-140 Section was won by Kelvin Hunter (Tiverton) and joint Runners-Up were Reece Whittington (Exeter), Steve Williams (Chester), Martin Jones (Newquay) & Robert Jones (Exmouth). Full details of all players’ results may be found on the keverelchess website.

Meanwhile, possibly the strongest International Open ever on British soil has been taking place this week on the Isle of Man, where 100 top players are fighting for a prize fund of £30,000 in the Masters Section alone. In Rd. 2 Devon resident GM Keith Arkell was paired with Cornish-born Michael Adams, which resulted in this tactically tricky game.

White: K. Arkell (241). Black: M. Adams (267).

Queen’s Gambit. [D02]

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d5 3.c4 e6 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Nc3 c6 6.Bg5 h6 7.Bh4 Bf5 8.e3 Nbd7 9.Bd3 Bxd3 10.Qxd3 Bd6 11.0–0 0–0 12.Rab1 a5 13.Qc2 Re8 14.Rfe1 Qc8 15.Bg3 Bxg3 16.hxg3 Ne4 17.Nxe4 dxe4 18.Nd2 Nf6 Attention now turns to the queenside, where a tactical skirmish takes place. 19.b4 axb4 20.Rxb4 b5 21.a4 Nd5 22.Rb2 Rxa4 23.Nxe4 Qc7 24.Qd3 Qa5 25.Rc1 Ra3 26.Qb1 g6 27.Qc2 If 27.Rxc6 losing the queen. 27…Ra1. 27…b4 28.Nd6 Rc3 29.Qd1 Re7 30.Nc4 Qa6 31.Rxb4 Rcxe3 If now 31…Nxb4 32.Rxc3. 32.Rb8+ Draw agreed. A fine result for Arkell, but was followed in the next round by this nightmare.

White: D. Howell (274). Black: K. Arkell.

French Defence – Tarrasch Var. [C10]

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bd7 5.Nf3 Bc6 6.Bd3 Nd7 7.0–0 Ngf6 8.Neg5 Bd6 9.Re1 Bxf3 10.Qxf3 h6 Intending to push the knight away, but it launches into a violent attack. 11.Nxe6! fxe6 12.Rxe6+ Kf7 13.Bc4 Kf8 14.Qf5 Nb6 15.Bb3 Be7 16.Bd2 c5 17.dxc5 Qxd2 18.cxb6 Qg5 19.Qf3 axb6 20.Rxe7 Kxe7 21.Qxb7+ Kd6 22.Qxb6+ Ke5 23.Qe6+ Kf4 24.g3+ Kf3 25.Bc4 Ne4 26.Be2+ Kxe2 27.Qxe4+ Kd2 28.Qd3# 1–0

Last week’s original 2-mover by Dave Howard was solved by 1.Na8! threatening 2.Nf3 mate. If the c-pawn takes the knight, 2.Rc4 mate follows.

This position arose in a Grandmaster rapidplay game earlier this year. What win did White miss before going on to lose the game?

White to play and win by force.

Death of Peter Clarke. (17.01.2015.)

The Western Morning News chess column was suspended at the end of October last year, with a promise that the situation would be reviewed in January. Such has been the reaction of readers, via letters to the Editor, that he has been persuaded to re-introduce it without delay. A phrase used by a spokesman for the paper was “Back by popular demand”, so many thanks to all those who conveyed their views through the right channels, and brought about this change of heart.

If you cancelled your order for the paper’s Saturday edition, you can now renew it. If you are outside the delivery area, here follows the text of the first column of the new era…..

The noted chess player and author of chess books, Peter Clarke, died on 11th December, aged 81, after a long illness, bravely borne.

He was taught to play chess at the age of 6 by his father, and won the London Boys’ Championship in 1950 and 1951, and the SCCU Boys’ Championship in 1950. He attended the university on his doorstep, Queen Mary College, in the Mile End Road. But the call for a career in science was nowhere as strong as his love of chess, and that is the road he chose to go down. But first, National Service could not be avoided and he spent this 2 year interlude in Bodmin training as a Russian linguist. This re-ignited his love for north Cornwall, as he had spent family holidays there.

By 1959 he was a regular writer for the British Chess Magazine, reporting at length on prestigious events and analysing games and openings. He played in 8 Olympiads between 1954 and 1968, losing only 15 of the 96 games played.

After marriage to Peggy Wood in 1966, he returned to the westcountry, eventually settling at Chapel House in the hamlet of Shop near Morwenstow.  In 1971, he and a group of 5 local friends, calling themselves the Hexagon put on the 1st Barnstaple Congress. The group functioned for about 10 years until Peter suffered a stroke in 1983, forcing him to give up such intensive activity.

He found that postal chess was better suited to a slower life-style, eventually winning the Grandmaster title. He also became a leading expert at solving chess problems.

He was the most modest of men, with no vanities or conceits. A much fuller account of his career may be found in the blog section of this site.

Here is one of his wins from the 1957 British Championship in York. This Rd. 5 game against Cheltonian, Denis Mardle, shows Peter at his sharpest.

White: D. V. Mardle. Black: P. H. Clarke.  Sicilian Defence – Paulsen Variation [B42].

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.Bd3 Nc6 6.Ne2 Nf6 7.Nbc3 b5 8.0–0 Bb7 9.b3 Bc5 10.Bb2 0–0 11.Qd2 Qc7 12.Rae1 Rac8 Adding potential pressure down the c-file 13.Kh1 Nb4 14.Qg5 Be7 15.f4 d6 16.e5 dxe5 17.fxe5 Ne4 18.Qg4 Nxd3 19.cxd3 Nxc3 20.Nxc3 Rfd8 21.Re3 Bf8 22.Ne4 Threatening to join the attack. 22…Bxe4 23.Qxe4 Qc2 24.Bd4 Rd7 25.Rh3 h6 26.Qg4 Qd2 27.a4 Rc1 28.Kg1 Rxf1+ 29.Kxf1 Rc7 30.Qe2 Rc1+ 31.Kf2 Qf4+ Forking king and bishop. 0–1.

This position, which also featured in this month’s copy of Chess magazine, arose during the last Exmouth Seniors Congress in November. Former Hexagon member Richard Smith (Black) found a winning move against Peter Lucas. Can you spot it?

Black to play and win.

Peter Hugh Clarke (1933 – 2014) Obituary now complete.

The noted chess player, organiser and author of chess books, Peter Clarke, died on 11th December in hospital after a long illness, bravely borne. He was 81.

This obituary has been put together from several sources, notably, Keith Jones, Geoff Martin, close family members and my own archives and on-line resources. It will continue to expand as new material comes to hand.

Peter was an only child, born on 18th March 1933 to  Olive Gertrude (nee Ekblom) and Hugh Clarke, who had married the previous year. Olive was of Swedish stock while Hugh’s father was William Ferrier Clarke, born in Linlithgow, near the Firth of Forth opposite Dunfermline. But Hugh and Olive’s roots were firmly in London’s East End, Plaistow, West Ham.

Peter with his father in 1935

He was taught to play chess at the age of 6 by his father, and won the London Boys’ Championship in 1950 and 1951, and the SCCU Boys’ Championship in 1950. At this time he was also playing in the Ilford Congress and playing Correspondence chess for Essex, a form of chess in which he would eventually gain the Grandmaster title. In 1953, now aged 20, he was runner-up to Dr. Fazekas in the Essex Championship, was playing Bd. 2 in the Essex Correspondence team. In the Ilford Congress he was 2nd to P. J. Oakley in the Premier Reserves, where the top section comprised Alexander, Hooper, Wade, Fazekas and Alan Philips, all except Hooper to become British Champions. This was his first appearance at the British Championship at Hastings where he came 18th= on 5/11 points, behind Yanovsky. Perhaps more impressive was leading his Ilford team on Bd. 1 to the National Club Championship that year.

He attended the university on his doorstep, Queen Mary College, in the Mile End Road, where he read for a BSc. Part of London University its alumni include such diverse figures as W. G. Grace, Sir Roy Strong and Lord Robert Winston. But the call for a career in science was nowhere as strong as his love of chess, and that is the road he chose to go down. But first, National Service could not be avoided. He spent part of this 2 year interude  in Bodmin in the Intelligence Corps, training as a Russian linguist and translator, and at the Joint Services School for Linguists. This re-ignited his love for north Cornwall, as he had frequently spent holidays there as a child with his parents.

By 1959 he was a regular writer for the British Chess Magazine, reporting at length on prestigious events and analysing games and openings. He and his great friend, Jonathan Penrose, were the two highest graded players in the UK, the only two in the 1b category. He played in 8 Olympiads between 1954 and 1968, and his and England’s record for those years was as follows:- to have lost only 15 of 96 games played at this level is remarkable.

  Yr venue Pos p w d l %
1 1954 Amsterdam  9th / 26 7 2 2 3 43
2 1956 Moscow  8th / 34 12 7 5 0 80
3 1958 Munich 11th / 36 15 2 10 3 47
4 1960 Leipzig 12th / 40 14 4 7 3 54
5 1962 Varna 14th / 37 15 3 10 2 53
6 1964 Tel-Aviv 18th / 48 12 2 8 2 50
7 1966 Havana 21st / 52 13 2 10 1 54
8 1968 Lugano 16th / 54 8 0 7 1 44
      totals 96 22 59 15  

 

A little seen photo from the Munich Olympiad 1958 - Clarke vs Eliskases: game drawn.

He first came to prominence as a player at the Ilford Club, and while his best performace was at Moscow his playing summit was probably captaining the England team at the 1966 Olympiad in Havana. His record there tells us something of his strengths and weakness as a top player: Played 13: Won 2: Drawn 10: Lost 1. Hartston at the time felt “Clarke’s score on top board is creditable. He is often criticised for his drawish tendencies, but a solid score such as this is a fine achievement against such opposition. It is remarkably difficult to score wins without suffering losses as well, as Lee and Littlewood found to their cost!” It’s easy to forget that his performance at the board must have been affected by (a) playing 13 tiring games (b) being captain for all matches and (c) reporting at length and in great detail for BCM.

This solidity as a player helped him to a splendid record in the British Championship, without ever actually winning the ultimate title, having to be content with being, uniquely, runner-up five times. But he didn’t seem to mind this at all, as he was often edged out by his best friend, Jonathan Penrose. 

During the late 50’s / early 60s Peter had several times dated B. H. Wood’s daughter, Margaret, universally known as Peggy.  They married 6 months later at Holy Trinity Church, Sutton Coldfield, Jonathan Penrose being Peter’s Best Man.  

Peter & Peggy Clarke

It would be easy to think that his book-writing days took over as his playing activities decreased, but this was not the case – he was doing it all at the same time! His reputation as a writer came to equal, if not overtake, that of a player, with titles that were not only highly-regarded at the time of publication, but have stood the test of time.  His subjects included Tal (1961) and Petrosian (1964) two more different players one can cannot imagine. He translated and edited Smyslov’s Best Games (1958) and 100 Soviet Chess Miniatures (1963). First editions of these books published by Bell in their distinctive dustwrappers, can still take pride of place in anyone’s chess library. Another title he worked on was Foldeak’s Chess Olympiads (2nd enlarged ed. 1969).  Two interesting points here: (a) he seemed to hate dustwrappers on books and would quickly get rid of them if they were in any way slightly imperfect,  and (b) in spite of his facility in Russian, constantly translating it into English, none of his daughters ever heard him speak a word of Russian in the house.

After marriage and the birth of their first daughter, Salli, in 1966, he felt the urge to move to the westcountry, and they moved to a small house in Milton Dameral, where a second daughter, Penelope, was born. Peter started a chess club in the village which eventaully reached a membership of over 20, almost unheard of for such a small place.

They then moved to the village of Bush, near Stratton, where in 1977  their 3rd daughter, Susie, was born. He also became British Correspondence Champion that year. In 1979, he found his dream home, called Chapel House, in the hamlet of Shop near Morwenstow. Built c. 1800 it has the appearance of an expansive rectory, with large high-ceilinged rooms. The adjacent farm buildings are Grade II listed. In his 1855 novel Westward Ho! Charles Kingsley borrowed the name Chapel House, but applied it to another house in the story. 

In 1971 the world in general was agog at the prospect of the Fischer-Spassky match, and Britain in particular was on the brink of a chess explosion. An expression of this was the response to his first organised event, the 1st Barnstaple Congress. It had been put on by Clarke and a group of 5 local friends, who called themselves The Hexagon. There were 70 entries, all lumped together in one large Swiss, 22 of whom were graded between 180 – 226. Grandees like Golombek and Wood were joined by young Turks like Botterill, Bellin, Gerald Bennett and Danny Wright. In the event it was won by an almost unknown local schoolboy, Peter Waters, who played none of the above, except Golombek. The following year the entry rocketed to 164, and its continuing success was assured. The Hexagon functioned as a group for about 10 years until Peter suffered a cerebral haemmorrhage in 1983, forcing him to give up such intensive activity. 

For a time, he ran bookstalls at local congresses, notably Paignton, Exeter and Frome and was happy to chat to grassroots players. He found that postal chess was better suited to a slower life-style and he competed at the highest level, winning the Grandmaster title for postal chess, as did his friend, Jonathan Penrose.

After his stroke he had more time for his other interests. Sports he followed included golf, cycling, F1, tennis, darts, snooker, athletics et. al. He collected books, not only on chess, but on his other interests including science, astronomy and philosophy.  His study had floor-to-ceiling shelves on all free walls, all stacked with books.

1996: Peter is playing his old friend and adversary, Dr. Jonathan Penrose in his study at Chapel House. The board is the one presented to him by Fidel Castro at the end of the Havana Olympiad - each team captain received one. Photo courtesy of Keith Jones. Peter's long-time unofficial chauffeur.

He was the most modest of men, with no discernible vanities or conceits, and a most hospitable host when entertaining visitors to his vast collection of chess  books. 

He leaves his wife, Peggy, 3 daughters and 8 grandchildren: Isaac, Reuben, George, Madelaine, Heidi, Gemima, Grace and Frank.

The funeral took place in Poughill Cemetery, near Bude, and was attended by a good number of relatives, local friends and chess acquaintances.

The secular ceremony was led by the Celebrant, Alison Timms. Firstly his mother’s ashes were interred, followed by Peter’s coffin.

Then five of the grandchildren each read out a verse from Peter’s favourite poem, that he had had read to him by his father. Its philosophy is sometimes summarised by the saying “Eat, Drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die”, but there is also an element of the Latin maxim Carpe diem – sieze the day, and in this repect that is exactly what Peter did.

The position of the grave site, overlooking St. Olaf's

Alison Timms leads the graveside ceremony, with Peggy seated, with stick & blanket.

The grandchildren circulated with small baskets containing sprigs of rosemary and flower petals, and those present were invited to drop them onto the coffin.

 

There were a number of written tributes, some read out at the gathering at Morwenstow, other sent later.

The following was sent by Peter’s great friend, Dr. Jonathan Penrose, who was unable to attend due to transport problems, and is probably the one that deserves most attention, as it reveals his own personal slant on Peter’s career. Perhaps the last word should go to him…

In Memoriam: Peter Hugh Clarke 1933 –  2014:  

Peter Clarke was a very good friend of mine for over 60 years. Amazingly, over that long period of time I cannot recall a single cross word between us. We first met in the early 1950s as members of the same chess teams, particularly the Essex county team, but also the London University team for a short period of time. 

In those days (the early to mid 1950s) there seemed to be a comparative paucity of ambitious young chess players in England, so it was our good fortune that we were often selected to play for England in the prestigious chess Olympiads, played in different countries every two years. It was a wonderful experience for both of us. 

I think it was the Olympiad held in Moscow in 1956 which stood out as Peter’s most successful tournament of this kind. The English team reached 8th place overall at the end, a fine performance for its time. Peter’s contribution was a magnificent 79% (scoring 7 wins, 5 draws and no losses). 

The other members of the team including myself thought that the standard of Peter’s play had progressed very well, and that future selection of Peter’s place on the English team was likely to be assured for many years to come.  

In retrospect, it would become clear that Peter’s standard of play had just about reached its peak at this time, and that he performed well back in England in tournaments in 1957 and 1958.  

I was personally impressed by a game he played and won against Alexander in the 1957 British Championship. Hugh Alexander was widely regarded as England’s strongest chess player since the end of the Second World War, and this game was somehow symbolic that a younger generation of players might be beginning to supersede the older ones.  

However, at about this time, Peter also started to display a budding talent for writing books on chess, and eventually wrote some classic works in the genre. This was fine, but I felt that in so doing, he might have made himself less prepared to play chess as aggressively as he had done formerly. As a result, he tended to become more “drawish” in his play, and therefore began to relinquish the chance to win a big chess tournament.  

In later years, Peter began to show a great interest in solving chess problems. This is an area of chess where the supreme subtleties of the game can best be explored. Peter was a good solver and played in a few problem solving competitions, I believe just for fun. 

On personal visits to Chapel House over the years, I remember the great pleasure of discussing with Peter the beauty of some modern and classical chess problems – and such memories in turn will remind me of how much I will miss him in the future. 

Jonathan Penrose