Devon’s premier team tournament, the Bremridge Cup was inaugurated in 1902, with a cup donated by the newly-created DCCA’s then secretary, the Rev. Henry Bremridge, and has been competed for ever since.
For many decades the tournament was a battle between Plymouth and Exeter. This was not surprising as Plymouth had by far the largest population base from which to draw players (c. ¼ million) and the club was led from the front by the charismatic Ron Bruce. This was off-set by Exeter having the University and a number of establishments of higher education, all providing a shifting population of young talents passing through.
From time to time, other clubs were allowed their moment in the sun, as, for example, when a young Gary Lane emerged in Paignton, a star collecting around him a small constellation of aspirants. The University were immensely strong in the ‘60s and ‘70s, while Barnstaple once had enough talents to form a strong team of 6, winning in 1991 and 1992.
But by the 1990s things were waning. Ron and Rowena Bruce and their generation had passed away or moved on, and the Plymouth Club had no appetite at all for weekend chess. Exeter, too, failed to identify a strong leader who could forge the city’s talents into a regularly competitive team. The University club folded altogether as students were left more and more to their own devices. Gary Lane grew up, moved on, and the Paignton Club folded. Teignmouth, an ever-present club in the tournament seized their chance, claiming their only win in 2001.
While everyone was delighted at this well-deserved success, the DCCA could see that the tournament was on the slide. In the centenary 2001-02 season, only two clubs had entered the Bremridge Cup and there were no clubs at all in the Mamhead Cup (Div. 2). In order to try and address this alarming decline, the Association agreed that clubs could become more pro-active in their search for strong players willing to commit their Saturday afternoons.
In this recruitment drive Exmouth were first off the mark. Ken Derrick, a 200 grade player formerly from Bristol, was discovered living quietly in an East Devon village, hitherto unknown to mainstream Devon chess. Likewise with Mike Cox, who lived nearby. Trefor Thynne, a former Exmouth Champion who had been inactive in recent years was also invited to join the party. This surge attracted Ivor Annetts and Brian Hewson from the Tiverton area where there was no top level chess at that time.
In no time at all, Exmouth, who had only very rarely entered the Bremridge in its 100 years, became Devon champions 6 times in the 8 years from 2002, seemingly before other clubs had twigged what the secret was. This was only the short-term effect; Trefor Thynne’s interest was thereby re-awakened, and he went on to form the Newton Abbot Club, while Annetts and Hewson started doing the same for Tiverton as Exmouth had done. The result being 3 strong teams where none had existed before.
This renaissance came to head this season with 5 teams entering the 1st division. Exeter had entered early, but when the familiar problem arose of needing a captain to organise things, and it looked as if they would have to withdraw, the day was saved by Dave Regis who stepped in after Christmas.
So, with at least 4 teams at full strength, it was clear that every team was capable of beating the other 4. And so it proved.
When the day of the final match arrived (Tiverton vs Exmouth), there were still three possible outcomes. (a) If Tiverton won 6-0 they would win the cup; (b) If Exmouth won or only drew 3-3, they would win the cup and if Tiverton won by 3½-2½ or slightly better, Newton Abbot would win. Trefor Thynne, as Newton Abbot captain and a (very) interested party came along to witness fair play and to present the Cup to either club.
Things had not gone well for the Exmouth Club, whose absentees were strong and plentiful enough to form a Bremridge team on their own, whereas Brian Hewson drove for 4 hours from Kent to arrive minutes before kick-off time, mentally and physically exhausted but determined not to miss the occasion. Also, the sounds of music and merriment, wafting upstairs from the bar below throughout, seemed to affect the visitors more than their opponents, and when Tiverton got to 3½-1½ with a game to go, it was clear neither was going to win the cup, and Trefor Thynne took it back with him, to hold for a 4th successive year. After he left, Underwood scored a fine endgame win to make the final score a tantalising half point short of Exmouth’s required draw.
|1||B. Edgell||199||1||0||J. K. F. Stephens||192|
|2||D. Littlejohns||180||½||½||A. Archer-Lock||192|
|3||M. Richardt||177||0||1||Dr. J. W. R. Underwood||171|
|4||B. W. R. Hewson||174||0||1||M. Shaw||166|
|5||S. Bartlett||164||1||0||B. G. E. Gosling||164|
|6||I. S. Annetts||152||1||0||R. H. Jones||130|