After an indifferent start to the season, Exmouth seem to have turned a corner since the New Year, but a run of 4 matches in 8 days in Mid-March would almost certainly determine the way the season as a whole would pan out.
The first of these was on a clubnight (Wed. 16th ) when the visitors were Sidmouth in a Division 2 match in the local league. With Exmouth somewhat outgraded, much would depend on the form of their two “debutantes” this season, Wensley and Dzenis. As things turned out, the Latvian sacrificed a rook in order to press home a lively Kingside attack, which ended in an unavoidable mate. Wensley, too, won against the experienced Martyn Adams, which left Jones asking his opponent whether his twice-suggested offer of a draw was still open. Fortunately it still was, and this secured the win, leaving Kennedy vs Toms to wrap things up with a draw in a complex position.
|1||W||P. J. Kennedy||151||½||½||Dr. D. A. Toms||159|
|2||B||O. E. Wensley||120e||1||0||M. Adams||151|
|3||W||R. H. Jones||138||½||½||S. Stone||132|
|4||B||J. Dzenis||120e||1||0||P. J. Hills||126|
The following Saturday, players faced the long journey across the county, northwards to Barnstaple, the first match Exmouth have played there for nearly 30 years. That, incidentally, was an 8 board match in the Rooke Memorial Tournament, played at their then premises, Knight’s Photographic Studio in The Square, an afternoon that coincided with Santa Claus’ arrival at 3 p.m. to turn on the Christmas Lights. Carols blared out all afternoon from loudspeakers hoisted high onto lamp-posts, which positioned them right outside the windows of the upstairs room where the match was being played. Frank Sinatra belted out “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” every 40 minutes or so, I recall, amongst a medley of other seasonal songs on a tape that was set on auto re-play all afternoon. Their team captain, Nick Down (191), was so flustered by the cacophany outside that he lost to Jones, but the rest of the team were unperturbed and Barnstaple went on to win 7 – 1. An unforgettable afternoon – such fun!
Nick Down’s main claim to fame, incidentally, (forgive another aside here) lay in being the only man to win the British Ladies Correspondence Championship; he’d entered it, either for a prank or a bet, under the name of Nicola Down, and after winning the tournament his true identity was inevitably exposed. The story displeased the BCF who banned Down from any of their tournaments for some years, but it aroused much amusement in the media and made the national dailys at the time
Meanwhile, back in the present-day, the teams of 4 were well-matched, as International Master, Jack Rudd, was unavailable for the home team, it being a 4NCL weekend. Exmouth won the toss (again) yet it was Gosling with the Black who registered the first win, followed by Dzenis, also with Black, who was somewhat fortunate to catch his opponent in a mating net with just 2 rooks each and a scattering of pawns. Jones succumbed to the power of a classic bishop pair, raking the board on the long diagonals. This left the match result depending on the outcome of the Hewson – Marriott game, a scrappy, unclear position, with Hewson’s time rapidly running down through the single minutes of extra time as he sought a way through. Spectators gathered around, trying to work out which way it was going. Hewson pressed on the King-side, which came to be be adequately defended, then swiftly switched his pieces to the opposite wing where he managed to secure spacial advantage and was able to run his a-pawn ahead. Marriott resigned as the eventual outcome (with best play) was clear, though Hewson had only 3 minutes left to work it all out.
Barnstaple’s score of 1-3 was the same as all their other matches in this league this season.
|1||W||P. Marriott||159||0||1||B. W. Hewson||176|
|2||B||S. Clarke||155||0||1||B. G. Gosling||156|
|3||W||J. Munsey||146||0||1||J. Dzenis||130e|
|4||B||R. Oughton||144||1||0||R. H. Jones||138|
This win took Exmouth to the top spot in Division II with just one match to play.