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West of England Championship & Congress 2017

For 50 years after its inaugural event in 1947, the WECU Championship was (a) always held at Easter-time as that was when folk had their holidays and were therefore free to attend a 4 day event, making it the first seaside holiday of the year for many and (b) it rotated around the constituent counties – Newquay, Weymouth, Weston-Super-Mare and Torquay were the most regular hosts, and all took a turn. It was relatively easy to organise because the towns themselves were keen to host it, as it was seen to be a boost to the local holiday business. Civic buildings were offered as venues, the Mayor would gladly open and close the event, and would organise a free Civic Reception for players and their families. But the days when town councils had that degree of largesse gradually dimished as they became increasingly hit by financial strictures, and it became left to the Congress Secretary of the day to try and find suitable venues, on his own in towns he didn’t know.

Eventually, the Union Executive decided to see if holding it in one place would help to stabilise the entry by regularising the arrangements from year to year. Thus in 1999 it came to Exmouth, which had never hosted the event before. As the Union’s General Secretary at the time, it was left to me to find a suitable venue. My first port of call was a visit to see a former member of the Exmouth Chess Club, John Fowler of Eagle Investments, who I knew dealt with properties in the town. “That’s a coincidence”, he said “I’ve just bought a hotel – the Royal Beacon Hotel”. It was that easy, and it’s been there ever since.

The Beacon area of Exmouth has been described as one of the best-kept secrets of the south coast, situated as it is where the Exe estuary, a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) for its flora and faunam, meets the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage site. A series of late 18th century houses, in which lived Lady Nelson and Lady Hamilton as neighbours,  lead up from the town centre to a point high above the promenade, where the hotel is situated. In mediaeval times, a beacon was situated at the cliff edge, outside where the hotel now is, ready to be lit in times of threatened invasion by foreign forces, as it was when the Spanish Armada approached. Today there is a symbolic beacon in metalwork to mark the site.

That explains the Beacon part of its name – the Royal bit is explained by the King of Saxony, who was conducting a private journey around the British Isles in the 1840s, staying there … for one night. The owner at the time spotted his opportunity and Royal it has been ever since.

The Hotel has proved a very satisfactory venue, both for its situation, residential accommodation and playing conditions. This was the 19th consective year it’s been held there.

The overall entry this year was 76, with the Minor Section, usually the biggest section, strangely this year being the smallest at 22.

In the Open, although there were 2 FIDE Masters and a Candidate Master among the ranks there was never any question that GM Keith Arkell would retain his championship title, although even for him, having secured that particular aim after Rd. 6, there was a sting in the tail and he lost to McMichael in the final round.

The wallcharts below, tell the whole story:

The Championship Section

The Major Section

The Minor Section

West of England Congress – Easter 2017

Prizelist

Grd Club /7
Championship (Open)
1st K. C. Arkell 2411 Paignton 6
2nd= R. McMichael 2230 Kings Head 5
M. Waddington 2061 Dorchester 5
GPs D. Littlejohns 1999 Taunton
R. De Coverley 1988 Bourne End
R. Bryant 1984 Oswestry
M. Shaw 1944 Exmouth
O. E. Wensley 1798 Exmouth
Major (U-2000)
1st= P. Brooks 1915 Newton Abbot
R. Hutchings 1845 Woodpushers
3rd= J. Hickman 1897 5
J. McDonnell 1863 Streatham 5
GP C. Sellwood   (U-1750) 1668 Camborne
Minor (U-130)
1st= J, Barber-Lafon 128 Newton Abbot 5
1st= K. Alexander 124 Seaton 5
1st= D. Burt 104 Bournemouth 5
GP A. Fraser        (U-110) 107 Beckenham 4

And now, the story in pictures …..

Rd. 1: Mitchell vs McMichael 0-1

Rd. 1: General view of the playing area - right side from the stage.

Rd. 1: Generel view of the playing area - left side from stage.

Rd. 1: Ingham vs Waddington (nearest) 0-1 & Bolt vs Shaw. 1-0

Rd. 1: Up & coming Cornish junior, Adam Hussain, faces the top seed in the Major, Ronnie Burton. 2nd seed, Paul Brooks opens against Phil Foley.

Rd. 2: Clubmates Walter Braun and event secretary, Meyrick Shaw, get their 2nd game under way, while Littlejohns plays Tim Paulden.

Rd. 2: John Bass plays Patryk Krzyzanowski alongside Menadue and Helbig.

Rd. 2: Eventual winner, Keith Arkell, moves against eventual joint runner-up, Mike Waddington.

Rd. 2: In the Minor, Bracken Lockett faces the eventual Grading Prize winner, Alan Fraser, alongside Wendy Carr and N. Thatte.

Rd. 5: MsMichael plays Alan Crombleholme, a well-known name in chess circles, especially in the Midlands, but his first visit to this event.

Rd. 5: Sellwood vs Brooks & Hutchings vs Hickman

Rd. 6: Graham Bolt makes a move against Mike Waddington.

Rd. 6: Top 2 boards in the Major - Brooks vs Hutchings & Price vs Sellwood.

Rd. 7: Top 2 games in the Minor - Rogers vs Tidy (drawn) & Dave Burt vs Paul Errington. 1-0. A remarkable achievement for the 14th seed, and 80+ years young to come 1st=.

Rd 7: The top 2 seeds meet at last. Arkell had already won the title with 6/6, which may have affected his sharpness in this game, which he lost after a long tactical endgame.

Final round; final game to finish, and a crowd gathers around as a small drama unfolds - Arkell loses a game!

Ken Alexander and Jacquie Barber-Lafon, 2 of the 3 joint winners of the Minor, accept their prize from WECU Treasurer, Oliver Wensley, who features in every photo from now on!

Jacquie Barber-Lafon was clearly delighted to become West of England Ladies Champion.

Joint winners in the Major, "Superman" Hutchings and Paul Brooks.

The Grading Prize winners from the Open, messers Shaw, Wensley, de Coverly and Bryant.

Runners-Up: Waddington & McMichael.

He's won it twice before, he's just lost a game, but that obviously doesn't spoil the moment for GM Keith Arkell.

West of England Congress – Easter 2017

Prizelist

Grd Club /7
Championship (Open)
1st K. C. Arkell 2411 Paignton 6
2nd= R. McMichael 2230 Kings Head 5
M. Waddington 2061 Dorchester 5
GPs D. Littlejohns 1999 Taunton
R. De Coverley 1988 Bourne End
R. Bryant 1984 Oswestry
M. Shaw 1944 Exmouth
O. E. Wensley 1798 Exmouth
Major (U-2000)
1st= P. Brooks 1915 Newton Abbot
R. Hutchings 1845 Woodpushers
3rd= J. Hickman 1897 5
J. McDonnell 1863 Streatham 5
GP C. Sellwood   (U-1750) 1668 Camborne
Minor (U-130)
1st= J, Barber-Lafon 128 Newton Abbot 5
1st= K. Alexander 124 Seaton 5
1st= D. Burt 104 Bournemouth 5
GP A. Fraser        (U-110) 107 Beckenham 4

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