Steve wins Wrexham Open

Steve Lloyd was joint winner of the Wrexham Rapid together with Bob Clark, himself a former Chester member. They both scored 4.5/5, drawing against each other.

Your reporter had won the previous year with 5/5 with Colm joint second on 4/5. This year I continued the winning streak to reach 4/4, on the way recovering from a sticky opening against Chester speed demon Graham Dobson. In the final round Steve played an enterprising Greek gift sacrifice against me. Defence prevailed for just a few moves before Steve finished things off with a mating attack.

Once again an enjoyable tournament run by Wrexham which I’d encourage members to enter in future.

Winners!

Ethan Challoner won the Wirral league junior of the year prize for the second year running. This year Ethan was promoted to play for Chester A but that didn’t stop him amassing the points! In August he’ll be representing Wales in the Glorney Cup junior international against Scotland.

Paul Bluck was also presented with a trophy for scoring the highest of any league player in division 3 of the Wirral league. He conceded just one draw over the entire season.

Finally Phil Crocker won bronze playing for England’s 2nd 50+ team in the European Senior Team Championships in Poland held in July behind England 1 and Slovakia. He’s pictured also winning the board 4 best score bronze behind England 1’s GM Glenn Flear and a Slovakian IM.

RIP Keith Emerton

Keith sadly passed away in hospital yesterday. He will be sorely missed by Chester members.

Keith, nearest the window, readies himself to play for an England 65+ team

An enthusiastic member of the club, he played for and captained Chester teams up to the pandemic. Notwithstanding his age he took part in online matches in the last couple of years, memorably beating IM Peter Large in a match against Epsom. As the picture shows he also represented England Seniors in the World Senior Championships.

England Calling

The charming city of Dresden

For nine days in late October and early November Dresden hosted the European Senior Team Championships. England entered six teams across the 50+ and 65+ categories. Given my youthful looks I was only eligible for the former.

There is as such no chess competency test for playing for your country in such a competition, although I think you’d want to be at least a medium strength club player to have some prospect of winning the odd game. If more English players were interested, then more teams could be entered.

My strength fell somewhat in the middle of a pool of non-professional players allocated to England 2 and England 3. I ended up playing top board for England 3 in what the ratings suggested was not a team expected to do very well at all (seeded around 24th from 35 teams).

The spectacular tournament venue

There is a change in organisation underway in English seniors’ chess. Increased sponsorship has enabled more competitive first teams to be entered. Perhaps more importantly, if a little less visible, a greater use of spreadsheet technology has enabled the smooth and accurate planning of teams, travel plans and t-shirt sizes across the England team. Such technology is readily scalable should playing interest increase as hopefully it will.

England 3 (L to R Phil, Peter, Brian and Ray) model the white t-shirt

Choosing your t-shirt size is always a bit of a leap of faith. Perhaps naively I had selected small, and it soon became apparent that other more experienced players had made more prudent choices. My pre-tournament preparation therefore needed to focus on physical exercise with the hope of squeezing into the team kit. I also forensically studied “100 Endings you must know” although that didn’t prove in any way useful as it happens.

After a couple of days of venting freely about the usual rating gripes (especially under-rated juniors) and using loose language (like grades rather than ratings) I realised that the Brian Valentine who was our England 3 captain was also the Brian Valentine who was in charge of ratings for England. November 1st for him brought a raft of ratings emails. I decided not to tell him that my new grade (sorry rating) was wrong.

As a 65+ player he may have been made our 50+ captain to instil some discipline amongst us relative youngsters. He might also have thought he could take on a Mike Brearley role (a cricketer before you start looking up his grade) where captaining would be more important than playing. The rest of the team disavowed him of any such possible notion pretty early on and he was soon able to demonstrate that even ratings officers can threaten a back rank mate or two.

One of the nice features of playing in the England squad was the mixing across teams over breakfast. Ray in our team was able to ask GM John Emms to sign a copy of his book on the Sicilian. I was able to explain to IM Nigel Povah how much I’d enjoyed his first book on the English. He was perhaps less pleased when I pointed out that I’d given it away as a lockdown prize during the pandemic. GM Glenn Flear gave an entertaining account of his barely successful return to France after the March 2020 Prague world senior team tournament ended.

A highlight of the breakfast buffet was the automated butter dispenser

In round 1 our England 3 team was somewhat outclassed by Austria, well at least that was how it felt to me. Our next chance to beat another national team came the very next round when we faced the slightly smaller country of Liechtenstein. I was all set to play their top master, apparently also a Fide bigwig. He was less keen and didn’t actually arrive at the tournament until a few days after the start. Still, I have some devious opening preparation ready for him as and when he’s up for a game. That default win helped propel us to our first victory.

Iclicki – Crocker was a more than impressive Stockfish first line all the way to the default!

England 3 were never more dangerous than when attacking the king. My most enjoyable if less than completely accurate attempt was against the top Graz FM below.

How can White to play sacrifice a knight for 2 pawns to open up the kingside and suffocate the black pieces? Sadly, he didn’t take the knight and later got a little counterplay before succumbing in the end.

Our team also demonstrated some tactical alertness which always comes in handy against senior opposition. Next up Peter seems to have tangled up his white pieces but has a way to win the day.

White’s pieces are all en prise. 52 Rg5 should draw but is there a way to actually win the game*?

Our team results improved steadily towards the end of the tournament. One of the highlights was beating Ireland. Peter and I managed to hold draws on the top boards before Brian crashed through in his game starting below with establishing an “octopus” on d6.

13. f4 exf4 14. Bxf4 Qd8 15. Nd6 gave Brian a dominating position which he soon won.

The final round saw England 1 (already confirmed as tournament winners) play England 2 on table 1. We played on table 3 against second seeds Berlin. With a 1950 or so average rating we faced a GM and three IMs. It started relatively promisingly. My opponent GM Rabiega, the highest rated player in the 50+ section, somehow confused himself in the opening and ended up at best equal as white after 15 or so moves. I decided to simplify to a roughly level ending.

The 101st Ending You Must Know. Black to play and avoid doing anything stupid for a couple of hours. It was frustratingly beyond my capabilities in the final round.

It’s one thing to reach a level ending and an entirely other thing to actually draw it. My opponent created the odd half-threat and eventually I managed to find a way to self-destruct. Such is the way the game goes.

Meanwhile on board 4 it looked like the Berlin IM was being crushed by Ray rated 1791. This seemed to fluster the Berlin team a touch, particularly when he quickly bashed out the following sacrifice. An auto sac for an English club player maybe, but perhaps German chess is a little more positional…

How can White sac a second piece to open up the black king even more? Clue: f6 and h6 look a little loose**.

Unfortunately, Ray later failed to find a way to close out the game, but a draw was still a very fine result and helped avoid the team being whitewashed.

Despite losing in the final round England 3 still won the prize for the team performing best against expectations (12th against a seeding of 24th). That earned us each a certificate and a rose each. Oddly, given the violent chess some of us had played, they also threw in some DVDs on attacking the king.

England 3 with certificates and flowers

With a single game a day there was time to explore the city a little and to have the odd beer or two. With the advantage of O level German and a few months long ago working in Germany, it largely fell on me to make the beer order for our team. Not a duty to be taken lightly given the keenness to give us pils rather than our preferred wheat beer. At one riverside bar we even had to negotiate whether we wanted to pay a couple of euros for outside heating. This was a small example of the energy crisis with another one being that all public fountains had been switched off.

Waiting for beers and just before we switched the heating off

A nine round tournament is also about physical and mental stamina. Top GMs like England 1 have their own routines to stay match fit. Some of the amateurs went for a morning walk to stay active.

Artwork on the walking route. A dog, wolf or even penguin (from a different angle) we were never quite sure?

Often what is most memorable about such a trip is the things that don’t quite go to plan. Flying home was one such experience for me and a few other players. My experience (somewhat abridged) went something like this: 1) 2.25 am email from Lufthansa asking me if I’d like to check my hand baggage in the hold because the return flight will be quite full; 2) 10.45 am travel by taxi to the airport along with Mark Hebden and Natasha Regan aiming to be there in good time to avoid mishaps in getting to Frankfurt and then on to our various English destinations of London, Birmingham and Manchester; 3) 11.15 am arrive at Dresden airport and begin a tour of its main attractions; 4) 11.17am complete the tour noting little of interest; 5) 11.24am text message from Lufthansa explaining the flight to Frankfurt is cancelled (no reason given); 6) 11.35am text message with rebooking details. A much later flight to Munich for Natasha and Mark arriving later in the day in the UK. An even later flight to Frankfurt for me with an onward flight to Manchester the next day. 7) 11.55am Fruitless attempts to negotiate a return to the UK on the same day for me with a generous offer to stay at Mark’s house if I could get onto his Birmingham flight. An even more generous offer of a cup of tea if I could persuade my wife to drive to Birmingham around midnight and drop him off at home on the way back to Chester; 8) 12.05pm tot up our collective free meal vouchers for the delay and fantasise on the sort of meals which might be available.

Game Changer co-author WIM Natasha Regan is a big fan of Dresden airport. Her talk at the Chester club promised an AI revolution which doesn’t yet seem to have reached airport scheduling systems.

9) 12.20pm Realise that the meal vouchers can only be spent beyond the hand baggage security check but that this is shut because the flight is cancelled; 10) 1pm Somehow get the security checks opened up so that we can reach the range of restaurants expected on the other side; 11) 1.01pm Establish that the only thing on the other side is a duty free shop but that the meal vouchers can’t be spent on wine or beer and can only be spent on crisps, a rubbery sandwich or lettered Russian biscuits; 12) 1.15pm Invest our funds in Russian lettered biscuits which enables us to play a version of Scrabble; 13) 2pm – 7pm Free time to explore the tiny airport further. One plane and a racy collection of nude statues noted (photo withheld by censors); 14) 7pm Meet Irish IM Mark Orr (who lives in Scotland) on the next seat on the plane to Frankfurt; 15) 10pm dinner at Frankfurt airport with Mark, no doubt boring him with details of Scottish players I once played; 16) 4am breakfast at Frankfurt airport (sadly no automated butter dispenser there); 17) 8.30am arrive in Manchester etc.

It’s a little-known fact*** that Franz Kafka wrote his famous stories of bureaucratic absurdity after being trapped in Dresden airport for a few days after his flight to Prague was cancelled.

The pleasant Maritim hotel next to the venue where most of the players stayed

Notwithstanding the travel hiccup returning from Dresden, the trip was very enjoyable. I’d definitely recommend the experience to senior players considering playing. A big thanks to Nigel Povah for the efficient organisation. Also, thanks to my England 3 teammates who showed that ratings are just numbers and that apparent no-hopers like us can sometimes do really quite well.

*52 Bxf6! and the knight is trapped if it captures the rook on h5

**Bxh6!

***Not strictly in the sense of true. More in the sense of fake news.

Ethan is Wirral League Junior Of the Year

Chester junior Ethan Challoner was recently awarded the award for the top junior in the Wirral League in 2021-22. He scored a perfect 4/4 in division 2 and conceded just a single draw to reach 2.5/3 in division 3. According to the league table below his overall score of 6.5 was actually 2 points higher than the next players including both adults and juniors.

Ethan’s results will come as no surprise to Chester adults and juniors who were terrorised online by him during the pandemic as his play took a big step forward. He’s already represented Wales several times and next season will take a place in Chester’s first team captained by John Carleton also pictured presenting the trophy.

Combined Player Charts

No.NameTeamPtsPld
1Ethan ChallonerChester7
2Ray WilliamsChester7
3Steve KeeAtticus5
4Mike StoneHoylake/Great Meols5
5Mike CoffeyWallasey46
6Phil CrockerChester44
7Paul BluckChester6
8Stephen DunningBuckley/Mold6
9Steve BurgeAtticus5
10Peter FisherWrexham5

Battling Old Men in Torquay

Torquay Harbour

Well, not literally of course. No hand to hand combat in the Over 50s British Championships; we settle everything over the board. And those of you who think I’m being sexist or am not up to speed with pronoun fashions should first appreciate that there were no old women in Torquay, at least not in my Over 50s section. Perhaps a prize and/or title could be introduced given affirmative action is all the rage for younger women!?

My plans to duff up some old men in Torquay began at the tender age of 49 when in September 2019 I booked my accommodation for August 2020. I would be in my physical prime for a senior and would have my best ever chance of success.

There was then the small matter of a global pandemic. My mind and body were deteriorating but at least I managed to spend 25 days and 48 minutes playing online blitz. Probably more than the average senior, but you can’t be sure. Many months and a few virus strains later there were eventually some chess events appearing. Kudos to the ECF for organizing some of these such as the British Seniors in Milton Keynes in October 2021. History is written by the victors and as I started that one with 0/2 we’ll gloss over that particular tournament. Except to say that I did show more stamina than many participants around half of whom had withdrawn by the time Paul Dargan and I duked out a meaningless rubber in the final round. With the games subject to an unusual negotiated flavour of mask policy it was clear that the environment hadn’t properly recovered yet. It was also clear that the old men were tougher than I had hoped.

Roll on the clock to August 2022 and with my hotel reservation almost three years old much of the British chess world descended on Torquay. At least those that could dodge the train strikes.

I understand that Chennai put on a grand welcome for visiting chess players. Torquay was no exception. Barely outside the train station there was a banner welcoming us seniors. Too many muddled move-orders and it seemed there was a specialist care home for chess players which had been arranged. Very thoughtful.

Assistance available if needed

Talking of care homes, a new one has just opened near our Chester club. It boasts an intergenerational nursery. Apparently such mixing creates benefits for all concerned. Be that as it may, an intergenerational experience was also the environment for us 50+ seniors for the first few days. As befits our chess experience we were allocated a quite spacious area of the main playing hall. All was fine except for the pitter patter of feet as the very youngest players raced to the toilets and back. Still it wasn’t much of a distraction and within a couple of days we were even given electronic display boards for our top games with seating for spectators. That said, the policy of expelling non-players from the playing hall at the start of each round meant that spectators weren’t especially numerous.

Talking of toilets, one of the advantages of being a senior is that no one is going to think it unusual if you totter off to the bathroom every now and again to check your move on your mobile phone. Only kidding of course arbiters, most of us can barely switch a phone on or off let alone install the latest version of Stockfish. That said, given the undoubted quality of our senior moves, you might have expected more scanning checks – trust by verification as they say.

With 8 masters (6 candidate, 1 FM and one grandmaster) at least one of whom had drawn a game against Bobby Fischer in a field of 44 it didn’t look that there was much hope of any random other player winning. But still if you run the maths (Monte Carlo simulations recommended if you really feel the need) then against such a field I don’t think that even a grandmaster can be a big favourite. John Nunn had entered and won in Llandudno a few years back but had reported that he found it tougher than expected and noticed an increased resilience in player skills over the years. To save you doing all the calculations the basic conclusion is that if you have enough 2100-rated players and enough typewriters then one of them will write the complete works of Shakespeare. Another one might even string together enough wins to challenge a grandmaster.

Our grandmaster was Paul Motwani, well known for his polished play and excellent books when I was learning the game. Despite playing hardly any games over the last couple of decades he shot to an early 3/3 although Paul Dargan had him under pressure for a while. Chester alumnus Paul Townsend was first to slow him down, managing to hold off some slight pressure in the middlegame to secure a draw. Next up was Rob Willmoth who successfully defused some early pressure to get the half point. Even when held to draws GM Motwani behaved in an impeccable and respectful manner, always offering post mortems.

I was the next of his challengers, thankfully with the benefit of the white pieces. My 1d4 was met by 1..d6, not something I’d covered in preparation. Maybe he was bluffing and wouldn’t know the Pirc? 2 e4 instantly to push for that psychological edge was followed by the deflation over the next few moves of realising that he really did know all about Pirc manoeuvres, and more to the point wasn’t going to castle into some kind of h-pawn hack attack. Desperate situations call for desperate measures. What would you play here?

White to play and shock GM Sadler

Now, I must confess to being a big fan of GM Sadler’s online commentary. The depth of insight you can get from a Leko or Svidler but he has a knack of seeing the positive intent behind the most ridiculous moves he is called to comment on. However, when he saw my next two moves he really could find nothing at all encouraging to say. It was clearly a crime against Caissa. Bh6 was the way to go rather than my Bxc5 followed by Qe3. And yet for any fans of the Silicon Road to Chess Improvement the computer doesn’t mind my approach so much. Nor did GM Motwani mind it. No doubt mindful of what befell Sorokin against Botvinnik in 1931 he didn’t rush to double my pawns. Long story short the game fizzled out to a draw on move 31.

Up on time, I accompanied 31Nd6 with a cheeky draw offer

If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

My preparation for the event had included some work on pattern recognition, well sitting in the sun whilst skim-reading the excellent books by that bloke with the odd (for us English) Dutch name van de something or other.

Torquay had an excellent selection of fish eateries

I’d also focused on physical fitness. During the event I started each day with the full English breakfast and then walked along the incredibly scenic and incredibly undulating Coast path to Babbacombe beach and back. Taking a leaf from Magnus’ Indian world championship preparations I did a practice trip to Torquay in May 2021 where I verified that the human body could endure for eight consecutive days a full English, a long walk along the coast, a fish and chip supper, a couple of pints of pale ale and a game of chess. Well OTB chess was more or less illegal at the time so I substituted a couple of hours of online blitz. A week was do-able but I’m not sure an old-style 11 round British would be within my capabilities.

The Italian Riviera has nothing on this, the turning point on my daily walk
Not too shabby scenery on the daily walking route

So going into the last round there were five of us tied for first. I’d been the lucky monkey with the typewriter so far but could I stretch that for one more game? With the five players spread over the top 3 boards it was clear that each player should play for a win regardless of colour. I faced Paul Dargan, a specialist 1e4 player. What to play? Well, I first met Paul on the train from Exeter to Plymouth for the 1989 British. He spotted me as a wannabe chess player by my perusal of John L Watson’s Play the French. He had probably forgotten that moment and in any event I had given away the book when I paused my chess career for a couple of decades. Over the years I have played a number of other disreputable openings against 1 e4: 1..Nc6, my favourite 1..Nf6, the Caro and a couple of passes with the Pirc.

My motivational coach, Rajko Vujatovic, then the current and four-times chess diving world champion and multiple London pro-biz winner, had remained safely within the M25. He texted support for the three-results potential of the Pirc. Less motivationally he did mention that Korchnoi had come a cropper playing the Pirc in some last round game in a match against Karpov a few years back.

A few months earlier in Milton Keynes Paul and I had played out a fairly insipid Bogo-Indian game. That made me forget that he is a pretty fearsome openings expert. Thirteen or so moves into a sharp line of the Byrne variation of the Pirc I was regretting having stopped my previous night’s preparation with the thought that no one would know enough to play this line. The fact that the computer was saying +1 made me less keen to memorise any more moves; why learn the best moves in a poor position? Fifteen minutes into the final round I was regretting that attitude. Around moves 20-21 Paul stopped banging out the moves and sank into thought. That was a bit of a relief as maybe I would now have a chance. It later transpired that he was just selecting from several options which he already knew were all strong!

20Kh1 and 20Qf2 are both excellent for White which Paul knew

At times like these my philosophy (no doubt unoriginal) is to try and make the most of the pieces and pawns I do have remaining. It does look like the white pawns will roll black off the board but still I had two pieces for the rook and maybe there was a way to activate them. The usual convention is to explain all our wins with skill and all our losses as bad luck. However, I would have to admit to getting a little lucky here as Paul lost his way in the many tempting options and eventually my pieces sprang devastatingly into life.

With Chris Duncan edging Paul Townsend and GM Motwani grinding out the two bishop advantage in an ending we ended up with three players tied for first. There was no tie breaker or playoff required so the title, £700 financial spoils and £200 of Chessable vouchers were to be shared. Prize-giving ceremonies seem to have gone out of fashion these days. Add in the perhaps slightly less photogenic status of your typical oldie and it was clear that there was no plan to have any formal awards. I couldn’t help thinking that an opportunity had been missed to recognise the players and promote the sponsors a bit (Hint: A picture of GM Motwani holding a cardboard Chessable voucher might be of interest to Chessable!?) and raised that thought with the nearest ECF non-exec Director WIM Natasha Regan (who visited Chester for a talk and simul a few years ago). She took the following photo of Paul and I, although by then Chris had sadly already had to start his return home.

Two thirds of the British 50+ winners

Tournaments you win (a rare experience for me!) are normally pleasurable ones. That said I think the Torquay set up was excellent even for the less successful players. For once we had a mayoress open the event with some in depth knowledge of the game and it might well be worth revisiting the venue yet again in the future.

Sadly I didn’t make any of the social events which were arranged. I’m particularly gutted about missing the walking tour, often a highlight of any competition. However, I arranged my own trip with the first stop being Paignton, home of the legendary GM Keith Arkell.

A senior moment: my attempt to capture the Paignton pier failed so here are a couple of paddle-boarders instead

I had expected to see some of those brown tourist signs pointing out where to find his residence or one of those blue plaques but sadly I failed to find any.

Next stop on the walking tour was Torre Abbey, presumably named after the earlier Carlos Torre famous for beating Lasker with a windmill attack in 1925.

25Bf6! starts the windmill
Torre Abbey but no sign of either of the famous Torre players

Once again my chess tour was thwarted. It actually seems that there were non-chess reasons for the abbey existing. After the Spanish Armada was thrashed the abbey was used to keep 397 Spanish sailors prisoner.

To keep the reader actively learning we’ll finish with a couple of simple tactics from my games. (Hint: You may want to “sacrifice” your queen for a rook).

Round 2: Black to play and win
Final round: Black to play and win it all

Very finally a picture of my only real blunder in the tournament. I’d upgraded from take-out to eating the daily fish supper on a plate with cutlery. Popping inside for some vinegar a lurking seagull spotted an opportunity…

Posh fish and chips and pale ale al fresco
My biggest blunder: don’t let these birds near your fish supper

RIP Dave Robertson

Dave sadly passed away yesterday after a short spell in hospital. He will be greatly missed by Chester members. Our thoughts are with his wife Laura and family.

He joined our Chester club a decade or so ago as part of a mostly Liverpool-based team seeking new challenges. Along with captain John Carleton who he had known since school days in Birmingham he was part of a team which scored many league and cup successes. I was fortunate to share in some of the cup successes but unlucky to have to face such a formidable opponent in our games when playing for competing Chester league teams.

Off the board he helped inspire some of our strongest ever junior players. He was also a great help in some of the club administration.

The funeral is to take place at Allerton Crematorium at 3pm on March 17th. No flowers please but donations to organisations helping the Ukrainian people are welcome.

Thanks to John Carleton for sharing his recollections of Dave over the last six decades below and Steve Connor for the photo above:

I first met Dave in 1964 when the chess teams for two schools located in the Birmingham area, Bishop Vesey GS [my school] and King Edward’s GS Camp Hill [Dave’s school] played each other. A couple of the Camp Hill players came across as very confident [well, “cocky” was the way I thought of it]. These two were strong players, and Dave was one of them. In 1965 I had brought about some improvement in my game and edged my way into the Warwickshire U18 team which won the national championships. Dave was an established player already playing higher up the team. After that I played higher than him for many different teams over the years until 8th February 2022 when Dave played what turned out to be his last game for Spirit of Atticus in the on-line 4NCL championship on board 3 just one board above me! It had been a running joke that Dave’s ambition was to play above me in a team despite over 50 years of trying. This was a justified board order, since Dave had kept his form and chess studies up to scratch better than I had. When the board order was announced, little did we know how short Dave’s time for the mock celebration of this event would be.

We each arrived at Liverpool University in the Autumn of 1966 and in fresher’s week we each approached the Chess Club display, in due course heading upstairs to inspect the well-appointed chess room; I remember that journey since Dave, as he explained, had to pause a couple of times as he had just undergone an operation on his back. This was a typically low-key explanation of his degenerative illness. Dave, in the many years I was to know him was determined to enjoy life to the full and never had time to feel sorry for his legacy. I have no clear recollection of his playing chess over our university years, but Dave and I were called into action to save the Birmingham Easter Chess congress since the long- term organizer of junior chess in Birmingham, W. Ritson Morry, was about to up his roots and move to Jamaica. In the Christmas holidays we ensured that there was a venue booked, that notification would go to the schools as normal and tried to raise some money to allow for decent prizes. Dave showed himself to be worldly wise in our endeavours, far superior to me in the “getting money from people” category in particular. Although we did not get a big sponsor, he did inveigle a few donations which eliminated the possibility of a loss on the venture. The event went well but harsh words were exchanged between us on one occasion, the only time I can recollect this over our many years of our friendship. The congress returned to its usual stewardship in the following year when Ritson made an early return from Jamaica.

As reported in the press

Thereafter, we returned to normal activities, with a resumption of university study, some chess for the University teams and plenty of relaxation for me. Dave on the other hand was throwing himself into political action to the extent that in his final year he was editor of the Students Union newspaper, was standing as a candidate for election as President and was half of the debating team that represented Liverpool University in the prestigious Observer Mace competition, which carried a first prize of a debating tour of the USA. Frank Milner, Dave’s debating partner, shared their winning plan with me[thank-you Frank]: 1/ to win 2/ to politicise the motion into a Marxist/ left wing one, 3/ to follow this format in speaking : Frank to deliver the scripted introduction to their contention. Dave would speak extempore to pick-up and counter points made by other speakers. Dave was never known to make notes, relying instead on his phenomenal memory recalling who had said what. Their strategy as “wild men” proved very successful up to a point.

What happened? Dave and Frank missed out narrowly on the trip to USA. There was a record turnout in the election for guild President, the electorate having been whipped up by two boisterous campaigns. This was Dave’s planned battle ground but the right-wing candidate was elected. The Guild Gazette had a good readership throughout Dave’s stewardship and its content was greatly admired. I must admit I wondered whether the report about Aston Villa’s come-back from 4-0 down to draw with Liverpool in 1960 was either topical in any way or going to win many friends, despite the absolutely amazing supporters of Aston Villa, but in general agreed with the main sentiments of the newspaper.

I shall continue by concentrating on the years from the early seventies onwards and Dave’s great contribution to and involvement in chess.

I spent a year teacher training and then a year in London. When I returned to Liverpool in the autumn of 1971, I joined a local chess club and lived in a popular Westminster Rd. multi-roomed residence designed for students. On reflection, residence is way too grand a term for the environment. But Dave lived there too as did Geoff Hall [ now Sir Geoffrey Hall] who arrived having “graduated” from Bishop Vesey’s. Dave was now really “into” chess again and was devouring chess material. The three of us realised that we could probably challenge for the first division title of the Liverpool League [once promoted from our likely starting point in division 2] including me and players currently not in clubs. Thus, the three of us founded Kirkdale Chess Club playing at Kirkdale Community Centre and started in the Liverpool league in September 1972. The cost of our match venue was covered by us organising a chess club for the local children on one night a week. Dave, Geoff and I did just that always having at least 2 of the 3 of us present. The tricky part was that our session clashed with woodwork’s night, so we got an unusual mixture consisting predominantly of girls but also containing the occasional boy banned from woodwork, usually for being a danger.

The following year we changed our venue to Atticus bookshop and name to Atticus having won promotion. Thereafter, we duly won the 1st division. The club just grew and grew, attracting many players from Merseyside, and just five years after formation Atticus won the National Championships, an incredible achievement at the time. A Northern Club winning the title was unheard of and Dave had flagged it up at the quarter-final stage with a local pub which promised and delivered on its promise of much champagne should we succeed. Dave, as well as being one of the team who played every round, also kept the whole club up-to-date with frequent newsletters with reports on all of our teams, including some good games played by members.

National Clubs Champions: Dave and John in the middle sporting the latest 1977 styles
As reported in the press

Growth continued for Atticus over the years as Dave and the rest of us got on with our lives as well as enjoying the noble game, albeit with a necessity of reduced preparation time. Dave’s lecturing career at John Moore’s University was busy. In addition, he was keen to take any opportunities to travel the country to dispense his wisdom and improve his reputation. That said, on many occasions he rushed back to Liverpool, frequently using risky train connections to play for the team. Dave continued to pursue his political aims but, for the rest of his life, within the safety and, sometimes frustrations, of the Labour Party. Finally, Dave had married his sweetheart Laura and was devoted to her and their three children. [NOTE: the descriptions laid out here did not necessarily happen in the order written].

In January 2003, Liverpool was awarded the City of Culture 2008, and in the summer of 2004, Dave invited me for a chat in his garden. Professor Dave as he now was, told me that he was seriously contemplating submitting a bid for chess in the upcoming celebrations, following discussion with the senior figures at John Moore’s University. As his talk progressed, I wondered what the strength of the wine he was sipping was. In truth I knew that Dave once again was showing understanding of the real world, far beyond my ken, and would do what he could for chess.

The outcome after much planning, help locally, and with the passage of time, was a grant, of well over half a million pounds, I believe, awarded by the City of Culture fund in response to Dave’s bid. [ WARNING: I feel Dave turning in his grave, questioning, “I believe” and asking for my source]. Sorry, my computer skills are not good enough! Please advise if you have a more definitive figure. It turned out Dave was organising, not one event in 2008, but two leading up to two in 2008 itself, giving us:

2006: Open EU Individual Championship

2007: Britain v China [ 6 rounds, 6 men and 2 women in each team, won by China 28-20. We would love to be able to get that close to them these days] This was played along side an Open Swiss Event in St. Georges Hall.

2008: Open EU Individual Championship

2008: British/ English Championships: all categories. This was the first and only time to date that the Championships had come to Liverpool during the history of the event [held annually: started 1904]

To dream of delivering all of this was fantastic, to actually do it was sensational. All the events had a proliferation of grandmasters and offered opportunities to local players to test their skills and increase their experience. Behind the scenes there was high stakes drama when Dave successfully faced down an attempt to cut the budget by asking the funders to choose which of the EU or British Championships they would like to cancel. Bluff or not we may never know, but it worked and both tournaments went ahead fully funded.

All too typical of chess is what happened next: there was a falling out in Atticus Chess Club within 2 years of Dave’s triumph on behalf of the city. A group of us left to join Chester where we were welcomed by friends and able to concentrate on playing chess. Dave represented the Chester and District Chess League on the English Chess Federation for a number of years and provided an entertaining summary each year on the workings of the Federation. A few years ago, Chester decided to refurbish its equipment and Dave volunteered to negotiate the price. Once again, I, and many others were staggered by Dave’s skill in negotiating a deal; this time bringing a large discount.

At the time of our move to Chester, we were able to found another chess club which played under the name of, “The Spirit of Atticus” in the national league[4NCL] played at weekends. We started in the then new 3rd division North and experienced success and growth in the number of teams and their

strength over the years. The Saturday evening meal away from the venue proved a great success with Dave selecting the restaurant venues. His notion of choosing a venue based on the wine list alone proved to provide a potentially sticky start. We survived! And Dave became our Grubmeister using more traditional evaluations after our first outing.

Then after some ten years of the 4NCL for us the pandemic struck. There was large falling off of membership in the E.C.F, presumably partly because of the lack of opportunity for play over the board and partly because the large proportion of members who were unwilling to risk exposure to the virus. The new 4NCL leagues started last November with Spirit of Atticus drastically reduced in availability and just managing to get the 6 players needed for each round of the Northern League so far, with 3 rounds left to play. Dave and I had agreed to try to get him a game over the board for the next round. Bolton, with a 14:00 start was easily reachable and I could bring him back to Liverpool after the evening meal. Dave was extremely keen on this idea; for once there was something more important than chess: “It is the camaraderie that I’m looking forward to,” he told me. Alas this small wish never took place and it adds to my sense of loss.

This was not a great time for a power struggle to start within the ECF but it almost came to be; Dave was one of those, respected by the great and good of English chess, who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to stop any split in the organisation at what is a threatening time for the future of the game in Britain.

I have received many tributes relating to Dave’s intelligence, wisdom, wit, strength of his play, thirst for knowledge, thoughtfulness, love of life, entertaining company work on behalf of the chess community, etc. My favourite, slightly off the wall contribution, came from Colm, who thought of Dave “as our[ Chester’s] Korchnoi” I can think of no better summary of my dear, sadly missed, friend but can add only that nobody said that they thought he was cocky and thus I was clearly mistaken in 1964.

Tuesday Town Crier evenings to resume

Club nights will resume from August 3rd 2021. Members and prospective members should be comfortable with taking on the coronavirus risks from being inside in close proximity with other players and prepared to follow the guidance points below.

Games will be informal between club members for now. The earliest date on which some league matches against other clubs will resume is expected to be October.

Junior club Friday nights will remain online for now.

Guidance to reduce covid risks:

1) Please do not attend the club if you have covid-19, covid 19 symptoms or if isolating.

2) Please do not attend the club if you have flu symptoms.

3) We will need to follow the Town Crier’s policies. Mandatory check-in via a one-way system has been removed so it should be possible to approach the club room directly from the stairs on the corner of City Road.

4) Please register on entry into the club room. Ideally bring your own pen to write your name on that day’s registration sheet. If you haven’t been to the club before, please add your contact details.

5) At this stage we do not plan on having a formal capacity limit. Summer attendance is normally low and many members are planning on staying away for now. As and when league matches resume, we will reduce the number of concurrent matches from a maximum of three to a maximum of two.  

6) There will be hand sanitiser available on entry to the club and within the club near the boards.

7) For ventilation we will have the window open where possible.

8) Boards should be spread throughout the room.

9) It’s recommended that face coverings are worn in the club room. The relevant government advice can be found here Face coverings: when to wear one, exemptions, and how to make your own – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk). Please bring your own but we will have some disposable ones available in case needed.

10) Formal social distancing regulation of the 2m or 1m+ type has been removed. However, please avoid crowding around a board if you are watching a game.

11) Pieces, board and clock should be cleaned before and after games. Wipes will be provided to do this.

12) Drinks are available at the bar as usual. There is also a new app advertised in and around the pub which should enable us to order drinks remotely. This wouldn’t be appropriate in a formal game such as a league match where such use of a phone could be mistaken for cheating. You can remove a face covering temporarily to take a drink.

13) Players may wish to find an alternative to the handshake for showing respect at the start and end of a game.

14) Whilst there are no formal games ongoing, players might wish to trial creative ways of expanding social distance and reducing shared piece touching by playing with a board each.