Broadstairs   ½      Margate  3½                     

1 Andy Flood (110) 0-1 Clive Le Baigue (11)
2 Bob Cronin (103) 0-1 Leon Garfield (102)
3 Reg Pidduck (101) ½-½ John Clarke (98)
4 Michael Doyle (91) 0-1 Ray McAloney (86)

Capt Mike Doyle writes:

‘It was a drubbing,’  the verdict of Reg Pidduck, president of Broadstairs Chess Club, after yesterday’s loss to Margate. It was a chess disaster! Three of the Broadstairs players lost and only Reg managed a draw. Our captain, Mike Doyle, was the first go down having played a Sicilian Defence against White’s onslaught.  Half way into the game I fought back but my queen was en pris and I took my eyes off as the knight pounced to take it off. It was the second match that I have lost my queen!  The next player go down was none other than Bob C who lost a bishop early on and resigned the game as it fell apart. On board three was Reg, the only points scorer with a draw, who managed to get his knight pinned against the side of the board and a draw was agreed. Last to go was inimitable Andy, who played a solid methodical game, until a piece down and was forced to resign at the end. Our hopes of winning the Walker Shield are up in smoke unless a miracle happens. As Andy said after the match: ‘We can now relax and enjoy the rest of the season’ not in stress going for the shield. Urrggh!

 

Photo courtesy of Brendan O’Gorman

And so to St Albans which has been something of a pilgrimage for this writer over the years. A combination of spring sunshine and lakeside walks in a city of historical significance forms an attractive background to a chess congress. ‘Pilgrimage’ is an appropriate word to use as part of the city’s importance is its religious history. St Alban was the first British martyr, executed in the 3rd or 4th century for sheltering a Christian priest from the Romans, and St Albans Cathedral now stands near the believed site of his execution.  The Romans had named the settlement Verulamium and its significance continued through Anglo-Saxon and medieval times. The Wars of the Roses began with the Battle of St Albans in 1455 and a second battle was fought there six years later.

The chess congress is in its 37th year. Its former home was St Albans School situated in the town centre – St Albans feels too small to be called a city – which was ideal for the shops, pubs and bookies (the congress invariably seems to coincide with the Grand National) but less convenient for car parking.  The current venue, St Columba’s College, is a longer walk from the centre but car parking is not a problem. The walk around the lake in Verulamium Park is a pleasant one where herons can be found nesting at this time of year and RSPB volunteers offer their ‘scopes’ for viewing.  The congress is always popular. Easy access from London and the timing of the congress during the Easter school holidays traditionally guarantees around 200 players of all ages. This year saw a record turnout of 250 and the online entry was closed a few days early. One of the unlucky ones who ‘missed the cut’ was Toby Stock, formally of this parish, who turned up nevertheless hoping in vain for a late withdrawal. Another former Broadstairs member, Oliver Finnegan, who did make the list probably wished he hadn’t bothered as despite being graded near the top of the Major, he lost two of his first three games and promptly withdrew.

The congress is run by St Albans Chess Club and it’s not clear who is in charge as there always seems to be an army of volunteers. Ray Claret and Terry Douse are two and Michael Flatt and Tony Corfe were the arbiters. Two is probably the minimum required in a hall with 250 players (see the above photo).  Fortunately for them, everything seemed to run smoothly this year with a couple of clock problems and a minor injury appearing to be the only hiccups. Prize money totalled £3,400 and this was increased on the day to take into account the strong turnout. Consequently, five extra prizes were awarded to the ‘lucky losers’ – those who just missed out on a prize in each of the five sections.

The Open had an impressive lineup, headed by GM Chris Ward and IMs Richard Pert, Richard Bates (last year’s winner), and the latest chess wunderkind, ten year old Shreyas Royal, who already has an ECF grade of 186. All were muscled out of the way by the eventual winner, John Merriman, of the Drunken Knights, who may not be quite so drunk in the immediate future as they have just been turfed out of the pub that has been their home for 29 years. Merriman defeated Bates in the last round to finish on 4½/5 while Ward and Pert drew. Full results can be found here and click here for more of Brendan O’Gorman’s photographs of the congress.

 

                                           Broadstairs   2½      Bridge  1½                     

1 Andy Flood (110) 0-1 Graeme Boxall (93)
2 Bob Cronin (103) 1-0 Ray Rennells (80)
3 Reg Pidduck (101) ½-½ Stuart Capel (e80)
4 Michael Doyle (91) 1-0 Barnaby Wills (77)

Capt Mike Doyle writes:

With four matches to play prior to the match against Bridge yesterday, Broadstairs had to win all four to win the Walker Shield. Last night’s victory brought us closer to winning the shield with only three matches to play. Capt Mike Doyle got us off to a flying start with nearly an hour’s play to defeat the upcoming junior Barnaby Wills by mating with two rooks. On Board 2 Bob had a tricky start but won with a pawn onslaught in the centre with Ray Rennells resigning: 2-0. On Board 3 Reg was a pawn down and looked like losing and Andy was losing against Capt Graeme Boxall. The match was heading for a tie, but Reg offered his opponent a draw and we won 2½- 1½. Bad luck, Andy, you had an even game until your king wandered off to the  other side off the board, leaving your opponent with a passed pawn.  Well done, lads! Keep up the good work on Thursday against Margate!

 

This week’s offering comes from the Walker Shield match with Folkestone and features a cracking recovery from Bob Cronin after a what he admitted was a poor start. His position rapidly deteriorated until on move 22 he was a rook and a pawn down. This was a crucial point in the game and in the match. Although Broadstairs were 1-0 ahead, Reg was already losing and if Bob were to lose then 2-2 was the best we could hope for and even then we had to rely on Andy winning what was then a drawish position. If the fat lady was not already singing then she was definitely warming up. With nothing to lose, Bob threw everything at his opponent, pushing his kingside pawns and bringing all his remaining pieces into the action. While some of Black’s moves could be questioned, there is no denying Bob’s never-say-die approach that could be crucial at the end of the season. How appropriate that this game should be played on the 75th aniversary of the real Great Escape. Well played, sir!

White:   Bob Cronin (103)     Black:  Andrew Haycock (96)

Walker Shield v Folkestone 

                                             Broadstairs   3      Folkestone  1                     

1 Andy Flood (110) 1-0 David Erwee (100)
2 Bob Cronin (103) 1-0 Andrew Haycock (96)
3 Reg Pidduck (101) 0-1 Robert Twigg (77)
4 Michael Doyle (91) 1-0  Mike White (62)

Capt Mike Doyle writes:

Before the match Folkestone gave us the run around as they were short of players, giving us Plan ‘B’, which meant Bob C standing down to follow the football at home. On arriving, Folkestone had found a fourth player and I had to call Bob and tell him that the game was on and to watch the football later. We got off to a good start as the captain was the first to chalk up a win beating Mike White’s Sicilian Defence with a g4 pawn assault on his king followed by the queen and a bishop mating: 1-0.  Next was Bob C’s topsy-turvy game with him being a rook down at the beginning and finishing with a rook and a pawn mating. Well done, Bob: 2-0. On Board 3 was the Chairman of Broadstairs Chess Club, Reg Pidduck, against tricky and stable Robert Twigg. On move 17 Reg lost a knight and it was downhill from there: 2-1. It was all down to Andy on Board 1 against their captain, David Erwee, who had a passed pawn until Andy captured it with a bishop check and winning the game: 3-1 to Broadstairs. Hard luck to Folkestone driving all that way: a good match overall.
Editor’s note: Bob’s win will be featured in the next Game of the Week.