Alan Merry receives his ‘Johnny’ from Johnny

Nineteen players competed for the Open this year and while previous winners Alan Merry and Martin Taylor were the favourites before the start, there was competition from some strong juniors including Mikey Watson, last year’s Kent Open Champion, and Edward Gray, who won the 2018 Challengers. Various players caught the eye. Partha Mulay, graded 182 scored 4/5 for a performance rating of 216. His only loss was to Taylor and he was fortunate to avoid Merry.  Gordon Botley, the only one of all the 1970 originals to play in the Open, scored a highly respectable 2½ points as did our own David Faldon, who had the misfortune to be drawn against Taylor in Round 1 for the second year running. Congratulations to Folkestone’s Jim Bayford, who won the U185 grading prize with 3/5. On the top boards Merry had made his task of winning more difficult by taking a bye in Round 1. While he won his first three games to sit on 3½/4 going into the final round, Taylor had won all his games and led on 4/4. The gloves were off, the chips were down and it was pistols at dawn…or, at least, 2.30 in the afternoon (that’s enough clichés, thank you – Ed). Here is the crucial deciding game with thanks again to Trefor Owens for his comments.

White:   IM Alan Merry (238)    Black:  FM Martin Taylor (220)

50th Thanet Congress (Open) Round 5

Martin Taylor, replying to Trefor’s comments, added:

As far as the annotations go, you’ve pretty much summed it up, but a couple of points:

  • Alan has a very wide repertoire and this was in fact the first time he has tried 1.e4 against me!
  • 7… 0-0? is already a serious inaccuracy and 8.c5! is the correct punishment of it;
  • 10…dxc5 11.dxc5 b6 is an improvement;
  • I saw 21…a6! 22.g4 Nb5 but underestimated its strength; after not playing it, I am toast.”


It was not all doom and gloom for Taylor, however, who received the Kent Open Champion Trophy and shared the SCCU Individual Trophy with the impressive Partha Mulay (see photo).  Meanwhile, spare a thought for John  Anderson. Having won his first two games, he lost to Taylor in Round 3 only to be paired with Merry in Round 4. Thanks to David Faldon for his ‘How Good is Your Chess’ comments in the following game.

White:  John Anderson (200)   Black:  IM Alan Merry (238)  

50th Thanet Congress (Open) Round 4


That wraps up all the winning games at this year’s congress. It was, of course, the 50th Thanet Congress and there was more going on than mere chess. There is a report on the special presentations on the congress website.

Manoj with the Kent Intermediate Trophy

Twenty-four players entered the Intermediate Section of the congress (U131) and the winner at his first attempt was Manoj Natarajan with 4½/5. Manoj joined Broadstairs Chess Club in April and his victory meant that four of the five sections were won by Broadstairs players which if it is not unique is certainly unusual. Having beaten the top seed in Round 1, a player who hailed from Bude in Cornwall, Manoj was then drawn against another man from the West Country in Terence Greenaway from Torquay in Round 2. There is absolutely no truth in the rumour that Manoj has had to cancel his holiday in Newquay for next year. Here is his Round 2 win and thanks again to Trefor Owens for his comments.

White:   Manoj Natarajan (114)    Black:  Terence Greenaway (125)

50th Thanet Congress (Intermediate) Round 2


    An elated John Couzens with Gordon Lloyd

Minor sections in chess congresses are traditionally and unsurprisingly the largest and this was no exception. 28 players of all ages took part in the Thanet Minor (U111), the usual mixture of wily veterans who had seen it all before and ambitious young whippersnappers who hadn’t and didn’t care. John Couzens, the Gullbuster, may not yet qualify as a veteran – he is a few years off competing for the Oyster Shield for the best score by a Thanet player aged 60 or over in the Minor or Intermediate sections – although it might be stretching a point to describe him as a young whippersnapper. Experience is a great asset, however, and it was a surprise to see John in the Minor, his grade dropping below the threshold for the first time in ten years. This made him one of the favourites and after four straight wins he must have been confident of success.

Wait a minute…..who is this young upstart John’s been drawn against in the final round? Why, it’s young Charlie Ball from Hertfordshire Juniors who is also on 4/4. Charlie’s current grade is 101 but in January it was 88 and last July 64! Surely, this is just the sort of banana skin the Gullbuster was dreading. As John chatted with Charlie and his parents before the game, the younger player betrayed no sign of nerves but who knows what John was thinking. Within minutes of the start we soon found out – draw agreed! They share first place. Charlie, as a Hertfordshire player does not qualify as Kent Minor Champion so that title goes to John. But what about the ‘Johnny’, the special trophy that John had himself made for the winners of each of the sections? Had he won the game, it would have been his but what if he had drawn or – dread the thought – lost? Here John had a joker up his sleeve… addition to the five trophies for each of the winners, five more were made: one for Gordon Lloyd, the first controller, one spare and three for the sponsors. So John, as a major sponsor, already had one. A draw would almost certainly allow Charlie to win a trophy for himself and so it proved. Was John’s early draw offer a gesture typical of the legendary charm of the Gullbuster or merely a sign of nerves against a rising star? Romantics will want to believe the former but either way, as in the best fairy stories, they all lived happily ever after.

In the absence of a meaningful game in John’s final round, here is his Round 4 win with comments by Trefor Owens.

White:   Andrew Gillard (109)    Black:  John Couzens (108)

50th Thanet Congress (Minor) Round 4


Trefor receiving the Kent Challengers Trophy 

The Challengers (U171) was the smallest entry in the Congress with seventeen players but the least predictable at the start with over half of the players graded within six points of each other and no-one over 165. Consequently, it was hardly surprising that first place was shared although few could have foreseen a five-way tie. As I write, it appears that Trefor Owens and Mike Taylor, who share the same grade, also seem to have the same result when the sum of progressive scores is calculated although Trefor is listed as first in the official published results. While there may be some dispute about who wins the ‘Johnny’ – John Couzens’ special 50th Thanet Congress prize – there is no question as to which of the two is the Kent Challengers Champion: Trefor plays for Broadstairs while Mike comes from Stockport! Here is Trefor’s second round win with his own comments against another local player, Patrick Burns from Bridge.

White:   Trefor Owens (165)    Black:  Patrick Burns (161)

50th Thanet Congress (Challengers) Round 2


                      The Major and the Gullbuster

The 50th Thanet Chess Congress has come and gone and what a memorable weekend it was in so many ways. There is much to say after we have looked at some of the winning games on this site. The overall results and cross tables of the five sections can be found on the congress website. Here we shall look at each of the sections in turn, starting with the Major (U151). There were 24 entries in a competitive field and at this point your correspondent has to declare an interest in the proceedings because he was fortunate enough to win the section.

Of course, playing through games afterwards on a computer is a sobering experience. You think you have played well only for the occasional glaring error and frequent oversights to be highlighted. However, this was the decisive game in the final round and therefore deserves a wider audience for that reason alone. If the computer analysis proves anything, it is that (a) Black’s early exchanges gave him an advantage isolating the White QP and (b) White’s kingside attack was less threatening that it appeared to Black at the time and in the end proved to be a losing one. While several chances were missed to win the game earlier – I wish I’d seen 71….Ne4 but by then the end was nigh – Black’s advantage always showed him to be winning.

Thirty years ago I finished second in an U140 congress at Folkestone, losing to Bob Pooley who won the tournament. It was worth the wait.

White:   Robert Pooley (150)    Black:  Robert Page (133)

50th Thanet Congress (Major) Round 5