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


Congratulations to David Faldon who has won the Goodall Cup for the club championship. It would be tempting so say that his victory was a foregone conclusion bearing in mind his run of success that goes back about ten years. However, this was definitely not the case. The club this year has been boosted by several strong players who took the competition to the wire. It says a great deal about a club when the championship which started last September was only decided just before 11.00 p.m on the final club night of the season in the middle of August. Of course, with such a large all-play-all competition it is not surprising that a few games were not played but there are plans to improve the playing arrangements next season while maintaining the all-play-all format which is considered essential by most members.

Along with David, the front runners throughout the season were Arnaud Wisman and Richard Clement. Richard enjoyed an excellent season, losing only to the aforementioned players to finish in third place. Arnaud and David, having drawn their game against each other, went into the final game neck and neck. David was to play Trefor Owens whom he had never beaten – Trefor only joined the club last year – while Arnaud had to play the dangerous  Shany Rezvany. Both knew each other well, having formerly been members of Bridge Chess Club. A win for Arnaud and David would mean the Goodall Cup would be shared while defeat for either would open the door for the other. Arnaud was always behind on time and when his promising position faded, Shany used his time sensibly and slowly a pawn advantage became two then three and the game was up. Meanwhile, David, who had been watching their game closely, still had to win his. Here is that crucial game. The opening and closing comments are by Trefor, the rest by David.

White:   David Faldon (178)    Black:  Trefor Owens (165)

Goodall Cup

David’s conclusion: “Both Trefor and I played very well in this game. There were no huge mistakes I could spot, except for White missing 31.Qh5. White got a slight advantage in the opening, Black defended aggressively and well but then White found a couple of really difficult moves at exactly the right time.”

The 50th Thanet Chess Congress is almost upon us and on the left you can see the magnificent trophies made by John Couzens for the winners of the five sections (plus a few spares). These unique prizes are for the winners to keep so there will be some keen competition this weekend. They look rather like Oscars lined up before the annual Academy Awards ceremony, prompting them to be nicknamed ‘Johnnies’ after their creator. In addition to these special trophies, there is over £2300 in prize money, the title of SCCU Champion and Kent Individual Championship titles available. There is still time to apply so if you want to get your hands on a Johnny this weekend, you know what to do.