The Sean Marsh Chess Column
Sometimes, It’s All Goodbyes
The recent Redcar Congress saw a number of our players curiously off-form, with local favourites suffering a number of painful defeats. The Open section was a great success for Durham’s James Simpson, repeating his victory of the previous year. James seemed to be the only person playing consistently well; after the fourth round, he had already guaranteed himself sole first place, as he had a mighty one and half point advantage over his nearest rivals.
An on-form James Simpson is almost unstoppable - always fighting, never compromising, never agreeing draws when there is a chance to play on an interesting game. He is one of my favourite local players and he thoroughly deserved his success. However, I think most of us were not up the challenge this time. Take a look at the full scores elsewhere on this site and you will see what I mean about the locals being on poor form.
For me, and for many others, the congress was overshadowed by the terrible news that Peter Bashford had died on the way to the tournament.
Peter, 74, was one of the most committed club players in our county. Since I joined Elmwood, five years ago, there can’t have been more than three or fourclub nights when Peter was not there, and that was when he had an away match.Peter came into club chess late in life but showed a loyalty and dedication to his local scene that is lacking in so many these days.
He and I often travelled to tournaments together - Tyne & Wear, Durham, Hartlepool...even Nottingham, on one occasion. ‘Fancy playing some different people next weekend?’ He would ask, and off we’d go. During the journeys, we would have discussions on a whole range of subjects, but we’d always come back to chess and football. He was a supporter of Charlton and was pleased to see them holding their own in the Premiership, but his experience and knowledge of football in general was very deep. I enjoyed his tales of watching the greats, such as Sir Stanley Matthews.
Peter always followed my chess progress with great interest, even when I kept him up late, waiting for me to finish my first round in a congress!
The last time I saw him was the Thursday night, one day before the Redcar Congress. He seemed perfectly okay and was looking forward to playing. His last sentence to me was about the chess column which featured the Bronstein visit.What a cruel twist of fate that my very next column should feature his most unexpected death.
When the sadness has had time to settle, Elmwood chess club will plan a memorial tournament for our great friend, Peter Bashford.
Sometimes, it’s all goodbyes. This latest loss comes only shortly after Steve Welbourne and Howard Bowyer, Bob Hammond and, from Hull, Antonius (‘Tony’) Stalmans; not to mention England’s former No.1 GM, Tony Miles.
I feel such things often have a bigger impact on chess players, because ourchess world is usually insulated from many things in the ‘real world’. We will continue playing, but things will never be quite the same again.