Saturday 1 February 2003

Archive: UNCUT! 20

The Sean Marsh Chess Column

Column 20
February 2003

Dear Readers...

it is a great pity that the Redcar Chess Congress did not go ahead this year (for the first time in 23 years). There were various problems which led to it being pulled form the schedule, most of which can hopefully be solved by next year. It will be a great shame if the series dies altogether and a speedy return is absolutely essential. Congresses that die tend never to return. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed.

Luckily for local chess, Graham Marshall, the indefatigable chess impresario, agreed at short notice to create yet another Hartlepool event. Under the name of The Cleveland Congress and held at the Masonic Hall, Hartlepool, the new event was a great success.

The Open was particularly strong, perhaps due to there being a qualification place for this year’s British Championship up for grabs. Even better than that, the place came with a paid entry fee for the Championship - a saving of around £155!

Here is a summary of the scores and a couple of games from the event. My thanks go to Lara Barnes and Clive Waters for supplying the official scores and games. In my opinion, given all the coaching, bulletin writing, Arbiting, grading and organising they do, I think Clive and Lara are two of the most important figures in North East chess. Apart from all the things mentioned
above, they are both very creative players and tough tournament competitors. I speak from many personal experiences!

Cleveland Congress
BCF Arbiter - Lara Barnes

1st= Robert Shaw, Bret Addison(u-21) 4/5
3rd= David Eggleston (junior), Colin Walton 3.5/5
5th= Sean Marsh, Martin Mitchell, Chris Ross (Disabled), Thomas Eggleston (Junior), Jonathan Hawkins (junior), Michael Round 3/5

1st Ian Elcoate (Middlesborough) 4.5/5
2nd= Jinwoo Song (Kings Head), Darren Laws (Tynemouth) 4/5

1st= David Appleyard (Teesside), Peter Smith (Bishop Aukland) 4.5/5
3rd Stan Hawes(South Shields) 4/5
4th David Ross[Athenaeum], Nick Webb[Elmwood] (Junior u-14), John Reddington, Fred Stobbart, Keith Burrett, 3.5/5
Vicky Crompton (Female, junior u-11) 3/5

1st Matthew Hammond [Hartlepool](Junior) 8.5/10
2nd= Bill McAlpine[Hartlepool], Thomas Mavin[Darlington] (junior, u-11) 6/10

Meanwhile, in honour of the Redcar Congress series, let’s tumble back through time to discover more about...

Redcar’s ‘unknown’ Chess Tournaments
1865 & 1866

Some years ago, I received a letter from chess historian Ken Whyld, asking if I could offer any information towards the completion of the cross-table for the second Redcar Congress - the one in 1866! I doubt if anyone in our county was even aware of there being two congresses in Redcar so long ago, but being very interested in the historical side of chess I was instantly intrigued. Ken had managed to construct the table for the first congress (1865) and most of the second from local papers and chess magazines, but there were still question marks over three games.

Further correspondence followed and Ken sent his entire findings on the congresses to me. Taking up the baton, I contacted all the relevant county libraries and the county archivist to see if there were other local newspapers of the time or any other archive material from which we could add the final piece to the jigsaw.

Meanwhile, I dug around in a large number of books for details of the participants, learning a great deal about players of which I had hitherto only the slightest knowledge. The chess library of local chess enthusiast Mike Mossom was of particular use in tracing some old references. The more I read, the more I realised how steeped in history the whole thing was and how strong the top players in the second congress really were.

In a parallel to today’s chess world, there existed a rivalry between associations. The British Chess Association (‘BCA’) had been formed in 1855 to try and co-ordinate chess within Britain but like any new thing it met with opposition - this time by none other than England’s most famous player, Howard Staunton. There were also those who thought the BCA was biased in favour of professional players, and also too London based. Rev. Arthur B. Skipworth was one of the biggest objectors but unlike many people he was also prepared to do something about it. He was one of the main organisers behind the 1st Redcar tournament, September 14-16 1865. It has also been labelled, retrospectively, the 1st Counties’ Chess Association tournament.

The Reverend Arthur Bolland Skipworth was the strongest player of the nine in the tournament, which was held at the Royal Hotel, Redcar in a room facing the beach. It was apparently quite an informal tournament. The newspaper ‘Middlesbrough Weekly News and Cleveland Advertiser’ of September 22 1865 commented on the ‘...lack of rules (which) caused various minor points to be left unsettled.’ It is quite explicit in the reporting of results, which led to Ken being able to reconstruct the cross-table.

S G B L D T B B B Total
A.B. Skipworth R 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 8
W. Grimshaw 0 E 1 1 1 1 1 0.5 1 6.5
Dr. G. Bodington 0 0 D 0.5 1 1 1 1 1 5.5
Rev. G.G. Lynn 0 0 0.5 C 1 1 1 1 1 5.5
Dr. P.M. Deas 0 0 0 0 A ? 1 ? 1 2
W.C. Trevor 0 0 0 0 ? R 1 1 ? 2
Rev. Beckett 0 0 0 0 0 0 X ? 1 1
Dr. Bennett 0 0.5 0 0 ? 0 ? ‘6 ? 0.5
Rev. R.R.W.Batty 0 0 0 0 0 ? 0 ? 5 0

From the way the paper reports the scores, it seems very likely that the games with a question mark in the table were not actually played, which would fit in with it being rather an informal affair. There were some fine prizes on offer, though and the influence of Staunton was very noticeable. Skipworth took home a ‘handsome set of Staunton chessmen’ and Grimshaw won a smaller set of pieces. Dr Bodington and Rev. G.G. Lynn ‘divided the third prize, a set of Staunton’s books on chess.’

The 2nd Redcar tournament is considered much more important, at least from the point of view of the strength of the players. Howard Staunton was there in person, but not to play in the tournament. It was hoped that Adolf Anderssen and Wilhelm Steinitz would attend, but they were busy playing their match which had suffered a delayed start. Steinitz rather surprisingly won the match 8-6 and claimed to be the strongest player in the world, although the first official World Championship match wasn’t until 1886, when Steinitz defeated Zukertort.

‘Neither... were present, as expected, but as some slight consolation Mr. Staunton handed round photographs of the "veteran" and his "gallant little foe," taken during their great match.’
Middlesbrough Weekly News and Cleveland Advertiser, August 17 1866.

This time the congress was in four sections. ‘Class 1’ was open to all British amateurs on becoming members of the association, with the first prize being £12-12s. Rev. Skipworth was the only one of the 1865 participants to enter this section, but he ended up being so busy with the organisational side of things that he ended up withdrawing from the tournament. The same was also true of Dr. Bennett, who had entered ‘Class 11’. As the newspaper of the time said:
‘Great praise is due to the Rev. A.B. Skipworth and Dr. Bennett, for their efficient management of the meeting, and it is to be regretted that their indefatigable exertions placed both gentlemen under the necessity of withdrawing from the tournament.’

V T W O W W S S Total
Cecil V. De Vere R 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 6
Edmund Thorold 1 E 1 0 0 1 1 1 5
John Wisker 0 0 D 1 1 1 1 5
Rev. John Owen 0 1 0 C 1 1 1 1 5
Dr. Wilson 0 1 0 0 A ? ? 1 3
Rev. William Wayte 0 0 0 0 ? R ? 1 2
Rev. David M. Salter 0 0 0 0 ? ? ‘6 1 2
Arthur B. Skipworth 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 6 0

The question marked results cannot be worked out from the newspaper reports, but the correct totals for the players can. Ken Whyld suggests the results could be:

Dr. Wilson X 1 0
Rev. Wayte 0 X 1
Rev. Salter 1 0 X

...or a similar arrangement of wins and losses. It is also possible that all the games of the mini-table were drawn, which would also give the correct totals.

Apparently Steinitz was to have given a blindfold simultaneous display, which Rev. Wayte carried out instead. After five hours, he had won three (against Fieldsend, Beckett and Mrs Seaton) and drawn two (Morley and Semple) of the five games.

Staunton had played several casual games throughout the week of the tournament - giving Rook odds and winning every time. The final event of the chess meeting was a consultation game featuring Staunton & Salter v Owen & Skipworth, which was drawn after six hours’ play.

A report in Chess World, possibly written by Staunton himself, contains several negative comments on the meeting.
‘The prizes were small, and, if we are rightly informed, were not all given. The excursions promised to places of interest in the neighbourhood, consisted of a trip to Saltburn, where everybody paid for himself, and could hardly get anything worth having even upon those independent terms.’

‘The shortcomings in question we are willing to believe the result of inexperience on the part of the Managing Committee, and we are quite sure they will not occur at any future Meeting of the Association.’

Three games have been traced from the 1866 tournament. The scores are taken from the magazine Chess World (September 1866) and some of the original (often quaint!) comments are also quoted here. The games are Thorold v Owen, Thorold v Wilson and Owen v De Vere.

Thorold v Owen
Spanish Game

1 e4 e5 (Owen refrains from his own defence, 1 ... b6!) 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Be7 5 0-0 Nf6 6 d4 b5 7 Bb3 d6 8 Re1 0-0 9 h3 Bb7 10 c3 Na5 (10 ... Re8 would give a Flohr-Zaitsev variation, which was one of the major battle grounds of the Kasparov v Karpov World Championship matches, over 120 years after this game was played!. 10 ... Na5 leads into the Chigorin variation, with Black striking quickly at the centre with ... c5.) 11 Bc2 Nd7 (One of Fischer’s most famous games, played against Stein at the 1967 Interzonal, continued here with 11 ... Nc4. Fischer won brilliantly.) 12 a4 c5 13 axb5 axb5 14 d5 c4 15 Be3 Ba6 16 Nbd2 Qc7 17 Nh2 (White is re-routing his pieces to head for the traditional Kingside attack. Black prepares a demolition job on the White centre.) 17 ... Bb7 18 Ndf1 f5 19 f4 exf4 20 Bxf4 fxe4 21 Rxe4 Nf6 22 Rd4 Qc5 23 Ne3 Nb3 24 Rxa8 Rxa8 25 Bxb3 cxb3 26 Nhg4 Ra4 (As The Chess World puts it: ‘The game is now extremely critical for both parties, and demands the nicest play.’) 27 Nf5 Nxd5 28 Qxb3 (An amusing brace of pins. White threatens 29 Nxe7+) 28 ... Kf8 29 Nxe7 Kxe7 30 Be3 Nxe3 31 Nxe3 Rxd4 32 cxd4 Qxd4 33 Kh1 Be4! (Black is a sound pawn up and this very strong move eliminates a lot of White’s hopes. For example, 34 Nc2 fails simply to 34 ... Qd1+ and 34 Ng4 to ... Qd3! forcing off the Queens due to the threat on h3. White tries his luck without the Queens but this sort of ending should be winning quite easily.) 34 Qc3 Qxc3 35 bxc3 d5 36 Kg1 Kd6 37 Kf2 Kc5 38 Ke2 d4 (Basic plan: create a passed pawn and Queen it.) 39 cxd4+ Kxd4 40 Kd2 b4 41 g3 b3 42 Nd1 h5 43 h4 Bf3 44 Nb2 Bd5 45 Nd3 Ke4 46 Ne1 Be6 (‘We should have preferred playing 46 ... Kf5 as a more expeditious and a more artistic mode of winning’ - The Chess World. Fair enough!) 47 Nd3 Kf3 48 Nf4 Bf7 49 Ne2 g5 0-1

Thorold v Wilson
King’s Gambit

It seems a little unfair that two of the three surviving games from the tournament are the only two Thorold lost. This one is the best of the three.
1 e4 e5 2 f4 exf4 3 Nf3 g5 4 Bc4 Bg7 5 0-0 h6 6 c3 Nc6 7 d4 d6 8 g3 (A different plan to the more usual attack on the pawn chain by an early h4. Morphy often followed up an early c3 with Qb3, instantly attacking f7.) 8 ... g4 9 Nh4 f3 10 Be3?! (10 Nd2 is normal, with a sacrifice of one of the Knights on f3 looming. Thorold seems content with simply completing his development but it doesn’t answer the demands of the position.) 10 ... Nf6 11 Nd2 d5! (Black’s big equaliser in most open games.) 12 exd5 Nxd5 13 Re1 0-0 14 Bf2 Nce7 15 Qc2 c6 16 Qe4 Re8 17 Rad1 Bd7 18 Qd3 f5?! (Another pawn moves from the King’s defence, but Wilson wanted to keep the Knight out of e4. However, it still creates weaknesses and White’s chances improve over the next few moves. ) 19 Bb3 Kh7?! (‘This subjects Black to a little embarrassment. It is difficult, however, to suggest a perfectly safe move for him at the present juncture.’ - The Chess World.) 20 Nc4 Rf8 21 Ne5 (21 Nd6!? is suggested by The Chess World.) 21 ... h5 22 c4 Nf6 23 Nxd7 Nxd7
24 Rxe7?! (‘We question the soundness of this sacrifice. Would he not have won the pawn, equally, and without losing the exchange, by moving his Bishop to QB’s second?’ - The Chess World.) 24 ... Qxe7 25 Nxf5 Qe2 (‘Very well played, indeed’ - The Chess World. Black renders White’s intended crushing discovered checks harmless. Presumably this is what Thorold overlooked when sacrificing the exchange.) 26 Qb1 Kh8 27 Re1 Qd2 28 Nxg7 (‘Mr Thorold might have kept his enemy at arm’s length, at any rate for a time, by now playing the Rook to the seventh, a move which leads to many striking situations. For example: 28 Re7 Rxf5 29 Qxf5 Nf6 30 Bc2 and he may still defend himself, or: 28 ... Rae8 29 Rxg7 Rxf5 30 Rxd7 Re2 31 Qf1 etc. He may play, too, 30 Rh7+, but we have only space to indicate the variations; the student must work them out.’ - The Chess World.) 28 ... Kxg7 29 Re6 Nf6 30 d5 cxd5 31 cxd5 Rac8 (The threat of 32 ... Rc1+ kicks White back.) 32 Re1 Rfe8 33 Rd1 Qg5 34 d6 Re2 35 Bxa7 h4 (‘Mr Staunton, who witnessed the latter part of this game, suggested afterwards that Black should now have played 35 ...Rc5. A good move, certainly, but so also is 35 ... h4.’ - The Chess World) 36 Bf2 hxg3 37 hxg3 Qh6 38 Qf5 Rh8 0-1

Owen v De Vere
Spanish Game
1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 0-0 Be7 6 d4 exd4 (This position usually comes about from the move order 5 d4 exd4 6 0-0 Be7 and is reckoned to be a riskless way for White to attempt for an edge. However, against accurate play from Black White can count on very little.) 7 e5 Ne4 8 Bf4?! (White has a choice between the wild 8 b4?! and the normal 8 Nxd4. The move in the game is rather insipid and gives Black very few problems.) 8 ... 0-0 9 Bxc6 dxc6 10 Nxd4 Bc5 (10 ... Nc5 and 11 ... Ne6 is another very sound way of continuing, and a common manoeuvre in this variation.) 11 c3 Be6 12 Nd2 Nxd2 13 Nxe6?! (As pointed out in The Chess World, 13 Qxd2 is an improvement. Black will already be counting on winning a pawn - and the game - after the move played.) 13... fxe6 14 Qxd2 Qxd2 15 Bxd2 Rad8! The White e5 pawn is very difficult to defend and Black heads straight for it.) 16 Bg5 Rd5 17 Rae1 Rf5 (Black has wasted no time in attacking the seriously weak pawn. The painful pin on the f2 pawn prevents a successful defence.) 18 Be3 Bxe3 19 Rxe3 Rfxe5 20 Rxe5 Rxe5 (White is a clear pawn down and now decides to swap off the Rooks to prevent Black from occupying the seventh rank. The question is, will Black’s doubled c-pawns make the winning process difficult?) 21 f4 Re2 22 Rf2 Re1+ 23 Rf1 Rxf1+ 24 Kxf1 Kf7 25 Ke2 Kf6 26 g4 e5 27 Kf3 c5 28 c4 exf4 29 Kxf4 g5+ 30 Ke4 c6 31 a4 b6 32 a5 (An interesting attempt to confuse the issue but nothing offers chances to save the game.) 32 ... bxa5 33 b3 Ke6 34 Ke3 Ke5 35 Kf3 Kd4 0-1

The second class of entry was: ‘ to North Yorkshire and Durham especially, but other amateurs were admitted by the consent of the Executive Committee.’ South Durham Herald.

The first prize was £10 and this was won by Rev. F.R. Drew, who won 10 games and lost none. It would appear that draws were not counted, as the South Durham Herald reports that: ‘...Mr. W. Grimshaw also took a good position in the contest, winning six games and playing a long game with the Rev. F.R. Drew, which resulted in a draw.’ Mr Grimshaw’s official score is recorded as +6, -2 which earned him sixth position out of 12 players.

Class 3 was: ‘Open to amateurs who have never made a study of the game, or have not frequently played with strong players.’ Rev. G.B. Morley won, with four wins and no losses. Class 4 was: ‘ to ladies who are members of the association.’ No scores are available - it is only known that Miss Thorold and Mrs Dixon were the competitors.

So there you have it - a bit of local chess history featuring some of the giants of 19th Century chess. If anyone stumble across any of the missing details, please drop me a line!

Coming next....
My own personal memories from all of the Redcar Congresses! You lucky people!!