Tuesday, 6 June 2006

Archive: UNCUT! 48

The Sean Marsh Chess Column
*Column 48*
* *June 2006* *

The death of local chess character Michael J. Welch shocked the local club scene last month. Aged only 42, he was knocked down by a bus and never recovered from his injuries.

I think sufficient time has now passed by to enable UNCUT! to take a look at some aspects of his life in chess.

A very long time ago, he acquired the nickname ‘Mega’, due to his habit of repeating the word in exclamation and praise of anything and everything noteworthy and/or pleasurable. A Queen sacrifice, a long, forcing theoretical line in the Sicilian Najdorf, a good joke and a ‘house special’ kebab were all ‘mega!’ and consequently the name stuck.

He was a member of various clubs over the years, from St. Peter’s through to Guisborough and Middlesbrough, with frequent appearances at Redcar. I got to know him better once he joined Guisborough in the mid-1980s. We met in the final of the 1989-90 Guisborough Championship and after 44 moves we reached this position…

S. Marsh – M. J. Welch
Guisborough Club Championship Final

44 …f4 should hold, despite the bad Bishop but here he made his first slip of the game with 44 …fxg4? 45 Nxg4 and a pawn fell off. He had automatically expected 45 fxg4. White won after 78 moves – a tough game!

Fast-forward a decade and here’s a more famous Bishop v Knight ending he managed to turn around…

T. Kiddle – M.J. Welch
Rooks v Knights, 2002

Black has been struggling for some time but after: 40 …g5 41 Nf5+? Bxf5 42 gxf5 Kd7 43 f4 gxf4+ 44 Kxf4 Kc6 45 e4 dxe4 46 Kxe4 Kxc5

White discovered, to his horror, that not all King and pawn endings with an extra are winning. This was the key game in a great match victory for the Knights.

He enjoyed heavy theoretical lines in several openings, such as the Sicilian Najdorf, Alekhine’s Defence and various sharp gambits in the Slav and Semi-Slav.

His final club was Middlesbrough and he made an excellent job of captaining the Middlesbrough Knights at a time when it had a predominately junior line-up. Indeed, for a couple of seasons the Knights were the biggest threat to Elmwood and The Rooks; not that they were ever likely to win the league, but they were more than capable of beating any team in a single match.

For the last few years, Mega’s chess was confined to the Internet and was a Senior Representative on chess server FICS, where he enjoyed the respect of the chess playing masses.
He was remarkably good at both Scrabble and table tennis, but there was always a tendency to be somewhat accident-prone. A friend recalls…

There was the famous time at Middlesbrough Chess Club when his chair collapsed during play. His hands and arms came down on the table to try and steady himself and his board and the one next to him went flying with pieces everywhere.

Another time we were in a supermarket and getting some drink in for Christmas. He reached to the top shelf only for his body to dislodge a pack of 24 bottles of beer onto the floor shattering them all. We scarpered…!

Blurring the line between ‘unemployed’ and ‘unemployable’, he was once forced to go to a job interview and escaped the dreaded fate of being ‘considered’ with a remarkable strategy. He approached the people in question with the immortal words, ‘Permit me to introduce myself. My name is Michael J. Welch and here is my Curriculum Vitae for you to peruse at your leeeeeeeeeesure’. Like I said, he enjoyed forcing variations…

Over the board, there were times when he couldn’t contain himself. More than once he responded to a weak move from an opponent with a very audible ‘HUH!’ before bashing out the refutation.

In a match against Redcar, another opponent picked up his rook and then suddenly realised the move he wanted to play was illegal. He thought for some time and then picked up another piece. Mega uttered the immortal words ‘I'm afraid you're still going to have to move the Rook’ There was only one legal Rook move…and it cost the Rook, for no compensation whatsoever. Mega could never keep the lid on his glee on such occasions.

To conclude, here’s a game which shows him at his best, in one of his favourite variations.

M. J. Welch – J. Ramsdale
Guisborough '5 Minute' Tournament

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Be7 8.Qf3 Qc7 9.0–0–0 Nbd7 10.Bd3 b5 11.Rhe1 Bb7 12.Nd5

12 … exd5 13.Nf5 dxe4 14.Bxe4 Bxe4 15.Rxe4 Nxe4 16.Qxe4 0–0 17.Nxe7+ Mega said at the time: 'I think this is better than 17 Bxe7, given by Nunn.' 17...Kh8 18.Rd3 Nc5 Mega: 'On 18 ...f5 I planned 19 Qe6! Nf6 20 Rh3 h6 21 Rh6+ gxh6 22 Bf6+ winning.'

19.Qxh7+!! Kxh7 20.Rh3# 1–0

Michael J. Welch
‘One Of The Game’s Real Characters’

Sean Marsh

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


A truly great character. Out of the ordinary, never boring and a character that, without chess, I would never have had my life enriched by his prescence.

May he rest in peace - if only for those resting around him!

Chris B