The End of an Era
This decade saw a fundamental upheaval in the structure of chess in the county. Little changed up to 1964 with the same four clubs dominating the scene. In 1964 Wellington, Ludlow, and Hereford all tied for the title. In 1965 the Herefordshire clubs decided to break away from the Shropshire and Herefordshire Chess Association and found their own new independent county body. This was the end of an era of stability for chess in the area.
The two counties had formed one combined chess association since records began in the 1920s. By now the association had declined to just four major clubs. Each club, Ludlow, Hereford, Wellington, and Shrewsbury, had entered just one team of five players in a league: thus a winter season involved just three away and three home games. Even with some matches played at a neutral venue this involved travelling long distances, especially with the limited car ownership of the period. The county individual championship must have tested the public transport of the day; small wonder that few Hereford players enjoyed success in that event. Correspondence chess remained popular in the area (and indeed continued in popularity well into the 1990’s). It is remarkable that a county with so few players should have competed in inter-county competition with other much larger Midland counties and further afield, typically with a team of between 10 and 20 players, throughout the whole of this time! Inevitably this always resulted in heavy defeat, but with some notable high board wins to savour. To be successful in county competition requires quantity as well as both quality and enthusiasm for the game that local players had in plenty. The first win in a county match since 1916 would have to wait.
One worrying feature was the sparseness of home grown juniors. Philip Gough and Ray Cox were apparently the only juniors to break through to the highest level of Shropshire chess in the previous thirty years! The teams had to rely on players from outside the area and the older generation who would soon be retiring from competition. Even chess playing clergymen must eventually hang up their bishops! Unless local schools realised the benefits of the game in challenging and improving young minds the county would become a chess wilderness.
Nonetheless the Reverend Lacy-Hulbert and his contemporaries had laid the foundations of chess in Shropshire upon which future generations could build.
A New Beginning
Under president Otto Schalscha and secretary Jack Baldwin the governing body was renamed – the Shropshire Chess Association was born.
GKN Sankey was by far the largest employer in Shropshire with a thriving sports and social club at Hadley (Telford). As one of its employees, Baldwin encouraged the founding of a new chess club on the site, which , with players like Jos Haynes, Alan Knight, and John Jeggo would win the title in 1968 and within the next decade, become the biggest chess club in the county. At first they simply entered a team to replace Hereford and the chess season continued as before with just four teams forming the league. But then came a further crisis – Ludlow chess club folded! How would Shropshire Chess survive?
Meanwhile local school chess academies were at last developing exciting new players. Adams Grammar School in Newport produced three county individual champions and formed a team which entered the league and, as Newport Greens, won the title in 1970! The Priory School in Shrewsbury also produced quality players for Shrewsbury Chess Club who thus were able to field two teams, “Blues” and “Reds” which, with a team from RAF Cosford, brought the 1968 league up to six teams. In 1969 Oswestry made it seven.
Wellington won their last league title in 1969. Later they would amalgamate with GKN Sankey leaving Shrewsbury as the only Chess Club to have survived unscathed since the 1890s. Happily both Wellington and Ludlow Chess Clubs have since re-appeared.
The County Individual Championship reflected the shift from the old order to the new. From 1960 to 1963 the titles were won by Mease, Muchens, Schalscha, and Baldwin from the old guard. From 1964 to 1969 however it was juniors each year with F.J.O’Reilly twice, Everington, Elkes, and C.G.O’Reilly twice. But in both 1966 and 1968 Dr Gemmell shared the title to prevent the young guns taking a clean sweep.
Most of this new generation of quality players moved on to further their careers elsewhere. A few returned or remained to enhance the local chess scene. Of these only one, David Everington, is still active on the county scene today. – Keith Tabner
An early 1960’s meeting of the Council of the Shropshire and Herefordshire Chess Association Council, taken outside the Sankeys Sports and Social Club in Hadley, Telford. The people, left to right, are Jack Baldwin (Sankeys CC and County Secretary), Derek Holland (Sankeys CC), Lew Prescott (Sankeys CC and Assistant County Sec.), Otto Schalscha (Wellington CC and County President), Alan Eagles (Secretary, Shrewsbury CC), D R Bass (Wellington Chess Club) and Dr Hugh Gemmell (Shrewsbury CC and County Captain).
M.D. Watts – Adams Grammar School, Newport
Michael David Watts, born 1930, was the force behind the most powerful squad of junior players ever to hit the Shropshire chess scene. Between 1964 and 1969 one or other of his chess students won the Shropshire County Individual Championship on five occasions. He was a graduate of Oriel College, Oxford, 1954 and taught History at Adams between 1956 and 1968. In 1968 he moved to become Head of History at Feltham School. If I may quote from the school magazine “The Novaportan”, Vol XXVIII No 12 Spring 1969 “Last year was quite successful for the chess club, but rather sad, since we lost Mr Watts, a master whose keen interest in the game spurred us on to our present strength, with no less than eight players representing the County Junior Team. We thank Mr Watts for his constant help and encouragement, and express the hope that his new appointment allows him to continue this interest.” Z.Elizabeth Kosinski – School Librarian and Archivist.
Here one of Mr Watts’ young proteges, Warren Lewis, demonstrates his knowledge of opening theory.
Duffy, M – Lewis,W [C81] – Shropshire v Warwickshire Bd 14, 1969
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Nxe4 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.dxe5 Be6 9.Qe2 Be7 Not supposed to be as good as 9…Nc5 for example but Lewis was armed with a nasty trap from what was then Larsen’s new booklet on the Ruy Lopez Open Variation. 10.Rd1 0–0 11.c4 bxc4 12.Bxc4 Qd7 13.Bxa6? [He bites! Best was 13.Nc3 Nxc3 14.bxc3 f6 15.exf6 Bxf6 16.Bg5 Fischer-Ree 1970] 13…Nc5 14.Bc4 Na5 15.Bd3 Nab3! The point 16.Nc3 Nxa1 17.Bb1 c6 18.Ng5 Bxg5 19.Bxg5 Bg4 20.f3 Bh5 21.g4 Bg6 22.Bxg6 hxg6 0–1
A.G. Allender – Priory School, Shrewsbury
A.G.”Pop” Allender ran a chess academy within the walls of Priory Grammer School, Shrewsbury which produced a steady stream of quality players, many of whom went on to play in the Shropshire League, usually for Shrewsbury Chess Club. Ray Cox, David Everington, Andrew Glaze, and Stephen Hicks all benefitted from Mr Allender’s training. Indeed without the school chess academies and their enthusiastic teachers, especially at Priory School and Adams Grammar School, it is difficult to see how the Shropshire Chess Association could have survived this time of change.
In this challenge match Priory School just lost 3-2 to the strong Wellington League side. On top board John Nichol scored a fine draw with Otto Schalscha while on board 3 Keith Davies held the veteran Bass to equality. Davies was a promising player whose suicide shortly after leaving school shocked his many friends.
Mease,D – Everington,D [B74] Wellington v Priory Grammar School Bd 2, 1963
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be2 Bg7 7.Be3 Nc6 8.Nb3 0–0 9.0–0 Be6 10.f4 Qc8 11.h3 Rd8 12.Nd4 Na5 13.Nxe6 Qxe6 14.Qd3 Rdc8 15.f5 Qc4 16.Qd1 Qb4 17.fxg6 hxg6 18.Bd4 Nxe4! 19.Bxg7 Kxg7 20.Nd5 Qc5+ 21.Kh2 Nc6 22.Bg4 e6 23.Qf3 f5 24.Nf4 Re8 25.Qb3 fxg4 26.Nxe6+ Rxe6 27.Qxe6 g3+ 28.Kh1 Nf2+ 29.Rxf2 [Had white played 29.Kg1 black would have “Philidor’s Legacy” mate by 29…Nxh3+ 30.Kh1 Qg1+ 31.Rxg1 Nf2 mate] 29…gxf2 0–1
D.H.M. Everington – Nine Times County Champion
David Everington was still a junior when he won his first county individual championship in 1965 shortly after leaving Priory Grammar School. In this game he has to overcome the renowned defensive capabilities of Dr. Gemmell. Eventually reaching grade 191, he would go on to become the most successful ever competitor in this event and a major influence on the future of Shropshire Chess. For the next forty years anyone aspiring to the title of county champion would find him a major hurdle to overcome. His overall contribution to the chess scene continues to be considerable. Indeed his column in the Shrewsbury Chronicle 1968 – 1980 and his local chess books and club bulletins have provided much of the material for this feature.He would became President of the Shropshire Chess Association in the 1990s.
Everington, D – Gemmell, H [E35] Shropshire Championship Final, 1965
1.d4 e6 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 d5 5.cxd5 exd5 6.Bg5 c6 7.e3 Bxc3+ 8.Qxc3 Ne4 Taking the chance to simplify since a draw would allow him the white pieces in a second game 9.Bxd8 Nxc3 10.bxc3 Kxd8 11.Rb1 b5 12.Bd3 Be6 13.Nf3 f6 14.0–0 a6 15.Rfe1 Nd7 16.Rb2 f5? In trying to prevent white’s e4 he allows a nice combination – perhaps best was c5 17.Ng5 Ke7 18.e4! fxe4 19.Bxe4 dxe4 20.Rxe4 revealing the hidden pin on the e file – white now gets the piece back with a won ending 20…Nf8 21.Rbe2 Re8 22.Nxe6 Nxe6 23.Rxe6+ Kd7 24.Rxe8 Rxe8 25.Rxe8 Kxe8 26.Kf1 Ke7 27.Ke2 Ke6 28.Kd3 Kd5 29.f4 a5 30.g4 c5 31.dxc5 Kxc5 32.h4 b4 33.cxb4+ Kxb4 34.f5 Ka3 35.g5 Kxa2 36.f6 1–0
A. Mushens – County Champion 1960
Mushens was passing through the county in the course of an RAF career. He was a fine player and he took the Shropshire County Championship in 1960 – his only appearance in the event. He later won the British Combined Services Championship just as Bob Kermeen, also from RAF Cosford, did one year. Although Mushens played for Shrewsbury, by 1968 RAF Cosford had enough players to enter their own team in the Shropshire league.
Here Mushens produces a shower of sparks to slay a Scicilian Dragon.
Mushens, A – Tiplady, J [B70] British Championship Qualifying Competition, 1960
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Bc4 Bg7 7.Bg5 0–0 8.f3 Nc6 9.Nb3 a6 10.Qd2 Re8 11.h4 Ne5 12.Be2 Be6 13.0–0–0 Qc7 14.Bh6 Bh8 15.g4 b5 16.h5 b4 17.Nd5 Bxd5 18.exd5 Rec8 19.hxg6 hxg6 20.Kb1 Nxd5 21.Bf8!! A beautiful vacating sacrifice to allow his queen on to h6 [A mistake would have been 21.Qxd5? Qxc2+! with a good game] 21…Bg7? 22.Bxg7 Kxg7 23.Qh6+ Kf6 24.Rxd5 Qxc2+ 25.Ka1 Qc7 26.f4 Nc4 27.g5+ Ke6 28.Qh3+ f5 29.gxf6+ Kxf6 30.Rf5+! gxf5 31.Qh6+ Kf7 32.Bh5+ Kg8 33.Qg6+ and mate next move – though Rg1 mate was a shade better! 1–0
F.J. O’Reilly – County Champion 1964 & 1967
John O’Reilly, the eldest of three brothers from Donnington, won the title as a schoolboy in 1964 beating the veteran Chesterman in a beautifully mature positional game. He entered again in 1967 drawing in the final with Dr.Gemmell. A product of Adams Grammar school, he formed part of a formidable Newport team entirely of juniors.
O’Reilly,F – Chesterman,A [D64] – Shropshire Championship Final, 1964
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Nbd7 5.e3 Be7 6.Rc1 0–0 7.Nf3 c6 8.Qc2 h6 9.Bh4 a6 10.Bd3 dxc4 11.Bxc4 Nd5 12.Bxe7 Qxe7 13.Nxd5 exd5 14.Bd3 Nf6 15.h3 Bd7 16.Ne5 Be8 17.Qc5 Qxc5 18.Rxc5 Nd7 19.Nxd7 Bxd7 20.b4 Rae8 21.Kd2 g6 22.a4 Kg7 23.b5 axb5 24.axb5 b6 25.Rc3 cxb5 26.Rc7! Bc8 27.Bxb5 Rd8 28.Rhc1 Kf6 29.R1c6+ Be6 30.Rxb6 Ra8 31.Rc2 Ra1 32.Ke2 Kg5 33.Bd3 Rg8 34.Kf3 h5 35.Rc5! Kh4 36.Rb1 Rxb1 37.Bxb1 Rb8 38.Ba2 Rd8 39.Kf4 f6 40.Rc6 g5+ 41.Kf3 g4+ 42.hxg4 Bxg4+ 43.Kf4 f5 44.Rc1 There is no defence to 45 Rh1+ and mate next move – a pleasing finish. 1–0
C.G. O’Reilly – County Champion 1968 & 1969
Gerard O’Reilly was the youngest of the three brothers. He turned out to be the strongest of the family and, perhaps the strongest ever in Shropshire. He won the title on both occasions that he entered, at age 14 and 15. His many achievements both within and outside the county made it clear that he had the potential to go to the front ranks of British chess. Sadly he decided to give up serious chess for other pursuits – a great loss to the chess world.
This is his first final – although white is outplayed in the opening, middle game, and ending of a hard fight, his early desperation exchange sacrifice almost, but not quite, saves the draw.
Everington,D – O’Reilly,G [E33]
Shropshire Championship Final, 1968
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 Nc6 5.Nf3 0–0 6.e3 d6 7.a3 Bxc3+ 8.Qxc3 a5 9.Be2 Qe7 10.0–0 a4 11.b4!? axb3 12.Bb2 Ne4 13.Qxb3 f5 14.Qc2 Na5 15.Rac1 b6 16.Rfd1 Ba6 17.Nd2 d5 18.Nxe4 fxe4 19.c5 Bxe2 20.Qxe2 Nc4 21.Rxc4 the only reasonable attempt to avoid being squeezed to death 21…dxc4 22.Qxc4 bxc5 23.dxc5 Rad8 24.Rxd8 Rxd8 25.g3 Qf7 26.Qxe4 Rd2 27.Qa8+ Qf8 28.Qxf8+ Kxf8 29.Bc3 Rc2 30.Bb4 e5 31.Ba5 c6 32.Bc7 e4 33.a4 Kf7 34.Bb6 Ke6 35.a5 Ra2 36.Kg2 Kd5 37.h4 h5! The last nail in a well played ending. Black is practically in zugswang 38.g4 hxg4 39.Kg3 Kc4 40.Kxg4 Rxf2 41.a6 Kd3 42.a7 Rf8 43.Kg5 Kxe3 44.Kg6 Kf3 45.Kxg7 Ra8 The black queen pawn cannot be stopped. 0–1
J.A.A. Samworth – Shrewsbury
This game shows Jim Samworth at his best with a positional advantage in the middle game being converted into a carefully built up king side attack which is beautifully translated into a win by the most daring of tactical means. One of the strongest players of the period not to have won the individual title, he had a deeper understanding of the game than most of his contemporaries. An ideal mentor therefore for the young David Everington.
J.R. Jeggo – GKN Sankey
John Jeggo was for many years to narrowly miss out on a county championship title. In 1999 however he would strike a major blow for the older generation by winning the title as a veteran. He also enjoyed great success in another of his interests, marquetry.
Here he handles his favourite Sicilian Najdorf to great effect for the county team.
Billinge,H – Jeggo,J [B95] Shropshire v Worcestershire Bd 7, 1966
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e6 7.Bc4 Be7 8.Bb3 0–0 9.f4 Qc7 10.0–0 Nbd7 11.Kh1 h6 12.Bh4 Nb6 13.Qf3 Bd7 14.Rae1 Rae8 15.Bg3 Nc4 16.Bxc4 Qxc4 17.Qe3 Rc8 18.Re2 b5 19.e5 dxe5 20.fxe5 Nd5 21.Nxd5 Qxd5 22.a3 Bc5 23.c3 Bxd4 24.cxd4 b4! 25.Ref2 Bb5 26.Rd1 b3 27.Qf4 Rc2 28.Rxc2 bxc2 29.Rc1 Qb3! 30.Qg4 Qxb2 31.Bf4 Qxd4 32.Rxc2 Rd8 33.Rc1 Kh7 34.h3 g5 35.Rc7? Desperation in a lost position 35…Qd1+ 36.Qxd1 Rxd1+ 37.Kh2 gxf4 38.Rxf7+ Kg6 39.Rf6+ Kg7 40.Rxe6 Rd5 0–1
Shropshire v Worcestershire 1969
This match was one of the high points in Shropshire’s chess history – the first victory in a county match since 1916! Just pause to think about that. The last time it happened Lasker was World Champion, neither Capablanca nor Alekhine had yet held the title, and no one had even heard of Euwe and Botvinnik!
An interesting feature was that the four points difference was made up of the four adjudicated games – the score standing at 8 each at the end of play. Three of the unfinished games were obviously Shropshire wins but as the dreadfulness of their situation dawned (What! ……… you lost to who?!!) our opponents decided to “send them up”. In anticipation of the win several members of the team adjourned to the bar (the match was played at GKN Sankey) and did further justice to the occassion. Full details of the match are to be found in the 1969 SCA publication “Shropshire v Worcestershire 1969”.
Garry Hewitt writes:-
“Originally from Whitchurch, I played for Wellington Chess Club from about 1967 onwards. I was pleased to see my name in the 1960s history section as Board 19 in that historic win against Worcestershire. My teachers at that time were Miss. C.M. Murphy and Miss Ingram. I recall winning the Shropshire Junior Lightning Congess around 1968. I was captain of Sir John Talbots Grammar School team and recall stuffing Adams Grammar School on a number of occasions.
I left Whitchurch to go to Durham University in 1969 and furthered my chess playing at Darlington Chess Club and with Durham University, representing Durham County on Board 4. Unfortunately I also continued playing Rugby and training nights were on the same night. One had to go!
Garry Hewitt 02/10/05
GKN Sankey Chess Club
Back row l to r:- Jack Baldwin, Lou Prescott, J E M Johnson, George Partington, Cliff Rust, John O’Reilly. Front Row – Les Heath, Otto Schalscha, John Gorvin.
Photo Courtesy of John Jeggo
Lou Prescott and Jack Baldwin in action.