1996-1997: Just Another Year - The Exeter Chess Club Championship
— The self-effacing Mark Blackmore, in the Express & Echo , Summer 1997,
with a nod to the events of the same season's football league.
"This year's club championship was an exceptionally tense, clenched affair with that remained in the balance right to the final round.
There were eight or nine players with a good chance of taking the title, so it was all to play for as they got under starter's orders and stepped into the ring for the kick-off.
Defending Champion Daniel Hill makes a shaky start, narrowly defeating dark horse Steve Homer, who misses a mate in four. Wins also for Chris Bellers and Peter Tart, while Dave Regis cruises home against Jim Rosseinsky. If Exeter's club championship was the Premiership, Dave would be Arsenal, all solid strategy and defensive know-how.
TABLE: Bellers 1; Hill 1; Tart 1; Regis 1
First win for Peter Lane, who hands out a sound thrashing to Mark Blackmore. Peter Lane is Liverpool, better than anybody on this day, but prone to something approaching disinterest. Meanwhile, Chris Bellers, Daniel Hill and Peter Tart, while Dave Regis slips up on Steve Homer. There is a second draw for Andrew Pickering who is yet to get into gear.
TABLE: Bellers 2; Hill 2; Tart 2; Lane 11/2.
Andrew Pickering puts his first win on the board, beating Miro Popavac with minimal effort. Two clashes of titans: Dave Regis survives Peter Tart's attack to put himself back into it, while Chris Bellers drops a tight endgame to bookies' favourite Daniel Hill. Chris is like Chelsea, erratic and unpredictable, playing a game with which the English are unfamiliar.
TABLE: Hill 3; Regis 2; Tart 2; Pickering 2; Lane 2; Bellers 2.
The Dave Regis recovery continues with a good win over Peter Lane. Chris Bellers falls into a slump, while Peter Tart, who is Newcastle, potentially lethal in attack but needing a big defender, hands out a sound thrashing to Mark Blackmore. Daniel Hill and Andrew Pickering draw quickly in a Caro-Kann, not really testing each other and disappointing the crowd.
TABLE: Hill 31/2; Tart 3; Regis 3; Pickering 21/2.
Sadly for Daniel Hill, his season now turns into that of Blackburn Rovers, slump following championship. His loss to Peter Tart in a Max Lange is the sensation of the round. Andrew Pickering creeps stealthily on with another win, while Chris Bellers and Peter Lane soldier on manfully. Dave Regis slips and is Bellers' victim after making progress as Black.
TABLE: Tart 4; Hill 31/2; Pickering 31/2; Lane 3, Bellers 3; Regis 3.
Dave Regis' defeat of Bob Lee comes just a fraction too late to matter. Too late also for Chris Bellers, who hands out a sound thrashing to Mark Blackmore. Once again, if this championship was the Premiership, Mark would be Exeter City. Peter Lane plays a lovely attacking game against Daniel Hill, who misses his chance to tie for the title. In the deciding game, Peter Tart needs only a draw to win the competition, but it proves one hurdle too many against Andrew Pickering. Andy, then, is Manchester United, edging away with it at the end of the season.
FINAL TABLE: Pickering 41/2; Bellers 4; Lane 4; Regis 4; Tart 4; Hill 31/2.
Andy's best game was possibly his Round 5 slugfest with Steve Homer: see below ."