Exeter 4.5-3.5 Newton Abbot Peter Rooke Cup Sat 10th Jan 2015

1 Waters, Simon (B) 1/2-1/2 Brooks, Paul (W)
2 Frangleton, Andy (W) 0-1 Hui, M (B)
3 Pope, Sean 1/2-1/2 Kinder, Andrew
4 Dobber, Piet 1-0 Taylor, Wiilf
5 Waley, Jonathan 1/2-1/2 Ramesh, Vignesh
6 Marjoram, Will 1/2-1/2 Allen, John
7 Palmer, Eddy 1/2-1/2 Barber-Lafon, Jacquie
8 Whittington, Reece 1-0 Narayanan, Nandaja

In a close and well-fought contest, Exeter held on to an early lead to eliminate Newton Abbot from this year's Peter Rooke knockout Cup competition.

It all looked to be going wrong for Piet Dobber as Wilf Taylor's pawn duo came storming down the middle of the board, but a Bishop went astray and the home team claimed an early lead.

Despite both players on the last board overlooking an early trap to win a piece for Black, White's extra pawns proved more than enough to put Exeter two ahead.

Opposite-coloured Bishops proved an overwhelming levelling factor on Board 7. White had got into a bind against Jonathan Waley's French Defence, but was alert to the tactics and the OCBs led to peace once more.

John Allen's Leningrad Dutch proved too sharp for Will to handle, but some mysterious escapology happened in the minor piece endgame leaving Exeter two ahead with three to finish.

After struggling for most of the game to develop any sort of activity, Simon on top board opened up a King's Indian position just on the time control, snaring a Queen for Rook and Bishop.

After a horrible time scramble, Andrew Kinder unwisely called attention to the state of Black's clock, revealing his own flag to have been the first to fall. I say fall, Exeter's newfangled digital clocks were being given their first outing, which created some uncertainty around move 40, so a little symbol appeared on the clock face, rather than any physical flags dropping. Sean, who hadn't noticed, sportingly agreed a draw, and Simon whipped out a perpetual check to give Exeter the match.

Andy Frangleton had been suffering all game from a haemorrhage of the Queen's-side dark squares, and when his young opponent came full-tilt down the c-file in a double-Rook endgame it looked bad for White. But some crisp decisions in the last moments of play gave a drawn R+P vs R+P position, only for White to find the one move on the board which lost, giving the visitors a consolation point.

For the avoidance of future doubt, the clock face below shows a situation similar to the Kinder-Pope finale, with Black to play their 40th move.

2015-01-10 22.04.20.jpg

The right-hand clock (Black) is ticking down the second time period, so Black has not completed their 40th move in time, but the left-hand clock (White) is showing a flag-fall - White overstepped the first time period by a couple of seconds, so if the players' score sheets show only 40 White moves, White loses. I witnessed all this as a spectator, without feeling I could point it out; spectators are not allowed to intervene in this way, arbiters are required to - how does a team captain stand?

Also, please note that only after one side has run out of time are the extra minutes of the second time period added to both clocks. Apparently, the rest of the world has always done it like that, but it was a worrying moment for some, already unnerved by the unnatural tickless silence.

The venue was Gisson's Hotel in Kennford, an auspicious choice for the home team, as it was in a Gisson's Hotel (surely not at this location) that Exeter Chess Club was founded:

"On the opening page of the Club's first minute book it is recorded, under the heading "Chess Club", that "a meeting was held at Gisson's Hotel on Saturday, October 26th, 1895. (...) At this meeting, it was decided to ask the Literary Society, then established at Barnfield House, whether and on what terms the Society would set apart a room for the Club". A week later, "at Mr. Widgery's studio", it was decided to accept a tentative offer by the Society and to go ahead. On 16th November, 1895, at Barnfield House, in what was already described as the Club room, a meeting of seven formed the Club. It was to be called Exeter Chess Club..."
From Exeter Chess Club: 1895-1961 by Richard Hitchcock. http://exeterchessclub.org.uk/content/1895-archives