Bulletin No.21 – History of the Dorset Individual Chess Championship
We hope to continue with these Bulletins during the summer months until face-to-face chess is widely restarted in Dorset and they will appear at least once per week on this site, currently planned for each Saturday.
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Dorset Individual Chess Championship
This is Dorset’s oldest and possibly most prestigous tournament which also has the most valuable trophy! With thanks to Ian Clark for his initial research and many of the early notes in this report
Did you know?
This Championship dates back to 1929 and is the oldest event in the county. The fact that it was held in 1929 almost certainly proves that the Dorset County Chess Association must have been in existence at this date. However, we have no records to prove this.
There are 35 winners over the 82 years the Championship has been held (see table below) yet the first 6 have won the Championship half the time between them. The Championship has only been shared once in 1996 by 4 players as the tie-break rules could not determine a clear winner. No Championship was held in 1930 and between 1939 and 1946.
The trophy has a list of all past winners and some silver content. It is therefore valuable so we are always very careful not to lose it!
The first winner in 1929 was D H Napper who won it again in 1931 and then after the war in 1948. The 3 time winner in the 1930’s was B W Wood. We wonder if he was related to B H Wood, the founder of Chess Magazine, and a noted player and writer on chess. The winner in 1937 was Dr C L L Lander who we understand was the Dorset CCA President before the war.
There was no event held between 1939 and 1946 due to the Second World War.
The 1950s and early 1960s was dominated by Joe Anderson of Weymouth. He won the championship 11 times over a period of 13 years from 1952 to 1964. He then won it again in 1975 which was 23 years after his first.
From the mid 1960s to early 1970s the Championship was won on 5 occasions by Richard Mann of Parkstone and Knights chess clubs.
We still have a player actively playing in our local leagues, having just returned, who won the Championship over 50 years ago in 1968 and he is Mike Minvalla (Poole) pictured below.
In the 1970’s a new younger breed of chess players began to arrive perhaps following the much publicised Fischer v Spassky World Chess Championship matches. These included players such as Steve Street (Knights), Steve Shutler (Parkstone) and Gerald Bennett (Christchurch) who all won the Championship.
The Championship was then dominated by Miles Cowling (Kinson), pictured below, over a 10 year period from 1983 to 1992 who won it 8 times. At one stage he was graded 215. He gave up chess to become a bridge Grandmaster and teacher (although he made a comeback with Wimborne in 2010 for 5 years after a 13 year break).
The Championship up to 1993 was played in the format of a regionalised swiss with generally the top Dorset players taking part during the season then a knock out format in the final stages merging players from the east and west of Dorset.
In February 1994 the format was changed into a Closed Dorset Championships with 3 sections (Championship, Major and Minor) over a weekend and this was organised by Ian Clark. For many years it was held at the Bournemouth International Hotel (pictured below) until the hotel was knocked down.
The 1993 Championship was won by Martin Simons (Southbourne), pictured below holding the cup. He went on to win the title 8 times (so far!) with the last being in 2016 which has equalled the longest gap of 23 years between his first and last win. The Championship was won by many local players in the late 1990’s and 2000’s including 5 times by Michael Yeo (Lymington).
Subsequently the Championships have been held at the Elstead Hotel and the Carrington House Hotel, and for a couple of years in 2016 and 2017 the event was incorporated into the Dorset Open Congress. At the 2016 event, James Wallman (below) won the Minor section and is probably, at the age of 88, the oldest player to have ever won a Dorset Championship event.
However, holding the Dorset Championship as part of the Dorset Open was not particularly satisfactory and the Dorset Closed was ‘restarted’ in 2018 in the form of a three round one day tournament with a shorter time control and an exciting play-off if two or more players tied for first place! It was held at the Merley Social Club (Wimborne) to accommodate this and there was a good attendance. Pictured below are players deep in thought.
At this first ‘Closed’ event we had some very exciting finishes as two of the sections (Championship and Major) went to a play-off match. The pictures below covered these two clashes with Mike Waddington (Dorchester) against Ian Clark (Wimborne) and Richard Ursell (Highcliffe) versus Peter Wilcock (Wimborne). Both matches were so close that they were tied one each after the first round of play-offs. Enter the guillotine ‘Armageddon’ final tiebreaker. The time control for this final match was 5 minutes for White versus 4 minutes for Black with the player of the White pieces requiring to win (i.e. a draw would mean a win for Black).
The digital clocks were quite new at the time and unfortunately in the Mike Waddington (White) v Ian Clark (Black) match the Controller (Martin Simons) had initially set them for 5 hours v 4 hours – that would have meant quite a long game and an overnight stay. Sleeping bags were not required as the error was quickly detected and rectified with Mike eventually winning with 13 seconds remaining on his clock when Ian’s flag fell! Richard Ursell also won his match in another tense finish.
Although the play-offs were exciting, it meant a very long almost 11 hour day for the players which was perhaps not suitable for everyone. The format for the 2019 Championships was therefore refined further without the play-off matches but with an an extra 4th round and a slightly quicker time control.
Pictured below are players deep in concentration at the Merley Social Club during the final round in 2019.
In 2014, Ian Clark (Wimborne), won the tournament for the first time, and in 2019, the tournament was won by possibly the youngest winner, James Forster (Southbourne), who was 19 at the time. Pictured below are the two champions but who is presenting who with the trophy?
Also in 2019, Geoff Searing (Dorchester), Frank Pittman (Weymouth) and Chris Leeson (Weymouth) came equal first in the Major section, Mihail Nutu (New Milton) won the Intermediate section and Jim Fox (Wimborne) won the Minor section.
Due to current circumstances, it is not clear if the 2020 event will now go ahead but the Championships will return!