Chess

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Probably the best tournament in the world is the Sticklepath International. It all began two years ago when the chess players at the Devonshire Inn at Sticklepath, near Okehampton, decided to put in a bid for the Short- Kasparov world championship match.

Peeved at the inflationary offers from other potential sponsors, they sought to restore some sense and dignity to the spirit of the game by proposing that the match be played in their Snug Bar (which their own players always found most congenial). The players would be accommodated at the Inn, and would share a prize fund of pounds 150, which they were confident of raising through a raffle and coffee morning.

When Short and Kasparov failed to accept, or indeed reply to, the invitation, the Devonshire set up its own world championship with teams from local pubs representing different nationalities.

This year, in the third event of the series, the "International" aspect was downplayed somewhat owing to a shortage of flags.

"VE-Day celebrations seem to have taken all the flags," a regular explained. "And the man who lent us the Union Jacks last time wouldn't do it again 'cos he'd been thrown out of the pub for wearing a vest."

Nevertheless, seven and a half teams turned up last weekend. No clocks, no score-sheets, but a good deal of beer and classic pub chess. The diagram position (reconstructed from memory) gives a flavour.

The five-minute gong had just sounded, and the players told to get a move on to finish their games. White accordingly played 1.Rxc5+ then hit his head and uttered a mild oath, clearly indicating that he had not seen that the knight was protected. After 1...Bxc5, White muttered more self- deprecating curses, then realised that his "sacrifice" made sense after all and played 2.Rc1.

After a brief thought, Black played 2...Nxe4!? intending to meet 3.Bxe4 with Qxd4 or 3.Qxe4 with Qxd5. White played 3.Be6?!?, paused a couple of seconds, then uttered his strongest oath yet.

I was distracted at that moment, but imagine that Black did not find 3...Qxe6! (when 4.Nxe6 Rxd3 wins for him) because the next time I looked, Black was mated.

And a splendid time was had by all. A team of All Sorts won the trophy, just ahead of the Ring of Bells, Chagford team, despite not winning a single match. Their 8 points comprised two 2-2 draws and a 4-0 walkover in the first round.

Comments