The following text was written for the local press, but in the event they went with a rather shorter article of their own, focussed on the award to Bob Jones. If you find the included puzzle a bit on the easy side, then remember it was intended for a general readership!
The 40th Bury St Edmunds Chess Congress took place on Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th October.
Over 100 players fought for more than £2,500 in prizes at last weekend at Moreton Hall Community Centre. The five-round event ran in four sections: Open, for the strongest and highest-rated players, Major (for players with an English Chess Federation rating of under-1900), Inter (under-1700) and Minor (under-1500).
The Swiss pairing system used in such events means that, in theory all players might play in all five rounds of the event. In practice only around half of the competitors played all rounds, with others playing in four or fewer rounds due to byes or withdrawals.
Reigning champion Alan Merry was competing again. Although the International Master (IM) from Great Barton was top seed, he was held to a draw in the first round. He now had to avoid dropping any further points to stay in with a chance of catching those who, having won their games, now stood half-a-point ahead.
For a while in round three it looked like this wouldn’t be possible when rising star, nine-year-old Supratit Banerjee (Coulsden) set up his forces to hold Alan at bay. Deep into the fourth hour of their game, Merry eventually broke down Banerjee’s defences, winning a couple of pawns. Merry’s remaining pawns, combined with his Queen were enough to overcome Banerjee’s Rook and Bishop.
In this position from Merry – Banerjee, black set one last trap in an attempt to save a draw. He played 94 … Kh8, deliberately leaving his Bishop undefended. What had Banerjee planned in response to 95. Qxf7? Solution below.
The second seed in the Open section was IM Richard Pert. He was held to a third round draw by local chess star Jaden Jermy, who plays for the Bury St Edmunds Club. With Merry and Pert both winning in round four, they stood on 3½-points apiece half-a-point clear of the field, and would face each other to decide the tournament winner.
As it happened, their game ended in a draw, allowing the tournament’s third International Master, IM Neil Bradbury to catch up with the leaders by beating Nina Pert (Richard’s daughter, and an Women’s Candidate Master). The Open section therefore finished with a three-way tie for first place.
Elsewhere in the event Bury St Edmunds players featured prominently. Stephen Ruthen finished joint third in the Major and Peter Newton joint first in the Inter. Three of the four players who shared third position in the Inter were Bury St Edmunds Chess Club members: Craig Bradshaw and junior players Rowan Kent and Oliver Ferris. In the Minor, local player Chris Shepherd-Rose took second place, while two further Bury St Edmunds players, Mark Webb and George Robinson were amongst those tied for third. Meanwhile, Nickolay Starodubcevs-Snaiders picked up the prize for best junior player in the section.
Full results from the event are available on the tournament website: bsecongress.org, but to fill in a couple of blanks, Max Pert (Richard’s son) and Supratit Banerjee finished just half-a-point behind the winners in the Open section and shared the junior prize fund between them.
Between rounds, the event also incorporated the presentation of the ECF President’s Award for Services to Chess. This was awarded to the seemingly indefatigable Bob Jones, stalwart of the chess scene in East Anglia, especially Suffolk and of course Bury St Edmunds. The presentation was made by Stephen Lewis, president of the Suffolk County Chess Association, who is pictured above with Bob. As the official silverware hadn’t arrived in time, Bob holds a “stand in” trophy, that for ECF Club of the Year 1988, awarded to Stowmarket Chess Club, largely due to the efforts of Bob himself who was a key player in that club at the time.
Some of Bob’s many contributions are listed in an article on the Suffolk Chess website (suffolkchess.org). Amongst them is having organized the Bury St Edmunds Congress from 1999 to 2014 inclusive, and helping to establish the Bury Knights Junior Chess Club, which has now been running for over 30 years, with Bob still at the helm.
It is notable how many of the players named above have at some point benefitted from his efforts: Alan Merry, Jaden Jermy, Peter Newton, Rowan Kent, Oliver Ferris and Nickolay Starodubcevs-Snaiders are all alumni of the Bury Knights Junior Chess Club. IM Richard Pert and his brother Grand Master Nick Pert also grew up playing in Suffolk Junior Chess events that Bob organised.
The organising team of the Bury St Edmunds Chess Congress (namely Steve Lovell, John Wickham and Paul Kemp) would like to thank the tournament sponsors, the Bury Area Chess League and the Patrick Ribbands Legacy Fund, to thank various volunteers who helped with setting up the venue and clearing away afterwards. Thanks are also due to Chess & Bridge (chess.co.uk) who supplied all our sets, boards and clocks, and likewise to the wonderful team at the Moreton Hall Community Centre who did so much to help the event run smoothly.
After Qxf7, the black king has no moves. If the rook can also be given up, it would be stalemate and Banerjee would escape with a draw. So in response to Qxf7, Black had planned Rxa6+. The desperdo rook can continue to give checks from a7 and a8, forcing White to either capture it and accept a draw by stalemate, to succumb to a draw by perpetual check (or worse if the white king steps onto the wrong squares trying to avoid this, when he will lose the queen to Ra7+ skewering the king and queen).
If you solved this puzzle, or enjoyed trying, you might be interested in joining a chess club. Bury St Edmunds Chess Club meets on Thursday evenings at the Moreton Hall Community Centre. Find out more at bsechess.org.uk. There are several other clubs around the region, and you can find the closest one to you using the ECF Club Finder.