Gary White checks in for chess congress success
Gary White was the Shropshire star of the show as an international field of 140 players battled for a prize fund of over £3,000 in the county's annual chess congress.
That field included two Hungarian Grandmasters – David Berczes and Laszio Gonda – who flew over specially from Budapest to take part in the strongest section, the Open, where they found the competition stiff, with Berczes getting at least a little return on his investment with £75 for equal third place.
White, who plays for the Oakengates-based Maddocks club, was the only player to win all his five games over the weekend giving him outright victory in the Intermediate section, for players with a grading of under 135.
"I suppose it went all right," said White, who travels far and wide to play in tournaments.
"There were some tough games, some easier than others, and I was very fortunate in my third game where I should have lost my queen but my opponent didn't see it.
"I'm going to put my £300 prize money towards my trip to play in Gibraltar in two weeks' time."
The competition was played at the Wrekin Housing Trust premises in Telford, with four sections of strength.
One of the organisers, Steve Rooney, said: "We had five female competitors in the Major, the strongest showing in years and we certainly encourage as many female entrants as we can and look at ways to do that, as there's no reason why we shouldn't have such a balance in chess as in all walks of life."
Winner of the £1,000 first prize in the Open was Ameet Ghasi, an International Master from London, with Wolverhampton's Tomasz Sygnowski in second place, winning £300.
Two Shropshire players, Newport's Nathanael Paul and Phil Zabrocki of Shrewsbury-based Telepost, won grading prizes.
Winner of the Major, for players with a grading of under 170, was Graham Ashcroft of Preston, with Halesowen's Finlay Bowcott-Terry second. Among five players sharing third place were David Gostelow (Maddocks), Ian Emery (Warley Quinborne), and Matthew Clark (Telepost).
Dustin Bowcott of Halesowen was one of three players to get a grading prize.
Joint runners up in the Intermediate were Graham Shepherd (Church Stretton) and Dimitar Kirachen (Oswestry).
Winner in the Minor, for players graded under 100, was Jeff Wilson of Oldham, with Smethwick's Khalid Kahn second, and Silas Bowcott-Terry (Halesowen) and Birmingham's Ansh Agrawal among three players sharing third place.
All players in the competition, unless they took an optional bye in an early round, played five games, with 90 minutes on their clock to play all the moves, with an extra 30 seconds added to their time for each move made.
Event tinged with sadness
The congress was tinged with sadness following an announcement at the start of play that the event's founding father, Jeff Cox, died over the Christmas period.
As a result his son John, an International Master, pulled out of the competition.
Dr Jeff Cox, from Kynnersley, near Telford, was a leading figure in the local game who had organised the first congress in the early 1970s.
Veteran Shrewsbury player David Everington recalled: "He must have arrived in the county some time around 1970 – I think he taught physics at Wolverhampton Polytechnic – and quickly took on the secretaryship of Shrewsbury Chess Club, and quite soon afterwards of the county chess association as well.
"He had some huge achievements, including creating this tournament. I can remember that in 1975 there was a problem with the British lightning chess championship somewhere in the north of England, in which the organisers had to pull out, and he heard about it and picked it up and held it here, at Madeley Court in Shropshire.
"Under Jeff's stewardship of the county association the league expanded very quickly, from one division probably into three, possibly four – I'd have to check on that.
"He also created the summer knockout competition – playing for the Cox Trophy."
In another poignant note at the congress, Doreen Park, the mother of the late Colin Roberts, attended the event to present a cheque of £100 to Shropshire Chess Association in his memory.
Colin, a popular figure on the county scene who played in the congress and for Wellington in the league, and was a past secretary of the county chess association, died last year.
Doreen said: "He just loved chess. It was his life for many years."