The last couple of years have been difficult for chess in the area. Not only were we forced to move to online competitions because of the Covid pandemic, but three popular players and energetic supporters of Dyfed chess have sadly died: FM Iolo Jones, organizer of the Dyfed League and one of the pioneers of modern Welsh chess, Tony Haigh, Treasurer of the Dyfed Chess Association, and David Pinch, who kept chess going by organizing online matches and torunaments when over-the-board play was impossible. They are all much missed.

For Aberystwyth Town Chess Club, the problems were compounded by factors which had been apparent even before the pandemic, the erosion of our membership and the lack of a suitable place to meet. Two valued members, Rudy and Julie van Kemenade moved away from the area earlier this year, leaving us down to four active players, Adam Watkin-Jones, Tom Gunn, Sam Holman and myself – and, now Adam is unable to play for the time being due to pressure of work. In the circumstances, I thought it would be necessary to dissolve this historic club.

But, unexpectedly, things have begun to revive, both for the club and Dyfed. Several new players have moved into the Aberystwyth area, and at the same time FM Howard Williams, the Secretary of the Dyfed Chess Association, has begun the process of reviving the Dyfed League, which is due to start as a hybrid online / OTB event in January. As we look for a permanent meeting place, the Town club has been generously welcomed by our sister club at the University to their Wednesday afternoon sessions in the Arts Centre bar, and we have celebrated having enough players for a team by organizing some friendly matches.

The first of these was played between the University and the Town at the Arts Centre bar on Thursday 17 November. On top board for the Town, Peter Windows couldn’t make progress with his kingside attack against Toby Carter’s Pirc, and a misjudged exchange left him down in material, with a lost game. I built a defensive stronghold with my Caro-Kann against Toby Bates, and was eventually able to break out with a winning counterattack. Tom Gunn turned the win of a piece into a speculative queen sacrifice in an irregular Queen’s Pawn Game against Harry Fox, and gained a decisive advantage in the ensuing complications. Samuel Rayburn also played a Caro-Kann against Rufaro Chisiwenga but lost a pawn to a neat tactic and was unable to get back into the game. A 2-2 draw seemed an appopriate result for this celebratory friendly.

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