Chess in this part of Wales has lost two of its most popular players in recent months.

Tony Haigh, who played for Cardigan, died of cancer on 27 February. As his obituary in the Tivy-Side Advertiser reveals, he was a valued member of the community at Brithdir Mawr, Newport, Pembrokeshire, and a man of many skills and interests, including plumbing, gardening and astronomy as well as chess. He represented Cardigan in the European Club Cup in 2013. A strong endgame player with a positional style, Tony was regularly near the top of the ratings in Dyfed; I played him often, never beating him, but always enjoying the struggle with a player who was as sporting and likeable as he was skillful.

Iolo Ceredig Jones, who died in September after a short illness, was a legendary figure in Welsh chess. Along with his father, T. Llew Jones, he was the author of the only Welsh-language chess manual, A chwaraei di Wyddbwyll? (‘Do you play gwyddbwyll?’, the latter the name of a historic Welsh boardgame which the Joneses adopted for chess). He competed for Wales in several Olympiads, earning a gold medal in 1990 and the FIDE Master title in 1998, and was later active in international seniors’ chess. In this long career he played some of the most illustrious grandmasters of the age, including Planinc, Romanishin and Ghitescu, and once drew with the great Lajos Portisch.In his local area, he organized the annual Dyfed Closed tournament, always a convivial event, and the Dyfed League, where he attended every match, whether he was playing or not, a benign and humorous presence in the background. As a player, he liked to steer the game into quiet positions, even allowing himself to get cramped in the knowledge that, with his formidable technique and vision he would wear his opponent down eventually. Needless to say I lost every game I played against him, and I remember one in particular where we were dead level deep into the endgame with both of us running out of time: Iolo was perfectly calm throughout, knowing he could outplay me from any position, and he chuckled afterwards as he showed me where I had gone wrong. Welsh chess will not be the same without him.

In other news, Aberystwyth Chess Club is saying goodbye to two exceptional players and friends, Rudy and Julie van Kemenade, who are moving out of the area. I plan to post a tribute to them shortly. With the Covid crisis far from over and our membership at a low ebb following this latest reduction in our numbers, we are suspending our activities till next year.

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