From the Frontline: Somerset New Year Congress

Last weekend was the second Somerset New Year Congress held at the Walton Park Hotel Clevedon.  The Bristol Chess Times entered with bold hopes (well Mike Harris was top seed and I had my usual blind optimism) but alas our individual results were not as good as this excellent new edition to the South West’s congress calendar.

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On the second weekend of January, the hotel didn’t look quite as spectacular as this photo.  Its fair to say “grey fog” was the theme of the weekend.

Sixty five entrants across three sections, The Somerset New Year Congress is unusual in that it does not have an Open section.  It has a top rating limit of 175 ECF (2000 ELO) which at first seems odd but you quickly realise how this keeps it a “club players congress” and very difficult to predict as everyone starts to take lumps out of each other over three games on the Saturday and two on the Sunday.

The venue is lovely though early birds catch the worm with regards to booking a room.  Myself and Mike instead stayed at the very pleasant Moon and Sixpence pub, five minutes down the road from the venue.

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Three pints help the kibbitzing woes but also lead to an early draw Sunday morning…

The one advantage of this is were able to have some pints Saturday night and try to understand exactly how I can walk into the simplest one-move mate possible?


Unfortunately blunders plagued my weekend.  For example 47. Kxp led to an unfortunate mate in one on h2. Particularly frustrating as my opponent had less than five minutes remaining to my 50.

The congress feels fresh and different to the more well established congresses and attracted a wide range of players from the Bristol league, the Somerset clubs as well as South Wales.  Indeed, all five of my opponents over the weekend I had never met before which helped keep the surprises coming on the board.

Despite my personal chess being disappointing, I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoy this congress for multiple reasons:

  • Timing – Its great to have some highly competitive chess so soon after Christmas to shrug off this January cobwebs;
  • Venue – It really is beautiful and the bar upstairs is always jammed with chess players cursing and praising their moves;
  • Approach – The upper limit of 175 ECF is fun and encourages a fair entree of confident club players looking to get amongst the prizes.

Below is a list of the prizewinners (£150 for first in each section) from the weekend:

Minor (U120)

  • 1st
    • Jason Madden 4 / 5
    • Graham Mill-Wilson 4 / 5
  • 3rd
    • Timothy Allen 3.5 / 5
    • Roy Ludlow 3.5 / 5
    • Phillip Owen 3.5 / 5
    • Chris Smith 3.5 / 5
  • Grading Prize
    • Kevin Lamb 3 / 5

Intermediate (U140)

  • 1st
    • Robert Parsons 4 / 5
    • Stephen Williams 4 / 5
    • Rich Wilshir 4 / 5
  • Grading prize
    • Allan Evans 3 / 5

Major (U175)

  • 1st
    • Chris Timmins 4 / 5
    • Timothy Woodward 4 / 5
  • 3rd
    • Andrew Borkowski 3.5 / 5
    • Martyn Harris 3.5 / 5
    • Mark Potter 3.5 / 5
    • Oliver Stubbs 3.5 / 5
  • Grading Prize
    • Robert Lanzer 3 / 5

Finally, the Bristol Chess Times put out a call to arms for any players to submit interesting games and my thanks goes out to Robert Parsons who won the Intermediate section with 4 / 5.  Below is a link to his game vs. Timothy Jones which showcases some of the exciting chess that was on offer during the weekend.

Timothy Jones (137) vs. Robert Parsons (137)View full game


After 24…Rxa4 white resigned as mate is unstoppable.  A lovely example of how to blunt the ever popular London System these days.

Overall, an enjoyable weekend (full of personal regrets on the board) that I can heartily recommend to any club players in the South West next year.


Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

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