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Brian Towers: Hexagonal Chess Memories

Early 2006, Brian Towers sent an email to me (Hans Bodlaender), where he recalled memories of playing in Hexagonal Chess tournaments a long time ago. This is what he wrote:

In early July 1979 I was called to the phone in the masters' common room in Emanuel School in South London in my role as master in charge of the school chess club. The conversation went something like this -

Bill Edmunds (for it was he): Hello, this Bill Edmunds from the British Hexagonal Chess Federation. I understand you play hexagonal chess at your school?
Brian Towers (not having a clue what Bill was talking about): Yes?
BE: Well, next Friday, as a warm up for the British Championships, Brian Rippon, the current British Champion, is giving a simultaneous display at the Polish Cultural Institute in central London and I just wondered if you could send some of your boys along to take part?
BT (still not really much the wiser): Sure, no problem. Just give me the details.

My next step was hunt down Tinker and Goberdhan, the boards 1 and 2 for the school square board chess team and ask them what it was all about -

T&G: Ah yes! The master who was in charge of the school chess club before you was very keen on it. I think we've even got a set and a book explaining the rules in the library.
BT: So, you both know how to play then?
T&G: Ooph! It's been a long time, but I suppose so.
BT: So, do you fancy a day off school next Friday to go and play in the Polish Cultural Institute?
Tinker: I'd love to, but it's school prize giving that day and I'm getting the Maths prize.
BT: Goberdhan?
Goberdhan: Sorry, I'm getting the Physics prize.

And so it went on with the rest of the first team and most of the second team.

Eventually I found a couple of second team players who weren't getting prizes and did fancy a day off school. Since neither of them knew how to play I went to see the headmaster to arrange for the three of us to be out of school on the Friday and to be excused lessons on the Thursday afternoon the day before. Then I checked with the school librarian that we could spend Thursday afternoon teaching ourselves hexagonal chess from the book in the library.

On Friday morning we headed north into town to the Polish Cultural Institute. There Bill Edmunds asked me if I'd like to play as well as they were short of numbers. No problem. I played and won. At one stage my two boys, Tony Daintith and AN Other (I'm afraid I forget his name) were also winning but they both blundered and lost.

According to my old Hexpress 10/11 Brian Rippon won 6 and lost 3. He beat Tony Daintith, Bill Edmunds, G. Glinski (Bill's son?), M.L. Khan, B. Lewis (the second boy I took along?) and G. Raszka. He lost to me, Bill Glinski and Simon Triggs.

The next question I faced was - "We're holding the British Championships here over the weekend but we've only got 5 players. One had to drop out at the last minute. Could you play and make up the numbers? Otherwise somebody will have to sit out each round." So, the next day I headed back into town to take part in the British Championships. I again beat the reigning British Champion, but then so did almost everybody else. Here was the final table according to Hexpress 10/11 -

                        1        2        3        4        5        6
1 Simon Triggs          x        1        0.5      1        1        1        4.5/ 5
2 Mark Jordan           0        x        1        0.5      1        1        3.5
3 Brian Osland          0.5      0        x        1        1        1        3.5
4 John Shepherd         0        0        0.5      x        0        1        1.5
5 Brian Rippon          0        0        0        1        x        0        1
6 Brian Towers          0        0        0        0        1        x        1
Here's how Hexpress described Brian Rippon's attempted defense of his title -

"It is impossible to judge whether he was tired out after playing the simultaneous games or if other reasons caused him not only to lose the title, but to take 5th place in the final results."

I think this is rather flattering to Brian Rippon. The fact of the matter is that Simon was a fast improving 16 year old schoolboy. His square chess rating was over BCF 180 (= 2040 ELO). The following year Simon missed the European Hexagonal Chess Championships to take part in the British junior square board championships which he, his mum and his square board coach thought much more important. He was simply in a different league to the rest of us. To be honest, the rest of us were fairly evenly matched, in our inconsistency, as much as anything else. Also, notably absent was David Springgay, a previous British Champion who seemed to have just dropped out of the hexagonal chess scene, judging by earlier editions of Hexpress, a year or two earlier.

Hexpress went on to say -

"Time was running short last July and the finals had to be arranged rather hurriedly as the British team had to be ready to fly to Warsaw on the 10th of August, for the return match, Poland versus Great Britain."

That's when the "Boys Own" story continued. Having finished last in the British Championships I was, nevertheless, asked yet again to "make up the numbers" to fly to Warsaw as part of the British team. A few weeks later we boarded a Lot flight out of Heathrow bound for Warsaw, the British Team plus Jill Triggs, Simon's mum. He was too young to fly off to Poland on his own.

Perhaps more of that later.

Written by Brian Towers. Webpage by Hans Bodlaender.
WWW page created: May 17, 2007.