Richard Arnold “Dick” Collins, 1944-2020 RIP

It is with sadness that we report the death of Richard “Dick” Collins, who sadly passed away on the 7th of April. Several tributes have come in for Dick Collins as he was more affectionately known.

Dick Collins – Board One for Lancashire U150 Winners 2007.
Dick is standing up behind Bill in the blue and red t-shirt

Dick was nothing but helpful and cheerful with county teams and junior congresses (in Lancaster) over the years until his illness a few years back prevented any further participation.

Despite his grade going down, he fought like a tiger for both the u180 and u160’s county teams (if he wasn’t prebooked on one of his walking weekends) and was very often the man who pulled a full point out of the bag when I told him we needed a win for the team to have a chance – it seemed to motivate the challenge in him.

A really thoughtful gentleman with a sharp intellect hidden behind his friendly conversation.

Bill O’Rourke, President, Lancashire Chess Association

It is with great sadness that we report the unexpected death of Dick Collins on Tuesday 7th April 2020, reportedly of a heart attack. Dick had an association with our club going back many decades, and though he had played for Morecambe in team competitions in recent years, he also retained his membership of LCC and was a familiar sight to all of our members. Dick was a mainstay of chess locally and more widely in the NW through his play for Lancashire in county chess, and Manchester Manticores in the 4NCL league. I am reliably informed that in the ’70s and ’80s Dick was one of the strongest players in the NW, playing off a peak grading in excess of 200, and though this had dropped a good deal in recent years, he remained a formidable and competitive opponent to all but the very strongest. No doubt there will be fuller and more detailed tributes to Dick appearing in many places over the weeks to come, but we wish to pay our own tribute here to a fine player, a valued and popular member of LCC, and a real gentleman.

Barry Hymer, Secretary, Lancaster Chess Club

We recently had some very sad news about Dick Collins, who died recently following a suspected heart attack.  He had had heart-related medical problems for some time but even so his passing away was quite unexpected.

I myself knew Dick on two counts, because as well as being a chess player he was also a colleague of my father’s (along with the late Walter Fairbairn) as a lecturer in Lancaster University’s physics department.  Dick had been a very active chess player going right back to the 1960s.  I recall that he played for Middlesex in his early days, if I remember rightly including a match of 40-odd boards in the café of the John Lewis store in Oxford Street, London (at a time when the store wasn’t open on Sundays).  In the 1980s, he largely dropped out of chess for some years to concentrate on his other main pastime, orienteering (a combination of running and direction finding).   But once he retired as a full-time lecturer, he returned to chess with great enthusiasm, while continuing his orienteering and part-time university work.

Mark Whitehead notes that Dick’s last games for 4NCL were on 29th February/1st March for the Manticores first team.  For my part, I had been looking forward to a new career of my own – Dick’s openings coach.  We were next to each other on the Saturday at 4NCL and he saw me play the Hungarian Defence (1 e4 e5, 2 Nf3 Nc6, 3 Bc4 Be7), which he’d not seen before, and although I eventually lost that game the opening was reasonably successful.  It obviously made an impression on Dick and so on the Sunday, on the spur of the moment, Dick played the opening himself in his own game.  A gritty, solid manoeuvring game ensued which was eventually drawn.  A very creditable contribution for his final Manticores game and a very pleasant memory for me of the last time I saw him.

John Lyth, Chairman, Morecambe Chess Club

A couple of games from Dick Collins, the first one is from 1970. Dick was playing for Lancaster University against York University, another battle of the roses. The second game features the game John mentions, his last game played in the 4NCL, playing for the Manchester Manticores against the Barnet Knights.

Denis Lane RIP

The Association received some sad news on Sunday, Denis Lane passed away at tea time on Saturday 22nd February.

Denis was a keen supporter of chess in the Blackpool and Fylde area over a period of many years.  He officiated both as the Press Secretary and the League President during this time. Our thoughts are with his family.

Reminiscence – Phil Raynor (Chairperson, Blackpool & Fylde Chess League)

I first got to know Denis when I became the Secretary of Blackpool and Fylde Chess League in about the year 2000 at which time Denis would have been the President (an honorary role) and the Press Secretary.  Fairly quickly we came up with a scheme to populate the static content of the League’s website with a detailed bulletin of the League’s activities – Denis sent me long hand-written letters containing the content.  It is a good job I was a fast typist!  These bulletins frequently contained jokes and anecdotes often at the expense of Preston and, in particular, Brett Lund.  Although he was always particular to describe Brett as the “Lancashire Champion” when this was the case.

His narrative of the games was always at its most lively when ideally Blackpool but also some other “genuine” Fylde club were in the ascendency.  This did not happen very often, alas, mainly due to the strength of Preston.

During all of this time he hosted the meetings of the League Committee:  first at his home in Blackpool and then at his daughter’s in Preesall, where he moved in later life.  During all of this period, he was a prolific letter writer and kept in touch with the goings-on of the League contributing generously to its finances.

He lent me a book once which was the British Chess Magazine of 1937.  On P. 251 there is a description of the British Boys’ Championship where Denis represented the Northern Counties Chess Union (he must have been about 14 at the time) – sponsors paid for travel and hospitality at the Hastings Club where the matches were played.  Denis finished in 4th position in Section B with 2 points out of 6.  In the same volume, he has marked an account of the BCF Congress at Blackpool which was played at the Imperial Hotel and included notable British players of the time including Golombek.

ECF QF U120 Report

Lancashire 6 – 6 Essex (win on board count)

Chess is a very cruel game. You can play brilliantly for 49 moves, then one questionable move and you are lost. Multiply that by 12 or 16 boards and you have county chess. The ecstasy of a team win in the last minute versus the pain of suddenly losing or drawing a winning position in time trouble. This is county chess – a drug I’ve had for 25 years and shared with a great band of players proud to represent their county. And so many thanks to every one of you who made the effort, especially those who helped get other players to the venue.

We had the usual excellent venue, the East Midlands bridge centre in Spondon, doubling up with the u160’s against the same opponent, Essex. They had an equally good u120 team out and it was clear it was going to be close. 

This proved the case. Our strongest players, who have pulled us out of the mire many times, found it tough going on the top boards. Phil Shaughnessy and Chris Lysons have saved our bacon so many times, but on this occasion came off second best. Debutant Andy Swales on board one came up against a tough cookie who is now 133 grade and rising, and also went down. Captain Dave Thorp has been finding it difficult to find time to play with work pressures and, perhaps a bit ring rusty, also lost.

On the plus side, Gerry Whitehead parked his health concerns and pulled off yet another county win, as did his evergreen Eccles colleague Lawrence Harold. Young Thisumi Jayawarna also won despite running into serious time difficulties. Her older sister Tarini earned a very sold draw, as did Mark Southby and Peter Hurn. 
And so with two to play we were one down (4.5-5.5).

However, both Gary Bennett and Jeff Wilson had played excellently and were winning. Despite a late fumble, Jeff converted to make it 5.5-5.5 and 30 pairs of eyes started to gather around the last board. This was by far the best I had ever seen Gary play, and he was in total control.

But as I say, chess is a very cruel game. In a completely won position, but with the clock running down, Gary as Black relaxed on the last move in the following approximate position with White now to play:

White to play and draw – not the usual way to win a match!

Black has unwittingly forced White into the only saving move. Pawn to a8(q)! if BxQ we have a stalemate and a win for Essex on board count. Incredible. If it’s any help Gary – we have all been there and learnt from it for the rest of our chess lives!

In passing – I think our u120 team may have been jinxed! Two years ago we lost on board count when a player failed to turn up. Last year we lost on board count when a car puncture meant we lost two players. This year we lost on board count and, when Jeff Wilson went out to his car, found he had a shredded tyre!!

Next year must be the year when our u120 teams get all the luck and go all the way!  Many thanks for playing everybody.

Bill O’Rourke

NCCU U120 – Lancashire v Merseyside

The U120 team were in action again on the 3rd March, at the Bridge Club in Bury. A very close match in the end, with Lancashire running out winners 6.5 – 5.5. The U120 team qualify for the next stages in the ECF County Championships.

BoardLancashireGradeScoreMerseysideGradeScore
1Mason, Steven1181Owens, Robert1120
2Southby, Mark1161Carr, Graham1160
3Whitehead, Gerry J1160.5Rigby, James1180.5
4Jackson, Paul Robert1150.5Stent, Ian1140.5
5Jolley, Neil F1141Kelly, Alan1080
6Lysons, Chris1140Hargreaves, Martin1061
7Hurn, Peter1101Champion, Ron J990
8Jinks, Anthony1141Cockerill, Martin K950
9Gorman, Ken1030Davison, Nick1011
10Thorp, David1010.5Farry, Steve940.5
11Wilson, Jeff980Lefeuvre, Felix761
12Bennett, Gary820Miller, Adam561
Total6.5Total5.5

NCCU Match Report – Open Team

Lancashire v Yorkshire (Score 4.5 – 7.5), report from John Lyth (captain) – full match scores to follow.

A disappointing result, ending a run of wins for Lancashire over our traditional adversaries.  The match began with a series of draws but several complex games looked in the balance until late on.  However, all but one of these went against us in the end.  Brett Lund, Nugith Jayawarna and David Phillips, in particular, eventually lost games which really could have gone either way.  Roy Ellames, though, ensured that we did at least win one game.

Important though this match was, it is fair to say that the knockout stages remain the key matches and we hope to strengthen our side as the season progresses and as we move to 16-board matches.  The aim must be that I myself don’t play any chess for the county, so that sixteen players stronger than me can do all the hard work while I just watch from the sidelines.