Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The Mystery of the Sealed Move Envelope

While it may come as a surprise to some of the younger members of the club (not that we have many!) in the olden days, there was no such thing as a quick play finish, and at the end of the evening it was usual for one player to seal a move and the opponent would take it away and only open it when the game recommenced sometime - often weeks! - later.

This all seems to belong to another world now (except in the Birmingham League!), but I was suddenly reminded of the process by the very sad recent news of the death of English International Master Andrew Whiteley at the age of 67. In 1989 I played an epic game against Andrew, but it sticks in my mind for the bizarre events that occurred during the adjournment. Some ******* or *******s broke into my flat one Saturday afternoon/evening when I was out watching Coventry City draw 1-1 with West Ham at Upton Park.

The intruder(s) opened the sealed move envelope, doubtless hoping to find a Postal Order (another concept probably beyond the ken of the younger readers!) from my Auntie Flo or something similar. Doubtless they were very disappointed, but so was I, as this clearly meant that I had lost the game. All I could do was throw myself on the mercy of my opponent, and very sportingly Andrew declined to claim the game, and also didn't take up my offer that he could substitute another move for the sealed move if he wished. I don't know whether many people would have been as sporting as he was, especially as he was in grave danger of losing to me!

The resumption was a catalogue of missed opportunities for me, but on reflection I can't really complain too much, as by the laws of chess I had lost the game the moment the envelope was opened. Anyway, it was a massively exciting game, and while Andrew played many better games in his distinguished chess career, it was very nearly the game of my lifetime.

So R.I.P. Andrew Whiteley, International Master and the most sporting opponent I think I have ever played.

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