British Championship Qualifying Competition

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Christopher Kreuzer
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British Championship Qualifying Competition

Post by Christopher Kreuzer » Fri Dec 19, 2014 10:06 am

On reading the P.H. Clarke obituary thread, I noticed a reference to the BCQC, and on searching further found these posts (from Ken Norman and Martyn Jacobs):

http://www.ecforum.org.uk/viewtopic.php ... 89#p109079

"The British Championship Qualifying Competition was abolished in 1982."

http://www.ecforum.org.uk/viewtopic.php ... 283#p86283

"The British Championship qualifying competition used to be a long drawn out affair, with several zonal stages."

Does anyone have more details on what the BCQC was and how it worked? I found a couple of references around the internet, but not that much.

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Michael Farthing
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Re: British Championship Qualifying Competition

Post by Michael Farthing » Fri Dec 19, 2014 10:45 am

For 1966-68 I can supply the following details from the qualification table for the championship taken from the tournament bulletin:

There were seven zones labelled A-H.
Between 16 and 18 players qualified for the Championship by the zonal route, numbers from each zone varying from one to three.
There is little consistency between years as to numbers qualifying from each zone - perhaps it was determined by numbers entering the particular zone in each year. My memory tells me that it was a Swiss competition, but I have no other authority for this.

The zone system covered England only, as far as I can see. It certainly did not include Scotland where the Scottish Chess Association nominated players using whatever method they used. Unions each also nominated a player and Wales was regarded as a union for this purpose, so Wales looks rather discriminated against by not having a zonal route, but maybe Welsh players could enter a zone but simply were not successful in the years I have information for.

It is not possible to deduce zonal areas and, indeed, the locations assigned to successful candidates simply adds confusion. For example in 1966 Zone H yields a player from Burnley and Cheltenham and Zone E London and Altrincham! I do know that in principle the system was designed to enable qualifying games to be within manageable travelling distance but it is possible you could enter whichever zone you wanted provided you could travel.

It was the responsibility of players to contact their opponents and agree time and venue, with the job of contact resting with one of the players (I suspect White). I am aware of this because a school colleague had great difficulty fixing a time and place with his last round opponent (who allegedly was being uncooperative) but the failure to agree lead to him forfeiting the game and a qualifying place. Nevertheless, he was admitted as a special case and by coincidence (maybe) was drawn against that same opponent. He was jubilant when he won, but the rest of the competition was not so easy for him. I believe he is now lost to bridge.

[Edit: One of the qualifiers in these years was my friend George Ellison, so when I next see him I'll see if he can give me anymore details about the mechanics: Sadly, most of the other names I recognise are no longer with us]
Last edited by Michael Farthing on Fri Dec 19, 2014 10:56 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Christopher Kreuzer
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Re: British Championship Qualifying Competition

Post by Christopher Kreuzer » Fri Dec 19, 2014 10:54 am

Thanks! Any idea on what the strength of the qualifying players was in that period?

Roger de Coverly
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Re: British Championship Qualifying Competition

Post by Roger de Coverly » Fri Dec 19, 2014 11:24 am

Christopher Kreuzer wrote:Thanks! Any idea on what the strength of the qualifying players was in that period?
There weren't that many players above 200 in those days, so players in the 175 to 200 range could realistically enter with a chance of qualification. As there were far more players in that range than could expect to qualify, the bottom quarter of the British Championship was interchangeable with the equivalent head count in the Major Open or even the Under 21. The British Championship had a 32 player restriction. Only a handful of players in the British were pre-qualified by previous results, grade or eminence. The rest had to win a Union championship, qualify through the BCQ or win one of a handful of prestige tournaments.

As far as which zone you could enter, I believe it was based on whether you were eligible to play for one of the counties it contained. Usually the qualification competition was a six player all play all. If there were more entrants than available places for the winners, I'd imagine a play off system against other section winners was needed. In an era of compulsory adjudications in most leagues, the BCQ was an opportunity to play longer games, admittedly at the cost of perpetual adjournments. The time rate was likely to have been 40 moves in 2 hours followed by 20 moves in 1 for ever. If you played in the evenings at your club, that probably only allowed 30 moves play each session. It was common to play at people's houses or even workplace.

The expansion of the British to as many players as was needed, plus the extension of qualification based on rating reduced the importance of the BCQ. Stewart Reuben with the consent one assumes of the rest of the BCF phased it out with the qualifying places distributed amongst Congresses.

Graham Borrowdale

Re: British Championship Qualifying Competition

Post by Graham Borrowdale » Fri Dec 19, 2014 1:26 pm

Christopher Kreuzer wrote:..."The British Championship Qualifying Competition was abolished in 1982."
Round about that time there were some weekend congresses with the same name, which replaced the system whereby people played in their homes, described above by Michael Farthing.
I played in at least one of these congresses, in London - presumably there was at least one up north as well. The one I played in was quite strong: Byron Jacobs won a place if I remember, possibly Jon Ady. There were 2 qualifying places, so a loss in the 1st round to a 200+ player put me out of contention.

Paul Bielby
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Re: British Championship Qualifying Competition

Post by Paul Bielby » Fri Dec 19, 2014 4:42 pm

I played in the BCQC several times in the '60s and early '70s, qualifying just the once in 1969.

As far as I was concerned, living in Sunderland. there were two stages. The first, a North-East stage, was an all-play-all tournament with about 6 players taking part. The games had to be arranged, as described by Michael above, and were often played in peoples homes if the distances travelled were too great to be played in an evening at a chess club. Mostly this stage was reasonably local, though on one occasion I remember having to travel to Leeds in this stage of the competition. The second stage was much the same but covered a much larger area. In the year that I qualified I remember having to travel to Leeds, Carlisle and Harrogate in this stage and made one of my opponents travel to Sunderland from Sheffield! In the North at least, it would really have been impossible for anyone to qualify who didn't have a car. Maybe things were different in the South.

In the year I qualified my grade was 195. I scored 6.5/11, finishing 8th=, in a tournament of 32 players. This took my grade to over 200 for a couple of seasons (enough to qualify me for a 'National Master' title some 43 years later!). In 1970, by reason of my 6.5/11 I was given a bye, through to the second qualifying stage. However I never succeeded in qualifying again.
Last edited by Paul Bielby on Sat Dec 20, 2014 11:46 am, edited 1 time in total.

Roger de Coverly
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Re: British Championship Qualifying Competition

Post by Roger de Coverly » Fri Dec 19, 2014 5:07 pm

Paul Bielby wrote: In the year I qualified my grade was 195. I scored 6.5/9, finishing 8th=, in a tournament of 32 players.
That was the British Championship itself in Rhyl.

Penrose won with 8 from 11, followed by Bob Wade with 7.5. Third were Corden, Knox, John Littlewood , Frank Parr and Andrew Whiteley on 7. Also on 6.5 was Alan Perkins. The late Peter Clarke won two, but lost two as well, so only finished on 5.5.

The British always clashed with other events, so Keene, Hartston, Basman, Wright, Botterill and Webb were in East Germany in the Student Olympiad, whilst Howard Williams was facing Karpov in the World Junior.

In the Under 18, Tony Miles and John Nunn were among those equal second on 8.

Ian Thompson
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Re: British Championship Qualifying Competition

Post by Ian Thompson » Fri Dec 19, 2014 10:21 pm

Christopher Kreuzer wrote:Does anyone have more details on what the BCQC was and how it worked?
When I played qualifying from it involved playing in a preliminary stage followed by a zonal stage, the formats of which were dependant on number of entrants.

For the 1979 championship I played in an East/South Kent preliminary section (i.e. excluding parts of Kent close to London). I got no further and don't where the zonal stage covered. That was 6 players all-play-all.

For the 1980 championship I played in a Wiltshire/Devon/Avon preliminary section (3 players, double round all-play-all). The zonal stage added a winner from Cornwall, plus PH Clarke, who was pre-qualified, and was again a 3 players, double round all-play-all. This was followed, as noted elsewhere, by a series of playoff games between me and PH Clarke.

For the 1981 championship I played in a Somerset/Devon/Cornwall preliminary section (4 players, single round all-play-all). The zonal stage added a player from Gloucestershire, plus PH Clarke, who was pre-qualified, and was a 5 players, single round all-play-all.

For the 1982 championship I played in a Devon/Cornwall preliminary section (3 players, double round all-play-all). The zonal stage added a player from Dorset, plus PH Clarke, who was pre-qualified, and was a 3 players, double round all-play-all.

All my games were played at people's homes, mostly at the weekend, with a few on weekday afternoons. There was a lot of travelling involved. I went from Exeter to Truro, Bristol and Trowbridge to play games and my opponents had to do the reverse journey.

Roger de Coverly
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Re: British Championship Qualifying Competition

Post by Roger de Coverly » Sat Dec 20, 2014 12:18 am

Ian Thompson wrote: For the 1981 championship I played in a Somerset/Devon/Cornwall preliminary section (4 players, single round all-play-all). The zonal stage added a player from Gloucestershire, plus PH Clarke, who was pre-qualified, and was a 5 players, single round all-play-all.
The 1981-2 BCF Yearbook reports that you won Zone J with 3.5/4 drawing with Peter Clarke. The other players are reported as being Margaret Clarke, Keith Richardson and Gareth Anthony.

Ian Thompson
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Re: British Championship Qualifying Competition

Post by Ian Thompson » Sat Dec 20, 2014 12:27 am

Roger de Coverly wrote:
Ian Thompson wrote: For the 1981 championship I played in a Somerset/Devon/Cornwall preliminary section (4 players, single round all-play-all). The zonal stage added a player from Gloucestershire, plus PH Clarke, who was pre-qualified, and was a 5 players, single round all-play-all.
The 1981-2 BCF Yearbook reports that you won Zone J with 3.5/4 drawing with Peter Clarke. The other players are reported as being Margaret Clarke, Keith Richardson and Gareth Anthony.
Kevin Richardson, not Keith.

Peter Clarke agreed a quick draw with Gareth Anthony after I'd played all my games, in view of what had happened the year before, because he'd already got a place from the West of England Championship.

Gordon Cadden
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Re: British Championship Qualifying Competition

Post by Gordon Cadden » Sat Dec 20, 2014 9:11 am

Michael Farthing wrote:For 1966-68 I can supply the following details from the qualification table for the championship taken from the tournament bulletin:

There were seven zones labelled A-H.
Between 16 and 18 players qualified for the Championship by the zonal route, numbers from each zone varying from one to three.
There is little consistency between years as to numbers qualifying from each zone - perhaps it was determined by numbers entering the particular zone in each year. My memory tells me that it was a Swiss competition, but I have no other authority for this.

The zone system covered England only, as far as I can see. It certainly did not include Scotland where the Scottish Chess Association nominated players using whatever method they used. Unions each also nominated a player and Wales was regarded as a union for this purpose, so Wales looks rather discriminated against by not having a zonal route, but maybe Welsh players could enter a zone but simply were not successful in the years I have information for. ( Up until 1955, Monmouthshire was a member of the Southern Counties Chess Union. We did not belong to the South Wales Chess Association. Played in the West of England Zonal in the early 1960's, and was absolutely delighted when ARB Thomas arrived at my front door. Most of the games were played at our homes. The BCQC was not very strong in those days, with few players over 200. G. Cadden )


It is not possible to deduce zonal areas and, indeed, the locations assigned to successful candidates simply adds confusion. For example in 1966 Zone H yields a player from Burnley and Cheltenham and Zone E London and Altrincham! I do know that in principle the system was designed to enable qualifying games to be within manageable travelling distance but it is possible you could enter whichever zone you wanted provided you could travel.

It was the responsibility of players to contact their opponents and agree time and venue, with the job of contact resting with one of the players (I suspect White). I am aware of this because a school colleague had great difficulty fixing a time and place with his last round opponent (who allegedly was being uncooperative) but the failure to agree lead to him forfeiting the game and a qualifying place. Nevertheless, he was admitted as a special case and by coincidence (maybe) was drawn against that same opponent. He was jubilant when he won, but the rest of the competition was not so easy for him. I believe he is now lost to bridge.

[Edit: One of the qualifiers in these years was my friend George Ellison, so when I next see him I'll see if he can give me anymore details about the mechanics: Sadly, most of the other names I recognise are no longer with us]

Leonard Barden
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Re: British Championship Qualifying Competition

Post by Leonard Barden » Sun Dec 21, 2014 12:45 pm

I played in the very first BCQC in 1950. The previous year, 1949, was the first Swiss system championship in place of the 12-player all-play-all which had been the format since 1904. For Felixstowe 1949 the 32 players were selected. Only a few , perhaps just the top four from 1949, got direct entry to the final at Buxton 1950, and the rest of us had to qualify. I think there was a fairly weak East Surrey /South london stage from which I qualified to a six-player zonal for Surrey and possibly Middlesex. I lost in the zonal to David Pritchard and drew with Elaine Saunders (they were not yet man and wife) so I failed to qualify, but at the end of the qualifiers there were some vacancies and I got one of those for Buxton.


Qualifying was still quite strict going into the mid-1950s. I shared the British Championship with Alan Phillips in 1954 but only scored 5.5/11 at Aberystwyth 1955 so had to qualify for the 1956 championship. One of my zonal opponents was Clive Girling, from Dartford, Kent, who I arranged to play on a Sunday morning at the flat in Central London where I was living (rents were a lot cheaper then). On the Saturday evening I had a girl friend round to dinner. At the end of the evening she unexpectedly offered to stay the night. I agonised over the decision for a minute, then reluctantly told her that I could not accept because of my important chess match next morning. She never repeated her offer, and I also lost to Girling next morning, so again in 1956 I had to apply for a championship vacancy.


I learnt my lesson. From 1956 until my last championship in 1961, I never dropped below 7/11, which had become the score needed for exemption from the BCQC.

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