Derek Coope

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Mark Page
Posts: 11
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2008 2:07 pm
Location: Kenilworth

Derek Coope

Post by Mark Page » Mon Jan 27, 2020 11:10 am

I am very sad to pass on the news that Derek Coope died recently at the age of 81.

I had known Derek since the mid-80s, when he was playing for Kingston in the Surrey and Thames Valley Leagues. Originally from Luton, he started playing chess in Yorkshire (for Brighouse) and then in the Oxford area before moving to the London area. He lived in Surbiton and was a maths lecturer at North East Surrey College of Technology (Nescot) until his retirement about 20 years ago. He and his wife Joyce moved up to Oban and his chess activity was then mainly in Scotland, where he played at many, many congresses with considerable success in Major and Minor events. He was a stalwart of Oban Chess Club, and played regularly for them in the SNCL and - he particularly loved these - friendlies against islands such as Mull and Islay. I played at Oban 5 times, stopping with Derek and Joyce on each occasion, and I also met up with him at tournaments in Edinburgh and Perth. He also stayed with me when playing at a 4NCL congress at Birmingham Airport. He was due to play at the recent 4NCL event in Harrogate but suffered a fatal heart attack just a couple of days before.

Derek was an amazingly sociable and gregarious person and in recent years he seemed to be on a mission to know everyone in Scottish Chess - and I think he may well have done so. He was forever introducing me to people he had come to know. He loved the social and informal aspects of club and tournament chess, and was never happier than in a large group at a pre or post match meal.

One of his other great loves was football. He was at the 1959 FA Cup Final (when Luton lost to Nottingham Forest) and I actually first had a real chat with him in the unlikely setting of an inconsequential pre-season friendly between Carshalton and Fulham. We started to meet up most weekends to go to non-league matches as, like me, he had grown rather disenchanted with the professional game. For several years we travelled all over the country and he was excellent and amusing company. Although he did specialise in owning terrible old bangers that could not be relied on to start, let alone get you where you wanted to go.

In recent years he had some serious health problems, but he had overcome them with tremendous fortitude and was still as keen and enthusiastic as ever - not just about chess, but about all his interests. I last saw him in November on Oban, and had been looking forward to seeing him at Easter when he was planning to come to the 4NCL tournament in Kenilworth.

There is to be a celebration of Derek's life in Oban (date tba), and there is certainly plenty to celebrate. The world is less interesting, amusing, kind and friendly without him. I will miss him tremendously.

Nick Grey
Posts: 1583
Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2011 12:16 am

Re: Derek Coope

Post by Nick Grey » Thu Jan 30, 2020 12:08 am

Thanks mark. Derek was a great friend. I'LL post something personal from KiNGstON

Alistair Campbell
Posts: 329
Joined: Sat Mar 06, 2010 12:53 pm

Re: Derek Coope

Post by Alistair Campbell » Fri Oct 16, 2020 2:56 pm

Many thanks Mark for this tribute – I hadn’t spotted it at the time or I would have replied much sooner.

I first met Derek as an opponent from afar – we played a couple of correspondence games many years ago. I’ve a feeling he retired (from work) mid-game and his address changed. Certainly it was a surprise when he fetched up in Oban a short drive (or maybe a well hit 3-wood) from my childhood home just outside the town. (Coincidentally, he would have been virtually next door to the house inhabited by the Cunninghams – Bill had been Stationery Officer of the BCCA and his wife was a more than decent (International) Correspondence player too)

I guess his personality helped him quickly to adapt to West Highland life, where the cares of tomorrow can wait until this day is done, as the song goes, and where, or so legend has it, attempts to translate the notion of a mañana culture into Gaelic have foundered on the lack of a word expressing equivalent urgency. He embraced the lifestyle - I know he invigilated Open University exams, and he soon joined the chess club where I rather fancy he enjoyed the eccentric nature of arrangements.

I wasn’t aware of the visits to the islands, but played as his teammate (along with Hugh Flockhart) in many national competitions, in particular the national league, where my relative proximity to the venue usually meant one less headache for the team captain. As any afficionado at the lower level will testify, it is not unusual for a team to turn up with the wrong number of players (particularly true if you are occasionally reliant on a favourable conjunction of railway and ferry timetables). On such occasions, Derek was more than happy to sit out a match, positioning himself in one of the comfy seats just outside the playing hall, greeting and chewing the fat with all and sundry as they passed. He had probably played half the participants somewhere or another (and knew most of the other half). He was a regular attendee at congresses north of the border and probably a better player than his results suggested. He must have been well into his seventies when he ruefully advised after one reverse that his daughter had sympathised, but told him he was probably never going to become world champion now anyway. Even so, he won his fair share of prizes, employing his favoured double-fianchetto variations, and could punch well above his weight at times – I remember him very nearly causing a shock in a Richardson Cup match at Callander against the famed Edinburgh Chess Club. I think the last time I say him was at the Lothians’ Quickplay in January, where he won money. Of course he had many other interests, Luton Town FC being one, lower league football in general another.

I was sorry I couldn’t make it to the celebration of his life; I gather it was well-attended. I had hoped to juggle commitments, but a combination of lasting longer than anticipated in the Scottish Darts Open and, more pertinently, Police advice not to travel due the latest hoolie descending on the highlands meant I couldn’t make it.

He seemed to enjoy life- particularly the twin challenges of negotiating both a tricky chess position, then an extra glass of wine or perhaps a pudding at dinner. The next time I am dining looking out over Oban bay I shall raise a glass to his memory. My condolences to Joyce, his family and his friends.

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