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Richard Furness - an appreciation

by Jonathan Rogers

Jonathan received the Furness Trophy last Saturday on account of Barbican 4NCL 2's victory in Division 2, 2006/07. He kindly wrote the following piece, remembering the late Richard Furness.

Jonathan Rogers with the Furness Trophy

Richard was Chief Arbiter of the 4NCL from the 1997/8 season until his tragic death in 2004. As fate would have it, his first day in charge was at High Ercall when there was a notorious lack of chess sets - this, of course, having been the job of someone else altogether. He dealt with the situation with admirable calm, and drove across the country overnight on the Saturday in order to collect enough sets for play to resume in both divisions on the Sunday.

He would forever more go that extra mile for the sake of the 4NCL. He was the prime mover behind holding an annual dinner at the start of the season, with awards presented not only to the winners of the previous season but also to the individual "big hitters" and for game of the season and best captain (the captains themselves would vote on the last two items). He kept all sorts of statistical information about the 4NCL, including the list of grandmasters who lost on their first appearance, and the number of 8-0 whitewashes. So he was not only the Chief Arbiter of the 4NCL; he was one of the event`s biggest fans as well.

He understood the different perspectives of the various teams. In the days of the Birmingham Grand Moat House, there were three main playing rooms, one exclusively for first division teams, adjoined to another room which some first division teams would share with second division teams. When three newly promoted second division teams would be due to play their first match in the first division in the following season, he would make sure that they would play in the room which was reserved for first division teams only, so that they would immediately feel that they had "arrived" in the top division, and were not necessarily just temporary visitors!

In 2001/2, our Bulgarian player Stefan Shikerov won three games from drawn positions, and drew a hopeless game, each of them in the seventh hour, and all between rounds four to eight. Richard missed his meals and got home late because of all this. But, even though he did not know him personally, he was delighted for Stefan when he got an IM norm that season. He appreciated strength of character before status in the chess world.

In the last day of the weekend in May 2003, I visited his office to pay a wild card fee. He then showed me his photo collection which he had gathered over the years. It was a treat to see how much he valued his memories, and I am lucky that he thought to do so at that time: I don`t think that he had any foreboding of his illness just yet. But he missed the weekend in November 2003, and only appeared briefly at the January 2004 weekend. I saw him in the corridor chatting to some one, and did not have time to wait to speak to him because I was still playing. A few days later he e.mailed to say that unfortunately that had probably been the last time we would see each other. He now knew that he was terminally ill with motor neurone disease, and had correctly self-diagnosed himself before the consultant had been ready to tell him. His main wish was that his family would not be too badly upset by witnessing his decline. It was a heartbreaking e.mail, and I shall always remember where I was and what I was doing when I read it.

Other captains will have similar memories of Richard. It would be nice if they too could record some of them over the years, because future winners of the second division, in ten years time onwards, should also understand why their trophy was named after Richard Furness and what it means to those who knew him.

Division 1

Pride and Prejudice
Barbican 4NCL 1
White Rose 1
Guildford-A&DC 1
Cambridge Univ. 1
The ADs
Barbican 4NCL 2
Oxford 1
Pandora's Box Grantham
S. Wales Dragons
Guildford-A&DC 2
Poisoned Pawns 1
Jutes of Kent

Division 2

Sambuca Sharks
Warwickshire Select 1
e2e4.org.uk 1
Barbican 4NCL Youth
AMCA Dragons
Kings Head
Poisoned Pawns 2
Anglian Avengers
Wessex 1
Celtic Tigers 1
Bristol 1
White Rose 2
Brown Jack
Guildford-A&DC 3
FCA Solutions 1

Division 3

Rhyfelwyr Essyllwg
Sambuca Black Sheep
Cambridge Univ. 2
Wessex 2
Warwickshire Select 2
KJCA Kings
FCA Solutions 2
The Full Ponty
Sussex Smart Ctls.
e2e4.org.uk 2
Nottinghamshire 1
Nottinghamshire 2
Oxford 2
AMCA Rhinos
Braille Chess Assoc.
AMCA Hippos
Glos. Gambits
Bristol 2
KJCA Knights
Guernsey Mates
Bristol 3
e2e4.org.uk 3
Beauty and the Beasts
Celtic Tigers 2
Oxford 3
Guildford-A&DC 4
AMCA Cheetahs