Father Cunane RIP 1929-2021

2021 has not been a good year for Cardigan Chess Club and on 6 October a third stalwart left us.  Seamus, as he was known to the least respectful in chess circles (and Canon James Cunnane to those most respectful in the Catholic Church), was a member of the Club more or less from its beginnings in Llandysul over fifty years ago.  He learned chess as an adult and became a very competent and highly practical club player as well as a strong practitioner of postal chess. The endgame was his particular forte.  Seamus’ chess career continued into his eighties when he ruled the roost on the Welsh language internet platform gwyddbwyll.com.  Away from the board he was for a period President of the Dyfed Chess Association and maintained an interest in chess on a wider stage, not least by naming his cats after the chess titans of the sixties and seventies.

His benign manner concealed a formidable intellect. He became an expert in the medieval history of Cardigan diverging with relish from the views of the professionals in the field. He studied Welsh, obtaining an A level in the subject, and could address audiences of all kinds in Welsh without the slightest sign of difficulty.  On one occasion the Dyfed Powys Constabulary were foolish enough to charge Seamus, a man proud of his multi-decade driving clean driving licence, with speeding.  He responded by obtaining copies of their evidence – a series of timed photos – and calculated from them and from measurements at the scene that he was doing only 28 mph. The police, he reminisced, failed to appear at the magistrates court to pursue the charge.

Father Cunane presenting a picture to
Roland and Mags Spencer on their retirement

We are unlikely to see the likes of Father Seamus Cunnane again.

His chess resourcefulness is well illustrated in the following game:

White: Seamus Cunnane

Black: Howard Williams

Caro-Kann Defence

Cardigan Chess Club 2005 (Notes by the loser)

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6 5.Nxf6+ gxf6 6.Bf4 Qb6 7.b3 Bf5 8.Nf3 Nd7 9.Nh4 Be4 10.f3 Bg6 11.Nxg6 hxg6 12.Be3 0–0–0 13.c3 Bh6 14.Qc1 Bxe3 15.Qxe3 Qa5 16.Kf2 e5 17.b4 exd4 18.Qxd4 Qa3 19.Be2 Ne5 20.Qe3 Rhe8 21.Qc1 Qxc1 22.Raxc1 Rd2 23.Kf1 (The game has been one way traffic so far; I am not sure why I failed to play 23….Ng4 here) 23…Nd3 24.Bxd3 Rxd3 25.Re1 Rxe1+ 26.Kxe1 Rxc3 27.Kd2 Ra3 28.Ra1 Kc7 29.Kc2 Kb6 30.Kb2 Re3 31.Rc1 Re2+ 32.Rc2! Rxc2+ 33.Kxc2 (Now Black is a pawn up in a king and pawn endgame and I turned with satisfaction to my pint. Seamus looked in despair. 33…a5? (33…g5 is best but the position even then is far from clear cut.)  34.bxa5+ Kxa5 35.h4! (Flashed out.)

35… Resigns.  Even though White has no majority of pawns on the kingside, he cannot be prevented from queening his h pawn – Black’s king has strayed too far by g4, h5 etc.  I didn’t finish my pint.

Howard Williams