Radcliffe and Bingham Chess Club has recently suffered the loss of two long-standing members of the Nottinghamshire chess community, both well known to generations of chess players in the area as teammates and foes over the board.
George Murfet had early roots in the area and was an ‘old boy’ of Nottingham High School – from where I gather he obtained his rather polished accent. He was at his best chess-wise in the 1970s and 80s during which time he frequented the top boards in the Notts congress major competitions.
He was famous and perhaps notorious for his dry and acerbic sense of humour, and his customary attempts to unsettle his opponent with a quip or two before the league match would start – typically: “ah, I see I am required to beat you again”. He would also try the tactic in a difficult endgame of saying ..”Oh, do you think you can win from this position then?” – although he would rarely offer a draw himself. His losses were usually greeted by a dismissive wave of his hand with a “Too good for me” as he set up the pieces for another game.
The enjoyment of a creative game was always his prime interest in chess. He played for a number of different clubs in his time including Keyworth and Grantham before he settled at Radcliffe in the early 2000s. he retired from active chess around 2018, partly from age and infirmity, but also because he was irked by the strange habits of other club members who preferred to retreat to the bar mid-evening rather than providing him with more chess opposition. (“I could have spent a whole evening playing bridge instead!”). He maintained his interest in the game to the end, and could claim, along with the late John Calvert, to be the last remaining members of the Mechanics Chess Club. The last time I saw George was in the library at the mechanics institute awaiting the arrival of his long-time opponent for a game of chess, cards or maybe an idle chat. Nottingham Mechanics Institute has itself commemorated the passing of a long-standing member and is currently attempting to revive its own chess club.
Len Morrell has been a member of Radcliffe & Bingham club for many decades. The news of his death came as a great shock to all who knew him – despite increasingly serious ill health he was actively playing in club and league chess during this season until a month before he passed away.
In his younger days he was an active organiser as well as player, as a County team captain, a leader of the Notts Juniors club of the 1990s, and as director of junior chess for the Midlands Counties Chess Union. Although he never aspired to more than middling club standard himself, Len could claim to have coached and encouraged several generations of rising stars in his time, and just as importantly did the unexciting but necessary administrative work to make chess possible for young players.
Fellow club members will remember him as an occasionally curmudgeonly but reliable team mate with a solid playing style, who could always be depended on to obtain the draw needed for a team result. I always found him frustratingly difficult to beat.
In his latter years he was also somewhat hard of hearing, but chose not to rely on artificial aids. This led to one occasion earlier this season during a league match when his opponent, seriously outplayed, offered his hand in resignation. Without the benefit of his hearing aids, Len thought that a draw had been offered and declined it: “Let’s play on!” Half an hour later they did indeed agree a draw, Len’s half point securing victory for his team, and recording the only known example of a player refusing to accept a resignation in a league game.
Rest in peace, Len and George