ERIC KARL CHURTON
(1939 - 2011)


GM Karl Robatsch vs Churton, February 1973 (photo courtesy Stephanie Churton)

Eric Churton was President of the Durban Chess Club during the period of the Fischer boom in the early 1970's. Membership increased rapidly from 77 in 1971 to 137 in 1972 to 181 in 1973 and then tapered off to 191 in 1974, the year that I joined the club. At its peak, the club boasted 50 members rated 1600 or better! It was a great environment in which to improve your chess. The club champion from 1972 to 1974 was David Walker, who went on to become South African champion in 1977. David's score of 11/11 in 1972 was remarkable. The biggest surprise of all was the 1975 club championship, which was won by Gerald Boulle, ahead of David Walker.

Eric played ten times in the Durban championships, from 1969 to 1977 with a swansong in 1980. Most of the time he finished in the middle of the table, with his best result being 2nd place in the 1969 championships. Eric was capable of defeating anybody, as the games file shows. He held his own over about 50 games against Kolnik, Mackessack and Blackburn, but he fell short against Boulle and Walker. He won many brilliant games, and was ruthless against those who provoked his attacking instincts. His win against Mackessack (see game below) was one of his favourites. Raymond Keene was so impressed that he wrote the following:


"To Eric Churton, A magician on and off the chess board, with my best wishes.
Raymond Keene, Durban November 1973"

Yes, Eric was also a keen magician, and a member of the Magic Circle. He apparently preferred sleight of hand magic, which he learnt as a pupil of Harry Venson. Another of his many skills was in writing computer software. I met Eric at the Busy Bee Software stand at the Computex exhibition on many occasions. His word processing software sold very well over the years.


Eric Churton, seated at front, Ladysmith 1956 (photo courtesy Stephanie Churton)
From left: Brookes, Earp, Levy, Van Voorst, Boulle, Miller, Claudius; Front: Wallis, Churton

I obtained this photo from Eric's widow and it is historically significant because the Durban team scored the most points and won the Siegheim Cup, ahead of Johannesburg, Bloemfontein and Pretoria. Churton had the best result on board 9 with 2½ points from his 3 games.

There is then a gap in his chess career until 1961. A notable achievement was Eric's 1st place in the club's First Swiss tournament of 1961, with a score of 9 out of 10. I have captured all these games except for his round 7 win against Claudius, which was missing from his old scorebook. Eric was one of the players who took part in the inaugural South African Open in 1962. That event was played in the Wilderness and was jointly won by visiting masters O'Kelly and Golombek. Eric lost to Golombek in round 10 but did not play O'Kelly. All of these games are in the games file below.

There is another gap from 1962 until late 1968, when Eric rejoined the Durban Chess Club. He played regularly at the club until 1980, after which he retired from active competition to concentrate on his computer software.

Games

The following games file contains all the Churton games that I could find (269 games/results) - unfortunately there is nothing before 1961.

Here is his favourite game against Mackessack, with notes by Churton:

[Event "Championship"] [Site "Durban"] [Date "1972.??.??"] [Round ""] [White "Churton, Eric"] [Black "Mackessack, Malcolm"] [Annotator "Churton"] [Result "1-0"] {Churton was profiled in October 1973 (page 91 of DCC Bulletin). His notes to this game did not include the date or the event, but it was apparently played in the 1972 Durban club champs.} 1. e4 c6 2. Nc3 d5 3. Nf3 Bg4 4. h3 Bxf3 5. Qxf3 e6 6. d4 $5 {offers P for rapid development} dxe4 7. Nxe4 Qxd4 8. Bd3 Nd7 9. Bf4 Ne5 10. Bxe5 Qxe5 11. 0-0-0 Nf6 12. Rhe1 $1 $44 {allows piece swap as it increases the ratio of developed vs undeveloped pieces} Nxe4 13. Bxe4 $1 {threat Bxc6+} Qg5+ {creates later ...Ba3 threat} (13... Qc7 $44 {more natural} )14. Kb1 Qb5 {guards Pc6 & stops Qd3-d7+} (14... Be7 $2 15. Bxc6+ bxc6 $2 16. Qxc6+ Kf8 17. Qxa8+ $18 )15. a4 $1 Qb6 (15... Qxa4 $2 16. Qd3 Be7 17. Qd7+ Kf8 18. Qxb7 $18 ) 16. a5 $1 {gains more time, prepares a6! & stops ...Kb6 escape later} (16. Qd3 $2 Rd8 $15 {holds} )Qa6 {Diagram [#]} (16... Qc5 $2 17. a6 $1 $18 ) 17. Rd7 $3 Be7 {the best defence} (17... Kxd7 $2 18. Qxf7+ Kc8 19. Bf5 $1 Qxa5 20. Rxe6 $1 $18 {mates} )18. Rxb7 $1 Rc8 19. Qb3 Bf6 $2 (19... Qxa5 $1 20. Rd1 Bf6 $1 {is suggested by the engine} ) 20. Bd3 $1 Qxa5 21. Rxe6+ (21. Rxe6+ Kf8 22. Re8+ Kxe8 23. Qxf7+ Kd8 24. Rd7# ) 1-0

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