Another IM at Woodbridge!

We all know about International Master Adam Hunt, who has taught chess at Woodbridge School for the past nine years.   But who knows about their other IM?   Here he is, on his bike, where he does much of his chess analysing.   That’s a clue, by the way….

This is Dr John Wharam, Adam’s boss at the school, who last year was awarded the title of International Correspondence Chess Master.   This was a total surprise to me, but John appears to have dedicated himself to correspondence chess over the past ten years.   This is his story, in his own words:

Here’s the story of my chess journey so far – which could be entitled ‘round the world and back again on a bicycle’…

I first started to get into chess whilst a Post-Doc at Oxford but it wasn’t until I started my career as a schoolmaster at King Henry VIII School in Coventry that I started to play more seriously.   Many a lunchtime in the late 1990s was spent battling over the 64 squares with IM John Cooper who was, and still is, the Head of Maths there.   It was John who made me appreciate just how valuable chess is as an educational tool and a number of promising juniors in the West Midlands (such as Marieanne Howard, British u16 champion 1999) helped me to develop some new coaching materials which were further enhanced through the generosity of GM Dr John Nunn.

On moving to Woodbridge School in 2000 I put a lot of effort into trying to rejuvenate junior chess in the area, setting up a local league, re-establishing the school competitions for County trophies, running coaching sessions and holding a tournament at Woodbridge each term.   The school chess club rapidly became very popular and successful and GM Jonathan Levitt, WIM Ruth Sheldon, and Suffolk stalwart Ian Wallis were all drafted in to help me with the coaching.   In 2004 we appointed IM Adam Hunt as our full time Director of Chess and I was largely able to hand over the baton.   Adam took a well-earned sabbatical in 2011/12 to write his book, ‘Chess Strategy: move by move’ and play in tournaments around the World in an attempt to gain the GM title.   GM Stephen Gordon did a great job looking after the chess in Adam’s absence and I enjoyed being more ‘hands-on’ helping him with the coaching, fixtures and tournaments.   The majority of Adam’s coaching is now at The Abbey (our Junior School) but pupils from the senior school regularly play in the Suffolk adult league and the 4NCL and several have represented England.   We offer chess scholarships and bursaries and in September an Australian boy, Justin Tan (who currently has a FIDE rating of 2269) will be joining us to try and secure his IM title and to study for his A levels.

My responsibilities as the Director of Teaching and Learning at Woodbridge, alongside work as a school Governor and as an Inspector for the Independent Schools Inspectorate, mean that I have little time or energy to play chess myself.   Other hobbies and interests, along with a wife and two young children, further exacerbate the time shortage and my chess playing is limited to playing correspondence chess and, very occasionally, a flurry of online blitz.   If my boys become interested in chess then I might get the chance to play OTB but if not then I will really enjoy taking up chess OTB once I retire and have more leisure time.

I first started playing postal in 2000 when I moved to Woodbridge but found it very slow and that the cost of stamps mounted up quickly when playing lots of games at the same time.   I played three correspondence games for Suffolk by email in 2003-2005, scoring 2½/3 on boards 1 and 2 but it wasn’t until the ICCF webserver arrived that I started to take correspondence chess more seriously.

I started playing in lots of ‘friendly’ Internationals for the England team and then in 2007 I was asked to play on board 3 for Knights Errant in the ICCF Champions League.   Despite a rating of only 2175 I scored 8/12 against some decent opposition including a win over IM Moura (2460).   My next tournament was in 2009, representing England in a preliminary round of the World Championship.   The opposition was stronger again and a score of 7½/12 further improved my rating.   I had deliberately concentrated my efforts against the four IMs taking part and scored 3½/4 against them.   At this point my rating was already around 2300 and I realised that I could realistically aim to achieve the International Master title myself and decided to ‘go for it’!

My next two tournaments were dedicated master norm tournaments.   To cut a long story short I won them both, gaining an IM norm in WS/MN/55 and then both an IM and SIM (Senior International Master) norm in WS/MN/62.   In each of these tournaments I had agreed quick draws in some games and spent many hundreds of hours riding my bicycle analysing others that interested me.   By March 2012 my IM title was confirmed and it was officially conferred at the annual ICCF Congress in November 2012.”

Congratulations John!   His current ICCF rating is 2412.

3 thoughts on “Another IM at Woodbridge!
  1. I knew you were good, but not that good! Well done.
    But, how do you analyse while riding a bike? Sounds dangerous?!

  2. Hi Tim, I find it much easier to analyse 'blind' whilst out cycling or walking than I do when I'm sitting still. I have always thought better when on the move and as cycling doesn't take up much brain power I can safely let my mind drift along mulling over the options in a position. Hope that makes sense! John

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