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Sam Lynn's 90th Year

The Bangor Chess Club player Sam Lynn (Born 12th December 1908-Died 1st November 2002) passed away at the age of 93 after a short illness. Sam had competed as recently as that summer's CIYMS Tournament, where he belied his years by scoring 7.5 points from his 12 games. Sam was a universally popular player and his enthusiasm for the game was infectious. In earlier years he had been an organiser as well as a player. Below is a tribute to him by David Magrath which first appeared in the 1997-1998 UCU Yearbook.

Samuel Lynn was born in Belfast on the 12th December 1908. He attended the Baptist Church School (the 'Bap') on the Antrim Road, where he was prepared for the Kings Scholarship Examination. Between 1924 and 1927 he successfully completed a three year 'Monitorship' leading to Stranmillis College. From there he went to Queen's University to complete a five-year B.Com.Sc. degree. This was followed by a further year obtaining the 'Higher Diploma'. Sam accomplished all this whilst teaching full time during the day and travelling down to Queen's University at night on his motorcycle from Larne.

It was during one of these trips that after a lecture one night, a friend, Jimmy Little, invited Sam to join him for a game of chess after class. As Sam says of that time, "It's unfortunate that I came to Chess so late in life. Jimmy who had just learned the game himself, taught me the basic moves. We would stay up until the small hours playing chess and then I would be off to teach at Larne."

Sam played little or no chess for the next ten years, apart from the odd friendly game in his hometown of Whitehead. As Sam puts it, "It was not until I had the good luck of meeting Arthur Cootes at the old Belfast Chess Club located in the Assemblies College across from RBAI that I came to realise what chess really was." Sam describes Arthur as the expert and himself as the novice and that he learned chess by playing with Arthur, and that Arthur emphasised the importance of development and openings.

Sam and Arthur played each other once a week for the next twenty years. Sam also assisted Arthur in the encouragement of the then fledgling club CIYMS, helping it get on its feet. Eventually they both became members of the Fisherwick Chess Club near Queen's University, and travelled down South together for tournaments in such places as Killarney and Dublin.

Sam talked animatedly about the first person he ever played in the Irish Open. According to Sam he was a curly, white-headed schoolboy named John Moles. Apart from it being unusual to see such a young boy playing chess, John Moles was the Ulster Champion at the age of sixteen, and later wrote a book on a variation of the French defence.

It was not surprising to me when Sam in answer to my question of whether there was a particular player, or a book that had influenced his chess over the years, that he stated without hesitation "Mikhail Tal, an attacking player, always ready to sacrifice! I've just ordered the latest book on him." He also mentioned that there had been two recent books that had an impact. They were, Sharpen your Tactics by Anatoly Lein and Boris Archangelsky, and Attack with Julian Hodgson,. He describes these books as giving examples from real games, not just theory. Sam recalled the most interesting experience in Chess as being the time that he played chess all the way across the Atlantic with two young American boys, travelling to England with their mother and sister aboard the 'Georgic' in August 1951.

Sam now lives in Bangor, and has been a member and secretary of that Club for a number of years. He recalls with fondness, the atmosphere; of the 'big room' in the early days in the Guest House on Princetown Road where the "Lady of the house provided us a delicious supper of tea, sandwiches and buns".

Sam now states that chess has not only been of great interest to him, but it has brought him good company, a greater social life, and the enjoyment of travelling to tournaments in the South. Sam pulled out his pocket book and quoted his favourite statement about chess

"Chess affords a keen delight in Youth
A sober pleasure in manhood and
A perpetual solace in old age"

Although Sam is soon to be 90 and may be considered in the endgame of life, this is not so with his Chess. According to his friend, Arthur, Sam's rating has shot up 75 points this year from 1252 to 1327.

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