Sheffield & District Chess Association
John Peter Ballard
(1943 – 2021)
Peter Ballard of Rotherham died on Sunday, 16/05/2021. He had been admitted to hospital for a further operation connected with problems he had been having for a number of years, and seemed to be recovering okay, yet suffered a setback, and died. John Peter Ballard, to give him his full name, appears to have been aged 77.
Research strongly suggests he was the son recorded as being born prematurely on 8th August 1943 at Highfield (a maternity hospital), Wallasey to Margaret Ballard and Customs & Excise Officer Frederick Ballard, who had married in the South Liverpool area in 1935, and who in 1939 had lived at 15 Kingsmead Road, Wallasey. However, this identification is not absolutely certain.
He went as an undergraduate to Aston University, presumably leaving with a BSc, possibly in computing, and after graduating he later went on to receive an MSc in “work design & ergonomics” from Birmingham University in 1970.
He played in the top section, “The Northern Open Championship”, of the 1969 Whitby Congress, from 28th July to 8th August, scoring 6 out of 11. (Other Sheffield-connected names among the participants were M. D. Smith of Worksop, scoring 5, and O. H. Hardy of Loughborough, scoring 4½.) In round 4 he beat T. Bimpson, then of Liverpool University.
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In connection with the 1969 Whitby Congress, he was recorded as living in Blackpool, which is where his first of two marriages took place, in 1971. He remained a supporter of Blackpool Football Club to the present!
While at Birmingham University he played in the 1970 British Universities Chess Association Individual Championship, finishing 12th from a field of 35 which was allegedly the strongest there had been to date, with 5 points out of 9. (Lloyd Powell, formerly of Abbeydale Grammar School, Sheffield, and then of Manchester University, finished 18th on 4½.) He then played in the Birmingham team in the following team competition.
Three of his games from this event can be played through on screen via the following links. (Use your browser’s “back” function to return to this page.)
Quite when he came to Sheffield is not very clear. Chris Williams notes, “The list of registered players for Hillsborough A in Bulletin No. 2 of the 1970/71 season (dated 28th September 1970) doesn’t include Peter, but Bulletin No.6 (dated 14th November 1970) has the result of a Weston Trophy match when Peter played on Board 1 for Hillsborough B against Deaf Association C. So, it would seem he moved to Sheffield in October 1970.”
It seems to have been work which brought him to the Sheffield/Rotherham area. He worked in those earlier years in a computer consultant/programmer role, initially at British Steel Corporation’s Templeborough Rolling Mills site, then at the Shepcote Lane site of the British Steel Corporation. He seems to have come from a previous steel-related job, as he was already involved in organising a United Steel Companies annual chess event, involving various steel firms around the country, the event being held at different locations around the country.
The first S&DCA club he played for was (the old) Hillsborough, but he also engaged with the Works league almost as soon as he arrived in the area.
In 1970, Chris Willey had started up a BSC Stainless chess club participating in the Sheffield Works league, and Peter got roped in to play. Initially he played regularly, providing a certain amount of mentoring for his much weaker teammates. In his first game for BSC he beat the late Stan Cooke, he apparently resigned before any pieces had been captured, his position having become so bad! Sometimes he would be unavailable due to being on holiday, on one occasion “trekking in the Himalayas”. He became an adjudicator for the Works league. In time he played less works chess, turning out perhaps when the opposition had a relatively strong board 1. BSC Stainless became BSC Tinsley, and eventually got reinvented as Avesta by which time Peter was not involved as a player.
In 1972, he had a grade of 170, which went up to 188 in 1973.
He seems not to have been one for playing in weekend congresses, but he would enter individual competitions which involved players usually meeting in one or other’s homes to play their game, which is the way the Yorkshire Championship was run in the past. Thus Peter won the Yorkshire Championship in 1977/78 and 1978/79. He similarly won the Sheffield Championship in 1980, beating, in the final, Chris Shephard, who says:
In Sheffield around this time, there were three championship-type events open to eligible players: the Sheffield Championship, the Sheffield Works Championship, and the Moses Trophy competition which was open to players of either the S&DCA or the Works. One of the few claims to “fame” of the present writer, who has rarely entered such events, was that one season he met Peter in early rounds of two of these three – forget which two – scoring two draws in one competition before beating Peter in the third, and drawing one game in the other before going on to win, yielding a lifetime score against Peter of 70%.
Peter married present wife, Vivienne (“Viv”), in 1978.
His grade went up to 194 in 1978, then down to 185 in 1979. His grade was for a long time thus, generally in the 180s area for some time, before slumping somewhat as he seemingly wound down playing competitive chess, before ceasing completely from 2005-06 to 2007-08. This earlier period dates back to when Rotherham was a much stronger club than now.
An early Rotherham success to which he contributed was their winning of the Yorkshire Team Lightning Championship of 1973, played between 5‑player teams over 13 rounds. Rotherham won with 56 out of 65, and the highest-scoring team members were Peter Ballard and Steve Mann each with 12 out of 13.
Rotherham had a Woodhouse Cup team which for many years was a leading contender, winning in 1979 with Peter playing in some of the matches, always on one of the higher boards.
Rotherham 1st team won the British Team Lightning Championship in St. Helens on 8th and 9th November 1975, scoring 20 out of 28. Peter was not in that first team (Brian Jones, Harry Russell, Pete Large and Paul Blackman – yes, the odd “ringer” is noticeable), but was probably in the second team, though memory fails. Being paired against Rotherham 2nd team lured many into a false sense of security! (Harry Russell and Chris Shephard, incidentally, did well in the Individual Championship, both finishing in the 4th-6th slot on 6½ out of 9.)
He resumed competitive chess, playing for Rotherham in the Sheffield & DCA team events, in 2008-09, and his last such season was that of 2017-18.
His medical problems meant continuing to play for Rotherham became impractical, as much as anything because he would be continually needing to use the toilet during matches. The impetus which the COVID-19 epidemic gave to on-line chess, however, gave Peter a renewed opportunity to play chess against local players.
Peter Catt, involved in the non-technical side of running Rotherham Online chess, describes Peter’s participation as follows.
Peter leaves his wife, Viv, to whom we extend our condolences.
20/05/2021, with later addtions