Sheffield & District Chess Association
Keith D. Brameld
1954 - 2017
by Steve Mann
At the Doncaster Chess Congress I found myself regaling some people with amusing anecdotes about former Barnsley player Keith Brameld. I was somewhat taken aback when, later on in the day, I heard he’d recently died.
Keith D Brameld (known to some also as “Danny boy”) was born apparently in 1954, seemingly in the Barnsley or Don Valley area. He lived at his parents’ home in West Melton, up to his early thirties or so.
He spoke with a Barnsley accent. Whilst this was perfectly comprehensible to me, there was a story of how, on the day of a Yorkshire-Northumberland match in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Keith and Geoff Peake (who related this story) went into a pub where Keith tried to buy some matches over the bar. The result was significant non-comprehension between Keith with his “Barnsley” dialect and the barman with his “Geordie” dialect.
Keith once explained to me how “Barnsley” and similar dialects differed as regards how certain words spelt with “-ight” were pronounced, either as “-eet” or “-ate”, furnishing a kind of Barnsley Shibboleth. Thus “Do you want a fight?” might variously be expressed by “Duz tha wonner fate?” or “Duz tha wonner feet?”, and so on.
Around that time he was one of a group of three Barnsley-area players, the others being Geoff Peake and Dave Dixon, who forsook Barnsley to play for Rotherham, both in Sheffield & District’s Davy Trophy and in the Yorkshire Chess Association’s Woodhouse Cup. This was at a time when Rotherham was a major force in the Woodhouse Cup, having a team which Sheffield University’s Chris McSheehy once described, not without justification, as a “gang of mercenaries”.
Keith was one of those players a team captain would routinely select, as he had an energetic attacking style, favouring the Blackmar Gambit when the opportunity arose.
He appeared in those days to have no real employment career as such. At one time he earned a living by driving in the early hours of the morning to Grimsby, to bring back fresh fish to Sheffield. At another time he was a sales representative for a tobacco firm, and for a while was staying at the Montgomery Hotel on Montgomery Road, Sheffield, whence he’d sally forth in the morning to promote the products of the firm he represented. This was handy for me, as a few times I’d be walking to work just as Keith left his hotel, and he’d give me a lift. This work pattern appears to have continued after he left the area.
At times he’d be hard up cash-wise. One Saturday he hadn’t the money to pay his match fee, so I told him not to worry about it. At the next match he asked if I liked Genesis. Although I can quote the first verse of the first book of the Old Testament in Scottish Gaelic, it is not my favourite book. Keith meant, of course, the pop group Genesis, and was offering me his Genesis records in lieu of the previous match fee, but I told him not to worry about it. It was more important he’d played than paid!
In his early years Keith was an amiably colourful character, always cheerful and friendly, but sometimes, by his own admission, a bit naughty.
It was probably memories of expenses-paid stays in hotels as a sales rep which induced him one day, while he was out of work, to give himself a sort of holiday by booking into Sheffield’s Hilton Hotel, in the city centre. After a short stay he booked out, at which point he “discovered” he’d left his cheque book in the car. He popped out, ostensibly to get it, but left, according to plan, without paying.
More amusing was the story of him heaving a brick through a back window of his parents’ home in West Melton. His father called the police, who started to chase Keith through the back gardens of West Melton, with Keith scrambling over fences and walls, periodically taunting the police officers, who could not keep up. After Keith had gone to ground in a coal bunker, the police officers called out that they would call in the dogs, whereupon Keith realised he’d swapped off into a lost ending, and gave himself up. He reckoned that while he was in police custody, they waited for his food to go cold before giving it to him. It would be difficult to blame them!
The latter two stories where related, jovially, by Keith himself.
On one occasion, when Keith turned up for a Woodhouse Cup match, I noticed his hands were covered with scratches, grazes and abrasions. His explanation was that he’d been in a fight; he didn’t know with whom, nor what it was about, but he knew he’d won, which was clearly all that mattered to him, perhaps reflecting his approach to chess.
More serious was an event which occurred at some kind of party, when Keith was sitting on the sill of an open window, above ground level, and a girlfriend pushed him, causing him to fall out of the window and onto the ground. Keith survived, but reckoned the girl should have been charged with attempted murder, though the actual charge was a lesser one. He felt his chess strength had been diminished by the experience. Whilst his grade did go down, that was not clearly attributable to any long-term effects of the fall.
In the mid-to-late 1980s, Keith moved to the Nottingham area, where he continued playing chess, locally and in county matches.
At some time in the 1990s he appeared at a Sheffield Rapidplay event. It was evident to me that his character had changed, to the point where he was, by comparison with his former self, for me at least, disappointingly boring. He claimed to have given up alcohol and smoking, though teetotalism seems not to have lasted. He clearly had a less mischievous and more responsible approach to “right and wrong”. Gone was the “lad” that was.
Keith seems to have continued playing league chess in Nottingham up to the season 2009-10. In 2011, British Championships were held in Llandudno, and Keith played in a week-two morning 5-day event, scoring 2 out of 5. That left him with a grade (which included results from earlier years) of 147 in 2012, his last ECF grade. He seems to have ceased playing competitive chess after that.
Keith died on 13/01/2017, aged 62, after a long illness (rumoured to be throat cancer), and was cremated at Nottingham’s Gedling Crematorium on 10/02/2017.