I first came across Geoffrey Tyrrell over 45 years ago when a member of our newly-established
school chess club discovered an item in the Western Mail about a simultaneous display
at Whitchurch High School to be given by the Jugoslav (as he then was) grandmaster,
Svetozar Gligoric. We went along to watch. Geoffrey, a schoolboy at the time, was
the organiser of that event and it was a resounding success (which was more than
could be said about Geoff’s own game against the great man).
I next met Geof (as he came to spell himself) in the mid-seventies when his career
in the gas industry took him back to Cardiff. He and his wife, Rhoda, became firm
friends of mine and I still remember, admittedly through a bibulous haze, the meals
we enjoyed together at their house in Pentyrch after their children were put to bed,
not to mention mountain walks with all the family. But it was not just chessplayers
to whom Geof extended his charm and one result of the exercise of his huge talents
in that respect were the three Welsh Championships held for nothing in the Angel
Hotel, Cardiff between 1979/80 and 1981/82.
During this period Geof managed the Welsh men’s Olympiad team on three occasions,
taking on the full responsibilities, including the choosing of the team for each
round (previously done by one of the players), responding to requests to make or
accept draw offers and providing the shoulder so often needed to cry on at these
fraught events. With his incomparable ability to get close to people, even introverted
chessplayers, without becoming a busy-body he was a natural for that difficult job,
in spite of his own modest strength as a chessplayer. His own wit, openness and self-deprecation
made us all accept and respect his decisions, and the bonds of his friendship with
the players were all strengthened by the experience.
Geof also captained the Welsh team in various other international events and also
the combined UK team which played in the European Union Championship in Berlin in
1980. But eventually Geof’s job made it impossible for him to obtain the time off
to go to Olympiads though he remained as active in chess as he could and was instrumental
in establishing the Pentyrch Chess Club, for which he played up until his death.
Following early retirement as a result of a gas industry reorganisation, Geof became
active again in Welsh Chess Union affairs, this time as President, and charmed another
hotel manager into supplying us with a superlative congress venue at no cost, this
time at the Vale Hotel. But in his last years, fate dealt Geof a poor hand and his
final illnesses and untimely death have had much to do with the pressures arising
from difficult family circumstances.
Throughout his life Geof loved chess and his organisational achievements stemmed
from that love. He was at his best as a dogged defender of apparently lost causes,
once famously drawing a rook endgame five pawns down. And I remember many a phone
call from Geof about games he and other Pentyrch team members had played, usually
to find out whether it was worth sending a game for adjudication.
Welsh chess will be much the poorer without him and I in particular will greatly
miss his close friendship over some thirty-five years.