John Chidgey (1921-2000)

An appreciation

I first met John Chidgey (some knew him as Norman, which was actually his first name) when we were colleagues in the computing department of Rolls-Royce at Patchway, and although I never worked with him, I later got to know him a little better when backgammon reared its head.

Although I didn't know it at the time, John was to have some influence over the course of my life and -- I would suggest -- a few others.

Another colleague by the name of Phil Chetwynd introduced me to the game some time in 1979, and I began to get very interested in it (some would say "obsessed" might have been a better word in those days).

Around this time I found out that John was in the habit, not only of playing the great game, but also parting with hard-earned cash to enter tournaments at a local casino, the Regency.

When I first realised there could be a demand for lunch-time competitions at Rolls-Royce, it was to John that I turned for encouragement and advice, of which there was plenty. And for that I will always be grateful.

I was astonished to get twenty entries for the inaugural DPS Backgammon Shield, and got 16 for the resultant consolation tournament, which was actually John's idea.

John, the "hardened pro" as it were, was the winner of that inaugural Shield, and continued to exude a quite unassuming aura of benevolence over the early years of what was to become something of an institution. John's influence had been a crucial factor in this.

He was never to win any more DPS Backgammon competitions, although he did come close to winning the inaugural DPS Backgammon League in 1981-82, when he made the three-way play-offs.

When he retired in 1983, this might have severed our connection, but backgammon was to be the constant thread which kept John in touch with many of his former colleagues.

By this time, more of us had ventured out from the cosy shelter of DPS Backgammon into casino tournaments, which later -- alas -- were discontinued.

The "gap in the market" was partially plugged by the introduction of the Lesters Trophy, which came about at the instigation of Phil Charlton and Dave Pym. John was there at the first of these events in December 1986, making the semi-finals.

He had various health problems over the years, including an eye condition which made play very difficult, especially in muted lighting, and later on some heart trouble. Many tournaments were missed as a result, but John always did his best not to let such inconveniences stop him when it came to visiting our events.

When he did make it to a Lesters Trophy evening, he could be relied upon to provide tough opposition, as his record of six Lesters semi-finals, and three final appearances attests.

His Lesters XXV final victory at the County of Avon Social Club over Charlie Hetherington in December 1995 was probably the most popular of all Lesters Trophy triumphs!

1999 saw John make what was to be his farewell tournament appearance, when he came out to support a new venture, the pilot intermediate tournament in November, where he emerged from a large field to reach the semis.

When I last spoke to him over the phone some months later, he said he was always grateful to be remembered, as though we would ever forget him!

I will always remember John as good, gentle company. And as a player he was the most sporting of opponents, winning and losing with equal grace. In short, John was a true gentleman, and I know I won't be alone when I say he will be greatly missed. -- Ian Tarr

A special trophy (pictured left) has been provided by those who knew John best. This, the "John Chidgey Cup", is now awarded to the winner of the Lesters Trophy each Christmas, to be held for a year.

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