A celebration of Peter Poobalasingam (1989-2017)

by Sarah Longson
9/21/2018 – The Peter Poobalasingam Celebration tournament took place on Sunday September 9th in celebration of the life of a young man who is dearly missed by his friends and family. Four grandmasters turned out including British number 3, David Howell, who won the event alongside GM Stephen Gordon with 5½ / 6. | Photo: Sarah Longson

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A chess tournament in tribute

Peter was a fantastic chess player — drawing with World Champion Vishy Anand in a simultaneous display aged 8. He won the UK Chess Challenge on two occasions. Peter’s first IM norm was at the Uxbridge Master in 2009. Around this time he had a remarkable run of nine games against GMs without being defeated. Peter’s second IM norm was achieved at the World University Championships with one round to spare. He also had some fantastic results for Millfield School. Grandmaster Matthew Turner recalls 2007-08 where Peter was “by far the best player in our team and in the final we were [outrated] on every board, but his victory on board one clinched it for us.” We have no doubt Peter would have achieved IM and more but in the latter years of his life he was focusing on his career.

Peter Poobalasingam

Peter Poobalasingam life was tragically cut short in 2017 | Photo: Iyampillai Poobalasingam 

1st Peter Poobalasingam Celebration tournament

The tournament was held at Harrow High School and consisted of six rapid games of chess played at 20 minutes plus 10 seconds a move. 95 players in total played in an extremely strong field — 4GMs, 8 IMs and FMs plus some extremely promising junior players.

The competition was non-for-profit and juniors could enter for free (thanks to the John Robinson Fund) as Peter was passionate about helping juniors. A clear favourite at the start of the event was GM David Howell (Elo 2689). David is a three-time British Champion and has a peak rating to-date of 2712. Having scored an unbelievable 15/15 the previous day in the Birmingham leg of the UK Open Blitz Championship David was clearly in fine form and would have been looking for a perfect 21/21 over the two days.

David did get off to the perfect start with 3/3 including a win against legendary IM Michael Basman in round three. Howell's hot streak was ended in round four by resolute play from IM Mark Ferguson who managed to hold a slightly inferior bishop endgame. A win in round five versus FM James Jackson meant that going into the final round David was tied for first place on 4½/5 with GM Stephen Gordon.

Stephen Gordon

GM Stephen Gordon | Photo: Sarah Longson

Stephen is a strong Grandmaster from Oldham in the North of England who currently works as a tax professional in London. Stephen’s best result to date is arguably his runner-up performance at the 2012 British Championship where he lost out to Gawain Jones in a tense blitz playoff. Stephen’s tournament followed a similar trajectory to David’s with 3/3 against untitled players followed by a fourth-round draw against IM Lorin D’Costa. A win in round five versus FM Martin Taylor ensured a two-way tie going into the final round.

In the final round, Gordon played a nice positional game against IM Peter Roberson crowned with a classic tactic to reach 5½ / 6. The only question remaining was whether Howell could win with the black pieces in his game against D’Costa. David had reached a very comfortable position out of the opening and was able to win a pawn which he duly converted in a knight endgame.


One more highlight to share:


61.g4! — a typical breakthrough — 61…hxg3 62.h4 and White is winning. The bishop can protect b7 whilst covering the black pawn.

David Howell

David Howell took the top honours | Photo: Sarah Longson

The event took place in good spirits — although some token prize money was at stake it was clear that players had turned up to honour and celebrate the life of Peter with some fun chess and to catch up with friends. Many people chipped in to help with the running of the event and it was great to see at the end of the event various titled players helping clear tables and chairs away as the janitor had to get the school back into shape for the next school day.

I’d like to especially thank the following for their financial and time contributions: John Higgs (and the John Robinson Fund Trustees), Natasha Regan, Matthew Turner, Gill & Peter Turner and Nevil Chan.

We finished the day in good style with some drinks, food and reminisces. We hope to make this an annual event with a strong junior focus as this would have made Peter smile.

Selected games (annotated by IM Malcolm Pein)

Final standings (top 15)

Gordon and Howell with Longson

Rk. Name  TB1 
1 Howell David Wl 5,5
  Gordon Stephen J 5,5
3 Ghasi Ameet K 5,0
  Bates Richard A 5,0
  Wall Gavin 5,0
6 D'costa Lorin Ar 4,5
  Parker Jonathan F 4,5
  Roberson Peter T 4,5
  Rogers Jonathan W 4,5
  Taylor Martin R 4,5
  Jackson James P 4,5
12 Turner Matthew J 4,0
  Ferguson Mark 4,0
  Sowray Peter J 4,0
  Basman Michael J 4,0

...95 players


Sarah Longson (née Hegarty) is the Director of UK Chess Challenge. She has had a passion for chess from the age of seven, and is now a Women FIDE Master and former British Ladies Champion. She studied Chemistry and Law at Bristol University, and now lives in Manchester with her husband, FIDE Master Alex Longson.


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fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 9/28/2018 11:38
Really tragic. The hospital should definitely have kept him.
Hypekiller5000 Hypekiller5000 9/25/2018 08:10
Not to put too fine a point on it, but... regarding the year of his passing: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5330529/Chess-prodigy-27-died-jumping-North-Circular.html is a news story from 30 January 2018
macauley macauley 9/22/2018 09:07
@Brendan T McGowa - Yes, you're correct. Fixed.
Brendan T McGowa Brendan T McGowa 9/22/2018 05:07
For the record is not the year of his passing 2017?
grimmlac grimmlac 9/22/2018 07:23
@fgkdjlkag, sorry but I beg to disagree with you when you equate white => black, where White may win. It's almost the same. If you think that first player may win with White on the first game, I would say that the 2nd player turn with White may win the game also. If on the first game White who has the advantage then fight for a draw and wait for your turn to have White on the second game. Even though statistically, White has greater chances of winning than Black and there are greater chance of drawn games (but you know stronger player with Black pieces most of the time wins the game), it is still the player in best form who will prevail whether they have White or Black pieces.
If you would say that with 1st game, White has a chance to win against Black pieces, you are disregarding players strength and preparations, and summing up that chess games results is determined by color of pieces.