Minor Pieces 13: Henry Francis Limpus and Edward Griffith Brewer

Continuing my series of articles on members of Twickenham Chess Club between 1880 and 1906, I consulted the 1882 edition of the Chess player’s Annual and Club Directory, edited by W R Bland.

This confirms that the club was established in 1880, met at the Town Hall, had 60 members, the entrance fee and subscription were both 5s. It’s not clear whether these were the same or different. £1 in 1882 is equivalent in purchasing power to about £123.40 (source: £1 in 1882 → 2021 | UK Inflation Calculator (in2013dollars.com)), so, both in terms of subscription rates and number of members, not a lot different from today’s Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club. It did, however, meet in a larger and more prestigious venue.

We have two names, a President and a Secretary. Let’s see what we can find out about them.

There’s no other evidence I can find about the chess career of Henry Francis Limpus, Vicar of this parish: it’s quite likely that, as a prominent member of the local community, he was little more than a figurehead. He was, however, an interesting and rather controversial chap, so worth a quick detour.

Born in 1831, Limpus was, as well as being a clergyman, an organist and composer (spoiler alert: other organists and composers may be featured in this series), as were his father and brother, both Richard Davidge Limpus. Richard junior founded the Royal College of Organists.  Henry Francis Limpus was a Minor Canon at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle before being appointed Vicar of Twickenham in 1874. He hit the headlines three years later when the bell-ringers went on strike after he refused them permission to ring three peals in honour of the opening of the Orleans Club for working men. This, then, was the man who became the first President of the first Twickenham Chess Club.

But worse was to come. In January 1884 he was up before the Church Commissioners accused of drunkenness.

The accused is well known as a composer of sacred and secular music, and has held the living of Twickenham for ten years. He is charged with having, in the diocese of London, on divers occasions, and particularly on Sunday, the 11th of November, 1883, been in a state of intoxication. On that day he was absent from both the services at his church, and in the evening was seen in the public highway, at three different times by different people, in a state of hopeless intoxication, between the hours of five and half-past eight.

He also, twice a widower, appeared to have some sort of relationship with three young sisters named Jessop, and was engaged to be married to one of them.

He was found guilty and suspended from his post as Vicar of Twickenham for three years. Nothing further was heard from him until four years later, when he resigned from his post.

How long did he remain President of Twickenham Chess Club? Was this a man you’d want as your president? At present, anyway, we don’t know the answer to that question.

Some of his children were interesting: the oldest son of his first marriage, Arthur, had a successful career in the Royal Navy, becoming the Admiral Superintendent of Malta Dockyard.

One of the sons of his second marriage, Alban, had a very different career as, along with his brother Bernard, he was a theatrical impresario, staging, for example, the plays of Noel Coward.

Henry did marry a third time, in 1891, not to any of the Misses Jessop, but to a young lady almost 40 years younger than him. His life ended just 18 months later, at an address in Balham.

That’s enough of Henry Francis Limpus, except to note that his most ambitious musical composition was a cantata entitled The Prodigal Son. Perhaps it should have been The Prodigal Father instead. And also to note that, as someone with a fondness for the bottle, it was only appropriate that he should have a friend named Brewer.

It is to E G Brewer that we should now turn our attention.

Edward Griffith Brewer, (first?) Secretary of Twickenham Chess Club, had been born in Cadgwith, on the Lizard peninsula, right at the southern tip of Cornwall, in about 1836. His wife, Carlota, was, unexpectedly, Mexican, but seems to have gone to school in Cornwall. They married in 1863, and, at some point between 1868 and 1870,  moved into Batcombe Lodge, now 57 Popes Avenue Twickenham, which had been constructed by local builder Abraham Slade in 1862.

Batcombe Lodge Source: Google Maps

Edward was by profession a Patent Agent and Civil Engineer. By 1881 he was in 1 Clifden Road, Twickenham (we’ll meet another Clifden Road resident in a later article), but, by 1882 he seems to have crossed the river to  Horkesley, Sheen Park, Richmond, which may well be the rather splendid red brick house at 140 Sheen Road at the corner of Sheen Park. He seems to have been a wealthy and successful man, does Edward.

By 1891, though, he was back at Batcombe Lodge (perhaps he’d leased it out) where he remained for the rest of his life, dying in 1904.

It looks likely that, unlike George Edward Norwood Ryan, he was more of a social player, as his name doesn’t appear in any match or tournament results, but he retained his club membership and in 1894 was listed, along with Ryan, as one of the club’s two Vice-Presidents.

Edward and Carlota had nine children, the most interesting of whom was their eldest son, Griffith Brewer (1868-1948).

Griff joined his father’s patent agent business, and also shared his interest in engineering, developing a particular passion for patents relating to aeronautical engineering. In 1891 he made his first balloon flight, and by 1906 was taking part in balloon races. His wife, Beatrice, was the first woman to cross the English Channel in a balloon. In 1908 he met Wilbur Wright in France and was invited to take a flight with him, making him the first Englishman to fly in an aeroplane.

Sadly, I can find no evidence that he shared his father’s interest in chess.

For further information about Griffith Brewer:
Griffith Brewer – Graces Guide
Griffith Brewer, A Friend of the Wrights (wrightstories.com)
Griffith Brewer, Balloonist, Aviator and First Briton to Fly – Twickenham Museum (twickenham-museum.org.uk)

 

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Minor Pieces 12: George Edward Norwood Ryan

The chess players of Richmond and Twickenham had more than two decade to wait before another club arose in their area.

A chess club in Twickenham opened its doors for the first time, probably in Autumn 1880. This is the first of a series of articles looking at some of their members between 1881 and 1906.

I should point out here that there will probably be a lot more information available online once the Richmond & Twickenham Times is digitised. I’m not the only local historian who’s been waiting years for this. But we still have quite a lot of information about who their members were and what they did, both at the board and in the rest of their lives. A pretty interesting bunch they were as well, with some even more interesting relations.

The early 1880s were times of great change in the English chess world. Over the next couple of decades chess clubs would be transformed from somewhere for gentlemen to play their friends over a glass of brandy and a fine cigar to something resembling the evening chess clubs we know today, competing in leagues against other clubs in the vicinity. One early sign of change was the foundation of the British Chess Magazine in 1881.

It’s in the first volume that we find the first readily available mention of the new Twickenham Chess Club.

We have a report of a simultaneous display by Isidor Gunzberg (sic), an up and coming London-based Hungarian, who, within a few years, would be considered one of the world’s strongest players.

It was quite impressive, I guess, for a new club to welcome such an illustrious guest.

Simultaneous displays were very popular at the time, and so were handicap tournaments, in which stronger players would give a material handicap to their weaker clubmates.

We read that Mr Ryan, who would be a significant figure in the story of Twickenham Chess Club, won the handicap tournament and was also the last to finish against Gunsberg.

We need to find out more about him.

When I’m travelling by bus to the Roebuck, I usually take the 481 to Princes Road, Teddington, from where it’s a 10 minute walk, passing, if I choose, the residence of GM Daniel King, to reach the current Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club.

Source: Google Maps

As I turn into Princes Road I pass this rather impressive residence at No. 1: it was previously known as Fulwell House.

Let’s knock on the door and see who’s at home.

We’re going to meet George Edward Norwood Ryan and his family.

George was an Irishman, born on 29 July 1825 (a day earlier and he’d have been a century and a quarter older than me) in the delightfully named village of Golden, County Tipperary, half way between Tipperary itself and the town of Cashel. The Ryans are still there now: if you visit Golden today you’ll find Eamonn Ryan Family Butcher and Conor Ryan Car Detailing. Are Eamonn and Conor related to George? Or to each other? Who knows? George was the son of Francis John Ryan, an army officer, but he would choose a different career.

His father died when he was very young, and, at some point, he moved to London where, in 1855, he married Mary Anne Wilkes. They would have a large family, seven sons, two of whom died in infancy, and five daughters.

He’s elusive in the 1851 and 1861 censuses, but in 1871 he’s living in Belgravia with his family and three servants, employed as a ‘précis writer’. Within the next year or two he moves out of the smoke to leafy Teddington, to the house pictured above.

The 1881 census tells us he’s ‘engaged on parliamentary blue books’, which are reports of proceedings in parliament, so presumably he’s writing précis of parliamentary debates for these books. A skilled job, and one which must have paid very well. And, when not engaged in his parliamentary work, he’s playing chess at the new Twickenham Chess Club.

Ryan would continue his active involvement until at least 1896, by which time two of his sons, E Ryan (probably Ernest Keating Woods Ryan rather than Edward Francis Maxwell Ryan, who had married and moved out of the immediate area) and George Norwood Ryan, were also playing. George junior would later cross the river to Kingston and change his allegiance to Surbiton Chess Club in the first decade of the 20th century. George Edward Norwood Ryan would eventually die at the age of 90, after a long and successful life, leaving effects to the value of £4224 14s.

George junior and Ernest are both of some interest. No, sadly Ernie didn’t become a milkman, and nor did Edward, under the name two-ton Ted from Teddington, drive a baker’s van. Instead, Ernest was an accountant and company secretary, who married and had two daughters. His younger daughter, Honor, married James de la Mare, a nephew of Walter, and the oldest of their three sons, another James, would marry Diana Street-Porter, sister-in-law of Janet.

Talking of Walter de la Mare, his house in Twickenham, South End House, at the end of the rather lovely Montpelier Row, is currently on the market. It’s yours for a trifling £10.5 million. Me, I think I’ll have two of them. Across the road at the other end of Montpelier Row, you’ll find, appropriately enough, the site of North End House, the home of Henry George Bohn.

George Norwood Ryan has a sadder story to tell. His marriage to Isabella Anderson would produce three sons, Lionel, Warwick and Edward, and one daughter.

Here’s Warwick:

Warwick John Norwood was the second son of George Norwood Ryan (Merchant’s Shipping Clerk) and Isabel Ryan (nee Anderson).

He became a 2nd Lieutenant 19 Dec 1914 having been a private in Inns of Court Officer Training Corps. He went to Gallipoli in October 1915 with the Dorset Yeomanry (Queens Own) and following this he continued service in the Middle East in the Imperial Camel Corps. He was reported Killed in Action 5 Sep 1916.

Source: Herts at War – a community led project to commemorate the diverse experiences of Hertfordshire during the First World War.

And here’s Edward, who lost his life just three weeks before the end of the war:

Date of Birth: –/–/1896 — Place Of Birth: Kingston-Upon-Thames — Father: George Norwood Ryan — Mother: Isabella Ryan — Siblings: Leonel Ryan, Warwick John Norwood Ryan, Isabel Ryan — Date of Death: 22/10/1918 — Cemetery: Harlebeke New British Cemetery — Rank: Captain — Service Type: Army — Battalion, sub-unit or ship: 12th Battalion — Regiment/Unit: East Surrey Regiment — Service Record: Won the Military Cross — Census Years: 1901, 1911

Source: People | Surrey in the Great War:

The citation for his award of the Military Cross:

T./iCapt. Edward St. John Norwood Ryan,
12th Bn., E. iSurr. R.
During operations on 14th October, 1918, north of Menin, he showed great gallantry and fine leadership whilst commanding a
company. He led his men forward to the final objective through a dense fog, maintaining perfect direction and touch throughout, and consolidating the position. His company captured several strong points, many prisoners, and a quantity of war material.

Source: data.pdf (thegazette.co.uk)

It’s often assumed that the upper class officers kept themselves safe while leading their lower class troops to their death. In fact:

Very large numbers of British officers were killed. Over 200 generals were killed, wounded or taken prisoner; this could only have happened in the front line. Between 1914-18, around 12% of the ordinary soldiers were killed. The figure for officers was around 17%.

Source: The National Archives Learning Curve | The Great War | Lions led by donkeys? | Officers & men | Background

Their older brother, Lionel, survived the war, and, like his father, became a ship broker. His employment with Canadian Pacific took him to Hong Kong.

He was interned by the Japanese after the fall of Hong Kong and was the 111th person to die in the Stanley Internment Camp. He died on February 27th 1945 and is buried in the Stanley Cemetery.

Source: Lionel Ernest Norwood Ryan | Christ Church, Oxford University

So George Norwood Ryan, chess player from Twickenham and Surbiton clubs, lost his two younger sons in World War 1 and his oldest son as a result of World War 2. He lived on until 1959, reaching the age of 94. His daughter also lived a long life, but, like all five of her aunts, never married. I know from personal experience that they weren’t the only unmarried sisters in Teddington.

The two Georges, father and son, were fortunate to have fought their wars over the chequered board rather than the bloody battlefield. As the Ryan family knew only too well, real wars are bad, but pretend wars are good.

We’ll be meeting George Edward Norwood Ryan again as we continue our exploration of Twickenham Chess Club in future articles.

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The Secret Ingredient: To Winning at Chess

The Secret Ingredient: To Winning at Chess, Jan Markos & David Navara, Quality Chess, 7th Feb 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1784831424
The Secret Ingredient: To Winning at Chess, Jan Markos & David Navara, Quality Chess, 7th Feb 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1784831424

From the publisher:

The Secret Ingredient is a grandmaster guide to maximizing your chess results, focusing on key elements of practical play which have received little to no attention in previous chess literature.

How exactly can we best make use of computers? What’s the ideal, step-by-step way to prepare against a specific opponent? How can we optimize our time management at the board? And what’s the one key skill that separates the best players from those who have yet to reach their full potential? GM Jan Markos sheds light on these topics and many more, helped by the world-class insights of his good friend GM David Navara.”

“Jan Markos is a Slovakian grandmaster and trainer. His previous book, Under the Surface, was the English Chess Federation’s 2018 Book of the Year.

David Navara is a ten-time Czech Champion and a world-class grandmaster. He is noted for combining fighting spirit with outstanding sportsmanship.”

End of blurb…

GM David Navara
GM David Navara

Quality Chess live up to their name by being one of the few publishers who offer a hardback as well as softback version of all of their titles.

The production values are superb with a “McFarland-like” feel. Of course, you could save a few pence and go for the paperback version but we would definitely treat ourselves with an early Christmas present and savour the hardback. In addition, high quality paper is used and the printing is clear: excellent glossy paper has been used. The weight of this paper gives the book an even better feel to it!

The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing” (a particular bugbear of ours). Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text. (JEU)

GM Jan Markos
GM Jan Markos

From the introduction, written by Jan Markos:

This is above all a practical book. My goal is simple: I want to help you avoid as many disastrous defeats … as possible. I’ll show you what a real fight on the chessboard is all about. And I would like you to learn how to hold your ground in this fight. I’ll tell you how to cope with stress, how to use your time efficiently and how to make well-reasoned decisions. I’ll show you how to prepare for every individual opponent and how to play endgames in 30-second rhythm.

In short, this book wants to teach you how to win at chess.

I haven’t read Jan Markos’s previous award-winning book, so was interested to receive this. Most of the book is written by Markos, with contributions by David Navara, providing further examples, agreeing with, or, on occasion, disagreeing with his colleague, are printed using a sans serif font, helpfully allowing the reader to differentiate between the two authorial voices.

Diving into Chapter 1, looking at what grandmaster chess is really like, I was immediately taken by Markos’s comments on tactics:

In real chess, the width of your calculation is usually much more important than its depth.

Indeed so, and this is precisely the limitation of most tactics books, not to mention online tactics training.

This is Markos – Tomashevsky (Plovdiv 2008).

Markos takes up the story:

I knew I had to stop the advance of the black d-pawn, but I considered just one way to prevent d5-d4. I included only 22. Qa1 into my calculation, perhaps because I liked the potential threat of checkmate on g7. In fact, 22. Qa1 is only one of three good moves available to White in this position: the other two being 22. Ne2 and 22. Qb4.

He demonstrated the long variation he calculated, which is what happened in the game, but adds:

If I had focused more on the width of my calculation, I might have noticed that Black could have met 22. Qa1 with a much stronger reply: 22… Rc3!

Reviving the threat of …d5-d4 in a much better setting, To escape a downright losing position, White has to find the non-trivial:

23. Rc1! d4 24. Rxc3! dxe3+ 25. Kg1 (even the exotic 25. Ke1!? is playable) 25… exf3 26. gxf3

reaching a position where Black has sufficient compensation for the sacrificed material, but nothing more.

He adds:

Good calculation doesn’t look like a way through a tunnel and isn’t meant to get you as far as possible in one direction. It resembles more a path through an unknown forest; you have to consider all the detours and paths you encounter, one step at a time.

In endings, though, things are very different. With fewer pieces on the board, you can – and have to  calculate much further ahead.

I found Chapter 2, about the limits of computer evaluation, particularly interesting. We learn that there are several types of equal position: eternal balance, where anything sensible for either player draws, stable balance, where strong players will have no problem drawing with either colour, and fragile balance, where it’s difficult for one or both players to find the correct moves to maintain equality. Likewise, there are different types of advantage, again to do with how easy it is to find the best continuation.

Navara demonstrates a spectacular example.

Black is objectively winning, yet I believe that in 90 per cent of practical games, White players would win.

If, on the other hand, you presented it to grandmasters or international masters with a hint “Black to move wins”, the situation would be quite different. I would estimate that half of the players, or even more, would discover the correct continuation.

This is Ni Hua – Le Quang Liem (Ho Chi Minh City 2012).

The game concluded 29… h5? 30. Qxh5 Ba3+ 31. Kxb3 and Black resigned.

Engines prefer to continue 29… Ba3+! 30. Kxb3 a1N+!! 31. Rxa1 Qb6+!! 32. Bxb6 Nd4+! 33. Kc3 Rxc4+! 34. Kxc4 Rc8+ 35. Bc7 Rxc7#.

In Chapter 3, Markos asks a question.

But is there a single, defining skill that any mature chess player should master?

Well, Jan, is there?

If you ask me, yes there is – and it’s the art of defence. The ability to defend themselves is that separates mature players from the youngsters in the chess world. There’s a certain logic behind it; defence is the most demanding part of the game – requiring not only chess skills, but also strength of character from an individual. You need to be both patient and able to take a risk. You need to devote a lot of energy to every single move and never take an immediate reward for granted.

Here’s Markos in 2018 playing black against Viktor Gazik, who, a few months later, would become World Junior Champion.

White’s position is quite uncomfortable, as Black can build up an attack along the g- and h-files in an instant. Yet, objectively speaking, it’s only slightly worse. To defend successfully, White only needs to exchange off the bishop on f2, which will enable him to cover g2 with his rook along the second rank. If Gazik had realized this, he would have played 25. Qd3, and after the possible continuation 25… Rg8 26.  Bd4 Qg6 27. Rc2, I would have had only a slight superiority. 

But Gazik panicked, playing the active but misguided 25. c5?, losing a few moves later.

An instructive moment, I think, because White has to trade off what looks like his opponent’s bad bishop. Yes, defence is difficult.

Chapter 4 concerns the important topic of time management.

Save your time for when you need it, advises Markos. The more important the decision you have to make, the more time you should spend making it. With small decisions, decide quickly; for bigger decisions, allow time to think them over.

Chapter 5 features a subject close to my heart: the draw. When should you offer a draw? When should you accept or decline your opponent’s offer?

There’s a lot of psychology involved here, and chess psychology is the subject of Chapter 6.

In the game Roiz – Holzke (Rijeka 2010) White missed the chance to win a piece: 21. Nd3! Qxb3 22. Nc5 Qb2 23. Rab1.

Roiz simply regarded this position as strategic, and from this point of view the pawn on b3 was untouchable. I’m quite sure that a player such as Shirov or Tal would have won the knight, even in a blitz game.

Seek and you will find. Its opposite is equally valid: if you don’t seek, you won’t find. It’s no coincidence that the best chess players are usually (at least behind the chessboard) optimists. Their optimism and confidence help them to find solutions and fight even in situations where other players would long have lost hope.

Chapters 7 and 8 are perhaps of less relevance to average club players. If you play most of your over the board chess in league matches and weekend congresses you’ll have little opportunity to prepare in depth for specific opponents.

Giving a few examples, Chapter 7 explains how to research your next opponent’s games, looking at their style, strengths and weaknesses. Chapter 8 takes this further, looking at how you can choose a specific opening variation that will make your opponent uncomfortable.

Then we have a quiz with ten (hard) questions, in which you can compare your answers with those of David Navara.

The book concludes with a chapter summarising the lessons to be learnt from the book.

Jan Markos is an excellent writer, who uses metaphors to draw you into his world. Each chapter starts a long way from chess, discussing anything from Aesop’s Fables, via Andy Warhol, to initiation rites in Vanuatu, and concludes with Markos asking his co-author three questions about the topic in question.

The examples themselves are, I think, pitched at a pretty high level: I’d say 2200+. As a player of about 2000 strength, I usually learn more from simpler positions taken from games played at lower levels, but, yes, I understand that looking at grandmaster play is the point of the book. The content, also, is, for the most part more suitable for higher rated players, although, in the first six chapters, there’s a lot of general advice which any serious player will find useful.

If you’re a strong, ambitious player aiming towards IM or GM level I’m sure you’ll find this book invaluable. But lower rated players will also find much to enjoy, from Markos’s engaging style of writing to a host of fascinating positions taken from grandmaster play, and pick up some helpful tips for general improvement along the way. Best of all, you also get a genuine understanding of what grandmaster chess is all about, taking you beyond the familiar brilliancies and sacrifices into the minds and brains of elite players.

The book is beautifully produced: the standard of translation, editing and proofreading by Quality Chess seems to me to be a class above that of many other chess publishers. Although there are a few insignificant translational infelicities, I’ve yet to find any typos: most unusual for a chess book.

Highly recommended, then, for anyone hoping to reach master strength, but also with a lot to interest club and tournament players . I can see why Markos’s previous book was so successful. If the content appeals, you won’t be disappointed.

 

Richard James, Twickenham 3rd October 2021

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 224 pages
  • Publisher: Quality Chess UK LLP (7 Feb. 2022)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:1784831425
  • ISBN-13:978-1784831424
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 2 x 24 cm

Official web site of Quality Chess

The Secret Ingredient: To Winning at Chess, Jan Markos & David Navara, Quality Chess, 7th Feb 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1784831424
The Secret Ingredient: To Winning at Chess, Jan Markos & David Navara, Quality Chess, 7th Feb 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1784831424
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Forgotten Genius – The Life and Games of Grandmaster Albin Planinc

Forgotten Genius - The Life and Games of Grandmaster Albin Planinc, Georg Mohr & Adrian Mikhalchishin, Thinker's Publishing, 20th September 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201291
Forgotten Genius – The Life and Games of Grandmaster Albin Planinc, Georg Mohr & Adrian Mikhalchishin, Thinker’s Publishing, 20th September 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201291

From the publisher we have:

“Albin Planinc was born in the middle of the Second World War, on 18th April 1944, in the little village of Briše, near the small town of Zagorje ob Savi, approximately 30 kilometers from Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. He spent his childhood with his mother Ljudmila (unofficially Milka), a simple, uneducated woman who earned money from various unskilled jobs’.

This fascinating biography of over eighty-five annotated games and stories are being presented by grandmasters Georg Mohr and Adrian Mikhalchishin. It covers Planinc’ entire life and chess career, including his most fascinating games. This fitting tribute of a forgotten chess genius should be found in anyone’s chess library. Thanks to this colorful book Albin Planinc will continue to inspire us all and will keep his spirit alive.”

GM Albin Planinc, circa 1973
GM Albin Planinc, circa 1973

About the authors we have:

“Georg Mohr was born in Maribor, Slovenia in 1965 becoming a Grandmaster in 1997. He joined as a member of the FIDE Trainers Commission from 2002, becoming a FIDE Senior Trainer in 2004 and a FIDE International Organizer in 2011. Georg has been a professional chess trainer for many years. He was coach and captain of Slovenian national team from 2003 – 2010 and since 2011 he has been Turkish national youth trainer. He is a chess writer and was editor of Slovenian chess magazine Šahovska Misel from 1999 and editor of Fide Trainers Commission trainers’ surveys. He is also an organiser of chess events acting as tournament director of the European Club Cup (Rogaška Slatina 2011), the World Youth Championship (Maribor 2012) and the World Senior Championship (Bled 2018). This is his second book for ‘Thinkers Publishing’.

FIDE Senior Trainer Georg Mohr
FIDE Senior Trainer Georg Mohr

Adrian Bohdanovych Mikhalchishin was born in Lvov, Ukraine in 1954 and became a Grandmaster in 1978. In 1995 he took Slovenian citizenship and became a FIDE Senior Trainer from 2002 and was chairman of FIDE Trainers Commission from 2009. Adrian was a trainer of many famous chess players. Amongst others he was in Anatoly Karpov’s team during matches with Garry Kasparov. He has worked with Maja Chiburdanidze, Nana Aleksandria, the Polgar sisters, Alisa Maric and Nana Dzagnidze. He was coach and captain of the national teams of Slovenia and the Netherlands. In recent years he has been coach of the Turkish woman team. He has written many chess books and thousands of articles for many chess magazines. This is his second book for ‘Thinkers Publishing’.”

FIDE Senior Trainer GM Adrian Mikhalchishin
FIDE Senior Trainer GM Adrian Mikhalchishin

Albin Planinc (1944-2008), the late Slovenian grandmaster, was an extraordinary chess player and so the title ‘Forgotten Genius’ is not hyperbole.

Planinc’s games are characterised by enormous energy and by creative, daring sacrificial play. Mohr and Mikhalchishin have selected eighty-six of his best games for this volume.

They assert rightly on page 9 that ‘the reader of this book will soon discover that these games are not commonplace. They are imbued with incredible energy, interwoven with so many imaginary climaxes, with so much of what most people think of as beautiful in chess’.

It is very much a labour of love as Mohr, himself a Slovenian grandmaster, sees Planinc as the player who inspired him to dedicate his life to chess. However the book is not only games; plenty of biographical material is provided.

Indeed, the book starts with a brief synopsis of Albin’s childhood positing that Albin’s unidentified father may well have been a German soldier. Hence it is reasonable to speculate that Albin’s childhood was clouded by shame and stigma as well as being marred by the evolving mental illness of his mother, Ljudmila.

Parallels with a certain Robert James Fischer are suggested. Both players nursed their troubled childhoods with a love of chess. However the authors suggest on page 27 that ‘there was an important difference between him [Planinc] and Fischer. While the American was content with victories, Planinc was never content with victory itself. It needed an accessory, an aesthetic input, preferably one that would turn chess games into works of art’.

The next sections of the book offer a year by year selection of games from 1961-1979 interspersed with further biographical material. All the classics are there (v Bogdanovic 1965, v Matulovic 1965, v Ljubojevic 1971,

and Minic 1975)

and most notably his game with Vaganian from Hastings 1974/75 which involves the charming manoeuvre Na1 followed by a crisp Queen sacrifice.

The games are annotated with plenty of explanation. It should also be noted that the book is sumptuously produced with plenty of photographs and a typeface and layout pleasing to the eye. However more diagrams would have been appreciated. Furthermore an index of players would have been most useful.

The book ends with the revelation that Albin spent the last 20 years of his life in and out of institutions playing very little chess. This part of the book is handled sensitively and compels me to dig deeper into the creative genius of Albin Planinc. This tome is hence a welcome addition to chess literature.

FM Julian Way, Kingston, 2nd October, 2021

FM Julian Way
FM Julian Way

Book Details :

  • Softcover : 407 pages
  • Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (20 Sept. 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9464201290
  • ISBN-13: 978-9464201291
  • Product Dimensions: 17.15 x 1.27 x 23.5 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Forgotten Genius - The Life and Games of Grandmaster Albin Planinc, Georg Mohr & Adrian Mikhalchishin, Thinker's Publishing, 20th September 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201291
Forgotten Genius – The Life and Games of Grandmaster Albin Planinc, Georg Mohr & Adrian Mikhalchishin, Thinker’s Publishing, 20th September 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201291
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ECF Director of Women’s Chess on Announced FIDE Sponsorship Deal

I was surprised to hear of the sponsorship deal between FIDE and Establishment Labs. If this is the only sponsor FIDE can find, after the success of The Queen’s Gambit and the increase in the number of women playing chess online, they need to seriously improve their commercial game.

While the money will doubtless be welcome to female professional players, a deal with a company whose main focus is breast enlargement sends all the wrong messages and potentially exposes the promotion of women’s chess to ridicule and could inhibit other potential sponsors.

Chris Fegan, ECF Director of Women’s Chess

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Putting the Record Straight II: Answering John Reyes and Mike Truran

Dear Colleague,

I am writing in support of my candidature for the role of ECF Chair of Governance.

During the recent past I have been subjected to a campaign of disinformation and downright untruths by Mike Truran and John Reyes and I am writing to set the record straight on both my record as Director of Women’s Chess and my qualifications for the role I am standing for.

Mike Truran has tried to argue that my time as Director of Women’s Chess has not been a success. Mr. Truran is currently undergoing formal investigation for this assertion and is the subject of a second complaint about his behaviour from another ECF Director.

He is without doubt a divisive figure who has caused division and unrest in the ECF Board.

I attach my election statement herewith which demonstrates my record in office.

https://www.englishchess.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Chris-Fegan.pdf

Clearly, Mr Truran does not share my wish to improve the position of women in English chess. As you can see from the ECF Board minutes in 2018, at his initiative, the post was abolished

I have also had sight of a document from Mr Reyes where he claims that I have no experience of Governance and Government for this role. This has been repeated by other supporters of the status quo. As it happens, I am far more experienced in Governance and Government than my opponent.

I outline some relevant qualifications and experience

  • Honours degree in Governance/Politics
  • Worked with 2 UK Prime Ministers and several Cabinet Ministers on policy development and implementation.
  • Worked with and continue to work with the United Nations and UNEA/UNEP
  • Worked with and continue to work with European Union bodies
  • Chair a major EU-wide Committee
  • Leader of and the most senior political adviser to major UK Local Authorities including those with budgets of around £2 Billion per annum and a senior member of the Local Government Association.

I could list many more, but just wished to give these few examples to counter the on-going smear campaign against me by Mr. Truran and Mr. Reyes.

Best wishes,

Chris Fegan

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Caruana’s Ruy Lopez: A White Repertoire for Club Players

Caruana’s Ruy Lopez: A White Repertoire for Club Players : GM Fabiano Caruana

Caruana's Ruy Lopez: A White Repertoire for Club Players, Fabiano Caruana, New in Chess, 29th June 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919443
Caruana’s Ruy Lopez: A White Repertoire for Club Players, Fabiano Caruana, New in Chess, 29th June 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919443

From the book’s rear cover :

“The Ruy Lopez is arguably the most classic of chess openings. White immediately starts the battle for the centre, fighting for the initiative. This strategic clarity has made the Ruy Lopez, or Spanish Opening, an eternal favourite with chess players at all levels.

Inevitably, this popularity has also led to a wealth of opening theory. In this book, Fabiano Caruana takes you by the hand and lays out a complete and practical White repertoire for club players. He avoids complicated chaotic lines, but doesn’t shy away from sharp battles. Caruana loves to find and use the tactics to punish Black for risky choices.

This one-volume and crystal-clear repertoire covers fifteen main variations, from the classical lines to the anti-Marshall (8.a4), and from the Schliemann (3…f5) to the Modern Steinitz. In an easy-to-grasp manner Caruana explains general characteristics, such as permanent weaknesses long-term goals, and is always looking for an advantage for White. The insights of the World #2 in this classic opening, will not only greatly improve your results in the Ruy Lopez, but also sharpen your general chess knowledge.”

GM Fabiano Caruana, London Chess Classic 2014, courtesy of John Upham Photography
GM Fabiano Caruana, London Chess Classic 2014, courtesy of John Upham Photography

“Fabiano Caruana became a grandmaster at the age of 14. Ever since his majestic tournament win at the 2014 Sinquefield Cup, he has been the undisputed #2 in the Chess world. In 2018 he earned the right to challenge Magnus Carlsen in a match for the World Championship and only narrowly lost in the play-off.”

Before we proceed further it is worth inspecting the sample pages in pdf format provided by the publisher.

Fabiano Caruana became a Grandmaster aged 14 and challenged Magnus Carlsen for the World title in 2018.

and here we have the Table of Contents:

Table of Contents for Caruana's Ruy Lopez: A White Repertoire for Club Players
Table of Contents for Caruana’s Ruy Lopez: A White Repertoire for Club Players

Caruana kicks-off by looking at the Anti-Marshall line which starts with the closed Lopez 5…Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 00. Now fearing the Marshall Gambit, which has scored very highly for black, he avoids it with 8.a4.

This was Gary Kasparov’s choice in Game 1 of his 1993 match with Nigel Short and it would seem to be a sensible choice.

The two Black main replies discussed are 8…Bb7

and 8…b4.

In similar vein Chapter 2 covers Black playing 7…d6 instead of 7…00 and interestingly 8 a4 is again recommended as opposed to the vastly more popular 8.c3 thus:

Black has to be careful in these lines not to lose his b pawn!

The next few chapters look at the so-called main line of 7…d6 8.c3

giving White another choice than 8 a4. After 8…00 9.h3 Na5 we have the Chigorin variation which is covered in Chapter 3. After 10. Bc2 c5 11.d4 Qc7 12.d5 ! is a move the computers like and does seem to give white a space advantage.


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Now White plans a Kingside attack with g4 and moving his f3 knight to f5. This line does not seem to be much fun for black.

Chapter 4 covers the Breyer variation, 9…Nb8

planning to reposition a knight to d7. White combines a plan of a4 attacking the Black’s Queen-side along with a King-side attack.

Chapter 5 examines Karpov’s favourite of the Zaitzev variation (9…Bb7). White will almost always play 10.d4 Re8 followed a knight coming round from b1 to f5 ensures an advantage. Black will need to get in f5 in to avoid being crushed.

Often more than one line is given for white as this book is written from a white perspective.

Chapter 6 switches tack to the Open variation where Black plays 5…Ne4

which was a favourite with Viktor Korchnoi who employed in his various matches with Anatoly Karpov. The main line is 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 when the dubious 7…ed4? (7…is much better) played in Fischer – Trjfunovic (Bled, 1961) is analysed.

Better is the main line of 6…b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.de5 Be6 when White has several decent moves. Both Karpov and Kasparov have played 9.Nbd2 which is the move I always considered strongest in this line.

Surprisingly, the move given by Caruana is 9.Qe2 planning Rd1 and c4.

Black can play 9…Nc5 but the main line is 9…Be7 10.Rd1 00 11.c4 bc4 12.Bc4 Bc5 which seems to me to give clear equality . However both Caruana and Giri have played the white side of this position so maybe this line needs looking at more carefully.

Possibly the chapter many will turn to first is Chapter 7 covering the Berlin defence of 3…Nf6 which seems to have taken the terror out of the Lopez is discussed. Caruana prefers 4.00 leading to a middlegame without queens.

Players who, perhaps, have more confidence in their middle game abilities (with queens) than the previous line should probably try 4.d3 and I am surprised that Kasparov never tried this in his match with Vladimir Kramnik. Fabiano believes that this queenless middlegame is still more pleasant in practical play for White and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave regularly plays it with white.

Ian Nepomniachtchi won a miniature against Hikaru Nakamura quite recently as follows:

Chapter 8 discusses the Modern Archangelsk which is 3…a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.00 b5 6.Bb3 Bc5

which is really rather popular at present. Caruana, Magnus Carlsen, Gata Kamsky and Alexei Shirov all seem to like this line.

Following this we have 7.c3 d6 8.d4 Bb6 9.Be3

when the consequences of white next playing 9… 10.de5 need to be carefully considered. Black players playing for a win should consider this line seriously as it is a lot more interesting than the Berlin!

It is surprising that the old move 6…Bb7 (the Archangelsk of old) is not covered by the author as I have played many internet games with this line.

The last few chapters cover a collection rarely played moves such as 3…Bc5 (the Classical defence). White should play 4 c3 and d4 but black has the interesting f5 on move 4 mixing things up somewhat.

Other unusual moves are the Smyslov variation, 3…g6, the Bird’s defence, 3…Nd4 and the Cozio defence, 3…Nge7 which is aimed against Lopez exchange advocates.

However, two of the most interesting chapters look at the Schliemann defence (3…f5) and the Steinitz defence of 3…d6.

Caruana recommends 4.d3 against the Schliemann and only this or 4.Nc3 can give white a plus. After 4.d3 fe4 5.de4 Nf6 6.00 now black normally plays 6…Bc5 when white can win a pawn with 7.Bc6 and 8 Ne5.

Black can, of course, avoid this with 6…d6 but suffers the same problem as in the closed variation, that is a passive dark square bishop.

Finally, the Steinitz and Steinitz deferred are looked at in the last two chapters. After 3…d6 the line 4.d4 ed4 5.Nd4 Bd7 is examined. After 6.00 White has a space advantage a common feature in a number of variations chosen leaving white with the more pleasant positions to play.

Overall, from black’s point of the Modern Archangelsk seems one of the most interesting and sound lines to play if he is looking to play for a win.

There are a few omissions  that are curious. As mentioned previously 6…Bb7 is not covered but most surprisingly there is no coverage of the so-called Neo-Møller which was recently covered, in depth, by FM Ioannis Simeonidis also for New in Chess  in

Carlsen’s Neo-Møller : A Complete and Surprising Repertoire Against the Ruy Lopez

It might have been amusing to pit the two publications against each other!

In summary, Caruana’s first venture into writing yields a comprehensive repertoire for the white side of the Ruy Lopez with much material for anyone playing the black side.

Colin Lyne, North Camp, Farnborough, Hampshire, 30th September, 2021

Colin Lyne
Colin Lyne

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 240 pages
  • Publisher: New in Chess (29th June, 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:905691944X
  • ISBN-13:905691944X
  • Product Dimensions: 17.53 x 1.09 x 23.55 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

Caruana's Ruy Lopez: A White Repertoire for Club Players, Fabiano Caruana, New in Chess, 29th June 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919443
Caruana’s Ruy Lopez: A White Repertoire for Club Players, Fabiano Caruana, New in Chess, 29th June 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919443
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Remembering Colin Russ (19-iii-1930 22-ix-2021)

BCN remembers Colin Russ who passed away on Wednesday, September 22nd 2021.

This news was revealed to the English Chess Forum by David Sedgwick as follows:

I have been notified by the British Chess Problem Society that Colin A H Russ died on Wednesday 22nd September 2021 at the age of 91. He had been in hospital for some weeks, with no hope of recovery.

Colin Albert Henry Russ was born on Wednesday, March 19th, 1930 in Croydon, Surrey. His father was Albert HW Russ (born November 1st, 1898) who was an instructor of woodworking crafts. His mother was Delcie A Russ (née Dye, born November 7th, 1901) who carried out unpaid domestic duties.

According to the 1939 register Colin was listed as a scholar and the family resided at 42, Poplar Road, Sutton, Surrey which is now SM3 9JX.

42, Poplar Road, Sutton, Surrey which is now SM3 9JX
42, Poplar Road, Sutton, Surrey which is now SM3 9JX

In 1972 Colin, aged 42, married Zsuzsanna Kelemen in Sittingbourne, Kent.

We have the following entry for Colin from chesscomposers.blogspot.com:

Colin Russ was a chess expert and edited a chess problem column in the CHESS magazine. He wrote the anthology “Miniature chess problems from Many Lands” in 1981 and it was republished several times, for instance in 1987 under the title “Miniature chess problems from Many Countries”.

Miniature Chess Problems From Many Countries, Colin Russ, A&C Black, London, 1987, ISBN 13: 9780047940248
Miniature Chess Problems From Many Countries, Colin Russ, A&C Black, London, 1987, ISBN 13: 9780047940248

John Ballard wrote the following of this book:

An unusual book in several respects. Firstly the positions are miniatures, that is 7 pieces or less. Secondly the solutions are in algebraic notation for the most part, with the main line being also given in descriptive. Lastly many of the ‘ usual suspects’ in the compostion field are not there, which meant for me learning new names and of course problems.

Familiar names here are Cheron, Dijk, Fleck, Havel, Kipping, Kubbel, Lipton, Loyd, Mansfield, Marble, Skinkman, Speckman, and Wurzburg. So that leaves dozens of composers (including one allegedly by Wojtyla, later to become Pope John Paul II), as a moderate solver I have never come across before, a special delight.

My favourite 3 mover is the one by Sam Loyd that starts with a check, and has a spectacular queen sacrifice. Sam reckoned this was a mere trifle, composed in a ride downtown, but it is a thing of beauty, and I bet many problemists wish they were as quick and adept at composing as The Puzzle King?! There is an interesting introduction to solving, not too heavy, but comprehensive enough. Many of the solutions are given with helpful comments.

The layout of the work is that 3 or 4 problems are given on the left page, and solutions are to be found opposite on the right. If the book is reprinted I would suggest the solutions be removed to an appendix, to remove the temptation for intermittent solvers like myself to take a sneak peak if a problem was proving intractable!

He served the British Chess Problem Society in various roles, as President from 1987 to 1989, Secretary from 1980 to 2001, and delegate to the PCCC from 1987 to 1994. He was also responsible for introducing the late Michael Ormandy to the Society, which led to the establishment of The Problemist Supplement.

The problem below was selected in the FIDE Album 1956-1958:

Die Schwalbe, 1957

7th HM

1.Bd7? (2.Re6-e~#)
1…Sg5[a] 2.Rgf6#[A]
1…Se5[b] 2.Ref6#[B]
but 1…Sd8!
1.f4! ZZ
1…Sg5[a] 2.Rxg5#[F]
1…Se5[b] 2.Rxe5#[G]
1…Be4[c] 2.Ref6#[B]
1…Rg4[d] 2.Rgf6#[A]
1…Rh4~ 2.g4#[D]
1…Sf7~ 2.Rg5#[F]/Re5#[G]
1…Rh3 2.Qxh3#
1…Bc1~ 2.Qxb1#[E]
1…Bc2, Bd3, Ba2 2.Bxc2, Qxd3, Bc2#/Qd3#

Colin was an accomplished over-the-board player and has 117 games recorded in MegaBase 2020 spanning from 1993 to June 2009. Most of these games arise from the Seefeld (Austria) Open and the Jersey Open in St. Helier.

In England Colin represented the Athenaeum club and remained active until 2015.

David Sedgwick went on to write:

Colin, always genial, amusing and engaging, was for decades a pillar of the BCPS and for many years its Secretary. He was a considerable composer of problems and he published a number of books on the subject.

As a player he was of good Club standard, BCF 160 -170 or thereabouts. He remained active until 2015, although his strength dropped off somewhat in the later years.

I got to know him at the Hastings International Chess Congress 1991 – 1992. One of the players in the Hastings Premier that year was the Russian GM Alexei Suetin, who spoke German but not English. I discovered that Colin spoke German well and he proved invaluable as a translator. (I learned only today that by profession he was a university lecturer in German.)

During that Hastings Premier we arranged to have a ceremonial first move made each day by a “name”. Colin was delighted to be chosen for this honour.

(With acknowledgments to Christopher Jones, who succeeded Colin as BCPS Secretary and remains in office.)

Subsequently a brief obituary appeared at https://www.englishchess.org.uk/rip-colin-russ/.

Elsewhere on the BCN Facebook group Henrik Mortensen wrote:

He was a great man. In the tournament in Oostende 1992 he beat me with Black in the first round (19th. September 1992). He was much lower rated than me, so … Later in the tournament my travelmate and I both had problems with our cards and he kindly offered to lend us money. Our problems were solved, but it was very kind of him to offer his help. HVIL I FRED.

His best win is probably this one:

but he will be best remembered for his contribution to the world of problems.

From the super MESON database we have these compositions from Colin

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Minor Pieces 11: William Dobell Hutchings

If, like me, you enjoy family and social history, you’re probably a fan of David Olusoga’s documentary series A House Through Time.

Here’s an idea for a new series: A Book Through Time.

If you’ve read my article about Henry George Bohn, you’ll have seen this before.  It’s my first edition of Staunton’s Chess-Player’s Handbook.

I acquired this as a gift from a pupil’s mother, who ran an antiques shop in Hampton Wick.

There are also two inscriptions. The second is ‘Peter Elliott’: there were several people of this name in this area, none of whom mean anything to me.

We can, however, identify the first inscription: WD Hutchings Stoke on Trent 1882.

Who was Mr Hutchings? Was he a chess player who required a handbook, or did he just have a casual interest in the game? What was he doing in Stoke on Trent? How did the book reach Hampton Wick?

It transpires he was William Dobell Hutchings, the son of Frank Hutchings and Mary Laskey (close, just one letter out) Dobell, and was born in Exeter in 1844, making him three years older than the book. His mother doesn’t seem to have been related to Hastings chess player Herbert Dobell.

We first pick William up in the 1851 census, where he appears to be at a local boarding school. Upper middle class families like the Hutchings’ started boarding their children young in those days. By 1861 he’s at home with his parents and many siblings: we learn that his father is a solicitor, and young Bill is apprenticed to a banker.

1871 finds him in West Ham, living in a boarding house and working as a banker’s clerk. A few months later, though, he turns up at Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire, on the edge of the Cotswolds, between Bristol and Stroud, where he marries local girl Ann Clark. The happy couple move back to West Ham, and, a year, later, welcome their daughter Alice Emma into the world. Two years later, a son, Frank Henry, is born, but, tragically, he dies back in Devon at the age of only 3.

At some point over the next few years he gains a promotion and, now in a managerial role, moves to Stoke on Trent, where, by 1881, he’s doing well enough to employ two servants. Later in the year, their third child, a son named William Dobell after his father, is born. The following year he comes across a second-hand copy of the first edition of Staunton’s Chess Player’s Handbook: the copy I have in front of me as I write these lines. At this point the book was 35 years old, just three years younger than its new owner.

He doesn’t remain in the Potteries very long, though. He soon gets a new job – in Leicester. I wasn’t planning to return to my father’s home town so soon, but here we are. Perhaps inspired by Staunton’s best-seller, he joins the local chess club.

The Leicester Journal of 22 February 1884 reported on the Leicester Chess Club AGM, which saw WD Hutchings elected to the committee. After the meeting, Leicester played a match against their regular opponents from Nottingham, which they lost by 8 points to 5.

There, on the top board, was Martin Luther Lewis, winning his game against Sigismund Hamel, with William Withers on board 5 scoring a draw. Hutchings wasn’t playing in this match but for the next decade he played regularly on a middle board for Leicester in matches against other midland clubs. EdoChess doesn’t rate him highly: between about 1600 and 1650: merely an average club player.

However, it’s always useful to have a bank manager in your club. As we in the present day Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club can testify, they make excellent treasurers, or, in the case of William Hutchings, it appears, auditors.

So here, then, we have someone who wasn’t an outstanding player, but who played an important role in the life of his club by taking part in matches regularly, serving on the committee and auditing their accounts.  One of the purposes of these articles is to demonstrate that average club players like Bill are just as important to the chess community as masters and grandmasters. I’m honoured to possess a book which he once owned. But how did it reach Hampton Wick?

The 1891 census finds William, Ann, their two children and two servants living in New Walk, Leicester.

From New Walk – Story of Leicester:

New Walk is a rare example of a Georgian pedestrian promenade. Laid out by the Corporation of Leicester in 1785, the walkway was intended to connect Welford Place with the racecourse (now Victoria Park) and is said to follow the line of a Roman trackway, the Via Devana. Originally named “Queen’s Walk”, after Queen Charlotte, consort of George III, it was eventually the popular name of the “New Walk” that survived. Almost a mile long, New Walk has been a Conservation Area since 1969, ensuring its unique character is protected.

Houses built at the lower end of New Walk in the 1820s were the first on the walkway and were designed as “genteel residences” for the families and servants of businessmen and professionals. Development was controlled however to protect the public’s enjoyment of the walkway. Houses had to be at least ten yards from the Walk, fenced off by iron railings, and there was no access for carriages onto New Walk itself. In 1840 one resident described New Walk as “the only solely respectable street in Leicester”.

The houses around central New Walk date from the 1850s and 1860s and would have been the homes of merchants, manufacturers and professionals. Residents in the 1880s included Josiah Gimson, head of a large engineering firm, whose home (No. 112) is now part of the Belmont Hotel.

Last to be developed along New Walk were the large Victorian houses of its upper section (dating from the 1880s). Many were designed by the architect Stockdale Harrison. They reflect the growing prosperity of Leicester’s business and professional classes who preferred to live away from the town centre.

So William was doing very well for himself, but a few years later he was on the move again. The 1901 census finds him in Sutton Coldfield, still working as a bank manager. His children have now left home, but he still employs two servants, one the appropriately named Alice Bishop. After 1894 his name disappears from the chess records, with one exception. In 1903 Blackburne gave one of his many simultaneous displays (we’ll visit others in later articles) at Birmingham Chess Club. This was William’s moment of chess glory: he was one of three players who managed to defeat the visiting master. Well played, Sir! It’s always good to go out on a high.

3 Walpole Road, Surbiton Source: Google Maps

It was soon time for him to hang up his cheque books and retire from managing banks. Where did he retire to? He sought the good life in Surbiton. The 1911 census finds him at 3 Walpole Road, just off the Upper Brighton Road, which I’ve passed many times on my way to chess matches. He’s there with his wife and, again, two servants: a parlourmaid and a cook.

He was probably unaware that a five minute walk down the road would take him to a boarding house named Mountcoombe, where he could have met another South Devon born chess enthusiast, the celebrated problemist Edith Baird.

So I’d imaging that William’s Staunton first edition found its way from Stoke on Trent to Surbiton via Leicester and Sutton Coldfield. I’m sure he’d have shown it to his antique dealer friend William Withers, who, you will recall, had played (and lost horribly) to my very distant relation Arthur Towle Marriott.

Perhaps his belongings were sold off after his death in 1923. Or perhaps the book was inherited by his son, a stockbroker, who had also moved down to London. In 1911 he was living in Old Deer Park Gardens, Richmond, just off Kew Road very close to the London Welsh Rugby Club where Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club used to meet. A 35 minute walk through the town centre, passing the location of William Harris’s chemist business, and over Richmond Bridge, would have taken him to the site of the recently demolished residence of Henry George Bohn, the publisher of his father’s book. By 1939 he’d moved 3/4 mile to the north, to Hatherley Road, Kew. I pass both these roads regularly on my way to Kew Gardens. William junior died in 1957, so perhaps Peter Elliott acquired the book at that point.

Thank you for the book, William Dobell Hutchings, and thank you also for your part in the history of our wonderful game. Your contribution might have been relatively modest, but it was still important, and without doubt valued by Martin Luther Lewis, William Withers and your other chess-playing Leicester friends.

I have a few other inscriptions in second-hand books to write about another time. If you have any yourself you’d like me to research, do get in touch and I’ll see what I can do.

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Minor Pieces 10: Henry George Bohn

We know that the first Richmond Chess Club only ran for a few years in the mid 1850s, seemingly disbanded when its prime mover, William Harris, left London.

Who were its other members? Howard Staunton and Johann Jacob Löwenthal were involved, but, one would imagine, they didn’t play an active part on a week to week basis. They enjoyed seeing their names in lights, while their connections and publicity through their magazine columns would have enhanced the club’s reputation and increased its membership.

It’s a reasonable assumption, given that the club met at his premises, that James Etherington was a member, but the only other name I’ve been able to find is that of Henry George Bohn.

A very interesting name it is, too. White I’ve no idea how strong a player he was, Henry played a very important role in the history of English chess.

Henry George Bohn
Source: www.twickenham-museum.org.uk

Henry George Bohn, born in London in 1796, the son of a German father and Scottish mother, was an art collector and publisher. In 1850 he’d moved into North End House, Twickenham, on the corner of Richmond Road and Crown Road, just opposite the Crown public house (highly recommended, but also very popular, so it can get pretty crowded on rugby days). He had a walk of just under a mile to reach his chess club, no problem for a healthy chap who, even at the age of 85, would be active enough to dance the quadrille on his lawn. The house was demolished in about 1897, and a parade of shops built in its place. I haven’t yet been able to find an illustration of North End (or Northend) House.

High Shot House, Twickenham
Source: www.twickenham-museum.org.uk

In 1873 he acquired High Shot House, on the other side of Crown Road. Walking back towards Twickenham he’d very soon have reached what is now the site of Orleans Park School, home of Richmond Junior Chess Club and the Richmond Rapidplays.

Bohn was a collector of rare plants, chinaware, ivory and fine art, including works by Dürer, Van Dyck, Bruegel, Memling and Raphael, and was working to catalogue his collection until a few days before his death in 1884.

His day job, though, was more significant for our story. Henry George Bohn was a publisher, best remembered for Bohn’s Libraries. According to Wikipedia, these were begun in 1846, targeted the mass market, and comprised editions of standard works and translations, dealing with history, science, classics, theology and archaeology.

He was also a friend of the aforementioned Howard Staunton, and was the publisher of most of his chess books.

First edition of Staunton’s Chess-player’s Handbook
(from the author’s collection)

By the time of the foundation of the first Richmond Chess Club he’d already published The Chess Player’s Handbook (1847), The Chess-player’s Companion (1849) and The Chess Tournament (1852). These would later be joined by Chess Praxis (1860). He had also written The Chess-player’s Text Book (1849), published by J. Jaques & Son, 102 Hatton Garden, to accompany their celebrated chess sets.

Staunton, en passant, also wrote on other subjects. His edition of the plays of Shakespeare was published by George Routledge and Co in 1858. George Routledge had founded his company twenty years earlier, and they’re still going strong today, best known for their academic books. They’ve also published a few chess books, most notably the series of Routledge Chess Handbooks cashing in on the Fischer boom in the 1970s, and, more recently, Fernand Gobet’s highly recommended book on the Psychology of Chess.

Staunton also wrote a book on The Great Schools of England, published by Sampson Low, Son, and Marston, Milton House, Ludgate Hill in 1865. Sampson Low and his son, also Sampson, had started their publishing company in 1848, although Sampson senior’s father, another Sampson, had himself published books in the 1790s, and in 1856, Edward Marston became a partner in the firm. Sampson Low, like Routledge, published several chess books over the years (this might well be the subject of a future article) before stopping publishing in 1969.

In 1981 what was then the parent company was bought up by the notorious Robert Maxwell, its assets were stripped, and, 200 years after the first Sampson Low published his first book, the company was wound up.

A few years later, George Low, a journalist, editor and publisher, and direct descendant of the original Sampson, found the records in Companies House in Cardiff and re-registered the company. George’s four sons, all of whom, as it happens, were members of Richmond Junior Chess Club in the 1970s-80s, are now directors of the family firm. (Do visit their website to find out more.) The eldest boy, yet another Sampson, maintained his interest in chess, returning to the game when his son started playing, and has recently been elected Secretary of Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club. His ancestor and namesake from more than 150 years ago, would have known Howard Staunton, the President of the original Richmond Chess Club. I hope Howard will be pleased to hear this: I’ll be in touch on Twitter to let him know.

Wheels within wheels. We are all connected.

Returning to Henry George Bohn, he had hoped that his sons would continue to grow his publishing business, but it became clear that they weren’t interested, so, in 1864, he sold his business to Messrs Bell and Daldy, who would later become George Bell & Sons. Bell took over Staunton’s chess books and decided that chess would be one of their specialities. They published many chess books over the years, including classic titles by Alekhine, Capablanca, Euwe, Nimzowitsch and many British authors, continuing to publish chess books up to the late 1970s, by which time their position as England’s leading chess publisher had been usurped by Batsford, In 1986, by then Bell & Hyman, they merged with George Allen & Unwin, and the name of George Bell disappeared from the publishing world.

George seems to have been the favoured name for publishers: apart from being Bohn’s middle name, we’ve met Routledge, Bell, Allen and even Low!

The Bell inheritance, all those great Bell chess books which anyone of my generation or earlier will have grown up on and learnt from, originated with Henry George Bohn, art collector, publisher, friend of Howard Staunton  – and member of the original Richmond Chess Club.

Next time you’re in Richmond Road, Twickenham, drop in at The Crown and drink a toast to Henry, the man who planted the seed which led to England’s preeminence as publishers of fine chess books.

Sources:
Wikipedia: Henry George Bohn
Twickenham Museum: Henry George Bohn

 

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