John Eric Littlewood was born in Sheffield on Monday, May 25th 1931. His mother’s maiden name was Wheeldon. He last resided in the WN8 postal area of Skelmersdale, West Lancashire.
He became a FIDE Master in 1989 at the age of 58. According to Felice (and ChessBase) his peak FIDE rating was 2395 in January 1980. However, it is certain that it would have been higher than that, in the 1960s and 1970s : more likely 2450 or possibly higher.
He coached his son Paul who became British Champion in 1981. His brother Norman was also a very strong player.
From “Chess Coaching” :
John Littlewood is a National Coach and the Director of Junior Chess to the British Chess Federation. He is a FIDE Master with national and international playing experience, and is an established chess writer, translator and journalist.
From “Learn Chess 2”
“A British Master, formerly Northern Counties Champion and currently (1984) a National Coach for the British Chess Federation. John Littlewood has played for England in several international tournaments, including two Olympiads”
John wrote the “Test Your Chess” column in British Chess Magazine under the editorship of Murray Chandler
John Was Northern Counties Chess Union (NCCU) Champion in 1971, 1972, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980 and 1981 : a record seven times !
John won the Appleby-Frodingham Chess Club tournament in 1962 with 3.5/5 :
and then, in the same year came 3= in the British Championships with 7.5/11 :
and in 1969 in Rhyl John was unfortunate not to share the title with Dr. Jonathan Penrose after losing to Frank Parr in the final round :
John won the Southport Open in 1972 and the picture below was taken shortly afterwards :
John won the Chorley tournament of 1977 with 7/9
JEL won the British Chess Federation’s President’s Award in 2000.
In 2006 John won the BCF Veterans / Seniors title for the first time repeating the feat in 2008 sharing with George Dickson.
With the White pieces John almost exclusively played 1.e4 favouring the Wormald Attack, Open Sicilians and the Rossolimo variation.
As the second player John played the Closed Ruy Lopez, the Sicilian Dragon and the Grünfeld defence.
In the following video IM Andrew Martin discusses the game Bisguier – Littlewood, 1962.
Rather than reinventing an already round wheel we reproduce the following ten page tribute in the October 2009 issue of British Chess Magazine. The tribute is by John Saunders :
A rather detailed article from Tartajubow on Chess II
Here is how news of his passing was received on the English Chess Forum
Here is an obituary from Leonard Barden in The Guardian
Here is an obituary published in The Times of London
Farewell to John Littlewood : The Lincolnshire Poacher
and, finally a history of JEL from the Yorkshire Chess Archives
Here is John’s Wikipedia entry
5 thoughts on “Remembering FM John Littlewood (25-v-1931 16-ix-2009)”
A wonderful piece.. I look forward to playing these games through and reading the articles at leisure.. Thank you
– a very nice piece about one of my chess heroes.
I never played John but brother Norman gave me a lesson in chess at the British, 1968. I also knew brothers Frank and Pete and played Bridge with them quite a lot – they were regulars in the Yorkshire team. I met youngest brother, Mike, at Whitby and spent time with him during the tournament there. What a gifted family!
I am somewhere among the front row, seated spectators in the photo at Hastings when John played Botvinnik (another chess hero of mine). BH and I had gone through to stack up the bookstall. Later, chatting to John at one of the Seniors Championships, I said that I thought Botvinnik had been
lucky. John smiled and said: ‘Norman, he saw everything’.
At the Whitby Open 1961, in the last round, I was playing GM O’Kelly who was a full point ahead of John in 2nd place. I was white and after an hour or so had a decent position against his Rubinstein Sicilian. The GM offered me a draw which put me in the prize list – the money would pay for me to get to Aberystwyth for the U-21s – and I accepted. On the next board, John smiled at me and immediately offered a draw himself, clinching 2nd place.
We met with Bob Wade in the analysis room and he criticised me for accepting the draw. I said: “Sorry, John – I needed the money or I couldn’t go to the British next week”. John laughed and replied: “It’s just a lark for us, Norman – but it’s a living for players like O’Kelly”. For me, John was the apotheosis of the amateur chess player … few came close to him in that regard.