Remembering FM Peter Clarke (18-iii-1933 11-xii-2014)

Peter Clarke at the 1963 Ilford Whitsun Congress. Source : British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXIII, Number 7 (July), page 194
Peter Clarke at the 1963 Ilford Whitsun Congress. Source : British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXIII, Number 7 (July), page 194
PH Clarke
PH Clarke

We remember FM Peter Clarke who passed away on Thursday, December 11th, 2014 whilst living at Chapel House, Bude, Cornwall, EX23 9SQ

Peter Hugh Clarke was born on Saturday, March 18th 1933 in West Ham, London. His mother’s maiden name was Ekblom.

From The Modest Master of Morwenstow by James Pratt (sadly, as yet, unpublished) :

“Peter Hugh Clarke was born in London on 18th March, 1933. At the age of eight or nine he taught himself the game from ‘The Book of Knowledge’ and played friendly games with his cousin, who was about a year older. Peter’s father supported his game for many years. PHC was a student at St. Bonaventures School and London University. World War II, and its even longer aftermath, robbed him of a number of playing opportunities. It is surprising that he had no childhood heroes, although later the play of Botvinnik, Keres and Smyslov impressed him.”

Peter Clarke with father, Courtesy of Keverel Chess
Peter Clarke with father, Courtesy of Keverel Chess

From British Chess (Pergamon, 1983) written by George Botterill :

Chess correspondent of The Sunday Times, Clarke played for England in the Olympiads of 1954, 56, 58, 60, 62, 66 and 68. He has never won the British Championship but has come 2nd on 5 occasions.

A fine writer. His best books are Mikhail Tal’s Best Games of Chess

Mikhail Tal's Best Games of Chess, PH Clarke, Bell, 1961
Mikhail Tal’s Best Games of Chess, PH Clarke, Bell, 1961

and Petrosian’s Best Games of Chess 1946-1963 both published by Bell.

Petrosian's Best Games of Chess 1946-1963, PH Clarke, George Bell & Sons Ltd, 1964
Petrosian’s Best Games of Chess 1946-1963, PH Clarke, George Bell & Sons Ltd, 1964

The most remarkable thing about Clarke’s chess career was they way in which he became transformed, in about 1968-9, into the most drawish of players. In British tournaments he has become notorious for correct but dull solidity.”

Peter was Southern Counties (SCCU) Champion for the 1954-55 season.

Peter was England’s third Correspondence Grandmaster (CGM) in 1980 after Keith Richardson and Adrian Hollis.

Peter at the dinner table
Peter at the dinner table

From BCM / ECF :

“FIDE and British Master P.H. Clarke will be best remembered as biographer to Tal and to Petrosyan, but he was so much more. The young Clarke played for Ilford CC in the London League and for Essex at county level. Doing national service he was to learn the Russian that was to so shape his writings.

The 1964 England Olympiad (Tel Aviv) Team : Owen Hindle, Čeněk Kottnauer, Peter Clarke, Michael Franklin, Norman Littlewood & Michael Haygarth
The 1964 England Olympiad (Tel Aviv) Team : Owen Hindle, Čeněk Kottnauer, Peter Clarke, Michael Franklin, Norman Littlewood & Michael Haygarth

For a brief period in the late 1950s, and early sixties, he was the number two player in England, ahead of the vastly more experienced Alexander and Golombek. He played, of course, below Jonathan Penrose, a partnership that bore fruit when preparing openings; latterly they both became Correspondence Grandmasters.”

FM Peter Hugh Clarke
FM Peter Hugh Clarke

FM Peter Hugh Clarke (18-iii-1933, 11-xii-2014)
FM Peter Clarke

“At the British Championships itself he finished second on his first appearance; he was to tie for silver medal on no less than five occasions, appearing, almost without a break for thirty years, a run that ended in 1982. He represented the BCF – as it then was – in eight Olympiads, playing on top board in 1966.

Borislav Ivkov playing Peter Clarke at the 1960 Leipzig Olympiad. The game was a QGA which was drawn
Borislav Ivkov playing Peter Clarke at the 1960 Leipzig Olympiad. The game was a QGA which was drawn

The Clarke family moved to the West of England in the late Sixties. PHC played in thirteen WECU Championships, and lost only twice. As a player he could be cautious, agreeing too readily to draws. Accuracy and respect meant more to him than ambition. The biographer became a journalist as illness cut short his playing career. In his time he beat Larsen, Penrose and Szabo.

Kick Langeweg plays Hugh Alexander in the Anglo-Dutch Match of October 7th , 1961. Peter Clarke (right) is playing Johan Teunis Barendregt and Harry Golombek observes

In 1962 he married BH Wood’s daughter, Peggy. They had three daughters. In 1975 my mother happened across Peter and Peggy on Morecambe prom. ‘Never’ she was later to tell me, ‘have I seen a couple more in love.'”

Peter Clarke & Peggy Wood in 1962, Courtesy of Keverel Chess
Peter Clarke & Peggy Wood in 1962, Courtesy of Keverel Chess

We are grateful to James Pratt to allow us to quote from the the sadly unpublished “Modest Master from Morwenstow” as follows :

PHC by John Littlewood :

“Peter had a relatively short career at the top and it is interesting to comment on his style. In essence, his great strength lay in positional understanding which backed-up his defensive skills rather than helped his ability to create wins; in other words, he won games in which his opponents over-pressed or opted for dubious positional moves.

Peter Hugh Clarke (left) and Donner (right) Date: November 26, 1957 at the Wageningen Zonal, The Netherlands. Courtesy of Alamy
Peter Hugh Clarke (left) and Donner (right) Date: November 26, 1957 at the Wageningen Zonal, The Netherlands. Courtesy of Alamy

After doing well in English chess, he was perhaps pushed into international chess too early for him to develop his own personal creative style. Playing for England and meeting strong players, he tended towards a rather negative approach that may have been necessary for the team but was not good for his own personal progress, as shown when he later met English opponents who outstripped him in their positive will-to-win. His friendship with Penrose (a far stronger player) led to far too many draws which did neither of them any good.

Mikhail Tal's Best Games of Chess, PH Clarke. Bell, 1961
Mikhail Tal’s Best Games of Chess, PH Clarke. Bell, 1961

To be fair, Peter was not an easy player to beat but, on the other hand, he was not too hard to draw against if you felt so inclined. His forte lay in his knowledge of the game and his excellent writing skills, where he was at his happiest; there is hardly a book of his that I haven’t enjoyed.”

Petrosian's Best Games of Chess 1946-1963, PH Clarke, Bell, 1971
Petrosian’s Best Games of Chess 1946-1963, PH Clarke, Bell, 1971

Writing in BCM 04/64, John Littlewood called PHC a self-style non-tactician and disagreed with Clarke’s belief in the inner logic (‘I have made no mistakes and therefore my position is OK.’) of positions where tactics are to the fore.

FM Peter Hugh Clarke
FM Peter Clarke

PHC by Leonard Barden :

“Peter’s contribution to British Chess was important as a player and even more so as a writer. His best period was 1956-61. He, Penrose and myself used to stay in the same hotel during the British Championships and prepare and analyse together, although we played hard when actually paired. Peter was the solid man in the English team, gradually taking over the role of Golombek. It was important that we did reasonably well in this period which provided a bridge between the Alexander/Golombek era and the rise of Keene/Hartston.

Meliton Borja of the Philippines v. Peter Clarke from the 1958 Munich Olympiad played on October 9th 1958. The game was drawn in 49 moves. From the collection of David Jarrett with many thanks.
Meliton Borja of the Philippines v. Peter Clarke from the 1958 Munich Olympiad played on October 9th 1958. The game was drawn in 49 moves. From the collection of David Jarrett with many thanks.

Peter was always a good friend to me and his family gave me hospitality each year during the Ilford Congress. Peter’s books, especially the one about Tal, were real works of scholarship in an era where there were no computers to facilitate the job. He could have achieved more as a player if he had been able to concentrate fully on that, but the economic climate then was poor for professionals.”

Peter and life long friend, Jonathan Penrose, Courtesy of Keverel Chess
Peter and life long friend, Jonathan Penrose, Courtesy of Keverel Chess

PHC by Bernard Cafferty :

“Right up to that point of his illness in the 1980’s he had worthily defended the reputation of the older generation in the British Championship, as the last survivor, still active at that level, from the Penrose era. I first saw Peter at the 1951 British Championship at Chester and first played him at the 1952 Bristol Universities individual contest.

24th USSR Chess Championships, PH Clarke, British Chess Magazine, 1959
24th USSR Chess Championships, PH Clarke, British Chess Magazine, 1959

He left the University of London before taking his degree (study of chess rather taking over his life), but then had the good fortune to go on to study Russian while doing his National Service, around 1954-55. Or was he still in the Army when the Moscow 1956 Olympiad took place? He certainly did well there, perhaps less affected than other Westerners by the strangeness of the place that was just recovering slightly from the depths of Stalin’s baleful influence.

 

VV Smyslov - My Best Games of Chess, edited and translated by PH Clarke, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1958
VV Smyslov – My Best Games of Chess, edited and translated by PH Clarke, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1958

I do recall that for a couple of years Peter changed his cautious style. This was around 1957-58 when he scored one of his two wins against Penrose. Was it at Ilford?* I remember that the game appeared with notes by B.H. Wood in ‘The Illustrated London News’ column.

(*Subsequent to this article being posted LWB was kind enough to clear up BCs above query :

Southend 1958.  Clarke beat Penrose, Penrose beat Barden, Barden beat Clarke.  Clarke/Barden 4/5, Penrose 3.5/5.)

 

Cien Miniaturas Rusas
Cien Miniaturas Rusas

 

I used to see Peter regularly at the Paignton and Hastings Congresses in the 1990’s but not in the last couple of years. His health seems restored.”

Peter with Brian Reilly observing playing ? with ? in the background.
Peter with Brian Reilly observing playing ? with ? in the background.

PHC by Ken Harman :

“I am very pleased to hear about your book about Peter Clarke; not sure I can contribute much as I wasn’t a friend of his so only knew him through seeing him and Margaret at chess tournaments. He was a quiet spoken gentleman who played such quiet positional chess that I would call it ‘monastic chess’. I think Clarke thought chess a search for spiritual truth, only to be found in the cloisters of spiritual truth, only to be found in the cloisters of contemplative life – ‘The Thomas Merton of Chess’, if you like. Of course, I have no idea if he was a spiritual man in real life but his chess always struck me as if he was reaching for heaven and found hell in a doubled pawn. He seemed like a nice man and I suspect his wife Margaret was the dominant one. I have his book on Mikhail Tal’s Best Games of Chess (Bell 1961) which is signed by him and may well have been his copy, because as you open the book – there is a small newspaper clipping and a photo of Clarke sellotaped which is rather unusual being that the book is about Tal, and not him. ”

Peter plays Erich Gottlieb Eliskases at the 1960 Leipzig Olympiad
Peter plays Erich Gottlieb Eliskases at the 1960 Leipzig Olympiad

PHC by Alan P. Borwell (ICCF Honorary President) :

“I first met Peter at the 1959 BCF Congress in York when I was a member of local organising committee and then at Paignton and when York played & won the National Club Championship in 1964/5.

In 1966 I played Peter in the British Chess Championship in last round in Sunderland.”

Peter analyses "al fresco" at Tel Aviv 1958 with Owen Hindle and (back to camera) Harry Golombek and Michael Haygarth : thanks Leonard Barden.
Peter analyses “al fresco” at Tel Aviv 1958 with Owen Hindle and (back to camera) Harry Golombek and Michael Haygarth : thanks Leonard Barden.

and from Wikipedia :

Peter Hugh Clarke (18 March 1933 – 11 December 2014) was an English chess player, who hold titles FIDE master (FM) and International Correspondence Chess Grandmaster (1980), FIDE International arbiter (1976), Chess Olympiad individual silver medal winner (1956).

Peter Clarke started playing chess at the age of six. He twice won the London Boys’ Chess Championship (1950, 1951). He was British Chess Championship multiplier participant where five times won silver medal.

Since 1959, Peter Hugh Clarke has been working as a chess journalist in the newspaper Sunday Times and magazine British Chess Magazine. He known as the biographical book’s author of Mikhail Tal (1961) and Tigran Petrosian (1964). Thanks to his good knowledge of Russian language, he translated the book about Vasily Smyslov in 1958. In 1963 he wrote a book 100 Soviet Chess Miniatures.

Peter Clarke played for England in the Chess Olympiads :

In 1954, at second reserve board in the 11th Chess Olympiad in Amsterdam (+2, =2, -3),
In 1956, at reserve board in the 12th Chess Olympiad in Moscow (+7, =5, -0) and won individual silver medal,
In 1958, at fourth board in the 13th Chess Olympiad in Munich (+2, =10, -3),
In 1960, at third board in the 14th Chess Olympiad in Leipzig (+4, =7, -3),
In 1962, at second board in the 15th Chess Olympiad in Varna (+3, =10, -2),
In 1964, at second board in the 16th Chess Olympiad in Tel Aviv (+2, =8, -2),
In 1966, at first board in the 17th Chess Olympiad in Havana (+2, =10, -1),
In 1968, at third board in the 18th Chess Olympiad in Lugano (+0, =7, -1).
Also he played for England in the World Student Team Chess Championship (1954, 1959)and in the Clare Benedict Chess Cup (1960-1961, 1963, 1965, 1967-1968) where won team silver medal (1960) and 4 bronze medals (1961, 1963, 1967, 1968).

In later years, Peter Clarke active participated in correspondence chess tournaments. In 1977, he won British Correspondence Chess Championship. In 1976, Peter Clarke was awarded the International Correspondence Chess Master (IMC) title and received the International Correspondence Chess Grandmaster (GMC) title four years later.

Remembering Joseph Blake (03-ii-1859 11-xii-1951)

Joseph Henry Blake
Joseph Henry Blake

We remember English player Joseph Blake who passed away on Tuesday, December 11th, 1951.

Joseph Henry Blake was born on Thursday, February 3rd, 1859 in Farnborough, Hampshire. His parents were Joseph Denner and Eliza Blake (née Early). In 1871 Joseph (aged 12) had a brother Frank (aged 10), sisters Annie (8), Elizabeth S (7), Eliza E (1) and a servant, Kate Longman aged 18. The family lived in Lydia Cottage, Hewitts Road, Millbrook, South Stoneham, Hampshire.

According to the 1861 census Joseph was two years old and living with his parents and Frank in Rotten Row, Yeovil, Somerset.

In 1881 the family has upped sticks again and moved to 2 St. Lawrence Road, Saint Mary, Eastleigh, Hampshire. This address is also given as the South West Telegraph Office. Eliza was now the head of the household and a widower. Apart from Eliza E aged 11 everyone worked for the railway.

In 1891 Joseph had become Head of the Household (aged 32) and they had acquired a servant (Anna M Cornell) and a blacksmith (Francis Cornell) from Braintree in Essex.

In 1900 Joseph married Alice New in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. They lived at 24, Barton Road, Eastleigh, Hampshire. Tragically, Alice passed away in 1903.

Joseph Henry Blake
Joseph Henry Blake

By 1911 Joseph was 52 and had retained his career as a Railway Clerk. He lived at 33, Broomfield Road, Tolworth, Surrey :

33, Broomfield Road, Tolworth, Surrey
33, Broomfield Road, Tolworth, Surrey

He is recorded as the head of a household of one and a widower.

In 1939 Joseph was living at 10 Springfield Court, Springfield Road, Kingston Upon Thames, Surrey. He was now retired.

No doubt there would have been other addresses not captured by the census records.

According to The Encyclopedia of Chess, (Batsford, 1977), Harry Golombek OBE :

“A leading British player in the 1890s and for many years editor of the Games Section of the British Chess Magazine between the two world wars. Blake’s best tournament performance came at the age sixty-three when, at Weston-super-Mare in 1922, he came 1st ahead of Maróczy, Kostić, Sir George Thomas and Yates.

The remarkable feature about Blake’s chess career is that he retained his skill and his comprehension of the game for a much longer period that most chess players. This extended from 1887 when he was 1st at the Counties Chess Association tournament at Stamford ahead of Bird and Pollock, a performance he was to repeat in 1891 at Oxford, to 1909 when he tied with H. E. Atkins for first place in the British Championship, to 1923 when he won the Weston-super-Mare tournament, right into the 1930s when he was principal annotator for the British Chess Magazine.”

Chess Endings for Beginners, JH Blake, George Routledge First Edition (1900)
Chess Endings for Beginners, JH Blake, George Routledge First Edition (1900)

and according to The Encyclopedia of Chess (Robert Hale, 1970 & 1976), Anne Sunnucks :

“One of the leading British players at the end of the last century and the beginning of the present century. Born on 3rd February 1859. Represented England in the Anglo-American cable matches in 1902 and 1909. His best results were 1st in the Counties’ Chess Association Tournament 1887, ahead of Bird and MacDonnell; =1st with HE Atkins in the 1909 British Championship, but lost the play-off for the title; 1st at Weston-super-Mare 1922 ahead of Maroczy, Kostich, Sir George Thomas and Yates, and winner of the brilliancy prize for his game against Sir George Thomas; 2nd in the international correspondence chess tournament organised by Le Monde Illustre in 1895.

Blake was President of the Southern Counties Chess Association in 1911 and President of the Hampshire Chess Association from 1910-1912 and from 1927-1929. He was also Hon. Secretary of the City of London Chess Club for some years.”

According to Tim Harding in the excellent Correspondence Chess in Britain and Ireland, 1824-1987 :

Railway clerk Joseph Henry Blake, the leading English correspondence player of the 1890s; also a strong OTB amateur player. He was a regular contributor to British Chess Magazine from the 1880s to the late 1930s.

In British Chess Magazine, Volume XXXIX (39, 1919), Number 3 (March) we have the following from Julius du Mont : “I presume it relates more particularly to chess professionals in this country, at any rate, it does not seem to me that the jews hold rank amongst first-class amateurs in proportion to their numbers.

In London there are very few if any of the class of RC Griffith, GA Thomas, JH Blake, HG Cole, EG Sergeant, and many others to say nothing of the younger recruits , W.Winter and RHV Scott.”

From the 1949 British Chess Magazine (written by RN Coles) we have this :

JH Blake is Ninety

After an absence of ten years I looked in recently on the Kingston and Thames Valley Chess Club. There were many new faces and a number of familiar ones, among the latter one of rosy countenance, trim beard and twinkling eyes, none other than JH Blake, more vigorous than ever and attaining his 90th birthday on the 3rd February.

Twenty years ago in this same club I (RN Coles) was learning the game, now middle age approaches. Blake was an elderly man in those days, who had retired from all competitive play because of the strain it imposed; now, so far from showing the weight of years, he is back in competitive chess again.  He won the club championship last year and is in a fair way to repeating his victory this year. Of all the ‘Grand Old Men’ of chess, few have still been champions in their 90th year.

Older readers of the BCM will remember him as their Games Editor for many years, but few memories will cover the whole series of his successes beginning with a 1st at Stamford in 1887. Even 1922 must seem a distant year to the generation of today. That was the year that Maroczy and Kostic were invited to Weston-super-Mare to meet such rising young English masters as FD Yates and Sir George Thomas. And the first prize amongst those talented players was won by JH Blake, who had been born just when Morphy returned to England after his Paris Victory over Anderssen !

All readers of the BCM and all players everywhere will wish Britain’s oldest master continued health and increasing vigour, and those who knew him today will be surprised if he does not continue his attack for another decade at least.

Besides winning the first prize at Weston Blake also won the brilliancy prize with the following game : (#10,229)

British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXII (72, 1952), Number 2 (February), pp.44-46 contained an obituary with articles from MDB* :

*(Careful investigation by Richard James suggest that MDB is Mabel Dorothy Barker, JHB’s niece in 6th Cross Road.)

British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXII (72, 1952), Number 2 (February) pp. 44 - 46
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXII (72, 1952), Number 2 (February) pp. 44 – 46
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXII (72, 1952), Number 2 (February) pp. 44 - 46
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXII (72, 1952), Number 2 (February) pp. 44 – 46

and EG Sergeant :

British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXII (72, 1952), Number 2 (February) pp. 44 - 46
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXII (72, 1952), Number 2 (February) pp. 44 – 46
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXII (72, 1952), Number 2 (February) pp. 44 - 46
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXII (72, 1952), Number 2 (February) pp. 44 – 46

For more on this game and its often mis-reported continuation see this article from Edward Winter.

From Wikipedia :

“Joseph Henry Blake (3 February 1859, Farnborough, Hampshire – 11 December 1951, Kingston-upon-Thames) was an English chess master.

Blake won many tournaments played in England toward the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. He won at Stamford 1887, Oxford 1891 (joint), Brighton 1892, Cambridge 1893, and Salisbury 1898 (joint). He also took 5th at Manchester 1882, tied for 3-4th at Birmingham 1883 (Section B), took 4th at Bath 1884, tied for 6-8th at London 1889 (Henry Bird won), took 2nd at Cambridge 1890, tied for 3rd-4th at Woodhall Spa 1893, shared 2nd at Craigside 1895, took 3rd at Hastings (Amateur) 1895, took 2nd, behind Henry Ernest Atkins, at Bristol 1896, and won at Folkestone 1901.

He took 2nd in an international correspondence tournament organised by Le Monde Illustré in 1895, shared 1st in the 1909 British Championship in Scarborough but lost to Atkins the play-off, and shared 1st at London 1911. He was British correspondence champion in 1922.

Blake represented England in cable matches against the United States in 1902, 1909 and 1910.

His best achievement was victory, ahead of Géza Maróczy, George Alan Thomas, Fred Yates and Boris Kostić, at Weston-super-Mare 1922. He shared 2nd at London 1922 (Major Open), tied for 7-8th at Hastings International Chess Congress 1922/23 (Akiba Rubinstein won), took 2nd, behind Thomas, at London 1923, took 5th at Liverpool 1923 (Jacques Mieses won), tied for 7-8th at Hastings 1923/24 (Max Euwe won), tied for 6-7th at Weston-super-Mare 1924 (Euwe won), took 2nd, behind R.P. Michell, at London 1925, took 4th at London 1926 (Victor Buerger won), and tied for 7-9th at Weston-super-Mare 1926 (Euwe won).”

He is the author of Chess endings for beginners (London 1900).

Happy Birthday GM Matthew Turner (11-XII-1975)

GM Matthew James Turner
GM Matthew James Turner

We wish Happy Birthday to GM Matthew Turner born this day (December 11th) in 1975 in Lincolnshire.

His peak rating according to ChessBase was 2545 in October 2017 but he may well eclipse that being an active GM.

In 2011 Matthew changed his FIDE Federation to Scotland (from England) and is current (2019) Scottish Champion winning with 7/9

Matthew James Turner
Matthew James Turner

Matthew is chess tutor at Millfield School and has appeared with success on Countdown.

Matthew Turner
Matthew Turner

Matthew plays for Barbican in the Four Nations Chess League (4NCL)

GM Matthew Turner, British Blitz Qualifier, 2019, Bristol
GM Matthew Turner, British Blitz Qualifier, 2019, Bristol