Remembering Roland Scott (25-iii-1888 10-i-1953)

BCN remembers Roland Scott who passed away in Monte Carlo on Saturday, January 10th, 1953.

Roland Henry Vaughan Scott was born in either Barnes (or Holloway depending which Census record is correct). His parents were Walter Frederick Scott, a GP who was born in April 1960 and died in 1891 when Roland was three years of age.

His mother was Lucy (Lucie and Lucia have also been recorded) Vaughan was born in 1855 and died in October 1933.

Roland had three sisters, Nina Vaughan Scott Lucie Audrey Scott (who died before her first birthday) and Sybil Anne Vaughan Scott and a brother Guy Francis D Scott who lived until 1977.

In 1891 Roland lived in Tottenham, in 1901 in Hampstead and in 1911 in St. Pancras where he was listed as a law clerk.

In 1917 The London Gazette lists him as a lieutenant in the Norfolk Regiment.

The 1920 electoral rolls for the Gospel Oak polling district lists Scott as voter #2006 living at 2, Estelle Road, North St. Pancras which is now in Belsize Park, NW3 2JX. At the same address was his sister Lucie and in 1921 they were joined by brother Guy.

In July 1922 in the district of Brighton Roland married Irma Clareboudt. No children from the marriage are recorded.

The 1939 register lists Scott as “War Disabled ? Officer Retired In War 1914” (invalided from army) and Irma as a saleswoman (born 25th July 1895) living at 42, Sherwell Lane, Paignton, Torquay, TQ2 6BD.

42, Sherwell Lane, Paignton, Devon, TQ2 6BD.
42, Sherwell Lane, Paignton, Devon, TQ2 6BD.

The April 1953 British Chess Magazine (Volume LXXIII, Number 4, page 101 onwards) contained this obituary from DJ Morgan:

It is with much regret that we record the death, on January 10th, at Monte Carlo, of R. H. V. Scott. He had long been out of active chess, but older readers will need no reminding of the 1920 British Champion, with his quiet manner but attacking chess; one who was composure itself at the table but aggressiveness personified on the board.

The son of a doctor, Scott was born in 1889. He was nineteen before taking to the game, but a ready aptitude combined with great enthusiasm led to rapid progress. He joined the Hampstead Club in 1908, and in his first tournament, the Third Class, came out first. ln the years that follow he pursued the game with much energy.

At the B.C.F. Congress, Glasgow, l9ll, he won the only section of the First Class. In 1913 and in 1914 he was Hampstead Club Champion. In 1913 he was tenth in the British Championship, at Cheltenham, and equal fifth to sixth at Chester in the following year, defeating Yates and drawing with Blackburne.

In 1915 he came second in the City of London Club Championship, but won that of the Metropolitan Club. During the same year he lost a short match with Sir G. A. Thomas 1-3. The war years, with a commission in the Norfolk Regiment, intervened, but chess filled his available moments.

In 1916 he defeated L. I. Estrin, a young Russian who was Hampstead Champion, 5-2 in a match. ln 1919 he lost a match with Winter at Hastings (2-4), and shared seventh to eighth positions with Dr. Olland (Holland) at the B.C.F. Hastings Victory Congress, with victories over Olland,

R. P. Michell, Marchand, and Conde. Then came the B.C.F. Edinburgh Congress of 1920, Scott became British Champion, losing only
to Sir G. A. Thomas.

In this year he also drew a match, 3-3, with Marchand, of Holland, also at Hastings. There followed three more appearances in the championship, Malvern, 1921 (equal fifth to sixth); Southsea,1923 (equal third to fourth); and Southport, 1924 (fourth). And with this Scott passed out of British chess. Ill health and failing eyesight, direct results of sufferings and injuries endured on active service during the war, began to take their toll. On medical advice he sought a warmer climate, and the Riviera henceforth became his home.

We find him sharing seventh to eighth positions at the Hyères Congress, in 1926, and coming equal fifth to sixth, with B. Reilly (our Editor’s first international tourney we believe), at Hyères, 1927.

The days of active play were over, but his great interest in the game remained. Scott was a natural attacking player, more likely, perhaps, to win the Brilliancy Prize than the First Prize.

Edo rating profile for RHV Scott
Edo rating profile for RHV Scott

We have given the bare outline of a career that was all too short, one cut down, in a sense before reaching full maturity. Contemporary records sometimes expressed the need for more stability in Scott’s chess, but they chronicle games of his that speak forcibly of the imaginative, refreshing, and invigorating qualities of his play. We offer an early game, the Brilliancy Prize winner, City of London C.C. Championship, 1913-14. White’s 20th move sets the game alight.

RHV Scott plays GE Wainwright in 1921, The Sphere, 1921
RHV Scott plays GE Wainwright in 1921, The Sphere, 1921

From British Chess Magazine, Volume XLI (1920), Number 10 (October), page 305 we have the following report of his exploits winning the 1920 British Championship in Edinburgh:

“We are glad to be able to present to our readers a photograph of the new champion, Mr. R.H.V Scott. He informs us that it is his most recent one, taken in 1917 when subaltern in the Norfolk Regiment. He saw service with the latter in France, and, as is probably know to most of our subscribers, was badly gassed, from the effects of which is now happily quite recovered.

His victory in the recent Congress in Edinburgh is welcome from at least two points of view; one, that he is one of our youngest first class players (ed: he was 32 at the time, a veteran by the standards of 2022!), having been born in 1889 (ed: this should have been 1888), and therefore may justifiably be expected to improve still further with experience and some curbing of his impatience in defence; and, two, that he claim to represent the more brilliant school of chess, that of Pillsbury, Marshall, Charousek, and Morphy, rather than the more solid school, of say, Steinitz and Rubinstein, who theory was the pilling up of small advantages.

Scott has an excellent “nose” for attack, and has some exceedingly “chessy” ideas. During the congress he put a much greater restraint on himself than is his wont, and we believe this to be the reason he so improved on his previous records.

He had what might be described as the worst of the draw, since he had Black against Sir George  Thomas, EG Sergeant and RP Michell. Some writers have described him as lucky to win, but a study of his games and a comparison with those of others in the tourney go to prove that he played more far-sightedly than any of the others.

We are quite aware that the form of any player is variable, and we have seen Sir George Thomas play much better chess and much less strainedly than he did at Edinburgh. EG Sergeant was generally playing quite at his best, but once or twice his play deteriorated, perhaps as the result of a sleepless night, he then seemed bereft of ideas, and allowed the clock to beat him. This also was the case with Michell, who had many a rush to save his flag falling before the necessary moves were made. Now Scott almost invariably had time to spare.

Perhaps the worst reversal of form was that of JH Blake; but he had been working very hard and late for some time right up to the day the Congress commenced, and was not really in a fit state of health to take part.

Scott has twice before competed for the Championship; in 1913 where he finished eighth, and in 1914 when he was fifth, beating FD Yates, the then Champion and drawing with JH Blackburne.

He has won several brilliancy prizes in congress and club tourneys, and was the champion of the Hampstead Chess Club (where he may have been said to have learnt the game) in 1913 and 1914. He was first acquainted with the moves in 1908.

He is keen on all sports, and puts his whole energy into each line he may be taking. With yet more self-restraint we think his chess will still further improve, and we venture to prophesy this will not be the last British Chess Championship he will win.”

In his memoirs William Winter wrote this:

“I also had the opportunity of playing a number of semi-serious games with RHV Scott and D. Miller, two of the leading London amateurs. Scott was probably the most brilliant combinative played England has ever seen and had already won almost every honour except the British Championship, which fell to him in 1920.

Since those days I have played over hundreds of games, including the beautiful brilliancies of the modern Russian school, and Scott’s best combinations stand up quite well beside them. There were however weaknesses in his play which I shall discuss later. Miller was just the opposite type, a dour solid player exceptionally hard to beat. He is, I am glad to say, still with us, but Scott died a few years ago – he had been out of chess for a long time.”

and this:

“It is entirely legitimate, and can prove very useful until one comes up against an opponent like Capablanca who had no weaknesses of any kind. ln Scott’s case, one of his foibles was an aversion to exchanging queens, and I took full advantage of this in the first two games of the match both of which I won with comparative ease; but Scott was not finished yet.’ In the third game he tied me up in a variation of the Sicilian which I had not previously seen, and in the fourth I made the fatal mistake in going for an early win of material and allowing him a king’s side attack. Things now looked bad for me. I had the black pieces in the fifth game and I dared not play my favourite Sicilian defence because I could not discover a satisfactory answer to his new line.”

Strangely, none of the Encyclopaedia’s by Golombek, Sunnucks or Hooper & Whyld felt that RHVS merited an entry. However Gaige does not forget.

Here is an interesting article from “introuble2” entitled 100 years ago… chess in London during World War I in which Scott is mentioned.

Here is an excellent article from John Saunders