Modern Chess– From Steinitz to the 21st Century

Modern Chess– From Steinitz to the 21st Century, Craig Pritchett, Thinker's Publishing, 15th February 2022, ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9464201436
Modern Chess– From Steinitz to the 21st Century, Craig Pritchett, Thinker’s Publishing, 15th February 2022, ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9464201436

From the publishers’ blurb:

“The revolutionary Wilhelm Steinitz (1836-1900) considered himself to be in the vanguard of an emerging, late-19th century ‘Modern’ school, which embraced a new, essentially scientific vitality in its methods of research, analysis, evaluation, planning, experiment and even belligerent fight. Steinitz, who dominated the chess world in the shadow of a more directly attacking, openly tactical and combinative, so-called ‘romantic’ age, established a much firmer positional basis to chess. A pivotal change! This book follows that story, both before and beyond Steinitz’s early ‘modern’ era, focusing closely on the subtly varied ways in which the world’s greatest players in the last two centuries have thought about and played the game, moving it forward. The author reflects on all sixteen ‘classical’ world champions and others, notably: C-L. M. de la Bourdonnais, Adolf Anderssen, Paul Morphy, Siegbert Tarrasch, Aron Nimzowitsch, Richard Réti, Judit Polgar and the contemporary Artificial Intelligence phenomenon, AlphaZero. Be inspired by this exploration of the ‘modern’ game’s roots and trajectory!”

IM Craig William Pritchett, Courtesy of John Upham Photography
IM Craig William Pritchett, Courtesy of John Upham Photography

Craig Pritchett (b 1949) is a former national champion and international master (1976), who represented Scotland in nine Chess Olympiads (1966-1990), including four times on top board (1974-1980). Gold medal winner on top board for Scotland at the European Seniors (60+) Team Championship in 2011, he continues to compete regularly at Senior and Open events. Chess Correspondent for the Scottish newspaper The Herald (1972-2006) and East Lothian Life (since 2005), he has taught and written widely on chess, specialising latterly on the historical development of chess thought and the fascinatingly wide differences in players’ chess styles. A University of Glasgow graduate in Modern History and Politics and a Chartered Public Finance Accountant, he also worked for many years in UK central government audit. President of his local Dunbar Chess Club, he has also long been associated with three major chess clubs: Edinburgh West, Barbican 4NCL and SK Berlin-Zehlendorf.”

From the author’s introduction:

This book takes the reader on a journey from early 19th century developments in the game up to the present-day. 

And:

Today’s top players still borrow from the best games and ideas of past generations. Do join them!

I wrote this book primarily to explore, confirm and convey my own understanding of this grand sweep of chess history. 

What we’re offered here, then is a brief history of top level chess from 1834 to the present day, looking at both the development of chess ideas and the world championship itself. As you’d expect, the text is illustrated with games, annotated in a refreshingly straightforward fashion, and there are also a few photographs of the book’s heroes. An ambitious project, following in the footsteps of many other authors from Réti onwards. Not the first book of this type I’ve reviewed here either: but I wasn’t particularly impressed with this offering from two years ago.

We start then with Bourdonnais and McDonnell from 1834. Pritchett is impressed with their ‘calculating powers and creative imaginations’, and you will be too.

Most readers will have seen the extraordinary 62nd game before. I decided to ask Stockfish 14 to have a look. The notoriously hard to please engine was also impressed, but had one issue.

Here, Bourdonnais played 25… Qe3+, when 26. Rf2 would have held, according to both Pritchett and Stockfish. Pritchett also mentions that 25… Ba6 27. Qxa6 favours White: Stockfish 14 thinks Black’s winning after 27… e4!. A remarkable position which you might want to look at yourself. Perhaps Craig was using an older engine.

The theme of tactical brilliance continues with Anderssen, and, inevitably, we see the Immortal and Evergreen Games. Of course most readers will have seen them many times before, but there will always be those new to chess history who will relish witnessing them for the first time.

We then move onto Morphy and Steinitz, which is where the story becomes more complex and therefore more interesting. Pritchett is good at outlining Steinitz’s professionalism, opening research and patience at accumulating small advantages.

Pritchett describes this game as an early ‘hypermodern’ masterpiece, created decades before the term itself even existed, of a most insightful and visionary kind. (Click on any move of any game in this review for a pop-up board. I’ve used Stockfish 14 to annotate the games: readers might like to compare them with the author’s annotations in the book.)

This takes us into what, for me, is the strongest part of the book, covering the last few decades of the 19th and the first few decades of the 20th century. It’s excellent that Pritchett includes sections on Tarrasch and the Hypermoderns along with Lasker and the other world champions. Readers of Ray Keene’s masterpiece Aron Nimzowitsch: A Reappraisal will be aware that he wrote insightfully about the feud between these two players who had very different views about how chess should be played.

Almost half a century on, Keene’s contemporary Pritchett, takes a rather different approach, seeking to find a synthesis between the two. He quite rightly praises Tarrasch’s books Dreihundert Schachpartien and Die Moderne Schachpartie, although accepting that he could at times be over-dogmatic.

If you’ve never studied the games of the 1893 Tarrasch – Chigorin match do yourself a favour and have a look. One of the greatest matches in chess history, in my opinion.

Pritchett offers us the 4th game, although his annotations fail to point out Chigorin’s missed wins at moves 29 and 32.

Moving on from Tarrasch, via Lasker, to Nimzowitsch, Pritchett is just as complimentary about My System and Chess Praxis as he is about Tarrasch’s books, telling us that together they offer a wealth of insightful exposition of the new paths that the game was beginning to take in a post-classical era.

The contrasting champions Capablanca and Alekhine then follow, as stylistically different as Tarrasch and Nimzowitsch were in terms of their ideas and both interpreting their teachings in different ways.

Euwe only merits a very short chapter, and, as you might expect, the Pearl of Zandvoort, the Dutch champion’s most famous game, is demonstrated.

Botvinnik then takes us beyond the Second World War and into the latter half of the 20th century, at which point the tone of the book seems to undergo a gradual change.

As FIDE took over the organising the World Championship (with a break between 1993 and 2006) Pritchett’s narrative becomes more a list of world championship matches than a study of the development of ideas. We meet Smyslov, Tal, Petrosian and Spassky, four players with very different styles. Then, of course, Fischer, Karpov, Kasparov, Kramnik, Anand and Carlsen.

The book ends with chapters on Judit Polgar, understandable in these days where representation is considered so important, and Alpha Zero, whose games add a totally new dimension to the development of chess ideas.

Pritchett quotes this Petrosian game, along with a 1966 interview from Sovetsky Sport, in which Petrosian, when asked what he valued most in chess, replied with the word Logic. I like only those games where I have played in accordance with the demands of the position … logical “correct” play. Botvinnik and Smyslov might both have agreed, but Tal? Probably not.

A different approach might have been to consider the period from 1948 onwards through looking at openings rather than players. You could discuss, for instance, the increasing popularity and development of dynamic openings such as the Sicilian and King’s Indian Defences in the post-war years, followed by the effects brought about by computer usage from, say, 1990 onwards. You’d be looking at the world champions, but also players such as Bronstein and Larsen who also, like Tarrasch and Nimzowitsch in their day, had an impact on the development of chess.

It strikes me that the history of the world championship and the development of chess ideas are two very different, but obviously interconnected subjects. From my perspective as a student of chess history, this book rather falls between two stools. The first half is written more from the latter perspective and the second half more from the former perspective. Inevitably so, perhaps, given the difficulty of telling a long and complex story within the confines of a relatively slim book.

If you’re knowledgeable about chess history, you’ll be familiar with the stories and have seen most of the games before. But if you’re new to the subject, this book, which will appeal to players of all strengths, would be a good place to start. It’s accessible, well researched and written, with well annotated games and well produced, although with a few typos and errors which might have been picked up at proof stage. Not all the analysis stands up to the scrutiny of Stockfish 14 but for most readers that won’t matter. Recommended for those unfamiliar with the subject matter, but perhaps superfluous for those who will have seen most of it before.

Richard James, Twickenham 31st March 2022

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Softcover: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (15 Feb. 2022)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9464201436
  • ISBN-13: 978-9464201437
  • Product Dimensions: 17.02 x 2.29 x 23.37 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Modern Chess– From Steinitz to the 21st Century, Craig Pritchett, Thinker's Publishing, 15th February 2022, ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9464201436
Modern Chess– From Steinitz to the 21st Century, Craig Pritchett, Thinker’s Publishing, 15th February 2022, ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9464201436

Remembering IMC Ken Messere OBE (16-iv-1928 31-iii-2005)

IMC Ken Messere OBE (16-iv-1928 31-iii-2005)
IMC Ken Messere OBE (16-iv-1928 31-iii-2005)

BCN remembers Ken Messere who passed away on Thursday, March 31st 2005 aged 76 in Paris-16E-Arrondissement, Paris, France.

Kenneth Charles Messere was born on Monday, April 16th, 1928 in Richmond-on-Thames, Surrey. His father was Charles (George) Messere (1901-1974) or Eisenberg and aged 26. His mother was Gertrude Marie Newman (1899-1978) and aged 29.

Ken had three siblings: Barbara Marie Messere (1930–2005), Hugh Martin Messere (1932–1985) and Derek R Messere (1934–2012)

Ken attended St. Peter’s College, Oxford from 1946 – 1951 to read philosophy and is reported in the 1951 St. Edmund Hall Magazine, as a member of the Trillick (debating) Society as follows:

‘ That this House would rather be a live Communist than
a dead Democrat.’ The proposer established to his own satisfaction that democracy was founded on ‘selfishness, capitalism and bourgeois hypocrisy.’ He did not satisfy J. F. R. Bonguard of St. Peter’s Hall who opposed, using arguments taken from Hindu philosophy. K. C. Messere of St. Peter’s Hall, spoke third and added some able arguments.

In June 1954 Ken married Mary Elizabeth Humphrey (1929-2003) in Ealing. They had a son Miles Jonathan Messere born in 1964 who passed away in 1965.

Prior the time of his passing his wife Mary was living at 142B, Herbert Road, Woolwich, London, SE18 3PU.

In 1991 he was awarded the OBE (Civil Division) in the Queen’s Birthday honours list. The citation reads: Kenneth Charles Messere, lately Head of Fiscal Affairs Division, OECD, Paris.

Ken appears each year from 1953 to 1967 in the noted publication Britain, Royal And Imperial Calendars the function of which is to list entries for those engaged in UK public service. He worked for HM Customs and Excise. Prompted by this we consulted the venerable A History of Chess in the English Civil Service by Kevin Thurlow (Conrad Press, 2021) on page 447 and found

“He played for Customs. In 1964, he went to work for the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and was head of fiscal affairs from 1971 – 1991. In 1954 he began playing postal chess and became a leading player. He won a semi-final of the 5th World Correspondence Championship (1961 – 64) and became the first English player to compete in a World Championship Final.”

There are 31 games listed at his personal entry at chessgames.com starting with games from 1965.

Chessbase’s Correspondence Database 2020 records 69 games the earliest being from 1958 listing Ken’s federation as being France.

From British Chess (Pergamon Press, 1983) we have this lengthy contribution from Ken himself:

“Between the ages of 6, when I learnt to play and 23 (ed: 1951), when I ceased to be a student, chess had a relatively low priority among various time-competing interests and activities, so I never got around to studying theory. Things changed when I became a civil servant and needed a replacement for philosophy as an intellectually absorbing subject which could be argued about with friends over beers, and for the next 12 years chess became my main interest.

Since 1964 I have been working for the OECD in Paris, where my friends are not chess enthusiasts and, although chess remains a major pleasure, my commitment to it has lessened. Nowadays, out-side correspondence chess, I play only occasional blitz games.

Coming late to serious chess has probably had at least some influence on my deficiencies and stylistic preferences. The deficiencies include an inability to visualize ahead with sufficient clarity to support accurate analysis, slow sight of the board which leads to silly errors through time trouble or failing stamina and less familiarity with theory than my better opponents. As to chess style, I have had to play romantically and subjectively to get good results.

If a game takes the form of a clear-cut position, where strategical objectives are clear and superior technique prevails, then mine generally does not. Consequently I have tended to play either sharp gambits or counter-gambits or to try to render the position sufficiently obscure for imagination and intuition to assume maximum importance. In keeping, my chess heroes have been Alekhine, Bronstein and Tal who revel in fantasy, however much Alekhine may claim that it is logically based.

When I took up competitive chess seriously in 1952, I made some progress and won a few minor tournaments, but in view of the defects already mentioned, it soon became clear that my potential for improvement was limited and that nearly all my games were aesthetically flawed. Fortunately, these defects represent no great handicap at correspondence chess, where I found myself pleased with a reasonable proportion of the game I played, and in addition, capable on the day (or more accurately over the years) of winning against almost anyone. Thus, against world champions I have two wins and one loss, (see below). I also have 80 per cent from five games against Russian grandmasters, even if a meagre 28 per cent from my eighteen games against all correspondence grandmasters. In 1954 when I began playing postal chess competitively, I did sufficiently well in a few British Postal tournaments to be accepted at a reasonably high level in the official international tournaments.

Not without luck (see Diagram l), I secured the 75 per cent necessary in two seven-player tournaments to qualify for the fourteen player preliminaries, the winner of which was to qualify for the following world championship. In the 1961-64 preliminaries, I played the best chess of my life, including valid opening innovations, imaginative pawn and piece sacrifices and even a technically efficient win in a queen and pawn end-game. I won the tournament with eleven wins, one draw and one loss, 1.5 points ahead of Maly of Czechoslovakia and two points ahead of Masseev, the Russian favourite, thereby obtaining my first norm towards the International Master title. My first annotated game is the win against Maly (ed: to be inserted once we have tracked down the game score!) which was typical stylistically and also crucial, since if he had won it, he would have qualified for the World Championship instead of me: the second against Bartha of the United States is the most compulsive and difficult tactical game I have ever played, the last five moves alone requiring over 100 hours of analysis.

IMC Ken Messere OBE (16-iv-1928 31-iii-2005)
IMC Ken Messere OBE (16-iv-1928 31-iii-2005)

The quality of my chess in the 1965-68 World Championship was much inferior. The tournament began disastrously. I went in for three losing variations as Black and made a suicidal clerical error in the opening so that after 3 months I had four losses from four games. Later, there were compensations. I won against V. Zagarovsky, the reigning world champion (the third annotated game) and obtained just (but only just) the necessary 33.3% per cent to obtain the correspondence chess international master title. For this I needed a win and draw from my last two games which
after 3.5 years, had to be adjudicated.

Fortunately, the win and draw were relatively clear, though this would not have been so a few moves earlier. An an illustration of how the threat of adjudication breeds irrationality, Diagram II gives the closing stages of my win against J.Estrin of the USSR – a more recent correspondence chess world champion. My only other game against a world champion was against the winner of this tournament, Hans Berliner of the United States, with whom I collaborated on a book of the tournament. The collaboration was stimulating but not without friction, since I had to write 75 per cent of the book to see it ever finished. It took a year to complete, 3 years to appear (published by BCM) but in the end was well-reviewed, sold over 2000 copies and royalties are still (gently) drifting in.

The Fifth Correspondence Chess World Championship, Hans Berliner & Ken Messere, British Chess Magazine, BCM Quarterly Nunber 14, 5th December 1971, ISBN 978-0-900846-05-2.
The Fifth Correspondence Chess World Championship, Hans Berliner & Ken Messere, British Chess Magazine, BCM Quarterly Nunber 14, 5th December 1971, ISBN 978-0-900846-05-2.

 

In the early seventies, in order to reduce numbers of games, I retreated altogether from individual tournaments, just playing twice for England in the Olympiads. Whether team play did not suit my style, or whether my technique had improved but imagination withered, I drew nine of my seventeen games from the two tournaments, winning four and losing four. As England looked likely to aspire to medals for the first time ever, my 50 per cent would not help matters and I gladly retreated to first reserve, which to my dismay required taking over five unfinished games of Hugh Alexander, who died during the tournament, and who, for me, has always been England’s most attractive player and writer. My most uncomfortable decision in correspondence chess was a rejection of Hugh’s intended continuation in one of these games, {Diagram III). Of these five games, I lost one and drew four and England won a bronze medal.

In 1974 was invited to compete in the Potter Memorial Tournament of four postal grandmasters and nine international masters. After so many years of responsible’ team chess for England, I went beserk and sacrificed a pawn in ten of the twelve games, trying later to salvage inferior end-games. Result 33 % per cent. B. H. Wood invited me to write a book of the tournament, to which a number of the players contributed and this was published in 1979.

The Potter Memorial, Ken Messere, CHESS (Sutton Coldfield), 1975
The Potter Memorial, Ken Messere, CHESS (Sutton Coldfield), 1975

Also in 1979 I began to play in another invitation tournament of thirteen players organised by the Australian Correspondence Chess League, which became a memorial to CJS Purdy, its president and the first world postal champion, who died soon after the tournament began. At the time of writing, this tournament, comprising four grandmasters (including one former world champion and two runners-up) and eight international masters, is still in its early stages.”

From British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXV (125, 2005), Number 5 (May), page 226 we have this obituary:

“Kenneth Charles Messere (16 iv 1928, Richmond – 31 iii 2005, Paris) was one of Britain’s strongest correspondence players (he held the correspondence IM title) and well-known author of books on the subject. After graduating from Oxford University, Ken Messere went to HM Customs and Excise, and thence to the Organisation for Economic Development (OECD) where he became head of the fiscal affairs division and a world expert on fiscal law. He reached the final of 1965-8 world correspondence championship, beating world champions Zagorovsky and Estrin, and wrote the book of the tournament with Hans Berliner (published by BCM)”

From The Potter Memorial by Ken Messere, CHESS (Sutton Coldfield), “Chess for Modern Times” Series, 1975 we have this potted biography:

“Compiler of this book, took 3rd place in 1957 and 2nd in 1968 in the championship of the Postal Chess Club. Scores of 4.5 out of 6 in the ICCF Masters 1957-8 and 4/6 in the 1959-61 Championship took him to victory with 11/5 out of 13 in the 1961-3 semi-finals, securing him his first international master norm and qualifying him for the 5th World Championship 1964-7 in which he scored 5.5, just enough for the IM title, with wins over Zagorovsky, then world champion and Estrin, world champion now. Ken Messere collaborated with Berliner, who won it, in a book on the tournament.

He then switched to play exclusively as a member of the British Olympiad team, taking over 2nd board when Alexander died.

The switch back from rather cautious team play to enterprising individual games in 1974-7 provides some of the subject matter of this book.”

 

The Tax System in Industrialized Countries, Ken Messere, Oxford University Press, 1998, ISBN 10: 1982933135 / ISBN 13: 9781982933135
The Tax System in Industrialized Countries, Ken Messere, Oxford University Press, 1998, ISBN 10: 1982933135 / ISBN 13: 9781982933135

Minor Pieces 28: George Edward Wainwright Part 3

This is the third post in my series about George Edward Wainwright, sometime member of Twickenham, Guildford and Surbiton Chess Clubs, and one of the strongest English amateurs of his day.

You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

American Chess Magazine 1898: taken from a public member tree on ancestry.co.uk

We left George in Surbiton in 1911, happily married, with four children and an important job in local government.

That summer he travelled abroad to play chess for the first time. He was playing top board for a team of members and friends of Hastings Chess Club who embarked on a tour of France and Switzerland, scoring 4½/5. I guess he was a friend, rather than a member.

Here’s a game from their match against the Union Amicale des Amateurs de la Régence, where he encountered the Russian diplomat Vassily Soldatenkov. (Click on any move of any game in this article and a Magic Pop-up Chessboard should, with any luck, appear.)

At this point he took a break from tournament chess, not playing in either the 1911 British Championship in Glasgow or the 1911-12 City of London Championship.

He wasn’t inactive, though: in November he took part in a simul at the City of London Club against the up and coming young Cuban Capablanca, where he managed to win his game.

In 1912 he didn’t have far to go for the British Championship, which took place just up the road from him in Richmond – the Castle Assembly Rooms to be precise, down by the river and opposite the Town Hall. Again, he didn’t take part, but was there as a visitor. (I’m considering a future series of Minor Pieces about some of the chessers who descended on Richmond that year.)

Wainwright was back in action in the 1912-13 City of London Championship, but without success. A large entry that year required three qualifying sections, with three qualifiers from each section making the final pool. He was well down the field in his section.

Throughout his life he remained loyal to his home county of Yorkshire: in those days there was no problem representing both Surrey and Yorkshire in county matches.

In this game from a Yorkshire – Middlesex match played in Leicester (a neutral venue) he beat one of his regular London opponents and a future Kingston resident.

Just two days  later he took part in another simul against Capablanca, forsaking his usual tactical style and, after his opponent’s ill-advised queen trade, winning in the manner of – Capablanca.

The following year, he did better in the City of London Championship, this time qualifying for the finals by winning this game against a young Dutch master who had crossed the Channel hoping to make money by beating rich Englishmen.

By now it was 1914 and storm clouds were gathering over Europe. The London League kept going for one more season. Wainwright was representing the Lud Eagle club and won this game featuring a rather unusual sacrificial kingside attack in a match against West London. His opponent, William Henry Regan, was a stamp and coin dealer.

The City of London Championship managed to keep going for the duration, albeit with far fewer entries, giving George Edward Wainwright the opportunity to continue playing his favourite game.

He didn’t play in 1914-15 or 1915-16, but returned to the fray in 1916-17. Understandably rusty, he finished in last place behind Edward Guthlac Sergeant. The following year, fulfilling the prophecy from Matthew 20:16 (The last shall be first), later repeated by Bob Dylan (The loser now will be later to win) he shared first place with Philip Walsingham Sergeant (EG’s second cousin) and Edmund MacDonald, winning the play-off and so taking the title for the second time.

He was unsuccessful in defending his title in 1918-19, finishing in midfield behind the Latvian master Theodor Germann as chess started to wake up again following the end of hostilities.

In 1919 the British Chess Federation celebrated with a Victory Tournament in Hastings, where Capablanca won the top section ahead of Kostic. The Ladies’ Championship was included but the title of British Champion itself wasn’t awarded. While in the country, Capa gave a simul at the City of London Club, and, for a third time, lost against Wainwright.

Meanwhile, there were some important changes in Wainwright’s personal life. There was a major reconstruction of local government in 1919: the Local Government Board was abolished, its powers being transferred to the newly created Ministry of Health. It seems likely that at this point Wainwright, a wealthy gentleman whose children had now grown up, decided to retire. At some point in 1920 he and his wife moved to Alice’s home village of Box, Wiltshire. Box is situated in the beautiful Cotswolds, on the A4 between the city of Bath and the market town of Corsham.

The village’s previous claim to chess fame was as the birthplace of Thomas Bowdler (1754-1825), who, when he wasn’t expunging Shakespeare’s rude words, was one of the strongest English players of his day.

The Wainwright family settled in a cottage called Netherby, near the centre of the village, now a Grade 2 listed building. Very charming it looks too.

Source: Google Maps

The Reverend Vere Awdry and his family moved into Lorne House (now a Bed & Breakfast establishment), next to the railway station on the road to Corsham, also in 1920. They’d arrived in the village in 1917, and had lived at two previous addresses there. He and his young son Wilbert used to spend hours watching the steam trains pass by. Many years later, Wilbert, now the Reverend W Awdry, would be inspired by this memory to write the Thomas the Tank Engine books, much loved by generations of young children, including me. George and Vere, as prominent members of the village community, would surely have known each other, and George would have known young Wilbert as well.

By 1920 things were back to normal, and George Edward Wainwright, now retired, was one of those selected for the British Championship in Edinburgh: his first appearance for a decade. His address was given as London and Box in different newspapers, which suggests he’d just moved, or was in the process of moving.

Roland Henry Vaughan Scott was the slightly surprising winner, ahead of the hot favourite Sir George Alan Thomas. Wainwright scored a respectable 4½/11, not bad for a player in his late 50s.

In this game he launched a dangerous kingside attack in typical style, and his opponent wasn’t up to the defensive task. Scottish champion Francis Percival (Percy) Wenman, a former petty thief (of chess books) and later plagiarist, will be well worth a future Minor Piece.

It was now 1921 and time for the census enumerator to pay a visit to the Wainwright residence in Box. George and Alice were there, along with a visitor from Bradford, possibly a family friend, and a general servant.

You’ll find out what happened in the latter stages of his life and chess career next time.

Sources:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

Wikipedia

Google Maps

edochess.ca

chessgames.com

Britbase

Thanks to Gerard Killoran for information about Wainwright’s simul games against Capablanca.

 

 

Minor Pieces 27: George Edward Wainwright Part 2

Apologies for the Minor Pieces delay, but I had a deadline on another project. It’s now time to return to George Edward Wainwright.

American Chess Magazine 1898: taken from a public member tree on ancestry.co.uk

Here he is again. You might recall (it was a long time ago) that, in my previous article, we left him in 1901, an  English international player, previously a member of Twickenham Chess Club, but now living and playing chess in Guildford.

The chess world would change a lot over the next decade, beginning to look a lot more like the world we know today, with a mixture of club and county matches and tournaments. It was, in the spirit of the times, becoming more competitive. George Edward Wainwright was in his element.

At the end of May 1901 he was in Folkestone for the 3rd Kent County Chess Association Tournament, although his result there was rather indifferent. His opponents included Edward Guthlac Sergeant, Joseph Henry Blake and the endgame expert Creassey Edward Cecil Tattersall, the winner of his section. The other section was won by Henry Ernest Atkins, ahead of Lucien Serraillier, father of the novellist Ian Serriallier (The Silver Sword).

His short draw against Tattersall featured an opening that would become the height of fashion a century later. He mishandled it, but on move 15 his opponent missed the win. 119 years later, English IM Jack Rudd reached the same position and made no mistake. (Click on any move in any game in this article and a pop-up window will magically appear.)

In May 1902 Wainwright took part in the 4th Kent tournament, held in Tunbridge Wells: an all-play-all for 10 players won by the Dutch organist Rudolf Loman, ahead of the likes of Reginald Pryce Michell and (later Sir) George Alan Thomas. Perhaps his most interesting opponent here was the mountaineer Edward Douglas Fawcett.

Against Isle of Wight solicitor Francis Joyce he essayed the relatively new and unexplored Albin Counter-Gambit.

His score of 5½/9 gave him a share of 3rd prize, but he was slightly less successful in the Southern Counties Chess Union Tournament in Norwich, where 4½/11 left him well behind Michell, impressive with 10½/11.

We can see the chess administration we know now coming into shape in this period: county organisations affiliated to regional organisations, who were in turn affiliated to the British Chess Federation. It hasn’t changed very much in the last 120 years: some of us have been saying for years that we need a 21st century rather than a 19th century chess administration in this country.

The 1903 SCCU tournament necessitated a trip to Plymouth (the SCCU covered a much wider area than it does today) where he scored a big success. His score of 7/8 gave him first place ahead of George Edward Horton Bellingham, Wilfred Charles Palmer and Michell.

In October 1903 Wainwright resigned his post as President of Guildford Chess Club, as he had left the area. As we’ll see, he moved to Surbiton, just the other side of Kingston from his previous address in Teddington. Perhaps his job had taken him back from Guildford to Kingston, or perhaps he wanted to be nearer London for both work and chess purposes. Surbiton Station, on the main line into Waterloo, provided – and still provides – regular fast services into the capital. It looks very different now than it would have done in Wainwright’s time: the magnificent Art Deco building dates from 1937 and is considered one of the masterpieces of Scottish railway architect James Robb Scott.

He was soon in action against his former club, who were then, and, to the best of my knowledge, are still on friendly terms. Nearly 120 years later, they’re regular opponents in the Surrey Trophy.

West Surrey Times 21 November 1903

Wainwright drew on top board against William Timbrell Pierce, a problemist and endgame study composer who also gives his name to a variation of the Vienna Gambit. Surbiton came out on top, even though retired architect Henry Jones Lanchester failed to turn up. He certainly wouldn’t have been looking after his baby granddaughter Elsa, who would later become a famous film star – and the wife of Charles Laughton: Henry disowned his daughter Edith (Elsa’s mother) and sent her to a lunatic asylum because of her relationship with a working class Irishman named Shamus.

One of the most important events in London chess for many years up to World War 2 was the City of London Championship, which regularly attracted many of the capital’s finest players. Games took place on weekday evenings, so, now living in Surbiton, he’d be able to get home quickly and easily. He took part for the first time in the 1903-04 season, finishing in midfield behind the largely forgotten William Ward, with Michell in second place.

1904 was a momentous year for British Chess: the first British Championship took place. It’s still, to this day, more or less recognisable. The venue chosen was Hastings: perhaps Wainwright was disappointed not to have been one of the 12 players selected for the championship itself, won by the Anglo-American master William Ewart Napier after a play-off with Atkins. There were three equal First Class sections, and he found himself in Section B, where he shared first place with Charles Hugh Sherrard. Other sections included the British Ladies Championship and sections for Second and Third Class players.

At Southport in 1905 he was promoted to the Championship itself where he scored a very respectable 6/11, finishing in 6th place.

Here’s his exciting victory over the tragic and short-lived Hector Shoosmith, the son of a Temperance Lecturer from Brighton.

In 1906 the British Championship took place in Shrewsbury. Atkins and Michell took the first two places, with Wainwright’s 7/11 giving him a share of third place with Francis Lee, Palmer and Shoosmith. The BCM remarked: The play of … Palmer, Shoosmith, and Wainwright has been specially marked by light and shade. Each lost games through blunders and weak moves, but they have all shared in providing some of the brightest and most interesting chess of the tournament. A comment which could, I suppose, sum up Wainwright’s chess career. His oldest son, George Jnr, took part in one of the Third Class sections but without distinction.

His game against the veteran Blackburne, by now a shadow of his former self, was marked by a finish which would have been worthy of his opponent.

As Autumn arrived it was time for the City of London Club Championship, and it was this tournament that provided George Edward Wainwright with perhaps his greatest success. He ran out a clear winner with 14/17, 2½ points ahead of the runner-up, Shoosmith, with many of London’s leading amateurs trailing in his wake. As well as holding the Gastineau Cup for a year, he received the princely sum of £10 and the championship medal.

Weekly Journal (Hartlepool) 05 April 1907

The news even reached the chess players of Hartlepool, who were informed that he holds a very important official position, and that, according to a leading Chess Master, he is a sporting Chess player of the best type.

George Edward Wainwright had now, in his mid forties, reached the climax of his chess career. Rod Edwards, in his 1907 rating list, gives him a rating of 2407, placing him 71st in the world. Although 100 points or more behind Atkins and Burn, he was one of the strongest of a group of talented English amateurs rated between about 2300 and 2400, all of whom are of interest for both their lives and their games.

Wainwright didn’t have far to travel for the 1907 British Championship in London, where his 6½/11 was enough for a tie for second place with Blackburne, Michell and EG Sergeant behind Atkins. Another outstanding result: press reports remarked on his vivacious and enterprising style.

Here’s how he dispatched Blake.

In the 1907-08 City of London Championship he couldn’t quite repeat his success of the previous year, finishing a close third behind Thomas Francis Lawrence (you’ll certainly meet him in a future Minor Piece) and William Ward. He didn’t play in the 1908 British Championship, but continued to compete regularly in club and county matches for both Surrey (qualified by residence) and Yorkshire (qualified by birth). He had also returned to playing in the Anglo-American cable matches.

He didn’t play at the British Championships at Tunbridge Wells in 1908, but he was back again at Scarborough the following year, finishing in midfield

He will be somewhere in this rather splendid group photograph.

In this game he again demonstrated his attacking skills, sacrificing a knight to defeat Liverpool’s Harry Holmes, an aural and ophthalmic surgeon.

He had previously finished 3rd in the 1908-09 City of London Chess Club Championship, and, coincidentally, the 1909-10 event saw the same three players taking the first three places: Ward, Blake and Wainwright.

This game, against the problemist Percy Healey, was described by Frederick Winter Markwick, in the Essex Times, as one of the prettiest games I have had the pleasure of watching.

In March 1910 he represented the City of London Chess Club against a visiting team from the Dutch Chess Federation, drawing his game on board 3 against Abraham Speijer, The Dutch team fielded the brothers Arnold and Dirk van Foreest on boards 1 and 7. Arnold is the great great grandfather of GMs Jorden and Lucas van Foreest and their sister Machteld.

The 1910 British Championships took place in Oxford, where he again performed well, sharing 4th place on 6½/11, and beating both Blackburne and the up and coming Fred Dewhirst Yates, who tied for second place behind Atkins.

Here’s how Wainwright beat his fellow Yorkshireman.  I guess they were half way towards a comedy sketch!

Wainwright wasn’t quite so successful in the 1910-11 edition of the City of London Club Championship, but, now approaching his half century, a slight decline was only to be expected.

Meanwhile, on 2 April 1911 it was time for the census enumerator to call. Let’s see who was at home.

There he was, at 1 St Andrew’s Square, Surbiton, very convenient for the station and trains to London. Very nice it looks, too. George Edward Wainwright and his family seemed to be doing very well for themselves.

Photo: Google Maps

He’s described, rather modestly, as a Principal Clerk working for the Local Government Board. His wife is also at home, as are their two middle children. Philip is a business pupil for a photographic requisites supply company, while Constance has no occupation listed. They also have a visitor, 19-year-old Julie Ross from Glasgow, as well as a cook and a housemaid.

George Jnr was following in his father’s footsteps in more ways than one. He had moved to his father’s home town of Ilkley, where he was also working for the Local Government Board, as a district auditor. 16-year-old David, though, had chosen a different career path: he was a naval cadet undergoing officer training in Dartmouth.

Here, having followed George Edward Wainwright through his forties, the busiest decade of his chess career, is a good place to pause.

Come back soon for the third and final episode of the chess career of the man who, although not a member for long, was by far the strongest player in the first Twickenham Chess Club. Our friends at Surbiton can also claim him as one of their finest players.

 

Ackowledgements:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

EDOChess – GE Wainwright

Yorkshire Chess History: GE Wainwright

Britbase

Game analysis generated by ChessBase using Stockfish 14.

 

 

The Life and Games of Vasily Smyslov Volume I: The Early Years 1921-1948

The Life and Games of Vasily Smyslov Volume I: The Early Years 1921-1948, Andrey Terekhov, Russell Enterprises, 1 Dec. 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1949859249
The Life and Games of Vasily Smyslov Volume I: The Early Years 1921-1948, Andrey Terekhov, Russell Enterprises, 1 Dec. 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1949859249

From the publishers blurb:

“Vasily Smyslov, the seventh world champion, had a long and illustrious chess career. He played close to 3,000 tournament games over seven decades, from the time of Lasker and Capablanca to the days of Anand and Carlsen. From 1948 to 1958, Smyslov participated in four world championships, becoming world champion in 1957.

Smyslov continued playing at the highest level for many years and made a stunning comeback in the early 1980s, making it to the finals of the candidates’ cycle. Only the indomitable energy of 20-year-old Garry Kasparov stopped Smyslov from qualifying for another world championship match at the ripe old age of 63!

In this first volume of a multi-volume set, Russian FIDE master Andrey Terekhov traces the development of young Vasily from his formative years and becoming the youngest grandmaster in the Soviet Union to finishing second in the world championship match tournament. With access to rare Soviet-era archival material and invaluable family archives, the author complements his account of Smyslov’s growth into an elite player with dozens of fascinating photographs, many never seen before, as well as 49 deeply annotated games. German grandmaster Karsten Müller’s special look at Smyslov’s endgames rounds out this fascinating first volume.”

 

I’ve always considered  Vasily Smyslov (1921-2010) one of the more underrated world champions. I enjoy the combination of logic and harmony in his games along with his endgame expertise, so I was looking forward to reading this book.

Terekhov suggests in his introduction that Smyslov is arguably the least known of all world chess champions.

Perhaps the primary reason for Smyslov’s relative obscurity was his character. Smyslov was a reserved and deeply private man who did not strive for the spotlight.

And again…

Another factor was Smyslov’s playing style, which was classical and logical, but not necessarily flashy. To make a comparison, both Smyslov and Tal were world champions for only one year, but Tal won millions of fans for his dashing style and remains an iconic figure to this day, whereas Smyslov’s popularity largely waned after the period when he held the championship.

Up to now there have been few books, apart from those written by Smyslov himself, about his games, and they have limitations, partly because they were written in the pre-computer age and partly because they lacked biographical detail.

A few years ago, I decided to write a book that would fill in these blanks. Initially, it was conceived as a traditional best games collection, interspersed with a few biographical details. However, it quickly became apparent that Smyslov’s long chess career cannot be covered in a single volume. I amassed an extensive library of books, tournament bulletins and magazines which cover Smyslov’s chess career from the 1930s onwards. I also kept unearthing new material, including Smyslov’s manuscripts and letters.

What we have here, then, is the first volume of a hugely ambitious project, a combination of biography and best games collection, taking Smyslov’s career from his first competitive games in 1935 through to the 1948 World Championship Match-Tournament. A second volume will take the story up to 1957, when he became world champion, and further volumes will cover the remainder of his career, up to his last tournament games in the 21st century and the endgame studies he composed towards the end of his life.

What you don’t get is Smyslov’s complete games: you’ll need to look elsewhere if you want them.

The book comprises ten chapters, each covering a different part of Smyslov’s career. Each chapter in turn is divided into biography and games.

There are 49 complete games in this volume, all annotated in considerable depth. Terekhov has used an impressive range of sources: Smyslov’s own annotations, Soviet chess magazines and other contemporary sources, later commentators such as Kasparov, and skilfully combined these with computer analysis using today’s most powerful engines. Many annotators make the mistake of going overboard with reams of computer-generated variations, but Terekhov avoids this pitfall. While not everyone wants this sort of detail, the annotations in this book are some of the best I’ve read. A nice touch is that you also get brief biographical notes on his opponents.

The scope of the biographical sections, too, is impressive. There’s a lot of fascinating material from Soviet sources with which most readers will be unfamiliar. You’ll learn a lot from this, not just about Smyslov’s life, but also, in general, about how chess in the Soviet Union was promoted and organised in the 1930s and 1940s. You’ll expect full reports of the tournaments Smyslov played in, along with cross-tables. They’re all there, along with much more chess: many snapshots from games, some endgame  studies, all illustrated with a profusion of photographs, many of which will be new to most readers. There’s plenty there to keep every chess lover happy.

Let’s look at a couple of the snapshots.

Here’s a remarkable position from the game Panov – Smyslov 12th USSR Championship 1940 demonstrating his defensive skills.

Smyslov continued with the extraordinary 19… Nc6!!?.

This desperate move evokes the memories of Spassky’s famous Nb8-c6 in a strategically lost position against Averbakh (Leningrad 1956), but Smyslov came up with the idea 16 years earlier!

20. dxc6 bxc6 21. Ba4 Rcb8 22. Qxa3

At first glance, White is completely winning, as he is a bishop up and Black does not even have a single pawn to show for it. However, even the engine agrees that Black has some initiative in exchange for the piece, although far from full compensation. 

Smyslov eventually won this game after Panov blundered on move 41. If you buy the book you’ll see for yourself what happened.

In the 1941 USSR Absolute Championship, Smyslov found himself a pawn down in a minor piece ending against Lilienthal.

At some point, Smyslov took a brilliant, although practically risky decision to sacrifice both of his pieces for the remaining Black pawns. The game transposed to the following rare endgame, which was studied in great detail by the Russian composer Alexey Troitsky:

This position was evaluated by Troitsky as a draw and modern tablebases confirm this assessment. However, defending this position in practice is no fun, as a single bad move can lead to a forced mate. Smyslov managed to hold it and the game was agreed drawn on the 125th(!) move.

But there’s much more than chess in the biographical sections. The game was so popular in the Soviet Union that Smyslov received fanmail from young female admirers, some of which have survived. Here’s Klara, writing to her hero in 1941. Can you send me a photo of yourself, even if a tiny little one, but with your signature? If you cannot give it to me, please send it to me so I could take a look – I will return it. If you only knew how I want to see you, hear you talk – but alas – these are just dreams which cannot come to life for at least another year…

Most poignantly, we have a letter Smyslov wrote to the mother of his friend Bazya Dzagurov in 1942, asking for news of her son, who had been serving in the war. How are you doing? Do you have anyone left by your side? Is there any information about Bazya? I heard that you have not received letters from him for a long time, but I don’t know anything for certain. Please write to me about your life and let me know something about your son and my friend. Tragically, Dzaghurov had lost his life several months earlier.

Right at the end of the book there are a few bonuses. Chapter 11 introduces us to Smyslov’s wife Nadezhda Andreevna, Appendix A  covers the Smyslov System in the Grünfeld Defence, and Appendix B, contributed by GM Karsten Müller, tells us more about Smyslov’s Endgames.

Here are a couple of short game which you’ll find annotated in the book. Click on any move for a pop-up board.

Although Smyslov’s fame rests mainly on his positional and endgame skills, he could still play aggressively when the opportunity arose, and some of his earlier games featured here are quite complex.

In this game (Moscow Championship 1939) he scored a quick attacking victory against the now centenarian Averbakh.

Here’s a highly thematic game from the 1945 USSR Championship.

I’ve said before that we’re living in a golden age of chess literature. There are several reasons for this, two of which are relevant to this book. Firstly, we have much greater access to archive material than ever before, and, secondly, powerful modern engines ensure accurate analysis. This is an outstanding and important work which should be on the shelves of anyone with any interest at all in chess history. Excellent writing, painstaking research and exemplary annotations, along with first class production values (barring the inevitable one or two typos and errors): the book is an attractive and sturdy hardback which will look good in any library.

Congratulations are due to Andrey Terekhov, and also to Russell Enterprises. Very highly recommended. I can’t wait to read the next volume in the series.

Richard James, Twickenham 3rd March 2022

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 536 pages
  • Publisher: Russell Enterprises (1 December 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:194985924X
  • ISBN-13:978-1949859249
  • Product Dimensions: 15.24 x 2.54 x 22.86 cm

Official web site of Russell Enterprises

The Life and Games of Vasily Smyslov Volume I: The Early Years 1921-1948, Andrey Terekhov, Russell Enterprises, 1 Dec. 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1949859249
The Life and Games of Vasily Smyslov Volume I: The Early Years 1921-1948, Andrey Terekhov, Russell Enterprises, 1 Dec. 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1949859249