BCN remembers Nancy Elder MBE who passed away on Wednesday, March 4th 1981, i.e. forty years ago in Perth, Western Australia.
Nancy Conchar Gordon was born on Tuesday, May 25th 1915. On the same date was born Robin Day in High Wycombe who went on to design the polypropylene stacking chair.
Nancy was born in Kirmabreck, Kirkcudbrightshire in the Dumfries and Galloway council area of Scotland.
In the 1939 register Nancy was living at 18 Thornton Avenue, Urmston, Manchester, M41 5DJ with a married couple, William Furnish (a railway time keeper) and Gertrude Furnish who performed unpaid domestic duties. Presumably Nancy was their lodger.
Her occupation was given as a teacher of music and physical training. At this time she was single at the age of twenty-four.
In the mid-1940s Nancy relocated from Manchester to Dundee where she continued her teaching career at Dundee High School. During that time she encouraged and coached a number of players some of whom represented Scotland.
In 1950 in Tealing, Angus, Scotland Nancy married David Livie Elder. They had a daughter Christine who played chess as a junior. Tealing has a strong connection with the Elder family.
According to Alan McGowan (Chess Scotland): “She was the main instigator in forming both the Schools’ and Primary League in Dundee, and she assisted in the organisation of the Dundee 1967 International Centenary Tournament.”
When she passed away Nancy was living at 39 Whitefauld Road, Dundee, DD2 1RJ :
Her passing was reported in the Dundee Courier and Advertiser on March 6th 1981 as follows :
Nancy Elder dies after heart attack on flight
Mrs Nancy Elder 39 Whitefauld Road, Dundee, a former music teacher at Dundee High School and one of Scotland’s best known chess players, has died after taking ill on a flight to Australia.
She was off for a long holiday which she planned to spend with relatives and friends from the world of international chess, but, after suffering a heart attack on a plane from Singapore, had been in intensive care in Perth, Western Australia.
Her daughter Christine, a primary school teacher in Tighnabruaich, received daily telephone reports on her mother’s condition from a cousin and, at the weekend, heard that she was improving gradually.
The shock news of her mother’s death came late on Wednesday night.
Mrs. Elder, who went into semi-retirement recently, has been to the fore in chess for about 35 years at local, national and international levels.
She has represented her country five times, having taken part in the chess Olympiad in Yugoslavia in 1963 and 1973, in Israel in 1976, in Buenos Aires in 1978 and in Malta last year.
She turned down the chance to take part on three other occasions.
She was awarded the MBE for her services to chess in 1974.
She was President of Dundee Chess Club, chairman of the congress committee of the Scottish Chess Association and on the council of the Scottish Junior Chess Association.
She started playing chess during her school days with her brother and the two of them were more-or-less self taught.
It wasn’t until after the Second World War that she received any sort of coaching, by which time she had established her own style.
She retired on April 14th last year after 24 years in the music department of Dundee High School, where she specialised in teaching the oboe.
She continued to teach privately.
From British Chess Magazine, Volume CI (101, 1981), Number 6 (June), pp. 219-220 we have this obituary from Bernard Cafferty :
“Nancy C. Elder, MBE, died in Perth, Western Australia on March 4th 1981. Mrs. Elder had recently retired after a lifetime of teaching, her last post being in Dundee. I well remember her account of teaching under difficult conditions in World War 2 in Manchester. 15 Scottish Women’s Champion (the record for the event which she set-up at Troon in 1980).
Mrs Elder was a regular competitor in the British Women’s Championship (sometimes in rivalry with her daughter Christine) and showed her playing strength with a score of 5.5/12 on board two for Scotland at the Women’s Chess Olympiad, Malta, 1980.
I am sure she will be best remembered though for her decades of effort in the organising of chess in Scotland, particularly for juniors and in schools, in recognition of which she was awarded the MBE, the only such honour ever given for services to chess ‘north of the border’ as Alan Borwell puts it in his Newsflash obituary.”
Chess Scotland award the Nancy Elder Cup annually for an individual competition for “club level” players.
We are grateful to Helen Milligan who told BCN :
My most memorable incident was when I refused to play in the Scottish Ladies at the annual Congress, preferring to try to improve my chess by playing in the Open section (really the B-Grade, below the Championship proper). I got given a piece of Nancy’s mind for that – she did not approve!
We remember IM Bob Wade OBE who was born 100 years ago today on Sunday, April 10th 1921
In 1979 Queen’s Birthday Honours List, Civil Division Bob Wade was awarded the OBE. The citation read simply : “For services to Chess”
He won the BCF Presidents’ Award in 1986.
In the Foreword to the 2009 ECF Yearbook, President Gerry Walsh wrote :
“As I started this report I had just heard the sad news that IM Bob Wade had died aged 87. I first met Bob at one of the Whitby Congresses and in 1972 he played in the Teeside GM Tournament where I recall he beat the three Hungarian players Portisch, Bilek and Sax (ed : aged 51).”
“I received the sad news that Bob Wade passed away at the age of eighty seven. He played his last tournament in London in August. When I was young I read about his exploits as a chess player, and he was the arbiter in many important chess events. I met him in 1993 when I was the organizer of the first part of the match Karpov – Timman, played in The Netherlands in three different cities: Zwolle, Arnhem, and Amsterdam. He was the only member of the Appeals Committee and Bob was always present watching the games in the playing hall. He gave me invaluable advice about all elements of the match venues. It was very clear that he was an experienced chess player and arbiter, and I learned many things from him. May he rest in peace.”
Wade was Southern Counties (SCCU) champion for the 1956-57, 1957-58 and 1964-65 seasons.
From the Preface of The World Chess Championship : 1951 by Lionel Sharples Penrose we have :
“Mr. Wade is also passionately devoted to the game. Before coming to Europe, he was three times champion of New Zealand. He had played in tournaments in England but his chief successes have been on the Continent. At Venice in 1950, he obtained a high place in a very severe contest in which some of the strongest Russia, Czech, Dutch, French, Italian, North and South American players took part. Much of his time is occupied in chess organising and teaching. He is an acting vice-president of the F.I.D.É and in this official capacity he attended the match in Moscow, which is the subject of this book.”
“On May 20th, 1919, Thomas Graham Wade, aged 27, Sergeant in the NZ Expeditionary Force, repatriated with honour from war-time service in Egypt, Gallipoli and France, married Amy Lilian Neave, aged 21, in South Dunedin. A New Zealander of Scots and English descent, his family was Graham from Montrose. The family name, Wade, came from Marshall George Wade, the soldier and engineer who led the Hanoverian forces against the Scots at the time of the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion and was immortalised in the original third verse of the British national anthem:
Lord, grant that Marshal Wade, May by thy mighty aid, Victory bring.
May he sedition hush and like a torrent rush, Rebellious Scots to crush, God save the King.
Robert Graham Wade, known in the Scots manner to his family as Robin, and later to his many friends as Bob, was their first child, born April 10th, 1921, at Dunedin. Over the next few years he was joined by sisters, Lilian, Agnes, Betty, June, his brother Ted and finally by his youngest sister Amy. The family lived for a number of years at Portobello.
At that time, Portobello was a scattered community of about 150 people with three shops and a pub on the Otago Peninsula. Bob attended Portobello Primary School, a small country school, finished “dux” or top of class, and then attended the King Edward Technical High School at Stuart Street in Dunedin.”
In The Oxford Companion to Chess (OUP, 1984 & 1996), Hooper & Whyld:
“Wade Variation, 147, also known as the Modern Variation, in the Queen’s Gambit Declined, Meran Variation, from Bogoljubow-Wade, Oldenburg, 1949;
1239 in the French Defence, introduced by Wade in a match against Schmid in 1950.
Hooper & Whyld go on to write :
“New Zealand-born Robert Graham Wade (1921- ) won the championship of his homeland three times before moving to England as a young man, He won the British Championship twice and trained many English players.”
Aside from the two variations mentioned by Hooper & Whyld there are other Wade Variations :
which is the Pytel-Wade Variation of the Scandinavian Defence.
Anne Sunnucks wrote in The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Robert Hale, 1970 & 1976) :
“International Master (1950 Ed: actually 1954), International Judge (1958), New Zealand Champion three times and British Champion in 1952 and 1970.
Bob Wade was born in New Zealand on 10th April 1921 and is a professional chess player. He has lived in England for many years and has played regularly for the British Chess Federation team in Chess Olympiads. He has played a prominent part in coaching schemes for juniors and is largely responsible for recent successes of English juniors in international events.
He is chess correspondent of Associated Newspapers and Independent Television News and editor of a series of books on Contemporary Chess Openings published by Batsford.
Author of a number of books on the game, his publications include books on the World Championship of 1951, 1957 (ed : this book was, in fact, by Golombek) and 1963, the first in collaboration with W. Winter; The Closed Ruy Lopez (Batsford, 1970) in collaboration with LS Blackstock and PJ Booth: World Chess Championship (Batsford, 1972) in collaboration with Svetozar Gligoric; Games of RJ Fischer (Batsford, 1972) in collaboration with KJ O’Connell and Soviet Chess (Neville Spearman, 1968).
Wade was a member of the FIDE Laws Commission from 1950 to 1952.”
“International Master who was born at Dunedin, New Zealand, but came to live In England in 1946 and has represented both countries on different occasions. He has nearly always done well in British Championships and won the title in Chester in 1952 and again at Coventry in 1970. He had played for the British Chess Federation at the Olympiads of 1954, 1956, 1958, 1960 and 1962, winning the shortest game of the Varna Olympiad in that year in nine moves against Anton Kinzel of Austria
He played for the New Zealand team at the 1970 Olympiad at Siegen but returned to the BCF team at Skopje in 1972.
His best individual international results were a fifth place at Venice 1950 and again fifth at the Masters section of the Capablanca Memorial at Cienfuegos in Cuba in 1975. Possessor of a sharp clear-cut style of play, he once drew a match with the West German grandmaster Lothar Schmid with neither side drawing a game, though this was before Schmid received the grandmaster title.
He has done much valuable work in England teaching the young, and was responsible for the text of a highly successful television series in 1975.
His main books are : Soviet Chess, London, 1967; Botvinnik-Bronstein Match 1951 (in co-operation with W. Winter), London, Toronto 1951; Match Petrosian-Botvinnik, London, 1963; Sousse 1967, The Chess Player, Nottingham, 1968.”
From British Chess (Pergamon Press, 1983) we have this article from George Botterill :
“In the Birthday Honours list of 1979 Bob Wade was awarded the OBE for his services to chess. Few rewards can have been more thoroughly earned. For some reason, Bob has always been held in greater esteem abroad than in the country for which he has done so much. But the many players who have turned to him for advice or who have simply enjoyed his hospitality, which is always ungrudgingly available to fellow chess players, know the measure of his dedication to the game.
Wade was born in Dunedin, a third generation New Zealander of Scots and English ancestry. He started a a career as a civil servant in the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. Having won the New Zealand Championship in 1944 and 1945 he was sent over to participate in the British Championship of 1946. The result was not exactly a success – a mere 3.5 points out of 11. But Bob was not to be disheartened so easily. Feeling he was capable of better things, he took leave of absence in 1947 and did the circuit, such as it then was, of chess tournament in Europe and North America.
When he returned to New Zealand he found that he had been transferred to another department in a civil service reorganisation. The new job was not so congenial. He stuck it out for 6 months – during which time he won the New Zealand Championship for a third time – and then handed in his resignation to take up the precarious life of a chess professional.
Settling in Britain he soon gained the IM title (ed : 1954). But even in those days when still a young man Wade did not concentrate exclusively on his own playing career. In 1949 he went to the FIDE congress and was one of the five people – the others were BH Wood, Ragozin, Zubarev and Rogarde – who collaborated on the writing of the official rules for the game.
He also served as a member of the commission that determined who the original holders of international titles would be. When you consider that Wade was also on the 1950 commission that decided the composition of the World Championship Interzonals, it becomes apparent that this man played a significant part in the shaping the structure of modern international chess.
Although rarely at the top in international tournaments, Wade was always a very dangerous player, capable on his day of beating anybody in the world. He won the British Championship twice at Chester in 1952 and at Coventry in 1970.
In recent years Wade has put his main energies into junior training and organisation and also into his work as the editor of Batsford’s highly productive and extremely successful series of chess books.
It is hard to say in what department one should place Wade’s greatest contributions to British Chess. Living through what is retrospect look to have been the Dark Ages of British chess – the 1950s and 1960s – he has demonstrated that even in a social and cultural environment that made playing chess economically ‘impossible’ profession to follow it was still possible to dedicate a life to chess, if one had the determination.
During those years he was really the only British Player who regularly active in international tournaments. Since then he has been constantly active as an author, editor and adviser, always working to transform Britain into a country more congenial to good chess.
But we suspect that he might regard this role as trainer and coach as the most important thing of all. He is, quite appropriately the British Chess Federation’s Chief National Coach.
If one had to choose a single best game from Wade’s whole tournament career, it would probably be this one.
In the January 2009 issue of British Chess MagazineJohn Saunders wrote a ten page obituary as follows :
John Saunders interviewed Bob at his Blackheath home and wrote this extensive article for the 1999 British Chess Magazine.
His detailed results in Olympiads, from olimpbase.org, follow.
Amsterdam 1954, England board 4, 6/12 (+4−4=4);
Moscow 1956, England board 3, 6½/14 (+2−3=9);
Munich 1958, England 1st reserve, 7/14 (+5−5=4);
Leipzig 1960, England 2nd reserve, 6/11 (+4−3=4);
Varna 1962, England 2nd reserve, 6/12 (+4−4=4);
Siegen 1970, New Zealand board 2, 9/15 (+7−4=4);
Skopje 1972, England board 3, 7½/14 (+4−3=7).
Wade won several middle-strength Master events in the British Isles: Ilford 1957 and 1968, Paignton 1959, Dublin 1962, and Southend-on-Sea 1965.
Wade was generally no more than a middle-ranking player in strong international tournaments. His other highlights against high-standard international-level competition include:
tied 4–5th at Haifa/Tel Aviv 1958 on 7½/13 (winner Samuel Reshevsky);
3rd at Bognor Regis 1959 on 7/10 (winner Erno Gereben);
5th at Reykjavík 1964 on 7½/13 (winner Mikhail Tal);
tied 4–5th at Málaga 1966 on 7/11; (winners Alberic O’Kelly de Galway and Eleazar Jiménez);
6th at Briseck 1971 on 7/13 (winner Gideon Barcza);
5th at Cienfuegos ‘B’ 1975 on 10/17; (winners Julio Boudy and Amador Rodriguez);
tied 7–12th in the World Senior Championship, Bad Woerishofen 1992, on 7½/11 (winner Efim Geller).
Wade was the only British player to have faced Bobby Fischer in tournament play (outside of Olympiads). They met three times, with Wade drawing one game and losing the other two.
Towards the end of his life Bob lived at 3, Hardy Road, Greenwich, London, SE3 7NS
We remember Edward Sergeant OBE (3-xii-1881 16-xi-1961)
Edward Guthlac Sergeant was born on Saturday, December 3rd 1881 : in the same year British Chess Magazine was founded by John Watkinson.
He was born in Crowland, South Holland, Lincolnshire. The registration district was Peterborough and the inferred county was Northamptonshire. His father was William R Sergeant (aged 27) and his mother was Frances E Sergeant (aged 25). He had a sister, Hilda who was one year older. William was a registered general medical practitioner.
He was named Guthlac after a monk who “came to what was then an island in the Fens to live the life of a hermit.”
According to the 1891 census EGS was aged 9 and living with his father, mother, sister and their domestic servant Margaret A George who was their general domestic servant who hailed from Scotland. They lived at 2, Gladstone Terrace, Gateshead, NE8 4DY. This was in the Ecclesiastical parish of Christchurch.
In the 1911 census aged 29 as nephew to the head of the household (5 St Peters Terrace, Cambridge) EGS is listed as a solicitor who is single. The size of the household in 1911 was relatively modest at 12. He was living with George Edward Wherry (59, surgeon university professor) and his wife Albinia Lucy Wherry (53). Albinia Lucy Wherry was a nurse and also writer. During WWI she was stationed in Paris at the Gare du Nord where she supported British forces from 1915-18. the sub-registration district was St Andrew the Great.
According to Edward Winter in Where did they live? in April 1916 EGS was living at 39 Chichele Road, Cricklewood, London NW2 3AN, England. EGWs source for this is : Chess Amateur, April 1916, page 202.
1918 was an important year for Edward when he married Dorothy Frances Carter (born 1887) in Gravesend. In the same year Dorothy and Edward had a son Richard who passed away in 2014
Two years later Dorothy and Edward had a son Lewis Carter Sergeant born on January 30th 1920. The birth was registered in Paddington. Lewis lived at 3 Woodhill Court, 175 Woodhill, London, SE18 5HSL and passed away in 2004 the death being registered in Greenwich.
On the 1920 Electoral Roll, EGS was now living with Dorothy Frances Sergeant at St. Stephen’s Mansions, 5, Monmouth Road, Edmonton.
In 1923 they upped sticks and moved to 27. King Edward’s Grove, Teddington.
Sadly Dorothy passed away in 1926 at the modest age of 39.
According to the 1939 census EGS was listed as a widowed, civil servant living at 24, Gloucester Road, Kingston Upon Thames, KT2 7DX. This would be the address that Edward saw out the rest of his life.
He shared this address with Edith Carter (born 4th May 1878) who is described as being of “Private Means” and Ada M Wenman (6th August 1881) who is described as being a “domestic”.
In 1949 he was awarded the OBE in the Birthday Honours in recognition of his 39 years’ service in the office of the Solicitor to the Board of Inland Revenue.
According to John Saunders : EGS died in the New Victoria Hospital, New Malden, Surrey, on 16 November 1961. His residence at death had been 24 Gloucester Road, Kingston Hill. Probate (26 Jan 1962) granted to Lewis Carter Sergeant, a Lieutenant-Colonel in HM Army. Effects £6,586.
A British master who had a long and solidly distinguished career in British chess but never quite succeeded in breaking through the barrier to international success. A civil servant by profession, he was awarded the OBE for his services in the Inland Revenue and Sergeant on Stamp Duties was regarded as an authoritative work.
Sergeant’s earliest performance in the British Championship, at the Crystal Palace in London 1907, was one of his best. He came =2nd with JH Blackburne. RP Mitchell and GE Wainwright with 6.5 points, a point below the winner of the title, HE Atkins.
He was 3rd at Edinburgh in 1920 and his best result in the competition came in Brighton 1938, where he came equal second with H. Golombek, a 1/2 point below the winner, CHO’D Alexander.
A stalwart supporter of the City of London Chess Club, he won its championship in two successive years, 1916 and 1917. He played for Britain against the USA in the 1908 and 1909 cable matches and also played on a high board for London against various American cities in the Insull Trophy matches in the years 1926-31.
As a player he was strongly influenced by the scientific principles of Siegbert Tarrasch and did well during the period when the Tarrasch school enjoyed its heyday. But he was at a loss when confronted with more modern methods.”
Both Sunnucks and Hooper & Whyld are silent on EGS : surprising!
We asked Leonard Barden of his memories of EGS and he was kind enough to reply :
“People have different ways of expressing satisfaction with their position. Botvinnik adjusted his tie, Kasparov put his watch back on, Sergeant rubbed his hands together….He liked to counter the Queen’s Gambit Declined in the classical way with a kind of Lasker Defence.”
From British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXII, March, 1962, Number 3, pages 76 -80 we reproduce an obituary from Bruce Hayden entitled “E.G. Sergeant – An Appreciation” as follows :
(note the incorrect birth location presumably based on the 1891 census information)
Leonard Barden has asked us to point out :
“The 1948 game against Wallis was not in the British championship but in the Premier, a one-off 12-player selected group used to address the problem of too many good players for an all-play-all championship.In 1949 the two all-play-alls were replaced by a 32-player Swiss.
BCN remembers Gerald Frank Anderson MBE, DFC (24-ii-1898 23-viii-1984)
From British Chess (Pergamon, 1983) by Botterill, Levy, Rice and Richardson we have an article written by John Rice :
“Gerald Frank Anderson was born in South Africa on 23 February 1898, and has published nearly 500 problems of many different types. From the start he was a versatile composer, and Weenink’s The Chess Problem (see introduction) contains two three-movers of his illustrating anticipatory half-pin (see Diagram I) a reflex-mate in two dating from 1920 and a selfmate in four from 5 years earlier, when the composer was only seventeen.
1st prize , Hampshire Telegraph & Post, 1920
White mates in 3
(All Solutions contained in scan at foot of article.)
It must have been exciting for a budding problemist to grow up in the period between 1913 and 1924 when the Good Companion Chess Problem Club of Philadelphia was publishing its Folders of original work containing outstanding examples of complex strategy such as half-pins and cross-checks. Diagram II, with its intricate battery play, won first prize for Anderson in the Folder of October 1917.
1st prize, Good Companions, October 1917
Diagram III is a justly famous two-mover, with a perfect key and beautiful line-play:
IL Secolo, 1919
White mates in 2
Between 1953 and 1961 Anderson was with the British Embassy in Washington and a close friendship developed with the American composer Vincent Eaton.
In the introduction to his published collection of Eaton’s best problems (Memorial to V. L. Eaton, 1971) Anderson describes his visits to Eaton’s house where they would work for hours on joint compositions (nine of them altogether, eight prize winners)- ‘blockbusters’, as they themselves termed them. Diagram IV is one of these, a highly complex check-prevention scheme.
1st prize, British Chess Magazine, 1953
(with V.L. Eaton)
White mates in 3
A glance through the anthologies shows how successful Anderson has always been with orthodox forms, perhaps especially with three- and four- movers and with selfmates. Diagram V is a characteristic selfmate in two, with a good deal more strategy than many composers achieve in selfmate form:
2nd prize, British Chess Federation Tournament, 1947
Selfmate in 2
Since his retirement Anderson has lived for much of the time in Italy, where the air seems to be conducive to the composition of reflex-mates, for that is the genre with which he has principally been occupied in recent years. Diagram VI is a good illustration of his style; a couple of changed continuations, and subtle play centered on the two diagonals b5-f1 and c6-h1. (A reflex-mate is a selfmate in which both sides are under an obligation to mate on the move if possible). In this problem White has to keep his active line-pieces (Q and B) well out of the way of the potential mating diagonal.
1st prize, The Problemist, 1975
Reflex-mate in 2
In addition to the Eaton anthology mentioned above, Anderson has published Adventures of my Chessmen
and Are There Any?, the latter being a fascinating collection of Kriegspiel problems. He was President of the British Chess Problem Society from 1962 to 1964, and became a FIDE International Judge in 1960 and an International Master in 1975.”
From The Encyclopedia of Chess (Robert Hale, 1970 and 1976) by Anne Sunnucks :
“International Judge of FIDE for Compositions (1960). Born on 23rd February 1898. Won the DFC in 1914-18 war. Foreign Office (Retd.) First problem published in 1912, since when he has composed nearly 500 problems, mostly 3 and 4 movers. but has latterly switched to Fairy chess problems. He is one of the the great reflex and self-mate composers. Edited a section Chess Amateur 1921, Nottinghamshire Weekly Guardian 1937-1938, Anglo-Portuguese News 1945-1946, and Self-Mate Section of The Problemist 1964-1966. Author of Are There Any? a book about Kriegspiel problems and A Memorial Volume of Chess Problems of VL Eaton.”
His MBE was awarded in the 1959 New Year Honours list. The citation reads : “Gerald Frank Anderson, DFC, Second Secretary, Her Majesty’s Embassy, Washington.”
From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977), Harry Golombek OBE we have this by John Rice:
“British problem composer, output about 550 problems., orthodox and fairy. Books : Adventures of My Chessmen; and Are there Any? (1959 – a fascinating collection of Kriegspiel problems); Vincent Eaton Memorial (1971 – an annotated anthology of Eaton’s work). President of British Chess Problem Society, 1962-4. International Judge (1960), international master (1975).”
From chessgames.com :
“G. F. Anderson, in 1946, was working in the British Embassy in Lisbon, and, as a highly skilled chess player (he was also known for composing chess problems as early as 1919), was nominated to deliver the challenge from Botvinnik to Alekhine. He played a game with the World Champion in the Embassy and it became the last recorded game by Alekhine.”
Here is the original article from British Chess (Pergamon, 1983) by Botterill, Levy, Rice and Richardson by John Rice :
BCN sends Best Wishes to CM David Anderton OBE on his 80th birthday (02-viii-1941)
In the 1977 New Years Honours List, Civil Division, David was awarded the OBE. The citation read simply : “For services to Chess”
David William Anderton was born in the district of Walsall, Staffordshire, West Midlands. His mother’s maiden name was Coltart and David continues to reside in Walsall.
David is married to Margaret.
David is an Honorary Life Vice-President of the English (formerly British) Chess Federation.
“David won the ECF President’s Award in 2009 following his stepping down as ECF legal expert. This is the citation from the 2010 ECF Yearbook :
“As this is Gerry Walsh’s last year as President it was considered appropriate that he be allowed to choose someone receive the award. Gerry has worked with David for all his time with BCF and ECF and has selected him due to his tireless and selfless devotion to both the BCF and ECF over many years.
Most of you will know David and will agree that this is a well deserved award. It is fair to state that David’s assistance over the years has been invaluable and that without it many areas of the Federation would have found it difficult, if not impossible to operate.
Since my election David has been a constant friend and confidante. He has invariable given sound advice throughout my term of office. It was John Wickham who rang me and suggested that due to my length of tenure, a special award might be in order.
After years of selfless and generous devotion serving as ECF President, International Director, Captain of the England Team and legal adviser, this seems to be a fitting tribute.
David’s advice both legal and general, has been invaluable in such matters as the John Robinson legacy and the change of name from BCF to ECF Limited, and I certainly hope that this advice will continue.
David is a FIDE Candidate Master.
With the White pieces David exclusively plays 1.d4 aiming for a Queen’s Gambit and main lines.
With Black David plays the Winawer and the Classical French plus the Lenningrad Dutch.
We remember Sir George Alan Thomas who died on July 23rd, 1972
From The Encyclopedia of Chess (BT Batsford, 1977) by Harry Golombek :
“British international master, born in Constantinople (previously Byzantium and currently Istanbul : Ed.) His mother (Lady Edith Margaret Thomas : Ed) was one of the strongest English women players, winner of the first Ladies tournament at Hastings 1895.
(Ed : his father was Sir George Sydney Meade Thomas)
Thomas was an all-round athlete who excelled at tennis, hockey and badminton as well as chess. He captained the English badminton team and was All England Badminton Singles champion from 1920 to 1923.”
Here is an excellent article (albeit stating GT was a Grandmaster and was president of the British Chest Federation!) from the National Badminton Museum.
“Thomas won the British chess championship twice, in 1923 and 1934 and represented England in the Olympiads of 1927 where he tied with Norman Hansen for the best score – 80% on board 3, 1930, 1931, 1935, 1937 and 1939.
In international tournaments his greatest successes were 1st at Spa (ahead of Tartakower) and =1st at Hastings 1934/5 (tied with Euwe and Flohr, ahead of Capablanca and Botvinnik).
He was known for his keen sense of sportsmanship and for his ability to encourage and inspire younger players. He served for many years on the BCF Junior selection committee and was for a time Games Editor of the British Chess Magazine. FIDE awarded him the titles of international master (1950) and International Judge (1952). (article by Ray Keene)”
Thomas with the White pieces was predominantly a Ruy Lopez devotee.
With the Black pieces against 1.e4 he defended the Lopez and the Queen’s Gambit Declined was his favourite versus 1.d4
From The Encyclopedia of Chess (Robert Hale 1972 and 1976) by Anne Sunnucks :
“International Master (1950), International Judge (1952) and British Champion in 1923 and 1934. All England Badminton Singles Champion, All England Badminton Doubles Champion, Wimbledon tennis player and county hockey player.
Sir George Thomas was born in Constantinople on 14th June 1881. His mother, Lady Thomas, won the first ever ladies’ tournament, which was held in conjunction with the Hastings International Chess Tournament of 1895.
He learned the moves at the age of 4, and as a boy met many of the world’s leading players, including Steinitz, Lasker, Tchigorin and Pillsbury, in his mother’s drawing-room.
Apart from serving as a subaltern in the Army during the 1914-1918 war, Sir George has devoted his life to sport. He played tennis at Wimbledon, played hockey for Hampshire, captained the English Badminton team and was All England Badminton Singles Champion from 1920-1923 and doubles champion nine times.
Sir George played chess for England regularly from 1910 to 1939. He played for the British Chess Federation in the Chess Olympiads of 1927,1930, 1931, 1933, 1935, 1937 and 1939, and captained the team which withdrew from the Buenos Aires Olympiad in 1939 on the out-break of war.
His first appearance in the British Championship was in he came 2nd. He also came 2nd in 192l and in 1923 won the first time, thus becoming British Chess Champion and Badminton Champion in the same year.
Sir George’s best performance was at Hastings 1934-1935, when he came =1st. In the last round he needed only a draw against R. P. Michell to come lst, ahead of Euwe, Capablanca, Flohr and Lilienthal, but he lost and had to be content with sharing lst prize with Euwe and Flohr.
During his career he has beaten Capablanca, Botvinnik (in consecutive rounds at Hastings 1934-35), Flohr and and drawn with Nimzowitsch, Rubinstein and Capablanca. He been noted for his sportsmanship and for his interest in and encouragement of young players.
Since his retirement until the last few years, Sir George continued to attend tournaments as a spectator.
He is the author of The Art of Badminton, published in 1923.
He died on 23rd July 1972 in a London nursing home.”
From The Oxford Companion to Chess (OUP, 1984) by Hooper & Whyld :
“English player. International Master (1950), International Arbiter (1952), British champion 1923 and 1934. His mother, who taught him chess, was winner of one of the first women’s tournaments, Hastings 1895, He played in more than 80 tournaments and achieved his best result at Hastings 1934-5 (about category 9), when he scored +6-1—2 to share first prize with Euwe and Flohr ahead of Botvinnik and Capablanca. Thomas played in seven Olympiads from 1927 to 1939, and in the first the highest percentage score was made by him ( + 9=6) and the Dane Holgar Norman-Hansen (1899- ) (+11=2—2). A leading English player for more than 25 years, Thomas fought many battles at the famous City of London club, winning 16 of the annual championships from 1913-14 to 1938-9. In his sixty-ninth year he gave up competitive chess when, after a hard game, ‘the board and men began to swim before my eyes,’ He continued his active interest in junior events and his visits, now as a spectator, to chess events.
A man of few words, imperturbable, of fine manners. Sir George Thomas was respected throughout the chess world for his sportsmanship and impartiality, and his opinion was often sought when disputes arose between players. The inheritor of both a baronetcy and private means, he
devoted his life to games and sports. Besides his chess he was a keen hockey player, a competitor in international lawn tennis (reaching the last eight at Wimbledon on one occasion), and winner of about 90 badminton titles, notably the All-England men’s singles championship which he won four times, from 1920 to 1923.”
Bill Hartston wrote this in “On the Knight Shift”, Chapter 20 of the The Chess Player’s Bedside Book (Batsford, 1975) :
“In the days when chess was perhaps a more noble pastime, one of England’s leading players was the Baronet, Sir George Thomas. A true gentleman and sportsman, he considered it rather unprincipled to analyse adjourned games before their resumption and could only be persuaded to look at his own positions after being assured that his opponents were certainly taking full advantage of the adjournment in this manner.”
BCN Remembers Sir Richard Clarke KCB OBE who passed away on June 21st 1975.
According to chess-poster.com : “Clarke died in the University College Hospital, in London, on 21 June 1975 and was cremated at Golders Green three days later. He was survived by his wife Brenda Pile (married in 1950, née Skinner) and their three sons.”
Richard William Barnes Clarke was born on August 13th, 1910 in Basford, Derbyshire. The birth was registered in Ilkeston in the district of Erewash. His parents were a secondary and technical school schoolmaster of science, William Thomas Clarke and Helen Rodway Clarke (née Barnes). Richard was baptised on October 1st 1910 in St. Lawrence (Anglican) Church in Heanor, Derbyshire.
The 1911 census records the family living at “Iona” which was a modest property in Fletcher Street in Heanor which had six rooms. Richard was seven months old and he had a three year old sister, Stella Helen Clarke. The family retained a nineteen year old domestic servant, Ada Mary Brown who has been born in Codnor, Derbyshire.
In 1944 Richard was awarded the OBE for his work as Planning Officer for the Ministry of Production followed by Companion of the Bath in 1951 for his work as Under Secretary at HM Treasury and in 1964 he was made Knight Commander of the Bath for his work as Second Secretary at HM Treasury.
According to chess-poster.com : “He was commonly known as Otto Clarke” and according to his son Mark the nickname “Otto” was possibly because of Clarke’s “forceful” personality was considered Germanic. According to Sir Sam Brittan, “it was because his round glasses and the bridge over the nose looked like OTTO.”
Creator of the British system of grading. He gave up active chess after leaving Cambridge University where he played second board between C.H.O’D. Alexander and Jacob Bronowski.
At first a financial journalist (one of the two who created the Financial Times Index), he became, at the outbreak of the Second World War, a temporary civil servant, remaining to become one of the most distinguished of them, and to receive a knighthood.
According to Arpad E. Elo in “Ratings of Chessplayers Past and Present” : “In the chess world, rating systems have been used with varying degrees of success for over twenty-five years. Those which have survived a share a common principle in that they combine the percentage score achieved by a player with the rating of his competition. They use similar formulae for the evaluation of performance and differ mainly in the elaboration of the scales. The most notable are the Ingo (Hoesskinger 1948), the Harkness (Harkness 1956), and the British Chess Federation (Clarke 1957) systems. These received acceptance because they produced ranking lists which generally agreed with the personal estimates made by knowledgeable chessplayers.”
Here is an article in full reproduced from British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXIII, Number 2, February, 1963, pages 49 -53 :
The June 1975 issue of British Chess Magazine announces his passing and promises that a tribute would follow : it never did.
For the 1979 Spassky vs the BCF Junior Squad simultaneous display this was written : “Rating 213. World No.1, 13 year old. First Evening Standard under-10s, 1975. First under-14s, 1976. First under-21s, 1978.
British Men’s Lightning (10 seconds per move) champion 1978 – the youngest National Men’s Champion in chess history. Bronze medallist world under-17 championship 1979.
In simuls Nigel has beaten Korchnoi and Petrosian. World Nos. 2 and 4. Now he plays Spassky, World No.3.”
In 1978 Harry Golombek OBE wrote the following in the 1979 Dataday Chess Diary:
“The youngest and perhaps the one who will eventually make the most impression on the world of chess. Nigel Short, who at the age of 12 is London Under 21 champion, is the likeliest prospect for a world champion this country has ever seen. Certainly I cannot think of s single attribute that a prospective world champion should have that he has not got. Positional flair, steadiness of purpose, tactical ability, all these he has in profusion.
It is a blessing that he has not got a swollen head as might so easily have happened. Perhaps there is something about the game which acts as a steadying influence. At any rate, chess apart, he is just a pleasant little boy; but a pleasant little boy who can play the following game (in a county match, Lancashire v. Durham towards the end of October 1977) in a style reminiscent of Capablanca.”
Nigel had beaten the same opponent in 15 moves a year before in the same match:
BCN remembers Sir Stuart Milner-Barry KCVO CB OBE who passed away on Saturday, March 25th, 1995 in Lewisham Hospital, London aged 88. He was laid to rest in the Great Shelford Cemetery, Cambridge Road, Great Shelford, Cambridge CB22 5JJ.
A memorial service was held for him at Westminster Abbey on 15 June 1995.
Philip Stuart Milner-Barry was born on Thursday, September 20th 1906 in Mill Hill in the London Borough of Barnet. Mill Hill falls under the Hendon Parliamentary constituency.
His parents were Lieutenant-Commander Edward Leopold (1867-1917) and Edith Mary Milner-Barry (born 17th May 1866, died 1949, née Besant). Edward was in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, H.M.S. “Wallington.” Prior to his war service his father was a professor of modern languages at the University of Bangor and Edith was the daughter of Dr. William Henry Besant, a renowned mathematical fellow of St John’s College, Cambridge University.
Stuart was the second born of six children, There was an older sister Alda Mary (18th August 1893-1938) and four brothers Edward William Besant (?-1911) , Walter Leopold (1904-1982), John O’Brien (4 December 1898 – 28 February 1954) and Patrick James . Many of the Milner-Barry family were laid to rest in the Great Shelford churchyard.
Stuart learned chess at the age of eight and his autobiographical article below goes into more depth.
He was educated at Cheltenham College, and won a scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he obtained firsts in classics and moral sciences.
On leaving Cambridge in 1927 he went to work at the London Stock Exchange (LSE).
According to the 1928 and 1929 electoral rolls he was living with his mother Edith and his brothers Walter and John O’Brien at 50 De Freville Avenue, Cambridge CB4 1HT:
In 1931 the family had relocated to 11, Park Terrace, Cambridge which is nearby to Emmanuel College. Now living with the family was brother Patrick James.
He discovered that he did not enjoy his LSE work and switched careers to became chess correspondent of The Times in 1938.
At the time (September 29th) of the 1939 register he (aged 33) was living as a journalist in a household of three with his mother Edith who carried out “unpaid domestic duties” and sister Alda who was of “private means”.
In 1946 Stuart was awarded the OBE from the Civil Division in the New Years Honours . The citation reads that was “employed in a Department of the Foreign Office”. A modern translation of this was he was engaged in Top Secret work at Bletchley Park alongside Alan Turing, Gordon Welchman and Hugh Alexander and was thus honoured for his war work. More on this later…
After the war he worked in the Treasury, and later in 1966 administered the British honours system where he helped to facilitate the award of honours to other chess players ultimately retiring in 1977.
As well as the OBE he was made Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in 1962 and Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCV0) in 1975.
A conference room was named after him at the Civil Service Club, 13 – 15 Great Scotland Yard, London SW1A 2HJ.
Peter Hennessy* and The Rewarding Career of Sir Stuart Milner-Barry
*Peter Hennessy is a renowned historian and journalist. The following was originally published in The Times in 1977 following PSMBs retirement.
“Few careers can have been as varied and rewarding as that of Sir Stuart Milner-Barry, who retires today as Ceremonial Officer to the Civil Service Department and custodian of the British honours system.
Into the 48 years since he left Cambridge with a degrees in classics and moral sciences, he has crammed spells as a stockbroker, chess correspondent of The Times and member of the British chess team, a wartime codebreaker for MI6 and a senior Treasury official before taking over administration of the nations “gongs and bongs ” nearly 11 years ago.
The richness of Sir Stuart’s progression is all the more striking given the difficulty he experienced in finding a job at all after university because of the Wall Street crash in 1929. His first 10 years spanned the slump of the 1930s, when there was little for a stockbroker to do, but fill his days reading The Times.
In 1938 he joined the paper full time as chess correspondent and, along with many of the world’s leading players, he was nearly trapped in Buenos Aires when war broke out the next year (ed. should be month rather than year). Catching the first ship home, he finished up with that brilliant collection of dons, antique dealers, mathematicians and chess players billeted in Nissen huts in the park of Buckinghamshire country house, who broke the code transmitted by the German Enigma machine.
Sir Stuart eventually rose to lead hut six, which broke the most secret messages of the Luftwaffe. Quartered in a comfortable Bletchley public house with another formidable chess player, C. H. O’D. Alexander, and Gordon Welchman, the Cambridge mathematician, he acquired a taste for rum, the only alcohol in plentiful supply for some reason, and a sense of guilt about enjoying, his stimulating, important job, safe while other men faced the bullets.
He was not tempted to stay on in the arcane world of code-breaking after the war, unlike his friend, the late Hugh Alexander, as he regards such activities in peacetime as akin to reading somebody’s private correspondence, though he recognizes the necessity of such efforts for intelligence work. Instead, he took the reconstruction competition for the administrative class of the Civil Service and entered the Treasury.
While battling with the post-war dollar shortage in Treasury Chambers he “found a wife, carried her off and lived happily ever after”, as he cheerfully puts it. Apart from a spell as establishment officer to the Ministry of Health, he stayed at the Treasury until he reached the normal retiring age of 60 in 1966.
Lord Helsby, then Head of the Home Civil Service, asked him to stay on and take over the smooth machine that underpins the honours system, which had been built up over many years by Sir Robert Knox. Sir Stuart has loved every minute of it.
He looks every inch the part, a tall stately man of immense natural dignity, he is the incarnation of propriety. The stresses to which the honours system has been subjected to in recent years must have caused him great distress but he is far too proper a civil servant to talk about it. His retirement at 70 has nothing to do with the alarums and excursions stimulated by the honours lists associated with Harold Wilson.
“One of my principal jobs has been the protection of the system”, he says. “The pleasures are very great. It’s fascinating in itself. You see so much of the history of people in every walk of like”.
Sir Stuart waxes eloquent about the beauty and uniqueness of the British honours system. He is a confirmed monarchist, so the spontaneity of the jubilee celebrations provides the perfect backcloth for his departure. He is succeeded by Mr. Richard Sharp, an under-secretary at the Treasury.”
Below is the original article:
Marriage to Thelma
In the third quarter of 1947 Stuart married Thelma Tennant Wells in Westminster. A consequence of the “rules of the day” of the marriage was that Thelma had to resign her post in the Treasury immediately. (Ed: this somewhat antiquated view of life was finally corrected in 1972 when the Civil Service dispensed with this rule).
Lady Thelma was to support Stuart in his chess activities for their married life. She also served as the first UK Director of Women’s Chess and made many lasting friendships in the chess world. She was buried together with Stuart in 2007. Stuart himself was President of the British Chess Federation between 1970 and 1973 as well as being Director of International Chess following his presidency.
Stuart and Thelma had three children, one son and two daughters: Philip O. (born 1953), Jane E (born 1950) and Alda M (born 1958).
Stuart was knighted on January 1st 1975 for his role as the “Ceremonial Officer of Civil Service Department” between 1966-77. Technically the knighthood is known as a KCVO.
He first competed in the British Championship in 1931 and made regular appearences as late as 1978: a span of 47 years!
In their retirement years Stuart and Thelma lived at the salubrious location of 43 Blackheath Park, Blackheath, London SE3 9RW.
In June of 1933 at the age of 27 Stuart wrote an autobiographical piece for British Chess Magazine to be found in Volume LIII (53, 1933), Number 6 (June), pp. 241-2 as follows:
Champion of the City of London Chess Club
I learned chess at the age of eight and played regularly after that with members of my family. My first-class practise (with due respect to my family) began at fourteen, when Mr. Bertram Goulding Brown and started a series of serious friendly games which has continued ever since, almost without interruption. The vast majority of these games were begun with 1 P-K4, P-K4, and as we both eschewed the Lopez and the Four Knights, we have acquired a fairly extensive knowledge of the older forms of the King’s side openings – King’s Gambit (all sorts), Vienna, Guioco Piano, Evans’s Gambit, Danish Gambit, Bishop’s Opening, etc. These games have undoubtedly born the most important influence in my development, apart from which the serious friendly game is to me much the most enjoyable form of chess. We each have runs of success, and there has never been much to choose between us.
(An aside : Stuart wrote a extensive obituary of Bertram Goulding Brown which appeared in British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXV (85, 1965), Number 12(December) pp.344-45 in which he noted:
B. Goulding Brown was my oldest and closest Cambridge friend, I started playing with him in 1920, and we have played ever since, though, alas, not nearly so often since the War as in the 1920s and 1930. Our last games, when he was eighty three, were played about a year ago in the same book-congested upstairs study at Brookside as all the others had been. Both were cut-and-thrust draws: a Kieseritzky Gambit from myself and Two Knights’ (with 4.P-Q4 for White) were typical of the openings we adopted. We were planning another this Autumn, but he died suddenly and peacefully at the end of August, )
I have also been very fortunate in playing a good deal with C.H.O’D. Alexander. Our games have taken the form of a series of short matches (first player to win three games) played with clocks. Alexander was already stronger than me when he came up to Cambridge, and he won the University Championship from me in his first year and my fourth.
All three matches have been won by him, the first easily and the last two by the narrowest possible margin; a fourth now in progress looks like coming to an early and ignominious conclusion (Score 0-2-2). These results have neither surprised nor disappointed me : I would not back any player in England to do better.
In 1923 I won the first Boy’s Championship at Hastings, but lost badly the following year (ed. Alexander won).
Since then I have competed twice at Hastings, once tieing with Miss Menchik in the Major Reserve for the first place and once for the last, in the Major. In between I played in the Major Open at Tenby, and came out fifth, with my first important win against Znosko-Borovsky.
Meanwhile I played four years against Oxford, with somewhat chequered results. The first year I won against G. Abrahams, the second and third years, I played K.H. Bancroft and scored a (very fortunate) draw and a win, while finally I permitted Abrahams to fork my King and Queen with a Knight, a performance unhappily repeated by R.L. Mitchell in the following year (his Queen was pinned by a Bishop). Since then the spell has been broken. In 1931 I played in the British Championships at Worcester, and was quite satisfied with my form, though my score of 5 out of 11 was nothing to write home about. In February 1932, I have the great good fortune to fill a vacant place in the Sunday Referee* London International Tournament, an extremely exhausting but very valuable experience which I greatly appreciated.
*TheSunday Referee was a newspaper of the time which was adsorbed into The Sunday Chronicle in 1939.
My score of 3.5 out of 11, equal with Sir George Thomas and above W. Winter and V. Buerger, was quite as good as I expected. After this came the Cambridge Tournament, which, though a very delightful little congress, was a fiasco from my point of view. Three of my opponents were unkind enough to show their best form against me, and two other games I spoilt by clock trouble.
I do not expect to play much serious competitive chess in future. I admire sincerely the business man who is ready, after a hard day at the office, to undergo a further four hours of strenuous mental exertion; and who is also prepared to spend his all too brief holidays in the same exhausting pursuit. Moreover, while many players find the atmosphere of match and tournament play a stimulus or an inspiration, it only renders me nervous, and though this does not affect my play it certainly interferes with my enjoyment. As long as I can play my week-end games with B.G.B., and inveigle Alexander from Winchester to add another to his monotonous series of victories, I shall not much mind if I can only occasionally take part in congresses. ”
PS Milner-Barry Cup
In issue #53 (April 1946) of West London Chess Club’s Gazette we have a news item concerning a newly inaugurated trophy called the PS Milner-Barry Cup:
Sergeant on Milner-Barry
Writing in A Century of British Chess (Hutchinson, 1934), PW Sergeant records in Chapter XXI, 1925 to 1934:
The City of London C.C.’s Championship Tournament which ended this (1933) spring deserves special mention; for it introduced an entirely new name on the list of champions, that of P.S. Milner-Barry, formerly of Cheltenham College and of Cambridge University. Ten years previously he had won the first boys’ championship at Hastings.
Now, he won the City of London Championship with a score of 11 out of 14, followed by the bearers of such noted names as R.P. Michell (10 points), Sir George Thomas (9), and E.G. Sergeant (8.5). It caused some surprise, therefore, when it was found that he was not selected as a British representative at Folkestone.
Golombek on Milner-Barry
Surprisingly and disappointingly there is no direct entry in either Hooper & Whyld or Sunnucks for Sir Stuart but (as you might expect) Harry Golombek OBE does not let us down in The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977):
“British master whose chess career was limited by his amateur status but whose abilities as a player and original theorist rendered him worthy of the title of international master.
Born at Mill Hill in London, he showed early promise and in 1923 won the British Boys Championship, then held at Hastings.
He studied classics at Cambridge and developed into the strongest player there. At the university he was to meet (ed. three years later) C. H. O’D. Alexander with whom he played much chess.
Though nearly three years younger, Alexander exerted a strong influence over him and both players cherished and revelled in the brilliance of play in open positions.
By then along with Alexander and Golombek, he had become recognized as one of the three strongest young players in the country. Whilst not as successful as they were in tournaments as the British championship in which stamina was essential, he was a most formidable club and team match player, as he had already shown in 1933 when he won the championship of the City of London Club ahead of R. P. Mitchell and Sir George Thomas.
He played in his first International Team tournament at Stockholm 1937 and was to play in three more such events : in 1939 at Buenos Aires where, on third board, he made the fine score of 4/5 ; in Helsinki 1952; and in Moscow 1956 where, again on third board, he was largely responsible for the team’s fine showing.
In 1940 he shared first prize with Dr. List in the strong tournament of semi-international character in London and then, like Alexander and (later) Golombek, helped in the Foreign Office code-breaking activities at Bletchley Park for the duration of the Second World War. Staying in the Civil Service afterwards, he rose to the rank of Under-Secretary in the Treasury and was knighted for his services in 1975.
“I first met Sir Stuart Milner-Barry when I was fifteen years old (1962) playing in a tournament in Bognor Regis who played some rustic king’s pawn opening against me, sacrificing a pawn for nothing in particular and then astonished by writing “castles” in full on his scoresheet. I think he used “kt” for a knight too. I thought I had discovered a true relic from a bygone age and the more I got to know him I realised the more correct that judgement was.
Milner-Barry was the last of the true gentlemen amateurs and was one of the few people I have ever met who played chess for the sheer love of the game.
A few typical incidents may give a flavour of his unique personality. First and most typical was the way he would resign: with a firm handshake, a smile and a booming whisper of ‘You are far too good for me I’m afraid!’ When I first heard those words I was totally taken aback : What was this, a chessplayer acknowledging that his opponent was better than him? Impossible!
Once, at close of play in a county match against Milner-Barry I had the extra pawn in a difficult queen and pawn ending. We analysed a little with most variations suggesting I was winning. It was the kind of position you would send for adjudication even if you are convinced it is lost. It avoids having to resign anyway and the adjudicator may always discount the pawns. But, Sir Stuart never thought like that. After ten minutes analysing he extended his hand and congratulated me.
Finally there was the splendid incident in Moscow during the (Ed. 6th) European Team Championships in the late 1970s (Ed. 1977) Stuart was then the President of the BCF and took up an invitation of his old friend the British Ambassador to the USSR (Ed. Sir Howard Smith) to visit the event. Since he was staying at the Embassy he had a KGB tail assigned to him to follow him everywhere. On one of his morning walks Sir Stuart got lost and was not certain which bridge he should be on to get back to the Embassy. So, he turned around and walked back to the not very secret policeman, followed him and asked for directions! For the rest of his stay they walked practically hand-in-hand.
Whilst most of us knew Stuart as an amiable old gent who played for Kent and in the Lloyds Bank Masters who could still play brilliant attacking games in his eighties most knew little of his distinguished career in real life.
We suspected with some justification that in his civil service career he was responsible for doling out all those OBEs to chess players in the 70s and 80s when he was in charge of the honours list.
It was the wartime work at Bletchley Park that was Milner-Barry’s greatest achievement. As everybody knows the allies won the Second World War mainly because of the brilliant code-breaking work of the Cambridge quartet of Alan Turing, Gordon Welchman, Hugh Alexander and Stuart Milner-Barry. Turing and Welchman were mathematical geniuses, Milner-Barry was the supreme administrator and Alexander straddled the gap with great talents in both areas. The group of four were known as “The Wicked Uncles”
The astonishing achievement at Bletchley was not so much in breaking enemy codes as maintaining complete secrecy of the entire operation for the duration of the war. Only with such people as Milner-Barry and Alexander in charge could such a large operation be run so successfully without anybody knowing about it.
Milner-Barry’s importance in the running at Bletchley may be judged from the fact that he personally delivered the note to Winston Churchill stressing overriding importance of their work asking for more funds.
Compared with that the invention of the Milner-Barry Gambit and the Milner-Barry variation of the Nimzo-Indian are minor achievements.
Sir Stuart was proof that nice guys can be chess players although one cannot help suspecting he would achieved even better results if he had even a slight streak of nastiness about him. He would surely have not let Capablanca off the hook in Margate in 1938 when the attacking player secured a winning position against the ex-champions dragon variation and he would have surely also not let the British Championship slip from his grasp in 1953 when he finished as runner-up after losing his last two games.
He always performed well when playing in Olympiads (or Team Tournaments as they were known then) for England during the 1930s and 50s. He was, after all, one of the most naturally gifted players this county has produced. What other Englishman has two opening (or even just one) named after him?
While at Cambridge while he won the University Championship in 1928, losing to Alexander in the following year, Milner-Barry composed some fine problems, a frivolity he never returned to later in his life.
An excellent though infrequent writer on the game, he wrote a fine memoir of C.H.O’D. Alexander in Golombek’s and Hartston’s The Best Games of C.H.O’D. Alexander, Oxford, 1976.”
An Obituary from Bernard Cafferty
From British Chess Magazine, Volume CXV (115, 1995), Number 5 (May), pp. 258-59 we have this obituary by Bernard Cafferty:
“Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry KCVO CB OBE (20 ix 1906 – 25 iii 1995) was the oldest of the British chess masters who came to prominence in the 1930s, He was always thought of in conjunction with his great friends Hugh Alexander and Harry Golombek who both predeceased him. The length of Stuart’s career is amazing – he was inaugural British Boy Champion in 1923 and was still playing for Kent first team in the Counties Championship of recent years, thus spanning a period of seven decades! Botvinnik spoke of him to me on my 1994 visit to Moscow.
Yet Stuart, who never gained the IM title, was always the true amateur and genuine English gentleman, whose sense of duty and tradition was very great. It speaks volumes of him that he agonised over whether he should attend the Times Kasparov-Short match of 1993, in a private capacity. He would have liked to watch the play, but as a former British Chess Federation President, 1970-73, he felt it was his duty not to lend any extra recognition to the contest other than that assigned it by the BCF.
Before the war, after graduating from Cambridge in Classics, he took some fine scalps including those of Tartakower and Mieses and should have beaten Capablanca at Margate 1939.
He worked, rather unhappily, in a stockbroking firm up to 1938 and it is in that capacity that his name appears on the official document that set-up the British Chess Magazine as a limited company in 1937.
During the war he played his part in the Bletchley Park code-breaking undertaking along with Alexander and Golombek, and after the war went into the Civil Service where he had a distinguished career at the Treasury. Then his career was extended as he spent his final working years in the patronage department that sifted recommendations for the honours list.
I recall asking him in 1981 if there was any chance that Brian Reilly could qualify for an award. Stuart’s diplomatic answer was to the effect that he was now retired but would drop a word in the right quarter.
Stuart represented England at the Olympiads or 1936, 1939, 1952 and 1956. At the last of these he played particularly well on fourth board. He was conscious that his old friend Hugh Alexander could not take part in Moscow because of the sensitive nature of his work in the Intelligence Service.
In playing style Milner-Barry, a tall gaunt figure, delighted in an open tactical fight.
He was The Times correspondent 1938-45, resigning the post to let Harry Golombek take over. His best result after the war, apart from the 1956 Moscow Olympiad, was probably his second place in the British Championships of 1953 at Hastings. The abiding impression of his opponents over the years must have been that here was a player who greatly enjoyed the game, win, lose or draw.
Certainly, that was my idea of him in the tussles we had from the British Championship of 1957 up to county matches in the 1980s.
We shall not see his like again. The England that formed his character is no longer with us.”
Kenworthy on Milner-Barry
Sir Stuart as a student was taught by his lecturer friend Gordon Welchman, later 1940 his Head of Hut. They were firm friends, a band of brothers, as per the rest of the chess players and mathematicians from the Interwar years at Cambridge University.
His studies were obviously well aligned to be a stockbroker in the City, plus the tedious details of Blotters and Order Management registration.
Obvious exceptions to this University circle was Dr Jacob Bronowski who was given the suspected 5th columnist treatment by authorities in Hull. Obviously, he would have been excellent.
Exception also according to John Hevriel was if you were also from Sidney Sussex, like Staff Sgt. then an RSM Asa Briggs, who was more Contract Bridge with this all friends crossword addicts team. Asa Briggs felt that Sir Stuart was initially badly rewarded leaving Hut 6 in 1945 for HM Treasury.
Sir Stuart was a noted top cribster, his crosswords, German and thinking from how the Nazi operator would think from his side of the board, obviously helped with Bombe cribs. He always played down his role and abilities in a diplomatic way. He was the facilitator and mentor to many, especially back to Gordon Welchman in his troubled times from 1974 onwards. Sir Stuart was not happy about the proposed book of the Hut 6 Story.
He was the bureaucrat who cared for the welfare of his staff, especially on tedious protract tasks which was the norm. He was into ethics, Quadrivium, logic and rhetoric, philosophy and his knowledge of German poets and Great German thinkers would have been invaluable in solving the Enigma puzzle and how might his opposite number blunder and be sloppy in procedures.
Though never at home in close(d) positions, he was an outstanding strategist in the open game and it is significant that his most important contribution to opening theory was the Milner-Barry variation of the Nimzo-Indian Defence which is essentially as attempt to convert a close position into an open one (1.P-Q4, N-KB3; 2.P-QB4, P-K3; 3. N-QB3, B-N5; 4.Q-B2, N-B3).
Hooper & Whyld (1996) note:
“Sometimes called the Zurich or Swiss variation, this is a line in the Nimzo-Indian Defence introduced by Milner-Barry in the Premier Reserves tournament, Hastings 1928-9. This line became more widely known when it was played at Zurich 1934.”
Two famous opening lines are named after him – 4…Nc6 in the Nimzo-Indian (as above), and the gambit in the French Defence: 1.e4 e6;2.d4 d5;3.e5 c5;4.c3 Nc6;5.Nf3 Qb6;6.Bd3 cxd4;7.cxd4 Bd7;8.0-0 Nxd4;
Stuart played this line both in correspondence and over-the-board play. If Black takes the pawn with 10…Qxe5, White gets a fierce attack by 11,Re1 Qd6 (else 12.Nxd5) 12.Nb5.
There is also a sub-variation of the Caro-Kann which is named after Sir Stuart viz:
which is a Blackmar-Diemer style pawn sacrifice.
There is also a Milner-Barry variation in the Falkbeer Counter Gambit to the King’s Gambit thus:
which is an ancient line that he revived at Margate 1937.
and finally, there is a Milner-Barry Variation in the Petroff Defence:
giving a total of five named variations. How many English players have that many?
Problems and Compositions
Stuart developed an interest in problem composition in the 1920s
Further examples may be found on the excellent Meson Database maintained by Brian Stephenson
Milner-Barry on The English Chess Explosion
Stuart was a great supporter of the development of British chess. Nothing would have given him more pleasure than to witness the meteoric advances of English players in the 1970s. Indeed, he wrote the foreword to the English Chess Explosion (Batsford, 1980) by Murray Chandler and Ray Keene:
“It gives me great pleasure to have been asked to write a foreword for this book. Nothing has given me more satisfaction than the flowering of British chess talent that has taken place in the past few years.
Between the wars, though we had some splendid players like H. E. Atkins, Sir George Thomas and F. D. Yates, we were a second rate power at chess: in the great Nottingham tournament of 1936, for example, our quartet brought up the rear, and that was where, with occasional shining exceptions, our representatives in international tournaments tended to find themselves. Similarly, after the war in the 1950’s and 1960’s, in spite of Alexander and Penrose, we seldom achieved a really creditable place in the Olympiads.
Alexander who retired early from the arena because of the exacting demands of his profession, must have had rather a depressing time as non-playing captain.
I myself date the renaissance from the Spring of 1974 when we won a closely contested match against West Germany at Elvetham Hall.
Thereafter we went from strength to strength, with the appearance year by year of highly talented, original and adventurous young men from the Universities – Keene and Hartston, closely followed by Miles, Stean, Nunn, Mestel, Speelman, and a still younger generation of schoolboy prodigies like Nigel Short.
The peak of our performance so far has been the third place (after the USSR and Hungary) last winter in the finals of the European Team Tournament at Skara (compared with our eighth and last place at Moscow in 1977).
How did all this come about in the short space of six years? The Spassky-Fischer match of 1972 was a watershed. Since then, and the first time, it has been possible for able young men from universities to consider chess seriously as a full-time profession, or at least as a career to which they devote the major part of their time and interest, Secondly, the fruits were being reaped of the unobtrusive but devoted spadework in junior training pioneered by Barden, Wade and many others. Lastly, no doubt, sheer good fortune smiled upon us in the simultaneous emergence of a group of brilliant enthusiastic and likeable young men, five of them already grandmasters and others likely to become so before long.
It is sad that Alexander, who did so much to uphold the prestige of British chess in the doldrums, did not survive to witness the transformation. I would like to wish the BCF President, David Anderton, and Alexander’s successor as captain, all possible success for the future.”
According to Edward Winter in Chess Notes PSMB lived at these addresses :
11 Park Terrace, Cambridge, England (Ranneforths Schachkalender, 1938, page 78).
43 Blackheath Park, Blackheath, London SE3 9RW, England (letter reproduced in C.N. 3809).
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