Problemist and chronicler who lived in Norwich all his life. He edited the chess column of the Norwich Mercury from 1902 lo 1912, contributed many significant articles elsewhere, investigated a number of chess questions, and established the burial place of several great players and arranged the tending of their graves. He lived at only two addresses for 73 years, worked for the railway company for 53 years, and was a member of the Norfolk and Norwich chess dub for 61 consecutive years. Winner of the club championship in 1884, he did not compete again until 1933 and then won it three years in succession.
We remember Cecil Valentine De Vere (14-ii-1846 09-ii-1875)
From The Oxford Companion to Chess by Hooper & Whyld :
Cecil Valentine De Vere, pseudonym of Valentine Brown, winner of the first official British Championship tournament organized by the British Chess Association in 1866. He learned the game in London before 1858 and practised with Boden and the Irish player Francis Burden (1830-82). De Vere played with unusual ease and rapidity, never bothering to study the books. His features were handsome (an Adonis says MacDonnell), his manner pleasant, his conduct polite. He “handled the pieces gracefully, never “hovered” over them, nor fiercely stamped them down upon the board … nor exulted when he gained a victory…in short, he was a highly chivalrous player.’ So wrote Steinitz who conceded odds in a match against De Vere and was soundly beaten, (See pawn and move.) De Vere’s charm brought him many friends.
At about the time that he won the national championship his mother died, a loss he felt deeply, “The only person who ever cared for me”.
Receiving a small legacy he gave up his job. which Burden had obtained for him at Lloyds the underwriters, and never took another. He entered some strong tournaments but always trailed just behind the greatest half-dozen players of his time. His exceptional talent was accompanied by idleness and lack of enthusiasm for a hard task. On the occasion of the Dundee tournament of 1867 he took long walks in the Scottish countryside with G. A. MacDonnell, who writes that a ‘black cloud’ descended on De Vere. It may have been the discovery that he had tuberculosis; more probably he revealed to the older man a deep-rooted despair, the cause perhaps of his later addiction to alcohol.
In 1872 Boden handed over the chess column of The Field to provide him with a small income; but in 1873 the column was given to Steinitz on account of De Vere’s indolence and drunkenness. At the end of Nov, 1874 his illness took a turn for the worse, he could hardly walk and ate little. His friends paid to send him to Torquay for the sea air, and there he died ten weeks later. He had failed to nourish a natural genius in respect of which, according to Steinitz, De Vere was “second to no man, living or dead*.
From The Encyclopedia of Chess by Anne Sunnucks :
First official British Chess Champion, Cecil de Vere was born on 14th February 1845 (in Montrose, Angus, Scotland : Ed.) and was taught to play chess when he was 12 by a strong London player, Francis Burden. By the time he was 15, he was a regular visitor to “The Divan” on a Saturday afternoon.
At the age of 19 De Vere played a number of games against MacDonnell winning the majority of them. So great was his promise that the City of London Chess Club raised a purse for a match between him an Steinitz, Steinitz giving the odds of a Pawn and a move. De Vere won.
In 1866 the first British Championship, organised by the British Chess Association was held. De Vere won, ahead of MacDonnell and Bird, and so became the first British Champion at the age of 21.
The following year in the Paris 1867 tournament, he was 5th out of a field of 13, and he tied for 3rd prize in the Dundee Congress, ahead of Blackburne, having beaten Steinitz in their individual game.
While he was in Dundee, De Vere learned that he was suffering from Tuberculosis. The news changed his whole life. Having recently inherited a few hundred pounds, he gave up his job at Lloyd’s and started living on his capital, determined to enjoy the few years he had left. He continued to play chess, but his performances were marred by his newly acquired addiction to the bottle.
De Vere was once described as “A Morphy without book knowledge”. His talent was great enough for him to be able to take on the leading masters of the day without any study or preparation, but more than that is needed to reach the top. De Vere lacked the strength of character and health to fulfill his early promise. He died a few days before his thirtieth birthday.
From The Encyclopedia of Chess by Harry Golombek :
The first official British Champion and a player of great promise who might well have attained world fame had he not be carried off by that nineteenth-century British scourge, tuberculosis, before he attained the age of thirty.
Most of the details of his life are to be found in the writings of G.A. MacDonnell, who met him when De Vere was fourteen and was so struck by his good looks as to refer to him as “Adonis”.
His first tournament success came in 1866 at the London Congress organised at the St. George’s Club in the first few days and then in other venues by the British Chess Association. De Vere played in two events, a Handicap tournament and a Challenge Cup event which was in fact the first British Championship tournament.
The Handicap tournament was run on the same lines as London 1851, i.e. it was a knock-out event with matches of three games, draws not counting. De Vere met Steinitz in roudn 1 and lost by 2-1.
The first British championship tournament was an all-play-all event in which the ties were decided by the first player to win three games and in which the championship went to the winner of the biggest number of games. De Vere was en easy winner with 12 wins, followed by MacDonnell and J.I. Minchin 6, H.E Bird 3 and Sir John Trelawney 0.
Thus De Vere was the first British Champion and at that age of twenty-one. A photograph of him about this time shows that he bore a remarkable likeness to the international master John Nunn, who won the European Junior championship a hundred years after De Vere’s death.
De Vere confirmed his position as a leading British player by coming first in another tournament in 1866 at Redcar in North Yorkshire. This was an event open to all British amateurs and among his opponents were Owen, Thorold and Wisker.
It was in the following year that he commenced his career in international chess. In the important double-round tournament at Paris he occupied an honourable fifth place out of 13 players. At Dundee (the third congress of the British Chess Association) he finished equal 3rd with MacDonnell, below Steinitz but beating him in their individual game and coming ahead of Blackburne.
It was during his visit to Scotland (he went to stay with relatives after the tournament) that he learnt he was afflicted with consumption. This knowledge, together with the death of his mother, drove him to drink which was to accelerate his end.
inheriting a few hundred pounds, presumably from his mother, he gave up his post at Lloyd’s and decided to live on his capital together with such additional sums as he could earn from chess.
In this respect his addiction to drink proved a handicap. For example, he held the post of chess editor of The Field in 1872 but lost it after some eighteen months through inattention to work.
Meanwhile he continued to show his great talent for the game. Defending the title of British Champion in a very strong field at the next British Chess Association congress (1868/9) he cam equal first with Blackburne but lost the play-off at the London Club in March 1869.
In 1870 at the very strong Baden-Baden double-round tournament, he came equal sixth with Winawer but was much outdistanced by Blackburne who came third with 3.5 more pints than De Vere. But already his illness was taking a strong hold on him. At his next and last appearance in a tournament of note. London 1872, he tied with Zukertort and MacDonnell =3rd out of 8 players. In the play-off for third and fourth prizes he lost to MacDonnell and scratched to Zukertort, Later in the year he did tie for first place with Wisker in a weaker British championship tournament and, with De Vere now clearly ill, Wisker had an easy victory in the play-off.
At his last appearance at a chess event, a match at the City of London Club between that Club and Bermondsey, he looked a dying man. A subscription was made to send him to Torquay but it was too late and he died within five days of his thirtieth birthday.
Michael Lipton is a British problem composer. Born on 13th February 1937, Lipton is a Fellow of All Souls, Oxford and an economist at The University of Sussex.
His 350 problems consist mainly of modern two-movers. His British Chess Problem Society lecture in 1956, The German Two-Mover, led to so great an interest in modern trends that Great Britain was transformed from one of the most backward to one of the most forward countries for the composition of modern two-movers. Lipton, Rice and Barnes were chiefly responsible for this revolution.
Lipton had edited problem sections of Correspondence Chess and the Sunday Citizen. He is co-author with R.C.O. Matthews and J.M.Rice of Chess Problems : Introduction to an Art and co-author with J.M.Rice and B.P.Barnes of The Two Move Chess Problem : Tradition and Development.
“Glenn Curtis Flear was born in Leicester, England. He was awarded the IM title in 1983 and GM title in 1987. While still an IM, he shocked the chess world by winning the GLC Chess Challenge (1986) ahead of a field that included Short, Chandler, Nunn, Portisch, Polugaevsky, Spassky and Larsen. He married Christine Flear during that tournament. He represented England at the Dubai Olympiad in 1986.”
Ian Duncan Wells was born in Scarborough, England. He was awarded the FM title in 1982. At the Islington Open in December 1981 he finished 1st= with John Nunn and Tony Miles. Following a 5th= placing in the Golden Pawn of Brazil Junior tournament held in Rio de Janeiro he and other players went swimming outside their hotel. He got into difficulties and although he was brought ashore by lifesavers he died after six days in a coma.
From The Encyclopedia of Chess by Harry Golombek :
Scottish international master and teacher. Prtichett, probably the strongest native-born Scottish player since the days of Captain Mackenzie in the nineteenth century, has represented Scotland with success in five Olympiads : 1966, 1970, 1972, 1974 and 1976. He has also played for Scotland in the Students Olympiads of 1968, 1969 and 1970.
His first individual success was in the European Junior Championship in Groningen 1969/70 where he came -3rd with Belyavsky. At Decin (Czechoslovakia) 1974 he came 1st in the Masters B section.
He obtained the first part of an international master norm at the Nice Olympiad in 1974 where he scored 60% on top board. In 1975 he again achieved a master norm at the strong Pula Zonal tournament where he came -7th/14.
He was chess correspondent of the Glasgow Herald and author of The Sicilian Scheveningen, Batsford, London, 1977. (article by Harry Golombek)
From The Oxford Companion to Chess by David Hooper & Ken Whyld :
One of the world’s best half-dozen players in the early 1880s, journalist. He was born in Kilkenny, Ireland, and adopted the name James Mason (his real name is not known) when he and his family emigrated to the USA in 1861. He became a boot-black in New York, frequenting a Hungarian calc where he learned chess. Coming to the notice of J. G. Bennett of the New York Herald he was given a job in the newspaper’s offices, a start in life that both suited his literary aspirations and gave him the chance to study the game; and in 1876 he made his mark, winning first prizes at the fourth American Chess Congress, Philadelphia, and in the New York Clipper tournament, and defeating the visiting master Bird in match play (411=4-4), Settling in England In 1878 he drew a match with Potter (+5=11— 5) in 1879, and at Vienna 1882, the strongest tournament held up to that time, he took third prize (+17=12-5) after the joint winners Steinitz and Winawer.
This was his finest achievement, but he had some other good tournament results; London 1883 (won by Zukertort), equal fifth; Nuremberg 1883, third after Winawer and Blackburne; Hamburg 1885, second equal with Blackburne, Englisch, Tarrasch, and Weiss after Gunsberg; Manchester 1890 (won by Tarrasch), equal fifth; and Belfast 1892, first equal with Blackburne. Fond of drink, Mason is alleged to have lost many games when in a ‘hilarious condition’. ‘A jolly good fellow first and a chess-player afterwards’ he never fulfilled the promise of his first years in England, Instead he wrote books on the game, in excellent style, notably two popular textbooks. The Principles of Chess in Theory and Practice (1894) and The Art of Chess (1895): both ran to several editions. Another of his books. Social Chess (1900), contains many short and brilliant games.
From The Encyclopedia of Chess by Harry Golombek :
A British master of Irish birth, Mason emigrated in early youth to the USA before settling in England in 1878. In America he won matches against Delmar, Martinez, Bird etc, ; In England he beat Mackenzie and drew with Potter, remaining unbeaten in match-play. He played in most of the important tournaments of the eighties and nineties, but the first prize he won on his début at the Philadelphia congress 1876 remained his only victory.
His best results were the third prizes at Vienna 1882 (behind Steinitz and Winawer), Nuremberg 1883 and Amsterdam 1889; =2nd at Hamburg 1885 and =3rd at Bradford 1888; also his 7th place in the great New York 1889 tournament. He wrote The Principles of Chess, London 1894, The Art of Chess, London 1895, compiled a collection of brilliancies in a series Social Chess, London 1900, and was co-author with Pollock of the 1895/6 tournament book. (Article by William Hartston).
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