Luckily for all of us Scottish chess enthusiast Geoff Chandler is transcribing JMAs games from the players personal scorebooks. We hope to see these games appearing in Britbase and other locations in the near future.
From The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match by Klein and Winter :
“JM Aitken was born in 1908 in Scotland, and learned chess at the age of eight. He played several times in the Scottish Championship, and won it in 1935. In the Stockholm international team tournament, 1937, he played for Scotland. His best performance in international chess was at Hastings, 1945, when he scored 6 points and did best among the British contingent.
He is a graduate of both Oxford and Edinburgh, and a Ph.D. At the beginning of the war he joined the Foreign Office. ”
The Aitken Variation is a line recommended in the British Chess Magazine of 1937 of the Giuocco Piano as follows :
From British Chess Magazine, Volume CIV (104, 1984), Number 1 (January), page 65 :
“Dr. James Macrae Aiken (27 October 1908 – 3 December 1983) died at his home in Cheltenham on the Saturday morning when he was due to turn out in a county match that afternoon. Sh he was active to the end, since he played in the veterans’ competition in both at the Southport BCF Congress and at the Guernsey tournament in October.
Ten times Scottish Champion, the worthy doctor represented Scotland at Olympiads both pre- and post-war. At the 1937 Stockholm Olympiad he beat Ståhlberg, while later on he also had the grandmaster scalps of Bogoljubow and Tartakower to his credit.
He retired from his work at the Foreign Office some ten years ago, and continued playing in West Country chess, always taking a high board for Gloucestershire. At the BCM we have a particular cause to remember him with gratitude since he was both a book reviewer and occasional annotator for two decades, and a life-long subscriber.
As a person he was always friendly and objective in his judgements both of chess positions and personalities. Your editor recalls many interesting conversations with him at BCF Congresses. The loss is greatest, of course. for Scottish Chess.
Perhaps we may close on a lighter note, since the following anecdote reminds one that Dr Aitken also turned out for Great Britain in matches just after the war. At an early FIDE Congress after the war the first official FIDE list of masters and grandmasters was being drawn up. The BCF made application for recognising the mastership of HE Atkins. The Soviet delegate, Kotov, objected since he thought he heard the name of Aitken, whom he knew had lost both games to Bondaresvky on board eight of the 1946 GB-USSR Radio Match. It was gently pointed out that the application concerned a player who had come ahead of no less than Chigorin at Hannover 1902. End of objection!
We take this game from the Bournemouth tournament played on the eve of the Second World War.
“Talented Scottish amateur who won the Scottish championship ten times, Dr. Aitken’s chief international activity was representing Scotland in the Olympiads.
At Stockholm 1937 he scored 32.4% on top board but he had the distinction of beating the Swedish grandmaster Ståhlberg. At Munich 1958 he scored 67.6% on 2nd board; at Tel Aviv 1964, 28.1% on 2nd board; at Skopje 1972, 38.9% on 6th board.”
Both Sunnucks and Hooper & Whyld are silent on Aitken.
“James Macrae Aitken (27 October 1908 – 3 December 1983) was a Scottish chess player. Aitken was born in Calderbank, Lanarkshire, Scotland. In 1938 he received a PhD from Edinburgh University on the topic of ‘The Trial of George Buchanan Before the Lisbon Inquisition’.
Aitken learned chess from his father at age 10. He was Scottish champion in 1935, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1960, 1961 and 1965, the latter jointly with PM Jamieson. He was also London Champion in 1950. In 1959 he had his best result in the British Championship, finishing tied for seventh place. Aitken represented Scotland in four Chess Olympiads. He played top board at Stockholm 1937, scoring only 32.4% but he did defeat Swedish GM Gideon Ståhlberg and draw with American GM Samuel Reshevsky. He played second board at Munich 1958 and Tel Aviv 1964, scoring 67.6% and 28.1% respectively. Aitken played sixth board at Skopje 1972, scoring 38.9%.”
“Aitken represented Great Britain in matches against the USSR and Yugoslavia. In the 1946 radio match between the United Kingdom and the USSR he lost his match with Igor Bondarevsky on board 8. Aitken defeated GM Savielly Tartakower at Southsea 1949 and GM Efim Bogoljubow at Bad Pyrmont 1951.
During World War II, Aitken worked in Hut 6 at Bletchley Park on solving German Enigma machines. On 2 December 1944 Bletchley Park played a 12-board team match against the Oxford University Chess Club. Bletchley Park won the match 8–4 with C.H.O’D. Alexander, Harry Golombek, and Aitken on the top three boards. Aitken wrote many book reviews for the British Chess Magazine. Aside from chess his hobbies included golf, philately, bridge, and watching cricket. He died in Cheltenham in 1983, aged 75.”
We remember Amos Burn who passed away on November 25th, 1925.
Amos Burn was born in Kingston-upon-Hull on Sunday, December 31st 1848 to Amos and Mary Burn (née Webster). His father is recorded as a merchant. Amos and Mary were residents of Bourne Street at the time of the birth.
On February 15th 1849 Amos was baptized in All Saints Anglican Church, Sculcoates, Kingston-Upon-Hull
Amos married Martha Ann Jäger in Birkenhead on Dec 27th 1879. They had two daughters Elsie Martha, born 24th Oct 1880 and Hilda Marian, born 26th Oct 1881.
For further detail of ABs family please consult the excellent Amos Burn : A Chess Biography by Richard Forster
From The Oxford Companion to Chess (OUP, 1984), Hooper & Whyld :
“One of the world’s top ten players at the end of the 19th century. Born in Hull : he learned chess when 16, came to London at the age of 21, and rapidly established himself as a leading English player, A pupil of Steinitz, he developed a similar style; both he and his master were among the world’s best six defensive players, according to Nimzowitsch. Not wishing to become yet another impecunious professional. Burn decided to put his work (first a cotton broker then a sugar broker) before his chess, and he remained an amateur. He made several long visits to America, and was often out of practice when he played serious chess.
Until his thirty-eighth year he played infrequently and only in national events, always taking first or second prize. From 1886 to 1889 he played more often. In 1886 he drew matches with Bird (+9-9) and Mackenzie (+4=2-4); at London 1887 he achieved his best tournament result up to this time, first prize (+8—1) equal with Gunsberg (a play-off was drawn +1=3—1); and at Breslau 1889 he took second place after Tarrasch ahead of Gunsberg, After an isolated appearance at Hastings 1895 he entered another spell of chess activity, 1897-1901, The best achievement of his career was at Cologne 1898, first prize ( + 9=5-1) ahead of Charousek, Chigorin, Steinitz, Schlechter, and Janowski. At Munich 1900 he came fourth (+9=3—3). His Last seven international tournaments began with Ostend 1905 and ended with Breslau 1912. A comparative success, in view of his age. was his fourth prize shared with Bernstein and Teichmann after Schlechter, Maroczy, and Rubinstein at Ostend 1906; 36 players competed in this five-stage event, 30 games in all for those who completed the course.
Retired from both business and play he made his home in London and edited the chess column of The Field from 1913 until his death. A shy and retiring man, a loyal companion to those who came to know him, he freely gave advice to young and aspiring players.”
The front cover of the November 1975 issue of the British Chess Magazine featured Amos Burn :
From British Chess Magazine, 1975, November, pp. 481-483 :
Half a Century Back
Chess in 1925
by W.H. Cozens
Amos Burn was a very different figure and his career is poorly documented. He is overdue, not for a reappraisal but simply an appraisal, He was born (in Hull) in 1848 – an incredible 127 years ago. All the years that could have been his prime as a chessplayer he devoted to business. (Marine insurance was his speciality.) He was based in Liverpool but travelled considerably, including several crossings of the Atlantic – quite an undertaking in those days. He played some casual chess, soon overshadowing the Rev. John Owen to become Liverpool’s answer to Manchester’s Blackburne. He also played for the City of London Chess Club; but it was not until he was nearly 40, presumably with his financial position secured, that he entered the international chess arena. Between the ages of 38 and 64 he played in 22 international tournaments. At Breslau (1889) he was second to Tarrasch, above Louis Paulsen, Blackburne, Schallop … In Amsterdam the same year he was first, ahead of Emanuel Lasker. His finest achievement was first place at Cologne 1898, in front of Charousek, Chigorin, Steinitz, Schlechter et al., (16 in all) with a win against Steinitz. The lack of a book on Cologne 1898 is – since the publication of Mannheim 1914′: the biggest gap in tournament literature.
At Karlsbad 1911 he defeated not only the winner, as mentioned above, but also Alekhine, whom he steered into a knight versus bad bishop ending. His style was unashamedly modelled on that of Steinitz, and marked by extreme tenacity. To him is attributed the epigram ‘He who combinates is lost’. He could play a combination when in the mood but he much preferred to let the opponent break his own back by attacking too impetuously. Nimzowitsch wrote: ‘The number of really great defensive players is very small’, adding that he knew of only six: Steinitz, Emanuel Lasker, Burn, Bernstein, Duras and Louis Paulsen.
In the 1911 Cable Match between G.B. and the U.S.A. Marshall came from San Sebastian straight to London and asked permission for his top board game to be played over the board. When he found that his opponent was to be the 64-year-old Amos Burn he must have smiled, for he had twice defeated him resoundingly – at Paris 1900 (also having some fun at Burn’s expense in his annotations to the game) and again at Ostend 1905. This time he was in for a shock. Within twenty moves the old man had won his queen for two pieces. Marshall played on, probably with a red face, until move 37, rather than have his loss cabled home too early. Against Burn he might have spared himself the trouble.
Burn was a superb annotator. His work, notably in ‘The Field‘ from 1913 on, sets a standard to which one looks back nostalgically in these days of hieroglyphics. The day before he died, at the age of 77,he had been at work on analysis and annotation. Tournaments were now plentiful enough for it to be possible to pick out the band of regular professionals, and to assess their prowess. Tartakower was placed 2, 5, l, 5; Reti 5, 5’ 5,-11; Grunfeld 4,8,8,9; Nimzowitsch was erratic with 1,2,9; so was Rubinstein with 1, 2, 3, 12. Marshall was consistent with 3, 4, 5. Lasker, Capablanca and Alekhine appeared once each – with distinction, of course.”
The Burn Variation is a line in the french defence dating from the 1870s, played regularly by Burn at the tournaments of Hastings
1895, Cologne 1898, and Vienna 1898. More recently it has been favoured by Petrosyan.
From The Encyclopedia of Chess (Robert Hale, 1970 & 1976), Anne Sunnucks :
“A leading British player of his day, Amos Burn was born in Hull on 31st December 1848. He learned the game when he was 16 and an apprentice with a firm of Liverpool cotton-brokers, but it was not until 1886 that he achieved his first major tournament success by coming 2nd in the London tournament and 1st at Nottingham. These results gained him an invitation to Frankfurt 1887, which marked the beginning of his career as an international player.
Burn’s greatest successes were 1st at Amsterdam 1889, ahead of Lasker, 2nd at Breslau 1889, behind Tarrasch but ahead of Mieses, Von Bardeleben, Bauer, Gunsberg and Paulsen; and 1st at Cologne 1898, ahead of Charousek, Steiniitz, Tchigorin and Schlecter.
After the St. Petersburg 1909 tournament, Burn’s results began to deteriorate and he finally retired from tournament chess after the Breslau 1912 tournament.
From 1913 until his death, Burn was chess editor of The Field. He died on 25th November 1925.”
“British Grandmaster and second only to Blackburne in late nineteenth-century British chess. He was born in Hull and learned to play chess at sixteen, but devoted little time to the game at first, preferring to establish himself in a commercial career.
He returned to chess in his middle thirties, his first major national success being first prize at Nottingham 1886 and second prize at London 1886. Within three years he had gained an international reputation by winning at Amsterdam 1889, ahead of Lasker, and finishing 2nd to Tarrasch at Breslau 1889. Burn continued to appear in international tournaments until the age of sixty-four, his most notable triumph being first prize at Cologne 1898 in front of Charousek, Steinitz, Chigorin and Schlechter. He was chess editor of The Field from 1913 until his death in 1925.”
We remember Reverend John Owen who passed away on the 24th November 1901)
John Owen was born on April 8th, 1827 to John and Sarah Owen in Marchington, Uttoxeter, Staffordshire.
He was baptised at Marchington, St. Peter on April 9th, 1827 by H. Bennett and their residence was recorded as “Brook House”. His father is recorded as being a gentleman.
From The Oxford Companion to Chess (OUP, 1984) by Hooper & Whyld :
“English player, vicar of Hooton, Cheshire, from 1862 to 1900. In 1858, playing under the pseudonym ‘Alter’, he lost (=2-5) a match against Morphy, who conceded pawn and a move. (Hoffer attributed this poor result to Owen’s just being married.) Subsequently Owen played better. He drew a match with Kolisch in 1860 (+4-4) and at the London tournament of 1862 took third prize after Andersen (whom he defeated) and L. Paulsen ahead of Dubois, GA MacDonnell, Steinitz and Blackburne.
From 1857 to 1898 Owen played in more than a dozen tournaments, all of them in Great Britain.
He liked close openings and often played the Queen’s Fianchetto Defence, sometimes named after him, and the Larsen Opening.”
Probably, the strongest of all the chess-playing reverends of the nineteenth century. Owen came 3rd at Birmingham 1858, below Löwenthal and Falkbeer, but ahead of Saint-Amant, Staunton and Bird; but is should be pointed out that the method of play was still by the old knock-out system.
He was also =3rd with MacDonnell in the first congress of the British Chess Association at London in 1862.
He also had the distinction of losing matches to Morphy, Zukertort and Burn, though he beat Burn in a later match. He drew a match with Kolisch in 1860.
Sunnucks is silent on Owen.
According to The Complete Chess Addict (Faber&Faber, 1987), Mike Fox & Richard James :
“For the record (and because it’s so impressive) here is the most devout team of all time, If there is anything in the efficacy of prayer they’d be tough to stop :
“John Owen (8 April 1827 – 24 November 1901) was an English vicar and strong amateur chess master. He ranked among the world’s top ten chess players for certain periods of the 1860s. He was a major figure in English chess from the mid 1850s to the 1890s.
Owen was born in Marchington, and obtained his early schooling at Repton School, Derbyshire. In 1850 he graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge, and received his M.A. from Cambridge three years later. He was ordained by the Church of England in 1851, and served as Vicar of Hooton, Cheshire from 1862 to his retirement in 1900.
In 1858 he won a chess game against the young American master Paul Morphy, the world’s best player, who was then touring Europe. ”
This led to a match between the two. Despite being given odds of pawn and the move (meaning he started the game with an extra pawn and always moved first), Owen lost the match 6–1, never winning a game.
His performance in the very strong 1862 London tournament, the first international round-robin event (in which each participant plays every other) was more impressive. He finished third, ahead of future world champion Wilhelm Steinitz, and was the only player to win against the eventual tournament winner, Adolf Anderssen. Louis Paulsen placed second. This result was arguably Owen’s top lifetime chess achievement.
Owen continued to play frequently and often successfully in British tournaments into the 1890s, and performed strongly in several matches against top British players, who were essentially chess professionals. He never competed outside the British Isles. He died in Twickenham.
Owen is the eponym of Owen’s Defence, a chess opening characterised by the moves 1.e4 b6. Owen was the first strong player to play this frequently, including in his victory over Morphy.”
We remember Mary Rudge who passed away one hundred and one years this day on Saturday, 22-xi-1919.
She was born in Leominster, Herefordshire on February 6th, 1842. Her father was Henry Rudge (born 1794 in Gloucestershire) who was a surgeon and General Practitioner. Her mother was Eliza Rudge (née Barrett) who was born in Ledbury, Herefordshire in 1802.
Mary was part of a typically large household and according to the 1851 census she had sisters Sarah (23), Caroline (18), Emily H (12), brothers Henry (14) and Alfred (10). Assisting Henry with medical matters was William S Boyce and acting as a “General Servant” was Thomas Rotheroe (18). Their address is given as “21, Middle Marsh, Leominster, Herefordshire, England” (HR6 8UP). According to HM Land Registry : “Middlemarsh is in the Leominster North & Rural ward of Herefordshire, County of, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire.”
By 1861 the household had relocated to 62, Broad Street, Leominster and the servants were James Price (18) whose occupation is given as a Groom and Sarah Gardener (21) who was the House Servant.
Mary moved, “helpless from rheumatism”, at some point, to Truro and then to the British Home for Incurables, Streatham. She died in Guys Hospital, London, on 22 November 1919.
Editor of British Chess Magazine at the time of her obituary was Isaac McIntyre Brown who afforded Mary a pathetic three lines.
“As we go to press we learn with great sorrow of the death, at Streatham last month, of Miss Mary Rudge, winner of the International Ladies’ tournament in 1897.”
Golombek, Hooper&Whyld and Sunnucks are all silent on Rudge.
From Wikipedia :
“Mary Rudge (6 February 1842 in Leominster – 22 November 1919 in London) was an English chess master.
Rudge was born in Leominster, a small town in Herefordshire, England. She began playing chess in a correspondence tournament in 1872. The first mention of over the board competition is in August 1874 when she played in the second class at the Meeting of the Counties’ Chess Association at Birmingham. After the death of her father, Henry Rudge, she moved to Bristol where she started playing chess seriously.
Rudge was the first woman member of the Bristol Chess Club, which did not allow women to be members of the club until she joined in 1872. She played against Joseph Henry Blackburne, who gave a blindfold simultaneous display against ten opponents. The following year she played in another blindfold simultaneous display given by Johannes Hermann Zukertort. In March 1887 she played and drew on board six for Bristol against Bath at the Imperial Hotel in Bristol. At the beginning of 1888, Rudge played and won on board six for Bristol & Clifton against City Chess & Draughts Club. The following year, she won the Challenge Cup of Bristol & Clifton Chess Club. In 1889, she became the first woman in the world to give simultaneous chess exhibitions. She won the Ladies’ Challenge Cup at Cambridge 1890, and won the second class at the Southern Counties’ tournament at Clifton 1896.”
“First Women’s International Chess Congress
She was a winner of the first Women’s International Chess Congress under the management of the Ladies’ Chess Club of London in conjunction with the Women’s Chess Club of New York. Lady Newnes was president of the Tournament Committee, and Sir George Newnes, Baron Albert Salomon von Rothschild, Mr. Harry Nelson Pillsbury and some others offered prizes. The tournament was played at the Hotel Cecil in the Masonic Hall for six days, but the final rounds were decided at the Ideal Café, the headquarters of the Ladies’ Chess Club, from 22 June to 3 July 1897. Miss Rudge was 55 years old and the oldest of the 20 players, and had substantial experience playing chess at the time. She was a well-known English player, ranking in chess strength with the first class of the leading men’s clubs. She won the event with 18 wins and 1 draw, followed by Signorina Louisa Matilda Fagan (Italy), Miss Eliza Mary Thorold (England), Mrs. Harriet Worrall (USA), Madame Marie Bonnefin (Belgium), Mrs. F.S. Barry (Ireland), Lady Edith Margaret Thomas (England), among others.”
“Over the next years, she took part in various competitions, playing in Bristol and Dublin. In 1898, she played against world champion Emanuel Lasker in a simultaneous display at the Imperial Hotel. Lasker was unable to finish all the games in the time available, and Rudge’s was one of those unfinished. He conceded defeat because he would be lost with best play.”
Best wishes to IM Andrew Kinsman born on this day Friday November 20, 1964 to Kenneth H and Yvonne (née Greening) Kinsman. Andrew has sisters Cassandra Suzie and Joanna Marie and a brother Graham John. His father played for Wimbledon and then retired to Kettering (thanks Richard James).
Andrew Peter Harry Kinsman was born in North East Surrey and grew up in Kingston-Upon-Thames near Kingston Hospital (thanks Richard James!). He was a member of Richmond Junior Chess Club.
Andrew was a member of the University of Sussex chess team in 1983 along with IM Byron Jacobs. Andrew became an editor of chess publisher BT Batsford Ltd. following in the footsteps of Bob Wade, Paul Lamford and others.
He made his first Grandmaster norm with his victory in the 1997 Owens Corning International in Wrexham.
Andrew’s peak rating was 2430 in January 1998. He played for Guildford in the Four Nations Chess League and for Wimbledon in other leagues. His last ECF grading was 222D in July 2002 and highest may have been 230B in July 2000.
He left chess and turned to poker becoming a successful player and author and was married to Pauline. They lived in Ditchling Rise in Brighton.
He joined Byron Jacobs to form Chess Press which eventually morphed into First Rank Publishing.
With the white pieces Andrew was consistently a d4 player with the occasional Nf3 thrown in. He played a “slow” Queen’s Gambit (Nf3 inserted before c4) and the Trompowski Attack for variety.
As the second player Andrew played the French Winawer and the Benko Gambit.
Andrew is registered for both Wimbledon and Guildford and represented Wuppertal in the Bundesliga. Andrew’s most recent appearance in 4NCL was the final weekend of the 2001/2 season beating JA Toothill.
He has written several books on chess (and poker) as follows :
James Derrick Slater was born on Wednesday, March 13th, 1929. On the same day “Leon Trotsky gave his first interview to the foreign press in his apartment in Turkey, saying he was writing a book tracing the history of his opposition to Joseph Stalin and expressing a desire to go to Germany because he preferred the care of German physicians.”
He was born in Heswall, Cheshire (Wirral, Merseyside was the registration district) to Hubert Slater and Jessica Alexandra Barton.
He arrived (aged 31) in Southampton on board the Pretoria Castle as a first class passenger whilst resident in 16, Stafford Terrace, Kensington and his occupation was given as Company Director.
He died on 18th November 2015 in Cranleigh, Surrey aged 86. He had four children one of which is Mark Slater.
Jim wrote his chess autobiography as follows :
(This text was retrieved using the Wayback machine via https://web.archive.org/web/20110909053137/http://www.jimslater.org.uk/views/chess/)
“As a boy Jim Slater enjoyed playing Monopoly and draughts but his main indoor hobby was chess. He stopped playing chess after leaving school as he found it took too much time and concentration while studying for accountancy.
It was not until a colleague asked Jim to teach him to improve his game in the late 1960s that his interest in chess was rekindled. For a short while Jim joined a London chess club (Richard James reveals that this is West London Chess Club as mentioned in their internal magazine) but found he preferred correspondence chess which he could play much more conveniently when he returned home in the evening. Jim did quite well in his correspondence club, going up a few grades, until he reached a level at which it became hard work.
Jim had maintained a link with Leonard Barden, who was a British Champion and a chess correspondent. With his help Jim began subsidising the annual Hastings Tournament with a view to expanding it so that leading players would have a chance to qualify as international masters. Other countries would not invite British players to play in their tournaments until they became international masters so they were in an impossible situation. The small amount of help Jim was able to give to Hastings was arranged in a very low-key way and attracted very little publicity. The World Chess Championship would prove to be a very different proposition.
For the previous two decades the Russians had dominated world chess and then the West produced two exceptional players – Bobby Fischer of the USA and Bent Larsen of Denmark. In particular, Fischer had fantastic potential but he was handicapped by being extremely temperamental.
In the final rounds of the World Chess Championship the players were playing the best of ten games. In the quarter finals Fischer won six games to nil. In the semi-final Fischer was paired with Larsen and also beat him six games to nil. This had never happened before in world chess, and for the first time it looked as if the Russians were going to get a run for their money.
In the last qualifier Fischer came up against Petrosian, a brilliant defensive player. Fischer won the first game but lost the second. The next three games were drawn. It was said by some that Fischer had a bad cold and everyone wondered if he could regain his earlier momentum. After this relapse he won the next four games. This made Fischer challenger to Spassky. Spassky too was a brilliant attacking player and had been a chess genius since early childhood, so it promised to be an exceptional match.
While preparations were being made for the World Championship in Iceland, Fischer started to complain about the prize money which he thought should be doubled.
‘I was driving into London early one Monday morning in mid-July feeling disappointed that after all this build-up Fischer might not be taking on Spassky, when it suddenly occurred to me that I could easily afford the extra prize money personally. As well as providing me with a fascinating spectacle for the next few weeks it would give chess players throughout the world enormous pleasure for the match to proceed.’
From The Complete Chess Addict (Faber&Faber, 1987) , Mike Fox & Richard James:
“Jim Slater, the financier and children’s author, was a strong schoolboy player. He gave up chess for finance. This turned out a very good thing for chess, since he was able to tempt Bobby Fischer (with a £50,000 increase in stake-money) into playing Boris Spassky for the world title in 1972. Here’s what the young Slater was capable of:”
From Bobby Fischer Goes to War , David Edmonds and John Eidinow, Faber & Faber, 2004 we have a fuller account as follows :
“Driving to work in London early on Monday morning, 3 July, Jim Slater was upset by a radio report on the challenger’s non-appearance in Reykjavik. Slater was a businessman who had set up his own company, Slater Walker Securities, in 1964, when he was in his mid-thirties. His partner, Peter Walker, had left the business to become a Conservative member of parliament and a government minister under Edward Heath and,later, Margaret Thatcher. At the time of the Fischer-Spassky match, the company reportedly had a controlling interest in 250 companies around the world. Supremely confident, decisive, ruthless in business, Slater had by then amassed a fortune of, in his own words,’£6 million and rising’. A gambler by nature, the one big luxury he allowed himself was to play bridge for thousands of pounds with stronger opponents.
He was also a chess fan and supporter of the game, subsidizing the annual Hastings tournament. In the years following Fischer-Spassky, he would, alongside the former British champion and journalist Leonard Barden (who provided the vision and organization), transform the state of British chess by channelling funds into junior competition. Now he decided that he could easily afford the money to send Fischer to Reykjavik – or expose the American as a coward. He would double the prize, putting an additional £50,000 ($125,000) into the pot. Arriving at his office that Monday morning, he passed on his offer through Barden, who then spoke to Marshall, giving the US attorney some background details about this championship angel. Marshall then talked to Fischer. Slater says he also telephoned his friend David Frost, who in turn rang his friend Henry Kissinger’ Kissinger then contacted Fischer. What motivated Slater?’As well as providing me with a fascinating spectacle for the next few weeks, I could give chess players throughout the world enormous pleasure’
Slater’s offer made headlines in London’s Evening Standard and his house was soon swarming with reporters. When he returned from work, he told his astonished wife,’I had a good idea on the way to the office.’The good idea was couched in challenging terms: ‘If he isn’t afraid of Spassky, then I have removed the element of money’
It is not altogether clear how the British offer finally persuaded Fischer. Paul Marshall certainly had a hand, initially pushing it as the answer to all Fischer’s financial demands.’But he wouldn’t accept it; he says.’His experiences with people promising things had taught him not to believe them, particularly with money. And he wanted proof. And he said no.’Marshall tried to change his mind. Phoning Barden, the attorney took his place in the gallery of callers that saved the match.’I said if I were them I would rephrase the offer. Slater should say he didn’t think his money was at risk, because Fischer was just making excuses. He should say that deep down Fischer was frightened. I said Bobby might be piqued by that challenge – and he was. I knew Bobby was very very competitive and combative and would not like to be thought of as a chicken.’ Slater denies this version of events. He maintains it was always his idea to express his offer as a taunt. He never spoke to Fischer and never received a word of gratitude from him.’Fischer is known to be rude, graceless, possibly insane,’he says.’I didn’t do it to be thanked. I did it because it would be good for chess.'”
The match between Fischer and Spassky was a most exciting one and fully up to everyone’s expectations. Fischer won the match.
A few months later, in an endeavour to help our young players, Jim Slater offered on behalf of The Slater Foundation to give a prize of £5,000 (about £75,000 in today’s money) to the first British grand master and £2,500 to the next four. Over the next few years Great Britain went from having no grand masters to twenty and became one of the strongest teams of young chess players in the world.”
and here is his entry from chessgames.com which lists one game from 1947 : “James Derrick Slater, better known as Jim Slater, was an English accountant, investor and business writer. Slater became a well-known chess patron in the 1970s, when he stepped in to double the prize fund of the Fischer-Spassky world championship match at a time when Fischer was threatening not to play, thereby enabling the match to go forward. Afterwards he provided significant financial backing for the development of young British players, many of whom later contributed to Britain becoming one of the world’s strongest chess countries in the 1980s.”
From The Oxford Companion to Chess (OUP, 1984) by Hooper and Whyld :
“British chess patron, financier, children’s author, Slater achieved wide fame in the chess world on the occasion of the Spassky-Fischer world championship match of 1972. Fischer showed reluctance to play and apparently decided to do so when Slater added £50,000 to the prize fund. Slater has also made contributions to many other chess causes and in 1973 set-up the Slater Foundation, a charitable trust which, among other activities, pays for the coaching of young players and provides help for their families if needed. Leonard Barden advises the trust on chess matters. In the 1970s, partly owing to this patronage, junior players in Britain became as strong as those in any other country.”
“An English financier, a great patron and benefactor of chess, both on a national and world level. Passionately devoted to chess from schooldays. He said that on leaving school he hesitated between the alternatives of become a chess master and of going into business, opting for the latter on the grounds that he was not sure of his chess-playing prowess.
It is perhaps a fortunate thing for chess that he did not become a chess-master, since he offer of a £50,000 increase to the stake at the match at Reykjavik in Iceland in 1972 may well have swayed Fischer into consenting to play. He established a Slater Foundation Fund which helps young English players to go and play abroad.”
We remember Gordon Crown who died this day (November 17th) in 1947.
Gordon Thomas Crown was born on Thursday, June 20th, 1929 to James Crown (born 18th November 1899) and Hilda M Crown (born 3rd October 1900, née Sharrott).
James was a refrigerating engineer and Hilda carried out unpaid domestic duties. The birth was registered in the district of West Derby, Lancashire.
According to the electoral register of 1939 they lived at 8 Ingledene Road, Liverpool, Liverpool C.B., Lancashire, England. (This is L18 3HJ in this day and age.)
According to Zoopla : “This 4 bed freehold semi-detached house is located at 8 Ingledene Road, Liverpool L18 3HJ and has an estimated current value of £581,000. Ingledene Road has 19 properties on it with an average current value of £492,220, compared to an average property value of £325,035 for L18. There have been 5 property sales on Ingledene Road, L18 over the last 5 years with an average house price paid of £474,900. There are currently 108 properties for sale in L18 with an average asking price of £372,163 and 59 properties to rent in L18 with an average asking rent of £408 pw.”
Both Sunnucks and Hooper & Whyld are silent on GTC : surprising!
“Gordon Crown is one the sad might-have-beens of the world of chess. In his short life he had already shown himself to be of master strength and a potentially very great player when suddenly, at the age of eighteen, he died during an operation.
He learnt chess when aged nine and soon became one of the best players, first in Liverpool,, his home town, and then in Lancashire, of which county he won the Junior Championship three years in succession.
Crown first came into national prominence when he came second in the British Boys Championship in 1946. (Ed : the winner was John Fuller) In the Hastings Congress of 1946/7 he won first place in a strong Premier Reserves Section.
The last year of his life even saw him reaching out to international success, Playing on board 9 for Britain against The Netherlands he scored 1.5 out of 2 against L.J. Tummers. Then he won third prize in the British Championship at Harrogate. As a result of this success he was promoted to board 4 for Britain against Australia in a radio match when he beat Dr. M. Gellis.
In September 1947 he was hurried to hospital suffering from peritonitis and, being a diabetic, succumbed under the operation.
As a player he excelled in both the opening and endgame phases and possessed a style of play that stamped him as a future grandmaster. As a person he was modest, clever and a very agreeable companion. This was great loss for British and, almost certainly, world chess.”
We have reproduced his obituary from British Chess Magazine, Volume LXVII (1947), Number 12 (December), Page 387-8 and we assume that this was written by the then editor, Julius du Mont :
We are grateful to Leonard Barden on the identity of T.J.B. :
“Thomas John Beach, wartime RAF navigator with Distinguished Flying Cross, leading light of Liverpool chess, regular British championship player for many years, chairman of BCF junior selectors, father of a leading Midlands expert, a good and dedicated man” TJB was the father of Richard Beach who won the British Boys Under 18 title in 1961.
According to the British Chess Magazine, 1943, March, page 56 GTC lived at 8 Ingledene Road, Calderstones, Liverpool 18, England.
On 17 November 1947 he was admitted to hospital, complaining of a stomach upset. Diagnosed too late with appendicitis, complicated by his diabetes, he died in the operating theatre.
His friend (and former British champion) Leonard Barden speculates that had he lived, Crown would have become at least a strong Grandmaster, further noting that he was ” … open, friendly and modest as well as a clear and enthusiastic explainer of his chess ideas; I think he would have been like Keres or Gligoric in their countries, a model for our young players.”
Harry Golombek was similarly impressed with Crown’s play, stating that “In his short life, he had already shown himself to be of master strength and was potentially a very great player.”
We are grateful to be able to use comments from long time friend, Leonard Barden posted under the nom de plume of Roberts Partner on chessgames.com :
“As to the circumstances of Crown’s death. The finger of blame must be pointed at the family doctor for failing to make a timely correct diagnosis. On Sunday 16 November 1947 a chess friend visited the Crown home at Ingledene Road, Liverpool, and found Crown in bed. He explained that his doctor had diagnosed a stomach upset and had recommended rest. The friend and Crown played and analysed together for several hours, and Crown did not appear in any physical discomfort. But that night after the friend left his condition deteriorated and he was rushed to hospital where he died in the early morning hours of 17 November. There was also a belief among some Liverpool chess players that the hospital procedures could have been better.”
“On another thread some CG posters expressed surprise at the Ritson Morry v Crown game where Morry fell into a well-known opening trap.
The British championship at Harrogate in August 1947 was played in a spa building where the underfloor heating was still switched on. This coincided with one of the warmest summers on record (it was the year in which Compton and Edrich made their memorable cricket achievements for Middlesex). By the second week of the BCF congress older and overweight players (the latter group including Ritson Morry) were wilting. Ritson also had some long adjourned games, and by the time of his game with Crown in the final round was exhausted. The game finished in 15-20 minutes so by the time other players went to spectate after their opening moves there was just a reset board with no sign of the players and no indication of what had transpired. Other final round results went Crown’s way so that he finished third outright and thus got selected on a high board for the USSR match.”
and here is an article by ddtru (?) in chess.com : full article
We are grateful to renowned chess historian, Taylor Kingston for supplying these scans of an article from Chess Life in 1947 about Gordon Crown written by Reuben Fine :
From Wikipedia :
“Gordon Thomas Crown (20 June 1929 – 17 November 1947) was a promising British chess player who died of appendicitis at the age of eighteen. He is best known for his win against the Russian Grandmaster Alexander Kotov shortly before his death.
Crown was born in Liverpool in 1929. He finished second in the British under 18 championship in 1946 and improved rapidly, winning the Premier Reserve section of the 1946/7 Hastings International Chess Congress. This led to his being placed on the reserve list for the 1947 British Chess Championship. Following the withdrawal of the defending champion Robert Forbes Combe, he was allowed to play in the championship, where he finished third (Harry Golombek won).
Consequently, he was selected to play for the British team in the 1947 Britain-USSR match, where he caused a sensation by defeating the Soviet Grandmaster Alexander Kotov, though he lost the return game. He also defeated Max Gellis in a Britain-Australia radio match.”
Interestingly, via the EC Forum, Geoff Chandler pointed out a note by Edward Winter in which Bill Hartston recounts advice from David Bronstein : “Look at the games of Gordon Crown. He really understood chess”. From NOW! magazine, (6-12 February 1981, page 80.) : thanks Geoff !
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 sends Birthday greetings to David Howell on this day.
David Wei Lang Howell was born in Eastbourne, East Sussex on Wednesday 14th of November 1990. His parents are Martin and Angeline Howell (née Choo).
An unknown jumble sale (Eastbourne?) provided the Howell family with a chess set.
David learnt the moves from Martin, his father and rapidly improved and he joined Sussex Junior Chess Association and he began representing his county in EPSCA matches and other competitions.
In Torquay in 1998 whilst Nigel Short and Susan Lalic were busy winning the main championships David made his mark by winning the British Under-8 Championship, an event that had started only ten years beforehand.
A trip to Scarborough in 1999 yielded both the Under-9 and Under-10 championships.
Sponsorship from now dissolved software company JEB (Hove) enabled David to be coached by Glenn Flear.
David became a FIDE Master at the age of ten years, nine months and 26 days. He became an International Master aged 13 years, 2 months and 22 days.
Finally the Grandmaster title came at 16 years, 1 month and 22 days.
David’s rise has been well documented both here and here and therefore we will not attempt to improve on these sources.
With the white pieces David is a firm believer in 1.e4 but he has played (and continues to do so) 1.Nf3, 1.c4 and 1.d4 and he has scored 89% over nineteen games with. 1.g3
Like Sheila Jackson and Susan Lalic David was a big fan of the Sicilian Alapin but nowadays the Moscow and Rossolimo variations.
As the second player David prefers open games and has played the closed Ruy Lopez and the Marshall Attack. David also employs the Berlin Defence.
Defending against the Queen’s pawn David is less varied and plumps for the Grünfeld defence most of the time. On critical occasions David will use the Caro-Kann as a winning weapon.
So, a wide repertoire with both the white and black pieces and therefore not easy to prepare for : a very modern player!
David started his 4NCL career with Invicta Knights with a FIDE rating of 1432 in May 1999. By 2001 he was playing for Nigel Johnson and his Slough team. In 2004 the inevitable occurred and David transferred (as is common) to either cash rich Wood Green or Guildford. In fact it was Guildford on this occasion. In 2009 David moved to Pride & Prejudice. 2012 saw David playing for Wood Green Hillsmark. In 2015 he switched to Cheddleton and remained with them until 2019 finally returning to Guildford in 2020.
We focus on the British Chess Scene Past & Present !
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