Category Archives: Composition

Minor Pieces 24: Arthur Makinson Fox

There was good news for Twickenham Chess Club in January 1889. A victory against Acton gave them an impressive 100% record for the season.

We note a new name among the winners: as well as a Bull (here and here) we now have a Fox to add to the menagerie.

Morning Post 28 January 1889

Eighteen months later, and Mr A M Fox was by now winning every game in the handicap tournament off scratch. Twickenham was one of the strongest suburban chess clubs, and Mr Fox was perhaps their strongest player, which suggests that he was pretty useful.

Morning Post 23 June 1890

His full name was Arthur Makinson Fox, born in Dorchester, Dorset in 1863, the son and grandson of Congregational Ministers, although his father, Joseph Makinson Fox, converted to the Church of England in 1886. An uncle, Daniel Makinson Fox, was a railway engineer who led the construction of the São Paulo railway, and one of Arthur’s brothers, John Ernest Ravenscroft Fox, was a landscape artist.

Arthur shared an occupation with Robert Davy Ganthony: the 1881 census found him in Dudley, Worcestershire, articled to a dentist. It appears that, in those days, training to be a dentist required an apprenticeship rather than a university education.

By 1882 he found himself in Teddington, perhaps still training to be a dentist, but also the organist at Christ Church, Teddington, in whose church hall Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club met until a few years ago.

In 1887 he married Helen Maud McComas, the daughter of an Irish merchant living in Hampton Road, Teddington, not too far from the Roebuck. They settled in the same road, but closer to the town centre: a house named Brendon, 32 Hampton Road, on the corner of Coleshill Avenue (perhaps this house), just round the corner from the Cowards. Three daughters, Dorothy, Helen and Violet, soon arrived to complete the family, and they would remain there for the rest of their lives. None of their daughters married: they weren’t the only spinster sisters in Teddington.

In 1889 he wasn’t new to chess. Since at least the beginning of 1888 he’d been solving problems in the Morning Post, and occasionally tried his hand at composing as well.

This example seems to me to be pretty crude and forgettable: he doesn’t seem to have shared Cecil Alfred Lucas Bull’s talent for composition. Have a go at solving it yourself and see what you think. The solution is at the end of the article.

#3 Arthur Makinson Fox Morning Post 3 December 1888

In 1893 Joseph Henry Blackburne returned to Twickenham for another simul. Arthur Fox was the only player to win his game.

Surrey Comet 27 May 1893

In between dentistry and chess he also found time to study music at London University, being awarded a Bachelor’s degree in 1893.

Arthur seems to have been a real chess addict. He wasn’t just a member of Twickenham Chess Club, but also a number of clubs in central London. I presume he took the train up from nearby Teddington Station.

Here he is, for example, in 1901, playing for the British Chess Club against a combined team from Oxford and Cambridge Universities, and drawing his game against South African law student Frederick Kimberley Loewenthal, named, like Sydney Meymott, after his place of birth. (Kimberley, not Frederick just in case you were wondering, and apparently not related to Johan Jacob.) There are several interesting names in both teams, some of whom you might meet in future Minor Pieces, but if he’d been one board lower, he’d have met Harold Francis Davidson, a theology student at Exeter College, Oxford.

The Field 30 March 1901


At Oxford, Davidson’s behaviour was notably eccentric; he displayed considerable energy but disregarded rules, was persistently unpunctual and regularly failed his examinations. … By 1901 his academic inadequacies were such that he was required to leave Exeter College, although he was allowed to continue studying for his degree at Grindle’s Hall, a cramming establishment. He finally passed his examinations in 1903, at the age of 28, and that year was ordained by the Bishop of Oxford—after some reluctance on the part of the bishop to accept so unpromising a candidate. 

Yes, this was the future Rector of Stiffkey, the Rector Who Was Eaten (or, more accurately, mauled) By A Lion, and one of the stars of The (Even More) Complete Chess Addict, co-written by an unrelated Teddington chess player named Fox.

On April Fools Day 1901 the census enumerator called. As you’d expect, Arthur and Helen were at home along with their three young daughters, Helen’s relation Herbert McComas, a Cambridge University student born in Dublin, and three servants, all in their mid 20s: Grace Gisbourne was a cook, Helena Larkham a housemaid and Ellen Gowing a nurse. It must have been rather confusing with two Helens, Helena and Ellen in the household.

Moving forward another decade, not much had changed. Their middle daughter, Helen, had left home to work as a teacher, but Dorothy and Violet were still there, along with the same three servants as ten years earlier.

But there was another resident as well, Douglas Gerard Arthur Fox, the son of Arthur’s brother Gerard, a 17 year old music student.

Douglas was a promising organist and pianist: he was educated at Clifton College, a school with a strong music tradition, and was now studying under Sir Charles Villiers Stanford at the Royal College of Music. The following year he would be appointed Organ Scholar at Keble College, Oxford.

When war broke out he enlisted in the army, and, in 1917, suffered a serious injury requiring the amputation of his right arm. In 1918 he was appointed musical director at Bradfield College, and in 1931 returned to Clifton College, where he was Head of Music until his retirement in 1957. Among his pupils was the great and wonderful David Valentine Willcocks, one of whose brothers, Theophilus Harding Willcocks, was a mathematician and chess problemist.

For further information about Douglas Fox see here, pp 11-14. You might even want to buy a book here.

At some point, perhaps round about his 50th birthday, Arthur Makinson Fox decided to retire from his work as a dentist, giving himself more time to spend on music.

In 1912 Arthur and his wife contributed two guineas to a fund to rebuild the organ at St James’s Church, Hampton Hill. They lived in the parish of St Peter & St Paul, Teddington, but it’s possible they preferred to worship at St James’s. just a mile down the road. (Walk along Hampton Road past the Roebuck and keep going.) It’s also quite possible that Arthur was the organist there. (A more recent organist at St James’s, Mark Blackwell (2015-2018) is the brother of one of my first private pupils, Richard, who played for Cambridge in the 1986 Varsity Match.)

In 1914 St James’s appointed a new vicar, the Rev Richard Coad-Prior, who had a lot in common with Arthur Makinson Fox, sharing his passion for both music and chess. In February that year, he played for London University in a match against Cambridge. There, sitting almost opposite him, was Richard’s only son Eric, who would himself have a long career as a strong club and county player.

Oxford Chronicle and Reading Gazette 6 March 1914

Arthur’s opponent in this match, Bertram Goulding Brown, was well known as, amongst other things, a chess historian. He had played in Varsity Matches a decade or so earlier, and was now, I think, a lecturer in history. This may have been a ‘past and present’ match, or perhaps Arthur was now associated with London University again in some way.

This is the last match result I’ve been able to find for Arthur Makinson Fox. Not a lot of competitive chess took place during the war, and perhaps, now in his fifties, he decided to hang up his pawns, at least as far as competitive chess was concerned.

The 1921 census has recently become available online, and we still find him in the same place, along with Helen, Dorothy and Violet, who is now working just a couple of minutes walk away at the National Physical Laboratory. Their servants Grace and Ellen are both still there after more than 20 years.

During this period of his life he continued his interest in music. The two fields which particularly interested him were organ music (he seems to have composed some works for his instrument) and madrigals. He wrote articles for various music magazines and was the President and Librarian of the Madrigal Society. In 1914 he had subscribed to a collection of madrigals composed by Orlando Gibbons. (Beware, though: some online sources attribute two cantatas published in the mid 1870s to Arthur Makinson Fox: they must have been written by another Arthur Fox.)

We can now move forward another 18 years to 1939. Helen Maud Fox died that year, but, apart from his sad loss, there’s no change in the household circumstances from 1921. Arthur, Dorothy and Violet are still there, with Dorothy still carrying out household duties and Violet still at the NPL. And, yes, Grace and Ellen are still there as well, having worked for the family for about 40 years. Quite some loyalty, and I guess Arthur must have been a good employer as well.

Although he may not have played competitively for a quarter of a century, he still kept up his interest in chess. In 1941 he wrote an article for the British Chess Magazine reminiscing about the British Chess Club.

British Chess Magazine February 1941
British Chess Magazine February 1941

In February 1945 he had a letter published in the BCM joining in a debate about reversing the starting positions of bishops and knights.

He lived a long but relatively uneventful life devoted to his work as a dentist and his twin passions of chess and music. Arthur Makinson Fox’s death at the age of 86 was registered in Middlesex South in the second quarter of 1949.


Acknowledgements and Sources:


Various other online sources

Problem solution:

1. Nd8! followed by 2. Be3 and either 3. Qe6# or 3. Qd4#. The only other variation is 1. Nd8! Kc5 2. Be3+ Kb5 3. Qa4#

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Minor Pieces 23: Cecil Alfred Lucas Bull Part 2

Last time we left Twickenham’s finest chess problemist, Cecil Alfred Lucas Bull, as he was about to emigrate to Durban in 1892.

Unfortunately, South African online records, both births, marriages and deaths, and newspaper archives, are few and far between, but we are able to provide a fairly comprehensive record of his chess career in the southern hemisphere, both as a player and as a problemist.

This problem, submitted to a London newspaper, dates from soon after his arrival in Durban.

Problem 1. Mate in 3: 1st prize winner Hackney Mercury 1894

And here, continuing where we left off last time, is FR Gittins again.

The Chess Bouquet Frederick Richard Gittins 1897

We know from some useful information on the Durban Chess Club website that he was one of the founders of the club and was Durban champion five times, in 1901, 1903, 1904, 1906 and 1911

Lucas Bull was one of the founders of the Durban Chess Club in 1893 and the first person to win the Durban championship on five occasions, running out the winner in 1901, 1903, 1904, 1906 and 1911. He also participated in the South African championships on three occasions, finishing 9th in 1897, 7th in 1899, and 2nd on his final appearance in 1906.

Lucas Bull was born in Twickenham (part of London) in 1869, and came from a very large family, consisting of five sons (he was the third son) and four daughters. His father, Thomas Bull, was a surveyor and auctioneer, and must have had a profitable business, as the Bull family employed four servants at the time (source: 1881 census).

Bull arrived in Durban in 1892 and apparently chose South Africa, rather than the United States, as they don’t play cricket in the USA! He was already the champion of the Twickenham Chess Club, and was starting to get an international reputation as a problemist. From the date of his arrival, up until the time that he discontinued serious over the board play in 1907, he was almost certainly the strongest player in Natal.

Source: Durban Chess Club website

Further information about his appearances in the South African Championships (1897: Cape Town, 1899 Durban, 1906 Cape Town) can be found on Rod Edwards’ indispensable EdoChess site.

Two games from the 1899 tournament, played in the shadow of the 2nd Boer War, are extant. Click on any move and a pop-up board will magically appear, enabling you to play through the games.


The Bock game. which was awarded a brilliancy prize, was published, for example, in the Newcastle Courant (17 March 1900). The van Breda game comes, via South Africa chess historian Len Reitstein, from the Durban Chess Club website (link above).

His best result was his second place in 1906, giving him an estimated rating of 2130: a strong club player at the time he gave up serious over the board chess (the 1911 Durban championship must have been a very brief comeback). The winner in 1906, Bruno Edgar Siegheim (1875-1952) was born in Germany, played chess in New York (1899-1904), South Africa (1906-1912) and England (1921-1926) before returning to South Africa. His best result was finishing 2nd= with Réti at Hastings in 1923, just half a point behind the great Akiba Rubinstein, which suggests he was IM strength.

We know very little about his life outside chess. It seems like he had enough money not to work and was able to devote his time to his hobbies. I presume he continued to play cricket in Durban, although newspapers from that period aren’t available online. There’s no archival record of Cecil ever having played first-class cricket.

What we do have is a couple of passenger lists.

A 1903 passenger list for a ship sailing from London to Port Natal lists Mr C A Lucas Bull (35), Mrs Bull (32), Miss B Bull (3), Mr C Bull (28). This looks like Cecil and his family visiting England and returning with Clifford, who was going to live with them in Durban. Cecil appears to have a wife and young daughter, but we have no further information about them.

A 1909 passenger list, again from London to Natal, offers Cecil Slade (sic) Lucas Bull, Eunice Chillingworth Lucas Bull and Bessie Lucas Bull. I have no idea where the Slade came from but it looks like he was married to Eunice and Bessie was their daughter.

He was still composing prolifically: here’s one from 1912.

Problem 2. Mate in 3: 1st prize winner Saale-Zeitung 1912

Cecil Alfred Lucas Bull Durban 15 September 1913 Source, Cleveland Public Library Digital Gallery

Here’s a photograph of him from 1913.

He continued composing successfully up until 1932, mixing heavyweight prizewinners with more lightweight offerings for the Natal Mercury. He died in Durban on 19 July 1935, at the age of 66.

Problem 3 is another first prizewinning mate in 3 from the latter stages of his career: British Chess Magazine 1931.

In 1960 Cecil’s friend and occasional collaborator Donald Glenoe McIntyre published Sonatas in Chess, a collection of 136 of his best threemovers (South African Chessplayer). This is a rare book and second hand copies go for high prices. I saw a copy for sale back in the 1980s but didn’t buy it – I really should have done.

I occasionally publish his more accessible problems on the Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club website: see here and here.

At present I have no idea about what happened to Eunice and Bessie. I can find no information about anyone with the forenames Eunice Chillingworth, and the 1927 London marriage of Bessie L Bull to Robert Douglas King-Harman isn’t the same person.

There’s a prominent South African businesswoman named Wendy Lucas-Bull, who is married to Clive Lucas-Bull, and whose father-in-law is, or was, Leslie Arthur Lucas-Bull. Any connection? If you have any further information about Eunice, Bessie or any other relation do let me know.

Cecil Alfred Lucas Bull, chess champion of Twickenham and Durban, and multiple prizewinning problemist, this was your life.

Join me again soon for another delve into the Twickenham Chess Club menagerie.

Sources and acknowledgements:

Problems and solutions from Yet Another Chess Problem Database

EdoChess (Rod Edwards)

Cleveland Public Library Digital Gallery

Durban Chess Club website

Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club website

Thanks to Dr Tim Harding for The Chess Bouquet by Frederick Richard Gittins

Problem solutions:


1.♕a1! ~ 2.♕e5+ ♔d3 3.♘e1# 1…♔d5 2.♕×a8+ 2…♔d6 3.♗e7# 2…♔c5 3.♗e7# (Model mate) 1…♔f5 2.♕b1+ ♔g4 3.♕e4# 1…♔d3 2.♕b1+ ♔c3 3.♗d2# (Model mate) 1…♖×g5 2.♕d4+ ♔f5 3.♘h4# (Model mate) 1…♘g4 2.♕d4+ ♔f5 3.♕d3# (Model mate)

Model mates were much valued at the time.

From Wikipedia:

model mate is a type of pure mate checkmating position in chess in which not only is the checkmated king and all vacant squares in its field attacked only once, and squares in the king’s field occupied by friendly units are not also attacked by the mating side (unless such a unit is necessarily pinned to the king), but all units of the mating side (with the possible exception of the king and pawns) participate actively in forming the mating net.


♗c8! ~ 2.♗×d7 ~ 3.♗e6# 1…♗b1 2.♕a1 A ~ 3.♘e7# B 2…d×c6 3.♗e6# 2…♔×c6 3.♗b7# 3.♕a8# 1…♗×b3 2.♘e7+ B 2…♔e5 3.♕a1# A 2…♔d4 3.♕e4# 2…♔c4 3.♕e4# 1…d×c6 2.♕×c6+! 2…♔d4 3.♕e4# 2…♔×c6 3.♗b7# 2…♔e5 3.♕d6# 3.♗c3# 1…♘f7 2.♘×d7 ~ 3.♘×b6# 3.♘f6# 2…♔e6 3.♘d4#

Some more model mates here, as well as sacrifices and corner-to-corner queen moves, something of which Bull was very fond.


1.♕d8! ~ 2.h3+ ♔×h5 3.g4# 1…♖b4 2.♗×g6 ~ 3.h3# 1…♔×h5 2.♗d1+ ♘e2 3.♗×e2# 1…g5 2.♕d7+ 2…♔×h5 3.♕h3# 2…♔h4 3.♕h3# 2.♕c8+ 2…♔×h5 3.♕h3# 2…♔h4 3.♕h3# 1…g×h5 2.♕d4+ ♔g5 3.h4#

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Minor Pieces 22: Cecil Alfred Lucas Bull Part 1


Surrey Comet 5 March 1887

If you’ve been paying attention you’ll have seen this before. I’d like to draw your attention to Twickenham’s Board 3, Mr. C. A. L. Bull.

In the world of over the board chess he was a Minor Piece, but in the rarefied world of chess problems he was undoubtedly a Major Piece. It’s not so easy, though, to piece together his life as there appear to be no genealogists in his immediate family.

Let’s take a look.

We’ll start with his paternal grandfather, Benjamin Bull. Ben was born in Market Harborough, Leicestershire, a town we’ll have occasion to visit again, but I haven’t as yet found any family connections with other chess players whose family came from that area.

He was a hotel proprietor and we can pick him up in the 1851 census running the Castle Hotel in Richmond, which was demolished in 1888, but its successor would, in 1912, be the venue of the British Chess Championships. It’s quite possible a future series of articles will enable us to meet some of those who visited our fair Borough in 1912 to push their pawns around wooden chequered boards.

Ben and his wife Mary Ann had five sons and a daughter. One of their sons, Richard Smith Bull, achieved some fame as an actor using the stage name Richard Boleyn, but our story continues with another son, Thomas Bull.

Tom, by profession an auctioneer and surveyor, was born in 1839, and, in 1865, married  the 18 year old Julia Sellé, daughter of William Christian Sellé, doctor of music, composer, and Musician in Ordinary to Queen Victoria. Their first child was born in Ramsgate, Kent, but they soon settled, like all the best people, in Twickenham. Tom and Julia had 11 children, one of whom died in infancy, and it’s their fourth son, Cecil Alfred Lucas Bull, who interests us.

He was born (as Cecil Lucas Bull: he would sometimes be known as Lucas Bull) in the second quarter of 1869 and baptised (now Cecil Alfred Lucas) at St Mary the Virgin Church, Twickenham on 16 June that year.

St Mary the Virgin Church Twickenham. Author’s photograph.

In the 1871 census we find Tom and Julia, with four young children, Julius, Alan, Cecil and Beatrix, living in Sussex Villa, Clifden Road, Twickenham, close to the town centre. They must have been well off as they could afford to employ no less than four servants, a cook, a housemaid and two nurses to look after their rapidly expanding family.

In round about 1875 the family moved from Twickenham to Ferry Road, Teddington, just across the road from where, a few years later, St Alban’s Church would be built, and where Noël Coward’s family would both worship and entertain.

The 1881 census records Tom and Julia in Ferry Road, now with Julius, Alan, Cecil, Beatrix, Maud, Gwynneth, Clifford, Walter and Allegra, along with a nurse, a cook, a housemaid and a parlourmaid. Life must have been good for the prosperous Bull family.

This tells us that young Cecil (I think they missed a trick by not adding Ferdinand to his name, making him Bull, CALF) was only 17 when he first represented Twickenham Chess Club. Not exceptional today, but it would have been very unusual, although I haven’t found any specific reference to his youth, at the time. Playing on third board and winning both his games, he must already have been a more than useful player. He went on to win the club’s handicap tournament on two occasions, playing off scratch.

Even at that point, he’d been active elsewhere in the chess world for some time. His first problem was published in The Field in May 1885, just before his 16th birthday. It soon became clear that he was both exceptionally knowledgeable about chess problems and had a remarkable talent as a composer.

His first prize in the Liverpool Weekly Courier in 1886 caused a sensation and also a bit of controversy at the time.

Problem 1. White to play and mate in 3 moves. Solution at the end of the article.

Although he published a few mates in 2 and longer mates, and also a few selfmates, most of his problems were mates in 3. His younger brothers Clifford and Walter also had a few problems published in their teens, but seem not to have continued their interest.

As well as blockbusting prizewinners, Cecil had a knack for composing crowd-pleasing lightweight problems which would have been attractive to over-the-board players.

Problem 2, another mate in 3, was published in the British Chess Magazine in 1888.

Chess wasn’t young Cecil’s only game. From 1888 onwards we find him playing cricket for a variety of local clubs: Strawberry Hill, Teddington, East Molesey, Barnes before settling on Hampton Wick. He was a talented all-rounder, excelling with both the bat and the ball. (I’d have called him both a bowler and a batsman, but today, in the spirit of political correctness, we’re expected to use ‘batter’ instead. I’m afraid it just makes me think of Yorkshire pudding, though.) His teammates sometimes included his older brother Alan, and Edward Albert Bush, who, in 1891, married his sister Beatrix. I do hope they celebrated at the Bull & Bush.

Hampton Wick Royal Cricket Ground. Author’s photograph.

Problem 3 is another prize winner: this one shared 2nd prize in the Bristol Mercury in 1890. Again, it’s mate in 3.

By 1891 the Bulls had moved again. They were now in Walpole Gardens, just by Strawberry Hill Station, with Beatrix, Maud, Gwynneth, Clifford, Walter and their youngest son, Basil. I haven’t been able to find Allegra in 1891. There were now only two servants. Did they need less help as their children grew up?

Cecil was in Bloomsbury in 1891, living ‘on own means’ in the home of a classics teacher who also took in boarders. It seems that he was wealthy enough not to need a job, so was able to devote his time to his hobbies of chess and cricket.

Here’s how FR Gittins would describe his early life in The Chess Bouquet.

From The Chess Bouquet by Frederick Richard Gittins (1897)

And then, in 1892, everything changed. Julia died and the family started to disperse. Walter emigrated to America, where he would later be joined by Basil. Cecil, because of his passion for cricket, soon set sail for South Africa, where Clifford would later join him. It’s possible that the oldest brother, Julius, also emigrated to South Africa, but this is at present uncertain.

Meanwhile, Thomas married a widow named Margaret Crampton in Steyning, Sussex in 1895, and by 1901 they were living in Chingford, Essex. Clifford was the only one of his children still living with him. I haven’t yet been able to find the family in the 1911 census: I suppose it’s quite possible they were visiting one of Tom’s children in America or South Africa. It looks like Thomas Bull died in Chelsea in 1918 at the age of 78.

Do you want to find out what happened to Cecil in South Africa? I’m sure you do. Don’t miss our next exciting episode.

Sources and Acknowledgements:




Problems and solutions taken from Yet Another Chess Problem Database.

Thanks to Dr Tim Harding for The Chess Bouquet.

Solutions to problems:


1.♖d4! 1…♖d1 (R~1) 2.♕×e2+ ♕e3 3.♕×e3# 1…♕f1 2.♖e4+ 2…f×e4 3.♕×e4# 2…♔×d5 3.♘e3# 3.♕d3# 2.♕×f5+ ♔×f5 3.♗d7# 1…♕g2 2.♕×f5+ ♔×f5 3.♗d7# 1…♕g4 2.♖e4+ 2…f×e4 3.♕×e4# 2…♔×d5 3.♘e3# 3.♕d3# 1…♕h1 2.♕×f5+ ♔×f5 3.♗d7# 1…♕h2 2.♕×f5+ ♔×f5 3.♗d7# 2.♖e4+ 2…f×e4 3.♕×e4# 2…♔×d5 3.♘e3# 3.♕d3# 1…♕a3 (Qb3, Qc3, Qf3, Qg3) 2.♕×f5+ ♔×f5 3.♗d7# 1…♕d3 2.♖×d3 ♖a1 (R~1) 3.♕×e2# 1…♕e3 2.♘×e3 ~ 3.♕×f5# 1…♕×h4 2.♕×f5+ ♔×f5 3.♗d7# 2.♖e4+ 2…f×e4 3.♕×e4# 2…♔×d5 3.♘e3# 3.♕d3# 1…c×d4 2.♘e5 ~ 3.♗f7# 2…d×e5 3.♕c6#


1.♔f8! ~ 2.♘c7 ~ 3.♕d4# 2…♗c4 3.♕a3# 1…♔d5 2.♕d4+ ♔e6 3.♘g7# (Model mate, Mirror mate) 1…♗c4 2.♕a3+ 2…♔d5 3.♕d6# 2…♔b5 3.♘c7# (Model mate)


1.♕h3! ~ 2.♕f5+ ♔c6 3.♖c4# 1…♗×e4 2.♕c8 ~ 3.♘c3# 2…♖c6 3.♕g8# 1…♗d3 2.♕c8 ♗×e4 3.♘c3# 1…♔c6 2.♕c8+ ♔b5 3.♕c4# 1…♔×e4 2.♕g2+ 2…♔f5 3.♕d5# 2…♔d3 3.♘b2# 1…b5 2.♖d4+ ♔c6 3.♕c8# 1…b6 2.♘c3+ 2…♔c5 3.♕c8# 2…♔c6 3.♕c8#

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Minor Pieces 15: Oliver Harcourt Labone

There are a few chess players who, while not being outstanding exponents themselves, achieved immortality through a flash of inspiration. Saavedra is one example, and another is the subject of this article: Oliver Harcourt Labone.

Liverpool Weekly Courier 11 December 1886

You might have seen something like this before, either this position or a similar position published by Lasker ten years later. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you the answer. (Spoiler: it involves an underpromotion.)

Problemist Steven Dowd posted this on the BCN Facebook page, asking for more information about Labone.

There’s a lot to tell about a man who lived an eventful life, so do come along for the ride. It’s a rather extraordinary story.

Let’s take you back to the Central Criminal Court on 20 August 1861. A solicitor named Richard Austwick Westbrook was accused of manslaughter. He was a divorcee boarding with a lady named Jane Janette Cathrey, whose husband was had emigrated to Australia: both Richard and Jane, who were probably having an affair, had a reputation for being hot-headed and violent. During an argument Richard threw a knife across the table, hitting Jane in the abdomen and causing her death. A hearing in a magistrates’ court earlier in the month had found him guilty of manslaughter, but now the prosecution offered no evidence, believing it was an accident, and Richard walked free. Sounds like a combination of toxic masculinity and male privilege to me. Perhaps it affected his business, though, as he was declared bankrupt two years later.

Richard Austwick Westbrook had been born in Reading in 1815. In 1841 he married Hannah Grant Stiles. They had four children, but she died in 1852, and in 1855 he married Anne Topley at St Paul’s Church, Hammersmith. In 1857, a son, Rowland Martin Westbrook, was born, followed in 1858 by Oliver Harcourt Westbrook. It seems they split up shortly after Ollie’s birth and he went to live with Jane Cathrey. His petition for divorce was granted in 1860,  naming a man called Demetrio as co-respondent. In 1862 he married a third time and had two more children.

Meanwhile, there was a Clement Leslie Dalba born in Brentford in 1860 (mother’s maiden name Mesina). There’s no other record of him, or of anyone else in the area with any of those names, so my best guess is he was the Clement Claude Leslie Labone we’ll meet later. The name Demetrio, along with Dalba and Mesina, suggests an Italian connection, so I suspect he was the son of Nicholas Demetrio and Anne Topley, and his birth had been registered using false names.

At some point in late 1860 or early 1861, Nick, Anne and the three boys moved to Glasgow, happy to escape Richard’s hot temper, and, to avoid detection, changed their name to Labone. Rowland’s middle name was also changed, from Martin to MacDonald: you can’t get much more Scottish than that. She also seems to have changed her maiden name from Topley to Copley, and sometimes added Mary in front of Anne.

In the 1861 Scottish census he’s Nicholas Labone, aged 28, living in a boarding house in Glasgow, but described as a Landed Proprietor. In 1862, a daughter, Flora Adelina, was born to Nick and Anne. Nick set up in  business as a Professor of Languages, teaching French, German and Italian, but, just like Richard, ran into financial problems and, in 1863, was declared bankrupt. In 1865, a son, Gregory, was born, but sadly died the same year.  In 1866 Nick’s publishers were trying desperately to unload 155 copies of his book A French Verbary.

In 1871 Ollie is away at school, but we find Nick, a Professor of Languages, living with his wife Annie M Labone, and two other sons, Rowland M (15) and Leslie C (12). Flora doesn’t seem to be around.  Flora would later marry and have a family. Rowland died in his 40s, never apparently marrying or having a job, which suggests some sort of health problem. All I can find out about him is that in 1876 he was looking for a job as a lay evangelist. We’ll return to Clem/Les later.

Nicholas Labone/Demetrio, when he wasn’t teaching languages and writing books, was, it turns out, a chess player. He was very much involved with the Glasgow Chess Club in the early 1870s, both as a player and an administrator. He must have taught the game to Ollie and Clem. Nick and Anne’s marriage doesn’t seem to last. They both move down to Lancashire. Nick, now known as Nicholas Demetrio again, remarried in Barrow-in-Furness in 1882. There’s also a Demetrio who played in chess matches between Manchester and Liverpool in the early 1880s, who, I assume, was Nick. According to a rate book from 1890, he was still in Manchester, living in poverty. In 1891, Annie, claiming to be a widow born in Derby, was living with Rowland in Liverpool.

For the moment, though, we need to follow Ollie. We next pick him up in 1879, now living in Liverpool, where a public notice informs us that he’s no longer working for John Gibbs & Son, Ironfounders and Export Agents. At some point after Nick’s death the family seems to have moved from Glasgow to Liverpool. By 1881, he’s in Manchester, where he married Emily Etchells, the daughter of a Methodist preacher, and at the time of the census the young couple have just set up home together in Salford. Ollie is now described as a Commercial Traveller.

In 1883 he first makes his mark in the chess world, submitting a problem to the Illustrated London News. In 1884 he’s playing for Manchester, and, the following year in Stourbridge, Worcestershire. Over the next few years he’s active in Birmingham and Liverpool, along with half-brother Clem. In 1886 the position that would send his name around the world was published: quite an achievement for the young man.

Here’s a game from 1886.

And Problem 1, a mate in 3 from The Field 1 Jan 1887:

(Solutions to problems are at the end of the article)

Two games from 1888:

I can find no adult male with a name anything like L E Whitby anywhere near Liverpool in 1888 or anywhere else any other time, yet he is often mentioned in chess columns. Can anyone help?

The 1891 census tells us that, now a commission agent, he’s moved to Wolverhampton, along with Emily and their children Walter, Leonard and Marie. Another son, Oliver Martyn, had died at the age of only 4 months the previous year.

Birmingham Daily Post 23 June 1893

But in 1893 the family’s world was turned upside down. Ollie was up before the law, accused of embezzlement from his business partner, one Enoch Howard, found guilty and sentenced to a month’s hard labour. Naughty Ollie!

Undaunted, though, the following year he took up a new hobby: giving simultaneous displays against weaker clubs. Over the next 20 years or so he travelled the country, possibly connected with his job as a travelling salesman in machine oils, giving simuls wherever he went and gaining a national reputation as an expert simul giver. In 1894 it was Northampton, in 1896 it was Norwich.

He spent much of 1896 playing a match for the Staffordshire Championship with the Reverend John H Robison of Walsall, which he won easily, winning 10 games and drawing 2. In 1898 he faced a more formidable opponent for the county title: Charles William Draycott. Ollie only managed one draw from the first three games, but eventually scored 10 wins and 3 draws to his opponent’s 7 wins.

Here’s the final game of the match:

Against Lasker (it’s not clear at the moment whether this was a casual game or a simul, and exactly where it took place), he played an unambitious opening and a passive middlegame.

In 1901, still a commission agent, but working on his own account, he was living at Ivy Side, Rookery Road, Handsworth, West Bromwich with Emily, Len and Marie, Walt having left home. He was playing a lot of chess, but not playing Happy Families. There were clearly domestic problems of some sort, and, just a few months later, Emily and Marie set sail for New Zealand, as far away as possible from poor Ollie. Marie, would die a few years later, but Walt and Len would later join her with their families. She later married again, perhaps to a younger man she met on board ship, but there’s no evidence that she and Ollie were divorced.

Meanwhile, Ollie had found himself another woman, in fact another Emily, Emily Yates. (Every one was an Emily, ‘e wouldn’t ‘ave a Lily or a Pam.) She had been born in 1877 in Heywood, Lancashire, so perhaps they’d met on one of his visits to Manchester or Liverpool. Perhaps Emily Mark 1 had had enough of his constant travelling, or of his chess addiction. Or perhaps it’s just one of the oldest stories around: a middle-aged man is attracted to a younger woman. A son, Cyril, was born in Norwich in 1903, and another son, Douglas, in Leicester in 1905.

Here’s Problem 2: Mate in 3 from the Illustrated London News 15 Dec 1906.

A game from this period:

Yes, we seem to have found ourselves back in Leicester again, and, of course, Ollie soon threw himself into the chess life of the city, playing in matches and giving simuls, but also visiting Liverpool in 1909 to take part in a blindfold simul against Blackburne. In 1911 they’re in New Bridge Street, not very far from what was then Filbert Street but is now the King Power Stadium. He’s a Commercial Traveller in Oils, while Emily Yates is a Housekeeper. (This was a common euphemism in census returns, but sometimes employers did have affairs with their housekeepers. Ten years later, for example, South Warwickshire farmer Thomas Woolley had an affair with his housekeeper while his wife was in the lunatic asylum. Pretty despicable, you might think, but if he hadn’t done so, you wouldn’t be reading this article today.)

Here’s the Blackburne game, which doesn’t make a very good impression. He misplayed the opening and never stood a chance. You get the impression he was a strong attacking player, but when facing top level opposition he curled up into a ball and defended weakly. As it happens, one of his relations was a much better defender.

A game from his time in Leicester:

It wasn’t long before he was on the move again. By 1913 he was in Blackpool, where his sons would be baptised the following year.

Problem 3, another mate in 3, was published in the Illustrated London News on 9 October 1915.

While his family settled down by the Lancashire coast, he was back on the road, spending some time in Devon and Cornwall, and, of course, giving simuls. He was back in Exeter in 1918, where he played Plymouth champion Thomas Taylor.

In February 1920 he was writing to the Illustrated London News from Belfast, and, a few moths later, he was in Barrow-in-Furness.

Problem 4, mate in 3 Illustrated London News 17 Sep 1921:

At that point it seems he settled down in Blackpool, now running an advertising agency of sorts. In 1925 he was still submitting problems and games for publication in the Illustrated London News.

Problem 5, mate in 3 Illustrated London News 9 May 1925

Perhaps he just had time to see this game in print before, beset by financial problems, he decided to take his own life.

Lancashire Evening Post 30 November 1925

His son Cyril would also have an unhappy life, and by 1939 was in a mental hospital, described as a pianist. He died in 1947 at the age of 43.

So that was the sad end of Oliver Harcourt Labone, chess addict, player, problemist and simul giver, indefatigable writer to chess columnists. He must have been a troubled man throughout his life. Did his passion for chess help him through his darkest days, or was it one of the causes of his problems, not leaving him enough time for his work and family? It seems like several members of his family were beset by mental health probems, so my guess would be the former.

Oliver Harcourt (Westbrook) Labone, this was your life.

But it’s not the end of our story. Let’s return to Ollie’s probable half-brother Clement Claude Leslie/Clement Leslie/Leslie Clement, who, as we’ve seen, was also a chess player, but at a lower level. He had a much less eventful life, in spite of job changes. He was a schoolmaster in 1891, a book-keeper in 1901 and a mercantile clerk (which might, I suppose, involve book-keeping) in 1911. He was active as a club player between 1885 and 1894, annotating a consultation game in 1891. After that, I suppose, family life and work took over. He remained in Liverpool all his life, living in West Derby in 1891 and 1901, and in Everton in 1911. If you were following football in the 1960s the names Labone and Everton will be inextricably linked. Any connection?

Clem married Fanny Price and had four children, the oldest of whom, born in 1887, was also named Clement Claude Leslie Labone, and, by 1939, had become a Dining Room Proprietor. He married Edith Birch and had three sons, the middle one of whom was named Arthur Leslie Labone. Arthur, in 1939 a Lead Merchant’s Travelling Agent (sounding not unlike great uncle Ollie) married an Irish girl named Bridget (Patricia) Rice. Their son was indeed Brian Leslie Labone (1940-2006), the Everton and England footballer, who, unlike his great great uncle, excelled at defending. He wasn’t the only footballer in the family: his uncle Harold played as a centre forward for Aston Villa.

There’s more yet. When I posted about the connection between Ollie and Brian on Twitter, my good friend John Foley replied that he was also related to Brian Labone (verified by DNA), whose mother’s maiden name was Foley. So Brian Labone, assuming Clem senior and Ollie were indeed blood relations, was related to chess players on both sides of his family.

It’s a small world, as you’ll find out when we return to Twickenham for future Minor Pieces.


Solutions to problems:

Problem 1:

1. Qh4 Kc5 (1… Ng3 2. d4 c5 3. Qd8#) (1… Kxe5 2. d4+ Kd6 3. Qd8#) ( 1… d4 2. Nxc6 d3 (2… e5 3. Qe7#) (2… Kc5 3. Qxd4#) 3. Qd4#) 2. Qb4+ Kxb4 3. d4#

Problem 2:

1. Nd6 Kxd6 (1… Bxc7 2. Qe3+ Kxd6 3. Qe5#) (1… Kd4 2. Qf2+ Kc3 3.
Qb2#) (1… Kb6 2. Qa5+ Kxa5 3. Nc4#) 2. Qa5 Bxc7 (2… c5 3. Qb6#) 3. Qe5#

Problem 3:

1. Nb5 (1. Rhe6 Bd7) 1… Kxe4 (1… Bxb5 2. Rhe6 Bc6 3. R4e5#) (1…
Rxb5 2. Rhe6 Rb1 3. R4e5#) (1… Bxc2 2. Rhe6 Bxe4 3. Nc7#) (1… Bb3 2. Rhe6 Bxc2 3. R4e5#) (1… axb5 2. Rhe6 b4 3. R4e5#) 2. Re6+ Kf3 3. Nd4# 1-0

Problem 4:

1. Rh6 Bc6 (1… b5 2. c8=Q b4 (2… Nc6 3. Qg8#) 3. Qc4#) (1… Nc6 2.
c8=Q Ne5 (2… Nd4 3. Qc4#) (2… b5 3. Qg8#) 3. Rd4#) (1… Rc5 2. Rd4+ Ke5 (2… Kc6 3. c8=R#) 3. Nf7#) (1… Rb5 2. Rd4+ Kc5 3. Ne4#) (1… Bb5 2. Rd4+ Kc5 3. Ne4#) 2. c8=N Bxb7 3. Ne7# 1-0

Problem 5:

1. Qh5 {Threats: 2. Ne5 and 3. Qf3#, 2. Ne3+ dxe3 3. Nb6#} Kxc4 (1…
Bxc4 2. Nf6+ gxf6 (2… Kc6 3. Qf3+) 3. Qf3#) (1… Ke4 2. Ne5 g2 (2… Kf4 3. Qg4#) 3. Qf3#) (1… g2 2. Ne3+ (2. Rc5+ Ke4 3. Nf2#) 2… dxe3 3. Nb6#) (1… e5 2. Qf7+ (2. Nxe5 g2 3. Qf3#) 2… Ke4 3. Nc5#) 2. Ne5+ Kb5 (2… Kb3 3. Qd1#) (2… Kd5 3. Qf3#) 3. Qe8# 1-0

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Remembering Edith Baird (née Winter-Wood) (??-??-1859 01-ii-1924)

Edith Elina Helen Baird
Edith Elina Helen Baird

We remember Edith Baird (née Winter-Wood)

Edith Elina Helen Winter-Wood was born, probably in 1859*, to Thomas Winter-Wood, a writer and poet, and Eliza Ann (née Sole) Winter-Wood in Boulogne, France.

(*Despite 22nd February 1859 appearing in Wikipedia we are unable to locate a primary source for this date. Contemporary secondary sources always just gave 1859 as her year of birth. Census records imply that she was born between April 1859 and March 1860. Her marriage record from 1st December 1880 describes her as being ‘of full age’: at least 21 years old, so born before December 1859. However, her death record from 1st February 1924 gives her age as 63, implying that she was born between February 1860 and January 1861. Either her death record is incorrect or she added a couple of months to her age when she married. )

Many secondary and tertiary sources incorrectly give the Winter-Wood family home of Hareston Manor (now a venue for weddings) near Brixton, Plymouth, Devon as her birthplace.

Hareston Manor near Plymouth
Hareston Manor near Plymouth

The family was resident in Boulogne in at least 1858 (as discussed below) and a UK birth certificate for Edith does not appear to exist. Having said that, a French birth certificate has yet to be located. Both Brian Denman and Chris Ravilious are satisfied that Edith was born in Boulogne and various census records attest to this. Ed: both Richard James and myself (JEU) have examined the evidence carefully and Boulogne would appear to be correct.

Thomas Winter-Wood was born in Har(e)ston, Devon in 1819 and was himself a strong player having been educated at Plympton Grammar School (now known as Hele’s School). Thomas was the son of John Wood-Winter who, in 1824, reversed the order of the family surname. Thomas sold the family estate leaving the Winter-Woods with substantial means, with each family member able to pursue their leisure interests whilst retaining a number of domestic staff.

Thomas Winter-Wood (1819-1905) in 1903.
Thomas Winter-Wood (1819-1905) in 1903.

Thomas taught all of his family to play chess and Edith learnt at an early age. Both Edward J and Carslake W also learnt early on, Edward (aged 11 in 1858) played members of Boulogne Chess Club giving them rook odds and ten years later Edward joined London Chess Club.

According to Tartajubow :

“(Edward) played in several tournaments and in blindfold simuls he drew two games against Lowenthal and one against Blackburne. In 1878 he joined the Croydon Chess Club and once in one of their tournaments scored 23-7. He also enjoyed success in many other club tournaments, correspondence chess and problem solving tournaments. Many of his problems appeared in leading publications of the day.”

and, also according to Tartajubow :

“Her other brother, Carslake W. Wood (1849 – 1924), lived with his mother’s brother, Major Sole of the 5th Militia of West York, in Torquay. While travelling Europe with the Soles, he also developed a taste for painting and on many occasions donated his paintings as prizes in chess tournaments.”

The Doge’s Palace, Venice 1880s by Carslake W Winter-Wood
The Doge’s Palace, Venice 1880s by Carslake W Winter-Wood

According to F. R. Gittins (in The Chess Bouquet 1897):

“The moves came to her, as she says, by a kind of instinct before she was out of her first decade. She did not, however, commence composing problems until some years after her marriage, which took place in 1880, to Deputy Inspector-General W. J. Baird, M.D., R.N., whose distinguished services have been mentioned in despatches and rewarded with four medals and two clasps. Eight years later she composed her first problem, and commenced a wonderful series of successes, having gained eleven first, nine second, and six third prizes, and been honourably mentioned nine times.”

Edith Baird (née Winter-Wood)
Edith Baird (née Winter-Wood)

According to the old ChessDevon web site (sadly only available via the WayBack Machine)

“In 1893, for instance, she entered The Hackney Mercury 3-mover tournament, with a limit of 6 pieces. Most of the great composers of the time had entered, – B. G. Laws, P. H. Williams and James Raynor among them, but she won 1st prize. As one American critic observed, ‘The fact that the tourney assumed an almost international character rendered the triumph of the distinguished lady victor as noteworthy as it was creditable’.”

Here is this first prize (1):

Baird, Edith Elina Helen
Hackney Mercury, 1893
1st Prize

The problem solutions may be found at the foot of this article.

She very quickly progressed and was soon producing problems that were described as being “exceedingly pretty” and which ‘displayed unmistakable aptitude for the intricacies of chess.’ Her work 700 Chess Problems was published by Henry Sotheran Ltd in 1902 and took her 14 years to complete.”

Seven Hundred Chess Problems. Selected from the compositions of Mrs. W. J. Baird, WJ Baird, 1902
Seven Hundred Chess Problems. Selected from the compositions of Mrs. W. J. Baird, WJ Baird, 1902
Seven Hundred Chess Problems
Seven Hundred Chess Problems

700 Chess Problems may be downloaded from here.

Edith also had a brief career in chess competitions in the 1890s, winning the 1897 Sussex Ladies Championship without losing a game.

Few samples of her play survive, but they show her to be a proficient player with, as you might expect from a problemist, a keen tactical eye. In this game she finishes neatly with a queen sacrifice.

In this game, from a blindfold simul against the London-based Dutch organist and chess master Rudolf Loman (1861-1932), she uses a tactic to reach an equal ending.

According to the 1871 census the Winter-Wood household lived at “Hareston”, Tavistock Road, Croydon, Surrey and consisted of Thomas (52 and Landowner), Eliza (44) plus Edith’s brothers Edward J (23 and Banker) and Carslake W (22 and retired banker), Marie A (17), Edith (11) plus three (!) domestic servants.

In 1880 (‘of full age’) Edith married the Deputy Inspector-General of Fleets and Hospitals, William James Baird, MD, of the Royal Navy, in the parish church of St George Hanover Square.  (You’ll see that she married under the surname Wood rather than Winter-Wood.) William was almost thirty years her senior, having been born in Londonderry in 1831. The 1881 census found them in lodgings in Durham House, Hotspur Street, Tynemouth, North Tyneside: presumably William was there in connection with his work.  Later the same year, their only child, Lilian Edith Baird, was born in the same place.

William and Edith’s marriage recorded in the Parish Register of St George Hanover Square
William Baird and Edith (Winter-)Wood’s marriage bonds

Lilian would become a child prodigy whose first problem was published before she was 10 years old. She was also an accomplished poet and painter like her mother. Although she had over 70 problems published by the age of thirteen, Lilian gave up chess composing while still in her teens.

Lilian Edith Strong (née Baird)
Lilian Edith Strong (née Baird)

(Lilian merits a full article in this place in her own right : added to ToDo list!)

By 1891 William had retired and the family had settled in Brighton living at 14 College Terrace, where they employed a servant, Louisa Howard (23). In 1901 the census enumerator found them at the same address, their servant now being Lilian Millard (25).

14 College Terrace, Brighton, East Sussex. BN2 0EE
14 College Terrace, Brighton, East Sussex. BN2 0EE

William died in 1907, and Lilian had married in 1910: the 1911 census found Edith living in a boarding house named Mountcoombe in Surbiton. The house no longer exists, but its name, minus a letter, survives in Mountcombe Close, now a location for residential flats. Shortly afterwards, she joined her brothers in Paignton, Devon, close to her family’s ancestral roots.

Returning to Edith’s family, by the time of the 1881 census the Winter-Wood household (bar Edith) had relocated to “Mariestead”, Netley Abbey, Southampton and had shrunk to Thomas, Eliza and a mere two servants. Edith gave this address when she married William Baird.

Edith Baird (née Winter-Wood)
Edith Baird (née Winter-Wood)

In the 1891 census the Winter-Wood household consisted of Thomas (72), Eliza (64) plus Edith’s brothers Edward (43) and Carslake (42) all of whom were described as “living on means”. They had returned to three domestic servants : Mary Scoble (65), Carrie Stephens (22) and Kate Truman (just 12). They lived at 14, The Crescent, Plymouth, PL8 2AP. Nothing remains of this property, it would appear. By 1901, the family had moved again, to “Kenwick”, Paignton, Devon. They were back down to two servants: Florence Gagg (18) was the housemaid and Sarah Chambers (59) the cook. Thomas died in 1905, and the 1911 census gives their address as “Hareston”, Totnes Road, Paignton. Eliza, Edward and Carslake’s servants were now Laura Ellen Gagg (25 – presumably related to Florence) and Sarah Tulley.

In an interview with the Westminster Gazette (1st September 1894) Edith was asked why chess has always been a man’s game.

“Frivolous and fashionable women would begrudge the time and thought it requires; busy mothers of families could not, of course, spare time for it, and the great majority of unmarried girls have not, I’m afraid, the necessary patience. Then, too, it is, I must confess, an unsociable game. It is most suitable for quiet and reflective people, and for invalids. It seems always to have attracted clever strategists like military and naval commanders, and also great politicians. I wish girls would take to it more, because it is such excellent mental discipline, and brings out one’s patience. It would also be a useful corrective to the tendency to jump at conclusions which many women have. The great charm is that it is a home accomplishment. A woman is not expected to leave her fireside for the sake of chess. It is a stable kind of amusement for which she never need sully her womanliness or her good reputation. Many of the outdoor sports, innocent and healthy enough, lead to a great deal of flirtation and general frivolity.”

F.R. Gittins (op. cit.) described her as follows:

“Mrs. Baird, however, is something more even than the Queen of Chess-problem composers. She is, for example, an enthusiastic and skilful archer, and, living as she does in Brighton, has for some time been a prominent member of the Furze Hill Archery Club, of which she is a member of the committee, and in which, she has, for two years in succession, taken the medal for the highest aggregate score of the season. She also paints and illuminates charmingly, and has a pretty inherited talent for writing verse. Her book of illuminations, in fact, is described as “so chaste and delicate in design as to recall the ancient illuminated books which are treasured in museums and art galleries.” In politics she is a staunch Liberal, while the modern movement against all cruelty to animals – whether inflicted under the name of sport or in the interests of science – finds in her one of its most ardent champions.  Besides the déclassement derived from chess, she is also a great believer in girls making themselves independent of marriage, from a monetary point of view, by having a definite occupation. When it is added that she never allows chess, painting, or any other favourite pursuit to occupy her time until all the domestic matters of home have been seen to, we have said sufficient to show how finely-rounded and complete a life this brilliantly clever woman leads. It is only left to add that her manner is kind and  charming, and that she is thoughtfulness and considerateness itself to all her friends. She is, moreover, the most loving of mothers, and has been heard to declare that if anything were to happen to “Lily”, she would never compose another chess problem.”

Edith was also an avid bicyclist who was known to have ridden 25 miles (on one of those old style bicycles) to discuss an adjourned chess game.

Edith Elina Helen Baird
Edith Elina Helen Baird

On Friday, February 1st, 1924 Edith passed away. The probate record is dated April 29th and was granted to Herbert Percy Strong, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Indian Army, who was Lilian’s husband. The initial value of the effects was £18110 5s 7d which was subsequently resworn to £16627 13s 11d.

Probate record for Edith Baird (1924)
Probate record for Edith Baird (1924)

Both Sunnucks and Golombek are silent on Edith. This is somewhat surprising since Anne liked to mention female players and problemists.

From The Oxford Companion to Chess by Hooper & Whyld :

EDITH ELINA HELEN (née Winter Wood) (1859-1924), British problem composer. Her parents, two brothers, and daughter were all good players or clever problemists.

She composed over 2,000 problems which were not profound but were noted for their soundness; only a dozen or so were faulted. Her Seven Hundred Chess Problems was published in 1902. She became deeply absorbed in retractors, and her other book The Twentieth Century Retractor appeared in 1907. They are two of the most beautiful chess books ever to appear, printed and bound by the King’s printer Henry Sotheran, and sold at less than cost.

The Twentieth Century Retractor
The Twentieth Century Retractor
The Twentieth Century Retractor, Chess Fantasies, and Letter Problems: Being a Selection of Three Hundred Problems, Mrs WJ Baird, London: Henry Sotheran and Co. 1902.
The Twentieth Century Retractor, Chess Fantasies, and Letter Problems: Being a Selection of Three Hundred Problems, Mrs WJ Baird, London: Henry Sotheran and Co. 1902.

The Twentieth Century Retractor may be read online here.

The dedication for The Twentieth Century Retractor was somewhat unusual :

“Dedicated to
The Sun
The Glorious Orb which
Animates and Beautifies
The Earth
By Giving It
Warmth, Light and Life”

and Edward Winter discusses the beauty of the book in Chess Note 3164.

From British Chess Magazine, Volume XLIV, (44, 1924), page 103 we have this brief obituary notice written by RC Griffth :

“We much regret to hear of the death, at Paignton, on February 1st, of Mrs. W.J. Baird, much of the distinguished of women problem composers throughout the world. As our problem editors will no doubt deal fully with her work and her triumphs, we shall say no more here that she took a keen interest in chess over-the-board also, and in 1897 secured the county championship  of Sussex among players of her own sex. By birth she was a Winter-Wood and thus a member of a distinguished West of England chess family”

From British Chess Magazine, Volume XLIV, (44, 1924), page 125 we have this obituary written by RC Griffth :

“A deep shadow has been cast over the chess world by the death of Mrs. W.J. Baird, which occurred on 1st February last at Paignton. The end was most unexpected, but it is a comfort to her relatives that the passing away was peaceful. She was the daughter of Mr. T. Winter-Wood, who and whose family have been identified with chess for generations. She was born in 1859 and composed her first problem in 1888, and it was not long after this date that she was given the title of the “Queen of Chess,” since not only did she distinguish herself in a happy way as a prolific composer, but proved a valiant opponent over the board, testified by her securing the ladies’ championship of Sussex in 1897.

Mate in Two (2)

Among her other accomplishments were painting, particularly illuminating, poetry (which may have been inherited from her gifted father) and archery, in which sport she was skilful. Her chess problems were generally of the light texture order never profound, but always pleasing to the ordinary solver. She must have composed over 2,000 problems of one sort or another, and this large output in about thirty-five years could not be conducive to highest results. Her problem tourney honours were numerous, though she did not as a rule see these, generally entering her problems to oblige admiring conductors of competitions.

Mate in Two (3)

In 1902 she published Seven Hundred Chess Problems and in 1907 The Twentieth Century Retractor, Chess Fantasies and Letter Problems, 320 illustrations (Sotheran & Co.). Both were editions de luxe. Mrs. Baird was credited with the being the originator of the complicated retractor of which she was a proficient exponent, but since she ceased composing these fancies, interest in them has waned.

Mate in Three (4)

During the last few years her activity, after a period of quiescence has been marked, her attention being directed principally to ‘Mutates’ and Picture or Letter Problems. In addition to the enthusiasm which, shown by her actual work, she has generously promoted several competitions, one still current in the Morning Post, particulars of which we announced last month. A remarkable feature of the deceased’s problems was their soundness less than one per cent. being cooked after leaving her hands, evidence of painstaking application!

Mate in Three (5)

There is now, since the decease of Mrs. Baird’s father, Mr. T. Winter-Wood and her brother, Mr. E.J. Winter-Wood, only Mr. Carslake Winter-Wood left to represent the family in the chess circle, Mrs. Strong, her daughter, who at one time promised to emulate her mother, having apparently abandoned the game and its problems. There can be no question that Mrs. Baird stood in front of all lady composers, her nearest rival probably being the late Mrs. T. B. Rowland, and indeed a number of her compositions rank high in the world’s collection. We have not space this month to quote specimens, but hope to do so next issue.

Mate in Three (6)

Since the above was in type we have been informed of the sudden death of Mr. Carslake Winter-Wood on the 24th February.”

The Late Mrs. W. J. Baird,

The Masters said:-

“Lay by the board, the problem is not sound;
There’s none can solve unless a Morphy’s found.”
* * *
A knight I saw, his royal head bowed;
Methought a bishop moved and prayed aloud.
The Queen, alas, and their attendants gone,
Only did the Kings linger sadly on.
And roaming far afield a Rook forlorn,
And here and there a long-forgotten pawn.
“Oh! is there none who can this problem solve?”
“Seek her round who our highest hopes revolve”
And so we brought it to our ‘Problem Queen’
Who faced the field with heart and eye serene.
* * *
“Go leave me now and I will rest awhile,”
Then hand outstretched and swift triumphant smile :
“The Bishops move! with him the key,” she cried –
“Life’s problem solved at last! I’m satisfied.”


White retracts his last move; then plays. Black moves so that White can mate at once. (7)

(Please note that there are factual errors in most of the sources quoted below.)

Here is her Wikipedia entry

Here is more from

Article from Tartajubow (but the author mistakenly conflates Edith and Lilian) on Edith Baird and other Bairds

Queens of Problem Chess by Satanick Mukhuty from

More from Sarah Beth Durst (aka BatGirl), quoting from Gittins.

Via the Wayback Machine Chess Devon have this excellent article

British Chess News would like to thank Brian Denman for providing a file of Edith Baird’s games, and Tim Harding, for sending us the pdf of The Chess Bouquet.

Solution to problems:


1.Qg7! (2.Qc7#)
1…Kc6 2.c5 Kxc5 3.Qc7#
1…Kxc4 2.Qd4+ Kb3 3.Qb4#
1…Kb6 2.Sb5 Ka6/Ka5, Kc6/Kc5 3.Qa7, Qc7#
1…Kd6 2.Sb5+ Ke6, Kc7/Kc5 3.Sd4, Qc7#

(2) 1.Bg2

(3) 1.Qb2

(4) 1.Qh8

(5) 1.Nc1

(6) 1.Rd8

(7) White retracts Nd5xRb6, then 1. Nd6 Rc6 2. Nb7#



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Remembering Harold Lommer (18-xi-1904 17-xii-1980)

Harold Maurice Lommer (18-XI-1904, 17-XII-1980)
Harold Maurice Lommer (18-XI-1904, 17-XII-1980)

We remember Harold Lommer who passed away on December 17th, 1980.

Harold Maurice Lommer was born on Friday, November 18th 1904 in Islington, London to German parents. Curiously his birth entry was missing from the original record and has been inserted manually as an after-thought. Anyone know the reason for this?

He left England aged 4 in 1908 to live in Switzerland and returned to England in 1926.

In the 1939 Census Harold was a resident at 16a Gwendwr Road, Barons Court, Hammersmith, London.

16a Gwendwr Road, Barons Court, Hammersmith, London
16a Gwendwr Road, Barons Court, Hammersmith, London

According to the census record HML was living in a household of three persons and his occupation was that of Foreign Correspondent.

In 1949 Harold married Valija S Linkuns in Fulham.

He died in Valencia, Provincia de València, Valenciana, Spain.

Harold Maurice Lommer (18-XI-1904, 17-XII-1980)
Harold Maurice Lommer (18-XI-1904, 17-XII-1980)

From The Oxford Companion to Chess by Hooper & Whyld :

“International Judge of Chess Compositions (1958), International Arbiter (1962), International Master for Chess Compositions (1974), the greatest British study composer. Born in Islington of German parentage, he moved to Switzerland when he was four and returned to England 18 years later.

Inspired in his youth by the Saavedra study, he became the leading specialist on promotion tasks, and in 1933 was the first to show allumwandlung in a study, which Rinck had declared was impossible. Lommer also showed in studies six consecutive promotions to rooks (1935) and a minimal with concurrent promotions to queen, bishop, and knight.

After the Second World War he became proprietor of a Soho club, where players and composers often met; in 1949 the club organized a small international tournament, won by Bernstein, Lommer retired in 1961 and went to live in Valencia, where he died.

In 1939 Lommer and the English player Maurice A. Sutherland (d.1954), who backed the project, published 1,234 Modern End-game Studies. In 1975 Lommer compiled a sequel, 1,357 End-game Studies. These two collections, catholic in taste, made by a composer who was above all an artist, have become standard works. Besides his studies, the best of which are in these books, he composed fairy problems.”

1234 Modern End-Game Studies, Lommer & Sutherland. Dover, 1938 (originally, this one 1967)
1234 Modern End-Game Studies, Lommer & Sutherland. Dover, 1938 (originally, this one 1967)
1234 Modern End-Game Studies, Lommer & Sutherland. Dover, 1938 (originally, this one 1967)
1234 Modern End-Game Studies, Lommer & Sutherland. Dover, 1938 (originally, this one 1967)

From The Encyclopedia of Chess (Robert Hale 1970&1976), Anne Sunnucks :

“FIDE Judge of Endgame Studies since 1958. Born on 18th November 1904 in London, Harold Lommer’s parents were German and he was educated mainly in Switzerland. Since the late 1950s he has lived in Spain. He has composed about 1000 endgame studies and is joint author with MA Sutherland, of the anthology 1234 Modern End-Game Studies, published in 1938. He is particularly well-known for his under-promotion tasks, but would prefer to be known for his other work as well.

For some 10 years up to 1957, he was joint owner and manager of the Mandrake Club in Soho, London, used by many well-known chess players, journalists and theatre personalities.”

From British Chess Magazine, Volume CI (101, 1981), Number 3 (March), pp. 86-88 we have this obituary from CM Bent :

British Chess Magazine, Volume CI (101, 1981), Number 3 (March), pp. 86-88
British Chess Magazine, Volume CI (101, 1981), Number 3 (March), pp. 86-88
British Chess Magazine, Volume CI (101, 1981), Number 3 (March), pp. 86-88
British Chess Magazine, Volume CI (101, 1981), Number 3 (March), pp. 86-88
British Chess Magazine, Volume CI (101, 1981), Number 3 (March), pp. 86-88
British Chess Magazine, Volume CI (101, 1981), Number 3 (March), pp. 86-88

1357 End-Game Studies
1357 End-Game Studies

Harold Maurice Lommer (18-XI-1904, 17-XII-1980)

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Remembering Dr. A(lfred) Christopher Reeves (19-ii-1939 03-xii-2012)

Dr. Christopher Reeves, courtesy of British Chess, page 235. Photographer unknown
Dr. Christopher Reeves, courtesy of British Chess, page 235. Photographer unknown

BCN remembers Dr. A(lfred) Christopher Reeves who passed away on Monday, December 3rd, 2012 in St. Agnes, Cornwall. His probate record (#4073868) is dated December 3rd, 2012 being recorded in the Bristol registry.

Alfred Christopher Reeves was born in Wharfedale, Yorkshire on Sunday, February 19th, 1939. His mother’s name was Tomlin.

Alfred detested his first name to the extent that he asked people to call him Christopher and, when asked, told them that the A was for Arthur. For this reason much of the chess literature uses Arthur whereas public records use Alfred.

In British Chess Magazine, Volume 133 (2013), Number 1 (January), page 2 we have this obituary from James Pratt:

“Alfred Christopher Reeves (Leeds, 19 ii 1939 – St Agnes?, 3 xii 2012). Chris Reeves was a FIDE Master of Composition. He toyed with entering the priesthood but became a child psychotherapist. He started composing (“…my solace and diversion …”) in 1960, largely specialising in the orthodox two move field. Though not a prolific composer, his work was known worldwide.
He was Sub-Editor of The Problemist

From the The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977), Harry Golombek OBE, John Rice writes:

“British problemist, output consists of skilfully constructed two-movers in the modern style.”

From The Encyclopedia of Chess (Robert Hale, 1970 & 1976), Anne Sunnucks wrote: :

“Problem composer. Since 1960 he has composed about 70 modern-style two movers, and is considered to be one of the most talented British composers. His originality and technique enable him to build into tangible form what would be no more than a passing idea for most composers. He has edited the problem section of Correspondence Chess, and he controlled BCF tourneys and International Team matches.”

From British Chess (Pergamon Press, 1983) Botterill, Levy, Rice and Richardson we have this:

“I was born on February 19th, 1939, the second son of a doctor who practised in a busy Yorkshire coal-mining town. As a youngster I acquired a taste for chess problems as soon as I learnt the moves of the game.

I owe my initiation to the admirable column which DM Davey used to run in the weekly review The Tablet and to the enterprise of one of the masters of the boarding school to which I was sent when still quite young. Davey’s column catered for novice chess problemists like myself by conducting graded solving tournaments with modest handicaps.

These tournaments ran conveniently the length of the school term, just long enough to sustain a young person’s enthusiasm, The teacher in question used to put the week’s problem up on the school noticeboard and dozens of small schoolboys participated as a result. The Tablet column was not only a boon for beginners like me. It had a very discriminating band of solvers who were given ample space to express their views on each week’s problems. This had the additional effect of making it a popular forum for budding composers who need the stimulus and encouragement of audience response in what is, after all, a very solitary sort of pastime.

My fascination with chess problems soon diverted my energies away from the game itself. I was eight when I began solving. Another 13 years elapsed before I seriously tried my hand at composing. My immediate inspiration was the example of the then young trio of British composers, Barry Barnes, Michael Lipton and John Rice. Their latest work incorporating, try-play, and often exploiting complex patterns of relationships between mates, was regarded as unacceptably, ultramodern, in some quarters but found ready appreciation with the solvers of Davey’s column.

Other sorts of problems I had enjoyed; these I wanted to emulate. The powerful attraction their work had on me has made me chary ever since of the strictures of self-appointed guardians of chess problem ‘taste’, who suggest that the modern two-mover cannot hold the same interest for the solver as the more traditional type. It certainly did not have a negative effect on me.

Problem I was one of my earliest compositions, in fact the first to gain any sort of award. At the time I was a theological student destined for the priesthood. I recall having felt some scruples about indulging in the frivolous pastime of chess problem composition not that it prevented me from becoming thoroughly addicted!

I have found that a bad conscience makes a good chess problem, and the greatest spur for composition is the feeling that one should really be busy doing something else. The problem shows a duel between the white queen and the black knight on d5, each of whose eight possible moves feature as a unique defence against one of the white queen tries. Solvers have often found the key to this problem’ quite elusive.

Problem I

The Tablet, 30th June, 1962

3rd Honorary Mention BCPS Ring Tournament

White to play and mate in 2


Key! Qb3!

The 1960s were my golden period of problem composition. They were my solace and diversion as I passed by way of theological studies through an Oxford degree to the foothills of a different career from the one I had originally envisaged, not the ‘cure of souls’ but the management and treatment of emotionally disturbed children and their families. By the end of the decade I was
already engaged in working as a Child Psychotherapist. Since then I have found that human problems have tended to displace my former involvement with problems of the chess pieces. Whereas
between 1960 and 1970 I composed seventy problems, in the subsequent decade I could manage only a dozen more. The reason for this slowing down in production, however, has not only been the demands of personal, family and professional life.

As a composer I have concentrated almost exclusively on the orthodox two-move field, one which if not yet exhausted nevertheless presents a major challenge to the composer to find something new to say or some new way of saying it. It is no accident (though I admit to a slight feeling of regret) of heterodox problems has expanded enormously in the past few years.

Of my eighty or so problems, fifty have been honoured in tournaments, ten with First prizes, ten with other prizes and the rest with Honourable Mentions and Commendations. My ambition is to
reach a respectable century of compositions, though I being to wonder whether I shall ever make the mark. I would also like to reach the FIDE Master norm for problem composition. I have
had twenty of my problems included in the triennial FIDE Albums so far, a few of them joint compositions. Here again, however, my productivity (or lack of it) may eventually tell against me.

Still, the problemist must always keep the business of honours in perspective. Composing problems is an essentially private business. Your opponent is the power of the pieces, not a fellow sitting opposite Vou. Unlike the chess player, one can keep one’s defeats to oneself when one puts the pieces away after a fruitless evening pondering over a board, so it seems only fair that
one’s successes likewise should be modestly recorded.

By a coincidence two of the three problems which I have selected to round off this brief note about myself and my compositions are ones which got no recognition from the tournament judge
at the time, although I count them amongst my best works.

I have chosen a trio of problems all roughly on the same theme, namely, the four possible moves of the pawn from its starting square. In chess problem parlance this is called the BP4M* theme when applied to the Black pawn, and the Albino theme when applied to the White pawn.

II and III show two ways in which four mates can be provided to meet each of the BP4M moves, only to be changed in the next phase of play. In II, the change is between mates set before the key and those operative after it; in III, the change is more radical, involving the transfer of the WR from one position to another, thereby creating two separate but related (or ‘twin’) problems. Incidentally, a good way to begin to get a taste of what composing involves is to take a problem like III and try to express the theme in full (here the changed BP4M) without resorting to the twinning device.

My last example, IV, shows a duel between white and black pawns, with the four Albino tries being met by the four possible BP4M defences.

(* BP4M is BCNs replacement for a word starting with p now considered by some as offensive.).

Whilst the player may rejoice in a victory soundly accomplished I can think of few pleasures to compare with the satisfaction which comes from accomplishing the sort of task which IV entails, especially when one is fairly sure that it has not been successfully achieved before. For me, at all events, this is what two-mover chess problem composition is all about: its is the ‘art if the all-but-impossible’!”

Problem II

Die Schwalbe August, 1965

White to play and mate in 2

1…dxc6+ 2. Bxc6
1…d6 2.Nd5
1…d5 2.Qb4
1…dxe6 2.Bc8

Key 1.Qxe5! (2.exd7)

1…dxc6 2.Nxc6
1…d6 2.Qf6
1…d5 2.Qc7
1…dxe6 2.Qxe6
1…Rd5+ 2.Nd5

Problem III

1st Prize

Problemist Twin Tournament 1966-67

White to play and mate in 2

Problem IV

Probleemblad, May, 1965

White to play and mate in 2

Here is a collection of his compositions from the super Meson Database

Clearly Chris was a hugely popular figure in the problem world. Here is a collection of tributes from the BCPS.

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Remembering Anthony Dickins (01-xi-1914 25-xi-1987)

Anthony Dickins (01-xi-1914 25-xi-1987)
Anthony Dickins (01-xi-1914 25-xi-1987)

We remember Anthony Dickins who passed away this day (Wednesday, November 25th) in 1987.

Anthony Stewart Mackay Dickins was born at 1 Rivers Street, Bath, Somerset on Sunday, November 1st, 1914. On this day was the Battle of Coronel — The Royal Navy suffered its first defeat of World War I, after a British squadron commanded by Rear-Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock met and was defeated by superior German forces led by Vice-Admiral Maximilian von Spee in the eastern Pacific.

1, Rivers Street, Bath, Somerset, BA1 2QA
1, Rivers Street, Bath, Somerset, BA1 2QA

Anthony’s parents were Frederick and Florence Dickins (née Mackay) Frederick was a Captain in the Royal Artillery and was born on 25th November 1879, commissioned on May 26th 1900. He became a Colonel on 26th May 1930 and retired November 25th 1936. He was alive in 1972 (aged 92) and living in Bexhill passing away aged 101/102. He was awarded the CIE which is “Companion, Order of the Indian Empire in 1914”.

Anthony was baptised on December 29th in Seend, Wiltshire. Anthony had a brother Frederick James Douglas born in 1907 who married Nellie or Peggie Moist (records are unclear).

It would appear that Florence and Anthony (aged 5) travelled to Bombay from Plymouth on board the SS City of York (Ellerman Lines) departing December 26th, 1919 presumably to visit his father in India. The ships master was J. McKellan.

At the time of the 1939 Census Anthony was residing in the Tavistock Hotel in Tavistock Square. His occupation was given as journalist and editor and described as single.

From the Hull Daily Mail (extant and renamed Hull Live) of March 4th, 1939 we have this part review of a magazine called The Joys of Poetry. Anthony was the editor :

Hull Daily Mail, 4th March 1939
Hull Daily Mail, 4th March 1939

He died in Lambeth Wednesday, November 25th) in 1987. We have yet to determine where he was buried or cremated.

From :

“Anthony Dickins wrote A Guide to Fairy Chess (1967) and other books about fairy chess. He edited the column of non-original fairy problems for “The Problemist”. He was specialized in constructional problems and was also an International Judge.”

Anthony Stewart Mackay Dickins
Anthony Stewart Mackay Dickins

From British Chess (Pergamon Press, 1984), Botterill, Levy, Rice and Richardson :

(article by ASMD and edited by JM Rice)

“Chess first entered my life seriously about 1950 at the well-known Mandrake Social and Chess Club in Meard Street, Soho, run by Harold Lommer and Boris Watson. Purely literary connections took me there in the first place, as it was a rendezvous for the literary fraternity, such as Dylan Thomas, David Gascoyne and others.

After the war Harold converted a small wine-vault into a tiny cramped chess-room, with some dozen tables and boards. Many well-known
personalities in the world of Chess were occasional visitors, such as Grandmasters Ossip Bernstein, Paul Keres, Jacques Mieses and Friedrich Sämisch; British Champions Willy Winter, Bob Wade and Dr. Fazekas; M. J. Franklin, now a British Master, and the Problemists, Dr. E. T. O. Slater and B. J. da C. Andrade. Mieses was then in his late eighties and charged a fee of half-a-crown (12.5 pence) for a game. When his name was mispronounced ‘Mister My-ziz’ he would say ‘I am Meister Mieses, not Mister My-ziz’.

Sämisch once played fourteen of us blindfold, defeating all except one, a very strong Indian player, Atta, who obtained a draw. My regular ‘partners’ were Vicki Weiss, the famous cartoonist, his brother Oscar, Richard Crewdson, Mr Keller (a professional who played sharply for a shifty shilling), Brian Mason, Colin ‘Puffer’ Evans, (whose strategy was to puff cigarette ash and smoke all over the board to bemuse the opponent) and Bob Troy (who always fell fast asleep immediately after making each move and had to be wakened on his next turn to play). There was a juke-box in the next room constantly blaring forth pop and bop. Most of all I played with Alex Distler, and with him always’variants of the game’ like Cylindrical Chess, Rifle Chess, Progressive Chess, or the Losing Game.

In this colourful and inspiring, if rather smoky and noisy, atmosphere I composed my first six chess problems, helpmates and cylindricals, though I did not then know of the existence of Problem books or magazines, nor had I heard of Sam Loyd, Max Lange, or T. R. Dawson when the Mandrake closed in the late fifties and Harold Lommer retired to Spain to write his two monumental works on Endgame Studies.

For the next 10 years or so I played at the West London and Athenaeum Chess Clubs, for Middlesex County and at Hastings congresses, meanwhile regularly solving the problems in the two evening newspapers for practice.

In 1965, in my 51st year, I discovered chess-problem magazines and the British Chess Problem Society, and was soon asked by John Rice to join the Fairy
Chess Correspondence Circle, whose director, W. Cross, perhaps the greatest solver of all time, guided my early footsteps in fairyland. At this point I compiled for my own use a summary of all the usual rules and conventions in Fairy Chess, as these were numerous and complicated. It occurred to me that a few other people might also welcome such a summary, so I put it into book form as A Guide to Fairy Chess, which I published by myself in 1967 under the imprint ‘The O Press’, a pun on the name ‘Kew’ where I was then living.

A Guide to Fairy Chess
A Guide to Fairy Chess

To my amazement it had rave reviews (‘the comprehensive work, so long awaited’, ‘more like an encyclopaedia’, ‘the bible of Fairy Chess’) and sold like hot cakes, going into three editions, each one enlarged and revised, the third produced by Dover Publications, New York, in 1971. Two years later I edited Dover’s publication of T. R. Dawson’s Five Classics of Fairy Chess.

Five Classics of Fairy Chess, TR Dawson
Five Classics of Fairy Chess, TR Dawson

In 1970 I flew to the States to spend a few days in the J. G. White collection in Cleveland, Ohio, researching historical material on Fairy Chess. This Ohio collection has the largest chess library in the world, and to my surprise I found that it contains also ‘every book or article ever written on or about ‘Omar Khayyam and Alice in Wonderland . To find oneself suddenly and unexpectedly transported, as if by magic carpet, into a superbly organised library with the most complete collections in the world of the three subjects that happen to be one’s own three principal literary interests is an experience that must approach closely to entering Nirvana, and I am happy to have had it. This visit enabled me to write A Short History of Fairy Chess (1975) and to give the lecture Alice in Fairyland to the Lewis Carroll Society in London, published in their journal Jabberwocky and reprinted by myself in 1976 (2nd edn 1978) .

A Short History of Fairy Chess, ASM Dickins
A Short History of Fairy Chess, ASM Dickins

In 1972 I decided to present my (by then) extensive collection of Fairy Chess books and magazines to my old university library at Cambridge to prevent the possible break-up of the collection as a single unit, and to ensure that at least one fairly complete Fairy Chess collection was retained in Britain.

In 1968 I was invited to open a Fairy Chess section in The Problemist, organ of the BCPS, which I handed over to Dr. C. C. L. Sells in 1970, and from 1974 to 1981 I ran another column in that magazine called ‘Other Types’. This chess journalism has brought me into touch with many problemists, and made many friends for me, in foreign countries.

In 1967, on a visit to Mannheim for the Schwalbe annual meeting, I met Wilhelm Karsch, then editor of Feenschach, and in 1968 in Munich I again met Dr. Karl Fabel, whom I first came to know in London in 1967, and also Peter Kniest, one of the two present editors of Feenschach. In 1969, on a visit to Paris, a meeting was arranged for me at the late Jean Oudot’s flat, with Pierre Monr6al, J. P. Boyer, F. de Lionnais (author of the Dictionnaire des Echecs) and other French problemists, and altogether I have attended twenty three major problemist meetings in various countries, including FIDE meetings in The Hague, Wiesbaden, Canterbury and Helsinki. It has been my constant aim to try to encourage and cultivate the practice and study of Fairy Chess and to keep alive the great legacy that T.R. Dawson left to the world when he died in 1951.

In recent years I have developed close relations with the younger generation of West German problemists, who are very active in Fairy Chess, centred round 29-year-old Bernd Ellinghoven, who helps Peter Kniest to edit Feenschach and who printed my last booklet, Fairy Chess Problems (1979), containing poems as well as problems, combined in a new kind of fairy technique, for I believe that Fairy Chess represents in many ways the ‘poetry’ of Chess.

FAIRY CHESS PrOblems (1979)
FAIRY CHESS PrOblems (1979)

For the 50th birthday of T. R. Dawson on the 28th November 1939 a certain Dr Lazarus of Budapest wrote in Fairy Chess Review: ‘T. R. D. these three letters represent a conception in the Poetry of Chess which is amongst the most ingenious of all its turns, one of its most strange and interesting phases… Without T.R.D. human culture would lack a factor in its development’. Those people (and there are some) who would banish Fairy Chess altogether from Caissa’s realm resemble the iron-hearted Mr. Gradgrinds who would abolish romance, mystery, poetry, invention, discovery and imagination from human life.

Fairy Chess Review
Fairy Chess Review

Elsewhere I have written: ‘The Game for Murderers, The Problem for Philosophers, Fairy Chess for Sufis’, because the aim of the game-player is to ‘mate’ (kill) the opponent (from Arabic, mat _ dead), while the problemist has no personal opponent to kill, but merely a philosophical problem to resolve. In Fairy Chess, however, the adept is transported to another plane of existence, to an ‘undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveller returns’,to new’dimensions’ of thought (as in 3- and 4-dimensional problems) – in short, to Fairyland, to Nirvana.

The three problems represent my early, middle and later compositions. The helpmate in three moves (Black plays first in a helpmate) is a miniature culminating in an ideal Mate. C. H. O’D. Alexander was much tickled by what he called ‘the deceptive pawn’ on a2, which unexpectedly does not promote.

The Construction Task with 113 White moves, all ‘maintaining’ the legal stalemate position in which Black finds himself, is a standing record that defeated the previous record of 112 such moves obtained independently by six problemists in six countries, one of them an lnternational Master of FIDE.

The Knight’s Tour is one of the oldest genres of Fairy Chess, dating from the earliest days of chess, and in TR Dawson’s Fairy Chess Review he published many of them., including some that showed the ‘square numbers’ (1,4,9,16,25,36,49,64) all on one rank – in the present example I have added the extra strict condition that as many as possible of the numbers 1 to 16 must be in the SW corner and as many as possible of the numbers 1 to 32 must be in the W half of the board.

For two reasons the perfect ideal in this task cannot be attained, firstly because of the given position of the number 25, and secondly because it is not possible to make a Knight’s tour on a 4 x 4 board in the SW corner.

Solutions :

1. Helpmate, Evening News, 20th February 1957 dedicated to Harold Lommer

Helpmate in 3 moves

1. Kd5 Nb1
2. Kc4 e8=Q
3. Kb3 Qb5 mate

2. Construction Task Record, Feenschach 9341 Sep/Oct 1969 dedicated to Karl Fabel

113 unforced stalemate maintenances with Promotion in Play (Pawn promotions count as 4 moves) unforced as W has some moves that do not maintain stalemate, so he is not ‘forced’ to maintain it.

3. Knight’s Tour Chessics 5(180) July, 1978 dedicated to D. Nixon.

Knights tour with
a) All square number on 4th rank
b) maximum of 1-16 in SW quad
c) maximum of 1-32 in W half

Knight's tour solution from ASM Dickins
Knight’s tour solution from ASM Dickins

From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977), Harry Golombek OBE, John Rice writes:

“British problemist, Founder of Q Press (1967) to publish books on fairy problems: A Guide to Fairy Chess (1967); An Album of Fairy Chess (1970); The Serieshelpmate (co-author, 1971). Has presented a large collection of problem books to Cambridge University Library. International Judge (1975).”

100 Classics of the Chessboard
100 Classics of the Chessboard
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Remembering Mary Rudge (06-ii-1842 22-xi-1919)

Mary Rudge
Mary Rudge

We remember Mary Rudge who passed away one hundred and two 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.[1]”

Miss Stevenson & Mary Rudge
Miss Stevenson & Mary Rudge

“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.[2] Miss Rudge was 55 years old and the oldest of the 20 players,[3] 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.”

Here is an in-depth article about this event from

Mrs. Bowles (Hon. Sec.); Miss Rudge; and Mrs. Fagan from
Mrs. Bowles (Hon. Sec.); Miss Rudge; and Mrs. Fagan from

“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.”

Mary Rudge
Mary Rudge

Here is an article from the Bristol Chess Times

and another from the same source.

The International Ladies Congress
The International Ladies Congress
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Remembering Hugh Blandford (24-i-1917 20-ix-1981)

Hugh Francis Blandford
Hugh Blandford

BCN remembers Hugh Blandford who was a British composer.

Hugh Francis Blandford was born on Wednesday, January 24th in 1917 in South Stoneham, Southampton, Hampshire, England.

On this day Ernest Borgnine was born and an earthquake measuring 6.3 in magnitude struck Anhui Province, China, causing 101 deaths.

Hugh’s father was the Rev Albert Francis Blandford and his mother was Alice Rhoda Crumpton Evans. Hugh had two younger brothers, Philip Thomas. and Evan Arthur.

The family moved to Jamaica and he spent his early childhood there until he was nine years old when they sailed from Kingston, Jamaica with his family to Bristol on board the SS Carare (Elders & Fyffes Line) :

Passenger Manifest (part) for SS Carare , 30th May 1926.
Passenger Manifest (part) for SS Carare , 30th May 1926.

His mother Alice Rhoda Crumpton passed away on 19 July 1964 in Minehead, Somerset, at the age of 79.

His father Rev Albert Francis passed away in December 1967 in Somerset at the age of 79.

He had three children during his marriage to Marjorie Cox.

Thanks to GM Nigel Davies we know that towards the end of his life his lived in Southport, Merseyside. He attended Southport Chess Club. See

His postal address was : 12 Clovelly Drive, Hillside, Southport, Lancashire. PR8 3AJ.

HFB's home when living in Southport
HFB’s home when living in Southport

He died in Hatfield, Hertfordshire on Sunday, September 20th, 1981.

Blandford is also known for participating (with Richard Guy and John Roycroft) in defining the GBR (Guy, Blandford Roycroft) code.

In 1961 he was awarded the title of “International Judge of the FIDE for Chess Composition”

CM Bent wrote the following obituary in the British Chess Magazine, Volume CI (101, 1981), Number 12 (December), page 532 :

“The modest and self-effacing composer who formerly conducted our Studies column from 1951-1972 died in September. His work as a metallurgist and his family responsibilities allowed him to make periodical contributions over a long span and to offer us many of his own original compositions.

His style, as with his manner, was essentially quiet and it was a rarity for him to compose anything other than wins.

His last voluntary labour was to compile an index for E.G. of all studies published there to date. His loss to the world of of studies will be greatly felt.

The first prize winner below is a classic of exquisite refinement and matches the immaculate handwriting which was always such an elegant feature of his work”

Studies by Hugh Francis Blandford
Studies by Hugh Francis Blandford
Solutions to studies by Hugh Francis Blandford
Solutions to studies by Hugh Francis Blandford

See more of his compositions here from the database.

Here is a deleted item from Russell Enterprises

From The Encyclopedia of Chess by Anne Sunnucks :

“British study composer and FIDE Judge of Endgame Studies. Born on 24th January 1917. Since July 1951, Hugh Blandford has conducted the Endings Section of the British Chess Magazine. By profession a metallurgist, he was married and had two children. Of his 60 or more studies he was best known for the excelsior theme.”

From Wikipedia :

“Hugh Francis Blandford (24 January 1917 – 20 September 1981) was a chess endgame composer born in Southampton, England.[1]
He spent several years of his childhood in Jamaica with his father, the Reverend Albert Francis (Frank) Blandford, a Minister in the Congregational church, his mother and two younger brothers, Evan Arthur and Philip Thomas Blandford. All three brothers then returned to England and attended Eltham College (the School for the Sons of Missionaries) in South-east London, while their parents remained in Jamaica. He married Marjorie Cox, whom he had worked with during the Second World War.

He played chess from his schooldays and as well as playing, also started to compose original chess endings. He became known in the field of chess endgame studies for a small but elegant body of compositions, expertly edited and published after Hugh’s death by his long-standing chess endings colleague, John Roycroft.[2]

1st Prize, Springaren 1949, White to move and win
1st Prize, Springaren 1949, White to move and win

Hugh Blandford was co-inventor with Richard Guy – and, later, with John Roycroft – of the Guy–Blandford–Roycroft code for classifying studies.[3] In July 1951 he began as the endgame study editor for the British Chess Magazine.[4][5] He was made an International Judge for Chess Composition[4] in 1961.[6]

A metallurgist, he continued to compose chess endgame studies until the end of his life, dying of a heart attack in early retirement in Hatfield, England, on 20 September 1981.”

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