Category Archives: English

Minor Pieces 75: Charles Dealtry Locock (2)

Last time I considered Charles Dealtry Locock’s tournament and match play in the 1880s and 1890s, at which point he gave up competitive chess.

But it was far from the end of his chess career. Alongside his chess playing he had a parallel career as a chess problemist.

In The Chess  Bouquet (1897) he was given the opportunity to say something about how he started to take an interest in the problem art.

Here’s that first problem.

Problem 1 (#3 Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News 18-02-1882). The solutions to all problems are at the end of this article.

Here’s another early problem.

Problem 2 (#2 Southern Weekly News 29-12-1883).

But these represented just an early dalliance in the problem world. Concentrating on his studies and over the board play, he took a break from composition, only returning in 1890.

This miniature had probably first been published in Tinsley’s Magazine a few months earlier.

Problem 3. (#2 Morning Post 06-01-1890)

He published a few more problems in 1891, gradually increasing his production over the next few years as he stopped playing tournament chess.

Most of the problems were mates in 2 or 3 moves (quite a few of them, sadly, cooked, which suggests, as does his play, a certain carelessness), but also a few selfmates. By now he had a column in Knowledge, which ran from 1891 to 1904, which provided an outlet for some of his compositions.

While some of them were complex, he also published a lot of simpler problems suitable for casual readers, often employing perennially popular themes such as queen moves to corners, star flights and switchbacks.

Problem 4. (#2 The Field 1891)

In 1892 Locock made a brief excursion into the world of endgame studies, with this early example of Co-ordinate Squares.

You’ll see Locock was living in Kingston at the time, but by the September he’d moved down the road to Putney Heath.

I haven’t been able to find anything further, either in the 1892 or 1893 BCM, perhaps unsurprisingly, since the position is drawn, regardless of whose move it is. If it’s Black’s move, though, the only drawing move is 1… Kg7.

If, however, you start with the white king on a1 instead, then you have an excellent study. It was published with this correction in the Deutsche Schachzeitung in October 1914.

White wants to meet Kf6 with Kd4, and therefore also wants to meet Kg5 with Ke3. There’s only one route to get there.

Study. (W to play and win British Chess Magazine July 1892 (corrected))

In the 1893 Christmas Special issue of the British Chess Magazine, Locock offered a puzzle involving retroanalysis.

Here’s the published solution. I’ll leave to experts in this field to comment.

His problems didn’t win a lot of prizes, but this Mate in 3 from 1896 was a first prize winner.

Problem 5. (#3 Manchester Weekly Times 1896)

In The Chess Bouquet Locock discussed his ‘decidedly heterodox’ views on chess problems.

He concluded like this.

This is one of the problems he composed for The Chess Bouquet.

Problem 6. (#2 The Chess Bouquet 1897)

Although he retired from competitive chess in 1899, Locock certainly didn’t retire from composition, although he was increasingly drawn to 3-movers rather than 2-movers. Some of them are pretty complex, but this one is rather sweet and certainly accessible to the casual solver.

Problem 7. (#3 British Chess Magazine February 1909)

This more complex mate in 3 was a 1st prize winner in 1933.

Problem 8. (#3 1st Prize British Chess Magazine 1933)

Now let me take you back to 1909. On April 1 (note the date), Locock wrote to the editor of the BCM:

A sui-mate is what we’d now call a selfmate. Black compels a reluctant White to deliver checkmate.

For those of you who aren’t bilingual, here’s the game.

Locock would maintain an interest in these tasks, known as Synthetic Games, throughout the rest of his long life. In 1944 he published a whole host of them in the BCM. Note that, unlike in Proof Games, there are often multiple solutions.

You might like to try a couple here.

Synthetic Game 1: White opens 1. Nc3 and delivers a pure mate (there’s only one reason why the king cannot move to any adjacent square) with the queen’s rook on the 5th move. (British Chess Magazine May 1944)

Synthetic Game 2: Black mates on move 5 by promotion to a knight (this is also a pure mate). (Manchester Weekly Times 28 Dec 1912)

If you’re interested in synthetic games you’ll want to read this comprehensive and authoritative paper written by George Jelliss.

There, then, you have the problem career of Charles Dealtry Locock, who, as well as being a very strong player during the 1880s and 1890s, held an important and, you might say, unique place in the chess problem world for more than 60 years. If you’d like to see more of his problems, check out the links to YACPDB and MESON at the foot of this article.

But there was much more to Locock’s chess life than playing and composing, as you’ll find out next time. Be sure not to miss it.

 

Solutions to Problems and Study (click on any move for a pop-up board).

Problem 1.

Problem 2.

Problem 3.

Study.

Problem 5.

Problem 6.

Problem 7.

Problem 8.

Synthetic Game 1.

Synthetic Game 2.

 

Sources and Acknowledgements

ancestry.co.uk
findmypast.co.uk/British Newspaper Library
Wikipedia
The Chess Bouquet (FR Gittins: here)
British Chess Magazine (various issues)
Internet Archive (here)
Chess Archaeology (here)
The Problemist
Yet Another Chess Problem Database (here)
MESON Chess Problem Database (here)
Synthetic Games (George Jelliss: here)

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Minor Pieces 74: Charles Dealtry Locock (1)

Sir Charles Locock (1799-1875) was an interesting chap. Queen Victoria’s obstretician, he also pioneered potassium bromide as a treatment for epilepsy and conducted the autopsy in the notorious Eastbourne Manslaughter Case, establishing that an unfortunate 15-year-old boy had died as a result of corporal punishment.

Locock had five sons, four of whom had distinguished careers. Charles junior became a barrister, Alfred a clergyman, Sidney a diplomat and Herbert an army officer. The middle son, Frederick, though, was the black sheep of the family. He married the illegitimate daughter of a labourer and brought up a son who claimed he was the illegitimate child of Princess Louise. There’s little evidence that this might be true, so we’ll move swiftly on to the Reverend Alfred Henry Locock.

Alfred married Anna Maria Dealtry: their four children were Ella, Charles Dealtry, Henry and Mabel.

Charles Dealtry Locock, born in Brighton on 27 September 1862, was a lifelong chess addict. He started playing chess at his prep school, Cheam, which is now in Hampshire, but really was in Cheam in those days, delivering a back rank mate at the age of 6 or 7, and later winning a tournament there. I would have thought chess tournaments at prep schools were quite unusual in those days. Moving to Winchester at the age of 13, and playing chess on his first evening there, he could find no one to beat him, instead immersing himself in the world of chess problems.

In Autumn 1881 Locock went up to University College Oxford, where he takes up the story.

Wainwright (see here, here and here) was sufficiently impressed to select his adversary for matches against the Oxford city club, Birmingham and the City of London club. At first he was placed on bottom board, but rapidly worked his way up the board order.

In those days the standard of play in the universities wasn’t strong, and their teams would take on the Knight’s Class players of the City of London Club (who would receive knight odds from the top players). Here, he describes a game was one of those matches.

I’m not sure how reliable Locock’s memoir is. We do have a game against Staniforth with a bishop on b2, but otherwise it doesn’t match this description. As with all the games in this article, just click on any move for a pop-up window.

By the 1882 Varsity Match Locock had reached Board 3, where he scored a draw and a win against Edward Lancelot Raymond. He already had quite a reputation as a tactician, the BCM describing him as ‘perhaps the most brilliant and attacking player now at either University’. Unfortunately, the score of his second game, decided ‘by an uncommonly happy series of finishing strokes’, does not appear to have survived.

The 1883 Varsity Match found Locock on top board against Frank Morley. The first game was a solid draw, but the second was more exciting. Zukertort adjudicated the game a draw, but today’s engines give Morley (Black, to play) a winning advantage after h5 (or h6) followed by Ng4.

That summer he played his first tournament, the Second Class section of the Counties Chess Association meeting in Birmingham, scoring 10/14 for second place, a point behind Pollock.

In October that year he took part in a Living Chess exhibition in his home town of Brighton. It all sounded rather splendid.

The Graphic 27 October 1883

Playing against auctioneer and estate agent Walter Mead, early exchanges led to Locock being a pawn down. Exchanges in living chess games are always fun, but didn’t really play to his strengths. (The game had actually been played the previous day: they re-created the moves for the exhibition.)

Round about this point we have a mystery. Several correspondence games between Locock and FA Vincent were published, dated 1884. Locock’s memoirs suggest they were actually played much earlier, when he was still at school. They also state that his opponent was Mrs Vincent, while newspaper columns of the time refer to this player as Mr Vincent. We can identify Francis Arthur Frederick Vincent, a retired Indian Civil Servant who had been born in Singapore, living in Cam, Gloucestershire (not far from Slimbridge Wetland Centre) with his wife, born, rather strangely, Sutherland Rebecca Sutherland. It’s not clear which of them was the chess player, or whether they might have collaborated on their games. If you know more than I do, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

In the 1884 Varsity Match Locock again faced Frank Morley on top board. This time they only had time for one game, and, more than compensating for the previous year’s incorrect adjudication, he was awarded a win in a lost position, even though Bird, the adjudicator, spent 15 minutes determining what the result should be.

In summer 1884 Locock was promoted to Division 2 of the First Class tournament in the Counties Chess Association gathering, held that year in Bath, finishing on 4½/10. First place was divided between Fedden, Loman and Pollock.

However, his game against Blake, where, after getting the worst of the opening, he successfully ventured a positional queen sacrifice for two minor pieces, demonstrated exactly why his creativity, imagination and tactical ability were so highly regarded. He must have seen at move 18 that his queen was being trapped.

Here’s a position from a game against Colonel Duncan of the St George’s Club (whom I suspect was this rather interesting fellow) he sacrificed four pawns for nebulous attacking chances against his opponent’s Benoni formation.

He was rewarded when the Colonel overlooked his threat, playing 31… b3?? (there were plenty of good defences available), allowing 32. Qxh6!! Kg8 33. Rxg6 with a winning attack.

In the 1885 Varsity Match Locock was again on top board, this time facing a former prodigy, John Drew Roberts. This game suggested that, although he excelled at attacking play, he was less comfortable in endings.

Here, Locock (Black, to move), would have been slightly better after a move like d4 or a5, but misguidedly played 32… b5?, allowing 33. b4!, fixing some pawns on the same colour square as his bishop.

A few moves later he erred again: Bd7, for example, should hold, but after 35… Rf8? 36. Rxf8+ Kxf8 37. b4! he was saddled with a bad bishop against a good knight. Roberts converted his advantage efficiently.

From these examples, we can see that Locock was a player with very specific strengths and weaknesses.

The 1885 Counties Chess Association meeting was held in Hereford, and, in the Class 1A tournament he shared first place with another old friend of ours, George Archer Hooke.

The game between the two winners was a very exciting affair which Locock really should have won, but positions with queens flying round an open board are never easy to calculate.

Locock’s fifth and last Varsity Match appearance in 1886 was another defeat, when he misdefended against Herman George Gwinner’s kingside attack. That year he finally graduated with honours in Classics.

In the Counties Chess Association meeting in Nottingham he encountered two members of the Marriott family in the Minor Tournament Division 1. John Owen took first place, ahead of Edwin Marriott, with Locock, Thomas Marriott and George MacDonnell sharing third place. Although he lost to both Marriotts he managed to beat Owen, who blundered in what should have been a drawn ending.

Locock then took a job as an assistant master at Worcester Cathedral School, whose headmaster, William Ernest Bolland, was a chess acquaintance of his.

In August 1887, placed in a stronger section, he disappointed in the Counties Chess Association meeting in Stamford. Blake won with 5/6, and Locock’s solitary point left him in last place.

Later in the year (I’m not sure how he managed to get the time off his teaching job) he took part in the Amateur Championship in the 3rd British Chess Association Congress. He won his qualifying group, shared 1st place in the final group, where he encountered his old University friend Wainwright, and won the play-off against Frederick Anger, making him the British Amateur Chess Champion.

August 1888 gave Locock his first taste of international chess. The British Chess Association held a tournament in Bradford, and Locock was invited to take part. His score was respectable given the strength of the opposition.

It could have been so much better, though. He certainly should have beaten MacKenzie in the first round.

He lost in ridiculous fashion against the tournament winner in a game which he might later have confused with the Staniforth game.

Either Nxg7 or the simple Rxe1 would have given him a very large advantage, but instead he played the absurd Qh6??, simply overlooking that Black could block the discovered check with f6.

His game against Mortimer again demonstrated his prowess in the Ruy Lopez.

On 12 February 1889, at St George’s Hanover Square, Charles Dealtry Locock married his first cousin, Ida Gertrude Locock, a daughter of Charles’s army officer Uncle Herbert. They can’t have had much time for a honeymoon as he was soon in action again over the board.

In a March 1889 match between Oxford Past and Cambridge Past (the first of what would become an annual event) he faced an interesting opponent in economist John Neville Keynes, the father of John Maynard Keynes.

Again he attacked strongly in the opening, but missed the best continuation, allowing his opponent to equalise, and then blundered in what should have been a drawn ending.

They met again in the same fixture two years later, the game resulting in a draw.

At the end of 1889 Locock resigned his position at Worcester Cathedral School, briefly taking a post at Hereford Grammar School before moving to London.

The BCA ran another strong international tournament in 1890, this time in Manchester. This time Locock was less successful, although he did score 50% against the top four.

Unlike two years before, he made no mistake against MacKenzie.

In 1891 Locock’s first daughter was born in Hawkhurst, Kent, although his location was still being given as London at the time. He was also still playing at the British Chess Club, winning this brilliant miniature against a strong opponent in their handicap tournament.

In 1892 the BCA ran another international tournament, this time in London, with the participation of the young Emanuel Lasker. Locock did well to score 6½/11.

Unfortunately, his draw against Lasker doesn’t appear to have been published, but we do have this game.

This would be his last tournament, although he continued playing in matches for several more years.

Soon afterwards Charles Dealtry Locock and his family moved out of London and back to his county of birth, settling in the village of Burwash, not all that far from Hawkhurst. Although it was 15 miles away, he wasn’t deterred from joining the Hastings and St Leonards Chess Club.

Hastings and St Leonards Observer 17 December 1892

It was in Burwash that his second daughter was born in 1894. Meanwhile, he was taking part in county and other matches, and playing consultation games with other leading players, a popular feature of Hastings chess at the time.

Here’s an exciting example in which he had a very strong partner.

One of the opposing team would late meet a tragic end, as described in Edward Winter’s excellent and thorough article here.

The same year a cable match took place between the British and Manhattan Chess Clubs, which was the predecessor of the official Anglo-American Cable Matches starting the following year. Locock was matched against Albert Beauregard Hodges: their game was drawn in 28 moves.

As a gentleman amateur he was just the sort of chap the selectors were looking for, and, although he was no longer an active tournament player he was selected for the Great Britain team for the first four matches. In 1896 he drew a fairly long ending against Edward Hynes, but in 1897 he was well beaten by Jackson Whipps Showalter.

Locock, playing Black, had misplayed the opening, and now Showalter replied to 14… Bxg5 with 15. Rxd7! Kxd7 16. Qg4+ Qe6 17. Qd4+ Kc8 18. Bxg5, having no problem converting his advantage.

This very short consultation game is (or at least was) perhaps his best known game, although it’s not clear whether the game lasted 9 or 18 moves. Unsurprisingly, it involves a queen sacrifice.

This position, from an 1897 match between North London and Hastings & St Leonards, is another demonstration of how Locock’s predilection for sacrifices could end up looking foolish.

He was Black here against Joseph William Hunt.

Locock being Locock, he couldn’t resist the Greek Gift sacrifice here. 11… Bxh2? 12. Kxh2 Ng4+. Here, Hunt played 13. Kg3?, which was unclear, the game eventually resulting in a draw, but 13. Kg1! Qh4 14. Bf4! would have left Black with very little for the piece. These sacrifices usually don’t work if your opponent has a diagonal defence of this nature: there are one or two examples of this in Chess Heroes: Puzzles Book 1. Curiously, the notes in the Pall Mall Gazette (Gunsberg?) claim that 13. Kg1 ‘was obviously impossible owing to Qh4 by Black’. Obviously not, but newspaper annotations, without Stockfish to assist and probably written overnight, were very poor in those days.

In the 1898 Cable Match Locock drew with David Graham Baird, this time missing an early tactical opportunity.

15… Bf3! 16. gxf3 Qh3 was winning, but instead he played 15… g5 and after 16. f3 White was safe, the game eventually resulted in a draw after a long double rook ending.

Locock’s opponent in the 1899 Cable Match was Sidney Paine Johnston.

Here’s the game.

Locock missed a win: 28. Qxe6+ Kh8 29. Rd8!, while Johnston in turn missed 29… Qh6!

There was quite a lot of comment in the press about Locock’s miss. Here’s the Morning Post (Antony Guest):

Morning Post 13 March 1899

Stung by this criticism, he decided it was time to give up competitive over-the-board chess. He kept his word, too. In 1901 it was announced that he’d compete in the Kent Congress, but he changed his mind. This was indeed the end of that part of his chess career.

 

Many years later he recalled:

Charles Dealtry Locock (27-ix-1872 13-v-1946)

What, then, should we make of Charles Dealtry Locock (pictured above) as a chess player? He was clearly a very creative and imaginative tactician, who, at his best, was of master standard for his day (EdoChess rates him as 2346 in 1892), but his constant quest for brilliancy led him to play the occasional silly move, and he sometimes missed tactical opportunities, particularly if they involved more unusual ideas. He also seemed to find endings rather boring. But perhaps, judging from the quote above, he wasn’t temperamentally suited to competitive chess, finding the pressure of the ticking clock too stressful. I can empathise. Fortunately for him, there were other ways to fuel his chess addiction.

You’ll find out more in my next two Minor Pieces.

Sources and Acknowledgements

Many thanks, first of all, to Brian Denman for kindly sending me his extensive file of Locock games.

Locock’s memoirs, quoted in several places above, and written with a combination of arrogance, false modesty and facetiousness, were published in the January 1933 issue of the British Chess Magazine.

Other sources:

ancestry.co.uk
findmypast.co.uk/British Newspaper Library
Wikipedia
BritBase (John Saunders)
Chess Notes (Edward Winter)
ChessBase 17/MegaBase 2023/Stockfish 16.1
chessgames.com (Locock here)
EdoChess (Rod Edwards: Locock here)
Correspondence Chess in Britain and Ireland 1824-1987 and British Chess Literature to 1914, both written by Tim Harding and published by McFarland & Company Inc.

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Minor Pieces 73: Alexander Spink Beaumont

The Surrey County Chess Association runs a bewildering number of competitions of various types, one reason being that they’ve chosen to commemorate some of their long-serving administrators through trophies in their memory.

The main league itself currently has five divisions. The first division is the Surrey Trophy, which dates all the way back to the 1883-84 season, while the second division, the Beaumont Cup, was instigated twelve years later, in the 1895-96 season.

I’m sure you’d like to know, as I did, more about Mr Beaumont. Well, he wasn’t Mr Beaumont at all, but Captain Alexander Spink Beaumont, Alex to his friends. It’s a long story.

He was born in Manchester on 24 June 1843 into a family with military connections. Beaumont was in fact his paternal grandmother’s surname but his father used his mother’s surname.  Spink was the surname of his Aunt Charlotte’s husband.

He served in the 23rd Foot Regiment of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, reaching the rank of Captain in 1871, when the census found him at Fort Hubberstone in Pembrokeshire. Perhaps it was there that he met Caroline Savage (née Griffies-Williams), a widow more than 20 years older than him, who came from a family of wealthy Welsh landowners, one of whose properties was in Tenby, not all that far from Milford Haven. She was born in 1822 but often claimed to be much younger.

The following year Alex and Caroline married in London, both giving an address in Inverness Terrace, north of Hyde Park, which was by now the Beaumont family residence. He then resigned his commission and, round about 1878, they settled at 2 Crescent Road, South Norwood, in South London. This is now Warminster Road, running by the railway line north of Norwood Junction Station. There are a few grand houses at what is now the high numbered end of the road, and I’d guess one of those was their residence.

As a gentleman of independent means, he had plenty of time to pursue his two passions in life: chess and music. He was a composer as well as a player in both fields, but was also a gifted organiser and promoter.  Beaumont wasted little time joining Croydon Chess Club, the first ‘modern’ chess club in Surrey. In 1880 he had a problem published in the local paper. You’ll find the solutions to all the problems at the end of this article.

Problem 1: #3 Croydon Guardian 28 August 1880

The 1881 census found Alex and Caroline living in South Norwood along with his unmarried brother Richard, a Major in the Royal Engineers, four domestic servants, one male and three female, and a nurse.

Later the same year he had some important news.

Croydon Guardian and Surrey County Gazette 19 November 1881

Beaumont was nothing if not ambitious for the new club.

Norwood News 17 December 1881

Zukertort and Blackburne were, according to EdoChess, the second and third strongest players in the world behind the inactive Steinitz at the time. Attracting them to visit a new club in a London suburb was quite a coup. Regular simultaneous displays, both blindfold and sighted, by professional players would become a regular feature of the South Norwood Chess Club.

it wasn’t long before Blackburne visited, and Zukertort was there as well, acting as teller.

Croydon Guardian and Surrey County Gazette 11 February 1882

You’ll also note the name of Leonard Percy Rees, the most influential English chess organiser of his day, involved with the establishment of everything we now know and love, from the Surrey County Chess Association through to FIDE. I really ought to write about him at some point.

During this period he was very active on the composing front. One of his problems even took first prize in a local competition.

Problem 2: #2 1st Prize Croydon Guardian 1882

He was now being published nationally as well as locally.

Problem 3: #3 The Chess Monthly June 1882

This three-mover shouldn’t be too challenging for you.

Problem 4: #3 The Field 19 August 1882

Meanwhile, South Norwood were playing friendly matches against their local rivals from Croydon. There was also talk of an international tournament in London the following year, and Beaumont was the first to make a financial contribution.

By the autumn of 1883 chess in Surrey was moving rapidly towards the thriving county association we see today, thanks to the likes of Joseph Steele, Leonard Rees and Alexander Beaumont, who was elected a vice-president.

Morning Post 17 September 1883

By now the President of the Surrey County Chess Association, the ‘genial and hospitable’ Captain Beaumont’s chess get-togethers were becoming grander by the year, in 1885 attracting about ‘150 gentlemen’.

Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News 12 December 1885

At the same time, along with involvement in the British Chess Club, he was also organising musical events. Here, his two interests were reported in adjacent articles.

Norwood News 09 October 1886

The name of Walter Willson Cobbett, one of his regular musical collaborators, may not be familiar to you, but it certainly is to me.

Although he was not composing so many problems, he was becoming more involved in composing music, and, from 1890 onwards his compositions were being published by Charles Woolhouse in Regent Street.

The Graphic 22 March 1890

Look who else Woolhouse was publishing: our old friend (and my cousin’s father-in-law) W Noel Johnson, whom you might have met here. One online source suggests that Woolhouse was a pseudonym for Beaumont, but that doesn’t appear to be the case: there really was a music publisher of that name.

Percy Victor Sharman, the dedicatee of this work, was a young violinist living in Norwood.

The family doesn’t appear in the 1891 census: it looks like their side of the road might have been missed by mistake.

That year there was good news for South Norwood when they won the Surrey Trophy for the first time. They would go on to win it again in the following three seasons.

Norwood News 12 December 1891

Some of the guests are notable. Captain Lindesay Beaumont was Alex’s younger brother (his older brother Richard had died in 1884). Rudolf Loman was a Dutch chess master and organist. Edward Markwick was a lawyer whom you’ll meet again later in this article.

In December 1893 Beaumont’s portrait appeared in The Chess Monthly.

In January 1894 (or perhaps late December) South Norwood Chess Club ran another of their popular simuls, this time with Richard Teichmann as the guest. He played 18 games, losing one game and drawing two, one of them against Captain Beaumont. This was described in the local press as “a good example of (Beaumont)’s bold and energetic play. (As always, click on any move for a pop-up window.)

His counter-gambit worked well and he missed a simple opportunity to win a piece in the opening.

In 1895 he presented a trophy – yes, the Beaumont Cup – to be competed for by some of the smaller Surrey clubs further out from Central London. My great predecessors at Richmond won it in its second year. Beaumont’s old club, South Norwood, were among the five clubs taking part in the 2023-24 edition.

Captain and Mrs Beaumont were by no means always at home. They spent a lot of time on the continent, partly for health reasons, partly because they enjoyed travelling and partly because they owned property abroad, including an Italian villa.

At various times they visited, as well as Italy, France, Hungary and perhaps Malta. In 1896 the Captain turned up in Nuremberg to watch the international chess tournament there (his friends Blackburne and Teichmann were taking part, but no match for Lasker), and found himself taking part in a concert.

Westminster Gazette 10 August 1896

Adolph Brodsky was one of the leading violinists of his day, giving the first performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. There’s something about his chess career here, but my article about him is no longer available. I don’t think he’d have consented for any pianist who wasn’t extremely proficient to accompany him.

On 30 October 1897 he was back in Surrey, losing to his old friend Leonard Rees in a match between South Norwood and Redhill.

This time he chose a different variation of the Scandinavian Defence, but without success.

In January 1898 Beaumont was abroad again, this time in Florence. He was proud of the conclusion of this game, where his third move forced mate in 4.

He couldn’t have imagined that, a century and a quarter later, we’d have machines in our pockets telling us immediately that 1. Rf7 would have been mate in 5.

In March 1898 the Streatham News started a chess column, and Captain Beaumont provided the first problem.

Problem 5: #2 Streatham News 26 March 1898

A few weeks later he submitted a problem composed by his late brother Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Henry Beaumont Beaumont (yes, there were two Beaumonts). I haven’t been able to find any other problems composed by Richard, or any more information about his chess career. However, I have managed to find his sword, which was auctioned in 2012, here.

Problem 6: #3 Streatham News 7 May 1898

By that autumn there was talk of running another major international tournament in London the following year. Beaumont, of course, was quickly in with a donation and was appointed to the organising committee led by his friend Sir George Newnes. This was the tournament where Francis Lee might have played on the board later acquired by Leonard Grasty.

On 26 November there was a visit from the Ladies’ Chess Club. The ever genial Captain was on hand to host the event.



Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News 03 December 1898

I’d imaging the top two boards were honorary encounters. Lady Thomas was the mother of Sir George. Prussian born coffee merchant Frank Gustavus Naumann, drawing with his wife in interests of marital harmony, would later become the first President of the British Chess Federation, and later still lose his life on the Lusitania.

Here’s the top board encounter: the protagonists had been friends for many years. Black stood little chance after losing material in the opening.

There was more on the music elsewhere.

Streatham News 03 December 1898

Coincidentally, as I write this I’ve just returned from a piano recital at which the Verdi-Liszt Rigoletto paraphrase was also played.

William Yeates Hurlstone is of considerable interest. A composer of exceptional talent, Beaumont supported him financially after the early death of his father, but he sadly died at the age of only 30. Much of his music has been recorded: there’s a YouTube playlist here.

Violinist William J Read would, in 1912, give the first performance of the violin concerto of another tragically short-lived South London composer, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.

On 5th January 1901 Captain Beaumont organised an even bigger chess event at Crystal Palace. This merited a major feature in the following month’s British Chess Magazine (online here).




The 1901 census found him at home with his wife and four servants: a valet, a parlourmaid, a cook and a housemaid. But now his health was starting to fail and his wife was approaching her 80s. He was often unable to attend chess events, either because he was unwell or because he was travelling somewhere with a more agreeable climate. This seems, as we also saw with Francis Joseph Lee, to have been standard medical advice in those days.

A couple of years later a clergyman, Albert William Gibbs, who had been born in 1870, gave up his curacy to move in with them as a companion and carer.

Captain Beaumont had one last gift for British Chess. In 1904 the British Chess Federation was formed, with Frank Naumann as the first President and Leonard Rees as the first Secretary. Naumann presented the trophy for the British Championship itself, while Beaumont donated that for the British Ladies Championship. “A very elegant silver rose bowl on Elizabethan scroll-work, enriched with chess emblems”, made by Messrs Fattorini and Sons of Bradford, the first winner was Miss Kate Belinda Finn, with a commanding score of 10½/11.

Caroline Beaumont died in 1907, and in 1908 the Captain was advised by his doctor to move, as the London clay on which his house was built wasn’t good for his health. He soon found a new residence built on gravel three miles to the east, in Beckenham.

This rather splendid photograph shows his chauffeur Walter Goldsack at the steering wheel with Albert Gibbs in the passenger seat. The identity of the other passenger is unknown. It was posted on a family tree by Mark Beaumont, great great grandson of Alexander’s brother Lindesay. I’m advised by Dr Upham, an expert on the subject, that the car is undoubtedly American, so I guess it would have been quite expensive.

In the 1911 census, Alexander and Albert (described as a ‘visitor’) were living there, along with a cook-housekeeper, a parlourmaid and a housemaid. We’re additionally informed that the house had 14 rooms, including the kitchen but excluding the bathroom.

The following winter he travelled south in search of better weather.

Norwood News 02 March 1912

But that was to be his last journey. He died on 4 September 1913, at the age of 70.

The obituaries were effusive.

Beckenham Journal 06 September 1913

“A man of splendid disposition, a generous friend, and a great lover of animals and children.”

Norwood News 06 September 1913

One of the obituaries published this game as a sample of his play, without, unfortunately, giving any indication of when, where or against whom it was played.

Here’s his probate record.

This is round about £8.3 million today. Probate was granted to his nephew (and closest relation), his companion, to whom he bequeathed £400 plus an annuity of the same amount, and his solicitor.

Captain Alexander Spink Beaumont appears to have been, in every respect, an admirable fellow, much loved and respected by everyone who knew him, either through chess or through music.

It seems only right that his name should still be remembered by Surrey chess players today, more than a century after his death.

And yet, there was another side to him as well.

Let me take you back 40 years, to 11 September 1873. Alexander Spink Beaumont, recently retired from the army and recently married, is living in Norton House, one of his wife’s family properties, in the seaside resort of Tenby, Pembrokeshire. He invites a 14 year old local lad named George Lyons, the son of a boatman working in the coastguard service, to his house, and, if you believe George’s account, invites him upstairs. He asks the boy if he can keep a secret, attempts to perform an act so disgusting that it cannot be mentioned in the press, gives him three shillings and sixpence, and then takes him down to the garden. George, quite correctly and courageously, goes home and tells his mother. His parents summon the authorities and, the following evening, his father returns the money to Captain Beaumont in the presence of a witness. On 3 October the allegation goes before the magistrates. Beaumont’s domestic staff are called as witnesses and deny that anything untoward could possibly have happened. Nevertheless, the magistrates decide there is a case to answer (‘making an assault upon George Lyons, with intent to commit an abominable crime’) and send the captain to trial.

The following February Beaumont appeared before the Pembrokeshire Spring Assizes. The judge considered the evidence improbable and contradictory and instructed the jury to dismiss the case, which they duly did.

Well, I wasn’t there so I don’t know for certain, but young George’s account seems fairly convincing to me. I guess the judge felt that a gentleman couldn’t possibly have committed such an act. Then, as now, if you’re rich or famous you can get away with almost anything. Perhaps it served as a warning to him as there’s no evidence that he ever did anything of that nature again.

Let’s now move forward a few years, to 1881, the year in which an ambitious young publisher named George Newnes started a general interest weekly magazine called Tit-Bits. The magazine proved highly successful,  Newnes, a chess enthusiast, made a lot of money and went on to sponsor, amongst much else, the Anglo-American Cable Matches.

A few years later, a young journalist named Alfred Harmsworth submitted some articles to Newnes for publication, soon deciding that he could make more money by starting his own magazine. In 1888 he started a weekly called Answers, providing answers to a wide range of questions submitted by readers or just made up. A friend of his father, Edward Markwick (yes, you’ve met him earlier in this article), joined the venture, and he persuaded his friend – yes, Alexander Spink Beaumont, to provide financial support. Adrian Addison’s gossipy history of the Daily Mail, Mail Men, suggests that some thought Beaumont may have had ‘an unrequited homosexual motive in getting behind the pretty young journalist’.

At first, the Beaumonts and Harmsworth were the best of friends, but in 1891 a bitter argument between them ensued and eventually they sold their shares in his company. There’s much in Reginald Pound’s biography Northcliffe, which can be read online (although the OCR is poor) here. Caroline, who seems to have been the dominant partner, is described as ‘charmingly uncommon’. Meanwhile, in 1896 Alfred Harmsworth and his brother Harold launched the Daily Mail, becoming, as a result, rich and famous.

Years later, in 1905, the year of the establishment of Associated Newspapers, the case flared up again.

Cheltenham Chronicle 14 October 1905

It looks as if the Beaumonts, jealous of the success of the Daily Mail, were trying to get half a million pounds (about 76 million today) back from the shares they sold 14 years earlier. Harmsworth put in a counter suit accusing the papers who published this report of libel, and the whole affair was quietly dropped. Very strange.

What, then, should we make of Captain Alexander Spink Beaumont? it seems to me highly likely that he was gay at a time when same-sex relationships were illegal. Should we feel sorry for him, or, looking at the allegations of George Lyons, revile him? Or perhaps we should just remember his services to the game of chess, as a player and problemist, but most of all as an administrator, promotor and populariser of his – and our – favourite game.

One final thing, there’s a thread on a military badges forum here from a collector who has miniature portrait lockets, acquired separately, of Alexander and his older brother Richard. A rather wonderful thing to have.

He’s not the only Alexander to have given his name to a Surrey chess trophy, but that’s something for another time. I have other stories to tell first. Join me again soon for another Minor Piece.

Sources and Acknowedgements:

ancestry.co.uk
findmypast.co.uk/British Newspaper Library
Wikipedia
Yet Another Chess Problem Database
MESON problem database (Brian Stephenson)
Internet Archive (archive.org)
chessgames.com
Movers and Takers, and various blog posts by Martin Smith
EdoChess (Rod Edwards)
Surrey County Chess Association website
Other online sources linked to in the text

 

Problem solutions (click on any move to play them through):

Problem 1:

Problem 2:

Problem 3:

Problem 4:

Problem 5:

Problem 6:

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Minor Pieces 72: Alfred Neave Brayshaw

Last time, I introduced you to Edward Wallis, a Quaker chess player, problemist, writer and organiser from the Yorkshire seaside resort of Scarborough.

I gave you the chance to read his book 777 Chess Miniatures in Three, for which A Neave Brayshaw BA LLB provided hints for solvers. Who, I wondered, was A Neave Brayshaw?

It transpires his story is rather interesting. Like Edward Wallis he was a Scarborough Quaker, but, much more than that, he was also one of the best known Quakers of his time.

Alfred Neave Brayshaw was born on 26 December 1861, the first child of Alfred Brayshaw, a Manchester grocer, and Jane Eliza Neave. It was the custom of the time for Quaker families to intermarry, and to use surnames as Christian names. Hence, young Alfred was often referred to as Neave, and he had brothers named Stephenson and Shipley.

Neave was educated at Sidcot School in Somerset, and then at Owens College back home in Manchester, where he was awarded an external London University BA. He decided on a career in law, working in a solicitor’s office while continuing his studies, obtaining a Bachelor of Law degree in 1885.

He worked as a solicitor in Manchester between 1885 and 1889, while spending his evenings tutoring some of the younger students at Owens College. This experience convinced him that his real vocation was not law, but teaching, and he became an assistant master at Oliver’s Mount, a (preparatory?) Quaker boarding school in Scarborough.

It would likely have been in Quaker meetings in Scarborough that Alfred Neave Brayshaw met Edward Wallis and discovered a shared interest in chess.

Brayshaw’s particular interest was in chess problems, and his compositions were soon being published in the Illustrated London News. You can play through the solutions to the problems at the foot of this article.

Problem 1. #3 Illustrated London News 20 December 1890

Problem 2. #3 Illustrated London News 18 July 1891

In 1892 Brayshaw moved to Bootham School in York, which is still thriving today, remaining there for 11 years. Old Boys include historian AJP Taylor, farceur Brian Rix, and, briefly, drag artist Lady Bunny, along with many scions of the Rowntree family, with whom he was very much connected. Along with the Rowntrees – and Edward Wallis – he was part of the movement towards liberal Quakerism.

His next problem was a two-mover rather than a three-mover.

Problem 3. #2 Illustrated London News 27 May 1893

At this point, it seems that he embarked on a very short but successful career in over the  board chess.

Yorkshire Evening Press 20 April 1894

Here he is, visiting his former home town, for an away match. You’ll notice, if you’ve been paying attention, that there was a Scarborough player, CE Simpson, in the Ebor team. One wonders if Brayshaw and Wallis, perhaps along with Simpson, were involved in setting this match up.

Perhaps he stayed in Scarborough for a bit: a few days later he represented them in a match against Whitby, again winning both his games.

York Herald 26 April 1894

Later that year he had a problem published in the Hackney Mercury.

Problem 4. #3 Hackney Mercury September 1894

But it seems that his brief involvement in chess playing and composition came to an end at about this time.

Alfred Neave Brayshaw remained in York until 1903, when George Cadbury established Woodbrooke, a new Quaker college in Birmingham, appointing him as a lecturer there. He still maintained his links with Bootham, though, and would do so for the rest of his life.

In 1906 he left Woodbrooke, moving back to Scarborough, re-uniting with Edward Wallis, temporarily returning to chess to help his friend with his book, to which he contributed three problems.

Problem 5. #3 777 Miniatures in Three #88

Problem 6. #3 777 Miniatures in Three #89

Problem 7. #3 777 Miniatures in Three #90

Alfred Neave Brayshaw, by this point, was working for the Society of Friends, based on the Yorkshire coast, but travelling the country lecturing on various aspects of his faith. The 1911 census found him visiting Southampton, and in 1921 he was in Chelmsford, where he would surely have lectured to some of Edward Wallis’s family friends. When he wasn’t lecturing he was writing: The Personality of George Fox was published in 1919 and The Quakers, their Story and Message in 1921, with revisions in 1927 and 1938. If you’re in the United States you can read them here.

A lifelong bachelor, from at least the end of the war onwards he was based in a central Scarborough apartment owned by Edmund (until his death) and Fanny Pearson. I wonder if he was aware that Pearson wasn’t their real name: they were actually Edmund Proctor and Fanny Anthony. After his wife disappeared Edmund had a relationship with Fanny, his housekeeper which produced three children.

In the 1920s, by now in his 60s, he also crossed the Atlantic to lecture in the United States on several occasions. He was a very busy man who probably spent little time in Scarborough.

Throughout all this time he visited Bootham School regularly to lecture to the older boys, and, every year from 1895 to 1939, broken only by the First World War, he took a party of boys from Bootham and other Quaker schools to Normandy for a summer holiday.

Here’s a caricature of him from 1930.

And here he is again, paddling in the sea, probably in Normandy.

By the time of the 1939 Register he was still lecturing regularly, and still living at the same address in Scarborough. But a few months later, during a blackout, he was hit by a car and died of heart failure a few days later.

Daily News (London) 05 February 1940

30 years? More like 40 years, even if you exclude WW1. A Quaker “Mr Chips” sums him up well.

Alfred Neave Brayshaw was a remarkable man who devoted his life to his faith as a teacher, lecturer and writer. He was a pioneer of liberal Quakerism who had personal connections with both the Rowntree and Cadbury families, much respected and revered throughout the Quaker community both in Britain and abroad, and by generations of young men from Quaker schools across the country. It’s good that we can also count him a chess player and composer.

I’m particularly grateful to acknowledge this highly informative post by Quaker blogger Gil S of Skipton: many thanks.

Other sources and acknowledgements:

ancestry.co.uk
findmypast.co.uk/British Newspaper Archive
Wikipedia
Yet Another Chess Problem Database (Brayshaw here)
Yorkshire Chess History (Steve Mann) (Brayshaw here)

 

Solutions to problems (click on any move to play them through):

Problem 1.

You might consider this slightly unsatisfactory because there’s a short mate after 1… Kd6.

Problem 2.

Problem 3.

Problem 4.

I don’t quite see the point of this. White just creates a threat which Black has no sensible way of meeting.

Problem 5.

There’s a short mate here after 1… Ke6.

Problem 6.

Problem 7.

It’s rather unfortunate that, after 1… Kf4, there are two ways to mate in two more moves.

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Minor Pieces 70: Francis Joseph Lee (2)

Last time we left London chess professional Francis Joseph Lee as the calendar turned from 1899 into 1900.

He was finally selected for the Anglo-American Cable Match that year, being assigned to Board 2 where he took the white pieces against one of his London 1899 opponents, Jackson Whipps Showalter. Standing worse much of the way he managed to escape into a somewhat fortunate draw.

This was the critical position, with Black to play his 45th move.

Stockfish tells me Black is winning easily if he goes after the h-pawn, but, in the heat of battle, it’s very tempting to target the dangerous looking a-pawn instead. The game concluded 45… Ra1? 46. Nc4 Rxa4? (Kf6 still offered some winning chances) 47. Nxe5 Kd6 48. Nf3, and the combatants agreed to share the point.

In April Lee took part in an invitation tournament run by the City of London club, where his result was about what he would have expected, although he only managed to beat the three tail-enders.

In this game his knights on the rim were far from dim. (As always, click on any move for a pop-up window.)

A match against Passmore that summer was won by 5 points to 3. In December he finished second to Teichmann in a 5-player tournament at Simpson’s Divan.

In this game he was successful with the London System.

In 1901 Francis Joseph Lee was on tour again, returning to Ireland where he spent a weekend with Irish Nationalist MP and chess addict John Howard Parnell, whose love of chess is mentioned on several occasions in James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Here’s a game from a Dublin simultaneous display.

Lee was also interviewed by the Dublin Evening Herald (16 March 1901).

In April he returned to London where he was placed on Board 3 in the Anglo-American cable match, drawing his game with John Finan Barry. That summer there was another match against Richard Teichmann, which he lost by 5½ to 2½.

Lee continued touring in England into 1902, when he played on Board 4 in the Anglo-American Cable Match. Playing white against Albert Beauregard Hodges, he seemed ill at ease in an IQP position, losing the exchange and, eventually, the game.

Then, in April, there was an announcement.

Eastern Daily Press 02 April 1902

But he had time for an Easter party before he left, having fun with some distinguished friends.

The Hereford Times 05 April 1902

Except that he never reached Australia, instead stopping off in South Africa, where his brother George was living. By June it was reported that he was giving simultaneous displays and playing exhibition games in Cape Town.

This game was played against two of South Africa’s strongest players, Abraham Michael and Max Blieden, playing in consultation.

He then visited Pretoria and Johannesburg, where, in December, he was appointed Chess Editor of the Rand Daily Mail. He seemed well and truly established in a new country of residence.

Falkirk Herald 04 March 1903

Fairly substantial sponsorship for the time and place, I would have thought. Needless to say, he won first prize with a score of 8/9, followed by Blieden on 7½ and Michael on 6½.

In this game his opponent missed a chance to activate his queen on move 31 before ill-advisedly trading queens into a lost bishop ending.

Nice work if you can get it. Organise a tournament, find a sponsor and then, because you’re the strongest player around, win it (the first prize was £55) yourself.

But then:

Northern Whig 11 June 1903

(There are quite a few instances of his being referred to as JF Lee rather than FJ Lee.)

Back in England again, he spent the autumn touring clubs in the south west of the country. In January 1904 he was at the other end of England, in Carlisle, before travelling down to Brighton for a 9-player tournament in February.

Here, he shared second place with 5½/8 with the young German player Paul Saladin Leonhardt, resident in London at the time, a point behind Reginald Pryce Michell.

Here’s his win against Leonhardt.

In March Lee was appointed umpire of the Oxford v Cambridge match, and was called upon to adjudicate an unfinished game when time was called.  Summer was a busy time, with two tournaments to play in.

The City of London club organised an event starting at the end of July featuring many of the top players then resident in England. With the Germans Teichmann and Leonhardt, along with Dutchmen van Vliet and Loman it had quite an international feel to it.

Lee’s score of 9/16 was round about a par result for him.

The great veteran Blackburne opened 1. a3, and Lee was able to build up one of his trademark slow kingside attacks.

He was fortunate to win an exciting game against endgame (and carpet) expert Tattersall.

At this time he liked to transpose from the Exchange Caro-Kann into the Scandinavian by capturing with his queen on d5. It didn’t always work out, but here, against one of the weaker players in the event, it proved effective.

Just a week later, the first British Chess Championships took place in Hastings. Lee was selected for the top section, so had to make another trip down to the Sussex coast.

His result was again what he would have expected. On retrospective ratings he finished below those rated above him, and above those rated below him, but he did have wins against Atkins and Michell to his credit.

In the first round Mackenzie carelessly blundered into a queen sacrifice.

Lee annotated this game for the British Chess Magazine. He commented after Black’s 24th move that Black should have played Qf7, but White’s advantage was probably sufficient to win. Stockfish, as you’ll see, is of a different opinion.

This is the key position from Lee’s game against Atkins. Atkins miscalculated by playing 22… Bxe1? (Qxb7 is only slightly better for White) 23. Bxc8 Rd8 24. Bc5 Qc7 25. Bxe6 and Black resigned as he’s going to end up a piece down.

His win against Michell is well worth looking at.

Later that year, Lee undertook another tour of South West England, but 1905 started quietly. He was selected to take part in the Anglo-American cable match, but this was called off at short notice due to broken cables.

That summer, rather than playing in the British Championship, he took part in his first continental tournament, playing in the Masters B section of a massive event in Barmen, Germany.

His 50% score was again about par for the course, but, typically, he performed as well against the top half as he did against the bottom half. The two most familiar names to you, I guess, would be Spielmann, finishing level with Lee, and Nimzowitsch, who had a poor result. Both were young men who would do much better in future.

His win against Spielmann, using his favourite Caro-Kann Defence (I’m sure Horatio Caro himself would have been delighted) was an excellent game.

His game against the Italian representative was also very typical of his style.

In this game against a German master, though, he was on the wrong side of a spectacular miniature. Sadly, Post would later become the Nazis’ leading chess organiser.

Here, against a Dutch opponent, he escaped from a lost position by sacrificing a rook for a perpetual check.

In the last round he won another good game against the second place finisher.

You’ll see from these games that Lee was capable of producing interesting games from openings which might be considered slow, but not necessarily dull.

By November he was touring in Scotland, announcing that he was planning an extensive tour of the Colonies in the new year.

This time he ended up visiting Trinidad and Venezuela.

Morning Post 21 May 1906

The visit to Trinidad may well have been instigated by the chess-playing Bishop of Trinidad and Tobago, John Francis Welsh. They met eleven times during Lee’s visit, mostly in simuls, with each player winning five games. Here’s one of the Bishop’s wins, in which he opted for the Lesser Bishop’s Gambit (my source names it the Limited Bishop’s Gambit, known in London, apparently as the Circumcised Bishop’s Gambit).

My source suggests Lee resigned in a lost position as 26… Ne3 would have been winning. Stockfish continues 26… Ne3! 27. Ne6! Nxf1 28. Rxf1 Qd7 29. Nxf8 Qxg4+ 30. Qg2 Qxg2+ 31. Kxg2 Rxf8 when Black is a pawn up in the ending but White should probably be able to hold the draw.

Lee had entered the 1906 Ostend megatournament, but was forced to withdraw for health reasons. Some reports suggested he was, for a second time, planning to visit Australia, but was now unable to do so. However, he had recovered in time to take part in the 3rd British Championships, which took place in Shrewsbury that August.

A score of 7/11 was enough for a share of third place: an excellent result considering his recent health problems.

Against Mercer his pet Stonewall/London formation again led to a winning kingside attack.

Here’s another example: it’s striking that even a strong player like Palmer didn’t really understand what was happening and eventually perished down the h-file.

At the prizegiving, both Lee and Blackburne were presented with purses of gold for their services to chess.

In the autumn of 1906 and early 1907 he toured the north of England, Scotland and Ireland, including spending a week with the Edinburgh Ladies Chess Club. By February 1907 he was back in London, taking board 6 against Albert Whiting Fox in the Anglo-American Cable Match, back after a three year absence.

This was a long and well-played draw, but Lee missed an opportunity on his final move.

Fox (Black) had just played 65… Ke5-d5? instead of the correct fxg2. Now Lee missed the chance to play 66. gxf3! which should secure the full point because the pawn ending after 66… Bxf3 is winning.

By May he was well enough to cross the channel to Ostend, where another mammoth tournament was being held. The format was slightly more comprehensible than the previous year. A grandmaster section where six players (Tarrasch, Schlechter, Janowsky, Marshall, Burn and Chigorin) played each other four times, a 30-player all play all master section, three amateur sections and, like the previous year, a Ladies tournament. Lee was placed in the master section, which was reduced to a mere 29 players when Paul Johner withdrew after 7 rounds. Another player, Jacob, withdrew towards the end.

Here’s what happened.

 

Lee’s performance in such a strong field was only slightly disappointing, and he was in poor health again during what must have been a tiring event.

The players castled on opposite sides in this game, and Lee’s attack proved more successful.

This is probably Lee’s best known game, which will be familiar to readers of Nimzowitsch’s My System.

Lee’s opponent in this game was a German master who spent a lot of time in England before the First World War.

Here’s another game you might have seen before. Fred Reinfeld anthologised it in A Treasury of British Chess Masterpieces.

No sooner had he returned from Ostend than he was off on his travels again.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 16 July 1907

After spending time in Canada he returned, again visiting the north of England, Scotland and Ireland. His tour continued into the new year, but in May 2008 he returned to tournament play in a small tournament in Sevenoaks, Kent, where he was also called upon to give a simultaneous display.

The top section was split into two sections. Lee played in the A section, which was won by the future Sir George Thomas on 5½/6, two points clear of Lee, Shories and Muller, who shared second place.

He won this game with a stock queen sacrifice, but also missed some earlier tactical opportunities.

Then it was on to the British Championships, held that year in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. Lee’s score of 6/11 was enough for a share of third place in what was, with the exception of Atkins, a closely fought contest.

A mistake in this position against Ward cost him a half point which would have left him, rather than his opponent, in the silver medal position.

In this exciting position 34… c2 might have led to a perpetual check for White, but Lee erred with 34… Qe7?, and had to resign after the beautiful 35. Bf7!.

With his slow style of play, Lee wasn’t noted for winning miniatures in serious play, but here his opponent (whom I really ought to write about sometime) blundered on move 19, resigning two moves later.

His game against Shoosmith reached an unusual ending when Black, in a blocked position, sacrificed two minor pieces for four connected passed pawns. Both players missed chances, but it was Shoosmith who made the final error.

This was a quiet period in Lee’s life – perhaps he had further health problems – but he did visit Bradford in January 1909. Nothing more was heard of him until August when he was back in Yorkshire for the British Championships, held that year in Scarborough.

A score of 5/11 in a strong field was again a more than respectable performance, especially as he was clearly ailing in the second week.

Let’s look at his last three games.

In Round 9 he won a good game against Mackenzie, helped by a blunder on move 38.

In Round 10 he played his favourite Caro-Kann too passively, and Blake, gaining revenge for his defeat the previous year, used his space advantage to engineer a brilliant finish.

In the last round, the fast improving Yates took apart another of his favourite openings, the Stonewall Attack, concluding with an unstoppable Arabian Mate.

Then, just three weeks later:

The Sportsman 14 September 1909
Globe 14 September 1909

“… not one of the world’s really great chess players”. Not very generous for a death notice, I would have thought.

He regularly annotated games for the British Chess Magazine, who had rather more to say.

They might also have been more generous about the premature death of a valued contributor.

Again: “… never regarded in the foremost rank of chess masters…”: harsh but true, I suppose.

The obituary spoke about his gastric trouble, and he had also had lung problems in the past, but his death certificate reveals that neither was his cause of death.

Cerebral Meningitis (is there any other type): to the best of my knowledge indigestion isn’t a symptom.

The Wiener Schachzeitung provided a long and rather more sympathetic obituary.


Not very accurate, though. The 1881 Simpson’s Divan event seems to have been the 1890 event misdated, although there were 19, not 14 players and it was a handicap tournament. It was the short-lived Henry Lee (no relation as far as I know) who played in the London 1883 Vizayanagaram Tournament, not our man Francis Joseph Lee.

The layout could perhaps also have been improved. Swiderski died at the same time (by his own hand) and his obituary was immediately below that of Lee.

Let’s return for a moment to the BCM obituary: “Having, unfortunately, adopted chess as a profession, he sacrificed his imagination for a cramped, slow style of play instead of giving full scope to his chess ability.”

This suggests two reasons why he wasn’t universally popular. He was a professional at a time when professional sportsmen (they always were men in those days) were scorned, and he preferred playing closed rather than open positions.

I consider this rather unfair. Although he played gambits in simuls and informal games, he was very much a player in the modern style, influenced in part by Steinitz. With White he favoured mostly d-pawn openings: the Stonewall and London Systems, often combined, as well as Queen’s Gambits and types of Colle System. With Black he defended against 1. e4 with, at various times, with the French, Caro-Kann and Scandinavian Defences. Understanding of closed positions, although they had been played by the likes of Philidor, La Bourdonnais and Staunton, was still rudimentary compared with today’s grandmasters, but it was the experiments of players like Lee which played an important role in the development of chess ideas.

You’ll also see that, although his games, and those of other similarly inclined players of his day, could descend into meaningless woodshifting, there were also positive ideas, in particular in building up slow kingside attacks. His games were often not short of excitement, but that was more likely to come at move 50 than move 15. I’d put it to you that his obituarist (Isaac McIntyre Brown?) failed to appreciate his games fully.

Of course he had his faults: he was prone to tactical oversights and, against the top players of his day, didn’t always understand what was happening positionally, but he was still in the world’s top 100 players for about 20 years. His fragile health must also have had an impact on his results, and his interview above suggests that he was temperamentally more suited to teaching than playing.

It’s interesting to compare his life with that of a journeyman chess professional today. He was probably never very well off, but he had various sources of revenue: teaching and lecturing, simultaneous displays, exhibition games, writing and journalism, and also sponsorship. An article by Mieses in the August 1941 BCM about former Prime Minister Andrew Bonar Law tells us that he was kindly disposed towards Lee and did a good deal quietly for his professional support. One would imagine that Lee was similarly supported by the likes of JH Parnell and the Bishop of Trinidad and Tobago. In his tours of chess clubs he was seen as being a friendly and courteous opponent.

The Cheltenham Chronicle (13 September 1919), writing just a decade after his death, referred to him as ‘another chess professional, now little remembered’. He’s certainly very little remembered or written about today.

I’d suggest that Francis Joseph Lee is very much worthy of your attention. Here was a man who clearly loved chess, and, despite ill health, devoted more than twenty years to promoting his favourite game throughout the British Isles, and in many other parts of the world as well. While he wasn’t one of the greatest players of his day he also produced some fine chess, along the way experimenting with new openings, some of which are now, a century and a quarter on, now back in fashion.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about his life and looking at some of his games. Do join me in drinking a toast to Francis Joseph Lee, and also join me again soon for some more Minor Pieces.

Sources and references:

ancestry.co.uk
findmypast.co.uk/British Newspaper Archive
Wikipedia
chessgames.com: FJ Lee here
ChessBase/MegaBase 2024
Stockfish 16
EdoChess (Rod Edwards): FJ Lee here
British Chess Magazine (thanks to John Upham)
Wiener Schachzeitung

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Minor Pieces 69: Francis Joseph Lee (1)

If you read anything about chess from the late 1880s through to 1909 you’ll often come across the name of FJ (Francis Joseph) Lee, a regular competitor in both national and international events during that period. He played pretty consistently at about 2350 strength, finishing below the genuine masters, but above the amateurs. Yet he had wins against the likes of Steinitz, Pillsbury, Chigorin, Blackburne, Mason and Atkins to his credit.

Here he is, pictured, I think, in 1893.

A decent player, to be sure, but I’ve seen very little written about him. As he might have used my friend Alastair Armstrong’s chess set when taking part in the 1899 London International Congress, I wanted to discover more about his life and games.

Francis Joseph Lee’s birth was registered in the first quarter of 1858 in Hackney. He was baptised at St Matthias Church, Stoke Newington, on 28 April that year. His father, Francis Goodale Lee’s profession was given as architect: as far as I can tell he was a minor church architect. He was also, although he didn’t play publicly, an enthusiastic chess player. His mother, more exotically, was Rosina Pereira Arnand, the daughter of a wine merchant, about whom I can find out very little. Pereira is a Portuguese name, and Arnand sounds French (perhaps it’s a version of Armand, which really is a French name). Many years later, Francis would tell how he was romantically affected by her tales, and also inherited her musical tastes. He had an older sister, Agnes, and two younger brothers, George and Arthur.

There’s no obvious trace of the family in the 1861 census, but in 1871 Francis and his brother George were recorded at Belmont House, Ramsgate, a boarding school for young gentlemen.

At this point we should perhaps mention a couple of other things. In 1874 a 16 year old named Francis Joseph Lee signed up for four years in the Merchant Navy. In an interview many years later he mentioned going to sea and visiting China, so I’d guess this was him. In 1885 a Francis Joseph Lee married Kat(i)e Elizabeth Jenner in Hackney, divorcing a few years later, but we can tell from the church records that this wasn’t our man – both his age and his father’s name were wrong.

By 1881 Lee was boarding in Hackney and working as a stockbroker’s clerk. He may have been playing chess at Purssell’s room by then, but the first time his name appeared in the press was in 1885 at Simpson’s Divan, losing a game against William Henry Krause Pollock, who gave odds of pawn and move. It must be round about this time that he decided the life of a stockbroker’s clerk was not for him, opting instead for the life of a chess professional. He wasn’t a strong enough player to make much money from tournament play.

He was a relatively late starter at this level, then, and, judging from this 1886 game he favoured the gambit style popular at the time.

As usual, click on any move on any game in this article for a pop-up window.

The following year he beat Pollock 6-1 in an odds match, establishing himself, almost from nowhere, as one of the country’s leading players, and earning an invitation to take part in the 3rd British Chess Association Congress Master Tournament in London in November.

A respectable performance, but it should be pointed out that Zukertort, coming to the end of his life, was in poor health, as, no doubt, was Mason.

Lee won a nice ending against chess journalist Antony Guest.

Here’s a position from his game against Zukertort.

In this position he missed the rather attractive 23… Rd3!, which would have won Zukertort’s queen (if the queen moves to safety there’s Qxh2+!): perhaps his tendency to make tactical errors led him to follow the increasingly popular trend for closed positions, already in evidence in this tournament.

The following year, the British Chess Association Congress took place outside London for the first time, being held in Bradford. It was a pretty strong event as well, as you’ll see.

Lee’s result was slightly disappointing, but he did have the satisfaction of beating Burn and Blackburne.

Blackburne seemed ill at ease against Lee’s French Defence, and Black was able to liquidate into a winning ending.

Burn was also outplayed from a closed position.

In January 1889 Lee played a short match against Gunsberg, drawing two and losing three of the five games.

The 1889 British Chess Association Congress returned to London in 1889, with Bird and Gunsberg sharing first place on 7½/10, two points ahead of the field. Lee finished in the middle on 5/10. Very few games from this event seem to have survived.

We do have this one, though, where White moved his king to the wrong square on move 34.

1890 was a busy year for Lee. He scored his greatest success to date in the spring handicap tournament at Simpson’s Divan, with a score of 16½/18, well ahead of the likes of Bird, Tinsley and Mason.

This game against a Russian master demonstrates how effective he could be with the French Defence.

He spent much of the summer involved in a match against Blackburne, which he lost 5½-8½.

Here’s one of his wins.

Following on from that match he travelled to Manchester, where the 6th British Chess Association Congress took place. This attracted a strong field of 20 players, including Tarrasch, arguably the world’s best player at the time.

Lee’s result was again respectable, finishing about as expected, but taking points off some of the stronger players, while faring less well against some of the weaker players.

I haven’t been able to find the scores of any of his wins from this event, although he certainly should have won with the black pieces against von Scheve.

In this position, instead of playing 38. Bxb7 (equal according to Stockfish), von Scheve tried Rxb7?,  presumably thinking he was either promoting or mating, but he must have missed something. Undaunted, he played on a piece down in the ending, eventually reaching this position, with Lee to play.

Now 62… Rh2+ is mate in 7, but Lee fell for a stalemate trap by playing 62… Rg2? 63. Ra5+ Kf4 64. Rf5+! with a draw. A familiar enough idea now, but it would have been much less familiar back in 1890.

Lee was unhappy with Gunsberg’s annotations of his loss against Mason from this tournament, and attempted to sue him for libel, but the judge (Roland Vaughan Williams, whose nephew, the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, is one of my musical heroes) refused to allow a prosecution

Northern Whig 06 November 1890

Here’s the paragraph from 20 September:

Evening News (London) 20 September 1890

Both Mason and Lee were unhappy with this, Mason writing to the editor of the newspaper.

Evening News (London) 27 September 1890

You can judge for yourself: here’s the critical position after a lot of rather tedious manoeuvring, with Lee (Black) to play his 71st move.

Stockfish suggests 71… Rc1 72. Kd4 Rd1+ 73. Kc3 Kb7, pointing out that 73… Bxc4, for instance, is also a draw. Lee preferred 71… Bxc4? 72. Rxc4 Rf1? (another poor move: Re1+ might have offered some drawing chances) 73. Rc6+, when Mason obtained two passed pawns, soon winning the game.

What do you think? Was Lee tired after a long game and a long tournament? Was the position too hard for him? Was he not trying too hard as there was nothing at stake for him, as Gunsberg thought, or did he deliberately throw the game, as he thought Gunsberg implied?

At the same time, Lee was branching out as a writer, taking over the regular chess column in the Hereford Times in September 1890.

In between tournaments he was travelling throughout the British Isles giving simultaneous displays, often being billed as The Young Master.

Belfast News-Letter 18 December 1890

Here he is in Belfast in December 1890, feted for his courteous manner as well as his rapid and brilliant play. He had also, in September that year, taken over the chess column in the Hereford Times, which he continued until 1893.

1891 was a quiet year, with no British Chess Association congress for him to take part in. There was a summer tournament at Simpson’s Divan, where he performed disappointingly, finishing in 9th place out of 10. The London based Dutch players Loman and van Vliet took the first two prizes. In August he arranged a match against up and coming German star Emanuel Lasker, drawing the first game, but, with the second game adjourned (Lasker was winning) was obliged to concede the match due to ill health. This may well have been the reason for his poor performance in the earlier tournament.

In the 1891 census he was lodging at 30 Manchester Street (now Argyle Street), St Pancras, giving his occupation as Chess Player and Editor (the word Author was added in) and his place of birth, curiously, as Ingatestone, Essex.

The 1892 edition of the British Chess Association Congress took place in London in March, with Lasker taking part, and, as expected, finishing comfortably ahead of the field. Lee’s 50% score was about what he would have expected.

Here’s his loss against Lasker, who sacrificed some pawns to get to his opponent’s king.

His win against Bird was a lively affair which won the brilliancy prize.

Next stop was Belfast, for a quadrangular tournament in which he was rather off form, finishing well behind his three rivals. According to a contemporary report he was unwell throughout the event. (One of the games, a featureless draw between Bird and Lee, is missing from MegaBase, but is readily available elsewhere.)

He remained in Ireland for several months after this event, visiting clubs and giving simultaneous displays.

This game, undated in my source, against Mary Rudge, the leading lady chess player of the time,  may well have been played in one of these simuls.

In June he had some important news to announce.

Morning Post 19 June 1893

He crossed the Atlantic with his friends Gossip and Jasnogrodsky, but the intended tournament fell through. However, an impromptu tournament was organised as a partial replacement, attracting a lot of press coverage.

According to the Brooklyn Daily Standard Union:

The English player is about 40 years of age, of a German blocky build, which indicates the possession of physical strength to stand the strain of severe chess playing.

(He was actually 35, and I don’t think you’d get away nowadays with ‘German blocky build’, whatever that might mean.)

Reproducing the portrait (probably the one above) from the New York Sun, it added:

… makes him appear stouter than he really is; otherwise the likeness is good.

The Baltimore News provided brief and amusing descriptions of the participants, reprinted here in an English newspaper.

Nottinghamshire Guardian 04 November 1893

I think all chess columns should be headed by a picture of chess playing kittens. Don’t you?

Here, Lee performed well, sharing third place with two of the top American players, Showalter and Delmar, just behind Albin (of countergambit fame), but they were no match for Lasker, who posted a 100% score.

His Irish opponent in this game essayed the Pirc Defence long before it became popular and acquired a name.

Lee is standing fourth from the left in this group photograph from the tournament.

Lee remained in the Americas for two years after this event. In February and March he played a series of exhibition games against some of Cuba’s leading players in Havana.

Later in the year he returned to North America, touring extensively, giving simuls and playing exhibition games.

At the beginning of 1895 The Chess Player’s Mentor was finally published, offering, according to the advertisements, ‘an easy introduction for beginners’, along with ‘analyses of the most popular openings for more advanced players &c’.

Dundee Advertiser 17 January 1895

The review in the Dundee Advertiser is notable for providing an early example of promoting chess for children for its claimed extrinsic benefits.

It was later republished together with three other books solely written by Gossip. You can read it online here via the Hathi Trust digital library.

Lee returned to England in July that year, but didn’t enter the great Hastings tournament. Perhaps he needed a break after his exertions.

Morning Post 08 July 1895

I think it was Albin, rather than Albion, against whom real estate man George C Farnsworth (1852-1896) scored 1½/2

Here’s Lee’s win. Not all that interesting: White chose a poor 5th move and never really stood a chance.

This game shows Farnsworth in a much better light.

He spent the latter part of 1895 touring chess clubs throughout the country, but most of 1896 in London, where he was appointed secretary to the committee organising a tournament at Simpson’s Divan. His administrative role didn’t stop him achieving an excellent result, sharing second place with van Vliet on 8½/11, just half a  point behind the winner, Richard Teichmann, who was based in London at the time.

Not many games from this event were published. Here, Dutch organist Rudolf Loman sacrificed a piece unsoundly.

His displays in London included a visit to the Ladies’ Chess Club.

Hampstead & Highgate Express 11 July 1896

In December, Lee played a short match against Richard Falkland Fenton, winning two games, drawing two and losing one.

1897 was another quiet year spent in London, the only serious chess activity being a match during the summer against enthusiastic veteran Henry Bird, which he won by 8 points to 5.

1898 was even quieter, with just a summer match against Teichmann, which he lost 3½ to 5½. Lee suffered from gastric problems all his life: perhaps this was one reason for his relative lack of activity during this period.

There had been some talk in 1897, and again in 1899, about why Lee wasn’t selected for the Anglo-American Cable Matches. Perhaps the selectors preferred to choose amateurs rather than professionals. Here’s an article from 1899.

Nottinghamshire Guardian 25 February 1899

Finally, a few months later, he had an opportunity to prove himself at the top level. You will know, if you read my previous Minor Piece, about the great London International Chess Tournament of 1899. Lee was originally selected for the subsidiary single-round event, but when Horatio Caro (of Caro-Kann fame) withdrew at the last minute on health grounds he was promoted to the top section.

As you’ll see he found it hard going, but he did record wins against Steinitz and Chigorin, as well as two victories against Mason.

Let’s have a look at a few of his games from this event.

Playing his favourite Stonewall formation against Mason, his pressure on the half-open g-file was crowned with a sacrificial attack.

Lee’s win against Steinitz was also a Stonewall, but here he was rather lucky.

Steinitz had had the better of the opening, but Lee had managed to reach a drawn ending. If Black just waits with his knight White can make no progress, but the ailing former champion, close to the end of his life, seriously misjudged the position, playing 49… Ke4??, after which Lee’s e-pawn wasn’t for stopping.

The following day, black against Chigorin, he faced his opponent’s favourite anti-French move 2. Qe2, gaining a space advantage and giving up the exchange for a passed pawn, and winning one of his finest games.

At his best, Lee was a formidable positional player who could also, when the occasion demanded, display tactical ability. Someone who has, you might think, been unfairly neglected in chess literature.

As the remainder of the year – and the century, seems to have been uneventful for him, this must be a good place to break off.

Join me again soon to discover what the 1900s had in store for Francis Joseph Lee.

Sources and references:

ancestry.co.uk
findmypast.co.uk/British Newspaper Archive
Wikipedia
chessgames.com: FJ Lee here
ChessBase/MegaBase 2024
Stockfish 16
EdoChess (Rod Edwards): FJ Lee here
Two articles on chess.com from Neil Blackburn (simaginfan):
Lee and Gossip. Three Brilliancies. – Chess.com
Belfast 1892. A Chess Tournament and A Grumpy Bird! – Chess.com
Zan Chess: article on New York 1893 here

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Minor Pieces 71: Edward Wallis

Last time we visited the Yorkshire seaside resort of Scarborough in the company of Francis Joseph Lee, just a few weeks before his untimely death.

Congresses like the British Championships only take place if there’s someone there to organise them, and, as it happened the prime mover of this one was someone who was mentioned in a different context just a few Minor Pieces ago.

Northern Whig 14 January 1909
The Sheffield Daily Telegraph 08 July 1909
Falkirk Herald 11 August 1909

Lowestoft Journal 04 September 1909

Didn’t Edward Wallis do well? He had a long involvement with the game of chess, and this, along with the publication of his book of miniature problems, was one of his life’s highlights. You might recall that one of George Law Francis Beetholme‘s problems was included therein.

Here he is, pictured in the September 1909 British Chess Magazine.

Edward Wallis had an interesting story to tell, one that involves, as well as chess, chocolate and conscientious objection.

Let’s go back to the middle of the 17th century, when, in the aftermath of the English Civil War, a new religious group founded by George Fox, known as the Society of Friends, or the Quakers, became popular. Jumping forward a century or so, a Quaker named Joseph Fry started a business producing drinking chocolate in Bristol. In 1831 another Quaker, John Cadbury, started producing drinking chocolate in Birmingham. In 1862, Henry Isaac Rowntree, also a member of the Society of Friends, bought out the chocolate making part of the Tuke family’s York business. These three companies, Fry, Cadbury and Rowntree, would become the three major producers of confectionery in Britain through the remainder of the 19th and much of the 20th century.

The Rowntrees had been a prominent Quaker family in Scarborough for a very long time. and, by the early 19th century, John Rowntree was running a grocery business there. His son Joseph moved to York to start a grocers shop in 1822, and it was his son Henry Isaac who started the confectionery business. Joseph’s brother William remained in Scarborough, and it was his grandson, Alderman John Watson Rowntree, who was the chairman of the committee running the 1909 British Championships in his home town.

The Wallis family were also prominent Quakers, from the village of Springfield in Essex, now a suburb of Chelmsford. After his marriage in 1849, Francis Wallis moved from Essex to Scarborough, no doubt in part because of the strong Quaker presence there, setting up as a corn dealer and miller. One of Francis’s daughters,  Priscilla Gray Wallis, married George Rowntree, a brother of the aforementioned John Watson. One of Francis’s sons, born in 1852, was Edward Wallis, author of 777 Chess Miniatures in Three (you can read it online here) and the local organiser of the 1909 British Chess Championships.

In 1877 Edward married Dublin born Annie Johnson in London, returning to Scarborough, and, at some point in the 1880s, moving to a house they named Springfield after his home village. Their children were Eleanor (1878), Edward Arnold (1880), Arthur (1881), Dorothea (1883) and Annie Mabel (1885). He ran a grocery and bakery business there for the rest of his life.

On 24 January 1880 Edward had a chess problem published in the Leeds Mercury Weekly Supplement. At 27 years of age he was a relatively late starter in chess.

Problem 1: Mate in 3: you’ll find the solution at the end of this article.

In the same year he was also seen playing correspondence chess. In this game from a Leeds Mercury tournament he had the better of the opening but rather lost the plot thereafter.

 

In this game, probably played in the same event, he defeated schoolteacher GW Farrow, born in Scarborough, but by that time living in Hull

In 1881 he entered a correspondence tournament run by the Preston Guardian. This win against GW Farrow was almost certainly (although this isn’t specificed in the source) played in the 1881 edition of the Leeds Mercury competition.

In 1882 he won an exciting, but not entirely sound, game against Scarborough Chess Club secretary and chemist Henry Chapman.

In January 1883 he played on Board 53 in a match between Lancashire and Yorkshire, losing his game against Dr Dean of Burnley. The Manchester Courier (27 January), with an element of hyperbole, claimed that this was “the greatest chess match which has ever taken place in the history of the royal game, which extends over a period of more than 3,000 years”.

Here’s a game he lost in another correspondence tournament run by the Leeds Mercury. After White’s alert response to his erroneous 22nd move he could only choose which bishop to lose. (Click on any move of any game in this article for a pop-up window.)

He also lost this game, played in a correspondence game between two players representing clubs at almost opposite ends of the country, misplaying a tricky ending. It’s not clear whether or not this was a formal match between the two clubs.

In 1891 Scarborough were treated to a visit by our good friend Francis Joseph Lee.

York Herald 17 April 1891

An excellent result for Edward: it would have been good if they’d published the game. Mr F Wallis was probably Edward’s father Francis, but we’ll come to another possibility later.

Later in the same year he was one of the protagonists in a living chess game raising money for a good cause.

Yorkshire Herald 12 December 1891

During this period, Edward Wallis was playing on top board for Scarborough, but, to be honest, there wasn’t that much opposition. Most of the county’s stronger players resided in the larger towns and cities.

In January 1893 he was selected to represent the North of England against the South in a 100 board megamatch in Birmingham, but ended up not in the match itself but on the bottom reserve board where he won his game against Wiltshire’s CJ Woodrow.

In April Scarborough welcomed another professional visitor: Samuel Tinsley. This time Wallis was less successful.

Yorkshire Herald 08 April 1893

“… in a game known as the Queen’s Fianchetto?” I think the journalist was rather confused.

Here’s a report on a 1894 match against Bridlington, the days when matches were interrupted half way through for an excellent tea and appropriate speeches.

Yorkshire Herald 10 March 1894

You’ll see that (presumably) Edward’s father won both his games on bottom board. The Mr Yewdall on Board 7 was the teenage Francis Edward Yewdall, who, almost 40 years later, would become the Secretary of Richmond & Kew Chess Club (where he was the assistant borough surveyor), and therefore, if you want to stretch a point, one of my Great Predecessors. Charles Empson Simpson, on Board 2, was Edward’s next door neighbour. You might notice some name connections: Wallis and Simpson living in adjacent  houses, and Wallis (but not Simpson) living in Springfield. Bridlington, very unusually for the time, fielded a lady on second board: Eliza Mary Thorold, sister of their top board Edmund, who had been for many years one of the country’s top amateurs but was now approaching the end of his career.

Here’s one of the top board games, in which both sides missed chances.

A few weeks later there was another North v South megamatch, over 108 boards. Edward Wallis was on Board 102, losing to Horace Fabian Cheshire, who would soon find fame as the editor of the Hastings 1895 tournament book.

By 1897 he’d ceded top board to Charles Empson Simpson, and in 1899 he played on Board 9 for the North and East Ridings of Yorkshire in a match against the West Riding, losing his game against Isaac McIntyre Brown, the editor of the British Chess Magazine. Simpson lost on fourth board to John Musgrove.

One thing that you may know about the Quakers is that they are noted for their liberal views, many of their members being committed pacifists, and that was certainly true of the extended Rowntree family in Scarborough.

Appalled by the atrocities of the Second Boer War, a South African Conciliation Committee was set up in Scarborough under the presidency of Joshua Rowntree, a cousin of Henry Isaac and a former Liberal MP for the town. In March 1900 a meeting was arranged. One of the speakers was Samuel Cronwright, British born but living in South Africa and married to author and anti-war campaigner Olive Schreiner, still remembered today for her 1883 novel The Story of an African Farm. The other speaker, John A Hobson, was a prominent anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist.

There were some in Scarborough who considered their views heretical and unpatriotic. Word got round about the meeting, and a crowd, brandishing Union Jacks, formed outside, smashing the windows and throwing stones. Not content with that, some of them proceeded to vandalise the shops and houses of other members of the Rowntree family.

Perhaps you were, like me, unaware of this story, which, of course, has many resonances today. If you’d like to read more there’s a paper on the riots here.

If you’re interested in the history of the Rowntree family I’d recommend visiting the Rowntree Society website. This page is a good place to start.

While all this was going on, it appears that Edward Wallis was engaged in a long-range postal game.

Morning Leader 11 February 1902

I’m pretty sure, although it’s not mentioned in the press, that FJ Wallis was Edward’s brother Francis John Wallis, and that he had emigrated to Australia in 1891, becoming prominent in Sydney chess circles. In that case the F Wallis mentioned twice above would definitely be Edward’s father Francis senior.

A few years later, this game was published in the British Chess Magazine with, typically for the time, rather inaccurate annotations by Bellingham. The loser, at lease in my secondary source, is incorrectly identified as AG Wallis.

By now Scarborough Chess Club seems to have become inactive, putting Edward Wallis’s chess career on hold. His name started to reappear towards the end of 1907, when he made two contributions to a testimonial for FR Gittins, the author of The Chess Bouquet, which was being organised by the always witty Philip Hamilton Williams. He also announced that he was collecting miniature (no more than 7 pieces on the board) mates in 3. In 1908 he published a self-mate in 16 based on an earlier problem by Frederick Baird, but it turned out to be unsound as there were quicker solutions.

By October 1908 his book was (self-)published, receiving positive reviews.

Cricket and Football Field 24 October 1908
The Falkirk Herald and Midland Counties Journal 28 October 1908

Then, in 1909, came the second highlight of his life: the British Chess Championships in his home town, which you read about earlier. Although he was referred to as being from Scarborough Chess Club, I haven’t found any other mentions of the club between the late 1890s and the 1920s.

In 1910 he had a problem published in The Chess Amateur. It’s a mate in 3, but not a miniature.

Problem 2: #3 (E Wallis The Chess Amateur 1910)

Now, it seems, having perhaps fulfilled his two ambitions, he cut down his chess activities, confining himself to solving problems in newspaper columns.

When the First World War broke out his family commitment to pacifism was tested again. The older of his sons, Edward Arnold (below), registered as a conscientious objector, serving in the Friends Ambulance Corps between 1915 and 1918.

https://www.menwhosaidno.org/men/men_files/w/wallis_a.html

His younger son, Arthur, on the other hand, joined the RAF in 1918, but as a lecturer rather than in a combat role.

In 1917 George Rowntree and Edward Wallis unexpectedly fell foul of the law for selling semolina above the maximum fixed price.

Hull Daily Mail 01 December 1917

In 1921, the census tells us that Edward was still running the family business at the age of 69, living with his wife and youngest daughter, who was working as a hospital nurse.

He died a year later, this newspaper obituary erroneously adding two years to his age.

Yorkshire Post 27 June 1922

Edward Wallis wasn’t, by the highest standards, a very strong player, nor was he a great problemist. But, as well as taking part in competitions, both over the board and by post, and occasionally composing problems, he was a true chess enthusiast, an author, an organiser and a collector, with one of the finest chess libraries in England (I wonder what happened to it). He was also a man who, along with his extended family and friends, lived his life through the principles expounded by the liberal Quakers: pacifism, integrity and service to the community. A life, I think, that deserves to be remembered, and a story that deserves to be told.

Next time, I’ll continue the story by introducing you to his friend who kindly contributed the Hints to Solvers to his book: Alfred Neave Brayshaw. Be sure not to miss it.

 

Sources and Acknowledgements

ancestry.co.uk
findmypast.co.uk/British Newspaper Library
Digital Chess Problems (Anders Thulin) website (Wallis book here)
Wikipedia
MESON Chess Problem Database (Brian Stephenson)
BritBase (John Saunders: thanks for the photo)
Yorkshire Chess History (Steve Mann): Edward Wallis here
Gerard Killoran for the Bays, Farrow and Chapman games.
David McAlister for reconstructing the Bays game (on the English Chess Forum)
Rowntree Society website
Guise Family website (George Rowntree here)
The Men Who Said No (Peace Pledge Union website: Edward Arnold Wallis here)

Solutions to problems:

Problem 1:

1. Qf6! is the key, threatening Nc7+, Qd6+ and Qxd4+. There are short mates in reply to either queen capture. You can see the full solution here.

Problem 2:

1. Qh2! (threat: Qe2#) 1… Kc4 (1… Ke4 2. Qe2+ Kf4 3. Be5#) (1… Bxc3 2. Qe2+ Kxd4 3. Ne6#) 2. Qa2+ Kb5 (2… Nb3 3. Qa6#) (2… Kd3 3. Qe2#) 3. Nc7#

 

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Minor Pieces 68: Leonard Francis Grasty

Let me take you back 125 years, to the great London International Chess Tournament of 1899.

Most of the world’s strongest players were there: the first two World Champions, Steinitz and Lasker, Pillsbury and Chigorin, Maroczy and Schlechter, Janowski and Blackburne.

Here’s the cross-table.

There was also a second section, won by Marshall, ahead of the likes of Marco and Mieses, along with some local amateurs.

Two brilliancy prizes were awarded: to Lasker for his win against Steinitz and to Blackburne for his win against Lasker.

Here they are: click on any move for a pop-up window.

If you’re running such a prestigious event you’ll want some shiny new chess sets. The chipped and stained old pieces at the back of your equipment cupboard won’t do for the likes of Lasker and Steinitz.

But have you ever wondered what happens to those shiny new sets once they’ve been put away and the players have gone home?

It appears that, at some point after the end of the tournament, some sort of competition was held. I have no idea what the nature of the competition was, and how many sets were on offer. What I do know (or believe) is that one of the sets was won by a certain William Grasty.

William came from a working class family: his birth was registered in the first quarter of 1878 in Lambeth. His father, a stoker in a factory, died in 1884, and, by the 1891 census, young William was living with his aunt in Southwark. I don’t at the moment know whether he acquired this board immediately after the 1899 tournament, but by 1901 he was moving up in the world, living in lodgings in Wood Green and working as a commercial clerk.

He married Arabella Edith Attwood in 1904, but, tragically, their first child, William Arthur, born in 1909, died before reaching his first birthday. By now the family had settled in Lewisham, and the 1911 census found him still working as a commercial clerk. Later that year, another son, named Leonard Francis, was born. Soon afterwards the family moved to Islington, where a daughter, Muriel Florence, was born in 1913.

By 1921 the family had left London, moving to Southsea, where William was working for Weingarten Bros Ltd, Corset Manufacturers as an accountant. As well as William, Arabella and their children, the household included two boarders: the sisters(?) Dorothy and Elizabeth Kilby, both schoolteachers. At the time, Portsmouth was known as the corset capital of the world (who knew?) and they’re still made there now. Many of my relations were employed manufacturing corsets in Market Harborough, but that’s a story for another time.

There’s no evidence that William ever played competitive chess, but his son certainly did. I guess they played at home using the board from the 1899 tournament, trying to emulate the play of Lasker and his colleagues. Between 1928 and 1931, Leonard was a student at Portsmouth Municipal College, playing on top board for their chess team. They started off with friendly matches against Portsmouth Chess Club before graduating to the second division of the local league.

Portsmouth Evening News 12 January 1931

In 1931 Leonard graduated with a BA General Degree with Honours and a First-Class Distinction in Maths awarded by London University and took a job as a Customs and Excise Officer. Like so many others before and since, on finishing his studies he stopped playing competitive chess.

We next meet him in Manchester in 1937, where he married a local girl, May Taylor Shaw, the daughter of a sheet metal worker.

By the time of the 1939 Register, Leonard and May, along, perhaps, with their chess set, had moved back south, now living in Stanmore, North London. They were blessed with three children, Barbara (1937), Robert (Bob) (1939) and Victor (Vic) (1943).

At some point the family moved down to Bognor Regis, on the West Sussex coast, not all that far from Portsmouth. It was there, in 1948, that Leonard returned to competitive chess, joining the local club. As it happens, the Bognor Regis Observer up as far as 1959 is available online. During this period they ran a regular column featuring local chess news, contributed by the pseudonymous King’s Pawn and The Rook, so we have a lot of information about his chess career over the next decade or so.

You’ll see that he soon established himself as one of their stronger players, although it must be said that Bognor were no match for the likes of Brighton and Hastings. What they did have, though, was some very effective and ambitious administrators. You might notice, for example, the name of Joseph Norman Lomax, who would do much to put his home town on the chess map.

Bognor Regis Observer 07 May 1949

Here they are, in 1949, inviting a very distinguished guest to give a simultaneous display.

In fact Harry Golombek took on 33 (or 34, depending on your choice of newspaper) opponents, losing two games and drawing six, including his game against Grasty. He stayed on overnight, the following day playing another simul against five teams of consultants, drawing two and losing one, against Grasty and his veteran partner Stephen Arthur Hardstone (1873-1952), a retired civil service engineer.

Golombek would give a number of simultaneous displays at Bognor over the next few years. Here’s a photo of one of them.

The games we have for Leonard Grasty in this period, sadly, don’t show him in a very good light. If he’d captured the bishop on move 13 in this game he’d have been fine rather than having to resign two moves later.

And here, in an equal position, he found one of the worst moves on the board, allowing a mate in one.

In 1952, the local organisers had a big idea.

Bognor Regis Observer 12 January 1952

In fact the first congress would be held the following year, run by Joseph Norman Lomax (later, after his second marriage he’d style himself Norman Fishlock-Lomax), continuing very successfully until 1969.

Later that year, Leonard Francis Grasty was the subject of a profile in the local paper.

Bognor Regis Observer 15 November 1952

Was his speed of play responsible for the careless mistakes he seems to have made? Perhaps someone should have advised him to slow down.

In 1954 Bognor Regis Chess Club put on a display of chess trophies in a local shop window for National Chess Week.

Bognor Regis Observer 19 February 1954

There you have it. Leonard had inherited the chess set which his father had won perhaps more than half a century earlier.

Here it is.

It didn’t help him in this game against one of Brighton’s young stars, where he had to resign after only nine moves, having fallen for a rather well known opening trap. The earliest example in MegaBase dates from 1908, but the variation itself dates back to Blackburne – Paulsen (Vienna 1882), where Black won after 8… Ng4.

The following year’s National Chess Week also featured the display of chess trophies, along with a Teenagers v Old Stagers match in which Leonard and his older son Robert were on opposite sides.

Bognor Regis Observer 25 February 1955

A few months later, Bob took part in the Southern Counties Junior Championship, held as part of the 3rd Bognor Regis Congress, scoring 3/7. The other competitors included Michael Lipton, who would later achieve fame as a problemist. He returned the following year, when he managed half a point more, which was half a point less than the score achieved by Stewart Reuben.

Leonard continued his chess activity in Bognor throughout the 1950s.

Here’s a photograph from a club prizegiving from 1958, where Leonard shared the club championship with local journalist Alan Lawrence Ayriss (1934-2006), who, as it happens, has a very distant family connection with me (the 2nd cousin 2x removed of the husband of my 3rd cousin 2x removed). He’s holding a Bell book: The Art of Checkmate (Renaud & Kahn), which was published in that edition in 1955. The book is still within the family: an inscription inside reads “BOGNOR REGIS CHESS CLUB  Presented to L.F. Grasty RUNNER UP LIGHTNING TOURNAMENT 1958. We can also see copies of Edward Lasker’s Chess for Fun and Chess for Blood in a 1952 edition and Reinfeld’s Improving Your Chess (1954).

This, captioned 1958, shows Bob seated second left, perhaps from the same event as the previous photo.

By December 1959 Leonard had been joined by his younger son, Victor, who was up for selection for a match against Worthing. But, at that point, the online run of the Bognor Regis Observer comes to an end, so I have, at the moment, little information about what happened next.

We do have a photograph from 1961 where he’s playing a friendly game against William Clifford Kendal (1902-1988).

The News (Portsmouth) 09 June 1961

In this game from 1966, he chose an unsuccessful plan in the early middle game, allowing his opponent to bring off a smart finish.

It’s unfortunate that the games of Leonard Grasty currently available have, so far, been rather unimpressive losses with the black pieces. Perhaps he played much better with white.

We do have a draw, from what must have been towards the end of his chess career, against a very strong opponent in Geoffrey James (no relation, but he played for my club, Richmond, for a few years in the 1970s). He was perhaps a bit lucky, though, as Geoffrey uncharacteristically missed a few winning chances.

This was a family steeped in chess: they counted Harry Golombek as a family friend. Bob and Vic’s sister Barbara recalls (although the Guardian journalist doesn’t) once going on a date with Leonard Barden. Barbara later married a man named Michael Armstrong. Their son Alastair, born in 1967, continued the family chess playing tradition into a fourth generation.

Leonard must have been very proud of his grandson’s success. He died in 1981, when Alastair was still quite young, but he still has many very fond memories of his grandfather, who encouraged his early interest in chess.

It was only right, then, that it was Alastair who would eventually inherit his great grandfather’s London 1899 chess set.

Here ‘s Alastair again, 13 years later, winning the Main A Section of the Hastings Congress (the Main A wasn’t the main event at the congress, but never mind).

Shortly afterwards, Alastair moved abroad, but, more than 30 years on, he’s now returned to England, deciding to take up chess again, and by chance living just round the corner from the Chess Palace.

He still has the 1899 chess set and board, and provided the photographs above. His son, though, shows little interest in the game.

So there you have it: the story of a chess set and board first played on, perhaps, by Emanuel Lasker, spanning four generations of the same family and 125 years.

Join me again soon when we’ll return to London in 1899.

 

Sources and Acknowledgements:

ancestry.co.uk
findmypast.co.uk/British Newspaper Library
ChessBase/Stockfish 16 for game analysis
Alastair Armstrong and the Grasty family, for the story and photographs
Brian Denman for providing some of Leonard Grasty’s games

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The Chess Heroes Books

Are you rated below 1500?

Do you have friends who are rated below 1500?

Are any members of your chess club rated below 1500?

Do you have any students rated  below 1500?

If so, you’ll really want to take a look at my Chess Heroes books: a unique series of volumes taking players from learning the basics through to club standard and beyond. There’s nothing else like these books on the market. They’re based on 50 years experience teaching chess, using my private RJCC database of almost 17000 games played at this level. Every word and every position is there for a reason.

No gimmicks. No short cuts. No idle promises. Just simple no-nonsense instruction providing all the knowledge and skills you need, along with hard work and seriousness of purpose, to succeed at chess.

This is the starter book (0-500 range) explaining what a game of chess is really about. If you just want to learn the basics, this is for you.

If you want to take the game further, these four books, designed to be read in parallel, are what you require.

Written for players of about 500-1000 strength, if you’ve understood everything here you’ll be able to go along to your local chess club and play some social games without being totally outclassed. You might even be able to play lower level competitive chess if you want.

By now you may be eager to learn more. If you’re around 1000-1500 level, these books will help you make further progress. The Puzzles book is exactly what it says on the cover, while the Games book uses the ‘How Good is Your Chess’ format where you play through the games guessing the next move. I’ll soon be starting work on the second books for publication towards the end of 2024.

You can order them from Amazon here. You’ll see that I also have free downloads available if you want to have a look  before you buy, or if, for instance, you want to print off some of the puzzle pages for your own or your students’ use.

I’d recommend you also read this blog post explaining some of the theory behind my teaching and writing.

Please do take a look, and if you like what you see, support me by purchases and 5* reviews!

 

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Minor Pieces 67: George Law Francis Beetholme

One of the fun things family historians like to do is the One Name Study. You take an unusual surname and find out everything you can about all the bearers of that name.

I have an interest (I’ll explain more later) in the very rare, and now, I believe extinct, at least in that form, name BEETHOLME. I randomly typed ‘Beetholme chess’ into Google and discovered that one of their number, George Law Francis Beetholme, was a published problemist.


#3 777 Chess miniatures in three 1908

Here’s one of his problems, a mate in 3 anthologised by the very interesting E Wallis (the subject of a future Minor Piece) in his self-published collection. I don’t know where or when it was first published: if you know, do get in touch.

Beetholme is an area of Keswick, in the Lake District, and for centuries the name was common in nearby Kendal, often in variants such as Beethom.  Our interest starts with John Law Beetholme, who was born in Liverpool, but moved to London where he worked as a solicitor. His eldest son, George, born in 1826, originally worked in his father’s legal practice, but, in a radical change of career, decided to become an artist. His paintings, very collectible today, were landscapes, often featuring mountains, rivers and waterfalls.

This pair of highland river scenes is, at the time of writing, on sale for £1750.

I don’t know whether or not he was a chess player, but, according to his obituary, he played an excellent game of billiards.

Islington Gazette 06 October 1904

His only child, a son, George Francis Law Beetholme, born in 1857, was, like his father, an artist. It was he who appears to have been the chess problemist. Here’s a mate in 2 from 1882, which was reprinted in the Adelaide Observer a few weeks later, so it must have been quite highly thought of.


#2  The Illustrated London News 11 Feb 1882

Sadly, there’s not much more to say. Perhaps he was already in poor health: five years later he died at the age of only 30. The cause of his death was given as Phthisis (tuberculosis) and Morbus Cordis (heart disease).

I’ve only been able to find one other problem, published later in 1882, though there may well be others around somewhere. There are a lot of duals involving discovered checks with the knight in some variations, which perhaps wouldn’t be acceptable today.


#2  The Illustrated London News 9 Sep 1882

George Law Francis Beetholme, then, was very much a Minor Piece in the world of chess problems: perhaps even, you might think, a pawn. A promising career cut short by ill health, I suppose.

You might be wondering about my interest in the Beetholme family. George the artist had a brother named John, born in about 1839, who also lived a bohemian life following artistic pursuits, although he used a pen rather than a paintbrush.

John L Beetholme (Lawreen)

Using the nom de plume J B Lawreen (sometimes J Beetholme Lawreen) he was, from about 1869 onwards, a writer of comic sketches and sentimental music hall songs.

London and Provincial Entr’acte 14 July 1877

In the same business, then, as Noel Johnson, except that he wrote the words while Noel composed the music. There’s no evidence that they ever collaborated.

London and Provincial Entr’acte 27 October 1877

In 1879 he married a dancer named Emily Willis, but the relationship didn’t last long and he later had an affair with Mary Elizabeth Bonsor, born in 1862, who had been orphaned at the age of only 3 when, a few weeks after her mother’s death, her father, in a fit of despair, took his own life. Two children were born: a son named John, and a daughter, whose name was registered as Alice, but who was later known as Lilian or Lily. In 1924 Lilian married a 63 year old widower, John Judd Abrahams: they had two sons. One of their grandsons, Steve Abrahams, who now lives in Tonbridge, has been researching his family history.

Steve has a strong DNA link with me which suggests we’re somewhere in the region of 4th cousins. I know from my shared links that it concerns my maternal grandmother’s family, and he knows from his shared links that it concerns his paternal grandfather’s family. There’s no obvious connection from our family trees so it’s a question of identifying a point where one of my relations and one of his relations might have been in the same room at the same time.

One possible scenario is this. John Judd Abrahams was born on 31 December 1860 in Gillingham Street, very near Victoria Station. According to both birth and baptism records his parents were David Abrahams and Ann Judd, who had married in Brighton in 1855. David was a servant, presumably working in hotels or boarding houses, and it’s quite likely Ann was in the same industry. Unfortunately the relevant page from the 1861 census, which might have been very informative, is lost, but there’s no indication that David and Ann spent any time together after their marriage, or that they had any (other) children. Steve also has no Abrahams DNA connections going any further back, so it’s plausible that John’s father was someone staying at or visiting a boarding house near Victoria Station. The relevant branch of my family was, at that time, mostly in the Northamptonshire village of Croughton, but there’s one possibility.

My great great grandfather Robert Padbury (he changed his name from Badby) had a brother named William (born in 1831) who served in the 97th Regiment of Foot. He was in Canada in 1856, and in India for the Indian Mutiny in 1857-58. On 1 June 1860 he was transferred to Madras. Might he have been in London a few months before that date awaiting instructions? Might he have travelled from India by boat, and then to London by train? He wouldn’t have arrived at Victoria Station, which only opened in October 1860. Might he have been in England on leave? Might he have been staying in a boarding house in central London and looking for a good time? I don’t know: I wasn’t there: but this theory would make Steve my 3rd cousin once removed, which would be about right. It would also make the short-lived problemist George Law Francis Beetholme the paternal 1st cousin of the wife of my 1st cousin 3x removed.

(Just to conclude William’s story, he returned from India, marrying in 1864 in Croydon, served by regular trains from Victoria,  and fathering two daughters, one of whom died in infancy. )

Join me again soon for another story of a chess family with an unusual surname.

Problem solutions: click on any move to play them through.

Sources and Acknowledgements:

ancestry.co.uk
findmypast.co.uk
Wikipedia
Steve Abrahams
Yet Another Chess Problem Database (yacpdb.org)
ChessBase

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