In Part 3 of the history of Richmond Junior Chess Club I left you with this news from May 1993.
This was the start of the Richmond Chess Initiative, which was doing very much the same thing that Chess in Schools & Communities now does, but on a local level, within the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames.
Local businessman Stanley Grundy had met Anne Summers, then the Mayor of Richmond upon Thames, at a concert. He had recently come across this paper claiming that chess improves children’s academic performance, and, for this reason, wanted to put money into schools in the borough.
There were all sorts of questions here about the validity of the paper’s methods and conclusions, and, given that Richmond schools, as you might expect from the nature of the demographics of the Borough, topped the national league tables every year anyway, how much scope there was for improving the results even more. But, nevertheless, Stanley wanted to donate some money, which was good news for us at Richmond Junior Chess Club.
A steering committee was formed, including representatives from local schools, notably Jane Lawrence, Headteacher of Sheen Mount, the local council and local businesses, local Grandmaster Daniel King was also invited to join and I was paid to manage the chess programme. There was no interest in putting chess on the curriculum, but a number of (mostly primary) schools were interested in starting after-school clubs. So part of my job was helping schools with these clubs, and, as more schools became interested, other chess tutors were also recruited.
All sorts of other things happened. Every year national inter-area competitions take place, run by the English Primary Schools Chess Association, at Under 9, Under 11 and Girls Under 11 levels. RJCC were now, through our committee of parents, running these teams. We were able to combine our own strong players with those from schools in the Borough, many of whom we also recruited to join us, to create formidably strong Under 9 and Under 11 teams. Although we were, in effect, competing as a club against mostly county teams we always finished near the top, winning national titles on several occasions.
Our tournaments were now billed as the Richmond Chess Initiative Championships, thanks to Stanley Grundy’s sponsorship. Here’s a game from our 1994 championship between two of our strongest young players. To play through any game in this article, click on any move for a pop-up window.
Later in 1994 Daniel King organised our first international tournament, which took place (mostly) at the Royal Star and Garter Home for Disabled Ex-Servicemen in Richmond (you can read more about chess there in this Minor Piece). The tournament – remarkably – featured seven current or former members of RJCC, along with Danish IM Klaus Berg and two of Daniel’s Bundesliga teammates.
Luke McShane, only 10 years old, struggled in most of his games, but hit the national headlines when he beat Berg, who went on to share first place with former RJCC star (as he then was) Demetrios Agnos.
The tournament was remarkable for its fighting spirit and exciting, if not always perfectly accurate games. Here’s the crosstable.
Here’s a short selection of games played by some of the RJCC representatives in this event.
At the same time we welcomed a team from Szombathely in Hungary, who played matches against a combined RJCC/Southern Counties team. Here’s a Richmond win against a future Grandmaster.
We were very big on the idea of giving our players the chance to compete against adult opposition when they were ready to do so. We ran teams in the Thames Valley League for this reason, on one occasion finishing second ahead of the Richmond & Twickenham A team.
In 1995 we were able to start a series of Richmond Rapidplays, which usually took place at the White House Community Association in Hampton. We ran six tournaments a year, with four sections, usually attracting about 100 participants, roughly equally split between juniors and adults. The top section always included IMs and sometimes also GMs, so our members had the chance to watch top players in action.
The point of what we were doing was to give our afternoon group members (1000+ rating or age 11+) the chance to play as many different opponents (of different ages) as possible, as well as to experience different openings and different time controls. Our results, and, particularly our strength in depth were testimony to the success of our approach, focusing on purposeful playing rather than teaching.
We ran our second international tournament that autumn. This time we had five past or present RJCC members, while our good friend Simon Williams completed the home contingent. Klaus Berg returned, along with popular Dutch IM Gerard Welling. The other competitors were London-based Nigerian Chiedu Maduekwe and Serbian Jovica Radovanovic. Here’s the crosstable.
Again, a short selection of games.
Here’s our sponsor Stanley Grundy writing to the local press in February 1996, with ambitions to exend the scheme both nationally and internationallly.
For various reasons this didn’t happen in quite that way, but the national initiative is still successful today.
One day Stanley summoned me to his office and told me he was going to make me rich. However, he then spoke to Mike Basman, who was running Surrey junior chess under the Wey Valley banner and decided Mike was the better person to put his ideas into practice.
This was the start of what would soon become the UK Chess Challenge, which was originally sponsored by Stanley through one of his companies. It’s still running very successfully today, but, far from making Mike Basman rich it had the opposite effect.
Our big annual event during this period was the RCI Schools Chess Tournament, designed as a fun event encouraging mass participation, with clocks only used on the higher boards. Here’s a report on the 1996 event.
In 1996 the club received recognition from what was then the British Chess Federation when I received a President’s Award for services to chess, which I saw as an award for the club as a whole rather than for me personally.
But we were not the only successful junior club around. My friend Mike Fox was now running his own club, Checkmate!, in Birmingham, and when they visited us in 1996 scored an impressive victory. In this drawn game our Midlands opponents were represented by a future star.
We also ran two big individual tournaments every year: our annual championships in the summer term, and an open event in the autumn term including qualifiers for the London Junior Championship as well as a section for older players. Here’s a game from the 1996 renewal.
A few years earlier, as you read last time, Luke McShane was breaking a lot of international age records, but now we had in Murugan Thiruchelvam a player who was beating even Luke’s records. He impressed with his ability to play simple positions well: something I’ve always considered the mark of a promising player. In this game he outplayed his opponent in the ending even though he was the exchange down.
Although he was only 8 years old, Murugan played top board for our Under 12 team in a year in which we became national champions (against county teams) at U18, U14, U12 and U11 levels.
That autumn Garry Kasparov was in town, playing a simul against 25 teams. We were honoured to be invited to send a team of four players to take part in this event. We played under the name ‘Deep Yellow’, a play on Deep Blue referring to the colour of the shirts our teams wore at the time.
Here’s the game: a Kasparov victory that may not have been published before. You’ll see that we missed a few drawing chances.
This article, as well as advertising Murugan’s success against adult opponents (the Major section was the second one down in the Richmond Rapidplays), announced a workshop for young players over the Christmas holidays.
By now Luke was writing regular chess columns, here taking the opportunity to plug both Murugan and RJCC.
But, while the club was extraordinarily successful, I was starting to have doubts about what was happening in primary school chess clubs. For the most part the standard of play was so low that it was hard to imagine it was helping the children improve their academic performance. There was also very little interest in chess in secondary schools, so they were not continuing playing after the age of 11, seeing it as a primary school game.
The children certainly enjoyed the clubs, and we were able to encourage the stronger primary school players to join RJCC on Saturday mornings, but I struggled to see a longer term purpose.
Growing increasingly frustrated, I wrote an article expressing my views at the time, which you can read here.
Things were very different at RJCC at this point when almost every Saturday saw a new, extremely talented 7 year old turn up who had learnt from playing chess with his family at home.
One of the most notable of this generation was Robert Heaton, who, in this game, had the nerve to play the Dutch Defence against one of our favourite simul givers, Simon Williams.
At about this time the parents on the club committee decided that I should be paid for running the club. My feelings were mixed. Of course money is always useful, but I’d always seen it as a hobby which I did because it gave me a lot of personal satisfaction. They explained to me that they wanted to ensure the future of the club in case something happened to me, so I felt I had to accept.
As the millennium reached its final year Murugan made the papers again, qualifying for the British Chess Championship.
During the RCI years we were still producing national junior titles as well:
1994: Ruth Bates U14G (shared)
1995: Ruth Bates U16G and U15G (shared), Leila Nathoo U9G (shared)
1996: Ross Rattray U13, Ruth Bates U18G (shared)
1997: David Bates U15 (shared). Jonathan Zoubaida U9, Murugan Thiruchelvam U8, Ruth Bates U18G (shared)
1998: David Edwards U16 and U15, Thomas Nixon U12 (shared), Chetan Deva (U11)
1999: Shanker Menon U18 (shared)
We had had a remarkable run of success for almost a quarter of a century, but just as the calendar was changing from 1999 to 2000, junior chess was changing as well.
You’ll find out more in the final article of this series.
If you walk up to the top of Richmond Hill, past one of the most famous views in the country, you’ll see an imposing edifice opposite the gate into Richmond Park.
You’ll also see it across Petersham Meadows if you walk along the Thames Path towards Ham, Teddington and Kingston.
This was, until a few years ago, the Royal Star and Garter Home for disabled former service personnel.
There was originally a hotel on the site, which closed down in 1906, and, for several years, plans for redevelopment came to nothing. The current building was constructed between 1921 and 1924 to a design by Sir Edwin Cooper based on a 1915 plan by the great and wonderful Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, providing accommodation and nursing facilities for 180 serious injured servicemen.
Most (but not all, as we’ll see) of the residents were wheelchair users as a result of injuries suffered in the First World War. In the days before parasports they were unable to access physical recreations so chess was a popular activity there. It wasn’t long before the members of Richmond Chess Club, just downhill, paid them a visit.
Their first match seems to have been in Spring 1926, and they returned in the Autumn.
Richmond Herald 27 November 1926
It’s good to see both sides fielding a lady player: I presume Sister Allsopp was a chess playing member of the nursing staff.
This was, in effect, the club second team, but the following month their star player Wilfred Hugh Miller Kirk, visited to give a simultaneous display.
The results of their Spring 1927 match were published.
It was unfortunate (but typical for the time) that two of the Richmond visitors failed to put in an appearance. The Star and Garter top board, Clifford William Hill, did well to draw his game.
Other local chess clubs, such as the Old Richmondians, visited them for matches as well.
When the newly formed Barnes Village Chess Club paid their first visit they were understandably apprehensive: “Thoughts of the game took second place to thoughts of the war and its effects”. But when they got there they discovered that “as they faced the foe most bravely, so now they take their present handicap most cheerfully”.
Clifford Hill seems to have been a pretty strong player who rarely lost in these matches.
In 1931 he even secured a draw against the more than useful Barnes Village top board George Archer Hooke.
Perhaps we should find out more about him.
Clifford William Hill, known to his friends as Tony, was born (as William Clifford Hill) on 27 October 1898 in Brierley Hill, Staffordshire, an industrial town in the Black Country best known for its glass and steel works. His father, Horace Emmanuel Holloway Hill, was employed by one of the local ironworks before becoming a railway platelayer and then a gas fitter. A very different background, to be sure, from the middle class gentlemen he would have encountered in his matches against Richmond and Barnes Village chess clubs.
I can’t find any very obvious WW1 service records for him, nor can I locate him in the 1921 census. Secondary sources claim he signed up at the age of 17, was severely wounded at the Battle of the Somme, and spent time in a number of hospitals.
It turns out he was a rather remarkable man. Not only a more than competent chess player, but the editor of the Star and Garter Magazine and a multi-talented musician as well: singer (both alto and tenor), violinist and conductor.
Here he is, arranging, conducting and performing at a concert party.
One of the many organisations providing entertainment to the residents was a Post Office group called the Camel Corps. One of their members, Helen Isabel Frances (Nell) Pollard, was smitten, and in 1932 they tied the knot in nearby Petersham.
Nell’s father’s middle name suggests a family interest in music, doesn’t it?
According to this article, they were moving to Sandgate, near Folkestone, where the Star and Garter had a seaside branch. It also appeared to mark the end of his chess career: his last mention seems to be earlier that year.
In 1934 Clifford (or should we call him Tony) and his friends achieved national prominence when they appeared on the wireless.
Tony, the man with the smile. How wonderful!
The 1939 Register found Tony and Nell in Brierley Hill with his parents, but by the time of the 1945 Electoral Roll they’d moved to Sir Oswald Stoll Mansions in Fulham a block of mansion flats right next to Chelsea FC providing supported living for disabled former service personnel.
Clifford William Hill died back at the Star and Garter on 13 March 1952, at the age of 53. A remarkable man from a very modest background who, despite being confined to a wheelchair, achieved much in his life. He would have been a popular and important figure in the Star and Garter, and deserves to be remembered today, not only as the man with the smile. I’m sure chess, along with music, and, of course, Nell, brought him much satisfaction.
By the time he’d moved on, another highly competent chess player had moved in. You can see him back in that 1931 team list. Step forward Reginald Aubrey Tarrant.
Reginald was very different. Unlike most of the residents, he had been too young to serve in the war, and he was in the Star and Garter through illness rather than injury.
He was born on 12 May 1909 in Banbury, Oxfordshire, the second son of Francis Llewellyn Tarrant and Ethel Agnes Best, but by 1911 the family had moved to Acton where his father was working as an oil merchant. This was a family which would have both problems and tragedies to contend with.
In 1912 their third son, Francis Llewellyn junior was born, but only survived a few months. The following year, their oldest son, Hugh Gordon Tarrant, aged 6, was knocked down and killed by a car. Reggie and Gordon were sitting on stones marking the boundary between Ealing, Acton and Brentford. A car travelling at an excessive speed swerved to avoid a horse and cart, and hit the two boys, killing Gordon and seriously injuring Reggie. The coroner’s court recorded a verdict of manslaughter and the driver was sent for trial at the Old Bailey, but at this subsequent trial he was cleared of all charges, one would imagine much to the parents’ distress.
Having lost two sons, one to a tragic accident which left their third son seriously injured, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Francis and Ethel’s marriage hit problems. By 1916 Francis had moved to Southsea, where he ran a business as a motor engineer and driving instructor, which, he claimed, exempted him from military service. Ethel was back in Ealing claiming maintenance arrears. Perhaps they got back together as a daughter, Dorothy May, was born in 1918 (or perhaps he wasn’t her father). But in 1921 Ethel was again claiming maintenance, while Francis made a counter claim on the grounds of her alleged adultery.
And just look who else was up before the magistrates at the same time. None other than Ealing Chess Club Treasurer Sydney Meymott, fined for not having his dog muzzled.
Meanwhile the 1921 census found Francis still in Southsea, apparently married to Florence May Tarrant (he’d later be ‘married’ to Harriet Grace Tarrant). Dorothy, although not yet three years old, seemed to be boarding at St Ethelburga’s convent school/orphanage in Walmer, Kent (the other pupils were aged between 5 and 19), with the census record claiming, incorrectly, that her father was dead. I haven’t been able to find a record for Ethel.
Reggie was a boarder at the Rosemary Home in Herne Bay, Kent. This was an outdoor convalescent home for boys, which suggests to me that he might possibly have had tuberculosis.
He made a good recovery, and in 1924, at the age of 15, joined the Royal Navy as an Arethusa Boy, where he trained as a telegraphist. He might well be one of the cadets in this film.
In 1928 he suffered a serious illness (heat stroke) and on 18 June 1930 he was invalided out due to organic heart disease. This must have been so severe that he was unable to live independently. It was at this point, or shortly afterwards, that he moved into the Star and Garter, where he rapidly became one of their strongest chess players. Did he learn chess there, or did he already know how to play?
By 1931, as we’ve seen, he was playing in the Star and Garter chess team, and he was soon invited to join Richmond Chess Club. It would be interesting to know how he travelled there. He was a decade or more younger than most of the other residents, and, also unlike them, probably not a wheelchair user. Walking downhill into the town centre might not have been a problem, but walking back up to the top of Richmond Hill might not be a good idea if you’re suffering from organic heart disease. Perhaps someone gave him a lift.
Here he is, in 1933, playing on bottom board against the NPL.
He was now making rapid progress. In the 1933-34 club championship he shared first place in his section with Wilfred Kirk, only losing the tie-break game, and also finished 3rd in the handicap tournament.
Tarrant continued to advance in the ranks, and by 1936 he was regularly playing on third board behind Wilfred Kirk and Ronald George Armstrong: I’d guess he was by now about 2000 strength: a strong club player.
In this Beaumont Cup (then as now, the Surrey Second Division) match Armstrong presumably failed to turn up, while Kirk faced an interesting young oponent on top board.
David Hooper later became a distinguished writer and historian of the game, best known for co-authoring The Oxford Companion to Chess with Ken Whyld.
A couple of weeks later Richmond did well to win a friendly match against a strong Kingston team headed by Mr & Mrs Michell.
James Mcewen Ellam (1882-1965) would, a decade or so later, be one of the leading lights responsible for founding the Thames Valley Chess League. For many years a competition was held at the start of every season for a trophy named in his honour.
That season Reginald Tarrant (was he still known as Reggie, I wonder?) won both the handicap tournament and match prize (presumably for the best results in club matches: this was a pocket chessboard presented by the Surrey County Chess Association) as well as finishing half a point behind Kirk and Guy Fothergill in the club championship. He was also elected onto the committee at the 1936 AGM. When Kirk moved away in 1937, Tarrant now found himself on board 2 in club matches.
However, he wasn’t among the opposition when Sir George Thomas visited the Star and Garter to give a simul.
(Sir George George Thomas? So good they named him twice?)
But when war broke out again, Richmond Chess Club, with an ageing membership, decided to close its doors for the duration. The 1939 Register recorded Tarrant in the Star and Garter, a Patient and Incapacitated: a decade or more younger than most of the other residents. He was still playing chess there. Here he is, in 1941, drawing with a famous visitor.
Mrs Dudley Short was herself a keen player: on the same page it was announced that the Richmond branch of the NCW (National Council of Women?) ran a fortnightly chess club: you could phone her if you wanted to join.
When the Second World War came to an end, a new chess club, the Georgian Chess Club, opened in Richmond. Reginald was one of its first members.
This would later become Richmond Chess Club, taking over the mantle of the ‘Old Richmond and Kew Club’, but that’s a story for another time. Reginald’s appearance here was his first, but perhaps also his last. A few months earlier he had married Peggy Dora Roberts. She’d been recorded as a Children’s Nurse in 1939 so it was quite possible that she was one of the Star and Garter nurses. I suspect that the happy couple moved in with his mother, who was living close to Kew Gardens.
Reginald and Peggy went on to have three daughters. There are birth records for Carol (1948) and Alison (1953), but, according to an old post by Carol on Genes Reunited there was another girl, Valerie. But shortly after Alison’s birth, on 4 September 1953, Reginald Aubrey Tarrant died at the age of 44.
Back at the Star and Garter, there seemed to be less interest in chess, with most local clubs closing during the war. I have a recollection of some contacts and perhaps friendly matches during the late 1960s, but chess was changing, and perhaps the Star and Garter was as well.
But in 1994 chess at the Star and Garter was back in the news when it hosted an international tournament as part of the Richmond Chess Initiative.
But that’s another story, which will be told in Part 4 of the history of Richmond Junior Chess Club, coming, with any luck, fairly soon.
Although they were no longer playing regularly against outside clubs, chess remained popular with Star and Garter residents such as Charles Grove.
The Star and Garter home in Richmond closed several years ago and, sadly but inevitably, was converted into luxury flats. While the building had been designed specifically for wheelchair users, most of the residents were, by that time, elderly former service personnel with dementia, and the building was no longer fit for purpose. They decided their best option was to sell off the property and construct a new purpose-built home in Surbiton. You can find out more about their history here.
I’m sure both Clifford and Reginald gained much enjoyment from playing chess at the Star and Garter, and, in the latter’s case, also at Richmond Chess Club. They both had difficult lives: one, from a working class family, who was severely injured in the war, the other, from a more middle class but dysfunctional family, who was incapacitated by health problems. Chess is just as much for their likes as it is for prodigies, grandmasters and champions.
I’ve always been unhappy about the reasons given for promoting chess, on local, national and international levels. For me, we should be talking, no, shouting about the way chess can provide competition and friendship for those who are unable or unwilling to access physical sports. Richmond wasn’t the only place where, in the inter-war years, those with physical handicaps were encouraged to play chess. You’ll find out more in the next Minor Piece, which will take us to another part of the country.
Sources and Acknowledgements:
findmypast.co.uk/British Newspaper Archive
Star and Garter website
I’ve just returned (on the eve of publication of this article) from a concert in which the distinguished baritone Roderick Williams performed a song composed by Sally Beamish. A few weeks ago I was at a gig where one of the musicians talked about drinking Beamish at the Cork Jazz Festival.
If you’re in Dublin you drink Guinness: if you’re in Cork you drink Beamish. Whether Sally drinks Beamish I don’t know, but she comes from the same family.
William Beamish and William Crawford founded the Cork Porter Brewery in 1791, beginning brewing the following year. William Beamish came from a distinguished family of English settlers.
Several of their family were competitive chess players in the first half of the last century. The unfortunately initialled FU Beamish was active in the Bristol area in the years leading up to the First World War, and A (or sometimes AE) Beamish was playing in London at the same time. Then there was Captain EA Beamish, who was a tournament regular for a decade or so either side of 1940.
There is some confusion about AB/AEB and EAB which I hope this article will resolve.
One of William’s many children was a son named Charles, born in 1801 (Sally is descended from his brother Richard): it’s his branch of the family who were chess players. Charles and his first wife, Louisa Howard, had four children: Ferdinand, Albert, Victoria and Alfred. He had another four children by his second wife, but, apart from noting that one of his daughters was named, with a distinct lack of political correctness, Darkey Delacour Beamish, they needn’t concern us.
Ferdinand was born in France in 1838, married Frances Anne Strickland at St John the Evangelist, Ladbroke Grove, London in 1876, then moved back to Cork where their children were born: Ferdinand Uniacke (1877), Walter Strickland, Francis Bernard, Gerald Cholmley and finally their only daughter, Agnes Olive.
It was Ferdinand Uniacke Beamish, unfortunately initialled, yes, but also splendidly named, who was our first chess playing Beamish. But it’s also worth looking at his sister, usually known as Olive, suffragette, communist and Cambridge graduate; and not the only unexpectedly radical woman you’ll meet in this article.
By 1901 the family had moved to Westbury on Trym, near Bristol, at which point FUB was working as a mechanical engineer, although the family would later run a farm.
Our first sighting of him at a chessboard is in November 1901, losing his game on a low board in a match in which Bristol and Clifton fielded a ‘very weak team’.
At the age of 24, then, he was very much a novice, taking his first steps in the world of competitive chess. He was soon elected club secretary, and won a game in a simul against Francis Lee. In October 1902 he was one of a group of organisers instrumental in founding a Bristol Chess League. Here was an ambitious young man, very active as both a player and an organiser.
He was improving fast as well, and by 1903 was playing on board 5 for his county team, drawing his game in a match against Surrey.
There seems to have been some internal politics going on at the time: it was reported that FUB had resigned from Bristol and Clifton, because he had left the area, but, as well as continuing to play in county matches he was playing for Bristol Chess Club: I don’t know exactly what the relationship was between the two clubs, or indeed between the Bristol Chess League and the Gloucestershire and Bath Chess League, in which this 1906 match took place.
The short game published below was this one, against Bath veteran Alfred Rumboll. Black’s opening repertoire seems to have been sadly deficient. FUB preferred 6. d4 to the Fried Liver Attack, and won quickly against his opponent’s poor defence. Click on any move in any game in this article for a pop-up window.
In 1906 he decided to take part in the 3rd British Chess Championships, which took place that year in Shrewsbury. He was placed in Section A of the Second Class Section, scoring a highly respectable 6 points from 10 games.
Confusingly, FUB was also playing for Clifton Chess Club, winning their club championship, and was also taking a high board for his county in correspondence matches, such as this one against Norfolk, where he defended the Evans Gambit against a Norfolk clergyman.
By this time, he was also playing a lot of correspondence chess, not only for Gloucestershire, but also for Ireland and in their national correspondence championship. In this game from a county match Ferdinand gains control of the centre against his opponent’s rather feeble opening and launches a rapid kingside attack.
In 1911 he reached the finals of the county championship, losing the play-off against the ill-fated Samuel Walter Billings.
The 1913 British Championships took place in nearby Cheltenham, and FUB returned to the fray, again taking part in the 2nd Class A section, finishing 3rd with 6½/10.
The Cork Weekly News published several of his games: perhaps he submitted them himself so that his friends and relations in his family’s home city would see them.
In this game he quickly gained an advantage against his opponent’s unimpressive opening play.
Superior opening play in this game again gave him the opportunity to demonstrate his attacking skills.
His opponent in this game was, amongst other things, one of the founders of the Gloster Aircraft Company. There’s more about the family firm here.
The dangerous Albin Counter-Gambit was just becoming popular at this time, but Ferdinand knew how to deal with it.
From these games you get the impression of a player much better than his second class status would suggest, with a good knowledge of the latest theory along with a fluent attacking style and tactical ability. But quite often things went wrong, and when they went wrong they went very wrong.
He was on the wrong end of a Best Game Prize winner here against a Danish opponent. As soon as he ran out of theory he blundered into a stock checkmating tactic.
The 1914 British Championships took place in Chester, and this time Ferdinand Uniacke Beamish was promoted to the 1st Class section, but with the UK having declared war against Germany a few days earlier, the players’ minds would have been on other battlefields.
Three games are available: losses to Moses and Stevenson, and this perhaps rather lucky win against George Marshall Norman, who had an impressively long and successful chess career.
He continued playing for Bristol, now with George Tregaskis as a teammate, through 1915, and the last record we have of him is a correspondence game from 1917.
It seems like he gave up chess at this point to concentrate on running the family farm. The 1921 Census found him, living with his elderly mother and a servant, at Dennisworth Farm, Pucklechurch, a village to the east of Bristol. He married in 1924, but it ended in divorce a few years later. In the 1939 Register he was still there, giving his occupation as Dairy Farmer. In 1941 he emigrated to New Zealand, where, according to the 1949 Electoral Roll, he was again working as a Dairy Farmer. He died there in 1957, four decades after his last competitive game of chess.
To resolve the question over the identity of Ferdinand’s London contemporary A/AE Beamish, we need to consider Charles’s youngest son, Alfred, who was born in Cork in 1845 or thereabouts.
We first pick him up in England in 1878, where he marries Selina Taylor Prichard in Hastings. Selina had previously been married to the much older Surgeon General William White, who had left her with a daughter named Jessie Mabel.
Mabel (she preferred to use her middle name) is worth a detour. Despite her military background she was a committed pacifist. Her husband’s name was very familiar to me, given my background in Anglican church music, but may not be to you. Percy Dearmer was a socialist priest best remembered, at least by me, for editing The English Hymnal along with one of my musical heroes, Ralph Vaughan Williams. Their elder son, Geoffrey, was a poet who lived to the age of 103.
Alfred was a barrister and solicitor, and after his marriage he and Selina settled in Richmond, where their two sons, Alfred Ernest (1879) and Edmund Arthur (1880) were born. We can pick them up in the 1881 census at 13 Spring Terrace, Marsh Gate Road, Richmond. Spring Terrace, now in Paradise Road, is an impressive row of Georgian houses. The family were clearly very well off, employing four servants, a housemaid, a nurse, an under nurse and a cook.
By 1891 they’d moved to 115 Church Road, a large house near the top of Richmond Hill, just as you approach St Matthias Church. Alfred senior, Selina, Mabel and their older son were there. It’s not clear where the younger boy was: perhaps away at school.
Alfred and Selina had decided that their sons should be educated at Harrow as day boys, and so, a few years later, they moved up to North West London, although it would seem that they also retained possession of their Richmond house. Alfred senior died in Harrow in 1898, and the 1901 census found Selina and her sons there, along with two servants. Neither of their sons had a job: the family was so well off that they had no need of paid employment.
We first spot A Beamish as a Harrow chess player in 1903.
Much more recently, Victoria Hall, in the town centre and very close to where they were living, was, for many years, the home of the current Harrow Chess Club. I played several Thames Valley League games there myself.
At this point we need to look at the controversy concerning the identity of this A (or sometimes AE) Beamish. It seems, on the surface, not unreasonable to assume this was Alfred Ernest, but there were other pointers suggesting it was really Edmund Arthur. There has also been a suggestion that it might have been an Arthur Edmund Beamish, perhaps a distant cousin, who was living in Islington at the time. Given that our brothers were round the corner from this sighting, though, this seems unlikely.
The older brother, Alfred Ernest Beamish, took up the game of tennis, later becoming one of the leading English players of his day, an opponent and occasional doubles partner of none other than Sir George Thomas, an author and administrator. His career was interrupted by the First World War, in which he served as a Lieutenant in the Royal Army Service Corps, so he would have been involved in administrative work. Some secondary sources refer to him as a Captain. Here, you can see his wife offering some tennis tips.
The younger brother, Edmund Arthur Beamish, by contrast, was a soldier. Although he was without employment in 1901, he had previously signed up to fight in the Second Boer War, serving as a Lieutenant in the 28th Battalion Imperial Yeomanry, and would rejoin, also serving, like his brother, in the First World War, where he reached the rank of Captain in the 1/18th Battalion London Regiment.
To identify the chess player for certain, we need to spin forward to the year 1912. AEB took part in the Australasian Open Tennis Championship in December that year, reaching the finals of both the singles and doubles, leaving London on the Themistocles on 12 September, and arriving back home on board the Omrah on 14 March 1913.
Meanwhile, the chess playing AB was competing in the City of London Chess Championship at the same time, which tells us that the tennis player couldn’t possibly have been the chess player.
There’s corroborative evidence as well: both brothers, like their half-sister, preferred to use their middle names. When EAB joined the army in 1899 he gave his name as plain Arthur, and when AEB returned from his tennis tournament, his name on the register of passengers was A Ernest Beamish.
So we’ll assume from now on that EAB (not AEB) was the 1903-1914 chess player referred to in the press as A Beamish or AE Beamish.
Returning to 1904, in February that year Emanuel Lasker gave a simultaneous display against members of the Metropolitan Chess Club at the Criterion Restaurant in London, allowing consultation. He won 19 games and drew 1, playing black against Messrs Beamish and Lowenthal in consultation. This must have been our Mr Beamish: his consultation partner was probably Frederick Kimberley Loewenthal.
It seems Lasker missed a few chances for an advantage here. As always, click on any move for a pop-up window.
In 1905 he took part in the Second Class Open section of the Kent County Chess Association tournament at Crystal Palace, scoring 5 points for a share of 4th place. Our friend Wilfred Hugh Miller Kirk tied for first place.
Here is is, third from the right in the top row, playing for Hampstead in 1905-06.
In 1906 he competed, along with his cousin Ferdinand, in the British Chess Championships in Shrewsbury. He was unable to stay for the full fortnight, so was placed in the One-Week First Class section.
A pretty good performance: drawing with the very strong Herbert Levi Jacobs was no mean feat.
This ‘short and sweet’ game, against an opponent who understandably preferred to remain anonymous, was published later the same year. At this time he seemed closely involved with four chess clubs: Harrow, Hampstead, Metropolitan and City of London.
Edmund Arthur Beamish took part in the prestigious City of London Club Championship on four occasions, but without conspicuous success. In 1907-08, 1909-10 and 1910-11 he finished down the field, but with occasional good results against master opponents. In the 1912-13 Diamond Jubilee Tournament, which had four preliminary sections, he again struggled.
In this game from the 1910-11 event he scored a notable scalp, although it must be said that Wainwright was playing well below his usual strength in the tournament.
In this game from the same event Beamish had rather the worse of the opening, but managed to turn the tables and, although he missed a neat mate in 3, brought home the full point.
His opponent in this quick win finished in last place.
In early 1911 he married Edith Ada Jenner, and, by the time of the census they had set up home at 10 Fairholme Road, West Kensington. He described himself in the census is ‘late Lieutenant Imperial Yeomanry’. They would go on to have two children, Desmond (1915) and Selina (1918), both born in Hastings.
In 1912 the British Championships took place in his home town of Richmond, and he entered the First Class A section.
A pretty good result, even though his loss against Arthur Compton Ellis was awarded a Best Game Priz.
By now he’d transferred his allegiance from Harrow and Hampstead to his local club, West London.
But soon war intervened, and, now with two young children to support, he didn’t return to the chessboard.
By the time of the 1921 census he was visiting his elderly mother, who was living in the family home back in Richmond. He now had a job, working as an accounts clerk for R Seymour Corporate Accountant. There were three servants in residence, a nurse, a cook and a parlourmaid. His wife and children, meanwhile, had moved in with her elderly parents in Hastings. Had their marriage broken up, I wonder.
And then, in 1935, he made an unexpected comeback. Over the next few years he played regularly for Middlesex in county matches, and in congresses in Hastings, London and Margate, often with some success. It seems that a twenty year break and advancing years didn’t affect his chess strength.
I’ve only managed to locate one game from these years, a loss against the Dutch Ladies’ Champion Fenny Heemskerk.
Here’s the crosstable from that event.
The 1939 Register found EAB, his wife and daughter living together in the old family home, 115 Church Road, Richmond. He was described as a retired army captain. They had no domestic staff and some of the rooms had been let out to others, so perhaps they weren’t as well off as they had been.
Although he was living in Richmond and very active again in both county and tournament chess, he doesn’t seem to have joined any of the clubs in our Borough. He did, however, make a guest appearance at Barnes Police Station in 1941, playing in a simul against his brother’s old tennis chum Sir George Thomas (they had played out a draw in the City of London Club Championship 30 years earlier).
In the same year he joined West London Chess Club, which, while most clubs had closed, was flourishing with an impressive range of members and activities. EAB played regularly in matches against a variety of opponents as well as competing in their regular lightning tournaments and other internal competitions.
Here’s a club photograph from 1943. Beamish is second from the right in the front row.
In this game he played on Board 1 against Upminster: his opponent was an undertaker by profession. The West London Chess Club Gazette describes it as ‘an example of the fatal consequences of a premature attack’, but Stockfish points out that White missed a win on move 11.
He returned to tournament play after the war, taking part in the Major A section at Hastings in 1945-46. With the London League returning to action, he played 12 games for West London, scoring 6 wins, 4 draws and only 2 losses.
Shortly afterwards he was taken seriously ill, and died on 13 October 1946, at the age of 66. His club published a fine tribute to one of their strongest and most respected members.
I wonder what happened to his extensive Chess Library. Does anyone at West London Chess Club know?
EdoChess gives his rating before WW1 as just below 2100, which seems reasonable: a strong club player who could score the occasional result against master standard opposition. His cousin Ferdinand was perhaps slightly weaker, although he played some highly entertaining chess.
There’s one more mystery, there was an A Beamish playing for Devon in the years leading up to World War 1, mostly by correspondence but occasionally over the board. I can’t find any Devon connection for him, but his Uncle Albert, about whom very little seems to be known died in Devon in 1920. Was it him? Who knows?
And who knows where my next Minor Piece will take you?
Sources and Acknowledgements:
English Chess Forum (contributions from Gerard Killoran and others)
West London Chess Club Gazette
BritBase (John Saunders)
EdoChess (Rod Edwards)
Last time I looked at the short but eventful life of Arthur Compton Ellis. He seemed to have a very good chess playing friend in George Tregaskis.
It’s time to find out more. Let’s start with this charming photograph, which, for rather obscure reasons, ended up in a museum collection in British Columbia.
As you might have guessed, the name Tregaskis is of Cornish origin, but George, the young man in this photograph, moved to London, finding work as a Fire Insurance Clerk. He married Annie Isabella Balfour in 1883, fathering four children, our George (born 18 February 1884), Oswald, Annie and, very much later, Frances.
We can pick him up in the 1901 census: the family is living at 36 Alderbrook Road, just south of Clapham Common, and George Junior, aged 17, has the same occupation as his father. Although George Senior doesn’t seem to have been a competitive chess player himself, he must have taught his children to play.
George Junior’s job would probably have involved gaining experience in different insurance offices in different parts of the country. We have a one-off mention of G Tregaskis playing for West Bridgford (Nottingham) in an away match against the Belgrave club of Leicester, where he won both his games on Board 4. This is quite likely to be our man, but we can’t be certain.
By 1911 he’d moved to Stoke on Trent, where the census found him living as a lodger with a widow, Lois Toft, and her 24 year old daughter Evangeline Maud. Everyone should have a daughter named Evangeline Maud. He joined the nearby Hanley Chess Club and, by October 1912, was chairing the county AGM. The 1912 edition of Kelly’s Directory tells us he was the District Superintendent, working for the Sun Insurance Office, 10 Pall Mall.
As you’ll have seen last time, his friend Arthur Compton Ellis (you’ll find three games played between them if you follow the above link) suddenly appeared in Stoke in early 1913. George and Arthur both played in a congress in Hastings, where George, in his first tournament, performed outstandingly well. Would this be the start of a glittering chess career?
You then saw that, in July 1913, the two friends suddenly left town: Arthur moved back to London, and then, tragically, to Oundle, while George’s work took him to Bristol.
He did, however, return to Stoke later in the year, when he tied the knot with his landlady’s daughter, Evangeline. It seems that his new mother-in-law joined him in Bristol, where the three of them set up house together.
He didn’t waste much time joining the local chess club.
Observant readers will notice that the unfortunately initialled FU Beamish shared a surname with one of Arthur Compton Ellis’s opponents. You’ll find out more very soon.
The winner of this event was Scottish born Master Baker Henry Pinkerton, with George Tregaskis finishing in second place.
For a while chess in Bristol continued during the First World War, but there’s little mention of activity between 1915 and 1920.
In December 1920 Bristol & Clifton played their first match against Swindon in a decade.
George had some interesting teammates. Comins Mansfield, on top board, was one of the leading chess problemists of the last century, and also a strong over-the-board player.
Agnes Augusta Talboys, down on board 14, was an artist whose paintings often involved her two passions, chess and cats. With any luck, she’ll be the subject of a future Minor Piece.
The 1921 census recorded George, Evangeline and Lois, along with a young general domestic servant, living at 21 Clyde Road, Bristol. George was working at the Sun Insurance Office as an Insurance Clerk, Evangeline was performing Home Duties, while Lois had no occupation. There would be no children of the marriage.
The following year, George Tregaskis, nine years after his tournament debut, finally had another opportunity to take part in a major event. As the champion of the West of England, he was invited to take part in the top section what would be the first of three biennial tournaments in the Somerset resort of Weston super Mare. International stars Geza Maroczy and Boris Kostic took on some of England’s leading players, headed by Sir George Thomas and Fred Yates.
The very unexpected winner, at the age of 63, was Joseph Henry Blake, as you’ll see below.
(Apologies to Fred Dewhirst Yates: ChessBase, annoyingly, still haven’t got his name right. It also cut off the last letter of Mr Louis’ third forename while seemingly being ignorant of our hero’s full name.)
You’ll also see that it didn’t go well for Tregaskis. In the very first round he provided the talented but erratic Hubert Price with his only win. In Round 2 he opened his account with a draw against Mackenzie, in a game which went into a second session.
His third round game was also a long one.
Stockfish doesn’t think Mr Tregaskis ever had the upper hand, but you can judge for yourself. Click on any move for a pop-up window.
In the next round he faced Kostic, starting well enough, but, as so often happens when an amateur plays a master, he lost the thread in the middle game, after which his king fell victim to a snap attack, ending up uncomfortably on h4.
In Round 5 Tregaskis lost to Louis, but in the sixth round he managed to double his score with a draw against Spencer. The press reports suggest that his opponent missed a win.
Round 7 saw a heavy defeat against the eventual tournament winner, who played one of his pet opening variations.
In Round 8 George Tregaskis faced Yates, and managed to take him to a second session before capitulating. In the final round, despite having the white pieces against Maroczy, he lost quickly to a mating attack.
From the evidence of these games, it seems he was rather out of his depth against master standard opponents. Sometimes he went wrong in the opening, and, if he survived that part of the game he defended doggedly, but usually in vain.
Two years later he was back at Weston Super Mare, but this time relegated to the second section, billed as the ‘Minor Open’, where he managed 50% against strong amateur opposition. Max Euwe won the top section ahead of Sir George Thomas.
Later that year he left Bristol, moving to Kent, where he soon joined Bromley and Beckenham Chess Club as well as the Insurance Chess Club, and also represented Kent in county matches.
In this 1925 encounter on Hastings Pier he just missed playing a ‘brilliant young Russian from Hastings’.
Some interesting names on both sides, some of whom you’ll be meeting in future Minor Pieces.By 1928 the family had moved across South London to Sutton, where George, Evangeline and Lois were recorded as living in a house called The Crest in The Downsway, half way between the town centre and Royal Marsden Hospital, a tree-lined road of large detached houses: suburban living at its finest. As a result of this move he changed his county allegiance from Kent to Surrey.
In this match, played at St Bride’s Institute, a venue all London players of my generation will remember well, he helped his new county to an overwhelming victory.
In this match from 1930, Surrey were defeated by their northern rivals from Lancashire.
You can find out more about the Lanacshire boards 8 and 11 here. You’ll also spot Cecil Frank Cornwall: in those days it was the custom that county champions automatically played on top board.
George Tregaskis was also playing for Battersea at this time, although he lived some way away. Perhaps it was convenient for him to drop in on his way home from work.
Here he is, captaining the Insurance Chess Club in a one-sided match against the War Office.
George also played for Lud-Eagle in the London League.
You’ll see that the match was undecided due to that quaint old-fashioned concept of adjudication. Oh, wait a minute…!
He had an interesting opponent in this 1935 county match against Essex.
(Isaac) Reginald Vesselo would go on to found the Chess Education Society. (He appeared on my Twitter timeline the other day as an attendee at the Ximenes 1000 Crossword Dinner: the 1st prize for that crossword was won by chess sponsor, problemist and banker Sir Jeremy Morse.) The Essex board two, Richard ‘Otto’ Clarke, would go on to devise the BCF Grading System. We’re now getting towards my time: many of my contemporaries would have known and played Frank Parr. I played both Nevil Coles and Jack Redon (whom I knew very well, but that’s another story for another Minor Piece.)
In this 1936 London League match he was up against an even more interesting, and perhaps rather disturbing, opponent.
Yes, this was indeed Aleister Crowley, ‘wickedest man in the world’ and star of The (Even More) Complete Chess Addict. One wonders whether George enjoyed the post mortem.
He continued playing up until the outbreak of World War II, taking 6th place behind Harry Golombek in the 1939 Surrey Championship.
At this point George, his wife and mother-in-law, moved down to Hove. Did his job take them there, or did they consider it prudent, with war imminent, to leave London? In the 1939 Register their address is given as 87 Hove Park Road, and his job is still an Insurance Superintendent. Although there was some chess being played in Sussex during the war, he seems to have decided it was time to hang up his pawns.
Lois Toft died on 6 December 1945, leaving only £141 15s 4d, with probate granted to her daughter. George died on 12 September 1959, leaving £3122 15s 5d. His address was given as 15 The Droveway, Hove, parallel to and immediately north of Hove Park Road. Evangeline moved to Goring-by-Sea, near Worthing, dying four years later, on 18 September 1963, and leaving £11143 14s.
Although he never fulfilled the promise of his first tournament appearance, George Tregaskis was a strong club and county player (EdoChess considers him about 2000 strength) who contributed much to chess, as an administrator as well as over the board, for almost 30 years. He deserves to be remembered.
There’s one nagging question, though. I still wonder about his relationship with Arthur Compton Ellis. Were they any more than just close friends? Was his marriage to Evangeline motivated by friendship rather than passion? Would this explain why his mother-in-law always lived with them? I don’t know: perhaps I’m reading too much into it, but perhaps he was hiding a story very similar to that hidden by his Lud-Eagle teammate Henry Holwell Cole. At some point there may well be more about him in another Minor Piece.
Sources and acknowledgements:
English Chess Forum
Hastings Chess Club website
Then Ellis comes with rapid transit, And few there are who can withstand it; Some day soon he’s bound to land it.
So said the bard of Richmond Chess Club at their 1911 AGM. Arthur Compton Ellis was a man who lived his life, as well as playing his chess, with rapid transit. Although he spent little more than two years in the area, he flashed like a meteor across the Richmond and Kew chess scene.
Let’s find out more.
Our story starts on 20 September 1887, with the marriage between George Frederick Ellis, a surveyor aged 39 and Margaret Fraser, aged 31. Rather late for marriage in those days. Their only child, Arthur Compton Ellis’s birth was registered in the Pancras district of London in the first quarter of 1889.
In the 1891 census the family are living in Kentish Town. George is working as a Surveyor of Roads and Sewers, and they’re doing well enough to employ a servant. By 1901 they’ve moved a mile to the north, close to Parliament Hill Fields: George is now, just like James Richmond Cartledge would be a few years later, a Deputy Borough Engineer and Surveyor. Margaret is, perhaps unexpectedly, working as a Physician and Surgeon, while Arthur is at school. There were no domestic staff at home.
Arthur moved from school to the University of London, where he graduated with a BA in 1909, at the age of only 20. In the same year his father died: the death was registered in Camberwell, South London.
Perhaps he discovered the game of chess at university. He may also have discovered religion. In 1908 he was baptised at St Luke’s Church, Kew, with his address given as 40 West Park Road, right by Kew Gardens Station. At this point the family appeared to have connections, then, with both the Richmond/Kew area and South London.
He first turns up playing for Richmond Chess Club in December 1908, losing his game on bottom board in a London League match against Ibis. It looks like he joined the club on the completion of his studies. Although he seemed to be struggling in match play at this point, in April 1909 he finished second in a lightning tournament, which, that year, replaced the annual club dinner.
In 1910, now styling himself A Compton Ellis, he was advertising his tuition services in the Daily Telegraph. LCP was a teaching qualification.
By Summer 1910 he felt confident enough to take part in a tournament. The British Championships took place that year in Oxford, and Arthur was placed in the 3rd Class C section.With a score of 10½/11, it was clear that he was improving fast, and should have been in at least the 2nd Class division. The prizes were presented by none other than William Archibald Spooner.
A handicap tournament also took place there, in which he won first prize: a model of the earth with a clock inside, enabling him to ascertain the time of day in any part of the world. This prize was donated by its inventor, James Haddon Overton, a schoolmaster from Woodstock.
In September that year, not content with only playing at Richmond, where he had now reached top board in a match against Acton, he was one of the founders of a new club in Kew.
Richmond and Kew weren’t his only clubs, either. He was also a member of South London Chess Club, about which there’s very little information online.
In this London League game he fell victim to a brilliant queen sacrifice. Click on any move in any game in this article for a pop-up window enabling you to play through the game.
Arthur Compton Ellis was infectiously enthusiastic, ambitious and seemed to have contacts with a number of strong amateur players, mostly from the Civil Service, as is demonstrated by this event.
A win against our old friend Wilfred Hugh Miller Kirk was also evidence that Arthur was developing into a formidable player.
The 1911 census found Arthur and his mother still living at 40 West Park Road, Kew Gardens. Arthur gave his occupation as ‘Tutor’ while there was no occupation listed for Margaret.
By then it was time for another tournament. The Kent and Sussex Chess Congress, run by the Kent County Chess Association took place over Easter at this time. It’s little written about today, but it attracted some of the country’s top players. The top section in the 1911, for example, played in Tunbridge Wells, was won by Yates ahead of Gunsberg. The organising committee, coincidentally, included the Kent secretary Rufus Henry Streatfeild Stevenson, and the Sussex secretary, Harold John Francis Spink Stephenson. Arthur Compton Ellis took part in the third section down, the Second Class Open, where he was again too good for the opposition, finishing on 8½/10, half a point ahead of Battersea veteran Bernard William Fisher (1836-1914), who had been a master standard player back in the 1880s. Visitors included Frank Marshall, who gave a simul and a talk, and Joseph Blackburne, who gave simuls and played consultation games. Horace Fabian Cheshire gave a talk, with lantern slides, on chess players past and present, and also an exposition of the game of Go. It sounds like a good time was had by all.
Arthur persuaded Frank Marshall to visit Richmond and give a simul against members of local chess clubs, and that was duly arranged.
The AGM in September would report as follows:
Always eager to play in any event, he won the Dalgarno-Robinson chess trophy, competed for by members of local branches of the Association of Young Men’s Clubs, and played on top board when Richmond Chess Club visited Hastings, drawing his game against the aforementioned Mr Stephenson.
He decided to give the 1911 British Championship, held in Glasgow, a miss, though. Perhaps he wasn’t prepared to travel that far.
The Richmond Herald was now carrying less chess news, but we know from a report from the other end of Surrey that Kew Chess Club were becoming even more successful.
You’ll see that Ellis didn’t stand for re-election as captain. This seems to have been because Arthur and Margaret had moved from Kew to South London.
Over Easter 1912, though, he returned to Tunbridge Wells for the Kent and Sussex Easter Congress, this time promoted to the top (First Class Open) section. Now against stronger opposition, this time he found the going tough, only scoring 2½/8.
The winner was the future Sir George Thomas, who wasted little time of disposing of Ellis, who misplaced his queen’s knight on his 11th move.
However, he did have the satisfaction of defeating Fred Brown, one of two chess playing brothers from Dudley. (He had a brother Frank, who was also a strong player. Understandably, in the days when newspapers only gave players’ initials, they were often confused.) Fred shared second place with future BCM editor Julius du Mont in this tournament.
It seems that he was lucky here: his opponent resigned what may well have been a drawn position as he would have had chances of a perpetual check if he’d continued with 32… Kf7!. What do you think?
At the same event, Arthur and his friend from Kew, Montague White Stephens, played in a consultation simul against Blackburne. They were successful after the great veteran uncharacteristically missed a simple mate in 3 on move 19.
Montague White Stevens (1881-1947) was only a club standard player, but he edited the 1914 Year Book of Chess and produced a revised edition of EA Greig’s Pitfalls on the Chess-Board.
In April 1912 a new Chess Divan opened in the Strand, replacing Simpson’s Chess Divan, which had closed a few years earlier, and Gunsberg was appointed its manager. Arthur, who would go almost anywhere for a game of chess, was soon involved. With lightning tournaments a regular feature, a devotee of rapid transit chess would be in his element.
In May’s lightning tournament there was a full house, with the participants ‘mostly first-class amateurs’. Arthur shared first place with future British Champion Roland Henry Vaughan Scott and future writer and historian Philip Walsingham Sergeant. Lightning chess was proving increasingly popular, and I would assume this tournament was played using a buzzer. But there was an announcement that the following week there would be a five-minute tournament ‘which affords such amusing play’. If you think five-minute chess is amusing, you should try bullet. Arthur would have loved that.
In June there were only 12 players in the lightning tournament, with Arthur Compton Ellis sharing first place with Harold Godfrey Cole, who had played in the previous year’s Anglo-American cable match and would, a couple of months later, take second place in the British Championship. It’s evident from these results that he was a formidable speed player.
He was, inevitably, involved in administration as well.
A strong and interesting line-up, you’ll agree, with players such as former World Championship candidate Isidor Gunsberg and top lady player Louisa Matilda Fagan amongst many well-known participants.
This wasn’t a standard all-play-all tournament: rather you could play as many games as you wanted against as many opponents as you wanted, with the player with the best percentage score of those who played at least 20 games winning. It sounds like you could improve your chances by playing lots of games against weaker players. On 22 June the London Evening Standard reported that Ellis had beaten Mrs Fagan and drawn with Scott.
There was further news in three weeks time, when some players had made a lot of progress with their games.
In this game against Scotsman John Macalister, a shorthand writer in the Admirality Court, he was winning but went wrong on move 19 in a complex position, eventually falling victim to a queen sacrifice.
By the end of August, Loman and Scott were both on 13/16, with 18 games now required for your score to count, but after that the trail goes dead. It looks to me like the whole concept was rather too ambitious to succeed.
But meanwhile, the 1912 British Championships had taken place in Richmond, familiar territory for Arthur Compton Ellis. This time he was placed in the 1st Class Amateurs A section.
He made a strong showing with 7/11, sharing 3rd place behind Surbiton ophthalmic surgeon Thomas Wilfrid Letchworth (Wilfred Kirk won the parallel 1st Class Amateurs B section), but at this point he seemed to be a stronger lightning player.
This game shared the prize for the best game played in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd class sections, judged by Thomas Francis Lawrence. The winning move seems pretty obvious to me, though. There is some doubt as to the exact identity of his opponent: three possibilities were put forward in a recent online debate, and you could perhaps add a fourth. I’ll discuss this further in a future Minor Piece.
He later provided brief annotations for the press, where it appeared immediately above a Very Famous Miniature which had been played a few days earlier. I’m sure you’ll recognise it.
This thrilling game against music professor Edward Davidson Palmer (he taught singing), in which Arthur ventured the King’s Gambit, is a good demonstration of his fondness for tactical play. His opening failed to convince and Palmer missed several wins, but he ultimately escaped with the full point.
Over the next few months there’s little news of his chess playing, but then something unexpected happens. He turns up in, of all places, Stoke on Trent, or, to be precise, nearby Hanley.
Why Stoke on Trent? What was he doing there?
There are two possibilities. On Board 2 for Hanley was schoolmaster Joshua Walter Dixon, whom he had met in Oxford back in 1910: they were in different sections of the main event, but both competed in the handicap tournament. Perhaps he had been in touch to offer him employment there, either in a school or as a private tutor.
But look also at Arthur’s opponent from Mecca: George Tregaskis. It appears that Arthur and George were very close friends. They may well have met earlier: George was originally from South London before moving to Stoke for business reasons, so could well have been a member of the South London Chess Club at the time. He also visited the Divan in 1912 when returning to London to visit his family, so, again, they might have known each other from there. Who knows?
Here they are, in the same team, playing for Hanley in a whitewash over Walsall. Their top board, Joseph William Mellor, was a particularly interesting chap.
Here’s Arthur’s win. He was in trouble most of the way until his opponent went wrong right at the end.
The Kent and Sussex tournament took place over Whitsun at Hastings in 1913. Arthur and George travelled down together, and were both placed in the First Class A tournament.
In his first round game against Inland Revenue man David Miller, Arthur switched from his usual e4 to d4, essaying the Colle-Zukertort Opening. It didn’t go well.
Arthur had beaten George in a club match, and, when they were in the same team, played on a higher board, but here it was Tregaskis who came out on top after his opponent miscalculated a tactical sequence.
Here’s how it ended up.
Unsurprisingly, the masters, Yates and Thomas, outclassed the opposition, who were mostly, with the exception of Middleton and Sugden, strong club players.
A remarkable performance, though, by George Tregaskis in his first tournament, but perhaps slightly disappointing for Arthur Compton Ellis, whose progress seemed, temporarily, to have slightly stalled. Perhaps he needed, as chess teachers always tell their young pupils, to slow down and control his impulses.
With two young and talented new players in their ranks, the future for Staffordshire chess was looking bright. Hanley, after a lapse of three years, won the North Staffordshire League, ‘due in no small measure to the fact that the usual team was greatly strengthened by the inclusion of Mr. A. Compton Ellis, whose enthusiasm for the royal game is unlimited’, according to the Staffordshire Sentinel (4 June 1913).
But then, on 9 July: ‘Local players will hear with much regret that, owing to professional and business reasons, Messrs. A. Compton Ellis and G. Tregaskis have found it necessary to sever their connection with this district.’
George’s work took him to Bristol, as you’ll find out in a future Minor Piece. Arthur returned home to South London. Had he not wanted to remain in Stoke with his friend? Had his teaching work not gone as he’d hoped? We’ll never know.
The two friends kept in touch, playing two correspondence games, one with each colour, over the summer. Although he’d now left the area, Arthur kept in touch with the local paper, followed their chess columns, and submitted these games for publication.
In his game with White, Arthur experimented on move 6, unwisely following a Blackburne game, and, by the next move had a lost position. George concluded brilliantly.
In the game with colours reversed, Tregaskis improved on an Alapin game from the previous year, but went wrong in the ensuing complications. He then resigned a drawn position, missing the saving clause. Ellis’s opponents seemed to have a habit of resigning level positions!
The 1913 British Championships took place in Cheltenham. Arthur Compton Ellis took part again, playing in the First Class B section, where he scored a half point more than the previous year.
This left him in second place behind his Lancashire contemporary Norman Boles Holmes. George Tregaskis wasn’t playing, but you’ll see his other Hanley friend, Joshua Walter Dixon, there in First Class A. Unfortunately, the BCM failed to publish crosstables of these events.
Both Dixon and Ellis scored other successes there: Joshua won two problem solving competitions, while Arthur, although he only finished 7th in the handicap tournament, won a prize in a Kriegspiel (‘a peculiar, and modern, form of chess, unknown to more than 99 per cent. of chess players’) event.
Returning to London, Arthur Compton Ellis submitted two puzzles based on his games to the Staffordshire Sentinel. (The chess editor preferred to remain anonymous: perhaps it was Joshua Walter Dixon.)
It shouldn’t take you too long to find the mate in 4 here.
Two weeks later he offered a mate in 3, which has, although he seemed not to notice, two solutions, both involving attractive (but different) queen sacrifices. Can you find them both?
On 13 September Alekhine, on a brief visit to London, agreed to play a simul at the Divan in the Strand. Arthur, of course, was there.
He lost a pawn and was slowly ground down, but did anyone spot he had a fleeting opportunity for a draw in the pawn ending?
The following Monday he left London. He had a new job as an Assistant Master at Laxton Grammar School, part of the same foundation as Oundle School, but catering for local boys.
He soon encountered problems there, coming into conflict with the Headmaster, Rev Thomas Harry Ross. In November he was asked to hand in his notice.
What a tragic end to a short but eventful life. A life that promised much but ended far too soon. A man of great power and considerable ability. An impulsive young man. I think you can see that in his chess as well: at times brilliant, at times speculative, but almost always entertaining. You can also see how well he was thought of by his chess friends. Great power and considerable ability, yes, and also enthusiasm, energy and charisma. Looking back from a 2020s perspective you can perhaps see elements of ADHD and bipolar disorder, which tends to manifest itself between the ages of 20 and 25. Could Laxton have treated him better? Undoubtedly. You can only hope that, these days, someone like Arthur Compton Ellis would be better understood.
If he and his mother had chosen to remain in Kew, perhaps the history of chess in Richmond would have been very different. Had he devoted the next half century to playing and organising chess, you might have seen him as a British Championship contender, and perhaps an organiser of major chess events in my part of the world. If he’d lived a long life he might even have met me, and perhaps my life would have been different. I’d like to think that, as the founder of Kew Chess Club, which later merged with Richmond, some part of his spirit lives on in today’s Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club. Spare a thought for the short but frenetic life of a true chess addict: Arthur Compton Ellis.
There are a few loose ends to tie up. Arthur’s nemesis, Rev Thomas Harry Ross, in the years between the two World Wars, was Rector of Church Langton with Tur Langton and Thorpe Langton, where he would have ministered to the relations of Walter Charles Bodycoat, and perhaps to my relations as well. I’ll take up the story of Arthur’s friend George Tregaskis in a later article.
There’s one other mystery to look at.
St Albans? There’s nothing online yet about chess in St Albans at that time. He seems to have been in South London with his mother between leaving Stoke and arriving at Oundle. I suppose he might have been there late 1912/early 1913, when there was a gap of a few months in his chronology. We can also go back a few years, to May 1907, when AC Ellis, first from St Albans, then from Swindon, who was solving chess problems in the Bristol Times and Mirror. Was that our man? Was he, perhaps, in those towns for teaching practice? Who knows?
There’s an implication that the family were having some sort of financial problem. There’s also a slight mystery in that the coroner’s report gives his mother’s address as 12 Kilsworth Road Dulwich, while his probate record (he left £560 17s) gave his address as 12 Pickwick Road Dulwich Village. I can’t locate Kilsworth Road (or anything similar) so it may well be a mistake for Pickwick Road, which could also be considered to be in Herne Hill. By 1921 Margaret had returned to Kew, living on her own at 333 Sandycombe Road, just the other side of the railway from where she’d been living ten years earlier. It’s not at all clear when she died: there’s no death record close to Richmond and the family hasn’t been researched. There’s a possible death record in Islington in 1930: perhaps she’d returned to the area where she spent the first part of her life.
Join me again soon for some more Minor Pieces investigating the lives of some of Arthur Compton Ellis’s chess opponents.
findmypast.co.uk/British Newspaper Library
BritBase (John Saunders)
Yorkshire Chess History (Steve Mann)
Various other sources quoted and linked to above
You might think I’m biased, but I’ve long thought that the most important people in any chess club are not the players, but the organisers. The secretary, treasurer and match captains who ensure everything runs smoothly.
All successful chess clubs have at least one: the loyal member who stays with the club for decades, through good times and bad times, while others come and go. Turning up for almost every match. Taking on any job that nobody else wants to do. One of those was the subject of this Minor Piece, James Richmond Cartledge.
The first ‘modern’ Richmond Chess Club (there were earlier organisations using the same name, but they weren’t involved in over the board competitive chess against other clubs) was founded in 1893, continuing until 1940 when, as a result of the Second World War, most clubs shut down for the duration and beyond. For most of that period, for over 40 years, James was a fixture at Richmond Chess Club, so much so that, when looking for a middle name, he chose the name of his chess club. Through the reports of the club AGMs in the Richmond Herald, now conveniently available online, we can trace his changing role in the club as well as the club’s changing fortunes. We can also listen into their discussions, sometimes on subjects which are still relevant today, a century or so later.
But first, we should meet his father, Josiah Cartledge, who was one of the club’s founder members.
Josiah was born in Camberwell, South London, in 1836, so he was now 57 years old. He married a cousin, Marian Frances Bruin, in 1858. (She doesn’t seem to be immediately related to Josiah’s fellow committee member Frederick Arthur Bruin.) A year later a son, Arthur, was born, but tragically Marian died, probably either in or as a result of childbirth.
It wasn’t until ten years later that Josiah married again. His second wife was Frances Victoria Wastie, and their marriage would be blessed by three children, William (1870), Adeline Frances (1872) and James (1874). Josiah and Frances were both chess enthusiasts, competing to solve the problem in their newspaper of choice, the Morning Post, with young Arthur sometimes joining in.
Josiah was a legal clerk, a highly responsible job, and, round about 1873, he became Clerk of the Richmond Petty Sessions, moving out from South London. The 1881 census found the family at 5 Townshend Villas, Richmond, and they were still there in 1891, when his job had expanded: he was also Clerk to the Lunatic Asylum. William was helping him out, while 17 year old James, choosing a different career path, was an architect’s pupil.
It was no surprise then, that, when Richmond Chess Club started up in Autumn 1893, Josiah was one of the first through the door, and, given his status in society, he was a natural choice for the committee.
And here he is, from an online family tree.
Young James was now taking a serious interest in chess and it wasn’t long before his father brought him along to join in.
Here they are at the Annual Supper in 1896.
Before you ask, the Mr James there was no relation to me: it would be a few more years before I joined.
(Edwin Peed James (1853-1933) was a solicitor who hit financial problems, and, after being declared bankrupt, became a commercial traveller.)
Horace Lyddon Pring (1870-1938), a solicitor’s clerk working in accounts, was a young man with boundless energy and ambition. He was not only the club secretary, but treasurer and match captain as well. He reported that the club now had 45 members, 11 of whom were new, but they’d also lost a few. “One or two of the younger members had become mated so effectually – (laughter) – that they could not get out.” They had also moved to a new venue, having “started in a baker’s shop, but that got too hot for them. (Laughter).” Mr Pring also had a sense of humour.
At the end of the supper, toasts were drunk to the accompaniment of music. Songs (the popular music-hall ditties and parlour ballads of the time) were sung and the Kew Glee Singers contributed a selection of glees. Musical entertainments of this nature would continue to be a feature of Richmond Chess Club’s social events for many years to come.
An extract from the 1898 AGM shows the club making progress in several ways.
They had to move venues when their landlord put the fees up: still a familiar story for many chess clubs today. Nevertheless, the club was now attracting strong players such as our old friends Charles Redway and Guy Fothergill, and had arranged a visit from one of London’s leading players, Thomas Francis Lawrence. His annual simuls would become a club tradition lasting many years.
There were some exciting prizes for the lucky – or skillful – winners: dessert knives, a preserve dish and a matchbox.
Josiah was more of a social player, but James had a lot more ambition. By 1900 he was starting to play in competitions such as the Surrey Trophy, albeit on bottom board.
He had also acquired a middle name (he was just James at birth), possibly to avoid confusion with his father. Did he choose Richmond in honour of his home town, or of his chess club?
Here he is, then, winning his game against Thornton Heath. which, as often happened in those days, took place in central London rather than at either club.. Richmond had won the Beaumont Cup in its second season, 1896-97, but by now were trying their hand against the big boys, successfully in this case. The Surrey Trophy and the Beaumont Cup, then, as now, were Divisions 1 and 2 of the Surrey Chess League. Some things never change.
By 1901 Josiah’s job had moved to Mortlake while James had a new job as Assistant Surveyor for the Urban District of Barnes The family had moved to Milton House near Mortlake Station, probably somewhere on Sheen Lane near the junctions with Milton Road and St Leonard’s Road today: a location which would have also been handier if you were in the business of surveying nearby Barnes. Adeline and James were still at home with their parents, along with a cook and a housemaid.
By 1904 the club was in something of a slump, having lost a number of strong players they had withdrawn from the Surrey competitions and were only playing friendly matches along with their internal competitions. Both Josiah and James were very much involved, even though James had married Gertrude Francis (sic: it was her mother’s maiden name) Griffiths at Christ Church East Sheen the previous year. Sadly, it was to be Josiah’s last year.
If you’re interested in the notorious Kate Webster case, as I’m sure you are, Wikipedia deals with it here.
James and Gertrude went on to have three children, Raymond Francis (1905), Hilary Frances (1907) and Kathleen Vivian, known by her middle name (1911), but his new responsibilities as a husband and father didn’t stop his involvement with Richmond Chess Club. Although he had been mated, Gertrude still let him out.
1904 saw some of the club’s stronger players returning, and they were tempted to re-enter the Surrey Trophy. The following year’s AGM would announce that their membership had increased from 24 to 44 within the space of two years. James Cartledge must have been improving fast, as he was now playing on a much higher board.
Six adjudications in a 12 board match seems a bit unsatisfactory, but this situation would be common for many decades to come. You might consider any competition not decided on the night rather bizarre, but adjudications still happen occasionally in the Surrey League today.
At the 1909 AGM, James Richmond Cartledge was elected to the post of Treasurer, “it being remarked that that gentleman had served the club in the capacity of match captain and secretary”.
By the 1911 census the family were living in 10 Palewell Park, East Sheen, just off the South Circular Road. Baby Vivian had arrived a few days earlier, but had not yet been given a name. It was a crowded house, with James, Gertrude and their three young children, James’s sister Adeline, working as a day governess for another family, Gertrude’s sisters Helena and Annie, along with a monthly nurse to look after the baby and a domestic servant.
After the 1911 Richmond Chess Club AGM, hilarity ensued when, during the toasts, the Hon Secretary read out some verses composed by an anonymous member, describing some of the club’s members.
A few days later, another verse appeared: it’s not clear whether or not this was written by the same poet.
It makes McGonagall sound good, doesn’t it? Who knew that EJ Thribb was active in Richmond in 1911?
For several years the committee had been discussing the idea of inviting the British Chess Federation to hold their annual championships in Richmond, and that duly came to pass in 1912. Although the event was very successful, there were very few club members taking part. I’ll perhaps look more at the tournament in a future series of Minor Pieces.
James had certainly improved a lot since his first appearances on bottom board: now, as club champion, he was often to be found on top board when Charles Redway, who only played in the more important matches, was unavailable.
One of the musical guests at the Annual Dinner in April 1914 was Leslie Sarony, who performed ‘popular songs of the light comedian type’. Leslie, only 18 at the time, would have a long and successful career as a variety artist, writer and performer of novelty songs, and actor. He continued working into his 80s, with appearances in programmes such as Z-Cars, Crossroads and Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
Then, in 1914, war broke out. At their AGM the club decided that it was ‘business as usual’, although they had to appoint a new secretary, and their German member, who was fighting for the enemy, was no longer welcome.
There was less opportunity for competitive chess: the Surrey Trophy and Beaumont Cup ran in 1914-15, only the Surrey Trophy was contested in 1915-16, and then the league went into abeyance until the 1919-20 season. Friendly matches continued, though, as in this match between Richmond and their local rivals, which saw Cartledge facing an interesting opponent in Eric Augustus Coad-Pryor.
Although he was now in his 40s, James Richmond Cartledge was still ready to serve his country, and, with his knowledge of engineering, he signed up as a reservist for the Royal Engineers.
The 1917 AGM reported that he had been called up and was in France in the thick of the fighting.
Here he is, on New Years Eve 1919, applying for his Victory Medal.
Back from the war, James returned to his duties at the club with whom he shared a name, now taking the chair at their AGMs.
The 1921 census found him back at 10 Palewell Park, and again working as an Assistant Surveyor and Civil Engineer in the Local Government Service, employed by the Urban District of Barnes. His wife and children were all at home, and they in turn employed a domestic servant.
The 1921 AGM revealed that new clubs had started at Twickenham, Teddington and Barnes. There was also a discussion about how to attract more lady members: it was agreed to offer them a 5 shilling discount on their membership.
If they’d been looking for a new venue, they could have considered the Red Cow Hotel, Sheen Road, Richmond, which, on the same page, was advertising a Large Club Room for hire. Forty years or so later, their offer would be taken up by what was then the Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club.
The following year, the Hon. Secretary, Captain Wilkinson, reported that ‘the club had two lady members. He lent one of them a book on chess and he had neither seen nor heard of her since. He did think, however that chess was a game that women should take up’.
In 1923 the Club Dinner was revived, not having taken place since 1914. The format was very much the same as before, with speeches, prizegivings and musical entertainment provided by Miss Edythe Florence (contralto), Miss Florence (pianist), Mr. M. J. O’Brien (tenor) and Mr. Len Williams (humorist).
The club’s fortunes waxed and waned over the years, and by 1926, with seemingly little interest in chess in Richmond, and successful new clubs in Barnes and Twickenham proving more attractive for residents of those boroughs, questions were asked about the future.
In 1926 Captain Wilkinson decided to stand down for a younger man.
That younger and more energetic person turned out to be new member Wilfred Hugh Miller Kirk, not exactly a young man himself, but with an outstanding record in chess administration within the Civil Service. By the 1929 AGM, things were looking up. Kirk reported that the club had had their most successful season for several years, winning 12 of their 18 matches. Most importantly, although not mentioned in the newspaper report, a decision had been made to merge with Kew Chess Club. They now became Richmond & Kew Chess Club, acquiring new members, including Ronald George Armstrong, a player of similar strength to Kirk, and a new venue enabling them to resume meeting twice a week: once in Richmond and once in Kew. Having an enthusiastic and efficient club secretary makes a big difference. James Richmond Cartledge would still have been very much involved, his experience invaluable in the decision making process.
(Ronald George Armstrong (1893-1952), the son of a Scottish father and French mother, was, unusually for the time, but like Wilfred Kirk, a divorcee. His job involved selling calculating machines. He was clearly a strong player, but didn’t take part in external tournaments.)
In 1930 there was sad news for James as his wife Gertrude died in hospital at the age of 55, but his bereavement didn’t put an end to his chess activities.
By this time Kirk and Armstrong were disputing the top two boards, with Cartledge on board 3, as in this match against their local rivals.
While the Twickenham team lacked big names, their top boards must have been reasonable players. James Young Bell continued playing well into the 1960s: in 1965, in his late 80s, he played a board below the young John Nunn in a match between Surrey and Middlesex. At this time he was a next door neighbour of Wallace Britten in Strawberry Hill Road, thus providing a link between the two Twickenham Chess Clubs.
In that season, the newly amalgamated club won the Beaumont Cup for the first time since the 1896-7 season, As Wilfred Kirk explained at the AGM, ‘union is strength’. The following season they finished equal first with Clapham Common, but lost the play-off match.
Although they were successful over the board, membership numbers were still modest. The 1933 AGM reported only 24 members. By now James Richmond Cartledge had risen to the post of President, but asked the club not to nominate him again as he was retiring from business and planning to move away from the area. He was persuaded to agree to remain President until he moved, but in fact that would be further away than he expected. It appears he moved to Ham on his retirement, close enough to continue his membership.
In 1934 they were able to report that they had won the Beaumont Cup for the third time, but lost to Battersea in the final of the Alexander Cup.
The 1934 AGM brought up the important topic of social chess, the secretary’s report suggesting that the club should offer more time for casual games rather than too many tournament and match games. This discussion is still very relevant in all chess clubs today.
The Hon Secretary at the time was Francis Edward Yewdall (1875-1958), one of the club’s stronger players, who, coincidentally or not, had the same job as Cartledge in the neighbouring borough: he was the Assistant Surveyor for the Borough of Richmond.
The last mention we have for James Richmond Cartledge at Richmond & Kew Chess Club is in October 1938, so presumably it was soon after that date that he moved away.
By the time of the 1939 Register he hadn’t gone far. He was staying in the Mountcoombe Hotel in Surbiton, which, coincidentally, had also been the residence of chess problemist Edith Baird back in 1911. He then moved to the south coast: not, like many chess players, to Hastings, but to Bournemouth, where he died in 1943.
Yes, he rendered a long and useful service to the district, but the obituary failed to mention his long and useful service to Richmond (& Kew) Chess Club over a period of almost 40 years, serving at various times as secretary, treasurer, match captain, chairman and president. Although not of master standard, he was a strong club player (I’d guess about 2100 strength) as well. The likes of him, organisers and loyal club supporters, are just as important to the world of chess as grandmasters and champions. In his day it was the habit to drink toasts at club dinners: join me today in drinking a toast to James Richmond Cartledge.
Wilfred Hugh Miller Kirk was perhaps Richmond Chess Club’s strongest player between 1925 and 1937, as well as playing an important administrative role in the club.
Wilfred was born in Culmstock, Devon on 18 May 1877, where Teddington novelist, market gardener and chess player RD Blackmore also lived for a time. His family were originally from London, but his father was working in Devon as a Schools Inspector at the time of his birth. The family later returned to London, where young Wilfred joined the Civil Service on leaving school. He would remain there for his entire working life.
In 1899 he married 20 year old Mabel Ellen Gannaway. Wilfred and Mabel had four children, Talbot (1902), Beatrice (1903), Evelyn (1907) and Ruby (1908).
We hear of him as a chess player for the first time only in 1904, at the age of 27, when he took part in the Second Class B section of the inaugural British Championships at Hastings. He did pretty well for a newcomer to competitive chess, finishing in third place, just half a point behind the joint winners.
The following year he took part in the Kent Open Amateur 2nd Class A tournament, held that year at Crystal Palace, where he shared first place with his old rival WT Dickinson.
Shortly afterwards, leaving his wife and two young children at home, he crossed the channel to Ostend, where a mammoth tournament was taking place. The master event had no less than 36 entrants, with a complex group structure, and, below that, there were two amateur sections which attracted a number of British participants. Wilfred played in the Amateur B section, scoring a very respectable 11/17.
He didn’t take part in another tournament until 1908, when he again played in the Kent congress, that year held in Sevenoaks. This time Wilfred was promoted to the 1st Class Open Section 2. He found 1st class competition a lot tougher than the 2nd class, scoring only 1½/6, The leading scores in this section were Harold Godfrey Cole (5), Kate Belinda Finn and Percy Rawle Gibbs (4½). Miss Finn wasn’t the only (fishy) lady in the section: Mrs Frances Dunn Herring brought up the rear on 1/6.
Although he wasn’t very active in tournament play at the time, he was very much involved in Civil Service chess. He may well have been playing for the Local Government Board before his first tournament, and, when the Civil Service Chess League was founded in 1904 he was appointed to the post of Secretary.
When the British Championships were held in Richmond in 1912 he returned to the fray. This time he was in the 1st Class Amateurs B section, and, from the result, it was clear that he was a lot stronger now than a few years earlier.
The British Chess Magazine (October 1912) remarked that Mr. W. H. M. Kirk (Putney) is a well-known fine player in the Civil Service League, but does not play much otherwise. With work and family commitments, it was understandable that he wouldn’t have had much time for tournament play.
Unfortunately the only game of his from this event that appears to be extant was his only defeat. For all games in this article, click on any move for a pop-up window.
Kirk took part in the Surrey Championship that year, where he finished in first place with a score of 4½/5. This time we do have one of his wins, which his opponent, a dentist usually known as Frank St J Steadman, generously submitted to the British Chess Magazine. It was published in their December 1912 issue.
Wilfred entered the 1st Class Open in the 1913 Kent & Sussex Congress but had to withdraw before the start of the tournament. However, he did play in the Major Open section of the 1913 British Championship, making a respectable showing in a strong tournament.
Here’s a loss against the German born but English resident Georg Schories, a regular Major Open competitor whose nationality precluded his participation in the championship.
In this photograph of the competitors in this section, Kirk is the good looking youngish man (he was now 35) standing second on the left. He doesn’t look very happy, does he? But then they rarely did in those days.
And then World War 1 intervened. The Civil Service Chess League continued in 1915, but then stopped for the duration, only resuming in 1919.
The British Championships were also suspended, again resuming with a Victory Congress at Hastings in August that year. The British title itself wasn’t awarded, the top section being a semi-international event with visiting stars Capablanca and Kostic taking the first two places, well ahead of Sir George Thomas and Yates. The Major Open went to Edward Guthlac Sergeant, and, below that were three parallel First Class sections. Kirk was in the C section, finishing in first place, beating, amongst others, future World Champion Max Euwe. The enforced break had done nothing to dull his chess strength.
Again, his only loss, against Irish champion John James O’Hanlon, is the only one of his games from this event I’ve been able to locate.
In 1919 he also entered the City of London Chess Club Championship: the only time he took part in this prestigious event. He finished in 6th place with 6/11 behind Sir George Thomas, a clear winner on 9½, Michell, Walker, EG Sergeant and Blake, whom he beat in this game: a notable scalp.
Throughout much of his life, Wilfred Kirk seemed to move house every two or three years. He had previously lived in Putney and Wimbledon, but by this time had moved to North London, playing for Hampstead Chess Club and winning the Middlesex Championship in 1920. He had also moved departments in the Civil Service, from the Local Government Board to the Ministry of Health.
Then, in Autumn 1925, he moved to Richmond, living in several addresses in Richmond and Twickenham in the following 12 years or so. He wasted no time in joining Richmond Chess Club, but, in his first match, was only playing on Board 3.
He also entered the Surrey Championship, in 1926 regaining the title he had previously won 14 years earlier.
As an able administrator he was soon appointed secretary of his new club, as reported here, where, on top board, he was successful against our old friend George Archer Hooke.
His addresses at this point included 17 The Barons, St Margarets in 1927 and 27 Richmond Hill in 1928.
In the 1928-29 season Kirk swept the board, winning not just the club championship (you’ll see PGL Fothergill in 3rd place: he only seemed to play in internal competitions rather than club matches), but the handicap tournament (one wonders how the scores were calculated) and the prize for the best percentage score in matches.
Wilfred was very much involved in charitable endeavours of all sorts, promoting chess at the Star and Garter Home for disabled ex-Servicemen, donating money to a fund for distressed miners, and, later in life. helping at a local home for the blind.
That summer, by then in his 50s, he unexpectedly received an invitation to take part in the British Championship, held that year in Ramsgate.
Wilfred was a very effective player top level club opposition, but here, against mostly master standard opponents, he was rather out of his depth.
He lost in 19 moves to Gerald Abrahams: a game which attracted some attention at the time. Abrahams, rather typically, played a speculative sacrifice which Kirk should have accepted, but instead declined it and resigned the next move.
In this group photograph, Kirk is standing on the left next to the permanently disheveled William Winter.
That year there was a merger between Richmond and Kew chess clubs, who, however, continued to meet at both venues on different days of the week. Kirk now had a serious rival in Kew star Ronald George Armstrong, about whom more in a future Minor Piece.
Meanwhile, in 1933, Kirk’s service to chess in the Civil Service was marked by a presentation.
This 1934 match must have been a surprise result.
Richmond & Kew were a second division team, playing in the Beaumont Cup, while Kingston, who had won the Surrey Trophy two years earlier, were a genuine first division team. Unfortunately, they lost to Battersea in the final of the Alexander Cup.
Armstrong must have been very pleased with his draw against Michell, while Kirk also shared the point with (Richard) Nevil Coles, who later became a celebrated chess author and who beat me in a Richmond v Guildford Surrey Trophy match in 1972.
In the 1934-35 season Kirk won the club championship while Armstrong took the handicap shield: they gave a tandem simul at the end of season prizegiving.
It was the same story in 1937, with Kirk taking the club championship for the sixth time with a 100% score, and Armstrong again preferring the handicap shield. Wilfred was now entitled to hold the cup in perpetuity, but generously returned it for future years. I wonder what happened to it.
At this point, though, Wilfred Kirk retired from the Civil Service, spending some time travelling round Europe playing chess before moving, like many retired chess players of the time, to Hastings.
However, he competed in the 1938 British Championships in Brighton, now down in the First Class B section, where he shared first place on 7/11, winning this miniature.
He was soon involved in administration again, both at Hastings Chess Club, and with their annual tournament. He also found time to compete in the 1938-39 event, sharing second place in the Premier Reserves C section.
He also threw himself into county chess, here losing to another former Civil Service player Bernard Henry Newman Stronach.
By now the world was at war again, but Hastings managed to arrange their annual tournament that winter, with Kirk taking part in the Premier.
In this game he held the tournament winner Frank Parr to a draw, sacrificing a knight for a perpetual check.
Although it was no longer possible to run formal competitions, Hastings Chess Club remained active during the war, with friendly matches against local rivals Eastbourne and Bexhill.
His opponent in this game, George Edward Anslow, a Gas Company clerk, was a member of both Eastbourne and Hastings Chess Clubs for many years. He beat me in a 1974 friendly match between Hastings and Richmond & Twickenham Chess Clubs.
Frederick William (Fred) Boff, whom he defeated in this game, seems to have been an interesting character both on and off the chessboard.
He was still very active locally as the war finally came to an end, and was involved in the administration of the 1945-46 Hastings Congress as Treasurer and Assistant Secretary. In June that year, still playing regularly in club events, he was taken ill with appendicitis. The operation, sadly, proved unsuccessful.
There’s more information in this pen picture from Kevin Thurlow’s book on chess in the English Civil Service.
Wilfred Hugh Miller Kirk, then, was a strong player (2261 at his peak according to EdoChess) and a highly efficient administrator. He seems to have been well respected at work and was also devoted to various charitable causes.
His family life, though, wasn’t happy.
In the 1901 census we see Wilfred and Mabel, only recently married, and living in Pimlico.
They soon moved south of the river, the births of their first three children being registered in Wandsworth, and the youngest in Balham.
By 1911 the family had split up. Wilfred was living on his own in Streatham, a Second Division Clerk in the Civil Service. Mabel didn’t appear to be around. Talbot, Beatrice and Evelyn (aged 9, 7 and only 4) were boarding at a school in Wimbledon, while 2-year-old Ruby was living with Wilfred’s mother in Battersea.
Then, in 1914, Mabel filed a petition for judicial separation. She was represented by her solicitor, PR Gibbs, who, I’d imagine, was the same Percy Rawle Gibbs who had played Wilfred at Sevenoaks in 1908.
Mabel’s petition, citing eight addresses, mostly in the Wandsworth area, at which they lived during their marriage, listed dates and places, from 1906 onwards, when and where Wilfred had assaulted her, and treated her with coldness and neglect. He had punched her on her body and head, thrown her against the furniture and onto the floor, grabbed her by the collar and dragged her upstairs. Wilfred denied the charges of cruelty, claiming that Mabel had become mentally deranged and assaulted him violently, and he was only acting in self-defence. On other occasions she had become hysterical and behaved in an ill tempered and unreasonable manner, causing him to lose his temper.
It was also revealed that, from late 1910, she had been a patient at St Luke’s Hospital: she was probably still there at the time of the 1911 census.
The separation was granted, with Mabel having custody of the two older children and Wilfred the two younger children. Would a man who had assaulted his wife, even with provocation, be given custody of two young girls today?
Was he a violent and abusive wife beater whose behaviour had driven his wife to the lunatic asylum, or a good man who found it difficult to cope with his wife’s mental health problems? I don’t know: I wasn’t there and it’s far from me to pass judgement.
The ramifications continued for a decade (the papers are available online at ancestry.co.uk).
The 1921 census found Wilfred now living in Islington with Evelyn and Ruby, who were both at school. Mabel and Beatrice, now an art student, were the other side of London, in South Norwood. Meanwhile, Talbot had emigrated to the USA, where he married in 1927 and had two sons, Fred (1928-76) and Jack (1929-67).
His marriage didn’t last and he returned to England. The 1933 Electoral Roll shows Mabel, Talbot and Beatrice sharing a house right by Hampstead Heath.
Then, in 1934, Wilfred sued Mabel for divorce on the grounds of adultery.
Well, I don’t know. In September that year he married Olive Emily Holmes. Was he committing adultery as well? Again, I wasn’t there.
What happened to the rest of his family? Talbot remarried in 1941 in Brentford, at some point moving to Yorkshire, where he died in 2006 at the extraordinary age of 104.
Beatrice never married: by 1939 she was working as a typist in the Ministry of Food, and died in Hastings at the age of 78.
Evelyn married young, in 1926, to a man almost twice her age, George Arthur Tomlinson, who seems to have been a mechanical engineer working at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington. They lived with Wilfred for a time after the marriage before moving to North London where two sons, Brian (1928) and Robin (1930) were born. George died in 1944, but Evelyn, like her brother, lived a long life, dying in Bath at the age of 96.
Ruby married in 1939, like Evelyn to a much older man: a divorcee with the impressive name Bernard de Lerisson Cazenove. She had no children and, again like Evelyn, lived into her 90s: she was 91 when she died in Warwickshire.
The report of Wilfred’s cremation leaves some questions unanswered. You might have wondered why the local paper mentioned that he left a son, but failed to note his daughters.
At the cremation, Talbot, Evelyn and Ruby were there, but there was no mention of Beatrice as a chief mourner. Did the paper forget her? Or had they become estranged?
Talbot, Dolly and Sylvia sent flowers, but who were Dolly and Sylvia? There were also flowers from Eric, Brian and Robin. Brian and Robin were his grandsons, but who was Eric? And why wasn’t Evelyn included? Her second marriage, in 1948, would be to Ernest (Vokes), not to Eric. Or was ‘Eric’ a misreading of ‘Evelyn’?
There’s one further family tragedy to report.
This is Wilfred and Mabel’s grandson Robin taking his own life in 1950, at the age of 19.
Had he inherited mental health problems from his mother? Impossible to tell, of course.
Although Wilfred Hugh Miller Kirk was a formidable club player and respected administrator, it seems that his family life was unsettled (moving house every couple of years) and unhappy. I can only hope that the game of chess brought him some comfort.
“In the first team this season E. Fairbrother (team captain), Miss Lanspeary, B. Bodycoat and P. Ahearne are unbeaten.”
It’s good to see a lady playing for Richmond’s first team, and unbeaten as well. She must have been a pretty good player. But who was this Miss Lanspeary with her unusual and unfamiliar surname? I wanted to find out.
Searching electoral rolls quickly identified our heroine as Enid Mary Lanspeary, so I looked at online family trees to find out more. She was indeed on a few trees – and I was amazed to discover that one of them was mine! I also discovered, by searching newspaper archives, that there were Lanspearys playing chess all over the country.
Something genealogists like to do is the One-Name Study, which involves finding out everything about everyone bearing a particular unusual surname. We’ll do that now with Lanspeary.
Most British surnames date back to the early middle ages, but Lanspeary has a much more recent origin. To be precise, 21 June 1779.
The family name was originally Lansbury, although some members used other versions as well, but this, the marriage between Thomas Lanspeary and Elizabeth Chambers in the Northamptonshire village of Great Doddington, is the first sighting of Lanspeary. I guess, from the original name, that the stress should be on the first syllable. History doesn’t record why Thomas chose that particular spelling.
You’ll find Great Doddington just south of the town of Wellingborough, famous, like many other Northamptonshire towns, for its place in the boot and shoe industry. According to this website, among those who have come to the county for shoes are HRH Queen Elizabeth II, Darth Vader, Sid Vicious, Jumbo the elephant, Sir Ernest Shackleton and James Bond. It was in the boot and shoe industry that the Lanspeary family originally found their employment.
To continue our one-name study we need to follow the paternal line. Thomas and Elizabeth had two sons, John and Thomas. John, it seems, only had one child, a daughter. Thomas, however, had three sons, William, another Thomas, and David.
In general terms, William was the most interesting. He found a job on the railways, which took him to Carlisle, married in Gretna Green and emigrated to Windsor, Ontario. Windsor is just the other side of the river from Detroit. Motortown, known to music fans as Motown. Due to a geographic anomaly, at this point Canada is south of the river and the USA north of the river. He had three sons, George, David and William, and the family were big in local government. If you visit Windsor now you’ll find Lanspeary Park there. If, in 1910, they had waved across the river, they might have attracted the attention of Alfred Padbury, from Warwick, who was, briefly, involved in manufacturing automobiles there. Alfred was his parents’ only son, but had nine sisters, some of whom you’ll meet later on in this article.
William’s youngest brother, David, moved to Sheffield, where he worked at various times as a warehouseman and dealer, but it’s the middle brother, the third Thomas, who interests us.
Thomas lived all his long life in Great Doddington, working as a shoemaker, and dying at the great age of 96. He had two sons, the younger of whom died in infancy, but it’s his older son, another David Lanspeary, who interests us.
He was also a shoemaker, but went into business, founding a very successful shoemaking company. He must also have been a chess player, as two of his sons played competitive chess to a reasonable level. He also, like his father, lived to be 96.
David and his first wife had one son, Wilfrid Arthur, and three daughters, one of whom died in infancy. After she died he remarried, and had two more sons, Lewis and Reginald.
Wilfrid, born in 1885, worked as a wood machinist, but was also a chess player.
We first pick him up in 1921, in his mid 30s, playing on top board for the Red Triangle (YMCA) team and winning his game against Wellingborough Town chess club. It looks like he was, up to that point, a social player, and, given the chance to try his hand against club standard opposition, discovered he was quite good. He soon joined Wellingborough club, seeing action against their local rivals from Northampton and Peterborough.
He was even good enough to be selected for his county side. Here he is, in 1924, in a match against Leicestershire, several of whose players I hope to feature in future Minor Pieces.
He seems to have played less often after 1925, but there are occasional mentions up to 1948.
In this 1939 match, two members of the famous Beach family were on the other side of the board. TJ (not JT, but he was known by his middle name, John) would much later write two excellent beginners’ books with CHO’D Alexander.
Wilfrid’s youngest half-brother, Reginald, concentrated on helping his father run the family firm, but Lewis, born in 1894, was also a competitive player.
On leaving school, Lewis took a job with Boot’s the Chemists, rising to branch manager. In 1927 we find him in Essex, playing in the minor section of the county championship. He had been living in Luton with his wife and young daughter Enid (yes, that’s her) in the 1921 census but by 1926 he was living in Great Warley, Essex, just outside the M25. Enid had been joined by a brother, Philip John Lanspeary, in 1922. A few years later the family moved to nearby Brentwood, where Lewis joined the chess club.
In 1930 he was on Board 2 against Chelmsford, losing to a particularly interesting opponent, Tolstoy’s biographer Aylmer Maude.
Aylmer wasn’t the only Maude playing chess for Brentwood. Here, in 1935, his son Lionel scored a draw against Lewis Lanspeary.
Unlike his father and grandfather, Lewis didn’t enjoy a long life, dying young in 1941.
By 1946 Lewis’s widow Mary, along with Enid and Philip, had moved to London, to Kenilworth Court in Putney, eight blocks of Edwardian mansion flats right by Putney Bridge.
And, look! There on the electoral roll, just two doors away, was someone very famous in his day (but with his name misspelt here): Edgar Lustgarten.
Philip didn’t stay there long: in January 1947 he married Gwynneth Evelyn Reeder and moved to Long Eaton in Derbyshire, close to the point where that county meets Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire.
And then, like his father and uncle, he took up competitive chess. He joined his local club and was soon recruited for the county team, playing, like Uncle Wilfrid, against Leicestershire.
In 1950 he played a postal game which was featured in a sports shop window. You’ll see he adopted the ‘English start’ – presumably the English Opening was intended.
Philip continued playing club and county chess in Long Eaton until 1955, when he, his wife and their young children Susan, born in 1952 and baby David (there are a lot of Davids in this family) moved to the Reading area. A third child, Hazel, was born there in 1957.
We have a much later address for him in the small Hampshire town of Tadley, 6 miles north of Basingstoke and 10 miles south west of Reading, so he might have been living at that point as well. Tadley is near Aldermaston, the home of the Atomic Weapons (Research) Establishment, which, at the time, was the area’s largest employer: perhaps he was working there. If you know, do get in touch.
I don’t have any further records of Philip playing chess after 1955. Perhaps he was still playing, but the local papers have yet to be digitised.
Perhaps, on the other hand, he decided to give up chess to allow himself more time for his other hobby: philately.
Phil was a philatelist, and like many philatelists he specialised in stamps with a particular theme: in his case stamps depicting birds. He even wrote a book on the subject, which you can buy here.
There’s a Bird Stamp Society which was founded in 1986, and Phil wrote an article on the bird stamps of Indonesia which was published in the September 1998 issue of their magazine, Flight. You can read it here: I note that their chairman, appropriately enough, was Robin Martin! Another win for nominative determinism!
Here’s another coincidence: this issue published a list of new members:
Look at the first name and address. If you’ve ever visited the Chess Palace you’ll spot that Mr M Warden was living at the end of my road. I didn’t know him, but, if I remember correctly, my opponent in my first competitive game of chess, in a match between two Richmond teams, was also M Warden. As far as I know, they weren’t the same person, but there’s another Richmond Chess connection with that surname, which you may discover in a future Minor Piece.
Philip, like his grandfather and great grandfather, lived to be 96. His wife Gwynneth did almost as well, reaching the age of 95.
We really need to return to Enid, who, as I told you at the start, was already on my family tree. The connection is through Gwynneth. She was the illegitimate daughter of Ida Rose Reeder, originally from Norfolk. Ida’s first cousin, John Palmer, moved to London and had a son, Percy John Palmer, who, after the death of his first wife, married Maud Kathleen Padbury. Maud was the youngest sister of Alfred, whom you met building cars in Detroit in 1910, and also the sister of my maternal grandmother Florence Padbury.
So this makes Enid, a member of Richmond Chess Club in 1950, the sister-in-law of the 1st cousin 1x removed of the husband of my Great Aunt Maud. Confused? You will be!
Finally, then, we pick up Enid’s story again. This 1950 report is the only direct mention I have of her playing chess. It’s quite possible she remained a member of Richmond Chess Club for a few more years. If and when later years of the Richmond Herald appear online I’ll perhaps be able to find out.
However, there is this, which is of some interest for several reasons.
“Three trophies have either been given or promised by members…”. Was one of those given or promised by Mr Bodycoat, whose trophy would later be used for the second division of the club championship, was his trophy donated in his memory after his untimely death the following year, or did he leave a legacy to the club?
There’s a reference to Walter Veitch, and also to ‘another member, Mr. A. J. Roycroft’, who won a best game prize. Coincidentally or not, Walter and John were (and John still is, at the age of 93) two of the country’s leading experts on endgame studies.
Here’s the prize winning game. Stockfish isn’t impressed, but judge for yourself. As always, click on any move for a pop-up window.
You’ll also note that the club had five junior members, and had doubled their number of lady members. Was Enid the first, or the second? If the second, who was the first?
Enid and her mother remained in Kenilworth Court until at least 1965 (London electoral registers are currently only available online up to that date) and probably until 1971, when her mother died.
It seems she had rather a lot in common with Beatrix Hooke, living in a mansion flat, concentrating on her job rather than romantic relationships, and also playing chess.
Like Beatrix, she married late in life, seemingly for companionship. While Beatrix married a widowed chess playing doctor, Enid married the twice divorced Charles John Lawrence Bonington, (see also this book) whose background was in the armed forces, in Worthing in 1980. The son of his first marriage was none other than the mountaineer and chess enthusiast Chris Bonington, (see also his website here) whose name was shamefully misspelt in The (Even More) Complete Chess Addict. He played chess and listened to Bach on his expeditions.
Did Charles and Enid meet through a shared passion for chess, I wonder?
Charles died two years later, also in Worthing, while Enid lived on until 1999, where her death was recorded in Basingstoke. It seems likely she’d moved there after her husband’s death to be near her brother and his family.
So there you have the story of the chessing Lanspeary family. Two generations, two pairs of siblings, who played chess in four counties over four decades. None of them were anywhere near master standard, but they were all good players of club/country strength. Players like them were, and still are, the backbone of chess. Wilfrid and Lewis, Enid and Philip, I salute you all.
Before I go, something I forgot last time. You might remember that Mr Bodycoat’s family came from villages close to my father’s family. He may also be the 3rd great-grandnephew of the wife of my 5th great-granduncle. We go back to one John Andrews Buzzard, born in West Langton, Leicestershire in 1697, who may have been my 6th great grandfather. (I have a DNA link with a member of another branch of his family, which suggests that this is at least possible.) One of his sons, William, married Elizabeth Gibbins, whose brother Thomas was the 3rd great grandfather of Walter/Boyder Bodycoat.
So there you have it: a newspaper article from the year I was born mentions two members of the chess club I would later join, one of whom was connected to my mother and the other connected to my father. Another golden thread that links us all together.
By 1986 I’d developed some strong views about education and how they related to chess.
Something else happened as well. I was sitting in my London office one Feburary day wondering how I was ever going to be able to leave a job with no prospects of promotion or doing anything else when the phone rang.
It was my old friend Mike Fox, calling from Birmingham. “This phone call will change your life”, he said. And it did.
He’d been commissioned by Faber & Faber to write a book about chess trivia and invited me to join him as co-author. This would become The Complete Chess Addict (1987) and later The Even More Complete Chess Addict (1993), as well as the Addicts’ Corner column in CHESS which ran for 14 years. I decided that I could make as much money in less time by working freelance, while having time to help Mike with researching and writing the book and having more time to develop RJCC.
In order to improve Richmond Junior Club the first thing I wanted was to be able to find out everything I could about how every member of the club played chess, so that I could provide individual advice to all children and parents.
My view also was that, when teaching younger children and, more generally, less experienced players, everything we did had to happen for a very specific reason. I didn’t want to provide random lessons demonstrating random brilliant games to a random collection of children. Nor did I want to push children into doing too much too soon: using clocks and scoresheets and taking part in external tournaments before they were ready.
What I did (some of this was explained last time) was this:
I split the club into two sections: a morning group lasting two hours for primary school children, and an afternoon group lasting three hours for secondary school children, to which stronger primary school players would also be invited.
I introduced an internal grading system which was revised every few weeks, including all internal games (excluding blitz) so that I could select teams objectively in order of strength and identify when morning group players were ready to move up to the afternoon group. This included a very crude but reasonably effective measure to avoid grading deflation, based on the principle that, at any point, our members will either be improving or stationary.
Although I’d been collecting scoresheets of games played in our tournaments and training days for almost a decade, I now collected all afternoon group games (excluding blitz again) and played through them myself at home. There was no need to collect games played in the morning group as they were played at a lower level and usually decided by the number of pieces left en prise.
Beyond that, I wanted to ensure that our members would be able to try out a wide range of different openings, play games at different time controls, and play different opponents every week.
The primary school age children in our morning group were divided into divisions according to their internal grade. When new members joined we’d do a quick assessment. If they were obviously beginners they’d start in the lowest division. If we already knew about them because they’d played in one of our tournaments we’d already have given them a grade so would be able to put them in the correct division. Otherwise, we’d give them a quick friendly game against a player in a middle division and see how they got on.
I also used the same divisional system in schools for many years to ensure that children played different opponents of a similar strength to themselves every week (until the divisions were changed). This system also catered for the fact that some children played fast and would get through several games in one session while others played slowly and would only play one game. I found this worked much better than a Swiss tournament where everyone played one game a week and children who had finished their games would sometimes interfere with the games still in progress.
Every few weeks, by which time some of the faster and more regular attenders would have played most of the other players in their division, we ran the results through the grading program and restarted the divisions, with the most successful players gaining promotion.
We knew that if we taught children opening principles and then left them to their own devices many games would start with boring Giuoco Pianissimos or Spanish Four Knights, which, because they led to closed positions with few opportunities for pawn breaks, were only superficially good for less experienced players.
So we developed a system which would enable children in this group to experience a range of different openings and position types. Our first rule was that all games in the morning group would start with the moves 1. e4 e5. Over the course of the year (September to July) we’d work through the major open games, starting with simple Four Knights type positions and gradually moving through to the King’s Gambit and (the favourite of many of our members) the Danish Gambit. We’d give a short introductory talk before the games started and expect players to start the game with the moves displayed on the demonstration board.
Ray Keene’s column in the Times always provided a simple tactical puzzle on Saturdays to encourage readers to compete for a prize, and we’d display this on the demo board so that children could attempt to solve it as they arrived. We’d go through the solution in front of the whole class before introducing them to the opening of the week.
We also wanted to ensure that children were introduced to clocks and scoresheets at the appropriate time in their chess development to prepare them for promotion to the afternoon group. As each of these adds a level of complexity to an already difficult game we wanted to do them one at a time, so players in the second division were asked to play their games on clocks (30 minutes per player per game) and, when they reached the top division they were required to notate their games (down to the last five minutes) as well.
For some of our members, the Morning Group was all they wanted and they’d drop out after a year or two. But others would be ambitious to play competitively and move up to the Afternoon Group, which was designed, in the first instance, for players of round about 1000 to 1500 strength. We assumed that, at that point, they’d move on to bigger and better things, but, as our system developed, we were attracting players up to getting on for 2000 strength.
In order to give our Afternoon Group members the chance to try out a wide range of different openings we developed a system involving games using set openings.
It took a few years for this to be fully implemented, but what we did was to divide all the major openings into ten groups, featuring one group every half term. We built a three-year cycle, with some groups happening every year, some twice in three years and some once in three years.
We also wanted to provide a range of different time limits. For younger players up to about 1500 who tend to play fast there’s no real need for slower games, while we also decided that anything less than 10 minutes per player would lead to too many blunders. So our main termly structure eventually looked like this:
Freestyle 30 minute games (3 games in the 3 hour session)
Coach and play – introductory lesson on the openings to be played over the next few weeks followed by two 45 minute games, consulting the opening books
10 minute blitz tournament (in groups with promotion/relegation) with opening variation picked out of the ‘hat’)
30 minute games (3 games in the 3 hour session) using the set openings
Freestyle 10 minute blitz tournament (in groups with promotion/relegation)
Over the year we’d run 12 sessions with 3 30-minute games (at first in groups of 4 (quad tournaments) or 6 (Scheveningen system tournaments) – six freestyle and 6 with set openings. All games would be recorded down to the last five minutes and all scoresheets would be handed it. We used duplicate scoresheets for this purpose so that they all had a copy of their games to take home. I’d then play through all the games again at home, and, once ChessBase became available I’d enter them all into a database.
We’d also run 11 sessions with 10-minute games (as many as they could play in the time available), five freestyle and six with set openings.
We’d run 6 Coach and Play sessions to introduce the openings to be played in the next rapid and blitz sessions.
We also ran one simultaneous display a term. Sometimes we’d use visiting masters, sometimes our own coaches, members of our parent chess club or former RJCC members. We considered these a vital part of our programme for several reasons:
They promoted chess as an adult game, not just a game for young children
They gave our members the chance to meet and play against titled players
They forced our members to slow down and think while the simul giver was going round the room moving on the other boards
Other weeks were filled up with activities such as training games at slower time limits, endgame practice and puzzle solving, while the last week of each term gave our members the chance to enjoy chess variants such as Exchange (Bughouse) and Kriegspiel.
The idea was that each week would have one activity, which would vary from week to week. Very different from the way most junior clubs run, with two activities (lesson and game) a week and the same structure most weeks.
If you want to use our methods, our stationery (now rebranded as Chess Heroes rather than RJCC) is available to download here and here while our opening books (recently updated slightly to include the currently popular London System) can be downloaded here.
Coincidentally, several other important things happened at about this time.
A local primary school, Sheen Mount, appointed a new Headteacher, Jane Lawrence, who was passionate about introducing all her pupils to chess, teaching them the moves and giving them the chance to play competitively at school every day. Many of her pupils joined Richmond Junior Club, and, as you’ll see, two of them, Richard Bates and Tom Hinks-Edwards, went on to become International Masters.
Ray Cannon, whom I vaguely knew from the London chess circuit, brought his young son Richard along to the club. Ray was (and still is) an excellent chess coach and his views on chess teaching were (and still are) very similar to mine, and he soon started to play a vital role in the club, helping with the Afternoon Group as well as spending his Sundays visiting tournaments and passing on the results of our members so that I could incorporate them in our internal grading list.
The other player who played an invaluable part in our successes for many years was Gavin Wall, later an IM, one of our early members who, on returning from University joined our coaching team, working mostly in the Morning Group. Gavin and Ray were both integral to the club for many years: I can’t thank them enough.
Over the next few years we again became very strong, and the system we used in the Afternoon Group undoubtedly played its part.
As it happened, the summer of 1986 witnessed our first ever British Champion when Irfan Nathoo took the national Under 9 title.
Here’s a game from later in the year. To play through this or any other game in this article click on any move and a pop-up window will appear.
With our new system in place we were able to promote the club in the local press, announcing an exciting season ahead.
We were actively looking for sponsorship at this point. We received donations from two local charities at various times, and here we found sponsorship from the Richmond branch of Midland Bank.
We were also competing successfully in team competitions against other London junior clubs. Barnet Knights, of course, are still going strong today.
One of our new members was a talented Scottish junior, Jonathan Rowson, who had moved from Aberdeen into the same road as me. He used to come round to my house for a game after school, but sadly for us he didn’t stay in the area very long.
In this game from one of our monthly quad tournaments, he demonstrated his class by outplaying Richard Bates in a pawn ending.
During this period I was doing a lot of private tuition. Jonathan was by no means the only one of our members who would visit my house for lessons, either on a regular or an occasional basis. Judging from both individual and team results it must have had some effect on them.
By 1989 Sheen Mount players were making names for themselves on the national stage. Here are future IM Richard Bates and Tom Davey playing for England’s Primary Schools team in a match against Scotland.
Also in June 1989 we were invited to play a match against a visiting team from Arizona. As we had so many strong players by now we split our players into three teams and played a four-way match.
Here’s Richard Cannon’s game against the American board 1.
By the summer of 1989 it was time to move. The church in central Richmond where we met was being redeveloped so we had to find new premises. Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club moved to London Welsh Rugby Club, while Richmond Junior Club found a new home in a large Victorian house in East Twickenham, where we’d meet for more than 15 years.
We also set up a separate group for older children enabling us to enter teams in the Thames Valley League. We played our home matches in Friday evening sessions and scheduled our away matches, as far as possible, during the school holidays.
Jane Lawrence was now running Richmond teams in the English Primary Schools Chess Association inter-area competitions, with players from schools around the Borough taking part. Andrew Bamford, like many of the players in these teams, was a member of Richmond Junior Club.
In this game from our 1990 Under 11 Championship a speculative sacrifice proved successful.
Wanting to provide top level coaching for our strongest players, we appointed GM Daniel King as our club professional in 1990. We were also able to enter a third team in the Thames Valley League.
In just a few years since 1986 the club had made tremendous progress, and we were able to bill ourselves, without fear of contradiction, as ‘England’s leading club for young players’. This is Chris A Baker, who hasn’t played competitively for a long time, not to be confused with long-standing Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club member Chris B Baker, who was also a pupil at Hampton School, or indeed IM Chris W Baker.
In this game Tom had the chance to play a Greek Gift sacrifice against an opponent with insufficient experience of the French Defence.
And here’s Chris Baker, beating one of his regular rivals in a club game.
Every summer during this period the parents of our stronger players got together to book accommodation for the British Championships. From 1991 onwards we were rewarded with successes like these:
1991 Richard Bates U14 shared, Luke McShane U9
1992 James Clifford/Luke McShane U14 Andrew Bamford U11
1993 Tom Hinks-Edwards U16 shared
One of our favourite simul givers at the time was Ukrainian IM Petr Marusenko, a regular visit to Hastings (he’s there again this year) who would drop in to visit us after the congress.
In this game James Clifford outplayed him in the ending.
Richard Bates, now at Tiffin School, continued to be successful in 1992, and was rated one of the world’s top players of his age.
But by that time we had a new member whose feats would outshine even Richard’s. This was Luke McShane, who, at the age of only 8, took the World Under 10 Championship in 1992.
Luke scored victories against future stars such as Bacrot, Aronian and Grischuk in this event. He was perhaps fortunate to escape from lost positions in the first two of these games, but here’s his win against the Russian representative.
In January 1993 we were privileged to host a junior team from Kiev (now Kiiv), whose top players were, as you might imagine, very strong. We arranged four events: a simul given by Daniel King, a match against a team from Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club, a match against a Richmond Junior Club team and a match against a junior team representing the Southern Counties Chess Union, which included three RJCC players.
Another of our very strong players, Aleksandar Trifunovic, great nephew of Grandmaster Petar Trifunovic, scored an exciting win on board three of the RJCC v Kiev match. His opponent here is now an American IM.
Richard Bates scored a win and a draw against the top two Kiev players. He drew with Spartak Vysochin, now a grandmaster, in the RJCC match and won this game from the SCCU Juniors match.
As a result of his performance in the World Junior Championship, Luke was given the opportunity to play a game against Garry Kasparov, in London to discuss the arrangements for his forthcoming World Championship match against Nigel Short.
Here’s the game.
In May 1993, buoyed by these successes, we were asked to be involved in the Richmond Chess Initiative, which, in essence, did very much what Chess in Schools & Communities is doing now, but on a local rather than national level.
Children would learn all the right moves, but would they play them in the right order? You’ll find out in the next part of the history of Richmond Junior Chess Club.
You might remember this from the last Minor Piece. This is a match between Richmond and Barnes Village from 1948. You saw Beatrix Hooke on Board 4 for Barnes, and this time I want to introduce you to Richmond’s Board 5: B Bodycoat.
Way back in 1967, 55 years ago, I won my first chess trophy: the BC Bodycoat Cup. This was the second division of the Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club Championship, for weaker and less experienced players, and continued until sometime in the mid 1970s.
I can’t see that I deserved to win. I played five games, four against weaker opponents, winning two and drawing three. My only strong opponent was Ken Norman, then, as now, a better player than me. It looks from my scorebook as if I won a couple of games by default, one of which may have been against Keith Southan, who’ll be introduced later.
This game wasn’t very distinguished. I won a pawn in the opening, and, instead of capturing another pawn I chickened out by trading queens into a level ending. I then made a horrendous blunder which should have lost a piece, but fortunately for me Ken didn’t notice. Click on any move in any game in this article for a pop-up window.
I had no idea who BC Bodycoat was. Was he Benjamin or Bernard? Brian or Barry? Bertram or Basil? Once I started getting interested in genealogical research I determined to find out. I could never have imagined what a strange story it would turn out to be. Strange in more ways than one.
In fact Mr Bodycoat, during a sadly short life, used three or four different first names and two different surnames. I’ve been waiting some years to tell his story, and the online appearance of the Richmond Herald up to 1950 gives me the opportunity.
It has nothing at all to do with chess, though, so please bear with me as we embark on a journey that will take us around the world.
Our story starts, for want of a better time and place, in the Leicestershire village of Tur Langton in the year 1844.
A few miles north of the town of Market Harborough you’ll find a group of villages collective known as the Langtons. Tur Langton is the furthest north. A mile to the south is Church Langton, and, just a bit further down the road are its associated hamlets, West Langton and East Langton. You’ll then find Thorpe Langton a mile or so to the east of East Langton.
We’re going to meet William Bodycoat and his family. William, like most villagers at the time, was an illiterate agricultural labourer. Born in 1811, he married Elizabeth Gibbins in 1833. They had two sons, Thomas and Joseph. Elizabeth died in 1840, and on Christmas Day 1841 William married her sister Mary, taking on her illegitimate daughter Charlotte.
In 1844 they made a decision that would change their lives (and perhaps my life as well). They emigrated to Australia on an assisted immigration scheme, along with Mary’s sister Lucy, her husband William Bamford, and their children.
Here they are, on board a ship named the Abberton.
They may not have been the first of their family to emigrate to Australia. In 1830, Thomas Bodycoat, who, I suspect, was William’s brother, was transported there for stealing a rabbit, receiving his freedom in 1849. I haven’t yet been able to find out what happened to him.
William Bodycoat and his family, in spite of their humble origins, did very well for themselves. They settled first in Collingwood, Melbourne, before moving out to Wollert (it means, delightfully, ‘where possums abound’). You’ll find Bodycoats Road there today.
When you’re researching family history you often come across stories like this of families who prospered in Australasia or North America. On the one hand, you admire their courage and hard work, and how emigration enabled them to achieve success they could never have dreamt of back at home. On the other hand, you realise that this happened at the expense of the indigenous populations of those continents.
William lived on until 1892, and, 40 years after his death, a local paper published some family reminiscences, which are not necessarily accurate.
And here he is, a fine looking fellow he was as well.
However, it’s William’s youngest son, Walter, known to the family as Walt, born in 1858, to whom we must now turn our attention.
In 1851 gold was discovered in Victoria, and mines were established in places like Ballarat and Bendigo. A gold rush ensued. Melbourne and the surrounding areas became extremely prosperous as a result. You saw above that Thomas was working as a carter to the goldfields for a time. Perhaps his brother Walter was also involved.
In 1893, three Irish prospectors discovered gold in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia. There were fortunes to be made there as well. Perhaps this was the reason why, in 1897, Walter and his family made the trek to the other side of the continent.
He might possibly have settled in Perth at first, where his younger children were born, but later moved to Kalgoorlie, working there as a labourer.
Walt’s eldest son, born in 1886 shared his name, but was known as Wally. He must have been a bright boy, as he studied at the School of Mines in Kalgoorlie in 1909, training as a gold assayer, testing minerals to determine the amount of gold in them.
He led an adventurous life, travelling to Uruguay before settling in London, where, I suppose, he must have been working for some sort of mining company. This involved a trip to Peru, and then four trips to West Africa, Ghana (it was the Gold Coast then), Cameroon and, in 1913, two more visits to Ghana. These must have been exciting times for young Wally, but he wanted something else in his life. While in London he formed a relationship with a young widow named Ada Eliza Strange (née Hawkins), and, in the short gap between his two 1913 stints in Ghana, a son was conceived.
Ada had a daughter, Lucy Gertrude (usually known by her middle name) from her marriage to William John Strange, whose death had been registered in the 4th quarter of 1912. Gertrude seems to have been what would then have been called a showgirl, and had what might best be described as a very colourful life. If you’d like to find out more, as I’m sure you do, you should read this paper from the Epsom & Ewell History Explorer.
Anyway, moving very swiftly on, Walter and Ada’s son’s birth was registered in Paddington in the 3rd quarter of 1914. He was given the names Walter Charles Bodycoat Strange. Named, you will see, after both his father and grandfather.
This, then, was our man, after whom the Bodycoat Cup was named. But where did the B come from?
The relationship between Wally and Ada didn’t last. Wally returned England on 23 July 1914, perhaps in time to witness the birth of his son, and sailed back to Australia on 12 February the following year. In 1916 he joined the Australian Imperial Force and returned to England, serving in France, where he was wounded in action and awarded the Military Medal.
He was discharged in 1919 and returned to mining, again travelling backwards and forwards to Ghana. In 1920 he married Katie Burt, from Cornwall (perhaps he’d also been involved in mining there) and they eventually returned to Australia, where he bought a farm they named Trevose after a Cornish headland, where they brought up their children Kenneth, Gordon and Barbara. You can read a lot more about Wally (with links to Katie and Ken) here.
The Bodycoats were a sporting family, playing cricket, tennis and golf, but I can’t find any mention of them playing chess. Judging from online family trees, Wally’s children may not have been aware of his guilty secret. They probably are now.
While we’re discussing Cornwall it’s time for another game, this time against Cornwall born Fred Daymond, captain of Richmond & Twickenham’s London League 2nd team for many years. He soon lost a lot of material here.
Now we need to continue the story of the third Walter Bodycoat.
At present I haven’t been able to find him, his mother or his half-sister in the 1921 census. Nothing under Bodycoat and also nothing obvious under Strange.
He only reappeared, or rather disappeared, in 1930, where he made the local and national papers.
Walter? Boyder? Boyden? Sidney? Aged 15 or 16? Who knows? By this time he was using his father’s surname rather than his mother’s surname. Had they fallen out? Perhaps he didn’t want to be thought of as strange.
Boyder is not otherwise known as a name, and Boyden is very rare. Boyd, yes, but not Boyder and hardly ever Boyden. I suppose Boyder might have been a contraction of ‘Boy Walter’ to distinguish him from his father Wally and grandfather Walt. I’d speculate that he preferred to be known as Boyder, and appearances of ‘Boyden’ were due to misreading someone’s handwriting.
Prebend Mansions is a block of mansion flats on Chiswick High Road, near Stamford Brook Station. If you walk in an easterly direction, you’ll eventually reach Hammersmith Broadway, and then Olympia, a part of the world very familiar to the Hooke family.
I presume he returned home at some point: at least nothing else appeared in the press. Sadly, six months later, his mother died, leaving him alone, his father in Australia and his sister in a rather dodgy relationship.
Although Ada and Wally only had a brief affair and never married, she sometimes used his surname. The 1930 electoral roll lists no one at 17 Prebend Mansions: seemingly she hadn’t registered to vote. That’s her daughter who was granted probate.
Nottingham Place is in London’s medical district, not far from Harley Street (and also not far from 44 Baker Street), and was used by members of the London School of Medicine for Women. I presume number 1, Treborough House on the corner of Paddington Street, was a private clinic at the time: it’s now converted into very expensive flats.
Young Boyder (or whatever) was clearly a ladies’ man, and it was in 1937 that he married Hilda Lilian Simmonds in Finsbury. Hilda wasn’t from Brighton, but from Mile End. Her father was a Russian Jew who had anglicised his name and seemingly converted to the Church of England. The marriage was recorded twice, with his name as Walter CB Strange and Walter C Bodycoat. A daughter, Diane Bodycoat, was born a year later.
Here are the happy (at the time) couple.
It looks like the marriage didn’t last long. The 1939 Register found Hilda and Diane in St Albans, while Boyder was nowhere to be seen. It’s possible their marriage had already broken up, but it’s also possible his wife and daughter had moved to St Albans to avoid possible future aerial attacks on London. My mother moved from Teddington to nearby Harpenden for that reason.
Hilda and Diane later moved to Cornwall, while, in 1944, Boyder married again, to Bernice Gloria Holmes. This marriage was registered in Surrey North-East, which would have been Richmond or thereabouts. This time he was only Walter C Bodycoat.
I’ve no idea where and when he learnt to play chess. Very often sons learn from their fathers, but this wouldn’t have been the case for Boyder. Anyway, when Richmond Chess Club reopened its doors in 1947 after a break for the war, he would have been one of its first members. As he often played on a fairly high board he must have been a decent club standard player.
His first appearance, though, wasn’t so successful. Playing against a weaker Barnes Village team he lost his game on Board 9.
He wasn’t the only player with an incorrect initial. On Board 11, defeating girl champion Phyllis Prosser, would have been Harold Augustus Tyler. The first time my father took me to Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club, Harold was the first person we saw. My father knew him from work but didn’t realise he was a chess player.
Here’s our Bodycoat Cup game. Harold didn’t put up much resistance, losing a lot of material in the opening.
Boyder must have been really keen as he also joined the new Shene (or Sheen if you prefer) Chess Club, but he was again unsuccessful in this match.
At least he was granted his preferred initial on this occasion, unlike Dr John David Solomon on top board. There was a considerable overlap in membership between Richmond and Shene, and the former subsumed the latter a few years later.
The following month the two clubs met, with Boyder playing for Richmond and winning his game.
It’s interesting to note that Shene, unlike Richmond was attracting younger players at the time. By the 1960s there would be a lot of teenagers in what was by then Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club.
In February he scored another win in a Thames Valley League match against Staines.
Richmond had Walter Veitch (about whom more, perhaps, another time) on top board for this match. He and JD Solomon were two of the strongest London amateurs in the late 1940s. It’s interesting to note that this was a 7-board match. Harold Tyler was this time allotted his correct initial. His opponent, John Hamill, would, some 30 years later, run a chess club at Richmond Community Centre. Percy Moon, the Staines board 4, played twice against me in 1968 and 1972. All this, again, even though I was yet to be born, is my history as well as Boyder Bodycoat’s history.
There were two draws for him in these two matches, one against another of my future opponents, Edwin Sutherland, plus news of the foundation of Surbiton Chess Club and a forthcoming simul.
I played Edwin Sutherland on 20 December 1966, and it was on 15 June 1967 that I played my first Bodycoat Cup game. It resulted in a draw, but I had a winning advantage at various times. Curiously, all three of my black games in this competition featured the same opening variation.
March 1949 witnessed two local derbies, with Shene playing Barnes Village and Richmond playing Twickenham.
More names from my past: George Hogg moved from Barnes Village to Richmond in the 1960s, while John (Jock) Lee and Keith Southan, both in the Twickenham team here, would play for Richmond & Twickenham into the 1970s. Keith was a classics master at Tiffin School, and would often give me lifts to away matches when I first joined the club.
The promised simul duly took place, and Boyder managed to draw his game, also scoring a draw against Barnes Village.
At this point it seems that Barnes were stronger than Richmond, but the roles would soon be reversed.
Chess was very popular amongst the London Bus community (they even had their own magazine for some years), and, in days when works chess teams were very common, it wasn’t surprising to see Fulwell (Bus) Depot in the Thames Valley League, with prominent chess author Bruce Hayden (not Haydn: he was a composer) on top board.
By the autumn of 1949 it was time for another season to start, and here Twickenham and Richmond were in friendly opposition. In the absence of some of the big names, Boyder Bodycoat found himself on top board.
I never met Robert Mark, who must have left Richmond & Twickenham at about the time I joined, but I seem to recall that he was still the club auditor. On the other hand, I did know Ted Fairbrother, Keith Southan, George Seaford and, vaguely, FG (Griff) Griffiths.
In 1950 Richmond and Shene shared the points, but unfortunately what would have been an interesting top board encounter between Veitch and Solomon didn’t materialise
This suggests, though, that, after a shaky start to his chess career, Boyder Bodycoat, now in his mid 30s, was a decent club standard player, I’d guess around 1800 in new money or 150 in old money. He could hope to make further progress with more experience.
But the world was changing. The Richmond Herald was less consistent in reporting chess results. And, in July that year, Howard and Betty James welcomed their first son into the world.
As he was about to enjoy his first Christmas there was some more news.
We see that Mr Bodycoat was unbeaten playing for the first team, as was the otherwise unknown Miss Lanspeary (she, like all of us, had her story: you’ll meet her next time).
Surbiton, losing here to Shene, were still getting going, but at least two of their players had long careers at the club. I beat Donald Chisholm in 1973 and drew with Russell Tailford in 1980.
It’s good to see Richmond with female representation in their first team. For many years our most prominent lady player was Hella Kaufmann, who translated Leonard Barden’s book on the Ruy Lopez into German. Hella lived in Barnes, and had also been a member of Barnes Village: I guess she joined shortly after 1950.
Here’s our Bodycoat Cup game from 1967. Her translation work for Leonard must have been the reason for choosing the Marshall Gambit here. If I’d been aware of this I’d no doubt have chosen a different opening. As it was I held onto the pawn but lost it back by playing too passively, ending up in a level ending.
In Spring 1951 Boyder and Gloria decided to take a holiday in Bermuda. They sailed from London on 14 April on the Loch Garth, a ship of the Royal Mail Lines which also had some cabin space, arriving back in Plymouth travelling third class on the Reina del Pacifico, a ship belonging to the Pacific Steam Navigation Company, on 15 June. Their address was given as 3 Sheen Court, Richmond, and they were both hairdressers (as was, I seem to remember, Boyder’s clubmate George Seaford: there may be some connection there). Sheen Court is a prominent block of mansion flats on the Lower Richmond Road near North Sheen Station.
Former Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald had died on board the Reina del Pacifico in 1937, and Boyder very nearly joined him. They probably travelled back from Plymouth to Richmond by train, and, back at home the very next day, he sadly died at the age of only 36.
The cause of death is given as Morbus Cordis & Coronary Thrombosis: heart disease, specifically a blood clot leading to a heart attack.
The death notice in the Daily Telegraph mentions his wife and sister, but not his first wife or their daughter.
The probate record tells is he left almost £700, a small amount of which would have gone, either directly or indirectly. to Richmond Chess Club. They decided to commemorate their member by purchasing a trophy in his name: the trophy I would win in 1967.
Bernice wasted little time in remarrying: her second husband was a Greek Cypriot communist and freedom fighter named Michael Economides. You can find out more about him, and again I’d advise you to do so, here. Yet another colourful character in a story full of them.
To return to my story, my father, Howard James, had been born in Leicester in 1919, but his grandfather, John James, had been born in 1841 in Thorpe Langton, just a mile and a half or so across the fields from Tur Langton, from where, three years later, William Bodycoat would emigrate to Australia. His family were all from various villages in the area and I’ve managed to put together a family tree with a possible link between the two families.
It’s another golden chain. The ancestors of the man whose trophy I won would have been tilling the same fields, drinking in the same pubs (perhaps not in William’s case as he was a Rechabite) and worshipping in the same churches as my ancestors back in the 18th and 19th centuries. The story that links our lives takes us round the world to Australia and back again, visiting South America and Africa along the way. We’re all connected, and chess is the wonderful game that brings some of us together.
The Bodycoat Cup continued to take place until round about the late 1970s: by that time, with so many opportunities for league and tournament chess, there was less appetite for internal competitions in most chess clubs in the London area.
There’s one more Bodycoat Cup game in my files.
In this appropriately strange game Mike Fox lost in only 14 moves by doing exactly what he told Richmond Junior Club members not to do every Saturday morning: bringing out his queen too soon and going pawn hunting.
I’ve no idea what happened to the trophy, or indeed the club championship trophy. If you have information, do please get in touch.
Thanks to Walter/Boyder/Boyden/Sidney for being, posthumously an influence on my chess career. Thanks to Wally and Ada for having an affair. Thanks to Walt for deciding to move to Western Australia. Thanks to William and his family for emigrating to Melbourne.
And thanks to you for reading this. You, too, are part of that golden chain.
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