Category Archives: English

Minor Pieces 34: William Ward Part 1

Here’s some hot news from Redhill Chess Club, just 120 years ago.

Surrey Mirror 16 December 1902

There are a few interesting things to note here. At this time, Surrey League matches, just like the London League today, took place at central London venues, rather than on a home and away basis.

You’ll also spot that, as so often in their matches at this time, Richmond failed to field a full team. They frequently either had a couple of absentees at the bottom or a couple of nominated players who failed to turn up.

The impression I get is that the club was very ambitious, choosing to play in the Surrey Trophy against stronger opposition rather than the calmer waters of the Beaumont Cup. Their administrative skills, though, didn’t seem to match their ambitions. Chess clubs (and, no doubt most other clubs as well) are as good as their organisers, not as good as their players.

Regular readers will already have met Thomas Etheridge Harper and Charles Redway, and heard a brief mention of club founder Horace Lyddon Pring, but there are other members of this team who are of interest.

In particular, there’s a new name playing on top board, although he was probably losing his game against Leonard Percy Rees, one of the most important figures in early 20th century English chess and one well worth a future Minor Piece.

In the first decade of the 20th century there were a lot of strong British amateurs with retrospective ratings round about 2300-2400, so, by today’s standards, FM to IM strength. They rarely if ever played in major international tournaments so, except for those of us who spend much of our time in the dusty recesses of old books and magazines, or perhaps visiting BritBase, their names are largely forgotten today.

As it happens, many of these players had links with our area, West and South West London. You’ve already met George Edward Wainwright here, here, here and here.  Now I must introduce you to William Ward.

Researching him isn’t so easy. Cursed with one of the most popular male first names of his day, no middle names and a very common surname, any search for W Ward will turn up much of no relevance. In addition he came from a small family which has been little researched by genealogists: the few online trees I’ve been able to find don’t mention any chess connection and, if they give it at all, get his mother’s maiden name wrong.

Our William, 35 years old at the time of the above match, was born on 3 March 1867 in Abbots Langley, Hertfordshire, just north of Watford and now a large commuter village, and baptised there on 18 April the same year.

The 1871 census finds the Ward family there. William Ward senior is aged 27, a farmer of 184 acres employing 4 men and a boy, Ann (née Barford) is aged 26 and their two sons are William (4) and Mark (1). The family also have two servants. The parents were both born in Hatfield (the enumerator incorrectly recorded their sons as having been born there as well) and must have moved to Abbots Langley after their marriage. A third son, George Langton Ward, would be born early the following year. The family would later move to the Luton area, first to the small village of King’s Walden, and then to Lewsey, now a Luton suburb alongside the M1.

By 1881 young William is at boarding school in London: he’s recorded at 7 Highgate Road Kentish Town along with a Schoolmaster and a lot of other boys, including, exotically, three brothers from Quito (none of them, sadly, named Amos).

While his brothers followed in their father’s footsteps, pursuing a career in farming, William took a different route.  The 1891 census finds him, now aged 24, living in a boarding house at 50 Finsbury Park Road in North London, not all that far from Kentish Town, and working as a solicitor.

At some point in the mid 1880s, then, he must have studied Law, and perhaps, at the same time, taken up the game of chess. We first find him in 1890 playing in the 3rd class in a handicap tournament at Simpson’s Divan, which tells us he wasn’t a strong player. No child prodigy, then, but a young man who was attracted to the game, and, over the next few years, would discover a real talent.

Ward made rapid strides during the 1890s, soon playing matches for the famous City of London club (in their 1894-5 championship he reached the final stages) and taking part in representative matches for the South of England against the North.

His first external tournament was the Southern Counties Chess Union (SCCU) Championship in Southampton in 1897. Henry Ernest Atkins was a convincing winner on 8½/10, while William’s score of 4/10 was relatively modest, but no disgrace for a newcomer to chess at this level.

In the 1897-8 edition of the City of London Championship Ward finished in third place behind Thomas Francis Lawrence and Lucien Serraillier: by now he was clearly one of the capital’s strongest players.

In this game he demonstrates excellent opening knowledge, capping a fine performance with some sparkling tactics to force through a passed pawn. (If you click on any move in any game in this article a pop-up board will magically appear, enabling you to play through the game.)

The following year, the SCCU Championship in Salisbury was a very different story from the previous year. William shared 1st place with Joseph Henry Blake on 7½/10, with strong players such as Gunston, Bellingham, Loman and Sherrard trailing in their wake.

In this exciting drawn game, against the Dutch organist Rudolf Loman, both players displayed extensive awareness of contemporary theory in the very sharp Max Lange Attack. Ward had the better of the early exchanges but, in a very complex middlegame failed to make the most of his chances. The knight ending was still difficult for both players, and here Loman missed an opportunity.

The 1898-9 City of London Championship proved a slight disappointment when he narrowly failed to make the final pool, but the 1899-1900 edition, held again as an all-play-all, was a different story. Lawrence was the winner on 14½/17, with Ward just half a point behind and the rest nowhere.

In 1900 William made his international debut, being selected to play in the 5th Anglo-American Cable Match, where he drew his game against Charles John Newman.

Rod Edwards’ retrospective ratings for 1900 put him on 2397, ranked 74th in the world.

A few days later he took part in an invitation tournament run by the City of London club, in which their members took on a bunch of international players based in London at the time. As you’ll see here, he scored an outstanding 8½/12, just behind Teichmann (9½), Mason and Gunsberg (9). While the winner hadn’t yet reached his peak and the runners-up were past their best, they were all genuine grandmasterly players. He was particularly devastating against the weaker competitors.

By now he was using the increasingly popular Queen’s Gambit with the white pieces, an opening which suited his style of controlled aggression perfectly.

Here he found himself with an IQP position out of the opening: understanding this pawn formation is still of vital importance to all serious competitive players today.

Against the artist and pianist Thomas Physick (from a family of sculptors) he chose a delayed exchange variation: another pawn formation which still plays a critical role in 21st century chess.

William Ward was again amongst the medals in the 1900-01 City of London Championship. Lawrence won again, with Herbert Levi Jacobs taking the silver and Ward the bronze. Edward Bagehot Schwann, coming to the end of his short life, was among the also-rans.

By now it was time for the census enumerator to call again. What we find is rather intriguing. William was in Kenley, Surrey, east of Coulsdon and south of Purley, visiting Isidore Wiener, a 41-year-old unmarried Hide Merchant’s Factor born in Holland but a British Subject. Also in the household were a housekeeper and a servant.

I’ve recently become interested in the significance of the word ‘visitor’ in census returns. Your census address is where you’re staying overnight. If you’re being paid to be there you’ll be described as a ‘servant’ or something similar. If you’re paying to be there you’ll be a ‘boarder’ or a ‘lodger’. A ‘visitor’ will often be a family member, but there might be other reasons. I can find no evidence that Isidore was a chess player, so perhaps he had some complicated legal business which required his solicitor to stay overnight. Perhaps they were just good friends. Who knows?

Anyway, in 1906 Isidore married 40-year-old Annie Sonnex (interesting surname) from Lancashire, continuing to live, now with his wife, in Kenley. A very late first marriage for both partners. They had their only child, a daughter named Albertine, a year later. In 1918, like many families with Germanic surnames at the time, they changed their name from Wiener to Winner. Albertine became a Winner in more ways than one, as you’ll see here.

And then we reach 1902, when we find William playing for Richmond Chess Club against Redhill. Had he moved to the Richmond area? Or did he have friends in the club who invited him to join and play in matches in central London? At present I don’t know.

It looks like he never owned his own property, living in lodgings and moving round various parts of London. I can find no further reference to Ward in association with Richmond Chess Club, but it’s quite possible that there may be more information online once the Richmond & Twickenham Times is digitised.

You’ll find out what happened to William Ward after 1902 in my next Minor Piece.

Sources:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

MegaBase 2022 (analysis by Stockfish 15)

Britbase

EdoChess (William Ward’s page here.)

The City of London Chess Club Championship (Roger Leslie Paige 2005)

Other websites referenced in the text.

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Minor Pieces 33: Charles Redway

If you’re travelling by train to visit the Chess Palace you’ll alight at Whitton station and turn left from where it’s a fine and fancy 20 minute walk – or you can take the crosstown bus if it’s raining or it’s cold.

If you turn right instead you’ll find yourself in Whitton High Street, with a turning into Bridge Way (named after the railway bridge, not the card game) on your right. If you walk along Bridge Way you’ll find two turnings on your left, Cypress Avenue and Short Way (not named after Nigel, but because it’s a short way), which leads into Redway Drive. Not many of its residents will be aware that it’s named after a chess player.

Much of what is now Whitton was built up in the interwar years on land which had previously been farms and market gardens. Twickenham’s international rugby stadium was known informally as Billy Williams’ Cabbage Patch because a man of that name had grown vegetables there. This explains the name of the Cabbage Patch pub opposite Twickenham Station, well known both as a rugby pub and a music venue.

The exception was the land adjacent to the Hounslow Gunpowder Mills, which is where you’ll find the Chess Palace, but that’s another story.

In this aerial photograph from 1931 you can see the railway line, the newly opened Whitton Station, the first shops in the High Street and, in the centre, Short Way, leading to Redway Drive, with trees behind it. It meets Nelson Road on the left and, at the junction with Short Way, curves to the right where it would, by 1933, meet the A316 Great Chertsey Road. The rugby ground can be seen in the distance.

Mr Redway gave his name not just to the road but to the whole estate, as you can see from this photograph from a few years later.

Here’s the road itself: typical 1930s suburban architecture, newly planted trees and a notable shortage of cars.

Here’s a cutting from, I guess, the mid 1930s: found on Facebook without attribution but probably from the Richmond & Twickenham Times. Typically, the local press got Mr Redway’s middle initial wrong: he was Charles Percy Redway (1885-1953).

Redway was a stockbroker by profession who had presumably bought up the land speculatively and sold it for housing. Perhaps the proceeds had enabled him and his family to move from St Margaret’s Road Twickenham to Grove House, Hampton in 1927. Very nice too. Lucky chap!

Back in his teens, Charles Percy was a chess player, but as with many young players, life got in the way. In 1904 he was a member of Richmond Chess Club, taking part in matches between the residents of East Sheen and the rest. Here’s an example in which he was successful.

Surrey Comet 05 March 1904

These, I’d imagine, were more social events than serious matches: the players on the higher boards were also seen in competitive matches against other clubs, but the lower boards, such as young Charles Percy Redway, gained experience from events such as this. His opponent here may have been Herbert Ereault, a bank clerk from Jersey, only three years his senior.

But Charles Percy Redway isn’t the real subject of this article: his father, plain Charles Redway, was a much stronger player, from a family involved in various chess related activities.

Charles Redway senior had been born in Paddington in the fourth quarter of 1861. His father, another Charles, had been born in Teignmouth, Devon and his mother, Mary Ann Richardson, near Corby in Northamptonshire. It looks like they had met while working in service in London. We can pick up our protagonist in the 1871 census: the family are living in Chelsea where his father is working as a butler. He is the second of five children at home: a sixth child would arrive later. By 1881 the oldest Charles is buttling for Scottish poet, biographer and translator Sir Theodore Martin in Onslow Square, Kensington, while Mary Ann is in the family home in Bywater Street, a 15 minute walk away, along with her father and six children: George, the eldest is a Publisher’s Assistant while Charles is a clerk and the only daughter, Mary Jane, a dressmaker.

The Redway family was clearly bookish as well as chess playing. Did this come from within the family or was their love of books inspired by Sir Theo? Where did the family’s love of chess come from?

Charles married Emily Jones in 1884 and by 1891 they were living in Elm Road, Mortlake, just round the corner from where you’ll now find the East Sheen branch of Waitrose, along with their four young sons (Charles Percy was the oldest), a 14-year-old domestic servant and Emily’s younger sister Ida. Charles’s occupation is given as an Assurance Clerk: he was employed by the Prudential Assurance Company.

At some point in this decade he joined the young and ambitious Richmond Chess Club. His first sighting in the chess world seems to be in an 1896 match over 100 boards between teams representing the North and South of the Thames. Charles was on board 38, winning his game against a reserve, T A Bedford.

Norwood News 07 May 1898

Here he is playing board 2 behind Thomas Etheridge Harper in a Surrey Trophy match against Battersea in 1898. Richmond were well beaten, not helped by a default, something that was only too common in their matches at this time. Their ambition in taking on top clubs like Battersea in the Surrey Trophy, when they could have opted for less demanding opposition in the Beaumont Cup, seems not to have been matched by their competence in making sure all their players turned up.

You’ll find an excellent article about the Battersea board 3 William Philip Plummer here on their club website, and more about their club history here.

The 1901 census is interesting. Charles is still in the same job, living with his wife, six sons and a daughter, along with a domestic servant. Charles Percy is working as a Jewellery Merchant’s Clerk. They’ve moved along the road towards Richmond, though: their address is given as 134 Sheen Road (here on Google Maps, assuming the house numbers haven’t changed).

There, at the top of the same page, are Philip and Harriet Harper, and the previous page reveals that they’re the children of Thomas Etheridge Harper, who was living just round the corner from Charles Redway.

Perhaps it was Thomas who introduced Charles to Richmond Chess Club. You’d imagine they’d have got together to play chess on a regular basis, maybe, as was the habit in those days, over a glass of brandy and a fine cigar.

Over the next few years, he continued to play for Richmond on a high board, sometimes even on board 1, as well as being recorded turning up to club AGMs.

Here’s a game from the 1903 Surrey County Challenge Cup (presumably the county individual championship) against the artist Sir Wyke Bayliss. The opening was interesting: a Fried Liver Attack with an extra move for White. Black was able to play an immediate c6 so it’s not entirely clear whether or not White benefitted from the extra tempo. Anyway, Redway misplayed the attack and lost fairly quickly. (If you click on any move, a pop-up window will appear enabling you to play through the game.)

The British Championships took place for the first time in 1904, giving many amateurs the opportunity for a two week chess playing summer holiday. Charles took part in the First Class B tournament in Southport in 1905, scoring 4½/11, a pretty respectable result. He tried again at Tunbridge Wells in 1908, but his result in the First Class A tournament was a disappointing 2½/11. (Note that the A and B tournaments were parallel and of the same strength.) To be fair, this was a pretty strong tournament: the winner was Georg Schories, a German master resident in England who wasn’t eligible for the championship, and the young Fred Dewhirst Yates shared 4th place.

Earlier in 1908, Charles had taken part in a simultaneous display at Surbiton Chess Club against World Champion Emanuel Lasker, emerging with a highly creditable draw.

EdoChess estimates his rating as round about 2000: a strong club player but not of master standard.

One of their sons, Montague, had died in his teens in 1906, and, the following year, the family moved to Dryburgh Road, Putney, very close to Marc Bolan’s Rock Shrine.  They’d remain for the rest of their lives. He continued to play up to the mid 1920s, for Ibis Chess Club in London, and in county matches for Surrey. The Ibis Chess Club was part of the Ibis Sports Club, for employees of the Prudential Assurance Company and particularly noted for its rowing. There are very few records concerning Richmond Chess Club available for this period (we should find out more once the Richmond & Twickenham Times is digitised), but perhaps he continued playing for Richmond as well.

He didn’t play in the 1912 British Championships in Richmond,  but he did take part in a simul against visiting American champion Frank Marshall, winning his game.

Very little competitive chess took place during the First World War, but he returned to the board in 1919, playing in a 40-board simul against Capablanca in Thornton Heath. His club affiliation was given as Richmond rather than Putney, confirming that, in spite of moving out of the immediate area, he was still a member of Richmond Chess Club.

In 1934, with their family name now famous in Whitton, Charles and Emily celebrated their Golden Wedding. The report in the local press provides some interesting detail about Charles’s wide range of interests.

South Western Star 02 March 1934

It’s sad that Charles was unable to take part in the festivities. He died just over a year later, on 7 March 1935. Emily survived another 21 years, into her 90s, outliving four of her sons and remaining at home until the end.

Charles wasn’t the only one of his siblings interested in chess, although he appears to have been the only active player.

Readers of a certain age may recall a London chess book shop called Frank Hollings. One of Charles’s brothers, William Edward Redway (1865-1946), ran the business for about 40 years until his death, selling and occasionally publishing chess books. Edward Winter provides some information in this fascinating article.

Another brother, George William Redway (1859-1934), was also a bookseller and publisher, specialising in books on the occult. An announcement was made in 1895 that he was going to publish Lasker’s book Common Sense in Chess, but the arrangement, if indeed there was one, seems to have fallen through. The American edition was published by the New Amsterdam Book Company in 1895 and the European edition jointly by Bellairs & Co London, Mayer & Müller Berlin and the British Chess Company the following year.

You might wonder whether any current residents of Redway Drive are aware of the Redway family and their chess connections. Perhaps two of them are: when visiting the Chess Palace a few years ago, noted chess historian Jimmy Adams told me that his sister and her husband lived in Redway Drive (her husband is a rugby fan and wanted to be near Twickenham Stadium).

Here’s what the road looks like in 2022.

Photograph: Richard James

It’s a bit different, 90 years on from the photograph at the beginning of this article.

Photograph: Richard James

Here you have it – the road, and estate, named after Charles Percy Redway, whose father was one of our great predecessors in the early years of Richmond Chess Club. Join me again soon for some more Richmond Chess Club members from the first decade of the last century.

Acknowledgements and sources:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

‘Whitton Memories’ Facebook group

Wikipedia

Twickenham Museum website

britainfromabove.org.uk

chessgames.com

BritBase

EdoChess

Chess Notes (Edward Winter)

Lyrics from At the Zoo (Paul Simon)

 

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Minor Pieces 30: Thomas Etheridge Harper

If you’ve been following these articles you’ll have met quite a lot of Twickenham Chess Club members from the 1880s and 1890s. You might have noticed they all had several things in common.

They were all male, and, although they followed a wide variety of occupations, they were all from well-off upper middle class backgrounds. There was a bit of social mobility, it’s true: Wallace Britten came from relatively humble origins, while on the other hand, Arthur Sabin Coward’s family had some problems caused perhaps by his fondness for the demon drink.

For several years the club advertised in the Surrey Comet at the start of the season. This is from 1889 when timber merchant’s clerk John May Gwyn (1860-1930)  had just taken over as club secretary from Wallace Britten.

Surrey Comet 02 November 1889

Note that it welcomes ‘gentlemen’ – not ladies and certainly not working class plebs. (The annual Gentlemen v Players cricket matches, the first of which were played in 1806, were very important at the time, and would continue until 1962.) Following our investigation into the life and career of George Edward Wainwright we have one more gentleman to meet.

In March 1896 Twickenham scored a notable success against the powerful Metropolitan Chess Club (still going strong today). You’ll see some familiar names there: members of the Humphreys and Ryan families, for example, but with a new name on top board: T E Harper won his game against James Mortimer, a regular competitor in international tournaments.

Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News 04 April 1896

He also won the 1895-6 Handicap Tournament of Twickenham Chess Club with a perfect score, so he was clearly a strong player.

Morning Post 15 June 1896

Was he a promising youngster? No – he was a much older player who had just moved into the area.

Thomas Etheridge Harper, a solicitor by profession, had been born in Suffolk village of Hitcham: his birth was registered in the second quarter of 1839. He married Mary Jane Cousins in Dorking, Surrey in 1866, and, in between having 11 children, moved around quite a bit, spending time in North London, Hertfordshire and Essex before moving to Richmond, presumably round about 1894.

The 1901 census found Thomas and Mary Jane at 100 Sheen Park, Richmond, just off Sheen Road very near the Red Cow, where Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club met in the 1960s, along with their two youngest children.

It seems like he may have had previous form: there are records of a T Harper playing in handicap tournaments in London in 1869 and 1871, giving odds to the likes of Augustus Mongredien Junior and the artist Wyke Bayliss, both pretty strong amateurs, playing the wonderfully named problemist Edward Nathan Frankenstein, and only taking odds from Cecil de Vere.  It seems quite likely this is the same player.

(Just as an aside, there’s more about Wyke Bayliss in this highly recommended book.)

Rod Edwards also asks: A ‘Harper’ played against Janssens in 1859 (see Chess Player’s Chronicle, 1860, p.60) and in a consultation game with Zytogorski against Harrwitz and Healey in 1863 (see Chess Note 4783). Is this the same ‘Harper’?  I guess it’s possible. Especially when you come across this problem, composed by T E Harper of London.

White to play and mate in 4 moves (Norfolk News 5 January 1861)

Why not have a go at solving it yourself? The solution is at the end of the article.

This was presumably the same T E Harper, who was the secretary of the Sussex Hall Chess Club, which seems to have met in Sussex Hall, Leadenhall Street, London, the livery hall of the Bricklayers’ Company. Was it our man? The chances are it was,  but I don’t know for certain.

So it seems he was briefly active around 1860, again around 1870, but then, as it does, life got in the way, and he was only able to return to the game once his children had grown up and his work commitments, perhaps, lessened. Moving into an area not far from a strong chess club would also have helped.

A few months after Thomas Etheridge Harper’s success the club had an important announcement to make.

Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News 24 October 1896

There you have it: Twickenham Chess Club changed its name when it moved down the road to Teddington, to the Clarence Hotel, now the Park, right by the station a couple of minutes from the Adelaide.

(Further articles will reveal how the Thames Valley Chess Club eventually merged with Kingston Chess Club. So the players you’ve been reading about over the past few months have, in effect, not been my great predecessors at Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club, but the great predecessors of my friends at Kingston Chess Club.)

I guess it made sense: most of the club administrators, then as now, lived in the Twickenham and Teddington area. The move would have not been such good news for those who, like Thomas Etheridge Harper, lived the other side of the river.

But no matter: there was a new kid on the block, a new club which really was the predecessor of the current Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club, and Harper was already a member.

Here’s the Morning Post in 1894.

Morning Post 22 October 1894

The Castle, right by the river and opposite the Town Hall, where Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club would meet for a few years in the early 1970s, would, in 1912, be the venue for the British Championship, and whose proprietor back in 1851, Benjamin Bull, was the grandfather of future Twickenham and Durban Chess Club champion Cecil Alfred Lucas Bull.

When the Richmond & Twickenham Times is finally digitised I’ll be able to find out more, but perhaps Mr H L Pring was the new club’s prime mover. Horace Lyddon Pring (1870-1938) seems to have been an ambitious young man. (His name appears in various sources as ‘Mr Bruin’ and ‘Mr Priory’: perhaps his handwriting wasn’t especially legible.)

Surrey Comet 06 October 1894

Sadly, the local library refused to display an advertisement for the new club, but Horace can only be praised for making the effort. Some 70 years later, when my mother asked in the local library about chess clubs, they were only too happy to point her in the direction of what had only fairly recently become Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club.

He was soon arranging matches, but at this point they were only strong enough to take on Twickenham’s 2nd team.

Surrey Comet 09 February 1895

By now, chess leagues providing competitions between clubs were in full sway, and Richmond started to take part in leagues run by the Surrey County Chess Association. The Surrey Trophy was first played for in the 1883-4 season, and in 1895-96 a second division, the Beaumont Cup was added. Both these competitions – with a number of lower divisions as well – are still popular and successful today.

Richmond entered the Beaumont Cup and, in 1896-97 were successful in winning the trophy.

Westminster Gazette 12 June 1897

Twickenham/Thames Valley, being north of the Thames, were presumably not eligible for Surrey competitions, although an unsuccessful attempt had been made to play in the London League, founded in 1888, in 1893. Twickenham entered the second division but had to withdraw as they were unable to field enough players.

For now, let’s return to our protagonist, Thomas Etheridge Harper. He soon found himself playing on top board for the young and upwardly mobile Richmond Chess Club with considerable success.

At that point there were close connections between Richmond and Windsor Chess Clubs, and two friendly matches, one at each club’s venue were arranged every year. The Windsor and Eton Express, with great excitement, published colourfully breathless reports of these encounters.

This, perhaps, was the first.

Windsor and Eton Express 25 April 1896

You’ll notice a few points of interest. The Richmond Chess Club had moved from the Castle Hotel to the Station Hotel, and, only 2½ years after its foundation, with no assistance from social media, or even notices in libraries, already had 40 active members. Pretty good going, I think, from the enterprising young Mr Pring and his colleagues. You’ll also see that Windsor had a celebrity top board in Sir Walter Parratt, Master of the Queen’s Musick, who was paired against our protagonist Thomas Etheridge Harper.

After winning the Beaumont Cup, Richmond ambitiously decided to enter the Surrey Trophy, the competition to discover the strongest club in the county. In this 1899 match, against a powerful South Norwood team (they’re still active in Surrey today) they found the going rather too tough.

Norwood News 04 February 1899

Here,  the only specimen of Harper’s play I’ve been able to find (if you come across any more do let me know) is his loss on top board against Arthur James Maas (1857-1933). Maas is certainly worth a future Minor Piece: he showed considerable promise in chess as a teenager, but preferred to focus on his work with the Anglo-Swiss Milk Company (now part of Nestlé) where he claimed to have been the first to suggest selling milk in tins.

It’s clear from the way the Norwood News introduced the game that Harper had a big reputation as a solid player.

Norwood News 04 February 1899

Thomas Etheridge Harper’s last match for Richmond I’ve been able to find so far was in 1902. At some point he moved from Richmond to Surbiton: the 1911 census recorded Thomas, still working as a solicitor, his wife and a domestic servant at 323 Ewell Road. He died there on 6 January 1915 at the age of 76 (according to official records, but by my calculations, unless his birth was registered very late he was 75), leaving £632 9s 2d to his wife. His probate record also gives an address in the City of London, presumably the address of his legal practice.

It appears he was a strong player who, due to demands of work and family, played very little chess over the years. He should be remembered for his part played in developing Richmond Chess Club in the early years of its existence.

Join me again very soon as I introduce you to some more members of Richmond Chess Club in the 1890s.

Problem solution: 1. Ra5+! Kxa5 2. Rb5+ Ka4 3. Ra5+! Kxa5 4. Bc3#

Sources/credits:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

EdoChess.ca

Wikipedia

Annotations using Stockfish 14/ChessBase

Various other sources: links above.

 

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Minor Pieces 28: George Edward Wainwright Part 3

This is the third post in my series about George Edward Wainwright, sometime member of Twickenham, Guildford and Surbiton Chess Clubs, and one of the strongest English amateurs of his day.

You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

American Chess Magazine 1898: taken from a public member tree on ancestry.co.uk

We left George in Surbiton in 1911, happily married, with four children and an important job in local government.

That summer he travelled abroad to play chess for the first time. He was playing top board for a team of members and friends of Hastings Chess Club who embarked on a tour of France and Switzerland, scoring 4½/5. I guess he was a friend, rather than a member.

Here’s a game from their match against the Union Amicale des Amateurs de la Régence, where he encountered the Russian diplomat Vassily Soldatenkov. (Click on any move of any game in this article and a Magic Pop-up Chessboard should, with any luck, appear.)

At this point he took a break from tournament chess, not playing in either the 1911 British Championship in Glasgow or the 1911-12 City of London Championship.

He wasn’t inactive, though: in November he took part in a simul at the City of London Club against the up and coming young Cuban Capablanca, where he managed to win his game.

In 1912 he didn’t have far to go for the British Championship, which took place just up the road from him in Richmond – the Castle Assembly Rooms to be precise, down by the river and opposite the Town Hall. Again, he didn’t take part, but was there as a visitor. (I’m considering a future series of Minor Pieces about some of the chessers who descended on Richmond that year.)

Wainwright was back in action in the 1912-13 City of London Championship, but without success. A large entry that year required three qualifying sections, with three qualifiers from each section making the final pool. He was well down the field in his section.

Throughout his life he remained loyal to his home county of Yorkshire: in those days there was no problem representing both Surrey and Yorkshire in county matches.

In this game from a Yorkshire – Middlesex match played in Leicester (a neutral venue) he beat one of his regular London opponents and a future Kingston resident.

Just two days  later he took part in another simul against Capablanca, forsaking his usual tactical style and, after his opponent’s ill-advised queen trade, winning in the manner of – Capablanca.

The following year, he did better in the City of London Championship, this time qualifying for the finals by winning this game against a young Dutch master who had crossed the Channel hoping to make money by beating rich Englishmen.

By now it was 1914 and storm clouds were gathering over Europe. The London League kept going for one more season. Wainwright was representing the Lud Eagle club and won this game featuring a rather unusual sacrificial kingside attack in a match against West London. His opponent, William Henry Regan, was a stamp and coin dealer.

The City of London Championship managed to keep going for the duration, albeit with far fewer entries, giving George Edward Wainwright the opportunity to continue playing his favourite game.

He didn’t play in 1914-15 or 1915-16, but returned to the fray in 1916-17. Understandably rusty, he finished in last place behind Edward Guthlac Sergeant. The following year, fulfilling the prophecy from Matthew 20:16 (The last shall be first), later repeated by Bob Dylan (The loser now will be later to win) he shared first place with Philip Walsingham Sergeant (EG’s second cousin) and Edmund MacDonald, winning the play-off and so taking the title for the second time.

He was unsuccessful in defending his title in 1918-19, finishing in midfield behind the Latvian master Theodor Germann as chess started to wake up again following the end of hostilities.

In 1919 the British Chess Federation celebrated with a Victory Tournament in Hastings, where Capablanca won the top section ahead of Kostic. The Ladies’ Championship was included but the title of British Champion itself wasn’t awarded. While in the country, Capa gave a simul at the City of London Club, and, for a third time, lost against Wainwright.

Meanwhile, there were some important changes in Wainwright’s personal life. There was a major reconstruction of local government in 1919: the Local Government Board was abolished, its powers being transferred to the newly created Ministry of Health. It seems likely that at this point Wainwright, a wealthy gentleman whose children had now grown up, decided to retire. At some point in 1920 he and his wife moved to Alice’s home village of Box, Wiltshire. Box is situated in the beautiful Cotswolds, on the A4 between the city of Bath and the market town of Corsham.

The village’s previous claim to chess fame was as the birthplace of Thomas Bowdler (1754-1825), who, when he wasn’t expunging Shakespeare’s rude words, was one of the strongest English players of his day.

The Wainwright family settled in a cottage called Netherby, near the centre of the village, now a Grade 2 listed building. Very charming it looks too.

Source: Google Maps

The Reverend Vere Awdry and his family moved into Lorne House (now a Bed & Breakfast establishment), next to the railway station on the road to Corsham, also in 1920. They’d arrived in the village in 1917, and had lived at two previous addresses there. He and his young son Wilbert used to spend hours watching the steam trains pass by. Many years later, Wilbert, now the Reverend W Awdry, would be inspired by this memory to write the Thomas the Tank Engine books, much loved by generations of young children, including me. George and Vere, as prominent members of the village community, would surely have known each other, and George would have known young Wilbert as well.

By 1920 things were back to normal, and George Edward Wainwright, now retired, was one of those selected for the British Championship in Edinburgh: his first appearance for a decade. His address was given as London and Box in different newspapers, which suggests he’d just moved, or was in the process of moving.

Roland Henry Vaughan Scott was the slightly surprising winner, ahead of the hot favourite Sir George Alan Thomas. Wainwright scored a respectable 4½/11, not bad for a player in his late 50s.

In this game he launched a dangerous kingside attack in typical style, and his opponent wasn’t up to the defensive task. Scottish champion Francis Percival (Percy) Wenman, a former petty thief (of chess books) and later plagiarist, will be well worth a future Minor Piece.

It was now 1921 and time for the census enumerator to pay a visit to the Wainwright residence in Box. George and Alice were there, along with a visitor from Bradford, possibly a family friend, and a general servant.

You’ll find out what happened in the latter stages of his life and chess career next time.

Sources:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

Wikipedia

Google Maps

edochess.ca

chessgames.com

Britbase

Thanks to Gerard Killoran for information about Wainwright’s simul games against Capablanca.

 

 

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Minor Pieces 26: George Edward Wainwright Part 1

The Field 19 March 1892

Here’s a match from 1892 between Twickenham Chess Club and the National Liberal Club Chess Club (sounds a bit like Battersea Power Station Station, doesn’t it?).

There are some familiar names among Twickenham’s successful players, but you’ll also see that their strongest player Mr G E Wainwright, an amateur champion of the British Chess Association, was absent.

A name we haven’t seen in other matches, but a very significant one. Players like Ryan, Britten and Fox were strong club players (round about 2000-2200 by today’s standards, I guess, but George Edward Wainwright was a genuine master standard player.

Here he is, from a few years later. Very few photographs seem to have survived.

American Chess Magazine 1898: taken from a public member tree on ancestry.co.uk

George Edward Wainwright was born in Redcar, a seaside resort in North Yorkshire, on 2 November 1861.  His father, David, was originally a chemist but later became an independent minister of religion. David sadly died before young George reached his first birthday, and the family moved to Bradford, where his mother Annie (Ann Eliza Tetley) worked as a schoolteacher. At some point before the 1891 census they moved north to the spa town of Ilkley, whose Moor is famous in song. (Ilkley is also famous for its splendid new chess centre, one of whose instigators is Andrew Wainwright. I have no idea at present whether or not he’s related.)

George was a pupil at Bradford Grammar School, where, I’d assume, he learnt chess. In June 1880 he represented his school in a match against the Old Boys. He won an exhibition to University College Oxford later that year, and, the following year was awarded a Classical Scholarship involving five years of study.

Oxford Men and Their Colleges 1880-1892

He was the Treasurer, and later President, of the chess club there and played five times in Varsity matches: on board 6 in 1881 and on board 2 in the subsequent four years. It looks like he improved very rapidly in his first year at Oxford. In March 1882, the University team played a series of matches in which he scored 8½/9, including two wins on top board against the Rev Charles Ranken in a match against former Oxford students.

This game comes from the 1883 Varsity Match. The analysis of all games in this article was produced using Stockfish 14 in ChessBase. Click on any move to display a pop-up board.

After Oxford, it was time for George to find a job – and a wife. On 7 September 1886 he married Alice Margaret Pictor, from the village of Box, in Wiltshire, six miles or so from the city of Bath. The young couple settled in Chiswick, where their first two children, George Edward junior (1887) and Philip Francis (1889) were born.

Here, from shortly before his marriage, is a game from a club match.

George had obtained a clerical job in the Civil Service, working for the Local Government Board, which supervised public health, poor relief and local government, and was also responsible for the registration of births, marriages and deaths. There’s a suggestion in an obituary that he was working on Births, Marriages and Deaths at Somerset House for at least part of his career. I’d assume that some LGB employees would have been based within local government throughout the country, and, if we follow his movements, this might have been the case with George Edward Wainwright.

At some point round about 1890 the family moved to Teddington, and it’s there we find them in the 1891 census. They’re living in a house called St Ronan’s in Kingston Road. This seems to have been next door to the Catholic church close to the junction with Fairfax Road and opposite Normansfield Hospital. (The wonderful theatre is often used as a venue for operas and concerts, and the Museum of Learning Difficulties, well worth a visit, features an information board about Reginald Saunderson.)

As you’d expect, George junior and Philip are there, along with George’s mother Ann, a retired schoolmistress, a 21-year-old cousin named Nelly Fenton and two young servants, Annie Beauchamp and Emily Riley. Although he’s just described as a clerk, he’d already, because of his academic qualifications, be pretty high up and doing well for himself. Alice, of course, was also at home, heavily pregnant with the couple’s only daughter, who would be born that May and given the names Constance Margaret. A third son, David, would be born in 1894.

If George walked back up Kingston Road towards Teddington, he’d soon have what would later become Bushy Park Road on his left (an OS map from a few years later shows it under construction), where, some 40 years later, the Misses Ada and Louisa Padbury would sell ham and beef. A turning on the right a bit further up named Cornelius Road was not at that point built up, but in the 1900s would acquire houses and a new name in honour of the reigning monarch: King Edward’s Grove. It was there that, in the 1920s, one of his future opponents, Edward Guthlac Sergeant, would briefly make his home, and also where the Misses Padbury would move after retiring from their Ham and Beef Stores. Their great nephew would spend the first two years of his life there as well,  but that’s another story for another time and place.

George had been very active in chess circles through the later 1880s, most notably winning the British Amateur Championship in 1889. On moving to Teddington, he would have wasted no time joining Twickenham Chess Club. But with a growing family, and, you would imagine, increasing responsibility at work, he played less often during the 1890s, contenting himself with club and county matches.

On 7 April 1894, for example, he was on Board 19 in a 108-board match between the South and North of England, where he drew his game against our old friend (and possibly my distant relation by marriage) Edwin Marriott.

Lots of great names there on both sides, some of whom will be featured later in this series, but Wainwright’s position on board 19 suggests that he wasn’t regarded as any more than a strong amateur at that point. He was still, in 1894, representing Middlesex, but he was soon to move, and to leave Twickenham Chess Club.

By 1895 he was living in Guildford, joining the local club and now representing Surrey in county chess.

This game from a county match demonstrates that George was a player with an enterprising style and considerable tactical ability.

The administrative headquarters of Surrey County Council moved from Newington (Southwark) to the newly built County Hall in Kingston in 1893: perhaps he was involved in some way. It’s also possible his job might have then taken him to Guildford, which would explain the move. Perhaps, though, he was commuting to the capital from nearby London Road station, which had opened in 1885. A train would have taken him directly to Waterloo, from where Somerset House was a short walk across the bridge.

With his family now growing he seems to have had more time for chess, and in 1898, as a result of games like the one below, he had come to the attention of the national selectors, being picked as a reserve for the Great Britain team in their third annual cable match against the United States of America.

The following year, he was in the team facing a promising young tactician named Frank Marshall.

A long and exciting game ensued, in which our man was perhaps fortunate to escape into a fortress-like draw.

It seems that, by now in his late 30s, George Edward Wainwright was approaching the peak of his powers over the chessboard.

The 1901 census located the family in the parish of Stoke next Guildford. George, described as a Principal for the Local Government Board, and Alice were at home, along with their three youngest children, George’s mother, a governess to help look after the youngsters, a cook and a housemaid. George junior, meanwhile, was boarding at Pilgrim House School, Westerham, Kent.

We’ll leave him there for the time being, a senior civil servant working for the Local Government Board, a family man, and an English international chess player renowned for his dashing attacks.

The story of George Edward Wainwright’s life and chess career will be continued in the next Minor Piece.

If you want more, and, if you enjoy attacking chess or British chess history you certainly should, historian Gerard Killoran, who lives in Wainwright’s home town, Ilkley, is currently working on a biography. I can’t wait to read it.

Sources:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk/British Newspaper Collection

MegaBase 2022

EDO historical chess ratings (Rod Edwards)

Yorkshire Chess History (Steve Mann)

chessgames.com

BritBase

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Movers and Takers: A Chess History of Streatham and Brixton 1871-2021

From the Introduction:

Movers and Takers is the 150-year story of Streatham and Brixton Chess Club, and of chess in our neighbourhood.

It begins with two separate clubs in Victorian times – one in north Brixton, the other in Streatham – amid the outburst of enthusiasm for chess in the expanding suburbs. The two clubs amalgamated half way through the story. Movers and Takers charts the cycles of ups and downs, the periods of feast and famine, the championship victories, and the dismal defeats of these clubs over a century and a half up to the present day.

You will meet the characters who made up the club during its long journey. There have been strong players who changed the club’s fortunes before they moved on. And there have been many average ones, who have yet been the lifeblood of the club, devoted to their passion, who sustained it through thick and thin. You will also meet players who, though not members, have passed through our neighbourhood while leaving their footprint on the wider chess landscape. They may grab our attention for that they did off the board as much as on it.

 

Streatham and Brixton Chess Club celebrated its 150th birthday last year, and one of their members, Martin Smith, has written a history of chess in that part of South London, taking the club through the Victorian era, two world wars, the English Chess Explosion and into a global pandemic.

The book was written for The Streatham Society, a local amenity group whose publications include volumes on local history, so its target market is residents and historians as much as chess players. There is, however, a selection of games at the end, roughly one for each decade of the club’s history, featuring a wide range of players, from world champions down to small children.

The current club traces its history to a club in North Brixton, originally named Endeavour, which appears to have been founded in 1871. By 1875 it was already considered one of the strongest suburban clubs, although at the time, in the very early days of chess clubs outside city centres, it was very much weaker than those in central London. It then went into hibernation for a few years before starting up again in 1879 and, within a few years, dropping Endeavour and becoming just Brixton Chess Club.

The club thrived, and was, albeit with some ups and downs recorded here, a powerful force in Surrey chess up to the First World War and on into the 1920s and beyond.

Brixton’s more genteel suburban neighbour, Streatham, acquired its chess club in 1886, but for much of its history it was not as strong as its more northerly counterpart. But by the 1930s, while Brixton’s fortunes were fading, Streatham was flourishing. Both clubs suspended activities during the Second World War, and, once competitive chess resumed, they agreed to merge, becoming the Streatham and Brixton club well known today in Surrey, London and national chess circles.

Martin Smith’s book offers an engrossing whistle-stop tour of 150 years of South London chess history. We meet a lot of famous people who have pushed pawns in this part of our capital, whether as residents, club members or visiting simul givers, from the likes of Staunton and Lasker, through to Harry Golombek in the inter-war years and Ray Keene in the 1960s, and then the likes of Julian Hodgson and Daniel King from the club’s more recent glory days. We also meet a variety of colourful characters such as occultist Aleister Crowley and Broadmoor problemist Walter Stephens, as well as a whole host of devoted administrators and organisers, the often unsung heroes who are the backbone of any successful club.

The Felce dynasty were prominent as organisers in Surrey chess for three generations. Here’s Harold, their strongest player, defending coolly against an unsound sacrifice to score a notable victory against the great Sultan Khan. Click on any more to display the game in a pop-up window.

The author does an excellent job of placing the club within its local community. We learn about the changing role of chess in society through the Victorian era and how this was reflected in the growth of clubs such as Brixton and the development of leagues in London and Surrey. There’s also a lot about the girls and women who played chess in the area: there were a surprising number, from Vera Menchik through to 1960s girl star Linda Bott (seen, below, at the age of 8) and beyond. Junior chess in general, of course, plays a big part in the latter half of the story: we learn about the popularity of chess in local schools, the pioneering books for young children written by Ray Bott and Stanley Morrison, and the sterling work done by Nigel Povah (whose grandfather was a prominent Streatham administrator) in coaching top juniors and introducing them to the club.

I wonder whether Linda’s 20th move in this game was an oversight (it’s very easy to miss backward diagonal moves) or a move displaying precocious tactical awareness. Only she would know.

Works like this are important in explaining the background behind club chess, and, if the subject appeals, this book won’t fail to please. You might see it as complementing my Minor Pieces articles, particularly those involved with Richmond and Twickenham players, and, given that Martin and I have discussed our respective ideas over several pints during the course of his research, you’ll understand where we’re both coming from. It’s very well written and copiously illustrated throughout: the expertly chosen photographs and press cuttings add enormously to the story.

I’m sure it would have been easy (perhaps even easier) for Martin to have written a book two or three times its length, and as a chess player you’d perhaps like to have seen more chess as well, but, given the limitations of writing primarily for a non-chess playing readership, he has done an outstanding job in compressing the story into a relatively short volume. Perhaps he might consider an expanded version for private publication.

I did spot a few minor mistakes: misspelt or incorrect names and incorrect dates, for example, but this won’t spoil your enjoyment of the book. Strongly recommended for anyone with any interest at all in the history of British – and London – chess over the past 150 years.

If you’d like to buy a copy, the book can be ordered by providing a postal address to SFChess@btinternet.com, who will provide a/c details for payment of £12.50 plus £2.50 P&P.

Richard James, Twickenham 14 January 2022

Richard James

  • Published: November 2021
  • Publisher: Local History Publications for The Streatham Society in association with Streatham and Brixton Chess Club.
  • Softcover 116 pages (A4)
  • ISBN 978 1 910722 17 6
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Remembering GM Dr. Jonathan Penrose OBE (07-x-1933 30-xi-2021)

IM Dr. Jonathan Penrose OBE in the garden of Brian Reilly
IM Dr. Jonathan Penrose OBE in the garden of Brian Reilly

BCN remembers GM Dr. Jonathan Penrose OBE who passed away on Tuesday, November 30th, 2021.

In the 1971 New Years Honours List Jonathan was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) The citation read “For services to Chess.”

In 1993 following representations by Bob Wade and Leonard Barden FIDE granted the title of Grandmaster to Jonathan. Here is a detailed discussion of that process. Note that this was not an Honorary title (as received by Jacques Mieses and Harry Golombek).

From British Chess (Pergamon Press, 1983) by Botterill, Levy, Rice and Richardson : (article by George Botterill)

“Penrose is one of the outstanding figures of British chess. Yet many who meet him may not realize this just because he is one of the quietest and most modest of men. Throughout the late 1950s and the whole of the 1960s he stood head and shoulders above any of his contemporaries.

See caption below
See caption below
Press agency caption for photograph above
Press agency caption for photograph above

His extraordinary dominance is revealed by the fact that he won the British championship no less than ten times (1958-63 and 1966-69, inclusive), a record that nobody is likely to equal in the future.

At his best his play was lucid, positionally correct, energetic and tactically acute. None the less, there is a ‘Penrose problem’: was he a ‘Good Thing’ for British chess? The trouble was that whilst this highly talented player effectively crushed any opposition at home, he showed little initiative in flying the flag abroad. There is a wide-spread and justifiable conviction that only lack of ambition in the sphere of international chess can explain why he did not secure the GM title during his active over-the-board playing career.

See caption below
See caption below
Press agency caption for above photograph
Press agency caption for above photograph

It would be unjust, however, to blame Penrose for any of this. The truth is simply that he was not a professional chessplayer, and indeed he flourished in
a period in which chess playing was not a viable profession in Britain. But even if the material awards available had been greater Penrose would almost certainly have chosen to remain an amateur. For he was cast in that special intellectual and ethical tradition of great British amateurs like H. E. Atkins, Sir George Thomas and Hugh Alexander before him.

Travel Chess 2nd January 1951: British chess champions Jonathan Penrose and Leonard Barden ponder over a portable travel game in a restaurant. (Photo by Walter Bellamy/Express/Getty Images)
Travel Chess
2nd January 1951: British chess champions Jonathan Penrose and Leonard Barden ponder over a portable travel game in a restaurant. (Photo by Walter Bellamy/Express/Getty Images)

His family background indicates early academic inclinations in a cultural atmosphere in which chess was merely a game something at which one excelled through sheer ability, but not to be ranked alongside truly serious work. It is noteworthy that Penrose, unique in this respect amongst British chess masters, has never written at any length about the game. He has had other matters to concentrate on when away from the board, being a lecturer in psychology. (His father, Professor L. S. Penrose, was a distinguished geneticist.)

IM Dr. Jonathan Penrose OBE
IM Dr. Jonathan Penrose OBE

Being of slight physique and the mildest and most amiable of characters, it is probably also true that Penrose lacked the toughness and ‘killer instinct’ required to reach the very top. Nervous tension finally struck him down in a dramatic way when he collapsed during play in the Siegen Olympiad of 1970. We can take that date as the end of the Penrose era.

Jonathan Penrose Chess Grandmaster Jonathan Penrose pictured during a chess match, circa 1960. (Photo by Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Jonathan Penrose
Chess Grandmaster Jonathan Penrose pictured during a chess match, circa 1960. (Photo by Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images))

Since, then though he has not by any means entirely given up, his involvement in the nerve-wracking competitions of over-the-board play has been greatly reduced. instead he has turned to correspondence chess, which is perhaps the ideal medium for his clear strategy and deep and subtle analysis. So Penrose’s career it not over. He has moved to another, less stressful province of the kingdom of chess.

IM Dr. Jonathan Penrose OBE
IM Dr. Jonathan Penrose OBE

For the first game, however, we shall turn the clock right back to 1950 and the see the Penrose in the role of youthful giant killer.

From The Encyclopedia of Chess (BT Batsford, 1977) by Harry Golombek :

“British international master and ten times British Champion, Penrose was born in Colchester and came from a chess-playing family.

Lionel Sharples Penrose, FRS (11 June 1898 – 12 May 1972)
Lionel Sharples Penrose, FRS (11 June 1898 – 12 May 1972)

His father and mother (Margaret)  both played chess and his father, Professor Lionel Sharples Penrose, in addition to being a geneticist of world-wide fame, was a strong chess-player and a good endgame composer. Jonathan’s older brother Oliver, was also a fine player.

Oliver Penrose FRS FRSE (born 6 June 1929) is a British theoretical physicist
Oliver Penrose FRS FRSE (born 6 June 1929) is a British theoretical physicist

Roger Penrose won the Nobel prize for physics in 2020.

Roger Penrose. Nobel Laureate
Roger Penrose. Nobel Laureate

Shirley Hodgson (née Penrose) is a high flying geneticist.

Prof. Shirley Hodgson
Prof. Shirley Hodgson

Jonathan learnt chess at the age of four, won the British Boys championship at thirteen and by the time he was fifteen was playing in the British Championship in Felixstowe in 1949.

Press agency caption for photograph above
Press agency caption for photograph above
Press agency caption for photograph above
Press agency caption for photograph above

A little reluctant to participate in international tournaments abroad, he did best in the British Championship which he won a record number of times, once more than HE Atkins. He won the title consecutively from 1958 to 1963 and again from 1966 to 1969.

Boy Chess Champion. New York Times photo shows 14 year old J. Penrose 14 year old by chess champion of Britain, in play at the British Chess Championships at Bishopsgate Institute today. He has had great success in the tournament so far, beating men far above his age and experience. 2nd September 1948. Photograph by Reginald Webster
Boy Chess Champion. New York Times photo shows 14 year old J. Penrose 14 year old by chess champion of Britain, in play at the British Chess Championships at Bishopsgate Institute today. He has had great success in the tournament so far, beating men far above his age and experience. 2nd September 1948. Photograph by Reginald Webster
Press agency caption for photograph above
Press agency caption for photograph above

He also played with great effect in nine Olympiads. Playing on a high board for practically all the time, he showed himself the equal of the best grandmasters and indeed, at the Leipzig Olympiad he distinguished himself by beating Mikhail Tal, thereby becoming the first British player to defeat a reigning World Champion since Blackburne beat Lasker in 1899.

ARB Thomas and Jonathan Penrose at the Hastings Congress of 1950/1951
ARB Thomas and Jonathan Penrose at the Hastings Congress of 1950/1951

Jonathan Penrose vs Mikhail Tal, Leipzig Olympiad, 1960, 1-0, Modern Benoni
Jonathan Penrose vs Mikhail Tal, Leipzig Olympiad, 1960, 1-0, Modern Benoni

A deep strategist who could also hold his own tactically, he suffered from the defect of insufficient physical stamina and it was this that was to bring about a decline in his play and in his results. He collapsed during a game at the Ilford Chess Congress, and a year later, at the Siegen Olympiad of 1970, he had a more serious collapse that necessitated his withdrawal from the event after the preliminary groups had been played. The doctors found nothing vitally wrong with him that his physique could not sustain.

He continued to play but his results suffered from a lack of self-confidence and at the Nice Olympiad of 1974 he had a wretched result on board 3, winning only 1 game and losing 6 out of 15.

Darga V Penrose 29th December 1955: Klaus Darga of Germany in play against Britain's Jonathan Penrose during the International Chess Congress at Hastings. (Photo by Folb/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
Darga V Penrose
29th December 1955: Klaus Darga of Germany in play against Britain’s Jonathan Penrose during the International Chess Congress at Hastings. (Photo by Folb/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

Possibly too his profession (a lecturer in psychology) was also absorbing him more and more and too part less and less in international and national chess.

Jonathan Penrose
Jonathan Penrose

Yet, he had already done enough to show that he was the equal of the greatest British players in his command and understanding of the game and he ranks alongside Staunton, Blackburne, Atkins and CHO’D Alexander as a chess figure of world class.”

Here is his Wikipedia entry

From The Oxford Companion to Chess by Hooper & Whyld :

“The leading English player during the 1960s, International Master (1961), International Correspondence Chess Master (1980), lecturer in psychology. Early in his chess career Penrose decided to remain an amateur and as a consequence played in few international tournaments. He won the British Championship from 1958 to 1963 and from 1966 to 1969, ten times in all (a record); and he played in nine Olympiads from 1952 to 1974, notably scoring + 10=5 on first board at Lugano 1968, a result bettered only by the world champion Petrosyan.

IM Dr. Jonathan Penrose OBE
IM Dr. Jonathan Penrose OBE

In the early 1970s Penrose further restricted his chess because the stress of competitive play adversely affected his health.”

The second edition (1996) adds this :

“He turned to correspondence play, was the highest rated postal player in the world 1987-9, and led the British team to victory in the 9th Correspondence Olympiad.”

Here is a discussion about Jonathan on the English Chess Forum

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

“International Master (1961) and British Champion in 1958 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1969.

Jonathan Penrose was born in Colchester on 7th October 1933, the son of Professor LS Penrose, the well-known geneticist, who was also a strong player and composer of endgame studies.

The whole Penrose family plays chess and Jonathan learned the game when he was 4. At the age of 12 he joined Hampstead Chess Club and the following year played for Essex for the first time, won his first big tournament, the British Boys’ Championship, and represented England against Ireland in a boy’s match, which was the forerunner of the Glorney Cup competition, which came into being the following year.

By the time he was 17 Penrose was recognised as one of the big hopes of British Chess. Playing in the Hastings Premier Tournament for the first time in `1950 – 1951, he beat the French Champion Nicholas Rossolimo and at Southsea in 1950 he beat two International Grandmasters, Effim Bogoljubov and Savielly Tartakower.

Penrose played for the British Chess Federation in a number of Chess Olympiads since 1952. In 1960, at Leipzig, came one of the best performances of his career, when he beat the reigning World Champion, Mikhail Tal. He became the first British player to beat a reigning World Champion since JH Blackburne beat Emmanuel Lasker in 1899, and the first player to defeat Tal since he won the World Championship earlier that year. Penrose’s score in this Olympiad was only half-a-point short of the score required to qualify for the International Grandmaster title.

IM Dr. Jonathan Penrose OBE
IM Dr. Jonathan Penrose OBE

His ninth victory in the British Championships in 1968 equalled the record held by HE Atkins, who has held the title more times than any other player.

Penrose is a lecturer in psychology at Enfield College of Technology and has never been in a position to devote a great deal of time to the game. He is married to a former contender in the British Girls Championship and British Ladies’s Championship, Margaret Wood, daughter of Frank Wood, Hon. Secretary of the Oxfordshire Chess Association.

Again from British Chess : “In updating this report we find striking evidence of Penrose’s prowess as a correspondence player. Playing on board 4 for Britain in the 8th Correspondence Chess Olympiad he was astonishingly severe on the opposition, letting slip just one draw in twelve games! Here is one of the eleven wins that must change the assessment of a sharp Sicilian Variation.”

 

Penrose was awarded the O.B.E. for his services to chess in 1971.”

Penrose was Southern Counties Champion for 1949-50.

In 1983 Jonathan became England’s fifth Correspondence Grandmaster (CGM) following Keith Richardson, Adrian Hollis, Peter Clarke and Simon Webb.

Sadly, there is no existent book on the life and games of Jonathan Penrose : a serious omission in chess literature.

Dr. Jonathan Penrose OBE
Dr. Jonathan Penrose OBE
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Remembering IMC James Adams (04-ix-1921 27-vii-2013)

IMC James Adams (04-ix-1921 27-vii-2013)
IMC James Adams (04-ix-1921 27-vii-2013)

BCN remembers IMC James Adams who passed away aged 91 on July 27th, 2013 in Worcester Park, Kingston Upon Thames, Surrey.

James Frederick Adams was born on September 4th, 1921 in Lambeth. His parents were James J Adams (DoB: 10th October 1884) who was a plumber’s mate and Lucy M Adams (née Ayres, DoB: 22nd December 1886). He had an older brother who was William A Adams who was also a plumber’s mate and and Uncle George T (DoB: 8th March 1882) who was the plumber who presumably had many mates.

At the time of the 1939 register James was a telephone operator.

The Adams family lived at 52, Broadway Gardens, Mitcham, Surrey, CR4 4EE (rather than 001 Cemetery Lane)

52, Broadway Gardens, Mitcham, Surrey, CR4 4EE
52, Broadway Gardens, Mitcham, Surrey, CR4 4EE

From CHESS, 1991, March, page 91 we have:

“Whatever Happened to Human Effort?

I am giving up postal chess after 57 years for the reason that, like Jonathan Penrose and recently Nigel Short, I am increasingly disturbed over the increase in the use of computers in correspondence play. It is impossible to prove but one has the feeling that many opponents see nothing wrong in using a machine and I see no pleasure in having to bash one’s brains out against a computer. I am happy in the knowledge that I won my FIDE IM title long before dedicated chess computers were ever heard of. I shudder to think of the proliferation in the use of computers in a competition like the World CC Championship. I don’t wonder that Penrose objects.

Unfortunately, this is the sort of thing against which it is impossible to legislate. The BCCA has banned their use but it doesn’t mean a thing.

The latest monstrosity is where Kasparov plays a match against another GM and both are allowed to use computers whilst the game is in progress. To me, this is absolutely shocking. Dr. Nunn admits to the use of computers in the compilation of one of his books and I see that even ordinary annotators use a programme like Fritz to assist with their notes to a game. What happened to human effort?

Anyway, I have about five postal games left in progress and when they are finished I will call it a day.

Jim Adams
Worcester Park, Surrey

So who was Jim Adams?

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

The smoke-laden atmosphere of the chess rooms of St. Bride’s Institute, in the heart of the City of London, could hardly be considered a positive encouragement to any ambitions to become an International Master, but certainly this was so in my case. Let me explain the sequence of events.

Face-to-face, or over-the-board chess, had been my main interest since my war-time days as a member of the Civil Defence. Passing time between air-raids led to the adoption of many pastimes and an absorbing game such as chess was ideal. Fortunately for me, one of my ambulance station colleagues was a very fine player named A. F. (Algy) Battersby, later to become General Secretary of the British Correspondence Chess Association.

He had spent the greater part of the First World War playing chess in the Sinai Desert and, with his tremendous experience, he brought to the game strategical ideas and tactical skills that, in those early days, were well beyond my comprehension.

Arthur Frank Battersby, BIRTH 2 JUN 1887 • Brixton, Surrey, England  DEATH 11 APR 1955 • Surrey, England
Arthur Frank Battersby, BIRTH 2 JUN 1887 • Brixton, Surrey, England DEATH 11 APR 1955 • Surrey, England

‘Algy’ was kind enough to say some years afterwards that I was ‘the best pupil he ever had’, but whether this was true or not, he certainly passed on to me the theoretical groundwork that was to be so useful to me in later years. Among other books, he encouraged me to purchase the Nimzowitch classic My System, with the kindly warning that I would not understand it at first reading but would perhaps get some grasp of the ideas at a second or third attempt.

My System was a revelation to me and proved to be the greatest help to an understanding of the game that I had ever received. Up to my fortuitous meeting with ‘Algy’, my games had been of a simple tactical nature. Pieces were left en prise, oversights and blunders were the order of the day and an actual checkmate came as a surprise not only to the loser but often to the winner as well!

To win a game through sheer strength of position was completely unknown to me, but ‘Algy’ and Nimzowitch changed all that! Under their combined influence my general playing strength improved enormously and I was soon second only to ‘Algy’ in such tournaments as were held in my home town of Mitcham, where the local chess club was revived after the war.

Our club soon attracted a few strong players and we played regularly in county competitions and, later, the London Chess League. During those years chess was an absolute joy to me and all my spare time was spent at the local club or at chess matches, whilst Saturday afternoons were spent at the now defunct Gambit Chess Room, in Budge Row, where I passed countless hours playing chess, pausing only to order light refreshment from the indefatigable ‘Eileen’, a waitress of somewhat uncertain age who almost certainly regarded all chess players as raving lunatics!

The ‘Gambit’ could never have been a viable commercial proposition on what we bought and it was eventually thought necessary to introduce a minimum charge depending on the time of day. Gone for ever were the days when one could spend the entire evening playing chess, analysing, or having a crack at the local Kriegspiel experts, all for the price of two cups of tea and the occasional sandwich. Sadly, it all disappeared in the aftermath of the
war.

By 1950 I had become Match Captain of the Mitcham Chess Club and, of course, responsible for arranging various matches. Getting a team together was not difficult as the club membership was quite large for such a lowly club. The playing standard too was surprisingly high and whilst I, myself, was fortunate enough to win the club championship several times it was never easy.

On one occasion a ‘friendly’ match had been arranged with the BBC and all was well until a ‘flu epidemic a few days before the date of the match laid most of the Mitcham players low. On the morning of the match I was left with five players for a 1O-board match! As it was only a ‘friendly’ and in order to avoid disappointing all concerned I took myself off to the Gambit and recruited a few of the ‘regulars’ to help us out. It must be remembered that most of the strongest players in London frequented the ‘Gambit’ and since those pressganged into service were extremely strong players it seemed only courteous to give them the honour of playing on the top five boards, leaving the Mitcham ‘stars’ who, coincidentally, were our usual top board players, to bring up the rear.

Now this composite team, in my judgement, was probably good enough to win the London League A Division and it was no surprise when we won 10-0. Only a friendly indeed! Any Match Captain would have given his queen’s rook for such a team but, whilst the BBC players were warned beforehand of the composition of our team, they were not amused and further matches were not arranged!

Mr A Corish (right), receives the Chess Champion cup from Mr J Adams. 18th September 1958 from the Merton Advertiser, Photographer unknown.
Mr A Corish (right), receives the Chess Champion cup from Mr J Adams. 18th September 1958 from the Merton Advertiser, Photographer unknown.

Round about this time I was playing regularly in London League matches, nearly all of which were held at St. Bride’s Institute, where my story began. A non-smoker myself, I found the conditions intolerable. The place seemed to be completely airless and Government warnings about the dangers of smoking did not exist! not exist! Consequently, the entire playing area was reminiscent of the Black Hole of Calcutta! Always susceptible to headaches, I began to return home physically ill after every match. If this was playing chess for pleasure then something was wrong!

Mr A Corish (right), receives the Chess Champion cup from Mr J Adams. 18th September 1958 from the Merton Advertiser, Photographer unknown.
Mr A Corish (right), receives the Chess Champion cup from Mr J Adams. 18th September 1958 from the Merton Advertiser, Photographer unknown.

However, salvation was at hand. Ever since the war I had been playing a few games by post under the auspices of the BCCA (British Correspondence Chess Association ), and my somewhat traumatic experiences at St. Bride’s were beginning to make postal chess a far more attractive way of playing the
game. And so my chess career started all over again!

My correspondence chess activities up to the 1960s were not particularly successful, although I had managed to win three Premier Sections and finish
equal third in the British Correspondence Championship of 1962-63. However, during that time a group of BCCA players, of whom I was one, were
becoming somewhat dissatisfied with the Association’s attitude towards international chess and eventually a splinter group formed a rival organization which became known as the British Correspondence Chess Society.

The BCCS was, almost from the start, internationally orientated and it was possible to play foreign players, many of master strength. With strong opposition it seemed easier to improve and my first real success came in the Eberhardt Wilhelm Cup in 1966-67 when I was able to obtain the lM norm giving me a half=master title. However, gone were the days when a superficial analysis was enough before posting a move, which even if it was not the best, was generally good enough to hold one’s own with even the best of British CC players at that time. Fortunately for British chess, the situation is now vastly different and the strongest British CC players are recognized as being among the best in the world.

The Eberhardt Wilhelm Cup consisted of players all of master or near-master strength and it was in one of the games I played in this tournament that I played probably the most surprising move of my life.

To win the full IM title involved getting one more IM norm and happily for my prospects, I was selected for the British team in both the Olympiad Preliminary of 1972 and the European Team Championships of 1973.

Although I was trifle unlucky to miss the IM norm by half a point in the European Championship I finally clinched the coveted IM title in the Olympiad Preliminary which, although starting a few months before the European tournament, went on so long that I was in suspense long after the European games finished.

One of my most interesting games in the European Team Championship of 1973 was against F. Grzeskowiak, himself an IM and a feared attacking player.

Here is a discussion of James Adams on the English Chess Forum initiated by Matt Mackenzie (Millom, Cumbria)

Here is his entry on the ICCF web site.

Here is his entry from chessgames.com

39 Games of James Adams (27) of thirty nine of his games.

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The Iron English

The Iron English, Richard Palliser & Simon Williams, Everyman Chess, 2020, ISBN-13 : 978-1781945803
The Iron English, Richard Palliser & Simon Williams, Everyman Chess, 2020, ISBN-13 : 978-1781945803

Here is the publishers blurb from the rear cover :

Grandmaster Simon Williams was taught the English Opening at the age of six and 1 c4 was his weapon of choice until long after he became an International Master. For this new work, he teamed up with acclaimed theoretician International Master Richard Palliser to explore his old favourite. 1 c4 remains an excellent choice for the club and tournament player. This book focuses on the set-up popularised by the sixth world champion, Mikhail Botvinnik, the so-called Botvinnik formation with 2 Nc3, 3 g3, 4 Bg2, 5 e4 and 6 Nge2.

This system is compact but still aggressive and rewards an understanding of plans and strategies rather than rote memorisation of moves. In Opening Repertoire: The Iron English leading chess authors Simon Williams and Richard Palliser guide the reader through the complexities of this dynamic variation and carves out a repertoire for White.

They examine all aspects of this highly complex opening and provide the reader with well-researched, fresh, and innovative analysis. Each annotated game has valuable lessons on how to play the opening and contains instructive commentary on typical middlegame plans.

and. from the publisher, about the authors :

IM Richard Palliser
IM Richard Palliser

Richard Palliser is an International Master and the editor of CHESS magazine. In 2006 he became joint British Rapidplay Champion and in 2019 finished 3rd in the British Championship. He has established a reputation as a skilled chess writer and written many works for Everyman, including the bestselling The Complete Chess Workout.”

GM Simon Williams
GM Simon Williams

Simon Williams is a Grandmaster, a well-known presenter and a widely-followed streamer, as well as a popular writer whose previous books have received great praise. He is much admired for his dynamic and spontaneous attacking style.”

As with every recent Everyman Chess publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. Each diagram is clear as is the instructional text. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout.

The diagrams do not have a “to move” indicator or any kind of caption so you will need to work out for yourself how they relate to the text that they are embedded in. However, this is fairly obvious.

The book consists of nine chapters :

  1. Key Ideas for White
  2. Kickstarter: An Outline of the Iron English Repertoire
  3. English Versus King’s Indian
  4. The Modern: 1.c4 g6 and 1…d6
  5. Other Fianchetto Defences
  6. The Reversed Sicilian
  7. The Symmetrical English
  8. The Mikenas Attack
  9. Other Lines (1…c6/1…e6)

Opening books are becoming thicker and more imposing year on year and at 464 pages this recent offering from Everyman Chess is no exception. Any book with the involvement of Richard Palliser deserves, without doubt, to be paid special attention to and complimenting him is the h (and now f) pawns favourite advocate Grandmaster, Simon Williams.

Having two authors with contrasting playing styles (we felt) would lead to interesting recommendations rather in the vein of “Good cop, bad cop”. We will leave you to decide which might be which!

In essence this book (and the strongly associated Chessable course) is a complete repertoire for White based around the English Opening.

In the BCN office one of our favourite English Opening books is the 1999 classic “The Dynamic English” by Tony Kosten

The Dynamic English, Tony Kosten, Gambit Publications, 1999, ISBN 1 901983 14 5
The Dynamic English, Tony Kosten, Gambit Publications, 1999, ISBN 1 901983 14 5

which is of a mere 144 pages and of even smaller physical dimensions. A timeless classic in our opinion.

The Iron English is the first (we think) book (in the English language) to provide a complete repertoire around the Botvinnik flavour of the English in which White clamps or strongpoints the d5 square with an early e4 thus:

or even more simply

and this solid generic structure is advocated against almost all of Black’s reasonable and unreasonable defences.

Chapter One provides sample games (mainly from the authors) to give an idea of what White should be striving to achieve and Chapter Two outlines the repertoire.

In order to benefit from the chapters following these two  should probably be read more than once. One of the reasons for this is the huge complexity of the transpositional possibilities and move orders. The end-of-book Index of Variations helps the reader to navigate their way through the mire of variations and following that is an Index of Games bringing up the rear.

The style of presentation is friendly and very, very chatty (Alan Carr is nowhere to be seen you’ll be pleased to learn)  and presumably driven by the same material’s presentation as part of a Chessable course.

To get a feel of this style here are sample pages to whet your appetite and here is a example extracted game from Chapter One:

which provides for engaging instruction (if you like that sort of thing!).

Quite correctly, the content is dominated by the King’s Indian (73 pages), Reversed Sicilian (102 pages) and 100 pages on 1. c4 g6 and 1.c4 d6 lines. Clearly a wealth of material and probably most suited to someone who already plays the English but not the Botvinnik System. Taking up the English for the first time via this book (and/or the course) could well be somewhat daunting and not for the faint hearted.

Each of chapters Three – Nine adopts the now familiar Everyman format of example games delivering the theoretical discussion. Thirty-three games are dissected in detail including six of SKWs.

In the BCN office we always like to see how we would fair defending “against the book” and since we play the slightly offbeat 1.c4 c6 we turned to page 440 for Theory 9A (!).

where we won our internal wager that White would be advised to play 2.e4 and transpose into a Pseudo-Panov (called the Steiner Variation in Win with the Caro-Kann) rather than to a Slav. So, how did the “game” go?

1.c4 c6; 2. e4 d5; 3.cd: cd:; 4. ed: Nf6; 5.Nc3 Nxd5; 6.Bc4!?

which is a little off the beaten track (but easily met) with 6…Nb6; 7.Bb3 Nc6; 8.Nf3 Bf5; 9. d4 e6; 10 0-0, Be7; 11.a4 Na5 12. Ba2 0-0; 13.Qe2 and instead of the move suggested (13…Rc8) we played 13…Nc6! with a totally playable position.

The text suggests that someone who plays 1…c6 could be unfamiliar with a transposition to the Caro-Kann. Yes, they may well be but more likely this is a forlorn hope.

Anyway, this recreational digression is not really germane to the main thrust of the book…

In summary, this book is a major piece of work by Richard Palliser and Simon Williams that adds considerable material to the increasingly popular Botvinnik English.

In a sense the Botvinnik English is a kind of very grown-up London System and Colle Opening approach to playing with the White pieces (i.e. a system approach) and a welcome addition to White’s armoury.  Anyone wishing to take it up will find this book to be a reliable and friendly companion.

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 29th April, 2021

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 464 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman Chess (1 Oct. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781945802
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781945803
  • Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 1.7 x 23.8 cm

Official web site of Everyman Chess

As is fairly common these days, the book has been migrated to the Chessable platform. Here are reviews of that course.

The Iron English, Richard Palliser & Simon Williams, Everyman Chess, 2020, ISBN-13 : 978-1781945803
The Iron English, Richard Palliser & Simon Williams, Everyman Chess, 2020, ISBN-13 : 978-1781945803
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ECF Official Chess Yearbook 2021

ECF Official Chess Yearbook 2021
ECF Official Chess Yearbook 2021

From the publisher:

“Thanks to the efforts of a dedicated team of people within the English Chess Federation, the ECF Yearbook 2021 is now available in PDF form via this link – https://www.englishchess.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Yearbook-2021-complete-medres.pdf *

The printed version will follow in a little while; it will be free to Platinum members of the ECF and may be purchased (while stocks last) for £15.50 by ECF members in all other categories [online form to follow].

Special thanks go to IM Richard Palliser at CHESS Magazine, Dr John Upham at British Chess News, Director of Home Chess Nigel Towers, compiler Andrew Walker and to our determined team of proof readers – Dagne Ciuksyte, Roger Emerson, Stephen Greep, James Muir, Mike Truran and John Upham.”

End of blurb.

One thing I failed to predict for 2021 (amongst numerous others) was having a hardcopy of the ECF Yearbook to review. I was not sure there would be a yearbook of any kind based on a lack of material to report combined with an impending fear of the hardcopy version being deprecated.

At this juncture I feel it appropriate for the Yearbook to (correctly) quote (but often misquoted) Samuel Langhorne Clemens (aka Mark Twain if you didn’t know otherwise) that

Samuel Langhorne Clemens (aka Mark Twain)
Samuel Langhorne Clemens (aka Mark Twain)

The report of my death was an exaggeration

A Yearbook of English chess was “first published sometime between 1904 and 1913” but not by the BCF. The first BCF Yearbook may well have appeared in the 1930s but the jury remains unclear. BCF Yearbooks continued up until 2005 and then became the ECF Yearbook in 2006 which suggests at least 90 odd editions. The events (or rather the lack of events!) after March 2020 led myself to believe we would not see an ECF Yearbook until 2022 if at all!

Despite all this Private Frazer style doom and gloom

Private Frazer : We're doomed, Doomed!
Private Frazer : We’re doomed, Doomed!

and thanks to the good offices of Andrew Walker (ECF Webmaster) we not only have a Yearbook but, dare I say it,  we have an excellent one with more pages than the previous year! So, (as they frequently say on television) how did they do that?

The Contents are divided into 15 sections viz:

  1. Report of the Board to Council
  2. Strategy and Business Plan
  3. New Initiatives – GoMembership / Queen’s Gambit Scheme
  4. Chess in Prisons
  5. John Robinson Youth Chess Trust
  6. The Chess Trust
  7. The ECF Academy
  8. ECF and Other Awards
  9. Home News 2020 – from CHESS Magazine
  10. Events around England
  11. Nigel Tower’s Online Chess Report
  12. Off the Wall
  13. Mark Rivlin (and Tim Wall) – the interviews
  14. Remembering -from British Chess News
  15. Endgame Studies / Chess Problem News

Being a Yearbook the overall layout would normally include formal content that you might be forgiven for leaving for the ubiquitous “rainy day”. Perhaps we should update that and leave things for a “sunny day”?

ECF CEO, Mike Truran OBE kicks-off with the year’s positives and he immediately thanks those who carried largely unpaid work on behalf of English chess and the ECF.

Gone are the lengthy (dare I say tedious?) lists of officials, Title holders, Past Champions and all the other content which is largely unchanged year-on-year. Most of this information has been migrated on-line and may be found on the ECF’s satellite Resource web site. This makes complete sense since this location may be maintained throughout the year rather than being cast in stone (or rather paper).

This is followed by an itemised list of the ECFs Strategy and Business plan which contains many laudable and worthy statements of intent some of which, at least, will hopefully eventually be brought to fruition.

I won’t go through every section but I would like to pick out a few  highlights. It was gratifying to read of a small army of volunteers whose efforts were recognised with various awards including Bude Chess Club and the Hull International Congress.

Winner of ECF Book of the Year was no surprise whatsoever and justly deserved. It was a pleasure to read of those who had become FIDE Arbiters : we badly need such persons if we are to run sufficient FIDE rated events to cater for the increasing demand especially since England has recently abandoned the Clarke Grading system and replaced it with an Elo style rating system. I could always mention the Netflix phenomenon of Walter Tevis’s Queen’s Gambit but I won’t. I mentioned it once(?) and I think I got away with it.

So, we have covered 8 out of 15 sections as we turn to page 27. Its going to be a thin one for 2021 surely? Not so. Thanks to CHESS Magazine we have reports covering 43 pages of home news reported by the much loved magazine launched in 1935 for 1/- (a shilling which is 5 new pence for those born post February 15th 1971) by BH Wood. Within these pages we have 16 annotated games from the pages of the aforesaid publication. BHW would have been most proud that his magazine was doing its bit for 2020 as it did during the Second World War.

Events Around England runs to 32 pages of more familiar content such as reports of the Four Nations Chess League (4NCL), the ECF Counties Championship, Hastings International Congress and so on and so forth with that well-known “English” event, Gibraltar making a welcome appearance thanks to the reporting of John Saunders.

Now at page 101 (and less than half-way through) you might think what else can there be to report?

Indeed and at this point the ECF’s new Director of Home Chess, Nigel Towers, steps up to the plate and offers 15 pages reporting of the largest growth sector for the English chess scene, (no not discussions of ratings versus gradings) but, chess played on-line (as some might call it The InterWeb)  including the scores of eight games.

Tim Wall continues our journey adding a lighter and more humorous touch with a veritable potpourri of musings on various topics including absent minded cats, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (aka Lenin), Arthur Ransome and a modern resurrection (with the joie de vivre) of Howard Staunton via HSs enjoyable Twitter feed. Who is the person behind the account? Answers on a postcard to….

Not to be outdone, the ECF’s Newsletter compiler and editor, Mark Rivlin conspired with the aforementioned young Timothy to bring us a gathering of lockdown interviews with the great and good including Danny Gormally, Shreyas Royal, Lorin D’Costa, James and Jake. If you want to know who James and Jake are (and I do now!) then purchase the Yearbook!

The largest (58 pages) section for 2020 could leave me facing charges of nepotism… British Chess News was delighted to be invited to provide content and twelve biographies of some of the most significant contributors to English chess. These names include Harry Golombek OBE, Hugh Alexander CBE, Vera Menchik, Tony Miles and Fred Yates. I won’t comment on the articles veracity but leave that for you to discover.

The final section, and one of my favourites, is that of the Studies Editor of British Chess Magazine, Kent based Ian Watson. Ian provides the best new studies of 2020 and reflects on the life of one of England’s foremost composers, Dr. Richard K Guy.

As a taster, here is Ian’s contribution.

At 209 pages we have reached the end. The English Chess Federation have done a splendid job in getting this Yearbook produced and published in challenging circumstances. Long may the tradition continue!

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 20th April, 2021

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

Official web site of English Chess Federation

ECF Official Chess Yearbook 2021
ECF Official Chess Yearbook 2021
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