Category Archives: History

Minor Pieces 11: William Dobell Hutchings

If, like me, you enjoy family and social history, you’re probably a fan of David Olusoga’s documentary series A House Through Time.

Here’s an idea for a new series: A Book Through Time.

If you’ve read my article about Henry George Bohn, you’ll have seen this before.  It’s my first edition of Staunton’s Chess-Player’s Handbook.

I acquired this as a gift from a pupil’s mother, who ran an antiques shop in Hampton Wick.

There are also two inscriptions. The second is ‘Peter Elliott’: there were several people of this name in this area, none of whom mean anything to me.

We can, however, identify the first inscription: WD Hutchings Stoke on Trent 1882.

Who was Mr Hutchings? Was he a chess player who required a handbook, or did he just have a casual interest in the game? What was he doing in Stoke on Trent? How did the book reach Hampton Wick?

It transpires he was William Dobell Hutchings, the son of Frank Hutchings and Mary Laskey (close, just one letter out) Dobell, and was born in Exeter in 1844, making him three years older than the book. His mother doesn’t seem to have been related to Hastings chess player Herbert Dobell.

We first pick William up in the 1851 census, where he appears to be at a local boarding school. Upper middle class families like the Hutchings’ started boarding their children young in those days. By 1861 he’s at home with his parents and many siblings: we learn that his father is a solicitor, and young Bill is apprenticed to a banker.

1871 finds him in West Ham, living in a boarding house and working as a banker’s clerk. A few months later, though, he turns up at Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire, on the edge of the Cotswolds, between Bristol and Stroud, where he marries local girl Ann Clark. The happy couple move back to West Ham, and, a year, later, welcome their daughter Alice Emma into the world. Two years later, a son, Frank Henry, is born, but, tragically, he dies back in Devon at the age of only 3.

At some point over the next few years he gains a promotion and, now in a managerial role, moves to Stoke on Trent, where, by 1881, he’s doing well enough to employ two servants. Later in the year, their third child, a son named William Dobell after his father, is born. The following year he comes across a second-hand copy of the first edition of Staunton’s Chess Player’s Handbook: the copy I have in front of me as I write these lines. At this point the book was 35 years old, just three years younger than its new owner.

He doesn’t remain in the Potteries very long, though. He soon gets a new job – in Leicester. I wasn’t planning to return to my father’s home town so soon, but here we are. Perhaps inspired by Staunton’s best-seller, he joins the local chess club.

The Leicester Journal of 22 February 1884 reported on the Leicester Chess Club AGM, which saw WD Hutchings elected to the committee. After the meeting, Leicester played a match against their regular opponents from Nottingham, which they lost by 8 points to 5.

There, on the top board, was Martin Luther Lewis, winning his game against Sigismund Hamel, with William Withers on board 5 scoring a draw. Hutchings wasn’t playing in this match but for the next decade he played regularly on a middle board for Leicester in matches against other midland clubs. EdoChess doesn’t rate him highly: between about 1600 and 1650: merely an average club player.

However, it’s always useful to have a bank manager in your club. As we in the present day Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club can testify, they make excellent treasurers, or, in the case of William Hutchings, it appears, auditors.

So here, then, we have someone who wasn’t an outstanding player, but who played an important role in the life of his club by taking part in matches regularly, serving on the committee and auditing their accounts.  One of the purposes of these articles is to demonstrate that average club players like Bill are just as important to the chess community as masters and grandmasters. I’m honoured to possess a book which he once owned. But how did it reach Hampton Wick?

The 1891 census finds William, Ann, their two children and two servants living in New Walk, Leicester.

From New Walk – Story of Leicester:

New Walk is a rare example of a Georgian pedestrian promenade. Laid out by the Corporation of Leicester in 1785, the walkway was intended to connect Welford Place with the racecourse (now Victoria Park) and is said to follow the line of a Roman trackway, the Via Devana. Originally named “Queen’s Walk”, after Queen Charlotte, consort of George III, it was eventually the popular name of the “New Walk” that survived. Almost a mile long, New Walk has been a Conservation Area since 1969, ensuring its unique character is protected.

Houses built at the lower end of New Walk in the 1820s were the first on the walkway and were designed as “genteel residences” for the families and servants of businessmen and professionals. Development was controlled however to protect the public’s enjoyment of the walkway. Houses had to be at least ten yards from the Walk, fenced off by iron railings, and there was no access for carriages onto New Walk itself. In 1840 one resident described New Walk as “the only solely respectable street in Leicester”.

The houses around central New Walk date from the 1850s and 1860s and would have been the homes of merchants, manufacturers and professionals. Residents in the 1880s included Josiah Gimson, head of a large engineering firm, whose home (No. 112) is now part of the Belmont Hotel.

Last to be developed along New Walk were the large Victorian houses of its upper section (dating from the 1880s). Many were designed by the architect Stockdale Harrison. They reflect the growing prosperity of Leicester’s business and professional classes who preferred to live away from the town centre.

So William was doing very well for himself, but a few years later he was on the move again. The 1901 census finds him in Sutton Coldfield, still working as a bank manager. His children have now left home, but he still employs two servants, one the appropriately named Alice Bishop. After 1894 his name disappears from the chess records, with one exception. In 1903 Blackburne gave one of his many simultaneous displays (we’ll visit others in later articles) at Birmingham Chess Club. This was William’s moment of chess glory: he was one of three players who managed to defeat the visiting master. Well played, Sir! It’s always good to go out on a high.

3 Walpole Road, Surbiton Source: Google Maps

It was soon time for him to hang up his cheque books and retire from managing banks. Where did he retire to? He sought the good life in Surbiton. The 1911 census finds him at 3 Walpole Road, just off the Upper Brighton Road, which I’ve passed many times on my way to chess matches. He’s there with his wife and, again, two servants: a parlourmaid and a cook.

He was probably unaware that a five minute walk down the road would take him to a boarding house named Mountcoombe, where he could have met another South Devon born chess enthusiast, the celebrated problemist Edith Baird.

So I’d imaging that William’s Staunton first edition found its way from Stoke on Trent to Surbiton via Leicester and Sutton Coldfield. I’m sure he’d have shown it to his antique dealer friend William Withers, who, you will recall, had played (and lost horribly) to my very distant relation Arthur Towle Marriott.

Perhaps his belongings were sold off after his death in 1923. Or perhaps the book was inherited by his son, a stockbroker, who had also moved down to London. In 1911 he was living in Old Deer Park Gardens, Richmond, just off Kew Road very close to the London Welsh Rugby Club where Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club used to meet. A 35 minute walk through the town centre, passing the location of William Harris’s chemist business, and over Richmond Bridge, would have taken him to the site of the recently demolished residence of Henry George Bohn, the publisher of his father’s book. By 1939 he’d moved 3/4 mile to the north, to Hatherley Road, Kew. I pass both these roads regularly on my way to Kew Gardens. William junior died in 1957, so perhaps Peter Elliott acquired the book at that point.

Thank you for the book, William Dobell Hutchings, and thank you also for your part in the history of our wonderful game. Your contribution might have been relatively modest, but it was still important, and without doubt valued by Martin Luther Lewis, William Withers and your other chess-playing Leicester friends.

I have a few other inscriptions in second-hand books to write about another time. If you have any yourself you’d like me to research, do get in touch and I’ll see what I can do.

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Minor Pieces 10: Henry George Bohn

We know that the first Richmond Chess Club only ran for a few years in the mid 1850s, seemingly disbanded when its prime mover, William Harris, left London.

Who were its other members? Howard Staunton and Johann Jacob Löwenthal were involved, but, one would imagine, they didn’t play an active part on a week to week basis. They enjoyed seeing their names in lights, while their connections and publicity through their magazine columns would have enhanced the club’s reputation and increased its membership.

It’s a reasonable assumption, given that the club met at his premises, that James Etherington was a member, but the only other name I’ve been able to find is that of Henry George Bohn.

A very interesting name it is, too. White I’ve no idea how strong a player he was, Henry played a very important role in the history of English chess.

Henry George Bohn
Source: www.twickenham-museum.org.uk

Henry George Bohn, born in London in 1796, the son of a German father and Scottish mother, was an art collector and publisher. In 1850 he’d moved into North End House, Twickenham, on the corner of Richmond Road and Crown Road, just opposite the Crown public house (highly recommended, but also very popular, so it can get pretty crowded on rugby days). He had a walk of just under a mile to reach his chess club, no problem for a healthy chap who, even at the age of 85, would be active enough to dance the quadrille on his lawn. The house was demolished in about 1897, and a parade of shops built in its place. I haven’t yet been able to find an illustration of North End (or Northend) House.

High Shot House, Twickenham
Source: www.twickenham-museum.org.uk

In 1873 he acquired High Shot House, on the other side of Crown Road. Walking back towards Twickenham he’d very soon have reached what is now the site of Orleans Park School, home of Richmond Junior Chess Club and the Richmond Rapidplays.

Bohn was a collector of rare plants, chinaware, ivory and fine art, including works by Dürer, Van Dyck, Bruegel, Memling and Raphael, and was working to catalogue his collection until a few days before his death in 1884.

His day job, though, was more significant for our story. Henry George Bohn was a publisher, best remembered for Bohn’s Libraries. According to Wikipedia, these were begun in 1846, targeted the mass market, and comprised editions of standard works and translations, dealing with history, science, classics, theology and archaeology.

He was also a friend of the aforementioned Howard Staunton, and was the publisher of most of his chess books.

First edition of Staunton’s Chess-player’s Handbook
(from the author’s collection)

By the time of the foundation of the first Richmond Chess Club he’d already published The Chess Player’s Handbook (1847), The Chess-player’s Companion (1849) and The Chess Tournament (1852). These would later be joined by Chess Praxis (1860). He had also written The Chess-player’s Text Book (1849), published by J. Jaques & Son, 102 Hatton Garden, to accompany their celebrated chess sets.

Staunton, en passant, also wrote on other subjects. His edition of the plays of Shakespeare was published by George Routledge and Co in 1858. George Routledge had founded his company twenty years earlier, and they’re still going strong today, best known for their academic books. They’ve also published a few chess books, most notably the series of Routledge Chess Handbooks cashing in on the Fischer boom in the 1970s, and, more recently, Fernand Gobet’s highly recommended book on the Psychology of Chess.

Staunton also wrote a book on The Great Schools of England, published by Sampson Low, Son, and Marston, Milton House, Ludgate Hill in 1865. Sampson Low and his son, also Sampson, had started their publishing company in 1848, although Sampson senior’s father, another Sampson, had himself published books in the 1790s, and in 1856, Edward Marston became a partner in the firm. Sampson Low, like Routledge, published several chess books over the years (this might well be the subject of a future article) before stopping publishing in 1969.

In 1981 what was then the parent company was bought up by the notorious Robert Maxwell, its assets were stripped, and, 200 years after the first Sampson Low published his first book, the company was wound up.

A few years later, George Low, a journalist, editor and publisher, and direct descendant of the original Sampson, found the records in Companies House in Cardiff and re-registered the company. George’s four sons, all of whom, as it happens, were members of Richmond Junior Chess Club in the 1970s-80s, are now directors of the family firm. (Do visit their website to find out more.) The eldest boy, yet another Sampson, maintained his interest in chess, returning to the game when his son started playing, and has recently been elected Secretary of Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club. His ancestor and namesake from more than 150 years ago, would have known Howard Staunton, the President of the original Richmond Chess Club. I hope Howard will be pleased to hear this: I’ll be in touch on Twitter to let him know.

Wheels within wheels. We are all connected.

Returning to Henry George Bohn, he had hoped that his sons would continue to grow his publishing business, but it became clear that they weren’t interested, so, in 1864, he sold his business to Messrs Bell and Daldy, who would later become George Bell & Sons. Bell took over Staunton’s chess books and decided that chess would be one of their specialities. They published many chess books over the years, including classic titles by Alekhine, Capablanca, Euwe, Nimzowitsch and many British authors, continuing to publish chess books up to the late 1970s, by which time their position as England’s leading chess publisher had been usurped by Batsford, In 1986, by then Bell & Hyman, they merged with George Allen & Unwin, and the name of George Bell disappeared from the publishing world.

George seems to have been the favoured name for publishers: apart from being Bohn’s middle name, we’ve met Routledge, Bell, Allen and even Low!

The Bell inheritance, all those great Bell chess books which anyone of my generation or earlier will have grown up on and learnt from, originated with Henry George Bohn, art collector, publisher, friend of Howard Staunton  – and member of the original Richmond Chess Club.

Next time you’re in Richmond Road, Twickenham, drop in at The Crown and drink a toast to Henry, the man who planted the seed which led to England’s preeminence as publishers of fine chess books.

Sources:
Wikipedia: Henry George Bohn
Twickenham Museum: Henry George Bohn

 

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Minor Pieces 9: William Harris

This is the first of what will be many posts considering the history of chess clubs in Richmond, Twickenham and surrounding areas.

If you’re good, I’ll tell you another story as well.

The first chess club in Richmond dates back to the year 1853.

Here’s the Illustrated London News from 26 March.

In fact the meeting eventually took place at Richmond Town Hall, which would, about 120 years later, host a different Richmond Chess Club. Howard Staunton and Johann Jacob Löwenthal were present, and Staunton delivered, at some length, an address pointing out ‘the advantages arising from the cultivation of an elegant and thoughtful recreation like chess’.

The Illustrated London News reported on 23 April:

The club seemed to be going well: in November Staunton advised T.R.D. of Twickenham that the game he played at Richmond Chess Club would have attention. If you have any idea of the identity of T.R.D., please get in touch.

In January 1854, Staunton replied to ‘Gustavus’, of Eton: ‘You should join the Richmond Chess-club, which is rapidly increasing in members, and is likely, in a year or two, to be one of the most influential chess societies out of London. The secretary is Mr. Harris, chemist and druggist, of Richmond, and from him you must procure the information required.’ In March, always eager to oblige, he advised ‘Query’ to ‘join the Chess-club at Richmond, which is immediately in your neighbourhood, and rapidly rising into note’. In May, he instructed ‘Albert’ of Surbiton to ‘join the Richmond Chess club and you can then have the practice you require’. In September he informed ‘Wolsey’ of Hampton Court that ‘the Richmond Chess-club meets at Etherington’s-rooms every Monday and Friday evening’. F.R.S., of Twickenham, was given the same information in November.

The Etheringtons were a prominent musical family in Richmond and Twickenham for much of the 19th century, and in the latter half occupied various premises in Hill Street.

Things then went quiet for a year, until, in November 1855, when Staunton told J.T.W., of Kingston that there was a very good chess club in Richmond, and that he should apply to Mr Harris.

In 1856, Löwenthal, in The Era, joined in. In March he told F.C., of Kew: ‘You should join the Richmond Chess Club, the Hon. Sec., W. Harris Esq., will provide you with the requisite information.’

On 18 May, he published a letter from Mr Harris.

After that, we hear no more. It looks like the club folded very soon afterwards.

To speculate on what happened, we need to find out more about W Harris.

We can pick him up in the 1851 census where we find William Harris and his family at 2 Hill Street, Richmond. This seems to have been on the corner of Red Lion Street, where Waterstone’s will now sell you some chess books.

William was born in about 1813 in Shelton, Bedfordshire, and, in 1841, married Ann Walker in Wollaston, Northamptonshire, a few miles south of Wellingborough. Ann had been born in Little Harrowden, the other side of Wellingborough, in 1816. (Paradoxically, Little Harrowden is much larger than its neighbour Great Harrowden.) Ann’s parents had died when she was young and she was adopted by family members in Wollaston.

In 1851 their children were Eliza Sophia, Anne Agnes, Louisa Amelia, William Alfred Philidor and baby Helen Hectorina. Only a real chess addict would name his son Philidor! Another son, Arthur Edward was born in 1853, but by 1857, when their youngest daughter, Emmeline Julia, was born, they’d moved. They were no longer in Richmond, but back in Wollaston, the village where they had married. And Will had changed his job: he was no longer a chemist and druggist, but a farmer.

What was the reason for the move? Perhaps his business had failed. Perhaps the farm was an inheritance. Perhaps they needed to return to Ann’s family. Who knows.

Anyway, it seems that, when they moved, in late 1856 or early 1857, the first Richmond Chess Club folded. Staunton’s prediction that it would become one of the most influential chess societies out of London, didn’t come to pass. It’s the same old story, isn’t it? A club is only as good as its organisers, and, when the club secretary departs there’s no one there to keep it going. It would be a long time before there was another chess club in Richmond.

In April 1858 an old friend paid him a visit. Here’s Löwenthal in The Era (18 April 1858):

There’s much of interest here. It’s good to know that Löwenthal played with several ladies, finding that two of them had ‘great aptitude for the game’.

It’s also good to know that Mr Harris ‘has often engaged with players like Brian (sic: presumably Brien was intended), Fonblanque, Medley and Löwenthal, and produced some fine games’ and that ‘were opportunity afforded him for practice with antagonists of superior force he would certainly rise to eminence among the amateurs of country clubs.

It sounds, then, that William Harris was a pretty good player, but that opportunity was never offered him. He continued farming for the rest of his life, dying in Wollaston in 1881. But back in the 1850s he was clearly a significant figure in the chess world. I haven’t been able to find any games or results, though. If you have any information, do let me know.

What happened to his children? His two sons followed in his footsteps, both becoming farmers. Of his daughters, Sophia seems to have died young, but no death record has been found, Helen died in infancy, and Emmeline at the age of 12. Anne and Louisa both married and emigrated to North America.

I decided to look into some of his Northamptonshire friends. The Reverend Alexander William Griesbach, Curate of Wollaston, is particularly interesting. (Note that ‘curate’ was a much more significant title within the church then than it is today: Alex was a parish priest rather than an assistant.) He was born in Windsor, but his family, of German ancestry, were from Bath where they were good friends of the very important Herschel family. William, when he wasn’t busy discovering Uranus, was a composer whose music is still sometimes played today, and his sister Caroline, a pioneer female scientist, was also a significant astronomer. If you’re not familiar with their story, do check it out.

I also decided to look up B Dulley Esq. It turns out he was Benjamin Dulley, a doctor and general practitioner. We can pick him up in the 1851 census, aged 44, living with his wife Fanny and two daughters, Mary Elizabeth and Helen. He employs two house servants, Sarah Saddington and Elizabeth Earle, and a groom, George Stock. The rather unusual toponymic surname Saddington was very familiar to me, as was Sarah’s birthplace, Great Bowden, Leicestershire.

I promised you another story if you were good, and here it is.

Georgie Porgie pudding and pie
Kissed the girls and made them cry.

Sarah lived a long life, dying a spinster in her late 80s. She spent most of her life, apart from a short time in service to Ben Dulley (was he perhaps known as Dull Benny?) in her home village of Great Bowden, very close to Market Harborough, and not far from the village of Saddington from where she gained her surname. She had a niece named Elizabeth Saddington.

The Leicester Chronicle 25 October 1862 reported: “George Smith, of Great Bowden, charged with neglecting to pay 19s. 6d., that amount being due towards the support of the illegitimate child of Elizabeth Saddington for thirteen weeks, was ordered to pay the same and 3s. 6d. costs.”

That child was Fanny Smith Saddington, who had been born in 1855. Elizabeth would sadly die of chlorosis, a form of anaemia, the following year. At the time he kissed Liz and made her cry George was a widower, his wife, Alice Lois Flint, having died in 1853. They had had two daughters, Eliza, who died at the age of 6, and Sophia, who later emigrated to America. But Fanny wasn’t Georgie’s only illegitimate child. He had previously had a relationship with a slightly older girl named Eliza Carter. They had had two children, Elizabeth Smith Carter (1841) and Henry Smith Carter (1842). Quite a lad was our Georgie, by the sound of it. Henry died in infancy, but Elizabeth had a very long life and a very large family. How do I know all this? Elizabeth Smith Carter was my great grandmother. Perhaps I’ll tell you more another time.

There you have it. If Georgie Smith hadn’t kissed Eliza Carter I wouldn’t be here to tell the story of how his future squeeze Elizabeth’s Aunt Sarah had worked for a friend of the secretary of the first Richmond Chess Club.

 

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Smyslov, Bronstein, Geller, Taimanov and Averbakh: A Chess Multibiography with 220 Games

Smyslov, Bronstein, Geller, Taimanov and Averbakh: A Chess Multibiography with 220 Games, Andrew Soltis, McFarland Books, February 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1476677934
Smyslov, Bronstein, Geller, Taimanov and Averbakh: A Chess Multibiography with 220 Games, Andrew Soltis, McFarland Books, February 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1476677934

From the publisher’s blurb :

“A crucial decision spared chess Grandmaster David Bronstein almost certain death at the hands of the Nazis—one fateful move cost him the world championship.

Russian champion Mark Taimanov was a touted as a hero of the Soviet state until his loss to Bobby Fischer all but ruined his life.

Yefim Geller’s dream of becoming world champion was crushed by a bad move against Fischer, his hated rival.

Yuri Averbakh had no explanation how he became the world’s oldest grandmaster, other than the quixotic nature of fate.

Vasily Smyslov, the only one of the five to become world champion, would reign for just one year—fortune, he said, gave him pneumonia at the worst possible time. This book explores how fate played a capricious role in the lives of five of the greatest players in chess history.”

GM Andrew Soltis
GM Andrew Soltis

“Grandmaster Andy Soltis, eight times champion of the Marshall Chess Club, New York Post editor and Chess Life columnist, is the author of dozens of chess books. He lives in New York City. He is the author of many books, including Pawn Structure Chess, 365 Chess Master Lessons and What it Takes to Become a Chess Master”

 

From the author’s preface:

In this book I explored the interlocking careers of five men with a focus on the prime years when they might have become champion. Only one succeeded. But they represented an extraordinary class. All five men were ranked among the world’s top 11 players when Vasily Smyslov became champion. All five players were ranked in the world’s top 20 players for the next decade.

This book is a companion to my Tal, Petrosian, Spassky and Korchnoi and, like it, it pays tribute to the remarkable personal lives of great players during a remarkable era. They were not only competing with one another for the highest reward chess can offer. They were trying to survive in a brutal Soviet system. They lived through the Great Terror – which directly touched the lives of David Bronstein, Yuri Averbakh, Vasily Smyslov and Mark Taimanov – and World War II, which deeply affected them all.

Here, then, we have a group biography of five leading Soviet grandmasters, all born between 1921 and 1926. As Soltis explains, this was both a good time and place, and a bad time and place to be born. They grew up within a strong chess culture, where their talents were, albeit with deprivations during World War II and many restrictions in the brutal Soviet regime, allowed to flourish.

Smyslov became world champion, and Bronstein came very close. The other three were all world championship candidates, and, had things worked out slightly differently, Taimanov and Geller might have come closer to the title than they did.

Perhaps Smyslov, whose father was a strong player, would always have discovered chess, although, had his life turned out differently, he could have had a career as an opera singer. Taimanov, as is well known, did in fact have a parallel career as a pianist, performing with his first wife, Lyubov Bruk.

In another life, Bronstein would have been a mathematician and Averbakh a scientist. Geller was, in several ways, the outlier of the group. Unlike the others, he was a late developer, so only joins the story after several years and chapters have passed. Unlike the others, also, he seems to have had, apart from sports, no interests outside chess, even though he worked as an aircraft engineer and studied political economy at university.

As you’d expect, there’s a lot of high quality and instructive chess within these pages. Here are a few, fairly random, examples.

Taimanov and Bronstein adjourned this position, with White to move, in a 1946 Soviet Championship Semi-Final. Bronstein and Averbakh were staying at the same hotel, and set up the position on a board.

Soltis takes up the story.

Taimanov was so sure of victory that he told Bronstein he had sealed 1. Ra7+ and showed him how he would win after 1… Kh6 2. Rb7!. That looked convincing: 2… Ng3 3. Rb3 Nh5 (3… Nf5 4. Kf6) 4. Rh3! and then 4… Kg7 5. f5 Kf7 6. f6! wins. “But what if I retreat the king to f8?” Bronstein asked Averbakh. 

The next day was free from play so they analyzed 1… Kf8 during it. They realized that if White traded pawns too quickly the result would be a position know  to be drawable since an ancient game Neumann – Steinitz, Baden-Baden 1870. White did not seem to have a forcing win after 1… Kf8. But 2. Rd7! was a good waiting move. Then 2… Ke8 3. Rh7 Kf8 4. f5 would lose. So would 2… Ng7 3. Kf6 Nh5+ 4. Kg5! or 2… Ng3 3. Kf6.

This was discouraging. Bronstein and Averbakh looked at 2… Kg8 and unfortunately found 3. Ke6! Nf4+ 4. Kf6!. The clever king triangulation wins after 4… Nh5+ 5. Kxg6 Nf4+ 6. Kg5 Ne6+ 7. Kf6! Nf4 8. Rd4 Nh5+ 9. Kg6. Or 8… Ne2 9. Rg4+ Kf8 10 .Ra4 Kg8 11. Kg6 Kf8 12. Rc4 Ng3 13. Rc3 and so on. They kept analyzing  and found that 3… Kf8 was no better than 3… Nxf4+ because of 4. Rf7+! Ke8 5. Rf6! or 4… Kg8 5. Ke7.

It was all so elegant and, simultaneously, depressing. “David didn’t know what to do, to be happy or sad,” Averbakh remembered. “Of course, it’s painful to know you have a forced loss. But what an interesting path to victory!” And, besides, they were both proud to have solved such a mysterious endgame.”

When the game was resumed, Taimanov played 1. Ra7+ Kf8! 2. f5? gxf5 and drew along the lines of the Neumann – Steinitz game. 

As a result of this experience, Averbakh decided that he could combine his interests in science and chess by conducting research into technical endings such as this – and he would later become known as perhaps the world’s leading authority on endgames.

The games are expertly chosen, for their excellence, excitement, historical or sporting significance, and annotated in Soltis’s signature narrative style.

Some of them will be familiar to readers with a prior knowledge of games of the period, but others will be unfamiliar to most.

Look, for instance, at a couple of games from a secret training tournament held in the Georgian town of Gagra in 1953.

This is the game between Geller and Smyslov. Geller had outplayed the future world champion in the opening and early middle game, but his last move was an oversight. The last moves had been 25. Bb2-e5? Qc7-b6 26. Nf3xg5?.

Here’s Soltis:

This would have won after 25… Qa5? because of Qh5; e.g., 25… Qa5? 26. Nxg5! Nxd5 27. Qh5! and mates. In the diagram Geller must have expected to win after, for example, 26… Bxg5 27. Qh5! Bh6 28. Rg3!. Or 27… Re7 28. Be4! g6 29. Bxg6 Rxg2 30. Bf7+ Kf8 31. Bg7+!. 26… Nxd5! 27. cxd5  But he had overlooked 27. Qh5 Qb1+ 28. Kg2 Qg6!. No recovery is possible.

I have a couple of small issues with this. I find the back-referencing – something Soltis often does – slightly confusing. I’d have preferred the variation given in the first sentence here as a note to Black’s 25th move. He also fails to mention that Geller would still have been better in the game after 26. Rb2!, when a nice variation is 26… h6 27. Nh4! gxh4 28. Qh5!, with a winning attack.

Smyslov went on to win a few moves later.

Here, from the same tournament, is a position from the exciting game between Taimanov and Averbakh, with Black to make his 38th move.

Now 38… b1Q would make a draw likely, after 39. Rxb1 Rxa4 (40. Rh1?? Ra2+ and 39. Qxb1 c2!). 38… f5?? 39. d7! c2 40. d8Q+! (The final shift would have been 40. dxc8Q+? Rxc8 41. Qxf5 c1Q and Black wins. 40… Qxd8 41. Qxd8+ Kg7 42. Qg5+ Black resigns

(Taimanov, in his notes to this game, claimed White was winning the diagrammed position, failing to mention the draw after b1Q or to query 38… f5.)

Soltis, as so often, has an anecdote at hand to add colour and context.

The secrecy surrounding these training tournaments was deeply felt. Alexey Suetin recalled how one of the Gagra players showed him a remarkable game but “outright refused to give the names of the players” or the tournament results. “Such was the Stalist regime,” he said. Even when he wrote this, in 1993, Suetin refused to say who showed him the game. It was too dangerous.

In 1957 Bronstein was invited to a major tournament in Dallas, with the highest prize fund of any US tournament since New York 1927, but, according to Soltis, the State Department refused him a visa, apparently in retaliation for Soviet treatment of U.S. citizens seeking to travel in the USSR.

Instead, he had to make to with a weaker tournament in East Germany, where he reached this position with white against Bilek.

Soltis, again:

Bronstein has a deliciously subtle threat: 34. a4 would force the b6-rook to make a choice. Then 34… Rc6 would allow 35. Bf4 and Rb1-b8+. And 34… Rb3 would weaken f6 so that 35. Bh6! threatens 36. Qh7+ (35… Kf8 36. Qxf6+). 33… Kf8 34. g3 Re2 35. Bc1 Qe7 36. Kg2! There is no defence to 37. Rh1, 38. Rh7 and Bh6. The game could also end with 36… Re1 37. Rxe1 Qxe1 38. Ba3+. 36… Rc6 37. Rh1 Rxc3 38. Bf4 Ra3 39. Rc1! Black resigns.

(Bronstein has other threats in the diagrammed position: g3, Kg2 and Rh1 as happened later in the game, and also Bc1-a3. It takes older engines some time to realise White has anything more than a slight advantage, but Stockfish 14 immediately tells you almost any reasonable move is crushing.)

The narrative stops rather suddenly at the end of 1973, at which point our protagonists were in middle age and starting an inexorable decline. Unexpectedly, though, Smyslov would make another challenge for the world championship in his sixties. The remainder of their lives is chronicled relatively briefly.

What we have here is, as anyone familiar with this publisher will expect, a handsome hardback which will look good on any bookshelf. It covers an important and endlessly fascinating period of chess history, and is full of interesting (for all sorts of reasons) games, well researched and sourced history, entertaining and enlightening anecdotes and evocative photographs.

At the end of the book we have some useful appendices and other material. First, a chronology taking us through almost a century from Smyslov’s birth in 1921 through to Averbakh (still alive as I write this at the age of 99) playing a 4-year-old in 2017. Then, the rankings (from Chessmetrics) of the players between January 1939 and January 1979. We have chapter notes and a bibliography: everything is fully sourced, using Russian and English language periodicals and a wide range of books. There are frequent contradictions between sources, and the players also contradicted themselves from time to time: all this is explained in the text. Finally indexes of opponents and openings, and a general index.

It would have been ideal if the games had been presented more spaciously and with a lot more diagrams to enable readers to follow them from the page. It would also have been preferable to print the photographs on glossy rather than matt paper. Of course, given the nature of the book, such luxuries are inevitably out of the question. It would, however, have benefitted from another run through to pick up typos, of which there are more than should be expected in a scholarly work of this nature. I suspect, for example, that Keres told Taimanov he was playing like Liszt rather than List.

Nevertheless, this is an outstanding book which can be highly recommended to anyone interested in this period of chess history. If you’ve read Soltis’s earlier book on Tal, Petrosian, Spassky and Korchnoi you’ll need no hesitation to add this title as well. Likewise, once you’ve read this book, you’ll want to read the earlier work if you haven’t already done so.

In my opinion, Andrew Soltis is a very much underrated author. It’s understandable that we all tend to be suspicious of the quality of books produced by prolific authors, and in many cases these suspicions are justified. In the case of Soltis, though, even his more popular works are well written and, for their target audience, worth reading. His more serious and scholarly works such as this one are uniformly excellent. Soltis, with many years journalistic experience, knows how to write, and, most importantly, knows how to tell a story. Whether annotating a game or writing about chess history, he keeps his readers on the edge of their seats, eager to turn the page and find out what happens next. This book, like everything he writes, is extremely readable as well as rigorously sourced.

It’s not the last word on the subject. There is without doubt a wealth of interesting information lurking within currently sealed Soviet archives. Although this book might not be flawless, it will more than suffice for the moment. There’s nobody better qualified than Andrew Soltis to write on this subject.

This book doesn’t come cheap, but, if you can afford it, it will be money well spent. I see it has just made the shortlist for the English Chess Federation book of the year, and rightly so as well.

 

Richard James, Twickenham 2 September 2021

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 380
  • Bibliographic Info: photos, diagrams, games, bibliography, indexes
  • Copyright Date: 28th February 2021
  • pISBN: 978-1-4766-7793-4
  • eISBN: 978-1-4766-4053-2
  • Imprint: McFarland & Company Inc.

Official web site of McFarland

Smyslov, Bronstein, Geller, Taimanov and Averbakh: A Chess Multibiography with 220 Games, Andrew Soltis, McFarland Books, February 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1476677934
Smyslov, Bronstein, Geller, Taimanov and Averbakh: A Chess Multibiography with 220 Games, Andrew Soltis, McFarland Books, February 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1476677934
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Minor Pieces 8: Cliff Bridle

John Upham recently chanced upon a 1947 game in which an otherwise unknown English player, C Bridle, defeated former World Championship challenger Bogoljubov in a 1947 tournament in Flensburg, Germany.

I’d come across the game myself many years ago, in Fred Reinfeld’s 1950 anthology A Treasury of British Chess Masterpieces, and wondered about C Bridle, a name I hadn’t encountered elsewhere. At some point, perhaps from a magazine article somewhere, I’d seen his first name given as Cliff. A few years ago, now with access to online genealogy records and newspaper archives, I decided to do some research.

We all know who Efim Bogoljubov (1889-1952) was, though. He’s in so many inter-war tournament photographs: the corpulent, beer-swilling figure in the front row, genial and self-confident. “When I’m white I win because I’m white”, he said, “when I’m black I win because I’m Bogoljubov.” It’s easy to forget that, throughout the 1920s and early 1930s he was one of the world’s strongest players, although no match for the mighty Alekhine in two world championship matches. Even in the final years of his career, after World War 2, he was still a formidable opponent. So how come he lost to an otherwise unknown adversary?

It’s well worth looking at the game. I also asked my silicon chum Stockfish 14 to comment on Reinfeld’s annotations. Needless to say, he(?) wasn’t impressed. Stocky v Freddy: let battle commence.

1. d4 e6
2. c4 f5

Stocky, who, sadly for me as a long standing devotee of that opening, doesn’t think much of the Dutch Defence, would aware this a ?!.

3. Nf3 Nf6
4. g3 b6?!

A ? from Freddy, another ?! from Stocky.

5. Bg2 Bb7
6. O-O Be7
7. Nc3

Stocky suggests that White can, and should, play the immediate d5 here: 7. d5! exd5 8. Nd4 g6 9. cxd5 Bxd5 (9… Nxd5 10. Bh6) 10. Bxd5 Nxd5 11. Nxf5)

7… Ne4
8. d5 Nxc3
9. bxc3

Freddy correctly opines that Black has chosen a bad opening, but adds that the fianchetto of the queen’s bishop is generally avoid because of the possibility of d5. A strange comment, as the Queen’s Indian Defence is, and was back in 1950, perfectly respectable. The idea of d5 in this sort of position would, I think, have been considered fairly advanced knowledge at the time. I guess the ever optimistic Bogo was gambling on his inexperienced opponent not knowing this. If White just plays developing moves, it’s very easy for Black to play move like Ne4, g5, g4, Qh4 and get an automatic attack.

9… O-O
10. Nd4

Threatening d6 as well as dxe6.

10… Qc8?

Freddy and Stocky agree that this deserves a question mark. Freddy suggests that Black should play 10… e5 when White should retreat his knight with advantage because of the poorly placed bishop on b7. Stocky continues this with 11. Nb3 d6 12. c5 (a thematic tactic: 12… bxc5 13. Nxc5 dxc5 14. Qb3 regaining the piece) 12… a5 13. c6 Bc8 with only a slight advantage for White. He also thinks Black could consider the pawn sacrifice 10… Bd6 11. dxe6 Bxg2 12. Kxg2 Qe7 13. exd7 Nxd7 with some compensation.

11. e4 c5
12. Ne2 Bf6
13. Qd3 Na6
14. exf5 exf5

15. g4!?

Freddy gives this a shriek mark: ‘instinctive and strong’. Stocky is not so convinced, meeting it with 15… Nb4! to drive the queen away. White might then consider the exchange sacrifice 16. cxb4!? Bxa1 17. Bf4 Bb2 18. Rb1 Bf6 19. g5 Be7 20. Ng3 d6. He thinks White could have maintained a winning advantage by playing a move like Bf4 or h4 rather than trying to force the issue.

15… fxg4
16. Be4 g6
17. Ng3!?

Freddy claims 17. Bxg6 is premature. Again, Stocky begs to differ, analysing 17. Bxg6! hxg6 18. Qxg6+ Bg7 19. Bh6 Rf7 20. Ng3 Qf8 21. Nh5 Rf6 22. Qxg7+ Qxg7 23. Bxg7 Rf3 24. Rae1 Rh3 25. Re5 Rxh5 26. Rxh5 Kxg7 27. f3 with a winning advantage because Black’s queen side pieces are still out of play)

17… Kg7?

No comment from Freddy, but a question mark from Stocky, who thinks Qe8 was Black’s only defence.

18. Bf4 Nc7
19. Rae1 Ne8

20. Nh5+!!

Double shriek mark from Freddy. This time Stocky agrees. Stocky is happy with Freddy’s analysis of 20… gxh5 21. Bh6+!!, but points out that the more prosaic 21. Bxh7! is equally good. Some variations:

20… gxh5 21. Bxh7 (21. Bh6+ Kxh6 22. Bxh7 Kg5 (22… Kg7 23. Qg6+ Kh8 24. Bg8) (22… Rg8 23. Bxg8 Nd6 24. Qh7+ Kg5 25. h4+ Kxh4 26. Kg2 Kg5 27. f4+ gxf3+ 28. Kxf3 Qxg8 29. Rg1+ Kh4 30. Rh1+ Kg5 31. Rxh5#) 23. f4+ gxf3 24. Qg6+ Kh4 (24… Kf4 25. Qg3#) 25. Qg3#) 21… Kh8 22. Qg6 d6 23. Qxh5 Qc7 24. Bf5+ Kg8 25. Bh6 Ng7 26. Qg6

20… Kf7
21. Nxf6 Nxf6
22. Bd6 Re8
23. f4?

Stocky tells me this throws away most of White’s advantage: he should be opening the position rather than closing it, so 23. f3 was called for, when Black has nothing better than g3 in reply.

23… Nxe4
24. Rxe4 Rxe4
25. Qxe4 Qe8
26. Qd3 Qg8?

Moving the queen off the critical e-file. 26… Kg8 was the most tenacious defence, but Freddy didn’t notice.

27. f5 g5

28. f6?!

Pushing the passed pawn too soon, giving the black queen access to g6. White has two winning ideas here, according to Stocky. He wants to capture on g4 before Black has time to start counterplay with h5. Perhaps the simpler option is:

28. Qe4! Qe8 (28… Re8 29. Qxg4 and Black’s kingside will soon collapse) 29. Be5 Rd8 (now the e-file is sealed White can continue in similar fashion to the game) 30. f6 Qg8 31. Bd6 Re8 32. Qe7+ Rxe7 33. fxe7+ Kg6 34. Rf8 and wins.

The second path to victory is:

28. Qg3! h5 (28… Ba6 29. Qxg4 Re8 30. Qh5+ Kf6 31. h4 Bxc4 32. Qh6+ Kf7 33. hxg5) when White has the spectacularly beautiful 29. Be7!! with elements of both interference (on the e-file) and clearance (on the diagonal). Play might continue 29… Kxe7 (29… Re8 30. Qd6 Rxe7 31. f6 Re3 32. Qxd7+ Kg6 33. f7 Qf8 34. Qf5+ Kh6 35. Qf6+ Kh7 36. Qxg5 Rf3 37. Qxh5+ Qh6 38. Qxh6+ Kxh6 39. Rxf3 gxf3 40. f8=Q+) 30. Qc7 Ba6 (30… Qf7 31. f6+ Kf8 32. Rf5 Re8 33. Qd6+ Kg8 34. Rxg5+ Kh8 35. Rg7 Qf8 36. Qf4) (30… Bc8 31. Re1+ Kf7 32. Qd6 Qg7 33. Re7+ Kf8 34. Rxg7+ Kxg7 35. Qe7+ Kh6 36. Qf7 h4 37. Qg6#) 31. Re1+ Kf8 32. Qd6+ Kg7 33. Re7+

28… Qg6??

A Bogo booboo, missing Cliff’s 30th move. Instead, he could have equalised by occupying the e-file first. After 28… Re8, with Qg6 to follow, everything, according to Stocky, is about equal. (28… Re8 29. Qf5 (29. Be7 Qg6 30. Qg3) 29… Bc8 30. Qxg4 Qg6)

But Freddy was asleep and let both players’ 28th moves pass without comment.

29. Qe3 Re8
30. Qe7+! Rxe7
31. fxe7+ Kg7
32. Be5+ Kh6
33. Rf6 1-0

‘A very attractive game’, according to Freddy. An interesting but inaccurate game according to Stocky. You might, I suppose, see it as a classic example of bishops of opposite colours favouring the attacker in the middlegame, and note that Black’s queenside pieces were offside.

You should also look at some of the tactics, especially 29. Be7!! in the note to White’s 28th move.

It’s still mightily impressive for an unknown amateur to beat a top grandmaster with a brilliant queen sacrifice.

Congratulations, Cliff!

But who was Mr Bridle, anyway, and what was he doing in Flensburg? Perhaps he was just enjoying a summer holiday. It seems that Cliff spent most of his life in the shadows. Let’s have a look and see what we can find out.

Clifford Bridle was born in Weymouth, Dorset on 11 February 1914. His father was George Bridle, originally from Wareham, who had divorced his first wife in 1910 and married Susan Jane Smith in 1912. Cliff had an older sister, Greta, and two younger brothers, Jack and Victor, as well as a half sister, Sarah Bessie. The 1911 census reveals that George was a house decorator. Not the sort of comfortable upper middle-class background you’d expect from a strong chess player, but the world was changing. Before World War 1, chess had been, at least at higher levels, very much associated with the comfortably off, but in the inter-war years the game was broadening its demographics, and players from working class backgrounds could sometimes be found playing at higher levels.

We pick Cliff up for the first time as a chess player in 1932, where he was playing correspondence chess for his home county. He also started playing over the board, and, in April 1933, the Western Morning News pointed out that he’d won every game he played for Dorset, while lamenting the lack of an inter-club competition in his county. There was an individual county championship, though, and Cliff, one of the young ones, reached the final, where he lost to Swanage schoolmaster Bennett William Wood. The Western Gazette (23 June 1933) reported that “Mr. Bridle, who is only 18 years of age, is to be congratulated on the excellent fight he made for the championship. Congratulations again, Cliff. In those days the county champion got to play top board the following season, so Cliff didn’t quite make Number One.

He continued to play county chess, usually on about board 9 or 10, throughout the 1930s. The 1939 Register found him, a bachelor boy, living with his mother and brothers at 13 Milton Road, Weymouth. He was following in his father’s footsteps, working, like his brother Jack, as a house decorator and glazier, while young Victor seemed to be moving up in the world, having found clerical work with an estate agent. Cliff’s date of birth is given incorrectly as 11 July 1914. And then the trail goes dead, until 1947, when he turned up in Flensburg.

Here’s Wikipedia on Flensburg:

Flensburg is an independent town in the north of the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. Flensburg is the centre of the region of Southern Schleswig. After Kiel and Lübeck, it is the third largest town in Schleswig-Holstein.

In May 1945, Flensburg was the seat of the last government of Nazi Germany, the so-called Flensburg government led by Karl Dönitz, which was in power from 1 May, the announcement of Hitler’s death, for one week, until German armies surrendered and the town was occupied by Allied troops. The regime was effectively dissolved on 23 May when the British Army arrested Dönitz and his ministers – the dissolution was formalized by the Berlin Declaration which was progmulated on 5 June.

The nearest larger towns are Kiel (86 kilometres (53 miles) south) and Odense in Denmark (92 km (57 mi) northeast). Flensburg’s city centre lies about 7 km (4 mi) from the Danish border.

The 3rd Royal Tank Regiment was based there on behalf of the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) between 1945 and 1948, and CHESS, reporting the tournament, described Bridle as being of the BAOR. I can find nothing in online Forces records, so perhaps he was working for them in a civilian capacity. Maybe they needed a glazier to replace the broken windows. Not a summer holiday for Cliff, then.

The tournament was led by three prominent masters, while locally based players finished lower down. The final scores, according to BCM, were: Bogoljubov, 8.5; Enevoldsen (Copenhagen) and F. Sämisch 8; Nürnberg (Augsburg), 7; Sepp (Estonia), 5.5; H. Gomoluch (Flensburg), 5; Clausen (Denmark), 4; P. Gomoluch (Flensburg), 3.5; C. Bridle (England) and Kornbeck (Denmark), 2.5; Borgaa (Denmark), 0.5.

Cliff Bridle was 33 at the time, no longer a young one, so hardly, at least by today’s standards, the ‘youthful unknown’ described by Reinfeld. His win against Bogo attracted some attention and was published by ME Goldstein in the Chess Review, Sydney. This was in turn picked up by the Hastings and St Leonards Observer, who copied it on 28 August 1948.

Did he take up tournament chess on returning to England? Seemingly not very much. However, he ended up not all that far from my part of the world.

In 1954, the BCF published its second national grading list, and there, in category 4b, which would later become 185-192, or about 2100 in today’s money, is C Bridle of Wimbledon. So he must have been playing some competitive chess in the early 1950s. No sign of him in 1955, though.

In 1964 he suddenly appeared on the electoral roll, living, apparently on his own, at 147 Worple Road, Wimbledon, a road I know very well. It runs parallel with the railway line between Raynes Park and Wimbledon, therefore taking me to Wimbledon Chess Club for Thames Valley League matches. Was he still a bachelor boy? Perhaps not, in 1965, the last year for which London electoral rolls are currently available online, he’s been joined by Karen Bridle. Who was Karen? His wife? His daughter? Karen, originally a Danish name, only became popular in the English speaking world in the 1940s. I can’t find a marriage record for Cliff or a birth record for Karen, so, as we know he spent time in Flensburg, near the Danish-German border, perhaps he married there. I found an online tree with a Karen Bridle from Wimbledon, born in 1925, who married John Anthony Williams, who died at sea in 1970. The same person? No idea.

There’s one further record. The Middlesex County Times, which often reported Ealing Chess Club’s results, is available online. In 1968 Cliff Bridle was playing on board 3 for Wimbledon against Ealing in a Thames Valley League match (he won with the white pieces against E (Francis Edwin) Weninger), so he was still occasionally active into his mid 50s.

At some point he returned to his native Dorset, dying there in February 2001 at the age of 87.

Here, again, is the game on which his fame rests.

Update (27 Aug 21)

Thanks to everyone for their interest in this article.

Particular thanks to Jon D’Souza-Eva, who has discovered that Cliff Bridle’s wife seems to have been Katharina Cäcilia Martha Lauer, born 2 January 1927, died 6 April 1989: her address was given as Flat 1, Steeple Court, 36, St Marys Road, SW19, just round the corner from the All England Lawn Tennis Club. I presume she was born in Germany and married Cliff somewhere in the Flensburg area round about 1947. They later divorced and in 1970 she married John Anthony Williams, also a divorcee, who had been born in Ludlow in 1921. Sadly, John died on 6 August 1972: his probate record shows his address was also Steeple Court. (An online tree incorrectly gives his death year as 1970, not 1972, and claims he had died at sea, off the coast of Somerset, while working.)

Particular thanks also to Brian Denman, who has contributed another Cliff Bridle game.

Source: Sussex Daily News (21 Apr 1955), which gives neither the date nor the occasion.

In this game, Cliff is hardly recognisable as the same player who beat Bogo, is he? A pretty poor effort. Black could even have won a pawn with the Stock Tactic 5… Nxd5 with Bg7 to follow if White captures either way. I guess we all have bad days.

Bruce Hayden, or, if you prefer, Hendry Ellenband, was himself an interesting character, who, because of his local connections, might be worth a future Minor Piece.

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Minor Pieces 7: Martin Luther Lewis

Martin Luther. Interesting choice of Christian names. What do you know about Martin Luther?

Here’s Wikipedia to help you:

Martin Luther (10 November 1483 – 18 February 1546) was a German professor of theology, priest, author, composer, Augustinian monk, and a seminal figure in the Reformation. Luther was ordained to the priesthood in 1507. He came to reject several teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church; in particular, he disputed the view on indulgences. Luther proposed an academic discussion of the practice and efficacy of indulgences in his Ninety-five Theses of 1517. His refusal to renounce all of his writings at the demand of Pope Leo X in 1520 and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms in 1521 resulted in his excommunication by the pope and condemnation as an outlaw by the Holy Roman Emperor.

Luther taught that salvation and, consequently, eternal life are not earned by good deeds but are received only as the free gift of God’s grace through the believer’s faith in Jesus Christ as redeemer from sin. His theology challenged the authority and office of the pope by teaching that the Bible is the only source of divinely revealed knowledge, and opposed sacerdotalism by considering all baptized Christians to be a holy priesthood. Those who identify with these, and all of Luther’s wider teachings, are called Lutherans, though Luther insisted on Christian or Evangelical as the only acceptable names for individuals who professed Christ.

His translation of the Bible into the German vernacular (instead of Latin) made it more accessible to the laity, an event that had a tremendous impact on both the church and German culture. It fostered the development of a standard version of the German language, added several principles to the art of translation,[6] and influenced the writing of an English translation, the Tyndale Bible.[7] His hymns influenced the development of singing in Protestant churches. His marriage to Katharina von Bora, a former nun, set a model for the practice of clerical marriage, allowing Protestant clergy to marry.

His translation of the Bible into the German vernacular (instead of Latin) made it more accessible to the laity, an event that had a tremendous impact on both the church and German culture. It fostered the development of a standard version of the German language, added several principles to the art of translation, and influenced the writing of an English translation, the Tyndale Bible. His hymns influenced the development of singing in Protestant churches. His marriage to Katharina von Bora, a former nun, set a model for the practice of clerical marriage, allowing Protestant clergy to marry.

Yes, Martin Luther was one of the most important figures in European history: he had an enormous impact on the development of Christianity, leading, for example to the foundation of the Church of England, which enabled Henry VIII to divorce Catherine of Aragon, marry Anne Boleyn and dissolve the monasteries.

He also had an enormous impact on the development of Western music. Out went complex polyphony sung in Latin, to be replaced by simple hymn tunes sung in the vernacular, which in turn would underpin the sacred music of one of my heroes, Johann Sebastian Bach.

Over the years, admirers of Martin Luther have sometimes chosen those names for their sons.

Take, for example, American Baptist preacher Michael King. While on a trip to Germany for the annual meeting of the World Baptist Alliance in 1934, where they issued a resolution condemning antisemitism, he was inspired by what he learned about Martin  Luther to change both his Christian name, and that of his eldest son from Michael to Martin Luther. It was ironic that the original Martin Luther himself expressed violently antisemitic views in his later works.

An earlier Baptist minister on the other side of the Atlantic also named his son Martin Luther. Here’s his entry in the Dictionary of National Biography.

LEWIS, WILLIAM GARRETT (1821–1885), baptist minister, eldest son of William Garrett Lewis, was born at Margate 5 Aug. 1821. His father, who was in business at Margate, moved to Chatham, where he was ordained and became minister of the Zion Chapel in 1824; he was the author of ‘Original Hymns and Poems on Spiritual Subjects,’ London, 1827. The son was educated at Gillingham, Margate, and Uxbridge, and from 1837 to 1840 was articled to Dr. Gray, a Brixton schoolmaster. In 1840 he obtained a clerkship in the post office, went to live at Hackney, and became an active baptist. Being chosen a minister, he worked from September 1847 at the chapel in Silver Street, Kensington Gravel Pits. On 6 April 1853 the new chapel built by his congregation in Leding Road, Westbourne Grove, was opened, and there he continued to preach with great success till the end of 1880. On 3 Jan. 1881 his congregation presented him with four hundred guineas, and he removed to the chapel in Dagnal Street, St. Albans. Lewis was one of the founders of the London Baptist Association, of which he was secretary from 1865 to 1869 and president in 1870. For nearly twenty years he was editor of the ‘Baptist Magazine.’ He died 16 Jan. 1885 at his house in Victoria Street, St. Albans, and was buried in Kensal Green cemetery. He married, in December 1847, the youngest daughter of Daniel Katterns of the East India Company. His wife predeceased him, leaving a son and a daughter. Lewis was an excellent preacher and lecturer, and a man of great piety. His chief works were: 1. ‘The Religion of Rome examined,’ London, 1851, 16mo. 2. ‘Westbourne Grove Sermons,’ London, 1872. 3. ‘The Trades and Occupations of the Bible,’ London, 1875; a translation (with alterations) of this work appeared in Welsh, London, 1876.

The church he founded in Notting Hill is still active today. If you’re really interested, you can buy a book of his sermons here.

But it’s his son, Martin Luther Lewis, who interests us in this, the third and final article about Arthur Towle Marriott’s Leicester chess opponents.

Our Martin Luther was born in Kensington in 1851 and read Classics at Downing College, Cambridge. He then chose to go into teaching rather than following his father into the ministry, and obtained a post teaching Classics at Bradford Grammar School.

We first encounter him as a chess player in 1877 and 1878, taking part in a blindfold simul given, inevitably, by Joseph Henry Blackburne. The game was unfinished and Blackburne consented to a draw ‘owing to the pieces being very evenly balanced, and it being necessary to exchange off the pieces and play it out as a pawn game, which would have been very protracted’, according to the Bradford Daily Telegraph (30 Nov 1877). During the same period he played in matches against other clubs, gradually moving up the board order until he found himself on top board.

In 1880, Martin Luther Lewis was on the move. The Leicester Journal (12 Nov 1880) reported: ‘The Rev. Edward Atkins, B.Sc., has been appointed to the second mastership of Wyggeston Boys’ School, vacant by the promotion of Mr. G. H. Nelson, M.A., to the headmastership of the Canterbury Middle School. Mr. M.L. Lewis, M.A., LL.M., late scholar of Downing College Cambridge, Classical Master in the Bradford Grammar School, and Mr. Alfred Barker, B.A., of the University of London, one of the Masters in the City of London School, Cowper-Street, have been appointed to Assistant Masterships in the School.’. At about the same time the school launched a new chess club: Lewis was no doubt involved in this venture.

Wyggeston Grammar School for Boys was the most prestigious boys’ school in Leicester at the time. Its many distinguished alumni include the Attenborough brothers (the Attenborough Building at Orleans Park School in Twickenham host tournaments run by Richmond Junior Chess Club), former RJCC parent Simon Hoggart, and author, publisher and chess player James Essinger.

The 1881 census found Lewis boarding with a widow, Ann Woodruffe (Hyde) Burrows, whose teenage son Edward was, I would imagine, a Wyggeston pupil.

He soon joined Leicester Chess Club and it wasn’t very long before he graduated to top board, playing regularly for them against other clubs in the Midlands between 1882 and 1888. His first over the board encounter with Arthur Towle Marriott came on Friday 31st March 1882. The match was not a success, according to the Leicester Chronicle of 8 April. Unfortunately, the Leicester players had to return too early to allow of any satisfactory conclusion being arrived at, the only games concluded at the time the contest was finished being those between Messrs. T. Marriott and A.F. Atkins, and Mr. H.R. Hatherley and Rev. J.C. Elgood. Of those, each team had one win to their credit. The other games were not far enough advanced to allow of adjudication. a fact which, after nearly three hours’ play, shows they were very stubbornly contested. No chess clocks in those days, of course. (Note that AF Atkins was no relation to the aforementioned Edward.)

The two clubs met again on Thursday 26 October in Leicester, with Lewis and Marriott now in opposition on top board. According to the Nottingham Evening Post on 28 October: Play commenced at seven o’clock at the New Town Hall, and was continued until 10.30, when unfinished games were adjudicated by Messrs. A. Marriott and M.L. Lewis (their own game being among that number). The result was an easy victory for the Nottingham team, who won nine games, lost two and six were drawn. One of the draws was indeed their own encounter.

They met again in Nottingham on 23 February 1883, the result of their top board game, and also the match, being a draw. At round about the same time, in the first quarter of 1883, Martin Luther Lewis married his landlady.

His results over his years of activity between 1877 and 1888 suggest that Lewis was one of the strongest players in the country outside London. Usually playing on top board, it seems he lost very few games. The comparatively high proportion of draws, along with the lack of published games, suggest that he was a solid and cautious player. EdoChess gives him a highest rating of 2250. However, he preferred to concentrate on his teaching and pastoral work rather than seek chess fame further afield. He was, apart from teaching Classics at Wyggeston, involved in preaching, teaching in Sunday Schools, and with the Leicester YMCA, where he started a chess club, drawing with William John Withers in a match against Granby.

Martin and Ann, who was thirteen years his senior, continued to live together for the rest of their lives. His stepson Edward himself went on to study theology, was appointed to a curacy in Bath, but sadly died at the age of only 33.

Although Martin Luther Lewis’s chess career was relatively short and uneventful, he played a highly influential role in the story of English chess. You’ll remember Edward Atkins, who joined Wyggeston at the same time as him. A very interesting man was Edward. His father, Timothy, was a humble framework knitter from Hinckley, but, like Thomas Marriott senior, was ambitious to improve himself. Even up to his mid 50s he was still knitting stockings, but later opened a shop, and, later still, became a hosiery manufacturer. He was clearly ambitious for his children, as well. Edward, in spite of his modest origins, had a highly successful career in the Church of England as well as teaching, becoming a Canon and continuing to officiate at the Church of St Nicholas, Leicester, into his nineties. His science lessons led to the formation of Leicester College of Technology, which would very much later (while I was there) become the City of Leicester Polytechnic, and is now, as De Montfort University, the home of the ECF Library.

The two men must have been good friends, and when Edward’s young son Henry Ernest Atkins showed an interest in chess, Martin was on hand to provide both tuition and encouragement. Perhaps he also influenced his pupil’s style of play. Atkins  junior, of course, became one of England’s strongest ever players. Certainly a Major Piece, not a Minor Piece. You can read much more about him in excellent articles here and here.

Martin Luther Lewis died on 23 October 1919, just 15 months after his wife.

Here’s an appreciation from ‘one who knew him’ from the Leicester Daily Post of 27 October.

Three weeks earlier, on 6 October, about a mile a half away, Tom Harry James had welcomed his 18th and last child into the world. But that’s another story.

This, then, was the life of Martin Luther Lewis, classics teacher, preacher and strong chess player.

It’s a well-known trope, isn’t it? You’ll probably be familiar with the 1939 movie Goodbye Mr Chips, based on James Hilton’s 1934 novella. You may also know the Terence Rattigan play The Browning Version. Hilton’s Mr Chips and Rattigan’s Crocker-Harris were both, like Lewis, classics teachers. Perhaps we might consider him to have been cut from the same cloth as these two fictional counterparts.

 

 

 

 

His sister Ruth never married, becoming a hospital matron in Chipping Barnet, and then working for the YWCA in Exeter. She later moved to Leicester, perhaps to care for her older brother in his final illness, and is buried with him in Welford Road Cemetery.

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The Unstoppable American: Bobby Fischer’s Road to Reykjavik

The Unstoppable American : Bobby Fischer’s Road to Reykjavik, Jan Timman, New in Chess, 17th May 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919788
The Unstoppable American : Bobby Fischer’s Road to Reykjavik, Jan Timman, New in Chess, 17th May 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919788

From the publisher:

“Initially things looked gloomy for Bobby Fischer. Because he had refused to participate in the 1969 US Championship, he had missed his chance to qualify for the 1970 Interzonal Tournament in Palma de Mallorca. Only when another American, Pal Benko, withdrew in his favour, and after the officials were willing to bend the rules, could Bobby enter the contest and begin his phenomenal run that would end with the Match of the Century in Reykjavik against World Champion Boris Spassky.

Fischer started out by sweeping the field at the 23-round Palma Interzonal to qualify for the next stage of the cycle. In the Candidates Matches he first faced Mark Taimanov, in Vancouver. Fischer trounced the Soviet ace, effectively ending Taimanov’s career. Then, a few months later in Denver, he was up against Bent Larsen, the Great Dane. Fischer annihilated him, too. The surreal score in those two matches, twice 6-0, flabbergasted chess fans all over the world. In the ensuing Candidates Final in Buenos Aires, Fischer also made short shrift of former World Champion Tigran Petrosian, beating the hyper-solid “Armenian Tiger” 6½-2½.

Altogether, Fischer had scored an incredible 36 points from 43 games against many of the world’s best players, including a streak of 19 consecutive wins. Bobby Fischer had become not just a national hero in the US, but a household name with pop-star status all over the world. Jan Timman chronicles the full story of Fischer’s sensational run and takes a fresh look at the games. The annotations are in the author’s trademark lucid style, that happy mix of colourful background information and sharp, crystal-clear explanations.”

GM Jan Timman
GM Jan Timman

Where does history start? I’ve always thought history is what happened before you were born. For those of us, like Jan Timman and myself, who learnt our chess in the 1960s, perhaps chess history is what happened before World War 2. The events of the late forties were full of names familiar to us from tournaments of our time.

This book covers Bobby Fischer’s career in the years 1970 and 1971. More like current affairs than history for our generation. We all remember it well: we were around at the time and some of us will be familiar with many of the games. But, for younger readers, Fischer’s games from half a century ago will be ancient history. If we turn the clock back another five decades we reach 1921 and the Lasker – Capablanca World Championship match. Now that really does feel like ancient history, even to me.

Fifty years on, it seems like a good time to revisit the games with the aid of today’s powerful engines and greater knowledge. Jan Timman is ideally qualified to do just that.

Readers of Timman’s other recent books will know what to expect: clear annotations based on explanations rather than variations, along with entertaining anecdotes and background colour to put the games into context.

We have all 43 games (44 if you include a win by default) from the 1970 Interzonal and 1971 candidates matches, along with a selection of 19 games from earlier in 1970.

After withdrawing from the 1967 Interzonal, Fischer played in two relatively minor tournaments the following year, and, in 1969, played only one serious game, in a New York league match. The chess world was uncertain whether or not he’d ever play again, let alone fulfil what appeared to be his destiny and become world champion. Exciting, but also worrying times.

After an 18 month absence, Bobby agreed to take part in the 1970 match between the USSR and the Rest of the World, even ceding top board to Larsen. Chapter 1 takes us from this event, via Rovinj/Zagreb, the Herceg Novi blitz and Buenos Aires, to the Siegen Olympiad.

In round 7 of Rovinj-Zagreb, Fischer was black against one of the tournament’s lesser lights, the Romanian master Ghitescu.

Timman informs us: It has never been brought up before, but Fischer was demonstrably lost in this game, after having taken too much risk.

Here’s the critical position with Ghitescu to play his 23rd move. Where would you move your rook?

The exchange sacrifice 23. Rf4! would have been very strong. Black cannot accept the sacrifice, because he would have been strategically losing. Also after 23… Rg8 24. Re4 Rae8 25. Rf1, White is winning.

I may be wrong but I would have thought Rf4 would be automatic for master strength players today. Wouldn’t it also have been automatic for, say, Petrosian, back in 1970?

Instead, the game continued 23. Rd3 Rad8 24. Ng3 (24. b3 would have maintained the advantage) 24… Ba6, when Fischer took control of the game, eventually bringing home the full point. If he’d lost that game, perhaps chess history would have been very different.

Here’s the complete game.

The strategic insights Timman brings to positions like this are, for me, what makes this book so instructive. Here’s another example: Gligoric – Fischer from Siegen, with Gligoric to make his 39th move.

It’s not dissimilar to the previous example, and indeed both positions arose from King’s Indian Defences. Here, a white knight is fighting against a dark-squared bishop outside the pawn chain.

White could have obtained a winning position with 39. Nb1!. The strategic plan is simple: White is going to bring his knight to c4 and install his king on g4. Black has nothing to offer in exchange; his doubled c-pawn will be blocked, and his pieces are barely able to display any activity.

Again, the complete game:

Chapter 2 covers the 1970 Interzonal at Palma, Mallorca. You won’t find very many brilliant miniatures in this book, but Fischer’s win against Rubinetti is an exception.

Chapters 3-5 offer Fischer’s 6-0 shutouts against Taimanov and Larsen, and the final match against former champion Tigran Petrosian.

This position interested me. Any well-read player from my generation will recognise this as coming from the 7th Fischer – Petrosian game, where Bobby played 22. Nxd7+, a move garlanded with various numbers of exclamation marks by many commentators both at the time and later.

Here’s what Timman has to say.

The praise with which this move has been showered is unbelievable. Byrne commented: ‘This exchange, which wins the game, was completely overlooked by the press room group of grandmaster analysis. Najdorf, in fact, criticized it(!), suggesting the incomparably weaker 22. a4.’

Kasparov, too, was full of praise. ‘A brilliant decision, masterfully transforming one advantage into another (…) Petrosian was obviously hoping for the “obvious” 22. a4 Bc6 23. Rc1 Nd7 24. Nxd7+ Bxd7 with possibilities of a defence.

In Chess Informant 12, Petrosian himself and Suetin give two ‘!’s to the text move.

True, not all commentators were so pronounced in their praise. Spassky and Polugaevsky limited themselves to the conclusion that White exchanged one advantage for another and didn’t give an ‘!’ to the move.

However, the general drift was that Fischer had done something highly instructive, adding a new facet to strategic thinking in chess. I was very impressed at the time, but I also had doubts. There were no computers yet, and young players looked to the great players on the world stage as their examples. So, Fischer must have understood it better than I did.

Yet, I am almost certain that in this position, or a similar one, I would have opted for Najdorf’s move. And almost half a century after the event, it turned out that the Argentinian had simply been right!

Timman goes on to demonstrate that, indeed, 22. a4 is clearly winning, whereas Fischer’s 22. Nxd7+ Rxd7 23. Rc1 would have given Petrosian defensive chances if he’d chosen 23… d4 rather than the passive Rd6.

See for yourself:

What comes across from this book is the remorseless power and logic of Fischer’s play in this period, as well as his determination to play for a win in every game. Short draws were never on his agenda.

In the past, there was a tendency to annotate by result or reputation, and this seems to have been what happened here. These days, we can all switch on Stockfish and annotate by computer, while neglecting the human, the practical element.

Timman’s annotations, both here and in his previous books, strike me as getting the balance just about right. Call me old-fashioned, but I’d rather have verbal explanations than long engine-generated variations.

Older readers will enjoy reliving memories of the golden days of the Fischer era, while younger readers will learn a lot of chess history. Players of all levels will benefit from the annotations, which, because of their lucidity, are accessible to anyone from, say, 1500 upwards.

The many anecdotes add much to the book, although serious historians might feel frustrated that they’re not always sourced. There are also several pages of photographs: while their quality, as they’re printed on matt paper, isn’t perfect, they’re still more than welcome.

There are a few typos and mistakes regarding match scores and tournament crosstables which more careful proofing might have picked up, and the English, in one or two places (you may have noticed this from the extracts I quoted), might have been more idiomatic. Slightly annoying, perhaps,  but this won’t really impede your enjoyment of the book.

In spite of these slight reservations, this is an excellent book which is warmly recommended for players of all strengths. Next year will see the 50th anniversary of Fischer – Spassky. Might we hope that Timman will cover this match in a future volume?

One last thought: I wrote at the beginning of this review about how people of different ages have different perspectives of history. If Capablanca and Alekhine had been granted long lives, they would have lived to see these games. What would they have made of them? What would they have made of Bobby Fischer?

Richard James, Twickenham 10th August 2021

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Softcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: New In chess (17 May 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9056919784
  • ISBN-13:978-9056919788
  • Product Dimensions: ‎ 17.27 x 2.54 x 23.62 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

The Unstoppable American : Bobby Fischer’s Road to Reykjavik, Jan Timman, New in Chess, 17th May 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919788
The Unstoppable American : Bobby Fischer’s Road to Reykjavik, Jan Timman, New in Chess, 17th May 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919788
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Remembering Dr. Julian Farrand QC (Hon) (13-viii-1935 17-vii-2020)

Prof. Julian Farrand at the King's Place Rapidplay, 2013, courtesy of John Upham Photography
Prof. Julian Farrand at the King’s Place Rapidplay, 2013, courtesy of John Upham Photography

BCN remembers Dr. Julian Farrand who passed on Friday, July 17th, 2020. He was 84 years of age.

Julian Thomas Farrand was born August 13th, 1935 in Doncaster in the West Riding of Yorkshire.

Dr. Farrand QC(Hon), formerly the Insurance Ombudsman, became the Pensions Ombudsman, and he had been a Law Commissioner and a University Professor of Law at the University of Manchester where he was Dean of the faculty.

Most recently he lived in Morpeth, London, SW1.

Dr JULIAN FARRAND  Pensions Ombudsman  COMPULSORY CREDIT: UPPA/Photoshot Photo  UKWT 011879/A-32a    31.07.1996
Dr JULIAN FARRAND Pensions Ombudsman COMPULSORY CREDIT: UPPA/Photoshot Photo UKWT 011879/A-32a 31.07.1996

His first recorded game in Megabase 2020 was white at the 1968 British Championships in Bristol against life-long friend CGM Keith Bevan Richardson. Together with Raymond Brunton Edwards, Julian and Keith were long-time trustees of the BCFs Permanent Invested Fund (PIF).

Julian played for Pimlico, Cavendish and Insurance in the London League and he maintained a standard play grading of 172A in 2020 as well as a FIDE rating of 1943 for standard play. He also played in the London Public Services League, the Central London League and the City Chess Association League. He made regular appearances in the Bronowski Trophy competition and the World Senior’s Team Tournament.

His (according to Megabase 2020) peak Elo rating was 2238 in April, 2004 aged 69. It is likely to have been higher than that if it was measured.

Julian joined Barbican following its merger with Perception Youth to become Barbican Youth in the Four Nations Chess League (4NCL).

His favourite openings with white were : The Richter-Veresov Opening in later years and the English/Barcza Opening in earlier times.

With Black he enjoyed the Czech System and the Lenningrad Dutch.

His son, Tom, is a strong player and a successful barrister with expertise in Intellectual Property Rights, Trademarks and Copyright law.

His wife (married in 1992), Baroness Hale of Richmond, served as President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom from 2017 to 2020, and serves as a member of the House of Lords as a Lord Temporal.

Julian Farrand with Lady Hale at a Buckingham Palace reception. Photo : Press Association
Julian Farrand with Lady Hale at a Buckingham Palace reception. Photo : Press Association

Memorial messages have been posted on the English Chess Forum and many will, no doubt, follow. Included are older games from John Saunders not found in the online databases.

In 2015 Julian (together with fellow trustees Keith Richardson and Ray Edwards) received the ECF President’s Award for services to the Permanent Invested Fund.

Here is the citation from the 2015 award :

“Julian is best known as the first-ever English ombudsman (in insurance). He is the husband of law lord Baroness Hale. I (SR) first met him at about the age of 12 year old when playing for my school. He is about four years older. Both Ray and Julian are members of the Book of the Year Committee and have been reviewing books for this purpose for many years. Both are quite strong chess players, indeed playing for England in the same team in the European 60+ Team Championship in Vienna 11-20 July 2015. Keith was to have been a member of the same team, but his wife’s ill-health forced him to withdraw.”

Here is an obituary from The Times of London

Here is an obituary from Stewart Reuben

Prof. Julian T Farrand at the King's Place Rapidplay, 2013, courtesy of John Upham Photography
Prof. Julian T Farrand at the King’s Place Rapidplay, 2013, courtesy of John Upham Photography
Love All Risks by Julian Farrand
Love All Risks by Julian Farrand
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Minor Pieces 5: Francis Ptacek

Continuing from my last article about Arthur Towle Marriott, I promised a series of articles on his Leicester opponents.

This is an interesting period in chess history, witnessing the start of inter-club competitions as we used to know them before Covid-19.

The two matches between Leicester and Nottingham in January and February 1877 seem to have been Leicester’s first matches against another club. Nottingham, however, had previous form: the earliest match I can find was against Derby in 1872. Train services from Nottingham to Derby started in 1839, with trains to Leicester available the following year, but by now rail transport had become more frequent and more affordable. It was the 3.35 servicethat took the Nottingham chess players to Leicester on 25 January 1877.

The following week the Leicester Journal reported:

An interesting event in connection with this club, took place on Thursday week, in the Mayor’s Parlour of the old Town Hall, kindly lent for the occasion by the Mayor, W. Winterton Esq., when the majority of the members assembled to welcome six gentlemen of the Nottingham Chess Club, who arrived by the 3.35 train, to spend, by invitation, a few hours in friendly contest at Chess. The high reputation of the Nottingham Club, caused considerable interest to be felt in the visit, and it was thought that the home players would have but little chance of maintaining a creditable stand. When, therefore, at the close of the contest, it was found that Nottingham had won the match by only one in their favour, considerable gratification was experienced at so favourable a result. The following gentlemen represented the Nottingham Club: S. Hamel Esq., President, Messrs. Stevenson, Marriott, Glendenning, Brown, and Kirk, while Rev. W. L. Newham, Mr W. Stanyon (president), Dr. Nuttall, Herr Ptacek, Messrs. Atkins and Withers did battle for Leicester, winning eight games to their opponent’s nine. The play of the Nottingham gentlemen was much admired for the skill and ingenuity evinced, and, as a consequence of their visit to Leicester, it may be safely asserted that the impetus given to the study of this most intellectual of games among the members of the Home Club, will not soon pass away. The return match we are given to understand will be played at Nottingham on Tuesday next, February 6th, at the Club Room, Long-row. In connection with the Leicester Chess Club we are pleased to learn that its members during the present session have almost doubled, and that new life and energy seem to pervade all its movements.

Chess matches in those days were always described as ‘interesting’ (see also below). Or if not ‘interesting’, then ‘pleasant’.

(Note that the Mr Atkins active at that time was seemingly not related to the great Henry Ernest Atkins, about whom more later.)

It’s not clear from this report whether Nottingham’s Mr Marriott was Arthur or one of his brothers. Zavatarelli assumes it was Arthur: it’s possible that other reports not available online will confirm this.

The week after next, a Leicester team took the train north. Here’s the report from the Nottinghamshire Guardian:

On Tuesday evening a most interesting and spirited match at chess took place between the clubs of Nottingham and Leicester, at the rooms of the former, which are at Mr. Bingham’s restaurant, Long-row. Seven members of the Leicester club took part in the game against eight of Nottingham. About nine o’clock in the evening the members of both clubs adjourned, and sat down to supper, when Mr. Hamel, president of the Nottingham society, occupied the chair. After the usual loyal toasts had been honoured, that of “Continued success and prosperity to the Nottingham Chess Club” was proposed by the chairman and enthusiastically drunk. In the course of his remarks, the chairman referred in very feeling terms to the death of Mr. Thomas Hill, one of the oldest and most respected members of the club, and whose lost he (the chairman) was sure, must be deeply regretted and mourned by all. The president next referred to the Cambridge match, which had resulted so successfully, and to the honour of Nottingham – (hear, hear) – they having won both games, and having declared in one game a mate in ten moves, a point which the Cambridge University could not see. (Applause.) Dr. Worth, the vice-president, after alluding to his thirty years’ connection with the club, proposed, in a complimentary manner, the “Health of the Visitors”, which was responded to by the Rev.  Mr. Newham, of Leicester, and Mr. Thompson, the celebrated problem composer of Derby, in very cordial terms. The health of the respected president (Mr. Hamel) having been proposed and drunk with due honours, the members left the supper table, and again proceeded with their games, which were carried on until a late hour. The following is a list of the players – Leicester, Messrs. Ptacek, Withers, Atkins, Latchmore, Stanyon, Nuttall, and the Rev. – Newham. Nottingham: Messrs. E. Marriott, T. Marriott, A. Marriott, Roe, Alderman W. G. Ward, Hugh Browne, T. A. Stevenson, and Mellors. At midnight, the contest was concluded, when it was announced that Nottingham had won six games, lost five, and drawn one. The match resulted in favour of Nottingham by one game.

We only have the names here, but, fortunately the Leicester Chronicle provided more details:

Leicester Chronicle 10 February 1877

Here, we’re told that Arthur Towle Marriott played on board 4 against Herr Ptacek, winning both his games.

Nottingham’s chess star Sigismund Hamel was present, but, for some reason, didn’t play in the match. However, he annotated (rather inaccurately, according to Stockfish 14) Arthur’s two games for the Nottingham Daily Express (not available online).

In the first game, Arthur’s opponent put up little resistance. This is why I often recommend the Ruy Lopez to novices. If Black isn’t familiar with the opening he can end up in a lost position very quickly. This is just the sort of game I like to use when introducing my pupils to this opening.

But who was Herr Ptacek? What was someone with such an exotic name doing in Leicester?

It’s a very good question, with a very interesting answer.

I really need to introduce you to Robert Ralph Noel.

R R Noel (1802-1883) was born in Kirkby Mallory (as in Mallory Park race circuit), the son of a clergyman. He was very well connected: knowing, either directly or indirectly, almost everyone who was anyone in 19th century England: George Eliot, Charles Darwin, Lord Byron (Ada Lovelace, a distant relation, lived in Kirkby Mallory as a young girl). He married a German Baroness whose family had an estate in Bohemia, which gave him connections to the likes of Goethe right across Europe. He wrote a book on phrenology, which you can, if you so desire (but I wouldn’t bother if I were you), read today.

However, his day job involved running the Leicestershire Militia (the volunteer forces), and, like all forces in those days, they needed a good military band, with a good bandmaster to lead it. For much of the 19th century England was known as ‘the land without music’, so when a musician was required it was tempting to look abroad. Mrs Noel had heard good things about a young man from Prague called Franz Ptacek (he’d often be known as Francis in England), and, in 1854, he was engaged to run a military band in Leicester. It seems he was very successful and popular, but, after 12 years or so, following some sort of dispute, he felt obliged to resign his position.

He then set up a new orchestra and concert society, and resumed giving concerts in Leicester. He was also a composer, pianist and organist seemingly much in demand. Light classical music concerts (think the Strauss family: waltzes, polkas, marches, that sort of thing) were a very popular entertainment at the time. He was more ambitious than this, though, writing an opera and programming two of Handel’s great oratorios: Saul and Samson.

It’s time for some music. Ptacek was particularly renowned for his interpretation of the famous Dead March from Saul. I’d have liked to offer you the Leicester Militia playing this in 1860, but instead you’ll have to do with the next best thing: the Band of the Coldstream Guards recorded in 1910.

Band of the Coldstream Guards play Handel’s Funeral March – YouTube

He also found time to indulge in his (and our) favourite hobby: chess. He was selected to represent his adopted city in what was perhaps their first competitive match, where he met our hero, Arthur Towle Marriott.

His play in the first game wasn’t at all impressive, but he conducted his troops rather better in the return game. Perhaps the supper provided by Bingham’s Restaurant had some effect. His Scotch Gambit led to a winning position, only for him to throw away the win with one careless mistake.

Chess matches in those days served a social rather than a competitive purpose. The result, while eagerly anticipated, didn’t really matter that much. It was more an excuse for players from neighbouring towns or cities to meet for some enjoyable games, with a supper in between. Over the next decade or so there would be many changes, as you’ll see in future Minor Pieces.

A few years later, though, something went wrong. For a second time he lost his orchestra and had to resort to teaching the pianoforte, taking private pupils as well as acting as a peripatetic teacher at Miss Lomas’s school.

At Christmas 1885, Ptacek travelled to Chatham to spend the holiday period with his friend Rudolf Sawerthal, another Czech born military musician. He was just about to return to Leicester when he suffered a fatal heart attack, at the age of only 52.

The Leicester Chronicle published a lengthy obituary:

It is with feelings of sincere regret that we announce the death of Herr Ptacek, which took place at Chatham on Thursday morning. The death of this eminent local musician was totally unexpected, and the intelligence of his sudden decease was received with great surprise amongst his intimate friends. About ten days ago Herr Ptacek proceeded to Chatham on a visit to Herr Sawerthal, the accomplished master of the band of the Royal Engineers, whose performance in the Floral Hall during Christmas week gave such exceptional satisfaction to everyone who heard them. He contemplated returning to Leicester on Thursday morning, and had made every preparation for his departure, when he was suddenly seized with pain at the heart. A medical man was immediately summoned, but before he could arrive Herr Ptacek had expired. A telegram was shortly afterwards despatched to Mr. J. Herbert Marshall, of the Rutland-Street music depot, one of the deceased’s most intimate friends, and that gentleman communicated the sad intelligence to his friends in Leicester, all of whom heard the occurrence with much regret. To many the name Herr Ptacek will be unknown, but his name will not be forgotten by those ardent lovers of music who twenty years ago were charmed with the brilliant company of artistes he gathered around him. The deceased came to Leicester a comparative stranger, but his abilities soon won favourable recognition, and he speedily became possessed of a merited reputation for musical accomplishments, which was not confined to the limits of the borough. In 1855 Herr Ptacek was introduced to Leicester by Major and Mrs Noel, who were convinced of his sterling worth as an organiser and conductor. He left Prague, where he had been brought up under cultivating influences, and took charge of the militia band, which was in want of complete and thorough organisation. So well did Herr Ptacek succeed at his appointed task that before long the band was selected to play before the Queen at Aldershot, and the fine playing of the men under his control elicited warm expressions of Royal approval. The band subsequently played several times before a distinguished company at Belvoir Castle. Some disagreement ultimately took place between him and the officers of the regiment, in consequence of which – in order to maintain his self-respect – he felt it necessary to resign. The resignation was accepted, and he renounced the position of bandmaster, amid many expressions of regret. His efforts to improve the musical taste of the town were not, however, forgotten. On December 16, 1867, he was presented by Mr. T. T. Paget, M.P., at a largely-attended meeting of influential inhabitants, with a purse containing 150 guineas, as some acknowledgement of the efforts he had put forth for twelve years to cultivate musical taste and provide for the public enjoyment. The purse was worked by Mrs Noel, and, in accepting the gift, Herr Ptacek made a humorous and appropriate speech. Some time after his severance of the connection with the militia band, Herr Ptacek organised a band of his own, which he trained to an exceptional point of perfection, and also became the conductor of the New Orpheus Society, a  musical association partly, if not completely, antagonistic to the then Philharmonic Society. His charge of that society was marked by masterful activity, his abilities in controlling the resources of an orchestra being strikingly exhibited. Under the auspices of this society, Samson and Saul were given before large audiences in the chief hall of the town, and the magnificent way in which the “Dead March” was rendered has not yet faded from the recollection of those who heard it. Herr Ptacek also for about 14 years filled the position of organist at St. George’s Church, where his cultivated playing was greatly appreciated. He excelled more as a pianist than as an organist, although his skill in playing the more ponderous instrument was of no mean order. Upon his retirement from active musical life he was again the recipient of a testimonial subscribed for by his admiring friends. He lived in comparative retirement, and his name has not been connected with musical efforts in the town for many years past, although we believe he continued to take pupils who  wished to e instructed in the mysteries of the pianoforte. From the commencement of his labours in Leicester his energies had been invariably directed towards the education of the inhabitants, and in this respect he has probably never been excelled, although it would be idle to say he has not been equalled. He was uniformly courteous, and his geniality endeared him to all who came in contact with him. His life was arduous and self-sacrificing, and the news of his death will not fall to awaken feelings of sorrow. He was about 52 years of age. We understand that instructions have been given to have the deceased interred in the Leicester Cemetery.

His memorial unfortunately misspells both his names, making him Frances rather than Francis (‘i’ for ‘im, ‘e’ for ‘er, as my mother taught me).

The inscription reads, in part:

An accomplished musician he was endeared to his many pupils and to all who knew him, not more by his varied attainments than by his honesty and frankness and by the warmth of his attainments. Those who now sorrow over his grave may well say he came among us as a stranger and he departed leaving many warm and devoted friends.

This site provides more information: his date of birth is given as 1831, but this may be wrong: other records suggest it was 2 December 1832. It’s also incorrect in stating that his wife was Czech.

Further information, including from a source about Masonic Music and Musicians in Leicestershire and Rutland, can be found here.

As far as I can tell, none of his music has survived, but I did find a polka written by his friend Rudolf Sawerthal, arranged for accordion:

Polka Arlequín – YouTube

There you have it: Arthur Towle Marriott’s opponent Francis Ptacek leads us on a tour of chess and musical life in Leicester in the 1870s and 1880s. Who will we discover next? You’ll find out here soon enough.

And, by the way, if you’re interested in the sociology of chess in the English Midlands in the 19th century, you can read Rob Ensor’s 2016 Masters Thesis on Nottingham chess here. My thanks to Rob for making this available, and also to John Swain for bringing it to my attention.

 

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Minor Pieces 4: The Marriott Family

It’s midnight on 28 June 1816. a group of saboteurs breaks into Heathcoat and Boden’s lace mill in Loughborough, Leicestershire, determined to smash their machinery.  John Heathcoat must have had advance warning: he’s ensured there are plenty of workers on hand to repel the invaders. Fights break out, gunshots are heard, and one of the watchmen, John Asher, is hit, blood pouring from a slug in back of his head. Asher’s companions are forced to the ground at gunpoint, and the saboteurs destroy all 55 of the lace making machines, steal some lace and make their escape.

These men are Luddites, taking their name from the perhaps mythical Ned Ludd. Campaigning against poor working conditions and grinding poverty they see no option but to use violence to pursue their aims.

The leader of the insurrection, James Towle, from Basford, near Nottingham, is identified and quickly arrested. Although he himself did not fire the shot that hit John Asher, he is convicted, sentenced to death and publicly hanged in Leicester on 20 November. The following year, six more members of Towle’s gang, including his younger brother William, are also hanged, and another two transported to Australia.

The last moments of James Towle, :who was executed at Leicester, Nov. 20, 1816 REPOSITORY: Harvard Law School Library, Harvard University

Were they heroes or villains? Terrorists or martyrs? You decide. There are always people on the wrong side of history. The Industrial Revolution brought destitution to many, but there were others who saw an opportunity to join the burgeoning middle classes, perhaps by starting up their own shop or factory. This is the story of one of them.

Time moves on. The clock ticks. The calendar pages are turned over.

It’s now 19 October 1818. James and William’s cousin Catherine, also in Basford, marries Richard Green. In 1820 Catherine gives birth to a daughter, who is named Sarah.

We spin forward to 1844, when Sarah marries Thomas Marriott, from nearby Bulwell. He is most likely the Thomas Marriott baptised there on 9 March 1817, whose parents are listed as Joseph, a Framework Knitter, and his wife Mary.

One thing we know about Thomas is that he’s a keen chess player, whose sons will also learn how to play. I’m not sure how common chess was amongst the framework knitting community at the time: perhaps Thomas saw a knowledge of the Royal Game as a way into the middle classes.

Here’s a game played by one of his sons, a devotee of gambit play. ‘Septimus Placid’ was probably top Nottingham player Sigismund Hamel.

By 1851 he’s already doing well. We pick him up in the census, where, remaining in the local lace-making industry, he’s left his humble origins behind. He’s a lace maker and tea dealer, trying out another line of business on the side, it seems. Sarah is there with him, along with their three sons, Edwin, Thomas and Henry, and he’s sufficiently well off to be able to employ a servant.

In 1861 he’s a lace manufacturer, suggesting perhaps a slightly higher status than a lace maker, which is what Edwin is doing. Sadly, Thomas junior had died in 1855, but the family is now completed by Henry, John, Sarah, another Thomas, Frederick and Arthur. John, Sarah and Arthur were all given the middle name Towle in honour, as was the fashion at the time, of their grandmother Catherine. (The census record has been transcribed as Maniott: thanks to Jon D’Souza-Eva for discovering this, which had eluded other historians, and pointing it out to us.) I wonder whether Thomas knew about his wife’s nefarious relatives, and, if so, what he thought of them.

The 1871 census (name transcribed incorrectly as Marrett) tells us Thomas is now employing 4 men and 5 boys. Edwin and John have left home, but Sarah and the other children are still there. No doubt chess is often played.

Here’s another game, played by Arthur at Simpson’s Divan, which we visited in an earlier Minor Piece, against George Alcock MacDonnell, one of the top English (but Irish born) players of the day.

Thomas’s business continues to prosper: by 1881 he’s employing 34 males and 4 females. I hope he treated his workers better than John Heathcoat and John Boden did. Sarah and their two youngest sons, Frederick and Arthur, are at home with him.

Let’s stop to look at what happened to his children. We know that his six sons who survived childhood all played chess, and we have playing records for most of them.

Thomas’s youngest son, Arthur Towle Marriott, was the strongest and also the shortest lived. He’s the subject of a recent book recounting his gloomy fate and romantic chess. EdoChess awards him a peak rating of 2376, and, had he lived, he could have been a world class player.

Here’s one of his last and most brilliant games: he was living in Bournemouth at the time, hoping the sea air would improve his health.

Two of Arthur’s brothers were also pretty decent players, taking high boards for Nottingham in matches against other Midlands towns. The oldest brother, Edwin, had a peak rating of 2275 and draws to his credit against Teddington resident and future British Championship contender George Edward Wainwright and, in his final recorded game, against the young Henry Ernest Atkins. Away from the chessboard he followed in his father’s footsteps as a lace manufacturer, possibly taking over his business interests when he retired.

Thomas Walter Marriott was of similar strength to Edwin, with a peak rating of 2244: again, by the standards of his day, a formidable player. Thomas Walter was, like many chess players, an accountant, and, also like many chess players, never married. At least up to 1911 he chose to live in boarding houses, even though he had inherited property after his father’s death.

John Towle Marriott’s life took a different course. He chose to train as a minister of religion, specifically the Unitarian movement, who believed in the unity of God, rather than the Trinity accepted by most Christians.  He settled near Salford, marrying the daughter of a celebrated reporter and antiquary, but died of typhoid fever in 1890. He didn’t seem to play club chess, but returned to Nottingham in 1886 to take part in the 3rd class tournament of the Counties Chess Association, which he won with 6½/9, a performance rated by EdoChess as 1780.

John Towle Marriott

Sarah Towle Marriott may well have played her brothers at home, but chess was, back in those days, considered an almost exclusively male activity. You might think we haven’t made much progress in that respect in the past century and a half. Her first husband, who died young, was a colliery agent who had business interests in London – the 1881 census found the family in Fulham, which, as far as I know, has never had very many coal mines. Their son Harry Marriott Burton was interesting: he was an artist who travelled the world – Canada, South Africa – painting wherever he went, ending his life in Queensland at the great age of 96. His paintings are now quite collectible.

Mount Sir Donald, Selkirk Mountains of British Columbia Harry Marriott Burton (1882–1979) Nottingham City Museums & Galleries

Thomas Marriott’s other two sons are mysterious, as you’ll find out.

The 1891 census finds him, now a retired widower, living with his daughter Sarah, herself widowed, and her two surviving children.

By 1901, now aged 84, he’s living with an otherwise unknown Francis Marriott, who appears to be his full time carer. My guess, as there’s no other Francis around, and because the age is right, this is really Frederick: either the enumerator made a mistake or he’s using a false name for some reason. He’s there with his wife Lizzie, from Derbyshire, and an 11-year-old daughter, Ethel, who, unexpectedly, was born in Vancouver, British Columbia. The last we heard of Frederick was in the 1881 census (he appears to have taken part in a consultation game the same year), and I haven’t been able to find any further sighting of Frederick or Francis in England, Canada or anywhere else. It’s all a mystery.

Thomas’s other son, Henry, is also elusive. He’s living at home in 1871, working as a clerk in a coal office, but then disappears from view.

Thomas lives on until 8 September 1906, dying in the Coppice Asylum, a private institution in Nottingham. I would guess that he was suffering from some kind of dementia in the last few years of his life.

His will makes interesting reading. He seems to have been fairly wealthy, owning several properties, which are shared between Sarah (who also received his personal effects), Thomas Walter and Frederick, with specific instructions that nothing should go to either Edwin or Henry. Perhaps Edwin, having inherited the family business, was well catered for anyway. Perhaps, though, there was a falling out with both Edwin and Henry. Perhaps he chose to reward Sarah and Frederick, who had both been caring for him in his old age, and Thomas Walter, who had been involved with the legal side of the will. Perhaps he had no idea wither or not Henry was still alive. The inheritance for Frederick seems to suggest again that he and Francis were one and the same person, but who knows?

Finally, let’s return to Edwin. He had nine children, several of whom are also remarkably difficult to track down. This is very unusual for the time: one is tempted to ask questions about the family dynamics. My particular interest is with the oldest of them, Arthur James, who married Frances Keywood, the possessor of a relatively unusual surname. (There used to be a lace manufacturing company in Nottingham called Cooper & Keywood.)

The Keywoods were one of several families in Nottingham who intermarried a lot, but Frances must have been related in some way to Doris Keywood, who married Louis James there in 1915. His great grandfather Thomas James (whom you’ll meet again another time) was also my 3x great grandfather. Wheels within wheels. There are always stories. There are always connections. And this is the story of how I’m connected to Arthur Towle Marriott and his chess-playing brothers. It’s also the story of how the game of chess has always been shaped by societal shifts: as we move now from the industrial to the post-industrial (and post-pandemic) age chess will change again. By learning lessons from history we can be proactive in deciding how chess should be promoted and organised in future.

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