Category Archives: History

Remembering Frederick Forrest Lawrie Alexander (13-xi-1879 01-iv-1965)

Remembering Frederick Forrest Lawrie Alexander (13-xi-1879 01-iv-1965)

Interesting article from Woodseats Library

Here is an article from the Chess Composers Blog

He was seven times champion of Battersea Chess Club

The Surrey County Chess Association has The Alexander Trophy as one of its main awards : is it awarded for the top knockout competition.

Here is some history of the trophy from Surbiton Chess Club

Here are a handful of his games from chessgames.com and here is what chessgames.com has to say about FFLA :

“Frederick Forrest Lawrie Alexander played in the 1932 British Championship, but with little success. At age 70, playing at the 1950 Southsea tournament, he shocked the pundits by defeating Efim Bogoljubov and Harry Golombek.”

Here is more detail and photographs of the Alexander Cup from Britbase / John Saunders

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Remembering Sir Stuart Milner-Barry KCVO CB OBE (20-ix-1906 25-iii-1995)

BCN remembers Sir Stuart Milner-Barry KCVO CB OBE who passed away on Saturday, March 25th, 1995 in Lewisham Hospital, London aged 88. He was laid to rest in the Great Shelford Cemetery, Cambridge Road, Great Shelford, Cambridge CB22 5JJ.

A memorial service was held for him at Westminster Abbey on 15 June 1995.

Great Shelford Cemetery Gravestone of Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry KCVO CB OBE by Geoffrey Gillon
Great Shelford Cemetery Gravestone of Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry KCVO CB OBE by Geoffrey Gillon
Signature of PS Milner-Barry from a Brian Reilly "after dinner" postcard from Margate 1936.
Signature of PS Milner-Barry from a Brian Reilly “after dinner” postcard from Margate 1936.

Philip Stuart Milner-Barry was born on Thursday, September 20th 1906 in Mill Hill in the London Borough of Barnet. Mill Hill falls under the Hendon Parliamentary constituency.

Parents

His parents were Lieutenant-Commander Edward Leopold (1867-1917) and Edith Mary Milner-Barry (born 17th May 1866, died 1949, née Besant). Edward was in the  Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, H.M.S. “Wallington.” Prior to his war service his father was a professor of modern languages at the University of Bangor and Edith was the daughter of Dr. William Henry Besant, a renowned mathematical fellow of St John’s College, Cambridge University.

Stuart was the second born of six children, There was  an older sister Alda Mary (18th August 1893-1938) and four brothers Edward William Besant (?-1911) , Walter Leopold (1904-1982), John O’Brien (4 December 1898 – 28 February 1954) and Patrick James . Many of the Milner-Barry family were laid to rest in the Great Shelford churchyard.

Stuart learned chess at the age of eight and his autobiographical article below goes into more depth.

He was educated at Cheltenham College, and won a scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he obtained firsts in classics and moral sciences.

On leaving Cambridge in 1927 he went to work at the London Stock Exchange (LSE).

According to the 1928 and 1929 electoral rolls he was living with his mother Edith  and his brothers Walter and John O’Brien at 50 De Freville Avenue, Cambridge CB4 1HT:

50 De Freville Avenue, Cambridge CB4 1HT
50 De Freville Avenue, Cambridge CB4 1HT

In 1931 the family had relocated to 11, Park Terrace, Cambridge which is nearby to Emmanuel College. Now living  with the family was brother Patrick James.

11, Park Terrace, Cambridge, CB1 1JJ
11, Park Terrace, Cambridge, CB1 1JJ
Period map of the area of 11, Park Terrace, Cambridge, CB1 1JJ
Period map of the area of 11, Park Terrace, Cambridge, CB1 1JJ

He discovered that he did not enjoy his LSE work and switched careers to became chess correspondent of The Times in 1938.

At the time (September 29th) of the 1939 register he (aged 33) was living as a journalist in a household of three with his mother Edith who carried out “unpaid domestic duties” and sister Alda who was of “private means”.

Honours

In 1946 Stuart was awarded the OBE from the Civil Division in the  New Years Honours . The citation reads that was “employed in a Department of the Foreign Office”. A modern translation of this was he was engaged in Top Secret work at Bletchley Park alongside Alan Turing, Gordon Welchman and Hugh Alexander and was thus honoured for his war work. More on this later…

After the war he worked in the Treasury, and later in 1966 administered the British honours system where he helped to facilitate the award of honours to other chess players ultimately retiring in 1977.

As well as the OBE he was made Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in 1962 and Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCV0) in 1975.

A conference room was named after him at the Civil Service Club, 13 – 15 Great Scotland Yard, London SW1A 2HJ.

Peter Hennessy* and The Rewarding Career of Sir Stuart Milner-Barry

*Peter Hennessy is a renowned historian and journalist. The following was originally published in The Times in 1977 following  PSMBs retirement.

“Few careers can have been as varied and rewarding as that of Sir Stuart Milner-Barry, who retires today as Ceremonial Officer to the Civil Service Department and custodian of the British honours system.

Into the 48 years since he left Cambridge with a degrees in classics and moral sciences, he has crammed spells as a stockbroker, chess correspondent of  The Times and member of the British chess team, a wartime codebreaker for MI6 and a senior Treasury official before taking over administration of the nations “gongs and bongs ” nearly 11 years ago.

The richness of Sir Stuart’s progression is all the more striking given the difficulty he experienced in finding a job at all after university because of the Wall Street crash in 1929. His first 10 years spanned the slump of the 1930s, when there was little for a stockbroker to do, but fill his days reading The Times.

In 1938 he joined the paper full time as chess correspondent and, along with many of the world’s leading players, he was nearly trapped in Buenos Aires when war broke out the next year (ed. should be month rather than year). Catching the first ship home, he finished up with that brilliant collection of dons, antique dealers, mathematicians and chess players billeted in Nissen huts in the park of Buckinghamshire country house, who broke the code transmitted by the German Enigma machine.

The original Hut 6 building (photographed in 2004). Milner-Barry joined Hut 6 in early 1940, and worked in the section throughout World War II. He became head of Hut 6 in Autumn 1943.
The original Hut 6 building (photographed in 2004). Milner-Barry joined Hut 6 in early 1940, and worked in the section throughout World War II. He became head of Hut 6 in Autumn 1943.

Sir Stuart eventually rose to lead hut six, which broke the most secret messages of the Luftwaffe. Quartered in a comfortable Bletchley public house with another formidable chess player, C. H. O’D. Alexander, and Gordon Welchman, the Cambridge mathematician, he acquired a taste  for rum, the only alcohol in plentiful supply for some reason, and a sense of guilt about enjoying, his stimulating, important job, safe while other men faced the bullets.

He was not tempted to stay on in the arcane world of code-breaking after the war, unlike his friend, the late Hugh Alexander, as he regards such activities in peacetime as akin to reading somebody’s private correspondence, though he recognizes the necessity of such efforts for intelligence work. Instead, he took the reconstruction competition for the administrative class of the Civil Service and entered the Treasury.

While battling with the post-war dollar shortage in Treasury Chambers he “found a wife, carried her off and lived happily ever after”, as he cheerfully puts it. Apart from a spell as establishment officer to the Ministry of Health, he stayed at the Treasury until he reached the normal retiring age of 60 in 1966.

Lord Helsby, then Head of the Home Civil Service, asked him to stay on and take over the smooth machine that underpins the honours system, which had been built up over many years by Sir Robert Knox. Sir Stuart has loved every minute of it.

He looks every inch the part, a tall stately man of immense natural dignity, he is the incarnation of propriety. The stresses to which the honours system has been subjected to in recent years must have caused him great distress but he is far too proper a civil servant to talk about it. His retirement at 70 has nothing to do with the alarums and excursions stimulated by the honours lists associated with Harold Wilson.

“One of my principal jobs has been the protection of the system”, he says. “The pleasures are very great. It’s fascinating in itself. You see so much of the history of people in every walk of like”.

Sir Stuart waxes eloquent about the beauty and uniqueness of the British honours system. He is a confirmed monarchist, so the spontaneity of the jubilee celebrations  provides the perfect backcloth for his departure. He is succeeded by Mr. Richard Sharp, an under-secretary at the Treasury.”

Below is the original article:

Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry OBE
Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry OBE

Marriage to Thelma

In the third quarter of 1947 Stuart married Thelma Tennant Wells in Westminster. A consequence of the “rules of the day” of the marriage was that Thelma had to resign her post in the Treasury immediately.  (Ed: this somewhat antiquated view of life was finally corrected in 1972 when the Civil Service dispensed with this rule).

Lady Thelma was to support Stuart in his chess activities for their married life. She also served as the first UK Director of Women’s Chess and made many lasting friendships in the chess world. She was buried together with Stuart in 2007. Stuart himself was President of the British Chess Federation between 1970 and 1973 as well as being Director of International Chess following his presidency.

Stuart and Thelma had three children, one son and two daughters: Philip O. (born 1953), Jane E (born 1950) and Alda M (born 1958).

Dave Rumens is pleased to accept a cheque for £200 from Lady Thelma Milner-Barry for winning the 1978 Nottingham Congress with 5.5/6. Photograph provided by Nottinghamshire County Council.
Dave Rumens is pleased to accept a cheque for £200 from Lady Thelma Milner-Barry for winning the 1978 Nottingham Congress with 5.5/6. Photograph provided by Nottinghamshire County Council.

Stuart was knighted on January 1st 1975 for his role as the “Ceremonial Officer of  Civil Service Department” between 1966-77. Technically the knighthood is known as a KCVO.

Milner-Barry was Southern Counties (SCCU) champion for the 1960-61 season.

He first competed in the British Championship in 1931 and made regular appearences as late as 1978: a span of 47 years!

In their retirement  years Stuart and Thelma lived at the salubrious location of 43 Blackheath Park, Blackheath, London SE3 9RW.

Autobiography

In June of 1933 at the age of 27 Stuart wrote an autobiographical piece for British Chess Magazine to be found in Volume LIII (53, 1933), Number 6 (June), pp. 241-2 as follows:

Stuart Milner-Barry in 1933 taken from BCM, 1933, June
Stuart Milner-Barry in 1933 taken from BCM, 1933, June

P.S. Milner-Barry

Champion of the City of London Chess Club

I learned chess at the age of eight and played regularly after that with members of my family. My first-class practise (with due respect to my family) began at fourteen, when Mr. Bertram Goulding Brown and  started a series of serious friendly games which has continued ever since, almost without interruption. The vast majority of these games were begun with 1 P-K4, P-K4, and as we both eschewed the Lopez and the Four Knights, we have acquired  a fairly extensive knowledge of the older forms of the King’s side openings – King’s Gambit (all sorts), Vienna, Guioco Piano, Evans’s Gambit, Danish Gambit, Bishop’s Opening, etc. These games have undoubtedly born the most important influence in my development, apart from which the serious friendly game is to me much the most enjoyable form of chess. We each have runs of success, and there has never been much to choose between us.

(An aside : Stuart wrote a extensive obituary of Bertram Goulding Brown which appeared in British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXV (85, 1965), Number 12(December) pp.344-45 in which he noted:

B. Goulding Brown was my oldest and closest Cambridge friend, I started playing with him in 1920, and we have played ever since, though, alas, not nearly so often since the War as in the 1920s and 1930. Our last games, when he was eighty three, were played about a year ago in the same book-congested upstairs study at Brookside as all the others had been. Both were cut-and-thrust draws: a Kieseritzky Gambit from myself and Two Knights’ (with 4.P-Q4 for White) were typical of the openings we adopted. We were planning another this Autumn, but he died suddenly and peacefully at the end of August, )

I have also been very fortunate in playing a good deal with C.H.O’D. Alexander. Our games have taken the form of a series of short matches (first player to win three games) played with clocks. Alexander was already stronger than me when he came up to Cambridge, and he won the University Championship from me in his first year and my fourth.

CHO'D Alexander plays his old friend PS Milner-Barry
CHO’D Alexander plays his old friend PS Milner-Barry

All three matches have been won by him, the first easily and the last two by the narrowest possible margin; a fourth now in progress looks like coming to an early  and ignominious conclusion (Score 0-2-2). These results have neither surprised nor disappointed me : I would not back any player in England to do better.

(ed. For more detail on PSMBs matches with Hugh we refer to you our article on Hugh).

In 1923 I won the first Boy’s Championship at Hastings, but lost badly the following year (ed. Alexander won).

Boy Chess Champion PS Milner-Barry (Cheltenham College), first boy chess champion of England, receiving the cup from Mrs. AG Ginner, the donor , at the Hastings Chess Club
Boy Chess Champion PS Milner-Barry (Cheltenham College), first boy chess champion of England, receiving the cup from Mrs. AG Ginner, the donor , at the Hastings Chess Club

Since then I have competed twice at Hastings, once tieing with Miss Menchik in the Major Reserve for the first place and once for the last, in the Major. In between I played in the Major Open at Tenby, and came out fifth, with my first important win against Znosko-Borovsky.

Meanwhile I played four years against Oxford, with somewhat chequered results. The first year I won against G. Abrahams, the second and third years, I played K.H. Bancroft and scored a (very fortunate) draw and a win, while finally I permitted Abrahams to fork my King and Queen with a Knight, a performance unhappily repeated by R.L. Mitchell in the following year (his Queen was pinned by a Bishop). Since then the spell has been broken. In 1931 I played in the British Championships at Worcester, and was quite satisfied with my form, though my score of 5 out of 11 was nothing to write home about. In February 1932, I have the great good fortune to fill a vacant place in the Sunday Referee* London International Tournament, an extremely exhausting but very valuable experience which I greatly appreciated.

*The Sunday Referee was a newspaper of the time which was adsorbed into The Sunday Chronicle in 1939.

Full Crosstable for the 1932 Sunday Referee or London International Masters Tournament
Full Crosstable for the 1932 Sunday Referee or London International Masters Tournament

My score of 3.5 out of 11, equal with Sir George Thomas and above W. Winter and V. Buerger, was quite as good as I expected. After this came the Cambridge Tournament, which, though a very delightful little congress, was a fiasco from my point of view. Three of my opponents were unkind enough to show their best form against me, and two other games I spoilt by clock trouble.

I do not expect to play much serious competitive chess in future. I admire sincerely the business man who is ready, after a hard day at the office, to undergo a further four hours of strenuous mental exertion; and who is also prepared to spend his all too brief holidays in the same exhausting pursuit. Moreover, while many players find the atmosphere of match and tournament play a stimulus or an inspiration, it only renders me nervous, and though this does not affect my play it certainly interferes with my enjoyment. As long as I can play my week-end games with B.G.B., and inveigle Alexander from Winchester to add another to his monotonous series of victories, I shall not much mind if I can only occasionally take part in congresses. ”

PS Milner-Barry Cup

In issue #53 (April 1946)  of West London Chess Club’s Gazette we have a news item concerning a newly inaugurated trophy called the PS Milner-Barry Cup:

issue #53 (April 1946)  of West London Chess Club's Gazette
issue #53 (April 1946)  of West London Chess Club’s Gazette

Sergeant on Milner-Barry

Writing in A Century of British Chess (Hutchinson, 1934), PW Sergeant records in Chapter XXI, 1925 to 1934:

The City of London C.C.’s Championship Tournament which ended this (1933) spring deserves special mention; for it introduced an entirely new name on the list of champions, that of P.S. Milner-Barry, formerly of Cheltenham College and of Cambridge University.  Ten years previously he had won the first boys’ championship at Hastings.

Now, he won the City of London Championship with a score of 11 out of 14, followed by the bearers of such noted names as R.P. Michell (10 points), Sir George Thomas (9), and E.G. Sergeant (8.5). It caused some surprise, therefore, when it was found that he was not selected as a British representative at Folkestone.

Golombek on Milner-Barry

Surprisingly and disappointingly there is no direct entry in either Hooper & Whyld or Sunnucks for Sir Stuart but (as you might expect) Harry Golombek OBE does not let us down  in The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977):

“British master whose chess career was limited by his amateur status but whose abilities as a player and original theorist rendered him worthy of the title of international master.

Born at Mill Hill in London, he showed early promise and in 1923 won the British Boys Championship, then held at Hastings.

He studied classics at Cambridge and developed into the strongest player there. At the university he was to meet (ed. three years later) C. H. O’D. Alexander with whom he played much chess.

Though nearly three years younger, Alexander exerted a strong influence over him and both players cherished and revelled in the brilliance of play in open positions.

24th April 1935: J Mieses of Germany in play against PS Milner-Barry during the Premier Tournament of the Kent County Chess Association in the Grand Hotel, Margate. (Photo by F. Sayers/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
24th April 1935: J Mieses of Germany in play against PS Milner-Barry during the Premier Tournament of the Kent County Chess Association in the Grand Hotel, Margate. (Photo by F. Sayers/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

By then along with Alexander and Golombek, he had become recognized as one of the three strongest young players in the country. Whilst not as successful as they were in tournaments as the British championship in which stamina was essential, he was a most formidable club and team match player, as he had already shown in 1933 when he won the championship of the City of London Club ahead of R. P. Mitchell and Sir George Thomas.

Harry Golombek OBE plays Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry OBE
Harry Golombek OBE plays Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry OBE

He played in his first International Team tournament at Stockholm 1937 and was to play in three more such events : in 1939 at Buenos Aires where, on third board, he made the fine score of 4/5 ; in Helsinki 1952; and in Moscow 1956 where, again on third board, he was largely responsible for the team’s fine showing.

Left to right Baruch H Wood, Stuart Milner-Barry, Vera Menchik (playing in the women's world championship (held concurrently with the 1939 Buenos Aires Olympiad) which she won with 17 wins and 2 draws), Sir George Thomas, Conel Hugh O'Donel Alexander and Harry Golombek. England withdrew after their preliminary group due to the outbreak of war despite qualifying for the top final. Thanks to Leonard Barden
Left to right Baruch H Wood, Stuart Milner-Barry, Vera Menchik (playing in the women’s world championship (held concurrently with the 1939 Buenos Aires Olympiad) which she won with 17 wins and 2 draws), Sir George Thomas, Conel Hugh O’Donel Alexander and Harry Golombek. England withdrew after their preliminary group due to the outbreak of war despite qualifying for the top final. Thanks to Leonard Barden

In 1940 he shared first prize with Dr. List in the strong tournament of semi-international character in London and then, like Alexander and (later) Golombek, helped in the Foreign Office code-breaking activities at Bletchley Park for the duration of the Second World War. Staying in the Civil Service afterwards, he rose to the rank of Under-Secretary in the Treasury and was knighted for his services in 1975.

Sir Stuart Milner-Barry talks about Malik Mir Sultan Khan
Sir Stuart Milner-Barry talks about Malik Mir Sultan Khan

Below is footage (start at 1′ 55″) of Sir Stuart discussing the talent of Malik Mir Sultan Khan:

After the war, too, he had some fine results in the British championship, his best being second place at Hastings in 1953.

Hartston on Milner-Barry

The following article is sourced from November 1995 edition* of Dragon, the Cambridge University Chess Club magazine:

(*Edited by Jonathan Parker)

A sample cover of Dragon, the Cambridge University Chess Club Magazine
A sample cover of Dragon, the Cambridge University Chess Club Magazine

“I first met Sir Stuart Milner-Barry when I was fifteen years old (1962) playing in a tournament in Bognor Regis who played some rustic king’s pawn opening against me, sacrificing a pawn for nothing in particular and then astonished by writing “castles” in full on his scoresheet.  I think he used “kt” for a knight too. I thought I had discovered  a true relic from a bygone age and the more I got to know him I realised the more correct that judgement was.

Milner-Barry was the last of the true gentlemen amateurs and was one of the few people I have ever met who played chess for the sheer love of the game.

A few typical incidents may give a flavour of his unique personality. First and most typical was the way he would resign: with a firm handshake, a smile and a booming whisper of ‘You are far too good for me I’m afraid!’ When I first heard those words I was totally taken aback : What was this, a chessplayer acknowledging that his opponent was better than him? Impossible!

Once, at close of play in a county match against Milner-Barry I had the extra pawn in a difficult queen and pawn ending.  We analysed a little with most variations suggesting I was winning. It was the kind of position you would send for adjudication even if you are convinced it is lost. It avoids having to resign anyway and the adjudicator may always discount the pawns. But, Sir Stuart never thought like that. After ten minutes analysing he extended his hand and congratulated me.

Sir Stuart Milner-Barry in play against Daniel Yanofsky from round 6 of the British Championship in Hastings, 15th August 1953
Sir Stuart Milner-Barry in play against Daniel Yanofsky from round 6 of the British Championship in Hastings, 15th August 1953

Finally there was the splendid incident in Moscow during the (Ed. 6th) European Team Championships in the late 1970s (Ed. 1977) Stuart was then the President of the BCF and took up an invitation of his old friend the British Ambassador to the USSR (Ed. Sir Howard Smith) to visit the event.  Since he was staying at the Embassy he had a KGB tail assigned to him to follow him everywhere. On one of his morning walks Sir Stuart got lost and was not certain which bridge he should be on to get back to the Embassy. So, he turned around and walked back to the not very secret policeman, followed him and asked for directions! For the rest of his stay they walked practically hand-in-hand.

Whilst most of us knew Stuart as an amiable old gent who played for Kent and in the Lloyds Bank Masters who could still play brilliant attacking games in his eighties  most knew little of his distinguished career in real life.

Sir Stuart Milner-Barry
Sir Stuart Milner-Barry

We suspected with some justification  that in his civil service career he was responsible for doling out all those OBEs to chess players  in the 70s and 80s when he was in charge of the honours list.

It was the wartime work at Bletchley Park that was Milner-Barry’s greatest achievement. As everybody knows the allies won the Second World War mainly because of the brilliant code-breaking work of the Cambridge quartet of Alan Turing, Gordon Welchman, Hugh Alexander and Stuart Milner-Barry. Turing and Welchman were mathematical geniuses, Milner-Barry was the supreme administrator and Alexander straddled the gap with great talents in both areas. The group of four were known as “The Wicked Uncles”

The astonishing achievement at Bletchley was not so  much in breaking enemy codes as maintaining complete secrecy of the entire operation for the duration of the war. Only with such people as Milner-Barry and Alexander in charge could such a large operation be run so successfully without anybody knowing about it.

Milner-Barry’s importance in the running at Bletchley may be judged from the fact that he personally delivered the note to Winston Churchill stressing overriding importance of their work asking for more funds.

Compared with that the invention of the Milner-Barry Gambit and the Milner-Barry variation of the Nimzo-Indian are minor achievements.

Sir Stuart was proof that nice guys can be chess players although one cannot help suspecting he would achieved even better results if he had even a slight streak of nastiness about him. He would surely have not let Capablanca off the hook in Margate in 1938 when the attacking player secured a winning position against the ex-champions dragon variation and he would have surely also not let the British Championship slip from his grasp in 1953 when he finished as runner-up  after losing his last two games.

He always performed well when playing in Olympiads (or Team Tournaments as they were known then) for England during the 1930s and 50s. He was, after all, one of the most naturally gifted players this county has produced.  What other Englishman has two opening (or even just one) named after him?

While at Cambridge while he won the University Championship in 1928, losing to Alexander in the following year, Milner-Barry composed some fine problems, a frivolity he never returned to later in his life.

An excellent though infrequent writer on the game, he wrote a fine memoir of C.H.O’D. Alexander in Golombek’s and Hartston’s The Best Games of C.H.O’D. Alexander, Oxford, 1976.”

The Best Games of C.H.O'D. Alexander, Harry Golombek and William Hartston. With A Memoir by Sir Stuart Milner-Barry, Oxford University Press, 1976, ISBN 10: 0192175351 ISBN 13: 9780192175359
The Best Games of C.H.O’D. Alexander, Harry Golombek and William Hartston. With A Memoir by Sir Stuart Milner-Barry, Oxford University Press, 1976, ISBN 10: 0192175351 ISBN 13: 9780192175359

An Obituary from Bernard Cafferty

From British Chess Magazine, Volume CXV (115, 1995), Number 5 (May), pp. 258-59 we have this obituary by Bernard Cafferty:

“Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry KCVO CB  OBE (20 ix 1906 – 25 iii 1995) was the oldest of the British chess masters who came to prominence in the 1930s, He was always thought of in conjunction with his great friends Hugh Alexander and Harry Golombek who both predeceased him. The length of Stuart’s career is amazing  – he was inaugural British Boy Champion in 1923 and was still playing for Kent first team in the Counties Championship  of recent years, thus spanning a period of seven decades! Botvinnik spoke of him to me on my 1994 visit to Moscow.

David Anderton OBE (rhs) congratulates Sir Stuart Milner-Barry OBE for winning the "Board of Honour " game versus Edward Lasker at the 1976 Lloyds Bank Match by Telex, London - New York. From BCM, volume XCVI (96) Number 11 (August), Page 494. The venue was the Bloomsbury Hotel, London. Photo courtesy of Lloyds Bank
David Anderton OBE (rhs) congratulates Sir Stuart Milner-Barry OBE for winning the “Board of Honour ” game versus Edward Lasker at the 1976 Lloyds Bank Match by Telex, London – New York. From BCM, volume XCVI (96) Number 11 (August), Page 494. The venue was the Bloomsbury Hotel, London. Photo courtesy of Lloyds Bank

Yet Stuart, who never gained the IM title, was always the true amateur and genuine English gentleman, whose sense of duty and tradition was very great. It speaks volumes of him that he agonised over whether he should attend the Times Kasparov-Short match of 1993, in a private capacity. He would have liked to watch the play, but as a former British Chess Federation President, 1970-73, he felt it was his duty not to lend any extra recognition to the contest other than that assigned it by the BCF.

Before the war, after graduating from Cambridge in Classics, he took some fine scalps including those of Tartakower and Mieses and should have beaten Capablanca at Margate 1939.

Capablanca and Stuart Milner-Barry at Margate, England, April 15, 1936. AP Photos
Capablanca and Stuart Milner-Barry at Margate, England, April 15, 1936. AP Photos

He worked, rather unhappily, in a stockbroking firm up to 1938 and it is in that capacity that his name appears on the official document that set-up the British Chess Magazine as a limited company in 1937.

During the war he played his part in the Bletchley Park code-breaking undertaking along with Alexander and Golombek, and after the war went into the Civil Service where he had a distinguished career at the Treasury. Then his career was extended as he spent his final working years in the patronage department that sifted recommendations for the honours list.

I recall asking him in 1981 if there was any chance that Brian Reilly could qualify for an award. Stuart’s diplomatic answer was to the effect that he was now retired but would drop a word in the right quarter.

Stuart represented England at the Olympiads or 1936, 1939, 1952 and 1956. At the last of these he played particularly well on fourth board. He was conscious that his old friend Hugh Alexander could not take part in Moscow because of the sensitive nature of his work in the Intelligence Service.

In playing style Milner-Barry, a tall gaunt figure, delighted in an open tactical fight.

He was The Times correspondent 1938-45, resigning the post to let Harry Golombek take over. His best result after the war, apart from the 1956 Moscow Olympiad, was probably his second place in the British Championships of 1953 at Hastings. The abiding impression of his opponents over the years must have been  that here was a player who greatly enjoyed the game, win, lose or draw.

Certainly, that was my idea of him in the tussles we had from the British Championship of 1957 up to county matches in the 1980s.

We shall not see his like again. The England that formed his character is no longer with us.”

Kenworthy on Milner-Barry

Sir Stuart as a student was taught by his lecturer friend Gordon Welchman, later 1940 his Head of Hut.  They were firm friends, a band of brothers, as per the rest of the chess players and mathematicians from the Interwar years at Cambridge University.

His studies were obviously well aligned to be a stockbroker in the City, plus the tedious details of Blotters and Order Management registration.

Obvious exceptions to this University circle was Dr Jacob Bronowski who was given the suspected 5th columnist treatment by authorities in Hull. Obviously, he would have been excellent.

Exception also according to John Hevriel was if you were also from Sidney Sussex, like Staff Sgt. then an RSM  Asa Briggs, who was more Contract Bridge with this all friends crossword addicts team. Asa Briggs felt that Sir Stuart was initially badly rewarded leaving Hut 6 in 1945 for HM Treasury.

Sir Stuart was a noted top cribster, his crosswords, German and thinking from how the Nazi operator would think from his side of the board, obviously helped with Bombe cribs. He always played down his role and abilities in a diplomatic way. He was the facilitator and mentor to many, especially back to Gordon Welchman in his troubled times from 1974 onwards. Sir Stuart was not happy about the proposed book of the Hut 6 Story.

He was the bureaucrat who cared for the welfare of his staff, especially on tedious protract tasks which was the norm. He was into ethics, Quadrivium, logic and rhetoric, philosophy and his knowledge of German poets and Great German thinkers would have been invaluable in solving the Enigma puzzle and how might his opposite number blunder and be sloppy in procedures.

Milner-Barry Variations

Though never at home in close(d) positions, he was an outstanding strategist in the open game and it is significant that his most important contribution to opening theory was the Milner-Barry variation of the Nimzo-Indian Defence which is essentially as attempt to convert a close position into an open one (1.P-Q4, N-KB3; 2.P-QB4, P-K3; 3. N-QB3, B-N5; 4.Q-B2, N-B3).

Hooper & Whyld (1996) note:

“Sometimes called the Zurich or Swiss variation, this is a line in the Nimzo-Indian Defence introduced by Milner-Barry in the Premier Reserves tournament, Hastings 1928-9. This line became more widely known when it was played at Zurich 1934.”

Two famous opening lines are named after him – 4…Nc6 in the Nimzo-Indian (as above), and the gambit in the French Defence: 1.e4 e6;2.d4 d5;3.e5 c5;4.c3 Nc6;5.Nf3 Qb6;6.Bd3 cxd4;7.cxd4 Bd7;8.0-0 Nxd4;

Stuart played this line both in correspondence and over-the-board play. If Black takes the pawn with 10…Qxe5, White gets a fierce attack by 11,Re1 Qd6 (else 12.Nxd5) 12.Nb5.

There is also a sub-variation of the Caro-Kann which is named after Sir Stuart viz:

which is a Blackmar-Diemer style pawn sacrifice.

There is also a Milner-Barry variation in the Falkbeer Counter Gambit to the King’s Gambit thus:

which is an ancient line that he revived at Margate 1937.

and finally, there is a Milner-Barry Variation in the Petroff Defence:

giving a total of five named variations. How many English players have that many?

Problems and Compositions

Stuart developed an interest in problem composition in the 1920s

Sir Stuart Milner-Barry, Problem, Morning Post, 1923
Sir Stuart Milner-Barry, Problem, Morning Post, 1923
Sir Stuart Milner-Barry, Problem, The Observer, 1925
Sir Stuart Milner-Barry, Problem, The Observer, 1925
Sir Stuart Milner-Barry, Problem, British Chess Magazine, 1926
Sir Stuart Milner-Barry, Problem, British Chess Magazine, 1926

Further examples may be found on the excellent Meson Database maintained by Brian Stephenson

Milner-Barry on The English Chess Explosion

Stuart was a great supporter of the development of British chess. Nothing would have given him more pleasure than to witness  the meteoric advances of English players in the 1970s. Indeed, he wrote the foreword to the English Chess Explosion (Batsford, 1980) by Murray Chandler and Ray Keene:

The English Chess Explosion (from Miles to Short), Murray Chandler & Ray Keene, Batsford, 1981, ISBN 0 7134 4009 0
The English Chess Explosion (from Miles to Short), Murray Chandler & Ray Keene, Batsford, 1981, ISBN 0 7134 4009 0

“It gives me great pleasure to have been asked to write a foreword for this book. Nothing has given me more satisfaction than the flowering of British chess talent that has taken place in the past few years.

Between the wars, though we had some splendid players like H. E. Atkins, Sir George Thomas and F. D. Yates, we were a second rate power at chess: in the great Nottingham tournament of 1936, for example, our quartet brought up the rear, and that was where, with occasional shining exceptions, our representatives in international tournaments tended to find themselves. Similarly, after the war in the 1950’s and 1960’s, in spite of Alexander and Penrose, we seldom achieved a really creditable place in the Olympiads.

Alexander who retired early from the arena because of the exacting demands of his profession, must have had rather a depressing time as non-playing captain.

Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry OBE
Sir Stuart Milner-Barry OBE

I myself date the renaissance from the Spring of 1974 when we won a closely contested match against West Germany at Elvetham Hall.
Thereafter we went from strength to strength, with the appearance year by year of highly talented, original and adventurous young men from the Universities – Keene and Hartston, closely followed by Miles, Stean, Nunn, Mestel, Speelman, and a still younger generation of schoolboy prodigies like Nigel Short.

The peak of our performance so far has been the third place (after the USSR and Hungary) last winter in the finals of the European Team Tournament at Skara (compared with our eighth and last place at Moscow in 1977).

Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry OBE presents Dr. Jana Hartston with the ? prize
Sir Stuart Milner-Barry OBE presents Dr. Jana Hartston with the ? prize

How did all this come about in the short space of six years? The Spassky-Fischer match of 1972 was a watershed. Since then, and the first time, it has been possible for able young men from universities to consider chess seriously as a full-time profession, or at least as a career to which they devote the major part of their time and interest, Secondly, the fruits were being reaped of the unobtrusive but devoted spadework in junior training pioneered by Barden, Wade and many others. Lastly, no doubt, sheer good fortune smiled upon us in the simultaneous emergence of a group of brilliant enthusiastic and likeable young men, five of them already grandmasters and others likely to become so before long.

It is sad that Alexander, who did so much to uphold the prestige of British chess in the doldrums, did not survive to witness the transformation. I would like to wish the BCF President, David Anderton, and Alexander’s successor as captain, all possible success for the future.”

Footer from the foreword of The English Chess Explosion (from Miles to Short), Murray Chandler & Ray Keene, Batsford, 1981, ISBN 0 7134 4009 0
Footer from the foreword of The English Chess Explosion (from Miles to Short), Murray Chandler & Ray Keene, Batsford, 1981, ISBN 0 7134 4009 0

In the March issue of CHESS for 1963, (Volume 28, Number 427, pp.147-155)  William Winter wrote this:

P. S. Milner-Barry is a close friend of Alexander’s and plays like him, though not quite so well. So far the Championship has always eluded him, though he seemed to have it within his grasp at Buxton where he played superb chess for nine rounds and cracked in the last two. I fancy that the physical strain of these long Swiss tournaments
is rather too much for him. Like Alexander he has a most attractive style and one or two of his combinative games will certainly live after him.

More from Bletchley Park

(The original may be found here)

A brief biography, formerly displayed in the ‘Hall of Fame’ in Bletchley Park mansion. Stuart Milner-Barry had achieved fame as a champion chess player when he came to Bletchley Park early in 1940. He led the ‘cribsters’ team in Hut 6 from its opening in January 1940, becoming head of the Hut in March 1944. The work of Milner-Barry and his team lay at the heart of the triumph over the German Luftwaffe & Army Enigma codes. After the war he had an outstanding career in the civil service. Philip Stuart Milner-Barry was born on 20 September 1906 in London; He went to Cheltenham College and on to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he achieved a first in both the classical and moral sciences triposes. He became a not-notably enthusiastic stock broker, though it was chess that filled his life. He had been boy chess champion of England in 1923, playing for England before and after the war. He was chess
correspondent of the Times from 1938 and throughout the war. It was Gordon Welchman, a friend from their days at Trinity together, who persuading Milner-Barry to join Bletchley Park.

He arrived in January 1940 joining the newly created Hut 6, and was encouraged by Welchman to study the decrypts that were beginning to emerge from the Zygalski sheets being operated by John Jeffreys. Welchman wanted Milner-Barry to develop an intimate knowledge of the German cipher clerks and radio operators. When the Germans dropped the use of the repeated indicator, as they did on 1 May 1940, Hut 6 would have to rely on its knowledge of the traffic to find suitable cribs to enable the Bombes to operate, and in the meanwhile to make use of the careless procedural habits of some of the German operators.

Milner-Barry had noted that the cipher clerks tended to use addresses and signatures that were both long and stereotyped, providing a fruitful source for cribs. A crib had to be a phrase of about 13 characters long that was very likely to be found in certain easily identified messages, but also had to have linguistic features that provided good ‘closed loops’ for the bombe menus. The use of ‘kisses’, cribs derived from suitable decrypted messages from other keys, often provided the first break into a new key. Milner-Barry organised a team of wizards, as Welchman called his cribsters, who eventually were able to provide good keys for Hut 6 to be able to break into most of the Luftwaffe keys and then some of the Army keys. Milner-Barry became recognised as Gordon Welchman’s deputy, and when Welchman left in March 1943, to become responsible for mechanisation projects, it was Milner-Barry who became Head of Hut 6. Milner-Barry signed the Turing letter in October 1941 and it was he who took the letter directly to Downing Street. It drew Churchill’s attention the extreme shortage of support personnel in the Enigma huts. His powers of smooth administration now became clear as Hut 6 grew, reaching over 550 in total, one of the largest teams in Bletchley Park.

Milner-Barry was a quiet, undemonstrative, highly effective leader who believed in delegation and was always to be seen sporting a very large pipe. His reports show that he was totally unflappable, in the midst of the problems for Hut 6 created by the tightening of German cipher security in 1944, which they largely overcame. Stuart Milner-Barry was recruited to Whitehall in June 1945. He rose rapidly, becoming the ceremonial officer in the Civil Service Department. He received an OBE in 1946, a CB in 1962, and a knighthood in 1975. He married Thelma Wells in 1947 and they had three children. He died in Lewisham on 25 March 1995. He had repeated his visit to Downing Street in October 1991, with a letter signed by 10,000, asking for Bletchley Park to be preserved as a monument to the great war-time work.

Further Material

An obituary from The Independent by Bill Hartston

An article from Spartacus Educational

Here are his games from chess.com

More on his time at Bletchley Park

The papers of Sir Stuart Milner-Barry

Location of his grave

Here is his Wikipedia entry

Signature of Sir Stuart Milner-Barry
Signature of Sir Stuart Milner-Barry

According to Edward Winter in Chess Notes PSMB lived at these addresses :

  • 11 Park Terrace, Cambridge, England (Ranneforths Schachkalender, 1938, page 78).
  • 43 Blackheath Park, Blackheath, London SE3 9RW, England (letter reproduced in C.N. 3809).
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Remembering Reginald Bonham MBE MA (31-i-1906 16-iii-1984)

BCN remembers Reginald Bonham (known as “Bon”) who passed away, this day, March 16th in 1984 in Worcester, Worcestershire.

In the  1970 New Years Honours, Civil Division he was awarded the MBE for “Services to the blind”. Interestingly, in 1992 his sister Mary also received an MBE for “Services to the blind” This is surely an unusual happening.

Reginald Walter Bonham was born on Wednesday, January 31st 1906 : the same day as the Ecuador–Colombia earthquake which measured 8.8 on the Richter Scale.

He was born in St. Neots, Huntingdonshire, Cambridgeshire.

In the 1911 census aged 5 he lived in the High Street, St. Neots with William R Bonham (father, master butcher, aged 45), Edith Mary Ann Bonham (mother, 38), Howard William Bonham (6), Maurice George Bonham (3) and Ernest Charles Bonham (1). The family had a servant / domestic duties assistant called Elise Annie Goss aged 18. The census did not record any disability for Reginald.

Reg, like others in his family, suffered from deficient eyesight and was therefore unable to attend a “mainstream” school.

From 1922 – 1925 he attended the Royal Worcester College for the Blind (originally Worcester College for the Blind Sons of Gentlemen) in Whittington Road, Worcester, WR5 2JX. The Headmaster (GC Brown) encouraged his chess and rowing talents and in 1926 he was sent up to St. Catherine’s College, Oxford to read mathematics.

Reginald was a highly competant rower, competing for his college and reaching the trial stage for the Oxford Varsity crew.

In 1934 Reg founded the Braille Chess Magazine.

In the 1939 census he was recorded as living at 4, St. Catherine’s Hill, Worcester, WR5 with his wife, Josephine Bonham (born 24th September 1904). Reginald was listed as being a Mathematics tutor at the Royal Worcester College for the Blind (originally Worcester College for the Blind Sons of Gentlemen) in Whittington Road, Worcester, WR5 2JX. The college is now named New College Worcester. Their home was around a mile from the College. Josephine was listed as carrying out “unpaid domestic duties”.

He taught a combination of Braille and mathematics and was an amateur thespian and keen bridge player.

RW Bonham and a Braille chess set set-up incorrectly
RW Bonham and a Braille chess set set-up incorrectly

Interestingly RWB in 1939 was an ARP (Air Raid Precautions) Warden and a St. John Ambulance volunteer for the College.

He was Worcester champion twenty times and four times Midlands champion winning the Birmingham Post Cup twice.

On June 6th 1947 Bonham played in Birmingham in a match between Great Britain and Czechoslovakia playing Ladislav Alster and won this attractive game :

In 1951 he founded the International Braille Chess Association (IBCA) and continued as its President for 23 years. The IBCA affiliated to FIDE in 1964. see http://www.schachkomet.de/ibcachp4.htm for historical detail.

He was Blind World Champion in 1958 and Correspondence Blind World Champion in 1957, 1959, 1961, 1964 (jointly) and 1966.

He was active in postal play, taking part in international events in the decade after the war when few British players ventured “into Europe”. A note in the 1972 BCM (page 216) records the award of the title Correspondence GM of the Blind by the International Braille Chess Association, so his omission from the recent book British Chess seems rather unfortunate.

Among the titles won by Reginald Bonham were British Correspondence Championship, shared in 1947 with J. Cairncross and shared in 1951 with E. Brown) and Midland Champion (1947 and 1950).

Tim Harding kindly adds :

“He had earlier been runner-up in the BCF’s 1938 CC Championship and, most importantly, he won the 1942/43 Championship outright with 9/10, a point and a half ahead of David Hooper. (By then the BCF and BCCA championships had been merged into one event.)
The crosstable is on page 254 of my book Correspondence Chess in Britain and Ireland 1824-1987.”

One of his students was broadcaster Peter White MBE who described Bon in his autobiography See it My Way

See it My Way, Peter White, 1994
See it My Way, Peter White, 1994

From British Chess Magazine, Volume XCII (92, 1972) Number 6 (June), page 216 we have this item in News in Brief :

“At the closing ceremony of the 4th Chess Olympiad for the Blind at Pula, Yugoslavia (April 6-18) the International Braille Chess Association awarded the title of Correspondence Grandmaster of the Blind to R.W. Bonham of Worcester, for having won the Postal Championship more than three times.”

From British Chess Magazine, Volume CIV (104, 1984) Number 5 (May), page 194 we have this obituary :

“We regret to announce the death in March of two early winners of the grandmaster title (the other was Comins Mansfield MBE).

R.W.Bonham (31 i 1906 – 16 iii 1984) died at Worcester, where he had long served as a Master at the Royal Worcester College for the Blind. In the 1950s he took part in the British Championship with success. Many older players will remember him fingering his special board before announcing his move and checking his clock with its markers outside the glass face.

He was also (with Wormald) joint author of those fine little books Chess Questions Answered and More Chess Questions Answered.”

Sadly, RWB did not merit articles in Sunnucks or Golombek’s Encyclopedias or Hooper’s and Whyld’s Oxford Companion or, as mentioned previously, British Chess.

Here is a short biography from Ray Collett and here is his Wikipedia article.

More information here.

The Braille Chess Association used to have an entry in its Hall of Fame.

Chess Questions Answered, RW Bonham & RD Wormald, Jordan & Sons Ltd, London, 1945
Chess Questions Answered, RW Bonham & RD Wormald, Jordan & Sons Ltd, London, 1945
More Chess Questions Answered, RW Bonham & RD Wormald, Jordan & Sons Ltd, London, 1948
More Chess Questions Answered, RW Bonham & RD Wormald, Jordan & Sons Ltd, London, 1948
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Remembering Gerald Abrahams (15-iv-1907 15-iii-1980)

BCN remembers Gerald Abrahams who passed away in Liverpool on Saturday, March 15th 1980. He was buried in the Allerton Cemetery in the Jewish Springwood plot.

Gerald Abrahams was born in Liverpool on Monday, April 15th 1907.  On this day the Triangle Fraternity was formed at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.

His parents were Harry (b. 10th September 1880) and Leah (b. 12th March 1884) Abrahams (née Rabinowitz) who married in West Derby in the third quarter of 1903.

Gerald learnt chess at the age of ten during the first world war. He obtained an Open Scholarship to Wadham College, Oxford in 1925 reading PPE and earning himself an MA in Law in 1928. He became a practising barrister at Law.

From the 1939 register we learnt that Harry was a Drapery manufacturer and Leah carried out “unpaid domestic duties”. Gerald was not an only child: the first born was Winnie (b. 22nd November 1903) who was a Secretary and Clerk Typist and factory assistant. Elsie Abrahams (b. 14th April 1905) helped her mother with “unpaid domestic duties”. Blanche was Gerald’s older sister and she was “General Assistant In Fathers Business Drapery Manufacturer”. Gerald is listed (aged 32) as a Barrister at Law and author. The family resided at 51 Prince Alfred Road, Liverpool, Lancashire (now L15 6TQ) and their original property has been since replaced.

Historical map showing the 1939 residence of Gerald Abrahams
Historical map showing the 1939 residence of Gerald Abrahams

We learn from “Philanthropy, Consensus, and broiges: managing a Jewish Community A history of the Southport Jewish Community
by John Cowell” of an incident in January 1942 that was to cause ripples in the community. The headline was

POLICE RAID DISTURBS CLUB CARD PLAYERS

The full list of people present seems to have been largely or entirely Jewish in religion or ethnicity: it included a famous chess-playing barrister from Liverpool, Gerald Abrahams, representing himself, who had taken a First in P.P.E. at Oxford, and later married Elsie Krengel, who had also been present, and with Leslie Black representing the rest of the defendants, apart from the hosts and Captain Lionel Husdan, who sent a letter to the court.

The full list of those present, charged with “resorting and playing in a common gaming house,” and bound over was as follows:- Mott Alexander, Fannie Finn, Maxwell Glassman, Kate Lippa, Myer Lister, Gertrude Mannheim, Joseph Mannheim, Rita Mannheim, Simon Mannheim, Harry Peters, Sadie Peters, Lily Leah Ross, Harry Sapiro, Benjamin Stone. Those charged with “resorting in a common gaming house” and bound over, were:- Gerald Abrahams, Joseph Appleton Bach, Samuel Myer Barnett, Herbert Solomon Isaacson, Elsie Krengel, Manuel Mannheim, Louis Michaelson, Abraham Ross, Bernard and Elsie Ross.

“Gerald Abrahams, the barrister charged, said he was interested to protect his reputation from being stigmatised by a conviction, and asked Sergeant Laycock about alcohol: the latter replied that none was being consumed. He submitted that the club was not a gaming house, and that draw poker had not been proved other than as a game of skill. Charges were dismissed against Henry, Eva and Marjorie Black, Myer Waldman, and Captain Lionel Husdan, of Ryde, Isle of Wight, all of whom had said that they were merely taking refreshments in the club, and had not played. David Platt said that he had not the slightest idea that they were breaking the law, and Mrs Platt said that it had not been a paying venture.”

The Complete Chess Addict (Faber& Faber, 1987), Fox & James notes: that Gerald Abrahams as authority on bridge cast doubt on assertions that Emanuel Lasker “was good enough to represent Germany”

Gerald’s comparisons of chess and bridge are discussed by Edward Winter in Chess Facts and Fables (McFarland, 2005) page 130 in GAs 1962 book Brains in Bridge:

Brains in Bridge, Gerald Abrahams, Constable and Company, 1962, ISBN ?
Brains in Bridge, Gerald Abrahams, Constable and Company, 1962, ISBN ?

Gerald eventually married Elsie Krengel (born 15th January 1909) in the fourth quarter of 1971 in Liverpool at the age of 64. Elsie had lived in the Southport area for most of her life and her family was associated with the manufacture of handbags.  They had known each other for many years (at least since 1942 as mentioned previously).

Gerald Abrahams
Gerald Abrahams

Leonard Barden modestly recounts :

“At the end of Nottingham 1954  Gerald claimed that Alan Phillips had accepted his draw offer so tieing Gerald for the British championship with some rabbit whose name escapes me.  When Phillips strongly denied having accepted the draw, Gerald collapsed on the floor and had to be aided by his old enemy Dr. Fazekas.”

From The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match (1946) by Klein and Winter:

“G. Abrahams was born in Liverpool in 1907. He learned chess at the age of ten, and showed an early aptitude for tactical complications. He has played with varying success, his best performances being third and fourth with Rossolimo, behind Klein and Najdorf, but head of List at Margate, 1938, and fourth, fifth and sixth with Sir George A. Thomas and König in London, 1946. He has made two valiant bids for the British Championship.

A graduate of Oxford, he is a barrister by profession and has written several books, including some fiction. He has solidified his chess without allowing it to become dry. Indeed, most of his games sparkle with interesting complications.”

Harry Golombek OBE wrote (in The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977)):

“Brilliant British amateur who in the 1930s was playing master-chess. In that period he was the most dangerous attacking player in England.

Gerald Abrahams watching the opening at the Hastings Chess Congress 1947. Also watching is Sir George Thomas who was GAs round one opponent. The Mayor was Alderman W. J. Fellows and he is opposite Sir Edmund McNeill Cooper-Key. Second from left is Percy J. Morren who was the Hasting's Club President
Gerald Abrahams watching the opening at the Hastings Chess Congress 1947. Also watching is Sir George Thomas who was GAs round one opponent. The Mayor was Alderman W. J. Fellows and he is opposite Sir Edmund McNeill Cooper-Key. Second from left is Percy J. Morren who was the Hastings Club President

He was in the prize-list (i.e. in the first four) in the British championship on three occasions 1933, 1946 and 1954. His best international performance was in the Major Open at Nottingham in 1936 where he came =3rd with Opocensky. Another fine result was his score of 1.5-0.5 against the Soviet Grandmaster Ragozin, in the 1946 Anglo-Soviet radio match.

He is the inventor of the Abrahams variation in the Semi-Slav Defence to the Queen’s Gambit: 1.P-Q4, P-Q4;2.P-QB4, P-QB3;3.N-QB3, P-K3;4.N-B3, PXP;5.P-QR4, B-N4;6.P-K3,P-QN4;7.B-Q2, P-QR4; 8.PxP, BxN;9.BxB,PxP;10.P-QN3,B-N2;

This is sometimes known as the Noteboom variation after the Dutch master who played it in the 1930s, but Abrahams was playing it in 1925 long before Noteboom.

He is a witty and prolific writer on many subjects: on law (he is a barrister by profession), philosophy, and chess; he also writes fiction. His main chess works are: The Chess Mind, London 1951 and 1960

The Chess Mind, Gerald Abrahams, The English Universities Press, 1951, ISBN 0 340 19492 8
The Chess Mind, Gerald Abrahams, The English Universities Press, 1951, ISBN 0 340 19492 8

and here is a later cover:

The Chess Mind, Gerald Abrahams, The English Universities Press, 1951, ISBN 0 340 19492 8
The Chess Mind, Gerald Abrahams, The English Universities Press, 1951, ISBN 0 340 19492 8

and Not Only Chess, London 1974.

Not Only Chess, Gerald Abrahams, George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1974, ISBN 0 04 794005 0
Not Only Chess, Gerald Abrahams, George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1974, ISBN 0 04 794005 0

Edward Winter in Kings, Commoners and Knaves, cites the subtitle of the above book in his page 235 list of chessy words: “A selection of Chessays”.

From Not Only Chess we learn that GAs favourite game was played in 1930 against Edmund Spencer of Liverpool. “Edmund Spencer was a man who is remembered with affection by all players who ever met him, and who is remarkable in that his strength developed in what should have been hid middle life. When he died, lamentably early, in the 1930s, at about 53 he was at his best, and of recognised master status.

This game was played in 1930.”

and for an alternative view of the same game:

GA is amongst a rare breed of game annotators claiming the title of An Immortal for one of his own games. Edward Winter devotes a couple of column inches discussing exactly which year the game was played between 1929 and 1936. Here is the game:

For more of GAs excellent games see the superb article further on by Steve Cunliffe. Also, Not Only Chess in Chapter 28 (“A Score of my Scores”) contains a veritable feast of entertaining games of GAs).

Gerald famously fell out with Anne Sunnucks when he discovered she had omitted him from her 1970 Encyclopaedia of Chess. Despite this the 1976 edition was also devoid of a mention.

From The Oxford Companion to Chess (OUP, 1984 & 1996), Hooper & Whyld:

“The English player Gerald Abrahams (1907-80) introduced the move when playing against Dr. Holmes in the Lancastrian County Championship in 1925 (ed: January 31st in fact) . Abrahams played the variation against his countryman William Winter (1898-1955) in 1929 and in the same year Winter played it against Noteboom, after whom it is sometimes named. (Dr, Holmes was the favourite pupil of Amos Burn and a leading ophthalmologist).

Gerald Abrahams
Gerald Abrahams

The precursor, known from a 16th-century manuscript, was published by Salvio in 1604:

1.d4 d5;2.c4 dxc4;3.e4 b5;4.a4 c6;5.axb5 cxb5;6.b3 b4;7.bxc4 a5; 8.Bf4 Nd7;9.Nf3

Writing in 1617, Carrera made his only criticism of Salvio’s analysis in this variation. He suggested 8…Bd7 instead of 8…Nd7, or 9.Qa4 instead of 9.Nf3. Salvio nursed his injured pride for seventeen years and then devoted a chapter of his book to a bitter attack on Carrera. The argument was pointless: all these variations give White a won game.”

GA famously wrote :

Chess is a good mistress, but a bad master

and also

The tactician knows what to do when there is something to do; whereas the strategian knows what to do when there is nothing to do.

and

In chess there is a world of intellectual values

and

Good positions don’t win games, good moves do

and

Why some persons are good at chess, and others bad at it, is more mysterious than anything on chess board.

In the recently (February 25th, 2020) published “Attacking with g2 – g4” by GM Dmitry Kryakvin writes about Abrahams as follows :

“It is believed that the extravagant 5.g2-g4 was first applied at a high level, namely in the British Championship by Gerald Abrahams. Abrahams was a truly versatile person – a composer, lawyer, historian, philosopher, politician (for 40 years a member of the Liberal Party) and the author of several books. Of his legal work, the most famous is the investigation into the murder of Julia Wallace in 1931 in Liverpool, where her husband was the main suspect. As an alibi, William Herbert Wallace claimed he was at a chess club. Dozens of books and films have been devote to the murder of Mrs. Wallace – indeed, this is a script worthy of Arthur Conan Doyle or Agatha Christie!

Gerald Abrahams by Lafayette (Lafayette Ltd), whole-plate film negative, 21 August 1933
by Lafayette (Lafayette Ltd), whole-plate film negative, 21 August 1933

Abrahams played various card games with great pleasure and success, but the main passion of the Liverpool resident was chess. Abrahams achieved his greatest success in the championships of Great Britain in 1933 and 1946, when he won bronze medals. The peak of his career was undoubtedly his participation in the USSR-Great Britain radio match (1946) where on the 10th board Abrahams beat Botvinnik’s second and assistant grandmaster Viacheslav Ragozin with a score of 1.5-0.5

Gerald Abrahams had a taste of studying opening theory, and made a distinct contribution to the development of the Noteboom Variation, which is often known as the Abrahams-Noteboom.

Ten years after he introduced the move 5.g2-g4 to the English public (1953), the famous grandmaster Lajos Portisch brought it into the international arena.”

Gerald Abrahams
Gerald Abrahams

Gerald was also a keen studies composer. Here are some examples of his work:

Gerald Abrahams, 1923

1/2-1/2

Solution: 1. Ra3! Ra3 […a1=q;2.Ra1 Ba1;3.d7 Kf7;4.d8=q];2.e8=q a1=q;3.Qd7

and

Gerald Abrahams, 1924

1-0

Here is an interesting article by Tim Harding on the naming of the Abrahams-Noteboom Variation of the Semi-Slav Defence

Here is an article about GA and a blindfold exhibition

Gerald Abrahams contributed to opening theory in the Queen’s Gambit Declined / Semi-Slav Defence with his creation of the Abrahams-Noteboom Defence as discussed in the following video :

Here is a nine page article (Gerald Abrahams – Talent without Discipline) written by Steve Cunliffe that appeared in British Chess Magazine, Volume CVIII (1988), Number 7 (July), pp. 292-300:

British Chess Magazine, Volume CVIII (1988), Number 7 (July), pp. 292
British Chess Magazine, Volume CVIII (1988), Number 7 (July), pp. 292
British Chess Magazine, Volume CVIII (1988), Number 7 (July), pp. 293
British Chess Magazine, Volume CVIII (1988), Number 7 (July), pp. 293
British Chess Magazine, Volume CVIII (1988), Number 7 (July), pp. 294
British Chess Magazine, Volume CVIII (1988), Number 7 (July), pp. 294
British Chess Magazine, Volume CVIII (1988), Number 7 (July), pp. 295
British Chess Magazine, Volume CVIII (1988), Number 7 (July), pp. 295
British Chess Magazine, Volume CVIII (1988), Number 7 (July), pp. 296
British Chess Magazine, Volume CVIII (1988), Number 7 (July), pp. 296
British Chess Magazine, Volume CVIII (1988), Number 7 (July), pp. 297
British Chess Magazine, Volume CVIII (1988), Number 7 (July), pp. 297
British Chess Magazine, Volume CVIII (1988), Number 7 (July), pp. 298
British Chess Magazine, Volume CVIII (1988), Number 7 (July), pp. 298
British Chess Magazine, Volume CVIII (1988), Number 7 (July), pp. 299
British Chess Magazine, Volume CVIII (1988), Number 7 (July), pp. 299
British Chess Magazine, Volume CVIII (1988), Number 7 (July), pp. 300
British Chess Magazine, Volume CVIII (1988), Number 7 (July), pp. 300

In the March issue of CHESS for 1963, (Volume 28, Number 427, pp.147-155)  William Winter wrote this:

Colourful Gerald Abrahams

I cannot leave this group of players without reference to G. Abrahams, who, though less successful than the others, is much the most colourful of all both in play and personality. He is a player whom I would
always like to have on my side against the very best opposition, e.g. the Russians’ His unbounded optimism preclude any possibility of that consciousness of inferiority which infects nearly all our players when they come up against the very great and at his best he is capable of beating anyone.

It is true that his worst games are very bad indeed, but that does not matter. A loss is equally a loss after seventeen moves or seventy. I had a good deal to do with his selection for the Anglo-Soviet Radio match of 1946, and he thoroughly justified my confidence with a win and a draw against Ragosin, being the only English player to score
a majority. In the match over the board he failed, and was promptly dropped, a great mistake in my opinion. Abrahams is always capable of beating a grand master, the majority of English players are not.

A man of versatile talent, he is a successful barrister shining particularly on advocacy, an author of novels and essays as well as chess books, and he gave a striking example of his optimism standing as Liberal candidate for Parliament. I wish he had been elected. He would certainly have enlivened the house.

Of his chess books I must say a good word for Teach Yourself Chess. The title of course suggests an impossibility one cannot teach oneself chess, but none the less it is an excellent work of instruction which players of all grades including its author, might study with advantage.

Here is his Wikipedia entry

See his games at Chessgames.com

How to Teach Yourself Chess, Gerald Abrahams, D Van Nostrand Company, Inc, New York, 1950
How to Teach Yourself Chess, Gerald Abrahams, D Van Nostrand Company, Inc, New York, 1950
Technique in Chess, Gerald Abrahams, George Bell & Sons Ltd., 1961,
Technique in Chess, Gerald Abrahams, George Bell & Sons Ltd., 1961,
Test Your Chess, Gerald Abrahams, Constable and co, 1963, ISBN 0 330 24336 5
Test Your Chess, Gerald Abrahams, Constable and co, 1963, ISBN 0 330 24336 5
The Pan Book of Chess, Gerald Abrahams, Pan, 1965, 10: ISBN 0330230735
The Pan Book of Chess, Gerald Abrahams, Pan, 1965, 10: ISBN 0330230735
Teach Yourself Chess, Gerald Abrahams, The English Universities Press Ltd, 1965,
Teach Yourself Chess, Gerald Abrahams, The English Universities Press Ltd, 1965,
Technique in Chess, Gerald Abrahams, Dover, 1973, ISBN ISBN 13: 9780486229539
Technique in Chess, Gerald Abrahams, Dover, 1973, ISBN ISBN 13: 9780486229539
Brilliance in Chess, Gerald Abrahams, Pitman Publishing, 1977, ISBN 10: 0273000349
Brilliance in Chess, Gerald Abrahams, Pitman Publishing, 1977, ISBN 10: 0273000349
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Remembering IM William Fairhurst CBE (21-viii-1903 13-iii-1982)

Remembering IM William Fairhurst CBE (21-viii-1903 13-iii-1982)

From The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match by Klein and Winter :

“WA Fairhurst is a North Country man, born in Cheshire in 1903, but he has lived the best part of his life in Scotland. He has been Scottish Champion of many years running, and once captured the British Championship. In his last tournament, London, 1946 he failed to get into the prize list. He is, however, a fine tactician, original in opening play and a dangerous opponent to contend with.

By profession he is a civil engineer and has left his mark as a designer of a special framework for pre-fabricated houses.”

IM William Albert Fairhurst CBE (21-viii-1903 -13-iii-1982) Source : The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match
IM William Albert Fairhurst CBE (21-viii-1903 -13-iii-1982) Source : The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match

From The Encyclopedia of Chess by Anne Sunnucks :

“International chess master, British Champion in 1937 and Scottish Champion in 1932, 1933, 1934, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1962.

Born in Alderney Edge in Cheshire on 21st August 1903, Fairhurst taught himself to play chess from books on the game, when he was 13, when he was 18 he won the Cheshire Championship.

His first major international success was at Scarborough in 1927, where he tied for Yates for 2nd prize, ahead of Bogoljubov, Sir George Thomas, Buerger, among others.

In 1931 he went to live to Scotland, quickly established himself as a leader of Scottish chess and played a major role in agreements between the British Chess Federation and the Scottish Chess Association. In 1932 he gave a blindfold simultaneous display, winning nine games and drawing three, in the Polytechnic Club in Glasgow, and in 1933 he drew match of six games against Eliskases.

Fairhurst has represented Great Britain in matches against Czechoslovakia and the USSR in 1946 and 1947; against the Netherlands in 1937, 1938, 1949 and 1952 and against the USSR in 1954. He also played in the Great Britain v. Australia radio match in 1947. He has represented Scotland in six chess Olympiads, those of 1933, 1956, 1958, 1964, 1966 and 1968.

Scene at London. From left to right - Seated : Fairhurst, List and Winter in play. Standing König and Sir George Thomas
Scene at London. From left to right – Seated : Fairhurst, List and Winter in play. Standing König and Sir George Thomas

At Hastings in 1947 he came 5th and went through the tournament without losing a game.

IM William Fairhurst CBE (21-viii-1903 13-iii-1982)
IM William Fairhurst CBE (21-viii-1903 13-iii-1982)

Senior partner of a leading firm of engineers and designer of the new bridge over the River Tay at Dundee (the longest river crossing in Europe), Fairhurst was Chairman of the Scottish Branch of the Institute of Structural Engineers and author of Arch Design Simplified. He was also a member of the Royal Fine Art Commission for Scotland.”

In the March issue of CHESS for 1963, (Volume 28, Number 427, pp.147-155)  William Winter wrote this:

An Englishman turned Scot

Fairhurst, British champion in 1937, and umpteen times champion of Scotland is happily still in practice. He is a fine player well equipped in all departments of the game and would undoubtedly have done much more than he did but for the claims of business. Born in Lancashire he is now domiciled in Scotland and has become more Scottish than the Scots themselves. He caused me great trepidation during the Buxton congress in 1950, when he picked me up in his motor-car and drove at high speed down a spiral road with a precipice on one side while he declaimed about the tenets of the extreme wing of Scottish Nationalism. I have myself a good deal of sympathy, with the aspirations of the movement but I am sure this was not the way to make a convert. He still plays for Lancashire in the British Counties’ championship and it was in this competition that I met him at Manchester in 1953. I little thought as I sat down at the board that this was to be the last match-game I would ever play. I am glad to say that it was a good one.;

Arch Design Simplified
Arch Design Simplified

Here are his games

Here is his Wikipedia entry

According to Edward Winter in Chess Notes WAF lived at the following addresses :

  • 53 Northern Grove, West Didsbury, Manchester, England (correspondence championship pairing-notice, 1924*).
  • 6 Capel Avenue, Newton Mearns, Scotland (Hastings and St Leonards Chess Club visitors’ book, 1 January 1938*).
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Remembering William Potter (27-viii-1840 13-iii-1895)

Death Anniversary of William Norwood Potter, (27-viii-1840 13-iii-1895)

William Norwood Potter
William Norwood Potter

Here is his Wikipedia entry

From The Oxford Encyclopedia of Chess by Hooper & Whyld :

“Leading English player of the 1870s, barristers clerk. He met strong opposition in only one tournament, London 1876, when he took third place after Blackburne and Zukertort. In match
play he lost to Zukertort in 1875 ( + 2=8—4) and drew with Mason in 1879 ( + 5=11—5). Potter was editor of the London Chess Magazine (1874-6)

The London Chess Magazine
The London Chess Magazine

and wrote for the Westminster Papers and Land and Water, contributing annotations of a high standard to all three journals. He played a part in the development of new ideas attributed to Steinitz, with whom he established a firm friendship and to whom he may have shown the ideas of the English School (see schools of chess), in 1872 the London Chess Club, represented by Blackburne, Horwitz, Lowenthal, Potter, Steinitz, and Wisker, began a correspondence match of two games against a Viennese team led by Kolisch for stakes of £100 a side, (The moves were sent by telegraph and confirmed by letter.) Unable to accept the ideas of Potter and Steinitz, the rest of the London team soon withdrew, leaving these two to play on. They won the match. Subsequently Steinitz declared
that ‘modern chess’ began with these two games.

The City of London Chess Magazine
The City of London Chess Magazine

The Potter Variation in the Scotch is :

n.b. The Potter Memorial correspondence tournament was named after Reginald Potter, a past president of the BPCF.

William Norwood Potter, (27-viii-1840 13-iii-1895) from Howard Staunton, The English World Chess Champion
William Norwood Potter, (27-viii-1840 13-iii-1895) from Howard Staunton, The English World Chess Champion
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Remembering IM William Albert Fairhurst CBE (21-viii-1903 13-iii-1982)

IM William Albert Fairhurst CBE
IM William Albert Fairhurst CBE

Remembering IM William Albert Fairhurst CBE (21-viii-1903 13-iii-1982)

From The Encyclopedia of Chess by Anne Sunnucks :

“International chess master, British Champion in 1937 and Scottish Champion in 1932, 1933, 1934, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1962.

Born in Alderney Edge in Cheshire on 21st August 1903, Fairhurst taught himself to play chess from books on the game, when he was 13, when he was 18 he won the Cheshire Championship.

His first major international success was at Scarborough in 1927, where he tied for Yates for 2nd prize, ahead of Bogoljubov, Sir George Thomas, Buerger, among others.

In 1931 he went to live to Scotland, quickly established himself as a leader of Scottish chess and played a major role in agreements between the British Chess Federation and the Scottish Chess Association. In 1932 he gave a blindfold simultaneous display, winning nine games and drawing three, in the Polytechnic Club in Glasgow, and in 1933 he drew match of six games against Eliskases.

Fairhurst has represented Great Britain in matches against Czechoslovakia and the USSR in 1946 and 1947; against the Netherlands in 1937, 1938, 1949 and 1952 and against the USSR in 1954. He also played in the Great Britain v. Australia radio match in 1947. He has represented Scotland in six chess Olympiads, those of 1933, 1956, 1958, 1964, 1966 and 1968.

At Hastings in 1947 he came 5th and went through the tournament without losing a game.

Senior partner of a leading firm of engineers and designer of the new bridge over the River Tay at Dundee (the longest river crossing in Europe), Fairhurst was Chairman of the Scottish Branch of the Institute of Structural Engineers and author of Arch Design Simplified. He was also a member of the Royal Fine Art Commission for Scotland.”

Arch Design Simplified
Arch Design Simplified

Here are his games

Here is his Wikipedia entry

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Remembering John Cochrane (04-ii-1798 02-iii-1878)

John Cochrane
John Cochrane

BCN remembers John Cochrane who passed away on March 3rd 1878.

From The Oxford Companion to Chess by Hooper & Whyld :

Scottish player, barrister, called to the bar in 1822. If the so-called romantic style existed then Cochrane has a claim to be regarded as its founder. A dashing player, he attacked at all costs often sacrificing pieces with abandon, a style that was successful in the England of the 1820s; but when in 1821 he went to Paris, then the world’s chess centre, he was beaten by both Deschapelles and Bourdonnais. Subsequently he studied the game but he did not change his style. In 1822 he published A Treatise on the Game of Chess, a popular book largely based on Traite des Amateurs (see Verdoni) and Lolli but with a few contributions of his own.

Although Cochrane came from an old Scottish family he led the London team in the famous correspondence match against Edinburgh, 1824-8. He persuaded his team to play the Scotch Gambit, but when London had obtained a fine position Cochrane left for India. Although the Londoners, led by Lewis, failed to carry the attack, the Scotch Gambit became fashionable for more than 15 years, and other lively attacking openings were developed.

Cochrane stayed in India until his retirement in 1869 except for one visit to England, 1841-3, when he played hundreds of friendly games against Staunton, who began by winning a large majority, Wilhelm Steinitz knew both contestants and states that their last encounter was a match of 12 games. Staunton conceding pawn and move for the first six- and that Cochrane made an even score when receiving odds but won (-1-3—2— !) when playing on even terms, John Cochrane should not be confused with James Cochrane (c, 1770-1830), co-author of a book on the Muzio gambit.

Here is his Wikipedia entry

The Cochrane Gambit is :

and the Cochrane Variation in the King’s Gambit is :

The Sicilian Defence, Staunton-Cochrane Variation is :

and the Scotch Gambit, Cochrane Variation is :

The Cochrane Defence is a drawing method for in the rook, bishop & king vs rook & king ending.

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Gata Kamsky – Chess Gamer, Volume 2: Return 2004-2013

Gata Kamsky - Chess Gamer, Volume 2: Return 2004-2013
Gata Kamsky – Chess Gamer, Volume 2: Return 2004-2013
GM Gata Kamsky
GM Gata Kamsky

“Grandmaster Gata Kamsky, five times US champion, has one of the most extraordinary career trajectories of any chess player. In 1989 he arrived in New York, at the age of 15, with his father from his home country Russia. Just two years later he became for the first time US champion. He reached the top 10 at the very young age of 16 and played a World Championship match at the age of 22, losing to the reigning World Champion Anatoli Karpov. He then decided to stop playing chess for 8 years, studying Medicine and Law. In 2004 he reappeared as a full-time player, became again a world-elite player winning many international tournaments and supporting the US team for many successes.”

GM Gata Kamsky
GM Gata Kamsky

What we have here is 22 annotated games (mostly wins, but there are a few draws as well) played by Gata Kamsky between 2004 and 2013, during which period he harboured aspirations towards the world championship.

Kamsky had White in 18 of the 22 games: perhaps it would have been good to learn more about his approach to playing the black pieces. His opponents included the likes of Carlsen, Anand, Aronian, Topalov, Karjakin and Grischuk.

22 games in 450 pages? Yes, that’s an average of about 20 pages per game, often with two or three pages devoted to just one move. There are annotations almost every move: lots of words, and lots of variations as well. Bobby Fischer managed to cram 60 Memorable Games into a lot less space, but then he didn’t have computers to help him.

To give you some idea of what to expect, let’s take a fairly random example: this is Kamsky-Carlsen from the 2007 World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk.

In this position Carlsen played 17… Re6?

Kamsky comments:

“Probably Black’s only big mistake, but one that costs him the game. The rook is not the best blockader, and once I have figured out how to remove it (by re-routing the knight from g3 to h5, it will only help White accelerate his initiative on the kingside.

“17… Qb3! was perhaps the only move to stop White’s ambitious plans. Black gives up his weak d-pawn in order to open up the position for the rest of his pieces, especially the blocked-in f8-bishop, thus making the rest of his pieces much more effective.”

He then goes on to explain that he was planning to meet 17… Qb3! with 18. Qd2! We then have three pages of notes on this position, with one line ending up with White a pawn ahead on move 42 and another where White wins with a queen sacrifice on move 33.

Eventually returning to the game, we reach this position.

Carlsen has just given up the exchange hoping to set up a fortress. Kamsky explains:

“Black is down a whole exchange, but his structure looks very solid, and if he somehow manages to re-route his knight to f5, while building a strong pawn blockade on the queenside, he might stand a chance. However, White is an exchange up, which means he only needs to open one file for his rooks to infiltrate to win the game. And that is something that Black cannot prevent.”

Kamsky eventually managed, with some help from his opponent, to open the h-file for his rooks, winning on move 46.

The verbal explanations of positions and plans are, as you can tell, models of clarity but you might well think there are too many variations. You’re going to need at least two, more likely three chess sets to find your way through some of the thickets.

The games are not all you get for your money, though. Each game is put into context, and, Kamsky warns us in the introduction: “I must also caution that some of the views and comments expressed on subjects other than chess will sometimes be found to be quite controversial and not ‘correct’, in which case I would invite the reader to draw his or her own conclusions.”.

We are, perhaps fortunately, spared Kamsky’s views on Donald Trump and Brexit, but we do get his opinions of his opponents along with some flashbacks to his childhood.

You may well be aware of the reputation of his father, Rustam Kamsky. Gata’s descriptions of their relationship doesn’t make comfortable reading:

“… I had no education and was under the complete domination, in both body and soul, of my father. He literally threatened to kill me many times, including chasing me with a knife on numerous occasions after a terrible tournament…

“When I came home from the one and only occasion I went to the authorities for help, my father burned my hand to the bone and told me that if I told the authorities about him again, he would kill me. Being physically beaten was an everyday occurrence; it was the psychological attack with his words that made me feel very old and not want to live.”

Given this background it’s perhaps understandable that he has a jaundiced view of some of his fellow grandmasters, even including the universally respected Vishy Anand. He has the rather strange habit of referring to some of them, particularly, it seems, those with whom he has come into conflict in the past, as, for example, Mr Topalov.

In some respects, then, this is a very personal book: much more than just a games collection.

Every one of the games is fascinating, the annotations are superb, but you probably need to be round about 2200 strength to gain full benefit from following all the variations. Below that level, you might find yourself shouting “too much information, Mr Kamsky” and perhaps prefer to spend your money on something with more games and fewer variations.

The production standards, as usual from this publisher, are excellent. I noticed very few typos (a redundant check sign and Jeffrey rather than Jeffery Xiong). If you’re looking for a collection of grandmaster games with exceptionally detailed annotations, along with some very personal insights into the world of top level chess, this is the book for you.

 

Richard James, Twickenham, 26th February 2020

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 454 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1 edition (7 Nov. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510588
  • ISBN-13:  978-9492510587
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 1.9 x 23.5 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Gata Kamsky - Chess Gamer, Volume 2: Return 2004-2013
Gata Kamsky – Chess Gamer, Volume 2: Return 2004-2013
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Remembering GM Jacques Mieses (27-ii-1865 23-ii-1954)

BCN remembers GM Jacques Mieses who passed away on February 23rd, 1954 aged 88. He was buried on the 25th of February at the East Ham Jewish Cemetery in Section J, Row 18, Grave 1100. We hope to update his burial record with these details when we are allowed to do so.

Jakob Jacques Mieses was born on Monday, February 27th 1865 in Leipzig in the German state of Saxony. He came to England in 1939 and was recorded in the UK Internees Index for 1939 – 1942 on 25th April 1939 :

Home Office internment record for Jakob Jacques Mieses, 25th April 1939
Home Office internment record for Jakob Jacques Mieses, 25th April 1939
65 Oakleigh (now Oakley) Square, London, NW1
65 Oakleigh (now Oakley) Square, London, NW1

At the time of the 1939 register Mieses was recorded as living at 66, Oakley Square, St. Pancras, Camden, London, NW1 and he is listed as a Professional Chess Player.

By the time of Hastings 1945 (27th December) Jacques had relocated to :

8 Fitzjohns Avenue, London NW3 5NA
8 Fitzjohns Avenue, London NW3 5NA

On June 7th 1947 he was granted Naturalisation Certificate AZ27326.

In 1950 he was one of the twenty-seven first players to be awarded the Grandmaster title by FIDE. He was therefore the first British National to be awarded the Grandmaster title for OTB play. The next (Tony Miles) would be twenty-six years later.

He has The Mieses Opening named after him :

which never really caught on to any significant degree.

In the Scotch Game (a favourite of his with both colours) we have The Mieses Variation :

and in the Vienna Game The Mieses Variation is :

and in the Centre Counter or Scandinavian Defence we have the Mieses Variation:

and finally, also in the Centre Counter or Scandinavian Defence we have the Mieses Gambit:

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

“International Grandmaster. Born in Leipzig on 27th February 1865, Jacques Mieses was educated at Leipzig University and in Berlin. He came to England as a refugee from Nazi Germany shortly before the 1939-1945 war and eventually became a naturalised British citizen.

The early part of his chess career was devoted mainly to the study of chess theory and to chess problems. It was not until he was 23 that his tournament career really started with a tie for 2nd place at Nuremberg 1888, followed by 3rd at Leipzig 1888.

Jacques Mieses. Source : Chess Notes by Edward Winter
Jacques Mieses. Source : Chess Notes by Edward Winter

Over the next 50 years, he played in numerous tournaments with varying degrees of success. His addiction to speculative rather than sound openings and his attempts to combine playing in tournaments with reporting them were possibly responsible for his inconsistent results. Within a few months of one of the greatest performances of his career, when he came lst at Vienna 1907, ahead of Duras, Maróczy, Tartakover, Vidmar, Schlechter and Spielmann,

Full crosstable for Trebitsch Memorial, Vienna 1907
Full crosstable for Trebitsch Memorial, Vienna 1907

he came no higher than =16th at Carlsbad. In 1923 he achieved another great success when he came lst at Liverpool, ahead of Maróczy, Thomas and Yates.

Full crosstable for Northern Counties Congress Premier, Liverpool, 1923
Full crosstable for Northern Counties Congress Premier, Liverpool, 1923

While his style of play prevented him from reaching the greatest heights as a tournament player, it was also responsible for the numerous brilliancy prizes which came his way, one of the last being at the 1945 Hastings Congress, when he was 80.

Among the many books which Mieses wrote were The Chess Pilot,

The Chess Pilot, Jacques Mieses, Williams & Norgate. London. 1947. First Edition
The Chess Pilot, Jacques Mieses, Williams & Norgate. London. 1947. First Edition

Manual of the End Game

Manual of the End Game, Jacques Mieses, G. Bell and Son Ltd., London, 1947
Manual of the End Game, Jacques Mieses, G. Bell and Son Ltd., London, 1947

and Instructive Positions from Master Chess.

Instructive Positions from Master Chess, Jacques Mieses, George Bell and Sons Ltd., London, 1951
Instructive Positions from Master Chess, Jacques Mieses, George Bell and Sons Ltd., London, 1951

A very popular player, Mieses had a ready sense of humour. On one occasion, when he was in New York, he was asked by an American who mispronounced his name “Sind sie Mister Meises?”, ” No sir,” he promptly replied “Ich bin Meister Mieses.” On another occasion, when submitting an article in German to a British magazine, he could not resist asking ” Don’t you think my German is very good for an Englishman?”

On his eightieth birthday, a dinner was held in his honour in London and he was presented with a cheque by his numerous chess friends and admirers. The speech he made on this occasion was later quoted in most of his obituaries:

I have been told that a good many people never reach the biblical span of three score years and 10; and those who do-so some most reliable statistics assure us-are most likely to die between 70 and 80. Hence, I dare say, ladies and gentlemen, that I for one have now passed the danger zone and may well go on living for ever.

He lived for nearly nine more years, taking his daily swim in the Serpentine in Hyde Park or some open-air swimming pool, until only a few days before his death. He died in a London nursing home on 23rd February 1954 and was buried in the East London Jewish Cemetery.”

Jacques Mieses
Jacques Mieses

From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977) Harry Golombek OBE we have this from Wolfgang Heidenfeld :

“Grandmaster, theorist, problemist, tournament organiser and chess journalist.

Mieses was a spectacular player who won many brilliancy prizes but suffered as many very short defeats. As a a result the German master achieved only one full success in important international tournaments (Vienna 1907), but occupied good places in such events as Breslau 1889 (3rd), Hanover 1902 (4th), Ostend 1907 (=3rd), as well as some smaller events.

In matches he showed a heavy preponderance of losses against the top-notchers, losing to Lasker, Tarrasch, Rubinstein, Marshall, Teichmann (twice) and Spielmann, but he drew with Walbrodt (1894), Janowski (1895) and Caro (1897) and beat Leonhardt, Taubenhaus, and (at the age of 81) Abrahams.

Here is the first game from October 29th 1945 annotated by Mieses from his match with Gerald Abrahams played in Glossop:

In keeping with his sharp style, Mieses preferred such openings as the Vienna Gambit, the Danish Gambit and the Centre Counter-Gambit. Among his lasting achievements are his brilliancy prize games against Janowksi (Paris 1900),

Reggio (Monte Carlo 1903),

Perlis (Ostend 1907)

and Schlechter (Vienna 1908).

Personally a very witty man (and something of a bon vivant) Mieses did not invest his writing with the same sparkle; both as a journalist and author he was rather dry and sober. He edited the eighth edition of the famous Handbuch, several editions of the ‘little Dufresne’, and published several primers as well as a treatise on blindfold play and an anthology Instructive Positions from Master Chess, London, 1938.

One of Mieses’s most important contributions to chess history was the payment of travelling and living expenses during a tournament, which he insisted on when running the famous tournament at San Sebastian 1911 – it was only thenceforth that this procedure became the norm.”

Jacques Mieses
Jacques Mieses

Here is an obituary written by DJ Morgan from British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXIV (74, 1954), Number 4 (April), pp. 107-108 :

Last month we made brief mention of the death, on February 23rd at a London Nursing Home, of the old grandmaster, on the verge of his eighty-ninth birthday. He was the last surviving link with a distant and largely-forgotten era. Mieses entered the international arena in the days of the great Romantics, of Zukertort, Charousek, and Tchigorin. He reached his heyday in the times of Tarrasch, Schlechter, and Maróczy. But he could never assimilate the canons of this Classical School, derived from Steinitz and codified and promulgated by Tarrasch. He preferred the dynamic to the static. He played the Scotch Game in tournaments long after it hat been
discarded by Steinitz and Blackburne; the Danish Gambit and the Vienna became in his hands instruments of great attacking potential. As Black he long favoured the Centre Counter Defence, and with it he brought off a number of thrilling victories in such great tournaments as those of Ostend, 1907, Carlsbad, 1907, Vienna, 1908, and St. Petersburg, 1909.

Nice Masters, 1931. Standing : Daniel Noteboom, Abraham Baratz, George Renaud (Organiser), Telling (Tournament Director), Marcel Duchamp, Brian Reilly (winner), Seated : Eugene Znokso-Borovsky,, Arpad Vajda, Sir George Thomas, Jacques Mieses, Stefano Roselli del Turco, Jacob Adolf Seitz. British Chess Magazine, 1931, page 201
Nice Masters, 1931. Standing : Daniel Noteboom, Abraham Baratz, George Renaud (Organiser), Telling (Tournament Director), Marcel Duchamp, Brian Reilly (winner), Seated : Eugene Znokso-Borovsky,, Arpad Vajda, Sir George Thomas, Jacques Mieses, Stefano Roselli del Turco, Jacob Adolf Seitz. British Chess Magazine, 1931, page 201

Jacques Mieses was born on February 27th, 1865, at Leipsic, and was educated at the university there, and in Berlin. In the capital he joined, at seventeen, one of the city’s chess clubs, and soon won the first prize in its annual tournament. Nevertheless, his earlier days were devoted mainly to the theoretical side of the game and to problems of which he was a good composer and a phenomenal solver. His public career really began with a tie for second place at Nuremberg, 1888, with the third prize at Leipsic in the same year, followed by a third, behind Tarrasch and Burn, at Breslau, 1889. His subsequent achievements span the years and are recorded in the literature of the game. He played at the famous Hastings 1895 (and was its sole survivor); fifty years later he played at a Hastings Christmas Congress. His preference for the speculative and the spectacular to the then ultra-modern-prevented him from winning the major prizes of the games. As we look up the record’s we can readily see how unpredictable his performances were. Thus, in 1907, a first at Vienna early in the year was followed later by an equal sixteenth-eighteenth at Carlsbad. But his Brilliancy Prizes were numerous: such endings as those v. Janowski, Paris, 1900; v. Reggio, Monte Carlo, 1903 (quoted, incidentally, as Diagram 52 in Fine’s The Middle Game in Chess, but without giving its source); v. Znosko-Borovsky, Ostend, 1907; and v. Schlechter, Vienna, 1908, will always be the delight of anthologists.

Jacques Mieses
Jacques Mieses

As well as playing incessantly in match and tournament, Mieses wrote copiously on all aspects of the game, analytically as well as in a literary manner, in books as well as in magazines. Three of his little books, The Chess Pilot, Manual of the End-game, and Instructive Positions from Master Chess, have enjoyed a long and wide popularity in English.

24th April 1935: J Mieses of Germany in play against PS Milner-Barry during the Premier Tournament of the Kent County Chess Association in the Grand Hotel, Margate. (Photo by F. Sayers/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
24th April 1935: J Mieses of Germany in play against PS Milner-Barry during the Premier Tournament of the Kent County Chess Association in the Grand Hotel, Margate. (Photo by F. Sayers/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

Two personal memories come to the writer’s mind. We first met him during the Liverpool congress-of 1923 ((1) Mieses, (2) Maróczy). one morning we took a stroll together up Dale Street, a stroll which developed into a tie-hunting expedition, ending up with a fine selection on his part to take back to a Germany emerging from recent disaster. He left the impression of a courteous and cultured man, precise in speech and with something of the military in his bearing. ln 1939, on hearing of his whereabouts, we called at his lodgings in Camden Town one Sunday morning. We were diffidently greeted by a seriously-crippled Mieses, who had recently, under great difficulties, made his exit from a Germany once more faced with disaster.

24th April 1935: J Mieses of Germany in play against PS Milner-Barry during the Premier Tournament of the Kent County Chess Association in the Grand Hotel, Margate. (Photo by F. Sayers/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
24th April 1935: J Mieses of Germany in play against PS Milner-Barry during the Premier Tournament of the Kent County Chess Association in the Grand Hotel, Margate. (Photo by F. Sayers/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

But the prim and chivalrous personality soon exerted itself. His many English friends rallied round him in his exile, all culminating in the great tribute paid to him on his eightieth birthday. Mon March 15th, 1945, at the Lud-Eagle Chess Club, a large number of friends and admirers gathered to pay their respects. A cheque, subscribed to by members of the club, was presented to the veteran master. He had, he said in his acknowledgement, sought asylum in England, and he had been shown great kindness and sympathy. The final gift was a last resting-place in the East London (Ed : we now know this to be East Ham) Jewish Cemetery. – DJM.

Obituary of Jacques Mieses by DJ Morgan. British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXIV (74, 1954), Number 4 (April), pp. 107-108.
Obituary of Jacques Mieses by DJ Morgan. British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXIV (74, 1954), Number 4 (April), pp. 107-108.
Obituary of Jacques Mieses by DJ Morgan. British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXIV (74, 1954), Number 4 (April), pp. 107-108.
Obituary of Jacques Mieses by DJ Morgan. British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXIV (74, 1954), Number 4 (April), pp. 107-108.

Jacques Mieses
Jacques Mieses

From Chessgames.com :

“Jacques Mieses was born in Leipzig. He won the chess championship of Berlin at the age of 17, and in 1888 he placed joint second at Leipzig and third at Nuremberg.

In 1889 he came third at Breslau (1889). He was, however, rather eclipsed by two great emerging talents – Emanuel Lasker and Siegbert Tarrasch. Mieses was crushed by Lasker in a match – Lasker – Mieses (1889/90) in Leipzig (December 1889 to January 1890). He also performed poorly at 8th DSB Kongress (1893) coming only 7th out of 9 against a field which was relatively weak compared to previous DSB congresses.

1894-95 was a busy period for Mieses. He drew a match with Karl August Walbrodt. (+5, =3,-5) in Berlin (May-June 1894). Mieses then played in the extremely strong 9th DSB Kongress, Leipzig (1894) (3rd-14th September, 1894) coming 10th out of 18. He had then toured Russia giving simultaneous displays, before travelling to Paris to play a match with David Janowski (8th January to 4th February 1895).

Vera Menchik plays Jacques Mieses in their match in 1942
Vera Menchik plays Jacques Mieses in their match in 1942

 

Mieses then crossed the English Channel to play a short match against Richard Teichmann in London (16th – 21st February 1895) which he lost by +1 =1 -4. A month later he played this match, Mieses next professional engagement would be (which was his first tournament outside his own country) came at the famous Hastings event of 1895. Although he finished only twentieth (in a field of 22 players), he soon adapted to this level of play and in 1907 he took first prize at the Vienna tournament scoring ten points from thirteen games.

In 1909, Mieses played a short blindfold match with Carl Schlechter, winning it with two wins and one draw. The very next year Schlechter played Emanuel Lasker for the World Championship and drew the match 5-5.

Mieses tried his hand as a tournament organiser in 1911, putting together the San Sebastian event that marked the international debut of future World Champion Jose Raul Capablanca. Mieses was defeated by one of Lasker’s title challengers, Siegbert Tarrasch, in a match in 1916 (+2 -7 =4). In 1938 Mieses resettled in England and took British citizenship. He was awarded the grandmaster title in 1950.”

Jacques Mieses. Jewish chess master from Germany; 1938 Escape from the Naziregime to England. 27.2.1865 Leipzig – 23.2.1954 London. Simultaneous play in the Bar Kochba club against 25 chess players, in the foreground: Mieses (left) against Felix A. Theilhaber. Photo, undated, around 1935 (Abraham Pisarek).
Jacques Mieses.
Jewish chess master from Germany; 1938 Escape from the Naziregime to England.
27.2.1865 Leipzig – 23.2.1954 London.
Simultaneous play in the Bar Kochba club against 25 chess players, in the foreground: Mieses (left) against Felix A. Theilhaber.
Photo, undated, around 1935 (Abraham Pisarek).

From The Oxford Companion to Chess by Hooper & Whyld :

German-born Jewish player and author from Leipzig, International Grandmaster (1950), International Arbiter
(1951). He never assimilated the positional ideas of Steinitz and Tarrasch; instead he preferred to set up a game with the direct object of attacking the enemy king, a style that brought him many brilliancy prizes but few successes in high-level play. His best result was at Vienna 1907, the first Trebitsch Memorial tournament, when he won first prize ( +9 =2 —2) ahead of Duras, Maróczy and Schlechter. Later in the year he shared third prize with Nimzowitsch after Bernstein and Rubinstein in a 28-round tournament at Ostend. He played 25 matches, mostly short, and won six of them including a defeat of Schlechter in 1909 (+2-1).

Mieses reported chess events, edited chess columns, and wrote several books. In 1921 he published a supplement to the eighth edition of Bilguer’s Handbuch, and he revised several editions of Dufresne’s popular Lehrbuck des Schachspiels, He also organized chess events, including the tournament at San Sebastian in 1911 for which he insisted that competitors were paid for travel and board, a practice that later became normal.

After living in Germany for 73 years he escaped the clutches of the Nazis and sought refuge in England. A prim, courteous, and dignified old gentleman, still upright in bearing, he became widely liked in his adopted country. Asked about his lameness in one leg, caused by a street accident in 1937, he merely answered ‘it was my turn to move,’ Soon after naturalization he became the first British player to be awarded the International Grandmaster title. A generation before him his uncle Samuel Mieses (1841-84) had been a German player of master strength.

In the various publications of Edward Winter there are many and varied references to Mieses. We recommend you consult : Kings, Commoners and Knaves, Chess Facts and Fables and Chess Explorations to read them.

According to Edward Winter in Chess Notes JM lived at the following addresses :

  • Tauchaerstrasse, Leipzig, Germany (Wiener Schachzeitung, July 1904, page 211).
  • Christianstrasse 23, Leipzig, Germany (Düsseldorf, 1908 tournament book, page 176).
  • Wettiner Str. 32, Leipzig, Germany (Ranneforths Schach-Kalender, 1915, page 70).
  • Christianstrasse 19II, Leipzig, Germany (Ranneforths Schachkalender, 1925, page 158).
  • 8 Fitzjohns Avenue, London NW3, England (Hastings and St Leonards Chess Club visitors’ book, 27 December 1945*).

Here is an article by André Schulz of ChessBase

An excellent article from Edward Winter.

Here is his Wikipedia entry.

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