Category Archives: Journalism

Minor Pieces 24: Arthur Makinson Fox

There was good news for Twickenham Chess Club in January 1889. A victory against Acton gave them an impressive 100% record for the season.

We note a new name among the winners: as well as a Bull (here and here) we now have a Fox to add to the menagerie.

Morning Post 28 January 1889

Eighteen months later, and Mr A M Fox was by now winning every game in the handicap tournament off scratch. Twickenham was one of the strongest suburban chess clubs, and Mr Fox was perhaps their strongest player, which suggests that he was pretty useful.

Morning Post 23 June 1890

His full name was Arthur Makinson Fox, born in Dorchester, Dorset in 1863, the son and grandson of Congregational Ministers, although his father, Joseph Makinson Fox, converted to the Church of England in 1886. An uncle, Daniel Makinson Fox, was a railway engineer who led the construction of the São Paulo railway, and one of Arthur’s brothers, John Ernest Ravenscroft Fox, was a landscape artist.

Arthur shared an occupation with Robert Davy Ganthony: the 1881 census found him in Dudley, Worcestershire, articled to a dentist. It appears that, in those days, training to be a dentist required an apprenticeship rather than a university education.

By 1882 he found himself in Teddington, perhaps still training to be a dentist, but also the organist at Christ Church, Teddington, in whose church hall Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club met until a few years ago.

In 1887 he married Helen Maud McComas, the daughter of an Irish merchant living in Hampton Road, Teddington, not too far from the Roebuck. They settled in the same road, but closer to the town centre: a house named Brendon, 32 Hampton Road, on the corner of Coleshill Avenue (perhaps this house), just round the corner from the Cowards. Three daughters, Dorothy, Helen and Violet, soon arrived to complete the family, and they would remain there for the rest of their lives. None of their daughters married: they weren’t the only spinster sisters in Teddington.

In 1889 he wasn’t new to chess. Since at least the beginning of 1888 he’d been solving problems in the Morning Post, and occasionally tried his hand at composing as well.

This example seems to me to be pretty crude and forgettable: he doesn’t seem to have shared Cecil Alfred Lucas Bull’s talent for composition. Have a go at solving it yourself and see what you think. The solution is at the end of the article.

#3 Arthur Makinson Fox Morning Post 3 December 1888

In 1893 Joseph Henry Blackburne returned to Twickenham for another simul. Arthur Fox was the only player to win his game.

Surrey Comet 27 May 1893

In between dentistry and chess he also found time to study music at London University, being awarded a Bachelor’s degree in 1893.

Arthur seems to have been a real chess addict. He wasn’t just a member of Twickenham Chess Club, but also a number of clubs in central London. I presume he took the train up from nearby Teddington Station.

Here he is, for example, in 1901, playing for the British Chess Club against a combined team from Oxford and Cambridge Universities, and drawing his game against South African law student Frederick Kimberley Loewenthal, named, like Sydney Meymott, after his place of birth. (Kimberley, not Frederick just in case you were wondering, and apparently not related to Johan Jacob.) There are several interesting names in both teams, some of whom you might meet in future Minor Pieces, but if he’d been one board lower, he’d have met Harold Francis Davidson, a theology student at Exeter College, Oxford.

The Field 30 March 1901

Wikipedia:

At Oxford, Davidson’s behaviour was notably eccentric; he displayed considerable energy but disregarded rules, was persistently unpunctual and regularly failed his examinations. … By 1901 his academic inadequacies were such that he was required to leave Exeter College, although he was allowed to continue studying for his degree at Grindle’s Hall, a cramming establishment. He finally passed his examinations in 1903, at the age of 28, and that year was ordained by the Bishop of Oxford—after some reluctance on the part of the bishop to accept so unpromising a candidate. 

Yes, this was the future Rector of Stiffkey, the Rector Who Was Eaten (or, more accurately, mauled) By A Lion, and one of the stars of The (Even More) Complete Chess Addict, co-written by an unrelated Teddington chess player named Fox.

On April Fools Day 1901 the census enumerator called. As you’d expect, Arthur and Helen were at home along with their three young daughters, Helen’s relation Herbert McComas, a Cambridge University student born in Dublin, and three servants, all in their mid 20s: Grace Gisbourne was a cook, Helena Larkham a housemaid and Ellen Gowing a nurse. It must have been rather confusing with two Helens, Helena and Ellen in the household.

Moving forward another decade, not much had changed. Their middle daughter, Helen, had left home to work as a teacher, but Dorothy and Violet were still there, along with the same three servants as ten years earlier.

But there was another resident as well, Douglas Gerard Arthur Fox, the son of Arthur’s brother Gerard, a 17 year old music student.

Douglas was a promising organist and pianist: he was educated at Clifton College, a school with a strong music tradition, and was now studying under Sir Charles Villiers Stanford at the Royal College of Music. The following year he would be appointed Organ Scholar at Keble College, Oxford.

When war broke out he enlisted in the army, and, in 1917, suffered a serious injury requiring the amputation of his right arm. In 1918 he was appointed musical director at Bradfield College, and in 1931 returned to Clifton College, where he was Head of Music until his retirement in 1957. Among his pupils was the great and wonderful David Valentine Willcocks, one of whose brothers, Theophilus Harding Willcocks, was a mathematician and chess problemist.

For further information about Douglas Fox see here, pp 11-14. You might even want to buy a book here.

At some point, perhaps round about his 50th birthday, Arthur Makinson Fox decided to retire from his work as a dentist, giving himself more time to spend on music.

In 1912 Arthur and his wife contributed two guineas to a fund to rebuild the organ at St James’s Church, Hampton Hill. They lived in the parish of St Peter & St Paul, Teddington, but it’s possible they preferred to worship at St James’s. just a mile down the road. (Walk along Hampton Road past the Roebuck and keep going.) It’s also quite possible that Arthur was the organist there. (A more recent organist at St James’s, Mark Blackwell (2015-2018) is the brother of one of my first private pupils, Richard, who played for Cambridge in the 1986 Varsity Match.)

In 1914 St James’s appointed a new vicar, the Rev Richard Coad-Prior, who had a lot in common with Arthur Makinson Fox, sharing his passion for both music and chess. In February that year, he played for London University in a match against Cambridge. There, sitting almost opposite him, was Richard’s only son Eric, who would himself have a long career as a strong club and county player.

Oxford Chronicle and Reading Gazette 6 March 1914

Arthur’s opponent in this match, Bertram Goulding Brown, was well known as, amongst other things, a chess historian. He had played in Varsity Matches a decade or so earlier, and was now, I think, a lecturer in history. This may have been a ‘past and present’ match, or perhaps Arthur was now associated with London University again in some way.

This is the last match result I’ve been able to find for Arthur Makinson Fox. Not a lot of competitive chess took place during the war, and perhaps, now in his fifties, he decided to hang up his pawns, at least as far as competitive chess was concerned.

The 1921 census has recently become available online, and we still find him in the same place, along with Helen, Dorothy and Violet, who is now working just a couple of minutes walk away at the National Physical Laboratory. Their servants Grace and Ellen are both still there after more than 20 years.

During this period of his life he continued his interest in music. The two fields which particularly interested him were organ music (he seems to have composed some works for his instrument) and madrigals. He wrote articles for various music magazines and was the President and Librarian of the Madrigal Society. In 1914 he had subscribed to a collection of madrigals composed by Orlando Gibbons. (Beware, though: some online sources attribute two cantatas published in the mid 1870s to Arthur Makinson Fox: they must have been written by another Arthur Fox.)

We can now move forward another 18 years to 1939. Helen Maud Fox died that year, but, apart from his sad loss, there’s no change in the household circumstances from 1921. Arthur, Dorothy and Violet are still there, with Dorothy still carrying out household duties and Violet still at the NPL. And, yes, Grace and Ellen are still there as well, having worked for the family for about 40 years. Quite some loyalty, and I guess Arthur must have been a good employer as well.

Although he may not have played competitively for a quarter of a century, he still kept up his interest in chess. In 1941 he wrote an article for the British Chess Magazine reminiscing about the British Chess Club.

British Chess Magazine February 1941
British Chess Magazine February 1941

In February 1945 he had a letter published in the BCM joining in a debate about reversing the starting positions of bishops and knights.

He lived a long but relatively uneventful life devoted to his work as a dentist and his twin passions of chess and music. Arthur Makinson Fox’s death at the age of 86 was registered in Middlesex South in the second quarter of 1949.

 

Acknowledgements and Sources:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

britbase.org.uk

Wikipedia

Various other online sources

Problem solution:

1. Nd8! followed by 2. Be3 and either 3. Qe6# or 3. Qd4#. The only other variation is 1. Nd8! Kc5 2. Be3+ Kb5 3. Qa4#

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Minor Pieces 22: Cecil Alfred Lucas Bull Part 1

 

Surrey Comet 5 March 1887

If you’ve been paying attention you’ll have seen this before. I’d like to draw your attention to Twickenham’s Board 3, Mr. C. A. L. Bull.

In the world of over the board chess he was a Minor Piece, but in the rarefied world of chess problems he was undoubtedly a Major Piece. It’s not so easy, though, to piece together his life as there appear to be no genealogists in his immediate family.

Let’s take a look.

We’ll start with his paternal grandfather, Benjamin Bull. Ben was born in Market Harborough, Leicestershire, a town we’ll have occasion to visit again, but I haven’t as yet found any family connections with other chess players whose family came from that area.

He was a hotel proprietor and we can pick him up in the 1851 census running the Castle Hotel in Richmond, which was demolished in 1888, but its successor would, in 1912, be the venue of the British Chess Championships. It’s quite possible a future series of articles will enable us to meet some of those who visited our fair Borough in 1912 to push their pawns around wooden chequered boards.

Ben and his wife Mary Ann had five sons and a daughter. One of their sons, Richard Smith Bull, achieved some fame as an actor using the stage name Richard Boleyn, but our story continues with another son, Thomas Bull.

Tom, by profession an auctioneer and surveyor, was born in 1839, and, in 1865, married  the 18 year old Julia Sellé, daughter of William Christian Sellé, doctor of music, composer, and Musician in Ordinary to Queen Victoria. Their first child was born in Ramsgate, Kent, but they soon settled, like all the best people, in Twickenham. Tom and Julia had 11 children, one of whom died in infancy, and it’s their fourth son, Cecil Alfred Lucas Bull, who interests us.

He was born (as Cecil Lucas Bull: he would sometimes be known as Lucas Bull) in the second quarter of 1869 and baptised (now Cecil Alfred Lucas) at St Mary the Virgin Church, Twickenham on 16 June that year.

St Mary the Virgin Church Twickenham. Author’s photograph.

In the 1871 census we find Tom and Julia, with four young children, Julius, Alan, Cecil and Beatrix, living in Sussex Villa, Clifden Road, Twickenham, close to the town centre. They must have been well off as they could afford to employ no less than four servants, a cook, a housemaid and two nurses to look after their rapidly expanding family.

In round about 1875 the family moved from Twickenham to Ferry Road, Teddington, just across the road from where, a few years later, St Alban’s Church would be built, and where Noël Coward’s family would both worship and entertain.

The 1881 census records Tom and Julia in Ferry Road, now with Julius, Alan, Cecil, Beatrix, Maud, Gwynneth, Clifford, Walter and Allegra, along with a nurse, a cook, a housemaid and a parlourmaid. Life must have been good for the prosperous Bull family.

This tells us that young Cecil (I think they missed a trick by not adding Ferdinand to his name, making him Bull, CALF) was only 17 when he first represented Twickenham Chess Club. Not exceptional today, but it would have been very unusual, although I haven’t found any specific reference to his youth, at the time. Playing on third board and winning both his games, he must already have been a more than useful player. He went on to win the club’s handicap tournament on two occasions, playing off scratch.

Even at that point, he’d been active elsewhere in the chess world for some time. His first problem was published in The Field in May 1885, just before his 16th birthday. It soon became clear that he was both exceptionally knowledgeable about chess problems and had a remarkable talent as a composer.

His first prize in the Liverpool Weekly Courier in 1886 caused a sensation and also a bit of controversy at the time.

Problem 1. White to play and mate in 3 moves. Solution at the end of the article.

Although he published a few mates in 2 and longer mates, and also a few selfmates, most of his problems were mates in 3. His younger brothers Clifford and Walter also had a few problems published in their teens, but seem not to have continued their interest.

As well as blockbusting prizewinners, Cecil had a knack for composing crowd-pleasing lightweight problems which would have been attractive to over-the-board players.

Problem 2, another mate in 3, was published in the British Chess Magazine in 1888.

Chess wasn’t young Cecil’s only game. From 1888 onwards we find him playing cricket for a variety of local clubs: Strawberry Hill, Teddington, East Molesey, Barnes before settling on Hampton Wick. He was a talented all-rounder, excelling with both the bat and the ball. (I’d have called him both a bowler and a batsman, but today, in the spirit of political correctness, we’re expected to use ‘batter’ instead. I’m afraid it just makes me think of Yorkshire pudding, though.) His teammates sometimes included his older brother Alan, and Edward Albert Bush, who, in 1891, married his sister Beatrix. I do hope they celebrated at the Bull & Bush.

Hampton Wick Royal Cricket Ground. Author’s photograph.

Problem 3 is another prize winner: this one shared 2nd prize in the Bristol Mercury in 1890. Again, it’s mate in 3.

By 1891 the Bulls had moved again. They were now in Walpole Gardens, just by Strawberry Hill Station, with Beatrix, Maud, Gwynneth, Clifford, Walter and their youngest son, Basil. I haven’t been able to find Allegra in 1891. There were now only two servants. Did they need less help as their children grew up?

Cecil was in Bloomsbury in 1891, living ‘on own means’ in the home of a classics teacher who also took in boarders. It seems that he was wealthy enough not to need a job, so was able to devote his time to his hobbies of chess and cricket.

Here’s how FR Gittins would describe his early life in The Chess Bouquet.

From The Chess Bouquet by Frederick Richard Gittins (1897)

And then, in 1892, everything changed. Julia died and the family started to disperse. Walter emigrated to America, where he would later be joined by Basil. Cecil, because of his passion for cricket, soon set sail for South Africa, where Clifford would later join him. It’s possible that the oldest brother, Julius, also emigrated to South Africa, but this is at present uncertain.

Meanwhile, Thomas married a widow named Margaret Crampton in Steyning, Sussex in 1895, and by 1901 they were living in Chingford, Essex. Clifford was the only one of his children still living with him. I haven’t yet been able to find the family in the 1911 census: I suppose it’s quite possible they were visiting one of Tom’s children in America or South Africa. It looks like Thomas Bull died in Chelsea in 1918 at the age of 78.

Do you want to find out what happened to Cecil in South Africa? I’m sure you do. Don’t miss our next exciting episode.

Sources and Acknowledgements:

Ancestry

Findmypast

Wikipedia

Problems and solutions taken from Yet Another Chess Problem Database.

Thanks to Dr Tim Harding for The Chess Bouquet.

Solutions to problems:

1.

1.♖d4! 1…♖d1 (R~1) 2.♕×e2+ ♕e3 3.♕×e3# 1…♕f1 2.♖e4+ 2…f×e4 3.♕×e4# 2…♔×d5 3.♘e3# 3.♕d3# 2.♕×f5+ ♔×f5 3.♗d7# 1…♕g2 2.♕×f5+ ♔×f5 3.♗d7# 1…♕g4 2.♖e4+ 2…f×e4 3.♕×e4# 2…♔×d5 3.♘e3# 3.♕d3# 1…♕h1 2.♕×f5+ ♔×f5 3.♗d7# 1…♕h2 2.♕×f5+ ♔×f5 3.♗d7# 2.♖e4+ 2…f×e4 3.♕×e4# 2…♔×d5 3.♘e3# 3.♕d3# 1…♕a3 (Qb3, Qc3, Qf3, Qg3) 2.♕×f5+ ♔×f5 3.♗d7# 1…♕d3 2.♖×d3 ♖a1 (R~1) 3.♕×e2# 1…♕e3 2.♘×e3 ~ 3.♕×f5# 1…♕×h4 2.♕×f5+ ♔×f5 3.♗d7# 2.♖e4+ 2…f×e4 3.♕×e4# 2…♔×d5 3.♘e3# 3.♕d3# 1…c×d4 2.♘e5 ~ 3.♗f7# 2…d×e5 3.♕c6#

2.

1.♔f8! ~ 2.♘c7 ~ 3.♕d4# 2…♗c4 3.♕a3# 1…♔d5 2.♕d4+ ♔e6 3.♘g7# (Model mate, Mirror mate) 1…♗c4 2.♕a3+ 2…♔d5 3.♕d6# 2…♔b5 3.♘c7# (Model mate)

3.

1.♕h3! ~ 2.♕f5+ ♔c6 3.♖c4# 1…♗×e4 2.♕c8 ~ 3.♘c3# 2…♖c6 3.♕g8# 1…♗d3 2.♕c8 ♗×e4 3.♘c3# 1…♔c6 2.♕c8+ ♔b5 3.♕c4# 1…♔×e4 2.♕g2+ 2…♔f5 3.♕d5# 2…♔d3 3.♘b2# 1…b5 2.♖d4+ ♔c6 3.♕c8# 1…b6 2.♘c3+ 2…♔c5 3.♕c8# 2…♔c6 3.♕c8#

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Minor Pieces 18: Arthur Sabin and Randulph Lewis Coward

Working Mens’ Clubs in Twickenham and surrounding areas had been meeting each other for friendly competitions since the early 1870s. These would typically involve some combination of activities such as chess, draughts, whist, cribbage, dominoes and bagatelle.

Twickenham Chess Club, for its first few years, seemed to content itself with internal handicap tournaments along with the occasional simultaneous display. It wasn’t until January 1883 that they played their first match against another club. This was against Isleworth Reading Room Chess Club (there has been no chess club in Isleworth for many decades) and resulted in a victory for Twickenham 9 points to 3. Hurrah!

The following month, Twickenham visited Isleworth for a return encounter over 9 boards, with each player having two games against the same opponent. Here’s what happened.

Middlesex Independent 21 February 1883

 

You’ll notice George Edward Norwood Ryan and Wallace Britten on the top two boards. Some of the initials are, as was common in those days, incorrect.

Buoyed by their success, in March they entertained Kingston Chess Club. The Surrey Comet reported that the Twickenham players were most successful, beating their opponents all along the line.

It seems that the Twickenham Chess Club had rapidly established itself as one of the stronger suburban clubs, and that the top boards must have been pretty useful players. As yet I haven’t been able to find any of their games.

It wasn’t until 1884 that we have a record of another match, again versus the Isleworth Reading Room Chess Club.

Middlesex Independent 05 March 1884

 

There are several interesting names here, but you’ll spot two Cowards in the team. Following his successes the previous year, A Coward had been promoted to second board. The two Brittens turned out not to be related to each other, or to their musical namesake. What about the two Cowards?

First of all, the weaker Coward’s middle initial is incorrect. They were in fact brothers: Arthur Sabin Coward and Randulph Lewis Coward.

In the 1881 census the family were at 4 Amyand Park Road, Twickenham, right by the station. Arthur was 24 and Randulph 20, both were working as clerks, and they were living with their widowed mother, an annuitant (pensioner), five younger sisters and a servant.

Their late father, James Coward, a victim of tuberculosis the previous year, had been an organist and composer (spoiler alert: not the only organist and composer we’ll encounter in this series)

It’s well worth looking at all his children.

  1. James Munro Coward was, like his father, an organist and composer, but his musical career was marred by heavy drinking.
  2. Walter Coward, a singer, became a gentleman-in-ordinary at the Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace and librarian of the Chapel Royal’s music.
  3. Arthur Sabin Coward – we’ll return to him later.
  4. Gordon Leslie Coward is something of a mystery. He joined the army, reaching the rank of Sergeant, but then turned up in New Zealand in 1888, being sentenced to 9 months imprisonment for passing a forged cheque. His lawyer described him as ‘a man of good connections’ who had ‘unfortunately given way to drink’. The probation officer’s report was not favourable. After that, we don’t know. There was a death recorded in Wellington in 1894 of a Gordon Leslie Card, who may or may not have been the same person.
  5. Randulph Lewis Coward – again we’ll return to him later.
  6. Hilda Janet Coward followed her father into music, being the possesor of a ‘well-trained voice of extraordinary compass’.  Jenny Lind had been known as the Swedish Nightingale (there used to be a pub in Hampton Hill named after her): Hilda was known as the Teddington Nightingale. It seems she stopped performing very suddenly in 1892, and, apart from attending the wedding of her sister Ida three years later, disappeared from view. A few years later she moved to Italy because of a throat infection and died there in 1907.
  7. Eleanor Jane Charlotte Frances Coward married twice, the first time to Walter’s brother-in-law, had three children and lived a long life.
  8. Myrrha Coward married a civil servant and lived in Teddington.
  9. Percy Oswald Coward was a singer: like his big brother Walter a male alto more than half a century before the great Alfred Deller repopularised a voice type which had been neglected since the early 18th century. He moved to Canada, and then, deserting his pianist wife and daughter, to Australia, where he died in 1933.
  10. Ida Beatrice Coward ran a hotel in Kensington after being widowed at an early age.
  11. Harold Edgar Coward died in infancy.

A few days after this Isleworth match, the results of the season’s handicap tournament were in.

Confirmation, then, that Arthur Coward was, along with Wallace Britten and George Ryan, one of the strongest members of Twickenham Chess Club.

With Artie and his brother Randy still young men in their twenties, a great chess future might have been predicted for them. Alas, this was not the case, although they did continue playing for another year or two.

Life, in the shape of family, work and other interests, I suppose, gets in the way.

Let’s visit Teddington and find out.

If you take a stroll along Teddington High Street heading in the direction of the river, you’ll come across two churches. Immediately in front of you, a left turn into Manor Road will take you to Twickenham, while turning right into Broom Road will take you to Kingston. Straight ahead is Ferry Road (another spoiler alert: you’ll be meeting some residents in another Minor Piece), leading to the footbridges across the Thames.

On your left is the quaint 16th century church of St Mary, and on your right a massive edifice which opened its doors in 1889.

Enter Francis Leith Boyd. Boyd, born in Canada, became Vicar of Teddington in 1884 at the age of 28. He was a man of considerable ambition and grandiose ideas, and also famed for his hellfire sermons. St Mary’s wasn’t big enough for him, so he commissioned architect William Niven (grandfather of David) to design a much larger building across the road. It was dedicated to St Alban, but known informally as the Cathedral of the Thames Valley. The money ran out before it was completed: the nave is shorter than intended and the planned 200 foot tower was never built.

Teddington’s new vicar also enjoyed music, and the combination of music and theatricality must have been very appealing to the musical and theatric Coward family. At some point in the late 1880s they moved from Twickenham to Coleshill Road, Teddington, close to  Bushy House, where the National Physical Laboratory would be established in 1900, and threw themselves into musical life at the new church of St Alban’s. Artie and Randy were both very much part of this, and, I suppose, now had no time to pursue their chess careers. The family could even provide a full vocal quartet, with Hilda singing soprano, Walter, later replaced by Percy, singing alto,  Arthur singing tenor and Randulph singing bass. They performed everything from the sublime to the ridiculous: Bach’s St John Passion, Spohr’s now forgotten oratorio The Last Judgement, Gilbert and Sullivan operettas and the popular songs and parlour ballads of the day.

Posted on Facebook by David Allaway

Here they are in Twickenham Town Hall, where they would also have played chess, in 1894, with big brother James conducting. (Mr William Poupart is also interesting: he and his family were prominent market gardeners in Twickenham, but none of them, as far as I know, played chess.)

In 1967 the parishioners of Teddington moved back across the road to St Mary’s and St Alban’s soon fell into disrepair. A campaign spearheaded by local Labour Councillor Jean Brown (in the days when this part of the world had Labour Councillors) fought successfully to save the building for community use. It’s still owned by the Church of England but known as the Landmark Arts Centre. If you visit there now you’ll see a plaque commemorating Jean Rosina Brown in the foyer, and there are some information boards at the back which include press cuttings about the Coward family’s involvement with the church. Some 90 years or so ago, Jean and my mother were best friends at school, so, in her memory, I often attend concerts there.

One of the orchestras playing there regularly is the Thames Philharmonia, whose Chair (and one of their clarinettists) Mike Adams is a former member of Guildford Chess Club. It was good to talk to him during the interval of their most recent concert.

Returning to the Teddington Cowards, in the last few months of 1890 there was both happy and sad news for Arthur.

On 8 October he married Violet Agnes Veitch at St Alban’s Church. Randulph was there as a witness, and, of course, Francis Leith Boyd was on hand to perform the ceremony. At this point he was still, at the age of 34, just a clerk working for a music publisher in London.

Violet came from a prominent Scottish family and may or may not have been related to the endgame study composer and player Walter Veitch (1923-2004), who had a Scottish father and was at one time a member of Richmond (& Twickenham) Chess Club.

A couple of months later, his mother, Janet, died, and when the census enumerator called round the following year he found Randulph, a clerk in the Civil Service there together with his sisters Hilda, Myrrha and Ida. Arthur and Violet had bought their own place in Waldegrave Road, not very far away, and were living there with a domestic servant. Later the same year, their first child was born, a son named Russell Arthur Blackmore Coward. His third name was in honour of his godfather Richard Doddridge Blackmore, a successful novelist (Lorna Doone) and unsuccessful market gardener, who lived nearby. Blackmore was also a more than competent chess player and one can imagine that he and Arthur must have spent many evenings together over the board.

Young Russell showed promising musical talent, but tragedy would strike his family and he died at the age of only 6 in 1898.

The following year another son was born, and it wasn’t long before he made the local papers.

Middlesex & Surrey Express 16 February 1901

Yes, Arthur Sabin Coward was we’d now call an anti-vaxxer, with  a ‘conscientious objection to vaccination’, whatever that might mean. You might have thought that, having lost his first son, he might be only too keen to protect young Noël’s health.

And, yes, you read it correctly – or almost correctly (his middle name was Peirce, not Pierce). The Teddington Cowards were not only related to each other, but also to the great playwright, songwriter, singer and much else, the Master himself, Sir Noël Coward. Arthur was his father and Randulph his uncle.

Of course what you all really want to know is whether Noël inherited his father’s interest in chess. He’s not mentioned in The (Even More) Complete Chess Addict, but Goldenhurst, his Kent residence, had a games room with a chess table. The pieces were always set up ready for play. So perhaps he did. I’d like to think so.

Source: Google Maps

The 1901 census found the family still in Waldegrave Road, and Arthur still in the same job. If you visit now, you’ll find a blue plaque on the wall (see photo above), and if you walk down the road towards Teddington, you’ll be able to meet Sampson Low, the current Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club secretary, who lives not too many doors away in the same road. Randulph, 40, still a bachelor and a clerk in the War Office, was boarding with a family named Russell (perhaps friends of the Cowards) very near St Alban’s Church.

Arthur and his family soon moved to Teddington, first to Sutton, where their third son, Eric was born, and then to a mansion flat near Battersea Park, which is where the 1911 census found him. He’d finally been promoted – to a piano salesman, a role in which he was apparently not very successful. Noël would always be embarrassed  by his father’s lack of success and ambition, which may well have been caused in part by an over fondness for alcohol, a trait he shared with several of his siblings.

Randulph was a lot more successful. He finally married in 1905 and by 1911 he was a 1st class assistant accountant at the War Office,  living in some luxury in St George’s Square, Pimlico. In 1920, he’d be awarded the MBE for his War Office work during the First World War.

So there you have it: one of the first Twickenham Chess Club’s leading lights was Noël Coward’s father.

Who will we discover next? Join me soon for some more 1880s Twickenham chess players.

Acknowledgements and sources:

Wikipedia

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

Philip Hoare’s biography is available, in part, online here.

Various online postings by local historians.

Twickenham Museum article here.

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Minor Pieces 17: Wallace and Bashley Britten

On 8 April 1882, Edward Griffith Brewer posted an advertisement in the Surrey Comet. The great Joseph Henry Blackburne was going to give a blindfold simultaneous display at Twickenham Chess Club.

The following week, they published a report:

As local papers usually did, and still do, they got it wrong, quite apart from calling a simul a tournament. George Edward Norwood Ryan wrote in to complain.

This event even reached the pages of Volume 2 of the British Chess Magazine.

A later report followed.

We now know the names of some of the strongest members of the first Twickenham Chess Club.

You will note Mr. B. Britten and Mr. W. Britten were the last to finish. Sharing a relatively unusual surname, surely they must have been related. Perhaps they were also related to Benjamin Britten.

It’s time to have a look.

Here they are, next to each other in the 1882 London Overseer Returns, in effect an electoral roll.

Bashley and Wallace. Wallace and Bashley. Even better than Wallace and Gromit. Don’t you think everyone should call their son Bashley?

The splendidly named Bashley didn’t live in Twickenham very long. He was born in 1825 in Milton, Hampshire. He seems to have moved to Twickenham in about 1880, having previously lived in Redhill.  The 1881 census found him in Twickenham with his wife Susanna, along with a cook and a housemaid, and claiming to be a Gentleman.

But he’d previously been an engineer and inventor. He was best known for Britten’s Projectile, which involved applying a coating of lead to projectiles fired from cannons, and was much used in the American Civil War. I’m not sure that his namesake Benjamin, a lifelong pacifist, would have approved. If you, on the other hand, would like to know more, you could always read his book.

This was not his only invention. Here is an improved printing telegraph, and he also took out a patent for using blast furnace slag to manufacture glass.

A few months after the Blackburne blindfold simul, Bashley went on holiday to the Scottish Highlands. On 12 August, while visiting the port of Ullapool, he died suddenly at the age of 57.

Source: findagrave.com

He must have been very fond of the area: if you visit there today you can find his memorial. The inscription reads: In memory of/BASHLEY BRITTEN/aged 57 years/of Twickenham, Middlesex/died at Ullapool/Augt 12th 1882.

Sadly, Bashley wasn’t able to enjoy the delights of playing chess in Twickenham very long. His namesake Wallace, however, was around rather longer.

First of all, I can find no relationship at all between Bashley and Wallace, nor to the Northampton player W E Britten, who played in the same team as William Harris and against teams including members of the Marriott family. Nor, as far as I can tell, were any of them related to Edward Benjamin Britten.

There is another connection, though, between Bashy and Wally. Bashy’s only daughter, Ada, married Algernon Frampton, who worked on the Stock Exchange, as did Wallace Britten.

We can pick him up on the 1881 census: he’s 32 years old, a clerk to a stock & share jobber, living with his wife Emily and his sister-in-law, together with a servant and a boarder. Further searching reveals that they had had two children, born in Islington in 1872 and 1874, who had both died in infancy.

Source: Google Maps

By 1891 they’d moved to Rozel, 5 Strawberry Hill Road, then and now one of the most desirable streets in Twickenham. They now had a one-year-old son, Wallace Ernest, and two of his wife’s sisters were living there along with two servants. Wally was by now a Member of the Stock Exchange, so must have been doing pretty well for himself. He was still involved with Twickenham Chess Club at the time, but the last reference I can find for him is the following year. Perhaps increasing demands of work, or the desire to spend time with Wally Junior, made it harder for him to pursue his favourite game.

He’d remain at the same address for the rest of his long life. He died on 16 March 1938, and is buried in Teddington Cemetery. According to his probate record, he left £5,328 13s 5d to his son Wallace Ernest Britten, Colonel HM Army and his nephew Julius Campbell Combe, Authorised Stockbrokers Clerk. Wally Junior would eventually become a Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Engineers, and be awarded the OBE: his son Robert Wallace Tudor Britten would also have a distinguished military career. Again, Benjamin would not have been happy.

Wallace Britten, apart from being a pretty useful club chess player, was a man who seems to have led a successful life, but one marked also by the sadness of losing his first two children. But where did he come from? He married in early 1872, but if we consult the 1871 census we might ask “Where’s Wally?”.

I eventually managed to track him down in Islington, working as a clerk and lodging with the large family of a builder named Julius Combe, a name you might recognize. His name appears to be Walter rather than Wallace, and his age seems to be 30 rather than 23. It was one of Julius’s daughters, Emily, he married the following year. I can’t as yet find him in 1861: it’s quite likely he was away at school: school pupils were often only listed by their initials in census returns. If I look for Walter, rather than Wallace, though, he’s there in 1851.

His parents, it seems, were Edwin Josiah Britten and Selina Pedder, and there he is, aged 3, living in Bloomsbury with his parents, big brothers Edwin and Alfred, and baby sister Laura. (Edwin Junior had been baptised at St Clement Danes Church by William Webb Ellis, who allegedly invented rugby by picking up a football and running with it.) Edwin senior was a Fancy Leather Worker employing two persons. Another daughter, Rachel, would be born the following year, but in October 1852 his father was admitted to the lunatic asylum at Colney Hatch, where he died in 1855. By 1861, Selina had taken over her late husband’s business as well as bringing up her children, but Wallace/Walter wasn’t there.

How did this scion of a lower middle class family end up on the Stock Exchange, playing chess and living in a substantial house in a Thames-side suburb? The answer is that we don’t know. He certainly wasn’t lacking in either ambition or ability.

Source: findagrave.com

His grave looks like it needs a bit of attention, but at least he has one, unlike Florence Smith, who died three years before him and lies in an unmarked grave. Her sisters and children never visited, but her grandson pauses in remembrance every time he passes by. Next time you find yourself playing chess in Twickenham, spare a thought for the Britten boys, Wallace and Bashley, two of the leading players in the early years of the first Twickenham Chess Club.

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Minor Pieces 15: Oliver Harcourt Labone

There are a few chess players who, while not being outstanding exponents themselves, achieved immortality through a flash of inspiration. Saavedra is one example, and another is the subject of this article: Oliver Harcourt Labone.

Liverpool Weekly Courier 11 December 1886

You might have seen something like this before, either this position or a similar position published by Lasker ten years later. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you the answer. (Spoiler: it involves an underpromotion.)

Problemist Steven Dowd posted this on the BCN Facebook page, asking for more information about Labone.

There’s a lot to tell about a man who lived an eventful life, so do come along for the ride. It’s a rather extraordinary story.

Let’s take you back to the Central Criminal Court on 20 August 1861. A solicitor named Richard Austwick Westbrook was accused of manslaughter. He was a divorcee boarding with a lady named Jane Janette Cathrey, whose husband was had emigrated to Australia: both Richard and Jane, who were probably having an affair, had a reputation for being hot-headed and violent. During an argument Richard threw a knife across the table, hitting Jane in the abdomen and causing her death. A hearing in a magistrates’ court earlier in the month had found him guilty of manslaughter, but now the prosecution offered no evidence, believing it was an accident, and Richard walked free. Sounds like a combination of toxic masculinity and male privilege to me. Perhaps it affected his business, though, as he was declared bankrupt two years later.

Richard Austwick Westbrook had been born in Reading in 1815. In 1841 he married Hannah Grant Stiles. They had four children, but she died in 1852, and in 1855 he married Anne Topley at St Paul’s Church, Hammersmith. In 1857, a son, Rowland Martin Westbrook, was born, followed in 1858 by Oliver Harcourt Westbrook. It seems they split up shortly after Ollie’s birth and he went to live with Jane Cathrey. His petition for divorce was granted in 1860,  naming a man called Demetrio as co-respondent. In 1862 he married a third time and had two more children.

Meanwhile, there was a Clement Leslie Dalba born in Brentford in 1860 (mother’s maiden name Mesina). There’s no other record of him, or of anyone else in the area with any of those names, so my best guess is he was the Clement Claude Leslie Labone we’ll meet later. The name Demetrio, along with Dalba and Mesina, suggests an Italian connection, so I suspect he was the son of Nicholas Demetrio and Anne Topley, and his birth had been registered using false names.

At some point in late 1860 or early 1861, Nick, Anne and the three boys moved to Glasgow, happy to escape Richard’s hot temper, and, to avoid detection, changed their name to Labone. Rowland’s middle name was also changed, from Martin to MacDonald: you can’t get much more Scottish than that. She also seems to have changed her maiden name from Topley to Copley, and sometimes added Mary in front of Anne.

In the 1861 Scottish census he’s Nicholas Labone, aged 28, living in a boarding house in Glasgow, but described as a Landed Proprietor. In 1862, a daughter, Flora Adelina, was born to Nick and Anne. Nick set up in  business as a Professor of Languages, teaching French, German and Italian, but, just like Richard, ran into financial problems and, in 1863, was declared bankrupt. In 1865, a son, Gregory, was born, but sadly died the same year.  In 1866 Nick’s publishers were trying desperately to unload 155 copies of his book A French Verbary.

In 1871 Ollie is away at school, but we find Nick, a Professor of Languages, living with his wife Annie M Labone, and two other sons, Rowland M (15) and Leslie C (12). Flora doesn’t seem to be around.  Flora would later marry and have a family. Rowland died in his 40s, never apparently marrying or having a job, which suggests some sort of health problem. All I can find out about him is that in 1876 he was looking for a job as a lay evangelist. We’ll return to Clem/Les later.

Nicholas Labone/Demetrio, when he wasn’t teaching languages and writing books, was, it turns out, a chess player. He was very much involved with the Glasgow Chess Club in the early 1870s, both as a player and an administrator. He must have taught the game to Ollie and Clem. Nick and Anne’s marriage doesn’t seem to last. They both move down to Lancashire. Nick, now known as Nicholas Demetrio again, remarried in Barrow-in-Furness in 1882. There’s also a Demetrio who played in chess matches between Manchester and Liverpool in the early 1880s, who, I assume, was Nick. According to a rate book from 1890, he was still in Manchester, living in poverty. In 1891, Annie, claiming to be a widow born in Derby, was living with Rowland in Liverpool.

For the moment, though, we need to follow Ollie. We next pick him up in 1879, now living in Liverpool, where a public notice informs us that he’s no longer working for John Gibbs & Son, Ironfounders and Export Agents. At some point after Nick’s death the family seems to have moved from Glasgow to Liverpool. By 1881, he’s in Manchester, where he married Emily Etchells, the daughter of a Methodist preacher, and at the time of the census the young couple have just set up home together in Salford. Ollie is now described as a Commercial Traveller.

In 1883 he first makes his mark in the chess world, submitting a problem to the Illustrated London News. In 1884 he’s playing for Manchester, and, the following year in Stourbridge, Worcestershire. Over the next few years he’s active in Birmingham and Liverpool, along with half-brother Clem. In 1886 the position that would send his name around the world was published: quite an achievement for the young man.

Here’s a game from 1886.

And Problem 1, a mate in 3 from The Field 1 Jan 1887:

(Solutions to problems are at the end of the article)

Two games from 1888:

I can find no adult male with a name anything like L E Whitby anywhere near Liverpool in 1888 or anywhere else any other time, yet he is often mentioned in chess columns. Can anyone help?

The 1891 census tells us that, now a commission agent, he’s moved to Wolverhampton, along with Emily and their children Walter, Leonard and Marie. Another son, Oliver Martyn, had died at the age of only 4 months the previous year.

Birmingham Daily Post 23 June 1893

But in 1893 the family’s world was turned upside down. Ollie was up before the law, accused of embezzlement from his business partner, one Enoch Howard, found guilty and sentenced to a month’s hard labour. Naughty Ollie!

Undaunted, though, the following year he took up a new hobby: giving simultaneous displays against weaker clubs. Over the next 20 years or so he travelled the country, possibly connected with his job as a travelling salesman in machine oils, giving simuls wherever he went and gaining a national reputation as an expert simul giver. In 1894 it was Northampton, in 1896 it was Norwich.

He spent much of 1896 playing a match for the Staffordshire Championship with the Reverend John H Robison of Walsall, which he won easily, winning 10 games and drawing 2. In 1898 he faced a more formidable opponent for the county title: Charles William Draycott. Ollie only managed one draw from the first three games, but eventually scored 10 wins and 3 draws to his opponent’s 7 wins.

Here’s the final game of the match:

Against Lasker (it’s not clear at the moment whether this was a casual game or a simul, and exactly where it took place), he played an unambitious opening and a passive middlegame.

In 1901, still a commission agent, but working on his own account, he was living at Ivy Side, Rookery Road, Handsworth, West Bromwich with Emily, Len and Marie, Walt having left home. He was playing a lot of chess, but not playing Happy Families. There were clearly domestic problems of some sort, and, just a few months later, Emily and Marie set sail for New Zealand, as far away as possible from poor Ollie. Marie, would die a few years later, but Walt and Len would later join her with their families. She later married again, perhaps to a younger man she met on board ship, but there’s no evidence that she and Ollie were divorced.

Meanwhile, Ollie had found himself another woman, in fact another Emily, Emily Yates. (Every one was an Emily, ‘e wouldn’t ‘ave a Lily or a Pam.) She had been born in 1877 in Heywood, Lancashire, so perhaps they’d met on one of his visits to Manchester or Liverpool. Perhaps Emily Mark 1 had had enough of his constant travelling, or of his chess addiction. Or perhaps it’s just one of the oldest stories around: a middle-aged man is attracted to a younger woman. A son, Cyril, was born in Norwich in 1903, and another son, Douglas, in Leicester in 1905.

Here’s Problem 2: Mate in 3 from the Illustrated London News 15 Dec 1906.

A game from this period:

Yes, we seem to have found ourselves back in Leicester again, and, of course, Ollie soon threw himself into the chess life of the city, playing in matches and giving simuls, but also visiting Liverpool in 1909 to take part in a blindfold simul against Blackburne. In 1911 they’re in New Bridge Street, not very far from what was then Filbert Street but is now the King Power Stadium. He’s a Commercial Traveller in Oils, while Emily Yates is a Housekeeper. (This was a common euphemism in census returns, but sometimes employers did have affairs with their housekeepers. Ten years later, for example, South Warwickshire farmer Thomas Woolley had an affair with his housekeeper while his wife was in the lunatic asylum. Pretty despicable, you might think, but if he hadn’t done so, you wouldn’t be reading this article today.)

Here’s the Blackburne game, which doesn’t make a very good impression. He misplayed the opening and never stood a chance. You get the impression he was a strong attacking player, but when facing top level opposition he curled up into a ball and defended weakly. As it happens, one of his relations was a much better defender.

A game from his time in Leicester:

It wasn’t long before he was on the move again. By 1913 he was in Blackpool, where his sons would be baptised the following year.

Problem 3, another mate in 3, was published in the Illustrated London News on 9 October 1915.

While his family settled down by the Lancashire coast, he was back on the road, spending some time in Devon and Cornwall, and, of course, giving simuls. He was back in Exeter in 1918, where he played Plymouth champion Thomas Taylor.

In February 1920 he was writing to the Illustrated London News from Belfast, and, a few moths later, he was in Barrow-in-Furness.

Problem 4, mate in 3 Illustrated London News 17 Sep 1921:

At that point it seems he settled down in Blackpool, now running an advertising agency of sorts. In 1925 he was still submitting problems and games for publication in the Illustrated London News.

Problem 5, mate in 3 Illustrated London News 9 May 1925

Perhaps he just had time to see this game in print before, beset by financial problems, he decided to take his own life.

Lancashire Evening Post 30 November 1925

His son Cyril would also have an unhappy life, and by 1939 was in a mental hospital, described as a pianist. He died in 1947 at the age of 43.

So that was the sad end of Oliver Harcourt Labone, chess addict, player, problemist and simul giver, indefatigable writer to chess columnists. He must have been a troubled man throughout his life. Did his passion for chess help him through his darkest days, or was it one of the causes of his problems, not leaving him enough time for his work and family? It seems like several members of his family were beset by mental health probems, so my guess would be the former.

Oliver Harcourt (Westbrook) Labone, this was your life.

But it’s not the end of our story. Let’s return to Ollie’s probable half-brother Clement Claude Leslie/Clement Leslie/Leslie Clement, who, as we’ve seen, was also a chess player, but at a lower level. He had a much less eventful life, in spite of job changes. He was a schoolmaster in 1891, a book-keeper in 1901 and a mercantile clerk (which might, I suppose, involve book-keeping) in 1911. He was active as a club player between 1885 and 1894, annotating a consultation game in 1891. After that, I suppose, family life and work took over. He remained in Liverpool all his life, living in West Derby in 1891 and 1901, and in Everton in 1911. If you were following football in the 1960s the names Labone and Everton will be inextricably linked. Any connection?

Clem married Fanny Price and had four children, the oldest of whom, born in 1887, was also named Clement Claude Leslie Labone, and, by 1939, had become a Dining Room Proprietor. He married Edith Birch and had three sons, the middle one of whom was named Arthur Leslie Labone. Arthur, in 1939 a Lead Merchant’s Travelling Agent (sounding not unlike great uncle Ollie) married an Irish girl named Bridget (Patricia) Rice. Their son was indeed Brian Leslie Labone (1940-2006), the Everton and England footballer, who, unlike his great great uncle, excelled at defending. He wasn’t the only footballer in the family: his uncle Harold played as a centre forward for Aston Villa.

There’s more yet. When I posted about the connection between Ollie and Brian on Twitter, my good friend John Foley replied that he was also related to Brian Labone (verified by DNA), whose mother’s maiden name was Foley. So Brian Labone, assuming Clem senior and Ollie were indeed blood relations, was related to chess players on both sides of his family.

It’s a small world, as you’ll find out when we return to Twickenham for future Minor Pieces.

 

Solutions to problems:

Problem 1:

1. Qh4 Kc5 (1… Ng3 2. d4 c5 3. Qd8#) (1… Kxe5 2. d4+ Kd6 3. Qd8#) ( 1… d4 2. Nxc6 d3 (2… e5 3. Qe7#) (2… Kc5 3. Qxd4#) 3. Qd4#) 2. Qb4+ Kxb4 3. d4#

Problem 2:

1. Nd6 Kxd6 (1… Bxc7 2. Qe3+ Kxd6 3. Qe5#) (1… Kd4 2. Qf2+ Kc3 3.
Qb2#) (1… Kb6 2. Qa5+ Kxa5 3. Nc4#) 2. Qa5 Bxc7 (2… c5 3. Qb6#) 3. Qe5#

Problem 3:

1. Nb5 (1. Rhe6 Bd7) 1… Kxe4 (1… Bxb5 2. Rhe6 Bc6 3. R4e5#) (1…
Rxb5 2. Rhe6 Rb1 3. R4e5#) (1… Bxc2 2. Rhe6 Bxe4 3. Nc7#) (1… Bb3 2. Rhe6 Bxc2 3. R4e5#) (1… axb5 2. Rhe6 b4 3. R4e5#) 2. Re6+ Kf3 3. Nd4# 1-0

Problem 4:

1. Rh6 Bc6 (1… b5 2. c8=Q b4 (2… Nc6 3. Qg8#) 3. Qc4#) (1… Nc6 2.
c8=Q Ne5 (2… Nd4 3. Qc4#) (2… b5 3. Qg8#) 3. Rd4#) (1… Rc5 2. Rd4+ Ke5 (2… Kc6 3. c8=R#) 3. Nf7#) (1… Rb5 2. Rd4+ Kc5 3. Ne4#) (1… Bb5 2. Rd4+ Kc5 3. Ne4#) 2. c8=N Bxb7 3. Ne7# 1-0

Problem 5:

1. Qh5 {Threats: 2. Ne5 and 3. Qf3#, 2. Ne3+ dxe3 3. Nb6#} Kxc4 (1…
Bxc4 2. Nf6+ gxf6 (2… Kc6 3. Qf3+) 3. Qf3#) (1… Ke4 2. Ne5 g2 (2… Kf4 3. Qg4#) 3. Qf3#) (1… g2 2. Ne3+ (2. Rc5+ Ke4 3. Nf2#) 2… dxe3 3. Nb6#) (1… e5 2. Qf7+ (2. Nxe5 g2 3. Qf3#) 2… Ke4 3. Nc5#) 2. Ne5+ Kb5 (2… Kb3 3. Qd1#) (2… Kd5 3. Qf3#) 3. Qe8# 1-0

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Minor Pieces 14: Dr Abraham Emanuel Learner

We’re going to leave Twickenham for a bit, but don’t worry. We’ll be back there soon.

I’ve received a couple of requests for information on other players, both of whom (and they had a few things in common) seemed suitable for a Minor Pieces post.

I received an email the other day from my friend Ken Norman, who had come across some games from a Dr A Learner, who was active in Sussex chess in the 1960s, in an old copy of CHESS and, perhaps intrigued by the name, wondered if I could provide any more information. He also contacted Brian Denman, who knows almost all there is to know about Sussex chess history. Brian provided Ken with a games file which he was happy for Ken to share with me.

He seems to have been an interesting man who led an interesting life.

He was Dr Abraham Emanuel Learner, although he didn’t very often use his middle name and seems to have been known to his family and friends as Bill. He was born in London on 13 December 1904 and died in Eastbourne, Sussex on 16 February 1983. Some records spell the family name ‘Lerner’.

We can pick the family up in the 1911 census. His father, Arnold, was described as an ‘incandescent and clothing dealer’, born in Russian Poland, as was his mother, Deby, a dressmaker. Arnold and Deby married in the East London Synagogue in Mile End, right at the heart of the Jewish community, on 15 October 1904, only two months before Abraham was born. Another son, Mark, arrived in 1906. Soon afterwards they left London for Gateshead, in the north east of England, where they welcomed two daughters, Goldie and Sophie. It seems that all four siblings married outside the Jewish faith, and all of them emigrated to Australia, although Abraham, or Bill as we should perhaps call him, later returned to his home country.

Bill studied chemistry at Birmingham University, eventually earning a doctorate. During his post-graduate or perhaps post-doctoral work between 1927 and 1928 he wrote three papers on the structure of fructose and inulin along with Norman Haworth, who would win the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1937, and, in two cases also with Edmund Hirst. I tried reading the papers but failed to get beyond the first paragraphs. If you want more information I’d suggest you contact my BCN colleague Dr John Upham, who knows all about this sort of thing.

Western Daily Press 21 January 1929

We first pick him up as a chess player in 1929. Here he is, playing on bottom board in a match between Birmingham and Bristol & Clifton, who fielded the great problemist Comins Mansfield on top board.

His loss against another doctor doesn’t appear in Brian’s games collection.

At about the same time he took part in a blindfold simul against George Koltanowski, winning with an attractive rook sacrifice. Kolty resigned, ‘seeing’ that a zigzag manoeuvre by the black queen would lead to a swift checkmate.

In 1933 Bill Learner married Elsie Harris in Birmingham. They would have just one son, named Arnold after his grandfather, who would predecease him.

During the 1930s Dr Learner continued to play for Birmingham, and for Worcestershire in county matches. In 1934, playing for his county against Oxfordshire, he was paired against another future Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, Professor Robert Robinson, but lost that game. (Other chess playing, Nobel Prize winning chemists include Frederick Soddy and John Cornforth – might be worth a Minor Pieces series at some point.)

In this spectacular win Dr Learner played a dangerous gambit, offered a passive bishop sacrifice and finally gave up his queen for an Arabian Mate. But Black had a chance to turn the tables. After 17. Rae1? (the immediate Rf3 was winning) Qxc2, the second player has a winning advantage. A game well worth your time analysing, I think.

We can see from these examples that Bill Learner was a sharp tactician.

Staffordshire Advertiser 23 November 1935

By 1935 he was on top  board for Worcestershire. A county match against Warwickshire saw him up against another interesting opponent, future MP Julius Silverman. The result of this game was a draw. You’ll see a number of interesting names in both teams.

In a match against Leicestershire, his Stonewall Dutch scored a rather fortunate victory against Alfred Lenton (from whom you’ll hear a lot in future Minor Pieces) when his opponent, who shared 3rd place in the 1935 British Championship and 2nd place the following year, blundered in a winning position.

In 1937 Learner found himself on the wrong side of the law, being fined 10s for a speeding offence. I guess that’s what happens if you’re A Learner, driver. His address was given as Elmdon Avenue, Marston Green, Birmingham, very near Birmingham Airport.

Bill Learner won the Birmingham Post Cup in 1938, but when given the chance to prove himself at a higher level, in an international tournament organised by Ritson Morry the following year, he finished in last place. A dangerous attacking player, then, but perhaps not quite able (or ready) to compete against masters. By now, as you’ve probably worked out, World War 2 was about to break out, and that put his chess activities on hold.

The 1939 Register saw him at the same address, although Elmdon Avenue has become Elmdon Lane. (It appears to be Elmdon Road now.) He is a Managing Director, possibly of a paint factory. (The second line is not fully legible but we know, from his mother’s probate record, that he was a paint manufacturer. I guess the chemistry background would have come in useful.) Elsie and Arnold aren’t there: they’re up in the village of Ponteland, north west of Newcastle, staying with his sister Goldie and her family. Presumably they considered it safer there than in Birmingham. Bill had shown his love of the area by naming his house Ponteland.

He turned out for a club match in 1940, but then nothing until 1945, when chess resumed after the war, and he resumed where he left off, playing for Birmingham and Worcestershire.

Staffordshire Advertiser 29 December 1945

Here he is providing brief annotations for a win against an opponent I assume to be the problemist Herbert W Grant.

Then, at some point he emigrated to Melbourne, Australia, where he took part in the 1948-49 championship. He finished 13th out of 14 on 4½ points (Cecil Purdy was the winner) but did manage to defeat Maurice Goldstein, who blundered into a mate when he could have traded off into a winning ending.

By 1952 he was Vice-President of Melbourne Chess Club and wrote a long (but not especially interesting) article about the delights of his favourite game.

The Age (Melbourne) 9 Feb 1952

What was he doing in Melbourne when he wasn’t playing chess? In the 1949 and 1954 electoral rolls he was a manufacturer, in 1958 and 1963 a director. Was he still manufacturing paint? Perhaps he was working with his brother: Mark owned a large textile importing warehouse right in the city centre.

He continued to be active in Melbourne chess until 1963, when he decided to return to England for his retirement, settling on the south coast and soon getting involved in Sussex chess. Playing at Bognor Regis in 1964 he came up against a man who would, the following year, become Yugoslav champion and an International Master. Here’s what happened.

A pretty effective demolition of a strong opponent, I’d say.

Dr Learner had a habit of winning extremely short games. Here are two examples.

 

He continued playing chess until at least 1970 before deciding to hang up his pawns. The last game we have available is a draw against Brian Denman from a match between Hastings and Brighton. His 1970 grade was 191, down from 195 in 1969 and 201 in 1968, with his clubs given as Hastings and Eastbourne.

Source: Google Maps

His address at his death (just three months after his wife) was given as High Bank, Borough Lane, Eastbourne, and his probate record tells us his estate was worth £102,858. He’d done pretty well for himself, in business as well as in chess.

Dr Abraham Learner was a strong county player, a dangerous tactician who, on a good day, could beat master standard opponents.

His career of more than four decades can, like Caesar’s Gaul, be divided into three parts: in Birmingham from the late 1920s to the late 1940s, in Melbourne until the early 1960s and finally in Sussex.

Players like him are the backbone of club and county chess.

My thanks to Ken for his interest in Dr Learner and to Brian for providing the game scores. If there are any other British chess players you’d like me to investigate do get in touch.

Other sources consulted:

www.ancestry.co.uk

www.findmypast.co.uk

www.newspapers.com

BritBase

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Happy Birthday FM Jimmy Adams (07-ii-1947)

Jimmy Adams and Stewart Reuben
Jimmy Adams and Stewart Reuben

BCN sends Birthday wishes to FM Jimmy Adams

James Bernard Adams was born on Friday, February 7th, 1947 to James Adams and Ivy F Soule in Islington, London. He attended Highbury County Grammar School for Boys.

Jimmy was married to Sharon and they have a daughter, Charlotte.

In 1958 Jimmy at the age of 11 joined his local Islington Chess Club (at the time Islington & North London Chess Club) and soon afterwards became a London Junior Champion. Following this Jimmy played little chess and was working for John Lewis (echos of CHO’D Alexander!). Following John Lewis Jimmy worked as a Health and Safety Officer for Islington Council.

At this time Islington Chess Club was one of the strongest in England and included such members as Kenny Harman, Ron Harman, Danny Wright, Stewart Reuben and others. Its most famous member was probably IM Simon Webb

The Spasski-Fischer match of 1972 re-kindled his lapsed interest and he won with a 100% score the London Amateur Championship.

He joined and was a staunch member of London Central YMCA (CentYMCA) chess club and he wrote a privately published history of the club entitled The CentYMCA Story. This is now a much sought after publication. His membership continued during the 1970s until around 1979.

The CentYMCA Story by Jimmy Adams, 1976
The CentYMCA Story by Jimmy Adams, 1976
The CentYMCA Story by Jimmy Adams, 1976
The CentYMCA Story by Jimmy Adams, 1976

During this period Jimmy was extremely active at the Endell Street premises.

Here is Jimmy playing Viktor Korchnoi at Endell Street (in the Phase Two classrooms) :

Jimmy plays Viktor Korchnoi at the Endell Street premises of London Central YMCA on January 18th, 1976. Photographer potentially John Yeo
Jimmy plays Viktor Korchnoi at the Endell Street premises of London Central YMCA on January 18th, 1976. Photographer potentially John Yeo

In 1974 Jimmy embarked on a highly successful career as a writer and journalist. He authored a number of acclaimed books for BatsfordsThe Chess PlayerCaissa Books and latterly, New in Chess. His books on Chigorin, Zukertort and Breyer are universally regarded  some of the finest chess biographies published.

In 1979 Jimmy joined Metropolitan Chess Club to play in the London League. He played top board and scored very highly with many significant scalps.

Jimmy gained his FM title in 2014 (at the age of 67!). 67 must be one of the most advanced ages to acquire an FM title. According to Felice his peak rating was 2300 in January 1981 aged 34.

Jimmy giving a simultaneous display
Jimmy giving a simultaneous display

He was registered with Metropolitan and Barbican Chess Clubs. He joined Barbican, as did many CentYMCA players, following the hiatus over their Tottenham Court Road venue loss.

Jimmy records a game between David Howell and Andrew Whiteley in 2000.
Jimmy records a game between David Howell and Andrew Whiteley in 2000.

In December 2009 Jimmy visited the London Chess Classic and was photographed with VIP guess Viktor Korchnoi :

Viktor Korchnoi in conversation with Jimmy Adams at the 2009 London Chess Classic. Photograph by Mark Huba
Viktor Korchnoi in conversation with Jimmy Adams at the 2009 London Chess Classic. Photograph by Mark Huba

Jimmy was Editor of CHESS / CHESS Monthly magazine from 1981 until 2010 although his name remained on the masthead until February 2012.

In 2012 Jimmy and Ray Cannon attended a meeting of the Ken Whyld Association in Norwich :

Jimmy Adams and Michael Negele at the 2012 meeting of the Ken Whyld Association
Jimmy Adams and Michael Negele at the 2012 meeting of the Ken Whyld Association
Jimmy and Ray Cannon at a 2012 meeting in Norwich of the Ken Whyld Association
Jimmy and Ray Cannon at a 2012 meeting in Norwich of the Ken Whyld Association

In January 2016 Jimmy (together with Josip Asik) became co-editors of British Chess Magazine taking over from James Pratt and John Upham. Jimmy then took on a role at the newly created American Chess Magazine and then worked for Pavillion Books on their newly acquired Batsford Book imprint.

In 2014 Jimmy and Ray attended an event organised by the father of Emma Bentley

Jimmy Adams and Ray Cannon at an event organised by Emma Bentley's father.
Jimmy Adams and Ray Cannon at an event organised by Emma Bentley’s father.

Here is an interview with Sarah Hurst from Kingpin Magazine

The Games of Anatoly Karpov, Batsford, Jimmy Adams, 1974
The Games of Anatoly Karpov, Batsford, Jimmy Adams, 1974
The Complete Games of World Champion Anatoly Karpov, Jimmy Adams, 1976
The Complete Games of World Champion Anatoly Karpov, Jimmy Adams, 1976
The Complete Games of World Champion Anatoly Karpov, Jimmy Adams, 1976
The Complete Games of World Champion Anatoly Karpov, Jimmy Adams, 1976
Sicilian Defence Najdorf Poisoned Pawn, Jimmy Adams, The Chess Player, 1977
Sicilian Defence Najdorf Poisoned Pawn, Jimmy Adams, The Chess Player, 1977
Sicilian Defence 10 : Main Line Najdorf, Jimmy Adams, The Chess Player, 1977
Sicilian Defence 10 : Main Line Najdorf, Jimmy Adams, The Chess Player, 1977
Sicilian Najdorf Polugaevsky Variation, Jimmy Adams, The Chess Player, 1978
Sicilian Najdorf Polugaevsky Variation, Jimmy Adams, The Chess Player, 1978
The Richter Veresov System, The Chess Player, Jimmy Adams, 1978
The Richter Veresov System, The Chess Player, Jimmy Adams, 1978
Trompovsky Attack, The Chess Player, Jimmy Adams, 1979
Trompovsky Attack, The Chess Player, Jimmy Adams, 1979
Schliemann/Jaenisch Gambit, The Chess Player, Jimmy Adams, 1982
Schliemann/Jaenisch Gambit, The Chess Player, Jimmy Adams, 1982
Paris 1900, The Chess Player, Jimmy Adams, 1986
Paris 1900, The Chess Player, Jimmy Adams, 1986
ISAAC BOLESLAVSKY Selected Games, Caissa Books, Jimmy Adams, 1988
ISAAC BOLESLAVSKY Selected Games, Caissa Books, Jimmy Adams, 1988
Johannes Zukertort: Artist of the Chessboard, New in Chess, Jimmy Adams, 2014
Johannes Zukertort: Artist of the Chessboard, New in Chess, Jimmy Adams, 2014
Mikhail Chigorin, the Creative Genius: New in Chess, Jimmy Adams, 2016
Mikhail Chigorin, the Creative Genius: New in Chess, Jimmy Adams, 2016
Gyula Breyer : The Chess Revolutionary, Jimmy Adams, New in Chess, 2017
Gyula Breyer : The Chess Revolutionary, Jimmy Adams, New in Chess, 2017
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Remembering GM Harry Golombek OBE (01-iii-1911 07-i-1995)

Harry Golombek, OBE (from the rear cover of A History of Chess)
Harry Golombek, OBE (from the rear cover of A History of Chess)
Signature of H Golombek from a Brian Reilly "after dinner" postcard from Southsea 1951.
Signature of H Golombek from a Brian Reilly “after dinner” postcard from Southsea 1951.

We remember Harry Golombek OBE who passed away on Saturday, January 7th, 1995.

The Amersham Advertiser of Wednesday, 18th January 1995, on page 6, reported, “His funeral was due to be held as 12.30pm (today), at Chilterns Crematorium, Whielden Lane, Amersham.” (Thanks Steve Mann!).

Harry Golombek was born on Wednesday, March 1st, 1911 in Lambeth, London and his parents were Barnet (Berl) Golombek (Golabek) (1878-1943) and Emma Golombek (née Sendak) (1883-1967).

The Polish word Golabek translates to “small dove” in English.

Barnet was a “Dealer of gas fittings” and was 33 when Harry was born and Emma was 26. Both of his parents were born in Zambov which is in the Lomza Gubernia region of the Kingdom of Poland which existed from 1867 – 1917. Their nationalities are both recorded as Russian in the 1911 UK census.  we don’t know (as yet) when Barnet and Emma settled in the UK.

Harry had a brother Abraham (born in 1906) and a sister Rosy born in 1908. The family lived in 200b, Railton Road, Herne Hill. Lambeth.

200b, Railton Road, Herne Hill, Lambeth, SE24 0JT
200b, Railton Road, Herne Hill, Lambeth, SE24 0JT

He is a recorded with a service number of 992915 as being a member of The Royal Regiment of Artillery in 1939 and was discharged as having reached the age limit in 1956 aged 45 and one day.

Harry Golombek's record of discharge in 1956 from the Army.
Harry Golombek’s record of discharge in 1956 from the Army.

Harry married his long time nurse, Noel Frances Judkins (1941 – 2011) in January 1988 and they had (born in 1992) one son : Oliver Golombek-Judkins  BVSc MRCVS who is a successful Somerset based veterinary surgeon. The marriage was recorded in the district of Kensington & Chelsea.

37, Albion Crescent, Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire, HP8 4ET : the home of Harry Golombek OBE
37, Albion Crescent, Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire, HP8 4ET : the home of Harry Golombek OBE

The date of probate was 22 Mar 1995 and the executor of HGs will was David Anderton OBE.

In 1966 Harry became an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), Civil division awarded in the 1966 Queen’s Birthday (rather than New Years) Honours list.

The citation read simply :

Harry Golombek. For services to Chess : He was the first UK person to be so honoured.

Hastings memorial bench for Harry Golombek OBE
Hastings memorial bench for Harry Golombek OBE, Courtesy of John Upham Photography

The Harry Golombek memorial bench at St Giles Churchyard, Chalfont St Giles in Buckinghamshire. Photogra[h courtesy of Geoff Chandler.
The Harry Golombek memorial bench at St Giles Churchyard, Chalfont St Giles in Buckinghamshire. Photograph courtesy of Geoff Chandler.
The Harry Golombek memorial bench at St Giles Churchyard, Chalfont St Giles in Buckinghamshire. Photogra[h courtesy of Geoff Chandler.
The Harry Golombek memorial bench at St Giles Churchyard, Chalfont St Giles in Buckinghamshire. Photograph courtesy of Geoff Chandler.
In 1985 Harry was awarded the long overdue (but Honorary) title of Grandmaster by FIDE.

Harry was Southern Counties (SCCU) Champion in the 1955-56 and 1963-64 seasons.

Harry was in 1974-82 a FIDE Zonal President and from 1978-96 he was the FIDE Permanent Fund Administrator.

Sadly, he never received the Presidents Award for Services to Chess from either the BCF or ECF : maybe a posthumous award is long overdue?

Harry Golombek, aged 20, becomes the youngest winner of the Surrey Challenge Cup in 1931. British Chess Magazine 1931, September, page 419.
Harry Golombek, aged 20, becomes the youngest winner of the Surrey Challenge Cup in 1931. British Chess Magazine 1931, September, page 419.
Harry Golombek RIP by Bernard Cafferty

Here (from British Chess Magazine, Volume CXV (115), 1995, Number 2 (February), pp.83-85 is this obituary from Bernard Cafferty :

Harry Golombek OBE (1 iii 1911-7 i 1995), British Champion in 1947, 1949 and 1955, was a grandmaster amongst journalists and book writers, and “Mr Chess” for many of the British public in the decades after the war when his Times column was the main source of up-to-date information on the doings of Botvinnik, Bronstein, Smyslov, Keres, Tal and the other top players.

Harry ran a weekly Saturday column along with daily reports during World Championships, British Championships, Hastings, Paignton …when only The Guardian provided a similar service to the chess community up to 1972. I often recall him grumbling at editorial incisions of his column, which, even so, was more extensive and ‘heavy’ than anything we enjoy now. He loved references to music, the theatre and the arts as a parallel to chess. In fact, he was columnist and correspondent with the paper from 1945 till 1985, and columnist of the Observer 1955-1979. His work at The Times came to an end after he suffered a mild stroke, though he struggled on for a time when, in pre-Wapping days, his work was handicapped by ever earlier deadlines.

Harry was the BCF delegate to FIDE for decades after 1948 and played a part in framing the rules. His view was that the Soviet Union, which he visited as arbiter for Botvinnik’s matches in the 1950s and 1960s as well as for the second part of the 1948 World Championship Match-Tournament, did not throw its weight about so much until after 1970 when a sort of cultural offensive in FIDE and elsewhere was undertaken.

Harry played for England at three Olympiads before the war and six after. Educated at a London grammar school, he was the son of immigrant Polish parents who had been repressed by the last Tsar, to whom his father once sent a message of defiance from the safety of England. A favourite reference of his was the London Boys’ Championship of the late 1920s where he first came to prominence.

His first experience of chess journalism came in the period 1938-40 when he was editor of BCM, till being called to army service. Harry worked in the code-breaking department at Bletchley Park during the war; the Official Secrets Act prohibited him from revealing much of what he knew of this fantastic scientific operation where he was associated with such famous names as Alan Turing, Jack Good, Hugh Alexander and Stuart Milner-Barry. A graduate of London University in Modern Languages, Harry had been called up into the Royal Artillery, but his knowledge of languages, particularly German, meant that he was soon transferred to the Intelligence Corps.

Harry was a life-long supporter of Surrey Cricket Club. His family ran a grocery shop near Kennington Oval which he sold after 1945 when he made the decision to become a chess professional’ He was reputed to have one of the finest chess libraries in Britain, which he has left to the BCF to form the nucleus of a national chess library with bequests from Sir Richard Clarke, RJ Broadbent and GH Diggle.

Amongst the many books he wrote, pride of place must be taken by his work on Capablanca’s best games and the one on the 1948 Match-Tournament at the Hague and Moscow as well as a later book on Reti. Who can forget his account of the delay at the Polish border for the train which was taking players and journalists to Moscow from the Hague in 1948? A Polish general, forgetful of recent history, declared that the train could riot proceed since no-one crossed the Polish frontier without the appropriate documentation and security checks (Euwe’s extensive analytical notebooks in Dutch were the stumbling block). It only needed Botvinnik to hear this for him to phone up Moscow and have the Polish authorities overruled by those who enjoyed real power in the post-war world.

Another famous article which comes to mind is Harry’s long account of the 1967 Sousse Interzonal, complete with the J’adoubovich incident, Fischer’s fickleness, and the camel on the beach. This appeared in the BCM, of course, where H. G. was the editor for Overseas News and the Games Department from the late 1940’s until the late ‘sixties. His work here was a cut above most contemporary chess journalism’ since he was so often on the spot at top events and he had access to all of the world’s chess press. As a consequence, he was often the contact man for arranging participation of the world’s leading players at Hastings. From this flowed his work for The Friends of Chess, the body that raised funds and helped gain invitations to foreign events for our up and comings. It was in 1966 that he gained the OBE for services to chess.

Harry had a dry acerbic wit and a fund of stories that made him a welcome after-dinner speaker and lecturer. He seemed to be a life long bachelor, but he married late in life (this corrects an error in the Times obituary of 9 January. In his declining years he spent his last days in a rest home for the elderly in Gerrards Cross where his main contact with the outside world was Gerry Walsh who had often driven him to and from the Hastings Congress in the last couple of decades of his life.

A Grandmaster Amongst Journalists

Harry Golombek, was, without a doubt, one of the finest chess writers ever, and his lengthy stint as Overseas News editor of the BCM results in some classic reports.

As a tribute to Harry’s work we (BCM) have decided to reprint word for word, his extraordinary account of the 1967 Sousse Interzonal. The article that follows is an exact reproduction of his eyewitness report, as it appears in the 1968 BCM Bound Volume, January magazine. This was the tournament that had everything: Bolbochan vanishing, Fischer withdrawing, Larsen winning, and much more.

We are sure that our current readers, young and old, will be as enchanted with the tale as BCM readers were nearly three decades ago.

Further Recollection from Bernard Cafferty

Here (from British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXXII (132), 2011, Number 3 (March), pp.150-154 is an affectionate collection of memories from Bernard Cafferty :

“In recalling four decades of knowing the GOM of 20th century English chess, one has to stress the ‘English’ aspect. The ‘Harry’ part of his name was much more significant than the Polish surname, and, though he was the most cosmopolitan of men, who fitted into any milieu, my abiding memory of him always throws up the quirks that are the sign of an Englishman. I wonder how many of my readers recall the classic English actors Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford, whose main preoccupation in their films was…. getting to know the latest cricket score from Lords or The Oval.

Harry Golombek. Source : The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match
Harry Golombek. Source : The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match

Indeed, Harry was a long-time member of Surrey Cricket Club, and once, when he came back from being an arbiter at an international tournament in Tenerife, his main comment to me was not about the event or the players, but rather that the volcanic rock of the Atlantic island made for brackish water, so that one could not get…. a decent cup of tea!

Left to right Baruch H Wood, Philip 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, Philip 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

I first met Harry in the early 1950s when I was a teenage student keen on chess and accordingly spent my meagre pocket money on a day out in Manchester to watch the Counties Final match between Lancashire and the all-conquering Middlesex side of those years. Harry and I were about the only spectators. He was there reporting for The Times. I recall that the top board game was between the veterans William Winter and WA Fairhurst. The game duly appeared in the BCM with Harry’s notes, for he was the long-serving Games Editor of that august publication.

Players at the 1946 British Championships in Nottingham : Back (from left to right): Gabriel Wood, Reginald Broadbent, Philip Milner-Barry, Andrew RB Thomas, Baruch H Wood. Front (from left to right): Bob Wade, Frank Parr, William Winter, Robert Combe, Hugh Alexander, Harry Golombek, Gerald Abrahams.. Photograph : BritBase
Players at the 1946 British Championships in Nottingham : Back (from left to right): Gabriel Wood, Reginald Broadbent, Philip Milner-Barry, Andrew RB Thomas, Baruch H Wood. Front (from left to right): Bob Wade, Frank Parr, William Winter, Robert Combe, Hugh Alexander, Harry Golombek, Gerald Abrahams.. Photograph : BritBase

Perhaps I may enter a belated correction to “Who’s Who” here. Some editions stated that he was editor of BCM after the Second World War. Not so. His stint in the editorial chair was 1938-40, after which he was called up, initially being assigned to the Royal Artillery. Perhaps that is a sign of the speciality of the Services – fitting a square peg in a round hole – but he was swiftly transferred to the Intelligence Corps, perhaps at the behest of Hugh Alexander who knew that Harry had studied German at his London grammar school in Camberwell and then at London University.

The Judges / Arbiters from the 1953 Zurich Candidates tournament : Harry Golombek, Alois Nagler and Alex Crisovan
The Judges / Arbiters from the 1953 Zurich Candidates tournament : Harry Golombek, Alois Nagler and Alex Crisovan

Clearly, under the conditions of 1940, a linguist was just what was needed to make up the team of mathematicians, cryptographers and such like who were tasked with breaking the secrecy of German coded messages.

The BCF Team at the Amsterdam Olympiad 1954. Left to right : Barden, Clarke, Penrose, Wade, Golombek (board three) and Alexander
The BCF Team at the Amsterdam Olympiad 1954. Left to right : Barden, Clarke, Penrose, Wade, Golombek (board three) and Alexander

I once mentioned the misunderstanding over the “Who’s Who” entry to Brian Reilly. He laughed it off, saying that it was almost certainly the abiding fault of HG – not taking Brian’s repeated advice to fit a new typewriter ribbon!

Harry Golombek and Gordon Crown in around 1946-47.
Harry Golombek and Gordon Crown in around 1946-47.

I could relate to that since Harry’s handwritten game scores, written in pencil and descriptive notation, were very hard to decipher, a real scribble that only the man himself could make sense of. When I asked him why he did not use algebraic notation, he commented that he wrote for so many English-language outlets: The Times, The Times Weekend Supplement, Observer and chess book publishers like Bells and Penguin who knew their audiences of those years were supporters of the Pawn to King’s Knight Three school. In fact, Harry commented, he had made more money out of his Penguin book The Game of Chess than from all his other extensive book authorship and journalism.

The Game of Chess, Harry Golombek, 1954, Penguin Books
The Game of Chess, Harry Golombek, 1954, Penguin Books

and the paperback version :

The Game of Chess, Harry Golombek, 1954, Penguin Books
The Game of Chess, Harry Golombek, 1954, Penguin Books

Moreover, it took him about three whole days to assemble the documents and papers to enable him to fill in his income tax form.

Harry Golombek simultaneous display at Hull Chess Club. Year and photographer unknown
Harry Golombek simultaneous display at Hull Chess Club. Year and photographer unknown

That reminds me that, when he was in his final years, and in an old person’s rest home, he arranged for his extensive library to be transferred in many large tea chests from his house in Chalfont St Giles, Bucks, to the St Leonards address where I had worked for the BCM for the last 12 years and which had recently been vacated as a result of Murray Chandler deciding to transfer BCM operations to London. I had the task, arranged with The Friends of Chess and the BCF, to do a sort-out and preliminary catalogue of his books and magazines which Harry was bequeathing to the BCF to form the nucleus of a National Chess Library. That would be a pleasant enough task, but it was prolonged into many weeks by having to decant the valuable chess material from the tea chests, much of it covered in dust and even spiders’ webs, from the many financial and other papers to do with his financial affairs. It was then that I first learned what a ‘tip sheet’ was, and it was not until stockbroker David Jarrett, BCF Hon Treasurer, came down for a visit that the dross amongst the many papers was separated from the gold and passed to Harry’s executor David Anderton.

Harry Golombek contemplates his options after White (JH Donner) played 9.a3 in the 1952 Anglo-Dutch Match. Donner won in 33 moves and the game was BCM #11,074
Harry Golombek contemplates his options after White (JH Donner) played 9.a3 in the 1952 Anglo-Dutch Match. Donner won in 33 moves and the game was BCM #11,074

Reverting to the cup of tea story, the first time I got to know Harry well was at the British Championship at Leicester in 1960. Many of the participants were lodged in University accommodation near the venue. Every evening, after play had finished, a number of us got together for a chat over a cup of tea in the accommodation unit’s kitchen. There Harry would regale us with stories from his many visits abroad, particularly to Moscow for the world title matches involving Botvinnik. Harry had formed many interesting views on Soviet society. Amongst the stories he told was of the all-pervasive dead hand of the bureaucracy. He was used to filing his reports on the match in English at the Central Post Office. One day, a clerk behind the grille, told him he could not accept it, since the regulations stated that all outgoing material had to be in Russian.

Harry Golombek, Stanley Sedgwick, Brian Reilly and DJ Morgan in the garden of Brian Reilly. Photo probably taken by Freddy Reilly.
Harry Golombek, Stanley Sedgwick, Brian Reilly and DJ Morgan in the garden of Brian Reilly. Photo probably taken by Freddy Reilly.

With his logical mind, and not appreciating the discipline and associated bureaucracy which the rulers tried to impose on Soviet society, Harry commented that “Yesterday, I submitted in English and it was accepted”, at which the clerk drew herself up to her full height and stated firmly: “Yesterday was yesterday, today is today”. Harry’s considered views included these: Communism would never be made to work properly in Russia, since the Russians lack the requisite discipline. “They should have tried it on the Germans. They might have made it work”. He once commented that when he went to Germany in the decade or so after the war, he was aware that some of those whom he met had been strong supporters of Nazism: “If they had had their way, they would have turned me into a bar of soap!”. I got a benefit from Harry being in Moscow. I wanted to get a copy of Chigorin’s collected games by Grekov, a very rare item. Harry duly promised to seek one out on his next visit to Moscow and a second-hand copy of this fine book came to me through the post some weeks later. No charge to me, of course.

Harry Golombek in play against Borislav Ivkov, Hastings 1955/6.
Harry Golombek in play against Borislav Ivkov, Hastings 1955/6.

Harry played a big role in drawing up the Rules of Chess as they applied to post-1945 competitive play. He served on the appropriate FIDE commission for decades and always argued that too precise a codification limited the discretion of the arbiter to apply a common sense solution to a concrete set of circumstances. Alas, that sensible approach has been moved away from in recent times, especially with the introduction of quick-play finishes and associated fine points about time limits.

Kick Langeweg plays Hugh Alexander in the Anglo-Dutch Match of October 7th , 1961. Peter Clarke (right) is playing Johan Teunis Barendregt and Harry Golombek observes
Kick Langeweg plays Hugh Alexander in the Anglo-Dutch Match of October 7th , 1961. Peter Clarke (right) is playing Johan Teunis Barendregt and Harry Golombek observes

A final shrewd comment from Harry, based on his Moscow experience: “In 1917, the new Bolshevik regime claimed that they were abolishing all titles, privilege and so on. The result? Forty years later they have the most class-conscious society I have encountered.” One proof of this might be given – the Soviet internal passport system, one point of which required the holder (and for a long time no peasant was allowed such an identity document – who, then, could claim that the Tsar had abolished serfdom in the middle of the 19th century?) to state his/her ethnic origin: Russian, Ukrainian, Kalmyk, Armenian, Jew and so on. The Western mind boggles… ”

Harry Golombek during a team event, Jonathan Penrose on the adjacent board.
Harry Golombek during a team event, Jonathan Penrose on the adjacent board.

We leave the final word in reminiscences of Golombek to his near-neighbour in Chalfont St Giles, Barry Sandercock :

” Harry was a very interesting man to talk to and liked to talk about the early days when he played against some of the great players. He was also very knowledgeable on many subjects, the arts, music etc. I played him when he gave a simul at Gerrards Cross in 1955 (Jan.21st} and managed a draw after 3 hours play. I remember, the local paper once wrote an article about him, calling him an ex-world champion. I got a letter published where I pointed out that he was an ex-British Champion not ex-world champion. I hope he didn’t see that!”

Harry Golombek awaits the start of the game during an Anglo team match.
Harry Golombek awaits the start of the game during an Anglo team match.

“To finish, a characteristic Golombek game, with his own notes. I (Ed) have selected one of the games from his victorious British Championship playoff match against Broadbent in 1947. It is characteristic of him in many ways. The game features a typically smooth positional build-up, from his beloved English Opening, played with the Nh3 development plan, which was a particular favourite of his. The notes are also very typically Golombek – concentrating in the main on verbal explanations, with relatively few variations, but also characterised by occasionally extreme dogmatism in his assessments, such as the notes to moves 1, 2 and 6, for example. The game and notes were published in the December 1947 issue of The British Chess Magazine.”

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

“Harry Golombek is a Londoner, He was born in 1911, and learned chess when twelve years of age. He is another of those who went through the mill of the British Boys’ Championship, winning it in 1926. He has played in most English international tournaments, and has represented Great Britain in team tournaments. In the London International Tournament, 1946, he came fifth.

A graduate of London University, he served in the Foreign Office during the war, but has since retired to the country (Chalfont St. Giles). His literary activities include 50 Great Games of Modern Chess

Fifty Great Games of Modern Chess, Harry Golombek,
Fifty Great Games of Modern Chess, Harry Golombek,

Legend, according to James Pratt, has it that HG wrote the book without the aid of a chess set!

and Capablanca’s Hundred Best Games.

Capablanca's 100 Best Games of Chess, H. Golombek, Bell and Sons, London, 1947
Capablanca’s 100 Best Games of Chess, H. Golombek, Bell and Sons, London, 1947

He reports chess tournaments for The Times, and edits The Times Weekly chess column.

The World Chess Championship 1954
The World Chess Championship 1954

His chess is perhaps not inspired and lacks the spark of enterprise, but he is a solid player on the whole and is apt to hold the best to a draw.”

Here is HGs entry from Hooper & Whyld (The Oxford Companion to CHESS) :

“English player and author. International Master (1950), International Arbiter (1954), honorary Grandmaster (1985). In 1945 Golombek became chess correspondent of The Times, a position he held until 1989. Also in 1945 he decided to become a professional chess-player.

The World Chess Championship 1957, Macgibbon & Kee, H. Golombek
The World Chess Championship 1957, Macgibbon & Kee, H. Golombek

He won the British Championship three times (1947, 1949, 1955) and was equal first in 1959 but lost the play-off (to Jonathan Penrose) and played in nine Olympiads from 1935 to 1962. An experienced arbiter and a good linguist, supervisor of many important tournaments and matches, he served for 30 years on the FIDE Commission that makes, amends, and arbitrates upon The laws and rules of chess.

His many books include Capablanca’s Hundred Best Games (1947),

The World Chess Championship 1948 (1949),

The World Chess Championship by Harry Golombek
The World Chess Championship by Harry Golombek

Réti’s Best Games of Chess (1954),

Réti's Best Games of Chess, Harry Golombek, Bell, 1954
Réti’s Best Games of Chess, Harry Golombek, Bell, 1954

and A History of Chess (1976).”

Golombek accurate but unforceful

H. Golombek, the Present Chess Correspondent of The Times is in every way a contrast to Alexander. His forte is accurate positional play which brings him many good victories against the ordinary rank and file but rarely yields better than a draw against the very best. The grand master needs more than accuracy to shake his equanimity.
Golombek has a wide theoretical knowledge and seems equally at home in every type of opening, though his preference is for the close variety. He is a fine analyst and has
written a number of very interesting books of which I must make special mention of The World Chess Championship 1948. During a sojourn in hospital I worked my hardest to flnd flaws in the annotations to this work, but quite without success.

He is Games Editor of the British Chess Magazine and has considerably enhanced the reputation of that journal. Very popular abroad, he was asked to officiate as judge at the world championship match in Moscow between Botvinnik and Smyslov. Although as far as settling disputes is concerned the job was, I understand, a sinecure, the appointment was a high honour both to Golombek himself and to the country he represents.

 

 

 

Chess : A History, H. Golombek, Putnam, London, New York, 1976
Chess : A History, H. Golombek, Putnam, London, New York, 1976

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

“International Master and International Chess Judge. British Champion in 1947, 1949 and 1955. Captained the British Chess Federation team for many years in Chess Olympiads. In the 1972 Olympiad, captained the BCF women’s team. Chess author and chess correspondent of The Times since 1945 and the Observer since 1955. British Chess Federation to FIDE.

Post-banquet photograph - left to right : Harry Golombek, Andras Adorjan, Danny Wright, Brian Eley, Michael Stean, D. Silk, Robert Silk, AK Henderson. The Robert Silk Fellowship Tournament, Canterbury, 1973. Source : British Chess Magazine, Volume 93, Number 5, page 192
Post-banquet photograph – left to right : Harry Golombek, Andras Adorjan, Danny Wright, Brian Eley, Michael Stean, D. Silk, Robert Silk, AK Henderson. The Robert Silk Fellowship Tournament, Canterbury, 1973. Source : British Chess Magazine, Volume 93, Number 5, page 192

Born in London on 1st March 1911, Golombek learned to play chess at the age of 12 and in 1929 won the London Boy’s Championship. Two years later he became the youngest player to win the Surrey Championships. After graduating in languages at London University, Golombek devoted his full time to chess, apart from the way years, when served in the army and at the Foreign Office, and was awarded the OBE for his services to the game in 1966. He was the editor of the British Chess Magazine from 1938 to 1939 and for many years served as its games editor. He is now its overseas news editor. In his capacity as International Chess Judge, he has acted as judge in World Championship matches since 1954.

Two thirds of the BCF team for the 1964 Tel Aviv Olympiad. : Owen Hindle, Michael Franklin, Harry Golombek and Michael Haygarth
Two thirds of the BCF team for the 1964 Tel Aviv Olympiad. : Owen Hindle, Michael Franklin, Harry Golombek and Michael Haygarth

He has competed in a number of international tournaments, his best results being 1st at Antwerp 1938, 1st at Leeuwarden 1947, 1st at Baarn 1948 and -4th with Barcza, Foltys and Gliogoric at Venice 1949. in 1951, he represented the British Chess Federation in the Zonal tournament at Bad Pyrmont and came 5th, qualifying for the Interzonal. ”

Harry Golombek, Peter Wells, Ray Keene, Leonard Barden and henry Mutkin take part in the obligatory "Staring at the board" posed picture during the 1985 Varsity Match
Harry Golombek, Peter Wells, Ray Keene, Leonard Barden and Henry Mutkin take part in the obligatory “Staring at the board” posed picture during the 1985 Varsity Match

His publications include : Capablanca’s 100 Best Games of Chess (1947); World Chess Championship 1948 (1949); Pocket Guide to the Chess Openings (1949);

A Pocket Guide to the Chess Openings, RC Griffith and H Golombek Bell & Sons, 1949
A Pocket Guide to the Chess Openings, RC Griffith and H Golombek Bell & Sons, 1949

Hastings Tournament 1948-1949 (1949);

Hastings Tournament 1948-1949, H Golombek and W Ritson Morry, En Passant, 1949
Hastings Tournament 1948-1949, H Golombek and W Ritson Morry, En Passant, 1949

Southsea Tournament 1949 (1949); Prague 1946 (1950);

Prague 1946, H Golombek, CHESS, Sutton Coldfield, 1950
Prague 1946, H Golombek, CHESS, Sutton Coldfield, 1950
Prague 1946, H Golombek, CHESS, Sutton Coldfield, 1950
Prague 1946, H Golombek, CHESS, Sutton Coldfield, 1950

Budapest 1952 (1952);

Budapest 1952, H. Golombek, British Chess Magazine, 1952
Budapest 1952, H. Golombek, British Chess Magazine, 1952

50 Great Games of Modern Chess (1952); Reti’s Best Games of Chess (1954); 22nd USSR Championship (1956);

22nd USSR Championship, H. Golombek, British Chess Magazine, (1956)
22nd USSR Championship, H. Golombek, British Chess Magazine, (1956)

World Chess Championship 1957 (1957); Modern Opening Chess Strategy (1959);

Modern Opening Chess Strategy, H, Golombek, Macgibbon & Kee, London (1960)
Modern Opening Chess Strategy, H, Golombek, Macgibbon & Kee, London (1960)

and a translation of The Art of the Middle Game by P. Keres and A. Kotov.

He enjoys classical music and has been known to be successful on the Stock Exchange.”

A reasonable enquiry might be : “What did Harry write about himself?” Well, according to

The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977)

The Encyclopaedia of Chess
The Encyclopaedia of Chess

we have :

“British international master, three times British champion and the first person to figure in that country’s Honours List on account of his services to chess. Golombek was born in London and lived there till the Second World War. Educated as Wilson’s Grammar School and the University of London, he became London Boy Champion in 1929 and London University Champion 1930-3. By this time he was part of a trio of the leading players in England, the other two being Alexander and Milner-Barry. (Ed : It is curious that HG does not mention William Winter : maybe they were not like minded souls?)

Harry Golombek OBE
Harry Golombek OBE

His best result in the British championship before the Second World War was -2nd with EG Sergeant, 1/2 a point below Alexander at Brighton 1938. In that year he won first prize in a small international tournament at Antwerp ahead of Koltanowski. In 1938 too he became editor of the British Chess Magazine and occupied this post till he entered the army in 1940.

Harry Golombek OBE
Harry Golombek OBE

Before the war he had already played in three International Team Tournaments (or Olympiads as they subsequently became called) at Warsaw 1935, Stockholm 1937 and Buenos Aires 1939.

Morris (Moses) Sobkowski, Anatoly Karpov and Harry Golombek
Morris (Moses) Sobkowski, Anatoly Karpov and Harry Golombek

After the Buenos Aires event he went onto play in an international tournament at Montevideo where he came second to the World Champion, Alexander Alekhine.

Brian Reilly, Ray Keene, George Botterill, Anatoly Karpov, Harry Golombek and Viktor Korchnoi
Brian Reilly, Ray Keene, George Botterill, Anatoly Karpov, Harry Golombek and Viktor Korchnoi

In the war he served first in the Royal Artillery, from 1940-1 and then, for the rest of the war, in the Foreign Office at Bletchley Park, employed (like Alexander, Milner-Barry and quite a number of other chess-players) in code breaking.

John Nunn, Adrian Hollis and Harry Golombek posing for the obligatory "staring at the board" picture for the 19?? Varsity Match sponsored by Lloyds Bank
John Nunn, Adrian Hollis and Harry Golombek posing for the obligatory “staring at the board” picture for the 19?? Varsity Match sponsored by Lloyds Bank

After the war he made chess and writing about the game his livelihood, becoming Times Chess Correspondent in 1945 and Observer Chess Correspondent in 1955. As a player he had a consistently good record in the British Championship, coming in the prize list on fourteen out of eighteen occasions he competed in the event. He was British Champion at Harrogate 1947, Felixstowe 1949 and Aberystwyth 1955.

Harry Golombek OBE
Harry Golombek OBE

Here is HGs win against his old friend PS Milner-Barry from Aberystwyth 1955 :

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

He represented England in six more Olympiads, Helsinki 1952, Amsterdam 1954, Moscow 1956, Munich 1958, Leipzig 1960 and Varna 1962.

Harry Golombek OBE
Harry Golombek OBE

His best individual international results were first prizes at small tournaments in Leeuwarden 1947, Baarn 1948 and Paignton 1950 (above Euwe and Donner); =4th with O’Kelly at Beverwijk 1949, =4th with Barcza, Foltys and Gligoric at Venice 1949, and 5th at the European Zonal tournament at Bad Pyrmont 1951, thereby becoming the first British player to have qualified for the Interzonal. He was awarded the OBE in the Queen’s Birthday List in 1966.

Harry Golombek, Norman Fishlock-Lomax and Denis Victor Mardle at the Stevenson Memorial Tournament at Bognor Regis, 1969 (?)
Harry Golombek, J. Norman Fishlock-Lomax and Denis Victor Mardle at the 11th RHS Stevenson Memorial Tournament at Bognor Regis, 1964. Source : BCM, 1964, May, pag2 126.

A founding member of the FIDE Commission for the Rules of Chess, he became a FIDE International Judge and as such officiated at six World Championship matches. He was also chief arbiter at a FIDE Candidates tournament, at an Interzonal and two European Team Championship finals, etc. When the FIDE President, Dr Euwe, had to return home from Reykjavik before the 1972 Spassky-Fischer match got started. Golombek represented FIDE in Iceland and did much to ensure that the match took place and that it continued to be played.

Harry gave more than the average number of simultaneous displays in this career. For the photograph below Leonard Barden provided the following caption :

“Harry was invited because it was the 50th anniversary of his victory in the London Boys 1929 a success which he often referred to in his Times column. There were seven 30-board simuls that day, the top three being England Juniors v USSR (Spassky, Vasyukov, Kochiev) where Spassky had the worst simultaneous result of his career. No 4 was by Murray Chandler, Harry was No5 and the others by Whiteley and Rumens. The juniors who played the Russians were personally invited.”

Harry was invited because it was the 50th anniversary of his victory in the London Boys 1929 a success which he often referred to in his <em>Times</em> column. There were seven 30-board simuls that day, the top three being England Juniors v USSR (Spassky, Vasyukov, Kochiev) where Spassky had the worst simultaneous result of his career. No 4 was by <a href="http://britishchessnews.com/2020/04/04/happy-birthday-gm-murray-graham-chandler-mnzm-04-iv-1960/">Murray Chandler</a>, Harry was No5 and the others by <a href="http://britishchessnews.com/2020/07/07/bcn-remembers-im-andrew-whiteley-09-vi-1947-07-vii-2014/">Whiteley</a> and <a href="http://britishchessnews.com/2020/07/08/remembering-fm-david-edward-rumens-23-ix-1939-08-vii-2017/">Rumens</a>. The juniors who played the Russians were personally invited.
Harry was invited because it was the 50th anniversary of his victory in the London Boys 1929 a success which he often referred to in his Times column. There were seven 30-board simuls that day, the top three being England Juniors v USSR (Spassky, Vasyukov, Kochiev) where Spassky had the worst simultaneous result of his career. No 4 was by Murray Chandler, Harry was No5 and the others by Whiteley and Rumens. The juniors who played the Russians were personally invited.

A prolific writer and translator of books on the game, he has had some thirty-five books published on various aspects of chess. Among them are : Capablanca’s Best Games of Chess, London, New York 1947; Reti’s Best Games of Chess, London 1954; New York 1975;  The Game of Chess, London 1954; Modern Opening Chess Strategy, London 1959; A History of Chess, London, New York 1976.

Harry Golombek OBE
Harry Golombek OBE

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

“Thee times British Champion (Harrogate 1947, Felixstowe 1949, Aberystwyth 1955) and the first person to figure on the Honours List for services to Chess. He has represented England in 9 Olympiads. A FIDE International Judge and Arbiter has has officiated at 6 World Championship matches. He is chess correspondent of The Times and a prolific writer and translator”

Here is his brief Wikipedia entry

and here is a fascinating insight into HGs Bletchley Park days.

Bill Hartston wrote this excellent obituary published in The Independent.

A recent article from Andre Schultz of Chessbase.

Edward Winter has written this interesting article last updated in December 2020 despite announcing self-dormancy in March 2020.

Here we have  a selection of publications not already mentioned above :

Southsea Chess Tournament, Harry Golombek, En Passant, 1949
Southsea Chess Tournament, Harry Golombek, En Passant, 1949
B.C.M. Quarterly, number 3: 4th Candidates Tournament 1959, Golombek, Harold, 19??.
B.C.M. Quarterly, number 3: 4th Candidates Tournament 1959, H. Golombek, 19??.
B.C.M. Quarterly, number 6: 1930 Scarborough International Tournament, Golombek, Harold, 1962.
B.C.M. Quarterly, number 6: 1930 Scarborough International Tournament, H. Golombek,, 1962.
Chess, Harry Golombek and Hubert Phillips, HG & G Witherby, 1959
Chess, Harry Golombek and Hubert Phillips, HG & G Witherby, 1959
Instructions to Young Chess Players, Harry Golombek, The Brompton Library, 1966
Instructions to Young Chess Players, Harry Golombek, The Brompton Library, 1966
Fischer v Spassky, the World Chess Championship, 1972, Harry Golombek, Times Newspapers, 1973
Fischer v Spassky, the World Chess Championship, 1972, Harry Golombek, Times Newspapers, 1973
The Laws of Chess and Their Interpretations, H. Golombek, Pitman Publishing, 1976
The Laws of Chess and Their Interpretations, H. Golombek, Pitman Publishing, 1976
Improve Your Chess, Harry Golombek, Pitman, 1976
Improve Your Chess, Harry Golombek, Pitman, 1976
The Best Games of C.H.O'D. Alexander, 1976
The Best Games of C.H.O’D. Alexander, 1976
A Dataday Chess Diary for 1979 with a foreword from Harry Golombek
A Dataday Chess Diary for 1979 with a foreword from Harry Golombek
B.C.M. Classic Reprints, number 20: World Chess Championship 1948, Golombek, Harold, 01-03-1982 (1949). ISBN 978-0-900846-35-9.
B.C.M. Classic Reprints, number 20: World Chess Championship 1948, Golombek, Harold, 01-03-1982 (1949). ISBN 978-0-900846-35-9.
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Remembering Brian Reilly (12-xii-1901 29-xii-1991)

Brian Patrick Reilly (12-xii-1901, 29-xii-1991)
Brian Patrick Reilly (12-xii-1901, 29-xii-1991)
Signature of Brian Reilly from an after dinner post card from Hastings 1945-46
Signature of Brian Reilly from an after dinner post card from Hastings 1945-46

We remember Brian Patrick Reilly who passed away on December 29th, 1991, thirty years ago today.

Brian Reilly probably sometime in the 1920s.
Brian Reilly probably sometime in the 1920s.

From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977), Harry Golombek OBE (written by Wolfgang Heidenfeld) :”Irish master born at Menton, of Irish descent, who has represented Ireland in nine Olympic team tournaments between 1935 and 1968; three times on top board.

Brian observes a game during one of the early 1930s tournaments in Nice
Brian observes a game during one of the early 1930s tournaments in Nice

He was also Irish representative at seven FIDE congresses. Reilly played in a number of small international tournaments, wining first prize at Nice 1931 and sharing fourth prize with Klein and EG Sergeant behind Reshevsky, Capablanca and Sir G. Thomas at Margate 1935.

Brian Reilly playing Dr. Josep Vallve probably at Barcelona Chess Club in June 1935. Brian won in 61 moves.
Brian Reilly playing Dr. Josep Vallve probably at Barcelona Chess Club in June 1935. Brian won in 61 moves.

Winner of Irish championship in 1959 and 1960. General Editor of British Chess Magazine since 1949.”

Brian Reilly and friends
Brian Reilly and friends

His obituary in British Chess Magazine was written by Bernard Cafferty and appeared in Volume CXII (112, 1992), Number 2 (February), page 70:

Brian with journalist colleagues.
Brian with journalist colleagues.

“With great regret we have to report that Brian Patrick Reilly has, to use the older term, ‘joined the great majority’.

Brian analysing with Irish team mate, Wolfgang Heidenfeld
Brian analysing with Irish team mate, Wolfgang Heidenfeld

B. P. Reilly (Menton, 12 xii 1901-Hastings, 29 xii l99l) was born into an expatriate family on the French Riviera, and so was bilingual. He learned his chess in France where he had many friends and acquaintances. He knew Alekhine in the 1920s and 1930s and was a witness at Alekhine’s wedding.

Many years later he was to do extensive research on Alekhine’s life, and was the first to establish (though he did not publish the fact) that the Russian did not complete his doctorate studies at the Sorbonne, so that “Dr” Alekhine must be considered a purely honorary title.

Brian won the Nice tournament of 1931, ahead of Noteboom, Mieses, . . . Sir George Thomas . . . Znosko-Borovsky. . . and played for Ireland at the 1935 Olympiad beating Fine.

Crosstable for Nice 1931 from Megabase 2020
Crosstable for Nice 1931 from Megabase 2020

These results, taken with his fourth place at Margate 1935, behind Reshevsky, Capablanca and Sir George Thomas, made it clear that he was of IM strength.

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

We are grateful to Tony Gillam for providing the following score which has only recently come to light. See Warsaw Olympiad 1935, The Chess Player, Nottingham, 2020.

During the war Brian was interned in France as a British citizen, coming close to starvation for a time. He described all this in the very detailed account of his life in the September 1980 BCM, on which we have drawn, along with the many reminiscences Brian passed on to the present writer.

Brian analysing with the Irish team at an Olympiad
Brian analysing with the Irish team at an Olympiad

After working for the Sutton Coldfield magazine just after the war (he did not get on well with B. H. Wood, thinking him not very business-like – do we put this too diplomatically?) Brian was a freelance translator in the pharmaceutical industry before taking over BCM in 1949. At the time the magazine was technically bankrupt.

Sir George Thomas And Brian Reilly Sir George Thomas (left), leader of the British chess team, playing Irishman Brian Reilly at the Easter Chess Congress, Margate, April 24th 1935. (Photo by Harry Todd/Fox Photos/Getty Images)
Sir George Thomas And Brian Reilly
Sir George Thomas (left), leader of the British chess team, playing Irishman Brian Reilly at the Easter Chess Congress, Margate, April 24th 1935. (Photo by Harry Todd/Fox Photos/Getty Images)

In 1964 he moved the office from London to St Leonards, showing his business acumen yet again. He ran the bookstall for many years at the Hastings Congress at the Sun Lounge and the Falaise Hall.

Brian Reilly setting up the BCM bookstall at Hastings

After the union troubles of 1970-71 and the Fischer boom he arranged for the magazine to be typeset by his son Freddy at the family home in West Norwood. This led to an expansion in the pagination after some teething troubles.

Brian Reilly playing Cesar Munoz (Ecuador) in round 8 of the Leipzig Olympiad played on 23rd October 1960. The game was drawn in 48 moves.
Brian Reilly playing Cesar Munoz (Ecuador) in round 8 of the Leipzig Olympiad played on 23rd October 1960. The game was drawn in 48 moves.

All this while, Brian was playing for Ireland in Olympiads, and attending to FIDE affairs as a FIDE delegate.

Brian relaxing during a FIDE Congress dinner.
Brian relaxing during a FIDE Congress dinner

After the death of his son Freddy in 1980, the magazine was sold to the BCF and Brian retired as editor in September 1981, remaining as a consultant for nearly a decade.

Brian Reilly, Ray Keene, George Botterill, Anatoly Karpov, Harry Golombek and Viktor Korchnoi
Brian Reilly, Ray Keene, George Botterill, Anatoly Karpov, Harry Golombek and Viktor Korchnoi

His last years were spent in Hastings, where it was his wont to carry on with the long sea-front walks that he had practised since a breakdown in health due to overwork. He had strong views on correct diet and exercise which he could expound to anyone willing to listen. The fact that he could walk up to six miles a day in his late eighties and that his faculties, including his memory, only seemed to be weakening in his last two years, is proof enough of the validity of his theories.

Brian Reilly playing Wolfgang Unzicker on board 1 during the preliminaries of the 1960 Leipzig Olympiad.
Brian Reilly playing Wolfgang Unzicker on board 1 during the preliminaries of the 1960 Leipzig Olympiad.

On his 90th birthday he attended the office and drank a glass of champagne to celebrate the occasion. We have the testimony of Mrs Arnold, who worked with him so long, that he was still talking of visiting the Hastings Congress. This was on Boxing Day, the day after he had been admitted to St Helen’s Hospital with a chest infection. He assured her he would be up and about again, but old friends such as Harry Golombek and Ritson Morry waited for him in vain as Hastings got under way. . .

Brian Reilly at a FIDE Congress (possibly Nice 1974?)
Brian Reilly at a FIDE Congress (possibly Nice 1974?)
Brian Reilly at a FIDE Congress (possibly Nice 1974?)
Brian Reilly at a FIDE Congress (possibly Nice 1974?)

BCM readers, too, must be counted amongst his old friends who will miss him. They should be aware that, but for Brian, and his decades of hard work. there would now be no BCM.”

Brian Reilly in the BCM office. Photographed most likely by Freddy Reilly.
Brian Reilly in the BCM office. Photographed most likely by Freddy Reilly.

From British Chess Magazine, Volume CI (101), Number 8 (August), pp 352 – 369 a conversation between B.P. Reilly and W.H. Cozens :

Brian Reilly conversation with William Harold Cozens, part 1
Brian Reilly conversation with William Harold Cozens, part 1
Brian Reilly conversation with William Harold Cozens, part 2
Brian Reilly conversation with William Harold Cozens, part 2
Brian Reilly conversation with William Harold Cozens, part 3
Brian Reilly conversation with William Harold Cozens, part 3
Brian Reilly conversation with William Harold Cozens, part 4
Brian Reilly conversation with William Harold Cozens, part 4
Brian Reilly conversation with William Harold Cozens, part 5
Brian Reilly conversation with William Harold Cozens, part 5
Brian Reilly conversation with William Harold Cozens, part 6
Brian Reilly conversation with William Harold Cozens, part 6
Brian Reilly conversation with William Harold Cozens, part 7
Brian Reilly conversation with William Harold Cozens, part 7

He won the BCF President’s Award in 1983 along with BH Wood

Here is his Wikipedia entry

Brian Reilly conversation with William Harold Cozens, part 8
Brian Reilly conversation with William Harold Cozens, part 8
Brian Reilly conversation with William Harold Cozens, part 9
Brian Reilly conversation with William Harold Cozens, part 9
Brian Reilly conversation with William Harold Cozens, part 10
Brian Reilly conversation with William Harold Cozens, part 10
Brian Reilly conversation with William Harold Cozens, part 11
Brian Reilly conversation with William Harold Cozens, part 11
Brian Reilly conversation with William Harold Cozens, part 12
Brian Reilly conversation with William Harold Cozens, part 12
Brian Reilly conversation with William Harold Cozens, part 13
Brian Reilly conversation with William Harold Cozens, part 13
Brian Reilly conversation with William Harold Cozens, part 14
Brian Reilly conversation with William Harold Cozens, part 14
Brian Reilly conversation with William Harold Cozens, part 15
Brian Reilly conversation with William Harold Cozens, part 15
Brian Reilly conversation with William Harold Cozens, part 16
Brian Reilly conversation with William Harold Cozens, part 16
Brian Reilly conversation with William Harold Cozens, part 17
Brian Reilly conversation with William Harold Cozens, part 16
Brian Reilly conversation with William Harold Cozens, part 18
Brian Reilly conversation with William Harold Cozens, part 1
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