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.
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) :
In 1974 Jimmy embarked on a highly successful career as a writer and journalist. He authored a number of acclaimed books for Batsfords, The Chess Player, Caissa 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.
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.
In December 2009 Jimmy visited the London Chess Classic and was photographed with VIP guess Viktor Korchnoi :
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 :
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
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.
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 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.
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.
In 1985 Harry was awarded the long overdue (but Honorary) title of Grandmaster by FIDE.
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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
and the paperback version :
Moreover, it took him about three whole days to assemble the documents and papers to enable him to fill in his income tax form.
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.
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.
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 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.
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… ”
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!”
“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
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.
He reports chess tournaments for The Times, and edits The Times Weekly chess column.
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.
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),
Réti’s Best Games of Chess (1954),
and A History of Chess (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.
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.
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. ”
His publications include : Capablanca’s 100 Best Games of Chess (1947); World Chess Championship 1948 (1949); Pocket Guide to the Chess Openings (1949);
50 Great Games of Modern Chess (1952); Reti’s Best Games of Chess (1954); 22nd USSR Championship (1956);
World Chess Championship 1957 (1957); Modern Opening Chess Strategy (1959);
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)
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?)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here is HGs win against his old friend PS Milner-Barry from Aberystwyth 1955 :
He represented England in six more Olympiads, Helsinki 1952, Amsterdam 1954, Moscow 1956, Munich 1958, Leipzig 1960 and Varna 1962.
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.
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.”
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.“
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”
We remember Brian Patrick Reilly who passed away on December 29th, 1991.
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.
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.
Winner of Irish championship in 1959 and 1960. General Editor of British Chess Magazine since 1949.”
His obituary in British Chess Magazine was written by Bernard Cafferty and appeared in Volume CXII (112, 1992), Number 2 (February), page 70:
“With great regret we have to report that Brian Patrick Reilly has, to use the older term, ‘joined the great majority’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
All this while, Brian was playing for Ireland in Olympiads, and attending to FIDE affairs as a FIDE delegate.
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.
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.
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. . .
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.”
From British Chess Magazine, Volume CI (101), Number 8 (August), pp 352 – 369 a conversation between B.P. Reilly and W.H. Cozens :
Ninety-two today is Leonard William Barden, born Tuesday, August 20th, 1929.
His mother’s maiden was Bartholomew and she became Elise EM Barden when she married Leonard’s father who was William C Barden and in 1939 they lived at 89, Tennison Road, Croydon.
From The Encyclopedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977) by Harry Golombek OBE:
“British Master and joint British Champion 1954. Barden was born in Croydon and learned to play at his school, Whitgift, which became a frequent producer of fine players.
In 1946 he tied for first place in the London Boys Championship and in the following year he tied with Jonathan Penrose for first place in the British Boys Championship, but lost the play-off.
In 1952 he came first at Paignton ahead of the Canadian Grandmaster Yanofsky and he reached his peak in 1954 when , after tieing for first place with the Belgian Grandmaster O’Kelly de Galway at Bognor, he tied for for first place in the British Championship at Nottingham with A. Phillips. The play-off was drawn and so the players became joint champions.
He played for the BCF in four Olympiads from 1952 to 1962 and then abandoned competitive chess, applying all his energies to writing (he is chess correspondent of the Guardian, the Financial Times, the Evening Standard and the Field, and has written many books on the game.
He has also developed two special interests, in junior chess and in grading, working with utmost persistence and energy in both of these fields.
Amongst his best works are : a A Guide to Chess Openings, London, 1957; The Ruy Lopez, Oxford, 1963; The King’s Indian Defence, London, 1968.”
Disappointingly Sunnucks Encyclopedia does not mention Barden at all and and surprisingly Hooper and Whyld’s usually excellent Oxford Companion only from a connection with Jim Slater.
“Leonard William Barden (born 20 August 1929, in Croydon, London) is an English chess master, writer, broadcaster, organizer and promoter. The son of a dustman, he was educated at Whitgift School, South Croydon, and Balliol College, Oxford, where he read Modern History.
He learned to play chess at age 13 while in a school shelter during a World War II German air raid. Within a few years he became one of the country’s leading juniors. He represented England in four Chess Olympiads. Barden played a major role in the rise of English chess from the 1970s. As a chess columnist for various newspapers, his column in London’s Evening Standard is the world’s longest-standing chess column.
In 1946, Barden won the British Junior Correspondence Chess Championship, and tied for first place in the London Boys’ Championship. The following year he tied for first with Jonathan Penrose in the British Boys’ Championship, but lost the playoff.
Barden finished fourth at Hastings in 1951–52. In 1952, he won the Paignton tournament ahead of the Canadian future grandmaster Daniel Yanofsky. He captained the Oxfordshire team which won the English Counties championship in 1951 and 1952.
In the latter year he captained the University of Oxford team which won the National Club Championship, and he represented the university in the annual team match against the University of Cambridge during his years there. In 1953, he won the individual British Lightning Championship (ten seconds a move).
The following year, he tied for first with the Belgian grandmaster Albéric O’Kelly de Galway at Bognor Regis, was joint British champion, with Alan Phillips, and won the Southern Counties Championship.
He finished fourth at Hastings 1957–58, ranked by chessmetrics as his best statistical performance. In the 1958 British Chess Championship, Barden again tied for first, but lost the playoff match to Penrose 1½–3½.
He represented England in the Chess Olympiads at Helsinki 1952 (playing fourth board, scoring 2 wins, 5 draws, and 4 losses), Amsterdam 1954 (playing first reserve, scoring 1 win, 2 draws, and 4 losses), Leipzig 1960 (first reserve; 4 wins, 4 draws, 2 losses) and Varna 1962 (first reserve; 7 wins, 2 draws, 3 losses). The latter was his best performance by far.
Barden has a Morphy number of 3, having drawn with Jacques Mieses in the Premier Reserves at Hastings 1948–49. Mieses drew with Henry Bird in the last round of Hastings 1895, and Bird played a number of games with Paul Morphy in 1858 and 1859.
In 1964, Barden gave up most competitive chess to devote his time to chess organisation, broadcasting, and writing about the game. He has made invaluable contributions to English chess as a populariser, writer, organiser, fundraiser, and broadcaster.
He was controller of the British Chess Federation Grand Prix for many years, having found its first sponsor, Cutty Sark. He was a regular contributor to the BBC’s Network Three weekly radio chess programme from 1958 to 1963. His best-known contribution was a consultation game, recorded in 1960 and broadcast in 1961, where he partnered Bobby Fischer against the English masters Jonathan Penrose and Peter Clarke. This was the only recorded consultation game of Fischer’s career. The game, unfinished after eight hours of play, was adjudicated a draw by former world champion Max Euwe. Barden gave BBC television commentaries on all the games in the 1972 world championship. From 1973 to 1978 he was co-presenter of BBC2’s annual Master Game televised programme.
As of 2021, his weekly columns have been published in The Guardian for 65 years and in The Financial Times for 46 years. A typical Barden column not only contains a readable tournament report, but is geared toward promoting the game. His London Evening Standard column, begun in summer 1956, is now the world’s longest running daily chess column by the same author, breaking the previous record set by George Koltanowski in the San Francisco Chronicle. Koltanowski’s column ran for 51 years, 9 months, and 18 days, including posthumous articles.”
Leonard wrote this on the English Chess Forum in 2021 :
“I retired after Ilford 1964 when I finished a poor last in the England Olympiad team qualifier, returned at Hammersmith 1969 (equal 2nd behind Keene) and then played around 6-8 weekenders a year until 1972. My overall performance level between early 60s and early 70s dropped from around 225 to 215 BCF, so I wasn’t encouraged to pursue the comeback further.”
“International Grandmaster (1983), a New Zealander who settled in England at the age of 15. subsequently playing for his adopted country in the Lucerne Olympiad, 1982. He scored +4=6 to share first prize at New York 1980, came second (+5=5 — 1) equal with Hort at Dortmund 1983, and scored +5 = 6 (a GM norm) to share first prize at Amsterdam 1983, a Swiss systemtournament. Chandler has edited the magazine Tournament Chess since its inception in 1982.”
“Murray Graham Chandler was born in Wellington, New Zealand. He was awarded the IM title in 1977 and the GM title in 1982. He was joint New Zealand Champion in 1975-76 (shared with Lev Isaakovich Aptekar and Ortvin Sarapu) and joint Commonwealth Champion in 1984. His best tournament results were 2nds at London 1984, London 1986 and Amsterdam 1987 and he has played both for New Zealand (1976-1980) and England (1982-86) in the Olympiads. He edited Tournament Chess for a time from 1981 onwards and as well as writing he became the managing director of Gambit Publications.
He was the organiser and winner of a large tournament, the Queenstown Classic in New Zealand in January 2006 and this tournament also incorporated the 113th New Zealand Championship making Chandler the New Zealand Champion for the second time. He won his third New Zealand title at the 115th New Zealand Championship (2008) which was held in Auckland where he currently resides.”
We remember “BH” Wood MSc FCS OBE who passed away on Tuesday April 4th, 1989 in the district of Birmingham.
He was buried alongside his wife Marjorie in the Sutton Coldfield Cemetery Extension which was opened in 1934 as an extension to the Holy Trinity Church.
Baruch Harold Wood (generally known as BH Wood, or simply “BH”, by the chess world) was born on Tuesday, July 13th 1909 in Ecclesall, Sheffield, Yorkshire. The registration district was Ecclesall Bierlow.
The birth record suggests that he was baptised as Harold Baruch Wood. His parent’s were Baruch Talbot (1881-1951) and Florence Muriel Wood (née Herington). He appears as Harold Baruch on the 1911 census.
Interestingly, the Census form was signed by Talbot Wood so maybe BHs father also did not like his own first name! At the time of the Census the family lived at 30, Violet Bank Road, Nether Edge, Sheffield, S7 1RZ.
Welsh School Days
Baruch attended Friars School, Bangor (established in 1557) along with William Ritson Morry. BHW was one year and three months older than WRM so it is entirely possible that they had met.
Marriage to Marjory
In October 1936 BHW married Marjory Elizabeth Farrington in Ross, Herefordshire. When Marjory died on 7th September 1977 they were living at 146, Rectory Road, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands. Baruch and Marjory had four children, FM Christopher Wood, Philip, Frank and Peggy.
In the 1984 New Years Honours List, Civil Division, BHW was awarded the OBE. The citation read simply : “For services to Chess”
From The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match by Klein and Winter :
“BH Wood was born in Sheffield in 1909. A great lover of the game, he founded the magazine Chess in 1935, and has written a book for beginners. He scored a notable success by winning the British Correspondence Championship on one occasion. Wood has competed in the British Championship on several occasions, and in a number of Premier Reserves tournaments. He also played for Great Britain in the international team tournament (ed. Olympiad) at Buenos Aires in 1939.
He is a graduate of the University of Wales and Birmingham University. He has been very active in recent years in giving simultaneous exhibitions and in organising correspondence chess.”
Between 1938 and 1957, BH won the championship of Warwickshire eight times. He held the record (until 2006) for the most Birmingham & District Chess League Individual titles – nine, all won in Division 1: 1937, 1939, 1954, 1956, 1958, 1960, 1966, 1967, and 1983. He was the Records Secretary for the League from 1951-61.
Birth of a Magazine
From CHESS, Volume 52 (1987), Number 1014-15 (Christmas), we have the very last issue of the magazine for which BH was the Editor before becoming Founding Editor (and Paul Lamford became Editor). BH wrote:
“Countless people have asked me ‘Why did you start CHESS?’ I was in love with university life and has just taken an M.Sc., a waste of time after a good first-class honours, and decided to have a go at replacing the old Chess Amateur, which had closed down. I had edited the students’ magazine in both Bangor and Birmingham. The first had been produced by The Daily Post Printers in Liverpool, who agreed to print 1,000 copies for £90. That £90 would be nearly £2,400 now.
A year’s subscription I announced as 10 shillings (50p).
Two bits of luck! J.H. Van Meurs, a Dutchman who did a lot for British Chess, had listed in his still young B.C.F. Year Book some hundreds of chess clubs.
W.H. Watts, another great figure of those days, had floated a rather short-lived magazine The Chess Budget, donated a ‘Budget Cup‘, for knock-out team competition and published excellent books on big tournaments, etc. He handed me a list of keen chess players all around the world. I spent a week addressing envelopes by hand to all the clubs and people.
To individuals I sent single copies of CHESS; to each club three copies, inviting payment or subscriptions. Hardly anybody failed to pay. Obviously there was a demand for a chess magazine with a lighter touch than the B.C.M.
Years later, I learnt why Mr. Watts had been so generous. He had fallen out with the establishment and welcomed the arrival of a new publication.
Within three months I was selling 3,000 copies an issue.
Some early ideas were chessy short stories , cartoons and a competition for humorous anecdotes.
I soon went to Amsterdam for the first Euwe-Alekhine match. I traced Alekhine to his hotel room with difficulty. He was officially incommunicado. He came to the door in pyjamas, and within five minutes we had agreed to a £5 article per month. I was, of course, already on conversational terms with him (and remained so!).
Now I fell into trap. 3,000 readers in four months meant 6,000 in eight months, 9,000 in a year…?
Not so! This is extrapolation, a matter of calculation full of risks.
My preparations had been too good. In the remaining eight months of the year I picked up only a thousand more readers. Alekhine lost the title. With three months to go, my money ran out, I struggled to the end of the year. The twelfth issue was pathetically thin compared with the first few but renewals staring rolling in and CHESS blossomed again.
The fifty-two years since have been gruelling, unremitting toil but fascinating interest. How we bought our own presses and the effect this had on the world’s chess press – A law suit that went to appeal – How CHESS linked people in Malta, Australia, Hungary – Adventures in ‘simuls’, postal chess etc. How we helped police to identify a drowned man, etc. So many tales to tell!
Here is an obituary from the BCF Yearbook 1989 – 1990, page 14 :
B.H. Wood, O.B.E
Baruch H. Wood, O.B.E., founder of CHESS, and the magazines editor for 52 years, died at the age of 79 on 4th April.
Born in Sheffield on 13 July 1909, “B.H.”, as he was widely known in chess circles, took up the game early playing competitively at school and at University. After graduating from the University College of Wales, Bangor with a 1st class honours degree in chemistry, he took an MSc at Birmingham University. Soon, however, his love of chess took him away from a career in chemistry, with his launch of CHESS in 1935. He was to continue as editor, publisher, for many years printer, and often major contributor, for over half a century.
The magazine quickly won an international reputation for its frankness and outspokenness. It speaks much for the character and determination of its editor that he was able to continue publishing CHESS throughout the difficult years of the Second World War, whilst holding a full-time job as director of a chemical research laboratory in Lichfield.
Wood will be best remembered for the magazine, and for his other journalistic activities. He was for many years chess correspondent of The Daily Telegraph and of The Illustrated London News, and his best known book Easy Guide to Chess went through three editions and many impressions.
Nigel Davies wrote “One of the best beginners books on the market.”
Wood’s feat in writing, publishing, printing and selling his own book may be unique. However, Wood was no mean player as his draw against the then world champion Max Euwe, who became a life-long friend, testifies.
He represented England in the International Team Championship at Buenos Aires in 1939, scoring 50%. He also took first prize in international tournaments at Baarn 1947, Paignton 1954, Whitby 1963, Thorshavn 1967 and Jersey 1975 and was second in the 1948 British Championship. He was British Correspondence Chess Champion in 1945.
A life member of F.I.D.E. Wood was also an International Arbiter, and organised 21 annual chess festivals at seaside venues from the 50’s onwards. In addition he was an active behind-the-scenes inspirer of many chess events, and in particular was known as a driving spirit of university chess, being until the time of his death President of the British University Chess Association.
He founded the Postal Chess Club and League and was for many years President of the British Postal Chess Federation.
He was awarded the O.B.E. for services to chess in 1984.
His wife Marjory, predeceased him; he leaves three sons Christopher, Frank and Philip, and a daughter Peggy.
and here is the article as it appeared in the Yearbook.
“A well known British player, editor of Chess (starting 1935) and chess correspondent of The Daily Telegraph and Illustrated London News. A FIDE judge, he has founded and conducted 21 annual chess festivals, notably at Whitby, Eastbourne and Southport.
Winner of a number of small and semi-international tournaments : Baarn 1947, Paignton 1954, Whitby 1963, Thorshavn 1967, and Jersey 1975.
Played for the BCF in the International Team Tournament at Buenos Aires 1939. His best tournament result was probably his equal second in the British Championship at London 1948.
In 1954 BHW was sued BH Wood for libel by William Ritson Morry over a letter BHW sent to Henry Golding of the Monmouthshire County Chess Association warning him of WRMs financial history. Here is a summary of the action :
and two years later in 1956 we have this telling photograph of Ritson and BH playing at the British Championships in Blackpool. It must have been an entertaining pairing for the organisers if no-one else!
Possibly WRM was thinking this as they played:
Among his books are : Easy Guide to Chess, Sutton Coldfield 1942 et seq; World Championship Candidates Tournament 1953, Sutton Coldfield 1954. “
Cafferty on Wood (1989)
Here is the obituary from British Chess Magazine, Volume CIX (1989, 109), Number 5 (May), pages 210 – 211:
B. H. WOOD
Baruch Harold Wood (13 viii 1909-4 iv 1989) popularly known as “B. H.” was a significant figure of the last fifty-odd years in British chess. His life touched practically all aspects of the game as player, both OTB and CC, magazine publisher and editor, organiser of club, congress and university chess, journalist . . . the list seems endless. In 1984 he was awarded the OBE for services to chess.
Born at Sheffield, which he sometimes used as an excuse when he was accused of stubbornness, (“It’s my Yorkshire blood, you know”) he was educated in North Wales (Friar’s School, and then University College, Bangor) and at Birmingham University.
He started his chess magazine at Sutton Coldfield in 1935 as an impecunious graduate who could not find suitable work in the Depression, and his lively style ensured that it was a beacon in British chess for fifty years to come! For many British chess fans he was “Mr Chess” yet it seems a miracle that he kept the magazine going in the difficult times when interest in the game was at a low ebb. He may well have subsidised it from his journalistic work (Birmingham Post, Illustrated London News and Daily Telegraph) and from his wartime work as manager of a chemical laboratory (“The first time I ever earned a decent salary”).
His duodenal ulcer prevented him doing military service, and later in life he suffered from failing eyesight and the inability to walk which resulted from his diabetes, not diagnosed till he had suffered from it for decades.
He worked a seven-day week on the magazine, and his wife who predeceased him was often unsure when he would be home such was his devotion to the work. At times he would take off for trips abroad or long simul tours through Britain while trying to keep the magazine on schedule.
One of his last long tours was in 1967 when he drove Botvinnik around the UK. The world champion was duly impressed by the work load and wrote a very favourable account of the trip, revealing incidentally that Barry was still paying off the mortgage on his large house in Rectory Road, Sutton Coldfield where the car was parked on the forecourt as the garage was the reserve storage for a large library of chess books! His ability to quote chemical formula from memory also impressed Botvinnik.
He brought up a family of four, all of whom were skilled players, apart, perhaps from the youngest boy. Daughter Peggy
was prominent in women’s chess and married Peter Clarke at the time of the Botvinnik visit. Elder sons Chris and Frank were of over-200 strength, but had seen too much of their father’s life at close hand to want to take over the business from him. He ultimately sold out to Pergamon in 1987 though negotiations had been started much earlier. It was probably too much of a wrench to let go until failing health left him with little alternative, but he described
the terms as very generous.
Barry was a gifted linguist who was welcome abroad for his un-English approach of having a go at the native tongue. As a player he was at his best in the late 1930s (a member of the 1939 Olympiad team in Buenos Aires) till the 1950s. He should really have won the 1948 British Championship when he had the enterprising idea of having Paul Schmidt as personal coach! Yet his tournament wins run on as late as Guernsey 1975 and he was playing in the First Division of the Birmingham League within a few weeks of his death. The flesh may have been weak but a great spirit kept him going to the end.
Shall we ever see his like again?
Julius Silverman former MP for Aston (Birmingham) writes: I am very sorry to learn of the death of Barry Wood. I knew him for about 55 years and I always found him a pleasant and interesting companion and a good friend. On the last few occasions that I have met him he seemed increasingly frail. I know that the death of his dear wife was a great blow to him.
Barry’s contribution to Chess in this country has been enormous and his passing is the end of an era in chess journalism.
Barry’s journalism and his imaginative editorship made Chess a fascinating journal which it was always a pleasure to read.
Its survival for well over 50 years was a unique achievement which required persistence and dedication. He has had many
hills to surmount.
One was “… the chess lawsuit of the Century …” (This ran for about two and a half years, ending in 1940 in a victory for the magazine on appeal, Ed). Jacques versus Chess which might have brought Chess to an end. I appeared for him as counsel. We won. I received a life subscription to Chess as part of my fee. My copy still comes to me regularly. I have never enjoyed a fee so much.
Here is the article in its original form:
Bernard on Barry (2004)
REMEMBERING BARRY WOOD (1909-1939)
by Bernard Cafferty
One of the most influential figures in British chess of the 20th century was B. H. Wood, whom I knew personally from 1951, and whom I played regularly, over a period of three decades, till l moved from Birmingham to Hastings in 1981. Here are some
memories of the man who was thought of by many in Britain as “Mr Chess”.
Born in Sheffield, Baruch Harold Wood had his secondary education in North Wales at the same grammar school as W Ritson
Morry who was later to become his Midlands colleague and bitter rival. BH always attributed his well-known stubbornness (he never resigned early) to “his Yorkshire blood”. Wood and Morry were to be students together at Birmingham University after BH gained his BSc in Wales. Then the pair faced the hard task of finding work in depression-struck mid-1930s England. BH founded his monthly magazine CHESS in 1935, an act of amazing optimism which only his great appetite for work could justify. The magazine was based in Sutton Coldfield, just north of Birmingham, at gloomy premises known as Masonic Buildings.
The early decades of this publication were marked by the outpouring of glorious journalism of a popular sort. The man’s love
of the game shone through his work and he recruited such contributors as the chatty Koltanowski and the prince of annotators
Alexander Alekhine. Later he became the long-serving columnist of the Birmingham Post, from 1949 of the weekly Illustrated London News, and even later of the Daily Telegraph. A feature of the magazine was its lively letters from readers which made for more interesting reading than the equivalent occasional letter to be found in the staid BCM. The readers also made pertinent contributions to opening theory, especially in going through the 1946 MCO with a fine toothcomb and reporting their discoveries to Sutton Coldfield.
BH wrote a best-selling Easy Guide to Chess which went through several editions and was far more user-friendly than other primers on the market at the time. He also designed a luxury set, the Coldfield, and produced various chess clocks with new features. BH was a member of the BCF Olympiad side that played in the first part of the Buenos Aires Olympiad in the autumn of 1939. After the team’s withdrawal due to the outbreak of war, he stayed on in Argentina for a short while, taking part in a short tournament where he met the legendary Alekhine.
BH was married to Marjorie, a Birmingham primary school teacher, and had three sons and a daughter. The elder two boys,
Chris and Frank, were strong players but not Philip. His daughter Peggy was our leading girl player of the 1950s, and married Peter Clarke in 1962. One should note that BH was not Jewish, as many assumed from the name Baruch – he was generally addressed as Barry by his wife and close friends. Others called him just by the initials BH. Everyone in British chess knew exactly who you meant when you said BH. Many thought of him as a sharp business-man. In any event, the fearsome workload he shouldered meant that none of his children, seeing this at first hand, aspired to carry on the magazine as a family business. To many in the British chess community who had never seen top players in action, BH was their first contact with the wider chess world due to the exhausting simul tours he made to many clubs the length and breadth of the UK.
Later, he organized CHESS Festivals starting from 1953. These were our earliest open tournaments, held at attractive venues such as Cheltenham, Whitby, Eastbourne and Southport. These events created the opportunity for British amateurs to meet continental grandmaster opposition like Donner and O’Kelly. BH had great confidence in his ability – his MSc at Birmingham University was in chemistry, but in 1946-7 he started studying nuclear physics privately, telling Brian Reilly, who was employed by him at that time, that it was the science of the future. I have to simply marvel at this – where did he find the time? In his self-portrait in connection with the GB-USSR match of 1946 he revealed that he had been studying Russian privately with a view to taking an external degree in it at Birmingham University.
The post-war decade saw him at his most active. He was BCF delegate at early FIDE meetings post-1946, the period that saw the mighty Soviet Union admitted to membership in 1947. BH was instrumental in maintaining Spain’s membership of FIDE at the same time, despite Soviet opposition to Franco’s fascism. He claimed to me he was always a most welcome guest in Spain thereafter.
Battles with the BCF
BH had been exempt from military service due to a duodenal ulcer. He spent the war keeping the magazine alive in his spare time as he was put in charge of a research laboratory at the Birmingham Chemical Company. During the war the government had the power under emergency legislation to direct citizens into any sort of work that would contribute to the war effort. His comment to me on that intensive period was: “It was the first time I ever drew a decent salary”. After a short spell as BCF FIDE delegate, he fell out with the ruling body in the early 1950s. His view was that the national body was ultra-conservative and not open to fresh ideas such as the knockout championship open to all which he organised in 1949-50. Lo and behold, a few months later the BCF started organising regional competitions to arrange for qualification for the British Championship! BH often criticised the BCF in his magazine. In June 1950 he wrote the first of a planned series of articles on the evergreen theme “Where is British Chess Going?” and forwarded a copy to the BCF just before publication. The BCF legal eagle Professor Wheatcroft immediately threatened to take out an injunction, so putting the frighteners on the printers. Rather than delay the July issue (not that subscribers were not used to a rather irregular schedule!), BH brought out the issue with white space, on two pages, a dramatic way of alerting the readers to the dispute. The promised articles, which he said would appear after the dispute was settled, never appeared.
There were also tensions with BCF figures like Alexander and Golombek, in the latter case probably due to professional rivalry and Harry G’s identification with the BCM. Another prominent figure with whom BH crossed swords was the flamboyant Liverpool barrister Gerald Abrahams who threatened to sue over a report in CHESS of gambling debts incurred “on the turf’.
BH was no stranger to litigation. For example he had had a lawsuit with Jaques culminating in 1940 over the use of the term
“genuine Staunton-pattern sets” in his advertising. The case was initially lost, a potentially crippling blow, but then won on appeal with the aid of solicitor Julius Silverman (later a prominent Birmingham MP), Ritson Morry, Sir George Thomas and
other well-wishers. When Wood-Morry hostility was at its height in the early 1950s over pro- and anti-BCF views, BH drew attention in a letter to a Welsh chess organiser to Ritson’s short period in jail. The uncomplimentary term ‘gaolbird’ was used. A court case followed which the penurious Ritson, having been struck off as a solicitor could hardly afford, yet BH was cleared on the defence of justification. My fellow students and I at Birmingham University could only marvel at the daily press reports on the wrangles between two of our patrons whom we had feted at a celebratory dinner only a short while before.
Here is the point at which to mention BH’s support for chess in the universities. He was the long-time President of the
BUCA (British Universities’ Chess Association) and turned up at many of their events with support. He loaned equipment in the early days when not every chess club had sufficient clocks for a match – bear in mind that the austerity period in Britain lasted for years after 1945. BH also supported correspondence chess, being the founder of the Postal Chess League, a team event very popular in its day but now defunct.
BH’s best playing performance was the British Championship of 1948 when he came second to Broadbent. The Midlander had actually started with 6.5 points from seven games, but the unsatisfactory position arose that he had to meet Broadbent in the last round when each had an adjourned game still to finish off.
The tension got to BH, he missed a clear winning chance against the Northerner and lost. Yet he should really have taken the title on the merits of the positions he had achieved. His rivals resented the fact that he had hired a second, namely Paul Schmidt, the Estonian player who was once thought of as almost as good as Keres in his native land. Schmidt had won the German Championship during the war in 1941. The British amateurs of 1948 were not impressed by this intrusion of professionalism and the importation of someone who carried the taint of possible Nazism. According to Brian Reilly, Gerald Abrahams was particularly scathing.
BH made a good impression on Botvinnik when the latter stayed at the Wood residence in Rectory Road, Sutton Coldfield, in 1967 (the reference for those who can read Russian is Baturinsky’s “…Tvorchestvo” trilogy on Botvinnik. The article was entitled: Albion shakhmatny i inoy. It appears on pp435 -448 of the third volume. A shortened version appears in English in Botvinnik’s autobiography Achieving the Aim). When I drew BH’s attention to the article and its peculiar title he responded with his usual erudite comment: ‘Albion? Yes, that’s the Roman reference to the white cliffs of Dover”. For most Brummies, “The Albion” did not mean a local pub, but rather the West Bromwich Albion football team!
In theory, the communist Botvinnik should have been distant from his host, the Midlands entrepreneur and business man, who drove him round to his engagements in Britain for three weeks, but their common love of chess triumphed over ideological
differences. In particular, the speed of production of CHESS, now on its own presses, was compared very favourably by the Soviet Patriarch to that of Shakhmaty v SSSR. British trade unions had a different view of course, in pre-Thatcher days, and BH had some tricky obstacles to overcome in this field. The Muscovite Botvinnik recorded the fact that the garage of BH’s large house was full of chess books (as were various rooms – to the abiding despair of Marjorie), so the family car was always parked outside on the drive. BH revealed to Botvinnik that he had not been able pay off his mortgage for decades due to the variable cash flow from his business and journalism.
BH was in love with study as a young man, he once told me, and he had a facility in various European languages, which made him always welcome abroad. Over the years, BH had a number of employees who were strong players, such as Brian Reilly, Owen Hindle and Robert Bellin, but none of them lasted long. Owen Hindle, a person of placid temperament, stuck it out the longest, but even he had his patience tried by the ‘boss’. One cannot hide the fact that BH was a controversial figure – perhaps the clue after all is that reference to his stubbornness and Yorkshire blood? I contributed to his magazine for many years, but certainly never wanted to work for him full-time!
I used to see BH in the last decade of his life only in the Hastings press room. For his age, he still took on a fantastic workload. Peter Clarke once commented that his father-in-law gave the impression of believing he would live for ever. Finally, Anno Domini told and BH sold his business to Robert Maxwell of Pergamon fame/notoriety in 1988.
In his final year, BH suffered from diabetes, and the resulting inability to walk meant he was confined to a wheelchair, but he still insisted on visiting Hastings one last time, where, in his prime, he had specialised in taking away Premier score sheets. Often they were taken not just to his hotel room, but even back to Sutton Coldfield, so hindering the work of other chess journalists unless Ritson or later, Peter Griffiths had got in first to create the bulletin.
What a character! We lack such a colourful figure nowadays. Where he still alive today, I imagine he would still be trying to put a bomb under the BCF.
Winter, Jaques and Wood
From Chess Explorations (Cadogan Chess, 1996) by Edward Winter we have further detail on the Jaques court case:
“Paul Timson, a lawyer, sends us reports on two legal cases connected with chess. In 1939 B.H.Wood found himself in the dock for having advertised for sale in CHESS in 1937 ‘genuine Staunton chessmen’. The plaintiffs were John Jaques & Son, Ltd. Sir George Thomas., Max Euwe and Lodewijk Prins appeared as witnesses for the defence. The case is referred to by Fred Wren in his article ‘Tales of a Woodpusher: Woodpusher’s Woodpile’, which appeared in Chess Review, 1949 and was reprinted in Reinfeld’s The Treasury of Chess Lore. The issues of CHESS of the time also contained a huge amount of material on the case. The decision was that ‘Staunton’ alone was permissible description, but that the phrase ‘genuine Staunton’ implied a product made by Jaques & Son Ltd., as opposed to any Staunton pattern. However, B.H. Wood appealed and, in 1940, won.”
If you can get access then we recommend the eleven-page “B.H. Wood and his chess playing family” article in the August-2009 issue of Chess Monthly written by his son Chris Wood (helped by brother Frank).
Likewise The Chess Lawsuit of the Century is detailed in CHESS, volume 52, Number 1018, pp.392 – 394 by BHW himself.
BCN remembers Sir Stuart Milner-Barry KCVO CB OBE who passed away on Saturday, March 25th, 1995 in Lewisham Hospital, London aged 88. He was laid to rest in the Great Shelford Cemetery, Cambridge Road, Great Shelford, Cambridge CB22 5JJ.
A memorial service was held for him at Westminster Abbey on 15 June 1995.
Philip Stuart Milner-Barry was born on Thursday, September 20th 1906 in Mill Hill in the London Borough of Barnet. Mill Hill falls under the Hendon Parliamentary constituency.
His parents were Lieutenant-Commander Edward Leopold (1867-1917) and Edith Mary Milner-Barry (born 17th May 1866, died 1949, née Besant). Edward was in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, H.M.S. “Wallington.” Prior to his war service his father was a professor of modern languages at the University of Bangor and Edith was the daughter of Dr. William Henry Besant, a renowned mathematical fellow of St John’s College, Cambridge University.
Stuart was the second born of six children, There was an older sister Alda Mary (18th August 1893-1938) and four brothers Edward William Besant (?-1911) , Walter Leopold (1904-1982), John O’Brien (4 December 1898 – 28 February 1954) and Patrick James . Many of the Milner-Barry family were laid to rest in the Great Shelford churchyard.
Stuart learned chess at the age of eight and his autobiographical article below goes into more depth.
He was educated at Cheltenham College, and won a scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he obtained firsts in classics and moral sciences.
On leaving Cambridge in 1927 he went to work at the London Stock Exchange (LSE).
According to the 1928 and 1929 electoral rolls he was living with his mother Edith and his brothers Walter and John O’Brien at 50 De Freville Avenue, Cambridge CB4 1HT:
In 1931 the family had relocated to 11, Park Terrace, Cambridge which is nearby to Emmanuel College. Now living with the family was brother Patrick James.
He discovered that he did not enjoy his LSE work and switched careers to became chess correspondent of The Times in 1938.
At the time (September 29th) of the 1939 register he (aged 33) was living as a journalist in a household of three with his mother Edith who carried out “unpaid domestic duties” and sister Alda who was of “private means”.
In 1946 Stuart was awarded the OBE from the Civil Division in the New Years Honours . The citation reads that was “employed in a Department of the Foreign Office”. A modern translation of this was he was engaged in Top Secret work at Bletchley Park alongside Alan Turing, Gordon Welchman and Hugh Alexander and was thus honoured for his war work. More on this later…
After the war he worked in the Treasury, and later in 1966 administered the British honours system where he helped to facilitate the award of honours to other chess players ultimately retiring in 1977.
As well as the OBE he was made Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in 1962 and Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCV0) in 1975.
A conference room was named after him at the Civil Service Club, 13 – 15 Great Scotland Yard, London SW1A 2HJ.
Peter Hennessy* and The Rewarding Career of Sir Stuart Milner-Barry
*Peter Hennessy is a renowned historian and journalist. The following was originally published in The Times in 1977 following PSMBs retirement.
“Few careers can have been as varied and rewarding as that of Sir Stuart Milner-Barry, who retires today as Ceremonial Officer to the Civil Service Department and custodian of the British honours system.
Into the 48 years since he left Cambridge with a degrees in classics and moral sciences, he has crammed spells as a stockbroker, chess correspondent of The Times and member of the British chess team, a wartime codebreaker for MI6 and a senior Treasury official before taking over administration of the nations “gongs and bongs ” nearly 11 years ago.
The richness of Sir Stuart’s progression is all the more striking given the difficulty he experienced in finding a job at all after university because of the Wall Street crash in 1929. His first 10 years spanned the slump of the 1930s, when there was little for a stockbroker to do, but fill his days reading The Times.
In 1938 he joined the paper full time as chess correspondent and, along with many of the world’s leading players, he was nearly trapped in Buenos Aires when war broke out the next year (ed. should be month rather than year). Catching the first ship home, he finished up with that brilliant collection of dons, antique dealers, mathematicians and chess players billeted in Nissen huts in the park of Buckinghamshire country house, who broke the code transmitted by the German Enigma machine.
Sir Stuart eventually rose to lead hut six, which broke the most secret messages of the Luftwaffe. Quartered in a comfortable Bletchley public house with another formidable chess player, C. H. O’D. Alexander, and Gordon Welchman, the Cambridge mathematician, he acquired a taste for rum, the only alcohol in plentiful supply for some reason, and a sense of guilt about enjoying, his stimulating, important job, safe while other men faced the bullets.
He was not tempted to stay on in the arcane world of code-breaking after the war, unlike his friend, the late Hugh Alexander, as he regards such activities in peacetime as akin to reading somebody’s private correspondence, though he recognizes the necessity of such efforts for intelligence work. Instead, he took the reconstruction competition for the administrative class of the Civil Service and entered the Treasury.
While battling with the post-war dollar shortage in Treasury Chambers he “found a wife, carried her off and lived happily ever after”, as he cheerfully puts it. Apart from a spell as establishment officer to the Ministry of Health, he stayed at the Treasury until he reached the normal retiring age of 60 in 1966.
Lord Helsby, then Head of the Home Civil Service, asked him to stay on and take over the smooth machine that underpins the honours system, which had been built up over many years by Sir Robert Knox. Sir Stuart has loved every minute of it.
He looks every inch the part, a tall stately man of immense natural dignity, he is the incarnation of propriety. The stresses to which the honours system has been subjected to in recent years must have caused him great distress but he is far too proper a civil servant to talk about it. His retirement at 70 has nothing to do with the alarums and excursions stimulated by the honours lists associated with Harold Wilson.
“One of my principal jobs has been the protection of the system”, he says. “The pleasures are very great. It’s fascinating in itself. You see so much of the history of people in every walk of like”.
Sir Stuart waxes eloquent about the beauty and uniqueness of the British honours system. He is a confirmed monarchist, so the spontaneity of the jubilee celebrations provides the perfect backcloth for his departure. He is succeeded by Mr. Richard Sharp, an under-secretary at the Treasury.”
Below is the original article:
Marriage to Thelma
In the third quarter of 1947 Stuart married Thelma Tennant Wells in Westminster. A consequence of the “rules of the day” of the marriage was that Thelma had to resign her post in the Treasury immediately. (Ed: this somewhat antiquated view of life was finally corrected in 1972 when the Civil Service dispensed with this rule).
Lady Thelma was to support Stuart in his chess activities for their married life. She also served as the first UK Director of Women’s Chess and made many lasting friendships in the chess world. She was buried together with Stuart in 2007. Stuart himself was President of the British Chess Federation between 1970 and 1973 as well as being Director of International Chess following his presidency.
Stuart and Thelma had three children, one son and two daughters: Philip O. (born 1953), Jane E (born 1950) and Alda M (born 1958).
Stuart was knighted on January 1st 1975 for his role as the “Ceremonial Officer of Civil Service Department” between 1966-77. Technically the knighthood is known as a KCVO.
He first competed in the British Championship in 1931 and made regular appearences as late as 1978: a span of 47 years!
In their retirement years Stuart and Thelma lived at the salubrious location of 43 Blackheath Park, Blackheath, London SE3 9RW.
In June of 1933 at the age of 27 Stuart wrote an autobiographical piece for British Chess Magazine to be found in Volume LIII (53, 1933), Number 6 (June), pp. 241-2 as follows:
Champion of the City of London Chess Club
I learned chess at the age of eight and played regularly after that with members of my family. My first-class practise (with due respect to my family) began at fourteen, when Mr. Bertram Goulding Brown and started a series of serious friendly games which has continued ever since, almost without interruption. The vast majority of these games were begun with 1 P-K4, P-K4, and as we both eschewed the Lopez and the Four Knights, we have acquired a fairly extensive knowledge of the older forms of the King’s side openings – King’s Gambit (all sorts), Vienna, Guioco Piano, Evans’s Gambit, Danish Gambit, Bishop’s Opening, etc. These games have undoubtedly born the most important influence in my development, apart from which the serious friendly game is to me much the most enjoyable form of chess. We each have runs of success, and there has never been much to choose between us.
(An aside : Stuart wrote a extensive obituary of Bertram Goulding Brown which appeared in British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXV (85, 1965), Number 12(December) pp.344-45 in which he noted:
B. Goulding Brown was my oldest and closest Cambridge friend, I started playing with him in 1920, and we have played ever since, though, alas, not nearly so often since the War as in the 1920s and 1930. Our last games, when he was eighty three, were played about a year ago in the same book-congested upstairs study at Brookside as all the others had been. Both were cut-and-thrust draws: a Kieseritzky Gambit from myself and Two Knights’ (with 4.P-Q4 for White) were typical of the openings we adopted. We were planning another this Autumn, but he died suddenly and peacefully at the end of August, )
I have also been very fortunate in playing a good deal with C.H.O’D. Alexander. Our games have taken the form of a series of short matches (first player to win three games) played with clocks. Alexander was already stronger than me when he came up to Cambridge, and he won the University Championship from me in his first year and my fourth.
All three matches have been won by him, the first easily and the last two by the narrowest possible margin; a fourth now in progress looks like coming to an early and ignominious conclusion (Score 0-2-2). These results have neither surprised nor disappointed me : I would not back any player in England to do better.
In 1923 I won the first Boy’s Championship at Hastings, but lost badly the following year (ed. Alexander won).
Since then I have competed twice at Hastings, once tieing with Miss Menchik in the Major Reserve for the first place and once for the last, in the Major. In between I played in the Major Open at Tenby, and came out fifth, with my first important win against Znosko-Borovsky.
Meanwhile I played four years against Oxford, with somewhat chequered results. The first year I won against G. Abrahams, the second and third years, I played K.H. Bancroft and scored a (very fortunate) draw and a win, while finally I permitted Abrahams to fork my King and Queen with a Knight, a performance unhappily repeated by R.L. Mitchell in the following year (his Queen was pinned by a Bishop). Since then the spell has been broken. In 1931 I played in the British Championships at Worcester, and was quite satisfied with my form, though my score of 5 out of 11 was nothing to write home about. In February 1932, I have the great good fortune to fill a vacant place in the Sunday Referee* London International Tournament, an extremely exhausting but very valuable experience which I greatly appreciated.
*TheSunday Referee was a newspaper of the time which was adsorbed into The Sunday Chronicle in 1939.
My score of 3.5 out of 11, equal with Sir George Thomas and above W. Winter and V. Buerger, was quite as good as I expected. After this came the Cambridge Tournament, which, though a very delightful little congress, was a fiasco from my point of view. Three of my opponents were unkind enough to show their best form against me, and two other games I spoilt by clock trouble.
I do not expect to play much serious competitive chess in future. I admire sincerely the business man who is ready, after a hard day at the office, to undergo a further four hours of strenuous mental exertion; and who is also prepared to spend his all too brief holidays in the same exhausting pursuit. Moreover, while many players find the atmosphere of match and tournament play a stimulus or an inspiration, it only renders me nervous, and though this does not affect my play it certainly interferes with my enjoyment. As long as I can play my week-end games with B.G.B., and inveigle Alexander from Winchester to add another to his monotonous series of victories, I shall not much mind if I can only occasionally take part in congresses. ”
PS Milner-Barry Cup
In issue #53 (April 1946) of West London Chess Club’s Gazette we have a news item concerning a newly inaugurated trophy called the PS Milner-Barry Cup:
Sergeant on Milner-Barry
Writing in A Century of British Chess (Hutchinson, 1934), PW Sergeant records in Chapter XXI, 1925 to 1934:
The City of London C.C.’s Championship Tournament which ended this (1933) spring deserves special mention; for it introduced an entirely new name on the list of champions, that of P.S. Milner-Barry, formerly of Cheltenham College and of Cambridge University. Ten years previously he had won the first boys’ championship at Hastings.
Now, he won the City of London Championship with a score of 11 out of 14, followed by the bearers of such noted names as R.P. Michell (10 points), Sir George Thomas (9), and E.G. Sergeant (8.5). It caused some surprise, therefore, when it was found that he was not selected as a British representative at Folkestone.
Golombek on Milner-Barry
Surprisingly and disappointingly there is no direct entry in either Hooper & Whyld or Sunnucks for Sir Stuart but (as you might expect) Harry Golombek OBE does not let us down in The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977):
“British master whose chess career was limited by his amateur status but whose abilities as a player and original theorist rendered him worthy of the title of international master.
Born at Mill Hill in London, he showed early promise and in 1923 won the British Boys Championship, then held at Hastings.
He studied classics at Cambridge and developed into the strongest player there. At the university he was to meet (ed. three years later) C. H. O’D. Alexander with whom he played much chess.
Though nearly three years younger, Alexander exerted a strong influence over him and both players cherished and revelled in the brilliance of play in open positions.
By then along with Alexander and Golombek, he had become recognized as one of the three strongest young players in the country. Whilst not as successful as they were in tournaments as the British championship in which stamina was essential, he was a most formidable club and team match player, as he had already shown in 1933 when he won the championship of the City of London Club ahead of R. P. Mitchell and Sir George Thomas.
He played in his first International Team tournament at Stockholm 1937 and was to play in three more such events : in 1939 at Buenos Aires where, on third board, he made the fine score of 4/5 ; in Helsinki 1952; and in Moscow 1956 where, again on third board, he was largely responsible for the team’s fine showing.
In 1940 he shared first prize with Dr. List in the strong tournament of semi-international character in London and then, like Alexander and (later) Golombek, helped in the Foreign Office code-breaking activities at Bletchley Park for the duration of the Second World War. Staying in the Civil Service afterwards, he rose to the rank of Under-Secretary in the Treasury and was knighted for his services in 1975.
“I first met Sir Stuart Milner-Barry when I was fifteen years old (1962) playing in a tournament in Bognor Regis who played some rustic king’s pawn opening against me, sacrificing a pawn for nothing in particular and then astonished by writing “castles” in full on his scoresheet. I think he used “kt” for a knight too. I thought I had discovered a true relic from a bygone age and the more I got to know him I realised the more correct that judgement was.
Milner-Barry was the last of the true gentlemen amateurs and was one of the few people I have ever met who played chess for the sheer love of the game.
A few typical incidents may give a flavour of his unique personality. First and most typical was the way he would resign: with a firm handshake, a smile and a booming whisper of ‘You are far too good for me I’m afraid!’ When I first heard those words I was totally taken aback : What was this, a chessplayer acknowledging that his opponent was better than him? Impossible!
Once, at close of play in a county match against Milner-Barry I had the extra pawn in a difficult queen and pawn ending. We analysed a little with most variations suggesting I was winning. It was the kind of position you would send for adjudication even if you are convinced it is lost. It avoids having to resign anyway and the adjudicator may always discount the pawns. But, Sir Stuart never thought like that. After ten minutes analysing he extended his hand and congratulated me.
Finally there was the splendid incident in Moscow during the (Ed. 6th) European Team Championships in the late 1970s (Ed. 1977) Stuart was then the President of the BCF and took up an invitation of his old friend the British Ambassador to the USSR (Ed. Sir Howard Smith) to visit the event. Since he was staying at the Embassy he had a KGB tail assigned to him to follow him everywhere. On one of his morning walks Sir Stuart got lost and was not certain which bridge he should be on to get back to the Embassy. So, he turned around and walked back to the not very secret policeman, followed him and asked for directions! For the rest of his stay they walked practically hand-in-hand.
Whilst most of us knew Stuart as an amiable old gent who played for Kent and in the Lloyds Bank Masters who could still play brilliant attacking games in his eighties most knew little of his distinguished career in real life.
We suspected with some justification that in his civil service career he was responsible for doling out all those OBEs to chess players in the 70s and 80s when he was in charge of the honours list.
It was the wartime work at Bletchley Park that was Milner-Barry’s greatest achievement. As everybody knows the allies won the Second World War mainly because of the brilliant code-breaking work of the Cambridge quartet of Alan Turing, Gordon Welchman, Hugh Alexander and Stuart Milner-Barry. Turing and Welchman were mathematical geniuses, Milner-Barry was the supreme administrator and Alexander straddled the gap with great talents in both areas. The group of four were known as “The Wicked Uncles”
The astonishing achievement at Bletchley was not so much in breaking enemy codes as maintaining complete secrecy of the entire operation for the duration of the war. Only with such people as Milner-Barry and Alexander in charge could such a large operation be run so successfully without anybody knowing about it.
Milner-Barry’s importance in the running at Bletchley may be judged from the fact that he personally delivered the note to Winston Churchill stressing overriding importance of their work asking for more funds.
Compared with that the invention of the Milner-Barry Gambit and the Milner-Barry variation of the Nimzo-Indian are minor achievements.
Sir Stuart was proof that nice guys can be chess players although one cannot help suspecting he would achieved even better results if he had even a slight streak of nastiness about him. He would surely have not let Capablanca off the hook in Margate in 1938 when the attacking player secured a winning position against the ex-champions dragon variation and he would have surely also not let the British Championship slip from his grasp in 1953 when he finished as runner-up after losing his last two games.
He always performed well when playing in Olympiads (or Team Tournaments as they were known then) for England during the 1930s and 50s. He was, after all, one of the most naturally gifted players this county has produced. What other Englishman has two opening (or even just one) named after him?
While at Cambridge while he won the University Championship in 1928, losing to Alexander in the following year, Milner-Barry composed some fine problems, a frivolity he never returned to later in his life.
An excellent though infrequent writer on the game, he wrote a fine memoir of C.H.O’D. Alexander in Golombek’s and Hartston’s The Best Games of C.H.O’D. Alexander, Oxford, 1976.”
An Obituary from Bernard Cafferty
From British Chess Magazine, Volume CXV (115, 1995), Number 5 (May), pp. 258-59 we have this obituary by Bernard Cafferty:
“Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry KCVO CB OBE (20 ix 1906 – 25 iii 1995) was the oldest of the British chess masters who came to prominence in the 1930s, He was always thought of in conjunction with his great friends Hugh Alexander and Harry Golombek who both predeceased him. The length of Stuart’s career is amazing – he was inaugural British Boy Champion in 1923 and was still playing for Kent first team in the Counties Championship of recent years, thus spanning a period of seven decades! Botvinnik spoke of him to me on my 1994 visit to Moscow.
Yet Stuart, who never gained the IM title, was always the true amateur and genuine English gentleman, whose sense of duty and tradition was very great. It speaks volumes of him that he agonised over whether he should attend the Times Kasparov-Short match of 1993, in a private capacity. He would have liked to watch the play, but as a former British Chess Federation President, 1970-73, he felt it was his duty not to lend any extra recognition to the contest other than that assigned it by the BCF.
Before the war, after graduating from Cambridge in Classics, he took some fine scalps including those of Tartakower and Mieses and should have beaten Capablanca at Margate 1939.
He worked, rather unhappily, in a stockbroking firm up to 1938 and it is in that capacity that his name appears on the official document that set-up the British Chess Magazine as a limited company in 1937.
During the war he played his part in the Bletchley Park code-breaking undertaking along with Alexander and Golombek, and after the war went into the Civil Service where he had a distinguished career at the Treasury. Then his career was extended as he spent his final working years in the patronage department that sifted recommendations for the honours list.
I recall asking him in 1981 if there was any chance that Brian Reilly could qualify for an award. Stuart’s diplomatic answer was to the effect that he was now retired but would drop a word in the right quarter.
Stuart represented England at the Olympiads or 1936, 1939, 1952 and 1956. At the last of these he played particularly well on fourth board. He was conscious that his old friend Hugh Alexander could not take part in Moscow because of the sensitive nature of his work in the Intelligence Service.
In playing style Milner-Barry, a tall gaunt figure, delighted in an open tactical fight.
He was The Times correspondent 1938-45, resigning the post to let Harry Golombek take over. His best result after the war, apart from the 1956 Moscow Olympiad, was probably his second place in the British Championships of 1953 at Hastings. The abiding impression of his opponents over the years must have been that here was a player who greatly enjoyed the game, win, lose or draw.
Certainly, that was my idea of him in the tussles we had from the British Championship of 1957 up to county matches in the 1980s.
We shall not see his like again. The England that formed his character is no longer with us.”
Kenworthy on Milner-Barry
Sir Stuart as a student was taught by his lecturer friend Gordon Welchman, later 1940 his Head of Hut. They were firm friends, a band of brothers, as per the rest of the chess players and mathematicians from the Interwar years at Cambridge University.
His studies were obviously well aligned to be a stockbroker in the City, plus the tedious details of Blotters and Order Management registration.
Obvious exceptions to this University circle was Dr Jacob Bronowski who was given the suspected 5th columnist treatment by authorities in Hull. Obviously, he would have been excellent.
Exception also according to John Hevriel was if you were also from Sidney Sussex, like Staff Sgt. then an RSM Asa Briggs, who was more Contract Bridge with this all friends crossword addicts team. Asa Briggs felt that Sir Stuart was initially badly rewarded leaving Hut 6 in 1945 for HM Treasury.
Sir Stuart was a noted top cribster, his crosswords, German and thinking from how the Nazi operator would think from his side of the board, obviously helped with Bombe cribs. He always played down his role and abilities in a diplomatic way. He was the facilitator and mentor to many, especially back to Gordon Welchman in his troubled times from 1974 onwards. Sir Stuart was not happy about the proposed book of the Hut 6 Story.
He was the bureaucrat who cared for the welfare of his staff, especially on tedious protract tasks which was the norm. He was into ethics, Quadrivium, logic and rhetoric, philosophy and his knowledge of German poets and Great German thinkers would have been invaluable in solving the Enigma puzzle and how might his opposite number blunder and be sloppy in procedures.
Though never at home in close(d) positions, he was an outstanding strategist in the open game and it is significant that his most important contribution to opening theory was the Milner-Barry variation of the Nimzo-Indian Defence which is essentially as attempt to convert a close position into an open one (1.P-Q4, N-KB3; 2.P-QB4, P-K3; 3. N-QB3, B-N5; 4.Q-B2, N-B3).
Hooper & Whyld (1996) note:
“Sometimes called the Zurich or Swiss variation, this is a line in the Nimzo-Indian Defence introduced by Milner-Barry in the Premier Reserves tournament, Hastings 1928-9. This line became more widely known when it was played at Zurich 1934.”
Two famous opening lines are named after him – 4…Nc6 in the Nimzo-Indian (as above), and the gambit in the French Defence: 1.e4 e6;2.d4 d5;3.e5 c5;4.c3 Nc6;5.Nf3 Qb6;6.Bd3 cxd4;7.cxd4 Bd7;8.0-0 Nxd4;
Stuart played this line both in correspondence and over-the-board play. If Black takes the pawn with 10…Qxe5, White gets a fierce attack by 11,Re1 Qd6 (else 12.Nxd5) 12.Nb5.
There is also a sub-variation of the Caro-Kann which is named after Sir Stuart viz:
which is a Blackmar-Diemer style pawn sacrifice.
There is also a Milner-Barry variation in the Falkbeer Counter Gambit to the King’s Gambit thus:
which is an ancient line that he revived at Margate 1937.
and finally, there is a Milner-Barry Variation in the Petroff Defence:
giving a total of five named variations. How many English players have that many?
Problems and Compositions
Stuart developed an interest in problem composition in the 1920s
Further examples may be found on the excellent Meson Database maintained by Brian Stephenson
Milner-Barry on The English Chess Explosion
Stuart was a great supporter of the development of British chess. Nothing would have given him more pleasure than to witness the meteoric advances of English players in the 1970s. Indeed, he wrote the foreword to the English Chess Explosion (Batsford, 1980) by Murray Chandler and Ray Keene:
“It gives me great pleasure to have been asked to write a foreword for this book. Nothing has given me more satisfaction than the flowering of British chess talent that has taken place in the past few years.
Between the wars, though we had some splendid players like H. E. Atkins, Sir George Thomas and F. D. Yates, we were a second rate power at chess: in the great Nottingham tournament of 1936, for example, our quartet brought up the rear, and that was where, with occasional shining exceptions, our representatives in international tournaments tended to find themselves. Similarly, after the war in the 1950’s and 1960’s, in spite of Alexander and Penrose, we seldom achieved a really creditable place in the Olympiads.
Alexander who retired early from the arena because of the exacting demands of his profession, must have had rather a depressing time as non-playing captain.
I myself date the renaissance from the Spring of 1974 when we won a closely contested match against West Germany at Elvetham Hall.
Thereafter we went from strength to strength, with the appearance year by year of highly talented, original and adventurous young men from the Universities – Keene and Hartston, closely followed by Miles, Stean, Nunn, Mestel, Speelman, and a still younger generation of schoolboy prodigies like Nigel Short.
The peak of our performance so far has been the third place (after the USSR and Hungary) last winter in the finals of the European Team Tournament at Skara (compared with our eighth and last place at Moscow in 1977).
How did all this come about in the short space of six years? The Spassky-Fischer match of 1972 was a watershed. Since then, and the first time, it has been possible for able young men from universities to consider chess seriously as a full-time profession, or at least as a career to which they devote the major part of their time and interest, Secondly, the fruits were being reaped of the unobtrusive but devoted spadework in junior training pioneered by Barden, Wade and many others. Lastly, no doubt, sheer good fortune smiled upon us in the simultaneous emergence of a group of brilliant enthusiastic and likeable young men, five of them already grandmasters and others likely to become so before long.
It is sad that Alexander, who did so much to uphold the prestige of British chess in the doldrums, did not survive to witness the transformation. I would like to wish the BCF President, David Anderton, and Alexander’s successor as captain, all possible success for the future.”
Problemist and chronicler who lived in Norwich all his life. He edited the chess column of the Norwich Mercury from 1902 lo 1912, contributed many significant articles elsewhere, investigated a number of chess questions, and established the burial place of several great players and arranged the tending of their graves. He lived at only two addresses for 73 years, worked for the railway company for 53 years, and was a member of the Norfolk and Norwich chess dub for 61 consecutive years. Winner of the club championship in 1884, he did not compete again until 1933 and then won it three years in succession.
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