Category Archives: Player

Minor Pieces 24: Arthur Makinson Fox

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

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

Morning Post 28 January 1889

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

Morning Post 23 June 1890

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

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

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

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

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

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

#3 Arthur Makinson Fox Morning Post 3 December 1888

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

Surrey Comet 27 May 1893

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

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

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

The Field 30 March 1901


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oxford Chronicle and Reading Gazette 6 March 1914

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

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

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

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

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

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

British Chess Magazine February 1941
British Chess Magazine February 1941

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

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


Acknowledgements and Sources:


Various other online sources

Problem solution:

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

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Birthday Greetings FM Shreyas Royal (09-i-2009)

FM Shreyas Royal at the London Chess Classic, 2021 courtesy of John Upham Photography
FM Shreyas Royal at the London Chess Classic, 2021 courtesy of John Upham Photography

BCN sends birthday wishes to FM Shreyas (known as “Shrey” by his friends) Royal born on Friday, January 9th, 2009. “Hallelujah” by Alexandra Burke was number one in the UK hit parade.

Shreyas attended The Pointer School in Blackheath, London, SE3 whose motto is “The Lord is my Shepherd”. Currently Shreyas is home schooled.

In October 2021 BCN secured an interview with Shreyas via his father Jitendra and below is mostly from that interview:

BCN: What caused his initial interest in chess and at what age?

His initial interest in chess was capturing or as he used to call it ‘eating’ pieces but as he grew more mature, he loved that there were so many possibilities in chess, so much still left to explore! At the Age of 6 he learnt and got an interest in chess.

BCN: Has Shreyas had any chess teachers or coaches?

  1. Jyothi Lal N. with a peak of 2250 FIDE but is very knowledgeable and helped from just above beginner to 1800. He was Shreyas’s first coach.
  2. Meszaros Gyula (Julian) who was an IM with a peak of 2465 FIDE and was an endgame master which helped him from 1800-2100.
  3. His Current Coach is GM John Emms with a peak of around 2600 FIDE, he is an expert in many fields such as Positional Play, Openings, Strategic chess etc and has also made a big impact on how to prepare against opponents. He had helped him from 2100-2300 so far in just under a year!

BCN: Which chess clubs and/ or Teams does Shreyas represent?

He represents SV Erkenschwick from Germany and Wasa SK from Sweden for online events as he has joined them during the pandemic. He started his 4NCL career with KJCA Kings in January 2019 but now mainly represents Wood Green which he has played for in online events in and will also represent them in the upcoming 4NCL weekends.

His first appearance in Megabase 2022 comes from the 2015 British Under-8 Championship in Coventry, the eventual winner being Dhruv Radhakrishnan.

Progress from those early days has only been interrupted by school examination breaks and the Covid pandemic:

FIDE Rating progress chart for FM Shreyas Royal
FIDE Rating progress chart for FM Shreyas Royal

In August 2016 in Bournemouth Shreyas scored an impressive 6/6 to win the British Under-8 Championship.

Shreyas Royal at the 2016 UKCC Delancey Terafinal in Loughborough courtesy of John Upham Photography
Shreyas Royal at the 2016 UKCC Delancey Terafinal in Loughborough courtesy of John Upham Photography

BCN: What was his first memorable tournament success?

This was the 2016 European Schools Under-7 championship where he was runner-up without any preparation or work on chess!

Shreyas Royal at the 2016 UKCC Delancey Southern Gigafinal in Reading courtesy of John Upham Photography
Shreyas Royal at the 2016 UKCC Delancey Southern Gigafinal in Reading courtesy of John Upham Photography

In September 2017 Shreyas travelled to Mamaia in Romania and after nine hard fought rounds tied for first place with 8/9 in the European Youth Chess Championship, Under-8 with Giang Tran Nam (HUN, 1561).

In 2021 Shreyas was awarded the FM title by FIDE:

FIDE FM Certificate for Shreyas Royal
FIDE FM Certificate for Shreyas Royal

BCN: Which chess players past & present are inspirational for him?

  1. Magnus Carlsen, world champion and broke many FIDE records also is an inspiration for most of this generation. He likes his slow grinding and almost winning from any opening or ending. This is his favourite player of all time.
  2. Garry Kasparov played brilliant attacking chess and calculated like a machine.
  3. Bobby Fischer played a similar style to Kasparov but was more talented than both Magnus and Kasparov in his opinion as he worked all by himself at a time in the USA when chess was not so popular while for the Russians, they had brilliant coaches and had one good player after the other. He rates him a bit lower because Fischer quit competitive chess a bit too early and could not reach the heights he was worthy of.
  4. Alireza Firouzja
  5. Fabiano Caruana

BCN: What are his favourite openings with the White pieces?

He plays 1.d4 pretty much all the time.

MegaBase 2020 has 294 games with 1.d4 and one solitary 1.g3 from March 2021. The 1.d4 games feature main line Queen’s Gambit / Catalan type positions championing 5.Nge2 against the King’s Indian Defence and the exchange variation against the Grunfeld.

BCN: and what are his preferred defences as the second player?

Really depends on what they play, against every opening he has got one or two lines which he enjoys equally.

Megabase 2022 informs us that Shreyas defends the main line Closed Variation of the Ruy Lopez and main line Giuoco Piano. Previously he essayed the Sicilian Najdorf.

BCN: Does he have any favourite chess books?

Not really as he is not such a big fan of chess books, but he likes My 60 Memorable Games by Bobby Fischer. Fundamental Chess Endings and Encyclopedia of Chess Combinations.

BCN: Which tournaments are planned for 2022?

We have pencilled in a couple of norm and Open (France, Spain, Germany etc.) tournaments in European countries.

BCN: What are his favourite subjects outside of chess?

His favourite subjects outside chess are Science, History, Maths with Science as his favourite, History as his second favourite and Maths as his third favourite.

BCN: Does Shreyas play any physical sports?

He does Football, Cricket and a bit of Lawn Tennis.

BCN: What are his plans and aspirations for the future?

To become a world chess champion one day, but it’s very expensive to even get to the level of IM! Currently we are looking for sponsors who can help support Shreyas to get there.

Here is his personal website.

In late December 2021 Camberley Chess Club had Shreyas as their weekly Zoom meeting guest speaker.

and finally three of SRs favourite games:

and from more recent times:

and finally:

FM Shreyas Royal at the London Chess Classic, 2021 courtesy of John Upham Photography
FM Shreyas Royal at the London Chess Classic, 2021 courtesy of John Upham Photography
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Minor Pieces 23: Cecil Alfred Lucas Bull Part 2

Last time we left Twickenham’s finest chess problemist, Cecil Alfred Lucas Bull, as he was about to emigrate to Durban in 1892.

Unfortunately, South African online records, both births, marriages and deaths, and newspaper archives, are few and far between, but we are able to provide a fairly comprehensive record of his chess career in the southern hemisphere, both as a player and as a problemist.

This problem, submitted to a London newspaper, dates from soon after his arrival in Durban.

Problem 1. Mate in 3: 1st prize winner Hackney Mercury 1894

And here, continuing where we left off last time, is FR Gittins again.

The Chess Bouquet Frederick Richard Gittins 1897

We know from some useful information on the Durban Chess Club website that he was one of the founders of the club and was Durban champion five times, in 1901, 1903, 1904, 1906 and 1911

Lucas Bull was one of the founders of the Durban Chess Club in 1893 and the first person to win the Durban championship on five occasions, running out the winner in 1901, 1903, 1904, 1906 and 1911. He also participated in the South African championships on three occasions, finishing 9th in 1897, 7th in 1899, and 2nd on his final appearance in 1906.

Lucas Bull was born in Twickenham (part of London) in 1869, and came from a very large family, consisting of five sons (he was the third son) and four daughters. His father, Thomas Bull, was a surveyor and auctioneer, and must have had a profitable business, as the Bull family employed four servants at the time (source: 1881 census).

Bull arrived in Durban in 1892 and apparently chose South Africa, rather than the United States, as they don’t play cricket in the USA! He was already the champion of the Twickenham Chess Club, and was starting to get an international reputation as a problemist. From the date of his arrival, up until the time that he discontinued serious over the board play in 1907, he was almost certainly the strongest player in Natal.

Source: Durban Chess Club website

Further information about his appearances in the South African Championships (1897: Cape Town, 1899 Durban, 1906 Cape Town) can be found on Rod Edwards’ indispensable EdoChess site.

Two games from the 1899 tournament, played in the shadow of the 2nd Boer War, are extant. Click on any move and a pop-up board will magically appear, enabling you to play through the games.


The Bock game. which was awarded a brilliancy prize, was published, for example, in the Newcastle Courant (17 March 1900). The van Breda game comes, via South Africa chess historian Len Reitstein, from the Durban Chess Club website (link above).

His best result was his second place in 1906, giving him an estimated rating of 2130: a strong club player at the time he gave up serious over the board chess (the 1911 Durban championship must have been a very brief comeback). The winner in 1906, Bruno Edgar Siegheim (1875-1952) was born in Germany, played chess in New York (1899-1904), South Africa (1906-1912) and England (1921-1926) before returning to South Africa. His best result was finishing 2nd= with Réti at Hastings in 1923, just half a point behind the great Akiba Rubinstein, which suggests he was IM strength.

We know very little about his life outside chess. It seems like he had enough money not to work and was able to devote his time to his hobbies. I presume he continued to play cricket in Durban, although newspapers from that period aren’t available online. There’s no archival record of Cecil ever having played first-class cricket.

What we do have is a couple of passenger lists.

A 1903 passenger list for a ship sailing from London to Port Natal lists Mr C A Lucas Bull (35), Mrs Bull (32), Miss B Bull (3), Mr C Bull (28). This looks like Cecil and his family visiting England and returning with Clifford, who was going to live with them in Durban. Cecil appears to have a wife and young daughter, but we have no further information about them.

A 1909 passenger list, again from London to Natal, offers Cecil Slade (sic) Lucas Bull, Eunice Chillingworth Lucas Bull and Bessie Lucas Bull. I have no idea where the Slade came from but it looks like he was married to Eunice and Bessie was their daughter.

He was still composing prolifically: here’s one from 1912.

Problem 2. Mate in 3: 1st prize winner Saale-Zeitung 1912

Cecil Alfred Lucas Bull Durban 15 September 1913 Source, Cleveland Public Library Digital Gallery

Here’s a photograph of him from 1913.

He continued composing successfully up until 1932, mixing heavyweight prizewinners with more lightweight offerings for the Natal Mercury. He died in Durban on 19 July 1935, at the age of 66.

Problem 3 is another first prizewinning mate in 3 from the latter stages of his career: British Chess Magazine 1931.

In 1960 Cecil’s friend and occasional collaborator Donald Glenoe McIntyre published Sonatas in Chess, a collection of 136 of his best threemovers (South African Chessplayer). This is a rare book and second hand copies go for high prices. I saw a copy for sale back in the 1980s but didn’t buy it – I really should have done.

I occasionally publish his more accessible problems on the Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club website: see here and here.

At present I have no idea about what happened to Eunice and Bessie. I can find no information about anyone with the forenames Eunice Chillingworth, and the 1927 London marriage of Bessie L Bull to Robert Douglas King-Harman isn’t the same person.

There’s a prominent South African businesswoman named Wendy Lucas-Bull, who is married to Clive Lucas-Bull, and whose father-in-law is, or was, Leslie Arthur Lucas-Bull. Any connection? If you have any further information about Eunice, Bessie or any other relation do let me know.

Cecil Alfred Lucas Bull, chess champion of Twickenham and Durban, and multiple prizewinning problemist, this was your life.

Join me again soon for another delve into the Twickenham Chess Club menagerie.

Sources and acknowledgements:

Problems and solutions from Yet Another Chess Problem Database

EdoChess (Rod Edwards)

Cleveland Public Library Digital Gallery

Durban Chess Club website

Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club website

Thanks to Dr Tim Harding for The Chess Bouquet by Frederick Richard Gittins

Problem solutions:


1.♕a1! ~ 2.♕e5+ ♔d3 3.♘e1# 1…♔d5 2.♕×a8+ 2…♔d6 3.♗e7# 2…♔c5 3.♗e7# (Model mate) 1…♔f5 2.♕b1+ ♔g4 3.♕e4# 1…♔d3 2.♕b1+ ♔c3 3.♗d2# (Model mate) 1…♖×g5 2.♕d4+ ♔f5 3.♘h4# (Model mate) 1…♘g4 2.♕d4+ ♔f5 3.♕d3# (Model mate)

Model mates were much valued at the time.

From Wikipedia:

model mate is a type of pure mate checkmating position in chess in which not only is the checkmated king and all vacant squares in its field attacked only once, and squares in the king’s field occupied by friendly units are not also attacked by the mating side (unless such a unit is necessarily pinned to the king), but all units of the mating side (with the possible exception of the king and pawns) participate actively in forming the mating net.


♗c8! ~ 2.♗×d7 ~ 3.♗e6# 1…♗b1 2.♕a1 A ~ 3.♘e7# B 2…d×c6 3.♗e6# 2…♔×c6 3.♗b7# 3.♕a8# 1…♗×b3 2.♘e7+ B 2…♔e5 3.♕a1# A 2…♔d4 3.♕e4# 2…♔c4 3.♕e4# 1…d×c6 2.♕×c6+! 2…♔d4 3.♕e4# 2…♔×c6 3.♗b7# 2…♔e5 3.♕d6# 3.♗c3# 1…♘f7 2.♘×d7 ~ 3.♘×b6# 3.♘f6# 2…♔e6 3.♘d4#

Some more model mates here, as well as sacrifices and corner-to-corner queen moves, something of which Bull was very fond.


1.♕d8! ~ 2.h3+ ♔×h5 3.g4# 1…♖b4 2.♗×g6 ~ 3.h3# 1…♔×h5 2.♗d1+ ♘e2 3.♗×e2# 1…g5 2.♕d7+ 2…♔×h5 3.♕h3# 2…♔h4 3.♕h3# 2.♕c8+ 2…♔×h5 3.♕h3# 2…♔h4 3.♕h3# 1…g×h5 2.♕d4+ ♔g5 3.h4#

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Minor Pieces 22: Cecil Alfred Lucas Bull Part 1


Surrey Comet 5 March 1887

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

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

Let’s take a look.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hampton Wick Royal Cricket Ground. Author’s photograph.

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

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

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

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

From The Chess Bouquet by Frederick Richard Gittins (1897)

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

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

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

Sources and Acknowledgements:




Problems and solutions taken from Yet Another Chess Problem Database.

Thanks to Dr Tim Harding for The Chess Bouquet.

Solutions to problems:


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


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


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

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Minor Pieces 21: Robert Davy Ganthony

Surrey Comet 15 January 1887

You’ve seen this match result before. On board 5 we have Mr R Ganthony, a man with an unusual surname. It should be possible to find out more about him.

Unlike the other players we’ve seen, he was from Richmond, not Twickenham or Teddington, but there were three Mr R Ganthonys (Ganthonies?) of chess playing age in the household: Robert Davy Ganthony and his sons Robert junior and Richard.

A match the previous month, also against Acton, where he drew his game on board 3, gave his middle initial: Mr R D Ganthony, so that tells us it was the father who played chess for Twickenham.

If you come across an unusual surname you can do a one-name study. I’ve done a study of the surname Badby, for example. This name was relatively common in the Middle Ages but all but one branch died out, so if you have this name in your family tree at some point over the past 200 or 300 years you’re related to me!

It turns out that Robert Davy had a famous father and grandfather, as well as three famous children. Famous in their day, that is, but all (apart perhaps from his father) forgotten today.

The family were originally from Exeter (the earliest record available online dates back to 1662), but our branch moved to Bristol at the end of the 17th century.

The first important Ganthony was Joseph, born in Bristol in 1739, the son of Joseph and Susannah, a musician, whose work brought him to London in about 1766. He played the violin and double bass, and also composed popular songs, which would have been performed in the pleasure gardens of the day, and church music. When Hector Berlioz visited London in 1851 (did he also take the opportunity to visit the first international chess tournament while he was there?) he was moved to tears on hearing one of his hymn tunes. He was also a schoolmaster at St Giles’s Cripplegate School in the City of London. No death record has been found for him, but school records mentioning his name go up to 1785. You can read more about him – and even play one of his hymn tunes if you have a keyboard to hand – in the October 1 1903 issue of The Musical Times here.

Joseph married Elizabeth Davy in Bristol in 1762: they seem to have had a large family, although several of their children died in infancy. Our interest is in Richard Pinfold Ganthony, born in London in 1771.

Richard chose a different career, achieving fame and fortune as a manufacturer of clocks and watches. his pieces are very collectible today.


Here, for example, is a rosewood bracket clock, which sold for £2390 at Bonham’s in 2004. (Their information about the family, I believe, is incorrect: Richard Pinfold’s father was Joseph, not Richard, but it’s possible that Richard Pinfold’s son, another Richard, might have been apprenticed to him.)




This is a rare and beautiful clock barometer, made in about 1830. We’re told that Richard Pinfold Ganthony is listed in “Barometers Makers and Retailers 1660-1900 by Edwin Banfield: as a clock and chronometer maker at 63 Cheapside London between 1821 to 1845, he is considered as a good and important maker of his day…

This gold framed pocket chronometer manufactured in about 1815 (the frame has an 1814 hallmark) is described as a ‘very interesting timepiece’. Again, the source gets the two Richards confused, but we learn that he was apprenticed to Thomas Miles until 1794 and became a master in 1828. It fetched €4000 at a recent auction. We also learn that he moved from Lombard Street to nearby Cheapside at some point between 1815 and 1821.

Richard Pinfold Ganthony married twice, and seems to have had four children from each marriage. One of the sons of his first marriage, Richard Junior, may well have been apprenticed to him. He died in London in 1845, but a death record for Richard Junior doesn’t seem to be available.

His second marriage produced twin sons, Charles and Robert Davy. Charles disappeared after the 1841 census, but we know quite a lot about our man Robert Davy Ganthony.

In 1847 he married Caroline Henrietta Harvey in Paddington, and children were born there in 1849, 1851 and 1852. But in the 1851 census Robert is nowhere to be found. Caroline is unexpectedly in Caernarfon, on the North Wales coast, with 2-year-old Robert junior and baby Edith, described as an ‘artist’s wife (landscapes)’. Well, I guess there were a lot of good landscapes to paint there, with Snowdonia on one side and views across the Irish Sea to Anglesey on the other.

Marian was born back in London in 1852, but by the time of Emily’s arrival in 1854 (sadly she died the following year) they’d moved to Liverpool. The Liverpool Mercury of 3rd February featured an announcement from Mrs Brooks, widow of the late Mr John Brooks, that his practice would be taken over by ‘Mr Ganthony, a gentleman with great experience in every department of dental surgery, from London’. He’s no longer drawing landscapes (at least not professionally), but drawing teeth instead. Perhaps he’d studied dentistry in the 1840s, but took a break to work as an artist. A second son, named Richard after his grandfather, was born there in 1856, followed by Charles Alfred in 1859 and Kate in 1861.

By 1863, he appears to have retired from dentistry and moved to Richmond, where Ada was born that year, followed by his youngest child, Harry, in 1866. In the 1871 census Robert, Caroline and their eight surviving children are all living in Eton Lodge, in the town centre, close to the parish church. Robert Davy Ganthony has reverted to being an artist. Caroline is once again an artist’s wife, Robert and Richard (only 14) are both involved in clerical work, no occupation is listed for the two older girls, while the younger children are all at school. Their two servants, Elizabeth Smith and Rebecca Bull, had both been with the family a long time. Rebecca was working for them twenty years earlier in Wales, and they were both in the household in Liverpool ten years earlier.

By 1881 not a lot had changed. Robert senior was still an artist, and still married to Caroline. Also at home were the four youngest children, along with Robert Junior, now an actor and author, and his wife. Their faithful servant Rebecca Bull was still there as well. It was this stage of his life that saw his brief career in competitive chess: from his position in the Twickenham team he must have been a reasonably proficient player, and must have played socially most of his life.

In 1891 he was still in Richmond, now an artist and sculptor, with his wife and four of his children: Marian, a schoolteacher, Charles, a clerk, Ada, an actress and Harry, a macramé mat maker. Rebecca Bull had by now retired to a nearby almshouse and had been replaced by a young servant.

Caroline died the following year, but Robert was still going strong. In 1901 he was living with his daughter Marian, his unmarried sister Maria, and, again, a teenage servant.

Robert Davy Ganthony kept active to the end of his life. He was always a keen cyclist, although it’s not entirely clear whether it was he or his oldest son who had been fined for riding a velocipede along a public footpath back in 1869.

And then, in 1905, this happened.

Sheffield Evening Telegraph 31 May 1905


An extraordinary story: what a way to go, and what a man he must have been.

(It seems that the streets of England at that time were full of elderly gentlemen named Robert suffering tricycle accidents. In August 1899, round about the time of his 76th birthday, Robert Padbury was thrown from his tricycle in Cox Street, Coventry. Although he was still in a critical condition he was sent home from hospital a few days later. He died the following March: it’s not known whether or not the accident was responsible for his death. How do I know this? Robert was my great great grandfather, and his name was originally Badby.)

It’s worth a look at three of his children. We’ve seen that Robert junior was an actor, dramatist and society entertainer, and that his daughter Ada, whose stage name was Nellie Ganthony, was also an actress. They were both very popular performers in the days of Music Halls.

Frontispiece of Random Recollections by Robert Ganthony

Robert was nothing if not versatile. He wrote and performed comic songs, sketches and monologues (The Man with the Single Hair) in the fashion of the times, wrote textbooks on ventriloquism and performed conjuring tricks.

You can find a pdf of his book Bunkum Entertainments, which gives you a flavour of his act and, more generally, with the type of entertainment popular in his day, here and some of his monologues here.

Stock photograph:

Nellie started off in a double act with her brother before branching out on her own with her songs and ‘humorous, musical, & emotional sketches’.  She spent some time in North America in the mid 1890s, where she had a brief marriage to a wealthy barrister who was still married to someone else. On her return to England she married again, and continued her career until 1913, dying in 1952 at the age of 88.

Robert and Nellie’s brother Richard was a successful playwright, spending much of his time in the United States. His best known play was the 1899 comedy A Message from Mars, which was filmed three times in the silent movie era. His wife’s sister was the film star Marie Dressler.

So that was Robert Davy Ganthony, a man with some famous relations. A dentist, artist, cyclist, and, for a brief time, a Twickenham chessist.

Come back soon for another Minor Piece from Twickenham Chess Club.

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Minor Pieces 19: Sydney Meymott

You saw this result in my recent article about the Coward family. There are some other names of interest in this Twickenham team.

On board 5 for Twickenham was Sydney Meymott. Many players, like Arthur and Randulph Coward, only play competitive chess for a few years before moving on to another stage in their lives. There are others for whom chess is a lifelong obsession: the Complete Chess Addicts (now that would make a great book title!), and Sydney was one of those, with a chess career lasting almost half a century.

He came from a distinguished family. His grandfather, John Gilbert Meymott was a prominent lawyer, and his father Charles Meymott a doctor whose other interests included cricket and chess.

Charles played two first class cricket matches for Surrey, but without success. Against the MCC in 1846 he was dismissed without scoring in the first innings and made 4 not out in the second innings. Against Kent the following year he failed to trouble the scorers in either innings. He also failed to take any wickets in either match.

In 1848 he submitted a ‘beautiful study’ to Bell’s Life, as you can see below.


Bell’s Life 3 September 1848

A few weeks later the solution was published, failing to provide any moves but just saying that White will win a pawn and the game.

But as you can demonstrate for yourself (or verify using tablebases) this is complete nonsense: the position is drawn with best play.

A celebrated cricketer who composed a beautiful study? I think not.

Earlier in 1848, he’d submitted a mate in 4 to the Illustrated London News, which was at least sound, if not very interesting. You can solve it yourself if you want: the solution is at the end of the article.

Problem 1:

#4 Illustrated London News 12 Feb 1848

In about 1859 Charles, his wife Sarah (née Keene, no relation, as far as I know, to Ray) and their three daughters (a son had died in infancy) emigrated to Australia, where his brother Frederick was a judge. The family must have been well regarded there. If you visit the suburb of Randwick today, not far from Coogee Beach, you’ll find a residential road there named Meymott Street, with Frederick Street running off it.

From there Charles submitted another mate in 4, slightly more sophisticated this time.

Problem 2:

#4 Illustrated London News 26 Nov 1859

The following year, Sarah gave birth to a son, who was given the name of his home city: Sydney.

Charles Meymott had started out in conventional medicine but at some point he had converted to homeopathy. You can find out a bit more here, although some of the links no longer work.

Charles died in 1867 at the age of 54, and his widow and children decided to return to England. I wonder if he’d been able to teach his young son how the pieces moved.

In 1871 Sarah and young Syd were living in Queen Street (now Queen’s Road) Twickenham: perhaps the girls only returned to England later.

By 1881 the oldest girl had married and moved to Scotland, but Sarah and her three youngest children were now at 4 Syon Row, Twickenham, right by the river.

The road is so well known that a rather expensive book has been written about it.

Photo copyright Richard James 2021

It was from there, then that, at some point in 1883 or 1884, the 23-year-old Sydney Meymott joined Twickenham Chess Club.

Here he is again, in a match played in October, now on Board 2 against Brixton. You’ll see George Ryan on top board, with Wallace Britten and the Coward brothers lower down. Young Edward Joseph Line (not Lyne), born in 1862, who had played for Isleworth against Twickenham earlier in the year, was on Board 3, although he was one of only two Twickenham players to lose.

Surrey Comet 11 October 1884

If you’re interested in this part of the world, you might want to check out my good friend Martin Smith’s new book Movers and Takers, a history of chess in Streatham and Brixton. A review will be appearing on British Chess News shortly.

Syd had decided on a career as a bank manager, and his training would have involved working at different branches gaining more experience before managing a larger branch himself. This was perhaps to be his last appearance for Twickenham, but we’ll follow the rest of his life in this article.

Just a couple of weeks later he wrote to the Morning Post:

Morning Post 27 October 1884

Disraeli Road is conveniently situated just round the corner from Putney Station, with its frequent trains to Waterloo. Impressive houses they are too: young Syd was doing well for himself.

The new chess club in Putney rapidly became very successful. Inevitably, they invited Blackburne to give a blindfold simul in February 1886: Meymott was the only player to draw.

In December the same year, Sydney issued a challenge to his old club, with Putney winning by 5 games to 3.

Here’s what happened in the return match in the new year.

Source: Surrey Comet 15 January 1887

He was soon on the move again, leaving the good chess players of Putney to their own devices. Without their leading light the club struggled on for a few years before apparently folding. This time, Syd’s work took him to Honiton, Devon, where again he started a chess club. By now he was writing regularly to the Morning Post, solving their problems and sometimes submitting problems of his own – which were not considered suitable for publication.

In this game he demonstrated his knowledge of Légal’s Mate. (In this and other games in this post, click on any move to obtain a pop-up board and play through the game.)

Source: Morning Post 17 Dec 1888

Here, he was able to show off his attacking skills in the Evans Gambit, giving rook odds to another semi-anonymous opponent.

Source: Western Morning Post 26 Feb 1891

By now it was time for Sydney to move on again, this time back to West London, to Ealing the Queen of the Suburbs, where he’d remain for the next 40 years. He’d eventually become the Manager of the Ealing Broadway branch of the London and South Western Bank.

This time he didn’t need to start up a chess club: there already was – and still is – one there, founded in 1885. As a bank manager, he was soon cajoled, as bank managers usually are, into taking on the role of Honorary Treasurer.

In this game from a local derby against Acton, Black’s handling of the French Defence wasn’t very impressive,  allowing Meymott to set up a Greek Gift sacrifice.

Source: London Evening Standard 25 Nov 1895

Meymott commented: … it may interest some of the younger readers and stimulate them to ‘book’ learning, the game being a forcible example of the utility of ever being alert to the well-known mating positions… Sixteen years later, the young Capablanca played the same sacrifice in the same position. Perhaps he’d read the Evening Standard. Learning and looking out for the well-known mating positions is still excellent advice today.

In May 1896 Sydney made the headlines in the local press for reasons unconnected with either chess or banking. He was one of those stuck for 16 hours on the Great Wheel at Earl’s Court, and was interviewed at length about his experiences by the Middlesex County Times (30 May 1896 if you want to check it out). Fortunately, a lady in his car managed to let down a reel of cotton, so that they were able to receive refreshments, in the shape of stale buns and whisky and soda, from the ground.

A match against Windsor in 1897, where he was described as a ‘bold dashing player’ saw him pitted against an illustrious opponent in Sir Walter Parratt, organist and Master of the Queen’s Musick, and a possible subject of a future Minor Piece.

Windsor and Eton Express 20 February 1897

Life at Ealing chess club continued with a diet of inter-club matches, internal tournaments and simultaneous displays, with Syd often successful in avoiding defeat against the visiting masters.

In 1899, approaching his forties, he married Annie Ellen Nash. They stayed together for the rest of his life, but had no children.

In this 1902 match against Richmond, Ealing scored an emphatic victory helped by the non-appearance of Richmond’s board 2. A future series of Minor Pieces will introduce you to some of the Richmond players from that period in the club’s history.

Middlesex & Surrey Express 09 April 1902

As he settled into comfortable middle age, life continued fairly uneventfully for Sydney and Annie. The 1911 census found them at 18 Uxbridge Road, Ealing, which seems to have been in the town centre, possibly above the bank.

Many clubs closed down during the First World War, but Ealing, with Sydney Meymott still balancing the books, kept going. Electoral rolls from the 1920s record Syd and Annie at 23 Woodville Road, Ealing, and very nice it looks too. A spacious detached house just for the two of them. In 1921, he was in trouble with the law, though, receiving a fine for not having his dog muzzled.

At some point in the 1920s, Sydney would have retired from his job as bank manager, giving him more time for chess, and time to resume submitting games for publication. In his sixties, when many players would be thinking about hanging up their pawns, Syd, always the chess addict, took up tournament chess.

Hastings 1922-23 was what might have been Meymott’s first tournament. Unfortunately he had to retire ill with 1½/6 in First Class B section.

In 1925 he visited Scarborough, playing in the Major A section. He won a few games but didn’t finish among the prizewinners.

In 1926, using his favourite French Defence, he managed to beat Fred Yates in a simul. The complications towards the end are intriguing: do take a look.

Source: Middlesex County Times 23 Jan 1926

That Easter Syd took part in one of the First Class sections of the West of England Championship at Weston-Super-Mare, finishing in midfield.

Later the same year, representing the Rest of Middlesex against Hampstead, he played this game against Ernest Montgomery Jellie. White’s 11th move looked tempting but turned out to be a losing mistake: Jellie’s knight was very shaky on d6 and his position soon wobbled.

Source: Middlesex County Times 16 Oct 1926

At this point it’s worth taking a slight detour to consider Meymott’s opponent. Ernest Montgomery Jellie and his wife Emily, who sadly died young, had three Jellie babies. Their daughter Dorothy married Sidney Stone, and one of their sons, Chris, inherited his grandfather’s love of chess.

I knew Chris very well back in the day, when he was involved with Pinner Junior Chess Club, where his son Andrew was one of their star players.  Chris was an enthusiast rather than a strong player himself,  but Andrew is both. He’s been a 2200 strength player for many years, representing Streatham in the London League as well as his local club, Watford.

You can read much more about the Jellie-Stone connection here (Martin Smith again).

After Christmas 1926, Sydney went down to Hastings where he took second prize in the Major C section with a score of 7/9. Well played, Syd!

On his return, he played this game. This seems to have been in a handicap tournament, where, instead of giving knight odds, the players agreed that Meymott would play blindfold.

Source: Acton Gazette 14 Jan 1927

At Hastings 1927-28 he scored 50% in the First Class B section. Easter 1928 saw him back at the West of England Championships, held that year in Cheltenham, where he galloped to victory in the Class IIB section, scoring 7½/9.

The British Championships in July 1928 took him further west, to Tenby, where he played in the First Class A section, sharing third prize with the aforementioned Ernest Montgomery Jellie on 6½/9, but again beating him in their individual game.

Source: Britbase (

He was back at Hastings 1929-30, where he scored a respectable 5/9 in the First Class B section.

In September 1931 he did what many chess players of that period did: he retired to Hastings, after four decades living and playing chess in Ealing. He was soon playing for his local club.

In a match against Brighton in 1932 his opponent was Kenneth Gunnell, who would much later become, briefly, a rather controversial member of both Richmond and Twickenham Chess Clubs.

That would be one of his last games. On 7 February 1933 Sydney Meymott died at the Warrior House Hotel, St Leonards on Sea.

Writing about Ernest Montgomery Jellie, Martin Smith summed him up beautifully:

But who is he, and why should we be interested? There two reasons that come to mind.

One is that he turns out to be an exemplary specimen of an ordinary decent chesser, the sort often overlooked in histories of the game. He and other enthusiasts like him, then and now, are the body-chessic upon which the chess bug spawns and beneficently multiplies. Stir E.M. Jellie together with the rest and you get the thriving chess culture that we all know: the one that germinates the few blessed enough to rise to the top.

Replace E.M. Jellie with Sydney Meymott, and the same sentiments apply. A good player, but not a great player. For almost half a century a stalwart of club, county, and, later, congress chess. A club treasurer for many years, but in his younger days also a founder and secretary of two clubs.

In these days of chess professionalism, even at primary school level, of obsession with grandmasters, prodigies and champions, we’re at risk of losing the likes of Jellie and Meymott. We should be developing chess culture in order to develop champions, not the other way round. And that celebration of chess culture is one of the reasons why I’m writing these Minor Pieces. My friends at Ealing Chess Club today should certainly raise a glass to Sydney Meymott.



1. Bxg5+ Kg6 2. Bf6+ Kh5 3. Ng3+ Kh6 4. Bg7#


1. Nxd5 gxf3 (1… Rxb5 2. e3+ Kc4 3. Nb6#) (1… Bc3+ 2. Nxc3 Bd5 3. e3+ Kc4 4. Bxd5#) (1… Bxb5 2. e3+ Kc4 3. Nxb6#) 2. e3+ Ke4 (2… Kc4 3. Ndc7+ (3. Nc3+ Bd5 4. Bxd5#) 3… Bd5 4. Bxd5#) 3. c3 Rxb5 (3… Bxd5 4. Bxd5#) 4. Nf6#


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Minor Pieces 16: Nicholas Demetrio

Last time I wrote about Oliver Harcourt Labone. Further research has revealed more information about his mother and both his (probable) biological and step-fathers, along with further coincidences. No chess, this time, I’m afraid, but some great stories.

Let’s start with Richard Austwick Westbrook. He was a solicitor, born in 1815: his father, also Richard, would, on at least two occasions, hit financial problems. He married in 1841 and had four children, but his wife died in 1852.

At that point he employed Anne Topley, the daughter of a canal agent from Long Eaton, Nottinghamshire, as a governess for his children, bought another house and instructed her to bring up the children there while also running it as a boarding house. At some point, Richard and Anne started an affair. On 20 May 1854, an Arthur Westbrook, son of Richard Austwick and ‘Annette’ was baptised at St Mary’s Paddington, but there’s no matching birth record and no further evidence of him. On 18 May 1855 they married clandestinely at St Paul’s Hammersmith, and two sons were born: Rowland Martin in 1857 and Oliver Harcourt in 1858.

At some point things started to go wrong. Richard moved into lodgings with Janette Cathrey while Anne took an interest in one of the lodgers in her boarding house: a Greek merchant named Nicholas Demetrio who had moved there in 1857. It’s possible, I suppose, that Nicholas rather than Richard was Oliver’s biological father.

The Demetrio family, it seems, had been running dodgy businesses for years. The company was started by Nicholas’s father and seemed to involve his brother Antonio, perhaps another brother, Gregory, and possibly another brother as well. They apparently had branches in Trieste and Cairo as well as London and Liverpool. Looking at passenger lists of ships coming into England, there are various Demetrios there, including a Demetrio Antonio Demetrio, who might have been either Antonio or their father, claiming various nationalities including Italian and Austrian. It’s quite possible, as we’ll see, that they were using various pseudonyms as well, perhaps including Labone.

In August 1859, however, Demetrius Antonio di Demetrio was declared bankrupt, ‘having carried on business as a merchant, in the Greek trade, under the title of Messrs. A. di Demetrio and Sons. It’s not at all clear to me exactly how many Demetrios there were.

Meanwhile, Nicholas encouraged Richard to move up to Liverpool to start a company there which would bear his name, but would actually be run by the Demetrios. While he was away, ‘intimacy took place’ between Nicholas and Anne, and in 1860 a son, Clement Leslie, was born, with the birth record giving false surnames for both parents.

And then, at the end of March 1860 there was an extraordinary court case held just down the road from me in Kingston. If you have access to online newspaper sites I’d encourage you to look up Whitmore and others, Assignees, v. Lloyd. The reports make hilarious reading. Basically, the Demetrios’ creditors were trying, unsuccessfully as it would turn out, to get their money back. It was claimed that Antonio and his brother Nicholas were setting up bogus companies in various names such as Lebous (not all that far from Labone), Dalgo (not all that far from Clement’s birth surname Dalba) and Lambe. Likewise, the company Richard Westbrook was setting up in Liverpool was equally fraudulent. Anne Westbrook was involved in all this, as was a friend of hers named Mary Anne Bridget Martin, both of whom gave evidence in the case. I can find nobody of that name in that area in the 1861 census or anywhere else, so she might also have been a fraud. We’ll meet her again later.

Neither Antonio nor Nicholas was present at the hearing: both had apparently disappeared without trace. Of course we now know that Nicholas was, by 1861, living in Glasgow under the name Labone.

Moving swiftly forward, we reach June 1861, when the divorce courts heard the case Westbrook v Westbrook and Demetrio. Richard was suing Anne for divorce because of her adultery with Nicholas. He, it was believed, had left the country (yes, he was in Scotland) and did not appear. As always in those days the court decided it was the woman’s fault and granted Richard a decree nisi. Nicholas’s name appears in court reports as ‘Nicolas Antonio di Demetrio’ which prompts the question of whether Nicholas and Antonio were the same person.

About this time Anne must have moved up to Glasgow with Rowland, Oliver and Clement to join Nicholas, where they lived as husband and wife. Anne was now calling herself Annie Mary Labone, and giving her maiden name as Copley rather than Topley. Nicholas set up business as a Professor of Languages, teaching French, German and Italian, and in 1862 their daughter, Flora, was born. Again, things didn’t work out: in November 1863 he was declared bankrupt, and worse was to come when their baby son Gregory, named after one of his possible brothers, was born prematurely and died after only 36 hours.

We find the family in the 1871 Scottish census, by which time Nicholas had joined Glasgow Chess Club and, apart from playing on a high board, was very much involved in the club’s administration. But at some point fairly soon afterwards they split up and, separately, moved down to the Liverpool and Manchester areas. At some point he might have resumed his chess career: a player named Demetrio represented Manchester against Liverpool in 1881 and 1883.

Annie now came up with a new idea to make money: for thirty years she would send begging letters to newspapers and magazines asking for charity for her elderly and infirm friend, Miss Mary Ann Bridget Martin – the friend from the 1861 court case – and selling various quack remedies. In 1879 she was running a seminary for young ladies in Birkenhead. A professor of languages at the school, one Charles M Grabmann, was accused of assaulting an elderly cook who had refused to make pea soup, but the case, predictably, was dismissed. I can’t find anything else about Grabmann, whoever he was. Perhaps yet another fraud. In 1882 she was declared bankrupt, described as a widow and former schoolmistress.

But she wasn’t a widow at all: Nicholas was still alive and well. He was living in Barrow-in-Furness, where, also in 1882, he married a teenage girl named Ellen or Helen Bowkett. (In those days Ellen and Helen were interchangeable, which reminds me of another Minor Piece I intend to write at some point.) He’d also changed his name again, to Demet, a shortened version of his real surname. Shortly after the marriage they moved to Manchester. According to the birth records they had four sons between 1885 and 1891, followed  by a daughter in 1897. The 1891 census lists an older son, Broderick, born in about 1883 but there’s no birth or any other record for him. He claims to be aged 53 (he was certainly several years older), a Professor of Languages and born in Versailles (who knows?). He was still there and still in the same occupation in 1901, but by 1911 he wasn’t at home. Helen was there, claiming to be married rather than widowed, and telling us they’d had six children, all of whom were still alive, but there’s no sign of Nicholas and no death record has yet been found. Anne, meanwhile, had died in Liverpool in 1899.

Returning to London and the year 1861, just a few weeks after the divorce, Richard, during an argument at the kitchen table following a visit to the opera, threw a table knife at Janette Cathrey, ‘an extremely portly woman’ with ‘a protruding belly’, who may or may not have been his mistress, hitting her in the abdomen and causing a fatal injury. A first trial found him guilty of manslaughter, but a second trial cleared him. Just a year later he married again, to Emma Louise Shipman, who was more than twenty years his junior. Richard and Emma had two sons, Henry and Alexander.

In 1881, Henry was a law student: it must have been intended that he would follow in his father’s footsteps, but he would eventually choose several very different careers. By 1891 he’d moved to, guess where?, Leicester, where he and Alexander were running a pub. Alexander had married and had three young children. In 1901 Henry was still in Leicester, but now working as a printer’s clerk. He’d married a widow with two young children, but Alexander and his family are nowhere to be found. Perhaps they were abroad.

By 1911 Alexander and his family were in Brixton. He was now working as a Variety Agent, with his son helping him and his two daughters employed as dancers. They were doing well enough to afford two domestic servants. Henry was still in Leicester, and in the same business as his brother. He was described as a Music Hall Manager, and was living with his wife, his step-daughter and his widowed mother.

If you check his address, he was just half a mile, or thereabouts, away from Oliver Harcourt Labone, his presumed (assuming Richard was indeed his father) half-brother. Quite a coincidence. I presume neither of them had any idea. If either of them had walked a mile or so to the south, they could have visited the Victorian terraces of Sheridan Street, the home of Tom Harry James. He was a house painter living with the five youngest surviving children of his first wife (there were 12 in total). He’d just remarried and would go on to have another six children, the youngest of whom, Howard, was my father.

And there’s more. Henry Westbrook’s first wife died in 1913, and in 1920 he married another widow, Matilda Manger, who had been born Matilda Cort in Market Harborough. Now Cort has always been a common surname in the Leicester and Market Harborough areas, and there are many in my family tree. One particularly interesting branch, related to me by marriage, for example, goes back to Benjamin Cort who was born in nearby Great Bowden in 1644. Now Matilda was the daughter of Charles Cort, who was in turn the son of Robert. At the moment I can’t take this back any further as there were several Robert Corts born in Market Harborough at about the same time. But it’s reasonable to assume that Matilda was from the same family as the Corts who married into my family at various points. So perhaps I can claim a connection, via a couple of marriages or so, to Henry Westbrook, and therefore also to Oliver Harcourt Labone.

It’s quite a story, isn’t it? All three of them, Richard, Anne and Nicholas, seemed to be crooks, fraudsters, con artists, liars and more, and all regularly in financial trouble. You really couldn’t make it up. It’s hardly surprising that Oliver had so many problems in his life.

Nicholas, for all his faults, was clearly a highly intelligent and well educated man, fluent in several languages and also a reasonably proficient chess player. Perhaps it required the skills of a chess player to set up the elaborate fraud upon which his first business was based. Anne seemed to have a knack of falling for unsuitable men. Richard was, among other things, a violent, if unintentional, killer.

You’ll meet my grandfather’s family again another time, but for now it really is time to return to Twickenham, and perhaps some more chess.

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Minor Pieces 12: George Edward Norwood Ryan

The chess players of Richmond and Twickenham had more than two decade to wait before another club arose in their area.

A chess club in Twickenham opened its doors for the first time, probably in Autumn 1880. This is the first of a series of articles looking at some of their members between 1881 and 1906.

I should point out here that there will probably be a lot more information available online once the Richmond & Twickenham Times is digitised. I’m not the only local historian who’s been waiting years for this. But we still have quite a lot of information about who their members were and what they did, both at the board and in the rest of their lives. A pretty interesting bunch they were as well, with some even more interesting relations.

The early 1880s were times of great change in the English chess world. Over the next couple of decades chess clubs would be transformed from somewhere for gentlemen to play their friends over a glass of brandy and a fine cigar to something resembling the evening chess clubs we know today, competing in leagues against other clubs in the vicinity. One early sign of change was the foundation of the British Chess Magazine in 1881.

It’s in the first volume that we find the first readily available mention of the new Twickenham Chess Club.

We have a report of a simultaneous display by Isidor Gunzberg (sic), an up and coming London-based Hungarian, who, within a few years, would be considered one of the world’s strongest players.

It was quite impressive, I guess, for a new club to welcome such an illustrious guest.

Simultaneous displays were very popular at the time, and so were handicap tournaments, in which stronger players would give a material handicap to their weaker clubmates.

We read that Mr Ryan, who would be a significant figure in the story of Twickenham Chess Club, won the handicap tournament and was also the last to finish against Gunsberg.

We need to find out more about him.

When I’m travelling by bus to the Roebuck, I usually take the 481 to Princes Road, Teddington, from where it’s a 10 minute walk, passing, if I choose, the residence of GM Daniel King, to reach the former venue of Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club.

Source: Google Maps

As I turn into Princes Road I pass this rather impressive residence at No. 1: it was previously known as Fulwell House.

Let’s knock on the door and see who’s at home.

We’re going to meet George Edward Norwood Ryan and his family.

George was an Irishman, born on 29 July 1825 (a day earlier and he’d have been a century and a quarter older than me) in the delightfully named village of Golden, County Tipperary, half way between Tipperary itself and the town of Cashel. The Ryans are still there now: if you visit Golden today you’ll find Eamonn Ryan Family Butcher and Conor Ryan Car Detailing. Are Eamonn and Conor related to George? Or to each other? Who knows? George was the son of Francis John Ryan, an army officer, but he would choose a different career.

His father died when he was very young, and, at some point, he moved to London where, in 1855, he married Mary Anne Wilkes. They would have a large family, seven sons, two of whom died in infancy, and five daughters.

He’s elusive in the 1851 and 1861 censuses, but in 1871 he’s living in Belgravia with his family and three servants, employed as a ‘précis writer’. Within the next year or two he moves out of the smoke to leafy Teddington, to the house pictured above.

The 1881 census tells us he’s ‘engaged on parliamentary blue books’, which are reports of proceedings in parliament, so presumably he’s writing précis of parliamentary debates for these books. A skilled job, and one which must have paid very well. And, when not engaged in his parliamentary work, he’s playing chess at the new Twickenham Chess Club.

Ryan would continue his active involvement until at least 1896, by which time two of his sons, E Ryan (probably Ernest Keating Woods Ryan rather than Edward Francis Maxwell Ryan, who had married and moved out of the immediate area) and George Norwood Ryan, were also playing. George junior would later cross the river to Kingston and change his allegiance to Surbiton Chess Club in the first decade of the 20th century. George Edward Norwood Ryan would eventually die at the age of 90, after a long and successful life, leaving effects to the value of £4224 14s.

George junior and Ernest are both of some interest. No, sadly Ernie didn’t become a milkman, and nor did Edward, under the name two-ton Ted from Teddington, drive a baker’s van. Instead, Ernest was an accountant and company secretary, who married and had two daughters. His younger daughter, Honor, married James de la Mare, a nephew of Walter, and the oldest of their three sons, another James, would marry Diana Street-Porter, sister-in-law of Janet.

Talking of Walter de la Mare, his house in Twickenham, South End House, at the end of the rather lovely Montpelier Row, is currently on the market. It’s yours for a trifling £10.5 million. Me, I think I’ll have two of them. Across the road at the other end of Montpelier Row, you’ll find, appropriately enough, the site of North End House, the home of Henry George Bohn.

George Norwood Ryan has a sadder story to tell. His marriage to Isabella Anderson would produce three sons, Lionel, Warwick and Edward, and one daughter.

Here’s Warwick:

Warwick John Norwood was the second son of George Norwood Ryan (Merchant’s Shipping Clerk) and Isabel Ryan (nee Anderson).

He became a 2nd Lieutenant 19 Dec 1914 having been a private in Inns of Court Officer Training Corps. He went to Gallipoli in October 1915 with the Dorset Yeomanry (Queens Own) and following this he continued service in the Middle East in the Imperial Camel Corps. He was reported Killed in Action 5 Sep 1916.

Source: Herts at War – a community led project to commemorate the diverse experiences of Hertfordshire during the First World War.

And here’s Edward, who lost his life just three weeks before the end of the war:

Date of Birth: –/–/1896 — Place Of Birth: Kingston-Upon-Thames — Father: George Norwood Ryan — Mother: Isabella Ryan — Siblings: Leonel Ryan, Warwick John Norwood Ryan, Isabel Ryan — Date of Death: 22/10/1918 — Cemetery: Harlebeke New British Cemetery — Rank: Captain — Service Type: Army — Battalion, sub-unit or ship: 12th Battalion — Regiment/Unit: East Surrey Regiment — Service Record: Won the Military Cross — Census Years: 1901, 1911

Source: People | Surrey in the Great War:

The citation for his award of the Military Cross:

T./iCapt. Edward St. John Norwood Ryan,
12th Bn., E. iSurr. R.
During operations on 14th October, 1918, north of Menin, he showed great gallantry and fine leadership whilst commanding a
company. He led his men forward to the final objective through a dense fog, maintaining perfect direction and touch throughout, and consolidating the position. His company captured several strong points, many prisoners, and a quantity of war material.

Source: data.pdf (

It’s often assumed that the upper class officers kept themselves safe while leading their lower class troops to their death. In fact:

Very large numbers of British officers were killed. Over 200 generals were killed, wounded or taken prisoner; this could only have happened in the front line. Between 1914-18, around 12% of the ordinary soldiers were killed. The figure for officers was around 17%.

Source: The National Archives Learning Curve | The Great War | Lions led by donkeys? | Officers & men | Background

Their older brother, Lionel, survived the war, and, like his father, became a ship broker. His employment with Canadian Pacific took him to Hong Kong.

He was interned by the Japanese after the fall of Hong Kong and was the 111th person to die in the Stanley Internment Camp. He died on February 27th 1945 and is buried in the Stanley Cemetery.

Source: Lionel Ernest Norwood Ryan | Christ Church, Oxford University

So George Norwood Ryan, chess player from Twickenham and Surbiton clubs, lost his two younger sons in World War 1 and his oldest son as a result of World War 2. He lived on until 1959, reaching the age of 94. His daughter also lived a long life, but, like all five of her aunts, never married. I know from personal experience that they weren’t the only unmarried sisters in Teddington.

The two Georges, father and son, were fortunate to have fought their wars over the chequered board rather than the bloody battlefield. As the Ryan family knew only too well, real wars are bad, but pretend wars are good.

We’ll be meeting George Edward Norwood Ryan again as we continue our exploration of Twickenham Chess Club in future articles.

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Minor Pieces 10: Henry George Bohn

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

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

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

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

Henry George Bohn

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

High Shot House, Twickenham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wheels within wheels. We are all connected.

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

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

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

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

Wikipedia: Henry George Bohn
Twickenham Museum: Henry George Bohn


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Whatever Happened to Human Effort?

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

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

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

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

Jim Adams
Worcester Park, Surrey

So who was Jim Adams?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is his entry on the ICCF web site.

Here is his entry from

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

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