Continuing my series about Arthur Towle Marriott’s Leicester opponents, we reach W Withers, almost certainly William. Apologies to those of you who’ve been eagerly awaiting this article, but I’ve been busy on other projects. You’ll find out more later.
Great song, and I hope you all have a lovely day, but this wasn’t William Harrison Withers Jr.
W Withers, sometimes WJ Withers (or were they two different people?), first appeared in Leicester chess records in 1874, when he was elected Club Secretary, and continued his involvement, representing Leicester, and the smaller club, Granby, in matches against other Midlands towns and cities, until 1900. But who was he?
Withers is a surprisingly common name in the East Midlands. One of James Towle’s fellow Luddites bore the name William Withers, but his family were from Nottingham rather than Leicester and seem not to have been related to the chess player.
There were several gentlemen named William Withers in Leicester at the time. We can assume, because, as a young man he was the club secretary, that he came from an educated background. The only W Withers who fits the bill is William John Withers, who lived most of his life in Leicester, although his birth was registered in the St Pancras district of London in the second quarter of 1853, and who died in the Harrow/Hendon area on 23 December 1934.
William’s father, George Henry Withers, was the son of John Withers, born in the chess town of Hastings. John had a varied career. Originally a lace maker, he joined the police, rising to the rank of inspector. He then went to work on the railways, first as a station master, and then as a railroad contractor, before becoming a commission agent, and, finally, a clerk at a coal wharf. Was there any job he couldn’t turn his hand to? In between times, he found time to father eight children: seven sons and a daughter. Not for the first time in Minor Pieces, his seventh son was named Septimus.
George Henry Withers was John’s eldest son. Born in about 1830, he followed his father into the railways, a very common occupation at the time. When he married Mary Ann Caunt in 1849, he was a railway clerk, living in the Leicestershire town of Melton Mowbray, famous for its pork pies. He was described as being ‘of full age’: it’s not certain that this was true. By the 1851 census he was a station master living in Orston, Nottinghamshire.
This was presumably Elton Station, now called Elton and Orston, half way between those two villages, which had only opened to passenger traffic the previous year. In 2019/20, it was the second least used station in the country.
He didn’t stay there long. By 1853, when our man William was born, he was in the St Pancras area of London, perhaps working at one of the London railway termini: St Pancras itself, Kings Cross next door, or nearby Euston.
Just a few months later he’d moved again. Sadly, the death of his oldest child, Albert, was recorded in Grantham, and he was buried in the nearby village of Great Gonerby, whose inhabitants are known as ‘Clockpelters’, from their habit of trying to strike the face of the church clock with stones or snowballs.
We pick him up again in 1857, when, now working as a bailiff, he was appointed a Freeman of the City of Leicester. Later census records see him working as a commission agent, an accountant, a bookkeeper and a gardener. Like his father, a many of many skills and occupations.
It’s more than time to find out more about William John Withers. His first job was as a clerk in a coal office, and when he married in 1873, he was still in the same job. His wife, Annie Clarke, was the daughter of a house painter, the same occupation that was followed by my grandfather Tom Harry James. Their first child, Horace, was born the following year, when William was also elected to the post of Secretary of Leicester Chess Club. It seems that he didn’t stay in that post long, though.
On 29 October 1880, he represented Leicester in a match against a visiting team from Nottingham Chess Club, where he faced Minor Pieces hero Arthur Towle Marriott.
The Leicester Chronicle (6 November 1880) reported what sounds like a convivial affair. Half way through, they all stopped playing to witness a presentation to Mr Sharland, the Leicester Club Secretary, who, in less than five years, had increased the club membership from 18 to 61. Various speeches were made before the gentlemen of Leicester and Nottingham resumed their games.
It seems that only one game was played on top board, while the other boards played two games each. Arthur Towle Marriott, the only Nottingham player to win both his games, seems to have been playing on too low a board.
Here’s his game with White.
The game followed well known (at the time) Evans Gambit theory for some way. Black’s 7th move is brave: 7… Nge7 and 7… d6 are most often played, but the engines like 7… Nf6 8. e5 d5. 10… b5 was also a bold choice: again 10… Nge7 would have been more circumspect. Marriott had stronger, but difficult, options on move 13, but his choice proved successful when the Leicester man blundered horribly in reply.
Three weeks later the Leicester chessers visited Nottingham for the return match, this time with a much weaker team. Mr Bingham’s restaurant provided an excellent supper, with speeches and toasts, before play started. Arthur Marriott, after his success in the earlier match, had been promoted to board 3, and again found himself facing William Withers.
The Nottingham Journal (27 November 1880) reported on an overwhelming victory for the home team. 11½-2½ was very different from the earlier 5-8 defeat.
These matches appear to have been social events rather than the competitive inter-club matches with which we’re all familiar. Although there was considerable interest in the result, the eating and drinking seemed just as important. Perhaps that’s how club matches should be.
Again, we have the game where Marriott played White against Withers.
This time, Withers chose to avoid the Evans Gambit, but playing 3… Nf6 without knowing the theory isn’t a good idea. Even then, it was known that 5… Nxd5 wasn’t best, giving White a choice of two strong options, 6. d4 and that primary school favourite, 6. Nxf7, the Fried Liver Attack.
Engines now confirm that 8… Ne7 in the Fried Liver is losing, but 8… Nb4 might just keep Black in the game. Marriott missed a couple of better moves, but Withers panicked on move 13, losing even more quickly and horribly than three weeks earlier.
By today’s standards, the chess of William John Withers makes a poor impression: a player with a patchy knowledge of opening theory along with tactical vulnerability.
Note that A F Atkins, who played for Leicester in these matches, was Arthur Frederick Atkins, originally from Coventry, and no relation to the great Henry Ernest Atkins, about whom more next time.
By now William had a new job: the 1881 census told us he was a bookseller in Loseby Lane, Leicester, only a few yards away from where a later and stronger Leicester chess player would, several decades later, also run a bookshop. You may well meet him in a future article. He was also just a short walk from what is now De Montfort University, the new home of the English Chess Federation library and also, as it happens, my alma mater.
An announcement in the Leicester Journal (5 January 1884) suggests that his bookselling business hit a problem.
It was time for him to turn over a new leaf. By 1891 he was an antiques dealer, having moved just round the corner to Silver Street, and doing well enough to employ a servant. The 1901 and 1911 censuses told the same story: in the latter year he styled himself a ‘dealer in genuine antiques’.
At some point after that, perhaps after the death of his father in 1913, he moved to London. The 1921 census, due for release next January, will reveal more.
We can pick William up again in 1932, when he made his last will and testament, granting generous bequests to his children and grandchildren. Still working as an antique dealer, his address was given as 48 George Street, Manchester Square, WC1, only a few minutes’ stroll from 44 Baker Street, where, had he been able to travel through time, he’d have been able to stock up on the latest chess books.
His antique dealing had clearly been very successful. He died in 1934, and probate records reveal that he left effects to the value of £15,240 17s 9d, which, depending on how you calculate it, amounts to anywhere between one and seven million pounds in today’s money.
So there you have it. While his chess playing didn’t impress, he played an important role in chess life in Leicester. Away from the board, in both business and family life, he seems to have done very well for himself. Well played, William John Withers!
BCN remembers Dr. Julian Farrand who passed on Friday, July 17th, 2020. He was 84 years of age.
Julian Thomas Farrand was born August 13th, 1935 in Doncaster in the West Riding of Yorkshire.
Dr. Farrand QC(Hon), formerly the Insurance Ombudsman, became the Pensions Ombudsman, and he had been a Law Commissioner and a University Professor of Law at the University of Manchester where he was Dean of the faculty.
Most recently he lived in Morpeth, London, SW1.
His first recorded game in Megabase 2020 was white at the 1968 British Championships in Bristol against life-long friend CGM Keith Bevan Richardson. Together with Raymond Brunton Edwards, Julian and Keith were long-time trustees of the BCFs Permanent Invested Fund (PIF).
Julian played for Pimlico, Cavendish and Insurance in the London League and he maintained a standard play grading of 172A in 2020 as well as a FIDE rating of 1943 for standard play. He also played in the London Public Services League, the Central London League and the City Chess Association League. He made regular appearances in the Bronowski Trophy competition and the World Senior’s Team Tournament.
His (according to Megabase 2020) peak Elo rating was 2238 in April, 2004 aged 69. It is likely to have been higher than that if it was measured.
Julian joined Barbican following its merger with Perception Youth to become Barbican Youth in the Four Nations Chess League (4NCL).
His favourite openings with white were : The Richter-Veresov Opening in later years and the English/Barcza Opening in earlier times.
With Black he enjoyed the Czech System and the Lenningrad Dutch.
His son, Tom, is a strong player and a successful barrister with expertise in Intellectual Property Rights, Trademarks and Copyright law.
His wife (married in 1992), Baroness Hale of Richmond, served as President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom from 2017 to 2020, and serves as a member of the House of Lords as a Lord Temporal.
Memorial messages have been posted on the English Chess Forum and many will, no doubt, follow. Included are older games from John Saunders not found in the online databases.
In 2015 Julian (together with fellow trustees Keith Richardson and Ray Edwards) received the ECF President’s Award for services to the Permanent Invested Fund.
Here is the citation from the 2015 award :
“Julian is best known as the first-ever English ombudsman (in insurance). He is the husband of law lord Baroness Hale. I (SR) first met him at about the age of 12 year old when playing for my school. He is about four years older. Both Ray and Julian are members of the Book of the Year Committee and have been reviewing books for this purpose for many years. Both are quite strong chess players, indeed playing for England in the same team in the European 60+ Team Championship in Vienna 11-20 July 2015. Keith was to have been a member of the same team, but his wife’s ill-health forced him to withdraw.”
It’s midnight on 28 June 1816. a group of saboteurs breaks into Heathcoat and Boden’s lace mill in Loughborough, Leicestershire, determined to smash their machinery. John Heathcoat must have had advance warning: he’s ensured there are plenty of workers on hand to repel the invaders. Fights break out, gunshots are heard, and one of the watchmen, John Asher, is hit, blood pouring from a slug in back of his head. Asher’s companions are forced to the ground at gunpoint, and the saboteurs destroy all 55 of the lace making machines, steal some lace and make their escape.
These men are Luddites, taking their name from the perhaps mythical Ned Ludd. Campaigning against poor working conditions and grinding poverty they see no option but to use violence to pursue their aims.
The leader of the insurrection, James Towle, from Basford, near Nottingham, is identified and quickly arrested. Although he himself did not fire the shot that hit John Asher, he is convicted, sentenced to death and publicly hanged in Leicester on 20 November. The following year, six more members of Towle’s gang, including his younger brother William, are also hanged, and another two transported to Australia.
Were they heroes or villains? Terrorists or martyrs? You decide. There are always people on the wrong side of history. The Industrial Revolution brought destitution to many, but there were others who saw an opportunity to join the burgeoning middle classes, perhaps by starting up their own shop or factory. This is the story of one of them.
Time moves on. The clock ticks. The calendar pages are turned over.
It’s now 19 October 1818. James and William’s cousin Catherine, also in Basford, marries Richard Green. In 1820 Catherine gives birth to a daughter, who is named Sarah.
We spin forward to 1844, when Sarah marries Thomas Marriott, from nearby Bulwell. He is most likely the Thomas Marriott baptised there on 9 March 1817, whose parents are listed as Joseph, a Framework Knitter, and his wife Mary.
One thing we know about Thomas is that he’s a keen chess player, whose sons will also learn how to play. I’m not sure how common chess was amongst the framework knitting community at the time: perhaps Thomas saw a knowledge of the Royal Game as a way into the middle classes.
Here’s a game played by one of his sons, a devotee of gambit play. ‘Septimus Placid’ was probably top Nottingham player Sigismund Hamel.
By 1851 he’s already doing well. We pick him up in the census, where, remaining in the local lace-making industry, he’s left his humble origins behind. He’s a lace maker and tea dealer, trying out another line of business on the side, it seems. Sarah is there with him, along with their three sons, Edwin, Thomas and Henry, and he’s sufficiently well off to be able to employ a servant.
In 1861 he’s a lace manufacturer, suggesting perhaps a slightly higher status than a lace maker, which is what Edwin is doing. Sadly, Thomas junior had died in 1855, but the family is now completed by Henry, John, Sarah, another Thomas, Frederick and Arthur. John, Sarah and Arthur were all given the middle name Towle in honour, as was the fashion at the time, of their grandmother Catherine. (The census record has been transcribed as Maniott: thanks to Jon D’Souza-Eva for discovering this, which had eluded other historians, and pointing it out to us.) I wonder whether Thomas knew about his wife’s nefarious relatives, and, if so, what he thought of them.
The 1871 census (name transcribed incorrectly as Marrett) tells us Thomas is now employing 4 men and 5 boys. Edwin and John have left home, but Sarah and the other children are still there. No doubt chess is often played.
Here’s another game, played by Arthur at Simpson’s Divan, which we visited in an earlier Minor Piece, against George Alcock MacDonnell, one of the top English (but Irish born) players of the day.
Thomas’s business continues to prosper: by 1881 he’s employing 34 males and 4 females. I hope he treated his workers better than John Heathcoat and John Boden did. Sarah and their two youngest sons, Frederick and Arthur, are at home with him.
Let’s stop to look at what happened to his children. We know that his six sons who survived childhood all played chess, and we have playing records for most of them.
Thomas’s youngest son, Arthur Towle Marriott, was the strongest and also the shortest lived. He’s the subject of a recent book recounting his gloomy fate and romantic chess. EdoChess awards him a peak rating of 2376, and, had he lived, he could have been a world class player.
Here’s one of his last and most brilliant games: he was living in Bournemouth at the time, hoping the sea air would improve his health.
Two of Arthur’s brothers were also pretty decent players, taking high boards for Nottingham in matches against other Midlands towns. The oldest brother, Edwin, had a peak rating of 2275 and draws to his credit against Teddington resident and future British Championship contender George Edward Wainwright and, in his final recorded game, against the young Henry Ernest Atkins. Away from the chessboard he followed in his father’s footsteps as a lace manufacturer, possibly taking over his business interests when he retired.
Thomas Walter Marriott was of similar strength to Edwin, with a peak rating of 2244: again, by the standards of his day, a formidable player. Thomas Walter was, like many chess players, an accountant, and, also like many chess players, never married. At least up to 1911 he chose to live in boarding houses, even though he had inherited property after his father’s death.
John Towle Marriott’s life took a different course. He chose to train as a minister of religion, specifically the Unitarian movement, who believed in the unity of God, rather than the Trinity accepted by most Christians. He settled near Salford, marrying the daughter of a celebrated reporter and antiquary, but died of typhoid fever in 1890. He didn’t seem to play club chess, but returned to Nottingham in 1886 to take part in the 3rd class tournament of the Counties Chess Association, which he won with 6½/9, a performance rated by EdoChess as 1780.
Sarah Towle Marriott may well have played her brothers at home, but chess was, back in those days, considered an almost exclusively male activity. You might think we haven’t made much progress in that respect in the past century and a half. Her first husband, who died young, was a colliery agent who had business interests in London – the 1881 census found the family in Fulham, which, as far as I know, has never had very many coal mines. Their son Harry Marriott Burton was interesting: he was an artist who travelled the world – Canada, South Africa – painting wherever he went, ending his life in Queensland at the great age of 96. His paintings are now quite collectible.
Thomas Marriott’s other two sons are mysterious, as you’ll find out.
The 1891 census finds him, now a retired widower, living with his daughter Sarah, herself widowed, and her two surviving children.
By 1901, now aged 84, he’s living with an otherwise unknown Francis Marriott, who appears to be his full time carer. My guess, as there’s no other Francis around, and because the age is right, this is really Frederick: either the enumerator made a mistake or he’s using a false name for some reason. He’s there with his wife Lizzie, from Derbyshire, and an 11-year-old daughter, Ethel, who, unexpectedly, was born in Vancouver, British Columbia. The last we heard of Frederick was in the 1881 census (he appears to have taken part in a consultation game the same year), and I haven’t been able to find any further sighting of Frederick or Francis in England, Canada or anywhere else. It’s all a mystery.
Thomas’s other son, Henry, is also elusive. He’s living at home in 1871, working as a clerk in a coal office, but then disappears from view.
Thomas lives on until 8 September 1906, dying in the Coppice Asylum, a private institution in Nottingham. I would guess that he was suffering from some kind of dementia in the last few years of his life.
His will makes interesting reading. He seems to have been fairly wealthy, owning several properties, which are shared between Sarah (who also received his personal effects), Thomas Walter and Frederick, with specific instructions that nothing should go to either Edwin or Henry. Perhaps Edwin, having inherited the family business, was well catered for anyway. Perhaps, though, there was a falling out with both Edwin and Henry. Perhaps he chose to reward Sarah and Frederick, who had both been caring for him in his old age, and Thomas Walter, who had been involved with the legal side of the will. Perhaps he had no idea wither or not Henry was still alive. The inheritance for Frederick seems to suggest again that he and Francis were one and the same person, but who knows?
Finally, let’s return to Edwin. He had nine children, several of whom are also remarkably difficult to track down. This is very unusual for the time: one is tempted to ask questions about the family dynamics. My particular interest is with the oldest of them, Arthur James, who married Frances Keywood, the possessor of a relatively unusual surname. (There used to be a lace manufacturing company in Nottingham called Cooper & Keywood.)
The Keywoods were one of several families in Nottingham who intermarried a lot, but Frances must have been related in some way to Doris Keywood, who married Louis James there in 1915. His great grandfather Thomas James (whom you’ll meet again another time) was also my 3x great grandfather. Wheels within wheels. There are always stories. There are always connections. And this is the story of how I’m connected to Arthur Towle Marriott and his chess-playing brothers. It’s also the story of how the game of chess has always been shaped by societal shifts: as we move now from the industrial to the post-industrial (and post-pandemic) age chess will change again. By learning lessons from history we can be proactive in deciding how chess should be promoted and organised in future.
Between 31 August and 9 November 1888, five prostitutes were brutally murdered in Whitechapel, in London’s East End. Their killer was never caught, and is known to us now as Jack the Ripper. Several later murders in the same area might have been committed by the same person.
What you all want to know is this: did Jack the Ripper play chess?
Hundreds of possible suspects have been mentioned over the years: almost everyone, it seems, who was in the right place at the right time, and even some who almost certainly weren’t.
Several of these suspects have chess connections.
First on our list is the artist Walter Sickert. From The (Even More) Complete Chess Addict: ‘According to a well-argued book by Stephen Knight, Jack the Ripper … was in fact the painter Walter Sickert as part of a three-man team. One of the things we know about Sickert was that he was a keen chess-player’.
Sadly, this source is notoriously unreliable. I searched the newspaper archives for any connection between Sickert and chess. All I could find was a critic’s view of a portrait of political activist and atheist Charles Bradlaugh: ‘But the clever artist should have placed a chessboard on the table over which the intellectual face of Mr. B. is bending. He habitually plays chess, I am given to understand, with members of the high aristocracy, and recently checkmated a Bishop.’ This must surely refer to Bradlaugh, who was known to be a chess player, rather than Sickert, although history doesn’t record whether the famous atheist used a bishop to checkmate the Bishop. Perhaps Mike Fox had read a biography of Sickert which provided more information, but I can find no evidence of the artist being particularly interested in chess.
More recently, the crime novelist Patricia Cornwell took up the theory of Sickert being Jack, but I don’t think the evidence stands up.
Number two on our list is none other than Lewis Carroll. We know, of course, that he was a chess enthusiast: you can read more here. I’ve known the compiler of this information, Roger Scowen, on and off for many years: we recently exchanged emails and hope to meet up soon for a few games once it’s safe to do so. But was Carroll Jack the Ripper? To me, it seems like a totally ridiculous suggestion.
Moving swiftly on, let’s visit the Langdon Down Museum of Learning Disability in Teddington – and if you’ve never been there you really ought to. Some of the inmates there at Normansfield were identified by John Langdon Down as having a specific genetic condition which is now known as Down Syndrome. Others, like James Henry Pullen, might now be diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. Facilities were also available for members of wealthy families with mental health conditions, one of whom, who features, with a mention of his chess prowess, in a display in the museum, was Reginald Treherne Bassett Saunderson. Saunderson certainly didn’t have an intellectual disability, but today he’d probably be diagnosed as schizophrenic. His story is told here.
In this game he was winning most of the way through against a strong opponent, but eventually came off second best.
Saunderson was certainly a pretty good chess player, and certainly killed a lady of, reputedly, ‘ill-fame’, but, born in 1873, he was much too young to have been the original Jack the Ripper.
Let’s try again. Lord Randolph Churchill, Winston’s dad, was certainly a chess player, and certainly an opponent of Steinitz. By all accounts he was a pretty unpleasant and unpopular man, but, although he sometimes appears in lists of possible suspects, there’s absolutely no evidence that he had anything at all to do with the Whitechapel Murders.
Finally, meet S Swyer. He played Steinitz in the second round of a handicap tournament at the City of London Chess Club in 1871-72: among the other participants was J Swyer, a first round loser. Tim Harding (Steinitz in London) suggests that the two Swyers were probably brothers, but doesn’t provide any further information. Swyer is an uncommon surname so it’s not too difficult to find out more.
The Swyer family came from near Shaftesbury, in Dorset. Walter Swyer and Sarah Lush (Buckland) Swyer had a daughter, Sarah, followed by seven sons. Walter and Robert, John and George, James and William, and, as was the custom in educated families at the time, their seventh son was named Septimus. Let’s get J Swyer out of the way first. John was a bank manager who spent most of his life in Dorset. James was a chemist and druggist, living in Bethnal Green in London’s East End at the time of the 1871 census, so it must have been him, rather than John, who played chess at the City of London Chess Club.
S Swyer, then, was Septimus. In 1871 he was a General Practitioner, living in Brick Lane, Spitalfields, not very far from his brother Jim. As well as being a GP he specialised in obstetrics and gynaecology.
Both Swyers were placed in Class IV (of V) at the City of London Club, so when Steinitz was paired against Septimus he took the white pieces in both games, but had to play without his queen’s knight.
This game suggests that Septimus was a reasonably competent player, but handicapped by a lack of opening knowledge.
It was much the same story the second time around, but here the game was truncated when Swyer, in a difficult position, hung a rook.
Swyer was a colourful character whose life was not short on controversy. In 1861 a cat, allegedly belonging to his neighbour, broke into his shop and shattered all his medicines, including a bottle of Godfrey’s Cordial, but the narcotic had no effect on the feline intruder. He sued for damages, but his neighbour claimed it was a different moggy and the case was thrown out.
His first wife died in 1874 and he remarried in 1880. It was stated his second wife’s husband was still alive (it seems he lived until 1912) and she was tried for bigamy, but acquitted.
In 1888 he was still in the same area, but in 1891, shortly after the last possible Ripper murder, he suddenly emigrated to the USA. He certainly had financial problems, but who knows?
Dr Septimus Swyer was in the right place at the right time, had the required medical knowledge, and left the country in a hurry. Only circumstantial evidence. Was he Jack the Ripper? Unlikely, I would have thought, but at least, unlike our other four chess-playing (or perhaps not in the case of Sickert) suspects, a possibility. I guess we’ll never know.
It’s Monday 28 August 1871. Join me at Simpson’s Divan in the Strand, where, after a satisfying lunch of roast beef, accompanied by a bottle of their finest claret, followed by a glass of brandy and a Havana cigar, we adjourn to the chess room to watch the great Wilhelm Steinitz in action.
He introduces us to his friend Mr Sich, who is, he informs us, a wine merchant. The two gentlemen are engaged in an exciting battle. At one point Herr Steinitz is a rook ahead but his king seems to be in trouble. He manages to survive and win the game, but could Mr Sich have done better?
I reach into my pocket. “Look, Herr Steinitz! I’m a time traveller from 150 years into the future. I can press a few buttons on this small machine and talk to anyone in the world. I can press a few more buttons, enter the moves of the game you just played and show you both where you went wrong.”
“You might have been impressed by Ajeeb, but my machine is a million times better. You see, Mr Sich, you might have played your rook to queen one on move 28, announcing check to Herr Steinitz’s king. You were still winning, though, but on move 32, if you’d played your queen to queen’s knight five you could then have exchanged everything off on queen seven and advanced your king’s bishop’s pawn to the end of the board. Two moves later, you could still have drawn by exchanging rooks, but instead you left your own king defenceless.”
But now it’s time to bid our farewells and leave: we have a journey to make. Our destination is Hammersmith. We’re excited by the prospect of travelling on the Underground Railway, so head for Charing Cross Station. Just eight weeks earlier, following a banquet attended by Mr Gladstone two days previously, the District Railway started running trains round part of what would become the Inner Circle. In a few years time we’ll be able to take the train directly to Hammersmith, and the line will later be extended to exotic destinations such as Richmond and Ealing. 90 years later a schoolboy playing his friends on the train between Ravenscourt Park and Richmond will develop a lifelong chess obsession, but that’s another story for another time.
For now, we must take the underground train as far as Paddington, and change onto the Hammersmith and City Railway. When we reach our destination we spot a pub called the George just round the corner: it was rebuilt in 1911 and is now part of the Belushi’s chain. We could stop for a drink there, or in several other pubs nearby, but instead we’ll take a stroll down King Street.
After half a mile or so we’ll pass what is now Hammersmith Town Hall, which we visited in our last journey, and notice, in 2021, that it’s being redeveloped. If we look across the street we’ll see Dalling Road, and the building which, we hope, will soon be the site of a new Mind Sports Centre.
Then we pass another pub. This was the Hampshire Hog, but is now just the Hampshire, serving Indian cuisine as well as beers, wines and spirits. Mine’s a pint of London Pride: what are you having?
Why have I brought you here? Because this pub, like the George and many others in the area, was owned by the Sich family. The brewery was purchased by one John Sich in 1790 and later run by his sons, John junior and Henry. The two brothers both had numerous children, many of whom were involved in the family business.
But let’s stop there. News has just come in that Herr Steinitz and Mr A Sich played again two days after the game we witnessed. Again, Herr Steinitz survived a totally lost position to win, in an encounter which was even more exciting that their previous game, with a lot of bamboozling tactics. Probably worth a separate article, I think.
You’ll notice that Mr S missed a simple mate in 5 on move 38 before blundering away first the win and then the draw. Still impressive, though, that he could achieve winning positions in level play against the world’s strongest active player.
What else do we know about him? He was very active in the St James’s Club from 1860 onwards, where he was a second category player, receiving odds from Loewenthal and Valentine Green, but conceding odds to weaker players. We’ll meet at least one of his opponents, EE Humphreys, in a later article. He played published games on level terms against Steinitz in 1871, as we’ve seen, and against Loewenthal in 1873 and 1874, before disappearing from the chess scene. Tim Harding comments that his forename is unknown, but perhaps we can find out. Let’s continue our walk.
Back in the 1960s, when such things were allowed, the Hampshire Hog was the place where teachers from nearby Latymer Upper School would take their pupils for a drink. We’re now going to head away from King Street towards the river. Not so easy to cross the Great West Road, but we could perhaps cheat (as I’m an alumnus they might let me in) by following in the distinguished footsteps of the likes of GM Michael Stean and IM David Goodman, taking the school’s Secret Subway to the dining hall and the Prep department, and then out onto Upper Mall.
We’re now at the start of the notorious Round the River Run (or, in my case, walk) which takes you along the river, over Barnes Railway Bridge, along the towpath on the other side, across Hammersmith Bridge and back to where you started. We won’t do that now, not least because Hammersmith Bridge is currently closed for repairs, but will take a gentle walk by the river in the direction of Chiswick.
Passing the Old Ship, we’ll stop off at the Black Lion. Thanks for offering: I’ll have another pint of Pride. It would be rude not to, given how close we are to where it’s brewed. Above one of the corner tables is a portrait of local resident AP Herbert, whose wife was regularly seen at the Hammersmith Town Hall chess tournaments.
While we’re here, news comes in that Herr Steinitz and Mr A Sich have played another game.
I’m not sure what 7. Ng5 was all about: my pupils get their knuckles rapped if they play moves like that. Steinitz chose to go for the attack rather than regain the exchange on move 26, but Sich missed a draw on move 34.
It’s time to continue our walk, passing Fuller’s (London Pride) Brewery and soon reaching St Nicholas’s Church. Turning up Church Street towards the busy Hogarth Roundabout, a stark contrast to the bucolic views of the Thames, you’ll see a tower on your right with the words LAMB BREWERY. This was the name of the Sich family concern: little other than the tower remains.
But we still haven’t identified A Sich. Let’s return to John and Henry. John had a son named Alexander who was born in 1837, while, two years later, Henry’s son Arthur John was born. So we have two gentlemen named A Sich who were of the right age. As he was active from 1860 onwards, the older cousin seems more likely. A better reason is that, in the days when people were referred to by their full initials and surnames, the chess player was always ‘A. Sich’, never ‘A.J. Sich’. We also know from Steinitz that he was a wine merchant. As it happens, 1871 was a census year, so let’s travel back 150 years again and join the enumerator.
Here, in Church Street, where we’re standing now, is Arthur John, a brewer, with his wife and children. And just round the corner, in Sunbury House, The Mall, Chiswick, is Alexander, a wine merchant, with his wife (who just happened to be Arthur’s sister Helen: nothing like keeping it in the family) and children. This seems confirmation that it was Alex, not Artie, who played chess against Steinitz. We know quite a lot more about them as well. Al was very much concerned with municipal affairs throughout his life, while Art was involved with the army volunteers. Unlike his cousin, he seemed to prefer real soldiers to wooden soldiers.
Time for a final drink, I think. While we’re at the Hogarth Roundabout we could choose the George & Devonshire, which has probably always been a Fuller’s pub, but, to continue the theme of our pub crawl, we might prefer to walk up towards Turnham Green to visit another former Sich pub, the Lamb (formerly the Barley Mow, but its name was changed to that of the original brewery).
While we’re there, there’s another game to look at. Steinitz is White again and plays the King’s Gambit. Again, Sich is doing well at one point, but misdefends, allowing a neat sacrificial finish.
We could, I suppose, visit the Watermans Arms in Brentford, which comes with a recommendation from food critic and West London Chess Club secretary Andy Hayler. Close by is the Watermans Arts Centre, which in turn is across the road from the rather wonderful Musical Museum and a short walk from the London Museum of Water and Steam, which itself is just across the railway line from the new Brentford Stadium. Will they be seeing Premiership football there next season, I wonder?
We could also travel further west to the Bell in Hounslow. Back in the 1980s or thereabouts Hounslow Chess Club met nearby, and the Bell was often the venue for our post mortems after we played them in the Thames Valley League. There are plenty of other former Sich pubs still around as well: see the link below.
Before I leave you, there’s one further reference connecting Alexander Sich to the game of chess.
In 1903 the Chiswick Library Committee, of which Alex was a member, decided to allow their committee room to be used as a games room. Chess, draughts and dominoes were provided so that the local louts could avoid trouble by playing some nice quiet games.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as planned. The boys resorted to games of their own: ‘coddam’, noisy larking, horse-play and pitching cinders. The good citizens of Chiswick were not at all happy, and, after a few weeks, the club was closed down. Alexander Sich said that he did not regret that they had made the experiment. It could hardly have been more different from the pre-lockdown chess group at Whitton Library. There’s a moral there somewhere, but I’m not sure what it is. (Coddam, since you asked, is ‘an old game, usually with three players on each side, based around guessing which of the players’ hands is hiding a coin or button.’)
Meanwhile, the Sich Brewery hit problems during the First World War and was sold off in 1920. Their neighbour, Fuller’s, however, survives and thrives to this day.
This is the second of a series of articles about Steinitz’s English amateur opponents. The next instalment will be coming shortly.
Six months or so ago I had the opportunity to review Tim Harding’s excellent book Steinitz in London.
Whenever I see a game of chess I want to know more about the players, so did a bit of research into a few names that caught my eye. I threatened to write more about them at some point in the future. My first subject is Samuel Walter Earnshaw.
Tim gives two games played in Autumn 1866 between Earnshaw, a member of Birmingham Chess Club, and Steinitz. There’s another game further on in the book played at an unspecified date.
If you know anything at all about 19th century English chess history you’ll be aware of the number of clergymen who played. This seems to have been a specifically British – or even English – phenomenon.
Father Sam wasn’t one of the strongest of the Fighting Reverends, but he turns out to be rather interesting. He was born in Cambridge in 1833, the oldest child of Samuel and Ann (Wall) Earnshaw. Samuel senior (1805-88), originally from Sheffield, was a clergyman, but also a mathematician and physicist, still remembered today for Earnshaw’s Theorem. This is apparently something to do with magnetism, but I didn’t understand a word of the explanation. If you want to find out more I suggest you contact Dr John Upham, who studied this sort of thing for his doctorate.
And here, from an online family tree, he is. The tree also includes photographs of some of Samuel Walter’s brothers, but I haven’t yet been able to locate an image of the man himself.
He had a large family, and several of his sons emigrated to America, but his oldest son stayed in England, following in his father’s footsteps to Cambridge, and then into the church.
Samuel Walter held his first curacy in Bromley-by-Bow, in East London, from where, in 1858, he didn’t have far to go to watch Morphy in action. It was probably there that he first met Samuel Boden, who was to become a lifelong friend. (You might want to describe him as Boden’s Mate.) His next post was in Birmingham, from where he moved a short distance to the small village of Nether Whitacre, twelve miles or so from the city centre. By 1865, now in his early 30s, he was active in the Birmingham chess scene, and his games were being reported in local and national publications. But he also had to make time for his clerical duties. We can pick him up in the Nether Whitacre registers, which record baptisms, marriages and burials in the parish. Here he is, for example, at about the time he played Steinitz in 1866, officiating at three baptisms.
The following August, though, he was to be involved in a tragic incident. The Coventry Standard of 16 August 1867 reported:
Nothing sinister should be taken from this. These days we’d be suspicious of a vicar being ‘much attached’ to ‘fine youths’ and taking them for a swim in the river, but relationships between adults and children were very different in those times.
It’s understandable, though, that Samuel might have felt the need to move on. After a brief curacy in Wales his career, quite typically for the time, changed direction, and he took on the post of Headmaster of Archbishop Holgate Grammar School, Hemsworth, Yorkshire, not all that far from his family roots. In 1888 the school would move to Barnsley, where it would educate the likes of Michael Parkinson, while the new Hemsworth Grammar School would count Geoff Boycott amongst its most famous alumni.
His new job seems to have left him little time for chess, and we don’t hear from him again until 1877, when he appears to be a member of chess clubs in both Sheffield and Leeds.
By this time he may have come to the end of his time at Archbishop Holgate, and he shortly took on a new post as Rector of Ellough, in Suffolk. Here, the work was less demanding and he was also rather nearer London, so he was able to travel down to the capital’s chess haunts where he was once again able to indulge his passion by taking on the great players of the time. He was also very happy to submit his losses for publication, so there are quite a few games available in newspaper columns, which might be the subject of another article.
The next decade saw him continuing what must have been a relatively quiet life, bringing up his children, tending to the needs of his parishioners, and, once every seven weeks, at least up to 1884, visiting London for a few games of chess.
He died at the relatively early age of 54 in 1887. Perhaps he’d been unwell for some time as there’s no chess reference to be found for the last three years of his life.
An obituary, presumably written by another of the Fighting Reverends, George Alcock MacDonnell, appeared in the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News.
“He preferred being wrong with the books to being right with the innovators.”: yes, we all know players like this! It sounds like he was a solid and knowledgeable player, but perhaps lacking either the inspiration or the opportunity to reach master standard. A true and enthusiastic lover of chess, though, amiable, good-hearted and right-principled. A devotee of Caïssa could hardly hope for a better obituary.
The reference to Boden’s board and men is rather odd: I suspect there’s a mistake and it was actually Sam B who presented his set to Sam E before his death, not the other way round. I wonder what happened to the set: does anyone know? Perhaps it was handed down to one of his children.
That’s the end – at least for the time being – of Samuel Walter Earnshaw’s story. It’s not the end of my story, though.
Let me take you back to the church of St Giles, Nether Whitacre, on 30 December 1866. The foundation dates back to Norman times, but by then it may have been in a state of disrepair, as it would be rebuilt in 1870, not long after Samuel Earnshaw’s departure.
It’s the Sunday after Christmas, so the congregation will still be celebrating the birth of Christ as well as looking forward to the new year ahead. There, we see the Houghton family (they pronounced it Howton rather than Horton, I believe). They’re a bunch of, frankly, rather undistinguished farm labourers, like most of the parishioners, but they’re dressed up in their finery today for the baptism of baby William. We really want to talk to his Aunt Jane, though, a sister of Will’s father George. She’s ten years old and proud to be wearing her Sunday best. Shall we reveal what her future holds?
Jane will marry a man named Charles Woolley, a blacksmith from Berkswell, some ten miles to the south of Nether Whitacre. She will present him with four strong and healthy sons, but their two youngest children will sadly die in infancy.
Their oldest son, Thomas, will become a farmer: he and his wife Kate will have to wait 15 years, though, for their only daughter to be born. After Janet’s birth, her mother will be confined in the county Lunatic Asylum, perhaps suffering from what would now be called post-natal depression. Tom, needing help with the farm and the new baby, employs a housekeeper, a middle-aged widow named Florence Smith. One thing leads to another, and, by the time Kate returns home, Flo is expecting Tom’s child. It’s now 1921, and Betty will be brought up by two of Flo’s many sisters, moving to another part of the country to escape from the scandal which had made headlines in the local press. Betty will never be told the identity of her father. History doesn’t record whether or not Jane met, or even knew about, her granddaughter.
In time, Betty will marry, and her elder son will take up chess. He’ll develop an interest in chess history, and, in 2020, will be asked to review a book called Steinitz in London, where he will come across the name of Samuel Walter Earnshaw.
We’ll now travel back in time half a century, to Easter 1971, where, at Hammersmith Town Hall, he will encounter chess journalist and former international Leonard Barden, who, himself, fifty years on and now in his nineties, still writes excellent chess columns.
We’ll now go back to 1948-49, where a young Leonard Barden finished second in the Premier Reserves Major Section in the annual Hastings Congress. Among his opponents was the veteran German master Jacques Mieses. You’ll see that the game was drawn, but the moves were never published and Leonard didn’t keep his scoresheet, so I’m afraid you’ll have to make do with the crosstable.
Let’s turn the clock back again, more than half a century this time, but we’re still in Hastings, for the great 1895 tournament. A young Mieses is there too, along with the former, and first official, World Champion Wilhelm (or William if you prefer) Steinitz.
Their game was also a draw, although my fishy friend tells me Steinitz had a clear advantage at a couple of points. Mieses did well to hold on and share the point.
And, with the Steinitz – Earnshaw games you saw at the start of the article, we complete the circle. I played Barden, who played Mieses, who played Steinitz, who played the Reverend Samuel Walter Earnshaw, who knew my great grandmother, the scion of a family of humble agricultural labourers.
With the white pieces Ravi unsurprisingly plays the Moscow and Rossolimo variations against the Sicilian, the Ruy Lopez and, in recent years, he has take up the Reti/English complex.
As the second player he plays the French Winawer and (refreshingly) the Abrahams-Noteboom Variation of the Semi-Slav.
For your entertainment we have these two brevities :
Ravi has played for University College London. Hendon and Cavendish in the London and other leagues and in 4NCL he started with Kings Head, transferring to Cambridge in 2014 and finally moving in 2016 to Wood Green.
In this game Ravi punishes IM Malcolm Pein who has a bad day at the office :
Over the 19th – 23rd August 2021 Ravi played in the Wood Green Invitational round-robin event at Oddfellows Hall, Stafford.
Ravi scored 7.5/10 and secured his second Grandmaster Norm and a TPR of 2680.
Over the August Bank Holiday weekend of 2021 Ravi played in the Northumbrian Masters GM Tournament at the splendid Marriott MetroCentre, Gateshead winning jointly with Conor Murphy scoring 6.5/9 with a TPR of 2600. This gave Ravi his third and final GM norm. For the norm to be ratified at the next FIDE Congress Ravi will need to increase his rating to 2500 or beyond. As of September 2021 Ravi stood at 2465 for standard-play.
Jimmy was married to Sharon and they have a daughter, Charlotte.
In 1958 Jimmy at the age of 11 joined his local Islington Chess Club (at the time Islington & North London Chess Club) and soon afterwards became a London Junior Champion. Following this Jimmy played little chess and was working for John Lewis (echos of CHO’D Alexander!). Following John Lewis Jimmy worked as a Health and Safety Officer for Islington Council.
At this time Islington Chess Club was one of the strongest in England and included such members as Kenny Harman, Ron Harman, Danny Wright, Stewart Reuben and others. Its most famous member was probably IM Simon Webb
The Spasski-Fischer match of 1972 re-kindled his lapsed interest and he won with a 100% score the London Amateur Championship.
He joined and was a staunch member of London Central YMCA (CentYMCA) chess club and he wrote a privately published history of the club entitled The CentYMCA Story. This is now a much sought after publication. His membership continued during the 1970s until around 1979.
During this period Jimmy was extremely active at the Endell Street premises.
Here is Jimmy playing Viktor Korchnoi at Endell Street (in the Phase Two classrooms) :
In 1974 Jimmy embarked on a highly successful career as a writer and journalist. He authored a number of acclaimed books for Batsfords, The Chess Player, Caissa Books and latterly, New in Chess. His books on Chigorin, Zukertort and Breyer are universally regarded some of the finest chess biographies published.
In 1979 Jimmy joined Metropolitan Chess Club to play in the London League. He played top board and scored very highly with many significant scalps.
Jimmy gained his FM title in 2014 (at the age of 67!). 67 must be one of the most advanced ages to acquire an FM title. According to Felice his peak rating was 2300 in January 1981 aged 34.
He was registered with Metropolitan and Barbican Chess Clubs. He joined Barbican, as did many CentYMCA players, following the hiatus over their Tottenham Court Road venue loss.
In December 2009 Jimmy visited the London Chess Classic and was photographed with VIP guess Viktor Korchnoi :
Jimmy was Editor of CHESS / CHESS Monthly magazine from 1981 until 2010 although his name remained on the masthead until February 2012.
In 2012 Jimmy and Ray Cannon attended a meeting of the Ken Whyld Association in Norwich :
In January 2016 Jimmy (together with Josip Asik) became co-editors of British Chess Magazine taking over from James Pratt and John Upham. Jimmy then took on a role at the newly created American Chess Magazine and then worked for Pavillion Books on their newly acquired Batsford Book imprint.
In 2014 Jimmy and Ray attended an event organised by the father of Emma Bentley
We send best wishes to Michael Franklin on his 90th birthday.
Michael John Franklin was born on Monday, February 2nd, 1931 in Battersea, London to Albert George (27 ix 1906, Dover – ? iii 1983, Wandsworth) and Helen Ann Franklin (née Colson, 1908-2003) who married in the third quarter of 1928 in Wandsworth. Albert was a clerk as was his father.
At the commencement of the Second World War, when eight years old, Michael was evacuated to Frome in Somerset. As a consequence Michael would delight in playing in the Frome Congress whenever possible. He played in the first event in 1990 organised by Leon York (whose name is the memorial trophy for the Major section). The story of Michael’s return to Frome made its’ way in to the local newspaper and was reported by Gary Lane as follows :
From British Chess Magazine, Volume CX (110, 1990), Number 7 (July), page 296 :
“A special presentation by the sponsor, Mrs. Jean Mackereth, Managing Director of Keyford Frames, was made to Londoner Michael Franklin, who was returning for the first time in 51 years to the town to which he was evacuated during the war. His final appearance at Frome was in the 2010 event.
The Early Years
Michaels interest in chess started in 1944 aged 13 when he witnessed games being played on Clapham Common. He was fascinated by the pieces and taught himself to play, never receiving any formal coaching. He joined the Clapham Common Chess Club in 1944. (CCCC became incorporated into Battersea Chess Club some time later).
Apart from summer events such as the above the club had a Winter Section that played matches in the London League. The club won the first division (now known as the Brian Smith Trophy) of the London League in the 1946-47 and 1947-48 seasons. Michael played his final game in the London Chess League for Richmond & Twickenham on April 14th 2010 drawing with John Hodgson, giving a sixty year span.
In his formative years he played at the Gambit Chess Café, Budge Row, Cannon Street, London, EC4N. Many strong players regularly visited the Gambit to play skittles, blitz and the frequently held lightning tournaments hosted by the proprietor Mr GH White.
Events such as these enabled Michael to develop his quick sight of the board and his flair for tactical play.
Leonard Barden added :
“Michael made his name as a young player first by his successes in the Saturday evening Gambit Guinea speed events at the Gambit Chess Café in Cannon Street which he often won ahead of master level rivals. He remained a strong speed player all his life.”
In the early 1950s Michael was persuaded by his friends Aird Thomson (who was Scottish Boys’ Champion in 1932, and 1933 ( equal-first). In 1951 he was Scottish Champion. In 1954 he moved to London. He married Susan Mary Hamilton in 1961 who went on to become Scottish Ladies’ Champion in 1965.) and oriental carpet expert Robert Pinner to join the Richmond and Twickenham Chess Club playing for the club in the London League, Surrey Trophy and National Club Championship until he retired from competitive play 2010.
Michael’s first appearance in British Chess Magazine was in Volume LXVI (66, 1946), Number 2 (February). Page 52 contained this report of the 1945 London Boy’s Championship in which Michael reached the final A section :
On leaving school Michael joined a firm of Patent Agents remaining in their employ in the accounts department for around forty years before retiring in the late 1980s. His retirement was prompted by the firm’s adoption of electronic computers. When he retired he was Chief Cashier.
On June 18th 1960 Michael’s happiest day was when he married Jean Fey. They celebrated their diamond anniversary in 2020.
To the present day Michael has maintained an aversion toward modern technology. He did, however, concede to the ownership of a mobile telephone. This was for the specific purpose of updating Jean on his days progress in any chess tournaments where he was away from home.
In 1946 (aged 15) Michael won the Felce Cup awarded by the Surrey County Chess Association. A result indicating rapid improvement since Michael had only started playing competitively in 1944.
In 1951 Michael finished third in the Surrey Championships behind the winner Frank Parr and runner-up David Hooper. In 1961, 1966, 1968, 1969 and 1970 Michael won the Surrey Championship outright and made many appearences in county matches for Surrey from 1950 onwards until 2010.
Unfortunately Michael’s rapid progress was threatened by two bouts of ill health. In 1948 aged 17 Michael was diagnosed with Tuberculosis which lasted for eighteen months including a twelve month stay in the Royal National Hospital for Diseases of the Chest in Ventnor on the Isle of Wight. Aged twenty the TB returned leading to yet another twelve months illness.
Michael has suffered from ill health all of his life interrupting his chess career at various times. Fortunately the TB has not returned.
Michael won the National Chess Centre Championship in 1953 and 1955 being runner-up in 1954. The venue was Hill’s Restaurant, 158 Bishopsgate, London, EC2 opposite Liverpool Street Station since the original John Lewis department store venue was bombed in 1940.
The British Chess Federation first published a National Grading list in 1953 (using the Richard Clarke system). In the 1954 list MF appeared with a grade of 2A (225-232) and from then on with a grade of either 2A or 2B. In 1964 a numeric system had him at 225 ranking Michael 4th in England behind Penrose 244, Kottnauer 238 and Clarke 231.
Michael played many times in the annual Battle of Britain Tournament organised by Squadron Leader David Pritchard and his committee. He won it four times : 1959, 1960, 1961 and 1962.
The Ilford Whitsun Congress
The Ilford Whitsun Congress was a regular part of Michael’s season throughout the sixties. He won the Premier Reserves in 1961 ahead of Hilton, Hindle, Howson, Sales and Blaine and was runner-up to Kottnauer in 1962. In 1963 he went one step better by winning the Premier :
and here is the fifth round game :
In his tournament report PH Clarke wrote :
This buoyant, optimistic attitude of his is a great strength and always makes him a dangerous opponent.
Away from Home : International Progress
1964 saw selection by the BCF to play in the Tel Aviv Olympiad :
and scored a creditable 4/6. This was followed in 1965 with 3/5 in Clare Benedict tournament held in Berlin.
He played in the annual Anglo-Dutch match on no less than six occasions in 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1968 and finally in 1969. His aggregate score was an impressive 8/12.
On the national scene Michael repeated his 1963 victory at the 1969 Ilford Premier with a clear first place : Franklin 4; RG Wade and D Wright 3; JB Howson 2.5; BH Wood 2; PH Clarke 0.5.
In 1970 Michael won the London Championship which was also known as the Budget Cup which had last been held in 1956 . He followed this in 1972 by rightly earning the (now defunct) title of British Master.
Michael’s final appearance for England was in 1971 in the Cheltenham based Anglo-German match with a somewhat disappointing 0.5/2 against Juergen Dueball.
Michael played board two for London in a Telex match versus Belgrade playing Marjanovic. The game was drawn.
The Ultimate Prize : The Aaronson Masters
The Aaronson Masters at Harrow 1978 brought his best individual success at the age of 47, sharing first place with IM Aldo Haik of France and to boot, earning an IM norm.
Michael scored an undefeated 7.5/10 and finished ahead of Short, Speelman, Nunn, Hartston, Mestel, Webb, Basman, Botterill and numerous other illustrious players. Michael remarked of his lifetime best result that it was
just one of those occasions when everything went right!
But he scored 3.5/5 against the IMs, was alert to every opportunity, and the games show he owed little to luck.
Like many others Michael made appearences in Lloyds Bank events of 1977, 1978, 1984, 1989, 1991, 1993 and 1994.
The Hastings Years
Michael first played at Hastings in 1964 when he was invited to play in the Premier Tournament. The tournament was won by Mikhail Tal and Michael finished in last place.
Undaunted he returned to Hastings in 1968 to play in the Challengers tournament. One of the attractions of playing in the Challengers was that the winner received a place the following years Premier. Frustratingly Michael finished second three years in a row! In 1968 the Challengers was won by Danny Wright, in 1969 by Martyn Corden and in 1970 by Peter Markland. Finally, in 1971 his patience was rewarded and he won the Challengers and qualified to the following years Premier.
The 47th Hastings Premier of 1971-72 had been changed from the traditional 10 player all-play-all to a 16 player tournament. Also, having obtained sponsorship from various organisations the committee were able to invite some of the top names of the day. The sponsors were:
So, the entry included Karpov, Korchnoi, Andersson, Najdorf, Mecking, Gligoric, Unzicker and Robert Byrne to name but a few. This was undoubtedly the strongest Hastings Premier since World War Two and possibly the strongest Hastings Tournament since 1895.
Michael started well with a draw against the Rumanian GM Ciocaltea followed by a draw in with the Brazilian prodigy Mecking. In round three he surprised everyone by beating Ray Keene. With 2/3 things were looking promising. However, after this bright start Michael only managed a draw against Unzicker and a draw with Hartston finishing in a disappointing last place with a score of 3/15.
In the tournament report Peter Clarke opined
Franklin suffered the usual fate of the gifted amateur in a professional field of simply not being accustomed to this kind of chess.
Despite this Michael continued to play in the Hastings Challengers. He played in nineteen out of the next twenty-five years! He came close to winning the tournament in 1982: he was leading the tournament with a score of 7/8 when he was informed that Jean’s Father had passed away. Having drawn his ninth round game and needing only a draw in the last round to ensure at least a tie for first place he withdrew from the tournament and immediately left for home.
The Weekend Scene
Like all players with a full time job Michael had to play most of his chess at the weekend so the explosion of weekends tournaments in the early 1970’s gave him ample opportunities. His habit of playing quickly was ideally suited to the fast time limits of the weekend tournament. During the 1970 and 1980’s he was very successful. He won numerous events and was more often than not in the prize list.
In later years he restricted himself to London based tournaments and those in the West Country. His regular tournaments being Exeter, Torquay and old favourite, Frome. Michael at the age of 78 shared first place at Frome 2009. Frome 2010 was his farewell appearance.
Michael played for a number of clubs viz : Richmond & Twickenham, Coulsdon CF, Surrey CCA, 4NCL Richmond, 4NCL Bristol and Richards Butler to name but a few.
Finally, in 1980, Michael was awarded the FIDE Master title and achieved his highest rating (in the Elo era) of 2345 in January 1979. It is most likely that his highest ever rating would have been more like 2450.
Appropriately enough Michael was the inaugural winner of the BCF/ECF Senior Prix in 2000 and won it again in 2002 and 2003. The event last ran in 2006.
When Surrey won the counties championship a few years back the team took the trophy around to Michael’s home in Norbury, such was their regard for his contributions.
The London System
Any currently active club player cannot have missed the explosive rise to prominence of the system for White he developed :
The London System and Accelerated London System has acquired a huge cohort of followers in recent times probably not realising the debt they (and many authors, book and DVD publishers!) owe to Michael. If only he could have earnt a royalty every time it was played!
Also Michael had notable success as Black with the O’Kelly Sicilian 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 a6.
Life Outside of Chess
Michael had many interests apart from Chess. He was for many years a member of the Surrey County Cricket Club. After he retired he would arrange to meet fellow Surrey Member Frank Parr at the Oval and after lunch in the Pavilion they would spend the day enjoying the Cricket. Tennis was another sport that Michael followed. Michael was also interested in horseracing. Several players were surprised when visiting one of the racetracks around London to find Michael also attending the race meeting.
Michael was the typical “natural” player. He never studied the game and his only sources of opening information were the British Chess Magazine and the chess columns in The Times and the Guardian. He never kept the scores of his games. Once the game was finished it was time to move on. One of Michael’s greatest strengths was his optimistic attitude at the chessboard. No matter how bad the position he was confident of ultimate success.
Edith Elina Helen Winter-Wood was born, probably in 1859*, to Thomas Winter-Wood, a writer and poet, and Eliza Ann (née Sole) Winter-Wood in Boulogne, France.
(*Despite 22nd February 1859 appearing in Wikipedia we are unable to locate a primary source for this date. Contemporary secondary sources always just gave 1859 as her year of birth. Census records imply that she was born between April 1859 and March 1860. Her marriage record from 1st December 1880 describes her as being ‘of full age’: at least 21 years old, so born before December 1859. However, her death record from 1st February 1924 gives her age as 63, implying that she was born between February 1860 and January 1861. Either her death record is incorrect or she added a couple of months to her age when she married. )
Many secondary and tertiary sources incorrectly give the Winter-Wood family home of Hareston Manor (now a venue for weddings) near Brixton, Plymouth, Devon as her birthplace.
The family was resident in Boulogne in at least 1858 (as discussed below) and a UK birth certificate for Edith does not appear to exist. Having said that, a French birth certificate has yet to be located. Both Brian Denman and Chris Ravilious are satisfied that Edith was born in Boulogne and various census records attest to this. Ed: both Richard James and myself (JEU) have examined the evidence carefully and Boulogne would appear to be correct.
Thomas Winter-Wood was born in Har(e)ston, Devon in 1819 and was himself a strong player having been educated at Plympton Grammar School (now known as Hele’s School). Thomas was the son of John Wood-Winter who, in 1824, reversed the order of the family surname. Thomas sold the family estate leaving the Winter-Woods with substantial means, with each family member able to pursue their leisure interests whilst retaining a number of domestic staff.
Thomas taught all of his family to play chess and Edith learnt at an early age. Both Edward J and Carslake W also learnt early on, Edward (aged 11 in 1858) played members of Boulogne Chess Club giving them rook odds and ten years later Edward joined London Chess Club.
According to Tartajubow :
“(Edward) played in several tournaments and in blindfold simuls he drew two games against Lowenthal and one against Blackburne. In 1878 he joined the Croydon Chess Club and once in one of their tournaments scored 23-7. He also enjoyed success in many other club tournaments, correspondence chess and problem solving tournaments. Many of his problems appeared in leading publications of the day.”
and, also according to Tartajubow :
“Her other brother, Carslake W. Wood (1849 – 1924), lived with his mother’s brother, Major Sole of the 5th Militia of West York, in Torquay. While travelling Europe with the Soles, he also developed a taste for painting and on many occasions donated his paintings as prizes in chess tournaments.”
According to F. R. Gittins (in The Chess Bouquet 1897):
“The moves came to her, as she says, by a kind of instinct before she was out of her first decade. She did not, however, commence composing problems until some years after her marriage, which took place in 1880, to Deputy Inspector-General W. J. Baird, M.D., R.N., whose distinguished services have been mentioned in despatches and rewarded with four medals and two clasps. Eight years later she composed her first problem, and commenced a wonderful series of successes, having gained eleven first, nine second, and six third prizes, and been honourably mentioned nine times.”
According to the old ChessDevon web site (sadly only available via the WayBack Machine)
“In 1893, for instance, she entered The Hackney Mercury 3-mover tournament, with a limit of 6 pieces. Most of the great composers of the time had entered, – B. G. Laws, P. H. Williams and James Raynor among them, but she won 1st prize. As one American critic observed, ‘The fact that the tourney assumed an almost international character rendered the triumph of the distinguished lady victor as noteworthy as it was creditable’.”
Here is this first prize (1):
Baird, Edith Elina Helen Hackney Mercury, 1893 1st Prize
The problem solutions may be found at the foot of this article.
She very quickly progressed and was soon producing problems that were described as being “exceedingly pretty” and which ‘displayed unmistakable aptitude for the intricacies of chess.’ Her work 700 Chess Problems was published by Henry Sotheran Ltd in 1902 and took her 14 years to complete.”
Edith also had a brief career in chess competitions in the 1890s, winning the 1897 Sussex Ladies Championship without losing a game.
Few samples of her play survive, but they show her to be a proficient player with, as you might expect from a problemist, a keen tactical eye. In this game she finishes neatly with a queen sacrifice.
In this game, from a blindfold simul against the London-based Dutch organist and chess master Rudolf Loman (1861-1932), she uses a tactic to reach an equal ending.
According to the 1871 census the Winter-Wood household lived at “Hareston”, Tavistock Road, Croydon, Surrey and consisted of Thomas (52 and Landowner), Eliza (44) plus Edith’s brothers Edward J (23 and Banker) and Carslake W (22 and retired banker), Marie A (17), Edith (11) plus three (!) domestic servants.
In 1880 (‘of full age’) Edith married the Deputy Inspector-General of Fleets and Hospitals, William James Baird, MD, of the Royal Navy, in the parish church of St George Hanover Square. (You’ll see that she married under the surname Wood rather than Winter-Wood.) William was almost thirty years her senior, having been born in Londonderry in 1831. The 1881 census found them in lodgings in Durham House, Hotspur Street, Tynemouth, North Tyneside: presumably William was there in connection with his work. Later the same year, their only child, Lilian Edith Baird, was born in the same place.
Lilian would become a child prodigy whose first problem was published before she was 10 years old. She was also an accomplished poet and painter like her mother. Although she had over 70 problems published by the age of thirteen, Lilian gave up chess composing while still in her teens.
(Lilian merits a full article in this place in her own right : added to ToDo list!)
By 1891 William had retired and the family had settled in Brighton living at 14 College Terrace, where they employed a servant, Louisa Howard (23). In 1901 the census enumerator found them at the same address, their servant now being Lilian Millard (25).
William died in 1907, and Lilian had married in 1910: the 1911 census found Edith living in a boarding house named Mountcoombe in Surbiton. The house no longer exists, but its name, minus a letter, survives in Mountcombe Close, now a location for residential flats. Shortly afterwards, she joined her brothers in Paignton, Devon, close to her family’s ancestral roots.
Returning to Edith’s family, by the time of the 1881 census the Winter-Wood household (bar Edith) had relocated to “Mariestead”, Netley Abbey, Southampton and had shrunk to Thomas, Eliza and a mere two servants. Edith gave this address when she married William Baird.
In the 1891 census the Winter-Wood household consisted of Thomas (72), Eliza (64) plus Edith’s brothers Edward (43) and Carslake (42) all of whom were described as “living on means”. They had returned to three domestic servants : Mary Scoble (65), Carrie Stephens (22) and Kate Truman (just 12). They lived at 14, The Crescent, Plymouth, PL8 2AP. Nothing remains of this property, it would appear. By 1901, the family had moved again, to “Kenwick”, Paignton, Devon. They were back down to two servants: Florence Gagg (18) was the housemaid and Sarah Chambers (59) the cook. Thomas died in 1905, and the 1911 census gives their address as “Hareston”, Totnes Road, Paignton. Eliza, Edward and Carslake’s servants were now Laura Ellen Gagg (25 – presumably related to Florence) and Sarah Tulley.
In an interview with the Westminster Gazette (1st September 1894) Edith was asked why chess has always been a man’s game.
“Frivolous and fashionable women would begrudge the time and thought it requires; busy mothers of families could not, of course, spare time for it, and the great majority of unmarried girls have not, I’m afraid, the necessary patience. Then, too, it is, I must confess, an unsociable game. It is most suitable for quiet and reflective people, and for invalids. It seems always to have attracted clever strategists like military and naval commanders, and also great politicians. I wish girls would take to it more, because it is such excellent mental discipline, and brings out one’s patience. It would also be a useful corrective to the tendency to jump at conclusions which many women have. The great charm is that it is a home accomplishment. A woman is not expected to leave her fireside for the sake of chess. It is a stable kind of amusement for which she never need sully her womanliness or her good reputation. Many of the outdoor sports, innocent and healthy enough, lead to a great deal of flirtation and general frivolity.”
F.R. Gittins (op. cit.) described her as follows:
“Mrs. Baird, however, is something more even than the Queen of Chess-problem composers. She is, for example, an enthusiastic and skilful archer, and, living as she does in Brighton, has for some time been a prominent member of the Furze Hill Archery Club, of which she is a member of the committee, and in which, she has, for two years in succession, taken the medal for the highest aggregate score of the season. She also paints and illuminates charmingly, and has a pretty inherited talent for writing verse. Her book of illuminations, in fact, is described as “so chaste and delicate in design as to recall the ancient illuminated books which are treasured in museums and art galleries.” In politics she is a staunch Liberal, while the modern movement against all cruelty to animals – whether inflicted under the name of sport or in the interests of science – finds in her one of its most ardent champions. Besides the déclassement derived from chess, she is also a great believer in girls making themselves independent of marriage, from a monetary point of view, by having a definite occupation. When it is added that she never allows chess, painting, or any other favourite pursuit to occupy her time until all the domestic matters of home have been seen to, we have said sufficient to show how finely-rounded and complete a life this brilliantly clever woman leads. It is only left to add that her manner is kind and charming, and that she is thoughtfulness and considerateness itself to all her friends. She is, moreover, the most loving of mothers, and has been heard to declare that if anything were to happen to “Lily”, she would never compose another chess problem.”
Edith was also an avid bicyclist who was known to have ridden 25 miles (on one of those old style bicycles) to discuss an adjourned chess game.
On Friday, February 1st, 1924 Edith passed away. The probate record is dated April 29th and was granted to Herbert Percy Strong, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Indian Army, who was Lilian’s husband. The initial value of the effects was £18110 5s 7d which was subsequently resworn to £16627 13s 11d.
Both Sunnucks and Golombek are silent on Edith. This is somewhat surprising since Anne liked to mention female players and problemists.
EDITH ELINA HELEN (née Winter Wood) (1859-1924), British problem composer. Her parents, two brothers, and daughter were all good players or clever problemists.
She composed over 2,000 problems which were not profound but were noted for their soundness; only a dozen or so were faulted. Her Seven Hundred Chess Problems was published in 1902. She became deeply absorbed in retractors, and her other book The Twentieth Century Retractor appeared in 1907. They are two of the most beautiful chess books ever to appear, printed and bound by the King’s printer Henry Sotheran, and sold at less than cost.
The Twentieth Century Retractor may be read online here.
The dedication for The Twentieth Century Retractor was somewhat unusual :
“Dedicated to The Sun The Glorious Orb which Animates and Beautifies The Earth By Giving It Warmth, Light and Life”
and Edward Winter discusses the beauty of the book in Chess Note 3164.
From British Chess Magazine, Volume XLIV, (44, 1924) we have this obituary written by RC Griffth :
“A deep shadow has been cast over the chess world by the death of Mrs. W.J. Baird, which occurred on 1st February last at Paignton. The end was most unexpected, but it is a comfort to her relatives that the passing away was peaceful. She was the daughter of Mr. T. Winter-Wood, who and whose family have been identified with chess for generations. She was born in 1859 and composed her first problem in 1888, and it was not long after this date that she was given the title of the “Queen of Chess,” since not only did she distinguish herself in a happy way as a prolific composer, but proved a valiant opponent over the board, testified by her securing the ladies’ championship of Sussex in 1897.
Mate in Two (2)
Among her other accomplishments were painting, particularly illuminating, poetry (which may have been inherited from her gifted father) and archery, in which sport she was skilful. Her chess problems were generally of the light texture order never profound, but always pleasing to the ordinary solver. She must have composed over 2,000 problems of one sort or another, and this large output in about thirty-five years could not be conducive to highest results. Her problem tourney honours were numerous, though she did not as a rule see these, generally entering her problems to oblige admiring conductors of competitions.
Mate in Two (3)
In 1902 she published Seven Hundred Chess Problems and in 1907 The Twentieth Century Retractor, Chess Fantasies and Letter Problems, 320 illustrations (Sotheran & Co.). Both were editions de luxe. Mrs. Baird was credited with the being the originator of the complicated retractor of which she was a proficient exponent, but since she ceased composing these fancies, interest in them has waned.
Mate in Three (4)
During the last few years her activity, after a period of quiescence has been marked, her attention being directed principally to ‘Mutates’ and Picture or Letter Problems. In addition to the enthusiasm which, shown by her actual work, she has generously promoted several competitions, one still current in the Morning Post, particulars of which we announced last month. A remarkable feature of the deceased’s problems was their soundness less than one per cent. being cooked after leaving her hands, evidence of painstaking application!
Mate in Three (5)
There is now, since the decease of Mrs. Baird’s father, Mr. T. Winter-Wood and her brother, Mr. E.J. Winter-Wood, only Mr. Carslake Winter-Wood left to represent the family in the chess circle, Mrs. Strong, her daughter, who at one time promised to emulate her mother, having apparently abandoned the game and its problems. There can be no question that Mrs. Baird stood in front of all lady composers, her nearest rival probably being the late Mrs. T. B. Rowland, and indeed a number of her compositions rank high in the world’s collection. We have not space this month to quote specimens, but hope to do so next issue.
Mate in Three (6)
Since the above was in type we have been informed of the sudden death of Mr. Carslake Winter-Wood on the 24th February.”
The Late Mrs. W. J. Baird,
The Masters said:-
“Lay by the board, the problem is not sound;
There’s none can solve unless a Morphy’s found.”
* * *
A knight I saw, his royal head bowed;
Methought a bishop moved and prayed aloud.
The Queen, alas, and their attendants gone,
Only did the Kings linger sadly on.
And roaming far afield a Rook forlorn,
And here and there a long-forgotten pawn.
“Oh! is there none who can this problem solve?”
“Seek her round who our highest hopes revolve”
And so we brought it to our ‘Problem Queen’
Who faced the field with heart and eye serene.
* * *
“Go leave me now and I will rest awhile,”
Then hand outstretched and swift triumphant smile :
“The Bishops move! with him the key,” she cried –
“Life’s problem solved at last! I’m satisfied.”
White retracts his last move; then plays. Black moves so that White can mate at once. (7)
(Please note that there are factual errors in most of the sources quoted below.)
(7) White retracts Nd5xRb6, then 1. Nd6 Rc6 2. Nb7#
Save as PDF
We focus on the British Chess Scene Past & Present !
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.