BCN remembers IM Čeněk Kottnauer (24-ii-1910 14-ii-1996)
Čeněk (pronounced CHEnek) Kottnauer was born in Prague on Thursday, February 24th, 1910. Čeněk was employed in the Ministry of Education in Prague.
Whilst playing in the Lucerne International tournament (28-xii-1952 03-i-1953) he sought political asylum :
From the Milwaukee Journal, January 3, 1953 we have
“Czech Chess Star Asks for Asylum
Lucerne, Switzerland – Cenek Kottnauer, 42, Czecho-Slovakian chess champion and an employee of the ministry of education in Prague, announced Saturday that he would not return to Czech-Slovakia and would request political asylum in Switzerland. Kottnauer had been participating in a chess tournament.
He said that the political situation in his country had grown “more and more critical” and he wanted “to leave before it is too late”. He said that he had been divorced recently and had no children in Czech-Slovakia”.
In a January 2009 post to the English Chess Forum Leonard Barden wrote :
“Cenek Kottnauer defected from Czechoslovakia during the Lucerne New Year tournament of 1952-3 (I am precise on this because I was present). His wife Daniela joined him there, having been smuggled from Prague in the boot of a diplomat’s car. Kottnauer had been a water polo player of international standard before 1939 so came into serious chess only his mid-30s. He made his name with his good showing in the Prague v Moscow match of 1946 and his Bxh7+ win then against Kotov. He competed in great tournaments like Groningen 1946 and Moscow 1947; his first visit to England was in 1947 when the Czech team came here.
In the 1940s he had a job in the Czech sports ministry but got implicated in the purges following the Slansky trial. He also believed that Pachman and Opocensky were involved in the campaign against him.”
Čeněk married Daniela (née Horska, also Czech, having met in Austria) and they had a son Daniel VR Kottnauer. Daniela was born in 1934 and was 24 years younger than Čeněk. She died on February 20th 2008 in a hospice in Essen, Germany close to where Daniel currently resides. Daniel has been a pianist and singer for 30 years, an event manager for 19 years and a coach and VIP limousine driver for 5 years and may be found on LinkedIn.
In 1965 Čeněk and Daniela were living at Flat 2, 7-8 Bathurst Street, London, W2.
In Kings, Commoners and Knaves (Russell Enterprises, 1999), page 108, Edward Winter wrote :
“The obituaries of Čeněk Kottnauer (1910-1996) have, in common with all of the encyclopaedia entries on him, been strangely wanting in pre-1940s references to his chess career. Czech magazines of the 1930s contain occasional games by ‘Kottnauer’ (no forename or initial given), including the following :
Source : Československý šach, January, 1932, page 9. The score was also given, with notes, by Vera Menchik, on page 153 of the April 1932 issue of The Social Chess Quarterly. ”
From Šachový Týdeník, 25th February, 2010 we learnt that Čeněk was twice Prague lightning champion.
In 1943 Čeněk was a clear first overall with 10.5/13 in the Zlin tournament.
From Bronstein on the King’s Indian, Everyman Chess, 1999, game 25 we have :
“This game is from our hisotoric match with the Czechoslovak team, which took place half in Prague and half in Moscow.
My opponent, an intelligent, clever, athletic man, also played water polo. Then at some point he travelled to a tournament in England, fell in love with a beautiful Englishwoman, and decided to settle down there.”
From The Oxford Companion to Chess (OUP, 1984), David Hooper & Ken Whyld :
International Master (1950), International Arbiter (1951), a Czech player who emigrated to England in 1953 and was naturalised in 1960. He played in Olympiads for Czechoslovakia (1950*, 1952), on the second occasion making the best score (+10=5) on the fourth board, and in two Olympiads for England (1964, 1968). In 1961 he won the Beverwijk Masters tournament (not the concurrent grandmasters event) with a clean score, a fine achievement.
*Ed : In fact, this is not true since Czechoslovakia did not send a team to Dubrovnik 1950. This was the last year the event was limited to sixteen countries.
James Pratt, Basingstoke provides the full results from Gino de Felice, Chess Results, 1961 – 1963, Macfarland, 2013 :
Consulting the 2nd edition (1992) of Hooper & Whyld may cause disappointment since there is no entry for CK.
From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Robert Hale 1970 & 1976), Anne Sunnucks :
“International Master (1950) and International Judge (1951).
Born on 24th February 1910. Kottnauer represented Czechoslovakia in the 1952 Olympiad in Helsinki. In the years after the war his successes in international tournaments included 3rd at Beverwijk 1947, =2nd at Vienna 1947, 4th at Bad Gadstein 1948 and 1st at Lucerne 1953.
After the Lucerne tournament he sought political asylum in Switzerland. He later settled in England and became a naturalised British citizen. He played for the British Chess Federation in the Olympiads of 1964 and 1968.
Kottnauer has played in the British Championship twice. In 1961 he came =4th, and in 1962 he came =3rd.”
From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977), Harry Golombek OBE (entry written by Bill Hartston):
“Born in Czechoslovakia, Kottnauer played for that country in many events including the 1952 Olympiad. He emigrated in 1953 and subsequently took British nationality, representing England in the Olympiads of 1964 and 1968. Awarded FIDE titles of international master in 1950 and International Judge in 1951. Winner of Lucerne 1953 International tournament.
Co-author with TD Harding and GS Botterill of The Sicilian Sozin, Batsford, London, 1974.”
James Pratt, Basingstoke revealed : He would look through opening analysis often proclaiming: ‘What will the master play now?’
From British Chess (Pergamon Press, 1983) we have this insight from Tim Harding :
“At a time when home-grown International Masters were thin on the ground in Britain (the 1950s and 1960s) this Czech-born IM brought a lot of valuable experience to BCF teams.
After emigrating to England in 1953, he became naturalized and subsequently represented the BCF in the Tel Aviv, 1964 and Lugano, 1968, Olympiads. On board one in 1964 he scored +8 =7 -3 (63.9%) on board two below Penrose in 1968 (with some board one games) he scored 41.7: +3 =5 -4.
When FIDE rating lists appeared in the early 1970s, Kottnauer was listed at 2370 but by this time had more or less retired from active play at the top level, although he took (and still takes) a keen interest in coaching promising young players, He was one of the most regular and most valuable coaches at the one-day junior training events organised by the London Chess Association at the Mary Ward Centre in Bloomsbury, London in the mid-1970s.
At this time he also wrote many articles for his friend Grandmaster Pachman, who had been freed to live in West Germany where he became editor of Schach-Archiv, and also made a major contribution to the Batsford opening theory work. The Sicilian Sozin, written in collaboration with George Botterill and Tim Harding, and published in 1974.
Kottnauer’s most active years as a player were however 1946-53; in the year that he came to England he took first prize in the Lucerne, 1953 International tournament. Had he been a professional player throughout the the 1950s, there is little doubt that he would have become a grandmaster.
As early as the end of the war, when regular play resumed, he was almost of that strength (as wins against Kotov and Smyslov in the February, 1946 Prague v Moscow match showed) but lacking in experience at the top level, which told against him at Groningen, 1946, when he was placed 13th with 9 points out of a possible 19 in a very strong field. This was the first great post-war tournament, with nine Master and eleven Grandmasters (including Botvinnik and former world champion Euwe).
Also in 1946 Kottnauer scored wins against Simagin (in Prague) and Levenfish (in Leningrad) and was clearly one of the up-and-coming stars in a strong Czech team that included Filip and Pachman. In 1950 he was one of the first players to be awarded the FIDE title of International Master.
The following year he was also made a FIDE International Judge (now known as FIDE Arbiter).
Unfortunately there was no Czech representation at the Dubrovnik, 1950 Olympiad, but in 1952, one of his last appearances for Czechoslovakia, Kottnauer achieved a remarkable record playing board four (below Filip, Pachman and Sajtar) at the Helsinki Olympiad. He went through unbeaten with ten wins and five draws (83.3%) and easily won the board prize.
Kottnauer shortly thereafter came to England where he eventually made a successful career as an executive with Trust House Forte’s hotel group; he has also helped with the BBC overseas service Czech-language broadcasts. He lives in West Central London with his wife and their son.
The following is undoubtedly Kottnauer’s most famous win.
and here we have the same game analysed by Tryfon Gavriel :
From British Chess Magazine, Volume CXVI (116, 1996), Number 4 (April), pp 202-203 we have this obituary by Bernard Cafferty :
Čeněk Kottnauer, the Czech/British IM, and the first chess defector died in St. Margaret’s Hospital, London, on 14th February after heart trouble and abdominal cancer.
A giant of a man, a fine athlete and swimmer, he was born on 24th February 1910 and came to prominence in the 1942 tournament in Prague in which Alekhine took part. He extended the great man to 70 moves before resigning. His wins against Kotov and Smyslov in the Moscow-Prague match of 1946 and his 13th place in the great Groningen tournament of the same year confirmed his status, as did his excellent showing for Czechoslovakia in the 1952 Olympiad at Helsinki (+10=5-0 on fourth board). He also took part in the 1947 Chigorin Memorial in Moscow, and won a tournament at Lucerne in early 1953, the same year in which he emigrated to Britain.
On this form he would have gained the GM title had he continued playing, but he had to take a full-time job (with Trusthouse Forte) to support his family.
Čeněk had met his much younger wife in Austria, though she too was Czech. They had a son. The master’s appearences were therefore limited to London League matches and other sporadic events. That he had lost none of his skill was shown when he played top board for England at the 1964 Tel-Aviv Olympiad (Penrose was not available) and made +8=7-3. His only other big event was the Lugano Olympiad of 1968 when he was on second board and made +3=5-4.
Čeněk (pronounced CHEnek) Kottnauer was one of the early professionals in the German Bundesliga; on a visit to his Bayswater flat in 1995 by Murray Chandler and myself, Čeněk told us about the great transport difficulties he had in those days. He mentioned that he had recently had a heart bypass operation and showed us the medication he had to take on a regular basis, opining that after Golombek and Milner-Barry he would be the next to go.
Čeněk was involved in junior coaching in London for many years, wrote extensively for the Dutch and German press and in recent years was a regular visitor to the Lloyds Bank Masters to see old friends and acquaintances. Amongst those he coached were Julian Hodgson, William Watson and Dharshan Kumaran, as well as Stuart Conquest.
In Stuart’s case he came regularly to Hastings to do the coaching which was financed by the Slater Foundation and by Lloyds Bank.
The fruit of his effort was Stuart’s 1981 World U-16 title in Argentina, where Čeněk’s great physical strength came in handy when the huge trophy had to be carried back to Britain.
All his pupils and friends will attest to his wonderful manner. A great personality has left us.”
According to Leonard Barden “Čeněk’s students included Demis Hassabis, then aged six. He once told me that Dharshan Kumaran, then seven, was the more talented of the pair but that Demis was also ‘very clever and tricky’ ”
Daniel tells us that Nigel Short visited his family home for coaching and we believe that both Anita and Mira Rakshit were CKs students. Doubtless there were many more…
Leonard added :
“After he retired he did chess coaching and, although never named in the BCF’s list of coaches, was the most successful of all in terms of achievements by those he taught. He normally did weekly sessions of a couple of hours and got results through his challenging and sceptical approach to ideas from his pupils.
Kottnauer pupils included Hodgson, Watson, and Kumaran, who all became grandmasters. When he came to our junior invitation tournaments in the mid-seventies I used to give a prize of a game and session with him to exceptional talents. So he played Nigel Short in spring 1975 (probably Short’s first one-to-one with an IM) and was enthusiastic about his promise.
In 1981 when Stuart Conquest was going to the the world U16 championship in Argentina Cenek coached him for several months beforehand and went with him to the event. No news reports were available during the tournament so the first I knew was when Cenek phoned me on his return to London and complained that he was tired having to carry this enormous trophy home (Stuart had broken his arm before the event and played in a sling) and how the food had been terrible but that Eliskases, who was involved in the organisation, had sworn him to secrecy.
I used to visit him a couple of times a month for talk and blitz sessions and have warm memories. A great guy, and a significant figure in the long departed English chess boom.”
“Cenek Kottnauer was born in Prague. He was awarded the IM title in 1950 and became an International Arbiter in 1951. Kottnauer played the Helsinki Olympiad 1952 on board 4 for Czechoslovakia, scoring +10 =5 -0. In 1953 he won the Lucerne international tournament. That same year, he emigrated to England, and eventually became a naturalized citizen and played for England in the Olympiads of 1964 and 1968. In the 1970s he became one of England’s top coaches of young players.”
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), page 103 we have this brief obituary notice written by RC Griffth :
“We much regret to hear of the death, at Paignton, on February 1st, of Mrs. W.J. Baird, much of the distinguished of women problem composers throughout the world. As our problem editors will no doubt deal fully with her work and her triumphs, we shall say no more here that she took a keen interest in chess over-the-board also, and in 1897 secured the county championship of Sussex among players of her own sex. By birth she was a Winter-Wood and thus a member of a distinguished West of England chess family”
From British Chess Magazine, Volume XLIV, (44, 1924), page 125 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.)
We remember Henry Atkins who passed away, Monday, January 31st, 1955.
Henry Ernest Atkins was born in Leicester on Tuesday, August 20th, 1872 to Edward (a schoolteacher) and Jane Atkins (née Threapland).
He was baptised on August 6th, 1872 in the Anglican Cathedral Church of St. Martin, Leicester. At the time of the baptism the Atkins family was living at 57, King Richard’s Road, Leicester. The address in 2021 appears to be occupied by an industrial premise for Sunco Knitwear Specialists. The signatory on the baptism record is that of DJ Vaughan.
Henry was admitted to Wyggeston Boys Grammar School, Leicester on March 30th 1880 when eight years old. He was expected to leave at the end of the Winter Term in 1890.
Curiously his school admission record includes the following addition (although we don’t know exactly when) :
Henry, aged 18, went up to Peterhouse College, Cambridge in 1890 to study mathematics. From his year of entry he was ranked as 9th “Wrangler” studying for the Mathematical Tripos. As part of his Part II examinations he did well enough to be “mentioned” for the Smith’s Prize for examination performance.
Following University Henry became a teacher of mathematics at Northampton County Modern School and then returned to Wyggeston Boys Grammar School from 1902 – 1908. He then became the principal of Huddersfield College in 1909 and continued until 1915. Huddersfield College (founded in 1839) was merged with Hillhouse Technical School to form a new boys’ grammar school at a new campus at Salendine Nook with 950 boys.
According to Ranneforths Schach-Kalender (cited by C.N.), 1915, page 55, during the period at Huddersfield College Henry lived firstly at 49 New North Road, Huddersfield, Yorkshire :
On June 1st, 1915 (aged 43) Henry was registered as a teacher whilst at Huddersfield College for the fee of one guinea :
Henry retired from teaching in 1936.
In the 1939 register Henry (now a retired schoolmaster) was recorded as living with his wife, Elspeth Skene Atkins (née Wilson) at 29 East Avenue, Leicester, Leicestershire :
Elspeth was born on August 5th 1880 and was therefore roughly eight years his junior. She carried out “unpaid domestic duties” but as a member of the Women’s Voluntary Service (WVS) she was a surgical dresser. The WVS transformed into the RVS. It would seem that Henry and Elspeth did not have children. She outlived Henry passing away in 1973 in Southampton.
On Monday, January 31st 1955 passed away in The Fielding Johnson Private Hospital :
Henry was buried at Gilroes Cemetery and Crematorium, Groby Road, Leicester, Leicestershire, LE3 9QG.
In the October 1976 issue of Newsflash Badmaster (aka GH Diggle) wrote :
“… we well remember his giving a “simultaneous” at the Lincoln Chess Club in 1924, winning 17 and drawing two. One of his more elderly opponents (a notorious non-resigner) who for 30 moves had been wobbling along with a piece down until “time” had to be called, then proceeded to “demonstrate a draw” by concocting a continuation so optimistic that even clubmates with lifelong experience of his powers stood aghast. Atkins, with his greatcoat on ready to go home, made no attempt to refute this analytical masterpiece but merely remarked with great deference: “I don’t think we can play it quite like that!” and then beat a craven retreat “escorted by Club Officials”
From British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXV (75, 1955), Number 3 (March), pp.102-3 we have this obituary written by RN Coles :
“With the passing, on January 31st, at the age of eighty-two of Henry Ernest Atkins the chess world has lost a recognized international master, and British chess one of its strongest players of all time. Yet Atkins was the despair of chess enthusiasts because he played so little international chess and confined himself largely – and at that intermittently – to local affairs, where the strength of most of his opponents could hardly extend him. One leading player recently regretted that Atkins spent so much time “in the wilds,” but Atkins would have taken an opposite view and have considered that he was “in the wilds” if he had spent more of his time playing chess; teaching was his whole life, and the game of chess he insisted on treating as a game.
Consequently as a chess-player Atkins was almost always out of practice and playing below his true strength, yet in his five international events-Amsterdam, 1899; Hanover, 1902; London, 1922; London Team Tourney, 1927; and Warsaw Team Tourney, 1935-he scored 63.2 per cent, or if Amsterdam which was virtually a Hauptturnier is excluded, 53.5 per cent.
Sir George Thomas considered that only lack of opportunity prevented him from establishing himself in the world championship class. As it is, he will be remembered chiefly by chess-players as the man who played eleven times in the British Championship and won it nine times, failing only at the first attempt in 1904 after a tie for first place, and at the last in 1937, at the age of sixty-five, when he shared third place, a record which has never been remotely approached by any other player and is not likely to be. Atkins played in a clear-cut strategical style which makes his games ideal studies for the beginner, and he finished them with the elegance to enchant the artist; like the Etudes of Chopin, they provide technical exercises and works of art in one.
But I believe that if Atkins had his wish – and this wish I am sure he will have – he would wish to be remembered by his many pupils, whether they be pupils of the chess master or of the schoolmaster, not for any practical achievements but for being a true guide, philosopher, and friend to all who came under his tutelage.-R. N. C.”
From The Oxford Companion to Chess by Hooper & Whyld
English player, born in Leicester, International Master (1950), schoolmaster. Between 1895 and 1901 he played in seven minor tournaments, winning four, taking second place in three, and losing only three out of 70 games. In one of these events, Amsterdam 1899, he made a clean score against 15 opponents. In his first international tournament, Hanover 1902, he came third (+8=7-2) after Janowski and Pillsbury ahead of Mieses, Chigorin, and Marshall. Emanuel Lasker believed that Atkins would have joined the leading grandmasters had he continued his international career, but Atkins played in only one more big tournament (London 1922). He had a genuine concern for his profession, and preferred not to give more of his life to chess. He played in 12 of the Anglo-American cable matches, won the British Championship nine times (1905-11, 1924, 1925), and represented the British Chess Federation in the Olympiads of 1927 and 1935.
International Master (1950) and nine times British Champion. Born in Leicester on 20th August 1872, Atkins learned the game at school in Leicester at the age of 12. When he was 15, he joined Leicester Chess Club and within two years was playing on top board. In 1890 he went up to Peterhouse, Cambridge, and played top board for the University. On leaving Cambridge he became a schoolmaster.
His first appearance in the British Championship was in 1904, when he came 2nd. The following year he won the championship and repeated his success every year up to and including 1911. He did not compete between 1912 and 1923, and on reappearing in the event in 1924, he regained his title and held it the following year. His final appearance in the British Championship was in 1937, when at the age of 65 he came =3rd.
In the five international events in which he played – Amsterdam 1899, Hanover 1902, London 1922 and the Chess Olympiads of 1927 and 1935 – he scored over 60 per cent.
His devotion to teaching and his insistence on treating chess as merely a game was all that prevented him from becoming one of the leading players in the world.
He died on 31st January, 1955.
In the above book RN Coles points out that Atkins regularly played f4 or …f5 early in the game and claims this was HEAs pet or signature move.
British international master and regarded by many as Britain’s more talented player in the history of the game. Born in Leicester and never very fond of leaving England. Atkins was a schoolmaster and devoted relatively little time to chess, and yet he became one of the strongest amateurs every known to chess. He was known on the Continent as “the little Steinitz“.
His record in British Championship is unique; out of eleven appearances he won the event nine times : 1905, 1906, 1907, 1908, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1924 and 1925. I t should be added that in 1904 (his first attempt) he finished 1st= and only lost to Napier after a play-off and in 1937 (his last championship) he finished =3rd at the age of 65!
His international career comprises only six events. In 1895 Atkins was placed =2nd behind Maróczy in the Hastings Minor Tournament and in 1899 he won the Amsterdam tournament, leading the field by 4 points. At Hanover 1902 he scored his most notable result : 3rd prize behind Janowski and Pillsbury but ahead of Chigorin and Marshall among others. At London 1922 he finished only 10th of 16 but still claimed Rubinstein and Tartakower among his victims. He represented the B.C.F. in the Olympiads of 1927 and 1935.
Atkins was retrospectively awarded the title of international master in 1950 on his pre-war record. (Ray Keene).
According to chessgames.com : “He graduated from Cambridge and taught mathematics at Northampton and Wyggeston. In 1909, he was appointed Principal of Huddersfield College.”
Here is an article from the Yorkshire Chess History site
We remember Ian Duncan Wells who very sadly passed away on this day (January 25th) in 1982 aged seventeen years.
From Chessgames.com :
Ian Duncan Wells was born in Scarborough, England. He was awarded the FM title in 1982. At the Islington Open in December 1981 he finished 1st= with John Nunn and Tony Miles. Following a 5th= placing in the Golden Pawn of Brazil Junior tournament held in Rio de Janeiro he and other players went swimming outside their hotel. He got into difficulties and although he was brought ashore by lifesavers he died after six days in a coma.
Here is an excellent article from chess.com written by Neil Blackburn.
We remember Samuel Boden, who passed away on this day, Friday, January 13th in 1882 at 3 Tavistock Street, Bedford Square, Middlesex.
Samuel Standidge Boden was born on Thursday, May 4th, 1826 in East Retford, Nottinghamshire. His parents were James (b. 1795/96) and Mary Frances Boden (b. 1800/01).
(Several secondary and tertiary sources give the birth month as April. It would appear that a transcription error was responsible.)
James was an Independent Congregational Minister who worked in West Retford and was responsible for recording parish birth and baptismal (and probably marriage) records including those of his own children.
Samuel was baptised by his father (for the first time!) on July 27th at Chapel Gate (independent) Church.
Samuel had at least nine siblings and the details of these plus other family members (including multiple baptisms) may be found on Steve Mann’s Yorkshire Chess History.
“Boden was considered by Paul Morphy to be the strongest player in England in 1858. However, he is generally considered to have ranked below Staunton and to have been either the second of third strongest player, the other player being Buckle.
Born in Hull on 4th April 1826, Boden first came to the notice of British chess players when he won a provincial tournament in 1851. In 1858 he played two matches against John Owen , winning both, the first by +5 -3 =1 and the second by +5 -1. He played in very few major tournaments and his strength ws judged mainly from friendly games and small tournaments. He was the author of A Popular Introduction to Chess and conducted the chess column in The Field for 13 years.
He died of typhoid fever on 13th January 1882 and is buried in Woking, Surrey.”
According to Steve Mann :
“He was buried on 17/01/1882 at Brookwood Cemetery, Brookwood, Surrey. This cemetery was also known as the London Necropolis, having been specially instituted to take London’s dead at a time when space within London was becoming scarce. A transcription of the Surrey Burial Registers gave his name as “Samuel Standage Boden” and his age to be 55. The burial date, the deceased’s age, and the nature of the cemetery, together make it clear this was the chess-player, even though they misspelt his middle name.”
English player active in the 1850s. In 1851 he wrote A Popular Introduction to the Study and Practice of Chess, an excellent guide introducing the Boden-Kieseritzky Gambit which at once became popular. In the same year he won the ‘provincial tournament” run concurrently with the London international tournament. At Manchester 1857, a knock-out event, he came second to Lowenthal— he drew one game of the final match and then withdrew. In 1858 Boden defeated Owen in a match ( + 7=2-3) and he played many friendly games with Morphy, who declared him to be the strongest English player; since Staunton and Buckle had retired this judgement was probably right. Also in 1858 he restarted the chess column in The Field , handing over to de Vere in 1872. The column has continued uninterruptedly ever since. Besides chess and his work as a railway company employee Boden found time to become a competent amateur painter and an art critic.
British master, considered by Morphy to have been the strongest opponent whom he played while in England (Boden’s record against Morphy in casual games was +1-6=4). Tournament results include 2nd Manchester 1857 and 2nd Bristol 1861. Chess editor of The Field 1858-1873. His name is linked with the Boden-Kieseritsky Gambit : 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nxe4 4. Nc3 Nxc3 5.dxc3 f6 (article authored by Ray Keene).
Boden’s name is associated with a variation of the Philidor Defence:
and a line of the Ruy Lopez:
Most players will be familiar with this mating pattern that is Boden’s Mate using two bishops in a cross pattern.
BCN remembers Roland Scott who passed away in Monte Carlo on Saturday, January 10th, 1953.
Roland Henry Vaughan Scott was born in either Barnes (or Holloway depending which Census record is correct). His parents were Walter Frederick Scott, a GP who was born in April 1960 and died in 1891 when Roland was three years of age.
His mother was Lucy (Lucie and Lucia have also been recorded) Vaughan was born in 1855 and died in October 1933.
Roland had three sisters, Nina Vaughan Scott Lucie Audrey Scott (who died before her first birthday) and Sybil Anne Vaughan Scott and a brother Guy Francis D Scott who lived until 1977.
In 1891 Roland lived in Tottenham, in 1901 in Hampstead and in 1911 in St. Pancras where he was listed as a law clerk.
The 1920 electoral rolls for the Gospel Oak polling district lists Scott as voter #2006 living at 2, Estelle Road, North St. Pancras which is now in Belsize Park, NW3 2JX. At the same address was his sister Lucie and in 1921 they were joined by brother Guy.
In July 1922 in the district of Brighton Roland married Irma Clareboudt. No children from the marriage are recorded.
The 1939 register lists Scott as “War Disabled ? Officer Retired In War 1914” (invalided from army) and Irma as a saleswoman (born 25th July 1895) living at 42, Sherwell Lane, Paignton, Torquay, TQ2 6BD.
The April 1953 British Chess Magazine (Volume LXXIII, Number 4, page 101 onwards) contained this obituary from DJ Morgan:
It is with much regret that we record the death, on January 10th, at Monte Carlo, of R. H. V. Scott. He had long been out of active chess, but older readers will need no reminding of the 1920 British Champion, with his quiet manner but attacking chess; one who was composure itself at the table but aggressiveness personified on the board.
The son of a doctor, Scott was born in 1889. He was nineteen before taking to the game, but a ready aptitude combined with great enthusiasm led to rapid progress. He joined the Hampstead Club in 1908, and in his first tournament, the Third Class, came out first. ln the years that follow he pursued the game with much energy.
At the B.C.F. Congress, Glasgow, l9ll, he won the only section of the First Class. In 1913 and in 1914 he was Hampstead Club Champion. In 1913 he was tenth in the British Championship, at Cheltenham, and equal fifth to sixth at Chester in the following year, defeating Yates and drawing with Blackburne.
In 1915 he came second in the City of London Club Championship, but won that of the Metropolitan Club. During the same year he lost a short match with Sir G. A. Thomas 1-3. The war years, with a commission in the Norfolk Regiment, intervened, but chess filled his available moments.
In 1916 he defeated L. I. Estrin, a young Russian who was Hampstead Champion, 5-2 in a match. ln 1919 he lost a match with Winter at Hastings (2-4), and shared seventh to eighth positions with Dr. Olland (Holland) at the B.C.F. Hastings Victory Congress, with victories over Olland,
R. P. Michell, Marchand, and Conde. Then came the B.C.F. Edinburgh Congress of 1920, Scott became British Champion, losing only
to Sir G. A. Thomas.
In this year he also drew a match, 3-3, with Marchand, of Holland, also at Hastings. There followed three more appearances in the championship, Malvern, 1921 (equal fifth to sixth); Southsea,1923 (equal third to fourth); and Southport, 1924 (fourth). And with this Scott passed out of British chess. Ill health and failing eyesight, direct results of sufferings and injuries endured on active service during the war, began to take their toll. On medical advice he sought a warmer climate, and the Riviera henceforth became his home.
We find him sharing seventh to eighth positions at the Hyères Congress, in 1926, and coming equal fifth to sixth, with B. Reilly (our Editor’s first international tourney we believe), at Hyères, 1927.
The days of active play were over, but his great interest in the game remained. Scott was a natural attacking player, more likely, perhaps, to win the Brilliancy Prize than the First Prize.
We have given the bare outline of a career that was all too short, one cut down, in a sense before reaching full maturity. Contemporary records sometimes expressed the need for more stability in Scott’s chess, but they chronicle games of his that speak forcibly of the imaginative, refreshing, and invigorating qualities of his play. We offer an early game, the Brilliancy Prize winner, City of London C.C. Championship, 1913-14. White’s 20th move sets the game alight.
From British Chess Magazine, Volume XLI (1920), Number 10 (October), page 305 we have the following report of his exploits winning the 1920 British Championship in Edinburgh:
“We are glad to be able to present to our readers a photograph of the new champion, Mr. R.H.V Scott. He informs us that it is his most recent one, taken in 1917 when subaltern in the Norfolk Regiment. He saw service with the latter in France, and, as is probably know to most of our subscribers, was badly gassed, from the effects of which is now happily quite recovered.
His victory in the recent Congress in Edinburgh is welcome from at least two points of view; one, that he is one of our youngest first class players (ed: he was 32 at the time, a veteran by the standards of 2022!), having been born in 1889 (ed: this should have been 1888), and therefore may justifiably be expected to improve still further with experience and some curbing of his impatience in defence; and, two, that he claim to represent the more brilliant school of chess, that of Pillsbury, Marshall, Charousek, and Morphy, rather than the more solid school, of say, Steinitz and Rubinstein, who theory was the pilling up of small advantages.
Scott has an excellent “nose” for attack, and has some exceedingly “chessy” ideas. During the congress he put a much greater restraint on himself than is his wont, and we believe this to be the reason he so improved on his previous records.
He had what might be described as the worst of the draw, since he had Black against Sir George Thomas, EG Sergeant and RP Michell. Some writers have described him as lucky to win, but a study of his games and a comparison with those of others in the tourney go to prove that he played more far-sightedly than any of the others.
We are quite aware that the form of any player is variable, and we have seen Sir George Thomas play much better chess and much less strainedly than he did at Edinburgh. EG Sergeant was generally playing quite at his best, but once or twice his play deteriorated, perhaps as the result of a sleepless night, he then seemed bereft of ideas, and allowed the clock to beat him. This also was the case with Michell, who had many a rush to save his flag falling before the necessary moves were made. Now Scott almost invariably had time to spare.
Perhaps the worst reversal of form was that of JH Blake; but he had been working very hard and late for some time right up to the day the Congress commenced, and was not really in a fit state of health to take part.
Scott has twice before competed for the Championship; in 1913 where he finished eighth, and in 1914 when he was fifth, beating FD Yates, the then Champion and drawing with JH Blackburne.
He has won several brilliancy prizes in congress and club tourneys, and was the champion of the Hampstead Chess Club (where he may have been said to have learnt the game) in 1913 and 1914. He was first acquainted with the moves in 1908.
He is keen on all sports, and puts his whole energy into each line he may be taking. With yet more self-restraint we think his chess will still further improve, and we venture to prophesy this will not be the last British Chess Championship he will win.”
In his memoirs William Winter wrote this:
“I also had the opportunity of playing a number of semi-serious games with RHV Scott and D. Miller, two of the leading London amateurs. Scott was probably the most brilliant combinative played England has ever seen and had already won almost every honour except the British Championship, which fell to him in 1920.
Since those days I have played over hundreds of games, including the beautiful brilliancies of the modern Russian school, and Scott’s best combinations stand up quite well beside them. There were however weaknesses in his play which I shall discuss later. Miller was just the opposite type, a dour solid player exceptionally hard to beat. He is, I am glad to say, still with us, but Scott died a few years ago – he had been out of chess for a long time.”
“It is entirely legitimate, and can prove very useful until one comes up against an opponent like Capablanca who had no weaknesses of any kind. ln Scott’s case, one of his foibles was an aversion to exchanging queens, and I took full advantage of this in the first two games of the match both of which I won with comparative ease; but Scott was not finished yet.’ In the third game he tied me up in a variation of the Sicilian which I had not previously seen, and in the fourth I made the fatal mistake in going for an early win of material and allowing him a king’s side attack. Things now looked bad for me. I had the black pieces in the fifth game and I dared not play my favourite Sicilian defence because I could not discover a satisfactory answer to his new line.”
Strangely, none of the Encyclopaedia’s by Golombek, Sunnucks or Hooper & Whyld felt that RHVS merited an entry. However Gaige does not forget.
We remember William Ritson Morry who passed away on Saturday, January 8th, 1994.
(A point of detail : It is incorrect, but many do, to write WRM hyphenated. His first name was William, his middle name was Ritson and his surname was Morry. He chose to use his middle name and was known by his friends as Ritson. Maybe this was because he father was also William Morry?)
WRM was born in the Wirral on Monday, September 5th 1910 and his father was William Doughty Morry (born 16th July 1877). William was a sub-postmaster and seller of fancy goods. His mother was Norah Morry (née Holloway) who undertook “unpaid domestic duties”.
Ritson attended Friars School, Bangor (established in 1557) along with BH Wood. BHW was one year and three months older than WRM so it is entirely possible that they had met.
In the 1939 register he is recorded as being a solicitor with his own practice and was living at 294 Walmley Road, Royal Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire with his parents : he was 29 years old.
In 1940 WRM married Nellie Cooper in Sutton Coldfield.
In 1943 WRM was mentioned in the London Gazette several times:
It would appear that this was the start of his first bankruptcy proceedings..
WRM was, by now, living at “Lyndon”, Coleshill Road, Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire :
and in the same year on September 30th he was officially made bankrupt as recorded in the London Gazette, order number 195. This notice was repeated in the Edinburgh Gazette of the same year.
On the 8th of June 1944 he was recorded as being struck-off the list of solicitors under the Solicitors Acts of 1932 to 1941. It was determined that WRM had engaged in “fraudulent conversion of clients money”
Here is an image of the organisers of the 1953 Whitsun Congress at Ilford including WRM:
In 1954 WRM sued BH Wood for libel over a letter BHW sent to Henry Golding of the Monmouthshire County Chess Association warning him of WRMs financial history. Here is a summary of the action :
In 1983 WRM was living at Flat 2, 53, Mayfield Road, Moseley, Birmingham, West Midlands and recorded as a Retired Chess Journalist. Elsewhere he was recorded as a freelance chess and cricket journalist.
and, unfortunately, in this year he made another appearance in the London Gazette (2nd September 1983) having been made bankrupt.
However, despite these unfortunate life events WRMs contribution to chess goes above and beyond them as he won the BCF President’s Award in 1984.
From British Chess Magazine, Volume CXIV (114, 1994), Number 2 (February), pp. 98 – 99 we have this obituary from Bernard Cafferty:
W Ritson Morry – a Tribute
That great chess character, known to everybody simply as Ritson, has left us in the fullness of years, coincidentally during the first Hastings Congress he missed for decades.
William Ritson Morry (5 ix 1910-8 i 1994) was a player, organiser, writer, arbiter and occasional sponsor of tournaments whose life touched so many aspects of chess that it is hard to know where to begin.
Ritson was educated in North Wales at the same school as BH Wood. Both were at Birmingham University at the same time, after which Ritson trained as a solicitor. As early as 1930 he founded the Birmingham Junior League, and a little later wrote a chess column for a time for a local newspaper, though Ritson is hardly the first person you think of as someone who would hit deadlines consistently. He was equal second in a rather unrepresentative British Championship of 1936 and equal third in 1951. An unfortunate incident in the mid-1940s led to him being struck off, whereupon he became a chess professional, who eked out a precarious living for the last 48 years of his life. Yet, I never heard him complain, for he was able to immerse himself in chess full time, and what could be better than that?
He ran a series of newsletters, which hardly covered their expenses and produced and British Championship and Hastings bulletins for many years. 1951 was a significant year in his life, for he gained the FIDE Arbiter title (he was always an expert on the rules and many of the conventions we all play to were codified by him, or under his guidance). Later on Ritson, a great raconteur, was the life and soul of the show in Hastings which, along with the Warwickshire chess team and Erdington CC, was the great love of his life.
At times he seemed to run Hastings almost single-handed in the Frank Rhoden era. In fact GM Vasyukov went back to Moscow in 1966 and wrote that Ritson Morry was the only controller to be seen in the morning, afternoon and evening sessions of play. I recall that Ritson was amused when I told him of this, but did not demur. To show that there was life in the old dog, he organised a series of Birmingham international tournaments in the 1970s at which Tony Miles got much of his early experience.
One such tournament was financed by him alone, on the basis of the sale of a piece of land in Sutton Coldfield where a change of planning status had led to a windfall profit.
He also saved Hastings in late 1974,by giving a partial guarantee when another sponsor reduced his contribution. A few years later the Inland Revenue made him bankrupt when they could not get their piece of the action out of the deal. Doubtless Ritson thought that the money had gone to a worthier cause. I must not fail to mention his love of gambling or his erudition. Many is the time when you could have an exposition from him of the law of England, the practice of the courts and the police, or the political news of the day.
He was deeply immersed in local Labour Party politics in Birmingham and was a friend of football referee, ‘rainmaker’ Dennis Howell, one-time Minister for Sport. Ritson also played a great deal of postal chess, winning the British title in 1943. His book on the game written in conjunction with a Birmingham schoolmaster Mel Mitchell is a very instructive one, and he also wrote many reports and amusing articles for BCM, particularly one on of the failings of the Elo rating system regulations.
Here is a game Ritson won against the veteran German GM at the London Easter congress of 1940:
Bernard wrote about WRM a year later for the centenary edition of the programme for the Hastings International Congress :
“‘Ritson’ as we all knew him was an institution in British Chess, active as a player, writer, organiser, drafter of rules and well-known for his skill as a raconteur, Educated in North Wales, he spent the rest of his life, from university days onwards, in Birmingham, but the Hastings Congress was very close to his heart. He played in a number of pre-war events, and also a few post-war, but by the time of the Frank Rhoden revival of the mid-1950s he was firmly in the saddle organising the post-Christmas traditional event. In fact I recall how perturbed Frank Rhoden was when the news came that Ritson might emigrate to the West Indies. It was not clear then how he could be replaced, for he supervised the morning, afternoon and evening sessions at the Sun Lounge (his favourite venue) and later at the Falaise Hall when the congress was still of such a size that we could all, including the Premier, be fitted into one room.
Ritson also did game commentaries for some years and produced a bulletin for at least three decades. He was greatly encouraging of younger talent and the objective historian has to recall the indignation he felt when players like Tony Miles and Nigel Short were not happy with the restraints imposed by financial stringency.
In his declining years Ritson was still a regular until his illness of late 1993, and a fixture at the “gate” where the public paid their entrance money at the Cinque Ports Hotel. The choice of word is deliberate as a visit to the dogs and the bookmaker was one of his rare pleasures outside chess. Best of all, however, one recalls him telling his fund of stories and reminisces to anyone who cared to listen. His voice, alas, has been stilled, and we are left to recall his selfless devotion to chess and, in particular, to the Hastings Congress.
Here is an obituary from the Midland Counties Chess Union
Midlands organiser and player who was a chess professional and journalist. As a player his best performances were an =2nd in the British Championship 1936 and an = 3rd in 1951.
In the international field his best results have been an =3rd with List in the Major Open A section of the Nottingham congress of 1936 and =1st with Milner-Barry in the Premier Reserves A at the Hastings congress 1946/7. He has played for England in international matches against the Netherlands (thrice) and against Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia.
A keen and accomplished correspondence player, he had the title of British Postal Master on account of his winning the British Correspondence Championship in 1943.
But it is as tournament and congress organiser that he is best known. He founded the Birmingham Junior League in 1930 and has organised thirty-four Birmingham congresses. He conceived the idea of a junior world championship and in 1951 he held the first World Junior Championship tournament at Birmingham (won by Borislav Ivkov). In the same year he was awarded the title of FIDE judge. He has also had much to do with the organisation of the Hastings Christmas chess congresses in the 1970s.
He has written much for British chess magazines and was the co-author along with the late W. R. Mitchell of Tackle Chess, London, 1967.
We remember Harry Golombek OBE who passed away on Saturday, January 7th, 1995.
The Amersham Advertiser of Wednesday, 18th January 1995, on page 6, reported, “His funeral was due to be held as 12.30pm (today), at Chilterns Crematorium, Whielden Lane, Amersham.” (Thanks Steve Mann!).
Harry Golombek was born on Wednesday, March 1st, 1911 in Lambeth, London and his parents were Barnet (Berl) Golombek (Golabek) (1878-1943) and Emma Golombek (née Sendak) (1883-1967).
The Polish word Golabek translates to “small dove” in English.
Barnet was a “Dealer of gas fittings” and was 33 when Harry was born and Emma was 26. Both of his parents were born in Zambov which is in the Lomza Gubernia region of the Kingdom of Poland which existed from 1867 – 1917. Their nationalities are both recorded as Russian in the 1911 UK census. we don’t know (as yet) when Barnet and Emma settled in the UK.
Harry had a brother Abraham (born in 1906) and a sister Rosy born in 1908. The family lived in 200b, Railton Road, Herne Hill. Lambeth.
He is a recorded with a service number of 992915 as being a member of The Royal Regiment of Artillery in 1939 and was discharged as having reached the age limit in 1956 aged 45 and one day.
Harry married his long time nurse, Noel Frances Judkins (1941 – 2011) in January 1988 and they had (born in 1992) one son : Oliver Golombek-Judkins BVSc MRCVS who is a successful Somerset based veterinary surgeon. The marriage was recorded in the district of Kensington & Chelsea.
The date of probate was 22 Mar 1995 and the executor of HGs will was David Anderton OBE.
In 1966 Harry became an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), Civil division awarded in the 1966 Queen’s Birthday (rather than New Years) Honours list.
The citation read simply :
Harry Golombek. For services to Chess : He was the first UK person to be so honoured.
In 1985 Harry was awarded the long overdue (but Honorary) title of Grandmaster by FIDE.
Harry was in 1974-82 a FIDE Zonal President and from 1978-96 he was the FIDE Permanent Fund Administrator.
Sadly, he never received the Presidents Award for Services to Chess from either the BCF or ECF : maybe a posthumous award is long overdue?
Harry Golombek RIP by Bernard Cafferty
Here (from British Chess Magazine, Volume CXV (115), 1995, Number 2 (February), pp.83-85 is this obituary from Bernard Cafferty :
Harry Golombek OBE (1 iii 1911-7 i 1995), British Champion in 1947, 1949 and 1955, was a grandmaster amongst journalists and book writers, and “Mr Chess” for many of the British public in the decades after the war when his Times column was the main source of up-to-date information on the doings of Botvinnik, Bronstein, Smyslov, Keres, Tal and the other top players.
Harry ran a weekly Saturday column along with daily reports during World Championships, British Championships, Hastings, Paignton …when only The Guardian provided a similar service to the chess community up to 1972. I often recall him grumbling at editorial incisions of his column, which, even so, was more extensive and ‘heavy’ than anything we enjoy now. He loved references to music, the theatre and the arts as a parallel to chess. In fact, he was columnist and correspondent with the paper from 1945 till 1985, and columnist of the Observer 1955-1979. His work at The Times came to an end after he suffered a mild stroke, though he struggled on for a time when, in pre-Wapping days, his work was handicapped by ever earlier deadlines.
Harry was the BCF delegate to FIDE for decades after 1948 and played a part in framing the rules. His view was that the Soviet Union, which he visited as arbiter for Botvinnik’s matches in the 1950s and 1960s as well as for the second part of the 1948 World Championship Match-Tournament, did not throw its weight about so much until after 1970 when a sort of cultural offensive in FIDE and elsewhere was undertaken.
Harry played for England at three Olympiads before the war and six after. Educated at a London grammar school, he was the son of immigrant Polish parents who had been repressed by the last Tsar, to whom his father once sent a message of defiance from the safety of England. A favourite reference of his was the London Boys’ Championship of the late 1920s where he first came to prominence.
His first experience of chess journalism came in the period 1938-40 when he was editor of BCM, till being called to army service. Harry worked in the code-breaking department at Bletchley Park during the war; the Official Secrets Act prohibited him from revealing much of what he knew of this fantastic scientific operation where he was associated with such famous names as Alan Turing, Jack Good, Hugh Alexander and Stuart Milner-Barry. A graduate of London University in Modern Languages, Harry had been called up into the Royal Artillery, but his knowledge of languages, particularly German, meant that he was soon transferred to the Intelligence Corps.
Harry was a life-long supporter of Surrey Cricket Club. His family ran a grocery shop near Kennington Oval which he sold after 1945 when he made the decision to become a chess professional’ He was reputed to have one of the finest chess libraries in Britain, which he has left to the BCF to form the nucleus of a national chess library with bequests from Sir Richard Clarke, RJ Broadbent and GH Diggle.
Amongst the many books he wrote, pride of place must be taken by his work on Capablanca’s best games and the one on the 1948 Match-Tournament at the Hague and Moscow as well as a later book on Reti. Who can forget his account of the delay at the Polish border for the train which was taking players and journalists to Moscow from the Hague in 1948? A Polish general, forgetful of recent history, declared that the train could riot proceed since no-one crossed the Polish frontier without the appropriate documentation and security checks (Euwe’s extensive analytical notebooks in Dutch were the stumbling block). It only needed Botvinnik to hear this for him to phone up Moscow and have the Polish authorities overruled by those who enjoyed real power in the post-war world.
Another famous article which comes to mind is Harry’s long account of the 1967 Sousse Interzonal, complete with the J’adoubovich incident, Fischer’s fickleness, and the camel on the beach. This appeared in the BCM, of course, where H. G. was the editor for Overseas News and the Games Department from the late 1940’s until the late ‘sixties. His work here was a cut above most contemporary chess journalism’ since he was so often on the spot at top events and he had access to all of the world’s chess press. As a consequence, he was often the contact man for arranging participation of the world’s leading players at Hastings. From this flowed his work for The Friends of Chess, the body that raised funds and helped gain invitations to foreign events for our up and comings. It was in 1966 that he gained the OBE for services to chess.
Harry had a dry acerbic wit and a fund of stories that made him a welcome after-dinner speaker and lecturer. He seemed to be a life long bachelor, but he married late in life (this corrects an error in the Times obituary of 9 January. In his declining years he spent his last days in a rest home for the elderly in Gerrards Cross where his main contact with the outside world was Gerry Walsh who had often driven him to and from the Hastings Congress in the last couple of decades of his life.
A Grandmaster Amongst Journalists
Harry Golombek, was, without a doubt, one of the finest chess writers ever, and his lengthy stint as Overseas News editor of the BCM results in some classic reports.
As a tribute to Harry’s work we (BCM) have decided to reprint word for word, his extraordinary account of the 1967 Sousse Interzonal. The article that follows is an exact reproduction of his eyewitness report, as it appears in the 1968 BCM Bound Volume, January magazine. This was the tournament that had everything: Bolbochan vanishing, Fischer withdrawing, Larsen winning, and much more.
We are sure that our current readers, young and old, will be as enchanted with the tale as BCM readers were nearly three decades ago.
Further Recollection from Bernard Cafferty
Here (from British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXXII (132), 2011, Number 3 (March), pp.150-154 is an affectionate collection of memories from Bernard Cafferty :
“In recalling four decades of knowing the GOM of 20th century English chess, one has to stress the ‘English’ aspect. The ‘Harry’ part of his name was much more significant than the Polish surname, and, though he was the most cosmopolitan of men, who fitted into any milieu, my abiding memory of him always throws up the quirks that are the sign of an Englishman. I wonder how many of my readers recall the classic English actors Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford, whose main preoccupation in their films was…. getting to know the latest cricket score from Lords or The Oval.
Indeed, Harry was a long-time member of Surrey Cricket Club, and once, when he came back from being an arbiter at an international tournament in Tenerife, his main comment to me was not about the event or the players, but rather that the volcanic rock of the Atlantic island made for brackish water, so that one could not get…. a decent cup of tea!
I first met Harry in the early 1950s when I was a teenage student keen on chess and accordingly spent my meagre pocket money on a day out in Manchester to watch the Counties Final match between Lancashire and the all-conquering Middlesex side of those years. Harry and I were about the only spectators. He was there reporting for The Times. I recall that the top board game was between the veterans William Winter and WA Fairhurst. The game duly appeared in the BCM with Harry’s notes, for he was the long-serving Games Editor of that august publication.
Perhaps I may enter a belated correction to “Who’s Who” here. Some editions stated that he was editor of BCM after the Second World War. Not so. His stint in the editorial chair was 1938-40, after which he was called up, initially being assigned to the Royal Artillery. Perhaps that is a sign of the speciality of the Services – fitting a square peg in a round hole – but he was swiftly transferred to the Intelligence Corps, perhaps at the behest of Hugh Alexander who knew that Harry had studied German at his London grammar school in Camberwell and then at London University.
Clearly, under the conditions of 1940, a linguist was just what was needed to make up the team of mathematicians, cryptographers and such like who were tasked with breaking the secrecy of German coded messages.
I once mentioned the misunderstanding over the “Who’s Who” entry to Brian Reilly. He laughed it off, saying that it was almost certainly the abiding fault of HG – not taking Brian’s repeated advice to fit a new typewriter ribbon!
I could relate to that since Harry’s handwritten game scores, written in pencil and descriptive notation, were very hard to decipher, a real scribble that only the man himself could make sense of. When I asked him why he did not use algebraic notation, he commented that he wrote for so many English-language outlets: The Times, The Times Weekend Supplement, Observer and chess book publishers like Bells and Penguin who knew their audiences of those years were supporters of the Pawn to King’s Knight Three school. In fact, Harry commented, he had made more money out of his Penguin book The Game of Chess than from all his other extensive book authorship and journalism.
and the paperback version :
Moreover, it took him about three whole days to assemble the documents and papers to enable him to fill in his income tax form.
That reminds me that, when he was in his final years, and in an old person’s rest home, he arranged for his extensive library to be transferred in many large tea chests from his house in Chalfont St Giles, Bucks, to the St Leonards address where I had worked for the BCM for the last 12 years and which had recently been vacated as a result of Murray Chandler deciding to transfer BCM operations to London. I had the task, arranged with The Friends of Chess and the BCF, to do a sort-out and preliminary catalogue of his books and magazines which Harry was bequeathing to the BCF to form the nucleus of a National Chess Library. That would be a pleasant enough task, but it was prolonged into many weeks by having to decant the valuable chess material from the tea chests, much of it covered in dust and even spiders’ webs, from the many financial and other papers to do with his financial affairs. It was then that I first learned what a ‘tip sheet’ was, and it was not until stockbroker David Jarrett, BCF Hon Treasurer, came down for a visit that the dross amongst the many papers was separated from the gold and passed to Harry’s executor David Anderton.
Reverting to the cup of tea story, the first time I got to know Harry well was at the British Championship at Leicester in 1960. Many of the participants were lodged in University accommodation near the venue. Every evening, after play had finished, a number of us got together for a chat over a cup of tea in the accommodation unit’s kitchen. There Harry would regale us with stories from his many visits abroad, particularly to Moscow for the world title matches involving Botvinnik. Harry had formed many interesting views on Soviet society. Amongst the stories he told was of the all-pervasive dead hand of the bureaucracy. He was used to filing his reports on the match in English at the Central Post Office. One day, a clerk behind the grille, told him he could not accept it, since the regulations stated that all outgoing material had to be in Russian.
With his logical mind, and not appreciating the discipline and associated bureaucracy which the rulers tried to impose on Soviet society, Harry commented that “Yesterday, I submitted in English and it was accepted”, at which the clerk drew herself up to her full height and stated firmly: “Yesterday was yesterday, today is today”. Harry’s considered views included these: Communism would never be made to work properly in Russia, since the Russians lack the requisite discipline. “They should have tried it on the Germans. They might have made it work”. He once commented that when he went to Germany in the decade or so after the war, he was aware that some of those whom he met had been strong supporters of Nazism: “If they had had their way, they would have turned me into a bar of soap!”. I got a benefit from Harry being in Moscow. I wanted to get a copy of Chigorin’s collected games by Grekov, a very rare item. Harry duly promised to seek one out on his next visit to Moscow and a second-hand copy of this fine book came to me through the post some weeks later. No charge to me, of course.
Harry played a big role in drawing up the Rules of Chess as they applied to post-1945 competitive play. He served on the appropriate FIDE commission for decades and always argued that too precise a codification limited the discretion of the arbiter to apply a common sense solution to a concrete set of circumstances. Alas, that sensible approach has been moved away from in recent times, especially with the introduction of quick-play finishes and associated fine points about time limits.
A final shrewd comment from Harry, based on his Moscow experience: “In 1917, the new Bolshevik regime claimed that they were abolishing all titles, privilege and so on. The result? Forty years later they have the most class-conscious society I have encountered.” One proof of this might be given – the Soviet internal passport system, one point of which required the holder (and for a long time no peasant was allowed such an identity document – who, then, could claim that the Tsar had abolished serfdom in the middle of the 19th century?) to state his/her ethnic origin: Russian, Ukrainian, Kalmyk, Armenian, Jew and so on. The Western mind boggles… ”
We leave the final word in reminiscences of Golombek to his near-neighbour in Chalfont St Giles, Barry Sandercock :
” Harry was a very interesting man to talk to and liked to talk about the early days when he played against some of the great players. He was also very knowledgeable on many subjects, the arts, music etc. I played him when he gave a simul at Gerrards Cross in 1955 (Jan.21st} and managed a draw after 3 hours play. I remember, the local paper once wrote an article about him, calling him an ex-world champion. I got a letter published where I pointed out that he was an ex-British Champion not ex-world champion. I hope he didn’t see that!”
“To finish, a characteristic Golombek game, with his own notes. I (Ed) have selected one of the games from his victorious British Championship playoff match against Broadbent in 1947. It is characteristic of him in many ways. The game features a typically smooth positional build-up, from his beloved English Opening, played with the Nh3 development plan, which was a particular favourite of his. The notes are also very typically Golombek – concentrating in the main on verbal explanations, with relatively few variations, but also characterised by occasionally extreme dogmatism in his assessments, such as the notes to moves 1, 2 and 6, for example. The game and notes were published in the December 1947 issue of The British Chess Magazine.”
From The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match by Klein and Winter :
“Harry Golombek is a Londoner, He was born in 1911, and learned chess when twelve years of age. He is another of those who went through the mill of the British Boys’ Championship, winning it in 1926. He has played in most English international tournaments, and has represented Great Britain in team tournaments. In the London International Tournament, 1946, he came fifth.
A graduate of London University, he served in the Foreign Office during the war, but has since retired to the country (Chalfont St. Giles). His literary activities include 50 Great Games of Modern Chess
Legend, according to James Pratt, has it that HG wrote the book without the aid of a chess set!
and Capablanca’s Hundred Best Games.
He reports chess tournaments for The Times, and edits The Times Weekly chess column.
His chess is perhaps not inspired and lacks the spark of enterprise, but he is a solid player on the whole and is apt to hold the best to a draw.”
Here is HGs entry from Hooper & Whyld (The Oxford Companion to CHESS) :
“English player and author. International Master (1950), International Arbiter (1954), honorary Grandmaster (1985). In 1945 Golombek became chess correspondent of The Times, a position he held until 1989. Also in 1945 he decided to become a professional chess-player.
He won the British Championship three times (1947, 1949, 1955) and was equal first in 1959 but lost the play-off (to Jonathan Penrose) and played in nine Olympiads from 1935 to 1962. An experienced arbiter and a good linguist, supervisor of many important tournaments and matches, he served for 30 years on the FIDE Commission that makes, amends, and arbitrates upon The laws and rules of chess.
His many books include Capablanca’s Hundred Best Games (1947),
The World Chess Championship 1948 (1949),
Réti’s Best Games of Chess (1954),
and A History of Chess (1976).”
Golombek accurate but unforceful
H. Golombek, the Present Chess Correspondent of The Times is in every way a contrast to Alexander. His forte is accurate positional play which brings him many good victories against the ordinary rank and file but rarely yields better than a draw against the very best. The grand master needs more than accuracy to shake his equanimity.
Golombek has a wide theoretical knowledge and seems equally at home in every type of opening, though his preference is for the close variety. He is a fine analyst and has
written a number of very interesting books of which I must make special mention of The World Chess Championship 1948. During a sojourn in hospital I worked my hardest to flnd flaws in the annotations to this work, but quite without success.
He is Games Editor of the British Chess Magazine and has considerably enhanced the reputation of that journal. Very popular abroad, he was asked to officiate as judge at the world championship match in Moscow between Botvinnik and Smyslov. Although as far as settling disputes is concerned the job was, I understand, a sinecure, the appointment was a high honour both to Golombek himself and to the country he represents.
From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Robert Hale 1970 & 1976), Anne Sunnucks :
“International Master and International Chess Judge. British Champion in 1947, 1949 and 1955. Captained the British Chess Federation team for many years in Chess Olympiads. In the 1972 Olympiad, captained the BCF women’s team. Chess author and chess correspondent of The Times since 1945 and the Observer since 1955. British Chess Federation to FIDE.
Born in London on 1st March 1911, Golombek learned to play chess at the age of 12 and in 1929 won the London Boy’s Championship. Two years later he became the youngest player to win the Surrey Championships. After graduating in languages at London University, Golombek devoted his full time to chess, apart from the way years, when served in the army and at the Foreign Office, and was awarded the OBE for his services to the game in 1966. He was the editor of the British Chess Magazine from 1938 to 1939 and for many years served as its games editor. He is now its overseas news editor. In his capacity as International Chess Judge, he has acted as judge in World Championship matches since 1954.
He has competed in a number of international tournaments, his best results being 1st at Antwerp 1938, 1st at Leeuwarden 1947, 1st at Baarn 1948 and -4th with Barcza, Foltys and Gliogoric at Venice 1949. in 1951, he represented the British Chess Federation in the Zonal tournament at Bad Pyrmont and came 5th, qualifying for the Interzonal. ”
His publications include : Capablanca’s 100 Best Games of Chess (1947); World Chess Championship 1948 (1949); Pocket Guide to the Chess Openings (1949);
50 Great Games of Modern Chess (1952); Reti’s Best Games of Chess (1954); 22nd USSR Championship (1956);
World Chess Championship 1957 (1957); Modern Opening Chess Strategy (1959);
and a translation of The Art of the Middle Game by P. Keres and A. Kotov.
He enjoys classical music and has been known to be successful on the Stock Exchange.”
A reasonable enquiry might be : “What did Harry write about himself?” Well, according to
The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977)
we have :
“British international master, three times British champion and the first person to figure in that country’s Honours List on account of his services to chess. Golombek was born in London and lived there till the Second World War. Educated as Wilson’s Grammar School and the University of London, he became London Boy Champion in 1929 and London University Champion 1930-3. By this time he was part of a trio of the leading players in England, the other two being Alexander and Milner-Barry. (Ed : It is curious that HG does not mention William Winter : maybe they were not like minded souls?)
His best result in the British championship before the Second World War was -2nd with EG Sergeant, 1/2 a point below Alexander at Brighton 1938. In that year he won first prize in a small international tournament at Antwerp ahead of Koltanowski. In 1938 too he became editor of the British Chess Magazine and occupied this post till he entered the army in 1940.
Before the war he had already played in three International Team Tournaments (or Olympiads as they subsequently became called) at Warsaw 1935, Stockholm 1937 and Buenos Aires 1939.
After the Buenos Aires event he went onto play in an international tournament at Montevideo where he came second to the World Champion, Alexander Alekhine.
In the war he served first in the Royal Artillery, from 1940-1 and then, for the rest of the war, in the Foreign Office at Bletchley Park, employed (like Alexander, Milner-Barry and quite a number of other chess-players) in code breaking.
After the war he made chess and writing about the game his livelihood, becoming Times Chess Correspondent in 1945 and Observer Chess Correspondent in 1955. As a player he had a consistently good record in the British Championship, coming in the prize list on fourteen out of eighteen occasions he competed in the event. He was British Champion at Harrogate 1947, Felixstowe 1949 and Aberystwyth 1955.
Here is HGs win against his old friend PS Milner-Barry from Aberystwyth 1955 :
He represented England in six more Olympiads, Helsinki 1952, Amsterdam 1954, Moscow 1956, Munich 1958, Leipzig 1960 and Varna 1962.
His best individual international results were first prizes at small tournaments in Leeuwarden 1947, Baarn 1948 and Paignton 1950 (above Euwe and Donner); =4th with O’Kelly at Beverwijk 1949, =4th with Barcza, Foltys and Gligoric at Venice 1949, and 5th at the European Zonal tournament at Bad Pyrmont 1951, thereby becoming the first British player to have qualified for the Interzonal. He was awarded the OBE in the Queen’s Birthday List in 1966.
A founding member of the FIDE Commission for the Rules of Chess, he became a FIDE International Judge and as such officiated at six World Championship matches. He was also chief arbiter at a FIDE Candidates tournament, at an Interzonal and two European Team Championship finals, etc. When the FIDE President, Dr Euwe, had to return home from Reykjavik before the 1972 Spassky-Fischer match got started. Golombek represented FIDE in Iceland and did much to ensure that the match took place and that it continued to be played.
Harry gave more than the average number of simultaneous displays in this career. For the photograph below Leonard Barden provided the following caption :
“Harry was invited because it was the 50th anniversary of his victory in the London Boys 1929 a success which he often referred to in his Times column. There were seven 30-board simuls that day, the top three being England Juniors v USSR (Spassky, Vasyukov, Kochiev) where Spassky had the worst simultaneous result of his career. No 4 was by Murray Chandler, Harry was No5 and the others by Whiteley and Rumens. The juniors who played the Russians were personally invited.”
A prolific writer and translator of books on the game, he has had some thirty-five books published on various aspects of chess. Among them are : Capablanca’s Best Games of Chess, London, New York 1947; Reti’s Best Games of Chess, London 1954; New York 1975; The Game of Chess, London 1954; Modern Opening Chess Strategy, London 1959; A History of Chess, London, New York 1976.“
From British Chess (Pergamon Press, 1983), Botterill, Levy, Rice and Richardson, we have this rather brief biography :
“Thee times British Champion (Harrogate 1947, Felixstowe 1949, Aberystwyth 1955) and the first person to figure on the Honours List for services to Chess. He has represented England in 9 Olympiads. A FIDE International Judge and Arbiter has has officiated at 6 World Championship matches. He is chess correspondent of The Times and a prolific writer and translator”
We remember Elaine Pritchard who passed away ten years this day on Saturday, January 7th, 2012.
Dorée Elaine Zelia Saunders was born on Thursday, January 7th, 1926. Her father was Henry de Beaufort Saunders (b. 7 Aug 1900, Folkestone, Kent d. Between Jul 1989 and Sep 1989) and her mother was Dorée Nellie Irene Dudley (b. 3 May 1900, d. 9 Jun 1970)
In the 1939 register Henry is listed as a Garage proprietor who had “retired through incapacitation”. He is recorded as a Air Raid Precautions Warden who was also a first aider. His wife is listed as undertaking “unpaid domestic duties”. The record for Elaine is blanked out with “This Record Officially Closed” meaning that they believe that she might still be alive. They are listed as residing at The George & Dragon Hotel in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.
She was taught chess by her father and then her early trainer was Charles Dealtry Locock who lived with the family in the hotel above.
She married David Pritchard on Friday March 7th 1952 in the Chelsea Registry Office. Elaine was living at Wylderne, Bridge Street, Great Kimble, Aylesbury HP17 9TW. At the time of their marriage David was a Flight Lieutenant.
Elaine and David had a daughter, Wanda H Zelia Pritchard on March 21st 1958. She became Wanda Dakin who was also a chess player. Wanda attended Guildford High School for Girls and then Royal Holloway College, Egham.
In their later years Elaine and David lived at Badgers Wood, Hascombe Road, Godalming, Surrey, GU8 4AA :
From British Chess (Pergamon Press, 1983), Botterill, Levy, Rice and Richardson :
“Chesswise I seem already to have lived an alarmingly long time, the era of Capablanca and Alekhine back across the war years was another world. The three games I have chosen belong to three distinctly different periods in these fifty years – the juvenile long-ago, the most elderly present and the middle when I was playing tolerably well and was awarded the WIM title.
My father, assisted by a 2d. (= almost 1p) book of rules from Smiths, taught me the moves at somewhere round the age of five. We were rescued by the problemist CD Locock who noticed me playing in a girls’ tournament two years later. It was he who brought me up on a diet of the Scotch, the Evans and any gambit that was going. We analysed them in some depth – for those days – and my severe task-master made me copy out long columns of dubious lines. He also made me his guinea-pig for his Imagination in Chess and it is small wonder that I still find it hard to resist a sacrifice, and much of my undoing comes from premature sorties such as f4 and Qh5.
In retrospect he must have been a brilliant teacher. Starting in 1936 a succession of girls’ titles came my way including the FIDE under-21, and in 1939 the British Ladies at the age of 13. It is hard to assess how strong or weak one was at the time because there has been such a marked improvement in the standard of play among women over recent years. At all events, those pre-war years were happy ones, especially away from chess which took second place to horses and more physical pastimes.
The incident which received the most publicity was the ‘affair Alekhine’. Most of the pre-war giants were kindly if a little condescending towards me but the new World Champion – he had just regained the title from Euwe – showed me no mercy. He took on 30 Kent players at the Charing Cross Hotel and after 5 hours demolished all except myself. The ending was equal. He stood over our board and glowered. ‘Give the child a draw’, said someone in Russian in the audience, which despite them mid-night hour were everywhere on chairs and even under tables. ‘I know what I am doing’ came the reply, and of course he did. I lost.
At 13 the world changed. I almost gave up chess. There were no celebrations after that Ladies Championship. The foreign masters packed their bags for home; we packed them for exile in Buckinghamshire and filling sandbags.
My saddest personal loss of the war was Vera Menchik, perhaps the strongest lady player of all time.
Leaving university with a poor, but lightning degree in French, I was employed by the Foreign Office and spent the next few years in London. While at college I had won the Notts County Championship and like to remember my last game on top board for county against the great HE Atkins, so many times British Champion, making his final appearance for Leicestershire.
I forsook women’s events and achieved probably my best results, finishing equal 3rd in the London Championship final, having beaten David Hooper with an Allgaier Gambit, and qualifying for the British Championship at Buxton in a section which included L. Barden, V. Berger and DB Pritchard.
Marrying David in 1952, we went to the Far East for three years and on our return I made a come-back to women’s chess and won the title at Blackpool in 1956. I was consequently despatched to the Western Zonal in Venice and finished equal 2nd with Lazaravic. This qualified me for the Interzonal, but my daughter Wanda arrived (March 21st 1958) before I could get to the starting post. Meanwhile with Eileen Tranmer we represented the BCF in the first women’s Olympiad in Emmen in 1957 where we finished 7th. The Finals went well for me and included a draw against Rubtsova, the then world champion. The results of the two tournaments were sufficient for me to be awarded the IWM title. My BCF grading at that time was 200 and has gone down ever since!
And so some 20 years on and still a teacher, we reach the final period, that of comparative dotage. Notwithstanding, I have been fortunate enough to have played in the last four Olympiads at Skopje, Medellin, Haifa and Buenos Aires, twice as captain of the team. It was, of course, pleasurable to win a silver medal at Haifa, despite the fact that the East European bloc was missing. The last of the three games comes from Haifa at a crucial stage. Playing for a team has always seemed more fun.
Also in my dotage belong two books, Chess for Pleasure
and The Young Chess Player (Faber) and organisation of girl’s chess, particularly the Faber Cup”
From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Robert Hale 1970 & 1976), edited by Anne Sunnucks :
“International Woman Master (1957) and British Woman Champion in 1939, 1946, 1956 and 1965.
Elaine Pritchard was, as a child, one of the few girl prodigies in the history of the game. She was taught the moves by her father when she was 5.5 and started to play in tournaments at the age of 7. When she was 10 years old, she won an under-21 girls’ tournament sponsored by FIDE and at the age of 13 won the British Ladies Championship for the first time.
She is married to David Pritchard, ex-Southern Counties Champion and Malayan Champion in 1955, when she was stationed with the RAF in Singapore, who tells of how when he first met her, when she was about 7, she was unable to reach the far side of the board.
Her successes in more recent years include 2nd in the Western European Women’s Zonal Tournament of 1957 and 6th in the same event at Arenys de Mar in 1966; 3rd at Havering 1967 and 3rd at Paignton 1967. She played for the British Chess Federation team in the First Women’s Chess Olympiad at Emmen in 1957.”
From The Encyclopaedia of Chess, Edited by Harry Golombek :
“International Woman master and British Woman champion 1939, 1946, 1956 and 1965, she was a girl prodigy with perhaps the most natural talent for the game of any British-born woman. She was playing competitive chess at the age of seven and was only ten when she won the FIDE Girls Open chess championship (under-21) in London in 1936, winning eleven out of twelve games played.
British Girl Champion (under-18) 1936-8 she won the British Women’s Championship in 1939 at the age of thirteen. Winning the title on three more occasions she hardly ever had a bad result in the event but, by profession a teacher, she did not always have the time to devote to the game.
Her best international results were 2nd in the Western European Zonal Women’s tournament in 1957 (the year she gained the Woman master title), and two 3rd places in Paignton and Havering 1967. She represented the B.C.F. in Women’s Olympiads at Emmen 1957, Skopje 1972, Medellin in 1974 and Haifa 1976. (H.G.)”
Elaine did not merit mention by Hooper & Whyld it would appear.
The following obituary by James Pratt appeared in the February 2012 issue of British Chess Magazine :
“Via Godalming Chess Club we learn of the death of International Woman Master, Elaine Pritchard (née Dorée Elaine Zelia Saunders ) (7 i 1926 Brentford – 7 i 2012 Gloucester). British Lady Champion in 1939, 1946, 1956 and 1965, she became an IWM in 1957. A child prodigy, she won the World Girls Under 21s at the age of ten and first captured the British Ladies title at the outbreak of WWII. Mrs Pritchard wrote two books, Chess for Pleasure and The Young Chess Player. She was an occasional BCM contributor. Her last published grade was in 2003. She was an Honorary Life Member of the ECF.”
We remember Brian Patrick Reilly who passed away on December 29th, 1991, thirty years ago today.
From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977), Harry Golombek OBE (written by Wolfgang Heidenfeld) :”Irish master born at Menton, of Irish descent, who has represented Ireland in nine Olympic team tournaments between 1935 and 1968; three times on top board.
He was also Irish representative at seven FIDE congresses. Reilly played in a number of small international tournaments, wining first prize at Nice 1931 and sharing fourth prize with Klein and EG Sergeant behind Reshevsky, Capablanca and Sir G. Thomas at Margate 1935.
Winner of Irish championship in 1959 and 1960. General Editor of British Chess Magazine since 1949.”
His obituary in British Chess Magazine was written by Bernard Cafferty and appeared in Volume CXII (112, 1992), Number 2 (February), page 70:
“With great regret we have to report that Brian Patrick Reilly has, to use the older term, ‘joined the great majority’.
B. P. Reilly (Menton, 12 xii 1901-Hastings, 29 xii l99l) was born into an expatriate family on the French Riviera, and so was bilingual. He learned his chess in France where he had many friends and acquaintances. He knew Alekhine in the 1920s and 1930s and was a witness at Alekhine’s wedding.
Many years later he was to do extensive research on Alekhine’s life, and was the first to establish (though he did not publish the fact) that the Russian did not complete his doctorate studies at the Sorbonne, so that “Dr” Alekhine must be considered a purely honorary title.
Brian won the Nice tournament of 1931, ahead of Noteboom, Mieses, . . . Sir George Thomas . . . Znosko-Borovsky. . . and played for Ireland at the 1935 Olympiad beating Fine.
These results, taken with his fourth place at Margate 1935, behind Reshevsky, Capablanca and Sir George Thomas, made it clear that he was of IM strength.
We are grateful to Tony Gillam for providing the following score which has only recently come to light. See Warsaw Olympiad 1935, The Chess Player, Nottingham, 2020.
During the war Brian was interned in France as a British citizen, coming close to starvation for a time. He described all this in the very detailed account of his life in the September 1980 BCM, on which we have drawn, along with the many reminiscences Brian passed on to the present writer.
After working for the Sutton Coldfield magazine just after the war (he did not get on well with B. H. Wood, thinking him not very business-like – do we put this too diplomatically?) Brian was a freelance translator in the pharmaceutical industry before taking over BCM in 1949. At the time the magazine was technically bankrupt.
In 1964 he moved the office from London to St Leonards, showing his business acumen yet again. He ran the bookstall for many years at the Hastings Congress at the Sun Lounge and the Falaise Hall.
After the union troubles of 1970-71 and the Fischer boom he arranged for the magazine to be typeset by his son Freddy at the family home in West Norwood. This led to an expansion in the pagination after some teething troubles.
All this while, Brian was playing for Ireland in Olympiads, and attending to FIDE affairs as a FIDE delegate.
After the death of his son Freddy in 1980, the magazine was sold to the BCF and Brian retired as editor in September 1981, remaining as a consultant for nearly a decade.
His last years were spent in Hastings, where it was his wont to carry on with the long sea-front walks that he had practised since a breakdown in health due to overwork. He had strong views on correct diet and exercise which he could expound to anyone willing to listen. The fact that he could walk up to six miles a day in his late eighties and that his faculties, including his memory, only seemed to be weakening in his last two years, is proof enough of the validity of his theories.
On his 90th birthday he attended the office and drank a glass of champagne to celebrate the occasion. We have the testimony of Mrs Arnold, who worked with him so long, that he was still talking of visiting the Hastings Congress. This was on Boxing Day, the day after he had been admitted to St Helen’s Hospital with a chest infection. He assured her he would be up and about again, but old friends such as Harry Golombek and Ritson Morry waited for him in vain as Hastings got under way. . .
BCM readers, too, must be counted amongst his old friends who will miss him. They should be aware that, but for Brian, and his decades of hard work. there would now be no BCM.”
From British Chess Magazine, Volume CI (101), Number 8 (August), pp 352 – 369 a conversation between B.P. Reilly and W.H. Cozens :
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