“Silman’s Chess Odyssey is International Master Jeremy Silman’s homage – part instruction, part history, part memoir – to the game he loves. The book opens with with behind-the-scenes tales of tournament life. Then it profiles the lives and careers of eleven legendary players-Adolf Anderssen, Ignatz Kolisch, Johannes Zukertort, Siegbert Tarrasch, Wilhelm Steinitz, Emanuel Lasker, Frank Marshall, Rudolf Spielmann, Alexander Alekhine, Salo Flohr, and Efim Geller-with the help of diagrams and analysis of over 275 games. After that it delves into accounts of criminals who were talented chess players, discusses a memorably odd series of games in a historic interzonal tournament, and memorializes some of Silman’s friends in the chess world. It concludes with material on openings, imbalances, tactics, and psychology, and FAQs”
About the Author:
“Jeremy Silman is an International Master and a world-class teacher, writer, and player who has won the American Open, the National Open, and the U.S. Open. Considered by many to be the game’s preeminent instructive writer, he is the author of over thirty-seven books, including Silman’s Complete Endgame Course, The Amateur’s Mind, The Complete Book of Chess Strategy, and The Reassess Your Chess Workbook. His website (www.jeremysilman.com) offers fans of the game instruction, book reviews, theoretical articles, and details of his work in the creation of the chess scene in the movie Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”
From the author’s preface:
As I sit down to write this preface I find myself at a loss for words. Why? I’ve been writing about chess for over fifty years (as well as teaching and playing), but every paragraph I start to write seems as f I’ve written or said it a thousand times before.
I ask myself what are my current thoughts on chess. For example, computer chess engines are monsters. Humans have no way to beat them, and they will get better and better.
Chess continues to be a part of everyday as I must feed my habit? I very much enjoy the game when I play blitz against other masters. Sadly, several of my close friends (my chess posse) have died: Igor Ivanov, Walter Browne, Pal Benko, Steve Brandwein (I can still here Steve chanting, “I came, I ate, and I left”), and John Grefe, and I miss there banter. I enjoy chess teaching (if the student is really engaged) and I have a handful of students. But mostly I love, love, love chess books.
Fantastic: so do I. Wait a minute, though. ‘I miss THERE banter’? While I’m at it, I’m not sure what that question mark is doing at the end of the first sentence in that paragraph. Although I share Jeremy’s love of chess books, I hate, hate, hate spelling, grammatical and factual errors (especially those in my own books and reviews).
To be fair, it does get a lot better: perhaps the preface was written after the grammar checker had read the rest of the book.
Jumping forward a bit:
I love chess history. For example, Gioacchino Greco – he was the best chess player in the world circa 1620. You must look at his games (see part four)! Greco was a master of tactics, positional play, and openings – he did everything! I Greco knew “imbalances” (which I created) he would be a chess god. As for Philidor (in the 1700s), Greco would destroy him.
Interesting, and perhaps a controversial opinion, quite apart from the question as to whether Greco actually played the games in his book. If you’re a historian of early chess, what do you think?
And I am constantly amused by the endless stories. One of my favorites is the account Steinitz wrote following his physical battle with the hard-drinking Joseph Henry Blackburne (who was also known as the Black Death).
“After a few words Blackburne pounced upon me and hammered at my face and eyes with fullest force about a dozen blows … but at last I had the good fortune to release myself from his drunken grip, and I broke the windowpane with his head, which sobered him down a little.”
I laugh every time I look at this, as I hope you do when you read some of the stories squeezed in between the history and instruction within these pages.
There are so many sides to chess: You can have fun with it. You can study for long hours every day and become a strong player (that was my path). You can be a bad player, but just love the game and feel joy when you sit down at the board. You can be a five-year-old kid (boy or girl), or a ninety year old that plays every day.
I hope that every chess player will find some part of this book that speaks to them.
Here we have, then, an author with a distinguished record of writing instructional books, but who also has a passionate love of chess. If you share that passion you’ll want to read this book.
The first part, taking you up to page 56, offers Cracked Grandmaster Tales, amusing anecdotes which Jeremy himself either witnessed or was part of.
Here’s Filipino GM Balinas drinking a cup of honey mixed with tea – and losing horribly. Here’s Tal visiting Disneyland (his favourite ride was Pirates of the Caribbean). Here’s Najdorf, well, being Najdorf. Here’s Larsen, well, being Larsen and telling his favourite stories. All great fun, although I’m not sure everything would pass a sensitivity reader.
The bulk of the book, up to page 376 is taken up by Part 2, where Silman introduces you to his 11 favourite players of all time, mostly from the 19th and early 20th centuries. A pretty eclectic bunch they are as well, but with tacticians predominating: Anderssen, Kolisch, Zukertort, Tarrasch, Steinitz, Lasker, Marshall, Spielmann, Alekhine, Flohr, Geller). There’s a lot of variance in the number of pages allotted to them. Poor Zukertort only gets six pages, compared to Lasker’s 50, Marshall’s 67 and Alekhine’s 72.
Marshall’s chapter is, as you would expect, hugely entertaining. Silman offers us a lot of games, a few with Marshall’s annotations, some lightly and often amusingly annotated by Silman, and others without annotations, as well as a run-through of his career record.
He describes this rather inaccurate game, against Janowski, as a thrilling battle. As always in my reviews, click on any move for a pop-up window.
The annotations aren’t entirely accurate, either, if you consult Stockfish, or, for the last few moves, tablebases. The rook ending is certainly worth your attention if you like that sort of thing.
The chapter on Alekhine is also fun, although some readers will have seen some of the games many times before.
This game has a British interest, although I have a slight quibble. Milner-Barry was usually known by his middle name: Silman only gives his first name here.
There’s a more serious problem when we reach 1938.
Silman presents this Famous Miniature, but mistakenly attributes the black pieces to Rowena rather than her future husband Ronald Bruce.
This mistake still appears in some online sources, and earlier versions of MegaBase had it wrong, but it’s correct in the current version. This article sets the record straight.
Silman also fails the Yates test: he was just Fred, not Frederick (and MegaBase, frustratingly, still hasn’t picked this up). Silman is a lover of chess history, but, like many others, not a historian. You might equally well argue, I suppose, that not all chess historians actually love chess history, being interested in facts at the expense of character.
Part 3 is entitled Portraits and Stories. Here we have some chess-playing criminals such as Norman Whitaker and Claude Bloodgood, who will be familiar to readers of The (Even More) Complete Chess Addict.
Silman also pays tribute to a few of his departed friends. Here, I was struck by his memories of Steve Brandwein, an exceptionally strong blitz player who played very little over the board.
Here’s one of his games.
Part 4 is a real miscellany: Musings, Theory, Instruction, and FAQs. You’ll find all sorts of things here, including this classic game. It taught me a lot in my early teens, and improved my positional understanding by leaps and bounds. Perhaps, with Silman’s annotations, it will improve your positional understanding as well.
There’s so much more here: the aforementioned Greco games, chess psychology, some opening theory, answers to questions such as ‘Can Anyone Become a Grandmaster?’ – and the Greatest Amateur Game of All Time.
You might think there are at least two books struggling to escape from this heavy, well produced, entertainingly written and beautifully illustrated (a wide range of great photographs throughout the book) volume. Part 2, Silman’s First Eleven, might be compared with Chernev’s Golden Dozen, while Parts 1, 3 and 4 would make a great collection of Wonders and Curiosities of Chess. And, yes, I think I can see the great Irving’s shade smiling down in approval.
You might see it as a bran tub, a lucky dip. Turn to any page at random and you’ll find something to amuse, inform or instruct.
Despite some avoidable errors, which will probably annoy you less than they annoy me, this book is highly recommended to all true chess enthusiasts, whatever their rating. It’s Jeremy’s love letter to the game that has meant so much to him throughout his life, a paean to the beauty and excitement of chess. If anyone out there thinks chess is a dull game, or chess players are dull people, this is the book to disabuse them.
In his chapter on Geller, Silman writes:
In my mind, if you don’t know all the greats from the past, then you’re missing the heart and soul of what chess is about. So many wonderful games. So many stories; some funny, some crazy, some very, very sad.
I’m in complete agreement: what sets chess apart from other games is its history, heritage and culture. If you agree as well, or if you’d just like to investigate further, then you should certainly read this book.
Wilfred Hugh Miller Kirk was perhaps Richmond Chess Club’s strongest player between 1925 and 1937, as well as playing an important administrative role in the club.
Wilfred was born in Culmstock, Devon on 18 May 1877, where Teddington novelist, market gardener and chess player RD Blackmore also lived for a time. His family were originally from London, but his father was working in Devon as a Schools Inspector at the time of his birth. The family later returned to London, where young Wilfred joined the Civil Service on leaving school. He would remain there for his entire working life.
In 1899 he married 20 year old Mabel Ellen Gannaway. Wilfred and Mabel had four children, Talbot (1902), Beatrice (1903), Evelyn (1907) and Ruby (1908).
We hear of him as a chess player for the first time only in 1904, at the age of 27, when he took part in the Second Class B section of the inaugural British Championships at Hastings. He did pretty well for a newcomer to competitive chess, finishing in third place, just half a point behind the joint winners.
The following year he took part in the Kent Open Amateur 2nd Class A tournament, held that year at Crystal Palace, where he shared first place with his old rival WT Dickinson.
Shortly afterwards, leaving his wife and two young children at home, he crossed the channel to Ostend, where a mammoth tournament was taking place. The master event had no less than 36 entrants, with a complex group structure, and, below that, there were two amateur sections which attracted a number of British participants. Wilfred played in the Amateur B section, scoring a very respectable 11/17.
He didn’t take part in another tournament until 1908, when he again played in the Kent congress, that year held in Sevenoaks. This time Wilfred was promoted to the 1st Class Open Section 2. He found 1st class competition a lot tougher than the 2nd class, scoring only 1½/6, The leading scores in this section were Harold Godfrey Cole (5), Kate Belinda Finn and Percy Rawle Gibbs (4½). Miss Finn wasn’t the only (fishy) lady in the section: Mrs Frances Dunn Herring brought up the rear on 1/6.
Although he wasn’t very active in tournament play at the time, he was very much involved in Civil Service chess. He may well have been playing for the Local Government Board before his first tournament, and, when the Civil Service Chess League was founded in 1904 he was appointed to the post of Secretary.
When the British Championships were held in Richmond in 1912 he returned to the fray. This time he was in the 1st Class Amateurs B section, and, from the result, it was clear that he was a lot stronger now than a few years earlier.
The British Chess Magazine (October 1912) remarked that Mr. W. H. M. Kirk (Putney) is a well-known fine player in the Civil Service League, but does not play much otherwise. With work and family commitments, it was understandable that he wouldn’t have had much time for tournament play.
Unfortunately the only game of his from this event that appears to be extant was his only defeat. For all games in this article, click on any move for a pop-up window.
Kirk took part in the Surrey Championship that year, where he finished in first place with a score of 4½/5. This time we do have one of his wins, which his opponent, a dentist usually known as Frank St J Steadman, generously submitted to the British Chess Magazine. It was published in their December 1912 issue.
Wilfred entered the 1st Class Open in the 1913 Kent & Sussex Congress but had to withdraw before the start of the tournament. However, he did play in the Major Open section of the 1913 British Championship, making a respectable showing in a strong tournament.
Here’s a loss against the German born but English resident Georg Schories, a regular Major Open competitor whose nationality precluded his participation in the championship.
In this photograph of the competitors in this section, Kirk is the good looking youngish man (he was now 35) standing second on the left. He doesn’t look very happy, does he? But then they rarely did in those days.
And then World War 1 intervened. The Civil Service Chess League continued in 1915, but then stopped for the duration, only resuming in 1919.
The British Championships were also suspended, again resuming with a Victory Congress at Hastings in August that year. The British title itself wasn’t awarded, the top section being a semi-international event with visiting stars Capablanca and Kostic taking the first two places, well ahead of Sir George Thomas and Yates. The Major Open went to Edward Guthlac Sergeant, and, below that were three parallel First Class sections. Kirk was in the C section, finishing in first place, beating, amongst others, future World Champion Max Euwe. The enforced break had done nothing to dull his chess strength.
Again, his only loss, against Irish champion John James O’Hanlon, is the only one of his games from this event I’ve been able to locate.
In 1919 he also entered the City of London Chess Club Championship: the only time he took part in this prestigious event. He finished in 6th place with 6/11 behind Sir George Thomas, a clear winner on 9½, Michell, Walker, EG Sergeant and Blake, whom he beat in this game: a notable scalp.
Throughout much of his life, Wilfred Kirk seemed to move house every two or three years. He had previously lived in Putney and Wimbledon, but by this time had moved to North London, playing for Hampstead Chess Club and winning the Middlesex Championship in 1920. He had also moved departments in the Civil Service, from the Local Government Board to the Ministry of Health.
Then, in Autumn 1925, he moved to Richmond, living in several addresses in Richmond and Twickenham in the following 12 years or so. He wasted no time in joining Richmond Chess Club, but, in his first match, was only playing on Board 3.
He also entered the Surrey Championship, in 1926 regaining the title he had previously won 14 years earlier.
As an able administrator he was soon appointed secretary of his new club, as reported here, where, on top board, he was successful against our old friend George Archer Hooke.
His addresses at this point included 17 The Barons, St Margarets in 1927 and 27 Richmond Hill in 1928.
In the 1928-29 season Kirk swept the board, winning not just the club championship (you’ll see PGL Fothergill in 3rd place: he only seemed to play in internal competitions rather than club matches), but the handicap tournament (one wonders how the scores were calculated) and the prize for the best percentage score in matches.
Wilfred was very much involved in charitable endeavours of all sorts, promoting chess at the Star and Garter Home for disabled ex-Servicemen, donating money to a fund for distressed miners, and, later in life. helping at a local home for the blind.
That summer, by then in his 50s, he unexpectedly received an invitation to take part in the British Championship, held that year in Ramsgate.
Wilfred was a very effective player top level club opposition, but here, against mostly master standard opponents, he was rather out of his depth.
He lost in 19 moves to Gerald Abrahams: a game which attracted some attention at the time. Abrahams, rather typically, played a speculative sacrifice which Kirk should have accepted, but instead declined it and resigned the next move.
In this group photograph, Kirk is standing on the left next to the permanently disheveled William Winter.
That year there was a merger between Richmond and Kew chess clubs, who, however, continued to meet at both venues on different days of the week. Kirk now had a serious rival in Kew star Ronald George Armstrong, about whom more in a future Minor Piece.
Meanwhile, in 1933, Kirk’s service to chess in the Civil Service was marked by a presentation.
This 1934 match must have been a surprise result.
Richmond & Kew were a second division team, playing in the Beaumont Cup, while Kingston, who had won the Surrey Trophy two years earlier, were a genuine first division team. Unfortunately, they lost to Battersea in the final of the Alexander Cup.
Armstrong must have been very pleased with his draw against Michell, while Kirk also shared the point with (Richard) Nevil Coles, who later became a celebrated chess author and who beat me in a Richmond v Guildford Surrey Trophy match in 1972.
In the 1934-35 season Kirk won the club championship while Armstrong took the handicap shield: they gave a tandem simul at the end of season prizegiving.
It was the same story in 1937, with Kirk taking the club championship for the sixth time with a 100% score, and Armstrong again preferring the handicap shield. Wilfred was now entitled to hold the cup in perpetuity, but generously returned it for future years. I wonder what happened to it.
At this point, though, Wilfred Kirk retired from the Civil Service, spending some time travelling round Europe playing chess before moving, like many retired chess players of the time, to Hastings.
However, he competed in the 1938 British Championships in Brighton, now down in the First Class B section, where he shared first place on 7/11, winning this miniature.
He was soon involved in administration again, both at Hastings Chess Club, and with their annual tournament. He also found time to compete in the 1938-39 event, sharing second place in the Premier Reserves C section.
He also threw himself into county chess, here losing to another former Civil Service player Bernard Henry Newman Stronach.
By now the world was at war again, but Hastings managed to arrange their annual tournament that winter, with Kirk taking part in the Premier.
In this game he held the tournament winner Frank Parr to a draw, sacrificing a knight for a perpetual check.
Although it was no longer possible to run formal competitions, Hastings Chess Club remained active during the war, with friendly matches against local rivals Eastbourne and Bexhill.
His opponent in this game, George Edward Anslow, a Gas Company clerk, was a member of both Eastbourne and Hastings Chess Clubs for many years. He beat me in a 1974 friendly match between Hastings and Richmond & Twickenham Chess Clubs.
Frederick William (Fred) Boff, whom he defeated in this game, seems to have been an interesting character both on and off the chessboard.
He was still very active locally as the war finally came to an end, and was involved in the administration of the 1945-46 Hastings Congress as Treasurer and Assistant Secretary. In June that year, still playing regularly in club events, he was taken ill with appendicitis. The operation, sadly, proved unsuccessful.
There’s more information in this pen picture from Kevin Thurlow’s book on chess in the English Civil Service.
Wilfred Hugh Miller Kirk, then, was a strong player (2261 at his peak according to EdoChess) and a highly efficient administrator. He seems to have been well respected at work and was also devoted to various charitable causes.
His family life, though, wasn’t happy.
In the 1901 census we see Wilfred and Mabel, only recently married, and living in Pimlico.
They soon moved south of the river, the births of their first three children being registered in Wandsworth, and the youngest in Balham.
By 1911 the family had split up. Wilfred was living on his own in Streatham, a Second Division Clerk in the Civil Service. Mabel didn’t appear to be around. Talbot, Beatrice and Evelyn (aged 9, 7 and only 4) were boarding at a school in Wimbledon, while 2-year-old Ruby was living with Wilfred’s mother in Battersea.
Then, in 1914, Mabel filed a petition for judicial separation. She was represented by her solicitor, PR Gibbs, who, I’d imagine, was the same Percy Rawle Gibbs who had played Wilfred at Sevenoaks in 1908.
Mabel’s petition, citing eight addresses, mostly in the Wandsworth area, at which they lived during their marriage, listed dates and places, from 1906 onwards, when and where Wilfred had assaulted her, and treated her with coldness and neglect. He had punched her on her body and head, thrown her against the furniture and onto the floor, grabbed her by the collar and dragged her upstairs. Wilfred denied the charges of cruelty, claiming that Mabel had become mentally deranged and assaulted him violently, and he was only acting in self-defence. On other occasions she had become hysterical and behaved in an ill tempered and unreasonable manner, causing him to lose his temper.
It was also revealed that, from late 1910, she had been a patient at St Luke’s Hospital: she was probably still there at the time of the 1911 census.
The separation was granted, with Mabel having custody of the two older children and Wilfred the two younger children. Would a man who had assaulted his wife, even with provocation, be given custody of two young girls today?
Was he a violent and abusive wife beater whose behaviour had driven his wife to the lunatic asylum, or a good man who found it difficult to cope with his wife’s mental health problems? I don’t know: I wasn’t there and it’s far from me to pass judgement.
The ramifications continued for a decade (the papers are available online at ancestry.co.uk).
The 1921 census found Wilfred now living in Islington with Evelyn and Ruby, who were both at school. Mabel and Beatrice, now an art student, were the other side of London, in South Norwood. Meanwhile, Talbot had emigrated to the USA, where he married in 1927 and had two sons, Fred (1928-76) and Jack (1929-67).
His marriage didn’t last and he returned to England. The 1933 Electoral Roll shows Mabel, Talbot and Beatrice sharing a house right by Hampstead Heath.
Then, in 1934, Wilfred sued Mabel for divorce on the grounds of adultery.
Well, I don’t know. In September that year he married Olive Emily Holmes. Was he committing adultery as well? Again, I wasn’t there.
What happened to the rest of his family? Talbot remarried in 1941 in Brentford, at some point moving to Yorkshire, where he died in 2006 at the extraordinary age of 104.
Beatrice never married: by 1939 she was working as a typist in the Ministry of Food, and died in Hastings at the age of 78.
Evelyn married young, in 1926, to a man almost twice her age, George Arthur Tomlinson, who seems to have been a mechanical engineer working at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington. They lived with Wilfred for a time after the marriage before moving to North London where two sons, Brian (1928) and Robin (1930) were born. George died in 1944, but Evelyn, like her brother, lived a long life, dying in Bath at the age of 96.
Ruby married in 1939, like Evelyn to a much older man: a divorcee with the impressive name Bernard de Lerisson Cazenove. She had no children and, again like Evelyn, lived into her 90s: she was 91 when she died in Warwickshire.
The report of Wilfred’s cremation leaves some questions unanswered. You might have wondered why the local paper mentioned that he left a son, but failed to note his daughters.
At the cremation, Talbot, Evelyn and Ruby were there, but there was no mention of Beatrice as a chief mourner. Did the paper forget her? Or had they become estranged?
Talbot, Dolly and Sylvia sent flowers, but who were Dolly and Sylvia? There were also flowers from Eric, Brian and Robin. Brian and Robin were his grandsons, but who was Eric? And why wasn’t Evelyn included? Her second marriage, in 1948, would be to Ernest (Vokes), not to Eric. Or was ‘Eric’ a misreading of ‘Evelyn’?
There’s one further family tragedy to report.
This is Wilfred and Mabel’s grandson Robin taking his own life in 1950, at the age of 19.
Had he inherited mental health problems from his mother? Impossible to tell, of course.
Although Wilfred Hugh Miller Kirk was a formidable club player and respected administrator, it seems that his family life was unsettled (moving house every couple of years) and unhappy. I can only hope that the game of chess brought him some comfort.
“An informative and accessible new book by Thomas Engqvist, the practical follow up to his previous two authoritative chess books: 300 Most Important Chess Positions and 300 Most Important Tactical Chess Positions.
Filled with 300 engaging chess exercises and complete solutions in the end of the book, this book will allow you to apply and consolidate your newfound knowledge. The book is divided into four key sections: ·75 exercises practising positional ideas in the opening/middlegame ·75 exercises covering the endgame ·75 tactical exercises in the opening/middlegame ·75 tactical endgames.
The exercises featured in the book are taken from real game positions from various renowned chess players, including Capablanca and Magnus Carlsen.”
About the Author:
“Thomas Engqvist is an International Master from Sweden. He has over 30 years’ experience as a chess coach and teacher. He has worked with players at world championship level in both junior and correspondence chess. He is the author of 300 Most Important Chess Positions and 300 Most Important Tactical Chess Positions, both published by Batsford.
From the back cover:
In-depth analysis of the 300 most important exercises according to the famous principle “less is more”. The less you study the less you forget.
Practice the most important positional and tactical ideas in all phases of the game by solving just five positions every week for one year.
Find out if the positional or tactical idea crops up in your mind, regardless of whether you have seen the idea before or not.
Well, if you solve five positions every week it will take you 60 rather than 52 weeks to complete the book, but never mind. The claim that you’ll improve more by studying less is also rather silly: the real point is that the quality rather than the quantity of your study is important.
In this highly instructive exercise book, International Master and experienced chess coach Thomas Engqvist outlines the 300 most important chess exercises. A sequel to 300 Most Important Chess Positions and 300 Most Important Tactical Chess Positions, this is the perfect manual for players who want to reach a higher level but don’t have the time to spend hours every week on less productive study.
Each numbered position is a test-yourself quiz to help cement the positional and tactical understanding that you have acquired. This book can be your life-long companion, enabling you to apply and solidify your positional and tactical chess knowledge.
Swedish International Master Thomas Engqvist has almost 40 years experience as a chess coach, teacher, writer and player. He has successfully worked with players at world championship level in both junior and correspondence chess. He works as a teacher at a school outside Stockholm. He is the author of eight chess books. This is his third book for Batsford Chess.
Yes, I get the point. Not everyone who wants to improve has the sort of time to spare that would be required to benefit from a book like this. Most of us have other commitments: just solving five exercises a week might be ideal. And what about the title? Are these exercises more important than the positions in the previous books? Who is to determine importance anyway. An exercise that’s important to me might not be important to you.
Let’s see what the author has to say in his introduction.
300 Most Important Chess Exercises starts off with 150 opening and middlegame positions to solve and the quota is 75 exercises where you practice positional ideas, and 75 exercises where the focus is on tactics. The other half of the book deals with 75 positional endings and 75 tactical endings. This is the only hint the solver will get.
This, then, is the final volume of a trilogy, with exercises based on the material in Engqvist’s two earlier Batsford books. If you’ve read and enjoyed them (sadly, I haven’t) you’ll undoubtedly want this as well. However, the author points out that it’s not necessary to have read them to read and benefit from this book.
The back cover claims that it’s a Universal book – suitable for players of all strengths.
No, it’s not. There’s an assumption that readers are proficient players with a good understanding of the game – say about 1500 strength. At the same time, some of the exercises will be familiar to more experienced players. I’d put the target range for this book, then, as in the region of 1500-2000 rating, although slightly weaker and slightly stronger players may also benefit.
I found Engqvist’s comments on the very first position in the book particularly interesting.
This is from a Morphy – Schulten game (New York 1857) with White to play.
White played 10. Bf4 here, but was it best? What would you suggest?
Morphy claimed his 10th move was an improvement on 10. Qxd6 which was given in the leading treatises of the day (Hanstein – von der Lasa in Staunton’s “Handbook”). However this is not true if one consults the computer programs Komodo and Stockfish. It’s good to capture the d6-pawn as long as White can maintain pressure on the d-file. What’s more is that there is an even better move, suggested by both computers, namely 10. Nc3!. This is very interesting since Komodo makes good evaluations and Stockfish is good at deep calculations, but they still come up with the same move!
This simple Knight move also follows Lasker’s principle that a knight should be developed before the bishop. The idea is to prepare Bf4 next move without allowing the d-file to be closed after …d5 . Morphy played according to the principle of development so his move is understandable, but the computers’ choice is the most precise. Even if we do know that development is on the agenda, we must also think carefully which piece to move first.
This tells you a lot about the author. Here we have someone who is well versed in chess history and culture, but also able to use modern technology effectively. Beyond that he has the ability to explain abstact concepts clearly and unambiguously.
Although that example may have been familiar to you if you’ve studied Morphy’s games, there are other exercises which you almost certainly won’t have seen before. Like this one, number 79, so it’s a tactical puzzle.
What would you play for White here?
This is from the less than Famous Game Kludacz – Pavlovskaya (Hasselbacken Open (Women) Stockholm 2001).
The whole game is interesting for anyone playing the Queen’s Gambit with either colour. White has launched a Minority Attack and now continued with 21. e4? which Black met with Bxh3!?, eventually winning the game.
Did you see how she could have done better?
21. h4! Ne6 22. Nce4!!
Presumably Kludacz missed the following knight sacrifice…
22… dxe4 23. Nxe4
White exploits the tactical weaknesses on f6 and c6. Black has no effective defence.
If 23… Qe7 then 24. Qxc6
24. Nf6+ Kf8
White doesn’t need to cash in on f8 but can exploit the pin on the c-file.
Now Black’s position collapses and White wins.
Helpfully, Engqvist provides the whole game here so that readers can see how the position arose from the opening.
The second half of the book covers endgame exercises. Like other authors such as Judit Polgar and RB Ramesh, whose books I’ve reviewed recently, Engqvist believes that solving endgame studies is a very valuable form of chess training, so here we have a mix of studies and positions from practical play. He finds pawn endings especially fascinating, so there are plenty here.
Take this one, for example.
It’s White to play here (Kalinicev – Schulz Cham 1992). What would you suggest.
I guess most players, like me, would play 1. Ke7 here without a second thought, but it’s not the correct answer.
The first time I saw this endgame I wrote in my private annotations that it’s “incredible that this move doesn’t win!” From a visual point of view it certainly seems that White’s king will wipe out the whole kingside of pawns like a vacuum cleaner, but that turns out to be an optical illusion. The key move to winning is to play according to Nimzowitsch’s rule, which states that you should hem in the target before blockading it and only then destroy it!
1. g4! would have prevented Black from moving his f-pawn to f5. Then 1… Kd3 2. Ke7 f6 3. Kf7 Ke2 4. f4 Kf3 5. f5. The f-pawn is now blockaded and a future attacking target. 5… Kg3 6. Kxg7 Kxh3 7. Kxh7 (7. Kxf6 Kxg4 8. Ke6 also wins but it’s unnecessary to give Black some hope even though that would be futile.) 7… Kxg4 8. Kg6 and White’s f-pawn decides.
Instead, the game concluded:
1. Ke7? f5 2. Kf7 Kd3 3. Kxg7 f4!! 4. Kxh7 Ke2 5. g4 Kxf2 6. g5 f3 7. g6 Kg3! 8. g7 f2 9. g8=Q+ Kxh3 with a drawn position because an eventual Qg3+ will be met by Kh1.
If you mistakenly went for Ke7 here then this may well be the book for you.
It does beg a question, though. This is billed as a positional endgame exercise, which it undoubtedly is, but it’s certainly tactical as well.
Of course positional and tactical chess are inextricably entwined, and, by the time you get to the ending, they’re really the same thing. The whole idea of splitting endgame exercises into ‘positional’ and ‘tactical’ seems very artificial to me. I’d guess this was the publisher’s rather than the author’s decision.
You probably hadn’t seen that position before (it’s not even in MegaBase), but if you’ve read anything on pawn endings you’ll almost certainly have seen the Famous Ending Cohn – Rubinstein (St Petersburg 1909), which you’ll also meet here. “If you only study one endgame with many pawns this is the one”, according to Engqvist, who discusses it over two pages. Regular readers of endgame manuals will find several other old friends as well: there’s six pages devoted to another Famous Ending, Timman – Velimirović (Rio de Janeiro 1979), to take just one example. Exercises 212-214 cover the ending of RB v R: the solutions cover 11 pages: extremely useful if you want to learn this ending, but I guess it’s debatable how important it is for average club players.
Here’s a quick endgame study from the last section of the book: tactical endgame exercises. See if you can solve it yourself before reading on.
White to play and draw (Prokes 1939)
A very game-like position, you’ll agree, and you were probably brought up with the knowledge that, in the absence of kings, two pawns on the sixth rank beat a rook.
In this instructive study, White’s king, contrary to appearances, is just about close enough.
I hope you managed to solve this. But was it purely tactical or positional as well? What do you think?
To sum up, then, it’s very clear from this book that Thomas Engqvist is an exceptional teacher, who, like all exceptional teachers, knows exactly what he’s doing and why he’s doing it. Unlike some less experienced authors he doesn’t just throw a load of GM positions at you, show you a pile of computer generated variations and expect you to play like Carlsen.
To refer again to two other excellent books I’ve reviewed recently, if you find Ramesh too heavy and Polgar’s exciting enthusiasm grating, I’m sure Engqvist will hit the sweet spot for you. In that case you’ll probably want to investigate his two earlier Batsford books as well, and perhaps read them first. As the authors take very different approaches and cover different topics, ambitious club players would do well to buy both Polgar and Engqvist. Young players who are aiming for IM or GM titles and have plenty of time to study would, on the other hand, be better off with Ramesh.
I’m just not sure that the format of the book is the best way to present Engqvist’s material, especially since endgames are both positional and tactical at the same time. (What the best format actually would be is an interesting question: different readers will prefer different formats. If you really, as Engqvist does, want to make the training environment resemble a tournament game you might want to mix the positions up rather than give a clue as to whether it’s a positional or tactical exercise.) I’m also not sure that the subtitle ‘Study five a week to become a better chess player’ is particularly helpful or realistic. Some of the positions require little time and explanation while others require a lot. The author himself doesn’t suggest in his introduction that this is the best way to use his book. As I suggested above, this book, notwithstanding the claims on the back cover, is far too advanced for beginners, but would be a great choice for anyone rated in the region of 1500-2000, or perhaps a bit higher.
But of course publishers do whatever it takes to sell copies, including resorting to unhelpful titles and unrealistic claims, and people don’t always buy chess books for rational reasons. Which is why it’s a good idea to read impartial reviews first.
The book is published to Batsford’s usual standards and appears to be free from the typos that mar books by some other publishers. The English might not always be totally idiomatic but is perfectly comprehensible throughout. I note that there is no mention of translators or proofreaders at the front of the book.
A book by an outstanding teacher, then, and, if the style and contents appeal to you, very highly recommended for club standard players ambitious to improve their rating.
“In the first team this season E. Fairbrother (team captain), Miss Lanspeary, B. Bodycoat and P. Ahearne are unbeaten.”
It’s good to see a lady playing for Richmond’s first team, and unbeaten as well. She must have been a pretty good player. But who was this Miss Lanspeary with her unusual and unfamiliar surname? I wanted to find out.
Searching electoral rolls quickly identified our heroine as Enid Mary Lanspeary, so I looked at online family trees to find out more. She was indeed on a few trees – and I was amazed to discover that one of them was mine! I also discovered, by searching newspaper archives, that there were Lanspearys playing chess all over the country.
Something genealogists like to do is the One-Name Study, which involves finding out everything about everyone bearing a particular unusual surname. We’ll do that now with Lanspeary.
Most British surnames date back to the early middle ages, but Lanspeary has a much more recent origin. To be precise, 21 June 1779.
The family name was originally Lansbury, although some members used other versions as well, but this, the marriage between Thomas Lanspeary and Elizabeth Chambers in the Northamptonshire village of Great Doddington, is the first sighting of Lanspeary. I guess, from the original name, that the stress should be on the first syllable. History doesn’t record why Thomas chose that particular spelling.
You’ll find Great Doddington just south of the town of Wellingborough, famous, like many other Northamptonshire towns, for its place in the boot and shoe industry. According to this website, among those who have come to the county for shoes are HRH Queen Elizabeth II, Darth Vader, Sid Vicious, Jumbo the elephant, Sir Ernest Shackleton and James Bond. It was in the boot and shoe industry that the Lanspeary family originally found their employment.
To continue our one-name study we need to follow the paternal line. Thomas and Elizabeth had two sons, John and Thomas. John, it seems, only had one child, a daughter. Thomas, however, had three sons, William, another Thomas, and David.
In general terms, William was the most interesting. He found a job on the railways, which took him to Carlisle, married in Gretna Green and emigrated to Windsor, Ontario. Windsor is just the other side of the river from Detroit. Motortown, known to music fans as Motown. Due to a geographic anomaly, at this point Canada is south of the river and the USA north of the river. He had three sons, George, David and William, and the family were big in local government. If you visit Windsor now you’ll find Lanspeary Park there. If, in 1910, they had waved across the river, they might have attracted the attention of Alfred Padbury, from Warwick, who was, briefly, involved in manufacturing automobiles there. Alfred was his parents’ only son, but had nine sisters, some of whom you’ll meet later on in this article.
William’s youngest brother, David, moved to Sheffield, where he worked at various times as a warehouseman and dealer, but it’s the middle brother, the third Thomas, who interests us.
Thomas lived all his long life in Great Doddington, working as a shoemaker, and dying at the great age of 96. He had two sons, the younger of whom died in infancy, but it’s his older son, another David Lanspeary, who interests us.
He was also a shoemaker, but went into business, founding a very successful shoemaking company. He must also have been a chess player, as two of his sons played competitive chess to a reasonable level. He also, like his father, lived to be 96.
David and his first wife had one son, Wilfrid Arthur, and three daughters, one of whom died in infancy. After she died he remarried, and had two more sons, Lewis and Reginald.
Wilfrid, born in 1885, worked as a wood machinist, but was also a chess player.
We first pick him up in 1921, in his mid 30s, playing on top board for the Red Triangle (YMCA) team and winning his game against Wellingborough Town chess club. It looks like he was, up to that point, a social player, and, given the chance to try his hand against club standard opposition, discovered he was quite good. He soon joined Wellingborough club, seeing action against their local rivals from Northampton and Peterborough.
He was even good enough to be selected for his county side. Here he is, in 1924, in a match against Leicestershire, several of whose players I hope to feature in future Minor Pieces.
He seems to have played less often after 1925, but there are occasional mentions up to 1948.
In this 1939 match, two members of the famous Beach family were on the other side of the board. TJ (not JT, but he was known by his middle name, John) would much later write two excellent beginners’ books with CHO’D Alexander.
Wilfrid’s youngest half-brother, Reginald, concentrated on helping his father run the family firm, but Lewis, born in 1894, was also a competitive player.
On leaving school, Lewis took a job with Boot’s the Chemists, rising to branch manager. In 1927 we find him in Essex, playing in the minor section of the county championship. He had been living in Luton with his wife and young daughter Enid (yes, that’s her) in the 1921 census but by 1926 he was living in Great Warley, Essex, just outside the M25. Enid had been joined by a brother, Philip John Lanspeary, in 1922. A few years later the family moved to nearby Brentwood, where Lewis joined the chess club.
In 1930 he was on Board 2 against Chelmsford, losing to a particularly interesting opponent, Tolstoy’s biographer Aylmer Maude.
Aylmer wasn’t the only Maude playing chess for Brentwood. Here, in 1935, his son Lionel scored a draw against Lewis Lanspeary.
Unlike his father and grandfather, Lewis didn’t enjoy a long life, dying young in 1941.
By 1946 Lewis’s widow Mary, along with Enid and Philip, had moved to London, to Kenilworth Court in Putney, eight blocks of Edwardian mansion flats right by Putney Bridge.
And, look! There on the electoral roll, just two doors away, was someone very famous in his day (but with his name misspelt here): Edgar Lustgarten.
Philip didn’t stay there long: in January 1947 he married Gwynneth Evelyn Reeder and moved to Long Eaton in Derbyshire, close to the point where that county meets Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire.
And then, like his father and uncle, he took up competitive chess. He joined his local club and was soon recruited for the county team, playing, like Uncle Wilfrid, against Leicestershire.
In 1950 he played a postal game which was featured in a sports shop window. You’ll see he adopted the ‘English start’ – presumably the English Opening was intended.
Philip continued playing club and county chess in Long Eaton until 1955, when he, his wife and their young children Susan, born in 1952 and baby David (there are a lot of Davids in this family) moved to the Reading area. A third child, Hazel, was born there in 1957.
We have a much later address for him in the small Hampshire town of Tadley, 6 miles north of Basingstoke and 10 miles south west of Reading, so he might have been living at that point as well. Tadley is near Aldermaston, the home of the Atomic Weapons (Research) Establishment, which, at the time, was the area’s largest employer: perhaps he was working there. If you know, do get in touch.
I don’t have any further records of Philip playing chess after 1955. Perhaps he was still playing, but the local papers have yet to be digitised.
Perhaps, on the other hand, he decided to give up chess to allow himself more time for his other hobby: philately.
Phil was a philatelist, and like many philatelists he specialised in stamps with a particular theme: in his case stamps depicting birds. He even wrote a book on the subject, which you can buy here.
There’s a Bird Stamp Society which was founded in 1986, and Phil wrote an article on the bird stamps of Indonesia which was published in the September 1998 issue of their magazine, Flight. You can read it here: I note that their chairman, appropriately enough, was Robin Martin! Another win for nominative determinism!
Here’s another coincidence: this issue published a list of new members:
Look at the first name and address. If you’ve ever visited the Chess Palace you’ll spot that Mr M Warden was living at the end of my road. I didn’t know him, but, if I remember correctly, my opponent in my first competitive game of chess, in a match between two Richmond teams, was also M Warden. As far as I know, they weren’t the same person, but there’s another Richmond Chess connection with that surname, which you may discover in a future Minor Piece.
Philip, like his grandfather and great grandfather, lived to be 96. His wife Gwynneth did almost as well, reaching the age of 95.
We really need to return to Enid, who, as I told you at the start, was already on my family tree. The connection is through Gwynneth. She was the illegitimate daughter of Ida Rose Reeder, originally from Norfolk. Ida’s first cousin, John Palmer, moved to London and had a son, Percy John Palmer, who, after the death of his first wife, married Maud Kathleen Padbury. Maud was the youngest sister of Alfred, whom you met building cars in Detroit in 1910, and also the sister of my maternal grandmother Florence Padbury.
So this makes Enid, a member of Richmond Chess Club in 1950, the sister-in-law of the 1st cousin 1x removed of the husband of my Great Aunt Maud. Confused? You will be!
Finally, then, we pick up Enid’s story again. This 1950 report is the only direct mention I have of her playing chess. It’s quite possible she remained a member of Richmond Chess Club for a few more years. If and when later years of the Richmond Herald appear online I’ll perhaps be able to find out.
However, there is this, which is of some interest for several reasons.
“Three trophies have either been given or promised by members…”. Was one of those given or promised by Mr Bodycoat, whose trophy would later be used for the second division of the club championship, was his trophy donated in his memory after his untimely death the following year, or did he leave a legacy to the club?
There’s a reference to Walter Veitch, and also to ‘another member, Mr. A. J. Roycroft’, who won a best game prize. Coincidentally or not, Walter and John were (and John still is, at the age of 93) two of the country’s leading experts on endgame studies.
Here’s the prize winning game. Stockfish isn’t impressed, but judge for yourself. As always, click on any move for a pop-up window.
You’ll also note that the club had five junior members, and had doubled their number of lady members. Was Enid the first, or the second? If the second, who was the first?
Enid and her mother remained in Kenilworth Court until at least 1965 (London electoral registers are currently only available online up to that date) and probably until 1971, when her mother died.
It seems she had rather a lot in common with Beatrix Hooke, living in a mansion flat, concentrating on her job rather than romantic relationships, and also playing chess.
Like Beatrix, she married late in life, seemingly for companionship. While Beatrix married a widowed chess playing doctor, Enid married the twice divorced Charles John Lawrence Bonington, (see also this book) whose background was in the armed forces, in Worthing in 1980. The son of his first marriage was none other than the mountaineer and chess enthusiast Chris Bonington, (see also his website here) whose name was shamefully misspelt in The (Even More) Complete Chess Addict. He played chess and listened to Bach on his expeditions.
Did Charles and Enid meet through a shared passion for chess, I wonder?
Charles died two years later, also in Worthing, while Enid lived on until 1999, where her death was recorded in Basingstoke. It seems likely she’d moved there after her husband’s death to be near her brother and his family.
So there you have the story of the chessing Lanspeary family. Two generations, two pairs of siblings, who played chess in four counties over four decades. None of them were anywhere near master standard, but they were all good players of club/country strength. Players like them were, and still are, the backbone of chess. Wilfrid and Lewis, Enid and Philip, I salute you all.
Before I go, something I forgot last time. You might remember that Mr Bodycoat’s family came from villages close to my father’s family. He may also be the 3rd great-grandnephew of the wife of my 5th great-granduncle. We go back to one John Andrews Buzzard, born in West Langton, Leicestershire in 1697, who may have been my 6th great grandfather. (I have a DNA link with a member of another branch of his family, which suggests that this is at least possible.) One of his sons, William, married Elizabeth Gibbins, whose brother Thomas was the 3rd great grandfather of Walter/Boyder Bodycoat.
So there you have it: a newspaper article from the year I was born mentions two members of the chess club I would later join, one of whom was connected to my mother and the other connected to my father. Another golden thread that links us all together.
By 1986 I’d developed some strong views about education and how they related to chess.
Something else happened as well. I was sitting in my London office one Feburary day wondering how I was ever going to be able to leave a job with no prospects of promotion or doing anything else when the phone rang.
It was my old friend Mike Fox, calling from Birmingham. “This phone call will change your life”, he said. And it did.
He’d been commissioned by Faber & Faber to write a book about chess trivia and invited me to join him as co-author. This would become The Complete Chess Addict (1987) and later The Even More Complete Chess Addict (1993), as well as the Addicts’ Corner column in CHESS which ran for 14 years. I decided that I could make as much money in less time by working freelance, while having time to help Mike with researching and writing the book and having more time to develop RJCC.
In order to improve Richmond Junior Club the first thing I wanted was to be able to find out everything I could about how every member of the club played chess, so that I could provide individual advice to all children and parents.
My view also was that, when teaching younger children and, more generally, less experienced players, everything we did had to happen for a very specific reason. I didn’t want to provide random lessons demonstrating random brilliant games to a random collection of children. Nor did I want to push children into doing too much too soon: using clocks and scoresheets and taking part in external tournaments before they were ready.
What I did (some of this was explained last time) was this:
I split the club into two sections: a morning group lasting two hours for primary school children, and an afternoon group lasting three hours for secondary school children, to which stronger primary school players would also be invited.
I introduced an internal grading system which was revised every few weeks, including all internal games (excluding blitz) so that I could select teams objectively in order of strength and identify when morning group players were ready to move up to the afternoon group. This included a very crude but reasonably effective measure to avoid grading deflation, based on the principle that, at any point, our members will either be improving or stationary.
Although I’d been collecting scoresheets of games played in our tournaments and training days for almost a decade, I now collected all afternoon group games (excluding blitz again) and played through them myself at home. There was no need to collect games played in the morning group as they were played at a lower level and usually decided by the number of pieces left en prise.
Beyond that, I wanted to ensure that our members would be able to try out a wide range of different openings, play games at different time controls, and play different opponents every week.
The primary school age children in our morning group were divided into divisions according to their internal grade. When new members joined we’d do a quick assessment. If they were obviously beginners they’d start in the lowest division. If we already knew about them because they’d played in one of our tournaments we’d already have given them a grade so would be able to put them in the correct division. Otherwise, we’d give them a quick friendly game against a player in a middle division and see how they got on.
I also used the same divisional system in schools for many years to ensure that children played different opponents of a similar strength to themselves every week (until the divisions were changed). This system also catered for the fact that some children played fast and would get through several games in one session while others played slowly and would only play one game. I found this worked much better than a Swiss tournament where everyone played one game a week and children who had finished their games would sometimes interfere with the games still in progress.
Every few weeks, by which time some of the faster and more regular attenders would have played most of the other players in their division, we ran the results through the grading program and restarted the divisions, with the most successful players gaining promotion.
We knew that if we taught children opening principles and then left them to their own devices many games would start with boring Giuoco Pianissimos or Spanish Four Knights, which, because they led to closed positions with few opportunities for pawn breaks, were only superficially good for less experienced players.
So we developed a system which would enable children in this group to experience a range of different openings and position types. Our first rule was that all games in the morning group would start with the moves 1. e4 e5. Over the course of the year (September to July) we’d work through the major open games, starting with simple Four Knights type positions and gradually moving through to the King’s Gambit and (the favourite of many of our members) the Danish Gambit. We’d give a short introductory talk before the games started and expect players to start the game with the moves displayed on the demonstration board.
Ray Keene’s column in the Times always provided a simple tactical puzzle on Saturdays to encourage readers to compete for a prize, and we’d display this on the demo board so that children could attempt to solve it as they arrived. We’d go through the solution in front of the whole class before introducing them to the opening of the week.
We also wanted to ensure that children were introduced to clocks and scoresheets at the appropriate time in their chess development to prepare them for promotion to the afternoon group. As each of these adds a level of complexity to an already difficult game we wanted to do them one at a time, so players in the second division were asked to play their games on clocks (30 minutes per player per game) and, when they reached the top division they were required to notate their games (down to the last five minutes) as well.
For some of our members, the Morning Group was all they wanted and they’d drop out after a year or two. But others would be ambitious to play competitively and move up to the Afternoon Group, which was designed, in the first instance, for players of round about 1000 to 1500 strength. We assumed that, at that point, they’d move on to bigger and better things, but, as our system developed, we were attracting players up to getting on for 2000 strength.
In order to give our Afternoon Group members the chance to try out a wide range of different openings we developed a system involving games using set openings.
It took a few years for this to be fully implemented, but what we did was to divide all the major openings into ten groups, featuring one group every half term. We built a three-year cycle, with some groups happening every year, some twice in three years and some once in three years.
We also wanted to provide a range of different time limits. For younger players up to about 1500 who tend to play fast there’s no real need for slower games, while we also decided that anything less than 10 minutes per player would lead to too many blunders. So our main termly structure eventually looked like this:
Freestyle 30 minute games (3 games in the 3 hour session)
Coach and play – introductory lesson on the openings to be played over the next few weeks followed by two 45 minute games, consulting the opening books
10 minute blitz tournament (in groups with promotion/relegation) with opening variation picked out of the ‘hat’)
30 minute games (3 games in the 3 hour session) using the set openings
Freestyle 10 minute blitz tournament (in groups with promotion/relegation)
Over the year we’d run 12 sessions with 3 30-minute games (at first in groups of 4 (quad tournaments) or 6 (Scheveningen system tournaments) – six freestyle and 6 with set openings. All games would be recorded down to the last five minutes and all scoresheets would be handed it. We used duplicate scoresheets for this purpose so that they all had a copy of their games to take home. I’d then play through all the games again at home, and, once ChessBase became available I’d enter them all into a database.
We’d also run 11 sessions with 10-minute games (as many as they could play in the time available), five freestyle and six with set openings.
We’d run 6 Coach and Play sessions to introduce the openings to be played in the next rapid and blitz sessions.
We also ran one simultaneous display a term. Sometimes we’d use visiting masters, sometimes our own coaches, members of our parent chess club or former RJCC members. We considered these a vital part of our programme for several reasons:
They promoted chess as an adult game, not just a game for young children
They gave our members the chance to meet and play against titled players
They forced our members to slow down and think while the simul giver was going round the room moving on the other boards
Other weeks were filled up with activities such as training games at slower time limits, endgame practice and puzzle solving, while the last week of each term gave our members the chance to enjoy chess variants such as Exchange (Bughouse) and Kriegspiel.
The idea was that each week would have one activity, which would vary from week to week. Very different from the way most junior clubs run, with two activities (lesson and game) a week and the same structure most weeks.
If you want to use our methods, our stationery (now rebranded as Chess Heroes rather than RJCC) is available to download here and here while our opening books (recently updated slightly to include the currently popular London System) can be downloaded here.
Coincidentally, several other important things happened at about this time.
A local primary school, Sheen Mount, appointed a new Headteacher, Jane Lawrence, who was passionate about introducing all her pupils to chess, teaching them the moves and giving them the chance to play competitively at school every day. Many of her pupils joined Richmond Junior Club, and, as you’ll see, two of them, Richard Bates and Tom Hinks-Edwards, went on to become International Masters.
Ray Cannon, whom I vaguely knew from the London chess circuit, brought his young son Richard along to the club. Ray was (and still is) an excellent chess coach and his views on chess teaching were (and still are) very similar to mine, and he soon started to play a vital role in the club, helping with the Afternoon Group as well as spending his Sundays visiting tournaments and passing on the results of our members so that I could incorporate them in our internal grading list.
The other player who played an invaluable part in our successes for many years was Gavin Wall, later an IM, one of our early members who, on returning from University joined our coaching team, working mostly in the Morning Group. Gavin and Ray were both integral to the club for many years: I can’t thank them enough.
Over the next few years we again became very strong, and the system we used in the Afternoon Group undoubtedly played its part.
As it happened, the summer of 1986 witnessed our first ever British Champion when Irfan Nathoo took the national Under 9 title.
Here’s a game from later in the year. To play through this or any other game in this article click on any move and a pop-up window will appear.
With our new system in place we were able to promote the club in the local press, announcing an exciting season ahead.
We were actively looking for sponsorship at this point. We received donations from two local charities at various times, and here we found sponsorship from the Richmond branch of Midland Bank.
We were also competing successfully in team competitions against other London junior clubs. Barnet Knights, of course, are still going strong today.
One of our new members was a talented Scottish junior, Jonathan Rowson, who had moved from Aberdeen into the same road as me. He used to come round to my house for a game after school, but sadly for us he didn’t stay in the area very long.
In this game from one of our monthly quad tournaments, he demonstrated his class by outplaying Richard Bates in a pawn ending.
During this period I was doing a lot of private tuition. Jonathan was by no means the only one of our members who would visit my house for lessons, either on a regular or an occasional basis. Judging from both individual and team results it must have had some effect on them.
By 1989 Sheen Mount players were making names for themselves on the national stage. Here are future IM Richard Bates and Tom Davey playing for England’s Primary Schools team in a match against Scotland.
Also in June 1989 we were invited to play a match against a visiting team from Arizona. As we had so many strong players by now we split our players into three teams and played a four-way match.
Here’s Richard Cannon’s game against the American board 1.
By the summer of 1989 it was time to move. The church in central Richmond where we met was being redeveloped so we had to find new premises. Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club moved to London Welsh Rugby Club, while Richmond Junior Club found a new home in a large Victorian house in East Twickenham, where we’d meet for more than 15 years.
We also set up a separate group for older children enabling us to enter teams in the Thames Valley League. We played our home matches in Friday evening sessions and scheduled our away matches, as far as possible, during the school holidays.
Jane Lawrence was now running Richmond teams in the English Primary Schools Chess Association inter-area competitions, with players from schools around the Borough taking part. Andrew Bamford, like many of the players in these teams, was a member of Richmond Junior Club.
In this game from our 1990 Under 11 Championship a speculative sacrifice proved successful.
Wanting to provide top level coaching for our strongest players, we appointed GM Daniel King as our club professional in 1990. We were also able to enter a third team in the Thames Valley League.
In just a few years since 1986 the club had made tremendous progress, and we were able to bill ourselves, without fear of contradiction, as ‘England’s leading club for young players’. This is Chris A Baker, who hasn’t played competitively for a long time, not to be confused with long-standing Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club member Chris B Baker, who was also a pupil at Hampton School, or indeed IM Chris W Baker.
In this game Tom had the chance to play a Greek Gift sacrifice against an opponent with insufficient experience of the French Defence.
And here’s Chris Baker, beating one of his regular rivals in a club game.
Every summer during this period the parents of our stronger players got together to book accommodation for the British Championships. From 1991 onwards we were rewarded with successes like these:
1991 Richard Bates U14 shared, Luke McShane U9
1992 James Clifford/Luke McShane U14 Andrew Bamford U11
1993 Tom Hinks-Edwards U16 shared
One of our favourite simul givers at the time was Ukrainian IM Petr Marusenko, a regular visit to Hastings (he’s there again this year) who would drop in to visit us after the congress.
In this game James Clifford outplayed him in the ending.
Richard Bates, now at Tiffin School, continued to be successful in 1992, and was rated one of the world’s top players of his age.
But by that time we had a new member whose feats would outshine even Richard’s. This was Luke McShane, who, at the age of only 8, took the World Under 10 Championship in 1992.
Luke scored victories against future stars such as Bacrot, Aronian and Grischuk in this event. He was perhaps fortunate to escape from lost positions in the first two of these games, but here’s his win against the Russian representative.
In January 1993 we were privileged to host a junior team from Kiev (now Kiiv), whose top players were, as you might imagine, very strong. We arranged four events: a simul given by Daniel King, a match against a team from Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club, a match against a Richmond Junior Club team and a match against a junior team representing the Southern Counties Chess Union, which included three RJCC players.
Another of our very strong players, Aleksandar Trifunovic, great nephew of Grandmaster Petar Trifunovic, scored an exciting win on board three of the RJCC v Kiev match. His opponent here is now an American IM.
Richard Bates scored a win and a draw against the top two Kiev players. He drew with Spartak Vysochin, now a grandmaster, in the RJCC match and won this game from the SCCU Juniors match.
As a result of his performance in the World Junior Championship, Luke was given the opportunity to play a game against Garry Kasparov, in London to discuss the arrangements for his forthcoming World Championship match against Nigel Short.
Here’s the game.
In May 1993, buoyed by these successes, we were asked to be involved in the Richmond Chess Initiative, which, in essence, did very much what Chess in Schools & Communities is doing now, but on a local rather than national level.
Children would learn all the right moves, but would they play them in the right order? You’ll find out in the next part of the history of Richmond Junior Chess Club.
“When the Icelandic Chess Federation made a bid to host the 1972 world title match between Soviet icon Boris Spassky and American challenger Bobby Fischer, many Icelanders were rightly shaking their heads in disbelief. How could their small island country in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean with a population of less than 300 thousand people stage such a prestigious event in the first place?
“Undeterred and naively optimistic, the young President of the Icelandic Chess Federation, Gudmundur Thorarinsson, set to work and to everyone’s astonishment theirs was the winning bid. But that was only the beginning of one of the most amazing stories in chess history… Bobby Fischer’s demands and whims constantly jeopardised the match. First the American chose not to board his plane in New York, and then he came late for the first game. That game he lost after a silly blunder and the second game he lost because he didn’t turn up in a fight about noisy cameras. But next he won the third game, that was played in a back room, and the rest…. is history.
“Fifty years on, Gudmundur Thorarinsson has written a tell-all book about ‘The Match of the Century’, crammed with behind-the-scenes stories and improbable twists and turns. Reading his gripping account of probably the most iconic sports contest during the Cold War, you will understand why he prefers to call it ‘The Match of All Time’. And why reliving this most unlikely adventure he comes to the conclusion: ‘It was not possible to organise this match, nor was it possible to rescue it…but still it was done!'”
“Gudmundur Thorarinsson is a chess organizer and businessman from Iceland. In 1972, as the chairman of the Icelandic Chess Federation he organized the Match of All Time, the World Championship Match between the Russian incumbent champion Boris Spassky and the American challenger Bobby Fischer.”
Half a century on from the legendary Fischer – Spassky World Championship match, and still the books keep on coming.
From Chapter 1 (Prologue):
Why write another book about the World Chess Championship match in 1972? Approximately 140 books have been published about the match already, plus films, TV and radio programs, newspapers and magazine articles. To add another book to this list seemed too much to me. But many people have been encouraging me to write about the match, people working for radio and television, chess players and friends. But many have simply said: ‘We still do not have a book written by someone who was working behind the scenes, where the bombs were falling.
One thing is certain: a long time ago this match acquired a life of its own. Nowadays people tend to look at the course of events from a different perspective. Looking at the match from afar enables the observer to put the whole saga into another context, broadening the horizon, so to speak. It may be true that the viewpoint and experiences of those of us who were on the frontline during the planning and execution of the event have not been widely documented. Those who wrote about the match in the following months, or even years after it happened, did so mostly by annotating the games, explaining the battle from the perspective of the chess players or the audience.
If you’re looking for the games of the match you’ll be disappointed: but of course they are readily available elsewhere.
What you have instead is a source document telling the story of what was going on in the background, written by someone who was there and very closely involved at the time.
The book is designed to be interesting to the general reader as well as the chess specialist. Chapter 2, therefore, looks at the origins of chess, including a contribution from GM Fridrik Olafsson, an expert in this field, and, specifically, the early history of chess in Iceland.
Chapter 3 relates the history of the world chess championship prior to Spassky, starting with Stamma and Philidor, and taking us as far as Petrosian. There is little here that will be new to readers familiar with chess history.
Chapter 4, on the prelude to the 1972 match, is where things start getting interesting. We read about Fischer’s wins in his Candidates Matches against Taimanov, Larsen and Petrosian before being introduced to the two protagonists, with background information about their family, upbringing and chess career. Then the bidding process for the match venue is discussed, with Iceland, a small country in the Atlantic Ocean, but with a proud chess history, unexpectedly being selected.
The author of this book had, as a young man, been appointed President of the Icelandic Chess Federation in 1969. He had been proposed in his absence by his brother and not wanting to cause embarrassment, felt he had no choice but to accept. As a result, he found himself in the middle of negotiations which would have a dramatic effect on the history of chess.
Chapter 5, the longest in the book, covers the match itself in fascinating and engrossing detail. Everyone who was interested in chess at the time will have vivid memories of Fischer’s demands and conditions, and of the problems and arguments these caused. Thorarinsson was at the heart of everything that was happening, and it was to no small extent due to his diplomatic skills, often described here in a self-deprecating way, that the match eventually started and, more or less successfully, concluded with Bobby as the new World Champion. There’s a lot of documentary material here which will be new to many readers.
Chapter 6 describes the aftermath of the match. Fischer’s life over the next three and a half decades is related, including his return match with Spassky in 1992. Bobby spent the last few years of his life in Iceland, and Thorarinsson was again very much involved with expediting his journey from a Japanese detention centre, and with helping him settle in for what would be his rather sad endgame.
This and the final section, the author’s tribute to his friend, which he delivered at Fischer’s memorial service, are both intensely moving.
If you’re looking for chess moves, this won’t be the book for you. But if you want to know more about Fischer, and about the background to the 1972 match, it will be an essential purchase.
The book is, like everything from this publisher, beautifully produced and copiously illustrated with photographs and cartoons. There are many entertaining and enlightening anecdotes to keep you amused as well. It’s a great story, reminiscent of a Greek tragedy, and well told here from the author’s unique perspective. Whether or not you’re familiar with what happened half a century ago, you’ll find it a gripping read.
Do bear in mind, though, that while it may be an important source document for future historians (and we really need a fully sourced and referenced biography of Fischer) it’s a memoir with its fair share of uncertainty and speculation. You read that ‘Harry Golombek states in one of his books…’: yes, but which one? Or, to take another example, ‘According to some sources…’. Which ones?
I have a few other issues, just as I do with many New in Chess books, essentially coming down to the fact that it could have benefitted from a firmer editorial hand and a final read-through from a native English speaker. There are odd words and sentences that are not quite idiomatic. There’s also a certain amount of repetition (Fischer’s parentage is discussed on page 82, and again on pages 90-92) and one or two places where I felt continuity might have been improved.
Nevertheless, this book is essential reading for anyone with an interest in Fischer as a person, or in the 1972 Fischer – Spassky match. If the subject matter appeals to you, and, if you have any interest at all in chess culture and history, it undoubtedly will, don’t hesitate.
You’ll find pricing and other details here and sample pages here.
“Calculation is key to winning chess games. Converting your chess knowledge into concrete moves requires calculation and precise visualisation. The bad news: calculation is hard work. You cannot rely on feeling or intuition — you will have to turn on your brainpower.
The good news: you can improve your calculation skills by training. Set up a position on a chessboard and try to solve exercises without moving the pieces! Grandmaster Ramesh RB is the perfect coach to awaken your chess brain and feed you precisely the right exercises. ‘After only a month of intensive training with Ramesh, I could sense a seismic shift in both the precision of my calculation as well as my general level of sharpness’, says GM Daniel Naroditsky.
“GM Ramesh is one of the world’s most successful coaches. He has trained many of India’s top talents at all stages of their development on their journey to become International Masters and Grandmasters. Ramesh understands what mistakes players can make while calculating. He knows that the best move in a specific position may be the opposite of what your intuition is urging you to play. And he serves you the exercises to correct these misconceptions and start finding the right solutions. Every chess player will benefit from the hundreds of exercises in this book. Coach Ramesh will take your calculation skills from a club players level to grandmaster level.”
This is the first of what promises to be a multi-volume series of coaching books under the title of The Ramesh Chess Course. As Ramesh is perhaps the world’s most successful chess coach this promises to be a treat for all ambitious players. As calculation is the single most important skill in chess, there’s no better place to start.
Ramesh starts off by telling us how to use the book. Here are his first two paragraphs.
Have a good look at every position and try to understand what is going on behind the scenes. Compare the king positions, piece placements, pawn structure, material parity, etc., before beginning your analysis.
Before we start analysing any move, we should make a list of reasonable looking moves and only then begin analysing them.
Good advice, although 2. is Kotov’s Candidate Moves idea, which not everyone finds useful in every position. Always useful when tackling the tasks set in this book, though.
The most important paragraph here is the final one, number 10.
I have divided the material into five categories: Level 1 = Elo Rating 1200-1600 Level 2 = Elo Rating 1600-2000 Level 3 = Elo Rating 2000-2400 Level 4 = Elo Rating 2400-2600 Level 5 = Elo Rating 2600 & above
It’s always a problem for authors and publishers of multi-volume coaching courses whether to structure the material horizontally (by topic) or vertically (by difficulty of material). Ramesh and New in Chess have chosen the former rather than the latter route.
If you’re anywhere between 1200 and 2800 strength, then, you’ll find exercises pitched at the right level for you, but you’ll also find much which is either too hard or too easy. If you’re a coach working with students anywhere between 1200 and 2800 strength, likewise you’ll find plenty of great coaching material.
As you’ll see, quite a lot of the book is taken up with Level 5 exercises, which, by their nature, often involve several pages of detailed analysis.
Each exercise is labelled with the appropriate level, with the more complex exercises comprising a number of ‘tasks’. In each case we are told the amount of time the student should be allowed.
The first chapter considers the difference between dynamic and static positions: it’s the former which are the subject of this book. There are two critical areas to study: Calculation and Attack.
The first task is set at Level 1: you have 2 minutes to solve it.
This is Carlsen – Vachier-Lagrave, from a 2021 speed game. Magnus played 34. Bd4+ Rxd4 35. cxd4 Bxd4, which really should have been a draw, but he later managed to win it.
He missed the move I hope you found, 34. Rc8!, which would have forced immediate resignation as after 34… Rxc8 there’s 35. Bd4#. Ramesh points out the 34… Ra8 35. Rxa8 Rxa8 36. Bd4#. I don’t know about you, but I’d have preferred the immediate 35. Bd4# here. A slightly unfortunate start, but I guess it doesn’t really matter.
In Chapter 2 Ramesh shares with us some games and positions he’s used to train his students, aiming to recreate his training sessions and demonstrate typical mistakes. He expects you to look deeply into each position, calculate multiple variations without making mistakes and evaluate the position correctly at the end. I hope readers will find this instructive and exciting.
The first example is an endgame study (there are a lot of studies in this book) composed by Alexandr Grin in 1989.
His student gave the solution as 1. Nb5 a2 2. Na7+? Kc7 3. c6 a1Q with stalemate, overlooking that Black could win in this variation by playing 3… Kb6 instead.
As Ramesh explains over 2½ columns, it’s very easy to get over-excited when you see a beautiful idea and fail to check it through thoroughly.
The correct solution to the study is 2. c6! a1Q+ 3. Na7+ Kd8 4. c7+ Kxc7, again with stalemate. His student had the right idea but failed to execute it correctly.
Chapter 3, The Analytical Process, is the heart of the book. Ramesh explains in detail how to calculate and how to analyse, taking into account psychological as well as purely chess factors.
The advice in this chapter will be of great interest and benefit both to chess coaches and to ambitious players at all levels.
Most of the examples here are extremely complex positions, usually Level 5 (suitable for 2600+ players).
Take, for example, this complex position (Smyslov – Rubinetti Palma de Mallorca Interzonal 1970).
Here, we have 16 pages of detailed analysis, broken down into 27 tasks, with nested variations given labels such as B3113242). You may well, like me, find it hard to follow, even with the copious diagrams provided.
Ramesh comments at the end:
In my training with young players for over a decade, I have seen that analysing very complicated positions without the help of moving pieces on the board is not only possible, but even essential for quicker and long-lasting improvement in a player’s analytical capabilities. This will require the coach to be patient and believe in the capabilities of his student in the long run. From the players’ part, they must put in a genuine effort to try to analyse the positions without giving in to self-defeating doubts. In my academy, even 1800-level players can follow all the analysis like this with some effort and without a chessboard. It is simply a question of patience and perseverance.
If you’re interested in the complete game, here it is. Click on any move for a pop-up window. Black’s last move was a losing blunder: the only way to draw was 44. a1Q.
It’s clear from this book that chess tuition has changed a lot in the past 20 years or so. (60 years ago, when I was learning chess, if you wanted to improve you had no choice but to read a book.) Visualisation exercises and solving endgame studies (recommended by Judit Polgar as well as Ramesh) are now common.
Later in the chapter, Ramesh has this to say.
Even though humans can probably never analyse at the level of engines anymore, it is possible to take the help and inspiration from engines to further our capabilities to previously unknown levels. I have personally trained players with ratings in the range of 1400-1800 to analyse variations that players of previous generations with a rating range of 2200-2400 were unable to do. This is one of the reasons my students in the 9 to 14 age group can quickly become International Masters or grandmasters.
Chapter 4 provides more examples of Forcing Moves. Judit Polgar, like me, uses the acronym CCTV: in her case Checks, Captures, Threats and Variations. Ramesh adds pawn breaks into his definition of Forcing Moves. If you still want to use CCTV you might try Checks, Captures, Threats and pawn leVers perhaps.
Black won this game by using a series of forcing moves: captures and threats: 20… f3 21. Nxf3 Rxf3 22. Bxf3 Nxb4 23. Bxb7 Nxc2 24. Be4 Nxa3 25. Rb3 Qa4 0-1
Ramesh mentions that 20… f3 wasn’t Black’s only strong move here: 20… Nd4 was another way to play for the win.
In Chapter 5 we learn about typical mistakes made while calculating variations.
Ramesh lists 14 types of mistake, starting with not being able to visualise the position in the mind, not seeing forcing moves and not making a list of candidate moves, giving examples and possible solutions.
In this world championship game from 2008 Kramnik, playing White, made a fatal error.
29. Nd4? was a blunder, missing 29… Qxd4 30. Rd1 Nf6! 31. Rxd4 Nxg4 32. Rd7+ Kf6 33. Rxb7 Rc1+ 34. Bf1 Ne3!, when Anand had a winning advantage.
I guess it’s debatable whether Kramnik’s error was one of calculation or evaluation, and whether he’d missed Anand’s 30th or 34th move.
Chapter 6 is devoted entirely to endgame studies.
Whenever I feel my student’s calculation skills are not up to the mark, I will make them solve studies for three to four hours a day for around three to five days in a row. Usually, the students will show significant improvement in their calculation skills.
You might like to try your hand at solving this Level 2 study, composed by the great Leonid Kubbel and published in 1911. It’s White to play and draw.
Finally, Chapter 7 offers some more general suggestions for chess improvement. As with the suggestions throughout the book, these cover many aspects of chess psychology as well as practical advice which will be beneficial for all players and teachers.
While there’s an enormous amount of helpful advice both here and elsewhere in the book, there’s also some repetition which might have been better avoided.
For instance, returning for a moment to Chapter 6, we’re told on both p258 and p260 that solving a study might take anywhere between 5 and 40 minutes. I think this might have been picked up by the publishers at editing or proofing stage.
How to summarise?
This is an important book, and, by the look of it, part of an important series. The author is arguably the most successful high level chess teacher in the world, and, reading the book, you can understand why. The positions are all well chosen and the explanations throughout the book display profound insight into the minds of chess players. Although you might think it’s aimed at stronger or at least more ambitious players, it will, for the general advice, in particular that of a psychological nature, be a great read for many players of all levels. Even though not everyone will find the book’s structure particularly helpful, it’s also esssential reading for anyone who teaches chess to students rated 1200+.
Speaking as a retired 1900-2000 strength player, the Level 4 and Level 5 examples, which take up a lot of the book, were way beyond me and not always easy to follow. At one level, it was interesting to see how deeply highly complex positions can be analysed, and how talented young players who are prepared to put in the necessary time and effort can learn to perform these tasks, but at another level I found it rather disspiriting to work through so many pages of dense analysis. To be fair, though, I’m not really part of the target market for this book.
At the same time, the market for books aimed at 2400-2600 strength players must be very limited. What I’d like to see would be a book taking a more structured approach, with, for example, 100 pages each of exercises at Levels 1, 2 and 3 (which is anyone from 1200 to 2400 strength), along with some general advice at either the beginning or the end of the book.
Instead, what we have is a book which is more about how to teach calculation and how to improve your calculation rather than one where you can start at page 1 and work your way through in sequential fashion. Ramesh also expects his students to have seriousness of purpose and a strong work ethic, as well as plenty of time to spend on chess improvement. If you’re just a hobby player looking to have fun and make a bit of progress, you might well find this rather scary.
The approach recommended here certainly isn’t for everyone, but even so, any reader who is prepared to work hard will gain a lot from this book.
I couldn’t really imagine Ramesh exclaiming ‘Awesome move!!’ and ‘Kaboom!!’ like Judit Polgar. If you’d prefer something that also covers calculation skills, but is an easier read taking a more ‘fun’ approach I’d recommend this book instead. They certainly have points in common: teaching you to look for Checks, Captures and Threats, and using endgame studies.
You can find more details here and read some sample pages here.
I’d also, by the way, recommend reading an excellent interview with Ramesh which appeared in New in Chess 2022#3, which puts his methods into context.
I look forward very much to seeing future volumes in this series.
You might remember this from the last Minor Piece. This is a match between Richmond and Barnes Village from 1948. You saw Beatrix Hooke on Board 4 for Barnes, and this time I want to introduce you to Richmond’s Board 5: B Bodycoat.
Way back in 1967, 55 years ago, I won my first chess trophy: the BC Bodycoat Cup. This was the second division of the Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club Championship, for weaker and less experienced players, and continued until sometime in the mid 1970s.
I can’t see that I deserved to win. I played five games, four against weaker opponents, winning two and drawing three. My only strong opponent was Ken Norman, then, as now, a better player than me. It looks from my scorebook as if I won a couple of games by default, one of which may have been against Keith Southan, who’ll be introduced later.
This game wasn’t very distinguished. I won a pawn in the opening, and, instead of capturing another pawn I chickened out by trading queens into a level ending. I then made a horrendous blunder which should have lost a piece, but fortunately for me Ken didn’t notice. Click on any move in any game in this article for a pop-up window.
I had no idea who BC Bodycoat was. Was he Benjamin or Bernard? Brian or Barry? Bertram or Basil? Once I started getting interested in genealogical research I determined to find out. I could never have imagined what a strange story it would turn out to be. Strange in more ways than one.
In fact Mr Bodycoat, during a sadly short life, used three or four different first names and two different surnames. I’ve been waiting some years to tell his story, and the online appearance of the Richmond Herald up to 1950 gives me the opportunity.
It has nothing at all to do with chess, though, so please bear with me as we embark on a journey that will take us around the world.
Our story starts, for want of a better time and place, in the Leicestershire village of Tur Langton in the year 1844.
A few miles north of the town of Market Harborough you’ll find a group of villages collective known as the Langtons. Tur Langton is the furthest north. A mile to the south is Church Langton, and, just a bit further down the road are its associated hamlets, West Langton and East Langton. You’ll then find Thorpe Langton a mile or so to the east of East Langton.
We’re going to meet William Bodycoat and his family. William, like most villagers at the time, was an illiterate agricultural labourer. Born in 1811, he married Elizabeth Gibbins in 1833. They had two sons, Thomas and Joseph. Elizabeth died in 1840, and on Christmas Day 1841 William married her sister Mary, taking on her illegitimate daughter Charlotte.
In 1844 they made a decision that would change their lives (and perhaps my life as well). They emigrated to Australia on an assisted immigration scheme, along with Mary’s sister Lucy, her husband William Bamford, and their children.
Here they are, on board a ship named the Abberton.
They may not have been the first of their family to emigrate to Australia. In 1830, Thomas Bodycoat, who, I suspect, was William’s brother, was transported there for stealing a rabbit, receiving his freedom in 1849. I haven’t yet been able to find out what happened to him.
William Bodycoat and his family, in spite of their humble origins, did very well for themselves. They settled first in Collingwood, Melbourne, before moving out to Wollert (it means, delightfully, ‘where possums abound’). You’ll find Bodycoats Road there today.
When you’re researching family history you often come across stories like this of families who prospered in Australasia or North America. On the one hand, you admire their courage and hard work, and how emigration enabled them to achieve success they could never have dreamt of back at home. On the other hand, you realise that this happened at the expense of the indigenous populations of those continents.
William lived on until 1892, and, 40 years after his death, a local paper published some family reminiscences, which are not necessarily accurate.
And here he is, a fine looking fellow he was as well.
However, it’s William’s youngest son, Walter, known to the family as Walt, born in 1858, to whom we must now turn our attention.
In 1851 gold was discovered in Victoria, and mines were established in places like Ballarat and Bendigo. A gold rush ensued. Melbourne and the surrounding areas became extremely prosperous as a result. You saw above that Thomas was working as a carter to the goldfields for a time. Perhaps his brother Walter was also involved.
In 1893, three Irish prospectors discovered gold in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia. There were fortunes to be made there as well. Perhaps this was the reason why, in 1897, Walter and his family made the trek to the other side of the continent.
He might possibly have settled in Perth at first, where his younger children were born, but later moved to Kalgoorlie, working there as a labourer.
Walt’s eldest son, born in 1886 shared his name, but was known as Wally. He must have been a bright boy, as he studied at the School of Mines in Kalgoorlie in 1909, training as a gold assayer, testing minerals to determine the amount of gold in them.
He led an adventurous life, travelling to Uruguay before settling in London, where, I suppose, he must have been working for some sort of mining company. This involved a trip to Peru, and then four trips to West Africa, Ghana (it was the Gold Coast then), Cameroon and, in 1913, two more visits to Ghana. These must have been exciting times for young Wally, but he wanted something else in his life. While in London he formed a relationship with a young widow named Ada Eliza Strange (née Hawkins), and, in the short gap between his two 1913 stints in Ghana, a son was conceived.
Ada had a daughter, Lucy Gertrude (usually known by her middle name) from her marriage to William John Strange, whose death had been registered in the 4th quarter of 1912. Gertrude seems to have been what would then have been called a showgirl, and had what might best be described as a very colourful life. If you’d like to find out more, as I’m sure you do, you should read this paper from the Epsom & Ewell History Explorer.
Anyway, moving very swiftly on, Walter and Ada’s son’s birth was registered in Paddington in the 3rd quarter of 1914. He was given the names Walter Charles Bodycoat Strange. Named, you will see, after both his father and grandfather.
This, then, was our man, after whom the Bodycoat Cup was named. But where did the B come from?
The relationship between Wally and Ada didn’t last. Wally returned England on 23 July 1914, perhaps in time to witness the birth of his son, and sailed back to Australia on 12 February the following year. In 1916 he joined the Australian Imperial Force and returned to England, serving in France, where he was wounded in action and awarded the Military Medal.
He was discharged in 1919 and returned to mining, again travelling backwards and forwards to Ghana. In 1920 he married Katie Burt, from Cornwall (perhaps he’d also been involved in mining there) and they eventually returned to Australia, where he bought a farm they named Trevose after a Cornish headland, where they brought up their children Kenneth, Gordon and Barbara. You can read a lot more about Wally (with links to Katie and Ken) here.
The Bodycoats were a sporting family, playing cricket, tennis and golf, but I can’t find any mention of them playing chess. Judging from online family trees, Wally’s children may not have been aware of his guilty secret. They probably are now.
While we’re discussing Cornwall it’s time for another game, this time against Cornwall born Fred Daymond, captain of Richmond & Twickenham’s London League 2nd team for many years. He soon lost a lot of material here.
Now we need to continue the story of the third Walter Bodycoat.
At present I haven’t been able to find him, his mother or his half-sister in the 1921 census. Nothing under Bodycoat and also nothing obvious under Strange.
He only reappeared, or rather disappeared, in 1930, where he made the local and national papers.
Walter? Boyder? Boyden? Sidney? Aged 15 or 16? Who knows? By this time he was using his father’s surname rather than his mother’s surname. Had they fallen out? Perhaps he didn’t want to be thought of as strange.
Boyder is not otherwise known as a name, and Boyden is very rare. Boyd, yes, but not Boyder and hardly ever Boyden. I suppose Boyder might have been a contraction of ‘Boy Walter’ to distinguish him from his father Wally and grandfather Walt. I’d speculate that he preferred to be known as Boyder, and appearances of ‘Boyden’ were due to misreading someone’s handwriting.
Prebend Mansions is a block of mansion flats on Chiswick High Road, near Stamford Brook Station. If you walk in an easterly direction, you’ll eventually reach Hammersmith Broadway, and then Olympia, a part of the world very familiar to the Hooke family.
I presume he returned home at some point: at least nothing else appeared in the press. Sadly, six months later, his mother died, leaving him alone, his father in Australia and his sister in a rather dodgy relationship.
Although Ada and Wally only had a brief affair and never married, she sometimes used his surname. The 1930 electoral roll lists no one at 17 Prebend Mansions: seemingly she hadn’t registered to vote. That’s her daughter who was granted probate.
Nottingham Place is in London’s medical district, not far from Harley Street (and also not far from 44 Baker Street), and was used by members of the London School of Medicine for Women. I presume number 1, Treborough House on the corner of Paddington Street, was a private clinic at the time: it’s now converted into very expensive flats.
Young Boyder (or whatever) was clearly a ladies’ man, and it was in 1937 that he married Hilda Lilian Simmonds in Finsbury. Hilda wasn’t from Brighton, but from Mile End. Her father was a Russian Jew who had anglicised his name and seemingly converted to the Church of England. The marriage was recorded twice, with his name as Walter CB Strange and Walter C Bodycoat. A daughter, Diane Bodycoat, was born a year later.
Here are the happy (at the time) couple.
It looks like the marriage didn’t last long. The 1939 Register found Hilda and Diane in St Albans, while Boyder was nowhere to be seen. It’s possible their marriage had already broken up, but it’s also possible his wife and daughter had moved to St Albans to avoid possible future aerial attacks on London. My mother moved from Teddington to nearby Harpenden for that reason.
Hilda and Diane later moved to Cornwall, while, in 1944, Boyder married again, to Bernice Gloria Holmes. This marriage was registered in Surrey North-East, which would have been Richmond or thereabouts. This time he was only Walter C Bodycoat.
I’ve no idea where and when he learnt to play chess. Very often sons learn from their fathers, but this wouldn’t have been the case for Boyder. Anyway, when Richmond Chess Club reopened its doors in 1947 after a break for the war, he would have been one of its first members. As he often played on a fairly high board he must have been a decent club standard player.
His first appearance, though, wasn’t so successful. Playing against a weaker Barnes Village team he lost his game on Board 9.
He wasn’t the only player with an incorrect initial. On Board 11, defeating girl champion Phyllis Prosser, would have been Harold Augustus Tyler. The first time my father took me to Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club, Harold was the first person we saw. My father knew him from work but didn’t realise he was a chess player.
Here’s our Bodycoat Cup game. Harold didn’t put up much resistance, losing a lot of material in the opening.
Boyder must have been really keen as he also joined the new Shene (or Sheen if you prefer) Chess Club, but he was again unsuccessful in this match.
At least he was granted his preferred initial on this occasion, unlike Dr John David Solomon on top board. There was a considerable overlap in membership between Richmond and Shene, and the former subsumed the latter a few years later.
The following month the two clubs met, with Boyder playing for Richmond and winning his game.
It’s interesting to note that Shene, unlike Richmond was attracting younger players at the time. By the 1960s there would be a lot of teenagers in what was by then Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club.
In February he scored another win in a Thames Valley League match against Staines.
Richmond had Walter Veitch (about whom more, perhaps, another time) on top board for this match. He and JD Solomon were two of the strongest London amateurs in the late 1940s. It’s interesting to note that this was a 7-board match. Harold Tyler was this time allotted his correct initial. His opponent, John Hamill, would, some 30 years later, run a chess club at Richmond Community Centre. Percy Moon, the Staines board 4, played twice against me in 1968 and 1972. All this, again, even though I was yet to be born, is my history as well as Boyder Bodycoat’s history.
There were two draws for him in these two matches, one against another of my future opponents, Edwin Sutherland, plus news of the foundation of Surbiton Chess Club and a forthcoming simul.
I played Edwin Sutherland on 20 December 1966, and it was on 15 June 1967 that I played my first Bodycoat Cup game. It resulted in a draw, but I had a winning advantage at various times. Curiously, all three of my black games in this competition featured the same opening variation.
March 1949 witnessed two local derbies, with Shene playing Barnes Village and Richmond playing Twickenham.
More names from my past: George Hogg moved from Barnes Village to Richmond in the 1960s, while John (Jock) Lee and Keith Southan, both in the Twickenham team here, would play for Richmond & Twickenham into the 1970s. Keith was a classics master at Tiffin School, and would often give me lifts to away matches when I first joined the club.
The promised simul duly took place, and Boyder managed to draw his game, also scoring a draw against Barnes Village.
At this point it seems that Barnes were stronger than Richmond, but the roles would soon be reversed.
Chess was very popular amongst the London Bus community (they even had their own magazine for some years), and, in days when works chess teams were very common, it wasn’t surprising to see Fulwell (Bus) Depot in the Thames Valley League, with prominent chess author Bruce Hayden (not Haydn: he was a composer) on top board.
By the autumn of 1949 it was time for another season to start, and here Twickenham and Richmond were in friendly opposition. In the absence of some of the big names, Boyder Bodycoat found himself on top board.
I never met Robert Mark, who must have left Richmond & Twickenham at about the time I joined, but I seem to recall that he was still the club auditor. On the other hand, I did know Ted Fairbrother, Keith Southan, George Seaford and, vaguely, FG (Griff) Griffiths.
In 1950 Richmond and Shene shared the points, but unfortunately what would have been an interesting top board encounter between Veitch and Solomon didn’t materialise
This suggests, though, that, after a shaky start to his chess career, Boyder Bodycoat, now in his mid 30s, was a decent club standard player, I’d guess around 1800 in new money or 150 in old money. He could hope to make further progress with more experience.
But the world was changing. The Richmond Herald was less consistent in reporting chess results. And, in July that year, Howard and Betty James welcomed their first son into the world.
As he was about to enjoy his first Christmas there was some more news.
We see that Mr Bodycoat was unbeaten playing for the first team, as was the otherwise unknown Miss Lanspeary (she, like all of us, had her story: you’ll meet her next time).
Surbiton, losing here to Shene, were still getting going, but at least two of their players had long careers at the club. I beat Donald Chisholm in 1973 and drew with Russell Tailford in 1980.
It’s good to see Richmond with female representation in their first team. For many years our most prominent lady player was Hella Kaufmann, who translated Leonard Barden’s book on the Ruy Lopez into German. Hella lived in Barnes, and had also been a member of Barnes Village: I guess she joined shortly after 1950.
Here’s our Bodycoat Cup game from 1967. Her translation work for Leonard must have been the reason for choosing the Marshall Gambit here. If I’d been aware of this I’d no doubt have chosen a different opening. As it was I held onto the pawn but lost it back by playing too passively, ending up in a level ending.
In Spring 1951 Boyder and Gloria decided to take a holiday in Bermuda. They sailed from London on 14 April on the Loch Garth, a ship of the Royal Mail Lines which also had some cabin space, arriving back in Plymouth travelling third class on the Reina del Pacifico, a ship belonging to the Pacific Steam Navigation Company, on 15 June. Their address was given as 3 Sheen Court, Richmond, and they were both hairdressers (as was, I seem to remember, Boyder’s clubmate George Seaford: there may be some connection there). Sheen Court is a prominent block of mansion flats on the Lower Richmond Road near North Sheen Station.
Former Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald had died on board the Reina del Pacifico in 1937, and Boyder very nearly joined him. They probably travelled back from Plymouth to Richmond by train, and, back at home the very next day, he sadly died at the age of only 36.
The cause of death is given as Morbus Cordis & Coronary Thrombosis: heart disease, specifically a blood clot leading to a heart attack.
The death notice in the Daily Telegraph mentions his wife and sister, but not his first wife or their daughter.
The probate record tells is he left almost £700, a small amount of which would have gone, either directly or indirectly. to Richmond Chess Club. They decided to commemorate their member by purchasing a trophy in his name: the trophy I would win in 1967.
Bernice wasted little time in remarrying: her second husband was a Greek Cypriot communist and freedom fighter named Michael Economides. You can find out more about him, and again I’d advise you to do so, here. Yet another colourful character in a story full of them.
To return to my story, my father, Howard James, had been born in Leicester in 1919, but his grandfather, John James, had been born in 1841 in Thorpe Langton, just a mile and a half or so across the fields from Tur Langton, from where, three years later, William Bodycoat would emigrate to Australia. His family were all from various villages in the area and I’ve managed to put together a family tree with a possible link between the two families.
It’s another golden chain. The ancestors of the man whose trophy I won would have been tilling the same fields, drinking in the same pubs (perhaps not in William’s case as he was a Rechabite) and worshipping in the same churches as my ancestors back in the 18th and 19th centuries. The story that links our lives takes us round the world to Australia and back again, visiting South America and Africa along the way. We’re all connected, and chess is the wonderful game that brings some of us together.
The Bodycoat Cup continued to take place until round about the late 1970s: by that time, with so many opportunities for league and tournament chess, there was less appetite for internal competitions in most chess clubs in the London area.
There’s one more Bodycoat Cup game in my files.
In this appropriately strange game Mike Fox lost in only 14 moves by doing exactly what he told Richmond Junior Club members not to do every Saturday morning: bringing out his queen too soon and going pawn hunting.
I’ve no idea what happened to the trophy, or indeed the club championship trophy. If you have information, do please get in touch.
Thanks to Walter/Boyder/Boyden/Sidney for being, posthumously an influence on my chess career. Thanks to Wally and Ada for having an affair. Thanks to Walt for deciding to move to Western Australia. Thanks to William and his family for emigrating to Melbourne.
And thanks to you for reading this. You, too, are part of that golden chain.
British Newspaper Library
Carnamah Historical Society & Museum
Epsom & Ewell History Explorer
Last time we left Alice Elizabeth Hooke in 1914, on the outbreak of the First World War, a member of the London Ladies’ Chess Club and a competitor in the British Ladies’ Championships. She was unmarried, living in Cobham, and working as a Civil Servant for the Post Office Savings Bank near Olympia.
It would have been understandable if she had retired from chess at that point, but in the following decade she made a comeback. And what a comeback it was.
Our first post-war reference is in the 1921 British Championships, where she played in the Second Class A tournament, scoring 4½/11. I presume she wasn’t selected for the British Ladies’ Championship that year. Not having played for some years, and now in her late 50s, perhaps the selectors had good reason.
By 1922 Alice had moved from Cobham to Barnes, much more convenient for her job in Kensington, I suppose. Again, that year’s British Championship saw her competing in the Second Class A tournament, only managing 3/11.
On 27 October 1923 the Cheltenham Chronicle published this position, which, they claimed, won a brilliancy prize in that year’s British Championship. I think they made a mistake: there’s no evidence that Alice played in the British that year, and in any case the subsidiary tournaments were run in a different way. So this game must have been played the previous year, where one of her three wins was against Arthur William Daniel, better known as one of England’s leading problemists of his day. As always, click on any move for a pop-up window.
The pension age for both men and women was reduced from 70 to 65 in 1925, so it’s possible Alice was still working at this point.
Here, from about 1924, is a Ledger Room in Blythe House. I’d imagine Alice was in a more senior role: perhaps, with her undoubted administrative skills, she was supervising the ladies in this picture.
Rather unexpectedly, she moved out of London again at about this point, this time up to Abbots Langley, north of Watford: electoral rolls for the period give her address as The Bungalow, Tanners Hill. If she was still working in London this would have been quite a long commute for her.
By 1925 she was back at the British Championships, this time selected for the British Ladies’ Championship for the first time since 1914. Her score of 4½/11 was very similar to her previous scores in the event.
In 1928 Alice Elizabeth Hooke moved back to London, settling at 14 Brandon Mansions, Queens Club Gardens, W14, a mansion flat on the borders of Fulham and West Kensington, a mile or so from Blythe House (was she still working there?) and within easy reach of Hammersmith Bridge, where a bus would take her to visit her beloved brother George, whose wife would sadly die that year.
The British Championships that year took place in Tenby, and she made the journey to Pembrokeshire, where she more than surpassed her previous performances. She’d always finished mid-table in the past, but this time she finished in 3rd place with a score of 7/11 (including a win by default), behind Edith Charlotte Price and Agnes Bradley (Lawson) Stevenson.
This game, against the tournament winner, doesn’t show her in the best light. Alice chose a dubious plan in the opening and then made a tactical oversight, losing rather horribly.
At this point her chess career really took off. She joined Barnes Village Chess Club and, probably for the first time since the demise of the Ladies’ Chess Club, started playing regularly in club matches. You might have seen this before.
Barnes Village wasn’t the only club she joined. She also, rather improbably, joined Lewisham Chess Club over in South East London, playing for them in the London League and for Metropolitan Kent in a competition against other parts of the county. They had several female members, most notably the aforementioned Agnes Bradley Stevenson, who lived in Clapham and was married to the Kent born organiser Rufus Henry Streatfeild Stevenson: perhaps it was she who encouraged her friends to join Lewisham.
You’ll have seen a photograph of Alice playing Agnes Lawson, as she then was, in the previous article.
In 1929, now very much involved in Kent chess, she took part in their Easter congress, playing in the First Class A section. She also played in the British Ladies’ Championship again, which took place in Ramsgate that year, but found herself back in the middle of the pack, with a score of 5/11.
In June 1930 Alice took part in an event which attracted a lot of press attention: a chess match on a liner.
There she was, playing in the same team as Sultan Khan and other notables from various fields, one of thirteen ladies in the 32-player team (Board 32 was Mildred Gibbs). There, you’ll see, was Kate Finn, one of the F squad from the London Ladies’ Chess Club, from whom little had been heard since World War One. Although Agnes Stevenson wasn’t playing, her husband was there on board 13. There’s a lot more to say about this match: I’ll return to it in a later Minor Piece.
You can see Alice seated second from the right in this photograph of the event.
The British Ladies’ Championship in 1930 required a trip to Scarborough, and it was there that Alice Elizabeth Hooke scored what would be one of her greatest successes. She shared first place with Agnes Stevenson with a score of 8½/11. Although she lost the play-off it seemed that, now in her late 60s, Alice was in the form of her life.
The following month the news wasn’t so good, as Alice was involved in an accident requiring hospital treatment.
I can sympathise: Hammersmith Broadway has never been the easiest place to cross the road. Fortunately, she made a full recovery.
In 1931 in Worcester, Alice was less successful at the British Ladies’ Championship, but her score of 6½/11 was very respectable and sufficed for 5th place.
She didn’t have to travel far for the 1932 British Ladies’ Championship, which took place at Whiteley’s department store in Bayswater, which also hosted the Empire Social Chess Club. Perhaps the home advantage helped as she repeated her 1930 success, sharing first place this time with Kingston’s Edith Mary Ann Michell and her old rival Agnes Bradley Stevenson. Her loss to tailender Jeanie Brockett, from Glasgow, who had also beaten her last year, cost her the title.
The first game, played at the Empire Social Chess Club, Bayswater, London, on Thursday 8 September 1932, was a win for Agnes Stevenson against Edith Michell. Subsequent games had to await the return of Alice Hooke from holiday. Two games were played during the week 19-25 September in which Stevenson and Michell both won games from Hooke and Michell won her return game with Stevenson. Scores at that stage: Michell, Stevenson 2/3, Hooke 0/2. Then according to the Times, 3 October 1932, the following Tuesday (27 September) Michell beat Hooke, but then Hooke won against Stevenson on the Thursday (29 September) making the scores Michell 3/4, Stevenson 2/4 and Hooke 1/4. The text in the Times was as follows: “The match to decide the tie for the British Ladies’ Championship has ended in a win for Mrs. R. P. Michell, who defeated Miss Hooke on Tuesday last. There was a possibility of another tie between Mrs. Michell and Mrs. Stevenson, but Miss Hooke put this out of the question by defeating Mrs. Stevenson on Thursday, and the final scores are:—Mrs. Michell 3 points, Mrs. Stevenson 2, and Miss Hooke 1.”
As she approached her 70th birthday, Alice Elizabeth Hooke seemed finally to have established herself as one of the country’s finest woman players (excluding, of course, Vera Menchik). The results from the pre-war years, where she was consistently in the lower middle reaches, must have been a distant memory. Perhaps the standard of play among the British Ladies had declined, but even so, reaching her peak at this time of her life was undoubtedly a remarkable achievement. In between playing in the tournament, she was also supervising social chess at the Imperial Club, which suggests that, even at that age, she wasn’t short of stamina. Well played, Alice!
It’s unfortunate that very few games from the British Ladies’ Championship in these years have survived: if you come across any of Alice Elizabeth Hooke’s games from these events, do get in touch.
This was to be her last great result, though. Her performances in the three subsequent years saw her back in mid-table positions (4/11 in 1933, 5½/11 in 1934 and 5/11 in 1935), and she also played without success in the First Class A section of the 1933 Folkestone Congress. Perhaps her age was finally catching up with her.
Thanks to Brian Denman for providing this game from a county match where Alice was outplayed by a very strong opponent. The top 20 boards of this match were an official county championship match, for which Mackenzie wasn’t eligible.
Here she is in 1932 playing for Lewisham in the London League with Mrs Stevenson & Miss Andrews against a strong Hampstead team including another of her regular rivals, Edith Martha Holloway. There are some interesting names on both sides, but for now I’ll just draw your attention to the Hampstead Board 7 Thomas Ivor Casswell (1902-1989). He was still playing for Hampstead in the London League 42 years later: I played him in 1974: the result was a draw. The golden thread that binds us all together.
The Imperial Chess Club, which ran between 1911 and the outbreak of World War 2, along with the shorter-lived and similarly named Empire Social Chess Club, in some respects, fulfilled the purpose the Ladies’ Chess Club had served before the First World War. The Imperial was open to ladies and gentlemen for mostly social chess, and was in part designed as a club for visitors from other parts of the British Empire, so it was understandable that Sultan Khan and his patron were members.
You will notice that there were eight ladies in each team of this twenty-board friendly match.
For more information about the Empire Social Chess Club I’d encourage you to read two fascinating articles by Martin Smith here and here.
In this 1934 match against the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington she just missed playing metallurgist Edwin George Sutherland (1894-1968).
This was almost certainly the EG Sutherland I played in a 1966 Thames Valley League match between Richmond & Twickenham C and Kingston B. He beat me after I made a horrendous blunder all too typical of my early games in a better position. To the best of my knowledge, he’s also the earliest born of all my opponents in competitive games, whose dates of birth therefore range from the 19th to the 21st centuries.
There are some interesting names in the Beaumont Cup match between Richmond & Kew and Battersea 2: you’ll meet one or two of them in future Minor Pieces.
By the mid 1930s, and now into her 70s, Alice decided it was time to downsize. A new estate of Art Deco mansion flats, called Chiswick Village, had just been built near Kew Bridge, between the A4 and the Thames, which were smaller – and much cheaper – than those in the rather palatial Queen’s Club Gardens. Looking at them now, they’re still remarkably cheap for the area: I was almost tempted to sell off my chess library and buy one myself.
The Brentford & Chiswick Local History Society tells us here that Chiswick Village is the name of the development of four separate blocks containing 280 flats, built on land that was formerly orchards between Wellesley Road and the railway line. The flats, designed by Charles Evelyn Simmons and financed by the People’s Housing Corporation, were built in 1935-6. When the plans were displayed at the Royal Academy, the development was called Chiswick Court Gardens – a more appropriate name than ‘Chiswick Village’ with its connotations of a rural idyll. The 1937 edition of the official guide to Brentford and Chiswick, described Chiswick Village as ‘undoubtedly London’s most remarkable and praiseworthy housing venture’.
In the 1936 electoral roll she was ensconced in 13 Chiswick Village, one of the first occupants of this new development, and was still there, described as a retired civil servant, in 1939.
Although she was no longer taking part in the British Ladies’ Championship, Alice was still playing regularly for Barnes Village Chess Club, and still travelling to Kent where, in 1938, she lost to 12-year-old prodigy Elaine Saunders in the first round of the County Ladies’ Championship. Elaine was actually living in Twickenham at the time: her only Kent connection seems to be that it was her father’s county of birth.
Barnes Village was the only club in the area keeping its doors open during the Second World War, and Alice was still, in old age, very much involved both as a player and a committee member.
In 1942 she was elected a vice-president at their AGM, while her niece Beatrix was also on the committee. But this would be her last AGM as she died at the end of the year at the age of 80. The BCM, beset by wartime paper shortage, only gave her a six line obituary, mistakenly placing the 1897 Ladies’ International two years later.
She really deserved better. Alice Elizabeth Hooke played an important part in women’s chess in England for more than forty years, both as a player and as a backroom administrator, from her pioneering work with the Ladies’ Chess Club through to playing club chess into her late 70s. Although she wasn’t all that much more than an average club player herself, she was still good enough to share first place in two British Ladies’ Championships in her late 60s. Reaching your peak at that age is also something to be proud of, I think. As she helped keep Barnes Village club going during the Second World War, you might think that some of her legacy is still present in today’s Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club.
Her probate record indicates that since 1939 she’d moved from Chiswick to Barnes, perhaps to be nearer her brother and niece as well as her chess club. I presume 20 Glazbury Road was, at the time, some sort of nursing home or private hospital.
She didn’t leave very much money: she may well have gifted much of it to her relatives to avoid death duties.
The name of Miss Hooke continued to be prominent in Barnes Village chess through George’s daughter Beatrix.
Here she is, in 1948, playing as high as Board 4 in a match against Richmond, who had reconvened after closing during the war. Her opponent, Captain Samuel Ould, had been a Richmond stalwart between the wars, but most of the other Richmond players were relatively new members.
And this is where I come in. I knew George Seaford at what had by that point become Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club, in the 1960s, and Ted Fairbrother into the 1970s, though neither very well. Dr JD Solomon (a strong player) and Stan Perry left Richmond but rejoined for a time in the 1970s, the latter serving a term as Hon Treasurer. There were one or two other Richmond members at the time who would still be involved 20 years later. There was also one player in the team whom I never met, but who had an influence on my early chess career. I’ll write about him another time. The golden thread again.
Here Beatrix is again, celebrating Barnes Village winning the Beaumont Cup (Surrey Division 2) for the first time. This was their first, and, as it turned out, their only trophy, as they would eventually be subsumed into Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club. Also in the photograph is young Peter Roger Vivian (1927-1987): I played him at Paignton, also in 1974. Another strand of the thread.
Two of the Barnes Village members had something else to celebrate in 1950: here are Beatrix and her widower clubmate Dr Gerald Hovenden demonstrating how chess can bring people together. At the time of their marriage Beatrix was 57 and Gerald 81.
This tells us she was living in Elm Bank Mansions, right by Barnes Bridge, and working at Cadby Hall near Olympia, just as in the 1939 Register. Perhaps she walked along the riverbank and over Hammersmith Bridge to work, a journey almost identical to that made by her music teacher at St Paul’s Girls School more than 30 years earlier.
This was Gustav Holst, who, at the time, lived in The Terrace, Barnes, just a few yards upstream from Elm Bank Mansions. Always a keen walker, Holst was in the habit of making that journey on foot. Coincidence, or something more?
In this map you can see the Post Office Savings Bank in Blythe Road, just opposite Olympia, where Alice spent her career. Cadby Hall, just round the corner, was where Beatrix worked, as a statistician according to the 1939 Register. (As a footnote, in 1926 she co-authored a scientific paper on British skulls in prehistoric times.) Just a few yards again took you to St Paul’s Girls School, marked as St Paul School here, where Gustav Holst taught music to Beatrix and her sisters, while their brother Cyril attended St Paul’s Boys School, just off the map opposite the smaller school on Hammersmith Road. I visited there a couple of times myself in the 1960s for school bridge matches: it was rebuilt in Barnes, the other side of Hammersmith Bridge, a few years later. It’s extraordinary how much of the Hooke family’s lives played out within such a small area of London.
If you continue west along Hammersmith Road, you’ll soon reach Hammersmith Broadway, where Alice was knocked down by a cyclist, and the Underground stations. Continue into King Street and you’ll pass a turning on your right taking you to the London Mind Sports Centre, also the home of Hammersmith Chess Club, and then arrive at Latymer Upper School, a place I used to know very well.
Did Gerald and Beatrix continue playing chess after their marriage? Sadly, the online Richmond Herald records only go up to 1950, so I’d have to get out of my chair to find out. Gerald lived on until 1957, while Beatrix retired to Sussex, where she died in 1974.
That concludes the story of the chess playing Hooke family: George, his sister Alice and his daughter Beatrix. George and Alice were prominent players in earlier decades, but through their work and play at Barnes Village Chess Club for a quarter of a century they had a huge influence on chess in the Borough of Richmond upon Thames. It’s the likes of them, organisers behind the scenes as well as players, who make the chess world go round. Raise a glass to them next time you visit us at the Adelaide.
In the last two Minor Pieces (here and here) you met George Archer Hooke. Mention was made of his sister, Alice Elizabeth Hooke, who was also a competitive player: not as strong as her brother, but of more historical significance.
Alice was born on 20 October 1862, and, as expected was living at home in 1871 and 1881, although no occupation is listed for her on the 1881 census. By 1891, still at home, she was, like several of her siblings, working as a clerk (the details aren’t very legible). Presumably she, like George, had learnt chess from her father, but in those days chess clubs weren’t seen as places for women. Some clubs, like Twickenham, specified in their advertisements that they welcomed ‘gentlemen’. No plebs, and no ladies either.
But views on the role of women in society were changing. If men could have chess clubs, why couldn’t women?
Well, it certainly wasn’t the first Ladies’ Chess Club in England, and portrait painter Edith Mary Burrell (1858-1906) wasn’t all that young either, but the club, as you’ll see, would become very popular and successful.They soon found a venue in the Strand opposite Charing Cross Station and, by May, were playing their first match.
Alice, a keen social chess player, had wasted no time in joining, playing top board in this match. As you’ll see, the gentlemen of the Metropolitan club, as well as giving knight odds, were only their third team players, which suggests that most of the ladies were, at this point, not very strong players.
The following month their first Annual General Meeting took place. Miss Alice Elizabeth Hooke was elected Hon Secretary and Treasurer.
Most importantly, Mrs Rhoda Bowles was elected match captain and tournament secretary. All chess clubs are only as good as their organisers, and, in Rhoda Bowles, they had an organiser and publicist of exceptional energy and talent, with, I’d imagine, Alice Hooke doing the backroom work with considerable efficiency.
The club continued to thrive, offering a bewildering whirl of activities: internal tournaments, simultaneous displays, including one from Harry Nelson Pillsbury, fresh from his success at Hastings, and matches against other clubs. By October, with their membership having grown to 75, they found more commodious premises in Great Russell Street, close to the British Museum.
Lady Thomas was the mother of the future Sir George Thomas, and herself a strong player. Alice had been relegated from top board to board 9 by now, partly because of an influx of strong new members. The four players on the middle boards, all, coincidentally, with surnames beginning with F, would go on to play important roles in the Ladies’ Chess Club over the next few years. For the remarkable Louisa Matilda Fagan, I’ll refer you to Martin Smith’s articles referenced below. I hope to write about Gertrude Alison Beatrice Field, Rita Fox and Kate Belinda Finn at some point in the future.
Within a few months they were up to 100 members. Pillsbury visited again and Lasker looked in whenever he was in town.
In 1896 the Ladies’ Chess Club entered the London League as well as continuing their programme of internal competitions, friendly matches, such as the one below, against other clubs and simuls, in this case by Herbert Levi Jacobs.
Here, you see the F-squad in place on the top four boards, with the Belgian Marie Bonnefin on board 5 and Alice on board 6. By now they seem to have established their correct board order. While, for many of their members, the club probably served a social function, their strongest players were intensely competitive.
They had even bigger plans in store for 1897 when, to mark Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, they planned to hold an International Ladies’ Chess Tournament at the Hotel Cecil in London.
The strongest lady players from around the world were invited, and, naturally enough, these included several of their club members. Alice Elizabeth Hooke was originally a reserve, but when one of the American invitees withdrew, she was granted a place in the competition.
I’ll refer you to two excellent articles (links at the foot of this post) which provide much more information. The tournament, just like the club, predictably attracted a lot of interest in the press and several of the games were published. Alice’s score of 10 points (8 wins over the board, 2 by default and 9 losses) was more than respectable for a reserve.
Here’s a photograph of the competitors. Alice, wearing a hat, is standing right at the back against the screen.
In this game against one of the German representatives (her first name is not known, at least to me, but she may well have been related to the organist and composer Carl Müller-Hartung (1834-1908)), her opponent failed to take advantage of an oversight at move 15, after which a poor choice at move 18 allowed Alice to demonstrate some impressive attacking skills. Click on any move in any game in this article for a pop-up board.
Against her Belgian clubmate Marie Bonnefin, Alice lost a vital central pawn, after which her opponent’s passed pawns enabled her to bring the game to a neat conclusion.
Alice’s game against one of the F-squad, Gertrude Field, had an interesting finish. Gertrude played an enterprising and correct piece sacrifice on move 25, but missed the immediate Nf3 on move 27. Defending in chess is always difficult, and Alice could have stayed in the game by playing 28… Ne7.
Her best result came in round 8, with a win against Louisa Fagan, who eventually finished in second place. Only a short extract is available, but the opening must have been a Centre Game (1. e4 e5 2. d4 exd4 3. Qxd4), a favourite of both Alice and her brother George. It’s interesting to note that the two siblings frequently played the same rather unusual openings.
Finally, we have a quick win against Miss Eschwege, who, overlooking that her d-pawn was pinned, blundered a piece and immediately resigned. It’s frustrating that, for many years, the press didn’t see fit to use initials for women. Here, again, we don’t know Alice’s opponent’s first name. Her chess playing father, Hermann, was born in Germany, but lived in London. He had three daughters: Kathleen had married by 1897, but either Ida or Nina would be possible. If you know, do get in touch.
The experience of intensive competitive chess, with two games a day over ten days, must have been an educational experience for Alice and the other lady chess players.
Here’s a game she played the following year, where she crowns a strong attack (she did seem to like castling queenside) with a brilliant rook sacrifice.
Later that year the Ladies’ Chess Club visited Anerley, near Crystal Palace in South East London, for a combined chess and musical programme.
Captain Alexander Beaumont’s name lives on in the Beaumont Cup, which has, since 1895-96, been the name of the second division of the Surrey Chess League. Frank Gustavus Naumann would later become the first President of the British Chess Federation before losing his life on the Lusitania. Mrs Anderson, on Board 3 for the ladies, was the former Gertrude Alison Beatrice Field, who had just married Donald Loveridge Anderson.
In January 1899 their 4th birthday party’s guests included Lasker, Gunsberg, and, appropriately enough, Antony Guest. As the 20th century approached there was no stopping the Ladies’ programme of matches and social events.
At this time we can find Alice in the 1901 census, living at 27 Croxted Road, Herne Hill with her widowed mother Harriett, and working as a clerk in the General Post Office. This was just 2.3 miles up the A2199 from Anerley Village Hall, and close to Dulwich College School.
At Whitsun that year Alice, along with her clubmates Louisa Matilda Fagan, Kate Finn and Rita Fox, took part in the open section of the Kent County Chess Association Tournament. I haven’t been able to find the full results, but Miss Finn did well to finish in second place.
In 1902 she visited Norwich for the British Amateur Championship, playing in the 3rd Class section along with the Misses Foster and Oakley from the Ladies’ Chess Club (and my favourite chess playing clergyman, Rev W E Evill). Miss Finn, Mrs Anderson and a new member of the Ladies’ Chess Club, Mrs Frances Dunn Herring (née Gwilliam) took part in the 2nd Class section.
In 1903 Alice played in the Kent congress in Canterbury, playing in Section A of the ‘Extra’ (2nd Class) section and sharing 2nd place with a score of 4½/7.
The British Chess Championships took place for the first time in 1904, and from the start, the top places in the British Ladies’ Championship were usually taken by members of the Ladies’ Chess Club. Alice Elizabeth Hooke took part for the first time in Shrewsbury in 1906, winning five games and losing six.
In this game against Scotland’s Agnes Margaret Crum, she lost quickly using the Dutch Defence, an opening also favoured by her brother George.
She was back again in Crystal Palace (she wouldn’t have had far to travel) the following year, with a similar result: four wins, one draw and six losses. She was, at this point, and by now in her mid 40s, some way below the best lady players in the country.
Here she is, pictured in the Daily Mirror, on the left in the lower photograph. Her opponent ‘s name was Agnes Lawson, not Lawrence.
By 1909, Alice had joined a new club, the Imperial Colonial Club, whose chess players seemed mostly to be connected with the Ladies’ Chess Club. There will be a lot more to say about this club in future Minor Pieces.
I’m not sure why boards 7 and 8 were reported as a loss for both players.
In July, the Imperial Review (perhaps connected with the Imperial and Colonial Club) published a feature on Alice Elizabeth Hooke, with the information that she’d won the Ladies’ Chess Club for the third year in succession, thus acquiring the cup in perpetuity (I wonder what happened to it) but had had to relinquish her post as secretary for health reasons. We also have a rather fine photograph.
Here’s the game for you to play through: you’ll notice the opening variation is the same as that from Alice’s game against Miss Eschwege from 12 years earlier.
Although the Ladies’ Chess Club was still growing, its activities were receiving less publicity in the press. Perhaps the novelty had worn off. It seems that Alice Hooke was less active at this time, perhaps partly because of ill health, and partly because she was having to care for her increasingly frail elderly mother.
By the 1911 census Harriett and Alice had moved to 12 Eatonville Road, Upper Tooting, just a 12 minute walk from Alice’s brother George’s rather more substantial house in Drakefield Road. Alice was now described as a Clerk in the Civil Service.
Harriett died in December 1912, but it wouldn’t be until 1914 that Alice resumed her chess career.
The British Championships took place in Chester that year, and Alice Elizabeth Hooke was back in the Ladies’ Championship, but without much success, winning four games and losing seven.
One game is available, but it doesn’t show her in a good light. She seemed unfamiliar with her opponent’s sharp opening variation, and, after only six moves, had a very bad position. Mrs Holloway was able to offer a bishop sacrifice for a swift victory.
By now she had moved out of London, to Cobham, near Esher in Surrey. Electoral rolls give her address as White Lodge, Cobham. There are two houses of that name in Cobham, about a mile apart. I’d guess it was more likely to be this one than this one. As it was just her and a servant, the smaller and more centrally located property would have been more than adequate. Neither was close to the station, so I wonder how she travelled to work. Jumping ahead for the moment, she was still there in 1921, working as a civil servant in the Post Office Savings Bank in West Kensington.
But then, of course, World War 1 broke out, and, like many others, the Ladies’ Chess Club decided to close its doors for the duration.
As you probably already know from her brother George’s story, this was not the end of Alice Elizabeth Hooke’s chess career. You’ll find out what happened subsequently in the next Minor Piece.
But meanwhile, if you’re interested, there’s a lot more reading material for you.
There’s a lot of information about the Ladies’ Chess Club and the 1897 tournament available in various online sources.
The excellent Batgirl (Sarah Beth Cohen) has written a number of articles on the Ladies’ Chess Club on chess.com.
We focus on the British Chess Scene Past & Present !
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.