In Part 3 of the history of Richmond Junior Chess Club I left you with this news from May 1993.
This was the start of the Richmond Chess Initiative, which was doing very much the same thing that Chess in Schools & Communities now does, but on a local level, within the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames.
Local businessman Stanley Grundy had met Anne Summers, then the Mayor of Richmond upon Thames, at a concert. He had recently come across this paper claiming that chess improves children’s academic performance, and, for this reason, wanted to put money into schools in the borough.
There were all sorts of questions here about the validity of the paper’s methods and conclusions, and, given that Richmond schools, as you might expect from the nature of the demographics of the Borough, topped the national league tables every year anyway, how much scope there was for improving the results even more. But, nevertheless, Stanley wanted to donate some money, which was good news for us at Richmond Junior Chess Club.
A steering committee was formed, including representatives from local schools, notably Jane Lawrence, Headteacher of Sheen Mount, the local council and local businesses, local Grandmaster Daniel King was also invited to join and I was paid to manage the chess programme. There was no interest in putting chess on the curriculum, but a number of (mostly primary) schools were interested in starting after-school clubs. So part of my job was helping schools with these clubs, and, as more schools became interested, other chess tutors were also recruited.
All sorts of other things happened. Every year national inter-area competitions take place, run by the English Primary Schools Chess Association, at Under 9, Under 11 and Girls Under 11 levels. RJCC were now, through our committee of parents, running these teams. We were able to combine our own strong players with those from schools in the Borough, many of whom we also recruited to join us, to create formidably strong Under 9 and Under 11 teams. Although we were, in effect, competing as a club against mostly county teams we always finished near the top, winning national titles on several occasions.
Our tournaments were now billed as the Richmond Chess Initiative Championships, thanks to Stanley Grundy’s sponsorship. Here’s a game from our 1994 championship between two of our strongest young players. To play through any game in this article, click on any move for a pop-up window.
Later in 1994 Daniel King organised our first international tournament, which took place (mostly) at the Royal Star and Garter Home for Disabled Ex-Servicemen in Richmond (you can read more about chess there in this Minor Piece). The tournament – remarkably – featured seven current or former members of RJCC, along with Danish IM Klaus Berg and two of Daniel’s Bundesliga teammates.
Luke McShane, only 10 years old, struggled in most of his games, but hit the national headlines when he beat Berg, who went on to share first place with former RJCC star (as he then was) Demetrios Agnos.
The tournament was remarkable for its fighting spirit and exciting, if not always perfectly accurate games. Here’s the crosstable.
Here’s a short selection of games played by some of the RJCC representatives in this event.
At the same time we welcomed a team from Szombathely in Hungary, who played matches against a combined RJCC/Southern Counties team. Here’s a Richmond win against a future Grandmaster.
We were very big on the idea of giving our players the chance to compete against adult opposition when they were ready to do so. We ran teams in the Thames Valley League for this reason, on one occasion finishing second ahead of the Richmond & Twickenham A team.
In 1995 we were able to start a series of Richmond Rapidplays, which usually took place at the White House Community Association in Hampton. We ran six tournaments a year, with four sections, usually attracting about 100 participants, roughly equally split between juniors and adults. The top section always included IMs and sometimes also GMs, so our members had the chance to watch top players in action.
The point of what we were doing was to give our afternoon group members (1000+ rating or age 11+) the chance to play as many different opponents (of different ages) as possible, as well as to experience different openings and different time controls. Our results, and, particularly our strength in depth were testimony to the success of our approach, focusing on purposeful playing rather than teaching.
We ran our second international tournament that autumn. This time we had five past or present RJCC members, while our good friend Simon Williams completed the home contingent. Klaus Berg returned, along with popular Dutch IM Gerard Welling. The other competitors were London-based Nigerian Chiedu Maduekwe and Serbian Jovica Radovanovic. Here’s the crosstable.
Again, a short selection of games.
Here’s our sponsor Stanley Grundy writing to the local press in February 1996, with ambitions to exend the scheme both nationally and internationallly.
For various reasons this didn’t happen in quite that way, but the national initiative is still successful today.
One day Stanley summoned me to his office and told me he was going to make me rich. However, he then spoke to Mike Basman, who was running Surrey junior chess under the Wey Valley banner and decided Mike was the better person to put his ideas into practice.
This was the start of what would soon become the UK Chess Challenge, which was originally sponsored by Stanley through one of his companies. It’s still running very successfully today, but, far from making Mike Basman rich it had the opposite effect.
Our big annual event during this period was the RCI Schools Chess Tournament, designed as a fun event encouraging mass participation, with clocks only used on the higher boards. Here’s a report on the 1996 event.
In 1996 the club received recognition from what was then the British Chess Federation when I received a President’s Award for services to chess, which I saw as an award for the club as a whole rather than for me personally.
But we were not the only successful junior club around. My friend Mike Fox was now running his own club, Checkmate!, in Birmingham, and when they visited us in 1996 scored an impressive victory. In this drawn game our Midlands opponents were represented by a future star.
We also ran two big individual tournaments every year: our annual championships in the summer term, and an open event in the autumn term including qualifiers for the London Junior Championship as well as a section for older players. Here’s a game from the 1996 renewal.
A few years earlier, as you read last time, Luke McShane was breaking a lot of international age records, but now we had in Murugan Thiruchelvam a player who was beating even Luke’s records. He impressed with his ability to play simple positions well: something I’ve always considered the mark of a promising player. In this game he outplayed his opponent in the ending even though he was the exchange down.
Although he was only 8 years old, Murugan played top board for our Under 12 team in a year in which we became national champions (against county teams) at U18, U14, U12 and U11 levels.
That autumn Garry Kasparov was in town, playing a simul against 25 teams. We were honoured to be invited to send a team of four players to take part in this event. We played under the name ‘Deep Yellow’, a play on Deep Blue referring to the colour of the shirts our teams wore at the time.
Here’s the game: a Kasparov victory that may not have been published before. You’ll see that we missed a few drawing chances.
This article, as well as advertising Murugan’s success against adult opponents (the Major section was the second one down in the Richmond Rapidplays), announced a workshop for young players over the Christmas holidays.
By now Luke was writing regular chess columns, here taking the opportunity to plug both Murugan and RJCC.
But, while the club was extraordinarily successful, I was starting to have doubts about what was happening in primary school chess clubs. For the most part the standard of play was so low that it was hard to imagine it was helping the children improve their academic performance. There was also very little interest in chess in secondary schools, so they were not continuing playing after the age of 11, seeing it as a primary school game.
The children certainly enjoyed the clubs, and we were able to encourage the stronger primary school players to join RJCC on Saturday mornings, but I struggled to see a longer term purpose.
Growing increasingly frustrated, I wrote an article expressing my views at the time, which you can read here.
Things were very different at RJCC at this point when almost every Saturday saw a new, extremely talented 7 year old turn up who had learnt from playing chess with his family at home.
One of the most notable of this generation was Robert Heaton, who, in this game, had the nerve to play the Dutch Defence against one of our favourite simul givers, Simon Williams.
At about this time the parents on the club committee decided that I should be paid for running the club. My feelings were mixed. Of course money is always useful, but I’d always seen it as a hobby which I did because it gave me a lot of personal satisfaction. They explained to me that they wanted to ensure the future of the club in case something happened to me, so I felt I had to accept.
As the millennium reached its final year Murugan made the papers again, qualifying for the British Chess Championship.
During the RCI years we were still producing national junior titles as well:
1994: Ruth Bates U14G (shared)
1995: Ruth Bates U16G and U15G (shared), Leila Nathoo U9G (shared)
1996: Ross Rattray U13, Ruth Bates U18G (shared)
1997: David Bates U15 (shared). Jonathan Zoubaida U9, Murugan Thiruchelvam U8, Ruth Bates U18G (shared)
1998: David Edwards U16 and U15, Thomas Nixon U12 (shared), Chetan Deva (U11)
1999: Shanker Menon U18 (shared)
We had had a remarkable run of success for almost a quarter of a century, but just as the calendar was changing from 1999 to 2000, junior chess was changing as well.
You’ll find out more in the final article of this series.
If you walk up to the top of Richmond Hill, past one of the most famous views in the country, you’ll see an imposing edifice opposite the gate into Richmond Park.
You’ll also see it across Petersham Meadows if you walk along the Thames Path towards Ham, Teddington and Kingston.
This was, until a few years ago, the Royal Star and Garter Home for disabled former service personnel.
There was originally a hotel on the site, which closed down in 1906, and, for several years, plans for redevelopment came to nothing. The current building was constructed between 1921 and 1924 to a design by Sir Edwin Cooper based on a 1915 plan by the great and wonderful Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, providing accommodation and nursing facilities for 180 serious injured servicemen.
Most (but not all, as we’ll see) of the residents were wheelchair users as a result of injuries suffered in the First World War. In the days before parasports they were unable to access physical recreations so chess was a popular activity there. It wasn’t long before the members of Richmond Chess Club, just downhill, paid them a visit.
Their first match seems to have been in Spring 1926, and they returned in the Autumn.
Richmond Herald 27 November 1926
It’s good to see both sides fielding a lady player: I presume Sister Allsopp was a chess playing member of the nursing staff.
This was, in effect, the club second team, but the following month their star player Wilfred Hugh Miller Kirk, visited to give a simultaneous display.
The results of their Spring 1927 match were published.
It was unfortunate (but typical for the time) that two of the Richmond visitors failed to put in an appearance. The Star and Garter top board, Clifford William Hill, did well to draw his game.
Other local chess clubs, such as the Old Richmondians, visited them for matches as well.
When the newly formed Barnes Village Chess Club paid their first visit they were understandably apprehensive: “Thoughts of the game took second place to thoughts of the war and its effects”. But when they got there they discovered that “as they faced the foe most bravely, so now they take their present handicap most cheerfully”.
Clifford Hill seems to have been a pretty strong player who rarely lost in these matches.
In 1931 he even secured a draw against the more than useful Barnes Village top board George Archer Hooke.
Perhaps we should find out more about him.
Clifford William Hill, known to his friends as Tony, was born (as William Clifford Hill) on 27 October 1898 in Brierley Hill, Staffordshire, an industrial town in the Black Country best known for its glass and steel works. His father, Horace Emmanuel Holloway Hill, was employed by one of the local ironworks before becoming a railway platelayer and then a gas fitter. A very different background, to be sure, from the middle class gentlemen he would have encountered in his matches against Richmond and Barnes Village chess clubs.
I can’t find any very obvious WW1 service records for him, nor can I locate him in the 1921 census. Secondary sources claim he signed up at the age of 17, was severely wounded at the Battle of the Somme, and spent time in a number of hospitals.
It turns out he was a rather remarkable man. Not only a more than competent chess player, but the editor of the Star and Garter Magazine and a multi-talented musician as well: singer (both alto and tenor), violinist and conductor.
Here he is, arranging, conducting and performing at a concert party.
One of the many organisations providing entertainment to the residents was a Post Office group called the Camel Corps. One of their members, Helen Isabel Frances (Nell) Pollard, was smitten, and in 1932 they tied the knot in nearby Petersham.
Nell’s father’s middle name suggests a family interest in music, doesn’t it?
According to this article, they were moving to Sandgate, near Folkestone, where the Star and Garter had a seaside branch. It also appeared to mark the end of his chess career: his last mention seems to be earlier that year.
In 1934 Clifford (or should we call him Tony) and his friends achieved national prominence when they appeared on the wireless.
Tony, the man with the smile. How wonderful!
The 1939 Register found Tony and Nell in Brierley Hill with his parents, but by the time of the 1945 Electoral Roll they’d moved to Sir Oswald Stoll Mansions in Fulham a block of mansion flats right next to Chelsea FC providing supported living for disabled former service personnel.
Clifford William Hill died back at the Star and Garter on 13 March 1952, at the age of 53. A remarkable man from a very modest background who, despite being confined to a wheelchair, achieved much in his life. He would have been a popular and important figure in the Star and Garter, and deserves to be remembered today, not only as the man with the smile. I’m sure chess, along with music, and, of course, Nell, brought him much satisfaction.
By the time he’d moved on, another highly competent chess player had moved in. You can see him back in that 1931 team list. Step forward Reginald Aubrey Tarrant.
Reginald was very different. Unlike most of the residents, he had been too young to serve in the war, and he was in the Star and Garter through illness rather than injury.
He was born on 12 May 1909 in Banbury, Oxfordshire, the second son of Francis Llewellyn Tarrant and Ethel Agnes Best, but by 1911 the family had moved to Acton where his father was working as an oil merchant. This was a family which would have both problems and tragedies to contend with.
In 1912 their third son, Francis Llewellyn junior was born, but only survived a few months. The following year, their oldest son, Hugh Gordon Tarrant, aged 6, was knocked down and killed by a car. Reggie and Gordon were sitting on stones marking the boundary between Ealing, Acton and Brentford. A car travelling at an excessive speed swerved to avoid a horse and cart, and hit the two boys, killing Gordon and seriously injuring Reggie. The coroner’s court recorded a verdict of manslaughter and the driver was sent for trial at the Old Bailey, but at this subsequent trial he was cleared of all charges, one would imagine much to the parents’ distress.
Having lost two sons, one to a tragic accident which left their third son seriously injured, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Francis and Ethel’s marriage hit problems. By 1916 Francis had moved to Southsea, where he ran a business as a motor engineer and driving instructor, which, he claimed, exempted him from military service. Ethel was back in Ealing claiming maintenance arrears. Perhaps they got back together as a daughter, Dorothy May, was born in 1918 (or perhaps he wasn’t her father). But in 1921 Ethel was again claiming maintenance, while Francis made a counter claim on the grounds of her alleged adultery.
And just look who else was up before the magistrates at the same time. None other than Ealing Chess Club Treasurer Sydney Meymott, fined for not having his dog muzzled.
Meanwhile the 1921 census found Francis still in Southsea, apparently married to Florence May Tarrant (he’d later be ‘married’ to Harriet Grace Tarrant). Dorothy, although not yet three years old, seemed to be boarding at St Ethelburga’s convent school/orphanage in Walmer, Kent (the other pupils were aged between 5 and 19), with the census record claiming, incorrectly, that her father was dead. I haven’t been able to find a record for Ethel.
Reggie was a boarder at the Rosemary Home in Herne Bay, Kent. This was an outdoor convalescent home for boys, which suggests to me that he might possibly have had tuberculosis.
He made a good recovery, and in 1924, at the age of 15, joined the Royal Navy as an Arethusa Boy, where he trained as a telegraphist. He might well be one of the cadets in this film.
In 1928 he suffered a serious illness (heat stroke) and on 18 June 1930 he was invalided out due to organic heart disease. This must have been so severe that he was unable to live independently. It was at this point, or shortly afterwards, that he moved into the Star and Garter, where he rapidly became one of their strongest chess players. Did he learn chess there, or did he already know how to play?
By 1931, as we’ve seen, he was playing in the Star and Garter chess team, and he was soon invited to join Richmond Chess Club. It would be interesting to know how he travelled there. He was a decade or more younger than most of the other residents, and, also unlike them, probably not a wheelchair user. Walking downhill into the town centre might not have been a problem, but walking back up to the top of Richmond Hill might not be a good idea if you’re suffering from organic heart disease. Perhaps someone gave him a lift.
Here he is, in 1933, playing on bottom board against the NPL.
He was now making rapid progress. In the 1933-34 club championship he shared first place in his section with Wilfred Kirk, only losing the tie-break game, and also finished 3rd in the handicap tournament.
Tarrant continued to advance in the ranks, and by 1936 he was regularly playing on third board behind Wilfred Kirk and Ronald George Armstrong: I’d guess he was by now about 2000 strength: a strong club player.
In this Beaumont Cup (then as now, the Surrey Second Division) match Armstrong presumably failed to turn up, while Kirk faced an interesting young oponent on top board.
David Hooper later became a distinguished writer and historian of the game, best known for co-authoring The Oxford Companion to Chess with Ken Whyld.
A couple of weeks later Richmond did well to win a friendly match against a strong Kingston team headed by Mr & Mrs Michell.
James Mcewen Ellam (1882-1965) would, a decade or so later, be one of the leading lights responsible for founding the Thames Valley Chess League. For many years a competition was held at the start of every season for a trophy named in his honour.
That season Reginald Tarrant (was he still known as Reggie, I wonder?) won both the handicap tournament and match prize (presumably for the best results in club matches: this was a pocket chessboard presented by the Surrey County Chess Association) as well as finishing half a point behind Kirk and Guy Fothergill in the club championship. He was also elected onto the committee at the 1936 AGM. When Kirk moved away in 1937, Tarrant now found himself on board 2 in club matches.
However, he wasn’t among the opposition when Sir George Thomas visited the Star and Garter to give a simul.
(Sir George George Thomas? So good they named him twice?)
But when war broke out again, Richmond Chess Club, with an ageing membership, decided to close its doors for the duration. The 1939 Register recorded Tarrant in the Star and Garter, a Patient and Incapacitated: a decade or more younger than most of the other residents. He was still playing chess there. Here he is, in 1941, drawing with a famous visitor.
Mrs Dudley Short was herself a keen player: on the same page it was announced that the Richmond branch of the NCW (National Council of Women?) ran a fortnightly chess club: you could phone her if you wanted to join.
When the Second World War came to an end, a new chess club, the Georgian Chess Club, opened in Richmond. Reginald was one of its first members.
This would later become Richmond Chess Club, taking over the mantle of the ‘Old Richmond and Kew Club’, but that’s a story for another time. Reginald’s appearance here was his first, but perhaps also his last. A few months earlier he had married Peggy Dora Roberts. She’d been recorded as a Children’s Nurse in 1939 so it was quite possible that she was one of the Star and Garter nurses. I suspect that the happy couple moved in with his mother, who was living close to Kew Gardens.
Reginald and Peggy went on to have three daughters. There are birth records for Carol (1948) and Alison (1953), but, according to an old post by Carol on Genes Reunited there was another girl, Valerie. But shortly after Alison’s birth, on 4 September 1953, Reginald Aubrey Tarrant died at the age of 44.
Back at the Star and Garter, there seemed to be less interest in chess, with most local clubs closing during the war. I have a recollection of some contacts and perhaps friendly matches during the late 1960s, but chess was changing, and perhaps the Star and Garter was as well.
But in 1994 chess at the Star and Garter was back in the news when it hosted an international tournament as part of the Richmond Chess Initiative.
But that’s another story, which will be told in Part 4 of the history of Richmond Junior Chess Club, coming, with any luck, fairly soon.
Although they were no longer playing regularly against outside clubs, chess remained popular with Star and Garter residents such as Charles Grove.
The Star and Garter home in Richmond closed several years ago and, sadly but inevitably, was converted into luxury flats. While the building had been designed specifically for wheelchair users, most of the residents were, by that time, elderly former service personnel with dementia, and the building was no longer fit for purpose. They decided their best option was to sell off the property and construct a new purpose-built home in Surbiton. You can find out more about their history here.
I’m sure both Clifford and Reginald gained much enjoyment from playing chess at the Star and Garter, and, in the latter’s case, also at Richmond Chess Club. They both had difficult lives: one, from a working class family, who was severely injured in the war, the other, from a more middle class but dysfunctional family, who was incapacitated by health problems. Chess is just as much for their likes as it is for prodigies, grandmasters and champions.
I’ve always been unhappy about the reasons given for promoting chess, on local, national and international levels. For me, we should be talking, no, shouting about the way chess can provide competition and friendship for those who are unable or unwilling to access physical sports. Richmond wasn’t the only place where, in the inter-war years, those with physical handicaps were encouraged to play chess. You’ll find out more in the next Minor Piece, which will take us to another part of the country.
Sources and Acknowledgements:
findmypast.co.uk/British Newspaper Archive
Star and Garter website
I’ve just returned (on the eve of publication of this article) from a concert in which the distinguished baritone Roderick Williams performed a song composed by Sally Beamish. A few weeks ago I was at a gig where one of the musicians talked about drinking Beamish at the Cork Jazz Festival.
If you’re in Dublin you drink Guinness: if you’re in Cork you drink Beamish. Whether Sally drinks Beamish I don’t know, but she comes from the same family.
William Beamish and William Crawford founded the Cork Porter Brewery in 1791, beginning brewing the following year. William Beamish came from a distinguished family of English settlers.
Several of their family were competitive chess players in the first half of the last century. The unfortunately initialled FU Beamish was active in the Bristol area in the years leading up to the First World War, and A (or sometimes AE) Beamish was playing in London at the same time. Then there was Captain EA Beamish, who was a tournament regular for a decade or so either side of 1940.
There is some confusion about AB/AEB and EAB which I hope this article will resolve.
One of William’s many children was a son named Charles, born in 1801 (Sally is descended from his brother Richard): it’s his branch of the family who were chess players. Charles and his first wife, Louisa Howard, had four children: Ferdinand, Albert, Victoria and Alfred. He had another four children by his second wife, but, apart from noting that one of his daughters was named, with a distinct lack of political correctness, Darkey Delacour Beamish, they needn’t concern us.
Ferdinand was born in France in 1838, married Frances Anne Strickland at St John the Evangelist, Ladbroke Grove, London in 1876, then moved back to Cork where their children were born: Ferdinand Uniacke (1877), Walter Strickland, Francis Bernard, Gerald Cholmley and finally their only daughter, Agnes Olive.
It was Ferdinand Uniacke Beamish, unfortunately initialled, yes, but also splendidly named, who was our first chess playing Beamish. But it’s also worth looking at his sister, usually known as Olive, suffragette, communist and Cambridge graduate; and not the only unexpectedly radical woman you’ll meet in this article.
By 1901 the family had moved to Westbury on Trym, near Bristol, at which point FUB was working as a mechanical engineer, although the family would later run a farm.
Our first sighting of him at a chessboard is in November 1901, losing his game on a low board in a match in which Bristol and Clifton fielded a ‘very weak team’.
At the age of 24, then, he was very much a novice, taking his first steps in the world of competitive chess. He was soon elected club secretary, and won a game in a simul against Francis Lee. In October 1902 he was one of a group of organisers instrumental in founding a Bristol Chess League. Here was an ambitious young man, very active as both a player and an organiser.
He was improving fast as well, and by 1903 was playing on board 5 for his county team, drawing his game in a match against Surrey.
There seems to have been some internal politics going on at the time: it was reported that FUB had resigned from Bristol and Clifton, because he had left the area, but, as well as continuing to play in county matches he was playing for Bristol Chess Club: I don’t know exactly what the relationship was between the two clubs, or indeed between the Bristol Chess League and the Gloucestershire and Bath Chess League, in which this 1906 match took place.
The short game published below was this one, against Bath veteran Alfred Rumboll. Black’s opening repertoire seems to have been sadly deficient. FUB preferred 6. d4 to the Fried Liver Attack, and won quickly against his opponent’s poor defence. Click on any move in any game in this article for a pop-up window.
In 1906 he decided to take part in the 3rd British Chess Championships, which took place that year in Shrewsbury. He was placed in Section A of the Second Class Section, scoring a highly respectable 6 points from 10 games.
Confusingly, FUB was also playing for Clifton Chess Club, winning their club championship, and was also taking a high board for his county in correspondence matches, such as this one against Norfolk, where he defended the Evans Gambit against a Norfolk clergyman.
By this time, he was also playing a lot of correspondence chess, not only for Gloucestershire, but also for Ireland and in their national correspondence championship. In this game from a county match Ferdinand gains control of the centre against his opponent’s rather feeble opening and launches a rapid kingside attack.
In 1911 he reached the finals of the county championship, losing the play-off against the ill-fated Samuel Walter Billings.
The 1913 British Championships took place in nearby Cheltenham, and FUB returned to the fray, again taking part in the 2nd Class A section, finishing 3rd with 6½/10.
The Cork Weekly News published several of his games: perhaps he submitted them himself so that his friends and relations in his family’s home city would see them.
In this game he quickly gained an advantage against his opponent’s unimpressive opening play.
Superior opening play in this game again gave him the opportunity to demonstrate his attacking skills.
His opponent in this game was, amongst other things, one of the founders of the Gloster Aircraft Company. There’s more about the family firm here.
The dangerous Albin Counter-Gambit was just becoming popular at this time, but Ferdinand knew how to deal with it.
From these games you get the impression of a player much better than his second class status would suggest, with a good knowledge of the latest theory along with a fluent attacking style and tactical ability. But quite often things went wrong, and when they went wrong they went very wrong.
He was on the wrong end of a Best Game Prize winner here against a Danish opponent. As soon as he ran out of theory he blundered into a stock checkmating tactic.
The 1914 British Championships took place in Chester, and this time Ferdinand Uniacke Beamish was promoted to the 1st Class section, but with the UK having declared war against Germany a few days earlier, the players’ minds would have been on other battlefields.
Three games are available: losses to Moses and Stevenson, and this perhaps rather lucky win against George Marshall Norman, who had an impressively long and successful chess career.
He continued playing for Bristol, now with George Tregaskis as a teammate, through 1915, and the last record we have of him is a correspondence game from 1917.
It seems like he gave up chess at this point to concentrate on running the family farm. The 1921 Census found him, living with his elderly mother and a servant, at Dennisworth Farm, Pucklechurch, a village to the east of Bristol. He married in 1924, but it ended in divorce a few years later. In the 1939 Register he was still there, giving his occupation as Dairy Farmer. In 1941 he emigrated to New Zealand, where, according to the 1949 Electoral Roll, he was again working as a Dairy Farmer. He died there in 1957, four decades after his last competitive game of chess.
To resolve the question over the identity of Ferdinand’s London contemporary A/AE Beamish, we need to consider Charles’s youngest son, Alfred, who was born in Cork in 1845 or thereabouts.
We first pick him up in England in 1878, where he marries Selina Taylor Prichard in Hastings. Selina had previously been married to the much older Surgeon General William White, who had left her with a daughter named Jessie Mabel.
Mabel (she preferred to use her middle name) is worth a detour. Despite her military background she was a committed pacifist. Her husband’s name was very familiar to me, given my background in Anglican church music, but may not be to you. Percy Dearmer was a socialist priest best remembered, at least by me, for editing The English Hymnal along with one of my musical heroes, Ralph Vaughan Williams. Their elder son, Geoffrey, was a poet who lived to the age of 103.
Alfred was a barrister and solicitor, and after his marriage he and Selina settled in Richmond, where their two sons, Alfred Ernest (1879) and Edmund Arthur (1880) were born. We can pick them up in the 1881 census at 13 Spring Terrace, Marsh Gate Road, Richmond. Spring Terrace, now in Paradise Road, is an impressive row of Georgian houses. The family were clearly very well off, employing four servants, a housemaid, a nurse, an under nurse and a cook.
By 1891 they’d moved to 115 Church Road, a large house near the top of Richmond Hill, just as you approach St Matthias Church. Alfred senior, Selina, Mabel and their older son were there. It’s not clear where the younger boy was: perhaps away at school.
Alfred and Selina had decided that their sons should be educated at Harrow as day boys, and so, a few years later, they moved up to North West London, although it would seem that they also retained possession of their Richmond house. Alfred senior died in Harrow in 1898, and the 1901 census found Selina and her sons there, along with two servants. Neither of their sons had a job: the family was so well off that they had no need of paid employment.
We first spot A Beamish as a Harrow chess player in 1903.
Much more recently, Victoria Hall, in the town centre and very close to where they were living, was, for many years, the home of the current Harrow Chess Club. I played several Thames Valley League games there myself.
At this point we need to look at the controversy concerning the identity of this A (or sometimes AE) Beamish. It seems, on the surface, not unreasonable to assume this was Alfred Ernest, but there were other pointers suggesting it was really Edmund Arthur. There has also been a suggestion that it might have been an Arthur Edmund Beamish, perhaps a distant cousin, who was living in Islington at the time. Given that our brothers were round the corner from this sighting, though, this seems unlikely.
The older brother, Alfred Ernest Beamish, took up the game of tennis, later becoming one of the leading English players of his day, an opponent and occasional doubles partner of none other than Sir George Thomas, an author and administrator. His career was interrupted by the First World War, in which he served as a Lieutenant in the Royal Army Service Corps, so he would have been involved in administrative work. Some secondary sources refer to him as a Captain. Here, you can see his wife offering some tennis tips.
The younger brother, Edmund Arthur Beamish, by contrast, was a soldier. Although he was without employment in 1901, he had previously signed up to fight in the Second Boer War, serving as a Lieutenant in the 28th Battalion Imperial Yeomanry, and would rejoin, also serving, like his brother, in the First World War, where he reached the rank of Captain in the 1/18th Battalion London Regiment.
To identify the chess player for certain, we need to spin forward to the year 1912. AEB took part in the Australasian Open Tennis Championship in December that year, reaching the finals of both the singles and doubles, leaving London on the Themistocles on 12 September, and arriving back home on board the Omrah on 14 March 1913.
Meanwhile, the chess playing AB was competing in the City of London Chess Championship at the same time, which tells us that the tennis player couldn’t possibly have been the chess player.
There’s corroborative evidence as well: both brothers, like their half-sister, preferred to use their middle names. When EAB joined the army in 1899 he gave his name as plain Arthur, and when AEB returned from his tennis tournament, his name on the register of passengers was A Ernest Beamish.
So we’ll assume from now on that EAB (not AEB) was the 1903-1914 chess player referred to in the press as A Beamish or AE Beamish.
Returning to 1904, in February that year Emanuel Lasker gave a simultaneous display against members of the Metropolitan Chess Club at the Criterion Restaurant in London, allowing consultation. He won 19 games and drew 1, playing black against Messrs Beamish and Lowenthal in consultation. This must have been our Mr Beamish: his consultation partner was probably Frederick Kimberley Loewenthal.
It seems Lasker missed a few chances for an advantage here. As always, click on any move for a pop-up window.
In 1905 he took part in the Second Class Open section of the Kent County Chess Association tournament at Crystal Palace, scoring 5 points for a share of 4th place. Our friend Wilfred Hugh Miller Kirk tied for first place.
Here is is, third from the right in the top row, playing for Hampstead in 1905-06.
In 1906 he competed, along with his cousin Ferdinand, in the British Chess Championships in Shrewsbury. He was unable to stay for the full fortnight, so was placed in the One-Week First Class section.
A pretty good performance: drawing with the very strong Herbert Levi Jacobs was no mean feat.
This ‘short and sweet’ game, against an opponent who understandably preferred to remain anonymous, was published later the same year. At this time he seemed closely involved with four chess clubs: Harrow, Hampstead, Metropolitan and City of London.
Edmund Arthur Beamish took part in the prestigious City of London Club Championship on four occasions, but without conspicuous success. In 1907-08, 1909-10 and 1910-11 he finished down the field, but with occasional good results against master opponents. In the 1912-13 Diamond Jubilee Tournament, which had four preliminary sections, he again struggled.
In this game from the 1910-11 event he scored a notable scalp, although it must be said that Wainwright was playing well below his usual strength in the tournament.
In this game from the same event Beamish had rather the worse of the opening, but managed to turn the tables and, although he missed a neat mate in 3, brought home the full point.
His opponent in this quick win finished in last place.
In early 1911 he married Edith Ada Jenner, and, by the time of the census they had set up home at 10 Fairholme Road, West Kensington. He described himself in the census is ‘late Lieutenant Imperial Yeomanry’. They would go on to have two children, Desmond (1915) and Selina (1918), both born in Hastings.
In 1912 the British Championships took place in his home town of Richmond, and he entered the First Class A section.
A pretty good result, even though his loss against Arthur Compton Ellis was awarded a Best Game Priz.
By now he’d transferred his allegiance from Harrow and Hampstead to his local club, West London.
But soon war intervened, and, now with two young children to support, he didn’t return to the chessboard.
By the time of the 1921 census he was visiting his elderly mother, who was living in the family home back in Richmond. He now had a job, working as an accounts clerk for R Seymour Corporate Accountant. There were three servants in residence, a nurse, a cook and a parlourmaid. His wife and children, meanwhile, had moved in with her elderly parents in Hastings. Had their marriage broken up, I wonder.
And then, in 1935, he made an unexpected comeback. Over the next few years he played regularly for Middlesex in county matches, and in congresses in Hastings, London and Margate, often with some success. It seems that a twenty year break and advancing years didn’t affect his chess strength.
I’ve only managed to locate one game from these years, a loss against the Dutch Ladies’ Champion Fenny Heemskerk.
Here’s the crosstable from that event.
The 1939 Register found EAB, his wife and daughter living together in the old family home, 115 Church Road, Richmond. He was described as a retired army captain. They had no domestic staff and some of the rooms had been let out to others, so perhaps they weren’t as well off as they had been.
Although he was living in Richmond and very active again in both county and tournament chess, he doesn’t seem to have joined any of the clubs in our Borough. He did, however, make a guest appearance at Barnes Police Station in 1941, playing in a simul against his brother’s old tennis chum Sir George Thomas (they had played out a draw in the City of London Club Championship 30 years earlier).
In the same year he joined West London Chess Club, which, while most clubs had closed, was flourishing with an impressive range of members and activities. EAB played regularly in matches against a variety of opponents as well as competing in their regular lightning tournaments and other internal competitions.
Here’s a club photograph from 1943. Beamish is second from the right in the front row.
In this game he played on Board 1 against Upminster: his opponent was an undertaker by profession. The West London Chess Club Gazette describes it as ‘an example of the fatal consequences of a premature attack’, but Stockfish points out that White missed a win on move 11.
He returned to tournament play after the war, taking part in the Major A section at Hastings in 1945-46. With the London League returning to action, he played 12 games for West London, scoring 6 wins, 4 draws and only 2 losses.
Shortly afterwards he was taken seriously ill, and died on 13 October 1946, at the age of 66. His club published a fine tribute to one of their strongest and most respected members.
I wonder what happened to his extensive Chess Library. Does anyone at West London Chess Club know?
EdoChess gives his rating before WW1 as just below 2100, which seems reasonable: a strong club player who could score the occasional result against master standard opposition. His cousin Ferdinand was perhaps slightly weaker, although he played some highly entertaining chess.
There’s one more mystery, there was an A Beamish playing for Devon in the years leading up to World War 1, mostly by correspondence but occasionally over the board. I can’t find any Devon connection for him, but his Uncle Albert, about whom very little seems to be known died in Devon in 1920. Was it him? Who knows?
And who knows where my next Minor Piece will take you?
Sources and Acknowledgements:
English Chess Forum (contributions from Gerard Killoran and others)
West London Chess Club Gazette
BritBase (John Saunders)
EdoChess (Rod Edwards)
Marching your king across the board – at times right through or into enemy lines – may be both exhilarating and terrifying. Nothing may be quite as satisfying as a majestic kingwalk across the board which brings you glorious victory. And nothing as tragicomic as a needless journey ending in epic failure.
Chessplayers are fascinated by kingwalks, perhaps because of their inherent contradiction and even implausibility. The most important – and vulnerable – chess piece does something other than trying to remain safe.
Topics include: Kingwalks to Prepare an Attack; Kingwalks in Anticipation of an Endgame; Kingwalks to Defend Key Points; Kingwalks to Attack Key Points or Pieces; Mating Attacks; Escaping to Safety Across the Board; Escaping to Safety Up the Board; Kingwalks in the Opening; Kingwalks in the Endgame; Double Kingwalks; and Unsuccessful Kingwalks.
For sheer entertainment as well as instructive value, the kingwalk is transcendent!
“Executing a successful kingwalk has the power to make a chessplayer happy and the same can be said about playing over the many beautiful examples in this book. Enjoy!” — From the Foreword by Hans Ree
About the Authors:
American grandmaster Yasser Seirawan is a four-time U.S. champion. He also won the World Junior Championship in 1979. He is one of the best-selling chess authors and is considered one of the top commentators for games broadcast on the web.
Canadian master Bruce Harper has been champion of British Columbia many times and has also participated in several Canadian championships. He is the co-author with Yasser Seirawan of the highly acclaimed three-volume series, Chess on the Edge, chronicling the career of Canadian grandmaster Duncan Suttles. He is also co-author, with American grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura, of Bullet Chess: One Minute to Mate.”
From the rather rambling introduction:
While our hope is that readers of all strengths will enjoy this book, there is also much to be learned from the study of kingwalks. They are a legitimate part of chess, and can transform the nature of the position to a great extent. given the difficulty people, including chess players, have in coping with change, the psychological effect of kingwalks cannot be overestimated.
In the pages that follow, we not only give examples of different types of kingwalks, but we try to explain the positional, tactical or psychological basis for each example. A legitimate kingwalk doesn’t come out of the blue, any more than a combination arises by chances. By exploring the preconditions for the different types of kingwalks, we hope the attentive reader will recognize positions from his or her own games where a kingwalk might be the path to victory. Equally, this type of analysis will help players in coping with opponent’s kingwalks.
Chapter 1 takes us straight into Kingwalks to Prepare an Attack. In a position where your opponent can do nothing, you want to break through to the enemy king, but first you move your king to the other side of the board to deprive your opponent of potential counterplay.
I was struck by the very first example: Kevitz & Pinkus v Alekhine in a 1929 consultation game.
Here’s the position after White’s 28th move.
Black has a potential pawn break with g6 followed by f5, but Alekhine decided to move his king to the other side of the board first.
The authors explain:
In this position, Black has a clear advantage. White’s pieces are tied to the defense of his weak e4-pawn and the light-square weaknesses around White’s king are a constant source of concern. The engine of course recommends direct action, but Alekhine, who was no stranger to that type of play, first takes the time to reposition his king.
Black’s 42nd move completed the kingwalk, reaching this position.
You’ll observe that, while Alekhine has made considerable progress, the consultation partners’ position is exactly the same as it was in the previous diagram.
The game continued 43. Bf2 f5 and Black won a few moves later.
We then move on to other motivations for kingwalks, in Anticipation of an Ending (Chapter 2: the examples all taken from Petrosian’s games), to Defend Key Points (Chapter 3) and to Attack Key Points or Pieces (Chapter 4).
Chapter 5 ramps the excitement up a notch as we look at kingwalks as part of Mating Attacks.
Hillarp Persson – Laurusas (not, as in the book, Laurusus), from the 2018 Olympiad in Batumi, reached this position after White’s 24th move.
Seirawan and Harper take up the story.
White has some compensation for his pawn deficit, but that’s about all. It is difficult to see how, in only ten moves, this game will become the best in the 2018 Olympiad.
Since there really isn’t anything happening in this position, White’s motif brings to mind the theme song for the Mary Tyler Moore Show:
“Who can take a nothing day, and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?”
Of course we’re referring to Joan Jett’s cover version, not the original…
White gets some help at this point. The engine recommends the supremely logical 24… Rfd8!, allowing 25. Rxh5 so that 25… Qg7 forces the exchange of queens, leaving Black with a favorable endgame. Black instead surrenders the wrong pawn.
Black played 24… Qg7?! instead, and soon started an attack on White’s king, forcing him up the board.
After mutual inaccuracies in what was, to be fair, a very difficult position, this position was reached.
The game concluded: 34. Qxg6+! Kh8 35. Kh6 and it’s mate next move.
A beautiful creative achievement by White, with some help from his opponent at the critical moment. The most remarkable aspect of this game is there wasn’t really anything to make one think that something like this was even possible ten moves ago.
We then move on from attacking kingwalks to defensive kingwalks: Escaping to Safety Across the Board in Chapter 6 and Up the Board in Chapter 7.
Even the greatest tacticians can end up confused when their opponent starts a kingwalk.
This is from Geller – Tal (Moscow 1975).
In a difficult position, Tal has just played 29… Bd4!?, hoping for complications in the impending time scramble.
As Kasparov points out, White should first drive Black’s queen off the first rank by offering an exchange of queens with 30. Qc1!, switching to the attack only after 30… Qxa2 31. Qe1! Then Black would have no play against White’s king.
30… Ne7! 31. Nb5
If White takes Black’s e7-knight, either before or after checking on e6 with his queen, Black wins: 31. Qxe7 Qg1+ 32. Kg3 Qf2+ 33. Kg4 Qxg2+ 34. Bg3 h5+ 35. Kh4 Qe4+! 36. Qxe4 Bf6#
31… Qg1+ is also sufficient to draw. Now White has no choice other than to begin a kingwalk, and the road to victory for White, and for a draw for Black lies along the White king’s path, which is wide enough only for one…
Short of time, Tal went wrong a couple of moves later and Geller’s king fled up the board to safety. Tal resigned on move 41 (perhaps at the adjournment), not waiting for 42. Kf8, which would have given this position.
Chapters 8, 9 and 10 consider, respectively, Kingwalks in the Opening (here’s Steinitz’s king boldly venturing into the centre of the board right at the start of the game, Kingwalks in the Ending (well, it’s what you do in the ending anyway, isn’t it?) and Double Kingwalks.
Seirawan and Harper are at pains to point out, throughout the book, that there’s often an element of danger in kingwalks, so Chapter 11 shows us some Unsuccessful Kingwalks.
Then, in Chapters 12-16, we have chapters devoted to players particularly associated with kingwalks: Steinitz (again), Nimzowitsch, Petrosian (again), and, less expectedly perhaps, the highly creative Canadian GM Duncan Suttles (the subject of a previous 3-volume series by the same authors), followed by Yasser Seirawan himself. You might or might not consider this slightly narcissistic.
Finally, Chapter 17 demonstrates some recent examples.
For my last example I offer you this 2019 game between Dubov and Giri.
After a very sharp opening, a complex position has arisen. Objectively White is slightly better, and the engine recommends 19. Nd2, with an edge. Instead Dubov shocks his opponent with a stunning move.
Is there another example in chess history where a player castled on the side where there were no friendly pawns at all? We can’t term castling a “kingwalk”, but don’t worry. White’s king is just getting started.
White has unpinned his c3-knight, so he threatens 20. Nxb5, as well as 20. Qd8 mate. But Black has a logical reply that ruins White’s dream.
After 19… Qb6!, Black defends against mate and forces a queen trade, because 20. Nb5? fails to 20… Qc6+! 21. Kb1 Na6.
White’s king went to b1 on move 22, but by move 28 it was perfectly safe on f3.
You’ll have to read the book to discover how this happened.
This is an attractive and enjoyable book which will appeal to competitive players of all levels. It covers an aspect of chess which hasn’t been much written about so will have a unique place on your bookshelves. It’s a subject which leads itself naturally to creative and imaginative play, so you’ll find a feast of exciting chess within its pages.
Many readers will be re-acquainted with a host of old friends. There’s Short, marching his king up to h6 to mate Timman. And Botvinnik. with his king scuttling up the board to evade Capablanca’s checking queen. But there are also a lot of examples which will be probably be new to you. It’s good to have them all, both the familiar and unfamiliar, in the same place.
It’s nicely produced, but, although there’s a short list of sources (four chess books/series and two Tolkien books), an index of players might have been helpful. You might also wish, for a number of reasons, that the authors had included initials as well as surnames for the players. I wonder whether or not it’s culturally insensitive only to give the family names of players of East Asian origin (Wei, Hou and so on) rather than their full names. The examples have all been analysed using Stockfish 10, so it’s safe to assume that there will be few, if any, significant tactical errors.
Given that kingwalks are relatively rare, at least before you get to the ending, I suppose this might not be the first choice of book to improve your rating. But taking a different approach, looking at chess, and in particular your king, in a different way, might well add another dimension to your play. Even if it does little to improve your rating, it will certainly provide you with a lot of entertainment and a wider appreciation of the beauty of your favourite game. If the subject matter appeals, and you like the style of writing typified by the examples in this review, this book can be highly recommended.
Last time I looked at the short but eventful life of Arthur Compton Ellis. He seemed to have a very good chess playing friend in George Tregaskis.
It’s time to find out more. Let’s start with this charming photograph, which, for rather obscure reasons, ended up in a museum collection in British Columbia.
As you might have guessed, the name Tregaskis is of Cornish origin, but George, the young man in this photograph, moved to London, finding work as a Fire Insurance Clerk. He married Annie Isabella Balfour in 1883, fathering four children, our George (born 18 February 1884), Oswald, Annie and, very much later, Frances.
We can pick him up in the 1901 census: the family is living at 36 Alderbrook Road, just south of Clapham Common, and George Junior, aged 17, has the same occupation as his father. Although George Senior doesn’t seem to have been a competitive chess player himself, he must have taught his children to play.
George Junior’s job would probably have involved gaining experience in different insurance offices in different parts of the country. We have a one-off mention of G Tregaskis playing for West Bridgford (Nottingham) in an away match against the Belgrave club of Leicester, where he won both his games on Board 4. This is quite likely to be our man, but we can’t be certain.
By 1911 he’d moved to Stoke on Trent, where the census found him living as a lodger with a widow, Lois Toft, and her 24 year old daughter Evangeline Maud. Everyone should have a daughter named Evangeline Maud. He joined the nearby Hanley Chess Club and, by October 1912, was chairing the county AGM. The 1912 edition of Kelly’s Directory tells us he was the District Superintendent, working for the Sun Insurance Office, 10 Pall Mall.
As you’ll have seen last time, his friend Arthur Compton Ellis (you’ll find three games played between them if you follow the above link) suddenly appeared in Stoke in early 1913. George and Arthur both played in a congress in Hastings, where George, in his first tournament, performed outstandingly well. Would this be the start of a glittering chess career?
You then saw that, in July 1913, the two friends suddenly left town: Arthur moved back to London, and then, tragically, to Oundle, while George’s work took him to Bristol.
He did, however, return to Stoke later in the year, when he tied the knot with his landlady’s daughter, Evangeline. It seems that his new mother-in-law joined him in Bristol, where the three of them set up house together.
He didn’t waste much time joining the local chess club.
Observant readers will notice that the unfortunately initialled FU Beamish shared a surname with one of Arthur Compton Ellis’s opponents. You’ll find out more very soon.
The winner of this event was Scottish born Master Baker Henry Pinkerton, with George Tregaskis finishing in second place.
For a while chess in Bristol continued during the First World War, but there’s little mention of activity between 1915 and 1920.
In December 1920 Bristol & Clifton played their first match against Swindon in a decade.
George had some interesting teammates. Comins Mansfield, on top board, was one of the leading chess problemists of the last century, and also a strong over-the-board player.
Agnes Augusta Talboys, down on board 14, was an artist whose paintings often involved her two passions, chess and cats. With any luck, she’ll be the subject of a future Minor Piece.
The 1921 census recorded George, Evangeline and Lois, along with a young general domestic servant, living at 21 Clyde Road, Bristol. George was working at the Sun Insurance Office as an Insurance Clerk, Evangeline was performing Home Duties, while Lois had no occupation. There would be no children of the marriage.
The following year, George Tregaskis, nine years after his tournament debut, finally had another opportunity to take part in a major event. As the champion of the West of England, he was invited to take part in the top section what would be the first of three biennial tournaments in the Somerset resort of Weston super Mare. International stars Geza Maroczy and Boris Kostic took on some of England’s leading players, headed by Sir George Thomas and Fred Yates.
The very unexpected winner, at the age of 63, was Joseph Henry Blake, as you’ll see below.
(Apologies to Fred Dewhirst Yates: ChessBase, annoyingly, still haven’t got his name right. It also cut off the last letter of Mr Louis’ third forename while seemingly being ignorant of our hero’s full name.)
You’ll also see that it didn’t go well for Tregaskis. In the very first round he provided the talented but erratic Hubert Price with his only win. In Round 2 he opened his account with a draw against Mackenzie, in a game which went into a second session.
His third round game was also a long one.
Stockfish doesn’t think Mr Tregaskis ever had the upper hand, but you can judge for yourself. Click on any move for a pop-up window.
In the next round he faced Kostic, starting well enough, but, as so often happens when an amateur plays a master, he lost the thread in the middle game, after which his king fell victim to a snap attack, ending up uncomfortably on h4.
In Round 5 Tregaskis lost to Louis, but in the sixth round he managed to double his score with a draw against Spencer. The press reports suggest that his opponent missed a win.
Round 7 saw a heavy defeat against the eventual tournament winner, who played one of his pet opening variations.
In Round 8 George Tregaskis faced Yates, and managed to take him to a second session before capitulating. In the final round, despite having the white pieces against Maroczy, he lost quickly to a mating attack.
From the evidence of these games, it seems he was rather out of his depth against master standard opponents. Sometimes he went wrong in the opening, and, if he survived that part of the game he defended doggedly, but usually in vain.
Two years later he was back at Weston Super Mare, but this time relegated to the second section, billed as the ‘Minor Open’, where he managed 50% against strong amateur opposition. Max Euwe won the top section ahead of Sir George Thomas.
Later that year he left Bristol, moving to Kent, where he soon joined Bromley and Beckenham Chess Club as well as the Insurance Chess Club, and also represented Kent in county matches.
In this 1925 encounter on Hastings Pier he just missed playing a ‘brilliant young Russian from Hastings’.
Some interesting names on both sides, some of whom you’ll be meeting in future Minor Pieces.By 1928 the family had moved across South London to Sutton, where George, Evangeline and Lois were recorded as living in a house called The Crest in The Downsway, half way between the town centre and Royal Marsden Hospital, a tree-lined road of large detached houses: suburban living at its finest. As a result of this move he changed his county allegiance from Kent to Surrey.
In this match, played at St Bride’s Institute, a venue all London players of my generation will remember well, he helped his new county to an overwhelming victory.
In this match from 1930, Surrey were defeated by their northern rivals from Lancashire.
You can find out more about the Lanacshire boards 8 and 11 here. You’ll also spot Cecil Frank Cornwall: in those days it was the custom that county champions automatically played on top board.
George Tregaskis was also playing for Battersea at this time, although he lived some way away. Perhaps it was convenient for him to drop in on his way home from work.
Here he is, captaining the Insurance Chess Club in a one-sided match against the War Office.
George also played for Lud-Eagle in the London League.
You’ll see that the match was undecided due to that quaint old-fashioned concept of adjudication. Oh, wait a minute…!
He had an interesting opponent in this 1935 county match against Essex.
(Isaac) Reginald Vesselo would go on to found the Chess Education Society. (He appeared on my Twitter timeline the other day as an attendee at the Ximenes 1000 Crossword Dinner: the 1st prize for that crossword was won by chess sponsor, problemist and banker Sir Jeremy Morse.) The Essex board two, Richard ‘Otto’ Clarke, would go on to devise the BCF Grading System. We’re now getting towards my time: many of my contemporaries would have known and played Frank Parr. I played both Nevil Coles and Jack Redon (whom I knew very well, but that’s another story for another Minor Piece.)
In this 1936 London League match he was up against an even more interesting, and perhaps rather disturbing, opponent.
Yes, this was indeed Aleister Crowley, ‘wickedest man in the world’ and star of The (Even More) Complete Chess Addict. One wonders whether George enjoyed the post mortem.
He continued playing up until the outbreak of World War II, taking 6th place behind Harry Golombek in the 1939 Surrey Championship.
At this point George, his wife and mother-in-law, moved down to Hove. Did his job take them there, or did they consider it prudent, with war imminent, to leave London? In the 1939 Register their address is given as 87 Hove Park Road, and his job is still an Insurance Superintendent. Although there was some chess being played in Sussex during the war, he seems to have decided it was time to hang up his pawns.
Lois Toft died on 6 December 1945, leaving only £141 15s 4d, with probate granted to her daughter. George died on 12 September 1959, leaving £3122 15s 5d. His address was given as 15 The Droveway, Hove, parallel to and immediately north of Hove Park Road. Evangeline moved to Goring-by-Sea, near Worthing, dying four years later, on 18 September 1963, and leaving £11143 14s.
Although he never fulfilled the promise of his first tournament appearance, George Tregaskis was a strong club and county player (EdoChess considers him about 2000 strength) who contributed much to chess, as an administrator as well as over the board, for almost 30 years. He deserves to be remembered.
There’s one nagging question, though. I still wonder about his relationship with Arthur Compton Ellis. Were they any more than just close friends? Was his marriage to Evangeline motivated by friendship rather than passion? Would this explain why his mother-in-law always lived with them? I don’t know: perhaps I’m reading too much into it, but perhaps he was hiding a story very similar to that hidden by his Lud-Eagle teammate Henry Holwell Cole. At some point there may well be more about him in another Minor Piece.
Sources and acknowledgements:
English Chess Forum
Hastings Chess Club website
“Kupreichik: The Maestro from Minsk features tributes to the legendary attacker from those who regularly faced him at the board, including Alexander Beliavsky, Oleg Romanishin, Evgeny Sveshnikov and Vladimir Tukmakov. Kupreichik also inspired the next generation, as the contributions of Boris Gelfand, Garry Kasparov, Andrey Kovalev and Rauf Mamedov reveal.
Our picture of Viktor Kupreichik is completed by a series of pen portraits from his family, which make clear the kind and principled man this hero of Belarusian chess was, as well as his love for the 64 squares.
Translated by Ken Neat, this work is also a collection of Kupreichik’s best games, many annotated by the man himself. His wins over Tal and Zilbershtein are legendary examples of the power of a knight sacrifice on d5 in the Open Sicilian. Inside you will learn not just about handling Kupreichik’s favourite Classical Sicilian, Slav and King’s Indian, but attacking and sacrificial chess in general. Readers even have the chance to solve 26 positions and so play like Kupreichik!
Viktor Kupreichik (1949-2017) was a leading Soviet Grandmaster in the 1970s and 1980s, famed for his attacking prowess. He twice won a staggering five games in a row at the super-strong USSR Championship. A former world student champion, Kupreichik won many tournaments, including the Masters section at Wijk aan Zee in 1977 and the Hastings Premier of 1981/82.
with forewords by Anastasia Sorkina and Genna Sosonko”
If I asked you to guess who played this game you’d be forgiven for thinking Tal. (Click on any move in any game in this review for a pop-up window)
You’d be partly right: Tal was playing – the black pieces. Spoilsport Stockfish will tell you he should have won, but it’s not easy, even for a genius, to defend against that sort of attack over the board. It was played in Sochi i n 1970, in a match tournament between a team of young layers and a team of grandmasters.
On the white side was the hero of this book, Viktor Davydovich Kupreichik (1949-2017). This book, unusually without a credited author, was compiled by his family and friends after his death and published in Russian in 2019 to celebrate what would have been his 70th birthday. Here we have an English translation from London Chess Centre Publishing.
Genna Sosonko wrote the foreword to the English edition:
A master of attack, he demonstrated play that you rarely see nowadays. Even today when playing over games by Minsk’s favourite, an expression of Tal’s comes to mind – “tasty chess”.
Memories of him have been written by world champions, trainers, colleagues, friends and Viktor’s pupils. They all remember not only a wonderful chess player, but also an extraordinary personality. Even in the world of Soviet chess, Viktor was distinguished by his independence.
Mikhail Tal, Viktor’s idol, once said that his favourite squares on the chess board were d5 and f5. Viktor, who was similar to Tal not only in his constant striving for the initiative, but also the incredible boldness of his play, repeatedly placed his pieces en prise too on these very squares. And his most brilliant firework display began with a knight sacrifice on d5 in a game with Tal himself.
If you’re a fan of Tal’s games, then (and who isn’t?), you’ll enjoy Kupreichik’s games as well. You might put him in the same category as other chess mavericks such as Nezhmetdinov and Planinc: a player who valued creativity, beauty and excitement above results.
One of the contributors, Boris Gelfand, recalls, as an 11-year-old in 1979, being deeply impressed by this game.
Kupreichik’s niece, Anastasia Sorokina, is President of the Belarus Chess Federation and a FIDE Vice-President. She wrote the foreword to the Russian edition.
The publication of this book is timed to coincide with the 70th birthday of an outstanding chess-player, the first Belarusian Grandmaster, a true friend and a wonderful person, Viktor Davydovich Kupreichik. Vitek – that’s what his friends and the fans called him.
In the distant 1980s the name of Kuprechik resounded throughout the country. He was recognised in the street, fans would queue up to watch him play, and largely thanks to him a chess boom began in the Republic.
A sensitive and tactful person, he did not like boasting and bravado, so when the idea of this book emerged I wanted to make it modest, like him, but at the same time show all the power of his chess talent and the charm of his human character.
The first half of the book, then, comprises tributes to Kupreichik from friends and colleagues, including Kasparov and Karpov, very often with annotated games.
His friend Andrey Kovalev describes this encounter as ‘one of the best King’s Indian games in the history of chess’.
See what you think.
Throughout his long career, lasting 55 years or so, Kupreichik remained loyal to his favourite openings. He preferred 1. e4 with White, replying to 1. e4 with the Sicilian, and to 1. d4 with the King’s Indian or the Slav. If you enjoy these openings yourself you’ll find a lot of inspiration from the games in this book.
The second major section of the book is a collection of games annotated by Kupreichik himself. Those he annotated for Chess Informant have had verbal explanations added by the editorial team.
Here’s a quick win against Nigel Short.
By now you might be wondering why Kupreichik isn’t better known, or why he never reached the heights these games would suggest he deserved (his highest rating was 2575). I guess he was one of those players who loved chess too much, who valued beauty above success.
You might also think there are many higher rated players who deserve to be the subject of a games collection. You may well be right, up to a point, but were their games as entertaining as Kupreichik’s?
Here’s one final example: another spectacular miniature.
At the end of the book you’ll find a puzzle section: 26 tactical puzzles based on his games, spaciously laid out with only two diagrams per page. Finally, and charmingly, we have short memoirs from his closest family: his sister, niece and daughter.
There are also 16 pages of photographs, on glossy paper. Here you’ll see pictures of Kupreichik throughout his life, from the young boy with his parents to playing in tournaments at the end of his life: sadly he was denied the pleasures of old age. You’ll see him playing chess – and also playing football and volleyball.
All in all, it’s a delightful book: 85 games brimming with exciting tactics and sacrifices as well as reminiscences of someone who was a much loved human being as well as a highly creative player.
It’s beautifully produced as well: a handsome hardback which will look good on your bookshelf. It’s refreshingly free from typos and the translation is, as you’d expect from Ken Neat, outstanding. I very much hope that the London Chess Centre plan to publish more books of this quality.
The one thing that’s missing, for me, is a career summary. I’d have appreciated a full list of Kupreichik’s tournament results and perhaps also his ratings over the years. We do, however, have indexes of openings and opponents.
While it might not be an essential purchase, many readers will enjoy this book. If it appeals to you it comes with a strong recommendation.
If you enjoy games collections you’ll want this book. If you enjoy the games of players like Tal, Nezhmetdinov and Planinc, you certainly won’t be disappointed in this book. If you play the Sicilian (with either colour), the King’s Indian or the Slav, or you’re an e4 player looking for new ideas, you’ll find this book inspirational.
Then Ellis comes with rapid transit, And few there are who can withstand it; Some day soon he’s bound to land it.
So said the bard of Richmond Chess Club at their 1911 AGM. Arthur Compton Ellis was a man who lived his life, as well as playing his chess, with rapid transit. Although he spent little more than two years in the area, he flashed like a meteor across the Richmond and Kew chess scene.
Let’s find out more.
Our story starts on 20 September 1887, with the marriage between George Frederick Ellis, a surveyor aged 39 and Margaret Fraser, aged 31. Rather late for marriage in those days. Their only child, Arthur Compton Ellis’s birth was registered in the Pancras district of London in the first quarter of 1889.
In the 1891 census the family are living in Kentish Town. George is working as a Surveyor of Roads and Sewers, and they’re doing well enough to employ a servant. By 1901 they’ve moved a mile to the north, close to Parliament Hill Fields: George is now, just like James Richmond Cartledge would be a few years later, a Deputy Borough Engineer and Surveyor. Margaret is, perhaps unexpectedly, working as a Physician and Surgeon, while Arthur is at school. There were no domestic staff at home.
Arthur moved from school to the University of London, where he graduated with a BA in 1909, at the age of only 20. In the same year his father died: the death was registered in Camberwell, South London.
Perhaps he discovered the game of chess at university. He may also have discovered religion. In 1908 he was baptised at St Luke’s Church, Kew, with his address given as 40 West Park Road, right by Kew Gardens Station. At this point the family appeared to have connections, then, with both the Richmond/Kew area and South London.
He first turns up playing for Richmond Chess Club in December 1908, losing his game on bottom board in a London League match against Ibis. It looks like he joined the club on the completion of his studies. Although he seemed to be struggling in match play at this point, in April 1909 he finished second in a lightning tournament, which, that year, replaced the annual club dinner.
In 1910, now styling himself A Compton Ellis, he was advertising his tuition services in the Daily Telegraph. LCP was a teaching qualification.
By Summer 1910 he felt confident enough to take part in a tournament. The British Championships took place that year in Oxford, and Arthur was placed in the 3rd Class C section.With a score of 10½/11, it was clear that he was improving fast, and should have been in at least the 2nd Class division. The prizes were presented by none other than William Archibald Spooner.
A handicap tournament also took place there, in which he won first prize: a model of the earth with a clock inside, enabling him to ascertain the time of day in any part of the world. This prize was donated by its inventor, James Haddon Overton, a schoolmaster from Woodstock.
In September that year, not content with only playing at Richmond, where he had now reached top board in a match against Acton, he was one of the founders of a new club in Kew.
Richmond and Kew weren’t his only clubs, either. He was also a member of South London Chess Club, about which there’s very little information online.
In this London League game he fell victim to a brilliant queen sacrifice. Click on any move in any game in this article for a pop-up window enabling you to play through the game.
Arthur Compton Ellis was infectiously enthusiastic, ambitious and seemed to have contacts with a number of strong amateur players, mostly from the Civil Service, as is demonstrated by this event.
A win against our old friend Wilfred Hugh Miller Kirk was also evidence that Arthur was developing into a formidable player.
The 1911 census found Arthur and his mother still living at 40 West Park Road, Kew Gardens. Arthur gave his occupation as ‘Tutor’ while there was no occupation listed for Margaret.
By then it was time for another tournament. The Kent and Sussex Chess Congress, run by the Kent County Chess Association took place over Easter at this time. It’s little written about today, but it attracted some of the country’s top players. The top section in the 1911, for example, played in Tunbridge Wells, was won by Yates ahead of Gunsberg. The organising committee, coincidentally, included the Kent secretary Rufus Henry Streatfeild Stevenson, and the Sussex secretary, Harold John Francis Spink Stephenson. Arthur Compton Ellis took part in the third section down, the Second Class Open, where he was again too good for the opposition, finishing on 8½/10, half a point ahead of Battersea veteran Bernard William Fisher (1836-1914), who had been a master standard player back in the 1880s. Visitors included Frank Marshall, who gave a simul and a talk, and Joseph Blackburne, who gave simuls and played consultation games. Horace Fabian Cheshire gave a talk, with lantern slides, on chess players past and present, and also an exposition of the game of Go. It sounds like a good time was had by all.
Arthur persuaded Frank Marshall to visit Richmond and give a simul against members of local chess clubs, and that was duly arranged.
The AGM in September would report as follows:
Always eager to play in any event, he won the Dalgarno-Robinson chess trophy, competed for by members of local branches of the Association of Young Men’s Clubs, and played on top board when Richmond Chess Club visited Hastings, drawing his game against the aforementioned Mr Stephenson.
He decided to give the 1911 British Championship, held in Glasgow, a miss, though. Perhaps he wasn’t prepared to travel that far.
The Richmond Herald was now carrying less chess news, but we know from a report from the other end of Surrey that Kew Chess Club were becoming even more successful.
You’ll see that Ellis didn’t stand for re-election as captain. This seems to have been because Arthur and Margaret had moved from Kew to South London.
Over Easter 1912, though, he returned to Tunbridge Wells for the Kent and Sussex Easter Congress, this time promoted to the top (First Class Open) section. Now against stronger opposition, this time he found the going tough, only scoring 2½/8.
The winner was the future Sir George Thomas, who wasted little time of disposing of Ellis, who misplaced his queen’s knight on his 11th move.
However, he did have the satisfaction of defeating Fred Brown, one of two chess playing brothers from Dudley. (He had a brother Frank, who was also a strong player. Understandably, in the days when newspapers only gave players’ initials, they were often confused.) Fred shared second place with future BCM editor Julius du Mont in this tournament.
It seems that he was lucky here: his opponent resigned what may well have been a drawn position as he would have had chances of a perpetual check if he’d continued with 32… Kf7!. What do you think?
At the same event, Arthur and his friend from Kew, Montague White Stephens, played in a consultation simul against Blackburne. They were successful after the great veteran uncharacteristically missed a simple mate in 3 on move 19.
Montague White Stevens (1881-1947) was only a club standard player, but he edited the 1914 Year Book of Chess and produced a revised edition of EA Greig’s Pitfalls on the Chess-Board.
In April 1912 a new Chess Divan opened in the Strand, replacing Simpson’s Chess Divan, which had closed a few years earlier, and Gunsberg was appointed its manager. Arthur, who would go almost anywhere for a game of chess, was soon involved. With lightning tournaments a regular feature, a devotee of rapid transit chess would be in his element.
In May’s lightning tournament there was a full house, with the participants ‘mostly first-class amateurs’. Arthur shared first place with future British Champion Roland Henry Vaughan Scott and future writer and historian Philip Walsingham Sergeant. Lightning chess was proving increasingly popular, and I would assume this tournament was played using a buzzer. But there was an announcement that the following week there would be a five-minute tournament ‘which affords such amusing play’. If you think five-minute chess is amusing, you should try bullet. Arthur would have loved that.
In June there were only 12 players in the lightning tournament, with Arthur Compton Ellis sharing first place with Harold Godfrey Cole, who had played in the previous year’s Anglo-American cable match and would, a couple of months later, take second place in the British Championship. It’s evident from these results that he was a formidable speed player.
He was, inevitably, involved in administration as well.
A strong and interesting line-up, you’ll agree, with players such as former World Championship candidate Isidor Gunsberg and top lady player Louisa Matilda Fagan amongst many well-known participants.
This wasn’t a standard all-play-all tournament: rather you could play as many games as you wanted against as many opponents as you wanted, with the player with the best percentage score of those who played at least 20 games winning. It sounds like you could improve your chances by playing lots of games against weaker players. On 22 June the London Evening Standard reported that Ellis had beaten Mrs Fagan and drawn with Scott.
There was further news in three weeks time, when some players had made a lot of progress with their games.
In this game against Scotsman John Macalister, a shorthand writer in the Admirality Court, he was winning but went wrong on move 19 in a complex position, eventually falling victim to a queen sacrifice.
By the end of August, Loman and Scott were both on 13/16, with 18 games now required for your score to count, but after that the trail goes dead. It looks to me like the whole concept was rather too ambitious to succeed.
But meanwhile, the 1912 British Championships had taken place in Richmond, familiar territory for Arthur Compton Ellis. This time he was placed in the 1st Class Amateurs A section.
He made a strong showing with 7/11, sharing 3rd place behind Surbiton ophthalmic surgeon Thomas Wilfrid Letchworth (Wilfred Kirk won the parallel 1st Class Amateurs B section), but at this point he seemed to be a stronger lightning player.
This game shared the prize for the best game played in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd class sections, judged by Thomas Francis Lawrence. The winning move seems pretty obvious to me, though. There is some doubt as to the exact identity of his opponent: three possibilities were put forward in a recent online debate, and you could perhaps add a fourth. I’ll discuss this further in a future Minor Piece.
He later provided brief annotations for the press, where it appeared immediately above a Very Famous Miniature which had been played a few days earlier. I’m sure you’ll recognise it.
This thrilling game against music professor Edward Davidson Palmer (he taught singing), in which Arthur ventured the King’s Gambit, is a good demonstration of his fondness for tactical play. His opening failed to convince and Palmer missed several wins, but he ultimately escaped with the full point.
Over the next few months there’s little news of his chess playing, but then something unexpected happens. He turns up in, of all places, Stoke on Trent, or, to be precise, nearby Hanley.
Why Stoke on Trent? What was he doing there?
There are two possibilities. On Board 2 for Hanley was schoolmaster Joshua Walter Dixon, whom he had met in Oxford back in 1910: they were in different sections of the main event, but both competed in the handicap tournament. Perhaps he had been in touch to offer him employment there, either in a school or as a private tutor.
But look also at Arthur’s opponent from Mecca: George Tregaskis. It appears that Arthur and George were very close friends. They may well have met earlier: George was originally from South London before moving to Stoke for business reasons, so could well have been a member of the South London Chess Club at the time. He also visited the Divan in 1912 when returning to London to visit his family, so, again, they might have known each other from there. Who knows?
Here they are, in the same team, playing for Hanley in a whitewash over Walsall. Their top board, Joseph William Mellor, was a particularly interesting chap.
Here’s Arthur’s win. He was in trouble most of the way until his opponent went wrong right at the end.
The Kent and Sussex tournament took place over Whitsun at Hastings in 1913. Arthur and George travelled down together, and were both placed in the First Class A tournament.
In his first round game against Inland Revenue man David Miller, Arthur switched from his usual e4 to d4, essaying the Colle-Zukertort Opening. It didn’t go well.
Arthur had beaten George in a club match, and, when they were in the same team, played on a higher board, but here it was Tregaskis who came out on top after his opponent miscalculated a tactical sequence.
Here’s how it ended up.
Unsurprisingly, the masters, Yates and Thomas, outclassed the opposition, who were mostly, with the exception of Middleton and Sugden, strong club players.
A remarkable performance, though, by George Tregaskis in his first tournament, but perhaps slightly disappointing for Arthur Compton Ellis, whose progress seemed, temporarily, to have slightly stalled. Perhaps he needed, as chess teachers always tell their young pupils, to slow down and control his impulses.
With two young and talented new players in their ranks, the future for Staffordshire chess was looking bright. Hanley, after a lapse of three years, won the North Staffordshire League, ‘due in no small measure to the fact that the usual team was greatly strengthened by the inclusion of Mr. A. Compton Ellis, whose enthusiasm for the royal game is unlimited’, according to the Staffordshire Sentinel (4 June 1913).
But then, on 9 July: ‘Local players will hear with much regret that, owing to professional and business reasons, Messrs. A. Compton Ellis and G. Tregaskis have found it necessary to sever their connection with this district.’
George’s work took him to Bristol, as you’ll find out in a future Minor Piece. Arthur returned home to South London. Had he not wanted to remain in Stoke with his friend? Had his teaching work not gone as he’d hoped? We’ll never know.
The two friends kept in touch, playing two correspondence games, one with each colour, over the summer. Although he’d now left the area, Arthur kept in touch with the local paper, followed their chess columns, and submitted these games for publication.
In his game with White, Arthur experimented on move 6, unwisely following a Blackburne game, and, by the next move had a lost position. George concluded brilliantly.
In the game with colours reversed, Tregaskis improved on an Alapin game from the previous year, but went wrong in the ensuing complications. He then resigned a drawn position, missing the saving clause. Ellis’s opponents seemed to have a habit of resigning level positions!
The 1913 British Championships took place in Cheltenham. Arthur Compton Ellis took part again, playing in the First Class B section, where he scored a half point more than the previous year.
This left him in second place behind his Lancashire contemporary Norman Boles Holmes. George Tregaskis wasn’t playing, but you’ll see his other Hanley friend, Joshua Walter Dixon, there in First Class A. Unfortunately, the BCM failed to publish crosstables of these events.
Both Dixon and Ellis scored other successes there: Joshua won two problem solving competitions, while Arthur, although he only finished 7th in the handicap tournament, won a prize in a Kriegspiel (‘a peculiar, and modern, form of chess, unknown to more than 99 per cent. of chess players’) event.
Returning to London, Arthur Compton Ellis submitted two puzzles based on his games to the Staffordshire Sentinel. (The chess editor preferred to remain anonymous: perhaps it was Joshua Walter Dixon.)
It shouldn’t take you too long to find the mate in 4 here.
Two weeks later he offered a mate in 3, which has, although he seemed not to notice, two solutions, both involving attractive (but different) queen sacrifices. Can you find them both?
On 13 September Alekhine, on a brief visit to London, agreed to play a simul at the Divan in the Strand. Arthur, of course, was there.
He lost a pawn and was slowly ground down, but did anyone spot he had a fleeting opportunity for a draw in the pawn ending?
The following Monday he left London. He had a new job as an Assistant Master at Laxton Grammar School, part of the same foundation as Oundle School, but catering for local boys.
He soon encountered problems there, coming into conflict with the Headmaster, Rev Thomas Harry Ross. In November he was asked to hand in his notice.
What a tragic end to a short but eventful life. A life that promised much but ended far too soon. A man of great power and considerable ability. An impulsive young man. I think you can see that in his chess as well: at times brilliant, at times speculative, but almost always entertaining. You can also see how well he was thought of by his chess friends. Great power and considerable ability, yes, and also enthusiasm, energy and charisma. Looking back from a 2020s perspective you can perhaps see elements of ADHD and bipolar disorder, which tends to manifest itself between the ages of 20 and 25. Could Laxton have treated him better? Undoubtedly. You can only hope that, these days, someone like Arthur Compton Ellis would be better understood.
If he and his mother had chosen to remain in Kew, perhaps the history of chess in Richmond would have been very different. Had he devoted the next half century to playing and organising chess, you might have seen him as a British Championship contender, and perhaps an organiser of major chess events in my part of the world. If he’d lived a long life he might even have met me, and perhaps my life would have been different. I’d like to think that, as the founder of Kew Chess Club, which later merged with Richmond, some part of his spirit lives on in today’s Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club. Spare a thought for the short but frenetic life of a true chess addict: Arthur Compton Ellis.
There are a few loose ends to tie up. Arthur’s nemesis, Rev Thomas Harry Ross, in the years between the two World Wars, was Rector of Church Langton with Tur Langton and Thorpe Langton, where he would have ministered to the relations of Walter Charles Bodycoat, and perhaps to my relations as well. I’ll take up the story of Arthur’s friend George Tregaskis in a later article.
There’s one other mystery to look at.
St Albans? There’s nothing online yet about chess in St Albans at that time. He seems to have been in South London with his mother between leaving Stoke and arriving at Oundle. I suppose he might have been there late 1912/early 1913, when there was a gap of a few months in his chronology. We can also go back a few years, to May 1907, when AC Ellis, first from St Albans, then from Swindon, who was solving chess problems in the Bristol Times and Mirror. Was that our man? Was he, perhaps, in those towns for teaching practice? Who knows?
There’s an implication that the family were having some sort of financial problem. There’s also a slight mystery in that the coroner’s report gives his mother’s address as 12 Kilsworth Road Dulwich, while his probate record (he left £560 17s) gave his address as 12 Pickwick Road Dulwich Village. I can’t locate Kilsworth Road (or anything similar) so it may well be a mistake for Pickwick Road, which could also be considered to be in Herne Hill. By 1921 Margaret had returned to Kew, living on her own at 333 Sandycombe Road, just the other side of the railway from where she’d been living ten years earlier. It’s not at all clear when she died: there’s no death record close to Richmond and the family hasn’t been researched. There’s a possible death record in Islington in 1930: perhaps she’d returned to the area where she spent the first part of her life.
Join me again soon for some more Minor Pieces investigating the lives of some of Arthur Compton Ellis’s chess opponents.
findmypast.co.uk/British Newspaper Library
BritBase (John Saunders)
Yorkshire Chess History (Steve Mann)
Various other sources quoted and linked to above
“Following on from the enduring success of one of the most important chess books ever written, Bobby Fischer: My 60 Memorable Games, and the recently released Magnus Carlsen: 60 Memorable Games, celebrated chess writer Andrew Soltis delivers a book on Fabiano Caruana, the Grandmaster set to rival current world champion Magnus Carlsen.
This book details Caruana’s remarkable rise from chess prodigy to one of the best chess player in the world, exploring how he acquired the skills of 21st-century grandmaster chess over such a short period of time.
This book dives into how he wins by analysing 60 of the games that made him who he is, describing the intricacies behind his and his opponent’s strategies, the tactical justification of moves and the psychological battle in each one.”
About the Author:
“International Grandmaster Andrew Soltis is chess correspondent for the New York Post and a very popular chess writer. He is the author of many books including What it Takes to Become a Chess Master, Studying Chess Made Easy and David Vs Goliath Chess.”
If you’ve read and enjoyed the companion volume on Carlsen, you’ll want this as well. Many readers collect games collections, and will be eager to add a book on one of today’s leading practitioners to their shelves. This isn’t the only book on Caruana available: there’s one, for example, by Lakdawala, a writer with a very different style. If you like Soltis’s annotations you may well not like Lakdawala’s, and vice versa. They’ve both been doing what they do for a long time and understand their readership.
Here, then, we have sixty of Caruana’s most interesting games, not all of them wins, mostly from the last decade, but a few earlier, starting with a game from 2002. Most are standardplay games, but there are also a few rapid, blitz and internet encounters.
In his introduction, Soltis looks at what makes Caruana different from other top players.
And if he had a celebrity personality – that of a Magnus Carlsen, a Bobby Fischer or a Garry Kasparov – his story would be known well beyond chess circles. But Caruana is Caruana. “He is shy and modest, like a conservatory student”, one of his teachers said. He is content to let his moves do most of the talking.
He identifies several traits in Caruana’s play.
He’s a concrete player, relying on calculation more than intuition.
He doesn’t only rely on computer analysis, using curiosity and self-discipline to investigate the secrets of a position.
He believes the board and the pieces, playing the way the pieces tell him to play regardless of the tournament situation.
He is able to manage his nerves and emotions.
He chooses moves that push his opponents out of their comfort zone.
He is very patient, often playing quiet ‘little moves’ which slightly improve his position.
He employs deep opening preparation, much more than, for example, Carlsen.
An occasional flaw in his play is that he sometimes fails to deliver the knockout blow.
He has emotional stamina: he can deal with his mistakes and knows how to react when things go wrong.
The introduction also tells about Caruana’s early life in New York, and about the influence of the Soviet Chess School on his studies there.
Then we have, yes, sixty memorable games, each prefaced with a catchy title and a brief introduction. Just like another book of 60 Memorable Games.
The best way to describe this book, is, perhaps, to show you a few examples of Soltis’s style of annotations.
This is from Caruana – Aronian (Sao Paulo 2012).
Members of Caruana’s generation grew up with computers and Kasparov games. Many of them had little interest in games played before 1990.
Hikaru Nakamura called the classic books “a waste of time” and complained to his father, “Why do I have to study dead people?”.
Caruana studied them. He understood how White can benefit from d4-d5 in this pawn structure, as Bobby Fischer had in a celebrated game against Viktor Korchnoi.
But in another textbook game (Tal – Panno Portoroz 1958) White scored with the alternative plan e4-e5. Here 16. e5! dxe5 17. dxe5 opens the b1-h7 diagonal. This does a better job than 16. d5 of exploiting the diversion of Black’s bishop to h5.
Black cannot protect his knight after 17… Nd5 18. Be4! with Be6.
Also unfavourable for him is 17… Nd7 18. axb5 axb5 19. Be4.
What do you think? Helpful? Informative? Instructional? Interesting?
This is from another Caruana – Aronian game, this time played in the Sinquefield Cup in 2014. Caruana has just played 13. Bd2.
The pawn structure created by 11. Bxe6 gave Black a choice of four basic policies:
(a) Leaving the pawn structure intact. He could pursue a kingside plan such as 13… Qe8 and … Qh5/… Ng6.
(b) Change it by trading knights with 13… Nd4. His pieces would be freed a bit by 13… Nd4 14. Nxd4 exd4 15. Ne2 c5. This would expose his queenside to greater pressure after 16. a4 and Qb1 – b3.
(c) Attack the queenside. Thanks to 13. Bd2, White can respond to 13… Qd7 14. Na2 a5 with 15. c3. Black can add 15… d5 into the mix, with uncertain prospects.
Aronian chooses (d), Gain space with this move, followed by … Qd6 or … Bd6 and potentially … d4/… a5.
The reader learns from this how to create plans based on the pawn formation, specifically with regard to this position, and perhaps also more generally.
Do you like this style of annotation, or would you prefer something rather less dry? Perhaps you’d go to the other extreme, hoping to sees long computer-generated variations to demonstrate these plans.
Finally, another Sinquefield Cup game, this time with Caruana playing white against Nakamura in 2018, and considering his 26th move.
It was time for long-range thinking:
White could try for e4-e5 after offering an exchange of queens: 25. Qf4.
But even after 25… Qe7 26. e5 Bd5 it is not clear he is making progress.
For instance, 27. Nxd5 exd5 28. Rxd5 c3 or 28… Qb4.
If e4-e5 isn’t a good plan, what about a kingside pawn march?
This would show promise after 25. g4 Be8 26. h4.
For example, 26… Bc6 27. g5! hxg5 28. hxg5 and Qh4/Rh1.
But the attack abruptly halts if Black swaps rooks, 26… Rd8! 27. g5 Rxd2 28. Rxd2 hxg5 29. hxg5 Rd8 30. Rxd8 Qxd8.
Then White’s knight has few good squares. But Black’s queen does (31. Qc5 Qd2 or 31. Qf4 Qd4).
Psychologically, the best move.
It gives Black a choice of playing an inferior endgame – which is likely to be drawn – or giving up a pawn he might lose anyway.
Nakamura mistakenly went for the inferior ending and eventually lost.
Did you find this clear and easy to follow, or confusing and hard to follow? Or just about right?
Whether you’ll enjoy this book, then, is very much about whether you like Soltis’s style of annotation. Me, I’ve been a long-term fan so I enjoyed the book very much, but it’s very much a matter of taste, isn’t it?
If you appreciate annotations of this nature, you won’t want to miss this. You can, of course, be sure that you’ll get 60 top class games from recent elite GM praxis, expertly selected and with commentary from one of the most experienced writers in the business.
Games collections such as this are popular with many readers, and all chess book collectors with an interest in contemporary grandmaster chess will want at least one book about Caruana on their shelves. If that describes you, you’ll certainly want to consider this book.
You might well ask how much a club standard player can learn from the games of someone 1000 or so points stronger. It’s a good question, but I think Soltis does a pretty good job of making the games both accessible and instructive.
The book is well produced to Batsford’s usual standards, although one or two diagram and notation errors escaped the proofing. I don’t care much for the title of this or the companion Carlsen book, which some might consider disrespectful to Fischer, but I guess the publishers choose the title they think will sell most copies.
If the extracts I’ve presented appeal, you won’t be disappointed. An excellent book from a highly respected author recommended for competitive players of all standards, for connoisseurs of fine chess, and for all interested in chess culture.
You might think I’m biased, but I’ve long thought that the most important people in any chess club are not the players, but the organisers. The secretary, treasurer and match captains who ensure everything runs smoothly.
All successful chess clubs have at least one: the loyal member who stays with the club for decades, through good times and bad times, while others come and go. Turning up for almost every match. Taking on any job that nobody else wants to do. One of those was the subject of this Minor Piece, James Richmond Cartledge.
The first ‘modern’ Richmond Chess Club (there were earlier organisations using the same name, but they weren’t involved in over the board competitive chess against other clubs) was founded in 1893, continuing until 1940 when, as a result of the Second World War, most clubs shut down for the duration and beyond. For most of that period, for over 40 years, James was a fixture at Richmond Chess Club, so much so that, when looking for a middle name, he chose the name of his chess club. Through the reports of the club AGMs in the Richmond Herald, now conveniently available online, we can trace his changing role in the club as well as the club’s changing fortunes. We can also listen into their discussions, sometimes on subjects which are still relevant today, a century or so later.
But first, we should meet his father, Josiah Cartledge, who was one of the club’s founder members.
Josiah was born in Camberwell, South London, in 1836, so he was now 57 years old. He married a cousin, Marian Frances Bruin, in 1858. (She doesn’t seem to be immediately related to Josiah’s fellow committee member Frederick Arthur Bruin.) A year later a son, Arthur, was born, but tragically Marian died, probably either in or as a result of childbirth.
It wasn’t until ten years later that Josiah married again. His second wife was Frances Victoria Wastie, and their marriage would be blessed by three children, William (1870), Adeline Frances (1872) and James (1874). Josiah and Frances were both chess enthusiasts, competing to solve the problem in their newspaper of choice, the Morning Post, with young Arthur sometimes joining in.
Josiah was a legal clerk, a highly responsible job, and, round about 1873, he became Clerk of the Richmond Petty Sessions, moving out from South London. The 1881 census found the family at 5 Townshend Villas, Richmond, and they were still there in 1891, when his job had expanded: he was also Clerk to the Lunatic Asylum. William was helping him out, while 17 year old James, choosing a different career path, was an architect’s pupil.
It was no surprise then, that, when Richmond Chess Club started up in Autumn 1893, Josiah was one of the first through the door, and, given his status in society, he was a natural choice for the committee.
And here he is, from an online family tree.
Young James was now taking a serious interest in chess and it wasn’t long before his father brought him along to join in.
Here they are at the Annual Supper in 1896.
Before you ask, the Mr James there was no relation to me: it would be a few more years before I joined.
(Edwin Peed James (1853-1933) was a solicitor who hit financial problems, and, after being declared bankrupt, became a commercial traveller.)
Horace Lyddon Pring (1870-1938), a solicitor’s clerk working in accounts, was a young man with boundless energy and ambition. He was not only the club secretary, but treasurer and match captain as well. He reported that the club now had 45 members, 11 of whom were new, but they’d also lost a few. “One or two of the younger members had become mated so effectually – (laughter) – that they could not get out.” They had also moved to a new venue, having “started in a baker’s shop, but that got too hot for them. (Laughter).” Mr Pring also had a sense of humour.
At the end of the supper, toasts were drunk to the accompaniment of music. Songs (the popular music-hall ditties and parlour ballads of the time) were sung and the Kew Glee Singers contributed a selection of glees. Musical entertainments of this nature would continue to be a feature of Richmond Chess Club’s social events for many years to come.
An extract from the 1898 AGM shows the club making progress in several ways.
They had to move venues when their landlord put the fees up: still a familiar story for many chess clubs today. Nevertheless, the club was now attracting strong players such as our old friends Charles Redway and Guy Fothergill, and had arranged a visit from one of London’s leading players, Thomas Francis Lawrence. His annual simuls would become a club tradition lasting many years.
There were some exciting prizes for the lucky – or skillful – winners: dessert knives, a preserve dish and a matchbox.
Josiah was more of a social player, but James had a lot more ambition. By 1900 he was starting to play in competitions such as the Surrey Trophy, albeit on bottom board.
He had also acquired a middle name (he was just James at birth), possibly to avoid confusion with his father. Did he choose Richmond in honour of his home town, or of his chess club?
Here he is, then, winning his game against Thornton Heath. which, as often happened in those days, took place in central London rather than at either club.. Richmond had won the Beaumont Cup in its second season, 1896-97, but by now were trying their hand against the big boys, successfully in this case. The Surrey Trophy and the Beaumont Cup, then, as now, were Divisions 1 and 2 of the Surrey Chess League. Some things never change.
By 1901 Josiah’s job had moved to Mortlake while James had a new job as Assistant Surveyor for the Urban District of Barnes The family had moved to Milton House near Mortlake Station, probably somewhere on Sheen Lane near the junctions with Milton Road and St Leonard’s Road today: a location which would have also been handier if you were in the business of surveying nearby Barnes. Adeline and James were still at home with their parents, along with a cook and a housemaid.
By 1904 the club was in something of a slump, having lost a number of strong players they had withdrawn from the Surrey competitions and were only playing friendly matches along with their internal competitions. Both Josiah and James were very much involved, even though James had married Gertrude Francis (sic: it was her mother’s maiden name) Griffiths at Christ Church East Sheen the previous year. Sadly, it was to be Josiah’s last year.
If you’re interested in the notorious Kate Webster case, as I’m sure you are, Wikipedia deals with it here.
James and Gertrude went on to have three children, Raymond Francis (1905), Hilary Frances (1907) and Kathleen Vivian, known by her middle name (1911), but his new responsibilities as a husband and father didn’t stop his involvement with Richmond Chess Club. Although he had been mated, Gertrude still let him out.
1904 saw some of the club’s stronger players returning, and they were tempted to re-enter the Surrey Trophy. The following year’s AGM would announce that their membership had increased from 24 to 44 within the space of two years. James Cartledge must have been improving fast, as he was now playing on a much higher board.
Six adjudications in a 12 board match seems a bit unsatisfactory, but this situation would be common for many decades to come. You might consider any competition not decided on the night rather bizarre, but adjudications still happen occasionally in the Surrey League today.
At the 1909 AGM, James Richmond Cartledge was elected to the post of Treasurer, “it being remarked that that gentleman had served the club in the capacity of match captain and secretary”.
By the 1911 census the family were living in 10 Palewell Park, East Sheen, just off the South Circular Road. Baby Vivian had arrived a few days earlier, but had not yet been given a name. It was a crowded house, with James, Gertrude and their three young children, James’s sister Adeline, working as a day governess for another family, Gertrude’s sisters Helena and Annie, along with a monthly nurse to look after the baby and a domestic servant.
After the 1911 Richmond Chess Club AGM, hilarity ensued when, during the toasts, the Hon Secretary read out some verses composed by an anonymous member, describing some of the club’s members.
A few days later, another verse appeared: it’s not clear whether or not this was written by the same poet.
It makes McGonagall sound good, doesn’t it? Who knew that EJ Thribb was active in Richmond in 1911?
For several years the committee had been discussing the idea of inviting the British Chess Federation to hold their annual championships in Richmond, and that duly came to pass in 1912. Although the event was very successful, there were very few club members taking part. I’ll perhaps look more at the tournament in a future series of Minor Pieces.
James had certainly improved a lot since his first appearances on bottom board: now, as club champion, he was often to be found on top board when Charles Redway, who only played in the more important matches, was unavailable.
One of the musical guests at the Annual Dinner in April 1914 was Leslie Sarony, who performed ‘popular songs of the light comedian type’. Leslie, only 18 at the time, would have a long and successful career as a variety artist, writer and performer of novelty songs, and actor. He continued working into his 80s, with appearances in programmes such as Z-Cars, Crossroads and Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
Then, in 1914, war broke out. At their AGM the club decided that it was ‘business as usual’, although they had to appoint a new secretary, and their German member, who was fighting for the enemy, was no longer welcome.
There was less opportunity for competitive chess: the Surrey Trophy and Beaumont Cup ran in 1914-15, only the Surrey Trophy was contested in 1915-16, and then the league went into abeyance until the 1919-20 season. Friendly matches continued, though, as in this match between Richmond and their local rivals, which saw Cartledge facing an interesting opponent in Eric Augustus Coad-Pryor.
Although he was now in his 40s, James Richmond Cartledge was still ready to serve his country, and, with his knowledge of engineering, he signed up as a reservist for the Royal Engineers.
The 1917 AGM reported that he had been called up and was in France in the thick of the fighting.
Here he is, on New Years Eve 1919, applying for his Victory Medal.
Back from the war, James returned to his duties at the club with whom he shared a name, now taking the chair at their AGMs.
The 1921 census found him back at 10 Palewell Park, and again working as an Assistant Surveyor and Civil Engineer in the Local Government Service, employed by the Urban District of Barnes. His wife and children were all at home, and they in turn employed a domestic servant.
The 1921 AGM revealed that new clubs had started at Twickenham, Teddington and Barnes. There was also a discussion about how to attract more lady members: it was agreed to offer them a 5 shilling discount on their membership.
If they’d been looking for a new venue, they could have considered the Red Cow Hotel, Sheen Road, Richmond, which, on the same page, was advertising a Large Club Room for hire. Forty years or so later, their offer would be taken up by what was then the Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club.
The following year, the Hon. Secretary, Captain Wilkinson, reported that ‘the club had two lady members. He lent one of them a book on chess and he had neither seen nor heard of her since. He did think, however that chess was a game that women should take up’.
In 1923 the Club Dinner was revived, not having taken place since 1914. The format was very much the same as before, with speeches, prizegivings and musical entertainment provided by Miss Edythe Florence (contralto), Miss Florence (pianist), Mr. M. J. O’Brien (tenor) and Mr. Len Williams (humorist).
The club’s fortunes waxed and waned over the years, and by 1926, with seemingly little interest in chess in Richmond, and successful new clubs in Barnes and Twickenham proving more attractive for residents of those boroughs, questions were asked about the future.
In 1926 Captain Wilkinson decided to stand down for a younger man.
That younger and more energetic person turned out to be new member Wilfred Hugh Miller Kirk, not exactly a young man himself, but with an outstanding record in chess administration within the Civil Service. By the 1929 AGM, things were looking up. Kirk reported that the club had had their most successful season for several years, winning 12 of their 18 matches. Most importantly, although not mentioned in the newspaper report, a decision had been made to merge with Kew Chess Club. They now became Richmond & Kew Chess Club, acquiring new members, including Ronald George Armstrong, a player of similar strength to Kirk, and a new venue enabling them to resume meeting twice a week: once in Richmond and once in Kew. Having an enthusiastic and efficient club secretary makes a big difference. James Richmond Cartledge would still have been very much involved, his experience invaluable in the decision making process.
(Ronald George Armstrong (1893-1952), the son of a Scottish father and French mother, was, unusually for the time, but like Wilfred Kirk, a divorcee. His job involved selling calculating machines. He was clearly a strong player, but didn’t take part in external tournaments.)
In 1930 there was sad news for James as his wife Gertrude died in hospital at the age of 55, but his bereavement didn’t put an end to his chess activities.
By this time Kirk and Armstrong were disputing the top two boards, with Cartledge on board 3, as in this match against their local rivals.
While the Twickenham team lacked big names, their top boards must have been reasonable players. James Young Bell continued playing well into the 1960s: in 1965, in his late 80s, he played a board below the young John Nunn in a match between Surrey and Middlesex. At this time he was a next door neighbour of Wallace Britten in Strawberry Hill Road, thus providing a link between the two Twickenham Chess Clubs.
In that season, the newly amalgamated club won the Beaumont Cup for the first time since the 1896-7 season, As Wilfred Kirk explained at the AGM, ‘union is strength’. The following season they finished equal first with Clapham Common, but lost the play-off match.
Although they were successful over the board, membership numbers were still modest. The 1933 AGM reported only 24 members. By now James Richmond Cartledge had risen to the post of President, but asked the club not to nominate him again as he was retiring from business and planning to move away from the area. He was persuaded to agree to remain President until he moved, but in fact that would be further away than he expected. It appears he moved to Ham on his retirement, close enough to continue his membership.
In 1934 they were able to report that they had won the Beaumont Cup for the third time, but lost to Battersea in the final of the Alexander Cup.
The 1934 AGM brought up the important topic of social chess, the secretary’s report suggesting that the club should offer more time for casual games rather than too many tournament and match games. This discussion is still very relevant in all chess clubs today.
The Hon Secretary at the time was Francis Edward Yewdall (1875-1958), one of the club’s stronger players, who, coincidentally or not, had the same job as Cartledge in the neighbouring borough: he was the Assistant Surveyor for the Borough of Richmond.
The last mention we have for James Richmond Cartledge at Richmond & Kew Chess Club is in October 1938, so presumably it was soon after that date that he moved away.
By the time of the 1939 Register he hadn’t gone far. He was staying in the Mountcoombe Hotel in Surbiton, which, coincidentally, had also been the residence of chess problemist Edith Baird back in 1911. He then moved to the south coast: not, like many chess players, to Hastings, but to Bournemouth, where he died in 1943.
Yes, he rendered a long and useful service to the district, but the obituary failed to mention his long and useful service to Richmond (& Kew) Chess Club over a period of almost 40 years, serving at various times as secretary, treasurer, match captain, chairman and president. Although not of master standard, he was a strong club player (I’d guess about 2100 strength) as well. The likes of him, organisers and loyal club supporters, are just as important to the world of chess as grandmasters and champions. In his day it was the habit to drink toasts at club dinners: join me today in drinking a toast to James Richmond Cartledge.
“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 hear 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.
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.