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Death Anniversary for CGM Adrian Hollis (02-viii-1940 26-ii-2013)

BCN remembers CGM Adrian Hollis who passed away in Wells, Somerset on Tuesday, February 26th 2013  at the age of seventy-two.

Adrian Swayne Hollis was born in Bristol, Avon on Friday, August 2nd 1940. During this critical period the Luftwaffe was wisely extending its Battle of Britain targets to include Britain’s airfields. Furthermore, Bristol was bombed heavily between June 1940 and May 1944. The longest period of regular bombing, known as the ‘Bristol Blitz’ began in autumn 1940 and ended the following spring. The first bombs of the Bristol Blitz fell at around 6 pm on Sunday 24 November 1940.

Adrian was the only child of MI5 director general Roger Henry Hollis KB CBE (later to become Sir Roger Hollis) and Evelyn Esme Hollis (née Swayne) who was Roger’s first wife. Roger was from Wells and Evelyn from Burnham-on-Sea and they were married on July 17th 1937 in Wells Cathedral with Evelyn’s father performing the ceremony.

Adrian won a scholarship in classics to Eton College and then went up to Keble College, Oxford where he took a first in mods and greats. Whilst at Keble Adrian represented Oxford in four varsity matches between 1959 and 1962. Indeed, his support for varsity matches was maintained for many years attending a large number into and beyond the Lloyds Bank era. Stalwart organiser Henry Mutkin would always be sure to extend an invitation.

In 1961 Adrian become the youngest ever West of England Champion at the age of 21.

Adrian met Margaret Mair Cameron Edwards in 1967 at St. Andrew’s University where he taught Classics and she taught German. They married and had two daughters, Jennifer (b. 1974) and Veronica (b. 1977) and a son.

He was the Games Editor for the British Correspondence Chess Association (BCCA) resigning in 1969.

In 1984 Adrian was forced to endure allegations against his father by Chapman Pincher (in CPs book Too Secret too Long) that Sir Roger had been a Soviet spy / mole. These allegations were demonstrated to be false. He may well also have been aware of allegations against his friend and chess mentor Graham Mitchell earlier in 1963. Ironically, it was Adrian’s father who initiated the investigation into Graham. Again, the rumours were shown to be unfounded.

Adrian became a director of the company Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies Limited on the September 1st 1996 and resigned on May 12th 2007. He was also a Vice President of the West of England Chess Union (WECU).

Between 2003 and 2007 (according to the Electoral Roll) Adrian lived at 63, Bainton Road, Oxford, OX2 7AG :

63, Bainton Road, Oxford, OX2 7AG
63, Bainton Road, Oxford, OX2 7AG

and following his retirement (and the time of the 2008 electoral roll) Adrian had moved to Pound House, Southover, Wells, BA5 1UH :

Pound House, Southover, Wells, BA5 1UH
Pound House, Southover, Wells, BA5 1UH

Adrian has written many learned papers and has had two books published :

Fragments of Roman Poetry C.60 BC-Ad 20, AS Hollis, Oxford University Press, 2007
Fragments of Roman Poetry C.60 BC-Ad 20, AS Hollis, Oxford University Press, 2007

and

Ovid Metamorphoses VIII (Schools Edition): Bk. 8, AS Hollis. Oxford University Press, 2008
Ovid Metamorphoses VIII (Schools Edition): Bk. 8, AS Hollis. Oxford University Press, 2008

During his time at Keble College, Adrian engaged with and mentored many chess players including Jonathan Rowson (1996), David Norwood (1988), Julian Way, David Goodman (1977) and Dharshan Kumaran (1993).

CGM Adrian Hollis
CGM Adrian Hollis

Julian was a personal student of Adrian’s and was kind enough to tell us :

I do remember Adrian well. He could quote Latin verse ad infinitum. He was an expert on Ovid.
In terms of chess he had a huge pile of Informators in his study still in their cardboard packaging. He was very kind to me and insisted I play above him for Keble in the intercollegiate matches.

I gave him a copy of Developments in the Orthodox QGD which I had written in 1987. He was quite taken back when I didn’t want any money for it. He seemed to have quite a lot of respect for me.

I once asked him why he had given me a place at Oxford. He replied that he couldn’t have rejected someone with my passion and enthusiasm.
I kept in touch with Adrian until his passing. He gave me a lovely reference when I resumed my studies in 2007 at Kingston University.
I remember him as a kind and unassuming man. He became a lifelong friend.

CGM Adrian Hollis
CGM Adrian Hollis

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

“I was born on August 2nd, 1940, educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford and now teach Classics at Keble College, Oxford. I learned the moves at the advanced age of thirteen from a cousin who himself could have made a good chess player had he not been seduced by Philosophy and brain-teasers; all that remains in the mind from these encounters is a vision of perpetually losing my rooks to fianchettoed bishops.

Adrian Hollis. Source : The Potter Memorial
Adrian Hollis. Source : The Potter Memorial

My first ever tournament was the London Boys’ Championship 1956-7. In the opening round fate allotted me Black against David Rumens. As it happened, the brochure included a game of his from the previous year in which he had answered 1.d4 with 1…Nc6, quite enough, in my opinion, to condemn his utterly.

(Ed: The above position did not impress Adrian hugely.)

This view seemed confirmed when within twelve moves of an advance French I was two pawns up. Then, however, aided by my over confidence he worked up a fierce attack, and I just escaped with a draw. Nevertheless, I won the tournament; an opponent remarked how quickly I played my moves.

Thereafter the game was never so easy, but I did reasonably, well, winning the championships of the British Universities, West of England and East of Scotland, and playing for England quite regularly during the 1960s (including 7.5/12 in six Anglo-Dutch matches).

Leonard Barden, Henry Mutkin, Adrian Hollis and Bob Wade observe Nick Ivell vs Ken Regan at the 1983 Varsity match
Leonard Barden, Henry Mutkin, Adrian Hollis and Bob Wade observe Nick Ivell vs Ken Regan at the 1983 Varsity match

The high spot of my over-the-board chess was the series of World Student team championships from 1960 to 1964 in glamorous places (Leningrad, Helsinki, Mariánské Lázně, Budva and Cracow); most enjoyable of these being Budva, 1963 where one could bathe every day in the Adriatic and I won the (?) gold medal on Board 1 with 7.5/9., the year after Spassky (this must look good in the records, unless they happen to reveal that for the first time in preliminary and final sections, and that England did not qualify for the top final).

My best chess was probably played at Mariánské Lázně, 1962, where in successive rounds I had favourable draws with Radulov and Hort, coming close to beating the latter. Ironically, I was awarded the British Master title after I had virtually retired from over-the-board chess.

In 1964 I decided that henceforth for me ‘serious’ chess would mean correspondence, while OTB became a pleasant social activity. My introduction to the postal game had been made about 1955 by a colleague of my father’s, International Master Graham Mitchell, to whom I owe an enormous debt for the patience and kindness with which he played a series of games, bearing with me when I lost interest in worsening positions. The switch to postal play was caused by a number of factors, negative and positive : an impending move to Scotland, where there was less OTB chess, frustration at constantly spoiling good positions through mistakes in time pressure – on the other hand a feeling that correspondence chess should suit an academic temperament, and a particularly fascinating game played in 1963-4 with Michael Haygarth (see below) on which I spent so much time and energy that I almost feared it would ruin my post-graduate exams.

In 1964-5 I qualified for the British Championship by winning a candidates’ section with 100%, and then competed three times in the British Championship itself (1965-6, 1966-7, 1970-71), winning on each occasion (the first time jointly with S. Milan) and remaining unbeaten. International play also proved successful, and I soon collected the two norms necessary for the IM title (Ed: awarded in 1970).

Linda Brownson (Newnham & Basildon), left, playing Maria Eagle (Pembroke & Formby) being observed by John Nunn, Adrian Hollis and Harry Golombek posing for the obligatory "staring at the board" picture for the 1981 Varsity Match sponsored by Lloyds Bank.
Linda Brownson (Newnham & Basildon), left, playing Maria Eagle (Pembroke & Formby) being observed by John Nunn, Adrian Hollis and Harry Golombek posing for the obligatory “staring at the board” picture for the 1981 Varsity Match sponsored by Lloyds Bank.

The first chance for the Grandmaster title came on Board 1 in the Seventh Olympiad final. Despite a rare loss with the White pieces(my only defeat with white for a stretch of 15 years), things went well, including a lucky win against the reigning World Champion, Horst Rittner, and the enticing prospect beckoned if only I could beat the Russian Moiseyev. He held a slight advantage since the opening, but I thought I saw the chance of tempting him to an incorrect sacrifice. Back came his move; he had indeed made the sacrifice and the envelope burnt a hole in my pocket during an important meeting (my mind was elsewhere). After a mere two days’ thought I sent my reply. The post between England and the USSR takes about a month for the return trip. Soon after posting my move, as I was walking from the Ashmolean Museum to Keble, just passing the front gate of St. John’s, the realisation of what I had overlooked hit me, and there followed an inexorable wait for the death blow which I now saw only too clearly.

So no Grandmaster title, but Great Britain still took the bronze medals, and I scored 6/9 (+5=1-2).

Bob Wade, Harry Golombek and Adrian Hollis observe Penny Coxon (Newnam) and Anita Rakshit (St. Hilda's) during the 1983 Varsity match sponsored by Lloyds Bank
Bob Wade, Harry Golombek and Adrian Hollis observe Penny Coxon (Newnam) and Anita Rakshit (St. Hilda’s) during the 1983 Varsity match sponsored by Lloyds Bank

Another opportunity came when the British Postal Chess Federation organised a tournament (1974-6) in memory of its former secretary RJ Potter.  This started inauspiciously for me with a heavy defeat at the hands of Grandmaster Endzelins of Australia., a country which has so far provided my least favourite opposition (not only is the postage extremely expensive, but my score to date is 0/2).

From The Potter Memorial, Ken Messere, Chess (Sutton Coldfield), 1979 we have this potted biography from Ken Messere :

The Potter Memorial, Ken Messere, Chess (Sutton Coldfield), 1979
The Potter Memorial, Ken Messere, Chess (Sutton Coldfield), 1979

“Adrian Hollis is 36, was educated at Eton and Oxford, has written two books on the poet Ovid and is a Fellow and Tutor in Classics at Keble College, Oxford. He is a British Master at over the board chess and has been Champion of British Universities, West of England and East Scotland.

In 1964, he went to teach at St. Andrews University where his wife, Margaret, taught German. They were married and moved to Keble College in 1967 and now have two daughters. Jennifer is nearly five and Veronica is two.

Adrian began to concentrate on correspondence chess in 1964 and won the British Correspondence Chess Championship jointly in 1966 and outright in 1967 and 1971. He won the I.M. title in 1970 and his fine score of 6/9 on top board for Great Britain in the I.C.C.F. VIIth Correspondence Chess Olympiad Final contributed to the team’s winning the bronze medal in this event.”

and now back to Adrian’s British Chess article…

Thereafter my fortunes improved; one opponent accepted too trustingly some faulty analysis by Szabo in Informator (for a while it seemed that the Hungarian might earn me not one but two points). The East German Dr. Baumbach failed to find an improvement in a line with which I had been successful in the Seventh Olympiad Final.

Also, I had a win with the Black pieces against the Russian Kopylov. The result was a score of 9/12 (+8=2-2), which sufficed for the grandmaster title and first place half a point ahead of the Finn Kauranen.

Since then I have played quite well on second board behind Keith Richardson in the Eighth Olympiad Final (+5=7-0), and very badly indeed (scoring just about 50% in the Heilimo Memorial Tournament organised from Finland (I was much impressed by the strength of the Finnish players, most of whom I had not encountered before). Having twice narrowly failed, I would still like to qualify for the Final of the Individual World Championship. Of course life becomes increasingly busy, but the examples of Hugh Alexander and Graham Mitchell encourage me to believe that one can continue to play well at postal chess longer than over-the-board. So perhaps around the year 2000, when the children are grown up….”

Adrian Hollis and Harry Golombek observer Andrew Dyson (Trinity) having played 1.d4 versus IM William Watson (Merton) during the 1984 Varsity match sponsored by Lloyds Bank
Adrian Hollis and Harry Golombek observer Andrew Dyson (Trinity) having played 1.d4 versus IM William Watson (Merton) during the 1984 Varsity match sponsored by Lloyds Bank

From British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXXIII (133, 2013), Number 4 (April), pp.194-5 we have this obituary written by James Pratt :

Adrian Swayne Hollis (2 viii 1940 Bristol – 26 ii 2013 Wells), British Master and Correspondence Grandmaster (1976), three times British Correspondence Champion, has died. He played most of his OTB chess as a young man, finishing seventh equal at the British Aberystwyth, 1961, when he beat, amongst others, A.R.B. Thomas and former champion, Alan Phillips. He gave future champion, Jonathan Penrose, a tough fight in the last round before conceding the half-point. He played in the Hastings Premier, 1962/3 and emerged with a plus score in the Anglo-Dutch matches. He was an occasional reviewer for BCM.

It was, of course, in the realm of postal player that he shone most brightly!

In 1966 we see him playing board two for England, below Slade Milan, and, two years later, Adrian scored 9/12 in a World Postal Qualifier, narrowly missing a place in the final. In 1971 he won the British Correspondence Championship, easily outdistancing a tough field. He played top board for England in the 1972-7 Olympiad. In 1974-6 he won the Reg Potter Memorial. In the ninth Olympiad – 1982-5 – Adrian Hollis was undefeated on board two. And England took the Gold Medal!

Obituary from Raymond Keene in The Specatator

Obituary from Kenneth Shelton in The Independent

Obituary from ? in The Times

Obituary from John Rhodes in The Chess Improver

Obituary from Bob Jones of Keverel Chess.

Wikipedia article.

Remembering GM Jacques Mieses (27-ii-1865 23-ii-1954)

Jacques Mieses
Jacques Mieses

BCN remembers GM Jacques Mieses who passed away on February 23rd, 1954 aged 88. He was buried on the 25th of February at the East Ham Jewish Cemetery in Section J, Row 18, Grave 1100. We hope to update his burial record with these details when we are allowed to do so.

Jakob Jacques Mieses was born on Monday, February 27th 1865 in Leipzig in the German state of Saxony. He came to England in 1939 and was recorded in the UK Internees Index for 1939 – 1942 on 25th April 1939 :

Home Office internment record for Jakob Jacques Mieses, 25th April 1939
Home Office internment record for Jakob Jacques Mieses, 25th April 1939
65 Oakleigh (now Oakley) Square, London, NW1
65 Oakleigh (now Oakley) Square, London, NW1

At the time of the 1939 register Mieses was recorded as living at 66, Oakley Square, St. Pancras, Camden, London, NW1 and he is listed as a Professional Chess Player.

By the time of Hastings 1945 (27th December) Jacques had relocated to :

8 Fitzjohns Avenue, London NW3 5NA
8 Fitzjohns Avenue, London NW3 5NA

On June 7th 1947 he was granted Naturalisation Certificate AZ27326.

In 1950 he was one of the twenty-seven first players to be awarded the Grandmaster title by FIDE. He was therefore the first British National to be awarded the Grandmaster title for OTB play. The next (Tony Miles) would be twenty-six years later.

He has The Mieses Opening named after him :

which never really caught on to any significant degree.

In the Scotch Game (a favourite of his with both colours) we have The Mieses Variation :

and in the Vienna Game The Mieses Variation is :

From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Robert Hale, 1970 & 1976), Anne Sunnucks :

“International Grandmaster. Born in Leipzig on 27th February 1865, Jacques Mieses was educated at Leipzig University and in Berlin. He came to England as a refugee from Nazi Germany shortly before the 1939-1945 war and eventually became a naturalised British citizen.

The early part of his chess career was devoted mainly to the study of chess theory and to chess problems. It was not until he was 23 that his tournament career really started with a tie for 2nd place at Nuremberg 1888, followed by 3rd at Leipzig 1888.

Jacques Mieses. Source : Chess Notes by Edward Winter
Jacques Mieses. Source : Chess Notes by Edward Winter

Over the next 50 years, he played in numerous tournaments with varying degrees of success. His addiction to speculative rather than sound openings and his attempts to combine playing in tournaments with reporting them were possibly responsible for his inconsistent results. Within a few months of one of the greatest performances of his career, when he came lst at Vienna 1907, ahead of Duras, Maróczy, Tartakover, Vidmar, Schlechter and Spielmann,

Full crosstable for Trebitsch Memorial, Vienna 1907
Full crosstable for Trebitsch Memorial, Vienna 1907

he came no higher than =16th at Carlsbad. In 1923 he achieved another great success when he came lst at Liverpool, ahead of Maróczy, Thomas and Yates.

Full crosstable for Northern Counties Congress Premier, Liverpool, 1923
Full crosstable for Northern Counties Congress Premier, Liverpool, 1923

While his style of play prevented him from reaching the greatest heights as a tournament player, it was also responsible for the numerous brilliancy prizes which came his way, one of the last being at the 1945 Hastings Congress, when he was 80.

Among the many books which Mieses wrote were The Chess Pilot,

The Chess Pilot, Jacques Mieses, Williams & Norgate. London. 1947. First Edition
The Chess Pilot, Jacques Mieses, Williams & Norgate. London. 1947. First Edition

Manual of the End Game

Manual of the End Game, Jacques Mieses, G. Bell and Son Ltd., London, 1947
Manual of the End Game, Jacques Mieses, G. Bell and Son Ltd., London, 1947

and Instructive Positions from Master Chess.

Instructive Positions from Master Chess, Jacques Mieses, George Bell and Sons Ltd., London, 1951
Instructive Positions from Master Chess, Jacques Mieses, George Bell and Sons Ltd., London, 1951

A very popular player, Mieses had a ready sense of humour. On one occasion, when he was in New York, he was asked by an American who mispronounced his name “Sind sie Mister Meises?”, ” No sir,” he promptly replied “Ich bin Meister Mieses.” On another occasion, when submitting an article in German to a British magazine, he could not resist asking ” Don’t you think my German is very good for an Englishman?”

On his eightieth birthday, a dinner was held in his honour in London and he was presented with a cheque by his numerous chess friends and admirers. The speech he made on this occasion was later quoted in most of his obituaries:

I have been told that a good many people never reach the biblical span of three score years and 10; and those who do-so some most reliable statistics assure us-are most likely to die between 70 and 80. Hence, I dare say, ladies and gentlemen, that I for one have now passed the danger zone and may well go on living for ever.

He lived for nearly nine more years, taking his daily swim in the Serpentine in Hyde Park or some open-air swimming pool, until only a few days before his death. He died in a London nursing home on 23rd February 1954 and was buried in the East London Jewish Cemetery.”

Jacques Mieses
Jacques Mieses

From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977) Harry Golombek OBE we have this from Wolfgang Heidenfeld :

“Grandmaster, theorist, problemist, tournament organiser and chess journalist.

Mieses was a spectacular player who won many brilliancy prizes but suffered as many very short defeats. As a a result the German master achieved only one full success in important international tournaments (Vienna 1907), but occupied good places in such events as Breslau 1889 (3rd), Hanover 1902 (4th), Ostend 1907 (=3rd), as well as some smaller events.

In matches he showed a heavy preponderance of losses against the top-notchers, losing to Lasker, Tarrasch, Rubinstein, Marshall, Teichmann (twice) and Spielmann, but he drew with Walbrodt (1894), Janowski (1895) and Caro (1897) and beat Leonhardt, Taubenhaus, and (at the age of 81) Abrahams.

Here is the first game from October 29th 1945 annotated by Mieses from his match with Gerald Abrahams played in Glossop:

In keeping with his sharp style, Mieses preferred such openings as the Vienna Gambit, the Danish Gambit and the Centre Counter-Gambit. Among his lasting achievements are his brilliancy prize games against Janowksi (Paris 1900),

Reggio (Monte Carlo 1903),

Perlis (Ostend 1907)

and Schlechter (Vienna 1908).

Personally a very witty man (and something of a bon vivant) Mieses did not invest his writing with the same sparkle; both as a journalist and author he was rather dry and sober. He edited the eighth edition of the famous Handbuch, several editions of the ‘little Dufresne’, and published several primers as well as a treatise on blindfold play and an anthology Instructive Positions from Master Chess, London, 1938.

One of Mieses’s most important contributions to chess history was the payment of travelling and living expenses during a tournament, which he insisted on when running the famous tournament at San Sebastian 1911 – it was only thenceforth that this procedure became the norm.”

Jacques Mieses
Jacques Mieses

Here is an obituary written by DJ Morgan from British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXIV (74, 1954), Number 4 (April), pp. 107-108 :

Last month we made brief mention of the death, on February 23rd at a London Nursing Home, of the old grandmaster, on the verge of his eighty-ninth birthday. He was the last surviving link with a distant and largely-forgotten era. Mieses entered the international arena in the days of the great Romantics, of Zukertort, Charousek, and Tchigorin. He reached his heyday in the times of Tarrasch, Schlechter, and Maróczy. But he could never assimilate the canons of this Classical School, derived from Steinitz and codified and promulgated by Tarrasch. He preferred the dynamic to the static. He played the Scotch Game in tournaments long after it hat been
discarded by Steinitz and Blackburne; the Danish Gambit and the Vienna became in his hands instruments of great attacking potential. As Black he long favoured the Centre Counter Defence, and with it he brought off a number of thrilling victories in such great tournaments as those of Ostend, 1907, Carlsbad, 1907, Vienna, 1908, and St. Petersburg, 1909.

Nice Masters, 1931. Standing : Daniel Noteboom, Abraham Baratz, George Renaud (Organiser), Telling (Tournament Director), Marcel Duchamp, Brian Reilly (winner), Seated : Eugene Znokso-Borovsky,, Arpad Vajda, Sir George Thomas, Jacques Mieses, Stefano Roselli del Turco, Jacob Adolf Seitz. British Chess Magazine, 1931, page 201
Nice Masters, 1931. Standing : Daniel Noteboom, Abraham Baratz, George Renaud (Organiser), Telling (Tournament Director), Marcel Duchamp, Brian Reilly (winner), Seated : Eugene Znokso-Borovsky,, Arpad Vajda, Sir George Thomas, Jacques Mieses, Stefano Roselli del Turco, Jacob Adolf Seitz. British Chess Magazine, 1931, page 201

Jacques Mieses was born on February 27th, 1865, at Leipsic, and was educated at the university there, and in Berlin. In the capital he joined, at seventeen, one of the city’s chess clubs, and soon won the first prize in its annual tournament. Nevertheless, his earlier days were devoted mainly to the theoretical side of the game and to problems of which he was a good composer and a phenomenal solver. His public career really began with a tie for second place at Nuremberg, 1888, with the third prize at Leipsic in the same year, followed by a third, behind Tarrasch and Burn, at Breslau, 1889. His subsequent achievements span the years and are recorded in the literature of the game. He played at the famous Hastings 1895 (and was its sole survivor); fifty years later he played at a Hastings Christmas Congress. His preference for the speculative and the spectacular to the then ultra-modern-prevented him from winning the major prizes of the games. As we look up the record’s we can readily see how unpredictable his performances were. Thus, in 1907, a first at Vienna early in the year was followed later by an equal sixteenth-eighteenth at Carlsbad. But his Brilliancy Prizes were numerous: such endings as those v. Janowski, Paris, 1900; v. Reggio, Monte Carlo, 1903 (quoted, incidentally, as Diagram 52 in Fine’s The Middle Game in Chess, but without giving its source); v. Znosko-Borovsky, Ostend, 1907; and v. Schlechter, Vienna, 1908, will always be the delight of anthologists.

Jacques Mieses
Jacques Mieses

As well as playing incessantly in match and tournament, Mieses wrote copiously on all aspects of the game, analytically as well as in a literary manner, in books as well as in magazines. Three of his little books, The Chess Pilot, Manual of the End-game, and Instructive Positions from Master Chess, have enjoyed a long and wide popularity in English.

24th April 1935: J Mieses of Germany in play against PS Milner-Barry during the Premier Tournament of the Kent County Chess Association in the Grand Hotel, Margate. (Photo by F. Sayers/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
24th April 1935: J Mieses of Germany in play against PS Milner-Barry during the Premier Tournament of the Kent County Chess Association in the Grand Hotel, Margate. (Photo by F. Sayers/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

Two personal memories come to the writer’s mind. We first met him during the Liverpool congress-of 1923 ((1) Mieses, (2) Maróczy). one morning we took a stroll together up Dale Street, a stroll which developed into a tie-hunting expedition, ending up with a fine selection on his part to take back to a Germany emerging from recent disaster. He left the impression of a courteous and cultured man, precise in speech and with something of the military in his bearing. ln 1939, on hearing of his whereabouts, we called at his lodgings in Camden Town one Sunday morning. We were diffidently greeted by a seriously-crippled Mieses, who had recently, under great difficulties, made his exit from a Germany once more faced with disaster.

24th April 1935: J Mieses of Germany in play against PS Milner-Barry during the Premier Tournament of the Kent County Chess Association in the Grand Hotel, Margate. (Photo by F. Sayers/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
24th April 1935: J Mieses of Germany in play against PS Milner-Barry during the Premier Tournament of the Kent County Chess Association in the Grand Hotel, Margate. (Photo by F. Sayers/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

But the prim and chivalrous personality soon exerted itself. His many English friends rallied round him in his exile, all culminating in the great tribute paid to him on his eightieth birthday. Mon March 15th, 1945, at the Lud-Eagle Chess Club, a large number of friends and admirers gathered to pay their respects. A cheque, subscribed to by members of the club, was presented to the veteran master. He had, he said in his acknowledgement, sought asylum in England, and he had been shown great kindness and sympathy. The final gift was a last resting-place in the East London (Ed : we now know this to be East Ham) Jewish Cemetery. – DJM.

Obituary of Jacques Mieses by DJ Morgan. British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXIV (74, 1954), Number 4 (April), pp. 107-108.
Obituary of Jacques Mieses by DJ Morgan. British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXIV (74, 1954), Number 4 (April), pp. 107-108.
Obituary of Jacques Mieses by DJ Morgan. British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXIV (74, 1954), Number 4 (April), pp. 107-108.
Obituary of Jacques Mieses by DJ Morgan. British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXIV (74, 1954), Number 4 (April), pp. 107-108.

Jacques Mieses
Jacques Mieses

From Chessgames.com :

“Jacques Mieses was born in Leipzig. He won the chess championship of Berlin at the age of 17, and in 1888 he placed joint second at Leipzig and third at Nuremberg.

In 1889 he came third at Breslau (1889). He was, however, rather eclipsed by two great emerging talents – Emanuel Lasker and Siegbert Tarrasch. Mieses was crushed by Lasker in a match – Lasker – Mieses (1889/90) in Leipzig (December 1889 to January 1890). He also performed poorly at 8th DSB Kongress (1893) coming only 7th out of 9 against a field which was relatively weak compared to previous DSB congresses.

1894-95 was a busy period for Mieses. He drew a match with Karl August Walbrodt. (+5, =3,-5) in Berlin (May-June 1894). Mieses then played in the extremely strong 9th DSB Kongress, Leipzig (1894) (3rd-14th September, 1894) coming 10th out of 18. He had then toured Russia giving simultaneous displays, before travelling to Paris to play a match with David Janowski (8th January to 4th February 1895).

Vera Menchik plays Jacques Mieses in their match in 1942
Vera Menchik plays Jacques Mieses in their match in 1942

 

Mieses then crossed the English Channel to play a short match against Richard Teichmann in London (16th – 21st February 1895) which he lost by +1 =1 -4. A month later he played this match, Mieses next professional engagement would be (which was his first tournament outside his own country) came at the famous Hastings event of 1895. Although he finished only twentieth (in a field of 22 players), he soon adapted to this level of play and in 1907 he took first prize at the Vienna tournament scoring ten points from thirteen games.

In 1909, Mieses played a short blindfold match with Carl Schlechter, winning it with two wins and one draw. The very next year Schlechter played Emanuel Lasker for the World Championship and drew the match 5-5.

Mieses tried his hand as a tournament organiser in 1911, putting together the San Sebastian event that marked the international debut of future World Champion Jose Raul Capablanca. Mieses was defeated by one of Lasker’s title challengers, Siegbert Tarrasch, in a match in 1916 (+2 -7 =4). In 1938 Mieses resettled in England and took British citizenship. He was awarded the grandmaster title in 1950.”

Jacques Mieses. Jewish chess master from Germany; 1938 Escape from the Naziregime to England. 27.2.1865 Leipzig – 23.2.1954 London. Simultaneous play in the Bar Kochba club against 25 chess players, in the foreground: Mieses (left) against Felix A. Theilhaber. Photo, undated, around 1935 (Abraham Pisarek).
Jacques Mieses.
Jewish chess master from Germany; 1938 Escape from the Naziregime to England.
27.2.1865 Leipzig – 23.2.1954 London.
Simultaneous play in the Bar Kochba club against 25 chess players, in the foreground: Mieses (left) against Felix A. Theilhaber.
Photo, undated, around 1935 (Abraham Pisarek).

From The Oxford Companion to Chess by Hooper & Whyld :

German-born Jewish player and author from Leipzig, International Grandmaster (1950), International Arbiter
(1951). He never assimilated the positional ideas of Steinitz and Tarrasch; instead he preferred to set up a game with the direct object of attacking the enemy king, a style that brought him many brilliancy prizes but few successes in high-level play. His best result was at Vienna 1907, the first Trebitsch Memorial tournament, when he won first prize ( +9 =2 —2) ahead of Duras, Maróczy and Schlechter. Later in the year he shared third prize with Nimzowitsch after Bernstein and Rubinstein in a 28-round tournament at Ostend. He played 25 matches, mostly short, and won six of them including a defeat of Schlechter in 1909 (+2-1).

Mieses reported chess events, edited chess columns, and wrote several books. In 1921 he published a supplement to the eighth edition of Bilguer’s Handbuch, and he revised several editions of Dufresne’s popular Lehrbuck des Schachspiels, He also organized chess events, including the tournament at San Sebastian in 1911 for which he insisted that competitors were paid for travel and board, a practice that later became normal.

After living in Germany for 73 years he escaped the clutches of the Nazis and sought refuge in England. A prim, courteous, and dignified old gentleman, still upright in bearing, he became widely liked in his adopted country. Asked about his lameness in one leg, caused by a street accident in 1937, he merely answered ‘it was my turn to move,’ Soon after naturalization he became the first British player to be awarded the International Grandmaster title. A generation before him his uncle Samuel Mieses (1841-84) had been a German player of master strength.

In the various publications of Edward Winter there are many and varied references to Mieses. We recommend you consult : Kings, Commoners and Knaves, Chess Facts and Fables and Chess Explorations to read them.

According to Edward Winter in Chess Notes JM lived at the following addresses :

  • Tauchaerstrasse, Leipzig, Germany (Wiener Schachzeitung, July 1904, page 211).
  • Christianstrasse 23, Leipzig, Germany (Düsseldorf, 1908 tournament book, page 176).
  • Wettiner Str. 32, Leipzig, Germany (Ranneforths Schach-Kalender, 1915, page 70).
  • Christianstrasse 19II, Leipzig, Germany (Ranneforths Schachkalender, 1925, page 158).
  • 8 Fitzjohns Avenue, London NW3, England (Hastings and St Leonards Chess Club visitors’ book, 27 December 1945*).

Here is an article by André Schulz of ChessBase

An excellent article from Edward Winter.

Here is his Wikipedia entry.

Remembering IM Hugh Alexander CMG CBE (19-iv-1909 15-ii-1974)

Hugh Alexander at Margate 1938
Hugh Alexander at Margate 1938

We remember Hugh Alexander who passed away on Friday, 15-ii-1974. The death was registered in the Borough of Cheltenham.  Currently his burial / cremation site is unknown.

The Alexander Family

Conel Hugh O’Donel Alexander was born on Monday, April 19th, 1909 in Cork, Munster, Republic of Ireland.

Signature of CHO'D Alexander from August 1970
Signature of CHO’D Alexander from August 1970

Hugh’s parents were Conel William Long Alexander (1879-1920) and Hilda Barbara Alexander (née Bennett) (1881-1964) who married in Hook Church, Hampshire. His father was a Professor of Civil Engineering from County Donegal and his mother was the daughter of a timber merchant and was from Birmingham.

Hugh’s father moved to Hook in Hampshire. At some point they returned to Cork and then relocated to Birmingham.

In the 1911 Irish census aged two Hugh was recorded as being a Presbyterian.  The household consisted of his father, mother and two servants Maud McAuliffe (19)  from County Cork and Johanna Hanlon (20) from Cork City all living at 20, Connaught Avenue, Cork.

At the time of the census all members of the household were capable of reading and writing apart from Hugh who was recorded as “cannot read”.

and Hugh’s father signed the Return as follows :

Signature of Hugh's father on 1911 Irish census Return
Signature of Hugh’s father on 1911 Irish census Return
20 Connaught Avenue, Cork, Ireland
20 Connaught Avenue, Cork, Ireland

Hugh attended Londonderry College and then went to King Edward’s School, Birmingham.

Hugh married Enid Constance Rose Crichton Neate (1900-1982) in October 1934 and the marriage was registered in the district of Westminster, Middlesex.

According to Rodric Braithwaite :

“Enid, was an equally striking personality. She was descended from one of the defenders of the Eureka Stockade, the “birthplace of Australian democracy”. She was educated at the Sorbonne, a formidable dialectician, art historian and collector. In her later years she returned to Australia, where she was endlessly hospitable to passing Russian chessplayers, and to itinerant musicians, including my own father.”

Hugh and Enid had a son Michael (19 June 1936 – 1 June 2002) who became the foreign policy secretary to Margaret Thatcher and the UK ambassador to NATO. Here is Michael’s obituary.

Michael married Traute Krohn. Michael and Traute gave Hugh a grandson, Conel Alexander who is a Cosmochemist at the Earth and Planets Laboratory, Carnegie Institution for Science, Washington.

Conel M. O'D. Alexander Staff Scientist
Conel M. O’D. Alexander
Staff Scientist

We contacted Conel and he replied more or less instantly as follows:

I don’t have that many anecdotes or photos of my grandfather. My great aunt, his sister, was the family archivist. She had a lot of photos of when they were young in Cork and Birmingham. She did send me some photos before she died, but not the sort that would interest your readers. She lived in Fort Erie, Canada and my grand father used to visit when in North America on ‘business’. I don’t know how much she knew about what he did but she must have had some inkling. Unfortunately, since she died I have lost touch with her family. Amongst the photos she sent me were some of my great grandfather and his Irish relatives. An archivist at Cork University contacted me a few years ago. According to him, my great grandfather has a rugby player and organizer of Irish rugby (as well as an engineering professor), but also opposed to Irish independence which might well have caused trouble for him and his family had he not died when he did.

I was 13 when my grandfather died and wasn’t told how ill he was until almost the end. I would have liked to have know him better, but I assume he was always on the go and my father was a diplomat and we had been living abroad until I was 8 (US, Moscow and Singapore). Even after moving back to London, we would only see him a few times a year as far as I remember. I think he probably realized that he had missed out on some things as he was planning to retire (early I believe) and come to live with us in London, only to learn that he had terminal cancer.

It just so happened that next door to where I work is a rather upscale retirement home. A man called Authur Levinson had retired there with his wife. He was sent to Bletchley when the USA joined the war and had worked with my grandfather. Arthur’s wife had somehow followed him to the UK as a driver. Both had gotten to know my grandfather during the war and then afterwards when Arthur joined the NSA. Somehow Arthur found out I was working next door, and my family used to visit them occasionally. They had an Enigma machine that they used to show my kids, but they were probably too young to understand the significance. Arthur told me that the NSA had tried to recruit my grandfather when they heard he was retiring from GCHQ, but he was adamant that he wanted to retire to spend more time with family and to write.

I was told that, rather surprisingly, he didn’t think that chess was a suitable pastime for a healthy boy. I don’t know if this was the reason, he believed in trial by fire, or he just could not help himself (he was extremely competitive at everything he did), but when we did play chess a few times he used to give me huge advantages and then thrash me! After a few such humiliations, I gave up. I don’t think I would have been very good anyway and my grandfather probably recognized that, so perhaps it was his way of letting me find out early. My father was an olympic fencer, so naturally I tried that too. For a while I was able to ‘bully’ my way to wins, until I came up against people who really knew what they were doing. I abandoned that too.

One other thing I learned about about my grandfather fairly recently is that he taught Freeman Dyson mathematics and chess at Winchester. Freeman contacted me out of the blue having come across my name somehow. Remembering my chess experience, I ventured that he must have been a rather impatient teacher. Not a bit of it, apparently, but then Dyson must have been the ideal student for him.

Working for John Lewis

Prior to the second world war Alexander was officially employed by John Spedan Lewis in his Department store in Oxford Street. When he returned from Buenos Aires (“good air”) from the 1939 Olympiad he travelled aboard the RMS Alcantara. Here is the entry in the passenger list for September 19th, 1939 :

Partial passenger manifest for the RMS Alcantara for September 19th, 1939. Alexander is passenger #23.
Partial passenger manifest for the RMS Alcantara for September 19th, 1939. Alexander is passenger #23.

and here is Alexander’s entry in detail. Note that his occupation is described as “Drapery Manager” :

Partial passenger manifest for the RMS Alcantara for September 19th, 1939. Alexander is passenger #23.
Partial passenger manifest for the RMS Alcantara for September 19th, 1939. Alexander is passenger #23.

Hugh sailed from Buenos Aires, Argentina in September 1939 to arrive at Southampton September 19th 1939. The ship was the Alcantara operated by Royal Mail Lines Ltd hence the RMS Alcantara.

RMS Alcantara off Rio de Janeiro between 1934 and 1939 by Kenneth Shoesmith
RMS Alcantara off Rio de Janeiro between 1934 and 1939 by Kenneth Shoesmith

According to Wikipedia : “RMS Alcantara was a Royal Mail Lines ocean liner that was built in Belfast in 1926. She served in the Second World War first as an armed merchant cruiser and then a troop ship, was returned to civilian service in 1948 and scrapped in 1958.

Ports of the voyage were : Buenos Aires; Montevideo; Santos and Rio de Janeiro and Hugh’s official number was 148151 and he travelled 2nd class. His proposed destination residential address was

316, Rodney House, Dolphin Square, London, SW1

According to Wikipedia : “The proximity of Dolphin Square to the Palace of Westminster and the headquarters of the intelligence agencies MI5 (Thames House) and MI6 (Vauxhall Cross) has attracted many politicians, peers, civil servants and intelligence agency personnel as residents.”

Dolphin Square. London, SW1
Dolphin Square. London, SW1

There was some discussion of Drapery Manager in another place.

An Obituary from Stuart Milner-Barry, Part One

From British Chess Magazine, Volume XCIV (94, 1974), Number 4 (April), pp. 117-120 by PS Milner-Barry :

“A proper assessment of Hugh Alexander, who died on February 15th 1974 must await a later issue. But I think he might have been pleased to see our last game published, and I give the score of it below, with notes based on our usual analysis immediately after the game. Over the past 45 years, ever since he went to Cambridge, we played whenever opportunity offered serious games with clocks.

Conel Hugh O'Donel Alexander
Conel Hugh O’Donel Alexander

Before the war they were played mostly at my mother’s house in Cambridge, and after the war and my own marriage at our house in Blackheath. When he moved to Cheltenham the opportunities became fewer but no year ever passed without two or three such games, usually at Easter or Christmas.

Alexander always used to say, it was certainly true of me, that this was the kind of chess that he enjoyed most. The games were conducted with the utmost vigour, though not without a good deal of propaganda on both sides. I suppose he won in the proportion of about two to one, but the disparity in strength never became one-sided. Nearly all the games opened 1 P-K4, P-K4; he played the Lopez when I allowed him. (I usually played the Petroff or Philidor), and I played a mixture – in the early days the Vienna and latterly mostly the King’s Gambit. On the whole Black did better than White for both of us.

CHO'D Alexander plays PS Milner-Barry
CHO’D Alexander plays PS Milner-Barry

The only concession we made to advancing years was that latterly we contented ourselves with four hour sessions and 36 moves, instead of 40 in 5 hours. We thought we had done enough for honour by then, and the games were usually finished in the time.

Hugh stayed with us the weekend before Christmas, when this game was played. He looked ill, but he was very cheerful and as good company as ever. He loved a good argument, and as my family so too,- the evening meal was its usual lively affair! I am myself a man of peace, and intellectually lazy; so in deference to my feelings the argument was suspended, before it became too hot. I am afraid they all thought I was a spoil-sport. It was as happy a visit as any of us could remember and it is difficult to accept there will not be another.

As for the game, it was not one of our most exciting encounters. But it is quite an interesting one, and shows Hugh playing as
well as ever – certainly much too well for me. But then he usually did.”

Following PSMBs contribution, in the same obituary there was this from Harry Golombek :

C.H.O’D.  Alexander and the ‘B.C.M.’ by Harry Golombek

I have written elsewhere about Hugh Alexander both as a person and as a chess-player and I also intend to devote a forthcoming article in ‘The Times‘ on Saturday to an appraisal of his place in British Chess. Here, however, I would like to describe briefly his connection with this magazine over the years and to show how
important his help was to the progress of the ‘BCM‘.

In the years immediately preceding the Second World War, Ash Wheatcroft and I had made a determined effort to maintain and increase the role of the ‘BCM‘, he in a managerial capacity and I as its editor. With the coming of war and the departure of both of us into the army a sort of caretaker regime had to be provided. It worked as well as could have been expected but inevitably there had been a decline both in quality and financially. When peace came, the quality improved since it was possible to get more and better contributions but the financial aspect became almost alarming.

The question arose – was there a need for the magazine and if so how could that need be fulfilled with the fairly limited resources at hand. Some of us thought there was, but the ways and means were not so clear. Of all those who thought like this Alexander was the most effective in his approach to the problems. I know that from his very youth onwards he had been convinced of the importance of the ‘BCM’ to British chess and, being a practical idealist, when the
crisis came he set about dealing with it in the most expeditious way.

In November 1946 he became a director of the B.C.M. and continued in that position till February 1952, by which time the magazine had been set on a solid basis from
which it was unlikely to be shaken. It was his idea that Brian Reilly be asked to act as editor and almost his first act as director was to write a letter to him inviting him to become so. Then, in January 1947, he himself took over the editorship of the games department, an arduous task which he fulfilled with great competence and the utmost conscientiousness until May 1949 when the heavy work of the Civil Service department of which he was head compelled him to hand over the Games Section to me.

Before, however, that he gave up this post he, again in the most practical way possible, rendered the ‘BCM‘ another service. He wrote a book giving a selection of the games from the last period of Alekhine’s life and generously donated half the royalties to the ‘BCM‘ in order to bolster up its slender finances.

Alekhine's Best Games of Chess : 1938-45, CHO'D Alexander, G. Bell and Sons, 1966 ISBN 4-87187-827-9
Alekhine’s Best Games of Chess : 1938-45, CHO’D Alexander, G. Bell and Sons, 1966 ISBN 4-87187-827-9

Even after he had to give up official connection with the magazine he retained a strong interest in its welfare. So, even though this recognition is belated and posthumous, I thought it was right to afford readers the possibility of joining with me in thanking High Alexander for all that he did in this respect in especial. At any rate, such matters should be on record for the chess historian.

The Anglo-Soviet Radio Match

From The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match by E.Klein and W.Winter :

“CHO’D Alexander was born in Cork in 1909 and learned chess at the age of ten. He was educated at King Edward School, Birmingham, where he exhibited early prowess by winning the Birmingham Post Cup. In 1927 he won the British Boy’s Championship. During his student days, from 1928 to 1932, he was a convincing champion of Cambridge University. Subsequently he competed in five British Championships, winning the title in 1938. He also played in several international tournaments, his outstanding performance amongst these being Hastings in 1938, where he shared second and third prizes with Keres, following Reshevsky who won the tournament, and ahead of Fine and Flohr. In 1939, in the England-Holland match, he had the satisfaction of defeating the ex-World Champion, Dr. Euwe, in a sensational games, drawing the return game.

A brilliant mathematician, he took a first at Cambridge and chose a scholastic career, joining a well-known public school (Winchester College). From there, via a short spell in a business appointment (John Lewis), he entered the service of the Foreign Office, where, during the war years, his valuable work earned him the OBE.

He plays imaginative and courageous chess and is never afraid of the wildest complications.”

IM Conel Hugh O'Donel Alexander CMG CBE (19-iv-1909 15-ii-1974). Source : The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match
IM Conel Hugh O’Donel Alexander CMG CBE (19-iv-1909 15-ii-1974). Source : The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match

An Obituary from Stuart Milner-Barry, Part 2

From British Chess Magazine, Volume XCIV (94, 1974), Number 6 (June), pp. 202-204 by PS Milner-Barry :

With the death of Hugh Alexander at the age of 64, British chess has lost the outstanding figure of the past forty years. His active playing career over some thirty years included two victories in the British championship and regular appearances in all representative teams from l93l-58, except when the nature of his Civil Service
duties prevented him from travelling behind the Iron Curtain. During the whole of the period after the war he was the regular top board for the England team. In the Hastings international congress he twice won the Premier tournament, on the second occasion tying with Bronstein. His victories in this series included two world champions (Euwe and Botvinnik) and numerous others in the Grandmaster class. He was an outstanding example, like H.E.Atkins and Dr. Milan Vidmar, of the amateur who could combine an exacting professional life of great responsibility and distinction with success in competitive international chess at the highest level and with the increasing professionalism of the game and the demands of knowledge and research that it makes upon the masters, this was much more difficult in Hugh’s time than in an earlier age.

It was indeed in the international field that his fame will principally rest. On the British championship scene, although he always did well before the War, and won convincingly at Brighton in 1938 in a strong field, his record did not match his abilities. He never established anything like the superiority over his contemporaries that Atkins in a former age and Penrose in a later achieved. He won the championship again, in 1956, but that was a weak year when the Moscow Olympiad took first claim on the leading British players. It was not that he cared less – like all the great players he hated losing, though he was the most magnanimous of opponents – but that he seemed to require the stimulus of the great occasion, and of a world famous name on the other side of the board, to bring out the best in him.

The BCF Team at the Amsterdam Olympiad 1954. Left to right : Barden, Clarke, Penrose, Wade, Golombek (board three) and Alexander
The BCF Team at the Amsterdam Olympiad 1954. Left to right : Barden, Clarke, Penrose, Wade, Golombek (board three) and Alexander

Alexander was perhaps the only English player of his day whom the Grandmasters would have treated as on a level with themselves. On his day he was liable to beat any of them, and they were well aware of it. In his younger days he was very much the gay cavalier, and a brilliant combinative and attacking player with a touch of genius. Latterly he lost some of this elan, and adapted his style to the responsibilities of the B.C.T. top board. His opponents too, with a healthy respect for his powers, were less inclined to give him opportunities. He was as capable of the dead-bat technique as anybody, and to that extent (to my way of thinking anyway) his games became less interesting, with quick draws making a higher contribution to his top-board results than in earlier years. But none the less he was the anchor-man of the British team until his retirement after the 1958 Olympiad.

Kick Langeweg plays Hugh Alexander in the Anglo-Dutch Match of October 7th , 1961. Peter Clarke (right) is playing Johan Teunis Barendregt and Harry Golombek observes
Kick Langeweg plays Hugh Alexander in the Anglo-Dutch Match of October 7th , 1961. Peter Clarke (right) is playing Johan Teunis Barendregt and Harry Golombek observes

It was a great pity he gave up the game over the board at 50. He had years of good chess in him. But I think he felt he had scaled all the peaks he could scale, and that he was finding top-class competitive chess a burden difficult to reconcile with his Civil Service work and the prospect of a gradual and inevitable decline in his powers did not appeal to him. I made many efforts to tempt him back to the arena, but to no avail. I do not think he ever seriously regretted his decision, and in his last years he immensely enjoyed correspondence chess.

In 1964, Alexander became non-playing captain of the B.C.F. team, and held that role continuously until after the Siegen Olympiad in 1970.

Hugh Alexander, Čeněk Kottnauer, Michael Franklin and Owen Hindle
Hugh Alexander, Čeněk Kottnauer, Michael Franklin and Owen Hindle

It was rather a disappointing period for British chess, and the results, while we were rebuilding a young team, could not – even with Penrose’s outstanding efforts at top board – have been expected to be favourable. But he threw himself wholeheartedly into all the work sponsored by the B.C.F. and the Friends of Chess to find and develop talent in the younger generation, and before he died the fruits of these labours were beginning to appear. He would have been proud indeed to have witnessed our recent triumph in the Anglo-German match.

As a captain he was, of course, immensely liked and respected by his team. My impression was that he took his responsibilities almost too seriously, and agonised too much over his decisions about whom to play and whom to rest. Nevertheless on balance he thoroughly enjoyed the work, and certainly, in spite of his innate modesty, he
was never one to be disturbed by ill-informed or irresponsible criticism, of which he had his share.

Conel Hugh O'Donel Alexander playing Alberic O'Kelly de Galway in a publicity shot before the start of the Hastings Premier., probably Hastings 1953-54, the year Alexander tied first with Bronstein : thanks to Leonard Barden
Conel Hugh O’Donel Alexander playing Alberic O’Kelly de Galway in a publicity shot before the start of the Hastings Premier., probably Hastings 1953-54, the year Alexander tied first with Bronstein : thanks to Leonard Barden

I suppose his most famous tournament result was his equal first with Bronstein at the Hastings Christmas Congress of 1953. Coming at a time when we were gloomily resigned to British players bringing up the rear in international tournaments, this created a great sensation.

The game with Bronstein lasted over 100 moves and Alexander won a most difficult Queen and Pawn ending by impeccable technique.

Hugh Alexander plays David Bronstein during Hastings 1954
Hugh Alexander plays David Bronstein during Hastings 1954

Staged publicity picture of David Bronstein vs Hugh Alexander at Hastings 1953
Staged publicity picture of David Bronstein vs Hugh Alexander at Hastings 1953

He went on with the Black pieces to massacre Tolush, the other visiting Russian Grandmaster.

Immense interest was created by this event. The popular press carried diagrams of the successive phases of the Bronstein saga. It was reported on the radio. By comparison with the furore created by the Spassky/Fischer match, it was no doubt small beer, but for those days the publicity was tremendous, and Alexander became the
hero of the hour.

It was entirely characteristic of him that this adulation did not go to his head. He kept everything in proportion, and encouraged everybody else to do the same. He said all the right things about Bronstein, but he did not claim, as one tends to do on these emotional occasions, that international sport was a panacea for friendship between the nations. Altogether it seemed to me an impeccable performance both on and off the board.

Chess, CHO'D Alexander, Pitman, 1954
Chess, CHO’D Alexander, Pitman, 1954

It is as a player that Hugh would, I think, have best wished to be remembered; and I have left myself little room to say anything about him as a journalist and writer. We are blessed, as readers of the B.C.M. will know, with many good and interesting writers on the game. But Hugh had, I believe, exceptional talents as a journalist. In his columns in the ‘Sunday Times‘, and latterly the ‘Financial Times‘, he set a very high standard. He always had something fresh and original to say, especially, I think, to the intelligent amateur rather than the expert; and he said it in a way that was both disarmingly modest and yet lively and entertaining. The warmth of his personality came out clearly both in his writing and in his public speaking – both were entirely natural and wholly without amour-propre.

His articles gave great pleasure to a wide circle, and many who never met him in the flesh must have felt that they had come to know him as a person. Similarly his book on the Spassky-Fischer match

Fischer v. Spassky : Reykjavik 1972, CHO'D Alexander, Penguin, 1972
Fischer v. Spassky : Reykjavik 1972, CHO’D Alexander, Penguin, 1972

(like the ‘Book of Chess’, which was written in the last year of his life) is an extremely vivid, as well as scholarly, piece of writing. It is almost impossible to believe that it was completed, within days of the conclusion of the match, by a man apparently under sentence of death throughout its progress.

A book of Chess, CHO'D Alexander, Harper & Row, 1973
A book of Chess, CHO’D Alexander, Harper & Row, 1973

Now that it has come, the loss of Hugh Alexander to British chess and chessplayers, alike as player, writer, administrator and friend, is immeasurable.

An Obituary from BH Wood

From CHESS, Volume 39 (1974), Nos. 693-94, March,  p.162 by BH Wood :

The death of Conel Hugh O’Donel Alexander deprived English chess of one of its most vivid characters. Born l9th April 1909, he learnt chess at the age of 8.

From a Londonderry college he went to King Edward’s School, Birmingham, where as a schoolboy he won the Birmingham Post cup, which carries with it the unofficial championship of Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire. Going on to Cambridge, he not only won the University championship four years in succession, but picked up first-class honours. He won the British championship in 1938.

In 1939 I found myself on a boat with him bound for the Chess Olympiad in Buenos Aires. He was team captain with Sir George Thomas, P. S. Milner-Barry and H. Golombek : other distinguished members of the team.

Left to right Baruch H Wood, Philip Stuart Milner-Barry, Vera Menchik (playing in the women's world championship held concurrently with the Olympiad which she won with 17 wins and 2 draws), Sir George Thomas, Conel Hugh O'Donel Alexander and Harry Golombek. England withdrew after their preliminary group due to the outbreak of war despite qualifying for the top final. Thanks to Leonard Barden
Left to right Baruch H Wood, Philip Stuart Milner-Barry, Vera Menchik (playing in the women’s world championship held concurrently with the Olympiad which she won with 17 wins and 2 draws), Sir George Thomas, Conel Hugh O’Donel Alexander and Harry Golombek. England withdrew after their preliminary group due to the outbreak of war despite qualifying for the top final. Thanks to Leonard Barden

War broke out after about six rounds. With typical determination, Alexander jettisoned chess for patriotism, caught a boat home, volunteered for service on disembarking, and within a few weeks had attained the rank of colonel in British Intelligence. He remained attached to Intelligence and the Foreign Office until his retirement a few months ago. As a curious consequence of this commitment, though he settled in to the team captaincy for the British Chess Federation in the biennial chess Olympiads and participated in many chess events abroad, he was never allowed to travel anywhere behind the iron Curtain.

His fame certainly did, however. In the radio match, Britain v USSR in 1946, the most important event in British chess for a decade before and after, he found himself pitted against Mikhail Botvinnik, then at the height of his powers and destined to hold the world championship for 14 years. The first game he lost; the second he won, in superb style. His great adversary was outplayed.

He had some great years at Hastings. A 120 move victory over Bronstein with a queen and pawns endgame stretching over l3 hours through 3 days, earned headlines in the national press unequalled until the Spassky-Fischer furore of 1972, won him first place in 1954 and started him with a chess column in the Sunday Times. He was equal with Bronstein, above O’Kelly, Matanovic, Olafsson, Teschner, Tolush, Tartakover, Wade and Horne.

Hastings illustrated Alexander’s weaknesses as well as his strengths. Twice he won the premier tournament there, only to finish among the tail-enders the year after. Only once more was he to win the British championship; in a rather weak field, entering at the last minute with typical opportunism.

He was a brilliant conversationalist and speaker, a fine bridge player, a master mathematician, an expert on codes, a first-class journalist and writer. Among varied other interests were croquet and philately. He threw himself wholeheartedly into anything he did. His organization, “The Friends of Chess”, provided generous financial support for a wide range of chess events. A few days before his death he was full of plans for the future, including a big History of British Chess. He burnt himself out. The world of chess is a poorer and duller place without him.”

A Tribute from GCHQ

From the GCHQ Official site :

“The great mathematician G. H. Hardy described C. H. O’D. Alexander as the only genuine mathematician he knew who did not become a professional mathematician. Hardy recognised that Alexander’s failure to win a fellowship at the Cambridge Tripos exams was most likely due to his attention being absorbed by chess. Conversely, Alexander’s fellow chess International Master Harry Golombek said of the two-time British Champion “the demands of his profession left him with comparatively little time for [chess] practice and study; otherwise he would certainly have been of true grandmaster class, and possibly even of world stature”. Above both chess and mathematics, Alexander prioritised leading the British Government effort on cryptanalysis.

Hugh Alexander
Hugh Alexander

Alexander was an early recruit to Bletchley Park; he began in Hut 6 working on Army and Luftwaffe Enigma messages before moving in 1941 to Hut 8 to join Alan Turing’s work on the Naval Enigma. Alexander had one of the most agile minds of the new breed of mathematical cryptanalysts; he proved the best at the pen and paper methods of ‘banburismus’ that reduced the computational work of Enigma attacks and his military aptitude test assessed him as suitable for development up to four star general. Although he has not achieved the renown of Good, Turing, Tutte, and Welchman, he was responsible for many breakthroughs. Perhaps the most significant was spearheading the UK-US joint work breaking the Japanese CORAL system used by Naval attaches. More importantly, as a former teacher and head of research at John Lewis, Alexander was much better suited to the organisational and administrative tasks of Hut 8 than the hyper-rational Turing. Alexander gradually assumed more and more of this work. The story goes that one day when Turing arrived late at the Park and the record book asked him to name the head of his section; Turing wrote “Mr Alexander” and with the logic of bureaucracy Alexander was treated as the head of Hut 8 from then onwards. Praise for Alexander’s leadership is a theme common to all those who worked in Hut 8.

After the war, Alexander briefly returned to John Lewis before returning to the new GCHQ and continued to excel as both a cryptanalyst and leader. By 1949 he had been appointed head of the cryptanalysis division. It was a post that he held until his retirement, despite offers of promotion to more senior positions. He used the weight of his position to testify strongly as a character witness on behalf of Alan Turing during Turing’s indecency trial. By 1971, already past the age of retirement by two years, Alexander decided to step down. Both GCHQ and their partners were keen to make continued use of his expertise and offered all manner of consultative work, which he declined. He died in 1974 and although his obituaries rightly spoke in glowing terms of his chess achievements, the impact of his more secret work still cannot be fully revealed.”

Hugh and Correspondence Chess by Tim Harding

“Correspondence chess is only mentioned briefly in the article. CHO’D took up international postal chess in 1963 playing board 3 for the BCCA “Socrates” team in the Eberhardt Wilhelm Cup, a European team event. He annotated his first two games to finish in the November 1964 issue of the BCCA Magazine, Correspondence Chess, one of which is in my history of British CC.

He had in fact taken board 2 for GB against the USA in the 1,000 board match which began in 1935 but was never completed. Alexander’s opponent was Fred Reinfeld (according to Chess Magazine) but I have never seen a result and don’t know if they actually played many moves.
Starting in 1964 Alexander played in a GB-USSR postal match, with a draw and a loss against Yudovich.

In 1965 he started CC Olympiad 6 preliminaries on board 3 in section 1 for GB and scored 3 wins and 5 draws; he was the only player not to lose to M. Ali Farboud of Iran, the country which won the group. (Farboud played on the Iranian team in the 1962 and 1964 FIDE olympiads.) I have only found two of Alexander’s games from this tournament.

Next GB played in the preliminaries (section 3) of the 7th correspondence olympiad (starting 1968) with a much stronger team which won its group. Alexander played board 2 below Adrian Hollis. His score of 6 wins and one draw earned him the ICCF international master title. I have only found three of his games from this event.

In 1972 Alexander started, again on board 2, in the olympiad final but had only completed one or two of his games when he died, and the unfinished games were taken over by Ken Messere who found it hard (since he was given no notes) to work out what Hugh had planned in various complicated middle game positions.

Alexander also played most years for Gloucestershire in the Counties and District correspondence tournament run (then) by the BCF and my book also includes a win against Peter Clarke from that event. It is a pity that more of Alexander’s CC games are not known. I have only 17 plus a few that Messere completed.”

From Chessgames.com :

“Conel Hugh O’Donel Alexander was born in Cork, Ireland. Awarded the IM title in 1950 at its inception and the IMC title in 1970, he was British Champion in 1938 and 1956.

During the Second World War, he worked at Bletchley Park with Harry Golombek and Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry, deciphering German Enigma codes and later for the Foreign Office. Alexander finished 2nd= at Hastings (1937/38) tied with Paul Keres after Samuel Reshevsky and ahead of Salomon Flohr and Reuben Fine. He held Mikhail Botvinnik to an equal score (+1, -1) in the 1946 Anglo-Soviet Radio Match, and won Hastings (1946/47) while finishing equal first at Hastings (1953/54). He represented England on six Olympiad teams. Alexander was also an author of note. He passed away in Cheltenham in 1974.”

1st August 1933: C H O D Alexander playing Sultan Khan during the British Chess Championships at Hastings in Sussex. (Photo by Douglas Miller/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
1st August 1933: C H O D Alexander playing Sultan Khan during the British Chess Championships at Hastings in Sussex. (Photo by Douglas Miller/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

From The Oxford Companion to Chess by Hooper & Whyld :

International Master (1950), International Correspondence Chess Master (1970). Born in Cork, he settled in England as a boy. In spite or because of his intense application at the board his tournament performances were erratic. From about 1937 to the mid 1950s he was regarded as the strongest player in Great Britain, although he won only two (1938, 1956) of the 13 British Chess Federation Championships in which he competed; he played for the BCF in six Olympiads from 1933 to 1958. Holding a senior post at the Foreign Office, he was not permitted to play in countries under Soviet control or influence; but when he did compete abroad he achieved only moderate results. His best tournament achievement was at Hastings 1937-8 when he was second (+4=5) equal with Keres after Reshevsky ahead of Fine and Flohr; but he is better remembered for his tie with Bronstein for first prize at Hastings 1953-4. He won his game against Bronstein in 120 moves after several adjournments, and the outcome became a kind of serial in the press, arousing great national interest in the game. Alexander was the author of several books on chess, notably Alekhine’s Best Games of Chess 1938-1945 (1949) and A Book of Chess (1973).

From The Encyclopaedia of Chess by Anne Sunnucks :

For many years the chess correspondent of The Sunday Times, The Spectator (pseudonym Philidor) and the Evening News. There was probably no “chess name that was better known to the non-chess-playing element of the British public than that of Hugh Alexander. His victory over Russian Grandmaster David Bronstein at Hastings in 1953, after a struggle which lasted for 120 moves and took 13 hours, made chess front page news in the British press.

Born in Cork on 19th April 1909, Alexander picked up the game at prep school at the age of 8. In 1926 he won the Boy’s Championship, later to be recognised as the British Boy’s Championship, at Hastings. After coming down from Cambridge University, where he won the university championship four times, Alexander taught mathematics at Winchester College from 1932 to 1938. He later joined the Foreign Office.

Caption as per photograph
Caption as per photograph

One of the few British players who might have reached World Championship class if he had chosen to devote sufficient time to the game, Alexander was at his best when he faced a top class opponent.

During his chess career, he scored victories over two World Champions Botvinnik and Euwe, and he beat a number of other Grandmasters, international tournaments were all at Hastings where he came =2nd in 1938 with Keres, half a point behind Reshevsky and ahead of Fine and Flohr; 1st in 1947 and =1st with Bronstein in 1953. In 1951 tournament he came =5th.His other hobbies included bridge, croquet and philately, He was the Author of Alekhine’s Best Games of Chess 1938-1945 (Bell), Chess (Pitman) and joint author with T.J. Beach of Learn Chess; A New Way for All (Pergamon Press);

Learn Chess : A Complete Course, TJ Beach and CHO'D Alexander, Everyman Chess, 1994
Learn Chess : A Complete Course, TJ Beach and CHO’D Alexander, Everyman Chess, 1994

A Book of Chess (Hutchinson) 1973; The Penguin Book of Chess Positions (Penguin) 1973.

The Penguin Book of Chess Positions, CHO'D Alexander, Penguin, 1973
The Penguin Book of Chess Positions, CHO’D Alexander, Penguin, 1973

Here are further third party articles of interest :

A Tribute to Hugh Alexander by Sir Stuart Milner-Barry

Conel Hugh O’Donel Alexander: A Personal Memoir by Sir Stuart Milner-Barry

Here is an interesting article on his film appearance.

Here is his detailed Wikipedia entry

According to C.N. 10817 Hugh lived at various addresses when working at GCHQ :

  • Brecken Lane, Cheltenham.
  • 28 King’s Road, Cheltenham, GL52 6BG.
28 King's Road, Cheltenham, GL52 6BG
28 King’s Road, Cheltenham, GL52 6BG
  • Old Bath Lodge, Thirlestaine Road, Cheltenham, GL53 7AS.
Alexander on Chess, CHO'D Alexander, Pitman, 1974
Alexander on Chess, CHO’D Alexander, Pitman, 1974
The Best Games of C.H.O'D. Alexander
The Best Games of C.H.O’D. Alexander

Golombek and Hartston, The Best Games of C.H.O’D. Alexander (1976).

Happy Birthday IM Richard Pert (22-i-1981)

IM Richard Pert
IM Richard Pert

Happy Birthday IM Richard Pert (22-i-1981)

IM Richard Pert
IM Richard Pert

Nick and Richard Pert
Nick and Richard Pert
Nick and Richard Pert
Nick and Richard Pert

Happy Birthday GM Nick Pert (22-i-1981)

GM Nick Pert
GM Nick Pert

We send birthday wishes to GM Nick Pert born this day (January 22nd) in 1981.

Jeremy Morse, Adam Hunt, Nick Pert and Nigel Short at the Lloyds Bank Masters
Jeremy Morse, Adam Hunt, Nick Pert and Nigel Short at the Lloyds Bank Masters

Nick won the Southern Counties (SCCU) championship for the 2016-17 season sharing with Richard Bates.

Nick and Richard Pert
Nick and Richard Pert

Here is Nick’s Wikipedia entry

Nick and Richard Pert
Nick and Richard Pert

GM Nick Pert
GM Nick Pert
GM Nick Pert
GM Nick Pert

Happy Birthday GM Neil McDonald (21-i-1967)

GM Neil McDonald
GM Neil McDonald

We send birthday wishes to GM Neil McDonald born on this day (January 21st) in 1967.

Neil McDonald
Neil McDonald
Neil McDonald
Neil McDonald

From Wikipedia :

Neil McDonald (born 21 January 1967) is an English chess grandmaster and a player on the international chess circuit. He is an English Chess Federation coach,[1] who has trained many of the country’s strongest junior players. McDonald is a regular coach of the English junior team and was Head Coach of the English Chess Federation team at the Greece World Schools Championship in 2013.[2] He regularly escorts blind and partially sighted chess players to international World Championship events and is also a chess writer.

McDonald authored the French Defence monthly updates on chesspublishing.com from October 1999 until March 2009,[3] 1 e4 … updates from November 2009 until January 2010,[4] 1 e4 … from June 2014 until February 2015[5] and returned to 1 e4 … in March 2017 until January 2018.[6]

Neil shared first place in the 1986 GLC Masters with Jonathan Levitt, was outright first at the Elekes Memorial, 1995, first at The Leinster IM Tournament in Dublin, 1997, and other tournaments since. Neil plays for Wood Green in the Four Nations Chess League (4NCL).

He became an International Master in 1986 and was awarded the Grandmaster title in 1996.

McDonald obtained his FIDE Trainer qualification in 2016.[7]

Neil is a prolific and successful author, most recently with “Coach Yourself

Coach Yourself : A Complete Guide to Self Improvement at Chess
Coach Yourself : A Complete Guide to Self Improvement at Chess

but also thirty eight titles for Chess Press, BT Batsford Ltd. and Everyman Chess Books.

Modern Defence. Everyman, 2000
Modern Defence. Everyman, 2000
GM Neil McDonald
GM Neil McDonald

Happy Birthday IM Ali Mortazavi (20-i-1971)

IM Ali Mortazavi
IM Ali Mortazavi

We send best wishes to IM Ali Mortazavi on his birthday, this day (January 20th) in 1971

IM Ali Mortazavi
IM Ali Mortazavi

Ali is a British IM who was a successful trader in the financial markets.

In the FIDE directory he is listed as a Councillor in the Global Strategy Commission (GSC).

He was a professional player and became the CEO of Silence Therapeutics (SLN) :

Ali reached his hightest FIDE rating of 2410 in July 1994 aged 23.

He has played for Beeson Gregory in the Four Nations Chess League (4NCL). He played at the Isle of Man Open in 2018 but sadly, little since.

IM Ali Mortazavi
IM Ali Mortazavi