Tag Archives: 2022

Death Anniversary of Hugh Alexander CMG CBE (15-ii-1974)

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.

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

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.

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.’

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.

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

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.

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 champ- ionship; 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.”

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 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).

Death Anniversary of IM Čeněk Kottnauer (24-ii-1910 14-ii-1996)

BCN remembers IM Čeněk Kottnauer (24-ii-1910 14-ii-1996)

Čeněk Kottnauer was born in Prague on Thursday, February 24th, 1910. Čeněk was employed in the Ministry of Education in Prague.

Whilst playing in the Lucerne International tournament (28-xii-1952 03-i-1953) he sought political asylum :

From the Milwaukee Journal, January 3, 1953 we have

Czech Chess Star Asks for Asylum

Lucerne, Switzerland – Cenek Kottnauer, 42, Czecho-Slovakian chess champion and an employee of the ministry of education in Prague, announced Saturday that he would not return to Czech-Slovakia and would request political asylum in Switzerland. Kottnauer had been participating in a chess tournament.

He said that the political situation in his country had grown “more and more critical” and he wanted “to leave before it is too late”. He said that he had been divorced recently and had no children in Czech-Slovakia”.

In a January 2009 post to the English Chess Forum Leonard Barden wrote :

“Cenek Kottnauer defected from Czechoslovakia during the Lucerne New Year tournament of 1952-3 (I am precise on this because I was present). His wife Daniela joined him there, having been smuggled from Prague in the boot of a diplomat’s car. Kottnauer had been a water polo player of international standard before 1939 so came into serious chess only his mid-30s. He made his name with his good showing in the Prague v Moscow match of 1946 and his Bxh7+ win then against Kotov. He competed in great tournaments like Groningen 1946 and Moscow 1947; his first visit to England was in 1947 when the Czech team came here.

Čeněk Kottnauer plays Friedrich Sämisch during the Duras Memorial in Prague. December 7th 1942, The game was a Slav drawn after 42 moves
Čeněk Kottnauer plays Friedrich Sämisch during the Duras Memorial in Prague. December 7th 1942, The game was a Slav drawn after 42 moves

In the 1940s he had a job in the Czech sports ministry but got implicated in the purges following the Slansky trial. He also believed that Pachman and Opocensky were involved in the campaign against him.”

Čeněk married Daniela (née Horska, also Czech, having met in Austria) and they had a son Daniel VR Kottnauer. Daniela was born in 1934 and was 24 years younger than Čeněk. She died on February 20th 2008 in a hospice in Essen, Germany close to where Daniel currently resides.  Daniel has been a pianist and singer for 30 years, an event manager for 19 years and a coach and VIP limousine driver for 5 years and may be found on LinkedIn.

Čeněk  became a British citizen on 16th December 1960 when he obtained naturalisation certificate BNA64338.

In 1965 Čeněk and Daniela were living at Flat 2, 7-8 Bathurst Street, London, W2.

7-8, Bathurst Street, London, W2
7-8, Bathurst Street, London, W2

In Kings, Commoners and Knaves (Russell Enterprises, 1999), page 108, Edward Winter wrote :

“The obituaries of Čeněk Kottnauer (1910-1996) have, in common with all of the encyclopaedia entries on him, been strangely wanting in pre-1940s references to his chess career. Czech magazines of the 1930s contain occasional games by ‘Kottnauer’ (no forename or initial given), including the following :

Source : Československý šach, January, 1932, page 9. The score was also given, with notes, by Vera Menchik, on page 153 of the April 1932 issue of The Social Chess Quarterly. ”

From Šachový Týdeník, 25th February, 2010 that Čeněk was twice Prague lightning champion.

In 1943 Čeněk was a clear first overall with 10.5/13 in the Zlin tournament.

Crosstable for the Zlin (Czechoslovakia) 1943 tournament
Crosstable for the Zlin (Czechoslovakia) 1943 tournament
Čeněk Kottnauer plays Svetozar Gligorić during the Chigorin Memorial, Moscow, November 26th 1947.
Čeněk Kottnauer plays Svetozar Gligorić during the Chigorin Memorial, Moscow, November 26th 1947.

From The Oxford Companion to Chess (OUP, 1984), David Hooper & Ken Whyld :

International Master (1950), International Arbiter (1951), a Czech player who emigrated to England in 1953 and was naturalised in 1960. He played in Olympiads for Czechoslovakia (1950*, 1952), on the second occasion making the best score (+10=5) on the fourth board, and in two Olympiads for England (1964, 1968). In 1961 he won the Beverwijk Masters tournament (not the concurrent grandmasters event) with a clean score, a fine achievement.

*Ed : In fact, this is not true since Czechoslovakia did not send a team to Dubrovnik 1950.  This was the last year the event was limited to sixteen countries.

Crosstable for Beverwijk 1961
Crosstable for Beverwijk 1961

Consulting the 2nd edition (1992) of Hooper & Whyld may cause disappointment since there is no entry for CK.

Čeněk Kottnauer from Šachový Týdeník, 25th February, 2010
Čeněk Kottnauer from Šachový Týdeník, 25th February, 2010

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

“International Master (1950) and International Judge (1951).

Born on 24th February 1910. Kottnauer represented Czechoslovakia in the 1952 Olympiad in Helsinki. In the years after the war his successes in international tournaments included 3rd at Beverwijk 1947, =2nd at Vienna 1947, 4th at Bad Gadstein 1948 and 1st at Lucerne 1953.

Crosstable for Lucerne 1952/1953
Crosstable for Lucerne 1952/1953

After the Lucerne tournament he sought political asylum in Switzerland. He later settled in England and became a naturalised British citizen. He played for the British Chess Federation in the Olympiads of 1964 and 1968.

Kottnauer has played in the British Championship twice. In 1961 he came =4th, and in 1962 he came =3rd.”

IM Čeněk Kottnauer
IM Čeněk Kottnauer

From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977), Harry Golombek OBE (entry written by Bill Hartston):

“Born in Czechoslovakia, Kottnauer played for that country in many events including the 1952 Olympiad. He emigrated in 1953 and subsequently took British nationality, representing England in the Olympiads of 1964 and 1968. Awarded FIDE titles of international master in 1950 and International Judge in 1951. Winner of Lucerne 1953 International tournament.

Čeněk Kottnauer plays Frans Kuijpers during the 1964 Anglo-Dutch match at Vlissingen on September 19th
Čeněk Kottnauer plays Frans Kuijpers during the 1964 Anglo-Dutch match at Vlissingen on September 19th

Co-author with TD Harding and GS Botterill of The Sicilian Sozin, Batsford, London, 1974.”

The Sicilian Sozin, TD Harding, GS Botterill, C. Kottnauer, Batsford, 1974
The Sicilian Sozin, TD Harding, GS Botterill, C. Kottnauer, Batsford, 1974

From British Chess (Pergamon Press, 1983) we have this insight from Tim Harding :

“At a time when home-grown International Masters were thin on the ground in Britain (the 1950s and 1960s) this Czech-born IM brought a lot of valuable experience to BCF teams.

Amsterdam 1950, first day; Gideon Stahlberg versus Cenek Kottnauer Date: November 11, 1950
Amsterdam 1950, first day; Gideon Stahlberg versus Cenek Kottnauer Date: November 11, 1950

After emigrating to England in 1953, he became naturalized and subsequently represented the BCF in the Tel Aviv, 1964 and Lugano, 1968, Olympiads. On board one in 1964 he scored +8 =7 -3 (63.9%) on board two below Penrose in 1968 (with some board one games) he scored 41.7: +3 =5 -4.

Čeněk Kottnauer
Čeněk Kottnauer

When FIDE rating lists appeared in the early 1970s, Kottnauer was listed at 2370 but by this time had more or less retired from active play at the top level, although he took (and still takes) a keen interest in coaching promising young players, He was one of the most regular and most valuable coaches at the one-day junior training events organised by the London Chess Association at the Mary Ward Centre in Bloomsbury, London in the mid-1970s.

IM Čeněk Kottnauer, event unknown
IM Čeněk Kottnauer, event unknown

At this time he also wrote many articles for his friend Grandmaster Pachman, who had been freed to live in West Germany where he became editor of Schach-Archiv, and also made a major contribution to the Batsford opening theory work. The Sicilian Sozin, written in collaboration with George Botterill and Tim Harding, and published in 1974.

Lubomir Kavalek & Čeněk Kottnauer from Šachový Týdeník, 25th February, 2010
Lubomir Kavalek & Čeněk Kottnauer from Šachový Týdeník, 25th February, 2010

Kottnauer’s most active years as a player were however 1946-53; in the year that he came to England he took first prize in the Lucerne, 1953 International tournament. Had he been a professional player throughout the the 1950s, there is little doubt that he would have become a grandmaster.

As early as the end of the war, when regular play resumed, he was almost of that strength (as wins against Kotov and Smyslov in the February, 1946 Prague v Moscow match showed) but lacking in experience at the top level, which told against him at Groningen, 1946, when he was placed 13th with 9 points out of a possible 19 in a very strong field.  This was the first great post-war tournament, with nine Master and eleven Grandmasters (including Botvinnik and former world champion Euwe).

Players at the 1946 Groningen Tournament
Players at the 1946 Groningen Tournament

Also in 1946 Kottnauer scored wins against Simagin (in Prague) and Levenfish (in Leningrad) and was clearly one of the up-and-coming stars in a strong Czech team that included Filip and Pachman.  In 1950 he was one of the first players to be awarded the FIDE title of International Master.

The following year he was also made a FIDE International Judge (now known as FIDE Arbiter).

Unfortunately there was no Czech representation at the Dubrovnik, 1950 Olympiad, but in 1952, one of his last appearances for Czechoslovakia, Kottnauer achieved a remarkable record playing board four (below Filip, Pachman and Sajtar) at the Helsinki Olympiad. He went through unbeaten with ten wins and five draws (83.3%) and easily won the board prize.

Kottnauer shortly thereafter came to England where he eventually made a successful career as an executive with Trust House Forte’s hotel group; he has also helped with the BBC overseas service Czech-language broadcasts. He lives in West Central London with his wife and their son.

The following is undoubtedly Kottnauer’s most famous win.

and here we have the same game analysed by Tryfon Gavriel :

From British Chess Magazine, Volume CXVI (116, 1996), Number 4 (April), pp 202-203 we have this obituary by Bernard Cafferty :

Čeněk Kottnauer, the Czech/British IM, and the first chess defector died in St. Margaret’s Hospital, London, on 14th February after heart trouble and abdominal cancer.

A giant of a man, a fine athlete and swimmer, he was born on 24th February 1910 and came to prominence in the 1942 tournament in Prague in which Alekhine took part. He extended the great man to 70 moves before resigning. His wins against Kotov and Smyslov in the Moscow-Prague match of 1946 and his 13th place in the great Groningen tournament of the same year confirmed his status, as did his excellent showing for Czechoslovakia in the 1952 Olympiad at Helsinki (+10=5-0 on fourth board). He also took part in the 1947 Chigorin Memorial in Moscow, and won a tournament at Lucerne in early 1953, the same year in which he emigrated to Britain.

Hoogovens, Beverwijk, 1962. In the opening round (played 11th January), Theo van Scheltinga (Netherlands) faces Čeněk Kottnauer (England, formerly ČSSR). (Photo credit: W. van Rossem, ANEFO, via http://gahetna.nl. Courtesy of Douglas Griffin
Hoogovens, Beverwijk, 1962. In the opening round (played 11th January), Theo van Scheltinga (Netherlands) faces Čeněk Kottnauer (England, formerly ČSSR). (Photo credit: W. van Rossem, ANEFO, via http://gahetna.nl. Courtesy of Douglas Griffin

On this form he would have gained the GM title had he continued playing, but he had to take a full-time job (with Trusthouse Forte) to support his family.

Čeněk had met his much younger wife in Austria, though she too was Czech. They had a son. The master’s appearences were therefore limited to London League matches and other sporadic events. That he had lost none of his skill was shown when he played top board for England at the 1964 Tel-Aviv Olympiad (Penrose was not available) and made +8=7-3. His only other big event was the Lugano Olympiad of 1968 when he was on second board and made +3=5-4.

The 1964 England Olympiad (Tel Aviv) Team : Owen Hindle, Čeněk Kottnauer, Peter Clarke, Michael Franklin, Norman Littlewood & Michael Haygarth
The 1964 England Olympiad (Tel Aviv) Team : Owen Hindle, Čeněk Kottnauer, Peter Clarke, Michael Franklin, Norman Littlewood & Michael Haygarth

Čeněk (pronounced CHEnek) Kottnauer was one of the early professionals in the German Bundesliga; on a visit to his Bayswater flat in 1995 by Murray Chandler and myself, Čeněk told us about the great transport difficulties he had in those days. He mentioned that he had recently had a heart bypass operation and showed us the medication he had to take on a regular basis, opining that after Golombek and Milner-Barry he would be the next to go.

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

Čeněk was involved in junior coaching in London for many years, wrote extensively for the Dutch and German press and in recent years was a regular visitor to the Lloyds Bank Masters to see old friends and acquaintances. Amongst those he coached were Julian Hodgson, William Watson and Dharshan Kumaran, as well as Stuart Conquest.

IM Čeněk Kottnauer in Argentina during the 1984 World Under-16 Championship
IM Čeněk Kottnauer in Argentina during the 1981 World Under-16 Championship

In Stuart’s case he came regularly to Hastings to do the coaching which was financed by the Slater Foundation and by Lloyds Bank.

The fruit of his effort was Stuart’s 1981 World U-16 title in Argentina, where Čeněk’s great physical strength came in handy when the huge trophy had to be carried back to Britain.

IM Čeněk Kottnauer with Stuart Conquest during the World Under-16 Championship in Argentina.
IM Čeněk Kottnauer with Stuart Conquest during the World Under-16 Championship in Argentina.

All his pupils and friends will attest to his wonderful manner. A great personality has left us.”

According to Leonard Barden “Čeněk’s students included Demis Hassabis, then aged six.   He once told me that Dharshan Kumaran, then seven, was the more talented of the pair  but that Demis was also ‘very clever and tricky’ ”

Daniel tells us that Nigel Short visited his family home for coaching and we believe that both Anita and Mira Rakshit were CKs students. Doubtless there were many more…

Leonard added :

“After he retired he did chess coaching and, although never named in the BCF’s list of coaches, was the most successful of all in terms of achievements by those he taught. He normally did weekly sessions of a couple of hours and got results through his challenging and sceptical approach to ideas from his pupils.

Kottnauer pupils included Hodgson, Watson, and Kumaran, who all became grandmasters. When he came to our junior invitation tournaments in the mid-seventies I used to give a prize of a game and session with him to exceptional talents. So he played Nigel Short in spring 1975 (probably Short’s first one-to-one with an IM) and was enthusiastic about his promise.

In 1981 when Stuart Conquest was going to the the world U16 championship in Argentina Cenek coached him for several months beforehand and went with him to the event. No news reports were available during the tournament so the first I knew was when Cenek phoned me on his return to London and complained that he was tired having to carry this enormous trophy home (Stuart had broken his arm before the event and played in a sling) and how the food had been terrible but that Eliskases, who was involved in the organisation, had sworn him to secrecy.

IM Čeněk Kottnauer in Argentina during the 1984 World Under-16 Championship
IM Čeněk Kottnauer in Argentina during the 1981 World Under-16 Championship

I used to visit him a couple of times a month for talk and blitz sessions and have warm memories. A great guy, and a significant figure in the long departed English chess boom.”

Here is an excellent article from Tim Harding originally  on chesscafe.com but now via the Wayback Machine.

Here is an obituary from Bill Hartston

Here is his Wikipedia entry

And finally, according to chessgames.com :

“Cenek Kottnauer was born in Prague. He was awarded the IM title in 1950 and became an International Arbiter in 1951. Kottnauer played the Helsinki Olympiad 1952 on board 4 for Czechoslovakia, scoring +10 =5 -0. In 1953 he won the Lucerne international tournament. That same year, he emigrated to England, and eventually became a naturalized citizen and played for England in the Olympiads of 1964 and 1968. In the 1970s he became one of England’s top coaches of young players.”

Birthday of GM Ravi Haria (07-ii-1999)

BCN sends birthday wishes to GM Ravi Haria.

Ravi Haria was born Sunday, February 7th, 1999  in Elstree, Hertfordshire. “Maria” by Blondie was top of the hit parade. Ravi currently resides in London.

Ravi attended Lonsdale School in Barnet and then The Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School and now reads History at University College, London.

ECF grading profiles for Ravi Haria
ECF grading profiles for Ravi Haria

Ravi learnt at the age of 6 and joined Barnet Knights Chess Club in 2005.

Ravi’s first recorded tournament was the 35th Barnet Knights Under-8  rapidplay on September 25th 2005. Also playing of note were Jonathan Pein and Isaac Sanders.

His first recorded standard play game  was in the London Junior Under-10 Championships on December 9th 2006.

By the time he was eight he had attracted the attention of the England selectors and played in the 2008 Commonwealth Championships in New Delhi coming home with a bronze medal.

Ravi aged 8 photographed by The Borehamwood and Elstree Times in January 2008
Ravi aged 8 photographed by The Borehamwood and Elstree Times in January 2008
Ravi aged 9 photographed by The Borehamwood and Elstree Times in August 2008
Ravi aged 9 photographed by The Borehamwood and Elstree Times in August 2008

In 2008 Ravi won the British Under-9 title in Liverpool. He said afterwards:

It was quite nice to be leading everyone and I felt proud of myself. I’m not sure how I control my nerves but it feels really good to win.

His mother Sona said:

It’s a bit overwhelming but we just support him. It means you have to give up a lot of time for him but it’s really nice to see that he’s getting somewhere.

This was followed in 2014 by winning the British Under-18 championship in Aberystwyth aged 15 and then the same title in 2017 in Llandudno.

Ravi Haria, UKCC Southern Gigafinal, 2013
Ravi Haria, UKCC Southern Gigafinal, 2013

In 2016 Ravi was equal 2nd to Deep Sengupta at the Hastings Masters Open with an impressive 6/9 and a TPR of 2563.  This performance secured his second IM norm.

The IM title was conferred at the 88th FIDE Congress 2017, 7-15 October, Goynuk, Antalya, Turkey.

He scored six points after 11 rounds at the 2017 World Junior championship in Italy and 5.5 points at the 2017 WYCC U-18 group in Uruguay.

Ravi completed his British junior titles run by becoming the current (no OTB event in 2020) British Under-21 champion in 2019 in Torquay scoring an emphatic 6.5/9 securing a share of third place.

Partial crosstable for the 2019 British Championships in Torquay
Partial crosstable for the 2019 British Championships in Torquay

Ravi became a FIDE Master in 2015 at the age of 16 and and International Master two years later making him England’s second youngest IM after Matthew Wadsworth.

OTB Elo rating profile for IM Ravi Haria according to MegaBase 2020
OTB Elo rating profile for IM Ravi Haria according to MegaBase 2020

His peak FIDE rating was 2497 in October 2021 and currently (February  2022) is 2490.

In 2019 Ravi teamed up with IM Adam C. Taylor to join Adam’s Making Grandmasters training venture.

FM Ravi Haria, ECF Secondary Schools Rapidplay, 2016
FM Ravi Haria, ECF Secondary Schools Rapidplay, 2016

On January 28th 2021 Thinker’s Publishing released The Modernised Anti-Sicilians, Volume 1, Rossolimo Variation which is a massive 520 page tome on the following position :

which was reviewed by FM Richard Webb.

which we hope will be followed by at least Volume 2!

The Modernized Anti-Sicilians - Volume 1: Rossolimo Variation, Ravi Haria, Thinker's Publishing, 2021
The Modernized Anti-Sicilians – Volume 1: Rossolimo Variation, Ravi Haria, Thinker’s Publishing, 2021

Ravi has plus scores against : Matthew Turner, Simon Williams, William Claridge Hansen, Bob Eames, David Eggleston and Arul Gupta to name but a few.

GM John Emms plays IM Ravi Haria in the final round of the 2019 British Championships in Torquay
GM John Emms plays IM Ravi Haria in the final round of the 2019 British Championships in Torquay

With the white pieces Ravi unsurprisingly plays the Moscow and Rossolimo variations against the Sicilian,  the Ruy Lopez and, in recent years, he has adopted the Reti/English complex.

As the second player he plays the French Winawer and (refreshingly) the Abrahams-Noteboom Variation of the Semi-Slav.

For your entertainment we have these two  brevities :

and

Ravi has played for University College London. Hendon and Cavendish in the London and other leagues and in 4NCL he started with Kings Head, transferring to Cambridge in 2014 and finally moving in 2016 to Wood Green.

In this game Ravi punishes IM Malcolm Pein who has a bad day at the office :

Ravi Haria, British Championships, 2014, Aberystwyth
Ravi Haria, British Championships, 2014, Aberystwyth

Ravi is Mesutgm on chess.com and lichess

Over the 19th – 23rd August  2021 Ravi played in the Wood Green Invitational round-robin event at Oddfellows Hall, Stafford.

Ravi scored 7.5/10 and secured his second Grandmaster Norm and  a TPR of 2680.

Wood Green Invitational Round-Robin event at Oddfellows Hall, Stafford. August Bank Holiday Weekend, 2021
Wood Green Invitational Round-Robin event at Oddfellows Hall, Stafford. August Bank Holiday Weekend, 2021

Over the August Bank Holiday weekend of 2021 Ravi played in the Northumbrian Masters  GM Tournament at the splendid Marriott MetroCentre, Gateshead winning jointly with Conor Murphy scoring 6.5/9 with a TPR of 2600. This gave Ravi his third and final GM norm.

The norm was ratified at a recent FIDE Congress. As of February 2022 Ravi stood at 2490 for standard-play.

Death Anniversary of Roland Scott (25-iii-1888 10-i-1953)

BCN remembers Roland Scott who passed away in Monte Carlo on Saturday, January 10th, 1953.

Roland Henry Vaughan Scott was born in either Barnes or Holloway depending which Census record is correct. His parents were Walter Frederick Scott, a GP who was born in April 1960 and died in 1891 when Roland was three years of age.

His mother was Lucie Vaughan was born in 1855 and died in October 1933.

Roland had two sisters, Nina Vaughan Scott and Lucie / Lucia Audrey Scott (who died before her first birthday) and a brother Guy Francis D Scott who lived until 1977.

In 1891 Roland lived in Tottenham, in 1901 in Hampstead and in 1911 in St. Pancras where he was listed as a law clerk.

In 1917 The London Gazette lists him as a lieutenant in the Norfolk Regiment.

The 1920 electoral rolls for the Gospel Oak polling district lists Scott as voter #2006 living at 2, Estelle Road, North St. Pancras which is now in Belsize Park, NW3 2JX. At the same address was his sister Lucie and in 1921 they were joined by brother Guy.

In July 1922 in the district of Brighton Roland married Irma Clareboudt. No children from the marriage are recorded.

The 1939 register lists Scott as “War Disabled ? Officer Retired In War 1914” (invalided from army) and Irma as a saleswoman (born 25th July 1895) living at 42, Sherwell Lane, Paignton, Torquay, TQ2 6BD.

42, Sherwell Lane, Paignton, Devon, TQ2 6BD.
42, Sherwell Lane, Paignton, Devon, TQ2 6BD.

The April 1953 British Chess Magazine (Volume LXXIII, Number 4, page 101 onwards) contained this obituary from DJ Morgan:

It is with much regret that we record the death, on January 10th, at Monte Carlo, of R. H. V. Scott. He had long been out of active chess, but older readers will need no reminding of the 1920 British Champion, with his quiet manner but attacking chess; one who was composure itself at the table but aggressiveness personified on the board.

The son of a doctor, Scott was born in 1889. He was nineteen before taking to the game, but a ready aptitude combined with great enthusiasm led to rapid progress. He joined the Hampstead Club in 1908, and in his first tournament, the Third Class, came out first. ln the years that follow he pursued the game with much energy.

At the B.C.F. Congress, Glasgow, l9ll, he won the only section of the First Class. In 1913 and in 1914 he was Hampstead Club Champion. In 1913 he was tenth in the British Championship, at Cheltenham, and equal fifth to sixth at Chester in the following year, defeating Yates and drawing with Blackburne.

In 1915 he came second in the City of London Club Championship, but won that of the Metropolitan Club. During the same year he lost a short match with Sir G. A. Thomas 1-3. The war years, with a commission in the Norfolk Regiment, intervened, but chess filled his available moments.

In 1916 he defeated L. I. Estrin, a young Russian who was Hampstead Champion, 5-2 in a match. ln 1919 he lost a match with Winter at Hastings (2-4), and shared seventh to eighth positions with Dr. Olland (Holland) at the B.C.F. Hastings Victory Congress, with victories over Olland,

R. P. Michell, Marchand, and Conde. Then came the B.C.F. Edinburgh Congress of 1920, Scott became British Champion, losing only
to Sir G. A. Thomas.

In this year he also drew a match, 3-3, with Marchand, of Holland, also at Hastings. There followed three more appearances in the championship, Malvern, 1921 (equal fifth to sixth); Southsea,1923 (equal third to fourth); and Southport, 1924 (fourth). And with this Scott passed out of British chess. Ill health and failing eyesight, direct results of sufferings and injuries endured on active service during the war, began to take their toll. On medical advice he sought a warmer climate, and the Riviera henceforth became his home.

We find him sharing seventh to eighth positions at the Hyères Congress, in 1926, and coming equal fifth to sixth, with B. Reilly (our Editor’s first international tourney we believe), at Hyères, 1927.

The days of active play were over, but his great interest in the game remained. Scott was a natural attacking player, more likely, perhaps, to win the Brilliancy Prize than the First Prize.

Edo rating profile for RHV Scott
Edo rating profile for RHV Scott

We have given the bare outline of a career that was all too short, one cut down, in a sense before reaching full maturity. Contemporary records sometimes expressed the need for more stability in Scott’s chess, but they chronicle games of his that speak forcibly of the imaginative, refreshing, and invigorating qualities of his play. We offer an early game, the Brilliancy Prize winner, City of London C.C. Championship, 1913-14. White’s 20th move sets the game alight.

From British Chess Magazine, Volume XLI (1920), Number 10 (October), page 305 we have the following report of his exploits winning the 1920 British Championship in Edinburgh:

“We are glad to be able to present to our readers a photograph of the new champion, Mr. R.H.V Scott. He informs us that it is his most recent one, taken in 1917 when subaltern in the Norfolk Regiment. He saw service with the latter in France, and, as is probably know to most of our subscribers, was badly gassed, from the effects of which is now happily quite recovered.

His victory in the recent Congress in Edinburgh is welcome from at least two points of view; one, that he is one of our youngest first class players (ed: he was 32 at the time, a veteran by the standards of 2022!), having been born in 1889 (ed: this should have been 1888), and therefore may justifiably be expected to improve still further with experience and some curbing of his impatience in defence; and, two, that he claim to represent the more brilliant school of chess, that of Pillsbury, Marshall, Charousek, and Morphy, rather than the more solid school, of say, Steinitz and Rubinstein, who theory was the pilling up of small advantages.

Scott has an excellent “nose” for attack, and has some exceedingly “chessy” ideas. During the congress he put a much greater restraint on himself than is his wont, and we believe this to be the reason he so improved on his previous records.

He had what might be described as the worst of the draw, since he had Black against Sir George  Thomas, EG Sergeant and RP Michell. Some writers have described him as lucky to win, but a study of his games and a comparison with those of others in the tourney go to prove that he played more far-sightedly than any of the others.

We are quite aware that the form of any player is variable, and we have seen Sir George Thomas play much better chess and much less strainedly than he did at Edinburgh. EG Sergeant was generally playing quite at his best, but once or twice his play deteriorated, perhaps as the result of a sleepless night, he then seemed bereft of ideas, and allowed the clock to beat him. This also was the case with Michell, who had many a rush to save his flag falling before the necessary moves were made. Now Scott almost invariably had time to spare.

Perhaps the worst reversal of form was that of JH Blake; but he had been working very hard and late for some time right up to the day the Congress commenced, and was not really in a fit state of health to take part.

Scott has twice before competed for the Championship; in 1913 where he finished eighth, and in 1914 when he was fifth, beating FD Yates, the then Champion and drawing with JH Blackburne.

He has won several brilliancy prizes in congress and club tourneys, and was the champion of the Hampstead Chess Club (where he may have been said to have learnt the game) in 1913 and 1914. He was first acquainted with the moves in 1908.

He is keen on all sports, and puts his whole energy into each line he may be taking. With yet more self-restraint we think his chess will still further improve, and we venture to prophesy this will not be the last British Chess Championship he will win.”

In his memoirs William Winter wrote this:

“I also had the opportunity of playing a number of semi-serious games with RHV Scott and D. Miller, two of the leading London amateurs. Scott was probably the most brilliant combinative played England has ever seen and had already won almost every honour except the British Championship, which fell to him in 1920.

Since those days I have played over hundreds of games, including the beautiful brilliancies of the modern Russian school, and Scott’s best combinations stand up quite well beside them. There were however weaknesses in his play which I shall discuss later. Miller was just the opposite type, a dour solid player exceptionally hard to beat. He is, I am glad to say, still with us, but Scott died a few years ago – he had been out of chess for a long time.”

and this:

“It is entirely legitimate, and can prove very useful until one comes up against an opponent like Capablanca who had no weaknesses of any kind. ln Scott’s case, one of his foibles was an aversion to exchanging queens, and I took full advantage of this in the first two games of the match both of which I won with comparative ease; but Scott was not finished yet.’ In the third game he tied me up in a variation of the Sicilian which I had not previously seen, and in the fourth I made the fatal mistake in going for an early win of material and allowing him a king’s side attack. Things now looked bad for me. I had the black pieces in the fifth game and I dared not play my favourite Sicilian defence because I could not discover a satisfactory answer to his new line.”

Strangely, none of the Encyclopaedia’s by Golombek, Sunnucks or Hooper & Whyld felt that RHVS merited an entry. However Gaige does not forget.

Here is an interesting article from “introuble2” entitled 100 years ago… chess in London during World War I in which Scott is mentioned.

Here is an excellent article from John Saunders

Birthday of FM Shreyas Royal (09-i-2009)

BCN sends birthday wishes to FM Shreyas (known as “Shrey” by his friends) Royal born on Friday, January 9th, 2009. “Hallelujah” by Alexandra Burke was number one in the UK hit parade.

Shreyas attended The Pointer School in Blackheath, London, SE3 whose motto is “The Lord is my Shepherd”.

In October 2021 BCN secured an interview with Shreyas via his father Jitendra and below is mostly from that interview:

BCN: What caused his initial interest in chess and at what age?

His initial interest in chess was capturing or as he used to call it ‘eating’ pieces but as he grew more mature, he loved that there were so many possibilities in chess, so much still left to explore! At the Age of 6 he learnt and got an interest in chess.

BCN: Has Shreyas had any chess teachers or coaches?

  1. Jyothi Lal N. with a peak of 2250 FIDE but is very knowledgeable and helped from just above beginner to 1800. He was Shreyas’s first coach.
  2. Meszaros Gyula (Julian) who was an IM with a peak of 2465 FIDE and was an endgame master which helped him from 1800-2100.
  3. His Current Coach is GM John Emms with a peak of around 2600 FIDE, he is an expert in many fields such as Positional Play, Openings, Strategic chess etc and has also made a big impact on how to prepare against opponents. He had helped him from 2100-2300 so far in just under a year!

BCN: Which chess clubs and/ or Teams does Shreyas represent?

He represents SV Erkenschwick from Germany and Wasa SK from Sweden for online events as he has joined them during the pandemic. He started his 4NCL career with KJCA Kings in January 2019 but now mainly represents Wood Green which he has played for in online events in and will also represent them in the upcoming 4NCL weekends.

His first appearance in Megabase 2022 comes from the 2015 British Under-8 Championship in Coventry, the eventual winner being Dhruv Radhakrishnan.

Progress from those early days has only been interrupted by school examination breaks and the Covid pandemic:

FIDE Rating progress chart for FM Shreyas Royal
FIDE Rating progress chart for FM Shreyas Royal

In August 2016 in Bournemouth Shreyas scored an impressive 6/6 to win the British Under-8 Championship.

Shreyas Royal at the 2016 UKCC Delancey Terafinal in Loughborough courtesy of John Upham Photography
Shreyas Royal at the 2016 UKCC Delancey Terafinal in Loughborough courtesy of John Upham Photography

BCN: What was his first memorable tournament success?

This was the 2016 European Schools Under-7 championship where he was runner-up without any preparation or work on chess!

Shreyas Royal at the 2016 UKCC Delancey Southern Gigafinal in Reading courtesy of John Upham Photography
Shreyas Royal at the 2016 UKCC Delancey Southern Gigafinal in Reading courtesy of John Upham Photography

In 2021 Shreyas was awarded the FM title by FIDE:

FIDE FM Certificate for Shreyas Royal
FIDE FM Certificate for Shreyas Royal

BCN: Which chess players past & present are inspirational for him?

  1. Magnus Carlsen, world champion and broke many FIDE records also is an inspiration for most of this generation. He likes his slow grinding and almost winning from any opening or ending. This is his favourite player of all time.
  2. Garry Kasparov played brilliant attacking chess and calculated like a machine.
  3. Bobby Fischer played a similar style to Kasparov but was more talented than both Magnus and Kasparov in his opinion as he worked all by himself at a time in the USA when chess was not so popular while for the Russians, they had brilliant coaches and had one good player after the other. He rates him a bit lower because Fischer quit competitive chess a bit too early and could not reach the heights he was worthy of.
  4. Alireza Firouzja
  5. Fabiano Caruana

BCN: What are his favourite openings with the White pieces?

He plays 1.d4 pretty much all the time.

MegaBase 2020 has 294 games with 1.d4 and one solitary 1.g3 from March 2021. The 1.d4 games feature main line Queen’s Gambit / Catalan type positions championing 5.Nge2 against the King’s Indian Defence and the exchange variation against the Grunfeld.

BCN: and what are his preferred defences as the second player?

Really depends on what they play, against every opening he has got one or two lines which he enjoys equally.

Megabase 2022 informs us that Shreyas defends the main line Closed Variation of the Ruy Lopez and main line Giuoco Piano. Previously he essayed the Sicilian Najdorf.

BCN: Does he have any favourite chess books?

Not really as he is not such a big fan of chess books, but he likes My 60 Memorable Games by Bobby Fischer. Fundamental Chess Endings and Encyclopedia of Chess Combinations.

BCN: Which tournaments are planned for 2022?

We have pencilled in a couple of norm and Open (France, Spain, Germany etc.) tournaments in European countries.

BCN: What are his favourite subjects outside of chess?

His favourite subjects outside chess are Science, History, Maths with Science as his favourite, History as his second favourite and Maths as his third favourite.

BCN: Does Shreyas play any physical sports?

He does Football, Cricket and a bit of Lawn Tennis.

BCN: What are his plans and aspirations for the future?

To become a world chess champion one day, but it’s very expensive to even get to the level of IM! Currently we are looking for sponsors who can help support Shreyas to get there.

Here is his personal website.

In late December 2021 Camberley Chess Club had Shreyas as their weekly Zoom meeting guest speaker.

and finally three of SRs favourite games:

and from more recent times:

and finally:

FM Shreyas Royal at the London Chess Classic, 2021 courtesy of John Upham Photography
FM Shreyas Royal at the London Chess Classic, 2021 courtesy of John Upham Photography

Death Anniversary of Dr. Paul List (09-ix-1887 09-ix-1954)

Remembering Paul List (09-ix-1887 09-ix-1954)

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

“Paul M List was born in Memel, Lithuania in 1887. After living in Berlin for many years, where he was manager of the bridge and chess rooms in a well-known café-restaurant, he came to this country in 1936.

Paul M List
Paul M List

He has competed in many tournaments, local and international. He, too, failed to get into the prize list in the recent London International Tournament, but he is a resourceful player, particularly in defensive positions.

His best performance was Berlin, 1925 where he came first, ahead of Richter. Since he came to this country he has become an art dealer, but chess is still one of his foremost activities.”

Scene at London. From left to right - Seated : Fairhurst, List and Winter in play. Standing König and Sir George Thomas
Scene at London. From left to right – Seated : Fairhurst, List and Winter in play. Standing König and Sir George Thomas

Here is an article by Matthew Sadler on the 1954 British Lightning Championship won by List

Dr. Paul List (09-ix-1887 09-ix-1954). Source : The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match.
Dr. Paul List (09-ix-1887 09-ix-1954). Source : The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match.

Here is his (surprisingly brief) obituary from British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXIV (1954), Number 10 (October), page 324 :

“Dr. Paul List, the British Lightning Championship winner a year ago (though he could not hold the title because he was not a naturalised Briton), died in London at the age of 66. A player of master strength, Dr. List left his native Russia for Germany in the 1920’s, and began on his second exile in 1938 when sought refuge in this country from Germany.”

Item from Kington Times - Saturday 02 June 1951 regarding the visit of Dr. List
Item from Kington Times – Saturday 02 June 1951 regarding the visit of Dr. List

From The Illustrated London News in 1953 (by BH Wood) :

“Sixty-five-year-old Dr. (not of medicine) Paul List, the oldest competitor, who settled in Britain about 1937 and has been thinking of becoming naturalised ever since, finished with a marvellous fifteen-and-a-half points out of a possible eighteen”

Dr. Paul M. List. Source : https://www.kingpinchess.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/They-provided-their-own-heat1.jpg
Dr. Paul M. List. Source : https://www.kingpinchess.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/They-provided-their-own-heat1.jpg

Here is his Wikipedia entry