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 :
and following his retirement (and the time of the 2008 electoral roll) Adrian had moved to Pound House, Southover, Wells, BA5 1UH :
Adrian has written many learned papers and has had two books published :
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).
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.
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.
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).
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).
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).
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 :
“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….”
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.