Tag Archives: Honours

Birthday of Demis Hassabis CBE FRS FREng FRSA (27-vii-1976)

BCN wishes Happy Birthday to Demis Hassabis CBE FRS FREng FRSA (27-vii-1976)

From https://achievement.org/achiever/demis-hassabis-ph-d/ :

Demis Hassabis, the eldest of three, was born in London on July 27, 1976, to a Greek Cypriot father and a Chinese Singaporean mother.

(Originally his surname was spelt Hassapis and his brother George retained his.)

“Demis Hassabis was born in London, England. He is of both Greek and Chinese ancestry; his father came from Cyprus, his mother from Singapore. Demis and his family moved frequently as his father pursued a variety of business and creative ventures.

Demis was four years old when he saw his father and an uncle playing chess and asked them to teach him the game. He took to it quickly and was soon beating both of them. He showed a precocious aptitude for all games employing logic and strategy. ”

Demis Hassabis
Demis Hassabis

When 13 (in 1989) Demis achieved a FIDE rating of 2300 which, at the time, was the second highest rating for his age.  First highest was Judit Polgar.

Demis was SCCU Under-18 champion in 1989 and was presented with the “old Trophy” according to the SCCU report.

Lawrence Cooper, Demis Hassabis, Cathy Haslinger and Dharshan Kumaran in around 1986. Possibly at a Lloyds Bank event.
Lawrence Cooper, Demis Hassabis, Cathy Haslinger and Dharshan Kumaran in around 1986. Possibly at a Lloyds Bank event.

Demis was a Candidate Master and brother of George Hassapis.

Demis started off with Hampstead Junior Chess Club.

He then played for Barnet Knights, Queens College College Union and Finchley chess clubs.

Demis Hassabis courtesy of Cathy Rogers
Demis Hassabis courtesy of Cathy Rogers

According to Tryfon Gavriel :

Demis wrote a hit computer game called “The theme park”, that was at the top of the charts for six months and sold than more 3.5 million copies. He also did quite well in the 1997 Mind Sports Olympiad.

Demis Hassabis, IMMO KLINK/CONTOUR BY GETTY IMAGES
Demis Hassabis, IMMO KLINK/CONTOUR BY GETTY IMAGES

Hassabis returned to academia to obtain his PhD in cognitive neuroscience from University College London (UCL) in 2009 supervised by Eleanor Maguire. He sought to find inspiration in the human brain for new AI algorithms.

Danny Gormally wrote (in March 2014) this :

“Demis Hassapis is a former chess prodigy who recently sold his company to Google for £400 million. Demonstrating that if you have the brainpower to be good at chess, you are far better off putting that intelligence to use in some other activity where you might actually get rewarded. Then in fairness, even most strong chess players aren’t as bright as Demis.”

Demis was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2018

In May 2021 Demis was cited by Dominic Cummings in his evidence to the  Commons Heath, and Science and Technology committees as having played an important contribution  to managing and understanding the PHE and NHS data during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK.

Here are his listed games

Death Anniversary of Sir George Thomas, 7th Baronet (14-vi-1881 23-vii-1972)

Death Anniversary of Sir George Alan Thomas, 7th Baronet (14-vi-1881 23-vii-1972)

Signature of GA Thomas from a Brian Reilly "after dinner" postcard from Hastings Christmas Congress, 1945-1946
Signature of GA Thomas from a Brian Reilly “after dinner” postcard from Hastings Christmas Congress, 1945-1946

From The Encyclopedia of Chess (BT Batsford, 1977) by Harry Golombek :

“British international master, born in Constantinople (previously Byzantium and currently Istanbul : Ed.) His mother (Lady Edith Margaret Thomas : Ed) was one of the strongest English women players, winner of the first Ladies tournament at Hastings 1895.

(Ed : his father was Sir George Sydney Meade Thomas)

Thomas was an all-round athlete who excelled at tennis, hockey and badminton as well as chess. He captained the English badminton team and was All England Badminton Singles champion from 1920 to 1923.”

Sir George Alan Thomas : "During his playing career, he won 78 national titles in the United Kingdom and a further 12 French titles; he also competed in 29 out of 30 English internationals, winning 50 matches in the process."
Sir George Alan Thomas : “During his playing career, he won 78 national titles in the United Kingdom and a further 12 French titles; he also competed in 29 out of 30 English internationals, winning 50 matches in the process.”

Here is an excellent article (albeit stating GT was a Grandmaster and was president of the British Chest Federation!) from the National Badminton Museum.

“Thomas won the British chess championship twice, in 1923 and 1934 and represented England in the Olympiads of 1927 where he tied with Norman Hansen for the best score – 80% on board 3, 1930, 1931, 1935, 1937 and 1939.

Passenger list from RMS Alacantra showing Sir George Thomas arriving at Buenos Aires on September 19th, 1939
Passenger list from RMS Alacantra showing Sir George Thomas arriving at Buenos Aires on September 19th, 1939
Entry for Sir George Thomas from above image.
Entry for Sir George Thomas from above image.

In international tournaments his greatest successes were 1st at Spa (ahead of Tartakower) and =1st at Hastings 1934/5 (tied with Euwe and Flohr, ahead of Capablanca and Botvinnik).

Sir George Thomas, British Chess Champion, Southsea Congress, 1923 Photograph by Gilbert N Fulcher, Southsea
Sir George Thomas, British Chess Champion, Southsea Congress, 1923 Photograph by Gilbert N Fulcher, Southsea

He was known for his keen sense of sportsmanship and for his ability to encourage and inspire younger players. He served for many years on the BCF Junior selection committee and was for a time Games Editor of the British Chess Magazine. FIDE awarded him the titles of international master (1950) and International Judge (1952). (article by Ray Keene)”

British chess champion Sir George Thomas playing at the Annual British Chess Federation Championship in Yarmouth, England, July 11th 1935. (Photo by Harry Todd/Fox Photos/Getty Images)
British chess champion Sir George Thomas playing at the Annual British Chess Federation Championship in Yarmouth, England, July 11th 1935. (Photo by Harry Todd/Fox Photos/Getty Images)

Thomas with the White pieces was predominantly a Ruy Lopez devotee.

With the Black pieces against 1.e4 he defended the Lopez and the Queen’s Gambit Declined was his favourite versus 1.d4

From The Encyclopedia of Chess (Robert Hale 1972 and 1976) by Anne Sunnucks :

“International Master (1950), International Judge (1952) and British Champion in 1923 and 1934. All England Badminton Singles Champion, All England Badminton Doubles Champion, Wimbledon tennis player and county hockey player.

Sir George Thomas was born in Constantinople on 14th June 1881. His mother, Lady Thomas, won the first ever ladies’ tournament, which was held in conjunction with the Hastings International Chess Tournament of 1895.

He learned the moves at the age of 4, and as a boy met many of the world’s leading players, including Steinitz, Lasker, Tchigorin and Pillsbury, in his mother’s drawing-room.

Apart from serving as a subaltern in the Army during the 1914-1918 war, Sir George has devoted his life to sport. He played tennis at Wimbledon, played hockey for Hampshire, captained the English Badminton team and was All England Badminton Singles Champion from 1920-1923 and doubles champion nine times.

Sir George Thomas And Brian Reilly Sir George Thomas (left), leader of the British chess team, playing Irishman Brian Reilly at the Easter Chess Congress, Margate, April 24th 1935. (Photo by Harry Todd/Fox Photos/Getty Images)
Sir George Thomas And Brian Reilly
Sir George Thomas (left), leader of the British chess team, playing Irishman Brian Reilly at the Easter Chess Congress, Margate, April 24th 1935. (Photo by Harry Todd/Fox Photos/Getty Images)

Sir George played chess for England regularly from 1910 to 1939. He played for the British Chess Federation in the Chess Olympiads of 1927,1930, 1931, 1933, 1935, 1937 and 1939, and captained the team which withdrew from the Buenos Aires Olympiad in 1939 on the out-break of war.

A Brian Reilly "after dinner" postcard from Margate 1936.
A Brian Reilly “after dinner” postcard from Margate 1936.
The Grand Hotel, Cliftonville, Margate. Venue for the Margate tournaments.
The Grand Hotel, Cliftonville, Margate. Venue for the Margate tournaments.

His first appearance in the British Championship was in he came 2nd. He also came 2nd in 192l and in 1923 won the first time, thus becoming British Chess Champion and
Badminton Champion in the same year. Sir George’s best performance was at Hastings 1934-1935, when he came =1st. In the last round he needed only a draw against R. P. Michell to come lst, ahead of Euwe, Capablanca, Flohr and Lilienthal, but he lost and had to be content with sharing lst prize with Euwe and Flohr.

Nice Masters, 1931. Standing : Daniel Noteboom, Abraham Baratz, George Renaud (Organiser), John J O'Hanlon, 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), John J O’Hanlon, 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

During his career he has beaten Botvinnik, Flohr and and drawn with Nimzowitsch, Rubinstein and Capablanca. He been noted for his sportsmanship and for his interest in and encouragement of young players.

Partie d'échecs Sir Georges Thomas, le célèbre joueur d'échecs britannique, jouant contre sa plus jeune adversaire âgée de 8 ans, à Londres, Royaume-Uni le 24 octobre 1934. (Photo by Keystone-France\Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
Partie d’échecs
Sir Georges Thomas, le célèbre joueur d’échecs britannique, jouant contre sa plus jeune adversaire âgée de 8 ans, à Londres, Royaume-Uni le 24 octobre 1934. (Photo by Keystone-France\Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

Since his retirement until the last few years, Sir George continued to attend tournaments as a spectator.

He is the author of The Art of Badminton, published in 1923.

The Art of Badminton
The Art of Badminton

He died on 23rd July 1972 in a London nursing home.”

Here is Part II of GM Matthew Sadler’s appreciation of Sir George.

Most interestingly we have this this splendid article from Neil Blackburn (SimaginFan) on chess.com

Here is his Wikipedia entry

Sir George Alan Thomas (14-vi-1881 23-vii-1972)
Sir George Alan Thomas (14-vi-1881 23-vii-1972)

and here is Part III of Matthew Sadler’s article

Sir George Alan Thomas
Sir George Alan Thomas

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

“English player. International Master (1950), International Arbiter (1952), British champion 1923 and 1934. His mother, who taught him chess, was winner of one of the first women’s tournaments, Hastings 1895, He played in more than 80 tournaments and achieved his best result at Hastings 1934-5 (about category 9), when he scored +6-1—2 to share first prize with Euwe and Flohr ahead of Botvinnik and Capablanca. Thomas played in seven Olympiads from 1927 to 1939, and in the first the highest percentage score was made by him ( + 9=6) and the Dane Holgar Norman-Hansen (1899- ) (+11=2—2). A leading English player for more than 25 years, Thomas fought many battles at the famous City of London club, winning 16 of the annual championships from 1913-14 to 1938-9. In his sixty-ninth year he gave up competitive chess when, after a hard game, ‘the board and men began to swim before my eyes,’ He continued his active interest in junior events and his visits, now as a spectator, to chess events.

A man of few words, imperturbable, of fine manners. Sir George Thomas was respected throughout the chess world for his sportsmanship and impartiality, and his opinion was often sought when disputes arose between players. The inheritor of both a baronetcy and private means, he
devoted his life to games and sports. Besides his chess he was a keen hockey player, a competitor in international lawn tennis (reaching the last eight at Wimbledon on one occasion), and winner of about 90 badminton titles, notably the All-England men’s singles championship which he won four times, from 1920 to 1923.”

Remembering Sir Richard Clarke KCB OBE (13-viii-1910 21-vi-1975)

Sir Richard William Barnes Clarke (13-viii-1910 21-vi-1975), National Portrait Gallery, Walter Bird
Sir Richard Clarke (13-viii-1910 21-vi-1975), National Portrait Gallery, Walter Bird

BCN Remembers Sir Richard Clarke KCB OBE who passed away on June 21st 1975.

According to chess-poster.com : “Clarke died in the University College Hospital, in London, on 21 June 1975 and was cremated at Golders Green three days later. He was survived by his wife Brenda Pile (married in 1950, née Skinner) and their three sons.”

One of those sons is Charles Rodway Clarke along with his brothers Mark G and Timothy Rodway.

Richard William Barnes Clarke was born on August 13th, 1910 in Basford, Derbyshire. The birth was registered in Ilkeston in the district of Erewash. His parents were a secondary and technical school schoolmaster of science, William Thomas Clarke and Helen Rodway Clarke (née Barnes). Richard was baptised on October 1st 1910 in St. Lawrence (Anglican) Church in Heanor, Derbyshire.

The 1911 census records the family living at “Iona” which was a modest property in Fletcher Street in Heanor which had six rooms.  Richard was seven months old and he had a three year old sister, Stella Helen Clarke. The family retained a nineteen year old domestic servant, Ada Mary Brown who has been born in Codnor, Derbyshire.

Richard was educated at Christ’s Hospital, London followed by Clare College, Cambridge. At University he studied mathematics specialising in statistics. He was ranked at the sixth “wrangler“. Subsequently he was awarded the Frances Wood Prize by the Royal Statistical Society.

In 1944 Richard was awarded the OBE for his work as Planning Officer for the Ministry of Production followed by Companion of the Bath in 1951 for his work as Under Secretary at HM Treasury and in 1964 he was made Knight Commander of the Bath for his work as Second Secretary at HM Treasury.

According to chess-poster.com : “He was commonly known as Otto Clarke” and according to his son Mark the nickname “Otto” was possibly because of Clarke’s “forceful” personality was considered Germanic. According to Sir Sam Brittan, “it was because his round glasses and the bridge over the nose looked like OTTO.”

From The Oxford Companion to Chess by Hooper & Whyld :

Creator of the British system of grading. He gave up active chess after leaving Cambridge University where he played second board between C.H.O’D. Alexander and Jacob Bronowski.

At first a financial journalist (one of the two who created the Financial Times Index), he became, at the outbreak of the Second World War, a temporary civil servant, remaining to become one of the most distinguished of them, and to receive a knighthood.

According to Arpad E. Elo in “Ratings of Chessplayers Past and Present” : “In the chess world, rating systems have been used with varying degrees of success for over twenty-five years. Those which have survived a share a common principle in that they combine the percentage score achieved by a player with the rating of his competition. They use similar formulae for the evaluation of performance and differ mainly in the elaboration of the scales. The most notable are the Ingo (Hoesskinger 1948), the Harkness (Harkness 1956), and the British Chess Federation (Clarke 1957) systems. These received acceptance because they produced ranking lists which generally agreed with the personal estimates made by knowledgeable chessplayers.”

Here is an article in full reproduced from British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXIII, Number 2, February, 1963, pages 49 -53 :

British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXIII, Number 2, February, 1963, page 49
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXIII, Number 2, February, 1963, page 49
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXIII, Number 2, February, 1963, page 50
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXIII, Number 2, February, 1963, page 50
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXIII, Number 2, February, 1963, page 51
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXIII, Number 2, February, 1963, page 51
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXIII, Number 2, February, 1963, page 52
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXIII, Number 2, February, 1963, page 52
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXIII, Number 2, February, 1963, page 53
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXIII, Number 2, February, 1963, page 53

The June 1975 issue of British Chess Magazine announces his passing and promises that a tribute would follow : it never did.

Sir Richard William Barnes Clarke (13-viii-1910 21-vi-1975), National Portrait Gallery, Rex Coleman
Sir Richard Clarke (13-viii-1910 21-vi-1975), National Portrait Gallery, Rex Coleman

Here is his Wikipedia entry

Here is a small article from chess-poster.com

Here is detail about the Clarke Grading System

and more about chess ratings systems in general

The Economic Effort of War
The Economic Effort of War

Death Anniversary of Sir Richard Clarke KCB CB OBE (13-viii-1910 21-vi-1975)

BCN Remembers Sir Richard Clarke KCB OBE who passed away on June 21st 1975.

According to chess-poster.com : “Clarke died in the University College Hospital, in London, on 21 June 1975 and was cremated at Golders Green three days later. He was survived by his wife Brenda Pile (married in 1950, née Skinner) and their three sons.”

One of those sons is Charles Rodway Clarke along with his brothers Mark G and Timothy Rodway.

Richard William Barnes Clarke was born on August 13th, 1910 in Basford, Derbyshire. The birth was registered in Ilkeston in the district of Erewash. His parents were a secondary and technical school schoolmaster of science, William Thomas Clarke and Helen Rodway Clarke (née Barnes). Richard was baptised on October 1st 1910 in St. Lawrence (Anglican) Church in Heanor, Derbyshire.

The 1911 census records the family living at “Iona” which was a modest property in Fletcher Street in Heanor which had six rooms.  Richard was seven months old and he had a three year old sister, Stella Helen Clarke. The family retained a nineteen year old domestic servant, Ada Mary Brown who has been born in Codnor, Derbyshire.

Richard was educated at Christ’s Hospital, London followed by Clare College, Cambridge. At University he studied mathematics specialising in statistics. He was ranked at the sixth “wrangler“. Subsequently he was awarded the Frances Wood Prize by the Royal Statistical Society.

In 1944 Richard was awarded the OBE for his work as Planning Officer for the Ministry of Production followed by Companion of the Bath in 1951 for his work as Under Secretary at HM Treasury and in 1964 he was made Knight Commander of the Bath for his work as Second Secretary at HM Treasury.

According to chess-poster.com : “He was commonly known as Otto Clarke” and according to his son Mark the nickname “Otto” was possibly because of Clarke’s “forceful” personality was considered Germanic. According to Sir Sam Brittan, “it was because his round glasses and the bridge over the nose looked like OTTO.”

From The Oxford Companion to Chess by Hooper & Whyld :

Creator of the British system of grading. He gave up active chess after leaving Cambridge University where he played second board between C.H.O’D. Alexander and Jacob Bronowski.

At first a financial journalist (one of the two who created the Financial Times Index), he became, at the outbreak of the Second World War, a temporary civil servant, remaining to become one of the most distinguished of them, and to receive a knighthood.

According to Arpad E. Elo in “Ratings of Chessplayers Past and Present” : “In the chess world, rating systems have been used with varying degrees of success for over twenty-five years. Those which have survived a share a common principle in that they combine the percentage score achieved by a player with the rating of his competition. They use similar formulae for the evaluation of performance and differ mainly in the elaboration of the scales. The most notable are the Ingo (Hoesskinger 1948), the Harkness (Harkness 1956), and the British Chess Federation (Clarke 1957) systems. These received acceptance because they produced ranking lists which generally agreed with the personal estimates made by knowledgeable chessplayers.”

Here is an article in full reproduced from British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXIII, Number 2, February, 1963, pages 49 -53 :

British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXIII, Number 2, February, 1963, page 49
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXIII, Number 2, February, 1963, page 49
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXIII, Number 2, February, 1963, page 50
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXIII, Number 2, February, 1963, page 50
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXIII, Number 2, February, 1963, page 51
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXIII, Number 2, February, 1963, page 51
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXIII, Number 2, February, 1963, page 52
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXIII, Number 2, February, 1963, page 52
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXIII, Number 2, February, 1963, page 53
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXIII, Number 2, February, 1963, page 53

The June 1975 issue of British Chess Magazine announces his passing and promises that a tribute would follow : it never did.

Sir Richard William Barnes Clarke (13-viii-1910 21-vi-1975), National Portrait Gallery, Rex Coleman
Sir Richard Clarke (13-viii-1910 21-vi-1975), National Portrait Gallery, Rex Coleman

Here is his Wikipedia entry

Here is a small article from chess-poster.com

Here is detail about the Clarke Grading System

and more about chess ratings systems in general

The Economic Effort of War
The Economic Effort of War

Many Happy Returns GM Nigel Short MBE (01-vi-1965)

GM Nigel David Short, courtesy of John Upham Photography
GM Nigel David Short, courtesy of John Upham Photography

BCN wishes Nigel Short a happy birthday on this day (June 1st) in 1965.

In the 1999 Queen’s Birthday Honours List Nigel was awarded the MBE. The citation read simply : “For services to Chess”.

Here is his extensive Wikipedia entry.

For the 1979 Spassky vs the BCF Junior Squad simultaneous display this was written : “Rating 213. World No.1, 13 year old. First Evening Standard under-10s, 1975. First under-14s, 1976. First under-21s, 1978.

British Men’s Lightning (10 seconds per move) champion 1978 – the youngest National Men’s Champion in chess history. Bronze medallist world under-17 championship 1979.

In simuls Nigel has beaten Korchnoi and Petrosian. World Nos. 2 and 4. Now he plays Spassky, World No.3.”

In 1978 Harry Golombek OBE wrote the following in the 1979 Dataday Chess Diary:

“The youngest and perhaps the one who will eventually make the most impression on the world of chess. Nigel Short, who at the age of 12 is London Under 21 champion, is the likeliest prospect for a world champion this country has ever seen. Certainly I cannot think of s single attribute that a prospective world champion should have that he has not got. Positional flair, steadiness of purpose, tactical ability, all these he has in profusion.

It is a blessing that he has not got a swollen head as might so easily have happened. Perhaps there is something about the game which acts as a steadying influence. At any rate, chess apart, he is just a pleasant little boy; but a pleasant little boy who can play the following game (in a county match, Lancashire v. Durham towards the end of October 1977) in a style reminiscent of Capablanca.”

Nigel had beaten the same opponent in 15 moves a year before in the same match:

Nigel Short plays a publicity blitz game Joel Benjamin at Lloyd's Bank, 1978
Nigel Short plays Joel Benjamin at Lloyd’s Bank, 1976. 1-0, Maroczy Bind
Anatoly Karpov plays Nigel Short, London, Philips & Drew, French Winawer, 1/2-1/2, Stewart Reuben looking on
Anatoly Karpov plays Nigel Short, London, Philips & Drew, French Winawer, 1/2-1/2, Stewart Reuben looking on

Nigel Short
Nigel Short
Nigel analyses with Viktor Korchnoi, unknown date and venue
Nigel analyses with Viktor Korchnoi, unknown date and venue

Nigel Short
Nigel Short

Nigel Short Simultaneous display at the 2012 London Chess Classic, courtesy of John Upham Photography
Nigel Short Simultaneous display at the 2012 London Chess Classic, courtesy of John Upham Photography
Nigel Short : Chess Prodigy (1981)
Nigel Short : Chess Prodigy (1981)
Nigel Short's Chess Skills (1989)
Nigel Short’s Chess Skills (1989)
New Ideas in the French Defence (1991)
New Ideas in the French Defence (1991)
Winning, Nigel Short, Quality Chess, June 2021, ISBN: 978-1-78483-159-2
Winning, Nigel Short, Quality Chess, June 2021, ISBN: 978-1-78483-159-2

 

Nigel Short
Nigel Short

Remembering BH Wood MSc FCS OBE (13-vii-1909 04-iv-1989)

BH Wood at CHESS in Sutton Coldfield
BH Wood at CHESS, Railway Road, Sutton Coldfield, B73 6AZ.

We remember “BH” Wood MSc FCS OBE who passed away on Tuesday April 4th, 1989 in the district of Birmingham.

He was buried alongside his wife Marjorie in the Sutton Coldfield Cemetery Extension which was opened in 1934 as an extension to the Holy Trinity Church.

Yorkshire Childhood

Baruch Harold Wood (generally known as BH Wood, or simply “BH”, by the chess world) was born on Tuesday, July 13th 1909 in Ecclesall, Sheffield, Yorkshire. The registration district was Ecclesall Bierlow.

Gravestone of BH & ME Wood, photo by Glen Livet
Gravestone of BH & ME Wood, photo by Glen Livet

The birth record suggests that he was baptised as Harold Baruch Wood. His parent’s were Baruch Talbot (1881-1951) and Florence Muriel Wood (née Herington). He appears as Harold Baruch on the 1911 census.

1911 Census record for the Wood household
1911 Census record for the Wood household
1911 Census record for the Wood household
1911 Census record for the Wood household

Interestingly, the Census form was signed by Talbot Wood so maybe BHs father also did not like his own first name! At the time of the Census the family lived at 30, Violet Bank Road, Nether Edge, Sheffield, S7 1RZ.

Welsh School Days

Baruch attended Friars School, Bangor (established in 1557) along with William Ritson Morry. BHW was one year and three months older than WRM so it is entirely possible that they had met.

Marriage to Marjory

In October 1936 BHW married Marjory Elizabeth Farrington in Ross, Herefordshire. When Marjory died on 7th September 1977 they were living at 146, Rectory Road, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands. Baruch and Marjory had four children, FM Christopher Wood, Philip, Frank and Peggy.

146, Rectory Road, The Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, B75 7RS
146, Rectory Road, The Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, B75 7RS

Honours

In the 1984 New Years Honours List, Civil Division, BHW was awarded the OBE. The citation read simply : “For services to Chess”

He won the BCF President’s Award in 1983 alongside TJ Beach and Brian Reilly.

BH Wood playing board 9 in the Anglo team in the Anglo-Soviet Radio Team Match of 1946
BH Wood playing board 9 in the Anglo team in the Anglo-Soviet Radio Team Match of 1946

The 1946 Anglo-Soviet Radio Match

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

“BH Wood was born in Sheffield in 1909. A great lover of the game, he founded the magazine Chess in 1935, and has written a book for beginners. He scored a notable success by winning the British Correspondence Championship on one occasion. Wood has competed in the British Championship on several occasions, and in a number of Premier Reserves tournaments. He also played for Great Britain in the international team tournament (ed. Olympiad) at Buenos Aires in 1939.

Left to right Baruch H Wood, Stuart Milner-Barry, Vera Menchik (playing in the women's world championship (held concurrently with the 1939 Buenos Aires 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, Stuart Milner-Barry, Vera Menchik (playing in the women’s world championship (held concurrently with the 1939 Buenos Aires 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

He is a graduate of the University of Wales and Birmingham University. He has been very active in recent years in giving simultaneous exhibitions and in organising correspondence chess.”

Signature of BH Wood from a Brian Reilly "after dinner" postcard from Margate 1936.
Signature of BH Wood from a Brian Reilly “after dinner” postcard from Margate 1936.

Between 1938 and 1957, BH won the championship of Warwickshire eight times. He held the record (until 2006) for the most Birmingham & District Chess League Individual titles – nine, all won in Division 1: 1937, 1939, 1954, 1956, 1958, 1960, 1966, 1967, and 1983. He was the Records Secretary for the League from 1951-61.

Birth of a Magazine

CHESS Cover for volume 1, September 1935 - August 1936. Source : Michael Clapham
CHESS Cover for volume 1, September 1935 – August 1936. Source : Michael Clapham

From CHESS, Volume 52 (1987), Number 1014-15 (Christmas), we have the very last issue of the magazine for which BH was the Editor before becoming Founding Editor (and Paul Lamford became Editor). BH wrote:

“Countless people have asked me ‘Why did you start CHESS?’ I was in love with university life and has just taken an M.Sc., a waste of time after a good first-class honours, and decided to have a go at replacing the old Chess Amateur, which had closed down.  I had edited the students’ magazine in both Bangor and Birmingham. The first had been produced by The Daily Post Printers in Liverpool, who agreed to print  1,000 copies for £90. That £90 would be nearly £2,400 now.

CHESS masthead for Volume 1, Number 1, 1935. Source : Michael Clapham
CHESS masthead for Volume 1, Number 1, 1935. Source : Michael Clapham

A year’s subscription I announced as 10 shillings (50p).

Two bits of luck! J.H. Van Meurs, a Dutchman who did a lot for British Chess, had listed in his still young B.C.F. Year Book some hundreds of chess clubs.

W.H. Watts, another great figure of those days, had floated a rather short-lived magazine The Chess Budget, donated a ‘Budget Cup‘, for knock-out team competition and published excellent books on big tournaments, etc. He handed me a list of keen chess players all around the world. I spent a week addressing envelopes by hand to all the clubs and people.

To individuals I sent single copies of CHESS; to each club three copies, inviting payment or subscriptions. Hardly anybody failed to pay. Obviously there was a demand for a chess magazine with a lighter touch than the B.C.M.

Years later, I learnt why Mr. Watts had been so generous. He had fallen out with the establishment and welcomed the arrival of a new publication.

Within three months I was selling 3,000 copies an issue.

Some early ideas were chessy short stories , cartoons and a competition for humorous anecdotes.

I soon went to Amsterdam for the first Euwe-Alekhine match. I traced Alekhine to his hotel room with difficulty. He was officially incommunicado. He came to the door in pyjamas, and within five minutes we had agreed to a £5 article per month. I was, of course, already on conversational terms with him (and remained so!).

Now I fell into trap. 3,000 readers in four months meant 6,000 in eight months, 9,000 in  a year…?

Not so! This is extrapolation, a matter of calculation full of risks.

My preparations had been too good. In the remaining eight months of the year I picked up only a thousand more readers. Alekhine lost the title. With three months to go, my money ran out, I struggled to the end of the year.  The twelfth issue was pathetically thin compared with the first few but renewals staring rolling in and CHESS blossomed again.

The fifty-two years since have been gruelling, unremitting toil but fascinating interest. How we bought our own presses and the effect this had on the world’s chess press – A law suit that went to appeal – How CHESS linked people in Malta, Australia, Hungary – Adventures in ‘simuls’, postal chess etc. How we helped police to identify a drowned man, etc. So many tales to tell!

BHW

BCF Obituary

Here is an obituary from the BCF Yearbook 1989 – 1990, page 14 :

B.H. Wood, O.B.E

Baruch H. Wood, O.B.E., founder of CHESS, and the magazines editor for 52 years, died at the age of 79 on 4th April.

Born in Sheffield on 13 July 1909, “B.H.”, as he was widely known in chess circles, took up the game early playing competitively at school and at University. After graduating from the University College of Wales, Bangor with a 1st class honours degree in chemistry, he took an MSc at Birmingham University. Soon, however, his love of chess took him away from a career in chemistry, with his launch of CHESS in 1935.  He was to continue as editor, publisher, for many years printer, and often major contributor, for over half a century.

CHESS, Sutton Coldfield
CHESS, Sutton Coldfield

The magazine quickly won an international reputation for its frankness and outspokenness. It speaks much for the character and determination of its editor that he was able to continue publishing CHESS throughout the difficult years of the Second World War, whilst holding a full-time job as director of a chemical research laboratory in Lichfield.

Wood will be best remembered for the magazine, and for his other journalistic activities. He was for many years chess correspondent of The Daily Telegraph and of The Illustrated London News, and his best known book Easy Guide to Chess went through three editions and many impressions.

Easy Guide to Chess, BH Wood, CHESS, Sutton Coldfield, 1945
Easy Guide to Chess, BH Wood, CHESS, Sutton Coldfield, 1945

The above book (albeit the later Cadogan version) is available online.

Easy Guide to Chess
Easy Guide to Chess

Nigel Davies wrote “One of the best beginners books on the market.”

Wood’s feat in writing, publishing, printing and selling his own book may be unique. However, Wood was no mean player as his draw against the then world champion Max Euwe, who became a life-long friend, testifies.

He represented England in the International Team Championship at Buenos Aires in 1939, scoring 50%. He also took first prize in international tournaments at Baarn 1947, Paignton 1954, Whitby 1963, Thorshavn 1967 and Jersey 1975 and was second in the 1948 British Championship. He was British Correspondence Chess Champion in 1945.

The Cedars Chess Club May 1962 - Baruch is seated, second from the right. Photograph sourced from ECF obituary.
The Cedars Chess Club May 1962 – Baruch is seated, second from the right. Photograph sourced from ECF obituary.

A life member of F.I.D.E. Wood was also an International Arbiter, and organised 21 annual chess festivals at seaside venues from the 50’s onwards. In addition he was an active behind-the-scenes inspirer of many chess events, and in particular was known as a driving spirit of university chess, being until the time of his death President of the British University Chess Association.

The Author's British Record Simultaneous Display. Some of the 127 schoolboys the author played simultaneously ay Ilford County High School, Winning over a a hundred of the games in 4 hours and 50 minutes.
The Author’s British Record Simultaneous Display. Some of the 127 schoolboys the author played simultaneously at Ilford County High School, Winning over a a hundred of the games in 4 hours and 50 minutes.

He founded the Postal Chess Club and League and was for many years President of the British Postal Chess Federation.

Letter from BH Wood to JE Upham dated 7th July 1983
Letter from BH Wood to JE Upham dated 7th July 1983
"B.H." at Bournemouth in May 1971
“B.H.” at Bournemouth in May 1971

He was awarded the O.B.E. for services to chess in 1984.

His wife Marjory, predeceased him; he leaves three sons Christopher, Frank and Philip, and a daughter Peggy.

BH Wood & his daughter Peggy Clarke
BH Wood & his daughter Peggy

and here is the article as it appeared in the Yearbook.

BCF Yearbook, 1989-90, page 14
BCF Yearbook, 1989-90, page 14
BCF Yearbook, 1989-90, page 15
BCF Yearbook, 1989-90, page 15

Golombek on Wood

From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977)  by Harry Golombek :

“A well known British player, editor of Chess (starting 1935) and chess correspondent of The Daily Telegraph and Illustrated London News. A FIDE judge, he has founded and conducted 21 annual chess festivals, notably at Whitby, Eastbourne and Southport.

BH Wood playing AY "Johnnie" Green in the 1956 British Championships in Blackpool, photographer unknown
BH Wood playing AY “Johnnie” Green in the 1956 British Championships in Blackpool, photographer unknown

Winner of a number of small and semi-international tournaments : Baarn 1947, Paignton 1954, Whitby 1963, Thorshavn 1967, and Jersey 1975.

Played for the BCF in the International Team Tournament at Buenos Aires 1939. His best tournament result was probably his equal second in the British Championship at London 1948.

In 1954 BHW was sued BH Wood for libel by William Ritson Morry over a letter BHW sent to Henry Golding of the Monmouthshire County Chess Association warning him of WRMs financial history. Here is a summary of the action :

The Birmingham Post, July 15th, 1954
The Birmingham Post, July 15th, 1954

and two years later in 1956 we have this telling photograph of Ritson and BH playing at the British Championships in Blackpool. It must have been an entertaining pairing for the organisers if no-one else!

William Ritson Morry playing Baruch Harold Wood at the British Championships in Blackpool from 1956
William Ritson Morry playing BH Wood at the British Championships in Blackpool from 1956

Possibly WRM was thinking this as they played:

Everybody Loves Wood
Everybody Loves Wood

Among his books are : Easy Guide to Chess, Sutton Coldfield 1942 et seq; World Championship Candidates Tournament 1953, Sutton Coldfield 1954. “

World Championship Candidates Tournament 1953, BH Wood, CHESS, Sutton Coldfield, 1954
World Championship Candidates Tournament 1953, BH Wood, CHESS, Sutton Coldfield, 1954

Cafferty on Wood (1989)

Here is the obituary from British Chess Magazine, Volume CIX (1989, 109), Number 5 (May), pages 210 – 211:

B. H. WOOD

Baruch Harold Wood (13 viii 1909-4 iv 1989) popularly known as “B. H.” was a significant figure of the last fifty-odd years in British chess. His life touched practically all aspects of the game as player, both OTB and CC, magazine publisher and editor, organiser of club, congress and university chess, journalist . . . the list seems endless. In 1984 he was awarded the OBE for services to chess.

Born at Sheffield, which he sometimes used as an excuse when he was accused of stubbornness, (“It’s my Yorkshire blood, you know”) he was educated in North Wales (Friar’s School, and then University College, Bangor) and at Birmingham University.

He started his chess magazine at Sutton Coldfield in 1935 as an impecunious graduate who could not find suitable work in the Depression, and his lively style ensured that it was a beacon in British chess for fifty years to come! For many British chess fans he was “Mr Chess” yet it seems a miracle that he kept the magazine going in the difficult times when interest in the game was at a low ebb. He may well have subsidised it from his journalistic work (Birmingham Post, Illustrated London News and Daily Telegraph) and from his wartime work as manager of a chemical laboratory (“The first time I ever earned a decent salary”).

His duodenal ulcer prevented him doing military service, and later in life he suffered from failing eyesight and the inability to walk which resulted from his diabetes, not diagnosed till he had suffered from it for decades.

He worked a seven-day week on the magazine, and his wife who predeceased him was often unsure when he would be home such was his devotion to the work. At times he would take off for trips abroad or long simul tours through Britain while trying to keep the magazine on schedule.

One of his last long tours was in 1967 when he drove Botvinnik around the UK. The world champion was duly impressed by the work load and wrote a very favourable account of the trip, revealing incidentally that Barry was still paying off the mortgage on his large house in Rectory Road, Sutton Coldfield where the car was parked on the forecourt as the garage was the reserve storage for a large library of chess books! His ability to quote chemical formula from memory also impressed Botvinnik.

He brought up a family of four, all of whom were skilled players, apart, perhaps from the youngest boy. Daughter Peggy
was prominent in women’s chess and married Peter Clarke at the time of the Botvinnik visit. Elder sons Chris and Frank were of over-200 strength, but had seen too much of their father’s life at close hand to want to take over the business from him. He ultimately sold out to Pergamon in 1987 though negotiations had been started much earlier. It was probably too much of a wrench to let go until failing health left him with little alternative, but he described
the terms as very generous.

Barry was a gifted linguist who was welcome abroad for his un-English approach of having a go at the native tongue. As a player he was at his best in the late 1930s (a member of the 1939 Olympiad team in Buenos Aires) till the 1950s. He should really have won the 1948 British Championship when he had the enterprising idea of having Paul Schmidt as personal coach! Yet his tournament wins run on as late as Guernsey 1975 and he was playing in the First Division of the Birmingham League within a few weeks of his death. The flesh may have been weak but a great spirit kept him going to the end.

Shall we ever see his like again?

Julius Silverman former MP for Aston (Birmingham) writes: I am very sorry to learn of the death of Barry Wood. I knew him for about 55 years and I always found him a pleasant and interesting companion and a good friend. On the last few occasions that I have met him he seemed increasingly frail. I know that the death of his dear wife was a great blow to him.

Barry’s contribution to Chess in this country has been enormous and his passing is the end of an era in chess journalism.
Barry’s journalism and his imaginative editorship made Chess a fascinating journal which it was always a pleasure to read.
Its survival for well over 50 years was a unique achievement which required persistence and dedication. He has had many
hills to surmount.

One was “… the chess lawsuit of the Century …” (This ran for about two and a half years, ending in 1940 in a victory for the magazine on appeal, Ed). Jacques versus Chess which might have brought Chess to an end. I appeared for him as counsel. We won. I received a life subscription to Chess as part of my fee. My copy still comes to me regularly. I have never enjoyed a fee so much.

Here is the article in its original form:

British Chess Magazine, Volume CX (109), Number 5 (May), page 210
British Chess Magazine, Volume CX (109), Number 5 (May), page 210
British Chess Magazine, Volume CX (109), Number 5 (May), page 211
British Chess Magazine, Volume CX (109), Number 5 (May), page 211

Bernard on Barry (2004)

REMEMBERING BARRY WOOD (1909-1939)

by Bernard Cafferty

One of the most influential figures in British chess of the 20th century was B. H. Wood, whom I knew personally from 1951, and whom I played regularly, over a period of three decades, till l moved from Birmingham to Hastings in 1981. Here are some
memories of the man who was thought of by many in Britain as “Mr Chess”.

Born in Sheffield, Baruch Harold Wood had his secondary education in North Wales at the same grammar school as W Ritson
Morry who was later to become his Midlands colleague and bitter rival. BH always attributed his well-known stubbornness (he never resigned early) to “his Yorkshire blood”. Wood and Morry were to be students together at Birmingham University after BH gained his BSc in Wales. Then the pair faced the hard task of finding work in depression-struck mid-1930s England. BH founded his monthly magazine CHESS in 1935, an act of amazing optimism which only his great appetite for work could justify. The magazine was based in Sutton Coldfield, just north of Birmingham, at gloomy premises known as Masonic Buildings.

The early decades of this publication were marked by the outpouring of glorious journalism of a popular sort. The man’s love
of the game shone through his work and he recruited such contributors as the chatty Koltanowski and the prince of annotators
Alexander Alekhine. Later he became the long-serving columnist of the Birmingham Post, from 1949 of the weekly Illustrated London News, and even later of the Daily Telegraph. A feature of the magazine was its lively letters from readers which made for more interesting reading than the equivalent occasional letter to be found in the staid
BCM. The readers also made pertinent contributions to opening theory, especially in going through the 1946 MCO with a fine toothcomb and reporting their discoveries to Sutton Coldfield.

BH wrote a best-selling Easy Guide to Chess which went through several editions and was far more user-friendly than other primers on the market at the time. He also designed a luxury set, the Coldfield, and produced various chess clocks with new features. BH was a member of the BCF Olympiad side that played in the first part of the Buenos Aires Olympiad in the autumn of 1939. After the team’s withdrawal due to the outbreak of war, he stayed on in Argentina for a short while, taking part in a short tournament where he met the legendary Alekhine.

One Hundred Victorian Chess Problems, BH Wood, Wayland Publishers, London, 1972
One Hundred Victorian Chess Problems, BH Wood, Wayland Publishers, London, 1972

BH was married to Marjorie, a Birmingham primary school teacher, and had three sons and a daughter. The elder two boys,
Chris and Frank, were strong players but not Philip. His daughter Peggy was our leading girl player of the 1950s, and married Peter Clarke in 1962. One should note that BH was not Jewish, as many assumed from the name Baruch – he was generally addressed as Barry by his wife and close friends. Others called him just by the initials BH. Everyone in British chess knew exactly who you meant when you said BH. Many thought of him as a sharp business-man. In any event, the fearsome workload he shouldered meant that none of his children, seeing this at first hand, aspired to carry on the magazine as a family business. To many in the British chess community who had never seen top players in action, BH was their first contact with the wider chess world due to the exhausting simul tours he made to many clubs the length and breadth of the UK.

Later, he organized CHESS Festivals starting from 1953. These were our earliest open tournaments, held at attractive venues such as Cheltenham, Whitby, Eastbourne and Southport. These events created the opportunity for British amateurs to meet continental grandmaster opposition like Donner and O’Kelly. BH had great confidence in his ability – his MSc at Birmingham University was in chemistry, but in 1946-7 he started studying nuclear physics privately, telling Brian Reilly, who was employed by him at that time, that it was the science of the future. I have to simply marvel at this – where did he find the time? In his self-portrait in connection with the GB-USSR match of 1946 he revealed that he had been studying Russian privately with a view to taking an external degree in it at Birmingham University.

The post-war decade saw him at his most active. He was BCF delegate at early FIDE meetings post-1946, the period that saw the mighty Soviet Union admitted to membership in 1947. BH was instrumental in maintaining Spain’s membership of FIDE at the same time, despite Soviet opposition to Franco’s fascism. He claimed to me he was always a most welcome guest in Spain thereafter.

Battles with the BCF

BH had been exempt from military service due to a duodenal ulcer. He spent the war keeping the magazine alive in his spare time as he was put in charge of a research laboratory at the Birmingham Chemical Company. During the war the government had the power under emergency legislation to direct citizens into any sort of work that would contribute to the war effort. His comment to me on that intensive period was: “It was the first time I ever drew a decent salary”. After a short spell as BCF FIDE delegate, he fell out with the ruling body in the early 1950s. His view was that the national body was ultra-conservative and not open to fresh ideas such as the knockout championship open to all which he organised in 1949-50. Lo and behold, a few months later the BCF started organising regional competitions to arrange for qualification for the British Championship! BH often criticised the BCF in his magazine. In June 1950 he wrote the first of a planned series of articles on the evergreen theme “Where is British Chess Going?” and forwarded a copy to the BCF just before publication. The BCF legal eagle Professor Wheatcroft immediately threatened to take out an injunction, so putting the frighteners on the printers. Rather than delay the July issue (not that subscribers were not used to a rather irregular schedule!), BH brought out the issue with white space, on two pages, a dramatic way of alerting the readers to the dispute. The promised articles, which he said would appear after the dispute was settled, never appeared.

DW Anderton OBE plays BH Wood MBE in 1981 in a Blitz tournament outside of the National Film Theatre. Photograph courtesy of John Saunders
DW Anderton OBE plays BH Wood MBE in 1981 in a Blitz tournament outside of the National Film Theatre. Photograph courtesy of John Saunders

There were also tensions with BCF figures like Alexander and Golombek, in the latter case probably due to professional rivalry and Harry G’s identification with the BCM. Another prominent figure with whom BH crossed swords was the flamboyant Liverpool barrister Gerald Abrahams who threatened to sue over a report in CHESS of gambling debts incurred “on the turf’.

BH was no stranger to litigation. For example he had had a lawsuit with Jaques culminating in 1940 over the use of the term
“genuine Staunton-pattern sets” in his advertising. The case was initially lost, a potentially crippling blow, but then won on appeal with the aid of solicitor Julius Silverman (later a prominent Birmingham MP), Ritson Morry, Sir George Thomas and
other well-wishers. When Wood-Morry hostility was at its height in the early 1950s over pro- and anti-BCF views, BH drew attention in a letter to a Welsh chess organiser to Ritson’s short period in jail. The uncomplimentary term ‘gaolbird’ was used. A court case followed which the penurious Ritson, having been struck off as a solicitor could hardly afford, yet BH was cleared on the defence of justification. My fellow students and I at Birmingham University could only marvel at the daily press reports on the wrangles between two of our patrons whom we had feted at a celebratory dinner only a short while before.

Here is the point at which to mention BH’s support for chess in the universities. He was the long-time President of the
BUCA (British Universities’ Chess Association) and turned up at many of their events with support. He loaned equipment in the early days when not every chess club had sufficient clocks for a match – bear in mind that the austerity period in Britain lasted for years after 1945. BH also supported correspondence chess, being the founder of the Postal Chess League, a team event very popular in its day but now defunct.

BH’s best playing performance was the British Championship of 1948 when he came second to Broadbent. The Midlander had actually started with 6.5 points from seven games, but the unsatisfactory position arose that he had to meet Broadbent in the last round when each had an adjourned game still to finish off.

BH Wood during the 1948 British Championships at Bishopsgate Institute, London. Taken on August 30th 1948 by Keystone Press Agency
BH Wood during the 1948 British Championships at Bishopsgate Institute, London. Taken on August 30th 1948 by Keystone Press Agency

The tension got to BH, he missed a clear winning chance against the Northerner and lost. Yet he should really have taken the title on the merits of the positions he had achieved. His rivals resented the fact that he had hired a second, namely Paul Schmidt, the Estonian player who was once thought of as almost as good as Keres in his native land. Schmidt had won the German Championship during the war in 1941. The British amateurs of 1948 were not impressed by this intrusion of professionalism and the importation of someone who carried the taint of possible Nazism. According to Brian Reilly, Gerald Abrahams was particularly scathing.

BH made a good impression on Botvinnik when the latter stayed at the Wood residence in Rectory Road, Sutton Coldfield, in 1967 (the reference for those who can read Russian is Baturinsky’s “…Tvorchestvo” trilogy on Botvinnik. The article was entitled: Albion shakhmatny i inoy. It appears on pp435 -448 of the third volume. A shortened version appears in English in Botvinnik’s autobiography Achieving the Aim). When I drew BH’s attention to the article and its peculiar title he responded with his usual erudite comment: ‘Albion? Yes, that’s the Roman reference to the white cliffs of Dover”. For most Brummies, “The Albion” did not mean a local pub, but rather the West Bromwich Albion football team!

In theory, the communist Botvinnik should have been distant from his host, the Midlands entrepreneur and business man, who drove him round to his engagements in Britain for three weeks, but their common love of chess triumphed over ideological
differences. In particular, the speed of production of CHESS, now on its own presses, was compared very favourably by the Soviet Patriarch to that of Shakhmaty v SSSR. British trade unions had a different view of course, in pre-Thatcher days, and BH had some tricky obstacles to overcome in this field. The Muscovite Botvinnik recorded the fact that the garage of BH’s large house was full of chess books (as were various rooms – to the abiding despair of Marjorie), so the family car was always parked outside on the drive. BH revealed to Botvinnik that he had not been able pay off his mortgage for decades due to the variable cash flow from his business and journalism.

BH was in love with study as a young man, he once told me, and he had a facility in various European languages, which made him always welcome abroad. Over the years, BH had a number of employees who were strong players, such as Brian Reilly, Owen Hindle and Robert Bellin, but none of them lasted long. Owen Hindle, a person of placid temperament, stuck it out the longest, but even he had his patience tried by the ‘boss’. One cannot hide the fact that BH was a controversial figure – perhaps the clue after all is that reference to his stubbornness and Yorkshire blood? I contributed to his magazine for many years, but certainly never wanted to work for him full-time!

I used to see BH in the last decade of his life only in the Hastings press room. For his age, he still took on a fantastic workload. Peter Clarke once commented that his father-in-law gave the impression of believing he would live for ever. Finally, Anno Domini told and BH sold his business to Robert Maxwell of Pergamon fame/notoriety in 1988.

In his final year, BH suffered from diabetes, and the resulting inability to walk meant he was confined to a wheelchair, but he still insisted on visiting Hastings one last time, where, in his prime, he had specialised in taking away Premier score sheets. Often they were taken not just to his hotel room, but even back to Sutton Coldfield, so hindering the work of other chess journalists unless Ritson or later, Peter Griffiths had got in first to create the bulletin.

What a character! We lack such a colourful figure nowadays. Where he still alive today, I imagine he would still be trying to put a bomb under the BCF.

Winter, Jaques and Wood

From Chess Explorations (Cadogan Chess, 1996) by Edward Winter we have further detail on the Jaques court case:

“Paul Timson, a lawyer, sends us reports on two legal  cases connected with chess. In 1939 B.H.Wood found himself in the dock for having advertised for sale in CHESS in 1937 ‘genuine Staunton chessmen’. The plaintiffs were John Jaques & Son, Ltd. Sir George Thomas., Max Euwe and Lodewijk Prins appeared as witnesses for the defence. The case is referred to by Fred Wren in his article ‘Tales of a Woodpusher: Woodpusher’s Woodpile’, which appeared in Chess Review, 1949 and was reprinted in Reinfeld’s The Treasury of Chess Lore. The issues of CHESS of the time also contained a huge amount of material on the case. The decision was that ‘Staunton’ alone was permissible description, but that the phrase ‘genuine Staunton’ implied a product made by Jaques & Son Ltd., as opposed to any Staunton pattern.  However, B.H. Wood appealed and, in 1940, won.”

Other Sources

If you can get access then we recommend the eleven-page “B.H. Wood and his chess playing family” article in the August-2009 issue of Chess Monthly written by his son Chris Wood (helped by brother Frank).

Likewise The Chess Lawsuit of the Century is detailed in CHESS, volume 52, Number 1018, pp.392 – 394 by BHW himself.

Here is an obituary from the MCCU

Background information from Sutton Coldfield Chess Club

Barry Wood.  A Personal Memory from Neil Blackburn (aka SimaginFan)

Alekhine’s Articles for CHESS by Michael Clapham

Here is his Wikipedia entry.

Download a pdf version of the 1st issue of CHESS

CHESS, Volume 1, Number 1, September 1935
CHESS, Volume 1, Number 1, September 1935

Death Anniversary of IMC Ken Messere OBE (16-iv-1928 31-iii-2005)

BCN remembers Ken Messere who passed away on Thursday, March 31st 2005 aged 76 in Paris-16E-Arrondissement, Paris, France.

Kenneth Charles Messere was born on Monday, April 16th, 1928 in Richmond-on-Thames, Surrey. His father was Charles (George) Messere (1901-1974) or Eisenberg and aged 26. His mother was Gertrude Marie Newman (1899-1978) and aged 29.

Ken had three siblings: Barbara Marie Messere (1930–2005), Hugh Martin Messere (1932–1985) and Derek R Messere (1934–2012)

Ken attended St. Peter’s College, Oxford from 1946 – 1951 to read philosophy and is reported in the 1951 St. Edmund Hall Magazine, as a member of the Trillick (debating) Society as follows:

‘ That this House would rather be a live Communist than
a dead Democrat.’ The proposer established to his own satisfaction that democracy was founded on ‘selfishness, capitalism and bourgeois hypocrisy.’ He did not satisfy J. F. R. Bonguard of St. Peter’s Hall who opposed, using arguments taken from Hindu philosophy. K. C. Messere of St. Peter’s Hall, spoke third and added some able arguments.

In June 1954 Ken married Mary Elizabeth Humphrey (1929-2003) in Ealing. They had a son Miles Jonathan Messere born in 1964 who passed away in 1965.

Prior the time of his passing his wife Mary was living at 142B, Herbert Road, Woolwich, London, SE18 3PU.

In 1991 he was awarded the OBE (Civil Division) in the Queen’s Birthday honours list. The citation reads: Kenneth Charles Messere, lately Head of Fiscal Affairs Division, OECD, Paris.

Ken appears each year from 1953 to 1967 in the noted publication Britain, Royal And Imperial Calendars the function of which is to list entries for those engaged in UK public service. He worked for HM Customs and Excise. Prompted by this we consulted the venerable A History of Chess in the English Civil Service by Kevin Thurlow (Conrad Press, 2021) on page 447 and found

“He played for Customs. In 1964, he went to work for the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and was head of fiscal affairs from 1971 – 1991. In 1954 he began playing postal chess and became a leading player. He won a semi-final of the 5th World Correspondence Championship (1961 – 64) and became the first English player to compete in a World Championship Final.”

There are 31 games listed at his personal entry at chessgames.com starting with games from 1965.

Chessbase’s Correspondence Database 2020 records 69 games the earliest being from 1958 listing Ken’s federation as being France.

From British Chess (Pergamon Press, 1983) we have this lengthy contribution from Ken himself:

“Between the ages of 6, when I learnt to play and 23 (ed: 1951), when I ceased to be a student, chess had a relatively low priority among various time-competing interests and activities, so I never got around to studying theory. Things changed when I became a civil servant and needed a replacement for philosophy as an intellectually absorbing subject which could be argued about with friends over beers, and for the next 12 years chess became my main interest.

Since 1964 I have been working for the OECD in Paris, where my friends are not chess enthusiasts and, although chess remains a major pleasure, my commitment to it has lessened. Nowadays, out-side correspondence chess, I play only occasional blitz games.

Coming late to serious chess has probably had at least some influence on my deficiencies and stylistic preferences. The deficiencies include an inability to visualize ahead with sufficient clarity to support accurate analysis, slow sight of the board which leads to silly errors through time trouble or failing stamina and less familiarity with theory than my better opponents. As to chess style, I have had to play romantically and subjectively to get good results.

If a game takes the form of a clear-cut position, where strategical objectives are clear and superior technique prevails, then mine generally does not. Consequently I have tended to play either sharp gambits or counter-gambits or to try to render the position sufficiently obscure for imagination and intuition to assume maximum importance. In keeping, my chess heroes have been Alekhine, Bronstein and Tal who revel in fantasy, however much Alekhine may claim that it is logically based.

When I took up competitive chess seriously in 1952, I made some progress and won a few minor tournaments, but in view of the defects already mentioned, it soon became clear that my potential for improvement was limited and that nearly all my games were aesthetically flawed. Fortunately, these defects represent no great handicap at correspondence chess, where I found myself pleased with a reasonable proportion of the game I played, and in addition, capable on the day (or more accurately over the years) of winning against almost anyone. Thus, against world champions I have two wins and one loss, (see below). I also have 80 per cent from five games against Russian grandmasters, even if a meagre 28 per cent from my eighteen games against all correspondence grandmasters. In 1954 when I began playing postal chess competitively, I did sufficiently well in a few British Postal tournaments to be accepted at a reasonably high level in the official international tournaments.

Not without luck (see Diagram l), I secured the 75 per cent necessary in two seven-player tournaments to qualify for the fourteen player preliminaries, the winner of which was to qualify for the following world championship. In the 1961-64 preliminaries, I played the best chess of my life, including valid opening innovations, imaginative pawn and piece sacrifices and even a technically efficient win in a queen and pawn end-game. I won the tournament with eleven wins, one draw and one loss, 1.5 points ahead of Maly of Czechoslovakia and two points ahead of Masseev, the Russian favourite, thereby obtaining my first norm towards the International Master title. My first annotated game is the win against Maly (ed: to be inserted once we have tracked down the game score!) which was typical stylistically and also crucial, since if he had won it, he would have qualified for the World Championship instead of me: the second against Bartha of the United States is the most compulsive and difficult tactical game I have ever played, the last five moves alone requiring over 100 hours of analysis.

IMC Ken Messere OBE (16-iv-1928 31-iii-2005)
IMC Ken Messere OBE (16-iv-1928 31-iii-2005)

The quality of my chess in the 1965-68 World Championship was much inferior. The tournament began disastrously. I went in for three losing variations as Black and made a suicidal clerical error in the opening so that after 3 months I had four losses from four games. Later, there were compensations. I won against V. Zagarovsky, the reigning world champion (the third annotated game) and obtained just (but only just) the necessary 33.3% per cent to obtain the correspondence chess international master title. For this I needed a win and draw from my last two games which
after 3.5 years, had to be adjudicated.

Fortunately, the win and draw were relatively clear, though this would not have been so a few moves earlier. An an illustration of how the threat of adjudication breeds irrationality, Diagram II gives the closing stages of my win against J.Estrin of the USSR – a more recent correspondence chess world champion. My only other game against a world champion was against the winner of this tournament, Hans Berliner of the United States, with whom I collaborated on a book of the tournament. The collaboration was stimulating but not without friction, since I had to write 75 per cent of the book to see it ever finished. It took a year to complete, 3 years to appear (published by BCM) but in the end was well-reviewed, sold over 2000 copies and royalties are still (gently) drifting in.

The Fifth Correspondence Chess World Championship, Hans Berliner & Ken Messere, British Chess Magazine, BCM Quarterly Nunber 14, 5th December 1971, ISBN 978-0-900846-05-2.
The Fifth Correspondence Chess World Championship, Hans Berliner & Ken Messere, British Chess Magazine, BCM Quarterly Nunber 14, 5th December 1971, ISBN 978-0-900846-05-2.

 

In the early seventies, in order to reduce numbers of games, I retreated altogether from individual tournaments, just playing twice for England in the Olympiads. Whether team play did not suit my style, or whether my technique had improved but imagination withered, I drew nine of my seventeen games from the two tournaments, winning four and losing four. As England looked likely to aspire to medals for the first time ever, my 50 per cent would not help matters and I gladly retreated to first reserve, which to my dismay required taking over five unfinished games of Hugh Alexander, who died during the tournament, and who, for me, has always been England’s most attractive player and writer. My most uncomfortable decision in correspondence chess was a rejection of Hugh’s intended continuation in one of these games, {Diagram III). Of these five games, I lost one and drew four and England won a bronze medal.

In 1974 was invited to compete in the Potter Memorial Tournament of four postal grandmasters and nine international masters. After so many years of responsible’ team chess for England, I went beserk and sacrificed a pawn in ten of the twelve games, trying later to salvage inferior end-games. Result 33 % per cent. B. H. Wood invited me to write a book of the tournament, to which a number of the players contributed and this was published in 1979.

The Potter Memorial, Ken Messere, CHESS (Sutton Coldfield), 1975
The Potter Memorial, Ken Messere, CHESS (Sutton Coldfield), 1975

Also in 1979 I began to play in another invitation tournament of thirteen players organised by the Australian Correspondence Chess League, which became a memorial to CJS Purdy, its president and the first world postal champion, who died soon after the tournament began. At the time of writing, this tournament, comprising four grandmasters (including one former world champion and two runners-up) and eight international masters, is still in its early stages.”

From British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXV (125, 2005), Number 5 (May), page 226 we have this obituary:

“Kenneth Charles Messere (16 iv 1928, Richmond – 31 iii 2005, Paris) was one of Britain’s strongest correspondence players (he held the correspondence IM title) and well-known author of books on the subject. After graduating from Oxford University, Ken Messere went to HM Customs and Excise, and thence to the Organisation for Economic Development (OECD) where he became head of the fiscal affairs division and a world expert on fiscal law. He reached the final of 1965-8 world correspondence championship, beating world champions Zagorovsky and Estrin, and wrote the book of the tournament with Hans Berliner (published by BCM)”

From The Potter Memorial by Ken Messere, CHESS (Sutton Coldfield), “Chess for Modern Times” Series, 1975 we have this potted biography:

“Compiler of this book, took 3rd place in 1957 and 2nd in 1968 in the championship of the Postal Chess Club. Scores of 4.5 out of 6 in the ICCF Masters 1957-8 and 4/6 in the 1959-61 Championship took him to victory with 11/5 out of 13 in the 1961-3 semi-finals, securing him his first international master norm and qualifying him for the 5th World Championship 1964-7 in which he scored 5.5, just enough for the IM title, with wins over Zagorovsky, then world champion and Estrin, world champion now. Ken Messere collaborated with Berliner, who won it, in a book on the tournament.

He then switched to play exclusively as a member of the British Olympiad team, taking over 2nd board when Alexander died.

The switch back from rather cautious team play to enterprising individual games in 1974-7 provides some of the subject matter of this book.”

 

The Tax System in Industrialized Countries, Ken Messere, Oxford University Press, 1998, ISBN 10: 1982933135 / ISBN 13: 9781982933135
The Tax System in Industrialized Countries, Ken Messere, Oxford University Press, 1998, ISBN 10: 1982933135 / ISBN 13: 9781982933135

Remembering Comins Mansfield MBE (14-vi-1896 28-iii-1984)

Comins Mansfield MBE in 1976
Comins Mansfield MBE in 1976

BCN remembers Comins Mansfield MBE who passed away on March 28th 1984 in Torbay, Devon.

Comins was the first English born chess grandmaster when in 1972 he was awarded the the title of “International Grandmaster of the FIDE for Chess Composition” three years before the first correspondence GM and four years before the first English born OTB grandmaster.

In the 1976 New Years Honours list Civil Division Comins was awarded the MBE. The citation read simply “For services to Chess”.

Early Years

Comins Mansfield was born on Sunday, June 14th 1896 in Witheridge, North Devon. The birth was registered in the district of South Molton, Devon. His parents were Herbert John (who was a banker) and Julia Emma Mansfield (née Frost). Miss Anne Comins was Herbert’s mother who he memorialised using her name for his only son.

Comins had two sisters Edith K and Margaret M plus a paternal step-sister Harriett C Mansfield.

He was baptised on the 18th July 1896 in Witheridge as an Anglican and the ceremony was performed by JT Benson.

St. John the Baptist Church, Witheridge, Devon courtesy of SIERKSMA'S SEQUENCES
St. John the Baptist Church, Witheridge, Devon courtesy of SIERKSMA’S SEQUENCES

He was admitted to Witheridge School on September 18th 1899 (aged three) and in 1901 Comins continued to live in Witheridge, Devon attending Blundell’s School. The family “left the district” on August 13th 1909.

At the time of the 1911 Census Comins was a boarder at a school in Tiverton, Cheshire. Possibly this was Tarporley High School.

A Career Beckoned

Comins left school in 1914 and did not attend University. He started work at tobacco company W. D. & H. O. Wills (which became part of  Imperial Tobacco in 1901) in Bristol being a prime location for a company which relied on export markets of physical goods.

Interruption by War

According to RH Jones on the Chess Devon web site:

In September 1915 he joined the Royal Artillery, and carried a small travelling set at all times, with which to while away the long hours spent in the trenches. He never lost contact with Chandler during the war, even though the latter was involved in a rather messy British invasion of Iraq, (then Mesopotamia), and the two combined on problems by post, one of which won 1st Prize in the Good Companions magazine in January 1918. Shortly after, he was temporarily blinded by mustard gas, requiring 12 months in hospital.

Gunner Mansfield courtesy of SIERKSMA'S SEQUENCES
Gunner Mansfield courtesy of SIERKSMA’S SEQUENCES

On his release from hospital, the war was over and he re-joined Wills in Bristol and his local chess club, Bristol & Clifton. His skill over the board should not be overlooked – he soon became established in Gloucestershire as a very strong player, winning his club championship for the first time in 1920 and the county championship continuously from 1927 – 34. From his return to Bristol he played for the county regularly, never lower than Bd. 3 and from the time of his first county championship, always on top board. From 1926 to the time of his move to Scotland he was also the Problem Editor of the Bristol Times and Mirror .

According to the National Records Office:

With reference to the medal card of Comins Mansfield we have:

Royal Field Artillery 3024 Gunner
Royal Field Artillery 826184 Gunner

Career Resumption

Comins career with W. D. & H. O. Wills lasted 45 years and in 1934 relocated to Glasgow which halted his composition career until 1936 labelling his problems “Mansfield – Glasgow. His job in Scotland finished in 1950 returning to live in Carshalton Beeches, near Croydon in South London working for a W. D. & H. O. Wills subsidiary.

Marriage

On September 19th 1923 Comins married Marjorie Erica Ward (born 1899) at the Parish Church, St. Paul, Bedminster, Bristol, Gloucestershire. Marjorie died in 2003. Comins and Marjorie had three children, Geoffrey, Hilary and Roderick.

Comins Mansfield
Comins Mansfield

At the time of their marriage Comins was living at 25 Sommerville Road, Bishopston, Bristol, BS7 9AD:

25 Sommerville Road, Bishopston, Bristol, BS7 9AD
25 Sommerville Road, Bishopston, Bristol, BS7 9AD

Chess Beginnings

Comins interest in chess started at the age of nine with his father Herbert who played correspondence chess for Devon but his interest in the world of problems was initiated in 1910 with an article (First Steps In The Classification of Two-Movers by Alain C. White) on problems in British Chess Magazine. In 1914 aged 18 he joined the Bristol and Clifton Chess Club and following World War I he became club champion for the first time in 1920. Also, Comins was Gloucestershire Champion from 1927 – 1934 before he relocated to Glasgow where he won the West of Scotland and Glasgow Championships.  At Cheltenham 1928 not only did he draw in 50 moves with FD Yates but he beat Sir George Thomas in 20 moves!

BCM Obituary

From British Chess Magazine, Volume CIV (104, 1984), Number 5 (May), p. 194 :

“Comins Mansfield (14 v 1896 – 27 iii 1984) was an outstanding figure in chess problems, notably in the field of two-movers. Awarded the IM title for problems in 1959 and the GM title in 1972, he served for eight years as President of the FIDE Permanent Commission for Chess Compositions. In 1976 he was awarded an MBE for his services to chess.

Comins Mansfield courtesy of Chess Scotland
Comins Mansfield courtesy of Chess Scotland

As an OTB (over-the-board) player he won the championship of the Bristol Club and of Gloucestershire. From 1964 to 1978 he contributed the weekly puzzle to the Sunday Telegraph.”

Chessboard Delights Selected from the Sunday Telegraph 1964-1974, Comins Mansfield, Routledge & Kegan Paul/Sunday Telegraph, London , 1976, ISBN 10: 0710082878ISBN 13: 9780710082879
Chessboard Delights Selected from the Sunday Telegraph 1964-1974, Comins Mansfield, Routledge & Kegan Paul/Sunday Telegraph, London , 1976, ISBN 10: 0710082878ISBN 13: 9780710082879

CHESS Obituary by Colin Russ

From CHESS, Volume 48 (1984), Numbers 921-922, page 316 we have this rather modest mention:

“Problem Album

Who was Britain’s first chess grandmaster? His name start with M, but no, the answer is Comins Mansfield, to whom F.I.D.E. awarded its newly created title of grandmaster for Chess Composition in 1972, and who died in March this year aged 87. In tribute to him we recall, two of his masterpieces, separated by over half a century.”

Comins Mansfield
Comins Mansfield

Comins Mansfield
BCF Tourney 1974

White mates in two

and

Comins Mansfield
Good Companions 1918

White mates in two

Interestingly the July 1984 issue of CHESS publishes a letter from Ken Whyld taking issue with the above. Ken wrote:

Who was Britain’s first chess grand master? His name starts with M but no, the answer is not Comins Mansfield (page 316 in CHESS, No. 921-2. No, it isn’t. It is J. Mieses in 1950. The error is repeated on page 328. Why do we, as a nation, have to be so snotty about those who chose to be become naturalised?

From page 328 we have this detailed obituary from Colin AH Russ:

We regret to report the death of Comins Mansfield MBE, peacefully at his home in Torquay on 28 March 1984. During his long life of more than 86 years, Mansfield received every possible honour in the realm of chess problem art.

He was born at Witheridge, North Devon, on 14 June 1896, and at 9 was taught to play chess by his father, a keen correspondence player. One of his earliest efforts won First Prize in 1912 in the Illustrated Western Weekly News.

Other problems of his early period were published in the Folders of the Good Companion Chess Problem Club, of Philadelphia, USA. This brought him into contact with Alain C. White, who also recognised his genius and gave him every encouragement. Some of the problems at this time were composed in the trenches, “somewhere in France”, while Mansfield was serving in the Royal Artillery with the British Army. He was severely gassed in May 1918, and discharged from the Army.

He won the West of Scotland and Glasgow Championships while stationed in that city. He was one of the founder members of
the British Chess Problem Society, and served as its President. In 1947, he started a feature in The Problemist entitled “Selected with Comments” which continued in his hands for 35 years. His weekly column in the Sunday Telegraph, mainly confined to game positions, ran from 1964 to 1978.

 

Mansfield’s other venture into publishing was his “Adventures in Composition” in which he takes the reader step by step through the Process that he went through in composing 20 of his problems.

Adventures in Composition, Comins Mansfield, CHESS, Sutton Coldfield, 1948
Adventures in Composition, Comins Mansfield, CHESS, Sutton Coldfield, 1948

The book was edited by A. C. White and first appeared in the USA in 1942, and was published in Britain by CHESS, Sutton Coldfield, in 1948. it became a classic, and many composers could testify to the help they have received from it.

In “Adventures in Composition“, Mansfield expounded his principles for making good chess problems: originality, economy, and artistic finish. if he found that an idea could not be set without forfeiting one of these principles, then he put it on one side, and turned his attention to something else. Therefore, although one can say that some of his problems are better than others, it is impossible to find one that is bad.

A. C. White made Comins Mansfield the subject of his last book in the Christmas Series: “A Genius of the Two-Mover” in which he gave some 100 of the master’s 300 problems.

A Genius of the Two Mover, C. Mansfield by AC White, The Christmas Series, 1936.
A Genius of the Two Mover, C. Mansfield by AC White, The Christmas Series, 1936.

He wrote: “The key-note of his style lies in his freshness of outlook and in a clarity of vision with which few composers have been gifted.” Brian Harley, the distinguished author and editor of the
famous Observer column for so many years, continued the story with a further 100 of Mansfield’s Problems.

In view of his international reputation, it was only fitting that Mansfield should represent the BCPS at the first meeting
of the FIDE Problem Commission in Piran in 1958, that he should serve as its President from 1963-71, and that in 1972 he should be awarded one of the first grand master titles, honoris causa, in recognition of his contribution to problem chess. He thus became the first Briton to receive this title, before any British chess players had reached any title norms. Four years later he received the recognition of his country, when his name appeared in the Queen’s New Year Honours list as recipient of the MBE, for services to chess.

Source: The Problemist, May 1996. Photo taken March 1996 at the Mansfield Centenary Meeting at Paisley, when Barry Barnes delivered a lecture on Comins Mansfield. Left to right: Geoffrey Mansfield (son of Comins), Robert Gray and Barry Barnes, International Master of Chess Composition.
Source: The Problemist, May 1996. Photo taken March 1996 at the Mansfield Centenary Meeting at Paisley, when Barry Barnes delivered a lecture on Comins Mansfield. Left to right: Geoffrey Mansfield (son of Comins), Robert Gray and Barry Barnes, International Master of Chess Composition.

ln 1975, Gerhard Jensch, editor of the problem column in Schach-Echo, brought out a supplement to “Adventures in Composition”, containing 63 of Mansfield’s later problems, showing how he had reacted to the changing themes and styles of the post second World War period. Barry Barnes, the following year, brought out “Comins Mansfield MBE: Chess Problems of a Grandmaster“, in which he presented 2O0 problems with full solutions and comments, many of them culled from Mansfield’s private notes and correspondence.

Comins Mansfield MBE: Chess Problems of a Grandmaster, BP Barnes, 1976
Comins Mansfield MBE: Chess Problems of a Grandmaster, BP Barnes, 1976

It is appropriate to finish with the comment with which E. L. Umnov concluded his introduction to Barry Barnes’s book in 1976: “Mansfield’s work is a source of pride not only to British chess, but to chess the world over”.
C.A.H.R.

Hooper & Whyld on Mansfield

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

“English two-mover composer widely regarded in his time as the greatest in this field. During the life of the GOOD COMPANION CHESS PROBLEM CLUB (1913—24) he was one of the pioneers who gave new life to the two-mover. The ideas then introduced have since become traditional, and Mansfield has adhered to them, continuing to gain successes although not always following the latest trend. In 1942 he wrote Adventures in Composition, an excellent guide to the art of composing. In 1957 he was awarded the title of International Judge of Chess Compositions; in 1963 he accepted and held for eight years the presidency of the FIDE Commission for Chess Compositions; in 1972 he was one of the first four to he awarded the title of International Grandmaster for Chess Compositions.

A. C. White, A Genius of the Two-mover (1936) contains 113 problems by Mansfield; B. P. Barnes, Comins Mansfield MBE: Chess Problems of a Grandmaster (1976) contains 200 problems.

101 Chess Puzzles and How to Solve Them, Brian Harley and Comins Mansfield, Sterling Publishing, New York, 1960
101 Chess Puzzles and How to Solve Them, Brian Harley and Comins Mansfield, Sterling Publishing, New York, 1960

Sunnucks on Mansfield

From The Encyclopaedia of Chess by Anne Sunnucks :

“International Grandmaster of the FIDE for Chess Compositions (1972), International Master of the FIDE for Chess Compositions (1959), International Judge of the FIDE for Chess Compositions (1957). President of the Permanent Commission of the FIDE for Chess Compositions from 1963 to 1971. President of the British Chess Problem Society from 1949 to 1951.

Born at Witheridge in North Devon on 14th June 1896. He has composed about 1,000 problems, nearly all of them two-movers, since 1911. He is regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time. His outstanding ability was recognised early when A Genius of the Two-Mover in the A.C. White Christmas series of books was published in 1936. He is the author of Adventures in Composition (1944) and co-author with the late Brian Harley of The Modern Two-Move Problem.

The Modern Two- Move Chess Problem, Brian Harley and Comins Mansfield, Museum Press, London, 1944 & 1958
The Modern Two- Move Chess Problem, Brian Harley and Comins Mansfield, Museum Press, London, 1944 & 1958

From 1926-1932 he was Problem Editor of The Bristol Times and Mirror, and he is at present Problem Editor of The Sunday Telegraph His feature “Selected with Comments” has been a permanent feature of The Problemist. A strong player, Mansfield won the Gloucestershire Championship from 1927 to 1934. He has a recorded win over Sir George Thomas, a late British Champion and International Master.

Mansfield made a life-times career with the tobacco firm of W.D. & H.O. Wills. He is a dedicated family man with three children.

C. Mansfield, 1st Prize, Hampshire Post, 1919

White to play and mate in two moves.

Solution to Two-Mover above : 1. Qf5 !

Harry Golombek on Mansfield

From The Encyclopaedia of Chess by Harry Golombek we have:

Britain’s most distinguished problem compose, output about 859, nearly all two-movers. Very active during the period of the Good Companions, contributing to their folders many classic examples of half-pin, cross-check, and other important themes. Books include Adventures in Composition (1943), a fascinating expose of the composers methods. President of the British Chess Problem Society, 1949-51. President of the FIDE Problem Commission, 1963-71, and Hon. President since 1972. International Judge (1957); international master (1959), grandmaster (1972).

Curiously RH Jones wrote

“At Paignton, Mansfield seemed to know Milner-Barry quite well, but Golombek kept his distance. It is noticeable that Golombek’s Encyclopaedia of Chess (Batsford 1977) is almost unique of its kind in containing no individual entry for Mansfield; even a long 3½ page article on the history of chess problems, which mentions numerous half forgotten composers, contains no reference to him. This is surely no oversight and must be interpreted as some kind of inexplicable snub.”

We too made initially made the same error and it is true that there in individual entry for CM outside of the Problemists section.  Did RHJ miss the above entry as we initially did?

John Rice on Mansfield

From British Chess (Pergamon Press, 1984) John Rice writes:

“Comins Mansfield was born at Witheridge, Devon on 14th June 1896. At the age of 18 he joined the Bristol and Clifton Chess Club, and after World War 1 he soon won the club championship and the Gloucester Championship several times. For 14 years until 1978 he conducted the weekly chess features in the Sunday Telegraph.

In 1959 he he became an ‘International Master of the FIDE for Chess Composition’ and in 1972 one of the first four grandmasters. For 7 years he was President of the FIDE’s Permanent Commission for Chess Compositions.

Mansfield is widely regarded as being one of the three greatest composers of chess problems of all time. In 1976 was awarded the MBE for his services to chess.

Mr. Mansfield worked for 45 years in the tobacco firm W.D & H.O. Wills – first in Bristol, then in Glasgow and finally in London. He is now enjoying retirement in Torbay.

Mr. Mansfield writes: It was in 1959 that the FIDE decided to broaden their titles to include artificial positions such as ‘problems’ (the so-called poetry of chess), where mate has to be forced in a specified number of moves. The Master title then came into being, while the ‘Grandmaster’ distinction was withheld until 1972.

Comins Mansfield
Comins Mansfield

I have always felt that life is too short to deal with anything but two-movers. Here is one of my earliest successes (ed: shown here in Desert Island Chess) composed in the trenches in World War 1.”

Desert Island Chess

From The Complete Chess Addict (Faber&Faber, 1987,p.222), Fox & James we have a section entitled Desert Island Chess which includes this problem:

C. Mansfield

First Prize Good Companions, March 1917

Mate in 2

Of it, Alain White, the world connoisseur wrote – ‘This may well be taken as the standard cross-check problem of the twentieth century’.  The key-move 1.Be4 looks senseless, as it sets the black king free and apparently jeopardizes the white one by unpinning the black knight. But it threatens mate by 2.Nxc4 This knight can open fire on the white king in four ways. If 1…Ne5+,2.Rd3 is mate. If 1…Nxd6+, the mate is 2.Bd3. If 1…Nxe3+, Nb5 mates, while 1…Nd2+ is answered by 2.Nc4.

The next position is of a quite different type:

CHESS, 1950, First Prize

White to play and mate in two moves

It illustrates several quiet defences by a single black piece. This has a rather colourless key, 1.Bb2, which threatens mate by 2. Rg4. Moves of the black bishop stop this but give rises to six other mates. If 1…Bg1;2.Nc7. So the bishop must stay on its long diagonal. 1…Bg3 allows 2.Rxh4. If 1…Bf4 (unpinning the R), 2.Re5. If 1…Be5, 2.Rd4. If 1…Bd6, 2.Rc8. If 1…Bb8, 2.Rb6. There are three other subsidiary mates, after 1…Rf8, 2.Rf4. If 1…d1=q,2.Qd1 and finally if 1…Rg2  (or Rg1 or Rg3).

In the 1950s it became fashionable for composers to try to hoodwink solvers by arranging close tries which almost solved the problem. But this trend often militated against the merit and interest of the actual solution.  In  this problem the solver soon discovers that he must set-up a double-threat by 1.g4,g3,f4 or f3, each move cutting off both a black rook and bishop.

Die Schwalbe, 1956, First Prize

White to play and mate in two moves

But which is the right move? 1.g4 threatens mate by 2.Qxe4 and Qd1, but is defeated by 1…Nxf2. Similarly 1.g3 (threatening 2.Qe3 and Bxb3) is met by 1…Nc2. So try 1.f4 (threatening 2.Qxe4 and Bxb3), but this fails to 1…e3. This leaves the key-move 1.f3 which does the trick. There is a fair amount of by-play. 1…Rf4 forces 2.Bxb3.  1…Bf4 forces 2. Qxe4; while after 1.Kd4 and Nc4, the mates are 2. Qxc3 and Bxe4 respectively.

In an ABC of Chess Problems, Section III, Composition and Solving, page 266 onwards,  John Rice discusses in detail the methods of Comin Mansfield and any student of solving and composition would do well to study this chapter.

An ABC of Chess Problems, John Rice, Faber & Faber, London, 1970, SBN 571 08672 1
An ABC of Chess Problems, John Rice, Faber & Faber, London, 1970, SBN 571 08672 1

Other Sources

Here is an excellent biography from Chess Devon by RH Jones

Here is a biography from Keverel Chess by RH Jones

Here is the entry for CM from the BCPS web site

Biography from Chess Scotland by Alan McGowan

Here is the largest collection of his games from Britbase and John Saunders

Here are his games from chessgames.com

Here is his Wikipedia entry

America Salutes Comins Mansfield MBE
America Salutes Comins Mansfield MBE

Death Anniversary of Reginald Bonham MBE MA (31-i-1906 16-iii-1984)

BCN remembers Reginald Bonham (known as “Bon”) who passed away, this day, March 16th in 1984 in Worcester, Worcestershire.

In 1970 New Years Honours, Civil Division he was awarded the MBE for “Services to the blind”. Interestingly, in 1992 his sister Mary also received an MBE for “Services to the blind” This is surely an unusual happening.

Reginald Walter Bonham was born on Wednesday, January 31st 1906 : the same day as the Ecuador–Colombia earthquake which measured 8.8 on the Richter Scale.

He was born in St. Neots, Huntingdonshire, Cambridgeshire.

In the 1911 census aged 5 he lived in the High Street, St. Neots with William R Bonham (father, master butcher, aged 45), Edith Mary Ann Bonham (mother, 38), Howard William Bonham (6), Maurice George Bonham (3) and Ernest Charles Bonham (1). The family had a servant / domestic duties assistant called Elise Annie Goss aged 18. The census did not record any disability for Reginald.

Reg, like others in his family, suffered from deficient eyesight and was therefore unable to attend a “mainstream” school.

From 1922 – 1925 he attended the Royal Worcester College for the Blind (originally Worcester College for the Blind Sons of Gentlemen) in Whittington Road, Worcester, WR5 2JX. The Headmaster (GC Brown) encouraged his chess and rowing talents and in 1926 he was sent up to St. Catherine’s College, Oxford to read mathematics.

Reginald was a highly competant rower, competing for his college and reaching the trial stage for the Oxford Varsity crew.

In 1934 Reg founded the Braille Chess Magazine.

In the 1939 census he was recorded as living at 4, St. Catherine’s Hill, Worcester, WR5 with his wife, Josephine Bonham (born 24th September 1904). Reginald was listed as being a Mathematics tutor at the Royal Worcester College for the Blind (originally Worcester College for the Blind Sons of Gentlemen) in Whittington Road, Worcester, WR5 2JX. The college is now named New College Worcester. Their home was around a mile from the College. Josephine was listed as carrying out “unpaid domestic duties”.

He taught a combination of Braille and mathematics and was an amateur thespian and keen bridge player.

RW Bonham and a Braille chess set set-up incorrectly
RW Bonham and a Braille chess set set-up incorrectly

Interestingly RWB in 1939 was an ARP (Air Raid Precautions) Warden and a St. John Ambulance volunteer for the College.

He was Worcester champion twenty times and four times Midlands champion winning the Birmingham Post Cup twice.

On June 6th 1947 Bonham played in Birmingham in a match between Great Britain and Czechoslovakia playing Ladislav Alster and won this attractive game :

In 1951 he founded the International Braille Chess Association (IBCA) and continued as its President for 23 years. The IBCA affiliated to FIDE in 1964. see http://www.schachkomet.de/ibcachp4.htm for historical detail.

He was Blind World Champion in 1958 and Correspondence Blind World Champion in 1957, 1959, 1961, 1964 (jointly) and 1966.

One of his students was broadcaster Peter White MBE who described Bon in his autobiography See it My Way

See it My Way, Peter White, 1994
See it My Way, Peter White, 1994

From British Chess Magazine, Volume XCII (92, 1972) Number 6 (June), page 216 we have this item in News in Brief :

“At the closing ceremony of the 4th Chess Olympiad for the Blind at Pula, Yugoslavia (April 6-18) the International Braille Chess Association awarded the title of Correspondence Grandmaster of the Blind to R.W. Bonham of Worcester, for having won the Postal Championship more than three times.”

From British Chess Magazine, Volume CIV (104, 1984) Number 5 (May), page 194 we have this obituary :

“We regret to announce the death in March of two early winners of the grandmaster title (the other was Comins Mansfield MBE).

R.W.Bonham (31 i 1906 – 16 iii 1984) died at Worcester, where he had long served as a Master at the Royal Worcester College for the Blind. In the 1950s he took part in the British Championship with success. Many older players will remember him fingering his special board before announcing his move and checking his clock with its markers outside the glass face.

He was also active in postal play, taking part in international events in the decade after the war when few British players ventured “into Europe”. A note in the 1972 BCM (page 216) records the award of the title Correspondence GM of the Blind by the International Braille Chess Association, so his omission from the recent book British Chess seems rather unfortunate.

Among the titles won by Reginald Bonham were British Correspondence Championship, shared in 1947 with J. Cairncross and shared in 1951 with E. Brown) and Midland Champion (1947 and 1950).

He was also (with Wormald) joint author of those fine little books Chess Questions Answered and More Chess Questions Answered.”

Sadly, RWB did not merit articles in Sunnucks or Golombek’s Encyclopedias or Hooper’s and Whyld’s Oxford Companion or, as mentioned previously, British Chess.

Here is a short biography from Ray Collett and here is his Wikipedia article.

More information here.

The Braille Chess Association has this entry in its Hall of Fame.

Chess Questions Answered, RW Bonham & RD Wormald, Jordan & Sons Ltd, London, 1945
Chess Questions Answered, RW Bonham & RD Wormald, Jordan & Sons Ltd, London, 1945
More Chess Questions Answered, RW Bonham & RD Wormald, Jordan & Sons Ltd, London, 1948
More Chess Questions Answered, RW Bonham & RD Wormald, Jordan & Sons Ltd, London, 1948

Remembering IM William Fairhurst CBE (21-viii-1903 13-iii-1982)

IM William Albert Fairhurst CBE
IM William Albert Fairhurst CBE

Remembering IM William Fairhurst CBE (21-viii-1903 13-iii-1982)

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

“WA Fairhurst is a North Country man, born in Cheshire in 1903, but he has lived the best part of his life in Scotland. He has been Scottish Champion of many years running, and once captured the British Championship. In his last tournament, London, 1946 he failed to get into the prize list. He is, however, a fine tactician, original in opening play and a dangerous opponent to contend with.

By profession he is a civil engineer and has left his mark as a designer of a special framework for pre-fabricated houses.”

IM William Albert Fairhurst CBE (21-viii-1903 -13-iii-1982) Source : The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match
IM William Albert Fairhurst CBE (21-viii-1903 -13-iii-1982) Source : The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match

From The Encyclopedia of Chess by Anne Sunnucks :

“International chess master, British Champion in 1937 and Scottish Champion in 1932, 1933, 1934, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1962.

Born in Alderney Edge in Cheshire on 21st August 1903, Fairhurst taught himself to play chess from books on the game, when he was 13, when he was 18 he won the Cheshire Championship.

His first major international success was at Scarborough in 1927, where he tied for Yates for 2nd prize, ahead of Bogoljubov, Sir George Thomas, Buerger, among others.

In 1931 he went to live to Scotland, quickly established himself as a leader of Scottish chess and played a major role in agreements between the British Chess Federation and the Scottish Chess Association. In 1932 he gave a blindfold simultaneous display, winning nine games and drawing three, in the Polytechnic Club in Glasgow, and in 1933 he drew match of six games against Eliskases.

Fairhurst has represented Great Britain in matches against Czechoslovakia and the USSR in 1946 and 1947; against the Netherlands in 1937, 1938, 1949 and 1952 and against the USSR in 1954. He also played in the Great Britain v. Australia radio match in 1947. He has represented Scotland in six chess Olympiads, those of 1933, 1956, 1958, 1964, 1966 and 1968.

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

At Hastings in 1947 he came 5th and went through the tournament without losing a game.

IM William Fairhurst CBE (21-viii-1903 13-iii-1982)
IM William Fairhurst CBE (21-viii-1903 13-iii-1982)

Senior partner of a leading firm of engineers and designer of the new bridge over the River Tay at Dundee (the longest river crossing in Europe), Fairhurst was Chairman of the Scottish Branch of the Institute of Structural Engineers and author of Arch Design Simplified. He was also a member of the Royal Fine Art Commission for Scotland.”

In the March issue of CHESS for 1963, (Volume 28, Number 427, pp.147-155)  William Winter wrote this:

An Englishman turned Scot

Fairhurst, British champion in 1937, and umpteen times champion of Scotland is happily still in practice. He is a fine player well equipped in all departments of the game and would undoubtedly have done much more than he did but for the claims of business. Born in Lancashire he is now domiciled in Scotland and has become more Scottish than the Scots themselves. He caused me great trepidation during the Buxton congress in 1950, when he picked me up in his motor-car and drove at high speed down a spiral road with a precipice on one side while he declaimed about the tenets of the extreme wing of Scottish Nationalism. I have myself a good deal of sympathy, with the aspirations of the movement but I am sure this was not the way to make a convert. He still plays for Lancashire in the British Counties’ championship and it was in this competition that I met him at Manchester in 1953. I little thought as I sat down at the board that this was to be the last match-game I would ever play. I am glad to say that it was a good one.

 

 

 

Arch Design Simplified
Arch Design Simplified

Here are his games

Here is his Wikipedia entry

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

  • 53 Northern Grove, West Didsbury, Manchester, England (correspondence championship pairing-notice, 1924*).
  • 6 Capel Avenue, Newton Mearns, Scotland (Hastings and St Leonards Chess Club visitors’ book, 1 January 1938*).