Minor Pieces 52: Wilfred Hugh Miller Kirk

Wilfred Hugh Miller Kirk was perhaps Richmond Chess Club’s strongest player between 1925 and 1937, as well as playing an important administrative role in the club.

Wilfred was born in Culmstock, Devon on 18 May 1877, where Teddington novelist, market gardener and chess player RD Blackmore also lived for a time. His family were originally from London,  but his father was working in Devon as a Schools Inspector at the time of his birth. The family later returned to London, where young Wilfred joined the Civil Service on leaving school. He would remain there for his entire working life.

In 1899 he married 20 year old Mabel Ellen Gannaway. Wilfred and Mabel had four children, Talbot (1902), Beatrice (1903), Evelyn (1907) and Ruby (1908).

We hear of him as a chess player for the first time only in 1904, at the age of 27, when he took part in the Second Class B section of the inaugural British Championships at Hastings. He did pretty well for a newcomer to competitive chess, finishing in third place, just half a point behind the joint winners.

The following year he took part in the Kent Open Amateur 2nd Class A tournament, held that year at Crystal Palace, where he shared first place with his old rival WT Dickinson.

Shortly afterwards, leaving his wife and two young children at home, he crossed the channel to Ostend, where a mammoth tournament was taking place. The master event had no less than 36 entrants, with a complex group structure, and, below that, there were two amateur sections which attracted a number of British participants. Wilfred played in the Amateur B section, scoring a very respectable 11/17.

He didn’t take part in another tournament until 1908, when he again played in the Kent congress, that year held in Sevenoaks. This time Wilfred was promoted to the 1st Class Open Section 2. He found 1st class competition a lot tougher than the 2nd class, scoring only 1½/6, The leading scores in this section were Harold Godfrey Cole (5), Kate Belinda Finn and Percy Rawle Gibbs (4½). Miss Finn wasn’t the only (fishy) lady in the section: Mrs Frances Dunn Herring brought up the rear on 1/6.

Although he wasn’t very active in tournament play at the time, he was very much involved in Civil Service chess. He may well have been playing for the Local Government Board before his first tournament, and, when the Civil Service Chess League was founded in 1904 he was appointed to the post of Secretary.

When the British Championships were held in Richmond in 1912 he returned to the fray. This time he was in the 1st Class Amateurs B section, and, from the result, it was clear that he was a lot stronger now than a few years earlier.

The British Chess Magazine (October 1912) remarked that Mr. W. H. M. Kirk (Putney) is a well-known fine player in the Civil Service League, but does not play much otherwise. With work and family commitments, it was understandable that he wouldn’t have had much time for tournament play.

Unfortunately the only game of his from this event that appears to be extant was his only defeat. For all games in this article, click on any move for a pop-up window.

Kirk took part in the Surrey Championship that year, where he finished in first place with a score of 4½/5. This time we do have one of his wins, which his opponent, a dentist usually known as Frank St J Steadman, generously submitted to the British Chess Magazine. It was published in their December 1912 issue.

Wilfred entered the 1st Class Open in the 1913 Kent & Sussex Congress but had to withdraw before the start of the tournament. However, he did play in the Major Open section of the 1913 British Championship, making a respectable showing in a strong tournament.

Here’s a loss against the German born but English resident Georg Schories, a regular Major Open competitor whose nationality precluded his participation in the championship.

In this photograph of the competitors in this section, Kirk is the good looking youngish man (he was now 35) standing second on the left. He doesn’t look very happy, does he? But then they rarely did in those days.

And then World War 1 intervened. The Civil Service Chess League continued in 1915, but then stopped for the duration, only resuming in 1919.

The British Championships were also suspended, again resuming with a Victory Congress at Hastings in August that year. The British title itself wasn’t awarded, the top section being a semi-international event with visiting stars Capablanca and Kostic taking the first two places, well ahead of Sir George Thomas and Yates. The Major Open went to Edward Guthlac Sergeant, and, below that were three parallel First Class sections. Kirk was in the C section, finishing in first place, beating, amongst others, future World Champion Max Euwe. The enforced break had done nothing to dull his chess strength.

Again, his only loss, against Irish champion John James O’Hanlon, is the only one of his games from this event I’ve been able to locate.

In 1919 he also entered the City of London Chess Club Championship: the only time he took part in this prestigious event. He finished in 6th place with 6/11 behind Sir George Thomas, a clear winner on 9½, Michell, Walker, EG Sergeant and Blake, whom he beat in this game: a notable scalp.

Throughout much of his life, Wilfred Kirk seemed to move house every two or three years. He had previously lived in Putney and Wimbledon, but by this time had moved to North London, playing for Hampstead Chess Club and winning the Middlesex Championship in 1920. He had also moved departments in the Civil Service, from the Local Government Board to the Ministry of Health.

Then, in Autumn 1925, he moved to Richmond, living in several addresses in Richmond and Twickenham in the following 12 years or so. He wasted no time in joining Richmond Chess Club, but, in his first match, was only playing on Board 3.

Richmond Herald 28 November 1925

He also entered the Surrey Championship, in 1926 regaining the title he had previously won 14 years earlier.

As an able administrator he was soon appointed secretary of his new club, as reported here, where, on top board, he was successful against our old friend George Archer Hooke.

Richmond Herald 20 November 1926

His addresses at this point included 17 The Barons, St Margarets in 1927 and 27 Richmond Hill in 1928.

In the 1928-29 season Kirk swept the board, winning not just the club championship (you’ll see PGL Fothergill in 3rd place: he only seemed to play in internal competitions rather than club matches), but the handicap tournament (one wonders how the scores were calculated) and the prize for the best percentage score in matches.

Richmond Herald 30 March 1929

That summer he took part in a Living Chess game against Reginald Pryce Michell at Asgill House in Richmond to raise money for the local hospital.

Richmond Herald 22 June 1929

Wilfred was very much involved in charitable endeavours of all sorts, promoting chess at the Star and Garter Home for disabled ex-Servicemen, donating money to a fund for distressed miners, and, later in life. helping at a local home for the blind.

That summer, by then in his 50s,  he unexpectedly received an invitation to take part in the British Championship, held that year in Ramsgate.

Wilfred was a very effective player top level club opposition, but here, against mostly master standard opponents, he was rather out of his depth.

He lost in 19 moves to Gerald Abrahams: a game which attracted some attention at the time. Abrahams, rather typically, played a speculative sacrifice which Kirk should have accepted, but instead declined it and resigned the next move.

Here’s his draw against future Scottish champion and bridge designer William Albert Fairhurst.

In this group photograph, Kirk is standing on the left next to the permanently disheveled William Winter.

That year there was a merger between Richmond and Kew chess clubs, who, however, continued to meet at both venues on different days of the week. Kirk now had a serious rival in Kew star Ronald George Armstrong, about whom more in a future Minor Piece.

Meanwhile, in 1933, Kirk’s service to chess in the Civil Service was marked by a presentation.

A History of Chess in the English Civil Service (Kevin Thurlow)

This 1934 match must have been a surprise result.

Richmond Herald 21 April 1934

Richmond & Kew were a second division team, playing in the Beaumont Cup, while Kingston, who had won the Surrey Trophy two years earlier, were a genuine first division team. Unfortunately, they lost to Battersea in the final of the Alexander Cup.

Armstrong must have been very pleased with his draw against Michell, while Kirk also shared the point with (Richard) Nevil Coles, who later became a celebrated chess author and who beat me in a Richmond v Guildford Surrey Trophy match in 1972.

Richmond Herald 06 April 1935

In the 1934-35 season Kirk won the club championship while Armstrong took the handicap shield: they gave a tandem simul at the end of season prizegiving.

Richmond Herald 10 April 1937

It was the same story in 1937, with Kirk taking the club  championship for the sixth time with a 100% score, and Armstrong again preferring the handicap shield. Wilfred was now entitled to hold the cup in perpetuity, but generously returned it for future years. I wonder what happened to it.

At this point, though, Wilfred Kirk retired from the Civil Service, spending some time travelling round Europe playing chess before moving, like many retired chess players of the time, to Hastings.

However, he competed in the 1938 British Championships in Brighton, now down in the First Class B section, where he shared first place on 7/11, winning this miniature.

He was soon involved in administration again, both at Hastings Chess Club, and with their annual tournament. He also found time to compete in the 1938-39 event, sharing second place in the Premier Reserves C section.

He also threw himself into county chess, here losing to another former Civil Service player Bernard Henry Newman Stronach.

Hastings and St Leonards Observer 15 April 1939

By now the world was at war again, but Hastings managed to arrange their annual tournament that winter, with Kirk taking part in the Premier.

In this game he held the tournament winner Frank Parr to a draw, sacrificing a knight for a perpetual check.

Although it was no longer possible to run formal competitions, Hastings Chess Club remained active during the war, with friendly matches against local rivals Eastbourne and Bexhill.

His opponent in this game, George Edward Anslow, a Gas Company clerk, was a member of both Eastbourne and Hastings Chess Clubs for many years. He beat me in a 1974 friendly match between Hastings and Richmond & Twickenham Chess Clubs.

Frederick William (Fred) Boff, whom he defeated in this game, seems to have been an interesting character both on and off the chessboard.

He was still very active locally as the war finally came to an end, and was involved in the administration of the 1945-46 Hastings Congress as Treasurer and Assistant Secretary. In June that year, still playing regularly in club events, he was taken ill with appendicitis. The operation, sadly, proved unsuccessful.

Hastings and St Leonards Observer 22 June 1946

There’s more information in this pen picture from Kevin Thurlow’s book on chess in the English Civil Service.

A History of Chess in the English Civil Service (Kevin Thurlow)

Wilfred Hugh Miller Kirk, then, was a strong player (2261 at his peak according to EdoChess) and a highly efficient administrator. He seems to have  been well respected at work and was also devoted to various charitable causes.

His family life, though, wasn’t happy.

In the 1901 census we see Wilfred and Mabel, only recently married, and living in Pimlico.

They soon moved south of the river, the births of their first three children being registered in Wandsworth, and the youngest in Balham.

By 1911 the family had split up. Wilfred was living on his own in Streatham, a Second Division Clerk in the Civil Service. Mabel didn’t appear to be around. Talbot, Beatrice and Evelyn (aged 9, 7 and only 4) were boarding at a school in Wimbledon, while 2-year-old Ruby was living with Wilfred’s mother in Battersea.

Then, in 1914, Mabel filed a petition for judicial separation. She was represented by her solicitor, PR Gibbs, who, I’d imagine, was the same Percy Rawle Gibbs who had played Wilfred at Sevenoaks in 1908.

Mabel’s petition, citing eight addresses, mostly in the Wandsworth area, at which they lived during their marriage, listed dates and places, from 1906 onwards, when and where Wilfred had assaulted her, and treated her with coldness and neglect. He had punched her on her body and head, thrown her against the furniture and onto the floor, grabbed her by the collar and dragged her upstairs. Wilfred denied the charges of cruelty, claiming that Mabel had become mentally deranged and assaulted him violently, and he was only acting in self-defence. On other occasions she had become hysterical and behaved in an ill tempered and unreasonable manner, causing him to lose his temper.

It was also revealed that, from late 1910, she had been a patient at St Luke’s Hospital: she was probably still there at the time of the 1911 census.

The separation was granted, with Mabel having custody of the two older children and Wilfred the two younger children. Would a man who had assaulted his wife, even with provocation, be given custody of two young girls today?

Was he a violent and abusive wife beater whose behaviour had driven his wife to the lunatic asylum, or a good man who found it difficult to cope with his wife’s mental health problems? I don’t know: I wasn’t there and it’s far from me to pass judgement.

The ramifications continued for a decade (the papers are available online at ancestry.co.uk).

The 1921 census found Wilfred now living in Islington with Evelyn and Ruby, who were both at school. Mabel and Beatrice, now an art student, were the other side of London, in South Norwood. Meanwhile, Talbot had emigrated to the USA, where he married in 1927 and had two sons, Fred (1928-76) and Jack (1929-67).

His marriage didn’t last and he returned to England. The 1933 Electoral Roll shows Mabel, Talbot and Beatrice sharing a house right by Hampstead Heath.

Then, in 1934, Wilfred sued Mabel for divorce on the grounds of adultery.

Richmond Herald 03 February 1934

Well, I don’t know. In September that year he married Olive Emily Holmes. Was he committing adultery as well? Again, I wasn’t there.

What happened to the rest of his family? Talbot remarried in 1941 in Brentford, at some point moving to Yorkshire, where he died in 2006 at the extraordinary age of 104.

Beatrice never married: by 1939 she was working as a typist in the Ministry of Food, and died in Hastings at the age of 78.

Evelyn married young, in 1926, to a man almost twice her age, George Arthur Tomlinson, who seems to have been a mechanical engineer working at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington. They lived with Wilfred for a time after the marriage before moving to North London where two sons, Brian (1928) and Robin (1930) were born. George died in 1944, but Evelyn, like her brother, lived a long life, dying in Bath at the age of 96.

Ruby married in 1939, like Evelyn to a much older man: a divorcee with the impressive name Bernard de Lerisson Cazenove. She had no children and, again like Evelyn, lived into her 90s: she was 91 when she died in Warwickshire.

The report of Wilfred’s cremation leaves some questions unanswered. You might have wondered why the local paper mentioned that he left a son, but failed to note his daughters.

Hastings and St Leonards Observer 22 June 1946

At the cremation, Talbot, Evelyn and Ruby were there, but there was no mention of Beatrice as a chief mourner. Did the paper forget her? Or had they become estranged?

Talbot, Dolly and Sylvia sent flowers, but who were Dolly and Sylvia? There were also flowers from Eric, Brian and Robin. Brian and Robin were his grandsons, but who was Eric? And why wasn’t Evelyn included? Her second marriage, in 1948, would be to Ernest (Vokes), not to Eric. Or was ‘Eric’ a misreading of ‘Evelyn’?

There’s one further family tragedy to report.

Worthing Gazette 26 April 1950

This is Wilfred and Mabel’s grandson Robin taking his own life in 1950, at the age of 19.

Had he inherited mental health problems from his mother? Impossible to tell, of course.

Although Wilfred Hugh Miller Kirk was a formidable club player and respected administrator, it seems that his family life was unsettled (moving house every couple of years) and unhappy. I can only hope that the game of chess brought him some comfort.

 

Sources:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

British Newspaper Library

Wikipedia

BritBase (John Saunders)

EdoChess (Kirk’s page here)

chessgames.com (Kirk’s page here)

British Chess Magazine 1912

A History of Chess in the English Civil Service (Kevin Thurlow: Conrad Press)

The City of London Chess Club Championship (Roger Leslie Paige: Publish & be Damned)

Hastings & St Leonards Chess Club website (Brian Denman article here)

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Happy Birthday IM Andrew Horton (15-i-1998)

Andrew Horton at the 2014 Team Chess Challenge at Imperial College. Courtesy of John Upham Photography
Andrew Horton at the 2014 Team Chess Challenge at Imperial College. Courtesy of John Upham Photography

BCN wishes Happy Birthday to IM Andrew P Horton (15-i-1998)

Andrew became a FIDE Master in 2015 and an International Master in 2018 following the 89th FIDE Congress 2018, 26 Sep – 6 Oct, Batumi, Georgia.

Andrew represents the 3Cs club in the Manchester League and in the Four Nations Chess League (4NCL) (as well as Wood Green) and, in addition, Wotton Hall, Durham City (during his University years) and Northumberland CA for county matches.

Andrew made regular appearences at the Delancey UK Chess Challenge and was placed 1st in the 2014 Terafinal, Challengers section.

Andrew Horton, Challengers C, 1st, 2014, UKCC Terafinal
Andrew Horton, Challengers C, 1st, 2014, UKCC Terafinal

In 2021 Andrew was invited and played in the London Chess Classic at the Cavendish Conference Centre.

IM Andrew Horton at the London Chess Classic, 2021
IM Andrew Horton at the London Chess Classic, 2021

Andrew’s ECF standard play rating at January 2023 is 2452K.

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300 Most Important Chess Exercises

300 Most Important Chess Exercises, Thomas Engqvist, Batsford (5 May 2022), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1849947510
300 Most Important Chess Exercises, Thomas Engqvist, Batsford (5 May 2022), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1849947510

From the Batsford web site:

“An informative and accessible new book by Thomas Engqvist, the practical follow up to his previous two authoritative chess books: 300 Most Important Chess Positions and 300 Most Important Tactical Chess Positions.

Filled with 300 engaging chess exercises and complete solutions in the end of the book, this book will allow you to apply and consolidate your newfound knowledge. The book is divided into four key sections: ·75 exercises practising positional ideas in the opening/middlegame ·75 exercises covering the endgame ·75 tactical exercises in the opening/middlegame ·75 tactical endgames.

The exercises featured in the book are taken from real game positions from various renowned chess players, including Capablanca and Magnus Carlsen.”

About the Author:

“Thomas Engqvist is an International Master from Sweden. He has over 30 years’ experience as a chess coach and teacher. He has worked with players at world championship level in both junior and correspondence chess. He is the author of 300 Most Important Chess Positions and 300 Most Important Tactical Chess Positions, both published by Batsford.

 

From the back cover:

  • In-depth analysis of the 300 most important exercises according to the famous principle “less is more”. The less you study the less you forget.
  • Practice the most important positional and tactical ideas in all phases of the game by solving just five positions every week for one year.
  • Find out if the positional or tactical idea crops up in your mind, regardless of whether you have seen the idea before or not.

Well, if you solve five positions every week it will take you 60 rather than 52 weeks to complete the book, but never mind. The claim that you’ll improve more by studying less is also rather silly: the real point is that the quality rather than the quantity of your study is important.

It continues:

In this highly instructive exercise book, International Master and experienced chess coach Thomas Engqvist outlines the 300 most important chess exercises. A sequel to 300 Most Important Chess Positions and 300 Most Important Tactical Chess Positions, this is the perfect manual for players who want to reach a higher level but don’t have the time to spend hours every week on less productive study.

Each numbered position is a test-yourself quiz to help cement the positional and tactical understanding that you have acquired. This book can be your life-long companion, enabling you to apply and solidify your positional and tactical chess knowledge.

Swedish International Master Thomas Engqvist has almost 40 years experience as a chess coach, teacher, writer and player. He has successfully worked with players at world championship level in both junior and correspondence chess. He works as a teacher at a school outside Stockholm. He is the author of eight chess books. This is his third book for Batsford Chess.

Yes, I get the point. Not everyone who wants to improve has the sort of time to spare that would be required to benefit from a book like this. Most of us have other commitments: just solving five exercises a week might be ideal. And what about the title? Are these exercises more important than the positions in the previous books? Who is to determine importance anyway. An exercise that’s important to me might not be important to you.

Let’s see what the author has to say in his introduction.

300 Most Important Chess Exercises starts off with 150 opening and middlegame positions to solve and the quota is 75 exercises where you practice positional ideas, and 75 exercises where the focus is on tactics. The other half of the book deals with 75 positional endings and 75 tactical endings. This is the only hint the solver will get.

This, then, is the final volume of a trilogy, with exercises based on the material in Engqvist’s two earlier Batsford books. If you’ve read and enjoyed them (sadly, I haven’t) you’ll undoubtedly want this as well. However, the author points out that it’s not necessary to have read them to read and benefit from this book.

The back cover claims that it’s a Universal book – suitable for players of all strengths.

No, it’s not. There’s an assumption that readers are proficient players with a good understanding of the game – say about 1500 strength. At the same time, some of the exercises will be familiar to more experienced players. I’d put the target range for this book, then, as in the region of 1500-2000 rating, although slightly weaker and slightly stronger players may also benefit.

I found Engqvist’s comments on the very first position in the book particularly interesting.

This is from a Morphy – Schulten game (New York 1857) with White to play.

White played 10. Bf4 here, but was it best? What would you suggest?

Engqvist:

Morphy claimed his 10th move was an improvement on 10. Qxd6 which was given in the leading treatises of the day (Hanstein – von der Lasa in Staunton’s “Handbook”). However this is not true if one consults the computer programs Komodo and Stockfish. It’s good to capture the d6-pawn as long as White can maintain pressure on the d-file. What’s more is that there is an even better move, suggested by both computers, namely 10. Nc3!. This is very interesting since Komodo makes good evaluations and Stockfish is good at deep calculations,  but they still come up with the same move!

This simple Knight move also follows Lasker’s principle that a knight should be developed before the bishop. The idea is to prepare Bf4 next move without allowing the d-file to be closed after …d5 . Morphy played according to the principle of development so his move is understandable, but the computers’ choice is the most precise. Even if we do know that development is on the agenda, we must also think carefully which piece to move first.

This tells you a lot about the author. Here we have someone who is well versed in chess history and culture, but also able to use modern technology effectively. Beyond that he has the ability to explain abstact concepts clearly and unambiguously.

Although that example may have been familiar to you if you’ve studied Morphy’s games, there are other exercises which you almost certainly won’t have seen before. Like this one, number 79, so it’s a tactical puzzle.

What would you play for White here?

This is from the less than Famous Game Kludacz – Pavlovskaya (Hasselbacken Open (Women) Stockholm 2001).

The whole game is interesting for anyone playing the Queen’s Gambit with either colour. White has launched a Minority Attack and now continued with 21. e4? which Black met with Bxh3!?, eventually winning the game.

Did you see how she could have done better?

21. h4! Ne6 22. Nce4!!

Presumably Kludacz missed the following knight sacrifice…

22… dxe4 23. Nxe4

White exploits the tactical weaknesses on f6 and c6. Black has no effective defence.

23… Qc7

If 23… Qe7 then 24. Qxc6

24. Nf6+ Kf8

White doesn’t need to cash in on f8 but can exploit the pin on the c-file.

25. d5!

Now Black’s position collapses and White wins.

Helpfully, Engqvist provides the whole game here so that readers can see how the position arose from the opening.

The second half of the book covers endgame exercises. Like other authors such as Judit Polgar and RB Ramesh, whose books I’ve reviewed recently, Engqvist believes that solving endgame studies is a very valuable form of chess training, so here we have a mix of studies and positions from practical play. He finds pawn endings especially fascinating, so there are plenty here.

Take this one, for example.

It’s White to play here (Kalinicev – Schulz Cham 1992). What would you suggest.

I guess most players, like me, would play 1. Ke7 here without a second thought, but it’s not the correct answer.

Engqvist:

The first time I saw this endgame I wrote in my private annotations that it’s “incredible that this move doesn’t win!” From a visual point of view it certainly seems that White’s king will wipe out the whole kingside of pawns like a vacuum cleaner,  but that turns out to be an optical illusion. The key move to winning is to play according to Nimzowitsch’s rule, which states that you should hem in the target before blockading it and only then destroy it!

 1. g4! would have prevented Black from moving his f-pawn to f5. Then 1… Kd3 2. Ke7 f6 3. Kf7 Ke2 4. f4 Kf3 5. f5. The f-pawn is now blockaded and a future attacking target. 5… Kg3 6. Kxg7 Kxh3 7. Kxh7 (7. Kxf6 Kxg4 8. Ke6 also wins but it’s unnecessary to give Black some hope even though that would be futile.) 7… Kxg4 8. Kg6 and White’s f-pawn decides.

Instead, the game concluded:

1. Ke7? f5 2. Kf7 Kd3 3. Kxg7 f4!! 4. Kxh7 Ke2 5. g4 Kxf2 6. g5 f3 7. g6 Kg3! 8. g7 f2 9. g8=Q+ Kxh3 with a drawn position because an eventual Qg3+ will be met by Kh1.

If you mistakenly went for Ke7 here then this may well be the book for you.

It does beg a question, though. This is billed as a positional endgame exercise, which it undoubtedly is, but it’s certainly tactical as well.

Of course positional and tactical chess are inextricably entwined, and, by the time you get to the ending, they’re really the same thing. The whole idea of splitting endgame exercises into ‘positional’ and ‘tactical’ seems very artificial to me. I’d guess this was the publisher’s rather than the author’s decision.

You probably hadn’t seen that position before (it’s not even in MegaBase), but if you’ve read anything on pawn endings you’ll almost certainly have seen the Famous Ending Cohn – Rubinstein (St Petersburg 1909), which you’ll also meet here. “If you only study one endgame with many pawns this is the one”, according to Engqvist, who discusses it over two pages. Regular readers of endgame manuals will find several other old friends as well: there’s six pages devoted to another Famous Ending, Timman – Velimirović (Rio de Janeiro 1979), to take just one example. Exercises 212-214 cover the ending of RB v R: the solutions cover 11 pages: extremely useful if you want to learn this ending, but I guess it’s debatable how important it is for average club players.

Here’s a quick endgame study from the last section of the book: tactical endgame exercises. See if you can solve it yourself before reading on.

White to play and draw (Prokes 1939)

A very game-like position, you’ll agree, and you were probably brought up with the knowledge that, in the absence of kings, two pawns on the sixth rank beat a rook.

In this instructive study, White’s king, contrary to appearances, is just about close enough.

Here’s the solution:

1. Kg4 e2 (1… d2 2. Kf3 Kd3 3. Ra1 e2 4. Ra3+ Kc2 5. Ra2+ Kc1 6. Ra1+ Kb2 7. Kxe2 =) 2. Rc1+ Kd4 (2… Kb3 3. Kf3 d2 4. Rb1+ Kc2 5. Kxe2 Kxb1 6. Kxd2 =) 3. Kf3 d2 4. Rc4+!!  Kd3 (4… Kxc4 5. Kxe2 Kc3 6. Kd1 Kd3 =) 5. Rd4+!! Kxd4 6. Kxe2 Kc3 7. Kd1 =

I hope you managed to solve this. But was it purely tactical or positional as well? What do you think?

To sum up, then, it’s very clear from this book that Thomas Engqvist is an exceptional teacher, who, like all exceptional teachers, knows exactly what he’s doing and why he’s doing it. Unlike some less experienced authors he doesn’t just throw a load of GM positions at you, show you a pile of computer generated variations and expect you to play like Carlsen.

To refer again to two other excellent books I’ve reviewed recently, if you find Ramesh too heavy and Polgar’s exciting enthusiasm grating, I’m sure Engqvist will hit the sweet spot for you. In that case you’ll probably want to investigate his two earlier Batsford books as well, and perhaps read them first. As the authors take very different approaches and cover different topics, ambitious club  players would do well to buy both Polgar and Engqvist. Young players who are aiming for IM or GM titles and have plenty of time to study would, on the other hand, be better off with Ramesh.

I’m just not sure that the format of the book is the best way to present Engqvist’s material, especially since endgames are both positional and tactical at the same time. (What the best format actually would be is an interesting question: different readers will prefer different formats. If you really, as Engqvist does, want to make the training environment resemble a tournament game you might want to mix the positions up rather than give a clue as to whether it’s a positional or tactical exercise.) I’m also not sure that the subtitle ‘Study five a week to become a better chess player’ is particularly helpful or realistic. Some of the positions require little time and explanation while others require a lot. The author himself doesn’t suggest in his introduction that this is the best way to use his book. As I suggested above, this book, notwithstanding the claims on the back cover, is far too advanced for beginners, but would be a great choice for anyone rated in the region of 1500-2000, or perhaps a bit higher.

But of course publishers do whatever it takes to sell copies, including resorting to unhelpful titles and unrealistic claims, and people don’t always buy chess books for rational reasons. Which is why it’s a good idea to read impartial reviews first.

The book is published to Batsford’s usual standards and appears to be free from the typos that mar books by some other publishers. The English might not always be totally idiomatic but is perfectly comprehensible throughout. I note that there is no mention of translators or proofreaders at the front of the book.

A book by an outstanding teacher, then, and, if the style and contents appeal to you, very highly recommended for club standard players ambitious to improve their rating.

Richard James, Twickenham 12th January 2023

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Batsford (5 May 2022)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:1849947511
  • ISBN-13:978-1849947510
  • Product Dimensions: 15.57 x 2.29 x 23.5 cm

Official web site of Batsford

300 Most Important Chess Exercises, Thomas Engqvist, Batsford (5 May 2022), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1849947510
300 Most Important Chess Exercises, Thomas Engqvist, Batsford (5 May 2022), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1849947510
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Minor Pieces 51: Enid Mary Lanspeary

Richmond Herald 23 December 1950

You might remember this from the last Minor Piece.

“In the first team this season E. Fairbrother (team captain), Miss Lanspeary, B. Bodycoat and P. Ahearne are unbeaten.”

It’s good to see a lady playing for Richmond’s first team, and unbeaten as well. She must have been a pretty good player. But who was this Miss Lanspeary with her unusual and unfamiliar surname? I wanted to find out.

Searching electoral rolls quickly identified our heroine as Enid Mary Lanspeary, so I looked at online family trees to find out more. She was indeed on a few trees – and I was amazed to discover that one of them was mine! I also discovered, by searching newspaper archives, that there were Lanspearys playing chess all over the country.

Something genealogists like to do is the One-Name Study, which involves finding out everything about everyone bearing a particular unusual surname. We’ll do that now with Lanspeary.

Most British surnames date back to the early middle ages, but Lanspeary has a much more recent origin. To be precise, 21 June 1779.

The family name was originally Lansbury, although some members used other versions as well, but this, the marriage between Thomas Lanspeary and Elizabeth Chambers in the Northamptonshire village of Great Doddington, is the first sighting of Lanspeary. I guess, from the original name, that the stress should be on the first syllable. History doesn’t record why Thomas chose that particular spelling.

You’ll find Great Doddington just south of the town of Wellingborough, famous, like many other Northamptonshire towns, for its place in the boot and shoe industry. According to this website, among those who have come to the county for shoes are HRH Queen Elizabeth II, Darth Vader, Sid Vicious, Jumbo the elephant, Sir Ernest Shackleton and James Bond. It was in the boot and shoe industry that the Lanspeary family originally found their employment.

To continue our one-name study we need to follow the paternal line. Thomas and Elizabeth had two sons, John and Thomas. John, it seems, only had one child, a daughter. Thomas, however, had three sons, William, another Thomas, and David.

In general terms, William was the most interesting. He found a job on the railways, which took him to Carlisle, married in Gretna Green and emigrated to Windsor, Ontario. Windsor is just the other side of the river from Detroit. Motortown, known to music fans as Motown. Due to a geographic anomaly, at this point Canada is south of the river and the USA north of the river. He had three sons, George, David and William, and the family were big in local government. If you visit Windsor now you’ll find Lanspeary Park there. If, in 1910, they had waved across the river, they might have attracted the attention of Alfred Padbury, from Warwick, who was, briefly, involved in manufacturing automobiles there. Alfred was his parents’ only son, but had nine sisters, some of whom you’ll meet later on in this article.

William’s youngest brother, David, moved to Sheffield, where he worked at various times as a warehouseman and dealer, but it’s the middle brother, the third Thomas, who interests us.

Thomas lived all his long life in Great Doddington, working as a shoemaker, and dying at the great age of 96. He had two sons, the younger of whom died in infancy, but it’s his older son, another David Lanspeary, who interests us.

He was also a shoemaker, but went into business, founding a very successful shoemaking company. He must also have been a chess player, as two of his sons played competitive chess to a reasonable level. He also, like his father, lived to be 96.

David and his first wife had one son, Wilfrid Arthur, and three daughters, one of whom died in infancy. After she died he remarried, and had two more sons, Lewis and Reginald.

Wilfrid, born in 1885, worked as a wood machinist, but was also a chess player.

We first pick him up in 1921, in his mid 30s, playing on top board for the Red Triangle (YMCA) team and winning his game against Wellingborough Town chess club. It looks like he was, up to that point, a social player, and, given the chance to try his hand against club standard opposition, discovered he was quite good. He soon joined Wellingborough club, seeing action against their local rivals from Northampton and Peterborough.

He was even good enough to be selected for his county side. Here he is, in 1924, in a match against Leicestershire, several of whose players I hope to feature in future Minor Pieces.

Birmingham Daily Post 25 November 1924

He seems to have played less often after 1925, but there are occasional mentions up to 1948.

In this 1939 match, two members of the famous Beach family were on the other side of the board. TJ (not JT, but he was known by his middle name, John) would much later write two excellent beginners’ books with CHO’D Alexander.

Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph 29 March 1939

 

Wilfrid’s youngest half-brother, Reginald, concentrated on helping his father run the family firm, but Lewis, born in 1894, was also a competitive player.

On leaving school, Lewis took a job with Boot’s the Chemists, rising to branch manager. In 1927 we find him in Essex, playing in the minor section of the county championship. He had been living in Luton with his wife and young daughter Enid (yes, that’s her) in the 1921 census but by 1926 he was living in Great Warley, Essex, just outside the M25. Enid had been joined by a brother, Philip John Lanspeary, in 1922. A few years later the family moved to nearby Brentwood, where Lewis joined the chess club.

In 1930 he was on Board 2 against Chelmsford, losing to a particularly interesting opponent, Tolstoy’s biographer Aylmer Maude.

Chelmsford Chronicle 19 December 1930

Aylmer wasn’t the only Maude playing chess for Brentwood. Here, in 1935, his son Lionel scored a draw against Lewis Lanspeary.

Chelmsford Chronicle 22 March 1935

Unlike his father and grandfather, Lewis didn’t enjoy a long life, dying young in 1941.

By 1946 Lewis’s widow Mary, along with Enid and Philip, had moved to London, to Kenilworth Court in Putney, eight blocks of Edwardian mansion flats right by Putney Bridge.

And, look! There on the electoral roll, just two doors away, was someone very famous in his day (but with his name misspelt here): Edgar Lustgarten.

Philip didn’t stay there long: in January 1947 he married Gwynneth Evelyn Reeder and moved to Long Eaton in Derbyshire, close to the point where that county meets Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire.

And then, like his father and uncle, he took up competitive chess. He joined his local club and was soon recruited for the county team, playing, like Uncle Wilfrid, against Leicestershire.

Leicester Evening Mail 22 March 1948

In 1950 he played a postal game which was featured in a sports shop window. You’ll see he adopted the ‘English start’ – presumably the English Opening was intended.

Grantham Journal 17 March 1950

Philip continued playing club and county chess in Long Eaton until 1955, when he, his wife and their young children Susan, born in 1952 and baby David (there are a lot of Davids in this family) moved to the Reading area. A third child, Hazel, was born there in 1957.

We have a much later address for him in the small Hampshire town of Tadley, 6 miles north of Basingstoke and 10 miles south west of Reading, so he might have been living at that point as well. Tadley is near Aldermaston, the home of the Atomic Weapons (Research) Establishment, which, at the time, was the area’s largest employer: perhaps he was working there. If you know, do get in touch.

I don’t have any further records of Philip playing chess after 1955. Perhaps he was still playing, but the local papers have yet to be digitised.

Perhaps, on the other hand, he decided to give up chess to allow himself more time for his other hobby: philately.

Phil was a philatelist, and like many philatelists he specialised in stamps with a particular theme: in his case stamps depicting birds. He even wrote a book on the subject, which you can buy here.

There’s a Bird Stamp Society which was founded in 1986, and Phil wrote an article on the bird stamps of Indonesia which was published in the September 1998 issue of their magazine, Flight. You can read it here: I note that their chairman, appropriately enough, was Robin Martin! Another win for nominative determinism!

Here’s another coincidence: this issue published a list of new members:

Look at the first name and address. If you’ve ever visited the Chess Palace you’ll spot that Mr M Warden was living at the end of my road. I didn’t know him, but, if I remember correctly, my opponent in my first competitive game of chess, in a match between two Richmond teams, was also M Warden. As far as I know, they weren’t the same person, but there’s another Richmond Chess connection with that surname, which you may discover in a future Minor Piece.

Philip, like his grandfather and great grandfather, lived to be 96. His wife Gwynneth did almost as well, reaching the age of 95.

We really need to return to Enid, who, as I told you at the start, was already on my family tree. The connection is through Gwynneth. She was the illegitimate daughter of Ida Rose Reeder, originally from Norfolk. Ida’s first cousin, John Palmer, moved to London and had a son, Percy John Palmer, who, after the death of his first wife, married Maud Kathleen Padbury. Maud was the youngest sister of Alfred, whom you met building cars in Detroit in 1910, and also the sister of my maternal grandmother Florence Padbury.

So this makes Enid, a member of Richmond Chess Club in 1950, the sister-in-law of  the 1st cousin 1x removed of the husband of my Great Aunt Maud. Confused? You will be!

Finally, then, we pick up Enid’s story again. This 1950 report is the only direct mention I have of her playing chess. It’s quite possible she remained a member of Richmond Chess Club for a few more years. If and when later years of the Richmond Herald appear online I’ll perhaps be able to find out.

However, there is this, which is of some interest for several reasons.

Richmond Herald 14 January 1950

“Three trophies have either been given or promised by members…”. Was one of those given or promised by Mr Bodycoat, whose trophy would later be used for the second division of the club championship, was his trophy donated in his memory after his untimely death the following year, or did he leave a legacy to the club?

There’s a reference to Walter Veitch, and also to ‘another member, Mr. A. J. Roycroft’, who won a best game prize. Coincidentally or not, Walter and John were (and John still is, at the age of 93) two of the country’s leading experts on endgame studies.

Here’s the prize winning game. Stockfish isn’t impressed, but judge for yourself. As always, click on any move for a pop-up window.

You’ll also note that the club had five junior members, and had doubled their number of lady members. Was Enid the first, or the second? If the second, who was the first?

Enid and her mother remained in Kenilworth Court until at least 1965 (London electoral registers are currently only available online up to that date) and probably until 1971, when her mother died.

It seems she had rather a lot in common with Beatrix Hooke, living in a mansion flat, concentrating on her job rather than romantic relationships, and also playing chess.

Like Beatrix, she married late in life, seemingly for companionship. While Beatrix married a widowed chess playing doctor, Enid married the twice divorced Charles John Lawrence Bonington, (see also this book)  whose background was in the armed forces, in Worthing in 1980. The son of his first marriage was none other than the mountaineer and chess enthusiast Chris Bonington, (see also his website here) whose name was shamefully misspelt in The (Even More) Complete Chess Addict. He played chess and listened to Bach on his expeditions.

Did Charles and Enid meet through a shared passion for chess, I wonder?

Charles died two years later, also in Worthing, while Enid lived on until 1999, where her death was recorded in Basingstoke. It seems likely she’d moved there after her husband’s death to be near her brother and his family.

So there you have the story of the chessing Lanspeary family. Two generations, two pairs of siblings, who played chess in four counties over four decades.  None of them were anywhere near master standard, but they were all good players of club/country strength. Players like them were, and still are, the backbone of chess. Wilfrid and Lewis, Enid and Philip, I salute you all.

Before I go, something I forgot last time. You might remember that Mr Bodycoat’s family came from villages close to my father’s family. He may also be the 3rd great-grandnephew of the wife of my 5th great-granduncle. We go back to one John Andrews Buzzard, born in West Langton, Leicestershire in 1697, who may have been my 6th great grandfather. (I have a DNA link with a member of another branch of his family, which suggests that this is at least possible.) One of his sons, William, married Elizabeth Gibbins, whose brother Thomas was the 3rd great grandfather of Walter/Boyder Bodycoat.

So there you have it: a newspaper article from the year I was born mentions two members of the chess club I would later join, one of whom was connected to my mother and the other connected to my father. Another golden thread that links us all together.

Join me again soon for another Minor Piece.

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Richmond Junior Chess Club 1975-2006: Part 3

By 1986 I’d developed some strong views about education and how they related to chess.

Something else happened as well. I was sitting in my London office one Feburary day wondering how I was ever going to be able to leave a job with no prospects of promotion or doing anything else when the phone rang.

It was my old friend Mike Fox, calling from Birmingham. “This phone call will change your life”, he said. And it did.

He’d been commissioned by Faber & Faber to write a book about chess trivia and invited me to join him as co-author. This would become The Complete Chess Addict (1987) and later The Even More Complete Chess Addict (1993), as well as the Addicts’ Corner column in CHESS which ran for 14 years. I decided that I could make as much money in less time by working freelance, while having time to help Mike with researching and writing the book and having more time to develop RJCC.

In order to improve Richmond Junior Club the first thing I wanted was to be able to find out everything I could about how every member of the club played chess, so that I could provide individual advice to all children and parents.

My view also was that, when teaching younger children and, more generally, less experienced players, everything we did had to happen for a very specific reason. I didn’t want to provide random lessons demonstrating random brilliant games to a random collection of children. Nor did I want to push children into doing too much too soon: using clocks and scoresheets and taking part in external tournaments before they were ready.

What I did (some of this was explained last time) was this:

  • I split the club into two sections: a morning group lasting two hours for primary school children, and an afternoon group lasting three hours for secondary school children, to which stronger primary school players would also be invited.
  • I introduced an internal grading system which was revised every few weeks, including all internal games (excluding blitz) so that I could select teams objectively in order of strength and identify when morning group players were ready to move up to the afternoon group. This included a very crude but reasonably effective measure to avoid grading deflation, based on the principle that, at any point, our members will either be improving or stationary.
  • Although I’d been collecting scoresheets of games played in our tournaments and training days for almost a decade, I now collected all afternoon group games (excluding blitz again) and played through them myself at home. There was no need to collect games played in the morning group as they were played at a lower level and usually decided by the number of pieces left en prise.

Beyond that, I wanted to ensure that our members would be able to try out a wide range of different openings, play games at different time controls, and play different opponents every week.

The primary school age children in our morning group were divided into divisions according to their internal grade. When new members joined we’d do a quick assessment. If they were obviously beginners they’d start in the lowest division. If we already knew about them because they’d played in one of our tournaments we’d already have given them a grade so would be able to put them in the correct division. Otherwise, we’d give them a quick friendly game against a player in a middle division and see how they got on.

I also used the same divisional system in schools for many years to ensure that children played different opponents of a similar strength to themselves every week (until the divisions were changed). This system also catered for the fact that some children played fast and would get through several games in one session while others played slowly and would only play one game. I found this worked much better than a Swiss tournament where everyone played one game a week and children who had finished their games would sometimes interfere with the games still in progress.

Every few weeks, by which time some of the faster and more regular attenders would have played most of the other players in their division, we ran the results through the grading program and restarted the divisions, with the most successful players gaining promotion.

We knew that if we taught children opening principles and then left them to their own devices many games would start with boring Giuoco Pianissimos or Spanish Four Knights, which, because they led to closed positions with few opportunities for pawn breaks, were only superficially good for less experienced players.

So we developed a system which would enable children in this group to experience a range of different openings and position types. Our first rule was that all games in the morning group would start with the moves 1. e4 e5. Over the course of the year (September to July) we’d  work through the major open games, starting with simple Four Knights type positions and gradually moving through to the King’s Gambit and (the favourite of many of our members) the Danish Gambit. We’d give a short introductory talk before the games started and expect players to start the game with the moves displayed on the demonstration board.

Ray Keene’s column in the Times always provided a simple tactical puzzle on Saturdays to encourage readers to compete for a prize, and we’d display this on the demo board so that children could attempt to solve it as they arrived. We’d go through the solution in front of the whole class before introducing them to the opening of the week.

We also wanted to ensure that children were introduced to clocks and scoresheets at the appropriate time in their chess development to prepare them for promotion to the afternoon group. As each of these adds a level of complexity to an already difficult game we wanted to do them one at a time, so players in the second division were asked to play their games on clocks (30 minutes per player per game) and, when they reached the top division they were required to notate their games (down to the last five minutes) as well.

For some of our members, the Morning Group was all they wanted and they’d drop out after a year or two. But others would be ambitious to play competitively and move up to the Afternoon Group, which was designed, in the first instance, for players of round about 1000 to 1500 strength. We assumed that, at that point, they’d move on to bigger and better things, but, as our system developed, we were attracting players up to getting on for 2000 strength.

In order to give our Afternoon Group members the chance to try out a wide range of different openings we developed a system involving games using set openings.

It took a few years for this to be fully implemented, but what we did was to divide all the major openings into ten groups, featuring one group every half term. We built a three-year cycle, with some groups happening every year, some twice in three years and some once in three years.

We also wanted to provide a range of different time limits. For younger players up to about 1500 who tend to play fast there’s no real need for slower games, while we also decided that anything less than 10 minutes per player would lead to too many blunders. So our main termly structure eventually looked like this:

  1. Freestyle 30 minute games (3 games in the 3 hour session)
  2. Coach and play – introductory lesson on the openings to be played over the next few weeks followed by two 45 minute games, consulting the opening books
  3. 10 minute blitz tournament (in groups with promotion/relegation) with opening variation picked out of the ‘hat’)
  4. 30 minute games (3 games in the 3 hour session) using the set openings
  5. Freestyle 10 minute blitz tournament (in groups with promotion/relegation)

Over the year we’d run 12 sessions with 3 30-minute games (at first in groups of 4 (quad tournaments) or 6 (Scheveningen system tournaments) – six freestyle and 6 with set openings. All games would be recorded down to the last five minutes and all scoresheets would be handed it. We used duplicate scoresheets for this purpose so that they all had a copy of their games to take home. I’d then play through all the games again at home, and, once ChessBase became available I’d enter them all into a database.

We’d also run 11 sessions with 10-minute games (as many as they could play in the time available), five freestyle and six with set openings.

We’d run 6 Coach and Play sessions to introduce the openings to be played in the next rapid and blitz sessions.

We also ran one simultaneous display a term. Sometimes we’d use visiting masters, sometimes our own coaches, members of our parent chess club or former RJCC members. We considered these a vital part of our programme for several reasons:

  • They promoted chess as an adult game, not just a game for young children
  • They gave our members the chance to meet and play against titled players
  • They forced our members to slow down and think while the simul giver was going round the room moving on the other boards

Other weeks were filled up with activities such as training games at slower time limits, endgame practice and puzzle solving, while the last week of each term gave our members the chance to enjoy chess variants such as Exchange (Bughouse) and Kriegspiel.

The idea was that each week would have one activity, which would vary from week to week. Very different from the way most junior clubs run, with two activities (lesson and game) a week and the same structure most weeks.

If you want to use our methods, our stationery (now rebranded as Chess Heroes rather than RJCC) is available to download here and here while our opening books (recently updated slightly to include the currently popular London System) can be downloaded here.

Coincidentally, several other important things happened at about this time.

A local primary school, Sheen Mount, appointed a new Headteacher, Jane Lawrence, who was passionate about introducing all her pupils to chess, teaching them the moves and giving them the chance to play competitively at school every day. Many of her pupils joined Richmond Junior Club, and, as you’ll see, two of them, Richard Bates and Tom Hinks-Edwards, went on to become International Masters.

Ray Cannon, whom I vaguely knew from the London chess circuit, brought his young son Richard along to the club. Ray was (and still is) an excellent chess coach and his views on chess teaching were (and still are) very similar to mine, and he soon started to play a vital role in the club, helping with the Afternoon Group as well as spending his Sundays visiting tournaments and passing on the results of our members so that I could incorporate them in our internal grading list.

The other player who played an invaluable part in our successes for many years was Gavin Wall, later an IM, one of our early members who, on returning from University joined our coaching team, working mostly in the Morning Group. Gavin and Ray were both integral to the club for many years: I can’t thank them enough.

Over the next few years we again became very strong, and the system we used in the Afternoon Group undoubtedly played its part.

As it happened, the summer of 1986 witnessed our first ever British Champion when Irfan Nathoo took the national Under 9 title.

Richmond Informer 14 August 1986

Here’s a game from later in the year. To play through this or any other game in this article click on any move and a pop-up window will appear.

With our new system in place we were able to promote the club in the local press, announcing an exciting season ahead.

Middlesex Chronicle 04 September 1986

We were actively looking for sponsorship at this point. We received donations from two local charities at various times, and here we found sponsorship from the Richmond branch of Midland Bank.

Richmond Informer 04 June 1987

We were also competing successfully in team competitions against other London junior clubs. Barnet Knights, of course, are still going strong today.

 

Richmond Informer 13 August 1987

One of our new members was a talented Scottish junior, Jonathan Rowson, who had moved from Aberdeen into the same road as me. He used to come round to my house for a game after school, but sadly for us he didn’t stay in the area very long.

In this game from one of our monthly quad tournaments, he demonstrated his class by outplaying Richard Bates in a pawn ending.

During this period I was doing a lot of private tuition. Jonathan was by no means the only one of our members who would visit my house for lessons, either on a regular or an occasional basis. Judging from both individual and team results it must have had some effect on them.

By 1989 Sheen Mount players were making names for themselves on the national stage. Here are future IM Richard Bates and Tom Davey playing for England’s Primary Schools team in a match against Scotland.

Richmond Informer 16 June 1989

 

Also in June 1989 we were invited to play a match against a visiting team from Arizona. As we had so many strong players by now we split our players into three teams and played a four-way match.

Here’s Richard Cannon’s game against the American board 1.

By the summer of 1989 it was time to move. The church in central Richmond where we met was being redeveloped so we had to find new premises. Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club moved to London Welsh Rugby Club, while Richmond Junior Club found a new home in a large Victorian house in East Twickenham, where we’d meet for more than 15 years.

Richmond Informer 29 September 1989

We also set up a separate group for older children enabling us to enter teams in the Thames Valley League. We played our home matches in Friday evening sessions and scheduled our away matches, as far as possible, during the school holidays.

Jane Lawrence was now running Richmond teams in the English Primary Schools Chess Association inter-area competitions, with players from schools around the Borough taking part. Andrew Bamford, like many of the players in these teams, was a member of Richmond Junior Club.

Richmond Informer 20 April 1990

In this game from our 1990 Under 11 Championship a speculative sacrifice proved successful.

Wanting to provide top level coaching for our strongest players, we appointed GM Daniel King as our club professional in 1990. We were also able to enter a third team in the Thames Valley League.

Richmond Informer 14 September 1990

 

In just a few years since 1986 the club had made tremendous progress, and we were able to bill ourselves, without fear of contradiction, as ‘England’s leading club for young players’. This is Chris A Baker, who hasn’t played competitively for a long time, not to be confused with long-standing Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club member Chris B Baker, who was also a pupil at Hampton School, or indeed IM Chris W Baker.

Middlesex Chronicle 20 June 1991

In this game Tom had the chance to play a Greek Gift sacrifice against an opponent with insufficient experience of the French Defence.

And here’s Chris Baker, beating one of his regular rivals in a club game.

Every summer during this period the parents of our stronger players got together to book accommodation for the British Championships. From 1991 onwards we were rewarded with successes like these:

1991 Richard Bates U14 shared, Luke McShane U9

1992 James Clifford/Luke McShane U14 Andrew Bamford U11

1993 Tom Hinks-Edwards U16 shared

One of our favourite simul givers at the time was Ukrainian IM Petr Marusenko, a regular visit to Hastings (he’s there again this year) who would drop in to visit us after the congress.

In this game James Clifford outplayed him in the ending.

Richard Bates, now at Tiffin School, continued to be successful in 1992, and was rated one of the world’s top players of his age.

Kingston Informer 31 January 1992

 

But by that time we had a new member whose feats would outshine even Richard’s. This was Luke McShane, who, at the age of only 8, took the World Under 10 Championship in 1992.

Newcastle Journal 14 July 1992

Luke scored victories against future stars such as Bacrot, Aronian and Grischuk in this event. He was perhaps fortunate to escape from lost positions in the first two of these games, but here’s his win against the Russian representative.

In January 1993 we were privileged to host a junior team from Kiev (now Kiiv), whose top players were, as you might imagine, very strong. We arranged four events: a simul given by Daniel King, a match against a team from Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club, a match against a Richmond Junior Club team and a match against a junior team representing the Southern Counties Chess Union, which included three RJCC players.

Another of our very strong players, Aleksandar Trifunovic, great nephew of Grandmaster Petar Trifunovic, scored an exciting win on board three of the RJCC v Kiev match. His opponent here is now an American IM.

Richard Bates scored a win and a draw against the top two Kiev players. He drew with Spartak Vysochin, now a grandmaster, in the RJCC match and won this game from the SCCU Juniors match.

As a result of his performance in the World Junior Championship, Luke was given the opportunity to play a game against Garry Kasparov, in London to discuss the arrangements for his forthcoming World Championship match against Nigel Short.

Richmond Informer 05 March 1993

Here’s the game.

In May 1993, buoyed by these successes, we were asked to be involved in the Richmond Chess Initiative, which, in essence, did very much what Chess in Schools & Communities is doing now, but on a local rather than national level.

Richmond Informer 14 May 1993

Children would learn all the right moves, but would they play them in the right order? You’ll find out in the next part of the history of Richmond Junior Chess Club.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Match of All Time: The Inside Story of the legendary 1972 Fischer-Spassky World Chess Championship in Reykjavik

The Match of All Time: The Inside Story of the legendary 1972 Fischer-Spassky World Chess Championship in Reykjavik, Gudmundur Thorarinsson, New In Chess (30 Jun. 2022), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9493257474
The Match of All Time: The Inside Story of the legendary 1972 Fischer-Spassky World Chess Championship in Reykjavik, Gudmundur Thorarinsson, New In Chess (30 Jun. 2022), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9493257474

From the publisher:

“When the Icelandic Chess Federation made a bid to host the 1972 world title match between Soviet icon Boris Spassky and American challenger Bobby Fischer, many Icelanders were rightly shaking their heads in disbelief. How could their small island country in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean with a population of less than 300 thousand people stage such a prestigious event in the first place?

“Undeterred and naively optimistic, the young President of the Icelandic Chess Federation, Gudmundur Thorarinsson, set to work and to everyone’s astonishment theirs was the winning bid. But that was only the beginning of one of the most amazing stories in chess history… Bobby Fischer’s demands and whims constantly jeopardised the match. First the American chose not to board his plane in New York, and then he came late for the first game. That game he lost after a silly blunder and the second game he lost because he didn’t turn up in a fight about noisy cameras. But next he won the third game, that was played in a back room, and the rest…. is history.

“Fifty years on, Gudmundur Thorarinsson has written a tell-all book about ‘The Match of the Century’, crammed with behind-the-scenes stories and improbable twists and turns. Reading his gripping account of probably the most iconic sports contest during the Cold War, you will understand why he prefers to call it ‘The Match of All Time’. And why reliving this most unlikely adventure he comes to the conclusion: ‘It was not possible to organise this match, nor was it possible to rescue it…but still it was done!'”

“Gudmundur Thorarinsson is a chess organizer and businessman from Iceland. In 1972, as the chairman of the Icelandic Chess Federation he organized the Match of All Time, the World Championship Match between the Russian incumbent champion Boris Spassky and the American challenger Bobby Fischer.”

 

Half a century on from the legendary Fischer – Spassky World Championship match, and still the books keep on coming.

From Chapter 1 (Prologue):

Why write another book about the World Chess Championship match in 1972? Approximately 140 books have been published about the match already, plus films, TV and radio programs, newspapers and magazine articles. To add another book to this list seemed too much to me. But many people have been encouraging me to write about the match, people working for radio and television, chess players and friends. But many have simply said: ‘We still do not have a book written by someone who was working behind the scenes, where the bombs were falling.

One thing is certain: a long time ago this match acquired a life of its own. Nowadays people tend to look at the course of events from a different perspective. Looking at the match from afar enables the observer to put the whole saga into another context, broadening the horizon, so to speak. It may be true that the viewpoint and experiences of those of us who were on the frontline during the planning and execution of the event have not been widely documented. Those who wrote about the match in the following months, or even years after it happened, did so mostly by annotating the games, explaining the battle from the perspective of the chess players or the audience.

If you’re looking for the games of the match you’ll be disappointed: but of course they are readily available elsewhere.

What you have instead is a source document telling the story of what was going on in the background, written by someone who was there and very closely involved at the time.

The book is designed to be interesting to the general reader as well as the chess specialist. Chapter 2, therefore, looks at the origins of chess, including a contribution from GM Fridrik Olafsson, an expert in this field, and, specifically, the early history of chess in Iceland.

Chapter 3 relates the history of the world chess championship prior to Spassky, starting with Stamma and Philidor, and taking us as far as Petrosian. There is little here that will be new to readers familiar with chess history.

Chapter 4, on the prelude to the 1972 match, is where things start getting interesting. We read about Fischer’s wins in his Candidates Matches against Taimanov, Larsen and Petrosian before being introduced to the two protagonists, with background information about their family, upbringing and chess career. Then the bidding process for the match venue is discussed, with Iceland, a small country in the Atlantic Ocean, but with a proud chess history, unexpectedly being selected.

The author of this book had, as a young man, been appointed President of the Icelandic Chess Federation in 1969. He had been proposed in his absence by his brother and not wanting to cause embarrassment, felt he had no choice but to accept.  As a result, he found himself in the middle of negotiations which would have a dramatic effect on the history of chess.

Chapter 5, the longest in the book, covers the match itself in fascinating and engrossing detail. Everyone who was interested in chess at the time will have vivid memories of Fischer’s demands and conditions, and of the problems and arguments these caused. Thorarinsson was at the heart of everything that was happening, and it was to no small extent due to his diplomatic skills, often described here in a self-deprecating way, that the match eventually started and, more or less successfully, concluded with Bobby as the new World Champion. There’s a lot of documentary material here which will be new to many readers.

Chapter 6 describes the aftermath of the match. Fischer’s life over the next three and a half decades is related, including his return match with Spassky in 1992. Bobby spent the last few years of his life in Iceland, and Thorarinsson was again very much involved with expediting his journey from a Japanese detention centre, and with helping him settle in for what would be his rather sad endgame.

This and the final section, the author’s tribute to his friend, which he delivered at Fischer’s memorial service, are both intensely moving.

If you’re looking for chess moves, this won’t be the book for you. But if you want to know more about Fischer, and about the background to the 1972 match, it will be an essential purchase.

The book is, like everything from this publisher, beautifully produced and copiously illustrated with photographs and cartoons. There are many entertaining and enlightening anecdotes to keep you amused as well. It’s a great story, reminiscent of a Greek tragedy, and well told here from the author’s unique perspective. Whether or not you’re familiar with what happened half a century ago, you’ll find it a gripping read.

Do bear in mind, though, that while it may be an important source document for future historians (and we really need a fully sourced and referenced biography of Fischer) it’s a memoir with its fair share of uncertainty and speculation. You read that ‘Harry Golombek states in one of his books…’: yes, but which one? Or, to take another example, ‘According to some sources…’. Which ones?

I have a few other issues, just as I do with many New in Chess books, essentially coming down to the fact that it could have benefitted from a firmer editorial hand and a final read-through from a native English speaker. There are odd words and sentences that are not quite idiomatic. There’s also a certain amount of repetition (Fischer’s parentage is discussed on page 82, and again on pages 90-92) and one or two places where I felt continuity might have been improved.

Nevertheless, this book is essential reading for anyone with an interest in Fischer as a person, or in the 1972 Fischer – Spassky match. If the subject matter appeals to you, and, if you have any interest at all in chess culture and history, it undoubtedly will, don’t hesitate.

You’ll find pricing and other details here and sample pages here.

 

 

 

Richard James, Twickenham 26th December 2022

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details:

  • Softcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: New In Chess (30 Jun. 2022)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9493257479
  • ISBN-13:978-9493257474
  • Product Dimensions: ‎17.22 x 1.52 x 23.65 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

The Match of All Time: The Inside Story of the legendary 1972 Fischer-Spassky World Chess Championship in Reykjavik, Gudmundur Thorarinsson, New In Chess (30 Jun. 2022), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9493257474
The Match of All Time: The Inside Story of the legendary 1972 Fischer-Spassky World Chess Championship in Reykjavik, Gudmundur Thorarinsson, New In Chess (30 Jun. 2022), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9493257474
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The Exchange Sacrifice according to Tigran Petrosian

The Exchange Sacrifice According to Tigran Petrosian, Vassilios Kotronias, Russell Enterprises, 15th September 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1949859485
The Exchange Sacrifice According to Tigran Petrosian, Vassilios Kotronias, Russell Enterprises, 15th September 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1949859485

From the rear cover :

“Tigran Petrosian, the ninth world chess champion, was one of the deepest thinkers the chess world has ever seen. His handling of complex positions was legendary.
With his rare strategic feeling and exceptional vision, Petrosian gradually became one of the top exponents of the art of the exchange sacrifice, and perhaps the leading protagonist for the positional exchange sacrifice.

Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian
Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian

Acclaimed author Vassilios Kotronias has assembled a splendid collection of Petrosian’s games, exemplifying the artist at work. The Greek grandmaster presents 36 games – all deeply annotated – in which he puts the Tiger’s signature sacrifice under the analytical microscope. And each game has an exceptional introduction putting it into historical perspective.

Flickr Vasilios Kotronias | Photo by Niki Riga | Gibraltar International Chess Festival | Flickr

Flickr
Vasilios Kotronias | Photo by Niki Riga | Gibraltar International Chess Festival | Flickr

As noted by American grandmaster Alex Fishbein in the Foreword:
You will find your share of positional exchange sacrifices here. But you will also see exchanges sacrificed in the midst of a crushing attack. You will see sacrifices born of desperation, to save a bad ending. You will see correct and incorrect sacrifices. In fact, Tigran Petrosian will lose some games here. This is real life; there are mistakes, and the author explains it all to you.
Vassilios Kotronias has brought you the material in a way that will enhance your appreciation of chess as an art form. He has also offered you practical lessons you can use in your own chess endeavours.

You are already familiar with the exchange sacrifice as an art form. Now enjoy the brilliant games of its greatest artist, Tigran Petrosian.”

About the Book

This is a very interesting and enjoyable book.

It is also a very unusual, or rather original, book in that it focuses on a specific facet of one great player’s handling of chess positions. Certainly there are books dedicated, say, to Tal’s attacks or Karpov’s endgame play, but it is difficult to think of other books with such a specific subject based on a single player. All of which makes Kotronias’ book all the more enticing to look at. Plus, of course, it is a facet of the game for which Petrosian was justly famous.

As stated in the blurb above, the bulk of the book (257 of the 304 pages) is devoted to 36 annotated games, presented in chronological order spanning the years 1947-1980. Many of the games feature the strongest possible opponents from those times, eg Spassky, Botvinnik, Smyslov, Tal, Gligoric, Fischer, Hubner, Korchnoi amongst others. The book also gives the unannotated scores of a further 88 games. Kotronias does this for three reasons:
1 completeness ;
2 to give the reader food for thought (he invites readers to analyse the games without initially using computer assistance) ;
3 aesthetics! As Kotronias puts it: “Many of the examples which follow are true gems of sacrificial play and a treat for the eye”.
A nice touch is that these games, although unannotated, have a diagram near the point where the exchange sac occurs, so that readers who are too lazy for reason 2 can at least appreciate reason 3!

The book also includes:
– an Introduction by the author, which adds another annotated game (less deeply than the others) – the famous Reshevsky-Petrosian exchange sac (…Re6!)
– a nice foreword by GM Alex Fishbein ;
– an index of players ;
– an index of openings (ECO codes, not names).

Kotronias’ Style of Annotation

The annotated games, to a greater or lesser extent, follow a pattern:
– an introduction, of varying length, which puts the game into its sporting and historical context  and provides an overview of the game;
– the whole game itself is analysed, especially the middlegames and most deeply around and after the exchange sac;
– a short epilogue where the author sums up the game, and often draws conclusions that can be applied more widely.

Despite his evident admiration for Petrosian, Kotronias’ annotations are objective. Indeed, some of the annotated games are losses for Petrosian, and in other games the author points out when the exchange sac was unsound (or a second-rate choice) even when Tigran prevailed.
As befits a player of Kotronias’ strength (he was regularly in the world’s top 100 players in the 2000’s, with a 2600+ rating) his analysis is sometimes very deep, but he  favours explanations over lengthy variations, reserving the heavy analysis for the most complex positions. Indeed, he is a very readable annotator.

Example Game Annotation

Anyway, here is an excerpt, taken from the famous Petrosian-Spassky 1966 match, game 10:

Other quotes from the book

In the intros and epilogues to the games, Kotronias makes a number of observations, some of them quite repeatable, for example:

“Choosing the right way to attack requires perhaps a greater sense of danger than the one required to choose the best way of defence.”

“We should never forget that we are only human beings and not machines, and thus, as long as players of approximately the same level compete, psychology and energy will always play a small or bigger role for the final outcome. A trivial thought, but the exceptional depends on a number of trivial factors, do you not think?”

Conclusion

“I sincerely hope that you will find the games presented in this book not only enjoyable, but instructive.” writes the author in his introduction.

Well, this reviewer always enjoys well-annotated game collections of great players which are written by an engaging writer, and this book hits the mark in all these respects.

The theme is an interesting one (in both parts, Petrosian and the exchange sac) and the selected games are fascinating. The book isn’t a formal study of when/why exchange sacrifices work and when they don’t (perhaps the point is that knowing this comes from accumulated experience, calculation and judgement)  but it is easy to believe that study of these games will help players improve their judgement in this area.

There is something in this book for a wide range of playing strengths and is highly recommended.

Colin Purdon, December 23rd 2022

Colin Purdon
Colin Purdon

Book Details :

  • Flexicover : 304 pages
  • Publisher:Russell Enterprises (15 Sept. 2022)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1949859487
  • ISBN-13: 978-1949859485
  • Product Dimensions: 15.24 x 1.91 x 22.86 cm

Official web site of Quality Chess

The Exchange Sacrifice According to Tigran Petrosian, Vassilios Kotronias, Russell Enterprises, 15th September 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1949859485
The Exchange Sacrifice According to Tigran Petrosian, Vassilios Kotronias, Russell Enterprises, 15th September 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1949859485
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