We remember Sir George Alan Thomas who died on July 23rd, 1972
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.”
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.
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).
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)”
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 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.
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.
During his career he has beaten Capablanca, Botvinnik (in consecutive rounds at Hastings 1934-35), 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.
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.
He died on 23rd July 1972 in a London nursing home.”
In the March issue of CHESS for 1963, (Volume 28, Number 427, pp.147-155) William Winter wrote this:
Sir George Thomas
Another great figure of the period between the wars, Sir G. A. Thomas, is happily still with us, although he gave up competitive play some years ago. I think I must have played more games with him than with any other master and he was my principal rival in the battles for the British Championship which we each won twice.
Although he lacks Yates’ spark of genius he is a very fine player indeed and one of the few Englishmen who is a real master of the endgame. Both nationally and internationally he has an excellent record, probably the best of a number of performances being his tie with Euwe and Flohr for lst prize at Hastings 1934-5. Capablanca and Botvinnik were among the also-rans. Thomas beat both of them, a splendid performance when we consider the small number of games ever lost by either. He is the only native Englishman to have scored a win over Capablanca. He acted as captain of all the British teams of which I formed part and an excellent leader he made, firm when necessary, but always considerate to his men especially when they were doing badly.
Sir Thomas, as he was called, is much missed on the Continent where he was highly popular and did a great deal to increase the prestige of British chess.
Here is Part II of GM Matthew Sadler’s appreciation of Sir George.
Here is his Wikipedia entry
and here is Part III of Matthew Sadler’s article
“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.”
Bill Hartston wrote this in “On the Knight Shift”, Chapter 20 of the The Chess Player’s Bedside Book (Batsford, 1975) :
“In the days when chess was perhaps a more noble pastime, one of England’s leading players was the Baronet, Sir George Thomas. A true gentleman and sportsman, he considered it rather unprincipled to analyse adjourned games before their resumption and could only be persuaded to look at his own positions after being assured that his opponents were certainly taking full advantage of the adjournment in this manner.”