Sir Theodore ("Theo") Tylor (13-v-1900 23-x-1968) from the Radio Times Hulton Picture Library

Remembering Sir Theodore (“Theo”) Tylor (13-v-1900 23-x-1968)

BCN remembers Sir Theodore Tylor who passed away on Wednesday, October 23rd, 1968.

Theodore Henry Tylor was born on Sunday, May 13th, 1900 in Bournville, (at the time) in northern Worcestershire. Now Bournville is in the metropolitan borough of Birmingham.

His father was Henry Bedford Tylor and his mother Minnie Belle Cater were both 29 when Theo was born. He had one sister Rachel Hope who was born on 1 November 1909 in Kings Norton, Worcestershire, when Theodore Henry was 9 years old.

In the 1911 census Theo is shown as living in Worcester as a student. His father passed away on 26 February 1915 in Birmingham, Warwickshire, at the age of 44.

Theodore Henry Tylor, Courtesy of John Saunders and Britbase
Theodore Henry Tylor, Courtesy of John Saunders and Britbase

In 1939 Theo was living at 2, Rawlinson Road, Oxford where he continued to live until his death.

We are grateful to John Foley writing in Floreat Domus (the Balliol College magazine) who wrote this about Tylor :

Article about TH Tylor by John Foley
Article about TH Tylor by John Foley

and, following this, John reproduced an item from On the Basis of of Hearsay, Grosvenor House Publishing, 2018 :

Chess in the 1950s : Fred Fishburn Remembers
Chess in the 1950s : Fred Fishburn Remembers

From British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXIX (1969), Number 1 (January), pp 6-7 we have the following article :

Sir Theodore Tylor-An Appreciation


“The death of Sir Theodore H. Tylor at the age of sixty-eight was reported in The Times of October 24th. The announcement will be received with deep regret by the many chess enthusiasts who will remember him as a cheerful and extremely resourceful opponent who triumphed over the handicap of near-blindness and lived such a full and distinguished life that it earned him the admiration and respect of the world.

The Times has already done full justice to his work as Fellow and Tutor in Jurisprudence at Balliol for nearly forty years and to his service to organizations for the blind for which he was most justly knighted in 1965, but it barely mentioned that side of his life with which we chess-players were more intimately acquainted.

His education at Worcester College for the Blind naturally brought him into contact with chess and he became a very strong player. ln 1925, at the age of twenty-five, he was among the twelve players selected for the British Championship at Stratford-on-Avon and fully justified the selectors’confidence by taking fourth prize, behind Atkins, Yates, and Edmund Spencer, and ahead of Winter.

It was another four years before he became really active, but in 1929 he again played in the Championship and shared fourth prize with J. H. Morrison and W. Winter behind, Sultan Khan, H. E. Price, and R. P. Michell. He followed this with his first visit to Hastings and in the 1929-30 congress put up the best performance of his career, sharing first prize with Koltanowski, in front of Flohr, Reijifir, Rellstab, Alexander, Jackson, Noteboom, Vidmar Jnr., and Winser. This, by the way, was only a Premier Reserves!

This performance evidently impressed the selectors, for the following summer brought an invitation to play for the B.C.F. team in the Hamburg Olympiad, where he won one, drew four, and lost two games. ln the 1930-31 Hastings Congress he made the first of nine appearances in the Premier Tourney, but he never managed to maintain sufficient consistency to win honours in this exalted company and was never able to finish higher than equal sixth (in
1936-7). ln the nine tournaments he won ten tames (of which only two were against non-British opposition-Feigin and Medina) and drew thirty-three (including World Champions Alekhine and Euwe and grandmasters Fine, Flohr (three times), Keres, Sultan Khan, Tartakower, and Vidmar). ln 1934-5 he again tied with Koltanowski for first place in the Premier Reserves.

Sir Theodore Henry Tylor
Sir Theodore Henry Tylor

ln twelve British Championships his best performance was at Hastings in 1933 where he finished second, 1/2 point behind Sultan Khan and lost only to C. H. O’D. Alexander. In nine of the twelve he was in the first six, and was four times a prize-winner. He was chosen to play for England against Holland in 1938, 1948, and 1952, and against Yugoslavia in 1951. ln these games he won four and lost four. He was selected to play against
the U.S.S.R. in 1946, but had to withdraw at the last minute.

In 1936 he was chosen as one of the four British players in the Nottingham lnternational Tournament. This caused some dissatisfaction among other disappointed aspirants, but he came ahead of Alexander, Thomas, and Winter and captured the scalps of Flohr and Tartakower. ln the same year he was fifth at Margate, where he drew with Capablanca, Lundin, and Stahlberg.

Finally, a word should be said about his work away from the board. For six years he was President of the Chess Education Society, in whose work he took a lively interest from its foundation in 1943. He was President of the Midland Counties Union from 1946-9. He played top board for Oxfordshire for many years and captained the team for a period. We mourn a great friend of chess and a fine player who was a true amateur and obviously enjoyed every minute he spent among us.”

From The Encyclopedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977) by Harry Golombek (article by Ray Keene) :

“In spite of the handicap of partial blindness, Tylor enjoyed a successful academic career and was for nearly forty years a Fellow and tutor in jurisprudence at Balliol College, Oxford. He took up chess seriously while a schoolboy at Worcester College for the Blind and later as an undergraduate captained the Oxford University chess team.

At Hastings 1929/30, Tylor shared first prize with Koltanowski in the Premier Reserves ahead of Flohr, Reijfir, Rellstab, Alexander, Jackson, Noteboom, Vidmar Jr. and Winser. He played in the Hastings Premier event on nine occasions, but never finished in the top half. He competed in the British Championship twelve times, his best result being 2nd to Sultan Khan in 1933. He was selected for the BCF team in the Hamburg 1930 Olympiad and was British Correspondence Champion in 1933, 1934 and 1935.”

Worcester, circa 1931: Mir Sultan Khan (left) plays Theodore Tylor, while Sir George Thomas (far left) and Arthur Mackenzie (far right) spectate. Photo courtesy of Britbase.
Worcester, circa 1931: Mir Sultan Khan (left) plays
Theodore Tylor, while Sir George Thomas (far left) and
Arthur Mackenzie (far right) spectate.
Photo courtesy of Britbase.

We are grateful to Tim Harding who sent us this link to his research on Tylor

From Wikipedia:

“Sir Theodore Henry Tylor (13 May 1900 – 23 October 1968)[1] was a lawyer and international level chess player, despite being nearly blind. In 1965, he was knighted for his service to organisations for the blind. He was Fellow and Tutor in Jurisprudence at Balliol College, Oxford for almost forty years.[2]

Born in Bournville, Tylor learned to play chess at age seven. His chess skill increased while he attended Worcester College for the Blind from 1909 to 1918. He studied at Oxford University beginning in 1918, and captained the Oxford University Chess Club. Tylor received First-class Honours in Jurisprudence in 1922 and was made an honorary scholar of Balliol College. The next year, he became a Bachelor of Civil Law and a lecturer at Balliol College. Called to the Bar by the Inner Temple with a certificate of honour, he was made a Fellow at Balliol College in 1928.”

“Tylor competed in twelve British Championships, finishing fourth in his first appearance in 1925. His best result was in 1933, finishing second to Mir Sultan Khan.[2][3] He tied for first at the 1929/30 Hastings Premier Reserves alongside George Koltanowski ahead of Salo Flohr, Josef Rejfiř, Ludwig Rellstab, C.H.O’D. Alexander, Daniël Noteboom, and Milan Vidmar.[2] Tylor played in the top section, the Hastings Premier, nine times beginning in 1930/1. His best finish was 6th= in 1936/7.[3] He was first reserve for the English team at the Hamburg 1930 Chess Olympiad.

Tylor won the British Correspondence Chess Championship in 1932, 1933, and 1934.[1][2] He shared 5–6th at Margate 1936 with P. S. Milner-Barry, but he won their individual game and drew with 2nd- to 4th-place finishers José Raúl Capablanca, Gideon Ståhlberg, and Erik Lundin (Salo Flohr won). Although he finished 12th at Nottingham 1936, he had the best score of the British participants, ahead of C. H. O’D. Alexander, G. A. Thomas, and William Winter.[5] Mikhail Botvinnik noted that Tylor was using a tactile chess board that he incessantly fingered, as well as a device for counting the number of moves made.”

“Tylor was President of the Midland Counties’ Chess Union from 1947 to 1950, but his work for the university and for the welfare of the blind limited the time he had to devote to chess. Tylor also enjoyed bridge.[3] He died in Oxford on 23 October 1968.”

Sir Theodore Henry Tylor
Sir Theodore Henry Tylor
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