Remembering Gordon Crown (20-vi-1929 17-xi-1947)

Gordon Thomas Crown with BCM Editor Julius Du Mont observing
Gordon Thomas Crown with BCM Editor Julius Du Mont observing

We remember Gordon Crown who died this day (November 17th) in 1947.

Gordon Thomas Crown was born on Thursday, June 20th, 1929 to James Crown (born 18th November 1899) and Hilda M Crown (born 3rd October 1900, née Sharrott).
James was a refrigerating engineer and Hilda carried out unpaid domestic duties. The birth was registered in the district of West Derby, Lancashire.

Gordon attended Holt Secondary School which is now known as Childwall Sports and Science Academy.

According to the electoral register of 1939 they lived at 8 Ingledene Road, Liverpool, Liverpool C.B., Lancashire, England. (This is L18 3HJ in this day and age.)

According to Zoopla : “This 4 bed freehold semi-detached house is located at 8 Ingledene Road, Liverpool L18 3HJ and has an estimated current value of £581,000. Ingledene Road has 19 properties on it with an average current value of £492,220, compared to an average property value of £325,035 for L18. There have been 5 property sales on Ingledene Road, L18 over the last 5 years with an average house price paid of £474,900. There are currently 108 properties for sale in L18 with an average asking price of £372,163 and 59 properties to rent in L18 with an average asking rent of £408 pw.”

8 Ingledene Road, Calderstones, Liverpool, L18 3HJ
8 Ingledene Road, Calderstones, Liverpool, L18 3HJ
Liverpool Echo 15 April 1946
Liverpool Echo 15 April 1946

Both Sunnucks and Hooper & Whyld are silent on GTC : surprising!

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

“Gordon Crown is one the sad might-have-beens of the world of chess. In his short life he had already shown himself to be of master strength and a potentially very great player when suddenly, at the age of eighteen, he died during an operation.

He learnt chess when aged nine and soon became one of the best players, first in Liverpool,, his home town, and then in Lancashire, of which county he won the Junior Championship three years in succession.

Crown first came into national prominence when he came second in the British Boys Championship in 1946. (Ed : the winner was John Fuller) In the Hastings Congress of 1946/7 he won first place in a strong Premier Reserves Section.

The last year of his life even saw him reaching out to international success, Playing on board 9 for Britain against The Netherlands he scored 1.5 out of 2 against L.J. Tummers. Then he won third prize in the British Championship at Harrogate. As a result of this success he was promoted to board 4 for Britain against Australia in a radio match when he beat Dr. M. Gellis.

In September 1947 he was hurried to hospital suffering from peritonitis and, being a diabetic, succumbed under the operation.

As a player he excelled in both the opening and endgame phases and possessed a style of play that stamped him as a future grandmaster. As a person he was modest, clever and a very agreeable companion. This was great loss for British and, almost certainly, world chess.”

We have reproduced his obituary from British Chess Magazine, Volume LXVII (1947), Number 12 (December), Page 387-8 and we assume that this was written by the then editor, Julius du Mont :

Obituary of Gordon Thomas Crown, part one
Obituary of Gordon Thomas Crown, part one

and

Obituary of Gordon Thomas Crown, Part Two
Obituary of Gordon Thomas Crown, Part Two

We are grateful to Leonard Barden on the identity of T.J.B. :

“Thomas John Beach, wartime RAF navigator with Distinguished Flying Cross, leading light of Liverpool chess, regular British championship player for many years, chairman of BCF junior selectors, father of a leading Midlands expert, a good and dedicated man” TJB was the father of Richard Beach who won the British Boys Under 18 title in 1961.

According to the British Chess Magazine, 1943, March, page 56 GTC lived at 8 Ingledene Road, Calderstones, Liverpool 18, England.

Gordon Thomas Crown, from CHESS, 1948, January, page 86
Gordon Thomas Crown, from CHESS, 1948, January, page 86

On 17 November 1947 he was admitted to hospital, complaining of a stomach upset. Diagnosed too late with appendicitis, complicated by his diabetes, he died in the operating theatre.

His friend (and former British champion) Leonard Barden speculates that had he lived, Crown would have become at least a strong Grandmaster, further noting that he was ” … open, friendly and modest as well as a clear and enthusiastic explainer of his chess ideas; I think he would have been like Keres or Gligoric in their countries, a model for our young players.”

Harry Golombek was similarly impressed with Crown’s play, stating that “In his short life, he had already shown himself to be of master strength and was potentially a very great player.”

We are grateful to be able to use comments from long time friend, Leonard Barden posted under the nom de plume of Roberts Partner on chessgames.com :

“As to the circumstances of Crown’s death. The finger of blame must be pointed at the family doctor for failing to make a timely correct diagnosis. On Sunday 16 November 1947 a chess friend visited the Crown home at Ingledene Road, Liverpool, and found Crown in bed. He explained that his doctor had diagnosed a stomach upset and had recommended rest. The friend and Crown played and analysed together for several hours, and Crown did not appear in any physical discomfort. But that night after the friend left his condition deteriorated and he was rushed to hospital where he died in the early morning hours of 17 November. There was also a belief among some Liverpool chess players that the hospital procedures could have been better.”

and

“On another thread some CG posters expressed surprise at the Ritson Morry v Crown game where Morry fell into a well-known opening trap.

The British championship at Harrogate in August 1947 was played in a spa building where the underfloor heating was still switched on. This coincided with one of the warmest summers on record (it was the year in which Compton and Edrich made their memorable cricket achievements for Middlesex). By the second week of the BCF congress older and overweight players (the latter group including Ritson Morry) were wilting. Ritson also had some long adjourned games, and by the time of his game with Crown in the final round was exhausted. The game finished in 15-20 minutes so by the time other players went to spectate after their opening moves there was just a reset board with no sign of the players and no indication of what had transpired. Other final round results went Crown’s way so that he finished third outright and thus got selected on a high board for the USSR match.”

Western Daily Press 22 September 1947
Western Daily Press 22 September 1947

and here is an article by ddtru (?) in chess.com : full article

We are grateful to renowned chess historian, Taylor Kingston for supplying these scans of an article from Chess Life in 1947 about Gordon Crown written by Reuben Fine :

Chess Life article about Gordon Thomas Crown, Part One
Chess Life article about Gordon Thomas Crown, Part One

and

Chess Life article about Gordon Thomas Crown, Part Two
Chess Life article about Gordon Thomas Crown, Part Two

From Wikipedia :

“Gordon Thomas Crown (20 June 1929 – 17 November 1947)[1] was a promising British chess player who died of appendicitis at the age of eighteen. He is best known for his win against the Russian Grandmaster Alexander Kotov shortly before his death.

Crown was born in Liverpool in 1929. He finished second in the British under 18 championship in 1946 and improved rapidly, winning the Premier Reserve section of the 1946/7 Hastings International Chess Congress. This led to his being placed on the reserve list for the 1947 British Chess Championship. Following the withdrawal of the defending champion Robert Forbes Combe,[2] he was allowed to play in the championship, where he finished third (Harry Golombek won).

Consequently, he was selected to play for the British team in the 1947 Britain-USSR match, where he caused a sensation by defeating the Soviet Grandmaster Alexander Kotov, though he lost the return game. He also defeated Max Gellis in a Britain-Australia radio match.”

Interestingly, via the EC Forum, Geoff Chandler pointed out a note by Edward Winter in which Bill Hartston recounts advice from David Bronstein : “Look at the games of Gordon Crown. He really understood chess”. From NOW! magazine, (6-12 February 1981, page 80.) : thanks Geoff !

Gordon Thomas Crown
Gordon Thomas Crown

One thought on “Remembering Gordon Crown (20-vi-1929 17-xi-1947)”

  1. Re Gordon Crown

    My late father, Reginald S. Thynne (1911-1991), was a member of Liverpool Central Chess Club before and after the war ( I still have the small trophy he won in 1937 as Club Champion). He knew Gordon Crown and often spoke about him as a tragically lost great talent. I also have in my chess collection a souvenir of a match played in Liverpool on 11th January 1947 between a Liverpool team and Amsterdam.
    The Liverpool team contained some well-known names:
    Board 1 ARB Thomas ( whom my father and I both knew well after we moved to Devon in the 1950s because Thomas taught for his whole career at Blundells’ School in Tiverton).
    Board 2 AW Mongredien
    Board 3 GT Crown ( won both games in the double-round match)
    Board 5 RCNairn
    Board 6 TJ Beach
    Board 8 HA Munro
    Board 9 JC Bryson ( Club President)
    Board 10 RSThynne

    The Amsterdam team had TJ Schelfhout on board 1 though I do not recognise any of the other names.
    Liverpool won the two-round match 21.5-12.5 (12.5-4.5 and 9-8).
    The match was played at Radiant House, which appears to have been the British Council Centre in the city.
    The souvenir which I have is an inscribed wooden score-pad, presented to the home players by theIr Dutch visitors.

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