Minor Pieces 23: Cecil Alfred Lucas Bull Part 2

Last time we left Twickenham’s finest chess problemist, Cecil Alfred Lucas Bull, as he was about to emigrate to Durban in 1892.

Unfortunately, South African online records, both births, marriages and deaths, and newspaper archives, are few and far between, but we are able to provide a fairly comprehensive record of his chess career in the southern hemisphere, both as a player and as a problemist.

This problem, submitted to a London newspaper, dates from soon after his arrival in Durban.

Problem 1. Mate in 3: 1st prize winner Hackney Mercury 1894

And here, continuing where we left off last time, is FR Gittins again.

The Chess Bouquet Frederick Richard Gittins 1897

We know from some useful information on the Durban Chess Club website that he was one of the founders of the club and was Durban champion five times, in 1901, 1903, 1904, 1906 and 1911

Lucas Bull was one of the founders of the Durban Chess Club in 1893 and the first person to win the Durban championship on five occasions, running out the winner in 1901, 1903, 1904, 1906 and 1911. He also participated in the South African championships on three occasions, finishing 9th in 1897, 7th in 1899, and 2nd on his final appearance in 1906.

Lucas Bull was born in Twickenham (part of London) in 1869, and came from a very large family, consisting of five sons (he was the third son) and four daughters. His father, Thomas Bull, was a surveyor and auctioneer, and must have had a profitable business, as the Bull family employed four servants at the time (source: 1881 census).

Bull arrived in Durban in 1892 and apparently chose South Africa, rather than the United States, as they don’t play cricket in the USA! He was already the champion of the Twickenham Chess Club, and was starting to get an international reputation as a problemist. From the date of his arrival, up until the time that he discontinued serious over the board play in 1907, he was almost certainly the strongest player in Natal.

Source: Durban Chess Club website http://www.durbanchessclub.co.za/bull.html

Further information about his appearances in the South African Championships (1897: Cape Town, 1899 Durban, 1906 Cape Town) can be found on Rod Edwards’ indispensable EdoChess site.

Two games from the 1899 tournament, played in the shadow of the 2nd Boer War, are extant. Click on any move and a pop-up board will magically appear, enabling you to play through the games.


The Bock game. which was awarded a brilliancy prize, was published, for example, in the Newcastle Courant (17 March 1900). The van Breda game comes, via South Africa chess historian Len Reitstein, from the Durban Chess Club website (link above).

His best result was his second place in 1906, giving him an estimated rating of 2130: a strong club player at the time he gave up serious over the board chess (the 1911 Durban championship must have been a very brief comeback). The winner in 1906, Bruno Edgar Siegheim (1875-1952) was born in Germany, played chess in New York (1899-1904), South Africa (1906-1912) and England (1921-1926) before returning to South Africa. His best result was finishing 2nd= with Réti at Hastings in 1923, just half a point behind the great Akiba Rubinstein, which suggests he was IM strength.

We know very little about his life outside chess. It seems like he had enough money not to work and was able to devote his time to his hobbies. I presume he continued to play cricket in Durban, although newspapers from that period aren’t available online. There’s no archival record of Cecil ever having played first-class cricket.

What we do have is a couple of passenger lists.

A 1903 passenger list for a ship sailing from London to Port Natal lists Mr C A Lucas Bull (35), Mrs Bull (32), Miss B Bull (3), Mr C Bull (28). This looks like Cecil and his family visiting England and returning with Clifford, who was going to live with them in Durban. Cecil appears to have a wife and young daughter, but we have no further information about them.

A 1909 passenger list, again from London to Natal, offers Cecil Slade (sic) Lucas Bull, Eunice Chillingworth Lucas Bull and Bessie Lucas Bull. I have no idea where the Slade came from but it looks like he was married to Eunice and Bessie was their daughter.

He was still composing prolifically: here’s one from 1912.

Problem 2. Mate in 3: 1st prize winner Saale-Zeitung 1912

Cecil Alfred Lucas Bull Durban 15 September 1913 Source, Cleveland Public Library Digital Gallery

Here’s a photograph of him from 1913.

He continued composing successfully up until 1932, mixing heavyweight prizewinners with more lightweight offerings for the Natal Mercury. He died in Durban on 19 July 1935, at the age of 66.

Problem 3 is another first prizewinning mate in 3 from the latter stages of his career: British Chess Magazine 1931.

In 1960 Cecil’s friend and occasional collaborator Donald Glenoe McIntyre published Sonatas in Chess, a collection of 136 of his best threemovers (South African Chessplayer). This is a rare book and second hand copies go for high prices. I saw a copy for sale back in the 1980s but didn’t buy it – I really should have done.


I occasionally publish his more accessible problems on the Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club website: see here and here.

At present I have no idea about what happened to Eunice and Bessie. I can find no information about anyone with the forenames Eunice Chillingworth, and the 1927 London marriage of Bessie L Bull to Robert Douglas King-Harman isn’t the same person.

There’s a prominent South African businesswoman named Wendy Lucas-Bull, who is married to Clive Lucas-Bull, and whose father-in-law is, or was, Leslie Arthur Lucas-Bull. Any connection? If you have any further information about Eunice, Bessie or any other relation do let me know.

Cecil Alfred Lucas Bull, chess champion of Twickenham and Durban, and multiple prizewinning problemist, this was your life.

Join me again soon for another delve into the Twickenham Chess Club menagerie.

Sources and acknowledgements:



Problems and solutions from Yet Another Chess Problem Database

EdoChess (Rod Edwards)

Cleveland Public Library Digital Gallery

Durban Chess Club website

Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club website

Thanks to Dr Tim Harding for The Chess Bouquet by Frederick Richard Gittins

Problem solutions:


1.♕a1! ~ 2.♕e5+ ♔d3 3.♘e1# 1…♔d5 2.♕×a8+ 2…♔d6 3.♗e7# 2…♔c5 3.♗e7# (Model mate) 1…♔f5 2.♕b1+ ♔g4 3.♕e4# 1…♔d3 2.♕b1+ ♔c3 3.♗d2# (Model mate) 1…♖×g5 2.♕d4+ ♔f5 3.♘h4# (Model mate) 1…♘g4 2.♕d4+ ♔f5 3.♕d3# (Model mate)

Model mates were much valued at the time.

From Wikipedia:

model mate is a type of pure mate checkmating position in chess in which not only is the checkmated king and all vacant squares in its field attacked only once, and squares in the king’s field occupied by friendly units are not also attacked by the mating side (unless such a unit is necessarily pinned to the king), but all units of the mating side (with the possible exception of the king and pawns) participate actively in forming the mating net.


♗c8! ~ 2.♗×d7 ~ 3.♗e6# 1…♗b1 2.♕a1 A ~ 3.♘e7# B 2…d×c6 3.♗e6# 2…♔×c6 3.♗b7# 3.♕a8# 1…♗×b3 2.♘e7+ B 2…♔e5 3.♕a1# A 2…♔d4 3.♕e4# 2…♔c4 3.♕e4# 1…d×c6 2.♕×c6+! 2…♔d4 3.♕e4# 2…♔×c6 3.♗b7# 2…♔e5 3.♕d6# 3.♗c3# 1…♘f7 2.♘×d7 ~ 3.♘×b6# 3.♘f6# 2…♔e6 3.♘d4#

Some more model mates here, as well as sacrifices and corner-to-corner queen moves, something of which Bull was very fond.


1.♕d8! ~ 2.h3+ ♔×h5 3.g4# 1…♖b4 2.♗×g6 ~ 3.h3# 1…♔×h5 2.♗d1+ ♘e2 3.♗×e2# 1…g5 2.♕d7+ 2…♔×h5 3.♕h3# 2…♔h4 3.♕h3# 2.♕c8+ 2…♔×h5 3.♕h3# 2…♔h4 3.♕h3# 1…g×h5 2.♕d4+ ♔g5 3.h4#

I Was a Victim of Bobby Fischer

I Was a Victim of Bobby Fischer, Mark Taimanov, Quality Chess, 29th November 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1784831608
I Was a Victim of Bobby Fischer, Mark Taimanov, Quality Chess, 29th November 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1784831608

From the publisher:

“In 1971 Robert James Fischer defeated Mark Taimanov by the sensational score of 6-0 in Vancouver, but the match games were far more competitive and tension-filled than the final score would suggest.

Twenty years later Taimanov put pen to paper, reflecting on the experience. Exactly 50 years after the match, this is the first English translation of Taimanov’s original Russian text. Taimanov provides a richly detailed, honest and emotional account of the drama on and off the board. Despite the catastrophic match score, his love for the game of chess is evident throughout.

Taimanov also discusses his early acquaintance with Fischer from 1960, including detailed annotations of both of their pre-1971 games, as well as the personal consequences of the match result. With fascinating additional archive material and analytical contributions from some of the brightest young stars of the American chess scene today, I was a Victim of Bobby Fischer is the ultimate insight into one of the most famous matches in chess history.”

End of blurb…

Isaac Boleslavsky plays Mark Taimanov in round one of the 24th USSR Championship on January 21st 1957. Peace broke out after fifteen moves of a Nimzo-Indian Defence
Isaac Boleslavsky plays Mark Taimanov in round one of the 24th USSR Championship on January 21st 1957. Peace broke out after fifteen moves of a Nimzo-Indian Defence

Quality Chess live up to their name by being one of the few publishers who offer a hardback as well as softback version of all of their titles.

The production values are superb. You could save a few pence and opt for the paperback version but we would definitely treat ourselves with a Christmas / New Year present and savour the hardback. In addition, high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. The weight of this paper gives the book an even better feel to it as the pages are turned.

The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing”. Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to readily maintain their place. Figurine algebraic notation is used and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text.

A small (and insignificant) quibble: the diagrams (except for Chapter 19, Interesting Positions) do not have a “to move” indicator (but they do have coordinates).

Before we take our first look at this book Quality Chess have provided a pdf excerpt.

Over the years there have been numerous books with Taimanov somewhere in the title but almost all are concerned with his famous variation of the Sicilian Defence:

We are aware of two English language books covering Taimanov’s career.  One is Taimanov’s Selected Games published in 1995 by Everyman Chess covering 60(!) games selected and annotated by MT.  The second is Smyslov, Bronstein, Geller, Taimanov and Averbakh: A Chess Multibiography (McFarland, 2021) with 220 Games by Andrew Soltis reviewed here.

This Quality Chess title helps to address this surprising shortfall.

The title is perhaps the first worthy discussion point and we learn the interesting reason for it. Is it clear from the outset just how in regard MT held Fischer when he wrote this manuscript in 1993.

You might think that the events of 1971 had left a bitter taste with MT, and degree of resentment,  especially when we read in Chapter 5 of his post match treatment by the Soviet authorities. The latter even restricted his career in music which was gratuitously cruel. There is no evidence of that here, in fact, quite the opposite. Taimanov stipulated in his will that should the book be published then “I Was a Victim of Bobby Fischer” must be its title.

Let us not forget that Taimanov jointly holds (and will always) a record with Efim Geller of twenty-three appearences in the Soviet Championships apart from his many other achievements on the chess board.

Taimanov played Fischer a total of eight times and their first meeting was on June 4th, 1960 in the good air of Buenos Aires.

This game was a monumental battle (drawn after eighty-seven moves) when Fischer was a mere seventeen and MT was a more plausible thirty-four.

Here is the game devoid of any notes simply because you really should treat yourself to the fourteen(!) pages of glorious annotations including 20 diagrams. What a struggle!

Much of the book is taken up with discussion of Fischer’s development and eventually his downfall (but nether MT nor Spike Milligan played any part) and this is particularly apposite on the eve of the Reykjavik match 50th anniversary.

Chapters 6-12 cover each game of the 1971 match (ten games were planned) in Vancouver. Each game is very much worthy of close study and a model of sporting attitude from the loser. It is painful to see how well Taimanov plays compared with the game results. At no point did he “do a Nepo” and collapse into a heap. His emotions and reactions to the match are rather revealing.

Chapter 13(!) discusses the causes of Fischer’s eventual reclusion comparing RJFs fate with players of the past with an update in Chapter 14 on more recent events.

You might predict “That must be the end of the book”. Well, not at all. Part IV contains the substantial Appendices which include additional deeply annotated games of Taimanov and of Fischer, a biography of MT and a fascinating interview of MT from 2016.

Almost last and by no means least we have Chapter 19 which presents a number of key positions from the previously discussed games and the reader is asked a pertinent question about each.

Here is an example (#10):


Lutikov – Taimanov, 37th USSR Championships, Moscow

After White’s rook lift on move 25:

“We will look at three positions from this complicated game, all of them very interesting. In the first, Black has a difficult strategic decision to make”

Chapter 20 (titled “Thoughts and Solutions”) takes the Chapter 19 positions and analyses them in detail courtesy of a team of strong players (Shankland, Liang, Xiong and Aagaard) providing their individual opinions of each position. This is really rather innovative and most welcome. Note that these “thoughts”  are not usurped by reams of unwelcome engine analysis.

In summary, this is a significant book quite unlike any other we have read. Beautifully produced it brings you into the mind of a great chessplayer and person who gave his all and was treated appallingly.

We commend to you this book without doubt: you will not be disappointed. One of our favourites of 2021.

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 23rd December, 2021

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details:

  • Paperback : 248 pages
  • Publisher: Quality Chess UK LLP (29 Nov. 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:1784831603
  • ISBN-13:978-1784831608
  • Product Dimensions: 17.2 x 1.22 x 24.18 cm

Official web site of Quality Chess

I Was a Victim of Bobby Fischer, Mark Taimanov, Quality Chess, 29th November 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1784831608
I Was a Victim of Bobby Fischer, Mark Taimanov, Quality Chess, 29th November 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1784831608