Minor Pieces 41: Thomas Francis Lawrence Part 1

Surrey Comet 22 October 1904

TF Lawrence (not to be confused with TE Lawrence, and certainly not with DH Lawrence) was one of that group of strong amateurs (about 2400 on retrospective ratings, so FM/IM strength by today’s standards) who were active in English chess in the years leading up to the First World War, all of whom are virtually forgotten today, and several of whom had connections with the area around Richmond, Twickenham, Kingston and Surbiton.

I’ve already featured two of their number, George Edward Wainwright and William Ward, here. Now it’s time to investigate the life and games of Thomas Francis Lawrence.

Let’s start by crossing the North Sea to visit a place very familiar to all chess fans: Wijk aan Zee.  Before 1968 the tournament took place 5 km inland, in the city of Beverwijk. Immediately south of Beverwijk is the municipality of Velsen, divided by the North Sea Canal.

This canal was constructed between 1865 and 1876 to improve access from Amsterdam harbour to the North Sea. The chief engineer was John Hawkshaw and the contractors were Henry Lee & Sons of Westminster.

It was in Amsterdam, at some point between 1866 and 1870, that the marriage between Henry Lawrence and Esther Jane Izard was recorded. Our man Thomas Francis Lawrence was born in Velsen on 2 March 1871, and another son, Henry Arthur Edward Lawrence, followed on 8 August 1873.

Why were Henry and Esther in Velsen? Were they involved in the construction of the canal in some way? At the moment, I don’t know for certain. I can certainly identify Esther Jane Izard, who was born in Cheltenham in about 1834, although by 1841 her mother, Elizabeth, was a widow working as a laundress. I have no idea at all who Henry was, though: no one in his family seems to know and, as he had a fairly common name, there’s no way of finding out.

We can pick the family up in the 1881 census, living at 37 Henry Street, St Marylebone, which has been renamed Allitsen Road: you’ll find it in St John’s Wood, just north west of Regent’s Park. Esther, a widow, is working as a dressmaker, and her two sons, Thomas and ‘Edward’, are both scholars.

By 1891 they’ve moved to 32 Great George Street, which runs from St James’s Park to Big Ben and Westminster Bridge, with Downing Street just a stone’s throw away.  Esther is now a housekeeper (which could mean all sorts of things) and her younger son, now named ‘Henry E A’, is a Solicitor’s Clerk. Thomas isn’t at home: I haven’t yet been able to locate him. It’s quite possible he was abroad at the time.

Thomas Francis Lawrence didn’t come from a chess playing background, and it was only round about this time that he learnt the moves. This didn’t prevent him becoming recognised, within only a few years, as one of the strongest players in London. His name first appeared in the press in 1893, playing for the City of London Club, and for the South of England against the North. He entered the City of London Club championship in 1893-94, sharing first place in his section, but losing the play-off against the eventual winner of the championship, Herbert Levi Jacobs. The following year he made the final pool, and in 1895-96 he won the Gastineau Cup for the first time. It wouldn’t be the last.

In 1895 he made the news playing a six-board blindfold simul match against Arthur Curnock (also mentioned in the above clipping), winning two games (scores available online) and drawing four.

This game was published in the Chess Player’s Chronicle on 16 October 1895, with White’s name being given as I Passmore and no venue. It’s reasonable to assume that the initial was incorrect and this was Devon born music teacher Samuel Passmore, and that the game might well have been played in the City of London CC Championship.

The fascinating Max Lange Attack was very popular at the time, and here White’s 23rd and 24th moves each cost half a point, as he’d missed Lawrence’s rather unusual winning coup. Click on any move in any game in this article for a pop-up window.

In 1896, playing on top board for the City of London Club against the Divan Chess Association, he found himself facing none other than the great Emanuel Lasker.

Morning Post 18 May 1896

Here’s the game: you’ll see that Mr Lawrence totally outplayed his illustrious opponent, and was still winning according to Stockfish in the final position, where he was about to reach a queen ending with an extra pawn.

Perhaps Lasker had underestimated his opponent, but to go from learning the moves to outplaying the world champion in only a few years is a pretty impressive performance, I think you’ll agree.

Thomas won the City of London Championship again in 1896-97 and, for a third consecutive time, in 1897-98. At that time the winner received two trophies, the Gastineau Cup and the Mocatta Trophy, a full size Staunton ivory set and board, with silver mounts and inscriptions, valued at 16 guineas. The deal was that if you won the championship three times you got to keep the Mocatta Trophy in perpetuity, so the set and board was his.

In this game he demolished his opponent’s French Defence.

In this game from an inter-club match he took advantage of his opponent’s misplaced queen.

The City of London was not Lawrence’s only club. He was also representing Ibis, which tells us that, like Charles Redway, he was working for the Prudential Assurance Company.

Unsurprisingly, he soon came to the selectors’ attention, and in 1897 was chosen to play board 4 in the second Anglo-American Cable Match, where he lost to Boston lawyer John Finan Barry, miscalucating a tactical variation and losing a couple of pawns. He didn’t play the following year, but in 1899 again went down to the same player, being outplayed in a minor piece ending.

In 1898 Cassell’s Magazine ran a feature on amateur players at the City of London Chess Club, including this photograph of Thomas Francis Lawrence playing Henry Holwell Cole. (Thanks to Gerard Killoran for posting this on the English Chess Forum here.)

Here’s the accompanying pen-picture of Lawrence.

In 1899 he was invited to take part in a major international tournament that was due to take place in London. It was clear that he was considered a player of considerable potential who would benefit from crossing swords with the world’s finest. Even up to a couple of days before the first round it was hoped he would take part, but in the end he decided to reject the offer: I have yet to discover why. An even later withdrawal was Amos Burn, who stated that he was dissatisfied with the general arrangement of the tournament and with the supercilious treatment he received from some members of the management team.

In the 1898-99 edition of the City of London CC Championship Lawrence failed to retain his title: it was Herbert Levi Jacobs who had his name inscribed on the Gastineau Cup for the second time. One of the other players in the final pool was the novelist Louis Zangwill.

He was back on top in 1899-1900, though, with a score of 14½/17, a point ahead of William Ward, with the rest of the field well behind.

In April 1900 the City of London Chess Club ran an invitation tournament in which their leading members were pitted against leading foreign-born masters resident in London. Teichmann won with 9½/12, just ahead of Gunsberg and Mason, who shared second place, William Ward had an excellent result, just another half point behind. Lawrence finished on 50%, scoring 5/6 against the bottom half of the field, but only 1/6 against the top half. Not a bad result, and exactly as expected according to retrospective ratings, but neither did it suggest that he was ready to take on the world elite. In fact, looking at his games, you’ll have to admit he was lucky to score as many as he did: most of his wins came from opponents blundering in good positions. Here’s his best effort from this tournament, against Dutch organist Rudolf Loman.

A third cable match defeat, against Philadelphia building contractor Hermann Voigt, reinforced the suggestion that he was a strong amateur at this point in his career rather than a player of genuine master standard.

Lawrence’s style usually tended towards the safe and solid, but he clearly kept up to date with opening theory and favoured the sacrificial Albin-Chatard Attack against the French Defence. Here’s an example from the 1900-01 City of London Championship, against Canadian born doctor Stephen Smith, with a bonus game in the annotations. Alas, Smith and Jones indeed!

Lawrence was successful again in this event, getting his name on the trophy for the fifth time in six years. This time he notched up an impressive 19½/21, with Jacobs two points behind and Ward another point adrift.

By then it was time for the census enumerator to call round again. He found the Lawrence family still at 32 Great George Street, with not much changed from the past decade. Esther was still there, and still a housekeeper. Thomas and his brother, this time recorded as ‘Edward H A’, were both at home, and both working as clerks.

The association with Richmond isn’t obvious at this point: you’ll recall that in 1904 he claimed to have been associated with the club for some years, but in 1901 he was still in Westminster, although the District Railway would have taken him there reasonably quickly. He would have had friends there, from the City of London Club, and also Charles Redway from the Ibis Club.

What happened to Thomas Francis Lawrence next? Did he make the great leap forward to become a world class player? Did he continue his relationship with Richmond Chess Club? You’ll find out in my next Minor Piece.

 

Sources and Acknowledgements:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

Wikipedia

chessgames.com

MegaBase

The City of London Chess Club Championship (Roger Leslie Paige)

English Chess Forum

Chess Notes (Edward Winter)

BritBase

Gerard Killoran

Brian Denman

 

 

 

 

Minor Pieces 40: Peter Shenele

Back in 1975 I played in a weekend tournament celebrating the centenary of Kingston Chess Club. I’m still in touch with two of my opponents, Kevin Thurlow and Nick Faulks, today. They both post regularly on the English Chess Forum and I also see Nick at Thames Valley League matches between Richmond and Surbiton.

Kingston are in the early stages of preparing celebrations for their 150th anniversary in 2025, and asked me if I’d seen anything confirming 1875 as the year of their club’s foundation.

Well, there are all sorts of questions concerning, amongst other things, continuity, but I’ll leave that for another time. The Surrey Comet and Croydon Guardian and Surrey County Gazette (which carried a lot of chess news) for those years have been digitised, but searching for ‘chess Kingston’ doesn’t come up with anything. There are some earlier matches in which clubs in the area played competitions including chess along with other indoor games, but nothing obvious concerning 1875. Having said that, the OCR search facility is far from 100% accurate, so I’d have to look through all the papers for that year to check I hadn’t missed anything. The nearest I’ve found so far is this, from 1881.

Croydon Guardian and Surrey County Gazette 01 October 1881

We have three names here. Most important, for my Kingston friends, is that of Mr J Bartlett, President of Kingston-on-Thames chess club. I consulted the 1881 census which lists a number of J Bartletts in Kingston,  but none of them seem to be obviously presidential material.

I suspect the annotator was FC (not JC) Burroughs: Francis Cooper (Frank) Burroughs (1827-1890) was a Surrey county player, a solicitor by profession. He never married and had no relations with the initials JC.

As Mr Burroughs’ initials appear to be incorrect, it’s entirely possible that Mr Bartlett’s initial was also given incorrectly. I haven’t been able to find any other chess playing Bartletts in the area as yet, but I’ll keep looking.

Here’s the game in full. Click on any move for a pop-up board.

Two weeks later, another game was published, with Bartlett again losing with the white pieces against Shenele.

We’re told that Inspector Shenele was playing by correspondence against Kingston, but there’s no indication of how many Kingston players were involved. He played two games against Barrett, but playing black in both cases. I wonder what the format was. Perhaps he played four games, two with each colour, against each of five opponents. Looking at the games, the Kingston President’s play, especially in the first game, doesn’t make a very good impression, considering he would have had plenty of time for each move.

As he was blessed with a highly unusual surname as well as a title, it wasn’t difficult to find out more about Inspector Shenele. If you’ll bear with me for straying away from Kingston, not to mention Richmond and Twickenham, his is an interesting, although sadly rather short, story.

He was born Peter Shenale on 22 March 1843 in the village of Mary Tavy, near Tavistock in Devon, the youngest child of James Shenale and Tamzin Parsons Pellew. Most of his family spelt their name in this way, but Peter preferred Shenele. He also referred to himself as PS Shenele, although I can find no record of a middle name in any official documents. The surname has its origins in Devon and Cornwall. By the 1851 census the family had moved to Gunnislake, the other side of Tavistock and just over the border in Cornwall, where James was working as a copper miner. His wife and three sons were at home: James junior was also a copper miner, while William and Peter were at school. According to Wikipedia: “The village has a history of mining although this industry is no longer active in the area. During the mining boom in Victorian times more than 7000 people were employed in the mines of the Tamar Valley. During this period Gunnislake was held in equal standing amongst the richest mining areas in Europe.” Tin and copper were the main metals mined there.

In 1861 Peter was still living there with his parents, along with a mysterious 14-year-old granddaughter, and now, like his father, mining copper. In 1867, still in the same job, he married Eliza Ann Kellow in nearby Plymouth.

At that point he (or perhaps Eliza) decided that the life of a miner wasn’t for him. If you’re a copper miner and don’t want to be a miner any more, I guess that makes you a copper, and that’s exactly what Peter did. He moved to London and joined the Metropolitan Police. By 1871 he was living in Knightsbridge with Eliza and their 5-year-old son Henry. Another son, Frederick, had died in infancy. A daughter, Ellen, would be born later that year, followed by Emma, who would also die in infancy, and William, by which time the family had moved to Chelsea.

But where did the chess come in? His background seems very different from most of the chess players we’ve encountered in this series. I’m not sure that chess was especially popular among the Devon and Cornwall mining community, but you never know. Perhaps he became interested after seeing a problem in a newspaper or magazine column.

In 1876 his name suddenly started appearing  (as PS Shenele) in the Illustrated London News as a solver of chess problems.

It wasn’t long before he tried his hand at composing as well. You’ll find the problem solutions at the end of this article.

#2 Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News 11 November 1876

But at home all was not well. Peter may have been good at solving both crimes and chess problems, but his marriage had hit a problem with only one solution. On 18 April 1879 he filed for divorce, citing his wife’s adultery with a man named Charles J Reed. Perhaps Eliza had had enough of Peter spending so much time at the chess board and had sought satisfaction elsewhere. The courts found in Peter’s favour (in those days it was always considered the woman’s fault): he was awarded a decree nisi on 20 November 1879 and a final decree, along with custody of Ellen and William, on 1 June 1880.

A son, Charles Frederick Shenale, was born in Plymouth, the town where Eliza and Peter had married, on 20 August 1879 and died the following year at the age of 9 months. His parents were listed as Peter and Annie (as Eliza preferred to be called): might one assume that Charles Reed, whose first name he was given, was actually his father, and that his mother had returned to Devon to give birth?

Here’s another problem Peter composed at about this time.

#2 Preston Guardian 1880

Not content with solving and composing problems, Peter took up correspondence chess as well.

In this postal game against Irish astronomer and philosopher William Henry Stanley Monck, he concluded his attack with an attractive queen sacrifice for a smothered mate. It was published in the Illustrated London News on New Years Day 1881.

He had also taken up another unlikely interest: poetry. Also on New Years Day 1881 he wrote to the Croydon Guardian.

Croydon Guardian and Surrey County Gazette 15 January 1881

He also submitted this poem which, in the fashion of the day, is an acrostic. The first letter of each line spells out a message.

By this time he’d been promoted to the rank of Inspector, and had moved out, as you can see above, to Ilford, where, when the 1881 census enumerator called, he was living with young William. Emma wasn’t at home: she might, I suppose, have been away at school. Henry was living in the Devonshire Club in Piccadilly, working as a page boy.

It was about this time, also that he played the correspondence match against Kingston-on-Thames Chess Club. I’ve yet to discover exactly how this came about: quite possibly via his connection with the Croydon Guardian, the main source for Surrey chess news at the time.

Chess and policing weren’t the only things on Peter’s mind in 1881. On 31 January 1882 he married a local girl, Sarah Jane Seabrook, who, it seems, was pregnant with their daughter Ethel Emily, whose birth was registered in the first quarter of that year. This didn’t stop his chess activities: he entered a correspondence tournament run by the Croydon Guardian.

This correspondence game was played in 1893 against Horace Fabian Cheshire. Both players demonstrated knowledge of contemporary Evans Gambit theory, but our hero went wrong shortly after leaving the book. Thanks to Brian Denman for providing this game, which was published in the Southern Weekly News (8 Sep 1883).

But then, in the same year, tragedy struck. A son, named Albert, was born in September, but died 5 days later: the third child he’d lost in infancy. He then caught a cold, which developed into pleurisy. On 10 November 1883, at the age of only 40, Peter Shenele died after a short illness. A local paper back in Cornwall published this tribute.

You can see some parallels, can’t you, with James Money Kyrle Lupton, from a later generation. Both were problem solvers and composers who liked to see their name in print, and both were also police officers in London. But while James, from a privileged background, only became a constable, Peter, a man of relatively humble origins, became an inspector.

As always, I’m sure you want to know what happened next. Eliza Ann (Annie) remarried in 1893, not to Charles Reed, but to a widower named James Trump (no relation to Donald), a plasterer by trade.  Ellen sadly died in 1894. Sarah Jane moved in with her brother Frederick, like their father a publican, and the family later emigrated to New York. It’s not clear what happened to Ethel. There’s a burial record for Ethel Emily Seabrook in Newham, East London in 1898, which might have been her.

Peter’s younger surviving son, William, joined the Royal Navy, then became a clerical officer in the Civil Service, marrying but not apparently having any children, and living on until 1968.

Peter’s oldest son, Henry, emigrated to Australia in 1885. In 1891 he married Alice Huxley, and, in the same year, a son, George Leslie Shenele, was born. But then things started to go wrong. In 1895 a warrant was issued for his arrest.

He did indeed go to New Zealand, to Masterton, near Wellington, where, in April that year, a month before the above announcement, he was put on trial for rape. What exactly happened between Henry James and Belinda the slavey I don’t know. Offering to tune the family organ indeed!

Observer, Volume XI, Issue 853, 4 May 1895

It was later reported that the Grand Jury threw out the bill. As always in those days (and you might think things haven’t changed much) he got away with it. (Thanks to Gerard Killoran for this information)

After that the trail goes cold. What happened to the police inspector’s son, the seemingly mild-mannered, bespectacled piano tuner? I’d imagine he changed his name, but no one seems to know.

George Leslie settled in Campsie, a suburb of Sydney, married, had two children, Ilma and Cyril, but his wife died young. He worked on the railways, eventually becoming an inspector, the same rank, but not the same profession, as his grandfather. Guess what happened to Cyril. He followed (was he aware?) in his great grandfather’s footsteps, becoming a policeman, rising to the rank of (at least) Detective Sergeant.

And that is the story of Peter Shenele, copper miner, police inspector, chess problem solver, composer and correspondence player, who provided a random distraction from my investigations of chess players of Richmond, Twickenham and surrounding areas. I’ll try to find out more about the early history of chess clubs in Kingston: if I come across anything interesting I’ll let you know.

Sources:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

Wikipedia

MESON chess problem database

Brian Denman/Hastings & St Leonards Chess Club website

Gerard Killoran/Papers Past (New Zealand)

Problem 1 solution:

1. Qg1! threatening Nfd4# or Nh4#.  1… Qg3/Qg2/Qxg1 2. Bd7# 1… exf3/e3 2. Bc2#

Problem 2 solution:

1. Qc6! threatening N mates on g6 as well as two queen mates. 1… Rxc6 2. Nf7# 1… Re6 2. Qxe6#

From Ukraine with Love for Chess

From Ukraine with Love for Chess, Ruslan Ponomariov, New in Chess, 30 Jun. 2022, SBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9493257573
From Ukraine with Love for Chess, Ruslan Ponomariov, New in Chess, 30 Jun. 2022, SBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9493257573

From the publisher:

“The Ukrainian chess community is helping Ukraine in the war against Russia. The chess genius Vasyl Ivanchuk is giving online simuls to raise funds. European champion and Olympic gold medal winner Natalia Zhukova is working as a politician in Odessa. And FIDE World Champion Ruslan Ponomariov coordinated this wonderful collection of chess games from Ukrainian players, published by New In Chess. All games were nominated and annotated by the players themselves. The proceeds of this book will support Ukrainian charities. The book also covers the three legendary Olympic victories by Ukraine, in 2004 and 2010 for the men’s team and 2006 for the women’s team. Oleg Romanishin remembers his training match against Mikhail Tal. And Jan Timman has a look at his favourite Ukrainian study composers. With contributions by Vasyl Ivanchuk, Ruslan Ponomariov, Anna and Mariya Muzychuk, Anton Korobov, Vladimir Tukmakov, Pavel Eljanov, Andrei Volokitin, and many, many others.”

Ruslan Ponomariov (1983) is a Ukrainian chess grandmaster. He was FIDE World Chess Champion from 2002 to 2004 and he won the Ukrainian Chess Championship in 2011 with a performance rating of 2853. Ponomariov was born in Horlivka in Ukraine. He was taught to play chess by his father at the age of 5.

 

What we have here is a chess book written and published to support Ukrainian chess players and Ukrainian charities in general.

GM Ruslan Ponomariov in the preface:

All funds from the sales will be used to help the Ukrainian people. By doing something good, I hope you can also enjoy and share a passion for chess with us.

And:

In your hands is the work of many authors and contributors. It was not a simple task, as it would be in normal circumstances. Some of them had fled from their homes without knowing what would happen on the next day. Some were hiding in a bomb shelter, trying to survive. But we managed to do it!

The publisher, Remmelt Otten, writes in the Acknowledgements:

This book started with an email by Steve Giddins, chess author, translator, and contributor to New in Chess. He wanted to share his desire to help the Ukrainian chess community in the terrible times after the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. If New in Chess was planning to publish anything by Ukrainian chess players, Steve offered to translate their writings for free.

We embraced his idea and decided to publish a book to support Ukrainian chess and Ukrainians in need. All proceeds (all revenue minus costs such as printing and distribution) will go to Ukrainian charities.

It’s the chess book equivalent of a charity compilation album, then. It’s extraordinary, given the circumstances in which it was conceived, that the book could have been compiled and published within less than four months. If you want to support a great cause there’s no need to hesitate.

But it’s also a remarkably good and well produced book, so not only will you make a contribution to charity if you buy a copy, you’ll also get some great chess as well. There are 42 well annotated games as well as a chapter on endgame studies. Some of the material has previously appeared in New in Chess, so if you’re a subscriber you might have seen it before, but there will still be much that is new to you, and you may well find it convenient to have the best in Ukrainian chess all in one place.

The first chapter introduces us to the pioneers of Ukrainian chess: Stein, Savon, Kuzmin, Tukmakov and Beliavsky.

Here’s the game chosen to illustrate Gennady Kuzmin. Click on any move for a pop-up window.

The second chapter will be, for many readers, the most interesting of the book. Oleg Romanishin talks about his secret training matches against Tal in 1975 and 1976.

Here’s a sample game.

Chapter 3 contains pen pictures of some of the older generation of current Ukrainian players, headed by Ivanchuk and Ponomariov.

Ukrainian Olympiad successes feature in Chapters 4-6: the 2004 open team, the 2006 women’s team and the 2010 open team.

In Chapter 7 we meet the younger Ukrainian players, born in 1985 or later, including Anna Ushenina and the Muzychuk sisters.

Here’s another game:

Finally, Chapter 8 is an article by Jan Timman featuring endgame studies by Ukrainian composers.

This pawn ending (White to play and draw) was composed by Mikhail Zinar (2nd Pr Moscow ty 1983)

You’ll see that, as well as supporting a great cause you’ll get a lot of great chess for your money. The content will appeal to all serious players, from 1500 or so upwards. It may not be the last word on Ukrainian chess or a book that will add a few hundred points to your rating, but it’s a well structured, highly entertaining and enjoyable read. Considering the timescale and circumstances the publishers have done an outstanding job and our thanks are due to everyone involved in the project, not just for the quality of their work but for their generosity in doing it for free. You can find further details and sample pages here.

Should you buy this book? Certainly. If the content appeals (as it should to almost everyone) you won’t be disappointed, and you’ll also be helping both Ukrainian chess players and the wider Ukrainian community in that war-torn country.

Richard James, Twickenham 4th August 2022

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details:

  • Softcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: New In Chess (30 Jun 2022)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9493257576
  • ISBN-13:978-9493257573
  • Product Dimensions: ‎16.51 x 1.57 x 24.33 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

From Ukraine with Love for Chess, Ruslan Ponomariov, New in Chess, 30 Jun. 2022, SBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9493257573
From Ukraine with Love for Chess, Ruslan Ponomariov, New in Chess, 30 Jun. 2022, SBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9493257573