Happy Birthday CGM Christopher James Austin Jones (06-iv-1952)
Here is an excellent biography from Chess Scotland
Here is an article about Helpmates from CJAJ published by Chessbase
We remember “BH” Wood MSc FCS OBE who passed away on Tuesday April 4th, 1989 in the district of Birmingham.
He was buried alongside his wife Marjorie in the Sutton Coldfield Cemetery Extension which was opened in 1934 as an extension to the Holy Trinity Church.
Baruch Harold Wood (generally known as BH Wood, or simply “BH”, by the chess world) was born on Tuesday, July 13th 1909 in Ecclesall, Sheffield, Yorkshire. The registration district was Ecclesall Bierlow.
The birth record suggests that he was baptised as Harold Baruch Wood. His parent’s were Baruch Talbot (1881-1951) and Florence Muriel Wood (née Herington). He appears as Harold Baruch on the 1911 census.
Interestingly, the Census form was signed by Talbot Wood so maybe BHs father also did not like his own first name! At the time of the Census the family lived at 30, Violet Bank Road, Nether Edge, Sheffield, S7 1RZ.
Baruch attended Friars School, Bangor (established in 1557) along with William Ritson Morry. BHW was one year and three months older than WRM so it is entirely possible that they had met.
In October 1936 BHW married Marjory Elizabeth Farrington in Ross, Herefordshire. When Marjory died on 7th September 1977 they were living at 146, Rectory Road, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands. Baruch and Marjory had four children, FM Christopher Wood, Philip, Frank and Peggy.
In the 1984 New Years Honours List, Civil Division, BHW was awarded the OBE. The citation read simply : “For services to Chess”
“BH Wood was born in Sheffield in 1909. A great lover of the game, he founded the magazine Chess in 1935, and has written a book for beginners. He scored a notable success by winning the British Correspondence Championship on one occasion. Wood has competed in the British Championship on several occasions, and in a number of Premier Reserves tournaments. He also played for Great Britain in the international team tournament (ed. Olympiad) at Buenos Aires in 1939.
He is a graduate of the University of Wales and Birmingham University. He has been very active in recent years in giving simultaneous exhibitions and in organising correspondence chess.”
Between 1938 and 1957, BH won the championship of Warwickshire eight times. He held the record (until 2006) for the most Birmingham & District Chess League Individual titles – nine, all won in Division 1: 1937, 1939, 1954, 1956, 1958, 1960, 1966, 1967, and 1983. He was the Records Secretary for the League from 1951-61.
From CHESS, Volume 52 (1987), Number 1014-15 (Christmas), we have the very last issue of the magazine for which BH was the Editor before becoming Founding Editor (and Paul Lamford became Editor). BH wrote:
“Countless people have asked me ‘Why did you start CHESS?’ I was in love with university life and has just taken an M.Sc., a waste of time after a good first-class honours, and decided to have a go at replacing the old Chess Amateur, which had closed down. I had edited the students’ magazine in both Bangor and Birmingham. The first had been produced by The Daily Post Printers in Liverpool, who agreed to print 1,000 copies for £90. That £90 would be nearly £2,400 now.
A year’s subscription I announced as 10 shillings (50p).
Two bits of luck! J.H. Van Meurs, a Dutchman who did a lot for British Chess, had listed in his still young B.C.F. Year Book some hundreds of chess clubs.
W.H. Watts, another great figure of those days, had floated a rather short-lived magazine The Chess Budget, donated a ‘Budget Cup‘, for knock-out team competition and published excellent books on big tournaments, etc. He handed me a list of keen chess players all around the world. I spent a week addressing envelopes by hand to all the clubs and people.
To individuals I sent single copies of CHESS; to each club three copies, inviting payment or subscriptions. Hardly anybody failed to pay. Obviously there was a demand for a chess magazine with a lighter touch than the B.C.M.
Years later, I learnt why Mr. Watts had been so generous. He had fallen out with the establishment and welcomed the arrival of a new publication.
Within three months I was selling 3,000 copies an issue.
Some early ideas were chessy short stories , cartoons and a competition for humorous anecdotes.
I soon went to Amsterdam for the first Euwe-Alekhine match. I traced Alekhine to his hotel room with difficulty. He was officially incommunicado. He came to the door in pyjamas, and within five minutes we had agreed to a £5 article per month. I was, of course, already on conversational terms with him (and remained so!).
Now I fell into trap. 3,000 readers in four months meant 6,000 in eight months, 9,000 in a year…?
Not so! This is extrapolation, a matter of calculation full of risks.
My preparations had been too good. In the remaining eight months of the year I picked up only a thousand more readers. Alekhine lost the title. With three months to go, my money ran out, I struggled to the end of the year. The twelfth issue was pathetically thin compared with the first few but renewals staring rolling in and CHESS blossomed again.
The fifty-two years since have been gruelling, unremitting toil but fascinating interest. How we bought our own presses and the effect this had on the world’s chess press – A law suit that went to appeal – How CHESS linked people in Malta, Australia, Hungary – Adventures in ‘simuls’, postal chess etc. How we helped police to identify a drowned man, etc. So many tales to tell!
Here is an obituary from the BCF Yearbook 1989 – 1990, page 14 :
Baruch H. Wood, O.B.E., founder of CHESS, and the magazines editor for 52 years, died at the age of 79 on 4th April.
Born in Sheffield on 13 July 1909, “B.H.”, as he was widely known in chess circles, took up the game early playing competitively at school and at University. After graduating from the University College of Wales, Bangor with a 1st class honours degree in chemistry, he took an MSc at Birmingham University. Soon, however, his love of chess took him away from a career in chemistry, with his launch of CHESS in 1935. He was to continue as editor, publisher, for many years printer, and often major contributor, for over half a century.
The magazine quickly won an international reputation for its frankness and outspokenness. It speaks much for the character and determination of its editor that he was able to continue publishing CHESS throughout the difficult years of the Second World War, whilst holding a full-time job as director of a chemical research laboratory in Lichfield.
Wood will be best remembered for the magazine, and for his other journalistic activities. He was for many years chess correspondent of The Daily Telegraph and of The Illustrated London News, and his best known book Easy Guide to Chess went through three editions and many impressions.
The above book (albeit the later Cadogan version) is available online.
Nigel Davies wrote “One of the best beginners books on the market.”
Wood’s feat in writing, publishing, printing and selling his own book may be unique. However, Wood was no mean player as his draw against the then world champion Max Euwe, who became a life-long friend, testifies.
He represented England in the International Team Championship at Buenos Aires in 1939, scoring 50%. He also took first prize in international tournaments at Baarn 1947, Paignton 1954, Whitby 1963, Thorshavn 1967 and Jersey 1975 and was second in the 1948 British Championship. He was British Correspondence Chess Champion in 1945.
A life member of F.I.D.E. Wood was also an International Arbiter, and organised 21 annual chess festivals at seaside venues from the 50’s onwards. In addition he was an active behind-the-scenes inspirer of many chess events, and in particular was known as a driving spirit of university chess, being until the time of his death President of the British University Chess Association.
He founded the Postal Chess Club and League and was for many years President of the British Postal Chess Federation.
He was awarded the O.B.E. for services to chess in 1984.
His wife Marjory, predeceased him; he leaves three sons Christopher, Frank and Philip, and a daughter Peggy.
and here is the article as it appeared in the Yearbook.
From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977) by Harry Golombek :
“A well known British player, editor of Chess (starting 1935) and chess correspondent of The Daily Telegraph and Illustrated London News. A FIDE judge, he has founded and conducted 21 annual chess festivals, notably at Whitby, Eastbourne and Southport.
Winner of a number of small and semi-international tournaments : Baarn 1947, Paignton 1954, Whitby 1963, Thorshavn 1967, and Jersey 1975.
Played for the BCF in the International Team Tournament at Buenos Aires 1939. His best tournament result was probably his equal second in the British Championship at London 1948.
In 1954 BHW was sued BH Wood for libel by William Ritson Morry over a letter BHW sent to Henry Golding of the Monmouthshire County Chess Association warning him of WRMs financial history. Here is a summary of the action :
and two years later in 1956 we have this telling photograph of Ritson and BH playing at the British Championships in Blackpool. It must have been an entertaining pairing for the organisers if no-one else!
Possibly WRM was thinking this as they played:
Among his books are : Easy Guide to Chess, Sutton Coldfield 1942 et seq; World Championship Candidates Tournament 1953, Sutton Coldfield 1954. “
Here is the obituary from British Chess Magazine, Volume CIX (1989, 109), Number 5 (May), pages 210 – 211:
Baruch Harold Wood (13 viii 1909-4 iv 1989) popularly known as “B. H.” was a significant figure of the last fifty-odd years in British chess. His life touched practically all aspects of the game as player, both OTB and CC, magazine publisher and editor, organiser of club, congress and university chess, journalist . . . the list seems endless. In 1984 he was awarded the OBE for services to chess.
Born at Sheffield, which he sometimes used as an excuse when he was accused of stubbornness, (“It’s my Yorkshire blood, you know”) he was educated in North Wales (Friar’s School, and then University College, Bangor) and at Birmingham University.
He started his chess magazine at Sutton Coldfield in 1935 as an impecunious graduate who could not find suitable work in the Depression, and his lively style ensured that it was a beacon in British chess for fifty years to come! For many British chess fans he was “Mr Chess” yet it seems a miracle that he kept the magazine going in the difficult times when interest in the game was at a low ebb. He may well have subsidised it from his journalistic work (Birmingham Post, Illustrated London News and Daily Telegraph) and from his wartime work as manager of a chemical laboratory (“The first time I ever earned a decent salary”).
His duodenal ulcer prevented him doing military service, and later in life he suffered from failing eyesight and the inability to walk which resulted from his diabetes, not diagnosed till he had suffered from it for decades.
He worked a seven-day week on the magazine, and his wife who predeceased him was often unsure when he would be home such was his devotion to the work. At times he would take off for trips abroad or long simul tours through Britain while trying to keep the magazine on schedule.
One of his last long tours was in 1967 when he drove Botvinnik around the UK. The world champion was duly impressed by the work load and wrote a very favourable account of the trip, revealing incidentally that Barry was still paying off the mortgage on his large house in Rectory Road, Sutton Coldfield where the car was parked on the forecourt as the garage was the reserve storage for a large library of chess books! His ability to quote chemical formula from memory also impressed Botvinnik.
He brought up a family of four, all of whom were skilled players, apart, perhaps from the youngest boy. Daughter Peggy
was prominent in women’s chess and married Peter Clarke at the time of the Botvinnik visit. Elder sons Chris and Frank were of over-200 strength, but had seen too much of their father’s life at close hand to want to take over the business from him. He ultimately sold out to Pergamon in 1987 though negotiations had been started much earlier. It was probably too much of a wrench to let go until failing health left him with little alternative, but he described
the terms as very generous.
Barry was a gifted linguist who was welcome abroad for his un-English approach of having a go at the native tongue. As a player he was at his best in the late 1930s (a member of the 1939 Olympiad team in Buenos Aires) till the 1950s. He should really have won the 1948 British Championship when he had the enterprising idea of having Paul Schmidt as personal coach! Yet his tournament wins run on as late as Guernsey 1975 and he was playing in the First Division of the Birmingham League within a few weeks of his death. The flesh may have been weak but a great spirit kept him going to the end.
Shall we ever see his like again?
Julius Silverman former MP for Aston (Birmingham) writes: I am very sorry to learn of the death of Barry Wood. I knew him for about 55 years and I always found him a pleasant and interesting companion and a good friend. On the last few occasions that I have met him he seemed increasingly frail. I know that the death of his dear wife was a great blow to him.
Barry’s contribution to Chess in this country has been enormous and his passing is the end of an era in chess journalism.
Barry’s journalism and his imaginative editorship made Chess a fascinating journal which it was always a pleasure to read.
Its survival for well over 50 years was a unique achievement which required persistence and dedication. He has had many
hills to surmount.
One was “… the chess lawsuit of the Century …” (This ran for about two and a half years, ending in 1940 in a victory for the magazine on appeal, Ed). Jacques versus Chess which might have brought Chess to an end. I appeared for him as counsel. We won. I received a life subscription to Chess as part of my fee. My copy still comes to me regularly. I have never enjoyed a fee so much.
Here is the article in its original form:
REMEMBERING BARRY WOOD (1909-1939)
by Bernard Cafferty
One of the most influential figures in British chess of the 20th century was B. H. Wood, whom I knew personally from 1951, and whom I played regularly, over a period of three decades, till l moved from Birmingham to Hastings in 1981. Here are some
memories of the man who was thought of by many in Britain as “Mr Chess”.
Born in Sheffield, Baruch Harold Wood had his secondary education in North Wales at the same grammar school as W Ritson
Morry who was later to become his Midlands colleague and bitter rival. BH always attributed his well-known stubbornness (he never resigned early) to “his Yorkshire blood”. Wood and Morry were to be students together at Birmingham University after BH gained his BSc in Wales. Then the pair faced the hard task of finding work in depression-struck mid-1930s England. BH founded his monthly magazine CHESS in 1935, an act of amazing optimism which only his great appetite for work could justify. The magazine was based in Sutton Coldfield, just north of Birmingham, at gloomy premises known as Masonic Buildings.
The early decades of this publication were marked by the outpouring of glorious journalism of a popular sort. The man’s love
of the game shone through his work and he recruited such contributors as the chatty Koltanowski and the prince of annotators
Alexander Alekhine. Later he became the long-serving columnist of the Birmingham Post, from 1949 of the weekly Illustrated London News, and even later of the Daily Telegraph. A feature of the magazine was its lively letters from readers which made for more interesting reading than the equivalent occasional letter to be found in the staid
BCM. The readers also made pertinent contributions to opening theory, especially in going through the 1946 MCO with a fine toothcomb and reporting their discoveries to Sutton Coldfield.
BH wrote a best-selling Easy Guide to Chess which went through several editions and was far more user-friendly than other primers on the market at the time. He also designed a luxury set, the Coldfield, and produced various chess clocks with new features. BH was a member of the BCF Olympiad side that played in the first part of the Buenos Aires Olympiad in the autumn of 1939. After the team’s withdrawal due to the outbreak of war, he stayed on in Argentina for a short while, taking part in a short tournament where he met the legendary Alekhine.
BH was married to Marjorie, a Birmingham primary school teacher, and had three sons and a daughter. The elder two boys,
Chris and Frank, were strong players but not Philip. His daughter Peggy was our leading girl player of the 1950s, and married Peter Clarke in 1962. One should note that BH was not Jewish, as many assumed from the name Baruch – he was generally addressed as Barry by his wife and close friends. Others called him just by the initials BH. Everyone in British chess knew exactly who you meant when you said BH. Many thought of him as a sharp business-man. In any event, the fearsome workload he shouldered meant that none of his children, seeing this at first hand, aspired to carry on the magazine as a family business. To many in the British chess community who had never seen top players in action, BH was their first contact with the wider chess world due to the exhausting simul tours he made to many clubs the length and breadth of the UK.
Later, he organized CHESS Festivals starting from 1953. These were our earliest open tournaments, held at attractive venues such as Cheltenham, Whitby, Eastbourne and Southport. These events created the opportunity for British amateurs to meet continental grandmaster opposition like Donner and O’Kelly. BH had great confidence in his ability – his MSc at Birmingham University was in chemistry, but in 1946-7 he started studying nuclear physics privately, telling Brian Reilly, who was employed by him at that time, that it was the science of the future. I have to simply marvel at this – where did he find the time? In his self-portrait in connection with the GB-USSR match of 1946 he revealed that he had been studying Russian privately with a view to taking an external degree in it at Birmingham University.
The post-war decade saw him at his most active. He was BCF delegate at early FIDE meetings post-1946, the period that saw the mighty Soviet Union admitted to membership in 1947. BH was instrumental in maintaining Spain’s membership of FIDE at the same time, despite Soviet opposition to Franco’s fascism. He claimed to me he was always a most welcome guest in Spain thereafter.
BH had been exempt from military service due to a duodenal ulcer. He spent the war keeping the magazine alive in his spare time as he was put in charge of a research laboratory at the Birmingham Chemical Company. During the war the government had the power under emergency legislation to direct citizens into any sort of work that would contribute to the war effort. His comment to me on that intensive period was: “It was the first time I ever drew a decent salary”. After a short spell as BCF FIDE delegate, he fell out with the ruling body in the early 1950s. His view was that the national body was ultra-conservative and not open to fresh ideas such as the knockout championship open to all which he organised in 1949-50. Lo and behold, a few months later the BCF started organising regional competitions to arrange for qualification for the British Championship! BH often criticised the BCF in his magazine. In June 1950 he wrote the first of a planned series of articles on the evergreen theme “Where is British Chess Going?” and forwarded a copy to the BCF just before publication. The BCF legal eagle Professor Wheatcroft immediately threatened to take out an injunction, so putting the frighteners on the printers. Rather than delay the July issue (not that subscribers were not used to a rather irregular schedule!), BH brought out the issue with white space, on two pages, a dramatic way of alerting the readers to the dispute. The promised articles, which he said would appear after the dispute was settled, never appeared.
There were also tensions with BCF figures like Alexander and Golombek, in the latter case probably due to professional rivalry and Harry G’s identification with the BCM. Another prominent figure with whom BH crossed swords was the flamboyant Liverpool barrister Gerald Abrahams who threatened to sue over a report in CHESS of gambling debts incurred “on the turf’.
BH was no stranger to litigation. For example he had had a lawsuit with Jaques culminating in 1940 over the use of the term
“genuine Staunton-pattern sets” in his advertising. The case was initially lost, a potentially crippling blow, but then won on appeal with the aid of solicitor Julius Silverman (later a prominent Birmingham MP), Ritson Morry, Sir George Thomas and
other well-wishers. When Wood-Morry hostility was at its height in the early 1950s over pro- and anti-BCF views, BH drew attention in a letter to a Welsh chess organiser to Ritson’s short period in jail. The uncomplimentary term ‘gaolbird’ was used. A court case followed which the penurious Ritson, having been struck off as a solicitor could hardly afford, yet BH was cleared on the defence of justification. My fellow students and I at Birmingham University could only marvel at the daily press reports on the wrangles between two of our patrons whom we had feted at a celebratory dinner only a short while before.
Here is the point at which to mention BH’s support for chess in the universities. He was the long-time President of the
BUCA (British Universities’ Chess Association) and turned up at many of their events with support. He loaned equipment in the early days when not every chess club had sufficient clocks for a match – bear in mind that the austerity period in Britain lasted for years after 1945. BH also supported correspondence chess, being the founder of the Postal Chess League, a team event very popular in its day but now defunct.
BH’s best playing performance was the British Championship of 1948 when he came second to Broadbent. The Midlander had actually started with 6.5 points from seven games, but the unsatisfactory position arose that he had to meet Broadbent in the last round when each had an adjourned game still to finish off.
The tension got to BH, he missed a clear winning chance against the Northerner and lost. Yet he should really have taken the title on the merits of the positions he had achieved. His rivals resented the fact that he had hired a second, namely Paul Schmidt, the Estonian player who was once thought of as almost as good as Keres in his native land. Schmidt had won the German Championship during the war in 1941. The British amateurs of 1948 were not impressed by this intrusion of professionalism and the importation of someone who carried the taint of possible Nazism. According to Brian Reilly, Gerald Abrahams was particularly scathing.
BH made a good impression on Botvinnik when the latter stayed at the Wood residence in Rectory Road, Sutton Coldfield, in 1967 (the reference for those who can read Russian is Baturinsky’s “…Tvorchestvo” trilogy on Botvinnik. The article was entitled: Albion shakhmatny i inoy. It appears on pp435 -448 of the third volume. A shortened version appears in English in Botvinnik’s autobiography Achieving the Aim). When I drew BH’s attention to the article and its peculiar title he responded with his usual erudite comment: ‘Albion? Yes, that’s the Roman reference to the white cliffs of Dover”. For most Brummies, “The Albion” did not mean a local pub, but rather the West Bromwich Albion football team!
In theory, the communist Botvinnik should have been distant from his host, the Midlands entrepreneur and business man, who drove him round to his engagements in Britain for three weeks, but their common love of chess triumphed over ideological
differences. In particular, the speed of production of CHESS, now on its own presses, was compared very favourably by the Soviet Patriarch to that of Shakhmaty v SSSR. British trade unions had a different view of course, in pre-Thatcher days, and BH had some tricky obstacles to overcome in this field. The Muscovite Botvinnik recorded the fact that the garage of BH’s large house was full of chess books (as were various rooms – to the abiding despair of Marjorie), so the family car was always parked outside on the drive. BH revealed to Botvinnik that he had not been able pay off his mortgage for decades due to the variable cash flow from his business and journalism.
BH was in love with study as a young man, he once told me, and he had a facility in various European languages, which made him always welcome abroad. Over the years, BH had a number of employees who were strong players, such as Brian Reilly, Owen Hindle and Robert Bellin, but none of them lasted long. Owen Hindle, a person of placid temperament, stuck it out the longest, but even he had his patience tried by the ‘boss’. One cannot hide the fact that BH was a controversial figure – perhaps the clue after all is that reference to his stubbornness and Yorkshire blood? I contributed to his magazine for many years, but certainly never wanted to work for him full-time!
I used to see BH in the last decade of his life only in the Hastings press room. For his age, he still took on a fantastic workload. Peter Clarke once commented that his father-in-law gave the impression of believing he would live for ever. Finally, Anno Domini told and BH sold his business to Robert Maxwell of Pergamon fame/notoriety in 1988.
In his final year, BH suffered from diabetes, and the resulting inability to walk meant he was confined to a wheelchair, but he still insisted on visiting Hastings one last time, where, in his prime, he had specialised in taking away Premier score sheets. Often they were taken not just to his hotel room, but even back to Sutton Coldfield, so hindering the work of other chess journalists unless Ritson or later, Peter Griffiths had got in first to create the bulletin.
What a character! We lack such a colourful figure nowadays. Where he still alive today, I imagine he would still be trying to put a bomb under the BCF.
From Chess Explorations (Cadogan Chess, 1996) by Edward Winter we have further detail on the Jaques court case:
“Paul Timson, a lawyer, sends us reports on two legal cases connected with chess. In 1939 B.H.Wood found himself in the dock for having advertised for sale in CHESS in 1937 ‘genuine Staunton chessmen’. The plaintiffs were John Jaques & Son, Ltd. Sir George Thomas., Max Euwe and Lodewijk Prins appeared as witnesses for the defence. The case is referred to by Fred Wren in his article ‘Tales of a Woodpusher: Woodpusher’s Woodpile’, which appeared in Chess Review, 1949 and was reprinted in Reinfeld’s The Treasury of Chess Lore. The issues of CHESS of the time also contained a huge amount of material on the case. The decision was that ‘Staunton’ alone was permissible description, but that the phrase ‘genuine Staunton’ implied a product made by Jaques & Son Ltd., as opposed to any Staunton pattern. However, B.H. Wood appealed and, in 1940, won.”
If you can get access then we recommend the eleven-page “B.H. Wood and his chess playing family” article in the August-2009 issue of Chess Monthly written by his son Chris Wood (helped by brother Frank).
Likewise The Chess Lawsuit of the Century is detailed in CHESS, volume 52, Number 1018, pp.392 – 394 by BHW himself.
Here is an obituary from the MCCU
Background information from Sutton Coldfield Chess Club
Barry Wood. A Personal Memory from Neil Blackburn (aka SimaginFan)
Alekhine’s Articles for CHESS by Michael Clapham
Here is his Wikipedia entry.
Download a pdf version of the 1st issue of CHESS
BCN remembers Comins Mansfield MBE who passed away on March 28th 1984 in Torbay, Devon.
Comins was the first English born chess grandmaster when in 1972 he was awarded the the title of “International Grandmaster of the FIDE for Chess Composition” three years before the first correspondence GM and four years before the first English born OTB grandmaster.
In the 1976 New Years Honours list Civil Division Comins was awarded the MBE. The citation read simply “For services to Chess”.
Comins Mansfield was born on Sunday, June 14th 1896 in Witheridge, North Devon. The birth was registered in the district of South Molton, Devon. His parents were Herbert John (who was a banker) and Julia Emma Mansfield (née Frost). Miss Anne Comins was Herbert’s mother who he memorialised using her name for his only son.
Comins had two sisters Edith K and Margaret M plus a paternal step-sister Harriett C Mansfield.
He was baptised on the 18th July 1896 in Witheridge as an Anglican and the ceremony was performed by JT Benson.
He was admitted to Witheridge School on September 18th 1899 (aged three) and in 1901 Comins continued to live in Witheridge, Devon attending Blundell’s School. The family “left the district” on August 13th 1909.
At the time of the 1911 Census Comins was a boarder at a school in Tiverton, Cheshire. Possibly this was Tarporley High School.
Comins left school in 1914 and did not attend University. He started work at tobacco company W. D. & H. O. Wills (which became part of Imperial Tobacco in 1901) in Bristol being a prime location for a company which relied on export markets of physical goods.
According to RH Jones on the Chess Devon web site:
In September 1915 he joined the Royal Artillery, and carried a small travelling set at all times, with which to while away the long hours spent in the trenches. He never lost contact with Chandler during the war, even though the latter was involved in a rather messy British invasion of Iraq, (then Mesopotamia), and the two combined on problems by post, one of which won 1st Prize in the Good Companions magazine in January 1918. Shortly after, he was temporarily blinded by mustard gas, requiring 12 months in hospital.
On his release from hospital, the war was over and he re-joined Wills in Bristol and his local chess club, Bristol & Clifton. His skill over the board should not be overlooked – he soon became established in Gloucestershire as a very strong player, winning his club championship for the first time in 1920 and the county championship continuously from 1927 – 34. From his return to Bristol he played for the county regularly, never lower than Bd. 3 and from the time of his first county championship, always on top board. From 1926 to the time of his move to Scotland he was also the Problem Editor of the Bristol Times and Mirror .
According to the National Records Office:
With reference to the medal card of Comins Mansfield we have:
|Royal Field Artillery||3024||Gunner|
|Royal Field Artillery||826184||Gunner|
Comins career with W. D. & H. O. Wills lasted 45 years and in 1934 relocated to Glasgow which halted his composition career until 1936 labelling his problems “Mansfield – Glasgow. His job in Scotland finished in 1950 returning to live in Carshalton Beeches, near Croydon in South London working for a W. D. & H. O. Wills subsidiary.
On September 19th 1923 Comins married Marjorie Erica Ward (born 1899) at the Parish Church, St. Paul, Bedminster, Bristol, Gloucestershire. Marjorie died in 2003. Comins and Marjorie had three children, Geoffrey, Hilary and Roderick.
At the time of their marriage Comins was living at 25 Sommerville Road, Bishopston, Bristol, BS7 9AD:
Comins interest in chess started at the age of nine with his father Herbert who played correspondence chess for Devon but his interest in the world of problems was initiated in 1910 with an article (First Steps In The Classification of Two-Movers by Alain C. White) on problems in British Chess Magazine. In 1914 aged 18 he joined the Bristol and Clifton Chess Club and following World War I he became club champion for the first time in 1920. Also, Comins was Gloucestershire Champion from 1927 – 1934 before he relocated to Glasgow where he won the West of Scotland and Glasgow Championships. At Cheltenham 1928 not only did he draw in 50 moves with FD Yates but he beat Sir George Thomas in 20 moves!
From British Chess Magazine, Volume CIV (104, 1984), Number 5 (May), p. 194 :
“Comins Mansfield (14 v 1896 – 27 iii 1984) was an outstanding figure in chess problems, notably in the field of two-movers. Awarded the IM title for problems in 1959 and the GM title in 1972, he served for eight years as President of the FIDE Permanent Commission for Chess Compositions. In 1976 he was awarded an MBE for his services to chess.
As an OTB (over-the-board) player he won the championship of the Bristol Club and of Gloucestershire. From 1964 to 1978 he contributed the weekly puzzle to the Sunday Telegraph.”
From CHESS, Volume 48 (1984), Numbers 921-922, page 316 we have this rather modest mention:
Who was Britain’s first chess grandmaster? His name start with M, but no, the answer is Comins Mansfield, to whom F.I.D.E. awarded its newly created title of grandmaster for Chess Composition in 1972, and who died in March this year aged 87. In tribute to him we recall, two of his masterpieces, separated by over half a century.”
BCF Tourney 1974
White mates in two
Good Companions 1918
White mates in two
Interestingly the July 1984 issue of CHESS publishes a letter from Ken Whyld taking issue with the above. Ken wrote:
Who was Britain’s first chess grand master? His name starts with M but no, the answer is not Comins Mansfield (page 316 in CHESS, No. 921-2. No, it isn’t. It is J. Mieses in 1950. The error is repeated on page 328. Why do we, as a nation, have to be so snotty about those who chose to be become naturalised?
From page 328 we have this detailed obituary from Colin AH Russ:
We regret to report the death of Comins Mansfield MBE, peacefully at his home in Torquay on 28 March 1984. During his long life of more than 86 years, Mansfield received every possible honour in the realm of chess problem art.
He was born at Witheridge, North Devon, on 14 June 1896, and at 9 was taught to play chess by his father, a keen correspondence player. One of his earliest efforts won First Prize in 1912 in the Illustrated Western Weekly News.
Other problems of his early period were published in the Folders of the Good Companion Chess Problem Club, of Philadelphia, USA. This brought him into contact with Alain C. White, who also recognised his genius and gave him every encouragement. Some of the problems at this time were composed in the trenches, “somewhere in France”, while Mansfield was serving in the Royal Artillery with the British Army. He was severely gassed in May 1918, and discharged from the Army.
He won the West of Scotland and Glasgow Championships while stationed in that city. He was one of the founder members of
the British Chess Problem Society, and served as its President. In 1947, he started a feature in The Problemist entitled “Selected with Comments” which continued in his hands for 35 years. His weekly column in the Sunday Telegraph, mainly confined to game positions, ran from 1964 to 1978.
Mansfield’s other venture into publishing was his “Adventures in Composition” in which he takes the reader step by step through the Process that he went through in composing 20 of his problems.
The book was edited by A. C. White and first appeared in the USA in 1942, and was published in Britain by CHESS, Sutton Coldfield, in 1948. it became a classic, and many composers could testify to the help they have received from it.
In “Adventures in Composition“, Mansfield expounded his principles for making good chess problems: originality, economy, and artistic finish. if he found that an idea could not be set without forfeiting one of these principles, then he put it on one side, and turned his attention to something else. Therefore, although one can say that some of his problems are better than others, it is impossible to find one that is bad.
A. C. White made Comins Mansfield the subject of his last book in the Christmas Series: “A Genius of the Two-Mover” in which he gave some 100 of the master’s 300 problems.
He wrote: “The key-note of his style lies in his freshness of outlook and in a clarity of vision with which few composers have been gifted.” Brian Harley, the distinguished author and editor of the
famous Observer column for so many years, continued the story with a further 100 of Mansfield’s Problems.
In view of his international reputation, it was only fitting that Mansfield should represent the BCPS at the first meeting
of the FIDE Problem Commission in Piran in 1958, that he should serve as its President from 1963-71, and that in 1972 he should be awarded one of the first grand master titles, honoris causa, in recognition of his contribution to problem chess. He thus became the first Briton to receive this title, before any British chess players had reached any title norms. Four years later he received the recognition of his country, when his name appeared in the Queen’s New Year Honours list as recipient of the MBE, for services to chess.
ln 1975, Gerhard Jensch, editor of the problem column in Schach-Echo, brought out a supplement to “Adventures in Composition”, containing 63 of Mansfield’s later problems, showing how he had reacted to the changing themes and styles of the post second World War period. Barry Barnes, the following year, brought out “Comins Mansfield MBE: Chess Problems of a Grandmaster“, in which he presented 2O0 problems with full solutions and comments, many of them culled from Mansfield’s private notes and correspondence.
It is appropriate to finish with the comment with which E. L. Umnov concluded his introduction to Barry Barnes’s book in 1976: “Mansfield’s work is a source of pride not only to British chess, but to chess the world over”.
From The Oxford Companion to Chess (OUP, 1984) by Hooper & Whyld :
“English two-mover composer widely regarded in his time as the greatest in this field. During the life of the GOOD COMPANION CHESS PROBLEM CLUB (1913—24) he was one of the pioneers who gave new life to the two-mover. The ideas then introduced have since become traditional, and Mansfield has adhered to them, continuing to gain successes although not always following the latest trend. In 1942 he wrote Adventures in Composition, an excellent guide to the art of composing. In 1957 he was awarded the title of International Judge of Chess Compositions; in 1963 he accepted and held for eight years the presidency of the FIDE Commission for Chess Compositions; in 1972 he was one of the first four to he awarded the title of International Grandmaster for Chess Compositions.
A. C. White, A Genius of the Two-mover (1936) contains 113 problems by Mansfield; B. P. Barnes, Comins Mansfield MBE: Chess Problems of a Grandmaster (1976) contains 200 problems. “
From The Encyclopaedia of Chess by Anne Sunnucks :
“International Grandmaster of the FIDE for Chess Compositions (1972), International Master of the FIDE for Chess Compositions (1959), International Judge of the FIDE for Chess Compositions (1957). President of the Permanent Commission of the FIDE for Chess Compositions from 1963 to 1971. President of the British Chess Problem Society from 1949 to 1951.
Born at Witheridge in North Devon on 14th June 1896. He has composed about 1,000 problems, nearly all of them two-movers, since 1911. He is regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time. His outstanding ability was recognised early when A Genius of the Two-Mover in the A.C. White Christmas series of books was published in 1936. He is the author of Adventures in Composition (1944) and co-author with the late Brian Harley of The Modern Two-Move Problem.
From 1926-1932 he was Problem Editor of The Bristol Times and Mirror, and he is at present Problem Editor of The Sunday Telegraph His feature “Selected with Comments” has been a permanent feature of The Problemist. A strong player, Mansfield won the Gloucestershire Championship from 1927 to 1934. He has a recorded win over Sir George Thomas, a late British Champion and International Master.
Mansfield made a life-times career with the tobacco firm of W.D. & H.O. Wills. He is a dedicated family man with three children.
C. Mansfield, 1st Prize, Hampshire Post, 1919
White to play and mate in two moves.“
Solution to Two-Mover above : 1. Qf5 !
From The Encyclopaedia of Chess by Harry Golombek we have:
Britain’s most distinguished problem compose, output about 859, nearly all two-movers. Very active during the period of the Good Companions, contributing to their folders many classic examples of half-pin, cross-check, and other important themes. Books include Adventures in Composition (1943), a fascinating expose of the composers methods. President of the British Chess Problem Society, 1949-51. President of the FIDE Problem Commission, 1963-71, and Hon. President since 1972. International Judge (1957); international master (1959), grandmaster (1972).
Curiously RH Jones wrote
“At Paignton, Mansfield seemed to know Milner-Barry quite well, but Golombek kept his distance. It is noticeable that Golombek’s Encyclopaedia of Chess (Batsford 1977) is almost unique of its kind in containing no individual entry for Mansfield; even a long 3½ page article on the history of chess problems, which mentions numerous half forgotten composers, contains no reference to him. This is surely no oversight and must be interpreted as some kind of inexplicable snub.”
We too made initially made the same error and it is true that there in individual entry for CM outside of the Problemists section. Did RHJ miss the above entry as we initially did?
From British Chess (Pergamon Press, 1984) John Rice writes:
“Comins Mansfield was born at Witheridge, Devon on 14th June 1896. At the age of 18 he joined the Bristol and Clifton Chess Club, and after World War 1 he soon won the club championship and the Gloucester Championship several times. For 14 years until 1978 he conducted the weekly chess features in the Sunday Telegraph.
In 1959 he he became an ‘International Master of the FIDE for Chess Composition’ and in 1972 one of the first four grandmasters. For 7 years he was President of the FIDE’s Permanent Commission for Chess Compositions.
Mansfield is widely regarded as being one of the three greatest composers of chess problems of all time. In 1976 was awarded the MBE for his services to chess.
Mr. Mansfield worked for 45 years in the tobacco firm W.D & H.O. Wills – first in Bristol, then in Glasgow and finally in London. He is now enjoying retirement in Torbay.
Mr. Mansfield writes: It was in 1959 that the FIDE decided to broaden their titles to include artificial positions such as ‘problems’ (the so-called poetry of chess), where mate has to be forced in a specified number of moves. The Master title then came into being, while the ‘Grandmaster’ distinction was withheld until 1972.
I have always felt that life is too short to deal with anything but two-movers. Here is one of my earliest successes (ed: shown here in Desert Island Chess) composed in the trenches in World War 1.”
From The Complete Chess Addict (Faber&Faber, 1987,p.222), Fox & James we have a section entitled Desert Island Chess which includes this problem:
First Prize Good Companions, March 1917
Mate in 2
Of it, Alain White, the world connoisseur wrote – ‘This may well be taken as the standard cross-check problem of the twentieth century’. The key-move 1.Be4 looks senseless, as it sets the black king free and apparently jeopardizes the white one by unpinning the black knight. But it threatens mate by 2.Nxc4 This knight can open fire on the white king in four ways. If 1…Ne5+,2.Rd3 is mate. If 1…Nxd6+, the mate is 2.Bd3. If 1…Nxe3+, Nb5 mates, while 1…Nd2+ is answered by 2.Nc4.
The next position is of a quite different type:
CHESS, 1950, First Prize
White to play and mate in two moves
It illustrates several quiet defences by a single black piece. This has a rather colourless key, 1.Bb2, which threatens mate by 2. Rg4. Moves of the black bishop stop this but give rises to six other mates. If 1…Bg1;2.Nc7. So the bishop must stay on its long diagonal. 1…Bg3 allows 2.Rxh4. If 1…Bf4 (unpinning the R), 2.Re5. If 1…Be5, 2.Rd4. If 1…Bd6, 2.Rc8. If 1…Bb8, 2.Rb6. There are three other subsidiary mates, after 1…Rf8, 2.Rf4. If 1…d1=q,2.Qd1 and finally if 1…Rg2 (or Rg1 or Rg3).
In the 1950s it became fashionable for composers to try to hoodwink solvers by arranging close tries which almost solved the problem. But this trend often militated against the merit and interest of the actual solution. In this problem the solver soon discovers that he must set-up a double-threat by 1.g4,g3,f4 or f3, each move cutting off both a black rook and bishop.
Die Schwalbe, 1956, First Prize
White to play and mate in two moves
But which is the right move? 1.g4 threatens mate by 2.Qxe4 and Qd1, but is defeated by 1…Nxf2. Similarly 1.g3 (threatening 2.Qe3 and Bxb3) is met by 1…Nc2. So try 1.f4 (threatening 2.Qxe4 and Bxb3), but this fails to 1…e3. This leaves the key-move 1.f3 which does the trick. There is a fair amount of by-play. 1…Rf4 forces 2.Bxb3. 1…Bf4 forces 2. Qxe4; while after 1.Kd4 and Nc4, the mates are 2. Qxc3 and Bxe4 respectively.
In an ABC of Chess Problems, Section III, Composition and Solving, page 266 onwards, John Rice discusses in detail the methods of Comin Mansfield and any student of solving and composition would do well to study this chapter.
Here is an excellent biography from Chess Devon by RH Jones
Here is a biography from Keverel Chess by RH Jones
Here is the entry for CM from the BCPS web site
Biography from Chess Scotland by Alan McGowan
Here is the largest collection of his games from Britbase and John Saunders
Here are his games from chessgames.com
Here is his Wikipedia entry
Remembering Percy Francis Blake (6-xii-1873 26-iii-1936)
From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977), Harry Golombek OBE, John Rice writes:
“British problemist, regarded as one of England’s finest composers, Blake produced direct-mate problems in two, three and four moves.”
From his Italian Wikipedia entry :
“Percy Francis Blake ( Manchester , December 6, 1873 – Grappenhall , March 20, 1936 ) was a British chess player and chess composer , among the best English problem players of the period 1900 – 1936 .
He composed over 500 problems, most in two and three moves, of which around 160 were awarded (45 first prizes and 40 second prizes). 
He was famous for “quiet” keys and continuations, which made his problems very difficult to solve.
He was also a good player and table. In 1890 he won the Manchester club championship and later several local tournaments. In 1894 he won a beauty prize offered by the Manchester Weekly Times . From 1898 to 1912 he was part of the Lancashire team in many team matches between that county and Yorkshire . In 1911 he won the Lancashire championship. ”
and from the rather excellent Yorkshire Chess History we have
The following photograph was kindly supplied by Michael McDowell of the British Chess Problem Society :
BCN remembers Sir Stuart Milner-Barry KCVO CB OBE who passed away on Saturday, March 25th, 1995 in Lewisham Hospital, London aged 88. He was laid to rest in the Great Shelford Cemetery, Cambridge Road, Great Shelford, Cambridge CB22 5JJ.
A memorial service was held for him at Westminster Abbey on 15 June 1995.
Philip Stuart Milner-Barry was born on Thursday, September 20th 1906 in Mill Hill in the London Borough of Barnet. Mill Hill falls under the Hendon Parliamentary constituency.
His parents were Lieutenant-Commander Edward Leopold (1867-1917) and Edith Mary Milner-Barry (born 17th May 1866, died 1949, née Besant). Edward was in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, H.M.S. “Wallington.” Prior to his war service his father was a professor of modern languages at the University of Bangor and Edith was the daughter of Dr. William Henry Besant, a renowned mathematical fellow of St John’s College, Cambridge University.
Stuart was the second born of six children, There was an older sister Alda Mary (18th August 1893-1938) and four brothers Edward William Besant (?-1911) , Walter Leopold (1904-1982), John O’Brien (4 December 1898 – 28 February 1954) and Patrick James . Many of the Milner-Barry family were laid to rest in the Great Shelford churchyard.
Stuart learned chess at the age of eight and his autobiographical article below goes into more depth.
He was educated at Cheltenham College, and won a scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he obtained firsts in classics and moral sciences.
On leaving Cambridge in 1927 he went to work at the London Stock Exchange (LSE).
According to the 1928 and 1929 electoral rolls he was living with his mother Edith and his brothers Walter and John O’Brien at 50 De Freville Avenue, Cambridge CB4 1HT:
In 1931 the family had relocated to 11, Park Terrace, Cambridge which is nearby to Emmanuel College. Now living with the family was brother Patrick James.
He discovered that he did not enjoy his LSE work and switched careers to became chess correspondent of The Times in 1938.
At the time (September 29th) of the 1939 register he (aged 33) was living as a journalist in a household of three with his mother Edith who carried out “unpaid domestic duties” and sister Alda who was of “private means”.
In 1946 Stuart was awarded the OBE from the Civil Division in the New Years Honours . The citation reads that was “employed in a Department of the Foreign Office”. A modern translation of this was he was engaged in Top Secret work at Bletchley Park alongside Alan Turing, Gordon Welchman and Hugh Alexander and was thus honoured for his war work. More on this later…
After the war he worked in the Treasury, and later in 1966 administered the British honours system where he helped to facilitate the award of honours to other chess players ultimately retiring in 1977.
As well as the OBE he was made Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in 1962 and Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCV0) in 1975.
A conference room was named after him at the Civil Service Club, 13 – 15 Great Scotland Yard, London SW1A 2HJ.
*Peter Hennessy is a renowned historian and journalist. The following was originally published in The Times in 1977 following PSMBs retirement.
“Few careers can have been as varied and rewarding as that of Sir Stuart Milner-Barry, who retires today as Ceremonial Officer to the Civil Service Department and custodian of the British honours system.
Into the 48 years since he left Cambridge with a degrees in classics and moral sciences, he has crammed spells as a stockbroker, chess correspondent of The Times and member of the British chess team, a wartime codebreaker for MI6 and a senior Treasury official before taking over administration of the nations “gongs and bongs ” nearly 11 years ago.
The richness of Sir Stuart’s progression is all the more striking given the difficulty he experienced in finding a job at all after university because of the Wall Street crash in 1929. His first 10 years spanned the slump of the 1930s, when there was little for a stockbroker to do, but fill his days reading The Times.
In 1938 he joined the paper full time as chess correspondent and, along with many of the world’s leading players, he was nearly trapped in Buenos Aires when war broke out the next year (ed. should be month rather than year). Catching the first ship home, he finished up with that brilliant collection of dons, antique dealers, mathematicians and chess players billeted in Nissen huts in the park of Buckinghamshire country house, who broke the code transmitted by the German Enigma machine.
Sir Stuart eventually rose to lead hut six, which broke the most secret messages of the Luftwaffe. Quartered in a comfortable Bletchley public house with another formidable chess player, C. H. O’D. Alexander, and Gordon Welchman, the Cambridge mathematician, he acquired a taste for rum, the only alcohol in plentiful supply for some reason, and a sense of guilt about enjoying, his stimulating, important job, safe while other men faced the bullets.
He was not tempted to stay on in the arcane world of code-breaking after the war, unlike his friend, the late Hugh Alexander, as he regards such activities in peacetime as akin to reading somebody’s private correspondence, though he recognizes the necessity of such efforts for intelligence work. Instead, he took the reconstruction competition for the administrative class of the Civil Service and entered the Treasury.
While battling with the post-war dollar shortage in Treasury Chambers he “found a wife, carried her off and lived happily ever after”, as he cheerfully puts it. Apart from a spell as establishment officer to the Ministry of Health, he stayed at the Treasury until he reached the normal retiring age of 60 in 1966.
Lord Helsby, then Head of the Home Civil Service, asked him to stay on and take over the smooth machine that underpins the honours system, which had been built up over many years by Sir Robert Knox. Sir Stuart has loved every minute of it.
He looks every inch the part, a tall stately man of immense natural dignity, he is the incarnation of propriety. The stresses to which the honours system has been subjected to in recent years must have caused him great distress but he is far too proper a civil servant to talk about it. His retirement at 70 has nothing to do with the alarums and excursions stimulated by the honours lists associated with Harold Wilson.
“One of my principal jobs has been the protection of the system”, he says. “The pleasures are very great. It’s fascinating in itself. You see so much of the history of people in every walk of like”.
Sir Stuart waxes eloquent about the beauty and uniqueness of the British honours system. He is a confirmed monarchist, so the spontaneity of the jubilee celebrations provides the perfect backcloth for his departure. He is succeeded by Mr. Richard Sharp, an under-secretary at the Treasury.”
Below is the original article:
In the third quarter of 1947 Stuart married Thelma Tennant Wells in Westminster. A consequence of the “rules of the day” of the marriage was that Thelma had to resign her post in the Treasury immediately. (Ed: this somewhat antiquated view of life was finally corrected in 1972 when the Civil Service dispensed with this rule).
Lady Thelma was to support Stuart in his chess activities for their married life. She also served as the first UK Director of Women’s Chess and made many lasting friendships in the chess world. She was buried together with Stuart in 2007. Stuart himself was President of the British Chess Federation between 1970 and 1973 as well as being Director of International Chess following his presidency.
Stuart and Thelma had three children, one son and two daughters: Philip O. (born 1953), Jane E (born 1950) and Alda M (born 1958).
Stuart was knighted on January 1st 1975 for his role as the “Ceremonial Officer of Civil Service Department” between 1966-77. Technically the knighthood is known as a KCVO.
Milner-Barry was Southern Counties (SCCU) champion for the 1960-61 season.
He first competed in the British Championship in 1931 and made regular appearences as late as 1978: a span of 47 years!
In their retirement years Stuart and Thelma lived at the salubrious location of 43 Blackheath Park, Blackheath, London SE3 9RW.
In June of 1933 at the age of 27 Stuart wrote an autobiographical piece for British Chess Magazine to be found in Volume LIII (53, 1933), Number 6 (June), pp. 241-2 as follows:
I learned chess at the age of eight and played regularly after that with members of my family. My first-class practise (with due respect to my family) began at fourteen, when Mr. Bertram Goulding Brown and started a series of serious friendly games which has continued ever since, almost without interruption. The vast majority of these games were begun with 1 P-K4, P-K4, and as we both eschewed the Lopez and the Four Knights, we have acquired a fairly extensive knowledge of the older forms of the King’s side openings – King’s Gambit (all sorts), Vienna, Guioco Piano, Evans’s Gambit, Danish Gambit, Bishop’s Opening, etc. These games have undoubtedly born the most important influence in my development, apart from which the serious friendly game is to me much the most enjoyable form of chess. We each have runs of success, and there has never been much to choose between us.
(An aside : Stuart wrote a extensive obituary of Bertram Goulding Brown which appeared in British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXV (85, 1965), Number 12(December) pp.344-45 in which he noted:
B. Goulding Brown was my oldest and closest Cambridge friend, I started playing with him in 1920, and we have played ever since, though, alas, not nearly so often since the War as in the 1920s and 1930. Our last games, when he was eighty three, were played about a year ago in the same book-congested upstairs study at Brookside as all the others had been. Both were cut-and-thrust draws: a Kieseritzky Gambit from myself and Two Knights’ (with 4.P-Q4 for White) were typical of the openings we adopted. We were planning another this Autumn, but he died suddenly and peacefully at the end of August, )
I have also been very fortunate in playing a good deal with C.H.O’D. Alexander. Our games have taken the form of a series of short matches (first player to win three games) played with clocks. Alexander was already stronger than me when he came up to Cambridge, and he won the University Championship from me in his first year and my fourth.
All three matches have been won by him, the first easily and the last two by the narrowest possible margin; a fourth now in progress looks like coming to an early and ignominious conclusion (Score 0-2-2). These results have neither surprised nor disappointed me : I would not back any player in England to do better.
(ed. For more detail on PSMBs matches with Hugh we refer to you our article on Hugh).
In 1923 I won the first Boy’s Championship at Hastings, but lost badly the following year (ed. Alexander won).
Since then I have competed twice at Hastings, once tieing with Miss Menchik in the Major Reserve for the first place and once for the last, in the Major. In between I played in the Major Open at Tenby, and came out fifth, with my first important win against Znosko-Borovsky.
Meanwhile I played four years against Oxford, with somewhat chequered results. The first year I won against G. Abrahams, the second and third years, I played K.H. Bancroft and scored a (very fortunate) draw and a win, while finally I permitted Abrahams to fork my King and Queen with a Knight, a performance unhappily repeated by R.L. Mitchell in the following year (his Queen was pinned by a Bishop). Since then the spell has been broken. In 1931 I played in the British Championships at Worcester, and was quite satisfied with my form, though my score of 5 out of 11 was nothing to write home about. In February 1932, I have the great good fortune to fill a vacant place in the Sunday Referee* London International Tournament, an extremely exhausting but very valuable experience which I greatly appreciated.
*The Sunday Referee was a newspaper of the time which was adsorbed into The Sunday Chronicle in 1939.
My score of 3.5 out of 11, equal with Sir George Thomas and above W. Winter and V. Buerger, was quite as good as I expected. After this came the Cambridge Tournament, which, though a very delightful little congress, was a fiasco from my point of view. Three of my opponents were unkind enough to show their best form against me, and two other games I spoilt by clock trouble.
I do not expect to play much serious competitive chess in future. I admire sincerely the business man who is ready, after a hard day at the office, to undergo a further four hours of strenuous mental exertion; and who is also prepared to spend his all too brief holidays in the same exhausting pursuit. Moreover, while many players find the atmosphere of match and tournament play a stimulus or an inspiration, it only renders me nervous, and though this does not affect my play it certainly interferes with my enjoyment. As long as I can play my week-end games with B.G.B., and inveigle Alexander from Winchester to add another to his monotonous series of victories, I shall not much mind if I can only occasionally take part in congresses. ”
In issue #53 (April 1946) of West London Chess Club’s Gazette we have a news item concerning a newly inaugurated trophy called the PS Milner-Barry Cup:
Writing in A Century of British Chess (Hutchinson, 1934), PW Sergeant records in Chapter XXI, 1925 to 1934:
The City of London C.C.’s Championship Tournament which ended this (1933) spring deserves special mention; for it introduced an entirely new name on the list of champions, that of P.S. Milner-Barry, formerly of Cheltenham College and of Cambridge University. Ten years previously he had won the first boys’ championship at Hastings.
Now, he won the City of London Championship with a score of 11 out of 14, followed by the bearers of such noted names as R.P. Michell (10 points), Sir George Thomas (9), and E.G. Sergeant (8.5). It caused some surprise, therefore, when it was found that he was not selected as a British representative at Folkestone.
Surprisingly and disappointingly there is no direct entry in either Hooper & Whyld or Sunnucks for Sir Stuart but (as you might expect) Harry Golombek OBE does not let us down in The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977):
“British master whose chess career was limited by his amateur status but whose abilities as a player and original theorist rendered him worthy of the title of international master.
Born at Mill Hill in London, he showed early promise and in 1923 won the British Boys Championship, then held at Hastings.
He studied classics at Cambridge and developed into the strongest player there. At the university he was to meet (ed. three years later) C. H. O’D. Alexander with whom he played much chess.
Though nearly three years younger, Alexander exerted a strong influence over him and both players cherished and revelled in the brilliance of play in open positions.
By then along with Alexander and Golombek, he had become recognized as one of the three strongest young players in the country. Whilst not as successful as they were in tournaments as the British championship in which stamina was essential, he was a most formidable club and team match player, as he had already shown in 1933 when he won the championship of the City of London Club ahead of R. P. Mitchell and Sir George Thomas.
He played in his first International Team tournament at Stockholm 1937 and was to play in three more such events : in 1939 at Buenos Aires where, on third board, he made the fine score of 4/5 ; in Helsinki 1952; and in Moscow 1956 where, again on third board, he was largely responsible for the team’s fine showing.
In 1940 he shared first prize with Dr. List in the strong tournament of semi-international character in London and then, like Alexander and (later) Golombek, helped in the Foreign Office code-breaking activities at Bletchley Park for the duration of the Second World War. Staying in the Civil Service afterwards, he rose to the rank of Under-Secretary in the Treasury and was knighted for his services in 1975.
Below is footage (start at 1′ 55″) of Sir Stuart discussing the talent of Malik Mir Sultan Khan:
After the war, too, he had some fine results in the British championship, his best being second place at Hastings in 1953.
The following article is sourced from November 1995 edition* of Dragon, the Cambridge University Chess Club magazine:
(*Edited by Jonathan Parker)
“I first met Sir Stuart Milner-Barry when I was fifteen years old (1962) playing in a tournament in Bognor Regis who played some rustic king’s pawn opening against me, sacrificing a pawn for nothing in particular and then astonished by writing “castles” in full on his scoresheet. I think he used “kt” for a knight too. I thought I had discovered a true relic from a bygone age and the more I got to know him I realised the more correct that judgement was.
Milner-Barry was the last of the true gentlemen amateurs and was one of the few people I have ever met who played chess for the sheer love of the game.
A few typical incidents may give a flavour of his unique personality. First and most typical was the way he would resign: with a firm handshake, a smile and a booming whisper of ‘You are far too good for me I’m afraid!’ When I first heard those words I was totally taken aback : What was this, a chessplayer acknowledging that his opponent was better than him? Impossible!
Once, at close of play in a county match against Milner-Barry I had the extra pawn in a difficult queen and pawn ending. We analysed a little with most variations suggesting I was winning. It was the kind of position you would send for adjudication even if you are convinced it is lost. It avoids having to resign anyway and the adjudicator may always discount the pawns. But, Sir Stuart never thought like that. After ten minutes analysing he extended his hand and congratulated me.
Finally there was the splendid incident in Moscow during the (Ed. 6th) European Team Championships in the late 1970s (Ed. 1977) Stuart was then the President of the BCF and took up an invitation of his old friend the British Ambassador to the USSR (Ed. Sir Howard Smith) to visit the event. Since he was staying at the Embassy he had a KGB tail assigned to him to follow him everywhere. On one of his morning walks Sir Stuart got lost and was not certain which bridge he should be on to get back to the Embassy. So, he turned around and walked back to the not very secret policeman, followed him and asked for directions! For the rest of his stay they walked practically hand-in-hand.
Whilst most of us knew Stuart as an amiable old gent who played for Kent and in the Lloyds Bank Masters who could still play brilliant attacking games in his eighties most knew little of his distinguished career in real life.
We suspected with some justification that in his civil service career he was responsible for doling out all those OBEs to chess players in the 70s and 80s when he was in charge of the honours list.
It was the wartime work at Bletchley Park that was Milner-Barry’s greatest achievement. As everybody knows the allies won the Second World War mainly because of the brilliant code-breaking work of the Cambridge quartet of Alan Turing, Gordon Welchman, Hugh Alexander and Stuart Milner-Barry. Turing and Welchman were mathematical geniuses, Milner-Barry was the supreme administrator and Alexander straddled the gap with great talents in both areas. The group of four were known as “The Wicked Uncles”
The astonishing achievement at Bletchley was not so much in breaking enemy codes as maintaining complete secrecy of the entire operation for the duration of the war. Only with such people as Milner-Barry and Alexander in charge could such a large operation be run so successfully without anybody knowing about it.
Milner-Barry’s importance in the running at Bletchley may be judged from the fact that he personally delivered the note to Winston Churchill stressing overriding importance of their work asking for more funds.
Compared with that the invention of the Milner-Barry Gambit and the Milner-Barry variation of the Nimzo-Indian are minor achievements.
Sir Stuart was proof that nice guys can be chess players although one cannot help suspecting he would achieved even better results if he had even a slight streak of nastiness about him. He would surely have not let Capablanca off the hook in Margate in 1938 when the attacking player secured a winning position against the ex-champions dragon variation and he would have surely also not let the British Championship slip from his grasp in 1953 when he finished as runner-up after losing his last two games.
He always performed well when playing in Olympiads (or Team Tournaments as they were known then) for England during the 1930s and 50s. He was, after all, one of the most naturally gifted players this county has produced. What other Englishman has two opening (or even just one) named after him?
While at Cambridge while he won the University Championship in 1928, losing to Alexander in the following year, Milner-Barry composed some fine problems, a frivolity he never returned to later in his life.
An excellent though infrequent writer on the game, he wrote a fine memoir of C.H.O’D. Alexander in Golombek’s and Hartston’s The Best Games of C.H.O’D. Alexander, Oxford, 1976.”
From British Chess Magazine, Volume CXV (115, 1995), Number 5 (May), pp. 258-59 we have this obituary by Bernard Cafferty:
“Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry KCVO CB OBE (20 ix 1906 – 25 iii 1995) was the oldest of the British chess masters who came to prominence in the 1930s, He was always thought of in conjunction with his great friends Hugh Alexander and Harry Golombek who both predeceased him. The length of Stuart’s career is amazing – he was inaugural British Boy Champion in 1923 and was still playing for Kent first team in the Counties Championship of recent years, thus spanning a period of seven decades! Botvinnik spoke of him to me on my 1994 visit to Moscow.
Yet Stuart, who never gained the IM title, was always the true amateur and genuine English gentleman, whose sense of duty and tradition was very great. It speaks volumes of him that he agonised over whether he should attend the Times Kasparov-Short match of 1993, in a private capacity. He would have liked to watch the play, but as a former British Chess Federation President, 1970-73, he felt it was his duty not to lend any extra recognition to the contest other than that assigned it by the BCF.
Before the war, after graduating from Cambridge in Classics, he took some fine scalps including those of Tartakower and Mieses and should have beaten Capablanca at Margate 1939.
He worked, rather unhappily, in a stockbroking firm up to 1938 and it is in that capacity that his name appears on the official document that set-up the British Chess Magazine as a limited company in 1937.
During the war he played his part in the Bletchley Park code-breaking undertaking along with Alexander and Golombek, and after the war went into the Civil Service where he had a distinguished career at the Treasury. Then his career was extended as he spent his final working years in the patronage department that sifted recommendations for the honours list.
I recall asking him in 1981 if there was any chance that Brian Reilly could qualify for an award. Stuart’s diplomatic answer was to the effect that he was now retired but would drop a word in the right quarter.
Stuart represented England at the Olympiads or 1936, 1939, 1952 and 1956. At the last of these he played particularly well on fourth board. He was conscious that his old friend Hugh Alexander could not take part in Moscow because of the sensitive nature of his work in the Intelligence Service.
In playing style Milner-Barry, a tall gaunt figure, delighted in an open tactical fight.
He was The Times correspondent 1938-45, resigning the post to let Harry Golombek take over. His best result after the war, apart from the 1956 Moscow Olympiad, was probably his second place in the British Championships of 1953 at Hastings. The abiding impression of his opponents over the years must have been that here was a player who greatly enjoyed the game, win, lose or draw.
Certainly, that was my idea of him in the tussles we had from the British Championship of 1957 up to county matches in the 1980s.
We shall not see his like again. The England that formed his character is no longer with us.”
Sir Stuart as a student was taught by his lecturer friend Gordon Welchman, later 1940 his Head of Hut. They were firm friends, a band of brothers, as per the rest of the chess players and mathematicians from the Interwar years at Cambridge University.
His studies were obviously well aligned to be a stockbroker in the City, plus the tedious details of Blotters and Order Management registration.
Obvious exceptions to this University circle was Dr Jacob Bronowski who was given the suspected 5th columnist treatment by authorities in Hull. Obviously, he would have been excellent.
Exception also according to John Hevriel was if you were also from Sidney Sussex, like Staff Sgt. then an RSM Asa Briggs, who was more Contract Bridge with this all friends crossword addicts team. Asa Briggs felt that Sir Stuart was initially badly rewarded leaving Hut 6 in 1945 for HM Treasury.
Sir Stuart was a noted top cribster, his crosswords, German and thinking from how the Nazi operator would think from his side of the board, obviously helped with Bombe cribs. He always played down his role and abilities in a diplomatic way. He was the facilitator and mentor to many, especially back to Gordon Welchman in his troubled times from 1974 onwards. Sir Stuart was not happy about the proposed book of the Hut 6 Story.
He was the bureaucrat who cared for the welfare of his staff, especially on tedious protract tasks which was the norm. He was into ethics, Quadrivium, logic and rhetoric, philosophy and his knowledge of German poets and Great German thinkers would have been invaluable in solving the Enigma puzzle and how might his opposite number blunder and be sloppy in procedures.
Though never at home in close(d) positions, he was an outstanding strategist in the open game and it is significant that his most important contribution to opening theory was the Milner-Barry variation of the Nimzo-Indian Defence which is essentially as attempt to convert a close position into an open one (1.P-Q4, N-KB3; 2.P-QB4, P-K3; 3. N-QB3, B-N5; 4.Q-B2, N-B3).
Hooper & Whyld (1996) note:
“Sometimes called the Zurich or Swiss variation, this is a line in the Nimzo-Indian Defence introduced by Milner-Barry in the Premier Reserves tournament, Hastings 1928-9. This line became more widely known when it was played at Zurich 1934.”
Two famous opening lines are named after him – 4…Nc6 in the Nimzo-Indian (as above), and the gambit in the French Defence: 1.e4 e6;2.d4 d5;3.e5 c5;4.c3 Nc6;5.Nf3 Qb6;6.Bd3 cxd4;7.cxd4 Bd7;8.0-0 Nxd4;
Stuart played this line both in correspondence and over-the-board play. If Black takes the pawn with 10…Qxe5, White gets a fierce attack by 11,Re1 Qd6 (else 12.Nxd5) 12.Nb5.
There is also a sub-variation of the Caro-Kann which is named after Sir Stuart viz:
which is a Blackmar-Diemer style pawn sacrifice.
There is also a Milner-Barry variation in the Falkbeer Counter Gambit to the King’s Gambit thus:
which is an ancient line that he revived at Margate 1937.
and finally, there is a Milner-Barry Variation in the Petroff Defence:
giving a total of five named variations. How many English players have that many?
Stuart developed an interest in problem composition in the 1920s
Further examples may be found on the excellent Meson Database maintained by Brian Stephenson
Stuart was a great supporter of the development of British chess. Nothing would have given him more pleasure than to witness the meteoric advances of English players in the 1970s. Indeed, he wrote the foreword to the English Chess Explosion (Batsford, 1980) by Murray Chandler and Ray Keene:
“It gives me great pleasure to have been asked to write a foreword for this book. Nothing has given me more satisfaction than the flowering of British chess talent that has taken place in the past few years.
Between the wars, though we had some splendid players like H. E. Atkins, Sir George Thomas and F. D. Yates, we were a second rate power at chess: in the great Nottingham tournament of 1936, for example, our quartet brought up the rear, and that was where, with occasional shining exceptions, our representatives in international tournaments tended to find themselves. Similarly, after the war in the 1950’s and 1960’s, in spite of Alexander and Penrose, we seldom achieved a really creditable place in the Olympiads.
Alexander who retired early from the arena because of the exacting demands of his profession, must have had rather a depressing time as non-playing captain.
I myself date the renaissance from the Spring of 1974 when we won a closely contested match against West Germany at Elvetham Hall.
Thereafter we went from strength to strength, with the appearance year by year of highly talented, original and adventurous young men from the Universities – Keene and Hartston, closely followed by Miles, Stean, Nunn, Mestel, Speelman, and a still younger generation of schoolboy prodigies like Nigel Short.
The peak of our performance so far has been the third place (after the USSR and Hungary) last winter in the finals of the European Team Tournament at Skara (compared with our eighth and last place at Moscow in 1977).
How did all this come about in the short space of six years? The Spassky-Fischer match of 1972 was a watershed. Since then, and the first time, it has been possible for able young men from universities to consider chess seriously as a full-time profession, or at least as a career to which they devote the major part of their time and interest, Secondly, the fruits were being reaped of the unobtrusive but devoted spadework in junior training pioneered by Barden, Wade and many others. Lastly, no doubt, sheer good fortune smiled upon us in the simultaneous emergence of a group of brilliant enthusiastic and likeable young men, five of them already grandmasters and others likely to become so before long.
It is sad that Alexander, who did so much to uphold the prestige of British chess in the doldrums, did not survive to witness the transformation. I would like to wish the BCF President, David Anderton, and Alexander’s successor as captain, all possible success for the future.”
An article from Spartacus Educational
Here are his games from chess.com
More on his time at Bletchley Park
The papers of Sir Stuart Milner-Barry
Here is his Wikipedia entry
According to Edward Winter in Chess Notes PSMB lived at these addresses :
Happy Birthday GM Harold James Plaskett born on this day (March 18th) in 1960
Here is his Wikipedia entry
Here are his games
Jim obtained his FM norm in 1980 according to Gino de Felice.
From Chessgames.com :
“Harold James (Jim) Plaskett was born in Dkeliha, Cyprus. He was awarded the IM title in 1981 and became a GM in 1985. Plaskett’s tournament results include first place at Plovdiv 1984 and a tie for second at Hastings 1984-85. He was British champion in 1990.”
James Plaskett almost became a millionaire
BCN remembers Reginald Bonham (known as “Bon”) who passed away, this day, March 16th in 1984 in Worcester, Worcestershire.
In the 1970 New Years Honours, Civil Division he was awarded the MBE for “Services to the blind”. Interestingly, in 1992 his sister Mary also received an MBE for “Services to the blind” This is surely an unusual happening.
Reginald Walter Bonham was born on Wednesday, January 31st 1906 : the same day as the Ecuador–Colombia earthquake which measured 8.8 on the Richter Scale.
He was born in St. Neots, Huntingdonshire, Cambridgeshire.
In the 1911 census aged 5 he lived in the High Street, St. Neots with William R Bonham (father, master butcher, aged 45), Edith Mary Ann Bonham (mother, 38), Howard William Bonham (6), Maurice George Bonham (3) and Ernest Charles Bonham (1). The family had a servant / domestic duties assistant called Elise Annie Goss aged 18. The census did not record any disability for Reginald.
Reg, like others in his family, suffered from deficient eyesight and was therefore unable to attend a “mainstream” school.
From 1922 – 1925 he attended the Royal Worcester College for the Blind (originally Worcester College for the Blind Sons of Gentlemen) in Whittington Road, Worcester, WR5 2JX. The Headmaster (GC Brown) encouraged his chess and rowing talents and in 1926 he was sent up to St. Catherine’s College, Oxford to read mathematics.
Reginald was a highly competant rower, competing for his college and reaching the trial stage for the Oxford Varsity crew.
In 1934 Reg founded the Braille Chess Magazine.
In the 1939 census he was recorded as living at 4, St. Catherine’s Hill, Worcester, WR5 with his wife, Josephine Bonham (born 24th September 1904). Reginald was listed as being a Mathematics tutor at the Royal Worcester College for the Blind (originally Worcester College for the Blind Sons of Gentlemen) in Whittington Road, Worcester, WR5 2JX. The college is now named New College Worcester. Their home was around a mile from the College. Josephine was listed as carrying out “unpaid domestic duties”.
He taught a combination of Braille and mathematics and was an amateur thespian and keen bridge player.
Interestingly RWB in 1939 was an ARP (Air Raid Precautions) Warden and a St. John Ambulance volunteer for the College.
He was Worcester champion twenty times and four times Midlands champion winning the Birmingham Post Cup twice.
On June 6th 1947 Bonham played in Birmingham in a match between Great Britain and Czechoslovakia playing Ladislav Alster and won this attractive game :
In 1951 he founded the International Braille Chess Association (IBCA) and continued as its President for 23 years. The IBCA affiliated to FIDE in 1964. see http://www.schachkomet.de/ibcachp4.htm for historical detail.
He was Blind World Champion in 1958 and Correspondence Blind World Champion in 1957, 1959, 1961, 1964 (jointly) and 1966.
He was active in postal play, taking part in international events in the decade after the war when few British players ventured “into Europe”. A note in the 1972 BCM (page 216) records the award of the title Correspondence GM of the Blind by the International Braille Chess Association, so his omission from the recent book British Chess seems rather unfortunate.
Among the titles won by Reginald Bonham were British Correspondence Championship, shared in 1947 with J. Cairncross and shared in 1951 with E. Brown) and Midland Champion (1947 and 1950).
Tim Harding kindly adds :
“He had earlier been runner-up in the BCF’s 1938 CC Championship and, most importantly, he won the 1942/43 Championship outright with 9/10, a point and a half ahead of David Hooper. (By then the BCF and BCCA championships had been merged into one event.)
The crosstable is on page 254 of my book Correspondence Chess in Britain and Ireland 1824-1987.”
One of his students was broadcaster Peter White MBE who described Bon in his autobiography See it My Way
From British Chess Magazine, Volume XCII (92, 1972) Number 6 (June), page 216 we have this item in News in Brief :
“At the closing ceremony of the 4th Chess Olympiad for the Blind at Pula, Yugoslavia (April 6-18) the International Braille Chess Association awarded the title of Correspondence Grandmaster of the Blind to R.W. Bonham of Worcester, for having won the Postal Championship more than three times.”
From British Chess Magazine, Volume CIV (104, 1984) Number 5 (May), page 194 we have this obituary :
“We regret to announce the death in March of two early winners of the grandmaster title (the other was Comins Mansfield MBE).
R.W.Bonham (31 i 1906 – 16 iii 1984) died at Worcester, where he had long served as a Master at the Royal Worcester College for the Blind. In the 1950s he took part in the British Championship with success. Many older players will remember him fingering his special board before announcing his move and checking his clock with its markers outside the glass face.
He was also (with Wormald) joint author of those fine little books Chess Questions Answered and More Chess Questions Answered.”
Sadly, RWB did not merit articles in Sunnucks or Golombek’s Encyclopedias or Hooper’s and Whyld’s Oxford Companion or, as mentioned previously, British Chess.
More information here.
The Braille Chess Association used to have an entry in its Hall of Fame.
Happy Birthday IM Michael John Basman (16-iii-1946)
Mike attended The University of Leeds as an undergraduate.
Here is Mike’s wikipedia entry
Here are his games
An interesting article from chess.com
Confessions of a Crooked Chess Master – Part 1 from Kingpin
From Chessgames.com :
“Michael John Basman was born in St Pancras, London, England. He was awarded the IM title in 1980 and having dual nationality won the Erevan Championship whilst living there in the early 1970s. He was also a pioneer in the production of audio tapes for chess.
He is noted for his use of unorthodox flank openings, such as 1.g4, 1.h3, 1.e4 g5, etc. He expanded on the work of Henri Grob with his book on the topic of 1.g4, The Killer Grob.
He created the UK Chess Challenge, a tournament for juniors of all standards and ages progressing over four stages.(1)”
MJB won the ECF President’s Award in 2013.
Mike recently received a “bursary” from FIDE as a tribute towards FIDEs more senior players.
BCN remembers Gerald Abrahams who passed away in Liverpool on Saturday, March 15th 1980. He was buried in the Allerton Cemetery in the Jewish Springwood plot.
Gerald Abrahams was born in Liverpool on Monday, April 15th 1907. On this day the Triangle Fraternity was formed at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.
His parents were Harry (b. 10th September 1880) and Leah (b. 12th March 1884) Abrahams (née Rabinowitz) who married in West Derby in the third quarter of 1903.
Gerald learnt chess at the age of ten during the first world war. He obtained an Open Scholarship to Wadham College, Oxford in 1925 reading PPE and earning himself an MA in Law in 1928. He became a practising barrister at Law.
From the 1939 register we learnt that Harry was a Drapery manufacturer and Leah carried out “unpaid domestic duties”. Gerald was not an only child: the first born was Winnie (b. 22nd November 1903) who was a Secretary and Clerk Typist and factory assistant. Elsie Abrahams (b. 14th April 1905) helped her mother with “unpaid domestic duties”. Blanche was Gerald’s older sister and she was “General Assistant In Fathers Business Drapery Manufacturer”. Gerald is listed (aged 32) as a Barrister at Law and author. The family resided at 51 Prince Alfred Road, Liverpool, Lancashire (now L15 6TQ) and their original property has been since replaced.
We learn from “Philanthropy, Consensus, and broiges: managing a Jewish Community A history of the Southport Jewish Community
by John Cowell” of an incident in January 1942 that was to cause ripples in the community. The headline was
POLICE RAID DISTURBS CLUB CARD PLAYERS
The full list of people present seems to have been largely or entirely Jewish in religion or ethnicity: it included a famous chess-playing barrister from Liverpool, Gerald Abrahams, representing himself, who had taken a First in P.P.E. at Oxford, and later married Elsie Krengel, who had also been present, and with Leslie Black representing the rest of the defendants, apart from the hosts and Captain Lionel Husdan, who sent a letter to the court.
The full list of those present, charged with “resorting and playing in a common gaming house,” and bound over was as follows:- Mott Alexander, Fannie Finn, Maxwell Glassman, Kate Lippa, Myer Lister, Gertrude Mannheim, Joseph Mannheim, Rita Mannheim, Simon Mannheim, Harry Peters, Sadie Peters, Lily Leah Ross, Harry Sapiro, Benjamin Stone. Those charged with “resorting in a common gaming house” and bound over, were:- Gerald Abrahams, Joseph Appleton Bach, Samuel Myer Barnett, Herbert Solomon Isaacson, Elsie Krengel, Manuel Mannheim, Louis Michaelson, Abraham Ross, Bernard and Elsie Ross.
“Gerald Abrahams, the barrister charged, said he was interested to protect his reputation from being stigmatised by a conviction, and asked Sergeant Laycock about alcohol: the latter replied that none was being consumed. He submitted that the club was not a gaming house, and that draw poker had not been proved other than as a game of skill. Charges were dismissed against Henry, Eva and Marjorie Black, Myer Waldman, and Captain Lionel Husdan, of Ryde, Isle of Wight, all of whom had said that they were merely taking refreshments in the club, and had not played. David Platt said that he had not the slightest idea that they were breaking the law, and Mrs Platt said that it had not been a paying venture.”
The Complete Chess Addict (Faber& Faber, 1987), Fox & James notes: that Gerald Abrahams as authority on bridge cast doubt on assertions that Emanuel Lasker “was good enough to represent Germany”
Gerald’s comparisons of chess and bridge are discussed by Edward Winter in Chess Facts and Fables (McFarland, 2005) page 130 in GAs 1962 book Brains in Bridge:
Gerald eventually married Elsie Krengel (born 15th January 1909) in the fourth quarter of 1971 in Liverpool at the age of 64. Elsie had lived in the Southport area for most of her life and her family was associated with the manufacture of handbags. They had known each other for many years (at least since 1942 as mentioned previously).
Leonard Barden modestly recounts :
“At the end of Nottingham 1954 Gerald claimed that Alan Phillips had accepted his draw offer so tieing Gerald for the British championship with some rabbit whose name escapes me. When Phillips strongly denied having accepted the draw, Gerald collapsed on the floor and had to be aided by his old enemy Dr. Fazekas.”
“G. Abrahams was born in Liverpool in 1907. He learned chess at the age of ten, and showed an early aptitude for tactical complications. He has played with varying success, his best performances being third and fourth with Rossolimo, behind Klein and Najdorf, but head of List at Margate, 1938, and fourth, fifth and sixth with Sir George A. Thomas and König in London, 1946. He has made two valiant bids for the British Championship.
A graduate of Oxford, he is a barrister by profession and has written several books, including some fiction. He has solidified his chess without allowing it to become dry. Indeed, most of his games sparkle with interesting complications.”
Harry Golombek OBE wrote (in The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977)):
“Brilliant British amateur who in the 1930s was playing master-chess. In that period he was the most dangerous attacking player in England.
He was in the prize-list (i.e. in the first four) in the British championship on three occasions 1933, 1946 and 1954. His best international performance was in the Major Open at Nottingham in 1936 where he came =3rd with Opocensky. Another fine result was his score of 1.5-0.5 against the Soviet Grandmaster Ragozin, in the 1946 Anglo-Soviet radio match.
He is the inventor of the Abrahams variation in the Semi-Slav Defence to the Queen’s Gambit: 1.P-Q4, P-Q4;2.P-QB4, P-QB3;3.N-QB3, P-K3;4.N-B3, PXP;5.P-QR4, B-N4;6.P-K3,P-QN4;7.B-Q2, P-QR4; 8.PxP, BxN;9.BxB,PxP;10.P-QN3,B-N2;
This is sometimes known as the Noteboom variation after the Dutch master who played it in the 1930s, but Abrahams was playing it in 1925 long before Noteboom.
He is a witty and prolific writer on many subjects: on law (he is a barrister by profession), philosophy, and chess; he also writes fiction. His main chess works are: The Chess Mind, London 1951 and 1960
and here is a later cover:
and Not Only Chess, London 1974.
Edward Winter in Kings, Commoners and Knaves, cites the subtitle of the above book in his page 235 list of chessy words: “A selection of Chessays”.
From Not Only Chess we learn that GAs favourite game was played in 1930 against Edmund Spencer of Liverpool. “Edmund Spencer was a man who is remembered with affection by all players who ever met him, and who is remarkable in that his strength developed in what should have been hid middle life. When he died, lamentably early, in the 1930s, at about 53 he was at his best, and of recognised master status.
This game was played in 1930.”
and for an alternative view of the same game:
GA is amongst a rare breed of game annotators claiming the title of An Immortal for one of his own games. Edward Winter devotes a couple of column inches discussing exactly which year the game was played between 1929 and 1936. Here is the game:
For more of GAs excellent games see the superb article further on by Steve Cunliffe. Also, Not Only Chess in Chapter 28 (“A Score of my Scores”) contains a veritable feast of entertaining games of GAs).
Gerald famously fell out with Anne Sunnucks when he discovered she had omitted him from her 1970 Encyclopaedia of Chess. Despite this the 1976 edition was also devoid of a mention.
From The Oxford Companion to Chess (OUP, 1984 & 1996), Hooper & Whyld:
“The English player Gerald Abrahams (1907-80) introduced the move when playing against Dr. Holmes in the Lancastrian County Championship in 1925 (ed: January 31st in fact) . Abrahams played the variation against his countryman William Winter (1898-1955) in 1929 and in the same year Winter played it against Noteboom, after whom it is sometimes named. (Dr, Holmes was the favourite pupil of Amos Burn and a leading ophthalmologist).
The precursor, known from a 16th-century manuscript, was published by Salvio in 1604:
1.d4 d5;2.c4 dxc4;3.e4 b5;4.a4 c6;5.axb5 cxb5;6.b3 b4;7.bxc4 a5; 8.Bf4 Nd7;9.Nf3
Writing in 1617, Carrera made his only criticism of Salvio’s analysis in this variation. He suggested 8…Bd7 instead of 8…Nd7, or 9.Qa4 instead of 9.Nf3. Salvio nursed his injured pride for seventeen years and then devoted a chapter of his book to a bitter attack on Carrera. The argument was pointless: all these variations give White a won game.”
GA famously wrote :
Chess is a good mistress, but a bad master
The tactician knows what to do when there is something to do; whereas the strategian knows what to do when there is nothing to do.
In chess there is a world of intellectual values
Good positions don’t win games, good moves do
Why some persons are good at chess, and others bad at it, is more mysterious than anything on chess board.
In the recently (February 25th, 2020) published “Attacking with g2 – g4” by GM Dmitry Kryakvin writes about Abrahams as follows :
“It is believed that the extravagant 5.g2-g4 was first applied at a high level, namely in the British Championship by Gerald Abrahams. Abrahams was a truly versatile person – a composer, lawyer, historian, philosopher, politician (for 40 years a member of the Liberal Party) and the author of several books. Of his legal work, the most famous is the investigation into the murder of Julia Wallace in 1931 in Liverpool, where her husband was the main suspect. As an alibi, William Herbert Wallace claimed he was at a chess club. Dozens of books and films have been devote to the murder of Mrs. Wallace – indeed, this is a script worthy of Arthur Conan Doyle or Agatha Christie!
Abrahams played various card games with great pleasure and success, but the main passion of the Liverpool resident was chess. Abrahams achieved his greatest success in the championships of Great Britain in 1933 and 1946, when he won bronze medals. The peak of his career was undoubtedly his participation in the USSR-Great Britain radio match (1946) where on the 10th board Abrahams beat Botvinnik’s second and assistant grandmaster Viacheslav Ragozin with a score of 1.5-0.5
Gerald Abrahams had a taste of studying opening theory, and made a distinct contribution to the development of the Noteboom Variation, which is often known as the Abrahams-Noteboom.
Ten years after he introduced the move 5.g2-g4 to the English public (1953), the famous grandmaster Lajos Portisch brought it into the international arena.”
Gerald was also a keen studies composer. Here are some examples of his work:
Gerald Abrahams, 1923
Solution: 1. Ra3! Ra3 […a1=q;2.Ra1 Ba1;3.d7 Kf7;4.d8=q];2.e8=q a1=q;3.Qd7
Gerald Abrahams, 1924
Here is an article about GA and a blindfold exhibition
Gerald Abrahams contributed to opening theory in the Queen’s Gambit Declined / Semi-Slav Defence with his creation of the Abrahams-Noteboom Defence as discussed in the following video :
Here is a nine page article (Gerald Abrahams – Talent without Discipline) written by Steve Cunliffe that appeared in British Chess Magazine, Volume CVIII (1988), Number 7 (July), pp. 292-300:
Here is his Wikipedia entry
See his games at Chessgames.com
Best wishes to GM Dr. Jonathan Mestel on his birthday
A(ndrew) Jonathan Mestel was born in Cambridge on Wednesday, March 13th 1957. On this day the Presidential Palace in Havana was attacked with the object of killing Fulgencio Batista, the incumbent President.
Jonathan’s parents were Leon and Sylvia Louise Mestel (née Cole) who were married in 1951. Leon was a world-class astronomer and astrophysicist whose PhD supervisor was Fred Hoyle. Jonathan has a brother Ben and sisters Rosie and Leo.
Living in Cambridge he attended Newnham Croft Primary School and at the age six was taught chess by his father Leon. By the age of seven Jonathan was matching his father and not long afterwards he was beating him consistently. East Cheshire Chess Club was his first club and therefore the opportunity to play adults other than his father.
The Mestel family moved to Manchester in around 1967 and Jonathan attended Manchester Grammar School along with chess players Emmanuel Rayner and Ian Watson. Famously he grew a substantial beard and moustache and apparently “they (MGS) disapproved of it” resulting in a ban until the beard was removed. Jonathan duly obliged and returned to school but was sent home once more since he had retained the moustache: “They did not mention the moustache!” we are told. A further ban was resolved when the offending item was also removed.
Jonathan obtained a PhD in mathematics from Trinity College, Cambridge and the associated thesis was entitled “Magnetic Levitation of Liquid Metals”.
Jonathan is Professor of Applied Mathematics at Imperial College London. As well as teaching, his research interests include magnetohydrodynamics and biological fluid dynamics.
In the third quarter of 1982 Jonathan married Anna O’Donovan in Cambridge and they soon settled in the central Cambridge area where they remain to this day. They have a son, David.
Jonathan has represented England at bridge joining a group of English players such as Peter Lee and John Cox who also represented their country at bridge. Paul Littlewood, Paul Lamford and Natasha Regan are amongst many others who have combined bridge and chess to a high level . Here is Jonathan’s English Bridge Union page. He remains highly ranked in the bridge world to this day.
I should mention that all my hair fell out for no obvious nor serious reason – neither my bidding nor partner’s dummies are responsible. Few would argue with that last statement.
His earliest recorded appearance in chess databases is from the Rhyl based British Under-14 championship in 1969 where he beat DA Winter. The eventual winner of that event was Jonathan Speelman. Jonathan M. recounts that he shared 3rd place with two others and that the prize allotted to the three of them was a whopping £2 10s to be divided equally. This amounted to 16s 8p each. Since the entry fee was 15s it meant he had cleared a notable profit of 1s and 8 pence!
The following year all British Championships competitors were sent to Coventry and Jonathan and Jonathan shared the Under-16 title whilst Bob Wade won the main event with 8/11.
1971 was no less successful and Jonathan travelled to the location of England’s Eiffel Tower (Blackpool) returning home with the British Under-18 title. Jonathan mentioned that he should have entered the Under-21 event instead.
Brighton 1972 was Jonathan’s first appearance in the “main event” having broken the record for the youngest qualifier. This record was later broken by Richard Webb and then by Nigel Short. His final score was a creditable 6.5/11 giving him =5th overall aged 15 years and seven months. In 1972 this was an incredible achievement. Regrettably, these days achievements such as this appear to pass unreported.
At Eastbourne 1973 he was =7th with possibly the best hair cut of anyone:
1974 was a breakthrough year internationally as Jonathan won the (unofficial) World Cadet Championship in Pont Sainte Maxence in southern France. The following year IM David Goodman followed up by winning the same title.
Interestingly travel arrangements for the above event were not so smooth as was the crossing of the English Channel. The hovercraft broke down; Jonathan arrived much later than anticipated and unable to find civilised accommodation leading to an Orwellian style “Down and Out in Paris” sleeping arrangement in a Paris gutter.
At Clacton 1974 Jonathan was one of seven who finished on 7/11, the title going to George Botterill after an all-play-all play-off in Wales.
1975 started well with a bronze medal in Tjentiste (former Yugoslavia now Bosnia Herzegovina) for the World Junior Championship (happening at the same as the British in Morecambe preventing a 1975 British Championship appearance).
1976 brought further success at Portland School, Edgbaston with a first place scoring 8/10 and an IM norm in the Birmingham International tournament:
and here is a sparkling game from the 1976 Robert Silk Fellowship Tournament:
Jonathan followed this at the Portsmouth 1976 British Championships with a splendid outright first place with 9.5/11 , the highest score since Malik Mir Sultan Khan in 1933. Also, nine consecutive wins from the starting gun was most definitely a record!
Leonard Barden assessed Mestel’s performance this in the Guardian:
“Jonathan Mestel’s reaction at Portsmouth to become British Champion at age 19, the youngest ever, and with a record series of nine wins, was characteristically low-key. He declined an interview with BBC’s World at One in favour of a continued sojourn on the beach, declined an invitation to the Chorley Congress (where the inducements for him to play were rumoured to include a chauffeured Rolls-Royce from station to town hall, and where the points might well have enabled him to overhaul the leader in the £1,000 Cutty Sark Grand Prix) in favour of a holiday in France, and even ‘declined’ the chance of a record total in the final round when he gifted a pawn in the opening to Whiteley in simple fashion”
Barden went on to praise Mestel as, along with Miles, one of the two young players ‘with genuine promise of ultimately reaching the world super-class.’
1977 led to the International Master title and in 1982 the Grandmaster title. In reality, the GM title should have been awarded two years earlier from Esberg 1979 but more on this FIDE blunder later.
In the 1979 Dataday Chess Diary Harry Golombek OBE wrote this:
“I wrote in last years diary that I doubted whether Jonathan would ever change his variability, adding ‘Probably there will always recur this rise to the heights and fall to lower levels.’
To some extent this is still true. But his play in 1977 and 1978 has shown a greater firmness of purpose and revealed more powers of endurance and stamina than I had realised he possessed earlier on. Thus, for instance, in the last round of the European Team Championship finals at Moscow in 1977, playing the black pieces against the West German master Kestler, he was the last to finish and he defeated his opponent after nearly 12 hours play and some 105 moves.
He is one of our players who is nearing the grandmaster title, both in play and, as it were, in figures. At the Lord John Cup Tournament in London, September 1977, he obtained the g.m. norm by coming equal 2nd with Quinteros and Stean below Hort. He did this with a score of 6 when 5.5 would have been sufficient for the norm.
To my mind he is the ideal tournament competitor since he can always be relied upon to delight the onlooker with some fresh and original piece of chess. It is this talent which makes me think there is practically no limit to the heights he may attain as a player.
In the following game, played at the European Team Championships at Moscow 1977, Mestel gives signs of a new and mature sureness of purpose, whilst retaining all his incisive and ambitious qualities.
In 1978 Jonathan was part of the English team of Mestel, Speelman Taulbut, Goodman and Jonathan Kinlay that travelled to Mexico and won the World Under-26 Student Team Championships. This was a huge achievement as beating the USSR in a chess team event simply did not happen. It is not clear even that the Russian team were all bona fide students: some looking decidedly unstudent like!
The splendid Aztec calendar trophy you can see Jonathan clutching above was taken back to England and generously donated to Bob Wade who, in turn, wrote in his will that it should be returned to Jonathan. To this day this wonderful trophy proudly lives with Jonathan and Anna in their house in Cambridge.
From British Chess (Pergamon Press, 1983), Botterill, Levy, Rice and Richardson we have this appreciation by George Botterill:
“The tournament at Esbjerg in 1979 was a bitter-sweet experience for Mestel. He won many fine games on the way to sharing first place with the hefty score of 9.5 out of 13.
But the real prize for which he was competing was the final norm that would have completed his qualification for the title of grandmaster. In the last round a draw would have been sufficient, but it was not day for peaceful negotiation since his adversary was also his nearest rival, Vadasz, who needed to win in order to tie for first place.
The nervous strain of having two aims in sight, first place and the coveted norm, told on Mestel who played rather beneath himself to lose. It was some consolation that the following victory over Finland’s leading player was hailed as the best game of the tournament.”
If the previous game gives you the idea that Mestel is especially skilled in the handling of an attacking phalanx of pawns, just take a look at this contribution to England’s bronze-medal result in the 1980 European Team Championship.
It is nice to be able to conclude that since the above was written Mestel’s chess status has changed and the story of his near miss at Esbjerg in 1979 turns out to have a happy ending. His GM title was ratified by the FIDE Congress at Lucerne 1982*.”
*It transpired that the initial norm calculation in 1979 was incorrect and it should have been awarded after all. Better late than never!
Jonathan recounts that on St. George’s Day (April 23rd) 1982 he had an important interview in the morning in Cambridge which went very well followed by round eight of the Phillips and Drew Masters at the GLC in London against Lajos Portisch. Here is that game:
So quite a good day all in all!
From The Oxford Companion to Chess (OUP, second edition, 1996) by Hooper & Whyld:
“English player, British Champion 1976, 1983 and 1988, World Under-18 Champion 1974, International] Grandmaster (1982). In the 1976 British Championship he made a record by winning 9 successive games. Mestel’s opportunities for master play are infrequent – he is a lecturer at a University; he scored perhaps his best at London 1977 when he was second ( +4=4—1) equal with Quinteros and Stean after Hort, and he has played several times in the English Olympiad team since 1976. Mestel also an outstanding solver of chess problems, has represented his country in world team solving championships, and was awarded the title of International Solving Master in 1986”
From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977), Harry Golombek wrote :
“British Master and British Champion 1976, who was born in Cambridge and packed into the three years 1974-6, in the period of time when he grew from seventeen to nineteen, more chess and more success than most people achieve in a long lifetime.
He first made his presence felt in the international field when he won the cadet championship at Pont Sainte–Maxene in France in 1974. This was an unofficial world under-18 championship and he confirmed this good impression by very nearly winning the British Championship in Clacton in the same year. He figured in a seven-way tie for first place but failed to win the play-off for the title.
The next he gained his first international master norm at the Birmingham international tournament where he finished equal second with Matera (USA) and Miles (England), a point below Matulovic of Yugoslavia whom he beat in their individual game.
He was little disappointing in the World Junior Championship at Tjentiste in Yugoslavia in 1975 in which he came third below the Russian Chekov and the US player Larry Christiansen. It was thought that, talented though he was, Mestel lacked stability and was too variable in his form to achieve the highest honours.
But the next year, 1976, was to show that was quite a false appreciation of his talents and character. First in April he won and international tournament which, if not as strong a the previous Birmingham, was still touch event to win ahead of the Yugoslav Grandmaster Damjanovic.
Then came a most remarkable achievement in the British Championship at Portsmouth where he won his first nine games in succession thereby winning the title and establishing a record for the British Championship with his run of victories.”
Mestel has his own named variation in the Giuoco Piano first played in Mestel-Doyle, Dublin 1975:
According to Wikipedia : “Between 1976 and 1988, he was a frequent member of the English Chess Olympiad squad, winning three team medals (two silver and one bronze). In 1984, he earned an individual gold medal for an outstanding (7/9, 78%) performance on his board. Other notable results for English teams occurred in 1978 at the World Student Olympiad in Mexico and at the 1983 European Team Chess Championship in Plovdiv. Both of these events yielded gold-medal winning performances, the latter being exceptional for the highest percentage score (6/7, 85%) on any board. As a player of league chess, he has been a patron of the 4NCL since its earliest days and represented The Gambit ADs in the 2008/9 season.” Jonathan revealed that his most pleasing OTB performance ever was that of Plovdiv.
Jonathan has maintained a long time interest in problems and studies, both solving them and composing them. In 1986 he was awarded the International Master title for solving and in 1997 the International Grandmaster title for solving and in the same year he won the World Chess Solving Championship.
He has represented England in the World Team Solving Championships on many occasions winning in 1986, 1990 (shared with USSR), and then a run of 2005, 2006 and 2007.
He has played many times in the Lloyds Bank and (now) Winton Capital sponsored British Solving Championships (quite often located at Eton College, Berkshire). He has won the individual title firstly in 1982-83 and then a further 17 times not to mention many times as runner-up.
Here are a few examples:
Firstly a prize winning study…
1.p Niekarker Kruujebitter Ty (tt), 2006
[FEN “8/4pP1k/5q1p/4p3/ppQpP3/3K1pp1/2P5/6R1 w – – 0 1”]
White to Play
1.Qe6! [1.Qc8? Qxf7] 1…Qxe6 2.f8Q [2.f8N+? Kh8! (2…Kg8? 3.Nxe6 g2 4.Nxd4 exd4 5.Kxd4) 3.Nxe6 g2] 2…f2 [2…Qa6+ 3.Kd2 Qe2+ 4.Kc1 Qe3+ 5.Kb2] 3.Rxg3 f1Q+ [3…Qa6+ 4.Kd2 f1N+ 5.Kc1 Nxg3 6.Qf7+] 4.Qxf1 Qa6+ 5.c4! bxc3+ [5…dxc3+ 6.Ke3! (6.Kc2? b3+!) 6…Qxf1 7.Rg7+ Kh8 8.Rg8+ Kh7 9.Rg7+ Kxg7] 6.Kc2 Qxf1 7.Rg7+ Kh8 8.Rg8+ Kh7 9.Rg7+ Kxg7 ½-½
and another study:
and now a problem:
British Chess Magazine, 2007
Here is his staff page from Imperial College, London
and his personal page may be found here
A.J.Mestel. Not Your Ordinary Grandmaster. by Neil Blackburn (aka Simaginfan).
Here is his Wikipedia entry