Category Archives: 2022

Minor Pieces 32: James D’Arcy

It’s time to continue the story of Richmond Chess Club through the 1890s.

The club, as we’ve seen, was young and ambitious, and decided to enter the Beaumont Cup, run by the Surrey County Chess Association.

The Surrey League (except that it never seems to be called that) started in the 1883-84 season. It seems like only a few matches were played, probably on a knock-out basis, and taking place at central London venues rather than club venues.

By the 1895-96 season there was a demand for a second competition for less strong clubs, and a trophy named the Beaumont Cup was presented by the county President, Captain Alex Beaumont. The second division of the Surrey League is still, a century and a quarter later, the Beaumont Cup.

Some more information:

Beaumont, Alexander ‘Alex’ Spink 1843-4 Sep 1913 England, Manchester Deansgate – Kent, Beckenham amateur musician, 1872 captain of the 23rd Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 21 Feb 1874 in Pembroke he was tried and acquitted for attempt to commit sodomy, 20 Sep 1910 made Freeman of the City of London in the presence of musicians, at time of death residing at Crossland, 28 Southend Road in Beckenham; son of Colonel Richard Henry John Beaumont; 24 Jan 1872 at Christ Church in London Paddington he married the widow Caroline Savage (Marlborough 1826-13 Apr 1907 Croydon), daughter of baronet Sir Erasmus Griffies-Williams. (Source: http://composers-classical-music.com/b/BeaumontAlexanderSpink.htm)

Here’s what happened in the second year of the Beaumont Cup’s existence.

London Evening Standard 07 June 1897

Well played, Richmond! Sadly I don’t at present have a record of the names of the players in this historic match.

The club also continued to play friendly matches. As we’ve already seen, they played regular home and away matches against Windsor and, in this period, narrow defeats against both Thames Valley (formerly Twickenham) and West London were recorded.

And then, in April 1900, Richmond Chess Club hit the headlines across the country for a tragic reason. Here are a couple of examples.

Globe 09 April 1900
Morning Post 09 April 1900

Who was the unfortunate (or perhaps fortunate to have died suddenly and painlessly doing something he enjoyed) James D’Arcy? It appears he was just a social player as I haven’t yet been able to find any information about him competing in matches or solving problems. Sub-postmaster sounds like a relatively humble occupation (unlike, for instance, club president George Oliver Richards, who was a dentist), but can we discover more about him?

His name is variously spelt D’Arcy, Darcy and Darcey in records, and most of the family trees he’s on give incorrect parentage, all copied from each other.

James’s birth was registered in the first quarter of 1840 in Boston, Lincolnshire: his parents, it seems, were John Darcey a farmer from the village of Wigtoft, between Boston and Spalding, and Elizabeth Brackenbury, although the 1841 census gives her name as Jane.

Sadly James senior died in 1847 and Elizabeth married Thomas Millhouse, a cottager (no, not THAT sort of cottager: just someone who owned a cottage and a small amount of land). By 1851 Thomas and Elizabeth had started their own family as well as bringing up James’s three younger siblings, while James himself was living in the nearby village of Swineshead with his grandparents James, an innkeeper, and Eleanor Brackenbury.

I haven’t yet been able to find him in the 1861 census but at some point he moved to London where, in 1866, he married Jemima Bond in Greenwich. The 1871 census located them in Hackney with their first child, a son named Robert. James had found employment as a solicitor’s clerk. He must have been doing pretty well for himself as the family residence was a fairly large 4 storey house. They were able to afford a servant, although having three boarders (all young men with clerical jobs) would have helped financially.

By 1881 they’d moved down the road to Islington, now with four children (Robert had been joined by Annie, Kate and Arthur), a servant, and a visitor, perhaps boarding there, David Reid, who was an East India Merchant born in New Brunswick. James’s job was now a Law Stationer.

Ten years on, and they’d moved to a different address in North London, not all that far from Hampstead Heath, and young Alfred had joined the family. James was still a Law Stationer, David Reid was still boarding there, and they still employed a servant. He might have come from a fairly modest family background in a small Lincolnshire village, but he’d prospered in London: something quite typical for the times, I think.

At some point in the 1890s, then, James and his family moved to 9 Mortlake Road, Kew and changed his job to that of a sub-postmaster. 9 Mortlake Road was, and still is, a large and impressive house near Kew Green: being a sub-postmaster must have paid well. The 1901 census records Jemima and all 5 of her surviving children (they had lost three children in infancy), along with Kate’s husband Maurice White and a servant. Maurice had been at Harrow with Winston Churchill, became a journalist and publisher, and later a picture dealer, being declared bankrupt on at least two occasions.

By 1911 Jemima had moved round the corner to Ennerdale Road, very convenient for Kew Gardens. The only one of her children at home was Annie, whose husband, Aubrey O’Brien was on leave from his job: he was a Major in the Indian Army in civil employ in the Punjab Commission as Deputy Commissioner. Their two young sons, Turlough and Edward, were there, along with three servants. Jemima died in Kew three years later, in 1914. All three sons became bank clerks or cashiers, but Alfred joined the Canadian Army, fought in World War 1, dying in hospital in Boulogne of wounds sustained in battle in 1916.

So our social player, then, was, like most of the other players we’ve met at Twickenham and Richmond Chess Clubs in the 1880s and 1890s, a fairly prosperous chap. Perhaps he wasn’t a strong player, but he must have enjoyed his chess and, as a result, died happy. I guess that’s the most important thing.

Sources:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

Other online sources referenced above

 

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110 Instructive Chess Annotations

From the back cover:

Senior International Master Mike Read competed 115 times for the England and Great Britain teams at correspondence chess, including playing on board one for England in the 13th Olympiad.

In this, his fourth book, he aims to instruct his readers by dissecting 110 games played by local players at all levels of chess. In doing so, he isolates typical mistakes and explains the methods of taking advantage of them.

Philidor wrote that pawns are the soul of chess. In one sense, yes, but in another sense  the soul of chess is the mass of club and tournament players, without whom the chess world wouldn’t function.  Yes, it might be inspirational to look at games played by top grandmasters, but it’s always been my view that club standard players will learn more from games played at their level than from GM games.

Mike Read shares my opinion. Here’s how he starts his introduction.

One of the surest ways for a club player to improve his playing ability is to study annotated games featuring players of similar strength to themselves. The mistakes, and the instructive methods of taking advantage of them, will be familiar to them from similar happenings in their own games. Meanwhile the notes to such moves will educate the aspiring player in both how to avoid typical errors, and also how to take advantage of them when it is his opponent who is unfortunate enough to err.

Mike was a strong junior in the 1970s who graduated to correspondence chess which he played with great success up to the year 2000, playing on top board for England and obtaining the title of Senior International Master. You don’t get to that level without being an excellent analyst.

He continues:

It is reasonable for the reader to enquire as to why my correspondence chess career ended at a time when I was still being reasonably successful. The truth is that, during the 1990s, I suffered three nervous breakdowns. I managed to continue to keep on competing during the first two of these and, in fact, had my most successful chess years during the second of them, even though I was barely capable of coping with even the simplest aspects of day to day life. However my third breakdown, which occurred in the period 1999 to 2000 was too much for me to deal with and I was forced to abruptly retire from the game that I love at the beginning of the new millennium.

I was in an absolutely desperate situation at this time, but chess was to prove to be a major factor in my eventual recovery. A number of local players, recognising the severity of the predicament that I was in, made a great effort to assist me and get me out of the house where I had been languishing alone for several months. I do not feel I would ever have recovered, had it not been for the support of the Norfolk chess community.

And again:

Contained within these pages are 110 games, played by Norfolk players of all strengths from superstars of local chess such as John Emms, Owen Hindle and Robert Bellin down to some of the county’s lower graded (but still very talented as you will see!) enthusiasts. All of the games I have included feature top quality opportunities for the aspiring player to learn a lot, and all also feature some very fine chess!

The book is published through Amazon: Mike Read is selling it as cost price as he has no interest in collecting royalties from its sales.

The games are presented, unusually, in ECO code order, so you get all the Sicilian Defence games, for example, together. The annotations, which were produced without computer assistance, are excellent, scoring highly for both clarity and accuracy as well as instructive value. Many readers will, like me, appreciate the human touch. If you look at the sample pages on Amazon you’ll get some idea of their flavour.

Most of them are tactical, often involving spectacular sacrifices, which will delight anyone (and that probably means all of us) who enjoys combinative play.

This was the first game Mike analysed. He witnessed it taking place and decided to annotate it to thank his friend Grant Turner, who had helped and supported him during his breakdown. (If you click on any move you’ll be able to play through the games in this review on a pop-up board.)

Another of Mike’s friends, Brian Cunningham, was responsible for the production of this book. In this game he demonstrates that the Stonewall Attack can be a potent weapon at lower club level.

At the other end of the spectrum, here’s a game played by Norfolk born GM John Emms.

I know many readers enjoy collections of games played at amateur level, finding them both more entertaining and more instructive than higher level encounters. If you’re one of these you’ll be entranced by this book.

There are also many readers who like to support authors who prefer to self-publish their books. An admirable sentiment, I think, and if you fall into this category, again you certainly won’t be disappointed.

The word that first comes to my mind when considering this book is ‘generous’. Mike Read generously offers this book at cost price. The size is generous, his tributes to his friends who saved his life after his third breakdown, scattered within the introductions to these games, are also generous. The annotations are also generous in every respect. Mike is generous in his comments about the winners’ play, and also, very often, about the losers’ play as well. You might think that a more critical approach might have made the annotations even more instructive, but this would have been out of place given that they were originally written for a local chess magazine.

Anyone rated between, say, 1000 and 2000 will certainly learn a lot from this book, but stronger players will also benefit. And anyone who just enjoys playing through entertaining games will, like me, fall in love with this book. Don’t be put off by the title, which makes it sound rather dull and didactic (didactic, perhaps, but certainly never dull), or the lack of an illustration on the front cover. It’s what’s inside the book that really matters.

At another level, the book is also a wonderful tribute to all Mike Read’s friends within the Norfolk chess community (a few of whom, sadly, are no longer with us), who helped him when he was going through a very difficult time. Many will find Mike’s story inspirational, and that, again, is a powerful reason why you should buy this book.

It’s my view, and I’m sure Mike, even though he was a chess champion himself, would agree, that, ultimately, chess is less about prodigies, champions and grandmasters, but about forging friendships and building communities of like-minded people who enjoy the excitement, beauty and cerebral challenge of chess.

I’d urge all readers of this review to do themselves a favour, and do Mike a favour as well, by buying a copy.  I really enjoyed this book, and I’m sure you will too. The Amazon link is here.

From https://mikereadsim.weebly.com/photos.html

 

 Richard James, Twickenham 11th May 2022

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details:

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09M791556
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Independently published (25 Nov. 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 551 pages
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 979-8466415964
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 12.85 x 3.18 x 19.84 cm

Official web site of Amazon Publishing

110 Instructive Chess Annotations, SIM Mike Read, Independently published (25 Jan. 2020), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1708364748
110 Instructive Chess Annotations, SIM Mike Read, Independently published (25 Jan. 2020), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1708364748
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Minor Pieces 31: Edward Bagehot Schwann

Here’s something you might have seen before: Twickenham Chess Club’s 1896 victory over Metropolitan.

Regular readers will have met several of these players already, but not Twickenham’s Board 6: E B Schwann.

Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News 04 April 1896

Edward Bagehot Schwann was born in Hampstead in 1872, probably towards the end of September. Edward came from a privileged background. His father, Frederick Sigismund Schwann, himself the son of a German born merchant, had been born in Huddersfield, famed in Hampshire for a while before moving to London and working as a Commission Merchant. His mother, Mary Watson Halton Bagehot, was a first cousin of Walter Bagehot, best remembered as the author of The British Constitution.

Source: https://www.schachbund.de/news/genug-des-stumpfsinns-remis-richard-der-fuenfte-kam-aus-altenburg.html

The 1881 census found Frederick and Mary living in West Heath Lodge, Branch Hall Park, Hampstead, with five children, two cousins, a governess and six servants.

Young Edward was educated at Bromsgrove School where he excelled at cricket. A brother, Henry Sigismund, would go on to represent Oxford University at cricket. An uncle, Charles Ernest Schwann, was a prominent Liberal politician, noted for his radical views, and MP for Manchester North between 1886 and 1918.

Edward must have excelled at chess as well as cricket at school, as he first came to the attention of the chess world in 1886 as a problem solver.  Perhaps solving chess problems was popular with the cool kids back in the day.

It wasn’t long before Edward started composing problems himself: direct mates mostly in 2 or 3 moves. Here’s an early example.

Problem 1 #3 Morning Post 16 September 1889

A typical problem by a novice composer of the day, I’d say, but he would soon add more complexity to his compositions. (You’ll find the solutions to the problems at the end of the article.)

In 1890 Edward completed his education at Bromsgrove School, achieving a Higher Certificate in Latin, Elementary and Additional Mathematics, English and History, and, rather than proceeding to Oxford or Cambridge, returned home to his family in London.

By this point they’d moved from Hampstead to Wimbledon, living in Park House, Inner Park Road. The house itself no longer exists, but it was just off the A219 across the road from Putney Heath. The 1891 census records Frederick and Mary along with six of their children, including Edward, described as a Scholar (perhaps he was at London University) and no less than eight servants. They were clearly living in some style.

By the following year, Edward had joined the City of London Chess Club. The first mention of him I can find is from July 1892, where, described as ‘the rising young problem composer’, he won a game in a simul given by the strong amateur Percy Howell.

In January 1893 he had a game from the City of London Club Championship published in the Morning Post, although it must be admitted that White’s opening play was pretty feeble and that his queen sacrifice, while attractive, was not the only way to win. As a problemist, though, he might have had no choice. (You can click on any move in any game in this article and a pop-up window will appear enabling you to play it through.)

By 1893 he was playing in matches for his club: here he is in a match against Oxford University. (I suspect A F Fox is a typo for A M Fox.)

Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News 25 February 1893

In October that year Blackburne visited the City of London Club to play an 8-board blindfold simul: the only winner was ‘a rising talented player and problem composer’ – E B Schwann. (One of the three players who drew was recorded as Dr J K Leeson: this may have been a typo for Dr J R Leeson, who will feature in a future Minor Piece.) By now Edward was playing for the Metropolitan club as well as City of London.

In 1894 he represented the winning team, Surrey, in the final of the inter-county championship against Gloucestershire – but his affiliation is given as S.C.A. (Surrey Chess Association), suggesting he wasn’t, at that point, a member of any Surrey club.

In October 1894 a 50 board match took place between the Metropolitan and City of London clubs. Edward played as a reserve for City of London, finding himself faced with W H Gunston, a player of genuine master strength.

The newspaper report rather unhelpfully reported the match in alphabetical order of the Metropolitan players rather than in board order.

London Evening Standard 22 October 1894

Meanwhile Edward’s problem career was continuing to grow: this problem was a first prize winner.

Problem 2 #3 1st Prize Weekblad Voor Nederland, 1895

He seemed to be present in almost every club or county match going, as well as composing prolifically. He was particularly successful over the board in the 1895-6 season: maybe one of his friends, Arthur Makinson Fox, perhaps, suggested that he might be prepared to make the journey from Wimbledon to Twickenham to join the local club, with the result that you saw at the top of this article.

In 1897 Frederick Richard Gittins published his book The Chess Bouquet. Here’s what he had to say about Edward Bagehot Schwann.

His improved form had come to the notice of the selectors and, in a match against Cambridge University, he found himself on board 2, where he lost to a most interesting opponent, E A Crowley.

Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News 27 February 1897

Yes, this was Edward Alexander, better known as Aleister Crowley, star of The (Even More) Complete Chess Addict. You can read more about his chess career here.

Soon after this match, Edward disappeared from the London chess scene, spending a year in Munich learning more about the German School of chess composition from the experts there, and also visiting Prague, where he played this game.

Problem 3 #3 2nd Prize Brighton Society, 1898

Here’s another prizewinning mate in 3. Was it influenced by his time in Germany?

By the time he returned in early 1898 Twickenham Chess Club had transitioned into Thames Valley Chess Club, and, while rejoining his now Teddington based colleagues he also decided to join the new Richmond Chess Club, which was, as we’ll see in future articles, becoming more ambitious.

Windsor and Eton Express 02 December 1899

Here he is, in late 1899, in one of Richmond’s regular matches against Windsor, where he met another famous opponent who could hardly have been further removed from Crowley: Sir Walter Parratt.

In this game from a county match in January 1900, he preferred 9… g6 to the more popular 9… Qd5 in the famous Max Lange Attack. Today’s engines agree with him, preferring Black after this move.

From the same period, here’s a loss against tinned milk pioneer Arthur James Maas from the Surrey Challenge Cup. The game seemed to feature a lot of rather inconsequential manoeuvring typical of those days of limited positional understanding before Black came out on top.

In September 1900 Edward decided the time had come to take part in a tournament against stronger oppostion. He entered the top section of the Southern Counties Chess Union championship in Bath, but found the event tough going, eventually finishing in 12th place on 3½/14. The great Henry Ernest Atkins was the winner on 12½/14, a point ahead of Herbert Levi Jacobs. Although a decent county standard player, he was no match for those of master strength. Undaunted, he entered the City of London Championship, but was again unsuccessful.

The 1901 census recorded Edward as still living with his parents, three sisters and eight servants in Wimbledon, and working as a Publisher’s Clerk. By now he was very much respected not just as a composer of problems, but as a leading authority called upon to act as a judge in composing competitions.

He was also continuing to play in club and county matches: clearly a true chess addict, and, given that he was still in his 20s, there was every chance that he would add to his reputation over the next few decades.

He had also, at round about this time, fallen in love, and would soon announce his engagement to Miss Rita Fox (apparently no relation to A M Fox) of the Ladies’ Chess Club (also here and here) a lady of rather mysterious origins. I hope to write a series of articles about some of the Ladies’ Chess Club members when time permits.

But then, on 7 September 1902, at the age of only 30, his life came to a very premature end when he died suddenly of heart failure.

Western Times 24 September 1902

He had made a will a couple of months earlier so perhaps he knew he was ill. The value of his estate was £20370, about £2.67 million today, and he ensured his fiancée was well provided for. He also left a bequest to the celebrated master Richard Teichmann, who was struggling with both financial and health matters, and was, as a result, able to afford an operation. I haven’t yet been able to identify Russell Scott junior: can anyone help?

Illustrated London News 18 October 1902

There are some more stories to be told. Due to the prevalence of anti-German sentiments during the 1910s, many possessors of German surnames chose to change them. Several members of the Schwann family simply dropped the ‘ch’, becoming Swann. Edward’s brother Ernest, however, preferred to use his mother’s maiden name: Bagehot. Ernest married Ethel Caroline Pollock, whose mother, Amy Menella Dodgson, was a first cousin of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known today as Lewis Carroll. Carroll was himself a keen chess player and used the game in Through the Looking Glass. Ethel’s second cousin once removed, Algernon Pollock Aris, married Janet Alicia Elford, my third cousin once removed (here‘s their oldest son). So, if my tree is correct, Edward Bagehot Schwann, one of the first members of Richmond Chess Club, is the brother-in-law of the 2nd cousin 1x removed of the husband of my 3rd cousin 1x removed!

Another coincidence: some years ago I taught a boy named Adam Swann, whose parents were, and still are, family friends. His 7-year-old son is now an enthusiastic player. His name, of course, is Edward Swann.

Perhaps he’ll follow in the footsteps of his near namesake, a true chess enthusiast who, in his tragically short life, became a pretty useful player, and, more importantly, a leading authority on and composer of chess problems.

Come back soon for more stories of the early members of Richmond Chess Club.

Acknowledgements and sources:

ancestry.co.uk
findmypast.co.uk
edochess.ca
chessgames.com
chess.com
BritBase
Yet Another Chess Problem Database
Wikipedia
The Chess  Bouquet (thanks to Tim Harding)
Various other online resources linked in the text

Solutions:

Problem 1:
1. Qf6! Kd5 2. Nf5! Ke4 (2… e4 3. Ne3#) (2… Kc4 3. Qxf7#) 3. Qc6#

Problem 2:
1. Qb7!
1… Ke5 2. Bf6+ ♔e4 3. Nd2#
1… Kd4 2. Nd2 2… Ke5 3. Bf6# 2… e5 3. Be3# 2… e×d5 3. Qg7# 2… e×f5 3. Bf6#
1… Kf3 2. Ne3+ d5 3. Nd2#
1…e5 2. Nd2+ Kd4 3. Be3#
1… e×d5 2. Nd2+ 2… Kd4 3. Qg7# 2… Ke5 3. Qg7# 1… e×f5 2. Ne3+ 2… Kd4 3. Bf6# 2… Ke5 3. Qd5# 2… d5 3. Q×d5#

Problem 3:

1. Nc3! threat 2. Qd5+ 2… Kf4 3. Bh6# 2… Kf6 3. Ng4# 1… Be4 2. Q×e4+ Kf6 3. Qf5# 3. Qe7# 3. Qf4#
1… Ba2 2. Qe4+  Kf6 3. Qf5#/3. Qe7#/3. Qf4#
1… N×f2 2. Qg7+ Kf4 3. Qg3#
1… Kd4 2. Ne2+ 2… Ke3 3. Bh6# 2… Ke5 3. Ng4# 2… Kc4 3. Qg8#
1… Kf4 2. Ne2+ 2…  Ke3 3. Bh6# 2… Ke5 3. Ng4#

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Minor Pieces 30: Thomas Etheridge Harper

If you’ve been following these articles you’ll have met quite a lot of Twickenham Chess Club members from the 1880s and 1890s. You might have noticed they all had several things in common.

They were all male, and, although they followed a wide variety of occupations, they were all from well-off upper middle class backgrounds. There was a bit of social mobility, it’s true: Wallace Britten came from relatively humble origins, while on the other hand, Arthur Sabin Coward’s family had some problems caused perhaps by his fondness for the demon drink.

For several years the club advertised in the Surrey Comet at the start of the season. This is from 1889 when timber merchant’s clerk John May Gwyn (1860-1930)  had just taken over as club secretary from Wallace Britten.

Surrey Comet 02 November 1889

Note that it welcomes ‘gentlemen’ – not ladies and certainly not working class plebs. (The annual Gentlemen v Players cricket matches, the first of which were played in 1806, were very important at the time, and would continue until 1962.) Following our investigation into the life and career of George Edward Wainwright we have one more gentleman to meet.

In March 1896 Twickenham scored a notable success against the powerful Metropolitan Chess Club (still going strong today). You’ll see some familiar names there: members of the Humphreys and Ryan families, for example, but with a new name on top board: T E Harper won his game against James Mortimer, a regular competitor in international tournaments.

Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News 04 April 1896

He also won the 1895-6 Handicap Tournament of Twickenham Chess Club with a perfect score, so he was clearly a strong player.

Morning Post 15 June 1896

Was he a promising youngster? No – he was a much older player who had just moved into the area.

Thomas Etheridge Harper, a solicitor by profession, had been born in Suffolk village of Hitcham: his birth was registered in the second quarter of 1839. He married Mary Jane Cousins in Dorking, Surrey in 1866, and, in between having 11 children, moved around quite a bit, spending time in North London, Hertfordshire and Essex before moving to Richmond, presumably round about 1894.

The 1901 census found Thomas and Mary Jane at 100 Sheen Park, Richmond, just off Sheen Road very near the Red Cow, where Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club met in the 1960s, along with their two youngest children.

It seems like he may have had previous form: there are records of a T Harper playing in handicap tournaments in London in 1869 and 1871, giving odds to the likes of Augustus Mongredien Junior and the artist Wyke Bayliss, both pretty strong amateurs, playing the wonderfully named problemist Edward Nathan Frankenstein, and only taking odds from Cecil de Vere.  It seems quite likely this is the same player.

(Just as an aside, there’s more about Wyke Bayliss in this highly recommended book.)

Rod Edwards also asks: A ‘Harper’ played against Janssens in 1859 (see Chess Player’s Chronicle, 1860, p.60) and in a consultation game with Zytogorski against Harrwitz and Healey in 1863 (see Chess Note 4783). Is this the same ‘Harper’?  I guess it’s possible. Especially when you come across this problem, composed by T E Harper of London.

White to play and mate in 4 moves (Norfolk News 5 January 1861)

Why not have a go at solving it yourself? The solution is at the end of the article.

This was presumably the same T E Harper, who was the secretary of the Sussex Hall Chess Club, which seems to have met in Sussex Hall, Leadenhall Street, London, the livery hall of the Bricklayers’ Company. Was it our man? The chances are it was,  but I don’t know for certain.

So it seems he was briefly active around 1860, again around 1870, but then, as it does, life got in the way, and he was only able to return to the game once his children had grown up and his work commitments, perhaps, lessened. Moving into an area not far from a strong chess club would also have helped.

A few months after Thomas Etheridge Harper’s success the club had an important announcement to make.

Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News 24 October 1896

There you have it: Twickenham Chess Club changed its name when it moved down the road to Teddington, to the Clarence Hotel, now the Park, right by the station a couple of minutes from the Adelaide.

(Further articles will reveal how the Thames Valley Chess Club eventually merged with Kingston Chess Club. So the players you’ve been reading about over the past few months have, in effect, not been my great predecessors at Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club, but the great predecessors of my friends at Kingston Chess Club.)

I guess it made sense: most of the club administrators, then as now, lived in the Twickenham and Teddington area. The move would have not been such good news for those who, like Thomas Etheridge Harper, lived the other side of the river.

But no matter: there was a new kid on the block, a new club which really was the predecessor of the current Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club, and Harper was already a member.

Here’s the Morning Post in 1894.

Morning Post 22 October 1894

The Castle, right by the river and opposite the Town Hall, where Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club would meet for a few years in the early 1970s, would, in 1912, be the venue for the British Championship, and whose proprietor back in 1851, Benjamin Bull, was the grandfather of future Twickenham and Durban Chess Club champion Cecil Alfred Lucas Bull.

When the Richmond & Twickenham Times is finally digitised I’ll be able to find out more, but perhaps Mr H L Pring was the new club’s prime mover. Horace Lyddon Pring (1870-1938) seems to have been an ambitious young man. (His name appears in various sources as ‘Mr Bruin’ and ‘Mr Priory’: perhaps his handwriting wasn’t especially legible.)

Surrey Comet 06 October 1894

Sadly, the local library refused to display an advertisement for the new club, but Horace can only be praised for making the effort. Some 70 years later, when my mother asked in the local library about chess clubs, they were only too happy to point her in the direction of what had only fairly recently become Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club.

He was soon arranging matches, but at this point they were only strong enough to take on Twickenham’s 2nd team.

Surrey Comet 09 February 1895

By now, chess leagues providing competitions between clubs were in full sway, and Richmond started to take part in leagues run by the Surrey County Chess Association. The Surrey Trophy was first played for in the 1883-4 season, and in 1895-96 a second division, the Beaumont Cup was added. Both these competitions – with a number of lower divisions as well – are still popular and successful today.

Richmond entered the Beaumont Cup and, in 1896-97 were successful in winning the trophy.

Westminster Gazette 12 June 1897

Twickenham/Thames Valley, being north of the Thames, were presumably not eligible for Surrey competitions, although an unsuccessful attempt had been made to play in the London League, founded in 1888, in 1893. Twickenham entered the second division but had to withdraw as they were unable to field enough players.

For now, let’s return to our protagonist, Thomas Etheridge Harper. He soon found himself playing on top board for the young and upwardly mobile Richmond Chess Club with considerable success.

At that point there were close connections between Richmond and Windsor Chess Clubs, and two friendly matches, one at each club’s venue were arranged every year. The Windsor and Eton Express, with great excitement, published colourfully breathless reports of these encounters.

This, perhaps, was the first.

Windsor and Eton Express 25 April 1896

You’ll notice a few points of interest. The Richmond Chess Club had moved from the Castle Hotel to the Station Hotel, and, only 2½ years after its foundation, with no assistance from social media, or even notices in libraries, already had 40 active members. Pretty good going, I think, from the enterprising young Mr Pring and his colleagues. You’ll also see that Windsor had a celebrity top board in Sir Walter Parratt, Master of the Queen’s Musick, who was paired against our protagonist Thomas Etheridge Harper.

After winning the Beaumont Cup, Richmond ambitiously decided to enter the Surrey Trophy, the competition to discover the strongest club in the county. In this 1899 match, against a powerful South Norwood team (they’re still active in Surrey today) they found the going rather too tough.

Norwood News 04 February 1899

Here,  the only specimen of Harper’s play I’ve been able to find (if you come across any more do let me know) is his loss on top board against Arthur James Maas (1857-1933). Maas is certainly worth a future Minor Piece: he showed considerable promise in chess as a teenager, but preferred to focus on his work with the Anglo-Swiss Milk Company (now part of Nestlé) where he claimed to have been the first to suggest selling milk in tins.

It’s clear from the way the Norwood News introduced the game that Harper had a big reputation as a solid player.

Norwood News 04 February 1899

Thomas Etheridge Harper’s last match for Richmond I’ve been able to find so far was in 1902. At some point he moved from Richmond to Surbiton: the 1911 census recorded Thomas, still working as a solicitor, his wife and a domestic servant at 323 Ewell Road. He died there on 6 January 1915 at the age of 76 (according to official records, but by my calculations, unless his birth was registered very late he was 75), leaving £632 9s 2d to his wife. His probate record also gives an address in the City of London, presumably the address of his legal practice.

It appears he was a strong player who, due to demands of work and family, played very little chess over the years. He should be remembered for his part played in developing Richmond Chess Club in the early years of its existence.

Join me again very soon as I introduce you to some more members of Richmond Chess Club in the 1890s.

Problem solution: 1. Ra5+! Kxa5 2. Rb5+ Ka4 3. Ra5+! Kxa5 4. Bc3#

Sources/credits:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

EdoChess.ca

Wikipedia

Annotations using Stockfish 14/ChessBase

Various other sources: links above.

 

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Minor Pieces 29: George Edward Wainwright Part 4

Last time we left George Edward Wainwright at the time of the 1921 census, when, approaching the age of 60, he’d recently retired from his senior post with the now defunct Local Government Board and moved to his wife’s home village of Box, not far from Bath.

Chess in London for him was now over: no more City of London Championships. But, as always, he’d wasted no time in joining his nearest chess club, in the City of Bath.

The first record we have for him there was the previous December where he defeated the celebrated problemist Comins Mansfield on top board in a match against Bristol & Clifton. (Bristol’s Board 10, intriguingly, was  Agnes Augusta Talboys (née Snell), an artist famous for her paintings of Persian cats, sometimes playing chess.)

The 1921 British Championship Congress was held in Malvern, and it was here that George Edward Wainwright scored one of his best results, sharing third place with Reginald Pryce Michell, behind Fred Dewhirst Yates and Sir George Alan Thomas.

Here he is in play against Roland Henry Vaughan Scott.

The Sphere 20 August 1921

Stockfish 14 doesn’t agree that Wainwright should have won this game. Opening up the kingside left his own king the more exposed, and Scott found a rather unusual winning move.

Here’s the game. (Click on any move in any game in this article for a pop-up window.)

He had some luck in a couple of other games. Sir George Thomas, better known as a steady positional player, gave up material but misplayed the attack, erring on move 20.

Michell played a Maroczy Bind against Wainwright’s Sicilian Dragon, gained an overwhelming positional advantage but lost the thread, and, with the draw in hand, allowed transposition into a lost pawn ending.

There was no competition for the British Championship in 1922: the congress itself, in London, featured an international tournament (1st Capablanca, 2nd Alekhine) as its top section. Wainwright didn’t take part but may well have visited as a spectator.

He was back again at Southsea in 1923, where he scored a creditable 6/11 (no draws: remarkably there were only eight drawn games out of 66), finishing in 5th place. Sir George Thomas took the title for the first time, with Yates just behind in second place. Sir George also won the Men’s Singles in the All England Open Badminton Championship in the same year, a feat which will surely never be repeated.

Wainwright was snapped again by The Sphere, this time in a game he won against tournament tail-ender William Gooding. Unfortunately, the moves of this game are unavailable.

The Sphere 25 August 1923

Against the Scottish solicitor William Gibson, he built up a slow kingside attack, concluding with a queen sacrifice.

Wainwright also sacrificed his queen against the Australian Civil Servant Charles Gilbert Steele. (Steele would meet a premature death the following year, falling off a railway station platform in front of an oncoming train.) Despite Stockfish’s double exclamation mark for artistic merit it only turned a winning position (34… Kf8!) into a level position, but he was later able to force resignation by sacrificing one of his rooks.

This time round he beat Roland Scott in a fluctuating game, essaying the English Opening, which was just starting to become popular.

In 1924 a chess festival was held in Weston-Super-Mare, with the participation of future world champion Max Euwe (1st) from the Netherlands, the Paris-based Russian master Eugene Znosko-Borovsky (3rd) and eight English amateurs led by Sir George Thomas (2nd). George Edward Wainwright was invited to take part, but only managed a disappointing 1½/9. He lost his first six games, drawing with Cyril Duffield of Bristol in round 7 and finally managing a win against local player Captain Percivale David Bolland in the final round. (Capt Bolland was a retired and disabled army officer who had served in the Welch Regiment and would later find employment as a Laundry Manager.)

Here’s his final tournament game in which he faced the dashing Max Lange Attack, winning when his opponent blundered on move 34.

Perhaps discouraged by this result, Wainwright decided to retire from tournament chess, although he continued playing club chess until Spring 1926. One of his last games, which I may look at elsewhere, was again against Comins Mansfield, where he lost a winning rook ending two pawns up.

In January 1933 his friend Charles Dealtry Locock (another important but forgotten figure in British chess who deserves a Minor Piece or two) wrote about him in a memoir in the British Chess Magazine.

In 1881 I went to the University College, Oxford, and finding that the hon. secretary of the ‘Varsity Chess Club was at that college I at once left a card on him. A few hours later came a knock on my door, and entered a man, one year my senior, with a round bespectacled face, who announced himself as G. E. Wainwright. We did not guess then what hundreds of games we should play together, nor how often the rosy-fingered Dawn would surprise us still playing. On this occasion we had a trial game and Wainwright defeated me with a King’s Gambit.

George Edward Wainwright died on 31 August that year at the age of 71, his death being registered in Keynsham, near Bristol, a place a whole generation grew up knowing how to spell.

Another friend – and opponent in City of London Championships, Philip Walsingham Sergeant (Edward Guthlac’s second cousin and notable chronicler of British chess) wrote an obituary for the October 1933 issue of British Chess Magazine.

Though he had dropped out of chess for some years – practically since he retired from Government service and went to live at Box, Wiltshire – the death of G. E. Wainwright came as a painful shock to his very numerous friends of the past, to whom his bright and mercurial temperament was still a pleasant memory. His achievements at chess are also still vivid in the mind though not, of all, since many of them go back well into the past.

Born in Yorkshire on November 2, 1861, G. E. Wainwright went up to University College, Oxford, in 1880, and in the Michaelmas Term of the following year he was hon. secretary of the O.U.Ch.C. (see an article by his friend C. D. Locock in our January number of the present year), while in 1882 he became president. He played five times for Oxford, a record which he shared with Locock, W. M. Gattie, the Rev. E. H. Kinder, and R. W. (later Sir Richard) Barnett; for in those days there was no such limitation as there is to-day with regard to playing for one’s University. He was 6th board in 1881 and 2nd board in 1882-5, scoring in all 4 wins, 2 draws, and one loss. After leaving Oxford he quickly made his mark in metropolitan chess, indeed in English chess generally. In 1889 he won the Newnes Challenge Cup, which was equivalent to the Amateur Championship. In later days he competed in the B.C.F. tournaments for the British Championship in 1905 (when he was 6th), 1906 (equal 3rd), 1907 (eq. 2nd), 1909 (eq. 6th), 1910 (eq. 4th), 1920 (8th), 1921 (eq. 3rd), and 1923 (5th).

At the City of London Chess Club he was always to the fore, and won the championship twice, in 1907 and, after a triple tie, in 1918.

He played in the Anglo-American cable matches five times, in 1899, 1907, 1908, 1909, and 1910, his highest board being 4th in 1909.

Wainwright will be vividly remembered by all his opponents of old for his remarkably rapid play. Yet the present writer remembers one occasion on which Wainwright took three-quarters of an hour over a single move against him – duly apologising afterwards, though the position was exceedingly difficult. Three-quarters of an hour over a whole game was more like his usual style! He was a great springer of ‘wild-cats’ on his adversaries; and his attacks, even when unsound, were very difficult to meet, inspired as they were by a strong personality, very rapid sight of the board, and a healthy confidence. In addition, he had studied the game deeply, beginning in his University days, if not sooner.

George Edward Wainwright was an important, but mostly forgotten figure in English chess, of master standard at his best, with a highly attractive style of play. Apart from this obituary, there’s little about what he was like as a person, but his vivacious attacks and speed of play were often mentioned. It’s clear he was a lifelong chess addict, and if Sergeant’s obituary is anything to go by, a splendid chap as well. We can certainly see traits of loyalty – to his career-long job in the Local Government Service, and to his family, from caring for his elderly mother to retiring to his wife’s home village.

It remains to look at what happened to his children.

From a family tree on ancestry.co.uk

George Edward junior was, as we’ve already seen, also a chess player, but at a lower level, and, like his father worked in local government – in Ilkley, where his father grew up.

In 1916 he married Jane Savile, who had previously been married briefly to a Polish waiter, an ‘illegal alien’ who had moved to London and committed various criminal offences. They moved to Liverpool and later, it seems down to Surrey, where he died in 1950.

 

From a family tree on ancestry.co.uk

Philip Francis Wainwright worked in the photography business, but served as a paymaster in the Royal Navy in the First World War. For some reason he changed his surname to Pictor-Wayne – Pictor being his mother’s surname. In the 1920s his business hit financial problems and he was declared bankrupt. He lived in London, married and had a son, but later returned to the Bath area where he died in 1969.

 

 

From a family tree on ancestry.co.uk

Constance Margaret Wainwright married a first cousin, Alan Newman Pictor, and had two daughters, the first born in Surbiton and the second, exotically, in Fiji. They moved to Bath, and, after the death of her husband, she retired to Wimbledon, where she died in 1982.

 

 

From a family tree on ancestry.co.uk

David had an eventful life. He served as an officer in the Royal Navy during World War One. In 1916 it was reported that he had been killed at the Battle of Jutland, but in fact he was a Prisoner of War. He later returned to duty and in 1919 was awarded the Albert Medal for gallantry in saving life at sea. On leaving the Royal Navy he joined the Palestine Police, where he married and had a son. Returning to England he took a job as a salesman, but then, in 1938, became an Observer in Czechoslovakia,  in which role he was commended by Lord Halifax.

In March 1939 he was to meet a sudden and tragic end. Returning to England, in the Naval Reserve and with global conflict again on the horizon, he went on a refresher course at Portland, Dorset, walked out of his hotel, and later his body was found in the sea off Chesil Beach. For further information on David Wainwright see here.

Come back soon for some more Minor Pieces featuring chess players from Twickenham, Richmond and who knows where else.

Sources:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

chessgames.com

BritBase

MegaBase 2022

EdoChess

British Chess Magazine 1933

Various other websites linked above.

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Modern Chess– From Steinitz to the 21st Century

Modern Chess– From Steinitz to the 21st Century, Craig Pritchett, Thinker's Publishing, 15th February 2022, ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9464201436
Modern Chess– From Steinitz to the 21st Century, Craig Pritchett, Thinker’s Publishing, 15th February 2022, ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9464201436

From the publishers’ blurb:

“The revolutionary Wilhelm Steinitz (1836-1900) considered himself to be in the vanguard of an emerging, late-19th century ‘Modern’ school, which embraced a new, essentially scientific vitality in its methods of research, analysis, evaluation, planning, experiment and even belligerent fight. Steinitz, who dominated the chess world in the shadow of a more directly attacking, openly tactical and combinative, so-called ‘romantic’ age, established a much firmer positional basis to chess. A pivotal change! This book follows that story, both before and beyond Steinitz’s early ‘modern’ era, focusing closely on the subtly varied ways in which the world’s greatest players in the last two centuries have thought about and played the game, moving it forward. The author reflects on all sixteen ‘classical’ world champions and others, notably: C-L. M. de la Bourdonnais, Adolf Anderssen, Paul Morphy, Siegbert Tarrasch, Aron Nimzowitsch, Richard Réti, Judit Polgar and the contemporary Artificial Intelligence phenomenon, AlphaZero. Be inspired by this exploration of the ‘modern’ game’s roots and trajectory!”

IM Craig William Pritchett, Courtesy of John Upham Photography
IM Craig William Pritchett, Courtesy of John Upham Photography

Craig Pritchett (b 1949) is a former national champion and international master (1976), who represented Scotland in nine Chess Olympiads (1966-1990), including four times on top board (1974-1980). Gold medal winner on top board for Scotland at the European Seniors (60+) Team Championship in 2011, he continues to compete regularly at Senior and Open events. Chess Correspondent for the Scottish newspaper The Herald (1972-2006) and East Lothian Life (since 2005), he has taught and written widely on chess, specialising latterly on the historical development of chess thought and the fascinatingly wide differences in players’ chess styles. A University of Glasgow graduate in Modern History and Politics and a Chartered Public Finance Accountant, he also worked for many years in UK central government audit. President of his local Dunbar Chess Club, he has also long been associated with three major chess clubs: Edinburgh West, Barbican 4NCL and SK Berlin-Zehlendorf.”

From the author’s introduction:

This book takes the reader on a journey from early 19th century developments in the game up to the present-day. 

And:

Today’s top players still borrow from the best games and ideas of past generations. Do join them!

I wrote this book primarily to explore, confirm and convey my own understanding of this grand sweep of chess history. 

What we’re offered here, then is a brief history of top level chess from 1834 to the present day, looking at both the development of chess ideas and the world championship itself. As you’d expect, the text is illustrated with games, annotated in a refreshingly straightforward fashion, and there are also a few photographs of the book’s heroes. An ambitious project, following in the footsteps of many other authors from Réti onwards. Not the first book of this type I’ve reviewed here either: but I wasn’t particularly impressed with this offering from two years ago.

We start then with Bourdonnais and McDonnell from 1834. Pritchett is impressed with their ‘calculating powers and creative imaginations’, and you will be too.

Most readers will have seen the extraordinary 62nd game before. I decided to ask Stockfish 14 to have a look. The notoriously hard to please engine was also impressed, but had one issue.

Here, Bourdonnais played 25… Qe3+, when 26. Rf2 would have held, according to both Pritchett and Stockfish. Pritchett also mentions that 25… Ba6 27. Qxa6 favours White: Stockfish 14 thinks Black’s winning after 27… e4!. A remarkable position which you might want to look at yourself. Perhaps Craig was using an older engine.

The theme of tactical brilliance continues with Anderssen, and, inevitably, we see the Immortal and Evergreen Games. Of course most readers will have seen them many times before, but there will always be those new to chess history who will relish witnessing them for the first time.

We then move onto Morphy and Steinitz, which is where the story becomes more complex and therefore more interesting. Pritchett is good at outlining Steinitz’s professionalism, opening research and patience at accumulating small advantages.

Pritchett describes this game as an early ‘hypermodern’ masterpiece, created decades before the term itself even existed, of a most insightful and visionary kind. (Click on any move of any game in this review for a pop-up board. I’ve used Stockfish 14 to annotate the games: readers might like to compare them with the author’s annotations in the book.)

This takes us into what, for me, is the strongest part of the book, covering the last few decades of the 19th and the first few decades of the 20th century. It’s excellent that Pritchett includes sections on Tarrasch and the Hypermoderns along with Lasker and the other world champions. Readers of Ray Keene’s masterpiece Aron Nimzowitsch: A Reappraisal will be aware that he wrote insightfully about the feud between these two players who had very different views about how chess should be played.

Almost half a century on, Keene’s contemporary Pritchett, takes a rather different approach, seeking to find a synthesis between the two. He quite rightly praises Tarrasch’s books Dreihundert Schachpartien and Die Moderne Schachpartie, although accepting that he could at times be over-dogmatic.

If you’ve never studied the games of the 1893 Tarrasch – Chigorin match do yourself a favour and have a look. One of the greatest matches in chess history, in my opinion.

Pritchett offers us the 4th game, although his annotations fail to point out Chigorin’s missed wins at moves 29 and 32.

Moving on from Tarrasch, via Lasker, to Nimzowitsch, Pritchett is just as complimentary about My System and Chess Praxis as he is about Tarrasch’s books, telling us that together they offer a wealth of insightful exposition of the new paths that the game was beginning to take in a post-classical era.

The contrasting champions Capablanca and Alekhine then follow, as stylistically different as Tarrasch and Nimzowitsch were in terms of their ideas and both interpreting their teachings in different ways.

Euwe only merits a very short chapter, and, as you might expect, the Pearl of Zandvoort, the Dutch champion’s most famous game, is demonstrated.

Botvinnik then takes us beyond the Second World War and into the latter half of the 20th century, at which point the tone of the book seems to undergo a gradual change.

As FIDE took over the organising the World Championship (with a break between 1993 and 2006) Pritchett’s narrative becomes more a list of world championship matches than a study of the development of ideas. We meet Smyslov, Tal, Petrosian and Spassky, four players with very different styles. Then, of course, Fischer, Karpov, Kasparov, Kramnik, Anand and Carlsen.

The book ends with chapters on Judit Polgar, understandable in these days where representation is considered so important, and Alpha Zero, whose games add a totally new dimension to the development of chess ideas.

Pritchett quotes this Petrosian game, along with a 1966 interview from Sovetsky Sport, in which Petrosian, when asked what he valued most in chess, replied with the word Logic. I like only those games where I have played in accordance with the demands of the position … logical “correct” play. Botvinnik and Smyslov might both have agreed, but Tal? Probably not.

A different approach might have been to consider the period from 1948 onwards through looking at openings rather than players. You could discuss, for instance, the increasing popularity and development of dynamic openings such as the Sicilian and King’s Indian Defences in the post-war years, followed by the effects brought about by computer usage from, say, 1990 onwards. You’d be looking at the world champions, but also players such as Bronstein and Larsen who also, like Tarrasch and Nimzowitsch in their day, had an impact on the development of chess.

It strikes me that the history of the world championship and the development of chess ideas are two very different, but obviously interconnected subjects. From my perspective as a student of chess history, this book rather falls between two stools. The first half is written more from the latter perspective and the second half more from the former perspective. Inevitably so, perhaps, given the difficulty of telling a long and complex story within the confines of a relatively slim book.

If you’re knowledgeable about chess history, you’ll be familiar with the stories and have seen most of the games before. But if you’re new to the subject, this book, which will appeal to players of all strengths, would be a good place to start. It’s accessible, well researched and written, with well annotated games and well produced, although with a few typos and errors which might have been picked up at proof stage. Not all the analysis stands up to the scrutiny of Stockfish 14 but for most readers that won’t matter. Recommended for those unfamiliar with the subject matter, but perhaps superfluous for those who will have seen most of it before.

Richard James, Twickenham 31st March 2022

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Softcover: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (15 Feb. 2022)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9464201436
  • ISBN-13: 978-9464201437
  • Product Dimensions: 17.02 x 2.29 x 23.37 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Modern Chess– From Steinitz to the 21st Century, Craig Pritchett, Thinker's Publishing, 15th February 2022, ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9464201436
Modern Chess– From Steinitz to the 21st Century, Craig Pritchett, Thinker’s Publishing, 15th February 2022, ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9464201436
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Remembering IMC Ken Messere OBE (16-iv-1928 31-iii-2005)

IMC Ken Messere OBE (16-iv-1928 31-iii-2005)
IMC Ken Messere OBE (16-iv-1928 31-iii-2005)

BCN remembers Ken Messere who passed away on Thursday, March 31st 2005 aged 76 in Paris-16E-Arrondissement, Paris, France.

Kenneth Charles Messere was born on Monday, April 16th, 1928 in Richmond-on-Thames, Surrey. His father was Charles (George) Messere (1901-1974) or Eisenberg and aged 26. His mother was Gertrude Marie Newman (1899-1978) and aged 29.

Ken had three siblings: Barbara Marie Messere (1930–2005), Hugh Martin Messere (1932–1985) and Derek R Messere (1934–2012)

Ken attended St. Peter’s College, Oxford from 1946 – 1951 to read philosophy and is reported in the 1951 St. Edmund Hall Magazine, as a member of the Trillick (debating) Society as follows:

‘ That this House would rather be a live Communist than
a dead Democrat.’ The proposer established to his own satisfaction that democracy was founded on ‘selfishness, capitalism and bourgeois hypocrisy.’ He did not satisfy J. F. R. Bonguard of St. Peter’s Hall who opposed, using arguments taken from Hindu philosophy. K. C. Messere of St. Peter’s Hall, spoke third and added some able arguments.

In June 1954 Ken married Mary Elizabeth Humphrey (1929-2003) in Ealing. They had a son Miles Jonathan Messere born in 1964 who passed away in 1965.

Prior the time of his passing his wife Mary was living at 142B, Herbert Road, Woolwich, London, SE18 3PU.

In 1991 he was awarded the OBE (Civil Division) in the Queen’s Birthday honours list. The citation reads: Kenneth Charles Messere, lately Head of Fiscal Affairs Division, OECD, Paris.

Ken appears each year from 1953 to 1967 in the noted publication Britain, Royal And Imperial Calendars the function of which is to list entries for those engaged in UK public service. He worked for HM Customs and Excise. Prompted by this we consulted the venerable A History of Chess in the English Civil Service by Kevin Thurlow (Conrad Press, 2021) on page 447 and found

“He played for Customs. In 1964, he went to work for the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and was head of fiscal affairs from 1971 – 1991. In 1954 he began playing postal chess and became a leading player. He won a semi-final of the 5th World Correspondence Championship (1961 – 64) and became the first English player to compete in a World Championship Final.”

There are 31 games listed at his personal entry at chessgames.com starting with games from 1965.

Chessbase’s Correspondence Database 2020 records 69 games the earliest being from 1958 listing Ken’s federation as being France.

From British Chess (Pergamon Press, 1983) we have this lengthy contribution from Ken himself:

“Between the ages of 6, when I learnt to play and 23 (ed: 1951), when I ceased to be a student, chess had a relatively low priority among various time-competing interests and activities, so I never got around to studying theory. Things changed when I became a civil servant and needed a replacement for philosophy as an intellectually absorbing subject which could be argued about with friends over beers, and for the next 12 years chess became my main interest.

Since 1964 I have been working for the OECD in Paris, where my friends are not chess enthusiasts and, although chess remains a major pleasure, my commitment to it has lessened. Nowadays, out-side correspondence chess, I play only occasional blitz games.

Coming late to serious chess has probably had at least some influence on my deficiencies and stylistic preferences. The deficiencies include an inability to visualize ahead with sufficient clarity to support accurate analysis, slow sight of the board which leads to silly errors through time trouble or failing stamina and less familiarity with theory than my better opponents. As to chess style, I have had to play romantically and subjectively to get good results.

If a game takes the form of a clear-cut position, where strategical objectives are clear and superior technique prevails, then mine generally does not. Consequently I have tended to play either sharp gambits or counter-gambits or to try to render the position sufficiently obscure for imagination and intuition to assume maximum importance. In keeping, my chess heroes have been Alekhine, Bronstein and Tal who revel in fantasy, however much Alekhine may claim that it is logically based.

When I took up competitive chess seriously in 1952, I made some progress and won a few minor tournaments, but in view of the defects already mentioned, it soon became clear that my potential for improvement was limited and that nearly all my games were aesthetically flawed. Fortunately, these defects represent no great handicap at correspondence chess, where I found myself pleased with a reasonable proportion of the game I played, and in addition, capable on the day (or more accurately over the years) of winning against almost anyone. Thus, against world champions I have two wins and one loss, (see below). I also have 80 per cent from five games against Russian grandmasters, even if a meagre 28 per cent from my eighteen games against all correspondence grandmasters. In 1954 when I began playing postal chess competitively, I did sufficiently well in a few British Postal tournaments to be accepted at a reasonably high level in the official international tournaments.

Not without luck (see Diagram l), I secured the 75 per cent necessary in two seven-player tournaments to qualify for the fourteen player preliminaries, the winner of which was to qualify for the following world championship. In the 1961-64 preliminaries, I played the best chess of my life, including valid opening innovations, imaginative pawn and piece sacrifices and even a technically efficient win in a queen and pawn end-game. I won the tournament with eleven wins, one draw and one loss, 1.5 points ahead of Maly of Czechoslovakia and two points ahead of Masseev, the Russian favourite, thereby obtaining my first norm towards the International Master title. My first annotated game is the win against Maly (ed: to be inserted once we have tracked down the game score!) which was typical stylistically and also crucial, since if he had won it, he would have qualified for the World Championship instead of me: the second against Bartha of the United States is the most compulsive and difficult tactical game I have ever played, the last five moves alone requiring over 100 hours of analysis.

IMC Ken Messere OBE (16-iv-1928 31-iii-2005)
IMC Ken Messere OBE (16-iv-1928 31-iii-2005)

The quality of my chess in the 1965-68 World Championship was much inferior. The tournament began disastrously. I went in for three losing variations as Black and made a suicidal clerical error in the opening so that after 3 months I had four losses from four games. Later, there were compensations. I won against V. Zagarovsky, the reigning world champion (the third annotated game) and obtained just (but only just) the necessary 33.3% per cent to obtain the correspondence chess international master title. For this I needed a win and draw from my last two games which
after 3.5 years, had to be adjudicated.

Fortunately, the win and draw were relatively clear, though this would not have been so a few moves earlier. An an illustration of how the threat of adjudication breeds irrationality, Diagram II gives the closing stages of my win against J.Estrin of the USSR – a more recent correspondence chess world champion. My only other game against a world champion was against the winner of this tournament, Hans Berliner of the United States, with whom I collaborated on a book of the tournament. The collaboration was stimulating but not without friction, since I had to write 75 per cent of the book to see it ever finished. It took a year to complete, 3 years to appear (published by BCM) but in the end was well-reviewed, sold over 2000 copies and royalties are still (gently) drifting in.

The Fifth Correspondence Chess World Championship, Hans Berliner & Ken Messere, British Chess Magazine, BCM Quarterly Nunber 14, 5th December 1971, ISBN 978-0-900846-05-2.
The Fifth Correspondence Chess World Championship, Hans Berliner & Ken Messere, British Chess Magazine, BCM Quarterly Nunber 14, 5th December 1971, ISBN 978-0-900846-05-2.

 

In the early seventies, in order to reduce numbers of games, I retreated altogether from individual tournaments, just playing twice for England in the Olympiads. Whether team play did not suit my style, or whether my technique had improved but imagination withered, I drew nine of my seventeen games from the two tournaments, winning four and losing four. As England looked likely to aspire to medals for the first time ever, my 50 per cent would not help matters and I gladly retreated to first reserve, which to my dismay required taking over five unfinished games of Hugh Alexander, who died during the tournament, and who, for me, has always been England’s most attractive player and writer. My most uncomfortable decision in correspondence chess was a rejection of Hugh’s intended continuation in one of these games, {Diagram III). Of these five games, I lost one and drew four and England won a bronze medal.

In 1974 was invited to compete in the Potter Memorial Tournament of four postal grandmasters and nine international masters. After so many years of responsible’ team chess for England, I went beserk and sacrificed a pawn in ten of the twelve games, trying later to salvage inferior end-games. Result 33 % per cent. B. H. Wood invited me to write a book of the tournament, to which a number of the players contributed and this was published in 1979.

The Potter Memorial, Ken Messere, CHESS (Sutton Coldfield), 1975
The Potter Memorial, Ken Messere, CHESS (Sutton Coldfield), 1975

Also in 1979 I began to play in another invitation tournament of thirteen players organised by the Australian Correspondence Chess League, which became a memorial to CJS Purdy, its president and the first world postal champion, who died soon after the tournament began. At the time of writing, this tournament, comprising four grandmasters (including one former world champion and two runners-up) and eight international masters, is still in its early stages.”

From British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXV (125, 2005), Number 5 (May), page 226 we have this obituary:

“Kenneth Charles Messere (16 iv 1928, Richmond – 31 iii 2005, Paris) was one of Britain’s strongest correspondence players (he held the correspondence IM title) and well-known author of books on the subject. After graduating from Oxford University, Ken Messere went to HM Customs and Excise, and thence to the Organisation for Economic Development (OECD) where he became head of the fiscal affairs division and a world expert on fiscal law. He reached the final of 1965-8 world correspondence championship, beating world champions Zagorovsky and Estrin, and wrote the book of the tournament with Hans Berliner (published by BCM)”

From The Potter Memorial by Ken Messere, CHESS (Sutton Coldfield), “Chess for Modern Times” Series, 1975 we have this potted biography:

“Compiler of this book, took 3rd place in 1957 and 2nd in 1968 in the championship of the Postal Chess Club. Scores of 4.5 out of 6 in the ICCF Masters 1957-8 and 4/6 in the 1959-61 Championship took him to victory with 11/5 out of 13 in the 1961-3 semi-finals, securing him his first international master norm and qualifying him for the 5th World Championship 1964-7 in which he scored 5.5, just enough for the IM title, with wins over Zagorovsky, then world champion and Estrin, world champion now. Ken Messere collaborated with Berliner, who won it, in a book on the tournament.

He then switched to play exclusively as a member of the British Olympiad team, taking over 2nd board when Alexander died.

The switch back from rather cautious team play to enterprising individual games in 1974-7 provides some of the subject matter of this book.”

 

The Tax System in Industrialized Countries, Ken Messere, Oxford University Press, 1998, ISBN 10: 1982933135 / ISBN 13: 9781982933135
The Tax System in Industrialized Countries, Ken Messere, Oxford University Press, 1998, ISBN 10: 1982933135 / ISBN 13: 9781982933135
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Minor Pieces 28: George Edward Wainwright Part 3

This is the third post in my series about George Edward Wainwright, sometime member of Twickenham, Guildford and Surbiton Chess Clubs, and one of the strongest English amateurs of his day.

You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

American Chess Magazine 1898: taken from a public member tree on ancestry.co.uk

We left George in Surbiton in 1911, happily married, with four children and an important job in local government.

That summer he travelled abroad to play chess for the first time. He was playing top board for a team of members and friends of Hastings Chess Club who embarked on a tour of France and Switzerland, scoring 4½/5. I guess he was a friend, rather than a member.

Here’s a game from their match against the Union Amicale des Amateurs de la Régence, where he encountered the Russian diplomat Vassily Soldatenkov. (Click on any move of any game in this article and a Magic Pop-up Chessboard should, with any luck, appear.)

At this point he took a break from tournament chess, not playing in either the 1911 British Championship in Glasgow or the 1911-12 City of London Championship.

He wasn’t inactive, though: in November he took part in a simul at the City of London Club against the up and coming young Cuban Capablanca, where he managed to win his game.

In 1912 he didn’t have far to go for the British Championship, which took place just up the road from him in Richmond – the Castle Assembly Rooms to be precise, down by the river and opposite the Town Hall. Again, he didn’t take part, but was there as a visitor. (I’m considering a future series of Minor Pieces about some of the chessers who descended on Richmond that year.)

Wainwright was back in action in the 1912-13 City of London Championship, but without success. A large entry that year required three qualifying sections, with three qualifiers from each section making the final pool. He was well down the field in his section.

Throughout his life he remained loyal to his home county of Yorkshire: in those days there was no problem representing both Surrey and Yorkshire in county matches.

In this game from a Yorkshire – Middlesex match played in Leicester (a neutral venue) he beat one of his regular London opponents and a future Kingston resident.

Just two days  later he took part in another simul against Capablanca, forsaking his usual tactical style and, after his opponent’s ill-advised queen trade, winning in the manner of – Capablanca.

The following year, he did better in the City of London Championship, this time qualifying for the finals by winning this game against a young Dutch master who had crossed the Channel hoping to make money by beating rich Englishmen.

By now it was 1914 and storm clouds were gathering over Europe. The London League kept going for one more season. Wainwright was representing the Lud Eagle club and won this game featuring a rather unusual sacrificial kingside attack in a match against West London. His opponent, William Henry Regan, was a stamp and coin dealer.

The City of London Championship managed to keep going for the duration, albeit with far fewer entries, giving George Edward Wainwright the opportunity to continue playing his favourite game.

He didn’t play in 1914-15 or 1915-16, but returned to the fray in 1916-17. Understandably rusty, he finished in last place behind Edward Guthlac Sergeant. The following year, fulfilling the prophecy from Matthew 20:16 (The last shall be first), later repeated by Bob Dylan (The loser now will be later to win) he shared first place with Philip Walsingham Sergeant (EG’s second cousin) and Edmund MacDonald, winning the play-off and so taking the title for the second time.

He was unsuccessful in defending his title in 1918-19, finishing in midfield behind the Latvian master Theodor Germann as chess started to wake up again following the end of hostilities.

In 1919 the British Chess Federation celebrated with a Victory Tournament in Hastings, where Capablanca won the top section ahead of Kostic. The Ladies’ Championship was included but the title of British Champion itself wasn’t awarded. While in the country, Capa gave a simul at the City of London Club, and, for a third time, lost against Wainwright.

Meanwhile, there were some important changes in Wainwright’s personal life. There was a major reconstruction of local government in 1919: the Local Government Board was abolished, its powers being transferred to the newly created Ministry of Health. It seems likely that at this point Wainwright, a wealthy gentleman whose children had now grown up, decided to retire. At some point in 1920 he and his wife moved to Alice’s home village of Box, Wiltshire. Box is situated in the beautiful Cotswolds, on the A4 between the city of Bath and the market town of Corsham.

The village’s previous claim to chess fame was as the birthplace of Thomas Bowdler (1754-1825), who, when he wasn’t expunging Shakespeare’s rude words, was one of the strongest English players of his day.

The Wainwright family settled in a cottage called Netherby, near the centre of the village, now a Grade 2 listed building. Very charming it looks too.

Source: Google Maps

The Reverend Vere Awdry and his family moved into Lorne House (now a Bed & Breakfast establishment), next to the railway station on the road to Corsham, also in 1920. They’d arrived in the village in 1917, and had lived at two previous addresses there. He and his young son Wilbert used to spend hours watching the steam trains pass by. Many years later, Wilbert, now the Reverend W Awdry, would be inspired by this memory to write the Thomas the Tank Engine books, much loved by generations of young children, including me. George and Vere, as prominent members of the village community, would surely have known each other, and George would have known young Wilbert as well.

By 1920 things were back to normal, and George Edward Wainwright, now retired, was one of those selected for the British Championship in Edinburgh: his first appearance for a decade. His address was given as London and Box in different newspapers, which suggests he’d just moved, or was in the process of moving.

Roland Henry Vaughan Scott was the slightly surprising winner, ahead of the hot favourite Sir George Alan Thomas. Wainwright scored a respectable 4½/11, not bad for a player in his late 50s.

In this game he launched a dangerous kingside attack in typical style, and his opponent wasn’t up to the defensive task. Scottish champion Francis Percival (Percy) Wenman, a former petty thief (of chess books) and later plagiarist, will be well worth a future Minor Piece.

It was now 1921 and time for the census enumerator to pay a visit to the Wainwright residence in Box. George and Alice were there, along with a visitor from Bradford, possibly a family friend, and a general servant.

You’ll find out what happened in the latter stages of his life and chess career next time.

Sources:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

Wikipedia

Google Maps

edochess.ca

chessgames.com

Britbase

Thanks to Gerard Killoran for information about Wainwright’s simul games against Capablanca.

 

 

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Minor Pieces 27: George Edward Wainwright Part 2

Apologies for the Minor Pieces delay, but I had a deadline on another project. It’s now time to return to George Edward Wainwright.

American Chess Magazine 1898: taken from a public member tree on ancestry.co.uk

Here he is again. You might recall (it was a long time ago) that, in my previous article, we left him in 1901, an  English international player, previously a member of Twickenham Chess Club, but now living and playing chess in Guildford.

The chess world would change a lot over the next decade, beginning to look a lot more like the world we know today, with a mixture of club and county matches and tournaments. It was, in the spirit of the times, becoming more competitive. George Edward Wainwright was in his element.

At the end of May 1901 he was in Folkestone for the 3rd Kent County Chess Association Tournament, although his result there was rather indifferent. His opponents included Edward Guthlac Sergeant, Joseph Henry Blake and the endgame expert Creassey Edward Cecil Tattersall, the winner of his section. The other section was won by Henry Ernest Atkins, ahead of Lucien Serraillier, father of the novellist Ian Serriallier (The Silver Sword).

His short draw against Tattersall featured an opening that would become the height of fashion a century later. He mishandled it, but on move 15 his opponent missed the win. 119 years later, English IM Jack Rudd reached the same position and made no mistake. (Click on any move in any game in this article and a pop-up window will magically appear.)

In May 1902 Wainwright took part in the 4th Kent tournament, held in Tunbridge Wells: an all-play-all for 10 players won by the Dutch organist Rudolf Loman, ahead of the likes of Reginald Pryce Michell and (later Sir) George Alan Thomas. Perhaps his most interesting opponent here was the mountaineer Edward Douglas Fawcett.

Against Isle of Wight solicitor Francis Joyce he essayed the relatively new and unexplored Albin Counter-Gambit.

His score of 5½/9 gave him a share of 3rd prize, but he was slightly less successful in the Southern Counties Chess Union Tournament in Norwich, where 4½/11 left him well behind Michell, impressive with 10½/11.

We can see the chess administration we know now coming into shape in this period: county organisations affiliated to regional organisations, who were in turn affiliated to the British Chess Federation. It hasn’t changed very much in the last 120 years: some of us have been saying for years that we need a 21st century rather than a 19th century chess administration in this country.

The 1903 SCCU tournament necessitated a trip to Plymouth (the SCCU covered a much wider area than it does today) where he scored a big success. His score of 7/8 gave him first place ahead of George Edward Horton Bellingham, Wilfred Charles Palmer and Michell.

In October 1903 Wainwright resigned his post as President of Guildford Chess Club, as he had left the area. As we’ll see, he moved to Surbiton, just the other side of Kingston from his previous address in Teddington. Perhaps his job had taken him back from Guildford to Kingston, or perhaps he wanted to be nearer London for both work and chess purposes. Surbiton Station, on the main line into Waterloo, provided – and still provides – regular fast services into the capital. It looks very different now than it would have done in Wainwright’s time: the magnificent Art Deco building dates from 1937 and is considered one of the masterpieces of Scottish railway architect James Robb Scott.

He was soon in action against his former club, who were then, and, to the best of my knowledge, are still on friendly terms. Nearly 120 years later, they’re regular opponents in the Surrey Trophy.

West Surrey Times 21 November 1903

Wainwright drew on top board against William Timbrell Pierce, a problemist and endgame study composer who also gives his name to a variation of the Vienna Gambit. Surbiton came out on top, even though retired architect Henry Jones Lanchester failed to turn up. He certainly wouldn’t have been looking after his baby granddaughter Elsa, who would later become a famous film star – and the wife of Charles Laughton: Henry disowned his daughter Edith (Elsa’s mother) and sent her to a lunatic asylum because of her relationship with a working class Irishman named Shamus.

One of the most important events in London chess for many years up to World War 2 was the City of London Championship, which regularly attracted many of the capital’s finest players. Games took place on weekday evenings, so, now living in Surbiton, he’d be able to get home quickly and easily. He took part for the first time in the 1903-04 season, finishing in midfield behind the largely forgotten William Ward, with Michell in second place.

1904 was a momentous year for British Chess: the first British Championship took place. It’s still, to this day, more or less recognisable. The venue chosen was Hastings: perhaps Wainwright was disappointed not to have been one of the 12 players selected for the championship itself, won by the Anglo-American master William Ewart Napier after a play-off with Atkins. There were three equal First Class sections, and he found himself in Section B, where he shared first place with Charles Hugh Sherrard. Other sections included the British Ladies Championship and sections for Second and Third Class players.

At Southport in 1905 he was promoted to the Championship itself where he scored a very respectable 6/11, finishing in 6th place.

Here’s his exciting victory over the tragic and short-lived Hector Shoosmith, the son of a Temperance Lecturer from Brighton.

In 1906 the British Championship took place in Shrewsbury. Atkins and Michell took the first two places, with Wainwright’s 7/11 giving him a share of third place with Francis Lee, Palmer and Shoosmith. The BCM remarked: The play of … Palmer, Shoosmith, and Wainwright has been specially marked by light and shade. Each lost games through blunders and weak moves, but they have all shared in providing some of the brightest and most interesting chess of the tournament. A comment which could, I suppose, sum up Wainwright’s chess career. His oldest son, George Jnr, took part in one of the Third Class sections but without distinction.

His game against the veteran Blackburne, by now a shadow of his former self, was marked by a finish which would have been worthy of his opponent.

As Autumn arrived it was time for the City of London Club Championship, and it was this tournament that provided George Edward Wainwright with perhaps his greatest success. He ran out a clear winner with 14/17, 2½ points ahead of the runner-up, Shoosmith, with many of London’s leading amateurs trailing in his wake. As well as holding the Gastineau Cup for a year, he received the princely sum of £10 and the championship medal.

Weekly Journal (Hartlepool) 05 April 1907

The news even reached the chess players of Hartlepool, who were informed that he holds a very important official position, and that, according to a leading Chess Master, he is a sporting Chess player of the best type.

George Edward Wainwright had now, in his mid forties, reached the climax of his chess career. Rod Edwards, in his 1907 rating list, gives him a rating of 2407, placing him 71st in the world. Although 100 points or more behind Atkins and Burn, he was one of the strongest of a group of talented English amateurs rated between about 2300 and 2400, all of whom are of interest for both their lives and their games.

Wainwright didn’t have far to travel for the 1907 British Championship in London, where his 6½/11 was enough for a tie for second place with Blackburne, Michell and EG Sergeant behind Atkins. Another outstanding result: press reports remarked on his vivacious and enterprising style.

Here’s how he dispatched Blake.

In the 1907-08 City of London Championship he couldn’t quite repeat his success of the previous year, finishing a close third behind Thomas Francis Lawrence (you’ll certainly meet him in a future Minor Piece) and William Ward. He didn’t play in the 1908 British Championship, but continued to compete regularly in club and county matches for both Surrey (qualified by residence) and Yorkshire (qualified by birth). He had also returned to playing in the Anglo-American cable matches.

He didn’t play at the British Championships at Tunbridge Wells in 1908, but he was back again at Scarborough the following year, finishing in midfield

He will be somewhere in this rather splendid group photograph.

In this game he again demonstrated his attacking skills, sacrificing a knight to defeat Liverpool’s Harry Holmes, an aural and ophthalmic surgeon.

He had previously finished 3rd in the 1908-09 City of London Chess Club Championship, and, coincidentally, the 1909-10 event saw the same three players taking the first three places: Ward, Blake and Wainwright.

This game, against the problemist Percy Healey, was described by Frederick Winter Markwick, in the Essex Times, as one of the prettiest games I have had the pleasure of watching.

In March 1910 he represented the City of London Chess Club against a visiting team from the Dutch Chess Federation, drawing his game on board 3 against Abraham Speijer, The Dutch team fielded the brothers Arnold and Dirk van Foreest on boards 1 and 7. Arnold is the great great grandfather of GMs Jorden and Lucas van Foreest and their sister Machteld.

The 1910 British Championships took place in Oxford, where he again performed well, sharing 4th place on 6½/11, and beating both Blackburne and the up and coming Fred Dewhirst Yates, who tied for second place behind Atkins.

Here’s how Wainwright beat his fellow Yorkshireman.  I guess they were half way towards a comedy sketch!

Wainwright wasn’t quite so successful in the 1910-11 edition of the City of London Club Championship, but, now approaching his half century, a slight decline was only to be expected.

Meanwhile, on 2 April 1911 it was time for the census enumerator to call. Let’s see who was at home.

There he was, at 1 St Andrew’s Square, Surbiton, very convenient for the station and trains to London. Very nice it looks, too. George Edward Wainwright and his family seemed to be doing very well for themselves.

Photo: Google Maps

He’s described, rather modestly, as a Principal Clerk working for the Local Government Board. His wife is also at home, as are their two middle children. Philip is a business pupil for a photographic requisites supply company, while Constance has no occupation listed. They also have a visitor, 19-year-old Julie Ross from Glasgow, as well as a cook and a housemaid.

George Jnr was following in his father’s footsteps in more ways than one. He had moved to his father’s home town of Ilkley, where he was also working for the Local Government Board, as a district auditor. 16-year-old David, though, had chosen a different career path: he was a naval cadet undergoing officer training in Dartmouth.

Here, having followed George Edward Wainwright through his forties, the busiest decade of his chess career, is a good place to pause.

Come back soon for the third and final episode of the chess career of the man who, although not a member for long, was by far the strongest player in the first Twickenham Chess Club. Our friends at Surbiton can also claim him as one of their finest players.

 

Ackowledgements:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

EDOChess – GE Wainwright

Yorkshire Chess History: GE Wainwright

Britbase

Game analysis generated by ChessBase using Stockfish 14.

 

 

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The Life and Games of Vasily Smyslov Volume I: The Early Years 1921-1948

The Life and Games of Vasily Smyslov Volume I: The Early Years 1921-1948, Andrey Terekhov, Russell Enterprises, 1 Dec. 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1949859249
The Life and Games of Vasily Smyslov Volume I: The Early Years 1921-1948, Andrey Terekhov, Russell Enterprises, 1 Dec. 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1949859249

From the publishers blurb:

“Vasily Smyslov, the seventh world champion, had a long and illustrious chess career. He played close to 3,000 tournament games over seven decades, from the time of Lasker and Capablanca to the days of Anand and Carlsen. From 1948 to 1958, Smyslov participated in four world championships, becoming world champion in 1957.

Smyslov continued playing at the highest level for many years and made a stunning comeback in the early 1980s, making it to the finals of the candidates’ cycle. Only the indomitable energy of 20-year-old Garry Kasparov stopped Smyslov from qualifying for another world championship match at the ripe old age of 63!

In this first volume of a multi-volume set, Russian FIDE master Andrey Terekhov traces the development of young Vasily from his formative years and becoming the youngest grandmaster in the Soviet Union to finishing second in the world championship match tournament. With access to rare Soviet-era archival material and invaluable family archives, the author complements his account of Smyslov’s growth into an elite player with dozens of fascinating photographs, many never seen before, as well as 49 deeply annotated games. German grandmaster Karsten Müller’s special look at Smyslov’s endgames rounds out this fascinating first volume.”

 

I’ve always considered  Vasily Smyslov (1921-2010) one of the more underrated world champions. I enjoy the combination of logic and harmony in his games along with his endgame expertise, so I was looking forward to reading this book.

Terekhov suggests in his introduction that Smyslov is arguably the least known of all world chess champions.

Perhaps the primary reason for Smyslov’s relative obscurity was his character. Smyslov was a reserved and deeply private man who did not strive for the spotlight.

And again…

Another factor was Smyslov’s playing style, which was classical and logical, but not necessarily flashy. To make a comparison, both Smyslov and Tal were world champions for only one year, but Tal won millions of fans for his dashing style and remains an iconic figure to this day, whereas Smyslov’s popularity largely waned after the period when he held the championship.

Up to now there have been few books, apart from those written by Smyslov himself, about his games, and they have limitations, partly because they were written in the pre-computer age and partly because they lacked biographical detail.

A few years ago, I decided to write a book that would fill in these blanks. Initially, it was conceived as a traditional best games collection, interspersed with a few biographical details. However, it quickly became apparent that Smyslov’s long chess career cannot be covered in a single volume. I amassed an extensive library of books, tournament bulletins and magazines which cover Smyslov’s chess career from the 1930s onwards. I also kept unearthing new material, including Smyslov’s manuscripts and letters.

What we have here, then, is the first volume of a hugely ambitious project, a combination of biography and best games collection, taking Smyslov’s career from his first competitive games in 1935 through to the 1948 World Championship Match-Tournament. A second volume will take the story up to 1957, when he became world champion, and further volumes will cover the remainder of his career, up to his last tournament games in the 21st century and the endgame studies he composed towards the end of his life.

What you don’t get is Smyslov’s complete games: you’ll need to look elsewhere if you want them.

The book comprises ten chapters, each covering a different part of Smyslov’s career. Each chapter in turn is divided into biography and games.

There are 49 complete games in this volume, all annotated in considerable depth. Terekhov has used an impressive range of sources: Smyslov’s own annotations, Soviet chess magazines and other contemporary sources, later commentators such as Kasparov, and skilfully combined these with computer analysis using today’s most powerful engines. Many annotators make the mistake of going overboard with reams of computer-generated variations, but Terekhov avoids this pitfall. While not everyone wants this sort of detail, the annotations in this book are some of the best I’ve read. A nice touch is that you also get brief biographical notes on his opponents.

The scope of the biographical sections, too, is impressive. There’s a lot of fascinating material from Soviet sources with which most readers will be unfamiliar. You’ll learn a lot from this, not just about Smyslov’s life, but also, in general, about how chess in the Soviet Union was promoted and organised in the 1930s and 1940s. You’ll expect full reports of the tournaments Smyslov played in, along with cross-tables. They’re all there, along with much more chess: many snapshots from games, some endgame  studies, all illustrated with a profusion of photographs, many of which will be new to most readers. There’s plenty there to keep every chess lover happy.

Let’s look at a couple of the snapshots.

Here’s a remarkable position from the game Panov – Smyslov 12th USSR Championship 1940 demonstrating his defensive skills.

Smyslov continued with the extraordinary 19… Nc6!!?.

This desperate move evokes the memories of Spassky’s famous Nb8-c6 in a strategically lost position against Averbakh (Leningrad 1956), but Smyslov came up with the idea 16 years earlier!

20. dxc6 bxc6 21. Ba4 Rcb8 22. Qxa3

At first glance, White is completely winning, as he is a bishop up and Black does not even have a single pawn to show for it. However, even the engine agrees that Black has some initiative in exchange for the piece, although far from full compensation. 

Smyslov eventually won this game after Panov blundered on move 41. If you buy the book you’ll see for yourself what happened.

In the 1941 USSR Absolute Championship, Smyslov found himself a pawn down in a minor piece ending against Lilienthal.

At some point, Smyslov took a brilliant, although practically risky decision to sacrifice both of his pieces for the remaining Black pawns. The game transposed to the following rare endgame, which was studied in great detail by the Russian composer Alexey Troitsky:

This position was evaluated by Troitsky as a draw and modern tablebases confirm this assessment. However, defending this position in practice is no fun, as a single bad move can lead to a forced mate. Smyslov managed to hold it and the game was agreed drawn on the 125th(!) move.

But there’s much more than chess in the biographical sections. The game was so popular in the Soviet Union that Smyslov received fanmail from young female admirers, some of which have survived. Here’s Klara, writing to her hero in 1941. Can you send me a photo of yourself, even if a tiny little one, but with your signature? If you cannot give it to me, please send it to me so I could take a look – I will return it. If you only knew how I want to see you, hear you talk – but alas – these are just dreams which cannot come to life for at least another year…

Most poignantly, we have a letter Smyslov wrote to the mother of his friend Bazya Dzagurov in 1942, asking for news of her son, who had been serving in the war. How are you doing? Do you have anyone left by your side? Is there any information about Bazya? I heard that you have not received letters from him for a long time, but I don’t know anything for certain. Please write to me about your life and let me know something about your son and my friend. Tragically, Dzaghurov had lost his life several months earlier.

Right at the end of the book there are a few bonuses. Chapter 11 introduces us to Smyslov’s wife Nadezhda Andreevna, Appendix A  covers the Smyslov System in the Grünfeld Defence, and Appendix B, contributed by GM Karsten Müller, tells us more about Smyslov’s Endgames.

Here are a couple of short game which you’ll find annotated in the book. Click on any move for a pop-up board.

Although Smyslov’s fame rests mainly on his positional and endgame skills, he could still play aggressively when the opportunity arose, and some of his earlier games featured here are quite complex.

In this game (Moscow Championship 1939) he scored a quick attacking victory against the now centenarian Averbakh.

Here’s a highly thematic game from the 1945 USSR Championship.

I’ve said before that we’re living in a golden age of chess literature. There are several reasons for this, two of which are relevant to this book. Firstly, we have much greater access to archive material than ever before, and, secondly, powerful modern engines ensure accurate analysis. This is an outstanding and important work which should be on the shelves of anyone with any interest at all in chess history. Excellent writing, painstaking research and exemplary annotations, along with first class production values (barring the inevitable one or two typos and errors): the book is an attractive and sturdy hardback which will look good in any library.

Congratulations are due to Andrey Terekhov, and also to Russell Enterprises. Very highly recommended. I can’t wait to read the next volume in the series.

Richard James, Twickenham 3rd March 2022

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 536 pages
  • Publisher: Russell Enterprises (1 December 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:194985924X
  • ISBN-13:978-1949859249
  • Product Dimensions: 15.24 x 2.54 x 22.86 cm

Official web site of Russell Enterprises

The Life and Games of Vasily Smyslov Volume I: The Early Years 1921-1948, Andrey Terekhov, Russell Enterprises, 1 Dec. 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1949859249
The Life and Games of Vasily Smyslov Volume I: The Early Years 1921-1948, Andrey Terekhov, Russell Enterprises, 1 Dec. 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1949859249
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