It’s midnight on 28 June 1816. a group of saboteurs breaks into Heathcoat and Boden’s lace mill in Loughborough, Leicestershire, determined to smash their machinery. John Heathcoat must have had advance warning: he’s ensured there are plenty of workers on hand to repel the invaders. Fights break out, gunshots are heard, and one of the watchmen, John Asher, is hit, blood pouring from a slug in back of his head. Asher’s companions are forced to the ground at gunpoint, and the saboteurs destroy all 55 of the lace making machines, steal some lace and make their escape.
These men are Luddites, taking their name from the perhaps mythical Ned Ludd. Campaigning against poor working conditions and grinding poverty they see no option but to use violence to pursue their aims.
The leader of the insurrection, James Towle, from Basford, near Nottingham, is identified and quickly arrested. Although he himself did not fire the shot that hit John Asher, he is convicted, sentenced to death and publicly hanged in Leicester on 20 November. The following year, six more members of Towle’s gang, including his younger brother William, are also hanged, and another two transported to Australia.
Were they heroes or villains? Terrorists or martyrs? You decide. There are always people on the wrong side of history. The Industrial Revolution brought destitution to many, but there were others who saw an opportunity to join the burgeoning middle classes, perhaps by starting up their own shop or factory. This is the story of one of them.
Time moves on. The clock ticks. The calendar pages are turned over.
It’s now 19 October 1818. James and William’s cousin Catherine, also in Basford, marries Richard Green. In 1820 Catherine gives birth to a daughter, who is named Sarah.
We spin forward to 1844, when Sarah marries Thomas Marriott, from nearby Bulwell. He is most likely the Thomas Marriott baptised there on 9 March 1817, whose parents are listed as Joseph, a Framework Knitter, and his wife Mary.
One thing we know about Thomas is that he’s a keen chess player, whose sons will also learn how to play. I’m not sure how common chess was amongst the framework knitting community at the time: perhaps Thomas saw a knowledge of the Royal Game as a way into the middle classes.
Here’s a game played by one of his sons, a devotee of gambit play. ‘Septimus Placid’ was probably top Nottingham player Sigismund Hamel.
By 1851 he’s already doing well. We pick him up in the census, where, remaining in the local lace-making industry, he’s left his humble origins behind. He’s a lace maker and tea dealer, trying out another line of business on the side, it seems. Sarah is there with him, along with their three sons, Edwin, Thomas and Henry, and he’s sufficiently well off to be able to employ a servant.
In 1861 he’s a lace manufacturer, suggesting perhaps a slightly higher status than a lace maker, which is what Edwin is doing. Sadly, Thomas junior had died in 1855, but the family is now completed by Henry, John, Sarah, another Thomas, Frederick and Arthur. John, Sarah and Arthur were all given the middle name Towle in honour, as was the fashion at the time, of their grandmother Catherine. (The census record has been transcribed as Maniott: thanks to Jon D’Souza-Eva for discovering this, which had eluded other historians, and pointing it out to us.) I wonder whether Thomas knew about his wife’s nefarious relatives, and, if so, what he thought of them.
The 1871 census (name transcribed incorrectly as Marrett) tells us Thomas is now employing 4 men and 5 boys. Edwin and John have left home, but Sarah and the other children are still there. No doubt chess is often played.
Here’s another game, played by Arthur at Simpson’s Divan, which we visited in an earlier Minor Piece, against George Alcock MacDonnell, one of the top English (but Irish born) players of the day.
Thomas’s business continues to prosper: by 1881 he’s employing 34 males and 4 females. I hope he treated his workers better than John Heathcoat and John Boden did. Sarah and their two youngest sons, Frederick and Arthur, are at home with him.
Let’s stop to look at what happened to his children. We know that his six sons who survived childhood all played chess, and we have playing records for most of them.
Thomas’s youngest son, Arthur Towle Marriott, was the strongest and also the shortest lived. He’s the subject of a recent book recounting his gloomy fate and romantic chess. EdoChess awards him a peak rating of 2376, and, had he lived, he could have been a world class player.
Here’s one of his last and most brilliant games: he was living in Bournemouth at the time, hoping the sea air would improve his health.
Two of Arthur’s brothers were also pretty decent players, taking high boards for Nottingham in matches against other Midlands towns. The oldest brother, Edwin, had a peak rating of 2275 and draws to his credit against Teddington resident and future British Championship contender George Edward Wainwright and, in his final recorded game, against the young Henry Ernest Atkins. Away from the chessboard he followed in his father’s footsteps as a lace manufacturer, possibly taking over his business interests when he retired.
Thomas Walter Marriott was of similar strength to Edwin, with a peak rating of 2244: again, by the standards of his day, a formidable player. Thomas Walter was, like many chess players, an accountant, and, also like many chess players, never married. At least up to 1911 he chose to live in boarding houses, even though he had inherited property after his father’s death.
John Towle Marriott’s life took a different course. He chose to train as a minister of religion, specifically the Unitarian movement, who believed in the unity of God, rather than the Trinity accepted by most Christians. He settled near Salford, marrying the daughter of a celebrated reporter and antiquary, but died of typhoid fever in 1890. He didn’t seem to play club chess, but returned to Nottingham in 1886 to take part in the 3rd class tournament of the Counties Chess Association, which he won with 6½/9, a performance rated by EdoChess as 1780.
Sarah Towle Marriott may well have played her brothers at home, but chess was, back in those days, considered an almost exclusively male activity. You might think we haven’t made much progress in that respect in the past century and a half. Her first husband, who died young, was a colliery agent who had business interests in London – the 1881 census found the family in Fulham, which, as far as I know, has never had very many coal mines. Their son Harry Marriott Burton was interesting: he was an artist who travelled the world – Canada, South Africa – painting wherever he went, ending his life in Queensland at the great age of 96. His paintings are now quite collectible.
Thomas Marriott’s other two sons are mysterious, as you’ll find out.
The 1891 census finds him, now a retired widower, living with his daughter Sarah, herself widowed, and her two surviving children.
By 1901, now aged 84, he’s living with an otherwise unknown Francis Marriott, who appears to be his full time carer. My guess, as there’s no other Francis around, and because the age is right, this is really Frederick: either the enumerator made a mistake or he’s using a false name for some reason. He’s there with his wife Lizzie, from Derbyshire, and an 11-year-old daughter, Ethel, who, unexpectedly, was born in Vancouver, British Columbia. The last we heard of Frederick was in the 1881 census (he appears to have taken part in a consultation game the same year), and I haven’t been able to find any further sighting of Frederick or Francis in England, Canada or anywhere else. It’s all a mystery.
Thomas’s other son, Henry, is also elusive. He’s living at home in 1871, working as a clerk in a coal office, but then disappears from view.
Thomas lives on until 8 September 1906, dying in the Coppice Asylum, a private institution in Nottingham. I would guess that he was suffering from some kind of dementia in the last few years of his life.
His will makes interesting reading. He seems to have been fairly wealthy, owning several properties, which are shared between Sarah (who also received his personal effects), Thomas Walter and Frederick, with specific instructions that nothing should go to either Edwin or Henry. Perhaps Edwin, having inherited the family business, was well catered for anyway. Perhaps, though, there was a falling out with both Edwin and Henry. Perhaps he chose to reward Sarah and Frederick, who had both been caring for him in his old age, and Thomas Walter, who had been involved with the legal side of the will. Perhaps he had no idea wither or not Henry was still alive. The inheritance for Frederick seems to suggest again that he and Francis were one and the same person, but who knows?
Finally, let’s return to Edwin. He had nine children, several of whom are also remarkably difficult to track down. This is very unusual for the time: one is tempted to ask questions about the family dynamics. My particular interest is with the oldest of them, Arthur James, who married Frances Keywood, the possessor of a relatively unusual surname. (There used to be a lace manufacturing company in Nottingham called Cooper & Keywood.)
The Keywoods were one of several families in Nottingham who intermarried a lot, but Frances must have been related in some way to Doris Keywood, who married Louis James there in 1915. His great grandfather Thomas James (whom you’ll meet again another time) was also my 3x great grandfather. Wheels within wheels. There are always stories. There are always connections. And this is the story of how I’m connected to Arthur Towle Marriott and his chess-playing brothers. It’s also the story of how the game of chess has always been shaped by societal shifts: as we move now from the industrial to the post-industrial (and post-pandemic) age chess will change again. By learning lessons from history we can be proactive in deciding how chess should be promoted and organised in future.
Between 31 August and 9 November 1888, five prostitutes were brutally murdered in Whitechapel, in London’s East End. Their killer was never caught, and is known to us now as Jack the Ripper. Several later murders in the same area might have been committed by the same person.
What you all want to know is this: did Jack the Ripper play chess?
Hundreds of possible suspects have been mentioned over the years: almost everyone, it seems, who was in the right place at the right time, and even some who almost certainly weren’t.
Several of these suspects have chess connections.
First on our list is the artist Walter Sickert. From The (Even More) Complete Chess Addict: ‘According to a well-argued book by Stephen Knight, Jack the Ripper … was in fact the painter Walter Sickert as part of a three-man team. One of the things we know about Sickert was that he was a keen chess-player’.
Sadly, this source is notoriously unreliable. I searched the newspaper archives for any connection between Sickert and chess. All I could find was a critic’s view of a portrait of political activist and atheist Charles Bradlaugh: ‘But the clever artist should have placed a chessboard on the table over which the intellectual face of Mr. B. is bending. He habitually plays chess, I am given to understand, with members of the high aristocracy, and recently checkmated a Bishop.’ This must surely refer to Bradlaugh, who was known to be a chess player, rather than Sickert, although history doesn’t record whether the famous atheist used a bishop to checkmate the Bishop. Perhaps Mike Fox had read a biography of Sickert which provided more information, but I can find no evidence of the artist being particularly interested in chess.
More recently, the crime novelist Patricia Cornwell took up the theory of Sickert being Jack, but I don’t think the evidence stands up.
Number two on our list is none other than Lewis Carroll. We know, of course, that he was a chess enthusiast: you can read more here. I’ve known the compiler of this information, Roger Scowen, on and off for many years: we recently exchanged emails and hope to meet up soon for a few games once it’s safe to do so. But was Carroll Jack the Ripper? To me, it seems like a totally ridiculous suggestion.
Moving swiftly on, let’s visit the Langdon Down Museum of Learning Disability in Teddington – and if you’ve never been there you really ought to. Some of the inmates there at Normansfield were identified by John Langdon Down as having a specific genetic condition which is now known as Down Syndrome. Others, like James Henry Pullen, might now be diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. Facilities were also available for members of wealthy families with mental health conditions, one of whom, who features, with a mention of his chess prowess, in a display in the museum, was Reginald Treherne Bassett Saunderson. Saunderson certainly didn’t have an intellectual disability, but today he’d probably be diagnosed as schizophrenic. His story is told here.
In this game he was winning most of the way through against a strong opponent, but eventually came off second best.
Saunderson was certainly a pretty good chess player, and certainly killed a lady of, reputedly, ‘ill-fame’, but, born in 1873, he was much too young to have been the original Jack the Ripper.
Let’s try again. Lord Randolph Churchill, Winston’s dad, was certainly a chess player, and certainly an opponent of Steinitz. By all accounts he was a pretty unpleasant and unpopular man, but, although he sometimes appears in lists of possible suspects, there’s absolutely no evidence that he had anything at all to do with the Whitechapel Murders.
Finally, meet S Swyer. He played Steinitz in the second round of a handicap tournament at the City of London Chess Club in 1871-72: among the other participants was J Swyer, a first round loser. Tim Harding (Steinitz in London) suggests that the two Swyers were probably brothers, but doesn’t provide any further information. Swyer is an uncommon surname so it’s not too difficult to find out more.
The Swyer family came from near Shaftesbury, in Dorset. Walter Swyer and Sarah Lush (Buckland) Swyer had a daughter, Sarah, followed by seven sons. Walter and Robert, John and George, James and William, and, as was the custom in educated families at the time, their seventh son was named Septimus. Let’s get J Swyer out of the way first. John was a bank manager who spent most of his life in Dorset. James was a chemist and druggist, living in Bethnal Green in London’s East End at the time of the 1871 census, so it must have been him, rather than John, who played chess at the City of London Chess Club.
S Swyer, then, was Septimus. In 1871 he was a General Practitioner, living in Brick Lane, Spitalfields, not very far from his brother Jim. As well as being a GP he specialised in obstetrics and gynaecology.
Both Swyers were placed in Class IV (of V) at the City of London Club, so when Steinitz was paired against Septimus he took the white pieces in both games, but had to play without his queen’s knight.
This game suggests that Septimus was a reasonably competent player, but handicapped by a lack of opening knowledge.
It was much the same story the second time around, but here the game was truncated when Swyer, in a difficult position, hung a rook.
Swyer was a colourful character whose life was not short on controversy. In 1861 a cat, allegedly belonging to his neighbour, broke into his shop and shattered all his medicines, including a bottle of Godfrey’s Cordial, but the narcotic had no effect on the feline intruder. He sued for damages, but his neighbour claimed it was a different moggy and the case was thrown out.
His first wife died in 1874 and he remarried in 1880. It was stated his second wife’s husband was still alive (it seems he lived until 1912) and she was tried for bigamy, but acquitted.
In 1888 he was still in the same area, but in 1891, shortly after the last possible Ripper murder, he suddenly emigrated to the USA. He certainly had financial problems, but who knows?
Dr Septimus Swyer was in the right place at the right time, had the required medical knowledge, and left the country in a hurry. Only circumstantial evidence. Was he Jack the Ripper? Unlikely, I would have thought, but at least, unlike our other four chess-playing (or perhaps not in the case of Sickert) suspects, a possibility. I guess we’ll never know.
It’s Monday 28 August 1871. Join me at Simpson’s Divan in the Strand, where, after a satisfying lunch of roast beef, accompanied by a bottle of their finest claret, followed by a glass of brandy and a Havana cigar, we adjourn to the chess room to watch the great Wilhelm Steinitz in action.
He introduces us to his friend Mr Sich, who is, he informs us, a wine merchant. The two gentlemen are engaged in an exciting battle. At one point Herr Steinitz is a rook ahead but his king seems to be in trouble. He manages to survive and win the game, but could Mr Sich have done better?
I reach into my pocket. “Look, Herr Steinitz! I’m a time traveller from 150 years into the future. I can press a few buttons on this small machine and talk to anyone in the world. I can press a few more buttons, enter the moves of the game you just played and show you both where you went wrong.”
“You might have been impressed by Ajeeb, but my machine is a million times better. You see, Mr Sich, you might have played your rook to queen one on move 28, announcing check to Herr Steinitz’s king. You were still winning, though, but on move 32, if you’d played your queen to queen’s knight five you could then have exchanged everything off on queen seven and advanced your king’s bishop’s pawn to the end of the board. Two moves later, you could still have drawn by exchanging rooks, but instead you left your own king defenceless.”
But now it’s time to bid our farewells and leave: we have a journey to make. Our destination is Hammersmith. We’re excited by the prospect of travelling on the Underground Railway, so head for Charing Cross Station. Just eight weeks earlier, following a banquet attended by Mr Gladstone two days previously, the District Railway started running trains round part of what would become the Inner Circle. In a few years time we’ll be able to take the train directly to Hammersmith, and the line will later be extended to exotic destinations such as Richmond and Ealing. 90 years later a schoolboy playing his friends on the train between Ravenscourt Park and Richmond will develop a lifelong chess obsession, but that’s another story for another time.
For now, we must take the underground train as far as Paddington, and change onto the Hammersmith and City Railway. When we reach our destination we spot a pub called the George just round the corner: it was rebuilt in 1911 and is now part of the Belushi’s chain. We could stop for a drink there, or in several other pubs nearby, but instead we’ll take a stroll down King Street.
After half a mile or so we’ll pass what is now Hammersmith Town Hall, which we visited in our last journey, and notice, in 2021, that it’s being redeveloped. If we look across the street we’ll see Dalling Road, and the building which, we hope, will soon be the site of a new Mind Sports Centre.
Then we pass another pub. This was the Hampshire Hog, but is now just the Hampshire, serving Indian cuisine as well as beers, wines and spirits. Mine’s a pint of London Pride: what are you having?
Why have I brought you here? Because this pub, like the George and many others in the area, was owned by the Sich family. The brewery was purchased by one John Sich in 1790 and later run by his sons, John junior and Henry. The two brothers both had numerous children, many of whom were involved in the family business.
But let’s stop there. News has just come in that Herr Steinitz and Mr A Sich played again two days after the game we witnessed. Again, Herr Steinitz survived a totally lost position to win, in an encounter which was even more exciting that their previous game, with a lot of bamboozling tactics. Probably worth a separate article, I think.
You’ll notice that Mr S missed a simple mate in 5 on move 38 before blundering away first the win and then the draw. Still impressive, though, that he could achieve winning positions in level play against the world’s strongest active player.
What else do we know about him? He was very active in the St James’s Club from 1860 onwards, where he was a second category player, receiving odds from Loewenthal and Valentine Green, but conceding odds to weaker players. We’ll meet at least one of his opponents, EE Humphreys, in a later article. He played published games on level terms against Steinitz in 1871, as we’ve seen, and against Loewenthal in 1873 and 1874, before disappearing from the chess scene. Tim Harding comments that his forename is unknown, but perhaps we can find out. Let’s continue our walk.
Back in the 1960s, when such things were allowed, the Hampshire Hog was the place where teachers from nearby Latymer Upper School would take their pupils for a drink. We’re now going to head away from King Street towards the river. Not so easy to cross the Great West Road, but we could perhaps cheat (as I’m an alumnus they might let me in) by following in the distinguished footsteps of the likes of GM Michael Stean and IM David Goodman, taking the school’s Secret Subway to the dining hall and the Prep department, and then out onto Upper Mall.
We’re now at the start of the notorious Round the River Run (or, in my case, walk) which takes you along the river, over Barnes Railway Bridge, along the towpath on the other side, across Hammersmith Bridge and back to where you started. We won’t do that now, not least because Hammersmith Bridge is currently closed for repairs, but will take a gentle walk by the river in the direction of Chiswick.
Passing the Old Ship, we’ll stop off at the Black Lion. Thanks for offering: I’ll have another pint of Pride. It would be rude not to, given how close we are to where it’s brewed. Above one of the corner tables is a portrait of local resident AP Herbert, whose wife was regularly seen at the Hammersmith Town Hall chess tournaments.
While we’re here, news comes in that Herr Steinitz and Mr A Sich have played another game.
I’m not sure what 7. Ng5 was all about: my pupils get their knuckles rapped if they play moves like that. Steinitz chose to go for the attack rather than regain the exchange on move 26, but Sich missed a draw on move 34.
It’s time to continue our walk, passing Fuller’s (London Pride) Brewery and soon reaching St Nicholas’s Church. Turning up Church Street towards the busy Hogarth Roundabout, a stark contrast to the bucolic views of the Thames, you’ll see a tower on your right with the words LAMB BREWERY. This was the name of the Sich family concern: little other than the tower remains.
But we still haven’t identified A Sich. Let’s return to John and Henry. John had a son named Alexander who was born in 1837, while, two years later, Henry’s son Arthur John was born. So we have two gentlemen named A Sich who were of the right age. As he was active from 1860 onwards, the older cousin seems more likely. A better reason is that, in the days when people were referred to by their full initials and surnames, the chess player was always ‘A. Sich’, never ‘A.J. Sich’. We also know from Steinitz that he was a wine merchant. As it happens, 1871 was a census year, so let’s travel back 150 years again and join the enumerator.
Here, in Church Street, where we’re standing now, is Arthur John, a brewer, with his wife and children. And just round the corner, in Sunbury House, The Mall, Chiswick, is Alexander, a wine merchant, with his wife (who just happened to be Arthur’s sister Helen: nothing like keeping it in the family) and children. This seems confirmation that it was Alex, not Artie, who played chess against Steinitz. We know quite a lot more about them as well. Al was very much concerned with municipal affairs throughout his life, while Art was involved with the army volunteers. Unlike his cousin, he seemed to prefer real soldiers to wooden soldiers.
Time for a final drink, I think. While we’re at the Hogarth Roundabout we could choose the George & Devonshire, which has probably always been a Fuller’s pub, but, to continue the theme of our pub crawl, we might prefer to walk up towards Turnham Green to visit another former Sich pub, the Lamb (formerly the Barley Mow, but its name was changed to that of the original brewery).
While we’re there, there’s another game to look at. Steinitz is White again and plays the King’s Gambit. Again, Sich is doing well at one point, but misdefends, allowing a neat sacrificial finish.
We could, I suppose, visit the Watermans Arms in Brentford, which comes with a recommendation from food critic and West London Chess Club secretary Andy Hayler. Close by is the Watermans Arts Centre, which in turn is across the road from the rather wonderful Musical Museum and a short walk from the London Museum of Water and Steam, which itself is just across the railway line from the new Brentford Stadium. Will they be seeing Premiership football there next season, I wonder?
We could also travel further west to the Bell in Hounslow. Back in the 1980s or thereabouts Hounslow Chess Club met nearby, and the Bell was often the venue for our post mortems after we played them in the Thames Valley League. There are plenty of other former Sich pubs still around as well: see the link below.
Before I leave you, there’s one further reference connecting Alexander Sich to the game of chess.
In 1903 the Chiswick Library Committee, of which Alex was a member, decided to allow their committee room to be used as a games room. Chess, draughts and dominoes were provided so that the local louts could avoid trouble by playing some nice quiet games.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as planned. The boys resorted to games of their own: ‘coddam’, noisy larking, horse-play and pitching cinders. The good citizens of Chiswick were not at all happy, and, after a few weeks, the club was closed down. Alexander Sich said that he did not regret that they had made the experiment. It could hardly have been more different from the pre-lockdown chess group at Whitton Library. There’s a moral there somewhere, but I’m not sure what it is. (Coddam, since you asked, is ‘an old game, usually with three players on each side, based around guessing which of the players’ hands is hiding a coin or button.’)
Meanwhile, the Sich Brewery hit problems during the First World War and was sold off in 1920. Their neighbour, Fuller’s, however, survives and thrives to this day.
This is the second of a series of articles about Steinitz’s English amateur opponents. The next instalment will be coming shortly.
Six months or so ago I had the opportunity to review Tim Harding’s excellent book Steinitz in London.
Whenever I see a game of chess I want to know more about the players, so did a bit of research into a few names that caught my eye. I threatened to write more about them at some point in the future. My first subject is Samuel Walter Earnshaw.
Tim gives two games played in Autumn 1866 between Earnshaw, a member of Birmingham Chess Club, and Steinitz. There’s another game further on in the book played at an unspecified date.
If you know anything at all about 19th century English chess history you’ll be aware of the number of clergymen who played. This seems to have been a specifically British – or even English – phenomenon.
Father Sam wasn’t one of the strongest of the Fighting Reverends, but he turns out to be rather interesting. He was born in Cambridge in 1833, the oldest child of Samuel and Ann (Wall) Earnshaw. Samuel senior (1805-88), originally from Sheffield, was a clergyman, but also a mathematician and physicist, still remembered today for Earnshaw’s Theorem. This is apparently something to do with magnetism, but I didn’t understand a word of the explanation. If you want to find out more I suggest you contact Dr John Upham, who studied this sort of thing for his doctorate.
And here, from an online family tree, he is. The tree also includes photographs of some of Samuel Walter’s brothers, but I haven’t yet been able to locate an image of the man himself.
He had a large family, and several of his sons emigrated to America, but his oldest son stayed in England, following in his father’s footsteps to Cambridge, and then into the church.
Samuel Walter held his first curacy in Bromley-by-Bow, in East London, from where, in 1858, he didn’t have far to go to watch Morphy in action. It was probably there that he first met Samuel Boden, who was to become a lifelong friend. (You might want to describe him as Boden’s Mate.) His next post was in Birmingham, from where he moved a short distance to the small village of Nether Whitacre, twelve miles or so from the city centre. By 1865, now in his early 30s, he was active in the Birmingham chess scene, and his games were being reported in local and national publications. But he also had to make time for his clerical duties. We can pick him up in the Nether Whitacre registers, which record baptisms, marriages and burials in the parish. Here he is, for example, at about the time he played Steinitz in 1866, officiating at three baptisms.
The following August, though, he was to be involved in a tragic incident. The Coventry Standard of 16 August 1867 reported:
Nothing sinister should be taken from this. These days we’d be suspicious of a vicar being ‘much attached’ to ‘fine youths’ and taking them for a swim in the river, but relationships between adults and children were very different in those times.
It’s understandable, though, that Samuel might have felt the need to move on. After a brief curacy in Wales his career, quite typically for the time, changed direction, and he took on the post of Headmaster of Archbishop Holgate Grammar School, Hemsworth, Yorkshire, not all that far from his family roots. In 1888 the school would move to Barnsley, where it would educate the likes of Michael Parkinson, while the new Hemsworth Grammar School would count Geoff Boycott amongst its most famous alumni.
His new job seems to have left him little time for chess, and we don’t hear from him again until 1877, when he appears to be a member of chess clubs in both Sheffield and Leeds.
By this time he may have come to the end of his time at Archbishop Holgate, and he shortly took on a new post as Rector of Ellough, in Suffolk. Here, the work was less demanding and he was also rather nearer London, so he was able to travel down to the capital’s chess haunts where he was once again able to indulge his passion by taking on the great players of the time. He was also very happy to submit his losses for publication, so there are quite a few games available in newspaper columns, which might be the subject of another article.
The next decade saw him continuing what must have been a relatively quiet life, bringing up his children, tending to the needs of his parishioners, and, once every seven weeks, at least up to 1884, visiting London for a few games of chess.
He died at the relatively early age of 54 in 1887. Perhaps he’d been unwell for some time as there’s no chess reference to be found for the last three years of his life.
An obituary, presumably written by another of the Fighting Reverends, George Alcock MacDonnell, appeared in the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News.
“He preferred being wrong with the books to being right with the innovators.”: yes, we all know players like this! It sounds like he was a solid and knowledgeable player, but perhaps lacking either the inspiration or the opportunity to reach master standard. A true and enthusiastic lover of chess, though, amiable, good-hearted and right-principled. A devotee of Caïssa could hardly hope for a better obituary.
The reference to Boden’s board and men is rather odd: I suspect there’s a mistake and it was actually Sam B who presented his set to Sam E before his death, not the other way round. I wonder what happened to the set: does anyone know? Perhaps it was handed down to one of his children.
That’s the end – at least for the time being – of Samuel Walter Earnshaw’s story. It’s not the end of my story, though.
Let me take you back to the church of St Giles, Nether Whitacre, on 30 December 1866. The foundation dates back to Norman times, but by then it may have been in a state of disrepair, as it would be rebuilt in 1870, not long after Samuel Earnshaw’s departure.
It’s the Sunday after Christmas, so the congregation will still be celebrating the birth of Christ as well as looking forward to the new year ahead. There, we see the Houghton family (they pronounced it Howton rather than Horton, I believe). They’re a bunch of, frankly, rather undistinguished farm labourers, like most of the parishioners, but they’re dressed up in their finery today for the baptism of baby William. We really want to talk to his Aunt Jane, though, a sister of Will’s father George. She’s ten years old and proud to be wearing her Sunday best. Shall we reveal what her future holds?
Jane will marry a man named Charles Woolley, a blacksmith from Berkswell, some ten miles to the south of Nether Whitacre. She will present him with four strong and healthy sons, but their two youngest children will sadly die in infancy.
Their oldest son, Thomas, will become a farmer: he and his wife Kate will have to wait 15 years, though, for their only daughter to be born. After Janet’s birth, her mother will be confined in the county Lunatic Asylum, perhaps suffering from what would now be called post-natal depression. Tom, needing help with the farm and the new baby, employs a housekeeper, a middle-aged widow named Florence Smith. One thing leads to another, and, by the time Kate returns home, Flo is expecting Tom’s child. It’s now 1921, and Betty will be brought up by two of Flo’s many sisters, moving to another part of the country to escape from the scandal which had made headlines in the local press. Betty will never be told the identity of her father. History doesn’t record whether or not Jane met, or even knew about, her granddaughter.
In time, Betty will marry, and her elder son will take up chess. He’ll develop an interest in chess history, and, in 2020, will be asked to review a book called Steinitz in London, where he will come across the name of Samuel Walter Earnshaw.
We’ll now travel back in time half a century, to Easter 1971, where, at Hammersmith Town Hall, he will encounter chess journalist and former international Leonard Barden, who, himself, fifty years on and now in his nineties, still writes excellent chess columns.
We’ll now go back to 1948-49, where a young Leonard Barden finished second in the Premier Reserves Major Section in the annual Hastings Congress. Among his opponents was the veteran German master Jacques Mieses. You’ll see that the game was drawn, but the moves were never published and Leonard didn’t keep his scoresheet, so I’m afraid you’ll have to make do with the crosstable.
Let’s turn the clock back again, more than half a century this time, but we’re still in Hastings, for the great 1895 tournament. A young Mieses is there too, along with the former, and first official, World Champion Wilhelm (or William if you prefer) Steinitz.
Their game was also a draw, although my fishy friend tells me Steinitz had a clear advantage at a couple of points. Mieses did well to hold on and share the point.
And, with the Steinitz – Earnshaw games you saw at the start of the article, we complete the circle. I played Barden, who played Mieses, who played Steinitz, who played the Reverend Samuel Walter Earnshaw, who knew my great grandmother, the scion of a family of humble agricultural labourers.
Few people know the story of Vera Menchik yet it deserves to be told. She was the first women’s world chess champion in 1927 and retained the title undefeated until her untimely death at the age of 38 in 1944 during a rocket attack on London. She is more properly compared with the great male players of her era against whom she scored creditably. The absence of a full biography of Vera in English reflects the peculiar circumstances of her life and death.
Vera was, in modern terminology, a refugee and essentially a stateless person for much of her life. She was born in Moscow in 1906 during the period of the Russian Empire to an expatriate family who was forced to flee when she was 15 following the Russian Revolution having lost their livelihood. As they passed through Europe, her father and mother split up in his homeland Czechoslovakia which had been created out of the ruins of the Austro-Hungarian empire. She arrived in England and took up residence in the seaside town of Hastings. (The fact that Hastings had hosted the world’s longest series of annual chess tournaments since 1895 was a happy coincidence.) Vera never attained British nationality until near the end of her life even though she had been domiciled in England from 1921. She won the first-ever Women’s World Championships held in London in 1927 under a Russian flag; thereafter she nominally represented Czechoslovakia until finally she represented England in 1939 following her marriage to a senior official within the British Chess Federation.
Vera’s grandfather was Arthur Illingworth, a wealthy trader from Lancashire who had set up business in Moscow where his Anglo-Russian daughter Olga married František Menčik. He was a successful estate manager. Vera learned chess from her father and performed well at school. Her younger sister Olga was also a good chess player and the sisters remained close throughout their lives.
Vera was a woman in a man’s world – she had to struggle harder to achieve the kind of recognition which was accorded to men. She appeared like a comet in the sky and it would be many years until other women were able to reach her level. At her first major international tournament at Karlsbad in 1929, she was the only female participant in a tournament of 22 great players. Even as women’s world champion, some of the male players objected to her participation. The Viennese master Albert Becker joked that anybody who lost to her should belong to the Vera Menchik Club. By an irony of history, he became its first member losing to her in the third round. She beat many other grandmasters during her career including the Dutchman Max Euwe in 1930 and 1931 (both at Hastings) who was to become world champion in 1935.
Although she is often portrayed as being Russian or Czech or latterly British, she was a true cosmopolitan. She knew that life could be unstable in any country. She had lived through the Russian Revolution; one parent was left behind in Czechoslovakia; she had moved westwards across Europe and embraced different cultures and languages at formative stages of her life. It is no wonder that she learned also to speak Esperanto which was designated to be the world’s lingua franca before English achieved its dominance. As a leading chess player, she travelled back to Moscow and to Czechoslovakia several times as well as to South America for her final match to retain the women’s world champion title in 1939. She needed to be self-sufficient and was obtained roles as the games editor of a chess magazine as well as being appointed the manager of the National Chess Centre in Oxford Street which was destroyed during the Blitz in 1940.
She survived most of the war and now a widow moved in with her mother and sister to a house in south London. They took the precaution of going down to the cellar during bombing raids. Tragically the house received a direct hit from a flying bomb and the entire family was wiped out. Hardly any of her possessions remained save for one dented trophy. The records at the national chess centre were destroyed as were her personal effects including her chess memorabilia. At least there remains a record of the moves played in her games which serve as testimony to her remarkable career as not only the first women’s world chess champion but also a woman who broke boundaries wherever she went and demonstrated that a woman is capable of standing on her own feet professionally and leading a full and eventful life.
The Bomb Attack
BCN remembers that in the early morning of Tuesday, June 27th, 1944 (i.e. 77 years ago) Vera Menchik, her sister Olga, and their mother were killed in a V-1 flying bomb attack which destroyed their home at 47 Gauden Road in the Clapham area of South London.
All three were cremated at the Streatham Park Crematorium on 4 July 1944. Vera was 38 years old.
Vera’s Parents and Sister
Vera Frantsevna Menchik (or Věra Menčíková) was born in Moscow on Friday, 16th February, 1906. Her father was František Menčik, was born in Bystrá nad Jizerou, Bohemia. František and Olga were married on June 23rd 1905 in Moscow and notice of this marriage appeared in British newspapers on July 22nd 1905. Vera’s sister was Olga Rubery (née Menchik) and she was born in Moscow in 1908. Olga Menchik married Clifford Glanville Rubery in 1938. Vera married Rufus Henry Streatfeild Stevenson on October 19th 1937.
Her Maternal Roots
Our interest in unearthing her maternal English heritage / roots has led to the following:
Her mother was Olga (née Illingworth (1885 – 27 vi 1944). Olga’s parents were Arthur Wellington Illingworth and Marie Illingworth (née ?). Arthur was born in October 1852 in the district of Salford, Lancashire, his parents were George Illingworth (1827-1887) and Alice Whewell (1828-1910).
In the 1861 census Arthur is recorded as being of eight years of age and living in the Illingworth household.
In the 1871 census Arthur is recorded as being of eighteen years of age and living in the Illingworth household of nine persons at 5, Lancaster Road, Pendleton, Lancashire. Arthur’s occupation is listed as being a merchants apprentice. In fact, he was a stock and share broker.
Arthur died in Moscow on February 21st 1898. Probate was recorded in London on July 6th, 1900 as follows:
Illingworth Arthur Wellington of Moscow Russia merchant died 21st February 1898 Probate London 6th July to Walter Illingworth stock and share-broker Effects £4713 7s
£4713 7s in 1898 equates roughly to £626,600.00 in 2020 so it would appear that Arthur was considerably successful and almost certainly left money to Olga Illingworth.
What do we conclude from all of this? Quite simply that Vera’s maternal roots were from Salford in Lancashire.
The August 1944 British Chess Magazine (Volume LXIV, Number 8, page 173 onwards) contained this editorial from Julius du Mont:
“British Chess has suffered a grievous and irreparable loss in the death by enemy action of Mrs. R.H.S. Stevenson known through all the world where chess is played as Vera Menchik.
We give elsewhere (below : Ed.) an appreciation of this remarkable woman. Quite apart from her unique gifts as a chess-player-the world may never see her equal again among women players-she had many qualities which endeared her to all who knew her, the greatest among them being here great-hearted generosity.
We sympathise with our contemporary “CHESS” : Vera Menchik was for some years their games editor. Few columns have been conducted with equal skill and efficiency and none, we feel sure, with a greater sense of responsibility.
The news of this remarkable tragedy will be received by the chess world with sorrow and with abhorrence of the wanton and useless robot methods of a robot people.
One shudders at the heritage of hatred which will be theirs, but their greatest punishment will come with their own enlightenment.”
BCM Contemporary Obituary from EGR Cordingley
From page 178 of the same issue we have an obituary written by EGR Cordingley :
“The death by enemy action of Miss Vera Menchik removes not only the greatest woman chess player of all times but a charming personality.
The world will remember her for her chess prowess, for her exceptional skill as a woman player who had beaten in tournament play such gifted players as Euwe, Sultan Khan, Sir George Thomas, Alexander and Yates. In such company, and she played in several of the Hastings International tournaments and other of similar grade, she usually obtained about 33%, though in the Maribor tournament of 1934 she finished third, behind Pirc and Steiner but ahead of Rejfir, Spielmann, Asztalos and Vidmar.
Her game was characterised by solid position-play, with the definite aim of bringing about a favourable end-game and of avoiding wild complications. The ordinary stratagems of the game, small combinations and the like, were of course part of her equipment, but she lacked that imaginative, inventive spirit without which few become really great players.
In recent times, Reshesvky and Flohr (as a professional with a reputation to maintain and a living to earn) have shown that great success can be achieved by reducing the game to pure positional play, the technique being firstly to build up a position devoid of weaknesses, an ‘I can’t lose position,’ and secondly to create and take advantage of the minutest weaknesses in the opponent’s camp, a major weakness may show that imagination is not quite dead within.
This defect in her play was the inevitable reflection of her character: sound common-sense, conscientious to an unusual degree, and persevering, while she had the combative, tenacious nature so desirable and so often found in good chess players; for chess is battle of wits, the fight is what most of use love in chess. Vera was, seldom assertive, a fault not uncommon in chess players. She sat placidly at the chess board, never causing even mild irritation by any of those nervous mannerisms that may always be seen in any chess room, the peripatetic fever being the most prominent. A slight flush would rise when the position grew difficult, or when she was short of time on her clock – and that was recurrent according to the time-limit.
Away from the chessboard show would readily talk of other subjects, and her great interest was in persons, in their actions and behaviour under the strain and stress of the unruly passions; in the moulding of their lives under the inscrutable dictates of chance; in the twists and turns of a mind warped perhaps by a casual incident long ago. Of course, she was a pagan, a thinking one, who had asked and asked and found only the answer that reasoning gave. She judged kindly and never inflicted upon others her own opinions or beliefs: she asked only that these should be heard as one side of any argument, for she enjoyed a dialectic bout.
A delightful side to her character was her simple sense of humour, and I remember so clearly her pleasure – glee would describe it more eloquently – when I gave her the punctuation necessary to make sense of that ludicrous collection of words, ‘Jones where Brown had had had had had had had had had had had the master’s approval’ Anyone who knew her only at the chessboard would have been astonished at the amount of bubbling merriment she discovered of of life’s events.
I shall remember her more for the woman as I knew her over many cups of coffee spread over many, many weeks – complacent, smiling, and kindly; conscientious, loyal, and sincere; as I understand the word, a Christian who would help any deserving person as best she could. E. G. R. C.
and here is the original article as printed:
BCM 1958 Appreciation by Peter Clarke
From British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXVIII (128, 1958), Number 7 (July), page 181 onwards) we have this retrospective from Peter Clarke:
“The night of June 27th,1944, Vera Menchik, World Woman Champion, was killed when an enemy bomb demolished her home in London; with her perished her mother and sister Olga. In these tragic circumstances the chess world lost its greatest woman player, still undefeated and at the height of her powers.
Vera Francevna Menchik was born in Moscow on February 16th, 1906, of an English mother and Czech father. There she spent her childhood, showing a love for literature, music, and, of course, chess, which at the age of nine she was taught by her father. She had a natural bent for the game and when only fourteen shared second and third places a schoolboys (!) tournament. The following year, 1921, the family came to England, where Miss Menchik lived the rest of her life.
As if by some fortunate coincidence, the Menchiks settled in Hastings, though it was not until the spring of 1923 that Vera joined the famous chess club. Her natural shyness and lack of knowledge of English caused this delay. However, they did not handicap her too much
as she herself afterwards wrote: ‘Chess is a quiet game and therefore the best hobby for a person who cannot speak the language.”
She studied the game eagerly, and very soon her talent caught the attention of the Hungarian grandmaster, Géza Maróczy, who was resident at Hastings at that time. Thus there began the most important period in her development as a player; a sound and mature understanding of positional play-and a thorough knowledge of a few special openings and defences: in particular the French Defence. The influence of
the grandmasters ideas was clearly apparent in her style throughout the whole of her career.
Miss Menchik’s rise to fame was meteoric: by 1925 she was undoubtedly the strongest player of her sex in the country, having twice defeated the Champion, E. Price, in short matches; and only two years later she won the first Women’s World Championship in London with the terrific score 10.5-0.5. She was just twenty-one, but already in a different class from any other woman in the world. For seventeen years until her death Vera Menchik reigned supreme in women’s chess, defending her world title successfully no less than seven times (including a match with Sonja Graf at Semmering in 1937, which Miss Menchik won 11.5-4.5. In the seven tournaments for the World Championship she played 83 games; winning 78, drawing 4, and losing 1 only! However, what was more remarkable was that she was accepted into the sphere of men’s chess as a master in her own right, a feat which no woman had done before or has done since. Up to then, women’s chess had been a very poor relation of the masculine game, but here was a woman who was a worthy opponent for the strongest masters.
Flohr wrote of her: ‘Vera Menchik was the first woman in the world who played chess strongly…who played like a man.’ It was as the ambassador extraordinary, so to speak, of the women’s game that Miss Menchik really made her greatest contribution to chess. Wherever she went, at home and abroad, she aroused great interest among her sex; others were eager to follow her, to identify themselves with her. Nowadays women’s chess is well organized, and much of the credit for this must go to Vera Menchik for first bringing it into the light. Among her many personal successes in international tournaments perhaps the greatest was at Ramsgate in 1929: as one of the foreign masters (she was still of Czech nationality) she shared second and third places with Rubinstein, * point behind Capablanca and above, among others, her tutor Maróczy.
Even the greatest masters recognized Miss Menchik’s ability; Alekhine himself, writing on the Carlsbad Tournament of 1929, said: ‘Vera Menchik is without doubt an exceptional phenomenon among women. She possesses great aptitude for the game…The chess
world must help her develop her talent!’
The Vera Menchik Club
An amusing incident occurred at this tournament. There were naturally sceptics among the masters over the lady’s participation. Flohr recalls how one of these, the Viennese master Becker, suggested:
‘Whoever loses to the Woman Champion will be accepted as a member of the Vera Menchik Club which I intend to organize.’
Becker was the first to lose to her, and that evening the masters chided him: “Professor Becker, you did not find it very difficult to join the club. You can be the Chairman.’ And forthwith he was chosen as Chairman for three years. Everyone wished that the new club would soon obtain more members! Indeed, the Vera Menchik Club has many famous names on its lists-Euwe, Reshevsky, Colle, Yates, Sultan Khan, Sir G. A. Thomas, Alexander, to mention a few.
In 1935 Miss Menchik returned to the country of her birth to take part in the great international tournament in Moscow. To be truthful, she had very little success, but she was everywhere treated with respect and sympathy by masters and spectators alike. The Soviet master l. Maiselis, writing in CHESS in 1944.(Shakhmaty za 1944 god), related the following entertaining anecdote from the tournament: One day a group of players and organizers were discussing the chances of Alekhine and Euwe in the forthcoming match. Flohr said: ‘It is quite clear that I will be World Champion.’ We looked at him inquiringly.
‘It’s very simple,” continued Flohr, ‘Euwe wins a match against Alekhine, Vera Menchik beats Euwe (at that time her score against Euwe was +2, =1, -1) and I will somehow beat Miss Menchik.’
We laughed at this good-natured joke, and we laughed all the more the next day when Flohr was unable, despite every effort, to defeat her in a vital game.
ln 1937 Miss Menchik married R. Stevenson, but in chess she continued to use her maiden name, made famous by so many victories. Her husband, a well-known organizer, became, Secretary of the B.C.F: in the following year and remained so until his death in 1943.
Since the days of Vera Menchik women’s chess has taken great strides forward; now there is a special committee of F.I.D.E. to look after its needs.- Only last year the first lnternational Women’s Team Tournament took place ln Emmen, Holland; the new World Champions, the U.S.S.R., became the first holders of the Vera Menchik Cup. So chess goes onwards, but the name of its first Queen will ever be remembered.”
From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Robert Hale, 1970 & 1976) by Anne Sunnucks :
“Woman World Champion from 1927 to 1944. Vera Menchik was born in Moscow on 16th February 1906 of an English mother and a Czech father. Her father taught her to play chess when she was 9.
In 192l her family came to England and settled in Hastings (at 13, St. John’s Road, St. Leonards-on-Sea, TN37 6HP) :
Two years later, when she was 17, Vera joined Hastings Chess Club,
where she became a pupil of Geza Maroczy. The first Women’s World Championship was held in 1927. Vera Menchik won with a score of 10.5 out of 11. She defended her title successfully in Hamburg in 1930, in Prague in 1931, in Folkestone in 1933, in Warsaw in 1935, in Stockholm in 1937 and in Buenos Aires in 1939. She played 2 matches against Sonja Graf, her nearest rival, in 1934 when she won +3 -1 and in 1937, in a match for her title when she won +9 -1 =5.
The first woman ever to play in the British Championship and the first to play in a master tournament, Vera Menchik made her debut in master chess at Scarborough 1928 when she scored 50 per cent. The following year she played in Paris and Carlsbad, and it was at Carlsbad that the famous Menchik Club was formed. The invitation to Vera Menchik to compete among such players as Capablanca, Euwe, Tartakower and Nimzowitch was received with amusement by many of the masters. The Viennese master, Becker was particularly scornful, and in the presence of a number of the competitors he suggested that anyone who lost to Vera Menchik should be granted membership of the Menchik Club. He himself became the first member. Other famous players who later joined the club were Euwe, Reshevsky, Sultan Khan, Sir George Thomas, C. H. O’D. Alexander, Colle and Yates.
Her greatest success in international tournaments was at Ramsgate in 1929, when she was =2nd with Rubinstein, half a point behind Capablanca and ahead of Maroczy. In 1934 she was 3rd at Maribor, ahead of Spielmann and Vidmar. In 1942 she won a match against Mieses +4 -l -5. In 1937 Vera Menchik married R. H. S. Stevenson, who later became Hon. Secretary of the British Chess Federation. He died in 1943. She continued to use her maiden name when playing chess. On her marriage she became a British subject.
From 1941 until her death she was Games Editor of CHESS. She also gave chess lessons and managed the National Chess Centre, which opened in 1939 at John Lewis’s in Oxford Street, London and was destroyed by a bomb in 1940.
In 1944 Vera Menchik was a solid positional player, who avoided complications and aimed at achieving a favourable endgame. Her placid temperament was ideal for tournament play. Her main weakness was possibly lack of imagination. Her results have made her the most successful woman player ever.”
From The Encyclopaedia of Chess, (BT Batsford, 1977) by Harry Golombek :
Probably the strongest woman player in the history of the game, Vera Menchik was born in Moscow and, though her father was a Czechoslovak and her mother English, she played for most of her
life under English colours.
In l92l her family came to Hastings in England and there Vera became a pupil of the great Hungarian master, Geza Maroczy. This was to have a dominating influence on her style of play which was solidly classical, logical and technically most well equipped. Such a style enabled her to deal severely not only with her fellow women players but also with contemporary masters and budding masters. Vera did extremely well, for example, against C. H. O’D. Alexander
and P. S. Milner-Barry, but lost repeatedly to H. Golombek who was able to take advantage of her lack of imagination by the use of more modern methods.
Vera was soon predominent in women’s chess. In the first Women’s World Championship tournament, at London in 1927, she won the title with a score of 10.5 out of 11 and retained the championship with great ease at all the subsequent Olympiads (or International Team tournaments as they were then known more correctly) at Hamburg 1930, Prague 1931, Folkestone 1933, Warsaw 1935, Stockholm 1937 and Buenos Aires 1939.
With Sonja Graf, the player who came nearest to her in strength among her female contemporaries, she played two matches and demonstrated her undoubted superiority by beating her in 1934 (+3-l) and again in a match for the title in l937 (+9-l=5).
In 1937 Vera officially became a British citizen by marrying the then Kent and later B.C.F. Secretary, R. H. S. Stevenson (Rufus Henry Streatfeild Stevenson: ed).
(Rufus Henry Streatfeild Stevenson was home news editor of the British Chess Magazine, secretary of the Southern Counties Chess Union and match captain of the Kent County Chess Association).
Oddly enough, Sonja Graf, many years later, also became a Mrs Stevenson by marrying an American of that name some years after the Second World War.
Vera Menchik also played and held her own in men’s tournaments. She did well in the British championship and her best performance in international chess was =2nd with Rubinstein in the Ramsgate Team Practice tournament ahead of her old teacher, Maroczy. She also had an excellent result at Maribor in 1934 where she came 3rd, ahead of Spielmann and Vidmar.
Her husband died in 1943 and Vera herself, together with her younger sister Olga and her mother, was killed by a V1 bomb that descended on the Stevenson home in London in 1944.
This was a sad and premature loss, not only for British but for world chess, since there is no doubt she would have continued to dominate the female scene for many years.
As a person Vera was a delightful companion, jolly and full of fun and understanding. As a player she was not only strong but also absolutely correct and without any prima donna behaviour. Generous in defeat and modest in victory, she set a great example to all her contemporaries.
An example of Vera’s attacking play at its best against her nearest rival, Sonja Graf, is shown by the following game which was played in her 1937 match at Semmering in Austria :
From The Oxford Companion to Chess, (Oxford University Press, 1984) by Hooper and Whyld :
“Woman World Champion from 1927 until her death. Daughter of a Czech father and an English mother, Menchik was born in Moscow, learned chess when she was nine, settled in England around
1921, and took lessons from Maroczy a year or so later. In 1927 FIDE organized both the first Olympiad and the first world championship tournament for women. These events were run concurrently, except in 1928, until the Second World War began, and Menchik won the women’s tournament every time; London 1927 (+10=1); Hamburg 1930 (+6=1 — 1); Prague 1931 (+8);
Folkestone 1933 ( + 14); Warsaw 1935 (+9); Stockholm 1937 (+14); and Buenos Aires 1939 ( + 17=2). She played in her first championship tournament as a Russian, the next five as a Czech,
and the last as a Briton. She also won on two matches against her chief rival, the German-born Sonja Graf (c. 1912-65): Rotterdam, 1934 (+3-1), and Semmering, 1937 (+9=5—2),
In international tournaments which did not exclude men Menchik made little impression; one of her best results was at Maribor 1934 (about category 4) when she took third place alter Pirc and L. Steiner ahead of Spielmann. In 1937 she married the English chess organizer Rufus Henry Streatfeild Stevenson (1878-1943), A chess professional, she gave lessons, lectures, and displays, and was appointed manager of the short-lived National Chess Centre in 1939. In 1942 she defeated Mieses in match play (+4=5-1), She, her younger sister Olga (also a player), and their mother were killed in a bombing raid.
Her style was positional and she had a sound understanding of the endgame. On occasion she defeated in tournament play some of the greatest masters, notably Euwe, Reshevsky, and Sultan Khan. Men she defeated were said to belong to the Menchik club. When world team championships for women (women’s chess Olympiads) were commenced in 1957 the trophy for the winning team was called the Vera Menchik Cup.”
She was inducted to the World Chess Hall of Fame in 2011.
“International Grandmaster Andrew Soltis is chess correspondent for the New York Post and a very popular chess writer. He is the author of many books including What it Takes to Become a Chess Master, Studying Chess Made Easy and David vs Goliath Chess.”
From the Batsford web site :
“Nearly 30 years since his last chess game, Bobby Fischer’s fame continues to grow. Appearing in Hollywood movies, documentaries and best-selling books, his life and career are as fascinating as they ever were and his games continue to generate discussion. Indeed, with each new generation of computer, stunning discoveries are made about moves that have been debated by grandmasters for decades.
International Grandmaster Andrew Soltis played Fischer and also reported, as a journalist, on the American’s legendary career. He is the author of many books, including Pawn Structure Chess, 365 Chess Master Lessons and What it Takes to Become a Chess Master.”
No chess library is complete without a copy of Bobby Fischer’s My 60 Memorable Games. If you’re interested in Fischer, and you certainly should be, you’ll also want a games collection looking at the whole of his career through 21st century eyes.
There are several to choose from and, I guess, you’d find a comparative review useful, but I’m not in a position to do that. All I can do at the moment is comment on the book in front of me.
This is a new edition of a book first published in 2003. I don’t have the original to hand to make a comparison. Seven games have been added, making a total of 107: mostly Fischer wins but a few draws are also included.
Here’s Soltis, from his Author’s Note:
Thirty years later (in 2002), I looked at Fischer’s games for the first time since they were played. What struck me is that they fell into two categories. Some were, in fact, overrated. But many more were underrated – if known at all. And his originality, so striking at the time, had been lost with time. It seemed to me Fischer deserved an entirely new look.
Soltis identifies several recurring themes in Fischer’s games. By emphasizing these themes in his annotations he provides instructive lessons for his readers.
“To get squares you gotta give squares”, as Fischer himself said.
Ugly moves aren’t bad.
Material matters. Soltis adds here that Fischer was a materialist: most of his great sacrificial games were played before he was 21.
Technique has many faces. Fischer was equally good at both obtaining and realizing an advantage – two different skills – often by converting one type of advantage to another.
Soltis concludes his note as follows:
Since the first edition of this book, Fischer’s games have been re-analyzed by many others, including Garry Kasparov, with the help of computers. Everyone finds something new – hidden resources, nuances and errors in earlier annotations. This is almost certain to go on with each new generation of stronger analytic engines. I have made extensive revisions since I tackled these games in 2003. But I suspect Fischer’s moves, like his life, will remain a source of fascination – if not mystery – well into this century.
One of the big plusses of this book is that the author was there at the time: he knew Fischer and all his contemporaries. Each game is preceded by a brief introduction putting it in context, often with the inclusion of a timely anecdote revealing an aspect of Fischer’s complex and contradictory personality.
If you’re familiar with Soltis’s style of annotation you’ll know what to expect: detailed annotations, using words to tell a story and only including variations where necessary: no reams of unexplained computer-generated analysis here.
Have a look at how Soltis deals with a game you might not have seen before: the lightweight encounter Fischer – Naranja, played in the Philippines in 1967. (MegaBase thinks this is from a simul, whereas Soltis describes it as one of a series of clocked games.) Note that these are just the more pertinent of his annotations.
1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. Nge2 e5
The principled reply, as the Russians would say. It was unfairly criticized at the time for surrendering d5.
4. Nd5 Nf6 5. Nec3 Be7 6. Bc4 O-O 7. d3 h6?
Black wanted to avoid 8. Nxe7+ and 9. Bg5 but this puts his king on the endangered species list. Today’s grandmasters get close to equality with 7… Nxd5 8. Bxd5 d6 and a trade of bishops after Bg5.
8. f4! d6?
Black must exchange on f4.
This strategically decides the game. White stops …Be6 and sets the stage for a decisive advance of the g-pawn.
It was too late for 9… Nxd5 10. Nxd5 Bg5 because 11. Qh5! Bxc1 12. Rxc1 threatens 13. f6 with a quick mate. … But Black should at least eliminate the bishop with 9… Na5.
A striking move which prepares g4-g5, with or without Nxe7+ and Qh5. The key variation is 10… Nxd5 11. Bxd5! Bxh4+ and now 12. g3! Bxg3+ 13. Kf1, à la King’s Gambit, gives an overwhelming attack.
10… Bb7 11. a3!
Another exact move, preserving the bishop against 11… Na5 and stopping … Nb4. The significance of this is shown by 11. Nxf6+ Bxf6 12. Qh5? when Black has 12… Nb4! with good chances, e.g. 13. Bb3 d5 14. g4 c4!.
11… Rc8 12. Nxf6+! Bxf6 13. Qh5
Black had to do something about 14. g4 and 15. g5, and this enables him to shoot back with 14. g4 d5.
Another terrific move, threatening Bxf6. Of course, 14… hxg5 15. hxg5 is taboo because of mate on the h-file.
14… d5 15. Bxf6 dxc4 16. Qg4 g6 17. dxc4!
There must have been a huge temptation to try to finish the game off in style – particularly after White saw 17. Qg5 hxg5?? 18. hxg5 and Rh8#…. But again … Nxf5 bursts the bubble: 17. Qg5? Nxf5! and now 18. Bxd8 hxg5 19. Bxg5 Nd4 is a roughly equal ending, or 18. exf5 hxg5 19. hxg5 Qxf6.
This acknowledges defeat but 17… Kh7 would have breathed life into 18. Qg5!!:
(a) 18… Re8 19. h5! hxg5 20. hxg6+ and Rh8#
(b) 18… Rc6 19. h5! (the fastest) Nxf5 20. hxg6+ Kg8 21. Nd5! and
Nice tactics, to be sure, but Fischer was winning from move 9, and, so Stockfish 13 tells me, had many other ways to bring home the point. Was it really one of his greatest games, then? Or is this not the point of the book?
The third, tenth and thirteenth games from the 1972 Fischer – Spassky match are included, but not, to my surprise, the sixth, one of my favourite Fischer games. Most of the old favourites, though, are included, but all except his most devoted fans will find a few unfamiliar games.
As you would expect, this is a solid book which serves its purpose well. If you want the best of Bobby on your bookshelves you’re unlikely to be disappointed, but you might perhaps prefer to consider his games from a 2020 rather than an updated 2000 perspective. You’ll probably want to look around and decide which of several on the market best suits your requirements.
My main problem is a lack of references: although sources are sometimes given, all too often we read that ‘Botvinnik wrote’ or ‘Boleslavsky said’ without being told where. There are several blank pages at the end of the book which might usefully have been filled by a bibliography.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book, which gave me a new insight into Fischer’s games, along with some valuable background information.
Richard James, Twickenham 8th March 2021
Book Details :
Paperback: 312 pages
Publisher: Batsford Ltd; 2nd revised edition (5th March 2020)
BCN wishes Happy Birthday to GM Daniel Fernandez who at 26 is currently England’s youngest Grandmaster. The previous GM title holder was Jonathan Hawkins in 2014 making two in seven years.
Daniel Howard Fernandez was born in Stockport, Manchester on Sunday, March 5th 1995. “Think Twice” by Celine Dion was top of the UK hit parade.
Daniel started playing chess at the age of seven (after his father taught him the rules) and at this time attended King’s School, Harpenden. His first chess club was Little Heath which became the ECF Small Club of the Year in 2015. They play in the Potter’s Bar area and include IM John Pigott in their membership.
At Little Heath Chess Club Daniel was coached by Mark Uniacke (who worked extensively on the early chess engine HIARCS).
Daniel went up to Queen’s College, Cambridge to read mathematics and left to become a Data Analyst at Mu Sigma Inc. He can speak several languages (including Serbian!) and works as a translator when opportunities arise.
He currently lives in Australia offering coaching and writing chess books (for Thinkers Publishing) and columns for Chessbase. In his spare time (!) Daniel is studying for The Master of Complex Systems degree at The University of Sydney.
Daniel’s first ECF graded game was rapidplay on July 5th 2003 in the SCCU Junior Under-14 Final.
His first standard play game was in August 2003 at the Edinburgh based British Under-8 Championship.
On August 13th 2004 in Scarborough Daniel became British Under-9 Champion sharing the title with Daniel Hunt & Saravanan Sathyanandha.
The Fernandez family relocated to Singapore in August, Daniel attending the Anglo-Chinese School in Singapore. He was swiftly recruited into the Singapore Chess Federation’s (SCF) National Junior Squad. Also in that squad were Danielle Ho and Howard Chiu (remember this for later!).
Barely three weeks after his Scarborough triumph on September 4th 2004 Daniel played his first FIDE rated game in the 5th Asian Under-10 Championship organised by the ASEAN Chess Confederation. His performance in this event was rewarded with a FIDE Master title in 2005. Because he was no longer active in English events the ECF had the unusual scenario of having a ten year old FIDE Master with a published grade of ~120!
In typically modest fashion Daniel confesses that he did not “deserve” the FM title at this time and that it was the consequence of the strong position of the ASEAN and SCF organisations within world chess. At the same event Wesley So gained his FM title in the Under-12 section.
Another interesting consequence of the relocation was that when Daniel returned to England in 2012 his last published grading went from ~ 120 to ~230!
One of the motivations of returning to England was to obtain the necessary entrance requirement to study mathematics at Cambridge. This he did by studying for A-levels at Manchester Grammar School.
Consequently Daniel’s FIDE rating profile also showed a fast pace of development:
Sydney 2009 and Sydney 2010 both provided IM norms with the third one coming from Kuala Lumpar 2010 and with these Daniel became an International Master in 2010 the title being confirmed at the 3rd quarter Presidential Board Meeting 2010, 24-25 July 2010, Tromso in Norway.
He won the Budapest Sarkany Tournament in 2014 as follows:
earning his first GM norm in the process.
BCN asked Daniel for three of his favourite games. The first one is this Polish Defence game from 2015 played at the Visma Arena in Vaxjo, Sweden. First we have the crosstable showing that Daniel earnt his second GM norm from this event.
and here is the game:
and during the 2015/15 4NCL season Daniel obtained his final GM norm playing for Wood Green.
In March 2015 he made his first of three Varsity match appearences for Cambridge re-uniting with Danielle Ho and Howard Chiu (remember those names from earlier?).
Daniel won the 10th Jessie Gilbert Memorial in 2017:
and also in 2017 Daniel was awarded the Grandmaster title at the 88th FIDE Congress 2017, 7-15 October, Goynuk, Antalya, Turkey.
On March 11th Daniel represented Cambridge in the 135th Varsity Match at the RAC Club in Pall Mall. According to chess24.com ‘IM Daniel Fernandez, playing board 2 for Cambridge, was awarded the Brilliancy Prize by GM Ray Keene in consultation with McShane and Speelman, for his “high-class swindle” after recovering from a bad blunder.’ See here for details.
In 2018 Daniel ventured into the world of book writing when Thinker’s Publishing released The Modernized Caro-Kann on September 8th 2018. This was a repertoire book for Black based around the Smyslov Variation :
“GM Daniel Fernandez (born 1995) has been an active and accomplished player for several years. He represented his native Singapore twice at Olympiads (2010 and 2012) before transferring to the English chess federation. There, he won the national classical titles at U-18 and U-21 levels and worked to become a Grandmaster while simultaneously studying at Cambridge. The Caro-Kann was instrumental in his quest for that title. Currently, Daniel is known in the chess scene not only as a solid player, but also as a mentor figure to younger English players, as a producer of well-received commentary and analysis, and as a multilingual chess coach. This is his first book.”
From January 2019 we have this interesting encounter between Gawain Jones and Daniel from the annual 4NCL meeting of Guildford and Wood Green:
With the White pieces Daniel has played a wide range of first moves but the majority move by far is 1.e4. His choice versus the Najdorf is some eclectic : sometime ago 6. Rg1 was the favourite and now 6.a4 is preferred.
Against 1…e5 Daniel offers a main line Ruy Lopez.
What does a Caro-Kann expert play against the Caro-Kann? Nowadays the Two Knights Variation is employed!
As the second player he plays the Sicilian Najdorf as well as the Caro-Kann plus an equal mixture of the Grünfeld and King’s Indian Defences.
In 2019 Daniel was interviewed by Edwin Lam on behalf of ChessBase : fascinating reading!
BCN remembers Nancy Elder MBE who passed away on Wednesday, March 4th 1981, i.e. forty years ago in Perth, Western Australia.
Nancy Conchar Gordon was born on Tuesday, May 25th 1915. On the same date was born Robin Day in High Wycombe who went on to design the polypropylene stacking chair.
Nancy was born in Kirmabreck, Kirkcudbrightshire in the Dumfries and Galloway council area of Scotland.
In the 1939 register Nancy was living at 18 Thornton Avenue, Urmston, Manchester, M41 5DJ with a married couple, William Furnish (a railway time keeper) and Gertrude Furnish who performed unpaid domestic duties. Presumably Nancy was their lodger.
Her occupation was given as a teacher of music and physical training. At this time she was single at the age of twenty-four.
In the mid-1940s Nancy relocated from Manchester to Dundee where she continued her teaching career at Dundee High School. During that time she encouraged and coached a number of players some of whom represented Scotland.
In 1950 in Tealing, Angus, Scotland Nancy married David Livie Elder. They had a daughter Christine who played chess as a junior. Tealing has a strong connection with the Elder family.
According to Alan McGowan (Chess Scotland): “She was the main instigator in forming both the Schools’ and Primary League in Dundee, and she assisted in the organisation of the Dundee 1967 International Centenary Tournament.”
When she passed away Nancy was living at 39 Whitefauld Road, Dundee, DD2 1RJ :
Her passing was reported in the Dundee Courier and Advertiser on March 6th 1981 as follows :
Nancy Elder dies after heart attack on flight
Mrs Nancy Elder 39 Whitefauld Road, Dundee, a former music teacher at Dundee High School and one of Scotland’s best known chess players, has died after taking ill on a flight to Australia.
She was off for a long holiday which she planned to spend with relatives and friends from the world of international chess, but, after suffering a heart attack on a plane from Singapore, had been in intensive care in Perth, Western Australia.
Her daughter Christine, a primary school teacher in Tighnabruaich, received daily telephone reports on her mother’s condition from a cousin and, at the weekend, heard that she was improving gradually.
The shock news of her mother’s death came late on Wednesday night.
Mrs. Elder, who went into semi-retirement recently, has been to the fore in chess for about 35 years at local, national and international levels.
She has represented her country five times, having taken part in the chess Olympiad in Yugoslavia in 1963 and 1973, in Israel in 1976, in Buenos Aires in 1978 and in Malta last year.
She turned down the chance to take part on three other occasions.
She was awarded the MBE for her services to chess in 1974.
She was President of Dundee Chess Club, chairman of the congress committee of the Scottish Chess Association and on the council of the Scottish Junior Chess Association.
She started playing chess during her school days with her brother and the two of them were more-or-less self taught.
It wasn’t until after the Second World War that she received any sort of coaching, by which time she had established her own style.
She retired on April 14th last year after 24 years in the music department of Dundee High School, where she specialised in teaching the oboe.
She continued to teach privately.
From British Chess Magazine, Volume CI (101, 1981), Number 6 (June), pp. 219-220 we have this obituary from Bernard Cafferty :
“Nancy C. Elder, MBE, died in Perth, Western Australia on March 4th 1981. Mrs. Elder had recently retired after a lifetime of teaching, her last post being in Dundee. I well remember her account of teaching under difficult conditions in World War 2 in Manchester. 15 Scottish Women’s Champion (the record for the event which she set-up at Troon in 1980).
Mrs Elder was a regular competitor in the British Women’s Championship (sometimes in rivalry with her daughter Christine) and showed her playing strength with a score of 5.5/12 on board two for Scotland at the Women’s Chess Olympiad, Malta, 1980.
I am sure she will be best remembered though for her decades of effort in the organising of chess in Scotland, particularly for juniors and in schools, in recognition of which she was awarded the MBE, the only such honour ever given for services to chess ‘north of the border’ as Alan Borwell puts it in his Newsflash obituary.”
Chess Scotland award the Nancy Elder Cup annually for an individual competition for “club level” players.
We are grateful to Helen Milligan who told BCN :
My most memorable incident was when I refused to play in the Scottish Ladies at the annual Congress, preferring to try to improve my chess by playing in the Open section (really the B-Grade, below the Championship proper). I got given a piece of Nancy’s mind for that – she did not approve!
BCN remembers IM Čeněk Kottnauer (24-ii-1910 14-ii-1996)
Čeněk (pronounced CHEnek) Kottnauer was born in Prague on Thursday, February 24th, 1910. Čeněk was employed in the Ministry of Education in Prague.
Whilst playing in the Lucerne International tournament (28-xii-1952 03-i-1953) he sought political asylum :
From the Milwaukee Journal, January 3, 1953 we have
“Czech Chess Star Asks for Asylum
Lucerne, Switzerland – Cenek Kottnauer, 42, Czecho-Slovakian chess champion and an employee of the ministry of education in Prague, announced Saturday that he would not return to Czech-Slovakia and would request political asylum in Switzerland. Kottnauer had been participating in a chess tournament.
He said that the political situation in his country had grown “more and more critical” and he wanted “to leave before it is too late”. He said that he had been divorced recently and had no children in Czech-Slovakia”.
In a January 2009 post to the English Chess Forum Leonard Barden wrote :
“Cenek Kottnauer defected from Czechoslovakia during the Lucerne New Year tournament of 1952-3 (I am precise on this because I was present). His wife Daniela joined him there, having been smuggled from Prague in the boot of a diplomat’s car. Kottnauer had been a water polo player of international standard before 1939 so came into serious chess only his mid-30s. He made his name with his good showing in the Prague v Moscow match of 1946 and his Bxh7+ win then against Kotov. He competed in great tournaments like Groningen 1946 and Moscow 1947; his first visit to England was in 1947 when the Czech team came here.
In the 1940s he had a job in the Czech sports ministry but got implicated in the purges following the Slansky trial. He also believed that Pachman and Opocensky were involved in the campaign against him.”
Čeněk married Daniela (née Horska, also Czech, having met in Austria) and they had a son Daniel VR Kottnauer. Daniela was born in 1934 and was 24 years younger than Čeněk. She died on February 20th 2008 in a hospice in Essen, Germany close to where Daniel currently resides. Daniel has been a pianist and singer for 30 years, an event manager for 19 years and a coach and VIP limousine driver for 5 years and may be found on LinkedIn.
In 1965 Čeněk and Daniela were living at Flat 2, 7-8 Bathurst Street, London, W2.
In Kings, Commoners and Knaves (Russell Enterprises, 1999), page 108, Edward Winter wrote :
“The obituaries of Čeněk Kottnauer (1910-1996) have, in common with all of the encyclopaedia entries on him, been strangely wanting in pre-1940s references to his chess career. Czech magazines of the 1930s contain occasional games by ‘Kottnauer’ (no forename or initial given), including the following :
Source : Československý šach, January, 1932, page 9. The score was also given, with notes, by Vera Menchik, on page 153 of the April 1932 issue of The Social Chess Quarterly. ”
From Šachový Týdeník, 25th February, 2010 we learnt that Čeněk was twice Prague lightning champion.
In 1943 Čeněk was a clear first overall with 10.5/13 in the Zlin tournament.
From Bronstein on the King’s Indian, Everyman Chess, 1999, game 25 we have :
“This game is from our hisotoric match with the Czechoslovak team, which took place half in Prague and half in Moscow.
My opponent, an intelligent, clever, athletic man, also played water polo. Then at some point he travelled to a tournament in England, fell in love with a beautiful Englishwoman, and decided to settle down there.”
From The Oxford Companion to Chess (OUP, 1984), David Hooper & Ken Whyld :
International Master (1950), International Arbiter (1951), a Czech player who emigrated to England in 1953 and was naturalised in 1960. He played in Olympiads for Czechoslovakia (1950*, 1952), on the second occasion making the best score (+10=5) on the fourth board, and in two Olympiads for England (1964, 1968). In 1961 he won the Beverwijk Masters tournament (not the concurrent grandmasters event) with a clean score, a fine achievement.
*Ed : In fact, this is not true since Czechoslovakia did not send a team to Dubrovnik 1950. This was the last year the event was limited to sixteen countries.
James Pratt, Basingstoke provides the full results from Gino de Felice, Chess Results, 1961 – 1963, Macfarland, 2013 :
Consulting the 2nd edition (1992) of Hooper & Whyld may cause disappointment since there is no entry for CK.
From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Robert Hale 1970 & 1976), Anne Sunnucks :
“International Master (1950) and International Judge (1951).
Born on 24th February 1910. Kottnauer represented Czechoslovakia in the 1952 Olympiad in Helsinki. In the years after the war his successes in international tournaments included 3rd at Beverwijk 1947, =2nd at Vienna 1947, 4th at Bad Gadstein 1948 and 1st at Lucerne 1953.
After the Lucerne tournament he sought political asylum in Switzerland. He later settled in England and became a naturalised British citizen. He played for the British Chess Federation in the Olympiads of 1964 and 1968.
Kottnauer has played in the British Championship twice. In 1961 he came =4th, and in 1962 he came =3rd.”
From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977), Harry Golombek OBE (entry written by Bill Hartston):
“Born in Czechoslovakia, Kottnauer played for that country in many events including the 1952 Olympiad. He emigrated in 1953 and subsequently took British nationality, representing England in the Olympiads of 1964 and 1968. Awarded FIDE titles of international master in 1950 and International Judge in 1951. Winner of Lucerne 1953 International tournament.
Co-author with TD Harding and GS Botterill of The Sicilian Sozin, Batsford, London, 1974.”
James Pratt, Basingstoke revealed : He would look through opening analysis often proclaiming: ‘What will the master play now?’
From British Chess (Pergamon Press, 1983) we have this insight from Tim Harding :
“At a time when home-grown International Masters were thin on the ground in Britain (the 1950s and 1960s) this Czech-born IM brought a lot of valuable experience to BCF teams.
After emigrating to England in 1953, he became naturalized and subsequently represented the BCF in the Tel Aviv, 1964 and Lugano, 1968, Olympiads. On board one in 1964 he scored +8 =7 -3 (63.9%) on board two below Penrose in 1968 (with some board one games) he scored 41.7: +3 =5 -4.
When FIDE rating lists appeared in the early 1970s, Kottnauer was listed at 2370 but by this time had more or less retired from active play at the top level, although he took (and still takes) a keen interest in coaching promising young players, He was one of the most regular and most valuable coaches at the one-day junior training events organised by the London Chess Association at the Mary Ward Centre in Bloomsbury, London in the mid-1970s.
At this time he also wrote many articles for his friend Grandmaster Pachman, who had been freed to live in West Germany where he became editor of Schach-Archiv, and also made a major contribution to the Batsford opening theory work. The Sicilian Sozin, written in collaboration with George Botterill and Tim Harding, and published in 1974.
Kottnauer’s most active years as a player were however 1946-53; in the year that he came to England he took first prize in the Lucerne, 1953 International tournament. Had he been a professional player throughout the the 1950s, there is little doubt that he would have become a grandmaster.
As early as the end of the war, when regular play resumed, he was almost of that strength (as wins against Kotov and Smyslov in the February, 1946 Prague v Moscow match showed) but lacking in experience at the top level, which told against him at Groningen, 1946, when he was placed 13th with 9 points out of a possible 19 in a very strong field. This was the first great post-war tournament, with nine Master and eleven Grandmasters (including Botvinnik and former world champion Euwe).
Also in 1946 Kottnauer scored wins against Simagin (in Prague) and Levenfish (in Leningrad) and was clearly one of the up-and-coming stars in a strong Czech team that included Filip and Pachman. In 1950 he was one of the first players to be awarded the FIDE title of International Master.
The following year he was also made a FIDE International Judge (now known as FIDE Arbiter).
Unfortunately there was no Czech representation at the Dubrovnik, 1950 Olympiad, but in 1952, one of his last appearances for Czechoslovakia, Kottnauer achieved a remarkable record playing board four (below Filip, Pachman and Sajtar) at the Helsinki Olympiad. He went through unbeaten with ten wins and five draws (83.3%) and easily won the board prize.
Kottnauer shortly thereafter came to England where he eventually made a successful career as an executive with Trust House Forte’s hotel group; he has also helped with the BBC overseas service Czech-language broadcasts. He lives in West Central London with his wife and their son.
The following is undoubtedly Kottnauer’s most famous win.
and here we have the same game analysed by Tryfon Gavriel :
From British Chess Magazine, Volume CXVI (116, 1996), Number 4 (April), pp 202-203 we have this obituary by Bernard Cafferty :
Čeněk Kottnauer, the Czech/British IM, and the first chess defector died in St. Margaret’s Hospital, London, on 14th February after heart trouble and abdominal cancer.
A giant of a man, a fine athlete and swimmer, he was born on 24th February 1910 and came to prominence in the 1942 tournament in Prague in which Alekhine took part. He extended the great man to 70 moves before resigning. His wins against Kotov and Smyslov in the Moscow-Prague match of 1946 and his 13th place in the great Groningen tournament of the same year confirmed his status, as did his excellent showing for Czechoslovakia in the 1952 Olympiad at Helsinki (+10=5-0 on fourth board). He also took part in the 1947 Chigorin Memorial in Moscow, and won a tournament at Lucerne in early 1953, the same year in which he emigrated to Britain.
On this form he would have gained the GM title had he continued playing, but he had to take a full-time job (with Trusthouse Forte) to support his family.
Čeněk had met his much younger wife in Austria, though she too was Czech. They had a son. The master’s appearences were therefore limited to London League matches and other sporadic events. That he had lost none of his skill was shown when he played top board for England at the 1964 Tel-Aviv Olympiad (Penrose was not available) and made +8=7-3. His only other big event was the Lugano Olympiad of 1968 when he was on second board and made +3=5-4.
Čeněk (pronounced CHEnek) Kottnauer was one of the early professionals in the German Bundesliga; on a visit to his Bayswater flat in 1995 by Murray Chandler and myself, Čeněk told us about the great transport difficulties he had in those days. He mentioned that he had recently had a heart bypass operation and showed us the medication he had to take on a regular basis, opining that after Golombek and Milner-Barry he would be the next to go.
Čeněk was involved in junior coaching in London for many years, wrote extensively for the Dutch and German press and in recent years was a regular visitor to the Lloyds Bank Masters to see old friends and acquaintances. Amongst those he coached were Julian Hodgson, William Watson and Dharshan Kumaran, as well as Stuart Conquest.
In Stuart’s case he came regularly to Hastings to do the coaching which was financed by the Slater Foundation and by Lloyds Bank.
The fruit of his effort was Stuart’s 1984 World U-16 title in Argentina, where Čeněk’s great physical strength came in handy when the huge trophy had to be carried back to Britain.
All his pupils and friends will attest to his wonderful manner. A great personality has left us.”
According to Leonard Barden “Čeněk’s students included Demis Hassabis, then aged six. He once told me that Dharshan Kumaran, then seven, was the more talented of the pair but that Demis was also ‘very clever and tricky’ ”
Daniel tells us that Nigel Short visited his family home for coaching and we believe that both Anita and Mira Rakshit were CKs students. Doubtless there were many more…
Leonard added :
“After he retired he did chess coaching and, although never named in the BCF’s list of coaches, was the most successful of all in terms of achievements by those he taught. He normally did weekly sessions of a couple of hours and got results through his challenging and sceptical approach to ideas from his pupils.
Kottnauer pupils included Hodgson, Watson, and Kumaran, who all became grandmasters. When he came to our junior invitation tournaments in the mid-seventies I used to give a prize of a game and session with him to exceptional talents. So he played Nigel Short in spring 1975 (probably Short’s first one-to-one with an IM) and was enthusiastic about his promise.
In 1981 when Stuart Conquest was going to the the world U16 championship in Argentina Cenek coached him for several months beforehand and went with him to the event. No news reports were available during the tournament so the first I knew was when Cenek phoned me on his return to London and complained that he was tired having to carry this enormous trophy home (Stuart had broken his arm before the event and played in a sling) and how the food had been terrible but that Eliskases, who was involved in the organisation, had sworn him to secrecy.
I used to visit him a couple of times a month for talk and blitz sessions and have warm memories. A great guy, and a significant figure in the long departed English chess boom.”
“Cenek Kottnauer was born in Prague. He was awarded the IM title in 1950 and became an International Arbiter in 1951. Kottnauer played the Helsinki Olympiad 1952 on board 4 for Czechoslovakia, scoring +10 =5 -0. In 1953 he won the Lucerne international tournament. That same year, he emigrated to England, and eventually became a naturalized citizen and played for England in the Olympiads of 1964 and 1968. In the 1970s he became one of England’s top coaches of young players.”
Jimmy was married to Sharon and they have a daughter, Charlotte.
In 1958 Jimmy at the age of 11 joined his local Islington Chess Club (at the time Islington & North London Chess Club) and soon afterwards became a London Junior Champion. Following this Jimmy played little chess and was working for John Lewis (echos of CHO’D Alexander!). Following John Lewis Jimmy worked as a Health and Safety Officer for Islington Council.
At this time Islington Chess Club was one of the strongest in England and included such members as Kenny Harman, Ron Harman, Danny Wright, Stewart Reuben and others. Its most famous member was probably IM Simon Webb
The Spasski-Fischer match of 1972 re-kindled his lapsed interest and he won with a 100% score the London Amateur Championship.
He joined and was a staunch member of London Central YMCA (CentYMCA) chess club and he wrote a privately published history of the club entitled The CentYMCA Story. This is now a much sought after publication. His membership continued during the 1970s until around 1979.
During this period Jimmy was extremely active at the Endell Street premises.
Here is Jimmy playing Viktor Korchnoi at Endell Street (in the Phase Two classrooms) :
In 1974 Jimmy embarked on a highly successful career as a writer and journalist. He authored a number of acclaimed books for Batsfords, The Chess Player, Caissa Books and latterly, New in Chess. His books on Chigorin, Zukertort and Breyer are universally regarded some of the finest chess biographies published.
In 1979 Jimmy joined Metropolitan Chess Club to play in the London League. He played top board and scored very highly with many significant scalps.
Jimmy gained his FM title in 2014 (at the age of 67!). 67 must be one of the most advanced ages to acquire an FM title. According to Felice his peak rating was 2300 in January 1981 aged 34.
He was registered with Metropolitan and Barbican Chess Clubs. He joined Barbican, as did many CentYMCA players, following the hiatus over their Tottenham Court Road venue loss.
In December 2009 Jimmy visited the London Chess Classic and was photographed with VIP guess Viktor Korchnoi :
Jimmy was Editor of CHESS / CHESS Monthly magazine from 1981 until 2010 although his name remained on the masthead until February 2012.
In 2012 Jimmy and Ray Cannon attended a meeting of the Ken Whyld Association in Norwich :
In January 2016 Jimmy (together with Josip Asik) became co-editors of British Chess Magazine taking over from James Pratt and John Upham. Jimmy then took on a role at the newly created American Chess Magazine and then worked for Pavillion Books on their newly acquired Batsford Book imprint.
In 2014 Jimmy and Ray attended an event organised by the father of Emma Bentley
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