Category Archives: Biographies

Happy Birthday IM Miroslav Houska (02-iv-1978)

Miroslav Houska
Miroslav Houska

Happy Birthday IM Miroslav Houska (02-iv-1978)

Miroslav Houska
Miroslav Houska

Miroslav gained his International Master title in 1998 and his peak rating according to Felice was 2385 in January of 1998, aged 20.

Here are his games on chessgames.com

IM Miroslav Houska, photograph by Jovan Petronic
IM Miroslav Houska, photograph by Jovan Petronic
IM Miroslav Houska, photograph by Cathy Rogers
IM Miroslav Houska, photograph by Cathy Rogers

Remembering Frederick Forrest Lawrie Alexander (13-XI-1879, 01-IV-1965)

Frederick Forrest Lawrie Alexander, photograph located by Richard James from Ancestry.co.uk
Frederick Forrest Lawrie Alexander, photograph located by Richard James from Ancestry.co.uk

Remembering Frederick Forrest Lawrie Alexander (13-XI-1879, 01-IV-1965)

Interesting article from Woodseats Library

Here is an article from the Chess Composers Blog

He was seven times champion of Battersea Chess Club

The Surrey County Chess Association has The Alexander Trophy as one of its main awards : is it awarded for the top knockout competition.

Here is some history of the trophy from Surbiton Chess Club

Here are a handful of his games from chessgames.com and here is what chessgames.com has to say about FFLA :

“Frederick Forrest Lawrie Alexander played in the 1932 British Championship, but with little success. At age 70, playing at the 1950 Southsea tournament, he shocked the pundits by defeating Efim Bogoljubov and Harry Golombek.”

Here is more detail and photographs of the Alexander Cup from Britbase / John Saunders

Remembering Comins Mansfield MBE (14-vi-1896 28-iii-1984)

Comins Mansfield MBE
Comins Mansfield MBE

Remembering Comins Mansfield MBE (14-vi-1896 28-iii-1984)

From The Encyclopedia of Chess by Anne Sunnucks :

“International Grandmaster of the FIDE for Chess Compositions (1972), International Master of the FIDE for Chess Compositions (1959), International Judge of the FIDE for Chess Compositions (1957). President of the Permanent Commission of the FIDE for Chess Compositions from 1963 to 1971. President of the British Chess Problem Society from 1949 to 1951.

Born at Witheridge in North Devon on 14th June 1896. He has composed about 1,000 problems, nearly all of them two-movers, since 1911. He is regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time. His oustanding ability was recognised early when A Genius of the Two-Mover in the A.C. White Christmas series of books was published in 1936. He is the author of Adventures in Composition (1944) and co-author with the late Brian Harley of The Modern Two-Move Problem. From 1926-1932 he was Problem Editor of The Bristol Times and Mirror, and he is at present Problem Editor of The Sunday Telegraph His feature “Selected with Comments” has been a permanent feature of The Problemist. A strong player, Mansfield won the Gloucestershire Championship from 1927 to 1934. He has a recorded win over Sir George Thomas, a late British Champion and International Master.

Mansfield made a life-times career with the tobacco firm of W.D. & H.O. Wills. He is a dedicated family man with three children.

C. Mansfield, 1st Prize, Hampshire Post, 1919

White to play and mate in two moves (Solution at the foot of this article)

Comins Mansfield MBE
Comins Mansfield MBE

Here is an excellent biography from Chess Devon

Comins Mansfield MBE
Comins Mansfield MBE

Here is his Wikipedia entry

101 Chess Puzzles
101 Chess Puzzles

Here is a biography fro Keverel Chess

From The Oxford Companion to Chess by Hooper & Whyld :

“English two-mover composer widely regarded in his time as the greatest in this field. During the life of the GOOD COMPANION CHESS PROBLEM CLUB (1913—24) he was one of the pioneers who gave new life to the two-mover. The ideas then introduced have since become traditional, and Mansfield has adhered to them, continuing to gain successes although not always following the latest trend. In 1942 he wrote Adventures in Composition, an excellent guide to the art of composing. In 1957 he was awarded the title of International Judge of Chess Compositions; in 1963 he accepted and held for eight years the presidency of the FIDE Commission for Chess Compositions; in 1972 he was one of the first four to he awarded the title of InternationalGrandmaster for Chess Compositions. (See java theme; PIN-MATE,)

A. C. White, A Genius of the Two-mover (1936) contains 113 problems by Mansfield; B. P. Barnes, Comins Mansfield MBE: Chess Problems of a Grandmaster (1976) contains 200 problems. ”

Chessboard Delights
Chessboard Delights

From The Encyclopedia of Chess by Harry Golombek :

“”

i.e. no entry ! HGs encyclopedia contains zero mentions of Comins Mansfield whatsoever and this is interpreted as a snub with the reason being unknown.

A Genius of the Two Mover
A Genius of the Two Mover

Here is the entry for CM from the BCPS web site

Adventures in Composition
Adventures in Composition

Here are his games from chessgames.com

America Salutes Comins Manfield MBE
America Salutes Comins Manfield MBE

Solution to Two-Mover above : 1. Qf5 !

Happy Birthday GM Christopher Geoffrey Ward (26-iii-1968)

GM Chris Ward
GM Chris Ward

Happy Birthday GM Christopher Geoffrey Ward (26-iii-1968)

Here is his Wikipedia entry

GM Chris Ward
GM Chris Ward

From Chessgames.com :

“Grandmaster and British Chess Champion in 1996. He is the author of several chess books, among them Winning With the Sicilian Dragon 2 (2001), Winning with the Dragon (2003) and The Controversial Samisch King’s Indian (2004).”

Chris plays Jiang Chuan Ye at the 1997 England - China match
Chris plays Jiang Chuan Ye at the 1997 England – China match

Here are his games

Chris Ward commentating during the Hastings Congress
Chris Ward commentating during the Hastings Congress

Chris earned his IM title in 1990 and his GM title in 1996. According to Chessbase and Felice his peak rating was 2531 in July 2003 when he was 35.

Chris is President of the English Primary Schools Chess Association (EPSCA), Chris is the Chief Coach of the Kent Junior Chess Association (KJCA). Chris plays for KJCA Kings in the Four Nations Chess League (4NCL).

Chris with the British Championship Trophy from 1996 (Nottingham)
Chris with the British Championship Trophy from 1996 (Nottingham)

“Not sure about best, but 18.Qxf8+ against Summerscale en route to winning the 1996 British Championship will be forever ingrained in my mind. Sorry, Aaron!”
– GM Chris Ward (when asked for his best move)

Source: Chess Monthly 2017 December

GM Chris Ward
GM Chris Ward
Endgame Play
Endgame Play
 The Queen's Gambit Accepted
The Queen’s Gambit Accepted
The Genius of Paul Morphy
The Genius of Paul Morphy
Improve your Opening Play
Improve your Opening Play
Winning With the Sicilian Dragon 2
Winning With the Sicilian Dragon 2
Starting Out: The Nimzo-Indian
Starting Out: The Nimzo-Indian
It's Your Move: Improvers
It’s Your Move: Improvers
Unusual Queen's Gambit Declined
Unusual Queen’s Gambit Declined
Winning with the Dragon
Winning with the Dragon
It's Your Move: Tough Puzzles
It’s Your Move: Tough Puzzles
Starting Out: Rook Endgames
Starting Out: Rook Endgames
The Controversial Samisch King's Indian
The Controversial Samisch King’s Indian
Play the Queen's Gambit
Play the Queen’s Gambit
Starting Out: Chess Tactics and Checkmates
Starting Out: Chess Tactics and Checkmates

Remembering Percy Francis Blake (6-xii-1873 26-iii-1936)

Percy Francis Blake
Percy Francis Blake

Remembering Percy Francis Blake (6-xii-1873 26-iii-1936)

From his Italian Wikipedia entry :

“Percy Francis Blake ( Manchester , December 6, 1873 – Grappenhall , March 20, 1936 ) was a British chess player and chess composer , among the best English problem players of the period 1900 – 1936 .

He composed over 500 problems, most in two and three moves, of which around 160 were awarded (45 first prizes and 40 second prizes). [1]

He was famous for “quiet” keys and continuations, which made his problems very difficult to solve.

He was also a good player and table. In 1890 he won the Manchester club championship and later several local tournaments. In 1894 he won a beauty prize offered by the Manchester Weekly Times . From 1898 to 1912 he was part of the Lancashire team in many team matches between that county and Yorkshire . In 1911 he won the Lancashire championship. [2]”

and from the rather excellent Yorkshire Chess History we have

The following photograph was kindly supplied by Michael McDowell of the British Chess Problem Society :

Percy Francis Blake
Percy Francis Blake
Percy Francis Blake drawn  by Orrett from Manchester Central Library. Known as an example of a "Bristol Board". Supplied by Michael McDowell
Percy Francis Blake drawn by Orrett from Manchester Central Library. Known as an example of a “Bristol Board”. Supplied by Michael McDowell

James Mason in America : The Early Chess Career, 1867-1878

James Mason in America
James Mason in America

James Mason in America : The Early Chess Career, 1867-1878 : Joost van Winsen

Joost van Winsen
Joost van Winsen

Journalist Joost van Winsen lives in the Netherlands. He has previously written about American chess history of the Nineteenth century, and has contributed articles to ChessCafe.com and ChessArcheology.com.

James Mason was one of the mystery men of chess. We don’t even know for certain what his real name was. We know he was born in Kilkenny, Ireland in 1849, his family emigrated to the United States in 1861, and, somewhere round about the end of 1867, he turned up playing chess in New York.

Over the next decade he established himself as one of the strongest players in his adopted country before moving to England, where he died in 1905. His best result was at Vienna 1882, where he finished 3rd behind Steinitz and Zukertort in a field including most of the world’s strongest players, but, at least in part because of a fondness for drink, he never quite fulfilled his promise. In the 1890s he wrote several books, notably The Principles of Chess and The Art of Chess.

This book, a paperback reprint of a 2011 hardback, covers Mason’s early career.

The first four chapters provide a chronological account of Mason’s life in chess, enhanced with contemporary pen and ink drawings of many of his opponents and acquaintances.  We then have a chapter about his writings and another about his style of play.

The second part of the book gives details of his match and tournament results, and, by the third part, we reach his games, about 200 of them (some sort of game numbering system would have been helpful). While Mason’s later style could sometimes be turgid, in his American years he favoured gambit play with the white pieces. Although the standard of play was, by today’s standards, not very high, there’s still plenty of entertainment value. His regular opponents included the British master Henry Bird, who was living in the United States at the time, along with many of the leading New York players of that era.

Van Winsen took the, perhaps controversial, decision only to use contemporary annotations rather than incorporate modern computer analysis. As he explained, “The author preferred the antique human judgment to the modern ‘truth’ of computer software.” The opening assessments make amusing reading. In 1873, for example, Orestes P Brownson considered 3. Nc3 in the French Defence a mistake, recommending 3. exd5 instead. In 1876, Zukertort, quoting Max Lange, criticized the Winawer variation of the French, preferring 3… Nf3 (sic: a rare notation error) because White is better after 3… Bb4 4. exd5.

How strong was Mason at this time? Jeff Sonas and Rod Edwards disagree by about 200 points: Sonas has him at 2700 strength and one of the best in the world, while Edwards has him some way down the list at 2500 strength. My money’s on Edwards, who includes casual as well as formal games in his calculations. Buy the book, play through the games yourself and see what you think.

The book then concludes with some appendices covering a variety of topics, a list of sources and six indexes.

As is to be expected with books from this publisher, James Mason in America is well researched, well written, well illustrated and well produced. I might have preferred it if the games and tournament results were included in the narrative rather than in separate chapters, but you may well disagree.

This book probably won’t improve your rating, but if you’re at all interested in 19th century American chess history, and, like me, you missed the original hardback edition, you’ll want to add this to your collection.

I’d certainly be interested in a book covering the rest of Mason’s life and career: James Mason in England?

Here’s a game to whet your appetite.

James Mason – Frederick Perrin New York (casual game) June 1873

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. d4 d5 6. Bb3 Bg4 7. dxe5 Be6 8. Qe2 Bc5 9. c4 Nd4 10. Nxd4 Bxd4 11. Qd3 c5 12. cxd5 Bxd5 13. Ba4+ Ke7 14. Nc3 Nxc3 15. bxc3 Bxe5 16. Qe3 Kd6 17. Rd1 Qh4 18. f4 Bf6 19. Rb1 Qg4

20. Qxc5+ Kxc5 21. Ba3+ Kc4 22. Bb5+ Kxc3 23. Rbc1#

Richard James, Twickenham 27 March 2020

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Softcover : 384 pages
  • Publisher: McFarland (30 October 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1476679436
  • ISBN-13: 978-1476679433
  • Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 2.3 x 24.4 cm

Official web site of McFarland

The cover of the eariler (2010) hardback edition is below :

James Mason in America
James Mason in America

Remembering Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry OBE (20-ix-1906 25-iii-1995)

Sir P Stuart Milner-Barry
Sir P Stuart Milner-Barry

Remembering Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry OBE (20-ix-1906 25-iii-1995)

Somewhat surprisingly there is no entry in either Hooper & Whyld or Sunnucks but (as you might expect) Harry Golombek OBE does not let us down :

“British master whose chess career was limited by his amateur status but whose abilities as a player and original theorist rendered him worthy of the title of international master.

Born at Mill Hill in London, he showed early promise and in 1923 won the British Boys Championship, then held at Hastings. He studied classics at Cambridge and developed into the strongest player there. At the university he was to meet C. H. O’D. Alexander with whom he played much chess.”

CHO'D Alexander plays PS Milner-Barry
CHO’D Alexander plays PS Milner-Barry

“Though nearly three years younger, Alexander exerted a strong influence over him and both players cherished and revelled in the brilliance of play in open positions.

On leaving the university went to work in the London Stock Exchange (LSE), but his heart was not in the work and he became chess correspondent of The Times in 1938.

By then along with Alexander and Golombek, he had become recognized as one of the three strongest young players in the country. Whilst not as successful as they were in tournaments as the British championship in which stamina was essential, he was a most formidable club and team match player, as he had already shown in 1933 hen he won the championship of the City of London Club ahead of R. P. Mitchell and Sir George Thomas.

Harry Golombek OBE plays Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry OBE
Harry Golombek OBE plays Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry OBE

He played in his first International Team tournament at Stockholm 1937 and was to play in three more such events : in 1939 at Buenos Aires where, on third board, he made the fine score of 4/5 ; in Helsinki 1952; and in Moscow 1956 where, again on third board, he was largely responsible for the team’s fine showing.

In 1940 he shared first prize with Dr. List in the strong tournament of semi-international character in London and then, like Alexander and (later) Golombek, helped in the Foreign Office code-breaking activities at Bletchley Park fr the duration of the Second World War. Staying in the Civil Service afterwards, he rose to the rank of Under-Secretary in the Treasury and was knighted for his services in 1975.

After the war, too, he had some fine results in the British championship, his best being second place at Hastings in 1953.

Though never at home in close positions, he was an outstanding strategist in the open game and it is significant that his most important contribution to opening theory was the Milner-Barry variation of the Nimzo-Indian Defence which is essentially as attempt to convert a close position into an open one (1.P-Q4, N-KB3; 2.P-QB4, P-K3; 3. N-QB3, B-N5; 4.Q-B2, N-B3).

An excellent though infrequent writer on the game, he wrote a fine memoir of C.H.O’D. Alexander in Golombeks and Hartston’s The Best Games of C.H.O’D. Alexander, Oxford, 1976.

The Best Games of C.H.O'D. Alexander
The Best Games of C.H.O’D. Alexander

Here is his Wikipedia entry

Sir P Stuart Milner-Barry
Sir P Stuart Milner-Barry

An obituary from The Independent

Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry OBE
Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry OBE

An article from Spartacus Educational

Here are his games

More on his time at Bletchley Park

Location of his grave

From ChessGames.com :

“Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry was born in 1906. A true amateur, he worked in the British Civil Service and was never able to devote all his time to chess. He was part of the team that worked at Bletchley Park, alongside famed cryptanalyst and mathematician Alan Turing and British chess stalwarts Conel Hugh O’Donel Alexander and Harry Golombek, cracking the German Enigma codes. He worked for the Treasury after the War and in 1954 he was promoted to Assistant Secretary, and then to an under-secretary position.

He placed 2nd at Hastings 1953, played on four English Olympic squads from 1937 to 1956, and was chess correspondent for The Times. His name is also associated with a variation of the Nimzo-Indian Defence (1.d4 ♘f6 2.c4 e6 3.♘c3 ♗b4 4.♕c2 ♘c6), the Milner-Barry Gambit in the Advance French (1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4.c3 ♘c6 5. ♘f3 ♕b6 6.♗d3 cxd4 7.cxd4 ♗d7 8.0-0 ♘xd4 9.♘xd4 ♕xd4 10.♘c3) and the Milner-Barry variation in the Petroff Defence (1.e4 e5 2.♘f3 ♘f6 3.♘xe5 d6 4.♘f3 ♘xe4 5.♕e2 ♕e7 6.d3 ♘f6 7. ♗g5 ♘bd7).

Wikipedia article: Stuart Milner-Barry”

Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry OBE
Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry OBE
Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry OBE
Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry OBE
Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry OBE presents Dr. Jana Hartston with the ? prize
Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry OBE presents Dr. Jana Hartston with the ? prize

Remembering John Arthur Fuller (12-v-1928 – 08-xii-2004)

John Arthur Fuller
John Arthur Fuller

We remember John Arthur Fuller (12-v-1928 – 08-xii-2004)

From The Encyclopedia of Chess by Anne Sunnucks :

“British Master, British Boy Champion in 1946 and British Correspondence Champion from 1953-1955. Born on 12th May 1928 Fuller learned to play chess when he was 11. In 1946 , the year in which he won the British Boys Championship, he also tied for the London Boys Championship. He went on to win the Middlesex Championship three times and the Warwickshire Championship twice. Fuller played for England in matches between Scotland and the Netherlands and in the Clare Benedict International Team Tournament. He also had the best British score in the Premier Tournament at Hastings in 1949 and 1955.

He was a design engineer.”

According to ancestry.co.uk he is survived by a son, Robert.

There has been considerable discussion of JAF in another place.

John Arthur Fuller
John Arthur Fuller

BCN would like to acknowledge help received from Richard James, Leonard Barden, Rob Fuller and John Upham in putting this article together.

Subsequent to this post being published our attention was kindly drawn by John Saunders to the obituary in BCM, Volume 125, #5, page 247. Readers are recommended to see this.

Happy Birthday IM Craig Hanley (23-iii-1984)

IM Craig Hanley
IM Craig Hanley

Happy Birthday IM Craig Alexander Hanley (23-iii-1984)

Craig was born in Pontefract in West Yorkshire.

He became a Candidate Master in 2001, a FIDE Master in 2002 and an IM in 2007. His peak rating was 2447 in April 2007.

Craig plays for Spirit of Atticus in 4NCL (Four Nations Chess League) and has a current ECF standard play grading of 242.

Here is his FIDE player card

IM Craig Hanley
IM Craig Hanley

Richard Kenneth Guy (30-ix-1916 09-iii-2020) RIP

Richard Kenneth Guy
Richard Kenneth Guy

We are sad to report the passing of Richard Kenneth Guy, born 30-ix-1916) who passed away on March 9th 2020 in Calgary aged 103

From Wikipedia :

Richard Kenneth Guy (born 30 September 1916) was a British mathematician and professor emeritus in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Calgary.[1] He was known for his work in number theory, geometry, recreational mathematics, combinatorics, and graph theory.[2][3] He was best known for co-authorship (with John Conway and Elwyn Berlekamp) of Winning Ways for your Mathematical Plays and authorship of Unsolved Problems in Number Theory.[4] He had also published over 300 papers.[5] Guy proposed the partially tongue-in-cheek “Strong Law of Small Numbers,” which says there are not enough small integers available for the many tasks assigned to them – thus explaining many coincidences and patterns found among numerous cultures.[6] For this paper he received the MAA Lester R. Ford Award.[7]

From 1947 to 1951 Guy was the endings editor for the British Chess Magazine.[40] He is known for almost 200 endgame studies. Along with Hugh Blandford and John Roycroft, he was one of the inventors of the GBR code (Guy–Blandford–Roycroft code), a system of representing the position of chess pieces on a chessboard. Publications such as EG magazine use it to classify endgame types and to index endgame studies.[41]

Richard Kenneth Guy
Richard Kenneth Guy