Category Archives: British Championships

Minor Pieces 63: Alfred Lenton (1)

Last time you met, amongst other chess playing Leicester Ladies, Elsie Margaret Reid, a British Ladies’ Championship contender, and witnessed her marriage to Alfred Lenton.

It’s now time to meet her husband.

Perhaps you’ve see Michael Wood’s 2010 documentary series Story of England. If you have, you’ll be aware that it tells its story from the perspective of Kibworth, seen as being a typical village in the middle of the country. In fact it’s two villages in one, owned by different families in the Middle Ages. Kibworth Harcourt is north of the railway line, and, the more significant part, Kibworth Beauchamp (just as Belvoir is pronounced Beaver, Beauchamp is pronounced Beecham), where the shops are, is south of the railway line. There used to be a school there too: a Grammar School founded in about 1359, but in 1964 it migrated to the Leicester suburb of Oadby. You’ll meet one of the new school’s most distinguished former pupils next time.

The Lenton family had been prominent in the village for centuries, perhaps arriving there from the area of Nottingham bearing that name. There’s a brief mention in one of the Story of England episodes, but they don’t seem to have educated their children at the Grammar School.

Join us now on 28 December 1744, when, between the Christmas celebrations and the dawn of the new year, the community welcomed the arrival of Robert Lenton, who was baptised that day. We know his father’s name was Richard, but it’s not entirely clear whether this was Richard the son of Robert, born in 1710, or Richard the son of Richard, born in 1719. I suspect they were cousins, but there’s no way of telling for certain from the extant parish registers. There are reasons to believe – and hope – that it was the older Richard who was Robert’s father.

Robert was a butcher by trade: a significant member of the local community. His youngest son, William, was born in 1787. He married a girl from Bedworth, Warwickshire, in 1811. Maybe he had moved there to seek work, or perhaps she was in service in Leicestershire. They soon returned, settling in Smeeton Westerby, a small village just south of Kibworth Beauchamp.

The first census as we know them today was taken in 1841, and we can pick William up there in both the 1841 and 1851 censuses, where his occupation is given as FWK – Framework Knitter. This was a very common occupation in the East Midlands at the time: William and his family would have been working at home using mechanical knitting machines. By 1851 his oldest son, also named William, had moved into Leicester, but was still working as a framework knitter. In 1853 he married a widow, adopting her children and presenting her with two more sons, William and Thomas.

His younger son, Thomas, very typically for his place and time, spent his working life in the footwear industry, involved in various aspects of making shoes. So here we see a very common pattern of men and their families moving out of villages and into cities where there was plenty of factory work available. His oldest son, another Thomas, also sought factory work, but rather than on the manufacturing side, he worked as a warehouseman for the clothing company Hart & Levy. Sir Israel Hart, one of the company’s founders, was Mayor of Leicester 1884-6 and 1893-94 and President of Leicestershire Chess Club. between 1894 and 1896.

In 1910 this Thomas married Ethel Wood, born in 1888. Ethel was perhaps slightly higher up the social scale: her father, John, was a School Attendance Officer, although his background was also very much working class. Here he is, on the right. John and his wife Sarah had five daughters (Ethel was the fourth), the oldest of whom married into a branch of the Gimson family, followed by a son.

In the 1911 census Thomas and Ethel, not yet able to afford their own house, were living with Thomas’s widowed father and two brothers. He was described as working in the tailoring industry.

On 1 November that year, their first son, Alfred, was born, followed in 1914 by another son, whom they named Philip.

In this family photograph, taken in about 1917, you can see the proud parents with their two boys.

Tom, Alfred, Philip and Ethel Lenton (c.1917)

By 1921 the family were living at 27 Halkin Street, north of the city centre (the door of this very typical two up two down Victorian terraced house is open to welcome us in). I would have passed the end of the road regularly in my first year at what was then the Leicester Regional College of Technology, when I was living in digs in Thurmaston. Ethel’s mother had died a few months earlier, and her father was now living with them.

By now Ethel was expecting a third child, and another son, named Clifford was born later that year.

Alfred, a bright, bookish and perhaps rather quiet boy, won a place at Alderman Newton’s Grammar School, where he was a contemporary of the historian Sir John Plumb and a few years below novelist CP Snow, a member of Leicestershire Chess Club during the 1923-24 season.

This was a time when chess was becoming popular amongst teenage boys, and it was when he was 15 that young Alfred learnt the moves.  The earliest appearance I can find is in December 1928, at the age of 17, losing his game on bottom board for the Victoria Road Institute (I’d encounter his son playing chess for Leicester Victoria more than four decades later.)

At the Victoria Road Institute, Alfred received some instruction from their top player, building contractor Herbert William Lea, soon making rapid progress. By early 1930 he’d come to the attention of the county selectors, and was one of the promising young players they tried out in a match against Birmingham.

The Leicester Mail 10 February 1930

By 1931 Lenton was playing on top board for Victoria Road, taking a high board in the county team and participating in the county championship. Here was a talented and ambitious young man who was clearly going places.

If you’re an ambitious chess player, one of the places you’ll go to is Hastings, and, at the end of that year, he travelled down to the south coast where he was placed in the Major B section.

Leicester Mercury 30 December 1931

Here’s what happened.

Full tournament report (and larger format crosstable) here.

This was a whole new experience for him, and it’s not surprising that he found the going tough. In this game his hesitant opening play soon got him into trouble when he was paired against a creative tactician who unleashed a cascade of sacrifices. (Click on any move of any game in this article for a pop-up window.)

Alfred learnt from this experience that he needed to take the game more seriously: in an interview many years later he explained that, at this point, he was studying chess for three hours a day.

The following year he returned again – and seems to have brought a friend along with him – as you might remember from last time.

Leicester Daily Mercury 05 January 1933

He did indeed maintain his lead to the end of the tournament, as you can see here. Perhaps the opposition was slightly weaker than the previous year, perhaps his hours of study were paying off, or perhaps it was Elsie’s presence that was responsible for his success.

Full tournament report (and larger format crosstable) here.

(As far as I can tell, C(ecil?) H(unter?) Reid, Peter Reid, whom he played the previous year, and Elsie Margaret Reid were totally unrelated.)

In 1933 the British Championship was held separately from the remainder of the congress, which took place in Folkestone at the same time as the Chess Olympiad.

Alfred was one of a number of promising young players in the Premier Reserves, the second section down: you’ll meet some of them in future Minor Pieces. His 50% score was a good result in such a strong field.

Full tournament report (and larger format crosstable) here.

This game demonstrates that he’d been working on his openings since his first tournament appearance, and concludes with a neat tactic.

The following month the Leicester Evening Mail had some important news.

Leicester Evening Mail 15 July 1933

Alfred had got himself a column in a local paper. Each week there would be the latest chess news, a game, which could be of local, national, international or historical interest, along with a puzzle for solving. He was a young man who enjoyed both reading and writing.

Here’s a powerful win against the stronger of the Passant brothers, slightly marred by his 17th move, giving his opponent a tactical opportunity which went begging.

By now established as his county’s second strongest player behind Victor Hextall Lovell, he returned to Hastings after Christmas, where he scored an excellent third place with only one defeat, well ahead of his Leicester Victoria clubmate Watts and former Leicestershire player Storr-Best.

Full tournament report (and larger format crosstable) here.

In this game he missed a win against his Dutch opponent.

The 1934 British Championships took place in Chester, when Alfred was places in the Major Open Reserves, in effect the third division, while his future wife Elsie (were they engaged at this point?) played in the British Ladies’ Championship.

Lenton was essentially a positional player, but here he unleased a very different weapon when Black against 1. d4 – the dangerous and, at the time, fashionable Fajarowicz variation of the Budapest Defence.  It proved rather successful against his clergyman opponent (you can read about him here) in this game, where his opponent miscalculated a tactical sequence, overlooking a queen sacrifice.

His opponent in this game, another talented young Midlands player, will need no introduction.

Full tournament report (and larger format crosstable) here.

You’ll see that he was extremely successful in this event, sharing first place. Full tournament report (and larger format crosstable) here.

He was rather less successful at Hastings that winter, as you’ll see below.

Full tournament report (and larger format crosstable) here.

On the home front, though, he was more successful.

Leicester Mercury 22 April 1935

Don Gould, in Chess in Leicestershire 1860-1960, sums him up at this stage of his career:

The new champion had left Alderman Newton’s School only six years previously. He was a fine all-round player, with a particularly good grasp of positional play. Unlike Lovell, he had been entering for national tournaments, and profiting by the better practice obtained thereat. Later on he twice won the Midland Counties Individual Championship, and finished in a tie for second place in the British Championship. At that time, he favoured the Reti Opening and the Buda-Pest Defence. Lenton for some years ran a chess column in the local press. 

This result (he’d repeat his success the following year) established him as the strongest player in Leicestershire, and, in the 1935 British Championships, held in Great Yarmouth, he was selected for the championship itself.

In this game Lenton displayed his endgame skill after his opponent missed an opportunity on move 17.

Endgame skill, along with hypermodern openings, were the key to his successes at this time of his life. His opponent here was unable to cope with the opening.

Admittedly it wasn’t the strongest renewal of the British, but this was still an outstanding performance, which would have been even better but for a moment of tactical carelessness in the last round.

At this level you can’t afford to give your opponent an opportunity like that.

Full tournament report (and larger format crosstable) here.

Now top board for his county, and with a new job as a local government officer (he’d transferred his chess allegiance from VIctoria to NALGO) he returned to Hastings over the Christmas holidays. There were so many entries for the Premier Reserves that the organisers decided to run two sections of equal strength, with Alfred in the B section.

He used his favourite variation of the Caro-Kann in this game, grabbing a hot pawn early on (sometimes you can get away with Qxb2) and surviving to dominate the enemy rook in the ending.

You’ll see from the tournament table this was another great success for the Leicester man. It’s perhaps significant that, while all three of his losses were published, the only win I’ve been able to find was the game above.

Full tournament report (and larger format crosstable) here.

1936 was the year of the famous Nottingham tournament, which took place in August. The British Championship itself took place separately, in Bournemouth in June.

Again, many of the top players were missing, and Sir George Thomas, who would probably have been considered the most likely winner, was out of form. Would Alfred improve on his shared third place the previous year?

Here, he was outplayed in the opening, but his Birmingham opponent miscalculated the tactics, leaving him two pawns ahead in the ending.

He only needed 11 moves to defeat his Ipswich opponent in this game. White’s catastrophic error would be a good candidate for a Spot the Blunder question in the next Chess Heroes: Tactics book.

As you’ll see above, he equalled his previous year’s score, which, this time round, was good enough for a share of second place. There were a lot of talented players in their mid 20s around at the time, and Lenton seemed at this point to be as good as any of them.

Full tournament report (and larger format crosstable) here.

Meanwhile, Alfred had reached the final of the Forrest Cup, the Midland Counties Individual Championship, where he faced future MP Julius Silverman. A rather fortuitous win brought him the title.

Nottingham in August was only a short journey. The Major Open was split into two equal sections, both in themselves fairly strong international tournaments.

This time his performance was slightly disappointing. The three games I’ve been able to find include two losses and this game, where he did well to survive and share the point.

Full tournament report (and larger format crosstable) here.

After the tournament, Alekhine visited Leicester to give a simultaneous display, winning 33 games, drawing 5 and losing 2, one of which was to Lenton.

Alfred’s marriage to Elsie Margaret Reid was registered in the fourth quarter of 1936. They both decided to give Hastings a miss that year.

His favourite Réti Opening wasn’t always successful against stronger opposition, but it could be devastating against lesser lights, as shown in this game from a county match.

In May that year, Alfred made his international début in the inaugural Anglo-Dutch match, scoring a win and a draw (he was losing in the final position) against Klaas Bergsma. He also won the Forrest Cup for the second time.

Then it was on to Blackpool for the British Championship. Would he improve on his performances in the two previous years?

It was soon clear that the answer would be no. Something was clearly wrong in the first week, when he lost his first five games. Was he unwell? Who knows? But he fought back well to score 4½ points from his last six games, including wins against two venerable opponents.

Winning this game against a man  who must have been one of his heroes, 9 times British Champion and Leicester’s finest ever player, now in the twilight of his career. A powerful pin on the e-file proved decisive.

Against the tournament runner-up he demonstrated his knowledge of Réti’s hypermodern ideas: note the queen on a1. His position wasn’t objectively good, but it seemed to leave Sir George confused.

Full tournament report (and larger format crosstable) here.

Two games from this period demonstrate again how lethal his queen’s bishop could be in his favourite double fianchetto set-up. You might want to see them as a diptych: both being decided by a Bxg7 sacrifice.

In 1937 Leicestershire reached the final of the English Counties Championship.

We have two photos and a report.

Leicestershire team 1937 (MCCU Champions & BCF Finalists) Back: Spencer, Watts, Solloway, Bumpus, P Collier, Thompson, Rowley, Chapman, Lawrence, Copson Middle: Rimmington, Lovell, Lenton, Ellison, James Front: Busby, Gould

 

Leicester Mercury 13 December 1937
Source: Leicester Mercury 13 December 1937

Now into 1938, Alfred won the Forrest Cup for the third time, his final game producing another sacrificial finish.

He again scored 1½/2 in the 1938 Anglo-Dutch match, this time paired against Chris Vlagsma. His opponent was doing well here before ill-advisedly opening the f-file.

Then it was down to Brighton for the 1938 British Championship, which proved to be another disappointment.

The low point was a loss in only 9 moves against Tylor.

In the very next round, though, switching from his usual Réti, he won in 13 moves when Frank Parr got his queen trapped. This time capturing his opponent’s b-pawn with his queen wasn’t a good idea.

It’s not clear what had happened to his chess here. I suspect that, with the twin demands of his job and married life, he was no longer putting in the three hours study every day.

Here, from Battersea Chess Club’s obituary of Parr, is a photograph, with Lenton on the right considering his move.

The 1938 British Championships at Brighton. L to R: Golombek; Frank Parr (tieless) ; C. H. O’D. Alexander; Sir George Thomas (partly hidden), Milner-Barry; E. G. Sergeant & A. Lenton.

And here, as you see, he finished in a share of 10th-11th place, quite a comedown from his results of 2 and 3 years earlier.

Full tournament report (and larger format crosstable) here.

In spite of this result, he was selected for the 1939 Anglo-Dutch match, where he was up against Carel Fontein, drawing one game and losing the other.

How strong was he during this period? EdoChess gives his rating peaking at 2250 in 1936, so, although he finished high up in the British on two occasions, he was only, by today’s standards, a strong club player. A player with considerable ability, both tactical and positional, but also with some weaknesses.

Storm clouds were gathering over Europe, war was declared on 1 September 1939, Lenton’s chess column was wound down, perhaps anticipating a paper shortage. A register was taken on 29 September listing all residents, for the purpose of producing identity cards and ration books.

Alfred and Elsie were recorded two miles east of the city centre, at 65 Copdale Road, Leicester (on the left here), living next door to his parents and brothers at number 63 (with the blue van up the drive: looks like it might have been rebuilt). The family had moved up in the world since 1921.

While Elsie is knitting socks with her circular machine, Alfred is a Gas Department Securities Clerk, working for the local government office.

At this point it’s almost time to break off our story, just noting that our hero had won his third county championship, receiving the trophy in October. “A worthy champion, who will be British Champion one day”, said the county President Robert Pruden on presenting the trophy. You’ll find out how accurate that prediction was in our next Minor Piece, when we look at what happened next in Alfred’s life.

But first, let’s return to Kibworth Beauchamp, where our story began. We met Robert Lenton, born in 1744, who might have been the son of Richard born in 1710.  He had a brother named Mark (a very popular name in this family) who moved to the nearby village of Thorpe Langton. We travel down the generations, another Mark, Henry, and his daughter Ann, baptised on 27 July 1794. On 2 December 1816 Ann married Thomas James, from the small village of Slawston, a few miles further east. We travel down the generations again, another Thomas, who moved back to Thorpe Langton, John, Tom Harry, and to the youngest of his 18 children, Howard, who was my father.

Which makes Alfred possibly my 6th cousin twice removed, or if Robert’s father was the other Richard, my 7th cousin twice removed (I think).

Another golden chain. Even though I didn’t inherit his talent, I’m delighted to be a kinsman of someone who finished =2nd and =3rd in two British Championships.

 

Sources and Acknowledgements:

ancestry.co.uk
findmypast.co.uk/British Newspaper Library
BritBase (John Saunders)
John Saunders also for providing me with his Lenton file
ChessBase/Stockfish 16
chessgames.com
EdoChess (Rod Edwards)
Google Maps
Wikipedia
Chess in Leicester 1860-1960 (Don Gould)
Battersea Chess Club website
shropshirechess.org

 

 Save as PDF

Minor Pieces 56: Ferdinand Uniacke and Edmund Arthur Beamish

I’ve just returned (on the eve of publication of this article) from a concert in which the distinguished baritone Roderick Williams performed a song composed by Sally Beamish. A few weeks ago I was at a gig where one of the musicians talked about drinking Beamish at the Cork Jazz Festival.

If you’re in Dublin you drink Guinness: if you’re in Cork you drink Beamish. Whether Sally drinks Beamish I don’t know, but she comes from the same family.

William Beamish and William Crawford founded the Cork Porter Brewery in 1791, beginning brewing the following year. William Beamish came from a distinguished family of English settlers.

Several of their family were competitive chess players in the first half of the last century. The unfortunately initialled FU Beamish was active in the Bristol area in the years leading up to the First World War, and A (or sometimes AE) Beamish was playing in London at the same time. Then there was Captain EA Beamish, who was a tournament regular for a decade or so either side of 1940.

There is some confusion about AB/AEB and EAB which I hope this article will resolve.

One of William’s many children was a son named Charles, born in 1801 (Sally is descended from his brother Richard): it’s his branch of the family who were chess players. Charles and his first wife, Louisa Howard, had four children: Ferdinand, Albert, Victoria and Alfred. He had another four children by his second wife, but, apart from noting that one of his daughters was named, with a distinct lack of political correctness, Darkey Delacour Beamish, they needn’t concern us.

Ferdinand was born in France in 1838, married Frances Anne Strickland at St John the Evangelist, Ladbroke Grove, London in 1876, then moved back to Cork where their children were born: Ferdinand Uniacke (1877), Walter Strickland, Francis Bernard, Gerald Cholmley and finally their only daughter, Agnes Olive.

It was Ferdinand Uniacke Beamish, unfortunately initialled, yes, but also splendidly named, who was our first chess playing Beamish. But it’s also worth looking at his sister, usually known as Olive, suffragette, communist and Cambridge graduate; and not the only unexpectedly radical woman you’ll meet in this article.

By 1901 the family had moved to Westbury on Trym, near Bristol, at which point FUB was working as a mechanical engineer, although the family would later run a farm.

Our first sighting of him at a chessboard is in November 1901, losing his game on a low board in a match in which Bristol and Clifton fielded a ‘very weak team’.

Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette 21 November 1901

At the age of 24, then, he was very much a novice, taking his first steps in the world of competitive chess. He was soon elected club secretary, and won a game in a simul against Francis Lee. In October 1902 he was one of a group of organisers instrumental in founding a Bristol Chess League. Here was an ambitious young man, very active as both a player and an organiser.

He was improving fast as well, and by 1903 was playing on board 5 for his county team, drawing his game in a match against Surrey.

There seems to have been some internal politics going on at the time: it was reported that FUB had resigned from Bristol and Clifton, because he had left the area, but, as well as continuing to play in county matches he was playing for Bristol Chess Club: I don’t know exactly what the relationship was between the two clubs, or indeed between the Bristol Chess League and the Gloucestershire and Bath Chess League, in which this 1906 match took place.

Cheltenham Examiner 21 March 1906

The short game published below was this one, against Bath veteran Alfred Rumboll. Black’s opening repertoire seems to have been sadly deficient. FUB preferred 6. d4 to the Fried Liver Attack, and won quickly against his opponent’s poor defence. Click on any move in any game in this article for a pop-up window.

In 1906 he decided to take part in the 3rd British Chess Championships, which took place that year in Shrewsbury. He was placed in Section A of the Second Class Section, scoring a highly respectable 6 points from 10 games.

Confusingly,  FUB was also playing for Clifton Chess Club, winning their club championship, and was also taking a high board for his county in correspondence matches, such as this one against Norfolk, where he defended the Evans Gambit against a Norfolk clergyman.

By this time, he was also playing a lot of correspondence chess, not only for Gloucestershire, but also for Ireland and in their national correspondence championship. In this game from a county match Ferdinand gains control of the centre against his opponent’s rather feeble opening and launches a rapid kingside attack.

In 1911 he reached the finals of the county championship, losing the play-off against the ill-fated Samuel Walter Billings.

The 1913 British Championships took place in nearby Cheltenham, and FUB returned to the fray, again taking part in the 2nd Class A section, finishing 3rd with 6½/10.

The Cork Weekly News published several of his games: perhaps he submitted them himself so that his friends and relations in his family’s home city would see them.

In this game he quickly gained an advantage against his opponent’s unimpressive opening play.

Superior opening play in this game again gave him the opportunity to demonstrate his attacking skills.

His opponent in this game was,  amongst other things, one of the founders of the Gloster Aircraft Company. There’s more about the family firm here.

The dangerous Albin Counter-Gambit was just becoming popular at this time, but Ferdinand knew how to deal with it.

From these games you get the impression of a player much better than his second class status would suggest, with a good knowledge of the latest theory along with a fluent attacking style and tactical ability.  But quite often things went wrong, and when they went wrong they went very wrong.

He was on the wrong end of a Best Game Prize winner here against a Danish opponent. As soon as he ran out of theory he blundered into a stock checkmating tactic.

The 1914 British Championships took place in Chester, and this time Ferdinand Uniacke Beamish was promoted to the 1st Class section, but with the UK having declared war against Germany a few days earlier, the players’ minds would have been on other battlefields.

Three games are available: losses to Moses and Stevenson, and this perhaps rather lucky win against George Marshall Norman, who had an impressively long and successful chess career.

He continued playing for Bristol, now with George Tregaskis as a teammate, through 1915, and the last record we have of him is a correspondence game from 1917.

It seems like he gave up chess at this point to concentrate on running the family farm. The 1921 Census found him, living with his elderly mother and a servant, at Dennisworth Farm, Pucklechurch, a village to the east of Bristol. He married in 1924, but it ended in divorce a few years later. In the 1939 Register he was still there, giving his occupation as Dairy Farmer.  In 1941 he emigrated to New Zealand, where, according to the 1949 Electoral Roll, he was again working as a Dairy Farmer. He died there in 1957, four decades after his last competitive game of chess.

To resolve the question over the identity of Ferdinand’s London contemporary A/AE Beamish, we need to consider Charles’s youngest son, Alfred, who was born in Cork in 1845 or thereabouts.

We first pick him up in England in 1878, where he marries Selina Taylor Prichard in Hastings. Selina had previously been married to the much older Surgeon General William White, who had left her with a daughter named Jessie Mabel.

Mabel (she preferred to use her middle name) is worth a detour. Despite her military background she was a committed pacifist. Her husband’s name was very familiar to me, given my background in Anglican church music, but may not be to you. Percy Dearmer was a socialist priest best remembered, at least by me, for editing The English Hymnal along with one of my musical heroes, Ralph Vaughan Williams. Their elder son, Geoffrey, was a poet who lived to the age of 103.

Alfred was a barrister and solicitor, and after his marriage he and Selina settled in Richmond, where their two sons, Alfred Ernest (1879) and Edmund Arthur (1880) were born. We can pick them up in the 1881 census at 13 Spring Terrace, Marsh Gate Road, Richmond. Spring Terrace, now in Paradise Road, is an impressive row of Georgian houses. The family were clearly very well off, employing four servants,  a housemaid, a nurse, an under nurse and a cook.

By 1891 they’d moved to 115 Church Road, a large house near the top of Richmond Hill, just as you approach St Matthias Church. Alfred senior, Selina, Mabel and their older son were there. It’s not clear where the younger boy was: perhaps away at school.

Alfred and Selina had decided that their sons should be educated at Harrow as day boys, and so, a few years later, they moved up to North West London, although it would seem that they also retained possession of their Richmond house. Alfred senior died in Harrow in 1898, and the 1901 census found Selina and her sons there, along with two servants. Neither of their sons had a job: the family was so well off that they had no need of paid employment.

We first spot A Beamish as a Harrow chess player in 1903.

Harrow Gazette 05 December 1903

Much more recently, Victoria Hall, in the town centre and very close to where they were living, was, for many years, the home of the current Harrow Chess Club. I played several Thames Valley League games there myself.

At this point we need to look at the controversy concerning the identity of this A (or sometimes AE) Beamish. It seems, on the surface, not unreasonable to assume this was Alfred Ernest, but there were other pointers suggesting it was really Edmund Arthur. There has also been a suggestion that it might have been an Arthur Edmund Beamish, perhaps a distant cousin, who was living in Islington at the time. Given that our brothers were round the corner from this sighting, though, this seems unlikely.

The older brother, Alfred Ernest Beamish, took up the game of tennis, later becoming one of the leading English players of his day, an opponent and occasional doubles partner of none other than Sir George Thomas, an author and administrator. His career was interrupted by the First World War, in which he served as a Lieutenant in the Royal Army Service Corps, so he would have been involved in administrative work. Some secondary sources refer to him as a Captain. Here, you can see his wife offering some tennis tips.

The younger brother, Edmund Arthur Beamish, by contrast, was a soldier. Although he was without employment in 1901, he had previously signed up to fight in the Second Boer War, serving as a Lieutenant in the 28th Battalion Imperial Yeomanry, and would rejoin, also serving, like his brother, in the First World War, where he reached the rank of Captain in the 1/18th Battalion  London Regiment.

To identify the chess player for certain, we need to spin forward to the year 1912. AEB took part in the Australasian Open Tennis Championship in December that year, reaching the finals of both the singles and doubles, leaving London on the Themistocles on 12 September, and arriving back home on board the Omrah on 14 March 1913.

Meanwhile, the chess playing AB was competing in the City of London Chess Championship at the same time, which tells us that the tennis player couldn’t possibly have been the chess player.

There’s corroborative evidence as well: both brothers, like their half-sister, preferred to use their middle names. When EAB joined the army in 1899 he gave his name as plain Arthur, and when AEB returned from his tennis tournament, his name on the register of passengers was A Ernest Beamish.

So we’ll assume from now on that EAB (not AEB) was the 1903-1914 chess player referred to in the press as A Beamish or AE Beamish.

Returning to 1904, in February that year Emanuel Lasker gave a simultaneous display against members of the Metropolitan Chess Club at the Criterion Restaurant in London, allowing consultation. He won 19 games and drew 1, playing black against Messrs Beamish and Lowenthal in consultation. This must have been our Mr Beamish: his consultation partner was probably Frederick Kimberley Loewenthal.

It seems Lasker missed a few chances for an advantage here. As always, click on any move for a pop-up window.

In 1905 he took part in the Second Class Open section of the Kent County Chess Association tournament at Crystal Palace, scoring 5 points for a share of 4th place. Our friend Wilfred Hugh Miller Kirk tied for first place.

British Chess Magazine May 1906

Here is is, third from the right in the top row, playing for Hampstead in 1905-06.

In 1906 he competed, along with his cousin Ferdinand, in the British Chess Championships in Shrewsbury. He was unable to stay for the full fortnight, so was placed in the One-Week First Class section.

A pretty good performance: drawing with the very strong Herbert Levi Jacobs was no mean feat.

This ‘short and sweet’ game, against an opponent who understandably preferred to remain anonymous, was published later the same year. At this time he seemed closely involved with four chess clubs: Harrow, Hampstead, Metropolitan and City of London.

Edmund Arthur Beamish took part in the prestigious City of London Club Championship on four occasions, but without conspicuous success. In 1907-08, 1909-10 and 1910-11 he finished down the field, but with occasional good results against master opponents. In the 1912-13 Diamond Jubilee Tournament, which had four preliminary sections, he again struggled.

In this game from the 1910-11 event he scored a notable scalp, although it must  be said that Wainwright was playing well below his usual strength in the tournament.

In this game from the same event Beamish had rather the worse of the opening, but managed to turn the tables and, although he missed a neat mate in 3, brought home the full point.

His opponent in this quick win finished in last place.

In early 1911 he married Edith Ada Jenner, and, by the time of the census they had set up home at 10 Fairholme Road, West Kensington. He described himself in the census is ‘late Lieutenant Imperial Yeomanry’. They would go on to have two children, Desmond (1915) and Selina (1918), both born in Hastings.

In 1912 the British Championships took place in his home town of Richmond, and he entered the First Class A section.

A pretty good result, even though his loss against Arthur Compton Ellis was awarded a Best Game Priz.

By now he’d transferred his allegiance from Harrow and Hampstead to his local club, West London.

But soon war intervened, and, now with two young children to support, he didn’t return to the chessboard.

By the time of the 1921 census he was visiting his elderly mother, who was living in the family home back in Richmond. He now had a job, working as an accounts clerk for R Seymour Corporate Accountant. There were three servants in residence, a nurse, a cook and a parlourmaid. His wife and children, meanwhile, had moved in with her elderly parents in Hastings. Had their marriage broken up, I wonder.

And then, in 1935, he made an unexpected comeback. Over the next few years he played regularly for Middlesex in county matches, and in congresses in Hastings, London and Margate, often with some success. It seems that a twenty year break and advancing years didn’t affect his chess strength.

I’ve only managed to locate one game from these years, a loss against the Dutch Ladies’ Champion Fenny Heemskerk.

Here’s the crosstable from that event.

The 1939 Register found EAB, his wife and daughter living together in the old family home, 115 Church Road, Richmond. He was described as a retired army captain. They had no domestic staff and some of the rooms had been let out to others, so perhaps they weren’t as well off as they had been.

Although he was living in Richmond and very active again in both county and tournament chess, he doesn’t seem to have joined any of the clubs in our Borough. He did, however, make a guest appearance at Barnes Police Station in 1941, playing in a simul against his brother’s old tennis chum Sir George Thomas (they had played out a draw in the City of London Club Championship 30 years earlier).

Richmond Herald 08 November 1941

In the same year he joined West London Chess Club, which, while most clubs had closed, was flourishing with an impressive range of members and activities. EAB played regularly in matches against a variety of opponents as well as competing in their regular lightning tournaments and other internal competitions.

Here’s a club photograph from 1943. Beamish is second from the right in the front row.

West London Chess Club Gazette October 1943

In this game he played on Board 1 against Upminster: his opponent was an undertaker by profession. The West London Chess Club Gazette describes it as ‘an example of the fatal consequences of a premature attack’, but Stockfish points out that White missed a win on move 11.

He returned to tournament play after the war, taking part in the Major A section at Hastings in 1945-46. With the London League returning to action, he played 12 games for West London, scoring 6 wins, 4 draws and only 2 losses.

Shortly afterwards he was taken seriously ill, and died on 13 October 1946, at the age of 66. His club published a fine tribute to one of their strongest and most respected members.

I wonder what happened to his extensive Chess Library. Does anyone at West London Chess Club know?

EdoChess gives his rating before WW1 as just below 2100, which seems reasonable: a strong club player who could score the occasional result against master standard opposition. His cousin Ferdinand was perhaps slightly weaker, although he played some highly entertaining chess.

There’s one more mystery, there was an A Beamish playing for Devon in the years leading up to World War 1, mostly by correspondence but occasionally over the board. I can’t find any Devon connection for him, but his Uncle Albert, about whom very little seems to be known died in Devon in 1920. Was it him? Who knows?

And who knows where my next Minor Piece will take you?

Sources and Acknowledgements:

ancestry.co.uk
findmypast.co.uk
Wikipedia
English Chess Forum (contributions from Gerard Killoran and others)
West London Chess Club Gazette
BritBase (John Saunders)
EdoChess (Rod Edwards)
YouTube

 

 Save as PDF

Minor Pieces 54: Arthur Compton Ellis

Then Ellis comes with rapid transit,
And few there are who can withstand it;
Some day soon he’s bound to land it.

So said the bard of Richmond Chess Club at their 1911 AGM. Arthur Compton Ellis was a man who lived his life, as well as playing his chess, with rapid transit. Although he spent little more than two years in the area, he flashed like a meteor across the Richmond and Kew chess scene.

Let’s find out more.

Our story starts on 20 September 1887, with the marriage between George Frederick Ellis, a surveyor aged 39 and Margaret Fraser, aged 31. Rather late for marriage in those days. Their only child, Arthur Compton Ellis’s birth was registered in the Pancras district of London in the first quarter of 1889.

In the 1891 census the family are living in Kentish Town. George is working as a Surveyor of Roads and Sewers, and they’re doing well enough to employ a servant. By 1901 they’ve moved a mile to the north, close to Parliament Hill Fields: George is now, just like James Richmond Cartledge would be a few years later, a Deputy Borough Engineer and Surveyor. Margaret is, perhaps unexpectedly, working as a Physician and Surgeon, while Arthur is at school. There were no domestic staff at home.

Arthur moved from school to the University of London, where he graduated with a BA in 1909, at the age of only 20. In the same year his father died: the death was registered in Camberwell, South London.

Perhaps he discovered the game of chess at university. He may also have discovered religion. In 1908 he was baptised at St Luke’s Church, Kew, with his address given as 40 West Park Road, right by Kew Gardens Station. At this point the family appeared to have connections, then, with both the Richmond/Kew area and South London.

He first turns up playing for Richmond Chess Club in December 1908, losing his game on bottom board in a London League match against Ibis.  It looks like he joined the club on the completion of his studies. Although he seemed to be struggling in match play at this point, in April 1909 he finished second in a lightning tournament, which, that year, replaced the annual club dinner.

In 1910, now styling himself A Compton Ellis, he was advertising his tuition services in the Daily Telegraph. LCP was a teaching qualification.

Daily Telegraph & Courier (London) 04 March 1910

By Summer 1910 he felt confident enough to take part in a tournament. The British Championships took place that year in Oxford, and Arthur was placed in the 3rd Class C section.With a score of 10½/11, it was clear that he was improving fast, and should have been in at least the 2nd Class division. The prizes were presented by none other than William Archibald Spooner.

A handicap tournament also took place there, in which he won first prize: a model of the earth with a clock inside, enabling him to ascertain the time of day in any part of the world. This prize was donated by its inventor, James Haddon Overton, a schoolmaster from Woodstock.

In September that year, not content with only playing at Richmond, where he had now reached top board in a match against Acton, he was one of the founders of a new club in Kew.

Richmond Herald 29 October 1910

Richmond and Kew weren’t his only clubs, either. He was also a member of South London Chess Club, about which there’s very little information online.

In this London League game he fell victim to a brilliant queen sacrifice. Click on any move in any game in this article for a pop-up window enabling you to play through the game.

Arthur Compton Ellis was infectiously enthusiastic, ambitious and seemed to have contacts with a number of strong amateur players, mostly from the Civil Service, as is demonstrated by this event.




Richmond Herald 04 February 1911

A win against our old friend Wilfred Hugh Miller Kirk was also evidence that Arthur was developing into a formidable player.

The 1911 census found Arthur and his mother still living at 40 West Park Road, Kew Gardens. Arthur gave his occupation as ‘Tutor’ while there was no occupation listed for Margaret.

By then it was time for another tournament. The Kent and Sussex Chess Congress, run by the Kent County Chess Association took place over Easter at this time. It’s little written about today, but it attracted some of the country’s top players. The top section in the 1911, for example, played in Tunbridge Wells, was won by Yates ahead of Gunsberg. The organising committee, coincidentally, included the Kent secretary Rufus Henry Streatfeild Stevenson, and the Sussex secretary, Harold John Francis Spink Stephenson. Arthur Compton Ellis took part in the third section down, the Second Class Open, where he was again too good for the opposition, finishing on 8½/10, half a point ahead of Battersea veteran Bernard William Fisher (1836-1914), who had been a master standard player back in the 1880s. Visitors included Frank Marshall, who gave a simul and a talk, and Joseph Blackburne, who gave simuls and played consultation games. Horace Fabian Cheshire gave a talk, with lantern slides, on chess players past and present, and also an exposition of the game of Go. It sounds like a good time was had by all.

Arthur persuaded Frank Marshall to visit Richmond and give a simul against members of local chess clubs, and that was duly arranged.

The AGM in September would report as follows:

Richmond Herald 30 September 1911

Always eager to play in any event, he won the Dalgarno-Robinson chess trophy, competed for by members of local branches of the Association of Young Men’s Clubs, and played on top board when Richmond Chess Club visited Hastings, drawing his game against the aforementioned Mr Stephenson.

He decided to give the 1911 British Championship, held in Glasgow, a miss, though. Perhaps he wasn’t prepared to travel that far.

The Richmond Herald was now carrying less chess news, but we know from a report from the other end of Surrey that Kew Chess Club were becoming even more successful.

Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser 04 May 1912

You’ll see that Ellis didn’t stand for re-election as captain. This seems to have been because Arthur and Margaret had moved from Kew to South London.

Over Easter 1912, though, he returned to Tunbridge Wells for the Kent and Sussex Easter Congress, this time promoted to the top (First Class Open) section. Now against stronger opposition, this time he found the going tough, only scoring 2½/8.

The winner was the future Sir George Thomas, who wasted little time of disposing of Ellis, who misplaced his queen’s knight on his 11th move.

However, he did have the satisfaction of defeating Fred Brown, one of two chess playing brothers from Dudley. (He had a brother Frank, who was also a strong player. Understandably, in the days when newspapers only gave players’ initials, they were often confused.) Fred shared second place with future BCM editor Julius du Mont in this tournament.

It seems that he was lucky here: his opponent resigned what may well have been a drawn position as he would have had chances of a perpetual check if he’d continued with 32… Kf7!. What do you think?

At the same event, Arthur and his friend from Kew, Montague White Stephens, played in a consultation simul against Blackburne. They were successful after the great veteran uncharacteristically missed a simple mate in 3 on move 19.

Montague White Stevens (1881-1947) was only a club standard player, but he edited the 1914 Year Book of Chess and produced a revised edition of EA Greig’s Pitfalls on the Chess-Board.

In April 1912 a new Chess Divan opened in the Strand, replacing Simpson’s Chess Divan, which had closed a few years earlier, and Gunsberg was appointed its manager. Arthur, who would go almost anywhere for a game of chess, was soon involved.  With lightning tournaments a regular feature, a devotee of rapid transit chess would be in his element.

In May’s lightning tournament there was a full house, with the participants ‘mostly first-class amateurs’. Arthur shared first place with future British Champion Roland Henry Vaughan Scott and future writer and historian Philip Walsingham Sergeant. Lightning chess was proving increasingly popular, and I would assume this tournament was played using a buzzer. But there was an announcement that the following week there would be a five-minute tournament ‘which affords such amusing play’. If you think five-minute chess is amusing, you should try bullet. Arthur would have loved that.

In June there were only 12 players in the lightning tournament, with Arthur Compton Ellis sharing first place with Harold Godfrey Cole, who had played in the previous year’s Anglo-American cable match and would, a couple of months later, take second place in the British Championship. It’s evident from these results that he was a formidable speed player.

He was, inevitably, involved in administration as well.

Globe 22 June 1912

A strong and interesting line-up, you’ll agree, with players such as former World Championship candidate Isidor Gunsberg and top lady player Louisa Matilda Fagan amongst many well-known participants.

This wasn’t a standard all-play-all tournament: rather you could play as many games as you wanted against as many opponents as you wanted, with the player with the best percentage score of those who played at least 20 games winning. It sounds like you could improve your chances by playing lots of games against weaker players. On 22 June the London Evening Standard reported that Ellis had beaten Mrs Fagan and drawn with Scott.

There was further news in three weeks time, when some players had made a lot of progress with their games.

Globe 06 July 1912

In this game against Scotsman John Macalister, a shorthand writer in the Admirality Court, he was winning but went wrong on move 19 in a complex position, eventually falling victim to a queen sacrifice.

By the end of August, Loman and Scott were both on 13/16, with 18 games now required for your score to count, but after that the trail goes dead. It looks to me like the whole concept was rather too ambitious to succeed.

But meanwhile, the 1912 British Championships had taken place in Richmond, familiar territory for Arthur Compton Ellis.  This time he was placed in the 1st Class Amateurs A section.

He made a strong showing with 7/11, sharing 3rd place behind Surbiton ophthalmic surgeon Thomas Wilfrid Letchworth (Wilfred Kirk won the parallel 1st Class Amateurs B section), but at this point he seemed to be a stronger lightning player.

This game shared the prize for the best game played in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd class sections, judged by Thomas Francis Lawrence. The winning move seems pretty obvious to me, though. There is some doubt as to the exact identity of his opponent: three possibilities were put forward in a recent online debate, and you could perhaps add a fourth. I’ll discuss this further in a future Minor Piece.

He later provided brief annotations for the press, where it appeared immediately above a Very Famous Miniature which had been played a few days earlier. I’m sure you’ll recognise it.

Globe 09 November 1912

This thrilling game against music professor Edward Davidson Palmer (he taught singing), in which Arthur ventured the King’s Gambit, is a good demonstration of his fondness for tactical play. His opening failed to convince and Palmer missed several wins, but he ultimately escaped with the full point.

Over the next few months there’s little news of his chess playing, but then something unexpected happens. He turns up in, of all places, Stoke on Trent, or, to be precise, nearby Hanley.

Staffordshire Sentinel 19 February 1913

Why Stoke on Trent? What was he doing there?

There are two possibilities. On Board 2 for Hanley was schoolmaster Joshua Walter Dixon, whom he had met in Oxford back in 1910: they were in different sections of the main event, but both competed in the handicap tournament. Perhaps he had been in touch to offer him employment there, either in a school or as a private tutor.

But look also at Arthur’s opponent from Mecca: George Tregaskis. It appears that Arthur and George were very close friends. They may well have met earlier: George was originally from South London before moving to Stoke for business reasons, so could well have been a member of the South London Chess Club at the time. He also visited the Divan in 1912 when returning to London to visit his family, so, again, they might have known each other from there. Who knows?

Here they are, in the same team, playing for Hanley in a whitewash over Walsall. Their top board, Joseph William Mellor, was a particularly interesting chap.

Staffordshire Sentinel 05 March 1913

Here’s Arthur’s win. He was in trouble most of the way until his opponent went wrong right at the end.

The Kent and Sussex tournament took  place over Whitsun at Hastings in 1913. Arthur and George travelled down together, and were both placed in the First Class A tournament.

Staffordshire Sentinel 14 May 1913

In his first round game against Inland Revenue man David Miller, Arthur switched from his usual e4 to d4, essaying the Colle-Zukertort Opening. It didn’t go well.

Arthur had beaten George in a club match, and, when they were in the same team, played on a higher board, but here it was Tregaskis who came out on top after his opponent miscalculated a tactical sequence.

Here’s how it ended up.

Staffordshire Sentinel 21 May 1913

Unsurprisingly, the masters, Yates and Thomas, outclassed the opposition, who were mostly, with the exception of Middleton and Sugden, strong club players.

A remarkable performance, though, by George Tregaskis in his first tournament, but perhaps slightly disappointing for Arthur Compton Ellis, whose progress seemed, temporarily, to have slightly stalled. Perhaps he needed, as chess teachers always tell their young pupils, to slow down and control his impulses.

With two young and talented new players in their ranks, the future for Staffordshire chess was looking bright. Hanley, after a lapse of three years, won the North Staffordshire League, ‘due in no small measure to the fact that the usual team was greatly strengthened by the inclusion of Mr. A. Compton Ellis, whose enthusiasm for the royal game is unlimited’, according to the Staffordshire Sentinel (4 June 1913).

But then, on 9 July: ‘Local players will hear with much regret that, owing to professional and business reasons, Messrs. A. Compton Ellis and G. Tregaskis have found it necessary to sever their connection with this district.’

George’s work took him to Bristol, as you’ll find out in a future Minor Piece. Arthur returned home to South London. Had he not wanted to remain in Stoke with his friend? Had his teaching work not gone as he’d hoped? We’ll never know.

The two friends kept in touch, playing two correspondence games, one with each colour, over the summer. Although he’d now left the area, Arthur kept in touch with the local paper, followed their chess columns, and submitted these games for publication.

In his game with White, Arthur experimented on move 6, unwisely following a Blackburne game, and, by the next move had a lost position. George concluded brilliantly.

In the game with colours reversed, Tregaskis improved on an Alapin game from the previous year, but went wrong in the ensuing complications. He then resigned a drawn position, missing the saving clause. Ellis’s opponents seemed to have a habit of resigning level positions!

The 1913 British Championships took place in Cheltenham. Arthur Compton Ellis took part again, playing in the First Class B section, where he scored a half point more than the previous year.

This left him in second place behind his Lancashire contemporary Norman Boles Holmes. George Tregaskis wasn’t playing, but you’ll see his other Hanley friend, Joshua Walter Dixon, there in First Class A. Unfortunately, the BCM failed to publish crosstables of these events.

Both Dixon and Ellis scored other successes there: Joshua won two problem solving competitions, while Arthur, although he only finished 7th in the handicap tournament, won a prize in a Kriegspiel (‘a peculiar, and modern, form of chess, unknown to more than 99 per cent. of chess players’) event.

Returning to London, Arthur Compton Ellis submitted two puzzles based on his games to the Staffordshire Sentinel. (The chess editor preferred to remain anonymous: perhaps it was Joshua Walter Dixon.)

It shouldn’t take you too long to find the mate in 4 here.

Staffordshire Sentinel 03 September 1913

Two weeks later he offered a mate in 3, which has, although he seemed not to notice, two solutions, both involving attractive (but different) queen sacrifices. Can you find them both?

Staffordshire Sentinel 17 September 1913

On 13 September Alekhine, on a brief visit to London, agreed to play a simul at the Divan in the Strand. Arthur, of course, was there.

He lost a pawn and was slowly ground down, but did anyone spot he had a fleeting opportunity for a draw in the pawn ending?

The following Monday he left London. He had a new job as an Assistant Master at Laxton Grammar School, part of the same foundation as Oundle School, but catering for local boys.

He soon encountered problems there, coming into conflict with the Headmaster, Rev Thomas Harry Ross. In November he was asked to hand in his notice.



Northampton Chronicle and Echo 27 November 1913

What a tragic end to a short but eventful life. A life that promised much but ended far too soon. A man of great power and considerable ability. An impulsive young man. I think you can see that in his chess as well: at times brilliant, at times speculative, but almost always entertaining. You can also see how well he was thought of by his chess friends. Great power and considerable ability, yes, and also enthusiasm, energy and charisma. Looking back from a 2020s perspective you can perhaps see elements of ADHD and bipolar disorder, which tends to manifest itself between the ages of 20 and 25. Could Laxton have treated him better? Undoubtedly. You can only hope that, these days, someone like Arthur Compton Ellis would be better understood.

If he and his mother had chosen to remain in Kew, perhaps the history of chess in Richmond would have been very different. Had he devoted the next half century to playing and organising chess, you might have seen him as a British Championship contender, and perhaps an organiser of major chess events in my part of the world. If he’d lived a long life he might even have met me, and perhaps my life would have been different. I’d like to think that, as the founder of Kew Chess Club, which later merged with Richmond, some part of his spirit lives on in today’s Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club. Spare a thought for the short but frenetic life of a true chess addict: Arthur Compton Ellis.

There are a few loose ends to tie up. Arthur’s nemesis, Rev Thomas Harry Ross, in the years between the two World Wars, was Rector of Church Langton with Tur Langton and Thorpe Langton, where he would have ministered to the relations of Walter Charles Bodycoat, and perhaps to my relations as well. I’ll take up the story of Arthur’s friend George Tregaskis in a later article.

There’s one other mystery to look at.

Hertford Mercury and Reformer 06 December 1913

St Albans? There’s nothing online yet about chess in St Albans at that time. He seems to have been in South London with his mother between leaving Stoke and arriving at Oundle. I suppose he might have been there late 1912/early 1913, when there was a gap of a few months in his chronology. We can also go back a few years, to May 1907, when AC Ellis, first from St Albans, then from Swindon, who was solving chess problems in the Bristol Times and Mirror.  Was that our man? Was he, perhaps, in those towns for teaching practice? Who knows?

There’s an implication that the family were having some sort of financial problem. There’s also a slight mystery in that the coroner’s report gives his mother’s address as 12 Kilsworth Road Dulwich, while his probate record (he left £560 17s) gave his address as 12 Pickwick Road Dulwich Village. I can’t locate Kilsworth Road (or anything similar) so it may well be a mistake for Pickwick Road, which could also be considered to be in Herne Hill. By 1921 Margaret had returned to Kew, living on her own at 333 Sandycombe Road, just the other side of the railway from where she’d been living ten years earlier. It’s not at all clear when she died: there’s no death record close to Richmond and the family hasn’t been researched. There’s a possible death record in Islington in 1930: perhaps she’d returned to the area where she spent the first part of her life.

Join me again soon for some more Minor Pieces investigating the lives of some of Arthur Compton Ellis’s chess opponents.

 

Sources:

ancestry.co.uk
findmypast.co.uk/British Newspaper Library
Wikipedia
chessgames.com
BritBase (John Saunders)
Yorkshire Chess History (Steve Mann)
Various other sources quoted and linked to above

 Save as PDF

Remembering Raaphy Persitz (26-vii-1934 04-ii-2009)

We remember Raaphy(i) Persitz who passed away on Wednesday, February 4th, 2009.

From British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIX (129, 2009), Number 3 (March), pp. 130-134 by John Saunders we have this detailed obituary:

Raaphy Persitz

A tribute to a great friend of British chess, by John Saunders

Raphael Joseph Arie (Raaphy) Persitz (26 vii 1934, Tel Aviv – 4 ii 2009, Tel Aviv)

28th December 1955: Israeli chess player Raaphy Persitz in play at the International Chess Congress at Hastings. (Photo by Folb/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
28th December 1955: Israeli chess player Raaphy Persitz in play at the International Chess Congress at Hastings. (Photo by Folb/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

Raaphy Persitz, one of the strongest players resident in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s and also one of BCM‘s most popular contributors, has died aged 74. Raaphy was born in Tel Aviv, the grandson of Shoshana Persitz (1893-1969), a publisher who became an early member of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. Raaphy became Israel’s first junior champion in 1951 and shortly afterwards came to study PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics) at Oxford University where he was a member of their very strong chess team and a close friend of Leonard Barden and others.

Raaphy Persitz (26-vii-1934 04-ii-2009). 26 year-old Raaphy Persitz at the 1960 Leipzig Olympiad playing on board four for Israel. He scored +6, =2, -4.
Raaphy Persitz (26-vii-1934 04-ii-2009). 26 year-old Raaphy Persitz at the 1960 Leipzig Olympiad playing on board four for Israel. He scored +6, =2, -4.

One of his most publicised feats was to win his Varsity match game and also a county match against Hugh Alexander on the same day (see the May 1954 or March 2004 issues of the magazine for further details). Raaphy played three times in the Varsity match and also represented England in three Students Olympiads in the mid-1950s. He represented Israel in the 1960 Leipzig Olympiad on board four, and also played twice in the Hastings Premier, in 1955-56 and 1968-69, the latter being his swansong in competitive chess as he turned his attention to a career in banking which took him first to Switzerland and eventually to his home town of Tel Aviv. As a player his best result was probably finishing third behind Reshevsky and Szabo at the first major international tournament held in Israel, Haifa/Tel Aviv 1958.

Despite giving up competitive play, Raaphy never lost his love of the game and remained an avid reader of magazines and follower of the game until the end of his life. And, of course, he remained a perceptive and humorous writer on the game though his output was much lower than in the 1950s. The news of his death came as a particular shock to me as, only a couple of weeks previously, he had sent me a fax saying how moved he had been by the tribute I had writ- ten to Bob Wade in the January 2009 issue of BCM. That was typical of his kindness to wards me which dated back to when I took my first tottering steps as BCM editor in 1999. We never actually met in person but spoke occasionally on the telephone and exchanged faxes (Raaphy didn’t seem to communicate by email).

Raaphy Persitz (26-vii-1934 04-ii-2009)
Raaphy Persitz (26-vii-1934 04-ii-2009)

As a long-time reader of the magazine I had enjoyed his Student’s Corner column contributions. The column had been initiated by Abe Yanofsky in the early 1950s and Raaphy had inherited it in 1958. I was particularly delighted when, in 2004, after I had written about his 1954 feat in winning his Varsity match game and a county match against English number one CHO’D(Hugh) Alexander on the same day, Raaphy consented to write another column (which appeared in the May 2004 issue of BCM). I never succeeded in getting him to write another one but it was such a pleasure to have him write for the magazine during my spell as editor.

(Regarding the above game there is a note from Sally Simpson on chessgames.com as follows:

Raaphi Persitz agreed to play for Oxford v Cambridge in London and also on the same day for Oxon v Gloucester in a county match in Swindon.

This is the second game, he won both games.

Be aware that Bruce Hayden in ‘Cabbage Heads and Kings’, which is where I got this game from, mentions this but also added that these games took place on the same day as the 1954 Grand National (won by Royal Tan). This is wrong as the Grand National that year was run on the 10 April.

I think that maybe Bruce saw the score of the games with the two games a day story in a Sunday newspaper covering Saturdays Grand National and perhaps got the dates mixed up.

)

The fax he sent me on 7 January 2009 seems particularly poignant now but it is a good example of Raaphy’s kindness and self-deprecating humour. Here is the full text:

“Dear John, I was moved by your wide-ranging obituary of Bob Wade in the BCM[January 2009, p34l. I dare say you did justice to his contributions and devotion to chess, spanning well over half a century. I have several pleasant recollections of conversations and over-the-board encounters with Bob. One such tussle, a hard-fought draw, was reproduced by Bob, with comments (in the Student’s Corner) in a book containing his eventful games.

Another, somewhat less felicitous, recollection harks back to a game we contested at Ilford, where, in extreme time trouble, I blithely played Rxh7+, expecting …Qxh7, but overlooking the simple …Kxh7, leaving me a whole rook down with no compensation, whereupon I duly resigned. What impressed me at the time was the lightning speed with which Bob reacted to my ill-fated blunder – as if it were nothing but inevitable…

With warmest wishes for a healthy,
happy, fruitful 2009. Raaphy.”

I had hoped to publish the above as a Letter to the Editor but, sadly, it must now appear as part of Raaphy’s obituary. The draw with Bob Wade referred to in the fax was played in Dublin in 1962 and featured in Student’s Corner in BCM in the December 1966 issue on page 356. It seems appropriate to reproduce the game here in tribute to these two recently departed and much-loved chessplayers.

Notes by Persitz

Unlike the majority of games that have, over the years, appeared in the Student’s Corner, the following dour struggle between Bob Wade (White) and myself (Black), from Dublin, 1962, is in no way outstanding: it does not contain any brilliant combinations; it is not a positional masterpiece; it is certainly not devoid of mistakes. Nor is it amusing, or original, or of theoretical interest or particularly instructive. Yet (with the aid of the interspersed comments) it ought to give the student a pretty shrewd and realistic idea of the stuff competitive chess is made of: the endless number of laborious variations that have to be examined; the annoying little threats that must be attended to; the treacherous pitfalls to be sidestepped; the technical hurdles to be surmounted; the frustrating little details, indifference to which may be fatal; in brief, the drudgery that has become part and parcel of contemporary tournament practice, without which success is unimaginable.

Raaphy Persitz Tributes

Leonard Barden: Raaphy was probably my best friend at Oxford – certainly so among chessplayers. We played hundreds of blitz games in the junior common room at Balliol and later for some months in 1957 we shared a London flat, analysing Russian championship games over breakfast. He was a wonderful man to know, bright, witty, gentle, sympathetic and knowledgeable.

Leonard Barden (centre) with Raaphi Persitz, JB Sykes, OI Galvenius and DM Armstrong, Ilford, May, 1953
Leonard Barden (centre) with Raaphi Persitz, JB Sykes, OI Galvenius and DM Armstrong, Ilford, May, 1953

A tribute by Amatzia Avni: Ordinary people have a mixture of good qualities and bad ones. After 20 years of friendship with the late Raaphy Persitz I can attest that he was a distinct type: one sided, positive-only; pure gold.

I first met him in 1989. I had just written my first chess book (in Hebrew) and was searching for someone to write me an introduction. The word was that Persitz was back in town, after long years abroad. Having seen glimpses of his amazing linguistic skills, I contacted him and he agreed immediately. He didn’t know me, hadn’t read a single sentence of the book, yet he didn’t hesitate: “yes, sure, I’ll be glad to”.

That was typical Persitz: always ready to help, unconditionally. The introduction, needless to say, was a sheer delight, a class or two above the rest of the book. In later years he gave me a hand several times polishing my texts and making them more reader-friendly to English-speaking readers. Somehow he seemed to know what I wished to express better than I did. His suggestions enabled me to convey my meaning in a clear and precise manner.

Raaphy was modest and reserved. Once I called him and realized he was upset. “My mother had passed away some weeks ago,” he said. I was puzzled why he didn’t tell me the sad news at the time. “I didn’t want to bother you” was his reply.

A couple of years ago I stumbled upon Bruce Hayden’s old book Cabbage Heads and Chess Kings. One of the book’s chapters was headed “Raaphy Persitz star or comet?”. I learned that, in the 1950s, Persitz gained bright victories in England, against Penrose, Alexander, Milner-Barry and others. Searching a Chessbase database I found out that he also done battle with some out- standing international players. Yet, in all our meetings and hundreds of hours of conversation, he never said a thing about that!

Persitz was a master of understatement. I learned that if I wrote “very fine” or “extremely strong”, the ‘very’ and ‘extremely’ would fly out of the window. If I made a firm stand on a certain issue, he would add “probably”, “apparently’ or “it may be argued that”, because it was indeed only an opinion, not a fact. Over time, following his line of thought made me improve the way I expressed myself and thought about chess.

Persitz’s distinctions in chess, in linguistics and in journalism are evident to anyone who ever read his chess books and articles. He also excelled at economics, but I am unqualified to comment on this.

God bless you, Raaphy. I feel privileged to have known you. Amatzia Avni.

Here is his Wikipedia entry

 Save as PDF

Minor Pieces 52: Wilfred Hugh Miller Kirk

Wilfred Hugh Miller Kirk was perhaps Richmond Chess Club’s strongest player between 1925 and 1937, as well as playing an important administrative role in the club.

Wilfred was born in Culmstock, Devon on 18 May 1877, where Teddington novelist, market gardener and chess player RD Blackmore also lived for a time. His family were originally from London,  but his father was working in Devon as a Schools Inspector at the time of his birth. The family later returned to London, where young Wilfred joined the Civil Service on leaving school. He would remain there for his entire working life.

In 1899 he married 20 year old Mabel Ellen Gannaway. Wilfred and Mabel had four children, Talbot (1902), Beatrice (1903), Evelyn (1907) and Ruby (1908).

We hear of him as a chess player for the first time only in 1904, at the age of 27, when he took part in the Second Class B section of the inaugural British Championships at Hastings. He did pretty well for a newcomer to competitive chess, finishing in third place, just half a point behind the joint winners.

The following year he took part in the Kent Open Amateur 2nd Class A tournament, held that year at Crystal Palace, where he shared first place with his old rival WT Dickinson.

Shortly afterwards, leaving his wife and two young children at home, he crossed the channel to Ostend, where a mammoth tournament was taking place. The master event had no less than 36 entrants, with a complex group structure, and, below that, there were two amateur sections which attracted a number of British participants. Wilfred played in the Amateur B section, scoring a very respectable 11/17.

He didn’t take part in another tournament until 1908, when he again played in the Kent congress, that year held in Sevenoaks. This time Wilfred was promoted to the 1st Class Open Section 2. He found 1st class competition a lot tougher than the 2nd class, scoring only 1½/6, The leading scores in this section were Harold Godfrey Cole (5), Kate Belinda Finn and Percy Rawle Gibbs (4½). Miss Finn wasn’t the only (fishy) lady in the section: Mrs Frances Dunn Herring brought up the rear on 1/6.

Although he wasn’t very active in tournament play at the time, he was very much involved in Civil Service chess. He may well have been playing for the Local Government Board before his first tournament, and, when the Civil Service Chess League was founded in 1904 he was appointed to the post of Secretary.

When the British Championships were held in Richmond in 1912 he returned to the fray. This time he was in the 1st Class Amateurs B section, and, from the result, it was clear that he was a lot stronger now than a few years earlier.

The British Chess Magazine (October 1912) remarked that Mr. W. H. M. Kirk (Putney) is a well-known fine player in the Civil Service League, but does not play much otherwise. With work and family commitments, it was understandable that he wouldn’t have had much time for tournament play.

Unfortunately the only game of his from this event that appears to be extant was his only defeat. For all games in this article, click on any move for a pop-up window.

Kirk took part in the Surrey Championship that year, where he finished in first place with a score of 4½/5. This time we do have one of his wins, which his opponent, a dentist usually known as Frank St J Steadman, generously submitted to the British Chess Magazine. It was published in their December 1912 issue.

Wilfred entered the 1st Class Open in the 1913 Kent & Sussex Congress but had to withdraw before the start of the tournament. However, he did play in the Major Open section of the 1913 British Championship, making a respectable showing in a strong tournament.

Here’s a loss against the German born but English resident Georg Schories, a regular Major Open competitor whose nationality precluded his participation in the championship.

In this photograph of the competitors in this section, Kirk is the good looking youngish man (he was now 35) standing second on the left. He doesn’t look very happy, does he? But then they rarely did in those days.

And then World War 1 intervened. The Civil Service Chess League continued in 1915, but then stopped for the duration, only resuming in 1919.

The British Championships were also suspended, again resuming with a Victory Congress at Hastings in August that year. The British title itself wasn’t awarded, the top section being a semi-international event with visiting stars Capablanca and Kostic taking the first two places, well ahead of Sir George Thomas and Yates. The Major Open went to Edward Guthlac Sergeant, and, below that were three parallel First Class sections. Kirk was in the C section, finishing in first place, beating, amongst others, future World Champion Max Euwe. The enforced break had done nothing to dull his chess strength.

Again, his only loss, against Irish champion John James O’Hanlon, is the only one of his games from this event I’ve been able to locate.

In 1919 he also entered the City of London Chess Club Championship: the only time he took part in this prestigious event. He finished in 6th place with 6/11 behind Sir George Thomas, a clear winner on 9½, Michell, Walker, EG Sergeant and Blake, whom he beat in this game: a notable scalp.

Throughout much of his life, Wilfred Kirk seemed to move house every two or three years. He had previously lived in Putney and Wimbledon, but by this time had moved to North London, playing for Hampstead Chess Club and winning the Middlesex Championship in 1920. He had also moved departments in the Civil Service, from the Local Government Board to the Ministry of Health.

Then, in Autumn 1925, he moved to Richmond, living in several addresses in Richmond and Twickenham in the following 12 years or so. He wasted no time in joining Richmond Chess Club, but, in his first match, was only playing on Board 3.

Richmond Herald 28 November 1925

He also entered the Surrey Championship, in 1926 regaining the title he had previously won 14 years earlier.

As an able administrator he was soon appointed secretary of his new club, as reported here, where, on top board, he was successful against our old friend George Archer Hooke.

Richmond Herald 20 November 1926

His addresses at this point included 17 The Barons, St Margarets in 1927 and 27 Richmond Hill in 1928.

In the 1928-29 season Kirk swept the board, winning not just the club championship (you’ll see PGL Fothergill in 3rd place: he only seemed to play in internal competitions rather than club matches), but the handicap tournament (one wonders how the scores were calculated) and the prize for the best percentage score in matches.

Richmond Herald 30 March 1929

That summer he took part in a Living Chess game against Reginald Pryce Michell at Asgill House in Richmond to raise money for the local hospital.

Richmond Herald 22 June 1929

Wilfred was very much involved in charitable endeavours of all sorts, promoting chess at the Star and Garter Home for disabled ex-Servicemen, donating money to a fund for distressed miners, and, later in life. helping at a local home for the blind.

That summer, by then in his 50s,  he unexpectedly received an invitation to take part in the British Championship, held that year in Ramsgate.

Wilfred was a very effective player top level club opposition, but here, against mostly master standard opponents, he was rather out of his depth.

He lost in 19 moves to Gerald Abrahams: a game which attracted some attention at the time. Abrahams, rather typically, played a speculative sacrifice which Kirk should have accepted, but instead declined it and resigned the next move.

Here’s his draw against future Scottish champion and bridge designer William Albert Fairhurst.

In this group photograph, Kirk is standing on the left next to the permanently disheveled William Winter.

That year there was a merger between Richmond and Kew chess clubs, who, however, continued to meet at both venues on different days of the week. Kirk now had a serious rival in Kew star Ronald George Armstrong, about whom more in a future Minor Piece.

Meanwhile, in 1933, Kirk’s service to chess in the Civil Service was marked by a presentation.

A History of Chess in the English Civil Service (Kevin Thurlow)

This 1934 match must have been a surprise result.

Richmond Herald 21 April 1934

Richmond & Kew were a second division team, playing in the Beaumont Cup, while Kingston, who had won the Surrey Trophy two years earlier, were a genuine first division team. Unfortunately, they lost to Battersea in the final of the Alexander Cup.

Armstrong must have been very pleased with his draw against Michell, while Kirk also shared the point with (Richard) Nevil Coles, who later became a celebrated chess author and who beat me in a Richmond v Guildford Surrey Trophy match in 1972.

Richmond Herald 06 April 1935

In the 1934-35 season Kirk won the club championship while Armstrong took the handicap shield: they gave a tandem simul at the end of season prizegiving.

Richmond Herald 10 April 1937

It was the same story in 1937, with Kirk taking the club  championship for the sixth time with a 100% score, and Armstrong again preferring the handicap shield. Wilfred was now entitled to hold the cup in perpetuity, but generously returned it for future years. I wonder what happened to it.

At this point, though, Wilfred Kirk retired from the Civil Service, spending some time travelling round Europe playing chess before moving, like many retired chess players of the time, to Hastings.

However, he competed in the 1938 British Championships in Brighton, now down in the First Class B section, where he shared first place on 7/11, winning this miniature.

He was soon involved in administration again, both at Hastings Chess Club, and with their annual tournament. He also found time to compete in the 1938-39 event, sharing second place in the Premier Reserves C section.

He also threw himself into county chess, here losing to another former Civil Service player Bernard Henry Newman Stronach.

Hastings and St Leonards Observer 15 April 1939

By now the world was at war again, but Hastings managed to arrange their annual tournament that winter, with Kirk taking part in the Premier.

In this game he held the tournament winner Frank Parr to a draw, sacrificing a knight for a perpetual check.

Although it was no longer possible to run formal competitions, Hastings Chess Club remained active during the war, with friendly matches against local rivals Eastbourne and Bexhill.

His opponent in this game, George Edward Anslow, a Gas Company clerk, was a member of both Eastbourne and Hastings Chess Clubs for many years. He beat me in a 1974 friendly match between Hastings and Richmond & Twickenham Chess Clubs.

Frederick William (Fred) Boff, whom he defeated in this game, seems to have been an interesting character both on and off the chessboard.

He was still very active locally as the war finally came to an end, and was involved in the administration of the 1945-46 Hastings Congress as Treasurer and Assistant Secretary. In June that year, still playing regularly in club events, he was taken ill with appendicitis. The operation, sadly, proved unsuccessful.

Hastings and St Leonards Observer 22 June 1946

There’s more information in this pen picture from Kevin Thurlow’s book on chess in the English Civil Service.

A History of Chess in the English Civil Service (Kevin Thurlow)

Wilfred Hugh Miller Kirk, then, was a strong player (2261 at his peak according to EdoChess) and a highly efficient administrator. He seems to have  been well respected at work and was also devoted to various charitable causes.

His family life, though, wasn’t happy.

In the 1901 census we see Wilfred and Mabel, only recently married, and living in Pimlico.

They soon moved south of the river, the births of their first three children being registered in Wandsworth, and the youngest in Balham.

By 1911 the family had split up. Wilfred was living on his own in Streatham, a Second Division Clerk in the Civil Service. Mabel didn’t appear to be around. Talbot, Beatrice and Evelyn (aged 9, 7 and only 4) were boarding at a school in Wimbledon, while 2-year-old Ruby was living with Wilfred’s mother in Battersea.

Then, in 1914, Mabel filed a petition for judicial separation. She was represented by her solicitor, PR Gibbs, who, I’d imagine, was the same Percy Rawle Gibbs who had played Wilfred at Sevenoaks in 1908.

Mabel’s petition, citing eight addresses, mostly in the Wandsworth area, at which they lived during their marriage, listed dates and places, from 1906 onwards, when and where Wilfred had assaulted her, and treated her with coldness and neglect. He had punched her on her body and head, thrown her against the furniture and onto the floor, grabbed her by the collar and dragged her upstairs. Wilfred denied the charges of cruelty, claiming that Mabel had become mentally deranged and assaulted him violently, and he was only acting in self-defence. On other occasions she had become hysterical and behaved in an ill tempered and unreasonable manner, causing him to lose his temper.

It was also revealed that, from late 1910, she had been a patient at St Luke’s Hospital: she was probably still there at the time of the 1911 census.

The separation was granted, with Mabel having custody of the two older children and Wilfred the two younger children. Would a man who had assaulted his wife, even with provocation, be given custody of two young girls today?

Was he a violent and abusive wife beater whose behaviour had driven his wife to the lunatic asylum, or a good man who found it difficult to cope with his wife’s mental health problems? I don’t know: I wasn’t there and it’s far from me to pass judgement.

The ramifications continued for a decade (the papers are available online at ancestry.co.uk).

The 1921 census found Wilfred now living in Islington with Evelyn and Ruby, who were both at school. Mabel and Beatrice, now an art student, were the other side of London, in South Norwood. Meanwhile, Talbot had emigrated to the USA, where he married in 1927 and had two sons, Fred (1928-76) and Jack (1929-67).

His marriage didn’t last and he returned to England. The 1933 Electoral Roll shows Mabel, Talbot and Beatrice sharing a house right by Hampstead Heath.

Then, in 1934, Wilfred sued Mabel for divorce on the grounds of adultery.

Richmond Herald 03 February 1934

Well, I don’t know. In September that year he married Olive Emily Holmes. Was he committing adultery as well? Again, I wasn’t there.

What happened to the rest of his family? Talbot remarried in 1941 in Brentford, at some point moving to Yorkshire, where he died in 2006 at the extraordinary age of 104.

Beatrice never married: by 1939 she was working as a typist in the Ministry of Food, and died in Hastings at the age of 78.

Evelyn married young, in 1926, to a man almost twice her age, George Arthur Tomlinson, who seems to have been a mechanical engineer working at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington. They lived with Wilfred for a time after the marriage before moving to North London where two sons, Brian (1928) and Robin (1930) were born. George died in 1944, but Evelyn, like her brother, lived a long life, dying in Bath at the age of 96.

Ruby married in 1939, like Evelyn to a much older man: a divorcee with the impressive name Bernard de Lerisson Cazenove. She had no children and, again like Evelyn, lived into her 90s: she was 91 when she died in Warwickshire.

The report of Wilfred’s cremation leaves some questions unanswered. You might have wondered why the local paper mentioned that he left a son, but failed to note his daughters.

Hastings and St Leonards Observer 22 June 1946

At the cremation, Talbot, Evelyn and Ruby were there, but there was no mention of Beatrice as a chief mourner. Did the paper forget her? Or had they become estranged?

Talbot, Dolly and Sylvia sent flowers, but who were Dolly and Sylvia? There were also flowers from Eric, Brian and Robin. Brian and Robin were his grandsons, but who was Eric? And why wasn’t Evelyn included? Her second marriage, in 1948, would be to Ernest (Vokes), not to Eric. Or was ‘Eric’ a misreading of ‘Evelyn’?

There’s one further family tragedy to report.

Worthing Gazette 26 April 1950

This is Wilfred and Mabel’s grandson Robin taking his own life in 1950, at the age of 19.

Had he inherited mental health problems from his mother? Impossible to tell, of course.

Although Wilfred Hugh Miller Kirk was a formidable club player and respected administrator, it seems that his family life was unsettled (moving house every couple of years) and unhappy. I can only hope that the game of chess brought him some comfort.

 

Sources:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

British Newspaper Library

Wikipedia

BritBase (John Saunders)

EdoChess (Kirk’s page here)

chessgames.com (Kirk’s page here)

British Chess Magazine 1912

A History of Chess in the English Civil Service (Kevin Thurlow: Conrad Press)

The City of London Chess Club Championship (Roger Leslie Paige: Publish & be Damned)

Hastings & St Leonards Chess Club website (Brian Denman article here)

 Save as PDF

Minor Pieces 49: Alice Elizabeth Hooke Part 2

Last time we left Alice Elizabeth Hooke in 1914, on the outbreak of the First World War, a member of the London Ladies’ Chess Club and a competitor in the British Ladies’ Championships. She was unmarried, living in Cobham, and working as a Civil Servant for the Post Office Savings Bank near Olympia.

It would have been understandable if she had retired from chess at that point, but in the following decade she made a comeback. And what a comeback it was.

Our first post-war reference is in the 1921 British Championships, where she played in the Second Class A tournament, scoring 4½/11. I presume she wasn’t selected for the British Ladies’ Championship that year. Not having played for some years, and now in her late 50s, perhaps the selectors had good reason.

By 1922 Alice had moved from Cobham to Barnes, much more convenient for her job in Kensington, I suppose. Again, that year’s British Championship saw her competing in the Second Class A tournament, only managing 3/11.

On 27 October 1923 the Cheltenham Chronicle published this position, which, they claimed, won a brilliancy prize in that year’s British Championship. I think they made a mistake: there’s no evidence that Alice played in the British that year, and in any case the subsidiary tournaments were run in a different way. So this game must have been played the previous year, where one of her three wins was against Arthur William Daniel, better known as one of England’s leading problemists of his day. As always, click on any move for a pop-up window.

The pension age for both men and women was reduced from 70 to 65 in 1925, so it’s possible Alice was still working at this point.

Here, from about 1924, is a Ledger Room in Blythe House. I’d imagine Alice was in a more senior role: perhaps, with her undoubted administrative skills, she was supervising the ladies in this picture.

Source: Wikipedia (Blythe House)

Rather unexpectedly, she moved out of London again at about this point, this time up to Abbots Langley, north of Watford: electoral rolls for the period give her address as The Bungalow, Tanners Hill. If she was still working in London this would have been quite a long commute for her.

By 1925 she was back at the British Championships, this time selected for the British Ladies’ Championship for the first time since 1914. Her score of 4½/11 was very similar to her previous scores in the event.

In 1928 Alice Elizabeth Hooke moved back to London, settling at 14 Brandon Mansions, Queens Club Gardens, W14, a mansion flat on the borders of Fulham and West Kensington, a mile or so from Blythe House (was she still working there?) and within easy reach of Hammersmith Bridge, where a bus would take her to visit her beloved brother George, whose wife would sadly die that year.

The British Championships that year took place in Tenby, and she made the journey to Pembrokeshire, where she more than surpassed her previous performances. She’d always finished mid-table in the past, but this time she finished in 3rd place with a score of 7/11 (including a win by default), behind Edith Charlotte Price and Agnes Bradley (Lawson) Stevenson.

This game, against the tournament winner, doesn’t show her in the best light.  Alice chose a dubious plan in the opening and then made a tactical oversight, losing rather horribly.

At this point her chess career really took off. She joined Barnes Village Chess Club and, probably for the first time since the demise of the Ladies’ Chess Club, started playing regularly in club matches. You might have seen this before.

Richmond Herald 15 December 1928

Barnes Village wasn’t the only club she joined. She also, rather improbably, joined Lewisham Chess Club over in South East London, playing for them in the London League and for Metropolitan Kent in a competition against other parts of the county. They had several female members, most notably the aforementioned Agnes Bradley Stevenson, who lived in Clapham and was married to the Kent born organiser Rufus Henry Streatfeild Stevenson: perhaps it was she who encouraged her friends to join Lewisham.

You’ll have seen a photograph of Alice playing Agnes Lawson, as she then was, in the previous article.

In 1929, now very much involved in Kent chess, she took part in their Easter congress, playing in the First Class A section. She also played in the British Ladies’ Championship again, which took place in Ramsgate that year, but found herself back in the middle of the pack, with a score of 5/11.

In June 1930 Alice took part in an event which attracted a lot of press attention: a chess match on a liner.

West Sussex Gazette 05 June 1930

There she was, playing in the same team as Sultan Khan and other notables from various fields, one of thirteen ladies in the 32-player team (Board 32 was Mildred Gibbs). There, you’ll see, was Kate Finn, one of the F squad from the London Ladies’ Chess Club, from whom little had been heard since World War One. Although Agnes Stevenson wasn’t playing, her husband was there on board 13. There’s a lot more to say about this match: I’ll return to it in a later Minor Piece.

British Chess Magazine June 1930, copied from Chess Notes (https://www.chesshistory.com/winter/extra/sultankhan.html)

You can see Alice seated second from the right in this photograph of the event.

The British Ladies’ Championship in 1930 required a trip to Scarborough, and it was there that Alice Elizabeth Hooke scored what would be one of her greatest successes. She shared first place with Agnes Stevenson with a score of 8½/11. Although she lost the play-off it seemed that, now in her late 60s, Alice was in the form of her life.

Kent & Sussex Courier 11 July 1930

The following month the news wasn’t so good, as Alice was involved in an accident requiring hospital treatment.

Fulham Chronicle 15 August 1930

I can sympathise: Hammersmith Broadway has never been the easiest place to cross the road. Fortunately, she made a full recovery.

In 1931 in Worcester, Alice was less successful at the British Ladies’ Championship, but her score of 6½/11 was very respectable and sufficed for 5th place.

She didn’t have to travel far for the 1932 British Ladies’ Championship, which took place at Whiteley’s department store in Bayswater, which also hosted the Empire Social Chess Club. Perhaps the home advantage helped as she repeated her 1930 success, sharing first place this time with Kingston’s Edith Mary Ann Michell and her old rival Agnes Bradley Stevenson. Her loss to tailender Jeanie Brockett, from Glasgow, who had also beaten her last year, cost her the title.

BritBase reports on the play-off:

The first game, played at the Empire Social Chess Club, Bayswater, London, on Thursday 8 September 1932, was a win for Agnes Stevenson against Edith Michell. Subsequent games had to await the return of Alice Hooke from holiday. Two games were played during the week 19-25 September in which Stevenson and Michell both won games from Hooke and Michell won her return game with Stevenson. Scores at that stage: Michell, Stevenson 2/3, Hooke 0/2. Then according to the Times, 3 October 1932, the following Tuesday (27 September) Michell beat Hooke, but then Hooke won against Stevenson on the Thursday (29 September) making the scores Michell 3/4, Stevenson 2/4 and Hooke 1/4. The text in the Times was as follows: “The match to decide the tie for the British Ladies’ Championship has ended in a win for Mrs. R. P. Michell, who defeated Miss Hooke on Tuesday last. There was a possibility of another tie between Mrs. Michell and Mrs. Stevenson, but Miss Hooke put this out of the question by defeating Mrs. Stevenson on Thursday, and the final scores are:—Mrs. Michell 3 points, Mrs. Stevenson 2, and Miss Hooke 1.”

As she approached her 70th birthday, Alice Elizabeth Hooke seemed finally to have established herself as one of the country’s finest woman players (excluding, of course, Vera Menchik). The results from the pre-war years, where she was consistently in the lower middle reaches, must have been a distant memory. Perhaps the standard of play among the British Ladies had declined, but even so, reaching her peak at this time of her life was undoubtedly a remarkable achievement. In between playing in the tournament, she was also supervising social chess at the Imperial Club, which suggests that, even at that age, she wasn’t short of stamina. Well played, Alice!

It’s unfortunate that very few games from the British Ladies’ Championship in these years have survived: if you come across any of Alice Elizabeth Hooke’s games from these events, do get in touch.

This was to be her last great result, though. Her performances in the three subsequent years saw her back in mid-table positions (4/11 in 1933, 5½/11 in 1934 and 5/11 in 1935), and she also played without success in the First Class A section of the 1933 Folkestone Congress. Perhaps her age was finally catching up with her.

Thanks to Brian Denman for providing this game from a county match where Alice was outplayed by a very strong opponent. The top 20 boards of this match were an official county championship match, for which Mackenzie wasn’t eligible.

Here she is in 1932 playing for Lewisham in the London League with Mrs Stevenson & Miss Andrews against a strong Hampstead team including another of her regular rivals, Edith Martha Holloway. There are some interesting names on both sides, but for now I’ll just draw your attention to the Hampstead Board 7 Thomas Ivor Casswell (1902-1989).  He was still playing for Hampstead in the London League 42 years later: I played him in 1974: the result was a draw. The golden thread that binds us all together.

Hampstead News 24 November 1932

The Imperial Chess Club, which ran between 1911 and the outbreak of World War 2, along with the shorter-lived and similarly named Empire Social Chess Club, in some respects, fulfilled the purpose the Ladies’ Chess Club had served before the First World War. The Imperial was open to ladies and gentlemen for mostly social chess, and was in part designed as a club for visitors from other parts of the British Empire, so it was understandable that Sultan Khan and his patron were members.

Kensington News and West London Times 07 April 1933

You will notice that there were eight ladies in each team of this twenty-board friendly match.

For more information about the Empire Social Chess Club I’d encourage you to read two fascinating articles by Martin Smith here and here.

In this 1934 match against the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington she just missed playing metallurgist Edwin George Sutherland (1894-1968).

Richmond Herald 24 March 1934

This was almost certainly the EG Sutherland I played in a 1966 Thames Valley League match between Richmond & Twickenham C and Kingston B. He beat me after I made a horrendous blunder all too typical of my early games in a better position. To the best of my knowledge, he’s also the earliest born of all my opponents in competitive games, whose dates of birth therefore range from the 19th to the 21st centuries.

There are some interesting names in the Beaumont Cup match between Richmond & Kew and Battersea 2: you’ll meet one or two of them in future Minor Pieces.

By the mid 1930s, and now into her 70s, Alice decided it was time to downsize. A new estate of Art Deco mansion flats, called Chiswick Village, had just been built near Kew Bridge, between the A4 and the Thames, which were smaller – and much cheaper – than those in the rather palatial Queen’s Club Gardens. Looking at them now, they’re still remarkably cheap for the area: I was almost tempted to sell off my chess library and buy one myself.

The Brentford & Chiswick Local History Society tells us here that Chiswick Village is the name of the development of four separate blocks containing 280 flats, built on land that was formerly orchards between Wellesley Road and the railway line. The flats, designed by Charles Evelyn Simmons and financed by the People’s Housing Corporation, were built in 1935-6. When the plans were displayed at the Royal Academy, the development was called Chiswick Court Gardens – a more appropriate name than ‘Chiswick Village’ with its connotations of a rural idyll. The 1937 edition of the official guide to Brentford and Chiswick, described Chiswick Village as ‘undoubtedly London’s most remarkable and praiseworthy housing venture’.

In the 1936 electoral roll she was ensconced in 13 Chiswick Village, one of the first occupants of this new development, and was still there, described as a retired civil servant, in 1939.

Although she was no longer taking part in the British Ladies’ Championship, Alice was still playing regularly for Barnes Village Chess Club, and still travelling to Kent where, in 1938, she lost to 12-year-old prodigy Elaine Saunders in the first round of the County Ladies’ Championship. Elaine was actually living in Twickenham at the time: her only Kent connection seems to be that it was her father’s county of birth.

Barnes Village was the only club in the area keeping its doors open during the Second World War, and Alice was still, in old age, very much involved both as a player and a committee member.

Richmond Herald 23 May 1942

In 1942 she was elected a vice-president at their AGM, while her niece Beatrix was also on the committee. But this would be her last AGM as she died at the end of the year at the age of 80. The BCM, beset by wartime paper shortage, only gave her a six line obituary, mistakenly placing the 1897 Ladies’ International two years later.

British Chess Magazine February 1943

She really deserved better. Alice Elizabeth Hooke played an important part in women’s chess in England for more than forty years, both as a player and as a backroom administrator, from her pioneering work with the Ladies’ Chess Club through to playing club chess into her late 70s. Although she wasn’t all that much more than an average club player herself, she was still good enough to share first place in two British Ladies’ Championships in her late 60s. Reaching your peak at that age is also something to be proud of, I think. As she helped keep Barnes Village club going during the Second World War, you might think that some of her legacy is still present in today’s Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club.

Her probate record indicates that since 1939 she’d moved from Chiswick to Barnes, perhaps to be nearer her brother and niece as well as her chess club. I presume 20 Glazbury Road was, at the time, some sort of nursing home or private hospital.

She didn’t leave very much money: she may well have gifted much of it to her relatives to avoid death duties.

The name of Miss Hooke continued to be prominent in Barnes Village chess through George’s daughter Beatrix.

Richmond Herald 14 February 1948

Here she is, in 1948, playing as high as Board 4 in a match against Richmond, who had reconvened after closing during the war. Her opponent, Captain Samuel Ould, had been a Richmond stalwart between the wars, but most of the other Richmond players were relatively new members.

And this is where I come in. I knew George Seaford at what had by that point become Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club, in the 1960s, and Ted Fairbrother into the 1970s, though neither very well. Dr JD Solomon (a strong player) and Stan Perry left Richmond but rejoined for a time in the 1970s, the latter serving a term as Hon Treasurer. There were one or two other Richmond members at the time who would still be involved 20 years later. There was also one player in the team whom I never met, but who had an influence on my early chess career. I’ll write about him another time. The golden thread again.

Richmond Herald 07 October 1950

Here Beatrix is again, celebrating Barnes Village winning the Beaumont Cup (Surrey Division 2) for the first time. This was their first, and, as it turned out, their only trophy, as they would eventually be subsumed into Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club. Also in the photograph is young Peter Roger Vivian (1927-1987): I played him at Paignton, also in 1974. Another strand of the thread.

Two of the Barnes Village members had something else to celebrate in 1950: here are Beatrix and her widower clubmate Dr Gerald Hovenden demonstrating how chess can bring people together. At the time of their marriage Beatrix was 57 and Gerald 81.

Richmond Herald 02 September 1950

This tells us she was living in Elm Bank Mansions, right by Barnes Bridge, and working at Cadby Hall near Olympia, just as in the 1939 Register. Perhaps she walked along the riverbank and over Hammersmith Bridge to work, a journey almost identical to that made by her music teacher at St Paul’s Girls School more than 30 years earlier.

This was Gustav Holst, who, at the time, lived in The Terrace, Barnes, just a few yards upstream from Elm Bank Mansions. Always a keen walker, Holst was in the habit of making that journey on foot. Coincidence, or something more?

National Library of Scotland Ordnance Survey Maps

In this map you can see the Post Office Savings Bank in Blythe Road, just opposite Olympia, where Alice spent her career. Cadby Hall, just round the corner, was where Beatrix worked, as a statistician according to the 1939 Register. (As a footnote, in 1926 she co-authored a scientific paper on British skulls in prehistoric times.) Just a few yards again took you to St Paul’s Girls School, marked as St Paul School here, where Gustav Holst taught music to Beatrix and her sisters, while their brother Cyril attended St Paul’s Boys School, just off the map opposite the smaller school on Hammersmith Road. I visited there a couple of times myself in the 1960s for school bridge matches: it was rebuilt in Barnes, the other side of Hammersmith Bridge, a few years later. It’s extraordinary how much of the Hooke family’s lives played out within such a small area of London.

If you continue west along Hammersmith Road, you’ll soon reach Hammersmith Broadway, where Alice was knocked down by a cyclist, and the Underground stations. Continue into King Street and you’ll pass a turning on your right taking you to the London Mind Sports Centre, also the home of Hammersmith Chess Club, and then arrive at Latymer Upper School, a place I used to know very well.

Did Gerald and Beatrix continue playing chess after their marriage? Sadly, the online Richmond Herald records only go up to 1950, so I’d have to get out of my chair to find out. Gerald lived on until 1957, while Beatrix retired to Sussex, where she died in 1974.

That concludes the story of the chess playing Hooke family: George, his sister Alice and his daughter Beatrix. George and Alice were prominent players in earlier decades, but through their work and play at Barnes Village Chess Club for a quarter of a century they had a huge influence on chess in the Borough of Richmond upon Thames. It’s the likes of them, organisers behind the scenes as well as players, who make the chess world go round. Raise a glass to them next time you visit us at the Adelaide.

 

Supplementary games:

Sources and acknowledgements:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

Wikipedia

chessgames.com: Alice’s page here.

Britbase (John Saunders): British Championship links here.

EdoChess (Rod Edwards): Alice’s page here.

chess.com

Streatham & Brixton Chess Club Blog (no longer active)

Google Maps

National Library of Scotland Maps

Brentford & Chiswick Local History Society website

Hooke Family History

Other sources referenced in the text.

 Save as PDF

Minor Pieces 29: George Edward Wainwright Part 4

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

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

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

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

Here he is in play against Roland Henry Vaughan Scott.

The Sphere 20 August 1921

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Sphere 25 August 1923

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It remains to look at what happened to his children.

From a family tree on ancestry.co.uk

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

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

 

From a family tree on ancestry.co.uk

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

 

 

From a family tree on ancestry.co.uk

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

 

 

From a family tree on ancestry.co.uk

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

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

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

Sources:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

chessgames.com

BritBase

MegaBase 2022

EdoChess

British Chess Magazine 1933

Various other websites linked above.

 Save as PDF

Minor Pieces 28: George Edward Wainwright Part 3

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

You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Google Maps

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

Wikipedia

Google Maps

edochess.ca

chessgames.com

Britbase

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

 

 

 Save as PDF

Minor Pieces 27: George Edward Wainwright Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

West Surrey Times 21 November 1903

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weekly Journal (Hartlepool) 05 April 1907

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

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

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

Here’s how he dispatched Blake.

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

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

He will be somewhere in this rather splendid group photograph.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Google Maps

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

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

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

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

 

Ackowledgements:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

EDOChess – GE Wainwright

Yorkshire Chess History: GE Wainwright

Britbase

Game analysis generated by ChessBase using Stockfish 14.

 

 

 Save as PDF

Birthday Greetings IM Shreyas Royal (09-i-2009)

BCN sends birthday wishes to IM Shreyas (known as “Shrey” by his friends) Royal born on Friday, January 9th, 2009. “Hallelujah” by Alexandra Burke was number one in the UK hit parade.

Shreyas attended The Pointer School in Blackheath, London, SE3 whose motto is “The Lord is my Shepherd”. Currently Shreyas is home schooled.

In October 2021 BCN secured an interview with Shreyas via his father Jitendra and below is mostly from that interview:

BCN: What caused his initial interest in chess and at what age?

His initial interest in chess was capturing or as he used to call it ‘eating’ pieces but as he grew more mature, he loved that there were so many possibilities in chess, so much still left to explore! At the Age of 6 he learnt and got an interest in chess.

BCN: Has Shreyas had any chess teachers or coaches?

  1. Jyothi Lal N. with a peak of 2250 FIDE but is very knowledgeable and helped from just above beginner to 1800. He was Shreyas’s first coach.
  2. Meszaros Gyula (Julian) who was an IM with a peak of 2465 FIDE and was an endgame master which helped him from 1800-2100.
  3. His Current Coach is GM John Emms with a peak of around 2600 FIDE, he is an expert in many fields such as Positional Play, Openings, Strategic chess etc and has also made a big impact on how to prepare against opponents. He had helped him from 2100-2300 so far in just under a year!

BCN: Which chess clubs and/ or Teams does Shreyas represent?

He represents SV Erkenschwick from Germany and Wasa SK from Sweden for online events as he has joined them during the pandemic. He started his 4NCL career with KJCA Kings in January 2019 but now mainly represents Wood Green which he has played for in online events in and will also represent them in the upcoming 4NCL weekends.

His first appearance in Megabase 2022 comes from the 2015 British Under-8 Championship in Coventry, the eventual winner being Dhruv Radhakrishnan.

Progress from those early days has only been interrupted by school examination breaks and the Covid pandemic:

FIDE Rating progress chart for FM Shreyas Royal
FIDE Rating progress chart for FM Shreyas Royal

In August 2016 in Bournemouth Shreyas scored an impressive 6/6 to win the British Under-8 Championship.

Shreyas Royal at the 2016 UKCC Delancey Terafinal in Loughborough courtesy of John Upham Photography
Shreyas Royal at the 2016 UKCC Delancey Terafinal in Loughborough courtesy of John Upham Photography

BCN: What was his first memorable tournament success?

This was the 2016 European Schools Under-7 championship where he was runner-up without any preparation or work on chess!

Shreyas Royal at the 2016 UKCC Delancey Southern Gigafinal in Reading courtesy of John Upham Photography
Shreyas Royal at the 2016 UKCC Delancey Southern Gigafinal in Reading courtesy of John Upham Photography

In September 2017 Shreyas travelled to Mamaia in Romania and after nine hard fought rounds tied for first place with 8/9 in the European Youth Chess Championship, Under-8 with Giang Tran Nam (HUN, 1561).

In 2021 Shreyas was awarded the FM title by FIDE:

FIDE FM Certificate for Shreyas Royal
FIDE FM Certificate for Shreyas Royal

BCN: Which chess players past & present are inspirational for him?

  1. Magnus Carlsen, world champion and broke many FIDE records also is an inspiration for most of this generation. He likes his slow grinding and almost winning from any opening or ending. This is his favourite player of all time.
  2. Garry Kasparov played brilliant attacking chess and calculated like a machine.
  3. Bobby Fischer played a similar style to Kasparov but was more talented than both Magnus and Kasparov in his opinion as he worked all by himself at a time in the USA when chess was not so popular while for the Russians, they had brilliant coaches and had one good player after the other. He rates him a bit lower because Fischer quit competitive chess a bit too early and could not reach the heights he was worthy of.
  4. Alireza Firouzja
  5. Fabiano Caruana

BCN: What are his favourite openings with the White pieces?

He plays 1.d4 pretty much all the time.

MegaBase 2020 has 294 games with 1.d4 and one solitary 1.g3 from March 2021. The 1.d4 games feature main line Queen’s Gambit / Catalan type positions championing 5.Nge2 against the King’s Indian Defence and the exchange variation against the Grunfeld.

BCN: and what are his preferred defences as the second player?

Really depends on what they play, against every opening he has got one or two lines which he enjoys equally.

Megabase 2022 informs us that Shreyas defends the main line Closed Variation of the Ruy Lopez and main line Giuoco Piano. Previously he essayed the Sicilian Najdorf.

BCN: Does he have any favourite chess books?

Not really as he is not such a big fan of chess books, but he likes My 60 Memorable Games by Bobby Fischer. Fundamental Chess Endings and Encyclopedia of Chess Combinations.

BCN: Which tournaments are planned for 2022?

We have pencilled in a couple of norm and Open (France, Spain, Germany etc.) tournaments in European countries.

BCN: What are his favourite subjects outside of chess?

His favourite subjects outside chess are Science, History, Maths with Science as his favourite, History as his second favourite and Maths as his third favourite.

BCN: Does Shreyas play any physical sports?

He does Football, Cricket and a bit of Lawn Tennis.

BCN: What are his plans and aspirations for the future?

To become a world chess champion one day, but it’s very expensive to even get to the level of IM! Currently we are looking for sponsors who can help support Shreyas to get there.

Here is his personal website.

In late December 2021 Camberley Chess Club had Shreyas as their weekly Zoom meeting guest speaker.

and finally three of SRs favourite games:

and from more recent times:

and finally:

FM Shreyas Royal at the London Chess Classic, 2021 courtesy of John Upham Photography
FM Shreyas Royal at the London Chess Classic, 2021 courtesy of John Upham Photography

From September 9-14, 2022, Shreyas achieved his first IM norm at the Mindsports GM Tournament in London and earned his second norm, along with a joint 3rd, at the Hit-A-Open Tournament in Slovenia between September 16-22, 2022

At the 4th FIDE Congress of 2022 Shreyas was awarded the IM title and his FIDE standard play rating stands at 2456.

Most recently he has achieved his first GM norm.

Further background here from Leonard Barden.

 Save as PDF