Category Archives: Deaths

Remembering Charles Masson Fox (09-XI-1866, 11-X-1935)

Charles Masson Fox
Charles Masson Fox

From Wikipedia :

Charles Masson Fox (9 November 1866 – 11 October 1935) was a Cornish businessman who achieved international prominence in the world of chess problems and a place in the gay history of Edwardian England.

Masson Fox was born into a Quaker family (although he was not related to the Quakers’ founder George Fox) and was a cousin of the fraudulent sinologist Sir Edmund Backhouse, 2nd Baronet. Living throughout his life in the Cornish seaside town of Falmouth, Fox in the early decades of his life was a senior partner of his family’s timber firm, Fox Stanton & Company, and was also on the Board of Messrs G C Fox & Company, a long-established firm of shipping agents.

C.M.Fox’s gravestone at Budock Quaker Burial Ground
Fox is described by chess historian Thomas Rayner Dawson (1889–1951) as “a friendly man, kind, mellow, lovable, bringing peace and comfort and serene joy with him”. He was also a discreet but active homosexual. In 1909 he visited Venice with his friend James Cockerton, meeting the writer Frederick Rolfe and becoming the reluctant recipient of Rolfe’s famous Venice Letters, in which the gay subculture of Venice is vividly described.

In 1912–13 Fox was blackmailed by a woman who accused him of seducing her 16-year-old son. Eventually Fox reported the matter to the police and the woman was sent to prison for five years and her son for one year, with hard labour.[1] However, Fox was profoundly affected by the publicity surrounding the case, which was reported in detail in the local press. The predictable result of his courageous action was the destruction of his reputation, and the compromise of his business and social life in Falmouth.

Although he continued to live in Cornwall, the focus of his social life shifted to London, and in the last two decades of his life, Fox became prominent in the world of chess. He was elected President of the Cornwall Chess Association, played a prominent part in the development of the British Chess Problem Society, and is still renowned as one of the greatest ever exponents of fairy chess (chess problems with variations in the rules).

Charles Masson Fox
Charles Masson Fox

Remembering Eileen Betsy Tranmer (05-V-1910, 26-IX-1983)

WIM Eileen Betsy Tranmer
WIM Eileen Betsy Tranmer

We remember WIM Eileen Betsy Tranmer who passed away on September 26th, 1983.

From Wikipedia :

Eileen Betsy Tranmer (5 May 1910 – 26 September 1983) was an English musician and chess player who held the title of Woman International Master (WIM, 1950). She was a four-time winner of the British Women’s Chess Championship (1947, 1949, 1953, 1961).

From the end of the 1940s to the start of the 1960s, she was one of England’s leading women chess players. Eileen Betsy Tranmer four times won the British Women’s Chess Championships: 1947, 1949, 1953 and 1961[1]. In 1950, Eileen Betsy Tranmer participated at Women’s World Chess Championship in Moscow where shared 5th-7th place[2]. In 1952, she participated at Women’s World Chess Championship Candidates Tournament in Moscow and ranked 7th place[3]. In 1950, she was awarded the FIDE International Women Master (WIM) title.

On 20 June 1946 Tranmer played (and lost) a “radio chess” match against the Russian woman chess player Valentina Byelova. Tranmer was one of two women who were part of a twelve-member British team who played in a four-day radio chess tournament. The British team played their moves in London while the Soviet team played their moves in Moscow.[4][5]

Eileen Betsy Tranmer played for England in the Women’s Chess Olympiad:[6]

In 1957, at second board in the 1st Chess Olympiad (women) in Emmen (+3, =8, -3).
In addition to participating in chess tournaments, Eileen Betsy Tranmer also was prominent clarinettist. In March 1940, she gave concerts with Scottish Orchestra. From 1950 she working with Sadler’s Wells Orchestra along with another British clarinetist, Thea King[7].

WIM Eileen Betsy Tranmer & WIM Rowena Mary Bruce
WIM Eileen Betsy Tranmer & WIM Rowena Mary Bruce

Remembering Rowena Mary Bruce

WIM Rowena Mary Bruce
WIM Rowena Mary Bruce

We remember WIM Rownena Mary Bruce who died this day (September 24th) in 1999.

From Wikipedia :

Rowena Mary Bruce (15 May 1919 – 24 September 1999), née Dew, was an English chess player who held the title of Woman International Master (WIM, 1951). She was an eleven-time winner of the British Women’s Chess Championship (1937, 1950, 1951, 1954, 1955, 1959, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1967 and 1969).

Biography
From the end of the 1930s to the end of the 1960s, she was one of England’s strongest women chess players. In 1935, she won the FIDE World Girls Championship. Rowena Mary Bruce won the British Women’s Chess Championship eleven times: 1937, 1950, 1951, 1954, 1955, 1959, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1967 and 1969[1]. In 1952, in Moscow, she participated in the Women’s Candidates Tournament where she took 12th place[2]. In 1951, she was awarded the FIDE Woman International Master (WIM) title.

On 21 June 1946, Bruce played (and lost) a “radio chess” match against Lydmilla Rudenko. Bruce was one of two women who were part of a twelve member British team who played in a four day tournament. The British team played their moves in London while the Russian team played their moves in Moscow.[3][4]

WIM Rowena Mary Bruce
WIM Rowena Mary Bruce

Rowena Mary Bruce played for England in the Women’s Chess Olympiads:[5]

In 1966, at second board in the 3rd Chess Olympiad (women) in Oberhausen (+5, =5, -2) where she won an individual silver medal, and
In 1969, at second board in the 4th Chess Olympiad (women) in Lublin (+5, =3, -6).
From 1940 to 1991 she was married to Ronald Bruce (1903–1991)[6].

WIM Rowena Mary Bruce
WIM Rowena Mary Bruce

Remembering Hugh Francis Blandford (24-I-1917, 20-IX-1981)

Hugh Francis Blandford
Hugh Francis Blandford

We remember Hugh Francis Blandford (24-I-1917, 20-IX-1981) who was a British composer.

From Wikipedia :

Hugh Francis Blandford (24 January 1917 – 20 September 1981) was a chess endgame composer born in Southampton, England.[1]
He spent several years of his childhood in Jamaica with his father, the Reverend Albert Francis (Frank) Blandford, a Minister in the Congregational church, his mother and two younger brothers, Evan Arthur and Philip Thomas Blandford. All three brothers then returned to England and attended Eltham College (the School for the Sons of Missionaries) in South-east London, while their parents remained in Jamaica. He married Marjorie Cox, whom he had worked with during the Second World War.

He played chess from his schooldays and as well as playing, also started to compose original chess endings. He became known in the field of chess endgame studies for a small but elegant body of compositions, expertly edited and published after Hugh’s death by his long-standing chess endings colleague, John Roycroft.[2]

1st Prize, Springaren 1949, White to move and win
1st Prize, Springaren 1949, White to move and win

Hugh Blandford was co-inventor with Richard Guy – and, later, with John Roycroft – of the Guy–Blandford–Roycroft code for classifying studies.[3] In July 1951 he began as the endgame study editor for the British Chess Magazine.[4][5] He was made an International Judge for Chess Composition[4] in 1961.[6]

A metallurgist, he continued to compose chess endgame studies until the end of his life, dying of a heart attack in early retirement in Hatfield, England, on 20 September 1981.

Remembering Alexander McDonnell (1798, 14 IX 1835)

We do not have an image of this player
We do not have an image of this player

We remember Alexander McDonnell who died aged 37 on September 14th, 1835

From Wikipedia :

Alexander McDonnell (1798–1835) was an Irish chess master, who contested a series of six matches with the world’s leading player Louis-Charles Mahé de La Bourdonnais in the summer of 1834.

In 1825 he became a pupil of William Lewis, who was then the leading player in Britain. But soon McDonnell had become so good that Lewis, fearing for his reputation, simply refused to play him anymore.

Around 1825–1826, McDonnell played Captain Evans, while the latter was on shore leave in London. McDonnell was beaten with what is now regarded in chess circles as the creation of the Evans Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4).[3]

La Bourdonnais matches
Main article: La Bourdonnais – McDonnell chess matches
At that time the world’s strongest player was the French aristocrat Louis-Charles Mahé de La Bourdonnais. Between June and October 1834 La Bourdonnais and McDonnell played a series of six matches, a total of eighty-five games, at the Westminster Chess Club in London. McDonnell won the second match, while La Bourdonnais won first, third, fourth and fifth. The sixth match was unfinished.

In the first game of the third match, McDonnell successfully introduced a new variation in the King’s Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Bc4 g4 5.Nc3) known today as the McDonnell Gambit.

We are not convinced that the photograph above is of AM. We received this reply from Tim Harding :

I don’t recall ever seeing ANY image that was definitely of him, but I have referred your enquiry to James O’Fee in Belfast who is probably the only person who might know of one.

It doesn’t help that he had in Belfast an almost exact contemporary of the same name (who came to work in Dublin and long outlived the chess player) and there is some issue about which one was the son of a doctor and which the son of a merchant. So even if you found an image online it’s more likely to be of the wrong man.

Unless I am wrong there was never any image of Alexander McDonnell in a chess context.
The main chance would perhaps be in connection with his lobbying for the Demerara planters.

Best wishes
Tim

Remembering Imre (Mirko) König (2 IX 1901, 9 IX 1992)

Imre König
Imre König

We remember IM Imre (Mirko) König on the anniversary of his death, this day (September 9th) in 1992.

From Wikipedia :

Imre König (Koenig) aka Mirko Kenig (Sept 2, 1901, Gyula, Hungary – 1992, Santa Monica, California) was a Hungarian chess master.

He was born in Gyula, Hungary, and also lived in Austria, England and the USA during the troubled times between the two world wars.

In 1921, he took 2nd in Celje. In 1920s König played in several tournaments in Vienna; he was 3rd in 1921, 14th in 1922 (Akiba Rubinstein won), 3rd-4th in 1925, 4-5th in 1926 (Rudolf Spielmann won), and 3rd-5th in 1926. He took 12th in Rogaška Slatina (Rohitsch-Sauerbrunn) in 1929. The event was won by Rubinstein. In 1929/30, he took 7th in Vienna (Hans Kmoch and Spielmann won). In 1931, he took 4th in Vienna (Albert Becker won). In 1936, he tied for 6-7th in Novi Sad (Vasja Pirc won). In 1937, he tied for 2nd-4th in Belgrade (Vasilije Tomović won).[1]

Mirko Kenig represented Yugoslavia in the 4th Chess Olympiad at Prague 1931 (+5 –1 =2), the 6th Chess Olympiad at Warsaw 1935 (+5 –2 =8),[2] and in 3rd unofficial Chess Olympiad at Munich 1936 (+7 –4 =7).[3]

In 1938, Imre König emigrated to England. In 1939, he tied for 4-5th in Bournemouth (Max Euwe won), and shared 1st with Philip Stuart Milner-Barry in Hampstead. In 1946, he took 4th in London. In 1948/49, he took 2nd, behind Nicolas Rossolimo, in the Hastings International Chess Congress.

In 1949, he became a naturalized British citizen. However, in 1953 he moved to the United States.

König was awarded the International Master title in 1951.

Imre König by John Donaldson
Imre König by John Donaldson
Chess from Morphy to Botwinnik by Imre König
Chess from Morphy to Botwinnik by Imre König

Remembering Elijah Williams

We note today (September 8th) in 1854 marks the passing of Elijah Williams

From Wikipedia :

Elijah Williams (7 October 1809 – 8 September 1854) was an eminent British chess player of the mid-19th century. He was the first president of the Clifton Chess Club, and publisher of a book of games from the Divan Club. His most notable result was at the 1851 London tournament, in which he defeated the celebrated British player Howard Staunton in the play-off for third place.

He was accused by Staunton of taking an average of 2½ hours per move during some matches, a strategy thought to cause opponents to lose their focus on the match. According to Staunton, following a particularly dilatory performance by Williams in the London 1851 tournament, a 20-minute per turn time limit was adopted for standard play the next year. However other sources contradict this viewpoint and indeed it was not uncommon for Staunton to attribute his losses to the intolerable dilatory play of his opponents. Staunton is quoted as remarking while playing against Williams, “… Elijah, you’re not just supposed to sit there – you’re supposed to sit there and think!”

In The Complete Chess Addict by Mike Fox and Richard James he was dubbed “the Bristol Sloth” due to his alleged extreme slowness. This sobriquet inspired a musical tune “The Bristol Sloth” by guitarist Leo Kottke (who also applied the term ‘sitzkrieg’ in describing Williams’ playing style).

Williams died in London, a victim of the 1854 Broad Street cholera outbreak.[1]

William Lewis (09-X-1787 – 22-VIII-1870)

William Lewis
William Lewis

We note the passing today (August 22nd) in 1870 of William Lewis of the Lewis Counter Gambit.

The Lewis Counter Gambit
The Lewis Counter Gambit

From Wikipedia :

William Lewis (1787–1870) was an English chess player and author, nowadays best known for the Lewis Countergambit and for being the first player ever to be described as a Grandmaster of the game.[1]

Born in Birmingham, William Lewis moved as a young man to London where he worked for a merchant for a short period. He became a student of chess player Jacob Sarratt, but in later years he showed himself to be rather ungrateful towards his teacher.[1] Although he considered Sarratt’s Treatise on the Game of Chess (1808)[2] a “poorly written book”, in 1822 Lewis published a second edition of it three years after Sarratt’s death in direct competition with Sarratt’s own superior revision published posthumously in 1821 by Sarratt’s poverty-stricken widow. In 1843, many players contributed to a fund to help the old widow, but Lewis’ name is not on the list of subscribers.[1]

Around 1819 Lewis was the hidden player inside the Turk (a famous automaton), meeting all-comers successfully. He suggested to Johann Maelzel that Peter Unger Williams, a fellow ex-student of Sarratt, should be the next person to operate inside the machine. When P. U. Williams played a game against the Turk, Lewis recognised the old friend from his style of play (the operator could not see his opponents) and convinced Maelzel to reveal to Williams the secret of the Turk. Later, P. U. Williams himself took Lewis’ place inside the machine.[3]

Lewis visited Paris along with Scottish player John Cochrane in 1821, where they played with Alexandre Deschapelles, receiving the advantage of pawn and move. He won the short match (+1 =2).[4]

Lewis’ career as an author began at this time, and included translations of the works of Greco and Carrera, published in 1819[5] and 1822[6] respectively.

He was the leading English player in the correspondence match between London and Edinburgh in 1824, won by the Scots (+2 = 2 -1). Later, he published a book on the match with analysis of the games.[7] In the period of 1834–36 he was also part of the Committee of the Westminster Chess Club, who played and lost (−2) the match by correspondence with the Paris Chess Club. The other players were his students McDonnell and Walker, while the French line up included Boncourt, Alexandre, St. Amant and Chamouillet.[8] When De La Bourdonnais visited England in 1825, Lewis played about 70 games with the French master. Seven of these games probably represented a match that Lewis lost (+2 -5).[9]

Lewis enjoyed a considerable reputation as a chess player in his time. A correspondent writing to the weekly magazine Bell’s Life in 1838 called him “our past grandmaster”, the first known use of the term in chess.[1] Starting from 1825 he preserved his reputation by the same means that Deschapelles used in France, by refusing to play anyone on even terms. In the same year Lewis founded a Chess Club where he gave lessons to, amongst others, Walker and McDonnell. He was declared bankrupt in 1827 due to bad investments on a patent for the construction of pianos and his chess club was forced to close. The next three years were quite difficult until in 1830 he got a job that assured him of solid financial security for the rest of his life. Thanks to this job, he could focus on writing his two major works: Series of Progressive Lessons (1831) and Second Series of Progressive Lessons (1832). The first series of the Lessons were more elementary in character, and designed for the use of beginners; the second series, on the other hand, went deeply into all the known openings. Here, for the first time we find the Evans Gambit, which is named after its inventor, Capt. Evans.[10]

The works of Lewis (together with his teacher Sarratt) were oriented towards the rethinking of the strictly Philidorian principles of play in favour of the Modenese school of Del Rio, Lolli and Ponziani.[11] When he realised that he could not give an advantage to the new generation of British players, Lewis withdrew gradually from active play[1] (in the same way that Deschapelles did after his defeat against De La Bourdonnais).

After his retirement he wrote other chess treatises, but his isolation prevented him from assimilating the positional ideas of the new generation of chess-players. For this reason, Hooper and Whyld in their Oxford Chess Companion describe the last voluminous work of Lewis, A Treatise on Chess (1844),[12] as already “out of date when published”.

Chess Board Companion by William Lewis
Chess Board Companion by William Lewis
Chess for Beginners
Chess for Beginners

Ken Whyld Remembered

Ken Whyld
Ken Whyld

BCN remembers much loved Ken Whyld who passed away on July 11th 2003 in Lincolnshire.

From Wikipedia :

Kenneth Whyld (6 March 1926 – 11 July 2003) was a British chess author and researcher, best known as the co-author (with David Hooper) of The Oxford Companion to Chess, a single-volume chess reference work in English.

Whyld was a strong amateur chess player, taking part in the British Chess Championship in 1956 and winning the county championship of Nottinghamshire. He subsequently made his living in information technology while writing books on chess and researching its history.

As well as The Oxford Companion to Chess, Whyld was the author of other reference works such as Chess: The Records (1986), an adjunct to the Guinness Book of Records and the comprehensive The Collected Games of Emanuel Lasker (1998). He also researched more esoteric subjects, resulting in works such as Alekhine Nazi Articles (2002) on articles in favour of the Nazi Party supposedly written by world chess champion Alexander Alekhine, and the bibliographies Fake Automata in Chess (1994) and Chess Columns: A List (2002).

From 1978 until his death in 2003, Whyld wrote the “Quotes and Queries” column in the British Chess Magazine.

Shortly after Whyld’s death, the Ken Whyld Association was established with the aim of compiling a comprehensive chess bibliography in database form and promoting chess history.

Whyld’s library was later sold to the Musée Suisse du Jeu, located on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland (as reported in number 152 of EG).

The Oxford Companion to Chess
The Oxford Companion to Chess

Vera Menchik : A 75 Year Anniversary

Vera Menchik
Vera Menchik

BCN notes that on June 27th, 1944 (i.e. 75 years ago) Vera Menchik, “her sister Olga, and their mother were killed in a V-1 flying bomb attack which destroyed their home at 47 Gauden Road in the Clapham area of South London.[23] All three were cremated at the Streatham Park Crematorium on 4 July 1944.”

More from Wikipedia :

Vera Frantsevna Menchik (Russian: Вера Францевна Менчик; Czech: Věra Menčíková; 16 February 1906 – 27 June 1944) was a British-Czechoslovak-Russian chess player who became the world’s first women’s chess champion. She also competed in chess tournaments with some of the world’s leading male chess masters, with occasional successes including two wins over future world champion Max Euwe.

Her father, František Menčík, was born in Bystra nad Jizerou, Bohemia, while her mother, Olga Illingworth (c. 1885–1944[1]), was English. He was the manager of several estates owned by the nobility in Russia, and his wife was a governess of the children of the estate owner.

Vera Menchik was born in Moscow in 1906. Her sister Olga Menchik was born in 1907.

When she was nine years old her father gave her a chess set and taught her how to play. When she was 15 her school club organised a chess tournament and she came second.

After the Revolution her father lost a mill he owned and eventually also the big house where the family lived. The marriage broke down; her father returned to Bohemia, and in the autumn of 1921 Olga and her daughters went to Hastings, England, to live with Olga’s mother.

As Vera spoke only Russian she hesitated to go to the local chess club, but at last on 18 March 1923 she joined the Hastings Chess Club and began to take lessons from John Drewitt. Then she became a pupil of the grandmaster Géza Maróczy. During 1923 she played in several team matches.

In December 1923 she played in her first Hastings Congress and got a draw against Edith Price, the then British ladies’ champion.

In the next Hastings Christmas Chess Congress 1924/25 she played again in Group A, first class, and finished second with five points out of seven. She met Miss Price in the last round of the Group of the Winners and again drew.

In 1925 she contested two matches against Edith Price, winning both of them, and she was considered the strongest lady player in the country; as she was not British she could not enter the national competition.

In January 1926 she won the first Girls’ Open Championship at the Imperial Club in London with her sister Olga coming third. In 1927 she retained this title and Olga came second. Next year Vera was too old to play, and Olga again came second.

Vera Menchik
Vera Menchik