Category Archives: History

Remembering WIM Eileen Tranmer (05-v-1910 26-ix-1983)

WIM Eileen Tranmer (05-v-1910 26-ix-1983). Source : The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match
WIM Eileen Tranmer (05-v-1910 26-ix-1983). Source : The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match

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

She was the first English woman to be awarded by FIDE the Woman’s International Master title in 1950.

“From The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match by Klein and Winter :

Miss E. Tranmer was born in Scarborough, North Yorkshire in 1910, and learned chess at the age of six. She did not take it up seriously, however, until 1936. Under the tuition of W. Winter she has made notable progress, and her performances include a second prize in the British Correspondence Championship 1944, as well as first prize in one of the subsidiary tournaments at Hastings, 1945.

By profession Miss Tranmer is a musician and has played principal clarinet in the Scottish and Sadler’s Wells Orchestras.”

From British Chess Magazine, Volume CIII (103, 1983), Number 11 (November), page 482-83 (presumably written by Bernard Cafferty) :

“Eileen Tranmer died in hospital at Ticehurst on September 26th after a long illness. Born in Scarborough, May 5th 1910, she was a professional clarinet player and played in a number of prominent British orchestras till forced to retire by deafness.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by ANL/Shutterstock (3880870a) Miss Eileen Tranmer The British Women's Chess Champion Pictured Here Playing A Clarinet In The Orchestra While Appearing At The Theatre Royal Glasgow.
Mandatory Credit: Photo by ANL/Shutterstock (3880870a)
Miss Eileen Tranmer The British Women’s Chess Champion Pictured Here Playing A Clarinet In The Orchestra While Appearing At The Theatre Royal Glasgow.

One of the leading British players in the two decades after the war, Eileen won the British Ladies Championship in 1947, 1949 (with a 100% score), 1953 and 1961, and played in the British Championship at Buxton, 1950. Her international record was sparse, as was the case with nearly all English players of that period. Nevertheless, she made her mark in the 1949-50 first post-war Women’s World Championship where she finished 5-7th in a field of 16, beating Bykova, again, and finished 7th in the field of 16.

37th Hastings International Chess Congress, 1962. USA Ladies champion Lisa Lane (L) playing against British Champion Eileen Tranmer
37th Hastings International Chess Congress, 1962. USA Ladies champion Lisa Lane (L) playing against British Champion Eileen Tranmer

We are grateful to WCM Dinah Norman for sending us these memories :

“Eileen Tramner was one of the best English chess lady players of her generation.

I only played her once at Oxford in an International Ladies Tournament held between 24 July and 1 August 1971. Eileen totally outplayed me and I lost the game.

Eileen was a member of Acton Chess Club where there were three active lady players at that time. They were Jean Rogers, Olive Chataway and Eileen. Eileen lived in Acton then.

Miss Eileen Tranmer The British Women's Chess Champion.
Mandatory Credit: Photo by ANL/Shutterstock (3880957a)
Miss Eileen Tranmer The British Women’s Chess Champion.
Miss Eileen Tranmer The British Women’s Chess Champion.

 

Eileen was a professional musician and had to stop playing when she became deaf which was dreadful for her.

In 1969 Eileen, Rowena Bruce and I were selected to play in the Ladies Chess Olympiad Team in Lublin, Poland. Sadly Eileen was taken ill just before the event so Rowena and I had to play all 13 rounds without a break. I was on Board 1 and at the end Rowena and I were exhausted and I had to withdraw from a tournament in the Czech Republic without playing a game. The food in Poland was awful so we said never again!

 

Miss Eileen Tranmer The British Women's Champion Chess Player Pictured Playing Some Of The Glasgow Ladies Chess Club At The Green's Playhouse Cafe Glasgow.
Mandatory Credit: Photo by ANL/Shutterstock (3880958a)
Miss Eileen Tranmer The British Women’s Champion Chess Player Pictured Playing Some Of The Glasgow Ladies Chess Club At The Green’s Playhouse Cafe Glasgow.
Miss Eileen Tranmer The British Women’s Champion Chess Player Pictured Playing Some Of The Glasgow Ladies Chess Club At The Green’s Playhouse Cafe Glasgow.

Eileen was very friendly with Harry Golombek. The expectation among the lady chess players was that they would get married but she never did. Harry did not drive and Eileen was very kind driving Harry and his elderly mother around.

Very sadly Eileen’s brother was killed in a car crash and after that Eileen suffered mental problems. Eileen lived near John and Jean Rogers and John said Eileen would turn up at their home in the middle of the night wanting to play chess.

The last time I saw Eileen was at Paignton. Her friend Olive Chataway brought her to Paignton and Eileen played in the bottom tournament and did badly. Eileen did not recognise myself or Rowena which was very sad.

 

Mandatory Credit: Photo by ANL/Shutterstock (4745287a) Miss Eileen Tranmer 43-year-old British Women's Chess Champion. Box 556. Miss Eileen Tranmer 43-year-old British Women's Chess Champion. Box 556.
Mandatory Credit: Photo by ANL/Shutterstock (4745287a)
Miss Eileen Tranmer 43-year-old British Women’s Chess Champion. Box 556.
Miss Eileen Tranmer 43-year-old British Women’s Chess Champion. Box 556.

Eileen later left Acton and moved to Tring. Eileen was a pleasant and modest person and was well liked. She had a good sense of humour.”

From the obituary in The Times of London we learn that her last few years were over-shadowed by an illness that preyed on her mind.

We take the following game from the August 1944 issue of BCM. The game was played in the BCCA Championship, and curiously enough there was an enquiry about that event to the BCF only a short while ago – a Georgian journalist wishes to quote that wartime performance as an early example of success by a woman in male chess company! ”

Gerald Abrahams in Not only Chess, wrote about Eileen (Chapter 18 : What Achilles Saw Among Women) as follows :

“To revert to the British Ladies, they were joined in the late 1930s by a very able pupil of Miss Menchik, the Yorkshire Clarinettist Eileen Tranmer; a woman whose chess I have seen to express some admirable qualities of mind and character. I had the privilege of watching her is Moscow in 1949-50, when, handicapped by influenza of a particularly virulent kind – what the Russians call “grippe” – she won some five or six consecutive games, to finish in the prize list of the new official Women’s World Championship. There had been two championships before, which Vera has won easily. Since Vera had unhappily perished in the Blitz, they looked at Moscow for her successor.”

Here is her Wikipedia entry

WIM Eileen Betsy Tranmer & WIM Rowena Mary Bruce at the 1946 Anglo-Soviet Radio Match
WIM Eileen Betsy Tranmer & WIM Rowena Mary Bruce at the 1946 Anglo-Soviet Radio Match

Remembering WIM Rowena Bruce (15-v-1919 24-ix-1999)

WIM Rowena Bruce (15-v-1919 24-ix-1999). Source : The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match.
WIM Rowena Bruce (15-v-1919 24-ix-1999). Source : The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match.

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

Rowena Mary Dew was born on Thursday, May 15th, 1919 in Plymouth, Devon. Her father was Clement Warner Harvey Dew and her mother was Mary Jane Rowe.

The Bruce and Dew families circa 1923. Rowena is at the front and on the right aged around four years. Source : ancestry.co.uk
The Bruce and Dew families circa 1923. Rowena is at the front and on the right aged around four years. Source : ancestry.co.uk

She married Ronald Mackay Bruce in July 1940 when she was 21 years old.

Her father Clement Warner Harvey passed away on 7 October 1957 in Plymouth, Devon, at the age of 79. Her mother Mary Jane passed away on 3 August 1958 in Cornwall at the age of 73. Her husband Ronald Mackay passed away in April 1991 in Plymouth, Devon, at the age of 87. They had been married 50 years.

From The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match by Klein and Winter :

“Mrs RM Bruce was born in Plymouth in 1919, and learned chess at the age of twelve. She won the Girls’s World Championship in 1935 and the British Ladies Championship in 1937. During the war she served with the WVS in Plymouth. Apart from chess, she is interested in music and plays the cello.

Rowena practising the cello. Courtesy of Keverel Chess
Rowena practising the cello. Courtesy of Keverel Chess

She is married to RM Bruce, who is a well-known Plymouth player.”

In 1984 both Rowena and Ron received the BCF President’s Award for Services to Chess.

From British Chess (Pergamon Press, 1983) by Botterill, Levy, Rice and Richardson :

“I was taught by my Mother Mrs. May Dew, when recovering from a mastoid operation in 1930, and I joined Plymouth Chess Club on 5th November 1931, aged 12.5.

I started receiving chess tuition from the Plymouth Match Captain, Ronald Bruce in 1934. (Married him in 1940!).

I won the Girls’ World Championship in 1935. I won the British Ladies’ Championship for the first time in 1937, and again in 1950, 1951, 1954, 1959, 1960, 1962 and 1963. I tied for first place in 1955, 1967 and 1969.

I represented Great Britain in the West European Zonal tournament held in Venice 1951, where I finished 2nd. This qualified me to represent Great Britain in the Candidates tournament held in Moscow in 1952. I finished 12th out of 16.

World Chess Championship (Women) 1952 Candidates Tournament
World Chess Championship (Women)
1952 Candidates Tournament

In 1952 we adopted a little girl – Rona Mary.

Other tournaments abroad included zonals in Italy, Yugoslavia and Germany, and Olympiads in Germany, Poland and Bulgaria.

This last-named ended in disaster because I collapsed with a stroke during my second game. Obviously my chess playing was affected, but I was indeed fortunate to make a fairly good recovery.

WIM Rowena Mary Bruce at the 1952 Moscow Candidates tournament
WIM Rowena Mary Bruce at the 1952 Moscow Candidates tournament

I returned to competitive chess playing a year later but, in the meantime, several young players have surged forwards, and that British Ladies’ Championship seems to have become much more difficult to win !

But I now have three grandchildren!

BCN is grateful to WCM Dinah Norman for sending us these memories :

“Rowena Mary Bruce (need Dew) was born on 15 May 1919 and died in Plymouth in 1999. Rowena was the youngest of 3 children born to Harvey and Mary Dew. Mary Dew was a member of the Plymouth Chess Club and tried unsuccessfully to get her 2 sons interested in the game but Rowena was the only child who was interested.

When Rowena was 10 her mother organised private lessons for her with the Plymouth Champion, Ron Bruce. At the age of 21 Rowena married Ron Bruce and it was a very successful and happy marriage. They had an adopted daughter Rona who had no interest in Chess. Rowena had to wait until she was 21 before she could marry Ron. Rowena lived in Plymouth all her life.

Rowena and Ron married in July 1940. Ron and Rowena cemented a formidable playing and organising partnership which benefited chess in Devon for almost half a century.

A stern-looking Rowena offers advice to one of the juniors at the WECU Congress, Easter 1951, in the analysis room at the Penolver Hotel, Newquay. Courtesy of Keverel Chess
A stern-looking Rowena offers advice to one of the juniors at the WECU Congress, Easter 1951, in the analysis room at the Penolver Hotel, Newquay. Courtesy of Keverel Chess

After the War Rowena was one of the leading quartet of British Lady players which included Elaine Pritchard (née Saunders), Anne Sunnucks and Eileen Tranmer. In 1951 Rowena played in the Ladies Zonal in Venice and qualified for the Candidates in Moscow to be played the following year.

AT the age of 53 she qualified for the East European Zonal in Sofia, Bulgaria in 1972. Sadly in Round 2 of that event she collapsed at the board with a major cerebral haemorrhage which left her right side paralysed. By sheer force of will after many months of convalescence she taught herself to speak and walk again. She had to give up playing her cello which was awful for her.

Ladies Chess Tournament Fenny Heemskerk, Rowena Mary Bruce (née Dew), Donner, Architect Date: January 12, 1953 Personal name: Architect, , Bruce, R., Donner, , Heemskerk, Fenny Institution name: Block Chess Tournament - Image ID: 2ARK3JK
Ladies Chess Tournament Fenny Heemskerk, Rowena Mary Bruce (née Dew), Donner, Architect Date: January 12, 1953 Personal name: Architect, , Bruce, R., Donner, , Heemskerk, Fenny Institution name: Block Chess Tournament – Image ID: 2ARK3JK

The steely determination with which she followed her 75 year chess career and her recovery from serious illness belied her gentle nature. She was a modest, kind and gracious person who always thought the best of others.

She won the British Ladies title 11 times.

I shared the title with her in 1967 and 1969 after 2 play offs. She was a very pleasant and sporting opponent.”

From The Encyclopedia of Chess (Robert Hale, 1970 & 1976) by Anne Sunnucks :

“International Woman Chess Master and winner of the British Ladies Championship on 10 occasions.

She was taught to pay chess by her mother, who was the Devon Lady Champion, after a mastoid operation when she was 10. In 1931 she joined Plymouth Chess Club, where she met R. M. Bruce, the Devonshire Chess Captain, who coached her and was largely responsible for later success. She married him in 1940.

Opening Ladies Danlon chess tournament in Amsterdam, v.l.n.r. T. Roodzant, F. Heemskerk, I. Larsen, L. Timofeeva, E. Rinder, R. Bruce Date: October 21, 1959 Location: Amsterdam, Noord-Holland Keywords: group portraits, chess Person Name: Bruce, Rowena Mary, Heemskerk, Fenny , Larsen, I., Rinder, Elfriede, Roodzant, Toos, Timofeeva. Lidia - Image ID: 2AW6KHJ
Opening Ladies Danlon chess tournament in Amsterdam, v.l.n.r. T. Roodzant, F. Heemskerk, I. Larsen, L. Timofeeva, E. Rinder, R. Bruce Date: October 21, 1959 Location: Amsterdam, Noord-Holland Keywords: group portraits, chess Person Name: Bruce, Rowena Mary, Heemskerk, Fenny , Larsen, I., Rinder, Elfriede, Roodzant, Toos, Timofeeva. Lidia – Image ID: 2AW6KHJ

In 1935 she won the Girls’ World Championship and two years later the British Ladies’ Championship for the first time. She has won the title outright or been joint holder on 10 occasions in 1937, 1950, 1951, 1954, 1955, 1959, 1960, 1962, 1963 and 1967.

Mrs Bruce has represented Great Britain in matches against the USSR and the Netherlands and the British Chess Federation in qualifying tournaments for the Women’s World Championship. In Venice in 1951 she came 2nd in the Western European Qualifying Tournament for the Women’s World Championship and thereby qualified for the Candidates tournament in 1952, when she came 12th out of 16.

Rowena at the 1952 Moscow Zonal tournament. Courtesy of Keverel Chess
Rowena at the 1952 Moscow Zonal tournament. Courtesy of Keverel Chess

Apart from chess, her hobbies are music, gardening and bridge.

She is principal ‘cellist in the Plymouth Orchestral Society.”

An obituary (presumably written by John Saunders) appeared in the British Chess Magazine, Volume CXIX (119, 1999), Number 11 (November), page 584 :

“Rowena Bruce died peacefully at home on 23 September following a long illness. Rowena Mary Dew was born in Plymouth on 15 May 1919, and she was taught the game at the age of 10, while she was convalescing from surgery, by here mother Mary Dew, herself a very able player who had been Devon Ladies’ Champion.

Rowena joined the Plymouth Chess Club, where she met her future husband, Ron Bruce, himself a strong player. She won the World Girls’ Championship in 1935 and the British Women’s title two years later. Rowena married Ron in 1940 and won the British title under her married name ten more times (seven outright and three jointly) between 1950 and 1969.

She represented Great Britain in matches against the USSR and the Netherlands. She qualified for the Women’s World Championship by coming 2nd in the Western European Zonal in Venice, and in the subsequent Candidates tournament in Moscow in 1952 she came 12th out of 16. She was awarded the women’s international master title in 1951.

Rowena locking horns with her friend Fenny Heemskerk, who finished in a magnificent 2nd place. Courtesy of Keverel Chess
Rowena locking horns with her friend Fenny Heemskerk, who finished in a magnificent 2nd place. Courtesy of Keverel Chess

The contribution to chess that Rowena and Ron Bruce made to national, west country and Devon chess was well recognised at the highest level, and when the British Chess Federation instituted a new award in 1983, the President’s Award for Services to Chess, they won it jointly in only its second year. Ron died in 1991.

Rowena was a past president of the Devon County Chess Association and the West of England Chess Union and continued playing for Devon until about four years ago when her increasing frailty made it impossible for her to travel to away matches.

Her other accomplishments included music : she was a principal cellist in the Plymouth Orchestral Society. She also partnered husband Ron in strictly non-competitive bridge for many years. She leaves a daughter Rona and three grand-children.”

WIM Rowena Mary Bruce
WIM Rowena Mary Bruce

From The Encyclopedia of Chess (Batsfords, 1977) by Harry Golombek :

“International Woman master and eleven times British Ladies champion or co-champion.

At the age of fifteen in 1935, Miss Dew won the girls World championship and two years later, still under he maiden name, se won the British Ladies championship at Blackpool. Thereafter she won the championship under her married name in 1950, 1951, 1954, 1955, 1959, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1967 and 1969.

Her best international result was a 2nd in the 1951 Western European Zonal tournament, qualifying for the Women’s Candidates tournament in Moscow 1952, where she came 12th/16. She has represented England in a number of team events, has excellent combinative powers, but lacks steadiness in strategy.”

Rowena (far left) during the 1952 Moscow Candidates tournament. Courtesy of Keverel Chess
Rowena (far left) during the 1952 Moscow Candidates tournament. Courtesy of Keverel Chess

David Hooper (seated right) in play at the West of England Championships in Bristol, Easter, 1947. His opponent , ARB Thomas , was that year's champion. Among the spectators is Mrs. Rowena Bruce, the 1946 British Ladies' Champion. BCM, Volume 118, #6, p.327. The others in the photo are L - R: H. V. Trevenen; H. Wilson-Osborne (WECU President); R. A. (Ron) Slade; Rowena Bruce; Ron Bruce; H. V. (Harry) Mallison; Chris Sullivan; C. Welch (Controller); F. E. A. (Frank) Kitto.
David Hooper (seated right) in play at the West of England Championships in Bristol, Easter, 1947. His opponent , ARB Thomas , was that year’s champion. Among the spectators is Mrs. Rowena Bruce, the 1946 British Ladies’ Champion. BCM, Volume 118, #6, p.327. The others in the photo are L – R: H. V. Trevenen; H. Wilson-Osborne (WECU President); R. A. (Ron) Slade; Rowena Bruce; Ron Bruce; H. V. (Harry) Mallison; Chris Sullivan; C. Welch (Controller); F. E. A. (Frank) Kitto.

Here is an interesting article from Tartajubow on Chess

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.”

Rowena with Spassky and the Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Alderman Pascho.
Rowena with Spassky and the Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Alderman Pascho.

“Rowena Mary Bruce played for England in the Women’s Chess Olympiads:

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)”

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

Remembering FM John Littlewood (25-v-1931 16-ix-2009)

FM John Littlewood (25-v-1931 16-ix-2009) Source : BCM, 2009, October
FM John Littlewood (25-v-1931 16-ix-2009). Source : BCM, 2009, October

John Eric Littlewood was born in Sheffield on Wednesday, September 16th 1931. His mother’s maiden name was Wheeldon. He last resided in the WN8 postal area of Skelmersdale, West Lancashire.

He became a FIDE Master in 1989 at the age of 58. According to Felice (and ChessBase) his peak FIDE rating was 2395 in January 1980. However, it is certain that it would have been higher than that, in the 1960s and 1970s : more likely 2450 or possibly higher.

John, Jenny and Paul Littlewood, circa 1962. Kindly supplied by Paul Littlewood.
John, Jenny and Paul Littlewood, circa 1962. Kindly supplied by Paul Littlewood.

He coached his son Paul who became British Champion in 1981. His brother Norman was also a very strong player.

John and Paul on Skegness beach circa 1958. Kindly supplied by Paul Littlewood. George and Ringo are out of shot !
John and Paul on Skegness beach circa 1958. Kindly supplied by Paul Littlewood. George and Ringo are out of shot !

From “Chess Coaching” :

John Littlewood is a National Coach and the Director of Junior Chess to the British Chess Federation. He is a FIDE Master with national and international playing experience, and is an established chess writer, translator and journalist.

03-01-1962 37th Hastings International Chess Congress, 1962. World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik (R) playing against John Littlewood of England
03-01-1962 37th Hastings International Chess Congress, 1962. World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik (R) playing against John Littlewood of England

From “Learn Chess 2

“A British Master, formerly Northern Counties Champion and currently (1984) a National Coach for the British Chess Federation. John Littlewood has played for England in several international tournaments, including two Olympiads”

John Littlewood giving a simultaneous display
John Littlewood giving a simultaneous display

John wrote the “Test Your Chess” column in British Chess Magazine under the editorship of Murray Chandler

John Was Northern Counties Chess Union (NCCU) Champion in 1971, 1972, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980 and 1981 : a record seven times !

John with chess friends
John with chess friends

John won the Appleby-Frodingham Chess Club tournament in 1962 with 3.5/5 :

Appleby-Frodingham Tournament of 1962 crosstable
Appleby-Frodingham Tournament of 1962 crosstable

and then, in the same year came 3= in the British Championships with 7.5/11 :

Truncated crosstable from the 1962 British Championship in Whitby
Truncated crosstable from the 1962 British Championship in Whitby

and in 1969 in Rhyl John was unfortunate not to share the title with Dr. Jonathan Penrose after losing to Frank Parr in the final round :

Truncated crosstable of the British Championships of Rhyl 1969
Truncated crosstable of the British Championships of Rhyl 1969
John Littlewood at Hastings 1963-4. Still taken from Pathe news reel footage
John Littlewood at Hastings 1963-4. Still taken from Pathe news reel footage
John Littlewood playing Wolfgang Unzicker in round one of the 1969-70 Hastings International Congress
John Littlewood playing Wolfgang Unzicker in round one of the 1969-70 Hastings International Congress

John won the Southport Open in 1972 and the picture below was taken shortly afterwards :

John and family following winning the 1972 Southport Open. See the BCM article below for a full caption
John and family following winning the 1972 Southport Open. See the BCM article below for a full caption

John won the Chorley tournament of 1977 with 7/9

Chorley 1977 tournament crosstable
Chorley 1977 tournament crosstable

JEL won the British Chess Federation’s President’s Award in 2000.

FM John Littlewood at 4NCL courtesy of Helen Milligan
FM John Littlewood at 4NCL courtesy of Helen Milligan

In 2006 John won the BCF Veterans / Seniors title for the first time repeating the feat in 2008 sharing with George Dickson.

With the White pieces John almost exclusively played 1.e4 favouring the Wormald Attack, Open Sicilians and the Rossolimo variation.

As the second player John played the Closed Ruy Lopez, the Sicilian Dragon and the Grünfeld defence.

In the following video IM Andrew Martin discusses the game Bisguier – Littlewood, 1962.

Rather than reinventing an already round wheel we reproduce the following ten page tribute in the October 2009 issue of British Chess Magazine. The tribute is by John Saunders :

British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 536
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 536
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 537
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 537
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 538
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 538
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 539
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 539
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 540
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 540
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 541
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 541
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 542
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 542
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 543
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 543
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 544
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 544
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 545
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 545

A rather detailed article from Tartajubow on Chess II

Here is how news of his passing was received on the English Chess Forum

Here is an obituary from Leonard Barden in The Guardian

Here is an obituary published in The Times of London

Farewell to John Littlewood : The Lincolnshire Poacher

and, finally a history of JEL from the Yorkshire Chess Archives

FM John Littlewood (25-v-1931 16-ix-2009)
FM John Littlewood (25-v-1931 16-ix-2009)

Here is John’s Wikipedia entry

How to Play the Middle Game in Chess by John Littlewood, Collins, 1974
How to Play the Middle Game in Chess by John Littlewood, Collins, 1974
Chess Coaching by John Littlewood, The Crowood Press, 1991
Chess Coaching by John Littlewood, The Crowood Press, 1991
Learn Chess by Edward Penn and John Littlewood, Pitman House, 1980
Learn Chess by Edward Penn and John Littlewood, Pitman House, 1980
Learn Chess : Teacher's Book,  by Edward Penn & John Littlewood, Pitman House, 1980
Learn Chess : Teacher’s Book, by Edward Penn & John Littlewood, Pitman House, 1980
Learn Chess 2 by John Littlewood, Adam & Charles Black, 1984
Learn Chess 2 by John Littlewood, Adam & Charles Black, 1984
FM John Littlewood (25-v-1931 16-ix-2009)
FM John Littlewood (25-v-1931 16-ix-2009)

Remembering Alexander McDonnell (22-iv-1798 14-ix-1835)

We do not have a reliable image of Alexander McDonnell
We do not have a reliable image of Alexander McDonnell

We remember Alexander McDonnell who died aged 37 on September 14th, 1835 in Tavistock Square, London.

Please note : We have referenced a number of secondary and tertiary sources on AM and they agree on heritage. However, following painstaking research of primary sources by James O’Fee and Tim Harding it has been demonstrated that the father of AM was not Dr. Alexander McDonnell but, in fact, Thomas McDonnell, a merchant.

Also, we do not have a primary source confirming the date of birth. 22-iv-1798 was obtained from the family tree of a distant relative.

Hopefully we will be permitted to publish further details unearthed by James O’Fee

Alexander McDonnell was born on Tuesday, May 22nd 1798 in Belfast, Antrim, Northern Ireland to Dr Alexander McDonnell, age 34. His mother is unknown.

His (half-)brother Robert died (in a riding accident) on 19 July 1818 in Belfast, Antrim, when Alexander was 20 years old. He also had one sister, Eliza (Elizabeth)

From The Oxford Companion to Chess (OUP, 1983) by Hooper & Whyld :

The best player in England around 1830, Born in Belfast, the son of a doctor, he spent some years in the West Indies and later worked in London as
secretary of the Committee of West Indian Merchants. William Lewis, who taught McDonnell in the 1820s, soon found that he could not successfully offer odds of pawn and move to his pupil; but challenged to play even Lewis declined, fearing for his reputation.

From June to October 1834 McDonnell played six matches against La Bourdonnais; of the 85 games that were played McDonnell won 27, drew 13, and lost 45. McDonnell’s lack of experience against strong opponents was a serious handicap. On occasion his combinative play could be brilliant and imaginative, but his opening play (based on Lewis’s teachings) and his technique were inferior. He is described as ‘quiet, reserved, outwardly imperturbable’ with ‘an insular sense of’decorum’, quite different from his extrovert opponent.

Whereas La Bourdonnais played fast and with ease, McDonnell concentrated at length upon his moves and retired from a playing session exhausted, sometimes ‘walking his room the greater part of the night in a dreadful state of excitement’. His contemporaries believed that this long period of stress hastened his death from Bright’s disease. The games were regarded as the finest ever played. They were first published in England where they greatly stimulated interest in the game.

Unlike his great rival, McDonnell died wealthy; besides chess he was interested in political economy on which he wrote half a dozen books or
pamphlets.”

From The Encyclopedia of Chess (Robert Hale, 1970 & 1976) by Anne Sunnucks :

“The greatest player Ireland has ever (1976) produced, McDonnell is remembered mainly for his series of games against La Bourdonnais in 1834 which were described by Morphy as ‘beautiful models of chess strategy’.

The son of a Belfast doctor, McDonnell’s profession of Secretary to the Committee of West India Merchants brought him to London., where he took chess lessons from William Lewis and as a member of the West London Chess Club soon established the reputation of being the strongest amateur of his day. He was also a strong blindfold player.

In 1823 he lost some games against La Bourdonnais. These were probably played in Paris, since there is no record of the players meeting in England. In 1834 La Bourdonnais came to London, and a further contest was arranged. There are a number of conflicting reports on the sub-division of the games into matches,but a total of 84 games were played, of which McDonnell scored +27-44=13 before La Bourdonnais was recalled to Paris on business.

It was intended that the series should be continued, but before this could be arranged McDonnell fell ill with Bright’s disease and died on 14th September 1835.”

From The Encyclopedia of Chess (Batsford, 1983) by Harry Golombek :

“Britain’s leading player before Staunton. McDonnell was Irish born, the son of a Belfast doctor. He was secretary to the Committee of West India Merchants in London. After he studied chess with Lewis, he rose to the front rank of British players.

In 1834 he was engaged in a marathon series of matches with the visiting French champion La Bourdonnais. Five complete matches of varying lengths were played and a sixth was left unfinished, comprising a probable total of 85 games (there is some dispute among chess historians over the details of the final two matches), with the victory going to La Bourdonnais by 45 games to 27 with 13 draws. The standard of play was high and these contests did much to kindle interest in chess in both France and England. McDonnell died the following years of Bright’s disease.”

Edward Winter in Chess Notes writes

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”

There is a darker side to AMs life

Remembering Paul List (09-ix-1887 09-ix-1954)

Paul M List
Paul M List

Remembering Paul List (09-ix-1887 09-ix-1954)

From The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match by Klein and Winter :

“PM List was born in Memel, Lithuania in 1887. After living in Berlin for many years, where he was manager of the bridge and chess rooms in a well-known café-restaurant, he came to this country in 1936.

He has competed in many tournaments, local and international. He, too, failed to get into the prize list in the recent London International Tournament, but he is a resourceful player, particularly in defensive positions.

His best performance was Berlin, 1925 where he came first, ahead of Richter. Since he came to this country he has become an art dealer, but chess is still one of his foremost activities.”

Scene at London. From left to right - Seated : Fairhurst, List and Winter in play. Standing König and Sir George Thomas
Scene at London. From left to right – Seated : Fairhurst, List and Winter in play. Standing König and Sir George Thomas

Here is an article by Matthew Sadler on the 1954 British Lightning Championship won by List

Dr. Paul List (09-ix-1887 09-ix-1954). Source : The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match.
Dr. Paul List (09-ix-1887 09-ix-1954). Source : The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match.

Here is his (surprisingly brief) obituary from British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXIV (1954), Number 10 (October), page 324 :

“Dr. Paul List, the British Lightning Championship winner a year ago (though he could not hold the title because he was not a naturalised Briton), died in London at the age of 66. A player of master strength, Dr. List left his native Russia for Germany in the 1920’s, and began on his second exile in 1938 when sought refuge in this country from Germany.”

Item from Kington Times - Saturday 02 June 1951 regarding the visit of Dr. List
Item from Kington Times – Saturday 02 June 1951 regarding the visit of Dr. List

From The Illustrated London News in 1953 (by BH Wood) :

“Sixty-five-year-old Dr. (not of medicine) Paul List, the oldest competitor, who settled in Britain about 1937 and has been thinking of becoming naturalised ever since, finished with a marvellous fifteen-and-a-half points out of a possible eighteen”

Dr. Paul M. List. Source : https://www.kingpinchess.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/They-provided-their-own-heat1.jpg
Dr. Paul M. List. Source : https://www.kingpinchess.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/They-provided-their-own-heat1.jpg

Here is his Wikipedia entry

Remembering Elijah Williams (07-x-1809 08-ix-1854)

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

We are not aware of a verified image / likeness of Elijah Williams. Possibly the archives of Bristol based newspapers would help?

From The Complete Chess Addict (Faber & Faber, 1987, page 147-8) by Mike Fox and Richard James :

“The most boring games of all time? We turn to the London tournament of 1851, and the interminable encounters between Elijah (The Bristol Sloth) Williams and the deservedly unknown James Mucklow (‘a player from the country’ says the tournament book sniffily).

Elijah introduced the concept of Sitzkrieg into chess : he’d sit there, taking two and a half hours on a single move until his opponent dropped from boredom. The tournament book records games in excess of twenty hours (one was adjourned after a whole day, at the twenty-ninth move). Mucklow (a much worse player) was no swifter, and when they got together it must have been like watching an oil painting. (‘Both players nearly asleep,’ recorded a drowsy secretary midway through one mind-grinding marathon.)

Howard Staunton’s commentary says it all : ‘Each…exhibits the same want of depth and inventive powers in his combinations, and the same tiresome prolixity in manoeuvring his men. It need hardly be said that the games, from first to last, are remarkable only for their unvarying and unexampled dullness”

Here is an excellent article by Neil Blackburn (aka SimaginFan)

From The Oxford Companion to Chess (OUP, 1983) by Hooper and Whyld :

“English player. A native of Bristol, from where he edited one of the earliest newspaper columns (Bath and Cheltenham Gazette, 1840-6), Williams gave up his job as an apothecary in 1844, moved to London, and attempted to earn a living at chess. In the London international tournament of 1851, a knock-out event, Williams defeated Lowenthal in the first round (4-2—1) but lost to Wyvill in the third and penultimate round (+3-4), He was awarded third prize after defeating Staunton (+4=1 — 3), He admired Staunton’s play and like several of his contemporaries adopted the positional style of the English school; but after this match the master never forgave his pupil, Williams played matches against Lowenthal in 1851 (+5 = 4-7), Horwitz in 1852 ( + 5 = 9—3), and Harrwitz in 1852 ( = 3—7),
and he again lost to Harrwitz in 1853.

In 1851 Williams won a handicap match against Staunton, who conceded a three-game start; of the games actually played Williams won four, drew three, and
lost six. When cholera broke out in London he posted a notice on his door offering preventive medication free. Supplies had run out when, feeling unwell, he left home for the last time; seized with violent pain when in the Strand he entered Charing Cross Hospital where he died of the disease two days later, leaving his wife and children destitute.

He wrote two books, Souvenir of the Bristol Chess Club (1846) and Horae Divanianae (1852). He also edited a chess column in The Field from Jan. 1853, when the magazine was founded, until his death.”

Souvenir of the Bristol Chess Club
Souvenir of the Bristol Chess Club

From The Encyclopedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977) by Harry Golombek :

“A prominent British master of the mid-nineteenth century who was famed for the slowness of his play at a period when chess clocks for important competitions had not yet come into fashion. Williams was born in Bristol where he practised as an apothecary but soon became so attached to chess (he was president of the Bristol Chess Club and also conducted a chess-column in the Bath and Cheltenham Gazette (from 8 September 1840 to 21 October 1946) that he made the game his profession.

Abandoning Bristol for London where the life of a chess professional was considerably more profitable than in the provinces, he contested a number of matches with varying success; e.g. 1846 v. Kennedy (+4-2=0) and 1852 v. Horwitz (+5-3=9). In three matches v. Harrwitz he met with decisive reverses (a total of +2-17=8) but gained a curious triumph over Staunton in 1851. Although losing on games played by +4-6=3 Williams emerged a technical victor as the result of Staunton’s rash decision to offer starting odds of three games ! This match, however, produced much fine chess.

Williams also participated in the first international tournament at London 1851 where he took third prize behind Anderssen and Wyvill. An analysis of his games from the important events of 1851 reveals that Williams had developed a most sophisticated playing style, employing positional devices which were not to
become current for a further sixty years. While in London in 1852, Williams published a collection of games under the title of Horae Divanianae being a selection of 150 games by leading masters, most of which had been played at Simpson’s Divan. He wrote the chess-column for The Field, from 1853 to 1857.

He died in London at Charing cross Hospital of cholera on 8 September 1854. we emphasize this date since the usual date given is that of I September 1854. But we are indebted to Mr. Kenneth Whyld for the information about the correct date on the death certificate which also states he was forty-four when he died.
Up to now his date of birth was not known and was assumed to have been considerably earlier. (R.D.K.)”

Sunnucks is silent on EW for an unknown reason.

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!'”

Williams died in London, a victim of the 1854 Broad Street cholera outbreak.”

The Best I Saw in Chess: Games, Stories and Instruction from an Alabama Prodigy Who Became U.S. Champion

The Best I Saw in Chess: Games, Stories and Instruction from an Alabama Prodigy Who Became U.S. Champion
The Best I Saw in Chess: Games, Stories and Instruction from an Alabama Prodigy Who Became U.S. Champion

From the rear cover :

“At the U.S. Championship in 1989, Stuart Rachels seemed bound for the cellar. Ranked last and holding no IM norms, the 20-year-old amateur from Alabama was expected to get waxed by the American top GMs of the day that included Seirawan, Gulko, Dzindzichashvili, deFirmian, Benjamin and Browne. Instead, Rachels pulled off a gigantic upset and became the youngest U.S. Champion since Bobby Fischer. Three years later he retired from competitive chess, but he never stopped following the game. In this wide-ranging, elegantly written, and highly personal memoir, Stuart Rachels passes on his knowledge of chess. Included are his duels against legends such as Kasparov, Anand, Spassky, Ivanchuk, Gelfand and Miles, but the heart of the book is the explanation of chess ideas interwoven with his captivating stories. There are chapters on tactics, endings, blunders, middlegames, cheating incidents, and even on how to combat that rotten opening, the Réti. Rachels offers a complete and entertaining course in chess strategy. At the back are listed 110 principles of play–bits of wisdom that arise naturally in the book’s 24 chapters. Every chess player will find it difficult to put this sparkling book down. As a bonus, it will make you a better player.”

The best I saw in chess - by Stuart Rachels
The best I saw in chess – by Stuart Rachels

 

Stuart Rachels only had a short international career which came to an end almost 30 years ago. He’s now, like his late father James, a philosopher, specialising in ethical theory. Why, you might ask, does he deserve a 400+ page book? It seems rather like a vanity project, doesn’t it?

Let’s look inside and find out.

What you don’t get is a chronological account of the author’s career. Instead you get 24 chapters of varying length discussing a wide variety of aspects of chess and offering, in total, 124 games or extracts from his earliest efforts onwards. The book is also full of stories and anecdotes, many of which are highly entertaining. Rachels writes in a friendly style, alternating, perhaps slightly uncomfortably, between self-deprecating humour and arrogance: he might almost be sitting across the board from you explaining his games.

The first few chapter headings will give you some idea of what to expect: Losing Benonis to Kasparov, Five Stories and Their Positions, Two Rogue Sozins, Tactical Snippets, Beware the Sickly Pawns.

Yes, Rachels enjoyed tactics, favouring openings like the Sicilian Dragon and the Modern Benoni, while disliking the ‘rotten Réti’ and the English (‘Is there a Nobel Prize for Worst Opening as White?’), so you’ll see a lot of exciting play. At the same time, his trainer, Boris Kogan, played like Petrosian (‘You must play seemple chess’) and instilled in him a love of endings, again strongly represented here.

His opponents include many of his illustrious contemporaries, whom he met in international junior tournaments: you’ll find games against Anand, Ivanchuk, Gelfand, Adams and others here.

Although much of the book is US-centric, there’s also a lot to interest British readers. In 1983 Rachels spent some time in England, where, apart from playing in a simul against Kasparov, he lost a training match against David Norwood (‘the best tactician for my age I’ve ever known, aside from Anand’) which has its own chapter.

In the early 90s Rachels studied at Oxford University for two years: in the 1992 Varsity Match it was he who owned the aforementioned sickly pawns in a thrilling victory over Jonathan Wilson. After the game Ray Keene, suitably impressed, asked him to provide annotations. Rachels was surprised to see one of his sentences quoted verbatim in The Spectator. “Who would’ve suspected that the 44-year-old Brit cribbed that sentence off a 22-year-old American?”

There’s also a tense draw against Tony Miles (‘unpretentious, good-humored, and easy to be around’) from the 1989 US Championship. (Tony had satisfied the residency qualification by renting a post box in New York.) The ‘Foolish Drinker, Optimistic Patzer’ of the chapter heading is Rachels, not Miles. You’ll have to read it yourself to find out why.

In the final chapter Rachels offers his two best games. One played against his friend Kyle Therrell at the age of 11 (‘… might this have been the best game ever played by someone under the age of 12, as of March 29, 1981?’), and his win, given below, against Sergey Kudrin, again from the 1989 US Championship. If you buy the book you’ll be able to read his annotations.

The book concludes with three appendices. Appendix A explains adjournments (‘… a 20th century phenomenon, mostly occurring in high-level events’). Not in my part of the world: I had an adjournment from a local league game hanging over me at the start of lockdown: it was eventually agreed drawn via email. Appendix B, Principles of Play, offers some maxims which you may or may not find helpful, and Appendix C is what looks to me like a fairly arbitrary list of recommended books.

The format of the book does mean you miss the trajectory of his career, but at the same time the constant switching between topics will ensure you never get bored. Although Rachels is a relatively minor figure in chess history who retired nearly 30 years ago, he still has an infectious passion for chess, writes well, annotates lucidly and tells a great story. It’s often very funny too: a hugely entertaining and engrossing read which I thoroughly enjoyed. If you like games collections and biographies you shouldn’t hesitate to snap this one up.

Richard James, Twickenham 31st August 2020

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 372 pages
  • Publisher: New in Chess (7 July 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9056918818
  • ISBN-13: 978-9056918811
  • Product Dimensions: 17.02 x 2.79 x 23.37 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

The Best I Saw in Chess: Games, Stories and Instruction from an Alabama Prodigy Who Became U.S. Champion
The Best I Saw in Chess: Games, Stories and Instruction from an Alabama Prodigy Who Became U.S. Champion

Remembering Joseph Blackburne (10-xii-1841 01-ix-1924)

Joseph Blackburne (10-xii-1841 01-ix-1924)
Joseph Blackburne (10-xii-1841 01-ix-1924)

Remembering Joseph Blackburne (10-xii-1841 01-ix-1924)

The following (excerpts of) information were obtained via ancestry.co.uk :

Joseph Henry Blackburne was born on Friday, December 10th, 1841 in Chorlton, Manchester. His father was Joseph Blackburn (aged 23) and his mother was Ann Pritchard (aged 24). He had eight sons and five daughters.

His brother Frederick Pritchard Blackburn died on 11 October 1847 in Lancashire, Lancashire, when Joseph Henry was 5 years old.

His sister Clara was born on 4 November 1847 in Street, Lancashire, when Joseph Henry was 5 years old.

His half-sister Clara was born in 1848 in Manchester, Lancashire, when Joseph Henry was 7 years old.

His mother Ann passed away on 26 November 1857 in Manchester, Lancashire, at the age of 40.

His half-brother William Thomas was born on 17 June 1865 when Joseph Henry was 23 years old.

Joseph Henry Blackburne married Eleanor Driscoll on 10 December 1865 when he was 24 years old.

Joseph Henry Blackburne married Beatrice Lapham on 3 October 1876 when he was 34 years old.

His wife Beatrice passed away in January 1880 in St Olave Southwark, London, at the age of 26. They had been married 3 years.

Joseph Henry Blackburne married Mary Jane FOX in St Olave Southwark, London, on 16 December 1880 when he was 39 years old.

Joseph Henry Blackburne lived in Everton, Lancashire, in 1891.

According to chessgames.com :

“Joseph Henry Blackburne was born in Chorlton, Manchester. He came to be known as “The Black Death”. He enjoyed a great deal of success giving blindfold and simultaneous exhibitions. Tournament highlights include first place with Wilhelm Steinitz at Vienna 1873, first at London 1876, and first at Berlin 1881 ahead of Johannes Zukertort. In matchplay he lost twice to Steinitz and once to Emanuel Lasker. He fared a little better with Zukertort (Blackburne – Zukertort (1881)) and Isidor Gunsberg, by splitting a pair of matches, and defeating Francis Joseph Lee, ( Blackburne – Lee (1890) ). One of the last successes of his career was at the age of 72, when he tied for first place with Fred Dewhirst Yates at the 1914 British Championship.

Joseph Blackburne (10-xii-1841 01-ix-1924)
Joseph Blackburne (10-xii-1841 01-ix-1924)

In his later years, a subscription by British chess players provided an annuity of £100 (approx £4,000 in 2015 value), and a gift of £250 on his 80th birthday.”

In 1923 he suffered a stroke, and the next year he died of a heart attack.”

Joseph Henry Blackburne (10-xii-1841 01-ix-1924)
Joseph Henry Blackburne (10-xii-1841 01-ix-1924)

From The Oxford Companion to Chess (OUP, 1984) by Hooper and Whyld :

“For more than 20 years one of the first six players in the world and for even longer the leading English born player. Draughts was the most popular indoor game in his home town, Manchester; he learned this game as a child and became expert in his youth.

He was about 18 when, inspired by Morphy’s exploits, he learned the moves of chess. In July 1861 he lost all live games of a match against the Manchester chess club champion Edward Pindar, but he improved so rapidly that he defeated Pindar three months later (-1-5=2—1), and in 1862 he became champion of the club ahead of Pindar and
Horwitz. Instructed by Horwitz, Blackburne became one of the leading endgame players of his time; and wishing to emulate the feats of L. Paulsen, who visited the club in November 1861, he developed exceptional skill at blindfold chess. He spent most of the 1860s developing his chess and toying with various occupations. After winning
the British championship, 1868-9, ahead of de vere, he became a full-time professional player.

Blackburne achieved excellent results in many tournaments: Baden-Baden 1870, third equal with Neumann after Anderssen and Steinitz; London 1872, second (+5-2) after Steinitz ahead of Zukertort; Vienna 1873, second to Steinitz after a play-off; Paris 1878, third after Winawer and Zukertort: Wiesbaden 1880, first equal with Englisch and Schwarz; Berlin 1881, first (+13=2 — 1), three points ahead of Zukertort, the second prize winner (Blackburne’s greatest achievement); London 1883, third after Zukertort and Steinitz; Hamburg 1885, second equal with Englisch, Mason, Tarrasch, and Weiss half a point after Gunsberg; Frankfurt 1887, second equal with Weiss after Mackenzie; Manchester 1890, second after Tarrasch; Belfast 1892, first equal with Mason; London 1892, second ( + 6-2) after Lasker; London 1893, first ( + 2=3). He was in the British team in 11 of the Anglo-American cable matches, meeting Pillsbury on first board six times (+2-3 — 1), and he continued to play internationally until he was 72, long enough to meet the pioneer of the hypermodern movement Nimzowitsch, whom he defeated at St Petersburg 1914.

Blackburne had remarkable combinative powers and is remembered for his swingeing king’s side attacks, often well prepared but occasionally consisting of an ingenious swindle that would deceive even the greatest all his contemporaries. The tournament book of Vienna 1873 refers to him as ‘der schrwarze Tod [Black death] der Schachspieler’, a nickname that became popular. His unflappable temperament also earned him the soubriquet “the man with the iron nerves’. Even so, neither his temperament nor his style was suited to set matches, in which he was rarely successful against world-class players. He had other chess talents: a problem composer, he was also a fast solver, allegedly capable of outpacing the great Sam Loyd. Blackburne earned his livelihood by means of simultaneous displays, for this purpose touring Britain twice-yearly, with a few breaks, for more than 50 years.

Chess, circa 1896, J,H,Blackburne, well known chess player, who had toured both on the Continent and America,able to make between 40 to 60 moves when blindfolded by sheer memory  (Photo by Bob Thomas/Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)
Chess, circa 1896, J,H,Blackburne, well known chess player, who had toured both on the Continent and America,able to make between 40 to 60 moves when blindfolded by sheer memory (Photo by Bob Thomas/Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)

Before this time such displays were solemn affairs; Lowenthal, who would appear in formal dress and play for several hours in silence, was shocked when Blackburne turned up in ordinary clothes, chatting and making jokes as he played, and refreshing him self with whisky, (Blackburne confessed, however, that when fully absorbed in a game he never noticed whether he was drinking water instead,) Once, walking round the boards, he drained his opponent’s glass, saying when rebuked He left it en prise and I took it en passant’ He played his blindfold displays quickly, and with little sign of the stress that besets most blindfold players. Probably the leading blindfold expert of his time, he challenged Zukertort, a close rival in this field, to a match of ten games, played simultaneously, both players blindfold; but Zukertort declined. Many who knew and liked Blackburne subscribed to a fund which sustained him in his last years.

Image Supplied by a reader of the book 'Eminent Victorian Chess Players' to Tim Harding
Image Supplied by a reader of the book ‘Eminent Victorian Chess Players’ to Tim Harding

P. A. Graham, Mr Blackburne’s Games at Chess (1899) contains 407 games annotated by Blackburne and 28 three-movers composed by him.

Mr Blackburne's Games at Chess by PA Graham
Mr Blackburne’s Games at Chess by PA Graham

A reprint, styled Blackburne*s Chess Games (1979), has a new introduction and two more games.

Here follows a reproduction of an article from British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXX1 (1961), Number 12 (December), page 340-342 written by RN Coles entitled “Early Days of a Great Master” :

British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXX1 (1961), Number  12 (December), page 340
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXX1 (1961), Number 12 (December), page 340
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXX1 (1961), Number  12 (December), page 341
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXX1 (1961), Number 12 (December), page 341

Many juniors and beginners will know the Blackburne Shilling Gambit (or Kostić Gambit) in some circles known as the ‘Oh My God’ :

There are variations named after Blackburne as follows :

The Blackburne Attack in the Four Knights is

and the Blackburne Variation of the Dutch defence is

and a popular line in the Queen’s Gambit

are attributed to Blackburne in the literature.

According to The Encyclopedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977) by Harry Golombek :

“British grandmaster and highly successful tournament player who was one of the most prominent masters of the nineteenth century. He did not learn to play chess until the age of nineteen, but his natural gifts soon brought him into the front rank of British players, and in 1868 he abandoned his business interests and adopted chess as a profession.

Blackburne’s international tournament career spans an impressive fifty-two years from London 1862 to St. Petersburg 1914 – a total of 53 events in which he played 814 games, scoring over 62%. Although he rarely won international events, he generally finished in the top half of the table and his fierce competitive spirit coupled with his great combinative ability earned the pleasant nickname of ‘the Black Death’.

Joseph Blackburne (10-xii-1841 01-ix-1924). Photograph from The Encyclopedia of Chess by Harry Golombek
Joseph Blackburne (10-xii-1841 01-ix-1924). Photograph from The Encyclopedia of Chess by Harry Golombek

His most notable successes were =1st with Steinitz at Vienna 1873 (Blackburne lost the play-off match), 1st at Berlin 1881 ahead of Paulsen, Schallopp, Chigorin, Winawer and Zukertort, and 2nd to Tarrasch at Manchester 1890.

Blackburne won the BCA Championship in 1868 and for many years was ranked as Britain’s foremost player. In 1914 – at the age of 72 – he shared first place at the BCF congress in Chester.

In match play his success was mixed. He defeated Bird in 1888 (+4-1) and Gunsberg in 1881 (+7-4=3) but lost a second match to Gunsberg in 1886 (+2-5=6). He lost to Lasker (+0-6=4) in 1892 and was defeated heavily twice by Steinitz : in 1862/3 (+1-7=2) and in 1876 (+0-7=0), the latter of these matches being for the World Championship.

Blackburne excelled at blindfold play and in simultaneous exhibitions, which provided a major portion of his income. He died in Lewisham, a much respected veteran of eighty-three.”

Joseph Henry Blackburne (10-xii-1841 01-ix-1924)
Joseph Henry Blackburne (10-xii-1841 01-ix-1924)

Edward Winter discusses the Zukertort-Blackburne game of 1883.

Here is an article on chess.com by Bill Wall

Here is his Wikipedia entry

Eminent Victorian Chess Players
Eminent Victorian Chess Players
Joseph Henry Blackburne: A Chess Biography
Joseph Henry Blackburne: A Chess Biography
Blackburne : The Black Death in Spades by Bob Long
Blackburne : The Black Death in Spades by Bob Long

Remembering Gerald Anderson MBE DFC (24-ii-1898 23-viii-1984)

Gerald Frank Anderson MBE DFC (24-ii-1898 23-viii-1984)
Gerald Frank Anderson MBE DFC (24-ii-1898 23-viii-1984)

Remembering Gerald Frank Anderson MBE, DFC (24-ii-1898 23-viii-1984)

From The Encyclopedia of Chess (Robert Hale, 1970 and 1976) by Anne Sunnucks :

“International Judge of FIDE for Compositions (1960). Born on 23rd February 1898. Won the DFC in 1914-18 war. Foreign Office (Retd.) First problem published in 1912, since when he has composed nearly 500 problems, mostly 3 and 4 movers. but has latterly switched to Fairy chess problems. He is one of the the great reflex and self-mate composers. Edited a section Chess Amateur 1921, Nottinghamshire Weekly Guardian 1937-1938, Anglo-Portuguese News 1945-1946, and Self-Mate Section of The Problemist 1964-1966. Author of Are There Any? a book about Kriegspiel problems and A Memorial Volume of Chess Problems of VL Eaton.”

His MBE was awarded in the 1959 New Year Honours list. The citation reads : “Gerald Frank Anderson, DFC, Second Secretary, Her Majesty’s Embassy, Washington.”

From chessgames.com :

“G. F. Anderson, in 1946, was working in the British Embassy in Lisbon, and, as a highly skilled chess player (he was also known for composing chess problems as early as 1919), was nominated to deliver the challenge from Botvinnik to Alekhine. He played a game with the World Champion in the Embassy and it became the last recorded game by Alekhine.”

From British Chess (Pergamon, 1983) by Botterill, Levy, Rice and Richardson we have an article written by John Rice :

British Chess, Pergamon Press, 1983. page 16
British Chess, Pergamon Press, 1983. page 16
British Chess, Pergamon Press, 1983. page 17
British Chess, Pergamon Press, 1983. page 17
British Chess, Pergamon Press, 1983. page 18
British Chess, Pergamon Press, 1983. page 18

Here is his Wikipedia entry

Remembering 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 The Oxford Companion to Chess (OUP, 1984) by Hooper & Whyld :

“English player and author. He left his native Birmingham as a young man and worked for a time with a merchant in London. He learned much of his chess from Sarratt, a debt that was not repaid.

Around 1819 he was operator of the Turk, meeting all-comers successfully. With Cochrane he visited Paris in 1821, received odds of pawn and move from Deschapelles, and defeated him in a short match (+ 1=2), Lewis had already begun to write and of the more useful books he published around this time were translations of Greco and Carrera which appeared in 1819 and 1822 respectively. Although he considered Sarratt’s A Treatise on the Game of Chess (1808) a poorly written book, Lewis published a second edition in 1822 in direct competition with Sarratt’s last book, published in 1821 by his impoverished widow, (In 1843 many Englishmen contributed to a fund for Mrs Sarratt in her old age, Lewis’s name is not on the subscription list,}

William Lewis, George Walker and Augustus Mongredien
William Lewis, George Walker and Augustus Mongredien

In 1825 Bourdonnais visited England. Lewis recalled that they played about 70 games, and according to Walker seven of them constituted a
match which Lewis lost (+2—5). With no significant playing achievements to his credit Lewis acquired such a high reputation that a correspondent writing to the weekly magazine Bell’s Life in 1838 was moved to call him grandmaster.

From 1825 he preserved this reputation by the simplest means: he declined to play on even terms. In the same year he opened a club where he gave lessons at half a guinea each. McDonnell and Walker were among his pupils. Speculating unwisely on a piano-making patent, Lewis went bankrupt in 1827, and the club closed. After three precarious years of teaching chess (rich patrons were becoming fewer) Lewis became actuary of the Family Endowment Society and enjoyed financial security
for the rest of his life.

William Lewis
William Lewis

Circumstances now made it possible for him to concentrate on his writing and he published his two most important works: Series of Progressive Lessons (1831) and Second Series of Lessons (1832), both republished with various revisions. Lewis continued to write but gradually withdrew from other chess activities; his last notable connection with chess was as stakeholder for the Morphy-Lowenthal match of 1858.

Chess Board Companion by William Lewis
Chess Board Companion by William Lewis

Lewis’s Lessons contain extensive analyses of many opening variations, examined in the closeness of his study. Subsequent writers, notably Lasa, were influenced by these books, but more on account of the form than the content, which, adequate for the 1830s, were soon out of date.

Around 1840 writers no longer worked in isolation (a circumstance Lewis found unavoidable) and new positional ideas were being shaped. Because Lewis failed to assimilate these his judgements were faulty, and his voluminous Treatise on the Game of Chess (1844) was out of date when published.

Industrious rather than inventive, he made only one innovation, the Lewis Counter-Gambit; but it had no practical value in 1844, for simpler defences had already been discovered. Lewis’s work commands respect, but he is more aptly described as the last and one of the best of the ‘old’ writers than the first of the new, a more fitting description for Jaenisch and the authors of Bilguer’s Handbuch. ”

From The Encyclopedia of Chess (Robert Hale, 1970 & 1976) by Anne Sunnucks :

Chess theoretician, teacher, author and one of the leading players in England in the nineteenth century.

William Lewis was born in Birmingham on 9th October 1787. As a young man he went to London and took chess lessons from JH Sarratt. Within a short time he was making chess his principal means of livelihood.

In 1819 he was engaged as the player concealed in the chess-playing automaton, ‘The Turk’, when it was exhibited in London. In 1825 he opened some chess rooms in St. Martin’s Lane in London, where he taught chess. Among his pupils was Alexander McDonnell. After going bankrupt in 1827, the chess rooms were closed, and Lewis decided to put his lessons into a book. He soon became a highly-successful writer, His Chessboard Companion published in 1838 ran into nine editions, and his Series of Progressive Lessons of the Game of Chess has been described as one of the landmarks in the history of the game. This book included some completely new analyses of various chess openings and later formed the basis of the Handbuch des Schachspiels. Lewis also translated the work of Greco and Stamma and was author of The Elements of Chess (1882), Fifty Games of Chess (1832) and Chess for Beginners (1835).

Chess Board Companion by William Lewis
Chess Board Companion by William Lewis

Towards the end of his life, Lewis rarely played chess, and his last public appearance in chess circles was 12 before he died, when he acted at stake-holder in the match between Morphy and Lowenthal in 1858. He died on 22nd August 1870.

From The Encyclopedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977) by Harry Golombek :

“Author of The Chessboard Companion, London, 1838, and several other popular works on chess (including translations of Greco and Stamma). Lewis was also a leading chess teacher – his most famous pupil was Alexdander McDonnell – and for a time he ran chess rooms in St. Martin’s Lane. In 1819 he operated the chess-playing automaton ‘The Turk’ when it was exhibited in London. The Lewis Counter-Gambit is 1.P-K4, P-K4; 2.B-B4 B-B4; 3.P-QB3,P-Q5!?”

Chess for Beginners
Chess for Beginners

From “Chess : A History” by Harry Golombek there are two references to WL on pages 98 and 123 alluded to above.

Here is an interesting article from Chess.com

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).”

“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”.”