Category Archives: Mathematics

Minor Pieces 76: Charles Dealtry Locock (3)

You’ve already read about Charles Dealtry Locock’s career as a chess player and problemist. In the final part of this trilogy you’ll learn more about his life, and about what might be seen as his most lasting and significant contribution to chess.

You’ll recall that he married his first cousin, Ida Gertrude Locock, and that they had two daughters. Both were named after characters in Wagner operas who met unfortunate ends: was Wagner his favourite composer?

Elsa, born in 1891, received her name from a character in Lohengrin, who, to cut a long story short, died of grief after her brother was turned into a swan. She worked for a time as a shorthand typist, did voluntary social work for the Red Cross during the Second World War, and died unmarried in 1985.

Her sister, born in 1894, was named Brynhild, a version of Brünnhilde from the Ring Cycle, a Valkyrie who, to cut a very long story short, rode her horse into a funeral pyre after the death of her lover Siegfried. (If you’d like to find out more, Anna Russell is considerably shorter and much more amusing than Wagner.) In fact her name was registered twice, the second time as Hilda Vivien, which she seemed to prefer. She worked as a children’s nurse, and died, again unmarried, in 1950.

Although Locock gave up competitive over the board chess in 1899, he played on Board 2 for the South of England in a correspondence match against the North the following year. He was matched against the mathematician George Adolphus Schott, winning a brilliant game. As always, click on any move for a pop-up window.

In the 1901 census the family were living in Camberley, on the Surrey-Hampshire border, along with four servants: governess, parlourmaid, cook and housemaid.

Charles’s occupation was described as ‘living on own means & literature”. His particular literary interests were the poems of Percy Bysshe Shelley and Swedish poetry and drama. It appears that he was also still writing a regular chess column in the science magazine Knowledge at this point (some of them are available online).

The same year he had his first book published: neither literary nor chess related, but about the game of billiards. Entitled Side and Screw, you can read it here.

Chess and billiards weren’t Locock’s only games. He was also very much involved in the game of croquet, editing the Croquet Association Gazette between 1904 and 1915, and being employed as the Croquet Association handicapper from 1907 to 1929.

More books followed: Modern Croquet Tactics in 1907, Olympian Echoes, a book of poems and essays, in 1908 (here), and, in 1911, an edition of Shelley’s poetry (Volume 2 here).

In October 1910 he made a rare appearance at the chessboard, taking part in one of a series of consultation games between the veterans Blackburne and Gunsberg. His team was unsuccessful, but the game was exciting.

By the 1911 census the family were in the Hertfordshire market town of Berkhamsted, now employing only two servants, a Swiss cook and a parlourmaid. Charles’s occupation was given as Editor and Handicapper.

In 1912 he celebrated his 50th birthday by writing his first chess book, which, unfortunately, doesn’t appear to be available online.

Hampshire Post and Southsea Observer 13 September 1912

By 1915, Charles Dealtry Locock, returned to playing chess, having joined the Imperial Chess Club, here giving a simultaneous display.

West Sussex County Times 01 May 1915

Here’s his loss against solicitor George Bodman, formerly of Bexhill, whom he may well have known from his time in Sussex chess.

It’s possible his marriage had broken up by this time, and he was living in London. Either way, the social atmosphere of the Imperial (about which there’s much to be researched and written) would have been ideal for Locock, who loved chess while not enjoying the pressures of competition.

Linlithgowshire Gazette 16 July 1915

Locock continued at the Imperial for the rest of the decade, and, in 1920, returned to correspondence chess, playing on top board for Kent against an Italian magazine, and scoring the full point when his opponent went wrong in a bishop ending.

In the 1921 census, Charles Dealtry Locock, claiming to be still married, was visiting a widow named Rose Edith Heath in 4 Ferry Road, Barnes. (I got off the bus about 100 metres from there the other day: perhaps I should have walked in the other direction to say hello.) I don’t know whether he was just visiting a friend, or whether there was anything else to their relationship. Ida and Elsa, working for the Red Cross as a shorthand typist, were living in Redcliffe Square, just south of Earl’s Court. Brynhild was in Scarborough, a trained nurse but working as a servant for a young doctor, perhaps helping to care for his infant son. I’d like to think she bought her groceries from Edward Wallis, whose shop was only a short walk away.

By this time, Locock was very much engaged in translating Swedish poetry and plays, particularly those of Strindberg, into English (for which he was awarded a silver medal in 1928), and resigned from his post at the Imperial Chess Club in 1923. He was still actively involved in the world of chess composition, though, publishing another collection of problems and puzzles in 1926.

You might think that, approaching his seventies, it was time to wind down his chess career, but in fact he had a few more moves to make.

In 1930 he published a booklet entitled 100 Chess Maxims (for Beginners and Moderate Players). Perhaps I’ll review this further another time. For the moment I’ll just say that, while it contains much excellent advice, some of the maxims are decidedly odd.

No. 4, for instance (translated into algebraic by Carsten Hansen) advises you not to play your c1-bishop to f4. Devotees of the London System won’t be happy.

Then there’s:

37. The object of the game is to mate, and as quickly as possible. Captures are only made to deprive the king of his defenses.

Perhaps I’m wrong, but I always thought the object of the game was to mate as certainly as possible. If you look back to some of his games in the first article of my Locock trilogy, you’ll see some examples of him playing in exactly this way 40 years or so earlier.

This book might, in part, have been occasioned by Locock’s new career – as a chess teacher in schools, specifically girls’ schools, and specifically the Oratory Central Girls School in Chelsea. He even wrote an article about Chess for Girls for the first issue of the Social Chess Quarterly.

Hastings and St Leonards Observer 18 April 1931

This seems to have been a rival tournament to the British Girls Championship, with which Locock was also involved, which had taken place a few months previously, with the same winner. See BritBase (here) for further information on this event.

Here’s Honor having just won the earlier tournament.

The Sphere 10 January 1931

The school prizegiving that year even included a chess play.

Chelsea News and General Advertiser 20 November 1931

By 1935 one of his very young private pupils was doing rather well.

Falkirk Herald 22 May 1935

She was Elaine, not Eileen, and her family were living on the prestigious St Margaret’s Estate, on the borders of Twickenham and Isleworth.

Elaine Zelie Pritchard, née Saunders (07-01-1926, 07-01-2012)

That July she was successful again in a rather unusual event organised by her chess teacher.

Linlithgowshire Gazette 02 August 1935

Almost half a century later, Elaine wrote (British Chess  Pergamon Press 1983):

My father, assisted by a 2d. (= almost 1p) book of rules from Smiths, taught me the moves at somewhere round the age of five. We were rescued by the problemist CD Locock who noticed me playing in a girls’ tournament two years later. It was he who brought me up on a diet of the Scotch, the Evans and any gambit that was going. We analysed them in some depth – for those days – and my severe task-master made me copy out long columns of dubious lines. He also made me his guinea-pig for his Imagination in Chess and it is small wonder that I still find it hard to resist a sacrifice, and much of my undoing comes from premature sorties such as f4 and Qh5.

In retrospect he must have been a brilliant teacher. Starting in 1936 a succession of girls’ titles came my way including the FIDE under-21, and in 1939 the British Ladies at the age of 13. It is hard to assess how strong or weak one was at the time because there has been such a marked improvement in the standard of play among women over recent years. At all events, those pre-war years were happy ones, especially away from chess which took second place to horses and more physical pastimes.

(See here for more on Elaine.)

Yes, we have another book, Imagination in Chess, published in 1937.

From the author’s introduction:

Based on my own chess teaching experience I have partial sympathy with Locock’s views. I noticed at Richmond Junior Club that children learnt the Two Rooks Checkmate early on, and, if they were winning, would head for that mate, spurning quicker mates in the process. On the other hand, most checkmates don’t require sacrifices, apart from a few stock patterns which need to be remembered, just accurate calculation. While we all like to play brilliant combinations, my view is that, at club level, more games are lost by unsound sacrifices than won by sound sacrifices. Over-emphasising sacrifices to young and inexperienced players can be dangerous.

We have 60 positions, in each of which (with one exception) you can play a problem-like sacrifice to force mate. A halfway house, if you will, between problems and game positions.

A couple of examples:

This is a mate in 3: you’ll want to sacrifice your knight, and then your queen.

Here, you have to mate in 4 moves, being careful to play your sacrifices in the right order: knight, then queen, then the other knight.

If you’d like to see more you’ll be delighted to know that this book has very recently been updated, edited and published by Carsten Hansen, with 100 Chess Maxims added as a bonus. You can buy it here.

Locock also played training games with Elaine, one of which survives.

By the time of the 1939 Register, and with war imminent, the Saunders family had taken the precaution of moving out of London, and were staying in the George & Dragon Hotel in Princes Risborough – and Charles Dealtry Locock (Author, retired) was staying with them. It’s not clear how long they stayed there, and whether or not Locock was only visiting.

When he was writing about synthetic games in 1944, one of his correspondents and collaborators was a young RAF pilot named David Brine Pritchard. I’d like to think they met and perhaps played each other, if only because it would give me a Locock number of 2 (I played David, but not Elaine). I’d also like to think he introduced David to Elaine, as they married in 1952. Their daughter, Wanda, was also a strong chess player.

Charles Dealtry Locock died in Putney on 13 May 1946. Here’s his probate record.

I haven’t been able to identify Nina Agnes Wood for certain: the only likely candidate is a journalist named Agnes Nina Wood (1871-1950). I wouldn’t want to speculate.

His wife lived on until the age of 94, dying in 1962 at the same address and leaving £63975 11s: were they reconciled at the end of their lives?

There, in three parts, you have the long and eventful chess career of Charles Dealtry Locock. In the first part we looked at his competitive chess career in the 1880s and 1890s, winning the British Amateur Championship and representing his country. The second part considered his career of more than sixty years as a creative and innovative problemist. But perhaps it’s for his final act, as a pioneer in promoting chess in schools, and, particularly chess for girls, that he should be most remembered. Elaine (Saunders) Pritchard’s memoir confirms that he was a brilliant teacher.  More than that, he also pioneered the idea of solving composed positions to teach creativity and imagination. Many chess teachers today encourage their students to solve studies and problems for this reason, but Locock got there first. He should always be an inspiration to all of us involved in junior chess.

Come back soon for the story of another chess prodigy.

Sources and Acknowledgements:

Many thanks to Carsten Hansen for sending me a copy of his new edition of Locock’s Imagination in Chess + 100 Chess Maxims.

Many thanks also to Brian Denman for sending me his file of Locock’s games.

Other sources: Newspaper Library
Internet Archive
ChessBase 17/Stockfish 16.1





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Seasons and Birthday Greetings to WIM Rita Atkins (25-xii-1969)

BCN wishes Happy Birthday (and seasonal greetings) to WIM Rita Atkins (25-xii-1969)

Rita Zimmersmann was born on Thursday, December 25th 1969 in Hungary.

She became a Women’s International Master in 1992.

Her peak FIDE rating according to Felice was 2225 in January 1998 aged 29, however according to MegaBase 2020 her peak rating was 2280 in July 1992 aged 23.

Rita has played for the Cambridgeshire CCA and 4NCL Blackthorne Russia.

Rita’s first recorded game in Megabase 2020 was runner-up the 5th Schoeneck Under-18 Girl’s Open with 5.5/7.

In 1990 she was =runner-up with 6/9 in the Aarhus Women’s tournament.

She was =1st in the Budapest Women’s IM tournament securing a norm.

Crosstable for the 1991 Budapest IM Women's tournament
Crosstable for the 1991 Budapest IM Women’s tournament

In 1992 she became Hungarian Women’s champion with 8/11 :

Crosstable for 1992 Hungarian Women's Championship
Crosstable for 1992 Hungarian Women’s Championship

With the white pieces Rita both 1.e4 and 1.d4 playing open Sicilians, the Trompowsky Attack and the Accelerated London System.

As the second player she plays the Sicilian Four Knights, the Modern Benoni and recently, the Czech System.

WIM Rita Atkins, Courtesy of John Upham Photography
WIM Rita Atkins, Courtesy of John Upham Photography

In 1997 Rita relocated to England and played in her first 4NCL weekend for Slough. She married IM Michael Hennigan and settled in London.

By 2014 Rita had transferred to Blackthorne in the Four Nations Chess League and had become Rita Atkins.

In the last few years Rita has become active in the field of chess education and has combined her interests of mathematics and chess especially in the teaching of children. She has presented at various London Chess Conferences and works with John Foley within ChessPlus.

WIM Rita Atkins at the 2016 London Chess Conference : The Didactics of Chess, Courtesy of John Upham Photography.
WIM Rita Atkins at the 2016 London Chess Conference : The Didactics of Chess, Courtesy of John Upham Photography.

On December 24th 2023 an interview with ChessBase News was published entitled

“Rita Atkins: “Gender stereotypes are changing, but they are changing slowly”

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Remembering Theophilus Willcocks (19-iv-1912 14-iv-2014)

Remembering Theophilus Harding Willcocks (19-iv-1912 14-iv-2014)

An innovator in both mathematics and fairy chess.

Here is a short article from

A short mention by Michael McDowell

Willcocks, Theophilus Harding
Die Schwalbe, 1967

What was Black’s previous move?

Here is an excellent article on

An article from

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Best Wishes GM Dr. Jonathan Mestel (13-iii-1957)

Best wishes to GM Dr. Jonathan Mestel on his birthday

Early Years

A(ndrew) Jonathan Mestel was born in Cambridge on Wednesday, March 13th 1957. On this day the Presidential Palace in Havana was attacked with the object of killing Fulgencio Batista, the incumbent President.

Jonathan’s parents were Leon and Sylvia Louise Mestel (née Cole) who were married in 1951. Leon was a world-class astronomer and astrophysicist whose PhD supervisor was Fred Hoyle. Jonathan has a brother Ben and sisters Rosie and Leo.

Growing Up

Living in Cambridge he attended Newnham Croft Primary School and at the age six was taught chess by his father Leon. By the age of seven Jonathan was matching his father and not long afterwards he was beating him consistently. East Cheshire Chess Club was his first club and therefore the opportunity to play adults other than his father.

MGS and Beards

The Mestel family moved to Manchester in around 1967 and Jonathan attended Manchester Grammar School along with chess players Emmanuel Rayner and Ian Watson. Famously he grew a substantial beard and moustache and apparently “they (MGS) disapproved of it” resulting in a ban until the beard was removed. Jonathan duly obliged and returned to school but was sent home once more since he had retained the moustache: “They did not mention the moustache!” we are told. A further ban was resolved when the offending item was also removed.


Jonathan obtained a PhD in mathematics from Trinity College, Cambridge and the associated thesis was entitled “Magnetic Levitation of Liquid Metals”.

Jonathan is Professor of Applied Mathematics at Imperial College London. As well as teaching, his research interests include magnetohydrodynamics and biological fluid dynamics.


In the third quarter of 1982 Jonathan married Anna O’Donovan in Cambridge and they soon settled in the central Cambridge area where they remain to this day. They have a son, David. Sadly, it was reported in The Problemist that Anna passed had away on December 26th, 2022.


Jonathan has represented England at bridge joining a group of English players such as Peter Lee and John Cox who also represented their country at bridge. Paul Littlewood, Paul Lamford and Natasha Regan are amongst many others who have combined bridge and chess to a high level . Here is Jonathan’s English Bridge Union page. He remains highly ranked in the bridge world to this day.

Jonathan noted:

I should mention that all my hair fell out for no obvious nor serious reason – neither my bidding nor partner’s dummies are responsible. Few would argue with that last statement.

Serious Chess & Prize Money

His earliest recorded appearance in chess databases is from the Rhyl based British Under-14 championship in 1969 where he beat DA Winter. The eventual winner of that event was  Jonathan Speelman. Jonathan M. recounts that he shared 3rd place with two others and that the prize allotted to the three of them was a whopping £2 10s to be divided equally. This amounted to 16s 8p each. Since the entry fee was 15s it meant he had cleared a notable profit of 1s and 8 pence!

The following year all British Championships competitors were sent to Coventry and Jonathan and Jonathan shared the Under-16 title whilst Bob Wade won the main event with 8/11.

1971 was no less successful and Jonathan travelled to the location of England’s Eiffel Tower (Blackpool) returning home with the British Under-18 title. Jonathan mentioned that he should have entered the Under-21 event instead.

Jonathan Mestel during the 1972-73 Hastings Premier. Source : BCM, page 56.
Jonathan Mestel during the 1972-73 Hastings Premier. Source : BCM, 1973, page 56.

First British Championship

Brighton 1972 was Jonathan’s first appearance in the “main event” having  broken the record for the youngest qualifier. This record was later broken by Richard Webb and then by Nigel Short. His final score was a creditable 6.5/11 giving him =5th overall aged 15 years and seven months. In 1972 this was an incredible achievement. Regrettably, these days achievements such as this appear to pass unreported.

At Eastbourne 1973 he was =7th with possibly the best hair cut of anyone:

English chess player and mathematician Jonathan Mestel during the British Chess Championships at Eastbourne, East Sussex, UK, 14th August 1973. (Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
English chess player and mathematician Jonathan Mestel during the British Chess Championships at Eastbourne, East Sussex, UK, 14th August 1973. (Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

International Events

1974 was a breakthrough year internationally as Jonathan won the (unofficial) World Cadet Championship in Pont Sainte Maxence in southern France. The following year IM David Goodman followed up by winning the same title.

Partial Crosstable for the 1974 (unofficial) World Cadet Championship.
Partial Crosstable for the 1974 (unofficial) World Cadet Championship.

Interestingly travel arrangements for the above event were not so smooth as was the crossing of the English Channel. The hovercraft broke down; Jonathan arrived much later than anticipated and unable to find civilised accommodation leading to an Orwellian style “Down and Out in Paris” sleeping arrangement in a Paris gutter.

At Clacton 1974 Jonathan was one of seven who finished on 7/11, the title going to George Botterill after an all-play-all play-off in Wales.

1975 started well with a bronze medal in Tjentiste (former Yugoslavia now Bosnia Herzegovina) for the World Junior Championship (happening at the same as the British in Morecambe preventing a 1975 British Championship appearance).

Partial Crosstable for the 1975 World Junior Championship in Tjentiste
Partial Crosstable for the 1975 World Junior Championship in Tjentiste

First IM Norm

1976 brought further success at Portland School, Edgbaston with a first place scoring 8/10 and an IM norm in the Birmingham International tournament:

Full Crosstable for the 1976 Birmingham International
Full Crosstable for the 1976 Birmingham International

and here is a sparkling game from the 1976 Robert Silk Fellowship Tournament:

British Champion

Jonathan followed this at the Portsmouth 1976 British Championships with a splendid outright first place with 9.5/11 , the highest score since Malik Mir Sultan Khan in 1933. Also, nine consecutive wins from the starting gun  was most definitely a record!

British chess player and mathematician Jonathan Mestel, August 1976. (Photo by Fresco/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
British chess player and mathematician Jonathan Mestel, August 1976. (Photo by Fresco/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Leonard Barden assessed Mestel’s performance this in the Guardian:

“Jonathan Mestel’s reaction at Portsmouth to become British Champion at age 19, the youngest ever, and with a record series of nine wins, was characteristically low-key. He declined an interview with BBC’s World at One in favour of a continued sojourn on the beach, declined an invitation to the Chorley Congress (where the inducements for him to play were rumoured to include a chauffeured Rolls-Royce from station to town hall, and where the points might well have enabled him to overhaul the leader in the £1,000 Cutty Sark Grand Prix) in favour of a holiday in France, and even ‘declined’ the chance of a record total in the final round when he gifted a pawn in the opening to Whiteley in simple fashion”

Barden went on to praise Mestel as, along with Miles, one of the two young players ‘with genuine promise of ultimately reaching the world super-class.’

1977 led to the International Master title and in 1982 the Grandmaster title. In reality, the GM title should  have been awarded two years earlier from Esberg 1979 but more on this FIDE blunder later.

In the 1979 Dataday Chess Diary Harry Golombek OBE wrote this:

“I wrote in last years diary that I doubted whether Jonathan would ever change his variability, adding ‘Probably there will always recur this rise to the heights and fall to lower levels.’

To some extent this is still true. But his play in 1977 and 1978 has shown a greater firmness of purpose and revealed more powers of endurance and stamina than I had realised he possessed earlier on. Thus, for instance, in the last round of the European Team Championship finals at Moscow in 1977, playing the black pieces against the West German master Kestler, he was the last to finish and he defeated his opponent after nearly 12 hours play and some 105 moves.

At the Praxis British Zonal in February 1987 here at the roman baths. Murray Chandler, Jonathan Speelman, and Jonathan Mestel
At the Praxis British Zonal in February 1987 here at the roman baths. Murray Chandler, Jonathan Speelman, and Jonathan Mestel

He is one of our players who is nearing the grandmaster title, both in play and, as it were, in figures. At the Lord John Cup Tournament in London, September 1977, he obtained the g.m. norm by coming equal 2nd with Quinteros and Stean below Hort. He did this with a score of 6 when 5.5 would have been sufficient for the norm.

Full crosstable from the Lord John Cup 1977
Full crosstable from the Lord John Cup 1977

To my mind he is the ideal tournament competitor since he can always be relied upon to delight the onlooker with some fresh and original piece of chess. It is this talent which makes me think there is practically no limit to the heights he may attain as a player.

England plays Italy at Haifa 1976. Miles played Tatai, Keene played Toth, Hartston played Grinza and Mestel played Micheli
England plays Italy at Haifa 1976. Miles played Tatai, Keene played Toth, Hartston played Grinza and Mestel played Micheli

In the following game, played at the European Team Championships at Moscow 1977, Mestel gives signs of a new and mature sureness of purpose, whilst retaining all his incisive and ambitious qualities.

Beating the Russians

In 1978 Jonathan was part of the English team of Mestel, Speelman Taulbut, Goodman and Jonathan Kinlay that travelled to Mexico and won  the World Under-26 Student Team Championships. This was a huge achievement as beating the USSR in a chess team event simply did not happen. It is not clear even that the Russian team were all bona fide students: some looking decidedly unstudent like!

(from l-r) Jonathan Kinlay, Shaun Taulbut, Jonathan Speelman, David Goodman and Jonathan Mestel accepting 1st prize at the 1978 World U26 Student Olympiad in Mexico City
(from l-r) Jonathan Kinlay, Shaun Taulbut, Jonathan Speelman, David Goodman and Jonathan Mestel accepting 1st prize at the 1978 World U26 Student Olympiad in Mexico City

The splendid Aztec calendar trophy you can see Jonathan clutching above was taken back to England and generously donated to Bob Wade who, in turn, wrote in his will that it should be returned to Jonathan. To this day this wonderful trophy proudly lives with Jonathan and Anna in their house in Cambridge.

When is a Norm not a Norm?

From British Chess (Pergamon Press, 1983), Botterill, Levy, Rice and Richardson we have this appreciation by George Botterill:

“The tournament at Esbjerg in 1979 was a bitter-sweet experience for Mestel. He won many fine games on the way to sharing first place with the hefty score of 9.5 out of 13.

Full Crosstable for 4th (1979) Esbjerg North Sea Cup
Full Crosstable for 4th (1979) Esbjerg North Sea Cup

But the real prize for which he was competing was the final norm that would have completed his qualification for the title of grandmaster. In the last round a draw would have been sufficient, but it was not day for peaceful negotiation since his adversary was also his nearest rival, Vadasz, who needed to win in order to tie for first place.

The nervous strain of having two aims in sight, first place and the coveted norm, told on Mestel who played rather beneath himself to lose. It was some consolation that the following victory over Finland’s leading player was hailed as the best game of the tournament.”

If the previous game gives you the idea that Mestel is especially skilled in the handling of an attacking phalanx of pawns, just take a look at this contribution to England’s bronze-medal result in the 1980 European Team Championship.

It is nice to be able to conclude that since the above was written Mestel’s chess status has changed and the story of his near miss at Esbjerg in 1979 turns out to have a happy ending. His GM title was ratified by the FIDE Congress at Lucerne 1982*.”

*It transpired that the initial norm calculation in 1979 was incorrect and it should have been awarded after all. Better late than never!

Quite a good day!

Jonathan recounts that on St. George’s Day (April 23rd) 1982 he had an important interview in the morning in Cambridge which went very well followed by round eight of the Phillips and Drew Masters at the GLC in London against Lajos Portisch. Here is that game:

So quite a good day all in all!

From The Oxford Companion to Chess (OUP,  second edition, 1996) by Hooper & Whyld:

“English player, British Champion 1976, 1983 and 1988, World Under-18 Champion 1974, International] Grandmaster (1982). In the 1976 British Championship he made a record by winning 9 successive games. Mestel’s opportunities for master play are infrequent – he is a lecturer at a University; he scored perhaps his best at London 1977 when he was second ( +4=4—1) equal with Quinteros and Stean after Hort, and he has played several times in the English Olympiad team since 1976. Mestel also an outstanding solver of chess problems, has represented his country in world team solving championships, and was awarded the title of International Solving Master in 1986”

Jonathan Mestel flanked by John Nunn and Ray Keene
Jonathan Mestel flanked by John Nunn and Ray Keene

From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977), Harry Golombek wrote :

“British Master and British Champion 1976, who was born in Cambridge and packed into the three years 1974-6, in the period of time when he grew from seventeen to nineteen, more chess and more success than most people achieve in a long lifetime.

He first made his presence felt in the international field when he won the cadet championship at Pont Sainte–Maxene in France in 1974. This was an unofficial world under-18 championship and he confirmed this good impression by very nearly winning the British Championship in Clacton in the same year. He figured in a seven-way tie for first place but failed to win the play-off for the title.

Jonathan Mestel
Jonathan Mestel

The next he gained his first international master norm at the Birmingham international tournament where he finished equal second with Matera (USA) and Miles (England), a point below Matulovic of Yugoslavia whom he beat in their individual game.

He was little disappointing in the World Junior Championship at Tjentiste in Yugoslavia in 1975 in which he came third below the Russian Chekov and the US player Larry Christiansen. It was thought that, talented though he was, Mestel lacked stability and was too variable in his form to achieve the highest honours.

But the next year, 1976, was to show that was quite a false appreciation of his talents and character. First in April he won and international tournament which, if not as strong a the previous Birmingham, was still touch event to win ahead of the Yugoslav Grandmaster Damjanovic.

Jonathan Mestel
Jonathan Mestel

Then came a most remarkable achievement in the British Championship at Portsmouth where he won his first nine games in succession thereby winning the title and establishing a record for the British Championship with his run of victories.”

A. Howard Williams, Martyn J. Corden, Paul E. Littlewood and A. Jonathan Mestel
A. Howard Williams, Martyn J. Corden, Paul E. Littlewood and A. Jonathan Mestel

Mestel has his own named variation in the Giuoco Piano first played in Mestel-Doyle, Dublin 1975:

Olympiads and Team Events

According to Wikipedia : “Between 1976 and 1988, he was a frequent member of the English Chess Olympiad squad, winning three team medals (two silver and one bronze). In 1984, he earned an individual gold medal for an outstanding (7/9, 78%) performance on his board. Other notable results for English teams occurred in 1978 at the World Student Olympiad in Mexico and at the 1983 European Team Chess Championship in Plovdiv. Both of these events yielded gold-medal winning performances, the latter being exceptional for the highest percentage score (6/7, 85%) on any board. As a player of league chess, he has been a patron of the 4NCL since its earliest days and represented The Gambit ADs in the 2008/9 season.” Jonathan revealed that his most pleasing OTB performance ever was that of Plovdiv.

Solving and Composition

Jonathan has maintained a long time interest in problems and studies, both solving them and composing them.  In 1986 he was awarded the International Master title for solving and in 1997 the International Grandmaster title for solving and in the same year he won the World Chess Solving Championship.

Jonathan Mestel at the 2014 Winton Capital British Solving Championships at Eton College, Courtesy of John Upham Photography
Jonathan Mestel at the 2014 Winton Capital British Solving Championships at Eton College, Courtesy of John Upham Photography

He has represented England in the World Team Solving Championships on many occasions winning in 1986, 1990 (shared with USSR), and then a run of 2005, 2006 and 2007.

The successful 2010 England team in the World Solving Championships of David Friedgood, John Nunn, Jonathan Mestel and Colin McNab
The successful 2010 England team in the World Solving Championships of David Friedgood, John Nunn, Jonathan Mestel and Colin McNab

He has played many times in the Lloyds Bank and (now) Winton Capital sponsored British Solving Championships (quite often located at Eton College, Berkshire). He has won the individual title firstly in 1982-83 and then a further 17 times not to mention many times as runner-up.

Winners of the Lloyds Bank 1987-8 British Solving Championships: (l-r) David Friedgood (runner-up), Sir Jeremy Morse, Jonathan Mestel (winner) and Jonathan Lennox (third-place)
Winners of the Lloyds Bank 1987-8 British Solving Championships: (l-r) David Friedgood (runner-up), Sir Jeremy Morse, Jonathan Mestel (winner) and Jonathan Lennox (third-place)

Here are a few examples:

Firstly a prize winning study…

J. Mestel
1.p Niekarker Kruujebitter Ty (tt), 2006

[FEN “8/4pP1k/5q1p/4p3/ppQpP3/3K1pp1/2P5/6R1 w – – 0 1”]

White to Play
and Draw


1.Qe6! [1.Qc8? Qxf7] 1…Qxe6 2.f8Q [2.f8N+? Kh8! (2…Kg8? 3.Nxe6 g2 4.Nxd4 exd4 5.Kxd4) 3.Nxe6 g2] 2…f2 [2…Qa6+ 3.Kd2 Qe2+ 4.Kc1 Qe3+ 5.Kb2] 3.Rxg3 f1Q+ [3…Qa6+ 4.Kd2 f1N+ 5.Kc1 Nxg3 6.Qf7+] 4.Qxf1 Qa6+ 5.c4! bxc3+ [5…dxc3+ 6.Ke3! (6.Kc2? b3+!) 6…Qxf1 7.Rg7+ Kh8 8.Rg8+ Kh7 9.Rg7+ Kxg7] 6.Kc2 Qxf1 7.Rg7+ Kh8 8.Rg8+ Kh7 9.Rg7+ Kxg7 ½-½

and another study:

and another:



and now a problem:

Jonathan Mestel
British Chess Magazine, 2007

#3, 7+6

GM Jonathan Mestel at the 2016 Winton Capital British Solving Championships at Eton College, Courtesy of John Upham Photography
GM Jonathan Mestel at the 2016 Winton Capital British Solving Championships at Eton College, Courtesy of John Upham Photography

Here is his staff page from Imperial College, London

and his personal page may be found here

A.J.Mestel. Not Your Ordinary Grandmaster. by Neil Blackburn (aka Simaginfan).

Here is his Wikipedia entry

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