Category Archives: Organiser

Minor Pieces 73: Alexander Spink Beaumont

The Surrey County Chess Association runs a bewildering number of competitions of various types, one reason being that they’ve chosen to commemorate some of their long-serving administrators through trophies in their memory.

The main league itself currently has five divisions. The first division is the Surrey Trophy, which dates all the way back to the 1883-84 season, while the second division, the Beaumont Cup, was instigated twelve years later, in the 1895-96 season.

I’m sure you’d like to know, as I did, more about Mr Beaumont. Well, he wasn’t Mr Beaumont at all, but Captain Alexander Spink Beaumont, Alex to his friends. It’s a long story.

He was born in Manchester on 24 June 1843 into a family with military connections. Beaumont was in fact his paternal grandmother’s surname but his father used his mother’s surname.  Spink was the surname of his Aunt Charlotte’s husband.

He served in the 23rd Foot Regiment of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, reaching the rank of Captain in 1871, when the census found him at Fort Hubberstone in Pembrokeshire. Perhaps it was there that he met Caroline Savage (née Griffies-Williams), a widow more than 20 years older than him, who came from a family of wealthy Welsh landowners, one of whose properties was in Tenby, not all that far from Milford Haven. She was born in 1822 but often claimed to be much younger.

The following year Alex and Caroline married in London, both giving an address in Inverness Terrace, north of Hyde Park, which was by now the Beaumont family residence. He then resigned his commission and, round about 1878, they settled at 2 Crescent Road, South Norwood, in South London. This is now Warminster Road, running by the railway line north of Norwood Junction Station. There are a few grand houses at what is now the high numbered end of the road, and I’d guess one of those was their residence.

As a gentleman of independent means, he had plenty of time to pursue his two passions in life: chess and music. He was a composer as well as a player in both fields, but was also a gifted organiser and promoter.  Beaumont wasted little time joining Croydon Chess Club, the first ‘modern’ chess club in Surrey. In 1880 he had a problem published in the local paper. You’ll find the solutions to all the problems at the end of this article.

Problem 1: #3 Croydon Guardian 28 August 1880

The 1881 census found Alex and Caroline living in South Norwood along with his unmarried brother Richard, a Major in the Royal Engineers, four domestic servants, one male and three female, and a nurse.

Later the same year he had some important news.

Croydon Guardian and Surrey County Gazette 19 November 1881

Beaumont was nothing if not ambitious for the new club.

Norwood News 17 December 1881

Zukertort and Blackburne were, according to EdoChess, the second and third strongest players in the world behind the inactive Steinitz at the time. Attracting them to visit a new club in a London suburb was quite a coup. Regular simultaneous displays, both blindfold and sighted, by professional players would become a regular feature of the South Norwood Chess Club.

it wasn’t long before Blackburne visited, and Zukertort was there as well, acting as teller.

Croydon Guardian and Surrey County Gazette 11 February 1882

You’ll also note the name of Leonard Percy Rees, the most influential English chess organiser of his day, involved with the establishment of everything we now know and love, from the Surrey County Chess Association through to FIDE. I really ought to write about him at some point.

During this period he was very active on the composing front. One of his problems even took first prize in a local competition.

Problem 2: #2 1st Prize Croydon Guardian 1882

He was now being published nationally as well as locally.

Problem 3: #3 The Chess Monthly June 1882

This three-mover shouldn’t be too challenging for you.

Problem 4: #3 The Field 19 August 1882

Meanwhile, South Norwood were playing friendly matches against their local rivals from Croydon. There was also talk of an international tournament in London the following year, and Beaumont was the first to make a financial contribution.

By the autumn of 1883 chess in Surrey was moving rapidly towards the thriving county association we see today, thanks to the likes of Joseph Steele, Leonard Rees and Alexander Beaumont, who was elected a vice-president.

Morning Post 17 September 1883

By now the President of the Surrey County Chess Association, the ‘genial and hospitable’ Captain Beaumont’s chess get-togethers were becoming grander by the year, in 1885 attracting about ‘150 gentlemen’.

Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News 12 December 1885

At the same time, along with involvement in the British Chess Club, he was also organising musical events. Here, his two interests were reported in adjacent articles.

Norwood News 09 October 1886

The name of Walter Willson Cobbett, one of his regular musical collaborators, may not be familiar to you, but it certainly is to me.

Although he was not composing so many problems, he was becoming more involved in composing music, and, from 1890 onwards his compositions were being published by Charles Woolhouse in Regent Street.

The Graphic 22 March 1890

Look who else Woolhouse was publishing: our old friend (and my cousin’s father-in-law) W Noel Johnson, whom you might have met here. One online source suggests that Woolhouse was a pseudonym for Beaumont, but that doesn’t appear to be the case: there really was a music publisher of that name.

Percy Victor Sharman, the dedicatee of this work, was a young violinist living in Norwood.

The family doesn’t appear in the 1891 census: it looks like their side of the road might have been missed by mistake.

That year there was good news for South Norwood when they won the Surrey Trophy for the first time. They would go on to win it again in the following three seasons.

Norwood News 12 December 1891

Some of the guests are notable. Captain Lindesay Beaumont was Alex’s younger brother (his older brother Richard had died in 1884). Rudolf Loman was a Dutch chess master and organist. Edward Markwick was a lawyer whom you’ll meet again later in this article.

In December 1893 Beaumont’s portrait appeared in The Chess Monthly.

In January 1894 (or perhaps late December) South Norwood Chess Club ran another of their popular simuls, this time with Richard Teichmann as the guest. He played 18 games, losing one game and drawing two, one of them against Captain Beaumont. This was described in the local press as “a good example of (Beaumont)’s bold and energetic play. (As always, click on any move for a pop-up window.)

His counter-gambit worked well and he missed a simple opportunity to win a piece in the opening.

In 1895 he presented a trophy – yes, the Beaumont Cup – to be competed for by some of the smaller Surrey clubs further out from Central London. My great predecessors at Richmond won it in its second year. Beaumont’s old club, South Norwood, were among the five clubs taking part in the 2023-24 edition.

Captain and Mrs Beaumont were by no means always at home. They spent a lot of time on the continent, partly for health reasons, partly because they enjoyed travelling and partly because they owned property abroad, including an Italian villa.

At various times they visited, as well as Italy, France, Hungary and perhaps Malta. In 1896 the Captain turned up in Nuremberg to watch the international chess tournament there (his friends Blackburne and Teichmann were taking part, but no match for Lasker), and found himself taking part in a concert.

Westminster Gazette 10 August 1896

Adolph Brodsky was one of the leading violinists of his day, giving the first performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. There’s something about his chess career here, but my article about him is no longer available. I don’t think he’d have consented for any pianist who wasn’t extremely proficient to accompany him.

On 30 October 1897 he was back in Surrey, losing to his old friend Leonard Rees in a match between South Norwood and Redhill.

This time he chose a different variation of the Scandinavian Defence, but without success.

In January 1898 Beaumont was abroad again, this time in Florence. He was proud of the conclusion of this game, where his third move forced mate in 4.

He couldn’t have imagined that, a century and a quarter later, we’d have machines in our pockets telling us immediately that 1. Rf7 would have been mate in 5.

In March 1898 the Streatham News started a chess column, and Captain Beaumont provided the first problem.

Problem 5: #2 Streatham News 26 March 1898

A few weeks later he submitted a problem composed by his late brother Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Henry Beaumont Beaumont (yes, there were two Beaumonts). I haven’t been able to find any other problems composed by Richard, or any more information about his chess career. However, I have managed to find his sword, which was auctioned in 2012, here.

Problem 6: #3 Streatham News 7 May 1898

By that autumn there was talk of running another major international tournament in London the following year. Beaumont, of course, was quickly in with a donation and was appointed to the organising committee led by his friend Sir George Newnes. This was the tournament where Francis Lee might have played on the board later acquired by Leonard Grasty.

On 26 November there was a visit from the Ladies’ Chess Club. The ever genial Captain was on hand to host the event.



Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News 03 December 1898

I’d imaging the top two boards were honorary encounters. Lady Thomas was the mother of Sir George. Prussian born coffee merchant Frank Gustavus Naumann, drawing with his wife in interests of marital harmony, would later become the first President of the British Chess Federation, and later still lose his life on the Lusitania.

Here’s the top board encounter: the protagonists had been friends for many years. Black stood little chance after losing material in the opening.

There was more on the music elsewhere.

Streatham News 03 December 1898

Coincidentally, as I write this I’ve just returned from a piano recital at which the Verdi-Liszt Rigoletto paraphrase was also played.

William Yeates Hurlstone is of considerable interest. A composer of exceptional talent, Beaumont supported him financially after the early death of his father, but he sadly died at the age of only 30. Much of his music has been recorded: there’s a YouTube playlist here.

Violinist William J Read would, in 1912, give the first performance of the violin concerto of another tragically short-lived South London composer, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.

On 5th January 1901 Captain Beaumont organised an even bigger chess event at Crystal Palace. This merited a major feature in the following month’s British Chess Magazine (online here).




The 1901 census found him at home with his wife and four servants: a valet, a parlourmaid, a cook and a housemaid. But now his health was starting to fail and his wife was approaching her 80s. He was often unable to attend chess events, either because he was unwell or because he was travelling somewhere with a more agreeable climate. This seems, as we also saw with Francis Joseph Lee, to have been standard medical advice in those days.

A couple of years later a clergyman, Albert William Gibbs, who had been born in 1870, gave up his curacy to move in with them as a companion and carer.

Captain Beaumont had one last gift for British Chess. In 1904 the British Chess Federation was formed, with Frank Naumann as the first President and Leonard Rees as the first Secretary. Naumann presented the trophy for the British Championship itself, while Beaumont donated that for the British Ladies Championship. “A very elegant silver rose bowl on Elizabethan scroll-work, enriched with chess emblems”, made by Messrs Fattorini and Sons of Bradford, the first winner was Miss Kate Belinda Finn, with a commanding score of 10½/11.

Caroline Beaumont died in 1907, and in 1908 the Captain was advised by his doctor to move, as the London clay on which his house was built wasn’t good for his health. He soon found a new residence built on gravel three miles to the east, in Beckenham.

This rather splendid photograph shows his chauffeur Walter Goldsack at the steering wheel with Albert Gibbs in the passenger seat. The identity of the other passenger is unknown. It was posted on a family tree by Mark Beaumont, great great grandson of Alexander’s brother Lindesay. I’m advised by Dr Upham, an expert on the subject, that the car is undoubtedly American, so I guess it would have been quite expensive.

In the 1911 census, Alexander and Albert (described as a ‘visitor’) were living there, along with a cook-housekeeper, a parlourmaid and a housemaid. We’re additionally informed that the house had 14 rooms, including the kitchen but excluding the bathroom.

The following winter he travelled south in search of better weather.

Norwood News 02 March 1912

But that was to be his last journey. He died on 4 September 1913, at the age of 70.

The obituaries were effusive.

Beckenham Journal 06 September 1913

“A man of splendid disposition, a generous friend, and a great lover of animals and children.”

Norwood News 06 September 1913

One of the obituaries published this game as a sample of his play, without, unfortunately, giving any indication of when, where or against whom it was played.

Here’s his probate record.

This is round about £8.3 million today. Probate was granted to his nephew (and closest relation), his companion, to whom he bequeathed £400 plus an annuity of the same amount, and his solicitor.

Captain Alexander Spink Beaumont appears to have been, in every respect, an admirable fellow, much loved and respected by everyone who knew him, either through chess or through music.

It seems only right that his name should still be remembered by Surrey chess players today, more than a century after his death.

And yet, there was another side to him as well.

Let me take you back 40 years, to 11 September 1873. Alexander Spink Beaumont, recently retired from the army and recently married, is living in Norton House, one of his wife’s family properties, in the seaside resort of Tenby, Pembrokeshire. He invites a 14 year old local lad named George Lyons, the son of a boatman working in the coastguard service, to his house, and, if you believe George’s account, invites him upstairs. He asks the boy if he can keep a secret, attempts to perform an act so disgusting that it cannot be mentioned in the press, gives him three shillings and sixpence, and then takes him down to the garden. George, quite correctly and courageously, goes home and tells his mother. His parents summon the authorities and, the following evening, his father returns the money to Captain Beaumont in the presence of a witness. On 3 October the allegation goes before the magistrates. Beaumont’s domestic staff are called as witnesses and deny that anything untoward could possibly have happened. Nevertheless, the magistrates decide there is a case to answer (‘making an assault upon George Lyons, with intent to commit an abominable crime’) and send the captain to trial.

The following February Beaumont appeared before the Pembrokeshire Spring Assizes. The judge considered the evidence improbable and contradictory and instructed the jury to dismiss the case, which they duly did.

Well, I wasn’t there so I don’t know for certain, but young George’s account seems fairly convincing to me. I guess the judge felt that a gentleman couldn’t possibly have committed such an act. Then, as now, if you’re rich or famous you can get away with almost anything. Perhaps it served as a warning to him as there’s no evidence that he ever did anything of that nature again.

Let’s now move forward a few years, to 1881, the year in which an ambitious young publisher named George Newnes started a general interest weekly magazine called Tit-Bits. The magazine proved highly successful,  Newnes, a chess enthusiast, made a lot of money and went on to sponsor, amongst much else, the Anglo-American Cable Matches.

A few years later, a young journalist named Alfred Harmsworth submitted some articles to Newnes for publication, soon deciding that he could make more money by starting his own magazine. In 1888 he started a weekly called Answers, providing answers to a wide range of questions submitted by readers or just made up. A friend of his father, Edward Markwick (yes, you’ve met him earlier in this article), joined the venture, and he persuaded his friend – yes, Alexander Spink Beaumont, to provide financial support. Adrian Addison’s gossipy history of the Daily Mail, Mail Men, suggests that some thought Beaumont may have had ‘an unrequited homosexual motive in getting behind the pretty young journalist’.

At first, the Beaumonts and Harmsworth were the best of friends, but in 1891 a bitter argument between them ensued and eventually they sold their shares in his company. There’s much in Reginald Pound’s biography Northcliffe, which can be read online (although the OCR is poor) here. Caroline, who seems to have been the dominant partner, is described as ‘charmingly uncommon’. Meanwhile, in 1896 Alfred Harmsworth and his brother Harold launched the Daily Mail, becoming, as a result, rich and famous.

Years later, in 1905, the year of the establishment of Associated Newspapers, the case flared up again.

Cheltenham Chronicle 14 October 1905

It looks as if the Beaumonts, jealous of the success of the Daily Mail, were trying to get half a million pounds (about 76 million today) back from the shares they sold 14 years earlier. Harmsworth put in a counter suit accusing the papers who published this report of libel, and the whole affair was quietly dropped. Very strange.

What, then, should we make of Captain Alexander Spink Beaumont? it seems to me highly likely that he was gay at a time when same-sex relationships were illegal. Should we feel sorry for him, or, looking at the allegations of George Lyons, revile him? Or perhaps we should just remember his services to the game of chess, as a player and problemist, but most of all as an administrator, promotor and populariser of his – and our – favourite game.

One final thing, there’s a thread on a military badges forum here from a collector who has miniature portrait lockets, acquired separately, of Alexander and his older brother Richard. A rather wonderful thing to have.

He’s not the only Alexander to have given his name to a Surrey chess trophy, but that’s something for another time. I have other stories to tell first. Join me again soon for another Minor Piece.

Sources and Acknowedgements:

ancestry.co.uk
findmypast.co.uk/British Newspaper Library
Wikipedia
Yet Another Chess Problem Database
MESON problem database (Brian Stephenson)
Internet Archive (archive.org)
chessgames.com
Movers and Takers, and various blog posts by Martin Smith
EdoChess (Rod Edwards)
Surrey County Chess Association website
Other online sources linked to in the text

 

Problem solutions (click on any move to play them through):

Problem 1:

Problem 2:

Problem 3:

Problem 4:

Problem 5:

Problem 6:

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Richmond Junior Chess Club 1975-2006: Part 5

I left you last time as the calendar ticked over to replace the 1 with a 2. January 1 2000. A new century.

The year 2000 was one with an international focus for Richmond Junior Chess Club. In January, we hosted a team of five young players from South Korea. They came over with our friend Jinwoo Song, a regular competitor in our rapidplay tournaments, who was now coaching in his home country. We ran a four-way team tournament, with six players in each team. Jinwoo played on top board for the Korean Krushers against the Richmond Raiders, the Richmond Rebels and the Richmond Renegades. They also played a match against Sheen Mount Primary School.

In July we had a visit from a Czech team from Frydek-Mistek, whose players have had a long association (continuing to this day) with English juniors. We ran a rapidplay tournament including some of the South of England’s strongest juniors, followed by a match between our team and theirs.

Here are two games: click on any move for a pop-up window.

But it was clear that the times were changing. Junior chess – and childhood itself – was becoming very different from when I was growing up.

In brief, and I’ll write a lot more about this at another time and (perhaps) in another place, it was changing from a hobby for older children into a learning tool for younger children.  The primary school chess clubs about which I was sceptical provided very little retention. Up to 2000 we were able to feed through the stronger players into our morning group, but at that point some sort of football league for children of primary school age started up in the borough, so we were no longer able to do that to any great extent.

Another thing that had changed was my relationship with the parents on our committee. When I was running the club unpaid I was seen as a friend, and, because I was doing it for free, was respected so much that I received an award from the BCF (as it then was) and it was even proposed that I should be nominated for an award in the Queen’s honours list. Every Christmas I’d receive enough wine and chocolates to last me until Easter. Even now I still exchange cards with a number of the parents from that time every December. But now I was being paid I was just a dispensable employee of the committee, so the gifts stopped. While I had enough money to buy as much wine and chocolates as I wanted throughout the year, for me that wasn’t the point.

I eventually reached the conclusion that I wanted to leave Richmond Junior Club at some point, and, because 30 years seemed like a good length of time to run the club, decided that the 2004-05 season would be my last. This would give the committee time to identify a replacement for me.

As chance would have it, in January 2002 a young man approached me after one of our Richmond Rapidplays offering to help. He appeared friendly and enthusiastic, and, although he wasn’t a very strong player, he was good enough to work with less experienced players. So the committee agreed to invite him along and give him a trial.

Everything went well: he was very popular with most of the children, and most of the parents also liked him. In addition, he seemed to be very much in tune with what we were trying to do. He also had contacts with a lot of strong players, which was very helpful.

After a while the committee appointed him as my deputy, with the intention that he would take over when I retired. CRB checks (as they then were), which had been introduced in 2002, were carried out successfully.

Meanwhile, my views on junior chess, in particular the best ways to teach beginners and promote chess in schools, were changing.

In 2000 I started developing a website, chessKIDS Academy, promoting online chess services for children. I sold the original domain some years ago and am no longer developing or maintaining the site but you can still find it here.

In 2001 a new school, Hampton Court House opened (it’s still there under the same name, but under different ownership and management), taking children of both primary and secondary school age. Its Director of Studies, Guy Holloway, was a keen chess player and wanted to make chess part of the school. I was invited to become involved and we used the school as a venue for a few tournaments. The school was more than happy to accept children who had struggled to fit in mainstream schools, as well as a bunch of eccentric teachers. It was, in many ways, an ideal environment for me, and I soon became a valued member of the school community. Getting to know all the children, not just those who played chess, as well as the parents and the members of staff, not all of whom were interested in chess, taught me to wear a teacher hat rather than a chess hat when thinking about how to promote and organise chess in schools.

By now I was reading extensively about various aspects of childhood: child development, educational theory, parenting, the history of childhood, as well as looking at the history of children’s chess, which again enabled to contextualise my views.

In 2003 I published two articles in CHESS. The first outlined my issues with primary school chess clubs and promoted chessKIDS Academy. The second published the results of an experiment carried out to investigate how children made decisions over the chessboard. I promised more articles, but never wrote them.

In 2004 I started investigating the Steps Method, used extensively in The Netherlands and also in other West European countries, which offered a very different philosophy to that of our after-school chess clubs. Looking also at courses based on methods used in the former Soviet Union, it was clear to me that this must have been an influence. Although I had some reservations about how it would fit in to our system, most of it made a lot of sense to me. I could see exactly why the primary school chess clubs in our area didn’t produce any significant retention.

Everything I was reading confirmed my opinion that promoting mass participation in chess in primary schools, while superficially attractive, was, in the long term, counter-productive.

But my views proved unpopular with parents and teachers, who didn’t want me to stop their children having fun playing low level chess, and with my chess teaching colleagues, who didn’t want me to stop them earning a living.

Over the previous few years there had been a decline in standards (we were doing just as well in competitions against other areas, so this was nationwide) and also in behaviour. While most of our children were genuinely enthusiastic about chess and wanted to be there, we were also attracting children who were less interested, and, consequently, in some cases less well behaved who were being signed up because their parents saw possible extrinsic benefits which might help them academically.

Two of our members from this period are now International Masters. Here’s a game from Yang-Fan Zhou.

Callum Kilpatrick sometimes plays for Richmond in the London League.

In February 2005 the world of Richmond Junior Club was turned upside down when a boy made an allegation of sexual assault against our young deputy director, who vehemently denied that any impropriety had taken place. The boy’s father, quite correctly reported the allegation to the police and social services. As it happened, a few years earlier one of the parents on our committee had been discovered with child pornography on his computer, and social services jumped to the conclusion that RJCC was the front for a paedophile ring. As a (then) middle-aged bachelor who spent a lot of time with young children I felt I was under suspicion myself.

The Crown Prosecution Service decided there was a case to answer, but were forced to drop it because the boy wasn’t prepared to testify in court. Our parental committee (I played no part in their decisions in this case) decided to keep him on but watch him closely, hoping this would give him the opportunity to seek help. Of course there was now no way he could take over my role as club director, so, in the short term, I had to remain in place, although my heart was no longer in it. The allegation against my deputy and potential successor was only one reason.

At the end of April 2006 we were contacted by the organiser of a foreign tournament in which our deputy director was taking part, informing us that he’d been arrested. Telling us the reason would have been a breach of confidentiality, but of course we had our suspicions. We eventually discovered that the reason for his arrest made it impossible for him to continue working with children. When he returned to England he was removed from his post at RJCC, although he continued playing in tournaments, even holding an office within the British Chess Federation until the start of the following year.

Meanwhile, by September 2006, other arrangements had been made, and Richmond Junior Chess Club was now, after 31 years, being run by someone else. What happened then is not my story to tell.

At the end of this five-part, 30+ year saga, I have some final thoughts.

If you know me you’ll know that I’m an extreme introvert, quiet, self-effacing, non-confrontational. I’m not an amazingly strong chess player. I’m not good at addressing an audience or controlling a class of children. Exactly the opposite of the qualities expected of a leader, you might think, but, nevertheless, I ran the strongest junior chess club in the country – and one of the strongest in the world – for many years, with methods, philosophy and governance very different from those used in any other children’s chess club of my knowledge. Yes, I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time, and to meet the right people, most importantly Mike Fox, but I suspect you need something more than just luck.

I’ve always known that without chess I wouldn’t have had a happy and worthwhile life, and that the least I could do in return was to devote my as much of my life as I could to helping children play chess. But, as I didn’t come from a chess background, today’s primary school chess clubs wouldn’t have helped me much, and nor would today’s professionally run clubs have been suitable.

The introduction to chess I had in the 1960s was ideal for me, but now junior chess, at least in my part of the world, was no longer for teachers like me (classroom management skills, which I don’t have, are required), nor, more importantly, for children like me.

I eventually realised that the problem was societal rather than specifically chess related, and that my friends and former colleagues in the junior chess world were meeting demands from parents and schools. But I didn’t think it was doing either chess or children any favours.

There are signs that things might be changing: I’ll have a lot more to say about this another time, and probably in another place. If you’d like to speak to me about the way we used to run our club, feel free to get in touch.

 

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Minor Pieces 66: Reginald Charles Noel-Johnson (2)

We left Reginald Charles Noel-Johnson last time, having just married Jane Ann Richards and joined the RAF on war service.

Before I move on, my thanks to Brian Denman, who has sent me a whole pile of Noel-Johnson’s games. I’ll add a few earlier scores here: as always, click on any move for a pop-up window.

Even in 1924, as an inexperienced 20-year-old, he was capable of playing strong positional chess, being particularly severe here against his opponent’s Dutch Defence, and not being distracted by the magnificent view from the roof of Australia House. William Henry Watts was, apart from being a civil servant, a prominent chess journalist and author.

In this county match game from 1936 he won quickly against his Essex opponent’s rather unsophisticated opening.

In another county match game he took a notable scalp when one of England’s finest amateurs, perhaps in time trouble, lost the plot.

Finally, for the moment, another game against Yeeles, which might, as Brian suggests, have been played in a club match, but also fits in with the 1937 county championship final. He was lucky here, as Yeeles stood better before giving up the exchange for no obvious reason: perhaps again a time trouble blunder.

Returning to his life story, Reginald and Jane had two children, Patricia, born in Chester in 1942, and Christopher (who sadly died in 2010), born in Surrey in 1946. During this period his work for the RAF took him to India, and it was only in 1947 that he was able to resume his chess career.

He wasted no time in picking up where he left off.

Tonbridge Free Press 30 May 1947

His final game was a textbook example of strong positional play, his pressure on his opponent’s backward c-pawn eventually leading to material gain. Click on any move of any game in this article for a pop-up window.

Although he’d been living in central London since at least 1929, he maintained his loyalty to Kent, playing in county matches as well as the county championships.

This game from a match between West/Mid Kent and Metropolitan Kent had a curious conclusion. White thought he had no defence to Black’s threats, but in fact he had a slight advantage.

In 1949 he won the Kent Championship for the eighth time. In this game from the first round  he again demonstrated strong positional play, winning material, but returning it for two far advanced connected passed pawns in the centre.

In this county match game he missed a tactical opportunity, but his more active pieces still made life difficult for his Sussex opponent.

Noel-Johnson also remained loyal to Lewisham. In this National Club Championship game his international opponent blundered, allowing a smart finish.

Facing another international opponent in a London League match, he gave a textbook example of how to play against the Dutch Stonewall, taking advantage of Black’s weak dark squares and undeveloped queen’s bishop to set up a decisive pin.

This game bears testimony to Reginald’s considerable endgame skills.

1951 marked the centenary of the Great Exhibition in London, which included the world’s first international chess tournament, and it was only right that the 1951 Festival of Britain should also include some chess. Reginald Noel-Johnson, by now a respected organiser and populariser of chess as well as a very strong player, was involved, and television cameras were present.

Marylebone Mercury 11 May 1951

In case you’re unfamiliar with some of the personalities involved: David Farrar CEM Joad Eamonn Andrews Sir Ronald Storrs

(Sir Ronald founded the first chess club in Palestine in 1918, hoping to unite Arabs, Jews and Christians stationed in Jerusalem, and to help promote peace and understanding. It didn’t work out: it closed within a year due to tensions between Arabs and Jews.)

In 1951 Noel-Johnson organised a London Transport team who travelled to Hastings Chess Club.

Hastings & St. Leonards Observer 11 August 1951

The home team won 21½-8½, but König and Noel-Johnson, on the top two boards, against Winser and Waterman.

(Chess was a very big thing amongst London Busmen at the time, a story I should perhaps investigate further.)

In October 1952 the National Chess Centre re-opened, just across the road in Oxford Street from the previous centre which had been burnt down during the war. Noel-Johnson was very much involved in its re-establishment. He was also honoured by being appointed President of the Southern Counties Chess Union in 1952-53.

Here’s another game, this one from the 1952 county championship, resulting in a minor piece ending.

This game was played on top board in a county match at the National Chess Centre. It looks like White miscalculated or misjudged the position round about move 20.

The 1953 National Chess Centre Championship gave Reginald another chance to demonstrate his positional mastery.

In 1954 the British Chess Federation published its second (and first full) grading list. Reginald Noel-Johnson was there on 3a (209-216, or about 2300 Elo), along with Alfred Lenton, and several of his other erstwhile opponents. At the age of 50, he seemed to be playing as well as ever.

But at that point he became a lot less active. By the 1955 grading list he’d slipped to 4a (193-200, approaching 2200 Elo).

One reason might have been that he was now becoming active in the musical world as a composer. I’d imagine that his work at Ricordi’s (he’d moved from Chappell’s) involved, on occasion, being commissioned to write incidental music.

Back in 1933 he’d been writing songs in the style of his father, his setting of Weep you no more, sad fountains, an anonymous Elizabethan verse set by everyone from John Dowland to Roger Quilter, being admired for its combination of freshness and charm. “The harmonic scheme in the accompaniment is never dull and the melody has a quiet flow and a beautiful ending, suitable for soprano or tenor”, according to the West Middlesex Gazette (27 May 1933).

Unfortunately, I can’t find a recording of this or any of his other music, but I recently heard Ivor Gurney’s setting in a recital. I rather suspect Noel-Johnson’s setting was closer to that of Quilter.

Judge for yourself here.

In 1952 Noel-Johnson had composed the music for Enid Blyton’s Noddy Song Book, and these were used for a children’s play produced over the Christmas holidays in December 1954. No, I wasn’t in the audience.

It was repeated the following year, when the cast list included ‘Ronald’ Corbett as Mr Whiskers and Jinky, while older children could watch the Famous Five in the evening.

In 1953 an ice pantomime, Sinbad the Sailor (pantomimes on ice were very big in those days) included a ballet based on Morphy’s Opera House Game, with music by Noel-Johnson.

There was a new job for him in 1958, when he was appointed general manager of Ascherberg, Hopwood and Crew.

You might have expected that Reginald’s chess career had come to an end, but in 1974 he unexpectedly turned up playing for King’s Lynn, in Norfolk. He was rapidly appointed match captain, and was involved in a ‘chess happening’ forming part of the King’s Lynn Festival.

Lynn News & Advertiser 30 July 1974

In 1975 he reappeared on the grading list at 190, seemingly having retained his strength into his 70s, despite a 20 year long absence from the board.

He didn’t appear in the next two grading lists, but returned in 1978, now living in Worthing, on the south coast. That year he was down to 181, but by 1982 he was up to 194, and, after a decline the following year, back to 192 in 1984. This would be about 2150 – pretty impressive for someone in his late seventies.

In this game he renewed acquaintance with an old Kent rival, now promoted to the rank of Canon within the Church of England, who left it far too late to develop his queen’s knight.

Here, he faced a Cannon rather than a Canon. John Cannon was a strong Sussex player who, I believe, claimed to hold a record for the number of county matches he played.

Noel-Johnson also started playing in tournaments again, favouring those in Devon, often playing in Paignton and occasionally in Torquay. In 1981, despite a last round defeat, he shared first place in the top section at Paignton.

Birmingham Mail 14 September 1981

In one of the key games from this event he scored the full point against one of the other joint winners, who went wrong on his sealed move.

In 1981 he changed his allegiance from Worthing to Rustington: I wonder if this was under the influence of his old friend Eric Smith. Perhaps it was he who had enticed him to the delights of Sussex in the first place.

In this club championship game from 1981 he switched from his usual 1… e5 to the Sicilian, scoring a quick victory. He clearly knew his opponent well.

Brian Denman tells me that in 1982 Noel-Johnson reached the Sussex final, and, if he had won, he would have been the oldest champion. However, he lost both games against Feliks Kwiatkowski. Here are a few more victories from Brian’s files.

The last game I have is a loss, from 1987.

In the final years of his career his grade, inevitably, fell into decline, last appearing in the grading list on 159 in 1991, at the age of 87.
Reginald never lost his interest in chess, though, as my friend Guy Holloway recollects.
Noel-Johnson’s daughter, Patricia, was the very first school secretary at The Harrodian School. In those days I ran the chess club and, one day (around 1995), 90-year old Reginald came in to play a simultaneous against a large group of ten-year old boys and girls. He was in sparking good form and gave the youngsters their first taste of ‘playing against a champion’.
After the simul, on returning to Worthing, he sent Guy a postcard, written partly in French, reproduced here with Guy’s permissioin.

Reginald Charles Noel-Johnson died on 27 December 2000 at the great age of 96, his death being registered in Windsor and Maidenhead.

Two of his brothers also had interesting stories to tell. Dennis, who, you may recall, changed his surname to Cullum, achieved fame as an athletics coach, specialising in hammer throwing. You can read more about him here.

Reginald’s youngest brother, George Douglas, had been a member of the Territorial Army (Artists’ Rifles) in 1937, but in 1939, with war imminent, joined the RAF, flying Hurricanes in Greece and eventually rising to the rank of Squadron Leader. He retired from the services in 1956.

War often brings people from very different backgrounds together, and so it was with George Douglas Noel Noel-Johnson, who, in Heliopolis in 1945, married a secretary in the WAAF named Catherine Lucy Gunn (she was now spelling her name Katharine Lucille).

Warwick & Warwickshire Advertiser 06 July 1945

They would have three children, Clive, Mark and Sally, and, while her husband died relatively young in 1972, she would live on until 2018, reaching the age of 98. I must show my appreciation here to Clive and Sally for generously sharing so much family information through their online trees.

Her parents had met while working in a mental health hospital, and Catherine, the youngest of four children, lost her father to pneumonia when she was only 2. Her mother, Edith Mary White, was the daughter of a groom, and the granddaughter of an agricultural labourer from near Warwick. Her grandfather, Thomas White, had a cousin, Sarah, who married Robert Padbury. Robert had many granddaughters, one of whom, Florence, was, in 1921, working as a housekeeper to a farmer whose wife was in Hatton Lunatic Asylum. She was no doubt unaware that her third cousin Edith had been working there ten years earlier. Florence had an affair with her employer: their daughter was my mother. This makes Reginald Charles Noel-Johnson, if my tree is correct, the brother-in-law of my 4th cousin once removed. And, you might recall from the first article, he played on two occasions against my father’s kinsman Alfred Lenton.

Noel-Johnson and Lenton, despite their very different backgrounds, had a lot in common. They were both mainly positional players, Noel-Johnson playing in classical style, as opposed to Lenton’s hypermodern approach. Lenton was slightly stronger in the 1930s, playing for England on several occasions, but Noel-Johnson retained much more of his strength into old age. Both took a break in middle age, returning to chess in their retirement, and both remaining active in the chess world into their tenth decade.

We should certainly thank Reginald Charles Noel-Johnson for his services to chess, both as a player and an administrator, over more than 70 years. I believe it’s important for the whole chess community to keep the memory of players such as him alive.

 

Sources & Acknowledgements:

ancestry.co.uk (family trees of Clive Noel-Johnson and Sally (Noel-Johnson) Giddings)
findmypast.co.uk/British Newspaper Library
Wikipedia
BritBase (John Saunders – thanks also for his RCNJ games collection)
ChessBase/Stockfish 16
Brian Denman (thanks for his RCNJ games collection)
Guy Holloway
YouTube

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Minor Pieces 53: James Richmond Cartledge

You might think I’m biased, but I’ve long thought that the most important people in any chess club are not the players, but the organisers. The secretary, treasurer and match captains who ensure everything runs smoothly.

All successful chess clubs have at least one: the loyal member who stays with the club for decades, through good times and bad times, while others come and go. Turning up for almost every match. Taking on any job that nobody else wants to do. One of those was the subject of this Minor Piece, James Richmond Cartledge.

The first ‘modern’ Richmond Chess Club (there were earlier organisations using the same name, but they weren’t involved in over the board competitive chess against other clubs) was founded in 1893, continuing until 1940 when, as a result of the Second World War, most clubs shut down for the duration and beyond. For most of that period, for over 40 years, James was a fixture at Richmond Chess Club, so much so that, when looking for a middle name, he chose the name of his chess club.  Through the reports of the club AGMs in the Richmond Herald, now conveniently available online, we can trace his changing role in the club as well as the club’s changing fortunes. We can also listen into their discussions, sometimes on subjects which are still relevant today, a century or so later.

But first, we should meet his father, Josiah Cartledge, who was one of the club’s founder members.

Richmond Herald 17 November 1893

Josiah was born in Camberwell, South London, in 1836, so he was now 57 years old. He married a cousin, Marian Frances Bruin, in 1858. (She doesn’t seem to be immediately related to Josiah’s fellow committee member Frederick Arthur Bruin.) A year later a son, Arthur, was born, but tragically Marian died, probably either in or as a result of childbirth.

It wasn’t until ten years later that Josiah married again. His second wife was Frances Victoria Wastie, and their marriage would be blessed by three children, William (1870), Adeline Frances (1872) and James (1874). Josiah and Frances were both chess enthusiasts, competing to solve the problem in their newspaper of choice, the Morning Post, with young Arthur sometimes joining in.

Josiah was a legal clerk, a highly responsible job, and, round about 1873, he became Clerk of the Richmond Petty Sessions, moving out from South London. The 1881 census found the family at 5 Townshend Villas, Richmond, and they were still there in 1891, when his job had expanded: he was also Clerk to the Lunatic Asylum. William was helping him out, while 17 year old James, choosing a different career path, was an architect’s pupil.

It was no surprise then, that, when Richmond Chess Club started up in Autumn 1893, Josiah was one of the first through the door, and, given his status in society, he was a natural choice for the committee.

And here he is, from an online family tree.

Young James was now taking a serious interest in chess and it wasn’t long before his father brought him along to join in.

Here they are at the Annual Supper in 1896.

Before you ask, the Mr James there was no relation to me: it would be a few more years before I joined.

(Edwin Peed James (1853-1933) was a solicitor who hit financial problems, and, after being declared bankrupt, became a commercial traveller.)

Horace Lyddon Pring (1870-1938), a solicitor’s clerk working in accounts, was a young man with boundless energy and ambition. He was not only the club secretary,  but treasurer and match captain as well. He reported that the club now had 45 members, 11 of whom were new, but they’d also lost a few. “One or two of the younger members had become mated so effectually – (laughter) – that they could not get out.” They had also moved to a new venue, having “started in a baker’s shop, but that got too hot for them. (Laughter).” Mr Pring also had a sense of humour.

From later in the report:

Richmond Herald 09 May 1896

You’ll see that they’d attracted at least one strong player in Thomas Etheridge Harper.

At the end of the supper, toasts were drunk to the accompaniment of music. Songs (the popular music-hall ditties and parlour ballads of the time) were sung and the Kew Glee Singers contributed a selection of glees. Musical entertainments of this nature would continue to be a feature of Richmond Chess Club’s social events for many years to come.

An extract from the 1898 AGM shows the club making progress in several ways.

Richmond Herald 08 October 1898

They had to move venues when their landlord put the fees up: still a familiar story for many chess clubs today. Nevertheless, the club was now attracting strong players such as our old friends Charles Redway and Guy Fothergill, and had arranged a visit from one of London’s leading players, Thomas Francis Lawrence. His annual simuls would become a club tradition lasting many years.

There were some exciting prizes for the lucky – or skillful – winners: dessert knives, a preserve dish and a matchbox.

Josiah was more of a social player, but James had a lot more ambition. By 1900 he was starting to play in competitions such as the Surrey Trophy, albeit on bottom board.

Richmond Herald 24 November 1900

He had also acquired a middle name (he was just James at birth), possibly to avoid confusion with his father. Did he choose Richmond in honour of his home town, or of his chess club?

Here he is, then, winning his game against Thornton Heath. which, as often happened in those days, took place in central London rather than at either club.. Richmond had won the Beaumont Cup in its second season, 1896-97, but by now were trying their hand against the big boys, successfully in this case. The Surrey Trophy and the Beaumont Cup, then, as now, were Divisions 1 and 2 of the Surrey Chess League. Some things never change.

By 1901 Josiah’s job had moved to Mortlake while James had a new job as Assistant Surveyor for the Urban District of Barnes The family had moved to Milton House near Mortlake Station, probably somewhere on Sheen Lane near the junctions with Milton Road and St Leonard’s Road today: a location which would have also been handier if you were in the business of surveying nearby Barnes. Adeline and James were still at home with their parents, along with a cook and a housemaid.

By 1904 the club was in something of a slump, having lost a number of strong players they had withdrawn from the Surrey competitions and were only playing friendly matches along with their internal competitions. Both Josiah and James were very much involved, even though James had married Gertrude Francis (sic: it was her mother’s maiden name) Griffiths at Christ Church East Sheen the previous year. Sadly, it was to be Josiah’s last year.

Richmond Herald 27 August 1904

If you’re interested in the notorious Kate Webster case, as I’m sure you are, Wikipedia deals with it here.

James and Gertrude went on to have three children, Raymond Francis (1905), Hilary Frances (1907) and Kathleen Vivian, known by her middle name (1911), but his new responsibilities as a husband and father didn’t stop his involvement with Richmond Chess Club. Although he had been mated, Gertrude still let him out.

1904 saw some of the club’s stronger players returning, and they were tempted to re-enter the Surrey Trophy.  The following year’s AGM would announce that their membership had increased from 24 to 44 within the space of two years. James Cartledge must have been improving fast, as he was now playing on a much higher board.

Richmond Herald 19 November 1904

Six adjudications in a 12 board match seems a bit unsatisfactory, but this situation would be common for many decades to come. You might consider any competition not decided on the night rather bizarre, but adjudications still happen occasionally in the Surrey League today.

At the 1909 AGM, James Richmond Cartledge was elected to the post of Treasurer, “it being remarked that that gentleman had served the club in the capacity of match captain and secretary”.

By the 1911 census the family were living in 10 Palewell Park, East Sheen, just off the South Circular Road. Baby Vivian had arrived a few days earlier, but had not yet been given a name. It was a crowded house, with James, Gertrude and their three young children, James’s sister Adeline, working as a day governess for another family, Gertrude’s sisters Helena and Annie, along with a monthly nurse to look after the baby and a domestic servant.

After the 1911 Richmond Chess Club AGM, hilarity ensued when, during the toasts, the Hon Secretary read out some verses composed by an anonymous member, describing some of the club’s members.

Richmond Herald 15 April 1911

A few days later, another verse appeared: it’s not clear whether or not this was written by the same poet.

Richmond Herald 15 April 1911
It makes McGonagall sound good, doesn’t it? Who knew that EJ Thribb was active in Richmond in 1911?

For several years the committee had been discussing the idea of inviting the British Chess Federation to hold their annual championships in Richmond, and that duly came to pass in 1912. Although the event was very successful, there were very few club members taking part. I’ll perhaps look more at the tournament in a future series of Minor Pieces.

One of the musical guests at the Annual Dinner in April 1914 was Leslie Sarony, who performed ‘popular songs of the light comedian type’.  Leslie, only 18 at the time, would have a long and successful career as a variety artist, writer and performer of novelty songs, and actor. He continued working into his 80s, with appearances in programmes such as Z-Cars, Crossroads and Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

Then, in 1914, war broke out. At their AGM the club decided that it was ‘business as usual’, although they had to appoint a new secretary, and their German member, who was fighting for the enemy, was no longer welcome.

Richmond Herald 03 October 1914

There was less opportunity for competitive chess: the Surrey Trophy and Beaumont Cup ran in 1914-15, only the Surrey Trophy was contested in 1915-16, and then the league went into abeyance until the 1919-20 season. Friendly matches continued, though, as in this match between Richmond and their local rivals, which saw Cartledge facing an interesting opponent in Eric Augustus Coad-Pryor.

Richmond Herald 27 November 1915

Although he was now in his 40s, James Richmond Cartledge was still ready to serve his country, and, with his knowledge of engineering, he signed up as a reservist for the Royal Engineers.

The 1917 AGM reported that he had been called up and was in France in the thick of the fighting.

Here he is, on New Years Eve 1919, applying for his Victory Medal.

Back from the war, James returned to his duties at the club with whom he shared a name, now taking the chair at their AGMs.

The 1921 census found him back at 10 Palewell Park, and again working as an Assistant Surveyor and Civil Engineer in the Local Government Service, employed by the Urban District of Barnes. His wife and children were all at home, and they in turn employed a domestic servant.

The 1921 AGM revealed that new clubs had started at Twickenham, Teddington and Barnes. There was also a discussion about how to attract more lady members: it was agreed to offer them a 5 shilling discount on their membership.

Richmond Herald 01 October 1921

If they’d been looking for a new venue, they could have considered the Red Cow Hotel, Sheen Road, Richmond, which, on the same page, was advertising a Large Club Room for hire. Forty years or so later, their offer would be taken up by what was then the Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club.

The following year, the Hon. Secretary, Captain Wilkinson, reported that ‘the club had two lady members. He lent one of them a book on chess and he had neither seen nor heard of her since. He did think, however that chess was a game that women should take up’.

In 1923 the Club Dinner was revived, not having taken place since 1914. The format was very much the same as before, with speeches, prizegivings and  musical entertainment provided by Miss Edythe Florence (contralto), Miss Florence (pianist), Mr. M. J. O’Brien (tenor) and Mr. Len Williams (humorist).

The club’s fortunes waxed and waned over the years, and by 1926, with seemingly little interest in chess in Richmond, and successful new clubs in Barnes and Twickenham proving more attractive for residents of those boroughs, questions were asked about the future.

In 1926 Captain Wilkinson decided to stand down for a younger man.

Richmond Herald 02 October 1926

That younger and more energetic person turned out to be new member Wilfred Hugh Miller Kirk, not exactly a young man himself, but with an outstanding record in chess administration within the Civil Service. By the 1929 AGM, things were looking up. Kirk reported that the club had had their most successful season for several years, winning 12 of their 18 matches. Most importantly, although not mentioned in the newspaper report, a decision had been made to merge with Kew Chess Club. They now became Richmond & Kew Chess Club, acquiring new members, including Ronald George Armstrong, a player of similar strength to Kirk, and a new venue enabling them to resume meeting twice a week: once in Richmond and once in Kew. Having an enthusiastic and efficient club secretary makes a big difference. James Richmond Cartledge would still have been very much involved, his experience invaluable in the decision making process.

(Ronald George Armstrong (1893-1952), the son of a Scottish father and French mother, was, unusually for the time, but like Wilfred Kirk, a divorcee. His job involved selling calculating machines. He was clearly a strong player, but didn’t take part in external tournaments.)

In 1930 there was sad news for James as his wife Gertrude died in hospital at the age of 55, but his bereavement didn’t put an end to his chess activities.

By this time Kirk and Armstrong were disputing the top two boards, with Cartledge on board 3, as in this match against their local rivals.

Richmond Herald 18 January 1930

While the Twickenham team lacked big names, their top boards must have been reasonable players. James Young Bell continued playing well into the 1960s: in 1965,  in his late 80s, he played a board below the young John Nunn in a match between Surrey and Middlesex. At this time he was a next door neighbour of Wallace Britten in Strawberry Hill Road, thus providing a link between the two Twickenham Chess Clubs.

In that season, the newly amalgamated club won the Beaumont Cup for the first time since the 1896-7 season, As Wilfred Kirk explained at the AGM, ‘union is strength’. The following season they finished equal first with Clapham Common, but lost the play-off match.

Although they were successful over the board, membership numbers were still modest. The 1933 AGM reported only 24 members. By now James Richmond Cartledge had risen to the post of President, but asked the club not to nominate him again as he was retiring from business and planning to move away from the area. He was persuaded to agree to remain President until he moved,  but in fact that would be further away than he expected. It appears he moved to Ham on his retirement, close enough to continue his membership.

In 1934 they were able to report that they had won the Beaumont Cup for the third time, but lost to Battersea in the final of the Alexander Cup.

Richmond Herald 19 May 1934

The 1934 AGM brought up the important topic of social chess, the secretary’s report suggesting that the club should offer more time for casual games rather than too many tournament and match games. This discussion is still very relevant in all chess clubs today.

Richmond Herald 06 October 1934

The Hon Secretary at the time was Francis Edward Yewdall (1875-1958), one of the club’s stronger players, who, coincidentally or not, had the same job as Cartledge in the neighbouring borough: he was the Assistant Surveyor for the Borough of Richmond.

The last mention we have for James Richmond Cartledge at Richmond & Kew Chess Club is in October 1938, so presumably it was soon after that date that he moved away.

By the time of the 1939 Register he hadn’t gone far. He was staying in the Mountcoombe Hotel in Surbiton, which, coincidentally, had also been the residence of chess problemist Edith Baird back in 1911. He then moved to the south coast: not, like many chess players, to Hastings, but to Bournemouth, where he died in 1943.

Richmond Herald 13 November 1943

Yes, he rendered a long and useful service to the district, but the obituary failed to mention his long and useful service to Richmond (& Kew) Chess Club over a period of almost 40 years, serving at various times as secretary, treasurer, match captain, chairman and president. Although not of master standard, he was a strong club player (I’d guess about 2100 strength) as well. The likes of him, organisers and loyal club supporters, are just as important to the world of chess as grandmasters and champions. In his day it was the habit to drink toasts at club dinners: join me today in drinking a toast to James Richmond Cartledge.

 

Sources:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

Wikipedia

 

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Minor Pieces 52: Wilfred Hugh Miller Kirk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richmond Herald 28 November 1925

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

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

Richmond Herald 20 November 1926

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

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

Richmond Herald 30 March 1929

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

Richmond Herald 22 June 1929

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This 1934 match must have been a surprise result.

Richmond Herald 21 April 1934

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

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

Richmond Herald 06 April 1935

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

Richmond Herald 10 April 1937

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

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

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

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

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

Hastings and St Leonards Observer 15 April 1939

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hastings and St Leonards Observer 22 June 1946

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

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

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

His family life, though, wasn’t happy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richmond Herald 03 February 1934

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hastings and St Leonards Observer 22 June 1946

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

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

There’s one further family tragedy to report.

Worthing Gazette 26 April 1950

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

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

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

 

Sources:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

British Newspaper Library

Wikipedia

BritBase (John Saunders)

EdoChess (Kirk’s page here)

chessgames.com (Kirk’s page here)

British Chess Magazine 1912

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

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

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

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Richmond Junior Chess Club 1975-2006: Part 3

By 1986 I’d developed some strong views about education and how they related to chess.

Something else happened as well. I was sitting in my London office one Feburary day wondering how I was ever going to be able to leave a job with no prospects of promotion or doing anything else when the phone rang.

It was my old friend Mike Fox, calling from Birmingham. “This phone call will change your life”, he said. And it did.

He’d been commissioned by Faber & Faber to write a book about chess trivia and invited me to join him as co-author. This would become The Complete Chess Addict (1987) and later The Even More Complete Chess Addict (1993), as well as the Addicts’ Corner column in CHESS which ran for 14 years. I decided that I could make as much money in less time by working freelance, while having time to help Mike with researching and writing the book and having more time to develop RJCC.

In order to improve Richmond Junior Club the first thing I wanted was to be able to find out everything I could about how every member of the club played chess, so that I could provide individual advice to all children and parents.

My view also was that, when teaching younger children and, more generally, less experienced players, everything we did had to happen for a very specific reason. I didn’t want to provide random lessons demonstrating random brilliant games to a random collection of children. Nor did I want to push children into doing too much too soon: using clocks and scoresheets and taking part in external tournaments before they were ready.

What I did (some of this was explained last time) was this:

  • I split the club into two sections: a morning group lasting two hours for primary school children, and an afternoon group lasting three hours for secondary school children, to which stronger primary school players would also be invited.
  • I introduced an internal grading system which was revised every few weeks, including all internal games (excluding blitz) so that I could select teams objectively in order of strength and identify when morning group players were ready to move up to the afternoon group. This included a very crude but reasonably effective measure to avoid grading deflation, based on the principle that, at any point, our members will either be improving or stationary.
  • Although I’d been collecting scoresheets of games played in our tournaments and training days for almost a decade, I now collected all afternoon group games (excluding blitz again) and played through them myself at home. There was no need to collect games played in the morning group as they were played at a lower level and usually decided by the number of pieces left en prise.

Beyond that, I wanted to ensure that our members would be able to try out a wide range of different openings, play games at different time controls, and play different opponents every week.

The primary school age children in our morning group were divided into divisions according to their internal grade. When new members joined we’d do a quick assessment. If they were obviously beginners they’d start in the lowest division. If we already knew about them because they’d played in one of our tournaments we’d already have given them a grade so would be able to put them in the correct division. Otherwise, we’d give them a quick friendly game against a player in a middle division and see how they got on.

I also used the same divisional system in schools for many years to ensure that children played different opponents of a similar strength to themselves every week (until the divisions were changed). This system also catered for the fact that some children played fast and would get through several games in one session while others played slowly and would only play one game. I found this worked much better than a Swiss tournament where everyone played one game a week and children who had finished their games would sometimes interfere with the games still in progress.

Every few weeks, by which time some of the faster and more regular attenders would have played most of the other players in their division, we ran the results through the grading program and restarted the divisions, with the most successful players gaining promotion.

We knew that if we taught children opening principles and then left them to their own devices many games would start with boring Giuoco Pianissimos or Spanish Four Knights, which, because they led to closed positions with few opportunities for pawn breaks, were only superficially good for less experienced players.

So we developed a system which would enable children in this group to experience a range of different openings and position types. Our first rule was that all games in the morning group would start with the moves 1. e4 e5. Over the course of the year (September to July) we’d  work through the major open games, starting with simple Four Knights type positions and gradually moving through to the King’s Gambit and (the favourite of many of our members) the Danish Gambit. We’d give a short introductory talk before the games started and expect players to start the game with the moves displayed on the demonstration board.

Ray Keene’s column in the Times always provided a simple tactical puzzle on Saturdays to encourage readers to compete for a prize, and we’d display this on the demo board so that children could attempt to solve it as they arrived. We’d go through the solution in front of the whole class before introducing them to the opening of the week.

We also wanted to ensure that children were introduced to clocks and scoresheets at the appropriate time in their chess development to prepare them for promotion to the afternoon group. As each of these adds a level of complexity to an already difficult game we wanted to do them one at a time, so players in the second division were asked to play their games on clocks (30 minutes per player per game) and, when they reached the top division they were required to notate their games (down to the last five minutes) as well.

For some of our members, the Morning Group was all they wanted and they’d drop out after a year or two. But others would be ambitious to play competitively and move up to the Afternoon Group, which was designed, in the first instance, for players of round about 1000 to 1500 strength. We assumed that, at that point, they’d move on to bigger and better things, but, as our system developed, we were attracting players up to getting on for 2000 strength.

In order to give our Afternoon Group members the chance to try out a wide range of different openings we developed a system involving games using set openings.

It took a few years for this to be fully implemented, but what we did was to divide all the major openings into ten groups, featuring one group every half term. We built a three-year cycle, with some groups happening every year, some twice in three years and some once in three years.

We also wanted to provide a range of different time limits. For younger players up to about 1500 who tend to play fast there’s no real need for slower games, while we also decided that anything less than 10 minutes per player would lead to too many blunders. So our main termly structure eventually looked like this:

  1. Freestyle 30 minute games (3 games in the 3 hour session)
  2. Coach and play – introductory lesson on the openings to be played over the next few weeks followed by two 45 minute games, consulting the opening books
  3. 10 minute blitz tournament (in groups with promotion/relegation) with opening variation picked out of the ‘hat’)
  4. 30 minute games (3 games in the 3 hour session) using the set openings
  5. Freestyle 10 minute blitz tournament (in groups with promotion/relegation)

Over the year we’d run 12 sessions with 3 30-minute games (at first in groups of 4 (quad tournaments) or 6 (Scheveningen system tournaments) – six freestyle and 6 with set openings. All games would be recorded down to the last five minutes and all scoresheets would be handed it. We used duplicate scoresheets for this purpose so that they all had a copy of their games to take home. I’d then play through all the games again at home, and, once ChessBase became available I’d enter them all into a database.

We’d also run 11 sessions with 10-minute games (as many as they could play in the time available), five freestyle and six with set openings.

We’d run 6 Coach and Play sessions to introduce the openings to be played in the next rapid and blitz sessions.

We also ran one simultaneous display a term. Sometimes we’d use visiting masters, sometimes our own coaches, members of our parent chess club or former RJCC members. We considered these a vital part of our programme for several reasons:

  • They promoted chess as an adult game, not just a game for young children
  • They gave our members the chance to meet and play against titled players
  • They forced our members to slow down and think while the simul giver was going round the room moving on the other boards

Other weeks were filled up with activities such as training games at slower time limits, endgame practice and puzzle solving, while the last week of each term gave our members the chance to enjoy chess variants such as Exchange (Bughouse) and Kriegspiel.

The idea was that each week would have one activity, which would vary from week to week. Very different from the way most junior clubs run, with two activities (lesson and game) a week and the same structure most weeks.

If you want to use our methods, our stationery (now rebranded as Chess Heroes rather than RJCC) is available to download here and here while our opening books (recently updated slightly to include the currently popular London System) can be downloaded here.

Coincidentally, several other important things happened at about this time.

A local primary school, Sheen Mount, appointed a new Headteacher, Jane Lawrence, who was passionate about introducing all her pupils to chess, teaching them the moves and giving them the chance to play competitively at school every day. Many of her pupils joined Richmond Junior Club, and, as you’ll see, two of them, Richard Bates and Tom Hinks-Edwards, went on to become International Masters.

Ray Cannon, whom I vaguely knew from the London chess circuit, brought his young son Richard along to the club. Ray was (and still is) an excellent chess coach and his views on chess teaching were (and still are) very similar to mine, and he soon started to play a vital role in the club, helping with the Afternoon Group as well as spending his Sundays visiting tournaments and passing on the results of our members so that I could incorporate them in our internal grading list.

The other player who played an invaluable part in our successes for many years was Gavin Wall, later an IM, one of our early members who, on returning from University joined our coaching team, working mostly in the Morning Group. Gavin and Ray were both integral to the club for many years: I can’t thank them enough.

Over the next few years we again became very strong, and the system we used in the Afternoon Group undoubtedly played its part.

As it happened, the summer of 1986 witnessed our first ever British Champion when Irfan Nathoo took the national Under 9 title.

Richmond Informer 14 August 1986

Here’s a game from later in the year. To play through this or any other game in this article click on any move and a pop-up window will appear.

With our new system in place we were able to promote the club in the local press, announcing an exciting season ahead.

Middlesex Chronicle 04 September 1986

We were actively looking for sponsorship at this point. We received donations from two local charities at various times, and here we found sponsorship from the Richmond branch of Midland Bank.

Richmond Informer 04 June 1987

We were also competing successfully in team competitions against other London junior clubs. Barnet Knights, of course, are still going strong today.

 

Richmond Informer 13 August 1987

One of our new members was a talented Scottish junior, Jonathan Rowson, who had moved from Aberdeen into the same road as me. He used to come round to my house for a game after school, but sadly for us he didn’t stay in the area very long.

In this game from one of our monthly quad tournaments, he demonstrated his class by outplaying Richard Bates in a pawn ending.

During this period I was doing a lot of private tuition. Jonathan was by no means the only one of our members who would visit my house for lessons, either on a regular or an occasional basis. Judging from both individual and team results it must have had some effect on them.

By 1989 Sheen Mount players were making names for themselves on the national stage. Here are future IM Richard Bates and Tom Davey playing for England’s Primary Schools team in a match against Scotland.

Richmond Informer 16 June 1989

 

Also in June 1989 we were invited to play a match against a visiting team from Arizona. As we had so many strong players by now we split our players into three teams and played a four-way match.

Here’s Richard Cannon’s game against the American board 1.

By the summer of 1989 it was time to move. The church in central Richmond where we met was being redeveloped so we had to find new premises. Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club moved to London Welsh Rugby Club, while Richmond Junior Club found a new home in a large Victorian house in East Twickenham, where we’d meet for more than 15 years.

Richmond Informer 29 September 1989

We also set up a separate group for older children enabling us to enter teams in the Thames Valley League. We played our home matches in Friday evening sessions and scheduled our away matches, as far as possible, during the school holidays.

Jane Lawrence was now running Richmond teams in the English Primary Schools Chess Association inter-area competitions, with players from schools around the Borough taking part. Andrew Bamford, like many of the players in these teams, was a member of Richmond Junior Club.

Richmond Informer 20 April 1990

In this game from our 1990 Under 11 Championship a speculative sacrifice proved successful.

Wanting to provide top level coaching for our strongest players, we appointed GM Daniel King as our club professional in 1990. We were also able to enter a third team in the Thames Valley League.

Richmond Informer 14 September 1990

 

In just a few years since 1986 the club had made tremendous progress, and we were able to bill ourselves, without fear of contradiction, as ‘England’s leading club for young players’. This is Chris A Baker, who hasn’t played competitively for a long time, not to be confused with long-standing Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club member Chris B Baker, who was also a pupil at Hampton School, or indeed IM Chris W Baker.

Middlesex Chronicle 20 June 1991

In this game Tom had the chance to play a Greek Gift sacrifice against an opponent with insufficient experience of the French Defence.

And here’s Chris Baker, beating one of his regular rivals in a club game.

Every summer during this period the parents of our stronger players got together to book accommodation for the British Championships. From 1991 onwards we were rewarded with successes like these:

1991 Richard Bates U14 shared, Luke McShane U9

1992 James Clifford/Luke McShane U14 Andrew Bamford U11

1993 Tom Hinks-Edwards U16 shared

One of our favourite simul givers at the time was Ukrainian IM Petr Marusenko, a regular visit to Hastings (he’s there again this year) who would drop in to visit us after the congress.

In this game James Clifford outplayed him in the ending.

Richard Bates, now at Tiffin School, continued to be successful in 1992, and was rated one of the world’s top players of his age.

Kingston Informer 31 January 1992

 

But by that time we had a new member whose feats would outshine even Richard’s. This was Luke McShane, who, at the age of only 8, took the World Under 10 Championship in 1992.

Newcastle Journal 14 July 1992

Luke scored victories against future stars such as Bacrot, Aronian and Grischuk in this event. He was perhaps fortunate to escape from lost positions in the first two of these games, but here’s his win against the Russian representative.

In January 1993 we were privileged to host a junior team from Kiev (now Kiiv), whose top players were, as you might imagine, very strong. We arranged four events: a simul given by Daniel King, a match against a team from Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club, a match against a Richmond Junior Club team and a match against a junior team representing the Southern Counties Chess Union, which included three RJCC players.

Another of our very strong players, Aleksandar Trifunovic, great nephew of Grandmaster Petar Trifunovic, scored an exciting win on board three of the RJCC v Kiev match. His opponent here is now an American IM.

Richard Bates scored a win and a draw against the top two Kiev players. He drew with Spartak Vysochin, now a grandmaster, in the RJCC match and won this game from the SCCU Juniors match.

As a result of his performance in the World Junior Championship, Luke was given the opportunity to play a game against Garry Kasparov, in London to discuss the arrangements for his forthcoming World Championship match against Nigel Short.

Richmond Informer 05 March 1993

Here’s the game.

In May 1993, buoyed by these successes, we were asked to be involved in the Richmond Chess Initiative, which, in essence, did very much what Chess in Schools & Communities is doing now, but on a local rather than national level.

Richmond Informer 14 May 1993

Children would learn all the right moves, but would they play them in the right order? You’ll find out in the next part of the history of Richmond Junior Chess Club.

 

 

 

 

 

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Remembering David Welch (30-x-1945 09-xi-2019)

David Welch, photograph by John Upham
David Welch, photograph by John Upham

Just over two years ago today we learnt the sad news that popular longtime Arbiter and Organizer David Welch had passed away at the age of 74 after a long illness : he was being cared for in The Royal Liverpool Hospital. The funeral took place at Landican Crematorium, Arrowe Park CH49 5LW at 12 noon on Friday 6th December. Following the funeral, the wake took place at the Grove House Hotel, Grove Road, Wallasey CH44 4BT.

David was born on Tuesday, October 30th 1945 in Brampton, Chesterfield, Derbyshire and attended Chesterfield Grammar School (see below).

He played for Wallasey Chess Club for many years having initially been a member of Liverpool Chess Club.

David attended Queens’ College, Cambridge reading Natural Sciences (Chemistry) and (according to John Swain) David served Cambridge University Chess Club as Junior Treasurer, Librarian and Bulletin Editor.

In 1968 David and Peter Purland started teaching at the same Liverpool school (Liverpool College) on the same day and continued their friendship from there. David also ran the college scout troop.

In the same year David joined Liverpool Chess Club and became a leading light fairly early on.

David Welch (30-x-1945 09-xi-2019), photograph by John Upham at 2012 4NCL
David Welch (30-x-1945 09-xi-2019), photograph by John Upham at 2012 4NCL

David became a BCF arbiter in the early 1970s eventually becoming the BCFs Chief Arbiter and then the ECFs Chief Arbiter and was heavily involved in many British Championships around the country.

David was curator of ECF equipment for some time and personally funded much of the BCFs and ECFs early equipment stock.

He became a FIDE International Arbiter as early as 1977 and was awarded the FIDE International Organizer title in 2010.

In 2007 David received the ECF Presidents Award from Gerry Walsh. Here is the citation in full (from the 2008 ECF Yearbook) :

“David Welch started chess organisation early being captain of the Chesterfield Grammar School team that played both in the school’s league and in the local adult league. He joined the Liverpool Chess Club after leaving University in 1968 and has held various posts with them , he is now their President. He set-up the Liverpool Chess Congress in about 1978.

Additionally, he was the director of the Liverpool Chess Congress. Although now defunct this was in its day the largest junior event in the UK (perhaps even the world) having 2000 entrants at the time of Spassky-Fisher (sic). He has also been involved in the Liverpool city of culture initiative.

He had also had a considerable involvement with the ECF. He is the the Merseyside representative to the ECF. He has been helping run the British Championships since 1981; starting at one of the arbiting team he has been Director/Manager of the congress since 2005. He has been Chief Arbiter of the Federation since about 1992. He also does the arbiting at a number of congresses and is, in particular, the Chief Arbiter of the 4NCL.”

David Welch receives FIDE Arbiter Award
David Welch receives FIDE Arbiter Award

David shared the exact same date of birth as long time friend and fellow arbiter, Peter Purland.

Here is an excellent tribute from John Saunders

Here is a tribute from Liverpool College

in 2016 David received recognition from FIDE for his long service as an International Arbiter. David was the third English arbiter to receive the honour, following Stewart Reuben and Gerry Walsh in 2014.

We send our condolences to all of his many family and friends.

David Welch, photograph by John Upham
David Welch, photograph by John Upham
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Best Wishes IM Susan Lalic (28-x-1965)

BCN wishes IM Susan Lalic Happy Birthday

Susan Kathryn Walker was born on Thursday, October 28th, 1965 in Chatham, Kent. Her mother’s maiden is / was Bacon. She has a brother, Stephen.

She attended Nonsuch High School for Girls from 1977 to 1984.

Susan married Keith Arkell in 1986 and then Bogdan Lalic in Lewes, East Sussex in 1994 and finally Graeme Buckley in Sutton in 2001.

With Bogdan she had a son, Peter D, who is a strong player in his own right.

There are ten players in MegaBase 2020 whose surname is Lalic.

She became a Woman’s FIDE Master in 1986, Woman’s International Master in 1987, Woman’s Grandmaster in 1988 and an International Master in 1996.

Susan Walker
Susan Walker

According to Felice and Megabase 2020 Susan achieved a peak rating of 2405 in January 1997 at the age of 29.

From the Praxis Bath Zonal Tournament of 1987. Susan Walker is at the rear on the left.
From the Praxis Bath Zonal Tournament of 1987. Susan Walker is at the rear on the left.

Susan has played in the Four Nations Chess League for Slough, Wood Green and Guildford and her most recent games in MegaBase 2020 are from 2012.

Keith Arkell, Susan Walker and Jeremy Morse at the Lloyds Bank Masters
Keith Arkell, Susan Walker and Jeremy Morse at the Lloyds Bank Masters

She is five-time British Women’s Champion: 1986, 1990–1992, and 1998 and has represented England in nine Olympiads.

LK Semenova vs Susan Walker at the 1984 Women's Olympiad
LK Semenova vs Susan Walker at the 1984 Women’s Olympiad

Susan is very active is Surrey junior chess and teaches in many schools.

IM Susan Lalic at a Surrey Megafinal
IM Susan Lalic at a Surrey Megafinal

With the White pieces Susan is almost exclusively an e4 player (preferring the Scotch Game) but curiously (and why not you might ask) she has employed The Polish Opening more than once with success. She is well-known for employing the Sicilian Alapin as her main weapon against the Sicilian Defence.

As the second player she defends the Caro-Kann, Larsen-Spassky, Smyslov and the Classical Variations and the Nimzo-Indian Defence.

WFM Helen Milligan vs Susan Arkell
WFM Helen Milligan vs Susan Arkell

Susan Lalic and friends
Susan Lalic and friends

From Wikipedia :

“Susan Kathryn Lalic (née Walker; born 28 October 1965) is an English chess player, holding both International Master (IM) and Woman Grandmaster (WGM) titles. She is five-time British Women’s Chess Champion: 1986, 1990–1992, and 1998.[2]

Lalic has played for England nine times in Chess Olympiads, from 1984 to 2000, inclusive. From 1986 to 1998, she played on the top board.[3]

Lalic was educated at Nonsuch High School for Girls from 1977 to 1984, and has been married in the past to Keith Arkell and then to Bogdan Lalić. Currently she is married to International Master Graeme Buckley.[4][5]

Highest rating from 1987-2012 is 2356(within 133 games)[6]”

Susan Lalic and friends, rear, second from left.
Susan Lalic and friends, rear, second from left
Your Chess Questions Answered by Susan Lalic,, 1999
Your Chess Questions Answered by Susan Lalic,, 1999
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Congratulations Kevin Staveley, BEM

Kevin Staveley, BEM at the 2015 British Championships in Warwick courtesy of John Upham Photography
Kevin Staveley, BEM at the 2015 British Championships in Warwick courtesy of John Upham Photography

BCN offers Kevin Staveley the warmest congratulations on being awarded the British Empire Medal in the 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

The citation reads : “For services to Chess in Wales”

Kevin Charles Staveley was born on December 30th 1955 in Pontypridd, Mid Glamorgan, Wales and has resided in Treorchy, Glamorgan, Wales. Currently he lives in Cwmparc, Rhondda.

He is a member of Newport Chess Club.

Kevin is Home Director for the Welsh Chess Union and many times Tournament Director of the British Chess Championships.

Kevin is ECF Manager of the British Chess Championships and is Director of the South Wales International Chess Festival, Bridgend and the South Wales Megafinal to name but a few.

He became a FIDE International Arbiter in 1991 and a FIDE International Organiser in 2013.

Kevin is editor of the Welsh Chess Union Yearbook.

Kevin is keen to encourage young players to become arbiters.

Kevin Staveley, BEM at the 2014 British Championships in Aberystwyth courtesy of John Upham Photography
Kevin Staveley, BEM at the 2014 British Championships in Aberystwyth courtesy of John Upham Photography
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Happy Birthday FM Kevin O’Connell (28-viii-1949)

BCN wishes happy birthday to FM Kevin O’Connell (28-viii-1949)

Kevin J O'Connell
Kevin J O’Connell

Kevin John O’Connell was born on Sunday, August 28th 1949 in London.

Kevin attended Ilford County High School and The University of Exeter followed by an MSc in Sports Sciences at The University of Exeter.

The Batsford Chess Yearbook
The Batsford Chess Yearbook

According to The Games of Robert J. Fischer :

“Kevin is an Essex county player and bulletin editor”.

Kevin J O'Connell
Kevin J O’Connell at Nice 1974 where Kevin was an arbiter.

According to How to Play the Sicilian Defence :

“Kevin O’Connell is editor of the FIDE Chess Yearbook, author of many other chess books and chess columnist of London’s Evening News

From the Praxis Bath Zonal Tournament of 1987. Kevin J O'Connell is fourth from right
From the Praxis Bath Zonal Tournament of 1987. Kevin J O’Connell is fourth from right

Harry Golombek wrote in The Observer Magazine (about The Batsford Chess Yearbook 1975/6) :

“O’Connell has done his work extremely well and I found all the contents interesting”

Kevin O'Connell at the Lloyds Bank Open in 1977. Photograph courtesy of Lloyds Bank.
Kevin O’Connell at the Lloyds Bank Open in 1977. Photograph courtesy of Lloyds Bank.

 

and Leonard Barden wrote (of the same book) :

“Book of the year…this reviewer admits to consulting it more frequently than any other book on his shelf”

Kevin makes a telephone call
Kevin makes a telephone call communicating moves during a computer tournament.

Kevin was coach (they lived in the same road in Suffolk) to GM Nick Pert and IM Richard Pert

Kevin became a FIDE Master in 2006 and his peak rating (according to Felice) was 2360 in July 1993 at the age of 44.

From the Praxis Bath Zonal Tournament of 1987. Kevin J O'Connell is third from left
From the Praxis Bath Zonal Tournament of 1987. Kevin J O’Connell is third from left

Kevin became a FIDE International Arbiter (IA) in 1998. He was the FIDE Delegate for the Republic of Ireland and was Honorary Chairman and Secretary of the FIDE Chess in Education Commission (EDU) having retired from the roles in the last couple of years. He is also a FIDE Senior Trainer.

Kevin O'Connell at the London Chess Conference, 2016, courtesy of John Upham Photography
Kevin O’Connell at the London Chess Conference, 2016, courtesy of John Upham Photography

Here is his Wikipedia entry

The Games of Robert J. Fischer, Robert Wade and O'Connell, Batsford 1972, 2nd ed. 1972, reprinted 1973, First limp edition 1981, Reprinted 1985, 1981, 1989, Second edition (The Complete Games of Bobby Fischer) 1992
The Games of Robert J. Fischer, Robert Wade and O’Connell, Batsford 1972, 2nd ed. 1972, reprinted 1973, First limp edition 1981, Reprinted 1985, 1981, 1989, Second edition (The Complete Games of Bobby Fischer) 1992
The Batsford Chess Yearbook
The Batsford Chess Yearbook
The Batsford Chess Yearbook 1975/6
The Batsford Chess Yearbook 1975/6
The Complete Games of World Champion Anatoly Karpov
The Complete Games of World Champion Anatoly Karpov
The Complete Games of World Champion Anatoly Karpov
The Complete Games of World Champion Anatoly Karpov
How to Play the Sicilian Defence, Batsford, 1978
How to Play the Sicilian Defence, Batsford, 1978
Oxford Encyclopedia of Chess Games, Volume 1 1485-1866., OUP, 1981
Oxford Encyclopedia of Chess Games, Volume 1 1485-1866., OUP, 1981
Oxford Encyclopedia of Chess Games, OUP, 2009
Oxford Encyclopedia of Chess Games, OUP, 2009
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