The chess players of Richmond and Twickenham had more than two decade to wait before another club arose in their area.
A chess club in Twickenham opened its doors for the first time, probably in Autumn 1880. This is the first of a series of articles looking at some of their members between 1881 and 1906.
I should point out here that there will probably be a lot more information available online once the Richmond & Twickenham Times is digitised. I’m not the only local historian who’s been waiting years for this. But we still have quite a lot of information about who their members were and what they did, both at the board and in the rest of their lives. A pretty interesting bunch they were as well, with some even more interesting relations.
The early 1880s were times of great change in the English chess world. Over the next couple of decades chess clubs would be transformed from somewhere for gentlemen to play their friends over a glass of brandy and a fine cigar to something resembling the evening chess clubs we know today, competing in leagues against other clubs in the vicinity. One early sign of change was the foundation of the British Chess Magazine in 1881.
It’s in the first volume that we find the first readily available mention of the new Twickenham Chess Club.
We have a report of a simultaneous display by Isidor Gunzberg (sic), an up and coming London-based Hungarian, who, within a few years, would be considered one of the world’s strongest players.
It was quite impressive, I guess, for a new club to welcome such an illustrious guest.
Simultaneous displays were very popular at the time, and so were handicap tournaments, in which stronger players would give a material handicap to their weaker clubmates.
We read that Mr Ryan, who would be a significant figure in the story of Twickenham Chess Club, won the handicap tournament and was also the last to finish against Gunsberg.
We need to find out more about him.
When I’m travelling by bus to the Roebuck, I usually take the 481 to Princes Road, Teddington, from where it’s a 10 minute walk, passing, if I choose, the residence of GM Daniel King, to reach the current Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club.
As I turn into Princes Road I pass this rather impressive residence at No. 1: it was previously known as Fulwell House.
Let’s knock on the door and see who’s at home.
We’re going to meet George Edward Norwood Ryan and his family.
George was an Irishman, born on 29 July 1825 (a day earlier and he’d have been a century and a quarter older than me) in the delightfully named village of Golden, County Tipperary, half way between Tipperary itself and the town of Cashel. The Ryans are still there now: if you visit Golden today you’ll find Eamonn Ryan Family Butcher and Conor Ryan Car Detailing. Are Eamonn and Conor related to George? Or to each other? Who knows? George was the son of Francis John Ryan, an army officer, but he would choose a different career.
His father died when he was very young, and, at some point, he moved to London where, in 1855, he married Mary Anne Wilkes. They would have a large family, seven sons, two of whom died in infancy, and five daughters.
He’s elusive in the 1851 and 1861 censuses, but in 1871 he’s living in Belgravia with his family and three servants, employed as a ‘précis writer’. Within the next year or two he moves out of the smoke to leafy Teddington, to the house pictured above.
The 1881 census tells us he’s ‘engaged on parliamentary blue books’, which are reports of proceedings in parliament, so presumably he’s writing précis of parliamentary debates for these books. A skilled job, and one which must have paid very well. And, when not engaged in his parliamentary work, he’s playing chess at the new Twickenham Chess Club.
Ryan would continue his active involvement until at least 1896, by which time two of his sons, E Ryan (probably Ernest Keating Woods Ryan rather than Edward Francis Maxwell Ryan, who had married and moved out of the immediate area) and George Norwood Ryan, were also playing. George junior would later cross the river to Kingston and change his allegiance to Surbiton Chess Club in the first decade of the 20th century. George Edward Norwood Ryan would eventually die at the age of 90, after a long and successful life, leaving effects to the value of £4224 14s.
George junior and Ernest are both of some interest. No, sadly Ernie didn’t become a milkman, and nor did Edward, under the name two-ton Ted from Teddington, drive a baker’s van. Instead, Ernest was an accountant and company secretary, who married and had two daughters. His younger daughter, Honor, married James de la Mare, a nephew of Walter, and the oldest of their three sons, another James, would marry Diana Street-Porter, sister-in-law of Janet.
Talking of Walter de la Mare, his house in Twickenham, South End House, at the end of the rather lovely Montpelier Row, is currently on the market. It’s yours for a trifling £10.5 million. Me, I think I’ll have two of them. Across the road at the other end of Montpelier Row, you’ll find, appropriately enough, the site of North End House, the home of Henry George Bohn.
George Norwood Ryan has a sadder story to tell. His marriage to Isabella Anderson would produce three sons, Lionel, Warwick and Edward, and one daughter.
Warwick John Norwood was the second son of George Norwood Ryan (Merchant’s Shipping Clerk) and Isabel Ryan (nee Anderson).
He became a 2nd Lieutenant 19 Dec 1914 having been a private in Inns of Court Officer Training Corps. He went to Gallipoli in October 1915 with the Dorset Yeomanry (Queens Own) and following this he continued service in the Middle East in the Imperial Camel Corps. He was reported Killed in Action 5 Sep 1916.
And here’s Edward, who lost his life just three weeks before the end of the war:
Date of Birth: –/–/1896 — Place Of Birth: Kingston-Upon-Thames — Father: George Norwood Ryan — Mother: Isabella Ryan — Siblings: Leonel Ryan, Warwick John Norwood Ryan, Isabel Ryan — Date of Death: 22/10/1918 — Cemetery: Harlebeke New British Cemetery — Rank: Captain — Service Type: Army — Battalion, sub-unit or ship: 12th Battalion — Regiment/Unit: East Surrey Regiment — Service Record: Won the Military Cross — Census Years: 1901, 1911
T./iCapt. Edward St. John Norwood Ryan,
12th Bn., E. iSurr. R.
During operations on 14th October, 1918, north of Menin, he showed great gallantry and fine leadership whilst commanding a
company. He led his men forward to the final objective through a dense fog, maintaining perfect direction and touch throughout, and consolidating the position. His company captured several strong points, many prisoners, and a quantity of war material.
It’s often assumed that the upper class officers kept themselves safe while leading their lower class troops to their death. In fact:
Very large numbers of British officers were killed. Over 200 generals were killed, wounded or taken prisoner; this could only have happened in the front line. Between 1914-18, around 12% of the ordinary soldiers were killed. The figure for officers was around 17%.
So George Norwood Ryan, chess player from Twickenham and Surbiton clubs, lost his two younger sons in World War 1 and his oldest son as a result of World War 2. He lived on until 1959, reaching the age of 94. His daughter also lived a long life, but, like all five of her aunts, never married. I know from personal experience that they weren’t the only unmarried sisters in Teddington.
The two Georges, father and son, were fortunate to have fought their wars over the chequered board rather than the bloody battlefield. As the Ryan family knew only too well, real wars are bad, but pretend wars are good.
We’ll be meeting George Edward Norwood Ryan again as we continue our exploration of Twickenham Chess Club in future articles.
We know that the first Richmond Chess Club only ran for a few years in the mid 1850s, seemingly disbanded when its prime mover, William Harris, left London.
Who were its other members? Howard Staunton and Johann Jacob Löwenthal were involved, but, one would imagine, they didn’t play an active part on a week to week basis. They enjoyed seeing their names in lights, while their connections and publicity through their magazine columns would have enhanced the club’s reputation and increased its membership.
It’s a reasonable assumption, given that the club met at his premises, that James Etherington was a member, but the only other name I’ve been able to find is that of Henry George Bohn.
A very interesting name it is, too. White I’ve no idea how strong a player he was, Henry played a very important role in the history of English chess.
Henry George Bohn, born in London in 1796, the son of a German father and Scottish mother, was an art collector and publisher. In 1850 he’d moved into North End House, Twickenham, on the corner of Richmond Road and Crown Road, just opposite the Crown public house (highly recommended, but also very popular, so it can get pretty crowded on rugby days). He had a walk of just under a mile to reach his chess club, no problem for a healthy chap who, even at the age of 85, would be active enough to dance the quadrille on his lawn. The house was demolished in about 1897, and a parade of shops built in its place. I haven’t yet been able to find an illustration of North End (or Northend) House.
In 1873 he acquired High Shot House, on the other side of Crown Road. Walking back towards Twickenham he’d very soon have reached what is now the site of Orleans Park School, home of Richmond Junior Chess Club and the Richmond Rapidplays.
Bohn was a collector of rare plants, chinaware, ivory and fine art, including works by Dürer, Van Dyck, Bruegel, Memling and Raphael, and was working to catalogue his collection until a few days before his death in 1884.
His day job, though, was more significant for our story. Henry George Bohn was a publisher, best remembered for Bohn’s Libraries. According to Wikipedia, these were begun in 1846, targeted the mass market, and comprised editions of standard works and translations, dealing with history, science, classics, theology and archaeology.
He was also a friend of the aforementioned Howard Staunton, and was the publisher of most of his chess books.
By the time of the foundation of the first Richmond Chess Club he’d already published The Chess Player’s Handbook (1847), The Chess-player’s Companion (1849) and The Chess Tournament (1852). These would later be joined by Chess Praxis (1860). He had also written The Chess-player’s Text Book (1849), published by J. Jaques & Son, 102 Hatton Garden, to accompany their celebrated chess sets.
Staunton, en passant, also wrote on other subjects. His edition of the plays of Shakespeare was published by George Routledge and Co in 1858. George Routledge had founded his company twenty years earlier, and they’re still going strong today, best known for their academic books. They’ve also published a few chess books, most notably the series of Routledge Chess Handbooks cashing in on the Fischer boom in the 1970s, and, more recently, Fernand Gobet’s highly recommended book on the Psychology of Chess.
Staunton also wrote a book on The Great Schools of England, published by Sampson Low, Son, and Marston, Milton House, Ludgate Hill in 1865. Sampson Low and his son, also Sampson, had started their publishing company in 1848, although Sampson senior’s father, another Sampson, had himself published books in the 1790s, and in 1856, Edward Marston became a partner in the firm. Sampson Low, like Routledge, published several chess books over the years (this might well be the subject of a future article) before stopping publishing in 1969.
In 1981 what was then the parent company was bought up by the notorious Robert Maxwell, its assets were stripped, and, 200 years after the first Sampson Low published his first book, the company was wound up.
A few years later, George Low, a journalist, editor and publisher, and direct descendant of the original Sampson, found the records in Companies House in Cardiff and re-registered the company. George’s four sons, all of whom, as it happens, were members of Richmond Junior Chess Club in the 1970s-80s, are now directors of the family firm. (Do visit their website to find out more.) The eldest boy, yet another Sampson, maintained his interest in chess, returning to the game when his son started playing, and has recently been elected Secretary of Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club. His ancestor and namesake from more than 150 years ago, would have known Howard Staunton, the President of the original Richmond Chess Club. I hope Howard will be pleased to hear this: I’ll be in touch on Twitter to let him know.
Wheels within wheels. We are all connected.
Returning to Henry George Bohn, he had hoped that his sons would continue to grow his publishing business, but it became clear that they weren’t interested, so, in 1864, he sold his business to Messrs Bell and Daldy, who would later become George Bell & Sons. Bell took over Staunton’s chess books and decided that chess would be one of their specialities. They published many chess books over the years, including classic titles by Alekhine, Capablanca, Euwe, Nimzowitsch and many British authors, continuing to publish chess books up to the late 1970s, by which time their position as England’s leading chess publisher had been usurped by Batsford, In 1986, by then Bell & Hyman, they merged with George Allen & Unwin, and the name of George Bell disappeared from the publishing world.
George seems to have been the favoured name for publishers: apart from being Bohn’s middle name, we’ve met Routledge, Bell, Allen and even Low!
The Bell inheritance, all those great Bell chess books which anyone of my generation or earlier will have grown up on and learnt from, originated with Henry George Bohn, art collector, publisher, friend of Howard Staunton – and member of the original Richmond Chess Club.
Next time you’re in Richmond Road, Twickenham, drop in at The Crown and drink a toast to Henry, the man who planted the seed which led to England’s preeminence as publishers of fine chess books.
BCN remembers IMC James Adams who passed away aged 91 on July 27th, 2013 in Worcester Park, Kingston Upon Thames, Surrey.
James Frederick Adams was born on September 4th, 1921 in Lambeth. His parents were James J Adams (DoB: 10th October 1884) who was a plumber’s mate and Lucy M Adams (née Ayres, DoB: 22nd December 1886). He had an older brother who was William A Adams who was also a plumber’s mate and and Uncle George T (DoB: 8th March 1882) who was the plumber who presumably had many mates.
At the time of the 1939 register James was a telephone operator.
The Adams family lived at 52, Broadway Gardens, Mitcham, Surrey, CR4 4EE (rather than 001 Cemetery Lane)
From CHESS, 1991, March, page 91 we have:
“Whatever Happened to Human Effort?
I am giving up postal chess after 57 years for the reason that, like Jonathan Penrose and recently Nigel Short, I am increasingly disturbed over the increase in the use of computers in correspondence play. It is impossible to prove but one has the feeling that many opponents see nothing wrong in using a machine and I see no pleasure in having to bash one’s brains out against a computer. I am happy in the knowledge that I won my FIDE IM title long before dedicated chess computers were ever heard of. I shudder to think of the proliferation in the use of computers in a competition like the World CC Championship. I don’t wonder that Penrose objects.
Unfortunately, this is the sort of thing against which it is impossible to legislate. The BCCA has banned their use but it doesn’t mean a thing.
The latest monstrosity is where Kasparov plays a match against another GM and both are allowed to use computers whilst the game is in progress. To me, this is absolutely shocking. Dr. Nunn admits to the use of computers in the compilation of one of his books and I see that even ordinary annotators use a programme like Fritz to assist with their notes to a game. What happened to human effort?
Anyway, I have about five postal games left in progress and when they are finished I will call it a day.
Worcester Park, Surrey
So who was Jim Adams?
From British Chess (Pergamon Press, 1983) Botterill, Levy, Rice and Richardson we have this:
The smoke-laden atmosphere of the chess rooms of St. Bride’s Institute, in the heart of the City of London, could hardly be considered a positive encouragement to any ambitions to become an International Master, but certainly this was so in my case. Let me explain the sequence of events.
Face-to-face, or over-the-board chess, had been my main interest since my war-time days as a member of the Civil Defence. Passing time between air-raids led to the adoption of many pastimes and an absorbing game such as chess was ideal. Fortunately for me, one of my ambulance station colleagues was a very fine player named A. F. (Algy) Battersby, later to become General Secretary of the British Correspondence Chess Association.
He had spent the greater part of the First World War playing chess in the Sinai Desert and, with his tremendous experience, he brought to the game strategical ideas and tactical skills that, in those early days, were well beyond my comprehension.
‘Algy’ was kind enough to say some years afterwards that I was ‘the best pupil he ever had’, but whether this was true or not, he certainly passed on to me the theoretical groundwork that was to be so useful to me in later years. Among other books, he encouraged me to purchase the Nimzowitch classic My System, with the kindly warning that I would not understand it at first reading but would perhaps get some grasp of the ideas at a second or third attempt.
My System was a revelation to me and proved to be the greatest help to an understanding of the game that I had ever received. Up to my fortuitous meeting with ‘Algy’, my games had been of a simple tactical nature. Pieces were left en prise, oversights and blunders were the order of the day and an actual checkmate came as a surprise not only to the loser but often to the winner as well!
To win a game through sheer strength of position was completely unknown to me, but ‘Algy’ and Nimzowitch changed all that! Under their combined influence my general playing strength improved enormously and I was soon second only to ‘Algy’ in such tournaments as were held in my home town of Mitcham, where the local chess club was revived after the war.
Our club soon attracted a few strong players and we played regularly in county competitions and, later, the London Chess League. During those years chess was an absolute joy to me and all my spare time was spent at the local club or at chess matches, whilst Saturday afternoons were spent at the now defunct Gambit Chess Room, in Budge Row, where I passed countless hours playing chess, pausing only to order light refreshment from the indefatigable ‘Eileen’, a waitress of somewhat uncertain age who almost certainly regarded all chess players as raving lunatics!
The ‘Gambit’ could never have been a viable commercial proposition on what we bought and it was eventually thought necessary to introduce a minimum charge depending on the time of day. Gone for ever were the days when one could spend the entire evening playing chess, analysing, or having a crack at the local Kriegspiel experts, all for the price of two cups of tea and the occasional sandwich. Sadly, it all disappeared in the aftermath of the
By 1950 I had become Match Captain of the Mitcham Chess Club and, of course, responsible for arranging various matches. Getting a team together was not difficult as the club membership was quite large for such a lowly club. The playing standard too was surprisingly high and whilst I, myself, was fortunate enough to win the club championship several times it was never easy.
On one occasion a ‘friendly’ match had been arranged with the BBC and all was well until a ‘flu epidemic a few days before the date of the match laid most of the Mitcham players low. On the morning of the match I was left with five players for a 1O-board match! As it was only a ‘friendly’ and in order to avoid disappointing all concerned I took myself off to the Gambit and recruited a few of the ‘regulars’ to help us out. It must be remembered that most of the strongest players in London frequented the ‘Gambit’ and since those pressganged into service were extremely strong players it seemed only courteous to give them the honour of playing on the top five boards, leaving the Mitcham ‘stars’ who, coincidentally, were our usual top board players, to bring up the rear.
Now this composite team, in my judgement, was probably good enough to win the London League A Division and it was no surprise when we won 10-0. Only a friendly indeed! Any Match Captain would have given his queen’s rook for such a team but, whilst the BBC players were warned beforehand of the composition of our team, they were not amused and further matches were not arranged!
Round about this time I was playing regularly in London League matches, nearly all of which were held at St. Bride’s Institute, where my story began. A non-smoker myself, I found the conditions intolerable. The place seemed to be completely airless and Government warnings about the dangers of smoking did not exist! not exist! Consequently, the entire playing area was reminiscent of the Black Hole of Calcutta! Always susceptible to headaches, I began to return home physically ill after every match. If this was playing chess for pleasure then something was wrong!
However, salvation was at hand. Ever since the war I had been playing a few games by post under the auspices of the BCCA (British Correspondence Chess Association ), and my somewhat traumatic experiences at St. Bride’s were beginning to make postal chess a far more attractive way of playing the
game. And so my chess career started all over again!
My correspondence chess activities up to the 1960s were not particularly successful, although I had managed to win three Premier Sections and finish
equal third in the British Correspondence Championship of 1962-63. However, during that time a group of BCCA players, of whom I was one, were
becoming somewhat dissatisfied with the Association’s attitude towards international chess and eventually a splinter group formed a rival organization which became known as the British Correspondence Chess Society.
The BCCS was, almost from the start, internationally orientated and it was possible to play foreign players, many of master strength. With strong opposition it seemed easier to improve and my first real success came in the Eberhardt Wilhelm Cup in 1966-67 when I was able to obtain the lM norm giving me a half=master title. However, gone were the days when a superficial analysis was enough before posting a move, which even if it was not the best, was generally good enough to hold one’s own with even the best of British CC players at that time. Fortunately for British chess, the situation is now vastly different and the strongest British CC players are recognized as being among the best in the world.
The Eberhardt Wilhelm Cup consisted of players all of master or near-master strength and it was in one of the games I played in this tournament that I played probably the most surprising move of my life.
To win the full IM title involved getting one more IM norm and happily for my prospects, I was selected for the British team in both the Olympiad Preliminary of 1972 and the European Team Championships of 1973.
Although I was trifle unlucky to miss the IM norm by half a point in the European Championship I finally clinched the coveted IM title in the Olympiad Preliminary which, although starting a few months before the European tournament, went on so long that I was in suspense long after the European games finished.
One of my most interesting games in the European Team Championship of 1973 was against F. Grzeskowiak, himself an IM and a feared attacking player.
John Upham recently chanced upon a 1947 game in which an otherwise unknown English player, C Bridle, defeated former World Championship challenger Bogoljubov in a 1947 tournament in Flensburg, Germany.
I’d come across the game myself many years ago, in Fred Reinfeld’s 1950 anthology A Treasury of British Chess Masterpieces, and wondered about C Bridle, a name I hadn’t encountered elsewhere. At some point, perhaps from a magazine article somewhere, I’d seen his first name given as Cliff. A few years ago, now with access to online genealogy records and newspaper archives, I decided to do some research.
We all know who Efim Bogoljubov (1889-1952) was, though. He’s in so many inter-war tournament photographs: the corpulent, beer-swilling figure in the front row, genial and self-confident. “When I’m white I win because I’m white”, he said, “when I’m black I win because I’m Bogoljubov.” It’s easy to forget that, throughout the 1920s and early 1930s he was one of the world’s strongest players, although no match for the mighty Alekhine in two world championship matches. Even in the final years of his career, after World War 2, he was still a formidable opponent. So how come he lost to an otherwise unknown adversary?
It’s well worth looking at the game. I also asked my silicon chum Stockfish 14 to comment on Reinfeld’s annotations. Needless to say, he(?) wasn’t impressed. Stocky v Freddy: let battle commence.
1. d4 e6
2. c4 f5
Stocky, who, sadly for me as a long standing devotee of that opening, doesn’t think much of the Dutch Defence, would aware this a ?!.
3. Nf3 Nf6
4. g3 b6?!
A ? from Freddy, another ?! from Stocky.
5. Bg2 Bb7
6. O-O Be7
Stocky suggests that White can, and should, play the immediate d5 here: 7. d5! exd5 8. Nd4 g6 9. cxd5 Bxd5 (9… Nxd5 10. Bh6) 10. Bxd5 Nxd5 11. Nxf5)
8. d5 Nxc3
Freddy correctly opines that Black has chosen a bad opening, but adds that the fianchetto of the queen’s bishop is generally avoid because of the possibility of d5. A strange comment, as the Queen’s Indian Defence is, and was back in 1950, perfectly respectable. The idea of d5 in this sort of position would, I think, have been considered fairly advanced knowledge at the time. I guess the ever optimistic Bogo was gambling on his inexperienced opponent not knowing this. If White just plays developing moves, it’s very easy for Black to play move like Ne4, g5, g4, Qh4 and get an automatic attack.
Threatening d6 as well as dxe6.
Freddy and Stocky agree that this deserves a question mark. Freddy suggests that Black should play 10… e5 when White should retreat his knight with advantage because of the poorly placed bishop on b7. Stocky continues this with 11. Nb3 d6 12. c5 (a thematic tactic: 12… bxc5 13. Nxc5 dxc5 14. Qb3 regaining the piece) 12… a5 13. c6 Bc8 with only a slight advantage for White. He also thinks Black could consider the pawn sacrifice 10… Bd6 11. dxe6 Bxg2 12. Kxg2 Qe7 13. exd7 Nxd7 with some compensation.
11. e4 c5
12. Ne2 Bf6
13. Qd3 Na6
14. exf5 exf5
Freddy gives this a shriek mark: ‘instinctive and strong’. Stocky is not so convinced, meeting it with 15… Nb4! to drive the queen away. White might then consider the exchange sacrifice 16. cxb4!? Bxa1 17. Bf4 Bb2 18. Rb1 Bf6 19. g5 Be7 20. Ng3 d6. He thinks White could have maintained a winning advantage by playing a move like Bf4 or h4 rather than trying to force the issue.
16. Be4 g6
Freddy claims 17. Bxg6 is premature. Again, Stocky begs to differ, analysing 17. Bxg6! hxg6 18. Qxg6+ Bg7 19. Bh6 Rf7 20. Ng3 Qf8 21. Nh5 Rf6 22. Qxg7+ Qxg7 23. Bxg7 Rf3 24. Rae1 Rh3 25. Re5 Rxh5 26. Rxh5 Kxg7 27. f3 with a winning advantage because Black’s queen side pieces are still out of play)
No comment from Freddy, but a question mark from Stocky, who thinks Qe8 was Black’s only defence.
18. Bf4 Nc7
19. Rae1 Ne8
Double shriek mark from Freddy. This time Stocky agrees. Stocky is happy with Freddy’s analysis of 20… gxh5 21. Bh6+!!, but points out that the more prosaic 21. Bxh7! is equally good. Some variations:
Stocky tells me this throws away most of White’s advantage: he should be opening the position rather than closing it, so 23. f3 was called for, when Black has nothing better than g3 in reply.
24. Rxe4 Rxe4
25. Qxe4 Qe8
26. Qd3 Qg8?
Moving the queen off the critical e-file. 26… Kg8 was the most tenacious defence, but Freddy didn’t notice.
27. f5 g5
Pushing the passed pawn too soon, giving the black queen access to g6. White has two winning ideas here, according to Stocky. He wants to capture on g4 before Black has time to start counterplay with h5. Perhaps the simpler option is:
28. Qe4! Qe8 (28… Re8 29. Qxg4 and Black’s kingside will soon collapse) 29. Be5 Rd8 (now the e-file is sealed White can continue in similar fashion to the game) 30. f6 Qg8 31. Bd6 Re8 32. Qe7+ Rxe7 33. fxe7+ Kg6 34. Rf8 and wins.
The second path to victory is:
28. Qg3! h5 (28… Ba6 29. Qxg4 Re8 30. Qh5+ Kf6 31. h4 Bxc4 32. Qh6+ Kf7 33. hxg5) when White has the spectacularly beautiful 29. Be7!! with elements of both interference (on the e-file) and clearance (on the diagonal). Play might continue 29… Kxe7 (29… Re8 30. Qd6 Rxe7 31. f6 Re3 32. Qxd7+ Kg6 33. f7 Qf8 34. Qf5+ Kh6 35. Qf6+ Kh7 36. Qxg5 Rf3 37. Qxh5+ Qh6 38. Qxh6+ Kxh6 39. Rxf3 gxf3 40. f8=Q+) 30. Qc7 Ba6 (30… Qf7 31. f6+ Kf8 32. Rf5 Re8 33. Qd6+ Kg8 34. Rxg5+ Kh8 35. Rg7 Qf8 36. Qf4) (30… Bc8 31. Re1+ Kf7 32. Qd6 Qg7 33. Re7+ Kf8 34. Rxg7+ Kxg7 35. Qe7+ Kh6 36. Qf7 h4 37. Qg6#) 31. Re1+ Kf8 32. Qd6+ Kg7 33. Re7+
A Bogo booboo, missing Cliff’s 30th move. Instead, he could have equalised by occupying the e-file first. After 28… Re8, with Qg6 to follow, everything, according to Stocky, is about equal. (28… Re8 29. Qf5 (29. Be7 Qg6 30. Qg3) 29… Bc8 30. Qxg4 Qg6)
But Freddy was asleep and let both players’ 28th moves pass without comment.
‘A very attractive game’, according to Freddy. An interesting but inaccurate game according to Stocky. You might, I suppose, see it as a classic example of bishops of opposite colours favouring the attacker in the middlegame, and note that Black’s queenside pieces were offside.
You should also look at some of the tactics, especially 29. Be7!! in the note to White’s 28th move.
It’s still mightily impressive for an unknown amateur to beat a top grandmaster with a brilliant queen sacrifice.
But who was Mr Bridle, anyway, and what was he doing in Flensburg? Perhaps he was just enjoying a summer holiday. It seems that Cliff spent most of his life in the shadows. Let’s have a look and see what we can find out.
Clifford Bridle was born in Weymouth, Dorset on 11 February 1914. His father was George Bridle, originally from Wareham, who had divorced his first wife in 1910 and married Susan Jane Smith in 1912. Cliff had an older sister, Greta, and two younger brothers, Jack and Victor, as well as a half sister, Sarah Bessie. The 1911 census reveals that George was a house decorator. Not the sort of comfortable upper middle-class background you’d expect from a strong chess player, but the world was changing. Before World War 1, chess had been, at least at higher levels, very much associated with the comfortably off, but in the inter-war years the game was broadening its demographics, and players from working class backgrounds could sometimes be found playing at higher levels.
We pick Cliff up for the first time as a chess player in 1932, where he was playing correspondence chess for his home county. He also started playing over the board, and, in April 1933, the Western Morning News pointed out that he’d won every game he played for Dorset, while lamenting the lack of an inter-club competition in his county. There was an individual county championship, though, and Cliff, one of the young ones, reached the final, where he lost to Swanage schoolmaster Bennett William Wood. The Western Gazette (23 June 1933) reported that “Mr. Bridle, who is only 18 years of age, is to be congratulated on the excellent fight he made for the championship. Congratulations again, Cliff. In those days the county champion got to play top board the following season, so Cliff didn’t quite make Number One.
He continued to play county chess, usually on about board 9 or 10, throughout the 1930s. The 1939 Register found him, a bachelor boy, living with his mother and brothers at 13 Milton Road, Weymouth. He was following in his father’s footsteps, working, like his brother Jack, as a house decorator and glazier, while young Victor seemed to be moving up in the world, having found clerical work with an estate agent. Cliff’s date of birth is given incorrectly as 11 July 1914. And then the trail goes dead, until 1947, when he turned up in Flensburg.
Here’s Wikipedia on Flensburg:
Flensburg is an independent town in the north of the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. Flensburg is the centre of the region of Southern Schleswig. After Kiel and Lübeck, it is the third largest town in Schleswig-Holstein.
In May 1945, Flensburg was the seat of the last government of Nazi Germany, the so-called Flensburg government led by Karl Dönitz, which was in power from 1 May, the announcement of Hitler’s death, for one week, until German armies surrendered and the town was occupied by Allied troops. The regime was effectively dissolved on 23 May when the British Army arrested Dönitz and his ministers – the dissolution was formalized by the Berlin Declaration which was progmulated on 5 June.
The nearest larger towns are Kiel (86 kilometres (53 miles) south) and Odense in Denmark (92 km (57 mi) northeast). Flensburg’s city centre lies about 7 km (4 mi) from the Danish border.
The 3rd Royal Tank Regiment was based there on behalf of the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) between 1945 and 1948, and CHESS, reporting the tournament, described Bridle as being of the BAOR. I can find nothing in online Forces records, so perhaps he was working for them in a civilian capacity. Maybe they needed a glazier to replace the broken windows. Not a summer holiday for Cliff, then.
The tournament was led by three prominent masters, while locally based players finished lower down. The final scores, according to BCM, were: Bogoljubov, 8.5; Enevoldsen (Copenhagen) and F. Sämisch 8; Nürnberg (Augsburg), 7; Sepp (Estonia), 5.5; H. Gomoluch (Flensburg), 5; Clausen (Denmark), 4; P. Gomoluch (Flensburg), 3.5; C. Bridle (England) and Kornbeck (Denmark), 2.5; Borgaa (Denmark), 0.5.
Cliff Bridle was 33 at the time, no longer a young one, so hardly, at least by today’s standards, the ‘youthful unknown’ described by Reinfeld. His win against Bogo attracted some attention and was published by ME Goldstein in the Chess Review, Sydney. This was in turn picked up by the Hastings and St Leonards Observer, who copied it on 28 August 1948.
Did he take up tournament chess on returning to England? Seemingly not very much. However, he ended up not all that far from my part of the world.
In 1954, the BCF published its second national grading list, and there, in category 4b, which would later become 185-192, or about 2100 in today’s money, is C Bridle of Wimbledon. So he must have been playing some competitive chess in the early 1950s. No sign of him in 1955, though.
In 1964 he suddenly appeared on the electoral roll, living, apparently on his own, at 147 Worple Road, Wimbledon, a road I know very well. It runs parallel with the railway line between Raynes Park and Wimbledon, therefore taking me to Wimbledon Chess Club for Thames Valley League matches. Was he still a bachelor boy? Perhaps not, in 1965, the last year for which London electoral rolls are currently available online, he’s been joined by Karen Bridle. Who was Karen? His wife? His daughter? Karen, originally a Danish name, only became popular in the English speaking world in the 1940s. I can’t find a marriage record for Cliff or a birth record for Karen, so, as we know he spent time in Flensburg, near the Danish-German border, perhaps he married there. I found an online tree with a Karen Bridle from Wimbledon, born in 1925, who married John Anthony Williams, who died at sea in 1970. The same person? No idea.
There’s one further record. The Middlesex County Times, which often reported Ealing Chess Club’s results, is available online. In 1968 Cliff Bridle was playing on board 3 for Wimbledon against Ealing in a Thames Valley League match (he won with the white pieces against E (Francis Edwin) Weninger), so he was still occasionally active into his mid 50s.
At some point he returned to his native Dorset, dying there in February 2001 at the age of 87.
Here, again, is the game on which his fame rests.
Update (27 Aug 21)
Thanks to everyone for their interest in this article.
Particular thanks to Jon D’Souza-Eva, who has discovered that Cliff Bridle’s wife seems to have been Katharina Cäcilia Martha Lauer, born 2 January 1927, died 6 April 1989: her address was given as Flat 1, Steeple Court, 36, St Marys Road, SW19, just round the corner from the All England Lawn Tennis Club. I presume she was born in Germany and married Cliff somewhere in the Flensburg area round about 1947. They later divorced and in 1970 she married John Anthony Williams, also a divorcee, who had been born in Ludlow in 1921. Sadly, John died on 6 August 1972: his probate record shows his address was also Steeple Court. (An online tree incorrectly gives his death year as 1970, not 1972, and claims he had died at sea, off the coast of Somerset, while working.)
Particular thanks also to Brian Denman, who has contributed another Cliff Bridle game.
Source: Sussex Daily News (21 Apr 1955), which gives neither the date nor the occasion.
In this game, Cliff is hardly recognisable as the same player who beat Bogo, is he? A pretty poor effort. Black could even have won a pawn with the Stock Tactic 5… Nxd5 with Bg7 to follow if White captures either way. I guess we all have bad days.
Bruce Hayden, or, if you prefer, Hendry Ellenband, was himself an interesting character, who, because of his local connections, might be worth a future Minor Piece.
Martin Luther (10 November 1483 – 18 February 1546) was a German professor of theology, priest, author, composer, Augustinian monk, and a seminal figure in the Reformation. Luther was ordained to the priesthood in 1507. He came to reject several teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church; in particular, he disputed the view on indulgences. Luther proposed an academic discussion of the practice and efficacy of indulgences in his Ninety-five Theses of 1517. His refusal to renounce all of his writings at the demand of Pope Leo X in 1520 and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms in 1521 resulted in his excommunication by the pope and condemnation as an outlaw by the Holy Roman Emperor.
Luther taught that salvation and, consequently, eternal life are not earned by good deeds but are received only as the free gift of God’s grace through the believer’s faith in Jesus Christ as redeemer from sin. His theology challenged the authority and office of the pope by teaching that the Bible is the only source of divinely revealed knowledge, and opposed sacerdotalism by considering all baptized Christians to be a holy priesthood. Those who identify with these, and all of Luther’s wider teachings, are called Lutherans, though Luther insisted on Christian or Evangelical as the only acceptable names for individuals who professed Christ.
His translation of the Bible into the German vernacular (instead of Latin) made it more accessible to the laity, an event that had a tremendous impact on both the church and German culture. It fostered the development of a standard version of the German language, added several principles to the art of translation, and influenced the writing of an English translation, the Tyndale Bible. His hymns influenced the development of singing in Protestant churches. His marriage to Katharina von Bora, a former nun, set a model for the practice of clerical marriage, allowing Protestant clergy to marry.
His translation of the Bible into the German vernacular (instead of Latin) made it more accessible to the laity, an event that had a tremendous impact on both the church and German culture. It fostered the development of a standard version of the German language, added several principles to the art of translation, and influenced the writing of an English translation, the Tyndale Bible. His hymns influenced the development of singing in Protestant churches. His marriage to Katharina von Bora, a former nun, set a model for the practice of clerical marriage, allowing Protestant clergy to marry.
Yes, Martin Luther was one of the most important figures in European history: he had an enormous impact on the development of Christianity, leading, for example to the foundation of the Church of England, which enabled Henry VIII to divorce Catherine of Aragon, marry Anne Boleyn and dissolve the monasteries.
He also had an enormous impact on the development of Western music. Out went complex polyphony sung in Latin, to be replaced by simple hymn tunes sung in the vernacular, which in turn would underpin the sacred music of one of my heroes, Johann Sebastian Bach.
Over the years, admirers of Martin Luther have sometimes chosen those names for their sons.
Take, for example, American Baptist preacher Michael King. While on a trip to Germany for the annual meeting of the World Baptist Alliance in 1934, where they issued a resolution condemning antisemitism, he was inspired by what he learned about Martin Luther to change both his Christian name, and that of his eldest son from Michael to Martin Luther. It was ironic that the original Martin Luther himself expressed violently antisemitic views in his later works.
An earlier Baptist minister on the other side of the Atlantic also named his son Martin Luther. Here’s his entry in the Dictionary of National Biography.
LEWIS, WILLIAM GARRETT (1821–1885), baptist minister, eldestson of William Garrett Lewis, was born at Margate 5 Aug. 1821. His father, who was in business at Margate, moved to Chatham, where he was ordained and became minister of the Zion Chapel in 1824; he was the author of ‘Original Hymns and Poems on Spiritual Subjects,’ London, 1827. The son was educated at Gillingham, Margate, and Uxbridge, and from 1837 to 1840 was articled to Dr. Gray, a Brixton schoolmaster. In 1840 he obtained a clerkship in the post office, went to live at Hackney, and became an active baptist. Being chosen a minister, he worked from September 1847 at the chapel in Silver Street, Kensington Gravel Pits. On 6 April 1853 the new chapel built by his congregation in Leding Road, Westbourne Grove, was opened, and there he continued to preach with great success till the end of 1880. On 3 Jan. 1881 his congregation presented him with four hundred guineas, and he removed to the chapel in Dagnal Street, St. Albans. Lewis was one of the founders of the London Baptist Association, of which he was secretary from 1865 to 1869 and president in 1870. For nearly twenty years he was editor of the ‘Baptist Magazine.’ He died 16 Jan. 1885 at his house in Victoria Street, St. Albans, and was buried in Kensal Green cemetery. He married, in December 1847, the youngest daughter of Daniel Katterns of the East India Company. His wife predeceased him, leaving a son and a daughter. Lewis was an excellent preacher and lecturer, and a man of great piety. His chief works were: 1. ‘The Religion of Rome examined,’ London, 1851, 16mo. 2. ‘Westbourne Grove Sermons,’ London, 1872. 3. ‘The Trades and Occupations of the Bible,’ London, 1875; a translation (with alterations) of this work appeared in Welsh, London, 1876.
The church he founded in Notting Hill is still active today. If you’re really interested, you can buy a book of his sermons here.
But it’s his son, Martin Luther Lewis, who interests us in this, the third and final article about Arthur Towle Marriott’s Leicester chess opponents.
Our Martin Luther was born in Kensington in 1851 and read Classics at Downing College, Cambridge. He then chose to go into teaching rather than following his father into the ministry, and obtained a post teaching Classics at Bradford Grammar School.
We first encounter him as a chess player in 1877 and 1878, taking part in a blindfold simul given, inevitably, by Joseph Henry Blackburne. The game was unfinished and Blackburne consented to a draw ‘owing to the pieces being very evenly balanced, and it being necessary to exchange off the pieces and play it out as a pawn game, which would have been very protracted’, according to the Bradford Daily Telegraph (30 Nov 1877). During the same period he played in matches against other clubs, gradually moving up the board order until he found himself on top board.
In 1880, Martin Luther Lewis was on the move. The Leicester Journal (12 Nov 1880) reported: ‘The Rev. Edward Atkins, B.Sc., has been appointed to the second mastership of Wyggeston Boys’ School, vacant by the promotion of Mr. G. H. Nelson, M.A., to the headmastership of the Canterbury Middle School. Mr. M.L. Lewis, M.A., LL.M., late scholar of Downing College Cambridge, Classical Master in the Bradford Grammar School, and Mr. Alfred Barker, B.A., of the University of London, one of the Masters in the City of London School, Cowper-Street, have been appointed to Assistant Masterships in the School.’. At about the same time the school launched a new chess club: Lewis was no doubt involved in this venture.
Wyggeston Grammar School for Boys was the most prestigious boys’ school in Leicester at the time. Its many distinguished alumni include the Attenborough brothers (the Attenborough Building at Orleans Park School in Twickenham host tournaments run by Richmond Junior Chess Club), former RJCC parent Simon Hoggart, and author, publisher and chess player James Essinger.
The 1881 census found Lewis boarding with a widow, Ann Woodruffe (Hyde) Burrows, whose teenage son Edward was, I would imagine, a Wyggeston pupil.
He soon joined Leicester Chess Club and it wasn’t very long before he graduated to top board, playing regularly for them against other clubs in the Midlands between 1882 and 1888. His first over the board encounter with Arthur Towle Marriott came on Friday 31st March 1882. The match was not a success, according to the Leicester Chronicle of 8 April. Unfortunately, the Leicester players had to return too early to allow of any satisfactory conclusion being arrived at, the only games concluded at the time the contest was finished being those between Messrs. T. Marriott and A.F. Atkins, and Mr. H.R. Hatherley and Rev. J.C. Elgood. Of those, each team had one win to their credit. The other games were not far enough advanced to allow of adjudication. a fact which, after nearly three hours’ play, shows they were very stubbornly contested. No chess clocks in those days, of course. (Note that AF Atkins was no relation to the aforementioned Edward.)
The two clubs met again on Thursday 26 October in Leicester, with Lewis and Marriott now in opposition on top board. According to the Nottingham Evening Post on 28 October: Play commenced at seven o’clock at the New Town Hall, and was continued until 10.30, when unfinished games were adjudicated by Messrs. A. Marriott and M.L. Lewis (their own game being among that number). The result was an easy victory for the Nottingham team, who won nine games, lost two and six were drawn. One of the draws was indeed their own encounter.
They met again in Nottingham on 23 February 1883, the result of their top board game, and also the match, being a draw. At round about the same time, in the first quarter of 1883, Martin Luther Lewis married his landlady.
His results over his years of activity between 1877 and 1888 suggest that Lewis was one of the strongest players in the country outside London. Usually playing on top board, it seems he lost very few games. The comparatively high proportion of draws, along with the lack of published games, suggest that he was a solid and cautious player. EdoChess gives him a highest rating of 2250. However, he preferred to concentrate on his teaching and pastoral work rather than seek chess fame further afield. He was, apart from teaching Classics at Wyggeston, involved in preaching, teaching in Sunday Schools, and with the Leicester YMCA, where he started a chess club, drawing with William John Withers in a match against Granby.
Martin and Ann, who was thirteen years his senior, continued to live together for the rest of their lives. His stepson Edward himself went on to study theology, was appointed to a curacy in Bath, but sadly died at the age of only 33.
Although Martin Luther Lewis’s chess career was relatively short and uneventful, he played a highly influential role in the story of English chess. You’ll remember Edward Atkins, who joined Wyggeston at the same time as him. A very interesting man was Edward. His father, Timothy, was a humble framework knitter from Hinckley, but, like Thomas Marriott senior, was ambitious to improve himself. Even up to his mid 50s he was still knitting stockings, but later opened a shop, and, later still, became a hosiery manufacturer. He was clearly ambitious for his children, as well. Edward, in spite of his modest origins, had a highly successful career in the Church of England as well as teaching, becoming a Canon and continuing to officiate at the Church of St Nicholas, Leicester, into his nineties. His science lessons led to the formation of Leicester College of Technology, which would very much later (while I was there) become the City of Leicester Polytechnic, and is now, as De Montfort University, the home of the ECF Library.
The two men must have been good friends, and when Edward’s young son Henry Ernest Atkins showed an interest in chess, Martin was on hand to provide both tuition and encouragement. Perhaps he also influenced his pupil’s style of play. Atkins junior, of course, became one of England’s strongest ever players. Certainly a Major Piece, not a Minor Piece. You can read much more about him in excellent articles here and here.
Martin Luther Lewis died on 23 October 1919, just 15 months after his wife.
Here’s an appreciation from ‘one who knew him’ from the Leicester Daily Post of 27 October.
Three weeks earlier, on 6 October, about a mile a half away, Tom Harry James had welcomed his 18th and last child into the world. But that’s another story.
This, then, was the life of Martin Luther Lewis, classics teacher, preacher and strong chess player.
It’s a well-known trope, isn’t it? You’ll probably be familiar with the 1939 movie Goodbye Mr Chips, based on James Hilton’s 1934 novella. You may also know the Terence Rattigan play The Browning Version. Hilton’s Mr Chips and Rattigan’s Crocker-Harris were both, like Lewis, classics teachers. Perhaps we might consider him to have been cut from the same cloth as these two fictional counterparts.
His sister Ruth never married, becoming a hospital matron in Chipping Barnet, and then working for the YWCA in Exeter. She later moved to Leicester, perhaps to care for her older brother in his final illness, and is buried with him in Welford Road Cemetery.
BCN remembers Dr. Julian Farrand who passed on Friday, July 17th, 2020. He was 84 years of age.
Julian Thomas Farrand was born August 13th, 1935 in Doncaster in the West Riding of Yorkshire.
Dr. Farrand QC(Hon), formerly the Insurance Ombudsman, became the Pensions Ombudsman, and he had been a Law Commissioner and a University Professor of Law at the University of Manchester where he was Dean of the faculty.
Most recently he lived in Morpeth, London, SW1.
His first recorded game in Megabase 2020 was white at the 1968 British Championships in Bristol against life-long friend CGM Keith Bevan Richardson. Together with Raymond Brunton Edwards, Julian and Keith were long-time trustees of the BCFs Permanent Invested Fund (PIF).
Julian played for Pimlico, Cavendish and Insurance in the London League and he maintained a standard play grading of 172A in 2020 as well as a FIDE rating of 1943 for standard play. He also played in the London Public Services League, the Central London League and the City Chess Association League. He made regular appearances in the Bronowski Trophy competition and the World Senior’s Team Tournament.
His (according to Megabase 2020) peak Elo rating was 2238 in April, 2004 aged 69. It is likely to have been higher than that if it was measured.
Julian joined Barbican following its merger with Perception Youth to become Barbican Youth in the Four Nations Chess League (4NCL).
His favourite openings with white were : The Richter-Veresov Opening in later years and the English/Barcza Opening in earlier times.
With Black he enjoyed the Czech System and the Lenningrad Dutch.
His son, Tom, is a strong player and a successful barrister with expertise in Intellectual Property Rights, Trademarks and Copyright law.
His wife (married in 1992), Baroness Hale of Richmond, served as President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom from 2017 to 2020, and serves as a member of the House of Lords as a Lord Temporal.
Memorial messages have been posted on the English Chess Forum and many will, no doubt, follow. Included are older games from John Saunders not found in the online databases.
In 2015 Julian (together with fellow trustees Keith Richardson and Ray Edwards) received the ECF President’s Award for services to the Permanent Invested Fund.
Here is the citation from the 2015 award :
“Julian is best known as the first-ever English ombudsman (in insurance). He is the husband of law lord Baroness Hale. I (SR) first met him at about the age of 12 year old when playing for my school. He is about four years older. Both Ray and Julian are members of the Book of the Year Committee and have been reviewing books for this purpose for many years. Both are quite strong chess players, indeed playing for England in the same team in the European 60+ Team Championship in Vienna 11-20 July 2015. Keith was to have been a member of the same team, but his wife’s ill-health forced him to withdraw.”
Few people know the story of Vera Menchik yet it deserves to be told. She was the first women’s world chess champion in 1927 and retained the title undefeated until her untimely death at the age of 38 in 1944 during a rocket attack on London. She is more properly compared with the great male players of her era against whom she scored creditably. The absence of a full biography of Vera in English reflects the peculiar circumstances of her life and death.
Vera was, in modern terminology, a refugee and essentially a stateless person for much of her life. She was born in Moscow in 1906 during the period of the Russian Empire to an expatriate family who was forced to flee when she was 15 following the Russian Revolution having lost their livelihood. As they passed through Europe, her father and mother split up in his homeland Czechoslovakia which had been created out of the ruins of the Austro-Hungarian empire. She arrived in England and took up residence in the seaside town of Hastings. (The fact that Hastings had hosted the world’s longest series of annual chess tournaments since 1895 was a happy coincidence.) Vera never attained British nationality until near the end of her life even though she had been domiciled in England from 1921. She won the first-ever Women’s World Championships held in London in 1927 under a Russian flag; thereafter she nominally represented Czechoslovakia until finally she represented England in 1939 following her marriage to a senior official within the British Chess Federation.
Vera’s grandfather was Arthur Illingworth, a wealthy trader from Lancashire who had set up business in Moscow where his Anglo-Russian daughter Olga married František Menčik. He was a successful estate manager. Vera learned chess from her father and performed well at school. Her younger sister Olga was also a good chess player and the sisters remained close throughout their lives.
Vera was a woman in a man’s world – she had to struggle harder to achieve the kind of recognition which was accorded to men. She appeared like a comet in the sky and it would be many years until other women were able to reach her level. At her first major international tournament at Karlsbad in 1929, she was the only female participant in a tournament of 22 great players. Even as women’s world champion, some of the male players objected to her participation. The Viennese master Albert Becker joked that anybody who lost to her should belong to the Vera Menchik Club. By an irony of history, he became its first member losing to her in the third round. She beat many other grandmasters during her career including the Dutchman Max Euwe in 1930 and 1931 (both at Hastings) who was to become world champion in 1935.
Although she is often portrayed as being Russian or Czech or latterly British, she was a true cosmopolitan. She knew that life could be unstable in any country. She had lived through the Russian Revolution; one parent was left behind in Czechoslovakia; she had moved westwards across Europe and embraced different cultures and languages at formative stages of her life. It is no wonder that she learned also to speak Esperanto which was designated to be the world’s lingua franca before English achieved its dominance. As a leading chess player, she travelled back to Moscow and to Czechoslovakia several times as well as to South America for her final match to retain the women’s world champion title in 1939. She needed to be self-sufficient and was obtained roles as the games editor of a chess magazine as well as being appointed the manager of the National Chess Centre in Oxford Street which was destroyed during the Blitz in 1940.
She survived most of the war and now a widow moved in with her mother and sister to a house in south London. They took the precaution of going down to the cellar during bombing raids. Tragically the house received a direct hit from a flying bomb and the entire family was wiped out. Hardly any of her possessions remained save for one dented trophy. The records at the national chess centre were destroyed as were her personal effects including her chess memorabilia. At least there remains a record of the moves played in her games which serve as testimony to her remarkable career as not only the first women’s world chess champion but also a woman who broke boundaries wherever she went and demonstrated that a woman is capable of standing on her own feet professionally and leading a full and eventful life.
The Bomb Attack
BCN remembers that in the early morning of Tuesday, June 27th, 1944 (i.e. 77 years ago) Vera Menchik, her sister Olga, and their mother were killed in a V-1* flying bomb attack which destroyed their home at 47 Gauden Road in the Clapham area of South London.
(*The V-1 was an early cruise missile with a fairly crude guidance system.)
All three were cremated at the Streatham Park Crematorium on 4 July 1944. Vera was 38 years old.
Vera’s Parents and Sister
Vera Frantsevna Menchik (or Věra Menčíková) was born in Moscow on Friday, 16th February, 1906. Her father was František Menčik, was born in Bystrá nad Jizerou, Bohemia. František and Olga were married on June 23rd 1905 in Moscow and notice of this marriage appeared in British newspapers on July 22nd 1905. Vera’s sister was Olga Rubery (née Menchik) and she was born in Moscow in 1908. Olga Menchik married Clifford Glanville Rubery in 1938. Vera married Rufus Henry Streatfeild Stevenson on October 19th 1937.
Her Maternal Roots
Our interest in unearthing her maternal English heritage / roots has led to the following:
Her mother was Olga (née Illingworth (1885 – 27 vi 1944). Olga’s parents were Arthur Wellington Illingworth and Marie Illingworth (née ?). Arthur was born in October 1852 in the district of Salford, Lancashire, his parents were George Illingworth (1827-1887) and Alice Whewell (1828-1910).
In the 1861 census Arthur is recorded as being of eight years of age and living in the Illingworth household.
In the 1871 census Arthur is recorded as being of eighteen years of age and living in the Illingworth household of nine persons at 5, Lancaster Road, Pendleton, Lancashire. Arthur’s occupation is listed as being a merchants apprentice. In fact, he was a stock and share broker.
Arthur died in Moscow on February 21st 1898. Probate was recorded in London on July 6th, 1900 as follows:
Illingworth Arthur Wellington of Moscow Russia merchant died 21st February 1898 Probate London 6th July to Walter Illingworth stock and share-broker Effects £4713 7s
£4713 7s in 1898 equates roughly to £626,600.00 in 2020 so it would appear that Arthur was considerably successful and almost certainly left money to Olga Illingworth.
What do we conclude from all of this? Quite simply that Vera’s maternal roots were from Salford in Lancashire.
The August 1944 British Chess Magazine (Volume LXIV, Number 8, page 173 onwards) contained this editorial from Julius du Mont:
“British Chess has suffered a grievous and irreparable loss in the death by enemy action of Mrs. R.H.S. Stevenson known through all the world where chess is played as Vera Menchik.
We give elsewhere (below : Ed.) an appreciation of this remarkable woman. Quite apart from her unique gifts as a chess-player-the world may never see her equal again among women players-she had many qualities which endeared her to all who knew her, the greatest among them being here great-hearted generosity.
We sympathise with our contemporary “CHESS” : Vera Menchik was for some years their games editor. Few columns have been conducted with equal skill and efficiency and none, we feel sure, with a greater sense of responsibility.
The news of this remarkable tragedy will be received by the chess world with sorrow and with abhorrence of the wanton and useless robot methods of a robot people.
One shudders at the heritage of hatred which will be theirs, but their greatest punishment will come with their own enlightenment.”
BCM Contemporary Obituary from EGR Cordingley
From page 178 of the same issue we have an obituary written by EGR Cordingley :
“The death by enemy action of Miss Vera Menchik removes not only the greatest woman chess player of all times but a charming personality.
The world will remember her for her chess prowess, for her exceptional skill as a woman player who had beaten in tournament play such gifted players as Euwe, Sultan Khan, Sir George Thomas, Alexander and Yates. In such company, and she played in several of the Hastings International tournaments and other of similar grade, she usually obtained about 33%, though in the Maribor tournament of 1934 she finished third, behind Pirc and Steiner but ahead of Rejfir, Spielmann, Asztalos and Vidmar.
Her game was characterised by solid position-play, with the definite aim of bringing about a favourable end-game and of avoiding wild complications. The ordinary stratagems of the game, small combinations and the like, were of course part of her equipment, but she lacked that imaginative, inventive spirit without which few become really great players.
In recent times, Reshesvky and Flohr (as a professional with a reputation to maintain and a living to earn) have shown that great success can be achieved by reducing the game to pure positional play, the technique being firstly to build up a position devoid of weaknesses, an ‘I can’t lose position,’ and secondly to create and take advantage of the minutest weaknesses in the opponent’s camp, a major weakness may show that imagination is not quite dead within.
This defect in her play was the inevitable reflection of her character: sound common-sense, conscientious to an unusual degree, and persevering, while she had the combative, tenacious nature so desirable and so often found in good chess players; for chess is battle of wits, the fight is what most of use love in chess. Vera was, seldom assertive, a fault not uncommon in chess players. She sat placidly at the chess board, never causing even mild irritation by any of those nervous mannerisms that may always be seen in any chess room, the peripatetic fever being the most prominent. A slight flush would rise when the position grew difficult, or when she was short of time on her clock – and that was recurrent according to the time-limit.
Away from the chessboard show would readily talk of other subjects, and her great interest was in persons, in their actions and behaviour under the strain and stress of the unruly passions; in the moulding of their lives under the inscrutable dictates of chance; in the twists and turns of a mind warped perhaps by a casual incident long ago. Of course, she was a pagan, a thinking one, who had asked and asked and found only the answer that reasoning gave. She judged kindly and never inflicted upon others her own opinions or beliefs: she asked only that these should be heard as one side of any argument, for she enjoyed a dialectic bout.
A delightful side to her character was her simple sense of humour, and I remember so clearly her pleasure – glee would describe it more eloquently – when I gave her the punctuation necessary to make sense of that ludicrous collection of words, ‘Jones where Brown had had had had had had had had had had had the master’s approval’ Anyone who knew her only at the chessboard would have been astonished at the amount of bubbling merriment she discovered of of life’s events.
I shall remember her more for the woman as I knew her over many cups of coffee spread over many, many weeks – complacent, smiling, and kindly; conscientious, loyal, and sincere; as I understand the word, a Christian who would help any deserving person as best she could. E. G. R. C.
and here is the original article as printed:
BCM 1958 Appreciation by Peter Clarke
From British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXVIII (78, 1958), Number 7 (July), page 181 onwards) we have this retrospective from Peter Clarke:
“The night of June 27th,1944, Vera Menchik, World Woman Champion, was killed when an enemy bomb demolished her home in London; with her perished her mother and sister Olga. In these tragic circumstances the chess world lost its greatest woman player, still undefeated and at the height of her powers.
Vera Francevna Menchik was born in Moscow on February 16th, 1906, of an English mother and Czech father. There she spent her childhood, showing a love for literature, music, and, of course, chess, which at the age of nine she was taught by her father. She had a natural bent for the game and when only fourteen shared second and third places a schoolboys (!) tournament. The following year, 1921, the family came to England, where Miss Menchik lived the rest of her life.
As if by some fortunate coincidence, the Menchiks settled in Hastings, though it was not until the spring of 1923 that Vera joined the famous chess club. Her natural shyness and lack of knowledge of English caused this delay. However, they did not handicap her too much
as she herself afterwards wrote: ‘Chess is a quiet game and therefore the best hobby for a person who cannot speak the language.”
She studied the game eagerly, and very soon her talent caught the attention of the Hungarian grandmaster, Géza Maróczy, who was resident at Hastings at that time. Thus there began the most important period in her development as a player; a sound and mature understanding of positional play-and a thorough knowledge of a few special openings and defences: in particular the French Defence. The influence of
the grandmasters ideas was clearly apparent in her style throughout the whole of her career.
Miss Menchik’s rise to fame was meteoric: by 1925 she was undoubtedly the strongest player of her sex in the country, having twice defeated the Champion, E. Price, in short matches; and only two years later she won the first Women’s World Championship in London with the terrific score 10.5-0.5. She was just twenty-one, but already in a different class from any other woman in the world. For seventeen years until her death Vera Menchik reigned supreme in women’s chess, defending her world title successfully no less than seven times (including a match with Sonja Graf at Semmering in 1937, which Miss Menchik won 11.5-4.5. In the seven tournaments for the World Championship she played 83 games; winning 78, drawing 4, and losing 1 only! However, what was more remarkable was that she was accepted into the sphere of men’s chess as a master in her own right, a feat which no woman had done before or has done since. Up to then, women’s chess had been a very poor relation of the masculine game, but here was a woman who was a worthy opponent for the strongest masters.
Flohr wrote of her: ‘Vera Menchik was the first woman in the world who played chess strongly…who played like a man.’ It was as the ambassador extraordinary, so to speak, of the women’s game that Miss Menchik really made her greatest contribution to chess. Wherever she went, at home and abroad, she aroused great interest among her sex; others were eager to follow her, to identify themselves with her. Nowadays women’s chess is well organized, and much of the credit for this must go to Vera Menchik for first bringing it into the light. Among her many personal successes in international tournaments perhaps the greatest was at Ramsgate in 1929: as one of the foreign masters (she was still of Czech nationality) she shared second and third places with Rubinstein, * point behind Capablanca and above, among others, her tutor Maróczy.
Even the greatest masters recognized Miss Menchik’s ability; Alekhine himself, writing on the Carlsbad Tournament of 1929, said: ‘Vera Menchik is without doubt an exceptional phenomenon among women. She possesses great aptitude for the game…The chess
world must help her develop her talent!’
The Vera Menchik Club
An amusing incident occurred at this tournament. There were naturally sceptics among the masters over the lady’s participation. Flohr recalls how one of these, the Viennese master Becker, suggested:
‘Whoever loses to the Woman Champion will be accepted as a member of the Vera Menchik Club which I intend to organize.’
Becker was the first to lose to her, and that evening the masters chided him: “Professor Becker, you did not find it very difficult to join the club. You can be the Chairman.’ And forthwith he was chosen as Chairman for three years. Everyone wished that the new club would soon obtain more members! Indeed, the Vera Menchik Club has many famous names on its lists-Euwe, Reshevsky, Colle, Yates, Sultan Khan, Sir G. A. Thomas, Alexander, to mention a few.
In 1935 Miss Menchik returned to the country of her birth to take part in the great international tournament in Moscow. To be truthful, she had very little success, but she was everywhere treated with respect and sympathy by masters and spectators alike. The Soviet master l. Maiselis, writing in CHESS in 1944.(Shakhmaty za 1944 god), related the following entertaining anecdote from the tournament: One day a group of players and organizers were discussing the chances of Alekhine and Euwe in the forthcoming match. Flohr said: ‘It is quite clear that I will be World Champion.’ We looked at him inquiringly.
‘It’s very simple,” continued Flohr, ‘Euwe wins a match against Alekhine, Vera Menchik beats Euwe (at that time her score against Euwe was +2, =1, -1) and I will somehow beat Miss Menchik.’
We laughed at this good-natured joke, and we laughed all the more the next day when Flohr was unable, despite every effort, to defeat her in a vital game.
ln 1937 Miss Menchik married R. Stevenson, but in chess she continued to use her maiden name, made famous by so many victories. Her husband, a well-known organizer, became, Secretary of the B.C.F: in the following year and remained so until his death in 1943.
Since the days of Vera Menchik women’s chess has taken great strides forward; now there is a special committee of F.I.D.E. to look after its needs.- Only last year the first lnternational Women’s Team Tournament took place ln Emmen, Holland; the new World Champions, the U.S.S.R., became the first holders of the Vera Menchik Cup. So chess goes onwards, but the name of its first Queen will ever be remembered.”
From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Robert Hale, 1970 & 1976) by Anne Sunnucks :
“Woman World Champion from 1927 to 1944. Vera Menchik was born in Moscow on 16th February 1906 of an English mother and a Czech father. Her father taught her to play chess when she was 9.
In 192l her family came to England and settled in Hastings (at 13, St. John’s Road, St. Leonards-on-Sea, TN37 6HP) :
Two years later, when she was 17, Vera joined Hastings Chess Club,
where she became a pupil of Geza Maroczy. The first Women’s World Championship was held in 1927. Vera Menchik won with a score of 10.5 out of 11. She defended her title successfully in Hamburg in 1930, in Prague in 1931, in Folkestone in 1933, in Warsaw in 1935, in Stockholm in 1937 and in Buenos Aires in 1939. She played 2 matches against Sonja Graf, her nearest rival, in 1934 when she won +3 -1 and in 1937, in a match for her title when she won +9 -1 =5.
The first woman ever to play in the British Championship and the first to play in a master tournament, Vera Menchik made her debut in master chess at Scarborough 1928 when she scored 50 per cent. The following year she played in Paris and Carlsbad, and it was at Carlsbad that the famous Menchik Club was formed. The invitation to Vera Menchik to compete among such players as Capablanca, Euwe, Tartakower and Nimzowitch was received with amusement by many of the masters. The Viennese master, Becker was particularly scornful, and in the presence of a number of the competitors he suggested that anyone who lost to Vera Menchik should be granted membership of the Menchik Club. He himself became the first member. Other famous players who later joined the club were Euwe, Reshevsky, Sultan Khan, Sir George Thomas, C. H. O’D. Alexander, Colle and Yates.
Her greatest success in international tournaments was at Ramsgate in 1929, when she was =2nd with Rubinstein, half a point behind Capablanca and ahead of Maroczy. In 1934 she was 3rd at Maribor, ahead of Spielmann and Vidmar. In 1942 she won a match against Mieses +4 -l -5. In 1937 Vera Menchik married R. H. S. Stevenson, who later became Hon. Secretary of the British Chess Federation. He died in 1943. She continued to use her maiden name when playing chess. On her marriage she became a British subject.
From 1941 until her death she was Games Editor of CHESS. She also gave chess lessons and managed the National Chess Centre, which opened in 1939 at John Lewis’s in Oxford Street, London and was destroyed by a bomb in 1940.
In 1944 Vera Menchik was a solid positional player, who avoided complications and aimed at achieving a favourable endgame. Her placid temperament was ideal for tournament play. Her main weakness was possibly lack of imagination. Her results have made her the most successful woman player ever.”
From The Encyclopaedia of Chess, (BT Batsford, 1977) by Harry Golombek :
Probably the strongest woman player in the history of the game, Vera Menchik was born in Moscow and, though her father was a Czechoslovak and her mother English, she played for most of her
life under English colours.
In l92l her family came to Hastings in England and there Vera became a pupil of the great Hungarian master, Geza Maroczy. This was to have a dominating influence on her style of play which was solidly classical, logical and technically most well equipped. Such a style enabled her to deal severely not only with her fellow women players but also with contemporary masters and budding masters. Vera did extremely well, for example, against C. H. O’D. Alexander
and P. S. Milner-Barry, but lost repeatedly to H. Golombek who was able to take advantage of her lack of imagination by the use of more modern methods.
Vera was soon predominent in women’s chess. In the first Women’s World Championship tournament, at London in 1927, she won the title with a score of 10.5 out of 11 and retained the championship with great ease at all the subsequent Olympiads (or International Team tournaments as they were then known more correctly) at Hamburg 1930, Prague 1931, Folkestone 1933, Warsaw 1935, Stockholm 1937 and Buenos Aires 1939.
With Sonja Graf, the player who came nearest to her in strength among her female contemporaries, she played two matches and demonstrated her undoubted superiority by beating her in 1934 (+3-l) and again in a match for the title in l937 (+9-l=5).
In 1937 Vera officially became a British citizen by marrying the then Kent and later B.C.F. Secretary, R. H. S. Stevenson (Rufus Henry Streatfeild Stevenson: ed).
(Rufus Henry Streatfeild Stevenson was home news editor of the British Chess Magazine, secretary of the Southern Counties Chess Union and match captain of the Kent County Chess Association).
Oddly enough, Sonja Graf, many years later, also became a Mrs Stevenson by marrying an American of that name some years after the Second World War.
Vera Menchik also played and held her own in men’s tournaments. She did well in the British championship and her best performance in international chess was =2nd with Rubinstein in the Ramsgate Team Practice tournament ahead of her old teacher, Maroczy. She also had an excellent result at Maribor in 1934 where she came 3rd, ahead of Spielmann and Vidmar.
Her husband died in 1943 and Vera herself, together with her younger sister Olga and her mother, was killed by a V1 bomb that descended on the Stevenson home in London in 1944.
This was a sad and premature loss, not only for British but for world chess, since there is no doubt she would have continued to dominate the female scene for many years.
As a person Vera was a delightful companion, jolly and full of fun and understanding. As a player she was not only strong but also absolutely correct and without any prima donna behaviour. Generous in defeat and modest in victory, she set a great example to all her contemporaries.
An example of Vera’s attacking play at its best against her nearest rival, Sonja Graf, is shown by the following game which was played in her 1937 match at Semmering in Austria :
From The Oxford Companion to Chess, (Oxford University Press, 1984) by Hooper and Whyld :
“Woman World Champion from 1927 until her death. Daughter of a Czech father and an English mother, Menchik was born in Moscow, learned chess when she was nine, settled in England around
1921, and took lessons from Maroczy a year or so later. In 1927 FIDE organized both the first Olympiad and the first world championship tournament for women. These events were run concurrently, except in 1928, until the Second World War began, and Menchik won the women’s tournament every time; London 1927 (+10=1); Hamburg 1930 (+6=1 — 1); Prague 1931 (+8);
Folkestone 1933 ( + 14); Warsaw 1935 (+9); Stockholm 1937 (+14); and Buenos Aires 1939 ( + 17=2). She played in her first championship tournament as a Russian, the next five as a Czech,
and the last as a Briton. She also won on two matches against her chief rival, the German-born Sonja Graf (c. 1912-65): Rotterdam, 1934 (+3-1), and Semmering, 1937 (+9=5—2),
In international tournaments which did not exclude men Menchik made little impression; one of her best results was at Maribor 1934 (about category 4) when she took third place alter Pirc and L. Steiner ahead of Spielmann. In 1937 she married the English chess organizer Rufus Henry Streatfeild Stevenson (1878-1943), A chess professional, she gave lessons, lectures, and displays, and was appointed manager of the short-lived National Chess Centre in 1939. In 1942 she defeated Mieses in match play (+4=5-1), She, her younger sister Olga (also a player), and their mother were killed in a bombing raid.
Her style was positional and she had a sound understanding of the endgame. On occasion she defeated in tournament play some of the greatest masters, notably Euwe, Reshevsky, and Sultan Khan. Men she defeated were said to belong to the Menchik club. When world team championships for women (women’s chess Olympiads) were commenced in 1957 the trophy for the winning team was called the Vera Menchik Cup.”
BCM 1994 Appreciation by Bernard Cafferty
From British Chess Magazine, Volume CXIV (114, 1994), Number 8 (August), page 424 onwards) we have this retrospective from Bernard Cafferty:
Fifty yezus ago the chess world was tragically robbed of its most talented female representative of the first half of this century. A Vl rocket (ed: The V1 was not a rocket but a flying bomb) fell on a house in Gauden Road, Clapham, London, that was the residence of Russian-born Vera Menchik, her younger sister and their mother. The trio were sheltering in the cellar, as they usually did during the Nazi air raids on London. The house was completely destroyed. The air-raid shelter in the garden was all that was left.
Vera Menchik was born in Moscow on 16 February 1906, and died on 26 June 1944. The date of death is usually given as 27 June, but Ken Whyld has seen the death certificate and tells us the tragedy occurred before midnight, not after.
The young Vera grew up in a cosmopolitan family in Moscow, where her Czech father and English mother lived in a six-room flat, which they had to share, after 1917, with families from ‘the lower depths’ (the name of a famous play by Gorky which could also be translated as ‘on Skid Row’). In autumn 1921 the family left Soviet Russia and came
to England where they lived in Hastings.
Botvinnik recalls that he visited the Menchik household in Hastings in 1935, where he met Vera’s grandmother. Then, in 1936, he visited the other house in London, after the Nottingham 1936 tournament. At that time the Soviet Embassy arranged a reception in an attempt to counter the awful image of a country deep in the throes of the show trials and widespread repression. However, only Botvinnik, Menchik, Capablanca and Lasker turned up.
Vera Menchik was taught the moves of chess by her father, Franz, when she was nine years old. However, she only took the game seriously from the age of 17, when she joined the Hastings and St Leonards Chess Club, which at that time had its famous extensive sea-front premises near the pier.
According to the 1957 book in Russian by Bykova, on which this account is largely based, Vera only knew Russian when she cam to England, and one of the reasons for her to join the chess club was that a fluent knowledge of English was not necessary for her to be able to benefit from such a silent activity as chess.
The young Vera was fortunate in that the Hungarian grandmaster, Géza Maróczy, had a professional engagement with the Hastings club at this time, and the young lady became his most famous pupil. Her sound style with no fear of long endgames was a mirror of her mentor. She was also helped by Professor JAJ Drewitt, another Hastings club member, in the study of openings, particularly the closed openings.
Vera was initially counted as a Russian and did not enter the British Women’s Championship at the traditional August BCF Congress. However, she made her debut in international chess at a lower section of the 1923-24 Hastings Congress. In 1925 she beat the leading English player Edith Price by a score of +5 =2 -3 in two private matches. She duly took part in the Hastings Congresses, year after year. In the 1926-27 event she scored her first big success by sharing first place with the young Milner-Barry on 6.5(9) in the Premier Reserves.
By 1927, VM was ready to enter the first Women’s World Championship, which was played at the 4th FIDE Congress, alongside the Olympiad in London. She conceded only one draw in her eleven games and so took the title which she was to retain with ease from that day, when she was just 21, till her death 17 years later. In her first title attempt, she
was counted as a Russian, but at the next five (at the Hamburg 1930, Prague 1931,
Folkestone 1933, Warsaw 1935 and Stockholm 1937 Olympiads) she played as a representative of Czechoslovakia. It was only after her marriage to the prominent English organiser R. H. S. Stevenson in 1937 that she was counted as British and played under the Union Flag in her last title defence at Buenos Aires 1939.
Her dominance can be gauged from the fact that she won all eight games at Prague, all 14 at Folkestone, all 9 at Warsaw, all 14 at Stockholm and conceded just two draws in 19 games in 1939. The most serious challenge came in a title match at Semmering-Baden with Sonja Graf, then of Germany. Here too it was largely one-sided: +9 =5 -2.
She made her debut against male masters in an international tournament at Scarborough in 1928, finishing equal 7-8 in a field of 10, but in only the following year, at the Kent Easter Congress, she had one of her best results.
It was decided to run a Scheveningen tournament at Ramsgate with seven foreign masters pitted against seven home representatives. As was only to be expected, Capablanca came top of the ‘external examiners’, yet the next placing was a sensation: Capablanca 5.5(7) followed by Miss Menchik and Rubinstein 5, Koltanowski and Maroczy 4.5, Soultanbeieff 4 and Znosko-Borovsky 3. Sir George Thomas, whom Menchik beat, scored 3 to head the English team of Yates, Winter, Michel, Tylor and E. G. Sergeant.
Naturally enough, after this it was inevitable that foreign invitations should follow. Later in 1929 the young ‘Russian’ took part in a Paris tournament and then in the great Carlsbad tournament, the last of a wonderful series. Her presence here created some scepticism, and on the eve of the first round the Austrian theoretician Becker suggested that a Vera Menchik club be formed, membership of which would be granted only to those who lost to the lady. According to Flohr, there was an expectation that it would be a small select club, but Becker was quickly proved wrong for he became its first member in the third round! His only consolation was that the club proved far more extensive and democratic as the years rolled by. In fact the club came to include grandmasters such as Euwe (who earned a two-fold qualification) Sultan Khan and Reshevsky as well as masters such as Saemisch, Colle, Golombek, Sir George Thomas, Alexander…
However, Miss Menchik could not make much of the universally strong opposition and made only three points out of 20, finishing last, three points behind Sir George Thomas. With further experience she was to have more impressive results, such as her 8th place at London 1932, won by Alekhine, where she came ahead of Milner-Barry, Sir George, Burger and Winter.
A high spot of the 1930s for Vera was her participation in the 1935 Moscow tournament, but her return to her native city was so taken up with social engagements that she was unable to give of her best, and she scored only one and a half points from 19 games though she did take a draw off the winner of second prize, Flohr.
Vera had to eke out a living from teaching chess, adjudications and simultaneous exhibitions. After her return from Buenos Aires she lived in London. She was appointed administrator of the new National Chess Centre at John Lewis’s store in Oxford Street, which, alas, was destroyed by enemy action in 1940.
Her last great success was a match with the veteran GM, Jacques Mieses who was a refugee from anti-Semitic German. Played in 1942, the result was +4 =5 -1.
In 1943 Vera’s husband died. In 1944 she was playing in the championship of the West London Club, a strong event which included Sir George Thomas, PM List, EG Sergeant and Mieses amongst the players. Doubtless she was looking forward to the resumption of International chess activity after the war. It was not to be. We live in an age when the achievements of women players such as Gaprindashvili, Chirburdanidze, Xie Jun and the Polgar sisters have built on the pioneer work of Vera Menchik. Yet the path of the pioneer is always the hardest.
Finally, by all accounts of contemporaries, Vera was a cultured and sympathetic person who never gave cause for offence amongst the many players she met. Had she lived, she would have continued to be a jewel in the crown of British chess, which had to drag itself up from the boot straps after the devastation of war. What a tragic loss.
She was inducted to the World Chess Hall of Fame in 2011.
BCN wishes Happy Birthday to GM Daniel Fernandez who at 26 is currently England’s youngest Grandmaster. The previous GM title holder was Jonathan Hawkins in 2014 making two in seven years.
Daniel Howard Fernandez was born in Stockport, Manchester on Sunday, March 5th 1995. “Think Twice” by Celine Dion was top of the UK hit parade.
Daniel started playing chess at the age of seven (after his father taught him the rules) and at this time attended King’s School, Harpenden. His first chess club was Little Heath which became the ECF Small Club of the Year in 2015. They play in the Potter’s Bar area and include IM John Pigott in their membership.
At Little Heath Chess Club Daniel was coached by Mark Uniacke (who worked extensively on the early chess engine HIARCS).
Daniel went up to Queen’s College, Cambridge to read mathematics and left to become a Data Analyst at Mu Sigma Inc. He can speak several languages (including Serbian!) and works as a translator when opportunities arise.
He currently lives in Australia offering coaching and writing chess books (for Thinkers Publishing) and columns for Chessbase. In his spare time (!) Daniel is studying for The Master of Complex Systems degree at The University of Sydney.
Daniel’s first ECF graded game was rapidplay on July 5th 2003 in the SCCU Junior Under-14 Final.
His first standard play game was in August 2003 at the Edinburgh based British Under-8 Championship.
On August 13th 2004 in Scarborough Daniel became British Under-9 Champion sharing the title with Daniel Hunt & Saravanan Sathyanandha.
The Fernandez family relocated to Singapore in August, Daniel attending the Anglo-Chinese School in Singapore. He was swiftly recruited into the Singapore Chess Federation’s (SCF) National Junior Squad. Also in that squad were Danielle Ho and Howard Chiu (remember this for later!).
Barely three weeks after his Scarborough triumph on September 4th 2004 Daniel played his first FIDE rated game in the 5th Asian Under-10 Championship organised by the ASEAN Chess Confederation. His performance in this event was rewarded with a FIDE Master title in 2005. Because he was no longer active in English events the ECF had the unusual scenario of having a ten year old FIDE Master with a published grade of ~120!
In typically modest fashion Daniel confesses that he did not “deserve” the FM title at this time and that it was the consequence of the strong position of the ASEAN and SCF organisations within world chess. At the same event Wesley So gained his FM title in the Under-12 section.
Another interesting consequence of the relocation was that when Daniel returned to England in 2012 his last published grading went from ~ 120 to ~230!
One of the motivations of returning to England was to obtain the necessary entrance requirement to study mathematics at Cambridge. This he did by studying for A-levels at Manchester Grammar School.
Consequently Daniel’s FIDE rating profile also showed a fast pace of development:
Sydney 2009 and Sydney 2010 both provided IM norms with the third one coming from Kuala Lumpar 2010 and with these Daniel became an International Master in 2010 the title being confirmed at the 3rd quarter Presidential Board Meeting 2010, 24-25 July 2010, Tromso in Norway.
He won the Budapest Sarkany Tournament in 2014 as follows:
earning his first GM norm in the process.
BCN asked Daniel for three of his favourite games. The first one is this Polish Defence game from 2015 played at the Visma Arena in Vaxjo, Sweden. First we have the crosstable showing that Daniel earnt his second GM norm from this event.
and here is the game:
and during the 2015/15 4NCL season Daniel obtained his final GM norm playing for Wood Green.
In March 2015 he made his first of three Varsity match appearences for Cambridge re-uniting with Danielle Ho and Howard Chiu (remember those names from earlier?).
Daniel won the 10th Jessie Gilbert Memorial in 2017:
and also in 2017 Daniel was awarded the Grandmaster title at the 88th FIDE Congress 2017, 7-15 October, Goynuk, Antalya, Turkey.
On March 11th Daniel represented Cambridge in the 135th Varsity Match at the RAC Club in Pall Mall. According to chess24.com ‘IM Daniel Fernandez, playing board 2 for Cambridge, was awarded the Brilliancy Prize by GM Ray Keene in consultation with McShane and Speelman, for his “high-class swindle” after recovering from a bad blunder.’ See here for details.
In 2018 Daniel ventured into the world of book writing when Thinker’s Publishing released The Modernized Caro-Kann on September 8th 2018. This was a repertoire book for Black based around the Smyslov Variation :
“GM Daniel Fernandez (born 1995) has been an active and accomplished player for several years. He represented his native Singapore twice at Olympiads (2010 and 2012) before transferring to the English chess federation. There, he won the national classical titles at U-18 and U-21 levels and worked to become a Grandmaster while simultaneously studying at Cambridge. The Caro-Kann was instrumental in his quest for that title. Currently, Daniel is known in the chess scene not only as a solid player, but also as a mentor figure to younger English players, as a producer of well-received commentary and analysis, and as a multilingual chess coach. This is his first book.”
From January 2019 we have this interesting encounter between Gawain Jones and Daniel from the annual 4NCL meeting of Guildford and Wood Green:
With the White pieces Daniel has played a wide range of first moves but the majority move by far is 1.e4. His choice versus the Najdorf is some eclectic : sometime ago 6. Rg1 was the favourite and now 6.a4 is preferred.
Against 1…e5 Daniel offers a main line Ruy Lopez.
What does a Caro-Kann expert play against the Caro-Kann? Nowadays the Two Knights Variation is employed!
As the second player he plays the Sicilian Najdorf as well as the Caro-Kann plus an equal mixture of the Grünfeld and King’s Indian Defences.
In 2019 Daniel was interviewed by Edwin Lam on behalf of ChessBase : fascinating reading!
BCN remembers Nancy Elder MBE who passed away on Wednesday, March 4th 1981, i.e. forty years ago in Perth, Western Australia.
Nancy Conchar Gordon was born on Tuesday, May 25th 1915. On the same date was born Robin Day in High Wycombe who went on to design the polypropylene stacking chair.
Nancy was born in Kirmabreck, Kirkcudbrightshire in the Dumfries and Galloway council area of Scotland.
In the 1939 register Nancy was living at 18 Thornton Avenue, Urmston, Manchester, M41 5DJ with a married couple, William Furnish (a railway time keeper) and Gertrude Furnish who performed unpaid domestic duties. Presumably Nancy was their lodger.
Her occupation was given as a teacher of music and physical training. At this time she was single at the age of twenty-four.
In the mid-1940s Nancy relocated from Manchester to Dundee where she continued her teaching career at Dundee High School. During that time she encouraged and coached a number of players some of whom represented Scotland.
In 1950 in Tealing, Angus, Scotland Nancy married David Livie Elder. They had a daughter Christine who played chess as a junior. Tealing has a strong connection with the Elder family.
According to Alan McGowan (Chess Scotland): “She was the main instigator in forming both the Schools’ and Primary League in Dundee, and she assisted in the organisation of the Dundee 1967 International Centenary Tournament.”
When she passed away Nancy was living at 39 Whitefauld Road, Dundee, DD2 1RJ :
Her passing was reported in the Dundee Courier and Advertiser on March 6th 1981 as follows :
Nancy Elder dies after heart attack on flight
Mrs Nancy Elder 39 Whitefauld Road, Dundee, a former music teacher at Dundee High School and one of Scotland’s best known chess players, has died after taking ill on a flight to Australia.
She was off for a long holiday which she planned to spend with relatives and friends from the world of international chess, but, after suffering a heart attack on a plane from Singapore, had been in intensive care in Perth, Western Australia.
Her daughter Christine, a primary school teacher in Tighnabruaich, received daily telephone reports on her mother’s condition from a cousin and, at the weekend, heard that she was improving gradually.
The shock news of her mother’s death came late on Wednesday night.
Mrs. Elder, who went into semi-retirement recently, has been to the fore in chess for about 35 years at local, national and international levels.
She has represented her country five times, having taken part in the chess Olympiad in Yugoslavia in 1963 and 1973, in Israel in 1976, in Buenos Aires in 1978 and in Malta last year.
She turned down the chance to take part on three other occasions.
She was awarded the MBE for her services to chess in 1974.
She was President of Dundee Chess Club, chairman of the congress committee of the Scottish Chess Association and on the council of the Scottish Junior Chess Association.
She started playing chess during her school days with her brother and the two of them were more-or-less self taught.
It wasn’t until after the Second World War that she received any sort of coaching, by which time she had established her own style.
She retired on April 14th last year after 24 years in the music department of Dundee High School, where she specialised in teaching the oboe.
She continued to teach privately.
From British Chess Magazine, Volume CI (101, 1981), Number 6 (June), pp. 219-220 we have this obituary from Bernard Cafferty :
“Nancy C. Elder, MBE, died in Perth, Western Australia on March 4th 1981. Mrs. Elder had recently retired after a lifetime of teaching, her last post being in Dundee. I well remember her account of teaching under difficult conditions in World War 2 in Manchester. 15 Scottish Women’s Champion (the record for the event which she set-up at Troon in 1980).
Mrs Elder was a regular competitor in the British Women’s Championship (sometimes in rivalry with her daughter Christine) and showed her playing strength with a score of 5.5/12 on board two for Scotland at the Women’s Chess Olympiad, Malta, 1980.
I am sure she will be best remembered though for her decades of effort in the organising of chess in Scotland, particularly for juniors and in schools, in recognition of which she was awarded the MBE, the only such honour ever given for services to chess ‘north of the border’ as Alan Borwell puts it in his Newsflash obituary.”
Chess Scotland award the Nancy Elder Cup annually for an individual competition for “club level” players.
We are grateful to Helen Milligan who told BCN :
My most memorable incident was when I refused to play in the Scottish Ladies at the annual Congress, preferring to try to improve my chess by playing in the Open section (really the B-Grade, below the Championship proper). I got given a piece of Nancy’s mind for that – she did not approve!
BCN remembers IM Čeněk Kottnauer (24-ii-1910 14-ii-1996)
Čeněk (pronounced CHEnek) Kottnauer was born in Prague on Thursday, February 24th, 1910. Čeněk was employed in the Ministry of Education in Prague.
Whilst playing in the Lucerne International tournament (28-xii-1952 03-i-1953) he sought political asylum :
From the Milwaukee Journal, January 3, 1953 we have
“Czech Chess Star Asks for Asylum
Lucerne, Switzerland – Cenek Kottnauer, 42, Czecho-Slovakian chess champion and an employee of the ministry of education in Prague, announced Saturday that he would not return to Czech-Slovakia and would request political asylum in Switzerland. Kottnauer had been participating in a chess tournament.
He said that the political situation in his country had grown “more and more critical” and he wanted “to leave before it is too late”. He said that he had been divorced recently and had no children in Czech-Slovakia”.
In a January 2009 post to the English Chess Forum Leonard Barden wrote :
“Cenek Kottnauer defected from Czechoslovakia during the Lucerne New Year tournament of 1952-3 (I am precise on this because I was present). His wife Daniela joined him there, having been smuggled from Prague in the boot of a diplomat’s car. Kottnauer had been a water polo player of international standard before 1939 so came into serious chess only his mid-30s. He made his name with his good showing in the Prague v Moscow match of 1946 and his Bxh7+ win then against Kotov. He competed in great tournaments like Groningen 1946 and Moscow 1947; his first visit to England was in 1947 when the Czech team came here.
In the 1940s he had a job in the Czech sports ministry but got implicated in the purges following the Slansky trial. He also believed that Pachman and Opocensky were involved in the campaign against him.”
Čeněk married Daniela (née Horska, also Czech, having met in Austria) and they had a son Daniel VR Kottnauer. Daniela was born in 1934 and was 24 years younger than Čeněk. She died on February 20th 2008 in a hospice in Essen, Germany close to where Daniel currently resides. Daniel has been a pianist and singer for 30 years, an event manager for 19 years and a coach and VIP limousine driver for 5 years and may be found on LinkedIn.
In 1965 Čeněk and Daniela were living at Flat 2, 7-8 Bathurst Street, London, W2.
In Kings, Commoners and Knaves (Russell Enterprises, 1999), page 108, Edward Winter wrote :
“The obituaries of Čeněk Kottnauer (1910-1996) have, in common with all of the encyclopaedia entries on him, been strangely wanting in pre-1940s references to his chess career. Czech magazines of the 1930s contain occasional games by ‘Kottnauer’ (no forename or initial given), including the following :
Source : Československý šach, January, 1932, page 9. The score was also given, with notes, by Vera Menchik, on page 153 of the April 1932 issue of The Social Chess Quarterly. ”
From Šachový Týdeník, 25th February, 2010 we learnt that Čeněk was twice Prague lightning champion.
In 1943 Čeněk was a clear first overall with 10.5/13 in the Zlin tournament.
From Bronstein on the King’s Indian, Everyman Chess, 1999, game 25 we have :
“This game is from our hisotoric match with the Czechoslovak team, which took place half in Prague and half in Moscow.
My opponent, an intelligent, clever, athletic man, also played water polo. Then at some point he travelled to a tournament in England, fell in love with a beautiful Englishwoman, and decided to settle down there.”
From The Oxford Companion to Chess (OUP, 1984), David Hooper & Ken Whyld :
International Master (1950), International Arbiter (1951), a Czech player who emigrated to England in 1953 and was naturalised in 1960. He played in Olympiads for Czechoslovakia (1950*, 1952), on the second occasion making the best score (+10=5) on the fourth board, and in two Olympiads for England (1964, 1968). In 1961 he won the Beverwijk Masters tournament (not the concurrent grandmasters event) with a clean score, a fine achievement.
*Ed : In fact, this is not true since Czechoslovakia did not send a team to Dubrovnik 1950. This was the last year the event was limited to sixteen countries.
James Pratt, Basingstoke provides the full results from Gino de Felice, Chess Results, 1961 – 1963, Macfarland, 2013 :
Consulting the 2nd edition (1992) of Hooper & Whyld may cause disappointment since there is no entry for CK.
From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Robert Hale 1970 & 1976), Anne Sunnucks :
“International Master (1950) and International Judge (1951).
Born on 24th February 1910. Kottnauer represented Czechoslovakia in the 1952 Olympiad in Helsinki. In the years after the war his successes in international tournaments included 3rd at Beverwijk 1947, =2nd at Vienna 1947, 4th at Bad Gadstein 1948 and 1st at Lucerne 1953.
After the Lucerne tournament he sought political asylum in Switzerland. He later settled in England and became a naturalised British citizen. He played for the British Chess Federation in the Olympiads of 1964 and 1968.
Kottnauer has played in the British Championship twice. In 1961 he came =4th, and in 1962 he came =3rd.”
From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977), Harry Golombek OBE (entry written by Bill Hartston):
“Born in Czechoslovakia, Kottnauer played for that country in many events including the 1952 Olympiad. He emigrated in 1953 and subsequently took British nationality, representing England in the Olympiads of 1964 and 1968. Awarded FIDE titles of international master in 1950 and International Judge in 1951. Winner of Lucerne 1953 International tournament.
Co-author with TD Harding and GS Botterill of The Sicilian Sozin, Batsford, London, 1974.”
James Pratt, Basingstoke revealed : He would look through opening analysis often proclaiming: ‘What will the master play now?’
From British Chess (Pergamon Press, 1983) we have this insight from Tim Harding :
“At a time when home-grown International Masters were thin on the ground in Britain (the 1950s and 1960s) this Czech-born IM brought a lot of valuable experience to BCF teams.
After emigrating to England in 1953, he became naturalized and subsequently represented the BCF in the Tel Aviv, 1964 and Lugano, 1968, Olympiads. On board one in 1964 he scored +8 =7 -3 (63.9%) on board two below Penrose in 1968 (with some board one games) he scored 41.7: +3 =5 -4.
When FIDE rating lists appeared in the early 1970s, Kottnauer was listed at 2370 but by this time had more or less retired from active play at the top level, although he took (and still takes) a keen interest in coaching promising young players, He was one of the most regular and most valuable coaches at the one-day junior training events organised by the London Chess Association at the Mary Ward Centre in Bloomsbury, London in the mid-1970s.
At this time he also wrote many articles for his friend Grandmaster Pachman, who had been freed to live in West Germany where he became editor of Schach-Archiv, and also made a major contribution to the Batsford opening theory work. The Sicilian Sozin, written in collaboration with George Botterill and Tim Harding, and published in 1974.
Kottnauer’s most active years as a player were however 1946-53; in the year that he came to England he took first prize in the Lucerne, 1953 International tournament. Had he been a professional player throughout the the 1950s, there is little doubt that he would have become a grandmaster.
As early as the end of the war, when regular play resumed, he was almost of that strength (as wins against Kotov and Smyslov in the February, 1946 Prague v Moscow match showed) but lacking in experience at the top level, which told against him at Groningen, 1946, when he was placed 13th with 9 points out of a possible 19 in a very strong field. This was the first great post-war tournament, with nine Master and eleven Grandmasters (including Botvinnik and former world champion Euwe).
Also in 1946 Kottnauer scored wins against Simagin (in Prague) and Levenfish (in Leningrad) and was clearly one of the up-and-coming stars in a strong Czech team that included Filip and Pachman. In 1950 he was one of the first players to be awarded the FIDE title of International Master.
The following year he was also made a FIDE International Judge (now known as FIDE Arbiter).
Unfortunately there was no Czech representation at the Dubrovnik, 1950 Olympiad, but in 1952, one of his last appearances for Czechoslovakia, Kottnauer achieved a remarkable record playing board four (below Filip, Pachman and Sajtar) at the Helsinki Olympiad. He went through unbeaten with ten wins and five draws (83.3%) and easily won the board prize.
Kottnauer shortly thereafter came to England where he eventually made a successful career as an executive with Trust House Forte’s hotel group; he has also helped with the BBC overseas service Czech-language broadcasts. He lives in West Central London with his wife and their son.
The following is undoubtedly Kottnauer’s most famous win.
and here we have the same game analysed by Tryfon Gavriel :
From British Chess Magazine, Volume CXVI (116, 1996), Number 4 (April), pp 202-203 we have this obituary by Bernard Cafferty :
Čeněk Kottnauer, the Czech/British IM, and the first chess defector died in St. Margaret’s Hospital, London, on 14th February after heart trouble and abdominal cancer.
A giant of a man, a fine athlete and swimmer, he was born on 24th February 1910 and came to prominence in the 1942 tournament in Prague in which Alekhine took part. He extended the great man to 70 moves before resigning. His wins against Kotov and Smyslov in the Moscow-Prague match of 1946 and his 13th place in the great Groningen tournament of the same year confirmed his status, as did his excellent showing for Czechoslovakia in the 1952 Olympiad at Helsinki (+10=5-0 on fourth board). He also took part in the 1947 Chigorin Memorial in Moscow, and won a tournament at Lucerne in early 1953, the same year in which he emigrated to Britain.
On this form he would have gained the GM title had he continued playing, but he had to take a full-time job (with Trusthouse Forte) to support his family.
Čeněk had met his much younger wife in Austria, though she too was Czech. They had a son. The master’s appearences were therefore limited to London League matches and other sporadic events. That he had lost none of his skill was shown when he played top board for England at the 1964 Tel-Aviv Olympiad (Penrose was not available) and made +8=7-3. His only other big event was the Lugano Olympiad of 1968 when he was on second board and made +3=5-4.
Čeněk (pronounced CHEnek) Kottnauer was one of the early professionals in the German Bundesliga; on a visit to his Bayswater flat in 1995 by Murray Chandler and myself, Čeněk told us about the great transport difficulties he had in those days. He mentioned that he had recently had a heart bypass operation and showed us the medication he had to take on a regular basis, opining that after Golombek and Milner-Barry he would be the next to go.
Čeněk was involved in junior coaching in London for many years, wrote extensively for the Dutch and German press and in recent years was a regular visitor to the Lloyds Bank Masters to see old friends and acquaintances. Amongst those he coached were Julian Hodgson, William Watson and Dharshan Kumaran, as well as Stuart Conquest.
In Stuart’s case he came regularly to Hastings to do the coaching which was financed by the Slater Foundation and by Lloyds Bank.
The fruit of his effort was Stuart’s 1984 World U-16 title in Argentina, where Čeněk’s great physical strength came in handy when the huge trophy had to be carried back to Britain.
All his pupils and friends will attest to his wonderful manner. A great personality has left us.”
According to Leonard Barden “Čeněk’s students included Demis Hassabis, then aged six. He once told me that Dharshan Kumaran, then seven, was the more talented of the pair but that Demis was also ‘very clever and tricky’ ”
Daniel tells us that Nigel Short visited his family home for coaching and we believe that both Anita and Mira Rakshit were CKs students. Doubtless there were many more…
Leonard added :
“After he retired he did chess coaching and, although never named in the BCF’s list of coaches, was the most successful of all in terms of achievements by those he taught. He normally did weekly sessions of a couple of hours and got results through his challenging and sceptical approach to ideas from his pupils.
Kottnauer pupils included Hodgson, Watson, and Kumaran, who all became grandmasters. When he came to our junior invitation tournaments in the mid-seventies I used to give a prize of a game and session with him to exceptional talents. So he played Nigel Short in spring 1975 (probably Short’s first one-to-one with an IM) and was enthusiastic about his promise.
In 1981 when Stuart Conquest was going to the the world U16 championship in Argentina Cenek coached him for several months beforehand and went with him to the event. No news reports were available during the tournament so the first I knew was when Cenek phoned me on his return to London and complained that he was tired having to carry this enormous trophy home (Stuart had broken his arm before the event and played in a sling) and how the food had been terrible but that Eliskases, who was involved in the organisation, had sworn him to secrecy.
I used to visit him a couple of times a month for talk and blitz sessions and have warm memories. A great guy, and a significant figure in the long departed English chess boom.”
“Cenek Kottnauer was born in Prague. He was awarded the IM title in 1950 and became an International Arbiter in 1951. Kottnauer played the Helsinki Olympiad 1952 on board 4 for Czechoslovakia, scoring +10 =5 -0. In 1953 he won the Lucerne international tournament. That same year, he emigrated to England, and eventually became a naturalized citizen and played for England in the Olympiads of 1964 and 1968. In the 1970s he became one of England’s top coaches of young players.”
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