BCN remembers Harold Murray who passed away on Monday, May 16th, 1955.
Harold James Ruthven Murray was born on Wednesday, 24th June 1868 in Camberwell, London. He was the eldest son of Sir James Augustus Henry Murray 1837–1915 and Ada Agnes Ruthven 1845–1936. Sir James was famously the first editor of the Oxford English Dictionary.
From British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXV (125, 1955), Number 8 (August), pp. 233-4 we have this obituary from DJ Morgan:
“The great historian of chess died in May last, at the age of eighty-six. Some of the early results of his researches into the origins of the game were published in this magazine, and a reference to the “B.C.M.” volumes for the first fifteen years of this century will reveal a wealth of articles of permanent value. A tribute to our late and
distinguished contributor has been unavoidably delayed.
Murray was the eldest son of Sir James A. H. Murray, the pioneering editor of the great Oxford English Dictionary, and was born in Camberwell on June 24th, 1868. He went to Mill Hill School, took an Open Mathematical Exhibition to Balliol College, Oxford, and left the University, in 1890, with a First Class in the Final Mathematical School. Subsequently, teaching engagements took him to Taunton, Carlisle, and Ormskirk. From 1891 to 1900 he was Headmaster of Ormskirk Grammar School, which he left to become a Board of Education Inspector of Schools.
Taunton gave him an enthusiasm for chess. At Ormskirk he helped to found a club, which he captained from 1896 to 1900. His interest in the history of the game had been aroused in 1893, and when, in 1897, he received encouragement from such a notable authority as Baron von der Lasa, historical research became his ruling passion. In his own words his aim was to trace the development of the modern European game from the first appearance of its ancestor, the Indian chaturanga, in the beginning of the seventh century of our era.
Many books had been written on the history of chess, but none had covered exactly the whole story as he envisaged it. Hyde, in 1694, and another Englishman, Forbes, in 1860, had in the main confined their attention to Oriental chess. Other investigators, such as Sir William Jones on Indian chess (1790), Cox on Burma chess (1803 and 1807), and Bland on Persian chess (1852), had published their conclusions in journals of Asiatic studies. The great German writer, von der Lasa, in 1897, treated almost exclusively of the European game. Van der Linde alone had dealt with both Oriental and European chess, but it was in three distinct works (1874-81).
Van der Linde was able to incorporate the results of Weber’s examination of the early references to chess in Sanskrit literature, and to show that Forbes’s History was both inaccurate and misleading.
Since the publication of Linde’s Geschichte there had been many additions to our knowledge of various aspects of chess history, mostly scattered in isolated papers. So, continues Murray, he set about collecting and collating all available material and making it easily accessible to English readers.
Murray was able to call on the help of acknowledged scholars in the many languages, obsolete and obsolescent, into which his researches led him. Above all, his work was largely based upon his own studies of original materials. The manuscripts and rare books in the unrivalled collections of J. G. White, of Cleveland, Ohio, and of J. W. Rimington Wilson in this country, were placed unreservedly at his disposal, as were the resources of other collectors and libraries.
As an example of his devotion to his work, he made a thorough study of Arabic, and it was his knowledge of this language which enabled him to make his remarkable discovery of the chess-work of Allajlaj, a Mohammedan chess master of the tenth century. The fascinating story of the recovery of these oldest recorded games is told in the “British Chess Magazine” of November, 1903.
Murray thus brought a fine scholarship to his immense task. He had, in addition, the true historian’s gifts of meticulous research, of grasp of detail, of the critical sifting of evidence; to this scientific technique was added the art of lucid exposition.
In his hands, it can be said, the chess-player’s elements of time, space, and material were used to range through most of the centuries of the Christian era.
The History appeared in 1913, from the same University Press, he was proud to think which, more than 200 years before, had published Thomas Hyde’s Mondragorios seu Historia Shohiludii. The huge volume of 900 pages, lavishly illustrated and with scores of chess diagrams, was received with world-wide acclamation. From ancient “Indian Board-games” to “Steinitz and his School,” the vast field had been covered with great authority. The book is in two parts, “Chess in Asia” and “Chess in Europe,” but through it all runs the absorbing story of how the game, in play and in problem, in its practice and in its laws, has developed and spread. From India to Persia, to Islam as a result of the Mohammedan conquest of Persia, from Islam to Spain, and thence to Christian Europe, chess has followed the great political and religious movements. It is very improbable that chess was played in England before the Norman Conquest. That it was familiar to the Norman Kings in the eleventh century is certain from the evidence of the word exchequer, which was applied to the table “upon which the accounts were worked out by means of a cloth divided into strips about a footwide, on which counters, representing the moneys, were placed and moved.”
This must suffice. The work is one to browse in and to dip into through the years. Murray has left an enduring monument, the greatest book ever written on the game. We can but touch briefly on other aspects of his varied and active life. Following his retirement from the Board of Education, in 1928, he took an active interest in Local Government work. He became Chairman of the Fernhurst Parish Council, and was a member of the Midhurst R.D.C., 1931-55, being Chairmain of its Housing
Committee from 1938 to 1948.
In 1952 he published A History of Board Gomes Other Than Chess.
He also wrote a Shorter History of Chessand a History of Draughts (both unpublished), and spent much time working on mathematical problems connected with Knights’ Tours and Magic Tours. His work on these investigations is also unpublished, but a good deal remains in typescript in fairly complete form.
Apart from his interest in board games and mathematics, he was interested in genealogy, and did research on his own and his wife’s families. Up to his death he was working on local history and was writing a history of Heyshott, the village to which he retired. Walking, in his younger days, and bird-watching in his middle years, were amongst his otter recreations.
A game of chess he. always enjoyed, but not under the rigorous conditions of matches and tournaments.
His son, Major D. M. J. Murray, Royal Engineers, was killed in Hong Kong in 1941. The chess world’s sympathy with his second son Mr. K.C. Murray of the Antiquities Service, Nigeria, and with his daughter, Miss K. M. E. Murray, M.A., Principal of the Bishop
Otter College, Chichester, is but a small expression of its sense of indebtedness to their distinguished father.-D. J. M.”
Following this obituary a letter from Alex Hammond appeared in British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXV (125, 1955), Number 9 (September), page 270 as follows:
“Dear Mr. Reilly,
Murray was, indeed a very great man, though a few of us were privileged to know him intimately, as his nature was shy and retiring.
For myself, I shall always treasure his memory, as when I wrote my The Book of Chessmen he gave me freely of his knowledge, and saved me from many errors.
Any person who attempts to write on chess history will always find real difficulty in discovering anything of interest which does not appear in his monumental “History.”
Probably his like will not be seen again, as such patient industry, deep knowledge, and tremendous perseverance are unlikely to be combined in a single personage again.
16 Burlington Arcade, London, W1
From The Oxford Companion to Chess (Oxford University Press, 1984 & 1996) by Hooper & Whyld:
“Foremost chess historian, school inspector. His A History of Chess (1913), perhaps the most important chess book in English, was the result of about 14 years of research inspired by Lasa, and grounded on van der Linde’s work. During that period Murray contributed 35 articles to the British Chess Magazine , some of which outlined his discoveries. Most of the 900-page History is concerned with the evolution of modern chess from its oriental precursor up to the 17th century. He learned Arabic so that he could read important manuscripts, and in addition to his own circle he was able to solicit help from colleagues of his father Sir James A. H. Murray, editor-in-chief of the Oxford English Dictionary; who was also aided by J. G. White, with both advice and the loan of rare books from the Cleveland collection, and by many others. His book includes an authoritative account of both Mansubat and medieval problems. (See also history of chess.) In 1952 he published a companion volume, A History of Board Games other than Chess.
While the scholarship of his chess book has never been questioned it is too detailed for the average chess-player. Aware of this problem, Murray wrote a briefer work approaching the topic in a more popular way. The manuscript, unfinished at his death, was completed and published in 1963 as A Short History of Chess. (See Civis Bononiae.)
“Chess historian and a Board of Education Inspector of Schools. Appropriately enough, a son of the pioneering editor of the great Oxford English Dictionary, he became interested in the history of chess in the early 1890s. Up to this time the historical writings on chess in English had been unhistorical. In order to fit himself for the task Murray learned several languages including Arabic and he also studied the true historians of chess, the German writers, Van der Linde and Von der Lassa.
In his own words his aim was to trace the development of the modern European game from the first appearance of its ancestor, the Indian chaturanga, in the beginning of the seventh century of our era. This he did in a vast work of some 900 pages published in Oxford in 1913. An immense amount of painstaking research had gone into the work and only a man of Murray’s great learning could have attempted it.
It at once became the standard book on the subject and has remained so ever since. Murray left behind among his papers an unfinished work A Short History of Chess which took the history of the game up to 1866 which gave a clearer and more readable account of the history of the game than his main work. This was brought up to date by Goulding-Brown and Golombek and published in Oxford in 1963.”
From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Robert Hale, 1970 &1976), Anne Sunnucks :
“The chess historian who wrote the History of Chess, published by Oxford University Press in 1913. Murray was born in Camberwell on 24th June, 1868, the eldest son of Sir James Murray, the first editor of the Oxford English Dictionary. After graduating from Balliol College, Oxford, with a First Class in the Final Mathematical School, in 1890 Murray became a master at Queen’s College, Taunton, where he learned to play chess. He later taught at Carlisle Grammar School and in 1896 became the headmaster of Ormskirk Grammar School. About 1893 his interest in the history of the game was aroused, and four years later, encouraged by the great German writer and authority on the game, Baron Von der Lasa, his historical researches began.
From 1901-1928 he was a Board of Education Inspector of Schools, an appointment which made it difficult for him to play much chess. He began to turn his attention more and more to the history of the game, contributing articles to The British Chess Magazine and Deutsches Wochenschach. He made the acquaintance of J. J. White of Cleveland, Ohio, owner of the largest chess library in the world, and was given access to this collection, as well as one owned by J. W. Rimington Wilson in England. White’s library contained a number of Arabic manuscripts, and, in order to be able to study them, Murray learned Arabic. The History of Chess took him 13 years to complete.
On his retirement from the Board of Education, Murray served as Chairman of Fernhurst Parish Council and was a member of Midhurst R.D.C. from 1931-1955 and was Chairman of its Housing Committee from 1938-1948. His other interests, apart from chess, were genealogy, local history, walking and bird watching. In 1952 he published A History of Board Games Other than Chess.
After his death A Short History of Chess was found uncompleted among his papers. Additional chapters were added by B. Goulding Brown and H. Golombek, and it was published in 1963.”
(Bertram Goulding Brown was a tournament chess player and a contributor to British Chess Magazine. He was born 5 July 1881 and died 22 August 1965 in the United Kingdom.)
“Harold James Ruthven Murray was born on 24 June 1868. His first book A History of Chess was published by Oxford University Press in 1913. Murray covered the first 1,400 years of the game’s history in definitive detail. He died on 16 May 1955. He left several more manuscripts which are being held by Oxford University.”
According to Edward Winter in Chess Notes HJRM lived 53 Hagley Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, England (Ranneforths Schach-Kalender, 1915, page 71).
BCN remembers Dr. IM István (Stefan) Fazekas who passed away in Buckhurst Hill, Essex on Wednesday, May 3rd, 1967 and the death was recorded in the district of Redbridge.
The probate record of June 7th, 1967 is thus:
István Fazekas was born in Satoraljaujhely, Hungary on Wednesday, March 23rd 1898. He adopted the name Stefan subsequently. Satoraljaujhely is very much on the Hungary – Czechoslovakian border and records for Fazekas variously show both countries as his country of birth.
The September 1939 register records Stephen Fazekas as being married, a refugee, and a general practitioner living with his wife Helen (born 17th July 1900) at 21, Old Gloucester Street, Bloomsbury, Camden, London WC1. The “household” had a total of fourteen residents and this building in 2021 appears to be part of the Mary Ward Centre and presumably was providing temporary accommodation.
The 1948 London Gazette records that on June 16th he lived at 281 Buckhurst Way, Buckhurst Hill, Essex and that he and Helen had a son, George. On this day Stefan was granted UK naturalisation following the swearing of an oath of allegiance:
The above notice is further validated by the official record stored at The National Archive, Kew, reference HO 334/234/4061.
From British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXVII, Number 7 (July), pages 195-6 we have an obituary written by Peter Clarke :
The death of Dr. Fazekas on May 3rd has deprived British chess of one of its leading and most colourful figures. Ever since he came to this country nearly thirty years ago he took an active part, in the game at all levels, from club to international, rarely missing the chance – even when not in the best of health- to test his strength in competition and express his ideas afresh.
Stefan Fazekas was born on March 23rd, 1898, at Sitoraljaujhely on the Hungarian-Czechoslovak border, but it was not until a few years after the Great War, in which he served and was wounded, that he got the opportunity to play serious tournament chess. By present-day standards, however, events were few and far between, and the game always had to take second place to his medical work.
The Doctor’s best international performances, for which he was later awarded the master title by F.I.D.E., came in the ‘thirties. In 1931, for instance, he was 2nd at Kosice, 3rd at Brno and 3rd at Prague. As it remained throughout his career, his play was excessively variable: fine conceptions were always liable to be ruined by blunders or impetuosity. The following game, played at Munchentratz in 1933, shows all going well; it earned inclusion in Le Lionnais’ anthology Les Prix de beauté aux échecs.
In 1939 Dr. Fazekas brought his family to England and established himself as a successful and much loved G.P. at Buckhurst Hill, Essex. He soon took a dominating part in county chess and went on to win the championship eleven times. In national events his inconsistency seemed too great a handicap, but at Plymouth in 1957, after so many tries, he astounded everyone by winning the British Championship in front of, among others, Alexander and Penrose.
(Ed. He was the oldest person to win the British Championship at 59 years of age.)
The next year fate struck him a cruel blow when he was left out of the B.C.F. team for the Munich Olympiad. Yet after returning the trophy in protest he overcame his bitterness and took his place once more in the championship tournament-he could not resist the thrill of the struggle.
Knowing that his best over-the-board days were behind him, the Doctor decided to go in for correspondence chess in 1959, and he at once found himself surprisingly at home in it. Here his old weaknesses could be set aside and his vast experience put to good use. Moreover, his great love for chess enabled him to devote hours of work to the analysis of a single move if necessary.
His rapid successes in this field won him a place in the Semi-Finals of the 5th World Correspondence Championship (where he finished 4th out of 14) and led to his being chosen as Board 1 for the British team in the 5th Olympiad. On the results of these events he was awarded the title of international C.C. master. That he deserved it may be judged from this fine strategic win against a grandmaster (C.C.) opponent in the individual tournament.
At the time of his death Dr. Fazekas had made a score of 5 out of 7 in the Olympiad Final and was still engaged with Zagorovsky of the U.S.S.R., a performance which showed his correspondence play to be close to grandmaster standard. And to end one’s days actually playing a World Champion is a distinction which I am sure would have appealed to this Doctor’s rich sense of humour.
While Dr. Fazekas’ social work as a humanist was for the peace of the world, in chess he was noted as a great fighter, in some ways reminiscent of Lasker. There was no retirement for him.
At Ilford in 1965 and 1966 he eagerly took on and held his own with a generation fifty years his junior, and this year he had once again qualified to play in the British Championship. The tournament at Oxford will not seem quite the same without him. I and his many friends will miss his wit and ebullience, his generosity, his love of life and chess.-P. H. C.
“International Master and British Champion 1957. A dangerous attacking player but weak in positional play. Fazekas was born at Satoraljaujhely on the Hungarian-Czechoslovakian border. In the earlier part of his career he was Czechoslovak. This period comprised his international career and he was awarded the title of international master many years later after he had emigrated to England in 1939.
It was his results in 1931 that gained him the title: 2nd at Kosice, 3rd at Prague and 3rd at Brno ahead of Honlinger, Mikenas, Noteboom and Rellstab.
In England he became much-respected general medical practitioner, and was therefore really an amateur at chess since he devoted himself to his profession. But he played much club and county chess and was eleven times champion of his county, Essex.
In 1957, almost out of the blue, he won the British Championship in a strong year that included Penrose and Alexander.
He played a number of times in the championship after that, but never looked like gaining the title since increasing years took their toll. He was in fact the oldest player ever to have won the British Championship.
In 1959 he took up correspondence chess and became an international correspondence chess master.”
From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Robert Hale, 1970 & 1976), Anne Sunnucks:
“International Master (1953), International Correspondence Chess Master and British Chess Champion in 1957.
Fazekas was born in Satoraljaujhely on the Hungarian-Czechoslovakian border, on 23rd March 1898. He was awarded the title of International Master for his performances in the 1930s, which included 2nd at Kosice 1931; 3rd at Brno 1931 and 3rd at Prague 1931.
In 1939 he emigrated to England, where he practised as a general medical practitioner at Buckhurst Hill in Essex. Chess always took second place to his profession, and his tournament appearences were limited. He played regularly in county and club events and was 11 times champion of Essex.
In 1957, to everyone’s surprise, he won the British Championship, ahead of such players as Penrose, Alexander, Clarke, Wade and Milner-Barry. Shortly after this victory came a bitter blow to Fazekas when he was not selected as a member of the British Chess Federation team for the 1958 chess Olympiad at Munich.
Fazekas returned the championship trophy in protest at his exclusion and the controversy over whether he should or should not have been selected raged for many months.
Dr. Fazekas’s love of chess eventually overcame his resentment and he continued to appear regularly in the British Championship, but never again repeated his success.
In 1959, he took up correspondence chess and reached the semi-finals of the fifth World Correspondence Chess Championship and was selected to play on top board for the British team in the Fifth Correspondence Chess Olympiad. This event was still in progress at the time of this death. He died on 3rd May 1967, at his home in Buckhurst Hill.”
In his early days he was a successful composer of problems:
From Chessgames.com :
“Dr Stefan (ne Istvan) Fazekas was born in Satoraljaujhely, Hungary. Awarded the IM title in 1953 and the IMC title in 1964, he was British Champion in 1957 and is the oldest player ever to have won the title. He passed away in 1967 in Buckhurst Hill, Essex, England.”
BCN remembers David Hooper who passed away in a Taunton (Somerset) nursing home on Sunday, May 3rd 1998. Probate (#9851310520) was granted in Brighton on June 24th 1998.
Prior to the nursing home David had been living at 33, Mansfield Road, Taunton, TA1 3NJ and before that at 5, Haimes Lane, Shaftesbury, Dorset, SP7 8AJ.
For most of the time between Reigate and Shaftesbury David lived in Whitchurch, Hampshire.
David Vincent Hooper was born on Tuesday, August 31st 1915 in Reigate, Surrey to Vincent Hooper and Edith Marjorie Winter who married in Reigate, Surrey in 1909. On this day the first French ace, Adolphe Pégoud, was killed in combat. He had scored six victories.
David was one of six children: Roger Garth (1910-?), Edwin Morris (1911-1942), Isobel Mary (12/01/1917-2009), Helene Edith (1916-1982) and Elizabeth Anne Oliver (1923-2000) were his siblings.
David attended Whitgift School, Croydon, and (thanks to Leonard Barden) we know that “although there was no chess played there in his time he was proud of later accomplishments and often wore an Old Whitgiftians tie, especially for posed photos including this article’s title image and the one in the Chess Notes article by Edward Winter (see the foot of this article).
Recorded in the September 1939 register David was aged 24 and living at 94, High Street, Reigate, Surrey:
In 2021 this property appears to be a flat (rather than bridge) over the River Kwai Restaurant:
Living with David was his sister Isobel who was listed a “potential nurse”. David’s occupation at this time was listed as Architectural Assistant and he was single. We think that three others lived at this address at the time but they are not listed under the “100 year rule”. We know that David was also a surveyor and went on to attain professional membership of the Royal Institution of British Architects (RIBA).
In the Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette May 27th 1944 there appeared this report of a simultaneous display on Empire Day (May 24th) at Dr. Marsh’s house:
and from The Western Morning News, 9th April 1947 we have:
and then from The Nottingham Evening Post, 16th August 1949 we have:
In 1950 aged 35 David married Joan M Higley (or Rose!) in the district of South Eastern Surrey.
Leonard Barden kindly provided us with these memories of David:
“He liked to drive very fast while keeping up a stream of talk with his passenger. I recall his transporting me to the 1950 British Championship in Buxton and feeling in a state of low-key terror the whole journey. When we reached a sign Buxton 30 I felt a great sense of relief that the ordeal was nearly over. Returning two weeks later, some miles down the road we passed Milner-Barry and Alexander in a small car, slowly and carefully driven by M-B whose head nearly reached the roof. As we swept by David gave a celebratory hoot.
I thought this was just me being unduly nervous, but years later Ken Whyld told me he felt the same as a Hooper passenger and that so did most others. David was actually very safe and I don’t think he ever had an accident.
David worked in Middle East for some years and was the chief architect for the construction of a new airport at Aden.
A Guide to Chess Endings was 90% written by David, with chapters then looked over by Euwe and his chess secretary Carel van den Berg. All David’s endgame books are lucidly written and it is a pity where they are not available in algebraic.
When The Unknown Capablanca was published I asked for and received from David an inscribed copy for Nigel Short‘s ninth birthday., which I presented to him personally at an EPSCA team event. Curious to know how it was received, I phoned Nigel’s father (David) a couple of days later and was informed “He’s already on to Capa’s European Tour” (which is I think about 100 pages into the book).” – Thanks Leonard!
Ken Whyld wrote an obituary which appeared in British Chess Magazine, Volume 118 (1998), Number 6, page 326 as follows :
DAVID VINCENT HOOPER died on 3rd May this year in a nursing home in Taunton. He had been in declining health for some months. Born in Reigate, 31st August 1915, his early chess years were with the Battersea CC and Surrey.
He won the (ed. Somerset) County Championship three times, and the London Championship in 1948. His generation was at its chess peak in the years when war curtailed opportunities, but he won the British Correspondence Championship in 1944.
His games from that event are to be found in Chess for Rank and File by Roche and Battersby.
Also at that time, he won the 1944 tournament at Blackpool, defeating veteran Grandmaster Jacques Mieses.
David was most active in the decade that followed, playing five times in the British Championship.
His highest place there was at Nottingham 1954, when, after leading in the early stages, he finished half a point behind the joint champions, Leonard Barden and Alan Phillips.
David was in the British Olympic team at Helsinki 1952, and in the same year accidentally played top board for England in one of the then traditional weekend matches against the Netherlands. British Champion Klein took offence at a Sunday Times report of his draw with former World Champion Dr. Euwe on the Saturday and refused to play on Sunday. Thus David was drafted in to meet Euwe, and acquitted himself admirably. Even though he lost, the game took pride of place in that month’s BCM.
In the following game, played in the Hastings Premier l95l-2, he found an improvement on Botvinnik’s play against Bronstein in game 17 of their 1951 match, when 7.Ng3 was played because it was thought that after 7.Nf4 d5 it was necessary to play 8 Qb3.
In his profession as architect David worked in the Middle East for some years from the mid-1950s, and when he returned to England he made his mark as a writer. His Practical Chess Endgames
has an enduring appeal. Two of his books appeared in the Wildhagen biographical games series on Steinitz, and Capablanca. The last was written jointly with Gilchrist.
With Euwe he wrote A Guide to Chess Endings;
with Cafferty, A Complete Defence to 1.e4;
A Pocket Guide to Chess Endgames;
A Complete Defence to 1.d4;
and Play for Mate;
with Brandreth The Unknown Capablanca,
and with Ken Whyld, The Oxford Companion to Chess.
From The Encyclopaedia of Chess by Harry Golombek :
British amateur (an architect by profession) whose best result was =5 in the British Championship at Felixstowe 1949 along with, amongst others, Broadbent and Fairhurst.
Hooper abandoned playing for writing about chess and has become a specialist in two distinct areas. He is an expert on the endings and has a close knowledge of the history of chess in the nineteenth century.
His principal works : Steinitz (in German), Hamburg, 1968; A Pocket Guide to Chess Endgames, London 1970.
“Herbert William Trenchard (8 September 1857, Thorncombe – 15 April 1934, London) was an English chess master.
He took 11th and tied for 4-5th in London in 1886, shared twice 3rd at Cambridge 1890 and Oxford 1891, tied for 4-5th at Brighton 1892, took 2nd at London 1892 (B tourn), tied for 3rd-4th at Woolhall Spa 1893, and took 3rd at London 1896,
He also participated at Vienna 1898 (Kaiser-Jubiläumsturnier, Siegbert Tarrasch and Harry Pillsbury won) and took 19th place there.”
BCN remembers CGM Keith Richardson who passed away on Monday, April 10th, 2017.
Keith Bevan Richardson was born in Nottingham, on Monday, February 2nd 1942. On this day : The LA Times urges security measures against Japanese-Americans and US auto factories switch from commercial to war production.
Keith’s parents were Arthur (30) and Hilda May (née Nicholls, 25). He married Sandra Sowter on the 11th of September 1971 in Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire. They had two children, Neil and Ian. They lived at 19, The Ridings in Camberley, Surrey.
Sadly, Keith was diagnosed in the 1990s with Parkinson’s disease and became unwell whilst playing in a chess tournament in Cannes in April 2017 and passed away on the 10th of May 2017. Keith was 75. He continued to actively play chess into his final year.
Keith was the Treasurer of the Friends of Chess during the period known the English Chess Explosion (late 1970s and 1980s).
From CHESS, Volume 41 (1975), Numbers 729-730 (September), pp. 380 the news of Keith’s success was initially reported:
“BRITAINS’ FIRST CHESS GRAND MASTER
The first grand master title to be won by a British player has been achieved in the field of correspondence chess by Keith B. Richardson, aged 33, of Camberley.
The title of Correspondence Chess grand master is awarded by the lnternational correspondence Chess Federation. Keith Richardson fulfilled the norm by sharing third place in the final of the 7th World Correspondence Chess Championship with a score of 11 points from 16 games. The tournament began in February 1972 and results of the last adjudicated games were recently announced making J. V. Estrin U.S.S.R. first with l2 points; J. Boey Belgium scored 11.5; K. B. Richardson G.B. and Dr. V. Zagorovski U.S.S.R. 11.
There are only 25 Correspondence Chess Grand masters throughout the world.”
This was followed in the next month’s issue by a correction and more depth in CHESS, Volume 41 (1975), Numbers 731-732 (October), pp. 30-31:
“K. B. Richardson, though the first Britain to become a grand master by play was preceded by Comins Mansfield as grandmaster of problem composition, a title he gained in 1972. Our report last month did not make this clear.
Keith B. Richardson was born 2 April 1942 and was educated at Nottingham High School. At 16, he passed Grade 8 in Royal
Schools of Music at pianoforte. At Durham University, he obtained a B.A. in French and German and was awarded the University Palatinate (equal to a ‘blue’) in cricket and fives. He could have become a professional cricketer or a concert pianist but
made his career instead with Barclays Bank which brought him to London and a home in Camberley, Surrey, where he has settled down with his wife, Sandra (from Sutton Coldfield!). They now have two baby sons, Neil aged three years and Ian who is only two months old – both born since the final of the 7th World Correspondence Chess Championship began.
Keith’s other interests include bridge and squash. He plays squash for his bank and is Secretary of the London Squash League. As a young chess player, Keith won the Notts. under l4 Championship, held the Notts. under l8 Championship for four years and the Notts. Championship for two years and was British Junior Champion in 1962. In 1963, he was Durham County Champion and joint winner of the British Universities’ Championship which he won outright the following year. He was twice captain of the British Universities Students’ Olympiad team. He held the Midlands Championship (Forrest Cup) for three years and was joint London Champion and London Banks’ Champion in 1970 but has been content to hold the latter title since then and concentrate on correspondence chess.
In 1964, Keith Richardson was runner up for the British Correspondence Chess Championship and at the same time won a Master Class tournament of the lnternational Correspondence Chess Federation (I.C.C.F.) which qualified for a place in the World C.C. Championship semi-final. He came second in the 1965-67 semi-final and tried again in the 1968-71 event which he won. At the same time, he was representing Great Britain on Board 5 in the 1965-67 I.C.C.F. Olympiad Preliminary and on Board 4 in the 1968-71 event. His score of 5 points from 7 games helped the British team to win its section in the 1968-71 Preliminary and qualify for a place in the I.C.C.F. Olympiad Final which started in 1972. When Keith began play in the World C.C. Championship Final involving l6 tames, he was also asked to take Board 3 in the Olympiad Final involving another 9 games.
He accepted – a mistake which might possibly have cost him the World C.C. Championship! His next assault on the World title will be in 1979 and in the meantime he plans to play in the next I.C.C.F. Olympiad Preliminary and write a book on the 7th World C.C. Championship.
In this position, with Black in Zugzwang, the game went for adjudication (after more than three years’ play, a very necessary evil):
“In order to substantiate White’s claim for a win, it was necessary to submit three pages of analysis proving that every possible move loses for Black. If the knight moves, White’s king claims an entry. If Black moves the bishop along the a7-g1 diagonal, White plays Ba5. If the Black bishop moves on the d8-a5 diagonal, White plays Bd4 : KBR”
The game was adjudicated a win for White. This was only defeat inflicted upon the new World Champion.
This article was followed (with some glee no doubt) by an article in British Chess Magazine, Volume LIXIV (95, 1975), Number 12 (December), page 526 as follows:
“Keith B. Richardson recently became the third British player to receive a grandmaster title (the other two both in 1972, are Comins Mansfield for chess composition’ and R.W. Bonham’ correspondence grandmaster of the blind). The title of Correspondence Chess Grandmaster is awarded by the International Correspondence Chess Federation (ICCF) and Keith Richardson fulfilled the norm by sharing third place in the final of the 7th World Correspondence Championship. Leading scores in the tournament (February 1972 – Summer 1975): 1. Y. Estrin (USSR) 12/16; J.Boey (B) 11.5; 3-4 K.B. Richardson (ENG), V. Zagorovsky (USSR) 11; etc.
Keith, born 2nd April1942, was educated at Nottingham High School and Durham University-. He won the Nottinghamshire U-14 Championship, held the Notts U-18 championship for four years, the senior Notts Championship for two years and was British Junior Champion in 1962. In 1963, he was Durham County Champion and joint winner of the British Universities Championship which he won outright the following year. He was twice captain of the British team in Students Olympiads.
In 1964 Keith left university to make a career with Barclays Bank. In the same year he was runner-up in the British Correspondence Championship and won an ICCF master tournament which qualified him for a place in the World Championship final. He came second in the 1965-7 semi-final, tried again, and won the 1968-71 event thus gaining entry to the 7th final.
Keith Richardson lives in Surrey at Camberley. He is married and has two baby sons – both born since the final of the 7th World Correspondence Championship began. At present he is writing a book on the 7th Championship and, for a change playing some OTB (over-the-board) chess in the London League for the Athenaeum club, to which he makes a great contribution – it is a marvellous feeling to know that the player next to you (on your side!) is a grandmaster.
The following three games are – Keith’s best from the -championship. In them he defeats three of the five Russians in the
tournament (his overall score against the Russians was 3.5/5 – a wonderful achievement.”
and here is the printed version of the above report:
“English player. International Correspondence Chess Grandmaster (1975), bank manager. Around 1961 Richardson decided that over-the- board play, which had brought him some successes as a. junior, would interfere with his professional career and he took to postal chess instead. His best performance in this field was his sharing of third place with Zagorovsky after Estrin and Boey in the 7th World Correspondence Championship, 1968-71. ”
In October 1984 Keith took part in the A. E. Axelson Memorial tournament organised by the Swedish CC Committee and with fifteen grandmasters was one of the strongest CC tournaments in history. Keith finished in 11th place ahead of Boey.
In 1991 Jonathan Berry wrote a potted biography in Diamond Dust, International Chess Enterprises, ISBN 1-879479-00-1 as follows :
“Camberley, Surrey, England. Born 2 April 1942. Married with two sons. Bank Manager.
He was British Under-21 Champion in 1962. At Groningen 1962/63, he was placed 2nd in the European Junior Championship. At Bristol 1967 he was equal 5th in the British Championship.
In CC, he gained the IMC in 1968, GMC in 1975. In CC WCh VII, he won the semi-final with 9.5/12, and placed =3rd in the final, 11/16. In CC WCh X, he again tied for third in the final with 10/15. Playing board 3 for Britain in OL-VIII, finals, 1972-76, he scored 7.5/9, the highest score on any board. He won the Prefors Memorial, 1976-1980, 9.5.12”
We remember “BH” Wood MSc FCS OBE who passed away on Tuesday April 4th, 1989 in the district of Birmingham.
He was buried alongside his wife Marjorie in the Sutton Coldfield Cemetery Extension which was opened in 1934 as an extension to the Holy Trinity Church.
Baruch Harold Wood (generally known as BH Wood, or simply “BH”, by the chess world) was born on Tuesday, July 13th 1909 in Ecclesall, Sheffield, Yorkshire. The registration district was Ecclesall Bierlow.
The birth record suggests that he was baptised as Harold Baruch Wood. His parent’s were Baruch Talbot (1881-1951) and Florence Muriel Wood (née Herington). He appears as Harold Baruch on the 1911 census.
Interestingly, the Census form was signed by Talbot Wood so maybe BHs father also did not like his own first name! At the time of the Census the family lived at 30, Violet Bank Road, Nether Edge, Sheffield, S7 1RZ.
Welsh School Days
Baruch attended Friars School, Bangor (established in 1557) along with William Ritson Morry. BHW was one year and three months older than WRM so it is entirely possible that they had met.
Marriage to Marjory
In October 1936 BHW married Marjory Elizabeth Farrington in Ross, Herefordshire. When Marjory died on 7th September 1977 they were living at 146, Rectory Road, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands. Baruch and Marjory had four children, FM Christopher Wood, Philip, Frank and Peggy.
In the 1984 New Years Honours List, Civil Division, BHW was awarded the OBE. The citation read simply : “For services to Chess”
From The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match by Klein and Winter :
“BH Wood was born in Sheffield in 1909. A great lover of the game, he founded the magazine Chess in 1935, and has written a book for beginners. He scored a notable success by winning the British Correspondence Championship on one occasion. Wood has competed in the British Championship on several occasions, and in a number of Premier Reserves tournaments. He also played for Great Britain in the international team tournament (ed. Olympiad) at Buenos Aires in 1939.
He is a graduate of the University of Wales and Birmingham University. He has been very active in recent years in giving simultaneous exhibitions and in organising correspondence chess.”
Between 1938 and 1957, BH won the championship of Warwickshire eight times. He held the record (until 2006) for the most Birmingham & District Chess League Individual titles – nine, all won in Division 1: 1937, 1939, 1954, 1956, 1958, 1960, 1966, 1967, and 1983. He was the Records Secretary for the League from 1951-61.
Birth of a Magazine
From CHESS, Volume 52 (1987), Number 1014-15 (Christmas), we have the very last issue of the magazine for which BH was the Editor before becoming Founding Editor (and Paul Lamford became Editor). BH wrote:
“Countless people have asked me ‘Why did you start CHESS?’ I was in love with university life and has just taken an M.Sc., a waste of time after a good first-class honours, and decided to have a go at replacing the old Chess Amateur, which had closed down. I had edited the students’ magazine in both Bangor and Birmingham. The first had been produced by The Daily Post Printers in Liverpool, who agreed to print 1,000 copies for £90. That £90 would be nearly £2,400 now.
A year’s subscription I announced as 10 shillings (50p).
Two bits of luck! J.H. Van Meurs, a Dutchman who did a lot for British Chess, had listed in his still young B.C.F. Year Book some hundreds of chess clubs.
W.H. Watts, another great figure of those days, had floated a rather short-lived magazine The Chess Budget, donated a ‘Budget Cup‘, for knock-out team competition and published excellent books on big tournaments, etc. He handed me a list of keen chess players all around the world. I spent a week addressing envelopes by hand to all the clubs and people.
To individuals I sent single copies of CHESS; to each club three copies, inviting payment or subscriptions. Hardly anybody failed to pay. Obviously there was a demand for a chess magazine with a lighter touch than the B.C.M.
Years later, I learnt why Mr. Watts had been so generous. He had fallen out with the establishment and welcomed the arrival of a new publication.
Within three months I was selling 3,000 copies an issue.
Some early ideas were chessy short stories , cartoons and a competition for humorous anecdotes.
I soon went to Amsterdam for the first Euwe-Alekhine match. I traced Alekhine to his hotel room with difficulty. He was officially incommunicado. He came to the door in pyjamas, and within five minutes we had agreed to a £5 article per month. I was, of course, already on conversational terms with him (and remained so!).
Now I fell into trap. 3,000 readers in four months meant 6,000 in eight months, 9,000 in a year…?
Not so! This is extrapolation, a matter of calculation full of risks.
My preparations had been too good. In the remaining eight months of the year I picked up only a thousand more readers. Alekhine lost the title. With three months to go, my money ran out, I struggled to the end of the year. The twelfth issue was pathetically thin compared with the first few but renewals staring rolling in and CHESS blossomed again.
The fifty-two years since have been gruelling, unremitting toil but fascinating interest. How we bought our own presses and the effect this had on the world’s chess press – A law suit that went to appeal – How CHESS linked people in Malta, Australia, Hungary – Adventures in ‘simuls’, postal chess etc. How we helped police to identify a drowned man, etc. So many tales to tell!
Here is an obituary from the BCF Yearbook 1989 – 1990, page 14 :
B.H. Wood, O.B.E
Baruch H. Wood, O.B.E., founder of CHESS, and the magazines editor for 52 years, died at the age of 79 on 4th April.
Born in Sheffield on 13 July 1909, “B.H.”, as he was widely known in chess circles, took up the game early playing competitively at school and at University. After graduating from the University College of Wales, Bangor with a 1st class honours degree in chemistry, he took an MSc at Birmingham University. Soon, however, his love of chess took him away from a career in chemistry, with his launch of CHESS in 1935. He was to continue as editor, publisher, for many years printer, and often major contributor, for over half a century.
The magazine quickly won an international reputation for its frankness and outspokenness. It speaks much for the character and determination of its editor that he was able to continue publishing CHESS throughout the difficult years of the Second World War, whilst holding a full-time job as director of a chemical research laboratory in Lichfield.
Wood will be best remembered for the magazine, and for his other journalistic activities. He was for many years chess correspondent of The Daily Telegraph and of The Illustrated London News, and his best known book Easy Guide to Chess went through three editions and many impressions.
Nigel Davies wrote “One of the best beginners books on the market.”
Wood’s feat in writing, publishing, printing and selling his own book may be unique. However, Wood was no mean player as his draw against the then world champion Max Euwe, who became a life-long friend, testifies.
He represented England in the International Team Championship at Buenos Aires in 1939, scoring 50%. He also took first prize in international tournaments at Baarn 1947, Paignton 1954, Whitby 1963, Thorshavn 1967 and Jersey 1975 and was second in the 1948 British Championship. He was British Correspondence Chess Champion in 1945.
A life member of F.I.D.E. Wood was also an International Arbiter, and organised 21 annual chess festivals at seaside venues from the 50’s onwards. In addition he was an active behind-the-scenes inspirer of many chess events, and in particular was known as a driving spirit of university chess, being until the time of his death President of the British University Chess Association.
He founded the Postal Chess Club and League and was for many years President of the British Postal Chess Federation.
He was awarded the O.B.E. for services to chess in 1984.
His wife Marjory, predeceased him; he leaves three sons Christopher, Frank and Philip, and a daughter Peggy.
and here is the article as it appeared in the Yearbook.
“A well known British player, editor of Chess (starting 1935) and chess correspondent of The Daily Telegraph and Illustrated London News. A FIDE judge, he has founded and conducted 21 annual chess festivals, notably at Whitby, Eastbourne and Southport.
Winner of a number of small and semi-international tournaments : Baarn 1947, Paignton 1954, Whitby 1963, Thorshavn 1967, and Jersey 1975.
Played for the BCF in the International Team Tournament at Buenos Aires 1939. His best tournament result was probably his equal second in the British Championship at London 1948.
In 1954 BHW was sued BH Wood for libel by William Ritson Morry over a letter BHW sent to Henry Golding of the Monmouthshire County Chess Association warning him of WRMs financial history. Here is a summary of the action :
and two years later in 1956 we have this telling photograph of Ritson and BH playing at the British Championships in Blackpool. It must have been an entertaining pairing for the organisers if no-one else!
Possibly WRM was thinking this as they played:
Among his books are : Easy Guide to Chess, Sutton Coldfield 1942 et seq; World Championship Candidates Tournament 1953, Sutton Coldfield 1954. “
Cafferty on Wood (1989)
Here is the obituary from British Chess Magazine, Volume CIX (1989, 109), Number 5 (May), pages 210 – 211:
B. H. WOOD
Baruch Harold Wood (13 viii 1909-4 iv 1989) popularly known as “B. H.” was a significant figure of the last fifty-odd years in British chess. His life touched practically all aspects of the game as player, both OTB and CC, magazine publisher and editor, organiser of club, congress and university chess, journalist . . . the list seems endless. In 1984 he was awarded the OBE for services to chess.
Born at Sheffield, which he sometimes used as an excuse when he was accused of stubbornness, (“It’s my Yorkshire blood, you know”) he was educated in North Wales (Friar’s School, and then University College, Bangor) and at Birmingham University.
He started his chess magazine at Sutton Coldfield in 1935 as an impecunious graduate who could not find suitable work in the Depression, and his lively style ensured that it was a beacon in British chess for fifty years to come! For many British chess fans he was “Mr Chess” yet it seems a miracle that he kept the magazine going in the difficult times when interest in the game was at a low ebb. He may well have subsidised it from his journalistic work (Birmingham Post, Illustrated London News and Daily Telegraph) and from his wartime work as manager of a chemical laboratory (“The first time I ever earned a decent salary”).
His duodenal ulcer prevented him doing military service, and later in life he suffered from failing eyesight and the inability to walk which resulted from his diabetes, not diagnosed till he had suffered from it for decades.
He worked a seven-day week on the magazine, and his wife who predeceased him was often unsure when he would be home such was his devotion to the work. At times he would take off for trips abroad or long simul tours through Britain while trying to keep the magazine on schedule.
One of his last long tours was in 1967 when he drove Botvinnik around the UK. The world champion was duly impressed by the work load and wrote a very favourable account of the trip, revealing incidentally that Barry was still paying off the mortgage on his large house in Rectory Road, Sutton Coldfield where the car was parked on the forecourt as the garage was the reserve storage for a large library of chess books! His ability to quote chemical formula from memory also impressed Botvinnik.
He brought up a family of four, all of whom were skilled players, apart, perhaps from the youngest boy. Daughter Peggy
was prominent in women’s chess and married Peter Clarke at the time of the Botvinnik visit. Elder sons Chris and Frank were of over-200 strength, but had seen too much of their father’s life at close hand to want to take over the business from him. He ultimately sold out to Pergamon in 1987 though negotiations had been started much earlier. It was probably too much of a wrench to let go until failing health left him with little alternative, but he described
the terms as very generous.
Barry was a gifted linguist who was welcome abroad for his un-English approach of having a go at the native tongue. As a player he was at his best in the late 1930s (a member of the 1939 Olympiad team in Buenos Aires) till the 1950s. He should really have won the 1948 British Championship when he had the enterprising idea of having Paul Schmidt as personal coach! Yet his tournament wins run on as late as Guernsey 1975 and he was playing in the First Division of the Birmingham League within a few weeks of his death. The flesh may have been weak but a great spirit kept him going to the end.
Shall we ever see his like again?
Julius Silverman former MP for Aston (Birmingham) writes: I am very sorry to learn of the death of Barry Wood. I knew him for about 55 years and I always found him a pleasant and interesting companion and a good friend. On the last few occasions that I have met him he seemed increasingly frail. I know that the death of his dear wife was a great blow to him.
Barry’s contribution to Chess in this country has been enormous and his passing is the end of an era in chess journalism.
Barry’s journalism and his imaginative editorship made Chess a fascinating journal which it was always a pleasure to read.
Its survival for well over 50 years was a unique achievement which required persistence and dedication. He has had many
hills to surmount.
One was “… the chess lawsuit of the Century …” (This ran for about two and a half years, ending in 1940 in a victory for the magazine on appeal, Ed). Jacques versus Chess which might have brought Chess to an end. I appeared for him as counsel. We won. I received a life subscription to Chess as part of my fee. My copy still comes to me regularly. I have never enjoyed a fee so much.
Here is the article in its original form:
Bernard on Barry (2004)
REMEMBERING BARRY WOOD (1909-1939)
by Bernard Cafferty
One of the most influential figures in British chess of the 20th century was B. H. Wood, whom I knew personally from 1951, and whom I played regularly, over a period of three decades, till l moved from Birmingham to Hastings in 1981. Here are some
memories of the man who was thought of by many in Britain as “Mr Chess”.
Born in Sheffield, Baruch Harold Wood had his secondary education in North Wales at the same grammar school as W Ritson
Morry who was later to become his Midlands colleague and bitter rival. BH always attributed his well-known stubbornness (he never resigned early) to “his Yorkshire blood”. Wood and Morry were to be students together at Birmingham University after BH gained his BSc in Wales. Then the pair faced the hard task of finding work in depression-struck mid-1930s England. BH founded his monthly magazine CHESS in 1935, an act of amazing optimism which only his great appetite for work could justify. The magazine was based in Sutton Coldfield, just north of Birmingham, at gloomy premises known as Masonic Buildings.
The early decades of this publication were marked by the outpouring of glorious journalism of a popular sort. The man’s love
of the game shone through his work and he recruited such contributors as the chatty Koltanowski and the prince of annotators
Alexander Alekhine. Later he became the long-serving columnist of the Birmingham Post, from 1949 of the weekly Illustrated London News, and even later of the Daily Telegraph. A feature of the magazine was its lively letters from readers which made for more interesting reading than the equivalent occasional letter to be found in the staid BCM. The readers also made pertinent contributions to opening theory, especially in going through the 1946 MCO with a fine toothcomb and reporting their discoveries to Sutton Coldfield.
BH wrote a best-selling Easy Guide to Chess which went through several editions and was far more user-friendly than other primers on the market at the time. He also designed a luxury set, the Coldfield, and produced various chess clocks with new features. BH was a member of the BCF Olympiad side that played in the first part of the Buenos Aires Olympiad in the autumn of 1939. After the team’s withdrawal due to the outbreak of war, he stayed on in Argentina for a short while, taking part in a short tournament where he met the legendary Alekhine.
BH was married to Marjorie, a Birmingham primary school teacher, and had three sons and a daughter. The elder two boys,
Chris and Frank, were strong players but not Philip. His daughter Peggy was our leading girl player of the 1950s, and married Peter Clarke in 1962. One should note that BH was not Jewish, as many assumed from the name Baruch – he was generally addressed as Barry by his wife and close friends. Others called him just by the initials BH. Everyone in British chess knew exactly who you meant when you said BH. Many thought of him as a sharp business-man. In any event, the fearsome workload he shouldered meant that none of his children, seeing this at first hand, aspired to carry on the magazine as a family business. To many in the British chess community who had never seen top players in action, BH was their first contact with the wider chess world due to the exhausting simul tours he made to many clubs the length and breadth of the UK.
Later, he organized CHESS Festivals starting from 1953. These were our earliest open tournaments, held at attractive venues such as Cheltenham, Whitby, Eastbourne and Southport. These events created the opportunity for British amateurs to meet continental grandmaster opposition like Donner and O’Kelly. BH had great confidence in his ability – his MSc at Birmingham University was in chemistry, but in 1946-7 he started studying nuclear physics privately, telling Brian Reilly, who was employed by him at that time, that it was the science of the future. I have to simply marvel at this – where did he find the time? In his self-portrait in connection with the GB-USSR match of 1946 he revealed that he had been studying Russian privately with a view to taking an external degree in it at Birmingham University.
The post-war decade saw him at his most active. He was BCF delegate at early FIDE meetings post-1946, the period that saw the mighty Soviet Union admitted to membership in 1947. BH was instrumental in maintaining Spain’s membership of FIDE at the same time, despite Soviet opposition to Franco’s fascism. He claimed to me he was always a most welcome guest in Spain thereafter.
Battles with the BCF
BH had been exempt from military service due to a duodenal ulcer. He spent the war keeping the magazine alive in his spare time as he was put in charge of a research laboratory at the Birmingham Chemical Company. During the war the government had the power under emergency legislation to direct citizens into any sort of work that would contribute to the war effort. His comment to me on that intensive period was: “It was the first time I ever drew a decent salary”. After a short spell as BCF FIDE delegate, he fell out with the ruling body in the early 1950s. His view was that the national body was ultra-conservative and not open to fresh ideas such as the knockout championship open to all which he organised in 1949-50. Lo and behold, a few months later the BCF started organising regional competitions to arrange for qualification for the British Championship! BH often criticised the BCF in his magazine. In June 1950 he wrote the first of a planned series of articles on the evergreen theme “Where is British Chess Going?” and forwarded a copy to the BCF just before publication. The BCF legal eagle Professor Wheatcroft immediately threatened to take out an injunction, so putting the frighteners on the printers. Rather than delay the July issue (not that subscribers were not used to a rather irregular schedule!), BH brought out the issue with white space, on two pages, a dramatic way of alerting the readers to the dispute. The promised articles, which he said would appear after the dispute was settled, never appeared.
There were also tensions with BCF figures like Alexander and Golombek, in the latter case probably due to professional rivalry and Harry G’s identification with the BCM. Another prominent figure with whom BH crossed swords was the flamboyant Liverpool barrister Gerald Abrahams who threatened to sue over a report in CHESS of gambling debts incurred “on the turf’.
BH was no stranger to litigation. For example he had had a lawsuit with Jaques culminating in 1940 over the use of the term
“genuine Staunton-pattern sets” in his advertising. The case was initially lost, a potentially crippling blow, but then won on appeal with the aid of solicitor Julius Silverman (later a prominent Birmingham MP), Ritson Morry, Sir George Thomas and
other well-wishers. When Wood-Morry hostility was at its height in the early 1950s over pro- and anti-BCF views, BH drew attention in a letter to a Welsh chess organiser to Ritson’s short period in jail. The uncomplimentary term ‘gaolbird’ was used. A court case followed which the penurious Ritson, having been struck off as a solicitor could hardly afford, yet BH was cleared on the defence of justification. My fellow students and I at Birmingham University could only marvel at the daily press reports on the wrangles between two of our patrons whom we had feted at a celebratory dinner only a short while before.
Here is the point at which to mention BH’s support for chess in the universities. He was the long-time President of the
BUCA (British Universities’ Chess Association) and turned up at many of their events with support. He loaned equipment in the early days when not every chess club had sufficient clocks for a match – bear in mind that the austerity period in Britain lasted for years after 1945. BH also supported correspondence chess, being the founder of the Postal Chess League, a team event very popular in its day but now defunct.
BH’s best playing performance was the British Championship of 1948 when he came second to Broadbent. The Midlander had actually started with 6.5 points from seven games, but the unsatisfactory position arose that he had to meet Broadbent in the last round when each had an adjourned game still to finish off.
The tension got to BH, he missed a clear winning chance against the Northerner and lost. Yet he should really have taken the title on the merits of the positions he had achieved. His rivals resented the fact that he had hired a second, namely Paul Schmidt, the Estonian player who was once thought of as almost as good as Keres in his native land. Schmidt had won the German Championship during the war in 1941. The British amateurs of 1948 were not impressed by this intrusion of professionalism and the importation of someone who carried the taint of possible Nazism. According to Brian Reilly, Gerald Abrahams was particularly scathing.
BH made a good impression on Botvinnik when the latter stayed at the Wood residence in Rectory Road, Sutton Coldfield, in 1967 (the reference for those who can read Russian is Baturinsky’s “…Tvorchestvo” trilogy on Botvinnik. The article was entitled: Albion shakhmatny i inoy. It appears on pp435 -448 of the third volume. A shortened version appears in English in Botvinnik’s autobiography Achieving the Aim). When I drew BH’s attention to the article and its peculiar title he responded with his usual erudite comment: ‘Albion? Yes, that’s the Roman reference to the white cliffs of Dover”. For most Brummies, “The Albion” did not mean a local pub, but rather the West Bromwich Albion football team!
In theory, the communist Botvinnik should have been distant from his host, the Midlands entrepreneur and business man, who drove him round to his engagements in Britain for three weeks, but their common love of chess triumphed over ideological
differences. In particular, the speed of production of CHESS, now on its own presses, was compared very favourably by the Soviet Patriarch to that of Shakhmaty v SSSR. British trade unions had a different view of course, in pre-Thatcher days, and BH had some tricky obstacles to overcome in this field. The Muscovite Botvinnik recorded the fact that the garage of BH’s large house was full of chess books (as were various rooms – to the abiding despair of Marjorie), so the family car was always parked outside on the drive. BH revealed to Botvinnik that he had not been able pay off his mortgage for decades due to the variable cash flow from his business and journalism.
BH was in love with study as a young man, he once told me, and he had a facility in various European languages, which made him always welcome abroad. Over the years, BH had a number of employees who were strong players, such as Brian Reilly, Owen Hindle and Robert Bellin, but none of them lasted long. Owen Hindle, a person of placid temperament, stuck it out the longest, but even he had his patience tried by the ‘boss’. One cannot hide the fact that BH was a controversial figure – perhaps the clue after all is that reference to his stubbornness and Yorkshire blood? I contributed to his magazine for many years, but certainly never wanted to work for him full-time!
I used to see BH in the last decade of his life only in the Hastings press room. For his age, he still took on a fantastic workload. Peter Clarke once commented that his father-in-law gave the impression of believing he would live for ever. Finally, Anno Domini told and BH sold his business to Robert Maxwell of Pergamon fame/notoriety in 1988.
In his final year, BH suffered from diabetes, and the resulting inability to walk meant he was confined to a wheelchair, but he still insisted on visiting Hastings one last time, where, in his prime, he had specialised in taking away Premier score sheets. Often they were taken not just to his hotel room, but even back to Sutton Coldfield, so hindering the work of other chess journalists unless Ritson or later, Peter Griffiths had got in first to create the bulletin.
What a character! We lack such a colourful figure nowadays. Where he still alive today, I imagine he would still be trying to put a bomb under the BCF.
Winter, Jaques and Wood
From Chess Explorations (Cadogan Chess, 1996) by Edward Winter we have further detail on the Jaques court case:
“Paul Timson, a lawyer, sends us reports on two legal cases connected with chess. In 1939 B.H.Wood found himself in the dock for having advertised for sale in CHESS in 1937 ‘genuine Staunton chessmen’. The plaintiffs were John Jaques & Son, Ltd. Sir George Thomas., Max Euwe and Lodewijk Prins appeared as witnesses for the defence. The case is referred to by Fred Wren in his article ‘Tales of a Woodpusher: Woodpusher’s Woodpile’, which appeared in Chess Review, 1949 and was reprinted in Reinfeld’s The Treasury of Chess Lore. The issues of CHESS of the time also contained a huge amount of material on the case. The decision was that ‘Staunton’ alone was permissible description, but that the phrase ‘genuine Staunton’ implied a product made by Jaques & Son Ltd., as opposed to any Staunton pattern. However, B.H. Wood appealed and, in 1940, won.”
If you can get access then we recommend the eleven-page “B.H. Wood and his chess playing family” article in the August-2009 issue of Chess Monthly written by his son Chris Wood (helped by brother Frank).
Likewise The Chess Lawsuit of the Century is detailed in CHESS, volume 52, Number 1018, pp.392 – 394 by BHW himself.
BCN remembers Sir Stuart Milner-Barry KCVO CB OBE who passed away on Saturday, March 25th, 1995 in Lewisham Hospital, London aged 88. He was laid to rest in the Great Shelford Cemetery, Cambridge Road, Great Shelford, Cambridge CB22 5JJ.
A memorial service was held for him at Westminster Abbey on 15 June 1995.
Philip Stuart Milner-Barry was born on Thursday, September 20th 1906 in Mill Hill in the London Borough of Barnet. Mill Hill falls under the Hendon Parliamentary constituency.
His parents were Lieutenant-Commander Edward Leopold (1867-1917) and Edith Mary Milner-Barry (born 17th May 1866, died 1949, née Besant). Edward was in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, H.M.S. “Wallington.” Prior to his war service his father was a professor of modern languages at the University of Bangor and Edith was the daughter of Dr. William Henry Besant, a renowned mathematical fellow of St John’s College, Cambridge University.
Stuart was the second born of six children, There was an older sister Alda Mary (18th August 1893-1938) and four brothers Edward William Besant (?-1911) , Walter Leopold (1904-1982), John O’Brien (4 December 1898 – 28 February 1954) and Patrick James . Many of the Milner-Barry family were laid to rest in the Great Shelford churchyard.
Stuart learned chess at the age of eight and his autobiographical article below goes into more depth.
He was educated at Cheltenham College, and won a scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he obtained firsts in classics and moral sciences.
On leaving Cambridge in 1927 he went to work at the London Stock Exchange (LSE).
According to the 1928 and 1929 electoral rolls he was living with his mother Edith and his brothers Walter and John O’Brien at 50 De Freville Avenue, Cambridge CB4 1HT:
In 1931 the family had relocated to 11, Park Terrace, Cambridge which is nearby to Emmanuel College. Now living with the family was brother Patrick James.
He discovered that he did not enjoy his LSE work and switched careers to became chess correspondent of The Times in 1938.
At the time (September 29th) of the 1939 register he (aged 33) was living as a journalist in a household of three with his mother Edith who carried out “unpaid domestic duties” and sister Alda who was of “private means”.
In 1946 Stuart was awarded the OBE from the Civil Division in the New Years Honours . The citation reads that was “employed in a Department of the Foreign Office”. A modern translation of this was he was engaged in Top Secret work at Bletchley Park alongside Alan Turing, Gordon Welchman and Hugh Alexander and was thus honoured for his war work. More on this later…
After the war he worked in the Treasury, and later in 1966 administered the British honours system where he helped to facilitate the award of honours to other chess players ultimately retiring in 1977.
As well as the OBE he was made Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in 1962 and Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCV0) in 1975.
A conference room was named after him at the Civil Service Club, 13 – 15 Great Scotland Yard, London SW1A 2HJ.
Peter Hennessy* and The Rewarding Career of Sir Stuart Milner-Barry
*Peter Hennessy is a renowned historian and journalist. The following was originally published in The Times in 1977 following PSMBs retirement.
“Few careers can have been as varied and rewarding as that of Sir Stuart Milner-Barry, who retires today as Ceremonial Officer to the Civil Service Department and custodian of the British honours system.
Into the 48 years since he left Cambridge with a degrees in classics and moral sciences, he has crammed spells as a stockbroker, chess correspondent of The Times and member of the British chess team, a wartime codebreaker for MI6 and a senior Treasury official before taking over administration of the nations “gongs and bongs ” nearly 11 years ago.
The richness of Sir Stuart’s progression is all the more striking given the difficulty he experienced in finding a job at all after university because of the Wall Street crash in 1929. His first 10 years spanned the slump of the 1930s, when there was little for a stockbroker to do, but fill his days reading The Times.
In 1938 he joined the paper full time as chess correspondent and, along with many of the world’s leading players, he was nearly trapped in Buenos Aires when war broke out the next year (ed. should be month rather than year). Catching the first ship home, he finished up with that brilliant collection of dons, antique dealers, mathematicians and chess players billeted in Nissen huts in the park of Buckinghamshire country house, who broke the code transmitted by the German Enigma machine.
Sir Stuart eventually rose to lead hut six, which broke the most secret messages of the Luftwaffe. Quartered in a comfortable Bletchley public house with another formidable chess player, C. H. O’D. Alexander, and Gordon Welchman, the Cambridge mathematician, he acquired a taste for rum, the only alcohol in plentiful supply for some reason, and a sense of guilt about enjoying, his stimulating, important job, safe while other men faced the bullets.
He was not tempted to stay on in the arcane world of code-breaking after the war, unlike his friend, the late Hugh Alexander, as he regards such activities in peacetime as akin to reading somebody’s private correspondence, though he recognizes the necessity of such efforts for intelligence work. Instead, he took the reconstruction competition for the administrative class of the Civil Service and entered the Treasury.
While battling with the post-war dollar shortage in Treasury Chambers he “found a wife, carried her off and lived happily ever after”, as he cheerfully puts it. Apart from a spell as establishment officer to the Ministry of Health, he stayed at the Treasury until he reached the normal retiring age of 60 in 1966.
Lord Helsby, then Head of the Home Civil Service, asked him to stay on and take over the smooth machine that underpins the honours system, which had been built up over many years by Sir Robert Knox. Sir Stuart has loved every minute of it.
He looks every inch the part, a tall stately man of immense natural dignity, he is the incarnation of propriety. The stresses to which the honours system has been subjected to in recent years must have caused him great distress but he is far too proper a civil servant to talk about it. His retirement at 70 has nothing to do with the alarums and excursions stimulated by the honours lists associated with Harold Wilson.
“One of my principal jobs has been the protection of the system”, he says. “The pleasures are very great. It’s fascinating in itself. You see so much of the history of people in every walk of like”.
Sir Stuart waxes eloquent about the beauty and uniqueness of the British honours system. He is a confirmed monarchist, so the spontaneity of the jubilee celebrations provides the perfect backcloth for his departure. He is succeeded by Mr. Richard Sharp, an under-secretary at the Treasury.”
Below is the original article:
Marriage to Thelma
In the third quarter of 1947 Stuart married Thelma Tennant Wells in Westminster. A consequence of the “rules of the day” of the marriage was that Thelma had to resign her post in the Treasury immediately. (Ed: this somewhat antiquated view of life was finally corrected in 1972 when the Civil Service dispensed with this rule).
Lady Thelma was to support Stuart in his chess activities for their married life. She also served as the first UK Director of Women’s Chess and made many lasting friendships in the chess world. She was buried together with Stuart in 2007. Stuart himself was President of the British Chess Federation between 1970 and 1973 as well as being Director of International Chess following his presidency.
Stuart and Thelma had three children, one son and two daughters: Philip O. (born 1953), Jane E (born 1950) and Alda M (born 1958).
Stuart was knighted on January 1st 1975 for his role as the “Ceremonial Officer of Civil Service Department” between 1966-77. Technically the knighthood is known as a KCVO.
He first competed in the British Championship in 1931 and made regular appearences as late as 1978: a span of 47 years!
In their retirement years Stuart and Thelma lived at the salubrious location of 43 Blackheath Park, Blackheath, London SE3 9RW.
In June of 1933 at the age of 27 Stuart wrote an autobiographical piece for British Chess Magazine to be found in Volume LIII (53, 1933), Number 6 (June), pp. 241-2 as follows:
Champion of the City of London Chess Club
I learned chess at the age of eight and played regularly after that with members of my family. My first-class practise (with due respect to my family) began at fourteen, when Mr. Bertram Goulding Brown and started a series of serious friendly games which has continued ever since, almost without interruption. The vast majority of these games were begun with 1 P-K4, P-K4, and as we both eschewed the Lopez and the Four Knights, we have acquired a fairly extensive knowledge of the older forms of the King’s side openings – King’s Gambit (all sorts), Vienna, Guioco Piano, Evans’s Gambit, Danish Gambit, Bishop’s Opening, etc. These games have undoubtedly born the most important influence in my development, apart from which the serious friendly game is to me much the most enjoyable form of chess. We each have runs of success, and there has never been much to choose between us.
(An aside : Stuart wrote a extensive obituary of Bertram Goulding Brown which appeared in British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXV (85, 1965), Number 12(December) pp.344-45 in which he noted:
B. Goulding Brown was my oldest and closest Cambridge friend, I started playing with him in 1920, and we have played ever since, though, alas, not nearly so often since the War as in the 1920s and 1930. Our last games, when he was eighty three, were played about a year ago in the same book-congested upstairs study at Brookside as all the others had been. Both were cut-and-thrust draws: a Kieseritzky Gambit from myself and Two Knights’ (with 4.P-Q4 for White) were typical of the openings we adopted. We were planning another this Autumn, but he died suddenly and peacefully at the end of August, )
I have also been very fortunate in playing a good deal with C.H.O’D. Alexander. Our games have taken the form of a series of short matches (first player to win three games) played with clocks. Alexander was already stronger than me when he came up to Cambridge, and he won the University Championship from me in his first year and my fourth.
All three matches have been won by him, the first easily and the last two by the narrowest possible margin; a fourth now in progress looks like coming to an early and ignominious conclusion (Score 0-2-2). These results have neither surprised nor disappointed me : I would not back any player in England to do better.
In 1923 I won the first Boy’s Championship at Hastings, but lost badly the following year (ed. Alexander won).
Since then I have competed twice at Hastings, once tieing with Miss Menchik in the Major Reserve for the first place and once for the last, in the Major. In between I played in the Major Open at Tenby, and came out fifth, with my first important win against Znosko-Borovsky.
Meanwhile I played four years against Oxford, with somewhat chequered results. The first year I won against G. Abrahams, the second and third years, I played K.H. Bancroft and scored a (very fortunate) draw and a win, while finally I permitted Abrahams to fork my King and Queen with a Knight, a performance unhappily repeated by R.L. Mitchell in the following year (his Queen was pinned by a Bishop). Since then the spell has been broken. In 1931 I played in the British Championships at Worcester, and was quite satisfied with my form, though my score of 5 out of 11 was nothing to write home about. In February 1932, I have the great good fortune to fill a vacant place in the Sunday Referee* London International Tournament, an extremely exhausting but very valuable experience which I greatly appreciated.
*TheSunday Referee was a newspaper of the time which was adsorbed into The Sunday Chronicle in 1939.
My score of 3.5 out of 11, equal with Sir George Thomas and above W. Winter and V. Buerger, was quite as good as I expected. After this came the Cambridge Tournament, which, though a very delightful little congress, was a fiasco from my point of view. Three of my opponents were unkind enough to show their best form against me, and two other games I spoilt by clock trouble.
I do not expect to play much serious competitive chess in future. I admire sincerely the business man who is ready, after a hard day at the office, to undergo a further four hours of strenuous mental exertion; and who is also prepared to spend his all too brief holidays in the same exhausting pursuit. Moreover, while many players find the atmosphere of match and tournament play a stimulus or an inspiration, it only renders me nervous, and though this does not affect my play it certainly interferes with my enjoyment. As long as I can play my week-end games with B.G.B., and inveigle Alexander from Winchester to add another to his monotonous series of victories, I shall not much mind if I can only occasionally take part in congresses. ”
PS Milner-Barry Cup
In issue #53 (April 1946) of West London Chess Club’s Gazette we have a news item concerning a newly inaugurated trophy called the PS Milner-Barry Cup:
Sergeant on Milner-Barry
Writing in A Century of British Chess (Hutchinson, 1934), PW Sergeant records in Chapter XXI, 1925 to 1934:
The City of London C.C.’s Championship Tournament which ended this (1933) spring deserves special mention; for it introduced an entirely new name on the list of champions, that of P.S. Milner-Barry, formerly of Cheltenham College and of Cambridge University. Ten years previously he had won the first boys’ championship at Hastings.
Now, he won the City of London Championship with a score of 11 out of 14, followed by the bearers of such noted names as R.P. Michell (10 points), Sir George Thomas (9), and E.G. Sergeant (8.5). It caused some surprise, therefore, when it was found that he was not selected as a British representative at Folkestone.
Golombek on Milner-Barry
Surprisingly and disappointingly there is no direct entry in either Hooper & Whyld or Sunnucks for Sir Stuart but (as you might expect) Harry Golombek OBE does not let us down in The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977):
“British master whose chess career was limited by his amateur status but whose abilities as a player and original theorist rendered him worthy of the title of international master.
Born at Mill Hill in London, he showed early promise and in 1923 won the British Boys Championship, then held at Hastings.
He studied classics at Cambridge and developed into the strongest player there. At the university he was to meet (ed. three years later) C. H. O’D. Alexander with whom he played much chess.
Though nearly three years younger, Alexander exerted a strong influence over him and both players cherished and revelled in the brilliance of play in open positions.
By then along with Alexander and Golombek, he had become recognized as one of the three strongest young players in the country. Whilst not as successful as they were in tournaments as the British championship in which stamina was essential, he was a most formidable club and team match player, as he had already shown in 1933 when he won the championship of the City of London Club ahead of R. P. Mitchell and Sir George Thomas.
He played in his first International Team tournament at Stockholm 1937 and was to play in three more such events : in 1939 at Buenos Aires where, on third board, he made the fine score of 4/5 ; in Helsinki 1952; and in Moscow 1956 where, again on third board, he was largely responsible for the team’s fine showing.
In 1940 he shared first prize with Dr. List in the strong tournament of semi-international character in London and then, like Alexander and (later) Golombek, helped in the Foreign Office code-breaking activities at Bletchley Park for the duration of the Second World War. Staying in the Civil Service afterwards, he rose to the rank of Under-Secretary in the Treasury and was knighted for his services in 1975.
“I first met Sir Stuart Milner-Barry when I was fifteen years old (1962) playing in a tournament in Bognor Regis who played some rustic king’s pawn opening against me, sacrificing a pawn for nothing in particular and then astonished by writing “castles” in full on his scoresheet. I think he used “kt” for a knight too. I thought I had discovered a true relic from a bygone age and the more I got to know him I realised the more correct that judgement was.
Milner-Barry was the last of the true gentlemen amateurs and was one of the few people I have ever met who played chess for the sheer love of the game.
A few typical incidents may give a flavour of his unique personality. First and most typical was the way he would resign: with a firm handshake, a smile and a booming whisper of ‘You are far too good for me I’m afraid!’ When I first heard those words I was totally taken aback : What was this, a chessplayer acknowledging that his opponent was better than him? Impossible!
Once, at close of play in a county match against Milner-Barry I had the extra pawn in a difficult queen and pawn ending. We analysed a little with most variations suggesting I was winning. It was the kind of position you would send for adjudication even if you are convinced it is lost. It avoids having to resign anyway and the adjudicator may always discount the pawns. But, Sir Stuart never thought like that. After ten minutes analysing he extended his hand and congratulated me.
Finally there was the splendid incident in Moscow during the (Ed. 6th) European Team Championships in the late 1970s (Ed. 1977) Stuart was then the President of the BCF and took up an invitation of his old friend the British Ambassador to the USSR (Ed. Sir Howard Smith) to visit the event. Since he was staying at the Embassy he had a KGB tail assigned to him to follow him everywhere. On one of his morning walks Sir Stuart got lost and was not certain which bridge he should be on to get back to the Embassy. So, he turned around and walked back to the not very secret policeman, followed him and asked for directions! For the rest of his stay they walked practically hand-in-hand.
Whilst most of us knew Stuart as an amiable old gent who played for Kent and in the Lloyds Bank Masters who could still play brilliant attacking games in his eighties most knew little of his distinguished career in real life.
We suspected with some justification that in his civil service career he was responsible for doling out all those OBEs to chess players in the 70s and 80s when he was in charge of the honours list.
It was the wartime work at Bletchley Park that was Milner-Barry’s greatest achievement. As everybody knows the allies won the Second World War mainly because of the brilliant code-breaking work of the Cambridge quartet of Alan Turing, Gordon Welchman, Hugh Alexander and Stuart Milner-Barry. Turing and Welchman were mathematical geniuses, Milner-Barry was the supreme administrator and Alexander straddled the gap with great talents in both areas. The group of four were known as “The Wicked Uncles”
The astonishing achievement at Bletchley was not so much in breaking enemy codes as maintaining complete secrecy of the entire operation for the duration of the war. Only with such people as Milner-Barry and Alexander in charge could such a large operation be run so successfully without anybody knowing about it.
Milner-Barry’s importance in the running at Bletchley may be judged from the fact that he personally delivered the note to Winston Churchill stressing overriding importance of their work asking for more funds.
Compared with that the invention of the Milner-Barry Gambit and the Milner-Barry variation of the Nimzo-Indian are minor achievements.
Sir Stuart was proof that nice guys can be chess players although one cannot help suspecting he would achieved even better results if he had even a slight streak of nastiness about him. He would surely have not let Capablanca off the hook in Margate in 1938 when the attacking player secured a winning position against the ex-champions dragon variation and he would have surely also not let the British Championship slip from his grasp in 1953 when he finished as runner-up after losing his last two games.
He always performed well when playing in Olympiads (or Team Tournaments as they were known then) for England during the 1930s and 50s. He was, after all, one of the most naturally gifted players this county has produced. What other Englishman has two opening (or even just one) named after him?
While at Cambridge while he won the University Championship in 1928, losing to Alexander in the following year, Milner-Barry composed some fine problems, a frivolity he never returned to later in his life.
An excellent though infrequent writer on the game, he wrote a fine memoir of C.H.O’D. Alexander in Golombek’s and Hartston’s The Best Games of C.H.O’D. Alexander, Oxford, 1976.”
An Obituary from Bernard Cafferty
From British Chess Magazine, Volume CXV (115, 1995), Number 5 (May), pp. 258-59 we have this obituary by Bernard Cafferty:
“Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry KCVO CB OBE (20 ix 1906 – 25 iii 1995) was the oldest of the British chess masters who came to prominence in the 1930s, He was always thought of in conjunction with his great friends Hugh Alexander and Harry Golombek who both predeceased him. The length of Stuart’s career is amazing – he was inaugural British Boy Champion in 1923 and was still playing for Kent first team in the Counties Championship of recent years, thus spanning a period of seven decades! Botvinnik spoke of him to me on my 1994 visit to Moscow.
Yet Stuart, who never gained the IM title, was always the true amateur and genuine English gentleman, whose sense of duty and tradition was very great. It speaks volumes of him that he agonised over whether he should attend the Times Kasparov-Short match of 1993, in a private capacity. He would have liked to watch the play, but as a former British Chess Federation President, 1970-73, he felt it was his duty not to lend any extra recognition to the contest other than that assigned it by the BCF.
Before the war, after graduating from Cambridge in Classics, he took some fine scalps including those of Tartakower and Mieses and should have beaten Capablanca at Margate 1939.
He worked, rather unhappily, in a stockbroking firm up to 1938 and it is in that capacity that his name appears on the official document that set-up the British Chess Magazine as a limited company in 1937.
During the war he played his part in the Bletchley Park code-breaking undertaking along with Alexander and Golombek, and after the war went into the Civil Service where he had a distinguished career at the Treasury. Then his career was extended as he spent his final working years in the patronage department that sifted recommendations for the honours list.
I recall asking him in 1981 if there was any chance that Brian Reilly could qualify for an award. Stuart’s diplomatic answer was to the effect that he was now retired but would drop a word in the right quarter.
Stuart represented England at the Olympiads or 1936, 1939, 1952 and 1956. At the last of these he played particularly well on fourth board. He was conscious that his old friend Hugh Alexander could not take part in Moscow because of the sensitive nature of his work in the Intelligence Service.
In playing style Milner-Barry, a tall gaunt figure, delighted in an open tactical fight.
He was The Times correspondent 1938-45, resigning the post to let Harry Golombek take over. His best result after the war, apart from the 1956 Moscow Olympiad, was probably his second place in the British Championships of 1953 at Hastings. The abiding impression of his opponents over the years must have been that here was a player who greatly enjoyed the game, win, lose or draw.
Certainly, that was my idea of him in the tussles we had from the British Championship of 1957 up to county matches in the 1980s.
We shall not see his like again. The England that formed his character is no longer with us.”
Kenworthy on Milner-Barry
Sir Stuart as a student was taught by his lecturer friend Gordon Welchman, later 1940 his Head of Hut. They were firm friends, a band of brothers, as per the rest of the chess players and mathematicians from the Interwar years at Cambridge University.
His studies were obviously well aligned to be a stockbroker in the City, plus the tedious details of Blotters and Order Management registration.
Obvious exceptions to this University circle was Dr Jacob Bronowski who was given the suspected 5th columnist treatment by authorities in Hull. Obviously, he would have been excellent.
Exception also according to John Hevriel was if you were also from Sidney Sussex, like Staff Sgt. then an RSM Asa Briggs, who was more Contract Bridge with this all friends crossword addicts team. Asa Briggs felt that Sir Stuart was initially badly rewarded leaving Hut 6 in 1945 for HM Treasury.
Sir Stuart was a noted top cribster, his crosswords, German and thinking from how the Nazi operator would think from his side of the board, obviously helped with Bombe cribs. He always played down his role and abilities in a diplomatic way. He was the facilitator and mentor to many, especially back to Gordon Welchman in his troubled times from 1974 onwards. Sir Stuart was not happy about the proposed book of the Hut 6 Story.
He was the bureaucrat who cared for the welfare of his staff, especially on tedious protract tasks which was the norm. He was into ethics, Quadrivium, logic and rhetoric, philosophy and his knowledge of German poets and Great German thinkers would have been invaluable in solving the Enigma puzzle and how might his opposite number blunder and be sloppy in procedures.
Though never at home in close(d) positions, he was an outstanding strategist in the open game and it is significant that his most important contribution to opening theory was the Milner-Barry variation of the Nimzo-Indian Defence which is essentially as attempt to convert a close position into an open one (1.P-Q4, N-KB3; 2.P-QB4, P-K3; 3. N-QB3, B-N5; 4.Q-B2, N-B3).
Hooper & Whyld (1996) note:
“Sometimes called the Zurich or Swiss variation, this is a line in the Nimzo-Indian Defence introduced by Milner-Barry in the Premier Reserves tournament, Hastings 1928-9. This line became more widely known when it was played at Zurich 1934.”
Two famous opening lines are named after him – 4…Nc6 in the Nimzo-Indian (as above), and the gambit in the French Defence: 1.e4 e6;2.d4 d5;3.e5 c5;4.c3 Nc6;5.Nf3 Qb6;6.Bd3 cxd4;7.cxd4 Bd7;8.0-0 Nxd4;
Stuart played this line both in correspondence and over-the-board play. If Black takes the pawn with 10…Qxe5, White gets a fierce attack by 11,Re1 Qd6 (else 12.Nxd5) 12.Nb5.
There is also a sub-variation of the Caro-Kann which is named after Sir Stuart viz:
which is a Blackmar-Diemer style pawn sacrifice.
There is also a Milner-Barry variation in the Falkbeer Counter Gambit to the King’s Gambit thus:
which is an ancient line that he revived at Margate 1937.
and finally, there is a Milner-Barry Variation in the Petroff Defence:
giving a total of five named variations. How many English players have that many?
Problems and Compositions
Stuart developed an interest in problem composition in the 1920s
Further examples may be found on the excellent Meson Database maintained by Brian Stephenson
Milner-Barry on The English Chess Explosion
Stuart was a great supporter of the development of British chess. Nothing would have given him more pleasure than to witness the meteoric advances of English players in the 1970s. Indeed, he wrote the foreword to the English Chess Explosion (Batsford, 1980) by Murray Chandler and Ray Keene:
“It gives me great pleasure to have been asked to write a foreword for this book. Nothing has given me more satisfaction than the flowering of British chess talent that has taken place in the past few years.
Between the wars, though we had some splendid players like H. E. Atkins, Sir George Thomas and F. D. Yates, we were a second rate power at chess: in the great Nottingham tournament of 1936, for example, our quartet brought up the rear, and that was where, with occasional shining exceptions, our representatives in international tournaments tended to find themselves. Similarly, after the war in the 1950’s and 1960’s, in spite of Alexander and Penrose, we seldom achieved a really creditable place in the Olympiads.
Alexander who retired early from the arena because of the exacting demands of his profession, must have had rather a depressing time as non-playing captain.
I myself date the renaissance from the Spring of 1974 when we won a closely contested match against West Germany at Elvetham Hall.
Thereafter we went from strength to strength, with the appearance year by year of highly talented, original and adventurous young men from the Universities – Keene and Hartston, closely followed by Miles, Stean, Nunn, Mestel, Speelman, and a still younger generation of schoolboy prodigies like Nigel Short.
The peak of our performance so far has been the third place (after the USSR and Hungary) last winter in the finals of the European Team Tournament at Skara (compared with our eighth and last place at Moscow in 1977).
How did all this come about in the short space of six years? The Spassky-Fischer match of 1972 was a watershed. Since then, and the first time, it has been possible for able young men from universities to consider chess seriously as a full-time profession, or at least as a career to which they devote the major part of their time and interest, Secondly, the fruits were being reaped of the unobtrusive but devoted spadework in junior training pioneered by Barden, Wade and many others. Lastly, no doubt, sheer good fortune smiled upon us in the simultaneous emergence of a group of brilliant enthusiastic and likeable young men, five of them already grandmasters and others likely to become so before long.
It is sad that Alexander, who did so much to uphold the prestige of British chess in the doldrums, did not survive to witness the transformation. I would like to wish the BCF President, David Anderton, and Alexander’s successor as captain, all possible success for the future.”
In the March issue of CHESS for 1963, (Volume 28, Number 427, pp.147-155) William Winter wrote this:
P. S. Milner-Barry is a close friend of Alexander’s and plays like him, though not quite so well. So far the Championship has always eluded him, though he seemed to have it within his grasp at Buxton where he played superb chess for nine rounds and cracked in the last two. I fancy that the physical strain of these long Swiss tournaments
is rather too much for him. Like Alexander he has a most attractive style and one or two of his combinative games will certainly live after him.
BCN remembers Reginald Bonham (known as “Bon”) who passed away, this day, March 16th in 1984 in Worcester, Worcestershire.
In the 1970 New Years Honours, Civil Division he was awarded the MBE for “Services to the blind”. Interestingly, in 1992 his sister Mary also received an MBE for “Services to the blind” This is surely an unusual happening.
Reginald Walter Bonham was born on Wednesday, January 31st 1906 : the same day as the Ecuador–Colombia earthquake which measured 8.8 on the Richter Scale.
He was born in St. Neots, Huntingdonshire, Cambridgeshire.
In the 1911 census aged 5 he lived in the High Street, St. Neots with William R Bonham (father, master butcher, aged 45), Edith Mary Ann Bonham (mother, 38), Howard William Bonham (6), Maurice George Bonham (3) and Ernest Charles Bonham (1). The family had a servant / domestic duties assistant called Elise Annie Goss aged 18. The census did not record any disability for Reginald.
Reg, like others in his family, suffered from deficient eyesight and was therefore unable to attend a “mainstream” school.
From 1922 – 1925 he attended the Royal Worcester College for the Blind (originally Worcester College for the Blind Sons of Gentlemen) in Whittington Road, Worcester, WR5 2JX. The Headmaster (GC Brown) encouraged his chess and rowing talents and in 1926 he was sent up to St. Catherine’s College, Oxford to read mathematics.
Reginald was a highly competant rower, competing for his college and reaching the trial stage for the Oxford Varsity crew.
In 1934 Reg founded the Braille Chess Magazine.
In the 1939 census he was recorded as living at 4, St. Catherine’s Hill, Worcester, WR5 with his wife, Josephine Bonham (born 24th September 1904). Reginald was listed as being a Mathematics tutor at the Royal Worcester College for the Blind (originally Worcester College for the Blind Sons of Gentlemen) in Whittington Road, Worcester, WR5 2JX. The college is now named New College Worcester. Their home was around a mile from the College. Josephine was listed as carrying out “unpaid domestic duties”.
He taught a combination of Braille and mathematics and was an amateur thespian and keen bridge player.
Interestingly RWB in 1939 was an ARP (Air Raid Precautions) Warden and a St. John Ambulance volunteer for the College.
He was Worcester champion twenty times and four times Midlands champion winning the Birmingham Post Cup twice.
On June 6th 1947 Bonham played in Birmingham in a match between Great Britain and Czechoslovakia playing Ladislav Alster and won this attractive game :
He was Blind World Champion in 1958 and Correspondence Blind World Champion in 1957, 1959, 1961, 1964 (jointly) and 1966.
He was active in postal play, taking part in international events in the decade after the war when few British players ventured “into Europe”. A note in the 1972 BCM (page 216) records the award of the title Correspondence GM of the Blind by the International Braille Chess Association, so his omission from the recent book British Chess seems rather unfortunate.
Among the titles won by Reginald Bonham were British Correspondence Championship, shared in 1947 with J. Cairncross and shared in 1951 with E. Brown) and Midland Champion (1947 and 1950).
Tim Harding kindly adds :
“He had earlier been runner-up in the BCF’s 1938 CC Championship and, most importantly, he won the 1942/43 Championship outright with 9/10, a point and a half ahead of David Hooper. (By then the BCF and BCCA championships had been merged into one event.)
The crosstable is on page 254 of my book Correspondence Chess in Britain and Ireland 1824-1987.”
One of his students was broadcaster Peter White MBE who described Bon in his autobiography See it My Way
From British Chess Magazine, Volume XCII (92, 1972) Number 6 (June), page 216 we have this item in News in Brief :
“At the closing ceremony of the 4th Chess Olympiad for the Blind at Pula, Yugoslavia (April 6-18) the International Braille Chess Association awarded the title of Correspondence Grandmaster of the Blind to R.W. Bonham of Worcester, for having won the Postal Championship more than three times.”
From British Chess Magazine, Volume CIV (104, 1984) Number 5 (May), page 194 we have this obituary :
“We regret to announce the death in March of two early winners of the grandmaster title (the other was Comins Mansfield MBE).
R.W.Bonham (31 i 1906 – 16 iii 1984) died at Worcester, where he had long served as a Master at the Royal Worcester College for the Blind. In the 1950s he took part in the British Championship with success. Many older players will remember him fingering his special board before announcing his move and checking his clock with its markers outside the glass face.
He was also (with Wormald) joint author of those fine little books Chess Questions Answered and More Chess Questions Answered.”
Sadly, RWB did not merit articles in Sunnucks or Golombek’s Encyclopedias or Hooper’s and Whyld’s Oxford Companion or, as mentioned previously, British Chess.
BCN remembers GM Jacques Mieses who passed away on February 23rd, 1954 aged 88. He was buried on the 25th of February at the East Ham Jewish Cemetery in Section J, Row 18, Grave 1100. We hope to update his burial record with these details when we are allowed to do so.
Jakob Jacques Mieses was born on Monday, February 27th 1865 in Leipzig in the German state of Saxony. He came to England in 1939 and was recorded in the UK Internees Index for 1939 – 1942 on 25th April 1939 :
At the time of the 1939 register Mieses was recorded as living at 66, Oakley Square, St. Pancras, Camden, London, NW1 and he is listed as a Professional Chess Player.
By the time of Hastings 1945 (27th December) Jacques had relocated to :
On June 7th 1947 he was granted Naturalisation Certificate AZ27326.
In 1950 he was one of the twenty-seven first players to be awarded the Grandmaster title by FIDE. He was therefore the first British National to be awarded the Grandmaster title for OTB play. The next (Tony Miles) would be twenty-six years later.
He has The Mieses Opening named after him :
which never really caught on to any significant degree.
and in the Centre Counter or Scandinavian Defence we have the Mieses Variation:
and finally, also in the Centre Counter or Scandinavian Defence we have the Mieses Gambit:
From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Robert Hale, 1970 & 1976), Anne Sunnucks :
“International Grandmaster. Born in Leipzig on 27th February 1865, Jacques Mieses was educated at Leipzig University and in Berlin. He came to England as a refugee from Nazi Germany shortly before the 1939-1945 war and eventually became a naturalised British citizen.
The early part of his chess career was devoted mainly to the study of chess theory and to chess problems. It was not until he was 23 that his tournament career really started with a tie for 2nd place at Nuremberg 1888, followed by 3rd at Leipzig 1888.
Over the next 50 years, he played in numerous tournaments with varying degrees of success. His addiction to speculative rather than sound openings and his attempts to combine playing in tournaments with reporting them were possibly responsible for his inconsistent results. Within a few months of one of the greatest performances of his career, when he came lst at Vienna 1907, ahead of Duras, Maróczy, Tartakover, Vidmar, Schlechter and Spielmann,
he came no higher than =16th at Carlsbad. In 1923 he achieved another great success when he came lst at Liverpool, ahead of Maróczy, Thomas and Yates.
While his style of play prevented him from reaching the greatest heights as a tournament player, it was also responsible for the numerous brilliancy prizes which came his way, one of the last being at the 1945 Hastings Congress, when he was 80.
Among the many books which Mieses wrote were The Chess Pilot,
Manual of the End Game
and Instructive Positions from Master Chess.
A very popular player, Mieses had a ready sense of humour. On one occasion, when he was in New York, he was asked by an American who mispronounced his name “Sind sie Mister Meises?”, ” No sir,” he promptly replied “Ich bin Meister Mieses.” On another occasion, when submitting an article in German to a British magazine, he could not resist asking ” Don’t you think my German is very good for an Englishman?”
On his eightieth birthday, a dinner was held in his honour in London and he was presented with a cheque by his numerous chess friends and admirers. The speech he made on this occasion was later quoted in most of his obituaries:
I have been told that a good many people never reach the biblical span of three score years and 10; and those who do-so some most reliable statistics assure us-are most likely to die between 70 and 80. Hence, I dare say, ladies and gentlemen, that I for one have now passed the danger zone and may well go on living for ever.
He lived for nearly nine more years, taking his daily swim in the Serpentine in Hyde Park or some open-air swimming pool, until only a few days before his death. He died in a London nursing home on 23rd February 1954 and was buried in the East London Jewish Cemetery.”
From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977) Harry Golombek OBE we have this from Wolfgang Heidenfeld :
“Grandmaster, theorist, problemist, tournament organiser and chess journalist.
Mieses was a spectacular player who won many brilliancy prizes but suffered as many very short defeats. As a a result the German master achieved only one full success in important international tournaments (Vienna 1907), but occupied good places in such events as Breslau 1889 (3rd), Hanover 1902 (4th), Ostend 1907 (=3rd), as well as some smaller events.
In matches he showed a heavy preponderance of losses against the top-notchers, losing to Lasker, Tarrasch, Rubinstein, Marshall, Teichmann (twice) and Spielmann, but he drew with Walbrodt (1894), Janowski (1895) and Caro (1897) and beat Leonhardt, Taubenhaus, and (at the age of 81) Abrahams.
Here is the first game from October 29th 1945 annotated by Mieses from his match with Gerald Abrahams played in Glossop:
In keeping with his sharp style, Mieses preferred such openings as the Vienna Gambit, the Danish Gambit and the Centre Counter-Gambit. Among his lasting achievements are his brilliancy prize games against Janowksi (Paris 1900),
Reggio (Monte Carlo 1903),
Perlis (Ostend 1907)
and Schlechter (Vienna 1908).
Personally a very witty man (and something of a bon vivant) Mieses did not invest his writing with the same sparkle; both as a journalist and author he was rather dry and sober. He edited the eighth edition of the famous Handbuch, several editions of the ‘little Dufresne’, and published several primers as well as a treatise on blindfold play and an anthology Instructive Positions from Master Chess, London, 1938.
One of Mieses’s most important contributions to chess history was the payment of travelling and living expenses during a tournament, which he insisted on when running the famous tournament at San Sebastian 1911 – it was only thenceforth that this procedure became the norm.”
Here is an obituary written by DJ Morgan from British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXIV (74, 1954), Number 4 (April), pp. 107-108 :
Last month we made brief mention of the death, on February 23rd at a London Nursing Home, of the old grandmaster, on the verge of his eighty-ninth birthday. He was the last surviving link with a distant and largely-forgotten era. Mieses entered the international arena in the days of the great Romantics, of Zukertort, Charousek, and Tchigorin. He reached his heyday in the times of Tarrasch, Schlechter, and Maróczy. But he could never assimilate the canons of this Classical School, derived from Steinitz and codified and promulgated by Tarrasch. He preferred the dynamic to the static. He played the Scotch Game in tournaments long after it hat been
discarded by Steinitz and Blackburne; the Danish Gambit and the Vienna became in his hands instruments of great attacking potential. As Black he long favoured the Centre Counter Defence, and with it he brought off a number of thrilling victories in such great tournaments as those of Ostend, 1907, Carlsbad, 1907, Vienna, 1908, and St. Petersburg, 1909.
Jacques Mieses was born on February 27th, 1865, at Leipsic, and was educated at the university there, and in Berlin. In the capital he joined, at seventeen, one of the city’s chess clubs, and soon won the first prize in its annual tournament. Nevertheless, his earlier days were devoted mainly to the theoretical side of the game and to problems of which he was a good composer and a phenomenal solver. His public career really began with a tie for second place at Nuremberg, 1888, with the third prize at Leipsic in the same year, followed by a third, behind Tarrasch and Burn, at Breslau, 1889. His subsequent achievements span the years and are recorded in the literature of the game. He played at the famous Hastings 1895 (and was its sole survivor); fifty years later he played at a Hastings Christmas Congress. His preference for the speculative and the spectacular to the then ultra-modern-prevented him from winning the major prizes of the games. As we look up the record’s we can readily see how unpredictable his performances were. Thus, in 1907, a first at Vienna early in the year was followed later by an equal sixteenth-eighteenth at Carlsbad. But his Brilliancy Prizes were numerous: such endings as those v. Janowski, Paris, 1900; v. Reggio, Monte Carlo, 1903 (quoted, incidentally, as Diagram 52 in Fine’s The Middle Game in Chess, but without giving its source); v. Znosko-Borovsky, Ostend, 1907; and v. Schlechter, Vienna, 1908, will always be the delight of anthologists.
As well as playing incessantly in match and tournament, Mieses wrote copiously on all aspects of the game, analytically as well as in a literary manner, in books as well as in magazines. Three of his little books, The Chess Pilot, Manual of the End-game, and Instructive Positions from Master Chess, have enjoyed a long and wide popularity in English.
Two personal memories come to the writer’s mind. We first met him during the Liverpool congress-of 1923 ((1) Mieses, (2) Maróczy). one morning we took a stroll together up Dale Street, a stroll which developed into a tie-hunting expedition, ending up with a fine selection on his part to take back to a Germany emerging from recent disaster. He left the impression of a courteous and cultured man, precise in speech and with something of the military in his bearing. ln 1939, on hearing of his whereabouts, we called at his lodgings in Camden Town one Sunday morning. We were diffidently greeted by a seriously-crippled Mieses, who had recently, under great difficulties, made his exit from a Germany once more faced with disaster.
But the prim and chivalrous personality soon exerted itself. His many English friends rallied round him in his exile, all culminating in the great tribute paid to him on his eightieth birthday. Mon March 15th, 1945, at the Lud-Eagle Chess Club, a large number of friends and admirers gathered to pay their respects. A cheque, subscribed to by members of the club, was presented to the veteran master. He had, he said in his acknowledgement, sought asylum in England, and he had been shown great kindness and sympathy. The final gift was a last resting-place in the East London (Ed : we now know this to be East Ham) Jewish Cemetery. – DJM.
“Jacques Mieses was born in Leipzig. He won the chess championship of Berlin at the age of 17, and in 1888 he placed joint second at Leipzig and third at Nuremberg.
In 1889 he came third at Breslau (1889). He was, however, rather eclipsed by two great emerging talents – Emanuel Lasker and Siegbert Tarrasch. Mieses was crushed by Lasker in a match – Lasker – Mieses (1889/90) in Leipzig (December 1889 to January 1890). He also performed poorly at 8th DSB Kongress (1893) coming only 7th out of 9 against a field which was relatively weak compared to previous DSB congresses.
1894-95 was a busy period for Mieses. He drew a match with Karl August Walbrodt. (+5, =3,-5) in Berlin (May-June 1894). Mieses then played in the extremely strong 9th DSB Kongress, Leipzig (1894) (3rd-14th September, 1894) coming 10th out of 18. He had then toured Russia giving simultaneous displays, before travelling to Paris to play a match with David Janowski (8th January to 4th February 1895).
Mieses then crossed the English Channel to play a short match against Richard Teichmann in London (16th – 21st February 1895) which he lost by +1 =1 -4. A month later he played this match, Mieses next professional engagement would be (which was his first tournament outside his own country) came at the famous Hastings event of 1895. Although he finished only twentieth (in a field of 22 players), he soon adapted to this level of play and in 1907 he took first prize at the Vienna tournament scoring ten points from thirteen games.
In 1909, Mieses played a short blindfold match with Carl Schlechter, winning it with two wins and one draw. The very next year Schlechter played Emanuel Lasker for the World Championship and drew the match 5-5.
Mieses tried his hand as a tournament organiser in 1911, putting together the San Sebastian event that marked the international debut of future World Champion Jose Raul Capablanca. Mieses was defeated by one of Lasker’s title challengers, Siegbert Tarrasch, in a match in 1916 (+2 -7 =4). In 1938 Mieses resettled in England and took British citizenship. He was awarded the grandmaster title in 1950.”
German-born Jewish player and author from Leipzig, International Grandmaster (1950), International Arbiter
(1951). He never assimilated the positional ideas of Steinitz and Tarrasch; instead he preferred to set up a game with the direct object of attacking the enemy king, a style that brought him many brilliancy prizes but few successes in high-level play. His best result was at Vienna 1907, the first Trebitsch Memorial tournament, when he won first prize ( +9 =2 —2) ahead of Duras, Maróczy and Schlechter. Later in the year he shared third prize with Nimzowitsch after Bernstein and Rubinstein in a 28-round tournament at Ostend. He played 25 matches, mostly short, and won six of them including a defeat of Schlechter in 1909 (+2-1).
Mieses reported chess events, edited chess columns, and wrote several books. In 1921 he published a supplement to the eighth edition of Bilguer’s Handbuch, and he revised several editions of Dufresne’s popular Lehrbuck des Schachspiels, He also organized chess events, including the tournament at San Sebastian in 1911 for which he insisted that competitors were paid for travel and board, a practice that later became normal.
After living in Germany for 73 years he escaped the clutches of the Nazis and sought refuge in England. A prim, courteous, and dignified old gentleman, still upright in bearing, he became widely liked in his adopted country. Asked about his lameness in one leg, caused by a street accident in 1937, he merely answered ‘it was my turn to move,’ Soon after naturalization he became the first British player to be awarded the International Grandmaster title. A generation before him his uncle Samuel Mieses (1841-84) had been a German player of master strength.
In the various publications of Edward Winter there are many and varied references to Mieses. We recommend you consult : Kings, Commoners and Knaves, Chess Facts and Fables and Chess Explorations to read them.
According to Edward Winter in Chess Notes JM lived at the following addresses :
Tauchaerstrasse, Leipzig, Germany (Wiener Schachzeitung, July 1904, page 211).
Remembering SIM Graham Mitchell (04-xi-1905 19-xi-1984)
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