Last time I looked at the short but eventful life of Arthur Compton Ellis. He seemed to have a very good chess playing friend in George Tregaskis.
It’s time to find out more. Let’s start with this charming photograph, which, for rather obscure reasons, ended up in a museum collection in British Columbia.
As you might have guessed, the name Tregaskis is of Cornish origin, but George, the young man in this photograph, moved to London, finding work as a Fire Insurance Clerk. He married Annie Isabella Balfour in 1883, fathering four children, our George (born 18 February 1884), Oswald, Annie and, very much later, Frances.
We can pick him up in the 1901 census: the family is living at 36 Alderbrook Road, just south of Clapham Common, and George Junior, aged 17, has the same occupation as his father. Although George Senior doesn’t seem to have been a competitive chess player himself, he must have taught his children to play.
George Junior’s job would probably have involved gaining experience in different insurance offices in different parts of the country. We have a one-off mention of G Tregaskis playing for West Bridgford (Nottingham) in an away match against the Belgrave club of Leicester, where he won both his games on Board 4. This is quite likely to be our man, but we can’t be certain.
By 1911 he’d moved to Stoke on Trent, where the census found him living as a lodger with a widow, Lois Toft, and her 24 year old daughter Evangeline Maud. Everyone should have a daughter named Evangeline Maud. He joined the nearby Hanley Chess Club and, by October 1912, was chairing the county AGM. The 1912 edition of Kelly’s Directory tells us he was the District Superintendent, working for the Sun Insurance Office, 10 Pall Mall.
As you’ll have seen last time, his friend Arthur Compton Ellis (you’ll find three games played between them if you follow the above link) suddenly appeared in Stoke in early 1913. George and Arthur both played in a congress in Hastings, where George, in his first tournament, performed outstandingly well. Would this be the start of a glittering chess career?
You then saw that, in July 1913, the two friends suddenly left town: Arthur moved back to London, and then, tragically, to Oundle, while George’s work took him to Bristol.
He did, however, return to Stoke later in the year, when he tied the knot with his landlady’s daughter, Evangeline. It seems that his new mother-in-law joined him in Bristol, where the three of them set up house together.
He didn’t waste much time joining the local chess club.
Observant readers will notice that the unfortunately initialled FU Beamish shared a surname with one of Arthur Compton Ellis’s opponents. You’ll find out more very soon.
The winner of this event was Scottish born Master Baker Henry Pinkerton, with George Tregaskis finishing in second place.
For a while chess in Bristol continued during the First World War, but there’s little mention of activity between 1915 and 1920.
In December 1920 Bristol & Clifton played their first match against Swindon in a decade.
George had some interesting teammates. Comins Mansfield, on top board, was one of the leading chess problemists of the last century, and also a strong over-the-board player.
Agnes Augusta Talboys, down on board 14, was an artist whose paintings often involved her two passions, chess and cats. With any luck, she’ll be the subject of a future Minor Piece.
The 1921 census recorded George, Evangeline and Lois, along with a young general domestic servant, living at 21 Clyde Road, Bristol. George was working at the Sun Insurance Office as an Insurance Clerk, Evangeline was performing Home Duties, while Lois had no occupation. There would be no children of the marriage.
The following year, George Tregaskis, nine years after his tournament debut, finally had another opportunity to take part in a major event. As the champion of the West of England, he was invited to take part in the top section what would be the first of three biennial tournaments in the Somerset resort of Weston super Mare. International stars Geza Maroczy and Boris Kostic took on some of England’s leading players, headed by Sir George Thomas and Fred Yates.
The very unexpected winner, at the age of 63, was Joseph Henry Blake, as you’ll see below.
(Apologies to Fred Dewhirst Yates: ChessBase, annoyingly, still haven’t got his name right. It also cut off the last letter of Mr Louis’ third forename while seemingly being ignorant of our hero’s full name.)
You’ll also see that it didn’t go well for Tregaskis. In the very first round he provided the talented but erratic Hubert Price with his only win. In Round 2 he opened his account with a draw against Mackenzie, in a game which went into a second session.
His third round game was also a long one.
Stockfish doesn’t think Mr Tregaskis ever had the upper hand, but you can judge for yourself. Click on any move for a pop-up window.
In the next round he faced Kostic, starting well enough, but, as so often happens when an amateur plays a master, he lost the thread in the middle game, after which his king fell victim to a snap attack, ending up uncomfortably on h4.
In Round 5 Tregaskis lost to Louis, but in the sixth round he managed to double his score with a draw against Spencer. The press reports suggest that his opponent missed a win.
Round 7 saw a heavy defeat against the eventual tournament winner, who played one of his pet opening variations.
In Round 8 George Tregaskis faced Yates, and managed to take him to a second session before capitulating. In the final round, despite having the white pieces against Maroczy, he lost quickly to a mating attack.
From the evidence of these games, it seems he was rather out of his depth against master standard opponents. Sometimes he went wrong in the opening, and, if he survived that part of the game he defended doggedly, but usually in vain.
Two years later he was back at Weston Super Mare, but this time relegated to the second section, billed as the ‘Minor Open’, where he managed 50% against strong amateur opposition. Max Euwe won the top section ahead of Sir George Thomas.
Later that year he left Bristol, moving to Kent, where he soon joined Bromley and Beckenham Chess Club as well as the Insurance Chess Club, and also represented Kent in county matches.
In this 1925 encounter on Hastings Pier he just missed playing a ‘brilliant young Russian from Hastings’.
Some interesting names on both sides, some of whom you’ll be meeting in future Minor Pieces.By 1928 the family had moved across South London to Sutton, where George, Evangeline and Lois were recorded as living in a house called The Crest in The Downsway, half way between the town centre and Royal Marsden Hospital, a tree-lined road of large detached houses: suburban living at its finest. As a result of this move he changed his county allegiance from Kent to Surrey.
In this match, played at St Bride’s Institute, a venue all London players of my generation will remember well, he helped his new county to an overwhelming victory.
In this match from 1930, Surrey were defeated by their northern rivals from Lancashire.
You can find out more about the Lanacshire boards 8 and 11 here. You’ll also spot Cecil Frank Cornwall: in those days it was the custom that county champions automatically played on top board.
George Tregaskis was also playing for Battersea at this time, although he lived some way away. Perhaps it was convenient for him to drop in on his way home from work.
Here he is, captaining the Insurance Chess Club in a one-sided match against the War Office.
George also played for Lud-Eagle in the London League.
You’ll see that the match was undecided due to that quaint old-fashioned concept of adjudication. Oh, wait a minute…!
He had an interesting opponent in this 1935 county match against Essex.
(Isaac) Reginald Vesselo would go on to found the Chess Education Society. (He appeared on my Twitter timeline the other day as an attendee at the Ximenes 1000 Crossword Dinner: the 1st prize for that crossword was won by chess sponsor, problemist and banker Sir Jeremy Morse.) The Essex board two, Richard ‘Otto’ Clarke, would go on to devise the BCF Grading System. We’re now getting towards my time: many of my contemporaries would have known and played Frank Parr. I played both Nevil Coles and Jack Redon (whom I knew very well, but that’s another story for another Minor Piece.)
In this 1936 London League match he was up against an even more interesting, and perhaps rather disturbing, opponent.
Yes, this was indeed Aleister Crowley, ‘wickedest man in the world’ and star of The (Even More) Complete Chess Addict. One wonders whether George enjoyed the post mortem.
He continued playing up until the outbreak of World War II, taking 6th place behind Harry Golombek in the 1939 Surrey Championship.
At this point George, his wife and mother-in-law, moved down to Hove. Did his job take them there, or did they consider it prudent, with war imminent, to leave London? In the 1939 Register their address is given as 87 Hove Park Road, and his job is still an Insurance Superintendent. Although there was some chess being played in Sussex during the war, he seems to have decided it was time to hang up his pawns.
Lois Toft died on 6 December 1945, leaving only £141 15s 4d, with probate granted to her daughter. George died on 12 September 1959, leaving £3122 15s 5d. His address was given as 15 The Droveway, Hove, parallel to and immediately north of Hove Park Road. Evangeline moved to Goring-by-Sea, near Worthing, dying four years later, on 18 September 1963, and leaving £11143 14s.
Although he never fulfilled the promise of his first tournament appearance, George Tregaskis was a strong club and county player (EdoChess considers him about 2000 strength) who contributed much to chess, as an administrator as well as over the board, for almost 30 years. He deserves to be remembered.
There’s one nagging question, though. I still wonder about his relationship with Arthur Compton Ellis. Were they any more than just close friends? Was his marriage to Evangeline motivated by friendship rather than passion? Would this explain why his mother-in-law always lived with them? I don’t know: perhaps I’m reading too much into it, but perhaps he was hiding a story very similar to that hidden by his Lud-Eagle teammate Henry Holwell Cole. At some point there may well be more about him in another Minor Piece.
Sources and acknowledgements:
English Chess Forum
Hastings Chess Club website
“Kupreichik: The Maestro from Minsk features tributes to the legendary attacker from those who regularly faced him at the board, including Alexander Beliavsky, Oleg Romanishin, Evgeny Sveshnikov and Vladimir Tukmakov. Kupreichik also inspired the next generation, as the contributions of Boris Gelfand, Garry Kasparov, Andrey Kovalev and Rauf Mamedov reveal.
Our picture of Viktor Kupreichik is completed by a series of pen portraits from his family, which make clear the kind and principled man this hero of Belarusian chess was, as well as his love for the 64 squares.
Translated by Ken Neat, this work is also a collection of Kupreichik’s best games, many annotated by the man himself. His wins over Tal and Zilbershtein are legendary examples of the power of a knight sacrifice on d5 in the Open Sicilian. Inside you will learn not just about handling Kupreichik’s favourite Classical Sicilian, Slav and King’s Indian, but attacking and sacrificial chess in general. Readers even have the chance to solve 26 positions and so play like Kupreichik!
Viktor Kupreichik (1949-2017) was a leading Soviet Grandmaster in the 1970s and 1980s, famed for his attacking prowess. He twice won a staggering five games in a row at the super-strong USSR Championship. A former world student champion, Kupreichik won many tournaments, including the Masters section at Wijk aan Zee in 1977 and the Hastings Premier of 1981/82.
with forewords by Anastasia Sorkina and Genna Sosonko”
If I asked you to guess who played this game you’d be forgiven for thinking Tal. (Click on any move in any game in this review for a pop-up window)
You’d be partly right: Tal was playing – the black pieces. Spoilsport Stockfish will tell you he should have won, but it’s not easy, even for a genius, to defend against that sort of attack over the board. It was played in Sochi i n 1970, in a match tournament between a team of young layers and a team of grandmasters.
On the white side was the hero of this book, Viktor Davydovich Kupreichik (1949-2017). This book, unusually without a credited author, was compiled by his family and friends after his death and published in Russian in 2019 to celebrate what would have been his 70th birthday. Here we have an English translation from London Chess Centre Publishing.
Genna Sosonko wrote the foreword to the English edition:
A master of attack, he demonstrated play that you rarely see nowadays. Even today when playing over games by Minsk’s favourite, an expression of Tal’s comes to mind – “tasty chess”.
Memories of him have been written by world champions, trainers, colleagues, friends and Viktor’s pupils. They all remember not only a wonderful chess player, but also an extraordinary personality. Even in the world of Soviet chess, Viktor was distinguished by his independence.
Mikhail Tal, Viktor’s idol, once said that his favourite squares on the chess board were d5 and f5. Viktor, who was similar to Tal not only in his constant striving for the initiative, but also the incredible boldness of his play, repeatedly placed his pieces en prise too on these very squares. And his most brilliant firework display began with a knight sacrifice on d5 in a game with Tal himself.
If you’re a fan of Tal’s games, then (and who isn’t?), you’ll enjoy Kupreichik’s games as well. You might put him in the same category as other chess mavericks such as Nezhmetdinov and Planinc: a player who valued creativity, beauty and excitement above results.
One of the contributors, Boris Gelfand, recalls, as an 11-year-old in 1979, being deeply impressed by this game.
Kupreichik’s niece, Anastasia Sorokina, is President of the Belarus Chess Federation and a FIDE Vice-President. She wrote the foreword to the Russian edition.
The publication of this book is timed to coincide with the 70th birthday of an outstanding chess-player, the first Belarusian Grandmaster, a true friend and a wonderful person, Viktor Davydovich Kupreichik. Vitek – that’s what his friends and the fans called him.
In the distant 1980s the name of Kuprechik resounded throughout the country. He was recognised in the street, fans would queue up to watch him play, and largely thanks to him a chess boom began in the Republic.
A sensitive and tactful person, he did not like boasting and bravado, so when the idea of this book emerged I wanted to make it modest, like him, but at the same time show all the power of his chess talent and the charm of his human character.
The first half of the book, then, comprises tributes to Kupreichik from friends and colleagues, including Kasparov and Karpov, very often with annotated games.
His friend Andrey Kovalev describes this encounter as ‘one of the best King’s Indian games in the history of chess’.
See what you think.
Throughout his long career, lasting 55 years or so, Kupreichik remained loyal to his favourite openings. He preferred 1. e4 with White, replying to 1. e4 with the Sicilian, and to 1. d4 with the King’s Indian or the Slav. If you enjoy these openings yourself you’ll find a lot of inspiration from the games in this book.
The second major section of the book is a collection of games annotated by Kupreichik himself. Those he annotated for Chess Informant have had verbal explanations added by the editorial team.
Here’s a quick win against Nigel Short.
By now you might be wondering why Kupreichik isn’t better known, or why he never reached the heights these games would suggest he deserved (his highest rating was 2575). I guess he was one of those players who loved chess too much, who valued beauty above success.
You might also think there are many higher rated players who deserve to be the subject of a games collection. You may well be right, up to a point, but were their games as entertaining as Kupreichik’s?
Here’s one final example: another spectacular miniature.
At the end of the book you’ll find a puzzle section: 26 tactical puzzles based on his games, spaciously laid out with only two diagrams per page. Finally, and charmingly, we have short memoirs from his closest family: his sister, niece and daughter.
There are also 16 pages of photographs, on glossy paper. Here you’ll see pictures of Kupreichik throughout his life, from the young boy with his parents to playing in tournaments at the end of his life: sadly he was denied the pleasures of old age. You’ll see him playing chess – and also playing football and volleyball.
All in all, it’s a delightful book: 85 games brimming with exciting tactics and sacrifices as well as reminiscences of someone who was a much loved human being as well as a highly creative player.
It’s beautifully produced as well: a handsome hardback which will look good on your bookshelf. It’s refreshingly free from typos and the translation is, as you’d expect from Ken Neat, outstanding. I very much hope that the London Chess Centre plan to publish more books of this quality.
The one thing that’s missing, for me, is a career summary. I’d have appreciated a full list of Kupreichik’s tournament results and perhaps also his ratings over the years. We do, however, have indexes of openings and opponents.
While it might not be an essential purchase, many readers will enjoy this book. If it appeals to you it comes with a strong recommendation.
If you enjoy games collections you’ll want this book. If you enjoy the games of players like Tal, Nezhmetdinov and Planinc, you certainly won’t be disappointed in this book. If you play the Sicilian (with either colour), the King’s Indian or the Slav, or you’re an e4 player looking for new ideas, you’ll find this book inspirational.
Then Ellis comes with rapid transit, And few there are who can withstand it; Some day soon he’s bound to land it.
So said the bard of Richmond Chess Club at their 1911 AGM. Arthur Compton Ellis was a man who lived his life, as well as playing his chess, with rapid transit. Although he spent little more than two years in the area, he flashed like a meteor across the Richmond and Kew chess scene.
Let’s find out more.
Our story starts on 20 September 1887, with the marriage between George Frederick Ellis, a surveyor aged 39 and Margaret Fraser, aged 31. Rather late for marriage in those days. Their only child, Arthur Compton Ellis’s birth was registered in the Pancras district of London in the first quarter of 1889.
In the 1891 census the family are living in Kentish Town. George is working as a Surveyor of Roads and Sewers, and they’re doing well enough to employ a servant. By 1901 they’ve moved a mile to the north, close to Parliament Hill Fields: George is now, just like James Richmond Cartledge would be a few years later, a Deputy Borough Engineer and Surveyor. Margaret is, perhaps unexpectedly, working as a Physician and Surgeon, while Arthur is at school. There were no domestic staff at home.
Arthur moved from school to the University of London, where he graduated with a BA in 1909, at the age of only 20. In the same year his father died: the death was registered in Camberwell, South London.
Perhaps he discovered the game of chess at university. He may also have discovered religion. In 1908 he was baptised at St Luke’s Church, Kew, with his address given as 40 West Park Road, right by Kew Gardens Station. At this point the family appeared to have connections, then, with both the Richmond/Kew area and South London.
He first turns up playing for Richmond Chess Club in December 1908, losing his game on bottom board in a London League match against Ibis. It looks like he joined the club on the completion of his studies. Although he seemed to be struggling in match play at this point, in April 1909 he finished second in a lightning tournament, which, that year, replaced the annual club dinner.
In 1910, now styling himself A Compton Ellis, he was advertising his tuition services in the Daily Telegraph. LCP was a teaching qualification.
By Summer 1910 he felt confident enough to take part in a tournament. The British Championships took place that year in Oxford, and Arthur was placed in the 3rd Class C section.With a score of 10½/11, it was clear that he was improving fast, and should have been in at least the 2nd Class division. The prizes were presented by none other than William Archibald Spooner.
A handicap tournament also took place there, in which he won first prize: a model of the earth with a clock inside, enabling him to ascertain the time of day in any part of the world. This prize was donated by its inventor, James Haddon Overton, a schoolmaster from Woodstock.
In September that year, not content with only playing at Richmond, where he had now reached top board in a match against Acton, he was one of the founders of a new club in Kew.
Richmond and Kew weren’t his only clubs, either. He was also a member of South London Chess Club, about which there’s very little information online.
In this London League game he fell victim to a brilliant queen sacrifice. Click on any move in any game in this article for a pop-up window enabling you to play through the game.
Arthur Compton Ellis was infectiously enthusiastic, ambitious and seemed to have contacts with a number of strong amateur players, mostly from the Civil Service, as is demonstrated by this event.
A win against our old friend Wilfred Hugh Miller Kirk was also evidence that Arthur was developing into a formidable player.
The 1911 census found Arthur and his mother still living at 40 West Park Road, Kew Gardens. Arthur gave his occupation as ‘Tutor’ while there was no occupation listed for Margaret.
By then it was time for another tournament. The Kent and Sussex Chess Congress, run by the Kent County Chess Association took place over Easter at this time. It’s little written about today, but it attracted some of the country’s top players. The top section in the 1911, for example, played in Tunbridge Wells, was won by Yates ahead of Gunsberg. The organising committee, coincidentally, included the Kent secretary Rufus Henry Streatfeild Stevenson, and the Sussex secretary, Harold John Francis Spink Stephenson. Arthur Compton Ellis took part in the third section down, the Second Class Open, where he was again too good for the opposition, finishing on 8½/10, half a point ahead of Battersea veteran Bernard William Fisher (1836-1914), who had been a master standard player back in the 1880s. Visitors included Frank Marshall, who gave a simul and a talk, and Joseph Blackburne, who gave simuls and played consultation games. Horace Fabian Cheshire gave a talk, with lantern slides, on chess players past and present, and also an exposition of the game of Go. It sounds like a good time was had by all.
Arthur persuaded Frank Marshall to visit Richmond and give a simul against members of local chess clubs, and that was duly arranged.
The AGM in September would report as follows:
Always eager to play in any event, he won the Dalgarno-Robinson chess trophy, competed for by members of local branches of the Association of Young Men’s Clubs, and played on top board when Richmond Chess Club visited Hastings, drawing his game against the aforementioned Mr Stephenson.
He decided to give the 1911 British Championship, held in Glasgow, a miss, though. Perhaps he wasn’t prepared to travel that far.
The Richmond Herald was now carrying less chess news, but we know from a report from the other end of Surrey that Kew Chess Club were becoming even more successful.
You’ll see that Ellis didn’t stand for re-election as captain. This seems to have been because Arthur and Margaret had moved from Kew to South London.
Over Easter 1912, though, he returned to Tunbridge Wells for the Kent and Sussex Easter Congress, this time promoted to the top (First Class Open) section. Now against stronger opposition, this time he found the going tough, only scoring 2½/8.
The winner was the future Sir George Thomas, who wasted little time of disposing of Ellis, who misplaced his queen’s knight on his 11th move.
However, he did have the satisfaction of defeating Fred Brown, one of two chess playing brothers from Dudley. (He had a brother Frank, who was also a strong player. Understandably, in the days when newspapers only gave players’ initials, they were often confused.) Fred shared second place with future BCM editor Julius du Mont in this tournament.
It seems that he was lucky here: his opponent resigned what may well have been a drawn position as he would have had chances of a perpetual check if he’d continued with 32… Kf7!. What do you think?
At the same event, Arthur and his friend from Kew, Montague White Stephens, played in a consultation simul against Blackburne. They were successful after the great veteran uncharacteristically missed a simple mate in 3 on move 19.
Montague White Stevens (1881-1947) was only a club standard player, but he edited the 1914 Year Book of Chess and produced a revised edition of EA Greig’s Pitfalls on the Chess-Board.
In April 1912 a new Chess Divan opened in the Strand, replacing Simpson’s Chess Divan, which had closed a few years earlier, and Gunsberg was appointed its manager. Arthur, who would go almost anywhere for a game of chess, was soon involved. With lightning tournaments a regular feature, a devotee of rapid transit chess would be in his element.
In May’s lightning tournament there was a full house, with the participants ‘mostly first-class amateurs’. Arthur shared first place with future British Champion Roland Henry Vaughan Scott and future writer and historian Philip Walsingham Sergeant. Lightning chess was proving increasingly popular, and I would assume this tournament was played using a buzzer. But there was an announcement that the following week there would be a five-minute tournament ‘which affords such amusing play’. If you think five-minute chess is amusing, you should try bullet. Arthur would have loved that.
In June there were only 12 players in the lightning tournament, with Arthur Compton Ellis sharing first place with Harold Godfrey Cole, who had played in the previous year’s Anglo-American cable match and would, a couple of months later, take second place in the British Championship. It’s evident from these results that he was a formidable speed player.
He was, inevitably, involved in administration as well.
A strong and interesting line-up, you’ll agree, with players such as former World Championship candidate Isidor Gunsberg and top lady player Louisa Matilda Fagan amongst many well-known participants.
This wasn’t a standard all-play-all tournament: rather you could play as many games as you wanted against as many opponents as you wanted, with the player with the best percentage score of those who played at least 20 games winning. It sounds like you could improve your chances by playing lots of games against weaker players. On 22 June the London Evening Standard reported that Ellis had beaten Mrs Fagan and drawn with Scott.
There was further news in three weeks time, when some players had made a lot of progress with their games.
In this game against Scotsman John Macalister, a shorthand writer in the Admirality Court, he was winning but went wrong on move 19 in a complex position, eventually falling victim to a queen sacrifice.
By the end of August, Loman and Scott were both on 13/16, with 18 games now required for your score to count, but after that the trail goes dead. It looks to me like the whole concept was rather too ambitious to succeed.
But meanwhile, the 1912 British Championships had taken place in Richmond, familiar territory for Arthur Compton Ellis. This time he was placed in the 1st Class Amateurs A section.
He made a strong showing with 7/11, sharing 3rd place behind Surbiton ophthalmic surgeon Thomas Wilfrid Letchworth (Wilfred Kirk won the parallel 1st Class Amateurs B section), but at this point he seemed to be a stronger lightning player.
This game shared the prize for the best game played in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd class sections, judged by Thomas Francis Lawrence. The winning move seems pretty obvious to me, though. There is some doubt as to the exact identity of his opponent: three possibilities were put forward in a recent online debate, and you could perhaps add a fourth. I’ll discuss this further in a future Minor Piece.
He later provided brief annotations for the press, where it appeared immediately above a Very Famous Miniature which had been played a few days earlier. I’m sure you’ll recognise it.
This thrilling game against music professor Edward Davidson Palmer (he taught singing), in which Arthur ventured the King’s Gambit, is a good demonstration of his fondness for tactical play. His opening failed to convince and Palmer missed several wins, but he ultimately escaped with the full point.
Over the next few months there’s little news of his chess playing, but then something unexpected happens. He turns up in, of all places, Stoke on Trent, or, to be precise, nearby Hanley.
Why Stoke on Trent? What was he doing there?
There are two possibilities. On Board 2 for Hanley was schoolmaster Joshua Walter Dixon, whom he had met in Oxford back in 1910: they were in different sections of the main event, but both competed in the handicap tournament. Perhaps he had been in touch to offer him employment there, either in a school or as a private tutor.
But look also at Arthur’s opponent from Mecca: George Tregaskis. It appears that Arthur and George were very close friends. They may well have met earlier: George was originally from South London before moving to Stoke for business reasons, so could well have been a member of the South London Chess Club at the time. He also visited the Divan in 1912 when returning to London to visit his family, so, again, they might have known each other from there. Who knows?
Here they are, in the same team, playing for Hanley in a whitewash over Walsall. Their top board, Joseph William Mellor, was a particularly interesting chap.
Here’s Arthur’s win. He was in trouble most of the way until his opponent went wrong right at the end.
The Kent and Sussex tournament took place over Whitsun at Hastings in 1913. Arthur and George travelled down together, and were both placed in the First Class A tournament.
In his first round game against Inland Revenue man David Miller, Arthur switched from his usual e4 to d4, essaying the Colle-Zukertort Opening. It didn’t go well.
Arthur had beaten George in a club match, and, when they were in the same team, played on a higher board, but here it was Tregaskis who came out on top after his opponent miscalculated a tactical sequence.
Here’s how it ended up.
Unsurprisingly, the masters, Yates and Thomas, outclassed the opposition, who were mostly, with the exception of Middleton and Sugden, strong club players.
A remarkable performance, though, by George Tregaskis in his first tournament, but perhaps slightly disappointing for Arthur Compton Ellis, whose progress seemed, temporarily, to have slightly stalled. Perhaps he needed, as chess teachers always tell their young pupils, to slow down and control his impulses.
With two young and talented new players in their ranks, the future for Staffordshire chess was looking bright. Hanley, after a lapse of three years, won the North Staffordshire League, ‘due in no small measure to the fact that the usual team was greatly strengthened by the inclusion of Mr. A. Compton Ellis, whose enthusiasm for the royal game is unlimited’, according to the Staffordshire Sentinel (4 June 1913).
But then, on 9 July: ‘Local players will hear with much regret that, owing to professional and business reasons, Messrs. A. Compton Ellis and G. Tregaskis have found it necessary to sever their connection with this district.’
George’s work took him to Bristol, as you’ll find out in a future Minor Piece. Arthur returned home to South London. Had he not wanted to remain in Stoke with his friend? Had his teaching work not gone as he’d hoped? We’ll never know.
The two friends kept in touch, playing two correspondence games, one with each colour, over the summer. Although he’d now left the area, Arthur kept in touch with the local paper, followed their chess columns, and submitted these games for publication.
In his game with White, Arthur experimented on move 6, unwisely following a Blackburne game, and, by the next move had a lost position. George concluded brilliantly.
In the game with colours reversed, Tregaskis improved on an Alapin game from the previous year, but went wrong in the ensuing complications. He then resigned a drawn position, missing the saving clause. Ellis’s opponents seemed to have a habit of resigning level positions!
The 1913 British Championships took place in Cheltenham. Arthur Compton Ellis took part again, playing in the First Class B section, where he scored a half point more than the previous year.
This left him in second place behind his Lancashire contemporary Norman Boles Holmes. George Tregaskis wasn’t playing, but you’ll see his other Hanley friend, Joshua Walter Dixon, there in First Class A. Unfortunately, the BCM failed to publish crosstables of these events.
Both Dixon and Ellis scored other successes there: Joshua won two problem solving competitions, while Arthur, although he only finished 7th in the handicap tournament, won a prize in a Kriegspiel (‘a peculiar, and modern, form of chess, unknown to more than 99 per cent. of chess players’) event.
Returning to London, Arthur Compton Ellis submitted two puzzles based on his games to the Staffordshire Sentinel. (The chess editor preferred to remain anonymous: perhaps it was Joshua Walter Dixon.)
It shouldn’t take you too long to find the mate in 4 here.
Two weeks later he offered a mate in 3, which has, although he seemed not to notice, two solutions, both involving attractive (but different) queen sacrifices. Can you find them both?
On 13 September Alekhine, on a brief visit to London, agreed to play a simul at the Divan in the Strand. Arthur, of course, was there.
He lost a pawn and was slowly ground down, but did anyone spot he had a fleeting opportunity for a draw in the pawn ending?
The following Monday he left London. He had a new job as an Assistant Master at Laxton Grammar School, part of the same foundation as Oundle School, but catering for local boys.
He soon encountered problems there, coming into conflict with the Headmaster, Rev Thomas Harry Ross. In November he was asked to hand in his notice.
What a tragic end to a short but eventful life. A life that promised much but ended far too soon. A man of great power and considerable ability. An impulsive young man. I think you can see that in his chess as well: at times brilliant, at times speculative, but almost always entertaining. You can also see how well he was thought of by his chess friends. Great power and considerable ability, yes, and also enthusiasm, energy and charisma. Looking back from a 2020s perspective you can perhaps see elements of ADHD and bipolar disorder, which tends to manifest itself between the ages of 20 and 25. Could Laxton have treated him better? Undoubtedly. You can only hope that, these days, someone like Arthur Compton Ellis would be better understood.
If he and his mother had chosen to remain in Kew, perhaps the history of chess in Richmond would have been very different. Had he devoted the next half century to playing and organising chess, you might have seen him as a British Championship contender, and perhaps an organiser of major chess events in my part of the world. If he’d lived a long life he might even have met me, and perhaps my life would have been different. I’d like to think that, as the founder of Kew Chess Club, which later merged with Richmond, some part of his spirit lives on in today’s Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club. Spare a thought for the short but frenetic life of a true chess addict: Arthur Compton Ellis.
There are a few loose ends to tie up. Arthur’s nemesis, Rev Thomas Harry Ross, in the years between the two World Wars, was Rector of Church Langton with Tur Langton and Thorpe Langton, where he would have ministered to the relations of Walter Charles Bodycoat, and perhaps to my relations as well. I’ll take up the story of Arthur’s friend George Tregaskis in a later article.
There’s one other mystery to look at.
St Albans? There’s nothing online yet about chess in St Albans at that time. He seems to have been in South London with his mother between leaving Stoke and arriving at Oundle. I suppose he might have been there late 1912/early 1913, when there was a gap of a few months in his chronology. We can also go back a few years, to May 1907, when AC Ellis, first from St Albans, then from Swindon, who was solving chess problems in the Bristol Times and Mirror. Was that our man? Was he, perhaps, in those towns for teaching practice? Who knows?
There’s an implication that the family were having some sort of financial problem. There’s also a slight mystery in that the coroner’s report gives his mother’s address as 12 Kilsworth Road Dulwich, while his probate record (he left £560 17s) gave his address as 12 Pickwick Road Dulwich Village. I can’t locate Kilsworth Road (or anything similar) so it may well be a mistake for Pickwick Road, which could also be considered to be in Herne Hill. By 1921 Margaret had returned to Kew, living on her own at 333 Sandycombe Road, just the other side of the railway from where she’d been living ten years earlier. It’s not at all clear when she died: there’s no death record close to Richmond and the family hasn’t been researched. There’s a possible death record in Islington in 1930: perhaps she’d returned to the area where she spent the first part of her life.
Join me again soon for some more Minor Pieces investigating the lives of some of Arthur Compton Ellis’s chess opponents.
findmypast.co.uk/British Newspaper Library
BritBase (John Saunders)
Yorkshire Chess History (Steve Mann)
Various other sources quoted and linked to above
“Following on from the enduring success of one of the most important chess books ever written, Bobby Fischer: My 60 Memorable Games, and the recently released Magnus Carlsen: 60 Memorable Games, celebrated chess writer Andrew Soltis delivers a book on Fabiano Caruana, the Grandmaster set to rival current world champion Magnus Carlsen.
This book details Caruana’s remarkable rise from chess prodigy to one of the best chess player in the world, exploring how he acquired the skills of 21st-century grandmaster chess over such a short period of time.
This book dives into how he wins by analysing 60 of the games that made him who he is, describing the intricacies behind his and his opponent’s strategies, the tactical justification of moves and the psychological battle in each one.”
About the Author:
“International Grandmaster Andrew Soltis is chess correspondent for the New York Post and a very popular chess writer. He is the author of many books including What it Takes to Become a Chess Master, Studying Chess Made Easy and David Vs Goliath Chess.”
If you’ve read and enjoyed the companion volume on Carlsen, you’ll want this as well. Many readers collect games collections, and will be eager to add a book on one of today’s leading practitioners to their shelves. This isn’t the only book on Caruana available: there’s one, for example, by Lakdawala, a writer with a very different style. If you like Soltis’s annotations you may well not like Lakdawala’s, and vice versa. They’ve both been doing what they do for a long time and understand their readership.
Here, then, we have sixty of Caruana’s most interesting games, not all of them wins, mostly from the last decade, but a few earlier, starting with a game from 2002. Most are standardplay games, but there are also a few rapid, blitz and internet encounters.
In his introduction, Soltis looks at what makes Caruana different from other top players.
And if he had a celebrity personality – that of a Magnus Carlsen, a Bobby Fischer or a Garry Kasparov – his story would be known well beyond chess circles. But Caruana is Caruana. “He is shy and modest, like a conservatory student”, one of his teachers said. He is content to let his moves do most of the talking.
He identifies several traits in Caruana’s play.
He’s a concrete player, relying on calculation more than intuition.
He doesn’t only rely on computer analysis, using curiosity and self-discipline to investigate the secrets of a position.
He believes the board and the pieces, playing the way the pieces tell him to play regardless of the tournament situation.
He is able to manage his nerves and emotions.
He chooses moves that push his opponents out of their comfort zone.
He is very patient, often playing quiet ‘little moves’ which slightly improve his position.
He employs deep opening preparation, much more than, for example, Carlsen.
An occasional flaw in his play is that he sometimes fails to deliver the knockout blow.
He has emotional stamina: he can deal with his mistakes and knows how to react when things go wrong.
The introduction also tells about Caruana’s early life in New York, and about the influence of the Soviet Chess School on his studies there.
Then we have, yes, sixty memorable games, each prefaced with a catchy title and a brief introduction. Just like another book of 60 Memorable Games.
The best way to describe this book, is, perhaps, to show you a few examples of Soltis’s style of annotations.
This is from Caruana – Aronian (Sao Paulo 2012).
Members of Caruana’s generation grew up with computers and Kasparov games. Many of them had little interest in games played before 1990.
Hikaru Nakamura called the classic books “a waste of time” and complained to his father, “Why do I have to study dead people?”.
Caruana studied them. He understood how White can benefit from d4-d5 in this pawn structure, as Bobby Fischer had in a celebrated game against Viktor Korchnoi.
But in another textbook game (Tal – Panno Portoroz 1958) White scored with the alternative plan e4-e5. Here 16. e5! dxe5 17. dxe5 opens the b1-h7 diagonal. This does a better job than 16. d5 of exploiting the diversion of Black’s bishop to h5.
Black cannot protect his knight after 17… Nd5 18. Be4! with Be6.
Also unfavourable for him is 17… Nd7 18. axb5 axb5 19. Be4.
What do you think? Helpful? Informative? Instructional? Interesting?
This is from another Caruana – Aronian game, this time played in the Sinquefield Cup in 2014. Caruana has just played 13. Bd2.
The pawn structure created by 11. Bxe6 gave Black a choice of four basic policies:
(a) Leaving the pawn structure intact. He could pursue a kingside plan such as 13… Qe8 and … Qh5/… Ng6.
(b) Change it by trading knights with 13… Nd4. His pieces would be freed a bit by 13… Nd4 14. Nxd4 exd4 15. Ne2 c5. This would expose his queenside to greater pressure after 16. a4 and Qb1 – b3.
(c) Attack the queenside. Thanks to 13. Bd2, White can respond to 13… Qd7 14. Na2 a5 with 15. c3. Black can add 15… d5 into the mix, with uncertain prospects.
Aronian chooses (d), Gain space with this move, followed by … Qd6 or … Bd6 and potentially … d4/… a5.
The reader learns from this how to create plans based on the pawn formation, specifically with regard to this position, and perhaps also more generally.
Do you like this style of annotation, or would you prefer something rather less dry? Perhaps you’d go to the other extreme, hoping to sees long computer-generated variations to demonstrate these plans.
Finally, another Sinquefield Cup game, this time with Caruana playing white against Nakamura in 2018, and considering his 26th move.
It was time for long-range thinking:
White could try for e4-e5 after offering an exchange of queens: 25. Qf4.
But even after 25… Qe7 26. e5 Bd5 it is not clear he is making progress.
For instance, 27. Nxd5 exd5 28. Rxd5 c3 or 28… Qb4.
If e4-e5 isn’t a good plan, what about a kingside pawn march?
This would show promise after 25. g4 Be8 26. h4.
For example, 26… Bc6 27. g5! hxg5 28. hxg5 and Qh4/Rh1.
But the attack abruptly halts if Black swaps rooks, 26… Rd8! 27. g5 Rxd2 28. Rxd2 hxg5 29. hxg5 Rd8 30. Rxd8 Qxd8.
Then White’s knight has few good squares. But Black’s queen does (31. Qc5 Qd2 or 31. Qf4 Qd4).
Psychologically, the best move.
It gives Black a choice of playing an inferior endgame – which is likely to be drawn – or giving up a pawn he might lose anyway.
Nakamura mistakenly went for the inferior ending and eventually lost.
Did you find this clear and easy to follow, or confusing and hard to follow? Or just about right?
Whether you’ll enjoy this book, then, is very much about whether you like Soltis’s style of annotation. Me, I’ve been a long-term fan so I enjoyed the book very much, but it’s very much a matter of taste, isn’t it?
If you appreciate annotations of this nature, you won’t want to miss this. You can, of course, be sure that you’ll get 60 top class games from recent elite GM praxis, expertly selected and with commentary from one of the most experienced writers in the business.
Games collections such as this are popular with many readers, and all chess book collectors with an interest in contemporary grandmaster chess will want at least one book about Caruana on their shelves. If that describes you, you’ll certainly want to consider this book.
You might well ask how much a club standard player can learn from the games of someone 1000 or so points stronger. It’s a good question, but I think Soltis does a pretty good job of making the games both accessible and instructive.
The book is well produced to Batsford’s usual standards, although one or two diagram and notation errors escaped the proofing. I don’t care much for the title of this or the companion Carlsen book, which some might consider disrespectful to Fischer, but I guess the publishers choose the title they think will sell most copies.
If the extracts I’ve presented appeal, you won’t be disappointed. An excellent book from a highly respected author recommended for competitive players of all standards, for connoisseurs of fine chess, and for all interested in chess culture.
You might think I’m biased, but I’ve long thought that the most important people in any chess club are not the players, but the organisers. The secretary, treasurer and match captains who ensure everything runs smoothly.
All successful chess clubs have at least one: the loyal member who stays with the club for decades, through good times and bad times, while others come and go. Turning up for almost every match. Taking on any job that nobody else wants to do. One of those was the subject of this Minor Piece, James Richmond Cartledge.
The first ‘modern’ Richmond Chess Club (there were earlier organisations using the same name, but they weren’t involved in over the board competitive chess against other clubs) was founded in 1893, continuing until 1940 when, as a result of the Second World War, most clubs shut down for the duration and beyond. For most of that period, for over 40 years, James was a fixture at Richmond Chess Club, so much so that, when looking for a middle name, he chose the name of his chess club. Through the reports of the club AGMs in the Richmond Herald, now conveniently available online, we can trace his changing role in the club as well as the club’s changing fortunes. We can also listen into their discussions, sometimes on subjects which are still relevant today, a century or so later.
But first, we should meet his father, Josiah Cartledge, who was one of the club’s founder members.
Josiah was born in Camberwell, South London, in 1836, so he was now 57 years old. He married a cousin, Marian Frances Bruin, in 1858. (She doesn’t seem to be immediately related to Josiah’s fellow committee member Frederick Arthur Bruin.) A year later a son, Arthur, was born, but tragically Marian died, probably either in or as a result of childbirth.
It wasn’t until ten years later that Josiah married again. His second wife was Frances Victoria Wastie, and their marriage would be blessed by three children, William (1870), Adeline Frances (1872) and James (1874). Josiah and Frances were both chess enthusiasts, competing to solve the problem in their newspaper of choice, the Morning Post, with young Arthur sometimes joining in.
Josiah was a legal clerk, a highly responsible job, and, round about 1873, he became Clerk of the Richmond Petty Sessions, moving out from South London. The 1881 census found the family at 5 Townshend Villas, Richmond, and they were still there in 1891, when his job had expanded: he was also Clerk to the Lunatic Asylum. William was helping him out, while 17 year old James, choosing a different career path, was an architect’s pupil.
It was no surprise then, that, when Richmond Chess Club started up in Autumn 1893, Josiah was one of the first through the door, and, given his status in society, he was a natural choice for the committee.
And here he is, from an online family tree.
Young James was now taking a serious interest in chess and it wasn’t long before his father brought him along to join in.
Here they are at the Annual Supper in 1896.
Before you ask, the Mr James there was no relation to me: it would be a few more years before I joined.
(Edwin Peed James (1853-1933) was a solicitor who hit financial problems, and, after being declared bankrupt, became a commercial traveller.)
Horace Lyddon Pring (1870-1938), a solicitor’s clerk working in accounts, was a young man with boundless energy and ambition. He was not only the club secretary, but treasurer and match captain as well. He reported that the club now had 45 members, 11 of whom were new, but they’d also lost a few. “One or two of the younger members had become mated so effectually – (laughter) – that they could not get out.” They had also moved to a new venue, having “started in a baker’s shop, but that got too hot for them. (Laughter).” Mr Pring also had a sense of humour.
At the end of the supper, toasts were drunk to the accompaniment of music. Songs (the popular music-hall ditties and parlour ballads of the time) were sung and the Kew Glee Singers contributed a selection of glees. Musical entertainments of this nature would continue to be a feature of Richmond Chess Club’s social events for many years to come.
An extract from the 1898 AGM shows the club making progress in several ways.
They had to move venues when their landlord put the fees up: still a familiar story for many chess clubs today. Nevertheless, the club was now attracting strong players such as our old friends Charles Redway and Guy Fothergill, and had arranged a visit from one of London’s leading players, Thomas Francis Lawrence. His annual simuls would become a club tradition lasting many years.
There were some exciting prizes for the lucky – or skillful – winners: dessert knives, a preserve dish and a matchbox.
Josiah was more of a social player, but James had a lot more ambition. By 1900 he was starting to play in competitions such as the Surrey Trophy, albeit on bottom board.
He had also acquired a middle name (he was just James at birth), possibly to avoid confusion with his father. Did he choose Richmond in honour of his home town, or of his chess club?
Here he is, then, winning his game against Thornton Heath. which, as often happened in those days, took place in central London rather than at either club.. Richmond had won the Beaumont Cup in its second season, 1896-97, but by now were trying their hand against the big boys, successfully in this case. The Surrey Trophy and the Beaumont Cup, then, as now, were Divisions 1 and 2 of the Surrey Chess League. Some things never change.
By 1901 Josiah’s job had moved to Mortlake while James had a new job as Assistant Surveyor for the Urban District of Barnes The family had moved to Milton House near Mortlake Station, probably somewhere on Sheen Lane near the junctions with Milton Road and St Leonard’s Road today: a location which would have also been handier if you were in the business of surveying nearby Barnes. Adeline and James were still at home with their parents, along with a cook and a housemaid.
By 1904 the club was in something of a slump, having lost a number of strong players they had withdrawn from the Surrey competitions and were only playing friendly matches along with their internal competitions. Both Josiah and James were very much involved, even though James had married Gertrude Francis (sic: it was her mother’s maiden name) Griffiths at Christ Church East Sheen the previous year. Sadly, it was to be Josiah’s last year.
If you’re interested in the notorious Kate Webster case, as I’m sure you are, Wikipedia deals with it here.
James and Gertrude went on to have three children, Raymond Francis (1905), Hilary Frances (1907) and Kathleen Vivian, known by her middle name (1911), but his new responsibilities as a husband and father didn’t stop his involvement with Richmond Chess Club. Although he had been mated, Gertrude still let him out.
1904 saw some of the club’s stronger players returning, and they were tempted to re-enter the Surrey Trophy. The following year’s AGM would announce that their membership had increased from 24 to 44 within the space of two years. James Cartledge must have been improving fast, as he was now playing on a much higher board.
Six adjudications in a 12 board match seems a bit unsatisfactory, but this situation would be common for many decades to come. You might consider any competition not decided on the night rather bizarre, but adjudications still happen occasionally in the Surrey League today.
At the 1909 AGM, James Richmond Cartledge was elected to the post of Treasurer, “it being remarked that that gentleman had served the club in the capacity of match captain and secretary”.
By the 1911 census the family were living in 10 Palewell Park, East Sheen, just off the South Circular Road. Baby Vivian had arrived a few days earlier, but had not yet been given a name. It was a crowded house, with James, Gertrude and their three young children, James’s sister Adeline, working as a day governess for another family, Gertrude’s sisters Helena and Annie, along with a monthly nurse to look after the baby and a domestic servant.
After the 1911 Richmond Chess Club AGM, hilarity ensued when, during the toasts, the Hon Secretary read out some verses composed by an anonymous member, describing some of the club’s members.
A few days later, another verse appeared: it’s not clear whether or not this was written by the same poet.
It makes McGonagall sound good, doesn’t it? Who knew that EJ Thribb was active in Richmond in 1911?
For several years the committee had been discussing the idea of inviting the British Chess Federation to hold their annual championships in Richmond, and that duly came to pass in 1912. Although the event was very successful, there were very few club members taking part. I’ll perhaps look more at the tournament in a future series of Minor Pieces.
James had certainly improved a lot since his first appearances on bottom board: now, as club champion, he was often to be found on top board when Charles Redway, who only played in the more important matches, was unavailable.
One of the musical guests at the Annual Dinner in April 1914 was Leslie Sarony, who performed ‘popular songs of the light comedian type’. Leslie, only 18 at the time, would have a long and successful career as a variety artist, writer and performer of novelty songs, and actor. He continued working into his 80s, with appearances in programmes such as Z-Cars, Crossroads and Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
Then, in 1914, war broke out. At their AGM the club decided that it was ‘business as usual’, although they had to appoint a new secretary, and their German member, who was fighting for the enemy, was no longer welcome.
There was less opportunity for competitive chess: the Surrey Trophy and Beaumont Cup ran in 1914-15, only the Surrey Trophy was contested in 1915-16, and then the league went into abeyance until the 1919-20 season. Friendly matches continued, though, as in this match between Richmond and their local rivals, which saw Cartledge facing an interesting opponent in Eric Augustus Coad-Pryor.
Although he was now in his 40s, James Richmond Cartledge was still ready to serve his country, and, with his knowledge of engineering, he signed up as a reservist for the Royal Engineers.
The 1917 AGM reported that he had been called up and was in France in the thick of the fighting.
Here he is, on New Years Eve 1919, applying for his Victory Medal.
Back from the war, James returned to his duties at the club with whom he shared a name, now taking the chair at their AGMs.
The 1921 census found him back at 10 Palewell Park, and again working as an Assistant Surveyor and Civil Engineer in the Local Government Service, employed by the Urban District of Barnes. His wife and children were all at home, and they in turn employed a domestic servant.
The 1921 AGM revealed that new clubs had started at Twickenham, Teddington and Barnes. There was also a discussion about how to attract more lady members: it was agreed to offer them a 5 shilling discount on their membership.
If they’d been looking for a new venue, they could have considered the Red Cow Hotel, Sheen Road, Richmond, which, on the same page, was advertising a Large Club Room for hire. Forty years or so later, their offer would be taken up by what was then the Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club.
The following year, the Hon. Secretary, Captain Wilkinson, reported that ‘the club had two lady members. He lent one of them a book on chess and he had neither seen nor heard of her since. He did think, however that chess was a game that women should take up’.
In 1923 the Club Dinner was revived, not having taken place since 1914. The format was very much the same as before, with speeches, prizegivings and musical entertainment provided by Miss Edythe Florence (contralto), Miss Florence (pianist), Mr. M. J. O’Brien (tenor) and Mr. Len Williams (humorist).
The club’s fortunes waxed and waned over the years, and by 1926, with seemingly little interest in chess in Richmond, and successful new clubs in Barnes and Twickenham proving more attractive for residents of those boroughs, questions were asked about the future.
In 1926 Captain Wilkinson decided to stand down for a younger man.
That younger and more energetic person turned out to be new member Wilfred Hugh Miller Kirk, not exactly a young man himself, but with an outstanding record in chess administration within the Civil Service. By the 1929 AGM, things were looking up. Kirk reported that the club had had their most successful season for several years, winning 12 of their 18 matches. Most importantly, although not mentioned in the newspaper report, a decision had been made to merge with Kew Chess Club. They now became Richmond & Kew Chess Club, acquiring new members, including Ronald George Armstrong, a player of similar strength to Kirk, and a new venue enabling them to resume meeting twice a week: once in Richmond and once in Kew. Having an enthusiastic and efficient club secretary makes a big difference. James Richmond Cartledge would still have been very much involved, his experience invaluable in the decision making process.
(Ronald George Armstrong (1893-1952), the son of a Scottish father and French mother, was, unusually for the time, but like Wilfred Kirk, a divorcee. His job involved selling calculating machines. He was clearly a strong player, but didn’t take part in external tournaments.)
In 1930 there was sad news for James as his wife Gertrude died in hospital at the age of 55, but his bereavement didn’t put an end to his chess activities.
By this time Kirk and Armstrong were disputing the top two boards, with Cartledge on board 3, as in this match against their local rivals.
While the Twickenham team lacked big names, their top boards must have been reasonable players. James Young Bell continued playing well into the 1960s: in 1965, in his late 80s, he played a board below the young John Nunn in a match between Surrey and Middlesex. At this time he was a next door neighbour of Wallace Britten in Strawberry Hill Road, thus providing a link between the two Twickenham Chess Clubs.
In that season, the newly amalgamated club won the Beaumont Cup for the first time since the 1896-7 season, As Wilfred Kirk explained at the AGM, ‘union is strength’. The following season they finished equal first with Clapham Common, but lost the play-off match.
Although they were successful over the board, membership numbers were still modest. The 1933 AGM reported only 24 members. By now James Richmond Cartledge had risen to the post of President, but asked the club not to nominate him again as he was retiring from business and planning to move away from the area. He was persuaded to agree to remain President until he moved, but in fact that would be further away than he expected. It appears he moved to Ham on his retirement, close enough to continue his membership.
In 1934 they were able to report that they had won the Beaumont Cup for the third time, but lost to Battersea in the final of the Alexander Cup.
The 1934 AGM brought up the important topic of social chess, the secretary’s report suggesting that the club should offer more time for casual games rather than too many tournament and match games. This discussion is still very relevant in all chess clubs today.
The Hon Secretary at the time was Francis Edward Yewdall (1875-1958), one of the club’s stronger players, who, coincidentally or not, had the same job as Cartledge in the neighbouring borough: he was the Assistant Surveyor for the Borough of Richmond.
The last mention we have for James Richmond Cartledge at Richmond & Kew Chess Club is in October 1938, so presumably it was soon after that date that he moved away.
By the time of the 1939 Register he hadn’t gone far. He was staying in the Mountcoombe Hotel in Surbiton, which, coincidentally, had also been the residence of chess problemist Edith Baird back in 1911. He then moved to the south coast: not, like many chess players, to Hastings, but to Bournemouth, where he died in 1943.
Yes, he rendered a long and useful service to the district, but the obituary failed to mention his long and useful service to Richmond (& Kew) Chess Club over a period of almost 40 years, serving at various times as secretary, treasurer, match captain, chairman and president. Although not of master standard, he was a strong club player (I’d guess about 2100 strength) as well. The likes of him, organisers and loyal club supporters, are just as important to the world of chess as grandmasters and champions. In his day it was the habit to drink toasts at club dinners: join me today in drinking a toast to James Richmond Cartledge.
“Silman’s Chess Odyssey is International Master Jeremy Silman’s homage – part instruction, part history, part memoir – to the game he loves. The book opens with with behind-the-scenes tales of tournament life. Then it profiles the lives and careers of eleven legendary players-Adolf Anderssen, Ignatz Kolisch, Johannes Zukertort, Siegbert Tarrasch, Wilhelm Steinitz, Emanuel Lasker, Frank Marshall, Rudolf Spielmann, Alexander Alekhine, Salo Flohr, and Efim Geller-with the help of diagrams and analysis of over 275 games. After that it delves into accounts of criminals who were talented chess players, discusses a memorably odd series of games in a historic interzonal tournament, and memorializes some of Silman’s friends in the chess world. It concludes with material on openings, imbalances, tactics, and psychology, and FAQs”
About the Author:
“Jeremy Silman is an International Master and a world-class teacher, writer, and player who has won the American Open, the National Open, and the U.S. Open. Considered by many to be the game’s preeminent instructive writer, he is the author of over thirty-seven books, including Silman’s Complete Endgame Course, The Amateur’s Mind, The Complete Book of Chess Strategy, and The Reassess Your Chess Workbook. His website (www.jeremysilman.com) offers fans of the game instruction, book reviews, theoretical articles, and details of his work in the creation of the chess scene in the movie Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”
From the author’s preface:
As I sit down to write this preface I find myself at a loss for words. Why? I’ve been writing about chess for over fifty years (as well as teaching and playing), but every paragraph I start to write seems as f I’ve written or said it a thousand times before.
I ask myself what are my current thoughts on chess. For example, computer chess engines are monsters. Humans have no way to beat them, and they will get better and better.
Chess continues to be a part of everyday as I must feed my habit? I very much enjoy the game when I play blitz against other masters. Sadly, several of my close friends (my chess posse) have died: Igor Ivanov, Walter Browne, Pal Benko, Steve Brandwein (I can still hear Steve chanting, “I came, I ate, and I left”), and John Grefe, and I miss there banter. I enjoy chess teaching (if the student is really engaged) and I have a handful of students. But mostly I love, love, love chess books.
Fantastic: so do I. Wait a minute, though. ‘I miss THERE banter’? While I’m at it, I’m not sure what that question mark is doing at the end of the first sentence in that paragraph. Although I share Jeremy’s love of chess books, I hate, hate, hate spelling, grammatical and factual errors (especially those in my own books and reviews).
To be fair, it does get a lot better: perhaps the preface was written after the grammar checker had read the rest of the book.
Jumping forward a bit:
I love chess history. For example, Gioacchino Greco – he was the best chess player in the world circa 1620. You must look at his games (see part four)! Greco was a master of tactics, positional play, and openings – he did everything! I Greco knew “imbalances” (which I created) he would be a chess god. As for Philidor (in the 1700s), Greco would destroy him.
Interesting, and perhaps a controversial opinion, quite apart from the question as to whether Greco actually played the games in his book. If you’re a historian of early chess, what do you think?
And I am constantly amused by the endless stories. One of my favorites is the account Steinitz wrote following his physical battle with the hard-drinking Joseph Henry Blackburne (who was also known as the Black Death).
“After a few words Blackburne pounced upon me and hammered at my face and eyes with fullest force about a dozen blows … but at last I had the good fortune to release myself from his drunken grip, and I broke the windowpane with his head, which sobered him down a little.”
I laugh every time I look at this, as I hope you do when you read some of the stories squeezed in between the history and instruction within these pages.
There are so many sides to chess: You can have fun with it. You can study for long hours every day and become a strong player (that was my path). You can be a bad player, but just love the game and feel joy when you sit down at the board. You can be a five-year-old kid (boy or girl), or a ninety year old that plays every day.
I hope that every chess player will find some part of this book that speaks to them.
Here we have, then, an author with a distinguished record of writing instructional books, but who also has a passionate love of chess. If you share that passion you’ll want to read this book.
The first part, taking you up to page 56, offers Cracked Grandmaster Tales, amusing anecdotes which Jeremy himself either witnessed or was part of.
Here’s Filipino GM Balinas drinking a cup of honey mixed with tea – and losing horribly. Here’s Tal visiting Disneyland (his favourite ride was Pirates of the Caribbean). Here’s Najdorf, well, being Najdorf. Here’s Larsen, well, being Larsen and telling his favourite stories. All great fun, although I’m not sure everything would pass a sensitivity reader.
The bulk of the book, up to page 376 is taken up by Part 2, where Silman introduces you to his 11 favourite players of all time, mostly from the 19th and early 20th centuries. A pretty eclectic bunch they are as well, but with tacticians predominating: Anderssen, Kolisch, Zukertort, Tarrasch, Steinitz, Lasker, Marshall, Spielmann, Alekhine, Flohr, Geller). There’s a lot of variance in the number of pages allotted to them. Poor Zukertort only gets six pages, compared to Lasker’s 50, Marshall’s 67 and Alekhine’s 72.
Marshall’s chapter is, as you would expect, hugely entertaining. Silman offers us a lot of games, a few with Marshall’s annotations, some lightly and often amusingly annotated by Silman, and others without annotations, as well as a run-through of his career record.
He describes this rather inaccurate game, against Janowski, as a thrilling battle. As always in my reviews, click on any move for a pop-up window.
The annotations aren’t entirely accurate, either, if you consult Stockfish, or, for the last few moves, tablebases. The rook ending is certainly worth your attention if you like that sort of thing.
The chapter on Alekhine is also fun, although some readers will have seen some of the games many times before.
This game has a British interest, although I have a slight quibble. Milner-Barry was usually known by his middle name: Silman only gives his first name here.
There’s a more serious problem when we reach 1938.
Silman presents this Famous Miniature, but mistakenly attributes the black pieces to Rowena rather than her future husband Ronald Bruce.
This mistake still appears in some online sources, and earlier versions of MegaBase had it wrong, but it’s correct in the current version. This article sets the record straight.
Silman also fails the Yates test: he was just Fred, not Frederick (and MegaBase, frustratingly, still hasn’t picked this up). Silman is a lover of chess history, but, like many others, not a historian. You might equally well argue, I suppose, that not all chess historians actually love chess history, being interested in facts at the expense of character.
Part 3 is entitled Portraits and Stories. Here we have some chess-playing criminals such as Norman Whitaker and Claude Bloodgood, who will be familiar to readers of The (Even More) Complete Chess Addict.
Silman also pays tribute to a few of his departed friends. Here, I was struck by his memories of Steve Brandwein, an exceptionally strong blitz player who played very little over the board.
Here’s one of his games.
Part 4 is a real miscellany: Musings, Theory, Instruction, and FAQs. You’ll find all sorts of things here, including this classic game. It taught me a lot in my early teens, and improved my positional understanding by leaps and bounds. Perhaps, with Silman’s annotations, it will improve your positional understanding as well.
There’s so much more here: the aforementioned Greco games, chess psychology, some opening theory, answers to questions such as ‘Can Anyone Become a Grandmaster?’ – and the Greatest Amateur Game of All Time.
You might think there are at least two books struggling to escape from this heavy, well produced, entertainingly written and beautifully illustrated (a wide range of great photographs throughout the book) volume. Part 2, Silman’s First Eleven, might be compared with Chernev’s Golden Dozen, while Parts 1, 3 and 4 would make a great collection of Wonders and Curiosities of Chess. And, yes, I think I can see the great Irving’s shade smiling down in approval.
You might see it as a bran tub, a lucky dip. Turn to any page at random and you’ll find something to amuse, inform or instruct.
Despite some avoidable errors, which will probably annoy you less than they annoy me, this book is highly recommended to all true chess enthusiasts, whatever their rating. It’s Jeremy’s love letter to the game that has meant so much to him throughout his life, a paean to the beauty and excitement of chess. If anyone out there thinks chess is a dull game, or chess players are dull people, this is the book to disabuse them.
In his chapter on Geller, Silman writes:
In my mind, if you don’t know all the greats from the past, then you’re missing the heart and soul of what chess is about. So many wonderful games. So many stories; some funny, some crazy, some very, very sad.
I’m in complete agreement: what sets chess apart from other games is its history, heritage and culture. If you agree as well, or if you’d just like to investigate further, then you should certainly read this book.
Wilfred Hugh Miller Kirk was perhaps Richmond Chess Club’s strongest player between 1925 and 1937, as well as playing an important administrative role in the club.
Wilfred was born in Culmstock, Devon on 18 May 1877, where Teddington novelist, market gardener and chess player RD Blackmore also lived for a time. His family were originally from London, but his father was working in Devon as a Schools Inspector at the time of his birth. The family later returned to London, where young Wilfred joined the Civil Service on leaving school. He would remain there for his entire working life.
In 1899 he married 20 year old Mabel Ellen Gannaway. Wilfred and Mabel had four children, Talbot (1902), Beatrice (1903), Evelyn (1907) and Ruby (1908).
We hear of him as a chess player for the first time only in 1904, at the age of 27, when he took part in the Second Class B section of the inaugural British Championships at Hastings. He did pretty well for a newcomer to competitive chess, finishing in third place, just half a point behind the joint winners.
The following year he took part in the Kent Open Amateur 2nd Class A tournament, held that year at Crystal Palace, where he shared first place with his old rival WT Dickinson.
Shortly afterwards, leaving his wife and two young children at home, he crossed the channel to Ostend, where a mammoth tournament was taking place. The master event had no less than 36 entrants, with a complex group structure, and, below that, there were two amateur sections which attracted a number of British participants. Wilfred played in the Amateur B section, scoring a very respectable 11/17.
He didn’t take part in another tournament until 1908, when he again played in the Kent congress, that year held in Sevenoaks. This time Wilfred was promoted to the 1st Class Open Section 2. He found 1st class competition a lot tougher than the 2nd class, scoring only 1½/6, The leading scores in this section were Harold Godfrey Cole (5), Kate Belinda Finn and Percy Rawle Gibbs (4½). Miss Finn wasn’t the only (fishy) lady in the section: Mrs Frances Dunn Herring brought up the rear on 1/6.
Although he wasn’t very active in tournament play at the time, he was very much involved in Civil Service chess. He may well have been playing for the Local Government Board before his first tournament, and, when the Civil Service Chess League was founded in 1904 he was appointed to the post of Secretary.
When the British Championships were held in Richmond in 1912 he returned to the fray. This time he was in the 1st Class Amateurs B section, and, from the result, it was clear that he was a lot stronger now than a few years earlier.
The British Chess Magazine (October 1912) remarked that Mr. W. H. M. Kirk (Putney) is a well-known fine player in the Civil Service League, but does not play much otherwise. With work and family commitments, it was understandable that he wouldn’t have had much time for tournament play.
Unfortunately the only game of his from this event that appears to be extant was his only defeat. For all games in this article, click on any move for a pop-up window.
Kirk took part in the Surrey Championship that year, where he finished in first place with a score of 4½/5. This time we do have one of his wins, which his opponent, a dentist usually known as Frank St J Steadman, generously submitted to the British Chess Magazine. It was published in their December 1912 issue.
Wilfred entered the 1st Class Open in the 1913 Kent & Sussex Congress but had to withdraw before the start of the tournament. However, he did play in the Major Open section of the 1913 British Championship, making a respectable showing in a strong tournament.
Here’s a loss against the German born but English resident Georg Schories, a regular Major Open competitor whose nationality precluded his participation in the championship.
In this photograph of the competitors in this section, Kirk is the good looking youngish man (he was now 35) standing second on the left. He doesn’t look very happy, does he? But then they rarely did in those days.
And then World War 1 intervened. The Civil Service Chess League continued in 1915, but then stopped for the duration, only resuming in 1919.
The British Championships were also suspended, again resuming with a Victory Congress at Hastings in August that year. The British title itself wasn’t awarded, the top section being a semi-international event with visiting stars Capablanca and Kostic taking the first two places, well ahead of Sir George Thomas and Yates. The Major Open went to Edward Guthlac Sergeant, and, below that were three parallel First Class sections. Kirk was in the C section, finishing in first place, beating, amongst others, future World Champion Max Euwe. The enforced break had done nothing to dull his chess strength.
Again, his only loss, against Irish champion John James O’Hanlon, is the only one of his games from this event I’ve been able to locate.
In 1919 he also entered the City of London Chess Club Championship: the only time he took part in this prestigious event. He finished in 6th place with 6/11 behind Sir George Thomas, a clear winner on 9½, Michell, Walker, EG Sergeant and Blake, whom he beat in this game: a notable scalp.
Throughout much of his life, Wilfred Kirk seemed to move house every two or three years. He had previously lived in Putney and Wimbledon, but by this time had moved to North London, playing for Hampstead Chess Club and winning the Middlesex Championship in 1920. He had also moved departments in the Civil Service, from the Local Government Board to the Ministry of Health.
Then, in Autumn 1925, he moved to Richmond, living in several addresses in Richmond and Twickenham in the following 12 years or so. He wasted no time in joining Richmond Chess Club, but, in his first match, was only playing on Board 3.
He also entered the Surrey Championship, in 1926 regaining the title he had previously won 14 years earlier.
As an able administrator he was soon appointed secretary of his new club, as reported here, where, on top board, he was successful against our old friend George Archer Hooke.
His addresses at this point included 17 The Barons, St Margarets in 1927 and 27 Richmond Hill in 1928.
In the 1928-29 season Kirk swept the board, winning not just the club championship (you’ll see PGL Fothergill in 3rd place: he only seemed to play in internal competitions rather than club matches), but the handicap tournament (one wonders how the scores were calculated) and the prize for the best percentage score in matches.
Wilfred was very much involved in charitable endeavours of all sorts, promoting chess at the Star and Garter Home for disabled ex-Servicemen, donating money to a fund for distressed miners, and, later in life. helping at a local home for the blind.
That summer, by then in his 50s, he unexpectedly received an invitation to take part in the British Championship, held that year in Ramsgate.
Wilfred was a very effective player top level club opposition, but here, against mostly master standard opponents, he was rather out of his depth.
He lost in 19 moves to Gerald Abrahams: a game which attracted some attention at the time. Abrahams, rather typically, played a speculative sacrifice which Kirk should have accepted, but instead declined it and resigned the next move.
In this group photograph, Kirk is standing on the left next to the permanently disheveled William Winter.
That year there was a merger between Richmond and Kew chess clubs, who, however, continued to meet at both venues on different days of the week. Kirk now had a serious rival in Kew star Ronald George Armstrong, about whom more in a future Minor Piece.
Meanwhile, in 1933, Kirk’s service to chess in the Civil Service was marked by a presentation.
This 1934 match must have been a surprise result.
Richmond & Kew were a second division team, playing in the Beaumont Cup, while Kingston, who had won the Surrey Trophy two years earlier, were a genuine first division team. Unfortunately, they lost to Battersea in the final of the Alexander Cup.
Armstrong must have been very pleased with his draw against Michell, while Kirk also shared the point with (Richard) Nevil Coles, who later became a celebrated chess author and who beat me in a Richmond v Guildford Surrey Trophy match in 1972.
In the 1934-35 season Kirk won the club championship while Armstrong took the handicap shield: they gave a tandem simul at the end of season prizegiving.
It was the same story in 1937, with Kirk taking the club championship for the sixth time with a 100% score, and Armstrong again preferring the handicap shield. Wilfred was now entitled to hold the cup in perpetuity, but generously returned it for future years. I wonder what happened to it.
At this point, though, Wilfred Kirk retired from the Civil Service, spending some time travelling round Europe playing chess before moving, like many retired chess players of the time, to Hastings.
However, he competed in the 1938 British Championships in Brighton, now down in the First Class B section, where he shared first place on 7/11, winning this miniature.
He was soon involved in administration again, both at Hastings Chess Club, and with their annual tournament. He also found time to compete in the 1938-39 event, sharing second place in the Premier Reserves C section.
He also threw himself into county chess, here losing to another former Civil Service player Bernard Henry Newman Stronach.
By now the world was at war again, but Hastings managed to arrange their annual tournament that winter, with Kirk taking part in the Premier.
In this game he held the tournament winner Frank Parr to a draw, sacrificing a knight for a perpetual check.
Although it was no longer possible to run formal competitions, Hastings Chess Club remained active during the war, with friendly matches against local rivals Eastbourne and Bexhill.
His opponent in this game, George Edward Anslow, a Gas Company clerk, was a member of both Eastbourne and Hastings Chess Clubs for many years. He beat me in a 1974 friendly match between Hastings and Richmond & Twickenham Chess Clubs.
Frederick William (Fred) Boff, whom he defeated in this game, seems to have been an interesting character both on and off the chessboard.
He was still very active locally as the war finally came to an end, and was involved in the administration of the 1945-46 Hastings Congress as Treasurer and Assistant Secretary. In June that year, still playing regularly in club events, he was taken ill with appendicitis. The operation, sadly, proved unsuccessful.
There’s more information in this pen picture from Kevin Thurlow’s book on chess in the English Civil Service.
Wilfred Hugh Miller Kirk, then, was a strong player (2261 at his peak according to EdoChess) and a highly efficient administrator. He seems to have been well respected at work and was also devoted to various charitable causes.
His family life, though, wasn’t happy.
In the 1901 census we see Wilfred and Mabel, only recently married, and living in Pimlico.
They soon moved south of the river, the births of their first three children being registered in Wandsworth, and the youngest in Balham.
By 1911 the family had split up. Wilfred was living on his own in Streatham, a Second Division Clerk in the Civil Service. Mabel didn’t appear to be around. Talbot, Beatrice and Evelyn (aged 9, 7 and only 4) were boarding at a school in Wimbledon, while 2-year-old Ruby was living with Wilfred’s mother in Battersea.
Then, in 1914, Mabel filed a petition for judicial separation. She was represented by her solicitor, PR Gibbs, who, I’d imagine, was the same Percy Rawle Gibbs who had played Wilfred at Sevenoaks in 1908.
Mabel’s petition, citing eight addresses, mostly in the Wandsworth area, at which they lived during their marriage, listed dates and places, from 1906 onwards, when and where Wilfred had assaulted her, and treated her with coldness and neglect. He had punched her on her body and head, thrown her against the furniture and onto the floor, grabbed her by the collar and dragged her upstairs. Wilfred denied the charges of cruelty, claiming that Mabel had become mentally deranged and assaulted him violently, and he was only acting in self-defence. On other occasions she had become hysterical and behaved in an ill tempered and unreasonable manner, causing him to lose his temper.
It was also revealed that, from late 1910, she had been a patient at St Luke’s Hospital: she was probably still there at the time of the 1911 census.
The separation was granted, with Mabel having custody of the two older children and Wilfred the two younger children. Would a man who had assaulted his wife, even with provocation, be given custody of two young girls today?
Was he a violent and abusive wife beater whose behaviour had driven his wife to the lunatic asylum, or a good man who found it difficult to cope with his wife’s mental health problems? I don’t know: I wasn’t there and it’s far from me to pass judgement.
The ramifications continued for a decade (the papers are available online at ancestry.co.uk).
The 1921 census found Wilfred now living in Islington with Evelyn and Ruby, who were both at school. Mabel and Beatrice, now an art student, were the other side of London, in South Norwood. Meanwhile, Talbot had emigrated to the USA, where he married in 1927 and had two sons, Fred (1928-76) and Jack (1929-67).
His marriage didn’t last and he returned to England. The 1933 Electoral Roll shows Mabel, Talbot and Beatrice sharing a house right by Hampstead Heath.
Then, in 1934, Wilfred sued Mabel for divorce on the grounds of adultery.
Well, I don’t know. In September that year he married Olive Emily Holmes. Was he committing adultery as well? Again, I wasn’t there.
What happened to the rest of his family? Talbot remarried in 1941 in Brentford, at some point moving to Yorkshire, where he died in 2006 at the extraordinary age of 104.
Beatrice never married: by 1939 she was working as a typist in the Ministry of Food, and died in Hastings at the age of 78.
Evelyn married young, in 1926, to a man almost twice her age, George Arthur Tomlinson, who seems to have been a mechanical engineer working at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington. They lived with Wilfred for a time after the marriage before moving to North London where two sons, Brian (1928) and Robin (1930) were born. George died in 1944, but Evelyn, like her brother, lived a long life, dying in Bath at the age of 96.
Ruby married in 1939, like Evelyn to a much older man: a divorcee with the impressive name Bernard de Lerisson Cazenove. She had no children and, again like Evelyn, lived into her 90s: she was 91 when she died in Warwickshire.
The report of Wilfred’s cremation leaves some questions unanswered. You might have wondered why the local paper mentioned that he left a son, but failed to note his daughters.
At the cremation, Talbot, Evelyn and Ruby were there, but there was no mention of Beatrice as a chief mourner. Did the paper forget her? Or had they become estranged?
Talbot, Dolly and Sylvia sent flowers, but who were Dolly and Sylvia? There were also flowers from Eric, Brian and Robin. Brian and Robin were his grandsons, but who was Eric? And why wasn’t Evelyn included? Her second marriage, in 1948, would be to Ernest (Vokes), not to Eric. Or was ‘Eric’ a misreading of ‘Evelyn’?
There’s one further family tragedy to report.
This is Wilfred and Mabel’s grandson Robin taking his own life in 1950, at the age of 19.
Had he inherited mental health problems from his mother? Impossible to tell, of course.
Although Wilfred Hugh Miller Kirk was a formidable club player and respected administrator, it seems that his family life was unsettled (moving house every couple of years) and unhappy. I can only hope that the game of chess brought him some comfort.
“An informative and accessible new book by Thomas Engqvist, the practical follow up to his previous two authoritative chess books: 300 Most Important Chess Positions and 300 Most Important Tactical Chess Positions.
Filled with 300 engaging chess exercises and complete solutions in the end of the book, this book will allow you to apply and consolidate your newfound knowledge. The book is divided into four key sections: ·75 exercises practising positional ideas in the opening/middlegame ·75 exercises covering the endgame ·75 tactical exercises in the opening/middlegame ·75 tactical endgames.
The exercises featured in the book are taken from real game positions from various renowned chess players, including Capablanca and Magnus Carlsen.”
About the Author:
“Thomas Engqvist is an International Master from Sweden. He has over 30 years’ experience as a chess coach and teacher. He has worked with players at world championship level in both junior and correspondence chess. He is the author of 300 Most Important Chess Positions and 300 Most Important Tactical Chess Positions, both published by Batsford.
From the back cover:
In-depth analysis of the 300 most important exercises according to the famous principle “less is more”. The less you study the less you forget.
Practice the most important positional and tactical ideas in all phases of the game by solving just five positions every week for one year.
Find out if the positional or tactical idea crops up in your mind, regardless of whether you have seen the idea before or not.
Well, if you solve five positions every week it will take you 60 rather than 52 weeks to complete the book, but never mind. The claim that you’ll improve more by studying less is also rather silly: the real point is that the quality rather than the quantity of your study is important.
In this highly instructive exercise book, International Master and experienced chess coach Thomas Engqvist outlines the 300 most important chess exercises. A sequel to 300 Most Important Chess Positions and 300 Most Important Tactical Chess Positions, this is the perfect manual for players who want to reach a higher level but don’t have the time to spend hours every week on less productive study.
Each numbered position is a test-yourself quiz to help cement the positional and tactical understanding that you have acquired. This book can be your life-long companion, enabling you to apply and solidify your positional and tactical chess knowledge.
Swedish International Master Thomas Engqvist has almost 40 years experience as a chess coach, teacher, writer and player. He has successfully worked with players at world championship level in both junior and correspondence chess. He works as a teacher at a school outside Stockholm. He is the author of eight chess books. This is his third book for Batsford Chess.
Yes, I get the point. Not everyone who wants to improve has the sort of time to spare that would be required to benefit from a book like this. Most of us have other commitments: just solving five exercises a week might be ideal. And what about the title? Are these exercises more important than the positions in the previous books? Who is to determine importance anyway. An exercise that’s important to me might not be important to you.
Let’s see what the author has to say in his introduction.
300 Most Important Chess Exercises starts off with 150 opening and middlegame positions to solve and the quota is 75 exercises where you practice positional ideas, and 75 exercises where the focus is on tactics. The other half of the book deals with 75 positional endings and 75 tactical endings. This is the only hint the solver will get.
This, then, is the final volume of a trilogy, with exercises based on the material in Engqvist’s two earlier Batsford books. If you’ve read and enjoyed them (sadly, I haven’t) you’ll undoubtedly want this as well. However, the author points out that it’s not necessary to have read them to read and benefit from this book.
The back cover claims that it’s a Universal book – suitable for players of all strengths.
No, it’s not. There’s an assumption that readers are proficient players with a good understanding of the game – say about 1500 strength. At the same time, some of the exercises will be familiar to more experienced players. I’d put the target range for this book, then, as in the region of 1500-2000 rating, although slightly weaker and slightly stronger players may also benefit.
I found Engqvist’s comments on the very first position in the book particularly interesting.
This is from a Morphy – Schulten game (New York 1857) with White to play.
White played 10. Bf4 here, but was it best? What would you suggest?
Morphy claimed his 10th move was an improvement on 10. Qxd6 which was given in the leading treatises of the day (Hanstein – von der Lasa in Staunton’s “Handbook”). However this is not true if one consults the computer programs Komodo and Stockfish. It’s good to capture the d6-pawn as long as White can maintain pressure on the d-file. What’s more is that there is an even better move, suggested by both computers, namely 10. Nc3!. This is very interesting since Komodo makes good evaluations and Stockfish is good at deep calculations, but they still come up with the same move!
This simple Knight move also follows Lasker’s principle that a knight should be developed before the bishop. The idea is to prepare Bf4 next move without allowing the d-file to be closed after …d5 . Morphy played according to the principle of development so his move is understandable, but the computers’ choice is the most precise. Even if we do know that development is on the agenda, we must also think carefully which piece to move first.
This tells you a lot about the author. Here we have someone who is well versed in chess history and culture, but also able to use modern technology effectively. Beyond that he has the ability to explain abstact concepts clearly and unambiguously.
Although that example may have been familiar to you if you’ve studied Morphy’s games, there are other exercises which you almost certainly won’t have seen before. Like this one, number 79, so it’s a tactical puzzle.
What would you play for White here?
This is from the less than Famous Game Kludacz – Pavlovskaya (Hasselbacken Open (Women) Stockholm 2001).
The whole game is interesting for anyone playing the Queen’s Gambit with either colour. White has launched a Minority Attack and now continued with 21. e4? which Black met with Bxh3!?, eventually winning the game.
Did you see how she could have done better?
21. h4! Ne6 22. Nce4!!
Presumably Kludacz missed the following knight sacrifice…
22… dxe4 23. Nxe4
White exploits the tactical weaknesses on f6 and c6. Black has no effective defence.
If 23… Qe7 then 24. Qxc6
24. Nf6+ Kf8
White doesn’t need to cash in on f8 but can exploit the pin on the c-file.
Now Black’s position collapses and White wins.
Helpfully, Engqvist provides the whole game here so that readers can see how the position arose from the opening.
The second half of the book covers endgame exercises. Like other authors such as Judit Polgar and RB Ramesh, whose books I’ve reviewed recently, Engqvist believes that solving endgame studies is a very valuable form of chess training, so here we have a mix of studies and positions from practical play. He finds pawn endings especially fascinating, so there are plenty here.
Take this one, for example.
It’s White to play here (Kalinicev – Schulz Cham 1992). What would you suggest.
I guess most players, like me, would play 1. Ke7 here without a second thought, but it’s not the correct answer.
The first time I saw this endgame I wrote in my private annotations that it’s “incredible that this move doesn’t win!” From a visual point of view it certainly seems that White’s king will wipe out the whole kingside of pawns like a vacuum cleaner, but that turns out to be an optical illusion. The key move to winning is to play according to Nimzowitsch’s rule, which states that you should hem in the target before blockading it and only then destroy it!
1. g4! would have prevented Black from moving his f-pawn to f5. Then 1… Kd3 2. Ke7 f6 3. Kf7 Ke2 4. f4 Kf3 5. f5. The f-pawn is now blockaded and a future attacking target. 5… Kg3 6. Kxg7 Kxh3 7. Kxh7 (7. Kxf6 Kxg4 8. Ke6 also wins but it’s unnecessary to give Black some hope even though that would be futile.) 7… Kxg4 8. Kg6 and White’s f-pawn decides.
Instead, the game concluded:
1. Ke7? f5 2. Kf7 Kd3 3. Kxg7 f4!! 4. Kxh7 Ke2 5. g4 Kxf2 6. g5 f3 7. g6 Kg3! 8. g7 f2 9. g8=Q+ Kxh3 with a drawn position because an eventual Qg3+ will be met by Kh1.
If you mistakenly went for Ke7 here then this may well be the book for you.
It does beg a question, though. This is billed as a positional endgame exercise, which it undoubtedly is, but it’s certainly tactical as well.
Of course positional and tactical chess are inextricably entwined, and, by the time you get to the ending, they’re really the same thing. The whole idea of splitting endgame exercises into ‘positional’ and ‘tactical’ seems very artificial to me. I’d guess this was the publisher’s rather than the author’s decision.
You probably hadn’t seen that position before (it’s not even in MegaBase), but if you’ve read anything on pawn endings you’ll almost certainly have seen the Famous Ending Cohn – Rubinstein (St Petersburg 1909), which you’ll also meet here. “If you only study one endgame with many pawns this is the one”, according to Engqvist, who discusses it over two pages. Regular readers of endgame manuals will find several other old friends as well: there’s six pages devoted to another Famous Ending, Timman – Velimirović (Rio de Janeiro 1979), to take just one example. Exercises 212-214 cover the ending of RB v R: the solutions cover 11 pages: extremely useful if you want to learn this ending, but I guess it’s debatable how important it is for average club players.
Here’s a quick endgame study from the last section of the book: tactical endgame exercises. See if you can solve it yourself before reading on.
White to play and draw (Prokes 1939)
A very game-like position, you’ll agree, and you were probably brought up with the knowledge that, in the absence of kings, two pawns on the sixth rank beat a rook.
In this instructive study, White’s king, contrary to appearances, is just about close enough.
I hope you managed to solve this. But was it purely tactical or positional as well? What do you think?
To sum up, then, it’s very clear from this book that Thomas Engqvist is an exceptional teacher, who, like all exceptional teachers, knows exactly what he’s doing and why he’s doing it. Unlike some less experienced authors he doesn’t just throw a load of GM positions at you, show you a pile of computer generated variations and expect you to play like Carlsen.
To refer again to two other excellent books I’ve reviewed recently, if you find Ramesh too heavy and Polgar’s exciting enthusiasm grating, I’m sure Engqvist will hit the sweet spot for you. In that case you’ll probably want to investigate his two earlier Batsford books as well, and perhaps read them first. As the authors take very different approaches and cover different topics, ambitious club players would do well to buy both Polgar and Engqvist. Young players who are aiming for IM or GM titles and have plenty of time to study would, on the other hand, be better off with Ramesh.
I’m just not sure that the format of the book is the best way to present Engqvist’s material, especially since endgames are both positional and tactical at the same time. (What the best format actually would be is an interesting question: different readers will prefer different formats. If you really, as Engqvist does, want to make the training environment resemble a tournament game you might want to mix the positions up rather than give a clue as to whether it’s a positional or tactical exercise.) I’m also not sure that the subtitle ‘Study five a week to become a better chess player’ is particularly helpful or realistic. Some of the positions require little time and explanation while others require a lot. The author himself doesn’t suggest in his introduction that this is the best way to use his book. As I suggested above, this book, notwithstanding the claims on the back cover, is far too advanced for beginners, but would be a great choice for anyone rated in the region of 1500-2000, or perhaps a bit higher.
But of course publishers do whatever it takes to sell copies, including resorting to unhelpful titles and unrealistic claims, and people don’t always buy chess books for rational reasons. Which is why it’s a good idea to read impartial reviews first.
The book is published to Batsford’s usual standards and appears to be free from the typos that mar books by some other publishers. The English might not always be totally idiomatic but is perfectly comprehensible throughout. I note that there is no mention of translators or proofreaders at the front of the book.
A book by an outstanding teacher, then, and, if the style and contents appeal to you, very highly recommended for club standard players ambitious to improve their rating.
“In the first team this season E. Fairbrother (team captain), Miss Lanspeary, B. Bodycoat and P. Ahearne are unbeaten.”
It’s good to see a lady playing for Richmond’s first team, and unbeaten as well. She must have been a pretty good player. But who was this Miss Lanspeary with her unusual and unfamiliar surname? I wanted to find out.
Searching electoral rolls quickly identified our heroine as Enid Mary Lanspeary, so I looked at online family trees to find out more. She was indeed on a few trees – and I was amazed to discover that one of them was mine! I also discovered, by searching newspaper archives, that there were Lanspearys playing chess all over the country.
Something genealogists like to do is the One-Name Study, which involves finding out everything about everyone bearing a particular unusual surname. We’ll do that now with Lanspeary.
Most British surnames date back to the early middle ages, but Lanspeary has a much more recent origin. To be precise, 21 June 1779.
The family name was originally Lansbury, although some members used other versions as well, but this, the marriage between Thomas Lanspeary and Elizabeth Chambers in the Northamptonshire village of Great Doddington, is the first sighting of Lanspeary. I guess, from the original name, that the stress should be on the first syllable. History doesn’t record why Thomas chose that particular spelling.
You’ll find Great Doddington just south of the town of Wellingborough, famous, like many other Northamptonshire towns, for its place in the boot and shoe industry. According to this website, among those who have come to the county for shoes are HRH Queen Elizabeth II, Darth Vader, Sid Vicious, Jumbo the elephant, Sir Ernest Shackleton and James Bond. It was in the boot and shoe industry that the Lanspeary family originally found their employment.
To continue our one-name study we need to follow the paternal line. Thomas and Elizabeth had two sons, John and Thomas. John, it seems, only had one child, a daughter. Thomas, however, had three sons, William, another Thomas, and David.
In general terms, William was the most interesting. He found a job on the railways, which took him to Carlisle, married in Gretna Green and emigrated to Windsor, Ontario. Windsor is just the other side of the river from Detroit. Motortown, known to music fans as Motown. Due to a geographic anomaly, at this point Canada is south of the river and the USA north of the river. He had three sons, George, David and William, and the family were big in local government. If you visit Windsor now you’ll find Lanspeary Park there. If, in 1910, they had waved across the river, they might have attracted the attention of Alfred Padbury, from Warwick, who was, briefly, involved in manufacturing automobiles there. Alfred was his parents’ only son, but had nine sisters, some of whom you’ll meet later on in this article.
William’s youngest brother, David, moved to Sheffield, where he worked at various times as a warehouseman and dealer, but it’s the middle brother, the third Thomas, who interests us.
Thomas lived all his long life in Great Doddington, working as a shoemaker, and dying at the great age of 96. He had two sons, the younger of whom died in infancy, but it’s his older son, another David Lanspeary, who interests us.
He was also a shoemaker, but went into business, founding a very successful shoemaking company. He must also have been a chess player, as two of his sons played competitive chess to a reasonable level. He also, like his father, lived to be 96.
David and his first wife had one son, Wilfrid Arthur, and three daughters, one of whom died in infancy. After she died he remarried, and had two more sons, Lewis and Reginald.
Wilfrid, born in 1885, worked as a wood machinist, but was also a chess player.
We first pick him up in 1921, in his mid 30s, playing on top board for the Red Triangle (YMCA) team and winning his game against Wellingborough Town chess club. It looks like he was, up to that point, a social player, and, given the chance to try his hand against club standard opposition, discovered he was quite good. He soon joined Wellingborough club, seeing action against their local rivals from Northampton and Peterborough.
He was even good enough to be selected for his county side. Here he is, in 1924, in a match against Leicestershire, several of whose players I hope to feature in future Minor Pieces.
He seems to have played less often after 1925, but there are occasional mentions up to 1948.
In this 1939 match, two members of the famous Beach family were on the other side of the board. TJ (not JT, but he was known by his middle name, John) would much later write two excellent beginners’ books with CHO’D Alexander.
Wilfrid’s youngest half-brother, Reginald, concentrated on helping his father run the family firm, but Lewis, born in 1894, was also a competitive player.
On leaving school, Lewis took a job with Boot’s the Chemists, rising to branch manager. In 1927 we find him in Essex, playing in the minor section of the county championship. He had been living in Luton with his wife and young daughter Enid (yes, that’s her) in the 1921 census but by 1926 he was living in Great Warley, Essex, just outside the M25. Enid had been joined by a brother, Philip John Lanspeary, in 1922. A few years later the family moved to nearby Brentwood, where Lewis joined the chess club.
In 1930 he was on Board 2 against Chelmsford, losing to a particularly interesting opponent, Tolstoy’s biographer Aylmer Maude.
Aylmer wasn’t the only Maude playing chess for Brentwood. Here, in 1935, his son Lionel scored a draw against Lewis Lanspeary.
Unlike his father and grandfather, Lewis didn’t enjoy a long life, dying young in 1941.
By 1946 Lewis’s widow Mary, along with Enid and Philip, had moved to London, to Kenilworth Court in Putney, eight blocks of Edwardian mansion flats right by Putney Bridge.
And, look! There on the electoral roll, just two doors away, was someone very famous in his day (but with his name misspelt here): Edgar Lustgarten.
Philip didn’t stay there long: in January 1947 he married Gwynneth Evelyn Reeder and moved to Long Eaton in Derbyshire, close to the point where that county meets Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire.
And then, like his father and uncle, he took up competitive chess. He joined his local club and was soon recruited for the county team, playing, like Uncle Wilfrid, against Leicestershire.
In 1950 he played a postal game which was featured in a sports shop window. You’ll see he adopted the ‘English start’ – presumably the English Opening was intended.
Philip continued playing club and county chess in Long Eaton until 1955, when he, his wife and their young children Susan, born in 1952 and baby David (there are a lot of Davids in this family) moved to the Reading area. A third child, Hazel, was born there in 1957.
We have a much later address for him in the small Hampshire town of Tadley, 6 miles north of Basingstoke and 10 miles south west of Reading, so he might have been living at that point as well. Tadley is near Aldermaston, the home of the Atomic Weapons (Research) Establishment, which, at the time, was the area’s largest employer: perhaps he was working there. If you know, do get in touch.
I don’t have any further records of Philip playing chess after 1955. Perhaps he was still playing, but the local papers have yet to be digitised.
Perhaps, on the other hand, he decided to give up chess to allow himself more time for his other hobby: philately.
Phil was a philatelist, and like many philatelists he specialised in stamps with a particular theme: in his case stamps depicting birds. He even wrote a book on the subject, which you can buy here.
There’s a Bird Stamp Society which was founded in 1986, and Phil wrote an article on the bird stamps of Indonesia which was published in the September 1998 issue of their magazine, Flight. You can read it here: I note that their chairman, appropriately enough, was Robin Martin! Another win for nominative determinism!
Here’s another coincidence: this issue published a list of new members:
Look at the first name and address. If you’ve ever visited the Chess Palace you’ll spot that Mr M Warden was living at the end of my road. I didn’t know him, but, if I remember correctly, my opponent in my first competitive game of chess, in a match between two Richmond teams, was also M Warden. As far as I know, they weren’t the same person, but there’s another Richmond Chess connection with that surname, which you may discover in a future Minor Piece.
Philip, like his grandfather and great grandfather, lived to be 96. His wife Gwynneth did almost as well, reaching the age of 95.
We really need to return to Enid, who, as I told you at the start, was already on my family tree. The connection is through Gwynneth. She was the illegitimate daughter of Ida Rose Reeder, originally from Norfolk. Ida’s first cousin, John Palmer, moved to London and had a son, Percy John Palmer, who, after the death of his first wife, married Maud Kathleen Padbury. Maud was the youngest sister of Alfred, whom you met building cars in Detroit in 1910, and also the sister of my maternal grandmother Florence Padbury.
So this makes Enid, a member of Richmond Chess Club in 1950, the sister-in-law of the 1st cousin 1x removed of the husband of my Great Aunt Maud. Confused? You will be!
Finally, then, we pick up Enid’s story again. This 1950 report is the only direct mention I have of her playing chess. It’s quite possible she remained a member of Richmond Chess Club for a few more years. If and when later years of the Richmond Herald appear online I’ll perhaps be able to find out.
However, there is this, which is of some interest for several reasons.
“Three trophies have either been given or promised by members…”. Was one of those given or promised by Mr Bodycoat, whose trophy would later be used for the second division of the club championship, was his trophy donated in his memory after his untimely death the following year, or did he leave a legacy to the club?
There’s a reference to Walter Veitch, and also to ‘another member, Mr. A. J. Roycroft’, who won a best game prize. Coincidentally or not, Walter and John were (and John still is, at the age of 93) two of the country’s leading experts on endgame studies.
Here’s the prize winning game. Stockfish isn’t impressed, but judge for yourself. As always, click on any move for a pop-up window.
You’ll also note that the club had five junior members, and had doubled their number of lady members. Was Enid the first, or the second? If the second, who was the first?
Enid and her mother remained in Kenilworth Court until at least 1965 (London electoral registers are currently only available online up to that date) and probably until 1971, when her mother died.
It seems she had rather a lot in common with Beatrix Hooke, living in a mansion flat, concentrating on her job rather than romantic relationships, and also playing chess.
Like Beatrix, she married late in life, seemingly for companionship. While Beatrix married a widowed chess playing doctor, Enid married the twice divorced Charles John Lawrence Bonington, (see also this book) whose background was in the armed forces, in Worthing in 1980. The son of his first marriage was none other than the mountaineer and chess enthusiast Chris Bonington, (see also his website here) whose name was shamefully misspelt in The (Even More) Complete Chess Addict. He played chess and listened to Bach on his expeditions.
Did Charles and Enid meet through a shared passion for chess, I wonder?
Charles died two years later, also in Worthing, while Enid lived on until 1999, where her death was recorded in Basingstoke. It seems likely she’d moved there after her husband’s death to be near her brother and his family.
So there you have the story of the chessing Lanspeary family. Two generations, two pairs of siblings, who played chess in four counties over four decades. None of them were anywhere near master standard, but they were all good players of club/country strength. Players like them were, and still are, the backbone of chess. Wilfrid and Lewis, Enid and Philip, I salute you all.
Before I go, something I forgot last time. You might remember that Mr Bodycoat’s family came from villages close to my father’s family. He may also be the 3rd great-grandnephew of the wife of my 5th great-granduncle. We go back to one John Andrews Buzzard, born in West Langton, Leicestershire in 1697, who may have been my 6th great grandfather. (I have a DNA link with a member of another branch of his family, which suggests that this is at least possible.) One of his sons, William, married Elizabeth Gibbins, whose brother Thomas was the 3rd great grandfather of Walter/Boyder Bodycoat.
So there you have it: a newspaper article from the year I was born mentions two members of the chess club I would later join, one of whom was connected to my mother and the other connected to my father. Another golden thread that links us all together.
By 1986 I’d developed some strong views about education and how they related to chess.
Something else happened as well. I was sitting in my London office one Feburary day wondering how I was ever going to be able to leave a job with no prospects of promotion or doing anything else when the phone rang.
It was my old friend Mike Fox, calling from Birmingham. “This phone call will change your life”, he said. And it did.
He’d been commissioned by Faber & Faber to write a book about chess trivia and invited me to join him as co-author. This would become The Complete Chess Addict (1987) and later The Even More Complete Chess Addict (1993), as well as the Addicts’ Corner column in CHESS which ran for 14 years. I decided that I could make as much money in less time by working freelance, while having time to help Mike with researching and writing the book and having more time to develop RJCC.
In order to improve Richmond Junior Club the first thing I wanted was to be able to find out everything I could about how every member of the club played chess, so that I could provide individual advice to all children and parents.
My view also was that, when teaching younger children and, more generally, less experienced players, everything we did had to happen for a very specific reason. I didn’t want to provide random lessons demonstrating random brilliant games to a random collection of children. Nor did I want to push children into doing too much too soon: using clocks and scoresheets and taking part in external tournaments before they were ready.
What I did (some of this was explained last time) was this:
I split the club into two sections: a morning group lasting two hours for primary school children, and an afternoon group lasting three hours for secondary school children, to which stronger primary school players would also be invited.
I introduced an internal grading system which was revised every few weeks, including all internal games (excluding blitz) so that I could select teams objectively in order of strength and identify when morning group players were ready to move up to the afternoon group. This included a very crude but reasonably effective measure to avoid grading deflation, based on the principle that, at any point, our members will either be improving or stationary.
Although I’d been collecting scoresheets of games played in our tournaments and training days for almost a decade, I now collected all afternoon group games (excluding blitz again) and played through them myself at home. There was no need to collect games played in the morning group as they were played at a lower level and usually decided by the number of pieces left en prise.
Beyond that, I wanted to ensure that our members would be able to try out a wide range of different openings, play games at different time controls, and play different opponents every week.
The primary school age children in our morning group were divided into divisions according to their internal grade. When new members joined we’d do a quick assessment. If they were obviously beginners they’d start in the lowest division. If we already knew about them because they’d played in one of our tournaments we’d already have given them a grade so would be able to put them in the correct division. Otherwise, we’d give them a quick friendly game against a player in a middle division and see how they got on.
I also used the same divisional system in schools for many years to ensure that children played different opponents of a similar strength to themselves every week (until the divisions were changed). This system also catered for the fact that some children played fast and would get through several games in one session while others played slowly and would only play one game. I found this worked much better than a Swiss tournament where everyone played one game a week and children who had finished their games would sometimes interfere with the games still in progress.
Every few weeks, by which time some of the faster and more regular attenders would have played most of the other players in their division, we ran the results through the grading program and restarted the divisions, with the most successful players gaining promotion.
We knew that if we taught children opening principles and then left them to their own devices many games would start with boring Giuoco Pianissimos or Spanish Four Knights, which, because they led to closed positions with few opportunities for pawn breaks, were only superficially good for less experienced players.
So we developed a system which would enable children in this group to experience a range of different openings and position types. Our first rule was that all games in the morning group would start with the moves 1. e4 e5. Over the course of the year (September to July) we’d work through the major open games, starting with simple Four Knights type positions and gradually moving through to the King’s Gambit and (the favourite of many of our members) the Danish Gambit. We’d give a short introductory talk before the games started and expect players to start the game with the moves displayed on the demonstration board.
Ray Keene’s column in the Times always provided a simple tactical puzzle on Saturdays to encourage readers to compete for a prize, and we’d display this on the demo board so that children could attempt to solve it as they arrived. We’d go through the solution in front of the whole class before introducing them to the opening of the week.
We also wanted to ensure that children were introduced to clocks and scoresheets at the appropriate time in their chess development to prepare them for promotion to the afternoon group. As each of these adds a level of complexity to an already difficult game we wanted to do them one at a time, so players in the second division were asked to play their games on clocks (30 minutes per player per game) and, when they reached the top division they were required to notate their games (down to the last five minutes) as well.
For some of our members, the Morning Group was all they wanted and they’d drop out after a year or two. But others would be ambitious to play competitively and move up to the Afternoon Group, which was designed, in the first instance, for players of round about 1000 to 1500 strength. We assumed that, at that point, they’d move on to bigger and better things, but, as our system developed, we were attracting players up to getting on for 2000 strength.
In order to give our Afternoon Group members the chance to try out a wide range of different openings we developed a system involving games using set openings.
It took a few years for this to be fully implemented, but what we did was to divide all the major openings into ten groups, featuring one group every half term. We built a three-year cycle, with some groups happening every year, some twice in three years and some once in three years.
We also wanted to provide a range of different time limits. For younger players up to about 1500 who tend to play fast there’s no real need for slower games, while we also decided that anything less than 10 minutes per player would lead to too many blunders. So our main termly structure eventually looked like this:
Freestyle 30 minute games (3 games in the 3 hour session)
Coach and play – introductory lesson on the openings to be played over the next few weeks followed by two 45 minute games, consulting the opening books
10 minute blitz tournament (in groups with promotion/relegation) with opening variation picked out of the ‘hat’)
30 minute games (3 games in the 3 hour session) using the set openings
Freestyle 10 minute blitz tournament (in groups with promotion/relegation)
Over the year we’d run 12 sessions with 3 30-minute games (at first in groups of 4 (quad tournaments) or 6 (Scheveningen system tournaments) – six freestyle and 6 with set openings. All games would be recorded down to the last five minutes and all scoresheets would be handed it. We used duplicate scoresheets for this purpose so that they all had a copy of their games to take home. I’d then play through all the games again at home, and, once ChessBase became available I’d enter them all into a database.
We’d also run 11 sessions with 10-minute games (as many as they could play in the time available), five freestyle and six with set openings.
We’d run 6 Coach and Play sessions to introduce the openings to be played in the next rapid and blitz sessions.
We also ran one simultaneous display a term. Sometimes we’d use visiting masters, sometimes our own coaches, members of our parent chess club or former RJCC members. We considered these a vital part of our programme for several reasons:
They promoted chess as an adult game, not just a game for young children
They gave our members the chance to meet and play against titled players
They forced our members to slow down and think while the simul giver was going round the room moving on the other boards
Other weeks were filled up with activities such as training games at slower time limits, endgame practice and puzzle solving, while the last week of each term gave our members the chance to enjoy chess variants such as Exchange (Bughouse) and Kriegspiel.
The idea was that each week would have one activity, which would vary from week to week. Very different from the way most junior clubs run, with two activities (lesson and game) a week and the same structure most weeks.
If you want to use our methods, our stationery (now rebranded as Chess Heroes rather than RJCC) is available to download here and here while our opening books (recently updated slightly to include the currently popular London System) can be downloaded here.
Coincidentally, several other important things happened at about this time.
A local primary school, Sheen Mount, appointed a new Headteacher, Jane Lawrence, who was passionate about introducing all her pupils to chess, teaching them the moves and giving them the chance to play competitively at school every day. Many of her pupils joined Richmond Junior Club, and, as you’ll see, two of them, Richard Bates and Tom Hinks-Edwards, went on to become International Masters.
Ray Cannon, whom I vaguely knew from the London chess circuit, brought his young son Richard along to the club. Ray was (and still is) an excellent chess coach and his views on chess teaching were (and still are) very similar to mine, and he soon started to play a vital role in the club, helping with the Afternoon Group as well as spending his Sundays visiting tournaments and passing on the results of our members so that I could incorporate them in our internal grading list.
The other player who played an invaluable part in our successes for many years was Gavin Wall, later an IM, one of our early members who, on returning from University joined our coaching team, working mostly in the Morning Group. Gavin and Ray were both integral to the club for many years: I can’t thank them enough.
Over the next few years we again became very strong, and the system we used in the Afternoon Group undoubtedly played its part.
As it happened, the summer of 1986 witnessed our first ever British Champion when Irfan Nathoo took the national Under 9 title.
Here’s a game from later in the year. To play through this or any other game in this article click on any move and a pop-up window will appear.
With our new system in place we were able to promote the club in the local press, announcing an exciting season ahead.
We were actively looking for sponsorship at this point. We received donations from two local charities at various times, and here we found sponsorship from the Richmond branch of Midland Bank.
We were also competing successfully in team competitions against other London junior clubs. Barnet Knights, of course, are still going strong today.
One of our new members was a talented Scottish junior, Jonathan Rowson, who had moved from Aberdeen into the same road as me. He used to come round to my house for a game after school, but sadly for us he didn’t stay in the area very long.
In this game from one of our monthly quad tournaments, he demonstrated his class by outplaying Richard Bates in a pawn ending.
During this period I was doing a lot of private tuition. Jonathan was by no means the only one of our members who would visit my house for lessons, either on a regular or an occasional basis. Judging from both individual and team results it must have had some effect on them.
By 1989 Sheen Mount players were making names for themselves on the national stage. Here are future IM Richard Bates and Tom Davey playing for England’s Primary Schools team in a match against Scotland.
Also in June 1989 we were invited to play a match against a visiting team from Arizona. As we had so many strong players by now we split our players into three teams and played a four-way match.
Here’s Richard Cannon’s game against the American board 1.
By the summer of 1989 it was time to move. The church in central Richmond where we met was being redeveloped so we had to find new premises. Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club moved to London Welsh Rugby Club, while Richmond Junior Club found a new home in a large Victorian house in East Twickenham, where we’d meet for more than 15 years.
We also set up a separate group for older children enabling us to enter teams in the Thames Valley League. We played our home matches in Friday evening sessions and scheduled our away matches, as far as possible, during the school holidays.
Jane Lawrence was now running Richmond teams in the English Primary Schools Chess Association inter-area competitions, with players from schools around the Borough taking part. Andrew Bamford, like many of the players in these teams, was a member of Richmond Junior Club.
In this game from our 1990 Under 11 Championship a speculative sacrifice proved successful.
Wanting to provide top level coaching for our strongest players, we appointed GM Daniel King as our club professional in 1990. We were also able to enter a third team in the Thames Valley League.
In just a few years since 1986 the club had made tremendous progress, and we were able to bill ourselves, without fear of contradiction, as ‘England’s leading club for young players’. This is Chris A Baker, who hasn’t played competitively for a long time, not to be confused with long-standing Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club member Chris B Baker, who was also a pupil at Hampton School, or indeed IM Chris W Baker.
In this game Tom had the chance to play a Greek Gift sacrifice against an opponent with insufficient experience of the French Defence.
And here’s Chris Baker, beating one of his regular rivals in a club game.
Every summer during this period the parents of our stronger players got together to book accommodation for the British Championships. From 1991 onwards we were rewarded with successes like these:
1991 Richard Bates U14 shared, Luke McShane U9
1992 James Clifford/Luke McShane U14 Andrew Bamford U11
1993 Tom Hinks-Edwards U16 shared
One of our favourite simul givers at the time was Ukrainian IM Petr Marusenko, a regular visit to Hastings (he’s there again this year) who would drop in to visit us after the congress.
In this game James Clifford outplayed him in the ending.
Richard Bates, now at Tiffin School, continued to be successful in 1992, and was rated one of the world’s top players of his age.
But by that time we had a new member whose feats would outshine even Richard’s. This was Luke McShane, who, at the age of only 8, took the World Under 10 Championship in 1992.
Luke scored victories against future stars such as Bacrot, Aronian and Grischuk in this event. He was perhaps fortunate to escape from lost positions in the first two of these games, but here’s his win against the Russian representative.
In January 1993 we were privileged to host a junior team from Kiev (now Kiiv), whose top players were, as you might imagine, very strong. We arranged four events: a simul given by Daniel King, a match against a team from Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club, a match against a Richmond Junior Club team and a match against a junior team representing the Southern Counties Chess Union, which included three RJCC players.
Another of our very strong players, Aleksandar Trifunovic, great nephew of Grandmaster Petar Trifunovic, scored an exciting win on board three of the RJCC v Kiev match. His opponent here is now an American IM.
Richard Bates scored a win and a draw against the top two Kiev players. He drew with Spartak Vysochin, now a grandmaster, in the RJCC match and won this game from the SCCU Juniors match.
As a result of his performance in the World Junior Championship, Luke was given the opportunity to play a game against Garry Kasparov, in London to discuss the arrangements for his forthcoming World Championship match against Nigel Short.
Here’s the game.
In May 1993, buoyed by these successes, we were asked to be involved in the Richmond Chess Initiative, which, in essence, did very much what Chess in Schools & Communities is doing now, but on a local rather than national level.
Children would learn all the right moves, but would they play them in the right order? You’ll find out in the next part of the history of Richmond Junior Chess Club.
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