Minor Pieces 11: William Dobell Hutchings

If, like me, you enjoy family and social history, you’re probably a fan of David Olusoga’s documentary series A House Through Time.

Here’s an idea for a new series: A Book Through Time.

If you’ve read my article about Henry George Bohn, you’ll have seen this before.  It’s my first edition of Staunton’s Chess-Player’s Handbook.

I acquired this as a gift from a pupil’s mother, who ran an antiques shop in Hampton Wick.

There are also two inscriptions. The second is ‘Peter Elliott’: there were several people of this name in this area, none of whom mean anything to me.

We can, however, identify the first inscription: WD Hutchings Stoke on Trent 1882.

Who was Mr Hutchings? Was he a chess player who required a handbook, or did he just have a casual interest in the game? What was he doing in Stoke on Trent? How did the book reach Hampton Wick?

It transpires he was William Dobell Hutchings, the son of Frank Hutchings and Mary Laskey (close, just one letter out) Dobell, and was born in Exeter in 1844, making him three years older than the book. His mother doesn’t seem to have been related to Hastings chess player Herbert Dobell.

We first pick William up in the 1851 census, where he appears to be at a local boarding school. Upper middle class families like the Hutchings’ started boarding their children young in those days. By 1861 he’s at home with his parents and many siblings: we learn that his father is a solicitor, and young Bill is apprenticed to a banker.

1871 finds him in West Ham, living in a boarding house and working as a banker’s clerk. A few months later, though, he turns up at Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire, on the edge of the Cotswolds, between Bristol and Stroud, where he marries local girl Ann Clark. The happy couple move back to West Ham, and, a year, later, welcome their daughter Alice Emma into the world. Two years later, a son, Frank Henry, is born, but, tragically, he dies back in Devon at the age of only 3.

At some point over the next few years he gains a promotion and, now in a managerial role, moves to Stoke on Trent, where, by 1881, he’s doing well enough to employ two servants. Later in the year, their third child, a son named William Dobell after his father, is born. The following year he comes across a second-hand copy of the first edition of Staunton’s Chess Player’s Handbook: the copy I have in front of me as I write these lines. At this point the book was 35 years old, just three years younger than its new owner.

He doesn’t remain in the Potteries very long, though. He soon gets a new job – in Leicester. I wasn’t planning to return to my father’s home town so soon, but here we are. Perhaps inspired by Staunton’s best-seller, he joins the local chess club.

The Leicester Journal of 22 February 1884 reported on the Leicester Chess Club AGM, which saw WD Hutchings elected to the committee. After the meeting, Leicester played a match against their regular opponents from Nottingham, which they lost by 8 points to 5.

There, on the top board, was Martin Luther Lewis, winning his game against Sigismund Hamel, with William Withers on board 5 scoring a draw. Hutchings wasn’t playing in this match but for the next decade he played regularly on a middle board for Leicester in matches against other midland clubs. EdoChess doesn’t rate him highly: between about 1600 and 1650: merely an average club player.

However, it’s always useful to have a bank manager in your club. As we in the present day Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club can testify, they make excellent treasurers, or, in the case of William Hutchings, it appears, auditors.

So here, then, we have someone who wasn’t an outstanding player, but who played an important role in the life of his club by taking part in matches regularly, serving on the committee and auditing their accounts.  One of the purposes of these articles is to demonstrate that average club players like Bill are just as important to the chess community as masters and grandmasters. I’m honoured to possess a book which he once owned. But how did it reach Hampton Wick?

The 1891 census finds William, Ann, their two children and two servants living in New Walk, Leicester.

From New Walk – Story of Leicester:

New Walk is a rare example of a Georgian pedestrian promenade. Laid out by the Corporation of Leicester in 1785, the walkway was intended to connect Welford Place with the racecourse (now Victoria Park) and is said to follow the line of a Roman trackway, the Via Devana. Originally named “Queen’s Walk”, after Queen Charlotte, consort of George III, it was eventually the popular name of the “New Walk” that survived. Almost a mile long, New Walk has been a Conservation Area since 1969, ensuring its unique character is protected.

Houses built at the lower end of New Walk in the 1820s were the first on the walkway and were designed as “genteel residences” for the families and servants of businessmen and professionals. Development was controlled however to protect the public’s enjoyment of the walkway. Houses had to be at least ten yards from the Walk, fenced off by iron railings, and there was no access for carriages onto New Walk itself. In 1840 one resident described New Walk as “the only solely respectable street in Leicester”.

The houses around central New Walk date from the 1850s and 1860s and would have been the homes of merchants, manufacturers and professionals. Residents in the 1880s included Josiah Gimson, head of a large engineering firm, whose home (No. 112) is now part of the Belmont Hotel.

Last to be developed along New Walk were the large Victorian houses of its upper section (dating from the 1880s). Many were designed by the architect Stockdale Harrison. They reflect the growing prosperity of Leicester’s business and professional classes who preferred to live away from the town centre.

So William was doing very well for himself, but a few years later he was on the move again. The 1901 census finds him in Sutton Coldfield, still working as a bank manager. His children have now left home, but he still employs two servants, one the appropriately named Alice Bishop. After 1894 his name disappears from the chess records, with one exception. In 1903 Blackburne gave one of his many simultaneous displays (we’ll visit others in later articles) at Birmingham Chess Club. This was William’s moment of chess glory: he was one of three players who managed to defeat the visiting master. Well played, Sir! It’s always good to go out on a high.

3 Walpole Road, Surbiton Source: Google Maps

It was soon time for him to hang up his cheque books and retire from managing banks. Where did he retire to? He sought the good life in Surbiton. The 1911 census finds him at 3 Walpole Road, just off the Upper Brighton Road, which I’ve passed many times on my way to chess matches. He’s there with his wife and, again, two servants: a parlourmaid and a cook.

He was probably unaware that a five minute walk down the road would take him to a boarding house named Mountcoombe, where he could have met another South Devon born chess enthusiast, the celebrated problemist Edith Baird.

So I’d imaging that William’s Staunton first edition found its way from Stoke on Trent to Surbiton via Leicester and Sutton Coldfield. I’m sure he’d have shown it to his antique dealer friend William Withers, who, you will recall, had played (and lost horribly) to my very distant relation Arthur Towle Marriott.

Perhaps his belongings were sold off after his death in 1923. Or perhaps the book was inherited by his son, a stockbroker, who had also moved down to London. In 1911 he was living in Old Deer Park Gardens, Richmond, just off Kew Road very close to the London Welsh Rugby Club where Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club used to meet. A 35 minute walk through the town centre, passing the location of William Harris’s chemist business, and over Richmond Bridge, would have taken him to the site of the recently demolished residence of Henry George Bohn, the publisher of his father’s book. By 1939 he’d moved 3/4 mile to the north, to Hatherley Road, Kew. I pass both these roads regularly on my way to Kew Gardens. William junior died in 1957, so perhaps Peter Elliott acquired the book at that point.

Thank you for the book, William Dobell Hutchings, and thank you also for your part in the history of our wonderful game. Your contribution might have been relatively modest, but it was still important, and without doubt valued by Martin Luther Lewis, William Withers and your other chess-playing Leicester friends.

I have a few other inscriptions in second-hand books to write about another time. If you have any yourself you’d like me to research, do get in touch and I’ll see what I can do.

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Minor Pieces 10: Henry George Bohn

We know that the first Richmond Chess Club only ran for a few years in the mid 1850s, seemingly disbanded when its prime mover, William Harris, left London.

Who were its other members? Howard Staunton and Johann Jacob Löwenthal were involved, but, one would imagine, they didn’t play an active part on a week to week basis. They enjoyed seeing their names in lights, while their connections and publicity through their magazine columns would have enhanced the club’s reputation and increased its membership.

It’s a reasonable assumption, given that the club met at his premises, that James Etherington was a member, but the only other name I’ve been able to find is that of Henry George Bohn.

A very interesting name it is, too. White I’ve no idea how strong a player he was, Henry played a very important role in the history of English chess.

Henry George Bohn
Source: www.twickenham-museum.org.uk

Henry George Bohn, born in London in 1796, the son of a German father and Scottish mother, was an art collector and publisher. In 1850 he’d moved into North End House, Twickenham, on the corner of Richmond Road and Crown Road, just opposite the Crown public house (highly recommended, but also very popular, so it can get pretty crowded on rugby days). He had a walk of just under a mile to reach his chess club, no problem for a healthy chap who, even at the age of 85, would be active enough to dance the quadrille on his lawn. The house was demolished in about 1897, and a parade of shops built in its place. I haven’t yet been able to find an illustration of North End (or Northend) House.

High Shot House, Twickenham
Source: www.twickenham-museum.org.uk

In 1873 he acquired High Shot House, on the other side of Crown Road. Walking back towards Twickenham he’d very soon have reached what is now the site of Orleans Park School, home of Richmond Junior Chess Club and the Richmond Rapidplays.

Bohn was a collector of rare plants, chinaware, ivory and fine art, including works by Dürer, Van Dyck, Bruegel, Memling and Raphael, and was working to catalogue his collection until a few days before his death in 1884.

His day job, though, was more significant for our story. Henry George Bohn was a publisher, best remembered for Bohn’s Libraries. According to Wikipedia, these were begun in 1846, targeted the mass market, and comprised editions of standard works and translations, dealing with history, science, classics, theology and archaeology.

He was also a friend of the aforementioned Howard Staunton, and was the publisher of most of his chess books.

First edition of Staunton’s Chess-player’s Handbook
(from the author’s collection)

By the time of the foundation of the first Richmond Chess Club he’d already published The Chess Player’s Handbook (1847), The Chess-player’s Companion (1849) and The Chess Tournament (1852). These would later be joined by Chess Praxis (1860). He had also written The Chess-player’s Text Book (1849), published by J. Jaques & Son, 102 Hatton Garden, to accompany their celebrated chess sets.

Staunton, en passant, also wrote on other subjects. His edition of the plays of Shakespeare was published by George Routledge and Co in 1858. George Routledge had founded his company twenty years earlier, and they’re still going strong today, best known for their academic books. They’ve also published a few chess books, most notably the series of Routledge Chess Handbooks cashing in on the Fischer boom in the 1970s, and, more recently, Fernand Gobet’s highly recommended book on the Psychology of Chess.

Staunton also wrote a book on The Great Schools of England, published by Sampson Low, Son, and Marston, Milton House, Ludgate Hill in 1865. Sampson Low and his son, also Sampson, had started their publishing company in 1848, although Sampson senior’s father, another Sampson, had himself published books in the 1790s, and in 1856, Edward Marston became a partner in the firm. Sampson Low, like Routledge, published several chess books over the years (this might well be the subject of a future article) before stopping publishing in 1969.

In 1981 what was then the parent company was bought up by the notorious Robert Maxwell, its assets were stripped, and, 200 years after the first Sampson Low published his first book, the company was wound up.

A few years later, George Low, a journalist, editor and publisher, and direct descendant of the original Sampson, found the records in Companies House in Cardiff and re-registered the company. George’s four sons, all of whom, as it happens, were members of Richmond Junior Chess Club in the 1970s-80s, are now directors of the family firm. (Do visit their website to find out more.) The eldest boy, yet another Sampson, maintained his interest in chess, returning to the game when his son started playing, and has recently been elected Secretary of Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club. His ancestor and namesake from more than 150 years ago, would have known Howard Staunton, the President of the original Richmond Chess Club. I hope Howard will be pleased to hear this: I’ll be in touch on Twitter to let him know.

Wheels within wheels. We are all connected.

Returning to Henry George Bohn, he had hoped that his sons would continue to grow his publishing business, but it became clear that they weren’t interested, so, in 1864, he sold his business to Messrs Bell and Daldy, who would later become George Bell & Sons. Bell took over Staunton’s chess books and decided that chess would be one of their specialities. They published many chess books over the years, including classic titles by Alekhine, Capablanca, Euwe, Nimzowitsch and many British authors, continuing to publish chess books up to the late 1970s, by which time their position as England’s leading chess publisher had been usurped by Batsford, In 1986, by then Bell & Hyman, they merged with George Allen & Unwin, and the name of George Bell disappeared from the publishing world.

George seems to have been the favoured name for publishers: apart from being Bohn’s middle name, we’ve met Routledge, Bell, Allen and even Low!

The Bell inheritance, all those great Bell chess books which anyone of my generation or earlier will have grown up on and learnt from, originated with Henry George Bohn, art collector, publisher, friend of Howard Staunton  – and member of the original Richmond Chess Club.

Next time you’re in Richmond Road, Twickenham, drop in at The Crown and drink a toast to Henry, the man who planted the seed which led to England’s preeminence as publishers of fine chess books.

Sources:
Wikipedia: Henry George Bohn
Twickenham Museum: Henry George Bohn

 

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Putting the Record Straight: Answering John Reyes and Mike Truran

Putting the Record Straight: Answering John Reyes and Mike Truran

Statement by Malcolm Pein, 20th September, 2021
For British Chess News / Immediate Release

The recent message from ECF Silver Members’ Representative John Reyes, posted on the forum is such an awful misrepresentation of my position that I can only conclude it’s deliberately designed to mislead. It’s quite an intellectual leap for John Reyes to read my election address, which lists, as the first possible use of the BCF Legacy assets as:

‘1) To build the reserves to an amount specified by the Finance Committee, likely £100,000’ and allege that I intend to, and I quote the Silver Members’ rep here:

“If you feel you want to blow the pif funds and spend money on development officers till the money is gone and it’s will vote (sic) for Malcolm but if you want the chess trust to kept (sic) hold of the money and used calculated and logic risk (sic), then vote for Mike”

Perhaps John couldn’t work out that I was referring to the ECF reserves which had shrunk to a dangerously low level of 33K last time the Board were updated. I am proposing allocating about 20% of the legacy assets (circa £200K) to reserves and then about 20% into engaging Development Officers with a well-defined role that includes fund raising.

As for his:

“Malcolm wants to transfer circa £200K into the ECF from the BCF/PIF according to his Election Address, how much of that would be needlessly lost to tax?”

Obviously I have considered this. I will shortly publish a road map of how these assets can be deployed to the benefit of the ECF while minimising any tax liability. We are fortunate to have an ECF NED who is a tax lawyer and I have been consulting him on this matter.
Silver Members really deserve better representation.

I would also like to set the record straight about a number of misleading statements sent out by Mike Truran in a ‘message to Council members’ on Sunday 19th September which do not stand up to basic fact-checking.

FACT-CHECK #1: Mike Truran claims that funds transferred to charitable funds outside ECF control are subject to more oversight.
NOT TRUE – It’s different oversight. ECF nominees to the Chess Trust & the John Robinson Youth Chess Trust are not accountable for how they spend funds to the ECF Board & Council. I will be proposing safeguards for any future transfers of BCF legacy assets to the Chess Trust.

In contrast, the spending of funds held directly by the ECF is democratically controlled by the ECF Board, ECF Council & the ECF Finance Committee.

FACT-CHECK #2: Mike Truran claims that I plan to use the Permanent Invested Funds transferred from the trust funds back to ECF control on “uncosted tactical adventures.”
NOT TRUE – All of my proposals to develop & grow English chess will be carefully costed out & put to the Board & PIF Trustees and run alongside a fund-raising campaign to generate income from private sponsors and government – a desperately-needed campaign that has been noticeable by its absence under this CEO.

FACT-CHECK #3: Mike Truran claims that the existence of three employees of the non-profit educational charity Chess in Schools and Communities on the 12-member ECF Board would represent a threat to good governance.
NOT TRUE: Firstly, only 2 CSC candidates are standing for voting Director positions, the other stands for Chair of Governance. Mike seems to be a little forgetful if not hypocritical here. If it is a governance problem having ECF directors from the same organisation, why was this not raised at any time in the three years prior to October 2020, when three 4NCL Directors (Mike Truran, Alex Holowczak and David Thomas) sat simultaneously on the ECF Board?
Also, as an educational charity, CSC is mainly focused on teaching chess in primary schools, it rarely interfaces with the ECF, while 4NCL is a for-profit private limited company, whose leagues and congresses compete to an extent with ECF events and already give it lots of votes at ECF Council.

FACT-CHECK #4: Mike Truran claims that I recently stated I would hand over to a new CEO after a ‘time-limited period,’ rather than serve a full term in office.
NOT TRUE: Of course, if elected I intend to serve the full term. This may refer to an email exchange from July 28, nearly two months ago, at a very early stage of negotiations between me, Mike and the Non-Executive Directors, when I thought it was still possible to reach a compromise on the way forward without a contested election. I made strenuous efforts to reach agreement with Mike, but his rejection of every offer to meet him halfway has left me no option but to stand for CEO to achieve the objectives that I believe are in the best interest of English chess.

There are, however, two circumstances in which I would consider leaving the post early:

1) Arkady Dvorkovich decides it was all a mistake, he wants to jack it in and he asks me to replace him as FIDE President.
2) Everton win the Premier League.

Place your bets.

ENDS

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Battle of Endgames: 1066 Stratagems for you to Conquer

Battle of Endgames, Ray Cannon, Amazon, 9th June, 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 979-8518031715
Battle of Endgames, Ray Cannon, Amazon, 9th June, 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 979-8518031715

From the back cover:

The author has written what he believes to be an original book on the endgame, using a play on words for the title based on the historic battle of Hastings in 1066 which involved William the Conqueror.
*****

Ray Cannon, a familiar frequenter of chess tournaments in London and elsewhere, has condensed his copious knowledge into an enjoyably instructive compendium of endgame positions. In tune with the Victorian notion of learning via fun, the reader cannot help but absorb the endgame stratagems that recur in the examples given and emerge as a better player without any conscious effort.

The endgame is a prime arena for the emergence of error through lack of practice, and even elite grandmasters can miss the unsuspected anti-intuitive resource that would have secured the rescue draw or shock win. I would go so far as to say this book would benefit master-standard players. Studying it has all the value of learning one’s times tables but without the repetitive drudgery! The end result is the same: increased knowledge.

Julian Simpole

Jimmy Adams and Ray Cannon at a 2012 meeting in Norwich of the Ken Whyld Association

My good friend Ray Cannon, who was, for many years, an invaluable part of the coaching team at Richmond Junior Club, has written a book which will be useful for all club standard players.

With faster time limits and online play now the norm, endings play a vital part in 21st century chess. A good knowledge of endgame theory and tactics is a fundamental requirement for all serious players.

From the author’s introduction:

Positions in this book have been taken from various sources including my collection of newspaper cuttings that go back to the 1970’s, books, magazines, websites and even from games I had witnessed personally at tournaments. Many have been modified for reasons of clarity and a few I have composed myself. Most of the positions have annotated solutions unless the moves are self-explanatory.

The 1066 diagram positions can be played out against a computer or an opponent but they are best solved using a chess set. You are invited to write down your choice of move for each position on the pages provided before looking up the answers. On the other hand, you may simply prefer to enjoy the instructive content of this book by dipping in and out of its pages.

Endgames may give the appearance of being easy  but even the world’s best players misplay them from time to time and some of these missed opportunities from practical play are included among the 1066 stratagems.

The majority of the puzzles are elementary but there are a few that are quite difficult. When solving them, you will detect familiar methods of play. Knowledge of these is often referred to as pattern recognition and this is an important component of learning and improving at chess. 

So what you get is 1066 endgame puzzles, or stratagems as Ray prefers to call them. It’s White’s move in positions 1 to 728, and Black’s move in positions 729 to 1066. In each position you’re told whether you’re trying to win or draw, and you know that there’s only one move to achieve your aim.

A few fairly random examples chosen simply by turning to a random page will show you what to expect. I’ll give the answers at the end of the review.

Q482 is a neat draw: White to play.

Q497 is of practical value. Endings with R + f&h pawns against R are very often drawn. How can White win here?

Q533, halfway through the book, has more pieces on the board (too many for an endgame?) and demonstrates the need to know your mating patterns. White to play and win again.

If you enjoyed these puzzles, you’ll certainly enjoy the rest of the book. If you think your students will enjoy these puzzles, you’ll also want to buy this book.

It’s self-published via Amazon so the production qualities are not quite up to the standard you’d expect from leading chess book publishers. However, the diagrams and text are both clear.

Ray has chosen to print the ‘Black to play’ puzzles with the 8th rank at the bottom of the board: not what I or most authors would have chosen but I can see why he did it. There’s a slight problem, though, in that the diagrams are without coordinates, which can make things slightly confusing in positions with few pawns on the board. (The diagrams in the answers to the ‘Black to play’ do have coordinates, though.) I understand the next edition will use diagrams with coordinates throughout.

You might also prefer to write your answers under the diagrams rather than in the pages provided for this purpose at the beginning of the book. I’d also have welcomed an index by material so that I could quickly locate, for example, pawn endings or rook endings.

These are just personal preferences, though. The quality of material is excellent (all positions have been thoroughly engine checked) and Ray Cannon should be congratulated for his efforts in producing a highly instructive puzzle book.

A basic knowledge of endgame theory is assumed, so I would consider the book ideal for anyone rated between about 1500 and 2000, although some of the puzzles will be challenging for stronger players.

Richard James, Twickenham, 17th September 2021

Richard James
Richard James

Answers:
Q482: 1. f7+ Qxf7 2. Bb3 Qxb3 is stalemate. Or 1… Kxf7 2. Bh5+. In just two moves we have a fork, a skewer, a pin and a stalemate.

Q497: 1. Rg5+ Kxg5 (or 1… Kxh6 2. Rg8) 2. h7 Re1+ 3. Kd6 Rd1+ 4. Ke7 Rh1 5. f8Q wins (as long as you know how to win with queen against rook!)

Q533:  1. Re8+ Rxe8 2. Nf6 Ra7 3. Rxa7 Re7 4. Rxe7 a1Q 5. Rh7# – an Arabian Mate!

You can buy the book on Amazon here.

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B096TTR6RB
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Independently published (9 Jun. 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 248 pages
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 979-8518031715
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 15.6 x 1.42 x 23.39 cm
Battle of Endgames, Ray Cannon, Amazon, 9th June, 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 979-8518031715
Battle of Endgames, Ray Cannon, Amazon, 9th June, 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 979-8518031715
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Remembering IMC James Adams (04-ix-1921 27-vii-2013)

IMC James Adams (04-ix-1921 27-vii-2013)
IMC James Adams (04-ix-1921 27-vii-2013)

BCN remembers IMC James Adams who passed away aged 91 on July 27th, 2013 in Worcester Park, Kingston Upon Thames, Surrey.

James Frederick Adams was born on September 4th, 1921 in Lambeth. His parents were James J Adams (DoB: 10th October 1884) who was a plumber’s mate and Lucy M Adams (née Ayres, DoB: 22nd December 1886). He had an older brother who was William A Adams who was also a plumber’s mate and and Uncle George T (DoB: 8th March 1882) who was the plumber who presumably had many mates.

At the time of the 1939 register James was a telephone operator.

The Adams family lived at 52, Broadway Gardens, Mitcham, Surrey, CR4 4EE (rather than 001 Cemetery Lane)

52, Broadway Gardens, Mitcham, Surrey, CR4 4EE
52, Broadway Gardens, Mitcham, Surrey, CR4 4EE

From CHESS, 1991, March, page 91 we have:

“Whatever Happened to Human Effort?

I am giving up postal chess after 57 years for the reason that, like Jonathan Penrose and recently Nigel Short, I am increasingly disturbed over the increase in the use of computers in correspondence play. It is impossible to prove but one has the feeling that many opponents see nothing wrong in using a machine and I see no pleasure in having to bash one’s brains out against a computer. I am happy in the knowledge that I won my FIDE IM title long before dedicated chess computers were ever heard of. I shudder to think of the proliferation in the use of computers in a competition like the World CC Championship. I don’t wonder that Penrose objects.

Unfortunately, this is the sort of thing against which it is impossible to legislate. The BCCA has banned their use but it doesn’t mean a thing.

The latest monstrosity is where Kasparov plays a match against another GM and both are allowed to use computers whilst the game is in progress. To me, this is absolutely shocking. Dr. Nunn admits to the use of computers in the compilation of one of his books and I see that even ordinary annotators use a programme like Fritz to assist with their notes to a game. What happened to human effort?

Anyway, I have about five postal games left in progress and when they are finished I will call it a day.

Jim Adams
Worcester Park, Surrey

So who was Jim Adams?

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

The smoke-laden atmosphere of the chess rooms of St. Bride’s Institute, in the heart of the City of London, could hardly be considered a positive encouragement to any ambitions to become an International Master, but certainly this was so in my case. Let me explain the sequence of events.

Face-to-face, or over-the-board chess, had been my main interest since my war-time days as a member of the Civil Defence. Passing time between air-raids led to the adoption of many pastimes and an absorbing game such as chess was ideal. Fortunately for me, one of my ambulance station colleagues was a very fine player named A. F. (Algy) Battersby, later to become General Secretary of the British Correspondence Chess Association.

He had spent the greater part of the First World War playing chess in the Sinai Desert and, with his tremendous experience, he brought to the game strategical ideas and tactical skills that, in those early days, were well beyond my comprehension.

Arthur Frank Battersby, BIRTH 2 JUN 1887 • Brixton, Surrey, England  DEATH 11 APR 1955 • Surrey, England
Arthur Frank Battersby, BIRTH 2 JUN 1887 • Brixton, Surrey, England DEATH 11 APR 1955 • Surrey, England

‘Algy’ was kind enough to say some years afterwards that I was ‘the best pupil he ever had’, but whether this was true or not, he certainly passed on to me the theoretical groundwork that was to be so useful to me in later years. Among other books, he encouraged me to purchase the Nimzowitch classic My System, with the kindly warning that I would not understand it at first reading but would perhaps get some grasp of the ideas at a second or third attempt.

My System was a revelation to me and proved to be the greatest help to an understanding of the game that I had ever received. Up to my fortuitous meeting with ‘Algy’, my games had been of a simple tactical nature. Pieces were left en prise, oversights and blunders were the order of the day and an actual checkmate came as a surprise not only to the loser but often to the winner as well!

To win a game through sheer strength of position was completely unknown to me, but ‘Algy’ and Nimzowitch changed all that! Under their combined influence my general playing strength improved enormously and I was soon second only to ‘Algy’ in such tournaments as were held in my home town of Mitcham, where the local chess club was revived after the war.

Our club soon attracted a few strong players and we played regularly in county competitions and, later, the London Chess League. During those years chess was an absolute joy to me and all my spare time was spent at the local club or at chess matches, whilst Saturday afternoons were spent at the now defunct Gambit Chess Room, in Budge Row, where I passed countless hours playing chess, pausing only to order light refreshment from the indefatigable ‘Eileen’, a waitress of somewhat uncertain age who almost certainly regarded all chess players as raving lunatics!

The ‘Gambit’ could never have been a viable commercial proposition on what we bought and it was eventually thought necessary to introduce a minimum charge depending on the time of day. Gone for ever were the days when one could spend the entire evening playing chess, analysing, or having a crack at the local Kriegspiel experts, all for the price of two cups of tea and the occasional sandwich. Sadly, it all disappeared in the aftermath of the
war.

By 1950 I had become Match Captain of the Mitcham Chess Club and, of course, responsible for arranging various matches. Getting a team together was not difficult as the club membership was quite large for such a lowly club. The playing standard too was surprisingly high and whilst I, myself, was fortunate enough to win the club championship several times it was never easy.

On one occasion a ‘friendly’ match had been arranged with the BBC and all was well until a ‘flu epidemic a few days before the date of the match laid most of the Mitcham players low. On the morning of the match I was left with five players for a 1O-board match! As it was only a ‘friendly’ and in order to avoid disappointing all concerned I took myself off to the Gambit and recruited a few of the ‘regulars’ to help us out. It must be remembered that most of the strongest players in London frequented the ‘Gambit’ and since those pressganged into service were extremely strong players it seemed only courteous to give them the honour of playing on the top five boards, leaving the Mitcham ‘stars’ who, coincidentally, were our usual top board players, to bring up the rear.

Now this composite team, in my judgement, was probably good enough to win the London League A Division and it was no surprise when we won 10-0. Only a friendly indeed! Any Match Captain would have given his queen’s rook for such a team but, whilst the BBC players were warned beforehand of the composition of our team, they were not amused and further matches were not arranged!

Mr A Corish (right), receives the Chess Champion cup from Mr J Adams. 18th September 1958 from the Merton Advertiser, Photographer unknown.
Mr A Corish (right), receives the Chess Champion cup from Mr J Adams. 18th September 1958 from the Merton Advertiser, Photographer unknown.

Round about this time I was playing regularly in London League matches, nearly all of which were held at St. Bride’s Institute, where my story began. A non-smoker myself, I found the conditions intolerable. The place seemed to be completely airless and Government warnings about the dangers of smoking did not exist! not exist! Consequently, the entire playing area was reminiscent of the Black Hole of Calcutta! Always susceptible to headaches, I began to return home physically ill after every match. If this was playing chess for pleasure then something was wrong!

Mr A Corish (right), receives the Chess Champion cup from Mr J Adams. 18th September 1958 from the Merton Advertiser, Photographer unknown.
Mr A Corish (right), receives the Chess Champion cup from Mr J Adams. 18th September 1958 from the Merton Advertiser, Photographer unknown.

However, salvation was at hand. Ever since the war I had been playing a few games by post under the auspices of the BCCA (British Correspondence Chess Association ), and my somewhat traumatic experiences at St. Bride’s were beginning to make postal chess a far more attractive way of playing the
game. And so my chess career started all over again!

My correspondence chess activities up to the 1960s were not particularly successful, although I had managed to win three Premier Sections and finish
equal third in the British Correspondence Championship of 1962-63. However, during that time a group of BCCA players, of whom I was one, were
becoming somewhat dissatisfied with the Association’s attitude towards international chess and eventually a splinter group formed a rival organization which became known as the British Correspondence Chess Society.

The BCCS was, almost from the start, internationally orientated and it was possible to play foreign players, many of master strength. With strong opposition it seemed easier to improve and my first real success came in the Eberhardt Wilhelm Cup in 1966-67 when I was able to obtain the lM norm giving me a half=master title. However, gone were the days when a superficial analysis was enough before posting a move, which even if it was not the best, was generally good enough to hold one’s own with even the best of British CC players at that time. Fortunately for British chess, the situation is now vastly different and the strongest British CC players are recognized as being among the best in the world.

The Eberhardt Wilhelm Cup consisted of players all of master or near-master strength and it was in one of the games I played in this tournament that I played probably the most surprising move of my life.

To win the full IM title involved getting one more IM norm and happily for my prospects, I was selected for the British team in both the Olympiad Preliminary of 1972 and the European Team Championships of 1973.

Although I was trifle unlucky to miss the IM norm by half a point in the European Championship I finally clinched the coveted IM title in the Olympiad Preliminary which, although starting a few months before the European tournament, went on so long that I was in suspense long after the European games finished.

One of my most interesting games in the European Team Championship of 1973 was against F. Grzeskowiak, himself an IM and a feared attacking player.

Here is a discussion of James Adams on the English Chess Forum initiated by Matt Mackenzie (Millom, Cumbria)

Here is his entry on the ICCF web site.

Here is his entry from chessgames.com

39 Games of James Adams (27) of thirty nine of his games.

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Minor Pieces 9: William Harris

This is the first of what will be many posts considering the history of chess clubs in Richmond, Twickenham and surrounding areas.

If you’re good, I’ll tell you another story as well.

The first chess club in Richmond dates back to the year 1853.

Here’s the Illustrated London News from 26 March.

In fact the meeting eventually took place at Richmond Town Hall, which would, about 120 years later, host a different Richmond Chess Club. Howard Staunton and Johann Jacob Löwenthal were present, and Staunton delivered, at some length, an address pointing out ‘the advantages arising from the cultivation of an elegant and thoughtful recreation like chess’.

The Illustrated London News reported on 23 April:

The club seemed to be going well: in November Staunton advised T.R.D. of Twickenham that the game he played at Richmond Chess Club would have attention. If you have any idea of the identity of T.R.D., please get in touch.

In January 1854, Staunton replied to ‘Gustavus’, of Eton: ‘You should join the Richmond Chess-club, which is rapidly increasing in members, and is likely, in a year or two, to be one of the most influential chess societies out of London. The secretary is Mr. Harris, chemist and druggist, of Richmond, and from him you must procure the information required.’ In March, always eager to oblige, he advised ‘Query’ to ‘join the Chess-club at Richmond, which is immediately in your neighbourhood, and rapidly rising into note’. In May, he instructed ‘Albert’ of Surbiton to ‘join the Richmond Chess club and you can then have the practice you require’. In September he informed ‘Wolsey’ of Hampton Court that ‘the Richmond Chess-club meets at Etherington’s-rooms every Monday and Friday evening’. F.R.S., of Twickenham, was given the same information in November.

The Etheringtons were a prominent musical family in Richmond and Twickenham for much of the 19th century, and in the latter half occupied various premises in Hill Street.

Things then went quiet for a year, until, in November 1855, when Staunton told J.T.W., of Kingston that there was a very good chess club in Richmond, and that he should apply to Mr Harris.

In 1856, Löwenthal, in The Era, joined in. In March he told F.C., of Kew: ‘You should join the Richmond Chess Club, the Hon. Sec., W. Harris Esq., will provide you with the requisite information.’

On 18 May, he published a letter from Mr Harris.

After that, we hear no more. It looks like the club folded very soon afterwards.

To speculate on what happened, we need to find out more about W Harris.

We can pick him up in the 1851 census where we find William Harris and his family at 2 Hill Street, Richmond. This seems to have been on the corner of Red Lion Street, where Waterstone’s will now sell you some chess books.

William was born in about 1813 in Shelton, Bedfordshire, and, in 1841, married Ann Walker in Wollaston, Northamptonshire, a few miles south of Wellingborough. Ann had been born in Little Harrowden, the other side of Wellingborough, in 1816. (Paradoxically, Little Harrowden is much larger than its neighbour Great Harrowden.) Ann’s parents had died when she was young and she was adopted by family members in Wollaston.

In 1851 their children were Eliza Sophia, Anne Agnes, Louisa Amelia, William Alfred Philidor and baby Helen Hectorina. Only a real chess addict would name his son Philidor! Another son, Arthur Edward was born in 1853, but by 1857, when their youngest daughter, Emmeline Julia, was born, they’d moved. They were no longer in Richmond, but back in Wollaston, the village where they had married. And Will had changed his job: he was no longer a chemist and druggist, but a farmer.

What was the reason for the move? Perhaps his business had failed. Perhaps the farm was an inheritance. Perhaps they needed to return to Ann’s family. Who knows.

Anyway, it seems that, when they moved, in late 1856 or early 1857, the first Richmond Chess Club folded. Staunton’s prediction that it would become one of the most influential chess societies out of London, didn’t come to pass. It’s the same old story, isn’t it? A club is only as good as its organisers, and, when the club secretary departs there’s no one there to keep it going. It would be a long time before there was another chess club in Richmond.

In April 1858 an old friend paid him a visit. Here’s Löwenthal in The Era (18 April 1858):

There’s much of interest here. It’s good to know that Löwenthal played with several ladies, finding that two of them had ‘great aptitude for the game’.

It’s also good to know that Mr Harris ‘has often engaged with players like Brian (sic: presumably Brien was intended), Fonblanque, Medley and Löwenthal, and produced some fine games’ and that ‘were opportunity afforded him for practice with antagonists of superior force he would certainly rise to eminence among the amateurs of country clubs.

It sounds, then, that William Harris was a pretty good player, but that opportunity was never offered him. He continued farming for the rest of his life, dying in Wollaston in 1881. But back in the 1850s he was clearly a significant figure in the chess world. I haven’t been able to find any games or results, though. If you have any information, do let me know.

What happened to his children? His two sons followed in his footsteps, both becoming farmers. Of his daughters, Sophia seems to have died young, but no death record has been found, Helen died in infancy, and Emmeline at the age of 12. Anne and Louisa both married and emigrated to North America.

I decided to look into some of his Northamptonshire friends. The Reverend Alexander William Griesbach, Curate of Wollaston, is particularly interesting. (Note that ‘curate’ was a much more significant title within the church then than it is today: Alex was a parish priest rather than an assistant.) He was born in Windsor, but his family, of German ancestry, were from Bath where they were good friends of the very important Herschel family. William, when he wasn’t busy discovering Uranus, was a composer whose music is still sometimes played today, and his sister Caroline, a pioneer female scientist, was also a significant astronomer. If you’re not familiar with their story, do check it out.

I also decided to look up B Dulley Esq. It turns out he was Benjamin Dulley, a doctor and general practitioner. We can pick him up in the 1851 census, aged 44, living with his wife Fanny and two daughters, Mary Elizabeth and Helen. He employs two house servants, Sarah Saddington and Elizabeth Earle, and a groom, George Stock. The rather unusual toponymic surname Saddington was very familiar to me, as was Sarah’s birthplace, Great Bowden, Leicestershire.

I promised you another story if you were good, and here it is.

Georgie Porgie pudding and pie
Kissed the girls and made them cry.

Sarah lived a long life, dying a spinster in her late 80s. She spent most of her life, apart from a short time in service to Ben Dulley (was he perhaps known as Dull Benny?) in her home village of Great Bowden, very close to Market Harborough, and not far from the village of Saddington from where she gained her surname. She had a niece named Elizabeth Saddington.

The Leicester Chronicle 25 October 1862 reported: “George Smith, of Great Bowden, charged with neglecting to pay 19s. 6d., that amount being due towards the support of the illegitimate child of Elizabeth Saddington for thirteen weeks, was ordered to pay the same and 3s. 6d. costs.”

That child was Fanny Smith Saddington, who had been born in 1855. Elizabeth would sadly die of chlorosis, a form of anaemia, the following year. At the time he kissed Liz and made her cry George was a widower, his wife, Alice Lois Flint, having died in 1853. They had had two daughters, Eliza, who died at the age of 6, and Sophia, who later emigrated to America. But Fanny wasn’t Georgie’s only illegitimate child. He had previously had a relationship with a slightly older girl named Eliza Carter. They had had two children, Elizabeth Smith Carter (1841) and Henry Smith Carter (1842). Quite a lad was our Georgie, by the sound of it. Henry died in infancy, but Elizabeth had a very long life and a very large family. How do I know all this? Elizabeth Smith Carter was my great grandmother. Perhaps I’ll tell you more another time.

There you have it. If Georgie Smith hadn’t kissed Eliza Carter I wouldn’t be here to tell the story of how his future squeeze Elizabeth’s Aunt Sarah had worked for a friend of the secretary of the first Richmond Chess Club.

 

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Smyslov, Bronstein, Geller, Taimanov and Averbakh: A Chess Multibiography with 220 Games

Smyslov, Bronstein, Geller, Taimanov and Averbakh: A Chess Multibiography with 220 Games, Andrew Soltis, McFarland Books, February 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1476677934
Smyslov, Bronstein, Geller, Taimanov and Averbakh: A Chess Multibiography with 220 Games, Andrew Soltis, McFarland Books, February 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1476677934

From the publisher’s blurb :

“A crucial decision spared chess Grandmaster David Bronstein almost certain death at the hands of the Nazis—one fateful move cost him the world championship.

Russian champion Mark Taimanov was a touted as a hero of the Soviet state until his loss to Bobby Fischer all but ruined his life.

Yefim Geller’s dream of becoming world champion was crushed by a bad move against Fischer, his hated rival.

Yuri Averbakh had no explanation how he became the world’s oldest grandmaster, other than the quixotic nature of fate.

Vasily Smyslov, the only one of the five to become world champion, would reign for just one year—fortune, he said, gave him pneumonia at the worst possible time. This book explores how fate played a capricious role in the lives of five of the greatest players in chess history.”

GM Andrew Soltis
GM Andrew Soltis

“Grandmaster Andy Soltis, eight times champion of the Marshall Chess Club, New York Post editor and Chess Life columnist, is the author of dozens of chess books. He lives in New York City. He is the author of many books, including Pawn Structure Chess, 365 Chess Master Lessons and What it Takes to Become a Chess Master”

 

From the author’s preface:

In this book I explored the interlocking careers of five men with a focus on the prime years when they might have become champion. Only one succeeded. But they represented an extraordinary class. All five men were ranked among the world’s top 11 players when Vasily Smyslov became champion. All five players were ranked in the world’s top 20 players for the next decade.

This book is a companion to my Tal, Petrosian, Spassky and Korchnoi and, like it, it pays tribute to the remarkable personal lives of great players during a remarkable era. They were not only competing with one another for the highest reward chess can offer. They were trying to survive in a brutal Soviet system. They lived through the Great Terror – which directly touched the lives of David Bronstein, Yuri Averbakh, Vasily Smyslov and Mark Taimanov – and World War II, which deeply affected them all.

Here, then, we have a group biography of five leading Soviet grandmasters, all born between 1921 and 1926. As Soltis explains, this was both a good time and place, and a bad time and place to be born. They grew up within a strong chess culture, where their talents were, albeit with deprivations during World War II and many restrictions in the brutal Soviet regime, allowed to flourish.

Smyslov became world champion, and Bronstein came very close. The other three were all world championship candidates, and, had things worked out slightly differently, Taimanov and Geller might have come closer to the title than they did.

Perhaps Smyslov, whose father was a strong player, would always have discovered chess, although, had his life turned out differently, he could have had a career as an opera singer. Taimanov, as is well known, did in fact have a parallel career as a pianist, performing with his first wife, Lyubov Bruk.

In another life, Bronstein would have been a mathematician and Averbakh a scientist. Geller was, in several ways, the outlier of the group. Unlike the others, he was a late developer, so only joins the story after several years and chapters have passed. Unlike the others, also, he seems to have had, apart from sports, no interests outside chess, even though he worked as an aircraft engineer and studied political economy at university.

As you’d expect, there’s a lot of high quality and instructive chess within these pages. Here are a few, fairly random, examples.

Taimanov and Bronstein adjourned this position, with White to move, in a 1946 Soviet Championship Semi-Final. Bronstein and Averbakh were staying at the same hotel, and set up the position on a board.

Soltis takes up the story.

Taimanov was so sure of victory that he told Bronstein he had sealed 1. Ra7+ and showed him how he would win after 1… Kh6 2. Rb7!. That looked convincing: 2… Ng3 3. Rb3 Nh5 (3… Nf5 4. Kf6) 4. Rh3! and then 4… Kg7 5. f5 Kf7 6. f6! wins. “But what if I retreat the king to f8?” Bronstein asked Averbakh. 

The next day was free from play so they analyzed 1… Kf8 during it. They realized that if White traded pawns too quickly the result would be a position know  to be drawable since an ancient game Neumann – Steinitz, Baden-Baden 1870. White did not seem to have a forcing win after 1… Kf8. But 2. Rd7! was a good waiting move. Then 2… Ke8 3. Rh7 Kf8 4. f5 would lose. So would 2… Ng7 3. Kf6 Nh5+ 4. Kg5! or 2… Ng3 3. Kf6.

This was discouraging. Bronstein and Averbakh looked at 2… Kg8 and unfortunately found 3. Ke6! Nf4+ 4. Kf6!. The clever king triangulation wins after 4… Nh5+ 5. Kxg6 Nf4+ 6. Kg5 Ne6+ 7. Kf6! Nf4 8. Rd4 Nh5+ 9. Kg6. Or 8… Ne2 9. Rg4+ Kf8 10 .Ra4 Kg8 11. Kg6 Kf8 12. Rc4 Ng3 13. Rc3 and so on. They kept analyzing  and found that 3… Kf8 was no better than 3… Nxf4+ because of 4. Rf7+! Ke8 5. Rf6! or 4… Kg8 5. Ke7.

It was all so elegant and, simultaneously, depressing. “David didn’t know what to do, to be happy or sad,” Averbakh remembered. “Of course, it’s painful to know you have a forced loss. But what an interesting path to victory!” And, besides, they were both proud to have solved such a mysterious endgame.”

When the game was resumed, Taimanov played 1. Ra7+ Kf8! 2. f5? gxf5 and drew along the lines of the Neumann – Steinitz game. 

As a result of this experience, Averbakh decided that he could combine his interests in science and chess by conducting research into technical endings such as this – and he would later become known as perhaps the world’s leading authority on endgames.

The games are expertly chosen, for their excellence, excitement, historical or sporting significance, and annotated in Soltis’s signature narrative style.

Some of them will be familiar to readers with a prior knowledge of games of the period, but others will be unfamiliar to most.

Look, for instance, at a couple of games from a secret training tournament held in the Georgian town of Gagra in 1953.

This is the game between Geller and Smyslov. Geller had outplayed the future world champion in the opening and early middle game, but his last move was an oversight. The last moves had been 25. Bb2-e5? Qc7-b6 26. Nf3xg5?.

Here’s Soltis:

This would have won after 25… Qa5? because of Qh5; e.g., 25… Qa5? 26. Nxg5! Nxd5 27. Qh5! and mates. In the diagram Geller must have expected to win after, for example, 26… Bxg5 27. Qh5! Bh6 28. Rg3!. Or 27… Re7 28. Be4! g6 29. Bxg6 Rxg2 30. Bf7+ Kf8 31. Bg7+!. 26… Nxd5! 27. cxd5  But he had overlooked 27. Qh5 Qb1+ 28. Kg2 Qg6!. No recovery is possible.

I have a couple of small issues with this. I find the back-referencing – something Soltis often does – slightly confusing. I’d have preferred the variation given in the first sentence here as a note to Black’s 25th move. He also fails to mention that Geller would still have been better in the game after 26. Rb2!, when a nice variation is 26… h6 27. Nh4! gxh4 28. Qh5!, with a winning attack.

Smyslov went on to win a few moves later.

Here, from the same tournament, is a position from the exciting game between Taimanov and Averbakh, with Black to make his 38th move.

Now 38… b1Q would make a draw likely, after 39. Rxb1 Rxa4 (40. Rh1?? Ra2+ and 39. Qxb1 c2!). 38… f5?? 39. d7! c2 40. d8Q+! (The final shift would have been 40. dxc8Q+? Rxc8 41. Qxf5 c1Q and Black wins. 40… Qxd8 41. Qxd8+ Kg7 42. Qg5+ Black resigns

(Taimanov, in his notes to this game, claimed White was winning the diagrammed position, failing to mention the draw after b1Q or to query 38… f5.)

Soltis, as so often, has an anecdote at hand to add colour and context.

The secrecy surrounding these training tournaments was deeply felt. Alexey Suetin recalled how one of the Gagra players showed him a remarkable game but “outright refused to give the names of the players” or the tournament results. “Such was the Stalist regime,” he said. Even when he wrote this, in 1993, Suetin refused to say who showed him the game. It was too dangerous.

In 1957 Bronstein was invited to a major tournament in Dallas, with the highest prize fund of any US tournament since New York 1927, but, according to Soltis, the State Department refused him a visa, apparently in retaliation for Soviet treatment of U.S. citizens seeking to travel in the USSR.

Instead, he had to make to with a weaker tournament in East Germany, where he reached this position with white against Bilek.

Soltis, again:

Bronstein has a deliciously subtle threat: 34. a4 would force the b6-rook to make a choice. Then 34… Rc6 would allow 35. Bf4 and Rb1-b8+. And 34… Rb3 would weaken f6 so that 35. Bh6! threatens 36. Qh7+ (35… Kf8 36. Qxf6+). 33… Kf8 34. g3 Re2 35. Bc1 Qe7 36. Kg2! There is no defence to 37. Rh1, 38. Rh7 and Bh6. The game could also end with 36… Re1 37. Rxe1 Qxe1 38. Ba3+. 36… Rc6 37. Rh1 Rxc3 38. Bf4 Ra3 39. Rc1! Black resigns.

(Bronstein has other threats in the diagrammed position: g3, Kg2 and Rh1 as happened later in the game, and also Bc1-a3. It takes older engines some time to realise White has anything more than a slight advantage, but Stockfish 14 immediately tells you almost any reasonable move is crushing.)

The narrative stops rather suddenly at the end of 1973, at which point our protagonists were in middle age and starting an inexorable decline. Unexpectedly, though, Smyslov would make another challenge for the world championship in his sixties. The remainder of their lives is chronicled relatively briefly.

What we have here is, as anyone familiar with this publisher will expect, a handsome hardback which will look good on any bookshelf. It covers an important and endlessly fascinating period of chess history, and is full of interesting (for all sorts of reasons) games, well researched and sourced history, entertaining and enlightening anecdotes and evocative photographs.

At the end of the book we have some useful appendices and other material. First, a chronology taking us through almost a century from Smyslov’s birth in 1921 through to Averbakh (still alive as I write this at the age of 99) playing a 4-year-old in 2017. Then, the rankings (from Chessmetrics) of the players between January 1939 and January 1979. We have chapter notes and a bibliography: everything is fully sourced, using Russian and English language periodicals and a wide range of books. There are frequent contradictions between sources, and the players also contradicted themselves from time to time: all this is explained in the text. Finally indexes of opponents and openings, and a general index.

It would have been ideal if the games had been presented more spaciously and with a lot more diagrams to enable readers to follow them from the page. It would also have been preferable to print the photographs on glossy rather than matt paper. Of course, given the nature of the book, such luxuries are inevitably out of the question. It would, however, have benefitted from another run through to pick up typos, of which there are more than should be expected in a scholarly work of this nature. I suspect, for example, that Keres told Taimanov he was playing like Liszt rather than List.

Nevertheless, this is an outstanding book which can be highly recommended to anyone interested in this period of chess history. If you’ve read Soltis’s earlier book on Tal, Petrosian, Spassky and Korchnoi you’ll need no hesitation to add this title as well. Likewise, once you’ve read this book, you’ll want to read the earlier work if you haven’t already done so.

In my opinion, Andrew Soltis is a very much underrated author. It’s understandable that we all tend to be suspicious of the quality of books produced by prolific authors, and in many cases these suspicions are justified. In the case of Soltis, though, even his more popular works are well written and, for their target audience, worth reading. His more serious and scholarly works such as this one are uniformly excellent. Soltis, with many years journalistic experience, knows how to write, and, most importantly, knows how to tell a story. Whether annotating a game or writing about chess history, he keeps his readers on the edge of their seats, eager to turn the page and find out what happens next. This book, like everything he writes, is extremely readable as well as rigorously sourced.

It’s not the last word on the subject. There is without doubt a wealth of interesting information lurking within currently sealed Soviet archives. Although this book might not be flawless, it will more than suffice for the moment. There’s nobody better qualified than Andrew Soltis to write on this subject.

This book doesn’t come cheap, but, if you can afford it, it will be money well spent. I see it has just made the shortlist for the English Chess Federation book of the year, and rightly so as well.

 

Richard James, Twickenham 2 September 2021

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 380
  • Bibliographic Info: photos, diagrams, games, bibliography, indexes
  • Copyright Date: 28th February 2021
  • pISBN: 978-1-4766-7793-4
  • eISBN: 978-1-4766-4053-2
  • Imprint: McFarland & Company Inc.

Official web site of McFarland

Smyslov, Bronstein, Geller, Taimanov and Averbakh: A Chess Multibiography with 220 Games, Andrew Soltis, McFarland Books, February 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1476677934
Smyslov, Bronstein, Geller, Taimanov and Averbakh: A Chess Multibiography with 220 Games, Andrew Soltis, McFarland Books, February 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1476677934
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The Modernized Modern Benoni

The Modernized Modern Benoni, Alexey Kovalchuk, Thinker's Publishing, 2021, ISBN-13 : 978-9464201048
The Modernized Modern Benoni, Alexey Kovalchuk, Thinker’s Publishing, 2021, ISBN-13 : 978-9464201048

From the publisher:

“The Modern Benoni is one of the most controversial but also dynamic answers to 1.d4. This opening remained the favourite of famous attacking players as Tal, Kasparov, Gashimov and Topalov. From the outset, Black creates a new pawn structure and deploying his active piece play against White’s central majority.

In his book Alexey Kovalchuk focuses on a set of new ideas and deep analyses supported by his silicon friends. His book supplies all Black needs to know to fight for the initiative from move two!”

FM Alexey Kovalchuk
FM Alexey Kovalchuk

“Alexey Kovalchuk was born in 1994 in Russia and learned to play chess at the “late” age of 12. In November of 2017 he reached his highest Elo yet of 2445 and is considered an IM without the norms. Alexey has never had a coach having studied with the aid of books and other materials.

His tournament successes include winning the Rostov Championship in both classical and rapid. He is a three-time winner of the Taganrog Championship and has won prizes in many events including Taganrog, Togliatti, Astrakhan, Lipetsk, Kharkov and Donetsk. His reputation as a theoretician is well known and he has previously published a book on the Grünfeld Defense. Currently Alexey serves as a second for several grandmasters as well as coach for several aspiring students.”

End of blurb.

As with every recent Thinkers Publishing publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. We were hoping that the excellent glossy paper of previous titles would be used for this one but never mind.

Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text and each diagram has a “to move” indicator and a “position after: x move” type caption.

There is no Index or Index of Variations but, despite that, content navigation is relatively straightforward as the Table of Contents is clear enough.

This is the author’s second book, we reviewed Playing the Grünfeld : A Combative Repertoire previously.

Here is the detailed Table of Contents:

  1. Classical Main Line
  2. Knight’s Tour Variation
  3. Modern Main Line
  4. Kapengut Variation
  5. Nge2 Systems
  6. Bg5 & Bb5 Systems
  7. f4 System
  8. Fianchetto Variation
  9. Bf4 Variation
  10. Sidelines
  11. Anti-Benoni Systems

Before we continue we will declare an interest.  We only play a couple of these positions from the White side and none from the Black side.

The Preface provides a couple of tremendous Tal games in which White is crushed in short order. The Introduction nicely provides an overview of the coverage of each of the main chapters.

Chapter 1 kicks-off with the so-called “Classical Main Line” which  is initially reached via:

ending up at

as the tabiya position for this chapter. The author looks at various move 11 alternatives for White  concluding that 11. Bf4 is the most troublesome for Black which scores 56.4% for White and features in 260 MegaBase 2020 games.

The approach is typically that of working through the moves of a variation in detail making reference to played games which is a Thinker’s Publishing “house style”.

Chapter 2 examines a favourite idea of Vladimir Kramnik for White namely the, at one time,  incredibly popular 7.Nd2 i.e.

ending up at

which is discussed in detail.

The third chapter is dubbed the Modern Main Line  (as labelled by Richard Palliser in his excellent Modern Benoni tome) and has White playing h3 instead of Be2 and placing the f1 bishop on d3 instead leading to

which may be arrived at in several different ways at which point Kovalchuk strong advocates the immediate 9…b5!? instead of the more familiar and less violent 9…a6.

Clearly this is a critical line for the Benoni and is given much detailed analysis. 9…b5!? has featured in 2123 MegaBase 2020 games  and of these 727 are designated as “Top Games”.

Chapter Four brings the joys of the Kapengut Variation which was analysed in detail by Albert Kapengut in 1996:

and appears 1037 times in MegaBase 2020 with a white success rate of 57%.

After 7…Bg7 various ideas for White are examined.

As the Chapter Five’s title suggests various move orders are covered in  which develops the King’s knight to e2 rather than f3 without playing f3 quickly.

For example:

Chapter 6 covers ideas for white involving an early pin with Bg5 or an early check with Bb5+ (but without f4) . The author considers neither of these to be dangerous for Black and provides analysis of his antidotes.

However, much more exacting is the daunting Taimanov Attack (dubbed by David Norwood as the Flick-Knife Attack such was its ferocity) which is examined in Chapter 7.

This famous line made popular in the 1980s begins

and there are 38 pages on this line alone. 9.a4 is given detailed treatment with the main line reaching:

which is then analysed thoroughly.

In the same chapter is the more modern treatment of 9.Nf3 (omitting a4) continuing to

where both 14.f5 and 14.Qe1 are looked at in considerable detail with the latter having the highest database hit rate.

Chapter 8 explores the somewhat innocuous Fianchetto Variation of 7.g3:

and this is given 19 pages of discussion.

The somewhat rare 7.Bf4 system is covered in Chapter 9 with 15 pages of text.

Chapter 10 “tidies up” with coverage of some rarer third and fourth move sidelines which as 3.dxc5 and 4.dxe6 whilst the final Chapter (11) looks at some White Anti-Benoni systems including where c4 is omitted or delayed.

All in all the author provides comprehensive coverage of all of White’s reasonable tries focusing on the critical main lines such as the fearsome Flick-Knife and Modern Main Lines.

This book surely is a must for any player of the Modern Benoni with the black pieces and will be invaluable for the White player who wishes to take Black on in the main lines.

It might have been helpful to sequence the chapters in some kind of order of precedence with perhaps the least significant ones first and then build-up to the most important ones. It is not clear to us that the sequence chosen has any significance since Chapters 1, 3 and 7 perhaps are the most critical variations and 8, 10 and 11 the least.

Any tournament player that either plays the Benoni or who faces it will benefit from this modernised approach.

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 31st August, 2021

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 280 pages
  • Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (28 Jan. 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9464201045
  • ISBN-13: 978-9464201048
  • Product Dimensions: 17.15 x 1.27 x 23.5 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

The Modernized Modern Benoni, Alexey Kovalchuk, Thinker's Publishing, 2021, ISBN-13 : 978-9464201048
The Modernized Modern Benoni, Alexey Kovalchuk, Thinker’s Publishing, 2021, ISBN-13 : 978-9464201048
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Minor Pieces 8: Cliff Bridle

John Upham recently chanced upon a 1947 game in which an otherwise unknown English player, C Bridle, defeated former World Championship challenger Bogoljubov in a 1947 tournament in Flensburg, Germany.

I’d come across the game myself many years ago, in Fred Reinfeld’s 1950 anthology A Treasury of British Chess Masterpieces, and wondered about C Bridle, a name I hadn’t encountered elsewhere. At some point, perhaps from a magazine article somewhere, I’d seen his first name given as Cliff. A few years ago, now with access to online genealogy records and newspaper archives, I decided to do some research.

We all know who Efim Bogoljubov (1889-1952) was, though. He’s in so many inter-war tournament photographs: the corpulent, beer-swilling figure in the front row, genial and self-confident. “When I’m white I win because I’m white”, he said, “when I’m black I win because I’m Bogoljubov.” It’s easy to forget that, throughout the 1920s and early 1930s he was one of the world’s strongest players, although no match for the mighty Alekhine in two world championship matches. Even in the final years of his career, after World War 2, he was still a formidable opponent. So how come he lost to an otherwise unknown adversary?

It’s well worth looking at the game. I also asked my silicon chum Stockfish 14 to comment on Reinfeld’s annotations. Needless to say, he(?) wasn’t impressed. Stocky v Freddy: let battle commence.

1. d4 e6
2. c4 f5

Stocky, who, sadly for me as a long standing devotee of that opening, doesn’t think much of the Dutch Defence, would aware this a ?!.

3. Nf3 Nf6
4. g3 b6?!

A ? from Freddy, another ?! from Stocky.

5. Bg2 Bb7
6. O-O Be7
7. Nc3

Stocky suggests that White can, and should, play the immediate d5 here: 7. d5! exd5 8. Nd4 g6 9. cxd5 Bxd5 (9… Nxd5 10. Bh6) 10. Bxd5 Nxd5 11. Nxf5)

7… Ne4
8. d5 Nxc3
9. bxc3

Freddy correctly opines that Black has chosen a bad opening, but adds that the fianchetto of the queen’s bishop is generally avoid because of the possibility of d5. A strange comment, as the Queen’s Indian Defence is, and was back in 1950, perfectly respectable. The idea of d5 in this sort of position would, I think, have been considered fairly advanced knowledge at the time. I guess the ever optimistic Bogo was gambling on his inexperienced opponent not knowing this. If White just plays developing moves, it’s very easy for Black to play move like Ne4, g5, g4, Qh4 and get an automatic attack.

9… O-O
10. Nd4

Threatening d6 as well as dxe6.

10… Qc8?

Freddy and Stocky agree that this deserves a question mark. Freddy suggests that Black should play 10… e5 when White should retreat his knight with advantage because of the poorly placed bishop on b7. Stocky continues this with 11. Nb3 d6 12. c5 (a thematic tactic: 12… bxc5 13. Nxc5 dxc5 14. Qb3 regaining the piece) 12… a5 13. c6 Bc8 with only a slight advantage for White. He also thinks Black could consider the pawn sacrifice 10… Bd6 11. dxe6 Bxg2 12. Kxg2 Qe7 13. exd7 Nxd7 with some compensation.

11. e4 c5
12. Ne2 Bf6
13. Qd3 Na6
14. exf5 exf5

15. g4!?

Freddy gives this a shriek mark: ‘instinctive and strong’. Stocky is not so convinced, meeting it with 15… Nb4! to drive the queen away. White might then consider the exchange sacrifice 16. cxb4!? Bxa1 17. Bf4 Bb2 18. Rb1 Bf6 19. g5 Be7 20. Ng3 d6. He thinks White could have maintained a winning advantage by playing a move like Bf4 or h4 rather than trying to force the issue.

15… fxg4
16. Be4 g6
17. Ng3!?

Freddy claims 17. Bxg6 is premature. Again, Stocky begs to differ, analysing 17. Bxg6! hxg6 18. Qxg6+ Bg7 19. Bh6 Rf7 20. Ng3 Qf8 21. Nh5 Rf6 22. Qxg7+ Qxg7 23. Bxg7 Rf3 24. Rae1 Rh3 25. Re5 Rxh5 26. Rxh5 Kxg7 27. f3 with a winning advantage because Black’s queen side pieces are still out of play)

17… Kg7?

No comment from Freddy, but a question mark from Stocky, who thinks Qe8 was Black’s only defence.

18. Bf4 Nc7
19. Rae1 Ne8

20. Nh5+!!

Double shriek mark from Freddy. This time Stocky agrees. Stocky is happy with Freddy’s analysis of 20… gxh5 21. Bh6+!!, but points out that the more prosaic 21. Bxh7! is equally good. Some variations:

20… gxh5 21. Bxh7 (21. Bh6+ Kxh6 22. Bxh7 Kg5 (22… Kg7 23. Qg6+ Kh8 24. Bg8) (22… Rg8 23. Bxg8 Nd6 24. Qh7+ Kg5 25. h4+ Kxh4 26. Kg2 Kg5 27. f4+ gxf3+ 28. Kxf3 Qxg8 29. Rg1+ Kh4 30. Rh1+ Kg5 31. Rxh5#) 23. f4+ gxf3 24. Qg6+ Kh4 (24… Kf4 25. Qg3#) 25. Qg3#) 21… Kh8 22. Qg6 d6 23. Qxh5 Qc7 24. Bf5+ Kg8 25. Bh6 Ng7 26. Qg6

20… Kf7
21. Nxf6 Nxf6
22. Bd6 Re8
23. f4?

Stocky tells me this throws away most of White’s advantage: he should be opening the position rather than closing it, so 23. f3 was called for, when Black has nothing better than g3 in reply.

23… Nxe4
24. Rxe4 Rxe4
25. Qxe4 Qe8
26. Qd3 Qg8?

Moving the queen off the critical e-file. 26… Kg8 was the most tenacious defence, but Freddy didn’t notice.

27. f5 g5

28. f6?!

Pushing the passed pawn too soon, giving the black queen access to g6. White has two winning ideas here, according to Stocky. He wants to capture on g4 before Black has time to start counterplay with h5. Perhaps the simpler option is:

28. Qe4! Qe8 (28… Re8 29. Qxg4 and Black’s kingside will soon collapse) 29. Be5 Rd8 (now the e-file is sealed White can continue in similar fashion to the game) 30. f6 Qg8 31. Bd6 Re8 32. Qe7+ Rxe7 33. fxe7+ Kg6 34. Rf8 and wins.

The second path to victory is:

28. Qg3! h5 (28… Ba6 29. Qxg4 Re8 30. Qh5+ Kf6 31. h4 Bxc4 32. Qh6+ Kf7 33. hxg5) when White has the spectacularly beautiful 29. Be7!! with elements of both interference (on the e-file) and clearance (on the diagonal). Play might continue 29… Kxe7 (29… Re8 30. Qd6 Rxe7 31. f6 Re3 32. Qxd7+ Kg6 33. f7 Qf8 34. Qf5+ Kh6 35. Qf6+ Kh7 36. Qxg5 Rf3 37. Qxh5+ Qh6 38. Qxh6+ Kxh6 39. Rxf3 gxf3 40. f8=Q+) 30. Qc7 Ba6 (30… Qf7 31. f6+ Kf8 32. Rf5 Re8 33. Qd6+ Kg8 34. Rxg5+ Kh8 35. Rg7 Qf8 36. Qf4) (30… Bc8 31. Re1+ Kf7 32. Qd6 Qg7 33. Re7+ Kf8 34. Rxg7+ Kxg7 35. Qe7+ Kh6 36. Qf7 h4 37. Qg6#) 31. Re1+ Kf8 32. Qd6+ Kg7 33. Re7+

28… Qg6??

A Bogo booboo, missing Cliff’s 30th move. Instead, he could have equalised by occupying the e-file first. After 28… Re8, with Qg6 to follow, everything, according to Stocky, is about equal. (28… Re8 29. Qf5 (29. Be7 Qg6 30. Qg3) 29… Bc8 30. Qxg4 Qg6)

But Freddy was asleep and let both players’ 28th moves pass without comment.

29. Qe3 Re8
30. Qe7+! Rxe7
31. fxe7+ Kg7
32. Be5+ Kh6
33. Rf6 1-0

‘A very attractive game’, according to Freddy. An interesting but inaccurate game according to Stocky. You might, I suppose, see it as a classic example of bishops of opposite colours favouring the attacker in the middlegame, and note that Black’s queenside pieces were offside.

You should also look at some of the tactics, especially 29. Be7!! in the note to White’s 28th move.

It’s still mightily impressive for an unknown amateur to beat a top grandmaster with a brilliant queen sacrifice.

Congratulations, Cliff!

But who was Mr Bridle, anyway, and what was he doing in Flensburg? Perhaps he was just enjoying a summer holiday. It seems that Cliff spent most of his life in the shadows. Let’s have a look and see what we can find out.

Clifford Bridle was born in Weymouth, Dorset on 11 February 1914. His father was George Bridle, originally from Wareham, who had divorced his first wife in 1910 and married Susan Jane Smith in 1912. Cliff had an older sister, Greta, and two younger brothers, Jack and Victor, as well as a half sister, Sarah Bessie. The 1911 census reveals that George was a house decorator. Not the sort of comfortable upper middle-class background you’d expect from a strong chess player, but the world was changing. Before World War 1, chess had been, at least at higher levels, very much associated with the comfortably off, but in the inter-war years the game was broadening its demographics, and players from working class backgrounds could sometimes be found playing at higher levels.

We pick Cliff up for the first time as a chess player in 1932, where he was playing correspondence chess for his home county. He also started playing over the board, and, in April 1933, the Western Morning News pointed out that he’d won every game he played for Dorset, while lamenting the lack of an inter-club competition in his county. There was an individual county championship, though, and Cliff, one of the young ones, reached the final, where he lost to Swanage schoolmaster Bennett William Wood. The Western Gazette (23 June 1933) reported that “Mr. Bridle, who is only 18 years of age, is to be congratulated on the excellent fight he made for the championship. Congratulations again, Cliff. In those days the county champion got to play top board the following season, so Cliff didn’t quite make Number One.

He continued to play county chess, usually on about board 9 or 10, throughout the 1930s. The 1939 Register found him, a bachelor boy, living with his mother and brothers at 13 Milton Road, Weymouth. He was following in his father’s footsteps, working, like his brother Jack, as a house decorator and glazier, while young Victor seemed to be moving up in the world, having found clerical work with an estate agent. Cliff’s date of birth is given incorrectly as 11 July 1914. And then the trail goes dead, until 1947, when he turned up in Flensburg.

Here’s Wikipedia on Flensburg:

Flensburg is an independent town in the north of the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. Flensburg is the centre of the region of Southern Schleswig. After Kiel and Lübeck, it is the third largest town in Schleswig-Holstein.

In May 1945, Flensburg was the seat of the last government of Nazi Germany, the so-called Flensburg government led by Karl Dönitz, which was in power from 1 May, the announcement of Hitler’s death, for one week, until German armies surrendered and the town was occupied by Allied troops. The regime was effectively dissolved on 23 May when the British Army arrested Dönitz and his ministers – the dissolution was formalized by the Berlin Declaration which was progmulated on 5 June.

The nearest larger towns are Kiel (86 kilometres (53 miles) south) and Odense in Denmark (92 km (57 mi) northeast). Flensburg’s city centre lies about 7 km (4 mi) from the Danish border.

The 3rd Royal Tank Regiment was based there on behalf of the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) between 1945 and 1948, and CHESS, reporting the tournament, described Bridle as being of the BAOR. I can find nothing in online Forces records, so perhaps he was working for them in a civilian capacity. Maybe they needed a glazier to replace the broken windows. Not a summer holiday for Cliff, then.

The tournament was led by three prominent masters, while locally based players finished lower down. The final scores, according to BCM, were: Bogoljubov, 8.5; Enevoldsen (Copenhagen) and F. Sämisch 8; Nürnberg (Augsburg), 7; Sepp (Estonia), 5.5; H. Gomoluch (Flensburg), 5; Clausen (Denmark), 4; P. Gomoluch (Flensburg), 3.5; C. Bridle (England) and Kornbeck (Denmark), 2.5; Borgaa (Denmark), 0.5.

Cliff Bridle was 33 at the time, no longer a young one, so hardly, at least by today’s standards, the ‘youthful unknown’ described by Reinfeld. His win against Bogo attracted some attention and was published by ME Goldstein in the Chess Review, Sydney. This was in turn picked up by the Hastings and St Leonards Observer, who copied it on 28 August 1948.

Did he take up tournament chess on returning to England? Seemingly not very much. However, he ended up not all that far from my part of the world.

In 1954, the BCF published its second national grading list, and there, in category 4b, which would later become 185-192, or about 2100 in today’s money, is C Bridle of Wimbledon. So he must have been playing some competitive chess in the early 1950s. No sign of him in 1955, though.

In 1964 he suddenly appeared on the electoral roll, living, apparently on his own, at 147 Worple Road, Wimbledon, a road I know very well. It runs parallel with the railway line between Raynes Park and Wimbledon, therefore taking me to Wimbledon Chess Club for Thames Valley League matches. Was he still a bachelor boy? Perhaps not, in 1965, the last year for which London electoral rolls are currently available online, he’s been joined by Karen Bridle. Who was Karen? His wife? His daughter? Karen, originally a Danish name, only became popular in the English speaking world in the 1940s. I can’t find a marriage record for Cliff or a birth record for Karen, so, as we know he spent time in Flensburg, near the Danish-German border, perhaps he married there. I found an online tree with a Karen Bridle from Wimbledon, born in 1925, who married John Anthony Williams, who died at sea in 1970. The same person? No idea.

There’s one further record. The Middlesex County Times, which often reported Ealing Chess Club’s results, is available online. In 1968 Cliff Bridle was playing on board 3 for Wimbledon against Ealing in a Thames Valley League match (he won with the white pieces against E (Francis Edwin) Weninger), so he was still occasionally active into his mid 50s.

At some point he returned to his native Dorset, dying there in February 2001 at the age of 87.

Here, again, is the game on which his fame rests.

Update (27 Aug 21)

Thanks to everyone for their interest in this article.

Particular thanks to Jon D’Souza-Eva, who has discovered that Cliff Bridle’s wife seems to have been Katharina Cäcilia Martha Lauer, born 2 January 1927, died 6 April 1989: her address was given as Flat 1, Steeple Court, 36, St Marys Road, SW19, just round the corner from the All England Lawn Tennis Club. I presume she was born in Germany and married Cliff somewhere in the Flensburg area round about 1947. They later divorced and in 1970 she married John Anthony Williams, also a divorcee, who had been born in Ludlow in 1921. Sadly, John died on 6 August 1972: his probate record shows his address was also Steeple Court. (An online tree incorrectly gives his death year as 1970, not 1972, and claims he had died at sea, off the coast of Somerset, while working.)

Particular thanks also to Brian Denman, who has contributed another Cliff Bridle game.

Source: Sussex Daily News (21 Apr 1955), which gives neither the date nor the occasion.

In this game, Cliff is hardly recognisable as the same player who beat Bogo, is he? A pretty poor effort. Black could even have won a pawn with the Stock Tactic 5… Nxd5 with Bg7 to follow if White captures either way. I guess we all have bad days.

Bruce Hayden, or, if you prefer, Hendry Ellenband, was himself an interesting character, who, because of his local connections, might be worth a future Minor Piece.

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Minor Pieces 7: Martin Luther Lewis

Martin Luther. Interesting choice of Christian names. What do you know about Martin Luther?

Here’s Wikipedia to help you:

Martin Luther (10 November 1483 – 18 February 1546) was a German professor of theology, priest, author, composer, Augustinian monk, and a seminal figure in the Reformation. Luther was ordained to the priesthood in 1507. He came to reject several teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church; in particular, he disputed the view on indulgences. Luther proposed an academic discussion of the practice and efficacy of indulgences in his Ninety-five Theses of 1517. His refusal to renounce all of his writings at the demand of Pope Leo X in 1520 and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms in 1521 resulted in his excommunication by the pope and condemnation as an outlaw by the Holy Roman Emperor.

Luther taught that salvation and, consequently, eternal life are not earned by good deeds but are received only as the free gift of God’s grace through the believer’s faith in Jesus Christ as redeemer from sin. His theology challenged the authority and office of the pope by teaching that the Bible is the only source of divinely revealed knowledge, and opposed sacerdotalism by considering all baptized Christians to be a holy priesthood. Those who identify with these, and all of Luther’s wider teachings, are called Lutherans, though Luther insisted on Christian or Evangelical as the only acceptable names for individuals who professed Christ.

His translation of the Bible into the German vernacular (instead of Latin) made it more accessible to the laity, an event that had a tremendous impact on both the church and German culture. It fostered the development of a standard version of the German language, added several principles to the art of translation,[6] and influenced the writing of an English translation, the Tyndale Bible.[7] His hymns influenced the development of singing in Protestant churches. His marriage to Katharina von Bora, a former nun, set a model for the practice of clerical marriage, allowing Protestant clergy to marry.

His translation of the Bible into the German vernacular (instead of Latin) made it more accessible to the laity, an event that had a tremendous impact on both the church and German culture. It fostered the development of a standard version of the German language, added several principles to the art of translation, and influenced the writing of an English translation, the Tyndale Bible. His hymns influenced the development of singing in Protestant churches. His marriage to Katharina von Bora, a former nun, set a model for the practice of clerical marriage, allowing Protestant clergy to marry.

Yes, Martin Luther was one of the most important figures in European history: he had an enormous impact on the development of Christianity, leading, for example to the foundation of the Church of England, which enabled Henry VIII to divorce Catherine of Aragon, marry Anne Boleyn and dissolve the monasteries.

He also had an enormous impact on the development of Western music. Out went complex polyphony sung in Latin, to be replaced by simple hymn tunes sung in the vernacular, which in turn would underpin the sacred music of one of my heroes, Johann Sebastian Bach.

Over the years, admirers of Martin Luther have sometimes chosen those names for their sons.

Take, for example, American Baptist preacher Michael King. While on a trip to Germany for the annual meeting of the World Baptist Alliance in 1934, where they issued a resolution condemning antisemitism, he was inspired by what he learned about Martin  Luther to change both his Christian name, and that of his eldest son from Michael to Martin Luther. It was ironic that the original Martin Luther himself expressed violently antisemitic views in his later works.

An earlier Baptist minister on the other side of the Atlantic also named his son Martin Luther. Here’s his entry in the Dictionary of National Biography.

LEWIS, WILLIAM GARRETT (1821–1885), baptist minister, eldest son of William Garrett Lewis, was born at Margate 5 Aug. 1821. His father, who was in business at Margate, moved to Chatham, where he was ordained and became minister of the Zion Chapel in 1824; he was the author of ‘Original Hymns and Poems on Spiritual Subjects,’ London, 1827. The son was educated at Gillingham, Margate, and Uxbridge, and from 1837 to 1840 was articled to Dr. Gray, a Brixton schoolmaster. In 1840 he obtained a clerkship in the post office, went to live at Hackney, and became an active baptist. Being chosen a minister, he worked from September 1847 at the chapel in Silver Street, Kensington Gravel Pits. On 6 April 1853 the new chapel built by his congregation in Leding Road, Westbourne Grove, was opened, and there he continued to preach with great success till the end of 1880. On 3 Jan. 1881 his congregation presented him with four hundred guineas, and he removed to the chapel in Dagnal Street, St. Albans. Lewis was one of the founders of the London Baptist Association, of which he was secretary from 1865 to 1869 and president in 1870. For nearly twenty years he was editor of the ‘Baptist Magazine.’ He died 16 Jan. 1885 at his house in Victoria Street, St. Albans, and was buried in Kensal Green cemetery. He married, in December 1847, the youngest daughter of Daniel Katterns of the East India Company. His wife predeceased him, leaving a son and a daughter. Lewis was an excellent preacher and lecturer, and a man of great piety. His chief works were: 1. ‘The Religion of Rome examined,’ London, 1851, 16mo. 2. ‘Westbourne Grove Sermons,’ London, 1872. 3. ‘The Trades and Occupations of the Bible,’ London, 1875; a translation (with alterations) of this work appeared in Welsh, London, 1876.

The church he founded in Notting Hill is still active today. If you’re really interested, you can buy a book of his sermons here.

But it’s his son, Martin Luther Lewis, who interests us in this, the third and final article about Arthur Towle Marriott’s Leicester chess opponents.

Our Martin Luther was born in Kensington in 1851 and read Classics at Downing College, Cambridge. He then chose to go into teaching rather than following his father into the ministry, and obtained a post teaching Classics at Bradford Grammar School.

We first encounter him as a chess player in 1877 and 1878, taking part in a blindfold simul given, inevitably, by Joseph Henry Blackburne. The game was unfinished and Blackburne consented to a draw ‘owing to the pieces being very evenly balanced, and it being necessary to exchange off the pieces and play it out as a pawn game, which would have been very protracted’, according to the Bradford Daily Telegraph (30 Nov 1877). During the same period he played in matches against other clubs, gradually moving up the board order until he found himself on top board.

In 1880, Martin Luther Lewis was on the move. The Leicester Journal (12 Nov 1880) reported: ‘The Rev. Edward Atkins, B.Sc., has been appointed to the second mastership of Wyggeston Boys’ School, vacant by the promotion of Mr. G. H. Nelson, M.A., to the headmastership of the Canterbury Middle School. Mr. M.L. Lewis, M.A., LL.M., late scholar of Downing College Cambridge, Classical Master in the Bradford Grammar School, and Mr. Alfred Barker, B.A., of the University of London, one of the Masters in the City of London School, Cowper-Street, have been appointed to Assistant Masterships in the School.’. At about the same time the school launched a new chess club: Lewis was no doubt involved in this venture.

Wyggeston Grammar School for Boys was the most prestigious boys’ school in Leicester at the time. Its many distinguished alumni include the Attenborough brothers (the Attenborough Building at Orleans Park School in Twickenham host tournaments run by Richmond Junior Chess Club), former RJCC parent Simon Hoggart, and author, publisher and chess player James Essinger.

The 1881 census found Lewis boarding with a widow, Ann Woodruffe (Hyde) Burrows, whose teenage son Edward was, I would imagine, a Wyggeston pupil.

He soon joined Leicester Chess Club and it wasn’t very long before he graduated to top board, playing regularly for them against other clubs in the Midlands between 1882 and 1888. His first over the board encounter with Arthur Towle Marriott came on Friday 31st March 1882. The match was not a success, according to the Leicester Chronicle of 8 April. Unfortunately, the Leicester players had to return too early to allow of any satisfactory conclusion being arrived at, the only games concluded at the time the contest was finished being those between Messrs. T. Marriott and A.F. Atkins, and Mr. H.R. Hatherley and Rev. J.C. Elgood. Of those, each team had one win to their credit. The other games were not far enough advanced to allow of adjudication. a fact which, after nearly three hours’ play, shows they were very stubbornly contested. No chess clocks in those days, of course. (Note that AF Atkins was no relation to the aforementioned Edward.)

The two clubs met again on Thursday 26 October in Leicester, with Lewis and Marriott now in opposition on top board. According to the Nottingham Evening Post on 28 October: Play commenced at seven o’clock at the New Town Hall, and was continued until 10.30, when unfinished games were adjudicated by Messrs. A. Marriott and M.L. Lewis (their own game being among that number). The result was an easy victory for the Nottingham team, who won nine games, lost two and six were drawn. One of the draws was indeed their own encounter.

They met again in Nottingham on 23 February 1883, the result of their top board game, and also the match, being a draw. At round about the same time, in the first quarter of 1883, Martin Luther Lewis married his landlady.

His results over his years of activity between 1877 and 1888 suggest that Lewis was one of the strongest players in the country outside London. Usually playing on top board, it seems he lost very few games. The comparatively high proportion of draws, along with the lack of published games, suggest that he was a solid and cautious player. EdoChess gives him a highest rating of 2250. However, he preferred to concentrate on his teaching and pastoral work rather than seek chess fame further afield. He was, apart from teaching Classics at Wyggeston, involved in preaching, teaching in Sunday Schools, and with the Leicester YMCA, where he started a chess club, drawing with William John Withers in a match against Granby.

Martin and Ann, who was thirteen years his senior, continued to live together for the rest of their lives. His stepson Edward himself went on to study theology, was appointed to a curacy in Bath, but sadly died at the age of only 33.

Although Martin Luther Lewis’s chess career was relatively short and uneventful, he played a highly influential role in the story of English chess. You’ll remember Edward Atkins, who joined Wyggeston at the same time as him. A very interesting man was Edward. His father, Timothy, was a humble framework knitter from Hinckley, but, like Thomas Marriott senior, was ambitious to improve himself. Even up to his mid 50s he was still knitting stockings, but later opened a shop, and, later still, became a hosiery manufacturer. He was clearly ambitious for his children, as well. Edward, in spite of his modest origins, had a highly successful career in the Church of England as well as teaching, becoming a Canon and continuing to officiate at the Church of St Nicholas, Leicester, into his nineties. His science lessons led to the formation of Leicester College of Technology, which would very much later (while I was there) become the City of Leicester Polytechnic, and is now, as De Montfort University, the home of the ECF Library.

The two men must have been good friends, and when Edward’s young son Henry Ernest Atkins showed an interest in chess, Martin was on hand to provide both tuition and encouragement. Perhaps he also influenced his pupil’s style of play. Atkins  junior, of course, became one of England’s strongest ever players. Certainly a Major Piece, not a Minor Piece. You can read much more about him in excellent articles here and here.

Martin Luther Lewis died on 23 October 1919, just 15 months after his wife.

Here’s an appreciation from ‘one who knew him’ from the Leicester Daily Post of 27 October.

Three weeks earlier, on 6 October, about a mile a half away, Tom Harry James had welcomed his 18th and last child into the world. But that’s another story.

This, then, was the life of Martin Luther Lewis, classics teacher, preacher and strong chess player.

It’s a well-known trope, isn’t it? You’ll probably be familiar with the 1939 movie Goodbye Mr Chips, based on James Hilton’s 1934 novella. You may also know the Terence Rattigan play The Browning Version. Hilton’s Mr Chips and Rattigan’s Crocker-Harris were both, like Lewis, classics teachers. Perhaps we might consider him to have been cut from the same cloth as these two fictional counterparts.

 

 

 

 

His sister Ruth never married, becoming a hospital matron in Chipping Barnet, and then working for the YWCA in Exeter. She later moved to Leicester, perhaps to care for her older brother in his final illness, and is buried with him in Welford Road Cemetery.

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