Tag Archives: British

Remembering Cecil Valentine De Vere (14-ii-1846 09-ii-1875)

Cecil Valentine De Vere (14-ii-1846 09-ii-1875)
Cecil Valentine De Vere (14-ii-1846 09-ii-1875)

We remember Cecil Valentine De Vere (14-ii-1846 09-ii-1875)

From The Oxford Companion to Chess by Hooper & Whyld :

Cecil Valentine De Vere, pseudonym of Valentine Brown, winner of the first official British Championship tournament organized by the British Chess Association in 1866. He learned the game in London before 1858 and practised with Boden and the Irish player Francis Burden (1830-82). De Vere played with unusual ease and rapidity, never bothering to study the books. His features were handsome (an Adonis says MacDonnell), his manner pleasant, his conduct polite. He “handled the pieces gracefully, never “hovered” over them, nor fiercely stamped them down upon the board … nor exulted when he gained a victory…in short, he was a highly chivalrous player.’ So wrote Steinitz who conceded odds in a match against De Vere and was soundly beaten, (See pawn and move.) De Vere’s charm brought him many friends.

At about the time that he won the national championship his mother died, a loss he felt deeply, “The only person who ever cared for me”.

Receiving a small legacy he gave up his job. which Burden had obtained for him at Lloyds the underwriters, and never took another. He entered some strong tournaments but always trailed just behind the greatest half-dozen players of his time. His exceptional talent was accompanied by idleness and lack of enthusiasm for a hard task. On the occasion of the Dundee tournament of 1867 he took long walks in the Scottish countryside with G. A. MacDonnell, who writes that a ‘black cloud’ descended on De Vere. It may have been the discovery that he had tuberculosis; more probably he revealed to the older man a deep-rooted despair, the cause perhaps of his later addiction to alcohol.

In 1872 Boden handed over the chess column of The Field to provide him with a small income; but in 1873 the column was given to Steinitz on account of De Vere’s indolence and drunkenness. At the end of Nov, 1874 his illness took a turn for the worse, he could hardly walk and ate little. His friends paid to send him to Torquay for the sea air, and there he died ten weeks later. He had failed to nourish a natural genius in respect of which, according to Steinitz, De Vere was “second to no man, living or dead*.

Cecil Valentine De Vere (14-ii-1846 09-ii-1875)
Cecil Valentine De Vere (14-ii-1846 09-ii-1875)

From The Encyclopedia of Chess by Anne Sunnucks :

First official British Chess Champion, Cecil de Vere was born on 14th February 1845 (in Montrose, Angus, Scotland : Ed.) and was taught to play chess when he was 12 by a strong London player, Francis Burden. By the time he was 15, he was a regular visitor to “The Divan” on a Saturday afternoon.

At the age of 19 De Vere played a number of games against MacDonnell winning the majority of them. So great was his promise that the City of London Chess Club raised a purse for a match between him an Steinitz, Steinitz giving the odds of a Pawn and a move. De Vere won.

In 1866 the first British Championship, organised by the British Chess Association was held. De Vere won, ahead of MacDonnell and Bird, and so became the first British Champion at the age of 21.

The following year in the Paris 1867 tournament, he was 5th out of a field of 13, and he tied for 3rd prize in the Dundee Congress, ahead of Blackburne, having beaten Steinitz in their individual game.

While he was in Dundee, De Vere learned that he was suffering from Tuberculosis. The news changed his whole life. Having recently inherited a few hundred pounds, he gave up his job at Lloyd’s and started living on his capital, determined to enjoy the few years he had left. He continued to play chess, but his performances were marred by his newly acquired addiction to the bottle.

De Vere was once described as “A Morphy without book knowledge”. His talent was great enough for him to be able to take on the leading masters of the day without any study or preparation, but more than that is needed to reach the top. De Vere lacked the strength of character and health to fulfill his early promise. He died a few days before his thirtieth birthday.

From The Encyclopedia of Chess by Harry Golombek :

The first official British Champion and a player of great promise who might well have attained world fame had he not be carried off by that nineteenth-century British scourge, tuberculosis, before he attained the age of thirty.

Most of the details of his life are to be found in the writings of G.A. MacDonnell, who met him when De Vere was fourteen and was so struck by his good looks as to refer to him as “Adonis”.

His first tournament success came in 1866 at the London Congress organised at the St. George’s Club in the first few days and then in other venues by the British Chess Association. De Vere played in two events, a Handicap tournament and a Challenge Cup event which was in fact the first British Championship tournament.

The Handicap tournament was run on the same lines as London 1851, i.e. it was a knock-out event with matches of three games, draws not counting. De Vere met Steinitz in roudn 1 and lost by 2-1.

The first British championship tournament was an all-play-all event in which the ties were decided by the first player to win three games and in which the championship went to the winner of the biggest number of games. De Vere was en easy winner with 12 wins, followed by MacDonnell and J.I. Minchin 6, H.E Bird 3 and Sir John Trelawney 0.

Thus De Vere was the first British Champion and at that age of twenty-one. A photograph of him about this time shows that he bore a remarkable likeness to the international master John Nunn, who won the European Junior championship a hundred years after De Vere’s death.

De Vere confirmed his position as a leading British player by coming first in another tournament in 1866 at Redcar in North Yorkshire. This was an event open to all British amateurs and among his opponents were Owen, Thorold and Wisker.

It was in the following year that he commenced his career in international chess. In the important double-round tournament at Paris he occupied an honourable fifth place out of 13 players. At Dundee (the third congress of the British Chess Association) he finished equal 3rd with MacDonnell, below Steinitz but beating him in their individual game and coming ahead of Blackburne.

It was during his visit to Scotland (he went to stay with relatives after the tournament) that he learnt he was afflicted with consumption. This knowledge, together with the death of his mother, drove him to drink which was to accelerate his end.

inheriting a few hundred pounds, presumably from his mother, he gave up his post at Lloyd’s and decided to live on his capital together with such additional sums as he could earn from chess.

In this respect his addiction to drink proved a handicap. For example, he held the post of chess editor of The Field in 1872 but lost it after some eighteen months through inattention to work.

Meanwhile he continued to show his great talent for the game. Defending the title of British Champion in a very strong field at the next British Chess Association congress (1868/9) he cam equal first with Blackburne but lost the play-off at the London Club in March 1869.

In 1870 at the very strong Baden-Baden double-round tournament, he came equal sixth with Winawer but was much outdistanced by Blackburne who came third with 3.5 more pints than De Vere. But already his illness was taking a strong hold on him. At his next and last appearance in a tournament of note. London 1872, he tied with Zukertort and MacDonnell =3rd out of 8 players. In the play-off for third and fourth prizes he lost to MacDonnell and scratched to Zukertort, Later in the year he did tie for first place with Wisker in a weaker British championship tournament and, with De Vere now clearly ill, Wisker had an easy victory in the play-off.

At his last appearance at a chess event, a match at the City of London Club between that Club and Bermondsey, he looked a dying man. A subscription was made to send him to Torquay but it was too late and he died within five days of his thirtieth birthday.

Here are some of his games at chessgames.com

Here is his Wikipedia entry

The English Morphy?: The Life and Games of Cecil De Vere, First British Chess Champion by Owen Hindle & Robert H. Jones
The English Morphy?: The Life and Games of Cecil De Vere, First British Chess Champion by Owen Hindle & Robert H. Jones

Happy Birthday IM Simon Ansell (11-ii-1975)

IM Simon Ansell
IM Simon Ansell

Happy Birthday IM Simon Ansell (11-ii-1975)

Simon Ansell
Simon Ansell

IM Simon Ansell
IM Simon Ansell

Happy Birthday IM Harriet Hunt (04-II-1978)

Harriet Vaughan Hunt
Harriet Vaughan Hunt

We send birthday IM Harriet Vaughan Hunt born this day (February 4th) in 1978.

IM Harriet Vaughan Hunt
IM Harriet Vaughan Hunt

Here is her wikipedia entry

Harriet Vaughan Hunt
Harriet Vaughan Hunt

Happy Birthday IM Ameet Ghasi (04-ii-1987)

IM Ameet Kumar Ghasi
IM Ameet Kumar Ghasi

Birthday of IM Ameet Kumar Ghasi (04-ii-1987)

Here is his Wikipedia entry

IM Ameet Kumar Ghasi
IM Ameet Kumar Ghasi

Here is a Guardian article

IM Ameet Kumar Ghasi
IM Ameet Kumar Ghasi

Happy Birthday IM Richard Pert (22-i-1981)

IM Richard Pert
IM Richard Pert

Happy Birthday IM Richard Pert (22-i-1981)

IM Richard Pert
IM Richard Pert

Nick and Richard Pert
Nick and Richard Pert
Nick and Richard Pert
Nick and Richard Pert

Happy Birthday GM Nick Pert (22-i-1981)

GM Nick Pert
GM Nick Pert

We send birthday wishes to GM Nick Pert born this day (January 22nd) in 1981.

Jeremy Morse, Adam Hunt, Nick Pert and Nigel Short at the Lloyds Bank Masters
Jeremy Morse, Adam Hunt, Nick Pert and Nigel Short at the Lloyds Bank Masters

Nick won the Southern Counties (SCCU) championship for the 2016-17 season sharing with Richard Bates.

Nick and Richard Pert
Nick and Richard Pert

Here is Nick’s Wikipedia entry

Nick and Richard Pert
Nick and Richard Pert

GM Nick Pert
GM Nick Pert
GM Nick Pert
GM Nick Pert

Happy Birthday GM Neil McDonald (21-i-1967)

GM Neil McDonald
GM Neil McDonald

We send birthday wishes to GM Neil McDonald born on this day (January 21st) in 1967.

Neil McDonald
Neil McDonald
Neil McDonald
Neil McDonald

From Wikipedia :

Neil McDonald (born 21 January 1967) is an English chess grandmaster and a player on the international chess circuit. He is an English Chess Federation coach,[1] who has trained many of the country’s strongest junior players. McDonald is a regular coach of the English junior team and was Head Coach of the English Chess Federation team at the Greece World Schools Championship in 2013.[2] He regularly escorts blind and partially sighted chess players to international World Championship events and is also a chess writer.

McDonald authored the French Defence monthly updates on chesspublishing.com from October 1999 until March 2009,[3] 1 e4 … updates from November 2009 until January 2010,[4] 1 e4 … from June 2014 until February 2015[5] and returned to 1 e4 … in March 2017 until January 2018.[6]

Neil shared first place in the 1986 GLC Masters with Jonathan Levitt, was outright first at the Elekes Memorial, 1995, first at The Leinster IM Tournament in Dublin, 1997, and other tournaments since. Neil plays for Wood Green in the Four Nations Chess League (4NCL).

He became an International Master in 1986 and was awarded the Grandmaster title in 1996.

McDonald obtained his FIDE Trainer qualification in 2016.[7]

Neil is a prolific and successful author, most recently with “Coach Yourself

Coach Yourself : A Complete Guide to Self Improvement at Chess
Coach Yourself : A Complete Guide to Self Improvement at Chess

but also thirty eight titles for Chess Press, BT Batsford Ltd. and Everyman Chess Books.

Modern Defence. Everyman, 2000
Modern Defence. Everyman, 2000
GM Neil McDonald
GM Neil McDonald

Happy Birthday IM Ali Mortazavi (20-i-1971)

IM Ali Mortazavi
IM Ali Mortazavi

We send best wishes to IM Ali Mortazavi on his birthday, this day (January 20th) in 1971

IM Ali Mortazavi
IM Ali Mortazavi

Ali is a British IM who was a successful trader in the financial markets.

In the FIDE directory he is listed as a Councillor in the Global Strategy Commission (GSC).

He was a professional player and became the CEO of Silence Therapeutics (SLN) :

Ali reached his hightest FIDE rating of 2410 in July 1994 aged 23.

He has played for Beeson Gregory in the Four Nations Chess League (4NCL). He played at the Isle of Man Open in 2018 but sadly, little since.

IM Ali Mortazavi
IM Ali Mortazavi

Remembering John Wisker (30-v-1846 18-i-1884)

John Wisker (30-v-1846, 18-i-1884)
John Wisker (30-v-1846, 18-i-1884)

We remember John Wisker who passed away on this day, 18th January, 1884.

According to Wikipedia :

John Wisker (30 May 1846 in Kingston upon Hull, England – 18 January 1884 in Richmond, Victoria) was an English chess player and journalist. By 1870, he was one of the world’s ten best chess players, and the second-best English-born player, behind only Joseph Henry Blackburne.

Wisker moved to London in 1866 to become a reporter for the City Press and befriended Howard Staunton. His proficiency at chess improved rapidly, and he won the 1870 British Chess Championship after a play-off against Amos Burn, ahead of Blackburne, the defending champion. He won again in 1872 after a play-off against the first British champion, Cecil Valentine De Vere. After this second victory, the British championship was not resumed until 1904. Wisker edited chess columns for The Sporting Times and Land and Water. From 1872 to 1876, Wisker was Secretary of the British Chess Association and co-editor of The Chess Player’s Chronicle. After learning that he had contracted tuberculosis, Wisker emigrated to Australia in the autumn of 1876 to try to regain his health. In Australia, he wrote a chess column for the Australasian. In 1884, Wisker died from bronchitis and tuberculosis.

John Wisker (30-v-1846, 18-i-1884)
John Wisker (30-v-1846, 18-i-1884)

Here is a short item from the Ken Whyld Association web site :

and here is a more detailed article from chess.com

From The Oxford Companion to Chess by David Hooper & Ken Whyld :

John Wisker was an English player and journalist. After moving from Yorkshire to London in 1866 Wisker improved rapidly, so that in the early 1870s he could be ranked among the world’s best ten and second only to Blackburne among English-born players. In 1870 Wisker won the British Championship ahead of Blackburne (the holder) after a play-oil against Burn, and in 1872 he again won the title after a play-off against De Vere. (winner of the first British Championship). By winning twice in succession Wisker retained the trophy and the contests ceased until 1904 (when
Napier won). Against two of his contemporaries Wisker played six matches: Bird in 1873 (+6 =1 -6 and +4 =3 -7) and again in 1874 (+10 =3 -8 and +3 =1 -5); and MacDonnell in 1873 ( = 1 -3) and 1875 ( + 7 =4 -4), Discovering that he had tuberculosis, Wisker emigrated to Australia in the autumn of 1876, hoping to improve his health. In England he edited excellent chess columns in The Sporting Times and Land and Water, and was co-editor of the Chess Player’s Chronicle from 1872 to 1876; in
Australia he edited a chess column in the Australasian.

From The Encyclopedia of Chess by Anne Sunnucks :

British Champion in 1879 and 1872 and Hon. Secretary of the British Chess Association from 1872 – 1877. Wisker was born in Hull. His parents were poor and, he received little schooling, but by his own efforts educated himself and by the time he was 19 was contributing articles to the Fortnightly Review. In 1866 he came to London to report for the City Press and was introduced to London chess circles by Howard Staunton. His play rapidly improved, and his victory in the British Championship in 1870 was achieved after a ply-off against Burn, ahead of Blackburne. In 1872, by successfully defending his title, he won the BCA Challenge Cup outright. On this occasion he won a play-off against De Vere. In 1872 Wisker became co-editor with Skipworth of the Chess Player’s Chronicle.

in 1875, Wisker was found to have consumption, and two years later. on medical advice, he emigrated to Australia. He became chess editor of The Australian, an appointment which he held at the time of his death. He died on 18th January 1884 from bronchitis on top of consumption.

From The Encyclopedia of Chess by Harry Golombek :

A prominent British player and chess administrator. Wisker won the BCA Challenge Cup in 1870 after a play-off with Burn. In 1871 he narrowly lost (+2 -3 =4)a match to the French master Rosenthal, who had fled to London to avoid the rigours of war. Wisker retained the Challenge Cup in 1872, this time after a play-off with De Vere. In the following year Wisker played a series of matches against Bird, drawing the first (+6 -6 =1) losing the second (+4 -6 =2) and winning the third (+10 -8 = 3).

From 1872 to 1877 Wisker was secretary of the BCA and jointly edited the Chess Player’s Chronicle. wisker suffered from consumption and in 1877 under doctor’s orders emigrated to Australia where he died (H.G.)

Happy Birthday IM Craig Pritchett (15-I-1949)

IM Craig William Pritchett
IM Craig William Pritchett
IM Craig William Pritchett
IM Craig William Pritchett

We send birthday wishes to IM Craig Pritchett who was born this day, January 15th in 1949.

IM Craig William Pritchett
IM Craig William Pritchett

Here is his Wikipedia entry

IM Craig Pritchett (right) with Leonard Barden and Stewart Reuben
IM Craig Pritchett (right) with Leonard Barden and Stewart Reuben

From The Encyclopedia of Chess by Harry Golombek :

Scottish international master and teacher. Prtichett, probably the strongest native-born Scottish player since the days of Captain Mackenzie in the nineteenth century, has represented Scotland with success in five Olympiads : 1966, 1970, 1972, 1974 and 1976. He has also played for Scotland in the Students Olympiads of 1968, 1969 and 1970.

Pritchett playing Karpov at Nice 1974.
Pritchett playing Karpov at Nice 1974.

His first individual success was in the European Junior Championship in Groningen 1969/70 where he came -3rd with Belyavsky. At Decin (Czechoslovakia) 1974 he came 1st in the Masters B section.

He obtained the first part of an international master norm at the Nice Olympiad in 1974 where he scored 60% on top board. In 1975 he again achieved a master norm at the strong Pula Zonal tournament where he came -7th/14.

IM Craig Pritchett (right) at the Aaronson Masters
IM Craig Pritchett (right) at the Aaronson Masters

He was chess correspondent of the Glasgow Herald and author of The Sicilian Scheveningen, Batsford, London, 1977. (article by Harry Golombek)

The Sicilian Scheveningen
The Sicilian Scheveningen
Nimzo Indian 4 e3 Nimzowitsch Hubner & Taimanov Variations
Nimzo Indian 4 e3 Nimzowitsch Hubner & Taimanov Variations
Chess for Rookies
Chess for Rookies
Steinitz Move by Move
Steinitz Move by Move
Play the English
Play the English
Heroes of Classical Chess
Heroes of Classical Chess
Great Chess Romantics
Great Chess Romantics
Starting Out : Sicilian Scheveningen
Starting Out : Sicilian Scheveningen