BCN remembers Mike Bent who passed away on Tuesday, December 28th 2004.
Charles Michael Bent was born on Thursday, 27th of November 1919 and in that year Charles was the fifth most popular boy’s name.
He was born in Portsmouth, Hampshire.
In 1939 he was living at 5, Ashburton Road, Gosport with his mother Eileen B. Bent (née Hill) and was a Sub Lieutenant in the Royal Navy.
He wrote “Best of Bent: Composer’s Choice of His Chess Endgame Studies, 1950-93” This was edited by TG Whitworth.
He died in Swindon on the 28th of December, 2004 having last resided in Hungerford, RG17. Whilst writing the Studies column for British Chess Magazine he resided at “Black Latches”, Inkpen, Newbury, Berkshire.
The C. M. Bent Memorial Composing Tourney was held in 2006-07.
From British Chess Magazine, Volume XCV (95, 1975), Number 1 (January), page 22 we have a charming introduction to CMB from the retiring editor of the Studies column, AJ Roycroft :
“A studies article without a diagram? Yes, and without an apology either. Instead this introduced my successor, Charles Michael Bent, who is as remarkable without the chessboard as he is with it. Now since, as at May 1974, he has composed the total, rarely exceeded by anyone, of 670 studies (of which only 375 have been published), and about 600 problems (one tenth published), his other achievements and activities, insofar as he can be persuaded to talk about them, are worth recounting.
Michael Bent has a passion for all-the-year-round tennis, and loves the country life. Walking and climbing, all-forms of do-it-yourself, word-play nabla/del, puzzles, conjuring and listening to music make the mixture extraordinarily rich. Yet if there was a single word to characterise him it would be simplicity (his choice), with (my addition) a strong and individual sense of humour.
Physically he is a lean, balding 54-year-old as fit as most men half his age. He played at Junior Wimbledon before the War and only three of four years back won the singles tennis championship of his half of Berkshire. He is a modest and delightful companion, and to visit him and his wife Viola, to whom he credits responsibility for the serenity of his condition and surroundings, is a relaxing pleasure I always look forward to in my own hustled and tense London-centered existence.
In his own words he was never really a player of chess at all, but first sight of problems (during the war) and endings (just after it) acted like fireworks on a dark night and lit an imagination which still lacks basic technical knowledge. So, artistic rather than ‘scientific’, have never knowingly composed a didactic study. Am told my ‘style’ is easily recognised. Am aware, but perfectly content, that I compose much that the expert will easily solve, in the hope that the less initiated may be entertained and as attracted as I was in the beginning.
There is a feast, including many surprises, in store for you and me, at the hands of your new chess-chef, ‘CMB of the BCM’.”
From British Chess Magazine, Volume 125 (2005), Number 2 (February), page 98 we have a brief obituary from John Beasley :
“Charles Michael Bent died just over a month after his 85th birthday. Mike Bent had long been Britain’s leading composer of endgame studies, he was a witty and entertaining writer on the subject (and on many others), and the pleasure he gave was rightly acknowledged by the granting in 2001 of one of the BCF President’s Awards for services to chess.
BCM published his first study in 1950 and one of his last 50 years later, and he was our endgame study columnist from January 1975 to March 1985. There will be a steady flow of quotations in Endgame Studies during the coming months. John Beasley”
The Studies column was taken over in April 1985 by Paul Lamford.
From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Robert Hale 1970 & 1976), Anne Sunnucks :
“Born on the 27th November 1919, Michael Bent has only one possible challenger, Harold Lommer, as the finest composer of endgame studies England has ever produced. Although up to October 1967, he had composed 546 problems and 320 studies, he now concentrates almost exclusively on studies. His 17 honoured studies include three 1st prizes. His partiality towards Knights is shown in the typical study selected here.
Michael Bent was educated at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, but had to leave the Navy because of chronic sea-sickness. He served in the Rifle Brigade in the Second World War and afterwards became a rubber plant in Johore, where he survived several terrorist attacks. How now lives with his wife in a Berkshire Village.
Apart from Chess, Michael Bent has other recreations, including wood carving, stamp collecting, composing crossword puzzles and butterfly collecting. His butterfly collection included 500 Malayan specimens. He is also a strong tennis player. Thirty-one years after playing at Wimbledon as a junior, he won the Newbury and District singles title in 1967.”
CM Bent 2nd Honorable Mention New Statesmen 1964 Tourney Award, 5th March 1965
31 Clyde Road, Croydon, England (Fairy Chess Review, issues from 1946 to 1949*).
From The Oxford Companion to Chess (OUP, 1984 & 1996)by Hooper & Ken Whyld :
“English composer, pioneer of both fairy problems and retrograde analysis. His problems in these fields form the greater part of his output (about 6,500 compositions) and are better remembered than his studies and orthodox problems. For fairy problems he invented new pieces: grasshopper (1912) LEO (1912), NEUTRAL MAN (1912) NIGHT RIDER (1925), and VAO (1912); he codified new rules such as the maximummer (1913) and various kinds of series-mover; and he used unorthodox boards.
In 1915 he wrote Retrograde Analysis, the first book on the subject, completing the project begun several years earlier by the German composer Wolfgang Hundsdorfer (1879-1951).
From 1919 to 1930 Dawson conducted a column devoted to fairy problems in the Chess Amateur, In 1926 he was a co-founder of The Problemist , which he edited for its first six years and he founded and edited The Problemist Fairy Supplement (1931-6) continued as The Fairy Chess Review (1936-51).
Besides conducting columns in several newspapers and periodicals, one of them daily and one in the Braille Chess Magazine, Dawson edited the problem section of the British Chess Magazine from 1931 to 1951; he devised and published in its pages (1947-50) a systematic terminology for problem themes in the hope that it would supplant the extensive jargon then and now in use, Dawson wrote five hooks on fairy problems: Caissa’s Wild Roses (1935); C. M. Fox, His Problems (1936); Caissa’s Wild Roses in Clusters (1937); Ultimate Themes (1938); and Caissa’s Fairy Tales (1947).
Charles Masson Fox (1866-1935) was a patron whose generosity made possible the publication of four of these books and the two fairy problem magazines founded by Dawson. Ultimate Themes deals with tasks, another of Dawson’s favourite subjects. In 1973 all five books were republished in one volume. Five Classics of Fairy Chess.
Dawson found it difficult to understand the problemist’s idea of beauty because it is not susceptible to precise definition. The artist talks of “quiet” moves, oblivious that they are White’s most pulverizing attacks! This aesthetic folly, reverence, response thrill to vain-glorious bombast runs throughout chess.(See Bohemian for a problem showing 16 model mates, a task Dawson claimed as a record but a setting Bohemian composers would reject.) His genius did not set him apart from his fellows; he could find time for casual visitors and would explain his ideas to a tyro with patience, modesty, and kindness. Although he won many tourney prizes much of his work was designed to encourage others, to enlarge the small band of fairy problem devotees, He composed less for fame than to amuse himself, confessing to another composer ‘We do these things for ourselves alone.’
A chemistry graduate, Dawson took a post in the rubber industry in 1922 and rose to be head of the Intelligence Division of the British Rubber Manufacturer for which he founded, catalogued, and maintained a technical library. Unwell for the last year of his life, he died from a stroke. K. Fabel and C. E. Kemp, Schach ohne Grenzen or Chess unlimited (1969) is a survey, written in German and English, of Dawson’s contribution to the art of fairy problems.”
From The Encyclopedia of Chess (Robert Hale 1970 & 1976), Anne Sunnucks :
“British problemist. Born on 28th November 1889. Died on 16th December 1951. Universally known as TRD., the great master of Fairy problems. His wealth of invention held the chess world enthralled. His output comprised about 6,400 problems and 150 studies.
Dawson was a nephew of the late James Rayner, himself a noted chess problemist . From as early as about 1910, TRD had conducted the ‘Chess Endings‘ section in the Chess Amateur, and its Fairy section from 1919. He worked with BG Laws from Mark 1930 conducting the problem pages of the British Chess Magazine, and following Laws’ death he assumed complete charge of the section from October 1931 to February 1951 when ill health forced him to relinquish the work.
The Problemist Fairy Chess Supplement subsequently renamed The Fairy Chess Review was started by TRD in August 1930. TRD was concerned in a number of other chess publications ; chess for the Blind, several books of the AC White Christmas series, BCPS Honours 1926-29, and the CM Fox series.
He was largely instrumental in the publication of the first issue of The Problemist on 1st January 1926, and was editor until May 1931. He was President of The British Chess Problem Society from September 1931 to 1943.
Apart from chess, Thomas Dawson, MSc, FRIC, FIRI was an international authority on rubber, and was responsible for the creation of the world-famous rubber library at Croydon, as well as its ‘Dawson’ system of rubber literature documentation. A Guide to Fairy Chess and The Problemist March 1952 detail the remarkable life-time accomplishments of TRD.”
From British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXI (71, 1951), Number 3 (March) pp. 78-80 we have notice of the retirement of TRD written by Brian Reilly :
Following that we have this appreciation from the incoming Problem Editor, Stanley Sedgwick of 337 Strone Road, Manor Park, London E12 :
Unfortunately TRD was to pass away not much more than a year after the retirement notice and in British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXII (72, 1952), Number 4 (April) pp. 107 – 108 we have this obituary also from Stanley Sedgwick :
“Thomas Rayner Dawson (28 November 1889 – 16 December 1951) was an English chess problemist and is acknowledged as “the father of Fairy Chess”. He invented many fairy pieces and new conditions. He introduced the popular fairy pieces grasshopper, nightrider, and many other fairy chess ideas.
Dawson published his first problem, a two-mover, in 1907. His chess problem compositions include 5,320 fairies, 885 directmates, 97 selfmates, and 138 endings. 120 of his problems have been awarded prizes and 211 honourably mentioned or otherwise commended. He cooperated in chess composition with Charles Masson Fox.
Dawson was founder-editor (1922–1931) of The Problemist, the journal of the British Chess Problem Society. He subsequently produced The Fairy Chess Review (1930–1951), which began as The Problemist Fairy Chess Supplement. At the same time he edited the problem pages of The British Chess Magazine (1931–1951).
Caissa’s Playthings a series of articles in Cheltenham Examiner (1913) Retrograde Analysis, with Wolfgang Hundsdorfer (1915) Fata Morgana, with Birgfeld, Nanz, Massmann, Pauly (1922) Asymmetry, with W. Pauly (1928) Seventy Five Retros (1928) Caissa’s Wild Roses (1935) C. M. Fox, His Problems (1936) Caissa’s Wild Roses in Clusters (1937) Ultimate Themes (1938) Caissa’s Fairy Tales (1947)
The last five titles were collected as Five Classics of Fairy Chess, Dover Publications (1973), ISBN 978-0-486-22910-2.”
We remember Anthony Dickins who passed away this day (Wednesday, November 25th) in 1987.
Anthony Stewart Mackay Dickins was born at 1 Rivers Street, Bath, Somerset on Sunday, November 1st, 1914. On this day was the Battle of Coronel — The Royal Navy suffered its first defeat of World War I, after a British squadron commanded by Rear-Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock met and was defeated by superior German forces led by Vice-Admiral Maximilian von Spee in the eastern Pacific.
Anthony’s parents were Frederick and Florence Dickins (née Mackay) Frederick was a Captain in the Royal Artillery and was born on 25th November 1879, commissioned on May 26th 1900. He became a Colonel on 26th May 1930 and retired November 25th 1936. He was alive in 1972 (aged 92) and living in Bexhill passing away aged 101/102. He was awarded the CIE which is “Companion, Order of the Indian Empire in 1914”.
Anthony was baptised on December 29th in Seend, Wiltshire. Anthony had a brother Frederick James Douglas born in 1907 who married Nellie or Peggie Moist (records are unclear).
It would appear that Florence and Anthony (aged 5) travelled to Bombay from Plymouth on board the SS City of York (Ellerman Lines) departing December 26th, 1919 presumably to visit his father in India. The ships master was J. McKellan.
At the time of the 1939 Census Anthony was residing in the Tavistock Hotel in Tavistock Square. His occupation was given as journalist and editor and described as single.
From the Hull Daily Mail (extant and renamed Hull Live) of March 4th, 1939 we have this part review of a magazine called The Joys of Poetry. Anthony was the editor :
He died in Lambeth Wednesday, November 25th) in 1987. We have yet to determine where he was buried or cremated.
“Anthony Dickins wrote A Guide to Fairy Chess (1967) and other books about fairy chess. He edited the column of non-original fairy problems for “The Problemist”. He was specialized in constructional problems and was also an International Judge.”
From British Chess (Pergamon Press, 1984), Botterill, Levy, Rice and Richardson :
“Chess first entered my life seriously about 1950 at the well-known Mandrake Social and Chess Club in Meard Street, Soho, run by Harold Lommer and Boris Watson. Purely literary connections took me there in the first place, as it was a rendezvous for the literary fraternity, such as Dylan Thomas, David Gascoyne and others.
After the war Harold converted a small wine-vault into a tiny cramped chess-room, with some dozen tables and boards. Many well-known
personalities in the world of Chess were occasional visitors, such as Grandmasters Ossip Bernstein, Paul Keres, Jacques Mieses and Friedrich Sämisch; British Champions Willy Winter, Bob Wade and Dr. Fazekas; M. J. Franklin, now a British Master, and the Problemists, Dr. E. T. O. Slater and B. J. da C. Andrade. Mieses was then in his late eighties and charged a fee of half-a-crown (12.5 pence) for a game. When his name was mispronounced ‘Mister My-ziz’ he would say ‘I am Meister Mieses, not Mister My-ziz’.
Sämisch once played fourteen of us blindfold, defeating all except one, a very strong Indian player, Atta, who obtained a draw. My regular ‘partners’ were Vicki Weiss, the famous cartoonist, his brother Oscar, Richard Crewdson, Mr Keller (a professional who played sharply for a shifty shilling), Brian Mason, Colin ‘Puffer’ Evans, (whose strategy was to puff cigarette ash and smoke all over the board to bemuse the opponent) and Bob Troy (who always fell fast asleep immediately after making each move and had to be wakened on his next turn to play). There was a juke-box in the next room constantly blaring forth pop and bop. Most of all I played with Alex Distler, and with him always’variants of the game’ like Cylindrical Chess, Rifle Chess, Progressive Chess, or the Losing Game.
In this colourful and inspiring, if rather smoky and noisy, atmosphere I composed my first six chess problems, helpmates and cylindricals, though I did not then know of the existence of Problem books or magazines, nor had I heard of Sam Loyd, Max Lange, or T. R. Dawson when the Mandrake closed in the late fifties and Harold Lommer retired to Spain to write his two monumental works on Endgame Studies.
For the next 10 years or so I played at the West London and Athenaeum Chess Clubs, for Middlesex County and at Hastings congresses, meanwhile regularly solving the problems in the two evening newspapers for practice.
In 1965, in my 51st year, I discovered chess-problem magazines and the British Chess Problem Society, and was soon asked by John Rice to join the Fairy
Chess Correspondence Circle, whose director, W. Cross, perhaps the greatest solver of all time, guided my early footsteps in fairyland. At this point I compiled for my own use a summary of all the usual rules and conventions in Fairy Chess, as these were numerous and complicated. It occurred to me that a few other people might also welcome such a summary, so I put it into book form as A Guide to Fairy Chess, which I published by myself in 1967 under the imprint ‘The O Press’, a pun on the name ‘Kew’ where I was then living.
To my amazement it had rave reviews (‘the comprehensive work, so long awaited’, ‘more like an encyclopaedia’, ‘the bible of Fairy Chess’) and sold like hot cakes, going into three editions, each one enlarged and revised, the third produced by Dover Publications, New York, in 1971. Two years later I edited Dover’s publication of T. R. Dawson’s Five Classics of Fairy Chess.
In 1970 I flew to the States to spend a few days in the J. G. White collection in Cleveland, Ohio, researching historical material on Fairy Chess. This Ohio collection has the largest chess library in the world, and to my surprise I found that it contains also ‘every book or article ever written on or about ‘Omar Khayyam and Alice in Wonderland . To find oneself suddenly and unexpectedly transported, as if by magic carpet, into a superbly organised library with the most complete collections in the world of the three subjects that happen to be one’s own three principal literary interests is an experience that must approach closely to entering Nirvana, and I am happy to have had it. This visit enabled me to write A Short History of Fairy Chess (1975) and to give the lecture Alice in Fairyland to the Lewis Carroll Society in London, published in their journal Jabberwocky and reprinted by myself in 1976 (2nd edn 1978) .
In 1972 I decided to present my (by then) extensive collection of Fairy Chess books and magazines to my old university library at Cambridge to prevent the possible break-up of the collection as a single unit, and to ensure that at least one fairly complete Fairy Chess collection was retained in Britain.
In 1968 I was invited to open a Fairy Chess section in The Problemist, organ of the BCPS, which I handed over to Dr. C. C. L. Sells in 1970, and from 1974 to 1981 I ran another column in that magazine called ‘Other Types’. This chess journalism has brought me into touch with many problemists, and made many friends for me, in foreign countries.
In 1967, on a visit to Mannheim for the Schwalbe annual meeting, I met Wilhelm Karsch, then editor of Feenschach, and in 1968 in Munich I again met Dr. Karl Fabel, whom I first came to know in London in 1967, and also Peter Kniest, one of the two present editors of Feenschach. In 1969, on a visit to Paris, a meeting was arranged for me at the late Jean Oudot’s flat, with Pierre Monr6al, J. P. Boyer, F. de Lionnais (author of the Dictionnaire des Echecs) and other French problemists, and altogether I have attended twenty three major problemist meetings in various countries, including FIDE meetings in The Hague, Wiesbaden, Canterbury and Helsinki. It has been my constant aim to try to encourage and cultivate the practice and study of Fairy Chess and to keep alive the great legacy that T.R. Dawson left to the world when he died in 1951.
In recent years I have developed close relations with the younger generation of West German problemists, who are very active in Fairy Chess, centred round 29-year-old Bernd Ellinghoven, who helps Peter Kniest to edit Feenschach and who printed my last booklet, Fairy Chess Problems (1979), containing
poems as well as problems, combined in a new kind of fairy technique, for I believe that Fairy Chess represents in many ways the ‘poetry’ of Chess.
the 50th birthday of T. R. Dawson on the 28th November 1939 a certain Dr Lazarus of Budapest wrote in Fairy Chess Review: ‘T. R. D. these three
letters represent a conception in the Poetry of Chess which is amongst the most ingenious of all its turns, one of its most strange and interesting phases… Without T.R.D. human culture would lack a factor in its development’. Those people (and there are some) who would banish Fairy Chess altogether from Caissa’s realm resemble the iron-hearted Mr. Gradgrinds who would abolish romance, mystery, poetry, invention, discovery and imagination from human life.
Elsewhere I have written: ‘The Game for Murderers, The Problem for Philosophers, Fairy Chess for Sufis’, because the aim of the game-player is to ‘mate’ (kill) the opponent (from Arabic, mat _ dead), while the problemist has no personal opponent to kill, but merely a philosophical problem to resolve. In Fairy Chess, however, the adept is transported to another plane of existence, to an ‘undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveller returns’,to new’dimensions’ of thought (as in 3- and 4-dimensional problems) – in short, to Fairyland, to Nirvana.
The three problems represent my early, middle and later compositions. The helpmate in three moves (Black plays first in a helpmate) is a miniature culminating in an ideal Mate. C. H. O’D. Alexander was much tickled by what he called ‘the deceptive pawn’ on a2, which unexpectedly does not promote.
The Construction Task with 113 White moves, all ‘maintaining’ the legal stalemate position in which Black finds himself, is a standing record that defeated the previous record of 112 such moves obtained independently by six problemists in six countries, one of them an lnternational Master of FIDE.
The Knight’s Tour is one of the oldest genres of Fairy Chess, dating from the earliest days of chess, and in TR Dawson’s Fairy Chess Review he published many of them., including some that showed the ‘square numbers’ (1,4,9,16,25,36,49,64) all on one rank – in the present example I have added the extra strict condition that as many as possible of the numbers 1 to 16 must be in the SW corner and as many as possible of the numbers 1 to 32 must be in the W half of the board.
For two reasons the perfect ideal in this task cannot be attained, firstly because of the given position of the number 25, and secondly because it is not possible to make a Knight’s tour on a 4 x 4 board in the SW corner.
1. Helpmate, Evening News, 20th February 1957 dedicated to Harold Lommer
Helpmate in 3 moves
1. Kd5 Nb1
2. Kc4 e8=Q
3. Kb3 Qb5 mate
2. Construction Task Record, Feenschach 9341 Sep/Oct 1969 dedicated to Karl Fabel
113 unforced stalemate maintenances with Promotion in Play (Pawn promotions count as 4 moves) unforced as W has some moves that do not maintain stalemate, so he is not ‘forced’ to maintain it.
3. Knight’s Tour Chessics 5(180) July, 1978 dedicated to D. Nixon.
Knights tour with
a) All square number on 4th rank
b) maximum of 1-16 in SW quad
c) maximum of 1-32 in W half
Charles Masson Fox was born on Friday, November 9th 1866 in Falmouth, Cornwall. his father, Howard, was 29 and his mother, Olivia Blanche Orme, was 22. He had one brother and two sisters.
His sister Olivia Lloyd was born on 5 February 1868 in Falmouth, Cornwall, when Charles Masson was 1 year old. His sister Stella was born on 11 December 1876 in Falmouth, Cornwall, when Charles Masson was 10 years old. In 1881 he was living in Sherborne, Dorset. In 1901 he was once more living in Falmouth and his profession was that of a timber merchant. His brother Howard Orme died on 7 June 1921 in Falmouth, Cornwall. His father Howard passed away on 15 November 1922 in Cornwall. His mother Olivia Blanche passed away on 12 March 1930 in Falmouth, Cornwall, at the age of 85.
Sadly, neither Hooper & Whyld, Sunnucks or Golombek mention Fox in their works.
“Charles Masson Fox (9 November 1866 – 11 October 1935) was a Cornish businessman who achieved international prominence in the world of chess problems and a place in the gay history of Edwardian England.
Masson Fox was born into a Quaker family (although he was not related to the Quakers’ founder George Fox) and was a cousin of the fraudulent sinologist Sir Edmund Backhouse, 2nd Baronet. Living throughout his life in the Cornish seaside town of Falmouth, Fox in the early decades of his life was a senior partner of his family’s timber firm, Fox Stanton & Company, and was also on the Board of Messrs G C Fox & Company, a long-established firm of shipping agents.
C.M.Fox’s gravestone at Budock Quaker Burial Ground
Fox is described by chess historian Thomas Rayner Dawson (1889–1951) as “a friendly man, kind, mellow, lovable, bringing peace and comfort and serene joy with him”. He was also a discreet but active homosexual. In 1909 he visited Venice with his friend James Cockerton, meeting the writer Frederick Rolfe and becoming the reluctant recipient of Rolfe’s famous Venice Letters, in which the gay subculture of Venice is vividly described.
In 1912–13 Fox was blackmailed by a woman who accused him of seducing her 16-year-old son. Eventually Fox reported the matter to the police and the woman was sent to prison for five years and her son for one year, with hard labour. However, Fox was profoundly affected by the publicity surrounding the case, which was reported in detail in the local press. The predictable result of his courageous action was the destruction of his reputation, and the compromise of his business and social life in Falmouth.
Although he continued to live in Cornwall, the focus of his social life shifted to London, and in the last two decades of his life, Fox became prominent in the world of chess. He was elected President of the Cornwall Chess Association, played a prominent part in the development of the British Chess Problem Society, and is still renowned as one of the greatest ever exponents of fairy chess (chess problems with variations in the rules).”
From The Problemist Fairy Chess Supplement, 1933 :
What is the shortest game
ending in this position?
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