BCN remembers Colin Russ who passed away on Wednesday, September 22nd 2021.
This news was revealed to the English Chess Forum by David Sedgwick as follows:
I have been notified by the British Chess Problem Society that Colin A H Russ died on Wednesday 22nd September 2021 at the age of 91. He had been in hospital for some weeks, with no hope of recovery.
Colin Albert Henry Russ was born on Wednesday, March 19th, 1930 in Croydon, Surrey. His father was Albert HW Russ (born November 1st, 1898) who was an instructor of woodworking crafts. His mother was Delcie A Russ (née Dye, born November 7th, 1901) who carried out unpaid domestic duties.
According to the 1939 register Colin was listed as a scholar and the family resided at 42, Poplar Road, Sutton, Surrey which is now SM3 9JX.
In 1972 Colin, aged 42, married Zsuzsanna Kelemen in Sittingbourne, Kent.
Colin Russ was a chess expert and edited a chess problem column in the CHESS magazine. He wrote the anthology “Miniature chess problems from Many Lands” in 1981 and it was republished several times, for instance in 1987 under the title “Miniature chess problems from Many Countries”.
John Ballard wrote the following of this book:
An unusual book in several respects. Firstly the positions are miniatures, that is 7 pieces or less. Secondly the solutions are in algebraic notation for the most part, with the main line being also given in descriptive. Lastly many of the ‘ usual suspects’ in the compostion field are not there, which meant for me learning new names and of course problems.
Familiar names here are Cheron, Dijk, Fleck, Havel, Kipping, Kubbel, Lipton, Loyd, Mansfield, Marble, Skinkman, Speckman, and Wurzburg. So that leaves dozens of composers (including one allegedly by Wojtyla, later to become Pope John Paul II), as a moderate solver I have never come across before, a special delight.
My favourite 3 mover is the one by Sam Loyd that starts with a check, and has a spectacular queen sacrifice. Sam reckoned this was a mere trifle, composed in a ride downtown, but it is a thing of beauty, and I bet many problemists wish they were as quick and adept at composing as The Puzzle King?! There is an interesting introduction to solving, not too heavy, but comprehensive enough. Many of the solutions are given with helpful comments.
The layout of the work is that 3 or 4 problems are given on the left page, and solutions are to be found opposite on the right. If the book is reprinted I would suggest the solutions be removed to an appendix, to remove the temptation for intermittent solvers like myself to take a sneak peak if a problem was proving intractable!
He served the British Chess Problem Society in various roles, as President from 1987 to 1989, Secretary from 1980 to 2001, and delegate to the PCCC from 1987 to 1994. He was also responsible for introducing the late Michael Ormandy to the Society, which led to the establishment of The Problemist Supplement.
The problem below was selected in the FIDE Album 1956-1958:
Colin was an accomplished over-the-board player and has 117 games recorded in MegaBase 2020 spanning from 1993 to June 2009. Most of these games arise from the Seefeld (Austria) Open and the Jersey Open in St. Helier.
In England Colin represented the Athenaeum club and remained active until 2015.
David Sedgwick went on to write:
Colin, always genial, amusing and engaging, was for decades a pillar of the BCPS and for many years its Secretary. He was a considerable composer of problems and he published a number of books on the subject.
As a player he was of good Club standard, BCF 160 -170 or thereabouts. He remained active until 2015, although his strength dropped off somewhat in the later years.
I got to know him at the Hastings International Chess Congress 1991 – 1992. One of the players in the Hastings Premier that year was the Russian GM Alexei Suetin, who spoke German but not English. I discovered that Colin spoke German well and he proved invaluable as a translator. (I learned only today that by profession he was a university lecturer in German.)
During that Hastings Premier we arranged to have a ceremonial first move made each day by a “name”. Colin was delighted to be chosen for this honour.
(With acknowledgments to Christopher Jones, who succeeded Colin as BCPS Secretary and remains in office.)
Elsewhere on the BCN Facebook group Henrik Mortensen wrote:
He was a great man. In the tournament in Oostende 1992 he beat me with Black in the first round (19th. September 1992). He was much lower rated than me, so … Later in the tournament my travelmate and I both had problems with our cards and he kindly offered to lend us money. Our problems were solved, but it was very kind of him to offer his help. HVIL I FRED.
His best win is probably this one:
but he will be best remembered for his contribution to the world of problems.
BCN remembers Dr. Julian Farrand who passed on Friday, July 17th, 2020. He was 84 years of age.
Julian Thomas Farrand was born August 13th, 1935 in Doncaster in the West Riding of Yorkshire.
Dr. Farrand QC(Hon), formerly the Insurance Ombudsman, became the Pensions Ombudsman, and he had been a Law Commissioner and a University Professor of Law at the University of Manchester where he was Dean of the faculty.
Most recently he lived in Morpeth, London, SW1.
His first recorded game in Megabase 2020 was white at the 1968 British Championships in Bristol against life-long friend CGM Keith Bevan Richardson. Together with Raymond Brunton Edwards, Julian and Keith were long-time trustees of the BCFs Permanent Invested Fund (PIF).
Julian played for Pimlico, Cavendish and Insurance in the London League and he maintained a standard play grading of 172A in 2020 as well as a FIDE rating of 1943 for standard play. He also played in the London Public Services League, the Central London League and the City Chess Association League. He made regular appearances in the Bronowski Trophy competition and the World Senior’s Team Tournament.
His (according to Megabase 2020) peak Elo rating was 2238 in April, 2004 aged 69. It is likely to have been higher than that if it was measured.
Julian joined Barbican following its merger with Perception Youth to become Barbican Youth in the Four Nations Chess League (4NCL).
His favourite openings with white were : The Richter-Veresov Opening in later years and the English/Barcza Opening in earlier times.
With Black he enjoyed the Czech System and the Lenningrad Dutch.
His son, Tom, is a strong player and a successful barrister with expertise in Intellectual Property Rights, Trademarks and Copyright law.
His wife (married in 1992), Baroness Hale of Richmond, served as President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom from 2017 to 2020, and serves as a member of the House of Lords as a Lord Temporal.
Memorial messages have been posted on the English Chess Forum and many will, no doubt, follow. Included are older games from John Saunders not found in the online databases.
In 2015 Julian (together with fellow trustees Keith Richardson and Ray Edwards) received the ECF President’s Award for services to the Permanent Invested Fund.
Here is the citation from the 2015 award :
“Julian is best known as the first*-ever English ombudsman (in insurance). He is the husband of law lord Baroness Hale. I (SR) first met him at about the age of 12 year old when playing for my school. He is about four years older. Both Ray and Julian are members of the Book of the Year Committee and have been reviewing books for this purpose for many years. Both are quite strong chess players, indeed playing for England in the same team in the European 60+ Team Championship in Vienna 11-20 July 2015. Keith was to have been a member of the same team, but his wife’s ill-health forced him to withdraw.”
*On January 15th 2022 we received the following electronic email message from Heather Ridge, a legal assistant as follows:
Julian Farrand was most certainly NOT the first Insurance Ombudsman. The late James Haswell OBE was appointed the first Insurance Ombudsman in 1981.
I know this as I had the privilege of being his first Senior Legal Assistant. Please correct this immediately.
Few people know the story of Vera Menchik yet it deserves to be told. She was the first women’s world chess champion in 1927 and retained the title undefeated until her untimely death at the age of 38 in 1944 during a rocket attack on London. She is more properly compared with the great male players of her era against whom she scored creditably. The absence of a full biography of Vera in English reflects the peculiar circumstances of her life and death.
Vera was, in modern terminology, a refugee and essentially a stateless person for much of her life. She was born in Moscow in 1906 during the period of the Russian Empire to an expatriate family who was forced to flee when she was 15 following the Russian Revolution having lost their livelihood. As they passed through Europe, her father and mother split up in his homeland Czechoslovakia which had been created out of the ruins of the Austro-Hungarian empire. She arrived in England and took up residence in the seaside town of Hastings. (The fact that Hastings had hosted the world’s longest series of annual chess tournaments since 1895 was a happy coincidence.) Vera never attained British nationality until near the end of her life even though she had been domiciled in England from 1921. She won the first-ever Women’s World Championships held in London in 1927 under a Russian flag; thereafter she nominally represented Czechoslovakia until finally she represented England in 1939 following her marriage to a senior official within the British Chess Federation.
Vera’s grandfather was Arthur Illingworth, a wealthy trader from Lancashire who had set up business in Moscow where his Anglo-Russian daughter Olga married František Menčik. He was a successful estate manager. Vera learned chess from her father and performed well at school. Her younger sister Olga was also a good chess player and the sisters remained close throughout their lives.
Vera was a woman in a man’s world – she had to struggle harder to achieve the kind of recognition which was accorded to men. She appeared like a comet in the sky and it would be many years until other women were able to reach her level. At her first major international tournament at Karlsbad in 1929, she was the only female participant in a tournament of 22 great players. Even as women’s world champion, some of the male players objected to her participation. The Viennese master Albert Becker joked that anybody who lost to her should belong to the Vera Menchik Club. By an irony of history, he became its first member losing to her in the third round. She beat many other grandmasters during her career including the Dutchman Max Euwe in 1930 and 1931 (both at Hastings) who was to become world champion in 1935.
Although she is often portrayed as being Russian or Czech or latterly British, she was a true cosmopolitan. She knew that life could be unstable in any country. She had lived through the Russian Revolution; one parent was left behind in Czechoslovakia; she had moved westwards across Europe and embraced different cultures and languages at formative stages of her life. It is no wonder that she learned also to speak Esperanto which was designated to be the world’s lingua franca before English achieved its dominance. As a leading chess player, she travelled back to Moscow and to Czechoslovakia several times as well as to South America for her final match to retain the women’s world champion title in 1939. She needed to be self-sufficient and was obtained roles as the games editor of a chess magazine as well as being appointed the manager of the National Chess Centre in Oxford Street which was destroyed during the Blitz in 1940.
She survived most of the war and now a widow moved in with her mother and sister to a house in south London. They took the precaution of going down to the cellar during bombing raids. Tragically the house received a direct hit from a flying bomb and the entire family was wiped out. Hardly any of her possessions remained save for one dented trophy. The records at the national chess centre were destroyed as were her personal effects including her chess memorabilia. At least there remains a record of the moves played in her games which serve as testimony to her remarkable career as not only the first women’s world chess champion but also a woman who broke boundaries wherever she went and demonstrated that a woman is capable of standing on her own feet professionally and leading a full and eventful life.
The Bomb Attack
BCN remembers that in the early morning of Tuesday, June 27th, 1944 (i.e. 77 years ago) Vera Menchik, her sister Olga, and their mother were killed in a V-1* flying bomb attack which destroyed their home at 47 Gauden Road in the Clapham area of South London.
(*The V-1 was an early cruise missile with a fairly crude guidance system.)
All three were cremated at the Streatham Park Crematorium on 4 July 1944. Vera was 38 years old.
Vera’s Parents and Sister
Vera Frantsevna Menchik (or Věra Menčíková) was born in Moscow on Friday, 16th February, 1906. Her father was František Menčik, was born in Bystrá nad Jizerou, Bohemia. František and Olga were married on June 23rd 1905 in Moscow and notice of this marriage appeared in British newspapers on July 22nd 1905. Vera’s sister was Olga Rubery (née Menchik) and she was born in Moscow in 1908. Olga Menchik married Clifford Glanville Rubery in 1938. Vera married Rufus Henry Streatfeild Stevenson on October 19th 1937.
Her Maternal Roots
Our interest in unearthing her maternal English heritage / roots has led to the following:
Her mother was Olga (née Illingworth (1885 – 27 vi 1944). Olga’s parents were Arthur Wellington Illingworth and Marie Illingworth (née ?). Arthur was born in October 1852 in the district of Salford, Lancashire, his parents were George Illingworth (1827-1887) and Alice Whewell (1828-1910).
In the 1861 census Arthur is recorded as being of eight years of age and living in the Illingworth household.
In the 1871 census Arthur is recorded as being of eighteen years of age and living in the Illingworth household of nine persons at 5, Lancaster Road, Pendleton, Lancashire. Arthur’s occupation is listed as being a merchants apprentice. In fact, he was a stock and share broker.
Arthur died in Moscow on February 21st 1898. Probate was recorded in London on July 6th, 1900 as follows:
Illingworth Arthur Wellington of Moscow Russia merchant died 21st February 1898 Probate London 6th July to Walter Illingworth stock and share-broker Effects £4713 7s
£4713 7s in 1898 equates roughly to £626,600.00 in 2020 so it would appear that Arthur was considerably successful and almost certainly left money to Olga Illingworth.
What do we conclude from all of this? Quite simply that Vera’s maternal roots were from Salford in Lancashire.
The August 1944 British Chess Magazine (Volume LXIV, Number 8, page 173 onwards) contained this editorial from Julius du Mont:
“British Chess has suffered a grievous and irreparable loss in the death by enemy action of Mrs. R.H.S. Stevenson known through all the world where chess is played as Vera Menchik.
We give elsewhere (below : Ed.) an appreciation of this remarkable woman. Quite apart from her unique gifts as a chess-player-the world may never see her equal again among women players-she had many qualities which endeared her to all who knew her, the greatest among them being here great-hearted generosity.
We sympathise with our contemporary “CHESS” : Vera Menchik was for some years their games editor. Few columns have been conducted with equal skill and efficiency and none, we feel sure, with a greater sense of responsibility.
The news of this remarkable tragedy will be received by the chess world with sorrow and with abhorrence of the wanton and useless robot methods of a robot people.
One shudders at the heritage of hatred which will be theirs, but their greatest punishment will come with their own enlightenment.”
BCM Contemporary Obituary from EGR Cordingley
From page 178 of the same issue we have an obituary written by EGR Cordingley :
“The death by enemy action of Miss Vera Menchik removes not only the greatest woman chess player of all times but a charming personality.
The world will remember her for her chess prowess, for her exceptional skill as a woman player who had beaten in tournament play such gifted players as Euwe, Sultan Khan, Sir George Thomas, Alexander and Yates. In such company, and she played in several of the Hastings International tournaments and other of similar grade, she usually obtained about 33%, though in the Maribor tournament of 1934 she finished third, behind Pirc and Steiner but ahead of Rejfir, Spielmann, Asztalos and Vidmar.
Her game was characterised by solid position-play, with the definite aim of bringing about a favourable end-game and of avoiding wild complications. The ordinary stratagems of the game, small combinations and the like, were of course part of her equipment, but she lacked that imaginative, inventive spirit without which few become really great players.
In recent times, Reshesvky and Flohr (as a professional with a reputation to maintain and a living to earn) have shown that great success can be achieved by reducing the game to pure positional play, the technique being firstly to build up a position devoid of weaknesses, an ‘I can’t lose position,’ and secondly to create and take advantage of the minutest weaknesses in the opponent’s camp, a major weakness may show that imagination is not quite dead within.
This defect in her play was the inevitable reflection of her character: sound common-sense, conscientious to an unusual degree, and persevering, while she had the combative, tenacious nature so desirable and so often found in good chess players; for chess is battle of wits, the fight is what most of use love in chess. Vera was, seldom assertive, a fault not uncommon in chess players. She sat placidly at the chess board, never causing even mild irritation by any of those nervous mannerisms that may always be seen in any chess room, the peripatetic fever being the most prominent. A slight flush would rise when the position grew difficult, or when she was short of time on her clock – and that was recurrent according to the time-limit.
Away from the chessboard show would readily talk of other subjects, and her great interest was in persons, in their actions and behaviour under the strain and stress of the unruly passions; in the moulding of their lives under the inscrutable dictates of chance; in the twists and turns of a mind warped perhaps by a casual incident long ago. Of course, she was a pagan, a thinking one, who had asked and asked and found only the answer that reasoning gave. She judged kindly and never inflicted upon others her own opinions or beliefs: she asked only that these should be heard as one side of any argument, for she enjoyed a dialectic bout.
A delightful side to her character was her simple sense of humour, and I remember so clearly her pleasure – glee would describe it more eloquently – when I gave her the punctuation necessary to make sense of that ludicrous collection of words, ‘Jones where Brown had had had had had had had had had had had the master’s approval’ Anyone who knew her only at the chessboard would have been astonished at the amount of bubbling merriment she discovered of of life’s events.
I shall remember her more for the woman as I knew her over many cups of coffee spread over many, many weeks – complacent, smiling, and kindly; conscientious, loyal, and sincere; as I understand the word, a Christian who would help any deserving person as best she could. E. G. R. C.
and here is the original article as printed:
BCM 1958 Appreciation by Peter Clarke
From British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXVIII (78, 1958), Number 7 (July), page 181 onwards) we have this retrospective from Peter Clarke:
“The night of June 27th,1944, Vera Menchik, World Woman Champion, was killed when an enemy bomb demolished her home in London; with her perished her mother and sister Olga. In these tragic circumstances the chess world lost its greatest woman player, still undefeated and at the height of her powers.
Vera Francevna Menchik was born in Moscow on February 16th, 1906, of an English mother and Czech father. There she spent her childhood, showing a love for literature, music, and, of course, chess, which at the age of nine she was taught by her father. She had a natural bent for the game and when only fourteen shared second and third places a schoolboys (!) tournament. The following year, 1921, the family came to England, where Miss Menchik lived the rest of her life.
As if by some fortunate coincidence, the Menchiks settled in Hastings, though it was not until the spring of 1923 that Vera joined the famous chess club. Her natural shyness and lack of knowledge of English caused this delay. However, they did not handicap her too much
as she herself afterwards wrote: ‘Chess is a quiet game and therefore the best hobby for a person who cannot speak the language.”
She studied the game eagerly, and very soon her talent caught the attention of the Hungarian grandmaster, Géza Maróczy, who was resident at Hastings at that time. Thus there began the most important period in her development as a player; a sound and mature understanding of positional play-and a thorough knowledge of a few special openings and defences: in particular the French Defence. The influence of
the grandmasters ideas was clearly apparent in her style throughout the whole of her career.
Miss Menchik’s rise to fame was meteoric: by 1925 she was undoubtedly the strongest player of her sex in the country, having twice defeated the Champion, E. Price, in short matches; and only two years later she won the first Women’s World Championship in London with the terrific score 10.5-0.5. She was just twenty-one, but already in a different class from any other woman in the world. For seventeen years until her death Vera Menchik reigned supreme in women’s chess, defending her world title successfully no less than seven times (including a match with Sonja Graf at Semmering in 1937, which Miss Menchik won 11.5-4.5. In the seven tournaments for the World Championship she played 83 games; winning 78, drawing 4, and losing 1 only! However, what was more remarkable was that she was accepted into the sphere of men’s chess as a master in her own right, a feat which no woman had done before or has done since. Up to then, women’s chess had been a very poor relation of the masculine game, but here was a woman who was a worthy opponent for the strongest masters.
Flohr wrote of her: ‘Vera Menchik was the first woman in the world who played chess strongly…who played like a man.’ It was as the ambassador extraordinary, so to speak, of the women’s game that Miss Menchik really made her greatest contribution to chess. Wherever she went, at home and abroad, she aroused great interest among her sex; others were eager to follow her, to identify themselves with her. Nowadays women’s chess is well organized, and much of the credit for this must go to Vera Menchik for first bringing it into the light. Among her many personal successes in international tournaments perhaps the greatest was at Ramsgate in 1929: as one of the foreign masters (she was still of Czech nationality) she shared second and third places with Rubinstein, * point behind Capablanca and above, among others, her tutor Maróczy.
Even the greatest masters recognized Miss Menchik’s ability; Alekhine himself, writing on the Carlsbad Tournament of 1929, said: ‘Vera Menchik is without doubt an exceptional phenomenon among women. She possesses great aptitude for the game…The chess
world must help her develop her talent!’
The Vera Menchik Club
An amusing incident occurred at this tournament. There were naturally sceptics among the masters over the lady’s participation. Flohr recalls how one of these, the Viennese master Becker, suggested:
‘Whoever loses to the Woman Champion will be accepted as a member of the Vera Menchik Club which I intend to organize.’
Becker was the first to lose to her, and that evening the masters chided him: “Professor Becker, you did not find it very difficult to join the club. You can be the Chairman.’ And forthwith he was chosen as Chairman for three years. Everyone wished that the new club would soon obtain more members! Indeed, the Vera Menchik Club has many famous names on its lists-Euwe, Reshevsky, Colle, Yates, Sultan Khan, Sir G. A. Thomas, Alexander, to mention a few.
In 1935 Miss Menchik returned to the country of her birth to take part in the great international tournament in Moscow. To be truthful, she had very little success, but she was everywhere treated with respect and sympathy by masters and spectators alike. The Soviet master l. Maiselis, writing in CHESS in 1944.(Shakhmaty za 1944 god), related the following entertaining anecdote from the tournament: One day a group of players and organizers were discussing the chances of Alekhine and Euwe in the forthcoming match. Flohr said: ‘It is quite clear that I will be World Champion.’ We looked at him inquiringly.
‘It’s very simple,” continued Flohr, ‘Euwe wins a match against Alekhine, Vera Menchik beats Euwe (at that time her score against Euwe was +2, =1, -1) and I will somehow beat Miss Menchik.’
We laughed at this good-natured joke, and we laughed all the more the next day when Flohr was unable, despite every effort, to defeat her in a vital game.
ln 1937 Miss Menchik married R. Stevenson, but in chess she continued to use her maiden name, made famous by so many victories. Her husband, a well-known organizer, became, Secretary of the B.C.F: in the following year and remained so until his death in 1943.
Since the days of Vera Menchik women’s chess has taken great strides forward; now there is a special committee of F.I.D.E. to look after its needs.- Only last year the first lnternational Women’s Team Tournament took place ln Emmen, Holland; the new World Champions, the U.S.S.R., became the first holders of the Vera Menchik Cup. So chess goes onwards, but the name of its first Queen will ever be remembered.”
From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Robert Hale, 1970 & 1976) by Anne Sunnucks :
“Woman World Champion from 1927 to 1944. Vera Menchik was born in Moscow on 16th February 1906 of an English mother and a Czech father. Her father taught her to play chess when she was 9.
In 192l her family came to England and settled in Hastings (at 13, St. John’s Road, St. Leonards-on-Sea, TN37 6HP) :
Two years later, when she was 17, Vera joined Hastings Chess Club,
where she became a pupil of Geza Maroczy. The first Women’s World Championship was held in 1927. Vera Menchik won with a score of 10.5 out of 11. She defended her title successfully in Hamburg in 1930, in Prague in 1931, in Folkestone in 1933, in Warsaw in 1935, in Stockholm in 1937 and in Buenos Aires in 1939. She played 2 matches against Sonja Graf, her nearest rival, in 1934 when she won +3 -1 and in 1937, in a match for her title when she won +9 -1 =5.
The first woman ever to play in the British Championship and the first to play in a master tournament, Vera Menchik made her debut in master chess at Scarborough 1928 when she scored 50 per cent. The following year she played in Paris and Carlsbad, and it was at Carlsbad that the famous Menchik Club was formed. The invitation to Vera Menchik to compete among such players as Capablanca, Euwe, Tartakower and Nimzowitch was received with amusement by many of the masters. The Viennese master, Becker was particularly scornful, and in the presence of a number of the competitors he suggested that anyone who lost to Vera Menchik should be granted membership of the Menchik Club. He himself became the first member. Other famous players who later joined the club were Euwe, Reshevsky, Sultan Khan, Sir George Thomas, C. H. O’D. Alexander, Colle and Yates.
Her greatest success in international tournaments was at Ramsgate in 1929, when she was =2nd with Rubinstein, half a point behind Capablanca and ahead of Maroczy. In 1934 she was 3rd at Maribor, ahead of Spielmann and Vidmar. In 1942 she won a match against Mieses +4 -l -5. In 1937 Vera Menchik married R. H. S. Stevenson, who later became Hon. Secretary of the British Chess Federation. He died in 1943. She continued to use her maiden name when playing chess. On her marriage she became a British subject.
From 1941 until her death she was Games Editor of CHESS. She also gave chess lessons and managed the National Chess Centre, which opened in 1939 at John Lewis’s in Oxford Street, London and was destroyed by a bomb in 1940.
In 1944 Vera Menchik was a solid positional player, who avoided complications and aimed at achieving a favourable endgame. Her placid temperament was ideal for tournament play. Her main weakness was possibly lack of imagination. Her results have made her the most successful woman player ever.”
From The Encyclopaedia of Chess, (BT Batsford, 1977) by Harry Golombek :
Probably the strongest woman player in the history of the game, Vera Menchik was born in Moscow and, though her father was a Czechoslovak and her mother English, she played for most of her
life under English colours.
In l92l her family came to Hastings in England and there Vera became a pupil of the great Hungarian master, Geza Maroczy. This was to have a dominating influence on her style of play which was solidly classical, logical and technically most well equipped. Such a style enabled her to deal severely not only with her fellow women players but also with contemporary masters and budding masters. Vera did extremely well, for example, against C. H. O’D. Alexander
and P. S. Milner-Barry, but lost repeatedly to H. Golombek who was able to take advantage of her lack of imagination by the use of more modern methods.
Vera was soon predominent in women’s chess. In the first Women’s World Championship tournament, at London in 1927, she won the title with a score of 10.5 out of 11 and retained the championship with great ease at all the subsequent Olympiads (or International Team tournaments as they were then known more correctly) at Hamburg 1930, Prague 1931, Folkestone 1933, Warsaw 1935, Stockholm 1937 and Buenos Aires 1939.
With Sonja Graf, the player who came nearest to her in strength among her female contemporaries, she played two matches and demonstrated her undoubted superiority by beating her in 1934 (+3-l) and again in a match for the title in l937 (+9-l=5).
In 1937 Vera officially became a British citizen by marrying the then Kent and later B.C.F. Secretary, R. H. S. Stevenson (Rufus Henry Streatfeild Stevenson: ed).
(Rufus Henry Streatfeild Stevenson was home news editor of the British Chess Magazine, secretary of the Southern Counties Chess Union and match captain of the Kent County Chess Association).
Oddly enough, Sonja Graf, many years later, also became a Mrs Stevenson by marrying an American of that name some years after the Second World War.
Vera Menchik also played and held her own in men’s tournaments. She did well in the British championship and her best performance in international chess was =2nd with Rubinstein in the Ramsgate Team Practice tournament ahead of her old teacher, Maroczy. She also had an excellent result at Maribor in 1934 where she came 3rd, ahead of Spielmann and Vidmar.
Her husband died in 1943 and Vera herself, together with her younger sister Olga and her mother, was killed by a V1 bomb that descended on the Stevenson home in London in 1944.
This was a sad and premature loss, not only for British but for world chess, since there is no doubt she would have continued to dominate the female scene for many years.
As a person Vera was a delightful companion, jolly and full of fun and understanding. As a player she was not only strong but also absolutely correct and without any prima donna behaviour. Generous in defeat and modest in victory, she set a great example to all her contemporaries.
An example of Vera’s attacking play at its best against her nearest rival, Sonja Graf, is shown by the following game which was played in her 1937 match at Semmering in Austria :
From The Oxford Companion to Chess, (Oxford University Press, 1984) by Hooper and Whyld :
“Woman World Champion from 1927 until her death. Daughter of a Czech father and an English mother, Menchik was born in Moscow, learned chess when she was nine, settled in England around
1921, and took lessons from Maroczy a year or so later. In 1927 FIDE organized both the first Olympiad and the first world championship tournament for women. These events were run concurrently, except in 1928, until the Second World War began, and Menchik won the women’s tournament every time; London 1927 (+10=1); Hamburg 1930 (+6=1 — 1); Prague 1931 (+8);
Folkestone 1933 ( + 14); Warsaw 1935 (+9); Stockholm 1937 (+14); and Buenos Aires 1939 ( + 17=2). She played in her first championship tournament as a Russian, the next five as a Czech,
and the last as a Briton. She also won on two matches against her chief rival, the German-born Sonja Graf (c. 1912-65): Rotterdam, 1934 (+3-1), and Semmering, 1937 (+9=5—2),
In international tournaments which did not exclude men Menchik made little impression; one of her best results was at Maribor 1934 (about category 4) when she took third place alter Pirc and L. Steiner ahead of Spielmann. In 1937 she married the English chess organizer Rufus Henry Streatfeild Stevenson (1878-1943), A chess professional, she gave lessons, lectures, and displays, and was appointed manager of the short-lived National Chess Centre in 1939. In 1942 she defeated Mieses in match play (+4=5-1), She, her younger sister Olga (also a player), and their mother were killed in a bombing raid.
Her style was positional and she had a sound understanding of the endgame. On occasion she defeated in tournament play some of the greatest masters, notably Euwe, Reshevsky, and Sultan Khan. Men she defeated were said to belong to the Menchik club. When world team championships for women (women’s chess Olympiads) were commenced in 1957 the trophy for the winning team was called the Vera Menchik Cup.”
BCM 1994 Appreciation by Bernard Cafferty
From British Chess Magazine, Volume CXIV (114, 1994), Number 8 (August), page 424 onwards) we have this retrospective from Bernard Cafferty:
Fifty yezus ago the chess world was tragically robbed of its most talented female representative of the first half of this century. A Vl rocket (ed: The V1 was not a rocket but a flying bomb) fell on a house in Gauden Road, Clapham, London, that was the residence of Russian-born Vera Menchik, her younger sister and their mother. The trio were sheltering in the cellar, as they usually did during the Nazi air raids on London. The house was completely destroyed. The air-raid shelter in the garden was all that was left.
Vera Menchik was born in Moscow on 16 February 1906, and died on 26 June 1944. The date of death is usually given as 27 June, but Ken Whyld has seen the death certificate and tells us the tragedy occurred before midnight, not after.
The young Vera grew up in a cosmopolitan family in Moscow, where her Czech father and English mother lived in a six-room flat, which they had to share, after 1917, with families from ‘the lower depths’ (the name of a famous play by Gorky which could also be translated as ‘on Skid Row’). In autumn 1921 the family left Soviet Russia and came
to England where they lived in Hastings.
Botvinnik recalls that he visited the Menchik household in Hastings in 1935, where he met Vera’s grandmother. Then, in 1936, he visited the other house in London, after the Nottingham 1936 tournament. At that time the Soviet Embassy arranged a reception in an attempt to counter the awful image of a country deep in the throes of the show trials and widespread repression. However, only Botvinnik, Menchik, Capablanca and Lasker turned up.
Vera Menchik was taught the moves of chess by her father, Franz, when she was nine years old. However, she only took the game seriously from the age of 17, when she joined the Hastings and St Leonards Chess Club, which at that time had its famous extensive sea-front premises near the pier.
According to the 1957 book in Russian by Bykova, on which this account is largely based, Vera only knew Russian when she cam to England, and one of the reasons for her to join the chess club was that a fluent knowledge of English was not necessary for her to be able to benefit from such a silent activity as chess.
The young Vera was fortunate in that the Hungarian grandmaster, Géza Maróczy, had a professional engagement with the Hastings club at this time, and the young lady became his most famous pupil. Her sound style with no fear of long endgames was a mirror of her mentor. She was also helped by Professor JAJ Drewitt, another Hastings club member, in the study of openings, particularly the closed openings.
Vera was initially counted as a Russian and did not enter the British Women’s Championship at the traditional August BCF Congress. However, she made her debut in international chess at a lower section of the 1923-24 Hastings Congress. In 1925 she beat the leading English player Edith Price by a score of +5 =2 -3 in two private matches. She duly took part in the Hastings Congresses, year after year. In the 1926-27 event she scored her first big success by sharing first place with the young Milner-Barry on 6.5(9) in the Premier Reserves.
By 1927, VM was ready to enter the first Women’s World Championship, which was played at the 4th FIDE Congress, alongside the Olympiad in London. She conceded only one draw in her eleven games and so took the title which she was to retain with ease from that day, when she was just 21, till her death 17 years later. In her first title attempt, she
was counted as a Russian, but at the next five (at the Hamburg 1930, Prague 1931,
Folkestone 1933, Warsaw 1935 and Stockholm 1937 Olympiads) she played as a representative of Czechoslovakia. It was only after her marriage to the prominent English organiser R. H. S. Stevenson in 1937 that she was counted as British and played under the Union Flag in her last title defence at Buenos Aires 1939.
Her dominance can be gauged from the fact that she won all eight games at Prague, all 14 at Folkestone, all 9 at Warsaw, all 14 at Stockholm and conceded just two draws in 19 games in 1939. The most serious challenge came in a title match at Semmering-Baden with Sonja Graf, then of Germany. Here too it was largely one-sided: +9 =5 -2.
She made her debut against male masters in an international tournament at Scarborough in 1928, finishing equal 7-8 in a field of 10, but in only the following year, at the Kent Easter Congress, she had one of her best results.
It was decided to run a Scheveningen tournament at Ramsgate with seven foreign masters pitted against seven home representatives. As was only to be expected, Capablanca came top of the ‘external examiners’, yet the next placing was a sensation: Capablanca 5.5(7) followed by Miss Menchik and Rubinstein 5, Koltanowski and Maroczy 4.5, Soultanbeieff 4 and Znosko-Borovsky 3. Sir George Thomas, whom Menchik beat, scored 3 to head the English team of Yates, Winter, Michel, Tylor and E. G. Sergeant.
Naturally enough, after this it was inevitable that foreign invitations should follow. Later in 1929 the young ‘Russian’ took part in a Paris tournament and then in the great Carlsbad tournament, the last of a wonderful series. Her presence here created some scepticism, and on the eve of the first round the Austrian theoretician Becker suggested that a Vera Menchik club be formed, membership of which would be granted only to those who lost to the lady. According to Flohr, there was an expectation that it would be a small select club, but Becker was quickly proved wrong for he became its first member in the third round! His only consolation was that the club proved far more extensive and democratic as the years rolled by. In fact the club came to include grandmasters such as Euwe (who earned a two-fold qualification) Sultan Khan and Reshevsky as well as masters such as Saemisch, Colle, Golombek, Sir George Thomas, Alexander…
However, Miss Menchik could not make much of the universally strong opposition and made only three points out of 20, finishing last, three points behind Sir George Thomas. With further experience she was to have more impressive results, such as her 8th place at London 1932, won by Alekhine, where she came ahead of Milner-Barry, Sir George, Burger and Winter.
A high spot of the 1930s for Vera was her participation in the 1935 Moscow tournament, but her return to her native city was so taken up with social engagements that she was unable to give of her best, and she scored only one and a half points from 19 games though she did take a draw off the winner of second prize, Flohr.
Vera had to eke out a living from teaching chess, adjudications and simultaneous exhibitions. After her return from Buenos Aires she lived in London. She was appointed administrator of the new National Chess Centre at John Lewis’s store in Oxford Street, which, alas, was destroyed by enemy action in 1940.
Her last great success was a match with the veteran GM, Jacques Mieses who was a refugee from anti-Semitic German. Played in 1942, the result was +4 =5 -1.
In 1943 Vera’s husband died. In 1944 she was playing in the championship of the West London Club, a strong event which included Sir George Thomas, PM List, EG Sergeant and Mieses amongst the players. Doubtless she was looking forward to the resumption of International chess activity after the war. It was not to be. We live in an age when the achievements of women players such as Gaprindashvili, Chirburdanidze, Xie Jun and the Polgar sisters have built on the pioneer work of Vera Menchik. Yet the path of the pioneer is always the hardest.
Finally, by all accounts of contemporaries, Vera was a cultured and sympathetic person who never gave cause for offence amongst the many players she met. Had she lived, she would have continued to be a jewel in the crown of British chess, which had to drag itself up from the boot straps after the devastation of war. What a tragic loss.
She was inducted to the World Chess Hall of Fame in 2011.
BCN remembers Nancy Elder MBE who passed away on Wednesday, March 4th 1981, i.e. forty years ago in Perth, Western Australia.
Nancy Conchar Gordon was born on Tuesday, May 25th 1915. On the same date was born Robin Day in High Wycombe who went on to design the polypropylene stacking chair.
Nancy was born in Kirmabreck, Kirkcudbrightshire in the Dumfries and Galloway council area of Scotland.
In the 1939 register Nancy was living at 18 Thornton Avenue, Urmston, Manchester, M41 5DJ with a married couple, William Furnish (a railway time keeper) and Gertrude Furnish who performed unpaid domestic duties. Presumably Nancy was their lodger.
Her occupation was given as a teacher of music and physical training. At this time she was single at the age of twenty-four.
In the mid-1940s Nancy relocated from Manchester to Dundee where she continued her teaching career at Dundee High School. During that time she encouraged and coached a number of players some of whom represented Scotland.
In 1950 in Tealing, Angus, Scotland Nancy married David Livie Elder. They had a daughter Christine who played chess as a junior. Tealing has a strong connection with the Elder family.
According to Alan McGowan (Chess Scotland): “She was the main instigator in forming both the Schools’ and Primary League in Dundee, and she assisted in the organisation of the Dundee 1967 International Centenary Tournament.”
When she passed away Nancy was living at 39 Whitefauld Road, Dundee, DD2 1RJ :
Her passing was reported in the Dundee Courier and Advertiser on March 6th 1981 as follows :
Nancy Elder dies after heart attack on flight
Mrs Nancy Elder 39 Whitefauld Road, Dundee, a former music teacher at Dundee High School and one of Scotland’s best known chess players, has died after taking ill on a flight to Australia.
She was off for a long holiday which she planned to spend with relatives and friends from the world of international chess, but, after suffering a heart attack on a plane from Singapore, had been in intensive care in Perth, Western Australia.
Her daughter Christine, a primary school teacher in Tighnabruaich, received daily telephone reports on her mother’s condition from a cousin and, at the weekend, heard that she was improving gradually.
The shock news of her mother’s death came late on Wednesday night.
Mrs. Elder, who went into semi-retirement recently, has been to the fore in chess for about 35 years at local, national and international levels.
She has represented her country five times, having taken part in the chess Olympiad in Yugoslavia in 1963 and 1973, in Israel in 1976, in Buenos Aires in 1978 and in Malta last year.
She turned down the chance to take part on three other occasions.
She was awarded the MBE for her services to chess in 1974.
She was President of Dundee Chess Club, chairman of the congress committee of the Scottish Chess Association and on the council of the Scottish Junior Chess Association.
She started playing chess during her school days with her brother and the two of them were more-or-less self taught.
It wasn’t until after the Second World War that she received any sort of coaching, by which time she had established her own style.
She retired on April 14th last year after 24 years in the music department of Dundee High School, where she specialised in teaching the oboe.
She continued to teach privately.
From British Chess Magazine, Volume CI (101, 1981), Number 6 (June), pp. 219-220 we have this obituary from Bernard Cafferty :
“Nancy C. Elder, MBE, died in Perth, Western Australia on March 4th 1981. Mrs. Elder had recently retired after a lifetime of teaching, her last post being in Dundee. I well remember her account of teaching under difficult conditions in World War 2 in Manchester. 15 Scottish Women’s Champion (the record for the event which she set-up at Troon in 1980).
Mrs Elder was a regular competitor in the British Women’s Championship (sometimes in rivalry with her daughter Christine) and showed her playing strength with a score of 5.5/12 on board two for Scotland at the Women’s Chess Olympiad, Malta, 1980.
I am sure she will be best remembered though for her decades of effort in the organising of chess in Scotland, particularly for juniors and in schools, in recognition of which she was awarded the MBE, the only such honour ever given for services to chess ‘north of the border’ as Alan Borwell puts it in his Newsflash obituary.”
Chess Scotland award the Nancy Elder Cup annually for an individual competition for “club level” players.
We are grateful to Helen Milligan who told BCN :
My most memorable incident was when I refused to play in the Scottish Ladies at the annual Congress, preferring to try to improve my chess by playing in the Open section (really the B-Grade, below the Championship proper). I got given a piece of Nancy’s mind for that – she did not approve!
BCN remembers CGM Adrian Hollis who passed away in Wells, Somerset on Tuesday, February 26th 2013 at the age of seventy-two.
Adrian Swayne Hollis was born in Bristol, Avon on Friday, August 2nd 1940. During this critical period the Luftwaffe was wisely extending its Battle of Britain targets to include Britain’s airfields. Furthermore, Bristol was bombed heavily between June 1940 and May 1944. The longest period of regular bombing, known as the ‘Bristol Blitz’ began in autumn 1940 and ended the following spring. The first bombs of the Bristol Blitz fell at around 6 pm on Sunday 24 November 1940.
Adrian was the only child of MI5 director general Roger Henry Hollis KB CBE (later to become Sir Roger Hollis) and Evelyn Esme Hollis (née Swayne) who was Roger’s first wife. Roger was from Wells and Evelyn from Burnham-on-Sea and they were married on July 17th 1937 in Wells Cathedral with Evelyn’s father performing the ceremony.
Adrian won a scholarship in classics to Eton College and then went up to Keble College, Oxford where he took a first in mods and greats. Whilst at Keble Adrian represented Oxford in four varsity matches between 1959 and 1962. Indeed, his support for varsity matches was maintained for many years attending a large number into and beyond the Lloyds Bank era. Stalwart organiser Henry Mutkin would always be sure to extend an invitation.
In 1961 Adrian become the youngest ever West of England Champion at the age of 21.
Adrian met Margaret Mair Cameron Edwards in 1967 at St. Andrew’s University where he taught Classics and she taught German. They married in the parish of St. Leonards in St. Andrews and had two daughters, Jennifer Margaret M (b. 1974) and Veronica Swanye (b. 1977) and a son, Michael David C.
He was the Games Editor for the British Correspondence Chess Association (BCCA) resigning in 1969.
In 1984 Adrian was forced to endure allegations against his father by Chapman Pincher (in CPs book Too Secret too Long) that Sir Roger had been a Soviet spy / mole. These allegations were demonstrated to be false. He may well also have been aware of allegations against his friend and chess mentor Graham Mitchell earlier in 1963. Ironically, it was Adrian’s father who initiated the investigation into Graham. Again, the rumours were shown to be unfounded.
Adrian became a director of the company Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies Limited on the September 1st 1996 and resigned on May 12th 2007. He was also a Vice President of the West of England Chess Union (WECU).
Between 2003 and 2007 (according to the Electoral Roll) Adrian lived at 63, Bainton Road, Oxford, OX2 7AG :
and following his retirement (and the time of the 2008 electoral roll) Adrian had moved to Pound House, Southover, Wells, BA5 1UH :
Adrian has written many learned papers and has had two books published :
Julian was a personal student of Adrian’s and was kind enough to tell us :
I do remember Adrian well. He could quote Latin verse ad infinitum. He was an expert on Ovid.
In terms of chess he had a huge pile of Informators in his study still in their cardboard packaging. He was very kind to me and insisted I play above him for Keble in the intercollegiate matches.
I gave him a copy of Developments in the Orthodox QGD which I had written in 1987. He was quite taken back when I didn’t want any money for it. He seemed to have quite a lot of respect for me.
I once asked him why he had given me a place at Oxford. He replied that he couldn’t have rejected someone with my passion and enthusiasm.
I kept in touch with Adrian until his passing. He gave me a lovely reference when I resumed my studies in 2007 at Kingston University.
I remember him as a kind and unassuming man. He became a lifelong friend.
From British Chess (Pergamon Press, 1983) Botterill, Levy, Rice and Richardson :
“I was born on August 2nd, 1940, educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford and now teach Classics at Keble College, Oxford. I learned the moves at the advanced age of thirteen from a cousin* who himself could have made a good chess player had he not been seduced by Philosophy and brain-teasers; all that remains in the mind from these encounters is a vision of perpetually losing my rooks to fianchettoed bishops.
*We are grateful to John Clarke who informed us that
“The cousin would have been Martin Hollis, who contributed the “Tantaliser” column to the New Scientist for many years. I always enjoyed his puzzles, which for me at any rate were at just the right level of difficulty – neither trivial nor totally impossible.”
My first ever tournament was the London Boys’ Championship 1956-7. In the opening round fate allotted me Black against David Rumens. As it happened, the brochure included a game of his from the previous year in which he had answered 1.d4 with 1…Nc6, quite enough, in my opinion, to condemn him utterly.
(Ed: The above position did not impress Adrian hugely.)
This view seemed confirmed when within twelve moves of an advance French I was two pawns up. Then, however, aided by my over confidence he worked up a fierce attack, and I just escaped with a draw. Nevertheless, I won the tournament; an opponent remarked how quickly I played my moves.
Thereafter the game was never so easy, but I did reasonably, well, winning the championships of the British Universities, West of England and East of Scotland, and playing for England quite regularly during the 1960s (including 7.5/12 in six Anglo-Dutch matches).
The high spot of my over-the-board chess was the series of World Student team championships from 1960 to 1964 in glamorous places (Leningrad, Helsinki, Mariánské Lázně, Budva and Cracow); most enjoyable of these being Budva, 1963 where one could bathe every day in the Adriatic and I won the (?) gold medal on Board 1 with 7.5/9., the year after Spassky (this must look good in the records, unless they happen to reveal that for the first time in preliminary and final sections, and that England did not qualify for the top final).
My best chess was probably played at Mariánské Lázně, 1962, where in successive rounds I had favourable draws with Radulov and Hort, coming close to beating the latter. Ironically, I was awarded the British Master title after I had virtually retired from over-the-board chess.
In 1964 I decided that henceforth for me ‘serious’ chess would mean correspondence, while OTB became a pleasant social activity. My introduction to the postal game had been made about 1955 by a colleague of my father’s, International Master Graham Mitchell, to whom I owe an enormous debt for the patience and kindness with which he played a series of games, bearing with me when I lost interest in worsening positions. The switch to postal play was caused by a number of factors, negative and positive : an impending move to Scotland, where there was less OTB chess, frustration at constantly spoiling good positions through mistakes in time pressure – on the other hand a feeling that correspondence chess should suit an academic temperament, and a particularly fascinating game played in 1963-4 with Michael Haygarth (see below) on which I spent so much time and energy that I almost feared it would ruin my post-graduate exams.
In 1964-5 I qualified for the British Championship by winning a candidates’ section with 100%, and then competed three times in the British Championship itself (1965-6, 1966-7, 1970-71), winning on each occasion (the first time jointly with S. Milan) and remaining unbeaten. International play also proved successful, and I soon collected the two norms necessary for the IM title (Ed: awarded in 1970).
The first chance for the Grandmaster title came on Board 1 in the Seventh Olympiad final. Despite a rare loss with the White pieces(my only defeat with white for a stretch of 15 years), things went well, including a lucky win against the reigning World Champion, Horst Rittner, and the enticing prospect beckoned if only I could beat the Russian Moiseyev. He held a slight advantage since the opening, but I thought I saw the chance of tempting him to an incorrect sacrifice. Back came his move; he had indeed made the sacrifice and the envelope burnt a hole in my pocket during an important meeting (my mind was elsewhere). After a mere two days’ thought I sent my reply. The post between England and the USSR takes about a month for the return trip. Soon after posting my move, as I was walking from the Ashmolean Museum to Keble, just passing the front gate of St. John’s, the realisation of what I had overlooked hit me, and there followed an inexorable wait for the death blow which I now saw only too clearly.
So no Grandmaster title, but Great Britain still took the bronze medals, and I scored 6/9 (+5=1-2).
Another opportunity came when the British Postal Chess Federation organised a tournament (1974-6) in memory of its former secretary RJ Potter. This started inauspiciously for me with a heavy defeat at the hands of Grandmaster Endzelins of Australia., a country which has so far provided my least favourite opposition (not only is the postage extremely expensive, but my score to date is 0/2).
From The Potter Memorial, Ken Messere, Chess (Sutton Coldfield), 1979 we have this potted biography from Ken Messere :
“Adrian Hollis is 36, was educated at Eton and Oxford, has written two books on the poet Ovid and is a Fellow and Tutor in Classics at Keble College, Oxford. He is a British Master at over the board chess and has been Champion of British Universities, West of England and East Scotland.
In 1964, he went to teach at St. Andrews University where his wife, Margaret, taught German. They were married and moved to Keble College in 1967 and now have two daughters. Jennifer is nearly five and Veronica is two.
Adrian began to concentrate on correspondence chess in 1964 and won the British Correspondence Chess Championship jointly in 1966 and outright in 1967 and 1971. He won the I.M. title in 1970 and his fine score of 6/9 on top board for Great Britain in the I.C.C.F. VIIth Correspondence Chess Olympiad Final contributed to the team’s winning the bronze medal in this event.”
and now back to Adrian’s British Chess article…
Thereafter my fortunes improved; one opponent accepted too trustingly some faulty analysis by Szabo in Informator (for a while it seemed that the Hungarian might earn me not one but two points). The East German Dr. Baumbach failed to find an improvement in a line with which I had been successful in the Seventh Olympiad Final.
Also, I had a win with the Black pieces against the Russian Kopylov. The result was a score of 9/12 (+8=2-2), which sufficed for the grandmaster title and first place half a point ahead of the Finn Kauranen.
Since then I have played quite well on second board behind Keith Richardson in the Eighth Olympiad Final (+5=7-0), and very badly indeed (scoring just about 50% in the Heilimo Memorial Tournament organised from Finland (I was much impressed by the strength of the Finnish players, most of whom I had not encountered before). Having twice narrowly failed, I would still like to qualify for the Final of the Individual World Championship. Of course life becomes increasingly busy, but the examples of Hugh Alexander and Graham Mitchell encourage me to believe that one can continue to play well at postal chess longer than over-the-board. So perhaps around the year 2000, when the children are grown up….”
From British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXXIII (133, 2013), Number 4 (April), pp.194-5 we have this obituary written by James Pratt :
Adrian Swayne Hollis (2 viii 1940 Bristol – 26 ii 2013 Wells), British Master and Correspondence Grandmaster (1976), three times British Correspondence Champion, has died. He played most of his OTB chess as a young man, finishing seventh equal at the British Aberystwyth, 1961, when he beat, amongst others, A.R.B. Thomas and former champion, Alan Phillips. He gave future champion, Jonathan Penrose, a tough fight in the last round before conceding the half-point. He played in the Hastings Premier, 1962/3 and emerged with a plus score in the Anglo-Dutch matches. He was an occasional reviewer for BCM.
It was, of course, in the realm of postal player that he shone most brightly!
In 1966 we see him playing board two for England, below Slade Milan, and, two years later, Adrian scored 9/12 in a World Postal Qualifier, narrowly missing a place in the final. In 1971 he won the British Correspondence Championship, easily outdistancing a tough field. He played top board for England in the 1972-7 Olympiad. In 1974-6 he won the Reg Potter Memorial. In the ninth Olympiad – 1982-5 – Adrian Hollis was undefeated on board two. And England took the Gold Medal!
BCN remembers Stanley Kipping who passed away in Walsall on February 17th 1964 at the age of 72 who was always known by friends and family as Stanley.
BCN was fortunate to receive the following part email from John Kipping, a resident of Christchurch, New Zealand.
None of the Kipping family from around that time were referred to by their first name. His brother was Barry (my grandfather), and two sisters, Esme who made jigsaw puzzles and Frieda, named after Frieda Weekly (nee von Richtofen).
(Cyril Henry) Stanley Kipping was born on Saturday, October 10th, 1891 in 7 Milborne Grove, South Kensington, London, SW10 9SN.
His parents were Frederic Stanley Kipping (28) and Lillian Kipping (24, née Holland) : they married in 1888. Stanley was baptised on May 8th, 1892 in West Brompton, London. Frederic died on 30 April 1949 in Pwllheli, Caernarvonshire, at the age of 85 and Lilian passed away on 4 September 1949 in Pwllheli, Caernarvonshire, at the age of 82.
Frederic was Professor of Chemistry at The University of Nottingham. He undertook much of the pioneering work on silicon polymers and coined the term silicone. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1897.
In the 1901 census the family lived at Clumber Road West, Nottingham and brother Frederic Barry Kipping was born on April 14th 1901 and his sister Kathleen Esme was born on 3rd May 1904 also in Nottingham. Kathleen died on 30 August 1951 in Pwllheli, Caernarvonshire.
In 1902 Stanley started at Nottingham High School excelling in mathematics and science and in 1906 he obtained the Oxford and Cambridge Board’s Lower Certificate.
On March 2nd 1908 the Sheffield Daily Telegraph published a matriculation list for London University and CHSK was listed as being in the second division. Following that in 1909 Stanley obtained a Oxford and Cambridge Higher Certificate.
As of the 1911 census the household now included Stanley’s maternal Grandmother, Florence Holland (59) plus a parlourmaid, a housemaid, a cook and a nurse. Stanley was recorded as being a 19 year old science student and they lived at 40, Magadala Road, Nottingham which appears to have been replaced by residential flats. Curiously the address on the Census record was obscured by green insulation tape but insufficiently for it to readable.
“He left school in July 1910 and went to Trinity Hall in Cambridge where he read for the National Sciences Tripos. He played tennis for his college and launched into the composition of chess problems.
He obtained a First in Part I of the Tripos in 1912, a First in Part II in 1913, and was awarded the degree of Bachelor of Arts on 7 June 1913. He began researching in organic chemistry at Cambridge, but in September 1914 decided instead to take a teaching appointment at Weymouth College.”
In 1914 The London Gazette announced that Stanley was promoted within the Chaplain Department of the British Army to Second Lieutenant with a service number of 10940.
On December 23rd 1914 The London Gazette announced the following :
On the 9th October 1918 The London Gazette announced :
Again, according to Stephen C. Askey :
“In January 1919 he took his Master of Arts degree at Cambridge, and joined the teaching staff of Bradfield College in Berkshire. But by the summer of that year he became an assistant master at Pocklington School in Yorkshire, where he spent five happy years.
There he used his talent for juggling in 1920 to train a troupe of jugglers who gave a display at a school concert. This popular performance was repeated annually at Pocklington. Meanwhile be continued to compose chess problems and in 1923 published a book for beginners called The Chess Problem Hobby.”
In the 1939 register Stanley was recorded as residing at 67 Wood Green Road, Wednesbury, Staffordshire, England with Martha Partridge (born 29th June 1886) who was his Housekeeper.
His probate record appears in the England & Wales Government Probate Death Index 1858-2019 as :
From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Robert Hale 1970 & 1976), Anne Sunnucks :
“International Master of the FIDE for Chess Compositions (1959) and International Judge of the FIDE for Chess Compositions (1957). Born on 10th October 1891. Died on 17th February 1964. Kipping was famous as a composer and an editor which he combined with is duties as Headmaster of Wednesbury High School from 1925 to 1956.
His editorial duties extended over more than forty years, and included the problem sections of Chess, Chess Amateur, and, for 32 years, the specialist magazine The Problemist from 1931. He was noted for his encouragement of beginners. His pamphlet ‘The Chess Problem Hobby‘ is an excellent beginner’s introduction. His other books included Chess Problem Science, The Chessmen Speak and 300 Chess Problems.
Kipping was one of the most prolific composers of all time, with over 7,000 problems to his credit. Many of his strategic three-movers have become classic. He was leading authority on halfpin two-movers. In his latter years, Kipping affectionately known as CSK – was Chairman of the International Problem Board which is now the FIDE Problem Commission.”
From British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXIV (84, 1964), Number 4 (April), pp. 122-123 by John Rice:
“CS Kipping, one of the most famous of all British problemists, died during February at the age of seventy-two. As a composer, editor, writer and critic Kipping was without equal. It is impossible to do justice in only a few lines to his vast and unique contribution to chess problems: a few factual notes. most of them kindly supplied by RCO Matthews, must suffice.
Kipping was born in London on October 10th, 1891, After completing his studies, he took up teaching as a career, and in 1924 he was appointed the first headmaster of the newly-opened Wednesbury High School, which post he held until his retirement in 1956. He was a bachelor, and, especially during the later years of his life, his interests were centered mainly on the school and on chess problems.
Most readers will know of Kipping as the editor of The Problemist, the bi-monthly journal of the British Chess Problem Society. Before he took over The Problemist in 1931, he had been in charge of the problem section of the Chess Amateur, which he edited with great energy and enthusiasm. As well as The Problemist, he edited the problem pages of Chess from its first appearance. in 1936 until the section was suddenly discontinued without warning or explanation a few years ago. He also edited other columns at various times. He always took great care to help and encourage beginners, and it is probably true that every composer in this country below the age of about fifty came under his influence at one time or another.
As a young man, Kipping was a fierce avant-garde controversialist, championing the the cause of strategy in the three-mover in opposition to the then dominant model-mate school in this country. His attitude to the two-mover, as readers of The Problemist will know, was always a good deal more conservative; he would not tolerate at any price what he called ‘camouflage force,’ even in the modern problem. Yes, he appreciated the aims of the modern two-move composer much more than his writings on the subject suggest, being always ready to applaud excellence in any type of problem.
Kipping’s output numbered over 7,000 problems, probably a record. Many of his two-moves especially his ‘aspect’ tasks, were published under pseudonyms, of which the best was known was C.Stanley. He concerned himself little with artistic finish : once he had found a workable setting of a them he was engaged on, he would take little trouble over economy and presentation. Themes in which he interested himself include half-pin (in the two-mover), white King themes, interferences, and the grab theme (in the three-mover), and maximum tasks of all kinds, the subject of one of his books, Chess Problem Science. His other books include 300 Chess Problems (1916), and The Chessmen Speak (1932), in the AC White Christmas series.
In addition to all his other problem activities, Kipping was chairman of the International Problem Board, and curator of the half-pin section of the White-Hume Collection, which he took over on Hume’s death in 1936.
The majority of Kipping’s best problems were three-movers, three of the most famous of which are quoted here.”
Manchester City News, 1911
Mate in three
Dutch East Indies Chess Association Tourney, 1928
Mate in three
BCM, 1939 (II)
Mate in three
The first problem above was given in The Complete Chess Addict by Mike Fox and Richard James in the Desert Island Chess chapter. It is also given in a discussion of the Steinitz Gambit by ASM Dickins and H Ebert in 100 Classics of the Chessboard. Colin Russ on page 138 of Miniature Chess Problems from Many Countries gives the first problem as does John Rice on page 44 of Chess Wizardry : The New ABC of Chess Problems.
CS Kipping, strictly speaking, was not the founder of the club, but was involved immediately at the formation of the club, which was originally called The Kipping Chess Club*. [*By March 1945, the club had 3 branches and only then did it formally split into 3 -Walsall, Wolverhampton, and a school (Municipal Secondary School Wolverhampton?) for the purpose of playing in the newly formed Wolverhampton League. Walsall Kipping Chess Club only formally took its name in May 1948, and was separated by then from The Wolverhampton Kipping Chess Club!] The Walsall Club’s minute book contains clippings from a local newspaper of 1942 reporting on the formation of the club. Here are copies:-
‘Walsall’s New Chess Club.-The new chess club, members of which will meet in the evenings for play and social intercourse, already promises to be very successful. The organiser, Mr.A.E.Parsons, of England & Sons, The Bridge (where meetings will be held for the time being) is acting as secretary pro tem, and he has secured as the first president Mr.C.S.Kipping, Headmaster of the Wednesbury High School for Boys, well known as an expert and for the innovation of chess in the curriculum of his school. Mr.Kipping has given valued assistance by the initial provision of boards and pieces. Members will meet on Monday evenings at 6.30 and the club will rely, in the first place, on voluntary subscriptions’. [5.9.42]
‘Walsall Chess Club.-Members of the recently formed Chess Club in Walsall had their first meeting on Monday [7th Sept 1942]. They decided to call the club “The Kipping [Chess] Club,” after their president, Mr.C.S.Kipping. Mr. F.D.Fox was appointed chairman, Mr.Gordon Farrell treasurer, and Mr.A.E.Parsons honorary secretary. Mrs.Wright and Miss Powell provided refreshments and were warmly thanked for their contribution to the success of the launching of the club. Mr.H.Lee was subsequently appointed vice-president after occupying the chair for the evening.’ [12.9.42]
Also, here is a copy of a brief sketch of CSK’s chess involvement, penned by David Anderton, for the Club’s Jubilee Chess Tournament:-
C S KIPPING, PRESIDENT 1942-1964
C S Kipping was the editor of the Problemist between 1931 and his death on 17th February 1964 at the age of 72 years. He also edited a problem column in Chess between 1935 and 1960. He [was] one of the most prolific of composers with some 7,000 problems to his name. He pioneered the introduction of strategic three movers in Great Britain and was the leading authority on half pin two movers. He was the Headmaster of Wednesbury Boys High School and introduced chess into the curriculum there in 1927. He gave evidence in the Chancery Division in the case of Re: Dupree’s Trusts in 1944 to the effect that chess teaches concentration, self reliance and reasoning and is a most useful training for the mind. Relying on this evidence, the Court upheld a bequest to establish a junior tournament as charitable and the case still forms the basis of English law on this point.
On a web site now only accessible via the WayBack Machine there is a treasure trove of reminisces and memories of CHSK from himself, friends and pupils.
From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977), Harry Golombek OBE, John Rice writes:
“British problemist, enormous output of over 6,000, mainly three-movers but also many two-movers, some published under pseudonyms (e.g. C. Stanley, of Nottingham). Editor of The Problemist, 1931-64. Elected international master honoris causa (1959).”
Edith Elina Helen Winter-Wood was born, probably in 1859*, to Thomas Winter-Wood, a writer and poet, and Eliza Ann (née Sole) Winter-Wood in Boulogne, France.
(*Despite 22nd February 1859 appearing in Wikipedia we are unable to locate a primary source for this date. Contemporary secondary sources always just gave 1859 as her year of birth. Census records imply that she was born between April 1859 and March 1860. Her marriage record from 1st December 1880 describes her as being ‘of full age’: at least 21 years old, so born before December 1859. However, her death record from 1st February 1924 gives her age as 63, implying that she was born between February 1860 and January 1861. Either her death record is incorrect or she added a couple of months to her age when she married. )
Many secondary and tertiary sources incorrectly give the Winter-Wood family home of Hareston Manor (now a venue for weddings) near Brixton, Plymouth, Devon as her birthplace.
The family was resident in Boulogne in at least 1858 (as discussed below) and a UK birth certificate for Edith does not appear to exist. Having said that, a French birth certificate has yet to be located. Both Brian Denman and Chris Ravilious are satisfied that Edith was born in Boulogne and various census records attest to this. Ed: both Richard James and myself (JEU) have examined the evidence carefully and Boulogne would appear to be correct.
Thomas Winter-Wood was born in Har(e)ston, Devon in 1819 and was himself a strong player having been educated at Plympton Grammar School (now known as Hele’s School). Thomas was the son of John Wood-Winter who, in 1824, reversed the order of the family surname. Thomas sold the family estate leaving the Winter-Woods with substantial means, with each family member able to pursue their leisure interests whilst retaining a number of domestic staff.
Thomas taught all of his family to play chess and Edith learnt at an early age. Both Edward J and Carslake W also learnt early on, Edward (aged 11 in 1858) played members of Boulogne Chess Club giving them rook odds and ten years later Edward joined London Chess Club.
According to Tartajubow :
“(Edward) played in several tournaments and in blindfold simuls he drew two games against Lowenthal and one against Blackburne. In 1878 he joined the Croydon Chess Club and once in one of their tournaments scored 23-7. He also enjoyed success in many other club tournaments, correspondence chess and problem solving tournaments. Many of his problems appeared in leading publications of the day.”
and, also according to Tartajubow :
“Her other brother, Carslake W. Wood (1849 – 1924), lived with his mother’s brother, Major Sole of the 5th Militia of West York, in Torquay. While travelling Europe with the Soles, he also developed a taste for painting and on many occasions donated his paintings as prizes in chess tournaments.”
According to F. R. Gittins (in The Chess Bouquet 1897):
“The moves came to her, as she says, by a kind of instinct before she was out of her first decade. She did not, however, commence composing problems until some years after her marriage, which took place in 1880, to Deputy Inspector-General W. J. Baird, M.D., R.N., whose distinguished services have been mentioned in despatches and rewarded with four medals and two clasps. Eight years later she composed her first problem, and commenced a wonderful series of successes, having gained eleven first, nine second, and six third prizes, and been honourably mentioned nine times.”
According to the old ChessDevon web site (sadly only available via the WayBack Machine)
“In 1893, for instance, she entered The Hackney Mercury 3-mover tournament, with a limit of 6 pieces. Most of the great composers of the time had entered, – B. G. Laws, P. H. Williams and James Raynor among them, but she won 1st prize. As one American critic observed, ‘The fact that the tourney assumed an almost international character rendered the triumph of the distinguished lady victor as noteworthy as it was creditable’.”
Here is this first prize (1):
Baird, Edith Elina Helen Hackney Mercury, 1893 1st Prize
The problem solutions may be found at the foot of this article.
She very quickly progressed and was soon producing problems that were described as being “exceedingly pretty” and which ‘displayed unmistakable aptitude for the intricacies of chess.’ Her work 700 Chess Problems was published by Henry Sotheran Ltd in 1902 and took her 14 years to complete.”
Edith also had a brief career in chess competitions in the 1890s, winning the 1897 Sussex Ladies Championship without losing a game.
Few samples of her play survive, but they show her to be a proficient player with, as you might expect from a problemist, a keen tactical eye. In this game she finishes neatly with a queen sacrifice.
In this game, from a blindfold simul against the London-based Dutch organist and chess master Rudolf Loman (1861-1932), she uses a tactic to reach an equal ending.
According to the 1871 census the Winter-Wood household lived at “Hareston”, Tavistock Road, Croydon, Surrey and consisted of Thomas (52 and Landowner), Eliza (44) plus Edith’s brothers Edward J (23 and Banker) and Carslake W (22 and retired banker), Marie A (17), Edith (11) plus three (!) domestic servants.
In 1880 (‘of full age’) Edith married the Deputy Inspector-General of Fleets and Hospitals, William James Baird, MD, of the Royal Navy, in the parish church of St George Hanover Square. (You’ll see that she married under the surname Wood rather than Winter-Wood.) William was almost thirty years her senior, having been born in Londonderry in 1831. The 1881 census found them in lodgings in Durham House, Hotspur Street, Tynemouth, North Tyneside: presumably William was there in connection with his work. Later the same year, their only child, Lilian Edith Baird, was born in the same place.
Lilian would become a child prodigy whose first problem was published before she was 10 years old. She was also an accomplished poet and painter like her mother. Although she had over 70 problems published by the age of thirteen, Lilian gave up chess composing while still in her teens.
(Lilian merits a full article in this place in her own right : added to ToDo list!)
By 1891 William had retired and the family had settled in Brighton living at 14 College Terrace, where they employed a servant, Louisa Howard (23). In 1901 the census enumerator found them at the same address, their servant now being Lilian Millard (25).
William died in 1907, and Lilian had married in 1910: the 1911 census found Edith living in a boarding house named Mountcoombe in Surbiton. The house no longer exists, but its name, minus a letter, survives in Mountcombe Close, now a location for residential flats. Shortly afterwards, she joined her brothers in Paignton, Devon, close to her family’s ancestral roots.
Returning to Edith’s family, by the time of the 1881 census the Winter-Wood household (bar Edith) had relocated to “Mariestead”, Netley Abbey, Southampton and had shrunk to Thomas, Eliza and a mere two servants. Edith gave this address when she married William Baird.
In the 1891 census the Winter-Wood household consisted of Thomas (72), Eliza (64) plus Edith’s brothers Edward (43) and Carslake (42) all of whom were described as “living on means”. They had returned to three domestic servants : Mary Scoble (65), Carrie Stephens (22) and Kate Truman (just 12). They lived at 14, The Crescent, Plymouth, PL8 2AP. Nothing remains of this property, it would appear. By 1901, the family had moved again, to “Kenwick”, Paignton, Devon. They were back down to two servants: Florence Gagg (18) was the housemaid and Sarah Chambers (59) the cook. Thomas died in 1905, and the 1911 census gives their address as “Hareston”, Totnes Road, Paignton. Eliza, Edward and Carslake’s servants were now Laura Ellen Gagg (25 – presumably related to Florence) and Sarah Tulley.
In an interview with the Westminster Gazette (1st September 1894) Edith was asked why chess has always been a man’s game.
“Frivolous and fashionable women would begrudge the time and thought it requires; busy mothers of families could not, of course, spare time for it, and the great majority of unmarried girls have not, I’m afraid, the necessary patience. Then, too, it is, I must confess, an unsociable game. It is most suitable for quiet and reflective people, and for invalids. It seems always to have attracted clever strategists like military and naval commanders, and also great politicians. I wish girls would take to it more, because it is such excellent mental discipline, and brings out one’s patience. It would also be a useful corrective to the tendency to jump at conclusions which many women have. The great charm is that it is a home accomplishment. A woman is not expected to leave her fireside for the sake of chess. It is a stable kind of amusement for which she never need sully her womanliness or her good reputation. Many of the outdoor sports, innocent and healthy enough, lead to a great deal of flirtation and general frivolity.”
F.R. Gittins (op. cit.) described her as follows:
“Mrs. Baird, however, is something more even than the Queen of Chess-problem composers. She is, for example, an enthusiastic and skilful archer, and, living as she does in Brighton, has for some time been a prominent member of the Furze Hill Archery Club, of which she is a member of the committee, and in which, she has, for two years in succession, taken the medal for the highest aggregate score of the season. She also paints and illuminates charmingly, and has a pretty inherited talent for writing verse. Her book of illuminations, in fact, is described as “so chaste and delicate in design as to recall the ancient illuminated books which are treasured in museums and art galleries.” In politics she is a staunch Liberal, while the modern movement against all cruelty to animals – whether inflicted under the name of sport or in the interests of science – finds in her one of its most ardent champions. Besides the déclassement derived from chess, she is also a great believer in girls making themselves independent of marriage, from a monetary point of view, by having a definite occupation. When it is added that she never allows chess, painting, or any other favourite pursuit to occupy her time until all the domestic matters of home have been seen to, we have said sufficient to show how finely-rounded and complete a life this brilliantly clever woman leads. It is only left to add that her manner is kind and charming, and that she is thoughtfulness and considerateness itself to all her friends. She is, moreover, the most loving of mothers, and has been heard to declare that if anything were to happen to “Lily”, she would never compose another chess problem.”
Edith was also an avid bicyclist who was known to have ridden 25 miles (on one of those old style bicycles) to discuss an adjourned chess game.
On Friday, February 1st, 1924 Edith passed away. The probate record is dated April 29th and was granted to Herbert Percy Strong, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Indian Army, who was Lilian’s husband. The initial value of the effects was £18110 5s 7d which was subsequently resworn to £16627 13s 11d.
Both Sunnucks and Golombek are silent on Edith. This is somewhat surprising since Anne liked to mention female players and problemists.
EDITH ELINA HELEN (née Winter Wood) (1859-1924), British problem composer. Her parents, two brothers, and daughter were all good players or clever problemists.
She composed over 2,000 problems which were not profound but were noted for their soundness; only a dozen or so were faulted. Her Seven Hundred Chess Problems was published in 1902. She became deeply absorbed in retractors, and her other book The Twentieth Century Retractor appeared in 1907. They are two of the most beautiful chess books ever to appear, printed and bound by the King’s printer Henry Sotheran, and sold at less than cost.
The Twentieth Century Retractor may be read online here.
The dedication for The Twentieth Century Retractor was somewhat unusual :
“Dedicated to The Sun The Glorious Orb which Animates and Beautifies The Earth By Giving It Warmth, Light and Life”
and Edward Winter discusses the beauty of the book in Chess Note 3164.
From British Chess Magazine, Volume XLIV, (44, 1924), page 103 we have this brief obituary notice written by RC Griffth :
“We much regret to hear of the death, at Paignton, on February 1st, of Mrs. W.J. Baird, much of the distinguished of women problem composers throughout the world. As our problem editors will no doubt deal fully with her work and her triumphs, we shall say no more here that she took a keen interest in chess over-the-board also, and in 1897 secured the county championship of Sussex among players of her own sex. By birth she was a Winter-Wood and thus a member of a distinguished West of England chess family”
From British Chess Magazine, Volume XLIV, (44, 1924), page 125 we have this obituary written by RC Griffth :
“A deep shadow has been cast over the chess world by the death of Mrs. W.J. Baird, which occurred on 1st February last at Paignton. The end was most unexpected, but it is a comfort to her relatives that the passing away was peaceful. She was the daughter of Mr. T. Winter-Wood, who and whose family have been identified with chess for generations. She was born in 1859 and composed her first problem in 1888, and it was not long after this date that she was given the title of the “Queen of Chess,” since not only did she distinguish herself in a happy way as a prolific composer, but proved a valiant opponent over the board, testified by her securing the ladies’ championship of Sussex in 1897.
Mate in Two (2)
Among her other accomplishments were painting, particularly illuminating, poetry (which may have been inherited from her gifted father) and archery, in which sport she was skilful. Her chess problems were generally of the light texture order never profound, but always pleasing to the ordinary solver. She must have composed over 2,000 problems of one sort or another, and this large output in about thirty-five years could not be conducive to highest results. Her problem tourney honours were numerous, though she did not as a rule see these, generally entering her problems to oblige admiring conductors of competitions.
Mate in Two (3)
In 1902 she published Seven Hundred Chess Problems and in 1907 The Twentieth Century Retractor, Chess Fantasies and Letter Problems, 320 illustrations (Sotheran & Co.). Both were editions de luxe. Mrs. Baird was credited with the being the originator of the complicated retractor of which she was a proficient exponent, but since she ceased composing these fancies, interest in them has waned.
Mate in Three (4)
During the last few years her activity, after a period of quiescence has been marked, her attention being directed principally to ‘Mutates’ and Picture or Letter Problems. In addition to the enthusiasm which, shown by her actual work, she has generously promoted several competitions, one still current in the Morning Post, particulars of which we announced last month. A remarkable feature of the deceased’s problems was their soundness less than one per cent. being cooked after leaving her hands, evidence of painstaking application!
Mate in Three (5)
There is now, since the decease of Mrs. Baird’s father, Mr. T. Winter-Wood and her brother, Mr. E.J. Winter-Wood, only Mr. Carslake Winter-Wood left to represent the family in the chess circle, Mrs. Strong, her daughter, who at one time promised to emulate her mother, having apparently abandoned the game and its problems. There can be no question that Mrs. Baird stood in front of all lady composers, her nearest rival probably being the late Mrs. T. B. Rowland, and indeed a number of her compositions rank high in the world’s collection. We have not space this month to quote specimens, but hope to do so next issue.
Mate in Three (6)
Since the above was in type we have been informed of the sudden death of Mr. Carslake Winter-Wood on the 24th February.”
The Late Mrs. W. J. Baird,
The Masters said:-
“Lay by the board, the problem is not sound;
There’s none can solve unless a Morphy’s found.”
* * *
A knight I saw, his royal head bowed;
Methought a bishop moved and prayed aloud.
The Queen, alas, and their attendants gone,
Only did the Kings linger sadly on.
And roaming far afield a Rook forlorn,
And here and there a long-forgotten pawn.
“Oh! is there none who can this problem solve?”
“Seek her round who our highest hopes revolve”
And so we brought it to our ‘Problem Queen’
Who faced the field with heart and eye serene.
* * *
“Go leave me now and I will rest awhile,”
Then hand outstretched and swift triumphant smile :
“The Bishops move! with him the key,” she cried –
“Life’s problem solved at last! I’m satisfied.”
White retracts his last move; then plays. Black moves so that White can mate at once. (7)
(Please note that there are factual errors in most of the sources quoted below.)
BCN remembers Roland Scott who passed away in Monte Carlo on Saturday, January 10th, 1953.
Roland Henry Vaughan Scott was born in either Barnes (or Holloway depending which Census record is correct). His parents were Walter Frederick Scott, a GP who was born in April 1960 and died in 1891 when Roland was three years of age.
His mother was Lucy (Lucie and Lucia have also been recorded) Vaughan was born in 1855 and died in October 1933.
Roland had three sisters, Nina Vaughan Scott Lucie Audrey Scott (who died before her first birthday) and Sybil Anne Vaughan Scott and a brother Guy Francis D Scott who lived until 1977.
In 1891 Roland lived in Tottenham, in 1901 in Hampstead and in 1911 in St. Pancras where he was listed as a law clerk.
The 1920 electoral rolls for the Gospel Oak polling district lists Scott as voter #2006 living at 2, Estelle Road, North St. Pancras which is now in Belsize Park, NW3 2JX. At the same address was his sister Lucie and in 1921 they were joined by brother Guy.
In July 1922 in the district of Brighton Roland married Irma Clareboudt. No children from the marriage are recorded.
The 1939 register lists Scott as “War Disabled ? Officer Retired In War 1914” (invalided from army) and Irma as a saleswoman (born 25th July 1895) living at 42, Sherwell Lane, Paignton, Torquay, TQ2 6BD.
The April 1953 British Chess Magazine (Volume LXXIII, Number 4, page 101 onwards) contained this obituary from DJ Morgan:
It is with much regret that we record the death, on January 10th, at Monte Carlo, of R. H. V. Scott. He had long been out of active chess, but older readers will need no reminding of the 1920 British Champion, with his quiet manner but attacking chess; one who was composure itself at the table but aggressiveness personified on the board.
The son of a doctor, Scott was born in 1889. He was nineteen before taking to the game, but a ready aptitude combined with great enthusiasm led to rapid progress. He joined the Hampstead Club in 1908, and in his first tournament, the Third Class, came out first. ln the years that follow he pursued the game with much energy.
At the B.C.F. Congress, Glasgow, l9ll, he won the only section of the First Class. In 1913 and in 1914 he was Hampstead Club Champion. In 1913 he was tenth in the British Championship, at Cheltenham, and equal fifth to sixth at Chester in the following year, defeating Yates and drawing with Blackburne.
In 1915 he came second in the City of London Club Championship, but won that of the Metropolitan Club. During the same year he lost a short match with Sir G. A. Thomas 1-3. The war years, with a commission in the Norfolk Regiment, intervened, but chess filled his available moments.
In 1916 he defeated L. I. Estrin, a young Russian who was Hampstead Champion, 5-2 in a match. ln 1919 he lost a match with Winter at Hastings (2-4), and shared seventh to eighth positions with Dr. Olland (Holland) at the B.C.F. Hastings Victory Congress, with victories over Olland,
R. P. Michell, Marchand, and Conde. Then came the B.C.F. Edinburgh Congress of 1920, Scott became British Champion, losing only
to Sir G. A. Thomas.
In this year he also drew a match, 3-3, with Marchand, of Holland, also at Hastings. There followed three more appearances in the championship, Malvern, 1921 (equal fifth to sixth); Southsea,1923 (equal third to fourth); and Southport, 1924 (fourth). And with this Scott passed out of British chess. Ill health and failing eyesight, direct results of sufferings and injuries endured on active service during the war, began to take their toll. On medical advice he sought a warmer climate, and the Riviera henceforth became his home.
We find him sharing seventh to eighth positions at the Hyères Congress, in 1926, and coming equal fifth to sixth, with B. Reilly (our Editor’s first international tourney we believe), at Hyères, 1927.
The days of active play were over, but his great interest in the game remained. Scott was a natural attacking player, more likely, perhaps, to win the Brilliancy Prize than the First Prize.
We have given the bare outline of a career that was all too short, one cut down, in a sense before reaching full maturity. Contemporary records sometimes expressed the need for more stability in Scott’s chess, but they chronicle games of his that speak forcibly of the imaginative, refreshing, and invigorating qualities of his play. We offer an early game, the Brilliancy Prize winner, City of London C.C. Championship, 1913-14. White’s 20th move sets the game alight.
From British Chess Magazine, Volume XLI (1920), Number 10 (October), page 305 we have the following report of his exploits winning the 1920 British Championship in Edinburgh:
“We are glad to be able to present to our readers a photograph of the new champion, Mr. R.H.V Scott. He informs us that it is his most recent one, taken in 1917 when subaltern in the Norfolk Regiment. He saw service with the latter in France, and, as is probably know to most of our subscribers, was badly gassed, from the effects of which is now happily quite recovered.
His victory in the recent Congress in Edinburgh is welcome from at least two points of view; one, that he is one of our youngest first class players (ed: he was 32 at the time, a veteran by the standards of 2022!), having been born in 1889 (ed: this should have been 1888), and therefore may justifiably be expected to improve still further with experience and some curbing of his impatience in defence; and, two, that he claim to represent the more brilliant school of chess, that of Pillsbury, Marshall, Charousek, and Morphy, rather than the more solid school, of say, Steinitz and Rubinstein, who theory was the pilling up of small advantages.
Scott has an excellent “nose” for attack, and has some exceedingly “chessy” ideas. During the congress he put a much greater restraint on himself than is his wont, and we believe this to be the reason he so improved on his previous records.
He had what might be described as the worst of the draw, since he had Black against Sir George Thomas, EG Sergeant and RP Michell. Some writers have described him as lucky to win, but a study of his games and a comparison with those of others in the tourney go to prove that he played more far-sightedly than any of the others.
We are quite aware that the form of any player is variable, and we have seen Sir George Thomas play much better chess and much less strainedly than he did at Edinburgh. EG Sergeant was generally playing quite at his best, but once or twice his play deteriorated, perhaps as the result of a sleepless night, he then seemed bereft of ideas, and allowed the clock to beat him. This also was the case with Michell, who had many a rush to save his flag falling before the necessary moves were made. Now Scott almost invariably had time to spare.
Perhaps the worst reversal of form was that of JH Blake; but he had been working very hard and late for some time right up to the day the Congress commenced, and was not really in a fit state of health to take part.
Scott has twice before competed for the Championship; in 1913 where he finished eighth, and in 1914 when he was fifth, beating FD Yates, the then Champion and drawing with JH Blackburne.
He has won several brilliancy prizes in congress and club tourneys, and was the champion of the Hampstead Chess Club (where he may have been said to have learnt the game) in 1913 and 1914. He was first acquainted with the moves in 1908.
He is keen on all sports, and puts his whole energy into each line he may be taking. With yet more self-restraint we think his chess will still further improve, and we venture to prophesy this will not be the last British Chess Championship he will win.”
In his memoirs William Winter wrote this:
“I also had the opportunity of playing a number of semi-serious games with RHV Scott and D. Miller, two of the leading London amateurs. Scott was probably the most brilliant combinative played England has ever seen and had already won almost every honour except the British Championship, which fell to him in 1920.
Since those days I have played over hundreds of games, including the beautiful brilliancies of the modern Russian school, and Scott’s best combinations stand up quite well beside them. There were however weaknesses in his play which I shall discuss later. Miller was just the opposite type, a dour solid player exceptionally hard to beat. He is, I am glad to say, still with us, but Scott died a few years ago – he had been out of chess for a long time.”
“It is entirely legitimate, and can prove very useful until one comes up against an opponent like Capablanca who had no weaknesses of any kind. ln Scott’s case, one of his foibles was an aversion to exchanging queens, and I took full advantage of this in the first two games of the match both of which I won with comparative ease; but Scott was not finished yet.’ In the third game he tied me up in a variation of the Sicilian which I had not previously seen, and in the fourth I made the fatal mistake in going for an early win of material and allowing him a king’s side attack. Things now looked bad for me. I had the black pieces in the fifth game and I dared not play my favourite Sicilian defence because I could not discover a satisfactory answer to his new line.”
Strangely, none of the Encyclopaedia’s by Golombek, Sunnucks or Hooper & Whyld felt that RHVS merited an entry. However Gaige does not forget.
We remember William Ritson Morry who passed away on Saturday, January 8th, 1994.
(A point of detail : It is incorrect, but many do, to write WRM hyphenated. His first name was William, his middle name was Ritson and his surname was Morry. He chose to use his middle name and was known by his friends as Ritson. Maybe this was because he father was also William Morry?)
WRM was born in the Wirral on Monday, September 5th 1910 and his father was William Doughty Morry (born 16th July 1877). William was a sub-postmaster and seller of fancy goods. His mother was Norah Morry (née Holloway) who undertook “unpaid domestic duties”.
Ritson attended Friars School, Bangor (established in 1557) along with BH Wood. BHW was one year and three months older than WRM so it is entirely possible that they had met.
In the 1939 register he is recorded as being a solicitor with his own practice and was living at 294 Walmley Road, Royal Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire with his parents : he was 29 years old.
In 1940 WRM married Nellie Cooper in Sutton Coldfield.
In 1943 WRM was mentioned in the London Gazette several times:
It would appear that this was the start of his first bankruptcy proceedings..
WRM was, by now, living at “Lyndon”, Coleshill Road, Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire :
and in the same year on September 30th he was officially made bankrupt as recorded in the London Gazette, order number 195. This notice was repeated in the Edinburgh Gazette of the same year.
On the 8th of June 1944 he was recorded as being struck-off the list of solicitors under the Solicitors Acts of 1932 to 1941. It was determined that WRM had engaged in “fraudulent conversion of clients money”
Here is an image of the organisers of the 1953 Whitsun Congress at Ilford including WRM:
In 1954 WRM sued BH Wood for libel over a letter BHW sent to Henry Golding of the Monmouthshire County Chess Association warning him of WRMs financial history. Here is a summary of the action :
In 1983 WRM was living at Flat 2, 53, Mayfield Road, Moseley, Birmingham, West Midlands and recorded as a Retired Chess Journalist. Elsewhere he was recorded as a freelance chess and cricket journalist.
and, unfortunately, in this year he made another appearance in the London Gazette (2nd September 1983) having been made bankrupt.
However, despite these unfortunate life events WRMs contribution to chess goes above and beyond them as he won the BCF President’s Award in 1984.
From British Chess Magazine, Volume CXIV (114, 1994), Number 2 (February), pp. 98 – 99 we have this obituary from Bernard Cafferty:
W Ritson Morry – a Tribute
That great chess character, known to everybody simply as Ritson, has left us in the fullness of years, coincidentally during the first Hastings Congress he missed for decades.
William Ritson Morry (5 ix 1910-8 i 1994) was a player, organiser, writer, arbiter and occasional sponsor of tournaments whose life touched so many aspects of chess that it is hard to know where to begin.
Ritson was educated in North Wales at the same school as BH Wood. Both were at Birmingham University at the same time, after which Ritson trained as a solicitor. As early as 1930 he founded the Birmingham Junior League, and a little later wrote a chess column for a time for a local newspaper, though Ritson is hardly the first person you think of as someone who would hit deadlines consistently. He was equal second in a rather unrepresentative British Championship of 1936 and equal third in 1951. An unfortunate incident in the mid-1940s led to him being struck off, whereupon he became a chess professional, who eked out a precarious living for the last 48 years of his life. Yet, I never heard him complain, for he was able to immerse himself in chess full time, and what could be better than that?
He ran a series of newsletters, which hardly covered their expenses and produced and British Championship and Hastings bulletins for many years. 1951 was a significant year in his life, for he gained the FIDE Arbiter title (he was always an expert on the rules and many of the conventions we all play to were codified by him, or under his guidance). Later on Ritson, a great raconteur, was the life and soul of the show in Hastings which, along with the Warwickshire chess team and Erdington CC, was the great love of his life.
At times he seemed to run Hastings almost single-handed in the Frank Rhoden era. In fact GM Vasyukov went back to Moscow in 1966 and wrote that Ritson Morry was the only controller to be seen in the morning, afternoon and evening sessions of play. I recall that Ritson was amused when I told him of this, but did not demur. To show that there was life in the old dog, he organised a series of Birmingham international tournaments in the 1970s at which Tony Miles got much of his early experience.
One such tournament was financed by him alone, on the basis of the sale of a piece of land in Sutton Coldfield where a change of planning status had led to a windfall profit.
He also saved Hastings in late 1974,by giving a partial guarantee when another sponsor reduced his contribution. A few years later the Inland Revenue made him bankrupt when they could not get their piece of the action out of the deal. Doubtless Ritson thought that the money had gone to a worthier cause. I must not fail to mention his love of gambling or his erudition. Many is the time when you could have an exposition from him of the law of England, the practice of the courts and the police, or the political news of the day.
He was deeply immersed in local Labour Party politics in Birmingham and was a friend of football referee, ‘rainmaker’ Dennis Howell, one-time Minister for Sport. Ritson also played a great deal of postal chess, winning the British title in 1943. His book on the game written in conjunction with a Birmingham schoolmaster Mel Mitchell is a very instructive one, and he also wrote many reports and amusing articles for BCM, particularly one on of the failings of the Elo rating system regulations.
Here is a game Ritson won against the veteran German GM at the London Easter congress of 1940:
Bernard wrote about WRM a year later for the centenary edition of the programme for the Hastings International Congress :
“‘Ritson’ as we all knew him was an institution in British Chess, active as a player, writer, organiser, drafter of rules and well-known for his skill as a raconteur, Educated in North Wales, he spent the rest of his life, from university days onwards, in Birmingham, but the Hastings Congress was very close to his heart. He played in a number of pre-war events, and also a few post-war, but by the time of the Frank Rhoden revival of the mid-1950s he was firmly in the saddle organising the post-Christmas traditional event. In fact I recall how perturbed Frank Rhoden was when the news came that Ritson might emigrate to the West Indies. It was not clear then how he could be replaced, for he supervised the morning, afternoon and evening sessions at the Sun Lounge (his favourite venue) and later at the Falaise Hall when the congress was still of such a size that we could all, including the Premier, be fitted into one room.
Ritson also did game commentaries for some years and produced a bulletin for at least three decades. He was greatly encouraging of younger talent and the objective historian has to recall the indignation he felt when players like Tony Miles and Nigel Short were not happy with the restraints imposed by financial stringency.
In his declining years Ritson was still a regular until his illness of late 1993, and a fixture at the “gate” where the public paid their entrance money at the Cinque Ports Hotel. The choice of word is deliberate as a visit to the dogs and the bookmaker was one of his rare pleasures outside chess. Best of all, however, one recalls him telling his fund of stories and reminisces to anyone who cared to listen. His voice, alas, has been stilled, and we are left to recall his selfless devotion to chess and, in particular, to the Hastings Congress.
Here is an obituary from the Midland Counties Chess Union
Midlands organiser and player who was a chess professional and journalist. As a player his best performances were an =2nd in the British Championship 1936 and an = 3rd in 1951.
In the international field his best results have been an =3rd with List in the Major Open A section of the Nottingham congress of 1936 and =1st with Milner-Barry in the Premier Reserves A at the Hastings congress 1946/7. He has played for England in international matches against the Netherlands (thrice) and against Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia.
A keen and accomplished correspondence player, he had the title of British Postal Master on account of his winning the British Correspondence Championship in 1943.
But it is as tournament and congress organiser that he is best known. He founded the Birmingham Junior League in 1930 and has organised thirty-four Birmingham congresses. He conceived the idea of a junior world championship and in 1951 he held the first World Junior Championship tournament at Birmingham (won by Borislav Ivkov). In the same year he was awarded the title of FIDE judge. He has also had much to do with the organisation of the Hastings Christmas chess congresses in the 1970s.
He has written much for British chess magazines and was the co-author along with the late W. R. Mitchell of Tackle Chess, London, 1967.
We remember Harry Golombek OBE who passed away on Saturday, January 7th, 1995.
The Amersham Advertiser of Wednesday, 18th January 1995, on page 6, reported, “His funeral was due to be held as 12.30pm (today), at Chilterns Crematorium, Whielden Lane, Amersham.” (Thanks Steve Mann!).
Harry Golombek was born on Wednesday, March 1st, 1911 in Lambeth, London and his parents were Barnet (Berl) Golombek (Golabek) (1878-1943) and Emma Golombek (née Sendak) (1883-1967).
The Polish word Golabek translates to “small dove” in English.
Barnet was a “Dealer of gas fittings” and was 33 when Harry was born and Emma was 26. Both of his parents were born in Zambov which is in the Lomza Gubernia region of the Kingdom of Poland which existed from 1867 – 1917. Their nationalities are both recorded as Russian in the 1911 UK census. we don’t know (as yet) when Barnet and Emma settled in the UK.
Harry had a brother Abraham (born in 1906) and a sister Rosy born in 1908. The family lived in 200b, Railton Road, Herne Hill. Lambeth.
He is a recorded with a service number of 992915 as being a member of The Royal Regiment of Artillery in 1939 and was discharged as having reached the age limit in 1956 aged 45 and one day.
Harry married his long time nurse, Noel Frances Judkins (1941 – 2011) in January 1988 and they had (born in 1992) one son : Oliver Golombek-Judkins BVSc MRCVS who is a successful Somerset based veterinary surgeon. The marriage was recorded in the district of Kensington & Chelsea.
The date of probate was 22 Mar 1995 and the executor of HGs will was David Anderton OBE.
In 1966 Harry became an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), Civil division awarded in the 1966 Queen’s Birthday (rather than New Years) Honours list.
The citation read simply :
Harry Golombek. For services to Chess : He was the first UK person to be so honoured.
In 1985 Harry was awarded the long overdue (but Honorary) title of Grandmaster by FIDE.
Harry was in 1974-82 a FIDE Zonal President and from 1978-96 he was the FIDE Permanent Fund Administrator.
Sadly, he never received the Presidents Award for Services to Chess from either the BCF or ECF : maybe a posthumous award is long overdue?
Harry Golombek RIP by Bernard Cafferty
Here (from British Chess Magazine, Volume CXV (115), 1995, Number 2 (February), pp.83-85 is this obituary from Bernard Cafferty :
Harry Golombek OBE (1 iii 1911-7 i 1995), British Champion in 1947, 1949 and 1955, was a grandmaster amongst journalists and book writers, and “Mr Chess” for many of the British public in the decades after the war when his Times column was the main source of up-to-date information on the doings of Botvinnik, Bronstein, Smyslov, Keres, Tal and the other top players.
Harry ran a weekly Saturday column along with daily reports during World Championships, British Championships, Hastings, Paignton …when only The Guardian provided a similar service to the chess community up to 1972. I often recall him grumbling at editorial incisions of his column, which, even so, was more extensive and ‘heavy’ than anything we enjoy now. He loved references to music, the theatre and the arts as a parallel to chess. In fact, he was columnist and correspondent with the paper from 1945 till 1985, and columnist of the Observer 1955-1979. His work at The Times came to an end after he suffered a mild stroke, though he struggled on for a time when, in pre-Wapping days, his work was handicapped by ever earlier deadlines.
Harry was the BCF delegate to FIDE for decades after 1948 and played a part in framing the rules. His view was that the Soviet Union, which he visited as arbiter for Botvinnik’s matches in the 1950s and 1960s as well as for the second part of the 1948 World Championship Match-Tournament, did not throw its weight about so much until after 1970 when a sort of cultural offensive in FIDE and elsewhere was undertaken.
Harry played for England at three Olympiads before the war and six after. Educated at a London grammar school, he was the son of immigrant Polish parents who had been repressed by the last Tsar, to whom his father once sent a message of defiance from the safety of England. A favourite reference of his was the London Boys’ Championship of the late 1920s where he first came to prominence.
His first experience of chess journalism came in the period 1938-40 when he was editor of BCM, till being called to army service. Harry worked in the code-breaking department at Bletchley Park during the war; the Official Secrets Act prohibited him from revealing much of what he knew of this fantastic scientific operation where he was associated with such famous names as Alan Turing, Jack Good, Hugh Alexander and Stuart Milner-Barry. A graduate of London University in Modern Languages, Harry had been called up into the Royal Artillery, but his knowledge of languages, particularly German, meant that he was soon transferred to the Intelligence Corps.
Harry was a life-long supporter of Surrey Cricket Club. His family ran a grocery shop near Kennington Oval which he sold after 1945 when he made the decision to become a chess professional’ He was reputed to have one of the finest chess libraries in Britain, which he has left to the BCF to form the nucleus of a national chess library with bequests from Sir Richard Clarke, RJ Broadbent and GH Diggle.
Amongst the many books he wrote, pride of place must be taken by his work on Capablanca’s best games and the one on the 1948 Match-Tournament at the Hague and Moscow as well as a later book on Reti. Who can forget his account of the delay at the Polish border for the train which was taking players and journalists to Moscow from the Hague in 1948? A Polish general, forgetful of recent history, declared that the train could riot proceed since no-one crossed the Polish frontier without the appropriate documentation and security checks (Euwe’s extensive analytical notebooks in Dutch were the stumbling block). It only needed Botvinnik to hear this for him to phone up Moscow and have the Polish authorities overruled by those who enjoyed real power in the post-war world.
Another famous article which comes to mind is Harry’s long account of the 1967 Sousse Interzonal, complete with the J’adoubovich incident, Fischer’s fickleness, and the camel on the beach. This appeared in the BCM, of course, where H. G. was the editor for Overseas News and the Games Department from the late 1940’s until the late ‘sixties. His work here was a cut above most contemporary chess journalism’ since he was so often on the spot at top events and he had access to all of the world’s chess press. As a consequence, he was often the contact man for arranging participation of the world’s leading players at Hastings. From this flowed his work for The Friends of Chess, the body that raised funds and helped gain invitations to foreign events for our up and comings. It was in 1966 that he gained the OBE for services to chess.
Harry had a dry acerbic wit and a fund of stories that made him a welcome after-dinner speaker and lecturer. He seemed to be a life long bachelor, but he married late in life (this corrects an error in the Times obituary of 9 January. In his declining years he spent his last days in a rest home for the elderly in Gerrards Cross where his main contact with the outside world was Gerry Walsh who had often driven him to and from the Hastings Congress in the last couple of decades of his life.
A Grandmaster Amongst Journalists
Harry Golombek, was, without a doubt, one of the finest chess writers ever, and his lengthy stint as Overseas News editor of the BCM results in some classic reports.
As a tribute to Harry’s work we (BCM) have decided to reprint word for word, his extraordinary account of the 1967 Sousse Interzonal. The article that follows is an exact reproduction of his eyewitness report, as it appears in the 1968 BCM Bound Volume, January magazine. This was the tournament that had everything: Bolbochan vanishing, Fischer withdrawing, Larsen winning, and much more.
We are sure that our current readers, young and old, will be as enchanted with the tale as BCM readers were nearly three decades ago.
Further Recollection from Bernard Cafferty
Here (from British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXXII (132), 2011, Number 3 (March), pp.150-154 is an affectionate collection of memories from Bernard Cafferty :
“In recalling four decades of knowing the GOM of 20th century English chess, one has to stress the ‘English’ aspect. The ‘Harry’ part of his name was much more significant than the Polish surname, and, though he was the most cosmopolitan of men, who fitted into any milieu, my abiding memory of him always throws up the quirks that are the sign of an Englishman. I wonder how many of my readers recall the classic English actors Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford, whose main preoccupation in their films was…. getting to know the latest cricket score from Lords or The Oval.
Indeed, Harry was a long-time member of Surrey Cricket Club, and once, when he came back from being an arbiter at an international tournament in Tenerife, his main comment to me was not about the event or the players, but rather that the volcanic rock of the Atlantic island made for brackish water, so that one could not get…. a decent cup of tea!
I first met Harry in the early 1950s when I was a teenage student keen on chess and accordingly spent my meagre pocket money on a day out in Manchester to watch the Counties Final match between Lancashire and the all-conquering Middlesex side of those years. Harry and I were about the only spectators. He was there reporting for The Times. I recall that the top board game was between the veterans William Winter and WA Fairhurst. The game duly appeared in the BCM with Harry’s notes, for he was the long-serving Games Editor of that august publication.
Perhaps I may enter a belated correction to “Who’s Who” here. Some editions stated that he was editor of BCM after the Second World War. Not so. His stint in the editorial chair was 1938-40, after which he was called up, initially being assigned to the Royal Artillery. Perhaps that is a sign of the speciality of the Services – fitting a square peg in a round hole – but he was swiftly transferred to the Intelligence Corps, perhaps at the behest of Hugh Alexander who knew that Harry had studied German at his London grammar school in Camberwell and then at London University.
Clearly, under the conditions of 1940, a linguist was just what was needed to make up the team of mathematicians, cryptographers and such like who were tasked with breaking the secrecy of German coded messages.
I once mentioned the misunderstanding over the “Who’s Who” entry to Brian Reilly. He laughed it off, saying that it was almost certainly the abiding fault of HG – not taking Brian’s repeated advice to fit a new typewriter ribbon!
I could relate to that since Harry’s handwritten game scores, written in pencil and descriptive notation, were very hard to decipher, a real scribble that only the man himself could make sense of. When I asked him why he did not use algebraic notation, he commented that he wrote for so many English-language outlets: The Times, The Times Weekend Supplement, Observer and chess book publishers like Bells and Penguin who knew their audiences of those years were supporters of the Pawn to King’s Knight Three school. In fact, Harry commented, he had made more money out of his Penguin book The Game of Chess than from all his other extensive book authorship and journalism.
and the paperback version :
Moreover, it took him about three whole days to assemble the documents and papers to enable him to fill in his income tax form.
That reminds me that, when he was in his final years, and in an old person’s rest home, he arranged for his extensive library to be transferred in many large tea chests from his house in Chalfont St Giles, Bucks, to the St Leonards address where I had worked for the BCM for the last 12 years and which had recently been vacated as a result of Murray Chandler deciding to transfer BCM operations to London. I had the task, arranged with The Friends of Chess and the BCF, to do a sort-out and preliminary catalogue of his books and magazines which Harry was bequeathing to the BCF to form the nucleus of a National Chess Library. That would be a pleasant enough task, but it was prolonged into many weeks by having to decant the valuable chess material from the tea chests, much of it covered in dust and even spiders’ webs, from the many financial and other papers to do with his financial affairs. It was then that I first learned what a ‘tip sheet’ was, and it was not until stockbroker David Jarrett, BCF Hon Treasurer, came down for a visit that the dross amongst the many papers was separated from the gold and passed to Harry’s executor David Anderton.
Reverting to the cup of tea story, the first time I got to know Harry well was at the British Championship at Leicester in 1960. Many of the participants were lodged in University accommodation near the venue. Every evening, after play had finished, a number of us got together for a chat over a cup of tea in the accommodation unit’s kitchen. There Harry would regale us with stories from his many visits abroad, particularly to Moscow for the world title matches involving Botvinnik. Harry had formed many interesting views on Soviet society. Amongst the stories he told was of the all-pervasive dead hand of the bureaucracy. He was used to filing his reports on the match in English at the Central Post Office. One day, a clerk behind the grille, told him he could not accept it, since the regulations stated that all outgoing material had to be in Russian.
With his logical mind, and not appreciating the discipline and associated bureaucracy which the rulers tried to impose on Soviet society, Harry commented that “Yesterday, I submitted in English and it was accepted”, at which the clerk drew herself up to her full height and stated firmly: “Yesterday was yesterday, today is today”. Harry’s considered views included these: Communism would never be made to work properly in Russia, since the Russians lack the requisite discipline. “They should have tried it on the Germans. They might have made it work”. He once commented that when he went to Germany in the decade or so after the war, he was aware that some of those whom he met had been strong supporters of Nazism: “If they had had their way, they would have turned me into a bar of soap!”. I got a benefit from Harry being in Moscow. I wanted to get a copy of Chigorin’s collected games by Grekov, a very rare item. Harry duly promised to seek one out on his next visit to Moscow and a second-hand copy of this fine book came to me through the post some weeks later. No charge to me, of course.
Harry played a big role in drawing up the Rules of Chess as they applied to post-1945 competitive play. He served on the appropriate FIDE commission for decades and always argued that too precise a codification limited the discretion of the arbiter to apply a common sense solution to a concrete set of circumstances. Alas, that sensible approach has been moved away from in recent times, especially with the introduction of quick-play finishes and associated fine points about time limits.
A final shrewd comment from Harry, based on his Moscow experience: “In 1917, the new Bolshevik regime claimed that they were abolishing all titles, privilege and so on. The result? Forty years later they have the most class-conscious society I have encountered.” One proof of this might be given – the Soviet internal passport system, one point of which required the holder (and for a long time no peasant was allowed such an identity document – who, then, could claim that the Tsar had abolished serfdom in the middle of the 19th century?) to state his/her ethnic origin: Russian, Ukrainian, Kalmyk, Armenian, Jew and so on. The Western mind boggles… ”
We leave the final word in reminiscences of Golombek to his near-neighbour in Chalfont St Giles, Barry Sandercock :
” Harry was a very interesting man to talk to and liked to talk about the early days when he played against some of the great players. He was also very knowledgeable on many subjects, the arts, music etc. I played him when he gave a simul at Gerrards Cross in 1955 (Jan.21st} and managed a draw after 3 hours play. I remember, the local paper once wrote an article about him, calling him an ex-world champion. I got a letter published where I pointed out that he was an ex-British Champion not ex-world champion. I hope he didn’t see that!”
“To finish, a characteristic Golombek game, with his own notes. I (Ed) have selected one of the games from his victorious British Championship playoff match against Broadbent in 1947. It is characteristic of him in many ways. The game features a typically smooth positional build-up, from his beloved English Opening, played with the Nh3 development plan, which was a particular favourite of his. The notes are also very typically Golombek – concentrating in the main on verbal explanations, with relatively few variations, but also characterised by occasionally extreme dogmatism in his assessments, such as the notes to moves 1, 2 and 6, for example. The game and notes were published in the December 1947 issue of The British Chess Magazine.”
From The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match by Klein and Winter :
“Harry Golombek is a Londoner, He was born in 1911, and learned chess when twelve years of age. He is another of those who went through the mill of the British Boys’ Championship, winning it in 1926. He has played in most English international tournaments, and has represented Great Britain in team tournaments. In the London International Tournament, 1946, he came fifth.
A graduate of London University, he served in the Foreign Office during the war, but has since retired to the country (Chalfont St. Giles). His literary activities include 50 Great Games of Modern Chess
Legend, according to James Pratt, has it that HG wrote the book without the aid of a chess set!
and Capablanca’s Hundred Best Games.
He reports chess tournaments for The Times, and edits The Times Weekly chess column.
His chess is perhaps not inspired and lacks the spark of enterprise, but he is a solid player on the whole and is apt to hold the best to a draw.”
Here is HGs entry from Hooper & Whyld (The Oxford Companion to CHESS) :
“English player and author. International Master (1950), International Arbiter (1954), honorary Grandmaster (1985). In 1945 Golombek became chess correspondent of The Times, a position he held until 1989. Also in 1945 he decided to become a professional chess-player.
He won the British Championship three times (1947, 1949, 1955) and was equal first in 1959 but lost the play-off (to Jonathan Penrose) and played in nine Olympiads from 1935 to 1962. An experienced arbiter and a good linguist, supervisor of many important tournaments and matches, he served for 30 years on the FIDE Commission that makes, amends, and arbitrates upon The laws and rules of chess.
His many books include Capablanca’s Hundred Best Games (1947),
The World Chess Championship 1948 (1949),
Réti’s Best Games of Chess (1954),
and A History of Chess (1976).”
Golombek accurate but unforceful
H. Golombek, the Present Chess Correspondent of The Times is in every way a contrast to Alexander. His forte is accurate positional play which brings him many good victories against the ordinary rank and file but rarely yields better than a draw against the very best. The grand master needs more than accuracy to shake his equanimity.
Golombek has a wide theoretical knowledge and seems equally at home in every type of opening, though his preference is for the close variety. He is a fine analyst and has
written a number of very interesting books of which I must make special mention of The World Chess Championship 1948. During a sojourn in hospital I worked my hardest to flnd flaws in the annotations to this work, but quite without success.
He is Games Editor of the British Chess Magazine and has considerably enhanced the reputation of that journal. Very popular abroad, he was asked to officiate as judge at the world championship match in Moscow between Botvinnik and Smyslov. Although as far as settling disputes is concerned the job was, I understand, a sinecure, the appointment was a high honour both to Golombek himself and to the country he represents.
From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Robert Hale 1970 & 1976), Anne Sunnucks :
“International Master and International Chess Judge. British Champion in 1947, 1949 and 1955. Captained the British Chess Federation team for many years in Chess Olympiads. In the 1972 Olympiad, captained the BCF women’s team. Chess author and chess correspondent of The Times since 1945 and the Observer since 1955. British Chess Federation to FIDE.
Born in London on 1st March 1911, Golombek learned to play chess at the age of 12 and in 1929 won the London Boy’s Championship. Two years later he became the youngest player to win the Surrey Championships. After graduating in languages at London University, Golombek devoted his full time to chess, apart from the way years, when served in the army and at the Foreign Office, and was awarded the OBE for his services to the game in 1966. He was the editor of the British Chess Magazine from 1938 to 1939 and for many years served as its games editor. He is now its overseas news editor. In his capacity as International Chess Judge, he has acted as judge in World Championship matches since 1954.
He has competed in a number of international tournaments, his best results being 1st at Antwerp 1938, 1st at Leeuwarden 1947, 1st at Baarn 1948 and -4th with Barcza, Foltys and Gliogoric at Venice 1949. in 1951, he represented the British Chess Federation in the Zonal tournament at Bad Pyrmont and came 5th, qualifying for the Interzonal. ”
His publications include : Capablanca’s 100 Best Games of Chess (1947); World Chess Championship 1948 (1949); Pocket Guide to the Chess Openings (1949);
50 Great Games of Modern Chess (1952); Reti’s Best Games of Chess (1954); 22nd USSR Championship (1956);
World Chess Championship 1957 (1957); Modern Opening Chess Strategy (1959);
and a translation of The Art of the Middle Game by P. Keres and A. Kotov.
He enjoys classical music and has been known to be successful on the Stock Exchange.”
A reasonable enquiry might be : “What did Harry write about himself?” Well, according to
The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977)
we have :
“British international master, three times British champion and the first person to figure in that country’s Honours List on account of his services to chess. Golombek was born in London and lived there till the Second World War. Educated as Wilson’s Grammar School and the University of London, he became London Boy Champion in 1929 and London University Champion 1930-3. By this time he was part of a trio of the leading players in England, the other two being Alexander and Milner-Barry. (Ed : It is curious that HG does not mention William Winter : maybe they were not like minded souls?)
His best result in the British championship before the Second World War was -2nd with EG Sergeant, 1/2 a point below Alexander at Brighton 1938. In that year he won first prize in a small international tournament at Antwerp ahead of Koltanowski. In 1938 too he became editor of the British Chess Magazine and occupied this post till he entered the army in 1940.
Before the war he had already played in three International Team Tournaments (or Olympiads as they subsequently became called) at Warsaw 1935, Stockholm 1937 and Buenos Aires 1939.
After the Buenos Aires event he went onto play in an international tournament at Montevideo where he came second to the World Champion, Alexander Alekhine.
In the war he served first in the Royal Artillery, from 1940-1 and then, for the rest of the war, in the Foreign Office at Bletchley Park, employed (like Alexander, Milner-Barry and quite a number of other chess-players) in code breaking.
After the war he made chess and writing about the game his livelihood, becoming Times Chess Correspondent in 1945 and Observer Chess Correspondent in 1955. As a player he had a consistently good record in the British Championship, coming in the prize list on fourteen out of eighteen occasions he competed in the event. He was British Champion at Harrogate 1947, Felixstowe 1949 and Aberystwyth 1955.
Here is HGs win against his old friend PS Milner-Barry from Aberystwyth 1955 :
He represented England in six more Olympiads, Helsinki 1952, Amsterdam 1954, Moscow 1956, Munich 1958, Leipzig 1960 and Varna 1962.
His best individual international results were first prizes at small tournaments in Leeuwarden 1947, Baarn 1948 and Paignton 1950 (above Euwe and Donner); =4th with O’Kelly at Beverwijk 1949, =4th with Barcza, Foltys and Gligoric at Venice 1949, and 5th at the European Zonal tournament at Bad Pyrmont 1951, thereby becoming the first British player to have qualified for the Interzonal. He was awarded the OBE in the Queen’s Birthday List in 1966.
A founding member of the FIDE Commission for the Rules of Chess, he became a FIDE International Judge and as such officiated at six World Championship matches. He was also chief arbiter at a FIDE Candidates tournament, at an Interzonal and two European Team Championship finals, etc. When the FIDE President, Dr Euwe, had to return home from Reykjavik before the 1972 Spassky-Fischer match got started. Golombek represented FIDE in Iceland and did much to ensure that the match took place and that it continued to be played.
Harry gave more than the average number of simultaneous displays in this career. For the photograph below Leonard Barden provided the following caption :
“Harry was invited because it was the 50th anniversary of his victory in the London Boys 1929 a success which he often referred to in his Times column. There were seven 30-board simuls that day, the top three being England Juniors v USSR (Spassky, Vasyukov, Kochiev) where Spassky had the worst simultaneous result of his career. No 4 was by Murray Chandler, Harry was No5 and the others by Whiteley and Rumens. The juniors who played the Russians were personally invited.”
A prolific writer and translator of books on the game, he has had some thirty-five books published on various aspects of chess. Among them are : Capablanca’s Best Games of Chess, London, New York 1947; Reti’s Best Games of Chess, London 1954; New York 1975; The Game of Chess, London 1954; Modern Opening Chess Strategy, London 1959; A History of Chess, London, New York 1976.“
From British Chess (Pergamon Press, 1983), Botterill, Levy, Rice and Richardson, we have this rather brief biography :
“Thee times British Champion (Harrogate 1947, Felixstowe 1949, Aberystwyth 1955) and the first person to figure on the Honours List for services to Chess. He has represented England in 9 Olympiads. A FIDE International Judge and Arbiter has has officiated at 6 World Championship matches. He is chess correspondent of The Times and a prolific writer and translator”
Edward Winter has written this interesting article last updated in December 2020 despite announcing self-dormancy in March 2020.
Here we have a selection of publications not already mentioned above :
We focus on the British Chess Scene Past & Present !
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