Tag Archives: Deaths

Remembering IM Hugh Alexander CMG CBE (19-iv-1909 15-ii-1974)

Hugh Alexander at Margate 1938
Hugh Alexander at Margate 1938

We remember Hugh Alexander who passed away on Friday, 15-ii-1974. The death was registered in the Borough of Cheltenham.  Currently his burial / cremation site is unknown.

The Alexander Family

Conel Hugh O’Donel Alexander was born on Monday, April 19th, 1909 in Cork, Munster, Republic of Ireland.

Signature of CHO'D Alexander from August 1970
Signature of CHO’D Alexander from August 1970

Hugh’s parents were Conel William Long Alexander (1879-1920) and Hilda Barbara Alexander (née Bennett) (1881-1964) who married in Hook Church, Hampshire. His father was a Professor of Civil Engineering from County Donegal and his mother was the daughter of a timber merchant and was from Birmingham.

Hugh’s father moved to Hook in Hampshire. At some point they returned to Cork and then relocated to Birmingham.

In the 1911 Irish census aged two Hugh was recorded as being a Presbyterian.  The household consisted of his father, mother and two servants Maud McAuliffe (19)  from County Cork and Johanna Hanlon (20) from Cork City all living at 20, Connaught Avenue, Cork.

At the time of the census all members of the household were capable of reading and writing apart from Hugh who was recorded as “cannot read”.

and Hugh’s father signed the Return as follows :

Signature of Hugh's father on 1911 Irish census Return
Signature of Hugh’s father on 1911 Irish census Return
20 Connaught Avenue, Cork, Ireland
20 Connaught Avenue, Cork, Ireland

Hugh attended Londonderry College and then went to King Edward’s School, Birmingham.

Hugh married Enid Constance Rose Crichton Neate (1900-1982) in October 1934 and the marriage was registered in the district of Westminster, Middlesex.

According to Rodric Braithwaite :

“Enid, was an equally striking personality. She was descended from one of the defenders of the Eureka Stockade, the “birthplace of Australian democracy”. She was educated at the Sorbonne, a formidable dialectician, art historian and collector. In her later years she returned to Australia, where she was endlessly hospitable to passing Russian chessplayers, and to itinerant musicians, including my own father.”

Hugh and Enid had a son Michael (19 June 1936 – 1 June 2002) who became the foreign policy secretary to Margaret Thatcher and the UK ambassador to NATO. Here is Michael’s obituary.

Michael married Traute Krohn. Michael and Traute gave Hugh a grandson, Conel Alexander who is a Cosmochemist at the Earth and Planets Laboratory, Carnegie Institution for Science, Washington.

Conel M. O'D. Alexander Staff Scientist
Conel M. O’D. Alexander
Staff Scientist

We contacted Conel and he replied more or less instantly as follows:

I don’t have that many anecdotes or photos of my grandfather. My great aunt, his sister, was the family archivist. She had a lot of photos of when they were young in Cork and Birmingham. She did send me some photos before she died, but not the sort that would interest your readers. She lived in Fort Erie, Canada and my grand father used to visit when in North America on ‘business’. I don’t know how much she knew about what he did but she must have had some inkling. Unfortunately, since she died I have lost touch with her family. Amongst the photos she sent me were some of my great grandfather and his Irish relatives. An archivist at Cork University contacted me a few years ago. According to him, my great grandfather has a rugby player and organizer of Irish rugby (as well as an engineering professor), but also opposed to Irish independence which might well have caused trouble for him and his family had he not died when he did.

I was 13 when my grandfather died and wasn’t told how ill he was until almost the end. I would have liked to have know him better, but I assume he was always on the go and my father was a diplomat and we had been living abroad until I was 8 (US, Moscow and Singapore). Even after moving back to London, we would only see him a few times a year as far as I remember. I think he probably realized that he had missed out on some things as he was planning to retire (early I believe) and come to live with us in London, only to learn that he had terminal cancer.

It just so happened that next door to where I work is a rather upscale retirement home. A man called Authur Levinson had retired there with his wife. He was sent to Bletchley when the USA joined the war and had worked with my grandfather. Arthur’s wife had somehow followed him to the UK as a driver. Both had gotten to know my grandfather during the war and then afterwards when Arthur joined the NSA. Somehow Arthur found out I was working next door, and my family used to visit them occasionally. They had an Enigma machine that they used to show my kids, but they were probably too young to understand the significance. Arthur told me that the NSA had tried to recruit my grandfather when they heard he was retiring from GCHQ, but he was adamant that he wanted to retire to spend more time with family and to write.

I was told that, rather surprisingly, he didn’t think that chess was a suitable pastime for a healthy boy. I don’t know if this was the reason, he believed in trial by fire, or he just could not help himself (he was extremely competitive at everything he did), but when we did play chess a few times he used to give me huge advantages and then thrash me! After a few such humiliations, I gave up. I don’t think I would have been very good anyway and my grandfather probably recognized that, so perhaps it was his way of letting me find out early. My father was an olympic fencer, so naturally I tried that too. For a while I was able to ‘bully’ my way to wins, until I came up against people who really knew what they were doing. I abandoned that too.

One other thing I learned about about my grandfather fairly recently is that he taught Freeman Dyson mathematics and chess at Winchester. Freeman contacted me out of the blue having come across my name somehow. Remembering my chess experience, I ventured that he must have been a rather impatient teacher. Not a bit of it, apparently, but then Dyson must have been the ideal student for him.

Working for John Lewis

Prior to the second world war Alexander was officially employed by John Spedan Lewis in his Department store in Oxford Street. When he returned from Buenos Aires (“good air”) from the 1939 Olympiad he travelled aboard the RMS Alcantara. Here is the entry in the passenger list for September 19th, 1939 :

Partial passenger manifest for the RMS Alcantara for September 19th, 1939. Alexander is passenger #23.
Partial passenger manifest for the RMS Alcantara for September 19th, 1939. Alexander is passenger #23.

and here is Alexander’s entry in detail. Note that his occupation is described as “Drapery Manager” :

Partial passenger manifest for the RMS Alcantara for September 19th, 1939. Alexander is passenger #23.
Partial passenger manifest for the RMS Alcantara for September 19th, 1939. Alexander is passenger #23.

Hugh sailed from Buenos Aires, Argentina in September 1939 to arrive at Southampton September 19th 1939. The ship was the Alcantara operated by Royal Mail Lines Ltd hence the RMS Alcantara.

RMS Alcantara off Rio de Janeiro between 1934 and 1939 by Kenneth Shoesmith
RMS Alcantara off Rio de Janeiro between 1934 and 1939 by Kenneth Shoesmith

According to Wikipedia : “RMS Alcantara was a Royal Mail Lines ocean liner that was built in Belfast in 1926. She served in the Second World War first as an armed merchant cruiser and then a troop ship, was returned to civilian service in 1948 and scrapped in 1958.

Ports of the voyage were : Buenos Aires; Montevideo; Santos and Rio de Janeiro and Hugh’s official number was 148151 and he travelled 2nd class. His proposed destination residential address was

316, Rodney House, Dolphin Square, London, SW1

According to Wikipedia : “The proximity of Dolphin Square to the Palace of Westminster and the headquarters of the intelligence agencies MI5 (Thames House) and MI6 (Vauxhall Cross) has attracted many politicians, peers, civil servants and intelligence agency personnel as residents.”

Dolphin Square. London, SW1
Dolphin Square. London, SW1

There was some discussion of Drapery Manager in another place.

An Obituary from Stuart Milner-Barry, Part One

From British Chess Magazine, Volume XCIV (94, 1974), Number 4 (April), pp. 117-120 by PS Milner-Barry :

“A proper assessment of Hugh Alexander, who died on February 15th 1974 must await a later issue. But I think he might have been pleased to see our last game published, and I give the score of it below, with notes based on our usual analysis immediately after the game. Over the past 45 years, ever since he went to Cambridge, we played whenever opportunity offered serious games with clocks.

Conel Hugh O'Donel Alexander
Conel Hugh O’Donel Alexander

Before the war they were played mostly at my mother’s house in Cambridge, and after the war and my own marriage at our house in Blackheath. When he moved to Cheltenham the opportunities became fewer but no year ever passed without two or three such games, usually at Easter or Christmas.

Alexander always used to say, it was certainly true of me, that this was the kind of chess that he enjoyed most. The games were conducted with the utmost vigour, though not without a good deal of propaganda on both sides. I suppose he won in the proportion of about two to one, but the disparity in strength never became one-sided. Nearly all the games opened 1 P-K4, P-K4; he played the Lopez when I allowed him. (I usually played the Petroff or Philidor), and I played a mixture – in the early days the Vienna and latterly mostly the King’s Gambit. On the whole Black did better than White for both of us.

CHO'D Alexander plays PS Milner-Barry
CHO’D Alexander plays PS Milner-Barry

The only concession we made to advancing years was that latterly we contented ourselves with four hour sessions and 36 moves, instead of 40 in 5 hours. We thought we had done enough for honour by then, and the games were usually finished in the time.

Hugh stayed with us the weekend before Christmas, when this game was played. He looked ill, but he was very cheerful and as good company as ever. He loved a good argument, and as my family so too,- the evening meal was its usual lively affair! I am myself a man of peace, and intellectually lazy; so in deference to my feelings the argument was suspended, before it became too hot. I am afraid they all thought I was a spoil-sport. It was as happy a visit as any of us could remember and it is difficult to accept there will not be another.

As for the game, it was not one of our most exciting encounters. But it is quite an interesting one, and shows Hugh playing as
well as ever – certainly much too well for me. But then he usually did.”

Following PSMBs contribution, in the same obituary there was this from Harry Golombek :

C.H.O’D.  Alexander and the ‘B.C.M.’ by Harry Golombek

I have written elsewhere about Hugh Alexander both as a person and as a chess-player and I also intend to devote a forthcoming article in ‘The Times‘ on Saturday to an appraisal of his place in British Chess. Here, however, I would like to describe briefly his connection with this magazine over the years and to show how
important his help was to the progress of the ‘BCM‘.

In the years immediately preceding the Second World War, Ash Wheatcroft and I had made a determined effort to maintain and increase the role of the ‘BCM‘, he in a managerial capacity and I as its editor. With the coming of war and the departure of both of us into the army a sort of caretaker regime had to be provided. It worked as well as could have been expected but inevitably there had been a decline both in quality and financially. When peace came, the quality improved since it was possible to get more and better contributions but the financial aspect became almost alarming.

The question arose – was there a need for the magazine and if so how could that need be fulfilled with the fairly limited resources at hand. Some of us thought there was, but the ways and means were not so clear. Of all those who thought like this Alexander was the most effective in his approach to the problems. I know that from his very youth onwards he had been convinced of the importance of the ‘BCM’ to British chess and, being a practical idealist, when the
crisis came he set about dealing with it in the most expeditious way.

In November 1946 he became a director of the B.C.M. and continued in that position till February 1952, by which time the magazine had been set on a solid basis from
which it was unlikely to be shaken. It was his idea that Brian Reilly be asked to act as editor and almost his first act as director was to write a letter to him inviting him to become so. Then, in January 1947, he himself took over the editorship of the games department, an arduous task which he fulfilled with great competence and the utmost conscientiousness until May 1949 when the heavy work of the Civil Service department of which he was head compelled him to hand over the Games Section to me.

Before, however, that he gave up this post he, again in the most practical way possible, rendered the ‘BCM‘ another service. He wrote a book giving a selection of the games from the last period of Alekhine’s life and generously donated half the royalties to the ‘BCM‘ in order to bolster up its slender finances.

Alekhine's Best Games of Chess : 1938-45, CHO'D Alexander, G. Bell and Sons, 1966 ISBN 4-87187-827-9
Alekhine’s Best Games of Chess : 1938-45, CHO’D Alexander, G. Bell and Sons, 1966 ISBN 4-87187-827-9

Even after he had to give up official connection with the magazine he retained a strong interest in its welfare. So, even though this recognition is belated and posthumous, I thought it was right to afford readers the possibility of joining with me in thanking High Alexander for all that he did in this respect in especial. At any rate, such matters should be on record for the chess historian.

The Anglo-Soviet Radio Match

From The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match by E.Klein and W.Winter :

“CHO’D Alexander was born in Cork in 1909 and learned chess at the age of ten. He was educated at King Edward School, Birmingham, where he exhibited early prowess by winning the Birmingham Post Cup. In 1927 he won the British Boy’s Championship. During his student days, from 1928 to 1932, he was a convincing champion of Cambridge University. Subsequently he competed in five British Championships, winning the title in 1938. He also played in several international tournaments, his outstanding performance amongst these being Hastings in 1938, where he shared second and third prizes with Keres, following Reshevsky who won the tournament, and ahead of Fine and Flohr. In 1939, in the England-Holland match, he had the satisfaction of defeating the ex-World Champion, Dr. Euwe, in a sensational games, drawing the return game.

A brilliant mathematician, he took a first at Cambridge and chose a scholastic career, joining a well-known public school (Winchester College). From there, via a short spell in a business appointment (John Lewis), he entered the service of the Foreign Office, where, during the war years, his valuable work earned him the OBE.

He plays imaginative and courageous chess and is never afraid of the wildest complications.”

IM Conel Hugh O'Donel Alexander CMG CBE (19-iv-1909 15-ii-1974). Source : The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match
IM Conel Hugh O’Donel Alexander CMG CBE (19-iv-1909 15-ii-1974). Source : The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match

An Obituary from Stuart Milner-Barry, Part 2

From British Chess Magazine, Volume XCIV (94, 1974), Number 6 (June), pp. 202-204 by PS Milner-Barry :

With the death of Hugh Alexander at the age of 64, British chess has lost the outstanding figure of the past forty years. His active playing career over some thirty years included two victories in the British championship and regular appearances in all representative teams from l93l-58, except when the nature of his Civil Service
duties prevented him from travelling behind the Iron Curtain. During the whole of the period after the war he was the regular top board for the England team. In the Hastings international congress he twice won the Premier tournament, on the second occasion tying with Bronstein. His victories in this series included two world champions (Euwe and Botvinnik) and numerous others in the Grandmaster class. He was an outstanding example, like H.E.Atkins and Dr. Milan Vidmar, of the amateur who could combine an exacting professional life of great responsibility and distinction with success in competitive international chess at the highest level and with the increasing professionalism of the game and the demands of knowledge and research that it makes upon the masters, this was much more difficult in Hugh’s time than in an earlier age.

It was indeed in the international field that his fame will principally rest. On the British championship scene, although he always did well before the War, and won convincingly at Brighton in 1938 in a strong field, his record did not match his abilities.

C.H.O'D Alexander, Winner of the 1953 Ilford Premier
C.H.O’D Alexander, Winner of the 1953 Ilford Premier

He never established anything like the superiority over his contemporaries that Atkins in a former age and Penrose in a later achieved. He won the championship again, in 1956, but that was a weak year when the Moscow Olympiad took first claim on the leading British players. It was not that he cared less – like all the great players he hated losing, though he was the most magnanimous of opponents – but that he seemed to require the stimulus of the great occasion, and of a world famous name on the other side of the board, to bring out the best in him.

The BCF Team at the Amsterdam Olympiad 1954. Left to right : Barden, Clarke, Penrose, Wade, Golombek (board three) and Alexander
The BCF Team at the Amsterdam Olympiad 1954. Left to right : Barden, Clarke, Penrose, Wade, Golombek (board three) and Alexander

Alexander was perhaps the only English player of his day whom the Grandmasters would have treated as on a level with themselves. On his day he was liable to beat any of them, and they were well aware of it. In his younger days he was very much the gay cavalier, and a brilliant combinative and attacking player with a touch of genius. Latterly he lost some of this elan, and adapted his style to the responsibilities of the B.C.T. top board. His opponents too, with a healthy respect for his powers, were less inclined to give him opportunities. He was as capable of the dead-bat technique as anybody, and to that extent (to my way of thinking anyway) his games became less interesting, with quick draws making a higher contribution to his top-board results than in earlier years. But none the less he was the anchor-man of the British team until his retirement after the 1958 Olympiad.

Kick Langeweg plays Hugh Alexander in the Anglo-Dutch Match of October 7th , 1961. Peter Clarke (right) is playing Johan Teunis Barendregt and Harry Golombek observes
Kick Langeweg plays Hugh Alexander in the Anglo-Dutch Match of October 7th , 1961. Peter Clarke (right) is playing Johan Teunis Barendregt and Harry Golombek observes

It was a great pity he gave up the game over the board at 50. He had years of good chess in him. But I think he felt he had scaled all the peaks he could scale, and that he was finding top-class competitive chess a burden difficult to reconcile with his Civil Service work and the prospect of a gradual and inevitable decline in his powers did not appeal to him. I made many efforts to tempt him back to the arena, but to no avail. I do not think he ever seriously regretted his decision, and in his last years he immensely enjoyed correspondence chess.

In 1964, Alexander became non-playing captain of the B.C.F. team, and held that role continuously until after the Siegen Olympiad in 1970.

Hugh Alexander, Čeněk Kottnauer, Michael Franklin and Owen Hindle
Hugh Alexander, Čeněk Kottnauer, Michael Franklin and Owen Hindle

It was rather a disappointing period for British chess, and the results, while we were rebuilding a young team, could not – even with Penrose’s outstanding efforts at top board – have been expected to be favourable. But he threw himself wholeheartedly into all the work sponsored by the B.C.F. and the Friends of Chess to find and develop talent in the younger generation, and before he died the fruits of these labours were beginning to appear. He would have been proud indeed to have witnessed our recent triumph in the Anglo-German match.

As a captain he was, of course, immensely liked and respected by his team. My impression was that he took his responsibilities almost too seriously, and agonised too much over his decisions about whom to play and whom to rest. Nevertheless on balance he thoroughly enjoyed the work, and certainly, in spite of his innate modesty, he
was never one to be disturbed by ill-informed or irresponsible criticism, of which he had his share.

Conel Hugh O'Donel Alexander playing Alberic O'Kelly de Galway in a publicity shot before the start of the Hastings Premier., probably Hastings 1953-54, the year Alexander tied first with Bronstein : thanks to Leonard Barden
Conel Hugh O’Donel Alexander playing Alberic O’Kelly de Galway in a publicity shot before the start of the Hastings Premier., probably Hastings 1953-54, the year Alexander tied first with Bronstein : thanks to Leonard Barden

I suppose his most famous tournament result was his equal first with Bronstein at the Hastings Christmas Congress of 1953. Coming at a time when we were gloomily resigned to British players bringing up the rear in international tournaments, this created a great sensation.

The game with Bronstein lasted over 100 moves and Alexander won a most difficult Queen and Pawn ending by impeccable technique.

Hugh Alexander plays David Bronstein during Hastings 1954
Hugh Alexander plays David Bronstein during Hastings 1954

Staged publicity picture of David Bronstein vs Hugh Alexander at Hastings 1953
Staged publicity picture of David Bronstein vs Hugh Alexander at Hastings 1953

He went on with the Black pieces to massacre Tolush, the other visiting Russian Grandmaster.

Immense interest was created by this event. The popular press carried diagrams of the successive phases of the Bronstein saga. It was reported on the radio. By comparison with the furore created by the Spassky/Fischer match, it was no doubt small beer, but for those days the publicity was tremendous, and Alexander became the
hero of the hour.

It was entirely characteristic of him that this adulation did not go to his head. He kept everything in proportion, and encouraged everybody else to do the same. He said all the right things about Bronstein, but he did not claim, as one tends to do on these emotional occasions, that international sport was a panacea for friendship between the nations. Altogether it seemed to me an impeccable performance both on and off the board.

Chess, CHO'D Alexander, Pitman, 1954
Chess, CHO’D Alexander, Pitman, 1954

It is as a player that Hugh would, I think, have best wished to be remembered; and I have left myself little room to say anything about him as a journalist and writer. We are blessed, as readers of the B.C.M. will know, with many good and interesting writers on the game. But Hugh had, I believe, exceptional talents as a journalist. In his columns in the ‘Sunday Times‘, and latterly the ‘Financial Times‘, he set a very high standard. He always had something fresh and original to say, especially, I think, to the intelligent amateur rather than the expert; and he said it in a way that was both disarmingly modest and yet lively and entertaining. The warmth of his personality came out clearly both in his writing and in his public speaking – both were entirely natural and wholly without amour-propre.

His articles gave great pleasure to a wide circle, and many who never met him in the flesh must have felt that they had come to know him as a person. Similarly his book on the Spassky-Fischer match

Fischer v. Spassky : Reykjavik 1972, CHO'D Alexander, Penguin, 1972
Fischer v. Spassky : Reykjavik 1972, CHO’D Alexander, Penguin, 1972

(like the ‘Book of Chess’, which was written in the last year of his life) is an extremely vivid, as well as scholarly, piece of writing. It is almost impossible to believe that it was completed, within days of the conclusion of the match, by a man apparently under sentence of death throughout its progress.

A book of Chess, CHO'D Alexander, Harper & Row, 1973
A book of Chess, CHO’D Alexander, Harper & Row, 1973

Now that it has come, the loss of Hugh Alexander to British chess and chessplayers, alike as player, writer, administrator and friend, is immeasurable.

An Obituary from BH Wood

From CHESS, Volume 39 (1974), Nos. 693-94, March,  p.162 by BH Wood :

The death of Conel Hugh O’Donel Alexander deprived English chess of one of its most vivid characters. Born l9th April 1909, he learnt chess at the age of 8.

From a Londonderry college he went to King Edward’s School, Birmingham, where as a schoolboy he won the Birmingham Post cup, which carries with it the unofficial championship of Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire. Going on to Cambridge, he not only won the University championship four years in succession, but picked up first-class honours. He won the British championship in 1938.

In 1939 I found myself on a boat with him bound for the Chess Olympiad in Buenos Aires. He was team captain with Sir George Thomas, P. S. Milner-Barry and H. Golombek : other distinguished members of the team.

Left to right Baruch H Wood, Philip Stuart Milner-Barry, Vera Menchik (playing in the women's world championship held concurrently with the Olympiad which she won with 17 wins and 2 draws), Sir George Thomas, Conel Hugh O'Donel Alexander and Harry Golombek. England withdrew after their preliminary group due to the outbreak of war despite qualifying for the top final. Thanks to Leonard Barden
Left to right Baruch H Wood, Philip Stuart Milner-Barry, Vera Menchik (playing in the women’s world championship held concurrently with the Olympiad which she won with 17 wins and 2 draws), Sir George Thomas, Conel Hugh O’Donel Alexander and Harry Golombek. England withdrew after their preliminary group due to the outbreak of war despite qualifying for the top final. Thanks to Leonard Barden

War broke out after about six rounds. With typical determination, Alexander jettisoned chess for patriotism, caught a boat home, volunteered for service on disembarking, and within a few weeks had attained the rank of colonel in British Intelligence. He remained attached to Intelligence and the Foreign Office until his retirement a few months ago. As a curious consequence of this commitment, though he settled in to the team captaincy for the British Chess Federation in the biennial chess Olympiads and participated in many chess events abroad, he was never allowed to travel anywhere behind the iron Curtain.

His fame certainly did, however. In the radio match, Britain v USSR in 1946, the most important event in British chess for a decade before and after, he found himself pitted against Mikhail Botvinnik, then at the height of his powers and destined to hold the world championship for 14 years. The first game he lost; the second he won, in superb style. His great adversary was outplayed.

He had some great years at Hastings. A 120 move victory over Bronstein with a queen and pawns endgame stretching over l3 hours through 3 days, earned headlines in the national press unequalled until the Spassky-Fischer furore of 1972, won him first place in 1954 and started him with a chess column in the Sunday Times. He was equal with Bronstein, above O’Kelly, Matanovic, Olafsson, Teschner, Tolush, Tartakover, Wade and Horne.

Hastings illustrated Alexander’s weaknesses as well as his strengths. Twice he won the premier tournament there, only to finish among the tail-enders the year after. Only once more was he to win the British championship; in a rather weak field, entering at the last minute with typical opportunism.

He was a brilliant conversationalist and speaker, a fine bridge player, a master mathematician, an expert on codes, a first-class journalist and writer. Among varied other interests were croquet and philately. He threw himself wholeheartedly into anything he did. His organization, “The Friends of Chess”, provided generous financial support for a wide range of chess events. A few days before his death he was full of plans for the future, including a big History of British Chess. He burnt himself out. The world of chess is a poorer and duller place without him.”

A Tribute from GCHQ

From the GCHQ Official site :

“The great mathematician G. H. Hardy described C. H. O’D. Alexander as the only genuine mathematician he knew who did not become a professional mathematician. Hardy recognised that Alexander’s failure to win a fellowship at the Cambridge Tripos exams was most likely due to his attention being absorbed by chess. Conversely, Alexander’s fellow chess International Master Harry Golombek said of the two-time British Champion “the demands of his profession left him with comparatively little time for [chess] practice and study; otherwise he would certainly have been of true grandmaster class, and possibly even of world stature”. Above both chess and mathematics, Alexander prioritised leading the British Government effort on cryptanalysis.

Hugh Alexander
Hugh Alexander

Alexander was an early recruit to Bletchley Park; he began in Hut 6 working on Army and Luftwaffe Enigma messages before moving in 1941 to Hut 8 to join Alan Turing’s work on the Naval Enigma. Alexander had one of the most agile minds of the new breed of mathematical cryptanalysts; he proved the best at the pen and paper methods of ‘banburismus’ that reduced the computational work of Enigma attacks and his military aptitude test assessed him as suitable for development up to four star general. Although he has not achieved the renown of Good, Turing, Tutte, and Welchman, he was responsible for many breakthroughs. Perhaps the most significant was spearheading the UK-US joint work breaking the Japanese CORAL system used by Naval attaches. More importantly, as a former teacher and head of research at John Lewis, Alexander was much better suited to the organisational and administrative tasks of Hut 8 than the hyper-rational Turing. Alexander gradually assumed more and more of this work. The story goes that one day when Turing arrived late at the Park and the record book asked him to name the head of his section; Turing wrote “Mr Alexander” and with the logic of bureaucracy Alexander was treated as the head of Hut 8 from then onwards. Praise for Alexander’s leadership is a theme common to all those who worked in Hut 8.

After the war, Alexander briefly returned to John Lewis before returning to the new GCHQ and continued to excel as both a cryptanalyst and leader. By 1949 he had been appointed head of the cryptanalysis division. It was a post that he held until his retirement, despite offers of promotion to more senior positions. He used the weight of his position to testify strongly as a character witness on behalf of Alan Turing during Turing’s indecency trial. By 1971, already past the age of retirement by two years, Alexander decided to step down. Both GCHQ and their partners were keen to make continued use of his expertise and offered all manner of consultative work, which he declined. He died in 1974 and although his obituaries rightly spoke in glowing terms of his chess achievements, the impact of his more secret work still cannot be fully revealed.”

Hugh and Correspondence Chess by Tim Harding

“Correspondence chess is only mentioned briefly in the article. CHO’D took up international postal chess in 1963 playing board 3 for the BCCA “Socrates” team in the Eberhardt Wilhelm Cup, a European team event. He annotated his first two games to finish in the November 1964 issue of the BCCA Magazine, Correspondence Chess, one of which is in my history of British CC.

He had in fact taken board 2 for GB against the USA in the 1,000 board match which began in 1935 but was never completed. Alexander’s opponent was Fred Reinfeld (according to Chess Magazine) but I have never seen a result and don’t know if they actually played many moves.
Starting in 1964 Alexander played in a GB-USSR postal match, with a draw and a loss against Yudovich.

In 1965 he started CC Olympiad 6 preliminaries on board 3 in section 1 for GB and scored 3 wins and 5 draws; he was the only player not to lose to M. Ali Farboud of Iran, the country which won the group. (Farboud played on the Iranian team in the 1962 and 1964 FIDE olympiads.) I have only found two of Alexander’s games from this tournament.

Next GB played in the preliminaries (section 3) of the 7th correspondence olympiad (starting 1968) with a much stronger team which won its group. Alexander played board 2 below Adrian Hollis. His score of 6 wins and one draw earned him the ICCF international master title. I have only found three of his games from this event.

In 1972 Alexander started, again on board 2, in the olympiad final but had only completed one or two of his games when he died, and the unfinished games were taken over by Ken Messere who found it hard (since he was given no notes) to work out what Hugh had planned in various complicated middle game positions.

Alexander also played most years for Gloucestershire in the Counties and District correspondence tournament run (then) by the BCF and my book also includes a win against Peter Clarke from that event. It is a pity that more of Alexander’s CC games are not known. I have only 17 plus a few that Messere completed.”

In the March issue of CHESS for 1963, (Volume 28, Number 427, pp.147-155)  William Winter wrote this:

Thrives on strong opposition

The late 1920’s and the early thirties produced a crop of fine players most of whom are still in full Practice. The leading representatives of this group are C. H. O’D.Alexander, H. Golombek, R. J. Broadbent
and P. S. Milner-Barry, of whom Alexander is to my mind infinitely the greatest. It is true that he has only once been British champion while, at the time I write (July 1955), Golombek and Broadbent have each held the title on two occasions, but he has a remarkable record against the grand masters.

Like Yates, of whom his style is reminiscent he requires the best opposition to bring out the best in him. Among his victims are three Soviet grand masters, including the
world champion Botvinnik, and he has secured a number of other notable scalps. Of all his games the one I like best is that against Gligoric in the Staunton Centenary Tournament in 1951. The great Yugoslav who won the tournament simply did not know what had hit him.

Anomalous naming of Openings

Alexander’s approach to the theory of openings is very interesting and highly practical. He does not try to acquire a wide comprehensive grasp of the openings as a
whole, but concentrates on little practical variations of which he makes an exhaustive study, often discovering qualities which have hitherto escaped notice. A case in point is his rehabilitation of the Dutch Defence with an early . . .P-KN3, a line which, if there is any justice in chess nomenclature, should certainly be called the Alexander variation. I fear however that this is unlikely as the names given to the chess openings are ridiculous in the extreme. Take for example this very Dutch Defence. So far as I know (and my knowledge of these things is extensive) no Dutch-player has ever practised it, while it was played regularly for over twenty years by the English master H. E. Bird, who also published a considerable amount of analysis on it. This is the more surprising in that the kindred system P-KB4 f6r White, is called by the name of Bird’s Opening! There is another funny case of a variation of the Slav Defence invented by Gerald Abrahams. I played this in a short match against the Dutch master Noteboom. The latter was favourably impressed, and adopted it himself in a few games, with the result that it has ever since been called the Noteboom variation, although before I played it against him he had neither seen nor heard of it. It is high time that the whole question of nomenclature of the Chess Openings was taken in hand by the International Federation.


From Chessgames.com :

“Conel Hugh O’Donel Alexander was born in Cork, Ireland. Awarded the IM title in 1950 at its inception and the IMC title in 1970, he was British Champion in 1938 and 1956.

During the Second World War, he worked at Bletchley Park with Harry Golombek and Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry, deciphering German Enigma codes and later for the Foreign Office. Alexander finished 2nd= at Hastings (1937/38) tied with Paul Keres after Samuel Reshevsky and ahead of Salomon Flohr and Reuben Fine. He held Mikhail Botvinnik to an equal score (+1, -1) in the 1946 Anglo-Soviet Radio Match, and won Hastings (1946/47) while finishing equal first at Hastings (1953/54). He represented England on six Olympiad teams. Alexander was also an author of note. He passed away in Cheltenham in 1974.”

1st August 1933: C H O D Alexander playing Sultan Khan during the British Chess Championships at Hastings in Sussex. (Photo by Douglas Miller/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
1st August 1933: C H O D Alexander playing Sultan Khan during the British Chess Championships at Hastings in Sussex. (Photo by Douglas Miller/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

From The Oxford Companion to Chess by Hooper & Whyld :

International Master (1950), International Correspondence Chess Master (1970). Born in Cork, he settled in England as a boy. In spite or because of his intense application at the board his tournament performances were erratic. From about 1937 to the mid 1950s he was regarded as the strongest player in Great Britain, although he won only two (1938, 1956) of the 13 British Chess Federation Championships in which he competed; he played for the BCF in six Olympiads from 1933 to 1958. Holding a senior post at the Foreign Office, he was not permitted to play in countries under Soviet control or influence; but when he did compete abroad he achieved only moderate results. His best tournament achievement was at Hastings 1937-8 when he was second (+4=5) equal with Keres after Reshevsky ahead of Fine and Flohr; but he is better remembered for his tie with Bronstein for first prize at Hastings 1953-4. He won his game against Bronstein in 120 moves after several adjournments, and the outcome became a kind of serial in the press, arousing great national interest in the game. Alexander was the author of several books on chess, notably Alekhine’s Best Games of Chess 1938-1945 (1949) and A Book of Chess (1973).

From The Encyclopaedia of Chess by Anne Sunnucks :

For many years the chess correspondent of The Sunday Times, The Spectator (pseudonym Philidor) and the Evening News. There was probably no “chess name that was better known to the non-chess-playing element of the British public than that of Hugh Alexander. His victory over Russian Grandmaster David Bronstein at Hastings in 1953, after a struggle which lasted for 120 moves and took 13 hours, made chess front page news in the British press.

Born in Cork on 19th April 1909, Alexander picked up the game at prep school at the age of 8. In 1926 he won the Boy’s Championship, later to be recognised as the British Boy’s Championship, at Hastings. After coming down from Cambridge University, where he won the university championship four times, Alexander taught mathematics at Winchester College from 1932 to 1938. He later joined the Foreign Office.

Caption as per photograph
Caption as per photograph

One of the few British players who might have reached World Championship class if he had chosen to devote sufficient time to the game, Alexander was at his best when he faced a top class opponent.

During his chess career, he scored victories over two World Champions Botvinnik and Euwe, and he beat a number of other Grandmasters, international tournaments were all at Hastings where he came =2nd in 1938 with Keres, half a point behind Reshevsky and ahead of Fine and Flohr; 1st in 1947 and =1st with Bronstein in 1953. In 1951 tournament he came =5th.His other hobbies included bridge, croquet and philately, He was the Author of Alekhine’s Best Games of Chess 1938-1945 (Bell), Chess (Pitman) and joint author with T.J. Beach of Learn Chess; A New Way for All (Pergamon Press);

Learn Chess : A Complete Course, TJ Beach and CHO'D Alexander, Everyman Chess, 1994
Learn Chess : A Complete Course, TJ Beach and CHO’D Alexander, Everyman Chess, 1994

A Book of Chess (Hutchinson) 1973; The Penguin Book of Chess Positions (Penguin) 1973.

The Penguin Book of Chess Positions, CHO'D Alexander, Penguin, 1973
The Penguin Book of Chess Positions, CHO’D Alexander, Penguin, 1973

Here are further third party articles of interest :

A Tribute to Hugh Alexander by Sir Stuart Milner-Barry

Conel Hugh O’Donel Alexander: A Personal Memoir by Sir Stuart Milner-Barry

Here is an interesting article on his film appearance.

Here is his detailed Wikipedia entry

According to C.N. 10817 Hugh lived at various addresses when working at GCHQ :

  • Brecken Lane, Cheltenham.
  • 28 King’s Road, Cheltenham, GL52 6BG.
28 King's Road, Cheltenham, GL52 6BG
28 King’s Road, Cheltenham, GL52 6BG
  • Old Bath Lodge, Thirlestaine Road, Cheltenham, GL53 7AS.
Alexander on Chess, CHO'D Alexander, Pitman, 1974
Alexander on Chess, CHO’D Alexander, Pitman, 1974
The Best Games of C.H.O'D. Alexander
The Best Games of C.H.O’D. Alexander

Golombek and Hartston, The Best Games of C.H.O’D. Alexander (1976).

Remembering Sir Jeremy Morse (10-xii-1928 04-ii-2016)

Jeremy Morse with Boris Spassky at the Lloyds Bank Masters of 1984
Jeremy Morse with Boris Spassky at the Lloyds Bank Masters of 1984

We remember Sir Jeremy Morse who passed away this day, February 4th, 2016.

Christopher Jeremy Morse was born on Monday, December 10th, 1928 to Francis John (1897 – 1971), who was a brewery director and Kinbarra Morse (née Armfield-Marrow, 1908 – 1980).  Jeremy had a sister, Kinbarra Joanna Morse (1931-1960).

Jeremy attended West Downs School, Winchester College and New College, Oxford. He became interested in puzzles at the age of 6 when his parents introduced him to The Times crossword starting a life long hobby as expert cruciverbalist and problem composer.

Jeremy married Belinda Marianne Mills on September 10th 1955
and they had five children, Clarissa Jane, Richard South, Andrew William, Samuel John and Isobel Esther Joanna the first being born in 1956 and the last in 1967.

Whilst not composing CJ pursued a successful career in banking  initially with Williams and Glyn’s Bank  and then

Jeremy is appointed as a director of the Bank of England on January 15th 1965.
Jeremy is appointed as a director of the Bank of England on January 15th 1965.

From the rear cover of Chess Problems : Tasks and Records (1995) :

Jeremy Morse caught the “puzzle bug” when his parents introduced him to The Times crossword at the age of six. Over the subsequent sixty years he has solved and set crosswords, other word puzzles, mathematical puzzles, bridge problems and chess problems.

Chess Problems : Tasks and Records, CJ Morse, Faber & Faber, 1995
Chess Problems : Tasks and Records, CJ Morse, Faber & Faber, 1995

In his spare time he pursued a career in banking, which included the chairmanship of Lloyds Bank from 1977 to 1993. Currently he holds a number business directorships, and is also Warden of Winchester College and Chancellor of Bristol University.

He was knighted in 1975.

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

From The Encyclopaedia of Chess by Anne Sunnucks :

British problem composer. Born on 10th December 1928. Executive Director of the Bank of England. Since 1953 he has composed about 250 problems almost all two-movers. He has specialised in task two-movers, on which he has contributed articles to The Problemist and Problem.

Winners of the Lloyds Bank 1987-8 British Solving Championships: (l-r) David Friedgood (runner-up), Sir Jeremy Morse, Jonathan Mestel (winner) and Jonathan Lennox (third-place)
Winners of the Lloyds Bank 1987-8 British Solving Championships: (l-r) David Friedgood (runner-up), Sir Jeremy Morse, Jonathan Mestel (winner) and Jonathan Lennox (third-place)

From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977), Harry Golombek OBE, John Rice writes:

“British problemist, output consists of two-movers, helpmates and serieshelpmates. Enthusiastic investigator into task problems in all these spheres. International Judge (1975).”

Here is his obituary from The University of Bristol

Sir Jeremy Morse KCMG, Chancellor of the University of Bristol from 1989 to 2003
Sir Jeremy Morse KCMG, Chancellor of the University of Bristol from 1989 to 2003

Here is his obituary from The Financial Times.

Keith Arkell, Susan Walker and Jeremy Morse at the Lloyds Bank Masters
Keith Arkell, Susan Walker and Jeremy Morse at the Lloyds Bank Masters

Here is his Wikipedia entry

Yasser Seirawan and Jeremy Morse at the Lloyds Bank Masters
Yasser Seirawan and Jeremy Morse at the Lloyds Bank Masters

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

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

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

According to Wikipedia :

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

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

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

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

and here is a more detailed article from chess.com

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

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

From The Encyclopedia of Chess by Anne Sunnucks :

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

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

From The Encyclopedia of Chess by Harry Golombek :

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

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

Remembering James Mason (19-xi-1849 15-i-1909)

James Mason
James Mason

We remember James Mason who passed away on this day, January 15th, 1909.

James Mason (19-XI-849, 15-I-1909)
James Mason (19-XI-849, 15-I-1909)

Here is his Wikipedia entry

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

James Mason (19-XI-849, 15-I-1909)
James Mason (19-XI-849, 15-I-1909)

One of the world’s best half-dozen players in the early 1880s, journalist. He was born in Kilkenny, Ireland, and adopted the name James Mason (his real name is not known) when he and his family emigrated to the USA in 1861. He became a boot-black in New York, frequenting a Hungarian cafe where he learned chess. Coming to the notice of J. G. Bennett of the New York Herald he was given a job in the newspaper’s offices, a start in life that both suited his literary aspirations and gave him the chance to study the game; and in 1876 he made his mark, winning first prizes at the fourth American Chess Congress, Philadelphia, and in the New York Clipper tournament, and defeating the visiting master Bird in match play (411=4-4), Settling in England In 1878 he drew a match with Potter (+5=11— 5) in 1879, and at Vienna 1882, the strongest tournament held up to that time, he took third prize (+17=12-5) after the joint winners Steinitz and Winawer.

This was his finest achievement, but he had some other good tournament results; London 1883 (won by Zukertort), equal fifth; Nuremberg 1883, third after Winawer and Blackburne; Hamburg 1885, second equal with Blackburne, Englisch, Tarrasch, and Weiss after Gunsberg; Manchester 1890 (won by Tarrasch), equal fifth; and Belfast 1892, first equal with Blackburne. Fond of drink, Mason is alleged to have lost many games when in a ‘hilarious condition’. ‘A jolly good fellow first and a chess-player afterwards’ he never fulfilled the promise of his first years in England, Instead he wrote books on the game, in excellent style, notably two popular textbooks. The Principles of Chess in Theory and Practice (1894) and The Art of Chess (1895): both ran to several editions. Another of his books. Social Chess (1900), contains many short and brilliant games.

James Mason (19-XI-849, 15-I-1909)
James Mason (19-XI-849, 15-I-1909)

From The Encyclopedia of Chess by Harry Golombek :

A British master of Irish birth, Mason emigrated in early youth to the USA before settling in England in 1878. In America he won matches against Delmar, Martinez, Bird etc, ; In England he beat Mackenzie and drew with Potter, remaining unbeaten in match-play. He played in most of the important tournaments of the eighties and nineties, but the first prize he won on his début at the Philadelphia congress 1876 remained his only victory.

James Mason (19-XI-849, 15-I-1909)
James Mason (19-XI-849, 15-I-1909)

His best results were the third prizes at Vienna 1882 (behind Steinitz and Winawer), Nuremberg 1883 and Amsterdam 1889; =2nd at Hamburg 1885 and =3rd at Bradford 1888; also his 7th place in the great New York 1889 tournament. He wrote The Principles of Chess, London 1894, The Art of Chess, London 1895, compiled a collection of brilliancies in a series Social Chess, London 1900, and was co-author with Pollock of the 1895/6 tournament book. (Article by William Hartston).

The Art of Chess
The Art of Chess
The Principles of Chess
The Principles of Chess
James Mason in America
James Mason in America

We reviewed the most recent book about James Mason here

James Mason in America
James Mason in America

Remembering Thomas Dawson (28-xi-1889 16-xii-1951)

Thomas Rayner Dawson (28-xi-1889 16-xii-1951)
Thomas Dawson (28-xi-1889 16-xii-1951)

We remember Thomas Dawson who passed away seventy years ago on Sunday, December 16th, 1951.

He was also known by the pseudonym T. Dyke Robinson (we are looking for a primary source for this)

Thomas Rayner Dawson was born on Thursday, November 28th 1889 in Leeds, Yorkshire to Henry and Jane Dawson (née Rayner).

The early history of TRD and his family has been meticulously researched by Yorkshire chess historian, Steve Mann. We recommend you visit this page to discover the detail.

According to Edward Winter in Chess Notes TRD lived at the following addresses :

  • 5 Clyde Road, Wallington, Surrey, England (Ranneforths Schachkalender, 1925, page 139)
  • 2 Lyndhurst Road, Thornton Heath, Surrey, England (Ranneforths Schach-Kalender, 1930, page 65).
  • 31 Clyde Road, Croydon, England (Fairy Chess Review, issues from 1946 to 1949*).

From The Oxford Companion to Chess (OUP, 1984 & 1996)by Hooper & Ken Whyld :

“English composer, pioneer of both fairy problems and retrograde analysis. His problems in these fields form the greater part of his output (about 6,500 compositions) and are better remembered than his studies and orthodox problems. For fairy problems he invented new pieces: grasshopper (1912) LEO (1912), NEUTRAL MAN (1912) NIGHT RIDER (1925), and VAO (1912); he codified new rules such as the maximummer (1913) and various kinds of series-mover; and he used unorthodox boards.

Thomas Rayner Dawson (28-xi-1889 16-xii-1951)
Thomas Dawson (28-xi-1889 16-xii-1951)

In 1915 he wrote Retrograde Analysis, the first book on the subject, completing the project begun several years earlier by the German composer Wolfgang Hundsdorfer (1879-1951).

Retrograde Analysis, Thomas Dawson & Hundsdorfer, 1915
Retrograde Analysis, Thomas Dawson & Hundsdorfer, 1915

From 1919 to 1930 Dawson conducted a column devoted to fairy problems in the Chess Amateur, In 1926 he was a co-founder of The Problemist , which he edited for its first six years and he founded and edited The Problemist Fairy Supplement (1931-6) continued as The Fairy Chess Review (1936-51).

Asymmetry, TR Dawson & Wolfgang Pauly, Chess Amateur, 1927
Asymmetry, TR Dawson & Wolfgang Pauly, Chess Amateur, 1927

Besides conducting columns in several newspapers and periodicals, one of them daily and one in the Braille Chess Magazine, Dawson edited the problem section of the British Chess Magazine from 1931 to 1951; he devised and published in its pages (1947-50) a systematic terminology for problem themes in the hope that it would supplant the extensive jargon then and now in use, Dawson wrote five hooks on fairy problems: Caissa’s Wild Roses (1935); C. M. Fox, His Problems (1936); Caissa’s Wild Roses in Clusters (1937); Ultimate Themes (1938); and Caissa’s Fairy Tales (1947).

Caissa's Wild Roses in Clusters, TR Dawson, Chess Amateur, 1937
Caissa’s Wild Roses in Clusters, TR Dawson, Chess Amateur, 1937

Charles Masson Fox (1866-1935) was a patron whose generosity made possible the publication of four of these books and the two fairy problem magazines founded by Dawson. Ultimate Themes deals with tasks, another of Dawson’s favourite subjects. In 1973 all five books were republished in one volume. Five Classics of Fairy Chess.

Five Classics of Fairy Chess, TR Dawson, Dover Publications Inc.; Revised edition (1 Sept. 1973)
Five Classics of Fairy Chess, TR Dawson, Dover Publications Inc.; Revised edition (1 Sept. 1973)

Dawson found it difficult to understand the problemist’s idea of beauty because it is not susceptible to precise definition. The artist talks of “quiet” moves, oblivious that they are White’s most pulverizing attacks! This aesthetic folly, reverence, response thrill to vain-glorious bombast runs throughout chess.(See Bohemian for a problem showing 16 model mates, a task Dawson claimed as a record but a setting Bohemian composers would reject.) His genius did not set him apart from his fellows; he could find time for casual visitors and would explain his ideas to a tyro with patience, modesty, and kindness. Although he won many tourney prizes much of his work was designed to encourage others, to enlarge the small band of fairy problem devotees, He composed less for fame than to amuse himself, confessing to another composer ‘We do these things for ourselves alone.’

Caissa's Fairy Tales, TR Dawson, Chess Amateur, 1947
Caissa’s Fairy Tales, TR Dawson, Chess Amateur, 1947

A chemistry graduate, Dawson took a post in the rubber industry in 1922 and rose to be head of the Intelligence Division of the British Rubber Manufacturer for which he founded, catalogued, and maintained a technical library. Unwell for the last year of his life, he died from a stroke. K. Fabel and C. E. Kemp, Schach ohne Grenzen or Chess unlimited (1969) is a survey, written in German and English, of Dawson’s contribution to the art of fairy problems.”

Thomas Rayner Dawson (28-XI-1889, 16-XII-1951)
Thomas Rayner Dawson (28-xi-1889 16-xii-1951)

From The Encyclopedia of Chess (Robert Hale 1970 & 1976), Anne Sunnucks :

“British problemist. Born on 28th November 1889. Died on 16th December 1951. Universally known as TRD., the great master of Fairy problems. His wealth of invention held the chess world enthralled. His output comprised about 6,400 problems and 150 studies.

Dawson was a nephew of the late James Rayner, himself a noted chess problemist . From as early as about 1910, TRD had conducted the ‘Chess Endings‘ section in the Chess Amateur, and its Fairy section from 1919. He worked with BG Laws from Mark 1930 conducting the problem pages of the British Chess Magazine, and following Laws’ death he assumed complete charge of the section from October 1931 to February 1951 when ill health forced him to relinquish the work.

Fairy Chess Review
Fairy Chess Review

The Problemist Fairy Chess Supplement subsequently renamed The Fairy Chess Review was started by TRD in August 1930. TRD was concerned in a number of other chess publications ; chess for the Blind, several books of the AC White Christmas series, BCPS Honours 1926-29, and the CM Fox series.

He was largely instrumental in the publication of the first issue of The Problemist on 1st January 1926, and was editor until May 1931. He was President of The British Chess Problem Society from September 1931 to 1943.

Ultimate Themes, TR Dawson, Chess Amateur, 1938
Ultimate Themes, TR Dawson, Chess Amateur, 1938

Apart from chess, Thomas Dawson, MSc, FRIC, FIRI was an international authority on rubber, and was responsible for the creation of the world-famous rubber library at Croydon, as well as its ‘Dawson’ system of rubber literature documentation. A Guide to Fairy Chess and The Problemist March 1952 detail the remarkable life-time accomplishments of TRD.”

From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977), Harry Golombek OBE, John Rice writes:

“British problemist, output over 6,000, 5,000+ being fairies . Dawson is remembered especially for his enormous contribution to fairy chess, of which he was the world’s leading exponent. Not only did he invent new pieces (e.g. Grasshopper, Nightrider) and new forms (e.g. Serieshelpmate), he also popularised fairy ideas with unparalleled enthusiasm through his writing and editing.

Books include Caissa’s Wild Roses (1935), Caissa’s Wild Roses in Clusters (1937), Ultimate Themes (1938), and Caissa’s Fairy Tales (1947);  and in collaboration Retrograde Analysis (1915) and Asymmetry (1928).

Editor of The Problemist (1922-31), fairy secretary of Chess Amateur (1919-30, Fairy Chess Review (previously Problemist Fairy Supplement) (1930-51) and problem pages of the British Chess Magazine (1931-51). Of these, the Fairy Chess Review was probably his greatest achievement.

President of British Chess Problem Society 1931-43.”

When TRD stepped down as Endings editor of British Chess Magazine in December 1947 he wrote this:

“With this page I reluctantly terminate on health grounds some forty years of work in the Endings field, and my contributions to this corner of the “British Chess Magazine”. To the many readers of these pages, a Merry Christmas and steadily improving years.”

He handed over his column to Richard Guy.

From British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXI (71, 1951), Number 3 (March) pp. 78-80 we have notice of the retirement of TRD written by Brian Reilly:

WITH the retirement of Mr. T. R. Dawson a wonderful chapter in the history of the “B.C.M.” is brought to a close. It is a profound truism that in England the Chess Problem has never possessed such an assiduous and devoted servant and although Mr. Dawson had already attained greatness when he joined us, the story of the Past twenty years is one of unparalleled intensive activity in which the ontological essays on “Systematic Terminology” may be considered the crowning
achievement of a unique career.

His immense influence in the realm of Fairy Chess is well known; indeed, when the next instalment in the history
of the subject comes to be written it will be mainly that of our own Colossus with his countless converts finding, not dishonourable graves, but new and entrancing visions of beautiful things made possible through him. The onus probandi of his contribution to the orthodox problem, as treated in the “‘B.C.M.,” lies with posterity and in the minds of men unencumbered by prejudice and receptive to new and startling ideas.

In this Editorial we can only say, on behalf of our many readers,

“Thank you, T. R. D., for everything that you have done: for your devotion to your cause and your inspiration to your fellows. It has been a privilege to be associated with you and in the well-deserved years of retirement may your days and those of your loved ones, be long, fruitful, and full of the greatest happiness.”

In the nature of things we must go on and in bidding. a reluctant farewell to the magic name of T. R. D. we welcome to Problem World the young and and enthusiastic Mr. S. Sedgwick. His first article, dealing with the work of T. R. D., appears overleaf, and we commend it to all our readers.

Here is that editorial as it originally appeared:

British Chess Magazine, Volume LXX1 (71, 1951), Number 3 (March) p8 77 - 80.
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXX1 (71, 1951), Number 3 (March) pp. 77 – 80.

Following that we have this appreciation from the incoming Problem Editor, Stanley Sedgwick of 337 Strone Road, Manor Park, London E12:


The news that Mr. Dawson, through reasons of health, has to relinquish these pages will be received with a deep and universal regret.

In the T. R. D. Diamond Jubilee booklet, 1949, the Editor was constrained to remark that so far as Fairy Chess Review was concerned there were no signs of Mr. Dawson retiring to that otium cum dignitate which was unquestionably his due; for the “B.C.M.” that prophecy is now unfortunately fulfilled. I might well have called this article “Twenty Glorious Years,” for in that time he has poured forth from these pages, in a never ending stream, the
treasures of a unique creative mind that makes the lot of any successor in unenviable one. As befits the occasion this issue is devoted to T. R. D. and I have to thank the many kind friends who at short notice have joined me in this tribute.

Thomas Rayner Dawson, M.Sc., F.I.C., F.I.R.I.. was born on November 29th, 1889, in Leeds, Yorkshire. He was a nephew of the late James Rayner, who edited these pages from 1889 until his death in 1898. A study of the “B.C.M.” for those years reveals a man whose love for the bizarre and unorthodox far outstrips any regard for the conventional. Bearing in mind Mr. Dawson’s subsequent pre-eminence in Fairy Chess it can be truly said that he was nurtured in the correct Puck-like atmosphere and to use his own words: “l cut my teeth on some of his old round-headed pawns!”

By the year 1900 he had already assimilated the rules of the game from a book of boy’s pastimes and evidenced an interest, in local newspaper columns, The Leeds Mercury Supplement and Yorkshire Weekly Post. His first problem – a direct mate in two – fell under the solvers’ scrutiny in 1907 and within a short period, which saw further orthodox work, he had soon acquired technique and absorbed current tenets, jargon, dogma, and dicta. – His attraction for the unorthodox was fostered primarily by his relationship to James Rayner, by the Christmas issues of the Leeds Mercury Supplement, and three works Tolosa y Carreras’ Traite Analytique, Alexandre’s Beautes, and Samuel Loyd in American Chess Nuts.

Through these agencies developed a love of Fairy Chess which was later to be the single and enduring passion of his life.
The year 1909 saw him in charge of the Endings Section of the Chess Amateur and later in the same magazine the famous Fairy Corner. In l915 at the invitation of Mr. Alain White he joined with W. Hundsdorfer in an epoch making pioneer work Retrograde Analysis, a strange and beautiful field in which he had proved himself peculiarly facile. In 1922 he founded and edited with conspicuous success The Problemist, the bi-monthly journal of the British Chess Problem Society.

This important work continued until 1931 when he relinquished the Editorship to Mr. C. S. Kipping and commenced the editing of an unknown and delicate newcomer, The Problemist Fairy Supplement. Although the Fairies had been claiming his attention more and more, Mr. Dawson discharged his position as the Society’s Editor with characteristic thoroughness, ever ready to support its tourneys with his own work and the pages of its journal with theoretical articles, demonstrating that his true passion had in no way impaired a marked ability for orthodox technique.

Nineteen-thirty-one, which saw the first small beginnings of The Problemist Fairy Supplement (later to be known as Fairy Chess Review), was to prove a milestone in the history of Fairy Chess. From its pages Fairy Chess as preached by T. R. D. went out to all lands, Penetrating every barrier, enrolling new adherents, and carried onwards and
upwards by the magnificent enthusiasm of his greatest disciple and guiding star.

His unique ability to interpret the infinite new forms of Fairy Chess, which a fertile imagination made readily available, had already gained renown and by this time his pre-eminence was firmly established, founded on problems and articles scattered in countless magazines and journals throughout the world. The message of his work and personality was, for many serious minds, too strong to be resisted, and in his devotion to Fairy Chess Mr. Dawson stands as the architect who laid the foundations for all the undreamt glories and beauties that are to come.

He joined the “8.C.M.” in 1930 and became the Problem Editor in 1931, upon the death of B. G. Laws; he was later made responsible for the well-known Endings feature. To these pages Mr. Dawson brought a rare literary ability and a scientific single-mindedness of purpose that for many years has made him unique in chess journalism.

In 1933, with an article on pawn switch modes, he lit a tiny flame that burned and has gone on burning, illuminating one of the most complete investigations into any problem theme. In this article, small but very significant in itself, is mirrored Mr. Dawson’s insistence upon the scientific and methodical approach to all problem work.

The same sincere belief that order and method are indispensable to any progress in the chess problem resulted fifteen years later in the historical essays on Systematic Terminology – one of the most remarkable contributions to pure thought on the problem domain yet conceived. The desire to bring order out of chaos has led him over the period of years to collect 100,000 Fairy Chess problems in a classified. system, a unique compilation with each individual member precisely assigned its place in the chess cosmos. His philosophy is, perhaps, best exemplified by his closing remarks to the Systematic Terminology essays, in which he states that with the assistance of orderly terminology “chess problem study is lifted far out of the morass of confusion of inspiration, into the freedom and dignity of an exact geometrical science.” It will not
have escaped attention that despite this uncompromising rejection of the artistic nature of the chess problem, Mr. Dawson’s best work, both orthodox and fairy, is the very embodiment of everything that good work should be. Pointed like an arrow,
complete and final as to the idea depicted, great regard paid to economy, the best attributes are ever present and there are many students of themes who have had occasion to profit from the clarity of his constructive powers.

The 1930’s saw great activity in the publication of the important Fairy Chess books, Caissa’s Wild Roses (1935), Caissa’s Wild Roses in Clusters (1937), and Ultimate Themes (1938). In each one a complex subject was treated in a thoroughly scientific manner. Broadly speaking these three works summarized Fairy Chess to date, demonstrating
its great achievements with crystal clarity. A close study of these books reveals the whole magnificent sweep of a unique intellect, at the same time showing how many of these achievements were really due to him. ln 1936 he gave to Fairy Chess lovers C. M. Fox, His Problems, a tribute to his great friend. His other literary works include the truly delightful Caissa’s Fairy Tales, which, with Sam Loyd and his Chess Problems shares the honour of being the only two problem books to be translated from the English language. Fata Morgana (1922), in conjunction with Dr. Birgfeld, W. Nanz,W. Massmann and W. Pauly, dealt with over 800 self mates and here Mr. Dawson’s Symbolic Notation was the binding thread in a masterly book. Asymmetry, with W. Pauly was published in 1928 and remains the classic exposition of afield to which he has devoted considerable attention.

In addition to his work for the “B.C.M.,” Mr. Dawson has at various times been responsible for the Problem Department of Eco degli Scacchi, The Half Hour, L’Alfiere di Re, the London Evening Standard, and the
Braille Chess Magazine, the last named an unremitting labour of love that continued for thirteen years. He also assisted in the inauguration of the annual British Chess Federation Award Pamphlets and edited them for three years. As a mark of great respect for his work he was elected President of the British Chess Problem Society in 1931 and remained constantly in that office until 1943.

A study of Mr. Dawson’s output is truly impressive and includes, inter alia, 5302 Fairies, 885 direct mates, 97 self mates and 138 endings, of which 110 Fairies have gained prizes with 89 Hon. Mentions and 75 commendations; in the other group 10 have been awarded prizes, with 47 Hon. Mentions and commendations. A composer’s contribution to any particular domain cannot and must not be judged by reference to tourney results alone, but in these achievements the First Prize Essay, L’Echiquier, 1928, and the treatise on Pawn Promotions, British Chess Federation, 1936, highlight a brilliant career.

Mr. Dawson has thus run the entire gamut and experience of composition ever revealing himself both in his work and writings as a seeker of essential truths and beauties, endowed with the ability to pass his discoveries on to others so that their wonders may be shared, enjoyed, and carried forward. He was kind enough to make a personal selection from his problems to round off this article and from these I have chosen six.

Many composers have expressed a desire to be associated with this small, but quite inadequate, tribute to his genius and many problems have been contributed for this purpose, some of which appear in this issue and others will follow. With each
and every one has come a warm personal message of esteem for our retiring Editor, coupled with the sincere hope that time and rest will repair the harm left by the past years of unremitting labour. That this event is not too long delayed is the fervent wish of us all.

Six of Mr. Dawson’s problems follow –

No. 1
British Chess Magazine, January, 1951

White mates in 2

No. 2
Good Companion Chess Problem Club, March, 1922

White mates in 3

No. 3
British Chess Magazine, September, 1937

White mates in 3

No. 4
Bolton Football Field, March 9th, 1913

White mates in 3

No. 5
The Field, September 14th, 1946

White mates in 4

No. 6
British Chess Federation Awards, 1943

White mates in 7

and here follows the original article:

British Chess Magazine, Volume LXX1 (71, 1951), Number 3 (March) p8 77 - 80.
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXX1 (71, 1951), Number 3 (March) pp. 77 – 80.
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXX1 (71, 1951), Number 3 (March) p8 77 - 80.
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXX1 (71, 1951), Number 3 (March) pp. 77 – 80.
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXX1 (71, 1951), Number 3 (March) p8 77 - 80.
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXX1 (71, 1951), Number 3 (March) pp. 77 – 80.

Unfortunately TRD was to pass away not much more than a year after the retirement notice and in British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXII (72, 1952), Number 4 (April) pp. 107 – 108 we have this obituary also from Stanley Sedgwick :

British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXII (72, 1952), Number 4 (April) pp. 107 - 108
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXII (72, 1952), Number 4 (April) pp. 107 – 108
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXII (72, 1952), Number 4 (April) pp. 107 - 108
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXII (72, 1952), Number 4 (April) pp. 107 – 108

The same obituary contains the following appreciation by Gerald Abrahams :

British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXII (72, 1952), Number 4 (April) pp. 107 - 108
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXII (72, 1952), Number 4 (April) pp. 107 – 108

According to Edward Winter in Chess Explorations (Cadogan Chess, 1996) page 106, Chess Note 457, :

“George Jellis suspects that a chess man has been named after a street:

Just south of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London is a private gated road called Nightrider Street which, I believe belongs to the Post Office and presumably derives its name from the night mail coaches of earlier days. It is only a short walk from the St. Bride’s Institute, where the British Chess Problem Society has held its meetings since its foundation in 1918. Among the founder members was TR Dawson, who published his first Nightrider problem in 1925.

Knightrider Street, EC4
Knightrider Street, EC4

From Wikipedia :

“Thomas Rayner Dawson (28 November 1889 – 16 December 1951) was an English chess problemist and is acknowledged as “the father of Fairy Chess”.[1] He invented many fairy pieces and new conditions. He introduced the popular fairy pieces grasshopper, nightrider, and many other fairy chess ideas.

Dawson published his first problem, a two-mover, in 1907. His chess problem compositions include 5,320 fairies, 885 directmates, 97 selfmates, and 138 endings. 120 of his problems have been awarded prizes and 211 honourably mentioned or otherwise commended. He cooperated in chess composition with Charles Masson Fox.

Dawson was founder-editor (1922–1931) of The Problemist, the journal of the British Chess Problem Society. He subsequently produced The Fairy Chess Review (1930–1951), which began as The Problemist Fairy Chess Supplement. At the same time he edited the problem pages of The British Chess Magazine (1931–1951).


Caissa’s Playthings a series of articles in Cheltenham Examiner (1913)
Retrograde Analysis, with Wolfgang Hundsdorfer (1915)
Fata Morgana, with Birgfeld, Nanz, Massmann, Pauly (1922)
Asymmetry, with W. Pauly (1928)
Seventy Five Retros (1928)
Caissa’s Wild Roses (1935)
C. M. Fox, His Problems (1936)
Caissa’s Wild Roses in Clusters (1937)
Ultimate Themes (1938)
Caissa’s Fairy Tales (1947)
The last five titles were collected as Five Classics of Fairy Chess, Dover Publications (1973), ISBN 978-0-486-22910-2.”

David Welch RIP (30-x-1945 09-xi-2019)

David Welch, photograph by John Upham
David Welch, photograph by John Upham

We have learnt the sad news that popular longtime Arbiter and Organizer David Welch has passed away at the age of 74 after a long illness : he was being cared for in The Royal Liverpool Hospital.

David was born on Tuesday, October 30th 1945 in Brampton, Chesterfield, Derbyshire and he played for Wallasey Chess Club for many years having initially been a member of Liverpool Chess Club.

He attended Queens’ College, Cambridge reading Natural Sciences (Chemistry) and (according to John Swain) David served Cambridge University Chess Club as Junior Treasurer, Librarian and Bulletin Editor.

In 1968 David and Peter Purland started teaching at the same Liverpool school on the same day and continued their friendship from there.

David became a BCF arbiter in the early 1970s eventually becoming the BCFs Chief Arbiter and then the ECFs Chief Arbiter and was heavily involved in many British Championships around the country.

David was curator of ECF equipment for some time and personally funded much of the BCFs and ECFs early equipment stock.

He became a FIDE International Arbiter as early as 1977 and was awarded the FIDE International Organizer title in 2010.

David shared the exact same date of birth as long time friend and fellow arbiter, Peter Purland.

Here is an excellent tribute from John Saunders

Here is a tribute from Liverpool College

in 2016 David received recognition from FIDE for his long service as an International Arbiter. David was the third English arbiter to receive the honour, following Stewart Reuben and Gerry Walsh in 2014.

David Welch receives FIDE Arbiter Award
David Welch receives FIDE Arbiter Award

We send our condolences to all of his many family and friends.

David Welch, photograph by John Upham
David Welch, photograph by John Upham

Remembering Charles Kemp (18-xi-1901 09-xi-1986)

We remember Charles Edward Kemp who passed away, this day, November 9th, 1986

From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977), Harry Golombek OBE, John Rice writes:

“British problemist, specialist in fairy problems. Editor with D. Nixon of Fairy Chess Review, 1952-8. Co-author, with K. Fabel of Schach ohne Grenzen (Chess Unlimited) (1969), an anthology of T.R.Dawson’s work. International Judge (1964). ”

Using a Google translation from the Italian(!) wikipedia article we have

“Charles Edward Kemp ( Manchester , November 18, 1901 – Manchester , November 9, 1986 ) was a British chess composer .

He composed over 600 problems , many of which were of help and Fairy (with heterodox pieces ). He often collaborated with Thomas Rayner Dawson in editing the Fairy Chess Review , founded by the latter ..

Together with Karl Fabel he wrote the book Schach ohne Grenzen (“Chess Without Borders”), Walter Rau Verlag, Düsseldorf, 1969.

In the second problem reported below, the heterodox piece called Grillo (” Grasshopper ” in English, represented by an inverted Woman ) appears . Remember that this piece moves along the columns or diagonals, but only by skipping a piece (of both colors) and completing the move in the next house; if an opposing piece is found, it will be captured. In any case, even without moving, he acts on this house. The black cricket in c4, for example, can make only five moves: c4-c2, c4xe4, c4-c7, c4-f7 and c4-f1; in all the houses of arrival it does not check the white king.”

(From https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Edward_Kemp)

CEKs Compositions are given here.

Remembering Charles Fox (09-xi-1866 11-x-1935)

BCN remembers Charles Fox (09-xi-1866 11-x-1935)

Charles Masson Fox was born on Friday, November 9th 1866 in Falmouth, Cornwall. his father, Howard, was 29 and his mother, Olivia Blanche Orme, was 22. He had one brother and two sisters.

His sister Olivia Lloyd was born on 5 February 1868 in Falmouth, Cornwall, when Charles Masson was 1 year old. His sister Stella was born on 11 December 1876 in Falmouth, Cornwall, when Charles Masson was 10 years old. In 1881 he was living in Sherborne, Dorset. In 1901 he was once more living in Falmouth and his profession was that of a timber merchant. His brother Howard Orme died on 7 June 1921 in Falmouth, Cornwall. His father Howard passed away on 15 November 1922 in Cornwall. His mother Olivia Blanche passed away on 12 March 1930 in Falmouth, Cornwall, at the age of 85.

Sadly, neither Hooper & Whyld, Sunnucks or Golombek mention Fox in their works.

Here is an extensive article from the British Chess Problem Society (BCPS) written by CJ Feather

From Wikipedia :

“Charles Masson Fox (9 November 1866 – 11 October 1935) was a Cornish businessman who achieved international prominence in the world of chess problems and a place in the gay history of Edwardian England.

Masson Fox was born into a Quaker family (although he was not related to the Quakers’ founder George Fox) and was a cousin of the fraudulent sinologist Sir Edmund Backhouse, 2nd Baronet. Living throughout his life in the Cornish seaside town of Falmouth, Fox in the early decades of his life was a senior partner of his family’s timber firm, Fox Stanton & Company, and was also on the Board of Messrs G C Fox & Company, a long-established firm of shipping agents.

C.M.Fox’s gravestone at Budock Quaker Burial Ground
Fox is described by chess historian Thomas Rayner Dawson (1889–1951) as “a friendly man, kind, mellow, lovable, bringing peace and comfort and serene joy with him”. He was also a discreet but active homosexual. In 1909 he visited Venice with his friend James Cockerton, meeting the writer Frederick Rolfe and becoming the reluctant recipient of Rolfe’s famous Venice Letters, in which the gay subculture of Venice is vividly described.

In 1912–13 Fox was blackmailed by a woman who accused him of seducing her 16-year-old son. Eventually Fox reported the matter to the police and the woman was sent to prison for five years and her son for one year, with hard labour.[1] However, Fox was profoundly affected by the publicity surrounding the case, which was reported in detail in the local press. The predictable result of his courageous action was the destruction of his reputation, and the compromise of his business and social life in Falmouth.

Although he continued to live in Cornwall, the focus of his social life shifted to London, and in the last two decades of his life, Fox became prominent in the world of chess. He was elected President of the Cornwall Chess Association, played a prominent part in the development of the British Chess Problem Society, and is still renowned as one of the greatest ever exponents of fairy chess (chess problems with variations in the rules).”

From The Problemist Fairy Chess Supplement, 1933 :

What is the shortest game
ending in this position?

Charles Masson Fox
Charles Masson Fox

Remembering Robin Matthews CBE, FBA (16-vi-1927 19-vi-2010)

Robin Charles Oliver Matthews
Robin Charles Oliver Matthews

BCN remembers Robin Matthews CBE, FBA who died in Cambridge aged 83 on June 19th 2010. Probate (3367272) was granted in Ipswich, Suffolk on September 6th, 2010.

Robert (Robin) Charles Oliver Matthews was born in Edinburgh on Thursday, June 16th 1927. Born on the same day was England cricketer, Tom Graveney.

His English father, Oliver Harwood Matthews became an Edinburgh solicitor and his mother was Ida Matthews (née) Finlay.  Robin had a daughter Alison.


He was educated at Edinburgh Academy and then Corpus Christi College, Oxford becoming a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. He went on to become a highly successful economist authoring at least twelve publications on the subject.

According to Wikipedia “He was the Drummond Professor of Political Economy at Oxford from 1965 to 1975 and the Professor of Political Economy at Cambridge from 1980 to 1991. He was also the Master of Clare College, Cambridge from 1975 to 1993.”

For a detailed description of this part of his life there is an excellent obituary / biography from the Australian economist, Geoffrey Harcourt.

Problem Composer

Brian Stephenson (BCPS) writes : “Probably the UK’s greatest composer of ‘mate in 3’ #ChessProblems . His chapters in the book you note were what got me hooked on chess composition. Nearly all of his output can be viewed at The Meson Database

Black Correction: Quaternary Play

First Prize, The Observer, 1964

Mate in three

According to David McKittrick in The Independent:

“Outside academia, Matthews was keen on chess, in particular setting problems and publishing two books on what are known as three-mover directmates, in which white is to move and checkmate black in no more than three moves against any defence.

Although this might be thought a particularly narrow point of interest, one enthusiast said of him that his writings “demonstrated a deep knowledge along with the feeling of wonder and curiosity about the subject”.

RCO Matthews
RCO Matthews

From The Oxford Companion to Chess by Hooper & Whyld:

“British Composer, International Judge of Chess Compositions (1957), International Master for Chess Compositions (1965), economist, appointed Master of Clare College, Cambridge in 1975. He has specialised in orthodox three movers and is among the world’s leaders in this field.”

Here is an obituary from The Daily Telegraph

and an obituary from The Independent

Chess Problems : Introduction to an Art
Chess Problems : Introduction to an Art

From The Encyclopedia of Chess by Anne Sunnucks :

International Master of the F.I.D.E. for chess compositions (1965) and International Judge of the F.I.D.E. for Chess Compositions (1957). President of the British Chess Problem Society for 1971 and 1972. Professor of Economics at Oxford University.

Cyclic Overload Doubled

First Prize, British Chess Magazine, 1968

Mate in three

Born on 16th June 1927. Professor Matthews has composed about 200 problems, about 40 of them 1st prize winners, mainly strategic three-movers, He is one of the world’s best three move composers.


British Chess Magazine, 1967

His best problems give clear-cut expression of complex themes, with proper attention given to key-move and by-play in the best English tradition.

Chess Problems : Introduction to an Art
Chess Problems : Introduction to an Art

The results are massive rather than elegant, but carefully constructed. Themes he has specialised in include overload White self-weakening and reciprocal change.”

R.C.O. Matthews
British Chess Magazine

White to play and mate in three moves

From Wikipedia :

“Robert (Robin) Charles Oliver Matthews (16 June 1927 – 19 June 2010) was an economist and chess problemist.

Matthews was born in Edinburgh. He was educated at Edinburgh Academy and Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and was a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. He was the Drummond Professor of Political Economy at Oxford from 1965 to 1975 and the Professor of Political Economy at Cambridge from 1980 to 1991. He was also the Master of Clare College, Cambridge from 1975 to 1993.”