Tag Archives: Deaths

Death Anniversary of Fred Dewhirst Yates (16-i-1884 11-xi-1932)

We remember Fred Yates who passed (or, at least was recorded as passing) on Friday, November 11th, 1932.

Fred (not Frederick) Dewhirst (not Dewhurst) was born in Birstall, Leeds on Wednesday, January 16th 1884, the same year as Harry S Truman and Eleanor Roosevelt.

An obituary appeared in Volume LII (52, 1932), Number 12 (December), pp.525-528 of the British Chess Magazine by PW Sergeant :

“The chess world has had many heavy bereavements during the year which is coming to an end; but to the British section of it there has been no bereavement like the last, which robbed it of F.D.Yates, when still in the prime of his chess career. The circumstances of his end were tragic. On the night of Tuesday, November 8th, he gave a very successful exhibition at Wood Green, only dropping one half-point in 16 games. On the following night he was in the company of a chess friend until fairly late, and then went back to his room in Coram Street, Bloomsbury. He was never seen alive again. It was not until Friday morning that anxiety was felt at Coram Street as to what he might be doing; for he was in the habit of secluding himself for many hours at a stretch when busy with work.

 

Fred Dewhirst Yates
Fred Dewhirst Yates

On Friday, however, when no answer could be got to knocks on the door of his room, which was locked, and a smell of gas was noticed, the door was at last broken open, and he was found dead in bed.

It came out at the inquest before the St. Pancras coroner on November 15 that , though the gas-taps in the room were securely turned off, there had been an escape from what a gas companies official described as an obsolete type of fitting attached to the meter in the room. The meter, it appears, was on the floor, and the fitting must have been accidentally dislodged. A verdict was recorded of Accidental Death; and the coroner directed that the gas-pipes from the room should remain in the custody of the court. The body was conveyed to Leeds for burial on the morning of November 16.

So prematurely passed away one who may with justice be called one of the finest exponents of British chess, and an international master whose strength was recognised all over the world.

 

Fred Yates as drawn by WH Cozens for BCM
Fred Yates as drawn by WH Cozens for BCM

Frederick Dewhurst (sic) was born at Birstall, near Leeds, on January 16, 1884. He did not develop his chess power very young, at the B.C.F. congress at the Crystal Palace in 1907 only playing in the Second Class, though he then won first prize in one of the two sections. At Tunbridge Wells next year he tied for fourth place in a section of the First Class. He was admitted to the British Championship at Scarborough in 1909 (in which year he was Yorkshire Champion), and there tied with Blackburne for fourth and fifth prizes, after HE Atkins, JH Blake, and W. Ward.

In the same event at Oxford in 1910 he again tied with Blackburne, but this time for second and third prizes, Atkins being first, though losing in his individual encounter with Yates. In 1911, at Glasgow, Yates still further improved his position, this time tieing with Atkins for first place; but in the tie-match Atkins won somewhat easily.

Atkins stood down for the first time at Richmond in 1912; but the success of RC Griffith left Yates second, in company with the late HG Cole. At last in 1913, Yates gained his ambition, and at Cheltenham won the British Championship with the fine score of 9 out of a possible 11, 1.5 points above J. Mahood and 2 above Blackburne. In the ruined Congress at Chester in 1914 he tied for first place with Blackburne; and, as Blackburne was unable to play a deciding match, Yates won his second championship.

Fred Dewhirst Yates, Jacoby Archive
Fred Dewhirst Yates, Jacoby Archive

Since the War he gained the title again in 1921, 1926, 1928 and 1931, thus making a record of six championships, second only to Atkin’s record of nine (ed : in 1969 at the Rhyl Congress Jonathan Penrose OBE was to surpass Atkin’s record by one.)

Yate’s six victories were gained in sixteen attempts In addition must be mentioned his success in the Hastings tournament, in the New Year of 1921, for holders of the British Championship only.

Fred Yates
Fred Yates

His other successes in this country, including his two wins in the in the Anglo-American cable match, in 1910-11, need not detain us; for limitations of space demand that we shall come to Yates as an international master. His first essay was at Hamburg in 1910, on the invitation of the German Chess Federation. Though he did badly, only getting one win in 16 games, the win was a remarkable effort, at the expense of no less a celebrity than Dr. Tarrasch.

At Pistyan two years later he did a little better. He had to wait until after the War for a third attempt; but it will be best to give what we believe to be a full record of his performances in international event:- (to be added).

These lists, however, furnish no just view of the strength of Yates’s play, which always was most fully exhibited against the leading competitors in tournaments. Among his triumphs must be noted his particularly his wins against Alekhine at Hastings, 1922, and Carlsbad 1923 (a brilliancy prize game); against Euwe, Scarborough, 1928; against Nimzowitsch , Carlsbad, 1929; against Bogoljuboff, London, 1922, and Baden-Baden, 1925; against Tartakover, Hastings and Kecskemet, 1927; against Kmoch and Rubinstein, Budapest, 1926; against Spielmann and Vidmar, San Remo, 1930; and his draws with Alekhine and Capablanca at New York, 1924. The harder the opposition, the better his play. Conversely, against what should have proved easier opponents he was apt. at times, to show less of his skill. In this, of course, he was not peculiar, even among the experts.

Generally speaking, however, he was a remarkably tenacious player, who would not abandon a game while there was the slightest chance of a win or a draw. This was not due to mere obstinacy, as may sometimes have appeared, but to the depth of his vision, which gained for him among the German commentators the title of ein tiefe Denker(ed : a deep thinker) – no small testimony from those from whom it came. With a robuster physique there is no knowing to what a position he might have attained in the chess world. The late Amon Burn always had the highest opinion of is powers, and always pointed out, too, the handicap under which a player labours who has to report the events in which he takes part – equivalent, he would say, to giving the other competitors Pawn and move!

Yates was unfortunate in embracing professionalism in an era when the rewards were becoming less and less, and finally reached a stage when they scarcely provided the means of a bare existence. He was a fine simultaneous player, whose exhibitions always delighted by their combination of speed, precision and flashes of brilliance.

As commentator he was very good indeed, and his contributions, especially to The Manchester Guardian, where noted alike for their accuracy and for a sense of style.

He had a journalistic training, outside chess. He was not, in fact, ‘a mere chessplayer’, in spite of his intense devotion to the game. It was his extreme reticence which gave such an impression to all but those whom he admitted to intimacy. They at least knew his widespread interest in other things; and W. Winter’s recent tribute to him in the Guardian in no way exaggerates his charm as a companion among those who knew him best. To them his loss is one which cannot be replaced.”

An Appeal

No doubt all chessplayers in England will have read with sorrow of the death of F.D.Yates at the early age of 46, and more especially will the circumstances of it be a shock to many.

An inquest was held, as has already been reported, and was attended by his two sisters, who have practically no means, as was the case of Yates himself. Certain chessplayers who attended the funeral agreed to make themselves responsible for the funeral expenses, but as the body was removed to Birstall in Yorkshire for burial in the family grave, the expenses were considerably heavier than was anticipates and, with the money owing to the landlady, comes to a total of £51 2s and 0d.

The Gravestone of FD Yates, courtesy of Matthew Sadler
The Gravestone of FD Yates, courtesy of Matthew Sadler

We feel quite sure that when our readers know, they will like to show their last recognition of the value which F.D.Yates was to English chess by giving a donation towards the sum.

The London Chess League, whose finances are not in a very satisfactory state, as in the case of most chess concerns, has agreed to donate £3 towards this. Their president has given £1 1s 0d., and one or two other members have promised donations. We shall be happy to receive any contributions towards this fund, and will give acknowledgment in future issues.”

Here is an in-depth article by Edward Winter in Chess Notes on the circumstances of FDYs death.

Here is a more modern article by Matthew Sadler

From The Oxford Companion to Chess (OUP, 1984) by Hooper and Whyld :

“English player. British Champion 1913,1914,1921,1926,1928, and 1931, Around 1909 he gave up his profession in accountancy to become a chess professional. Of the many international tournaments in which he competed from Hamburg 1910 to Hastings 1931—2 he made his best results in the B Final, Kecskemet 1927, first (+4=2-1) equal with Tartakower, and at San Remo 1930, the strongest tournament of the year, when he came fifth after Alekhine,, Nimzowitsch, Rubinstein, and Bogoljubow ahead of Spielmann,
Vidmar, and Tartakower.

A tenacious player, he could be a dangerous opponent. In tournament play he defeated most of the greatest masters of his time on one occasion or another, and among these victories were two defeats of Alekhine (Hastings 1922, Carlsbad 1923), and three defeats of Bogoljubow (London 1922, Baden-Baden 1925, Scarborough 1927) and Rubinstein (London 1925, Moscow 1925, Budapest 1926), A careful and conscientious writer, he conducted a chess column in the Yorkshire Post, was chess correspondent of the Manchester Guardian , and wrote three books (see foot of article) in collaboration with William Winter (1898-1955).

Games Played In the World's Championship Match between Jose Paul Capablanca and Alexander Alekhine, FD Yates and W, Winter, 1928, Printing Craft Limited
Games Played In the World’s Championship Match between Jose Paul Capablanca and Alexander Alekhine, FD Yates and W, Winter, 1928, Printing Craft Limited
Games Played in the World's Championship Match between Alexander Alekhine (Holder of the Title) and E D Bogoljubow (Challenger), Printing Craft Limited, 1930, FD Yates and W. Winter
Games Played in the World’s Championship Match between Alexander Alekhine (Holder of the Title) and E D Bogoljubow (Challenger), Printing Craft Limited, 1930, FD Yates and W. Winter

A leak from a faulty gas pipe connection killed Yates while he was asleep. His book One-hundred- and-one of My Best Games of Chess was published in 1934.”

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

“International Master and British Champion in 1913, 1914, 1921, 1926, 1928 and 1931.

Born in Birstall, near Leeds in Yorkshire, on 16th January 1884, Yates was 25 before he played in the British Championship for the first time. In 1909, having won the Yorkshire Championship, his entry was accepted for the British Championship at Scarborough, and he tied with Blackburne for 4th prize. The following year he again tied with Blackburne, this time for 2nd prize, and in 1911 he tied with Atkins for 1st prize but lost the play-off for the title. In 1913, he succeed in winning the British Championship for the first time.. During his career he competed in the British Championship 16 times and won the title on six occasions.

In International tournaments his record did not do him justice as far as his final placings were concerned. However, in studying his performance in detail, his wins were often against the strongest players and his losses against those at the bottom of the tables. This was particularly apparent in the results of the 1926 Budapest tournament.

Cross Table for Budapest 1926
Cross Table for Budapest 1926

During the course of his career, Yates beat practically every contemporary Grandmaster, with the exception of Lasker and Capablanca. His victory over Alekhine at Carlsbad 1923 came at the end of a combination 18 moves deep and won the brilliancy prize, while his victory over Vidmar at San Remo in 1930 was described by Alekhine as the finest game played since the war.

Other outstanding wins were against Bogoljubow at London 1922, against Rubinstein at Budapest 1926, against Tartakover at Hastings 1927, against Euwe at Scarborough 1928 and against Nimzowitsch at Scarborough 1929. The stronger the opposition the better Yates played.

His losses against weaker players may well have been due to ill-health and lack of necessary stamina to play consistently throughout a long tournament. He was continually troubled by a hacking cough and could not afford to carry out the medical advice that he should go to the Riviera for a cure.

He was a professional chess player at a time when it was difficult to make a livelihood out of chess and he was often handicapped by having to report an event in which he was playing. A number of his contemporaries believed that, had he lived in different circumstances his talent would have placed him among the contenders for the World Championship.

For some years Yates ran the chess column for The Manchester Guardian. He was co-author with Winter of Modern Master Play and of books on the Capablanca vs Alekhine and Alekhine v. Bogoljubov World Championship matches.

Modern Master Play, FD Yates and W. Winter, 1930
Modern Master Play, FD Yates and W. Winter, 1930

Yates had a great number of interests apart from chess and had a very versatile mind which enabled him to talk on a wide range of subjects. He was extremely modest and rarely kept the scores of his games and never submitted them to the press.

He died in tragic circumstances, On 11th November 1932, he was found dead in his bedroom from gas poisoning. At the inquest it was established that there was a faulty connection in the gas meter in his room and a verdict of accidental death was returned.”

From The Encyclopedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977) by Harry Golombek :

“A British master. Yates trained as an accountant but in 1909 abandoned this career in favour of chess and journalism. In 1911 he tied for first prize with Atkins in the British Championship losing the play-off match. Two years later he won the event – the first of six such victories (1913, 1914, 1921, 1926, 1928 and 1931).

In international tournaments Yate’s results were generally mediocre, but he was capable on occasion of defeating the strongest opposition and his victims included Alekhine, Reti, Bogoljubow, Tartakower, Rubinstein, Euwe, Nimzowitsch and Vidmar. He was a regular competitor at the Hastings Christmas Congresses, winning in 1920/1 and finishing in 3rd place on four occasions: 1923/4, 1924/5, 1926/7 and 1929/30.

Yates was for many years the chess correspondent of The Manchester Guardian and, in addition, wrote Modern Master Play, London, Philadelphia 1929 (with W. Winter as co-author) and books of the 1927 Capablanca-Alekhine, London 1928, and the 1929 Alekhine-Bogoljubow World Championship matches, London, 1930.

He died from being accidentally asphyxiated in his rooms by a faulty gas connection.”

From Wikipedia : (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Yates_(chess_player))

“Yates almost won the British Championship in 1911, when he tied for first place with Henry Atkins, but lost the play-off. He went on to secure the title in 1913, 1914, 1921, 1926, 1928 and 1931

Despite considerable domestic success, his record in international tournaments did not do him justice. Often the winner against his strongest opponents, he would then lose to those at the bottom of the table. This was particularly apparent at the Budapest tourney of 1926.

His lack of consistency was attributed to poor health and loss of stamina. A constant hacking cough went unchecked, as his funds did not stretch to a holiday in warmer climes; the advice given by his doctor. He was also subjected to journalistic pressures, frequently reporting on the tournaments in which he was playing. Yet, dedicating himself to the playing side of chess would have earned him insufficient sums to make a living. A number of his contemporaries believed that his talent could have placed him among the world championship contenders, had his circumstances been different. Nevertheless, in his time, he defeated most of his illustrious adversaries, the most notable exceptions being Emanuel Lasker and José Raúl Capablanca. His victory against Alexander Alekhine at Karlsbad in 1923 won the brilliancy prize, while his win against Milan Vidmar at San Remo in 1930 was described by Alekhine as the finest game played since the war.”

As a journalist he was the chess columnist of The Manchester Guardian and with William Winter, the co-author of Modern Master Play (1929). He wrote accounts of two world championship encounters; those between Capablanca and Alekhine, and Alekhine and Bogoljubow.

In team competition, he played at the first, third and fourth Olympiads, representing the ‘British Empire’ team. On each occasion, he made a plus score and at London 1927, earned a team bronze medal/

His life ended prematurely, when a leaking gas pipe caused him to asphyxiate during his sleep.

According to the inscription on Yates’ gravestone,[7] his birth name was actually Fred Dewhirst Yates. However, throughout his chess career he was known by the name at the head of this article or simply as F.D. Yates, both of which featured in his posthumously published, part-biographical, ‘My Best Games’ Collection.

Here is an interesting discussion of Posthumous publications, part 1. by Michael Clapham

Letter to BCM from WH Watts of Printing Craft Limited announcing the publication of One-Hundred-and-one of my Best Games of Chess, by F. D. Yates, London 1934.
Letter to BCM from WH Watts of Printing Craft Limited announcing the publication of One-Hundred-and-one of my Best Games of Chess, by F. D. Yates, London 1934.
One-Hundred-and-one of my Best Games of Chess, by F. D. Yates, London 1934.
One-Hundred-and-one of my Best Games of Chess, by F. D. Yates, London 1934.
One Hundred and One of My Best Games of Chess, FD Yates
One Hundred and One of My Best Games of Chess, FD Yates

Death Anniversary of David Welch (30-x-1945 09-xi-2019)

Just over a year ago today we learnt the sad news that popular longtime Arbiter and Organizer David Welch had passed away at the age of 74 after a long illness : he was being cared for in The Royal Liverpool Hospital. The funeral took place at Landican Crematorium, Arrowe Park CH49 5LW at 12 noon on Friday 6th December. Following the funeral, the wake took place at the Grove House Hotel, Grove Road, Wallasey CH44 4BT.

David was born on Tuesday, October 30th 1945 in Brampton, Chesterfield, Derbyshire and attended Chesterfield Grammar School (see below).

He played for Wallasey Chess Club for many years having initially been a member of Liverpool Chess Club.

David 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 (Liverpool College) on the same day and continued their friendship from there. David also ran the college scout troop.

In the same year David joined Liverpool Chess Club and became a leading light fairly early on.

David Welch (30-x-1945 09-xi-2019), photograph by John Upham at 2012 4NCL
David Welch (30-x-1945 09-xi-2019), photograph by John Upham at 2012 4NCL

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.

In 2007 David received the ECF Presidents Award from Gerry Walsh. Here is the citation in full (from the 2008 ECF Yearbook) :

“David Welch started chess organisation early being captain of the Chesterfield Grammar School team that played both in the school’s league and in the local adult league. He joined the Liverpool Chess Club after leaving University in 1968 and has held various posts with them , he is now their President. He set-up the Liverpool Chess Congress in about 1978.

Additionally, he was the director of the Liverpool Chess Congress. Although now defunct this was in its day the largest junior event in the UK (perhaps even the world) having 2000 entrants at the time of Spassky-Fisher (sic). He has also been involved in the Liverpool city of culture initiative.

He had also had a considerable involvement with the ECF. He is the the Merseyside representative to the ECF. He has been helping run the British Championships since 1981; starting at one of the arbiting team he has been Director/Manager of the congress since 2005. He has been Chief Arbiter of the Federation since about 1992. He also does the arbiting at a number of congresses and is, in particular, the Chief Arbiter of the 4NCL.”

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

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.

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

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

Death Anniversary of Jacob Sarratt (?-?- 1772 06-xi-1819)

We remember Jacob Henry Sarratt who died 201 years ago today (November 6th) in 1819.

Chess historians will, of course, be familiar with JHS but the name is (probably) not well known outside these exalted circles.

Possibly his most obvious contribution to chess in England was in 1807 when he influenced the result of games that ended in stalemate. You may not know that in England prior to 1807 a game that ended in stalemate was recorded as a win for the party who was stalemated. JHS was able to encourage various major chess clubs so that the result be recorded as a draw. Much endgame theory would be different if it wasn’t for JHS !

Outside of chess, JHS was an interesting chap :

The content below has been copied (and we have corrected a number of typos along the way) from http://www.edochess.ca/batgirl/Sarratt.html

Also, http://billwall.phpwebhosting.com/articles/Sarratt.htm is worthy of consultation.

“Jacob Henry Sarratt, born in 1772, worked primarily as schoolmaster but was much better known for his advocations which, of course, included chess.

After Philidor’s death, Verdoni (along with Leger, Carlier and Bernard – all four who co-authored Traité Théorique et Pratique du jeu des Echecs par une Societé d’ Amateurs) was considered one of the strongest players in the world, especially in England. Verdoni had taken Philidor’s place as house professional at Parsloe’s. He mentored Jacob Sarratt until he died in 1804. That year Sarratt became the house professional at the Salopian at Charing Cross in London and most of his contemporaries considered him London’s strongest player.

There he claimed the title of Professor of Chess while teaching chess at the price of a guinea per game.

By any measure Surratt was not a particularly strong player, but he was able to maintain the illusion that he was by avoiding the stronger players as he lorded over his students who didn’t know better.

Sarratt’s most important contribution to chess was that he mentored William Lewis who in turn mentored Alexander McDonnell.

Surratt had a strange notion that chess culminated in the 16th century and that everything since then had been a step backwards. This odd notion had a positive side. Philidor was the darling of the English chess scene. Almost all books at that time were versions of, or at least based on, Philidor’s book. Surratt at least kept open the possibility that there were ideas beyond those of Philidor.

In 1808, true to his role as a teacher, Surratt published his Treatise on the Game of Chess, a book that mainly concentrated on direct attacks on the king which he lifted from the Modense writers.

He translated several older writers whom he admired (though his translations are not considered particularly good):
The Works of Damiano, Ruy Lopez and Salvio in 1813.
The Works of Gianutio and Gustavus Selenus in 1817.

In 1921 a posthumous edition of his Treatise, A New Treatise on the Game of Chess, was published. This copy covered the game of chess as a whole and was designed for the novice player. It also contained a 98 page analysis of the Muzio Gambit

In addition to his chess books, Surratt also published
[i]History of Man in 1802,
A New Picture of London[/i] in 1803
He translated Three Monks!!! from French in 1803 and Koenigsmark the Robber from German in 1803.

His second wife, Elizabeth Camillia Dufour, was also a writer. In 1803 (before they were married, which was 1804), she published a novel called Aurora or the Mysterious Beauty.

They were married the following year. His first wife had died in 1802 at the age of 18. Both his wives were from Jersey.

Contrary to what one might expect, Sarratt has been described tall, lean and muscular and had even been a prize-fighter at one point. He had also bred dogs for fighting. He was regarded as a very affable fellow and very well-read but with limited taste (Ed : surely this applies to everyone ?)

William Hazlitt, in his essay On Coffee-House Politicians wrote:

[Dr. Whittle] was once sitting where Sarratt was playing a game at chess without seeing the board… Sarratt, who was a man of various accomplishments, afterwards bared his arm to convince us of his muscular strength…
Sarratt, the chess-player, was an extraordinary man. He had the same tenacious, epileptic faculty in other things that he had at chess, and could no more get any other ideas out of his mind than he could those of the figures on the board. He was a great reader, but had not the least taste. Indeed the violence of his memory tyrannised over and destroyed all power of selection. He could repeat [all] Ossian by heart, without knowing the best passage from the worst; and did not perceive he was tiring you to death by giving an account of the breed, education, and manners of fighting-dogs for hours together. The sense of reality quite superseded the distinction between the pleasurable and the painful. He was altogether a mechanical philosopher.”

Somewhere along the way there must have come about a complete reversal of his fortunes because Surratt died impoverished in 1819, leaving his wife destitute. But the resilient Elizabeth Sarratt was able to support herself by giving chess lessons to the aristocracy of Paris.

She must have been very well liked. In 1843 when she herself became old and unable to provide for herself, players from both England and France took up a fund to help her out. She lived until 1846.

From The Oxford Companion to Chess (OUP, 1984 & 1992) by Hooper & Whyld :

Reputedly the best player in England from around 1805 until his death. As a young man he met Philidor. Subsequently he developed his game by practice with a strong French player Hippolyte du Rourblanc (d. 1813), with whom he had a long friendship dating from 1798, and with Verdoni, Sarratt’s first important contribution to the game was in connection with the laws of chess: he persuaded the London club, founded in 1807, to accept that a game ending in stalemate should be regarded as a draw and not as a win for the player who is stalemated. He became a professional at the Salopian coffee house at Charing Cross, London,

Nos. 39-41, Charing Cross and the Timber Yard
Nos. 39-41, Charing Cross and the Timber Yard

and in 1808 wrote his Treatise on the Game of Chess.

Treatise on the Game of Chess by JH Sarratt, 1808
Treatise on the Game of Chess by JH Sarratt, 1808

This, largely a compilation from the work of the Modenese masters, advocated that players should seek direct attack upon the enemy king, a style that dominated the game until the 1870s. An Oxford surgeon, W. Tuckwell, wrote that he learned chess ‘from the famous Sarratt, the great chess teacher, whose fee was as a guinea a lesson’. Lewis, who played many games with Sarratt from 1816, wrote in 1822 (after he had met both Deschapelles and Bourdonnais) that Sarratt was the most finished player he had ever met, Sarratt translated the works of several early writers on the game, making them known for the first time to English readers: The Works of Damiano, Ruy Lopez and Selenus (1813) and The Works of Gianutio and Gustavus Selenus (1817).

He died impoverished on 6 Nov. 1819 after a long illness during which he was unable lo earn a livelihood by teaching. Instead he wrote his New Treatise on the Game of Chess published posthumously in 1821, This is the first book to include a comprehensive beginner’s section: in more than 200 pages Sarratt teaches by means of question and answer. Another feature is a 98-page analysis of the Muzio gambit :

Had it been Sarratt’s ambition to become a chess professional there would have been scant opportunity during the lifetime of Philidor and Verdoni. A tall, lean, yet muscular man, sociable and talkative, he seems in his younger days to have had interests of a different kind, among them prize fighting and the breeding of fighting dogs. Hazlitt, who met Sarratt around 1812 wrote ‘He was a great reader, but had not the least taste. Indeed the violence of his memory tyrannised over and destroyed all power of selection. He could repeat Ossian by heart, without knowing the best passage from the worst.’

Sarratt’s early publications were History of Man (1802): translations of two Gothic novels, The Three Monks!!! (1803), from the French of Elisabeth Guénard (Baronne de Méré) , and Koenigsmark the Robber (1803), from the German of R. E. Raspe; A New Future of London (1803), an excellent guide that ran to several editions, the last in 1814, When war broke out with France in 1803 Sarratt became, for a short period, a lieutenant in the Royal York Mary-le-Bone Volunteers and published Life of Bonaparte * a propaganda booklet detailing Napoleon’s alleged war crimes, and warning of the desolation that would follow if he were to invade.

Not long after the birth of his second child in 1802 Sarratt’s wife died and in 1804 he married a Drury Lane singer, Elisabeth Camilla Du four. Tt would be difficult to find a more accomplished, a more amiable, or a happier couple than Mr and Mrs Sarratt’ – Mary Julia Young, Memoirs of Mrs Crouch (1806), Mrs Sarratt too was a writer contributing tales to various journals and publishing Aurora or the Mysterious Beauty (1803), a translation of a French novel. She survived her husband until 1846, ending her days giving chess lessons to the aristocracy in Paris. In 1843 Louis-Philippe and many players from England and France subscribed to a fund on her behalf. ”

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

“Self-styled ‘Professor of Chess’, Sarratt was the first professional player to teach the game in England. He was the author of a A Treatise on the Game of Chess, The (1808), The Works of Damiano, Ruy Lopez and Salvio (1813), The Works of Gianutio and Gustavas Selenus (1817) and a New Treatise on the Game of Chess (1821).

There is no record of Sarratt’s date or place of birth, He began his career as a schoolmaster and later taught chess at Tom’s Coffee House, Cornhill, London, and at the London Chess Club, and was in his day considered to be the strongest player in London.”

From The Encyclopedia of Chess (Batsford, 1983), Harry Golombek OBE :

“Leading English player of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Famed in his day as a teacher and author. Sarratt adopted the title of ‘Professor of Chess’, His writings include A Treatise on the Game of Chess, London 1808, The Works of Damiano, Ruy Lopez and Salvio (1813).

Sarratt is usually credited with introducing into England the Continental practise of counting a game ending in stalemate as a draw. (RDK)”

Some games by Jacob Henry Sarratt:

Death Anniversary of Reginald Broadbent (03-viii-1906 29-x-1988)

We remember Reginald Broadbent who passed away on October 29th 1988.

Reginald Joseph Broadbent was born on Friday, August 3rd 1906 (the year of the San Francisco earthquake) in Durban, South Africa. His father was Joseph Edward Broadbent (born 1879) who married Alice Cook on January 4th, 1930 in Durban.

According to the 1911 Isle of Man Census (FindMyPast, Richard James; thanks!) the Broadbent family (sans father) stayed at a guest house in Onchan on the night of February 2nd 1911. Reg (aged 4) was a boarder together with mother Alice (33), brother Roland (1) and sister Laura (4). Since Reg and Laura are both recorded as 4 years old it is reasonable to suppose that they were born as twins. We think that Reg had an additional sibling who had passed away and that the name is not recorded. Reassuringly Steve Mann agrees with this conclusion.

He married Catherine H Broadbent (born 19th September 1895) and were recorded as living (in 1939) in “Cheadle and Gately”, Cheshire. His profession was as a “Telephone Traffic Superintendent, Class II, Post Office Telephones” which was a a civil service occupation. Catherine carried out “unpaid domestic duties”.

They resided at 72, South Park Road, Gatley, Cheshire :

72, South Park Road, Gatley, Cheshire. SK8 4AN
72, South Park Road, Gatley, Cheshire. SK8 4AN

According to Steve Mann in his excellent Yorkshire Chess web site :

“At some time in 1946 or 1947, Broadbent moved down south to live in the general vicinity of East Grinstead, at Far End, Limes Estate, Felbridge, 2 miles NW of East Grinstead, and later at Southway, Priory Road, Forest Row, 3 miles SE of East Grinstead”

The British Chess Magazine, Volume CVIII (108, 1988), #12 (December), p. 553 records this brief death announcement :

“Reginald J. Broadbent, British Champion 1948 and 1950 died on October 29 at the age of 82. He was a member of Manchester and Bradford Chess Clubs in his day, and was famous for his remarkable record in Anglo-Dutch matches.

After he moved to London around 1950 he was less free to play due to his senior post with the Post Office. A fuller notice will appear next month.”

As advertised in the British Chess Magazine, Volume CIX (109, 1989), #1 (January), p. 27 we have :

“Reginald Broadbent (3 viii 1906-29x 1988) was born at Durban and was British Champion in 1948 and 1950. In the latter content he actually won his last six games in a row to reach a score of 8.5 points, ahead of Klein, Penrose and Milner-Barry. He was often spoken of as “playing himself into form” in the first half of a contest as his work as a civil servant (the GPO) did not allow him the chance to practise regularly against strong opposition.

He was a member of the Manchester and Bradford clubs before the war when he built up a fine record in Anglo-Dutch matches and Northern Counties champion on many occasions.

Brian Reilly recalls that Broadbent was selected for the BCF Olympiad side in 1954, but was forced to turn down the invitation due to the exacting nature of his work in London, and thereafter his main connection with the game was a chess column in a West of England newspaper. He was a subscriber to BCM right up to his death.”

With the white pieces Broadbent was a die-hard 1.e4 player who allowed the Marshall Attack against the Ruy Lopez.

As the second player RJB defended the Nimzo-Indian Defence and played Open games.

Here is one of his best games :

For an element of déjà vu here is RJBs obituary from the 1989 – 1990 BCF Yearbook, page 14 :

(The Yearbook editor was Brian Concannon and it would appear standard practise, at the time, not to credit or attribute sources for obituaries.)

BCF Yearbook, 1989-1990, page 14
BCF Yearbook, 1989-1990, page 14

A detailed biography may be found here

Death Anniversary of Philip Walsingham Sergeant (27-i-1872 20-x-1952)

BCN remembers Philip Walsingham Sergeant who passed away on Monday, October 20th 1952.

PWS was born in Kensington on Saturday, January 27th, 1872 to Lewis Sergeant and Emma Louisa Sergeant (née Robertson) and was baptised at All Saints Church, Notting Hill. According to PWS’s baptism record Lewis was an author.

According to PWS in A Century of British Chess :

“When I was seven years of age – about the period, by the way, in which my father began to teach me Greek – he began also to initiate me into chess. Not that he designed it  as a consolatory set-off to my application to Greek; for he loved the Classics well, though, going up to Cambridge with  small classical exhibition, he had turned to Mathematics, and therein took his degree. ”

According to the 1881 census PWS (aged 9) lived with his parents and numerous siblings : Dorothy (aged 7), Winifred (6), Hilda (5), Bernard (2), John (his grandfather aged 76) and Mary (his grandmother aged 75). They had staff, Elizabeth Fraser and Sarah Martin. They lived at 10, Addison Road, North, Kensington.

According to “Joseph Foster. Oxford Men and Their Colleges, 1880-1892. 2 vols. Oxford, England: James Parker and Co, 1893″ :

PWS attended St. Paul’s School and then Trinity College, Oxford to read Classics where he attained Honour Moderations.

and here is the record from the above publication :

Entry for Philip Walsingham Sergeant in Joseph Foster. <em>Oxford Men and Their Colleges</em>, 1880-1892. 2 vols. Oxford, England: James Parker and Co, 1893
Entry for Philip Walsingham Sergeant in Joseph Foster. Oxford Men and Their Colleges, 1880-1892. 2 vols. Oxford, England: James Parker and Co, 1893

We do not know if PWS played in the Varsity matches of 1892 – 1895 : Britbase does not (yet) include player details for these matches.

PWS married Minnie Boundford (born 27th February 1889) in 1909 in Hampstead and they lived at 5, Dukes Avenue, Chiswick where PWS was listed as an author and Minnie as someone who carried out “unpaid domestic duties”. Minnie was 17 years younger than PWS. Minnie’s father was a joiner and a carpenter.

They had two daughters Margaret (born 1910) and Kathleen (born 1911).

In October 1946 Minnie and PWS remarried. Presumably this was rather unusual in that day and age.

According to The Oxford Companion to Chess (OUP, 2nd edition, 1996) by Hooper and Whyld :

PWS was an English author of biographical games collections for Charousek, Morphy and Pillsbury as well as other works of importance such as A Century of British Chess (1943) and Championship Chess (1938).

From The Encyclopedia of Chess (BT Batsford, 1977) by Harry Golombek :

“A professional writer on chess and popular historical subjects. Without any pretentions to mastership, he represented Oxford University in the years 1892 – 5 and assisted RC Griffith in preparing three editions of Modern Chess Openings.

In chess he dealt with a number of important subjects : Morphy’s Games of Chess, London, 1916; Charousek’s Games of Chess, London, 1919; Pillsbury’s Chess Career (in collaboration with WH Watts), London, 1923; Championship Chess, London, 1938.

All these are lucidly and carefully written but suffer from the defect that, being neither a master player nor a professional annotator, he was not competent to deal with the annotational part of the work. Probably his best book on chess was A Century of British Chess, London, 1934.

From British Chess Magazine, Volume LXX11 (72), Number 11 (November), page 324 we have this rather brief obituary (presumably written by Brian Reilly):

“We regret to have to report the death, at the age of eighty-one of Philip W. Sergeant, the author of A Century of British Chess, which we imagine is in most chess libraries. He was the author of several well-known historical books – but we are only concerned here with his chess activities, which included representing Oxford University 1892-5; helping RC Griffith with two editions of Modern Chess Openings; playing for Middlesex, winning the chess championship of the authors’ club for several year, and latterly as an honoured member; and occasionally obtaining the championship of the Guildford Chess Club. Our sympathy with his widow and two daughters is sincere.”

He was a cousin of EG Sergeant.

From Wikipedia :

“Philip Walsingham Sergeant (27 January 1872, Notting Hill, London[1] – 20 October 1952)[2] was a British professional writer on chess and popular historical subjects.[3][4] He collaborated on the fifth (1933), sixth (1939), and seventh (1946) editions of Modern Chess Openings, an important reference work on the chess openings. He also wrote biographical game collections of Paul Morphy (Morphy’s Games of Chess (1916) and Morphy Gleanings), Rudolf Charousek (Charousek’s Games of Chess (1919)), and Harry Nelson Pillsbury (Pillsbury’s Chess Career, with W. H. Watts, 1922), and other important books such as A Century of British Chess (1934) and Championship Chess (1938).”

Harry Golombek writes that, “Without any pretensions to mastership, he represented Oxford University in the years 1892-5”.[3] Golombek considers A Century of British Chess probably Sergeant’s best chess book, but opines that although Sergeant’s chess books are lucidly written, they suffer from the defect that, as a non-master, he was not competent to deal with the annotational aspect of his work.

He was a second cousin of Edward Guthlac Sergeant.

Philip Walsingham Sergeant
Philip Walsingham Sergeant
Charousek's Games of Chess
Charousek’s Games of Chess
The Rice Memorial Chess Tournament, 1916
The Rice Memorial Chess Tournament, 1916
Pillsbury's Chess Career, London, 1923
Pillsbury’s Chess Career, London, 1923
A Century of British Chess, London, 1934
A Century of British Chess, London, 1934
An Introduction to the Endgame at Chess
An Introduction to the Endgame at Chess

Death Anniversary of 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

Death Anniversary of WIM Eileen Tranmer (05-v-1910 26-ix-1983)

We remember WIM Eileen Betsy Tranmer who passed away on September 26th, 1983.

Eileen Tranmer
Eileen Tranmer

She was the first English woman to be awarded by FIDE the Woman’s International Master title in 1950.

“From The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match by Klein and Winter :

Miss E. Tranmer was born in Scarborough, North Yorkshire in 1910, and learned chess at the age of six. She did not take it up seriously, however, until 1936. Under the tuition of W. Winter she has made notable progress, and her performances include a second prize in the British Correspondence Championship 1944, as well as first prize in one of the subsidiary tournaments at Hastings, 1945.

By profession Miss Tranmer is a musician and has played principal clarinet in the Scottish and Sadler’s Wells Orchestras.”

From British Chess Magazine, Volume CIII (103, 1983), Number 11 (November), page 482-83 (presumably written by Bernard Cafferty) :

“Eileen Tranmer died in hospital at Ticehurst on September 26th after a long illness. Born in Scarborough, May 5th 1910, she was a professional clarinet player and played in a number of prominent British orchestras till forced to retire by deafness.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by ANL/Shutterstock (3880870a) Miss Eileen Tranmer The British Women's Chess Champion Pictured Here Playing A Clarinet In The Orchestra While Appearing At The Theatre Royal Glasgow.
Mandatory Credit: Photo by ANL/Shutterstock (3880870a)
Miss Eileen Tranmer The British Women’s Chess Champion Pictured Here Playing A Clarinet In The Orchestra While Appearing At The Theatre Royal Glasgow.

One of the leading British players in the two decades after the war, Eileen won the British Ladies Championship in 1947, 1949 (with a 100% score), 1953 and 1961, and played in the British Championship at Buxton, 1950. Her international record was sparse, as was the case with nearly all English players of that period. Nevertheless, she made her mark in the 1949-50 first post-war Women’s World Championship where she finished 5-7th in a field of 16, beating Bykova, again, and finished 7th in the field of 16.

37th Hastings International Chess Congress, 1962. USA Ladies champion Lisa Lane (L) playing against British Champion Eileen Tranmer
37th Hastings International Chess Congress, 1962. USA Ladies champion Lisa Lane (L) playing against British Champion Eileen Tranmer

We are grateful to WCM Dinah Norman for sending us these memories :

“Eileen Tranmer was one of the best English chess lady players of her generation.

I only played her once at Oxford in an International Ladies Tournament held between 24 July and 1 August 1971. Eileen totally outplayed me and I lost the game.

Eileen was a member of Acton Chess Club where there were three active lady players at that time. They were Jean Rogers, Olive Chataway and Eileen. Eileen lived in Acton then.

Miss Eileen Tranmer The British Women's Chess Champion.
Mandatory Credit: Photo by ANL/Shutterstock (3880957a)
Miss Eileen Tranmer The British Women’s Chess Champion.
Miss Eileen Tranmer The British Women’s Chess Champion.

Eileen was a professional musician and had to stop playing when she became deaf which was dreadful for her.

In 1969 Eileen, Rowena Bruce and I were selected to play in the Ladies Chess Olympiad Team in Lublin, Poland. Sadly Eileen was taken ill just before the event so Rowena and I had to play all 13 rounds without a break. I was on Board 1 and at the end Rowena and I were exhausted and I had to withdraw from a tournament in the Czech Republic without playing a game. The food in Poland was awful so we said never again!

 

Miss Eileen Tranmer The British Women's Champion Chess Player Pictured Playing Some Of The Glasgow Ladies Chess Club At The Green's Playhouse Cafe Glasgow.
Mandatory Credit: Photo by ANL/Shutterstock (3880958a)
Miss Eileen Tranmer The British Women’s Champion Chess Player Pictured Playing Some Of The Glasgow Ladies Chess Club At The Green’s Playhouse Cafe Glasgow.
Miss Eileen Tranmer The British Women’s Champion Chess Player Pictured Playing Some Of The Glasgow Ladies Chess Club At The Green’s Playhouse Cafe Glasgow.

Eileen was very friendly with Harry Golombek. The expectation among the lady chess players was that they would get married but she never did. Harry did not drive and Eileen was very kind driving Harry and his elderly mother around.

Very sadly Eileen’s brother was killed in a car crash and after that Eileen suffered mental problems. Eileen lived near John and Jean Rogers and John said Eileen would turn up at their home in the middle of the night wanting to play chess.

At Hastings 1959-1960 : Yugoslavia's red-haired Milanka Lazarevic and Britain's Eileen Tranmer ran away with the Premier Reserves (afternoon event).
At Hastings 1959-1960 : Yugoslavia’s red-haired Milanka Lazarevic and Britain’s Eileen Tranmer ran away with the Premier Reserves (afternoon event).

The last time I saw Eileen was at Paignton. Her friend Olive Chataway brought her to Paignton and Eileen played in the bottom tournament and did badly. Eileen did not recognise myself or Rowena which was very sad.

 

Mandatory Credit: Photo by ANL/Shutterstock (4745287a) Miss Eileen Tranmer 43-year-old British Women's Chess Champion. Box 556. Miss Eileen Tranmer 43-year-old British Women's Chess Champion. Box 556.
Mandatory Credit: Photo by ANL/Shutterstock (4745287a)
Miss Eileen Tranmer 43-year-old British Women’s Chess Champion. Box 556.
Miss Eileen Tranmer 43-year-old British Women’s Chess Champion. Box 556.

Eileen later left Acton and moved to Tring. Eileen was a pleasant and modest person and was well liked. She had a good sense of humour.”

From the obituary in The Times of London we learn that her last few years were over-shadowed by an illness that preyed on her mind.

We take the following game from the August 1944 issue of BCM. The game was played in the BCCA Championship, and curiously enough there was an enquiry about that event to the BCF only a short while ago – a Georgian journalist wishes to quote that wartime performance as an early example of success by a woman in male chess company! ”

Gerald Abrahams in Not only Chess, wrote about Eileen (Chapter 18 : What Achilles Saw Among Women) as follows :

“To revert to the British Ladies, they were joined in the late 1930s by a very able pupil of Miss Menchik, the Yorkshire Clarinettist Eileen Tranmer; a woman whose chess I have seen to express some admirable qualities of mind and character. I had the privilege of watching her is Moscow in 1949-50, when, handicapped by influenza of a particularly virulent kind – what the Russians call “grippe” – she won some five or six consecutive games, to finish in the prize list of the new official Women’s World Championship. There had been two championships before, which Vera has won easily. Since Vera had unhappily perished in the Blitz, they looked at Moscow for her successor.”

Here is her Wikipedia entry

WIM Eileen Betsy Tranmer & WIM Rowena Mary Bruce at the 1946 Anglo-Soviet Radio Match
WIM Eileen Betsy Tranmer & WIM Rowena Mary Bruce at the 1946 Anglo-Soviet Radio Match

Death Anniversary of WIM Rowena Bruce (15-v-1919 24-ix-1999)

We remember WIM Rowena Bruce who died this day (September 24th) in 1999.

Rowena Mary Dew was born on Thursday, May 15th, 1919 in Plymouth, Devon. Her father was Clement Warner Harvey Dew and her mother was Mary Jane Rowe.

The Bruce and Dew families circa 1923. Rowena is at the front and on the right aged around four years. Source : ancestry.co.uk
The Bruce and Dew families circa 1923. Rowena is at the front and on the right aged around four years. Source : ancestry.co.uk

She married Ronald Mackay Bruce in July 1940 when she was 21 years old.

Her father Clement Warner Harvey passed away on 7 October 1957 in Plymouth, Devon, at the age of 79. Her mother Mary Jane passed away on 3 August 1958 in Cornwall at the age of 73. Her husband Ronald Mackay passed away in April 1991 in Plymouth, Devon, at the age of 87. They had been married 50 years.

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

“Mrs RM Bruce was born in Plymouth in 1919, and learned chess at the age of twelve. She won the Girls’s World Championship in 1935 and the British Ladies Championship in 1937. During the war she served with the WVS in Plymouth. Apart from chess, she is interested in music and plays the cello.

Rowena practising the cello. Courtesy of Keverel Chess
Rowena practising the cello. Courtesy of Keverel Chess

She is married to RM Bruce, who is a well-known Plymouth player.”

In 1984 both Rowena and Ron received the BCF President’s Award for Services to Chess.

From British Chess (Pergamon Press, 1983) by Botterill, Levy, Rice and Richardson :

“I was taught by my Mother Mrs. May Dew, when recovering from a mastoid operation in 1930, and I joined Plymouth Chess Club on 5th November 1931, aged 12.5.

I started receiving chess tuition from the Plymouth Match Captain, Ronald Bruce in 1934. (Married him in 1940!).

I won the Girls’ World Championship in 1935. I won the British Ladies’ Championship for the first time in 1937, and again in 1950, 1951, 1954, 1959, 1960, 1962 and 1963. I tied for first place in 1955, 1967 and 1969.

I represented Great Britain in the West European Zonal tournament held in Venice 1951, where I finished 2nd. This qualified me to represent Great Britain in the Candidates tournament held in Moscow in 1952. I finished 12th out of 16.

World Chess Championship (Women) 1952 Candidates Tournament
World Chess Championship (Women)
1952 Candidates Tournament

In 1952 we adopted a little girl – Rona Mary.

Other tournaments abroad included zonals in Italy, Yugoslavia and Germany, and Olympiads in Germany, Poland and Bulgaria.

This last-named ended in disaster because I collapsed with a stroke during my second game. Obviously my chess playing was affected, but I was indeed fortunate to make a fairly good recovery.

WIM Rowena Mary Bruce at the 1952 Moscow Candidates tournament
WIM Rowena Mary Bruce at the 1952 Moscow Candidates tournament

I returned to competitive chess playing a year later but, in the meantime, several young players have surged forwards, and that British Ladies’ Championship seems to have become much more difficult to win !

But I now have three grandchildren!

BCN is grateful to WCM Dinah Norman for sending us these memories :

“Rowena Mary Bruce (need Dew) was born on 15 May 1919 and died in Plymouth in 1999. Rowena was the youngest of 3 children born to Harvey and Mary Dew. Mary Dew was a member of the Plymouth Chess Club and tried unsuccessfully to get her 2 sons interested in the game but Rowena was the only child who was interested.

When Rowena was 10 her mother organised private lessons for her with the Plymouth Champion, Ron Bruce. At the age of 21 Rowena married Ron Bruce and it was a very successful and happy marriage. They had an adopted daughter Rona who had no interest in Chess. Rowena had to wait until she was 21 before she could marry Ron. Rowena lived in Plymouth all her life.

Rowena and Ron married in July 1940. Ron and Rowena cemented a formidable playing and organising partnership which benefited chess in Devon for almost half a century.

A stern-looking Rowena offers advice to one of the juniors at the WECU Congress, Easter 1951, in the analysis room at the Penolver Hotel, Newquay. Courtesy of Keverel Chess
A stern-looking Rowena offers advice to one of the juniors at the WECU Congress, Easter 1951, in the analysis room at the Penolver Hotel, Newquay. Courtesy of Keverel Chess

After the War Rowena was one of the leading quartet of British Lady players which included Elaine Pritchard (née Saunders), Anne Sunnucks and Eileen Tranmer. In 1951 Rowena played in the Ladies Zonal in Venice and qualified for the Candidates in Moscow to be played the following year.

AT the age of 53 she qualified for the East European Zonal in Sofia, Bulgaria in 1972. Sadly in Round 2 of that event she collapsed at the board with a major cerebral haemorrhage which left her right side paralysed. By sheer force of will after many months of convalescence she taught herself to speak and walk again. She had to give up playing her cello which was awful for her.

Ladies Chess Tournament Fenny Heemskerk, Rowena Mary Bruce (née Dew), Donner, Architect Date: January 12, 1953 Personal name: Architect, , Bruce, R., Donner, , Heemskerk, Fenny Institution name: Block Chess Tournament - Image ID: 2ARK3JK
Ladies Chess Tournament Fenny Heemskerk, Rowena Mary Bruce (née Dew), Donner, Architect Date: January 12, 1953 Personal name: Architect, , Bruce, R., Donner, , Heemskerk, Fenny Institution name: Block Chess Tournament – Image ID: 2ARK3JK

The steely determination with which she followed her 75 year chess career and her recovery from serious illness belied her gentle nature. She was a modest, kind and gracious person who always thought the best of others.

She won the British Ladies title 11 times.

I shared the title with her in 1967 and 1969 after 2 play offs. She was a very pleasant and sporting opponent.”

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

“International Woman Chess Master and winner of the British Ladies Championship on 10 occasions.

She was taught to pay chess by her mother, who was the Devon Lady Champion, after a mastoid operation when she was 10. In 1931 she joined Plymouth Chess Club, where she met R. M. Bruce, the Devonshire Chess Captain, who coached her and was largely responsible for later success. She married him in 1940.

Opening Ladies Danlon chess tournament in Amsterdam, v.l.n.r. T. Roodzant, F. Heemskerk, I. Larsen, L. Timofeeva, E. Rinder, R. Bruce Date: October 21, 1959 Location: Amsterdam, Noord-Holland Keywords: group portraits, chess Person Name: Bruce, Rowena Mary, Heemskerk, Fenny , Larsen, I., Rinder, Elfriede, Roodzant, Toos, Timofeeva. Lidia - Image ID: 2AW6KHJ
Opening Ladies Danlon chess tournament in Amsterdam, v.l.n.r. T. Roodzant, F. Heemskerk, I. Larsen, L. Timofeeva, E. Rinder, R. Bruce Date: October 21, 1959 Location: Amsterdam, Noord-Holland Keywords: group portraits, chess Person Name: Bruce, Rowena Mary, Heemskerk, Fenny , Larsen, I., Rinder, Elfriede, Roodzant, Toos, Timofeeva. Lidia – Image ID: 2AW6KHJ

In 1935 she won the Girls’ World Championship and two years later the British Ladies’ Championship for the first time. She has won the title outright or been joint holder on 10 occasions in 1937, 1950, 1951, 1954, 1955, 1959, 1960, 1962, 1963 and 1967.

Mrs Bruce has represented Great Britain in matches against the USSR and the Netherlands and the British Chess Federation in qualifying tournaments for the Women’s World Championship. In Venice in 1951 she came 2nd in the Western European Qualifying Tournament for the Women’s World Championship and thereby qualified for the Candidates tournament in 1952, when she came 12th out of 16.

Rowena at the 1952 Moscow Zonal tournament. Courtesy of Keverel Chess
Rowena at the 1952 Moscow Zonal tournament. Courtesy of Keverel Chess

Apart from chess, her hobbies are music, gardening and bridge.

She is principal ‘cellist in the Plymouth Orchestral Society.”

An obituary (presumably written by John Saunders) appeared in the British Chess Magazine, Volume CXIX (119, 1999), Number 11 (November), page 584 :

“Rowena Bruce died peacefully at home on 23 September following a long illness. Rowena Mary Dew was born in Plymouth on 15 May 1919, and she was taught the game at the age of 10, while she was convalescing from surgery, by here mother Mary Dew, herself a very able player who had been Devon Ladies’ Champion.

Rowena joined the Plymouth Chess Club, where she met her future husband, Ron Bruce, himself a strong player. She won the World Girls’ Championship in 1935 and the British Women’s title two years later. Rowena married Ron in 1940 and won the British title under her married name ten more times (seven outright and three jointly) between 1950 and 1969.

She represented Great Britain in matches against the USSR and the Netherlands. She qualified for the Women’s World Championship by coming 2nd in the Western European Zonal in Venice, and in the subsequent Candidates tournament in Moscow in 1952 she came 12th out of 16. She was awarded the women’s international master title in 1951.

Rowena locking horns with her friend Fenny Heemskerk, who finished in a magnificent 2nd place. Courtesy of Keverel Chess
Rowena locking horns with her friend Fenny Heemskerk, who finished in a magnificent 2nd place. Courtesy of Keverel Chess

The contribution to chess that Rowena and Ron Bruce made to national, west country and Devon chess was well recognised at the highest level, and when the British Chess Federation instituted a new award in 1983, the President’s Award for Services to Chess, they won it jointly in only its second year. Ron died in 1991.

Rowena was a past president of the Devon County Chess Association and the West of England Chess Union and continued playing for Devon until about four years ago when her increasing frailty made it impossible for her to travel to away matches.

Her other accomplishments included music : she was a principal cellist in the Plymouth Orchestral Society. She also partnered husband Ron in strictly non-competitive bridge for many years. She leaves a daughter Rona and three grand-children.”

WIM Rowena Mary Bruce
WIM Rowena Mary Bruce

From The Encyclopedia of Chess (Batsfords, 1977) by Harry Golombek :

“International Woman master and eleven times British Ladies champion or co-champion.

At the age of fifteen in 1935, Miss Dew won the girls World championship and two years later, still under he maiden name, se won the British Ladies championship at Blackpool. Thereafter she won the championship under her married name in 1950, 1951, 1954, 1955, 1959, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1967 and 1969.

Her best international result was a 2nd in the 1951 Western European Zonal tournament, qualifying for the Women’s Candidates tournament in Moscow 1952, where she came 12th/16. She has represented England in a number of team events, has excellent combinative powers, but lacks steadiness in strategy.”

Rowena (far left) during the 1952 Moscow Candidates tournament. Courtesy of Keverel Chess
Rowena (far left) during the 1952 Moscow Candidates tournament. Courtesy of Keverel Chess

David Hooper (seated right) in play at the West of England Championships in Bristol, Easter, 1947. His opponent , ARB Thomas , was that year's champion. Among the spectators is Mrs. Rowena Bruce, the 1946 British Ladies' Champion. BCM, Volume 118, #6, p.327. The others in the photo are L - R: H. V. Trevenen; H. Wilson-Osborne (WECU President); R. A. (Ron) Slade; Rowena Bruce; Ron Bruce; H. V. (Harry) Mallison; Chris Sullivan; C. Welch (Controller); F. E. A. (Frank) Kitto.
David Hooper (seated right) in play at the West of England Championships in Bristol, Easter, 1947. His opponent , ARB Thomas , was that year’s champion. Among the spectators is Mrs. Rowena Bruce, the 1946 British Ladies’ Champion. BCM, Volume 118, #6, p.327. The others in the photo are L – R: H. V. Trevenen; H. Wilson-Osborne (WECU President); R. A. (Ron) Slade; Rowena Bruce; Ron Bruce; H. V. (Harry) Mallison; Chris Sullivan; C. Welch (Controller); F. E. A. (Frank) Kitto.

Here is an interesting article from Tartajubow on Chess

From Wikipedia :

“Rowena Mary Bruce (15 May 1919 – 24 September 1999), née Dew, was an English chess player who held the title of Woman International Master (WIM, 1951). She was an eleven-time winner of the British Women’s Chess Championship (1937, 1950, 1951, 1954, 1955, 1959, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1967 and 1969).

Biography
From the end of the 1930s to the end of the 1960s, she was one of England’s strongest women chess players. In 1935, she won the FIDE World Girls Championship. Rowena Mary Bruce won the British Women’s Chess Championship eleven times: 1937, 1950, 1951, 1954, 1955, 1959, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1967 and 1969[1]. In 1952, in Moscow, she participated in the Women’s Candidates Tournament where she took 12th place[2]. In 1951, she was awarded the FIDE Woman International Master (WIM) title.

On 21 June 1946, Bruce played (and lost) a “radio chess” match against Lydmilla Rudenko. Bruce was one of two women who were part of a twelve member British team who played in a four day tournament. The British team played their moves in London while the Russian team played their moves in Moscow.”

Rowena with Spassky and the Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Alderman Pascho.
Rowena with Spassky and the Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Alderman Pascho.

“Rowena Mary Bruce played for England in the Women’s Chess Olympiads:

In 1966, at second board in the 3rd Chess Olympiad (women) in Oberhausen (+5, =5, -2) where she won an individual silver medal, and
In 1969, at second board in the 4th Chess Olympiad (women) in Lublin (+5, =3, -6).
From 1940 to 1991 she was married to Ronald Bruce (1903–1991)”

WIM Eileen Betsy Tranmer & WIM Rowena Mary Bruce
WIM Eileen Betsy Tranmer & WIM Rowena Mary Bruce