Tag Archives: Hastings

Remembering Vera Menchik (16-ii-1906 27-vi-1944)

Miss Vera Menchik
Miss Vera Menchik
A Great Life with a Tragic Ending

Few people know the story of Vera Menchik yet it deserves to be told. She was the first women’s world chess champion in 1927 and retained the title undefeated until her untimely death at the age of 38 in 1944 during a rocket attack on London.  She is more properly compared with the great male players of her era against whom she scored creditably. The absence of a full biography of Vera in English reflects the peculiar circumstances of her life and death.

Vera was, in modern terminology, a refugee and essentially a stateless person for much of her life. She was born in Moscow in 1906 during the period of the Russian Empire to an expatriate family who was forced to flee when she was 15 following the Russian Revolution having lost their livelihood.  As they passed through Europe, her father and mother split up in his homeland Czechoslovakia which had been created out of the ruins of the Austro-Hungarian empire. She arrived in England and took up residence in the seaside town of Hastings. (The fact that Hastings had hosted the world’s longest series of annual chess tournaments since 1895 was a happy coincidence.) Vera never attained British nationality until near the end of her life even though she had been domiciled in England from 1921. She won the first-ever Women’s World Championships held in London in 1927 under a Russian flag; thereafter she nominally represented Czechoslovakia until finally she represented England in 1939 following her marriage to a senior official within the British Chess Federation.

Vera Menchik from Vera Menchik., EI Bykova, Moscow, 1957, 176 pages, 4s 7d.
Vera Menchik., EI Bykova, Moscow, 1957, 176 pages, 4s 7d.

Vera’s grandfather was Arthur Illingworth, a wealthy trader from Lancashire who had set up business in Moscow where his Anglo-Russian daughter Olga married František Menčik. He was a successful estate manager. Vera learned chess from her father and performed well at school. Her younger sister Olga was also a good chess player and the sisters remained close throughout their lives.

Vera was a woman in a man’s world – she had to struggle harder to achieve the kind of recognition which was accorded to men. She appeared like a comet in the sky and it would be many years until other women were able to reach her level. At her first major international tournament at Karlsbad in 1929, she was the only female participant in a tournament of 22 great players. Even as women’s world champion, some of the male players objected to her participation.  The Viennese master Albert Becker joked that anybody who lost to her should belong to the Vera Menchik Club. By an irony of history, he became its first member losing to her in the third round. She beat many other grandmasters during her career including the Dutchman Max Euwe in 1930 and 1931 (both at Hastings) who was to become world champion in 1935.

Although she is often portrayed as being Russian or Czech or latterly British, she was a true cosmopolitan. She knew that life could be unstable in any country. She had lived through the Russian Revolution; one parent was left behind in Czechoslovakia; she had moved westwards across Europe and embraced different cultures and languages at formative stages of her life. It is no wonder that she learned also to speak Esperanto which was designated to be the world’s lingua franca before English achieved its dominance. As a leading chess player, she travelled back to Moscow and to Czechoslovakia several times as well as to South America for her final match to retain the women’s world champion title in 1939. She needed to be self-sufficient and was obtained roles as the games editor of a chess magazine as well as being appointed the manager of the National Chess Centre in Oxford Street which was destroyed during the Blitz in 1940.

She survived most of the war and now a widow moved in with her mother and sister to a house in south London.  They took the precaution of going down to the cellar during bombing raids. Tragically the house received a direct hit from a flying bomb and the entire family was wiped out. Hardly any of her possessions remained save for one dented trophy. The records at the national chess centre were destroyed as were her personal effects including her chess memorabilia. At least there remains a record of the moves played in her games which serve as testimony to her remarkable career as not only the first women’s world chess champion but also a woman who broke boundaries wherever she went and demonstrated that a woman is capable of standing on her own feet professionally and leading a full and eventful life.

The Bomb Attack

BCN remembers that in the early morning of Tuesday, June 27th, 1944 (i.e. 77 years ago) Vera Menchik, her sister Olga, and their mother were killed in a V-1* flying bomb attack which destroyed their home at 47 Gauden Road in the Clapham area of South London.

We now know that the V1 in question landed at 00:20 hrs on the 27th and led to the death of a total of 11 people including the Menchik household. Here is a summary of recorded V1 and V2 landings in the Clapham, SW4 area.

(*The V-1 was an early cruise missile with a fairly crude guidance system.)

47, Gauden Road, Clapham, SW4 6LW in more modern times.
47, Gauden Road, Clapham, SW4 6LW in more modern times.

All three were cremated at the Streatham Park Crematorium on 4 July 1944. Vera was 38 years old.

Signature of Vera Menchik from a Brian Reilly "after dinner" postcard from Margate 1936.
Signature of Vera Menchik from a Brian Reilly “after dinner” postcard from Margate 1936.
Vera’s Parents and Sister

Vera Frantsevna Menchik (or Věra Menčíková) was born in Moscow on Friday, 16th February, 1906. Her father was František Menčik, was born in Bystrá nad JizerouBohemia. František and Olga were married on June  23rd 1905 in Moscow and notice of this marriage appeared in British newspapers on July 22nd 1905.  Vera’s sister was Olga Rubery (née Menchik) and she was born in Moscow in 1908. Olga Menchik married Clifford Glanville Rubery in 1938. Vera married Rufus Henry Streatfeild Stevenson on October 19th 1937.

Her Maternal Roots

Our interest in unearthing her maternal English heritage / roots has led to the following:

Her mother was Olga (née Illingworth (1885 – 27 vi 1944). Olga’s  parents were Arthur Wellington Illingworth and Marie Illingworth (née ?). Arthur was born in October 1852 in the district of Salford, Lancashire, his parents were George Illingworth (1827-1887) and Alice Whewell (1828-1910). 

In the 1861 census Arthur is recorded as being of eight years of age and living in the Illingworth household.

In the 1871 census Arthur is recorded as being of eighteen years of age and living in the Illingworth household of nine persons at 5, Lancaster Road, Pendleton, Lancashire. Arthur’s occupation is listed as being a merchants apprentice. In fact, he was a stock and share broker.

Arthur died in Moscow on February 21st 1898. Probate was recorded in London on July 6th, 1900 as follows:

Illingworth Arthur Wellington of Moscow Russia merchant died 21st February 1898 Probate London 6th July to Walter Illingworth stock and share-broker Effects £4713 7s

£4713 7s in 1898 equates roughly to £626,600.00 in 2020 so it would appear that Arthur was considerably successful and almost certainly left money to Olga Illingworth.

What do we conclude from all of this? Quite simply that Vera’s maternal roots were from Salford in Lancashire.

BCM Announcement

The August 1944 British Chess Magazine (Volume LXIV, Number 8, page 173 onwards) contained this editorial  from Julius du Mont:

Julius du Mont, Editor of British Chess Magazine from 1940 to 1949
Julius du Mont, Editor of British Chess Magazine from 1940 to 1949

“British Chess has suffered a grievous and irreparable loss in the death by enemy action of Mrs. R.H.S. Stevenson known through all the world where chess is played as Vera Menchik.

We give elsewhere (below : Ed.) an appreciation of this remarkable woman. Quite apart from her unique gifts as a chess-player-the world may never see her equal again among women players-she had many qualities which endeared her to all who knew her, the greatest among them being here great-hearted generosity.

We sympathise with our contemporary “CHESS” : Vera Menchik was for some years their games editor. Few columns have been conducted with equal skill and efficiency and none, we feel sure, with a greater sense of responsibility.

The news of this remarkable tragedy will be received by the chess world with sorrow and with abhorrence of the wanton and useless robot methods of a robot people.

One shudders at the heritage of hatred which will be theirs, but their greatest punishment will come with their own enlightenment.”

BCM Contemporary Obituary from EGR Cordingley

From page 178 of the same issue we have an obituary written by EGR Cordingley :

“The death by enemy action of Miss Vera Menchik removes not only the greatest woman chess player of all times but a charming personality.

The world will remember her for her chess prowess, for her exceptional skill as a woman player who had beaten in tournament play such gifted players as Euwe, Sultan Khan, Sir George Thomas, Alexander and Yates. In such company, and she played in several of the Hastings International tournaments and other of similar grade, she usually obtained about 33%, though in the Maribor tournament of 1934 she finished third, behind Pirc and Steiner but ahead of Rejfir, Spielmann, Asztalos and Vidmar.

Her game was characterised by solid position-play, with the definite aim of bringing about a favourable end-game and of avoiding wild complications. The ordinary stratagems of the game, small combinations and the like, were of course part of her equipment, but she lacked that imaginative, inventive spirit without which few become really great players.

In recent times, Reshesvky and Flohr (as a professional with a reputation to maintain and a living to earn) have shown that great success can be achieved by reducing the game to pure positional play, the technique being firstly to build up a position devoid of weaknesses, an ‘I can’t lose position,’ and secondly to create and take advantage of the minutest weaknesses in the opponent’s camp, a major weakness may show that imagination is not quite dead within.

This defect in her play was the inevitable reflection of her character: sound common-sense, conscientious to an unusual degree, and persevering, while she had the combative, tenacious nature so desirable and so often found in good chess players; for chess is battle of wits, the fight is what most of use love in chess. Vera was, seldom assertive, a fault not uncommon in chess players. She sat placidly at the chess board, never causing even mild irritation by any of those nervous mannerisms that may always be seen in any chess room, the peripatetic fever being the most prominent. A slight flush would rise when the position grew difficult, or when she was short of time on her clock – and that was recurrent according to the time-limit.

Away from the chessboard show would readily talk of other subjects, and her great interest was in persons, in their actions and behaviour under the strain and stress of the unruly passions; in the moulding of their lives under the inscrutable dictates of chance; in the twists and turns of a mind warped perhaps by a casual incident long ago. Of course, she was a pagan, a thinking one, who had asked and asked and found only the answer that reasoning gave. She judged kindly and never inflicted upon others her own opinions or beliefs: she asked only that these should be heard as one side of any argument, for she enjoyed a dialectic bout.

A delightful side to her character was her simple sense of humour, and I remember so clearly her pleasure – glee would describe it more eloquently – when I gave her the punctuation necessary to make sense of that ludicrous collection of words, ‘Jones where Brown had had had had had had had had had had had the master’s approval’ Anyone who knew her only at the chessboard would have been astonished at the amount of bubbling merriment she discovered of of life’s events.

I shall remember her more for the woman as I knew her over many cups of coffee spread over many, many weeks – complacent, smiling, and kindly; conscientious, loyal, and sincere; as I understand the word, a Christian who would help any deserving person as best she could. E. G. R. C.

and here is the original article as printed:

British Chess Magazine, Volume LXIV (1944), Number 8, August, Page 178
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXIV (1944), Number 8, August, Page 178
BCM 1958 Appreciation by Peter Clarke

From British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXVIII (78, 1958), Number 7 (July), page 181 onwards) we have this retrospective from Peter Clarke:

“The night of June 27th,1944, Vera Menchik, World Woman Champion, was killed when an enemy bomb demolished her home in London; with her perished her mother and sister Olga. In these tragic circumstances the chess world lost its greatest woman player, still undefeated and at the height of her powers.

Vera Francevna Menchik was born in Moscow on February 16th, 1906, of an English mother and Czech father. There she spent her childhood, showing a love for literature, music, and, of course, chess, which at the age of nine she was taught by her father. She had a natural bent for the game and when only fourteen shared second and third places a schoolboys (!) tournament. The following year, 1921, the family came to England, where Miss Menchik lived the rest of her life.

As if by some fortunate coincidence, the Menchiks settled in Hastings, though it was not until the spring of 1923 that Vera joined the famous chess club. Her natural shyness and lack of knowledge of English caused this delay. However, they did not handicap her too much
as she herself afterwards wrote: ‘Chess is a quiet game and therefore the best hobby for a person who cannot speak the language.”

She studied the game eagerly, and very soon her talent caught the attention of the Hungarian grandmaster, Géza Maróczy, who was resident at Hastings at that time. Thus there began the most important period in her development as a player; a sound and mature understanding of positional play-and a thorough knowledge of a few special openings and defences: in particular the French Defence. The influence of
the grandmasters ideas was clearly apparent in her style throughout the whole of her career.

Miss Menchik’s rise to fame was meteoric: by 1925 she was undoubtedly the strongest player of her sex in the country, having twice defeated the Champion, E. Price, in short matches; and only two years later she won the first Women’s World Championship in London with the terrific score 10.5-0.5. She was just twenty-one, but already in a different class from any other woman in the world. For seventeen years until her death Vera Menchik reigned supreme in women’s chess, defending her world title successfully no less than seven times (including a match with Sonja Graf at Semmering in 1937, which Miss Menchik won 11.5-4.5. In the seven tournaments for the World Championship she played 83 games; winning 78, drawing 4, and losing 1 only! However, what was more remarkable was that she was accepted into the sphere of men’s chess as a master in her own right, a feat which no woman had done before or has done since. Up to then, women’s chess had been a very poor relation of the masculine game, but here was a woman who was a worthy opponent for the strongest masters.

Flohr wrote of her: ‘Vera Menchik was the first woman in the world who played chess strongly…who played like a man.’ It was as the ambassador extraordinary, so to speak, of the women’s game that Miss Menchik really made her greatest contribution to chess. Wherever she went, at home and abroad, she aroused great interest among her sex; others were eager to follow her, to identify themselves with her. Nowadays women’s chess is well organized, and much of the credit for this must go to Vera Menchik for first bringing it into the light. Among her many personal successes in international tournaments perhaps the greatest was at Ramsgate in 1929: as one of the foreign masters (she was still of Czech nationality) she shared second and third places with Rubinstein, * point behind Capablanca and above, among others, her tutor Maróczy.

Even the greatest masters recognized Miss Menchik’s ability; Alekhine himself, writing on the Carlsbad Tournament of 1929, said: ‘Vera Menchik is without doubt an exceptional phenomenon among women. She possesses great aptitude for the game…The chess
world must help her develop her talent!’

The Vera Menchik Club

An amusing incident occurred at this tournament. There were naturally sceptics among the masters over the lady’s participation. Flohr recalls how one of these, the Viennese master Becker, suggested:

‘Whoever loses to the Woman Champion will be accepted as a member of the Vera Menchik Club which I intend to organize.’

Becker was the first to lose to her, and that evening the masters chided him: “Professor Becker, you did not find it very difficult to join the club. You can be the Chairman.’ And forthwith he was chosen as Chairman for three years. Everyone wished that the new club would soon obtain more members! Indeed, the Vera Menchik Club has many famous names on its lists-Euwe, Reshevsky, Colle, Yates, Sultan Khan, Sir G. A. Thomas, Alexander, to mention a few.

In 1935 Miss Menchik returned to the country of her birth to take part in the great international tournament in Moscow. To be truthful, she had very little success, but she was everywhere treated with respect and sympathy by masters and spectators alike. The Soviet master l. Maiselis, writing in CHESS in 1944.(Shakhmaty za 1944 god), related the following entertaining anecdote from the tournament: One day a group of players and organizers were discussing the chances of Alekhine and Euwe in the forthcoming match. Flohr said: ‘It is quite clear that I will be World Champion.’ We looked at him inquiringly.

‘It’s very simple,” continued Flohr, ‘Euwe wins a match against Alekhine, Vera Menchik beats Euwe (at that time her score against Euwe was +2, =1, -1) and I will somehow beat Miss Menchik.’

We laughed at this good-natured joke, and we laughed all the more the next day when Flohr was unable, despite every effort, to defeat her in a vital game.

ln 1937 Miss Menchik married R. Stevenson, but in chess she continued to use her maiden name, made famous by so many victories. Her husband, a well-known organizer, became, Secretary of the B.C.F: in the following year and remained so until his death in 1943.

Since the days of Vera Menchik women’s chess has taken great strides forward; now there is a special committee of F.I.D.E. to look after its needs.- Only last year the first lnternational Women’s Team Tournament took place ln Emmen, Holland; the new World Champions, the U.S.S.R., became the first holders of the Vera Menchik Cup. So chess goes onwards, but the name of its first Queen will ever be remembered.”

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

“Woman World Champion from 1927 to 1944. Vera Menchik was born in Moscow on 16th February 1906 of an English mother and a Czech father. Her father taught her to play chess when she was 9.

Vera Menchik 1906-1944 chess playerin, CZ / GB portrait with chess board late twenties (Photo by ullstein bild / ullstein bild via Getty Images)
Vera Menchik 1906-1944 chess playerin, CZ / GB portrait with chess board late twenties (Photo by ullstein bild / ullstein bild via Getty Images)

In 192l her family came to England and settled in Hastings (at 13, St. John’s Road, St. Leonards-on-Sea, TN37 6HP) :

13, St. John's Road, St. Leonards-on-Sea, TN37 6HP
13, St. John’s Road, St. Leonards-on-Sea, TN37 6HP

Two years later, when she was 17, Vera joined Hastings Chess Club,

Hastings Chess Club : 2 Cornwallis Terrace, Hastings TN34 1EB
Hastings Chess Club : 2 Cornwallis Terrace, Hastings TN34 1EB

where she became a pupil of Geza Maroczy. The first Women’s World Championship was held in 1927. Vera Menchik won with a score of 10.5 out of 11. She defended her title successfully in Hamburg in 1930, in Prague in 1931, in Folkestone in 1933, in Warsaw in 1935, in Stockholm in 1937 and in Buenos Aires in 1939. She played 2 matches against Sonja Graf, her nearest rival, in 1934 when she won +3 -1 and in 1937, in a match for her title when she won +9 -1 =5.

Isaac Kashdan plays Vera Menchik during the Hastings Congress on December 28th, 1931. Kashdan won in 45 moves in a classical French.
Isaac Kashdan plays Vera Menchik during the Hastings Congress on December 28th, 1931. Kashdan won in 45 moves in a classical French.

The first woman ever to play in the British Championship and the first to play in a master tournament, Vera Menchik made her debut in master chess at Scarborough 1928 when she scored 50 per cent. The following year she played in Paris and Carlsbad, and it was at Carlsbad that the famous Menchik Club was formed. The invitation to Vera Menchik to compete among such players as Capablanca, Euwe, Tartakower and Nimzowitch was received with amusement by many of the masters. The Viennese master, Becker was particularly scornful, and in the presence of a number of the competitors he suggested that anyone who lost to Vera Menchik should be granted membership of the Menchik Club. He himself became the first member. Other famous players who later joined the club were Euwe, Reshevsky, Sultan Khan, Sir George Thomas, C. H. O’D. Alexander, Colle and Yates.

Her greatest success in international tournaments was at Ramsgate in 1929, when she was =2nd with Rubinstein, half a point behind Capablanca and ahead of Maroczy. In 1934 she was 3rd at Maribor, ahead of Spielmann and Vidmar. In 1942 she won a match against Mieses +4 -l -5. In 1937 Vera Menchik married R. H. S. Stevenson, who later became Hon. Secretary of the British Chess Federation. He died in 1943. She continued to use her maiden name when playing chess. On her marriage she became a British subject.

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

From 1941 until her death she was Games Editor of CHESS. She also gave chess lessons and managed the National Chess Centre, which opened in 1939 at John Lewis’s in Oxford Street, London and was destroyed by a bomb in 1940.

In 1944 Vera Menchik was a solid positional player, who avoided complications and aimed at achieving a favourable endgame. Her placid temperament was ideal for tournament play. Her main weakness was possibly lack of imagination. Her results have made her the most successful woman player ever.”

Vera Menchik
Vera Menchik

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

Probably the strongest woman player in the history of the game, Vera Menchik was born in Moscow and, though her father was a Czechoslovak and her mother English, she played for most of her
life under English colours.

In l92l her family came to Hastings in England and there Vera became a pupil of the great Hungarian master, Geza Maroczy. This was to have a dominating influence on her style of play which was solidly classical, logical and technically most well equipped. Such a style enabled her to deal severely not only with her fellow women players but also with contemporary masters and budding masters. Vera did extremely well, for example, against C. H. O’D. Alexander
and P. S. Milner-Barry, but lost repeatedly to H. Golombek who was able to take advantage of her lack of imagination by the use of more modern methods.

Vera was soon predominent in women’s chess. In the first Women’s World Championship tournament, at London in 1927, she won the title with a score of 10.5 out of 11 and retained the championship with great ease at all the subsequent Olympiads (or International Team tournaments as they were then known more correctly) at Hamburg 1930, Prague 1931, Folkestone 1933, Warsaw 1935, Stockholm 1937 and Buenos Aires 1939.

Vera Menchik at Margate 1935, photographer unknown
Vera Menchik at Margate 1935, photographer unknown

With Sonja Graf, the player who came nearest to her in strength among her female contemporaries, she played two matches and demonstrated her undoubted superiority by beating her in 1934 (+3-l) and again in a match for the title in l937 (+9-l=5).

In 1937 Vera officially became a British citizen by marrying the then Kent and later B.C.F. Secretary, R. H. S. Stevenson (Rufus Henry Streatfeild Stevenson: ed).
(Rufus Henry Streatfeild Stevenson was home news editor of the British Chess Magazine, secretary of the Southern Counties Chess Union and match captain of the Kent County Chess Association).

Oddly enough, Sonja Graf, many years later, also became a Mrs Stevenson by marrying an American of that name some years after the Second World War.

Vera Menchik also played and held her own in men’s tournaments. She did well in the British championship and her best performance in international chess was =2nd with Rubinstein in the Ramsgate Team Practice tournament ahead of her old teacher, Maroczy. She also had an excellent result at Maribor in 1934 where she came 3rd, ahead of Spielmann and Vidmar.

Her husband died in 1943 and Vera herself, together with her younger sister Olga and her mother, was killed by a V1 bomb that descended on the Stevenson home in London in 1944.

Vera Menchik, circa 1935, Historic Collection / Alamy Stock Photo
Vera Menchik, circa 1935, Historic Collection / Alamy Stock Photo

This was a sad and premature loss, not only for British but for world chess, since there is no doubt she would have continued to dominate the female scene for many years.

As a person Vera was a delightful companion, jolly and full of fun and understanding. As a player she was not only strong but also absolutely correct and without any prima donna behaviour. Generous in defeat and modest in victory, she set a great example to all her contemporaries.

An example of Vera’s attacking play at its best against her nearest rival, Sonja Graf, is shown by the following game which was played in her 1937 match at Semmering in Austria :

27th November 1936: Britain's world chess champion Vera Menchik (right) and challenger Sonja Graf after signing a contract at the Bloomsbury Hotel, London, to play for the championship of the world over 16 games. (Photo by J. A. Hampton/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
27th November 1936: Britain’s world chess champion Vera Menchik (right) and challenger Sonja Graf after signing a contract at the Bloomsbury Hotel, London, to play for the championship of the world over 16 games. (Photo by J. A. Hampton/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

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

“Woman World Champion from 1927 until her death. Daughter of a Czech father and an English mother, Menchik was born in Moscow, learned chess when she was nine, settled in England around
1921, and took lessons from Maroczy a year or so later. In 1927 FIDE organized both the first Olympiad and the first world championship tournament for women. These events were run concurrently, except in 1928, until the Second World War began, and Menchik won the women’s tournament every time; London 1927 (+10=1); Hamburg 1930 (+6=1 — 1); Prague 1931 (+8);
Folkestone 1933 ( + 14); Warsaw 1935 (+9); Stockholm 1937 (+14); and Buenos Aires 1939 ( + 17=2). She played in her first championship tournament as a Russian, the next five as a Czech,
and the last as a Briton. She also won on two matches against her chief rival, the German-born Sonja Graf (c. 1912-65): Rotterdam, 1934 (+3-1), and Semmering, 1937 (+9=5—2),

Vera Menchik in a pre-event posed picture in which she faces unstoppable checkmate in one from Hastings 193? She was about to play Sir GA Thomas.
Vera Menchik in a pre-event posed picture in which she faces unstoppable checkmate in one from Hastings 193? She was about to play Sir GA Thomas.

In international tournaments which did not exclude men Menchik made little impression; one of her best results was at Maribor 1934 (about category 4) when she took third place alter Pirc and L. Steiner ahead of Spielmann. In 1937 she married the English chess organizer Rufus Henry Streatfeild Stevenson (1878-1943), A chess professional, she gave lessons, lectures, and displays, and was appointed manager of the short-lived National Chess Centre in 1939. In 1942 she defeated Mieses in match play (+4=5-1), She, her younger sister Olga (also a player), and their mother were killed in a bombing raid.

From left to right: Vera Menchik, Alexander Alekhine, Géza Maróczy and Sultan Khan. From London International Masters, 1st February, 1932, French Defence, drawn in 32 moves.
From left to right: Vera Menchik, Alexander Alekhine, Géza Maróczy and Sultan Khan. From London International Masters, 1st February, 1932, French Defence, drawn in 32 moves.

Her style was positional and she had a sound understanding of the endgame. On occasion she defeated in tournament play some of the greatest masters, notably Euwe, Reshevsky, and Sultan Khan. Men she defeated were said to belong to the Menchik club. When world team championships for women (women’s chess Olympiads) were commenced in 1957 the trophy for the winning team was called the Vera Menchik Cup.”

BCM 1994 Appreciation by Bernard Cafferty

From British Chess Magazine, Volume CXIV (114, 1994), Number 8 (August), page 424 onwards) we have this retrospective from Bernard Cafferty:

Fifty yezus ago the chess world was tragically robbed of its most talented female representative of the first half of this century. A Vl rocket (ed: The V1 was not a rocket but a flying bomb) fell on a house in Gauden Road, Clapham, London, that was the residence of Russian-born Vera Menchik, her younger sister and their mother. The trio were sheltering in the cellar, as they usually did during the Nazi air raids on London. The house was completely destroyed. The air-raid shelter in the garden was all that was left.

Vera Menchik was born in Moscow on 16 February 1906, and died on 26 June 1944. The date of death is usually given as 27 June, but Ken Whyld has seen the death certificate and tells us the tragedy occurred before midnight, not after.

The young Vera grew up in a cosmopolitan family in Moscow, where her Czech father and English mother lived in a six-room flat, which they had to share, after 1917, with families from ‘the lower depths’ (the name of a famous play by Gorky which could also be translated as ‘on Skid Row’). In autumn 1921 the family left Soviet Russia and came
to England where they lived in Hastings.

Botvinnik recalls that he visited the Menchik household in Hastings in 1935, where he met Vera’s grandmother. Then, in 1936, he visited the other house in London, after the Nottingham 1936 tournament. At that time the Soviet Embassy arranged a reception in an attempt to counter the awful image of a country deep in the throes of the show trials and widespread repression. However, only Botvinnik, Menchik, Capablanca and Lasker turned up.

Vera Menchik was taught the moves of chess by her father, Franz, when she was nine years old. However, she only took the game seriously from the age of 17, when she joined the Hastings and St Leonards Chess Club, which at that time had its famous extensive sea-front premises near the pier.

According to the 1957 book in Russian by Bykova, on which this account is largely based, Vera only knew Russian when she cam to England, and one of the reasons for her to join the chess club was that a fluent knowledge of English was not necessary for her to be able to benefit from such a silent activity as chess.

The young Vera was fortunate in that the Hungarian grandmaster, Géza Maróczy, had a professional engagement with the Hastings club at this time, and the young lady became his most famous pupil. Her sound style with no fear of long endgames was a mirror of her mentor. She was also helped by Professor JAJ Drewitt, another Hastings club member, in the study of openings, particularly the closed openings.

Vera was initially counted as a Russian and did not enter the British Women’s Championship at the traditional August BCF Congress. However, she made her debut in international chess at a lower section of the 1923-24 Hastings Congress. In 1925 she beat the leading English player Edith Price by a score of +5 =2 -3 in two private matches. She duly took part in the Hastings Congresses, year after year. In the 1926-27 event she scored her first big success by sharing first place with the young Milner-Barry on 6.5(9) in the Premier Reserves.

By 1927, VM was ready to enter the first Women’s World Championship, which was played at the 4th FIDE Congress, alongside the Olympiad in London. She conceded only one draw in her eleven games and so took the title which she was to retain with ease from that day, when she was just 21, till her death 17 years later. In her first title attempt, she
was counted as a Russian, but at the next five (at the Hamburg 1930, Prague 1931,
Folkestone 1933, Warsaw 1935 and Stockholm 1937 Olympiads) she played as a representative of Czechoslovakia. It was only after her marriage to the prominent English organiser R. H. S. Stevenson in 1937 that she was counted as British and played under the Union Flag in her last title defence at Buenos Aires 1939.

Her dominance can be gauged from the fact that she won all eight games at Prague, all 14 at Folkestone, all 9 at Warsaw, all 14 at Stockholm and conceded just two draws in 19 games in 1939. The most serious challenge came in a title match at Semmering-Baden with Sonja Graf, then of Germany. Here too it was largely one-sided: +9 =5 -2.

She made her debut against male masters in an international tournament at Scarborough in 1928, finishing equal 7-8 in a field of 10, but in only the following year, at the Kent Easter Congress, she had one of her best results.

It was decided to run a Scheveningen tournament at Ramsgate with seven foreign masters pitted against seven home representatives. As was only to be expected, Capablanca came top of the ‘external examiners’, yet the next placing was a sensation: Capablanca 5.5(7) followed by Miss Menchik and Rubinstein 5, Koltanowski and Maroczy 4.5, Soultanbeieff 4 and Znosko-Borovsky 3. Sir George Thomas, whom Menchik beat, scored 3 to head the English team of Yates, Winter, Michel, Tylor and E. G. Sergeant.

Naturally enough, after this it was inevitable that foreign invitations should follow. Later in 1929 the young ‘Russian’ took part in a Paris tournament and then in the great Carlsbad tournament, the last of a wonderful series. Her presence here created some scepticism, and on the eve of the first round the Austrian theoretician Becker suggested that a Vera Menchik club be formed, membership of which would be granted only to those who lost to the lady. According to Flohr, there was an expectation that it would be a small select club, but Becker was quickly proved wrong for he became its first member in the third round! His only consolation was that the club proved far more extensive and democratic as the years rolled by. In fact the club came to include grandmasters such as Euwe (who earned a two-fold qualification) Sultan Khan and Reshevsky as well as masters such as Saemisch, Colle, Golombek, Sir George Thomas, Alexander…

However, Miss Menchik could not make much of the universally strong opposition and made only three points out of 20, finishing last, three points behind Sir George Thomas. With further experience she was to have more impressive results, such as her 8th place at London 1932, won by Alekhine, where she came ahead of Milner-Barry, Sir George, Burger and Winter.

A high spot of the 1930s for Vera was her participation in the 1935 Moscow tournament, but her return to her native city was so taken up with social engagements that she was unable to give of her best, and she scored only one and a half points from 19 games though she did take a draw off the winner of second prize, Flohr.

Vera had to eke out a living from teaching chess, adjudications and simultaneous exhibitions. After her return from Buenos Aires she lived in London. She was appointed administrator of the new National Chess Centre at John Lewis’s store in Oxford Street, which, alas, was destroyed by enemy action in 1940.

Her last great success was a match with the veteran GM, Jacques Mieses who was a refugee from anti-Semitic German. Played in 1942, the result was +4 =5 -1.

In 1943 Vera’s husband died. In 1944 she was playing in the championship of the West London Club, a strong event which included Sir George Thomas, PM List, EG Sergeant and Mieses amongst the players. Doubtless she was looking forward to the resumption of International chess activity after the war. It was not to be. We live in an age when the achievements of women players such as Gaprindashvili, Chirburdanidze, Xie Jun and the Polgar sisters have built on the pioneer work of Vera Menchik. Yet the path of the pioneer is always the hardest.

Finally, by all accounts of contemporaries, Vera was a cultured and sympathetic person who never gave cause for offence amongst the many players she met. Had she lived, she would have continued to be a jewel in the crown of British chess, which had to drag itself up from the boot straps after the devastation of war. What a tragic loss.

Vera Menchik commemorated on a postage stamp from the Czech Republic
Vera Menchik commemorated on a postage stamp from the Czech Republic

She was inducted to the World Chess Hall of Fame in 2011.

Other Articles

Here is an excellent article from the Hastings and St. Leonard’s Club written by Brian Denman.

Here is an excellent article from Neil Blackburn (aka SimaginFan) on chess.com

Here is an excellent article by Albert Whitwood

Here is her Wikipedia  entry.

Here is an excellent record compiled by Bill Wall.

Biography of Vera Menchik British chess player

Vera Menchik., EI Bykova, Moscow, 1957, 176 pages, 4s 7d.
Vera Menchik., EI Bykova, Moscow, 1957, 176 pages, 4s 7d.
Vera Menchik: A Biography of the First Women's World Chess Champion, with 350 Complete Games
Vera Menchik: A Biography of the First Women’s World Chess Champion, with 350 Complete Games

Edward Winter was less than impressed with the above book.

Vera Menchik
Vera Menchik

Remembering WIM Eileen Tranmer (05-v-1910 26-ix-1983)

WIM Eileen Tranmer (05-v-1910 26-ix-1983). Source : The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match
WIM Eileen Tranmer (05-v-1910 26-ix-1983). Source : The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match

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

Happy Birthday IM Ezra Kirk (02-ix-1996)

IM Ezra Kirk, Hastings 2012-2013, courtesy of John Upham Photography
IM Ezra Kirk, Hastings 2012-2013, courtesy of John Upham Photography

BCN wishes Happy Birthday to IM Ezra Kirk (02-ix-1996)

Ezra Gillie Kirk was born on Monday, September 2nd 1996 in Waltham Forest, Essex.

Ezra Kirk, Sautron, 2007, Courtesy of Dominique Primel / Chessbase
Ezra Kirk, Sautron, 2007, Courtesy of Dominique Primel / Chessbase

Ezra attended Varndean College, Brighton and then the University of Bath to read Natural Sciences and was an intern at AIR INDUSTRIE THERMIQUE and is currently a Data Product Consultant at the Kubrick Group and is based in France.

He edits chess books written by non-English speaking authors and is an accomplished musician publishing works on Spotify.

Ezra became a FIDE Master in 2013 and an International Master in 2018

His peak rating is likely to be in the future but currently is 2445 in December 2018 aged 22.

Ezra plays for 4NCL Cheddleton in the Four Nations Chess League.

IM Ezra Kirk, Tours, 2020, Courtesy of Dominique Primel / Chessbase
IM Ezra Kirk, Tours, 2020, Courtesy of Dominique Primel / Chessbase

Here is one of Ezra’s best wins :

IM Ezra Kirk, Hastings 2012-2013, courtesy of John Upham Photography
IM Ezra Kirk, Hastings 2012-2013, courtesy of John Upham Photography

Happy Birthday FM Bernard Cafferty (27-vi-1934)

FM Bernard Cafferty, Hastings Congress 2013-14, courtesy of John Upham Photography
FM Bernard Cafferty, Hastings Congress 2013-14, courtesy of John Upham Photography

BCN wishes FIDE Master Bernard Cafferty best wishes on his 87th birthday, June 27th in 1934.

Bernard Cafferty, location, date and photographer unknown
Bernard Cafferty, location, date and photographer unknown
 On 14th December, 1968, Bernard gave a simultaneous exhibition held at Anglesey School, Burton. He played 17, won 16 and lost 1 to Trevor Bould who was already Burton Champion, photograph from http://www.derbyshirechess.btck.co.uk/History/Exhibitions, photographer unknown
On 14th December, 1968, Bernard gave a simultaneous exhibition held at Anglesey School, Burton. He played 17, won 16 and lost 1 to Trevor Bould who was already Burton Champion, photograph from http://www.derbyshirechess.btck.co.uk/History/Exhibitions, photographer unknown

Bernard was born in Blackburn, Lancashire (his mother’s maiden name was Croft) migrating to Birmingham and now resides in Hastings, East Sussex and is a member of Hastings & St. Leonards Chess Club.

FM Bernard Cafferty (seated, rhs)
FM Bernard Cafferty (seated, rhs)

Sunnucks notes that he was British Junior Champion in 1952, British Correspondence Champion in 1959 and British Lighting Champion in 1966. He wrote a thesis on Chess in Schools for his University Education Diploma and is now a schoolmaster. His contribution to Anne’s Encyclopedia was on Education and Chess.

He was editor of British Chess Magazine from 1981 to 1991 and continued as Associate Editor until 2011 when FM Steve Giddins took over.

Bernard Cafferty, location, date and photographer unknown
Bernard Cafferty, location, date and photographer unknown

Here is the 1981 announcement (written by Harry Golombek, Chairman of Directors) of his appointment in the British Chess Magazine, Volume CI (101), Number 3, March, page 82 :

British Chess Magazine, Volume 101, Number 3, Page 82
British Chess Magazine, Volume 101, Number 3, Page 82

Here is his extensive Wikipedia entry

Bernard won the BCF President’s Award in 1991.

In the December 2010 issue (Volume CXXX (130), Number 12, pages 622 – 625 of British Chess Magazine there was a tribute to Bernard’s 30 years at BCM from editor FM Steve Giddins that was interview based :

British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXX (103), Number 12, December, Page 622
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXX (103), Number 12, December, Page 622
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXX (103), Number 12, December, Page 623
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXX (103), Number 12, December, Page 623
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXX (103), Number 12, December, Page 625
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXX (103), Number 12, December, Page 625
Associate Editor Bernard Cafferty,at work on the magazine in the BCM office, BCM, Volume 130, Number 8, p. 428
Associate Editor Bernard Cafferty,at work on the magazine in the BCM office, BCM, Volume 130, Number 8, p. 428

Here is discussion of Bernard on the English Chess Forum

Here is the BritBase collection of Bernard’s games

In 2009 Bernard was interviewed by the privately published Chess Parrot whose editor was / is Basingstoke based James Pratt (who became BCMs editor from 2011 – 2015). Here is that previously unseen interview :

The Chess Parrot, XXVI, Winter/Spring 2009, page 26-5
The Chess Parrot, XXVI, Winter/Spring 2009, page 26-5
The Chess Parrot, XXVI, Winter/Spring 2009, page 26-5
The Chess Parrot, XXVI, Winter/Spring 2009, page 26-5
The Chess Parrot, XXVI, Winter/Spring 2009, page 26-5
The Chess Parrot, XXVI, Winter/Spring 2009, page 26-5
The Chess Parrot, XXVI, Winter/Spring 2009, page 26-5
The Chess Parrot, XXVI, Winter/Spring 2009, page 26-5
FM Bernard Cafferty at the 2014-15 Hastings Congress, courtesy of John Upham Photography
FM Bernard Cafferty at the 2014-15 Hastings Congress, courtesy of John Upham Photography
Video Chess Event (See caption below)
Video Chess Event (See caption below)
Video Chess Caption
Video Chess Caption
A Complete Defence to 1P-K4: A Study of Petroff's Defence (2nd ed.), Pergammon Press, ISBN 0-08-024088-7, 1967
A Complete Defence to 1P-K4: A Study of Petroff’s Defence (2nd ed.), Pergammon Press, ISBN 0-08-024088-7, 1967
Spassky's 100 Best Games, Bernard Cafferty, BT Batsford, 1972, ISBN 0-7134-0362-4.
Spassky’s 100 Best Games, Bernard Cafferty, BT Batsford, 1972, ISBN 0-7134-0362-4.
Tal's 100 Best Games. Batsford. ISBN 0-7134-2765-5.
Tal’s 100 Best Games. Batsford. ISBN 0-7134-2765-5.
Chess with the Masters. Chess Player. ISBN 0-900928-95-6.
Chess with the Masters. Chess Player. ISBN 0-900928-95-6.
English Opening, The Chess Player, 1977, ISBN 0-900928-92-1
English Opening, The Chess Player, 1977, ISBN 0-900928-92-1
A Complete Defence to 1d4: A Study of the Queen's Gambit Accepted, Pergammon Press, ISBN 0-08-024102-6
A Complete Defence to 1d4: A Study of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted, Pergammon Press, ISBN 0-08-024102-6
Play for Mate (1990), DV Hooper and Bernard Cafferty, ISBN-13: 978-0713464740
Play for Mate (1990), DV Hooper and Bernard Cafferty, ISBN-13: 978-0713464740
Play The Evans Gambit (co-author Tim Harding). Cadogan. ISBN 1-85744-119-2.
Play The Evans Gambit (co-author Tim Harding). Cadogan. ISBN 1-85744-119-2.
The Soviet Chess Championships. Batsford. ISBN 1-85744-201-6.
The Soviet Chess Championships. Batsford. ISBN 1-85744-201-6.
B.C.M. Classic Reprints, number 22: 1923 - 1932 An Anthology, Cafferty, Bernard, 1986. ISBN 978-0-900846-45-8.
B.C.M. Classic Reprints, number 22: 1923 – 1932 An Anthology, Cafferty, Bernard, 1986. ISBN 978-0-900846-45-8.
FM Bernard Cafferty (27-vi-1934)
FM Bernard Cafferty (27-vi-1934)

Happy Birthday FM Peter Markland (13-iv-1951)

Peter Markland. Source: British Chess, Pergamon Press, 1983
Peter Markland. Source: British Chess, Pergamon Press, 1983

BCN wishes a happy birthday to Peter Markland born on Friday, April 13th, 1951

From the rear cover of “Sicilian:…e5 :

“P.R. Markland is a British Master, and a member of many English international teams, including those at the 1972 and 1974 Olympiads, and is also a British correspondence international”

Peter first qualified to the British Championship in 1967 (Oxford) and obtained an IM and GM norm at Hastings 1971.

In 1984 he became a Grandmaster for correspondence chess (GMC).

Peter became a banker and lives in Woodbridge, Suffolk, IP13.

Following excellent recent work by Paul McKeown, the English Chess Federation made a request to FIDE to grant Peter the much overdue title of FIDE Master. This was awarded in 2021.

From British Chess (Pergamon Press, 1983) we have this contribution from Peter himself:

“1951 seems to have been a vintage year for chessplayers and although I cannot claim to count myself in the company of Andersson, Karpov, Ribli and Sax we do all share the same year of birth.

Although I learned the moves at the age of 5, I only took any real interest in the game at 13 when I began to play schools chess. Compared with such as Nigel Short I was a very late starter!

I was educated at Bolton School and played for Bolton and Lancashire in my early years. This was fortunate in that all three of these teams enjoyed great success in the late 1960s. In all three teams I played along side Martyn Corden who was to precede my rise to international level himself by playing in the Siegen Olympiad team in 1970. In 1967, I qualified for the British Championship at my first attempt and I was pleased to score 5/11. The following year the school team won The Sunday Times tournament playing without Martyn Corden in the finals.

Up to this time I had concentrated chiefly on junior teams and had won the NCCU junior titles. Over Christmas and New Year of both 1966-7 and 1967-8 I travelled down to play at the Devon Junior Congress at Plymouth but in 1968 I decided to try my luck at Hastings. This proved to be one of the turning points of my career.

I was placed in the Challengers Reserves for 1968-9 and after the first round loss (to the eventual winner) my play gained momentum and I qualified for the Challengers the following year. The intervening year passed quietly with a trip to Ireland in the Glorney Cup. I went up to Balliol College, Oxford in October 1969.

The Scottish Junior International, Glasgow, 1969. l-r: David Watt, Rene Borngässer, David Levy, Heinz Wirthensohn, Peter Markland. Courtesy of Chess Scotland
The Scottish Junior International, Glasgow, 1969. l-r: David Watt, Rene Borngässer, David Levy, Heinz Wirthensohn, Peter Markland. Courtesy of Chess Scotland

The Hastings Challengers tournament 1969-70 began when I met the same opponent as in the previous year in the first round. This time I managed to come out on top. By the time the last round came, I had played most of the leaders and had 6/8 including two pleasing wins with my favourite defence at the time – the Sicilian Pelikan variation.

Sicilian:...e5 by TD Harding & PR Markland, Batsford, 1976, ISBN 0 7134 3209 8
Sicilian:…e5 by TD Harding & PR Markland, Batsford, 1976, ISBN 0 7134 3209 8

In the last round I was paired against de Veauce who had a reputation as a good strategist and whom I hoped to unsettle tactically. I had white and my plan failed. He outplayed me in the opening and middlegame and I sacrificed my isolated centre pawn to activate my pieces.

So I then had to wait had to wait to see the other results before I could confirm a somewhat lucky place in the Premier.

In 1970 I had the opportunity to travel with the student team to the Olympiad in Haifa. My score of 5.5/7 was reasonably pleasing but the standard of opposition was far from good.

Peter Markland at Hastings 1970-71
Peter Markland at Hastings 1970-71

At the end of the year came the Hastings Premier – a tournament which I can only describe as the highlight of my career. I began nervously and lost a nondescript game to Uhlmann in the first round. My confidence grew with two comfortable draws with Portisch (the eventual winner) and Keene. In round four I met the surprise leader, Mestrovic (who had 3/3) and perhaps partly due to the fact that this game was played on 1st January I won convincingly in 18 moves.

Peter Markland during his game with Portisch on December 30th 1970
Peter Markland during his game with Portisch on December 30th 1970

The next four rounds brought an uneventful draw with Wade and three exciting encounters with Byrne, Krogius and Gligoric all of which after several reversals of fortune ended in draws.

Peter Markland at Hastings 1970-71
Peter Markland at Hastings 1970-71

In the last round I was to play Hort who needed to to win to gain a share of first prize. He played a horribly passive opening and by move 14 I was already well on top. To try to compensate he snatched a queenside pawn and gave me the chance to play the type of move one can only dream about!

This victory meant an equal second on 5/9 with Gligoric, Hort, Krogius and Uhlmann and both a GM and IM norm.

As a result of this I became a regular member of the England side. During 1971 my results were erratic, possibly caused by too much play. I was pleased with my 3.5 score in my first Clare Benedict, although I lost my first game for England due to nervousness and I was first equal with George Botterill in the Slater Young Masters at Hastings (again). Here I declined a last round draw offer, blundered almost next move and lost to an up-and-coming junior by the name of Michael Stean! On the debit side my performances in the British Championship, The Oxford International Congress and the Robert Silk tournament left room for improvement.

Whilst playing with Bolton in the National Club Championship, we had never won the competition although we had reached the semi-finals many times. This year, 1971, playing for Oxford University, we won the tournament beating our old rivals Cambridge University in the final on board count.

The Hastings tournament of 1971-72 saw me firmly entrenched near the bottom. It is very difficult in this type of international tournament when one becomes marked as an out-of-form player. All the other players make extra efforts to beat you and this drains your strength further.

My main problem at Hastings was a lack of defence to 1.e4. I lost five games against this move. In the last round I had a very interesting struggle against Karpov who needed to win this game to tie first with Korchnoi who had beaten him in the previous round, but the strength of 1.e4 proved too much.

The summer of 1972 saw the advent of my University finals and thus I played very little for the first six months of the year – even I had to decline an invitation to the Teeside GM event. Later in the year I played in the student Olympiad in Graz and then in the Olympiad is Skopje.

In the preliminaries we had drawn Yugoslavia and Switzerland, who were the only other teams likely to qualify for the ‘A’ final. We missed qualification narrowly and I think that every team member had one poor result in the qualifying rounds – mine being a scraped draw against a Syrian team.

We won the ‘B’ final by beating the Israeli team in the last round and I felt pleased by my score of 11.5/16 with no losses. Indeed, in my last round game with Balshan I was quite rightly instructed to agree a draw in a winning position to secure the team’s first place.

I feel that this tournament from my point of view aptly demonstrates the difference in title norms in the early 1970s and today. I played five players who had no Elo ratings and only four titled players. Hence an IM norm would not have been available under any circumstances. The main reason for the lack of Elo ratings in 1972 was that the new system had only just been introduced and for many players this was their first Elo-rated tournament. In the last Elo list, all but one of the sixteen players are rated, there are now four GMs and five IMs amongst my opponents and the norm figures would be 10.5/16 and 12.5/16 for IM and GM respectively.

Here is my best game from the Olympiad. It is indicative of an early combination prevailing through into a winning ending.

In 1973 I was once more plagued by too many invitations and played indifferently throughput the year. The only bright spots were my score of 3/7 on boards 3 and 4 of the European Team Finals and second place in the Woolacombe International.

1974 was once again an Olympiad year. The England team won the Clare Benedict for the first time in Menorca and I was able to contribute 5/6 winning both a board prize and the best score prize. I was drafted into the Olympiad team as a late replacement and although we qualified easily enough for the ‘A’ finals this was in no way due to my efforts as I had a 50% score in the preliminaries.

We had qualified for the ‘A’ final with one round to spare and our last group match against the USE (from which the score was to be carried forward) began the final matches. It had been decided, as a tactical measure and in our view of our differing styles, that I should take black whenever we had this colour on the fourth board, so that Whiteley and Stean could utilize a greater proportion of whites. This worked to a limited extent and indeed, Stean obtained an IM Norm. Also, as it worked out I played in matches against seven of the top eight teams (being rested against Yugoslavia) and only three teams below us. In the end, I was pleased with my +3 =1 -4 with black in the finals to give overall a 50& score.

During 1973 and 1974 I was co-author of two books in the Batsford opening series, both with Tim Harding on Sicilian Defence variations.

The Sicilian Richter-Rauzer, TD Hardign and PR Markland, Batsford, 975, ISBN 0 7134 2979 8
The Sicilian Richter-Rauzer, TD Harding and PR Markland, Batsford, 975, ISBN 0 7134 2979 8
Review Notice for The Sicilian Richter-Rauzer, TD Hardign and PR Markland, Batsford, 975, ISBN 0 7134 2979 8
Review Notice for The Sicilian Richter-Rauzer, TD Harding and PR Markland, Batsford, 975, ISBN 0 7134 2979 8

I also wrote a best game collection of Karpov which was by far the most interesting of the three books to write.

The Best of Karpov, PR Markland, Oxford University Press, 1975, ISBN 10: 0192175343
The Best of Karpov, PR Markland, Oxford University Press, 1975, ISBN 10: 0192175343

At about this time, I decided to embark upon a career in banking and to abandon that of a professional chessplayer. Since then I have concentrated on correspondence chess.

Having received  master certificate, I entered a European and World tournament in both of which I finished first. The second of these two results qualified me for the world Championship Semi-finals. But first attempt in the eleventh championship ended in failure to qualify.

As a result of an invitation received by the BPCF I played in the Eino Heilimo Memorial Grandmaster event. I have , however, qualified as a postal IM by scoring the required seven points and had an outside chance of trying for first place at one stage.

Here is my best game from this event.

Here is his brief Wikipedia entry.

The English Chess Forum has discussed Peter.

Peter’s games are here.

Harry’s Game : 2020 Vision

Round 5 of the Caplin Hastings International Chess Congress featured the board 10 clash between one of England’s stronger Grandmasters, Danny Gormally (2508) and FM Harry Grieve (2299).

FM Harry Grieve
FM Harry Grieve
GM Danny Gormally
GM Danny Gormally

Harry is studying mathematics at St. Catherine’s College, Cambridge having previously been a pupil and member of the very strong chess team of Royal Grammar School, Guildford. He started his league chess with Fleet & Farnborough Chess Club (same as Simon Williams !) and then transferred his allegiance to the very strong Farnham chess club playing top board in many matches.

Harry has the possibility of making an International Master norm at the Hastings Masters and a win with the black pieces versus Danny Gormally will certainly help !

Here is their game :

Following this game Harry needs 2.5/4 to obtain his first IM norm : Good luck !

Harry Grieve, 2014 Terafinal
Harry Grieve, 2014 Terafinal