Tag Archives: People

Death Anniversary of Rev. Charles Ranken (05-i-1828 12-iv-1905)

Death Anniversary of Rev. Charles Edward Ranken (05-i-1828 12-iv-1905)From The Encyclopaedia of Chess by Harry Golombek :

A leading member of the formidable band of reverends who played such a strong role in early Victorian English chess, he is described as ‘one of the writing rather than the fighting clergy in chess’ in P. W. Sergeant’s Century of Britsh Chess. Though he learnt chess at an early age’ he made his first really earnest study of the game when he was an undergraduate at Wadham College, Oxford 1847-50, in particular devoting himself to a theoretical study of Staunton’s Handbook, which he rightly regarded as a great landmark in chess literature.

On leaving Oxford he competed in the provincial section at London l85l where he came second to Boden.
In 1867 he became vicar of Sandford-on-Thames and lived at Oxford where, in collaboration with Lord Randolph Churchill (Winston’s father), he founded the Oxford University Chess Club
and became its first President.

Resigning his living at Sandford in 1871, he went to live at Malvern where he stayed till his death. He played in many of the congresses organized by the Counties Chess Association, his best result being 1st in the first class section at Malvern 1872 with a score of l2 points, followed by two other reverends, Thorold 11.5 and Wayte 10.5. It was at this congress that he brought about a reconciliation between Staunton and Löwenthal who had been estranged for a considerable time.

He played in the Yizayanaqaram tournament at London 1883 and started well but his health gave way after the first week and he divided fifth place with G. H. D. Gossip.
His chief importance during the later stages of his chess career was as a writer, first as editor of the Chess Player’s Chronicle in 1877 and later as a member of the staff of the British Chess Magazine in which he wrote on many aspects of chess but specialized in analysis (of the openings, middle-game and the endings)’ In 1889 he published, in collaboration with E. Freeborough, Chess Openings Ancient and Modern. (London)’ ( H’G’)

Chess Openings Ancient and Modern 1889
Chess Openings Ancient and Modern 1889

The Ranken Variation is a good line for White in the Four Knights Opening, analysed in the Chess Players Chronicle, 1879 by Ranken first president of the Oxford University Chess Club.

Death Anniversary of CGM Keith Richardson (02-ii-1942 10-iv-2017)

BCN remembers CGM Keith Richardson who passed away on Monday, April 10th, 2017.

Keith Bevan Richardson was born in Nottingham, on Monday, February 2nd 1942. On this day : The LA Times urges security measures against Japanese-Americans and US auto factories switch from commercial to war production.

Keith’s parents were Arthur (30) and Hilda May (née Nicholls, 25). He married Sandra Sowter on the 11th of September 1971 in Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire. They had two children, Neil and Ian. They lived at 19, The Ridings in Camberley, Surrey.

Sadly, Keith was diagnosed in the 1990s with Parkinson’s disease and became unwell whilst playing in a chess tournament in Cannes in April 2017 and passed away on the 10th of May 2017. Keith was 75. He continued to actively play chess into his final year.

CGM Keith Richardson
CGM Keith Richardson

Keith was the Treasurer of the Friends of Chess during the period known the English Chess Explosion (late 1970s and 1980s).

Keith received the ECF President’s Award in 2015 for services to the management of the BCF Permanent Invested Fund (PIF) together with Dr. Julian Farrand and Ray Edwards.

From CHESS, Volume 41 (1975), Numbers 729-730 (September), pp. 380 the news of Keith’s success was initially reported:

“BRITAINS’ FIRST CHESS GRAND MASTER

The first grand master title to be won by a British player has been achieved in the field of correspondence chess by Keith B. Richardson, aged 33, of Camberley.

The title of Correspondence Chess grand master is awarded by the lnternational correspondence Chess Federation. Keith Richardson fulfilled the norm by sharing third place in the final of the 7th World Correspondence Chess Championship with a score of 11 points from 16 games. The tournament began in February 1972 and results of the last adjudicated games were recently announced making J. V. Estrin U.S.S.R. first with l2 points; J. Boey Belgium scored 11.5; K. B. Richardson G.B. and Dr. V. Zagorovski U.S.S.R. 11.

There are only 25 Correspondence Chess Grand masters throughout the world.”

This was followed in the next month’s issue by a correction and more depth in CHESS, Volume 41 (1975), Numbers 731-732 (October), pp. 30-31:

“K. B. Richardson, though the first Britain to become a grand master by play was preceded by Comins Mansfield as grandmaster of problem composition, a title he gained in 1972. Our report last month did not make this clear.

Keith B. Richardson was born 2 April 1942 and was educated at Nottingham High School. At 16, he passed Grade 8 in Royal
Schools of Music at pianoforte. At Durham University, he obtained a B.A. in French and German and was awarded the University Palatinate (equal to a ‘blue’) in cricket and fives. He could have become a professional cricketer or a concert pianist but
made his career instead with Barclays Bank which brought him to London and a home in Camberley, Surrey, where he has settled down with his wife, Sandra (from Sutton Coldfield!). They now have two baby sons, Neil aged three years and Ian who is only two months old – both born since the final of the 7th World Correspondence Chess Championship began.

CGM Keith Richardson (from a Barclays Bank publicity article)
CGM Keith Bevan Richardson (from a Barclays publicity article)

Keith’s other interests include bridge and squash. He plays squash for his bank and is Secretary of the London Squash League. As a young chess player, Keith won the Notts. under l4 Championship, held the Notts. under l8 Championship for four years and the Notts. Championship for two years and was British Junior Champion in 1962. In 1963, he was Durham County Champion and joint winner of the British Universities’ Championship which he won outright the following year. He was twice captain of the British Universities Students’ Olympiad team. He held the Midlands Championship (Forrest Cup) for three years and was joint London Champion and London Banks’ Champion in 1970 but has been content to hold the latter title since then and concentrate on correspondence chess.

Keith Richardson at the 1963 Niemeyer Under-21 Tournament in Groningen. The forerunner of the European Junior Championship
Keith Richardson aged 20 at the 1963 Niemeyer Under-21 Tournament in Groningen. The forerunner of the European Junior Championship
Niemeyer Under-21 Tournament, Groningen 1963. The forerunner of the European Junior Championship.
Niemeyer Under-21 Tournament, Groningen 1963. The forerunner of the European Junior Championship.

In 1964, Keith Richardson was runner up for the British Correspondence Chess Championship and at the same time won a Master Class tournament of the lnternational Correspondence Chess Federation (I.C.C.F.) which qualified for a place in the World C.C. Championship semi-final. He came second in the 1965-67 semi-final and tried again in the 1968-71 event which he won. At the same time, he was representing Great Britain on Board 5 in the 1965-67 I.C.C.F. Olympiad Preliminary and on Board 4 in the 1968-71 event. His score of 5 points from 7 games helped the British team to win its section in the 1968-71 Preliminary and qualify for a place in the I.C.C.F. Olympiad Final which started in 1972. When Keith began play in the World C.C. Championship Final involving l6 tames, he was also asked to take Board 3 in the Olympiad Final involving another 9 games.

He accepted – a mistake which might possibly have cost him the World C.C. Championship! His next assault on the World title will be in 1979 and in the meantime he plans to play in the next I.C.C.F. Olympiad Preliminary and write a book on the 7th World C.C. Championship.

In this position, with Black in Zugzwang, the game went for adjudication (after more than three years’ play, a very necessary evil):

“In order to substantiate White’s claim for a win, it was necessary to submit three pages of analysis proving that every possible move loses for Black. If the knight moves, White’s king claims an entry. If Black moves the bishop along the a7-g1 diagonal, White plays Ba5. If the Black bishop moves on the d8-a5 diagonal, White plays Bd4 : KBR”

The game was adjudicated a win for White. This was only defeat inflicted upon the new World Champion.

CGM Keith Richardson in 1975
CGM Keith Richardson in 1975

This article was followed (with some glee no doubt) by an article in  British Chess Magazine, Volume LIXIV (95, 1975), Number 12 (December), page 526 as follows:

“Keith B. Richardson recently became the third British player to receive a grandmaster title (the other two both in 1972, are Comins Mansfield for chess composition’ and R.W. Bonham’ correspondence grandmaster of the blind). The title of Correspondence Chess Grandmaster is awarded by the International Correspondence  Chess Federation  (ICCF) and Keith Richardson fulfilled the norm by sharing third place in the final of the 7th World Correspondence Championship. Leading scores in the tournament (February 1972 – Summer 1975): 1. Y. Estrin (USSR) 12/16; J.Boey (B) 11.5; 3-4 K.B. Richardson (ENG), V. Zagorovsky (USSR) 11; etc.

Keith, born 2nd April1942, was educated at Nottingham High School and Durham University-. He won the Nottinghamshire U-14 Championship, held the Notts U-18 championship for four years, the senior Notts  Championship for two years and was British Junior Champion in 1962. In 1963, he was  Durham County Champion and joint winner of the British Universities Championship  which he won outright the following year. He was twice captain of the British team in Students Olympiads.

Keith Richardson from BCM, 1984, page 545
Keith Richardson from BCM, 1984, page 545

In 1964 Keith left university to make a career with Barclays Bank.  In the same year he was runner-up in the British Correspondence Championship and won an ICCF master tournament which qualified him for a place in the World Championship final. He came second in the 1965-7 semi-final, tried again, and won the 1968-71 event thus gaining entry to the 7th final.

Keith Richardson lives in Surrey at Camberley. He is married and has two baby sons – both born since the final of the 7th World Correspondence Championship began. At present he is writing a book on the 7th Championship and, for a change playing some OTB (over-the-board) chess in the London League for the Athenaeum club, to which he makes a great contribution – it is a marvellous feeling to know  that the player next to you (on your side!) is a grandmaster.

Keith Richardson playing for BCM Dragons in the Four Nations Chess League (4NCL, courtesy of John Upham Photography.
Keith Richardson playing for BCM Dragons in the Four Nations Chess League (4NCL, courtesy of John Upham Photography.

The following three games are – Keith’s best from  the -championship. In them he defeats three of the five Russians in the
tournament (his overall score against the Russians was 3.5/5 – a wonderful achievement.”

and here is the printed version of the above report:

British Chess Magazine, Volume LIXIV (95, 1975), Number 12 (December), page 526
British Chess Magazine, Volume LIXIV (95, 1975), Number 12 (December), page 526
British Chess Magazine, Volume LIXIV (95, 1975), Number 12 (December), page 527
British Chess Magazine, Volume LIXIV (95, 1975), Number 12 (December), page 527

From The Encyclopaedia of Chess by Hooper & Whyld :

“English player. International Correspondence Chess Grandmaster (1975), bank manager. Around 1961 Richardson decided that over-the- board play, which had brought him some successes as a. junior, would interfere with his professional career and he took to postal chess instead. His best performance in this field was his sharing of third place with Zagorovsky after Estrin and Boey in the 7th World Correspondence Championship, 1968-71. ”

In October 1984 Keith took part in the A. E. Axelson Memorial tournament organised by the Swedish CC Committee and with fifteen grandmasters was one of the strongest CC tournaments in history.  Keith finished in 11th place ahead of Boey.

In 1991 Jonathan Berry wrote a potted biography in  Diamond Dust, International Chess Enterprises, ISBN 1-879479-00-1 as follows :

“Camberley, Surrey, England. Born 2 April 1942. Married with two sons. Bank Manager.

He was British Under-21 Champion in 1962. At Groningen 1962/63, he was placed 2nd in the European Junior Championship. At Bristol 1967 he was equal 5th in the British Championship.

In CC, he gained the IMC in 1968, GMC in 1975. In CC WCh VII, he won the semi-final with 9.5/12, and placed =3rd in the final, 11/16. In CC WCh X, he again tied for third in the final with 10/15. Playing board 3 for Britain in OL-VIII, finals, 1972-76, he scored 7.5/9, the highest score on any board. He won the Prefors Memorial, 1976-1980, 9.5.12”

1976-1980 Prefors Memorial
1976-1980 Prefors Memorial

Keith was a founding member of Camberley Chess Club in 1972.

A one-day tournament (The Keith Richardson Memorial) in memory of Keith was started in 2017 and has been held four times in total being played on-line for the first time in 2021.

Ken Coates presents Clive Frostick with the trophy for the 2019 Keith Richardson Memorial Tournament.
Ken Coates presents Clive Frostick with the trophy for the 2019 Keith Richardson Memorial Tournament.

From Chessgames.com :

“Keith Bevan Richardson was born in Nottingham, England. Awarded the IMC title in 1968 and the GMC title in 1975, he finished 3rd= in the World Correspondence Championships of 1975 and 1984.”

Here are his games from chessgames.com

An obituary from Ray Edwards / ECF.

Here is an excellent biography by Peter Rust from the web site of the Hamilton Russell Cup

Barclay’s Bank pay tribute to Keith on the corporate site.

Here is an entry from the Belgian chess history web site.

Death Anniversary of Julius du Mont (15-xii-1881 07-iv-1956)

Signature of J du Mont from a Brian Reilly "after dinner" postcard from Southsea 1951.
Signature of J du Mont from a Brian Reilly “after dinner” postcard from Southsea 1951.

BCN Remembers Julius du Mont (15-xii-1881 07-iv-1956)

Here is his Wikipedia entry

From British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXVI, Number 5, 1956 we have this obituary written by DJ Morgan :

In our February issue we wrote an appreciation of one of the distinguished past editors of this magazine, R. C. Griffith. He had been followed in the chair in 1938 by our present Games’ Editor, and when he, in turn, was called in 1940 to sterner duties, he was succeeded by Julius du Mont. During the war years, and through the difficult post-war period, till 1949, he held the reins. As we wrote on another occasion, “His had been difficult years: the “B.C.M.” had survived when so much else had succumbed during the stress and strain of total war.” lt is with regret that we now record his death on April 7th, in a Hastings nursing home, at the age of seventy-four, after a protracted illness.

du Mont was born in Paris-a little-known fact which he himself once disclosed to us-on December 15th, 1881. lt was there also that he received his education. His early bent and ambitions were musical. The tradition that chess and music have a close relationship may be traced as far back, at least, as Philidor’s great eminence in both. du Mont was truly in the line of such dual personalities. He pursued his musical studies at the Frankfort-on-Main Conservatoire and at Heidelberg, and soon became established as a concert pianist.’ Later he achieved great success as a music teacher, and among his pupils was the well-known concert pianist, Edna lles. The French and German background also explains his facility as a linguist.

He came to England as a young man and brought with him a considerable talent for chess. Settling in London, he rapidly improved as a player, and successes followed. At the Kentish Congress, Tunbridge Wells, 1912, he came equal second and third. He was Champion of the strong Hampstead Club for two years, and Middlesex Champion in 1913 and 1915. He quickly mastered our language and showed this during the First World War by writing a manual on the Lewis gun. After the war, music kept its place in his life, but more and more chess became his main activity. He forsook playing and turned to journalism and authorship, and his output of books is evidence of his gifts and industry. Titles come readily to mind: Chess Openings lllustrated, Centre Counter Defence (1919) and Centre and Danish Gambit (1920); The Elements of Chess (1925) ; Ihe Basis of Combination in Chess (1938) ; 200 Miniature Games (1941); More Miniature Games (1953); (with Dr. Tartakower) 500 Master aomes of Chess, two volumes (1952), to which was added a third volume in 1954, 100 Master Games of Chess. He also translated Edward Lasker’s Chess Strategy, and Alekhine’s two volumes of My Best Games of Chess (the first with M. E.Goldstein).

The wealth of material ready to hand combined with a foreigner’s gift of lucid expression in “the other tongue” made his books very popular. To the great value and importance of these books, a whole generation of chess-players will readily testify.

For some years, du Mont was chess editor of The Field and of The Manchester Guardian. During the last war he organized chess championships for the Armed Services. We pay tribute to his services to the game, to his many kindnesses and friendships to its players, and, in particular, to his devotion to this magazine.-D. J. M.

D. C., who enjoyed a long friendship with our late Editor, writes to us as follows-

By the death of J. du Mont, the chess world has lost an eminent and popular personality. That this popularity was well deserved will be apparent even to those who knew him only slightly.

Essentially kind, he performed many generous acts, and having, by his own efforts, become the best-known British writer on chess, he not only filled this position with modesty and dignity, but was liberal in the help he gave to those starting on the road he had so successfully followed.

In the tournament room-where his presence was always welcome-he was invariably quiet and courteous, and although gifted with a fine wit, he never used it
unkindly. He *as an excellent companion, and players at many congresses will recall the happy times they spent in their visits to him at all hours of the evening. It is sad to think that these gatherings have now irrevocably reached their end: to quote A. E. Housman’s beautiful lines-

They come and were and ore not
And come no more anew.

But as long as a literature of chess remains, the name of Julius du Mont will not be forgotten. His many friends, however, have no need of his writings in order to keep alive their memory of him.

In Chess Secrets I learned from the Masters, Edward Lasker, Hollis and Carter, 1952 :

J. DuMont became the author of a number of interesting monographs on chess openings, and for many years he was the Editor of the British Chess Magazine. It was he who translated my own translation of Schachstrategie which I attempted in the summer of 1913. Naturally, my English was not fit to be printed. DuMont had to rewrite everything I had written, and except for his untiring labors Chess Strategy might never have been published. He gave the book a certain literary flavor, which no doubt added greatly to its popularity. It went into fourteen printings before it was replaced by Modern Chess Strategy in 1945.

DuMont was a pianist of note and I took lessons from him; however, the time I took from my chess activities to practise the piano was shamefully meagre. No wonder I have been told more than once that as a pianist I am a good chess player.”

Death Anniversary of BH Wood MSc FCS OBE (13-vii-1909 04-iv-1989)

We remember “BH” Wood MSc FCS OBE who passed away on Tuesday April 4th, 1989 in the district of Birmingham.

He was buried alongside his wife Marjorie in the Sutton Coldfield Cemetery Extension which was opened in 1934 as an extension to the Holy Trinity Church.

Yorkshire Childhood

Baruch Harold Wood (generally known as BH Wood, or simply “BH”, by the chess world) was born on Tuesday, July 13th 1909 in Ecclesall, Sheffield, Yorkshire. The registration district was Ecclesall Bierlow.

Gravestone of BH & ME Wood, photo by Glen Livet
Gravestone of BH & ME Wood, photo by Glen Livet

The birth record suggests that he was baptised as Harold Baruch Wood. His parent’s were Baruch Talbot (1881-1951) and Florence Muriel Wood (née Herington). He appears as Harold Baruch on the 1911 census.

1911 Census record for the Wood household
1911 Census record for the Wood household
1911 Census record for the Wood household
1911 Census record for the Wood household

Interestingly, the Census form was signed by Talbot Wood so maybe BHs father also did not like his own first name! At the time of the Census the family lived at 30, Violet Bank Road, Nether Edge, Sheffield, S7 1RZ.

Welsh School Days

Baruch attended Friars School, Bangor (established in 1557) along with William Ritson Morry. BHW was one year and three months older than WRM so it is entirely possible that they had met.

Marriage to Marjory

In October 1936 BHW married Marjory Elizabeth Farrington in Ross, Herefordshire. When Marjory died on 7th September 1977 they were living at 146, Rectory Road, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands. Baruch and Marjory had four children, FM Christopher Wood, Philip, Frank and Peggy.

146, Rectory Road, The Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, B75 7RS
146, Rectory Road, The Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, B75 7RS

Honours

In the 1984 New Years Honours List, Civil Division, BHW was awarded the OBE. The citation read simply : “For services to Chess”

He won the BCF President’s Award in 1983 alongside TJ Beach and Brian Reilly.

BH Wood playing board 9 in the Anglo team in the Anglo-Soviet Radio Team Match of 1946
BH Wood playing board 9 in the Anglo team in the Anglo-Soviet Radio Team Match of 1946

The 1946 Anglo-Soviet Radio Match

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

“BH Wood was born in Sheffield in 1909. A great lover of the game, he founded the magazine Chess in 1935, and has written a book for beginners. He scored a notable success by winning the British Correspondence Championship on one occasion. Wood has competed in the British Championship on several occasions, and in a number of Premier Reserves tournaments. He also played for Great Britain in the international team tournament (ed. Olympiad) at Buenos Aires in 1939.

Left to right Baruch H Wood, Stuart Milner-Barry, Vera Menchik (playing in the women's world championship (held concurrently with the 1939 Buenos Aires 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, Stuart Milner-Barry, Vera Menchik (playing in the women’s world championship (held concurrently with the 1939 Buenos Aires 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

He is a graduate of the University of Wales and Birmingham University. He has been very active in recent years in giving simultaneous exhibitions and in organising correspondence chess.”

Signature of BH Wood from a Brian Reilly "after dinner" postcard from Margate 1936.
Signature of BH Wood from a Brian Reilly “after dinner” postcard from Margate 1936.

Between 1938 and 1957, BH won the championship of Warwickshire eight times. He held the record (until 2006) for the most Birmingham & District Chess League Individual titles – nine, all won in Division 1: 1937, 1939, 1954, 1956, 1958, 1960, 1966, 1967, and 1983. He was the Records Secretary for the League from 1951-61.

Birth of a Magazine

CHESS Cover for volume 1, September 1935 - August 1936. Source : Michael Clapham
CHESS Cover for volume 1, September 1935 – August 1936. Source : Michael Clapham

From CHESS, Volume 52 (1987), Number 1014-15 (Christmas), we have the very last issue of the magazine for which BH was the Editor before becoming Founding Editor (and Paul Lamford became Editor). BH Wrote:

“Countless people have asked me ‘Why did you start CHESS?’ I was in love with university life and has just taken an M.Sc., a waste of time after a good first-class honours, and decided to have a go at replacing the old Chess Amateur, which had closed down.  I had edited the students’ magazine in both Bangor and Birmingham. The first had been produced by The Daily Post Printers in Liverpool, who agreed to print  1,000 copies for £90. That £90 would be nearly £2,400 now.

CHESS masthead for Volume 1, Number 1, 1935. Source : Michael Clapham
CHESS masthead for Volume 1, Number 1, 1935. Source : Michael Clapham

A year’s subscription I announced as 10 shillings (50p).

Two bits of luck! J.H. Van Meurs, a Dutchman who did a lot for British Chess, had listed in his still young B.C.F. Year Book some hundreds of chess clubs.

W.H. Watts, another great figure of those days, had floated a rather short-lived magazine The Chess Budget, donated a ‘Budget Cup‘, for knock-out team competition and published excellent books on big tournaments, etc. He handed me a list of keen chess players all around the world. I spent a week addressing envelopes by hand to all the clubs and people.

To individuals I sent single copies of CHESS; to each club three copies, inviting payment or subscriptions. Hardly anybody failed to pay. Obviously there was a demand for a chess magazine with a lighter touch than the B.C.M.

Years later, I learnt why Mr. Watts had been so generous. He had fallen out with the establishment and welcomed the arrival of a new publication.

Within three months I was selling 3,000 copies an issue.

Some early ideas were chessy short stories , cartoons and a competition for humorous anecdotes.

I soon went to Amsterdam for the first Euwe-Alekhine match. I traced Alekhine to his hotel room with difficulty. He was officially incommunicado. He came to the door in pyjamas, and within five minutes we had agreed to a £5 article per month. I was, of course, already on conversational terms with him (and remained so!).

Now I fell into trap. 3,000 readers in four months meant 6,000 in eight months, 9,000 in  a year…?

Not so! This is extrapolation, a matter of calculation full of risks.

My preparations had been too good. In the remaining eight months of the year I picked up only a thousand more readers. Alekhine lost the title. With three months to go, my money ran out, I struggled to the end of the year.  The twelfth issue was pathetically thin compared with the first few but renewals staring rolling in and CHESS blossomed again.

The fifty-two years since have been gruelling, unremitting toil but fascinating interest. How we bought our own presses and the effect this had on the world’s chess press – A law suit that went to appeal – How CHESS linked people in Malta, Australia, Hungary – Adventures in ‘simuls’, postal chess etc. How we helped police to identify a drowned man, etc. So many tales to tell!

BHW

BCF Obituary

Here is an obituary from the BCF Yearbook 1989 – 1990, page 14 :

B.H. Wood, O.B.E

Baruch H. Wood, O.B.E., founder of CHESS, and the magazines editor for 52 years, died at the age of 79 on 4th April.

Born in Sheffield on 13 July 1909, “B.H.”, as he was widely known in chess circles, took up the game early playing competitively at school and at University. After graduating from the University College of Wales, Bangor with a 1st class honours degree in chemistry, he took an MSc at Birmingham University. Soon, however, his love of chess took him away from a career in chemistry, with his launch of CHESS in 1935.  He was to continue as editor, publisher, for many years printer, and often major contributor, for over half a century.

CHESS, Sutton Coldfield
CHESS, Sutton Coldfield

The magazine quickly won an international reputation for its frankness and outspokenness. It speaks much for the character and determination of its editor that he was able to continue publishing CHESS throughout the difficult years of the Second World War, whilst holding a full-time job as director of a chemical research laboratory in Lichfield.

Wood will be best remembered for the magazine, and for his other journalistic activities. He was for many years chess correspondent of The Daily Telegraph and of The Illustrated London News, and his best known book Easy Guide to Chess went through three editions and many impressions.

Easy Guide to Chess, BH Wood, CHESS, Sutton Coldfield, 1945
Easy Guide to Chess, BH Wood, CHESS, Sutton Coldfield, 1945

The above book (albeit the later Cadogan version) is available online.

Easy Guide to Chess
Easy Guide to Chess

Nigel Davies wrote “One of the best beginners books on the market.”

Wood’s feat in writing, publishing, printing and selling his own book may be unique. However, Wood was no mean player as his draw against the then world champion Max Euwe, who became a life-long friend, testifies.

He represented England in the International Team Championship at Buenos Aires in 1939, scoring 50%. He also took first prize in international tournaments at Baarn 1947, Paignton 1954, Whitby 1963, Thorshavn 1967 and Jersey 1975 and was second in the 1948 British Championship. He was British Correspondence Chess Champion in 1945.

The Cedars Chess Club May 1962 - Baruch is seated, second from the right. Photograph sourced from ECF obituary.
The Cedars Chess Club May 1962 – Baruch is seated, second from the right. Photograph sourced from ECF obituary.

A life member of F.I.D.E. Wood was also an International Arbiter, and organised 21 annual chess festivals at seaside venues from the 50’s onwards. In addition he was an active behind-the-scenes inspirer of many chess events, and in particular was known as a driving spirit of university chess, being until the time of his death President of the British University Chess Association.

The Author's British Record Simultaneous Display. Some of the 127 schoolboys the author played simultaneously ay Ilford County High School, Winning over a a hundred of the games in 4 hours and 50 minutes.
The Author’s British Record Simultaneous Display. Some of the 127 schoolboys the author played simultaneously at Ilford County High School, Winning over a a hundred of the games in 4 hours and 50 minutes.

He founded the Postal Chess Club and League and was for many years President of the British Postal Chess Federation.

Letter from BH Wood to JE Upham dated 7th July 1983
Letter from BH Wood to JE Upham dated 7th July 1983
"B.H." at Bournemouth in May 1971
“B.H.” at Bournemouth in May 1971

He was awarded the O.B.E. for services to chess in 1984.

His wife Marjory, predeceased him; he leaves three sons Christopher, Frank and Philip, and a daughter Peggy.

BH Wood & his daughter Peggy Clarke
BH Wood & his daughter Peggy

and here is the article as it appeared in the Yearbook.

BCF Yearbook, 1989-90, page 14
BCF Yearbook, 1989-90, page 14
BCF Yearbook, 1989-90, page 15
BCF Yearbook, 1989-90, page 15

Golombek on Wood

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

“A well known British player, editor of Chess (starting 1935) and chess correspondent of The Daily Telegraph and Illustrated London News. A FIDE judge, he has founded and conducted 21 annual chess festivals, notably at Whitby, Eastbourne and Southport.

BH Wood playing AY "Johnnie" Green in the 1956 British Championships in Blackpool, photographer unknown
BH Wood playing AY “Johnnie” Green in the 1956 British Championships in Blackpool, photographer unknown

Winner of a number of small and semi-international tournaments : Baarn 1947, Paignton 1954, Whitby 1963, Thorshavn 1967, and Jersey 1975.

Played for the BCF in the International Team Tournament at Buenos Aires 1939. His best tournament result was probably his equal second in the British Championship at London 1948.

In 1954 BHW was sued BH Wood for libel by William Ritson Morry over a letter BHW sent to Henry Golding of the Monmouthshire County Chess Association warning him of WRMs financial history. Here is a summary of the action :

The Birmingham Post, July 15th, 1954
The Birmingham Post, July 15th, 1954

and two years in 1956 we have this telling photograph of Ritson and BH playing at the British Championships in Blackpool. It must have been an entertaining pairing for the organisers if no-one else!

William Ritson Morry playing Baruch Harold Wood at the British Championships in Blackpool from 1956
William Ritson Morry playing BH Wood at the British Championships in Blackpool from 1956

Possibly WRM was thinking this as they played:

Everybody Loves Wood
Everybody Loves Wood

Among his books are : Easy Guide to Chess, Sutton Coldfield 1942 et seq; World Championship Candidates Tournament 1953, Sutton Coldfield 1954. “

World Championship Candidates Tournament 1953, BH Wood, CHESS, Sutton Coldfield, 1954
World Championship Candidates Tournament 1953, BH Wood, CHESS, Sutton Coldfield, 1954

Cafferty on Wood (1989)

Here is the obituary from British Chess Magazine, Volume CIX (1989, 109), Number 5 (May), pages 210 – 211:

B. H. WOOD

Baruch Harold Wood (13 viii 1909-4 iv 1989) popularly known as “B. H.” was a significant figure of the last fifty-odd years in British chess. His life touched practically all aspects of the game as player, both OTB and CC, magazine publisher and editor, organiser of club, congress and university chess, journalist . . . the list seems endless. In 1984 he was awarded the OBE for services to chess.

Born at Sheffield, which he sometimes used as an excuse when he was accused of stubbornness, (“It’s my Yorkshire blood, you know”) he was educated in North Wales (Friar’s School, and then University College, Bangor) and at Birmingham University.

He started his chess magazine at Sutton Coldfield in 1935 as an impecunious graduate who could not find suitable work in the Depression, and his lively style ensured that it was a beacon in British chess for fifty years to come! For many British chess fans he was “Mr Chess” yet it seems a miracle that he kept the magazine going in the difficult times when interest in the game was at a low ebb. He may well have subsidised it from his journalistic work (Birmingham Post, Illustrated London News and Daily Telegraph) and from his wartime work as manager of a chemical laboratory (“The first time I ever earned a decent salary”).

His duodenal ulcer prevented him doing military service, and later in life he suffered from failing eyesight and the inability to walk which resulted from his diabetes, not diagnosed till he had suffered from it for decades.

He worked a seven-day week on the magazine, and his wife who predeceased him was often unsure when he would be home such was his devotion to the work. At times he would take off for trips abroad or long simul tours through Britain while trying to keep the magazine on schedule.

One of his last long tours was in 1967 when he drove Botvinnik around the UK. The world champion was duly impressed by the work load and wrote a very favourable account of the trip, revealing incidentally that Barry was still paying off the mortgage on his large house in Rectory Road, Sutton Coldfield where the car was parked on the forecourt as the garage was the reserve storage for a large library of chess books! His ability to quote chemical formula from memory also impressed Botvinnik.

He brought up a family of four, all of whom were skilled players, apart, perhaps from the youngest boy. Daughter Peggy
was prominent in women’s chess and married Peter Clarke at the time of the Botvinnik visit. Elder sons Chris and Frank were of over-200 strength, but had seen too much of their father’s life at close hand to want to take over the business from him. He ultimately sold out to Pergamon in 1987 though negotiations had been started much earlier. It was probably too much of a wrench to let go until failing health left him with little alternative, but he described
the terms as very generous.

Barry was a gifted linguist who was welcome abroad for his un-English approach of having a go at the native tongue. As a player he was at his best in the late 1930s (a member of the 1939 Olympiad team in Buenos Aires) till the 1950s. He should really have won the 1948 British Championship when he had the enterprising idea of having Paul Schmidt as personal coach! Yet his tournament wins run on as late as Guernsey 1975 and he was playing in the First Division of the Birmingham League within a few weeks of his death. The flesh may have been weak but a great spirit kept him going to the end.

Shall we ever see his like again?

Julius Silverman former MP for Aston (Birmingham) writes: I am very sorry to learn of the death of Barry Wood. I knew him for about 55 years and I always found him a pleasant and interesting companion and a good friend. On the last few occasions that I have met him he seemed increasingly frail. I know that the death of his dear wife was a great blow to him.

Barry’s contribution to Chess in this country has been enormous and his passing is the end of an era in chess journalism.
Barry’s journalism and his imaginative editorship made Chess a fascinating journal which it was always a pleasure to read.
Its survival for well over 50 years was a unique achievement which required persistence and dedication. He has had many
hills to surmount.

One was “… the chess lawsuit of the Century …” (This ran for about two and a half years, ending in 1940 in a victory for the magazine on appeal, Ed). Jacques versus Chess which might have brought Chess to an end. I appeared for him as counsel. We won. I received a life subscription to Chess as part of my fee. My copy still comes to me regularly. I have never enjoyed a fee so much.

Here is the article in its original form:

British Chess Magazine, Volume CX (109), Number 5 (May), page 210
British Chess Magazine, Volume CX (109), Number 5 (May), page 210
British Chess Magazine, Volume CX (109), Number 5 (May), page 211
British Chess Magazine, Volume CX (109), Number 5 (May), page 211

Bernard on Barry (2004)

REMEMBERING BARRY WOOD (1909-1939)

by Bernard Cafferty

One of the most influential figures in British chess of the 20th century was B. H. Wood, whom I knew personally from 1951, and whom I played regularly, over a period of three decades, till l moved from Birmingham to Hastings in 1981. Here are some
memories of the man who was thought of by many in Britain as “Mr Chess”.

Born in Sheffield, Baruch Harold Wood had his secondary education in North Wales at the same grammar school as W Ritson
Morry who was later to become his Midlands colleague and bitter rival. BH always attributed his well-known stubbornness (he never resigned early) to “his Yorkshire blood”. Wood and Morry were to be students together at Birmingham University after BH gained his BSc in Wales. Then the pair faced the hard task of finding work in depression-struck mid-1930s England. BH founded his monthly magazine CHESS in 1935, an act of amazing optimism which only his great appetite for work could justify. The magazine was based in Sutton Coldfield, just north of Birmingham, at gloomy premises known as Masonic Buildings.

The early decades of this publication were marked by the outpouring of glorious journalism of a popular sort. The man’s love
of the game shone through his work and he recruited such contributors as the chatty Koltanowski and the prince of annotators
Alexander Alekhine. Later he became the long-serving columnist of the Birmingham Post, from 1949 of the weekly Illustrated London News, and even later of the Daily Telegraph. A feature of the magazine was its lively letters from readers which made for more interesting reading than the equivalent occasional letter to be found in the staid
BCM. The readers also made pertinent contributions to opening theory, especially in going through the 1946 MCO with a fine toothcomb and reporting their discoveries to Sutton Coldfield.

BH wrote a best-selling Easy Guide to Chess which went through several editions and was far more user-friendly than other primers on the market at the time. He also designed a luxury set, the Coldfield, and produced various chess clocks with new features. BH was a member of the BCF Olympiad side that played in the first part of the Buenos Aires Olympiad in the autumn of 1939. After the team’s withdrawal due to the outbreak of war, he stayed on in Argentina for a short while, taking part in a short tournament where he met the legendary Alekhine.

One Hundred Victorian Chess Problems, BH Wood, Wayland Publishers, London, 1972
One Hundred Victorian Chess Problems, BH Wood, Wayland Publishers, London, 1972

BH was married to Marjorie, a Birmingham primary school teacher, and had three sons and a daughter. The elder two boys,
Chris and Frank, were strong players but not Philip. His daughter Peggy was our leading girl player of the 1950s, and married Peter Clarke in 1962. One should note that BH was not Jewish, as many assumed from the name Baruch – he was generally addressed as Barry by his wife and close friends. Others called him just by the initials BH. Everyone in British chess knew exactly who you meant when you said BH. Many thought of him as a sharp business-man. In any event, the fearsome workload he shouldered meant that none of his children, seeing this at first hand, aspired to carry on the magazine as a family business. To many in the British chess community who had never seen top players in action, BH was their first contact with the wider chess world due to the exhausting simul tours he made to many clubs the length and breadth of the UK.

Later, he organized CHESS Festivals starting from 1953. These were our earliest open tournaments, held at attractive venues such as Cheltenham, Whitby, Eastbourne and Southport. These events created the opportunity for British amateurs to meet continental grandmaster opposition like Donner and O’Kelly. BH had great confidence in his ability – his MSc at Birmingham University was in chemistry, but in 1946-7 he started studying nuclear physics privately, telling Brian Reilly, who was employed by him at that time, that it was the science of the future. I have to simply marvel at this – where did he find the time? In his self-portrait in connection with the GB-USSR match of 1946 he revealed that he had been studying Russian privately with a view to taking an external degree in it at Birmingham University.

The post-war decade saw him at his most active. He was BCF delegate at early FIDE meetings post-1946, the period that saw the mighty Soviet Union admitted to membership in 1947. BH was instrumental in maintaining Spain’s membership of FIDE at the same time, despite Soviet opposition to Franco’s fascism. He claimed to me he was always a most welcome guest in Spain thereafter.

Battles with the BCF

BH had been exempt from military service due to a duodenal ulcer. He spent the war keeping the magazine alive in his spare time as he was put in charge of a research laboratory at the Birmingham Chemical Company. During the war the government had the power under emergency legislation to direct citizens into any sort of work that would contribute to the war effort. His comment to me on that intensive period was: “It was the first time I ever drew a decent salary”. After a short spell as BCF FIDE delegate, he fell out with the ruling body in the early 1950s. His view was that the national body was ultra-conservative and not open to fresh ideas such as the knockout championship open to all which he organised in 1949-50. Lo and behold, a few months later the BCF started organising regional competitions to arrange for qualification for the British Championship! BH often criticised the BCF in his magazine. In June 1950 he wrote the first of a planned series of articles on the evergreen theme “Where is British Chess Going?” and forwarded a copy to the BCF just before publication. The BCF legal eagle Professor Wheatcroft immediately threatened to take out an injunction, so putting the frighteners on the printers. Rather than delay the July issue (not that subscribers were not used to a rather irregular schedule!), BH brought out the issue with white space, on two pages, a dramatic way of alerting the readers to the dispute. The promised articles, which he said would appear after the dispute was settled, never appeared.

DW Anderton OBE plays BH Wood MBE in 1981 in a Blitz tournament outside of the National Film Theatre. Photograph courtesy of John Saunders
DW Anderton OBE plays BH Wood MBE in 1981 in a Blitz tournament outside of the National Film Theatre. Photograph courtesy of John Saunders

There were also tensions with BCF figures like Alexander and Golombek, in the latter case probably due to professional rivalry and Harry G’s identification with the BCM. Another prominent figure with whom BH crossed swords was the flamboyant Liverpool barrister Gerald Abrahams who threatened to sue over a report in CHESS of gambling debts incurred “on the turf’.

BH was no stranger to litigation. For example he had had a lawsuit with Jaques culminating in 1940 over the use of the term
“genuine Staunton-pattern sets” in his advertising. The case was initially lost, a potentially crippling blow, but then won on appeal with the aid of solicitor Julius Silverman (later a prominent Birmingham MP), Ritson Morry, Sir George Thomas and
other well-wishers. When Wood-Morry hostility was at its height in the early 1950s over pro- and anti-BCF views, BH drew attention in a letter to a Welsh chess organiser to Ritson’s short period in jail. The uncomplimentary term ‘gaolbird’ was used. A court case followed which the penurious Ritson, having been struck off as a solicitor could hardly afford, yet BH was cleared on the defence of justification. My fellow students and I at Birmingham University could only marvel at the daily press reports on the wrangles between two of our patrons whom we had feted at a celebratory dinner only a short while before.

Here is the point at which to mention BH’s support for chess in the universities. He was the long-time President of the
BUCA (British Universities’ Chess Association) and turned up at many of their events with support. He loaned equipment in the early days when not every chess club had sufficient clocks for a match – bear in mind that the austerity period in Britain lasted for years after 1945. BH also supported correspondence chess, being the founder of the Postal Chess League, a team event very popular in its day but now defunct.

BH’s best playing performance was the British Championship of 1948 when he came second to Broadbent. The Midlander had actually started with 6.5 points from seven games, but the unsatisfactory position arose that he had to meet Broadbent in the last round when each had an adjourned game still to finish off.

BH Wood during the 1948 British Championships at Bishopsgate Institute, London. Taken on August 30th 1948 by Keystone Press Agency
BH Wood during the 1948 British Championships at Bishopsgate Institute, London. Taken on August 30th 1948 by Keystone Press Agency

The tension got to BH, he missed a clear winning chance against the Northerner and lost. Yet he should really have taken the title on the merits of the positions he had achieved. His rivals resented the fact that he had hired a second, namely Paul Schmidt, the Estonian player who was once thought of as almost as good as Keres in his native land. Schmidt had won the German Championship during the war in 1941. The British amateurs of 1948 were not impressed by this intrusion of professionalism and the importation of someone who carried the taint of possible Nazism. According to Brian Reilly, Gerald Abrahams was particularly scathing.

BH made a good impression on Botvinnik when the latter stayed at the Wood residence in Rectory Road, Sutton Coldfield, in 1967 (the reference for those who can read Russian is Baturinsky’s “…Tvorchestvo” trilogy on Botvinnik. The article was entitled: Albion shakhmatny i inoy. It appears on pp435 -448 of the third volume. A shortened version appears in English in Botvinnik’s autobiography Achieving the Aim). When I drew BH’s attention to the article and its peculiar title he responded with his usual erudite comment: ‘Albion? Yes, that’s the Roman reference to the white cliffs of Dover”. For most Brummies, “The Albion” did not mean a local pub, but rather the West Bromwich Albion football team!

In theory, the communist Botvinnik should have been distant from his host, the Midlands entrepreneur and business man, who drove him round to his engagements in Britain for three weeks, but their common love of chess triumphed over ideological
differences. In particular, the speed of production of CHESS, now on its own presses, was compared very favourably by the Soviet Patriarch to that of Shakhmaty v SSSR. British trade unions had a different view of course, in pre-Thatcher days, and BH had some tricky obstacles to overcome in this field. The Muscovite Botvinnik recorded the fact that the garage of BH’s large house was full of chess books (as were various rooms – to the abiding despair of Marjorie), so the family car was always parked outside on the drive. BH revealed to Botvinnik that he had not been able pay off his mortgage for decades due to the variable cash flow from his business and journalism.

BH was in love with study as a young man, he once told me, and he had a facility in various European languages, which made him always welcome abroad. Over the years, BH had a number of employees who were strong players, such as Brian Reilly, Owen Hindle and Robert Bellin, but none of them lasted long. Owen Hindle, a person of placid temperament, stuck it out the longest, but even he had his patience tried by the ‘boss’. One cannot hide the fact that BH was a controversial figure – perhaps the clue after all is that reference to his stubbornness and Yorkshire blood? I contributed to his magazine for many years, but certainly never wanted to work for him full-time!

I used to see BH in the last decade of his life only in the Hastings press room. For his age, he still took on a fantastic workload. Peter Clarke once commented that his father-in-law gave the impression of believing he would live for ever. Finally, Anno Domini told and BH sold his business to Robert Maxwell of Pergamon fame/notoriety in 1988.

In his final year, BH suffered from diabetes, and the resulting inability to walk meant he was confined to a wheelchair, but he still insisted on visiting Hastings one last time, where, in his prime, he had specialised in taking away Premier score sheets. Often they were taken not just to his hotel room, but even back to Sutton Coldfield, so hindering the work of other chess journalists unless Ritson or later, Peter Griffiths had got in first to create the bulletin.

What a character! We lack such a colourful figure nowadays. Where he still alive today, I imagine he would still be trying to put a bomb under the BCF.

Winter, Jaques and Wood

From Chess Explorations (Cadogan Chess, 1996) by Edward Winter we have further detail on the Jaques court case:

“Paul Timson, a lawyer, sends us reports on two legal  cases connected with chess. In 1939 B.H.Wood found himself in the dock for having advertised for sale in CHESS in 1937 ‘genuine Staunton chessmen’. The plaintiffs were John Jaques & Son, Ltd. Sir George Thomas., Max Euwe and Lodewijk Prins appeared as witnesses for the defence. The case is referred to by Fred Wren in his article ‘Tales of a Woodpusher: Woodpusher’s Woodpile’, which appeared in Chess Review, 1949 and was reprinted in Reinfeld’s The Treasury of Chess Lore. The issues of CHESS of the time also contained a huge amount of material on the case. The decision was that ‘Staunton’ alone was permissible description, but that the phrase ‘genuine Staunton’ implied a product made by Jaques & Son Ltd., as opposed to any Staunton pattern.  However, B.H. Wood appealed and, in 1940, won.”

Other Sources

If you can get access then we recommend the eleven-page “B.H. Wood and his chess playing family” article in the August-2009 issue of Chess Monthly written by his son Chris Wood (helped by brother Frank).

Likewise The Chess Lawsuit of the Century is detailed in CHESS, volume 52, Number 1018, pp.392 – 394 by BHW himself.

Here is an obituary from the MCCU

Background information from Sutton Coldfield Chess Club

Alekhine’s Articles for CHESS by Michael Clapham

Here is his Wikipedia entry.

Birthday of GM Murray Chandler (04-iv-1960)

Happy Birthday GM Murray Chandler MNZM (04-iv-1960)

From The Oxford Companion to Chess by Hooper & Whyld :

“International Grandmaster (1983), a New Zealander who settled in England at the age of 15. subsequently playing for his adopted country in the Lucerne Olympiad, 1982. He scored +4=6 to share first prize at New York 1980, came second (+5=5 — 1) equal with Hort at Dortmund 1983, and scored +5 = 6 (a GM norm) to share first prize at Amsterdam 1983, a Swiss systemtournament. Chandler has edited the magazine Tournament Chess since its inception in 1982.”

A White Pawn in Europe, Murray Chandler, 1975
A White Pawn in Europe, Murray Chandler, 1975

Here is his Wikipedia entry

Murray Chandler, Ray Keene and Miguel Najdorf
Murray Chandler, Ray Keene and Miguel Najdorf

From Chessgames.com :

“Murray Graham Chandler was born in Wellington, New Zealand. He was awarded the IM title in 1977 and the GM title in 1982. He was joint New Zealand Champion in 1975-76 (shared with Lev Isaakovich Aptekar and Ortvin Sarapu) and joint Commonwealth Champion in 1984. His best tournament results were 2nds at London 1984, London 1986 and Amsterdam 1987 and he has played both for New Zealand (1976-1980) and England (1982-86) in the Olympiads. He edited Tournament Chess for a time from 1981 onwards and as well as writing he became the managing director of Gambit Publications.

Leonard Barden (left) and Murray Chandler display the Lloyds Bank Trophy which the 19-year old New Zealander won ahead of 3 Grandmasters and 10 International Masters for his finest international success up to 1979. in the Lloyds Bank Masters
Leonard Barden (left) and Murray Chandler display the Lloyds Bank Trophy which the 19-year old New Zealander won ahead of 3 Grandmasters and 10 International Masters for his finest international success up to 1979. in the Lloyds Bank Masters

He was the organiser and winner of a large tournament, the Queenstown Classic in New Zealand in January 2006 and this tournament also incorporated the 113th New Zealand Championship making Chandler the New Zealand Champion for the second time. He won his third New Zealand title at the 115th New Zealand Championship (2008) which was held in Auckland where he currently resides.”

Murray Graham Chanler
Murray Graham Chandler

Murray Graham Chandler
Murray Graham Chandler

Murray Graham Chandler
Murray Graham Chandler
The English Chess Explosion
The English Chess Explosion
Sicilian 2.c3
Sicilian 2.c3
The Complete c3 Sicilian
The Complete c3 Sicilian
Tournament Chess
Tournament Chess
How to Beat Your Dad at Chess
How to Beat Your Dad at Chess
Chess Tactics for Kids
Chess Tactics for Kids
Chess for Children
Chess for Children
Chess Puzzles for Kids
Chess Puzzles for Kids

Birthday of IM Miroslav Houska (02-iv-1978)

Miroslav Houska
Miroslav Houska

Birthday of IM Miroslav Houska (02-iv-1978)

Miroslav gained his International Master title in 1998 and his peak rating according to Felice was 2385 in January of 1998, aged 20.

Here are his games on chessgames.com

IM Miroslav Houska, photograph by Jovan Petronic
IM Miroslav Houska, photograph by Jovan Petronic
IM Miroslav Houska, photograph by Cathy Rogers
IM Miroslav Houska, photograph by Cathy Rogers

Death Anniversary of Frederick Forrest Lawrie Alexander (13-XI-1879, 01-IV-1965)

Death Anniversary of Frederick Forrest Lawrie Alexander (13-XI-1879, 01-IV-1965)

Interesting article from Woodseats Library

Here is an article from the Chess Composers Blog

He was seven times champion of Battersea Chess Club

Birthday of FM Peter Sowray (29-iii-1959)

Happy Birthday FM Peter John Sowray (29-iii-1959)Born in London, Peter obtained his FM title in 1984. He has been a regular member of the very strong Wood Green team. His peak rating (according to Chessbase) was 2384 aged 59 in March 2018. He currently plays for Barbican in the Four Nations Chess League (4NCL).

Peter Sowray at the South Bank See image below for caption
Peter Sowray at the South Bank See image below for caption
Caption for above image
Caption for above image
Peter Sowray watchign Tony Miles at the Lloyds Bank Masters. Sir Jeremy Morse watches.
Peter Sowray watchign Tony Miles at the Lloyds Bank Masters. Sir Jeremy Morse watches.
Peter Sowray (top right) with a victorious Wood Green team
Peter Sowray (top right) with a victorious Wood Green team
FM Peter Sowray
FM Peter Sowray

Here are Peter’s games from chessgames.com

Death Anniversary of Sir Stuart Milner-Barry KCVO CB OBE (20-ix-1906 25-iii-1995)

BCN remembers Sir Stuart Milner-Barry KCVO CB OBE who passed away on Saturday, March 25th, 1995 in Lewisham Hospital, London aged 88. He was laid to rest in the Great Shelford Cemetery, Cambridge Road, Great Shelford, Cambridge CB22 5JJ.

A memorial service was held for him at Westminster Abbey on 15 June 1995.

Great Shelford Cemetery Gravestone of Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry KCVO CB OBE by Geoffrey Gillon
Great Shelford Cemetery Gravestone of Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry KCVO CB OBE by Geoffrey Gillon
Signature of PS Milner-Barry from a Brian Reilly "after dinner" postcard from Margate 1936.
Signature of PS Milner-Barry from a Brian Reilly “after dinner” postcard from Margate 1936.

Philip Stuart Milner-Barry was born on Thursday, September 20th 1906 in Mill Hill in the London Borough of Barnet. Mill Hill falls under the Hendon Parliamentary constituency.

Parents

His parents were Lieutenant-Commander Edward Leopold (1867-1917) and Edith Mary Milner-Barry (born 17th May 1866, died 1949, née Besant). Edward was in the  Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, H.M.S. “Wallington.” Prior to his war service his father was a professor of modern languages at the University of Bangor and Edith was the daughter of Dr. William Henry Besant, a renowned mathematical fellow of St John’s College, Cambridge University.

Stuart was the second born of six children, There was  an older sister Alda Mary (18th August 1893-1938) and four brothers Edward William Besant (?-1911) , Walter Leopold (1904-1982), John O’Brien (4 December 1898 – 28 February 1954) and Patrick James . Many of the Milner-Barry family were laid to rest in the Great Shelford churchyard.

Stuart learned chess at the age of eight and his autobiographical article below goes into more depth.

He was educated at Cheltenham College, and won a scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he obtained firsts in classics and moral sciences.

On leaving Cambridge in 1927 he went to work at the London Stock Exchange (LSE).

According to the 1928 and 1929 electoral rolls he was living with his mother Edith  and his brothers Walter and John O’Brien at 50 De Freville Avenue, Cambridge CB4 1HT:

50 De Freville Avenue, Cambridge CB4 1HT
50 De Freville Avenue, Cambridge CB4 1HT

In 1931 the family had relocated to 11, Park Terrace, Cambridge which is nearby to Emmanuel College. Now living  with the family was brother Patrick James.

11, Park Terrace, Cambridge, CB1 1JJ
11, Park Terrace, Cambridge, CB1 1JJ
Period map of the area of 11, Park Terrace, Cambridge, CB1 1JJ
Period map of the area of 11, Park Terrace, Cambridge, CB1 1JJ

He discovered that he did not enjoy his LSE work and switched careers to became chess correspondent of The Times in 1938.

At the time (September 29th) of the 1939 register he (aged 33) was living as a journalist in a household of three with his mother Edith who carried out “unpaid domestic duties” and sister Alda who was of “private means”.

Honours

In 1946 Stuart was awarded the OBE from the Civil Division in the  New Years Honours . The citation reads that was “employed in a Department of the Foreign Office”. A modern translation of this was he was engaged in Top Secret work at Bletchley Park alongside Alan Turing, Gordon Welchman and Hugh Alexander and was thus honoured for his war work. More on this later…

After the war he worked in the Treasury, and later in 1966 administered the British honours system where he helped to facilitate the award of honours to other chess players ultimately retiring in 1977.

As well as the OBE he was made Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in 1962 and Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCV0) in 1975.

A conference room was named after him at the Civil Service Club, 13 – 15 Great Scotland Yard, London SW1A 2HJ.

Peter Hennessy* and The Rewarding Career of Sir Stuart Milner-Barry

*Peter Hennessy is a renowned historian and journalist. The following was originally published in The Times in 1977 following  PSMBs retirement.

“Few careers can have been as varied and rewarding as that of Sir Stuart Milner-Barry, who retires today as Ceremonial Officer to the Civil Service Department and custodian of the British honours system.

Into the 48 years since he left Cambridge with a degrees in classics and moral sciences, he has crammed spells as a stockbroker, chess correspondent of  The Times and member of the British chess team, a wartime codebreaker for MI6 and a senior Treasury official before taking over administration of the nations “gongs and bongs ” nearly 11 years ago.

The richness of Sir Stuart’s progression is all the more striking given the difficulty he experienced in finding a job at all after university because of the Wall Street crash in 1929. His first 10 years spanned the slump of the 1930s, when there was little for a stockbroker to do, but fill his days reading The Times.

In 1938 he joined the paper full time as chess correspondent and, along with many of the world’s leading players, he was nearly trapped in Buenos Aires when war broke out the next year (ed. should be month rather than year). Catching the first ship home, he finished up with that brilliant collection of dons, antique dealers, mathematicians and chess players billeted in Nissen huts in the park of Buckinghamshire country house, who broke the code transmitted by the German Enigma machine.

The original Hut 6 building (photographed in 2004). Milner-Barry joined Hut 6 in early 1940, and worked in the section throughout World War II. He became head of Hut 6 in Autumn 1943.
The original Hut 6 building (photographed in 2004). Milner-Barry joined Hut 6 in early 1940, and worked in the section throughout World War II. He became head of Hut 6 in Autumn 1943.

Sir Stuart eventually rose to lead hut six, which broke the most secret messages of the Luftwaffe. Quartered in a comfortable Bletchley public house with another formidable chess player, C. H. O’D. Alexander, and Gordon Welchman, the Cambridge mathematician, he acquired a taste  for rum, the only alcohol in plentiful supply for some reason, and a sense of guilt about enjoying, his stimulating, important job, safe while other men faced the bullets.

He was not tempted to stay on in the arcane world of code-breaking after the war, unlike his friend, the late Hugh Alexander, as he regards such activities in peacetime as akin to reading somebody’s private correspondence, though he recognizes the necessity of such efforts for intelligence work. Instead, he took the reconstruction competition for the administrative class of the Civil Service and entered the Treasury.

While battling with the post-war dollar shortage in Treasury Chambers he “found a wife, carried her off and lived happily ever after”, as he cheerfully puts it. Apart from a spell as establishment officer to the Ministry of Health, he stayed at the Treasury until he reached the normal retiring age of 60 in 1966.

Lord Helsby, then Head of the Home Civil Service, asked him to stay on and take over the smooth machine that underpins the honours system, which had been built up over many years by Sir Robert Knox. Sir Stuart has loved every minute of it.

He looks every inch the part, a tall stately man of immense natural dignity, he is the incarnation of propriety. The stresses to which the honours system has been subjected to in recent years must have caused him great distress but he is far too proper a civil servant to talk about it. His retirement at 70 has nothing to do with the alarums and excursions stimulated by the honours lists associated with Harold Wilson.

“One of my principal jobs has been the protection of the system”, he says. “The pleasures are very great. It’s fascinating in itself. You see so much of the history of people in every walk of like”.

Sir Stuart waxes eloquent about the beauty and uniqueness of the British honours system. He is a confirmed monarchist, so the spontaneity of the jubilee celebrations  provides the perfect backcloth for his departure. He is succeeded by Mr. Richard Sharp, an under-secretary at the Treasury.”

Below is the original article:

Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry OBE
Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry OBE

Marriage to Thelma

In the third quarter of 1947 Stuart married Thelma Tennant Wells in Westminster. A consequence of the “rules of the day” of the marriage was that Thelma had to resign her post in the Treasury immediately.  (Ed: this somewhat antiquated view of life was finally corrected in 1972 when the Civil Service dispensed with this rule).

Lady Thelma was to support Stuart in his chess activities for their married life. She also served as the first UK Director of Women’s Chess and made many lasting friendships in the chess world. She was buried together with Stuart in 2007. Stuart himself was President of the British Chess Federation between 1970 and 1973 as well as being Director of International Chess following his presidency.

Stuart and Thelma had three children, one son and two daughters: Philip O. (born 1953), Jane E (born 1950) and Alda M (born 1958).

Dave Rumens is pleased to accept a cheque for £200 from Lady Thelma Milner-Barry for winning the 1978 Nottingham Congress with 5.5/6. Photograph provided by Nottinghamshire County Council.
Dave Rumens is pleased to accept a cheque for £200 from Lady Thelma Milner-Barry for winning the 1978 Nottingham Congress with 5.5/6. Photograph provided by Nottinghamshire County Council.

Stuart was knighted on January 1st 1975 for his role as the “Ceremonial Officer of  Civil Service Department” between 1966-77. Technically the knighthood is known as a KCVO.

Milner-Barry was Southern Counties (SCCU) champion for the 1960-61 season.

He first competed in the British Championship in 1931 and made regular appearences as late as 1978: a span of 47 years!

In their retirement  years Stuart and Thelma lived at the salubrious location of 43 Blackheath Park, Blackheath, London SE3 9RW.

Autobiography

In June of 1933 at the age of 27 Stuart wrote an autobiographical piece for British Chess Magazine to be found in Volume LIII (53, 1933), Number 6 (June), pp. 241-2 as follows:

Stuart Milner-Barry in 1933 taken from BCM, 1933, June
Stuart Milner-Barry in 1933 taken from BCM, 1933, June

P.S. Milner-Barry

Champion of the City of London Chess Club

I learned chess at the age of eight and played regularly after that with members of my family. My first-class practise (with due respect to my family) began at fourteen, when Mr. Bertram Goulding Brown and  started a series of serious friendly games which has continued ever since, almost without interruption. The vast majority of these games were begun with 1 P-K4, P-K4, and as we both eschewed the Lopez and the Four Knights, we have acquired  a fairly extensive knowledge of the older forms of the King’s side openings – King’s Gambit (all sorts), Vienna, Guioco Piano, Evans’s Gambit, Danish Gambit, Bishop’s Opening, etc. These games have undoubtedly born the most important influence in my development, apart from which the serious friendly game is to me much the most enjoyable form of chess. We each have runs of success, and there has never been much to choose between us.

(An aside : Stuart wrote a extensive obituary of Bertram Goulding Brown which appeared in British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXV (85, 1965), Number 12(December) pp.344-45 in which he noted:

B. Goulding Brown was my oldest and closest Cambridge friend, I started playing with him in 1920, and we have played ever since, though, alas, not nearly so often since the War as in the 1920s and 1930. Our last games, when he was eighty three, were played about a year ago in the same book-congested upstairs study at Brookside as all the others had been. Both were cut-and-thrust draws: a Kieseritzky Gambit from myself and Two Knights’ (with 4.P-Q4 for White) were typical of the openings we adopted. We were planning another this Autumn, but he died suddenly and peacefully at the end of August, )

I have also been very fortunate in playing a good deal with C.H.O’D. Alexander. Our games have taken the form of a series of short matches (first player to win three games) played with clocks. Alexander was already stronger than me when he came up to Cambridge, and he won the University Championship from me in his first year and my fourth.

CHO'D Alexander plays his old friend PS Milner-Barry
CHO’D Alexander plays his old friend PS Milner-Barry

All three matches have been won by him, the first easily and the last two by the narrowest possible margin; a fourth now in progress looks like coming to an early  and ignominious conclusion (Score 0-2-2). These results have neither surprised nor disappointed me : I would not back any player in England to do better.

(ed. For more detail on PSMBs matches with Hugh we refer to you our article on Hugh).

In 1923 I won the first Boy’s Championship at Hastings, but lost badly the following year (ed. Alexander won).

Boy Chess Champion PS Milner-Barry (Cheltenham College), first boy chess champion of England, receiving the cup from Mrs. AG Ginner, the donor , at the Hastings Chess Club
Boy Chess Champion PS Milner-Barry (Cheltenham College), first boy chess champion of England, receiving the cup from Mrs. AG Ginner, the donor , at the Hastings Chess Club

Since then I have competed twice at Hastings, once tieing with Miss Menchik in the Major Reserve for the first place and once for the last, in the Major. In between I played in the Major Open at Tenby, and came out fifth, with my first important win against Znosko-Borovsky.

Meanwhile I played four years against Oxford, with somewhat chequered results. The first year I won against G. Abrahams, the second and third years, I played K.H. Bancroft and scored a (very fortunate) draw and a win, while finally I permitted Abrahams to fork my King and Queen with a Knight, a performance unhappily repeated by R.L. Mitchell in the following year (his Queen was pinned by a Bishop). Since then the spell has been broken. In 1931 I played in the British Championships at Worcester, and was quite satisfied with my form, though my score of 5 out of 11 was nothing to write home about. In February 1932, I have the great good fortune to fill a vacant place in the Sunday Referee* London International Tournament, an extremely exhausting but very valuable experience which I greatly appreciated.

*The Sunday Referee was a newspaper of the time which was adsorbed into The Sunday Chronicle in 1939.

Full Crosstable for the 1932 Sunday Referee or London International Masters Tournament
Full Crosstable for the 1932 Sunday Referee or London International Masters Tournament

My score of 3.5 out of 11, equal with Sir George Thomas and above W. Winter and V. Buerger, was quite as good as I expected. After this came the Cambridge Tournament, which, though a very delightful little congress, was a fiasco from my point of view. Three of my opponents were unkind enough to show their best form against me, and two other games I spoilt by clock trouble.

I do not expect to play much serious competitive chess in future. I admire sincerely the business man who is ready, after a hard day at the office, to undergo a further four hours of strenuous mental exertion; and who is also prepared to spend his all too brief holidays in the same exhausting pursuit. Moreover, while many players find the atmosphere of match and tournament play a stimulus or an inspiration, it only renders me nervous, and though this does not affect my play it certainly interferes with my enjoyment. As long as I can play my week-end games with B.G.B., and inveigle Alexander from Winchester to add another to his monotonous series of victories, I shall not much mind if I can only occasionally take part in congresses. ”

PS Milner-Barry Cup

In issue #53 (April 1946)  of West London Chess Club’s Gazette we have a news item concerning a newly inaugurated trophy called the PS Milner-Barry Cup:

issue #53 (April 1946)  of West London Chess Club's Gazette
issue #53 (April 1946)  of West London Chess Club’s Gazette

Sergeant on Milner-Barry

Writing in A Century of British Chess (Hutchinson, 1934), PW Sergeant records in Chapter XXI, 1925 to 1934:

The City of London C.C.’s Championship Tournament which ended this (1933) spring deserves special mention; for it introduced an entirely new name on the list of champions, that of P.S. Milner-Barry, formerly of Cheltenham College and of Cambridge University.  Ten years previously he had won the first boys’ championship at Hastings.

Now, he won the City of London Championship with a score of 11 out of 14, followed by the bearers of such noted names as R.P. Michell (10 points), Sir George Thomas (9), and E.G. Sergeant (8.5). It caused some surprise, therefore, when it was found that he was not selected as a British representative at Folkestone.

Golombek on Milner-Barry

Surprisingly and disappointingly there is no direct entry in either Hooper & Whyld or Sunnucks for Sir Stuart but (as you might expect) Harry Golombek OBE does not let us down  in The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977):

“British master whose chess career was limited by his amateur status but whose abilities as a player and original theorist rendered him worthy of the title of international master.

Born at Mill Hill in London, he showed early promise and in 1923 won the British Boys Championship, then held at Hastings.

He studied classics at Cambridge and developed into the strongest player there. At the university he was to meet (ed. three years later) C. H. O’D. Alexander with whom he played much chess.

Though nearly three years younger, Alexander exerted a strong influence over him and both players cherished and revelled in the brilliance of play in open positions.

24th April 1935: J Mieses of Germany in play against PS Milner-Barry during the Premier Tournament of the Kent County Chess Association in the Grand Hotel, Margate. (Photo by F. Sayers/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
24th April 1935: J Mieses of Germany in play against PS Milner-Barry during the Premier Tournament of the Kent County Chess Association in the Grand Hotel, Margate. (Photo by F. Sayers/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

By then along with Alexander and Golombek, he had become recognized as one of the three strongest young players in the country. Whilst not as successful as they were in tournaments as the British championship in which stamina was essential, he was a most formidable club and team match player, as he had already shown in 1933 when he won the championship of the City of London Club ahead of R. P. Mitchell and Sir George Thomas.

Harry Golombek OBE plays Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry OBE
Harry Golombek OBE plays Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry OBE

He played in his first International Team tournament at Stockholm 1937 and was to play in three more such events : in 1939 at Buenos Aires where, on third board, he made the fine score of 4/5 ; in Helsinki 1952; and in Moscow 1956 where, again on third board, he was largely responsible for the team’s fine showing.

Left to right Baruch H Wood, Stuart Milner-Barry, Vera Menchik (playing in the women's world championship (held concurrently with the 1939 Buenos Aires 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, Stuart Milner-Barry, Vera Menchik (playing in the women’s world championship (held concurrently with the 1939 Buenos Aires 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

In 1940 he shared first prize with Dr. List in the strong tournament of semi-international character in London and then, like Alexander and (later) Golombek, helped in the Foreign Office code-breaking activities at Bletchley Park for the duration of the Second World War. Staying in the Civil Service afterwards, he rose to the rank of Under-Secretary in the Treasury and was knighted for his services in 1975.

Sir Stuart Milner-Barry talks about Malik Mir Sultan Khan
Sir Stuart Milner-Barry talks about Malik Mir Sultan Khan

Below is footage (start at 1′ 55″) of Sir Stuart discussing the talent of Malik Mir Sultan Khan:

After the war, too, he had some fine results in the British championship, his best being second place at Hastings in 1953.

Hartston on Milner-Barry

The following article is sourced from November 1995 edition* of Dragon, the Cambridge University Chess Club magazine:

(*Edited by Jonathan Parker)

A sample cover of Dragon, the Cambridge University Chess Club Magazine
A sample cover of Dragon, the Cambridge University Chess Club Magazine

“I first met Sir Stuart Milner-Barry when I was fifteen years old (1962) playing in a tournament in Bognor Regis who played some rustic king’s pawn opening against me, sacrificing a pawn for nothing in particular and then astonished by writing “castles” in full on his scoresheet.  I think he used “kt” for a knight too. I thought I had discovered  a true relic from a bygone age and the more I got to know him I realised the more correct that judgement was.

Milner-Barry was the last of the true gentlemen amateurs and was one of the few people I have ever met who played chess for the sheer love of the game.

A few typical incidents may give a flavour of his unique personality. First and most typical was the way he would resign: with a firm handshake, a smile and a booming whisper of ‘You are far too good for me I’m afraid!’ When I first heard those words I was totally taken aback : What was this, a chessplayer acknowledging that his opponent was better than him? Impossible!

Once, at close of play in a county match against Milner-Barry I had the extra pawn in a difficult queen and pawn ending.  We analysed a little with most variations suggesting I was winning. It was the kind of position you would send for adjudication even if you are convinced it is lost. It avoids having to resign anyway and the adjudicator may always discount the pawns. But, Sir Stuart never thought like that. After ten minutes analysing he extended his hand and congratulated me.

Sir Stuart Milner-Barry in play against Daniel Yanofsky from round 6 of the British Championship in Hastings, 15th August 1953
Sir Stuart Milner-Barry in play against Daniel Yanofsky from round 6 of the British Championship in Hastings, 15th August 1953

Finally there was the splendid incident in Moscow during the (Ed. 6th) European Team Championships in the late 1970s (Ed. 1977) Stuart was then the President of the BCF and took up an invitation of his old friend the British Ambassador to the USSR (Ed. Sir Howard Smith) to visit the event.  Since he was staying at the Embassy he had a KGB tail assigned to him to follow him everywhere. On one of his morning walks Sir Stuart got lost and was not certain which bridge he should be on to get back to the Embassy. So, he turned around and walked back to the not very secret policeman, followed him and asked for directions! For the rest of his stay they walked practically hand-in-hand.

Whilst most of us knew Stuart as an amiable old gent who played for Kent and in the Lloyds Bank Masters who could still play brilliant attacking games in his eighties  most knew little of his distinguished career in real life.

Sir Stuart Milner-Barry
Sir Stuart Milner-Barry

We suspected with some justification  that in his civil service career he was responsible for doling out all those OBEs to chess players  in the 70s and 80s when he was in charge of the honours list.

It was the wartime work at Bletchley Park that was Milner-Barry’s greatest achievement. As everybody knows the allies won the Second World War mainly because of the brilliant code-breaking work of the Cambridge quartet of Alan Turing, Gordon Welchman, Hugh Alexander and Stuart Milner-Barry. Turing and Welchman were mathematical geniuses, Milner-Barry was the supreme administrator and Alexander straddled the gap with great talents in both areas.

The astonishing achievement at Bletchley was not so  much in breaking enemy codes as maintaining complete secrecy of the entire operation for the duration of the war. Only with such people as Milner-Barry and Alexander in charge could such a large operation be run so successfully without anybody knowing about it.

Milner-Barry’s importance in the running at Bletchley may be judged from the fact that he personally delivered the note to Winston Churchill stressing overriding importance of their work asking for more funds.

Compared with that the invention of the Milner-Barry Gambit and the Milner-Barry variation of the Nimzo-Indian are minor achievements.

Sir Stuart was proof that nice guys can be chess players although one cannot help suspecting he would achieved even better results if he had even a slight streak of nastiness about him. He would surely have not let Capablanca off the hook in Margate in 1938 when the attacking player secured a winning position against the ex-champions dragon variation and he would have surely also not let the British Championship slip from his grasp in 1953 when he finished as runner-up  after losing his last two games.

He always performed well when playing in Olympiads (or Team Tournaments as they were known then) for England during the 1930s and 50s. He was, after all, one of the most naturally gifted players this county has produced.  What other Englishman has two opening (or even just one) named after him?

While at Cambridge while he won the University Championship in 1928, losing to Alexander in the following year, Milner-Barry composed some fine problems, a frivolity he never returned to later in his life.

An excellent though infrequent writer on the game, he wrote a fine memoir of C.H.O’D. Alexander in Golombek’s and Hartston’s The Best Games of C.H.O’D. Alexander, Oxford, 1976.”

The Best Games of C.H.O'D. Alexander, Harry Golombek and William Hartston. With A Memoir by Sir Stuart Milner-Barry, Oxford University Press, 1976, ISBN 10: 0192175351 ISBN 13: 9780192175359
The Best Games of C.H.O’D. Alexander, Harry Golombek and William Hartston. With A Memoir by Sir Stuart Milner-Barry, Oxford University Press, 1976, ISBN 10: 0192175351 ISBN 13: 9780192175359

An Obituary from Bernard Cafferty

From British Chess Magazine, Volume CXV (115, 1995), Number 5 (May), pp. 258-59 we have this obituary by Bernard Cafferty:

“Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry KCVO CB  OBE (20 ix 1906 – 25 iii 1995) was the oldest of the British chess masters who came to prominence in the 1930s, He was always thought of in conjunction with his great friends Hugh Alexander and Harry Golombek who both predeceased him. The length of Stuart’s career is amazing  – he was inaugural British Boy Champion in 1923 and was still playing for Kent first team in the Counties Championship  of recent years, thus spanning a period of seven decades! Botvinnik spoke of him to me on my 1994 visit to Moscow.

David Anderton OBE (rhs) congratulates Sir Stuart Milner-Barry OBE for winning the "Board of Honour " game versus Edward Lasker at the 1976 Lloyds Bank Match by Telex, London - New York. From BCM, volume XCVI (96) Number 11 (August), Page 494. The venue was the Bloomsbury Hotel, London. Photo courtesy of Lloyds Bank
David Anderton OBE (rhs) congratulates Sir Stuart Milner-Barry OBE for winning the “Board of Honour ” game versus Edward Lasker at the 1976 Lloyds Bank Match by Telex, London – New York. From BCM, volume XCVI (96) Number 11 (August), Page 494. The venue was the Bloomsbury Hotel, London. Photo courtesy of Lloyds Bank

Yet Stuart, who never gained the IM title, was always the true amateur and genuine English gentleman, whose sense of duty and tradition was very great. It speaks volumes of him that he agonised over whether he should attend the Times Kasparov-Short match of 1993, in a private capacity. He would have liked to watch the play, but as a former British Chess Federation President, 1970-73, he felt it was his duty not to lend any extra recognition to the contest other than that assigned it by the BCF.

Before the war, after graduating from Cambridge in Classics, he took some fine scalps including those of Tartakower and Mieses and should have beaten Capablanca at Margate 1939.

Capablanca and Stuart Milner-Barry at Margate, England, April 15, 1936. AP Photos
Capablanca and Stuart Milner-Barry at Margate, England, April 15, 1936. AP Photos

He worked, rather unhappily, in a stockbroking firm up to 1938 and it is in that capacity that his name appears on the official document that set-up the British Chess Magazine as a limited company in 1937.

During the war he played his part in the Bletchley Park code-breaking undertaking along with Alexander and Golombek, and after the war went into the Civil Service where he had a distinguished career at the Treasury. Then his career was extended as he spent his final working years in the patronage department that sifted recommendations for the honours list.

I recall asking him in 1981 if there was any chance that Brian Reilly could qualify for an award. Stuart’s diplomatic answer was to the effect that he was now retired but would drop a word in the right quarter.

Stuart represented England at the Olympiads or 1936, 1939, 1952 and 1956. At the last of these he played particularly well on fourth board. He was conscious that his old friend Hugh Alexander could not take part in Moscow because of the sensitive nature of his work in the Intelligence Service.

In playing style Milner-Barry, a tall gaunt figure, delighted in an open tactical fight.

He was The Times correspondent 1938-45, resigning the post to let Harry Golombek take over. His best result after the war, apart from the 1956 Moscow Olympiad, was probably his second place in the British Championships of 1953 at Hastings. The abiding impression of his opponents over the years must have been  that here was a player who greatly enjoyed the game, win, lose or draw.

Certainly, that was my idea of him in the tussles we had from the British Championship of 1957 up to county matches in the 1980s.

We shall not see his like again. The England that formed his character is no longer with us.”

Milner-Barry Variations

Though never at home in close(d) positions, he was an outstanding strategist in the open game and it is significant that his most important contribution to opening theory was the Milner-Barry variation of the Nimzo-Indian Defence which is essentially as attempt to convert a close position into an open one (1.P-Q4, N-KB3; 2.P-QB4, P-K3; 3. N-QB3, B-N5; 4.Q-B2, N-B3).”

Hooper & Whyld (1996) note:

“Sometimes called the Zurich or Swiss variation, this is a line in the Nimzo-Indian Defence introduced by Milner-Barry in the Premier Reserves tournament, Hastings 1928-9. This line became more widely known when it was played at Zurich 1934.”

Two famous opening lines are named after him – 4…Nc6 in the Nimzo-Indian (as above), and the gambit in the French Defence: 1.e4 e6;2.d4 d5;3.e5 c5;4.c3 Nc6;5.Nf3 Qb6;6.Bd3 cxd4;7.cxd4 Bd7;8.0-0 Nxd4;

Stuart played this line both in correspondence and over-the-board play. If Black takes the pawn with 10…Qxe5, White gets a fierce attack by 11,Re1 Qd6 (else 12.Nxd5) 12.Nb5.

There is also a sub-variation of the Caro-Kann which is named after Sir Stuart viz:

which is a Blackmar-Diemer style pawn sacrifice.

There is also a Milner-Barry variation in the Falkbeer Counter Gambit to the King’s Gambit thus:

which is an ancient line that he revived at Margate 1937.

and finally, there is a Milner-Barry Variation in the Petroff Defence:

giving a total of five named variations. How many English players have that many?

Problems and Compositions

Stuart developed an interest in problem composition in the 1920s

Sir Stuart Milner-Barry, Problem, Morning Post, 1923
Sir Stuart Milner-Barry, Problem, Morning Post, 1923
Sir Stuart Milner-Barry, Problem, The Observer, 1925
Sir Stuart Milner-Barry, Problem, The Observer, 1925
Sir Stuart Milner-Barry, Problem, British Chess Magazine, 1926
Sir Stuart Milner-Barry, Problem, British Chess Magazine, 1926

Further examples may be found on the excellent Meson Database maintained by Brian Stephenson

Milner-Barry on The English Chess Explosion

Stuart was a great supporter of the development of British chess. Nothing would have given him more pleasure than to witness  the meteoric advances of English players in the 1970s. Indeed, he wrote the foreword to the English Chess Explosion (Batsford, 1980) by Murray Chandler and Ray Keene:

The English Chess Explosion (from Miles to Short), Murray Chandler & Ray Keene, Batsford, 1981, ISBN 0 7134 4009 0
The English Chess Explosion (from Miles to Short), Murray Chandler & Ray Keene, Batsford, 1981, ISBN 0 7134 4009 0

“It gives me great pleasure to have been asked to write a foreword for this book. Nothing has given me more satisfaction than the flowering of British chess talent that has taken place in the past few years.

Between the wars, though we had some splendid players like H. E. Atkins, Sir George Thomas and F. D. Yates, we were a second rate power at chess: in the great Nottingham tournament of 1936, for example, our quartet brought up the rear, and that was where, with occasional shining exceptions, our representatives in international tournaments tended to find themselves. Similarly, after the war in the 1950’s and 1960’s, in spite of Alexander and Penrose, we seldom achieved a really creditable place in the Olympiads.

Alexander who retired early from the arena because of the exacting demands of his profession, must have had rather a depressing time as non-playing captain.

Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry OBE
Sir Stuart Milner-Barry OBE

I myself date the renaissance from the Spring of 1974 when we won a closely contested match against West Germany at Elvetham Hall.
Thereafter we went from strength to strength, with the appearance year by year of highly talented, original and adventurous young men from the Universities – Keene and Hartston, closely followed by Miles, Stean, Nunn, Mestel, Speelman, and a still younger generation of schoolboy prodigies like Nigel Short.

The peak of our performance so far has been the third place (after the USSR and Hungary) last winter in the finals of the European Team Tournament at Skara (compared with our eighth and last place at Moscow in 1977).

Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry OBE presents Dr. Jana Hartston with the ? prize
Sir Stuart Milner-Barry OBE presents Dr. Jana Hartston with the ? prize

How did all this come about in the short space of six years? The Spassky-Fischer match of 1972 was a watershed. Since then, and the first time, it has been possible for able young men from universities to consider chess seriously as a full-time profession, or at least as a career to which they devote the major part of their time and interest, Secondly, the fruits were being reaped of the unobtrusive but devoted spadework in junior training pioneered by Barden, Wade and many others. Lastly, no doubt, sheer good fortune smiled upon us in the simultaneous emergence of a group of brilliant enthusiastic and likeable young men, five of them already grandmasters and others likely to become so before long.

It is sad that Alexander, who did so much to uphold the prestige of British chess in the doldrums, did not survive to witness the transformation. I would like to wish the BCF President, David Anderton, and Alexander’s successor as captain, all possible success for the future.”

Footer from the foreword of The English Chess Explosion (from Miles to Short), Murray Chandler & Ray Keene, Batsford, 1981, ISBN 0 7134 4009 0
Footer from the foreword of The English Chess Explosion (from Miles to Short), Murray Chandler & Ray Keene, Batsford, 1981, ISBN 0 7134 4009 0

Further Material

An obituary from The Independent by Bill Hartston

An article from Spartacus Educational

Here are his games from chess.com

More on his time at Bletchley Park

Location of his grave

Here is his Wikipedia entry

Signature of Sir Stuart Milner-Barry
Signature of Sir Stuart Milner-Barry

According to Edward Winter in Chess Notes PSMB lived at these addresses :

  • 11 Park Terrace, Cambridge, England (Ranneforths Schachkalender, 1938, page 78).
  • 43 Blackheath Park, Blackheath, London SE3 9RW, England (letter reproduced in C.N. 3809).