BCN remembers Philip Walsingham Sergeant who passed away on Monday, October 20th 1952.
PWS was born in Kensington on Saturday, January 27th, 1872 to Lewis Sergeant and Emma Louisa Sergeant (née Robertson) and was baptised at All Saints Church, Notting Hill. According to PWS’s baptism record Lewis was an author.
According to PWS in A Century of British Chess :
“When I was seven years of age – about the period, by the way, in which my father began to teach me Greek – he began also to initiate me into chess. Not that he designed it as a consolatory set-off to my application to Greek; for he loved the Classics well, though, going up to Cambridge with small classical exhibition, he had turned to Mathematics, and therein took his degree. ”
According to the 1881 census PWS (aged 9) lived with his parents and numerous siblings : Dorothy (aged 7), Winifred (6), Hilda (5), Bernard (2), John (his grandfather aged 76) and Mary (his grandmother aged 75). They had staff, Elizabeth Fraser and Sarah Martin. They lived at 10, Addison Road, North, Kensington.
According to “Joseph Foster. Oxford Men and Their Colleges, 1880-1892. 2 vols. Oxford, England: James Parker and Co, 1893″ :
PWS attended St. Paul’s School and then Trinity College, Oxford to read Classics where he attained Honour Moderations.
and here is the record from the above publication :
We do not know if PWS played in the Varsity matches of 1892 – 1895 : Britbase does not (yet) include player details for these matches.
PWS married Minnie Boundford (born 27th February 1889) in 1909 in Hampstead and they lived at 5, Dukes Avenue, Chiswick where PWS was listed as an author and Minnie as someone who carried out “unpaid domestic duties”. Minnie was 17 years younger than PWS. Minnie’s father was a joiner and a carpenter.
They had two daughters Margaret (born 1910) and Kathleen (born 1911).
In October 1946 Minnie and PWS remarried. Presumably this was rather unusual in that day and age.
According to The Oxford Companion to Chess (OUP, 2nd edition, 1996) by Hooper and Whyld :
PWS was an English author of biographical games collections for Charousek, Morphy and Pillsbury as well as other works of importance such as A Century of British Chess (1943) and Championship Chess (1938).
From The Encyclopedia of Chess (BT Batsford, 1977) by Harry Golombek :
“A professional writer on chess and popular historical subjects. Without any pretentions to mastership, he represented Oxford University in the years 1892 – 5 and assisted RC Griffith in preparing three editions of Modern Chess Openings.
In chess he dealt with a number of important subjects : Morphy’s Games of Chess, London, 1916; Charousek’s Games of Chess, London, 1919; Pillsbury’s Chess Career (in collaboration with WH Watts), London, 1923; Championship Chess, London, 1938.
All these are lucidly and carefully written but suffer from the defect that, being neither a master player nor a professional annotator, he was not competent to deal with the annotational part of the work. Probably his best book on chess was A Century of British Chess, London, 1934.
From British Chess Magazine, Volume LXX11 (72), Number 11 (November), page 324 we have this rather brief obituary (presumably written by Brian Reilly):
“We regret to have to report the death, at the age of eighty-one of Philip W. Sergeant, the author of A Century of British Chess, which we imagine is in most chess libraries. He was the author of several well-known historical books – but we are only concerned here with his chess activities, which included representing Oxford University 1892-5; helping RC Griffith with two editions of Modern Chess Openings; playing for Middlesex, winning the chess championship of the authors’ club for several year, and latterly as an honoured member; and occasionally obtaining the championship of the Guildford Chess Club. Our sympathy with his widow and two daughters is sincere.”
“Philip Walsingham Sergeant (27 January 1872, Notting Hill, London – 20 October 1952) was a British professional writer on chess and popular historical subjects. He collaborated on the fifth (1933), sixth (1939), and seventh (1946) editions of Modern Chess Openings, an important reference work on the chess openings. He also wrote biographical game collections of Paul Morphy (Morphy’s Games of Chess (1916) and Morphy Gleanings), Rudolf Charousek (Charousek’s Games of Chess (1919)), and Harry Nelson Pillsbury (Pillsbury’s Chess Career, with W. H. Watts, 1922), and other important books such as A Century of British Chess (1934) and Championship Chess (1938).”
Harry Golombek writes that, “Without any pretensions to mastership, he represented Oxford University in the years 1892-5”. Golombek considers A Century of British Chess probably Sergeant’s best chess book, but opines that although Sergeant’s chess books are lucidly written, they suffer from the defect that, as a non-master, he was not competent to deal with the annotational aspect of his work.
We remember WIM Eileen Betsy Tranmer who passed away on September 26th, 1983.
She was the first English woman to be awarded by FIDE the Woman’s International Master title in 1950.
“From The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match by Klein and Winter :
Miss E. Tranmer was born in Scarborough, North Yorkshire in 1910, and learned chess at the age of six. She did not take it up seriously, however, until 1936. Under the tuition of W. Winter she has made notable progress, and her performances include a second prize in the British Correspondence Championship 1944, as well as first prize in one of the subsidiary tournaments at Hastings, 1945.
By profession Miss Tranmer is a musician and has played principal clarinet in the Scottish and Sadler’s Wells Orchestras.”
From British Chess Magazine, Volume CIII (103, 1983), Number 11 (November), page 482-83 (presumably written by Bernard Cafferty) :
“Eileen Tranmer died in hospital at Ticehurst on September 26th after a long illness. Born in Scarborough, May 5th 1910, she was a professional clarinet player and played in a number of prominent British orchestras till forced to retire by deafness.
One of the leading British players in the two decades after the war, Eileen won the British Ladies Championship in 1947, 1949 (with a 100% score), 1953 and 1961, and played in the British Championship at Buxton, 1950. Her international record was sparse, as was the case with nearly all English players of that period. Nevertheless, she made her mark in the 1949-50 first post-war Women’s World Championship where she finished 5-7th in a field of 16, beating Bykova, again, and finished 7th in the field of 16.
“Eileen Tranmer was one of the best English chess lady players of her generation.
I only played her once at Oxford in an International Ladies Tournament held between 24 July and 1 August 1971. Eileen totally outplayed me and I lost the game.
Eileen was a member of Acton Chess Club where there were three active lady players at that time. They were Jean Rogers, Olive Chataway and Eileen. Eileen lived in Acton then.
Eileen was a professional musician and had to stop playing when she became deaf which was dreadful for her.
In 1969 Eileen, Rowena Bruce and I were selected to play in the Ladies Chess Olympiad Team in Lublin, Poland. Sadly Eileen was taken ill just before the event so Rowena and I had to play all 13 rounds without a break. I was on Board 1 and at the end Rowena and I were exhausted and I had to withdraw from a tournament in the Czech Republic without playing a game. The food in Poland was awful so we said never again!
Eileen was very friendly with Harry Golombek. The expectation among the lady chess players was that they would get married but she never did. Harry did not drive and Eileen was very kind driving Harry and his elderly mother around.
Very sadly Eileen’s brother was killed in a car crash and after that Eileen suffered mental problems. Eileen lived near John and Jean Rogers and John said Eileen would turn up at their home in the middle of the night wanting to play chess.
The last time I saw Eileen was at Paignton. Her friend Olive Chataway brought her to Paignton and Eileen played in the bottom tournament and did badly. Eileen did not recognise myself or Rowena which was very sad.
Eileen later left Acton and moved to Tring. Eileen was a pleasant and modest person and was well liked. She had a good sense of humour.”
From the obituary in The Times of London we learn that her last few years were over-shadowed by an illness that preyed on her mind.
We take the following game from the August 1944 issue of BCM. The game was played in the BCCA Championship, and curiously enough there was an enquiry about that event to the BCF only a short while ago – a Georgian journalist wishes to quote that wartime performance as an early example of success by a woman in male chess company! ”
Gerald Abrahams in Not only Chess, wrote about Eileen (Chapter 18 : What Achilles Saw Among Women) as follows :
“To revert to the British Ladies, they were joined in the late 1930s by a very able pupil of Miss Menchik, the Yorkshire Clarinettist Eileen Tranmer; a woman whose chess I have seen to express some admirable qualities of mind and character. I had the privilege of watching her is Moscow in 1949-50, when, handicapped by influenza of a particularly virulent kind – what the Russians call “grippe” – she won some five or six consecutive games, to finish in the prize list of the new official Women’s World Championship. There had been two championships before, which Vera has won easily. Since Vera had unhappily perished in the Blitz, they looked at Moscow for her successor.”
BCN remembers Joseph Blackburne (10-xii-1841 01-ix-1924)
The following (excerpts of) information were obtained via ancestry.co.uk / findmypast.co.uk:
Joseph Henry Blackburne was born on Friday, December 10th, 1841 in Chorlton, Manchester. His father was Joseph Blackburn (aged 23, a temperance reformer) and his mother was Ann Pritchard (aged 24). He had eight sons and five daughters.
His brother Frederick Pritchard Blackburn died on 11 October 1847 in Lancashire, Lancashire, when Joseph Henry was 5 years old.
His sister Clara was born on 4 November 1847 in Street, Lancashire, when Joseph Henry was 5 years old.
His half-sister Clara was born in 1848 in Manchester, Lancashire, when Joseph Henry was 7 years old.
His mother Ann passed away on 26 November 1857 in Manchester, Lancashire, at the age of 40.
His half-brother William Thomas was born on 17 June 1865 when Joseph Henry was 23 years old.
Joseph Henry Blackburne married Eleanor Driscoll on 10 December 1865 when he was 24 years old.
Joseph Henry Blackburne married Beatrice Lapham on 3 October 1876 when he was 34 years old.
His wife Beatrice passed away in January 1880 in St Olave Southwark, London, at the age of 26. They had been married 3 years.
Joseph Henry Blackburne married Mary Jane Fox in St Olave Southwark, London, on 16 December 1880 when he was 39 years old.
Joseph Henry Blackburne lived in Everton, Lancashire, in 1891.
According to Edward Winter in Chess Notes JHB lived at the following addresses :
16 Lucey Road, London SE, England (The Chess Amateur, October 1924, page 32 (address in 1879) and the 1881 British census (C.N. 4756)*).
116 Barkworth Road, Camberwell, London, England (1891 British census (C.N. 4756)*).
7 Whitbread Road, Lewisham, London, England (1901 British census (C.N. 4756)*).
45 Sandrock Road, Lewisham, London SE, England (Ranneforths Schach-Kalender, 1915, page 56, and Hastings Chess Club address list, 1922*).
According to chessgames.com :
“Joseph Henry Blackburne was born in Chorlton, Manchester. He came to be known as “The Black Death”. He enjoyed a great deal of success giving blindfold and simultaneous exhibitions. Tournament highlights include first place with Wilhelm Steinitz at Vienna 1873, first at London 1876, and first at Berlin 1881 ahead of Johannes Zukertort. In matchplay he lost twice to Steinitz and once to Emanuel Lasker. He fared a little better with Zukertort (Blackburne – Zukertort (1881)) and Isidor Gunsberg, by splitting a pair of matches, and defeating Francis Joseph Lee, ( Blackburne – Lee (1890) ). One of the last successes of his career was at the age of 72, when he tied for first place with Fred Dewhirst Yates at the 1914 British Championship.
In his later years, a subscription by British chess players provided an annuity of £100 (approximately £4,000 in 2015 value), and a gift of £250 on his 80th birthday.”
In 1923 he suffered a stroke, and the next year he died of a heart attack.”
From The Oxford Companion to Chess (OUP, 1984) by Hooper and Whyld :
“For more than 20 years one of the first six players in the world and for even longer the leading English born player. Draughts was the most popular indoor game in his home town, Manchester; he learned this game as a child and became expert in his youth.
He was about 18 when, inspired by Morphy’s exploits, he learned the moves of chess. In July 1861 he lost all live games of a match against the Manchester chess club champion Edward Pindar, but he improved so rapidly that he defeated Pindar three months later (-1-5=2—1), and in 1862 he became champion of the club ahead of Pindar and Horwitz.
Instructed by Horwitz, Blackburne became one of the leading endgame players of his time; and wishing to emulate the feats of L. Paulsen, who visited the club in November 1861, he developed exceptional skill at blindfold chess. He spent most of the 1860s developing his chess and toying with various occupations.
After winning the British championship, 1868-9, ahead of de vere, he became a full-time professional player.
Blackburne achieved excellent results in many tournaments: Baden-Baden 1870, third equal with Neumann after Anderssen and Steinitz; London 1872, second (+5-2) after Steinitz ahead of Zukertort; Vienna 1873, second to Steinitz after a play-off; Paris 1878, third after Winawer and Zukertort: Wiesbaden 1880, first equal with Englisch and Schwarz; Berlin 1881, first (+13=2 — 1), three points ahead of Zukertort, the second prize winner (Blackburne’s greatest achievement); London 1883, third after Zukertort and Steinitz; Hamburg 1885, second equal with Englisch, Mason, Tarrasch, and Weiss half a point after Gunsberg; Frankfurt 1887, second equal with Weiss after Mackenzie; Manchester 1890, second after Tarrasch; Belfast 1892, first equal with Mason; London 1892, second ( + 6-2) after Lasker; London 1893, first ( + 2=3).
He was in the British team in 11 of the Anglo-American cable matches, meeting Pillsbury on first board six times (+2-3 — 1), and he continued to play internationally until he was 72, long enough to meet the pioneer of the hypermodern movement Nimzowitsch, whom he defeated at St Petersburg 1914.
Blackburne had remarkable combinative powers and is remembered for his swingeing king’s side attacks, often well prepared but occasionally consisting of an ingenious swindle that would deceive even the greatest all his contemporaries. The tournament book of Vienna 1873 refers to him as ‘der schrwarze Tod [Black death] der Schachspieler’, a nickname that became popular.
His unflappable temperament also earned him the soubriquet “the man with the iron nerves’. Even so, neither his temperament nor his style was suited to set matches, in which he was rarely successful against world-class players. He had other chess talents: a problem composer, he was also a fast solver, allegedly capable of outpacing the great Sam Loyd. Blackburne earned his livelihood by means of simultaneous displays, for this purpose touring Britain twice-yearly, with a few breaks, for more than 50 years.
Before this time such displays were solemn affairs; Lowenthal, who would appear in formal dress and play for several hours in silence, was shocked when Blackburne turned up in ordinary clothes, chatting and making jokes as he played, and refreshing him self with whisky, (Blackburne confessed, however, that when fully absorbed in a game he never noticed whether he was drinking water instead,) Once, walking round the boards, he drained his opponent’s glass, saying when rebuked He left it en prise and I took it en passant‘
The illustrator Julius Hess depicted Blackburne in a New Yorker Staats Zeitung evening edition as sitting at a chesstable and beckoning: “Waitah! A whiskey and limejuice!”
He played his blindfold displays quickly, and with little sign of the stress that besets most blindfold players. Probably the leading blindfold expert of his time, he challenged Zukertort, a close rival in this field, to a match of ten games, played simultaneously, both players blindfold; but Zukertort declined. Many who knew and liked Blackburne subscribed to a fund which sustained him in his last years.
P. A. Graham, Mr Blackburne’s Games at Chess (1899) contains 407 games annotated by Blackburne and 28 three-movers composed by him.
A reprint, styled Blackburne*s Chess Games (1979), has a new introduction and two more games.
One of Blackburne’s contributions was the suggestion of using chess clocks rather than the archaic hourglasses.
Here follows a reproduction of an article from British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXX1 (1961), Number 12 (December), page 340-342 written by RN Coles entitled “Early Days of a Great Master” :
“The only record of how J. H. Blackburne first, entered the chess world is the one provided by P. Anderson Graham in the introduction to his collection of Blackburne’s games. This has all the ingredients of a romanticized version of the truth-the first casual games in a temperance hotel, then entry to the important Manchester Club and a series of victories over ever stronger opponents until at last Pindar, Champion of the Provinces, comes along, plays the unknown youth and is defeated.
Reference to C. H. Stanley’s column in the Weekly Guardian and Express helps to supply a more accurate version. Young Blackburne’s earliest interest was in problems and he submitted one to the Guardian and Express which appeared in January, 1861, only to be found by several solvers to be cooked, Then silence till May 11th, when the column carries a note:
J. H. B. Problems received with much pleasure…Shall be glad to see you at the Club.”
Here are a couple of published problems. For a complete listing see below.
Manchester Express, 1861
The Field, 1893
Not yet a member, clearly. Nevertheless, he contrived somehow to meet Pindar outside the club and played some games-with him (two scores appear in the Guardian and Express, July 20th), and a set-match of five up was then arranged, still played in private (Guardian and Express, August 3lst), which “was terminated by Mr. Pindar winning a clear victory, the score being Pindar 5, Blackburne 0” (one game was quoted in the July “B.C.M.” and another score can be found in the Guardian and Express, July 27th.
“A second match was agreed upon, level games to entitle either player to the victor’s palm. The result … is calculated positively, to startle the chess world. The first game was scored by Mr. Pindar; of the next seven, Blackburne won five and the two remaining were drawn. ‘At this point Mr. Pindar resigned the match.” (Guardian and Express, September 7th, with the score of a Blackburne win from this match quoted February 1st, 1962.)
Only now does Blackburne appear to have joined the Manchester Club, meeting such players as Stanley himself for the first time (Guardian and Express gives the score of a casual game, November 9th), though Stanley later claimed personally to have discovered the young prodigy.
In November, 1861, Paulsen visited the club and the score survives of a casual game in which he beat Blackburne, who played a Winawer Variation of the French Defence long before Winawer ever came on the-scene (Guardian and Express, December,1861); Paulsen concluded his visit with one of his celebrated ten-board blindfold displays and not unnaturally the young Blackburne eagerly took a board; his defeat is No.25O in his games collection. This so stimulated him that he himself tried blindfold play and by January 20th, 1862, was able to give his first display against four boards, winning them all (Guardian and Express, January 25th, with one of the scores). This he followed with seven games on February 8th,
winning five and losing two. (Guardian and Express, February 8th) and finally ten games on February 8th, winning five, losing two, and drawing three (Guardian and Express,February 15th, which quotes the score of one game in addition to No. 254 in his games).
Inter-club matches were something of a rarity in those days and were regarded as of considerable importance when they occurred; one such was the annual Manchester-Liverpool match and in 1862 Blackburne took part for the first time, being matched against Wellington, another young player of promise who seems to have got no further; as many games were played between opponents as time allowed and these two young men played three, all won by Blackburne. (Guardian and Express, February 22nd, which quotes the score of one game in addition to No. 138 in the collection).
During this spring the rivalry with Pindar was renewed in a third match for the first five wins and after eleven games the score stood at 4 each, with three drawn (Guardian and Express, March 15th, quoting the score of the eleventh game), but I cannot find who won the last game. Since Blackburne was hailed as club champion this season, one must suppose he was the victor.
Such was his first club season. ln June, 1862, he played in the London lnternational Tournament and from then on his chess career was public property.
To conclude, here is the score of the eleventh game of his third match with Pindar, a critical struggle in which his budding mastery appears at the-end. From an inferior opening he struggles into an equal ending but by a rash exchange of Rooks on the 36th move gives Pindar a clear advantage, which could have been held by 41. P-R4. Blackburne seizes on this omission like a real master to switch into a most accurately calculated queen ending.
and here is the original article:
Many juniors and beginners will know the Blackburne Shilling Gambit (or Kostić Gambit) in some circles known (named by Julian Hodgson) as the ‘Oh My God’:
There are variations named after Blackburne as follows :
The Blackburne Attack in the Four Knights is
and the Blackburne Variation of the Dutch defence is
and a popular line in the Queen’s Gambit
are attributed to Blackburne in the literature.
According to The Encyclopedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977) by Harry Golombek :
“British grandmaster and highly successful tournament player who was one of the most prominent masters of the nineteenth century. He did not learn to play chess until the age of nineteen, but his natural gifts soon brought him into the front rank of British players, and in 1868 he abandoned his business interests and adopted chess as a profession.
Blackburne’s international tournament career spans an impressive fifty-two years from London 1862 to St. Petersburg 1914 – a total of 53 events in which he played 814 games, scoring over 62%. Although he rarely won international events, he generally finished in the top half of the table and his fierce competitive spirit coupled with his great combinative ability earned the pleasant nickname of ‘the Black Death’.
His most notable successes were =1st with Steinitz at Vienna 1873 (Blackburne lost the play-off match), 1st at Berlin 1881 ahead of Paulsen, Schallopp, Chigorin, Winawer and Zukertort, and 2nd to Tarrasch at Manchester 1890.
Blackburne won the BCA Championship in 1868 and for many years was ranked as Britain’s foremost player. In 1914 – at the age of 72 – he shared first place at the BCF congress in Chester.
In match play his success was mixed. He defeated Bird in 1888 (+4-1) and Gunsberg in 1881 (+7-4=3) but lost a second match to Gunsberg in 1886 (+2-5=6). He lost to Lasker (+0-6=4) in 1892 and was defeated heavily twice by Steinitz : in 1862/3 (+1-7=2) and in 1876 (+0-7=0), the latter of these matches being for the World Championship.
Blackburne excelled at blindfold play and in simultaneous exhibitions, which provided a major portion of his income. He died in Lewisham, a much respected veteran of eighty-three.”
BCN Remembers FM Max Fuller (28-i-1945 27-viii-2013)
Maxwell Leonard Fuller was born on Sunday, January 28th 1945 in Sydney, New South Wales. He was brought up by his mother and, according to Ian Rogers, his step-father with whom he did not get on.
He was Australian Junior Champion in 1962.
He won the New South Wales title in 1965 (and then in 1986 and 1988).
Max came to England in late 1968 to play at Hastings and then chose to settle here. He played for Lewisham chess club. He won the Whitby Open in 1969 (See BCM, Volume LXXXIX, Number 8, page 264).
In the 1970s be played board one for Australia whilst maintaining a FIDE rating of 2450, and, according to chessgames.com : “Fuller finished equal second in the British championship in 1970 and 1975, winner of the Doeberl Cup three times, winner of the Australian Open three times, Joint Australian Champion 1972 with Trevor Hay and competed in nine Olympiads for Australia from 1964-1990. In 1974, he won the 101st Athenaeum Chess Club Jubilee tournament, held in London.”
He became a FIDE Master in 1980
Fuller returned to chess in 2004 after an eight-year absence and finished equal second in the 2004 and 2005 NSW championships.
According to IM Gary Lane : “Max had a heart attack and died on the day he was attending the funeral of his pal Peter Parr”
With the white pieces Max essayed the Ruy Lopez with a penchant for the exchange variation but nonetheless he was flexible and varied.
As the second player against 1.e4 he was versatile with a broad range of defences and likewise facing 1.d4/1.Nf3 he was difficult to prepare for.
According to British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXXIII (2013), Number 9 (September), page 450 :
“From Australia the saddest of news, the passing Maxwell Leonard Fuller (28 i 1945 Sydney – 27 viii 2013 Sydney). FM Max Fuller played in seven BCF Championships, 1969 -80. He later claimed the scalps of Short, Miles and Chandler. He was the most determined player imaginable and had the broadest of opening repertoires. (James Pratt)”
In this obituary from Ray Keene, Ray very thoughtfully provides a game in which Max loses to Ray.
BCN Remembers Captain William Davies Evans (27-i-1790 03-viii-1872)
From The Oxford Companion to Chess (OUP, 1984) by Hooper & Whyld :
“Inventor of the Evans gambit, for about half a century one of the most popular attacking weapons. He was born in (Musland Farm in the parish of Saint Dogwells,) Pembroke, Wales, went to sea at the age of 14, was employed by the Postal Department from about 1815, and rose to the rank of captain four years later. In 1824, soon after taking command of the first Royal Mail steam packet to sail from Milford Haven to Waterford, and while aboard, he invented his gambit. Evans was a keen player. He gathered a small chess circle in Waterford, and when on leave in England played chess in London, notably in 1826 when he showed his gambit to Lewis and McDonnell, and in 1838 when he played a long series of games with Staunton at the Westminster Chess Club. In Jan. 1840 he was pensioned off on account of ill-health. He went to Greece, became captain of a steamer that sailed the Mediterranean, and returned to London at the end of 1842. During the next 13 years there are several accounts of his presence in London, and then he settled abroad. He died and was buried in Ostend,
Evans claimed to have solved the three pawns problem (See below) , which, however, had already been solved by others. His claim to the invention of tri-coloured lighting for ships has not been verified independently, although he is known to have investigated the subject. For this invention he states that the Tsar of Russia gave him a gold chronometer, and that he also received money. For a more detailed life of Captain Evans see British Chess Magazine, 1928, pp, 6-18.”
The Evans Gambit is a variation of the Giuoco Piano or Italian Game :
When Evans originally devised his gambit the move order was slightly different :
in which White sacrifices the b-pawn for increased central control and development viz :
From The Encyclopedia of Chess (Robert Hale, 1970 & 1976) by Anne Sunnucks :
“Inventor of the Evans Gambit, an opening described by a player in the last century as ‘A yellow fever attack : if you live through the initial stages and avoid any carelessness that may bring on a relapse, you will come out alright’.
Captain Evans discovered the gambit in about 1824. It was a favourite opening during the last century and was adopted by a number of leading players including La Bourdonnais and Morphy.
For some years Commander in H.M. Royal Mail Packet Service on the Milford and Waterford station, Captain Evans later became Commander in the P.& O. Company’s service and agent for the Royal Mail Steampacket Company, Port Grande. On retirement he lives for many years in Holland and Belgium.
The story is told of how, in 1870, the Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia, brother of the Tsar, was visiting Bruges when he heard that the inventor of the Evans Gambit was living in Ostend. Being a keen chess player he invited Evans to play a game. When Evans had won, the Grand Duke turned to his adversary and said : ‘I believe you invented the Evans Gambit ?’, ‘Yes’ replied Evans ‘and it’s not the only thing I’ve invented for which you have not paid me.’ ‘What’s the other?’ asked the Grand Duke.
Evans then explained that he was the inventor of the ship’s lights which were being used by the Russian Navy, in which the Grand Duke held the rank of Admiral. Several months later Evans was invited to the Russian Consulate in Ostend, where he was handed a letter from the Grand Duke, a gold chronometer, a gold chain and a draft of money, ostensibly in payment for the Russia’s rights to use the captain’s invention in her ships. ”
Evans analyzed the “Little Game of Chess” (an endgame composition involving only two kings with three pawns each)
to independently discover that it actually won for the player who moves first, not drawn as had been believed for over a hundred years.
From The Encyclopedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977) by Harry Golombek we have :
“After his retirement Evans went to live abroad and eventually found a haven is Ostend and there, ill, and almost blind and in very straightened circumstances, he dictated a letter on 22 March 1871, which was published in the Gentlemen’s Journal supplement for June 1872, along with an appeal for him organised by George Walker. The letter gives the authentic facts of his life and is worth quoting in full, if only to refute various unfounded reports about a meeting with the Tsar’s brother, or according to that rich source of misinformation, the Rev GA MacDonnell, that the Evans Gambit was discovered off the coast of Africa by a middle-aged lieutenant in the Royal Navy -perhaps the reverend gentleman was confusing Waterford with the Canary Islands.
The letter runs :
Williams Davies Evans is a native of Pembrokeshire, South Wales, and was born on 27 January 1790. He commenced a naval career at the age of fourteen. He was about twenty-eight years of age when he first learnt the moves of the game of Chess. Having the advantage of frequent practise with Lieut H. Wilson, R.N., who was a player of some reputation in his time, beside corresponding on the subject of the game with the late Mr. W. Lewis, and also with George Walker, the able Chess Editor of Bell’s Life , he made a rapid progress in the game. Captain Evans received at first the odds of a Rook from Lieut. Wilson. After a continuance of play for some years, the odds were greatly reduced, until ultimately Captain Evans succeeded in defeating his formidable antagonist playing even.
About the year 1824, being then in command of a Government Mail Steamer, the passages between Milford Haven and Waterford were favourable to the study of the game of Chess and at this time he invented the Gambit, which bears his name. The idea occurred to him while studying a narration of Giuoco Piano in Sarratts’s Treatise on Chess.
Captain Evans was the first who gave to the world a true solution of that very difficult end game, the King and three Pawns unmoved against King and three Pawns also unmoved. This position was handed down to us through a period of some centuries as a drawn game, but Captain Evans proved that the first player can always win.
Captain Evans acquired some celebrity as “Inventor of the System of Tri-Coloured Lights for Ships to Prevent Collisions at Night”, which has been adopted by all nations possessing a marine. For this invention the English Government awarded him the sum of £1,500 , and the Czar of Russia a gold pocket chronometer, value £160, together with a donation of £200.
The subscription that amounted to over £200 was too late. He died in 1872 and was buried in Ostend where his grave bears the inscription :
To the sacred memory of William Davies Evans, formerly Commander in the Post Office and Peninsular and Oriental Steam Services, Superintendent In the Royal Mail Shipping Company, and inventor of the system of tri-coloured light for shipping. Also well known in the Chess World as the author of the Evans Gambit
BCN remembers much loved Ken Whyld who passed away on July 11th 2003 in Lincolnshire.
From Chess : The Records :
“Ken Whyld was the editor of Chess Students Quarterly in the early 1950s and from 1955-63, Chess Reader, in which he reviewed more than 500 chess books. He has written seven tournament books and one match book.
With J. Gilchrist he wrote a three-volume anthology of Lasker’s games, and with David Hooper, The Oxford Companion to Chess.
For the book World Chess Champions he wrote the chapters on Lasker and Smyslov. In his playing days he was champion of his county (Nottinghamshire) many times and played in the British Championship as well as international tournaments.”
Possibly the best tribute to Ken was written by John Saunders and Bernard Cafferty in the August 2003 issue of British Chess Magazine, pages 398 – 402.
BCN remembers IM Andrew Jonathan Whiteley (09-vi-1947 07-vii-2014)
Andrew was born on Monday, June 9th, 1947 in Birmingham, West Midlands to Denys Edward Hugh Whiteley (1914 – 1987) and Muriel Sutton (1919 – 1967). Andrew had two siblings, Robert N (Birmingham, 1944) and Angela M (Oxford 1952).
Andrew completed his education at Magdalen College School, Oxford and then in law at Pembroke College, Oxford.
“Whiteley’s school chess record is an outstanding 63/65: Andrew Whiteley is captain and top board of a very strong U18 team of: A Whiteley, H Morphy, MN Crombie, MM Daube, A Hawkins and AH Smith.”
His highest Elo rating was 2395 in January 1977 at the age of 29 and played for King’s Head in the Four Nations Chess League (4NCL).
Andrew was former President of the Middlesex County Chess Association (1985-87) and Deputy (1984-85 & 1987-88).
He became a FIDE Master in 1980 at the age of 33. His last major tournament was Cappelle Le Grand in 1988 (see photograph below).
Below was written by BCM editor James Pratt in Volume CXXXIV (134), Number 8 (August) page 417-8 :
“Unfailingly courteous, formally dressed, retired London solicitor, British Master, Andrew Jonathan Whiteley (9 vi 1946 Birmingham – 8 vii 2014) has died. The son of an Oxford professor, AJW was British U21 Champion of 1965. He tied, with Hans Ree, for first in the European Junior in 1965/6.
The following game first appeared in the Games Department column of Harry Golombek in British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXVI (1966), Number 3 (March), page 148. It was game #14,118.
He scooped the Silver medal at the British in 1971 and in 1976. Andrew often worked selflessly at his office in the mornings, commuting to key games after lunch. He rose to be No. 3 or 4 in England and, always a loyal team man, shone in Olympiads. Belatedly, having turned his back on the law, in 1988, he became an IM. He was also a BCF Arbiter and Middlesex County organiser. In 2008, he won the English Senior Championships aged 61.
Few people know the story of Vera Menchik yet it deserves to be told. She was the first women’s world chess champion in 1927 and retained the title undefeated until her untimely death at the age of 38 in 1944 during a rocket attack on London. She is more properly compared with the great male players of her era against whom she scored creditably. The absence of a full biography of Vera in English reflects the peculiar circumstances of her life and death.
Vera was, in modern terminology, a refugee and essentially a stateless person for much of her life. She was born in Moscow in 1906 during the period of the Russian Empire to an expatriate family who was forced to flee when she was 15 following the Russian Revolution having lost their livelihood. As they passed through Europe, her father and mother split up in his homeland Czechoslovakia which had been created out of the ruins of the Austro-Hungarian empire. She arrived in England and took up residence in the seaside town of Hastings. (The fact that Hastings had hosted the world’s longest series of annual chess tournaments since 1895 was a happy coincidence.) Vera never attained British nationality until near the end of her life even though she had been domiciled in England from 1921. She won the first-ever Women’s World Championships held in London in 1927 under a Russian flag; thereafter she nominally represented Czechoslovakia until finally she represented England in 1939 following her marriage to a senior official within the British Chess Federation.
Vera’s grandfather was Arthur Illingworth, a wealthy trader from Lancashire who had set up business in Moscow where his Anglo-Russian daughter Olga married František Menčik. He was a successful estate manager. Vera learned chess from her father and performed well at school. Her younger sister Olga was also a good chess player and the sisters remained close throughout their lives.
Vera was a woman in a man’s world – she had to struggle harder to achieve the kind of recognition which was accorded to men. She appeared like a comet in the sky and it would be many years until other women were able to reach her level. At her first major international tournament at Karlsbad in 1929, she was the only female participant in a tournament of 22 great players. Even as women’s world champion, some of the male players objected to her participation. The Viennese master Albert Becker joked that anybody who lost to her should belong to the Vera Menchik Club. By an irony of history, he became its first member losing to her in the third round. She beat many other grandmasters during her career including the Dutchman Max Euwe in 1930 and 1931 (both at Hastings) who was to become world champion in 1935.
Although she is often portrayed as being Russian or Czech or latterly British, she was a true cosmopolitan. She knew that life could be unstable in any country. She had lived through the Russian Revolution; one parent was left behind in Czechoslovakia; she had moved westwards across Europe and embraced different cultures and languages at formative stages of her life. It is no wonder that she learned also to speak Esperanto which was designated to be the world’s lingua franca before English achieved its dominance. As a leading chess player, she travelled back to Moscow and to Czechoslovakia several times as well as to South America for her final match to retain the women’s world champion title in 1939. She needed to be self-sufficient and was obtained roles as the games editor of a chess magazine as well as being appointed the manager of the National Chess Centre in Oxford Street which was destroyed during the Blitz in 1940.
She survived most of the war and now a widow moved in with her mother and sister to a house in south London. They took the precaution of going down to the cellar during bombing raids. Tragically the house received a direct hit from a flying bomb and the entire family was wiped out. Hardly any of her possessions remained save for one dented trophy. The records at the national chess centre were destroyed as were her personal effects including her chess memorabilia. At least there remains a record of the moves played in her games which serve as testimony to her remarkable career as not only the first women’s world chess champion but also a woman who broke boundaries wherever she went and demonstrated that a woman is capable of standing on her own feet professionally and leading a full and eventful life.
The Bomb Attack
BCN remembers that in the early morning of Tuesday, June 27th, 1944 (i.e. 77 years ago) Vera Menchik, her sister Olga, and their mother were killed in a V-1 flying bomb attack which destroyed their home at 47 Gauden Road in the Clapham area of South London.
All three were cremated at the Streatham Park Crematorium on 4 July 1944. Vera was 38 years old.
Vera’s Parents and Sister
Vera Frantsevna Menchik (or Věra Menčíková) was born in Moscow on Friday, 16th February, 1906. Her father was František Menčik, was born in Bystrá nad Jizerou, Bohemia. František and Olga were married on June 23rd 1905 in Moscow and notice of this marriage appeared in British newspapers on July 22nd 1905. Vera’s sister was Olga Rubery (née Menchik) and she was born in Moscow in 1908. Olga Menchik married Clifford Glanville Rubery in 1938. Vera married Rufus Henry Streatfeild Stevenson on October 19th 1937.
Her Maternal Roots
Our interest in unearthing her maternal English heritage / roots has led to the following:
Her mother was Olga (née Illingworth (1885 – 27 vi 1944). Olga’s parents were Arthur Wellington Illingworth and Marie Illingworth (née ?). Arthur was born in October 1852 in the district of Salford, Lancashire, his parents were George Illingworth (1827-1887) and Alice Whewell (1828-1910).
In the 1861 census Arthur is recorded as being of eight years of age and living in the Illingworth household.
In the 1871 census Arthur is recorded as being of eighteen years of age and living in the Illingworth household of nine persons at 5, Lancaster Road, Pendleton, Lancashire. Arthur’s occupation is listed as being a merchants apprentice. In fact, he was a stock and share broker.
Arthur died in Moscow on February 21st 1898. Probate was recorded in London on July 6th, 1900 as follows:
Illingworth Arthur Wellington of Moscow Russia merchant died 21st February 1898 Probate London 6th July to Walter Illingworth stock and share-broker Effects £4713 7s
£4713 7s in 1898 equates roughly to £626,600.00 in 2020 so it would appear that Arthur was considerably successful and almost certainly left money to Olga Illingworth.
What do we conclude from all of this? Quite simply that Vera’s maternal roots were from Salford in Lancashire.
The August 1944 British Chess Magazine (Volume LXIV, Number 8, page 173 onwards) contained this editorial from Julius du Mont:
“British Chess has suffered a grievous and irreparable loss in the death by enemy action of Mrs. R.H.S. Stevenson known through all the world where chess is played as Vera Menchik.
We give elsewhere (below : Ed.) an appreciation of this remarkable woman. Quite apart from her unique gifts as a chess-player-the world may never see her equal again among women players-she had many qualities which endeared her to all who knew her, the greatest among them being here great-hearted generosity.
We sympathise with our contemporary “CHESS” : Vera Menchik was for some years their games editor. Few columns have been conducted with equal skill and efficiency and none, we feel sure, with a greater sense of responsibility.
The news of this remarkable tragedy will be received by the chess world with sorrow and with abhorrence of the wanton and useless robot methods of a robot people.
One shudders at the heritage of hatred which will be theirs, but their greatest punishment will come with their own enlightenment.”
BCM Contemporary Obituary from EGR Cordingley
From page 178 of the same issue we have an obituary written by EGR Cordingley :
“The death by enemy action of Miss Vera Menchik removes not only the greatest woman chess player of all times but a charming personality.
The world will remember her for her chess prowess, for her exceptional skill as a woman player who had beaten in tournament play such gifted players as Euwe, Sultan Khan, Sir George Thomas, Alexander and Yates. In such company, and she played in several of the Hastings International tournaments and other of similar grade, she usually obtained about 33%, though in the Maribor tournament of 1934 she finished third, behind Pirc and Steiner but ahead of Rejfir, Spielmann, Asztalos and Vidmar.
Her game was characterised by solid position-play, with the definite aim of bringing about a favourable end-game and of avoiding wild complications. The ordinary stratagems of the game, small combinations and the like, were of course part of her equipment, but she lacked that imaginative, inventive spirit without which few become really great players.
In recent times, Reshesvky and Flohr (as a professional with a reputation to maintain and a living to earn) have shown that great success can be achieved by reducing the game to pure positional play, the technique being firstly to build up a position devoid of weaknesses, an ‘I can’t lose position,’ and secondly to create and take advantage of the minutest weaknesses in the opponent’s camp, a major weakness may show that imagination is not quite dead within.
This defect in her play was the inevitable reflection of her character: sound common-sense, conscientious to an unusual degree, and persevering, while she had the combative, tenacious nature so desirable and so often found in good chess players; for chess is battle of wits, the fight is what most of use love in chess. Vera was, seldom assertive, a fault not uncommon in chess players. She sat placidly at the chess board, never causing even mild irritation by any of those nervous mannerisms that may always be seen in any chess room, the peripatetic fever being the most prominent. A slight flush would rise when the position grew difficult, or when she was short of time on her clock – and that was recurrent according to the time-limit.
Away from the chessboard show would readily talk of other subjects, and her great interest was in persons, in their actions and behaviour under the strain and stress of the unruly passions; in the moulding of their lives under the inscrutable dictates of chance; in the twists and turns of a mind warped perhaps by a casual incident long ago. Of course, she was a pagan, a thinking one, who had asked and asked and found only the answer that reasoning gave. She judged kindly and never inflicted upon others her own opinions or beliefs: she asked only that these should be heard as one side of any argument, for she enjoyed a dialectic bout.
A delightful side to her character was her simple sense of humour, and I remember so clearly her pleasure – glee would describe it more eloquently – when I gave her the punctuation necessary to make sense of that ludicrous collection of words, ‘Jones where Brown had had had had had had had had had had had the master’s approval’ Anyone who knew her only at the chessboard would have been astonished at the amount of bubbling merriment she discovered of of life’s events.
I shall remember her more for the woman as I knew her over many cups of coffee spread over many, many weeks – complacent, smiling, and kindly; conscientious, loyal, and sincere; as I understand the word, a Christian who would help any deserving person as best she could. E. G. R. C.
and here is the original article as printed:
BCM 1958 Appreciation by Peter Clarke
From British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXVIII (128, 1958), Number 7 (July), page 181 onwards) we have this retrospective from Peter Clarke:
“The night of June 27th,1944, Vera Menchik, World Woman Champion, was killed when an enemy bomb demolished her home in London; with her perished her mother and sister Olga. In these tragic circumstances the chess world lost its greatest woman player, still undefeated and at the height of her powers.
Vera Francevna Menchik was born in Moscow on February 16th, 1906, of an English mother and Czech father. There she spent her childhood, showing a love for literature, music, and, of course, chess, which at the age of nine she was taught by her father. She had a natural bent for the game and when only fourteen shared second and third places a schoolboys (!) tournament. The following year, 1921, the family came to England, where Miss Menchik lived the rest of her life.
As if by some fortunate coincidence, the Menchiks settled in Hastings, though it was not until the spring of 1923 that Vera joined the famous chess club. Her natural shyness and lack of knowledge of English caused this delay. However, they did not handicap her too much
as she herself afterwards wrote: ‘Chess is a quiet game and therefore the best hobby for a person who cannot speak the language.”
She studied the game eagerly, and very soon her talent caught the attention of the Hungarian grandmaster, Géza Maróczy, who was resident at Hastings at that time. Thus there began the most important period in her development as a player; a sound and mature understanding of positional play-and a thorough knowledge of a few special openings and defences: in particular the French Defence. The influence of
the grandmasters ideas was clearly apparent in her style throughout the whole of her career.
Miss Menchik’s rise to fame was meteoric: by 1925 she was undoubtedly the strongest player of her sex in the country, having twice defeated the Champion, E. Price, in short matches; and only two years later she won the first Women’s World Championship in London with the terrific score 10.5-0.5. She was just twenty-one, but already in a different class from any other woman in the world. For seventeen years until her death Vera Menchik reigned supreme in women’s chess, defending her world title successfully no less than seven times (including a match with Sonja Graf at Semmering in 1937, which Miss Menchik won 11.5-4.5. In the seven tournaments for the World Championship she played 83 games; winning 78, drawing 4, and losing 1 only! However, what was more remarkable was that she was accepted into the sphere of men’s chess as a master in her own right, a feat which no woman had done before or has done since. Up to then, women’s chess had been a very poor relation of the masculine game, but here was a woman who was a worthy opponent for the strongest masters.
Flohr wrote of her: ‘Vera Menchik was the first woman in the world who played chess strongly…who played like a man.’ It was as the ambassador extraordinary, so to speak, of the women’s game that Miss Menchik really made her greatest contribution to chess. Wherever she went, at home and abroad, she aroused great interest among her sex; others were eager to follow her, to identify themselves with her. Nowadays women’s chess is well organized, and much of the credit for this must go to Vera Menchik for first bringing it into the light. Among her many personal successes in international tournaments perhaps the greatest was at Ramsgate in 1929: as one of the foreign masters (she was still of Czech nationality) she shared second and third places with Rubinstein, * point behind Capablanca and above, among others, her tutor Maróczy.
Even the greatest masters recognized Miss Menchik’s ability; Alekhine himself, writing on the Carlsbad Tournament of 1929, said: ‘Vera Menchik is without doubt an exceptional phenomenon among women. She possesses great aptitude for the game…The chess
world must help her develop her talent!’
The Vera Menchik Club
An amusing incident occurred at this tournament. There were naturally sceptics among the masters over the lady’s participation. Flohr recalls how one of these, the Viennese master Becker, suggested:
‘Whoever loses to the Woman Champion will be accepted as a member of the Vera Menchik Club which I intend to organize.’
Becker was the first to lose to her, and that evening the masters chided him: “Professor Becker, you did not find it very difficult to join the club. You can be the Chairman.’ And forthwith he was chosen as Chairman for three years. Everyone wished that the new club would soon obtain more members! Indeed, the Vera Menchik Club has many famous names on its lists-Euwe, Reshevsky, Colle, Yates, Sultan Khan, Sir G. A. Thomas, Alexander, to mention a few.
In 1935 Miss Menchik returned to the country of her birth to take part in the great international tournament in Moscow. To be truthful, she had very little success, but she was everywhere treated with respect and sympathy by masters and spectators alike. The Soviet master l. Maiselis, writing in CHESS in 1944.(Shakhmaty za 1944 god), related the following entertaining anecdote from the tournament: One day a group of players and organizers were discussing the chances of Alekhine and Euwe in the forthcoming match. Flohr said: ‘It is quite clear that I will be World Champion.’ We looked at him inquiringly.
‘It’s very simple,” continued Flohr, ‘Euwe wins a match against Alekhine, Vera Menchik beats Euwe (at that time her score against Euwe was +2, =1, -1) and I will somehow beat Miss Menchik.’
We laughed at this good-natured joke, and we laughed all the more the next day when Flohr was unable, despite every effort, to defeat her in a vital game.
ln 1937 Miss Menchik married R. Stevenson, but in chess she continued to use her maiden name, made famous by so many victories. Her husband, a well-known organizer, became, Secretary of the B.C.F: in the following year and remained so until his death in 1943.
Since the days of Vera Menchik women’s chess has taken great strides forward; now there is a special committee of F.I.D.E. to look after its needs.- Only last year the first lnternational Women’s Team Tournament took place ln Emmen, Holland; the new World Champions, the U.S.S.R., became the first holders of the Vera Menchik Cup. So chess goes onwards, but the name of its first Queen will ever be remembered.”
From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Robert Hale, 1970 & 1976) by Anne Sunnucks :
“Woman World Champion from 1927 to 1944. Vera Menchik was born in Moscow on 16th February 1906 of an English mother and a Czech father. Her father taught her to play chess when she was 9.
In 192l her family came to England and settled in Hastings (at 13, St. John’s Road, St. Leonards-on-Sea, TN37 6HP) :
Two years later, when she was 17, Vera joined Hastings Chess Club,
where she became a pupil of Geza Maroczy. The first Women’s World Championship was held in 1927. Vera Menchik won with a score of 10.5 out of 11. She defended her title successfully in Hamburg in 1930, in Prague in 1931, in Folkestone in 1933, in Warsaw in 1935, in Stockholm in 1937 and in Buenos Aires in 1939. She played 2 matches against Sonja Graf, her nearest rival, in 1934 when she won +3 -1 and in 1937, in a match for her title when she won +9 -1 =5.
The first woman ever to play in the British Championship and the first to play in a master tournament, Vera Menchik made her debut in master chess at Scarborough 1928 when she scored 50 per cent. The following year she played in Paris and Carlsbad, and it was at Carlsbad that the famous Menchik Club was formed. The invitation to Vera Menchik to compete among such players as Capablanca, Euwe, Tartakower and Nimzowitch was received with amusement by many of the masters. The Viennese master, Becker was particularly scornful, and in the presence of a number of the competitors he suggested that anyone who lost to Vera Menchik should be granted membership of the Menchik Club. He himself became the first member. Other famous players who later joined the club were Euwe, Reshevsky, Sultan Khan, Sir George Thomas, C. H. O’D. Alexander, Colle and Yates.
Her greatest success in international tournaments was at Ramsgate in 1929, when she was =2nd with Rubinstein, half a point behind Capablanca and ahead of Maroczy. In 1934 she was 3rd at Maribor, ahead of Spielmann and Vidmar. In 1942 she won a match against Mieses +4 -l -5. In 1937 Vera Menchik married R. H. S. Stevenson, who later became Hon. Secretary of the British Chess Federation. He died in 1943. She continued to use her maiden name when playing chess. On her marriage she became a British subject.
From 1941 until her death she was Games Editor of CHESS. She also gave chess lessons and managed the National Chess Centre, which opened in 1939 at John Lewis’s in Oxford Street, London and was destroyed by a bomb in 1940.
In 1944 Vera Menchik was a solid positional player, who avoided complications and aimed at achieving a favourable endgame. Her placid temperament was ideal for tournament play. Her main weakness was possibly lack of imagination. Her results have made her the most successful woman player ever.”
From The Encyclopaedia of Chess, (BT Batsford, 1977) by Harry Golombek :
Probably the strongest woman player in the history of the game, Vera Menchik was born in Moscow and, though her father was a Czechoslovak and her mother English, she played for most of her
life under English colours.
In l92l her family came to Hastings in England and there Vera became a pupil of the great Hungarian master, Geza Maroczy. This was to have a dominating influence on her style of play which was solidly classical, logical and technically most well equipped. Such a style enabled her to deal severely not only with her fellow women players but also with contemporary masters and budding masters. Vera did extremely well, for example, against C. H. O’D. Alexander
and P. S. Milner-Barry, but lost repeatedly to H. Golombek who was able to take advantage of her lack of imagination by the use of more modern methods.
Vera was soon predominent in women’s chess. In the first Women’s World Championship tournament, at London in 1927, she won the title with a score of 10.5 out of 11 and retained the championship with great ease at all the subsequent Olympiads (or International Team tournaments as they were then known more correctly) at Hamburg 1930, Prague 1931, Folkestone 1933, Warsaw 1935, Stockholm 1937 and Buenos Aires 1939.
With Sonja Graf, the player who came nearest to her in strength among her female contemporaries, she played two matches and demonstrated her undoubted superiority by beating her in 1934 (+3-l) and again in a match for the title in l937 (+9-l=5).
In 1937 Vera officially became a British citizen by marrying the then Kent and later B.C.F. Secretary, R. H. S. Stevenson (Rufus Henry Streatfeild Stevenson: ed).
(Rufus Henry Streatfeild Stevenson was home news editor of the British Chess Magazine, secretary of the Southern Counties Chess Union and match captain of the Kent County Chess Association).
Oddly enough, Sonja Graf, many years later, also became a Mrs Stevenson by marrying an American of that name some years after the Second World War.
Vera Menchik also played and held her own in men’s tournaments. She did well in the British championship and her best performance in international chess was =2nd with Rubinstein in the Ramsgate Team Practice tournament ahead of her old teacher, Maroczy. She also had an excellent result at Maribor in 1934 where she came 3rd, ahead of Spielmann and Vidmar.
Her husband died in 1943 and Vera herself, together with her younger sister Olga and her mother, was killed by a V1 bomb that descended on the Stevenson home in London in 1944.
This was a sad and premature loss, not only for British but for world chess, since there is no doubt she would have continued to dominate the female scene for many years.
As a person Vera was a delightful companion, jolly and full of fun and understanding. As a player she was not only strong but also absolutely correct and without any prima donna behaviour. Generous in defeat and modest in victory, she set a great example to all her contemporaries.
An example of Vera’s attacking play at its best against her nearest rival, Sonja Graf, is shown by the following game which was played in her 1937 match at Semmering in Austria :
From The Oxford Companion to Chess, (Oxford University Press, 1984) by Hooper and Whyld :
“Woman World Champion from 1927 until her death. Daughter of a Czech father and an English mother, Menchik was born in Moscow, learned chess when she was nine, settled in England around
1921, and took lessons from Maroczy a year or so later. In 1927 FIDE organized both the first Olympiad and the first world championship tournament for women. These events were run concurrently, except in 1928, until the Second World War began, and Menchik won the women’s tournament every time; London 1927 (+10=1); Hamburg 1930 (+6=1 — 1); Prague 1931 (+8);
Folkestone 1933 ( + 14); Warsaw 1935 (+9); Stockholm 1937 (+14); and Buenos Aires 1939 ( + 17=2). She played in her first championship tournament as a Russian, the next five as a Czech,
and the last as a Briton. She also won on two matches against her chief rival, the German-born Sonja Graf (c. 1912-65): Rotterdam, 1934 (+3-1), and Semmering, 1937 (+9=5—2),
In international tournaments which did not exclude men Menchik made little impression; one of her best results was at Maribor 1934 (about category 4) when she took third place alter Pirc and L. Steiner ahead of Spielmann. In 1937 she married the English chess organizer Rufus Henry Streatfeild Stevenson (1878-1943), A chess professional, she gave lessons, lectures, and displays, and was appointed manager of the short-lived National Chess Centre in 1939. In 1942 she defeated Mieses in match play (+4=5-1), She, her younger sister Olga (also a player), and their mother were killed in a bombing raid.
Her style was positional and she had a sound understanding of the endgame. On occasion she defeated in tournament play some of the greatest masters, notably Euwe, Reshevsky, and Sultan Khan. Men she defeated were said to belong to the Menchik club. When world team championships for women (women’s chess Olympiads) were commenced in 1957 the trophy for the winning team was called the Vera Menchik Cup.”
She was inducted to the World Chess Hall of Fame in 2011.
He was winner of second prize in the first international tournament, London 1851. He developed his chess skill in the 1840s, meeting Dubois in Rome, Kieseritzky in Paris, and many players, including Buckle, in London, His style was that of the English school, and he understood well the positional ideas of the English opening and the Sicilian Defence. In 1847 he was elected Member of Parliament for Richmond, Yorkshire, a seat he held until 1868 except for a break of two years. The London 1851 tournament consisted of a series of knock-out matches. After defeating Williams (+4-3) in the third round and losing to Anderssen ( + 2=1-4) in
the fourth and final round, Wyvill was placed second. His score against Anderssen was better than that made by other players (Kieseritzky
“1—2, Szen +2—4, Staunton +1—4), Wyvill had
proved himself one of the leading players of his time. Although he played in no more tournaments he retained an interest in the game throughout his
Here is an example of the Wyvill pawn formation :
The Wyvill formation is a name given by Tarrasch to a pawn formation with doubled pawns as shown above. This formation was not unfamiliar to Wyvill but could with more justification have
been named after Winawer who so frequently doubled his opponent’s c-pawns that this and similar formations became known as his trademark. The technique for attacking the Wyvill formation was also understood by Neumann and before him by Carl Hamppe (1814-76), the leading
Viennese player of the 1850s.
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