Tag Archives: Remembering

Death Anniversary for Vera Menchik (16-ii-1906 27-vi-1944)

A Great Life with a Tragic Ending

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bomb Attack

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her Maternal Roots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BCM Announcement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BCM Contemporary Obituary from EGR Cordingley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and here is the original article as printed:

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

From British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXVIII (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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vera Menchik
Vera Menchik

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Articles

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

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

Here is an excellent article by Albert Whitwood

Here is her Wikipedia  entry.

Here is an excellent record compiled by Bill Wall.

Biography of Vera Menchik British chess player

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

Edward Winter was less than impressed with the above book.

Vera Menchik
Vera Menchik

Death Anniversary of Marmaduke Wyvill (22-xii-1815 25-vi-1896)

Remembering Marmaduke Wyvill (22-xii-1815 25-vi-1896)

Here is his Wikipedia entry

Here is an excellent article from the Yorkshire Chess History web site.

From The Oxford Companion to Chess by Hooper & Whyld :

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
life.

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.

Marmaduke Wyvill at Leamington Spa, seated third from left.
Marmaduke Wyvill at Leamington Spa, seated third from left.

Death Anniversary of Alan Phillips (28-x-1923 24-vi-2009)

BCN remembers Alan Phillips (28-x-1923 24-vi-2009)

Here is his far too brief Wikipedia entry

From Chessgames.com :

“Alan Phillips, joint British Champion in 1954, was born in England in 1923. He was the author of Chess: 60 Years on with Caissa and Friends (Caissa Editions, 2003) and The Chess Teacher (Cadogan, 1995).”

Here is an item from the Shropshire Chess web site

Here is Alan Phillips autobiography from his own book, Chess: Sixty years on with Caissa & Friends

“Born in Stockport in 1923,I was playing pontoon in an air-raid shelter in the autumn of 1940 with a friend from our school, Stockport Grammar, when he suddenly announced that he knew a better game, being the school chess champion. Ostensibly studying for a Cambridge Scholarship with a view to reading Classics, I played about 200 games with Norman Stephens, emerging the victor perhaps because I studied Alekhine’s and Euwe’s games, obtained from the Public Library, whence I had been borrowing difficult piano works for the previous two years. When I got up to Magdalene in 1941, I found standing next to me in the University Chess Club Wykehamist James Lighthill, destined to become, arguably, our greatest applied mathematician of the second half of the last century; I played chess with him one evening a week and piano duets another, and as Match Captain and Hon.Sec. in my second year – shared top board, while now supposedly reading Italian, as a War Office scheme, and French, languages I unfortunately then considered beneath contempt, compared with the glory that was Greek.

Alan Phillips plays David Hooper on August 20th 1954 in round five of the British Championships in Nottingham, photographer unknown
Alan Phillips plays David Hooper on August 20th 1954 in round five of the British Championships in Nottingham, photographer unknown

Enrolled but not commissioned – the War Office having ratted on its promise to a large bunch of first-class linguists – in the Army Intelligence Corps from August 1943 to October 1946,I spent nearly three years abroad in Sicily and Palestine, riding a motor-bike – our American equivalents in the CIC were mostly majors or colonels and rode in Cadillacs – and playing, when stationary, much music with singers and violinists, especially in Palestine, and chess with the Captain of the Harbour in Sicily, a charming moustached Neapolitan who got about three draws in 300 games, and then in Haifa, Hadera and Jerusalem chess clubs, beating the youth champion of Palestine and Aloni when he played simultaneously, but losing to Porath, and enjoying ‘skittles’ in cafes with many other players of near-master rank. Demobilised and put, like the Goons, on the Z-reserve in autumn 1946, I went back to Cambridge to read Classics Pt II and found Peter Swinnerton-Dyer, as far as I know our best number theorist of the past fifty years, waiting for me – we tied for the University Championship having begun a series of trips to Hastings with Alan Truscott, and later continued to Birmingham for the Midland Championship, which I won in 1951. I usually won prizes in increasingly strong sections at Hastings except in two Premiers, 1950-1 and 1954-5, when my emotions were otherwise engaged, as happened in the British Championship in 1952, when, after I had beaten all the best players and scored 7/8 with three rounds to go, a girl-friend turned up and I lost my last three games, refusing a draw in round nine in a not superior position, not out of arrogance, but in order to clinch the title.

Alan Phillips and Leonard Barden are joint British Champions of 1954 in Nottingham, photographer unknown
Alan Phillips and Leonard Barden are joint British Champions of 1954 in Nottingham, photographer unknown

Otherwise, with one or two exceptions, I only lost to the strongest players in the British Championships I played in, i.e. 1949-55 and 1961, tying for first place at Nottingham 1954 and coming third equal in a very strong Championship at Aberystwyth 1955, which earned me a place as Board 6 on the English team at the Moscow Olympiad in 1956, where I only drew against Luxembourg, and lost to Geller, but drew in two cases from bad positions with Johner, Sanguinetti and Ghitescu.

David Hooper (left) in conversation with Alan Phillips. Location and photographer unknown.
David Hooper (left) in conversation with Alan Phillips. Location and photographer unknown.

In l96l I moved up to Derbyshire, where – though playing top board for Manchester as well as the county – having switched to Maths teaching after several years part-time study at Birkbeck and acquired offspring as well as promotion, I also started annual visits to Dartington Summer School of Music, now totalling 38 out of a possible 40, all of which made it virtually impossible for me to play in tournaments, apart from the odd visit to Hastings or fairly strong week-end tournaments, e.g. Ilford, which I won for the second time in 1973, beating Basman. My responsibilities on my return to London as Head of Charlton School in 1967, where I got Bob Wade to teach chess as part of mathematics in the Lower School, and then of Forest Hill School, where we organised many tournaments, although I played generally as top board for Kent, whom I led twice to victory in the County Championship in 1975 and 1976, meant that I had even less time for tournament chess, except at Islington and in the Challengers, so that my real heyday ended there, with a final move to a ‘quiet’ county, Shropshire – as far as chess was concerned – as Adviser for Secondary Education and Area Adviser, 1976-82, in which capacity I avoided as much paper-work as I could and taught chess in the lunch-hour to all the primary and handicapped pupils I visited. I should say most of my successes at chess have been at County Level, where I played top board for Cambridgeshire and London University, as well as the counties mentioned, and in the very strong London League, as far as I can estimate I had a success rate of some 70% in those contests. In general the games in this book, with one or two exceptions for historical or anecdotal reasons, were played at high levels, and won by the right player, not suddenly lost by a blunder, like some games published nowadays because the blunder is perpetrated by a famous player.

Photograph taken in Hastings on 28 December 1950. Lord Dunsany (standing on the right) is watching the first-round game between Alan Phillips and Weaver Adams, source : http://boylston-chess-club.blogspot.com/
Photograph taken in Hastings on 28 December 1950. Lord Dunsany (standing on the right) is watching the first-round game between Alan Phillips and Weaver Adams, source : http://boylston-chess-club.blogspot.com/

With regard to the general assessment of players and tournaments, I have only one comment “Look at the games!” When even, or especially, David Bronstein wails “They give me a number”, I think it time to end a spuriously precise system and revert to the earlier English practice or the traditional Soviet one of putting players in classes, preferably according to a sufficiently large number of results in tournaments or strong club or county matches. And when players are inhibited, when the match is won, from offering an opponent, who has played well, a draw, that is a diminution of sportsmanship, so a draw, even with Kasparov, should not count in grading. Finally the use of seconds or computers once a game is started should be
regarded as totally unsporting, and players should be put on their honour, as bridge-players are in matters of cheating, not to use them.

I should like to dedicate this book to the memory of my good friends, David Hooper, Stuart Milner-Barry, and A.R.B.Thomas, men of integrity, humour, and many other talents, who brought to their chess the same qualities of courage and sportsmanship they showed in the rest of their lives.

Alan Phillips (28-x-1923 24-vi-2009) : Source : https://www.shropshirechess.org/History/1970s.htm
Alan Phillips (28-x-1923 24-vi-2009) : Source : https://www.shropshirechess.org/History/1970s.htm

Alan Phillips
British Master, Joint British Champion 1954
Thorn Cottage, Appleton Thorn, Warrington, Cheshire
September 2003″

Obituary of Alan Phillips by John Saunders from British Chess Magazine, 2009. Part One
Obituary of Alan Phillips by John Saunders from British Chess Magazine, 2009. Part One
Obituary of Alan Phillips by John Saunders from British Chess Magazine, 2009. Part Two
Obituary of Alan Phillips by John Saunders from British Chess Magazine, 2009. Part Two

Here is his obituary from The Times of London

The Chess Teacher
The Chess Teacher
Chess: Sixty years on with Caissa & Friends
Chess: Sixty years on with Caissa & Friends

Death Anniversary of Sir Richard Clarke KCB CB OBE (13-viii-1910 21-vi-1975)

BCN Remembers Sir Richard Clarke KCB OBE who passed away on June 21st 1975.

According to chess-poster.com : “Clarke died in the University College Hospital, in London, on 21 June 1975 and was cremated at Golders Green three days later. He was survived by his wife Brenda Pile (married in 1950, née Skinner) and their three sons.”

One of those sons is Charles Rodway Clarke along with his brothers Mark G and Timothy Rodway.

Richard William Barnes Clarke was born on August 13th, 1910 in Basford, Derbyshire. The birth was registered in Ilkeston in the district of Erewash. His parents were a secondary and technical school schoolmaster of science, William Thomas Clarke and Helen Rodway Clarke (née Barnes). Richard was baptised on October 1st 1910 in St. Lawrence (Anglican) Church in Heanor, Derbyshire.

The 1911 census records the family living at “Iona” which was a modest property in Fletcher Street in Heanor which had six rooms.  Richard was seven months old and he had a three year old sister, Stella Helen Clarke. The family retained a nineteen year old domestic servant, Ada Mary Brown who has been born in Codnor, Derbyshire.

Richard was educated at Christ’s Hospital, London followed by Clare College, Cambridge. At University he studied mathematics specialising in statistics. He was ranked at the sixth “wrangler“. Subsequently he was awarded the Frances Wood Prize by the Royal Statistical Society.

In 1944 Richard was awarded the OBE for his work as Planning Officer for the Ministry of Production followed by Companion of the Bath in 1951 for his work as Under Secretary at HM Treasury and in 1964 he was made Knight Commander of the Bath for his work as Second Secretary at HM Treasury.

According to chess-poster.com : “He was commonly known as Otto Clarke” and according to his son Mark the nickname “Otto” was possibly because of Clarke’s “forceful” personality was considered Germanic. According to Sir Sam Brittan, “it was because his round glasses and the bridge over the nose looked like OTTO.”

From The Oxford Companion to Chess by Hooper & Whyld :

Creator of the British system of grading. He gave up active chess after leaving Cambridge University where he played second board between C.H.O’D. Alexander and Jacob Bronowski.

At first a financial journalist (one of the two who created the Financial Times Index), he became, at the outbreak of the Second World War, a temporary civil servant, remaining to become one of the most distinguished of them, and to receive a knighthood.

According to Arpad E. Elo in “Ratings of Chessplayers Past and Present” : “In the chess world, rating systems have been used with varying degrees of success for over twenty-five years. Those which have survived a share a common principle in that they combine the percentage score achieved by a player with the rating of his competition. They use similar formulae for the evaluation of performance and differ mainly in the elaboration of the scales. The most notable are the Ingo (Hoesskinger 1948), the Harkness (Harkness 1956), and the British Chess Federation (Clarke 1957) systems. These received acceptance because they produced ranking lists which generally agreed with the personal estimates made by knowledgeable chessplayers.”

Here is an article in full reproduced from British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXIII, Number 2, February, 1963, pages 49 -53 :

British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXIII, Number 2, February, 1963, page 49
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXIII, Number 2, February, 1963, page 49
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXIII, Number 2, February, 1963, page 50
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXIII, Number 2, February, 1963, page 50
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXIII, Number 2, February, 1963, page 51
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXIII, Number 2, February, 1963, page 51
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXIII, Number 2, February, 1963, page 52
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXIII, Number 2, February, 1963, page 52
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXIII, Number 2, February, 1963, page 53
British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXIII, Number 2, February, 1963, page 53

The June 1975 issue of British Chess Magazine announces his passing and promises that a tribute would follow : it never did.

Sir Richard William Barnes Clarke (13-viii-1910 21-vi-1975), National Portrait Gallery, Rex Coleman
Sir Richard Clarke (13-viii-1910 21-vi-1975), National Portrait Gallery, Rex Coleman

Here is his Wikipedia entry

Here is a small article from chess-poster.com

Here is detail about the Clarke Grading System

and more about chess ratings systems in general

The Economic Effort of War
The Economic Effort of War

Death Anniversary of Johannes Zukertort (07-ix-1842 20-vi-1888)

BCN Remembers Johannes Hermann Zukertort (07-ix-1842 20-vi-1888)

Johannes Hermann Zukertort (07-ix-1842 20-vi-1888), from the Illustrated London News
Johannes Hermann Zukertort (07-ix-1842 20-vi-1888), from the Illustrated London News

From the July 2012 editorial in British Chess Magazine we had this report :

“Johann Hermann Zukertort’s (1842-1888) grave was rededicated last month in London’s crowded Brompton Cemetery, largely thanks to an initiative led by Stuart Conquest. The resting place of one of the leading players of the nineteenth century was recorded but the grave had fallen into terrible dis-repair. See BCM 1888, pp.307-8 and p.338-340 for the obituary of the great man. We read that his death ‘was terribly sudden’, that he was buried on 26th June, 1888 and that ‘several pretty wreaths were laid on the coffin …’”

GM Stuart Conquest at the re-dedication of Zukertort's grave at Brompton Cemetery in June 2012, photograph by Ray Morris-Hill
GM Stuart Conquest at the re-dedication of Zukertort’s grave at Brompton Cemetery in June 2012, photograph by Ray Morris-Hill

From The Oxford Companion to Chess by Hooper & Whyld :

Polish-born Jew, from about 1871 to 1886 second player in the world after Steinitz. From about 1862 to 1866 Zukertort, then living in Breslau, played many friendly games with Anderssen, at first receiving odds of a knight but soon meeting on even terms. They played two matches in Berlin, Zukertort losing the first in 1868 (+3 = 1—8) and winning the second in 1871 (+5 — 2).

In 1872 a group of London players, anxious to find someone who could defeat Steinitz, paid Zukertort 20 guineas to come to England. He came, he stayed, but he failed to beat Steinitz.

Zukertort took third place after Steinitz and Blackburne at London 1872, the strongest tournament in which He had yet played, and later in the year was decisively beaten by Steinitz in match play ( + 1=4—7). Zukertort settled in London as a professional player.

He won matches against Potter in 1872 ( + 4=8—2), Rosentalis in 1880 ( + 7=11-1), and Blackburne in 1881 ( + 7=5-2), He also had a fair record in tournament play: Leipzig 1877, second equal with Anderssen after L. Paulsen ahead of Winawer:-* Paris 1878, first ( + 14=5—3) equal with Winawer ahead of Blackburne (Zukertort won the play-off, +2=2); Berlin 1881, second alter Blackburne ahead of Winawer; and Vienna 1882, fourth equal with Mackenzie after Steinitz, Winawer, and Mason.

Johannes Herman Zukertort (07-ix-1842 20-vi-1888)
Johannes Herman Zukertort (07-ix-1842 20-vi-1888)

The world’s nine best players were among the competitors in the double-round London tournament of 1883 when Zukertort achieved his greatest victory: first prize (+22—4) three points ahead of Steinitz, the second prize winner, in seven weeks and a day he played 33 games (seven draws were replayed) and towards the end he relieved the strain by taking opiates, the cause of his losing his last three games. This victory led to the first match for the world championship, a struggle between him and Steinitz, USA, 1886. After nearly ten weeks of relentless pressure by his opponent Zukertort lost (- 1 – 5=5 —10) i winning only one of the last 15 games. His spirit crushed, his health failing, he was advised to give up competitive chess, but there was nothing else he could do. I am prepared, he said, l to be taken away at any moment.’ Seized by a stroke while playing at London’s famous coffee-house, Simpson’s Divan, he died the next day.

Johannes Zukertort playing Wilhelm Steinitz
Johannes Zukertort playing Wilhelm Steinitz

Like Anderssen, his teacher, Zukertort had a direct and straightforward style, and in combinative situations he could calculate far ahead. Having a prodigious memory he could recollect at will countless games and opening variations, a talent which may have limited his vision. (For his match with Steinitz in 1872 his extensive opening preparations brought him only one win. Steinitz was the better player in unfamiliar situations.) As an annotator and analyst Zukertort was outstanding in his time, and much of his work in these fields appeared in the Chess Monthly which he and Hoffer edited from 1879 to 1888.

Zukertort read widely and what he read became, as he said ‘iron-printed in my head’. Hoffer recalls Zukertort holding a visitor from India spellbound with a convincing and detailed account of a tiger-hunt, although it must have been outside his experience. Zukertort’s own account of his early life was reported in the Norfolk News, 16 Nov. 1872, He claimed aristocratic (Prussian and Polish) descent, and fluency in nine languages. “He learnt one language to read Dante, another to read Cervantes, and a third, Sanskrit, to trace the origin of chess,’ Besides the study of theology, philology, and social science he is also an original thinker on some of the problems that perplex humanity , ” He is ‘an accomplished swordsman, the best domino player in Berlin, one of the best whist players living, and so good a pistol shot that at fifteen paces he is morally certain to hit the ace of hearts . , , has found time to play 6,000 games of chess with Anderssen alone … a pupil of Moscheles, and in 1862-6 musical critic of the first journal in Silesia … is also a military veteran … he served in the Danish, in the Austrian, and in the French campaign , , , he was present at the following engagements, viz, in Denmark, Missunde, Duppcl, and Alsen; in Austria, Trauienau, Koniginhof, Kdniggratz (Sadowa), and Blumcnau; in France, Spicheeren, Pange (Vionville), Gravelotte, Noisevillc, and all other affairs before Metz, Twice dangerously wounded, and once left for dead upon the field, he is entitled to wear seven medals besides the orders of the Red Eagle and the Iron Cross, . . . He obtained the degree of M.D. at Breslau in 1865, having chiefly devoted his attention to chemistry under Professor Bunsen at Heidelberg, and to physiology at Berlin under Professor Virchow … is now on the staff of Prince Bismarck’s private organ, the Allgemeine Zetiling, and is chief editor of a political journal which receives “officios’” from the Government at Berlin. He is . . . the author of the Grosses Schach Handbuck and a Leitfaden , and , . . was for several years editor of the Neue Berliner Schachzeitung. ’ There is some truth in the last sentence: he was co-author of the books, co-editor of the chess magazine.

A. Olson, J. H. Zukertort (1912) is a collection of 201 games with Swedish text.

From The Encyclopedia of Chess by Anne Sunnucks

“One of the leading players of the last century, Zukertort was born in Riga on 7th September 1842. His father was a Prussian and his mother a Pole. When he was 13, his family moved to Breslau. After studying chemistry at Heidelberg and physiology at Berlin, he obtained his doctorate of medicine at Breslau University in 1865. He served as a doctor with the Prussian Army during his country’s wars against Denmark, Austria and France and was decorated for gallantry.

Zukertort was a man of many talents. He had a prodigious memory, and it was said that he never forgot a game he had played. He spoke 11 languages, and he was an excellent pistol shot and fencer but it was journalism and chess that he chose for a career.

Zukertort learned to play chess when he was 18, and two years later he met Anderssen and became his pupil. Within three years he had become one of the strongest players in North Germany. He first drew attention to himself as a blindfold simultaneous player. In 1868, he gave a simultaneous blindfold display against seven players in Berlin. This was his first blindfold performan@, and it was so successful that he gave several further performances, almost immediately increasing the number of his opponents to 12.

Between 1867 and 1871, he was joint editor with Anderssen of the Neue Berliner Schachzeityng. In 1871 he played a match against Anderssen, probably the second strongest player in the world at that time, and beat_him by 5-2. Following this victory, he was invited to take part in the 1872 London Tournament. He came 3rd and, probably because he was disappointed at his result, immediately challenged – the winner, Steinitz, to a match for the title of World Champion. Steinitz had claimed this title after his victory over Anderssen in 1866. Zukertort lost the match by + 1 -7 :4.

A Zukertort Postage Stamp from Guinea
A Zukertort Postage Stamp from Guinea

Meanwhile, Zukertort had decided to make England his permanent home and became a naturalised Englishman in l878.

Zukertort tied with Anderssen for 2nd prize in a master tournament in Leipzig in 1877, but his first major international event was Paris 1878, when he tied for lst place with Winawer and won the play-oft. In 1880 he beat the French champion, Rosenthal, in a match 7-1, and the following year he beat Blackburne +7 -2 – 5. The greatest performance of his career came in 1883, when in the London Tournament he won lst prize, three points ahead of Steinitz, who came 2nd. His victory was certain two weeks before the end of the tournament when he had a score of  22 out of 23. With victory secure, he went on to lose his last three games, the strain having proved too much.

Zukertort was advised by his doctor to give up serious chess but he refused and within a short time left England for a chess tour of the United States, Canada and Europe. On his return from this tour, he left almost immediately to play a second match for the world title against Steinitz. This took place in 1886. Zukertort was in no fit state of health
for such a match, and it proved too much for him. He lost by +5 -10 =5 and returned to England a physical and nervous wreck.

Zukertort never fully recovered. He continued to play chess, but with little success. He died at Charing Cross Hospital on 20th June 1888 of cerebral haemorrhage, following a game at Simpson’s ‘Divan’.”

From The Encyclopedia of Chess by Harry Golombek :

“One of the most talented players of all time and possibly an English Prussian Polish Jewish grandmaster, the antecedents and early career of Zukertort are shrouded in mystery, a mystery that was the more complete in that the only account of these comes from Zukertort with a lack of corroboration so great that perhaps he really was telling the truth. Whatever the truth may be it is certain that he was a great chess player, one of those who carry with them the aura of certain genius. According to Zukertort, then, he was born in Lublin of mixed Prussian and Polish descent and his mother was the Baroness Krzyzanovska. The name of his mother sounds incredibly like an invention of W. C. Fields and it is difficult to believe that his father’s name, Zukertort, was not Jewish.

Again according to Zukertort he studied chemistry at Heidelberg and physiology at Berlin, claiming to have obtained his doctorate of medicine at Breslau University. His versatility was astonishing. He spoke nine languages including Hebrew and was acquainted with several more. He had been a soldier, having fought in several campaigns for Prussia against Austria, Denmark and France; and once had been left for dead on the battlefield.

A music critic, editor of a political paper, on the staff of Bismarck’s newspaper, the Allgemeine Zeitung; gifted with a memory so colossal that he never forgot a game he played; a consummate fencer, a blindfold simultaneous player of undoubted repute (he had played as many as fifteen simultaneously blindfold) and a grandmaster with justified pretensions towards the world title: most of these attributes we have to take on Zukertort’s word. But there is enough left that is substantiated to show his great importance in the history of chess.

His early chess career had much to do with Anderssen whom he beat in a match, when Anderssen had grown old, in 1871 in Germany by +5-2, having lost a previous match to him in Berlin in 1868 by +3 -8 =1. On the strength of his win over Anderssen in the second match he was invited to play in a small but strong tournament in London in 1872 where he came 3rd below Steinitz and Blackburne. Immediately afterwards he played a match with Steinitz in which he was overwhelmingly defeated by +1-7 =4.It is unlikely that this was for the World Championship since no mention was made of the title at the time and the stakes were small, £2O for the winner and £l0 for the loser.

Despite this disastrous loss, which contained the seeds of further disasters, Zukertort felt that London was his true home and decided to stay in England, becoming a naturalized citizen in 1878. His results in tournament and match play from then on showed a steep upward curve. He was 2nd in London 1876, lst in a small tournament in Cologne 1877 and :2nd at Leipzis that year. He came lst in a big tournament at Paris 1878 where he tied with Winawer and won the play-off.

In 1880 he won a match in London against Rosenthal by +7 -l =11 and in the following year he was 2nd to Blackburne in Berlin. He was no less than 3 points behind Blackburne but he avenged this by beating him in a match in London the same year by +7 -2 =5.

A comparative setback came in a great tournament at Vienna in 1882 when he tied for fourth place with Mackenzie, below Steinitz, Winawer and Mason but in 1883 came the peak of his career when
he won lst prize in the great London tournament, 3 points ahead of Steinitz and 5.5 points ahead of Blackburne who came 3rd.

The remarkable nature of his victory is to be seen from the fact that he was sure of first prize with some two weeks still to go when he had a score of 22/23. But, ominously, his health was giving way and he had been sustaining himself by the use of drugs. He lost his last three games. It is very probable that this high point in his career was also the time when his health began to deteriorate under the excessive nervous strains by his conscious efforts to out rival Steinitz.

Thus, though he had been warned by his doctor he refused to abandon serious play and in 1886 he played his match for the World Championship against Steinitz in the USA, losing by +S -10 =5. The strain was this time too great an and he returned to England with his health completely shattered.

This was reflected in his subsequent results. =7th in London 1886 and =3rd in a smaller tournament at Nottingham that year, he had disastrous results throughout 1887: =l5th at Frankfurt-am-Main, 4th in a small tournament in London and a match loss there to Blackburne by +1-5:8.

In the last year of his life he was =7th in London in 1888 playing to the last possible moment, he died from a cerebral haemorrhage after a game at Simpson’s Divan.

Despite a career that stopped as if it were halfway, Zukertort is clearly one of the chess immortals and there is about his best game a sort of resilient and shining splendour that no other player possesses.”

Zukertort was buried in the Brompton Cemetry. He are details.

The grave was rededicated in 2012 thanks to the efforts of many chess enthusiasts.

Several opening variations have been named after Zukertort :

The Zukertort Defence in the Vienna Game, a variation advocated by Zukertort from 1871.

After 6 exd5 Bg4T 7 Nf3 Black castles, sacrificing a piece for counterattack :

The Zukertort Opening, 1.Nf3 abhorred by Ruy Lopez, used by Zukertort always as a preliminary
to 2.d4, now the fourth most popular opening move, after 1.e4, 1.d4, and 1 c4.

The Zukertort variation, in the Spanish opening, favoured by Zukertort in the 1880s :

but laid to rest soon after.

The Zukertort Variation in the Philidor Defence :

Possibly the Colle-Zukertort Opening is the most well-known

and still continues to be written about to this day.

He was inducted into the World Chess Hall of Fame in 2016.

Here is an interesting article from the ruchess web site.

Dominic Lawson wrote this article in 2014.

An interesting article from chess.com

Here is his Wikipedia entry

Johannes Zukertort: Artist of the Chessboard
Johannes Zukertort: Artist of the Chessboard
Eminent Victorian Chess Players
Eminent Victorian Chess Players

Death Anniversary of Robin Matthews (16-vi-1927 19-vi-1983)

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

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

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

Academia

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

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

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

Problem Composer

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

Black Correction: Quaternary Play

First Prize, The Observer, 1964

Mate in three

According to David McKittrick in The Independent:

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

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

RCO Matthews
RCO Matthews

From The Oxford Companion to Chess by Hooper & Whyld:

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

Here is an obituary from The Daily Telegraph

and an obituary from The Independent

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

From The Encyclopedia of Chess by Anne Sunnucks :

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

Cyclic Overload Doubled

First Prize, British Chess Magazine, 1968

Mate in three

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

Nowotnys

British Chess Magazine, 1967

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

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

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

R.C.O. Matthews
British Chess Magazine
1956

White to play and mate in three moves

From Wikipedia :

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

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

Death Anniversary of Harold Murray (24-vi-1868 16-v-1955)

BCN remembers Harold Murray who passed away on Monday, May 16th, 1955.

Harold James Ruthven Murray was born on Wednesday, 24th June 1868 in Camberwell, London. He was the eldest son of Sir James Augustus Henry Murray 1837–1915 and  Ada Agnes Ruthven 1845–1936. Sir James was famously the first editor of the Oxford English Dictionary.

From British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXV (125, 1955), Number 8 (August), pp. 233-4 we have this obituary from DJ Morgan:

“The great historian of chess died in May last, at the age of eighty-six. Some of the early results of his researches into the origins of the game were published in this magazine, and a reference to the “B.C.M.” volumes for the first fifteen years of this century will reveal a wealth of articles of permanent value. A tribute to our late and
distinguished contributor has been unavoidably delayed.

Murray was the eldest son of Sir James A. H. Murray, the pioneering editor of the great Oxford English Dictionary, and was born in Camberwell on June 24th, 1868. He went to Mill Hill School, took an Open Mathematical Exhibition to Balliol College, Oxford, and left the University, in 1890, with a First Class in the Final Mathematical School. Subsequently, teaching engagements took him to Taunton, Carlisle, and Ormskirk. From 1891 to 1900 he was Headmaster of Ormskirk Grammar School, which he left to become a Board of Education Inspector of Schools.

Taunton gave him an enthusiasm for chess. At Ormskirk he helped to found a club, which he captained from 1896 to 1900. His interest in the history of the game had been aroused in 1893, and when, in 1897, he received encouragement from such a notable authority as Baron von der Lasa, historical research became his ruling passion. In his own words his aim was to trace the development of the modern European game from the first appearance of its ancestor, the Indian chaturanga, in the beginning of the seventh century of our era.

Many books had been written on the history of chess, but none had covered exactly the whole story as he envisaged it. Hyde, in 1694, and another Englishman, Forbes, in 1860, had in the main confined their attention to Oriental chess. Other investigators, such as Sir William Jones on Indian chess (1790), Cox on Burma chess (1803 and 1807), and Bland on Persian chess (1852), had published their conclusions in journals of Asiatic studies. The great German writer, von der Lasa, in 1897, treated almost exclusively of the European game. Van der Linde alone had dealt with both Oriental and European chess, but it was in three distinct works (1874-81).

Van der Linde was able to incorporate the results of Weber’s examination of the early references to chess in Sanskrit literature, and to show that Forbes’s History was both inaccurate and misleading.

Since the publication of Linde’s Geschichte there had been many additions to our knowledge of various aspects of chess history, mostly scattered in isolated papers. So, continues Murray, he set about collecting and collating all available material and making it easily accessible to English readers.

Murray was able to call on the help of acknowledged scholars in the many languages, obsolete and obsolescent, into which his researches led him. Above all, his work was largely based upon his own studies of original materials. The manuscripts and rare books in the unrivalled collections of J. G. White, of Cleveland, Ohio, and of J. W. Rimington Wilson in this country, were placed unreservedly at his disposal, as were the resources of other collectors and libraries.

As an example of his devotion to his work, he made a thorough study of Arabic, and it was his knowledge of this language which enabled him to make his remarkable discovery of the chess-work of Allajlaj, a Mohammedan chess master of the tenth century. The fascinating story of the recovery of these oldest recorded games is told in the “British Chess Magazine” of November, 1903.

Murray thus brought a fine scholarship to his immense task. He had, in addition, the true historian’s gifts of meticulous research, of grasp of detail, of the critical sifting of evidence; to this scientific technique was added the art of lucid exposition.
In his hands, it can be said, the chess-player’s elements of time, space, and material were used to range through most of the centuries of the Christian era.

A History of Chess
A History of Chess

The History appeared in 1913, from the same University Press, he was proud to think which, more than 200 years before, had published Thomas Hyde’s Mondragorios seu Historia Shohiludii. The huge volume of 900 pages, lavishly illustrated and with scores of chess diagrams, was received with world-wide acclamation. From ancient “Indian Board-games” to “Steinitz and his School,” the vast field had been covered with great authority. The book is in two parts, “Chess in Asia” and “Chess in Europe,” but through it all runs the absorbing story of how the game, in play and in problem, in its practice and in its laws, has developed and spread. From India to Persia, to Islam as a result of the Mohammedan conquest of Persia, from Islam to Spain, and thence to Christian Europe, chess has followed the great political and religious movements. It is very improbable that chess was played in England before the Norman Conquest. That it was familiar to the Norman Kings in the eleventh century is certain from the evidence of the word exchequer, which was applied to the table “upon which the accounts were worked out by means of a cloth divided into strips about a footwide, on which counters, representing the moneys, were placed and moved.”

This must suffice. The work is one to browse in and to dip into through the years. Murray has left an enduring monument, the greatest book ever written on the game. We can but touch briefly on other aspects of his varied and active life. Following his retirement from the Board of Education, in 1928, he took an active interest in Local Government work. He became Chairman of the Fernhurst Parish Council, and was a member of the Midhurst R.D.C., 1931-55, being Chairmain of its Housing
Committee from 1938 to 1948.

In 1952 he published A History of Board Gomes Other Than Chess.

A History of Board Games other than Chess
A History of Board Games other than Chess

He also wrote a Shorter History of Chess and a History of Draughts (both unpublished), and spent much time working on mathematical problems connected with Knights’ Tours and Magic Tours. His work on these investigations is also unpublished, but a good deal remains in typescript in fairly complete form.

Apart from his interest in board games and mathematics, he was interested in genealogy, and did research on his own and his wife’s families. Up to his death he was working on local history and was writing a history of Heyshott, the village to which he retired. Walking, in his younger days, and bird-watching in his middle years, were amongst his otter recreations.

A game of chess he. always enjoyed, but not under the rigorous conditions of matches and tournaments.

His son, Major D. M. J. Murray, Royal Engineers, was killed in Hong Kong in 1941. The chess world’s sympathy with his second son Mr. K.C. Murray of the Antiquities Service, Nigeria, and with his daughter, Miss K. M. E. Murray, M.A., Principal of the Bishop
Otter College, Chichester, is but a small expression of its sense of indebtedness to their distinguished father.-D. J. M.”

Following this obituary a letter from Alex Hammond appeared in British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXV (125, 1955), Number 9 (September), page 270 as follows:

“Dear Mr. Reilly,
Murray was, indeed a very great man, though a few of us were privileged to know him intimately, as his nature was shy and retiring.

For myself, I shall always treasure his memory, as when I wrote my The Book of Chessmen he gave me freely of his knowledge, and saved me from many errors.

Any person who attempts to write on chess history will always find real difficulty in discovering anything of interest which does not appear in his monumental “History.”

Probably his like will not be seen again, as such patient industry, deep knowledge, and tremendous perseverance are unlikely to be combined in a single personage again.

Yours sincerely,
Alex Hammond
16 Burlington Arcade, London, W1

The Book of Chessmen, Alexander Hammond, Arthur Barker Ltd., London, 1950
The Book of Chessmen, Alexander Hammond, Arthur Barker Ltd., London, 1950

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

“Foremost chess historian, school inspector. His A History of Chess (1913), perhaps the most important chess book in English, was the result of about 14 years of research inspired by Lasa, and grounded on van der Linde’s work. During that period Murray contributed 35 articles to the British Chess Magazine , some of which outlined his discoveries. Most of the 900-page History is concerned with the evolution of modern chess from its oriental precursor up to the 17th century. He learned Arabic so that he could read important manuscripts, and in addition to his own circle he was able to solicit help from colleagues of his father Sir James A. H. Murray, editor-in-chief of the Oxford English Dictionary; who was also aided by J. G. White, with both advice and the loan of rare books from the Cleveland collection, and by many others. His book includes an authoritative account of both Mansubat and medieval problems. (See also history of chess.) In 1952 he published a companion volume, A History of Board Games other than Chess.

While the scholarship of his chess book has never been questioned it is too detailed for the average chess-player. Aware of this problem, Murray wrote a briefer work approaching the topic in a more popular way. The manuscript, unfinished at his death, was completed and published in 1963 as A Short History of Chess. (See Civis Bononiae.)

A Short History of Chess
A Short History of Chess

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

“Chess historian and a Board of Education Inspector of Schools. Appropriately enough, a son of the pioneering editor of the great Oxford English Dictionary, he became interested in the history of chess in the early 1890s. Up to this time the historical writings on chess in English had been unhistorical. In order to fit himself for the task Murray learned several languages including Arabic and he also studied the true historians of chess, the German writers, Van der Linde and Von der Lassa.

In his own words his aim was to trace the development of the modern European game from the first appearance of its ancestor, the Indian chaturanga, in the beginning of the seventh century of our era. This he did in a vast work of some 900 pages published in Oxford in 1913. An immense amount of painstaking research had gone into the work and only a man of Murray’s great learning could have attempted it.

It at once became the standard book on the subject and has remained so ever since. Murray left behind among his papers an unfinished work A Short History of Chess which took the history of the game up to 1866 which gave a clearer and more readable account of the history of the game than his main work. This was brought up to date by Goulding-Brown and Golombek and published in Oxford in 1963.”

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

“The chess historian who wrote the History of Chess, published by Oxford University Press in 1913. Murray was born in Camberwell on 24th June, 1868, the eldest son of Sir James Murray, the first editor of the Oxford English Dictionary. After graduating from Balliol College, Oxford, with a First Class in the Final Mathematical School, in 1890 Murray became a master at Queen’s College, Taunton, where he learned to play chess. He later taught at Carlisle Grammar School and in 1896 became the headmaster of Ormskirk Grammar School. About 1893 his interest in the history of the game was aroused, and four years later, encouraged by the great German writer and authority on the game, Baron Von der Lasa, his historical researches began.
From 1901-1928 he was a Board of Education Inspector of Schools, an appointment which made it difficult for him to play much chess. He began to turn his attention more and more to the history of the game, contributing articles to The British Chess Magazine and Deutsches Wochenschach. He made the acquaintance of J. J. White of Cleveland, Ohio, owner of the largest chess library in the world, and was given access to this collection, as well as one owned by J. W. Rimington Wilson in England. White’s library contained a number of Arabic manuscripts, and, in order to be able to study them, Murray learned Arabic. The History of Chess took him 13 years to complete.

On his retirement from the Board of Education, Murray served as Chairman of Fernhurst Parish Council and was a member of Midhurst R.D.C. from 1931-1955 and was Chairman of its Housing Committee from 1938-1948. His other interests, apart from chess, were genealogy, local history, walking and bird watching. In 1952 he published A History of Board Games Other than Chess.

After his death A Short History of Chess was found uncompleted among his papers. Additional chapters were added by B. Goulding Brown and H. Golombek, and it was published in 1963.”

(Bertram Goulding Brown was a tournament chess player and a contributor to British Chess Magazine. He was born 5 July 1881 and died 22 August 1965 in the United Kingdom.)

You may read the entire book here

From Amazon :

“Harold James Ruthven Murray was born on 24 June 1868. His first book A History of Chess was published by Oxford University Press in 1913. Murray covered the first 1,400 years of the game’s history in definitive detail. He died on 16 May 1955. He left several more manuscripts which are being held by Oxford University.”

According to Edward Winter in Chess Notes HJRM lived 53 Hagley Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, England (Ranneforths Schach-Kalender, 1915, page 71).

Here is his Wikipedia entry

and here is an excellent article from Edward Winter.

Death Anniversary of David Hooper (31-xiii-1915 03-v-1998)

BCN remembers David Hooper who passed away in a Taunton (Somerset) nursing home on Sunday, May 3rd 1998. Probate (#9851310520) was granted in Brighton on June 24th 1998.

Prior to the nursing home David had been living at 33, Mansfield Road, Taunton, TA1 3NJ and before that at 5, Haimes Lane, Shaftesbury, Dorset, SP7 8AJ.

For most of the time between Reigate and Shaftesbury David lived in Whitchurch, Hampshire.

David Vincent Hooper was born on Tuesday, August 31st 1915 in Reigate, Surrey to Vincent Hooper and Edith Marjorie Winter who married in Reigate, Surrey in 1909. On this day the first French ace, Adolphe Pégoud, was killed in combat. He had scored six victories.

David was one of six children: Roger Garth (1910-?), Edwin Morris (1911-1942), Isobel Mary (12/01/1917-2009), Helene Edith (1916-1982) and Elizabeth Anne Oliver (1923-2000) were his siblings.

Recorded in the September 1939 register David was aged 24 and living at 94, High Street, Reigate, Surrey:

Historical Map showing 94, High Street, Reigate, Surrey
Historical Map showing 94, High Street, Reigate, Surrey

In 2021 this property appears to be a flat (rather than bridge) over the River Kwai Restaurant:

94, High Street, Reigate, Surrey, RH2 9AP
94, High Street, Reigate, Surrey, RH2 9AP

Living with David was his sister Isobel who was listed a “potential nurse”. David’s occupation at this time was listed as Architectural Assistant and he was single. We think that three others lived at this address at the time but they are not listed under the “100 year rule”. We know that David was also a surveyor and went on to attain professional membership of the Royal Institution of British Architects (RIBA).

In the Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette May 27th 1944 there appeared this report of a simultaneous display on Empire Day (May 24th) at Dr. Marsh’s house:

Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, May 27th 1944
Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, May 27th 1944

and from The Western Morning News, 9th April 1947 we have:

Western Morning News, 9th April 1947
Western Morning News, 9th April 1947

and then from The Nottingham Evening Post, 16th August 1949 we have:

Nottingham Evening Post, 16th August 1949
Nottingham Evening Post, 16th August 1949

In 1950 aged 35 David married Joan M Higley (or Rose!) in the district of South Eastern Surrey.

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

Ken Whyld wrote an obituary which appeared in British Chess Magazine, Volume 118 (1998), Number 6, page 326 as follows :

DAVID VINCENT HOOPER died on 3rd May this year in a nursing home in Taunton. He had been in declining health for some months. Born in Reigate, 31st August 1915, his early chess years were with the Battersea CC and Surrey.

David Hooper (left) in conversation with Alan Phillips. Location and photographer unknown.
David Hooper (left) in conversation with Alan Phillips. Location and photographer unknown.

He won the (ed. Somerset) County Championship three times, and the London Championship in 1948. His generation was at its chess peak in the years when war curtailed opportunities, but he won the British Correspondence Championship in 1944.

His games from that event are to be found in Chess for Rank and File by Roche and Battersby.

Chess for the Rank and File
Chess for the Rank and File

Also at that time, he won the 1944 tournament at Blackpool, defeating veteran Grandmaster Jacques Mieses.

David was most active in the decade that followed, playing five times in the British Championship.

His highest place there was at Nottingham 1954, when, after leading in the early stages, he finished half a point behind the joint champions, Leonard Barden and Alan Phillips.

David was in the British Olympic team at Helsinki 1952, and in the same year accidentally played top board for England in one of the then traditional weekend matches against the Netherlands. British Champion Klein took offence at a Sunday Times report of his draw with former World Champion Dr. Euwe on the Saturday and refused to play on Sunday. Thus David was drafted in to meet Euwe, and acquitted himself admirably. Even though he lost, the game took pride of place in that month’s
BCM.

Alan Phillips plays David Hooper on August 20th 1954 in round five of the British Championships in Nottingham, photographer unknown
Alan Phillips plays David Hooper on August 20th 1954 in round five of the British Championships in Nottingham, photographer unknown

In the following game, played in the Hastings Premier l95l-2, he found an improvement on Botvinnik’s play against Bronstein in game 17 of their 1951 match, when 7.Ng3 was played because it was thought that after 7.Nf4 d5 it was necessary to play 8 Qb3.

In his profession as architect David worked in the Middle East for some years from the mid-1950s, and when he returned to England he made his mark as a writer. His Practical Chess Endgames

Practical Chess Endgames (Chess Handbooks), David Hooper, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1968, ISBN 0 7100 5226 X
Practical Chess Endgames (Chess Handbooks), David Hooper, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1968, ISBN 0 7100 5226 X

has an enduring appeal. Two of his books appeared in the Wildhagen biographical games series on Steinitz, and Capablanca. The last was written jointly with Gilchrist.

William Steinitz : Selected Chess Games, David Hooper
William Steinitz : Selected Chess Games, David Hooper

With Euwe he wrote A Guide to Chess Endings;

A Guide to Chess Endings, Dover (1976 reprint), ISBN 0-486-23332-4
A Guide to Chess Endings, Dover (1976 reprint), ISBN 0-486-23332-4

with Cafferty, A Complete Defence to 1.e4;

A Complete Defence to 1.P-K4 A Study of Petroff's Defence, Bernard Cafferty & David Hooper, Pergamon Press, 1967, ISBN 0 08 024089 5
A Complete Defence to 1.P-K4 A Study of Petroff’s Defence, Bernard Cafferty & David Hooper, Pergamon Press, 1967, ISBN 0 08 024089 5

A Pocket Guide to Chess Endgames;

A Pocket Guide to Chess Endgames, David Hooper, Bell & Hyman Limited, London, 1970, ISBN 0 7135 1761 1
A Pocket Guide to Chess Endgames, David Hooper, Bell & Hyman Limited, London, 1970, ISBN 0 7135 1761 1

A Complete Defence to 1.d4;

A Complete Defence to 1d4: A Study of the Queen's Gambit Accepted, Bernard Cafferty & David Hooper, Pergammon Press, ISBN 0-08-024102-6
A Complete Defence to 1d4: A Study of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted, Bernard Cafferty & David Hooper, Pergamon Press, ISBN 0-08-024102-6

and Play for Mate;

Play for Mate (1990), DV Hooper and Bernard Cafferty, ISBN-13: 978-0713464740
Play for Mate (1990), DV Hooper and Bernard Cafferty, ISBN-13: 978-0713464740

with Brandreth The Unknown Capablanca,

The Unknown Capablanca, David Hooper & Dale Brandreth, Batsford, London, 1975, ISBN, 0 7134 2964
The Unknown Capablanca, David Hooper & Dale Brandreth, Batsford, London, 1975, ISBN, 0 7134 2964

and with Ken Whyld, The Oxford Companion to Chess.

The Oxford Companion to Chess, 1st Edition, David Hooper & Ken Whyld, Oxford University Press, 1984, ISBN 0 19 217540 8
The Oxford Companion to Chess, 1st Edition, David Hooper & Ken Whyld, Oxford University Press, 1984, ISBN 0 19 217540 8

Ken Whyld

From The Encyclopaedia of Chess by Harry Golombek :

British amateur (an architect by profession) whose best result was =5 in the British Championship at Felixstowe 1949 along with, amongst others, Broadbent and Fairhurst.

Hooper abandoned playing for writing about chess and has become a specialist in two distinct areas. He is an expert on the endings and has a close knowledge of the history of chess in the nineteenth century.

His principal works : Steinitz (in German), Hamburg, 1968; A Pocket Guide to Chess Endgames, London 1970.

Here is an interesting article from Edward Winter

Here is his brief Wikipedia entry.

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 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).