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Geoffrey Harold Rowson (1910-1943) vs Hugh Alexander, 1926

Posted: Wed Mar 16, 2016 12:00 pm
by John Saunders
This is an attempt to tie up a few loose threads from a forum discussion in 2010 in which a number of us were working together to identify the forenames of all those players who have won British Championship titles. Also, it's an opportunity to publish a game played between two early junior champions. (I'm not sure the first publication of a game played 90 years previously counts as a 'scoop' for the EC Forum but if it does, it is.)

GH Rowson won the British Boys' (Under-18) Chess Championship in 1927, and in 2010 the forum had established that his full name was in all probability Geoffrey Harold Rowson who had sadly died in 1943 on active service with the RAF. (If you wish to re-read what was written then, click here.) One other chess player called Harry Rowson (who died in 1951 aged 75 and received an obit in BCM) was also mentioned in forum posts.

Evidently forum discussions here have been of benefit to someone else researching GH Rowson and his family as I stumbled upon this page. It builds on some of the comments made in the forum discussion (particularly Richard James' typically perceptive observations) and provides more info about him.

In summary, the 1927 British Boys' Champion was indeed called Geoffrey Harold Rowson, and Richard James' surmise about his possible Jewish ancestry (based on the forenames of his parents) was also correct. His birth name was Geoffrey Harold Rosenbaum and his birth was registered in Brentford, Middx, in the April quarter of 1910. It turns out that the Harry Rowson whose obit appeared in BCM in 1951 was Geoffrey's uncle. Harry seems to have been a very interesting man who went to the USA in the 1900s to help Emanuel Lasker in running a chess magazine (it says here). The entire Rowson/Rosenbaum family seems to have been involved in the film industry in one form or another and there is much to be found online should anybody be interested in following any of this up. Geoffrey's elder brother Leslie Rowson was a cinematographer who worked with a number of celebrated film-makers.

The reason I have gone back over this now is because I have just input a Geoffrey Rowson game which appeared amongst the Tinsley* notebook material I am currently working on. It comes from the 1926 British Boys' Championship and his opponent was Hugh Alexander. The British Boys' Championship was held over Easter at Hastings Chess Club (as it always was in those days). It was a two-part event, with four players qualifying from preliminary sections for a round-robin final. Alexander scored 2½/3, GH Rowson 1½, and AJA Goetzee and VJR Soanes (misspelt 'Soames' in the BCM report, May 1926, p227 - Vic Soanes later became BCF President) on 1. It's not the greatest game in the world (hardly surprising since junior chess was practically non-existent in those days) but Rowson stood very well until a calamitous sequence from move 31 onwards. Considering that Geoffrey Rowson was a year younger than Alexander, it wasn't a bad effort. Evidently he had better luck in 1927 (though I've not seen any games for that year).

Another loose end - in this 2010 post E Michael White recalled Alexander making a comparison between a game he (EMW) played in Cheltenham 1972 and the above game from 1926. Perhaps he might like to make the comparison himself (if he has the score of his 1972 game), to see if there are similarities.

* Tinsley notebooks - the forum's keenest chess history sleuths will be aware but others may not - the Times chess columnist ES Tinsley (died 1937) kept copious notes of games for his columns in the Times and elsewhere and some of this material is still extant. Tony Gillam very kindly lent me a hefty pile of photocopies recently and I have been laboriously inputting games from pre-1937 British Championships. Many of these games are seeing the light of day for the first time. The fruit of my labours may be enjoyed by all at BritBase - the best place to start looking is the 'What's new?' page.

EDIT: I had wondered if this might be Alexander's earliest extant game. But it proves not to be the case (see David McAlister's comment below). I found the game F.H. Cunnington 0-1 C.Alexander, ENG 1924 on the commercial database StarBase 4.56, which can be unreliable as regards players' names and attributions but came up trumps here.

Re: Geoffrey Harold Rowson (1910-1943) vs Hugh Alexander, 1926

Posted: Wed Mar 16, 2016 5:39 pm
by David McAlister
John Saunders wrote:Alexander's earliest extant game? Perhaps not: the commercial database StarBase 4.56 has a game F.H. Cunnington 0-1 C.Alexander, ENG 1924, but, given the unreliability of the players' names on this database, it is anyone's guess whether this can be ascribed to Hugh Alexander or not. Perhaps it appeared in the book of Alexander's games which appeared after his death (OUP? late 1970s?) If someone has a copy, perhaps they could look it up for me to check. No need to input it: I have the score of Cunnington-Alexander but won't publish it here until such time as we've established its credentials as a CHO'DA original.
Cunnington-Alexander is the first game given (at page 11) in "The best games of C. H. O'D. Alexander" (OUP 1976) by Golombek and Hartston. As far as I can see no date is given, but the context strongly suggests 1924.

Re: Geoffrey Harold Rowson (1910-1943) vs Hugh Alexander, 1926

Posted: Wed Mar 16, 2016 6:12 pm
by John Saunders
Thanks for looking it up, David. Since the game's provenance checks out (and fair play to StarBase 4.56 for 'reaching the parts other databases don't reach'), I may as well pass on the game, with suitable attribution and disclaimer about the date...

Re: Geoffrey Harold Rowson (1910-1943) vs Hugh Alexander, 1926

Posted: Thu Mar 24, 2016 9:49 am
by E Michael White
Hello John,
I believe I still have game scores from that time but I am unable to locate my game. If it turns up I will let you know. The game Rowson v Alexander is a line of the Cambridge Springs defence by transposition; this was one of my defences to d4 in 1972. I always played 6. …Qa5 rather than 6. .. Bb4 and usually played …Ne4 before Bb4. I occasionally experimented as W with Rc1 and Qb3. Modern theory has moved on with 6. …Qa5 7. Nd2 being preferred. I don’t remember exactly what Alexander said but I expect it was along those lines.

After some earlier examples the Cambridge Springs defence crops up frequently after 1904 and shows that Alexander and Rowson were probably two leading juniors prepared to take on the complexities of trending technical debates of the era.

Oddly I can remember more about the game Alexander played in 1972, which was against Nigel Hamlin, than my own game. He played the Black side of the Canal line in the Giuoco Pianissimo system. I thought it unusual for an IM to play such a passive line against a much weaker opponent. It didn’t make much difference though, as by about move 20 Alexander had built up a very strong position which won convincingly.

I also have the game F H Cunnington v C H O’D Alexander, 1924, which is shown as sourced from Fatbase 98. I thought I had found another earlier Alexander game on Fatbase 98: Alexander v G Thomas 1919, which is also a Cambridge Springs game. However another database shows this to be Fritz Alexander, possibly the inventor of the Fritz variation in the Two Knights.