Media Comments on Chess (Historical)

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John Saunders
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Media Comments on Chess (Historical)

Post by John Saunders » Mon Apr 25, 2016 10:46 am

I spend a lot of time looking through old newspapers, looking for material for BritBase, and, en passant, I thought it might be interesting to have a thread with comments on chess culled from the media of the past, as a sort of counterpoint to the long-running thread which picks up current chess stories in the press.

To get us started, I found this article in the Aberdeen Evening Express for Wednesday 18 August 1954.
CHESS EXPERTS' FOOD COMPLAINT

A PROTEST by competitors at the British Chess Congress at Nottingham University against what were referred to as student-like regulations and a lack of food was described to-day by Dr William Neil, warden of the Hugh Stewart Hall, as a “storm in a teacup".

Last night a deputation from the competitors asked Dr Neil for more food to be served, and in greater variety, and for more flexible meal times. Over 100 of the competitors are staying at the Hugh Stewart Hall. Dr Neil stated to-day that “all differences and difficulties" had been dealt with already. All the arrangements and meal times we made at the request of the congress organisers, and we have done everything possible to meet their wishes.

"It Is most unfair to make these complaints within a few days of the congress starting without giving the management a chance to sort things out. I have the same food as that served in the dining hall and I find nothing to complain about. Any shortage of food is due to misunderstanding on the part of the staff. The University cannot offer the same variety and choice as a hotel." A number of conferences had been held at the University this year and “without exception there has not been the slightest trouble or complaint from them. What the competitors are expecting is not what we were asked to provide. We have done our best to meet every legitimate request."

Miss D. Colmer, London, a competitor who organised a petition and was a member of the deputation, said—"I felt very strongly about it, particularly the scarcity of food and the lack of variety. I now feel that improvements will be made."
I wonder if competitors were allowed to bring in their own food...

Deirdre Colmer (1912-68) was a regular competitor in British Ladies' Championships of that era and a match captain of the Queen's Gambit club. I think she was a civil servant. Her obit appears on page 286 of the 1968 BCM.

Does Leonard Barden remember this food controversy at Nottingham 1954? It was the year he shared the title with Alan Phillips.
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Leonard Barden
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Re: Media Comments on Chess (Historical)

Post by Leonard Barden » Mon Apr 25, 2016 11:24 am

I can only recall the petition dimly with the aid of John's prompt, though I guess I ought to remember it better. I knew Deirdre and think I gave her some coaching sessions. In my defence, I should state that my food expectations were low at that time due to being on a postgraduate course with a minimum grant and eating regularly in the British restaurant in Oxford, which offered very cheap but very basic lunches. And also my offboard hours at Nottingham were largely spent either in preparation for the next opponent (best result, round seven Alekhine Four Pawns against Fazekas) or in dalliance with a willing friend from the under-18 girls championship.

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Re: Media Comments on Chess (Historical)

Post by John Saunders » Mon Apr 25, 2016 1:32 pm

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Re: Media Comments on Chess (Historical)

Post by John Saunders » Mon Apr 25, 2016 2:29 pm

I haven't quite finished working on it but here is the game viewer for the 1954 British Championship which I have just put up on BritBase...

http://www.saund.co.uk/britbase/pgn/195 ... iewer.html

I have appended a crosstable (which I will soon replace with one showing the players' full names), plus results of all sections. Note that I have also appended a letter to the Times which PN Wallis wrote, suggesting that the 3-1-0 points system be adopted. Also, responses from the Times's own chess correspondent (presumably Harry Golombek) and Leonard.

Now that I've reached the mid-1950s with my British Championship BritBase upgrade, we enter into a period when we have a few people who are still around. Leonard is one, and Anne Sunnucks (now Mothersill) is another. I also noted that Ray Streater, who played in the 1954 British Championship aged only 18 (remarkably young to do so in that era), has a Wikipedia page. There could be a few others.
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Re: Media Comments on Chess (Historical)

Post by Leonard Barden » Mon Apr 25, 2016 2:39 pm

I should add to my post above that I have largely very pleasant memories of Nottingham 1954, apart from the last three days when I botched a 7/8 total and a 1-1.5 point lead in the final rounds of the championship. The ambiance of the university park was beautiful, the student accommodation didn't compare badly with Oxford, and we had the inspirational setting of playing in the same hall as Nottingham 1936 and 1946.
On the middle Saturday, round six, HE Atkins paid a visit for around an hour. I guess that was his final chess appearance as he died in January 1955. He looked relaxed and well, and toured the hall mainly in the company of the congress officials Harold Meek and John Boyd, chatting occasionally to old colleagues such as Gerald Abrahams and EG Sergeant. He looked at several of the games in progress but, to my disappointment, not at mine although I was on board one or two and I thought winning nicely against David Hooper. It was of course the fiftieth anniversary of 1904, the first BCF congress, where Atkins tied first with Napier. I did think seriously of putting in an appearance at the 2004 congress, another 50 years on, but Scarborough was too distant for me.

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Re: Media Comments on Chess (Historical)

Post by John Saunders » Mon Apr 25, 2016 6:15 pm

A classier chess metaphor than usual, from the legendary cricket/music writer Neville Cardus, writing in the Manchester Guardian on 25 November 1954 about the MCC's chances in the forthcoming Ashes tour, and specifically about the England captain Len Hutton...
Neville Cardus wrote:Hutton has achieved ripeness. In the field as captain his authority is obviously strong and far-reaching. He is maybe a little fussy in the way he is constantly rearranging the field and pointing with his outstretched right arm this direction or that—calling back to mind Capablanca playing eleven games of chess simultaneously.
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Re: Media Comments on Chess (Historical)

Post by David McAlister » Tue Apr 26, 2016 8:15 am

A classier chess metaphor than usual, from the legendary cricket/music writer Neville Cardus, writing in the Manchester Guardian on 25 November 1954 about the MCC's chances in the forthcoming Ashes tour, and specifically about the England captain Len Hutton...

Neville Cardus wrote:
Hutton has achieved ripeness. In the field as captain his authority is obviously strong and far-reaching. He is maybe a little fussy in the way he is constantly rearranging the field and pointing with his outstretched right arm this direction or that—calling back to mind Capablanca playing eleven games of chess simultaneously.
Risking being sent to pedants' corner, perhaps "playing ten games of chess simultaneously" would have been more appropriate.

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Re: Media Comments on Chess (Historical)

Post by Kevin Thurlow » Tue Apr 26, 2016 8:49 am

"Deirdre Colmer (1912-68) was a regular competitor in British Ladies' Championships of that era and a match captain of the Queen's Gambit club. I think she was a civil servant. "

She was.

I note that the "Surrey Mirror", "affectionately" called the "Surrey Error"* in our parts, has now appeared on the newspaper archive. I have done a search for chess and am going slowly through the 182 pages of hits when time permits. As a distinguished member of our club (Redhill) was Leonard P Rees, reports of county matches and SCCA and BCF business featured as well. I'll post anything of interest in due course.

* Over the years my name has been variously rendered as Thurlo, Thurloe, Thurloy (my favourite), Thurslough, Furlow, Thurslow. It's a good job the reports were all typed, if they had had to deal with handwriting they might really have fouled it up. I wasn't the only victim of course.

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Re: Media Comments on Chess (Historical)

Post by John Saunders » Thu Dec 30, 2021 2:41 pm

I thought I would revive this thread as I've just added some games to the 1954 British Championship page.

https://www.saund.org.uk/britbase/pgn/1 ... iewer.html

Brian Denman sent me the 11 games played by (Leslie) John Cannon in the 1954 Major Open which I have now added (some months after they were sent to me - thanks and apologies to Brian).

I took the opportunity to add a few items which I found on a further scan of newspaper sources. One such was the following...
The Times, 28 August 1954 wrote: Mr [Gerald] Abrahams collapsed over his board shortly after completing his final game. He was taken to Nottingham General hospital for observation. It is understood that his condition is not serious.
Abrahams' final game was a loss to Phillips - a win would have given him the Championship. I append the game including Ritson Morry's notes...



None of the other sources I've seen made reference to Abrahams' physical collapse at the board.
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Re: Media Comments on Chess (Historical)

Post by Leonard Barden » Thu Dec 30, 2021 3:19 pm

John Saunders wrote:
Thu Dec 30, 2021 2:41 pm


The Times, 28 August 1954 wrote: Mr [Gerald] Abrahams collapsed over his board shortly after completing his final game. He was taken to Nottingham General hospital for observation. It is understood that his condition is not serious.
None of the other sources I've seen made reference to Abrahams' physical collapse at the board.
Abrahams did indeed collapse at the board, and I remember it well as I was watching keenly to see whether he or Phillips would tie with me. He did so quite noisily and was tended to on the floor by Stefan Fazekas, ironic since Faz and Abe disliked each other intensely. The general impression was that the collapse was provoked by shock at suddenly realising that he hadn't drawn the game after all.

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Re: Media Comments on Chess (Historical)

Post by John Upham » Thu Dec 30, 2021 3:28 pm

In https://britishchessnews.com/2020/03/15 ... -iii-1980/

there is inclusion of the nine page 1988 BCM article about GA written by Steve Cunliffe.

The collapsing incident is detailed on pages 299 - 300 of that article.
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Re: Media Comments on Chess (Historical)

Post by John Saunders » Thu Dec 30, 2021 4:38 pm

Thanks for that info. Perhaps it's worth reproducing the relevant BCM passage here to save forum readers having to plough through a long web page...
Alan Phillips in BCM, July 1988, pages 299-300 wrote:The highlight, though, was the last round of Nottingham 1954 where Gerald would have become champion outright if he had beaten me. It was a slow Ruy Lopez; I had played d3 and the inaccurate ...Bg4 lost time to a subsequent Ne3. At the adjournment I sealed the beginning of a combination, but even after that the win needed careful checking over the board later, and it is possible that I made the odd noncommittal move in the second session while working it out. Towards the end of the session Gerald offered a draw, which I refused. Two or three moves later Gerald shook hands, muttered something like “Thank you”, got up from the board and walked towards a small group of people standing a few yards away. (sub-headings "Draw Confusion —Collapse of Stout Party!") I heard Gerald say to them “It was a draw.” You could have knocked me over with a pawn! I called Gerald back to the board, pointed out that I had agreed nothing of the sort and won a few moves later, whereupon Gerald, who had looked pale throughout, perhaps through eating too much dinner, collapsed. They sent for his bitterest enemy, Dr Fazekas, who quite unmaliciously sent for an ambulance. I looked up at the clock in the university hall, saw it was 10pm and said “My God, closing time.” So it was, and the nearest pub was two miles from Florence Boot Hall. They carried Gerald away on a stretcher, with Faz. looking on with perhaps only professional concern!
Incidentally I was taken aback by Ritson Morry's sketchy analysis of the position at move 65. The position looks dead lost anyway, even if 66 Bh6+ didn't win (which it does). It doesn't require engine analysis - a quick glance at the position after Morry's suggested 65...Bc3 is enough to spot the simple plan of 66 Bf2-h4 which wins since Black can't effectively defend the f6-pawn twice (an eventual ...Bd8 would fail to Kd7 and Ke7).
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