George Ellison RIP

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Mick Norris
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Re: George Ellison RIP

Post by Mick Norris » Wed Jun 17, 2015 2:27 pm

Any postings on here represent my personal views and should not be taken as representative of the Manchester Chess Federation www.manchesterchess.co.uk

Nick Ivell
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Re: George Ellison RIP

Post by Nick Ivell » Thu Jun 18, 2015 5:46 pm

I am just back from the funeral. George's wife, Marjorie, particularly asked me to thank everyone who has posted tributes online. Considering what she has been through, I thought she was bearing up magnificently.

The ceremony was more religious than I had expected. George was famously sceptical in matters of religion; and even the presiding clergyman was happy to admit that George only attended church twice a year. It was a difficult balance to strike - even the buffet was preceeded by a formal grace - but I think everyone felt the balance was successfully struck.

All in all, an impressive occasion. As I scanned the church hall, I spotted: IM Jeff Horner, one of George's oldest friends in chess; Dave Hartley, stalwart of Poulton chess club; Simon Rogers, who learnt so much from George as a junior; Bill O'Rourke; and Brett Lund, resplendent in shorts for a summer funeral. There were many others in a congregation which was more than 100 strong.

Fred Clough, George's oldest friend in chess, gave one of the tributes. He told an amusing anecdote of one occasion when George may have taken the term 'Scotch gambit' a little too literally as the liquid flowed!

There were also tributes from the family. I was amused to find out that George's mother always called him 'Derek'; he never struck me as a Derek, but clearly he was...

I mentioned that it was a summer funeral and it was, indeed, on the anniversary of Waterloo that George was laid to rest in All Hallows church. There was more to George's life than chess but it was the chess I knew about, so that is what I will focus on here. And I believe there was something 'Wellingtonian' in George's approach to the game. We used to have regular meetings in the pub after our county games. The board would always come out and George would show us his game. I was always struck by the highways and byways George would take us down, to show us how he could have improved; sometimes we would stray so far from the original position it was almost a joke. Objective analysis? Certainly not. However, I never failed to be impressed by how much George wanted his judgement during the game to be vindicated. It was proof of his passion for the game.

For almost the whole of his career in chess, George was a big fish in a small pond. I believe this did his chess harm; I believe he got too used to beating weak players. However, this is clearly what George wanted and countless club players will tell their stories of the time they got to play 'the man'.

George will be remembered as a fine player and an even better person. Today will live long in the memory of those of us who were privileged to attend.

Nick Ivell
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Re: George Ellison RIP

Post by Nick Ivell » Sat Jun 20, 2015 7:56 am

Rummaging through the archives, I found the following game played when I was 12 years old - apologies in advance for the primitive presentation:

DG Ellison v NW Ivell 17/10/1974

1.e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cd 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Bc4 Qb6 7. Nxc6 bxc6; 8. 0-0 e5 9. Bb3 Be7 10. Be3 Qc7 11. h3 Bb7 12. f4 Rd8 13. fe de 14. Qf3 0-0 15. Rf2 c5 16. Bc4 a6 17. Raf1 Rd7 18. g4 Bd8 19. g5 Ne8 20. Qg4 Nd6 21. Bd5 Bc8 22. g6 h6; 23. Bxh6 hxg6 24. gf+ Kh8 25. Qg8+ 1-0

Uncertainty in the opening ruthlessly punished by the old master (George was not really old, he just seemed it to me). Strangely enough, I had forgotten all about this game!

After the funeral I had a discussion with Jeff Horner about George's style. We agreed he was at his best when he opened with 1.e4. I have been lucky enough to find the above example of his dangerous attacking style. In middle age, George made the tricky transition to 1.d4; I saw many examples sitting next to him in matches for Poulton. I even saw him conduct a minority attack! But strategic niceties were not really George; he was at his best when attacking the enemy king.

As we all know, checkmate ends the game.

Nick Ivell
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Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2011 6:33 pm

Re: George Ellison RIP

Post by Nick Ivell » Sat Jun 20, 2015 11:33 am

In going through my old papers, I have discovered my first ever game against George - the one I alluded to in my original post. I see I got the year wrong. I give the first few moves:

NW Ivell v DG Ellison 28/2/1974

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cd 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. f3 e5 7. Nb3 h6 8. Be3 Be6 9. Be2 d5 10. ed Nxd5 11. Nxd5 Qxd5 12. Qxd5 Bxd5 13. c3 0-0-0 14. 0-0 f5 15. Rad1 Be7 (... 1-0, 51)

I guess Black was doing fine out of the opening, but it was the type of position where George was much less certain. More of a Karpov position than a Fischer one. I was able to outplay him and win the game. This was the occasion when George offered me a draw in a lost endgame. Many years later I gently ribbed him about this piece of gamesmanship. He gave his trademark smile and told me he was entitled to use every trick in his armoury. By all accounts it was a trick that never left him!

This game must have annoyed him - it made the local press - because George proceeded to give me a good bashing the next four times we met. He was ever the great competitor.

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Matt Mackenzie
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Re: George Ellison RIP

Post by Matt Mackenzie » Sat Jun 20, 2015 1:47 pm

George was still a regular 1e4 player the couple of times I played against him in the 1980s.

On both occasions I ultimately managed to draw - but it was a struggle!

IIRC he used to wheel out 1f4 on occasion?
"Set up your attacks so that when the fire is out, it isn't out!" (H N Pillsbury)

Nick Ivell
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Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2011 6:33 pm

Re: George Ellison RIP

Post by Nick Ivell » Sun Jun 21, 2015 11:26 am

Yes, I think George wheeled out 1. f4 occasionally. One of his strengths was versatility in the opening. With White he was ambidextrous as to 1. e4 or 1. d4, although much more dangerous with the former; and with Black you never knew what to expect. He could turn his hand to the Sicilian, the French or even the Alekhine. He was difficult to prepare for.

He was not always what I expected a master player to be like. For example, in our sessions immediately after county games he always needed a score sheet to refer to. This surprised me. However, I must admit that in my 50s I sometimes need the solace of a score sheet myself! Even when the game has just finished.

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Matt Mackenzie
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Re: George Ellison RIP

Post by Matt Mackenzie » Sun Jun 21, 2015 1:07 pm

Though not quite in my 50s yet, I can confirm this is more true than it once was......
"Set up your attacks so that when the fire is out, it isn't out!" (H N Pillsbury)

Nick Ivell
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Re: George Ellison RIP

Post by Nick Ivell » Sun Jun 21, 2015 1:43 pm

George's best years were before my time. I first met him in 1974, when I was 12 and he was 41, which seemed absolutely ancient at the time! Our first games were in the Fylde league. Now that I have started to struggle against juniors myself I realise how tricky it must have been for him, especially after a day at work.

George was at his best in the late 1950s, early 1960s. Unfortunately I have seen very few of his games from that era. Later, as Jeff Horner makes clear, family and work commitments took their toll. He remained, of course, a dangerous opponent. A definite decline set in during his final decade, for understandable reasons. There was never any diminution in his passion for the game.

Peter Walker
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Re: George Ellison RIP

Post by Peter Walker » Thu Mar 03, 2016 11:55 pm

I have just learned of George's death, sadly 9 months after the event. A lovely man!

I first met George in 1972 when I started as a student at Poulton. I had played a bit of (very poor) chess when I was at school and decided to join the college chess club. George encouraged me with great generosity and I actually managed to win a few games for the college team. I was captain for a year or two and could always rely on George for the full point. Another excellent player, Martin Fleury, joined the college as a postgraduate student (Martin had played on board 2 for Oxford Uni behind John Nunn) and we definitely had the best top two boards in the Blackpool and Fylde League. Unfortunately the team consisted of 8 players and although we almost always scored on the top two boards, and generally another chap (forgotten his name) and I usually managed 50% on boards 3 and 4, we couldn't manage a consistent performance (or, more accurately, we could) on boards 5 - 8 and lost pretty well every match. I am pleased to see Nick Ivell posting ahead of me - it was George who encouraged me to enter the Blackpool & Fylde individual championship and I was beaten in this by Nick (he probably doesn't remember the event) when I visited his house one Sunday afternoon. He must have been about 12 at the time. I also remember the match in which George offered him the draw!

One strong and comical memory I have of George was that he had an interesting mannerism whilst playing: he would sit on his hands and his upper body would rock back and forth whilst he sucked his lower lip. I am sure he was completely unconscious of this, but in an early match in which I was playing, against Blackpool, who beat us comfortably, his opponent had very similar mannerisms. There were points at which they almost had a clash of heads over the board when they both leaned forward at the same time.

I last saw George at the British Championships in Scarborough, IIRC. He was playing in the Senior Championships and I was there with a load of Essex juniors. We chatted a few times during the fortnight. This was some time after I had given up "real work" and set myself up as a chess teacher, something that I have now been doing for more than 20 years. I would never have been able to do this without the early encouragement and support of George. I owe him a great deal.

My wife Janet, who was also at Poulton College, has reminded me of another piece of encouragement from George. Sadly, Jan did not get through her final teaching practice and was at a very low ebb when she was unable to pursue the career on which she had set her heart. George's advice: "Marry Peter and settle down happily and have children!" She did just that and we will be celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary next month. The children? Three of them became strong players and won national junior titles as individuals or as part of a county or school team, and the other was the British Chess Federation's first ever Webmaster.

Yes, I do indeed owe George a great deal.

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